The RUM PAKKERS
Why smuggle liquor into a wet province?
BERTRAND W. SINCLAIR
“One minute you’re broke. The next, a guy comes along and feeds you a bunch of kale,” Martin murmured incredulously.
Wanted—50-ton rumpakkers. Howe. 119 Lincoln.
MARTIN SYNFY smiled faintly as he laid aside the newspaper which carried that advertisement under the head of “Boats and
Vessels.” A man sees curiously-worded phrases in the marine brokers’ column of any seaport news-sheet. The brevity, the spelling, had amused Synfy, although the sense was perfectly clear. But he had other more pressing considerations nagging at him and so he put down the paper and sat for awhile staring at the heavily beamed cabin roof and frowning to himself—until his cogitations were broken into by the shuffling entrance of a lame, old Chinaman. Lum was dressed in blue overalls, spotless but faded by many washings. On his head he wore a straw hat of the sort facetiously termed a “cow’s breakfast.” He was old beyond any man’s reckoning, the skin of his face brown as fumed oak, deeply lined, a multitude of tiny wrinkles radiating in every direction across his features. He had a pronounced limp; likewise a bland smile when he looked at Synfy-—and both smile and limp had a significance for his employer; both were matters that dated from the beginning of their association.
“Gottum fifty slent Missa Synfy?” Lum inquired. “I ketchum tobacco.”
Martin drew a hand from his pocket. Two one-dollar bills appeared. He proffered one.
“I’ll split with you, Lum,” he said. “That’s the size of the bank-roll.”
Lum took the bill.
“Bimeby you ketchum plenty dolía,” he remarked placidly. “Plenty lime bloke you-me.”
“Don’t look very promising,” Martin returned. “No fish; no freight. You better ketchum job cook somewhere, Lum. Maybe I have to sell Wave ketchum grub. No use you stick around. No wages in sight long time.”
“Oh, I stick aloun all light,” Lum grinned amiably. “I likum Wave. Too bad no money. No sellum Wave. You no ketchum plenty dolía bimeby I gettum hundled dolía my fien Chinatown.” '
“Eh?” Synfy pricked up his ears.
“Can do,” the old Chinaman assured. “We go bloke I ketchum hundled dolía my fien. Sho thling.”
He went on up the companion ladder. Synfy heard his slippered feet pit-a-pat across the deck and away up the float landing.
“Darn your old hide, I bet you would too, if it came to a pinch,” he soliloquized upon Lum’s parting speech.
HE WENT on deck and took a turn around. The wheelhouse stood aft, over the engineroom. There was a well-deck amidship and a capacious hold with hatches off for airing. Forward of that a raised deck formed a fo’c’sle with berths for six men. Two dories nested on her poop. All her gear was shipshape. The Wave was a halibut schooner, squat, broad, massively built, sixty-five feet over all and well-engined. She was the North Pacific adaptation of the Gloucester fisherman, with shortened spars because of her auxiliary power. She was at once Martin Synfy’s sole asset and
his home. He hated the idea of selling her, but that was about the only plan which seemed feasible under the circumstances. She was too big to handle small jobs and too small for a big job and she had just finished a disastrous season on the northern halibut grounds. Her tanks were empty of fuel and her owner was broke.
“It looks like I got to let you go, old girl, to the first buyer that flashes real money,” Martin murmured. “And then me and Lum will be on the beach for fair,”
He could see the old Chinaman limping across a street end ashore. Martin was not much inclined to sentiment, but he knew that withered old Celestial had a peculiar and loyal affection for both himself and the Wave. One night in .the riotous days of the licensed bar in Vancouver Martin had strayed into the borders of
Chinatown alone. The Wave had just completed her first voyage. Her lightened hold had filled Martin’s pocket and like halibut fishermen in general Martin was celebrating largely. Otherwise he might not have paid much attention to a scuffling knot of Chinese in the mouth of a dark alley. But he was primed for adventure that night, so he waded joyously in with boot and fist when he perceived that the half dozen were set on one, and that one undersized and old. Martin scattered them right and left with no more than a scratch on one arm and a minor gouge in his cheek and fared into the glow of a street lamp supporting the small battered figure, bleeding but still conscious, still able to talk. He got Martin to assist him to a Chinese rooming-house. He asked Martin’s name, his business.
Twenty-four hours later Lum boarded the Wave. By some occult means he persuaded the Chinese incumbent of the Wave’s galley to vacate in his favor. All without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Synfy grinned and let it go at that when he discovered the substitute. One Chink cook was about the same as another. But he soon discovered that Lum Sing’s attitude was not that of the ordinary Chinese potswabber. Toward the schooner and Martin Synfy and all that pertained to either Lum had assumed a deep personal interest.
npHAT was five years past. Through all the varied ups and downs of a halibut schooner’s career Lum stuck to Martin and the Wave as if he were bodily an appendage of the man and the vessel. And he still stuck with his engaging smile and his unruffled good nature, although the Wave and Synfy had fallen on such evil days that Lum’s regular wages had become only a pleasant memory.
Synfy went below again. He picked up the newspaper. Once more his eye ran over that concise, misspelled paragraph.
“Some ad.,” he commented. “Rumpakkers. I wonder if there’s anything in it?”
