Blow The Man Down - A Romance Of The Coast - 1916
by Holman Day
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9
Home - Random Browse

"As you used me! You have had good training!"

"Well, if the trick was passed on down, it's now being passed on up," stated Fogg, despondently. "I'm the goat, right now. Can't you view me personally in this matter?"

"I don't want to. I would get up and use these fists on you, sore as they are!"

"I'm afraid it's going to be a tough matter for us to settle," sighed the promoter. "I thought I had everything tied up in the usual way. Damn it, if it wasn't for a woman being mixed into it, the thing would have worked out all right!" He let his temper loose. "You can never reckon on business when a woman sticks in her fingers! I don't care if you are in love with Marston's daughter, Mayo! She is like a lot of other cursed high-flier girls who have always had more time and money than is good for them. She is Trouble swishing petticoats! And you must have considerable of a mortgage on her, seeing that she has double-crossed her own father in order to pull your chestnuts out of the fire!"

Having not the least idea what Mr. Fogg was talking about, Mayo was silent.

"You're a cool one! I must hand it to you!" snapped the promoter.

"You'd better leave the name of Miss Marston out of this business with me, sir."

"How in blazes can I leave it out, seeing what she has done?"

And Mayo, not knowing what new outbreak had marked the activities of the incomprehensible young lady, resumed his grim silence, his own interests suggesting that watchful waiting would be his best policy.

"Well, what are you going to say about the papers?" demanded Fogg. "We may as well get down to cases!"

"I'm not going to say anything."

"You've got to say something, Mayo. This is too big a matter to fool with. If you are reasonable, you can help me fix it up—and that will help the girl. She's Mar-ston's daughter, all right, and her father understands how erratic she is and makes allowances for her freaks. But he can't stand for some things."

At that moment curiosity was more ardent in Mayo than resentment, though Fogg's tone in regard to Alma Marston did provoke the latter emotion. It was evident that she had undertaken something in his behalf—had in some manner sacrificed her father's interests and her own peace of mind in order to assist the outcast. He wondered why he did not feel more joy when he heard that news. He remembered her promise to him when they parted, but he had erected no hopes on that promise. It had not consoled him while he had been struggling with his problems. He was conscious that his sentiments in regard to the whole affair were rather complex, and he did not bother to analyze them; he sat tight and stared at Mr. Fogg with non-committal blankness of expression.

"Have you the papers with you?"

"No!" He added, "Of course not!"

"That's all right. It may be better, providing they are in a safe place. Now see here, Mayo! I'm not going to work any bluffs with you. I can't, under the circumstances. I don't know where Burkett went and—"

"Burkett is with me on the Conomo. I'm not going to work any bluffs with you, either, Fogg!"

"I don't care where he is nor what he has told you. Any allegations from regular liars and men who have been fired can be taken care of in court, under the blackmail law. But in the case of those papers it's different. I'm open and frank with you, Mayo. We have been betrayed from inside the fort. Through some leak in the office that girl got hold of those papers. I don't know what your sense of honor is in such matters. I'm not here to appeal to it. Too much dirt has been done you to have that argument have any special effect. I'm open and frank, I say!" He spread his hands. "Probably she didn't half realize what she was doing! But now that you have the papers, you realize!"

Not by a flicker of an eyelid did Mayo betray his total ignorance of what Fogg referred to.

"I want to ask you, man to man," proceeded the emissary, "whether you propose to use those papers simply for yourself—to get back—well—you know!" He waved his hand. "Or are you going to slash right and left with 'em, for general revenge?"

"I haven't decided."

"It's a fair question I have asked. So far as you are concerned in anything which may be in those papers—and that's mostly my own reports—you will be squared and more, captain. You can have the Triton with a ten-years' contract as master, contract to be protected by a bond, your pay two hundred and fifty dollars a month. Of course that trade includes your reinstatement as a licensed master and the dropping of all charges in the Montana matter. There is no indictment, and the witnesses will be taken care of, so that the matter will not come up, providing you have enemies. This is man's talk, Mayo! You'll have to admit it!"

"There's another thing which must be admitted, Fogg! I have been disgraced, hounded, and persecuted. The men along this coast, the most of them, will always believe I made a mistake. You know what that means to a shipmaster!"

Mr. Fogg wiped the moisture off his cheeks with a purple handkerchief.

"You were put in devilish wrong. I admit it. I went too far. That's why Marston is making me the goat now. I shall be dumped if this matter isn't straightened out between us!"

"I was in this very room one day, Mr. Fogg, and saw how you dumped one Burkett. You seemed to enjoy doing it. Why shouldn't I have a little enjoyment of my own?"

"I had to dump him. He was a fool. He had bragged. I had to protect interests as well as myself. But you haven't anything to consider, right now, but your own profit."

"Is that so?" inquired Mayo, sardonically. "You seem to have me sized up as one of these mild and forgiving angels."

"Now, look here, Mayo, don't let any fool notions stand in the way of your making good. It isn't sense; it isn't business! You have something we want and we're willing to come across for it."

"What other strings are hitched on?" asked the young man, feigning intractability as his best resource in this puzzling affair.

"Well, of course you give up that fool job you're working on. Quit being a junkman!"

"I'm not a junkman. We're going to float the Conomo."

"Mayo, talk sense! That job can't be done!"

"So you've been telling every outfitter and banking-man in this city, Fogg! But now you are talking to a man who knows better. And let me say something else to you. I'll do no business with the kind of a man you have shown yourself to be."

"Don't be a boy, Mayo. I'm here with full powers. We'll take that wreck off your hands."

"Want to kill her as she stands, do you?"

"It's our business what we do with her after we pay our money," declared Fogg, bridling.

"There's something more than business—business with you—in this matter."

"Yes, I see there is! It's your childish revenge you're looking after. I'll give you ten thousand dollars to divide among that bunch of paupers. Send them along about their fishing, and be sensible."

"It's no use for us to talk, Fogg. I see that you don't understand me at all. You ought to know better than to ask me to sell out myself and my partners." He rose and started for the door.

"Partners—those paupers?"

"They have frozen and sweat, worked and starved, with me out on Razee Reef, Fogg. They are partners."

"What's your lay? What are the writings?" insisted the promoter, following Mayo.

"Not the scratch of a pen. Only man's decency and honor. You and your boss haven't got money enough to buy—There isn't anything to sell!"

