Mr. Gallup is a Terror to Snakes
NORMAN REILLY RAINE
THE LARGE bony frame of Mr. Belial Gallup, elderly third mate of the tramp steamer, Jaipur Prince, was humped up on a hospital cot in the small seaport town of Vivero on the northwest corner of Spain. Mr. Gallup’s drawn-up knees supported an untidy writing pad; his heavily bandaged left hand held the pad in place; his right fist clutched a blunt, whittled and frequently moistened stub of pencil: and Mr. Gallup’s patient, equine face wore the worried furrows of concentration common to a by no means agile mind in the unaccustomed throes of composition.
Dear Wife (wrote Mr. Gallup)
You will laugh when you learns where 1 am writing from Im in hospittal (ha ha) aint that a joke but no need to worry. Well heres how it happened we put in here to discharge forty tons of cargo and I got me left flipper caugt between a steel rail and the edge of a hatch coaming and gave it a little scrunch. But it is all right now xcept it is still swoie. Capt. Sloan was very good to me and afore they sailed he kindly brougt me a big basket of fruit which he stopped out of me pay But we gets lots of fruit at the hospittal here so I telled him he could keep it and stop it out of his own pay instead (ha ha) the unfortnate thing is the Jaipur Prince had to leave here without me She is going from here to Oslo and then to Bristol and Capt. Sloan says if I can get to Bristol in time I can rejoin ship there and heres the good news the Jaipur Prince is sailing from Bristol for Bangor, Maine, to load RR ties for Karatchi and maybe I could get a few days leave and come home to see you and the sprats Golly imagine so keep a good heart Iris perhaps I can get a ship out of here and join me own ship at Bristol in time How is Mimi geting on with her gogeoraphy and how is her ringworm kiss Nannie Lou for me and also all my sprats and you too Iris from their loving
WHAT Mr. Gallup neglected to mention, however, was the detail of how he came by his injury. As his letter told, the Jaipur Prince was discharging cargo long steel railroad metals weighing ninety pounds per foot length. He was standing by the open hatch checking cargo discharge when his quick little eyes noted that, as a chain sling with its tremendous burden was rising from the hold, one of the rails had commenced to slip from its chain. Mr. Gallup had seen, years before in a ship at Singapore, a heavy rail go out of its sling, straight through the hold, and impale the bottom of the vessel to the mud below. He had seen, also, what was left of the workmen who were in its path.
So now, his shout of warning being drowned in the clatter of the winches, he darted forward, grasped the murderous, slowly gyrating sling-load, flung his weight against it and managed to dear it of the hatch so that the load let go, not in the hold but on the deck where, beyond a dented plate or two, it did no harm, Mr. Gallup, however, was awkward and was knocked off his feet: and before he could scramble quite clear of the rebound of one of the clanging rails it removed all the skin and much of the flesh from the back of his hand, against the hatch edge. “But that,” grunted Mr.
Gallup through rather white lips when the pain had subsided somewhat and he could relax his clenched jaws, “was better’n broken backs for them fellers below.” So the Jaipur Prince sailed for Oslo without him; and despite the brave words to his wife Mr. Gallup wondered rather wistfully how long he would be hung up in a port where few British or American ships put in, and if he might, indeed he lucky enough to ship out in time to occupy his old berth as third mate of the Jaipur Prince when she sailed from Bristol, westward bound.
As the days passed and his injured hand recovered, Mr. Gallup became restless. He would walk along the waterfront, his old hard hat crammed upon his bullet skull, hands clasped behind his shiny serge jacket, returning the astonished stares of the natives with a slow, good-natured grin; then, at an outside table of a small bodega, with a glass of mild, cheap Asturian wine at his elbow, he would watch with interest the colorful sea commerce of the Bay of Biscay and the sleepy little Lugonian port, and, so watching, would try to think of a scheme for giving fate a nudge and a hint to hurry up. And it was there that he met a pal.
MR. BATES, of the shipping agency firm of Bates and Flummery, was a resident of Vivero; a droll, alert, elderly little man with a mocking eye, and a wift of hair on his nearly bald dome. He spoke remarkably bad Spanish with a full-blown cockney accent; and having observed unobtrusively that Mr. Gallup daily occupied the same table. Mr. Bates, seeming to make up his mind, crossed over and scraped acquaintance.
