Beginning a New Series of Absorbing Stories of the South Sea
H. deVERE STACPOOLE
I. “The Beachcombers
A Portuguese Love Story
THE moon was rising over Papaleete, over the Pacific Ocean and the bay where the anchor lights were spilling their amber on the water, over the palm trees and flame trees and the fragrant town from which, now clear, now sheltered by the sea wind, came the voices of girls singing to the tune of Hawaiian guitars.
Mixed with the breathing of the tepid wind in the tr-- the v.cees of the girls and the tune of the guitars, ame the murmur and sigh of the beach, the last note wanted, the last touch, to a scene of absolutely absurd and impossible loveliness, amidst which, by the water’s edge, casting a thirty-foot shadow on the hard white anil, Mr Harman was walking, blind to the Eden around him.
Billy was "on the beach" in more senses than one. He was down and out. without friends, without food, without drinks, and almost without tobacco, starving in the midst of plenty, for in Papaleete. if you are a "cadger.” you may live for ever on the fat of the land and not only live, but love, drink, smoke, dream under tree shadows and bathe in a sea warm with perpetual summer.
But that was not Billy’s way.
This short, four-square, blue-eyed man out of San Francisco could do anything but cadge. It wasn’t a question of morals, it was more a question of simplicity.
Billy’s morals had mostly been forgotten by Nature or maybe they had been extracted by San Franciscans and shore-along toughs from Valparaiso up; anyhow and however that may be, the resulting vacuum seemed to have filled itself up with simplicity, not stupidity, just simplicity. The simplicity of a child that allowed him to go into the most desperate and questionable deals in world politics and doubtful sea practice, wide-eyed, blue-eyed, and reproaching others for the immoral lapses with the unchanging formula:
“It don’t pay.”
“Crooked dealing don’t pay,” said Mr. Harman after some crooked deal had failed—never before.
Yet somehow, in some extraordinary way, Billy was lovable; there was nothing mean about him and that was maybe why he couldn’t cadge and he had behind those blue eyes and that honest dog-looking tanned face, a power of cool, uncalculating daring that might have landed him anywhere if he had come on a decent jumping-off place.
AS HE turned back along the • beach, the moonlight struck a figure coming towards him. It was Davis. Fate or some strange chance had thrown Davis and Harman together on the same beach at the same time, and though there was a world of difference between their faces, forms, characters and dispositions, they were alike in this—they couldn’t cadge.
Davis was a lean slip of a man with a chin tuft and a terrific past about which he was quite open.
Never satisfied or driven by the craze of adventure, he had overrun two or three fortunes and had beached at Papaleete from a B. P. boat which had picked him up from a trading station down somewhere in the Paumotus and wa3 glad to
get rid of him on the terms of a twenty dollar loan. The Captain laughed when Davis had entered the loan in a pocket book, but it would be returned with interest some time or another if the borrower lived. That was Davis.
The one remarkable thing about this plain-looking man with the chin tuft and the flat cheek bones was his quietude; nothing hurried him or flurried him. That was perhaps the secret behind his shooting. He was more than a good shot with a revolver. He was inevitable.
"That’s done,” said Davis coming up with the other. "Penhill and Jarvis are highballing it at the club and
their Kanakas are playing Hop Scotch with the hula hula girls. What’s the matter with you? Don’t go saying you’ve got cold feet.”
“It’s not my feet,” said Mr. Harman, “but I’ve never run off with a ship before and that’s the fact; it’s not like sinkin’ her or pilin’ her. I’ve doné most things, but I’ve never run off with a ship before,
that’s a fact. I’ve never--”
“Oh, close up,” said Davis. “Didn’t I tell you that Penhill can’t move against us; once I get his ship out, his feet are cut off. I’m the one man living that he’s afraid of, because I’m the one man living that can put him in quod without hurting myself. This thing isn’t running off with a ship. It’s Providence.”
“How do you get at that?” asked Mr. Harman, doubtfully.
