So he had overheard. Rainey wondered whether the girl would accept the amended statement if it was offered. At its best interpretation it was callous.
When Hansen took over the watch Rainey went below to Sandy. Lund had disappeared, but he found the giant in the triangular forecastle by Sandy's bunk.
"That you, Rainey?" Lund asked as he heard the other's tread. Then he dropped his voice to a whisper:
"The lad's grateful. Make the most of it. If he wants to spill ennything, git all of it."
But Sandy seemed able to do nothing but grin sheepishly. He was half drunk with the steaming potion that had been forced down him.
"I'll see you later, Mister Rainey," he finally stammered out. "See you later, sir. You—I—"
Lund suddenly nudged Rainey in the ribs.
"Never mind now," he whispered.
A sailor had come into the forecastle with an extra blanket for Sandy, contributed from the hunters' mess.
"That's all right, Sandy," said Rainey. "Better try to get some sleep."
The roustabout had already dropped off. The seaman touched his temple in an old-fashioned salute.
"That was a smart job you did, sir," he said to Rainey.
The latter went aft with Lund through the hunters' quarters. They were seated under the swinging lamp which had been lit in the gloom of the gale, playing poker, as usual. But all laid down their cards as Rainey appeared.
"Good work, sir!" said one of them, and the rest chimed in with expressions that warmed Rainey's heart. He felt that he had won his way into their good-will. They were human, after all, he thought.
"Glad to have you drop in an' gam a bit with us, or take a hand in a game, sir," added Deming.
Rainey escaped, a trifle embarrassed, and passed through the alley that went by the cook's domain into the main cabin. Tamada was at work, but turned a gleam of slanting eyes toward Rainey as they passed the open door. The main cabin was empty.
"Come into my room," suggested Lund. "I want to talk with you."
He stuffed his pipe and proffered a drink before he spoke.
"Best day's work you've done in a long while, matey," he said quietly. "Take Deming's offer up, an' mix in with them hunters. An' pump thet kid, Sandy. Pump him dry. He'll know almost as much as Tamada, an' he'll come through with it easier."
"Just what are you afraid of?" asked Rainey.
"Son," said Lund simply, "I'm afraid of nothing. But they're primed for somethin', under Carlsen. We'll be makin' Unalaska ter-morrer or the next day. Here's hopin' it's the next. An' we've got to know what to expect. Did you know that the skipper has had another bad spell?"
"Jest a few minnits ago. Cryin' for Carlsen like a kid for its nurse an' bottle. The doc's with him now. An' I'm beginnin' to have a hunch what's wrong with him. Here's somethin' for you to chew on: Inside of forty-eight hours there's goin' to be an upset aboard this hooker an' it's up to me an' you to see we come out on top. If not—"
He spread out his arms with the great, gorilla-like hands at the end of them, in a gesture that supplanted words. Beyond any doubt Lund expected trouble. And Rainey, for the first time, began to sense it as something approaching, sinister, almost tangible.
"You drop in on the hunters an' have a little game of poker ter-night," said Lund emphatically.
"I haven't got much money with me," said Rainey.
"Money, hell!" mocked Lund. "They don't play for money. They play for shares in the gold. They've got the big amount fixed at a million, each share worth ten thousand. 'Cordin' to the way things stand at present, you've got forty thousand dollars' worth in chips to gamble with. Put it up to 'em that way. I figger they'll accept it. If they don't, wal, we've learned something. An' don't forget to git next to Sandy."
A good deal of this was enigmatical to Rainey, but there was no mistaking Lund's tremendous seriousness and, duly impressed, Rainey promised to carry out his suggestions.
As he crossed the main cabin to go to his own room, Carlsen came out of the skipper's. He did not see Rainey at first and was humming a little air under his breath as he slipped a small article into his pocket. His face held a sneer. Then he saw Rainey, and it changed to a mask that revealed nothing. His tune stopped.
"I hear the captain's sick again," said Rainey. "Not serious, I hope."
Carlsen stood there gazing at him with his look of a sphinx, his eyes half-closed, the scoffing light showing faintly.
"Serious? I'm afraid it is serious this time, Rainey. Yes," he ended slowly. "I am inclined to think it is really serious." He turned away and rapped at the door of the girl's stateroom. In answer to a low reply he turned the handle and went in, leaving Rainey alone.
The next morning Rainey, going on deck to relieve Hansen at eight bells, in the commencement of the forenoon watch, found Lund in the bows as he walked forward, waiting for the bell to be struck. The giant leaned by the bowsprit, his spectacled eyes seeming to gaze ahead into the gray of the northern sky, and it seemed to Rainey as if he were smelling the wind. The sun shone brightly enough, but it lacked heat-power, and the sea had gone down, though it still ran high in great billows of dull green. There was a bite to the air, and Rainey, fresh from the warm cabin, wished he had brought up his sweater.
Lightly as he trod, the giant heard him and instantly recognized him.
"How'd ye make out with the hunters last night?" he queried. "I turned in early."
"We had quite a session," said Rainey. "They got me in the game, all right."
"Enny objections 'bout yore stakin' yore share in the gold?"
"Not a bit. I fancy they thought it a bit of a joke. More of one after we'd finished the game. I lost two thousand seven hundred dollars," he added with a laugh. "No chips under a dollar. Sky limit. And Deming had all the luck, and a majority of the skill, I fancy."
"Don't seem to worry you none."
"Well, it was sort of ghost money," laughed Rainey.
"You've seen the color of it," retorted Lund. "Hear ennything special?"
"No." Rainey spoke thoughtfully. "I had a notion I was being treated as an outsider, though they were friendly enough. But, somehow I fancy they reserved their usual line of talk."
"Shouldn't wonder," grunted Lund. "Seen Sandy yet?"
"I haven't had a chance. I imagined it would be best not to be seen talking to him."
"Right. Matey, things are comin' to a head. There's ice in the air. I can smell it. Feel the difference in temperature? Ice, all right. An' that means two things. We're nigh one of the Aleutians, an' Bering Strait is full of ice. Early, a bit, but there's nothin' reg'lar 'bout the way ice forms. I've got a strong hunch something'll break before we make the Strait.
"There's one thing in our favor. Yore savin' Sandy has set you solid with the hunters. They won't be so keen to maroon you. An' they'll think twice about puttin' me ashore blind. I used to git along fine with the hunters. All said an' done, they're men at bottom. Got their hearts gold-plated right now. But—"
He seemed obsessed with the idea that the crew, with Carlsen as prime instigator, had determined to leave them stranded on some volcanic, lonely barren islet. Rainey wondered what actual foundations he had for that theory.
"The sailors—" he started.
"Don't amount to a bunch of dried herrin'. A pore lot. Swing either way, like a patent gate. I ain't worryin' about them. I'm goin' to git my coffee. I was up afore dawn, tryin' to figger things out. You git to Sandy soon's you can, matey." And Lund went below.
Rainey saw nothing more of him until noon, at the midday meal. And he found no chance to talk with Sandy. He noticed the boy looking at him once or twice, wistfully, he thought, and yet furtively. A thickening atmosphere of something unusual afoot seemed present. And the actual weather grew distinctly colder. He had got his sweater, and he needed it. The sailors had put on their thickest clothes. Carlsen did not appear during the morning, neither did the hunters. Nor the girl.
At noon Carlsen came up to take his observation. He said nothing to Rainey, but the latter noticed the doctor's face seemed more sardonic than usual as he tucked his sextant under his arm.
With Hansen on deck they all assembled at the table with the exception of the captain. Tamada served perfectly and silently. The doctor conversed with the girl in a low voice. Once or twice she smiled across the table at Rainey in friendly fashion.
"Skipper enny better?" asked Lund, at the end of the meal.
Carlsen ignored him, but the girl answered:
"I am afraid not." It was not often she spoke to Lund at all, and Rainey wondered if she had experienced any change of feeling toward the giant as well as himself.
Carlsen got up, announcing his intention of going forward. Lund nodded significantly at Rainey as if to suggest that the doctor was going to foregather with the hunters, and that this might be an opportunity to talk with Sandy.
"Goin' to turn in," he said. "Eyes hurt me. It's the ice in the wind."
"Is there ice?" Peggy Simms asked Rainey as Lund disappeared. Carlsen had already vanished.
"None in sight," he answered. "But Lund says he can smell it, and I think I know what he means. It's cold on deck."
The girl went to the door of her own room and then hesitated and came back to the table where Rainey still sat. He had four hours off, and he meant to make an opportunity of talking to the roustabout.
"Mr. Carlsen told me he expects to sight land by to-morrow morning," she said. "Unalaska or Unimak, most likely. How is the boy you saved?"
She seemed so inclined to friendliness, her eyes were so frank, that Rainey resolved to talk to her. He held a notion that she was lonely, and worried about her father. There were pale blue shadows under her eyes, and he fancied her face looked drawn.
"May I ask you a question?" he asked.
"Just why did you beg my pardon? And, I may be wrong, but you seemed to make a point of doing so rather publicly."
She flushed slowly, but did not avoid his gaze, coming over to the table and standing across from him, her fingers resting lightly on the polished wood.
"It was because I thought I had misunderstood you," she said. "And I have thought it over since. I do not think that any man who would risk his life to save that lad could have joined the ship with such motives as you did. I—I hope I am not mistaken."
Rainey stared at her in astonishment.
"What motives?" he asked. "Surely you know I did not intend to go on this voyage of my own free will?"
The changing light in her eyes reminded Rainey of the look of her father's when he was at his best in some time of stress for the schooner. They were steady, and the pupils had dilated while the irises held the color of steel. There was something more than ordinary feminine softness to her, he decided. She sat down, challenging his gaze.
"Do you mean to tell me," she asked, "that you did not use your knowledge of this treasure to gain a share in it, under a covert threat of disclosing it to the newspaper you worked for?"
