It was Lund's demeanor that gripped him. The giant had dismissed Carlsen as unceremoniously as he might have flipped the ash from a cigar, or tossed the stub overside.
"I've got to tackle those hunters," Lund said. "I expect trouble there, sooner or later. But I'm goin' to lay down the law to 'em. If they come clean, well an' good, they git their original two shares. If not, they don't get a plugged nickel. An' Deming's the one who'll stir up the trouble, take it from me. Tell Hansen to turn in his watch-off, I shan't take a deck for a day or two, you'll have to go on handlin' it between you. I've got to make my peace with the gal, an' do what I can with the skipper."
"She'll not make peace easily. But the skipper's in a bad way."
Lund lit his pipe.
"I'd jest as soon it was war. I don't see as we can help the skipper much 'less we try reverse treatment of what Carlsen did. If we knew what that was? If he gits worse she'll let us know, I reckon. Mebbe you can suggest somethin'?"
Rainey shook his head.
"I suppose she can do more than any of us," he said.
Lund nodded, then whistled to Tamada, leaving the cabin.
"Take a bottle of whisky to the hunters' mess, with my compliments. That'll give 'em about three jolts apiece," he said to Rainey. "Long as we've won out we may as well let 'em down easy. But they'll work for their shares, jest the same. A drink or two may help 'em swaller what I'm goin' to give 'em by way of dessert in the talkin' line. See you later."
Rainey took the dismissal and went up to the relief of Hansen. He did not mention what had happened until the Scandinavian referred to it indirectly.
"They put the doc overboard, sir, soon's Mr. Lund an' you bane go below."
It seemed a summary dismissal of the dead, without ceremony. Yet, for the rite to be authentic, Lund must have presided, and the sea-burial service would have been a mockery under the circumstances. It was the best thing to have done, Rainey felt, but he could not avoid a mental shiver at the thought of the man, so lately vital, his brain alive with energy, sliding through the cold water to the ooze to lie there, sodden, swinging with the sub-sea currents until the ocean scavengers claimed him.
"All right, Hansen," he said in answer, and the man hurried off after his extra detail.
Lund came up after a while, and Rainey told him of the fate of Carlsen's body.
"I figgered they'd do about that," commented Lund. "They savvied he'd aimed to make suckers out of 'em, an' they dumped him. But they ain't on our side, by a long sight. Not that I give a damn. If they want to sulk, let 'em sulk. But they'll stand their watches, an', when we git to the beach, they'll do their share of diggin'. If they need drivin', I'll drive 'em.
"That Deming is a better man than I thought. He's the main grouch among 'em. Said if I hadn't had a gun he'd have tackled me in the cabin. Meant it, too, though I'd have smashed him. He's sore becoz I said he warn't my equal. I told him, enny time he wanted to try it out, I'd accommodate him. He didn't take it up, an' they'll kid him about it. He'll pack a grudge. I ain't afraid of their knifin' me, not while the skipper's sick. They need me to navigate."
"This might be a good chance for me to handle a sextant," suggested Rainey casually.
Lund shook his head, smiling, but his eyes hard.
"Not yet, matey," he said. "Not that I don't trust you, but for me to be the only one, jest now, is a sort of life insurance that suits me to carry. They might figger, if you was able to navigate, that they c'ud put the screws on you to carry 'em through, with me out of the way. I don't say they could, but they might make it hard for you, an' you ain't got quite the same stake in this I have."
Here was cold logic, but Rainey saw the force of it. Hansen came up early to split the watch and put their schedule right again, and Lund went below with Rainey. Lund ordered Tamada to bring a bottle and glasses, and they sat down at the table. Rainey needed the kick of a drink, and took one.
As Lund was raising his glass with a toast of "Here's to luck," the skipper's door opened and the girl appeared. She looked like a ghost. Her hair was disheveled and her eyes stared at them without seeming recognition. But she spoke, in a flat toneless voice.
"My father is dead! I—" she faltered, swayed, and seemed to swoon as she sank toward the floor. Rainey darted forward, but Lund was quicker and swooped her up in his arms as if she had been a feather, took her to the table, set her in a chair, dabbled a napkin in some water and applied it to her brows.
"Chafe her wrists," he ordered Rainey. "Undo that top button of her blouse. That's enough; she ain't got on corsets. She'll come through. Plumb worn out. That's all."
He handled her, deftly, as a nurse would a child. Rainey chafed the slender wrists and beat her palms, and soon she opened her eyes and sighed. Then she pulled away from Lund, bending over her, and got to her feet.
"I must go to my father," she said. "He is dead."
They followed her into the cabin, and Lund bent over the bunk.
"Looks like it," he whispered to Rainey. Then he tore open the skipper's vest and shirt and laid his head on his chest. The girl made a faint motion as if to stop him, but did not hinder him. She was at the end of her own strength from weariness and worry. Lund suddenly raised his head.
"There's a flutter," he announced. "He ain't gone yit. Get Tamada an' some brandy."
The Japanese, by some intuition, was already on hand, and produced the brandy. Rainey poured out a measure. The captain's teeth were tightly clenched. Lund spraddled one great hand across his jaws, pressing at their junction, forcing them apart, firmly, but gently enough, while Rainey squeezed in a few drops of brandy from the corner of his soaked handkerchief. Lund stroked the sick man's throat, and he swallowed automatically.
"More brandy," ordered Lund.
With the next dose there came signs of revival, a low moan from the skipper. The girl flew to his side. Tamada, standing by with the bottle, stepped forward, handed the brandy to Rainey, and rolled up the lid of an eye, looking closely at the pupil.
"I study medicine at Tokio," he said.
"Why didn't ye say so before?" demanded Lund. It did not occur to any of them to doubt Tamada's word. There was an air of professional assurance and an efficiency about him that carried weight. "What can you do for him? There's a medicine chest in Carlsen's room."
"I was hired to cook," said Tamada quietly. "I should not have been permit to interfere. It is not my business if a white man makes a fool of himself. Now we want morphine and hypodermic syringe."
Tamada rolled up the captain's sleeve. The flesh, shrunken, pallid, was closely spotted with dot-like scars that showed livid, as if the captain had been suffering from some strange rash.
Lund whistled softly. Rainey, too, knew what it meant. The skipper had been a veritable slave to the drug. Carlsen had administered it, prescribed it, used it as a means to bring Simms under his subjection. The girl looked strangely at Tamada.
"Would he have taken that for sciatica?" she asked.
"I think, perhaps, yes. Injection over muscle gives relief. Sometimes makes cure. But Captain Simms take too much. Suppose this supply cut off very suddenly, then come too much chills, maybe collapse, maybe—" The girl clutched his arm.
"You meant more than you said. It might mean death?"
"I don't know," replied Tamada gravely. "Perhaps, if now we have morphine, presently we give him smaller dose every time, it will be all right." He lifted up the sick man's hand and examined the nails critically. They were broken, brittle.
Rainey had gone to Carlsen's room in search of the drug and the injecting needle.
"How much d'ye suppose he took at once?" Lund asked the Japanese in a low voice.
"Fifteen grains, I think. Maybe more. Too much! Always too much drug in his veins. Much worse than opium for man."
"Carlsen's work," growled Lund. "Increased the stuff on him till he couldn't do without it. Made him a slave to dope an' Carlsen his boss. He deserved killin' jest for that, the skunk."
Rainey frantically searched through the medicine chest and, finding only five tablets marked Morphine 1 gr. in a bottle, sought elsewhere in vain. And he could find no needle. But he ran across some automatic cartridges and put them in his pockets before he hurried back.
"This is not enough," said Tamada. "And we should have needle. But I dissolve these in galley." And he hurried out. The girl had slipped down on her knees beside the bed, holding her father's hand against her lips, her eyes closed. She seemed to be praying.
Rainey and Lund looked at each other. Rainey was trying to recall something. It came at last, the memory of Carlsen slipping something in his pocket as he had come out of the captain's room. That had been the hypodermic case! As the thought lit up' his eyes he saw a flash in Lund's.
"Carlsen had the morphine on him," said Lund in a whisper, not to disturb the girl.
"And the needle!" said Rainey. "What if?" He raced out of the cabin forward, passing Tamada, coming out of the galley with the dissolved tablets in a glass that steamed with hot water. Swiftly he told his suspicions.
"They may have searched him first," he said, and went on to the hunters' cabin. They were seated about their table, talking. On seeing Rainey they stopped abruptly and viewed him suspiciously. Deming rose.
"What's the idea?" he asked and his tone was not friendly.
Rainey hurriedly explained. Deming shrugged his shoulders.
"They sewed him up in canvas in the fo'k'le," he said indifferently. "None of us went through him. I think they made the kid do the job."
Rainey found Sandy in his bunk, asleep, trying to get one of the catnaps by which he made up his lack of definitely assigned rest. The roustabout woke with a shudder, flinching under Rainey's hand.
"They made me do it," he said in answer. "None of 'em 'ud touch it till I had it sewed in an old staysail, an' a boatkedge tied on for weight. I didn't go inter his pockets. I was scared to touch it more'n I had to."
"Is that the truth, Sandy? I don't care what you took besides this little case and a bottle of tablets. You can keep the rest."
"It's the bloody truth, Mister Rainey, s'elp me," whined Sandy. And the truth was in his shifty eyes.
Rainey went back with his news. He imagined that the five grains would prove temporarily sufficient. And they could put in for Unalaska. There were surgeons there with the revenue fleet. He thought there was probably a hospital.
They would have to explain Carlsen's death. They would be asked about the purpose of the voyage, the crew examined. It might mean detention, the defeat of the expedition, the very thing that Lund had feared, the following of them to the island. He wondered how Lund would take to the plan.
He found that Tamada had administered the morphine. Already the beneficial results were apparent. The dry, frightfully sallow skin had changed and Simms was breathing freely while Tamada, feeling his pulse, nodded affirmatively to the girl's questioning glance.
"Got it?" asked Lund.
Rainey gave the result of his search.
