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The Pirate of Panama - A Tale of the Fight for Buried Treasure
by William MacLeod Raine
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Our eyes met straight as a plummet falls. Each of us had his right hand in his overcoat pocket. I can't swear to what was in his fingers, but I felt a good deal safer for what was in mine. My back was still toward the bay, for I had a vision of the man who had disappeared—whoever he might be—slipping up through the white fog and sticking a knife between my shoulder-blades.

The captain gave me his friendliest smile.

"But you needn't be afraid. What would it profit me to get rid of you here? I don't suppose you have the map with you?"

At the last words his black eyes stabbed at me a question.

I shook my head.

"No, it wouldn't be worth while murdering me now to get the map. I'm not a fool either, captain. It isn't on me."

"So I judged. Then you may make your mind easy—for the present."

"I'm not so sure about that. Wouldn't it pay you to put me out of the road, anyhow? You'll not get the treasure so long as I'm alive, you know."

"There you touch my vanity, Mr. Sedgwick. I'm of a contrary opinion. Dead or alive you can't keep me from it."

"Have you never noticed, captain, that in this world a man's opportunities do not always match his inclinations?"

"I've noticed that a man gets what he wants if he is strong enough to take it."

"So far as I know you have made four attempts to get the map. Have you got it?"

"Not yet. Plenty of time though. When I need it I'll get it."

My skeptical laugh must have annoyed him.

"Then you'd better get busy if it's true that we sail to-morrow."

"Hope you'll have a pleasant trip."

"Thanks. Sorry we can't ask you, captain. But there really isn't room and our party is full. No doubt you'll be starting on a little jaunt of your own soon?"

"Yes, to-morrow, too, as it happens. Perhaps we may meet again. It's a small world after all, Mr. Sedgwick."

"We'll look out for you."

"Do. And go prepared for squalls. One never knows what may happen. The Pacific is treacherous. Likely enough you'll meet dirty weather."

"I'm thinking you're right. But the yacht is good for it."

"And the yacht's passengers?" he asked with angled brows.

"We're all good sailors."

"But isn't there a good deal of yellow fever in Panama?"

"Not now. There used to be."

"Haven't I heard of pirates in the Isthmus country?" he asked, smiling with superb impudence.

"That's in the past too, captain; but if we meet any, the vermin will be glad to sheer off. I'll promise you that."

The villain drew a breath of mock relief.

"That makes my mind easier, Mr. Sedgwick. I'll confess I've been a little troubled for you."

"Thanks for your kind thoughts, but I'm confident we can look out for ourselves."

Our words had been light enough, but be sure there was no laughter in the eyes that fastened each pair to the other. For me, I never was more vigilant in my life—and Bothwell knew it.

"Going up-town, captain? If not I'll say good evening."

He nodded genially.

"Pleasant voyage. And do be careful of the squalls and the fever and the pirates. Do you know I can't help thinking you had better leave Evie at home for me to take care of."

"But you're leaving, too, I understood you to say. No, we'll take good care of her. I give you my word on that."

I had been edging round him with the intention of backing away. He held out his hand, but—well, my fingers were otherwise engaged. They still caressed a knobby bit of metal in my overcoat pocket.

At the last moment, so it appeared, he yielded to an impulse.

"Must we really be in opposite camps, Mr. Sedgwick? Come! Let's arrange a compromise. Neither of us alone has enough to go on. You need me and my scrap of map. I need you and your bit of chart. We'll consolidate forces and go to Panama together."

"Afraid you're a little late, captain. You play your hand and we'll play ours."

I had been increasing the distance between us. Now I turned sharply on my heel and walked away almost at a run, for I did not like the idea of taking with me a bullet in the small of my back.

At the end of the wharf a figure brushed past me. Night had begun to fall, and in the gray dusk I could not make sure, but again I was oddly struck by its resemblance to our engineer, Fleming. I slued around my head to look a second time, but the fog had already swallowed him. Strange, I thought, that he had not recognized me; but perhaps, if the man was Fleming, he had found me too indistinct to know.

At any rate it was a matter of no great importance. I pushed past the warehouse to take an up-town car.



CHAPTER VIII

ABOARD THE ARGOS

Blythe and I had agreed that an attempt would be made to relieve us of the map while we were carrying it from the safety-deposit vault to the ship. So far as we could see it was Bothwell's last chance to gain possession of the coveted chart, and he was not the man to leave a stone unturned.

At half past three we drove in the car of a friend to the International Safe Deposit Company's place of business. He waited outside while we went in to reclaim the document.

Five minutes later we reappeared, the paper in the inside pocket of my tightly buttoned coat. My eyes explored to right and left.

The thunder of trolley cars, the rumble of wholesale wagons, the buzz of automobiles, all made their contribution to the roar of the busy canon up and down which men and women passed by hundreds. That Bothwell would make an attempt at a hold-up here seemed inconceivable. But if not here, then—where? He had to have the map or give up the fight.

Blythe followed me into the tonneau and our car swept out into the stream of traffic. Less than a quarter of an hour later we stepped down from the machine, shook hands with our friend, and took the boat which was waiting for us at the wharf. Even now we were alert, ready for any emergency that might occur.

Nothing happened, except our safe arrival at the Argos. Miss Wallace and her aunt were on deck to welcome us. Sam and I exchanged rather sheepish glances. Nobody likes to be caught making a mountain out of a mole hill, and that was apparently what we had done. Our elaborate preparations to defend the map during the past half hour had been unnecessary.

"Tide right, Mr. Mott?" Blythe asked.

"All right, sir."

"Then we'll start at once."

I retired to my cabin, disposed of a certain document, and presently returned to the deck. The engines were throbbing and the Argos was beginning to creep.

"We're off," I said to Miss Wallace, who was standing by my side on the bridge deck leaning upon the rail.

"Yes, we're off. Luck with us," she cried softly with shining eyes.

I looked at her and smiled. The excitement that burned in her I could understand, since I too shared it. We were answering the call of the sea and its romance was tingling in our blood. Into what wild waters we were to be whirled none of us had the slightest guess. It was fortunate that the future was screened by a veil behind which we could not peep.

The quiver of the engines grew stronger. The Argos was walking smartly out into the bay, her funnels belching black smoke. A stiff wind was blowing and the vessel leaped as she took the waves. Behind us in the falling dusk the lights of the city began to come out like stars.

"I wonder when we'll see her again," my companion said softly, her gaze on the hill of twinkling lights.

Like a Winged Victory her fine, lithe figure was outlined by the wind, which had flung back the white skirt against the slender limbs, showing the flowing lines as she moved. In her jaunty yachting cap, the heavy chestnut hair escaping in blowing tendrils, a warmer color whipped into her soft cheeks by the breeze, there was a sparkle to her gayety, a champagne tang to her animation. One guessed her an Ionian goddess of the sea reincarnated in the flesh of a delightful American girl.

It was this impression on me that gave the impetus to my answer.

"Not too soon, I hope."

Miss Berry joined us. I tucked her arm under mine and the three of us tramped the promenade deck. Mott went down to his dinner and Blythe took the wheel. My friend was an experienced sailor, and he had that dash of daring which somehow never results in disaster. We could see the men scurrying to and fro at his orders. The white sails began to belly out with the whistling wind.

Blythe roared an order down the speaking tube and swung round the spokes of the wheel. Straight toward the Golden Gate we sprang, bowling along with increasing speed. Past Tamalpais we scudded and through the narrows, out to the fresh Pacific like a bloodhound taking the scent.

"By the way she's going the Argos smells treasure at our journey's end," I laughed.

"Oh, I like this! Isn't it glorious?" the girl murmured.

"You come of sailor blood," I reminded her. "Many a girl would be in the hands of the ship's doctor already."

"Didn't know we had a doctor on board."

"Morgan will have to serve in lieu of one. But there goes the dinner gong. We must go and get ready."

"I suppose so," she sighed regretfully. "But it's a pity to miss a moment of this. Do you see that glow on the water? Is that why it's called the Golden Gate?"

"I fancy the argonauts called it that because it was the passage through which they passed on their way to the gold fields. And for the same reason we can give it that name too."

We moved to the stairway, which was in the pavilion, and descended to our rooms on the main deck.

As soon as I had entered mine I switched on the light and threw off my coat. Collar and tie followed the coat into the berth. I passed into the bath room and washed. At the moment I flung the towel back on the rack a sound came to me from my bedroom. I turned quickly, to see a diminutive figure roll from the back of the bed and untangle itself from my coat.

"Please, I'm awful sick, Mr. Sedgwick," a voice lugubriously groaned.

I stood staring at the little yellow face. The forlorn urchin was our office boy, Jimmie Welch.

"You young cub, what are you doing here?" I demanded.

"I'm a stowaway," he groaned. "Like Hall Hiccup, the Boy Pirate, you know. But, by crickey, I wouldn't a come if I'd a known it would be like this."

"Didn't I tell you that you couldn't come? How did you get here?"

"Golly, I'm sick! I'm going to die."

"Serves you right, you young rascal."

