Lister's Great Adventure
Part 3 out of 5
get on guard before I begin my attack."
"Oh, well," said Cartwright, smiling, "I know your power. But would you
like a cigarette?"
She took the curiously-decorated box he gave her and broke the seal.
"Since you don't smoke these things, Tom, you were rather nice to
"You had better take the box," said Cartwright. "I sent for a few when
_Titania_ went to the Levant. One understands they're hard to get in
England. But I have something else you like. If you will wait a
He rang a bell and Gavin entered, carrying two small glasses, a bottle,
and some biscuits. When he went out, Cartwright turned the bottle so
Mrs. Seaton could see the label.
"Climbing our stairs is a fag," he said, and filled the glasses.
Mrs. Seaton smiled and took hers. Cartwright saw her rings sparkle and
the gleam of her regular, white teeth. The reflection from the grate
touched her hair and it shone a smooth golden-brown. He admitted with
amusement that Ellen was nearly as attractive as he had thought her
thirty years since.
"This is like old times, Tom," she said. "I remember evenings when you
brought me sandwiches and iced cup at a dance--but I don't think you
were ever remarkably romantic."
Cartwright remembered an evening when they sat under a shaded lamp in a
quiet corner of a supper room, listening to music that somehow fired
one's blood. But perhaps it was the iced cup he had generously drunk.
All the same he had not been a fool, though he was tempted. He knew
something about Ellen then, but he knew her better now. Perhaps it was
typical that she had promptly put the box of Eastern cigarettes in her
"Managing ships is not a romantic occupation," he rejoined.
"Anyway, your welcome's kind and I feel shabby because I'm forced to
bother you. But suppose some of your customers arrive?"
"We shall not be disturbed," said Cartwright, smiling. "Gavin knows his
"Very well. Do you expect to declare a better dividend at the
"I do not. If I'm lucky, I may keep the dividend where it is, but I
don't know yet."
"Two per cent. is really nothing," Mrs. Seaton remarked. "I've been
forced to study economy and you know how I hate to pinch. Besides, I
know an investment that would give me eight per cent."
"Then, if you're satisfied the venture is not risky, you ought to buy
"I want to buy, but it's a small, private company and the people
stipulate I must take a large block. I have not enough money."
Cartwright doubted, but her plan was obvious. "When trade is slack, one
ought to be careful about investing in a private company that pays eight
per cent," he said. "After all, it might be prudent to be satisfied with
a small profit."
"But I'm not satisfied and your dividend is remarkably small! Are you
really unable to make it larger?"
"One can't pay dividends out of capital. Anyhow, one can't keep it up
"Then, as I mean to make a plunge, I must sell some of the investments
that don't earn me much. My shares in the line carry a good number of
votes and, if people grumble at the meeting, would give you some
control. Will you buy them, Tom?"
Cartwright knitted his brows. He thought her hint about the shares
giving him useful power was significant. In fact, it looked as if
somebody had put Ellen on his track. He wondered whether Manners.... But
she must not think him disturbed.
"What is your price?" he asked.
"My price?" she said with a puzzled look he thought well done. "Of
course, I want the sum the shares stand for."
"I'm sorry it's impossible. Just now the shares of very few shipping
companies are worth their face value. For example, five-pound shares in
a good line were not long since offered at two pounds ten."
Mrs. Seaton looked disturbed. "That's dreadful!" she exclaimed. "But I'm
not rich enough to bear a heavy loss, and if you bought my lot, the
voting power would enable you to break the grumblers' opposition.
They're worth more to you than anybody else. Can't you help me?"
Cartwright gave her a smiling glance, although he was bothered. Ellen
was not a fool and he noted her insistence on the value of the shares to
him. Where this led was obvious. He had one or two powerful antagonists
and knew of plots to force his retirement. Ellen had given him his
choice; he must promise a larger dividend or buy her shares at something
over their market price. This, of course, was impossible, but he
imagined she did not know how poor he was.
"I can't buy," he said. "I must trust my luck and fighting power.
