The Return of Jerry Mitchell
In which mutineers battle for gold and a much worried lover encounters a ruthless rival
ALBERT RICHARD WETJEN
The story: Jerry Mitchell, a successful shipowner, asks Margaret Waters, daughter of his principal captain, to marry him. She declines with the explanation that success had caused him to grow fat and flabby and physically lazy, and she dislikes that kind of man.
Aroused by the report of her engagement to another man, Jerry resolves to become again the man that he once was-—strong, lithe, tanned, able to hold his own with anyone at any kind of rough work. Because Captain Waters is sailing in one of his vessels, the “Cascade Locks,” and taking Margaret with him, Jerry arranges to ham himself “shanghaied” and pul aboard his own vessel an a common sailor.
The rough clothes, hard work and plain food disgust him at first, but gradually he yets used to it. Margaret is amazed to see him and addresses him as Jerry, but he smiles and insists that his name is Thompson, that being the name he sailed under. Captain Waters does not recognize him because his appearance is changed. Sandy, boss of the fo’c's’le, picks a fight with him and whips him, and Jerry resolves to square the account some day.
Far out at sea they come upon an abandoned vessel, the “Corinthian,” and when Jerry and Sandy go aboard with the captain the latter gives vent to a short oath when they come upon a dead man with a knife sticking in his back.
“He got it!” muttered Sandy.
“Morderedsaid Jerry very softly.
CAPTAIN WATERS nodded. Sandy retrieved the half-filled whisky bottle, uncorked it and surreptitiously swallowed huge mouthfuls of the spirit. He gestured at Jerry, but Jerry shook his head. Captain Waters stepped over the body and entered the cabin, drawing a quick breath as he did so.
The place was in confusion. The drawers beneath the broad bunk had all been pulled out and the contents scattered. On the bunk itself, where it was dry, the
water evidently not having reached that high, there lay a blanket in which were thrown several articles. A sextant, a chronometer, a small compass, some folded charts, a flask of brandy, a revolver, some boxes of matches, and so forth.
“He was getting ready to leave when someone got him,” muttered the captain. “But why . . . ?”
It was Jerry who saw the gold first. Against one bulkhead there stood a stout desk, and the drawer of this, half open, was filled with neat canvas rolls, some of which had burst and spilled coins. There was a burst roll on the cabin deck and several coins made a trail toward the door. Captain Waters automatically lighted a cigar and spat.
“Someone was after the stuff,” he observed. “The skipper ivas going to pack it in the blanket with the rest of his gear when they came down looking for him. Chances are whoever it was had a fight, killed him, and had just time to grab a handful of the stuff when the packet gave signs of foundering. So he left in a hurry. All hands got off in the boats and likely enough figured the ship was done.”
“Lummy,” said Sandy in an awed voice. “There’s a fortune there.”
Jerry lifted one of the rolls of coins and was surprised at their weight.
“Put it all in that blanket,” ordered Captain Waters curtly. “We’ll take it along.”
They put all the gold in the blanket, searched the deck for stray coins, and then went through all the other drawers in the desk. One, which they found locked,
yielded a small bag of uncut diamonds and a thick package of bank notes. Captain Waters discovered the ship’s papers and skimmed through them.
“That explains it,” he said. “Running guns into Chile. They’d naturally take payment in gold.” “The stones look like Brazilian diamonds, too,” added Jerry, who had been examining them.
Captain Waters nodded. Sandy slipped several coins into his pocket and silently finished the whisky. His eyes were sombre, glowing a little. Captain Waters glanced at him and then at Jerry.
“You take charge of the blanket, Thompson.”
They searched the other rooms briefly and then Captain Waters took Sandy midships, and, calling up two other men from the boat, had the hatches lifted so he could inspect the bark’s hull. She was apparently filled with cargo in the lower holds; just what sort of cargo the captain was unable to determine since there was water over it. But he thought the leaks had stopped, since otherwise the bark would have foundered. He located a lantern and, lighting it, explored down for’ard, to return on deck again looking somewhat pleased.
“I think she can be saved,” he announced. “If the weather holds calm we’ll soon determine that.”
They dropped into the boat and returned to the Cascade Locks, a running fire of excited questions coming from the men left on board as they leaned over the rail and watched the boat draw’ in. Sandy, who washalf drunk by now’, shouted up at them.
“Gold, me boys! We found an armful of it . . . An’ whisky!” He laughed.
