THE STORY SO FAR: In the peaceful Cape Breton village of Arichat is an old house, reputed to be haunted, and once occupied by a descendant of Andrea Ferrara, the famous Toledo swordsmith, and a man who had rifled of their treasures the cathedrals of the cities of the South Seas. In Arichat dwells, also, Sprott Gabereau, a sealing captain whose career has been anything but law abiding.
An ancient Spanish gold piece appears in the village and with it the people of Arichat are seized with a fever of speculation. Gabereau owns an ancient chart-case which he has never dared to open but with the appearance of his villainous ex-mate, Dugas, he determines both to open it and invade 'Domramey' the haunted house. There he finds Dugas in the act of counting out an immense hoard of gold pieces. There is u terrific fight between the two
Gabereau’s dearly loved foster-daughter, Yvonne, brings to the skipper’s house a handsome Spanish Don who proclaims himself Ferrara’s heir. Sprott receives him with coldness and suspicion. The Don asks for the chart-case which Gabereau has in his possession but the latter refuses to part with it.
The Spaniard fits out his yacht the Ushuaiafor a treasure-hunting expedition andGabereau buys an old sealing-schooner and prepares for a race to the place where the Ferrara treasure is believed to be hidden. The news of these preparations soon fills Arichat with desperados of the worst sort.
CAPTAIN GABEREAU lost no time in preparing for sea. The news spread like wildfire that he had purchased the schooner Quickstep, one of the staunchest vessels of the Lunenburg fishing fleet, which he straightway re-christened The Acadian.
The Acadian was especially strong, “X” braced across the break, with nine sets of iron knees, built to stand any amount of driving and heavy weather. It was her blending of speed and strength that won the heart of Captain Gabereau.
Lender the hands of skilful workmen, many changes in her appointments were made. The foc’sle was extended to provide additional sleeping room for the crew. A galley was built below decks adjoining the foc’sle, giving ample accommodation for the cook.
A large dining and living room was built in aft, next the cabin, where the crew could enjoy their meals in comfort, and occupy pleasantly the long hours below, reading books and magazines or playing the sealer’s favorite game of forty-fives. The vessel was bound on a long voyage, and the well-being of the crew was not to be overlooked. ' When the Acadian came into Arichat harbor one afternoon everybody was amazed at the speed with which the changes had been effected.
Riding to her anchor in the stream, she looked like any ordinary fisherman, but on coming aboard many changes were noted; tons of ballast had been put in the bottom, and floored over to prevent shifting in heavy weather; steel tanks for fresh water were placed in the after end; stores and provisions filled every available corner, not occupied by spare sails, bags of salt, and extra spars and gear.
On deck, there were fewer changes to note, except that a large booby hatch had been provided to facilitate entrance to the hold in dirty weather, a new suit of sails had bent on, and all running rigging had been renewed.
On either side of the hatch were nested four boats, eight in all, strong, rakish-looking craft, eighteen feet long, four feet wide, carvel-built, with more than the usual sheer line, each fitted with spar and sail as well as two pairs of ash sweeps. A close observer would also have noticed in each boat, a long handled gaff, two water-tight boxes, one for food, the other for ammunition. These boats appeared to be the centre of attraction, for the oldtimers of Arichat knew that their type was only used for one purpose. By this token, it was announced to all that the Acadian was bound for the Southern Ocean on a seal hunting expedition.
Down in the cabin, coated with vaseline to prevent rusting, were racks containing Parker and Greener double-barrel shot guns, two for each hunter, ready for use when the sealing grounds should be reached.
While preparing for sea, Gabereau began to make his
headquarters in an inn in the village called the Flem de Lis. Here, in an upper room, behind closed doors, he held conferences with numberless strange characters that began mysteriously to appear from unheard of outports.
As these visitors, one by one, flocked into town, they seemed to bring into the peace and quiet of Isle Madame, the turmoil and strife of another world.
The bar of the Fleur de Lis echoed to incessant brawls. Hitherto, Terrio, the proprietor, had been accustomed to close his bar at nine o’clock, for lack of custom. With the coming of this gambling, drinking, fighting and carousing set, he was often doing a roaring trade until the wee sma’ hours of the morning.
The good folk of Arichat would have grown impatient with such company in ordinary circumstance. But here was something to be tolerated, nay more, to be welcomed with opened arms, for the delectable hell’s broth which Gabereau had introduced into the town could be interpreted as having only one meaning, the South Sea seal, that dark splendor precious as the golden fleece, was again calling forth the argonauts. •
With the sealing business being revived, Terrio, an old reprobate, said: “Of course, ye expect to see these lads paint the port pink.” But pink was too pale a color, for robustious sealers, they painted the place crimson and
vermilion. To use their own expression, they'took the town to pieces and heard her tick,’
Among those who came and went from Gabereau’s upper room, were recognized more than one of the wildcat skippers who had already lived great stories in the Behring Sea, defying the cruisers of the Czar and Uncle Sam in order to poach on the forbidden zone for seals.
There was Wild Alec MacLean, who years before had burst upon the Frisco waterfront with his tremendous moustache and started forth upon a career of far adventure. Finally, forbidden the flag of his own country, he sailed off for the smoky seas, under the Mexican ensign.
There was Captain MacAuley, who once calmly invited himself to dinner with the commandant of the Russian guards at Commander Islands, while his men took spoil of the herds.
There was Rory MacAskill one of the imprisoned Captains in the Russian hen house at Petropavlovski,, hero of Kipling’s ‘Twixt the Devil and the Deep Sea’, when the Russian cruiser Zebioka seized thè schooners Maria, Carmilite, Rosie, Olson and Vancouver Belle. MacAskill had twice been a prisoner of the Siberian authorities and thrice had suffered confiscation.
The lure of gain was the perpetual lodestone which had drawn this international poaching fraternity into the zone of Russian reprisal. From the moment these
ARTHUR HUNT CHUTE’S Thrilling tale of a race for hidden treasure
fellows set foot aboard their craft, they were nothing less than pirates banded together to rob under arms, desperate adventurers all, and picked shots. Now, after years of peace, they were again answering the same call.
Down in the bar parlor of the Fleur de Lis, one heard great stories of the desperate nature of the sealing business: of hunters lost at sea adrift for days in open boats; of storms, and raids, and death from the rifles of the guards; of guerilla wars at Copper Island; of chases, and marvellous escapes on the Northern grounds; of iron fisted seamen bucking into the Arctic gales; of wildcat skippers; of hard-bitten killers and vagabond crews.
Then the yarns would shift to the Southern Ocean, to the fierce and stormy regions of the Horn, where men dared as mightily against the Roaring Forties as in the Behring Sea. There were yarns of tiny schooners, visiting lost islands, and Antarctic coasts where man before had never dared to sail. Always the priceless sealskin was the lure for desperate chancing.
After the sealing had been so long in abeyance, it was small wonder that people began to wag their heads, to look significantly at the Acadian riding to her anchor in the harbor.
“Aye, she’s after something more than seals.”
At suggestions like this, Gabereau grew purple with rage.
“Of course I’m after seals, seals and nothing else but seals,” he exclaimed sententiously.
Then came the announcement that the Ushuaia, that white pleasure yacht in the harbor, was also preparing for the same quest.