Although we have had stormy meetings and rates are bad, the line is
"If you haven't enough money, why don't you ask your wife? She's rich
and hasn't risked much of her capital in the line."
"That is so," Cartwright agreed. Ellen meant to be nasty but he must be
cool. "Although my wife is rich, I don't use her money."
"You're not logical, and sometimes your fastidiousness isn't very
marked. However, it looks as if you didn't marry because Clara was rich.
She was romantic before she began to get fat."
Cartwright's face got red. He had had enough and saw Ellen was getting
savage. She had not forgotten that, in a sense, he ought to have married
her, and since he would not buy her shares, she would, no doubt, help
his antagonists. Crossing the floor, he poked the fire noisily.
"Shall I give you some more wine?" he asked, and while he was occupied
with the glasses the telephone bell rang behind the partition. A few
moments afterwards Gavin came in.
"Moreton has rung up, sir. If you can give him five minutes, he'll come
across. He says it's important."
Mrs. Seaton put on her coat. "I mustn't stop when an important customer
is coming." Then she laughed and gave Cartwright her hand. "You are very
obstinate, Tom, but I know your pluck."
She went off. Gavin took away the wine, and Cartwright opened the
window. The smell of violets vanished, but when he sat down again he
pondered. He knew Mrs. Seaton, and thought she meant to hint his pluck
might soon be needed. When Ellen smiled like that she was plotting
The drawing-room at Mrs. Cartwright's house on the Cheshire side of the
Mersey was large and old-fashioned. Cartwright thought the stiff, thick
curtains and Victorian walnut furniture ugly, but Mrs. Cartwright liked
the things and he was satisfied. Clara herself frankly belonged to the
old school. She was conventional and often dull, but she had a placid
dignity that did not mark all the up-to-date women Cartwright knew.
Moreover, the house was comfortable. One got there by the Mersey tunnel
and it was only a few minutes' walk from the station. For all that, the
encroaching town had not yet reached the neighborhood, and the windows
commanded a pleasant view of clean rolling country and the blue Welsh
Cartwright felt the house was a snug harbor where he could rest when he
was too old and battered to front the storms that had for some time been
gathering, and sitting by the fire one evening, he speculated about the
rocks and shoals ahead. All the same, the time to run for shelter was
not yet; he thought he could ride out another gale.
An arch with heavy molding occupied the middle of the spacious room. The
folding doors had been removed and curtains partly screened the arch. On
the other side, a group of young men and women stood about the piano. On
Cartwright's side the lights were low. He had dined well and liked to
loaf after dinner. Besides, he felt dull; his gout bothered him and he
had been forced to run for his train. He had begun to find out one could
not do that kind of thing. Mrs. Cartwright sat opposite, knitting
quietly, and her smooth, rhythmic movements were soothing. Clara was
never abrupt and jerky.
"I got a letter from Stormont's by the afternoon post," she said. "They
have been repaid the mortgage, and there's something about a foreign
bond, drawn for redemption. They want to talk about a new investment."
Stormont, Wilmot and Stormont were her lawyers, and Cartwright nodded.
"The money ought to be earning interest and you can safely buy stock
Stormont's approve. Their judgment's sound."
"For all that, I think I'd like to choose for myself. Suppose I bought
some shares in the line? I have a number, but it's really not large and
I have felt I'm not supporting the house as I ought."
Cartwright knitted his brows. Clara did not know much about business,
but she was sometimes shrewder than one thought. He wondered whether
Mortimer had been talking. If the pup had talked, the thing was ominous,
because it implied that others knew the difficulties Cartwright might
have to meet.
"Do you imagine the house needs supporting?" he asked carelessly.
Mrs. Cartwright hesitated. "I really know nothing about it; but don't
people grumble when you can't pay them much and their shares go down?
