On the Companionway
She couldn't understand a man who, himself guiltless, willingly endured prison—and yet she still loved him
A. DEBERTRAND LUGRIN
WITH incredible noiselessness the liner glided alongside the pier, and reared its white stateliness above the wharves, the low warehouses and the rumble and roar, the crowding, thrusting, shunting and shouting of freight trains, motor vans, buses, hand cars and hundreds of hurrying people. ie, graceful and spotless as she was, she seemed
ng sn iw-peaks, that lifted their ust over the Olympic Hills to the right of her, - r v and rude assortment of human beings ■ir paraphernalia which moved below her. he top deck, leaning against the rail, Madeline watched with intently searching eyes a little gTOl ;hat was trying to push its way toward the ship. The :ter had been made fast now and the gangways r:ng lowered. It was a laughing little group that not a bit the hustling, and the curt orders of ». She recognized them all. Mrs. Humphreys, ciing-.r.i • to Dale Langton's arm, and he, bare-headed as usual. ! taller by four inches than anyone on the docks; Hilda Fetherstone, Debbie Green, Alice Norton, all n hatless, of course, and with their hair short; and ew ory one of them looking so very gay—Eustace Hill in his yachting things—so the Ladybird must have ver—he had said he would bring her. Just the ustace. just the same in every way! No, they did her yet -Allan Farley, Captain Ebers, Bob
-an :-and N s, Piulip was n.t there. He w~s sinm t' n `r there, aid ii' cc w~s no use nretend:ng he mizht be. He wa~ rc the-c. Dale, Eustace, .k iBob, and t"° captain, all the old .`-~w `I; but n°t Philip. Then it couM only n:' iron e thing, one haT'~fu,. hopeless t rn A ob choked up in her throat. t'trnedaw av front the rail, her bark tn the `n~tsd5 .Mc st of tne passe:' ;e-e were below, fastening last straps of their bags, adz wraps. busy w,th rouge, powder, lipstick. But Burton, fl-st nffr-er, wr,ose hopeless love I - r her had heen the talk of tn~ s"tp f~r ak the long months the cruise, had come up hehind "Isn't he there'?'' he asked, the quick intu,t,on of the
She shook her head, "But please don't be sorry for me,” she whispered in a shaky voice. “I simply must not cryEverybody else has come.”
“How—I thought you did not expect—”
“No. I didn’t really. But Eustace said he might bring the Ladybird. That’s his yacht. They’re all there, looking so happy. Debs and Hilda and Sue and Alice. Are my eyes red?”
"Hullo Maddie darling!” “We see you, it’s little old Maddie!” “Turn around Madeline, and stop flirting.” “Come down where we can hug you.”
A score of greetings ascended to her. She leaned far over the rail again, blowing kisses, laughing tearfully.
“Oh Maddie, how adorably brown you are!”
All of them were laughing, even Eustace. But Eustace was r.ot saying anything. Dear, kind, patient Eustace, just staring up at her and smiling.
“Shall I take you down and give you up to your friends?" Burton spoke quietly, like the gentleman and perfect officer he was.
And Madeline let him hold her arm along the deck and down below. Going through the narrow passage between the staterooms on the second deck, she stopped and said “Good-bye,” as gently as she could.
And then, out on the dock, they claimed her, the friends to whom she had bade au revoir a year ago. They kissed and embraced her, and patted her on the shouide-, and squeezed her arms until she was breathless. Eustace was the only one of them who did not kiss her, ani his face wa3 grave as he held her hands. She knew it was because he was so glad to see her. And she was sorry• he was so glad. He must not be glad in that smileless, intense way. It meant only that she must make him sorry later on. She hated making people sorry, and she alwavs hawing to do it. As matter of
course they let Eustace take charge of her, holding her arm closely, as once more they made their way through pushing, good-natured throngs.
And Madeline managed to whisper in a sort of questioning statement: “Philip didn’t come, Eustace?”
He looked down into her eyes.
“I have not seen him, nor heard from him since he left Seattle.”
“Why—where is he?”
“I don’t know, dear.”
“Don’t—don’t be sorry for me.” She thrust her small head up and compressed her lips, accentuating the dimple in her chin. “Did—did he have to—go to jail?” Her face flooded with crimson, as she put the shameful
And Eustace’s face was no less red as he replied briefly: “I—I believe so.”
“Don’t you know?”
“Yes, I know.”
