"America wouldn't provide you with many opportunities, would it?" she observed.
"You are quite right," he replied. "I am much more at home upon the Continent. The Secret Service in America, as we understand it, does not exist. One finds oneself continually in collaboration with police inspectors, and people who naturally do not understand one's point of view. At any rate," he concluded, with a little sigh, "if I have any talents, they haven't come to the front in Washington. I don't believe that dear old Sir Richard was at all sorry to see the last of me." "And you think you will prefer your new profession?"
"Soldiering? Well, I shall have to train up a bit and see. Beastly ugly work they seem to make of it, nowadays. I don't mind roughing it up to the extent of my capacity, but I do think that the advice of one's medical man should be taken into consideration."
She laughed at him openly.
"Do you know," she said, "I can't picture you campaigning in France!"
"To tell you the truth I can't picture it myself," he confessed frankly. "The stories I have heard with reference to the absence of physical comforts are something appalling. By-the-by," he went on, as though the idea had suddenly occurred to him, "I can't think how your patient can rest, anyhow, after an operation, on beds like there are on this steamer. I call it positively disgraceful of the company to impose such mattresses upon their patrons. My bones positively ache this morning."
"Mr. Phillips has his own mattress," she told him, "or rather one of the hospital ones. He was carried straight into the ambulance from the ward."
"Mr.—er—Phillips," Crawshay repeated. "Have I ever met him?"
"I should think not."
"He is, of course, a very great friend of yours?"
"I don't know why you should suppose that."
"Come, come," he remonstrated, "I suppose I am an infernally curious, prying sort of chap, but when one thinks of you, a society belle of America, you know, and, further, the patroness of that great hospital, crossing the Atlantic yourself in charge of a favoured patient, one can't help—can one?"
"Can one what?" she asked coolly.
"Scenting a romance or a mystery," he replied. "In any case, Mr. Phillips must be a man of some determination, to risk so much just for the sake of getting home."
She turned and recommenced their promenade.
"I wonder whether you realise that it isn't etiquette to question a nurse about her patient," she reminded him.
"I'm sure I am very sorry," he assured her. "I didn't imagine that my questions were in any way offensive. I told you from the first that I was always interested in invalids and cases of illness."
She turned her head and looked at him. Her glance was reproving, her manner impatient.
"Really, Mr. Crawshay," she said, "I think that you are one of the most inquisitive people I ever met."
"It really isn't inquisitiveness," he protested. "It's just obstinacy. I hate to leave a problem unexplained."
"Then to prevent any further misunderstanding, Mr. Crawshay," she concluded, a little coldly, "let me tell you that there are private reasons which make any further questioning on your part, concerning this matter, impertinent."
Crawshay lifted his cap. He had the air of a man who has received a rebuff which he takes in ill part.
"I will not risk your further displeasure, Miss Beverley," he said, stopping by his steamer chair. "I trust that you will enjoy the remainder of your promenade. Good morning!"
He summoned the deck steward to arrange his rugs, and lay back in his steamer chair, eating broth which he loathed, and watching Jocelyn Thew and Katharine Beverley through spectacles which somewhat impaired his vision. The two had strolled together to the side of the ship to watch a shoal of porpoises go by.
"I see that you are acquainted with our hero of the seaplane," Jocelyn Thew remarked.
"I met him once at Washington and once at the polo games."
"Tell me what you think of him?"
"Well," she confessed, "I scarcely know how to think of him. I must say, though, that in a general way I should think any profession would suit him better than diplomacy."
"You find him stupid?"
"I do," she admitted, "and in a particularly British way."
Jocelyn glanced thoughtfully across at Crawshay, who was contemplating his empty cup with apparent regret.
"You will not think that I am taking a liberty, Miss Beverley, if I ask you a question?"
"Why should I? Is it so very personal?"
"As a matter of fact, it isn't personal at all. I was only going to ask you if you would mind telling me what our friend Mr. Crawshay was talking to you about just now?" "Are you really interested?" she asked, with an air of faint surprise. "Well, if you must know, he was asking questions about my patient. He appears to be something of a hypochondriac himself, and he is very interested in illnesses."
"He has the air of one who takes care of himself," Jocelyn observed, with a faint smile. "However, one mustn't judge. He may be delicate."
"I think he is an old woman," she remarked carelessly.
"He rather gives one that impression, doesn't he?" Jocelyn agreed. "By-the-by, there wasn't much you could tell him about your patient, was there?"
"There really isn't anything at all," she replied. "I just mentioned his condition, and as Mr. Crawshay still seemed curious, I reminded him that it was not etiquette to question a nurse about her patients."
"Most discreet," Jocelyn declared. "As a matter of fact," he went on, "I have scarcely thought it worth while to mention it to you, because I knew exactly the sort of answer you would make to any too curious questions, but there is a reason, and a very serious reason, why my friend Phillips wishes to avoid so far as possible all manner of notice and questions."
"You call him your friend Phillips," she remarked, "yet you don't seem to have been near him since we started."
"Nor do I intend to," he replied. "That is the other point concerning which I wish to speak to you. You may think it very extraordinary, and I offer no explanation, but I do not wish it known to—say, Mr. Crawshay, or any other casual enquirer, that I have any acquaintance with or interest in Phillips."
"The subject is dismissed," she promised lightly. "I am not in the least an inquisitive person. I understand perfectly, and my lips are sealed."
His little smile of thanks momentarily transformed his expression. Her eyes became softer as they met his.
"Now please walk with me for a little time," she begged, "and let us leave off talking of these grizzly subjects. You've really taken very little notice of me so far, and I have been rather looking forward to the voyage. You have traveled so much that I am quite sure you could be a most interesting companion if you wished to be."
He obeyed at once, falling easily into step with her, and talking lightly enough about the voyage, their fellow passengers, and other trifling subjects. Her occasional attempts to lead the conversation into more serious channels, even to the subject of his travels, he avoided, however, with a curious persistency. Once she stopped short and forced him to look at her.
"Mr. Jocelyn Thew," she complained, "tell me why you persist in treating me like a child?"
Then for the first time his tone became graver.
"I want to treat you and think of you," he said, "in the only way that is possible for me."
"Explain, please," she begged.
He led her again to the side of the ship. The sea had freshened, and the spray flew past them like salt diamonds.
"Since it has pleased you to refer to the subject, Miss Beverley," he said seriously, "I will explain so far as I am able. I suppose that I have committed nearly every one of the crimes which our abbreviated dictionary of modern life enumerates. If the truth were known about me, and I were judged by certain prevailing laws, not only my reputation but my life might be in serious danger. But there is one crime which I have not committed and which I do not intend to commit, one pain which I have avoided all my life myself, and avoided inflicting upon others. I think you must know what I refer to."
"I can assure you that I do not," she told him frankly. "In any case I hate ambiguity. Do please tell me exactly what you mean."
"I was referring to my attitude towards your sex," he replied.
There was a faint twinkle in her eyes.
"That sounds so ponderous," she murmured. "Don't you like us, then?"
"There are circumstances in my life," he said, "which prevent my even considering the subject."
She turned and looked him full in the eyes. Her very sweet mouth was suddenly pathetic, her eyes were full of gentle resentment.
"I do not believe," she said firmly, "that you have done a single thing in life of which you ought to be ashamed. I do not believe one of the hard things you have said about yourself. I am not a child. I am a woman—twenty-six years old—and I like to choose my own friends. I should like you to be my friend, Mr. Thew."
He murmured a few words entirely conventional. Nothing in his expression responded in the least to the appeal of her words. His face had grown like granite. He turned to the purser, who was strolling by. As though unconsciously, the finer qualities of his voice had gone as he engaged the latter in some trivial conversation.
That night at dinner time a stranger appeared at the captain's table. A dark, thick-browed man, in morning clothes of professional cut, was shown by one of the saloon stewards to a seat which had hitherto been vacant. Crawshay, whose place was nearly opposite, leaned across at once with an air of interest.
"Good evening, Doctor," he said.
"Good evening, sir," was the somewhat gruff reply.
"Glad to see that you are able to come in and join us," Crawshay continued, unabashed. "You are, I believe, the physician in attendance on Mr. Phillips. I am very interested in illnesses. As a matter of fact, I am a great invalid myself."
The doctor contented himself with a muttered monosyllable which was not brimful of sympathy.
"This is a very remarkable expedition of yours," Crawshay went on. "I am a man of very little sentiment myself—one place to me is very much like another—so I do not understand this wild desire on the part of an invalid to risk his life by undertaking such a journey. It is a great feat, however. It shows what can be accomplished by a man of determination, even when he is on the point of death." "Who said that my patient was on the point of death?" the doctor demanded brusquely.
"It is common report," Crawshay assured him. "Besides, as you know, the New York press got hold of the story before you started, and the facts were in all the evening papers."