It was Rainey's turn to flush. His indignation flooded his eyes, and the girl's faltered a little. His wrath mastered his judgment. He did not intend to spare her feelings. What did she mean by such a charge? She must have known about the drugging. If not—she soon would.
"Your fiance, Mr. Carlsen, told you that, I fancy," he said, "if you did not evolve it from your own imagination." Now her face fairly flamed.
"My fiance?" she gasped. "Who told you that?"
"The gentleman himself," answered Rainey.
"Oh!" she cried, closing her eyes, her face paling.
"The same gentleman," went on Rainey vindictively, "who put chloral in my drink and deliberately shanghaied me aboard the Karluk, so that I only came to at sea, with no chance of return. He, too, was afraid I might give the snap away to my paper, though I would have given him my word not to. He told me it was a matter of business, that he had kidnapped me for my own good," he went on bitterly, recalling the talk with Carlsen when he had come out of the influence of the drug. "You don't have to believe me, of course," he broke off.
"I don't think you are quite fair, Mr. Rainey," the girl answered. "To me, I mean. I will give you my word that I knew nothing of this. I—" She suddenly widened her eyes and stared at him. "Then—my father—he?"
Rainey felt a twinge of compassion.
"He was there when it happened," he said. "But I don't know that he had anything to do with it. Mr. Carlsen may have convinced him it was the only thing to do. He seems to have considerable influence with your father."
"He has. He—Mr. Rainey, I have begged your pardon once; I do so again. Won't you accept it? Perhaps, later, we can talk this matter out. I am upset. But—you'll accept the apology, and believe me?"
She put out her hand across the table and Rainey gripped it.
"We'll be friends?" she asked. "I need a friend aboard the Karluk, Mr. Rainey."
He experienced a revulsion of feeling toward her. She was undoubtedly plucky, he thought; she would stand up to her guns, but she suddenly looked very tired, a pathetic figure that summoned his chivalry.
"Why, surely," he said.
They relinquished hands slowly, and again Rainey felt something more than her mere grasp lingering, a slight tingling that warmed him to smile at her in a manner that brought a little color back to her cheeks.
"Thank you," she said.
He watched her close the door of her cabin behind her before he remembered that she had not denied that she was to marry Carlsen. But he shrugged his shoulders as he started to smoke. At any rate, he told himself, she knows what kind of a chap he is—in what he calls business.
Presently he thought he heard her softly sobbing in her room, and he got up and paced the cabin, not entirely pleased with himself.
"I was a bit of a cad the way I went at her," he thought, "but that chap Carlsen sticks in my gorge. How any decent girl could think of mating up with him is beyond me—unless—by gad, I'll bet he's working through her father to pull it off! For the gold! If he's in love with her he's got a damned queer way of not showing it."
The door from the galley corridor opened, and a head was poked in cautiously. Then Sandy came into the cabin.
"Beg pardon, Mister Rainey, sir," said the roustabout, "I was through with the dishes. I wanted to have a talk with yer." His pop-eyes roamed about the cabin doubtfully.
"Come in here," said Rainey, and ushered Sandy into his own quarters.
"Now, then," he said, established on the bunk, while Sandy stood by the partition, slouching, irresolute, his slack jaw working as if he was chewing something, "what is it, my lad?"
"They'd kick the stuffin' out of me if they knew this," said Sandy. "I've bin warned to hold my tongue. Deming said he'd cut it out if I chattered. An' he would. But—"
"But what? Sit down, Sandy; I won't give you away."
"You went overboard after me, sir. None of them would. I've heard what Mr. Carlsen said, that I didn't ermount to nothin'. Mebbe I don't, but I've got my own reasons for hangin' on. Me, of course I don't ermount to much. Why would I? If I ever had mother an' father, I never laid eyes on 'em. I've made my own livin' sence I was eight. I've never 'ad enough grub in my belly till I worked for Tamada. The Jap slips me prime fillin'. He's only a Jap, but he's got more heart than the rest o' that bloody bunch put tergether."
"Tell me what you know, quickly. You may be wanted any minute."
The words seemed to stick in the lad's dry throat, and then they came with a gush.
"It's the doc! It's Carlsen who's turned 'em into a lot of bloody bolsheviks, sir. Told 'em they ought to have an ekal share in the gold. Ekal all round, all except Tamada—an' me. I don't count. An' Tamada's a Jap. The men is sore at Mr. Lund becoz he sez the skipper left him be'ind on the ice. Carlsen's worked that up, too. Said Lund made 'em all out to be cowards. 'Cept Hansen, that is. He don't dare say too much, or they'd jump him, but Hansen sort of hints that Cap'n Simms ought to have gone back after Lund, could have gone back, is the way Hansen put it. So they're all goin' to strike."
Rainey's mind reacted swiftly to Sandy's talk. It seemed inconceivable that Carlsen would be willing to share alike with the hunters and the crew. Sandy's imagination had been running wild, or the men had been making a fool of him. The girl's share would be thrown into the common lot. And then flashed over him the trick by which Carlsen had disposed of all the ammunition in the hunters' possession. He had a deeper scheme than the one he fed to the hunters, and which he merely offered to serve some present purpose. Rainey's jaw muscles bunched.
"Go on, Sandy," he said tersely.
"There ain't much more, sir. They're goin' to put it up to Lund. First they figgered some on settin' him ashore with you an' the Jap. That's what Carlsen put up to 'em. But they warn't in favor of that. Said Lund found the gold, an' ought to have an ekal share with the rest. An' they're feelin' diff'runt about you, sir, since you saved me. Not becoz it was me, but becoz it was what Deming calls a damn plucky thing to do."
"How did you learn all this?" demanded Rainey.
"Scraps, sir. Here an' there. The sailors gams about it nights when they thinks I'm asleep in the fo'c's'le. An' I keeps my ears open when I waits on the hunters. But they ain't goin' to give you no share becoz you warn't in on the original deal. But they ain't goin' to maroon you, neither, unless Lund bucks an' you stand back of him."
"How about Captain Simms?"
"Carlsen sez he'll answer for him, sir. He boasts how he's goin' to marry the gal. That'll giv' him three shares—countin' the skipper's. The men don't see that, but I did. He's a bloody fox, is Carlsen."
"When's this coming off?" asked Rainey.
"Quick! They're goin' to sight land ter-morrer, they say. I heard that this mornin'. I hid in my bunk. It heads ag'inst the wall of the hunters' mess an', if it's quiet, you can hear what they say.
"They ain't goin' in to Bering Strait through Unimak Pass. They're goin' in through Amukat or Seguam Pass. An' they'll put it up to Lund an' the skipper somewheres close by there. An' that's where you two'll get put off, if you don't fall in line."
"All right, Sandy. You're smarter than I thought you were. Sure of all this?"
"I ain't much to look at, sir, but I ain't had to buck my own way without gittin' on ter myself. You won't give me away, though? They'd keelhaul me."
"I won't. You cut along. And if we happen to come out on top, Sandy, I'll see that you get a share out of it."
"Thank you, sir."
"I'll come out with you," said Rainey. "If any one comes in before you get clear, I'll give you an order. I sent for you, understand."
But Sandy got back into the galley without any trouble. Rainey began to pace the cabin again, and then went back into his own room to line the thing up. Lund was asleep, but he would waken him, he decided, filled with admiration at the blind man's sagacity and the way he had foreseen the general situation.
There was not much time to lose. He did not see what they could do against the proposition. He was sure that Lund would not consent to it. And he might have some plan. He had hinted that he had cards up his sleeve.
What Carlsen's ultimate plans were Rainey did not bother himself with. That it meant the fooling of the whole crew he did not doubt. He intended eventually to gather all the gold. And the girl—she would be in his power. But perhaps she wanted to be? Rainey got out of his blind alley of thought and started into the main cabin to give Lund the news.
The girl was coming out of her father's room.
"Any better?" asked Rainey.
"No. I can't understand it. He seems hardly to know me. Doctor Carlsen came along because of father's sciatica, but—there's something else—and the doctor can't help it any. I can't quite understand—"
She stopped abruptly.
"Have you known the doctor long?" asked Rainey.
"For a year. He lives in Mill Valley, close to my uncle. I live with my father's brother when father is at sea. But this time I wanted to be near him. And the doctor—"
Again she seemed to be deliberately checking herself from a revelation that wanted to come out.
"Did he practise in Mill Valley? Or San Francisco?" asked Rainey, remembering Lund's outburst against Carlsen's professional powers.
"No, he hasn't practised for some years. That was how it happened he was able to go along. Of course, father promised him a certain share in the venture. And he was a friend."
She trailed off in her speech, looking uncertainly at Rainey. The latter came to a decision.
"Miss Simms," he said, "are you going to marry Doctor Carlsen?"
Suddenly Rainey was aware that some one had come into the cabin. It was Carlsen, now swiftly advancing toward him, his face livid, his mouth snarling, and his black eyes devilish with mischief.
"I'll attend to this end of it," he said. "Peggy, you had better go in to your father. I'll be in there in a minute. He's a pretty sick man," he added.
His snarl had changed to a smile, and he seemed to have swiftly controlled himself. The girl looked at both of them and slowly went into the captain's room. Carlsen wheeled on Rainey, his face once more a mask of hate.
"I'll put you where you belong, you damned interloper," he said. "What in hell do you mean by asking her that question?"
"That is my business."
"I'll make it mine. And I'll settle yours very shortly, once and for all. I suppose you're soft on the girl yourself," he sneered. "Think yourself a hero! Do you think she'd look at you, a beggarly news-monger? Why, she—"
"You can leave her out of it," said Rainey, quietly. "As for you, I think you're a dirty blackguard."
Carlsen's hand shot back to his hip pocket as Rainey's fist flashed through the opening and caught him high on the jaw, sending him staggering back, crashing against the partition and down into the cushioned seat that ran around the place.
