The Captain of the Susan Drew
A Story of the Sea in Two Parts
Author of "Jerry” "Burning Daylight” "The Little Lady of the Great House,” etc.
Harry C. Edwards
MRS GIFFORD and Patty heard the skipper’s heavy tread on the companion ladder, and in trepidation awaited his appearance on deck. Instead of an explosion, all he was guilty of was a long stare across the sea, culminating in a woe-begone: "Oh, dear, oh, dear!”
"We would have been forty-eight yean old, had he lived," Mrs. Gilford was telling Temple Harrison.
Most of the party* of survivors were sitting on the lee bf the poop, in the shady down-draught of the big mainsail.
“Who would?” Captain Decker demanded with his wonted rudeness, as he stood in the nerve-stabbing sunshine, sextant in hand, taking a meridian observation.
“My husband,” Mrs. Gifford answered. The skipper proceeded at once to dominate the conversation.
"How old d'ye think I am!"
Nobody displayed interest, though Willie, on hands and knees, scrubbing paintwork.* favored his persecutor with a glare of hatred.
“I am eighteen years old. madam.” the skipper continued. He struck his chest with emphasis. ”1—me—this man you see before you. for a fact, has lived eignteen years.”
"You must have been born mangrown.” Sed ley Brown observed.
"1 wav and with whiskers, sir. and a moustache. I never had a father or mother. I was born, a manC in a ship’s fbVsTv”
"How did you get your name, then?” "From the ship's papers. There it wav in black and white. Bill Decker—mb. The
first thing I did after I was born-**
"Was to wipe up the forma »tie with the crew,” Harrison interpolated.
"On the contrary, sir! The crew wiped up the fo'c's'le with me. I eras the willincest fighter you ever saw; but I didn't know how. They ticked me singly and by twos and threes; but they couldn't keep a good man down. I wouldn't stag licked. If a man batted an eye. I reached for him. Oh. they licked me! But I kept loomin' the curves while they were «hung it; and before the voyage was over Í was cock of the fo'c's'le. I licked every man jack, both bosuns, and the preventer carpenter. I licked the second mate for ard of the 'midship house the last night before we made Liverpool ATM when we got ashore an' paid off. I cough: the first mate in an alley in sailor-town. They carted what was left of birr, to the bmpital. He was never the same man again. A broken wreck, madam ! His sea days etas ever, and he eras shipped to 'Snug Harbor' ”
Captain Decker detected a shudder « Mrs. GMfonTs park
"And proud of it, madam!” he thundered. "Proud of it!”
"But what is the joke. Captain Decker?” Patty asked.
"It ain't a joke. It*s facts. I first opened my eyes in this world in the fo’c's’le of the Ermyntrude, eighteen years ago. That’s how old I am—eighteen years. And I fought my way up. When I was one year old, I was bosun. Before I was two, I was second mate. By the time I was three, I was mate, an’ a proper bucko at that-”
He broke off abruptly. His seaman’s eye, mechanically roving the sea-rim had alighted upon something.
"Sail ho!” he cried. “Where’» that lookout? Two points on the weather bow, there! I’ll attend to this case, flat Noee, you! Take the glasses up to the cross-trees and see what you can make of it”
AFTER dinner, the same day. the survivors of the Mingalia were not permitted to come on deck. They remained in the cabin through long, stifling hours, while they listened to boats coming alongside. to strange voices on deck, and to the varied noises that carried the tale of cargo being broker, out and hoisted overside. The opium was being transhipped. Willie, who had been released from his paint-scrubbing and sent below, reported no less than four small schooners and sloops which he had seen bearing down on the Susan [brete.
No meal was served that evening, and the prisoners panted and went hungry in the narrow cabin. By eleven o’clock the transfer of the opium was completed, and they could hear the Captain roaring out his orders as he put sail on his vessel. Uten he came below, poured himse’f a tumbler of Scotch, snd drank it neat “It’s all right now." he said“You can go on deck if you wantThe cook is making coffee, and the cabin-boy will «èî a cold snack of canned goods.”
"Where are you taking us to new!“ Mrs Gifford demanded.
Captain Decker divided a pondering gare between her and the bottle of Scotch; then, silently repeated h.s halftumbler dose. Never was his voice more like * coffee-grinder.