Perhaps if the family owned a good part of the capital, you could take a
It was plain that Clara had been pondering. Mortimer _had_ talked and
somebody who was not Cartwright's friend had informed him. Cartwright
was tempted to let his wife do as she wanted: Clara owned shares in the
line that he had let her buy when freights were good and she had
afterwards refused to sell. Now, however, freights were very bad and the
company was nearer the rocks than he hoped the shareholders knew.
Cartwright imagined he could yet mend its fortunes, if he were left
alone, but the job was awkward and opposition might be dangerous. To
command a solid block of votes would certainly help.
For all that, there was a risk Clara ought not to run. His antagonists
were getting stronger, and if they meddled and baffled him, the company
would fail. Its bankruptcy would not ruin his wife, but she would feel
the loss of her money, and he was not going to use Clara for a shield
against Ellen Seaton's attacks. The thing was shabby. All the same, the
situation was humorous, and he saw, with an ironical smile, the
advantages of Mrs. Cartwright's plan.
"I'm not a business woman, but I have noted you're sometimes moody, as
if you were anxious, and I want to help," she resumed.
"You do help. The storms I've weathered have left a mark, and now I'm
old and strained it's much to make a quiet port at night. You take all
bothers from me, and send me out in the morning, braced for another
watch in the pilot-house."
"Some time you must give another the helm," said Mrs. Cartwright
quietly. "I wish I could persuade you to do so soon."
Cartwright sighed, for the strain was heavy and he wanted to rest. The
trouble was the put-off reckoning for past extravagance was at hand and
he shrank from asking his wife to pay. He had not been very scrupulous,
but he had his code. Then Hyslop came through the arch, and stopping,
noted Cartwright's awkwardly stretched-out leg.
"Gout bothering you again, sir?" he said. "You ought to lie up for a few
days, but I expect you're needed at the office. I heard the E.P. line
had a stormy meeting and the dissatisfied shareholders came near turning
out the directors. Johnson declared they only saved the situation by a
"They ought to be turned out! A blundering lot! They've let a good fleet
Hyslop smiled. He had pale and watery blue eyes that generally annoyed
Cartwright. "An awkward doctrine, sir! If all the steamship directors
who might have used the shareholders' money to better advantage were
called to account, I imagine a number of respectable gentlemen would
find their occupation gone. Besides, when people start deposing rulers
they don't know where to stop. The thing's, so to speak, contagious, and
panicky investors are not logical."
He went off and Cartwright braced himself. Mortimer meant to be nasty,
but his languid malice bit deeper than he knew. Cartwright had
hesitated, weighing the value of his wife's help against his scruples,
until his step-son's hints had tipped the beam. After all, if he used
Clara's money and saved his skin at her cost, the pup would have some
grounds to sneer.
"I must keep control for some time yet," he said. "Times are bad, and if
I let go the helm I doubt if my successor could steer a safe course.
When the need is gone I'll willingly give up, but I must bring the old
ship into port first. In the meantime, you had better let Stormont's buy
you sound Corporation stock."
Mrs. Cartwright acquiesced and Cartwright watched the young people
beyond the arch. With the stiff curtains for wing-scenes and the lights
concealed, the end of the room made a proscenium: it was like looking at
a drawing-room comedy on the stage. Two of the girls were pretty and he
approved their fashionable clothes. When she was quiet, Grace was almost
beautiful, but somehow none had Barbara's charm. Yet Cartwright thought
the girl was getting thin and her color was too bright. A friend of
Mortimer's occupied the music stool and Cartwright admitted that the
fellow played well, although he was something like a character from a
Lister sat near the piano, and talked to Barbara. He smiled, but his
smile had a touch of gravity. Cartwright thought him a good Canadian. A
bit rugged perhaps, but staunch, and his quiet sincerity was after all
better style than the cleverness of Mortimer's friends. Cartwright
imagined Barbara studied Lister, who did not know. In fact, it looked as
if he were puzzled, and Cartwright smiled. Lister had not his talents;
when Cartwright was young he knew how to amuse a pretty girl.
The man at the piano signed to Barbara, who got up and began to sing.