But his gun was out. As he raised it Rainey grappled with him. Carlsen pulled trigger, and the bullet smashed through the skylight above them, while Rainey forced up his arm, twisting it fiercely with both hands until the gun fell on the seat.
Simultaneously the girl and Lund appeared.
"Gun-play?" rumbled the giant. "That'll be you, Carlsen! You're too fond of shooting off that gat of yores."
Rainey had stepped back at the girl's exclamation. Carlsen recovered his gun and put it away, while Peggy Simms advanced with blazing eyes.
"You coward!" she said. "If I had thought—oh!"
She made a gesture of utter loathing, at which Carlsen sneered.
"I'll show you whether I'm a coward or not, my lady," he said, "before I get through with all of you. And I'll tell you one thing: The captain's life is in my hands. And he and I are the only navigators aboard this vessel, except a fool of a blind man," he added, as he strode to the door of Simms' cabin, turned to look at them, laughed deliberately in their faces, and shut the door on them.
RAINEY MAKES DECISION
"Well?" asked Lund, "what are you goin' to do about it, Rainey? Stick with me, or line up with the rest of 'em, work yore passage, an' thank 'em for nothing when they divvy the stuff an' leave you out? You've got to decide one way or the other damn' quick, for the show-down's on the program for ter-morrer."
"You haven't said outright what you are going to do yourself," replied Rainey. "As for me, I seem to be between the devil and the deep sea. Carlsen has got some plan to outwit the men. It's inconceivable that he'll be willing to give them equal shares. And he has no use for me."
"You ought to have grabbed that gun of his before he did," said Lund. "He'll put you out of the way if he can, but, now his temper's b'iled over a bit, he'll not shoot you. Not afore the gold's in the hold. One thing, he knows the hunters wouldn't stand for it. They've got dust in their eyes right now—gold-dust, chucked there by Carlsen, but if he'd butchered you he'd likely lose his grip on 'em. I think he would. I don't believe yo're in enny danger, Rainey, if you want to buckle in an' line up with the crowd.
"As for me," he went on, his voice deepening, "I'm goin' to tell 'em to go plumb to hell. I'll tell Carlsen a few things first. Equal shares! A fine bunch of socialists they are! Settin' aside that Carlsen's bullin' 'em, as you say. Equal? They ain't my equal, none of 'em, man to man. All men are born free an' equal, says the Constitution an' by-laws of this country of ours. Granted. But they don't stay that way long. They're all lined up to toe the mark on the start, but watch 'em straggle afore they've run a tenth of the distance.
"I found this gold, an' they didn't. I don't have to divvy with 'em, an' I won't. A lot of I. W. W.'s, that's what they are, an' I'll tell 'em so. More'n that, if enny of 'em thinks he's my equal all he's got to do is say so, an' I'll give him a chance to prove it. Feel those arms, matey, size me up. Man to man, I c'ud break enny of 'em in half. Put me in a room with enny three of 'em, an' the door locked, an' one 'ud come out. That 'ud be me."
This was not bragging, not blustering, but calm assurance, and Rainey felt that Lund merely stated what he believed to be facts. And Rainey believed they were facts. There was a confident strength of spirit aside from his physical condition that emanated from Lund as steam comes from a kettle. It was the sort of strength that lies in a steady gale, a wind that one can lean against, an elastic power with big reserves of force. But the conditions were all against Lund, though he proceeded to put them aside.
"Man to man," he repeated, "I c'ud beat 'em into Hamburg steak. An' I've got brains enough to fool Carlsen. I've outguessed him so far."
"He's got the gun," warned Rainey.
"Never mind his gun. I ain't afraid of his gun." He nodded with such supreme confidence that Rainey felt himself suddenly relegating the doctor's possession of the gun to the background. "If his gun's the only thing trubblin' you, forget it. You an' me got to know where we stand. It's up to you. I won't blame you for shiftin' over. An' I can git along without you, if need be. But we've got along together fine; I've took a notion to you. I'd like to see you get a whack of that gold, an' all the devils in hell an' out of it ain't goin' to stop me from gittin' it!"
He talked in a low voice, but it rumbled like the distant roar of a bull. Rainey looked at the indomitable jaw that the beard could not hide, at the great barrel of his chest, the boughlike arms, the swelling thighs and calves, and responded to the suggestion that Lund could rise in Berserker rage and sweep aside all opposition.
It was absurd, of course; his next thought adjusted the balance that had been weighed down by the compelling quality of the man's vigor but, for the moment, remembering his earlier simile, Lund appeared a blind Samson who, by some miracle, could at the last moment destroy his enemies by pulling down their house—or their ship—about them.
"Carlsen says that the skipper's life is in his hands," he said, still evading Lund's direct question. "What do you make of that?"
"I don't know what to make of it," answered Lund. "If it is, God help the skipper! I reckon he's in a bad way. Ennyhow, he's out of it for the time bein', Rainey. I don't think he'll be present at the meetin' if he's that ill. Carlsen speaks for him. Count Simms out of it for the present."
"There's the girl," said Rainey. "I don't believe she wants to marry Carlsen."
"If she does," said Lund, "she ain't the kind we need worry about. Carlsen 'ud marry her if he thought it was necessary to git her share by bein' legal. He may try an' squeeze her to a wedding through the skipper. Threaten to let her dad die if she don't marry him, likely'll git the skipper to tie the knot. It 'ud be legal. But if you're interested about the gal, Rainey, an' I take it you are, I'm tellin' you that Carlsen'll marry her if it suits his book. If it don't, he won't. An', if he wins out, he'll take her without botherin' about prayer-books an' ceremonies. I know his breed. All men are more or less selfish an' shy on morals, in streaks more or less wide, but that Carlsen's just plain skunk."
"The men wouldn't permit that," said Rainey tersely. "If Carlsen started anything like that I'd kill him with my own hands, gun or no gun. And any white man would help me do it."
"You would, mebbe," said Lund, nodding sagely. "You'd have a try at it. But you don't know men, matey, not like I do. This ship's got a skipper now. A sick one, I grant you. But so far he's boss. An' he's the gal's father. All's usual an' reg'lar. But you turn this schooner into a free-an'-easy, equal shares-to-all, go-as-you-please outfit, let 'em git their claws on the gold, an' be on the way home to spend it—for Carlsen'll let 'em go that far afore he pulls his play, whatever it is—an' discipline will go by the board.
"Grog'll be served when they feel like it, they'll start gamblin', some of 'em'll lose all they got. There'll be sore-heads, an' they'll remember there's a gal in the after-cabin, which won't be the after-cabin enny more, for they'll all have the run of it, bein' equal; then all hell's goin' to break loose, far's that gal's concerned.
"A bunch of men who've bin at sea for weeks, half drunk, crazy over havin' more gold than they ever dreamed of, or havin' gambled it away. Jest a bunch of beasts, matey, whenever they think of that gal. They'll be too much for Carlsen to handle—an'"—he tapped at Rainey's knee—"Carlsen don't think enough of enny woman to let her interfere with his best interests."
Rainey's jaw was set and his fists clenched, his blood running hot and fast. His imagination was instinct to conjure up full-colored scenes from Lund's suggestions.
"You mean—" he began.
"Under his hide, when there ain't nothin' to hinder him, a man's plain animal," said Lund. "What do these water-front bullies know about a good gal—or care? They only know one sort. Ever think what happened to a woman in privateer days when they got one aboard, alone, on the high seas? Why, if they pushed Carlsen, he'd turn her over to 'em without winkin'."
"You hinted I was different," said Rainey. "How about you, Lund, how would you act?"
"If Carlsen wins out, I'd be chewin' mussels on a rock, or feedin' crabs," said Lund simply. "I'm no saint, but, so long as I can keep wigglin', there ain't enny hunter or seaman goin' to harm a decent gal. That's another way they ain't my equal, Rainey. Savvy? Nor is Carlsen. There ain't enough real manhood in that Carlsen to grease a skillet. How about it, Rainey; are you lined up with me?"
"Just as far as I can go, Lund. I'm with you to the limit."
Lund brought down his hand with a mighty swing, and caught at Rainey's in mid-air, gripping it till Rainey bit his lips to repress a cry of pain.
"You've got the guts!" cried the giant, checking the loudness of his voice abruptly. "I knew it. It ain't all goin' to go as they like it. Watch my smoke. Now, then, keep out of Carlsen's way all you can. He may try an' pick a row with you that'll put you in wrong all around. Go easy an' speak easy till land's sighted. If you ain't invited to this I. W. W. convention, horn in.
"Carlsen'll try an' keep you on deck, I fancy. Don't stay there. Turn the wheel over to Sandy if you have to. I'll insist on havin' you there. That'll be better. They'll probably have some fool agreement to sign. Carlsen would do that. Make 'em all feel it's more like a bizness meetin'. They'll love to scrawl their names an' put down their marks. I'll have to have you there to read it over to me; savvy?"
"What do you think Carlsen's game is, if it goes through?"
"He's fox enough to think up a dozen ways. Run the schooner ashore somewhere in the night. Wreck her. Git 'em in the boats with the gold. Inside of a week, Deming an' one or two others would have won it all. Then—he'd have the only gun—he'd shoot the lot of 'em an' say they died at sea. He ain't got enny more warm blood than a squid. Or he might land, and accuse 'em all of piracy. What do we care about his plans? He ain't goin' to put 'em over."
Rainey had to relieve Hansen. He left Lund primed for resistance against Carlsen, against all the crew, if necessary, resolved to save the girl, but, as Lund stayed below and the time slid by, his confidence oozed out of him, and the odds assumed their mathematical proportion.
What could they do against so many? But he held firm in his determination to do what he could, to go down with the forlorn hope, fighting. Blind as he was, Lund was the better man of the two of them, Rainey felt; it was better to attempt to seize the horns of the dilemma than weakly to give way and, with Lund killed, or marooned, try single-handed to protect Peggy Simms against the horrors that would come later.