“Well, look at it,” said Davis. “In he comes with the Araya, sees me, remembers the trick he played me, tries to pull up, gets a snub on the nose, puts it in his pocket and then goes on the jag, him and Jarvis, leaving his schooner with a parcel of damn-fool Kanakas in charge and me layin’ about dangerous. Kanakas, why they’re worse than that. Island boys that’ll take any white man’s bidding s’long as he feeds them with fried bananas. It’s
lovely, that’s what it is, lovely--”
Linking his arm in that of Harman’s he was walking him along the sand towards a boat beached and left almost high and dry by the ebbing tide. To the right lay the lights of the town and almost on the beach sand the long amber glow of the lit club. Mr. Harman, walking between the beauty of Papaleete by night and the glory of the moon upon the sea, showed no sign of haste to reach the boat.
What bothered him was not so much the turpitude of the business as the seeming futility and madness of it, for even in those days before wireless talked, it was next to impossible to steal a ship and make good. Every port in the world is a compound eye for scrutiny; the character of a ship is enquired into as carefully as her .health. Harman knew the whole business. There is a cable from Papaleete to Suva, and from Suva to ’Frisco and beyond, and to-morrow morning Penhill had only to speak and the description of the Araya and the two x'anished beachcombers would be in the hands of the San Francisco authorities before noon; before night all American seaboard ports would be closed to the Araya and, by next day at noon, the British Board of Trade would seal Australia and Hong Kong. Chinese ports would be notified in “due course.”
WITH every bolthole blocked, the Araya might still li\re free for years pottering among the less known islands, they might even pile her on some rock and make their escape in the boats, but what would be the use of all that? No, the whole thing would have been futile and ridiculous but for the one thing that made it possible—Penhill. Penhill daren’t prosecute. The schooner was his and he was the only man who could move, and he was tied. Davis said so. Davis had given details which made the matter clear to
Harman, yet still he hesitated as to what he should do.
They had reached the boat. It was the Araya’s, left confidingly on a beach where no man ever stole boats; there were canoes to be had in plenty, but Davis preferred the boat. He had reasons.
Harman, resting his hand on the gunnel, looked about him for a moment at the deserted beach, still undecided.
His dunnage, left at the house of a native woman where he had lodged, was unprocurable. He owed a bill. As he stood considering this and other matters, from the groves by the beach diffusing itself through the night, there came the voice of a native singing a love song, tender, plaintive, old as Papaleete and focussing in itself all the softness and beauty that the active soul of Mr. Harman had learned to hate.
He seized the gunnel of the boat and, assisted by Davis, shoved her off.
Out on the moonlit water, the town shewed up fairylike, its lights twinkling amidst the moving foliage. Away on Huahine, rising steeply like a wall of velvety blackness to the stars, the lights of tiny villages shewed like fire-flies come to rest. Fronting and beneath all this mystery and loneliness showed the definite amber glow of the club where Penhill and Jarvis were drinking themselves blind. That was Papaleete.
No Port Authorities, no harbour police, no sign of life, but the anchor lights of a brigantine and a beche-de-mer boat—that also was Papaleete. On board the Araya the anchor watch was snoring; kicked awake and rubbing its eyes, it jumped to the voice of white authority. The returned boat was a certificate that the new white fellow mas’rs were representatives of white fellow Mas’r Penhill, and Penhill’s character was an antidote to loving enquiries.
“They’re a sprightly lot,” said Harman as the main boom swung to starboard and the great sail filled, tugging at the sheet. “Monkeys to jump an’ no tongues to ask questions.”
“That’s Penhill,” said Davis,
“he’s milled them into brute beasts, not that they wanted much milling, but there you are; he done his best and I reckon we’re profiting by it.”
FOUR days later they” had cut Capricorn, discovered the sailing qualities of the Araya and taken stock of ship and cargo: four thousand dollars worth of trade, four thousand dollars worth of ship, Penhill’s gold watch, the ship’s chronometer, eighteen hundred dollars of ship’s money. Davis calculated it all up and said he reckoned that the account between him and Penhill was clear.
He said he reckoned that Penhill had deserved what he got, and Harman concurred.
They sat in judgment on Penhill and brought him in guilty. Harman almost felt virtuous.
“I reckon he’ll learn it don’t pay to run crooked,” said he. “I’ve took notice that them sort of chaps always gets scragged in the end. What’s this you said he did you out of?”
“Seventy dollars, and left me on the beach,” replied Davis.
“Same as we’ve done him,” said Harman. “No, it don’t pay. It don’t pay no-how.”