The off chance that there might be something in it focussed Martin’s interest. Even when a man has no responsibilities of family, no sweetheart whom he pines to espouse, his need of currency may become pressing. Even an unattached male must eat, must be clothed; usually he nurses some material ambition. On all three counts Martin pleaded guilty. And except for one lone dollar bill he was broke. He owned his vessel, but the Wave had been his home for years as well as furnishing him with a livelihood. A man hates to sacrifice his home—once he has become attached to it. Too, there was a bear market on halibut schooners in the port Of Vancouver. The Wave had cost him a good many thousand hardly earned dollars. She would not bring half her value at a forced sale. His predicament was very real, because even a halibut fisherman cannot nourish himself on hope and scenery, however inspiring.
“I’ll go and see about this, darned if I don’t,” Martin suddenly resolved. “Rumpakkers. They are packing lots of hooch these days to Mexico. I can sail the Wave anywhere any fifty-tonner can go if there’s money in it.”
119 Lincoln made him pause. Two blocks back from the waterfront, on the edge of a rather unsavory district, a second-rate garage flanked an old brick building; a junk shop of ample frontage supported its other side. Above the entrance loomed ah ancient wooden sign bearing that common heraldry of the waterfront: Rooms by the Day, Week, Month.
Synfy reconnoitered from across the street. As a step to the renewal of fortune it didn’t look promising. Nevertheless this was 119 Lincoln where 50-ton .rumpakkers were wanted, and so he crossed to the entrance determined to run that advertisement to earth and satisfy an accumulated curiosity if nothing more offered.
On the first floor he perceived that the room-sign was a trifle misleading. It might recently have been a lodging-place but now the rooms were occupied by business—at least Martin got that impression from ground-glass doors variously lettered. The third door bore the name of F. F. Howe, Marine Broker.
Martin walked in. Mr. Howe’s brokerage business was either a flat failure or a howling success, those two extremes of commercialism which permit a man unqualified leisure—for Mr. Howe sat back in a swivel chair with his feet on the edge of a massive oak desk and he puffed a cigar in silent contemplation, supporting the back of his head with clasped hands. He did not move either feet, cigar, or hands at Martin’s entrance. He merely turned his head sufficiently to gaze sidelong at his caller and he acknowledged his identity by a curt nod.
“You got an ad. in the Province asking for fifty-ton rum packers,” Martin stated his business. "What’s the proposition?”
“Charter. Topolabompo. Two thousand cases of whiskey. You got a seagoing boat?”
“Halibut schooner. Fished off Yakutat four seasons. I guess you’d call her seagoing,” Martin replied.
“What speed? What’s her carrying capacity?”
“Eight knots under power. Forty ton deadweight,” Martin answered laconically.
MR. F. F. HOWE took down his feet, unclasped his hands, chucked the butt of his cigar into an ash-tray.
“Where can I see her?” he demanded.
For a moment Martin was tempted to require more details of the venture. Then he reflected that his time was worth nothing and that if this undersized, crispspoken individual had a proposition worth listening to he could listen as well after the man had seen the Wave as before. So he replied briefly:
“Foot of Bidwell Street.”
'TT1 have a look at her. Wait a minute.”
Howe disappeared through a door, which, standing ajar let out the murmur of voices and the clack of a typewriter. When Mr. F. F. Howe emerged he had on a hat and carried a stickHe was neatly, not to say nattily, dressed in Donegal tweeds. His age was anywhere in that indeterminate period between thirty-five and fifty. He was very brisk in his movements as well as his speech. And he was ludicrously small. Seated, this had not been so apparent. Standing he did not come to Martin Synfy’s shoulder and Martin was by no means a tall man. Nevertheless, Mr. Howe somehow contrived to convey an impression of force, directness.
He led the way downstairs, usheredMartin into a husky blue roadster with a superfluity of nickel trimmings and further impressed Martin by the speed and skill with which he insinuated the machine among trucks, other motors, street-cars, all the roaring flow of downtown traffic. And so within half an hour from the time he laid down the newspaper in the Wave’s cabin Martin was back aboard with the undersized gentleman who required 50-ton rumpakkers casting a shrewd and appraising eye over the schooner. He had not been on deck five minutes nor asked half a dozen questions before Martin realized that Mr. F. F. Howe knew a good deal about deep water and seagoing ships.
“She’ll do,” he said at last. “Let’s talk business.” ''“You talk,” Martin suggested. “I’ll listen.”
Mr. F. F. Howe sat down on the bulwark, cocked a sharp blue eye up at the truck of the foremast for a second. Then he looked around at Martin.
“Give you two thousand dollars for a charter to Topolabompo,” he said abruptly—then paused as if to mark the effect.
But Martin Snyfy had played a good deal of poker in his time. He remained impassive—externally. ^
“You have to furnish crew, fuel and stores, of course,” Howe continued.
“Coast of Mexico. Nine days run for an eight-knot vessel. Round trip in three weeks easy. Two thousand cases of whisky. All in regular form. Legal export of bonded goods. Ship and cargo will sail under bond. I'll attend to that. I’ll ship with you myself as—well, say, supercargo. Two thousand bucks. Should leave you twelve hundred clear. Not too bad.”