"Didn't you read them? Most interesting!" Crawshay continued. "They all took the same line, and agreed that it was an absolutely unprecedented occurrence for a man to embark upon an ocean voyage only a few days after an operation for appendicitis, with double pneumonia behind, and angina pectoris intervening. Almost as unusual," Crawshay concluded with a little bow, "as the fact of his being escorted by the most distinguished amateur nurse in the world, and a physician of such distinction as Doctor—Doctor—Dear me, how extraordinary! For the moment I must confess that your name has escaped me."
The heavy-browed man leaned forward a little deliberately towards his vis-a-vis. His was not an attractive personality. His features were large and of bulldog type. His forehead was low, and his eyes, which gave one the impression of being clear and penetrating, were concealed by heavy spectacles. His hands only, which were well-shaped and cared for, might have indicated his profession.
"My name," he said, "is Gant—Doctor James H. Gant. You are not, I presume, a medical man yourself?"
Crawshay shook his head.
"A most admirable profession," he declared, "but one which I should never have the nerve to follow."
"You do not, therefore, appreciate the fact," Doctor Gant continued, "that a medical man, especially one connected with a hospital of such high standing as St. Agnes's, does not discuss his patient's ailments with strangers."
"No offence, Doctor—no offence," Crawshay protested across the table. "Mine is just the natural interest in a fellow sufferer of a man who has known most of the ailments to which we weak humans are subject."
"I suppose, as we have the pleasure of your company this evening," the captain intervened, "Miss Beverley will be an absentee?"
"Miss Beverley at the present moment is taking my place," the doctor replied. "She insisted upon it. Personally, I am used to eating at all times and in all manner of places."
There was a brief silence, during which Crawshay discussed the subject of inoculation for colds in the head with his neighbour on the other side, and the doctor showed a very formidable capacity for making up for any meals which he might have missed by too rigid an attention to his patient. The captain presently addressed him again.
"Have you met our ship's doctor yet?" he enquired.
"I have had that honour," Doctor Gant acknowledged. "He was good enough to call upon me yesterday and offer his assistance should I require it."
"A very clever fellow, I believe," the captain observed.
"He impressed me some," the other confessed. "If any further complications should arise, it will be a relief for me to consult him."
The subject of the sick man dropped. Crawshay walked out of the saloon with the captain and left him at the bottom of the stairs.
"I'll take the liberty of paying you a short call presently, Captain, if I may," he said. "I just want to fetch my wraps. And by-the-by, did I tell you that I have been fortunate enough to find a pair of rubbers that just fit me, at the barber's? One of the greatest blessings on board ship, Captain, believe me, is the barber's shop. It's like a bijou Harrod's or Whiteley's—anything you want, from an elephant to a needle, you know. In about ten minutes, Captain, if I shan't be disturbing you."
The captain found the purser on deck and took him into his cabin.
"I saw you speaking to Doctor Gant in the gangway," the former observed. "I wonder what he really thinks about his patient?"
"I think I can tell you that, sir, without betraying any confidences," the purser replied. "Unless a miracle happens, there'll be a burial before we get across. Poor fellow, it seems too bad after such an effort."
The captain nodded sympathetically.
"After all, I can understand this hankering of a man to die in his own country," he said. "I had a brother once the same way. They brought him home from Australia, dying all the way, as they believed, but directly he set foot in England he seemed to take on a new lease of life—lived for years afterwards." "Is that so?" the purser remarked. "Well, this fellow ought to have a chance. It's a short voyage, and he has his own doctor and nurse to look after him."
"Let's hope they'll keep him alive, then. I hate the burial service at sea."
The captain turned aside and filled his pipe thoughtfully.
"Dix," he continued, "as you know, I am not a superstitious man, but there seems to be something about this trip I can't fathom."
"Well, there's this wireless business, first of all. We shall close it up in about thirty-six hours, you know, and in the meantime I have been expecting half a dozen messages, not one of which has come through."
"Young fellow of the highest character, Robins," the purser remarked drily.
"That may be," the captain agreed, "and yet I can't get rid of my premonition. I wouldn't mind laying you anything you like, Dix, that we don't sight a submarine, and shouldn't, even if we hadn't our guns trained."
"That's one comfort, anyway. Being a family man, sir—"
"Yes, I know all about your family, Dix," the captain interrupted irritably, "but just at the present moment I am more interested in what is going on in my ship. I begin to believe that Mr. Crawshay's voyage through the air wasn't altogether a piece of bravado, after all."
The purser smiled a little incredulously. "He sent round this evening to know if I could lend him some flannel pyjamas," he said,—"says all the things that have been collected together for him are too thin. That man makes me tired, sir."
"He makes me wonder."
"How's that, sir?"
"Because I can't size him up," the captain declared. "There isn't a soul on board who isn't laughing at him and saying what a sissy he is. They say he has smuggled an extra lifebelt into his cabin, and spends half his time being seasick and the other half looking out for submarines."
"That's the sort of fellow he seems to me, anyway," the purser observed.
"I can't say that I've quite made up my mind," the captain pronounced. "I suppose you know, Dix, that he was connected with the Secret Service at the English Embassy?"
"I didn't know it," Dix replied, "but if he has been, Lord help us! No wonder the Germans have got ahead of us every time!"
"I don't think he was much of a success," the other continued, "and as a matter of fact he is on his way back to England now to do his bit of soldiering. All the same, Dix, he gave me a turn the other day."
"How's that, sir?"
"Showed me an order, signed by a person I won't name," the captain went on, lowering his voice, "requesting me to practically run the ship according to his directions—making him a kind of Almighty boss."
Mr. Dix opened his lips and closed them again. His eyes were wide open with astonishment. There was an indecisive knock at the door, which at a gesture from the captain he opened. Wrapped in a huge overcoat, with a cap buttoned around his ears and a scarf nearly up to his mouth, Crawshay stood there, seeking admittance.
* * * * *
"I am exceedingly fortunate to find you both here," the newcomer observed, as he removed his cap. "Captain, may I have a few minutes' conversation with you and Mr. Dix?"
"Delighted," the captain acquiesced, "so long as you don't keep me more than twenty minutes. I am due on the bridge at nine o'clock."
"I will endeavour not to be prolix," Crawshay continued, carefully removing his rubbers, unfastening his scarf and loosening his overcoat. "A damp night! I fear that we may have fog."
"This all comes off the twenty minutes," the captain reminded him.
Crawshay smiled appreciatively.
"Into the heart of things, then! Let me tell you that I suspect a conspiracy on board this boat."
"Of what nature?" the captain asked swiftly.
"It is my opinion," Crawshay said deliberately, "that the result of the whole accumulated work of the German Secret Service, compiled since the beginning of the war by means of Secret Service agents, criminals, and patriotic Germans and Austrians resident in the States, is upon this ship."
"Hell!" the purser murmured, without reproof from his chief.
"It was believed," Crawshay continued, "that these documents, together with a letter of vital importance, were on the steamer which conveyed the personnel of the late German Ambassador to Europe. The steamer was delayed at Halifax and a more or less complete search was made. I was present on behalf of the English Embassy, but I did not join personally in the search. You have all heard that the seals of a tin chest belonging to a neutral country had been tampered with. The chiefs of my department, and the head of the American Secret Service, firmly believe that the missing papers are in that chest and will be discovered when the chest is opened in London. That is not a belief which I share."
"And your reasons, Mr. Crawshay?" the captain asked.
"First, because Hobson and I were decoyed to Chicago by a bogus telegram, evidently with the idea that we should find it impossible to catch or search this steamer. Secondly, because there is on board just the one man whom I believe capable of conceiving and carrying out a task as difficult as this one would be."
"Who is he?" the captain demanded.
"A very inoffensive, well-mannered and exceedingly well-informed individual who is travelling in this steamer under, I believe, his own name—Mr. Jocelyn Thew."
"Jocelyn Thew!" the captain murmured.
"Thew!" the purser repeated.
"Now I tell you that I have definite suspicions of this man," Crawshay continued, "because I know that for some reason or other he hates England, although he has the appearance of being an Englishman. I know that he has been friendly with enemy agents in New York, and I know that he has been in recent communication with enemy headquarters at Washington. Therefore, as I say, I suspect Mr. Jocelyn Thew. I also suspect Robins, the wireless operator, because I am convinced that he has received messages of which he has taken no record. I now pass on to the remainder of my suspicions, for which I frankly admit that I have nothing but surmise. I suspect Mr. Phillips, Doctor Gant and Miss Katharine Beverley."
The last shock proved too much for the captain. For the first time there was distinct incredulity in his face.
"Look here, Mr. Crawshay," he protested, "supposing you are right, and that you are on the track of a conspiracy, how do you account for a physician from the finest hospital in New York and one of the best-known young ladies in America being mixed up in it?"
Crawshay acknowledged the difficulties of the supposition.
"As regards the physician," he said thoughtfully, "I must confess that I am without information concerning him, a fact which increases my suspicion of Robins, for I should have had his dossier, and also that of the man Phillips, by wireless twenty-four hours ago."