CAPTAIN WATERS glanced sharply at him and frowned, but said nothing. He climbed up the ladder to the deck of his own ship, and, taking the mate’s arm, led him aside for a long and earnest talk. The boat was hoisted aboard and Sandy went for’ard, surrounded by the excited crew. Jerry took his heavilyladen blanket aft, aided by the second mate, and they placed it on the main cabin deck.
“Gold, eh?” said the second, considerably awed. He scratched his head. “Running guns were they? Well, I don’t like it.”
“Don’t like what?” Jerry demanded.
“Gold on this packet—with that mob for’ard.”
Jerry nodded and lighted a cigarette the second gave him. Margaret Waters came down the companion and stared at the canvas rolls exposed on the open blanket. She shivered a little.
“It’s horrible, isn’t it? Father was telling me. The captain was killed.”
“Anything’s liable to happen with this on board any ship,” muttered the second. He kicked the heavy metal and frowned.
Jerry said nothing but looked at Margaret, who ignored him.
“Well,” said Captain Waters, coming below with the mate at his heels. “It looks like your chance, Barron.” “My chance, sir?” enquired the second mate, puzzled. “I think she can be saved,” the captain explained. “We’ll go over and make a more thorough examination. If this calm holds we’ll have a chance to pump her out and see what can be done. If she’s sound enough you can take some volunteers and try and get her in.”
“That’s right, sir!” jerked the second mate, suddenly excited. It would be a big feather in his cap if he brought the Corinthian to port. It would help him to get a command of his own, not to mention the salvage money that would accrue to him. He rubbed his hands together, elated. The captain rubbed his beard and considered, staring down at the gold.
“I don’t like this so much,” he ruminated. “You know that we have got a bad crowd aboard.”
“Aw, that’s old stuff,” said the mate, chewing at his quid so that tobacco juice dribbled over his massive chin. He wiped it away with a careless hand. “Any time I can’t handle a mob like that!”
“I’m glad you feel that way,” said the captain. He added drily: “But you’ll remember there’s been at least one man killed already over this.”
The mate grunted and went into his room, to return with a large and somewhat rusty Tevolver which he thrust into his hip pocket.
“There’ll be nothing tried on this packet,” he said grimly.
Margaret looked at him, somewhat startled, and then involuntarily glanced at Jerry. Jerry smiled and nodded, at which she flushed and turned away again.
“Well, take it into my room,” said the captain wearily. “I’ll count it before witnesses and we’ll lock it away.”
“Do you really think it will cause any trouble?’’ Margaret asked. “Surely in this day and age ...”
“There’s a lot of jack there,” said the mate easily. “Can’t tell what a mob like ours might get to thinking about.”
“That’s enough !” said the captain sharply.
The mate shrugged.
Margaret went up on deck, and when Jerry followed some time later he saw her standing near the scuttle.
He suspected she had been waiting for him.
“Was that other captain really killed?” she asked calmly.
“I’m afraid so, Miss. At least I suspect so. There was a knife stuck in him.” He chuckled a little.
“It’s horrible,” she said and shivered again. “Jerry, do you think . . . ?” She bit her lip and stopped.
He looked around but there was no one in sight. Sandy’s voice could be heard raised from for’ard where he was still talking to the men. The helmsman was hidden by the skylight.
“My dear,” said Jerry. “We’re a long way at sea now. Personally I think we’re all right. We’re carrying wireless and we can always get help ... I rather hope something does happen.”
“How can you talk like that? Why?”
“Well, my dear, it might give me a chance to be a hero. I seem to have brought the old chassis down to fighting trim now, and I imagine that if I could do a little dashing rescue work you’d ...”
She stared at him, furious.
“Jerry Mitchell, I’ve a good mind to slap your face!” “Well, I’m trying to please you, you know. My only regret is that I didn’t arrange to bring Peter Clarke along.”
“We won’t discuss Mr. Clarke.”
“Just as you like. But I think I’d be much more effective if I had my rival along.”
‘C hate you!” she said and, turning her back to him, walked rapidly aft.
He chuckled to himself and dropped down the companion to the main deck, growing more serious as he went for’ard. Joe Bannister had carried out his instructions only too well in putting a real rough crew on board the Cascade Locks. And Sandy had, unfortunately, seen all that gold. You could never tell what might happen, especially if the schooner wore held up by calms and
there was little to occupy the time or stop the men from thinking. Still, they were carrying wireless, and, after all, mutinies didn’t often occur in this twentieth century.