South at first, then due west they made past St. Felix and heading for Caldera on the Chili coast. But Caldera was not Davis’s objective. Buenodiaz with its land-locked harbour, its lazy ways, its pretty women and negligent Port Authorities, was his idea and, smoking Penhill’s cigars under a blazing sun whilst the Araya snored along through a Reckitt-blue sea, he expounded matters to Billy Harman.
“Sell her on the hoof,” said Davis, “innards, outwards, hump, tail and all, that’s my idea. There are ten-cent mail boats that’ll take us anywhere up or down the coast, Valparaiso for choice, once we’ve got the dollars in our pockets. There’s big things to be
done in Chili with a few dollars by fellows that know the ropes.”
Mr. Harman concurred:
“I’ve been done there myself,” said he, “by chaps that hadn’t cents in their pockets, let alone dollars; skinned alive I was of every buck to my name in a faro joint at Cubra, and me winning all the time. Hadn’t got half way down the street to my ship with a pocket full of silver dollars when I put my hand in my pocket and found nothing but stones. Filled me up they had
with pebbles off the beach, playin’ guitars all the time and smokin’ cigarettes and pretendin’ to husty-manyana.
“Well, I’m not against landin’ this hooker on them, but I tell you, Bud, it’s my experience, before w’e comes to close grips wdth them w'e’ll be wantin’ to fix our skins on with secotine.”
“You leave them to me,” said Bud.
“I’ve known the insides and outsides of Chinks,” went on the other, "and I’ve had dealin’s with Greeks up Sasun way, oyster boat Levantines w'ill take your back teeth whiles you’re tellin’ them you don’t want buyin’ their dud pearls, but these chaps are in their own class. Jim Satan, that’s w'liat they are and there’s not a ’Frisco crook sellin’ dollar watches can w'alk round the brim of their damn sombreros.”
“You leave them to me,” said Bud, and the Araya snored on.
/"\N AND on with a gentle roll over the wind-speckled blue of the endless sw'ell, lifting nothing but ocean, and over ocean vast dawns that turned to torrid noons and died in sunsets like the blaze of burning worlds; till one morning the cry of the Kanaka look-out answered the cry of a great gull flying with them and there before
them stood the coast;boiling where the sun was breaking above it and stretching to north and south of the sun blaze, solid, remote, in delicately-pencilled hills dying from sight in the blue distance. Davis, who knew the coast, altered the helm. They were forty miles or so to the north of their right position, and it was not till afternoon that the harbor of Buenodiaz lay before them with the flame trees showing amidst the flat-topped houses and the blue water lapping the deserted mole. The quay by the mole was deserted and La Piazza, the public square, distinctly to be seen from the sea, lifted slightly as it was by the upward trend of the ground, was empty. Through the glass the houses showed their green shutters tightly shut and not a soul on the verandahs.
It was almost as though some Pelee had erupted ar.d covered the place with the lava of pure desolation clear as glass.
“Taking their siestas,” said Davis. “Keep her as she goes. I know this harbor and it’s all good holding ground, beyond that buoy.”
Harman at the wheel nodded, and Davis went foreward to superintend the fellows getting the anchor ready whilst the Araya, her canvas quivering to the last of the dying breeze, stole in past an old rusty torpedo boat, past a grain ship that seemed dead, on and on, dropping her anchor at last two cable lengths from the mole.
The rattle of the anchor chain made Buenodiaz open one eye. A boat slipped out from the mole. It was the Port Doctor.
Buenodiaz flings its slops into the street and its smells are traditional, but it has a holy horror of imported diseases and its Port Doctor never sleeps—even in siesta time.
With the Doctor came the Customs, smelling of garlic, with whom Davis conversed in the language of the natives, whilst Harman attended to the liquor and cigars.
THE cargo of the Araya was copra and turtle shell. Davis had figured and figured over the business and, reckoned at the prices ranging six months before, the stuff was maybe worth five thousand dollars.
“Ain’t like cotton,” said he, “prices keep pretty steady, but I’ll put it at four thousand and not a cent under; at four thousand we shan’t be losers.”
“Well, I reckon we wouldn’t be losers at four cents,” «aid Harman, “seein’ how wre got it, and how about the hooker?”