I didn't blow him up any more just then. Instead I hurriedly offered first aid to the seasick. He felt a little better after that.

"I told Mr. Mott you had sent me on an errand. He thought I'd gone ashore again, mebbe."

"That's where you'll go as soon as we reach San Pedro."

"Yes, sir. Hope so." He groaned woefully. "Thought you'd need a cabin boy, sir, but I'll never do it again, s'elp me."

"I'm going to give you a licking as soon as you get well. Don't forget that. Now I have to leave you. I'll be back after a while. Go to sleep if you can."

By reason of Jimmie I reached the dinner table as the soup was being removed. Only four of us messed in the cabin. Mott, the engineers, and Morgan had a separate table of their own aft.

"Late already, my boy. This won't do. Ship's discipline, you know. Make a report and clear yourself," Blythe called out as I entered.

"My patient seems a bit better," I announced, sitting down opposite Miss Wallace.

"Your patient?" that young woman repeated.

"Yes, I find I have a guest to share my cabin with me, and he has begun by yielding to an attack of mal-de-mer."

"Is this a conundrum? I'm not good at them." This from Miss Berry.

"No, it's a stowaway. The conundrum is to know what to do with the little rascal."

"Meaning who?"

"James A. Garfield Welch. I found him tucked away in my berth, very much the worse for wear."

The Englishman helped himself to asparagus tips and laughed.

"He's certainly a persevering young beggar. He hung around me for three days trying to persuade me to take him. Now he's here on French leave."

"He'll have to make himself useful, now he's here. The little idiot imagines himself a sort of boy pirate, so he explained to me. I'm going to try to introduce a little sense into his system by means of a strap applied to the cuticle."

"Oh, I wouldn't," Evelyn begged quickly. "Poor fellow! I daresay he wanted to come as badly as we did."

"He happens to have a mother," I added dryly. "She's no doubt worrying her life out about the young pirate. I really think we owe him a licking on her account."

"Poor woman! She must be feeling dreadfully. Isn't there any way of letting her know that he is safe?" Miss Berry asked.

"We'll have to call in at San Pedro, though that means the loss of a day. We can send the youngster home from Los Angeles," Blythe suggested.

"If his mother is willing, Jimmie might go on with us. He would be useful to run errands," Evelyn proposed.

"Jimmie has a staunch friend in you, Miss Wallace. We'll think it over. There's plenty of time before we reach Los Angeles," our captain answered. "He can take the upper berth in the cook's cabin. Have him moved after dinner, Morgan."

We lingered after dinner till the second dog watch was over, when Blythe excused himself to go on deck. I soon followed him, for though I am no sailor I was rated as second officer on the Argos, Mott being the first.

I had not yet had a good view of the crew and I looked them over carefully as Blythe divided them in watches. They appeared a lively enough lot, though it struck me that one or two showed sullen faces.

Caine, the boatswain, was a villainous looking fellow, due in part to the squint of his eyes that set them at different angles. But he turned out a thoroughly capable man with a knack of getting out of the men all that was in them.

Under Mott's supervision I took a turn at the wheel, for I did not intend, if I could help it, to be deadwood throughout the whole cruise. I could see Miss Wallace pacing the deck with Blythe for hours, his cigar tip glowing in the darkness as they advanced toward the wheel house. I would have liked to join them, but I had set out to make of myself enough of a sailor to serve at a pinch, and I stuck to my task. It was late when I reached my cabin. I must have fallen asleep at once, for it was day again before I knew anything more.

We met at breakfast, the four of us, and not one but was touched by the loveliness of which we were the center. It was not a new story to Blythe—this blue arched roof of sky, this broad stretch of sea, this warm sun on a day cool enough to invigorate the blood—but he too showed a lively pleasure in it.

Miss Berry took some fancy work and a magazine with her on deck and spent the morning placidly in a steamer chair, but her niece and I were too full of our pleasure to rest so contentedly.

To any who have sailed on the glassy breast of the Pacific day after day, knowing all the little pleasures of life aboard a well-found turbine yacht, a description would be superfluous; to one who has never known it, such an attempt would be entirely futile. By either alternative I am debarred from trying to set down the delight of our days, the glory of our nights of stars.



CHAPTER IX

BOTHWELL MAKES A MOVE

We put into San Pedro in the early morning and tied up opposite the Harvard. Blythe and I ran up to Los Angeles on the electric, taking Jimmie Welch with us.

No matter how well one may be equipped for an expedition, every port touched finds needs to be satisfied. After I had wired Mrs. Welch that her hopeful was safe and would be returned to her or retained as ship's boy at her desire, I spent the morning executing commissions for the ladies and attending to little matters that needed looking after.

We made an appointment to lunch at one of Los Angeles' numberless cafeterias. I went out of my way to the telegraph office to get the answer from Mrs. Welch, for which reason I was a few minutes late to luncheon.

A stranger to me was sitting opposite Blythe. My friend introduced him as Mr. Yeager, known all over Arizona as Tom Yeager. It appeared that he had come to the coast with a couple of carloads of steers, having disposed of which, time was hanging heavy on his hands.

Anybody who has lived in the cattle country knows the Yeager type. He was a brown, lithe man, all sinew, bone and muscle. His manner was easy and indifferent, but out of his hard face cool, quiet eyes judged men and situations competently.

Over many straight and crooked trails his thirty-five years had brought him without shame. No doubt he had often skirted the edge of law, but even when he had been a scamp his footsteps had followed ways justified by his code.

I gathered from their talk that Blythe and he had served together in the Rough Riders during the Spanish War. They were exchanging reminiscences and Jimmie Welch was listening open-mouthed to their conversation.

"Say, ain't he a peacherino, Mr. Sedgwick," whispered my young hopeful. "Get onto those muscles of his. I'll bet he's got a kick like a mule in either mitt. Say, him and Teddy Roosevelt must 'a' made the dagoes sick down in Cuba."

More jokes and stories of camp life passed back and forth.

"Do you reckon he ever killed a Spaniard?" Jimmie murmured to me.

"Better ask him," I suggested.

But at thought of this audacity to his hero the young pirate collapsed. I put the question for him.

The cowman grinned.

"Only one, Jimmie. And he ain't all mine. Me and a fellow called the Honorable Samuel Blythe was out scouting one day while we were pushing through the tangle of brush toward Santiago. I reckon we got too anxious. Anyhow, we bumped into an ambush and it was a swift hike for us back to the lines. The bullets were fair raining through the leaves above us. Recollect, Sam?"

Blythe nodded.

"Rather. Whenever I think of it pins and needles run down my back."

"Well, we cut a blue streak for camp, those fellows after us on the jump. I used to think I was some runner, but the Honorable Samuel set me right that day. He led good and strong, me burning the wind behind and 'steen Spaniards spread out in the rear. A fat little cuss was leading them, and the way he plowed through that underbrush was a caution. You want to remember, Jimmie, that the thermometer was about a hundred and fifty in the shade. I went till I was fit to drop, then looked round and saw Don Fatty right close. I hadn't invited him to my party, so I cracked away at him with my gun."

"And you killed him," Jimmie breathed, his eyes popping out.

"Killed nothing," answered the Arizonian in disgust. "I missed him a mile, but he was so plumb discouraged with the heat and with running his laigs off that he up and laid down and handed in his checks. He's the only Spaniard I've got to my credit and Mr. Blythe here always claimed half of him because he ran faster."

"You're kidding me," announced Jimmie promptly.

"Well, I've always had a kind a suspicion myself that mebbe he had just fainted. But I like to figure it out that I destroyed one of my country's enemies that day, with a leetle help from my friend here."

While Yeager was joyously fabricating this yarn Blythe had been writing on the back of an envelope. This he now shoved quietly across to me.

He's as well-plucked as they make them, Jack—and straight as a string. Want to make him a proposition to join us?

Those were the lines he had penciled on the envelope. Beneath them I wrote two words: "Suits me."

Jimmie's mother had consented to let him go on with us. Now I took him away to get some necessary wearing apparel, leaving Blythe to make a proposition to Yeager.

"Your mother says I'm in full charge of you. That means I'm to lick you whenever you need it," I told Jimmie, for I had already discovered that my young sleuth needed considerable repressing from time to time.

"Yes, sir. I'll do whatever you say," agreed Young America, who was long since over his seasickness and was again eager for the voyage.

The Englishman nodded when I saw him an hour later.

"Tom's in with us."

"He understands this ain't a pleasure excursion, doesn't he?" I asked.

"Folks take their pleasure different, Mr. Sedgwick," drawled the cowman. "I shouldn't wonder but I might enjoy this little cruise even if it gets lively."

"My opinion is that it may get as lively as one of your own broncos," I explained.

"I'll certainly hope for the worst," he commented.

I turned Jimmie over to my friends and spent the afternoon with a college classmate who was doing newspaper work on the Herald. In looking up a third man who also had belonged to our fraternity, time slipped away faster than we had noticed. It was getting along toward sunset when I separated from my friends to take the interurban for San Pedro at the big electric station. Before my car reached the port, dusk was falling.