She asked him in a small voice if he would get rid of the rest of them, and take her in a taxi to the hotel. Then, in the attempt to distract her he told her that there was to be a dance that night, at which all the passengers on the excursion ship would be guests of honor, and that he had brought the old crowd over on the Ladybird for it. Her own little cabin was reserved for her. Would she let him take her straight to it? She could be alone. No one should disturb her.
“Anyway, get the taxi, and don’t let the others come with us,” she begged him.
They were driving down a quiet street, shaded with maples that here and there met over head in a cool, green arch. “Tell him to drive slowly,” said Madeline. “You don’t know how tired I am of water. I could get out, and say my prayers to those trees. I’m tired of the trip altogether. It was too long—queer cities, queer people, queer smells. Oh, I’m glad to get back to earth. I want my own country.” There was a catch in her voice. She let Eustace hold her hand. She even twisted her palm about to press it against his own.
Then, even while his heart had begun to beat with a sort of suffocating joy at having her so close to him and so responsive, she jerked her hand away, leaned forward, and, staring ahead out of the window, gave the signal for the driver to stop the car.
Eustace followed her eyes. There was no mistaking the tall, slightly stooped, striding figure, that was making its swift way up the street. That swaying gait could belong to no one but Hardinge. They saw him take his cap off and run his hand through his thick hair, in the old characteristic way he had when he was puzzled or distressed. They were close enough now to see the dust on his boots, the shabbiness of his gray tweeds. Then he turned a corner.
“Let me out,” cried Madleine. “Quick, Eustace! You can wait for me.” There was triumph in her voice. Her cheeks flamed, her eyes danced. “You see—he did come. He did come to meet me. That can only mean one thing. He did come, he did come to meet me.” She was repeating herself in a foolish little transport of joyful relief as she sprang from the car and ran after Hardinge.
She called to him while she leaned panting against the gray stone wall which upheld the green terraces of the house on the corner. She called him breathlessly, and not very loud, but he heard her.
He hurled himself around as though someone had struck him, and peered about, his head thrust forward. Then he saw her, and he covered the distance between them in strides that were almost leaps.
For a minute they stood clinging to one another’s hands and saying nothing at all. Hardinge swallowed hard, bit his lips and closed his eyes, as if the sight of her was a little more than he could bear. And Madeline spoke first: “You did come—you did come to meet me.” At last Hardinge, quietly, in his deep, dearly remembered voice: “I recognized you miles out.”
“Where were you?”
“In the warehouse?”
“Why didn’t you—why did you stay there?”
He bit his lips again. Did he turn a little pale? No. He was flushing. The scar on his cheek stood out vividly white. She started to ask him, “Then it isn’t true—that dreadful story?” But she could not frame the words. She did not want to know anything about it. She wanted only to be with him, to feel the strength of his companionship, the sureness of his love. It couldn’t be true anyway, or he wouldn’t be here.
“You’re looking awfully fit.” He left her other question unanswered. “Have you been well?”
“Such silly things to ask, Philip, when there’s so much —so much—.” Under his warm eyes her own wavered and fell. She sighed tremblingly. Up and down the quiet street he looked. There was no one in sight. Perhaps the windows in the large house across the road hid curious eyes. He did not think of that. He put his arm around her in a quick embrace, and held her tightly to his side, bending his head to kiss her cheek. She did not mind if the whole world saw. It had been a year. And so much had happened. She had bqen so afraid she might never—but he let her go almost instantly, squared his shoulders and stood away from her, not even looking at her.
“I couldn’t help it, Madeline,” he said apologetically. ‘It’s a sort of goodbye.”
“Why—what—Philip?” The quivering helplessness of her voice compelled his eyes again, and he was close beside her, her hand in both of his.
“Is there no place we can talk. This—this is impossible, dear. How did you get here—running after me--”
“Eustace is out there on the other street in a taxi. What do you mean by a sort of goodbye?”
She leaned her head back against the wall. The sunlight, mellowed by the gold-green of the maple leaves, fell on her lovely face, her red lips, her pleading eyes.
“They’re putting in a radio service away up beyond the Arctic circle, preparing for an expedition next year,” again he was not looking at her. “I’m going up in a week’s time with Captain Findley and another chap, who was in my battalion. We shall be gone—two years.”
He held her hand very tightly. Her rings cut into her
“I’ll write to you to-night. Listen dear. I did not mean you to see me.’J I sent you another letter at Hong Kong, but you would not have received it!”