The song was modern and the melody not marked. Cartwright liked the
Victorian ballads with tunes that haunted one and obvious sentiment, but
because Barbara sang he gave the words and music his languid interest.
After all, the thing was clever. There was, so to speak, not much on the
surface, but one heard an elusive note of effort, as if one struggled
after something one could not grasp. On the whole, Cartwright did not
approve that kind of sentiment; his objects were generally plain. Then
he thought the hint of strain was too well done for a young girl, and
when Barbara stopped he turned to his wife.
"Are you satisfied about Barbara?" he asked.
"Why should I not be satisfied?"
"I have felt she's not quite up to her proper form. Looks thin and
sometimes she's quiet. Then why has young Vernon gone off? I haven't
seen him recently."
"Harry's in town; he goes home in a few days," Mrs. Cartwright replied.
She hesitated and resumed, "I imagined he wanted to marry Barbara,
although she told me nothing about this. Barbara does not tell one
"Do you think she likes him?"
"I don't know, but I rather think if she had liked him she would have
"Ah!" said Cartwright thoughtfully. "Well, Vernon's a good sort, but I
see some light; the girl is sensitive and very proud! No doubt, she
feels her Canadian adventure--ridiculous, of course! But Barbara's hard
to move. All the same, if Vernon's the proper man and is resolute--"
"I doubt if he is the proper man," Mrs. Cartwright replied.
Cartwright pondered. Sometimes Clara did not say all she thought, and
his glance wandered back to the group at the other end of the room.
Barbara was again talking to Lister. He looked thoughtful and her face
was serious. They were obviously not engaged in philandering; Cartwright
felt their quiet absorption was significant. After a minute or two,
however, the party about the piano broke up and went off. Barbara
stopped to put away some music and then came through the arch.
"Mr. Lister wants to go a voyage," she said to Cartwright. "I suggested
you might help him to get a post on board a ship."
"I imagine he did not suggest you should persuade me?"
"Certainly not! He refused to bother you," Barbara replied and, with
some hesitation, added: "However, perhaps in a sense we ought to help."
"That is so," Cartwright agreed. "Why did Mr. Lister come to Liverpool?"
"He wanted to go round the shipping offices. Mother told him our house
was always open--"
Cartwright nodded, "Of course! Well, I'll think about it and may see a
Barbara went off and Cartwright looked at his wife. "I don't know if
this is a fresh complication; but if she refused Harry, she'd no doubt
refuse the other. Perhaps it's important that she's willing he should go
"One is forced to like Mr. Lister and we owe him much," Mrs. Cartwright
"Certainly," Cartwright agreed. "However, it looks as if some
engineering talent is all he has got, and I think a long voyage is
indicated--" He stopped, and resumed with a twinkle: "For all that, the
fellow is not an adventurer, and I married a rich woman."
Mrs. Cartwright gave him a gentle smile. "I have been happy and Barbara
is not; but, in one sense, I don't imagine we need be disturbed. Barbara
has not recovered from the jar."
She got up, and Cartwright dozed until he heard a step and Lister
crossed the floor.
"Hallo!" he said. "Are you going? There is no train just now."
Lister said he meant to walk to the tramline, but Cartwright asked him
to stop for a few minutes.
"Barbara tells me you are trying for a post in an engine-room," he
"That is so," said Lister with a touch of embarrassment. "Still, I
didn't mean Miss Hyslop to bother you."
"Barbara likes to meddle and I'm a ship-owner. To begin with, why d'you
want to go to sea?"
"I must go to sea or back to Canada," Lister said, smiling. "I've had a
pretty good holiday, but my wad's nearly gone."
"Then, wouldn't it be prudent to return to your occupation?"
"I haven't an occupation; I turned mine down. It's possible I'll find
another, but I'm not ready yet. In Canada, we're a restless, wandering
lot, and I want to look about the world before I go back. You see, when
you only know the woods and our Western towns--"
Cartwright saw and sympathized. He remembered how adventure called when
he was young. Well, he had got adventure, but perhaps not the kind
Lister seemed to enjoy. Anyhow, he had not started off with an empty
wallet to look about the world.