Mr. Gallup, who, had he been born with a tail, would joyfully have wragged it. at all and sundry without the slightest discrimination, was delighted, and in five minutes Mr. Bates knew all about him. The shipping agent seemed to find in Mr. Gallup, after their first encounter, a source of such acute amusement that the most innocuous remark of that gentleman would send Mr. Bates into shouts of laughter.
“I dunno what’s so funny, sir,” Mr. Gallup would smile, puzzled but; gratified, and trying to recapture his bon mot for his own edification, “What did I say?”
“Say? Oh, ha-ha-ha !” Mr, Bates would explode, wiping Iris eyes. “You’re a terror to snakes, Mr. Gallup! You reely are!” And Mr, Gallup, still pleasantly puzzled, would modestly gulp his wine and try to look as witty as possible. But then, he recollected, Mr. Bates seemed to regard with a certain pawky enjoyment many very ordinary phases of life.
One evening as they sat together at their table, looking out over the darkling waters of Biscay and watching the townspeople’s after-dinner promenade, Mr. Gallup voiced a question as to the whereabouts of Mr. Flummery.
“Flummery?” replied his friend, looking indescribably waggish. “Why, Bates is Flummery, and Flummery is Bates, in other words,” he went on with a snort of amusement at Mr. Gallup’s perplexed brow, “there's on’y me. I’m the ole blinkin’ firm. You see, a long nvme goes down better wiv the Spaniards. And ’e’s an ideal partner, Flummery is; arsks no questions and tykes no profitsand if anything was to go wrong they’d ’ave a perish in’ ’ard time findin’ ’im. Not,” he concluded hastily, cocking an eye at Mr. Gallup, “that there’s anything to go wrong, mind.”
“O’ course not, sir," said Mr. Gallpp stoutly.
There was silence for a minute, then Mr. Gallup turned to find Mr. Bates regarding him with a rather intent stare.
“Didn’t you tell me once.” asked Mr. Bates abruptly, “that you’d once ’eld a command in yer early days at sea?” “Aye, sir,” said Mr. Gallup proudly, “The Indio---a wery fine vessel in her time.”
“And I ope I’m not too nosey—wot ’appened?”
“Well, sir”—-Mr. Gallup sighed—“she piled up in a blizzard one winter night on Fryin’ Pan Shoal—that’s off the New England coast—and since we was a bit off our course, because of defective compasses what the owners had give us—well, I got me ticket endorsed for a year’s suspension, and I couldn’t get a command no more.”
“Was it—your fault?”
“Partly, sir. I’d been without sleep for seventy hours, and p’raps me mind wasn’t as sharp as it might have been.” “And—did the owners collect insurance?”
“They did, sir. In full !” Mr. Gallup resentfully growled.
MR. BATES studied his wineglass. “Did—did they do the right thing by you? The owners, I mean.” “The right thing?” Ancient bitterness broke through the healing scars of time, and Mr. Gallup sat bolt upright. “When we was rescued I had a bit o’ frostbite; so while the case was pending my owners give me a thousand dollars — me ticket had been suspended in the meanwhile—and sent me home to Nova Scotia for a rest up till the case came before the Admiralty court in Boston. Then the owners wired me that the case had been settled, and I’d not be required; so to fill in me year’s suspension I shipped out as A.B. in the fo’castle of a East Africa trader. When I got home eighteen months later,” Mr. Gallup rumbled angrily, “I found out the owners had sent me away on purpose to get rid o’ me; and I was accused o’ skipping out so’s not to testify about them compasses. Meanwhile, the owners had collected the insurance and dissolved, and the underwriters couldn’t do nothing—except what they done to me.” “What was that?”
“Like I said, sir. I couldn’t get a master’s berth no more —not till I got too old, anyway.”
“And you didn’t know, of course”—Mr. Bates’s manner seemed strangely intent—-“that the court was looking for you?”
“O’ course not, sir! Ye don’t think—?”
“No bloomin’ fear! You’re an honest man, Mr. Gallup any fool could see that,” cried Mr. Bates soothingly. “But that sort o’ thing does put a a stain on a man’s character. Don’t it?”
“It do,” Mr. Gallup admitted resignedly, “But it’s long ago now, and all forgot. And I got me fambly to look after
“Of course!” agreed Mr. Bates. “And natcherly ye’re anxious to get ’ome to the pietty little things. I’m a family man meself -in a way.”
“Here’s their pictures,” said Mr. Gallup eagerly, producing them. “This here’s Emily. . . I’m a-going to have that squint took out, some day; and that’s—”
“ ’Andsome, indeed !” breathed Mr. Bates appreciatively. “No wonder you carn’t ’ardly wait to get ’orne! But this is an ’ell of an ’ole to ship out of.”