Martin in turn took a squint at the foremast truck. He did some rapid calculating, then shook his head.
“Wages, distillate and grub will stand me close to twelve hundred,” he said. “No leeway for emergencies. Come again.”
Mr. F. F. Howe considered a moment.
“Make it twenty-five hundred,” he said.
“All right. But I don’t know you from Adam’s off ox,” Martin said bluntly. “You can find out all about me from the New English Fish Company. Synfy’s my name. If I take you on I got to see some coin first.”-
“How much?” •
“A pretty good %
wad,” Martin stated frankly. “I don’t know the whisky game, but I hear it’s tricky.”
Howe let that pass.
He seemed to con-^ sider for a second.
“Got paper and pen aboard?”
“Sure.” Martin led the way below. Mr.
Howe seated himself.
When he had put paper and pen before his visitor Martin sat down to roll a cigarette and await the next move.
MR. HOWE drew forth a roll of currency. He peeled off three one-hundred dollar bills and looked inquiringly at Martin. That gentleman shook his head. He knew the value of a poker face in this game. Mr. Howe peeled off two more and paused.
“Make it a thousand,” Martin said casually. “I got to fit out right' for a voyage like that. Takes money.”
Howe grunted some inaudible comment. He wrinkled his brows
until his face wore the aspect of a deeply puzzled monkey. Then he took pen and wrote diligently on the notepaper before him.
“How’s that?” h.e asked.
Martin read. It was a brief document. - Most important to Martin Synfy it stipulated that payment should be five hundred down, five hundred when the Wave had her load under hatches, the balance in full upon delivery of cargo at destination.
“Fair enough,” he commented.
Mr. F. F. Howe shoved the five hundred across the table.
“Sign ‘ the agreement,” he grunted—and Martin signed.
Five minutes later he stood on deck watching Mr. Howe stride briskly up the wharf while Lum came shuffling down. Martin’s right hand, deep in a trousers pocket, clutched the five banknotes.
“Just like that,” he murmured incredulously. “One minute you’re broke. The next a guy comes along and feeds you a bundle of kale. Well, I’ve heard.queer yarns about this whisky business. I don’t know much about it but I guess I’m due to learn.”
. Lum climbed stiffly up on deck. Martin beckoned him, bestowed on him one of the big bills. Lum’s eyes widened.
“Ketchum job, Lum. Good money. We go to sea a week from to-day. Don’t go on a bust with that. Make out a grub list—six men, three weeks. You sabe?”
“I makem,” Lum nodded. “Velly good thling no mo bloke.”
The Wave duly-cleared from Vancouver with a bonded cargo of Bourbon whisky. Her manifests were in proper order. Likewise her clearance to the port of Topolabompo, Mexico. She was a British vessel carrying legitimately exportable goods to a foreign port. Why Mr. F. F.. Howe wished to transport American bonded whisky through Canada to a Mexican warehouse was none of Martin’s business. Martin knew that there were current methods of smuggling liquor between the alcoholic oasis of British Columbia and the arid California coast. He had heard more or less about this traffic. But nothing that he had ever heard gave him any uneasiness about this voyage. So far as he could see it was a legitimate carrying transaction—moderately profitable to him and presumably satisfactory to Mr. F. F Howe.
The Wave walked down the Gulf, caught the flood tide setting out Juan de Fuca Strait in the dusk of evening and in the star-speckled hours of the graveyard watch put Tatoosh light abeam and dipped her bluff bows to a long ground-swell rolling up from Honolulu. The tops were beginning to show crinkles of white in the darkness where a brisk sou’ west wind fanned the sea.
Martin went off watch as soon as they hauled clear of Umatilla Reef. All the Pacific Ocean lay to starboard. The man at the wheel had only to hold her head south by west. Martin took a last look around and turned in.
He bunked in a tiny stateroom abaft the wheelhouse. Mr. Howe shared these quarters with him and the little man was long since snoring in his blankets. Martin lay drowsily. From below rose the chattering drum of the propellor blades. A lamp swung in its gimbals as the Wave rose and plunged. The last sound in Martin’s ears was the familiar whoosh of spray flung wide against the wind and blown back in a pattering shower over the weather bow.
HE WAS up at the clink of one bell to take the morning watch. It was still dark, the chilly dark that settles before the dawn of a September morning. Cloud-wrack had blown up to hide the midnight stars. The wind had stiffened to a whole-sail breeze and the Wave’s canvas, close-hauled, steadied her now so that her motion was no longer the abrupt bobbing of a power vessel. She soared, heeling down to her scuppers, to meet each crest and swooped with a blithe grace into the dark hollow beyond. -Ahead and astern, to port and starboard, the sea and the night walled them in. And Martin Synfy was well content, as he steadied the wheel and marked the luminous waveheads breaking ghostwhite to the tune of the wind among taut rigging, to know that he was well off a lee shore. He meant to have ample sea-room if that capful of wind rose to a gale. ^ Ten minutes after he took the watch Lum came in with a cup of coffee and a sandwich. Lum never slept —he cat-napped. Old, lame, apparently fragile, Lum could muster a grin and have hot grub in his galley when the Wave was battened down and her decks awash. Martin bolted his coffee and Lum disappeared. Shortly after that Mr. -F. F. Howe joined Martin in the wheelhouse.