"How much does your roll amount to?" he asked with a bluntness he
When Lister told him he laughed. The young fellow was good stuff;
Cartwright liked his rashness.
"Well," he said, "you have pluck, and if you're obstinate, pluck takes
you far. Have you got a promise from any of our shipping offices?"
Lister said he had not. There were some difficulties about certificates.
He had sailed on lake boats and made coasting voyages, but the English
Board of Trade rules were strict. Then he looked at the clock and
Cartwright gave him his hand.
"Come and see me at the office. We'll talk about this again."
Lister thanked him, and when he had gone Cartwright mused. The young
fellow was not an adventurer; anyhow not in the sense Shillito was an
adventurer. His honesty was obvious, it was plain he did not want
Barbara's money, and Cartwright thought he did not know she was rich. In
fact, he was Barbara's sort. There was the trouble. Cartwright weighed
this for a time and then went to sleep.
A NASTY KNOCK
Frost sparkled on the office windows and Cartwright, with his feet on
the hearthrug studied an Atlantic weather chart. The temperature
reported by the liners' captains was low, and winter had begun unusually
soon. Since Cartwright had hoped for a mild November, this was unlucky.
As a rule, cargo is plentiful at Montreal shortly before the St.
Lawrence freezes and the last steamers to go down the river do so with
heavy loads. Cartwright's plan was to run a boat across at the last
moment and pick up goods the liners would not engage to carry, and he
had sent _Oreana_ because she was fast. When the drift ice began to
gather, speed was useful.
A cablegram two or three days since stated that she had sailed, and
Cartwright, who knew the St. Lawrence, calculated the progress she ought
to have made. Perhaps he had cut things rather fine, but Captain Davies
was a good navigator and would push on. Although the narrow waters below
Montreal, where the stream runs fast between the islands, would be open,
Lake St. Peter was freezing, and the liner _Parthian_ had some trouble
to get through. Still the channels were not yet blocked, and when Davies
had passed the Narrows he would get open water down the gorge to Quebec.
Allowing for cautious navigation, Davies ought to be near Rimouski at
the mouth of the river, and his passing would, no doubt, soon be
telegraphed from the signal station. Cartwright admitted that to get the
message would be some relief.
By and by his bookkeeper came in.
"Direct cablegram from Davies, sir."
Cartwright took the form and frowned. The message was not from Rimouski
and ran: "Delayed Peter; passing Quebec."
"Awkward, sir," Gavin remarked sympathetically.
"Very awkward," said Cartwright. "Davies needed all the time he's lost.
It will be a near thing if he gets out."
He picked up the weather chart and got no comfort. "Cable Malcolm at St.
Johns. You'll find questions in the code-book about ice and wind."
Gavin withdrew and Cartwright grappled with disturbing thoughts. He had
counted on _Oreana's_ earning a good sum, and had engaged a paying cargo
for her when she got back. In fact, the two good runs ought to have made
the disappointing balance sheet he must shortly submit to the
shareholders look a little better. All the same, there was no use in
meeting trouble. Davies had passed Quebec, and if he made good progress
in the next twenty-four hours, one might begin to hope.
Below Quebec there were awkward spots where steamers used buoyed
channels, and if these were blocked by ice Davies must risk crossing the
shoals. If he got across, the water was deep and he need only bother
about the floes until he came to the Gulf. Since Belle Isle Strait was
frozen, Davies would go South of Anticosti and out by the Cabot passage,
but the Gulf was often dark with snow and fog, and one met the old
Greenland ice. Well, much depended on the weather, and Cartwright went
to get his lunch.
The restaurant under a big building was warm, and for a time Cartwright
occupied his favorite corner of the smoking-room. His tips were
generous, and so long as he was punctual the waitress allowed nobody to
use his chair. The noise of the traffic in the street was softened to a
faint rumble, the electric light was cleverly shaded, and his big chair
was easy. He got drowsy, but frowned when he began to nod. The trouble
was, he was often dull when he ought to be keen. His doctor talked about
the advantages of moderation, but when one got old one's pleasures were
few and Cartwright liked a good meal. At the luncheon room they did one
well, and he was not going to use self-denial yet.