“I had nothing about—about any Arctic circle.”
“I can’t talk to you here, Madeline. It’s just simply impossible. Let me take you to Eustace. I’ll write you to-night.”
“That’s—that’s a cowardly way out.” The instant she had spoken she was sorry. His face changed, hardened. “I didn’t mean it,”
she j, whispered, clinging to him. “I didn’t mean it, Philip.
“Perhaps you’re right. I’m sure you’re right. “He was leading her along the street now, back the way she had come. They turned the corner. The taxi was there, Eustace sitting patiently within.
“If you don’t want to meet him—’’began Madeline
“I don’t in the least mind,” his voice was quite toneless. But she could feel the muscles in his body tense, and he began to walk very fast. She was amazed at the way the two men greeted one another. Philip was distant, cold. When Eustace sprang from the cab they shook hands,
Philip standing very straight and unsmiling, while Eustace clapped him on the shoulder, and almost embraced him. To Eustace’s questions “What’s the news? What’s the good word?’’ he replied gravely, “I’ve been working on a farm, strawberries mostly,” and Eustace’s astonished laugh broke off lamely, receiving no encouragement from Madeline or Philip.
“There’s to be a dance at the hotel, tonight, a rather wonderful affair,” Eustace said hastily. Come Philip, can’t you? The old crowd will all be there, and jolly glad to see you again.”
Madeline watched Philip with anxious eyes. Eustace was trying to be kind and, under the circumstances, surely that kindness—
“Thanks,’’ Philip said shortly. “I’ll do that. I’ll be there. “He nodded to Eustace, smiled slightly at Madeline, and stood at the curb, his cap in his hand, as the taxi drove away.
"DUT when night came and the ball had been in pro•*-' gress for two hours and more, she began to think he would not keep his word. She had watched for him till her eyes were tired and her heart sick.
Everywhere were the men and women with whom she had been associated for the past year, and v/hom she had come to know so well, all of their characters good and bad, their little mannerisms, their hobbies, their various and particular attractions, and their lack of attractions; their special sort of phraseology and vocal intonations. She knew exactly how every man of them made love, for had she not suffered, being far and away the prettiest woman on board. To-night they buzzed and fluttered around her, almost tearing her program to pieces, so that she must halve, even quarter her dances; for there were Eustace and his party, and always, always the chance that Philip might come.
The women were wearing things they had bought in Cairo, India and Japan, gorgeously brocaded silks and scarves, and close fitting head ornaments. It was very bizarre. Madeline, swathed in a white silk shawl embroidered with scarlet dragons and green butterflies and edged with thick fringe, had her black hair dressed close to her small head, and her earrings were jade and onyx and silver. Onyx and jade beads hung round her throat. She looked a marvelous harmony of occidental beauty in oriental trappings.
It was nearly midnight when he came. In the middle of a dance she saw him striding down the rotunda.
Eustace, Captain Evers, Bob Flinton and Dale Langton were in a group at the ball-room door. They rushed to mee t him, all shaking hands with him at once.
Why was Philip so solemn? Surely, realizing everything, he ought to unbend. After all they need not have shown this warmth. Even if he were innocent, the rest of the world did not think so. But they were staunch; absolutely true to him. She had heard Langton talking about him earlier in the evening to Bob Flinton.
“Good old Phil. Brave old Hardinge. Best of us all by a long shot.”
Now Eustace was piloting him toward her. She had been dancing with Burton.
How shabby he was! Clothes badly pressed! Shoes not right! The buttons of his waistcoat were worn, and there were white moth-holes in the lapels of his coat. Such things were almost unthinkable in regard to Philip who had always been so immaculate in his dress. He shouldn’t have come. He shouldn’t have appeared in this brilliant assembly as though he were dressed for an absurd masquerade, except for the white seriousness of his face.
He stood in front of her. He took her program without a word, glanced at it and put it in his pocket.
Madeline tried to introduce him to Burton. He nodded vaguely to the officer, and then seeing Burton’s outstretched hand, shook it absent-mindedly, his eyes only on Madeline.
“Let us go outside,” he said, offering his arm.
They passed under the rose-hung pergolas, away from the twinkling lights, into the seclusion of the sunken garden they went. Plenty of others were there before them Hardinge led her on through a little gate. There was a lilac-surrounded enclosure with seats and a fountain playing; quite deserted.