"We'll have to put in to Unalaska," he said. "There are doctors there." The girl turned toward Lund. He smiled at the intensity of her gaze and pose.
"I play fair, Miss Peggy," he said. "Rainey, change the course."
Peggy Simms seized Lund's great paw in both her hands, and, for the first time, the tears overflowed her eyes. The Karluk came about as Rainey reached the deck and gave his orders. Then he returned to the cabin. The captain had opened his eyes.
"Peggy!" he murmured. "Carlsen, where is he? Lund! Good God, Lund, you can see?"
"Keep quiet as you can," said Tamada. Something in his voice made the skipper shift his look to the Japanese.
"Where's Carlsen?" he asked again.
"He can't come now," said Tamada.
Under the urge of the drug the skipper's brain seemed abnormally clear, his intuition heightened.
"Carlsen's dead?" he asked. Then, shifting to Lund. "You killed him, Jim?"
"How much morphine did you give me?"
"It's not enough. It won't last. There isn't any more?" he flashed out, with sudden energy, trying to raise himself.
"We're puttin' in for Unalaska, Simms," said Lund.
"'Bout seventy miles."
"Then it's too late. Too late. The pain's shifted of late—to my heart. It'll get me presently."
The girl darted a look of hate at Lund, an accusation that he met composedly, swift as the change had come from the almost reverence with which she had clasped his hand.
"I'll be gone in an hour or two," said the skipper. "Got to talk while this lasts. Jim—about leavin' you that time. I could have come back. I had words about it—with Hansen. He knows. But the gale was bad, an' the ice. It wasn't the gold, Jim. I swear it. I had the ship an' crew to look out for. An' Peggy, at home.
"I might have gone back sooner, Jim, I'll own up to that. But it wasn't the gold that did it. An'—I didn't hear what you shouted, Jim. The storm came up. We were frozen by the time we found the ship. Numb.
"Then, then; oh, God, my heart!" He sat upright, clutching at his chest, his face convulsed with spasms of pain. Tamada got some brandy between the chattering teeth. Sweat poured out on the skipper's forehead, and he sank back, exhausted but temporarily relieved. The girl wiped his brows.
"It'll get me next attack," he said presently in a weak voice. "Jim, this trouble hit me the day after we left the floe. Not sciatica, at first, but in the head. I couldn't think right. I was just numb in the brain. An' when it cleared off, it was too late. The ice had closed. We couldn't go back. I read up in my medical book, Jim, later, when the sciatica took me.
"Had to take to my bunk. Couldn't stand. I had morphine, an' it relieved me. Took too much after a while. Had to have it. Got better in San Francisco for a bit. Then Carlsen prescribed it. Morphine was my boss, an' then Carlsen, he was boss of the morphine. Seemed like—seemed like—More brandy, Tamada."
His voice was weaker when he spoke again. They came closer to catch his whispers.
"Carlsen—mind wasn't my own. Peggy—I wasn't in my right mind, honey. Not when—Carlsen—he was angel when he gave me what I wanted—devil—when he wouldn't. Made me—do things. But he's dead. And I'm going. Never reach Unalaska. Peggy—forgive. Meant for best—but—not in right mind. Jim—it wasn't the gold. Not Peggy's fault—anyway."
"She'll get hers, Simms," said Lund. "Yours too."
The skipper's eyes closed and his frame settled under the clothes. The girl flung herself on the bed in uncontrollable weeping. Lund raised his eyebrows at Tamada, who shrugged his shoulders.
"Better get out o' here," whispered Lund. He and Rainey went out together. In a few minutes Tamada joined them, his face sphinxlike as ever.
"He is dead," he said.
Rainey and Lund went on deck. The schooner thrashed toward the volcano, the bearing-mark for Unalaska, hidden behind it. They paced up and down in silence.
"I guess he was 'Honest Simms,' after all," said Lund at last. "The gal blames me for the morphine, but Carlsen never meant him to live. She'll see that after a bit, mebbe."
Rainey glanced at him curiously. He was getting fresh lights on Lund.
Then the girl appeared, pale, composed, coming straight up to Lund, who halted his stride at sight of her.
"Will you change the course, Mr. Lund?" she said.
He looked at her in surprise.
"Father spoke once more. After you left. He does not want you to go on to Unalaska. He said it would mean a rush for the gold; perhaps you would have to stay there. He does not want you to lose the gold. He wants me to have my share. He made me promise. And he wants—he wants"—she bit her lip fiercely in repression of her feelings—"to be buried at sea. That was his last request."
She turned and looked over the rail, struggling to wink back her tears. Rainey saw the giant's glance sweep over her, full of admiration.
"As you wish, Miss Peggy," he said. "Hansen, 'bout ship. Hold on a minnit. How about you, Miss Peggy? If you want to go home, we can find ways at Unalaska. I play fair. I'll bring back yore share—in full."
"I am not thinking about the gold," the girl said scornfully. "But I want to carry out my father's last wishes, if you will permit me. I shall stay with the ship. Now I am going back to him. You—you"—she quelled the tremble of her mouth, and her chin showed firm and determined—"you can arrange for the funeral to-morrow at dawn, if you will. I want him to-night."
Her face quivered piteously, but she conquered even that and walked to the companionway.
"Game, by God, game as they make 'em!" said Lund.
DEMING BREAKS AN ARM
Rainey, dozing in his bunk, going over the sudden happenings of the day, had placed Carlsen's automatic under his pillow after loading it. He found that it lacked four shells of full capacity, the two that Lund had fired at his bottle target, the one fired by Carlsen at Rainey, and the last ineffective shot at Lund, a shot that went astray, Rainey decided, largely through Lund's coup-de-theatre of tearing off his glasses and flinging them at the doctor.
The dynamo that he had idly fancied he could hear purring away inside of Lund was apparent with vengeance now, driving with full force. That was what Lund would be from now on, a driver, imperative, relentless, overcoming all obstacles; as he had himself said, selfish at heart, keen for his own ends.
Rainey was neither a weakling nor a coward, but he shrank from open encounter with Lund, and knew himself, without fear, the weaker man. The challenge of Lund, splendidly daring any one of them to come out against him alone, and challenging them en masse, had found in Rainey an acknowledgment of inferiority that was not merely physical.
Lund knew far more than he did about the class of men that made up the inhabitants of the Karluk. Rainey had once fondly hugged the delusion that he knew something of the nature of those who "went down to the sea in ships."
Now he knew that his ignorance was colossal. Such men were not complex, they moved by instinct rather than reason, they were not guided by conscience, the values of right and wrong were not intuitive with them, muscle rather than mind ruled their universe.
Yet Rainey could not solve them, and Lund knew them as one may know a favorite book.
Lund had brains, cunning, brute force that commanded a respect not all bred of being weaker. In a way he was magnificent. And Rainey vaguely heralded trouble when Captain Simms was at last given to the deep. He felt certain that the hunters under Deming were hatching something but, in the main, his mental prophecy of trouble coming was connected with the girl.
Lund had shown no disrespect to her, rather the opposite. But the girl showed hatred of Lund and, in minor measure, of Rainey. Some of this would die out, naturally. Rainey intended to attempt an adjustment in his own behalf. But he held the feeling that Lund would not tolerate this hatred against him on the part of the girl. Such scorn would arouse something in the giant's nature, something that would either strike under the lash, or laugh at it.
Dimly, Rainey saw these things as the giant gropings of sex, not as he had known it, surrounded by conventionalities, by courtesies of twentieth-century veneering, but a law, primitive, irresistible, sweeping away barriers and opposition, a thing bigger even than the lust of gold; the lure of woman for man, and man for woman.
Both Lund and the girl, he felt, would have this thing in greater measure than he would. He shared his life with too many things, with books, with amusements, with the social ping-pong of the level in which he ordinarily moved.
There had been once a girl, perhaps there still was a girl, whom Rainey had known on a visit to the camp-palace of a lumber king, high in the Sierras, a girl who rode and hunted and lived out-of-doors, and yet danced gloriously, sang, sewed and was both feminine and masculine, a maddening latter-day Diana, who had swept Rainey off his feet for the time.
But he had known that he was not up to her standards, that he was but a paper-worm, aside from his lack of means. That latter detail would, he knew, have bothered him far more than her. But she announced openly that she would only mate with a man who had lived. He rather fancied that it had been a challenge—one he had not taken up. The matrix of his own life just then was too snug a bed. Well, he was living now, he told himself.
On the border of dreams he was brought back by a strange noise on deck, a rush of feet, many voices, and topping them all, the bellow of Lund, roaring, not for help, but in challenge.
Rainey, half asleep, jumped from his bunk and rushed out of the room. He had no doubt as to what had happened; the hunters had attacked Lund! And, unused to the possession of firearms, still drowsy, he forgot the automatic, intent upon rallying to the cry of the giant. As he made for the companionway, the girl came out of her father's room.
"What is it?" she cried.
"Lund—hunters!" Rainey called back as he sped up the stairs. He thought he heard a "wait" from her, but the stamping and yelling were loud in his ears, and he plunged out on deck. As he emerged he saw the stolid face of Hansen at the wheel, his pale blue eyes glancing at the set of his canvas and then taking on a glint as they turned amidships.
Lund looked like a bear surrounded by the dog-pack. He stood upright while the six hunters tore and smashed at him. Two had caught him by the middle, one from the front and one from the rear, and, as the fight raged back and forth, they were swung off their feet, bludgeoned and kicked by Lund to stop them getting at the gun in its holster slung under his coat close to his armpit.
Lund's arms swung like clubs, his great hands plucked at their holds, while he roared volleys of deep-sea, defiant oaths, shaking or striking off a man now and then, who charged back snarlingly to the attack.
Brief though the fight had been when Rainey arrived, there was ample evidence of it. Clothes were torn and faces bloody, and already the men were panting as Lund dragged them here and there, flailing, striking, half-smothered, but always coming up from under, like a rock that emerges from the bursting of a heavy wave.
