The Return of Jerry Mitchell
ALBERT RICHARD WETJEN
Wherein piracy joins hands with mutiny and a lover and his beloved find themselves in desperate plight
The Story: Jerry Mitchell, shipowner, asks Margaret Waters, daughter of one of his captains, to marry him. She declines on the ground that he has grown fat and flabby, both mentally and physically.
Resolving to recover his former athletic physique and sharp mentality, Jerry ships aboard his vessel, the “Cascade Locks,” which has Margaret aboard, as a common sailor under the name of Thompson. The rough life disgusts him at first, and he is whipped by Sandy, the boss of the fo'c’s'le.
At sea they come upon an abandoned vessel the “Corinthian,” and aboard it they find the body of the captain, murdered, as well as a store of gold coins. Captain Waters takes the gold to the ( uscade Locks” and places his mute and a crew aboard the “Corinthian" to sail it to port.
On the 1 ( uscade Locks,” Sandy organizes a mutiny, which Jerry pretends to join. The plan is to set the captain and few loyal men adrift, keeping Margaret; beach the ship on the Australian coast and burn it; divide the gold and separate. The mutineers overpower Captain Waters and his adherents, leaving Margaret free, then most of them celebrate their victory with liquor. Margaret locks herself in her cabin. Jerry, who had previously tried to conceal his identity from her and her father, now whispers to her that he will find some way out of their difficulty.
Sandy and a henchman named Mike suspect Jerry of doubledealing, but permit him to retain his liberty.
THE sun came up the color of blood out of a bloodtinged, purple sea. The wind had freshened a little during the night but showed signs of lessening again. The men gathered on the poop, many of them still drunk and all of them showing the effects of the debauch. Mike was wearing a sullen scowl, induced by his aching head, and Jerry was looking gaunter and more nervous than he had looked for a long time. Only Sandy seemed to be in the best of humor, chuckling to himself and standing with legs apart, his thumbs inside the cartridge belt he had strapped about him and which he had found in one of the captain’s drawers.
The captives lay on the deck, bound still and faint from lack of food and water. There was the captain, the mate, the young wireless operator, and the carpenter who had refused to join the mutineers. Margaret stood against the rail, looking singularly calm and collected, almost scornful Jerry thought. Sandy had caused her to come on deck by threatening to break her door down unless she did, and promising that she would be in no danger, a promise on which she placed not the slightest reliance. But she did not want the humiliation of being dragged up and so she had come voluntarily.
"We gotta get rid of these guys,” Sandy was saying. "We’ll dump ’em in that starboard boat anjl leave ’em. If some of
youse wasn’t so touchy we’d just drop ’em overside an’ let th’ sharks settle ’em.”
"Does th’ girl go with ’em?” someone enquired. "We oughta keep ’er around t’ look at.”
There was a general laugh, even from the men with thick heads. Margaret bit her lip.
"She stays,” said Sandy calmly. "An’ I don’t want no argument about it.”
Just a minute,” said Jerry. They all stared at him.
Sandy here intends to set these men adrift without food or oars. It’s murder! He promised some of you when you were planning this thing that there’d be no killing.”
“You keep yer trap shut!” snarled Sandy. "You’re goin’ with ’em. I found this bozo gassin’ with th’ jane last night,” he informed the men.
"He’s one of this crowd.” He touched the captain contemptuously with his foot.
“You’ll hang!" choked Captain Waters, his voice a mere rasp. “You’ll hang, every last one of you!”
Some of the men stirred uneasily.
"There ain’t no sense bein’ hard on ’em,” one man said. There were a few muttered assents. "Fix ’em up
right, Sandy, an’ give ’em a chance. Then if anythin’ goes wrong—”
"There’s nothin’ goin’ wrong, you fool!” Sandy shouted. "Suppose they get picked up by a packet with wireless. Where do we come off? You’re all in as deep as me, an’ we've gotta bump off th’ witnesses.”
There was a short silence.
“I think I should have something to say about this,” said Margaret suddenly. "I refuse to remain on board unless my father and the others are allowed to. What difference will it make? We’re in your power. You can shut us up until you’re safe.”
"We don’t want no witnesses left, see. We don’t want no one what’d go and yap about this. I ain’t hankerin’ fer dodgin’ the cops all me life.”