“I don’t believe this belongs to the hotel,” faltered Madeline.
“So much the better. We shan’t be disturbed.”
He sat down beside her and lit a cigarette. He leaned 'forward, hands on his knees. For a few moments neither of them said anything. Madeline, in the fartnest corner of the seat, held her shawl closely around her. She had expected he would take her in his arms. He did not even look at her.
“Just why,’’ he asked her presently, kindly but remotely, “did you follow7 me today? What was the use of it?”
When she did not at once reply, trying to collect her thoughts, he continued, “You don’t realize that you make it twice as hard for me. What have you heard Madeline, besides what 1 told you?” She pulled at the string of the silver brocade bag that hung from her w7rist, took out some letters and a newspaper clipping.
“These things,” she said in a half whisper. “I got them all when w7e w?ere in Cairo.”
She knew them by heart. The words of the newspaper account w7ere as vividly before her eyes, as if they had been written across the green of the lilac in letters of fire. The headlines, the paragraph captions.
ConHnued on page 67
Continued from page 17
MAJOR HARDINGE ARRESTED
Driving while under the influence of liquor, successfully evades arrest with a car full of whisky. Constables Evans and Melrose hurt. Out on bail of $5,000.
And the whole disgraceful story followed, describing the chase through Seattle’s business districts out toward the lake; the shooting; the fight with the officers and Hardinge’s escape. The only mitigating thing was Hardinge’s voluntary giving up of himself the next morning, upon which incident the paper commented: ‘He swore he had no idea the
men were police officers; that he thought they were members of the hold-up gang which had been infesting the water front for the past two weeks. If he had not added that he did not know there was any whisky in the car. and had no idea how it got there, the other part of his confession might have sounded more plausible. Major Hardinge is a well-known business man and served five years overseas—’
‘‘What are all these things?” Hardinge took the packet, flapping the edges of the papers idly, almost indifferently. He seemed curiously unmoved.
“Your letters and two from Eustace; three or four from the others* all telling me not to believe you guilty, saying a thousand nice things—”
He wanted to know what explanation Eustace had given.
“Eustace—,” she bit her lip. How could he speak in that cold way of Eustace! “Eustace has always stood up for you. He’s your best friend. He told me he would have let you have any amount of money to start over again. Only tonight—” the words tumbled from her lips in a little torrent, “he begged me to believe that you didn’t know the whisky was in'the car. He said you’d kept your worc|Cabsolutely, never taken a single drink. He actually pleaded for you to me. He. needn’t have, of course,, but he did.” She put her hand to her trembling lips, and fell silent.
Hardinge dropped his cigarette, set his foot upon it carefully and passed the little package back to her. When she had replaced the letters she drew her shawl tightly about her again, shrank away into the corner, tears in her eyes, and sobs in her throat. But he did not notice.
At last he spoke: “Eustace and I were prisoners in a filthy jail in Kut for nearly a year. I should have died there, if he hadn’t nursed me.” His voice was dreamy. He was clasping and unclasping his hands.
“Well,” he spoke more briskly, as he sat up and folded his arms. “You know what happened. The fine was paid; paid it myself. I was locked up for a month. Both the police officers recovered from their broken heads. I lost my job, lost my reputation and beat it for British Columbia. At present I’m broke. I had a billet till this afternoon, but they fired me for quitting in the midst of the berry season. I’m a good packer. They say I have artistic hands, and I was a sort of boss. Well, I unearthed my dress clothes, disturbed and routed many happy families of moths, pawned my overcoat to get what I thought I needed to complete my outfit, and found I hadn’t enough for shoes. The infernal things cost tremendously—and here I am. Here I am, Madeline. I kept my word. I don’t know why you wanted me to come, but I came.” He laughed. “Why don’t you laugh? The whole thing is too damn funny for words.”
Madeline’s tears had quite dried. She forgot to be sorry for herself. There was tragedy in his laughter.
“Philip,” she whispered, bending near him, a slim, white shapein the shadow,”
“Dear—dearest—I know you’re not guilty.”
He turned to her with startling suddenness, “How do you know?”
“I—I—I just know,” quaveringly. “I’ve thought from the very first that you could not do things like that if you cared for—me.”
“Of course I couldn’t.” His voice was kinder now. He put one arm on the back of the seat behind her, and drew nearer to her. “When you went away and put me on my honor to cut out drinking—to test myself for a year it wasn’t half so hard as I thought it would be. Is it likely that after six months, I’d make such a fool of myself—do anything so beastly crude as bootlegging? The thing’s absurd, isn’t it?”