CAPTAIN WATERS put all hands to work for the next few days, pumping the Corinthian dry and breaking out her cargo. Most of it consisted of cheap trade goods, probably for trading through the Islands. There was sacked guano in the forehold and some machinery midships. Most of it was hopelessly ruined, and Captain Waters, intent on getting the derelict fit for the run to some South American port, dropped it overside and into the sea.
The leaks seemed to have been caused by opening seams, but apparently they had closed again, and with a little caulking the carpenter of the Cascade Locks made them reasonably sound. The rigging was overhauled and refitted, the sails reconditioned. The vessel’s freshwater tank was found to be half full and sound enough, and Captain Waters transferred fresh stores from his own ship. Luck favored them, for the calm held for eleven days and in all that time the two ships lay close together. There was, indeed, some danger of them colliding, for they were attracted to each other in that mysterious way solid bodies have when adrift on open water. But that was averted by spending all of one forenoon towing the Corinthian by means of the boats until she was at a safe distance.
A faint breeze sprang up on the twelfth day and the Cascade Locks was hove to, while the second mate called for volunteers. He obtained six men altogether, lured by the prospect of salvage money and urged by the rest of the crew, headed by Sandy, a fact which Jerry noted with some misgivings. The men Sandy urged were the least efficient of the whole crew, the more timid. He wanted more than anything to get rid of them.
“To be reasonable we ought to let her go,’’ said Captain Waters, nodding toward the Corinthian. “You’ll be undermanned and so will we. But it would be a crime to waste a sound vessel, and it’s a great ch a n c e for you, Barron.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for anything,” agreed the s e c o nd mate, flushed and elated at the prospect of soon having his first command.
The captain nodded and fumbled with his
“Well, y o u k n o w what to do. Make for the nearest port and favor your ship in every way possible. She might spring a leak again, and then you haven’t much to ballast her. Take care of your boat. It's all you’ll have if the worst comes to the worst. And now, good luck, my boy!”
He shook hands. The mate shook hands. Margaret shook hands, and finally, with a wave, the second mate dropped overside with his six men and they pushed off, those remaining on the Cascade Locks giving them a cheer as they pulled away.
Captain Waters waited until he saw the boat draw alongside the Corinthian, and then he gave the course to the helmsman and the Cascade Locks headed south before the freshening breeze. By nightfall the other vessel was lost over the horizon.
Jerry had the wheel in the second dogwatch, and when he was relieved at eight bells he went for’ard, to discover the lookout lounging outside the fo’c’s’le door instead of being farther for’ard and on the fo’c’s’le head. “What’s doing?” he said easily.
“You’ll hear,” the other drawled. “We ain’t wantin’ any of the afterguard wandering up for’ard t’night. That’s what I’m here for.”
“To warn ’em below, eh?” said Jerry, and whistled to himself.
He went into the fo'c’s’le to discover Sandy standing at one end of the table and in the full stride of oratory. The rest of the men of the two watches were grouped about him, minus, of course, the man at the wheel and the lookout outside the fo’c’s’le door. The ports had all been closed although the night was warm, and the fo’c’s’le was thick with tobacco smoke and the warm reek of human bodies. As Jerry appeared, Sandy fell silent and the men all turned to stare at him.
’’He’s all right,” said Sandy abruptly. “He’s a good dawg !”
There were a few laughs at that, for since that first time when Sandy had made him make coffee for him Jerry had been more or less of a servant to the big man, who was now the undisputed boss of the fo'c’s’le.
“What’s the big idea?” Jerry enquired, and there was a chorus of voices. “Aw, shut!” “You’ll soon know!” “Pipe down, Sappy!”
“All you’ve got t’ do,” added Sandy in an ugly tone, “is t’ do as you’re told an’ keep yer mouth shut.”
JERRY said nothing but, crossing to his bunk, hoisted himself into it and sat on the edge, his legs dangling. He had a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach because he knew that things were going to happen. He could not only sense it in the very air of the fo’c’s’le, in the drawn, strained faces of some of the men, but also from the fact there were whisky bottles on the table and many of the crew were drunk. Jerry knew that Sandy and some of the others had, while working on the derelict Corinthian, taken the opportunity of looting her lazarette and smuggling whisky back to the Cascade Locks. He had not reported the matter. He considered that as he had shipped in the fo’c’s’le he should be loyal to the fo’c’s’le. Captain Waters should have watched for such smuggling. It was his job. But now Jerry realized that, with whisky to bolster them up and Sandy to plan things, much might happen.