"What about Miss Beverley then?" the captain enquired. "Her family is not only one of the oldest in America, but they are real Puritan, Anglo-Saxon stock, white through and through. She has a dozen relatives in Congress, who have all been working for war with Germany for the last two years. She also has, as she told me herself, a brother and four cousins fighting on the French front—the brother in the Canadian Flying Corps, and the cousins in the English Army."
"There I must confess that you have me," Crawshay admitted. "What you say is perfectly true. That is one of the mysteries. No plot would be worth solving, you know, if it hadn't a few mysteries in it."
"If you will allow me a word, Mr. Crawshay," the purser intervened, "I think you will have to leave Doctor Gant and his patient and Miss Beverley out of your speculations. I have our own ship doctor's word for it that Mr. Phillips' condition is exactly as has been stated. Mr. Jocelyn Thew may or may not be a suspicious character. Anything you suggest in the way of watching him can be done. But as regards the other three, I trust that you will not wish their comfort interfered with in any respect."
"Beyond the search to which every one on board will have to be subjected," Crawshay replied, "I shall not interfere in any respect with the three people in question. Mr. Jocelyn Thew, however, is different. He is a man who has led a most adventurous life. He seems to have travelled in every part of the globe, wherever there was trouble brewing or a little fighting to be done."
"Why do you connect him with the present enterprise?" the captain asked.
"Because," Crawshay answered, "the wireless message of which your man Robins took no record, and concerning which you have kept silence at my request, was delivered to Mr. Jocelyn Thew. Because, too," he went on, "it is my very earnest belief that at somewhere in the small hours of this morning there will be another message, and Mr. Jocelyn Thew will be on deck to receive it."
The captain knocked out the ashes of his pipe a little apprehensively.
"If half what you suspect is true, Mr. Crawshay," he said, "you will forgive my saying so, but Jocelyn Thew is not a man you ought to tackle without assistance."
There was a peculiar glitter in Crawshay's deep-set eyes. For a single moment a new-born strength seemed to deepen the lines in his face—a transforming change.
"You needn't worry, Captain," he remarked coolly. "I am not taking too many chances, and if our friend Mr. Jocelyn Thew should turn out to be the man I believe him to be, I would rather tackle him alone."
"Why," Mr. Dix demanded, "should anything in the shape of violence take place? The ship can be searched, every article of baggage ransacked, and every passenger made to run the gauntlet."
"The search you speak of is already arranged for, Mr. Dix," he said; "long cables from my friend Hobson have already reached Liverpool—but the efficacy of such a proposed search would depend a little, would it not, upon whether we reach Liverpool?" "But if we were submarined," the captain pointed out, "the papers would go to the bottom."
Crawshay leaned forward and whispered one word in the captain's ear. The latter sat for a moment as though paralysed.
"What's to prevent that fellow Robins bringing her right on to our track?" Crawshay demanded. "That is the reason I spent last night listening for the wireless. It's the reason I'm going to do the same to-night."
The captain sprang to his feet.
"We'll run no risks about this," he declared firmly. "We'll dismantle the apparatus. I'd never hold up my head again if the Von Blucher got us!"
Crawshay held out his hand.
"Forgive me, Captain," he said, "but we want proof. Leave it to me, and if things are as I suspect, we'll have that proof—probably before to-morrow morning," he added, glancing at the chart.
There was a call down the deck, a knock at the door. The captain took up his oilskins regretfully.
"You will remember," Crawshay enjoined, "that little mandate I showed you?"
The captain nodded grimly.
"I am in your hands," he admitted. "Don't forget that the safety of the ship may be in your hands, too!"
"Perhaps," Crawshay whispered, "even more than the safety of the ship."
Robins, the wireless operator, bent closer over his instrument, and the blue fires flashed from the masthead of the steamer, cutting their way through the darkness into the black spaces beyond. The little room was lit by a dull oil light, the door was fast-closed and locked. Away into the night sped one continual message.
"Steamship City of Boston, lat.... long.... lying four points to northward of usual course. Reply."
A time came when the young man ceased from his labours and sat up with a yawn. He stretched out his hand and lit a cigarette, walked to the little round window which commanded the deck, gazed out of it steadily, and turned back once more to his chair before the instrument. Then something happened. A greater shock than any that lay in the blue lightning which he had been generating was awaiting him. His right hand was suddenly gripped and held on to the table. He found himself gazing straight down the black bore of a small but uncommonly ugly-looking revolver. A voice which seemed remarkable for its convincing qualities, addressed him.
"If you speak a word, Robins, move, or show signs of any attempt to struggle, I shall shoot you. I have the right and the power." Robins, a young man of nerve, whose name stood high on an official list of those who might be relied upon for any desperate enterprise, sat like a numbed thing. Dim visions of the face of this man, only a few feet away from his own, assailed him under some very different guise. It was Crawshay the man, stripped for action, whose lean, strong fingers were gripping the butt of that revolver, and whose eyes were holding him like gimlets.
"Now, if you are wise, answer me a few questions," Crawshay began. "I'd have brought the captain with me, but I thought we might do better business alone. You've been advertising the ship's whereabouts. Why?"
"I've only been giving the usual calls," the young man muttered.
"Don't lie to me," was the grim reply. "Your wireless was supposed to be silent from yesterday midday except for the purpose of receiving calls. I ask you again, why and to whom were you advertising our whereabouts and course?"
Robins looked at the revolver, looked at Crawshay, and was dimly conscious of a damp feeling about his forehead. Nevertheless, his lips were screwed together, and he remained silent.
"Come," Crawshay went on, "we'll have a common-sense talk. I am an agent of the British Secret Service. I have unlimited powers upon this ship, power to put a bullet through your head if I choose, and not a soul to question it. The game's up so far as you are concerned. You have received messages on this steamer of which you have kept no record, but which you have delivered secretly to a certain passenger. Of that I may or may not speak later on. At present I am more interested in your operations of to-night. You are signalling the information of our whereabouts for some definite reason. What is it? Were you trying to pick up the Blucher?"
"I wasn't trying to pick up anybody," the young man faltered.
Crawshay's fingers gripped him by the shoulder. His very determined-looking mouth had suddenly become a ring of steel.
"If you don't give me a different answer in ten seconds, Robins, I'll blow your brains all over the cabin!"
The young man broke.
"I was trying to pick up the Blucher," he acknowledged.
"That's exactly what I thought," Crawshay muttered. "That's the game, without a doubt. What are you? An Englishman?"
"I am not!" was the almost fierce reply. "Blast England!"
Crawshay looked into the black eyes, suddenly lit with an ugly fire, and nodded.
"I understand," he said. "Robins, your name, eh? Any relation to the young Sinn Feiner who was shot in Dublin a few months ago?"
"That may save your life later on," Crawshay observed coolly. "Now you can do one of three things. You can come with me to the captain, be put in irons and shot as soon as we land—or before, if the Blucher finds us; or you can send the message which I shall give you; or you can end your days where you sit."
"What message?" the young man demanded.
"You will send out a general call, as before, repeating the latitude and longitude with a difference of exactly three points, and you will repeat the altered course, only you will substitute the word 'south' for the word 'north.'"
The young man's eyes suddenly gleamed as he turned towards the instrument, but Crawshay smiled with grim understanding.
"Let me tell you that I understand the wireless," he said impressively. "You will give the message exactly as I have told you or we finish things up on the spot. I think you had better. It's a matter of compulsion, you know—in fact I'll explain matters to Mr. Jocelyn Thew, if you like."
The young man's eyes were round with amazement.
"Jocelyn Thew!" he repeated.
"Precisely. You needn't look so terrified. It isn't you who have given away. Now what are you going to do?"
The young man swung round to his instrument. Crawshay released his hand, stepping a little back.
"You are going to send the message, then?"
"Yes!" was the sullen reply.
"Capital!" Crawshay exclaimed, cautiously subsiding into a chair. "Now you'll go on every ten minutes until I tell you to stop."
Robins bent over his task, and again the crackling waves broke away from their prison. Once his finger hesitated. He glanced surreptitiously at Crawshay. "Four degrees south," Crawshay repeated softly.
The night wore on. Every ten minutes the message was sent. Then there followed a brief silence, spent generally by Robins with his head drooped upon his clasped arms; by Crawshay in unceasing vigil. Just as the first faint gleam of daylight stole into the little turret chamber, came the long-waited-for reply. The young man wrote down the few lines and passed them over. Crawshay, who had risen to his feet, glanced at them, nodded, and thrust the paper into his pocket.
"That seems quite satisfactory," he said coldly. "Now ask the Blucher her exact course?"
Robins sat for a moment motionless. He felt Crawshay's presence towering over him, felt again the spell of his softly-spoken command.
"Don't waste any time, please. Do as I tell you."
Robins obeyed. In less than a quarter of an hour he handed over another slip of paper. Crawshay thrust it into his pocket.