He had nothing to say. He humped his small frame on a handy stool and stared out into the dark where the sea heaved under the lash of the wind. His pipe glowed in the shadow. And there he sat until four bells brought a pale glimmer in the east, then a blazon of color that seemed to shame the night wind for it died to a whisper before the spreading dawn and left the Wave driving soggily under power, in a short, lumpy sea. Dawn brought something besides a falling wind. When the light grew till the sea took form in white tipped-crests and green troughs visible tc the eye Howe touched Martin on the arm.
“What’s that off your sta’board quarter?” he asked casually. _ ^
Martin lifted his gaze from the binnacle. “That” was something distant enough to be formless yet guessable as a .small craft by the flash of white and brown as it poised for1 a moment on a wave-head to vanish altogether in the trough beyond. Martin stared. A small vessel; and her action was peculiar, although it conveyed its own message to a man versed in the mishaps of coastwise power craft. He indicated a pair of binoculars on the wall. Mr. Howe brought them to bear. He looked briefly and handed them to Martin.
“Hove to a seaanchor, by the looks,” he grunted. “Signalling distress. I’ll take her while you look.” For a second or two Martin watched Howe, after relinquishing the wheel. The little man spread his feet, his eyes narrowed on the compass card. The gentle easing of the spokes, first to port then to starboard, then steady to make the course good, satisfied Martin. He didn’t need to ask if Howe had ever stood a trick at the wheel; the fact was obvious. So Martin raised the glass.
What he saw was a small yachty-looking powerboat, about the Wave’s length or shorter, rolling heavily with her stem held partly quartering the seas by a droghue. An oil-bag was slung on the anchor line and it made a “slick” all about her. A red ensign upside down fluttered from her masthead. The Stars and Stripes waggled
astern. In addition a naan held to the after rail waving a white cloth.
“Broke down, I guess,” Martin remarked. “Have to go see what’s wrong. Confound ’em. Why don’t these blasted power yachts stay inshore?”
“Suppose they’re disabled,” said Mr. Howe, “what’ll you do? Salvage ’em? Tow ’em to Topolabompo.
Martin looked at him sidelong.
“What’d you do? he inquired.
“Let ’em roll,” Howe snapped. “Serve ’em right. Paint and putty and brass. Let ’em drift back to the Strait.”
“More likely the current’d set ’em on Umatilla Reef,” Martin observed. “Bring her about.”
“You’re the, skipper,” Mr. Howe muttered. One gathered by his tone that if he were skipper it would be different. He shifted the wheel a quarter turn, let the Wave pay off so that she slid gently into a deep hole broadside on. Whereupon Mr. Howe put the helm smartly over and showed her quarter to the next big sea. Martin braced himself. She took one long, deep roll and squared away toward the helpless yacht. It was very neatly done. Martin left him at the wheel and set his crew lowering sail, since lacking wind the swinging booms and slatting canvas was simply a racketing nuisance.
'T'HEY bore down on the yacht. She was doing some ground and lofty tumbing where the Wave, under way and deep laden, rolled with an easy swing. Another man appeared from below, and as they drew up to leeward breasting the big seas under a slow bell a woman thrust her head and shoulders above a companion hatch.
“Joyriders,” Mr. F. F. Howe grunted contemptuously.
The Wave bore up as close as she dared stand. Martin looked for a name—Daring Rose, of Seattle. A man holding to her stubby signal-mast bellowed through a megaphone:
“For God’s sake put a line aboard and tow us back to Neah Bay. We’re broke down proper. Been flopping around here for fifteen hours.”
“Stand by to heave aGine,” Martin ordered a man forward. He had the wheel himself now.
“You going to put back with this picnic party?” Howe demanded.
“Gotta do something with ’em,” Martin grumbled. “Can’t leave ’em helpless.”
“Well, I don’t like it,” Mr. Howe complained. “Bad luck to put back, for one thing. And time’s money with this cargo. Still”—he seemed to acquiesce in the necessity—“I suppose we have got to do something.”
Martin paid no attention. He brought the Wave around again, bore in until it seemed that the two vessels poised momentarily on the same crest must inevitably crash together when they plunged.
“Heave!” he shouted—and put the wheel over as his toe tripped the engine-room gong for a quick shove ahead. A three-pound lead to a light line whistled across the Rose’s deck. They drew apart and the line ran out fathom by fathom until the yacht’s crew hauled aboard and made fast the end of a three-inch manilla hawser. They drew up the sea-anchor, clinging like burrs to a precarious hold on a forward deck alternately pointed skyward and plunged to the rail in green water. But they got their gear aboard at last and the Wave doubled back toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca with her crippled tow lurching and yawing wildly forty fathoms astern.
For the better part of an hour Mr. F. F. Howe held his peace. So did Martin, leaning on the wheel. Then Mr. Howe emitted an inquiry:
“Where you going to take her? Neah Bay?”
“Maybe. Not sure yet.”