“It’s a cinch,” Sandy went on after a final glare at Jerry. "You fellers c’n see that. Mike ’ere c’n navigate.” Mike was a broken down sailor, a one-time mate who had lost his ticket for a shady wrecking that smacked of barratry. He was grey, a little bent, and with long, dangling arms. An unscrupulous man.
“Jest a minnit,” put in a broad youth with reckless eyes and a scar down his cheek. “There ain't goin’ t’ be no bumpin’ ’em off.”
“That’s too’ risky," someone else agreed.
“Ain’t no need for it anyway,” Sandy conceded. “If some of youse guys is leary we’ll jest drop ’em in one of th’ boats and let ’em go. Give ’em grub and water an’ they c’n make port somewheres.”
“We can run across to Australia,” put in Mike the ex-mate, 'T know a fine lonely cove where we c’n pile th’ ship an’ burn her. Then take th’ boats and go down the coast a ways, north of Brisbane; land there and separate.”
“There ain’t no danger,” Sandy insisted. “Chances are th’ skipper an’ th’ rest won’t get picked up for some time. We’ll let ’em think we’re heading f’r Southern Chile, see? By th’ time they get any warships looking for us we’ll be safe.”
“How much gold d’you figure there is, Sandy?” said another man.
“Enough,” snarled the big leader. “Don’t you fret about that.”
“There’s th’ wireless you got t’ figure on,” said the broad youth again. “T tell y’ straight, I ain’t s’ keen on it. We’re liable t’ all land up in th’ jug.”
“Aw, shut it !” snarled Sandy. Jerry saw there were two or three of the men who were with the broad youth, uneasy about the whole scheme. Willing to chance it, perhaps, but afraid there would be some hitch. Sandy had obviously won most of the others over. The more timid men, the ones who would most likely have refused flatly to go in with him, were safely on the Corinthian with the second mate.
It looked serious, Jerry had to admit. Aft, there were only three men and a girl—the captain, the mate, the wireless operator who was little more than a boy, and Margaret. The cook was a big negro and lived midships with the carpenter. What these two would do in a crisis was debatable. Jerry suspected they would go in with the mutineers. He slipped off his bunk and yawned, and started slowly for the companion, lighting a cigarette. There was a sudden silence.
“Hey! Where you headin’ for?” Sandy rasped. “Want a little air,” Jerry explained. “Any objections?”
“Yuh stay right where yuh are. You’re too ruddy friendly with th’ afterguard anyway.”
Jerry shrugged and sat on his bunk again. Sandy glared at him and then resumed.
“It ain’t no good us waiting. Longer we wait th’ more chance there is we’ll be found out. We’ll jump ’er t’night!”
There were a few startled exclamations. The men looked covertly at each other. Sandy broke the hesitation by picking up a bottle of whisky and taking a long drink. Mike, the ex-mate followed suit with a rough laugh, and then the others seized bottles and drank. It would not be long before all scruples dissolved under the bite of the spirit. Sandy drew Mike aside and talked to him in a low voice while the others joked and laughed together, a deadly undercurrent of seriousness in their tonas. Jerry yawned and got to his feet again, strolling to the edge of the group about the table. He strained his ears then and caught what Sandy was saying. The big man had drunk enough to make him forget much of his caution, or perhaps to make him unconscious his voice carried farther than he suspected.
“There ain’t no sense bein’ soft about it,” Sandy was saying in a hoarse whisper. “We’ll fix it so th’ old man don’t get nowhere. We’ll keep the girl for a while. She’s a looker.”
“Then I get th’ diamonds an’ half th’ notes?” Mike insisted. He licked his lips and rubbed the palm of his hand across the broad brass buckle of his belt.
“That’s so,” Sandy agreed. “We’ll share th’ gold equal t’ keep th’ gang still. Maybe afterward we c’n fix that up, too. You an’ me’s gotta make a stake outa this.”
“No foolin’,” Mike agreed.
Sandy nodded and the two men rejoined the others. Sandy began to gather up the whisky bottles, and in spite of protests corked them and put them in his bunk.
“You c’n get swaeked afterward,” he stated harshly. “Now ye’ll listen t’me. We ain’t got no time t"lose . . . You Sam, and Bill there, yuh cut the halliards of th’ ariels. We don’t want no chance f’r that young sparks t’ get any message out. Mike’n me’ll go up on th’ poop t’ see th’ mate about somethin’, an’ we’ll flop him. Who's at th’ wheel?”
“Anderson,” someone said.