At this news, Gabereau and his companions in the Fleur deLis were more secret than ever in their comings and goings, while increasingly an air of stealth began to come over the preparations of the rival vessels. The Ushuaia, which for the week past had been lying alongside, at the battery wharf, cast off and towed out into the stream.
Visitors had been frequent before, but now they were suddenly forbidden from either vessel. At all hours of the day or night a watchman vas always warning off possible loiterers happening to be handy.
One of the Acadian’s crew, who went down to the Ushuaia, under cover of darkness, to see how far they had progressed, came back with his dory almost awash telling how someone aboard the Ushuaia, as he made fast to their moorings, had suddenly bored holes in the bottom of his boat with a high powered rifle.
“He didn’t even warn me,” said the righteously indignant boatman. “Just opened fire, the minute I grabbed ahold of his moorin’ chains.”
“And what did you do?” inquired Captain Gabereau.
“Sure, I started pullin’ fer the shore. Thought I’d be drowned before I got here.”
“Pity ye wasn’t, ye bunglin’ fool,” was the skipper’s caustic rejoinder. “Don’t ever come round and ask for a job from me again.”
The man hired for the next job was blessed with more of the secret resource of the sealers.
With the Ushuaia openly preparing for the Southern ocea n, dark hints were let out that she would change her mind; that the yachting skipper was suffering from a brain storm; that he would never really carry out his purpose.
As the preparations of the Ushuaia went on apace, these hints were changed to open threats, and the tough company of Terrio’s bar began to announce significantly.
“If that bloody Spick in his fancy yacht, thinks he’s followin’ after us fellers, on this here sealin’ expedition, he’s got another think cornin’ to him.”
One of the Ushuaia’s crew who happened to be there, wanted to know:
“Can’t another vessel fit out fer the South Sea sealin’ grounds as well as ye?
“No, they can’t,” was the defiant answer, at which statement a score of couples at once started stepping it out, in the bar parlor, and doubtless would have effectually finished the Terrio joint had not Gabereau and three of his trusties burst down upon them from above, and cleaned the whole fighting mass out into the street.
The Ushuaias were still righteously indignant as they broke away, snorting.
“I guess we’ve got as much right in this sealing game as a bunch of Bluenose herring-chokers.”
To which Gabereau replied.
“You can tell yer skipper that if he thinks he’s goin’ to start chasin’ us across the ocean, he’ll never git his craft outside this harbor.”
A VILLAGE like Arichat was not the place in which x a young girl could meet a strange man without having it noised about by all.
Out of deference to village gossips, Don Juan was cautious as possible, so as to avoid the breath of scandal, but trivial meetings that might have passed unobserved elsewhere, were enough in Arichat to set all tongues awagging.
One evening Paul came to call on Yvonne, at the accustomed hour, only to find her away, and Gabereau pacing the garden, swearing great oaths, and declaring what he would do to put a stop to this continuing defiance.
Paul was a tall, powerfully built fellow, the promise of physical prowess was in him, albeit undeveloped. As a clerk in a general store, he spent his days at a business despised by the strenuous Sprott, who was forever declaring:
“Behind a counter’s no place for a man. Out to sea’s where you ought to be, me lad, out there where they’ll give ye blood and iron in place 0’ milk and water.”
Drawing up before his nephew abruptly this night, the skipper snapped.
“What’s the matter with you, Paul, that you can’t hold this lass against all comers? What’s the matter with ye, eh?”
“The fault is not mine,” answered Paul.
“Whose is it, then?”
“Mine!” Gabereau was thunderstruck, but Paul continued;
“Aye, if you’d left that black case behind you, or if you had thrown the cursed thing into the sea, nothing would have come between me and Yvonne. The case is the cause of all our trouble.
"That’s a nice excuse for a lover that hasn’t got hackbone enough to put up his dukes and hold a girl against all comers.”
“Yvonne is not the kind that you can hold that way, Uncle Sprott.”
“Umph! That’s the way I’d hold her, if she was my sweetheart. At the first peep of another sail upon the skyline I’d wade right in and clean ’em up.”
“It’s all right for you to say what you would do, if you were in my place, but I notice that you don’t seem to have any success in making Yvonne follow your desires.”
“She’s a thankless little vixen,” burst out Gaber-
“Oh, no, she is not, Uncle Sprott, she's just getting foolish about this gold, the same as you are, the same as almost everyone else in the parish, the gold has gone to the heads of everyone and it’s the gold that’s stealing away my sweetheart.”
“And how about that feller that she’s snoopin’ about with?”
“It’s the gold that brings ’em together.”
“You think so, eh?”
“Indeed Yvonne told me that was all that made her go with the stranger.”
“And you believed her?”
“I’d believe in Yvonne, no matter what happened.”
“Goes to show what a fool you are, me boy. Little you know about women. I never seen the female yet I’d trust the length of me nose with another man. Lying and deceit is the very life and breath of ’em. We are strong, they are weak, so they
are forever planning how they can deceive us. It’s as natural for a woman to lie as it is for a man to fight.”
"You are wrong when you say that,” retorted Paul, with sudden fierceness.
But Gabereau merely raised his hand. “Not so fast, young feller, not so fast. I know what I’m talking about this time. You come up here to-night to meet Yvonne, she tole ye she’d be here, didn’t she?”
"Well, you took it for granted she’d be here; she lets you think that she’s in love with you, still keeps on playing the old sweetheart game, just the same as she used to, and all the time, while she’s luring you on, like some poor decoy, she’s back o’ the scenes carrying on a shameless affair with this snake in the grass from the Argentine.”
"He doesn’t look like such a bad sort; indeed, he must have the stuff in him.”
“Because Yvonne likes him, and ye can’t fool her when it comes to a man. She can look right through him, like a glass window, she knows a good sight quicker than you or me who’s the sham and who ain’t.”
Gabereau threw up his hands in a helpless gesture. “You think she’s all angel, me lad, but you’ve got a thing or two to learn. Since you have such perfect trust in her, it wouldn’t hurt for ye to know the kind o’ company she’s keeping. I’ve seen and heard things that prove the worst suspicions that we might have about her affair with this damned Spick. Never seen nothing yet that talked the Spanish tongue that I’d trust with a lady, leastways with an innocent little lass like Yvonne.”
“But this fellow’s not really a Spick, he came from Virginia to begin with.”
“You mean he says so, but he can’t bluff me, he’s all Spick I tell ye, and the lowest, trickiest kind at that.” Seeing that Paul was still unpersuaded, Sprott suddenly lowered his voice to a confidential whisper. “Where was Yvonne when she disappeared so sudden and didn’t show up again till the morning? Where was she then?” Paul paled slightly but did not answer, while the skipper continued:
“Who was the man she brought home with her, last night, when she thought she’d find me out? Who was it that she was with yesterday, till long after dark, up in the haunted house? Who is it that she’s with right now,
in the office up there behind the fisheries store? You don’t know, Paul, you don’t know anything. But I’ll tell who it is she’s with in every kind of secret place, the whole town of Arichat knows it if you don’t—it’s that damned cradle snatching paramour of a Don Juan, and he’s the feller she’s with at this very minute.”
As Gabereau hissed these words with taunting accent, Paul suddenly lost that splendid calm, which always seemed to belong to him as a part of the very genius of the place in which he dwelt. At Sprott’s insinuation, passion suddenly blanched his cheeks.