"But there are some things we can buy, if it has come to a matter of blackmail," raged Fogg. "Are you cheap enough to trade on a foolish girl's cursed butting into matters she didn't understand? You have been pawing those papers over. You know what they mean!"

Mayo turned and looked at the excited man.

"They have nothing to do with you or your affairs, the most of those papers," sputtered Fogg. "Mayo, be reasonable. We can't afford to have our holding companies shown up. The syndicate can get by that infernal Federal law if we work carefully."

"Otherwise Marston and you and a few others might go to Atlanta, eh?"

"It isn't too late to send you there."

"You are worrying about those papers, are you?"

"Of course I'm worrying about them! What do you suppose I'm down here for?"

"You keep on worrying, Mr. Fogg! Come on into the little corner of hell where I have been for the last few months; the fire is fine!"

He yanked open the door and slammed it behind him, shutting off the promoter's frenzied appeals.


O come list awhile and you soon shall hear. By the rolling sea lived a maiden fair. Her father followed the sum-muggling trade Like a warlike he-ro, Like a warlike he-ro that never was aff-er-aid! —The Female Smuggler.

Captain Mayo carried only doubts and discouragement back to the wreck on Razee. His doubts were mostly concerned with the matter of the documents which Mr. Fogg was seeking so insistently. Mayo himself had done a little seeking. He inquired at the post-office, but there was no mail for him. If no papers had been abstracted from the Marston archives, if this affair were some new attempt at guile on the part of Fogg, the promoter had certainly done a masterly bit of acting, Mayo told himself. He determined to keep his own counsel and wait for developments.

Two days later the developments arrived at Razee in the person of Captain Zoradus Wass, who came a-visiting in a chartered motor-boat. He climbed the ladder, greeted his protege with sailor heartiness, and went on a leisurely tour of inspection.

"Something like a tinker's job on an iron kittle, son," he commented. "You must have been born with some of the instincts of a plumber. Keep on the way you're operating and you'll get her off."

"I'll never get her off by operating as I am just now, Captain Wass. We are standing still. No money, no credit, no grub. I made a raise of five thousand and have spent it. I don't dare to go to the old skinflint again."

"Well, why not try the heiress?" inquired the old skipper. "You know I have always advised you strong about the heiress."

"Look here, Captain Wass, I don't want to hear any more jokes on that subject," objected the young roan, curtly.

"No joke to this," stated the captain, with serenity. "Let's step into this stateroom." He led the way and locked the door.

"There's no joke, son," he repeated, "and I don't like to have you show any tartness in the matter. Seeing what friends we have been, I ain't taking it very kindly because you have been so mighty close-mouthed. I'm a man to be trusted. You made a mistake in not telling me. The thing 'most fell down between me and her!"

He frowned reproachfully at the astonished Mayo.

"She came expecting, of course, that I was about your closest friend, and when I had to own up that you have never mentioned her to me she thought she had made a mistake in me, and wasn't going to give me the thing!"

"What thing, and what are you talking about?"

Captain Wass patted his coat pocket.

"I convinced her, and it was lucky that I was able to, for it's a matter where only a close and careful friend ought to be let in. But after this you mustn't keep any secrets away from me if you expect me to help you. However, you have shown that you can take good advice when I give it to you. I advised you to grab Julius Marston's daughter and, by thunder! you went and done it. Now—"

Mayo impatiently interrupted. Captain Wass was drawling, with manifest enjoyment of the part he was taking in this romance.

"You have brought something for me, have you?"

"She is a keen one, son," proceeded the captain, making no move to show the object he was patting. "Hunted me up, remembering that I had you with me on the old Nequasset, and put questions to me smart, I can tell you! You ought to have been more confidential with me."

"Captain Wass, I can't stand any more of this nonsense. If you have anything for me, hand it over!"

"I have taken pains for you, traveled down here, four or five hundred miles, taking—"

"Yes, taking your time for the trip and for this conversation," declared Mayo, with temper. "I have been put in a mighty mean position by not knowing you had these papers."

"Safe and sure has always been my motto! And I had a little business of my own to tend to on the way. I have been finding out how that fat Fogg snapped himself in as general manager of the Vose line. Of course, it was known well enough how he did it, but I have located the chap that done it for him—that critter we took along as steward, you remember."

In spite of his anxiety to get into his hands the parcel in the old skipper's pocket, Mayo listened with interest to this information; it related to his own affairs with Fogg.

"I'm going to help the honest crowd in the Vose line management to tip over that sale that was made, and when the right time comes I'll have that white-livered clerk in the witness-box if I have to lug him there by the ears. Now, Mayo, that girl didn't say what was in this packet." He pulled out a small parcel which had been carefully tied with cords. "She is in love with you, because she must be in love to go to so much trouble in order to get word to you. If this is a love-letter, it's a big one. Seems to be all paper! I have hefted it and felt of it consid'able."

He held it away from Mayo's eager reach and investigated still more with prodding fingers.

"Hope she isn't sending back your love-letters, son. But by the look she had on her face when she was talking about you to me I didn't reckon she was doing that. Well, here's comfort for you!" He placed the packet in Mayo's hands.

The parcel was sealed with three neat patches of wax, and on each blob was imprinted the letters "A M" in a monogram. Mayo turned the packet over and over.

"If you want me to step out, not feeling as confidential toward me as you used to, I'll do it," proffered Captain Wass, after a polite wait.

"I'm not going to open this thing—not yet," declared the young man. "That's for reasons of my own—quite private ones, sir."

"But I'd just as soon step out."

"No, sir. Your being here has nothing whatever to do with the matter." He buttoned the packet into his coat pocket. He had little respect for Fletcher Fogg's delicacy in any question of procedure; the promoter's animus in the matter of those papers was clear. Nevertheless, the agent had crystallized in bitter words an idea which was deterring Mayo: would he take advantage of a girl's rash betrayal of her father? Somehow those seals with her monogram made sacred precincts of the inside of the packet; he touched them and withdrew his hand as if he were intruding at the door which was closed upon family privacy.

"I suppose you'd rather keep your mind wholly on straight business, seeing what a bad position you're in," suggested Captain Wass. "Very well, we'll put love-letters away and talk about something that's sensible. It's too bad there isn't some tool we could have to pry open that Vose line sell-out. The stockholders got cold feet and slid out from under Vose after the Montana was laid up."