Whistling as I went, I walked briskly down the hill toward the wharf. As I passed an alley my name was called. I stopped in my stride and turned. Then a jagged bolt of fire seared my brain. My knees sagged. I groped in the darkness, staggering as I moved. About that time I must have lost consciousness.

When I came to myself I was lying in the alley and a man was going through my clothes. A second man directed him from behind a revolver leveled at my head. Both of them were masked.

"I tell you it ain't on him," the first man was saying.

"We want to make dead sure of that, mate," the other answered.

"If he's got it the damned thing is sewed beneath his skin," retorted the first speaker.

"He's coming to. We'll take his papers and his pocketbook and set sail," the leader decided.

I could hear their retreating footsteps echo down the alley and was quite sensible of the situation without being able to rise, or even cry out. For five minutes perhaps I lay there before I was sufficiently master of myself to get up. This I did very uncertainly, a little at a time, for my head was still spinning like a top. Putting my hand to the back of it I was surprised to discover that my palm was red with blood.

As I staggered down to the wharf I dare say the few people who met me concluded I was a drunken sailor. The Argos was lying at the opposite side of the slip, but two of our men were waiting for me with a boat. One of them was the boatswain Caine, the other a deckhand by the name of Johnson.

"Split me, but Mr. Sedgwick has been hurt. What is it, sir? Did you fall?" the boatswain asked.

"Waylaid and knocked in the head," I answered, sinking down into the stern on account of a sudden attack of dizziness.

Caine was tying up my head with a handkerchief when the mists cleared again from my brain.

"All right, sir. A nasty crack, but you'll be better soon. I've sent Johnson up to have a lookout for the guys that done it," the boatswain told me cheerily.

"No use. They've gone to cover long since. Call him back and let's get across to the ship."

"Yes, sir. That will be better."

He called, and presently Johnson came back.

"Seen anything of the scoundrels, Johnson?" demanded Caine.

"Not a thing."

I had been readjusting the handkerchief, but I happened to look up unexpectedly. My glance caught a flash of meaning that passed between the two. It seemed to hint at a triumphant mockery of my plight.

"Caine is a deep-sea brute, mean-hearted enough to be pleased at what has happened," I thought peevishly. Later I learned how wide of the mark my interpretation of that look had been.

A chorus of welcome greeted me as I passed up the gangway to the deck of the Argos. One voice came clear to me from the rest. It had in it the sweet drawl of the South.

"You're late again, Mr. Sedgwick. And—what's the matter with your head?"

"Nothing worth mentioning, Miss Wallace. Captain Bothwell has been trying to find what is inside of it. I think he found sawdust."

"You mean——"

"Knocked in the head as I came down to the wharf. Serves me right for being asleep at the switch. Think I'll run down to my room and wash the blood off."

Yeager offered to examine the wound. He had had some experience in broken heads among the boys at his ranch, he said.

"Perhaps I could dress the hurt. I had a year's training as a nurse," suggested Miss Wallace, a little shyly.

"Mr. Yeager is out of a job," I announced promptly.

The girl blushed faintly.

"We'll work together, Mr. Yeager."

She made so deft a surgeon that I was sorry when her cool, firm fingers had finished with the bandages. Nevertheless, I had a nasty headache and was glad to get to bed after drinking a cup of tea and eating a slice of toast.



CHAPTER X

ANOTHER STOWAWAY

Southward ho! Before the trade winds we scudded day after day, past Catalina Island and San Diego, past Santa Margarita lying like a fog bank on the offing, out into the warm sunshine of the tropical Pacific.

We promised ourselves that after the treasure had been lifted and we were headed again for the Golden Gate, our sails should have a chance to show what they could do alone, but now Blythe was using all his power to drive the Argos forward.

What plans Bothwell might have we did not know, but we were taking no chances of reaching Doubloon Spit too late. If we succeeded in getting what we had come after there would be plenty of time to dawdle.

No days in my life stand out as full of enjoyment as those first ones off the coast of Lower California and Mexico. Under a perfect sky we sailed serenely. Our fears of Bothwell had vanished. We had shaken him off and held the winning hand in the game we had played with him. The tang of the sea spume, of the salt-laden spray was on our lips; the songs of youth were in our hearts.

Every hour that I was not on duty, except those given to necessary sleep, I spent in the company of Evelyn Wallace. Usually her aunt was also present, and either Blythe or Yeager. That did not matter in the least, so long as my golden-brown beauty was near, so long as I could watch the dimples flash in her cheeks and the little nose crinkle to sudden mirth, or could wait for the sweep of the long lashes that would bring round to mine the lovely eyes, tender and merry and mocking by turns.

Faith, I'll make a clean breast of it. I was already fathoms deep in love, and my lady did not in the least particularly seem to favor me. There were moments when hope was strong in me. I magnified a look, a word, the eager life in her, to the significance my heart desired, but reason told me that she gave the same friendly comradeship to Blythe and Yeager.

It is possible that the absorption in this new interest dulled my perception of external matters. So at least Sam hinted to me one night after the ladies had retired. Mott was at the wheel, a game of solitaire in the smoking room claimed Yeager. Blythe and I were tramping the deck while we smoked.

"Notice anything peculiar about the men to-day and yesterday, Jack?" he asked in a low voice.

We were for the moment leaning against the rail, our eyes on the phosphorescent light that gleamed on the waves.

"No-o. Can't say that I have. Why?"

He smiled.

"Thought perhaps you hadn't. When man's engaged——"

"What!" I interrupted.

"—— engaged in teaching a pretty girl how to steer, he doesn't notice little things he otherwise might."

"Such as——" I suggested.

He looked around to make sure we were alone.

"There's something in the wind. I don't know what it is."

"Something to do with the crew?"

"Yes. They know something about the reason why we're making this trip. You haven't talked, of course?"

"No."

"Nor Miss Wallace? Perhaps her aunt——"

"It doesn't seem likely. Whom would she talk to?"

"Some of the men may have overheard a sentence or two. The point is that they are talking treasure in the f'c'sle. Morgan got it from Higgins."

"From the cook?"

"Yes. Afterward the man was sorry he had spoken. He's the type that can't keep a secret. Some of it is bound to leak out in his talk."

"Couldn't Morgan find out where Higgins learned what he knows?"

"No. I had him try. The man was frightened about what he had already said. He wouldn't say another word. That doesn't look well."

After a moment of reflection I spoke.

"Perhaps Bothwell may have told some of the men before we started. I saw him talking to a man that looked like our chief engineer."

"When was that?"

I told in detail about my meeting with Bothwell on the wharf. Of course I had mentioned the occurrence at the time, but without referring to Fleming.

"Yes, he may have told Fleming about it, but——"

The uncompleted sentence suggested his doubt.

"You think he isn't the man to give away anything without a good reason?"

"You've said it."

"Of course it's really no business of the crew what we are going after."

"True enough, but we agreed among ourselves to tell them at the last moment and in such a way as to enlist them as partners with us. Unless I guess wrong, their feeling is sullenness. They think we're after booty in which they have no share."

"They'll feel all the kinder to us when we let them know that a percentage of our profits is to go to the crew."

"Will they? I wonder."

He was plainly disturbed, more so than I could find any justification for in the meager facts and surmises he had just confided to me.

"What is troubling you? What are you afraid of?"

"I can't put a name to my feeling, but I jolly well wish they didn't know. Seamen are a rough lot and they get queer ideas."

"You don't imagine for an instant that they'll maroon us and hoist the Jolly Roger, do you?" I asked with a laugh.

He did not echo my laugh.

"No, but I don't like it. I thought we had the game in our own hands, and now I find the crew has notions, too."

"Don't you think you're rather overemphasizing the matter, Sam?"

"Perhaps I am." He appeared to shake off his doubts. "In fact, I'm pretty sure I am. But I thought it best to mention the thing to you."

"Glad you did. We'll keep an eye open and, if there's any trouble, nip it in the bud."

This was easy enough to say, but the event proved far otherwise. Within twenty-four hours we were to learn that serious trouble was afoot.

It was midday of a Saturday, and the sky was clear and cloudless as those which had gone before. During the forenoon we had been doing a steady fifteen knots, but there had been some slight trouble with the engines and we were now making way with the sails alone while the engineers overhauled the machinery.

Yeager and I were standing near the cook's scuppers fishing for shark with fat pork for bait. More than once I had caught the flash of a white-bellied monster, but Mr. Shark was wary about taking chances.

Dugan, our carpenter, stopped as he was passing, apparently to watch us. Glancing at him I noticed something in his face that held my eyes.

"There's trouble afoot, Mr. Sedgwick," he broke out in a low, jerky voice. "For God's sake, make a chance for me to talk to you or Captain Blythe!"

The cook came out of his galley at that moment. My wooden face told no tales.

"No chance. The beggar's too shy. I've had enough. How about you, Yeager?"

"Me to," the Arizonian laughed easily, and he hauled up the line.

I strolled forward to the pilot house, stopping to chat for an instant with Miss Berry, who lay in a steamer chair under the awning. For I had no intention of letting the men suspect that Dugan had told me anything of importance.