He did not believe himself in love with her. The environment had not been conducive to that sort of thing. But the thought of her, their hands clasped, her eyes appealing, saying she needed a friend aboard the Karluk; the young clean beauty of her, nerved him to stand with Lund against the odds. Lund was fighting for his rights, for his gold, but he had said that he would not see a decent girl harmed as long as he could wiggle. Rough sea-bully as the giant was, he had his code. Rainey tingled with contempt of his own hesitancy.
The Karluk was bowling along northward toward landfall and the crisis between Lund and Carlsen at good speed. The weather had subsided and the half gale now served the schooner instead of hindering her. Rainey turned over the wheel to a seaman and paced the deck. The bite in the air had increased until even the smart walk he maintained failed to circulate the blood sufficiently to keep his fingers from becoming benumbed, so that he had to beat his arms across his chest.
It was well below the freezing point. If they had been sailing on fresh water, instead of salt, he fancied that the rigging would have been glazed where the spray struck it. As it was, the canvas seemed to him stiffer than usual, and there was a whitish haze about the northern horizon that suggested ice.
The tall, olive-tinted seas ranged up in dissolving hills, the wind's whistle was shrill in the rigging. Over the mainmast a gray-breasted bird with wide, unmoving pinions hung without apparent motion, its ruby eyes watching the ship, as if it was a spy sent out from the Arctic to report the adventurous strangers about to dare its dangers.
As the day passed to sunset the gloom quickly deepened. The sun sank early into banks of leaden clouds, and the Karluk slid on through the seething seas in a scene of strange loneliness, save for the suspended albatross that never varied its position by an inch or by a flirt of its plumes.
Rainey felt the dreary suggestion of it all as he walked up and down, trying to evolve some plan. Lund's mysterious hints were unsatisfactory. He could not believe them without some basis, but the giant would never go further than vague talk of a "joker" or a card up his sleeve. And they would need more than one card, Rainey thought.
He wondered whether they could win over Hansen, who had spoken for Lund against the skipper. And had then kept his counsel. But he dismissed Hansen as an ally. The Scandinavian was too cautious, too apt to consider such things as odds. Sandy was useless, aside from his good-will. He was cowed by Deming, scared of Carlsen, too puny to do more than he had done, given them warning.
Tamada? Would he fight for the share of gold he expected to come to him? Lund had described him as neutral. But, if he knew that he was to be left out of the division? It was not likely that he would be called to the conference. The Japanese undoubtedly knew the racial prejudice against him, a prejudice that Rainey considered short-sighted, taking some pains to show that he did not share it. At any rate, Tamada might provide him with a weapon, a sharp-bladed vegetable knife if nothing better.
But, if it came to downright combat, they must be overwhelmed. Carlsen's gun again assumed proper proportions. Lund might not be afraid of it, but Rainey was, very frankly. He should have snatched it from the cabin cushions. But Tamada? He could not dismiss Tamada as an important factor. There was no question to Rainey but that Tamada was, by caste, above his position as sealer's cook. It was true that a Japanese considered no means menial if they led to the proper end.
Was that end merely to gain possession of his share of the gold, or did Tamada have some deeper, more complicated reason for signing on to run the galley of the Karluk? Somehow Rainey thought there was such a reason. He treated Tamada with a courtesy that he had found other Japanese appreciated, and fancied that Tamada gradually came to regard him with a certain amount of good-will. But it was hard to determine anything that went on back of those unfathomable eyes, or to read Tamada's face, smooth and placid as that of an ivory image.
Tamada's galley was as orderly and efficient as the operating-room of a first-class hospital. And Tamada at his work had all the deftness and some of the dignity of a surgeon. There was no wasted move, there was no litter of preparation, every article was returned to its specified place as soon as used, and every implement and utensil was shining and spotless.
It was an hour from the third meal of the day. Tamada was juggling the food for three messes, and he was doing it with the calm precision of one who has every detail well mapped out and is moving on schedule. The boy Sandy was not there, probably engaged in laying the table for the hunters' mess, Rainey imagined.
Tamada regarded him with eyes that did not lack a certain luster, as a sloeberry might hold it, but which, beneath their hooded lids, revealed neither interest, nor curiosity, nor friendliness. They belonged in his unwrinkled face, they were altogether neutral. Yet they seemed covertly to suggest to Rainey that they might, on occasion, flame with wrath or hatred, or show the burning light of high intelligence. Seldom, he thought, while their gaze rested on him impassively, would they soften.
"Tamada," he queried, "you think I am your friend, that I would rather help you than otherwise?"
"I think that—yes?" answered the Japanese without hesitation and without servility. And his eyes slowly searched Rainey's face with appraising pertinacity for a second or two. His English, save for the oddness of his idioms and a burr that made r's of most his l's, and sometimes reversed the process, was almost perfect. His vocabulary showed study. "You are not hating me because you are Californian and I Japanese," he said. "I know that."
There was little time to spare, and there was likelihood of interruption, so Rainey plunged into his subject without introduction.
"They promised you a share of this treasure, Tamada?" he asked.
"They promised me that, yes."
"They do not intend to give it to you." There was a tiny, dancing flicker in the dark eyes that died like a spark in the night air. Rainey recalled Lund's opinion that little went on that Tamada did not know. "You may have guessed this," he hurried on, "but I am sure of it. I, too, am promised some of the gold, but they do not intend to give it to me. They will offer Mr. Lund only a small portion of what was originally arranged, the same amount as the rest of them are to get. He will refuse that to-morrow, when a meeting is to be called. Then there will be trouble. I shall stand with Mr. Lund. If we win you will get your share, whether you help us or not. If you help us I can promise you at least twice the amount you were to get."
"How can I help you? If this is to be talked over at a meeting I shall not be allowed to be present. If trouble starts it will do so immediately. Mr. Lund"—he called it Rund—"is not patient man. What can I do? How can I help you?"
Rainey was nonplused. He had seized the first opportunity of sounding the Japanese, and he had nothing outlined.
"I do not know," he said. "I must talk that over with Mr. Lund. I wanted to know if you would be on our side."
"Mr. Lund will not want me to help you. He does not like color of my skin, he does not like Japanese because he thinks they make too good living in California, and making more money than some of his countrymen. I do not think it help you for me to join. I do not see how you can win. If you can show some way out I will do what I can. But I like to see way out."
He mollified the bald acknowledgment of his neutrality with a little bow and a hissing-in breath. Back of it all was a will that was inflexible, thought Rainey.
"If we lose, you lose," he went on lamely. He had come on a fool's errand, he decided.
"I think I shall get my money," said Tamada, and something looked out of his eyes that betrayed a purpose already gained, Rainey fancied, as a chess player might gain assurance of victory by the looking ahead to all conceivable moves against him, and providing a counter-play that would achieve the game. It was borne in upon him that Tamada had resources he could not fathom. The Oriental gave a swift smile, that held no mirth, no friendship, rather, a sardonic appreciation of the situation, without rancor.
"They are very foolish," he said. "They make me cook, they eat what I serve. They say Tamada is very good cook. But he is Jap, damn him. Suppose I put something in that food, that they would not taste? I could send them all to sleep. I could kill them. I could do it so they never suspect, but would go to their beds—and never get up from them. It would be very easy. Yet they trust me."
The statement was so matter-of-fact that Rainey felt his horror gather slowly as he stared at the impassive Oriental.
"You would do that? What good would it do you? You would have to kill them all, or the rest would tear you apart. And if you murdered the whole ship where would you be? You talk as if you were a little mad. Suppose I told Carlsen of this?"
Tamada was smiling again. He seemed to know that Rainey was in no position to betray him—if he wished to do so.
"I did not say I would do it. And, except under certain circumstances, it do me little good. I do not expect to do it. But it would be easy. Yet, as you say, it would not help you to kill only few, those who will be at the meeting, for example, even if I wish to do. No, I do not see way out. If, at any time there should seem way out and I can help you, I will."
He turned abruptly to a simmering pot and rattled the lid. The hunter, Deming, stuck his head in at the door.
"Smells good," he said. "Evening, Mr. Rainey."
He seemed disposed to linger, and Rainey, not to excite suspicion toward himself or Tamada, went back on deck. What did Tamada mean by "except under certain circumstances"? he asked himself. For one thing he felt sure that Tamada had some basis for his expression that he expected to get his money. He knew something. Was it merely the Oriental method of jiu-jitsu, practised mentally as well as physically, the belief in a seemingly passive resistance against circumstances, waiting for some move that, by its own aggressiveness, would give him an opening for a trick that would secure him the advantage? What could one Japanese hope to do against the crowd?
A thought suddenly flashed over Rainey. Was Tamada in league with Carlsen? Had he mistaken his man? Did Carlsen plan to have Tamada undertake a wholesale poisoning to secure the gold himself, providing the drugs? Was it a friendly hint from the Japanese?
Still mulling over it he went down to supper. The girl was not present. Carlsen appeared in an unusual mood.
"I was a bit hasty, Rainey," he said, with all appearance of sincerity. "I've been worried a bit over the skipper. He's in a bad way.
"Forget what happened, if you can. I apologize. Though I still think your interference in my private affairs unwarranted. I'll call it square, if you will."
He nodded across the table at Rainey, saving the latter a reply which he was rather at a loss how to word. Amenities from Carlsen were likely a Greek gift. And Carlsen rattled on during the meal in high good spirits, rallying Rainey about his poker game with the hunters, joking Lund about his shooting, talking of the landfall they expected the next day.
To Rainey's surprise Lund picked up the talk. There was a subtle, sardonic flavor to it on both sides and, once in a while, as Tamada, like an animated sphinx, went about his duties, Rainey saw the eyes of Carlsen turned questioningly upon the giant as if a bit puzzled concerning the exact spirit of his sallies.