And the voice of the combat, grunts and snarls, gasping shouts and broken curses, was the sound of ravening beasts. So far as Rainey could vision in one swift moment before he ran forward, no knives were being used.
A hunter lunged out heavily and confidently to meet him as the others got Lund to his knees for a fateful moment, piling on top of him, bludgeoning blows with guttural cries of fancied victory.
Rainey's man struck, and the strength of his arm, backed by his hurling weight, broke down Rainey's guard and left the arm numb. The next instant they were at close quarters, swinging madly, rife with the one desire to down the other, to maim, to kill. A blow crashed home on Rainey's cheek, sending him back dazed, striking madly, clinching to stop the piston-like smashes of the hunter clutching him, trying to trip him, hammering at the fierce face above him as they both went down and rolled into the scuppers, tearing at each other.
He felt the man's hands at his throat, gradually squeezing out sense and breath and strength, and threw up his knee with all his force. It struck the hunter fairly in the groin, and he heard the man groan with the sudden agony. But he himself was nearly out. The man seemed to fade away for the second, the choking fingers relaxed, and Rainey gulped for air. His eyes seemed strained from bulging from their sockets in that fierce grip, and there was a fog before them through which he could hear the roar of Lund, sounding like a siren blast that told he was still fighting, still confident.
Then he saw the hunter's face close to his again, felt the whole weight of the man crushing him, felt the bite of teeth through cloth and flesh, nipping down on his shoulder as the man lay on him, striving to hold him down until he regained the strength that the blow in the groin had temporarily broken down.
For just a moment Rainey's spirit sagged, his own strength was spent, his will sapped, his lungs flattened. For a moment he wanted to lie there—to quit.
Then the hunter's body tautened for action, and, at the feel, Rainey's ebbing pride came surging back, and he heaved and twisted, clubbing the other over his kidneys until the roll of the schooner sent them twisting, tumbling over to the lee once more.
He felt as if he had been fighting for an hour, yet it had all taken place during the leap of the Karluk between two long swells that she had negotiated with a sidelong lurch to the cross seas and wind.
Rainey came up uppermost. The hunter's head struck the rail heavily. His shoulder was free, but he could see ravelings of his coat in the other's teeth. The pain in his shoulder was evident enough, and the sight of the woolly fragments maddened him. The tactics of boyish fights came back to him, and he broke loose from the arms that hugged him, hitched forward until he sat on the hunter's chest, set a knee on either bicep and battered at the other's face as it twisted from side to side helplessly, making a pulp of it, keen to efface all semblance of humanity, a brute like the rest of them, intent upon bruising, on blood-letting, on beating all resistance down to a quivering, spirit-broken mass.
The hunter lay still beneath him at last, his nerve centers shattered by some blow that had short-circuited them, and Rainey got wearily to his feet. The hunter's thumbs had pressed deep on each side of his neck, and his head felt like wood for heaviness, but shot with pain. The vigor was out of him. He knew he could not endure another hand-to-hand battle with one of the crowd still raging about Lund, who was on his feet again.
Rainey saw his face, one red mask of blood and hair, with his agate eyes flaring up with the glory of the fight. He roared no longer, saving his breath. Hands clutched for him and fists fell, a man was tugging at each knee of his legs, set far apart, sturdy as the masts themselves.
Lund's arm came up, lifting a hunter clean from the deck, shook him off somehow, and crashed down. One of the men tackling his legs dropped senseless from the buffet he got on the side of his skull, and Lund's kick sent him scudding across the deck, limp, out of the fight that could not last much longer.
All this came as Rainey, still dazed, helped himself by the skylight toward the companion, going as fast as he could to get his gun. If he did not hurry he was certain they would kill Lund. No man could withstand those odds much longer.
And, Lund killed, hell would break loose. It would be his turn next, and the girl would be left at their mercy. The thought spurred him, cleared his throbbing head, jarred by the smashes of his still senseless opponent who would be coming to before long.
Then he saw the girl, standing by the rail, not crouching, as he had somehow expected her to be, shutting out the sight of the fight with trembling hands, but with her face aglow, her eyes shining, watching, as a Roman maid might have watched a gladiatorial combat; thrilled with the spectacle, hands gripping the rail, leaning a little forward.
She did not notice Rainey as he crept by Hansen, still guiding the schooner, holding her to her course, imperturbable, apparently careless of the issue. As he staggered down the stairs the line of thought he had pursued in his bunk, broken by the noise of the fight and his participation, flashed up in his brain.
This was sex, primitive, predominant! The girl must sense what might happen to her if Lund went down. She had no eyes for Rainey, her soul was up in arms, backing Lund. The shine in her eyes was for the strength of his prime manhood, matched against the rest, not as a person, an individual, but as an embodiment of the conquering male.
He got the gun, and he snatched a drink of brandy that ran through his veins like quick fire, revivifying him so that he ran up the ladder and came on deck ready to take a decisive hand.
But he found it no easy matter to risk a shot in that swirling mass. They all seemed to be arm weary. Blows no longer rose and fell. Lund was slowly dragging the dead weight of them all toward the mast. The two men on the deck still lay there. Rainey's opponent was trying to get up, wiping clumsily at the blood on his face, blinded.
The girl still stood by the rail. Back of the wrestling mass stood the seamen, offering to take no part, their arms aswing like apes, their dull faces working. Tamada stood by the forward companion, his arms folded, indifferent, neutral.
All this Rainey saw as he circled, while the mass whirled like a teetotum. The action raced like an overtimed kinetoscopic film. A man broke loose from the scrimmage, on the opposite side from Rainey, who barely recognized the disheveled figure with the bloody, battered face as Deming. The hunter had managed to get hold of Lund's gun. Rainey's aim was screened by a sudden lunge of the huddle of men. He saw Lund heave, saw his red face bob up, mouth open, roaring once more, saw his leg come up in a tremendous kick that caught Deming's outleveling arm close to the elbow, saw the gleam of the gun as it streaked up and overboard, and Deming staggering back, clutching at his broken limb, cursing with the pain, to bring up against the rail and shout to the seamen:
"Get into it, you damned cowards! Get into it, and settle him!"
Even in that instant the sarcasm of the cry of "cowards" struck home to Rainey. The next second the girl had jumped by him, a glint of metal in her hand as she brought it out of her blouse. This time she saw him. "Come on!" she cried. And darted between the fighters and the storming figure of Deming, who tried to grasp her with his one good arm, but failed.
Rainey sped after her just as Lund reached the mast. The girl had a nickeled pistol in her hand and was threatening the sullen line of irresolute seamen. Rainey with his gun was not needed. He heard Lund shout out in a triumphant cry and saw him battering at the heads of three who still clung to him.
All through the fight Lund had kept his head, struggling to the purpose he had finally achieved, to reach the mast-rack of belaying pins, seize one of the hardwood clubs and, with this weapon, beat his assailants to the deck.
He stood against the mast, his clothes almost stripped from him, the white of his flesh gleaming through the tatters, streaked with blood. Save for his eyes, his face was no longer human, only a mass of flayed flesh and clotted beard. But his eyes were alight with battle and then, as Rainey gazed, they changed. Something of surprise, then of delight, leaped into them, followed by a burning flare that was matched in those of the girl who, with Rainey herding back the seamen, had turned at Lund's yell of victory.
Lund took a lurching step forward over the prone bodies of the men on the deck, that was splotched with blood.
"By God!" he said slowly, his arms opening, his great fingers outspread, his gaze on the girl, "by God!"
The girl's face altered. Her eyes grew frightened, cold. The retreating blood left her cheeks pale, and she wheeled and fled, dodging behind Tamada, who gave way to let her pass, his ivory features showing no emotion, closing up the fore companionway as Peggy Simms dived below.
Lund did not follow her. Instead, he laughed shortly and appeared to see Rainey for the first time.
"Jumped me, the bunch of 'em!" he said, his chest heaving, his breath coming in spurts from his laboring lungs. "Couldn't use my gun. But I licked 'em. Damn 'em! Equals? Hell!"
He seemed to have a clear recollection of the fight. He smiled grimly at Deming, who glared at him, nursing his broken arm, then glanced at the man that Rainey had mastered.
"Did him up, eh? Good for you, matey! You didn't have to use your gun. Jest as well, you might have plugged me. An' the gal had one, after all."
He seemed to ruminate on this thought as if it gave him special cause for reflection.
"Game!" he said. "Game as they make 'em!"
He surveyed the rueful, groaning combatants with the smile of a conqueror, then turned to the seamen.
"Here, you!" he roared, and they jumped as if galvanized into life by the shout. "Chuck a bucket of water over 'em! Chuck water till they git below. Then clean the decks. Off-watch, you're out of this. Below with you, where you belong. Jump!
"They all fought fair," he went on. "Not a knife out. Only Deming there, when he knew he was licked, tried to git my gun. Yo're yeller, Deming," he said, with contempt that was as if he had spat in the hunter's face. "I thought you were a better man than the rest. But you've got yores. Git down below an' we'll fix you up."
He strode over to Hansen, stolid at the wheel.
"Wal, you wooden-faced squarehead," he said, "which way did you think it was coming out? Damn me if you didn't play square, though! You kept her up. If you'd liked you could have chucked us all asprawl, an' that would have bin the end of it, with me down. You git a bottle of booze for that, Hansen, all for yore own Scandinavian belly. Come on, Rainey. Tamada, I want you."
While Tamada got splints and did what he could for the badly shattered arm, Lund taunted Deming until the hunter's face was seamed with useless ferocity, like a weasel's in a trap.
"I wonder you fix him at all, Tamada," he said. "He wanted to cut you out of yore share. Called you a yellow-skinned heathen, Tamada. What makes you gentle him that way? You've got him where you want him."
Tamada, binding up the splints professionally, looked at Deming with jetty eyes that revealed no emotion.
Lund passed his hand over his face.
"I'm some mess myself," he said, stretching his great arms. "Give me a five-finger drink, Rainey, afore I clean up. Some scrap. Hell popping on deck, and a dead man in the cabin! And the gal! Did you see the gal, Rainey?"