"What has been done with her?"

"Nothing, up to now. Cashed in with the underwriters and are probably using the money to play checkers with on Wall Street. Maybe they're using her for a horrible example till they scare the rest of the independents into the combination."

"Have the underwriters sold?"

"Yes. She has been bid in—probably by some tinder-strapper of the big pirates. It's a wonder they let you get hold of this one."

"They thought she was spoken for. When they found that she wasn't, they sent Burkett out here to blow her up."

Captain Wass was not astonished by that information.

"Probably! All the talk which has been circulated says that you were junking her. I didn't have any idea you were trying to save her."

"We have been blocked by some busy talkers," admitted the young man.

"It's too bad the other folks can't do some talking and have the facts to back 'em up, son. Do you know what could be done if that syndicate could be busted? The old Vose crowd would probably hitch up with the Bee line folks. The Bee-liners are discouraged, but they haven't let go their charter. You wouldn't have to worry, then, about getting your money to finish this job, and you'd have a blamed quick market for this steamer as soon as she was off this reef."

The bulging packet seemed to press against Mayo's ribs, insistently hinting at its power to help.

"I am going back and have a talk with old man Vose about this steamer," said Captain Wass. "Now, son, a last word. I don't want to pry into any delicate matters. But I sort of smell a rat in those papers in your pocket. When she took 'em out of her muff all I could smell was violet. Do you think you've got anything about you that would help me—help us—help yourself?"

"No, sir; only what you see for yourself in this steamer's possibilities."

"Very well; then I'll do the best I can. But confound this girl business when it's mixed into man's matters!" It was heartfelt echo of Mr. Fogg's sentiments.

Captain Wass departed on his chartered motor-boat, after eating some of the boiled fish and potatoes which made up the humble fare of the workers on Razee.

Mayo based no hopes on the promised intervention of the old skipper. He had been so thoroughly discouraged by all the callous interests on shore that he felt sure his project was generally considered a failure. When he was on shore himself the whole thing seemed to be more or less a dream. {*}

* When the steamer Carolyn was wrecked on Metinic Rock a few years ago a venturesome young man, without money or experience in salvaging, managed to raise a few thousand dollars, bought the steamer for $1,000 from a frightened junk concern, and after many months of toil, during which he was mocked at by experienced men, managed to float her. She was sold recently for $180,000, and is now carrying cargoes to Europe.

They were reduced to extremities on board the Conomo. There was no more coal for the lighter's engine, equipment was disabled, parts were needed for worn machinery, Smut-nosed Dolph was pounding Hungryman's tattoo on the bottom of the flour-barrel, trying to knock out enough dust for another batch of biscuit.

Mayo had kept his promise and had not confided to Captain Candage the source of the loan which had enabled them to do what they had done. After a few days of desperate consideration Mayo sailed on the Ethel and May for Maquoit.

He avoided the eyes of the villagers as much as was possible; he landed far down the beach from the house which was the refuge for the folks from Hue and Cry. In his own heart he knew the reason for this slinking approach: he did not want Polly Candage to see him in this plight. Her trust had been so absolute! Her confidence in him so supreme! In his mental distress he was not thinking of his rags or his physical unsightliness. He went straight to the store of Deacon Rowley and his looks startled that gentleman into some rather unscriptural ejaculations.

However, Deacon Rowley promptly recovered his presence of mind when Mayo solicited an additional loan. The refusal was sharp and conclusive.

"But you may as well follow your hand in the thing," insisted Mayo. "That's why I have come to you. I hated to come, sir. I have tried all other means. You can see how I have worked!" He spread his tortured hands. "Come out and see for yourself!"

"I don't like the water."

"But you can see that we are going to succeed if we get more money. You have five thousand in the project; you can't afford to drop where you are."

"I know what I can afford to do. I have always said, from the first, that you'd never make a go of it."

At this statement Mayo displayed true amazement.

"But, confound it all, you lent us money! What do you mean by crawfishing in this way?"

Deacon Rowley was visibly embarrassed; he had dropped to this vitally interested party a damaging admission of his real sentiments.

"I mean that I ain't going to dump any more money in, now that you ain't making good! I might have believed you the first time you came. I reckon I must have. But you can't fool me again. No use to coax! Not another cent."

"Aren't you worried about how you're going to get back what you have already lent?" demanded Mayo, with exasperation.

"The Lord will provide," declared Deacon Rowley, devoutly.

The young man stared at this amazing creditor, worked his jaws a few moments wordlessly, found no speech adequate, and stamped out of the store. He no longer dreaded to meet Polly Candage. He felt that he needed to see her. He was seeking the comfort of sanity in that shore world of incomprehensible lunacy; he had had experience with Polly Candage's soothing calmness.

She came out from her little school and controlled her emotions with difficulty when she saw his piteous condition.

"Let's walk where I can feel the comfort of green grass under my feet," he pleaded; "that may seem real! Nothing else does!"

By her matter-of-fact acceptance of him and his appearance and his mood she calmed him as they walked along.

"And even Rowley," he added, after his blunt confession of failure, "he has just turned me down. He won't follow his five thousand with another cent. The old rascal deserves to be cheated if we fail. He is telling me that he always believed we would never make good in the job. Is he crazy, or am I?"

"Make all allowances for Deacon Rowley," she pleaded. "Keep away from him. He is not a consoling man. But there must be some way for you, Boyd. Let us think! You have been keeping too close to the thing—to your work—and there are other places besides Limeport."

"There's New York—and there's a way," he growled.

"You must try every chance; it means so much to you!"

"Is that your advice?"

"Certainly, Boyd!"

He stopped and pulled the sealed packet from his coat. In the stress of his despair and resentment he was brutal rather than considerate.

"There are papers in there with which I can club Julius Marston until he squeals. I haven't seen them, but I know well enough what they are. I can scare him into giving back all he has taken away from me. I can make him give back a lot to other folks. And from those other folks I can get money to finish our work on the Conomo. Look at the monogram on that seal, Polly!" He pointed grimy finger and held the packet close.

"From—Miss Marston?" she asked, tremulously.

"Yes, Polly."

"And she is helping you?"

"I suppose she is trying to."

"Well, it's what a girl should do when she loves a man," she returned. But she did not look at him and her lips were white.