“How do you know he’s up there now?”
“Baptiste told me only just before you came.”
Paul did not hesitate. He spoke with deadly decisiveness. “All right, then, let us get up there.”
Shooting the detested Don Juan in cold blood was hardly according to the ethics of Sprott Gabereau. But now, on account of the wrath that was in his nephew, he felt that the Latin gentleman’s death-warrant was as good as signed.
Paul Gabereau, the man in gray, who dwelt in the peace of this Acadian Isle, was not above the primal passion that fights for a woman.
Under that calm, imperturbable exterior there slept the furies. Watching him in this moment, Sprott was confident of the result.
On the way he offered his nephew a gun, but the other refused.
“By God, I wouldn’t rob me naked fists,” he said, between clenched teeth.
Arrived at the fisheries store, Paul was for bursting right into the place with bold defiance, but the wily skipper cautioned him he had better spy out the land.
“Catch him in the act, then smite him down.” This advice added twelve months to the life of the man within. Murder would unquestionably have accompanied Paul Gabereau if he had come at Don Juan at that frenzied moment without forewarning.
At the other’s suggestion, turning aside from the direct attack like a stalking lion, he followed the lead of his companion. As they came around by the back of the great dark building, a ray of light came from under the closed blind.
Drawing close to the window, both bent and listened intently, but could see nothing, hear nothing.
Paul was drawing off as though to smash in the pane,
when Sprott, always canny, put his finger to his lip as a sign for silence and then, with infinite precaution, he started to raise the window.
As the opening gave a little, there came to them the low murmur of voices, then, in a breath of wind, the blind drew back ever so slightly. Paul caught a flashing glimpse of the scene within. Instead of the amorous picture which the evil imaginings of his Uncle Sprott had conjured up, he beheld Don Juan seated near the lamp at the table reading, and at the far side of the room, Yvonne, demurely listening There was nothing at all incriminating in this procedure, but what of the book!
Paul bent his ear and listened, what he heard was even more surprising than what he had seen. Don Juan was reading to the girl from one of Tennyson’s poems, and then, as the two without still listened, they caught the words distinctly.
Continued on page 67
Continued from pa&le 28
"Honor the Christ, the King,
"Live pure, speak true, right wrong,”
"Honor the King—else wherefore born.’
At this the consuming fury suddenly left Paul Gabereau with a gasp. Completely mystified, almost in tears, he turned away, sobbing half aloud.
"My God, and who’d ’ave ever thought it!”
PREPARATIONS aboard the Ushuaia, A in spite of threats and warnings, were pushed with utmost speed. The Acadian had gained a considerable start, but Don Juan was a driver.
Gabereau was disgusted that he knew so little of the movements of his rival, which were carried on behind an impenetrable veil of secrecy. By good luck one afternoon, he learned, from a drunken sailor of the Ushuaia, that their whole crew were temporarily in quarters on Jerseymen’s Island, on account of the changes which the carpenters were affecting in foc’sle and cabin.
This news was snatched up with avidity. That evening there was an unusually long conclave in Terrio’s tavern. Those who were awake late, were aware that the light was still burning in that upper room. All night a high wind came roaring down the outer harbor, filling the darkness with phosphorescent foam. In the morning, when the storm had abated, there was the Ushuaia ashore on the sand, below Stan Binet’s store.
Fifty yards to the right or to the left she would have pounded to pieces. But, as it was she suffered no serious damage, beyond the springing of a few seams.
According to the explanation which was at first given out, she had dragged her anchors.
But the holding ground in Arichat Harbor was too good to allow any such mishap. The finding of the body of the
night watchman of the Ushuaia, caused all the good folk of Arichat to shake their heads dubiously, and declare:
“Someone slipped her moorin’s in the night, that’s how she come to be ashore, and, what’s more, the drowning was no accident.”
The natives were particular not to noise their suspicions abroad too loudly, for fear of any incriminating results, for the town itself was naturally in favor of the local vessel. Hence, mishaps to the foreign rival were looked upon as blessings in disguise.
On account of the uncertainty of the conditions of his vessel’s keel, Don Jiian had the Ushuaia run up on the marine slip.
He had intended to go up to Halifax for greater safety. But the ways there were already occupied, so, placing an extra heavy guard around the Ushuaia, he had her hauled up at MacNair’s Cove, in the strait of Canso, a few hours sail from Arichat.
In spite of every precaution, however, during noon day lunch hour, while all hands were preoccupied at their dinner pails, a cloud of smoke was suddenly seen issuing from the schooner’s cabin. À minute later another cloud of the same black smoke was rising ominously from the fore peak.
“Fire!” Screaming at the top of his lungs, Dirk Dugas, was the first to give the alarm, rushing aboard the threatened vessel just as Gatty, one of Gabereau’s henchmen, was making good his escape around the far end of the slip.
When the fire was finally conquered, the Ushuaia’s crew were a picture of black grimed fury, while dull oaths told of retribution waiting for the lads aboard the Acadian, when their turn should come.
The skipper thought that he had put an
effectual crimp in his rival, and then just as they were finishing breakfast, one morning, there, with the sunlight glinting on her snow-white canvas, was the Ushuaia, fairer than ever, ramping in through the Western Passage.
The skipper wanted to swear, but on account of Yvonne, he satisfied himself by exclaiming.
“Well, I’ll be gol-ding-danged!” “What’s the matter, Uncle Sprott?” “Oh, nothing. I just had a corn pinch me.”
“You mean you just had a glimpse of the Ushuaia that nearly knocked the wind out of you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You make me sick,” the girl burst out, with a sudden fierceness.
“Whirr—umph—umph!” The sea lion, with submarine roarings started to come to the surface, but the girl this time was in no way to be deterred.
“Never mind making noises like that to mask the cheap feeling you have for yourself. Strutting up and down this town telling everybody that you are fitting out again for a sealing expedition.” “So I am.”
“Well, there isn’t anybody in Arichat who is a big enough fool to believe that now.”
“Why, from the way you’ve been actin’, it’s plain as the nose on your face that you’re after something a good sight more important than seals.”
“And what might that be, pray?” “You’re after the Ferrara treasure.” “And what if I said I wasn’t.”
“I’d say you were a liar.” Yvonnne shot out this last with utmost venom. “You men make me sick, you are so thick in your upper story, no girl or woman would ever make the mistakes you do.” “Oh, no, of course not.”
“And the worst of it is, the thicker your heads are, the better opinion you have of yourselves. But I want to tell you right now, Uncle Sprott, I’m ashamed of you. Here you are starting out on a treasure expedition, after something that isn’t yours, anyway.”
“Whose is it?”
“It belongs to Don Juan. That treasure is his, when it is found, and the clue to the treasure is also his.”
“That remains to be seen, my impudent young hussie.”
In a sudden white coldness, Yvonne refused to speak; she sat, rather, in silence, supercilious contempt in every line of her fine features. From the power of her restraint, Gabereau and his bludgeon were suddenly stricken.
For sometime the rough skipper sat there, too much humbled to carry on the quarrel, too proud to admit himself in error.