Blythe was at the wheel. I told him what Dugan had said. Our captain did not turn a hair.

"There's a shingle loose on the edge of the roof. Call Dugan to nail it tight."

The carpenter brought a hammer and nails. Tom Yeager meanwhile was sitting on a coil of rope talking to Caine. His laughter rippled up to us care-free as that of a schoolboy. He never even glanced our way, but I knew he would be ready when we needed him.

The captain turned the wheel over to me and stepped outside of the wheelhouse. Three or four of the men were lounging about the deck. So far as they could see, Blythe was directing the carpenter about the work and the latter was explaining how it could be best done.

"Keep cool, my man. Don't let them guess what you are saying," the Englishman advised, lighting a cigar.

"What have you to tell me?"

"Mutiny, sir. That's what it is. We're after treasure. That's the story I've heard, and the men mean to take the ship."

I thought of Evelyn and her aunt, and my heart sank.

Sam stretched his arms and yawned.

"When?"

"Don't know, sir. I've picked up only a little here and there. Caine came to me this morning and asked me if I would go in with them."

Dugan drove two nails into the shingle.

"Do you know which of the men are stanch?"

"No, sir. Can't say as I do, outside of Alderson. Tom's all right."

"What about arms?"

"They have plenty. They've been packed in a bulkhead, but Fleming and Caine gave them out to the men this morning."

"The deuce! That looks ugly. They must be getting ready for business soon. If Caine approaches you again, fall in with his plans. Find out all you can, especially what men we can rely on. That will do."

"Yes, sir."

As soon as the man had gone the captain turned to me with a fighting gleam in his quiet eyes.

"Well, Jack, it's worse by a devilish lot than I had thought. We're in for mutiny. I wouldn't ask for anything better than a turn with these wharf rats if it weren't for the ladies. But with them aboard it's different. Wish I knew when Mr. Caine intends to set the match to the powder."

"What's the matter with my going down into the men's quarters and having a look around? I might stumble on some information worth while."

He shook his head.

"No, thanks. I need my second officer. If he went down there an accident might happen to him—due to a fall down the stairway or something of the sort."

"Then let me send Jimmie. Nobody would pay any attention to him. He could go into their quarters without suspicion."

"It would be safe enough for him at present. Why not? Don't tell him too much, Jack."

"Trust me."

Jimmie jumped at the chance to go sleuthing again. I had told him a yarn about suspecting some of the men had whisky concealed in the ship. He was away less than half an hour, but when he came back it was with a piece of news most alarming.

"Mr. Sedgwick," he gasped, "you remember that big, black-faced guy you set me trailing in 'Frisco—Captain what's-his-name—well, he's on this ship sure as I'm a foot high!"

My heart lost a beat. "Certain of that, Jimmie?"

"Yep, it's a lead-pipe cinch. Saw him in the engine room talking to Mr. Fleming. When he seen me Mr. Fleming called me to come down. But not for Jimmie. He took a swift hike up the stairs."

The boy was all excitement. For that matter so was I, though I concealed it better. If Bothwell were on board the ship as a stowaway the aspect of affairs was more serious even than we had thought.

"You're sure it was Captain Bothwell, Jimmie?"

"Say, would I know me own mother? Would I know Jim Jeffries or Battling Nelson if I got an eyeful of them walking down Market Street? Would I be sure of the Chronicle Building if I set my peepers on it? Betcherlife."

"How was he dressed?"

"In sailors' slops. Didn't have on any coat. Wasn't right sure of him at first, 'cause he's run a lawn mower over them whiskers of his. But this guy's the original Bothwell all right, all right."

"Jimmie, listen to me. Don't whisper a word of this. Do you hear?"

"I'm a clam."

"And don't go exploring in that end of the ship again. Captain Bothwell would as soon wring your neck as a chicken's, my boy. Keep away from the forecastle."

Immediately I joined Blythe on the bridge and told him what Jimmie had discovered.

The captain nodded.

"That explains what was puzzling us. Bothwell has been too shrewd for us. He must have arranged it to throw his men in our way when we were selecting a crew. The scoundrel is laughing in his sleeve at us because we're taking him and his men at our expense to the treasure."

"He's diddled us beautifully," I admitted with a sour grin.

"I grant him one round. The man is dangerous as a wild beast that has escaped from its cage. But we're warned now. If he bests us it's our own fault."

"It will be a finish fight, no surrender and no quarter."

My friend nodded, his jaw gripped tight.

"You've said it."

"We've one advantage. All of us will stand together. He can't hold his riffraff long. They will quarrel among themselves. Every day that passes works in our favor."

"Right enough, but Bothwell knows this as well as we do. He'll move soon. We've forced his hand by discovering his presence. Now he can't let us get into port because he knows we would get help against him."

"That's true."

"Unless I guess wrong we'll hear from him inside of twenty-four hours."

"Since it has to be, the sooner the better."

Blythe shrugged his broad, lean shoulders coolly.

"What must be must. As for Captain Bothwell, I don't think he'll have an easy time of it. If he doesn't like the treatment he's going to get he'll have nobody to blame but himself. Nobody asked him on board."

"We must lose no time in making preparations to meet an attack."

"You're right. Tell Mr. Mott I wish to see him. Have Yeager look our weapons over and make sure that they are loaded. Tell him to guard the armory until further notice. Better give Morgan a revolver at once and slip Dugan one if you can."

The flinty resolution in his eye warmed my heart. Man for man, I was ready to back Blythe against Bothwell.

The Scotch-Russian had more of the devil in him, a starker cruelty, a more blazing passion, and perhaps greater cunning; but if I read the Englishman aright there was in him that same quiet force which carried Captain Scott to the south pole and afterward gave to the world that immortal letter, written in a bleak Antarctic waste of icy death.

Sam Blythe would play the game out steadily to a fighting finish.



CHAPTER XI

TAKING STOCK

Yeager was sitting with the ladies under the awning telling them some story of his beloved Arizona. At a signal from me he arose and excused himself. We passed into the reception room and down the stairway.

"You're armed, of course," I said.

"Me? I always pack a gun. Got the habit when I was a kid and never shucked it. For rattlesnakes," he added with a grin.

"We have a few of them on board. Yeager, the kid saw Bothwell in the engine room talking with Fleming. Do you know what that means?"

"I can guess, I reckon," he drawled.

"It means war—and soon."

"And war is hell, Sherman said. Let's make it hell for Bothwell. It's about time for me to begin earning my passage. What's the matter with me happening down into the forecastle and inviting Capt. Bothwell up to be more sociable?"

"Won't do at all. If he were alone it would be a different matter. If you went down there you'd never come up alive. We need every man we've got. Think of the women."

His light-blue eye rested in mine.

"I'd give twenty cows if they were back in Los Angeles, Jack."

From my pocket I took the key which unlocked the door of the room we called the armory. After I had selected two revolvers I left him there attending to business. Morgan I found in Blythe's cabin. He took my news quietly enough, though he lost color when I told him what we had to expect.

"I don't know much about revolvers, sir," he said, handling very respectfully the one I handed him.

"You'll know more in a day or two," I promised. "Morgan, we're going to beat these scoundrels. Be quite sure of that."

"Yes, sir. Glad to hear it, sir," he answered doubtfully.

"You know Captain Blythe. He's worth half a dozen of these wharf rats. So is Mr. Yeager."

"Are—are all the crew against us?" he asked after a moment's struggle with his trepidation.

"No, we know of at least two who are for us. Probably there are others. Don't be afraid. We're going to smash this mutiny."

"Yes, sir. Captain Blythe will see to that. I put my faith in him."

But in spite of what I had said it was plain that Morgan's faith was a quavering one. He was a useful man, competent in his own line, but his metier plainly was not fighting. My news had given him a shock from which he would not quickly recover.

It was nearly time for the change of watches, and when I returned to the deck I saw that Mott was already on the bridge. He listened to our story with plain incredulity.

"I know nothing about this man Bothwell, but say the word and I'll go down and haul him on deck for you, Captain Blythe," he offered, contemptuously.

"You don't understand the situation. He's as dangerous as a mad dog."

"I've yet to see the first stowaway I couldn't bring to time. They're a chicken-hearted lot, take my word for it."

"He isn't a stowaway at all in the ordinary sense of the word. I'll be plain, Mr. Mott. We're after treasure, and Bothwell means to get it. The crew are with him."

"Slap doodle bugs!" retorted our first officer. "I make nothing at all of your story, captain. Thirty years I've sailed this coast and I've yet to see my first mutiny. Haul up this fellow Bothwell and set him swabbing decks. If he shows his teeth, give him a rope's end or a marlinspike. I'll haze him for you a-plenty."

I could have smiled at Mott's utter lack of appreciation of our dilemma if his bull-headed obstinacy had not been likely to cost us so much.

"You don't understand the man with whom we have to deal, Mr. Mott. He sticks at nothing," I explained.