"That concludes our business," he said. "Now let me see if I remember enough of this apparatus to put it out of action."
He bent over the instrument, removed some plugs, turned some screws, and finally placed in his pocket a small concealed part of the mechanism. Then he turned towards Robins.
"You can leave here now," he directed. "I shall lock the place up."
Robins had in some measure recovered himself. He was a quiet, hollow-eyed young person, with thick black hair and a thin frame, about which the uniform of the ship hung loosely. "You are the man who boarded the steamer from a seaplane, aren't you, and pretended afterwards to be such a ninny?"
"I am," Crawshay acknowledged.
"How did you get on to this?"
Crawshay raised his eyebrows.
"Sorry," he replied, "that is a matter concerning which I fear that you will have to restrain your curiosity."
"How did you get in here?"
"By means of a duplicate key which I obtained from the purser. I hid in your bunk there and drew the curtains. Quite a comfortable mattress, yours. You'll have to change your sleeping quarters, though."
"What is going to happen to me?" the young man enquired.
"Probably nothing extreme. You were philosophical enough to accept the situation. If," Crawshay went on more slowly, "you had falsified a single word of those messages, your end would have been somewhat abrupt and your destination according to your past life. As it is, you can go where you choose now and report to the captain later on in the morning, after I have had a talk with him."
"My kit is all in here."
Crawshay laid his hand upon the operator's shoulder in peremptory fashion.
"Then you will have to do without it for the present," he replied coolly. "Outside."
The young man turned on his heel and disappeared without a word. Crawshay glanced once more at the dismantled instrument, then followed Robins on to the deck, carefully locking the door behind him. A grey, stormy morning was just breaking, with piles of angry clouds creeping up, and showers of spray breaking over the ship on the weather side. He chose a sheltered spot and stood for a few moments breathing in the strong salt air. Notwithstanding his success, he was unaccountably depressed. As far as he could see across the grey waste of waters, there was no sign of any passing ship, but the eastern horizon was blurred by a low-hanging bank of sinister-looking clouds. Suddenly a voice rang out, hailing him. It was the captain descending from the bridge.
"Come and have a cup of coffee with me in my room, Mr. Crawshay," he invited.
Crawshay felt himself suddenly back again in the world of real happenings. His depression passed as though by magic. After all, he had won the first trick, and the next move was already forming up in his mind.
The captain sank into his easy-chair a little wearily. It had been a long and rather trying vigil. His steward filled two cups with coffee and at a sign from his master withdrew.
"I have been compelled," Crawshay announced, stirring his coffee, "to dismantle your wireless."
"The devil you have!"
"Also, to speak words of wisdom to young Robins. I detected him signalling our location to the Blucher."
The captain set down his coffee cup.
"Mr. Crawshay," he said, "this is a very serious accusation."
"It isn't an accusation at all—it's a fact," Crawshay replied. "Luckily, he hadn't picked her up when I got there. He signalled our exact location and our course a dozen times or more, without response. Then I took a hand in the game."
"Exactly what happened?" the captain enquired.
"Well, I borrowed a key from Mr. Dix, and whilst the young man was down at his supper I concealed myself in his bunk. I listened to him for a short time, and then I intervened."
"Did he make any trouble?"
"He had no chance," Crawshay explained, a little grimly. "I was first off the mark. On this piece of paper," he added, smoothing it out, "you will find Robins' calculations as to our whereabouts, which I took as being correct. These, you understand, were not picked up. Lower down you will see the message which he sent under my superintendence later on—"
"Superintendence?" the captain interrupted.
"At the point of my revolver," Crawshay explained. "This message was picked up by the Blucher."
The captain scanned the calculations eagerly.
"Wish you'd given us a little more room," he muttered. "However, it will be all right unless we get fog. We might blunder into one another then."
"This little incident," Crawshay continued, crossing his legs, "confirms certain impressions with which I came on board. I think that the scheme was to get the documents on board this steamer, and then, in order to avoid the inevitable search at Liverpool, I fancy it was arranged that the Blucher should be on the lookout for us and take over the messenger, whoever he may be, and the documents. It's a straightforward, simple little scheme, which we have now to look at from our own point of view. In the first place, the Blucher is now very much less likely to capture us. In the second place, I would suggest that in case the Blucher should happen to blunder across us, we make the search at once instead of in Liverpool."
"What, search every one on board?" the captain asked.
"Suspected persons only."
"Exactly who are they?" "First and foremost, Mr. Jocelyn Thew."
"Mr. Phillips and his entourage."
"What, the man who is supposed to be dying?"
"I will admit," Crawshay said, "that this is more or less guesswork, but I suspect every one with whom Jocelyn speaks."
"Great heavens, you are not thinking of Miss Beverley!" the captain exclaimed.
"I fail utterly to understand her acquaintance with Jocelyn Thew," Crawshay confided. "I do not propose, however, that you interfere with these people for the moment. What I do ask is that Jocelyn Thew's effects are searched, and at once."
"It's a thing that's never happened before on any steamer I've commanded," the captain said reluctantly, "but if it has to be done, I will do it myself."
"What chance of fog is there?" his companion enquired.
"We shall get some within twenty-four hours, for certain. It's coming up from the west now."
"Then the sooner you make a start with Mr. Jocelyn Thew, the better," Crawshay suggested. "I don't think there's one chance in a hundred that he'd have those documents in any place where we should be likely to find them by any ordinary search, but you can never tell. The cleverest men often adopt the most obvious methods."
The captain yawned.
"I'll have two hours' sleep," he decided, "then Dix and I will tackle the job. I don't suppose you want to be in it?" "I should prefer not," Crawshay replied. "I'll follow your example," he added, rising to his feet.
The habits of Mr. Jocelyn Thew on shore were doubtless most regular, but on board ship he had developed a proclivity for sleeping until long after the first breakfast gong. About half-past eight that morning, he was awakened from a sound sleep by a tap on his door, and instead of the steward with his hot water, no less a person entered than the captain, followed by the purser. Jocelyn sat up in his bunk and rubbed his eyes.
"Good morning, gentlemen," he said. "Anything wrong?"
The captain undid the catch of the door and closed it behind him.
"Are you sufficiently awake to listen to a few words from me on a subject of importance, Mr. Thew?" he asked.
"Certainly," was the prompt reply.
"Very well, then," the captain proceeded, "I shall commence by taking you into my confidence. There is an impression on the part of the British and American Secret Services that an attempt is being made to convey documents of great importance, and containing treasonable matter, to Europe by some one on board this ship."
Jocelyn Thew, who was attired in silk pyjamas of very excellent quality, swung himself out of the bunk and sat upon the side of it. The captain was an observant man and of somewhat luxuriant tastes himself, and he fully appreciated the texture and quality of the suspected man's night apparel. "This sounds remarkably interesting," Jocelyn said. "Very kind of you, Captain, I am sure, to come and tell me about it."
"My visit," the captain continued, a little drily, "had a more definite object. It is my duty to explain to you that the circumstances of this voyage are unprecedented. We are going to take liberties with our passengers which in normal times would not be dreamed of."
Jocelyn Thew pushed the knob with his left hand and let some cold water run into his basin. Then he dabbed his eyes for several moments with his fingers.
"Yes, I seem to be awake," he remarked. "Tell me about these liberties, Captain?"
"To begin with, I am going to search your stateroom and baggage—or rather they are going to be searched under my supervision. Your trunk from the hold has already been brought up and is in the gangway."
"It seems to me," Jocelyn said, sitting, as Mr. Dix expressed it afterwards, like a tiger about to spring, "that you've been listening to that crazy loon, Crawshay."
"I am not at liberty," the captain rejoined, "to divulge the source from which my information came. I am only able to acquaint you with my intentions, and to trust that you will offer no obstruction."
"The obstruction which I could offer against the captain of a ship and his crew would be a waste of energy," Jocelyn observed, with fine sarcasm. "At the same time, I protest most bitterly against my things being touched. Any search you deemed necessary could be undertaken at Liverpool by the Customs officers in the usual way. I consider that this entrance into my stateroom on the high seas, and this arbitrary resolve of yours to acquaint yourself with the nature of my belongings is indefensible and a gross insult."
"I am sorry that you take it this way, Mr. Thew," the captain regretted. "Any complaints you feel it right to make can be addressed to the company's agents in Liverpool. At present I must proceed with what I conceive to be my duty. Do you care to hand Mr. Dix your keys?"
"I will see Mr. Dix damned first!" Jocelyn assured him.
The captain shrugged his shoulders, called to the steward, who was waiting outside, and the search commenced. They opened drawers, they turned up the carpet. They invited Jocelyn Thew to sit upon the couch whilst they ripped open the bed, and they invited him to return to the bed whilst they ripped up the couch. His personal belongings, his dressing-case and his steamer trunk were gone through with painstaking care. His trunk, which was then dragged in, was ransacked from top to bottom. In due course the search was concluded, and except that his wearing apparel seemed chosen with extraordinary care and taste, nothing in any way suspicious was discovered. The captain made haste to acknowledge the fact.