“No, you’re a coward!” said Jerry clearly. "If you’re allowed to have your way you’ll make every man here a murderer !”
The men shuffled uneasily and it was obvious that many of them did not like the idea of setting the officers adrift, at least without a chance for life. Sandy glowered around and then with an oath, sprang at Jerry. Hewould clean up this one and then force the thing through, even if he had to get the men drunk again before they would assent. Jerry ducked the first blow, and before Sandy could swing another he found his arm caught, and swung round with a harsh oath. Margaret stood beside him.
‘‘Can’t we talk this over?" she pleaded. “Just you and I?”
He shook her off, his face convulsed, all the anger in him rising at this unexpected check to his new-won authority. He’d show them all who was now master on the Cascade Locks. Margaret looked at Jerry despairingly. How could she gain time if Sandy would not even listen to her?
Something had snapped in Jerry at the sight of Margaret sent reeling by a vicious shove. Or perhaps something had awakened. He felt abruptly confident and calm. He did not even fear that the men would interfere. He took two paces forward and his fist cracked smartly against Sandy’s jaw.
rT'HE big man stumbled and cursed, and then, recovering himself and forgetting the gun at his belt, he put up his hands. Jerry followed up, jolted a hard left beneath his heart, and before the other could guess his intention had ducked inside his guard and fallen into a clinch. It was Mike who yelled a warning, but it was too late. Sandy’s gun described a short curve and fell on the deck almost at Margaret’s feet. She picked it up with one swift motion and backed against the rail, her lips tight and her eyes hard as blue crystals. Jerry nearly fell as Sandy rapped him beneath the belt, but steadied himself with a hand on the skylight.
“Now,” he choked between clenched teeth, “we’ll fight !”
Sandy had slapped a hand to his empty holster, shot a startled look at Margaret, and then with a bellow leaped in. He had knocked this other man down before, had whipped him. He could do so again. The girl could wait.
His rush was badly timed, and Jerry side-stepped and rapped him under the heart again, praying no one would interfere. Mike did step forward, but one word from the angry girl stopped him. The men formed a wary circle, their eyes hard. Some of them did not like Sandy too much, and in any event a fight was a fight, worth watching. They wondered how the man they called Sappy and whom they had made the fo’c’s’le butt had managed to find his sudden courage.
The fighters were mixing it now, standing toe to toe and slugging. Jerry’s lips were bleeding and one eye was darkening. He gasped as another stomach blow took him, and then backed from the onslaught. He was still
too soft for this sort of thing, for close hard work. His wind was better than it had been, his muscles were smoother and finer, but he still was not in prime condition. His only hope was to let the other weary himself. Yet even that was hard, for the poop deck was confined and the watching men made a tight circle.
Twice Jerry was knocked off his feet, to smash against the rail and rock upward from the scuppers. He barely missed Sandy’s heavy boot the second time, and by a quick twist was able to send him sideways to the deck. They sparred for a while after that, and Sandy rushed again. His blows hurt Jerry, too much, more than they should if his muscles had been hard. And he was beginning to feel tired and to breathe with difficulty. But Sandy was not going unpunished. An old cut had opened in his cheek. Running into a straight left, his nose spouted red, and more than once his head rocked back from crisp hooks beneath the jaw.
He cursed unceasingly, growing more and more furious as the fight dragged on. He was losing prestige, he knew', taking so long to demolish this man. And in his anxiety his swings grew wilder and his rushes even less cautious. Jerry had ceased hammering at his heart. He knew he had not the stamina himself to wear the other down now. He had overestimated his new strength. He ducked blows, side-stepped, took them on his elbows and shoulders. He waited for openings and swung for the jaw, always for the jaw. His only hope now was a knockout, and a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach came with the conviction that his blows wrere losing their force.
It was Sandy’s own rage and impetuosity that ended the fight at last. The bigger man, driving Jerry against the rail and hammering him to a blind daze, stepped back for a moment to get a full swing to finish the matter. And in that moment, Jerry, staggering and drunk from punches, made a blind swung with all his weight behind it. Sandy checked abruptly as the blow' took him in the chest. He gasped, breathless, pawed the air as he lost his balance from the force of his own blow which grazed Jerry’s forehead. And then, crashing sideways to the deck, his head rapped smartly against a deadeye and he rolled over and lay still.