She nodded, feeling the touch of his arm. She knew he was relaxing now, wanting the sweet comfort of her, as she wanted him.
“But even if you were guilty of every thing,” she declared with absolute abandonment of scruples, “I’d love you exactly the same.”
Both of his arms around her now. But he held her very gently, a bit doubtful of her, and wholly afraid of the tumult of his own heart. “It’s not that you’re just sorry?”
She turned her face up to him, fragrantly white in the darkness. “When I went away and said it was between you and Eustace, I didn’t mean it. It was always you. I suppose if you hadn’t given up that wretched drinking, I just should not have married anybody, but gone on loving you—”
“Oh Madeline, Madeline!” His voice broke on a laugh of exultant joy. He swept her small form to him, held her closely, her cheek to his. “I didn’t expect it. I’m not fit for you. Nobody is for that matter—”
Afterwards when they were calmer, he began to speak of his trip to the North, dwelling upon the adventure of it, of the long winters, of how his thoughts would always be of her, and his hopes for the future.
“In two years the world will have forgotten,” he said, “all about this unhappy business—”
She turned in his arms to face him, “But Philip, of course, now you’ll clear everything up won’t you?”
“What do you mean—clear everything up?”
“Why that you will make a confession, so that everybody will know.”
“My dear, I thought you understood.” “So I do, that you’re shielding someone.”
He started, caught her arms, tried to search her face. “I’ve never said so, never intimated such a thing.”
“But it must be that, of course. Someone is guilty. You know who it is?” “You must not ask me. Even to you--”
“But somebody put those cases in your car. Who was it?”
“I thought you were taking me on trust, Madeline.”
“So I am, dear,” she tried to smile. “But the world believes dreadful things about you.”
“When I come back. When I’ve made good on this trip—”
“But I want to marry you now, Philip ”
“My dear love!”
But he released her, kissed every finger of her hands and laid them, palms down, in her lap. He stood up, walked around the fountain and back, sat down again beside her.
“I can’t tell you anything,” he said with husky finality, “not a thing.”
“Not a thing, dear. It’s got to stand as it is.”
“But I want them to know—,” she
began passionately. Mrs. Humphreys and Debbie and Dale and Bob. Can’t you understand how it makes me feel to have them trying to be kind to me, making excuses for you, pretending, pretending, saying they don’t believe a word against you, when all the time I know they’re just wanting to comfort me—and Eustace, going around looking so grave and sad, thinking I’m throwing myself away on you, but not saying a word against you—it’s—it’s unbearable, Philip, when I know you’re trying to shield some guilty coward—”
“Who said I was shielding anyone?” His voice was stern.
“Philip,” her lips just a breath from his, “Philip, tell me.”
He closed his eyes to the beauty of her. “I’ve nothing to tell.”
She put her arms around him, holding him tightly, desperately. “If you tell me, only me, I’ll—I’ll marry you tomorrow, Philip.”
He unclasped her hands and held them firmly in his, bent his head, looking into her eyes now.
“You know I love yen, Madeline, you know it.”
“Then tell me.”
“I’ve nothing to tell you.”
They sat there looking at one another. She knew her will was like a tiny wave against the rock of his resolve.
Presently she got up. “It’s getting late,” she shuddered a little. “Take me back, Philip.”
He too stood up, still holding her hands. “I’ll be here till Sunday night. Can’t you stay over, dear? I’d see you every day.”
“What’s the use, Philip? We’d just go over this again. No. I’m leaving on the Ladybird.”
“The Ladybird? You can’t do that dear.”
“Why not? I’ve promised Eustace.
And he’ll be kind. He’ll comfort me-”
“Madeline,” he shook her hands to emphasize his words, “you mustn’t go back on the yacht. You mustn’t.” “Because you don’t want me to be with Eustace?”
“Have it any way you like, but do as I say, dear.”
“I’ll do—I’ll do anything you say, if you’ll tell me, Philip.”
He let her go, stepped back from her. “You won’t—you won’t, Philip?” It was a despairing cry. “Then I’m going with Eustace.”
She wrapped herself closely inljher shawl, ran past him and out the little gate.