"Well, Mr. Thew," he announced, "I have done my duty and you are out of it with a clean sheet. Have you any objection to answering a few questions?" "Every objection in the world," Jocelyn Thew replied.
The purser ventured to intervene.
"Come, Mr. Thew," he said, "you're an Englishman, aren't you?"
A light flashed in Thew's eyes.
"I shall break the promise I made to the captain just now," he declared, "and answer that one question, at any rate. I thank God I am not!"
Both men were a little startled. Jocelyn's cold, clear voice, his manner and bearing, were all so essentially Saxon. The captain, however, recovered himself quickly.
"If the tone of your voice is any index to your feelings, Mr. Thew," he said, "you appear to have some grudge against England. In that case you can scarcely wonder at the suspicions which have attached themselves to you."
"Suspicions!" Jocelyn repeated sarcastically. "Well, present my compliments to the wonderful Mr. Crawshay! I presume that I am at liberty now to take my bath?"
"In one moment, Mr. Thew. Even though you do not choose to answer them, there are certain questions I intend to ask. The first is, are you prepared to produce the Marconigram which you received last evening?"
"How do you know that I received one?"
"The fact has come to my knowledge," the captain said drily.
"You had better ask the operator about it."
"The operator is at the present moment under arrest," was the terse reply. If the news were a shock to Thew, he showed it in none of the ordinary ways. His face seemed to fall for a moment into harder lines. His mouth tightened and his eyes flashed.
"Under arrest?" he repeated. "More of Crawshay's tomfoolery, I suppose?"
"More of Mr. Crawshay's tomfoolery," the captain acknowledged. "Robins is accused of having received a Marconigram of which he took no note, and which he handed to a passenger. He is also accused of attempting to communicate with an enemy raider."
A peculiar smile parted Jocelyn's lips.
"You seem to wish to make this steamer of yours the mise-en-scene of a dime novel, Captain," he observed. "I accept the part of villain with resignation—but I should like to have my bath."
"You don't propose to tell me, then," his questioner persisted, "the contents of that message?"
"I have no recollection of having received one," Jocelyn replied coolly. "You are making me very late for breakfast."
They left him with a brusque word of farewell, to which he did not reply. Jocelyn, in a dark-green silk dressing gown, with a huge sponge and various silver-topped bottles, departed for the bathroom. The captain and the purser strolled up on deck.
"What do you make of that fellow, Dix?" the former asked.
The purser coughed.
"If you ask me, sir," he replied, "I think that Mr. Crawshay has got hold of the wrong end of the stick."
Katharine came on deck that morning in a somewhat disturbed frame of mind. It was beginning to dawn upon her that her position as sick nurse to Mr. Phillips was meant to be a sinecure. She was allowed to sit by the sick man's side sometimes whilst the doctor took a promenade or ate a meal in the saloon, but apart from that, the usual exercise of her duties was not required from her. She was forced to admit that there was something mysterious about the little stateroom, the suffering man, and the doctor who watched him speechlessly night and day.
She was conscious presently that Crawshay, who had been walking up and down the deck, had stopped before the chair on which she lay extended. She greeted him without enthusiasm.
"Are you taking one of your health constitutionals, Mr. Crawshay?" she enquired.
"Not altogether," he replied. "May I sit down for a moment?"
"Of course! I don't think any one sits in that chair."
He took his place by her side, deliberately removed his muffler and unfastened his overcoat. It struck her, from the first moment she heard his voice, that his manner was somehow altered. She was altogether unprepared, however, for the almost stern directness of his first question. "Miss Beverley," he began, "will you allow me to ask you how long you have known Mr. Jocelyn Thew?"
She turned her head towards him and remained speechless for a moment. It seemed to her that she was looking into the face of a stranger. The little droop of the mouth had gone. The half-vacuous, half-bored expression had given place to something altogether new. The lines of his face had all tightened up, his eyes were hard and bright. She found herself quite unable to answer him in the manner she had intended.
"Are you asking me that question seriously, Mr. Crawshay?"
"I am," he assured her. "I have grave reasons for asking it."
"I am afraid that I do not understand you," she replied stiffly.
"You must change your attitude, if you please, Miss Beverley," Crawshay persisted. "Believe me, I am not trying to be impertinent. I am asking a question the necessity for which I am in a position to justify."
"You bewilder me!" she exclaimed.
"That is simply because you looked upon me as a different sort of person. To tell you the truth, I should very much have preferred that you continued to look upon me as a different sort of person during this voyage, but I cannot see my way clear to keep silence on this one point. I wish to inform you, if you do not know it already, that Mr. Jocelyn Thew is a dangerous person for you to know, or for you to be associated with in any shape or form." She would have risen to her feet but he stopped her.
"Please look at me," he begged.
She obeyed, half against her will.
"I want you to ask yourself," he went on, "whether you do not believe that I am your well-wisher. What I am saying to you, I am saying to save you from a position which later on you might bitterly regret."
She was conscious of a quality in his tone and manner entirely strange to her, and she found any form of answer exceedingly difficult. The anger which she would have preferred to have affected seemed, in the face of his earnestness, out of place.
"It seems to me," she said, "that you are assuming something which does not exist. I am not on specially intimate terms with Mr. Jocelyn Thew. I have not talked to him any more than to any other casual passenger."
"Is that quite honest?" he asked quietly. "Isn't it true that Jocelyn Thew is interested in your mysterious patient?"
"What do you mean?"
"Just what I say," he replied. "I happen also to have very grave suspicions concerning the presence on this ship of Mr. Phillips and his doctor."
Her fingers gripped the side of her deck chair. She leaned a little towards him.
"What concern is all this of yours?" she demanded.
"Never mind," he answered. "I am risking more than I should like to say in telling you as much as I have told you. I cannot believe that you would consciously associate yourself with a disgraceful and unpatriotic conspiracy. That is why I have chosen to risk a great deal in speaking to you in this way. Tell me what possible consideration was brought to bear upon you to induce you to accept your present situation?"
Katharine sat quite still. The thoughts were chasing one another through her brain. Then she was conscious of a strange thing. Her companion's whole expression seemed suddenly to have changed. Without her noticing any movement, his monocle was in his left eye, his lip had fallen a little. He was looking querulously out seaward.
"I don't believe," he declared, "that the captain has any idea about the weather prospects. Look at those clouds coming up. I don't know how you are feeling, Miss Beverley, but I am conscious of a distinct chill."
Jocelyn Thew had come to a standstill before them. He was wearing no overcoat and was bare-headed.
"I guess that chill is somewhere in your imagination, Mr. Crawshay," he observed. "You are pretty strong in that line, aren't you?"
Crawshay struggled to his feet.
"I have some ideas," he confessed modestly. "I spend my idle moments, even here, weaving a little fiction."
"And recounting it, I dare say," Jocelyn ventured.
"I am like all artists," Crawshay sighed. "I love an audience. I must express myself to something. I will wish you good evening, Miss Beverley. I feel inclined to take a little walk, in case it becomes too rough later on."
He shuffled away, once more the perfect prototype of the malade imaginaire. Jocelyn Thew watched him in silence until he had disappeared. Then he turned and seated himself by the girl's side.
"I find myself," he remarked ruminatively, "still a little troubled as to the precise amount of intelligence which our friend Mr. Crawshay might be said to possess. I wonder if I might ask; without your considering it a liberty, what he was talking to you about?"
"About you," she answered.
"Warning me against you."
"Dear me! Aren't you terrified?"
"I am not terrified," she replied, "but I think it best to tell you that he also has suspicions, absurd though it may seem, of Phillips and the doctor."
"Why not the purser and captain, while he's about it?" Jocelyn said coolly. "Every one on this boat seems to have got the nerves. They searched my stateroom this morning."
"Searched your stateroom?" she repeated. "Do you mean while you were out?"
"Not a bit of it," he replied. "They dragged me up at half-past eight this morning—the captain, purser and a steward—fetched up my trunk and searched all my possessions."
"What for?" she asked, with a sudden chill.
He smiled at her reassuringly. "Something they didn't find! Something," he added, after a slight pause, "which they never will find!"
Towards midday, Jocelyn Thew abandoned a game of shuffleboard, and, leaning against the side of the vessel, gazed steadily up at the wireless operating room. The lightnings had been playing around the mast for the last ten minutes without effect. He turned towards one of the ship's officers who was passing.
"Anything gone wrong with the wireless?" he enquired.
"The operator's ill, sir," was the prompt reply. "We've only one on board, as it happens, so we are rather in a mess."
Jocelyn strolled away aft, considering the situation. He found Crawshay seated in an elaborate deck chair and immersed in a novel.
"I hear the wireless has gone wrong," he remarked, stopping in front of him.