Rainey admired while he marveled at the sheer skill of Lund in this sort of a fencing bout. He never went far enough to arouse Carlsen's suspicions, yet he showed a keen sense of humorous appreciation of Carlsen's half-satirical sallies that, in the light of Sandy's revelation, showed the doctor considered himself the master of the situation, the winner of a game whose pieces were already on the board, though the players had not yet taken their places. Yet Rainey fancied that Carlsen qualified his dismissal of Lund as a "blind fool" before they rose from the table, without disturbing his own equanimity as the craftier of the two.
Later, when his watch was ended and he was closeted with Lund in the latter's cabin, the giant promptly quashed all discussion of Tamada's attitude.
"I'll put no trust in any slant-eyed, yellow-skinned rice-eater," he announced emphatically. "They're against us, race an' religion. They want California, or rather, the Pacific coast, an' they think they're goin' to git it. They're no more akin to us than a snake is a cousin to an eel. They're not of our breed, an' you can't mix the two. I'll have no deal with Tamada, beyond gettin' dope out of him. If he helped us it 'ud be only to further his own ends. Not that he can do much—unless—"
He lowered his voice to a husky whisper.
"There's one thing may slip in our gold-gettin', matey," he said—"the Japanese. I doubt if this island is set down on American or British charts. But I'll bet it is on the Japanese. I don't know as any nation has openly claimed it, but it's a sure thing the Japs know of its existence. They don't know of the gold, or it wouldn't be there. Rightly, the island may belong to Russia, but, since the war, Russia's in a bad way, an' ennything loose from the mainland'll be gobbled by Japan.
"What the Japs grab they don't let go of. On general principles they patrol the west side of Bering Strait. If one of their patrols sees us we'll be inside the sealin' limit, an' they'll have right of search. They'd take it, ennyway, if they sighted us. They go by power of search, not right. They won't find enny pelts on us, we've got hunters aboard, we're pelagic sealers, they won't be able to hang up enny clubbin' of herds on us.
"But, if they should suspicion us of gittin' gold off enny island they c'ud trump up to call theirs, if they found gold on us at all, it 'ud be all off with us an' the Karluk. We'd be dumped inside of some Jap prison an' the schooner confiscated.
"An', if things go right with us, an' we ever sight the smoke of a Jap gunboat comin' our way, the first thing I'll be apt to do will be to scrag Tamada or he'll blow the whole proposition, whether we've got the gold aboard or not. Even if he didn't want to tell becoz of his own share, they'd git it out of him what we was after."
Did this, wondered Rainey, explain Tamada's "certain circumstances"? Was he calculating on the arrival of a Japanese patrol? Had he already tipped off to his consul in San Francisco the purpose of the expedition, sure of a reward equal to what his share would have been? If so, Rainey had made a muddle of his attempt to sound Tamada. He felt guilty, glad that Lund could not see his face, and he dropped the subject abruptly.
Lund seemed to know that something was amiss.
"Nervous, Rainey?" he asked. "That's becoz you've not bin livin' a man's life. All yore experience has bin second-hand, an' you've never gone into a rough-an'-tumble, I take it. You'll make out all right if it comes to that at all. Yo're well put up, an' you've got solid of late. Now yo're goin' to git a taste of life in the raw. Not story-book stuff. It's strong meat sometimes, an' liable to turn some people's stomachs. I've got an appetite for it, an' so'll you have, after a bit.
"Ever play much at cards?" he went on. "Play for yore last red when you don't know where to turn for another, an' have all the crowd thinkin' yo're goin' broke as they watch the play? An' then you slap down a card they've all overlooked an' larf in the other chap's face?
"That's what I'm goin' to do with Carlsen. I've got that kind of a card, matey, an' I ain't goin' to spoil my fun by tellin' even you what it is, though yo're my partner in this gamble. It's a trump, an' Carlsen's overlooked it. He figgers he's stacked the deck an' fixed it so's he deals himself all the winnin' cards. But there's one he don't know is there becoz he's more of a blind fool than I am, is Doctor Carlsen."
Lund chuckled hugely as he mixed himself some whisky and water. Rainey refused a drink. Lund was right, he was nervous, bothering over what the outcome might be, and how he might handle himself. He was not at all sure of his own grit.
Lund had hit the nail on the head. All his experience had lain in listening to the stories of others and writing them down. He did not know whether he would act in a manner that would satisfy himself. There was a nasty doubt as to his own prowess and his own courage that kept cropping up. And that state of mind is not a pleasant one.
"All be over this time ter-morrer," put in Lund, "so far as our bisness with Carlsen is concerned. You git all the sleep you can ter-night, Rainey. An' don't you worry none about that gal. She's a damn' sight more capable of lookin' after herself than you imagine. You ain't counted her in as bein' more than a clingin' vine proposition. Not that she could buck it on her own, but she's no fool, an' I bet she's game.
"Soft on her?" he challenged unexpectedly.
"I haven't thought of her in that way," Rainey answered, a bit shortly.
"Ah!" the giant ejaculated softly. "You haven't? Wal, mebbe it's jest as well."
Rainey took that last remark up on deck and pondered over it in the middle watch, but he could make nothing out of it. Yet he was sure that Lund had meant something by it.
In the middle of the night the cold seemed to concentrate. Rainey had found mittens in the schooner's slop-chest, and he was glad of them at the wheel. The sailors, with but little to do, huddled forward. One man acted as lookout for ice. The smell of this was now unmistakable even to Rainey's inexperience. On certain slants of wind a sharper edge would come that bit through ordinary clothes. It was, he thought, as if some one had suddenly opened in the dark the doors of an enormous refrigerator. He knew what that felt like, and this was much the same.
The weather was still clearing. In the sky of indigo the stars were glittering points, not of gold, but steel, hard and cold. Ahead, the northern lights were projected above the horizon in a low arch of quivering rose. And, out of the north, before the wind, the sea advanced in the long, smooth folds of a weighty swell over which the Karluk wore her way into the breeze, clawing steadily on to the Aleutians and a passage through to Bering Strait.
At two bells the hunters began to come on deck for a breath or so of fresh air after the closeness of their quarters, as they invariably did following a poker session. They did not come aft or give any greeting to Rainey, but walked briskly about in couples, discussing something that Rainey did not doubt was the next day's meeting. Doubtless, in the confidence of their numbers, they considered it a mere formality. Lund would take what they offered—or nothing. And Carlsen had guaranteed the skipper's signature to an agreement.
They got their lungs recharged with good air, and then the cold drove them below, and Rainey, with the length of the schooner between him and the watch, was practically alone. He went over and over the situation as a squirrel might race around the bars of his revolving cylinder, and came to only one conclusion, the inevitable one, to let the matter develop itself. Lund's winning card he had bothered about until his brain was tired. The only thing he got out of all his fussing was the one new thought that seemed to fly out at a tangent and mock him.
If Carlsen was deposed, and the skipper continued ill—to face the worst but still plausible—if Carlsen, being deposed, refused to act, and the skipper was too sick to leave his room—who was going to navigate the schooner? Not a blind man. And Rainey couldn't learn navigation in a day. There was more to it in these perilous seas than mere reckoning. Ice was ahead.
What could Lund make of that? Supposing that card of his did win, how could they handle the schooner? He, in his capacity of eyes for Lund, would be about as competent as a poodle trying to lead a blind pedler out of a maze.
The lookout broke in on his mulling over with a sudden shout.
"Ice! Ice! Close on the starboard bow!"
Rainey put the helm over, throwing the Karluk on the opposite tack.
The berg slipped by them, not as he had imagined it, a thing of sparkling minarets and pinnacles, but a hill of snow that materialized in the soft darkness and floated off again to dissolution like the ghost of an island, leaving behind the bitter chill of death, rising and falling until, in a moment, it was gone, with its threat of shipwreck had the night been less clear.
Five times before eight bells the cry came from forward, and the heaps of shining whiteness would take form, gather a certain sharpness of outline, and go past the beam with the seas surging about them and breaking with a hollow boom upon their cavernous sides. And this was in the open sea. Lund had suggested that the strait would be full of ice. Rainey felt his sailing experience, that he came to be rather proud of, pitifully limited and inadequate in the face of coming conditions.
When he turned in at last, despite his determination to follow Lund's admonition concerning sleep, it would not come to him. Hansen had taken over the deck stolidly enough, with no show of misgivings as to his ability to handle things, but his words had not been cheering to Rainey.
"Plenty ice from now on, Mr. Rainey. Now we bane goin' to have one hard yob on our hands, by yiminy, you an' me!"
THE POT SIMMERS
Rainey was awakened at half past seven by the swift rush of men on deck and a confused shouting. The sun was shining brightly through his porthole and then it became suddenly obscured. He looked out and saw a turreted mass of ice not half a cable's length away from the schooner, water cascading all over its hills and valleys, that were distinct enough, but so smoothed that the truth flashed over him. Here was a berg that had suddenly turned turtle and exposed its greater, under-water bulk to the air.
About it the sea was dark and vivid blue, and the berg sparkled in the sun with prismatic reflections that gave all the hues of the rainbow to its prominences, while the bulk glowed like a fire opal. Between it and the schooner the sea ran in a lasher of diminishing turmoil. Hansen had carelessly sailed too close. The momentum of the Karluk and its slight wave disturbance must have sufficed to upset the equilibrium of the berg, floating with only a third of its bulk above the water. And the displacement had narrowly missed the schooner's side.
He got a cup of coffee after dressing warmly, and went up. Carlsen and the girl had preceded him and were gazing at the iceberg. The doctor seemed to be in the same rare vein of humor as overnight. Lund stood at the rail with his beak of a nose wrinkled, snuffing toward the icy crags that were spouting a dazzle of white flame, set about with smaller, sudden flares of ruby, emerald and sapphire.
"Close shave, that, Rainey," called Carlsen. "She turned turtle on us."