He had never loved anyone in all his life as he had Yvonne, every hair of her golden head was precious unto him, there had been squalls and tempests, both were quick to wrath, but always after storm, the sunshine of forgiveness was the sweetest time of all, when, the repentant girl would come to the repentant skipper, climb upon his knee, put her arms about him, and with her cheek against his rough face, whisper in his ear: “I’m so, so sorry, Uncle Sprott.” Suddenly abashed, subdued, Gabereau let his head fall, waiting for her to come with healing.
This time, however, unlike the other occasions, she still sat in silent aloofness, her every attitude reminding the rough skipper of the vast worlds that stretched between them. •
For the first time in all his life, like a drowning man clutching for a straw, Gabereau began to backwater, exclaiming in contrite tones: “I’m so sorry, little one.”
But an enchanting wall of darkness still enwrapped her.
Gabereau bent his ear for the first whispering of love, looked to those dark eyes, for the first returning gleam of
sympathy, but love and sympathy alike were vanished.
In a sudden wave of humility, he wanted to go over to Yvonne and crave forgiveness. He would have crawled to her on his very knees, but the heinousness of that which he had imputed to her seemed to render him unutterably unworthy.
“Go to her on your knees,” some voice within was whispering. Sprott recognized the voice of his good angel. Almost persuaded, he listened for a hesitating moment. If he had followed that voice, heart strings, strained and taut, might never have been broken.
Is it chance, or is it fate that gives a distracting glimpse from the window, when love is just ready to flee from the door? Looking over the golden glory of Yvonne’s bright head, just at that pregnant moment, Sprott caught sight of the sunlit topsails of the Ushuaia.
Out there, across wind-crinkled blue, another voice, not his good angel, called him. Answering to that other call, he passed out of the house, and turned toward the port, leaving darkness between himself and the most loving heart that he had ever known.
CPROTT GABEREAU left the upper ^ room above Terrio’s bar about midnight.
Throughout that day he had been especially busy. On account of the unexpected sight of the Ushuaia in the harbor final preparations aboard the Acadian consequently had been rushed in frantic haste, and now at last everything was ready. His vessel had her clearance papers, and the morning’s tide would see her dropping the Nova Scotian coast astern.
Gabereau had only one regret, that none of his own were to accompany him. That night Paul had again refused, declaring: “I belong to the soil of Arichat, here I will remain.”
It was a night of inky darkness relieved only by phosphorescent surf, marking in impenetrable gloom, the meeting place of land and sea.
Gabereau picking his steps, walking warily, as became such a night, fell to thinking of Yvonne, the first time she had entered his mind since morning.
With thought of her came a bitter pang. Why had he allowed the treasure to come between them? Was Paul right when he said it was not worth the quest? No, no, that kind of talk might do for Paul, but not for him. With roving blood in his veins, he was born to follow the lure. But why couldn’t he take Yvonne with him upon this great adventure? Was she not also bound to dreams beyond the skyline?
Wrapped entirely in his own thoughts, Gabereau did not even hear a footstep; when, without the slightest warning, Quinquaig, the Yhagan Indian, suddenly loomed up beside him in the darkness, a pair of eyes, like black diamonds in the night, peered close into his own. There was a warm breath upon his cheek and even before he had time to utter a cry his mouth was effectually gagged with a fist full of spun-yarn. There was the sensation of a running bowline made fast about his arms and legs. In a sickening revulsion, he found himself being carried swiftly down a steep embankment, toward the line of fringing surf.
Gabereau expected to be pitched bodily into the sea. But when they arrived at the water’s edge, he was conscious of a boat grounding there, while out of somewhere came the voice of Dirk Dugas:
“Got him, all right, Quinquaig?”
“Aye, me got him.”
Helpless, either to yell, or fight, like a sack of potatoes, the skipper was dumped into the bottom of an empty dory, while somew’here another boat w\as shoving off, then with a pull upon the dory's painter, and a bobbing motion, the tiny craft was towed to seaward.
For fully an hour, without a word being spoken, there was the steady pull upon
the tow rope, then the painter was cast off, while the great swells declared that they rode somewhere outside on the open ocean.
As his guideless dory was suddenly cast adrift, the voice of Dirk Dugas floated back to him through wind blown tumult, with some taunting fling.
It was calm when Gabereau was first abandoned, but as time passed, by the increasing kick and lift of the dory, he was aware that wind and sea were alike rising. To remain helpless under such conditions would be suicide. With the instinct born of generations of seamen, Gabereau struggled in order to meet the rising challenge of the deep.
As he lashed and kicked against his bonds, the dory suddenly pushed her nose into a breaking crest, and came out with her bottom full of water.
This would never do.
The skipper became more canny as he recognized the ‘Old Friend, Old Enemy’ closing in upon him.
Lying in the sloping brine, sometimes almost submerged, he crawled toward the thwarts, amidship, where, working with an upward motion, he began to chafe the rope across his chest. Where the mighty muscles of his shoulders bulged, there seemed to be an effective barrier. But painfully and unceasingly he kept at it, until at last with the giving way of all his upper clothing, the ropes slipped up about his neck. In another instant he was free, free from his bonds, but not free from the sea.
Without oar, or sail, tossed everlastingly, whither was he going?
As though in answer to this question, faintly, from far away, there came the bay of breakers. Somewhere down under his lee an iron-bound coast was calling. No sound is more alarming to the mariner, and yet in that moment Gabereau heard it as a note of j oy.
Helpless as a tossing chip, from the first note of those baying breakers, doubts and fears fled. The wind was inshore, and the sea would yet be cheated.
After the casting off of his bonds, Gabereau had no slightest warning until his dory struck with a terrific crash, shattering her bows like egg shell, while the racing seas carried her, jumping, bumping, pounding at the intervening barrier.
Nothing could be seen but flying spray, and foam, and surging swell, while along the starboard side large rocks, with huge seas breaking over, them were dimly discernible.
Quick as thought, Gabereau jumped from the shattered dory. Breakers reached out and bore him down, they mauled him like a tiger, but he kept his grip, dazed and wondering, and so tore himself from the clutches of the never pitying sea.
The dawn was breaking by the time that he had finally climbed up over the outer rocks, and on to the firm land, with its welcoming earth, and its sweetly smelling grasses, a thousand times more sweet after breathing the pungent brine.
Climbing up to the highest point, Gabereau Beheld in the dip of the hill, a church spire, and a settlement, and knew he had come ashore on the outer coast, beyond Petit de Grat. Weary and wet as he was, with indomitable will, he started out at once for Arichat.
Striking straight across the Island, he passed through a wild forsaken waste of granite rock, and bog, and moss. Again and again his feet sank deep in the morass, but, pressing on, after several miles he came at last to the post road, which, dipping down into the valley, then twisting round, brought him suddenly into full view of the Harbor, fairer than ever in the dawning.
But, at that moment, something caused the glad heart of Gabereau, so miraculously snatched from the deep, to suddenly forget its song of praise.
There in the lower harbor, off Jerseyman’s Island, a looked for sight was missing.
The Ushuaia already had sailed! 1
The rest of that journey to his home was for Sprott Gabereau a nightmare of dread and apprehension.
Before he had entered the house, Paul met him, pale anguish written on his face. “What is it, lad?” he inquired huskily. “Yvonne has gone,” answered Paul with a sob.
Still master, Gabereau pushed on as though he did not hear. All else might go, there was one thing only that he could not part with.