“That’s good. I told him t’ let ’er come up. There ain’t enough wind t’ do any damage yet. He’s goin’t’ give us a hand with th’ mate an' th’ old man if he’s on deck, too. Clint, you an’ Bull go down an’ flop sparks.” “What about me?” asked Jerry casually.
They all looked at him and Sandy scowled.
“You’ll jest stick by me. I ain’t any too sure about you.”
JERRY nodded and smiled. He was quivering and tense inwardly, but he looked bored and somewhat indifferent, and as wild as any of them, what with his ragged beard and hair and his ragged clothes. He had hoped to be able to slip out on deck and warn those aft, so they could broadcast some call for aid, but now he would have to appear to side in with the mutineers and watch his chance.
“It’s my own fault,” he muttered to himself. “My fool idea getting this crowd together. Still,” he grinned ruefully, “who’d have thought of picking up a fortune in gold in mid-ocean? But if anything happens to Margaret. . He grew moody and grim.
“Let’s go, then,” rasped Sandy. “An’ try an’ act like nothin’ was doin’.”
He led the way on deck, grasping Jerry by the arm as he passed him.
“You open yer trap,” he whispered, “an’ we’ll dump you first thing.”
Jerry felt the point of a knife prick him through his shirt, and his flesh crawled. It came to him that Sandy had not been driven to this madness entirely by a sight of the gold. The man was desperate. Long afterward, Jerry learned he had committed a murder only a few days before the Cascade Locks had sailed, and was afraid that when the schooner reached Australia the police would catch him. The gold had merely given him an idea and his chance for a complete getaway. But this night, with the tropic stars big above and the wind blowing fresh and cool, all such matters were hidden.
It was quite dark on deck, save for the starlight. The men melted into the shadows and, silent as ghosts, made their way aft. The creaking of cordage, the faint booming of the wind in the canvas, the noise of the water foaming along the hull, drowned what sound the men might have made. Jerry passed his tongue across his dry lips and wondered if he should lift his voice and give the alarm, chancing Sandy’s knife. Yet that would do little good. The men on the poop might not catch what he said. If they did, they would certainly be stupefied for a second or two, long enough to enable the mutineers to gain the poop. And if there was a fight the end was certain. Guns were not much use in the starlight.
They reached the foot of the port companion leading to the poop and the mate halted in his pacing up and down.
“What d’you want aft?” he growled at Sandy.
“Want t’ talk with you, sir.”
“Well, spill it.”
Sandy started up the companion, with Mike at his heels. Jerry came behind, willy-nilly, for Mike had a grip of his arm. He was about to wrench free when it started and was finished.
“Stay down on deck,” the mate rasped. “I’ll listen t’ what—”
Sandy leaped up and jerked the mate’s feet from under him. He went over backward with a startled bellow, reaching for his gun, and then Sandy was on top of him smashing at his jaw. The mate went limp and Sandy rose, swearing softly.
“What’s all this?” someone began, and Jerry saw the captain coming toward them. Sandy straightened.
“Mate’s been taken sick, sir,” he said glibly. “Shall we carry him below?” As he finished speaking he gave a peculiar whistle.
“Sick?” jerked the captain, and then he staggered as the deck heeled and the schooner yawed into the trough, her booms swinging and her canvas slatting. There was a pad of shoes. The captain tried to swing round to face the menace he sensed was behind him, and Sandy swung at his jaw. The blow missed, but the helmsman, coming behind, landed on the captain with all his weight, hurling him flat. A few blows and he was unconscious. “Neat!” Sandy chuckled. “Tie ’em up, Mike.”
The ex-mate was already on his knees, hauling some small line from his pockets. Sandy ran toward the main cabin scuttle, Jerry at his heels. They heard the sound of a struggle before they were halfway down the companion. The men, told off to get the wireless operator, had entered the main cabin through the bulkhead door that opened out on to the main deck. By the time Sandy and Jerry arrived, the youngster was unconscious, an ugly gash bleeding down his forehead, his body huddled curiously upon the main cabin carpet.
“Kicked like a bull,” grumbled one of the men, nursing a sore lip. “By—”
“Shut it! Get that junk smashed up!” said Sandy. The man grunted and, with his companion, entered the wireless operator’s room. They had belaying pins in their pickets and they proceeded to smash the delicate instrument to smithereens. Jerry groaned inwardly. That ended all hope of calling for aid. Sandy dropped to his knees and began to bind the operator’s arms behind him. A door opened and Margaret appeared, her face startled.