“You’re master of a Canadian vessel with a cargo for a foreign port,” Mr. Howe pointed out, “and technically you got a right to enter any U.S. harbor from stress of weather or in an emergency—like the present. But”— he became judicial in tone—“you got a cargo the Yanks can raise hell with. I don’t want to be tied up for weeks. Do you?”
A/ÍARTIN scratched his head. He had no reason to ■LYJfear any complication with the U.S. customs. Prohibition enforcement officers were different. Their zeal occasionally outran their discretion. There was, he had heard, a particularly arbitary and offensive crew operating on the American side of the Strait. They had stirred up a lot of muddy water internationally. True, there were whisky runners to be caught. But there had also been legitimate carriers like himself forced into U.S. territorial waters and laid by the heels, tied up for weeks while consuls and foreign offices wrangled. Martin had heard of these high-handed proceedings. He didn’t want to be involved in any such himself.
“Something in that, all right,” he admitted.
He turned to his chart table.
“San Juan Harbor’s no good; blows straight in. Don’t want to go clear back to Victoria. Let’s see. Barkley Sound.”
He pricked off the distance with his dividers.
“Well, I guess it’s Barkley Sound,” he said. “We lose twenty-four hours, that’s all.”
“Twenty-four hours is twenty-four hours,” Mr. Howe observed. “You split the salvage money fifty-fifty with me, of course.”
Martin frowned down on the little man.
“Nobody said anything about salvage yet,” he replied. “By gosh, you’re a shark.”
“I’m a business man. And I got this packet chartered. Don’t you forget that.”
“I don’t suppose you’ll let me forget,” Martin growled.
“Well, business is business, and I’m not in business for my health.” Mr. Howe stated briskly. “Barkley Sound, eh? Where is it?”
Martin indicated the point on the chart and turned his attention to steering. He was far from pleased at having to turn back, but as a seafaring man he recognized the contingency. He didn’t much care into what harbor he towed the Daring Rose. He would have preferred Neah Bay as being much the nearest; but any place would do for shelter. Barkley Sound was a deep indentation où the west coast of Vancouver Island north of Juan de Fuca Strait, a desolate inlet with its mouth all cluttered up by rocky islets against which the open Pacific beat incessantly with ground-swell and storm. Inside those islets lay perfect shelter. Anchored safely the Daring Rose could shift for herself and he could resume his voyage. Daylight of the following morning would find him, he reckoned, back about where he was now—fifty miles south by west of Umatilla Reef, with the Washington coast a faint blue smudge on the horizon.
At noon the tip of the white monolith that carries Tatoosh Light was visible in Martin’s glass, dead abeam. By one bell in the first dogwatch the islandstudded mouth of Barkley Sound began to take form over their bows. And in the early dusk the Wave drew in past the outer fringe of islands where the heavy groundswell broke in a white smother and steamed to a sheltered anchorage. They let go a slight hook—for Martin Synfy was for sea within the half-hour; so soon, in fact, as he had a brief talk with the master of the Daring Rose.
Anchored close by the yacht shaped up as a very able-looking packet, bulky for her length, well-fitted and well-kept above decks. Now she swung a lifeboat from her starboard davits and four men and a woman clambered down, The two who manned the davits remained aboard,
> I 'HE party stepped Up the ladder Martin put overside. They were all dressed in the formally nautical garments affected by yachtsmen. They were all young, and they radiated an air of prosperity and assurance. They introduced themselves but Martin found the recital of their names a vain litany, for in the medley of talk and exclamation he caught only the syllable,
Moss--and Miss Peel. Incongruously “lemon peel”
popped into Martin’s mind. But the association of ideas lay purely in the name. Miss Peel struck him as being more closely akin to a peach than a lemon. She was petite and dainty and a trifle vivacious.
“Oh, Captain,” she declared as soon as she identified the Wave’s master, “that was the finest thing for you to do—turn right around on your course in that terrible storm and tow us all that distance to safety.”
Of course Martin was properly embarrassed, even if also somewhat amused. The “terrible storm” was merely' the unpleasant sort of weather in which a halibut schooner must stay out on the banks and shoot her gear as opportunity affords. He could scarcely tell a charming and grateful young woman that her experience was a common-place. So he grinned and hemmed and asked them all into the cabin abaft the Wave’s engine-room and told Lum to prepare a pot of coffee.
Moss, the yacht’s skipper, a stout ruddy man of thirty-five, related and continued to relate with evident relish the uttermost detail of the entire course of the Daring Rose’s adventures since leaving Seattle. He had set out to make San Francisco. He had two competent navigators and a capable engine-room crew. But the luck had certainly been damnable. It was tough, he assured them, to lie and roll fifteen hours to a sea-drag out óf sight of land. Moss had quite emphatically had enough of offshore cruising.
“Now then, Captain Synfy,” he changed his tune all at once. “I’m indebted to you for probably saving our lives” (at which extravagance Martin grinned anew). I can’t repay you for that. But I can make good on a salvage claim. What would you consider fair?”
“Oh, hanged if I know,” said Martin. With Miss Peel’s admiring eyes upon him Martin was tempted to make a large free-handed gesture and say: “Nothing at all. Forget it.”