Crawshay glanced up blandly.
"What's that?" he demanded. "Wireless? Why, it's been going all the morning."
"There has been no one there to take the messages, though. If anything happens to us, we shall be in a nice pickle."
"I wish you people wouldn't suggest such things," he said, a little testily. "I was just trying to get all thought of this most perilous voyage out of my mind, with the help of a novel here. From which do you seriously consider we have most to fear," he went on, "mines, submarines, or predatory vessels of the type of the Blucher?"
"The latter, I should think," Jocelyn replied. "They say that submarines are scarcely venturing so far out just now."
There was a brief silence. Jocelyn Thew was apparently engaged in trying to fit a cigarette into his holder.
"Specially hard luck on you," he remarked presently, "if anything happened when you've taken so much trouble to get on board."
"It would be exceedingly annoying," Crawshay declared, with vigour, "added to which I am not in a state of health to endure a voyage in a small boat. I have been this morning to look at our places, in case of accident. I find that I am expected to wield an oar long enough to break my back."
Jocelyn Thew smiled. The other man's peevishness seemed too natural to be assumed.
"I expect you'll be glad enough to do your bit, if anything does happen to us," he observed.
"By-the-by," Crawshay asked, "I wonder what will become of that poor fellow downstairs—the man who is supposed to be dying, I mean—if trouble comes?"
"I heard them discussing it at breakfast time," Jocelyn Thew replied. "I understand that he has asked specially to be allowed to remain where he is. There would of course be not the slightest chance of saving his life. The doctor who is with him—Gant, I think his name is—told us that anything in the shape of a rough sea, even, would mean the end of him. He quite understands this himself." Crawshay assented gravely.
"It seems a little brutal but it is common sense," he declared. "In times of great stress, too, one becomes primitive, and the primitive instinct is for the strong to save himself. I am not ashamed to confess," he concluded, "that I have secured an extra lifebelt."
Jocelyn glanced, for a moment scornfully down at the man who had now picked up his novel again and was busy reading. Crawshay represented so much the things that he despised in life. It was impossible to treat or consider him in any way as a rival to be feared. He passed down the deck and made his way below to the doctor's room. He found the latter in the act of starting off to see a patient.
"I came around to ask after Robins, the young Marconi man," Jocelyn explained. "I hear that he was taken ill last night."
The doctor looked at his questioner keenly.
"That is so," he admitted.
"What's wrong with him?"
"I have not thoroughly diagnosed his complaint as yet," was the careful reply. "I can tell you for a certainty, though, that he will not be able to work for two or three days."
"It seems very sudden," Jocelyn Thew persisted.
"As a matter of fact, I had some slight acquaintance with him, and I always thought that he was a remarkably strong young fellow."
The doctor, who had completed his preparations for departure, picked up his cap and politely showed his visitor out. "You wouldn't care," the latter suggested, "to let me go down and have a look at him? I can't call myself a medical man, but I know something about sickness and I am quite interested in young Robins."
"I don't think that I shall need a second opinion at present, thank you," the doctor rejoined, a little drily. "If you wish to see him later on, you must get permission from the captain. Good morning, Mr. Thew."
Jocelyn Thew strolled thoughtfully away, found a retired spot upon the promenade deck behind a boat, lit a very black cigar, and, drawing his field-glasses from his pocket, searched the horizon carefully. There was no sign of any passing steamer, not even the faintest wisp of black smoke anywhere upon the horizon. It was Wednesday to-day, and they had left New York on Saturday. He drew a sheet of paper from his pocket and made a few calculations. It was the day and past the time upon which things were due to happen....
The day wore on very much as most days do on an Atlantic voyage in early summer. The little handful of passengers, who seemed for the moment to have cast all anxieties to the winds, played shuffleboard and quoits, lunched with vigorous appetites, drank tea out on deck, and indulged in strenuous before-dinner promenades. The sun shone all day, the sea remained wonderfully calm. Not a trace of any other steamer was visible from morning until early nightfall, and Jocelyn Thew walked restlessly about with a grim look upon his face. At dinner time the captain hinted at fog, and looked doubtfully out of the open porthole at the oily-looking waste of waters.
"Another night on the bridge for me, I think," he remarked.
Jocelyn Thew leaned forward in his place.
"By-the-by, Captain," he asked, "now that the shipping is so reduced, do you alter speed for fog?"
The captain filled his glass from the jug of lemonade which, was always before him.
"Do we alter our speed, eh?" he repeated. "You must remember," he went on, "that we have Miss Beverley on board. We couldn't afford to give Miss Beverley a fright."
Jocelyn accepted the evasion with a slight bow. Katharine, who had come in to dine a little late and seemed graver than usual, smiled at the captain.
"Am I the most precious thing on this steamer?" she asked.
"Gallantry," the captain replied, "compels me to say yes!"
"Only gallantry? Have we such a wonderful cargo, then?"
"There are times," was the cautious reply, "when not even the captain knows exactly what he is carrying."
"You remind me," Jocelyn Thew observed, "of a voyage I once made from Port Elizabeth to New York, with half-a-dozen I.D.B's on board, and as many detectives, watching them day and night."
The captain nodded.
"What happened?" he enquired.
"Oh, the detectives arrested the lot of them, I think, got hold of them on the last day." The captain rose from his place.
"Queer thing," he remarked, "but the law generally does come out on top."
Jocelyn followed his example a few minutes later, and Katharine purposely joined him on the way out. She led her companion to the corner where her steamer chair had been placed, and motioned him to sit by her side. They were on the weather side of the ship, with a slight breeze in their faces and a canopy over their heads which deadened sound. She leaned a little forward.
"Smoke, please." she begged. "I mean it—see."
She lit a cigarette and he followed suit.
"Not a cigar?"
He shook his head.
"I keep them for my hard thinking times."
"Then you were thinking very hard this morning?"
"I was," he admitted.
"And gazing very earnestly out of those field-glasses of yours."
"Mr. Thew," she said abruptly, "it is my impression, although for some reason or other I am scarcely allowed to go near him, that Mr. Phillips is dying."
"One knew, of course, that there was that risk," Jocelyn Thew reminded her.
"I do not think that he can possibly live for twenty-four hours," she continued. "I was allowed to sit with him for a short time early this morning. He is beginning to wander in his mind, to speak of his wife and a sum of money." Jocelyn's fine eyebrows came a little closer together.
"Nothing in his appearance or speech indicate the man of wealth or even of birth. I begin to wonder whether I know the whole truth about this frantic desire of his to reach England before he dies?"
"I think," Jocelyn Thew said thoughtfully, "that you have been talking again to Mr. Crawshay."
"Yes," she admitted, "and he has been warning me against you."
"I suppose," Jocelyn ruminated, "the man has a certain amount of puppy-dog intelligence."
"I do not understand Mr. Crawshay at all," she confessed. "My acquaintance with him before we met on this steamer was of the slightest, but his manner of coming certainly led one to believe that he was a man of courage and determination. Since then he has crawled about in an overcoat and rubber shoes, and groaned about his ailments until one feels inclined to laugh at him. Last night he was different again. He was entirely serious, and he spoke to me about you."
"Do you need to be warned against me?" he asked grimly. "Have I ever sailed under false colours?"
"Don't," she begged, looking at him with a little quiver of the lips and a wonderfully soft light in her eyes. "You have never deceived me in any way except, if at all, as regards this voyage. I made up my mind this evening that I would ask you, if you cared to tell me, to take me into your confidence about this man who is dying down below, and his strange journey. I need scarcely add that I should respect that confidence."
"I am sorry," he answered. "You ask an impossibility."
"Then there is some sort of conspiracy going on?" she persisted. "Let me ask you a straightforward question. Is it not true that you have made me an unknowing participator in an illegal act?"
"It is," he admitted. "I was very sorry to have to do so but it was necessary. Without your assistance, I should never have been allowed to bring Phillips across the Atlantic."
"What difference do I make?" she asked.
"You lend an air of respectability and credibility to the whole thing," he told her. "You are a person of repute, of distinguished social position, and the object of a good deal of admiration in your own country. The doctor who accompanies you comes from your own hospital. No one would believe it possible that either of you could be concerned in any sort of conspiracy. If that ass Crawshay had not got on board, I am convinced that there would never have been a breath of suspicion."
She shivered a little.
"Is it quite kind to bring me into an affair of this sort?" she asked.
"It is a world," he declared cruelly, "in which we fight always for our own hand or go under. I am fighting for mine, and if I have occasionally to sacrifice a friend as well as an enemy, I do not hesitate."
"What has the world done to you," she demanded, "that you should speak so bitterly?" "Better not ask me that."
"How will the man Phillips' death affect your plans?"
"It will make very little difference either way," he assured her. "We rather expected him to die."
"And you won't take me any further into your confidence?"
"No further. Your task will be completed at Liverpool. So long as you leave this steamer in company with the doctor and the ambulance, if Phillips is still alive, you will be free to return home whenever you please."