"Too close to be pleasant," said Rainey, and went to the wheel. The girl had given him a smile, but he marked her face as weary from sleeplessness and strain. Rainey left the spokes in charge of Hansen for a minute—Hansen stolid and chewing like an automaton, undisturbed by the incident now it had passed—and asked the girl how her father was.
"I am afraid—" she began, then glanced at Carlsen.
"He is not at all well," said the doctor, facing Rainey, his face away from the girl. As he spoke he left his mouth open for a moment, his tongue showing between his white teeth, in a grin that was as mocking as that of a wolf, mirthless, ruthless, triumphant. And for a fleeting second his eyes matched it.
Rainey restrained a sudden desire to smash his fist into that sardonic mask. This was the day of Carlsen's anticipated victory, the first of his calculated moves toward check-mate, and he was palpably enjoying it.
"Not—at—all—well," repeated Carlsen slowly. "He needs something to bring him out of himself, as he now is. A little excitement. Yet he should not be crossed in any way. We shall see."
He shifted his position and looked at the girl much as a wolf, not particularly hungry, might look at a tethered lamb. His tongue just touched the inner edges of his lips. It was as if the wolf had licked his chops.
"Carlsen would be a bad loser," Lund had once said, "and a nasty winner. He'd want to rub it in as soon as he knew he had you beat."
Rainey gripped the spokes hard until he felt the pressure of his bones against the wood. Carlsen's attitude had had one good effect. His nervousness had disappeared, and a cold rage taken its place. He could cheerfully have attempted to throttle Carlsen without fear of his gun. For that matter, he had faced the pistol once and come off best. What a fool he had been, though, to let Carlsen regain his automatic! Now he was anxious for the landfall, keen for the show-down.
Far on the horizon, northward, he sighted glimmering flashes of milky whiteness that came and went to the swing of the schooner. This could not be land, he decided, or they would have announced it. It was ice, pack-ice, or floes. He tried to recollect all that he had heard or read of Arctic voyages, and succeeded only in comprehending his own ignorance. Of the rapidly changing conditions the commonest sailor aboard knew more than he. Blind Lund, sniffing to windward, smelled and heard far more than he could rightfully imagine.
Tamada appeared and announced breakfast.
"You'll be coming later, Rainey?" asked Carlsen. "You and Lund?"
He started for the companionway and the girl followed. As she passed the wheel Rainey spoke to her:
"I am sorry your father is worse, Miss Simms," he said.
She looked at him with eyes that were filled with sadness, that seemed liquid with tears bravely held back.
"I am afraid he is dying," she answered in a low voice. "Thank you, for you sympathy. I—"
She stopped at some slight sound that Rainey did not catch. But he saw the face of Carlsen framed in the shadow of the companion, his mouth open in the wolf grin, and the man's eyes were gleaming crimson. He held up a hand for the girl. She passed down without taking it.
Lund came over to Rainey.
"Clear weather, they tell me?" he said. "That's unusual. Fog off the Aleutians three hundred an' fifty days of the year, as a rule. Soon as we sight land, which'll be Unalaska or thereabouts, he'll have the course changed. There's a considerable fleet of United States revenue cutters at Unalaska, an' Carlsen won't pull ennything until we're well west of there. He's pretty cocky this mornin'. Wal, we'll see."
There had always been a certain rollicking good-humor about Lund. This morning he was grim, his face, with its beak of a nose and aggressive chin beneath the flaming whiskers, and his whole magnificent body gave the impression of resolve and repressed action. Rainey fancied whimsically that he could hear a dynamo purring inside of the giant's massiveness. He had seen him in open rage when he had first denounced Honest Simms, but the serious mood was far more impressive.
The big man stepped like a great cat, his head was thrust slightly forward, his great hands were half open. One forgot his blindness. Despite the unsightly black lenses, Lund appeared so absolutely prepared and, in a different way, fully as confident as Carlsen. A certain audacious assurance seemed to ooze out of him, to permeate his neighborhood, and a measure of it extended to Rainey.
"We'll sight Makushin first," muttered Lund, as if to himself.
"Volcano, fifty-seven hundred feet high. Much ice in sight?"
Rainey described the horizon.
"All fresh-water ice," said Lund. "An' melting."
"Melting? It must be way below freezing," said Rainey. Lund chuckled.
"This ain't cold, matey. Wait till we git north. Never saw it lower than five above in Unalaska in my life. It's the rainiest spot in the U. S. A. Rains two days out of three, reg'lar. This ice is comin' out of the strait. Sure sign it's breakin' up. The winter freeze ain't due for six weeks yet."
Carlsen, before he went below, had sent a man into the fore-spreaders, and now he shouted, cupping his hands and sounding his news as if it had been a call to arms.
"What is it?" called Rainey back.
"High peak, sir. Dead ahead! Clouds on it, or smoke."
He came sliding down the halyards to the deck as Lund said: "That'll be Makushin. Now the fun'll commence."
From below the sailors off watch came up on deck, and the hunters, the latter wiping their mouths, fresh from their interrupted breakfast, all crowding forward to get a glimpse of the land. Rainey kept on the course, heading for the far-off volcano. Minutes passed before Carlsen came on deck. He had not hurried his meal.
"I'll take her over, Rainey," he said briefly.
Rainey and Lund were barely seated before the heeling of the schooner and the scuffle of feet told of Lund's prophesied change of course. Rainey looked at the telltale compass above his head.
"Heading due west," he told Lund.
"West it is," said the giant. "More coffee, Tamada. Fill your belly, Rainey. Get a good meal while the eatin' is good."
Although it was Hansen's watch below, Rainey found him at the wheel instead of the seaman he had left there. Carlsen came up to him smiling.
"Better let Hansen have the deck, Mr. Rainey," he said. "We're going to have a conference in the cabin at four bells, and I'd like you to be present."
"All right, sir," Rainey answered, getting a thrill at this first actual intimation of the meeting. Hansen, it seemed, was not to be one of the representatives of the seamen. And Carlsen had been smart enough to forestall Lund's demand for Rainey by taking some of the wind out of the giant's sails and doing the unexpected. Unless the hunters had suggested that Rainey be present. But that was hardly likely, considering that he was to be left out of the deal.
"In just what capacity are you callin' this conference?" Lund asked, when Carlsen notified him in turn. "The skipper ain't dead is he?"
"I represent the captain, Lund," replied the doctor. "He entirely approves of what I am about to suggest to you and the men. In fact I have his signature to a document that I hope you will sign also. It will be greatly to your interest to do so. I am in present charge of the Karluk."
"You ain't a reg'lar member of this expedition," objected Lund stolidly. "Neither am I a member of the crew, just now. But the skipper's my partner in this deal, signed, sealed and recorded. Afore I go to enny meetin' I'd like to have a talk with him personally. Thet's fair enough, ain't it?"
Several of the hunters had gathered about, and Lund's question seemed a general appeal. Carlsen shrugged his shoulders.
"If you had your eyesight," he said almost brutally, "you could soon see that the skipper was in no condition to discuss matters, much less be present."
"Here's my eyesight," countered Lund. "Mr. Rainey here. Let him see the skipper and ask him a question or two."
"What kind of question? I'm asking as his doctor, Lund."
"For one thing if he's read the paper you say he signed. I want to be sure of that. An' I don't make it enny of yore bizness, Carlsen, what I want to say to my partner, by proxy or otherwise. Second thing, I'd like to be sure he's still alive. As for yore standin' as his doctor, all I've got to say is that yo're a damned pore doctor, so fur as the skipper's concerned, ennyway."
The two men stood facing each other, Carlsen looking evilly at the giant, whose black glasses warded off his glance. It was wasting looks to glare at a blind man. Equally to sneer. But the bout between the two was timed now, and both were casting aside any veneer of diplomacy, their enmity manifesting itself in the raw. The issue was growing tense.
Rainey fancied that Carlsen was not entirely sure of his following, and relied upon Lund's indignant refusal of terms to back up his plans of getting rid of him decisively.
"Rainey can see the skipper," said Carlsen carelessly.
"All right," said Lund. "Will you do that, Rainey? Now?" And Rainey had a fleeting fancy that the giant winked one of his blind eyes at him, though the black lenses were deceiving.
He went below immediately and rapped on the door, a little surprised to see the girl appear in the opening. He had expected to find the skipper alone, and he was pretty sure that Carlsen had also expected this. The drawn expression of her face, the strained faint smile with which she greeted him, the hopeless look in her eyes, startled him.
"I wanted to see your father," he said in a low voice.
She told him to enter.
Captain Simms was lying in his bunk, apparently fully dressed, with the exception of his shoes. His cheeks had sunken, dark hollows showed under his closed eyes, the bones of his skull projected, and his flesh was the color of clay. Rainey believed that he was in the presence of death itself. He looked at the girl.
"He is in a stupor," she said. "He has been that way since last night, following a collapse. I can barely find his pulse, but his breath shows on this."
She produced a small mirror, little larger than a dollar, and held it before her father's lips. When she took it away Rainey saw a trace of moisture.
"Carlsen can not rouse him?" he asked.
"Can not—or will not," she answered in a voice that held a hard quality for all its despondency. Rainey glanced at the door. It was shut.
"What do you mean by that?" he asked, speaking low.
She looked at him as if measuring his dependency.
"I don't know," she answered dully. "I wish I did. Father's illness started with sciatica, through exposure to the cold and damp. It was better during the time the Karluk was in San Francisco though he had some severe attacks. He said that Doctor Carlsen gave him relief. I know that he did, for there were days at first when father had to stay in bed from the pain. It was in his left leg, and then it showed in frightful headaches, and he complained of pain about the heart. But he was bent on the voyage, and Doctor Carlsen guaranteed he could pull him through. But—lately—the doctor has seemed uncertain. He talks of perverted nerve functions, and he has obtained a tremendous influence over father.