Jerry sagged to his knees and clawed at the rail to prevent himself from falling. His head was in a thick whirl, and he could only hear faintly the excited shouts of the men. With a tremendous effort he finally straight-
ened and stood swaying, and then he was aw'are that Margaret stood against him, one arm through his own, her gun held steadily.
“Don’t you dare touch him now,” she was saying. “Don’t you dare!”
“We ain’t goin’ t’ touch ’im,” one of the men said with a touch of humor. “’At wus a fine show.”
“Never knew he ’ad it in him,” another agreed. “Put th’ gat down, Miss.”
“Sandy ’ad it comin,’ no foolin’,” added someone else. And then Margaret felt an iron hand grip her w'rist and the gun was turned aside.
“Little girls shouldn’t play with them things,” said Mike, grinning into her startled face.
Jerry lifted a shaking hand to his forehead and tried to gather strength for another effort. But it was not in him and he choked weakly under his breath. Mike was about to twdst the gun away from the girl when the negro cook, who had turned aside to spit, suddenly let out a yell and pointed.
“See dere? Dere’s a boat!”
Everyone stared across the purple sea. Mike let Margaret go with an astonished oath. For, clear against the water, there was a triangular patch of sail and beneath it the white-painted hull of a ship’s lifeboat. They could see men inside it, and one tall figure in white ducks that stood upright in the stern sheets. Mike sprang to sudden life.
“Get these guys below agin!” He gestured to the helpless captain and the mate. “Put ’em for’ard somewheres. In that spare cabin next th’ galley’ll do. Off th’ poop, all of yuh. We gotta bluff this through!”
' J 'HERE was no chance to escape the boat. She was * coming with the wind behind her, and was so close to the Cascade Locks it would be only a matter of minutes before she was alongside. The crew, startled and suddenly afraid, hurried the bound captives for’ard. Mike threw a bucket of water over the unconscious Sandy and then turned to Jerry who, aided by Margaret, had staggered across to the main cabin skylight and sat down.
“You keep yer trap shut, see?” Mike threatened. He show’ed his own revolver and his face was ugly. “First crack I hear an’ you’re a goner. We ain’t goin’t’ give up easy.”
He bent over the now groaning Sandy, shaking him and whispering fiercely at him. Sandy got to his feet after a while, holding to the rail and shaking his head in an effort to clear it. With an effort Jerry straightened and went below. He had a fixed idea thundering in his head, and somewhere deep inside him he was chuckling and very pleased. Margaret followed after lrrn, turning as she dropped below the scuttle to get a last glimpse of the boat.
In the main cabin Jerry found a bottle and took a stiff drink. The spirit revived him and he rested in a chair for a while, and lighted one of the captain s cigars from the box which Sandy had brought to the breakfast table. Margaret offered him the revolver she still carried, but he waved it aside with a grin.
“You’d better keep it, my dear. I don’t think I need such things now.”
“You were wonderful, Jerry,” she told him. “I could love you for it! And your poor eye!” She kissed him excitedly, and he pushed her away.
“Yes, I did it,” he agreed with a faint trace of pride. “But, lord, I was lucky! Never even saw him when I hit him that last time. He must have bumped his head a lot to stay out like he did.”
“I don’t care! It was wonderful, Jerry!”
“Let me get cleaned up,” he protested. “I’ve been putting that off, waiting for this. I feel better.”
He got up, took another drink, and then, forcibly sitting Margaret in a chair, he eyed the various cabins and finally went into the mate’s.
“Now, you wait there,” he commanded. “I’m going to become respectable again.”
Once inside the cabin, he allowed winces of pain to cross his face as he gingerly stripped off his torn shirt and singlet. He was not a pretty sight, he knew. His beard was grotesque and ragged. He had had one of the men for’ard trim his hair only a day or so before, but there was nothing smart about it. Now, however, he felt the time had come for a change. He was more like that old Jerry Mitchell who had once quit the sea, more like him in spite of his aches and bruises and the knowledge that he had won his fight by luck alone. Still,
there was a boat coming alongside, apparently a boat of castaways. They would present new problems, even if they did prevent Sandy and Mike from setting the captain and the others adrift for a while.
So Jerry located the mate’s razor and hurriedly shaved, a painful process with cold water and an unsatisfactory shaving brush. He accomplished it at last however, washed himself, brushed his hair, and then, raking through the mate’s clothes, found himself some fresh underwear, a clean white shirt and a suit of ducks that were not very much too large. He capped the lot with the mate’s best cap, a white-topped, dark-peaked affair, and then surveyed himself in the glass again.