“Five thousand,” said Davis, “and that’s not half her worth. Nine thousand the lot and I’ll throw' the chronometer in.”
“Have you fixed what to do with the Kanakas?” asked the other. “There’s eight of them and they’ve all mouths.”
“There’s never a Kanaka yet could talk Spanish,” said Davis, “and I don’t propose to learn them, but I’ll give them fifty dollars a-piece—maybe—if I make good. But there’s time enough to think of that when we have the dollars.”
It was the second day after their arrival at Buenodiaz. The sun was setting and the sound of the band playing on La Piazza came across the water: mixed with the faint strains of the band came the sounds of a guitar from one of the ships in the anchorage and in lapses of the breeze from the sea the scent of the town stole to them, a bouquet co-mingled from drains, flowers, garlic, earth and harbour compounds.
Harman was in one of his meditative fits.
“That chap you brought aboard to-day,” said he, “the big one wfith the whiskers, was he Alonez or w’as it the little un?”
“The big one,” said Davis. “He’s the chap that’ll take the cargo off us and the little one will take the ship—I haven’t said a word of the price, haven’t said I w'as particularly wanting to sell, but I’ve given them a smell of the toasted cheese and if I know' anything of anything, they’re setting on their hind legs now; in Continued on page !+6
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some cafe smoothing their whiskers and making ready to pounce. They’re partners. They own all that block of stores on the Calle San Pedro and the little one does the shipping business. He’s Portuguese, pure. Pereira’s his name. I’m going up to his house to-night to talk business.”
“Well,” said Harman, “if he’s going to buy, he’s got the specifications, he’s been over her from the truck to the lazarette and I thought he’d be pullin’ the nails out of her to see what they were like—when are you goin’?”
“Eight,” replied Davis, and at eight o’clock, amidst the usual illuminations and fire works with which Buenodiaz bedecks herself on most nights, he went, leaving Harman to keep ship. He returned at twelve o’clock and found Harman in his bunk snoring. At breakfast next morning he told of his visit. He had done no business in particular beyond mentioning the outside price that he could take for the Araya should
he care to sell her. Mrs. Pereira and her daughter had been there and the girl was a peach.
Harman absorbed this news without interest, merely reminding the other that they weren’t “dealin’ in fruit,” but as two more days added themselves together producing nothing but church processions, brass bands and fireworks, Mr. Harman fell out of tune with himself and the world and the ways of this “damn garlic factory.” Davis was acting strangely, nearly always ashore and never returning till midnight. He said the deal was going through but that it took time, that they weren’t selling a mustang, that he wouldn’t be hustled and that Harman, if he didn’t like waiting, had better go and stick his head in the harbor.
Harman closed up, but that night he accompanied Davis ashore and instead of playing roulette at the little gambling shop in La Piazza, he hung around the Pereira’s house -in Assumption Street, listening and watching in the moonlight. He heard the tune of a guitar and a girl’s voice singing La Paloma, then came a great silence that lasted an hour and a half and then came Davis. Hidden in a dark corner, Mr. Harman saw that he was not alone. A girl was with him, come out to bid him good-night. She was short, dark and lovely, but the look of adoration on her face as she turned it up for a kiss left Harman quite cold.
Down by-lanes and cut-throat alleys he made his way running, got to the mole before the other and was rowed off in the same boat. On board he invited the other down below and down below he exploded.
“I ain’t wantin’ to interfere with any man’s diversions,” said Mr. Harman, “I ain’t no prude, women is women, and business is business, do you get what I’m meanin’? I saw you. I ain’t accusin’ you of nuthin’—but bein’ a fool. Us with a stole ship on our backs and Penhill feelin’ for us and you playin’ the goat with Pereira’s daughter. What kind of deal do you expect to make and a woman hangin’ on to it with her teeth? You needn’t go denyin’ of it. I saw you.”
THE male and female run through all things, even partnerships, and in the Harman-Davis syndicate it was Harman who wore the skirts. Davis could not get -2L word in till the other had worked himself free of his indignation and the subject. Then said Davis: “If you’ll shut your beastly head, I’ll maybe be able to stuff some sense into it. What were you talking about, selling the schooner? It’s sold.”
“Well,” said Harman, “that’s news, and what’s the price, may I ask?”