TT was five o’clock the next afternoon before the Ladybird was ready to return to Seattle. She was a trim little yacht, with a great deal of shining brass work, a roomy saloon and a broad deck roofed with gay blue and white canvas. There was accommodation for sixteen passengers, not including the state cabin, which, as Eustace himself expressed it, “had all the comforts of home and a few besides.” It was not the first time Madeline had been in possession of it, as the guest of honor. She smiled as Eustace opened the door, and she saw the place full of flowers.
“You make me ashamed,” she said. “You are so much kinder to me than I deserve.”
Just as they were ready to put off, a message arrived for Dale. He had to return to town and would be gone an hour.
“It’s too bad,” Mrs. Humphreys complained. She sat, wrapped in a fur coat, in the most comfortable chair on deck. “I know there’s going to be a storm. The captain told me so. We shall probably all be shipwrecked and drowned, and it will serve Dale right for getting so drunk last night.”
“What about yourself?” Debbie Green, smoking a cigarette, and looking like a child of fourteen with her shingled hair, laughed sarcastically.
“As to that, we all deserve drown-
ing.” Hilda Langton dug her fists into eyes that were still sleepy. “I guess Eustace and Madeline, and maybe Alice, were the only sober ones in the party, and I’m not so sure of Eustace toward the tag end of the evening.”
“Oh, he was in his Madeline role,” yawned Mrs. Humphreys, “the knight sans peur et sans reproche.”
“S-sh, here she comes,” murmured Debbie, warningly, as the girl’s slim figure appeared at the top of the stairs leading below.
“Isn’t the air heavy?” she said, throwing back her head and breathing deeply.
“It’s threatening a storm,” Mrs. Humphreys assured her. “I don’t see why Eustace insists on going out tonight.”
“Where are the men?” Madeline glanced around the deck.
“Below, having a secret confab. The captain is upset about something, I know. I heard him complaining bitterly to Eustace, and swearing the most beautiful Scotch swears, full of burrs.” Alice Martin was leaning over the rail watching with interest the schools of darting minnows. Alice was the youngest member of the party. This was her first trip on the Ladybird. “Do you know what I think?” she swung round to face them. “I think this is a mystery ship.”
“Do be quiet, you little idiot,” Mrs. Humphreys spoke sharply. “That’s the second time you’ve used that silly expression.”
'T'HE gliding of the anchor chains disL tracted them all. Twenty minutes more and they were in the open water of the Straits.
Everyone, except Madeline, scurried below the moment the wind swept the deck. Stewards hurriedly folded chairs and tables; rolled up awnings. But Madeline was used to the sea in all sorts of weather. She donned a thick coat, wound a veil about her head and returned to the outside. Eustace joined her, putting a protective arm about her, a slightly possessive arm. Darkness was closing down. Waves, breaking in great folds past the vessel, were lead-colored. The froth was lifted from their crests to spatter the decks. Eustace said they were steering a course in among the islands.
Within two hours they were steaming up the comparatively quiet waters of a little bay, wooded hills close on three sides of them, making the darkness thick. One light gleamed in the distance to the right. They would stop there until the storm blew over, and get on their way again about midnight.
TN spite of the fact that Madeline had L slept very little during the past thirtysix hours, she was restless from the moment she turned in. Voices, low though they were, and the muffled chugging of a motor boat under her porthole, awakened her instantly. She did not turn on the lights, but sitting up in bed, peered out. She could discern the black shape of a small vessel deep in the water. It was close beside the Ladybird. There was the flash of an electric torch now and then. She could hear Eustace and Dale although they were speaking in very subdued tones.
Suddenly something heavy seemed to fall on the deck above her, roll slowly and drop with a splash into the sea. Somebody swore and Eustace spoke in a sharp whisper.
“Put out the dinghy and get that. It’s worth a hundred dollars."
What were they doing? Madeline sat back in the bunk, and stared into the darkness with wondering eyes. She called softly through the porthole: “What’s
“Hell!” a voice ejaculated and Dale swung the lantern up. She saw his face for an instant.
Then Eustace said: “Getting some gasoline. Dropped a case overboard.”
“Oh,” she laughed “I thought maybe
we were being held up.” She sank back in her pillows, drew the covers over her and presently fell asleep.
She awoke again to the rocking of the boat, and the noise of pounding engines. She could hear the wash of heavy seas against the yacht. They must be out in the open again. How the boat vibrated! The timbers cracked and cracked. They must be traveling very fast. There was the sound of running feet on deck, voices trying to make themselves heard. What time was it?