Continued on page 61
The Return of Jerry Mitchell
Continued from page 22
“What is the matter?” she said quickly, and catching sight of what Sandy was doing she put a hand to her throat. “Oh !”
Sandy looked up at her and grinned.
“’S all right, Miss. No one’s goin’ t’ hurt yuh! Jest keep yuh trap shut an’ behave an’ you’ll ’ave a nice trip. He laughed thickly and rose to his feet.
“Here, Sappy!” He stared at Jerry. “Throw that guy in his bunk.”
Jerry bent over the unconscious youth, picked him up with an effort, and took him into the cabin where the other two men were finishing their work of destruction. Sandy crossed to the girl and surveyed her, his hands on his hips and his hard eyes alight with admiration.
“You’re some jane,” he admitted. “Guess you’ll get t’ like me in time, eh?”
He caught her wrist and swung her toward him, but she twisted free with a frightened gasp and backed against the bulkhead. Jerry came back into the main cabin and watched her, his face white, his lips a tight line.
“What have you done to my father?” she demanded steadily.
“Cracked him a little. Nothing much,” rasped Sandy. “An’ yuh don’t need t’ act as if I was poison.”
He took a step nearer to her and reached for her arm again.
“Shall we bring the skipper and mate below?” said Jerry harshly.
Sandy swung back and stared at him.
“Throw ’em in th’ one room,” he ordered, and swung to the girl again.
“I don’t think it’s any time to bother with women,” said Jerry.
Sandy whipped round again with an oath.
“Who asked your opinion? Get out of this !”
“You heard me,” said Jerry. He was almost beside himself, and yet he knew he was walking dangerous ground.
Sandy’s eyes narrowed and veins stood out on his thick neck. What he might have done was prevented by the appearance of the two men from the operator’s room and by a hail from Mike on the deck above.
“All set, Sandy?”
The big man relaxed slowly.
“I’ll attend t’ you later,” he grated, and then answered Mike. “All set down here. You better set a course now so we c’n get away.”
Margaret caught Jerry’s eyes and he gave an imperceptible nod and a faint shrug. She tightened her lips and, before any of them could prevent her, slipped back into her cabin again and locked the door. Sandy breathed hard and spat.
Mike came below, jovial and pleased with himself.
“Nothin’ to it, was there? Found th’ stuff yet?”
“I’ll attend t’ that,” Sandy told him shortly. “You rustle th’ log and th’ charts and lay us a course. T’morrow we’ll get rid of them we don’t want.”
He glared at Jerry again, and then, ordering the other two men to follow
him, went up on the poop. The men came down after a while, carrying the still unconscious forms of the mate and the captain.
Jerry bit his lip and looked at Mike.
“If you need any help, I’m a navii gator,” he suggested calmly.
Mike swung round and stared at him, j his jaw dropping.
“Th’ devil yuh are?”
“I was mate in sail once.”
“Broke yuh, huh?”
“Run th’ packet aground,” Jerry lied. | “They took my ticket away.”
Mike chuckled and rubbed his jaw. 1 He was not any too sure of his own navigation. It had been years since he had taken a sight or laid off a course. He had not told Sandy this, but the prospect of being responsible for getting the Cascade Locks to Australia had worried him more than a little. And now here was an offer of help.
“You an’ me c’n handle her, then,” he stated. “Look around and get hold of something t’ drink. Then we’ll rustle th’ charts.”
Jerry laughed and complied. Margaret was safe for the time being anyway. No one had yet been killed. He began to feel cheerful. Much might happen before they reached Australia, before even the captain and the rest were set adrift.
SANDY came below, after about half an hour, to discover Mike and Jerry sprawled over a chart spread upon the table. He hitched up his belt, spat morosely, and scowled.
“We ’ad t’ tie up th’ carpenter,” he said. “Wouldn’t have no truck with us at all. What’s Thompson doing?”
Mike straightened and picked up a half-filled glass that stood at his elbow.
“He’s givin’ me a hand. Used t’ be a mate in sail.”
Sandy’s scowl deepened.
“Oh, ’e did, did 'e? Well ...”
He was disturbed by the rest of the men trooping down into the main cabin, grinning and cracking jokes to each other and staring around on the unfamiliar i place, for scarce one of them had been below more than a couple of times. The main cabin was sacred to the officers.
“What about a snort?” someone demanded.
“An’ where’s th’ jane?”