“Five thousand, and five thousand for the trade, ten thousand dollars the whole sum to be paid on Friday next.”
“Have you a bit of writin’?” asked Harman who possessed the French peasant’s instinct for stamped paper.
“I’ve got their cheque,” said Davis, “post dated for next Friday, but I’m not bothering about the money for the ship and cargo, it doesn’t matter a hill of beans to me whether they pay ten thousand dollars or five. I’ve struck a bigger thing than that. What would you say to half a million dollars?”
“I don’t know,” replied the ingenuous Harman. “I only know chaps generally begin to make asses of themselves when they talk about millions of dollars. It’s my opinion no man ever came out of the big end of the horn with the million dollars in his hand he’d gone in to fetch at the little. Most of the million dollar men I’ve heard of have started as newsies with their toes stickin’ through their boots—but go on, what was you sayin’?”
“I’m saying I’ve a big thing in sight,” replied the exasperated Davis, “and I’d be a lot surer of it if I felt I hadn’t such a blank fool partner. It’s this, I’m right into the cockles of the heart of that family and I’ve got the news through my left ear that there’s trouble in Santiago, that Diaz is going to skip and that a million dollars in gold bars are coming down to the coast. Diaz is taking his movables with him and he’s gutted the treasury unknown to the chaps that are moving to shoot him out. He’s about sick of the presidency and wants to get away and lead a quiet life.”
“I see,” said Harman. “That’s plain enough, but where do we stand?”
“Well,” said Davis, “there’s a million
dollars worth of gold bars moving down to the coast here and there’s us just come in. Don’t it look like Providence? Don’t it look like as if there’s going to be a conjunction?”
“It do,” said Mr. Harman meditatively, “but I’m damned if I see how we’re to conjunct on evidence you’ve handed in —but you’ve got more up your sleeve— pull it out.”
“It’s not much,” said Davis, “only the girl. She’s going to keep us wise. I told her I might be able to do a deal with Diaz if I knew where and when he was shipping off the boodle, and she’s going to let me know. The Pereiras are all in the business same as furniture removing chaps; they’re doing the move for Diaz and he’s using one of their ships. D’you see? See where we come in? Nothing to do but watch and wait with the girl for our eyes and ears— then pounce—How? I don’t know, but we’ll do it.”
“That girl,” said Mr. Harman after a moment’s silence, “she seems pretty gone on you.”
“Ain’t you gone on her?”
Davis laughed. Then he opened a locker and helped himself to a drink.
Harman’s morals, as I have hinted before, were the least conspicuous part of his mental make-up, but he was not without sentiment of a sort. At singsongs he had been known to sniff over “The Blind Boy,” a favorite song of his and though his ideal of female beauty leaned towards sloe-black eyes and applered cheeks (shiny or not didn’t matter), beauty in distress appealed to him.
The cold-blooded blackguardishness of Davis almost shocked him for a moment —making a girl love him like that just to use her as a spy on her family! The upright man in the soul of Billy Harman, the upright man who had never yet managed somehow to get on his feet, humped his back and tried to rise, but he had half a million dollars on top of him. Mr. Harman moved in his chair uneasily and refilled his pipe. But all he said was: “Tell us about them gold
Davis told. A Peon runner had come in that afternoon with a message for Pereira saying that the mules, eight in number, bearing the stuff would reach Buenodiaz by night-time of the following day.
“The stuff will be shipped to-morrow night, then?” said Harman.
“Well, you don’t think they’d go leaving it on the beach,” replied Davis.
“Didn’t you get out of her what ship they’re taking it off on?” asked Harman.
“No,” said Davis, “I didn’t, she don’t know herself, but she’s going to find out.” “Bud,” said Harman, “give us the straight tip, I’m not wantin’ to prod into your ‘amoors,’ but how far have you nobbled her into this business?”
“Well, as you ask me, I’ll tell you,” replied Bud. “She fell into it head first and up to the heels of her boots, givin’ me the whole show and location all but the name of the hooker which she don’t know yet.”
“You mean to say she’s workin’ for you to collar the stuff?”
“But where does she come in?”
“She’s coming with us if we can pull off the deal.”
