THE OCEAN TRAMPS
V. A Deal With “Plain-Sailin' Jim”
H. deVERE STACPOOLE
HE WAS the only blot on the scenery, also he was fishing, fishing from a rock washed by water forty feet deep in which the coloured bream passed like jewels through a world of crystal.
Matadore Island clings to its old Spanish name, though it is French, lying west of Vavita in the great French sea territory born of the League of Nations that stretches now from the Marquesas to Rapa and from Belling-hausen to Gambier.
It is a tiny island too small for trade, horned with dangerous reefs, but beautiful with the green of Jackfruit tree and coco palm, the blue of sea and the white of foam and coral.
Gulfs make their home on the reefs, laughing gulls and white-headed gulls and great predatory gulls sailing to seaward in the dawn and clanging home at night after a sweep of hundreds of miles to where the swimmer rocks show white manes, or the Skagways their tèeth. The gulls were jeering now as the fisherman hauled in his line, coiled it on the coral and stood up, shading his eyes. Away over the sparkling blue to s’uth’ard stood something that was either the fin of a sail-fish or the sail of a boat, something sharp and triangular, clear now to the sight and now half gone as the sea dazzle affected the eyes of the gazer.
He was a tall, thin man, bronzed to the colour of a cob-nut, tatooed on the left hand in such a way that he » seemed to wear a mitt and his face as he stood straining his eyes seaward was the face of Uncle Sam, goatee beard and all.
As he watched, the jaws of this individual worked slowly and methodically like the jaws of a cow chewing the cud, then as the boat’s hull showed close in and making for the clear passage through the reefs, he flung up his arms, turned, and came scrambling down over the coral to the salt white beach, towards which the boat was coming now, the sail furled, and oars out and straight for destruction on a rock in the fairway. There were only two men in her.
“Sta’board your helm, you--
fools,” yelled Uncle Sam. “Cayn’t you see the sunk reef before your noses? —Sia’board — that’s right.”
This a tone lower, “B--y tailors.”
He rushed out as the boat came barging on to the beach and seized the starboard gunnel whilst the bow oar tumbling over, seized the port, and the stern oar, taking to the water, clapped on, then, having dragged her nose well above tidemark, they turned one to another for speech.
“\X7ELL, I’ve been here three YV months and maybe more,” said the tall man, as they sat on the coral by the beach watching the boat and the strutting gulls and half a dozen stray Kanakas who had come down to take a peep at the strangers. “Wrecked?—nuthin’— did a bunk from a hooker that shoved in here for water an’ nuts and here I’ve stuck snug as Moses in the bulrushes, nuthin’ to pay for board an’ bunk, no use for a n’umbrella, place crawlin’ with girls and every pa’m tree a pub if you know how to make pa’m toddy—name’s Keller, and what might your'n be?”
“Mine’s Harman,” said the bigger and broader of the strangers, “and this is Bud Davis, reckon we’ve run more’n three hundred miles in that boat steerin’ by our noses and blind as ballyhoos—and as to where We’ve come from, well, that’s a matter of—”
“Oh, I ain’t askin’ no questions,” cut in the tall man.
“It’s nuthin’ to me if you stole your boat or had her give you, or whether you come from Noomea or the Noo Jerusalem. I’m Plain-Sailin’ Jim, I am, straight with them that’s straight with me, hungerin’ for the sight of a white mug, and fed up with chocolate biscuits.
Plain-sailin’ Jim, that’s me, and smilin’ I am to welcome gentlemen like yourselves to this virgin home of palm toddy and polygamy.”
“What sort of truck is that?” asked the ingenuous Mr. Harman.
But Keller did not hear him; he had risen to chase some Kanaka children away from the boat, then, hitching up his trousers, he led the way up through the trees to
the grass thatched village where the little houses stood bowered with yellow cassi and blue blazing convolvulus, and where at the door of the biggest and newest house his chief wife sat preparing kava in a bowl of stone.
They dined off baked pig, taro, palm salad and palm toddy in a twilight through which rays from the thatch pierced like golden needles, and as they ate they could see, through the door space, the village with its tree ferns and thatched houses, the children playing in the sun and the men lazing in the shade.