"And you think I ought to use her help?"

"Yes." She evidently realized that her tone was a mere quaver of assent, for she repeated the word more firmly.

"But these papers are not hers, Polly. She stole them—or somebody stole them for her—from her own father," he went on, relentlessly.

"She must love you very much, Boyd."

They turned away from each other and gazed in opposite directions. He was wondering, as he had through many agonized hours, just what motive was influencing Alma Marston in those later days. With all his soul he wanted to question Polly Candage—to get the light of her woman's instinct on his troubled affairs; but the nature of the secret he was hiding put effective stopper on his tongue.

"Under those circumstances, no matter what kind of a sacrifice she has made for you, you ought to accept it, Boyd."

"I want to accept it; every impulse in me says to go in and grab. Polly, hell-fire is blazing inside of me. I want to tear them down—the whole of them. I do! You needn't jump! But if I use those papers which that girl has stolen from her father I'll be a dirty whelp. You know it, and I know it! Suppose you should tell me some secret about your own father so I could use it to cheat him out of his share of our partnership? You might mean all right, but after I had used it you would hate me! Now wouldn't you?"

"Perhaps—probably I wouldn't hate you," she stammered. "But I'd think more of you if you—yes, I'm sure I'd think more of you if you didn't take advantage of my foolishness."

"That's it, exactly! Any man, if I told him about this situation, would say that I'm a fool not to use every tool I can get hold of. But you understand better! I'm glad I came to talk with you. I have been dreadfully tempted. Your advice is keeping me straight!"

"I have not advised you, Boyd!"

"You don't need to use words! It's your instinct telling me what is right to do. You wouldn't think it was a square deal for me to use these papers, would you?"

"If you love her so much that you're willing to sacrifice yourself and your work and—"

"Say it, Polly! I'm sacrificing your father, too! It's for a notion—not much else!"

"No, it must be because you love her so much. You are afraid she will think less of you if you take advantage of her. I think your stand is noble, Boyd!"

"I don't! I think it's infernal foolishness, and I wish the Mayo breed didn't have so much of that cursed stiff-necked conscience! Our family wouldn't be where it is to-day." He spoke with so much heat that she turned-wondering eyes on him.

"But it's for her sake, Boyd! It's—"

"Nothing of the sort! That is, it isn't as you think it is."

"I only think you love her."

"I don't want you to say that—or believe it!" he raved. "If you only knew—if I could tell you—you'd see that it's insulting my common sense to say that I'm in love with Alma Marston. I don't love her! I—I don't know just where I stand. I don't know what's the matter with me. I'm in the most damnable position a man can be in. And I'm talking like a fool. Isn't that so?"

"I don't understand you," she faltered.

"Of course you don't. I reckon I'm a lunatic. I'll be rolling over here and biting the grass next!"

His passion puzzled her. His flaming eyes, his rough beard, his rage, and all the uncouth personality of him shocked her.

"Boyd, what—whatever is the matter? I'm afraid."

"I don't blame you. I'm afraid of myself these days!" He shook his swollen fists over his head.

"It ought to encourage you because she is trying to help you!"

"Be still!" he roared. "You don't know what you're talking about. Help me! There are women who can help a man—do help a man, every turn he makes. There are other women who keep kicking him down into damnation even when they think they are helping. I'm not going to stay here any longer. I mustn't stay, Polly. I'll be saying things worse than what I have said. What I said about women doesn't refer to you! You are true and good, and I envy that man, whoever he is."

He started down the slope toward the beach.

"Are you going back to the wreck?" she asked, plaintively.

"To the wreck!"

"But wait!" She could not control either her feelings or her voice.

"I can't wait. I don't dare to stay another minute!"

She called again and he halted at a little distance and faced her. He was absolutely savage in demeanor and tone.

"Remember what I said about her! Don't insult my common sense! She is—Oh, no matter!" He shook his fists again and went on his way.

She stood on the hillside and watched him row out to the little schooner. And through her tears she did not know whether he waved salute to her with those poor, work-worn hands, or again shook his fists. He made some sort of a flourish over the rail of the quarter-deck. The grieving and mystified girl was somberly certain that his troubles had touched Mayo's wits.


Will had promised his Sue that this trip, if well ended, Should coil up his ropes and he'd anchor on shore. When his pockets were lined, why his life should be mended, The laws he had broken he'd never break more. —Will Watch.

They needed food, lease-money for their hired equipment was due, and the dependents at Maquoit must be looked after.

Pride and hope had inspired the crew at Razee to salvage the Conomo intact. Material removed from her would immediately become junk to be valued at junk prices, instead of being a valuable and active asset on board. But there was no other resource in sight. No word came from Captain Wass; and Mayo had put little confidence in that possibility, anyway.

There was nothing else to do—they must sell off something on which they could realize quickly.

In the estimation of many practical men this procedure would have been a warrantable makeshift, its sole drawback being a sacrifice of values. But to the captains on Razee it seemed like the beginning of complete surrender; it was the first step toward the dismantling of the steamship. It was making a junk-pile of her, and they confessed to themselves that they would probably be obliged to keep on in the work of destruction. In the past their bitterest toil had been spiced with the hope of big achievement; the work they now set themselves to do was melancholy drudgery.

They brought the Ethel and May alongside and loaded into her the anchors, chains, spare cables, and several of the life-boats. Mayo took charge of the expedition to the main.

The little schooner, sagging low with her burden, wallowed up the harbor of Limeport just before sunset, one afternoon. Early June was abroad on the seas and the pioneer yachting cruisers had been coaxed to the eastward; Mayo saw several fine craft anchored inside the breakwater and paid little attention to them. He paced the narrow confines of his quarter-deck and felt the same kind of shame a ruined man feels when he is on his way to the pawnshop for the first time. He had his head down; he hated to look forward at the telltale cargo of the schooner.

"By ginger! here's an old friend of yours, this yacht!" called Mr. Speed, who was at the wheel.

They were making a reach across the harbor to an anchorage well up toward the wharves, and were passing under the stern of a big yacht. Mayo looked up. It was the Olenia.

"But excuse me for calling it a friend, Captain Mayo," bawled the mate, with open-water disregard of the possibilities of revelation in his far-carrying voice.