“Oh, Lord!” said Harman. “A petticoat—I knew there must be some fly in the ’intment—it was too good to be true. A million dollars rollin’ round waitin’ to be took and a petticoat—I’ve never known one that didn’t mess a job it was wrapped up in.”
“It’s a million to one it don’t come off,” said Davis, removing his boots before turning in, “but there’s just one chance, and that’s her,”
NEXT morning Mr. Harman did not go ashore. He spent his time fishing over the side, fishing and smoking and dreaming of all sorts of different ways of spending dollars. Now he was rolling round ’Frisco in a carriage, and a boiled shirt with a diamond solitaire in it, calling at the Palatial for drinks. Now he was in the train of quality eastward bound for N’York, smoking a big cigar. He did not delude himself that the deal would come off, but that didn’t matter a bit. The essence of dreams is unreality. There was a chance.
Davis went ashore about eleven o’clock and did not return till two in the afternoon. When he came back he was a
different man. He seemed younger and brighter and even better dressed, though he had not changed his clothes. Harman, J watching him row up to the ship, noticed the difference in him even before he came on board.
He swept him down to the cabin and, ¡ before letting him speak, poured out drinks.
“I see it in your mug,” said Harman. j “Here, swaller that before handin’ out | the news, cock yourself on the bunk | side. Well, what’s the odds now?”
“Twenty to one on,” said. Davis, “or a hundred, it’s all the same. It’s as good j as done. Bo, we got it.”
“Don’t say!” said Harman.
“Got it, saddle and bridle an’ pedigree j and all; she’s given it all in and to-night’s the night.”
“Give us the yarn,” said Harman.
“There’s nothing to it; simple as shoplifting. The stuff will be down at the | coast here about dark; it will be taken | off soon as it arrives and shipped on board the Douro. She’s lying over there and I’ll point her out to you when we go up. Then when the stuff is aboard, she’ll put out, but not till sun up. They don’t like navigating those outlying reefs in the dark, moon or no.”
“Yes,” said Harman.
“Well,” said Davis, “our little game is to wait till the stuff is aboard, row off, take the Douro and push out with her. ! You and me and eight Kanakas ought to do it; there’s no guardship and the fellows on the Douro won’t put up much of a fight. You see they’re not on the fighting lay; it’s the steal softly business with them, and I reckon they’ll cave at the first shout.”
“Where does the girl come in?” asked Mr. Harman after a moment’s pause.
“There’s a place called Coimbra seven mile south down the coast,” said Davis fetching a chart from the locker. “Here it is. That point. I’ve only to put out a blue light and she’ll put off in a boat. Pereira’s brother lives down at Coimbra and she’s going to-night to stay with him. She’ll be on the watch out from one on to sunrise and she’ll easy get taken out in one of the night fishermen’s boats.”
To all of which Mr. Harman replied, “Damn petticuts!” He was biting his nails. He was no feminist. That is to say, he had an inborn conviction that women tended to spoil shows other than tea parties and such like. Why couldn’t this girl have kept out of the business? What did she want coming along for? Seeing that she was letting down her people for the love of Davis, it seemed pretty evident that she was coming along also for the love of him, but Harman was not in the mood to consider things from the girl’s point of view.
However, there was no use complaining; with the chance of a million dollars for nothing one must expect a few thorns, so he kept his head closed whilst Davis, taking him on deck, drew a lightning sketch of the plan of campaign.
First they had to shift the Araya’s moorings so as to get closer to the Douro; then they had to put the Kanakas wise, and more especially Tante, the cook and leader. Then they had just to lay low, wait for midnight and pounce.
“Right-o,” said Mr. Harman, “and if we’re shiftin’ moorin’s, let’s shift now.”
They did, not drawing too noticeably near the Douro, but near enough to keep watch on her. Near enough to count the sunblisters on her side with a glass. She was of smaller tonnage than the Araya and ketch-rigged, she had never been a beauty and she wasn’t one now, she had no charms to mellow with age.
NIGHT had fallen on Buenodiaz and the band on La Piazza had ceased braying. Eleven o’clock was striking, Cathedral and churches tinkling and tankling and clanging the hour; a drunk crew had just put off for the grain ship lying further out and silence was falling on the scene when whizz-bang off went the fireworks.