“Ain’t no use for work and ain’t no use for fightin’,” said Keller, referring to the men of the village. “Chawin’ bananas and fishin’ is all they’re good for, bone-lazy lot. I’ll larn them.”
Two or three of his wives served the dinner and prepared the palm toddy, then, after the dishes had been removed, Keller, the toddy mounting to his head, beat another wife who had dared to poke a hole in the wall to peep at the strangers, kicked a dog that got in his way, raised Cain all down the street with a.four foot length of bamboo, and fell like a log dead asleep under the shade of a Jackfruit tree.
“There ain’t no flies on old man Keller,” said Billy Harman to Bud Davis as they walked next morning in the sun on the beach. “I tell you I like that chap.”
“Jumping Moses!—and what do you like about him?” asked the astonished Davis.
“Well,” said Harman, “takin’ him by and large he seems to me a trustable chap—goin’ by what he says. It’s straight out and have done with it when he’s talkin’, same as when he’s kickin’ a Kanaka. I likes him because there ain’t nothin’ hidden about him—look at all them wives of his and he owin’ up to them without a wink. ‘Plain-Sailin’ Jim, that’s my name,’ says he, ‘straight with them that’s straight, and crooked with them that’s crooked.’ You heard him—and that’s his label or I’m a digger injin. No, there ain’t no flies on Keller.” “Yes, I heard him,” said Davis, “and taking him by and large I’d label him the king of the yeggmen. hot from Yeggtown. No, sir, you don’t take in Bud Davis with artificial flies and that chap may be Plain-Sailin’ Jim himself to the last holoo of the last trumpet, but he won’t put the hood on chaps that have eyes in their heads, nor noses to sniff a rotten character.”
“There you go,” said Harman, “startin’ out after your own ideas and chasin’ them till they look like a man. Think bad of a chap and he’ll look bad—that’s my motto, and I’m not goin’ to think bad of Keller.”
But Davis had lost interest in Keller. Something out at sea had caught his eye and taking Harman by the arm he pointed over the dead calm water.
“Look there,” said he.
Harman, shading his eyes, looked in the direction indicated, then he rubbed his eyes.
“It ain’t the pa’m toddy, is it?" asked Harman.
“No,” said the other, “it's a craft of some sort or another. What do you make of her?”
“Nuthin’, she ain’t nacheral-looks like a cross between Noah's ark an’ a floatin’ hayrick rigged with a double set of masts’ and a— Why, Lord bless my soul, if she ain’t a junk, a junk and a schooner lashed together, that’s what she is,
dereUek and driftin’, and she’ll drift on to those reefs.”
“Sure,” said Davis, his mind jumping at once to the truth. “Call Keller—run and roust him out. Here he eomes. Keller, hi, Keller! Ship drifting out beyond the reefs. Look sharp!” He had no need to give directions. Like a vulture scenting a carcase, Keller came swooping, shaded his eyes and stood.
”It‘s a junk and schooner,” said Harman.
'“Beeke-de-mer boat or opium smuggler,” said Keller, “and they’re both abandoned and driftin’. There’s piekin’s here, boys. After me!” He raced down to the beach followed by the others to where the boat was hauled up. They pushed her out and Keller steering, made through the fairway, past the submerged rock towards the open sea.
XJUT a breath of wind stirred the swell to break the shimmering reflections of the spars and sails of the locked ships. Stem to stern they lay, the junk spars locked in the rigging of the schooner, the two great eyes painted on the Chinaman's bows staring straight at the oncoming boat.
Round and about the deserted ships fins moved and grey forms glided in the green—sharks. On the smooth water, the letters on the counter repainted the name of the schooner, “Haliotis.”
Keller gave the order to lay in the oars and they came shuddering along the schooner's side. Harman standing up. He seized one of the stanchions of the rail and was about to hoist himself on deck when Keller
rushed at him, seized him by the arm, and bade him stop.
“A minit,” said Keller. “Who’s to tell it’s not a trap? Claw on and listen.”
The cry of a far-off gull on the reefs came, and the creak and grind of the ships’ sides as the swell lifted them. No other sound but the occasional click of the rudder chain as the rudder of the schooner shifted with the heave and fall of the hull.
Then, sure of themselves, with the cry of predatory animals they tumbled on board, fastened up and scattered. Bud and Billy over the decks of the schooner, Keller, led by some vulturous instinct, on to the junk.