Rushing into his room, the skipperopened the camphor wood sea chest, with trembling hands he turned to the hidden drawer. Then, suddenly, like a crashing of some mighty shaft, he sank into an abject heap, muttering: “My God, they’ve got the secret case.”
YANE hour after their discovery of loss of the black case, the schooner Acadian had broken ground, and taking on a splendid slant, was standing out past Jerseyman’s Light.
Just as they were catting their anchor, Captain Gabereau was hailed by a nondescript gang who had been shadowing him for a considerable time at the Fleur de Lis. Coming alongside in a boat, these fellows pleaded vociferously for a place in the foc’sle.
The skipper was rather against taking them.
“We got twenty men aboard now. No room for any Dagos here.”
“But, ye’re in fer some hot fightin’, skipper. The other vessel’s sailed wi’ twenty eight before the stick. If it comes to dirty work, ye want enough to take care of yerself.”
“That’s right,” assented MacLean, the mate, known as “Wild Alec,” who was standing by, looking over the crew with anything but favor.
“We ain’t got none too many fer a man 0’ war, anyway.”
“But, how about room.”
“That’s easy, double up a few of ’em. If the killin’ starts, ye can’t pick up no extras off the Horn.”
“All right, then,” the Skipper assented; but he viewed the foreign looking recruits with anything but favor, as they came tumbling over the side.
“If we’d a scoured hell with a fine tooth comb, we couldn’t a got a more low-down, sneakin’ bunch of curs.”
“All the better fer the rough stuff,” observed Wild Alec.
“Perhaps,” assented the skipper, dubiously, as he turned to replace the man at the wheel. It was always his custom to depend upon himself until they dropped the land astern.
Paul, against expectation, had joined them at the last moment. '
When his uncle attempted to cheer him with a word about the treasure, he replied gloomily: “It’s not that, it’s something else I’m after.”
Down in the Acadian’s foc’sle, Paul now began to experience a sinking feeling at the pit of the stomach as he regarded the wild, hairy gang destined to be his bunk mates to the other side of the world.
The Dagos, who came aboard last, began to make themselves at home, forthwith, dumping their dunnage into the nearest bunks, and helping themselves with alacrity to long swigs out of a jug of forty-overproof rum, free for all, on the foc’sle table.
No one knew how that jug got there, but it certainly did its part to send the Acadian to sea in roaring style. With a twenty-five knot gale off-shore, the sturdy vessel, under four lowers, went running before it like a stormy petrel.
Late in the forenoon, with the wind rising, and an ugly cross sea making, the skipper bellowed:
“All hands on deck, to reef the mains’l.” Even upon a rum clouded brain, the voice of Sprott Gabereau sounded with the urge of doom. All hands replied to the order, except the Dagos, who full of warm
comfort from the jug, repaired to their bunks, announcing that they didn’t intend to get out “fer any skipper this side of hell.”
Wild Alec gave them one warning, then shouted back: “Them Dagos ain’t up yet, Sir.’
“All right, I’ll fix ’em,” said Sprott. Spinning his wheel with sudden fury, he slapped his vessel’s bows into a cresting greyback, bringing a solid wall of water across the weather bow, and sending a perfect Niagara pouring down into the foc’sle, through the open scuttle butt.
In the next instant, the half drowned Dagos emerged from below, spitting brine, drenched to the skin, and shouting lustily.
As they emerged, Wild Alec met them with the toe of his boot, kicking them severally into the seething waste, while the skipper admonished:
“Now then, next time yer called aboard this vessel, turn out, or we’ll wash yet out.”
To the dip of the swell, and the whistle of the gale, all hands were struggling manfully with reef points. All except the Dagos, who were still hanging back, surly and resentful.
Leaving the wheel to another, the skipper warned: “There’s a squall cornin’, mind yer weather helm, and don’t let her gripe.”
Then, stepping lightly, in spite of his two hundred and forty pounds, he landed on the slackers, driving them to it, until they felt as though the vessel were lined with brass knuckles and dynamite.
At first, their was a snarling remonstrance, but as they were driven for’ard to the wet work in the waist, their impudence wilted, while the skipper returned to the wheel, grunting: “A cold bath soon knocks the fight out of some nations!”
By nightfall, a full gale was upon them. Listening to the storm-stripped, humming bolt ropes, Gabereau stood with exultant heart by the kicking wheel. Down there somewhere in the dark and wildering night, he seemed to be smelling out a trail, following like a bloodhound on the scent.
Once off soundings, the anchors were secured, and the Acadian’s nose was pointed to the eastward.
“We’ll fetch a ways across and then let her run down the trades,” said the skipper
Every day, a sharp lookout was kept for the Ushuaia, but there was no sign of her.
Every day brought its fights in the foc’sle, and fights on deck. A wild, hairy, bloody crew. Paul, with his peace-loving spirit, was rudely shocked. But skipper and mate alike saw that he stood up to his end.
RUNNING before the Trades, the Acadian tasted sea life at its best, clear blue halcyon days with leagues and leagues forever trampled down astern. In the fifth parallel of North latitude, the good breeze faded.
The dreary, drifting, heart-breaking grip of the Doldrums began.
Day after day, the sun rose like a ball of fire, shining unpityingly from a copper sky, night brought no surcease from consuming heat; all hands cursed fervently the windless furnace of the world. Without steerage way, the helmsman stood idly to wheel, while in twenty four hours the vessel made perhaps only a bare mile of headway.
It was on their tenth night in the Doldrums, that Captain Gabereau, coming on deck in his pajamas for a breath of air, had his attention directed to a misty apparition barely perceptible against the blanket of darkness.
Bringing out his night glass, he studied it intently for some time, then snapping down his glass he exclaimed, half aloud; “My God, it’s her.”
At this involuntary exclamation, he started back, as though he had published some great secret. But every man on deck was asleep, everything in keeping
with a sleeping ship and a sleeping ocean.
“What d’ye make out yonder?”
After, a momentary studying through the night glass, the mate replied: “The Ushuaia, ain’t no mistakin’ it.”
At this, both clasped hands, involuntarily.
“All right, mister. Rouse out all hands, man four boats, doubled up, two hunters, and two rowers to each. Tell ’em, mum’s the word. Put out number five boat for ourselves.”
Fifteen minutes later, the raiding party left the Acadian, as silently as though they were borne on a hidden tide.
Before leaving, it was agreed that they should follow the skipper’s boat which was to be the first to board the other vessel. As soon as the coast was declared clear, the signal was to be given for the rest to come over the side.
Along with skipper and mate, in the first boat, were Paul and Yen, the Japanese cook. It was a kind of superstition on the skipper’s part to desire the faithful little Jap near him in a crisis.
As they rowed silently over the oily calm, Paul inquired; “What is it that you want over there, Uncle Sprott?”
“We’re going to get that black case back,” was the subdued answer.
Paul had hoped that they were after Yvonne, and his heart fell.
“But, haven’t you already read the secret?”
“Aye, but there is a chart on the back of the parchment, showing landing, and exact location of treasure. Without that, we would be hopeless in our quest for the treasure.”
“And what about Yvonne?” inquired Paul.
“We’ll bring her along, too, if she wants to come.”
Sprott already entertained his doubts in this particular.