A man rose from a chair on the yacht's quarter-deck and came to the rail. Though the schooner passed hardly a biscuit-toss away, the man leveled marine glasses, evidently to make sure that what he had guessed, after Mr. Speed's remark, was true.

Mayo felt an impulse to turn his back, to dodge below. But he did not retreat; he walked to his own humble rail and scowled up into the countenance of Julius Mar-ston. The schooner was sluggish and the breeze was light, and the two men had time for a prolonged interchange of visual rancor.

"I didn't mean to holler so loud, Captain Mayo," barked Oakum Otie, in still more resonant manner, to offer apology. "But seeing her, and remembering last time I laid eyes on her—"

"Shut up!" commanded the master. "I'll take the wheel. Go forward and clear cable, and stand by for the word!"

He looked behind, in spite of himself, and saw that a motor-tender had come away from the Olenia. It foamed along in the wake of the schooner. It circled her after it had passed, and kept up those manouvers until the schooner's anchor was let go. Then the tender came to the side and stopped. The mate and engineer in her were new men; Mayo did not know them. The mate tipped respectful salute and stated that Mr. Marston had sent them to bring Captain Mayo on board the yacht at once.

"My compliments to Mr. Marston. But I am not able to come."

They went away, but returned in a short time, and the mate handed a note over the rail. It was a curt statement, dictated and typewritten, that Mr. Marston wished to see Captain Mayo on business connected with the Conomo, and that if Captain Mayo were not able to transact that business Mr. Marston would be obliged to hunt up some other party who could do business regarding the Conomo. Remembering that he had the interests of others to consider, Mayo dropped into the tender, sullen, resentful, wondering what new test of his endurance was to be made, and feeling peculiarly ill-equipped, in his present condition of courage and temper, to meet Julius Marston.

The latter had himself under full restraint when they met on the yacht's quarter-deck, and Mayo was more fully conscious of his own inadequacy.

"Below, if you please, captain." He led the way, even while he uttered the invitation.

No one was visible in the saloon. In the luxury of that interior the unkempt visitor seemed especially strange, particularly out of place.

"You will excuse what has seemed to be my hurry in getting you over here, sir, but I take it that your sailing into this port just now coincides with the arrival of the Vose crowd in this city to-day."

Mr. Fletcher Fogg first, and now Mr. Fogg's employer, had given advance information which anticipated Mayo's knowledge. The young man had been having some special training in dissimulation, and he did not betray any surprise. He bowed.

"It's better for you to talk with me before you allow them to make a fool of you. I am prepared to take that steamer off your hands, as she stands, at a fair appraisal, and I will give bonds to assume all expenses of the suit brought by the underwriters."

"There has been no suit brought by the underwriters."

Mr. Marston raised his eyebrows. "Oh! I must remember that you are considerably out of the world. The underwriters make claim that the vessel was not legally surrendered by them. Have you documents showing release? If so, I'll be willing to pay you about double what otherwise I shall feel like offering. Take a disputed title in an admiralty case and it's touchy business."

Mayo remembered the haphazard manner in which the steamer had been transferred, and he did not reply.

Marston's manner was that of calm, collected, cool business; his air carried weight. More than ever did Mayo feel his own pitiful weakness in these big affairs where more than honest hard work counted in the final adjustment.

"How much did you pay your big lawyers to stir up this suit by the underwriters?" he blurted, and Marston's eyelids flicked, in spite of his impassivity. There was instinct of the animal at bay, rather than any knowledge, behind Mayo's question.

"Why should you suggest that I have anything to do with such a suit?"

"You seem almighty ready to assume all liability."

"I'm not here to have childish disputes with you, sir. This is straight business."

"Very well. What do you want?"

"Have you documents, as I have suggested?"

"I have my bill of sale. I take it for granted that the folks who sold to me are backed by papers from the underwriters."

"That's where you are in error, unfortunately. You are all made party to a suit. Time clause, actual abandonment, right of redemption—all those matters are concerned. Of course, it means injunction and long litigation. I suggested assuming liabilities and stepping in, because I am backed by the best admiralty lawyers in New York. I repeat the offer Mr. Fogg made to you."

"You admit that Mr. Fogg made that offer for you or your interests, do you?"

"Well, yes!" admitted Marston. "We allow Mr. Fogg to act for us in a few matters."

"I am glad to know it. There has been so much cross-tag going on that I have been a little doubtful!"

"Kindly avoid sarcasm and temper, if you please! Do you care to accept the offer?"

Mayo glared at the financier, looking him up and down. Furious hatred took away his power of sane consideration. He was in no mood to weigh chances, either for himself or for his associates. He doubted Marston's honesty of purpose. He knew how this man must feel toward the presumptuous fool who had dared to look up at Alma Marston; he was conscious that the magnate must be concealing some especial motive under his cold exterior.

Whether Marston was anticipating blackmail from Mayo's possession of the documents or had hatched up ostensible litigation in order to force the bothersome amateurs out of the Conomo proposition, the young man could not determine; either view of the situation was equally insulting to those whom he made his antagonists.

"Well!" snapped the magnate, plainly finding it difficult to restrain his own violent hatred much longer in this interview. "Decide whether you will have a little ready cash and a good position or whether you will be kicked out entirely!"

"I don't want your money! You're trying to cheat me with fake law business even while you are offering me money! I don't want your job! I have worked for you once. I'll never be your hired man again."

"If I did not know that you have a better reason for standing out in this fashion, I'd say that you have allowed, your spite to drive you crazy, young man."

"What is that better reason?"

"Blackmail! You propose to trade on a theft."

Mayo struggled for a moment with an impulse that was almost frantic; he wanted to throw the packet in Mar-ston's face and tell him that he lied. Again the young man felt that queer sense of helplessness; he knew that he could not make Marston understand.

"Mayo, I have tried to deal with you as if you were more or less of a man. I was willing to admit that my agents had injured you by their mistakes. I have offered a decent compromise. I have done what I hardly ever do—bother with petty details like this!"

That impulse to deliver the papers to Marston was then not so insistent; even Mayo's rising anger did not prompt him to do that. The wreck of a man's life and hopes dismissed flippantly as petty details!

"Seeing that I am not able to deal with you on a business man's basis, I shall handle you as I would handle any other thief."

Mayo turned to leave, afraid of his own desperate desire to beat that sneering mouth into shapelessness.