Out of the bloody mask of his face his agate eyes twinkled at Rainey with a sort of good-natured malice. Rainey did not answer as he poured the liquor.
"Make it four finger," exclaimed Lund. "Deming's goin' to faint. One for Doc Tamada."
The Japanese excused himself, helping Deming, worn out with pain and consumed by baffled hate, forward through the galley corridor. Then he came back with warm water in a basin—and towels.
"After this cheery little fracas," said Lund, mopping at his face, "we'll mebbe have a nice, quiet, genteel sort of ship. My gun went overboard, didn't it? Better let me have that one you've got, Rainey."
He stretched out his hand for it. Rainey delivered it, reluctantly. There was nothing else to do, but he felt more than ever that the Karluk was henceforth to be a one-man ship, run at the will of Lund.
But the girl, too, had a weapon. He hugged that thought. She carried it for her own protection, and she would not hesitate to use it. What a girl she was! What a woman rather! A woman who would mate—not marry for the quiet safety of a home. Rainey thought of her as one does of a pool that one plumbs with a stone, thinking to find it fairly shallow, only to discover it a gulf with unknown depth and currents, capable of smiling placidness or sudden storm.
THE RIFLE CARTRIDGES
The girl did not appear for the evening meal. She had refused Tamada's suggestions through the door. Lund drank heavily, but without any effect, save to sink him in comparative silence, as he and Rainey sat together, after the Japanese had cleared the table. In contrast to the excitement of the fight, their moods had changed, sobered by the thought of the girl sitting up with her dead in the captain's room.
Rainey was bruised and stiffened, and Lund moved with less of his usual ease. The flesh of his face had been so pounded that it was turning dull purple in great patches, giving him a diabolical appearance against his naming beard.
"We've got to git hold of those cartridges," he said, after a long-pause. "Carlsen had 'em planted somewhere, an' it's likely in his room. Best thing to do is to chuck 'em overboard. Cheaper to dump the cartridges an' shells than the rifles an' shotguns.
"You see," he went on, "Deming ain't quit. That's one thing with a man who's streaked with yeller, when he gits licked in the open an' knows he's licked proper, he tries to git even underhanded. He knows jest as well as I do that Carlsen was lyin' that time about there bein' no more shells. O' course the skipper may have stowed 'em away, but I doubt it. An' jest so long as he thinks there's a chance of gittin' at 'em, he'll figger on turning' the tables some day. An' he'll be workin' the rest of 'em up to the job."
"They can't do much without a navigator," suggested Rainey.
"Mebbe they figger a man'll do a lot o' things he don't want to with a rifle barrel stuck in his neck or the small of his back," said Lund grimly. "It's a good persuader. Might even have some influence on me. Then ag'in it might not."
"Where is the magazine?" asked Rainey.
"In the little room aft o' the galley. We'll look there first. Come on."
"How about keys? Carlsen's must have been in his pockets. I didn't see them when I was hunting the morphine. We can't go in there." Rainey made a motion toward the skipper's room. Lund chuckled.
"I had my keys to the safe an' the magazine when I was aboard last trip," he said. "They was with me when we went on the ice. An' I hung on to 'em. Allus thought I might have a chance to use 'em ag'in."
The strong room of the Karluk was a narrow compartment, heavily partitioned off from the galley and the corridor. There was a lamp there, and Rainey lit it while Lund closed the door behind them. The magazine was an iron chest fastened to the floor and the side of the vessel with two padlocks, opened by different keys. It was quite empty.
"Thorough man, Carlsen," said Lund. "Prepared for a show-down, if necessary. Might have put 'em in the safe. Wonder if he changed the combination? I bet Simms didn't, year in an' out."
He worked at the disk and grunted as the tumblers clicked home.
"It ain't changed," he said. "No use lookin' here." But he swung back the door and rummaged through books and papers, disturbing a chronometer and a small cash-box that held the schooner's limited amount of ready cash. There was no sign of any cartridges.
"We'll tackle Carlsen's room next," he announced. "I don't suppose you looked between the bunk mattresses, did you?"
"I never thought of it," said Rainey. "I didn't imagine there would be more than one."
"I've got a hunch you'll find two on Carlsen's bunk. An' the shells between 'em. He kep' his door locked when he was out of the main cabin an' slep' on 'em nights. That's what I'd be apt to do."
As they came into the main cabin Rainey caught Lund by the arm.
"I'm almost sure I saw Carlsen's door closing," he whispered. "It might have been the shadow."
"But it might not. Shouldn't wonder. One of 'em's sneaked in. Saw the cabin empty, an' figgered we'd turned in. While we was in the strong-room."
He took the automatic from his pocket and went straight to the door of Carlsen's room. It was locked or bolted from within.
"The fool!" said Lund. "I've got a good mind to let him stay there till he swallers some o' the drugs to fill his belly." He rapped on the panel with the butt of the gun.
"Come on out before I start trouble."
There was no answer. Lund looked uncertainly at Rainey.
"I hate to start a rumpus ag'in," he said, jerking his head toward the skipper's room. "'Count of her. Reckon he can stay there till after we've buried Simms. He's safe enough."
Rainey was a little surprised at this show of thoughtfulness, but he did not remark on it. He was beginning to think pretty constantly of late that he had underestimated Lund.
The giant's hand dropped automatically to the handle as if to assure himself of the door being fast. Suddenly it opened wide, a black gap, with only the gray eye of the porthole facing them. Lund had brought up the muzzle of his pistol to the height of a man's chest, but there was nothing to oppose it.
"Hidin', the damn fool! What kind of a game is this? Come out o' there."
Something scuttled on the floor of the room—then darted swiftly out between the legs of Lund and Rainey, on all fours, like a great dog. Curlike, it sprawled on the floor with a white face and pop-eyes, with hands outstretched in pleading, knees drawn up in some ludicrous attempt at protection, calling shrilly, in the voice of Sandy:
"Don't shoot, sir! Please don't shoot!"
Lund reached down and jerked the roustabout to his feet, half strangling him with his grip on the collar of the lad's shirt, and flung him into a chair.
"What were you doin' in there?"
Sandy gulped convulsively, feeling at his scraggy throat, where an Adam's apple was working up and down. Speech was scared out of him, and he could only roll his eyes at them.
"You damned young traitor!" said Lund. "I'll have you keelhauled for this! Out with it, now. Who sent ye? Deming?"
"You've got him frightened half to death," intervened Rainey. "They probably scared him into doing this. Didn't they, Sandy?"
The lad blinked, and tears of self-pity rolled down his grimy cheeks. The relief of them seemed to unstopper his voice. That, and the kinder quality of Rainey's questioning.
"Deming! He said he'd cut my bloody heart out if I didn't do it. Him an' Beale. Lookit."
He plucked aside the front of his almost buttonless shirt and worn undervest and showed them on his left breast the scoring where a sharp blade had marked an irregular circle on his skin.
"Beale did that," he whined. "Deming said they'd finish the job if I come back without 'em."
"Without the shells?"
"Yes, sir. Yes, Mr. Rainey. Oh, Gord, they'll kill me sure! Oh, my Gord!" His staring eyes and loose mouth, working in fear, made him look like a fresh-landed cod.
"You ain't much use alive," said Lund.
"Mebbe I ain't," returned the lad, with the desperation of a cornered rat. "But I got a right to live. And I've lived worse'n a dorg on this bloody schooner. I'm fair striped an' bruised wi' boots an' knuckles an' ends o' rope. I'd 'ave chucked myself over long ago if—"
The lad turned sullen.
"Never mind," he said, and glared almost defiantly at Lund.
"Is that door shut?" the giant asked Rainey. "Some of 'em might be hangin' 'round." Rainey went to the corridor and closed and locked the entrance.
"Now then, you young devil," said Lund. "What they did to you for'ard ain't a marker on what I'll do to you if you don't speak up an' answer when I talk. If what?"
Sandy turned to Rainey.
"They said they was goin' to give me some of the gold," he said. "They said all along I was to have the hat go 'round for me. I told you I was dragged up, but there's—there's an old woman who was good to me. She's up ag'in' it for fair. I told her I'd bring her back some dough an' if I can hang on an' git it, I'll hang on. But they'll do me up, now, for keeps."
Rainey heard Lund's chuckle ripen to a quiet laugh.
"I'm damned if they ain't some guts to the herrin' after all," he said. "Hangin' on to take some dough back to an old woman who ain't even his mother. Who'd have thought it? Look here, my lad. I was dragged up the same way, I was. An' I hung on. But you'll never git a cent out of that bunch. I don't know as they'll have enny to give you."
His face hardened. "But you come through, an' I'll see you git somethin' for the old woman. An' yoreself, too. What's more, you can stay aft an' wait on cabin. If they lay a finger on you, I'll lay a fist on them, an' worse."
"You ain't kiddin' me?"
"I don't kid, my lad. I don't waste time that way."
Sandy stood up, his face lighting. He began to empty his pockets, laying shells and shotgun cartridges upon the table.
"I couldn't begin to git harf of 'em," he said. "The rest's under the mattresses. They said they on'y needed a few. I thought you was both turned in. When you come out of the corridor I was scared nutty."
Between the mattresses, as Lund had guessed, they found the rest of the shells, laid out in orderly rows save where the lad's scrambling fingers had disturbed them. Lund stripped off a pillow-case and dumped them in, together with those on the table.
"You can bunk here," he told the grateful Sandy. "Now I'll have a few words with Deming, Beale and Company. Want to come along, Rainey?"
Lund strode down the corridor, bag in one hand, his gun in the other. Rainey threw open the door of the hunters' quarters and discovered them like a lot of conspirators. Deming was in his bunk; also another man, whose ribs Lund had cracked when he had kicked him along the deck out of his way. The bruised faces of the rest showed their effects from the fight. As Lund entered, covering them with the gun, while he swung down the heavy slip on the table with a clatter, their looks changed from eager expectation to consternation.