“Not so bad,” he agreed. “Much better anyway.” Except for a lightness where his beard had grown, his cheeks were tanned, and his eyes were startlingly blue set in the dark color. He had lost the puffiness that had been his and his double chin was no longtir in evidence. He was reasonably fit again, and he felt, he thought, better than he had ever felt in his life before. He even forgot his stiffness from the fight, and the dull pain that told him he would have a black eye before many hours had passed. He had regained, most important of all, his confidence in himself. He could handle men again. And Margaret had watched him put up the stiffest battle of his career. He did not think the office would know him if he were to walk into the Mitchell Lumber and Shipping Company’s building at this moment. He looked ten years younger.
“Jerry!” said Margaret, when he went back into the main cabin.
“The old chassis isn’t what it was when I came ashore from the old Willamette eleven years ago,” he conceded. “But there’s some improvement, don’t you think?”
She stared at him, startled and astonished. He looked a new man now with his ragged clothes and his beard gone, more like that Jerry she had kept in her thoughts since she was small.
He went to her and took her hand.
“There should be more chance now,” he suggested. “Margaret, dear!”
“Perhaps,’’ she said with a little smile, and then a shadow of anxiety wiped it away.
“But, Jerry, what do you suppose is going on? They’ve been w'alking about the poop for a long time now, and talking.”
He lifted his head and listened. Many shoes were moving o n t he planking abové, and men were talking. Once Jerry heard a deep laugh.
The strange boat had evidently come alongside and her occupants had boarded the Ca scade Locks while he had been indulging in a somewhat quixotic desire to get out of his assumed identity.
He had even forgotten the mutiny for a while, and the captive officers, and the plight in which both he and Margaret at present found themselves.
“I’ll see what’s doing,” he promised. “And 1 think you'd better go in your room and wait.”
“I’d much rather go on deck with you,” she protested. “I’d better see first, dear. Please!”
She hesitated and then somewhat unwillingly allowed him to usher her to her room and close the door. That accomplished, he settled his w'hite-Copped officer’s cap at a more jaunty angle, and, feeling almost recovered from his battle with Sandy, he went up the companion and stepped on the poop to see what the strange boat had brought to the Cascade Locks.
“Yes,” he heard a deep and pleasant voice saying, “we had to skip out pretty quick. The Corinthian went on her beam ends and I imagine she foundered soon after. There wasn’t time to wait and see.”
Jerry stopped as if he had been shot. The strangers
were castaways from the Corinthian! The Corinthian had sailed for port in charge of the Cascade Locks’ second mate. And it was from the Corinthian that the gold had been brought. The crew of that vessel had been gunrunners, perhaps worse. And now fate had brought them here! Jerry’s jaw tightened. He buttoned his white duck jacket and strode calmly round the corner of the scuttle to face whatever might be waiting.
CTRST Jerry noticed Sandy, his hair dishevelled, traces of blood on his face, his whole body sagging as he leaned heavily upon the shoulders of Mike. And facing Sandy was a tall, broad man in rumpled and somewhat dirty whites, wearing an officer’s cap and standing with legs astride and with his hands on his hips. From a cartridge belt about him, Jerry noticed, a laden holster sagged down his right thigh.
“That’s too bad,” Sandy said, answering the stranger’s remarks. “We did sight what looked like a wreck a few days ago. Might ’ave bin your packet at that. Were you skipper of ’er?”
"Mate,” said the stranger, “and partner. Part owner.” Sandy spat sourly and then caught sight of Jerry. His eyes widened a little at the other’s changed appearance and he said something in a low voice in Mike’s ear. The stranger turned to see whom they were staring at, and Jerry saw a heavily-tanned face, keen, hard blue eyes, and a neatly-clipped, pointed blonde beard.
“Ah, another officer?” he enquired pleasantly. Jerry stared at him, vaguely uneasy.
“I was second mate,” he answered calmly. “May I have the pleasure?”
“My name’s Collomy,” assented the stranger with a smile that exposed very white teeth. He took Jerry’s
hand and held it for a moment. “I was mate of the Corinthian bark, out of Iquique for Japan.”
“So I heard you say,” said Jerry drily.