"Beg pardon, Mr. Sedgwick. He'd stick at deck swabbing if I stood over him with a handspike," the burly mate answered grimly. "Truth is, gentlemen, I don't think that of your mutiny." And he snapped his fingers with a complacent laugh. "Mind you, I don't deny the men are a bit unsettled, what with all this talk of treasure that's going around. What they need is roughing and, by the jumping mercury, Johnny Mott is the man to do it!"

There are none so blind as those who will not see. We could not even persuade Mott to accept a revolver. He had made up his mind that the whole thing was nothing more or less than a mare's nest.

"What do you know of the men?" I urged. "Take our engineers. We picked up the Flemings on the wharf because we needed engineers in a hurry. The day before we sailed I saw George Fleming on the wharf talking to this man Bothwell. They are working together against us."

"What of it? Let them work. But don't go to dreaming about mutiny, Mr. Sedgwick. You ask what I know of the crew. By your leave, I know this much. I've bullied American seamen for thirty years come next November, and there's not an ounce of mutiny in a million of them."

And at that we had to let it go for the present. There were more important things on hand than the conversion of a wooden-headed tar.

Leaving Mott at the wheel we adjourned to the deck saloon for a discussion of ways and means. Miss Wallace sauntered in with a magazine in her hand.

The captain's eye questioned mine. I nodded. She would have to learn soon how things stood, and I trusted to her courage to hear the news without any fainting or hysterics. The color washed out of her face, but she showed not the least sign of panic.

"What can I do?" she asked in a steady voice.

"At present you may join an officers' council, Miss Wallace," said he. "The first thing to find out is who are for us and who against. Let's take the enemy first. There is Bothwell himself to begin with, and, of course, the two Flemings and Caine. Are we sure of any others?"

"Johnson," I replied at once. "He was one of the two men who attacked me at San Pedro. I thought at the time one of the voices sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it. After I reached the boat I noticed Caine watching me closely. The reason is clear enough to me now. He and Johnson slugged me, and he was watching to see if I had any suspicion of him."

"Sure, Jack?"

"Quite. I couldn't swear to them, but I'm morally certain. Johnson's English is just a little broken. It was his voice I knew."

"That makes five against us so far. We can add the firemen to that, since George Fleming chose them."

"Eight to begin with. What about the rest of the crew?"

"The man they call Tot Dennis was signed for me by Caine. Afraid we'll have to give him to the enemy."

"Williams is a great friend of Dennis. I've seen them together a lot," Evelyn suggested.

"That's true, but Williams has sailed with me twice before. I did think I could have trusted him."

"No doubt Caine and Bothwell have been influencing him. Put Williams down doubtful."

We checked off the rest of the crew by name, but could find no evidence against any of them.

"How many can we depend upon?" Evelyn asked.

"Yeager, Mott, Morgan, Jack here, and myself. That's five to begin with," counted Blythe.

"Dugan and Alderson," I added.

"Seven. Any more?"

"Our steward. Phillips is his name."

"Sure, Miss Wallace?"

"He's the most harmless creature on earth."

The captain smiled.

"Afraid he won't be of much use to us then. We want harmful men. But count him. That makes eight for us, nine against us, six doubtful. We'll do very nicely."

"And there's the cook. He's so fat and good-natured he must be all right," Evelyn suggested.

"By Jove! I'd forgotten 'Arry 'Iggins. No, he's against us. He talked to my man Morgan."

"And I suppose his flunky, Billie Blue, goes with cookie?" I added.

"The nine against us is now eleven," the girl said quietly.

I spoke cheerfully, which is far from how I felt.

"Oh, well, what's the odds? Nine or eleven, we'll beat them."

A steamer rug lying on a lounge at the end of the room heaved itself up. From its folds emerged the red head of Jimmie, belligerently. Its owner had evidently been roused from a nap.

"Where do I get off at I'd like to know?" demanded the indignant namesake of a martyred President. "Didn't I run down his nibs for you in 'Frisco and wise you where he was staying? Didn't I find out he was aboard here? Why ain't you countin' me in?"

Blythe assented gravely, but with a twinkle in his eye.

"Our error, Jimmie. Counting you we have nine good men and true."

"One of Jimmie's strong points is that he doesn't talk. He knows how to keep his mouth shut. Don't you, Jimmie?"

"Sure thing, Mr. Sedgwick. I'm a clam, I am."

I nodded.

"Then run along and keep an eye on things outside. If you see anything suspicious, let me know at once."

"Yes, sir. You bet you." And the boy was off at the word.

"Couldn't we put back to San Diego?" Miss Wallace asked.

The captain shook his head.

"No. If I turned the ship's head they would be about our ears like rats."

"We'll have to keep on as we are going."

A sardonic smile touched Blythe's strong, lean face.

"It's Mr. Bothwell's move. If we turned back he would have to stop us; if we continue to Panama he must prevent us from going into the harbor, or his game is up."

"Then what will he do?"

"He'll move, Miss Wallace."

She looked at him, a man of quiet, contained strength, and some sort of vision of what we were to go through flitted before her mind. Her lips were gray and bloodless.

"That dreadful treasure!" she murmured. "Why did we ever come after it?"

A faint sound drew me to my feet and across the room to the stairway. A fat bulk of a man was crouched on the steps about half-way down. He scuttled to his feet at sight of me.

"Good afternoon, Higgins! Just taking a nap on the stairs, I presume," was my ironical greeting.

The color faded from his blotched face.

"No, sir, not as you might say——" He moistened his dry lips with the tip of his tongue and tried again. "Truth is, sir, Hi wanted to ask Miss Wallace what she would like for dinner."

"That's very considerate of you. And I'm sure it's the truth. You were merely resting on the way. Come on up, Higgins. That is, if you're now able to finish the journey. Or shall I help you?"

The tail of his eye had swung round to take in the lower deck. I could have sworn the man was considering making a bolt for it, but at my words he gave up the idea with a fat sigh. He came up slowly, his eyes fixed on mine as if I held them fascinated. Tiny beads of sweat stood out on his forehead. 'Arry 'Iggins was not at that moment comfortable in his mind.

"Hi strive to please, sir," he explained. "Whatever the young lady would like. Hin a manner of speakin' I'm 'er 'umble servant, very respectably, 'Arry Iggins."

He ducked his head toward her and again toward Blythe.

"Come here," the captain ordered.

Higgins shuffled reluctantly forward.

"When did you first meet this man Bothwell?"

"Beg pardon, sir. Don't think I know the gent, sir."

The Englishman's eyes pierced into his fellow-countryman like a drill.

"Don't lie to me."

The cook had recourse to a large bandanna handkerchief to mop away his perspiration.

"If you mean the stowaway, sir, Hi met 'im just before we reached Los Angeles."

"How many of the crew are with him in this mutiny?"

"Mutiny, sir?"

"I don't mince words. How many?"

"There you 'ave me, sir. S'elp me, Captain Blythe, Hi'm not in 'is confidence."

The man's painful assumption of innocence would have been pathetic had it not been ridiculous.

"I know that," retorted my friend contemptuously. "He'll use you and chuck you aside, dead or alive, whichever is most convenient. Bothwell would as soon knife his fat friend as wink. But that's not the point just now. You'll—tell—me—all—you—know—about—this—affair—at—once. Understand?"

Higgins wriggled like a trout on the hook, but he had to tell what he knew. In point of fact this was not much more than we had already learned.

"You will go back to Bothwell and tell him to start the band playing just as soon as he has his program arranged. Tell him we don't care a jackstraw for his mutiny, and that if he lives through it we'll take him in irons to Panama and have him hanged as high as Haman. Get that, my man?" demanded Blythe.

"Yes, sir. 'Anged as 'igh as 'Aman. Hi'll remember, sir."

Sam turned to me and spoke in a low voice.

"Before this fellow goes I want Mott to hear what he has said. Take Yeager up with you and relieve him. And see that Alderson gets a revolver."

I took our mate's place at the wheel and sent him forward. Tom Yeager leaned on the ship's rail and looked away across the glassy waters of the Pacific. I remember that he was humming, as was his fashion, a snatch from a musical comedy.

It was such a day as one dreams about, with that pleasant warmth in the air that makes for indolent content. One or two of the men were lounging lazily on the forecastle deck. Caine was reading a book of travels I had lent him the previous day.

Were we all, as Mott believed, the victims of a stupid nightmare? Or could it be true that beneath all this peace boiled a volcano ready at any minute for an eruption?

Mott returned in an unpleasant mood. The truth is that he was nursing a grudge because he was the last man on board to know that we were on a cruise for treasure. He resented it that our party had not told him, and he took it with a bad grace that every man jack of the crew had been whispering for days about something of which he had been kept in the dark. Upon my word I think he had some just cause of complaint.

While he jeered at the precautions we were taking I tried to placate him, for now of all times we could least afford to have any quarrels in our party.

"You will admit there is no harm in going prepared, Mr. Mott?" I argued.

"To be sure. Ballast yourselves with revolvers, for all I care. I'll carry one because Captain Blythe has ordered it, but don't expect me to join in the play acting."

I felt myself flushing.

"The situation appears to us a very serious one."