"Caught with the goods!" said Lund. "Two tries at mutiny in one day, my lads. You want to git it into your boneheads that I'm runnin' this ship from now on. I can sail it without ye and, by God, I'll set the bunch of ye ashore same's you figgered on doin' with me if you don't sit up an' take notice! The rifles an' guns"—he glanced at the orderly display of weapons in racks on the wall—"are too vallyble to chuck over, but here go the shells, ev'ry last one of them. So that nips that little plan, Deming."
He turned back the slip to display the contents.
"Open a port, Rainey, an' heave the lot out."
Rainey did so while the hunters gazed on in silent chagrin.
"There's one thing more," said Lund, grinning at them. "If enny of you saw a man hurtin' a dog, you'd probably fetch him a wallop. But you don't think ennything of scarin' the life out of a half-baked kid an' markin' up his hide like a patchwork quilt. Thet kid's stayin' aft after this. One of you monkey with him, an' you'll do jest what he's bin doin', wish you was dead an' overboard."
He turned on his heel and walked to the door, Rainey following.
"Burial of the skipper at dawn," said Lund. "All hands on deck, clean an' neatly dressed to stand by. An' see yore behavior fits the occasion. Deming, you'll turn out, too. No malingerin'."
It was plain that the news of the captain's death was known to them. They showed no surprise. Rainey was sure that Tamada had not mentioned it. It had leaked out through the grape-vine telegraphy of all ships. Doubtless, he thought, the after-cabin and its doings was always being spied upon.
"Will you take the service ter-morrer?" Lund asked Rainey when they were back in the cabin. "Bein' as yo're an eddicated chap?"
"Why—I don't know it. Is there a prayer-book aboard? I thought the skipper always presided."
"I'm only deputy-skipper w'en it comes down to that," said Lund. "It ain't my ship. I'm jest runnin' it under contract with my late partner. The ship belongs to the gal. And yo're top officer now, in the regular run. As to a prayer-book, there ain't sech an article aboard to my knowledge. But I'd like to have it go off shipshape. For Simms' sake as well as the gal's. I reckon he used his best jedgment 'bout puttin' back after me on the floe. I might have done the same thing myself."
Rainey doubted that statement, and set it down to Lund's generosity. Many of his late words and actions had displayed a latent depth of feeling that he had never credited Lund with possessing. He could not help believing that, in some way, the girl had brought them to the surface.
"I thought I saw a Bible in the safe," he said, "when we were looking for the shells. There may be a prayer-book. I suppose there have been occasions for it. The mate died at sea last trip."
"There may be," returned Lund. "That's where Simms 'ud keep it. He warn't what you'd call a religious man. We'll take a look afore we turn in."
There were offices to be performed for the dead captain that the girl, with all her willingness, could not attempt. Lund did not mention them, and Rainey vacillated about disturbing her until he saw Tamada go through the cabin with folded canvas and a flag. The Japanese tapped on the door, which was instantly opened to him. He had been expected.
There was no doubt that Tamada, with his medical experience, was best fitted for the task, but it seemed to Rainey also that the girl had deliberately ignored their services and that, despite her involuntary admiration of Lund's fight against odds, or in revulsion of it, she reckoned them hostile to her sentiments. Lund roused him by talking of the burial-service for Simms.
"You're a writer," he said. "What's the good of knowin' how to handle words if you can't fake up some sort of a service? One's as good as another, long as it sounds like the real thing.
"I reckon there's a God," he went on. "Somethin' that started things, somethin' that keeps the stars from runnin' each other down, but, after He wound up the clock He made, I don't figger He bothers much about the works.
"Luck's the big thing that counts. We're all in on the deal. Some of us git the deuces an' treys, an' some git the aces. If yo're born lucky things go soft for you. But, if it warn't for luck, for the chance an' the hope of it, things 'ud be upside down an' plain anarchy in a jiffy. If it warn't the pore devil's idea that his luck has got to change for the better, mebbe ter-morrer, he'd start out an' cut his own throat, or some one else's, if he had ginger enough."
"It's hardly all luck, is it?" asked Rainey. "Look at you! You're bigger than most men, stronger, better equipped to get what you want."
"Hell!" laughed Lund. "I was lucky to be born that way. But you've got to fudge up some sort of a service to suit the gal. You've got that Bible. It ought to be easy. Simms wouldn't give a whoop, enny more'n I would. When yo're dead yo're through, so far's enny one can prove it to you. A dead body's a nuisance, an' the sooner it's got rid of the better. But if it's goin' to make the livin' feel enny better for spielin' off some fine words, why, hop to it an' make up yore speech."
Peggy Simms saved Rainey by producing a prayer-book, bringing it to Lund, her face pale but composed enough, and her shadowed eyes calm as she gave it to him.
"I reckon Rainey here 'ud read it better'n me," he said. "He's a scholar."
"If you will," asked the girl. She seemed to have outworn her first sorrow, to have obtained a grip of herself that, with the dignity of her bereavement, the very control of her undoubted grief, set up a barrier between her and Lund. Rainey was conscious of this fence behind which the girl had retreated. She was polite, but she did not ask this service as a favor, as a friendly act. Refusal, even, would not have visibly affected her, he fancied. There was an invisible armor about her that might be added to at any moment by a shield of silent scorn. Somehow, if sex had, for a swift moment, brought her and Lund into any contact, that same sex, showing another aspect, set them far apart.
Lund showed that he felt it, running his splay fingers through his beard in evident embarrassment, while Rainey took the book silently, looking through the pages for the ritual of "Burial at Sea."
Arrangements had been made on deck long before dawn. A section of the rail had been removed and a grating arranged that could be tipped at the right moment for the consignment of the captain's body to the deep.
The sea was running in long heaves, and the sun rose in a clear sky. The ocean was free from ice, though the wind was cold. Here and there a berg, far off, caught the sparkle of the sun and, to the north, parallel to their course, the peaks of the Aleutian Isles, broken buttresses of an ancient seabridge, showed sharply against the horizon.
At four bells in the morning watch all hands had assembled, save for Tamada and Hansen, who appeared bearing the canvas-enveloped, flag-draped body of Simms, his sea-shroud weighted by heavy pieces of iron. Peggy Simms followed them, and, as the crew, with shuffling feet and throats that were repeatedly cleared, gathered in a semicircle, she arranged the folds of the Stars and Stripes that Hansen attached to a light line by one corner.
Whatever Lund affected, the solemnity of the occasion held the men. They uncovered and stood with bowed heads that hid the bruised faces of the hunters. Lund's own damaged features were lowered as Rainey commenced to read. Only Deming's face, gray from the effort of coming on deck and the pain in his arm, held the semblance of a sneer that was largely bravado. A hunter had his arm tucked in that of his comrade with the broken ribs. A seaman was told off to the wheel and the schooner was held to the wind with all sheets close inboard, rising and falling on an almost level keel.
"And the body shall be cast into the sea."
At the words Lund and Hansen tilted the grating. There was a slight pause as if the body were reluctant to start on its last journey, and then it slid from the platform and plunged into the sea, disappearing instantly under the urge of the weights, with a hissing aeration of the water. The flag, held inboard by the line, fluttered a moment and subsided over the grating. The girl turned toward them, her head up.
"Thank you," she said, and went below.
"That's over," said Lund, letting out whatever emotions he might have repressed in a long breath. "Now, then, trim ship! Watch-off, get below. We're goin' to drive her for all she's worth."
He took the wheel himself as the men jumped to the sheets and soon Lund was getting every foot of possible speed out of the schooner. He was as good a sailor as Simms, inclined to take more chances, but capable of handling them.
The girl kept below and seldom came out of her cabin, Tamada serving her meals in there. Rainey could see Lund's resentment growing at this attitude that seemed to him normal enough, though it might present difficulty later if persisted in. But the morning that they headed up through Sequam Pass between the spouting reefs of Sequam and Amlia Islands, she came on deck and went forward to the bows, taking in deep breaths of the bracing air and gazing north to the free expanse of Bering Strait. Rainey left her alone, but Lund welcomed her as she came back aft.
"Glad to see you on deck again, Miss Peggy," he said. "You need sun and air to git you in shape again."
His glance held vivid admiration of her as he spoke, a glance that ran over her rounded figure with a frank approval that Rainey resented, but to which the girl paid no attention. She seemed to have made up her mind to a change of attitude.
"How far have we yet to go?" she asked.
"A'most a thousan' miles to the Strait proper," said Lund. "The Nome-Unalaska steamer lane lies to the east. Runs close to the Pribilofs, three hundred miles north, with Hall an' St. Matthew three hundred further. Then comes St. Lawrence Isle, plumb in the middle of the Strait, with Siberia an' Alaska closin' in."
He was keen to hold her in conversation, and she willing to listen, assenting almost eagerly when he offered to point out their positions on the chart, spread on the cabin table. Lund talked well, for all his limited and at times luridly inclined vocabulary, whenever he talked of the sea and of his own adventures, stating them without brag, but bringing up striking pictures of action, full of the color and savor of life in the raw. From that time on Peggy Simms came to the table and talked freely with Lund, more conservatively with Rainey.
The newspaperman was no experienced analyst of woman nature, but he saw, or thought he saw, the girl watching Lund closely when he talked, studying him, sometimes with more than a hint of approbation, at others with a look that was puzzled, seeming to be working at a problem. The giant's liking for her, boyish at times, or swiftly changing to bolder appraisal, grew daily.
The girl, Rainey decided, was humoring Lund, seeking to know how with her feminine methods she might control him, keep him within bounds. Her coldness, it seemed, she had cast aside as an expedient that might prove too provoking and worthless.
And Rainey's valuation of her resources increased. She was handling her woman's weapons admirably, yet when he sometimes, at night, under the cabin lamp, saw the smoldering light glowing in Lund's agate eyes, he knew that she was playing a dangerous game.
"What d'ye figger on doin' with yore share, Rainey?" Lund asked him the night that they passed Nome. It was stormy weather in the Strait, and the Karluk was snugged down under treble reefs, fighting her way north. Ice in the Narrows was scarce, though Lund predicted broken floes once they got through. The cabin was cozy, with a stove going. Peggy Simms was busied with some sewing, the canary and the plants gave the place a domestic atmosphere, and Lund, smoking comfortably, was eminently at ease.