“Here’s a stiff,” shouted Hannan as Davis followed him forward towards a bundle lying by the galley. “Lord, ain’t he a stiff? Head split with a hatchet. Here’s two more.” He pointed to a foot protruding from the galley where lay a Chink and a white man, both very stiff indeed.
Then, turning and quite unconcerned, they came racing aft and down through the companion-way to the little cabin.
Here everything was quiet and trim. On the table under the swinging lamp lay a soap dish and shaving brush and razor. Someone had been shaving himself before the little mirror on the after bulkhead when whatever happened had begun to happen. In the after cabin, presumably the captain’s, the bunk bedding shewed just as the sleeper had left it when he turned out. Then they set to and rooted round, the instinct for plunder so strong on them that they forgot Keller, the stiffs, the tragedy and the very place where they
They found a gold watch and chain which Harman put in his pocket, and a gold ring and fountain pen which Daris promptly annexed. They found the log, which being written in Spanish, was useless to them, and the ship's money, a big chamois leather clinking bag of Australian sovereigns. This glorious find recalled Keiler.
"Bud.” said Billy, “this h’aint nothing to do with him. Hide them, swaller them; here, give me your handkerchief and take half, tie them up tight so’s they won’t click. I’ll keep my lot in the bag. He won’t guess nothin’, he’ll think the chows have cleared the place— ain’t nothin’ more to take, is there? Then come ’long and have a squint at the lazarette.”
'T'HE lazarette was full of food, all sorts of canned things. Then, hearing Keller’3 voice above, up they came demure as cats out of a dairy to find the long man waving his arms like a windmill. His goatee beard was sticking out like a brush and his eyes flaming.
“Dope!” cried Keller. “Boys, our fortunes is made. Canton opium, blue label tins and worth two thousand dollars if it’s worth a jitney. Kim along down and howk them out.” He led the way on to thejunk’s deck and
below to the awful interior smelling of opium, joss sticks, stale fish and shark oil; there on the floor in thé dismal twilight lay the tins arranged by Keller it a heap, “I reckon,” said Keller, “the schooner either went for the chows or the chows for the schooner. Maybe they all killed each other or maybe the chaps that were left took fright seein’ a cruiser or fancyin’ one—reckon that was the way, for there ain’t no boats left, but the dinghy. Well it’s all ,a durn sea mystery and I’ve seen
queerer—but there’s the dope; come along and hoist it.”
They brought the tins up and over to the schooner’s deck, got a tarpaulin and tied them up in it and then, and not till then, took stock of their position; The drift of the current had left the island a good way to the south, but there it lay green, lovely and' inviting, the glassy swell pearling round the coral.
Keller, turning from the opium tins to this picture, gazed for a moment, his jaws working in contemplation. Then he turned to the others.
“Boys,” said Keller, “it’s either go back or stick. I’m for sticking, if there’s water and grub enough on board. You see, if we take this dope back ashore, we won’t never be able to realise on it. Any ship, takin’ us off will say, ‘What’s in that bundle?’ and there won’t be no use saying it’s bibles. Whereas if we can make a port in this hooker we can claim salvage and leavin’ that alone we can ten to one get rid of the dope.”
“There’s grub enough,” said Davis, “to judge by the lazarette and there’s pretty sure to be enough water. Ten minutes will tell, but first, let’s get those stiffs overboard. No use putting sinkers to them: the sharks will finish them before they’ve sunk a fathom.”
Twenty minutes later the decision was come to and the boat got on board.
They had found water and food enough for months. It only wanted a breeze to break the ships apart and Keller reckoned that the three of them would be able to manage the schooner. Davis was a fair navigator; the charts and compass had not been damaged or removed, and with Matadore for a point of departure they ought to be able to reach the Fijis._ So it was settled.
Harman, leaning on the rail when the decision was come to, fancied that he could hear a whisper from the beach of the faraway island, the whisper of the swell breaking on the coral where the wives of Keller were no doubt congregated, abandoned—chucked away for the prospect of a fistful of dollars.
DEFORE sunset Matadore had vanished, washed -*-* away in the blue that stretched from infinity to infinity terrific in its calm.