“Damn the place!” cried Mr. Harman, whose nerves were on edge. “It’s clangin’ and prayin’ and stinkin’ all day and closes down only to go off in your face— some saint’s day or ’nuther, I expect.” Davis said nothing. He was watching the blue and pink of bursting rockets and the fiery, fuzzy worms reflecting themselves in the harbour.
They had seen several boats stealthily
approaching the Douro. Everything seemed going to time and the wind was
An hour passed during which Buenodias, forgetting saints and frivolity, fell asleep, leaving the world to the keeping of the moon.
Convents, churehes and cathedral were chiming midnight when the Kanakas having crowded into the boat of the A royo, Davis and Harman got into the stern sheets and pushed off.
As they drew close the Douro, with her anchor light burning, showed no sign of life. Bow to the sea on a taut anchor chain, she rode the flooding tide. She seemed nodding to them as she pitched gently to the heave of the swell and, as they rubbed up alongside and Harman grasped the rail, he saw that the deck was clear.
"Down below, every man Jack of them,” he whispered back at Davis. "1 can hear ’em snoring. Foc’sle hatch
He led the way to the foc’sle hatch and closed it gently, turning at a stroke the foc’sle into a prison. Then they came to the saloon hatch, stood and listened.
Not a sound.
"They’re all in the foc’sle,” whispered Harman. “Just like Spaniards, ain’t it? No time to waste, we’ve gotta see the stuff's here. Give’s your matches.” He stepped down followed by the other,
reached the saloon and struck a light.
Yes, the stuff was there, a sight enough to turn a stronger head than Harman’s.
Boxes and boxes on the floor and on the couch evidently just brought on board and disposed of in a hurry, and all marked with the magic name: Juan Diaz.
Harman tried to lift one of them. It was not large, yet he could scarcely stir it. Then with eyes aflame and hammering hearts, they made up the companion way, closed the hatch, and, whilst Davis got the canvas on her, Harman stood by to knock the shackle off the anchor chain.
As town and mole and harbor dropped astern, the Douro close hauled and steered by Davis, Harman standing by the steersman, saw the helm going over and found they were heading north.
“And how about pickin’ up that girl?” asked Harman, “Coimbra don’t lay this way.”
“Oh, I reckon she’ll wait,” replied Davis.”
“You're givin’ her the good-bye?”
“Seems so,” said Davis.
Harman chuckled. Then he lit a cigar.
If girls chose to fall in love and trust chaps like Davis, it wasn’t his affair, He smoked and dreamed as the Douro snored along beneath the stars—dreamed lovely dreams of saloon bars and red plush furnished parlors, of automobiles, of check tweed suits shouting louder than gramophones, and diamonds, b’gosh; all his.
At sunrise he slipped down to see after some food. Davis heard him hammering down below, and knew that he was sampling the gold, smiled with the full knowledge that it was there and that Billy couldn’t get away with it and was in the act of handing the wheel over to Tante and descending to help and inspect, when just as the sun broke above the coast line, up from the saloon dashed Billy.
Like a man demented, he rushed forward, opened the foc’sle hatch and shouted down it to the imprisoned
“Come up, you blighters,” cried Mr. Harman. Then he dived down, found
emptiness and returned on deck.
He held on to the rail as he faced
“Ten thousand dollars’ worth of trade and ship,” said Harman, “that’s what we’ve given them for a stinkin’ ketch and a couple o’ hundred weight of sand. Sand an’ pebbles that’s what’s in them boxes. You and your girls! No, you can’t put back; they’d jug us for stealin’ this rotten boat. Take your gruel and swoller it. Lord bless your livin’ innocence, the whole of that garlic factory was in it, it’s my belief, from the Port Doctor up and they’ll be havin’ fireworks to-night at havin’ done the Yankees. They’ve left grub enough dowm there to do us for a fortnit, maybe, if we muzzle the Kanakas; they wanted to be sure clear of us. Say, ain’t you goin’ to Coimbra to pick up that petticut that’s waitin’ for you?”
Mr. Harman paused, spat into the
sea, gazed afar over the sapphire waters.
"No,” said he, turning his remarks to the universe in general, “It don’t pay. Runnin’ crooked don’t pay—-nohow.”
Davis dropped below.
( The next adventure of the “Ocean Tramps’ will appear in the September 15 issue)