“I know,” said Mr, Gallup unhappily.
Mr. Bates regarded him with a speculative, bird-like glance. “I might find a way, though,” he said.
“Sir,” Mr. Gallup replied solemnly, “you been more than kind to me. What for, I dunno, but—”
“Because I like yer, Mr. Gallup,” said Mr. Bates benignly. “Yes, I do!”
“That’s wery kind of ye, sir,” responded the gratified Gallup. “And if only ye could suggest some way—”
“As you know, Gallup,” went on Mr. Bates confidentially, “I’m a ship’s agent; and I ’appen to be expecting a steamer -the Syra —tomorrer morning to pick up a cargo of ore for Rotterdam, Matter of fact, I’m a bit interested, financially, in that ship and cargo meself. By the way, do yer know anything about ship’s engines—engine room— that sort o’ thing?”
“No, sir,” said Mr. Gallup dolefully. “I don’t. I m a deck officer —”
“No matter!” said Mr. Rites briskly. “The Syra’s got ’er full complement of deck officers. But if you wasn’t too proud to work below, I might—
I might, I s’y—get yer a job as oiler or something. That’d get yer as far as Rotterdam; and from Rotterdam by passenger packet and train to Bristol, is quick and cheap. Now wot ahart it?”
“But are ye sure,” said Mr. Gallup, hardly daring to hope, “that they’d sign me on?”
“I’ll use me influence wiv the captain,” promised Mr. Bates, grinning saltily. “He’ll find yer something.”
“Thank ye. sir!” said Mr. Gallup, with earnest, shining eyes. “Thank ye, from the bottom o’ me—” “Rats! It’s nothing,” disclaimed Mr. Bates. "As a matter of fact, Gallup, yer might be in a position to do something for me in return.”
“Name it !” cried Mr. Gallup deeply, in an access of loyalty and gratitude. “You just name it, sir, and it’s as good as did.”
“We-ell,” continued Mr. Bates slowly, “Captain Popadous—”
“What was that name again, sir?”
“Don’t let it alarm yer. ’Is name’s Popadous; but the ship’s under British register, fair and square. But the captain’s such a good-’earted man, ’e carn’t bear to be strick, and consequently discipline suffers—orficers slack on their job, jxxir lookout kept—that sort o’ thing. And that’s why”—Mr. Bates bestowed a knowing poke upon his companion—“I’d kind of like to ’ave you on board. As I said, I got a bit of interest in the ship and I want to make sure she gets to Rotterdam all right. That clear?”
“Yes, sir,” said Mr. Gallup dubiously. “Only I don’t see what good I’ll be down below—”
“You’ll be workin’ under the chief engineer, Mr. ’Ardie, ’oo’s a very good friend of mine. You trust ’im, implicit; and wotever ’e tells yer to do, you do it immediate, for you’ll be doing it for me. Right?” “Right, sir. Ye can depend on me.”
“For anything, sir,” said Mr. Gallup, feeling rather noble.
“I knew I wasn’t mistaken in yer,” said Mr. Bates with relish. “And now”—he lifted his glass and laughed—“ ’ere’s success to crime! May rascality become an ’ous’old word, and malefactors flourish ! Eh, Mr. Gallup?”
"We-erv good, sir,” cried Mr. Gallup jovially, also raising his glass. “That’s a wery good joke indeed.”
MR. GALLUP could hardly sleep that night for excited speculation as to whether he actually would be so fortunate as to be given a berth on the steamer; and with dawn he was out of bed and down at the harbor. And there was the Syra, appearing out of the golden sea haze—a bucketty, leprous hobo of the seas, her rusty sides splashed with red lead, ventilators corroded thin, paintwork flaked and scaling, and her unscrubbed superstructure coated with the thin salt film of forgotten gales. But to Belial Gallup, warmed with thoughts of home, the Syra, with smoke puking from her skinny funnel as she pushed her way to an anchorage, was fine as any liner.
He went off to her later in the day with Mr. Bates.
“Wait ’ere,” said Mr. Bates, and left him standing at the head of the accommodation ladder while he went to meet Captain Popadous, who was descending from the bridge.
A low-toned discussion ensued. Captain Popadous, a tall, sway-bellied man with bent-in knees,
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Engrossed with his work he did not hear his name called; then, unexpectedly, as he was refilling his oil can, a hand grasped his arm. It was Hardie, the chief engineer.