The Pacific slept, and the slumber of this giant when sleep takes it in deadly earnest is more trying to the imagination than its fury and storm, an effect produced perhaps by the heave of the endless swell flooding up from nowhere passing to nowhere, through space and time.
But the crew of the Haliotis were not imaginative men and they had other calls upon their consideration. It was at the first meal on board that the junk began to whisper of its presence. Harman had brewed some tea and they were seated round the table in the saloon
when Davis, looking up from his plate to the open sky light, sniffed the air.
“That junk whiffs,” said Davis.
It was enough. Harman for a moment turned his head as though he were straining to listen, and Keller glanced towards the door; then they went on with their food, but the mischief whs done and from that on the junk was with them.
It was not so much the badness of the smell as the
faintness and the Chinese nature of it that produced the psychological effect. It was a scent, a perfume of which shark liver oil was the vehicle and the occupants joss sticks, opium and the musk of Chinks. It haunted their sleep that night and was only dispelled when next morning, Keller, who had gone on deck came shouting down the hatch that the wind was coming.
They had taken the sails off the junk the night before. Finding a hatchet—it was stained with something red that was not paint—they hacked off the entangling spar, then, the wind coming, fortunately, on the junk’s side, the sails of the Haliotis trembled, the main boom lashed out to port and Davis springing to the wheel turned the spokes.
For a moment the Chinaman seemed to cling to its departing companion, wallowed, slobbered, groaned, and with a last roll dunched in ten feet of the starboard rail; then it drew away as the great sail pressure of the Haliotis heeled the schooner to port.
“We’re free,” shouted Har-
“Hr—out you b—h,” cried Keller, raising his fist as if to strike at the departing one now well astern, and spitting into the water as if to get the taste of her from his mouth.
Then, as Davis steered and the foam fled astern, the wind, taking the high poop of the junk, slewed her round bow towards them and shewing the great staring malignant eyes. It was actually as if she had turned to watch them.
“Look at her!” cried Billy, “turnin’ her — snout to watch us. She’ll follow us now sure as certain. We won’t have no luck now, we’ll be had somehow or ’nuther and maybe over that dope! Bud, where was your brains you didn’t think of holin’ and sinkin’ her—why if it ain’t anything else we can be had for leavin’ her a-floatin’ derelick and a danger to navigation.”
“Oh, shut up,” said Davis, “you and your derelicts.”
'T'HE Haliotis was a schooner of some hundred and twenty tons and three men can work a schooner of a hundred and twenty tons across big tracts of ocean if they have fine weather, if they have no fear, if they don’t bother to keep a look-out or attend to the hundred an twenty little duties of ordinary ship life. Harman, Bud and Keller filled this bill admirably. The wind changing and blowing from the sou’east, they ran before it, ran with no man at the wheel, wheel lashed, head sheets taut, main boom guyed to port and never a mishap. They ought to have gone to the bottom, you say; they ought, but they didn’t. The wind changed instead, for the Paumotus, though far to the eastward, still reached them with their disturbing spell breeding unaccountable influence on wind and weather.
Harman had counted up the sovereigns in the chamois leather bag; there were a hundred and twelve. In a private conference with Davis below, Keller taking the deck and the wheel, he settled up with Davis.
“Better split the money now,” said Harman, “hundred and twelve I’ve got, what’s yourn?”
“Ninety,” said Davis promptly.
Harman wras shocked. He’d reckoned that Davis’ share was bigger than his own or he wouldn’t have been so eager to settle up.
“Count ’em,” said he.
Davis produced the knotted handkerchief and counted the contents. There were only ninety unless he had subtracted and hidden some as seemed probable, for at the rough division when they had split the coins into two supposedly equal shares. Davis’ had seemed the bigger.
Harman, pretty sure of this, felt sore. Certain of coming out top in the deal, he had run straight. However, he counted out the eleven sovereigns without a murmur and pocketed the bag in a hurry, hearing Keller’s voice calling for Davis to take the wheel.
Though it was a Spanish ship, to judge by the log, not a single Spanish or French coin was included in the ship’s money, indicating that her trade had been British; papers other than the log there were none, perhaps the skipper had them on his person when the Chinks had killed him and hove him to the sharks—no one could tell and the Harman syndicate didn’t bother.