When they were nearly alongside, the skipper put up his hand as a signal for the other boats to hold back.
Before them, the yacht loomed up like some white winged spectre in the night. Her running lights were burning, and the glow from the binnacle disclosed a dim figure lounging forward, but no sign of life appeared. Wheel and lookout alike were evidently sleeping under the universal spell of a Doldrum night.
Coming up under the starboard quarter, skipper and mate vaulted lightly aboard. There, draped across the wheel, appearing almost uncanny in his attitude, was Quinquaig, the Yhagan Indian. One blow of a heaver and this dangerous customer was suddenly harmless. While the skipper laid him out quietly on the deck, and bound him securely, the mate went forward likewise to attend to the lookout.
A moment later, MacLean returned, announcing: “I give that there lookout a bump on the head that'll close his yap fer a while. Coming back, I slid the bolt on the foc’sle hatch, that'll keep threequarters of 'em out o' the scrap.”
“That’s good. Now then, tell the boats to draw alongside, and let the sealers come aboard.”
“We ought to be able to handle it alone, now,” opined the mate.
“I'm not taking any chances—too much at stake. Bring 'em aboard.”
While the skipper still was making his dispositions without, he did not notice Paul, slyly on all fours, creeping into the Ushuaia’s cabin.
In Paul's mind there was only one idea. Somewhere within that cabin was the one who was dearer to him than life. Forgetting all else he started on his one and only quest. Within, in the first stateroom, the steward was snoring away. On the opposite side was the pantry, then the officers' mess room. Creeping further along Paul came out into the chart room, which loomed before him like a well of blackness.
There was no light burning anywhere in the after section. Feeling his way straight across, he opened a door at the far end
which led into the lazarette. Coming back into the chart room, he went over to a stateroom to starboard from which a light was streaming. Opening the door silently, he stole across the threshold. The place was lit by an electric lamp, and there, on the bunk, was the sleeping form of Don Juan.
Overcome with curiosity, Paul bent over to study his face; the high-born patrician cast of countenance, the hawklike nose, the sensitive mouth, the strong dominating chin, which created a kind of confidence. But in repose, he looked older far than Paul had at first imagined.
What did Yvonne see in one of such ripe years? The bond between them could not be the affinity of youth. It could not be love. It could not be anything else but the treasure.
With such thoughts, Paul was turning absent-mindedly to continue his quest, when with vast clatter he knocked an adjacent chronometer onto the cabin floor.
Awakened by this sudden din, Don Juan opened his eyes, gazing vacantly for a moment, then as recognition stole over him, the lids began to close menacingly.
“What are you doing here?” the challenge came with sharp staccato note. At the same instant, without warning, he leaped upon the intruder.
Surprised, and overwhelmed, before the unexpected attack, Paul went over backwards, the Don gripping him by the throat, strangling him like a dog.
“What are you doing in my stateroom?’ It was the loss of breath, and the instinct for preservation that finally scourged the slow moving, peace-loving Paul into whirling action.
Doubling up his knees, he caught his adversary fair in the stomach, thus gaining momentary freedom.
But all Paul’s agility and strength seemed to have wilted from a knock on the head, received in his backward fall.
As though he were a dog, and as such worthy of no better treatment, the Don again started to reach for his throat. Paul pawed the air, like a kitten in the clutch of a hound. His arms and legs flayed impotently, his breath gurgled. With everything going black, suddenly the door crashed in and the giant Sprott precipitated himself upon the victor with cyclonic force.
Sprott just landed once, and it was all over; the Don lay stretched there, as stiff and cold as Quinquaig on the poop.
Ignoring his nephew, who was rising groggily, Sprott at once began to ransack the locker.
He was prepared for a long hunt, but against all expectation, there, in the first drawer which he opened, appeared the much coveted chart case with its pregnant Ferrara crown.
Letting out a whoop of joy, the skipper started for the door.
“Come on, come on, this is all we want. Let’s get out of here.”
Paul was starting to obey, when a horrified shriek detained him. There, on the threshold, in a pink kimona, stood Yvonne, gazing down in agony at the prostrate figure of the Don.
“Oh, oh, what have you done?” “Yvonne! Yvonne!”
Paul rushed toward her expectantly, but she recoiled at his approach, then turning deathly pale, she shuddered, gasping:
“Don’t touch me.”
“But what is it? What is it?”
“Oh, you brutes, you cowards,” she gasped with a flood of tears. Pushing past them and kneeling down, she began with utmost affection to raise the head of the unconscious Don.
Completely ignoring her sudden pet Sprott Gabereau bent and patted her on the shoulder, saying soothingly: “Come on, little one, aren’t you coming with us?” “No, never! never!”
Then seeing a gash in the Don’s head, she burst into a flood of tears, crooning, ■“Oh, the brutes!”
Like one in a daze, Paul suffered himself to be herded out, and remained more or less impervious to all succeeding happenings, until they were back again aboard their own vessel.
tpARLY in November, the Acadian was in the Southern Ocean, where seals daily might be expected. Still holding steadily to his course, the skipper with the hunting instinct in his veins could not withstand the temptation to keep a bright look out for possible game.
He and Wild Alec had disagreed over this, as the mate from past experience feared possible legal complications.
“We’re after something a blame sight better than pelts just now, skipper, and my advice to you is to lay off the seal hunt till after we land the treasure.”
“I agree with you in the main,” assented Gabereau, “But, in case we run across a flock o’ good skins around here, there ain’t nothin’ against puttin’ our boats over and pickin’ up a few odd thousand dollars, is there?”
“Wouldn’t be no harm in the days when you used to be sealin’, skipper, but times has changed since then.”
“Changed be damned.”
“All right, I’m only tellin’ ye. Don’t forget the Agnes Donahue seized at Montevideo, and classed as pirate, fer havin’ a load of pelts aboard.”
“But they can’t interfere with me out here; we’re outside the limit.”
“That won’t cut no ice with them guys. Just let someone spot ye, and lay the information, and then one o’ these Spick gunboats will be out to do the rest!”
“Ah, you’ve spent so much time in Russian gaols, that they’ve got yer wind up. This ain’t the Smoky seas, and if any seals come my way, you bet yer sweet life I’m goin’ to take a chance.”
“All right, I warned ye,” muttered Wild Alec, with pious unction, turning on his heel, hoping, nevertheless, that he might have just one more fling at what the dashing members of his fraternity styled, ‘the greatest hunt.’
Their chance came without delay. Early the following morning, from the masthead sounded the cry:
“Seals on the port bow!”
Immediately there was a rush from cabin and foc’sle, while Captain Sprott bellowed,
“Number one boat over!”
No engine crew answering an alarm of fire was quicker than those sealers. Tackles were manned and in a jiffy the boat was alongside, guns and ammunition were passed down, and Wild Alec and his steerer were away.
From the masthead, in that same instant, came another hail:
“Seals on the starboard bow.”
Quickly followed the order:
“Number two boat over!”
This was answered with a shouting chorus from the deck hands tailing onto the falls,
Within an hour, all the eight boats of the Acadian had taken the water, and joined in the hunt; while the vessel, under shortened canvas with only Captain, Paul and Yen, the cook remaining aboard, was kept jogging within easy distance to pick up the hunters when night came on.
Occasionally the welcome sound of a gun came to those on board, and Gabereau knew that seals were being taken, and there would be rich pelts in his hold before nightfall.