“Are you deaf, man?” he demanded. “I’ve been bawling at you for five minutes. Go and open the valve of number two ballast tank.”
power in motion, and he moved slowly about, feeling bearings and adjusting the timing of his long-spouted oil can in his hand to the motion of the pounding machinery. Before long now, he thought, Rotterdam; then Bristol, Bangor, home and family. He wagged his shaggy head. “I knowed the Lord would perwide,” he muttered to himself, and was content.
“I’m wery sorry, sir,” replied Mr. Gallup amiably, straightening, “but I don’t know what waive that is.”
“Time you learned,” said the chief. “I suppose you don’t know how to open the sea connection either? Come here.” He demonstrated, then said: “Now go and
open that tank valve. You’ll find it in the valve box for’ard there. She needs a bit of water ballast for steadying.”
Mr. Gallup did what he was told, then returned to his oiling. He worked steadily for ten minutes or so; then he descended once more to the engine-room floor and walked across to the water bucket suspended to keep cool beneath a ventilator shaft. And then again at his elbow he heard the harsh voice of the chief engineer.
“What was that?” Hardie asked sharply, listening.
“What was what, sir?”
“That bump—a hard jar. Didn’t you notice it?”
“I didn’t notice nothing—”
“You didn’t?” The engineer’s eyes were burning in his pallid face; his voice held a note of strain. “I was sure. . . Well, never mind. Carry on with your job.” He stood for a moment, motionless; then he walked rapidly to the bridge message tube, and blew. “Everything all right up there?” he asked brusquely. “Did you feel a—What?. . . What’s that?. . .” He listened for a minute, then: “Right!” he said and replaced the plug in the tube.
“I knew there was something,” he snapped at Mr. Gallup, whose curiosity had kept him near. “We’ve struck a floating hulk. The Old Man thinks part of the bilge keel for’ard has been stripped away. Here, give me a hand. We’ll see if she’s taking in water.”
Together they prised up the manhole plate in the engine-room floor, and the chief, electric torch in hand, explored for some minutes beneath the engine and boiler rooms. Presently he emerged. “Dry as a bone—” he began, when he was interrupted. A stoker, terror showing through his coal-dust matted face, came running in.
“Now what?” asked the chief, tight with repressed excitement.
“There’s waiter, sir—a lot of it—pourin’ in the bilges, atween the port b’iler and the port bunker.”
They ran to see. A heavy flow of sea water ran like a subterranean river, flowing strongly aft.
The chief turned to Mr. Gallup.
“Go up on the bridge. Tell Captain Popadous about this. Then return here.”
MR. GALLUP shambled rapidly up the ladder. On deck the cool night air cut through his threadbare, sweatsoaked shirt, and chilled him. He could see, off to starboard, and ahead, the high loom of the land; and, far in the indentation of a bay, a number of lights—but whether of fishing vessels or coast beacons he could not be sure. The vessel was much closer inshore than he had expected, and with his memory of many other passages across the bay, the thought bothered him. But he had no time for it now.
On the bridge, Captain Popadous, sur-
rounded by his officers, was shouting at the third mate.
“But I didn’t see anything, sir,” the third mate was protesting.
“That ees the trouble! You must haf been asleep then, on the breedge. I saw eet plain enough. About twenty-fife feet off—a black hulk about eighty by twentyseex feet—and eet steek up two feet above the water. And you—an officer on watch —not see eet! Or are you blind, maybe?”
He halted abruptly, seeing Mr. Gallup.
“W’at you want?”
Mr. Gallup described conditions below, and the master turned back to his officers.
“You see?” he shouted. “That wreckage haf streep off the bilge keel from opposite the foremast—that is w’y eet is a so leetle bump—but now the water ees coming in fast through all those rivet holes. You”— he turned to Mr. Gallup—“tell Meestair Hardie to do w’at he can wit’ the pumps. And we weel prepare to abandon sheep, if necessary.”
But Mr. Gallup, his slow brain revolving about a point that had occurred to him, did not move.
“Sir,” he began diffidently, “if she was struck so far forrard, wouldn’t the water—?”
“Go below!” the master roared. “Do w’at you are tol’ !”
Still ruminating, Mr. Gallup returned to the main deck. On the bridge the watch officer’s whistle blew shrilly for the seaman on stand-by. There was the sound of heavy running feet along the deck, and in the forecastle lights sprang up. At the engineroom door he ran into the chief engineer.