“I don't know, madam I'm. rur.nin' westward across the Pacific, ar.d I"! drop you somewhere You see. there's too many of you to swear to any secret. You've got to stay with me. till a!', the opmm is distributed and safe I'm not stack oa your company I run to blondes, as I teM you before. But it's business. That cargo's pX to be made safe Now. if
you aras a Koode-“
He ceased speaking and stared at Mrs Gifford steadily and long, to that lady's great discomfitureHis expressior. WAS
trance-like, and he seemed dreaming far dreams. A curious light began to glow in his eyes; while a grin, unthinkably significant to them, curled across his mouth. Still seemingly in a trance, he reached forth his dirty hand and in plàyful fashion touched her on the shoulder.
“I got you,” he said. "Tag! you’re it” He returned to himself with startling suddenness, and recoiled from her.
"Why, damn it all! You ain’t a blonde, are you?” A step brought him to a chair, into which he sank burying his face in his hands and moaning : "Oh, dear, oh, dear!”
"Faugh!” Mrs. Gifford enunciated in disgust, not unmixed with trepidation.
"The brute is drunk,” Temple Harrison explained to Patty.
IN THE days that followed, while the Susan Dreu' ran before the Northeast Trades, Captain Decker’s ways did not mend. His hands and nails were grimed with tar and paint, ground in by his inveterate pull and haul on sheet and halyard. He devoured -prunes in the same magnificent manner, interrupted conversations. bullied Flat Nose, rop^s-ended Willie, and drank his half-tumblers of Scotch. With each drink, the vastness arid voluminousness of his huskiness in-creased. His trance-like gazes ft Mrs. GifTbrd continued. His protestations of dislike for brunettes did not diminish. And often he would bury his fact in his hands and moan: "Oh. dear. oh. dear!” Worst of all was his persecution of Mrs. Gifford. He seemed drawn to her continually. and continually he recoiled from her. Patty was tearfully apprehensive. Temple Harrison consoled her. And Sedley Brown grew more than mildly jealous They were in 18 deg. north and 166 deg west, and Captain Decker was talking of running them to the south and west and landing them at some outlying trading station of New Britain or New Ireland, when occurred a strange incomprehensible happening that gave them all pause for thought.
It was at dinner. The conversation had been upon occult matters, and a general disbelief had been expressed concerning such phenomena as telepathy and clairvoyance.
“The content of consciousness is experience.' Temple Harrison was saying "There is no discussion about the existence of the sub-conscious mind. But it fias never been demonstrated that the sub conscious mind has known anything out•s.c.e experience—outside the content of consciousness. I mean, which is experience Therefore, it is impossible-’'
LJ E * FASFD. for he had lost the at1 * tcntion of his listeners. Captain Decker had begun to eat prunes, and they were wat,hing him with the-old. never
failing fascination. He had received an unusually large serving,.and was heroically emptying the saucer. His cheeks bulged more and more with the pouched pits, while his jaws chewed, and the spoon moved back and forth. Also, he was thinking; and, further, he desired to speak. His eyes were rolling, and his ears seemed trying to wiggle, so strong was his desire. At last came the supreme moment. He bowed his head over the saucer and spat out a mighty mouthful of prunepits; and then he glared savagely at Temple Harrison.
“Talky-talky-talky-tàlky ! That's all you know about it,” were the skipper's opening words. “You don’t know. But I do know. I can deliver the goods. I know things outside my experience—things I don’t know; but I know ’em.”
“A miracle is no miracle at second hand,” Temple Harrison retorted patron-
izingly. “The drunkard’s snakes are real only to the drunkard. We know they are not snakes. The dreamer’s dream is real —to the dreamer, while he dreams.”
^ “Talky-talky, talky-talky! Too much talky along you,” Captain Decker went on explosively. “I know real things that I don’t know, I tell you.”
“An instance, please,” said Sedley Brown.
“All right.” The skipper turned his eves on Mrs. Gifford. “Madam, I know thirfes about you that I have no right to know— that I don’t know. But I know ’em. Do you dast me to tell ’em?”
Mrs. Gifford’s head was poised very high, as she replied: “I am sure you know nothing about me that I am ashamed to have -told.”
“Very well, madam.” Captain Decker’s gaze burned upon her until it seemed he must be looking right through her.
“Under your left shoulder-blade, midway between it and the hip, is a mole—ha!”
triumph, nt cry of mounting
HIS exclamation was caused by Patty’s in alarm, and by the tell-tale bl in Mrs. Gifford’s cheeks.
“Now, that mole’s outside ence,” he continued. “I nev leave it to you. Yet I know i “Nevertheless, the existence is not proved,” Sedley Brow dryly.