"Slap doodle bugs! Let Captain Blythe give the word and I'll go down and bring up this bogey man, that is, if there is such a fellow aboard at all."

Presently I was called down to luncheon. I found Miss Wallace lingering with Blythe in the dining-room. As soon as I arrived the captain left.

Philips waited on me. He had already heard the news, and was ashen. His hands trembled as he passed dishes so that I was sorry for him.

"He's badly frightened, poor man," the young woman whispered to me across the table during one of his absences. "I wish I could tell him that there will probably be no serious trouble."

Her eyes appealed to mine. I could see that with her aunt and poor Philips on her hands she was in for no easy time. But I could not lie to her.

"What do you think yourself? You know your cousin. Will he lie down and let us win without a fight?"

She shook her head slowly. "No. He'll go through with his villainy, no matter what it costs."

"Yes. There is no use blinking the facts. We're in for a test of strength. I'm sorry, but the only way to meet the situation is to accept it and be ready for it. I don't fear the result."

She looked steadily at me.

"Nor I. But it's dreadful to have to wait and hold our hands. I wish I could do something."

"You can," I smiled. "You may pass me the potatoes, and after I have finished eating you may play for us. We must show these scurvy ruffians that we aren't a bit afraid of them."



CHAPTER XII

MY UNEXPECTED GUEST

"And will they murder us all in our beds?"

Miss Berry, very white but not at all hysterical, had Blythe penned in a corner by the piano as she asked the question.

"Don't be a goose, auntie," her niece smiled affectionately.

"The fact is that we were afraid you might complain of ennui, so we have stirred up a little excitement," explained Sam.

"Truly, Mr. Blythe?"

My friend looked at me appealingly and I came to the rescue.

"Sailors are a queer lot. They often get notions that have to be knocked out of them. We'll try not to disturb you while we do the hammering, Miss Berry."

A faint color washed back into her face.

"Oh, I hope you are right. It would be dreadful if——" she interrupted herself to take a more cheerful view. "But I am sure Mr. Mott is right. He has been on the seas a great many years more than you two. He ought to know best, oughtn't he?"

"Certainly," I conceded. "And I hope he does."

"Besides, Captain Bothwell is such a gentleman. I'm sure he wouldn't do anything so dreadful. I wish I could talk to him. He was always so reasonable with me, though Evie and he couldn't get along."

I concealed my smile at the thought of Miss Berry converting him.

The trumpet call to dinner diverted our thoughts. I dropped into my room to wash before dinner, with the surprising result that I lost the meal.

As I opened the door a low voice advised me to close it at once. Since I was looking into the wrong end of a revolver, and that weapon was in the hand of a very urgent person, I complied with the suggestion. The man behind the gun was Boris Bothwell.

"Hope I don't intrude," I apologized, glancing at the disorder in my stateroom.

The floor was littered with papers, coats, collars, ties, and underwear. Drawers had been dragged out and emptied, my trunk gutted of its contents. Evidently the captain had been engaged in a thorough search of the cabin when my entrance diverted his attention.

"Not at all. I was hoping you would come," he answered pleasantly.

"Perhaps I should have knocked before entering, but then I didn't expect to find you here."

"I came on impulse," he explained. "I had reason to suppose you would be busy for an hour or two. By the way, Evie is entertaining. Did I ever mention to you that it is my intention to marry her?"

"I think not."

"Ah! Then I make a confidant of you now. Congratulate me, my friend."

"Is this an official announcement?" I asked.

"Hardly official, I think. The lady does not know it."

"Then I think I'll wait till the engagement gets her O. K."

"As you like, Mr. Sedgwick, but I assure you I am an irresistible lover."

"So I hear you say," I replied coldly. "Was it to tell me this that you have put me in debt to you for this call?"

"Hardly. To be frank, I came to get a map."

I sat down on the edge of the bed.

"Again?"

"As you say, again."

"Quite like old times, isn't it? I am reminded of our 'Frisco Nights' Entertainment. The search for a map in other people's apartments is becoming rather a habit with you, isn't it?"

"I'm a persistent beggar," he admitted.

"I regret we have no more copies to lend."

He laughed indulgently.

"Touche, monsieur. But I don't care for copies. I am a collector of originals."

"They are said to be expensive."

"But valuable."

"Still, the cost is a consideration."

"Not when some one else pays the shot, Mr. Sedgwick."

"I see. You expect those poor devils whom you are misleading to draw the chestnut out of the fire for you."

"Exactly," he admitted with the gayest aplomb.

"You are willing that they should pay to the limit?" I asked, curious to see how far his cynical audacity would carry him.

He shrugged, with a lift of his strong hands.

"That is as luck, or fate, or Providence—whichever you believe in, Mr. Sedgwick—deals out the cards. I'm not a god, you know."

"You know that you cannot follow the course outlined without lives being lost," I persisted.

"I'll take your word for it," he flung back lightly.

"That won't deter you in the least?"

"Wasn't it Napoleon who said one couldn't make an omelet without breaking eggs?"

"And yet his omelet was not a success," I reflected aloud.

"Whose is, Mr. Sedgwick? We all have our Waterloos. Love, ambition, the search for wealth—none of them satisfy. But though none of us find happiness we yet seek. That is human nature."

I shot a question at him abruptly.

"Suppose you got all this treasure—would you keep faith with those poor, deluded ruffians and share with them?"

His hardy smile approved me.

"You're deep, my friend. Now I wonder what I would do? My tools are deluded. Wealth could not bring them the happiness they think it would. Most of them it would ruin. I fear it would be my duty to——"

"—— let them hold the sack," I finished for him.

"Precisely."

"There is, then, no honor among thieves."

"Not a bit. No more than there is among gentlemen. But since you object to having eggs broken, I offer you an alternative."

I waited.

"In order to save eggs I'll ask you to turn over to me the map."

"Where do you think I keep it? You've already searched my rooms and my person. I'm no wizard."

His black eyes bored into mine.

"We've been over this ground once before, Mr. Sedgwick. You know me. I'm here for business."

"So I judge."

"Come! This won't do. I'm a determined man. That map I'm going to have. Unless you want the scene to close with the final exit of John Sedgwick, find for me the map."

"Suppose I tell you that I haven't it?"

"I shall believe you, since the evidence would support the assertion. I should then ask who has it?"

"You certainly are a man of one idea. I think I've never had the pleasure of talking with you that you didn't switch the conversation back to that map."

He raised the revolver.

"I asked a question."

There was a step outside, followed by a knock on the door. "Come in," I sang out instantly.

Bothwell's furious gaze came back from the door just as I leaped. A bullet crashed through the skylight, for my arm had deflected his. I wrapped myself about him in silent struggle for the weapon. We swayed against the bed and went down upon it hard, our weight tearing through the springs. Desperately I clung to his arm to keep the weapon from pointing at me.

"Let go, Sedgwick," a voice ordered.

Sinewy fingers had tightened on Bothwell's throat and a strong hand had wrenched the revolver from him.

Panting, I struggled to my feet. My opportune friend covered the Russian with his own weapon and drawled out a warning.

"Don't you now, Mr. Pirate, or I'll certainly have to load you up with lead."

Bothwell lay on the bed, his breast heaving from his exertions. In no man's looks have I ever seen a more furious malice, but he had sense enough to recognize that this was our moment.

"If it ain't butting in, what were you gentlemen milling around so active about this warm day?" asked Yeager.

"Same old point of difference. Captain Bothwell wanted a map."

Tom laughed gently.

"Sho! You hadn't ought to be so blamed urgent, cap. It don't buy you anything."

The Russian struggled with his rage, fought it down, and again found his ironic smile.

"I am under the impression that it would have bought me a map if it had not been for your arrival, sir."

"Too bad I spoiled yore game, then."

"For the present," amended the defeated man. "I am a person of much resource, Mr. Sedgwick will tell you." Then, with a glance at the bit of plaster on my head: "He still wears a souvenir to remind him of it."

"My little adventure at San Pedro. I always, credited you with that, captain. Thanks."

"You're entirely welcome. More to follow," he smiled.

"What are you allowing to do with your guest, Sedgwick?" asked Yeager.

"We'll leave that to Blythe. I suppose we had better put him in irons and guard him. We can drop him off at Panama."

"Any port in a time of storm," suggested our prisoner blithely.

"Personally, I'd like to see you marooned for a few months," I growled, for the man's insolence ruffled me.

I found Blythe on the bridge with Mott.

"I have to report a prisoner of war captured, captain," I announced in formal military style.

Blythe laughed.

"Who is he?"

"Captain Boris Bothwell, sir."

"What!"

I told him and Mott the circumstances. The mate unbent a little.

"And the lubber shot at you? In your own cabin! Put him in irons and throw him ashore at Panama. That's my advice, Mr. Blythe. Get rid of him, and you'll not hear any more about this mutiny business."

"I'm of that opinion myself, Mr. Mott. We'll keep him under guard until he's in safe custody."

Blythe followed me down to my cabin, and for the first time he and Bothwell looked each other over.

"This isn't a passenger ship, sir," announced the owner of the Argos bluntly. "You've made a mistake, sir. We'll hand you over to the authorities at Panama."