“That you, Gallup?” he rasped; and as he opened the housing door the yellow beam from inside cut across his grim, harried face. “I’ve been to sound the ballast tanks. All dry. I can’t figure—”
“The ballast tanks, sir?” Mr. Gallup ejaculated. “If we been injured in the bilges that’s where the water’d be, not the ballast tanks. Did ye sound the bilges, sir?”
The chief engineer turned on the ladder and for a long second stared at him. Then: “Are you an engineer?” he asked roughly.
“No, sir; but I got me master’s ticket, so I know something o’ ship construction. And that’s another thing: If we was struck in the bilges so far forrard, the water would be runnin’ forrard, not aft, like it is. There’s something queer—”
But the chief engineer, after his silent scrutiny, had turned and was rapidly descending the steep, slippery ladder.
Down below the monotonous routine mechanical activities continued uninterrupted; but the third engineer had appeared—a pimply man of twenty-five, with a pyjama jacket tucked into his trousers. “Ah—there you are, sir!” he said to the chief. “I thought I’d better come below—”
“There’s nothing you can do,” Hardie told him. “The bilge pumps are working to capacity. The donkey pump’s on, too, and I’ve put the false injection valve on the circulating pump. That means we’re throwing the water out at a total pump capacity of six and a half tons a minute— and still the sea’s gaining on us! Tons a minute! You’d better go up and get your clothes on. The Old Man’s preparing to abandon. That right, Gallup?”
“Yes, sir. That’s what he said. I forgot to tell ye—” He stopped suddenly, and the puzzled lines that had come in his forehead increased. He seemed about to speak again; thought better of it and turned away. From his jacket, hung in a corner of the engine room, he took his stub of pencil and an old envelope; and out of sight of the chief engineer he did some rapid figuring.
WHEN HE HAD finished he looked at the result, and a dull spark began to glow deep in his small, close-set eyes. Envelope in hand, he again approached the
chief engineer, who stood alone near the engine controls, his eyes on the steam pressure gauges on the boilers. He turned, his eyes instantly hard and hostile, when he saw Mr. Gallup draw near.
“Well?” he said.
“Sir,” Mr. Gallup began with stubborn deliberation, “there’s somethin’ funny going on in this here wessel. I’m only a deck officer and I don’t know nothing about engines, but—”
“Get away from me, you jabbering ape!” Hardie cried furiously. “I’ve got enough to think about—”
“Just the same,” went on Mr. Gallup indomitably, “ye’ve got to hear me, sir. Mr. Bates telled me you was his friend; he said I could trust ye. So it’s me juty to tell ye what I’m thinkin’.”
“Oh!” said the chief in a different but puzzled tone. “What is it, then?”
“First place, sir,” said Mr. Gallup producing his figures, “I don’t believe the captain ever seen that wreckage he was shouting about. Why, taking his own figgers about the size of it, the simplest mathematics shows it must ha’ been near a hundred feet long, by thirty deep and twenty-six to fifty wide, floatin’ nearly submerged, at an angle o’ forty-five degrees twenty-five feet off the wessel’s side, and able to scrape the bilge keel off of her 20 feet below waterline. Sir,” continued Mr. Gallup earnestly, “a craft o’ them dimensions never yet was built. No, sir ! Captain Popadous is lyin’!. . . What for? Why should—”
“You’re imagining things.”
“Figgers has no imaginations, sir. And if an obstruction like he described had ripped off the bilge keel, the first heavy inrush o’ water, due to outside sea pressure, would ha’ filled the bilges in one minute, wi’ our displacement and the heavy cargo she’s carryin’. Instead o’ that, sir, it took more than ten minutes after ye first claimed to feel that bump before the fireman reported water in the bilges. And you said you turned all the pumps on, sir. yet the same volume o’ water is cornin’ in.” “What are you daring to insinuate?” the chief demanded hoarsely.
“That that water is bein’ took into the wessel under control, and deliberately, for the purpose o’ sinkin’ her!” said Mr. Gallup bluntly, his small eyes hard upon the engineer’s face. “Furthermore, sir, I think ye know something about it; else why would ye know that the master was preparin’ to abandon ship afore I told ye?” Hardie’s muscles contracted. His face was murderous. But before he could act or speak the low door between the boilers, leading to the stokehold, banged open, and grimy, sweating lascar and Genoese firemen ran through and made for the ladder.