She pressed the button beside her to turn on the light. But the cabin remained in darkness. She got out of her bunk, and stumbled to the door where she found the switch. But there was no response. Something must have gone wrong with the dynamo.
She wondered if there were any serious troubles. She heard steps running past her cabin. Then two voices just outside
her door: “We’ve given them the slip--
It was a close shave.”
“Where are we?”
“Just outside of--Island. They’ve
Suddenly a flash of light entered Madeline’s cabin through the porthole. She looked out, clinging to the railing for support. A wide path of brilliance lay on the sea, the great wave-crests showing tawny yellow. A searchlight!
There followed almost instantly a shot. The sound of splintering woodwork. A crash on the deck. A sharp cry. The ringing of bells. The slowing of the engines. And the boat lurched and rolled, while the anchors were lowered.
By the glow from the searchlight she found most of her clothes. In the cabin outside there was sudden confusion, women’s voices and a man groaning, a new voice sharply commanding. She unlocked the door and went out.
An oil lamp was burning on the table in the saloon. It had smoked the chimney. All of the women were huddled together in a group, and Dale and Evans were laying Eustace down on the cushioned seat that ran round the cabin. A man in a blue uniform stood at the bottom of the companionway.
She hurried over to Eustace. He was unconscious, and lay limp and white, a cut across his chin, his shirt covered with blood.
“I don’t think he’s badly hurt, ” Dale tried to speak reassuringly. “He fell when they fired. At first we thought he was shot.” Dale was trembling, and Evans’ forehead was covered with perspiration. They both seemed very much frightened.
“I am desperately sorry,” the officer at the stairway came forward. “But mistakes will happen in this wretched business. Let me have a look at Mr. Hill. I’ve a little knowledge of surgery.”
He bent above Eustace. Alice Norton, who suddenly developed a fine efficiency had brought water in a basin and clean towels. Madeline began to bathe away the blood from Eustace’s face, sitting at his head on the seat upon which he lay. Dale Langton went over to the women and talked to them in a husky whisper. Evans drew a chair from the table and placed it for Alice, then leaned heavily on the back of it, watching the officer.
He worked skilfully, giving brief directions to Madeline and Alice. The boat continued to roll heavily, and there was a lot of running back and forth and shouting on the decks. Then the electric lights blazed forth.
“That’s better,” the officer said in relief. “Here—hold on there—” this to Eustace who had pushed himself up with startling suddenness, and was glaring about him.
“Put out the lights,” he shouted. “If once they board us, we’re done for.”
The officer attempted to lay him down and Dale rushed forward, ghastly white, while Mrs. Humphreys gave a shrill scream and Debbie began to weep noisily. Evans, with one despairing
look at Langton, left the cabin, running up the stairs to the deck.
"He’s raving,” Dale attempted to push the officer aside. “Eustace,” he cried, “Eustace, wake up!”
“I am awake, more awake than you, confound you. Who gave the orders to turn on those lights? Do you want that damned police boat overtaking us, and all the women dragged into this?” Then he realized that Madeline was beside him. “Good Lord, Madeline,” he gasped, “how did you get here?” He pushed his hair back and wiped his hand across his eyes, “I’ve been hurt, haven’t I, or something?”
Down the stairway came another officer, Allan Fairley, in oil skins and Flinton in his pyjamas with an overcoat over them. Langton, his lips close to Eustace’s ear, whispered something. What he said seemed to restore the wounded man to reason. He attempted to stand, and managed to do so, holding fast to Dale’s arm. “I’m hanged if I didn’t think we were all in a moving picture,” he laughed weakly. “All actors in a rum-running scenario. What’s happened anyway?”
“I’m sorry,” the second officer stepped forward. “I shouldn’t have fired if you hadn’t doused your lights. How’s the wound, Simmons?”
“Nothing to amount to anything. Knocked him out for a minute.” Eustace held to Dale’s shoulder, his chin plastered with adhesive tape, his hair wet and awry.
“Thought I was in a moving picture,” he grinned. A general laugh, that had in it a note of hysteria, ran round the group surrounding him.
“I got the surprise of my life when I found it was the Ladybird.” The second policeman was ill at ease and apologetic. The women were all eyeing him in large reproach. “Any damage done will be made good.”
“Nothing of the sort,” Eustace waved a limp hand. “It wasn’t your fault. If you’ll just be good enough now to clear out and let us get back to bed—”
A breath of silence that seemed fraught with fearful portent. Then Simmons, his hand to his cap, said: “Beg pardon sir. Better search the boat.”