At the head of the companionway stood half a dozen sailors, armed with iron grate-bars.

"If those papers are on you, I'm going to have them," stated the financier. "If they are not on you, you'll be glad to tell me where they are before I get done with you."

The captive halted between the master and the vassals.

"I'm going to crucify my feelings a little more, Mayo," stated Marston. "Step forward here where those men can't hear. It's important."

Marston knocked softly on a stateroom door and his daughter came forth. She gasped when she saw this ragged visitor, and in her stare there was real horror.

"I haven't been able to sift this thing to the bottom. By facing you two, as I'm doing, I may be able to get the truth of the case," said Marston, with the air of a magistrate dealing with malefactors. "Now, Alma, I'll allow you a minute or two to use your tongue on this fine specimen before my men use their bars."

"I heard what my father offered you. You must take it."

"I have other men to consider—honest men, who have worked hard with me."

He trembled in their presence. Her appearance put sane thoughts out of his head and choked the words in his throat. He saw himself in a mirror and wondered if this were not a dream—if it had not been a dream that she had ever loved him.

He wanted to put out to her his mutilated hands which he was hiding behind him. He yearned to explain to her the man's side of the case. He wanted her to understand what he owed to the men who had risked their lives to serve him, to make her realize the bond which exists between men who have toiled and starved together.

"You have yourself to consider, first of all. Much depends. In your silly notions about a lot of paupers you are throwing my father's kindness in his face!"

He stammered, unable to frame coherent reply.

"Be sensible. You have no right to put a heap of scrap-iron and a lot of low creatures ahead of your personal interests."

There was malice in Marston's eyes. He saw an opportunity to make Mayo's position even more false in the opinion of the girl.

"I'll be entirely frank, Mayo. In spite of our personal differences, I want your services—I need them. I have found out that you're a young man of determination and plenty of ability. I'll put you ahead fast if you'll come over with me. But you must come clean. No strings on you with that other crowd."

"I can't sell 'em out. I won't do it," protested Mayo. He did not exactly understand all the reasons for his obstinacy. But his instinct told him that Julius Marston was not descending in this manner except for powerful reasons, and that he was attempting to buy a traitor for his uses.

"How do you dare to turn against my father?"

"I—I don't know! Something seems to be the matter with me." He wrenched at his throat with his hand.

"And after what I did—my wicked foolishness—those papers—"

"Go on! I propose to get to the bottom of this thing," declared Marston.

The young man drove his hand into his pocket, pulled out the sealed packet, and forced it into the girl's hands. Marston promptly seized it.

"You have not opened it?"

"No, sir."

"I did not open it, either," cried the girl. "I sealed it, just as it was tied up."

Marston ripped off the strings and the wax.

Outside a loud voice was hailing the yacht. "Compliments of Captain Wass to Captain Mayo, and will he please say when he is coming back aboard his schooner?"

The financier paid no attention; he was busy with the papers. His face was white with rage. He threw them about him on the floor.

"Every sheet is blank—it is waste-paper!" he shouted. "What confounded trick is this?"

"You'd better ask the man who gave that packet to your daughter," suggested Mayo. He seemed to be less astonished than Marston and the girl. "I might have known that your man, Bradish, would be that kind of a sneak."

"What do you know about Bradish being concerned in this?"

"I'm guessing it. Probably your daughter can say."

"I'll have no more of your evasions, Alma. I'm going to the bottom of this matter now. Did Bradish give you this packet?"

"Yes, father."

"How did it get to this man here?"

"I gave it to a man named Captain Wass."

Again they heard the voice outside. "I don't care if he is busy! I tell you to take word to Captain Mayo that he is wanted right away on his schooner. Tell him it's Captain Wass."

"The devil has sent that man along at about the right time," declared Marston. He strode to the companion-way. "Inform Captain Wass that he is wanted on board here! Hide those bars till he is below!"

He came back, raging, and stood between Mayo and the girl, who had seemed to find words inadequate during the short time they had been left together.

"I don't believe anything you tell me! There's an infernal trick, here. The papers are missing. Somebody has them."

His fury blinded his prudence.

He strode toward Captain Wass when the old mariner came stumping down the companionway.

"Is your name Wass?"

"Captain Wass, sir."

"You took papers from my daughter and brought them to this man!"


Marston stepped back and kicked at the blank sheets on the floor.

"Perhaps you can tell me if these are what you brought.".

Captain Wass stared long at Mayo, at the girl, and at the incensed magnate. Then he looked down at the scattered papers and scratched his head with much deliberation.

"Why don't you say something?" demanded Marston.

"I'm naturally slow and cautious," stated Captain Wass. He put on his spectacles, kneeled on the soft carpet, and examined the blank papers and the broken seals. He laid them back on the carpet and meditated for some time, still on his knees. When he looked up, peering over the edge of his spectacles, he paid no attention to Mar-ston, to the latter's indignant astonishment.

"Vose and others are waiting for us at the hotel," he informed Captain Mayo, "and it's important business, and we'd better be tending to it instead of fooling around here."

"No matter about any other business except this, sir," cried Marston.

"There can't be much business mixed up in a lot of blank sheets of paper," snapped Captain Wass. "What's the matter?"

"I have lost valuable papers."

The old skipper bent shrewd squint at the angry man who was standing over him. "Steamer combination papers, hey?"

"You seem to know pretty well."

"Ought to know."


Captain Wass rose slowly, with grunts, and rubbed his stiff knees. "Because I've got 'em."

"Stole them from the package, did you?"

"It wasn't stealing—it was business."

"Hand them over."

"I insist on that, too, Captain Wass," said Mayo, with indignation. "Hand over those papers."

"Can't be done, for I haven't got 'em with me. And I won't hand 'em over till I have used them in my business."

"I shall have you arrested," announced Marston.

"So do. Sooner the whole thing gets before the court, the better." His perfect calmness had its effect on the financier.

"What are you proposing to use those papers for?"

"To make you pirates turn back the Vose line property and pay damages. As to the rest of your combination, the critters that's in it can skin their own skunks. I guess the whole thing will take care of itself after we get the Vose line back."

"You are asking for an impossibility. The matter cannot be arranged."

"Then we'll see how far Uncle Sam can go in unscrambling that particular nestful of eggs. I'll give the papers to the government."