They had other things to think of. One morning when all three were on deck, Keller having come up to relieve Harman at the wheel, the latter, who had been turning things over in his mind, gave it as his opinion that the position might be pretty rocky if onstrikingthe Fijis“one of them d—d British irass-bound Port Authority chaps” were to turn rusty on the business. “Suppose wre run into Suva,” said he, “and suppose they say we don’t believe your yarn? That’s what’s got into my head. Would anyone believe it? I ask you that, would anyone believe it?”
The others, suddenly struck by this point of view, ruminated for a moment. No. The thing was true enough but it didn’t sound true. They had lifted the hatch during the calm and found the cargo to be copra. What was a copra schooner doing seized on to a Chinaman, everyone dead and all the rest of it? Stranger happenings had occurred at sea, ships found derelict with not a soul on board, yet in perfect order—but that was no explanation or support for a yarn that seemed too tough for an alligator to swallow.
Then there was the dope. Suspicion meant search and those cans of opium would not help them any; on top of all there was the money in the pockets of Bud and Billy, money that even Keller knew nothing about, but sure to be found on search.
“We ain’t nothing to show,” said Harman. “We should have kept one of them confounded Chinks for evidence.”
“And how’d we have kept him?” said Davis, “put him in your bunk maybe—Why haven’t you more sense?”
“I’ve got it, boys,” said Keller, turning suddenly from the lee rail where he had been leaning. “Suva —nothin’. Opalu’s our port of call, ain’t /more than four hundred miles to the north if our reckoning right Big German island where the pearl chaps come for doing business and the Chinks and Malays fr’m as far as Java. Rao Laut's the name the Malays give it. Faked pearls and poached pearls and dope, it’s all the same to them; they’d buy the huffs an’ horns off Satan and sell ’em as goat’s. There’s nothin’ you couldn’t sell them but bibles, and there’s nothin’ you could sell them they can’t pass on through some ring or another. I tell you it’s a place; must have been plum crazy not to „have thought of it before.”
“And suppose they ask questions?” said Billy.
“They never ask questions at Rao Laut,” said Keller. “If there happens to be a doctor there, he comes a-board to see you haven’t smallpox; if there isn’t, he doesn’t.”
KELLER was right. The big German island was the spot of spots for them. They wanted no seaboard ports, no big island ports where English was talked and questions were sure to be asked. Salving a derelict in the Pacific means months and maybe years waiting for your salvage money, especially if she is a foreigner, that is to say anything that hails from anywhere that is not the British Empire or America. They did not want to wait months or years: their lives were spent in the grip of events and in even a month it was hard to say where any one of them might be from Hull to Hakodate. No, they did not reckon on salvage money, and they did not want enquiries. They would have piled her on the Bishop, that great rock right in their track and south of Laut only for the dope. It was impossible to bring these tins into any port in an open boat and a dinghy at that.
At Laut, it would be easy to get the stuff landed in one of the canoes or sampans always plying in the bay—the only question was a buyer,
and Keller said he had no doubt he would easily find that.
The first they knew of the island was a perfume of cassi coming through a dawn that, having lazily snuffed out a star or two, simply leapt on the sea; a crimson and old gold dawn trailed with a smoke cloud like the fume of joss sticks, cloud that broke to form flying flamingoes that were shot to pieces by sunrays from a sun bursting up into a world of stainless azure.
The island lay right before them, a high island with broken reefs to east and west and clear water all to the south, where beyond the anchorage and the beach lay the town wherein the four copra traders of Laut carried on their trade and the Japanese and Chinese pearl merchants and the Australian and Californian turtle shell buyers, prospectors and sellers foregathered at the so-called club kept by Hans Reichtbaum.
In the bay were two schooners, a brigantine and some small craft at moorings, and somewhere about nine o’clock the Haliotis moving like a swan across the breeze ruffled blue, dropped her anchor in thirty fathoms, a far faint echo from the woods following the rasp of her chain. ,
That was all the welcome Rao Laut gave her when Reichtbaum in pyjamas, shading his eyes on the club verandah watched her swing to her moorings and returned to his breakfast wondering what sort of customers the newcomers would turn out.