Instantly the other policeman assumed an alert and suspicious air.
“You’ll do nothing of the sort.” A new voice, deep, resonant, commanding, sounded from the companionway. Every head was turned simulatneously.
Philip Hardinge stood there, halfway down the steps, in the clothes of the captain of the Ladybird, not a perfect fit, but almost large enough. His legs were apart, his body balancing easily to the movement of the vessel. He continued sternly, “I don’t want to interfere with the carrying out of the duty of an officer, but I think you’ve enough to answer for, sergeant.”
“Mr. Hill said—” began Simmons, a little uncertain now, glancing uncomfortably from his superior officer to Hardinge.
“I was dreaming, crazy.” Eustace’s voice was between a croak and a laugh.
“Of course, of course,” the sergeant spoke conciliatingly. “Why I’ve known Mr. Hill and his yacht for years. All right captain. We won’t bother you any further. And I’m awful sorry—”
“But I tell you—” began Simmons again.
“You’ve crippled my boat,” Philip broke in showing a fine indignation. “There’s a heavy sea. Women on board.” The sergeant assured him that they would stand by. He and Simmons passed up the stairs, Philip behind them.
TWENTY minutes later, when the Ladybird was again on her way, Bob Evans and Philip came down into the saloon, Evans grasping Philip’s arm, a
broad and happy grin on his face. The little company had gathered around the table, Eustace at the head. They all got to their feet. The sea was quieting, and the boat moved with comparative steadiness.
“Philip—” began Eustace, holding out both hands across the table.
But Mrs. Humphreys, with a shrill cry ran to Philip and fell at his feet, holding him around the knees. Lifting a tearstained face to him. Her hair was loose, floating about her like a cloud.
“Philip, Philip, you’re wonderful. Let me say it on my knees. This is the second time you’ve saved us, the whole cowardly lot of us. You’re—”
“Now Sue, now Sue!” Eustace cried sharply, and Langton pushed back his chair and crossed the room to her.
“I don’t care,” she sprang to her feet, facing them all, “every one of you should be kissing his boots. You needn’t glare, Eustace. He went to jail for you, to save you and your mother. I don’t care. It’s time Madeline did know. He’s too decent for any of us, except her and Alice there. And I’m going to cut this thing from now on. I hope the--”
“There, that’ll do, Súe,” Philip broke in peremptorily, “It’s time you were all in bed.” He turned to Eustace, “you’d better chuck that stuff overboard. You can’t afford to run any risks. Their searchlight is out of commission. They can’t follow us.”
Eustace looked from Madeline to Philip with despairing eyes, “I—we didn’t intend to carry anything on this trip. Word came at the last minute. Dale had to—”
Again Philip interrupted, “That’s why I got aboard.” He was standing with his hands in the pockets of his jacket, frowning as though he found his surroundings uncomfortable. “When I knew Madeline was coming—The Captain is an old friend of mine, new to this damned business. I was afraid something would happen. I wasn’t quite sure what I’d do, but I was going to have a try. I took a long chance on the police recognizing me. It was a good bluff. Just at the psychological minute—well, that’s that.” He swung on his heel and went up the companionway.
T\AWN was breaking, in the east gold and red ribbons of light all along the horizon, banding the snow peaks and the mists that hung over the foothills. The moon and stars pale in a blueing sky. The sea was calm. Not a sign of last night’s storm except for flecks of foam that dotted the smoothly heaving billows.
Philip stood on the deck in the stern of the yacht, leaning against the walls of the cabin. He knew that sooner or later Madeline would come to him. When he felt her touch on his arm, he covered her hand with his own, and smiled down into her eyes.
Eustace had told her everything she said: “How Dale mistook your car for his at the club, and put in the cases, how you started to go home, not knowing anything about it, not even suspecting when the police—Oh Philip dear— And he says that you’ve been his good angel always. Trying to dissuade him— that even down there in Kut-el-Amara—”
“Hush,” Philip protested gently. “Let us begin now and try to forget it!”
She clung to him, pressing her cheek against his arm.
“Philip would it be possible for me to go with you to that Arctic place?”
He laughed happily, “Not all the way, sweetheart. But we might manage the first leg of the journey; have a month together.”
“How soon, Philip,” she eyed him with sweet earnestness, “is the very earliest in the morning that we can be married?”