The other’s eyes narrowed a trifle. He could see that something was radically wrong on board the Cascade Locks. Sandy, who had introduced himself as captain, did not look like a shipmaster. Nor was he in uniform. Nor was Mike who had claimed to be mate. And it was obvious that Sandy had been fighting but a short time since. This newcomer, however, who announced himself as Thompson and second mate, did look like an officer.
“You’ve had a little trouble, I presume?” enquired Collomy. He seemed apologetic. “I trust we won’t be
intruding. If you can find berths for my dozen men and myself I’d be very grateful. Shipwrecked mariners can claim and expect a certain hospitality, you know.” Sandy broke in roughly, thrusting himself away from Mike.
“Send your men for’ard. I’ll have th’ cook fix ’em something. There’s a few spare bunks, I guess.” He spat sourly again. “I guess you c’n berth aft.”
“Very decent of you,” said Collomy politely. He turned on his heel and walked to the for’ard rail. On the main deck below his men were gathered in a knot, talking in low tones. He spoke to them sharply, and with nods of assent they drifted for’ard, to mingle with the nervous men of the Cascade Locks. There was a distinct tension in the air. Collomy drew Jerry aside, casually enough but with obvious meaning. Sandy scowled and whispered in Mike’s ear again. It was an awkward situation. If the survivors of the Corinthian discovered their gold was on board and that the schooner’s crew knew the Corinthian’s captain had been murdered, there was no telling what might happen.
“We’ll lay low for a while,” Sandy whispered. “Keep our traps shut about th’ stuff below.”
Mike shrugged and fumbled with his throat.
“I don’t like it, an’ that’s a fact. We can’t keep th’ skipper an’ th’ rest stowed away with this gang moochin' around. We’re in a jam.”
“Aw, shut up!” Sandy swore. “We’ve gotta ’andle it. This guy’s got enough men t’ take th’ damned ship. First chance we get we’ll get ’em below and lock ’em up.” Mike shook his head dubiously.
Collomy was saying to Jerry, out of earshot and near the rail: “You look like a gentleman. What’s been going
Jerry thought swiftly. This man might be ally and might not. That he and the rest of his men were ugly customers he did not doubt. What they had found on the derelict Corinthian proved that. Yet he seemed a decent enough sort and he might listen to reason. Jerry was between the devil and deep sea. He stood virtually alone on the ship. He knew he could expect nothing from Sandy and the others. This Collomy was the unknown quantity.
“I’ll tell you,” he said abruptly. “It’s mutiny.”
“Ah,” murmured Collomy. He plucked at his beard and smiled. Jerry stared at him through narrowed lids.
“I’ll give you the works, Collomy. There’s a lady on board. My fiancé to be exact. If I ask you to take charge of the ship and keep that bunch of mutineers quiet, will you give me your word that we’ll have safe conduct to some point near a civilized coast? That is, myself, my fiancé, the master of this vessel, and a few others who are now locked away.”
Collomy did not seem surprised. He stared off over the sea and laughed softly.
“I do need another ship,” he agreed pleasantly.
“I’m the owner of this one,” said Jerry grimly.
That jolted the other.
"The owner? And second mate?”
“It’s too long a story but you can take my word for it. The captain’s word will verify my own.”
“Then you offer me this vessel as some sort of—er— recompense?”
“I didn’t say that. I want you to work near to the coast of Australia and then get out in your own boat.” “My dear sir—” Collomy began humorously, but Jerry interrupted him.
Continued on page 38
The Return of Jerry Mitchell
Continued from page 22
“Just a moment. Hear me out. In return, I give my word to keep my mouth shut about—the Corinthian!”
Collomy’s hand was at Jerry’s throat then, half shutting off his breath. The man’s smile was wiped away and his face wits convulsed. His eyes burned like live coals.
“Just what do you know about the Corinthian?” he grated.
“If you’ll take your hands away ...” The other breathed hard and dropped his hand. “That’s better.” Jerry coolly lighted a cigar and tossed the match overside. “Now' don’t go off half cocked over what I’m going to say. I’ve kicked around some myself and I know' when to keep out of other people’s business. I’m willing
to do it this time, being in somewhat of a tight place. The lady, you understand?” Jerry studied the tip of his cigar. “Well, we picked up the Corinthian."