IT WAS their second night at Laut, and Bud and Billy leaning on the after rail of the Haliotis were contemplating the lights on shore. A tepid wind from the sea fanned their cheeks and against the wind the island breathed at them like a bouquet.
In two days they had taken the measure of the place
and plumbed its resources, and the brain of Keller working swiftly and true to form had rejected all possible avenues for opium trade but one—Reichtbaum.
At the first sight of the German, Keller’s instinet had told him that here was his man.
Keller had no money to spend on drinks at the club, and it was Harman’s torture that, with his pocket bulging with gold, he could not lay out a cent, but Reichtbaum had stood drinks yesterday, scenting business from a few words dropped by Keller.
This evening at sundown Keller had gone alone, taking a single can of opium with him and rowing himself ashore in the dinghy. Bud and Billy were waiting for his return. They saw the lights of the club and the lights of the village winking and blinking as the intervening foliage stirred in the wind, then on the starlit water they saw a streak like the trail of a water-rat. It was the dinghy.
Keller came on board triumphant and without the tin. Not a word would he say till they were down below, then, taking his seat at the saloon table he let himself go.
“Look at me,” said he, “sober, ain’t I? Fit to thread a needle or say J’rus’lem artichoke, don’t you think? And he fired the stuff at me, rum an’ gin and coloured drinks and fizz at the last, but I wasn’t havin’ any; bisness is bisness I says, and I ain’t playin’ a lone hand, I’ve pardners to think of. Plain-sailin’ Jim’s my name and if you don’t pay two hundred dollars a tin I’ll plain sail off and dump the stuff out.”
“Two hundred dollars!” said the others in admiration, “You had the cheek to ask him that?”
“That’s so,” replied Keller, “and I got it.” He produced notes for two hundred dollars and spread them on the table.
“He opened the stuff and sampled it and planked the money down, and two hundred dollars he’ll pay for every can, and there’s fourteen of them left, that’s three thousand dollars for the lot. We’ve only to take them ashore to get the money. Well now seems to me since that’s fixed, we have to think what to do with the schooner. We don’t want to sit here in this b’nighted hole twiddlin’ our thumbs and waitin’ to be took off, more especial as I don’t trust Reichtbaum any too much, and it seems to me our plan is to stick to the hooker and take her right to a Dutch port and sell the cargo. Copra prices are rangin’ high—”
“Steady on,” suddenly cut in Harman, “why, you said yourself we couldn’t take her to any port seein’ we have no papers but what’s made out in Spanish and no crew.” “Just so,” said Keller. “It was the crew that was botherin’ me more than the papers, but how about a crew of Kanakas now we have the money to pay for them?”
TRAVIS hit the table with his fist.
“By Gosh, there’s something in that,” said he.
“M’rover,” said Keller, “I can get six chaps for five dollars ahead advance. There’s more’n half a dozen schooner Kanakas kickin’ their heels on the beach waitin’ for a job. I can get them on board tomorrow and all the fruit and water we want for ten dollars to the chaps that bring it on board. When you see a copra schooner cornin’ into a Dutch port manned by Kanakas there won’t be no bother. Dutchmen don’t know Spanish nor they won’t care, we’re in from the Islands and we’ve left our Spanish chaps sick at Laid—if there’s any questions, which there won’t be,”
“When can we be off?” asked Harman.
“To-morrow afternoon if we're slick about gettin’ the water and bananas on board,” said Keller. “Then when we’re all ready for sailin’ we’ll take the dope cans to Reichtbaum and get the money. We won’t do that till last thing, for fear he'd play us some trick or another. I'm none too sure of Germans.”
Next morning at six, the work began, Davis and Harman going ashore to hire the Kanakas and see about the water and provisions, Keller remaining on board to clear up the ship and get the fo’c’sle in order. Continued Qn page 43
Continued from page 25
Boat-loads of fruit were brought off, the newly hired Kanakas helping, enough bananas to feed them for a month, taro, bread-fruit and a dozen fowl in a crate, price three dollars. The water casks were filled and by four o’clock, with the promise of a steady wind off shore, the Halitotis, with canvas raised was ready to sail and the crew on board.
Keller had brought up the opium tins in their tarpaulin wrapper.