"'Cordin' to the way the men figgered it out," he went on, "though I reckon they're under the mark more'n over it, you'll have forty thousan' dollars. That's quite a windfall, though nothin' to Miss Peggy, here, or me, for that matter. I s'pose you got it all spent already."
"I don't know that I have," said Rainey. "But I think, if all goes well, I'll get a place up in the Coast Range, in the redwoods looking over the sea, and write. Not newspaper stuff, but what I've always wanted to. Stories. Yarns of adventure!"
Peggy Simms looked up.
"You've never done that?" she asked.
"Not satisfactorily. I suppose that genius burns in a garret, but I don't imagine myself a genius and I don't like garrets. I've an idea I can write better when I don't have to stand the bread-and-butter strain of routine."
"Goin' to write second-hand stuff?" asked Lund. "Why don't you live what you write? I don't see how yo're goin' to git under a man's skin by squattin' in a bungalow with a Jap servant, a porcelain bathtub, an' breakfast in bed. Why don't you travel an' see stuff as it is? How in blazes are you goin' to write Adventure if you don't live it?
"Me, I'm goin' to git a schooner built accordin' to my own ideas. Have a kicker engine in it, mebbe, an' go round the world. What's the use of livin' on it an' not knowin' it by sight? Books and pictures are all right in their way, I reckon, but, while my riggin' holds up, I'm for travel. Mebbe I'll take a group of islands down in the South Seas after a bit an' make somethin' out of 'em. Not jest copra an' pearl-shell, but cotton an' rubber."
"A king and his kingdom," suggested the girl.
"Aye, an' mebbe a queen to go with it," replied Lund, his eyes wide open in a look that made the girl flush and Rainey feel the hidden issue that he felt was bound to come, rising to the surface.
"That's a man's life," went on Lund. "Travel's all right, but a man's got to do somethin', buck somethin', start somethin'. An' a red-blooded man wants the right kind of a woman to play mate. Polish off his rough edges, mebbe. I'd rather be a rough castin' that could stand filin' a bit, than smooth an' plated. An', when I find the right woman, one of my own breed, I'm goin' to tie to her an' her to me.
"I'm goin' to be rich. They've cleaned up the sands of Nome, but there's others'll be found yit between Cape Hope an' Cape Barry. Meantime, we've got a placer of our own. With plenty of gold they ain't much limit to what a man can do. I've roughed it all my life, an' I'm not lookin' for ease. It makes a man soft. But—"
He swept the figure of the girl in a pause that was eloquent of his line of thought. She grew uneasy of it, but Lund maintained it until she raised her eyes from her work and challenged his. Rainey saw her breast heave, saw her struggle to hold the gaze, turn red, then pale. He thought her eyes showed fear, and then she stiffened. Almost unconsciously she raised her hand to where Rainey was sure she kept the little pistol, touched something as though to assure herself of its presence, and went on sewing. Lund chuckled, but shifted his eyes to Rainey.
"Why don't you write up this v'yage? When it's all over? There's adventure for you, an' we ain't ha'f through with it. An' romance, too, mebbe. We ain't developed much of a love-story as yit, but you never can tell."
He laughed, and Peggy Simms got up quietly, folded her sewing, and said "Good night" composedly before she went to her room.
"How about it, Rainey?" quizzed Lund. "How about the love part of it? She's a beauty, an' she'll be an heiress. Ain't you got enny red blood in yore veins? Don't you want her? You won't find many to hold a candle to her. Looks, built like a racin' yacht, smooth an' speedy. Smart, an' rich into the bargain. Why don't you make love to her?"
Rainey felt the burning blood mounting to his face and brain.
"I am not in love with Miss Simms," he said. "If I was I should not try to make love to her under the circumstances. She's alone, and she's fatherless. I do not care to discuss her."
"She's a woman," said Lund. "And yo're a damned prig! You'd like to bust me in the jaw, but you know I'm stronger. You've got some guts, Rainey, but yo're hidebound. You ain't got ha'f the git-up-an'-go to ye that she has. She's a woman, I tell you, an' she's to be won. If you want her, why don't you stand up an' try to git her 'stead of sittin' around like a sick cat whenever I happen to admire her looks?
"I've seen you. I ain't blind enny longer, you know. She's a woman an' I'm a man. I thought you was one. But you ain't. Yore idea of makin' love is to send the gal a box of candy an' walk pussy-footed an' write poems to her. You want to write life an' I want to live it. So does a gal like that. She's more my breed than yores, if she has got eddication. An' she's flesh and blood. Same as I am. Yo're half sawdust. Yo're stuffed."
He went on deck laughing, leaving Rainey raging but helpless. Lund appeared to think the situation obvious. Two men, and a woman who was attractive in many ways. The only woman while they were aboard the schooner, therefore the more to be desired, admired by men cut off from the rest of the world.
He expected Rainey to be in love with her, to stand up and say so, to endeavor to win her. Lund sought the ardor of competition. He might be looking for the excuse to crush Rainey.
But he had said she was of his breed, and that was a true saying. If Lund was a son of the sea, she was a daughter of a line of seamen. Lund, sooner or later, meant to take her, willing or unwilling. He had said so, none too covertly, that very evening. And, if Rainey meant to stand between her and Lund as a protector, Lund would accept him in that character only as the girl's lover and his rival.
And Rainey did not know whether he was in love with her or not. He could not even be certain of the girl. There were times when Lund seemed to fascinate her. One thing he braced himself to do, to be ready to aid her against Lund if occasion came, and she needed protection. The luck, as Lund phrased it, that had given brawn to the giant, had given Rainey brains. When the time came he would use them.
After this the girl avoided Lund's company as much as possible by seeking Rainey's. They worked through the Strait and headed into the Arctic Ocean. Ice was all about them, fields formed of vast blocks of frozen water divided by broad lanes through which the Karluk slowly made her way, a maze of ice, always threatening, calling for all of Lund's skill while he fumed at every barrier, every change of the weather that grew steadily colder.
The sky was never entirely unveiled by mist, and at night, as they sailed down a frozen fiord with lookouts doubled, the grinding smashing noises of the ice seemed the warning voice of the North, as they sailed on into the wilderness.
The hunters kept below. Lund bossed the ship. Deming, it seemed, managed to hold his cards and deal them despite his mending arm in splints. And he was steadily winning. The girl talked with Rainey of her own life ashore and at sea on earlier trips with her father, of his own desire to write, of his ambitions, until there was little he had not told her, even to the girl who was the daughter of the Lumber King.
And the spell of her nearness, her youth, her beauty, naturally held him. When he was on deck duty she remained in her room. When Lund relieved him, the day's work giving Lund, Hansen, and Rainey each two regular watches of four hours, though Lund put in most of the night as the ice grew more difficult to navigate, Rainey occasionally saw the giant's eyes sizing him up with a sardonic twinkle.
For the time being, the safety of the Karluk and the successful carrying out of the purpose of the trip took all of Lund's attention and energy. Twice he had been thwarted by the weather from gleaning his golden harvest, and it began to look as if the third attempt might be no more fortunate.
"The Karluk's stout," he said once, "but she ain't built for the Arctic. If we git nipped badly she'll go like an eggshell."
"And then what?" Rainey asked.
"Git the gold! That's what we come for. If we have to make sleds an' use the hunters for a dorg-team." He laughed indomitably. "We'll make a man of you yit, Rainey, afore we git back."
Lund was snatching sleep in scraps, seeking always to feel a way toward the position of the island through the ice that continually baffled progress. Several times they risked the schooner in a narrow lane when a lull of the often uncertain wind would have seen them ground between the edges of the floe. Twice Lund ordered out the boats to save them. Once all hands fended desperately with spars to keep her clear, and only the schooner's overhung stern saved her rudder from the savagely clashing masses that closed behind them.
But he showed few signs of strain. Once in a while he would sit with closed eyes or pass his hands across his brows as if they pained him. But he never complained, and the ice, taking on the dull hues of sea and sky, gave off no glare that should affect the sight. Against all opposition Lund forced his way until, just after sunset one night, as the dusk swept down, he gave a shout and pointed to a fitful flare over the port bow. Rainey thought it the aurora, but Lund laughed at him.
"It's the crater atop the island," he said. "Nothin' dangerous. Reg'lar lighthouse. Now, boys," he went on, his deep voice ringing with exhilaration, "there's gold in sight! Whistle for a change of weather, every mother's son of you!"
The deck was soon crowded. On the previous trip the schooner had approached the island from a different angle, but the men were swift to acknowledge the glow of the volcano as the expected landfall. Lund remained on deck, and it was late before any of the crew turned in. Rainey, during his watch, saw the mountain fire-pulse, glowing and winking like the eye of a Cyclops, its gleam reflected in the eyes of the watchers who were about to invade the island and rob it of its golden sands.
The change of weather came about three in the morning, though not as Lund had hoped. A sudden wind materialized from the north, stiffening the canvas with its ice-laden breath, glazing the schooner wherever moisture dripped, bringing up an angry scud of clouds that fought with the moon. The sea appeared to have thickened. The Karluk went sluggishly, as if she was sailing in a sea of treacle.
"Half slush already," said Lund. "We're in for a real cold snap. There'll be pancake ice all around us afore dawn. That is sure a hard beach to fetch. But it's too early for winter closing. After this nip we'll have a warm spell. An' we got to git the stuff aboard an' start kitin' south afore the big freeze-up catches us."
When Rainey came on deck the next morning he found the schooner floating in a small lagoon that made the center of a floe. The water in it was slush, half solid. Main and fore were close furled, the headsails also, and the Karluk was nosing against the far end of the rapidly diminishing basin. The wind was still lively.
All about were other floes, but they were widely separated, and between them crisp waves of indigo were curling snappily.