Bothwell bowed.

"Dee-lighted! I've always wanted to see the old city of Pizarro, Drake and Morgan. Many a galleon has been looted of ingots and bullion by the old seadogs there. If I weren't so conscientious, by Jupiter, I'd turn pirate myself."

"Haven't a doubt of it," Blythe assented curtly. "We'll try to see that your opportunities don't match your inclinations. Unless I guess wrong you wouldn't hesitate to cut a throat to escape if your hands were free."

"Not at all."

"Just so. Merely as a formality we'll take the precaution of making sure you haven't any weapons that might go off and injure you—or anybody else. Jack, may I trouble you to look in my cabin for a pair of handcuffs—middle right hand drawer of my dressing table?"

We made our prisoner secure and spelled each other watching him. The first three hours fell to me. Except the Arizonian I think all of us felt a weight lifted from our hearts. The chief villain was in our hands and the mutiny nipped in the bud.

But Bothwell had managed to inject a fly into the ointment of my content.

"We've drawn your sting now," Blythe had told him before he left.

"Have you? Bet you a pony I'll be free inside of twenty-four hours," the Russian had coolly answered.



CHAPTER XIII

MUTINY

It was in the afternoon of the day after our encounter with Bothwell—to be more accurate, just after four bells. Miss Wallace and I were sitting under the deck awning, she working in a desultory fashion upon a piece of embroidery while I watched her lazily.

The languorous day was of the loveliest. It invited to idleness, made repudiation of work a virtue. My stint was over for a few hours at least and I enjoyed the luxury of pitying poor Mott, who was shut up in a stuffy cabin with our prisoner.

Yeager, too, was off duty. We could hear him pounding away at the piano in the saloon. Ragtime floated to us, and presently a snatch from "The Sultan of Sulu."

Since I first met you, Since I first met you, The open sky above me seems a deeper blue, Golden, rippling sunshine warms me through and through, Each flower has a new perfume since I first met you.

"T. Yeager is a born optimist," I commented idly. "Life is one long, glorious lark to him. I believe he would be happy if he knew raw, red mutiny were going to break out in twenty minutes."

"He's very likable. I never knew a man who has had so many experiences. There's something right boyish about him."

"Even if he could give me about a dozen years."

"Years don't count with his kind. He's so full of life, so fresh and yet so wise."

"His music isn't fresh anyhow. I move we go stop it."

"Thank you, I'm very comfortable here. I don't second the motion," she declined.

"Motion withdrawn. But I'm going to tempt him from that piano just the same. Jimmie, come here. Run down to the music-room and tell Mr. Yeager that Miss Wallace would like to see him."

Evelyn laughed.

"I think you're real mean, Mr. Sedgwick."

"For saving the life of your musical soul?"

"He is pretty bad," she admitted.

He was on the chorus again, his raucous exuberant voice riding it like one of his own bucking broncos.

Golden, rippling sunshine warms me through and through, Each flower has a new perfume since I first met you.

"Bad. He's the worst ever. Thank Heaven, we've got him stopped! There he comes with Jimmie."

He moved across the deck toward us with that little roll usually peculiar to dismounted horsemen of the plains.

"I do like him," the young woman murmured. "He's so strong and gentle and good-natured. I don't suppose he could get mad."

"Oh, couldn't he? I'll ask him about that."

"Now I do think you're mean," she reproached with a flash of her eyes.

"You sent for me, Miss Wallace? Was it to throw him overboard because he's mean?" Yeager asked genially.

Her eye was sparkling and her lips open for an answer, but the words were never spoken. For at that instant a man burst past us with blood streaming down his face from a ghastly cut in the forehead. He was making for the bridge.

"It's come," I said, rising and drawing my revolver.

"I must go to Auntie," Evelyn said, very white about the lips.

"Not now. She's perfectly safe. They won't trouble her till they have won the ship."

"And there will be some merry times before then, I expect," said Tom, his hand on the butt of a revolver and his vigilant eye sweeping the deck.

We were hurrying forward to the wheelhouse. Every moment I expected to see a rush of men tearing up the companionway, but all seemed quiet and orderly. The hands on deck either had not noticed Dugan, or else were awaiting developments.

"'Twas Caine did it, sir," Dugan explained to Blythe. "I was lying in my bunk when he came down with the stowaway you were holding prisoner."

"With Bothwell?" I cried.

"Yes, sir. They asked me to join them in taking the ship. They put it plain they meant to get the treasure."

"Do you know which of the men is with them?" I asked.

"No, sir. Soon as I got the drift of what they were at I let Caine have my fist in his dirty mouth. He came at me with a cutlas. I got this cut before I could break away. Gallagher tried to head me, but I bowled him over."

"Do you know how Bothwell escaped?"

"Caine helped him. I heard Tot Dennis say that Mr. Mott had got his. That was just before they spoke to me."

Evelyn sat down quickly. I think she wanted to faint. She too understood what was meant by the words that Mott had "got his."

"What about Alderson? Are you sure he can be trusted?" Blythe asked of the sailor.

"Yes, sir. I can speak for him and for Smith."

Alderson was on deck and I called him to us. He was a clean-cut seamanly fellow of about thirty. His blue eyes were frank and self-reliant.

"My man, there's mutiny aboard. That's the short of it. Are you for us or against us?"

"I'm for you, sir."

"Good. We're going to beat the scoundrels, but there is going to be fighting."

"Yes, sir."

"Bully for you!" cried Yeager, and slapped him on the back. "Can you shoot?"

"Not especially well, sir."

"Listen to me," ordered Blythe. "Our aim must be to hold the wheelhouse and the cabins. Mr. Sedgwick, you will take Miss Wallace back to the staterooms and rally the rest of our forces. Mr. Mott is done for, I am afraid, but the rest of our friends are probably all right. Arm all of them. Get the rifles out. Better nail up the windows and lock the doors after you are in. Alderson and Dugan will go with you. You, too, Jimmie. Yeager, you are the best shot. I'll have you stay with me."

"Hadn't you better join us and give up the wheelhouse for the present?"

The Englishman's eyes flashed.

"Surrender my ship to that scum! I'm surprised at you, Jack."

"I'm not surprised at you," I grinned. "I meant only until we have beaten them."

"What about the rest of the crew who are for us?" Miss Wallace asked.

"We'll have to give them time to declare themselves."

We obeyed orders at once, Alderson supporting Dugan, who was growing weak from loss of blood. As we went to the reception room I caught sight of Tot Dennis, his hatchet face peering above the companionway at the end of the bridge deck. At sight of me his head disappeared hastily. But he had given me an idea. I hung back while the rest of our party passed into the saloon, then walked forward quickly and descended to the lower deck.

A little group of men were gathered at the hatchway leading to the forecastle. I stepped briskly toward them, though Johnson's revolver was covering me. I'll admit I took a chance, but it was a calculated one. If Caine or Bothwell had been with them I would not have dared so far, but I reckoned that their mental habits as seamen were still strong enough to keep them from shooting an officer.

"You poor devils, Dennis, Johnson and Mack! Do you know what this means? It spells hanging for every mother's son of you. Don't be a madman and fire that gun, Johnson. There's still a chance, even for you. Cut loose from the pirate you're serving and join the honest party. Mack, you're not a mutineer, are you? You don't want to be hanged at the yardarm, do you?"

The group at the stairway had become four instead of three.

"Avast there, Mr. Sedgwick. Get back or I'll fire," growled Caine.

"I'm not speaking to you, Caine. Your bacon is cooked. I'm making my offer to the others. I've got no time to wait, my men. Are you coming?"

A bullet from Caine's revolver whistled past my ear. I stayed no longer, but fell back to the stairs and took to my heels. A bullet chipped away a splinter of wood beside me as I ran.

I found Dugan stretched on one of the long saloon seats, already being ministered to by Morgan and Evelyn. Alderson had locked one door and was on guard at the other, cutlas and revolver in hand.

"Well done, Alderson. That's the way to keep a lookout," I sang out cheerfully.

"Thank you, sir. Were you hit? That was risky, sir, talking to them without cover."

"They can't hit a barn door," I answered with a laugh.

I had moved over to the hospital corps and was looking down at the wounded man.

"Is he badly hurt?" I asked.

Evelyn looked at me with an expression I did not understand.

"I don't think so. You mustn't do that again, Mr. Sedgwick. It isn't right to take unnecessary risks." Her voice was a little tense and strained.

We heard the sound of a shot and presently of slapping footsteps.

"Let me in," called a panting voice.

Alderson turned to me.

"It's Williams, sir. Shall I let him in?"

"Yes."

There came the crack of a rifle. Simultaneously Williams burst in on us.

"They're shooting at me, sir. I watched my chance to follow you."

"You're an honest man?" I asked sharply.

"Of course I am, sir. Couldn't say so with all of them around me."

"Good." I gave Jimmie the key of our armory. "Take Williams down and let him choose a revolver and a cutlas."

I would have gone with him myself, but at that moment a voice had hailed the captain. Stepping from the saloon I saw Bothwell with a white handkerchief at the head of the stairway leading from the main deck.