“Let it rest f’r a while,” snarled Sandy. He fumbled in his pocket and took out the keys he had rifled from the captain. “’Ere, one of yer. Unfasten that padlock on the lazarette 'atch an’ we’ll get up a case of stuff. Th’ rest of yuh pay attention now. We gotta have some discipline on this cruise. We’ve gotta run this packet jest like everything was on th’ up and up. Never c’n tell what we might run across. Gunboat or something. Now, I’m skipper! We settled that before. What I say goes, an’ if there’s any argument let me know.” He stared around, and the men said nothing. He was by this time undisputed master of them by virtue of his daring and the strength of his fists. He looked longest at the man he knew as Thompson,
for he sensed that here lay his greatest antagonist and he had been vaguely worried by the new air that had of late come over the other man.
But Jerry merely shrugged. He was not yet ready to try conclusions with Sandy. He was still too soft, still not quite sure of himself.
“Well, that’s that!” Sandy said. “Mike ’ere ’ll have t’ be mate. We ought t’ have a second mate, too. Makes easier watches.”
There was some dissent at this.
“We’re all equal, ain’t we? We’ve gotta stand watch and watch for’ard.” “We’ll make it three watches fer all hands,” amended Sandy hastily, “except when th’ weather’s bad. Four on an’ eight off.”
“Then you’d better let Thompson here be second,” put in Mike, scratching his head. Sandy stared at him and thought. “He’s th’ only other one who’s stood a watch,” Mike added.
The men stared at Thompson, and as this news sank home began to nod doubtfully.
“All right,” Sandy agreed abruptly. “If he c’n navigate an’ handle a ship I guess he’ll have t’ be second. But look ’ere!” He strode up to Jerry and thrust his face close. “I ain’t any too sure of you, see? You’re too friendly with th’ jane, an’ there wus some talk when we cleared Portland of you bein’ something t’ do with th’ owners. We’ll ’ave our eye on yuh, remember, an’ th’ first break yuh make—” He left the sentence unfinished.
“You’re quite clear,” Jerry assured him, amused.
Flame leaped to Sandy’s eyes and his muscles tightened. But at that moment the man who had gone down into the lazarette sang out for someone to take a case from him and all hands surged forward. Sandy relaxed and grunted. There was a noise of splintering wood and presently bottles began to pass back and forth.
“None of that fer th’ wheel an’ lookout,” Mike warned. “We don’t want any wreck.”
“Where’s th’ stuff, Sandy?” one of the men demanded. “We wanf a look at it.” Sandy entered the captain’s room and, fumbling over his newly acquired bunch of keys, eventually found one that fitted the door of the cheap iron safe that stood against one bulkhead. He groped inside and found one of the canvas rolls, which he hefted in his hand.
“There it is. No sense foolin’ with it now. We’ll split it when we get to Aussie.”
“I want mine,” someone jerked.
“Well, you ain’t gettin’ it yet!” Sandy snarled. “You’ll be gambling with it an’ fightin’ like fools afore morning. We share when we get t’ Aussie and not afore!” There was some grumbling, but he slammed the safe shut and pocketed the keys, and with some argument ushered the men out into the main cabin again, where the whisky soon made them more amenable.
Mike and Jerry had agreed on a course. The captain, mate, and wireless operator were locked up in the wireless room, and then most of the men went for’ard with the whisky, already beginning to talk excitedly as the fumes of the spirit mounted to their heads
“We’ve gotta lay off that stuff after t’night,” Sandy rasped when he was alone with Jerry and Mike. “An’ we gotta stop them thinkin' about the gold. Never handle ’em otherwise.”
“What are you going to do with the captain and the others?” Jerry enquired.
“What d’you think? Drop ’em in a boat and let ’em slide.”
“That’ll be about the same as murdering them,” Jerry said. “They’d never make land. One chance in a thousand.” “We don’t aim fer them t’ make land,” Sandy told him, grinning a little. "We ain’t goin’t’ give ’em any sail.”
“Nor grub and oars,” Mike agreed, chuckling. He slopped himself another drink and hiccoughed.
Jerry’s lips tightened.
“And Miss Waters?”
“What are you so interested in th’ jane for, anyway?” Sandy stood close to him, bristling and belligerent.
“She’s a woman and you ought to treat her properly.”
“Yeah? Well, I’m skipper 'ere now and you’ll jest do as you’re told an’ keep yer trap shut, see? She’s what I get.”
“That reminds me,” interrupted Mike, hiccoughing again. “Didja locate th’ notes an’ th’ diamonds? Don’t ferget my share.”