“Madam, have you that mole per demanded.
Mrs. Gifford disdained repiy “Very well, then. I’ll telklyou some more. You have's corn on the] left little toe. Your arms—and I obse when you came on board—sho of vaccination. Yet, you are vi Continued on page 62
by experisaw it. I
>f the mole observed
’ the skip-
them no scar inated.
The Captain of the Susan Drew
Continued from page 37
Oh, and I can tell you other things! For instance-”
“No! No!—don’t!” Mrs. Gifford cried out, while her cheeks flamed confirmatory shame.
Sedley Brown stared at her, mildly suspicious and mildly jealous.
“Well, I guess I know what I don’t know,” Captain Decker bragged. “Things outside my experience. I’ve delivered the goods, ain’t I?”
“You have no right-” Patty began
indignantly and brokenly. “Besides you don’t know. You can’t know.”
“And as for you, young lady, there are things I know that would make you blush worse than your mother. Shall I tell them a certain mark-”
“No! No! No!” Patty enfcraated.
“Huh!” Captain Decker ahragged his shoulders, shifting his gaze from one mortified woman to the other. “I guess Pm some psychologist. I know lots of things outside my experience.”
“Why don’t you tell me something about myself?” Temple Harrison challenged, out of pity for Patty and her mother.
“I don’t know anything about you,” was the answer. “Maybe, I’nvnot interested.” Afterwards, in a secluded corner on deck, Harrison told Patty that the whole thing was impossible.
“But mother had the mole,” she replied.
“I am firmly convinced of telepathy,” was Mrs. Gifford’s judgment. “But, oh, that terrible man! I shall not dare think any thought in his presence. He is able to read my mind like a book.”
“I don’t know what to believe,” said Sedley Brown. “It is all very strange, I am sure, and I should like to see it cleared up.”
HIS WISH was destined to be quickly gratified. That afternoon Captain Decker caught Willie smoking a cigarette in the sail locker and promptly rope’sended him. Then he sent him aloft in a bosun’s chair to tar down the main rig-
ging. By this time the skipper was in a nasty temper. He scared the two maids to the verge of hysteria, bullied Peyton into a semi-comatose condition of yammering apology for existing, cursed the cabin-boy, went for’ard to the galley and thrashed the cook among his pots and pans and, returning to the poop, flew into a proper sea-rage with Flat-Nose Russ. The cowed mariner muttered and mumbled excuses, and cowered away each time the skipper, pacing the deck like a wild animal, passed him.
The survivors of the Mingalia were compelled to listen to this tirade. There was no escaping it by going below, for the skippers voire penetrated everywhere. Besides, they had tried that in previous outbursts, and by so doing, had only succeeded in arousing greater ire in Captain Decker. Sedley Brown stood in a passively protecting attitude beside Mrs. Gifford, who was seated in a canvas deck chair. Patty and Temple Harrison had drawn close together, and he was holding her hand. And still Captain Decker raged and roared up and down.
It was Harrison who saw the whole extent of what happened. Chancing to glance aloft at Willie swaying airily in his bosun’s chair, Harrison was amazed at the ferocious hatred that contorted that mild youth’s face.
From the bosun’s chair was suspended a tar pot. As Harrison watched, Willie wrapped his legs about the shrouds and, both hands free, proceded to untie the tar pot. Holding it in his hand, he waited. Captain Decker was pacing to and fro beneath him. Harrison saw the youth poise the tar pot, time the Captain’s stride, and let go.
TVriTHOUT turning over, bottom * * downward, the pot struck Captain Decker’s head. He immediately sat down on the deck. None of the tar fell on him. The pot struck his head so squarely that
it bounced off and spilled on the deck. I Mrs. Gifford, a vision of violent death for j her youngest son strong upon her, screamed and fainted. Patty likewise j screamed, and was caught about the waist ! by Harrison. No one moved or spoke. All j gazed upon Captain Decker.
HE STILL sat on the deck, stupidly j looking at his hands. On his face ; was painted a carious disgust. He did j not like his hands. He tried to get away j from them, to fling them from him. Failing this, as in a dream, he contemplated i them. He rubbed them together, and into his eyes sprang astonishment, in that sen| sation told him that they, belonged to him. He stared at his clothes, and about him at ; those who looked on.
“What’ll I do with the boy, sir?” asked I Flat-Nose Russ, hovering solicitously j near.
Captain Decker looked at his mate and i shrank away.
He strove to speak, and seemed to fail to manipulate his voice.