All through the morning the Captain was in excellent spirits, the possibility of gain, of any kind whatsoever, was for his grasping nature the purest delight.
Coming out on deck, after the midday meal, whistling a tune, snapping his fingers, and stepping in fine fettle, he came up to relieve Paul at the wheel. The sight of a grey mist on the horizon caused his carefree face suddenly to take on a graver look.
“Fog making up to the south’ard,” he grunted.
“Goin' to signal ’em to come in?” inquired Paul.
“But ye may lose ’em!”
“Not if I know anything about it!”
The fog thickened, until the Acadian was wrapped in an impenetrable wall of glistening gray. In dripping oilskins, the skipper stood to the wheel, while for’ard they were sounding the patent fog horn.
With eye and ear tuned to every slightest change of wind and weather, the skipper was continually keeping himself aware of the possible position of his men. With all bearings vanished in an impenetrable fog, he was still the master, the guardian of his own. His was that mariner’s uncanny sense, sufficient, and far reaching, on which the lives of men depended.
As the afternoon wore on, the skipper began to note with uneasiness that a strong current was running to the northward.
“Make it kind of bad fer some of ’em cornin’ back,” he muttered.
Some of the boats had ranged miles away in their search. There was now very little wind, not enough to enable them to step their masts and sail back to the Acadian.
“Be a long hard pull against that current; guess I better call ’em in.”
“All right, then, cook, fire the swivel.” The swivel was a small brass cannon, mounted on the vessel’s deck, which, when fired, was a predetermined signal for all hands to cease from the hunt and return to the parent vessel.
For the next hour, at repeated intervals, the gun was fired, and then, out of the fog came the first hail, and a boat loomed up from the mist.
“What luck, boys?”
“Got five skins.”
“In good condition?”
“Aye, in the pink.”
“Bully for you.”
Singly, and in pairs, they returned, while the toll of seals kept mounting, until they had a grand total of over forty skins in all, and what was better yet, the mate’s boat brought in a couple of sea otters, rarest variety, worth at least two hundred guineas apiece.
Before dark, seven boats were safely alongside; but now, with the night well upon them, the skipper began to have misgivings regarding the last hunter.
“ Who was it?”
“Two of the Dagos.”
At any other time, uncomplimentary remarks would have been made at the mere mention of these foreigners, but now, humanity blotted out antipathy, and no matter how they were regarded as messmates, lost out there somewhere on that cold ocean, theirs was a universal call.
It was at this juncture that the skill and experience of Captain Gabereau were brought into play. By carefully calculating the strength of the current and the drift of his vessel, he made use of what little wind there was and headed the Acadian in the direction he thought the missing boat should be.
The entire crew remained on deck, straining their ears to hear an answering shot from their mates whoweresomewhere near, but who might easily be lost in the fog and darkness.
Hour after hour passed, the gun being fired and the patent fog horn blown regularly. The suspense increased, as they were hundreds of miles away from land, out of the ordinary route of ships, and if not picked up that night, the chances of doing so on the morrow were much less.
As the hours dragged by without sight or sound of the missing men, a feeling of hopelessness began to take hold of the crew, but ‘never say die' was the spirit of their skipper. When the hand at the fog horn began to weary, he sang out:
“Keep her goin', there, keep her goin'. Dunno' what minute we may be onto ’em.”
Shortly before midnight, Yen, the cook, blessed with the best ears aboard, sud-
denly cried out: ‘I thought I heard a gun.”
“Over the weather quarter.”
All hands strained their ears in the signified direction, without result.
“Pooh, I guess they’re a couple o’ false alarms!”
“Them two’s got wheels in the belfry.’ It began to look as though Yen in his anxiety was the victim of hallucinations.
The vessel, meanwhile, was reaching ahead, and the swivel gun again was fired. As the boom died away, suddenly out of the impenetrable mist, rang out two shots, in quick succession.
“A-h-o-y, there, A-h-o—y.”
At the unmistakable challenge from the darkness, a mighty shout went up from the Acadian’s deck, which reached the anxious hands in the sealing boat.
By a little manoeuvering on the part of Captain Sprott, the missing boat was soon brought alongside, and the two occupants came bounding over the rail. Yen the cook took them into his keeping, and soon a bountiful hot supper was spread before them, while the Acadian again was laid upon her course.
The skipper, weary from his ceaseless vigil at the wheel, saw the watch set, and, after descending into the cabin, was just preparing to turn in, when there came a knock on the companion slide.
“You down there, skip?”
In the next instant, Baptiste entered the cabin, carefully shutting the slide behind him.
Approaching the skipper’s bunk, he gazed furtively about.
“Anyone else in here?”
“No, an’ what’s on yer mind?”
“I seen somethin’ to night, skipper, that's got me kinda creepy.”
“Spit it out.”
“Well, I don't like the actions o’ them two Dagos since they was picked up.” “What’s the matter with ’em?”
“May be nothin' but imagination,” said Baptiste, with apologetic tone. “But, I didn’t like the way them two came over the side. Did ye notice anything strange."
“No, I was keeping an eye to the boat, and didn’t have no time fer lookin’ ’em over."
“Well, I noticed 'em particular like, and I'll tell you they didn’t come aboard, sir, like men what was dog weary, as had been lost fer hours in an open boat. That was the first thing that got me suspicious like. Then after their supper, I seen the whole o' that Dago gang whisperin' and powwowing together in their own tongue, as if there was some great doings afoot.” "Them foreigners is always up to shines like that; they’re born crazy."
"That’s right enough, skipper, but howare ye goin’ to explain the spry way they come over the side.”
“Feelin’ so good to be back home again."
"I don't agree with ye, there. These beggars ain’t got any guts anyway, as we both knows. One four hour watch in stiff weather is too much fer 'em, and I'm a-goin' to tell ye, skip, if they was all that time in an open boat, they'd a bin damn near dead when they come aboard."
“And what in the name o' common sense are ye drivin' at." said the skipper with a yawn.
“I think them spying greasers was visitin’ of someone while they was away from here, to-day."
“Nonsense, how in the world could that happen?"
Baptiste, glancing again about the cabin with furtive look, lowered his voice to an awed whisper. “Because, I think I seen another vessel, out there this afternoon."
At this, the skipper dropped his casual manner. In an instant he was all attention. “When was this?"
“ 'Bout the middle o' the afternoon
watch, just when the fog was shuttin’ in good and proper. I heard our swivel somewhere down to leeward, and then, seemed to me, up to weather, I caught sight of another schooner hove to. I yells out to Barney, who was rowin’ with his back to her, to look round, and next minute, in the fog, neither o’ us could see nothin’.
“Barney said I was dreamin’, and I wouldn’t a said no more about it, if I hadn’t had my suspicions worked up by what I’ve seen since them greasers has come aboard. That’s why I thought I’d better tell you, skip.”
“You did the right thing, me man, Never know what’s cornin’ from a gang like that. I was a fool to have ever shipped ’em. Tell the mate to come down here.”
When Wild Alec entered, the skipper told him of Baptiste’s suspicions.
“Looks to me as if them Dagos has been up to some dirty work.”
“Wouldn’t put it past ’em.”
“Did they get any seals to-day.”