“Plenty of time fer that,” Sandy shot at him. “Let me handle this an’ you’ll stay ’ealthy. That goes fer you too, Sappy.”
Jerry tightened and hesitated for a moment. Sandy waited, sneering to himself, and laughed outright when he saw Jerry relax.
“Feelin’ huskier than y’ were when y’ came aboard, eh?” He drew back his hand and slapped Jerry across the face, sending him against the bulkhead.
“Ain’t no sense t’ that!” said Mike, protesting. “Thought y’ didn’t want any trouble?”
“He ain’t goin’ t’ give no one any trouble!” jeered Sandy, and deliberately turning his back on the pair of them, he started for the captain’s cabin. In the doorway he stopped and looked back. “You got a gun, Mike, ain't yer?”
“Got me th’ skipper’s.”
“Well, take first watch ’fore you get too soused. Call me at daylight an’ don’t let Sappy grab any cannon.”
“He’s all right,” said Mike, who was already half drunk. “You got ’im wrong, Sandy. Fine navigator.”
“Never mind that. Yuh do as I say.” Mike grunted assent. Sandy went into the cabin and slammed the door shut. Mike looked at Jerry and winked.
“Don’t pay no ’tention t’ him. ’E’s a bit chesty since ’e put this over, tha’s all.” He tucked a half-empty whisky bottle into his pocket, and made an unsteady way up the companion to the poop.
Jerry watched him out of sight and then stared at the door behind which Sandy had disappeared. Then he frowned, absently rolled up the stained chart he had been consulting, and put it away. He searched around for a pencil and a scrap of paper and then wrote carefully. He approached the door of Margaret’s room with what he had written and listened. The captain’s cabin, where Sandy was, was on the other side of the main cabin, reasonably out of earshot, especially taking into consideration the creakings of the hull, the noises of the waters rushing along the ship’s side, and the various other sounds that fill a wooden vessel. Jerry scratched on the door and waited.
He guessed that Margaret would have pressed herself against the door after her escape into her room, in an endeavor to hear what the mutineers planned, and he guessed rightly, though it was not until he had scratched for a third time that he heard the faint rasp of her dress against the wood and whisper of her voice.
“Who is it?”
He heard the key turned in the lock and the door then opened a trifle. He caught a glimpse of Margaret’s strained
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face, wet with tears, her lips colorless. He sensed that she was trembling.
“Oh, Jerry!” she whispered.
He laid a finger on his lips and she choked back other words. He passed the slip of paper to her and she crumpled it in her hand.
“Where is father?” she breathed. “Have they hurt him?”
“Just stunned,” he assured her. “No one’s hurt as yet. Don’t appear friendly to me.”
She nodded and he motioned for her to shut the door, which she did with great caution. He heard the key turn again and breathed deeply with relief. And then he grew taut and sudden sweat broke upon his forehead.
“Double-crossin’ already, eh?” said Sandy’s voice.
Jerry whipped around to discover Sandy, half-undressed, standing in his own doorway, leaning against the jamb and smiling coldly. The big man lighted a cigar, one of the captain’s.
“Figured I ’ad yer tagged right. Got a crush on the jane, eh? Well, yuh get up on deck an’ stay there. If I catch yuh below again t’night I’ll plug yuh first an’ talk afterward. T’morrer you c’n go in th’ boat with th’ rest.” He laughed harshly, and, confident there was nothing the other could do to harm his position in any way, he slammed the door and locked it.
Jerry wiped the sweat from his forehead
and slowly went up on deck, in time to hear Sandy shouting something up to Mike by way of an open porthole.
“’E don’t like you at all,” Mike mumbled when he saw Jerry coming toward him. “Got orders t’ keep an eye on you.”
Mike stumbled to the for’ard taffrail, called a grumbling man from the main deck, and directed him to get himself a belaying pin and follow Jerry around. But Jerry had no intention of facing any further trouble that night. He sat on the main cabin skylight and stared at the tropic stars swinging above him while the Cascade Locks surged to the West and the distant coasts of Australia.
In her room Margaret Waters was tearing up the slip of paper -which Jerry had given her, and scattering it upon the sea which bubbled past her port. It had said:
“Play for time. I’ll figure something soon. They intend to set your father, the mate and the others adrift in the morning. Sandy’s planning to keep you. Try and persuade him to keep the others aboard too. When are you going to marry me? Destroy this. Jerry.”
Sandy had not seen that note pass through the doorway. Jerry’s own body had blocked his view.
To be Continued