“What boy? What?” he managed to i articulate at last in tones of modulated ¡ huskiness unlike anything they had ever heard from his lips. He gazed at the mate long and wonderingly. “Who are' you? j Please go away. Will you call the police. Something terrible has happened to me.” j Aloft, terror-stricken Willie Gifford j peered down. The big mate, perplexed, (j could only stare and sway to the roll of j the schooner. All stared—even the man j at the wheel, whose expressionless face ! was belied by the eager curiosity in his ‘ eye*.
“Something _ terrible has happened,” I Captain Decker repeated, his voice huskily plaintive.
He started to get to his feet, and shrank away from the mate who helped him. He staggered to the rail and held on to the j shrouds, looking m bewilderment at the j trade-wind sea.
At this juncture, Mrs. Gifford arose from her chair, supported by Sedley Brown’s arm around her waist. The skipper looked at him and started.
“Why, Sedley,” he said. “It is you. But what has happened? You look so old. Haye you been sick?” His eyes passed on ; to Mrs. Gifford. “Amelia!” he cried. The arm around her waist seemed to excite him. “Sedley, are you aware of what you are doing? That is my wife. Kindly : remove your arm. Amelia, I—I am surI prised.”
He stepped toward her; but she cowered
“Oh, that terrible man!” she sobbed, and hid her face against Sedley Brown’s ■shoulder.
“Amelia!—what is the matter?” the skipper pleaded warmly. “Sedley, please ! remove your arm from my wife. You I will make me very angry.”
Patty was the first to divine the situaj tion.
“Father!” she exclaimed. “Oh. father! ¡ And we all thought you were dead!”
“Dead? Fiddlesticks! I don’t know j you. Go away. I am not your father, ! young, woman. I wish to know-” '
BUT HERE the skipper again caughi sight of his hands and tried to fling them from him.
“Mother — don’t you understand?’’ Patty was now by Mrs. Gifford’s side. “It’s father? Look at him! Speak to him !”
Captain Decker was running the tips of his fingers over his face.
“Seth — is it you?” she murmured, faintly.
“What silliness!” the skipper retorted. yOf course, it is I. But my face, my beard . . . what has happened. I am smooth shaven. , . . Amelia, tell me. Who
is this young woman? Sedley, for the third time I ask you to remove your arm.” . “Seth! Bless me, it is Seth.” Sedley Brown advanced to shake hands. Then he staggered away to the cabin wall, against which he leaned.
“But why are we out sailing?” Mr. Gifford complained. He looked about, and his eyes lighted on Flat-Nose Russ. “If you are the captain, sir, it will be best for you to put your vessel about at once and return to San Francisco. Oh, I know! I am beginning to remember. It was an outrage. The police must investigateat once. Last night ... I was set upon. I was clubbed on the head repeatedly. It’s a mercy my skull wasn’t broken.” He gingerly felt his head until he encountered the welt raised by the tar pot. “There! It is badly swollen. It was at half past eleven, last night . . .”
“Listen,” Patty pleaded. “It was not last night It was eighteen years ago. I am your little Patty. Don’t you remember her? I am grown up, of course. Mother, why don’t you kiss him? Father, kiss her!”
Mrs. Giffofd recoiled; nor did Seth Gifford take advantage of the invitation.
Again he tried to fling his unrecognizable hands from him.
“I ... I need a bath,” he muttered, then tottered to the edge of the cabin and sat down. “Oh, dear, oh. dear!” he moaned and burst into tears.
“D EALLY, you know he’s the same
•IN. Seth—not changed a particle in all that time,” Mrs. Gifford announced.
She had just come on deck and joined the others in the morning cool.
“But he makes me feel so elderly,” she went on. “He has stood still. He is all those years younger.”
“I feel as though I had witnessed a murder,” said Temple Harrison.
“I don’t see why,” Patty objected.
“I do.' What has become of Captain Decker? lie is dead, isn’t he?”
“There is no corpse,”'she said. “Captain Bill Decker has merely gone into the silence that father occupied for eighteen years.”
“And I hope, I most fervently hope, that Captain Bill Decker stays there,” was Sedley Brown’s contribution.
“It is very strange,” said Patty.
“A miracle,” Mrs. Gifford added.
"Me—I did it—with my little tar pot,” said Willie, brazenly puffing a cigarette to windward of his mother.
All turned to regard the miracle, who was standing by the lee rigging, gazing seaward and unconsciously striving to fling overboard his dirt-grimed hands.