But Mr. F. F. Howe saved him the trouble. That dapper gentleman had displayed considerable social talent in the twenty minutes or so since the party came aboard. Now he remarked sauvely:
“These bluff sea-dogs like Captain Synfy are the soul
of openhandedness, Captain Moss. However, while Captain Synfy owns the Wave and commands her, I am -the owner and shipper of the cargo he carries. We have been delayed. I would suggest—as compensation for .the delay—not as a salvage claim, you understand— that five hundred dollars would be a fair sum.”
“Fair enough,” Mr. Moss agreed heartily and produced a checkbook. “What d’ye say, Captain? Five hundred satisfactory?”
\/f ARTIN nodded. As a matter of fact it was liberal -*-^1 compensation, even if short of what an admiralty court would have allowed as a just claim. Moss wrote out a check and handed it over.
“Well,” he said, “that’s that.If I didn’t come from a dry country I’d have you aboard and crack a bottle. As it is I’m tickled to death to be here instead of there. I guess we’ll have to drink each other’s health in Java.” Mr. F. F. Howe drew himself up to his five-foot-two and smile i benignantly—a wrinkled wizened smile which did somehow indicate a genial spirit.
“If you’ll excusé me a moment,” said he, “I’ll fix hat. B.C. is still pretty wet.”
He stepped up the companionway, returned almost immediately with a small club bag. This he set on the table, opened, and lifted out four bottles with a flourish.
“Oh man! 0 boy!” Moss chortled. “Shades of Moet & Chandon! I haven’t seen bubble water for months and months. 'And Scotch. Good old King George, Black Label. Say, this is a treat for fair.”
Lum brought in glasses while Mr. Howe plied a corkscrew. They drank. Miss Peel lifted her glass to Martin.
“Here’s to our better acquaintance,” she toasted archly.
“Call the crew in and give ’em a shot, eh Captain? Special occasion and all that sort of thing, you know.” Martin complied. Like most seafaring men he had no abhorrence of liquor. He did believe in doing his drinking ashore and insisted that any crew sailing with him do the same. But a solitary drink in this way was another matter. Short of broaching cargo—which isn’t done in nautical circles—there would be no more grog issued until they got shore leave in Mexico.
The engineroom crew, the deck watch, came in, downed a stiff noggin of Scotch and withdrew grinning. Only Lum, with his friendly smile, refused to libate.
“No likum one dlink, Likum lot, Dlinkum lot no cook thlee day,”
Só Maftiu and Mr. F. F. Howe and their guests had another—a stirrup-cup, so to speak, for Martin had ordered his crew to stand by in ten minutes. ..
But ere the ten minutes had elapsed ä curious set of phenomena overcame Martin Synfy. First he experienced a weird sort of exhiliration in which he seemed to expand until he was a colossal figure in that small space, dwarfing all his companions. Then things began to spin. The beams overhead, ths berths, the persons sitting thereon, the persons themselves began to recede with strange gesticulatory motions. Their faces vanished last of all, a cluster of faces among which he could faintly distinguish the florid countenance of Mr. Moss, the wizened features of Mr. F. F. Howe and the piquant face of Miss Peel. Poor little Lemon Peel, Martin thought, with an all-embracing affection. Then faces, cabin walls, deck-beams, portholes, all hazy in the glow of an oil lamp, began to go round faster and faster like a giddy whirlpool and in the vortex of this incomprehensible gyration Martin felt himself sink into oblivion.
The next thing that filtered into his consciousness was a sound, far-off, rather plaintive, and very annoying in its repetition of a single phrase: “Missa Synfy. Missa Synfy. Missa Synfy.”
“Darn that Chink’s hide!” Martin opened his eyes with an effort. He wanted to sleep. What was it—six bells? Eight bells? Must be first watch. No. Everything seemed, to be badly twisted. A minute ago— where the deuce had Moss and his crowd, Mr. Howe and cute little Lemon Peel, got to so quickly. And, by Heck, it was daylight—the sun thrusting a yellow shaft through a porthole. His head ached intolerably. He lay on a berth in the cabin, and he had no recollection whatever of elapsed time. His eye fell on an empty bottle standing on the table—a long, slender-necked bottle. Had he got stewed on fizz? He couldn’t remember.
And across these bewildered reflections came again Lum’s voice plaintively: “Missa Synfy. Missa Synfy. Missa Synfy.”
Martin heaved himself up. What the devil ailed the old fool? And what a head—what a head! He pressed his throbbing temples between his hands. Again Lum’s voice.
Two strides took Synfy to the galley door. Lum sat on a stool. His legs were tied securely to the legs of the stool. His back was against the butt of a mast, that rose from the keel and passed through the deck above, and body, legs and stool were lashed to this stout spar. Lum was, in fact, as neatly triced as a turkey for the oven.
Martin cut him loose. .
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Continued from page 24
“Helium damn!” Lum exploded when his cramped limbs were free. “Velly bad people.”
“What in hell happened?” Martin demanded.'
“How I know?” Lum protested. “Everybody havum dlink. Bimeby ledface man come galley askum hot watel. Ketchum me quick. Tie me velly tight. Say I yell he knock my block off. What you do all tlime?”