“The only boat that didn’t bring back some pelts?”
“Yes, they was the only one.”
“Well, they was up to some hellery, out there, no mistakin’ it. See that they are watched sharp from now on, mister.” “Leave it to me.”
When the mate had gone, Gabereau arose, took the fatal chart case from a drawer and placed it under his pillow, together with a loaded revolver, and then, weary of the sixteen hour vigil by the wheel, he fell asleep.
Paul Gabereau had the ‘gravy-eyed’ watch, that morning, from four to eight, so called because at that time one’s vitality is lowest, and it is hardest to keep awake.
The man at the wheel was steering full and by, while, ever and anon, Paul passed foc’sle to the break and back.
Finally, he sank down in the lee of the windlass, shivering from Antarctic winds, very different from the balmy kiss of the Trades.
The night was remarkably still, and the vessel, with sheets well off, was rushing through unrelieved blackness.
With teeth chattering, Paul muttered half aloud, “What a beautiful night for a murder!”
As though in answer to his gruesome suggestion, came the sound of someone tampering with the foc’sle slide, and in the next instant, Gomez, leader of the Dago gang, emerged, followed stealthily by his villainous associates.
Unaware of Paul’s presence, the five of them clustered on the for’ard side of the companion, so as to be out of sight of the wheel, and conversed together in subdued tones.
“I got the mate fixed all right.”
“How d’ye know?”
“Doped his cocoa at midnight, when he was muggin’ up by the shack locker.” “He generally takes a look on deck just before the dawn, but he won’t trouble us this mornin’.”
“How about de wheel and lookout?” “Sandbag ’em, an’ do it quick.”
At this suggestion, all hands trooped aft, evidently expecting to find both members of the watch upon the poop. Following at safe distance, Paul was in time to see Gomez suddenly spring upon the helmsman, before he had time to utter a sound.
As they could find no trace of the lookout, they concluded that he was in the cabin, and Gomez ordered:
“Now, then, swing out de boat, and don’t make no noise about it. Take yer time, dere won’t be no one showin’ his peep on deck fer another hour yet. Bunglin’ always comes trying to do a job too fast.”
When the sealing boat had taken the water, someone inquired:
“And how about de Skipper?”
“You leave him to me. I’ll do him up quicker than greased lightnin’. Then
soon as I get me hands on that there chart case, we’ll be ready fer a getaway.”
Still slouching in hiding, on the other side of the after house, Paul heard the gang moving for’ard, while Gomez himself stole softly round to the companion, and started to fumble with the catch.
Just as he threw the slide back, preparatory to entering the cabin, the Dago was aware of someone leaping for him from the weather side. In the next instant, with an ugly snarl, he went down under while the cabin slide, which he was holding, crashed off its hinges with a frightful clatter.
The crashing of the slide was like a general alarm.
Round from the other end came the rest of the Dagos, wondering how their strategy had miscarried. In an instant Paul was fighting the whole gang singlehanded; but, it was a different Paul from the pacific clerk of Arichat. Already his thews Were setting into iron, while out of the calf-like landlubber was emerging the dangerous fighter.
As Gomez rushed him, a vicious kick'in the groin stayed his charge.
Paul’s blows landed neat and clean upon the ugly faces of two other gangsters
“Come on, ye dirty vermin, come on!” he taunted. The greasers hesitated.
Entering into the intoxication of the fight, Paul daringly started to rush them backward across the deck, but in this he had forgotten the low-down tactics of his foe.
For a moment they feinted, as though to give way before him, and then, as he came on, Gomez suddenly pulled out some thing from his hip. A silver streak in the moonlight, and his knife descended. Paul ducked, but not quite soon enough, and missing his breast, the dirk carved an ugly gash across his shoulder.
There was a sharp pain, a fainting sensation, then, in a burst of courage, he swayed unsteadily.
Weakening from his wound, with the whole horde closing in upon him, things were looking desperate for the lone-hand fighter. With a terrific lash of his sea boot he knocked Gomez back, as he tried to grip him by the throat.
The leader’s knife was raised again, when the massive skipper was momentarily framed in the companion. What he saw was an instant call to action.
Picking up an iron belaying pin, that was lying on top of the after house, the skipper caught Gomez a terrific blow on the back of the head, crashing in his skull like an egg-shell. The leader of the gangsters dropped in his tracks, while the rest of the greasers, in horror at the doughty avenger, suddenly started to flee toward the waist.
Meanwhile, roused by the uproar, the hands were beginning to stream up from 1 the foc’sle.
“Head ’em off, there,” yelled the skipper.
Like a bunch of wild steers, they were gradually rounded up, and brought to, in the waist. Still holding them at bay, Captain Gabereau chanced to look down and caught sight of the boat which they had already lowered away into the water.
“What’s that boat doin’ over the side?” he thundered.
“It wasn’t hauled in, when we come aboard,” wailed the belated pair.
“Like hell, it wasn’t. I seen it nested wi’ me own eyes,” said Baptiste LeBlanc. “And besides, that ain’t their boat anyway.”
“What boat is it?”
“That’s number one, their’s was number eight.”
Turning with a sharp incisive note, the skipper commanded: “Get that boat swung in again.”
All hands rushed to obey, but the skipper detained them.
“No, this is their job. Let ’em do their own dirty work. There’ll be no more o’ this business o’ white men helpin’ greasers.”
When number one boat was securely nested on its accustomed chocks, the skipper sang out: “Now, then, you lyin’, sneakin’, thievin’ sons of Belial, cast off the lashings o’ number eight.” The greasers hung back with a snarl. Swaying his belaying pin, Sprott advanced upon them, “Did ye hear me?” To drive home the order, he gave the nearest gangster a resounding crack across the shoulder blade, causing him to yell with pain.
“Jump to it, or I’ll smash every bone in yer skulking carcass.”
At this, they lost no time in obeying, and without further ceremony, the Skipper ordered:
“Now, then, into that boat with ye.”
A scream of horror rose at this ultimatum.
“We ain’t goin’ out there alone, tonight.”
“That’s where ye was plannin’ to go, and now, by God, ye’re goin’ to carry out yer plan. Over with ye, and no more o’ yer chin music.”
As the gangsters still held back in dread of the vast night, and the inky sea, the skipper suddenly grabbed the nearest of them by the neck and thigh, and lifting him like a sack of meal, he sent him crashing down into the sealing boat, smashing the after thwart from the force of his impact. While he lay there, in a senseless heap, Sprott rushed the other three, who lost no time in scrambling over the side into the bobbing craft.
When the four were safely aboard, the Skipper sang out: “All right, then, pitch that corpse in with ’em."
Someone pitched the body of Gomez unceremoniously into the boat, and the skipper bellowed : “Cast off the swine!
As the tiny craft vanished into the starlit ocean, Baptiste exclaimed:
“That’s a good riddance, but wasn’t ye a bit hard on ’em, skipper?”
“Not half as hard as they’d a bin on ye, if they’d a got a chance at yer throat.
“But it’s pretty bad to turn 'em loose, to be lost upon the trackless ocean."
“Lost, Hell! They’ll soon hear their own Spick tongue aga:n.”
“What, away out here at sea.”
Baptiste looked, and there, far up to weather, a rocket suddenly shot up like a yellow trailing snake, into the darkened sky.
To be Continued