"You heard what he said when—the night he tried to shoot you? You see, I am trusting you in all this, Mr. Rainey. I must trust some one. If I don't I can't stand it. I think I shall go mad sometimes. The doctor has changed. It is as if he was a dual personality—like Jekyll and Hyde—and now he is always Hyde. It is the gold that has turned his brain, his whole behavior from what he was in California before father returned and he learned of the island. He said last night that he could save father or—or—that he would let father die. I told him it was sheer murder! He laughed. He said he would save him—for a price."
She stopped, and Rainey supplied the gap, sure that he was right.
"If you would marry him?"
The girl nodded. "Father will do anything he tells him. I sometimes think he tortures father and only relieves him when father promises what he wants. Otherwise I could not understand. Last night father asked me to do this thing. Not because of any threat—he did not seem conscious of anything underhanded. He told me he looked upon the doctor as a son, that it would make him happy for me to marry him—now. That he would perform the ceremony. That he did not think he would live long and he wanted to see me with a protector.
"It was horrible. I dare not hint anything against the doctor. It brings on a nervous attack. Last night my refusal caused convulsions, and then—the collapse! What can I do? If I made the sacrifice how can I tell that Doctor Carlsen could—would save him? What shall I do?"
She was in an agony of self-questioning, of doubt.
"To see him lie there—like that. I can not bear it."
"Miss Simms," said Rainey, "your father is not in his right mind or he would see Carlsen as you do, as I do. Carlsen's brain is turned with the lure of the gold. If he marries you, I believe it is only for your share, for what you will get from your father. It can not be right to do a wrong thing. No good could come from it. But—something may happen this morning—I can not tell you what. I do not know, except that Lund is to face Carlsen. It may change matters."
"Lund," she said scornfully. "What can he do? And he accused my father of deserting him. I—"
A knock came at the door, and it started to open. Carlsen entered.
"Ah," he said. "I trust I have not disturbed you. I had no idea I should interrupt a tete-a-tete. Are you satisfied as to the captain's condition, Mr. Rainey?"
Rainey looked the scoffing devil full in his eyes, and hot scorn mounted to his own so swiftly that Carlsen's hand fell away from the door jamb toward his hip. Then he laughed softly.
"We may be able to bring him round, all right again, who knows?" he said.
Rainey went on deck, raging but impotent. He told Lund briefly of the talk between him and Peggy Simms, and described the general symptoms of the skipper's strange malady. It was nine o'clock, an hour to the meeting. He went down to his own room and sat on the bunk, smoking, trying to piece up the puzzle. If Carlsen was a potential murderer, if he intended to let Simms die, why should he want to marry the girl? He thought he solved that issue.
As his wife Carlsen would retain her share. If he gave her up, it would go into the common purse. But, if he expected to trick the men out of it all, that would be unnecessary. Did he really love the girl? Or was his lust for gold mingled with a passion for possession of her? He might know that the girl would kill herself before she would submit to dishonor. Perhaps he knew she had the means!
One thing became paramount. To save Peggy Simms. Lund might fight for the gold; Rainey would battle for the girl's sanctity. And, armed with that resolve, Rainey went out into the main cabin.
Carlsen took the head of the table. Lund faced him at the other end. All six of the hunters, as privileged characters, were present, but only three of the seamen, awkward and diffident at being aft. The nine, with Rainey, ranged themselves on either side of the table, five and five, with Rainey on Lund's right.
Tamada had brought liquor and glasses and cigars, and gone forward. The door between the main cabin and the corridor leading to the galley was locked after him by Deming. The girl was not present. Yet her share was an important factor.
Lund sat with folded arms, his great body relaxed. Now that the table was set, the cards all dealt, and the first play about to be made, the giant shed his tenseness. Even his grim face softened a trifle. He seemed to regard the affair with a certain amount of humor, coupled with the zest of a gambler who loves the game whether the stakes are for death or dollars.
Carlsen had a paper under his hand, but deferred its reading until he had addressed the meeting.
"A ship," he said, "is a little community, a world in itself. To its safety every member is a necessity, the lookout as much as the man at the wheel, the common seaman, the navigator. And, when a ship is engaged in a certain calling, those who are hired as experts in that line are equally essential with the rest."
"All the way from captain to—cook?" drawled Lund.
"Each depends upon his comrade's fulfilment of duty," went on Carlsen. "So an absolute equality is evolved. Each man's responsibility being equal, his reward should be also equal. It seems to me that this status of affairs is arrived at more naturally aboard the Karluk than it might be elsewhere. We are a small company, and not easily divided. The will of the majority may easily become that of all, may easily be applied.
"Payment for all services comes on this voyage from an uncertain amount of gold that Nature, Mother of us all, and therefore intending that all her children shall share her heritage, has washed up on a beach from some deep-sea vein and thus deposited upon an uncharted, unclaimed island. It is discovered by an Indian, the discovery is handed on to another."
"Meanin' me." Lund seemed to be enjoying himself. Despite the fact that Carlsen was presiding and most evidently assumed the attributes of leader, despite the fact that ten of the twelve at the table were arrayed against him, with the rest of the seamen behind them, Lund was decidedly enjoying himself.
To Rainey, the matter of the gold was but a mask for the license that would inevitably be manifested in such a crude democracy if it was established, a license that threatened the girl, now, he imagined, watching her father, the captain of the vessel, tottering on the verge of death. His pulses raced, he longed for the climax.
"This gold," went on Carlsen, "is not a commodity made in a factory, obtained through the toil of others, through the expenditure of capital. If it were, it would not alter the principle of the thing. It is of nature's own providing for those of her sons who shall find it and gather it. Sons that, as brothers, must willingly share and share alike."
Lund yawned, showing his strong teeth and the red cavern of his mouth. The hunters gazed at him curiously. The seamen, lacking initiative, lacking imagination, a crude collection of water-front drifters, more or less wrecked specimens of humanity who went to sea because they had no other capacity—were apathetic, listening to Carlsen with a sort of awe, a hypnosis before his argument that street rabble exhibit before the jargon of a soap-box orator.
Carlsen promised them something, therefore they followed him. But the hunters, more independent, more intelligent, seemed expecting an outburst from Lund and, because it was not forthcoming, they were a little uneasy.
"Share and share alike," said Lund. "I've got yore drift, Carlsen. Let's get down to brass tacks. The idea is to divvy the gold into equal parts, ain't it? How does she split? There's twenty-five souls aboard. Does that mean you split the heap into a hundred parts an' each one gits four?"
"No." It was Deming who answered. "It don't. The Jap don't come in, for one."
"A cook ain't a brother?"
"Not when he's got a yellow skin," answered Deming. "We'll take up a collection for Sandy. Rainey ain't in on the deal. We split it just twenty-two ways. What have you got to say about it?"
His tone was truculent, and Carlsen did not appear disposed to check him. He appeared not quite certain of the temper of the hunters. Deming, like Rainey, evidently chafed under the preliminaries.
"You figger we're all equal aboard," said Lund slowly, "leavin' out Mr. Rainey, Tamada an' Sandy. You an' me, an' Carlsen an' Harris there"—he nodded toward one of the seaman delegates who listened with his slack mouth agape, scratching himself under the armpit—"are all equal?"
Deming cast a glance at Harris and, for just a moment, hesitated.
Harris squirming under the look of Deming, which was aped by the sudden scrutiny of all the hunters, found speech: "How in hell did you know I was here?" he demanded of Lund. "I ain't opened my mouth yit!"
"That ain't the truth, Harris," replied Lund composedly. "It's allus open. But if you want to know, I smelled ye."
There was a guffaw at the sally. Carlsen's voice stopped it.
"I'll answer the question, Lund. Yes, we're all equal. The world is not a democracy. Harris, so far, hasn't had a chance to get the equal share that belongs to him by rights. That's what I meant by saying that the Karluk was a little world of its own. We're all equal on board."
"Except Rainey, Tamada an' Sandy. Seems to me yore argumint's got holes in it, Carlsen."
"We are waiting to know whether you agree with us?" replied Carlsen. His voice had altered quality. It held the direct challenge. Lund accepted it.
"I don't," he answered dryly. "There ain't enny one of you my equal, an' you've showed it. There ain't enny one of you, from Carlsen to Harris, who'd have the nerve to put it up to me alone. You had to band together in a pack, like a flock of sheep, with Carlsen for sheepherder. I'm talking," he went on in a tone that suddenly leaped to thunder. "None of you have got the brains of Carlsen, becoz he had to put this scheme inter yore noddles. Deming, you think yo're a better man than Harris, you know damn' well you play better poker than the rest, an' you agreed to this becoz you figger you'll win most of the gold afore the v'yage is over. The rest of you suckers listened becoz some one tells you you are goin' to get more than what's rightly comin' to you.
"This gold is mine by right of discovery. I lose my ship through bad luck, an' I make a deal whereby the skipper gets the same as I do, an' the ship, which is the same as his daughter, gets almost as much. You men were offered a share on top of yore wages if you wanted to take the chance—two shares to the hunters. It was damned liberal, an' you grabbed at it. I got left on the ice, blind on a breakin' floe, an' you sailed off an' grabbed a handful or so of gold, enough to set you crazy.
"What in blazes would you know what to do with it, enny of you? Spill it all along the Barb'ry Coast, or gamble it off to Deming. Is there one of you 'ud have got off thet floe an', blind as I was, turned up ag'in? Not one of ye. An' when I did show you got sore becoz you'd figgered there 'ud be more with me away.
"A fine lot of skunks. You can take yore damned bit of paper an' light yore pipes with it, for all of me. To hell with it!
"Shut up!" His voice topped the murmurs at the table. Rainey saw Carlsen sitting back with his tongue-tip showing in a grin, tapping the table with the folded paper in one hand, the other in his lap, leaning back a little. He was like a man waiting for the last bet to be made before he exposed the winning hand.