“Be sure and count over the dollars,” said he to Davis, as the cans were lowered into the dinghy, “and don’t take no drinks from him—if he gets you on the booze, we’re done.”
“Him and his booze,” said Harman, as they shoved off. “Same as if we’re childer—lay into it, Bud.”
The nose of the dinghy grounded on the soft sand, some native boys helped to run her up and getting the cans out, they started up the beach towards the club.
It was a heavy load, but they managed the journey without stopping; Reichtbaum was waiting for them on the verandah and, lending a hand, they brought the treasure through the bar into a private room at the back, a room furnished with native made chairs and tables, a roll-top desk and a portrait of the German Emperor on the wall opposite the window.
“So,” said Reichtbaum, “that is accomplished, and now, gentlemen, what will you have to drink?”
“Highball for me,” said Harman, “if it’s all the same to vou—what’s your’s, Bud?”
“Same as yours,” said Davis, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, and then these worthies sat whilst Reichtbaum went into the bar and returned with a syphon of soda and a whisky bottle and then went out again and returned with three glasses, and then fishing a cigar box from a shelf, handed out cigars.
The syphon whizzed and the fumes of tobacco rose.
TWO highballs vanished, and nearly half an hour of precious time sped with conversation ranging from the German Emperor to the morals of the ladies of Laut.
Then Davis turned to reality. “S’pose we get on with this business of the dope,” said he. “Three thousand dollars it was, Mr. Keller was saying—and we ought to be going.”
He rose from his chair.
“To be sure,” said Reichtbaum, rising also, “three thousand dollars was agreed; now for der dope.”
He took a clasp knife from his pocket,
knelt down and cut the rope binding the tarpaulin, rooted it open, put in his hand and produced a tin of bully beef. He tiling the tarpaulin wide and tins tumbled out on the floor, canned tomatoes mostly—there was a large stock of them on the Haliotis. Bud and Billy petrified with amazement as Reiehtbaum himself, stood without a word, till Harman found speech.
“Boys, we’re done,” cried Harman. "Fried and dished.” He turned, made for the door and rushed through the bar on to the verandah.
The Haliotis with swelled sails and steered by Plain-sailin’ Jim, was not only at sea, but far at sea; she had dropped her anchor chain most likely directly they had vanished into the club, or maybe even she had taken the anchor in, Keller cynically sure that falling to drinks, they would hear nothing of the winch.
"Well, it might have been worse,” said Bud that night as they sat smoking on the beach. “He’s got the dope and the cargo and the ship and the crew, but we ain’t destitute. We’ve got the sovereigns. But what gets me is the fact that he'll net all of ten thousand dollars when he’s sold off that copra and the opium, to say nothing of the hull. Maybe fifteen thousand. Oh, he’ll do it and strand those poor devils of Kanakas Lord knows where.”
Harman took out the watch belonging to the captain of the Haliotis from his pocket, and looked at it gloomily. Then as a child comforts itself with its toys, he took the chamois leather bag of
sovereigns from his pocket and began to count over the coins.
“I’m not botherin’ about that,” said he, “what gets me, is the fac’ that he’s run crooked with us.”
Davis looking at the coins and remembering the watch and fountain pen, to say nothing of the coins in his own pocket, smiled darkly. He was about to remark that if Keller had run crooked with them, they had run pretty crooked with Keller, hut knowing the mentality of his companion, he saved his breath and lit his pipe.
“That’s what gets me,” said Billy, serious as a deacon and evidently brooding over the sins of the other and shovelling the sovereigns back into the bag, “it ain’t the dope he’s diddled us out of, nor the dam schooner, which I hopes he’ll bust on a rock, him and his Kanakas, it’s the fac’ that he’s took me in, in my opinions. I reckoned that chap was a White man, I’d a trusted that man with my second last dollar and wouldn’t have wanted to tie no string to it, neither. Outspoken and free he was with his conversation and hidin’ and holin’ in his ways—’nough to make a chap bank for the rest of his natural on hearses an’ deaf mutes. That’s how I’m feelin’. No, sir, it ain’t the dope he’s diddled us out of, nor the—”
“Oh, shut up,” said Davis, and turning on his side and lighting his pipe, he led the conversation towards the club, the excellence of its whisky and the morals of the ladies of Laut.
The concluding story will appear in the following issue.