“Here!” Hardie shouted. “Where are you going?”
“No stop, sahib!” cried one over his shoulder. “Ship sinking.”
NOT MOVING, the chief watched them as, with the agility of monkeys, they swarmed upward. As the last of them put his feet to the rungs the bridge telegraph clanged, and the indicator swung rapidly to “Stop.”
The chief engineer jumped to the controls, and the glittering, giant piston shafts revolved once more, then ceased. The abrupt, comparative silence was startling. Mr. Gallup was conscious that the palms of his hands were wet; and when, suddenly, the bridge tube whistled sharply, his tense nerves jumped.
“Answer that!” said Hardie.
Mr. Gallup did; then he turned from the tube. “It’s ‘Abandon Ship’, sir,” he said quietly. “But I got me juty to do by me friend, Mr. Bates, and I’m a-stoppin’ here.”
“Do you think that’s helping Bates, you double-crossing sweep?” the chief engineer shouted. “Bates told me you’d be in with us on this ! That you were a blacklisted shipmaster, who—”
“Mr. Bates telled you that, sir?” asked Mr. Gallup slowly.
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“He did. And now get into the stokehold there, and see that everybody’s out!’’ Striving dumbly to understand, Mr. Gallup automatically obeyed, bending double and sloshing through the water that already was covering the floor plates, through the low passageway into the stokehold. It was empty, but eloquent of hasty flight; the deck plates littered with scattered coal, slice bars, an overturned wheelbarrow of clinkers, and a battered pipe that washed across the plates.
As he entered the tunnel to return to the engine room the lights went out. “Hello—• dynamo gone?” he wondered, feeling his way cautiously between the hot boilers. In the blackness of the engine room he could hear the suck and gurgle of the gaining water. Where was the chief?
He groped toward the ladder, then halted and struck a match; and in its brief orange spurt he saw, rising suddenly before him, waiting for him in the darkness, the muscular frame, set, white face and blazing eyes of the chief engineer. In his upraised fist he grasped a heavy spanner.
“Here, sir,” cried Mr. Gallup, attempting to dodge. “Don’t you hit—”
Quick as light the weapon fell, and Mr. Gallup dropped to his knees, shaking his gory head like a stricken bull. The match hissed out; and in the intense blackness of the water-flooded engine room Mr. Gallup’s ungainly limbs relaxed, slowly straightened, and he lay motionless upon his face.
THE MORNING sun arose, flooding with tremulous golden light the curving coast and sparkling blue waters of the Bay of Penmarch—an indentation of that long Peninsula of France which, with Brest as its principal port, and washed north and south by, respectively, the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay, thrusts itself so boldly into the North Atlantic. In the centre of the Bay of Penmarch, riding at anchor and deep in the water, was the S.S. Syra, like a weary sea wanderer come at last to rest. From her tall, thin funnel no smoke arose; there was no sign of life about her decks; but there she lay, indubitably afloat—a fact which, later in the morning, caused, first, incredulity, then acute apprehension to Captain Popadous and Mr. Hardie as, surrounded by their shipwrecked crew and a group of curious Breton fishermen, they stood on the shelving beach of a small village and stared out over the bright water.
Presently, the uncertainty becoming unbearable, the shipmaster and his engineer, engaging a fishing vessel, set out for the anchored vessel.
“I do not understand,” muttered Captain Popadous out of the side of his mouth to the worried, grim-faced engineer. “She should have founder’ an hour after we leave.”
“Keep quiet!” counselled Hardie in a savage undertone. “We’ll know about it presently.”
In gloomy silence they circled the Syra, seeking a place to board her; but the falls that last night had dangled from the davits after the boats had left now were withdrawn to the deck, and the davits themselves had been swung inboard, and the rail was too high to be accessible from the fisherman’s deck.
“What the devil—” began Hardie in loud exasperation; and as though in answer a tall, ungainly, big-boned figure with a blood-soaked bandage about the head rose slowly to view from the wing of the lower bridge.
“Good day, gents,” said Mr. Gallup affably. “This is a uncommon pleasant surprise.”
“What the hell are you doing up there?” demanded the chief engineer.