"Haven't you any influence with this man?" Marston asked the astounded Mayo.

"No, he hasn't—not a mite in this case," returned Captain Wass. "He needs a guardeen in some things, and I'm serving as one just now."

"You must get them from him—you must, Captain Mayo," cried the girl. "I did not understand what I was doing."

"I will get them."

"I'd like to see you do it, son!"

He turned on the Wall Street man. "I'm only asking for what is rightfully due my own people. I'm a man of few words and just now I'm sticking close to schedule. Until eleven o'clock to-night you'll find Vose, myself, and our lawyers at the Nicholas Hotel. After eleven o'clock we shall be in bed because we've got to get an early start for the wreck out on Razee. We're going to finance that job. And in case we don't come to terms with you tonight we shall use our club to keep you out of our business after this. You know what the club is."

Marston was too busily engaged with Captain Wass to pay heed to his daughter. She went close to Mayo and whispered.

"You must quit them, Boyd. It's for my sake. You must help my father. They are wretches. Think of what it will mean to you if you can help us! You will do it. Promise me!"

He did not reply.

"Do you dare to hesitate for one moment—when I ask you—for my sake?"

"That's my last word," bawled Captain Wass. "There's no blackmail about it—we're only taking back what's our own."

"Are you one of those—creatures?" she asked, indignantly.

If she had shown one spark of sympathy or real understanding in that crisis of their affairs, if she had not been so much, in that moment, the daughter of Julius Marston, counseling selfishness, he might have fatuously continued to coddle his romance, in spite of all that had preceded. But her eyes were hard. Her voice had the money-chink in it. He started, like a man awakened. His old cap had fallen on the carpet. He picked it up.

"Good-by!" he said. "I have found out where I belong in this world."

And in that unheroic fashion ended something which, so he then realized, should never have been begun. He followed Captain Wass across the saloon.

"Better advise your buckos to be careful how they handle them grate-bars," shouted Captain Wass. "I'm loaded, and if I'm joggled I'm liable to explode."

They were not molested when they left the yacht. The doryman who had brought Captain Wass rowed them to the wharf.

"Those papers—" Mayo had ventured, soon after they left the yacht's side.

"Not one word about 'em!" yelped the old skipper. "It's my business—entire! When the time comes right I'll show you that it's my private business. I never allow anybody to interfere in that."

That night, after the conference at the hotel, and after Julius Marston, growling profanity, had put his name to certain papers, drawn by careful lawyers, Captain Wass explained why the matter of the sealed packet was his private business. He took Marston apart from the others for the purpose of explaining.

"I haven't said one word to Vose or his associates about this business of the documents. They think you have come because you wanted to straighten out a low-down trick worked by an understrapper. So this has put you in mighty well with the Vose crowd, sir."

Marston grunted.

"It ought to be kind of pleasing to have a few men think you are on the square," pursued Captain Wass.

"That's enough of this pillycock conversation. Hand over those papers!"

"Just one moment!" He signaled to Captain Mayo, who came to them. "I'm going to tell Mr. Marston why those documents were my especial business to-day, and why you couldn't control me in the matter. I may as well explain to the two of you at once. It was my own business for this reason: I don't know anything about any papers. I never saw any. I never opened that package. I handed it along just as it was given to me. That's true, on my sacred word, Mr. Marston; and I haven't any reason for lying to you—not after you have signed those agreements."

"Come outside," urged the financier. "I want to tell you what I think of you."

"No," said the old skipper, mildly. "And I'd lower your voice, sir, if I were you. These men here have a pretty good idea of you just now, and I don't want you to spoil it."

"You're a lying renegade!"

"Oh no! I have only showed you that all the good bluffers are not confined to Wall Street. There's one still loose there. Your man Bradish probably had reasons for wanting to bluff your daughter—and save his own skin. He'll probably hand your papers to you!"

Marston swore and departed.

"I laid out that course whilst I was down on my knees in his cabin, sort of praying for a good lie in a time of desp'rit need," Captain Wass confided to Mayo. "It wasn't bad, considering the way it has worked out."


Cheer up, Jack, bright smiles await you From the fairest of the fair, And her loving eyes will greet you With kind welcomes everywhere. Rolling home, rolling home, Rolling home across the sea. Rolling home to dear old England, Rolling home, dear land, to thee! —Rolling Home.

There was no niggardliness in the trade the Vose folks made with Captain Mayo. They contracted to co-operate with him and his men in floating the steamship, repairing her in dry dock, and refitting her for her route. She would be appraised as she stood after refitting, as a going proposition, and Mayo was to receive stock to the amount of her value—stock in the newly organized Vose line.

"Furthermore," stated old man Vose, "we shall need a chap of just about your gauge as manager. You have shown that you are able to do things."

He was up on the Conomo's deck after a long inspection of the work which had been done under difficulties.

"You would have had this steamer off with your own efforts if your money had lasted. Your next job is the Montana; but you'll simply manage that, Captain Mayo—use your head and save your muscle."

"I'll get her off, seeing that I put her on."

"We all know just how she was put on—and Marston will pay for it in his hard coin."

Under these circumstances Razee Reef was no longer a mourners' bench! The dreary days of makeshift were at an end.

The lighters of one of the biggest wrecking companies of the coast hurried to Razee and flocked around the maimed steamer—Samaritans of the sea. Gigantic equipment embraced her; great pumps gulped the water from her; bolstered and supported, as a stricken man limps with his arms across the shoulders of his friends, the steamer came off Razee Reef with the first spring tide in July, and toiled off across the sea in the wake of puffing tugs, and was shored up and safe at last in a dry dock—the hospital of the crippled giants of the ocean.

No music ever sounded as sweet to Captain Mayo as that clanging chorus the hammers of the iron-workers played on the flanks of the Conomo. But he tore himself away from that music, and went down to Maquoit along with a vastly contented Captain Candage, who remembered now that he had a daughter waiting for him.

She had been apprised by letter of their success and of their coming.

Maquoit made a celebration of that arrival of the Ethel and May, and Dolph and Otie, cook and mate of the schooner, led the parade when the men were on shore.

They came back to their own with the full purses that the generosity of their employers had provided, and there was no longer any doubt as to the future of the men who once starved on Hue and Cry.

Captain Mayo had declared that he knew where to find faithful workers when it came time to distribute jobs.