"Very well," she said. "You see, I accept my position. I shall go through with what I have promised, whatever Mr. Crawshay may say. Won't you in return treat me, if not as a confederate, as a friend?"
He turned and looked at her, met the appealing glance of her soft eyes for a moment and looked suddenly away.
"I do not belong to the ranks of those, Miss Beverley, from whom it is well for you to choose your friends."
"But why should I not make my own choice?" she insisted. "I have always been my own mistress. I have lived with my own ideas, I have declined to be subject to any one's authority. I am an independent person. Can't you treat me as such?"
"There are facts," he said, "which can never be ignored. You belong to the world of wealthy, gently born men and women who comprise what is called Society. I belong, and have belonged all my life, to a race of outcasts." "Don't!" she begged.
"It is true," he repeated doggedly.
"But what do you mean by outcasts?"
"Criminals, if you like it better. I have broken the law more than once. There is an unexecuted warrant out against me at the present moment. You may even see me marched off this steamer at Liverpool between two policemen."
"But why?" she asked passionately. "Why? What is the motive of it all? Is it money?"
"I am not in need of money," he told her, "but I have a great and sacred use for all I can lay my fingers on. If I succeed in my present enterprise, I shall receive a hundred thousand pounds."
"I value Jerry's life and future at more than that," she declared. "Will you make a fresh start, Mr. Jocelyn Thew, with twice that sum of money to your credit?"
He shook his head, but there was a curious change creeping into his face. For the first time she saw how soft a man's dark-blue eyes may sometimes become. The slight trembling of his parted lips, too, seemed to unlock all the cruel, hard lines of his face. He had suddenly the appearance of a person of temperament—a poet, even a dreamer.
"I could not take money from you, Miss Beverley," he said, "or from any other woman in the world."
"Upon no conditions?" she whispered softly.
"Upon no conditions," he repeated.
The breeze had dropped, and twilight had followed swiftly upon the misty sunset. There was something a little ghostly about the light in which they sat. "I am stifled," she declared abruptly. "Come and walk."
They paced up and down the deck once or twice in silence. Then he paused as they drew near their chairs.
"Miss Beverley," he said, "in case this should be the last time that we talk confidentially—so that we may put a seal, in fact, upon the subject of which we have spoken to-night—I would like to tell you that you have made me feel, during this last half-hour, an emotion which I have not felt for many years. And I want to tell you this. I am a lawbreaker. When I told you that there was a warrant out against me at the present moment, I told you the truth. The charge against me is a true one, and the penalty is one I shall never pay. I must go on to the end, and I shall do so because I have a driving impulse behind, a hate which only action can soothe. But all my sins have been against men and the doings of men. You will understand me, will you not, when I say that I can neither take your money, nor accept your friendship after this voyage is over? You, on your side, can remember that you have paid a debt."
She sank a little wearily into her chair and looked out through the gathering mists. It seemed part of her fancy that they gathered him in, for she heard no sound of retreating footsteps. Yet when she spoke his name, a few moments later, she found that she was alone.
Throughout the night reigned an almost sepulchral silence, and when the morning broke, the City of Boston, at a scarcely reduced speed, was ploughing her way through great banks of white fog. The decks, the promenade rails, every exposed part of the steamer, were glistening with wet. Up on the bridge, three officers besides the captain stood with eyes fixed in grim concentration upon the dense curtains of mist which seemed to shut them off altogether from the outer world. Jocelyn Thew and Crawshay met in the companionway, a few minutes after breakfast.
"I can see no object in the disuse of the hooter," Crawshay declared querulously. "Nothing at sea could be worse than a collision. We are simply taking our lives in our hands, tearing along like this at sixteen knots an hour."
"Isn't there supposed to be a German raider out?" the other enquired.
"I think it is exceedingly doubtful whether there is really one in the Atlantic at all. The English gunboats patrol these seas. Besides, we are armed ourselves, and she wouldn't be likely to tackle us."
Jocelyn Thew had leaned a little forward. He was listening intently. At the same time, one of the figures upon the bridge, his hand to his ear, turned in the same direction.
"There's some one who doesn't mind letting their whereabouts be known," he whispered, after a moment's pause. "Can't you hear a hooter?"
Crawshay listened but shook his head.
"Can't hear a thing," he declared laconically. "I've a cold in my head coming on, and it always affects my hearing."
Jocelyn Thew stepped on tiptoe across the deck as far as the rail and returned in a few minutes.
"There's a steamer calling, away on the starboard bow," he announced. "She seems to be getting nearer, too. I wonder we don't alter our course."
"Well, I suppose it's the captain's business whether he chooses to answer or not," Crawshay remarked. "I shall go down to my cabin. This gazing at nothing gets on my nerves."
Jocelyn Thew returned to his damp vigil. Leaning over the wet wooden rail, he drew a little diagram on the back of an envelope and worked out some figures. Then he listened once more, the slight frown upon his forehead deepening. Finally he tore up his sketch and made his way to the doctor's room. The doctor was seated at his desk and glanced up enquiringly as his visitor entered.
"I just looked in to see how young Robins was getting on," Jocelyn explained.
"I am afraid he is in rather a bad way," was the grave reply.
"What is the nature of his illness?"
The doctor shrugged his shoulders. His manner became a little vague.
"I must remind you, Mr. Thew," he said, "that a doctor is not always at liberty to discuss the ailments of his patients. On board ship this custom becomes more, even, than mere etiquette. It is, in fact, against the regulations of the company for us to discuss the maladies of any passenger upon the steamer."
"I recognise the truth of all that you say," Jocelyn Thew agreed, "but it happens that I know the young man and his people. Naturally, therefore, I take an interest in him, and I am sure they would think it strange if, travelling upon the same steamer, I did not make these very ordinary enquiries."
"You know his people, do you?" the doctor repeated. "Where does he come from, Mr. Thew?"
"Somewhere over New Jersey way," was the glib reply, "but I used to meet his father often in New York. There can be no mystery about his illness, can there, doctor—no reason why I should not go and see him?"
"I have placed the young man in quarantine," was the brief explanation, "and until he is released no one can go near him."
"Something catching, eh?"
"Something that might turn out to be catching."
Jocelyn Thew shrugged his shoulders and accepted what amounted almost to a little nod of dismissal. He ascended the staircase thoughtfully and came face to face with Katharine Beverley, issuing from the music room. She greeted him with a little exclamation of relief.
"Mr. Thew," she exclaimed, "I have been looking for you everywhere. Doctor Gant thinks," she added, lowering her voice, "that if you wish to see his patient alive, you had better come at once." "There is a change in his condition, then?"
"Yes," she told him gravely.
He stood for a moment thinking rapidly. The girl shivered a little as she watched the change in his face. Her hospital training had not lessened her awe and sympathy in the face of death, and it was so entirely obvious that Jocelyn Thew was considering only what influence upon his plans this event might have. Finally he turned and descended the stairs by her side.
"I am not at all sure that it is wise of me to come," he said. "However, if he is asking for me I suppose I had better."
They made their way into the commodious stateroom upon the saloon deck, which had been secured for the sick man. He lay upon a small hospital bed, nothing of him visible save his haggard face, with its ill-grown beard. His eyes were watching the door, and he showed some signs of gratification at Jocelyn's entrance. Gant, who was standing over the bed, turned apologetically towards the latter.
"It's the money," he whispered. "He is worrying about that. I was obliged to send for you. He called out your name just now, and the ship's doctor was hanging around."
The newcomer drew a stool to the side of the bed, opened a pocketbook and counted out a great wad of notes. The dying man watched him with every appearance of interest.
"Five thousand dollars," the former said at last. "That should bring in about eleven hundred and fifty pounds. Now watch me, Phillips."
He took an envelope from his pocket, thrust the notes inside, gummed down the flap, and, drawing a fountain pen from his pocket, wrote an address. The dying man watched him and nodded feebly.
"These," Jocelyn continued, "are for your wife. The packet shall be delivered to her within twelve hours of our landing in Liverpool. You can keep it under your pillow and hand it over to Miss Beverley here. You trust her?"
The man on the bed nodded feebly and turned slightly towards Katharine. She bent over him.
"I shall see myself," she promised, "that the money is properly delivered."
Phillips smiled and closed his eyes. It was obvious that he had no more to say. Jocelyn Thew stole softly out, followed, a moment later, by Katharine.
"The doctor thinks I am better away," she whispered. "He won't speak again. Poor fellow!"
Jocelyn stepped softly up the stairs and drew a little breath of relief as they reached the promenade deck without meeting any one. Both seemed to feel the desire for fresh air, and they stepped outside for a moment. There were tears in Katharine's eyes.
"Of course," she said, a little timidly, "I don't understand this at all, but it is terribly tragic. Do you think that he would have lived if he had not undertaken the journey?"
"It was absolutely impossible," her companion assured her. "He was a dying man from the moment the operation was finished."