"Envoy to former Captain Blythe from the crew," I heard him say.

Crisp and clear sang the answer of our captain.

"My man, I don't know you. If my crew have anything to say let them send one of their own number. I don't deal with stowaways scalawags."

"You'll deal with me if you deal with them. I've been elected captain in place of Mr. Blythe, deposed."

"The devil you have! Bite on this, my man. I own this boat, every stick and ribbon of her. I'm going to be master here. If the men want to talk I'll name conditions. Let them bring you and Caine up here in irons and put their arms down on the deck. That will be a preliminary to any talk between me and them."

"You speak large, Mr. Blythe."

"Captain Blythe, my man, and don't you forget it! Now tramp. Get back to your ruffians or I'll put a bullet through you."

"Would you fire on a flag of truce?"

"I recognize no flag of truce in your hands. Look lively."

"I've only got to say that I'll take pleasure in settling your hash for this," Bothwell cried angrily.

"I'm not Mr. Mott. You'll not find it so easy to murder me. Move!"

Bothwell disappeared with a curse. I retired into the saloon.

Evelyn was standing near the door with a face in which I could read both anxiety and anger.

"Why do you expose yourself like that?" she cried.

"I wanted to see what was going on."

"You'll be shot. Then what shall we do?"

"There's not much danger yet, and I must keep in touch with our friends forward. Don't you think we had better get your patient to bed?"

"I'm all right, sir," Dugan spoke up faintly.

"He ought to be kept quiet for a day or two," his young nurse decided.

"I'll take him down to my cabin. Perhaps you can get him something to put him to sleep, Miss Wallace."

Miss Berry came up the stairs just as we were starting down. She looked like a ghost.

"Mr. Sedgwick, I've just been wakened from a nap. I heard some one groaning in the cabin next to mine." She caught sight of Dugan's bandaged head and cried out: "What's the matter? Has something happened?"

"Don't be frightened, Miss Berry."

"What are these men doing with pistols? Where does that blood come from?"

Evelyn came forward and took her aunt in her arms.

"Dearie, we can trust Captain Blythe and Mr. Sedgwick. We mustn't make it harder for them. Just now they are very busy."

I looked my thanks.

Williams and Jimmie returned from the armory. Morgan and Philips were at their heels. The steward looked very yellow.

"Let me know if there is any sign of trouble. I'll be back presently," I told Alderson.

Having put Dugan to bed in my room, I stepped into the one where we had been keeping our prisoner. Mott lay on the floor, his body still warm, quite dead. I judged that he had expired within the past few minutes. He had been struck with some blunt instrument and then knifed. The man had paid for his obstinate disbelief with his life.

I lifted the body to the bed, locked the door, and returned to the promenade deck saloon. For the throb of the propeller had ceased. An immediate attack was probably impending.

Miss Berry was sobbing softly in the arms of her niece. In my absence we had gained another adherent. Billie Blue, the cook's flunky, had come up from below.

"Where is Higgins?" I asked.

"Don't know, sir. He left right after lunch."

Alderson, who had been craning out of the door, drew back his head to speak.

"They're coming, sir."

"Down to your cabin, ladies. You go with them, Jimmie. Lock yourselves in," I ordered.

Evelyn's white lips tried to frame some words as she passed me. I understood what she wanted to say.

"I'll be careful," I promised.

"I have no weapon, sir," Billie Blue told me.

I had brought up with me from below a repeating rifle, so I handed him one of my revolvers and an Italian dirk that had been hanging on the wall as an ornament.

The second door I ordered locked. Putting my head out of one of the windows I counted the enemy as they stood grouped near the stairway from the main deck. Bothwell was in the lead, followed by Caine. At their heels trooped both engineers, the three firemen, the cook, Johnson, Mack, Gallagher, Dennis, Smith, and Neidlinger. It was not easy to count them, because they shifted to and fro, but I was almost sure they were fourteen. The boatswain carried in his hand a towel, which he was waving.

"Crew to have a conference with you, Cap'n Blythe," he called out.

"I hold no conference with armed mutineers," Blythe called back sternly.

He was standing in the wheelhouse, rifle in hand. Beside him was the curly head of Tom Yeager.

"This here ship's company offers to do the square thing, share and share alike, cap'n," boomed out the boatswain. "We wants a bit of that there treasure, and by Moses! we're going to have it. But we don't want no bloodshed, cap'n."

"Then get back to duty in a hurry, my man!"

George Fleming spoke up.

"Give us that map and we'll put your party ashore safe, sir."

"I'll see you hung up to dry at my yardarm first! If you want the ship come and take it, you scurvy scoundrel!"

It looked like long odds—fourteen to two. I began to wonder if Bothwell had forgotten us, and I ordered Alderson to unlock the door for a sortie if one should be necessary.

Even while I was speaking the rush came. They divided like running water when it reaches a big rock in midstream. Some of them poured toward us, the rest made for the bridge. I heard the crack of Sam's rifle, the rattle of small arms, and then the battle was upon us.



CHAPTER XIV

THE BATTLE

I fired through the window and brought down one fellow while they were still coming in a huddle toward us. Before I could fire again they were in the saloon and at close quarters with us.

To me it seemed that a hundred men were struggling in that narrow, smoke-filled space. A grimy, black-faced stoker leaped at me and I fired. I remember beating him over the head with my revolver and that we went down together in a clinch.

As I was falling it came over me that the attack was only a feint to keep us busy. The main body of the mutineers was storming the wheelhouse.

When I clambered to my feet I found that our attackers had been routed. Billie Blue's dirk had put a temporary quietus on my stoker, and the rest had fled as quickly as they had come.

"This way!" I shouted, and was out of the door in a jiffy.

A swarm of men were racing up the steps that led to the bridge and the pilot house. One lay with arms outstretched, face down on the deck. Another was sliding down the rail of the steps, his face writhing with pain.

Our friends were hard pressed. Blythe was keeping the door against a mob, while Yeager was firing through the window. Twice I saw the captain's cutlas flash. Then I lost sight of him and I knew that Bothwell had forced the entrance.

At the same instant the Arizonian disappeared from the opening which he had been using as a porthole. I knew that Sam was down and that his friend had gone to his assistance. My flank attack must have come as a surprise. The mutineers turned, finding themselves between two fires. We crowded in on them, and for a time the jam was so thick that none of us could do much damage.

Now they fought as desperately to get out of the wheelhouse as they had a minute earlier to get in. They were in a panic of fear, fancying themselves trapped.

I was flung against Bothwell, his furious face so close to mine that the hot breath filled my nostrils. We tried to grip each other, but in the huddle we were thrust apart.

Suddenly the room was no longer full, I could see that the enemy was in flight. Before I reached the open I knew that the day was won. Alderson, Billie Blue, and Morgan were pursuing the flying rabble.

Bothwell, making play with his cutlas against both Blythe and Yeager, was retreating slowly to the bridge rail. I remember crying out as I ran toward them.

Bothwell vaulted over the rail to the deck below. I followed like a fool, for in the row I had lost my weapons. As I recall it now, Sam shouted to me to come back. But there was some idiotic notion in my head that the Russian might run into the reception room with his fellows and get possession of the women.

Instead, he turned and slashed at me. The blow would have carved my head had not I dodged. At that I received a nasty swipe in the arm. It was not possible to stop. All I could do was to slip past him and continue running.

George Fleming had stopped at the head of the stairway to the main deck. He leveled a pistol and waited for me. Bothwell was at my heels. I was between the devil and the deep sea.

"We've got him!" the Russian cried.

I swung in behind one of the boats which lay under a tarpaulin near the edge of the deck. Simultaneously I heard the engineer's gun crack. No rabbit could have clambered around the boat quicker than I. Bothwell had doubled back and was charging me. His whistling cutlas hissed down not an inch from my ear and ripped through the tarpaulin to bury the blade in the wood of the bow.

I scudded back toward the bridge, my enemy in full chase.

Every instant I expected to feel the slash of his blade between my shoulders. It seemed to me that my leaden feet clung to the planks, that a toddling child could do that stretch to safety quicker than I was doing it.

As I ran the deck began to tilt dizzily. Before my eyes there spread a haze. All grew black even while my feet still automatically moved.

"Badly hurt, old man?"

The voice came to me from a great distance. With returning consciousness I found that the strong arm of its owner was supporting my head and shoulders. My eyes looked into those of our captain.

"It's all right, Jack," he explained. "We got to you just as you fell and Tom drove that villain back. How badly cut are you?"

"A glancing cut, I think. But I'm a bit dizzy? We beat them, didn't we?"

"Yes. The rats have scuttled back to their holes."

He helped me into the reception room and I sank down on the lounge.

"Just a bit light-headed," I explained to Yeager, who came in at that moment.

"Glad it's no worse. We gave them a drubbing, anyhow."

"Get Bothwell?" asked Sam.

"Nope. My gun was empty. I had him at the foot of the ladder, not ten feet from the muzzle, and click—nothing doing. The beggar turned and laughed in my face."

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