Martin didn’t wait to give any account of himself. He bolted up on deck. His eye swept the quiet bay. The Wave swung to her anchor where it had been let go. But th? Daring Rose was gone. Moreover the midship hatch yawned wide, the cargo boom swung free, tackles pendant, and
rope slings flung carelessly aside. After that look and the obvious inference Martin received no particular jolt when he bent over the hatch coaming to stare into an empty hold.
HE CLAPPED his hands to his pockets wondering if they had done a thorough job. To his mystification his funds were intact, including the check Moss had given him. That was so much to the good, he reflected.
Then he made a round of the ship to see if crew as well as cargo had disappeared. By this time he had no idea of finding Mr. Howe tucked away in any odd corner. Why he immediately jumped to such a conclusion he didn’t know. It was
just a hunch. But he had it strong and it proved correct, for while he found one engineer helpless in his bunk in the engineroom and the rest of the crew variously sprawled about the forecastle, he did not find Mr. F. F. Howe nor any of Mr. Howe’s belongings. His men were all as dead to the world as if each had been neatly tapped on the head with a steam hammer.
Martin went on deck to take one more unavailing look around. His head was thick and sore, and he needed a clear head now if he ever did. Because he realized at once that he was in something of a pickle. He had cleared foreign with a bonded cargo. Unless he got his manifests through the consignee at Topolabompo and duly cleared from that port, he could not enter Vancouver. And what the Canadian customs would do to the Wave if they caught her with an empty hold within the three mile limit two days after clearing for Mexico was painful to consider.
He didn’t waste much time considering. There were always Canadian government launches hovering on the west coast. The high sea was the place for him. He hurried below with a bucket of cold water and soused the sleeping men. In the end he succeeded in rousing both engineers. The others, whether they were of softer fibre or what-not, stirred, muttered incoherently, and relapsed into that unnatural stupor.
“What hit us?” one engineer muttered in bewilderment. “Lord, my head! I don’t' recall but one drink.” ,
“Doped. Knockout drops, I guess,” Martin snapped. “Get that engine turning over and we’ll get out of here before we get into worse trouble.”
They hauled anchor, cleared Barkley Sound and stood straight to sea. The slow ground-swell ran oily smooth. Neither sail nor steam dotted a vast' westward sweep. Inshore the coast lay clear within range of Martin’s glass. He gave the wheel to the second engineer and went below to see what he could do for his men.
As he passed through the cabin his eye turned to that empty champagne bottle. It sat on the table like a miniature monument to an untimely libation, and Martin grasped it in a burst of anger to heave it overboard. He paused, with the bottle in his hand.
IT HAD rested on certain documents, folded sheets of paper variously colored blue and yellow, formal-looking documents. Martin put down the bottle and took up the papers. A signed and stamped check fluttered out; also a brief note in pencil. He looked more closely. They itemized thus: a consignee’s receipt for cargo delivered; a formal clearance from Topolabompo, Mexico to Vancouver, B.C., in ballast and stores—both postdated ten days.
Martin’s eyes bulged. He examined the check. One thousand dollars, drawn on a Vancouver bank in his favor, and signed F. F. Howe. The pencilled note, unsigned, ran:
“Sorry for slight irregularity. Necessary under circumstances. You will find clearance in proper order—by special arrangement.
By Cash in advance..........$1,000
“ Moss check.................. 500
lí“ Personal’check............ 1,000
Better stand well out to se a for a couple of weeks.”
Martin’s eyes bulged farther. He couldn’t make head or tail of such an oblique transaction. It was altogether too complicated and annoyed him very much indeed. But if the checks were good he had not the worst of the bargain—except for a sore head and a dark-brown taste in his mouth.
As for that clearance-*-Martin stood frowning. The papers were in perfect order so far as he could see. But he was intrinsically honest. He. hated fakes. He had cleared for Topolabompo. Cargo or no cargo, he would go to Topolabompo and square his acts with his conscience. He thrust his head up the companionway. “Head her south by west.”
He heard the grind of the chain as the steering wheel turned in obedience under the man’s hand.
“South by west it is.”
“Steady on that course.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
Martin told Lum to make a pot of good strong coffee at once. Then he took a bucket of water and set about reviving the other members of his crew.
A LITTLE over two weeks later Martin Synfy walked up the steps of 119 Lincoln and pushed open the door labeled F. F. Howe, Marine Broker. Hie had entered the Wave formally in her home port in due form. He had cashed both checks. He had paid off his crew with a bonus, and found himself a nice sum in pocket. But there was still an unsatisfied personal equation. The mystery still tantalized him and he sought its elucidation; indeed he demanded it as an inalienable right.
Mr. F. F. Howe was out of town, a stenographer informed him. Martin withdrew. In the hall he bethought himself of another inquiry and abruptly reentered. The door to the inner office stood wide. Through the opening he distinctly saw Miss Peel, little Lemon Peel, very natty in a tailored suit, diligently powdering her dainty nose. Then the door was slammed and the stenographer pertly asked what she could do him for now. The bdör of mystery tantalized Martin still more.
He hung about Vancouver several days without ever cornering his man. He did make various inquiries into the complexities of the whisky traffic and learned that it had a number of peculiar aspects both at home and abroad.