"Will he be buried at sea?"
"I think not. He was exceedingly anxious to be buried at his home near Chester. It isn't a pleasant thing to talk about," Jocelyn went on, "but they brought his coffin on board with him. It's lying in the companionway now, covered over with a rug."
"It's a horrible day altogether," she declared, looking out into the seemingly endless banks of mist.
"Entirely my opinion, Miss Beverley," a voice said in her ear. "I find it most depressing—and unhealthy. And listen.—Do you hear that?"
They all listened intently. Again they could hear the hooting of a steamer in the distance.
"Between ourselves," Crawshay went on confidentially, "the captain seems to me rather worried. That steamer has been following us for hours. She is evidently waiting for the fog to lift, to see who we are."
"How does she know about us?" Katharine asked. "We haven't blown our hooter once."
"We don't need to," was the fractious reply. "That's where we are being over-careful. She can hear our engines distinctly."
"Who does the captain think she is, then?"
Crawshay's voice was dropped to a mysterious pitch, but though he leaned towards the girl, his eyes were fixed upon her companion.
"He doesn't go as far as to express a definite opinion, but he thinks that it might be that German raider—the Blucher, isn't it? She can steal about quite safely in the fog, and she can tell by the beat of the engines whether she is near a man-of-war or not."
Not a muscle of Jocelyn's face twitched, but there was a momentary gleam in his eyes of which Crawshay took swift note. He glanced aft to where the two seamen were standing by the side of their guns.
"If it really is the German raider," he remarked, "they might as well fire off a popgun as that thing. She is supposed to be armed with four six-inch guns and two torpedo tubes."
"So I told the captain. We might have a go at a submarine, but the raider would sink us in two minutes if we tried to tackle her. What a beastly voyage this is!" he went on, in a depressed tone. "I can't get over the fact that I risked my life to get on board, too."
Jocelyn Thew, with a little word of excuse, had swung around and disappeared. Katharine looked at her companion curiously.
"Do you believe that it really is the raider, Mr. Crawshay?" she enquired.
He hesitated. In Jocelyn's absence his manner seemed to undergo some subtle change, his tone to become crisper and less querulous.
"We had some reason to hope," he said cautiously, "that she was on a different course. It is just possible, however, that in changing it she might have struck this bank of fog and preferred to hang about for a time."
"What will happen if she finds us?"
"That depends entirely upon circumstances."
"I have an idea," Katharine continued, "that you know more about this matter than you feel inclined to divulge."
"Perhaps," he admitted. "Nowadays, every one has to learn discretion."
"Is it necessary with me?" "It is necessary with any friend of Mr. Jocelyn Thew," he told her didactically.
"What a suspicious person you are!" she exclaimed, a little scornfully. "You are just like all your countrymen. You get hold of an idea and nothing can shake it. Mr. Jocelyn Thew, I dare say, possesses a past. I know for a fact that he has been engaged in all sorts of adventures during his life. But—at your instigation, I suppose—they have already searched his person, his stateroom, and every article of luggage he has. After that, why not leave him alone?"
"Because he is an extremely clever person."
"Then you are not satisfied yet?"
"Am I, may I ask, under suspicion?" she enquired, with faint sarcasm.
"I should not like to say," he replied glibly, "that you were altogether free from it."
She laughed heartily.
"I should not worry about the army if I were you," she advised. "I am quite sure that secret-service work is the natural outlet for your talents."
"I shouldn't be surprised," he confided, "if headquarters didn't insist upon my taking it up permanently. It will depend a little, of course, upon what success I have during this voyage."
She laughed in his face and turned away.
"I will tell you what I find so interesting about you, Mr. Crawshay," she said. "You must be either very much cleverer than you seem, or very much more foolish. You keep me continually guessing as to which it is."
Towards six o'clock that evening, without any apparent change in the situation, Captain Jones descended from the bridge and signalled to Crawshay, whom he passed on the deck, to follow him into his room. The great ship was still going at full speed through a sea which was as smooth as glass.
"Getting out of it, aren't we?" Crawshay enquired.
The captain nodded. His hair and beard were soaked with moisture, and there were beads of wet all over his face. Otherwise he seemed little the worse for his long vigil. In his eyes, however, was a new anxiety.
"Another five miles," he confided, "should see us in clear weather."
"Steamer's still following us, isn't she?"
"Sticking to us like a leech," was the terse reply. "She is not out of any American port. She must have just picked us up. She isn't any ordinary cargo steamer, either, or she couldn't make the speed."
"I've worked it out by your chart," Crawshay declared, "and it might very well be the Blucher. I don't think I made the altered course wide enough, and she might very well have been hanging about a bit when she struck the fog and heard our engines."
The captain lit a pipe. "I am not in the habit, as you may imagine, of discussing the conduct of my ship with any one, Mr. Crawshay," he said, "but you come to me with very absolute credentials, and it's rather a comfort to have some one standing by with whom one can share the responsibility. You see my couple of guns? They are about as useful as catapults against the Blucher, whereas, on the other hand, she could sink us easily with a couple of volleys."
"Just so," Crawshay agreed. "What about speed, Captain?"
"If our reports are trustworthy, we might be able to squeeze out one more knot than she can do," was the doubtful reply, "but, you see, she'll follow us out of this last bank of fog practically within rifle range. I've altered my course three or four times so as to get a start, but she hangs on like grim death. That's what makes me so sure that it's the Blucher."
"Want my advice?" Crawshay asked.
"That's the idea," the captain acquiesced.
"Stoke her up, then, and drive full speed ahead. Take no notice of any signals. Make for home with the last ounce you can squeeze out of her."
"That's all very well," Captain Jones observed, "but there will be at least half an hour during which we shall be within effective range. She might sink us a dozen times over."
"Yes, but I don't think she will."
"If the theory upon which I started this wild-goose chase is correct," Crawshay explained, "there is something on board this ship infinitely more valuable than the ship itself to Germany. That is why I think that she will strain every nerve to try and capture you, of course, but she will never sink you, because if she did she would lose everything her Secret Service have worked for in Germany ever since, and even before the commencement of the war."
"It's an idea," the captain admitted, with a gleam in his eyes.
"It's common sense," Crawshay urged. "When I left Halifax, I was ready to take twenty-five to one that we'd been sold. I wouldn't mind laying twenty-five to one now that what we are in search of is somewhere on board this steamer. If that is so, the Blucher will never dare to sink you, because there will still remain the chance of the person on board who is in charge of the documents getting away with them at the other end, whereas down at the bottom of the Atlantic they would be of no use to any one."
"I see your point of view," the other agreed.
"Then you'd better take my tip," Crawshay continued. "There isn't a passenger on board who didn't know the risk they were running when they started, and I'm sure no one will blame you for not surrendering your ship like a dummy directly you're asked. They're a pretty sporting lot in the saloon, you know. All those newspaper men are real good fellows."
The captain's face brightened.
"Next to fighting her," he soliloquised, stroking his beard,—
"The idea of fighting her is ridiculous," Crawshay interrupted. "Look here, you haven't any time to lose. Send to the engineer and let him give it to them straight down below. I'll give a tenner apiece to the stokers, if we get clear, and if my advice turns out wrong, I'll see you through it, anyway."
"We can leg it at a trifle over nineteen knots," Captain Jones declared, as he picked up his cap, "and, anyway, anything's better than having one of those short-haired, smooth-tongued, blustering Germans on board."
He hurried off, and Crawshay followed him on deck to watch developments. Already, through what seemed to be an opening in the walls of fog, there was a vision in front of clear blue sea on which a still concealed sun was shining. Soon they passed out into a new temperature of pleasant warmth, with a skyline ahead, hard and clear. The passengers came crowding on deck. Every one leaned over the starboard rail, looking towards the place whence the sound of the hooting was still proceeding. Suddenly a steamer crept out of the fog mountain and drew clear, barely half a mile away. The first glimpse at her was final. She had cast off all disguise. Her false forecastle was thrown back, and the sun glittered upon three exceedingly formidable-looking guns, trained upon the City of Boston. A row of signals, already hoisted, were fluttering from her mast.
"It's the Blucher, by God!" Sam West muttered.
"We're nabbed!" his little friend groaned.
"Wonder what they'll do with us."
Every eye was upturned now to the mast for the answering signals. To the universal surprise, none were hoisted. The captain stood upon the bridge with his glass focussed upon the raider. He gave no orders, only the black smoke was beginning to belch now from the funnels, and little pieces of smut and burning coal blew down the deck. Jocelyn Thew, who was standing a little apart, frowned to himself. He had seen Crawshay and the captain come out of the latter's cabin together.
The blue lightnings were playing now unchecked about the top of the Marconi room. Another more imperative signal flew from the pirate ship. A minute later there was a puff of white smoke, a loud report, and a shell burst in the sea, fifty yards ahead. Crawshay edged up to where Jocelyn Thew was standing.