The island stood up sharp and jagged, much larger than Rainey had anticipated. It boasted two cones, from one of which smoke was lazily trailing. Ice was piled in wild confusion about its shores, wrecked by the gale that had blown hard from four till eight, and was now subsiding with the swift change common to the Arctic.
A deep hum of bursting surf undertoned all other noises and, prisoned as she was, the schooner and her floe were sweeping slowly toward the land in the grip of a current rather than before the gusty wind.
Lund had fendered the schooner's bows effectively before he went below with old sails that enveloped stem and swell, stuffed with ropes and bits of canvas.
Within an hour the wind had ceased and the slush in the lagoon had pancaked into flakes of forming ice that bid fair to become solid within a short time, for the day was bitterly cold and tremendously bright. The sky rose from filmy silver-azure to richest sapphire, and the rolling waters between the floes were darkest purple-blue. As the whip of the wind ceased they settled to a vast swell on which the great clumps of ice rose and fell with dazzling reflections.
Lund came up within the hour and stood blinking at the brilliance.
"My eyes ain't as strong yit as they should be," he said to Rainey. "I shouldn't have slung them glasses so hasty at Carlsen, though they sp'iled his aim, at that. If this weather keeps up I'll have to make snow-specs; there ain't another pair of smokes aboard." He made a shade of his curved hand as he gazed at the island.
"Current's got us," he said, "an' we'll fetch up mighty close to the beach. It lies between those two ridges, close together, buttin' out from the volcano. Long Strait current splits on Wrangell Island, and we're in the trend of the northern loop. That's why the sea don't freeze up more solid. It's freezin' fast enough round us, where there ain't motion."
He seemed well satisfied with the prospect. "Had breakfast?" he asked Rainey, and then: "All right. We'll git the men aft."
He bellowed an order, and soon every one came trooping, to gather in two groups either side of the cabin skylight. Their faces were eager with the proximity of the gold, yet half sullen as they waited to hear what Lund had to say. Since the attempt against him Lund had said nothing about their shares. They acknowledged him as master, but they still rebelled in spirit.
"There's the island," said Lund. "We'll make it afore sundown. The beach is there, waitin' for us to dig it up. It'll be some job. I don't reckon it's frozen hard, on'y crusted. If it is we'll bust the crust with dynamite. But we got to hop to it. There'll be another cold spell after this one peters out an' the next is like to be permanent. I want the gold washed out afore then, an' us well down the Strait. It's up to you to hump yoreselves, an' I'll help the humpin'.
"We'll cradle most of the stuff an', if they's time, we'll flume the silt tailin's for the fine dust. Providin' we can git a fall of water. There'll be plenty for all hands to do. An' the shares go as first fixed. I ain't expectin' you to do the diggin' an' not git a pinch or two of the dust."
The men's faces lighted, and they shuffled about, looking at one another with grins of relief.
"No cheers?" asked Lund ironically. "Wall, I hardly expected enny. Hansen, you'll be one of the foremen, with pay accordin'. Deming."
"I can't dig," said the hunter truculently. "Neither can Beale, with his ribs."
"You've got a sweet nerve," said Lund. "I reckon you've won enough to be sure of yore shares, if the boys pay up. Enough for you to do some diggin' in yore pockets for Beale. His ribs 'ud be whole if you hadn't started the bolshevik stunt. But I'll find something for both of you to do. Don't let that worry you none.
"We've got mercury aboard somewhere," Lund continued, to Rainey, when the men had dispersed, far more cheerful than they had gathered. "We'll use that for concentration in the film riffles. Hansen'll have rockers made that'll catch the big stuff. If the worst comes to the worst, we'll load up the old hooker with the pay dirt an' wash it out on the way home. I'll strip that beach down to bedrock if I have to work the toes an' fingers off 'em."
By noon the schooner was glazed in as firmly as a toy model that is mounted in a glass sea. The wind blew itself entirely out, but the current bore them steadily on to the clamorous shore, where the swells were creating promontories, bays, cliffs and chasms in the piled-up confusion of the floes pounding on the rocks, breaking up or sliding atop one another in noisy confusion.
The marble-whiteness of the ice masses was set off by the blues and soft violets of their shadows, and by a pearly sheen wherever the planes caught the light at a proper slant for the play of prisms. Beautiful as it was, the sight was fearful to Rainey, in common with the crew. Only Lund surveyed it nonchalantly.
"It's bustin' up fast," he said. "All we need is a little luck. If we ain't got that there's no use of worryin'. We can't blast ourselves out o' this without riskin' the schooner. We ought to be thankful we froze in gentle. There ain't a plank started. The floe'll fend us off. There ain't enny big chunks enny way near us aft. Luck—to make a decent landin'—is all we need, an' it's my hunch it's comin' our way."
His "hunch" was correct. Though they did not actually make the little bay on which the treasure beach debouched, they fetched up near it against a broken hill of ice that had lodged on the sharp slopes of a little promontory, making the connection without further damage than a splitting of the forward end of their encasing floe, with hardly a jar to the Karluk.
Lund sent men ashore over the ice, climbing to the promontory crags with hawsers by which they tied up schooner, floe and all, to the land. If the broken hill suffered further catastrophe, which did not seem likely, its fragments would fall upon the floe. In case of emergency Lund ordered men told off day and night to stand by the hawsers, to cast loose or cut, as the extremity needed.
The main danger threatened from following floes piling up on theirs and ramming over it to smash the schooner, but that was a risk that must be met as it evolved, and there did not seem much prospect of the happening.
It was dark before they were snugged. The men volunteered, through Hansen, to commence digging that night by the light of big fires, so crazy were they at the nearness of the gold. But Lund forbade it.
"You'll work reg'lar shifts when you git started," he said. "An' you won't start till ter-morrer. We've got to stand by the ship ter-night until we find out by mornin' how snug we're goin' to be berthed."
All night long they lay in a pandemonium of noise. After a while they would become used to it as do the workers in a stampmill, but that night it deafened them, kept them awake and alert, fearful, with the tremendous cannonading. The bite of the frost made the timbers of the Karluk creak and its thrust continually worked among the stranded masses with groaning thunders and shrill grindings, while the surf ever boomed on the resonant sheets of ice.
The place held a strange mystery. On top of the main cone the volcanic glow hung above the crater chimney, reflected waveringly on the rolling clouds of smoke that blotted out the stars. There were no tremors, no rumblings from the hidden furnace, only the flare of its stoking. The stars that were visible were intensely brilliant points, and, when the moon rose, it was accompanied by four mock moons bound in a halo that widely encircled the true orb. The moon-dogs shone intermittently with prismatic colors, like disks of mother-of-pearl, and the moon itself was four-rayed.
Under moon and stars the coast snaked away to end in a deceptive glimmer that persisted beyond the eye-range of definite dimensions. And, despite all the sound, muffled and sharp, of splinterings and explosions, of the reverberation of the swell, outside all this clamor, silence seemed to gather and to wait. Silence and loneliness. It awed the crew, it invested the spirits of Peggy Simms and Rainey, gazing at the mystic beauty of the Arctic landscape.
The walls of forced-up ice shifted about them and came clattering down, booming on their floe as if it had been a drum, and threatening to tilt it by sheer weight had they not been fairly grounded forward. Other floes came from seaward to batter at the cliffs, but the eddy that had brought them to their resting-place seemed to have been dissolved in the main current and, save for an occasional alarm, their stern was not seriously invaded.
Only, as the night wore on, the floating masses became cemented to one another and the shore. The Karluk was hard and fast within two hundred yards of her Tom Tiddler's ground, just over the promontory. If a thaw came, all should go well. If Lund had been deceived, and the true winter was setting in early, the prospects were far from cheerful, though no one seemed to think of that possibility.
Beneath the glamour of the magic night, the weird paraselene of the moon's phenomenon, the glow of the volcano, the noises, the men whispered of one thing only—Gold!
Dawn came before they were aware of it, a sudden rush of light that dyed the ice in every hue of red and orange, that tipped the frozen coast with bursts of ruby flame that flared like beacons and gilded the crests of the long swells, tinging all their world with a wild, unnatural glory.
Lund, striding the deck, his red beard iced with his breath, suddenly stopped and stared into the east. There, in the very eye of the dawn, was a trail of smoke, like a plume against the flaming, three-quarters circle of the rising sun!
THE MIGHT OF NIPPON
Lund's face, on which the bruises were fast fading, changed purple-black with rage. He whirled upon Sandy, gaping near, and ordered him to fetch his binoculars. Through them he stared long at the smoke. Then he turned to the girl and Rainey.
"Come down inter the cabin," he said. "We'll need all our wits."
"That's a gunboat patrol," he said. "Japanese, for a million! None other this far west. An' it's damned funny it should come up right at this minnit. We've made the trip on schedule time, an' here they show. But we'll let that slide. We've got to think fast. They'll board us. They'll overhaul us lookin' for seal pelts. At least, I hope so.
"We've got none. Our hunters an' our rifles an' shotguns'll prove our claim to be pelagic sealers. We got to trust they believe us. If there was a hide aboard or a club, or a sign of a dead seal on the beaches they'd nail us. They may, ennyway, jest on suspicion.
"They run things out this way with a high hand. If they ever clap us in prison it'll be where we can't let a peep out of us. A lot they worry about our consuls. They's too many good sealers dropped out of sight in one of their stinkin' jails to starve on millet an' dried, moldy fish. I know what I'm talkin' about.
"It's lucky we didn't start mussin' up that beach. But they'll go over everything. I know 'em. They claim to own the seas hereabouts, an' they're cockier than ever, since the war. Rainey you got to git busy on the log. If yore father didn't keep it up, Miss Peggy, so much the better. If he has, you got to fake it someways, Rainey.
"I'm Simms, get me, until we're clear of 'em. An' you, Rainey, are Doc Carlsen. Nothin' must show in the log about enny deaths."
"But why?" asked the girl. "Why do we have to masquerade? If we haven't touched the seals?"