“I'm enj’yin’,” Mr. Gallup responded contentedly, “a wery good breakfast.” “Thees ees outrage!” shouted Captain Popadous. “Put over a ladder at once!” Mr. Gallup put a match to one of the captain’s cigars, puffed enjoyably for a second, then shook his head. “I’m sorry,
sirs,” he said regretfully, “but this don’t happen to be wisiting day. I’ll let ye on later, p’raps, when the British consul and the insurance underwriters’ surveyor gets here from Brest. I sent off quite a long telegram ashore to the consul at daybreak, by one o’ them there fishin’ boats, and I don’t think he’ll stop to pick no posies gettin’ here.”
“Let us on board, you fool!” yelled Hardie, slipping control. “If you don’t—”
Mr. Gallup’s reply was to lug awkwardly from his pocket a large automatic pistol.
“I never did hold wi’ wiolence, sirs,” he said mildly, “but this here shooter, what I made bold to take from the captain’s cabin, has wery nasty habits when crossed. And if you was to try to climb aboard”— he shook his head solemnly—“I might be tempted to pay ye off for this crack on the napper what you lent me last night.”
“I wish I’d made sure—” began Hardie furiously.
“I have no doubc o’ that, sir,” said Mr. Gallup politely. “But me head’s pretty thick—and it ain’t the first time I’ve played when the odds was against me in a rough and tumble scrap. And that cold water on me face fetched me around in no time. Yes, sir”—Mr. Gallup wagged his head—“that were a bad mistake ye made, Mr. Hardie, not makin’ sure o’ me. But the first mistake ye made was worse. Know what that was?”
Pie leaned his elbows companionably on the rail and beamed down at them, as he continued:
“Well, sirs, ye overlooked the fact that even though I’d never had no engine-room experience I’d been a good many years at sea: and a observin’ man like meself picks up things like a knowledge o’ ballast tanks and their purpose, even if I don’t know where the proper waives is placed. And after Î’d recovered down there in the dark o’ the engine room, wi’ sea water washing around me legs and getting higher, I began to figger fast—I had to if I didn’t want to go down wi’ her—how that water was cornin’ in, and how to stop it. So I goes over in me mind, careful, every little thing what had happened that night. And then, like that”-—Mr. Gallup cracked his big fingers—“I had it! Remember you telling me, Mr. Hardie, sir, to open the waive o’ number two ballast tank, while you opened the sea connection, because the ship needed a little steadyin’? Ah—I see ye do ! Well, why would a wessel, deep wi’ a cargo of ore, in calm weather, need steadyin’? The answer is, she didn’t. But—”
“You’re lying!” yelled the chief engineer. “You—”
“Wait, sir,” said Mr. Gallup reproachfully. “I ain’t finished yet. But it was a way o’ getting water into the ship. And supposing you, before we left port, had left the manhole cover off the top o’ that hallast tank, why, when the tank was full the water would overflow, fill the bilges, run aft into the engine and boiler rooms, and ewentually sink the ship—leaving, of course, plenty o’ time for all hands to get clear o’ her afore she went down. So I fumbled me way around in the dark, and managed to close the sea inlet connection and the waive. Sure enough that stopped the water coming in, and she still had enough reserve buoyancy to stay afloat. Then I groped me way on deck and dropped the hook and”—Mr. Gallup smiled benignly and spread his hands— “here we are! And there, if I ain’t mistook”—he pointed to a small steamer approaching rapidly from the direction of Audierne—“is the consul, and the underwriter chap. I’ll put a ladder over, and you can j’ine us, after they’re on board.”
THE CONSUL was a brown, spare man with a clipped mustache and penetrating eyes. The underwriters’ surveyor was stout, bland and with exceptional knowledge of ships. They were followed on board by two quietly dressed Frenchmen— members of the French police.
“Mr. Gallup?” asked the consul. “That’s me, sir,” admitted Mr. Gallup
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modestly. “Belial Gallup o’ Truro, Nova Scotia. And them two crooks climbin’ on board is Captain Popadous, o’ this wessel, and Mr. Hardie, her chief engineer. And the charge is barratry. What they was to get out of it I don’t know yet, but mebbe my friend Mr. Bates could tell ye. Mr. Bates, of the shipping agent firm o’ Bates and Flummery o’ Vivero, Spain,” he elaborated. “Him what Mr. Hardie here lied to me about.” The consul’s keen eyes swept the group.
“I’d better explain about Bates, first, perhaps,” he said quietly. “When I got Mr. Gallup’s telegram, Mr. Compton here checked up on the vessel’s ownership and history. Bates is the actual owner. You, Captain Popadous, are his brother-in-law, and both you and Hardie, the chief engineer, have a financial interest in her. Is that right? Come on—speak up, please!”