■ Presently, as if luck had definitely turned his way, Martin picked up a profitable if somewhat risky charter to carry thirty tons of giant powder to a mine on the west coast. It happened also that he signed on one of the original engineers for this voyage.
They unloaded their dangerous freight on a wharf in Nootka Sound, a point some seventy miles north of Barkley, and thankfully saw the explosive trucked away to a shed. They-lay at the mine approach in the dusk of evening. Martin and his engineer leaned on the rail watching the fish make phospherent streaks over-side.
“Funny how handling chancy stuff like that gets you keyed up,” Martin observed at last. “Now that powder’s ashore I’d give four bits for a good shot of hooch.”
A chunky gasboat of the fishing type rubbed against the nearby piling. Evidently Martin’s words carried distinctly on the still night air.
“You can get a shot for less than that,” a voice apprised him with a chuckle, “if you’ll step aboard. Come and have one on me.”
Martin and the engineer accepted without more ado. The man reached with a' boathook and drew his stern against the Wave.' They jumped across. He motioned them into his little doghouse cabin where an oil lamp swung in tarnished brass gimbals. Once within, the man reached under a pipe berth and partly drawing out a small box wrapped in burlap took there-. from a bottle. With a cup from his dish locker he passed the bottle to Martin.
“Pretty fair stuff, all right,” he agreed after they had all three sampled it with relish. “If you happen to want a quart or two I can put you on.”
“You bootlegging it?” Martin asked bluntly. His eyes rested with a speculative interest on the burlap cover of thé* case, on the labeled bottle.
IJOOTLEGGING in a wet country might seem a superfluous and unprofitable occupation. But not so in British Columbia. Given general dryness such as obtains in the United States, and the bootlegger functions largely. Given a provincial government monopoly of liquor sales, with prices as high as the traffic will bear, and the bootlegger will flourish alsoj so long as he has a source of supply—be it only moonshine. Thus the B. C. bootlegger has a valid reason for his activities.
“God bless you, no,” the man laughed. “I'm tending camp for a logging outfit
across the Sound, with my gasboat. But I know a bootlegger who peddles this Kentucky Bourbon a dollar a quart below government store prices. I got half a case from him the other day. It’s good and it’s cheap and there’s plenty of it, he says. If you want a drink and can get it for less, why pay more?”
“That’s reasonable,” Martin smiled. “But we’ll be pulling for Vancouver at daylight. I guess bootlegging pays good, here on the West coast, eh? But it must be pretty risky.”
“Oh, I guess so,” the1 man answered carelessly. “These birds don’t seem to mind taking a chance. So long as they sell good stuff cheaper than it is sold elsewhere, nobody is going to kick. In fact,” he grinned widely, “I see a constable the other day with a bottle of this same stuff on his hip. Good old Kentucky Bourbon,” he drawled. “I wonder how it got loose in this country with the States so dry?”
Martin didn’t try to enlighten him. But once aboard the Wave he said to his engineer:
“That’s where our Topolabompo cargo ..went. Notice the stencil marks bn that buríap? I got it now.”
“You don’t say!”
“I sure do,” Martin growled. “That’s one of our two thousand cases of Bourbon. I did some nosing around in Vancouver. Here’s the idea: An American distillery can manufacture under certain, restrictions. They can export under permission to withdraw from a bonded warehouse. They can ship to Canada, for instance, and if the stuff is to be re-exported to some foreign port it pays no Canadian excise. You get the drift? That Canadian excise is stiff. Howe squares it with an agent in Mexico to fix up a set of mánifests. As soon as I re-enter at Vancouver the bond is released. So far as the customs is concerned that cargo was duly delivered at Topolo. bompo. And Mr. F. F. Howe lays down two thousand cases of perfectly good hooch here on the West Coast at less than the provincial government can buy the same stuff for. He lays it down here for about sixteen dollars a case and the bootlegger sells it at three dollars a bottle, where government liquor sells from four dollars a bottle up. Gold mine for him. See?”
“Uh-huh.. Then the Daring Rose was a plant?”
“Sure,” Martin snorted.
■ “But why,” the engineer reflected, “didn’t he make you the proposition straight out?”
“Damn it,” Martin growled, “he was hinting at it all the way down Juan de Fuca. I can see that now. And I didn’t have sabe enough to tumble. If you ain’t crooked yourself you don’t always twig it when a man is suggesting a crooked deal. Probably he figured it was cheaper to do it the way he did. He had it all fixed anyway, if I didn’t fall for his hints that there was easier ways to make a piece of money than by freighting to Mexico. He knew once he’d put it over I had to keep mum to protect myself. You could never make an admiralty court believe a vessel lost her cargo like we did. Pretty damned smooth.”
“Sure was,” the engineer commented. “He put one over on the customs and you too.”
“He sure did,” Martin agreed. “And while I didn’t lose money on it, I darn near got gray-headed worrying. You watch my smoke. Some of these days I’ll hand Mr. Howe a nice, ripe lemon and watch him make faces. Then I’ll turn Lum loose on him to get square for being tied to the mast all night. Oh, yes,” Martin snapped his teeth together, “I got a crow to pick with Mr. Howe all right. The air’ll be full of flying feathers when we get together. You can bet your sweet life on that.”