“Go on,” said Collomy in a low voice. “She was water-logged but sound. We sent her into the nearest port in charge of the then second mate of this vessel.” “And what did you find on board her?” Collomy’s voice was silky and smooth again. He had resumed his smile but his eyes were watchful and still hard.
“Plenty,” snapped Jerry. “That’s what I’m dickering about. The gold and stuff’s aboard here. The other little item— concerning your captain—I won’t mention. But that’s my offer. Get this vessel
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Continued from page 38
to some reasonable place where we can
drop this bunch of mutineers overside and get rid of them. Then you take the gold and your own boat and beat it. I give my word you will not be mentioned in the log nor by any of this ship’s officers, including myself.”
COLLOMY stood for a long time in thought, plucking at his beard and staring fixedly at Jerry.
“Coincidence,” he said at last, with a half laugh. “Or fate shall we call it? To run right into the vessel that found the Corinthian! So she didn’t go down, eh? What luck! And the stuff’s here, on board. And your vessel is in the hands of our dear friend back there.”
He glanced at Sandy, who just then pushed Mike aside and came toward them, his face set in a scowl.
“What’s all th’ gab ’e’s givin’ yer, Mister? Take no notice of ’im. ’E’s nuts anyway.”
“I find him extremely interesting,” disagreed Collomy, smiling. He faced Jerry again. “I’ll consider your offer, my dear sir. And will let you know—er-after I have seen the young lady.”
Jerry’s teeth almost met in his cigar and his muscles tightened. He had made his play and lost. Perhaps he should have let matters take their own course, let Sandy speak to Collomy first. But it had been a chance anyway. He’d have to make the best of it. Margaret had a gun.
“As you say,” he said with assumed indifference. “I guess you and Sandy can fight it out between you then.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet one gentleman at least.”
“Say, what’s this all about?” Sandy blustered, his face ugly. “I’m master here an’ you’ll . . . ” He dropped his hand to his belt, realized his holster was empty, and backed off a pace.
Collomy’s hand moved and the sun glinted on the steel of a revolver barrel. Sandy stood still. Jerry stood still, smoking calmly. A fine mess, he was thinking, and he managed to grin. Well, he was back into the old life with a vengeance, though he could not recollect ever having heard of a vessel with two mutinies in one voyage.
Collomy whistled three times in a peculiar manner, and almost at once his men came running from for’ard, as if they had been waiting for just that signal. He called out a name and one man climbed to the poop and joined him. Mike had walked aft to the wheel, very puzzled.
“We’re in luck, Samuels,” said Collomy, without taking his eyes off Jerry and Sandy. “Is the crew of this packet armed?”
“Not enough t’ matter,” said Samuels with a grin. He was a squat, hulking man with dark hairy hands and arms, and a stained peaked cap perched over one ear.
“Well, take them,” said Collomy calmly. “Lock them up somewhere and be careful not to let any other prisoners loose. This vessel has just had one mutiny and her skipper and officers are stowed away somewhere. Find out where and report. They ran across the Corinthian and found the gold.”
Samuels gave vent to an astonished oath.
“Yes, it’s extraordinary,” Collomy agreed. “But it seems we get another ship and all the loot back. Make it snappy now !”
Samuels turned on his heel and went down the companion, to speak to the other men in a low voice. They talked excitedly for a moment, and then split up into small groups and sauntered for’ard, where the bewildered and apprehensive men of the Cascade Locks watched them and waited.
“I wouldn’t say anything,” Collomy w’arned as Sandy, his face red with rage and congested blood, opened his mouth to shout. He shut it quickly after one look into Collomy’s eyes, and he remembered
the body of the Corinthian’s captain which they had found knifed on the very threshold of his room.
A confused shouting broke out from for’ard, followed by two shots, widely placed. Then silence fell, and after an interval there came a low whistle. Collomy relaxed and with one hand dexterously produced and lighted an oily black cheroot.
“Turn round,” he ordered and then patted Jerry and Sandy to make sure they had no weapons. He enquired about Sandy’s empty holster, and Jerry said that while they had been fighting the gun had gone overboard. Collomy appeared satisfied with that and then ordered both men to stand against the rail, their backs toward him. Samuels came up on the poop again, whispered something, and Collomy ordered him to tie Sandy and Jerry up. While that was being done the new master of the Cascade Locks strolled aft, thrusting his revolver away, and disarmed Mike before that somewhat thick-skulled individual sensed anything hostile in the other’s approach. Altogether it was very neat. Even Jerry had to admit that. The strangers had not been on board half an hour when they had the ship.