“That ees right,” the shipmaster growled, “but—”
“Exactly. Bates bought her at the top of the shipping boom, and her value has lessened, with the ensuing slump, to only twenty per cent of her purchase price— and she has steadily lost money while at sea.”
“But she’s still insured for her original I value—that it?” put in Mr. Gallup.
“That is right,” the underwriters’ man corroborated. “Only her insurance runs out in two weeks. So it would, of course, be greatly to the advantage of an unscrupulous owner to have her sunk before that happened.”
“But Mr. Bates,” stammered Mr. Gallup. “He ain’t that kind, sirs. He give me a helping hand to get home—”
“Sorry to disillusion you,” said the consul. “Bates, we discovered, is only one of his aliases. Flummery is another. He’s done this sort of thing before. They’re holding him now at Vivero until this affair is cleared up. Now suppose you tell us what happened here.”
Over the frantic objections of Captain Popadous and the profanity of Hardie, Mr. Gallup told his story. It took a little time but what he said was convincing. When he had finished there was a brief silence, broken at length by the consul.
“Have you other two men anything to say?” he asked.
“I have!” bellowed Hardie. “If there was any dirty work about this ship, Gallup is responsible. Bates told me he lost his own ticket some years ago for casting his vessel away.”
“Ah! Now there, sirs,” said Mr. Gallup darkly, a red stain creeping up his weatherbeaten neck, “is where Mr. Bates fooled me. I thought he was me friend, try in’ to. help me get a passage home. Instead o’ that, I guess he got me on board so if these two rogues’ plans went adrift they could pin it on me. But if there’s any doubt in your mind, Mr. Consul, about these two, will ye ask the captain to explain one more little thing?”
“What is that?”
“The usual course for wessels from Vivero to the channel is laid to pass clear o’ Ushant, with its dangerous rocks and fog, or at least clear o’ the lights south of Ushant, at Armen Rock and Penmarch Point. Why, then, did Captain Popadous take the unusual course o’ going inside Armen Rock? Was it because it was out o’ the way of ships passing from Finisterre to Ushant, but conweniently near the fishing fleet in Penmarch Bay, case the weather got bad and rescue was necessary when they took to the boats? And why, when he had time to spare, did he not send out a radio S.O.S., bum no flares and send up no blue lights to show there was a wessel in distress? Yes, sirs”—pointing to the I shipmaster’s congested face—“he’s got no I answer to that. And that nails ’em both for j the clumsiest but most deliberate attempt to cast a wessel away for her insurance I ever seen—and I been a long time at sea.”
The consul and his companion looked at the desperate, frustrated face of Captain Popadous, and the white, set countenance i of the chief engineer.
“This does not constitute a trial, of course,” the consul told them. “You will have an opportunity to refute the charges later. Meanwhile you may go ashore. We will pick you up when we want you, later. Now, Mr. Gallup, what about you?” “Well, sir,” said Mr. Gallup dolefully, “I were hoping to get to Bristol to rejoin me ship. But I suppose this business—” “It can be arranged. We’ll take your deposition. And I think you’ve saved the underwriters enough for them to stand you a first-class rail and steamer passage to Bristol. That right, Mr. Compton?” “Indeed yes—and some additional recognition on the side, if the charges are proved. But will you remain on board here tonight, until we can send someone off to take charge?”
“Aye, sir!” said Mr. Gallup, elated. “I got plenty o’ time, now—and anyway I wanted to finish a letter to me wife.”
THAT NIGHT Mr. Gallup sat alone in Captain Popadous’s ornate but comfortable cabin—which Mr. Gallup pri-
vately thought the height of luxurious good taste. At his left hand was a peg of the shipmaster’s excellent whisky, with soda; in the ashtray before him burned fragrantly one of his cigars; and in Mr. Gallup’s right fist was a stub of pencil which had painfully described, on the scuffed writing pad before him, his recent adventure.
And that (he concluded) is all, I guess. I was sorry for Bates but now Im mad and you know Iris when Belial Gallup is mad he’s a terror to snakes. Anyways Im to travel to Bristol like the king of Rooshia and then dear Iris hay for home Kiss Nannie Lou and all me other little sprats and love to you XXX Pa.
P.S. Enclosed is two dollars ($2 dollars) please send me to Bangor a pr of them heavy grey wollen winter drawers they may tickel a bit but theyre sure warm Hopeing you are the same dear wife I remain yours Pa.