"As for bein' equal, I've told you Carlsen's got the brains of you all. The skipper's dyin', Carlsen expects to marry his gal. An' he figgers thet way on pullin' down three shares to yore one. You say Rainey ain't in on the deal. He's as much so as Carlsen. Carlsen butts in as a doctor an' a fine job he's made of it. Skipper nigh dead. A hell of a doctor! Smoke up, all of you."
Carlsen sat quiet, sometimes licking his lips gently, listening to Lund as he might have listened to the rantings of a melodramatic actor. But Rainey sensed that he was making a mistake. He was letting Lund go too far. The men were listening to Lund, and he knew that the giant was talking for a specific purpose. Just to what end he could not guess. The big booming voice held them, while it lashed them.
"Equal to me? Bah! I'm a man. Yo're a lot of fools. Talk about me bein' blind. It was ice-blink got me. Then ophthalmy matterin' up my eyes. It's gold-blink's got you. Yo're cave-fish, a lot of blind suckers."
He leaned over the table pointing a massive square finger, thatched with red wool, direct at Carlsen, as if he had been leveling a weapon.
"Carlsen's a fake! He's got you hipped. He thinks he's boss, becoz he's the only navigator of yore crowd. I ain't overlooked that card, Carlsen. That ain't the only string he's got on ye. Nor the three shares he expects to pull down. He made you pore suckers fire off all your shells; he found out you ain't got a gun left among you that's enny more use than a club. He's got a gun an' he showed you how he could use it. He's sittin' back larfin' at the bunch of you!"
The men stirred. Rainey saw Carlsen's grin disappear. He dropped the paper. His face paled, the veins showed suddenly like purple veins in dirty marble.
"I've got that gun yet, Lund," he snarled.
Lund laughed, the ring of it so confident that the men glanced from him to Carlsen nervously.
"Yo're a fake, Carlsen," he said. "And I've got yore number! To hell with you an' yore popgun. You ain't even a doctor. I saw real doctors ashore about my eyes. Niphablepsia, they call snow-blindness. I'll bet you never heard of it. Yo're only a woman-conning dope-shooter! Else you'd have known that niphablepsia ain't permanent! I've bin' gettin' my sight back ever sence I left Seattle. An' now, damn you for a moldy hearted, slimy souled fakir, stand up an' say yo're my equal!"
He stood up himself, towering above the rest as they rose from their chairs, tearing the black glasses from his eyes and flinging them at Carlsen, who was forced to throw up a hand to ward them off. Rainey got one glimpse of the giant's eyes. They were gray-blue, the color of agate-ware, hard as steel, implacable.
Carlsen swept aside the spectacles and they shattered on the floor as he leaped up and the automatic shone in his hand. Lund had folded his arms above his great chest. He laughed again, and his arms opened.
In an instant Rainey caught the object of Lund's speech-making. He had done it to enrage Carlsen beyond endurance, to make him draw his gun. Giant as he was, he moved with the grace of a panther, with a swiftness too fast for the eye to register. Something flashed in his right hand, a gun, that he had drawn from a holster slung over his left breast.
The shots blended. Lund stood there erect, uninjured. A red blotch showed between Carlsen's eyes. He slumped down into his chair, his arms clubbing the table, his gun falling from his nerveless hand, his forehead striking the wood like the sound of an auctioneer's gavel. Lund had beaten him to the draw.
Lund, no longer a blind Samson, with contempt in his agate eyes, surveyed the scattering group of men who stared at the dead man dully, as if gripped by the exhibition of a miracle.
"It's all right, Miss Simms," he said. "Jest killed a skunk. Rainey, git that gun an' attend to the young lady, will you?"
The girl stood in the doorway of her father's cabin, her face frozen to horror, her eyes fixed on Lund with repulsion. As Rainey got the automatic, slipped it into his pocket, and went toward her, she shrank from him. But her voice was for Lund.
"You murderer!" she cried.
Lund grinned at her, but there was no laughter in his eyes.
"We'll thrash that out later, miss," he said. "Now, you men, jump for'ard, all of you. Deming, unlock that door. Jump! Equals, are you? I'll show you who's master on this ship. Wait!"
His voice snapped like the crack of a whip and they all halted, save Deming, who sullenly fitted the key to the lock of the corridor entrance.
"Take this with you," said Lund, pointing to Carlsen's sagging body. "When you git tired of his company, throw him overboard. Jump to it!"
The nearest men took up the body of the doctor and they all filed forward, silently obedient to the man who ordered them.
"They ain't all whipped yit," said Lund. "Not them hunters. They're still sufferin' from gold-blink, but I'll clean their eyesight for 'em. Look after the lady an' her father, Rainey."
Tamada entered as if nothing had happened. He carried a tray of dishes and cutlery that he laid down on the table.
"Never mind settin' a place for Carlsen, Tamada," said Lund. "He's lost his appetite—permanent." The Oriental's face did not change.
"Yes, sir," he answered.
The girl shuddered. Rainey saw that Lund was exhilarated by his victory, that the primitive fighting brute was prominent. Carlsen had tried to shoot first, goaded to it; his death was deserved; but it seemed to Rainey that Lund's exhibition of savagery was unnecessary. But he also saw that Lund would not heed any protest that he might make, he was still swept on by his course of action, not yet complete.
"I'll borrow Carlsen's sextant," said Lund. "Nigh noon, an' erbout time I got our reckonin'." He went into the doctor's cabin and came out with the instrument, tucking it under his arm as he went on deck.
Tamada went stolidly on with his preparations. He paused at the little puddle of blood where Carlsen's head had struck the table, turned, and disappeared toward his galley, promptly emerging with a wet cloth.
The girl put her hands over her eyes as Tamada methodically mopped up the telltale stains.
"The brute!" she said. Then took away her hands and extended them toward Rainey.
"What will he do with my father?" she said. "He thinks that dad deserted him. And the doctor, who might have saved him, is dead. My God, what shall I do? What shall I do?"
Rainey found himself murmuring some attempts at consolation, a defense of Lund.
"You too?" she said with a contempt that, unmerited as it was, stung Rainey to the quick. "You are on his side. Oh!"
She wheeled into her father's room and shut the door. Rainey heard the click of the bolt on the other side. Tamada was going on with his table-laying. Rainey saw that he had left Carlsen's place vacant. He listened for a moment, but heard nothing within the skipper's cabin. The swift rush of events was still a jumble. Slowly he went up the companionway to the deck.
Lund greeted Rainey with a curt nod. Hansen was still at the helm. The crew on duty were standing about alert, their eyes on Lund. They had found a new master, and they were cowed, eager to do their best.
"It ain't noon yet," said Lund. "I hardly need to shoot the sun with the land that close."
Rainey looked over the starboard bow to where a series of peaks and lower humps of dark blue proclaimed the Aleutian island bridge stretching far to the west.
"I'll show this crew they've got a skipper aboard," said Lund. "How's the cap'en?"
Rainey told him.
"We'll see what we can do for him," said Lund. "He's better off without that fakir, that's a cinch. Called me a murderer," he went on with a good-humored laugh. "Got spunk, she has. And she's a trim bit. A slip of a gal, but she's game. An' good-lookin' eh, Rainey?"
He shot a keen glance at the newspaperman.
"You're in her bad hooks, too, ain't ye? We'll fix that after a bit. She don't know when she's well off. Most wimmin don't. An' she's the sort that needs handlin' right. She's upset now, natural, an' she hates me."
He smiled as if the prospect suited him. A suspicion leaped into Rainey's brain. Lund had said he would not see a decent girl harmed. But the man was changed. He had fought and won, and victory shone in his eyes with a glitter that was immune from sympathy, for all his air of good-nature.
He had said that a man under his skin was just an animal. His appraisal of the girl struck Rainey with apprehension. "To the victor belong the spoils." Somehow the quotation persisted. What if Lund regarded the girl as legitimate loot? He might have talked differently beforehand, to assure himself of Rainey's support.
And Rainey suddenly felt as if his support had been uncalled upon, a frail reed at best. Lund had not needed him, would he need him, save as an aid, not altogether necessary, with Hansen aboard, to run the ship?
He said nothing, but thrust both hands into the side pockets of the pilot coat he had acquired from the ship's stores. The sudden touch of cold steel gave him new courage. He had sworn to protect the girl. If Lund, seeming more like a pirate than ever, with his cold eyes sweeping the horizon, his bulk casting Rainey's into a dwarf's by comparison, attempted to harm Peggy Simms, Rainey resolved to play the part of champion.
He could not shoot like Lund, but he was armed. There were undoubtedly more cartridges in the clip. And he must secure the rest from Carlsen's cabin immediately.
The sun reached its height, and Lund busied himself with his sextant. Rainey determined to ask him to teach him the use of it. His consent or refusal would tell him where he stood with Lund.
He felt the mastery of the man. And he felt incompetent beside him. Carlsen had been right. A ship at sea was a little world of its own, and Lund was now lord of it. A lord who would demand allegiance and enforce it. He held the power of life and death, not by brute force alone. He was the only navigator aboard, with the skipper seriously ill. As such alone he held them in his hand, once they were out of sight of land.
"Hansen," said Lund, "Mr. Rainey'll relieve you after we've eaten. Come on, Rainey. You ain't lost yore appetite, I hope. Watch me discard that spoon for a knife an' fork. I don't have to play blind man enny longer."
Food did not appeal to Rainey. He could not help thinking of the spot under the cloth where Tamada had wiped up the blood of the man just killed by Lund, sitting opposite him, making play for a double helping of victuals.
It was Lund's apparent callousness that affected him more than his own squeamishness. He could not regret Carlsen's death. With the doctor alive, his own existence would have been a constant menace. But he was not used to seeing a killing, though, in his water-front detail, he had not been unacquainted with grim tragedies of the sea.