Polly Candage had come to him when he stepped foot on shore, hands outstretched to him, and eyes alight. And when she put her hands in his he knew, in his soul, that this was the greeting he had been waiting for; her words of congratulation were the dearest of all, her smile was the best reward, and for her dear self he had been hungry.

But he would not admit to himself that he had come to woo.

When the soft dusk had softened the harsh outlines of the little hamlet, and the others were busy with their own affairs and had left Mayo and Polly to themselves, he sat with her on the porch of the widow's cottage, where they spent that first evening after they had been saved from the sea.

There had been a long silence between them. "We have had no opportunity—I have not dared yet to tell you my best hopes for the dearest thing of all," she ventured.

"The one up inland. I know. I am glad for you."

"What one up inland?"

"That young man—the only young man in all the world."

"Oh yes! I had forgotten."

He stared at her. "Forgotten?"

"Why—why—I don't exactly mean forgotten. But I was not thinking about him when I spoke. I mean that now—with your new prospects—you can go to—to—There may come a time when you can speak to Mr. Marston."

"I have spoken to Mr. Marston, quite lately. He has spoken to me," he said, his face hard. "We shall never speak to each other again, if I can have my way."

He met her astonished gaze. "Polly, I hate to trouble you with my poor affairs of this kind. I can talk of business to Mr. Vose, and of the sea to your father. But there's another matter that I can't mention to anybody—except you will listen. I will tell you where I saw Mr. Marston—and his daughter."

She listened, her lips apart.

"So, you see," he said at the end, "it was worse than a dream; it was a mistake. It couldn't have been real love, for it was not built on the right foundation. I have never had much experience with girls. I have been swashing about at sea 'most all my life. Perhaps I don't know what real love is. But it seems to me it can't amount to much unless it is built up on mutual understanding, willingness to sacrifice for each other."

"I think so," returned Polly, softly.

"I want to see that young man of yours, up inland. I want to tell him that he is mighty lucky because he met you first."


"I can't tell you just why. It isn't right for me to do so."

"But a girl likes to hear such things. Please!"

"Will you forgive me for saying what I shouldn't say?"

"I will forgive you."

"He's lucky, because if I didn't know you were promised and in love, I'd go down at your feet and beg you to marry me. You're the wife for a Yankee sailor, Polly Candage. If only there were two of you in this world, we'd have a double wedding."

He leaped up and started away.

"Where are you going?" she asked, and there was almost a wail in her tones. "No, he does not understand girls well," she told herself, bitterly.

"I'm going down to Rowley's store to see if he will take his money back and let us save interest. He told me I'd have to keep the money for a year."

She called to him falteringly, but with such appeal in her tones that he halted and stared at her.

"Couldn't you—Isn't it just as well to let the matter rest until—till—"

"Oh, there's no time like the present in money matters," he declared, with a laugh, wholly oblivious, not in the least understanding her embarrassment, her piteous effort to bar her little temple of love's sacrifice so that he could not trample in just then.

His laugh was a forced one. He realized that if he did not hurry away from this girl he would be reaching out his arms to her, declaring the love that surged in him, now that he had awakened to full consciousness of that love; his Yankee reticence, his instinct of honor between men, were fighting hard against his passion; he told himself that he would not betray a man he did not know, nor proffer love to a girl who, so he believed, loved another.

"May I not go with you?" she pleaded, restraining her wild impulse to run ahead of him and warn the deacon.

"Of course!" he consented, and they walked down the street, neither daring to speak.

They found Rowley alone in his store. He was puttering around, making ready to close the place for the night.

As they entered, the girl stepped behind Mayo and, catching the deacon's eye, made frantic gestures. In the half gloom those gestures were decidedly incomprehensible; the deacon lowered his spectacles and stared at her, trying to understand this wigwagging.

"I'd like to take up that loan and save the rest of the year's interest, Deacon Rowley," stated Mayo, with sailorly bluntness.

The girl was trying to convey to the deacon the fact that he must not reveal her secret. She was shaking her head. This seemed to the intermediary like direct and conclusive orders from the principal.

"No, sir, Captain Mayo! It can't be done."

"I don't call that a square deal between men, no matter what straight business may be."

Polly now signaled eager assent, meaning to make the deacon understand that he must take the money. But the deacon did not understand; he thought the girl affirmed her desire for straight business.

"You took it for a year. No back tracks, captain."

She shook her head, violently.

"No, sir! Keep it, as you agreed, and pay your interest."

"Deacon Rowley, you're an old idiot!" blazed the girl.

When the deacon yanked off his spectacles, and Captain Mayo turned amazed eyes to her, she put her hands to her face and ran out of the store, sobbing. She was only a girl! She had no more resources left with which to meet that situation in men's affairs.

Mayo's impulse was to follow, but the deacon checked him.

"I ain't going to be made a fool of no longer in this, even to make three hundred dollars," he rasped.

"A fool! What do you mean?"

"You go settle it with her."

"What has Polly Candage got to do with this business?"

"It's her money."

"You mean to say—"

"She drawed her money out of the bank, and horn-swoggled me into lying for her. What won't a girl do when she's in love with a fellow? If you 'ain't knowed it before, it's high time you did know it!"

That last remark of the deacon's had disgusted reference only to the matter of the money. But it conveyed something else to Captain Boyd Mayo.

He ran out of the store!

Far up the road he overtook her. She was hurrying home. When she faced him he saw tears on her cheeks, though the generous gloom of evening wrapped them where they stood. He took both her hands.

"Polly Candage, why did you risk your money on me?" he demanded.

"I knew you would succeed!" she murmured, turning her face away. "It was an—a good investment."

"When you gave it, did you—Were you thinking—Was it only for an investment, Polly?"

She did not reply.

"Look here! This last thing ought to tie my tongue, for I owe everything to you. But my tongue won't stay tied—not now, Polly. I don't care if there is somebody else up-country. I ought to care. I ought to respect your—"

She pulled a hand free and put plump fingers on his lips. "There is nobody up-country; there never has been anybody, Boyd," she whispered.

He took her in his arms, and kissed her, and held her close.

"Will you tell me one thing, now? I know the answer, sweetheart mine, but I want to hear you say it. Why did you give me all your money?"

She put her palms against his cheeks and spoke the words his soul was hungry for:

"Because I love you!"


Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9
Home - Random Browse