It was just as Collomy returned to the now bound and helpless Jerry and Sandy that Margaret appeared. She came running up the companion from the main cabin and stepped out on deck with an eager look around.
T COULDN’T stay down there, Jerry,”
she said brightly. “The noise all stopped and I was curious—” She stopped suddenly, noticing that Jerry’s hands were behind him and that a tall and handsome stranger was bowing to her.
“Dear lady,” he said. “You are a delightful surprise.”
“Who—who are you?” Margaret demanded, her hand at her throat. Something in his eyes made the color drain from her face and she took half a step backward.
“Name’s Collomy,” said Jerry calmly. “He was mate of that ship we found with the captain killed on board her. He’s just taken charge here. Shoot him if he tries anything.”
“So you have a gun, eh?” Collomy said, laughing. “But I trust you will not use it, on me at least. I am sure that as we get better acquainted you will decide that is not necessary. And your name?”
“I am Margaret Waters,” she said firmly, her courage returning. “My father is master of this vessel and Mr. Mitchell there is the owner.”
“Mr. Mitchell, eh?” Collomy looked puzzled for a moment. “I thought he said his name was Thompson. Well, no matter. I am delighted to meet you, Margaret.”
“The pleasure is all yours,” she retorted. The first shock of surprise had gone from her and her inward coolness returned. “May I ask what you intend to do?”
“I really haven’t thought of that,” Collomy admitted. “I think, though, I shall eat. You’ll wait on me, I’m sure.”
Margaret said nothing but, turning, went below again. She had left the gun Jerry had given her on her bunk and she wanted to feel it in her hands again. This Collomy was so big, so certain of himself, and there was a queer touch of iron beneath his velvet tone and manners. Collomy turned to Samuels, who had just finished tying up Mike.
“Take these two away,” he said, gesturing at Mike and Sandy. “They belong in the fo’c’s’le or the bilges anyway. I’ll attend to Mr. Mitchell myself. I may want some more information from him.”
Samuels whistled for a man to come up and escort the captives for’ard.
“Put a man at the wheel and keep her west as close as possible,” Collomy continued. “I’ll set a course later. Did you tie up the cook?”
“He’s a big nigger, scared of his shadder,” !
Samuels retorted with a grin. “I figured we’d let him alone. He can’t do any harm.”
“Put a man in to help him and watch him anyway,” said Collomy. “And get some grub ready. I could eat an ox.” “Aye, aye, sir,” Samuels grinned, and he bellowed out orders along the main deck.
Collomy motioned to the scuttle and Jerry, with a resigned shrug, stumbled awkwardly down the companion and into the main cabin. Margaret was sitting at one end of the table, the gun hidden in her lap, her hands clasped before her and her fingers working nervously. It all seemed like a nightmare. Oregon was far away. Even the mutiny seemed far away. And the future was more obscured than ever. But she had to be brave, to face this out, to help Jerry and her father as much as she could.
COLLOMY threw his cap on a chair and stretched himself, his muscles cracking. Jerry dropped to a seat and grimaced.
“Mind taking my cigar out?” he enquired mildly. Collomy laughed.
“Not at all.” He removed the cigar and threw it away.
“You’ll pardon me a moment, Miss Margaret,” he said. “And I wouldn’t, if I were you, do anything foolish. Such as trying to let your friend loose, or shooting me. By the way, where is that gun?
! Little girls shouldn’t play with such j things.”
“No?” she said, catching her lip be; tween her teeth. She made a sudden movement and the barrel of the revolver she had been holding in her lap appeared ! over the table edge and was held in the general direction of Collomy’s stomach. He smiled genially and shook his head.
“Now, is that nice? You wouldn’t shoot me, would you?”
“Unfasten his hands!” she said clearly nodding toward Jerry.
Collomy stared at her, with a hint of admiration.
“I couldn’t. Really, I couldn’t. Why, he might cause all sorts of trouble.”
“I’m going to count three and then I’m shooting,” said Margaret. “You let him go!”
“Don’t argue, my dear,” said Jerry. “Pull the trigger and then cut me loose. I’ll fix the rest.”
“One . . . ” she said.