Lund barked at her:
"I gave you credit for sharper wits," he said. "We've got to have everything so reg'lar they can't find an excuse for haulin' us in an' settin' fire to the schooner. They'd do it in a jiffy. We got to show 'em our clearance papers, an' we've got to tally up all down the line. Rainey ain't on the ship's books—Carlsen is. Lund ain't, but Simms is. I'm Simms. An' you"—he stopped to grin at her—"you're my daughter. I'll dissolve the relationship after a while, I'll promise you that. An' I'll drill the men. They know what's ahead of 'em if the Japs git suspicious.
"That ain't the worst of it! They may know what we're after. If they do, we're goners. Ever occur to you, Rainey, that Tamada, who is a deep one, may have tipped off the whole thing to his consul while the schooner was at San Francisco? He was along the last trip. He'd know the approximate position. Might have got the right figgers out o' the log, him havin' the run of the cabin. A cable would do the rest. He'd git his whack out of it, with the order of the Golden Chrysanthemum or some jig-arig to boot, an' git even with the way he feels to'ard our outfit for'ard, that ain't bin none too sweet to him."
The suggestion held a foundation of conviction for Rainey. He had thought of the consul. He had always sensed depths in Tamada's reserve, he remembered bits of his talk, the "certain circumstances" that he had mentioned. It looked plausible. Lund rose.
"I'll fix Tamada," he said. But the girl stopped him.
"You don't know that's true. Tamada has been wonderful—to me. What do you intend to do with him?"
"I'll make up my mind between here and the galley," said Lund grimly. "This is my third time of tackling this island, an' no Jap is goin' to stand between me an' the gold, this trip. Why, even if he ain't blown on us, he'll give the whole thing away. If he didn't want to they'd make him come through if they laid their eyes on him. They've got more tricks than a Chinese mandarin to make a man talk. Stands to reason he'll tell 'em. If he can talk when they git here," he added ominously, standing half-way between the table and the door to the corridor, his hand opening and closing suggestively. "The crew'd settle his hash if I didn't. They ain't fools. They know what's ahead of 'em in Japan. You, Rainey, git busy with that log. That gunboat'll have a boat alongside this floe inside of ninety minnits."
But Peggy Simms was between him and the door.
"You shan't do it," she said, her eyes hard as flints, if Lund's were like steel. "You don't know what he was to me when—when dad was buried. Call him in and let him talk for himself or—or I'll tell the Japanese myself what we have come for!"
Lund stood staring at her, his face hard, his beard thrust out like a bush with the jut of his jaw. Still she faced him, resolute, barely up to his shoulder, slim, defiant. Gradually his features crinkled into a grin.
"I believe you would," he said at last. "An' I'd hate to fix you the way I would Tamada. But, mind you, if I don't git a definite promise out of him that rings true, I'll have to stow him somewheres, where they won't find him. An' that won't be on board ship."
The girl's face softened.
"You said you played fair," she said with a sigh of relief. She stepped to the door, opened it, and called for Tamada. The Japanese appeared almost instantly. Lund closed the door behind him and locked it.
"You know there's a patrol comin' up, Tamada?" he asked. "A Jap patrol?"
"What do you intend tellin' 'em if they come on board?"
"Nothing, if I can help it. I think I can. I am not friendly with Japanese government. It would be bad for me if they find me. One time I belong Progressive Party in Japan. I make much talk. Too much. The government say I am too progressive."
Rainey imagined he caught a glint of humor in Tamada's eyes as he made his clipped syllables.
"So, I leave my country. Suppose I go on steamer I think that government they stop me. I think even in California they may make trouble, if they find me. So I go in sampan. Sometimes Japanese cross to California in sampan."
"That's right," said Rainey. He had handled more than one story of Japanese crews landing on some desolate portion of the coast to avoid immigration laws and steamer fares. Generally they were rounded up after their perilous, daring crossing of the Pacific. Tamada's story held the elements of truth. Even Lund nodded in reserved affirmation.
"Also I ship on Karluk as cook because of perhaps trouble if some one know me in San Francisco. I think much better if they do not see me. I have a plan. Also I want my share of gold. Suppose that gunboat find me, find out about gold, they will not give me reward. You do not know Japanese. They will put me in prison. It will be suggest to me, because I am of daimio blood"—Tamada drew himself up slightly as he claimed his nobility—"that I make hari-kari. That I do not wish. I am Progressive. I much rather cook on board Karluk and get my share of gold."
Lund surveyed him moodily, half convinced. The girl was all eager approval.
"What is your plan, Tamada?"
"We're losin' time on that log," cut in Lund. "Git busy, Rainey. Look among Carlsen's stuff. He may have kept one. Dope up one of 'em, an' burn the other. Now then, Tamada, dope out yore scheme; it's got to be a good one."
Both Lund and the girl were laughing when Rainey came out into the main cabin again with the records. Tamada had disappeared.
"He's some fox," said Lund. "Miss Peggy, you better superintend the theatricals. It's got to be done right. Rainey, not to interrupt you, what do you know about enteric fever?"
"Well, it's the same as typhoid. There'll be a surgeon aboard that gunboat. You got to bluff him. Say little an' look wise as an' owl. Don't let him mix in with yore patient."
"Tamada! He's got enteric fever. If there's time he'll give you all the dope."
"But I don't see how that—"
"You will see when you see Tamada," Lund grinned. "How about them logs? Can you fix 'em?"
"I think so."
"Then hop to it. I'm goin' to wise up the men and arrange a reception committee. Don't forgit yore name's Carlsen, an' mine's Simms."
Rainey wrote rapidly in his log, erasing, eliminating pages without trace, imitating the skipper's phrasing. Fortunately Simms had made scant entries at first and, later on, as the drug held him, none at all. Carlsen had kept no record that he could find. The girl had gone forward to aid with Tamada's plan which Lund had evidently accepted.
Before he had quite finished he heard the tramp of men on deck and the blast of a steam whistle. He ended his task and went up to see the gunboat, gray and menacing, its brasses glistening, men on her decks at their tasks, oblivious of the schooner, and officers on her bridge watching the progress of a launch toward the floe.
It made landing smartly, and a lieutenant, diminutive but highly effective in appearance, led six men toward the Karluk. He wore a sword and revolver; the men carried carbines. Their disciplined rank and smartness, the waiting launch, the gunboat in the offing, were ominous with the suggestion of power, the will to administer it. The officer in command carried his chin at an arrogant tilt. Lund had rigged a gangway and stood at the head of it, saluting the lieutenant as the latter snappily answered the greeting.
Rainey found the girl and put a hurried question.
"What about Tamada? Where is he? What's the plan?"
She turned to him with eyes that danced with excitement.
"He's in the galley, Doctor Carlsen. But he isn't Tamada any more. He's Jim Cuffee, nigger cook, sick with enteric fever, not to be disturbed."
Rainey stared. It was a clever device, if Tamada could carry it out, and he bear his own part in the masquerade. The willingness of Tamada to risk the disguise was assurance of his fidelity.
"Lund should have told me," he said. "I've got to change his name on the papers. It won't take a minute though; he doesn't appear in the log."
The Japanese officer wasted no time on deck. For precaution, Rainey made his alteration in the skipper's cabin, leaving the log there on the built-in desk.
"This is Lieutenant Ito, Doctor Carlsen," said Lund. "You want to see our papers, Lieutenant?"
"My orders are to examine the schooner," said Ito, in English, even more perfect than Tamada's. His face was officially severe, though his slant eyes shifted constantly toward the girl. Evidently she was an unexpected feature of the visit.
"I'll get the papers first," said Lund. "Doctor, you an' Peggy entertain the lieutenant." Rainey set out some whisky, which the Japanese refused, some cigars that he passed over with a motion of his hand. He sat down stiffly and ran through the papers.
"We're pelagic, you know," said Lund. "We ain't trespassin' on purpose. Didn't even know you owned the island."
"It is on our charts," said Ito crisply, as if that settled the right of dominion. "How did you come here at all?"
"We was brought," said Lund. "Got froze in north o' Wrangell. Gale set us west as we come out o' the Strait. We're bound for Corwin. Nothin' contraband. All reg'lar. Six hunters, two damaged in the gale, though the doc's fixed 'em up. Twelve seamen, one boy, an' a nigger cook who's pizened himself with his own cookin'. Doc's bringin' him round, too, though he don't deserve it. Want to make yore inspection? We're in no hurry to git away until the ice melts. Take yore time."
The little, dapper officer with his keen, high-cheeked face, and his shoe-brush hair, got up and bowed, with a side glance at Peggy Simms.
"It is not usual for young ladies to be so far north." His endeavor at gallantry was obvious.
"I am with my father," said the girl, looking at Rainey, enjoying the situation.
"Where I go she goes," said Lund. And looked in turn at her with relish in his double suggestion. He, too, was playing the game, gambling, believing in his luck, reckless, now he had set the board.
They passed through the corridor. Lund opened up the strong-room, and then the galley. It was orderly, and there was a moaning figure in Tamada's bunk, a tossing figure with a head bound in a red bandanna above the black face and neck that showed above the blankets. The eyes were closed. The black hands, showing lighter palms, plucked at the coverings.
"Delirious," said Lund. "Serves him right. He's a rotten cook."
"Have you all the medicines you need?" asked Ito. "I can send our surgeon."
"I can manage," returned Rainey, alias Carlsen. "It's enteric. I've reduced the fever."
They passed on through the hunters' quarters. The girl fell behind with Rainey.
"A good make-up and a good actor," she whispered. "I helped him to be sure he covered everything that would show. It was my idea about the bandanna. Just what a sick negro might wear, and it hid his straight hair."
The lieutenant appeared fairly satisfied, but requested that Lund go on board his ship. He stayed there until sundown, returning in hilarious mood.
"We've slipped it over on 'em this time," he said. "I left 'em aswim with sake, an' bubblin' over with polite regrets. But they'll be back in three weeks, they said, if the ice is open. An', if the luck holds, we'll be out of it. I don't want them searchin' the ship ag'in." He slapped Tamada on the back as he came to serve supper after Sandy had laid the table.