Collomy took a step toward her, and then another, his hard blue eyes fastened on hers, his lips smiling beneath his beard.
“Two ...” Her voice grew a little shaky.
“You mustn’t,” observed Collomy genially. “Have you ever seen a forty-five shell go into a man? It makes a devil of a mess. Blood and insides everywhere. And sometimes the man dies screaming.” “I will shoot!” she cried desperately, and the hammer of the gun raised a trifle.
Collomy took another step and then another. He was almost above her.
“I don’t believe you will,” he said laughing, and then, with a sudden swoop, he had knocked the weapon aside and twisted it from her fingers.
She covered her face with her hands and sobbed drily.
“I couldn’t, Jerry,” she whispered. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t. To shoot him in cold blood ...”
Jerry grinned. Well, women were that way. If Collomy had attacked her, made her really angry! It wasn’t any use j worrying about that. The incident was ; over. But it had been such a chance. She might even have waited and cut him free first, at the slightest opportunity. “It’s all right, dear,” he said huskily. Collomy pocketed the gun and laughed. “To tell you the truth you had me ! scared for a moment. But I didn’t think ¡you would. No girl as charming as you I would do such a thing.”
Margaret looked up at him, dry eyed now, though her cheeks were stained.
“I suppose it isn’t any use to ask you to be decent about it all? We’re in your hands. Won’t you let my father go, let us all go? You can afford to be generous.” “I intend to be,” Collomy assured her. “I intend to be, dear lady. I know a fine little atoll just north of the Marshalls. We’ll head for there first and set your father and the rest ashore. I need this vessel badly and I can’t afford to have any tales running loose.”
“You mean you’re going to maroon us?” Jerry enquired.
Collomy looked at him and nodded, his face abruptly grim.
“Nothing else for it. Unless I smudge you out, and I dislike messy work. But I think you’ll be safe on the atoll for a few years. Long enough for me to make a few cleanings and drop out of sight.” “That goes for Margaret too, the marooning?” said Jerry.
“I’m afraid not.” The other seemed regretful and resumed his smile. “You see I’ve taken quite a fancy to her. And as regards you ...” He paused, plucked at his beard and chuckled. “Well, if you’re the owner of this ship, as you say you are, I’ll need a bill of sale from you and possibly a little ransom. I take it you can afford a few thousand. You’ll stay with us until you feel you can anyway.” “Collomy,” said Jerry calmly. “If you lay a hand on my fiancé I’ll get you if it takes me the rest of my life.”
The other shrugged.
“Let’s not be heroic.”
“What’s the use of talking to him,” said Margaret wearily.
She rose and stumbled to her room, Collomy making no effort to stop her though his eyes followed her every movement and were filled with a peculiar gleam. She closed the door and locked it, and Collomy turned to Jerry with a sigh.
“Listen,” said Jerry, a note of desperation in his voice. “How much do you want to let us go? I’ll give you ten thousand dollars and sign over this ship if you’ll drop the bunch of us into a boat when we’re under the Australian coast. And what I said about keeping our mouths shut still goes.”
Collomy laughed and shook his head. “I don’t have to bargain. You’ll pay me plenty before I’m through with you.” Jerry Mitchell was silent for a long moment, while Collomy watched him, amused. Then Jerry lifted his head, and there were strange hard lines upon his face. Something seemed to have dropped from him, something warm and goodnatured, something of the sportsmanship with which so far he had endured everything. He looked more than ever like that Jerry who had left the sea eleven years before. A grim, confident man.
“All right, Collomy,” he said harshly. “We’re through talking then. But God help you if I ever meet you with my hands free.”
Collomy laughed and went into the captain’s room to wash his hands and search around for some clean clothes. He had hardly finished when one of his men came below, bearing the first dishes of the meal the negro cook had prepared. Jerry went into the wireless room upon command, and Collomy locked the door with the key which Samuels had found on Sandy along with others. Jerry was too precious to allow far away, Collomy thought. A man who owned a big fourmasted schooner and possibly had much property besides was a valuable asset. And then the girl might be brought to a reasonable frame of mind if her fiancé could be handled properly, so as to persuade her perhaps to regard her new master in a little more of a favorable light. Such things had been done. And Collomy, thinking how fortunate he was, and how kind luck had been to him, sat down to his meal with a satisfied chuckle.
(To be Concluded)
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