By and by a merchant he knew pulled up a chair opposite. "Very cold and
slippery outside," he remarked. "I nearly came down on the floating
bridge, and looked in for a drink. A jar shakes a man who carries
"What were you doing on the floating bridge?" Cartwright asked.
"I went to the stage to meet some Canadian friends on board the
_Nepigon_. They'd a bad voyage; thick mist down the St. Lawrence, and
they lost a day cruising about among the floes in the Gulf. What about
your little boat?"
"I understand she's coming down river."
"Hasn't she started rather late?"
"If I'd sent her sooner, the _Conference_ would have knocked me out,"
Cartwright rejoined. "I'd have got nothing but low-rated stuff the
liners didn't want. One must run some risks."
The other nodded. "That is so, when shareholders must be satisfied.
Well, I expect I'm lucky because my partner's a good sort. When you
needn't bother about other folk's greediness, you can take a cautious
line. Now I come to think of it, I heard some of your people grumbling.
I hope your boat will get across all right."
He got up and Cartwright pondered. If outsiders knew his shareholders
were dissatisfied, things were worse than he had thought and he might
expect trouble at the next meeting. Then he looked at his watch, but his
chair was deep and when he tried to get up his leg hurt. He sank back
again. Gavin knew where to find him if a reply from St. Johns arrived.
By and by his office boy, carrying a cable company's envelope, came in,
and Cartwright's hand shook when he opened the message. It stated that
an easterly gale and snowstorm raged about the Newfoundland coast and
the thermometer was very low. The gale would drive the drift ice up the
Gulf and pack the floes. Things looked bad. Cartwright felt he ought to
get about and make some plans to meet the threatened blow, but he did
not see what he could do.
He sat still. The other customers had gone, and all was quiet but for
the faint rumble of traffic and soothing throb of an electric fan.
Cartwright mused about _Oreana_ and pictured Davies sheltering behind
the wind-screens on his bridge and trying to pierce the snow, and the
look-out man half frozen in the spray that leaped about the forecastle.
_Oreana_ was a wet boat when she was loaded deep. Now and then, perhaps,
a buoy loomed in the tossing flakes. One tried to read the number and
see the color. Then the steering-engine rattled as the rudder was pulled
across and _Oreana_ headed for another mark.
The work was nervous, because dangerous shoals bordered the channels and
Davies must let the steamer go. He knew when a risk must be run and the
engineer was staunch. The trouble was, _Oreana's_ boilers were bad; the
money Cartwright durst not spend on repairs would have been a good
investment now. Still, the old boat was fast, and Davies would drive her
The captain's job would not be easier when he left the shoals. The
easterly gale would send the floes up stream. Cartwright knew the
strange chill one felt when ice was about and the faint elusive _blink_
that marked its edge in the dark. Sometimes one did not see the blink
until the floe was almost at the bows, and when the look-out's startled
cry reached the bridge one must trust to luck and pull the helm over
quick. Then to dodge the floe might mean one crashed upon the next. It
was steering blind, but, as a rule, the sailor's instinct guided him
right. Farther on, the river got wide and in thick weather one saw no
lights: Davies must keep mid-channel and trust his reckoning while he
rushed her along. For a thousand miles the old boat's track was haunted
by dangers against which one could not guard, and Cartwright thought she
carried his last chance to mend his broken fortunes.
If she were wrecked, the reckoning he had long put off must be fronted,
for when his embarrassments were known his antagonists would combine and
try to pull him down. One must pay for one's extravagance, but to pay
would break him, and if he were broken, Mortimer would sneer and Grace
treat him with humiliating pity. He would be their mother's pensioner,
and to lose his independence was hard. He had long ruled, and bullied,
By and by a waitress moved some glasses and Cartwright looked up with a
start. The afternoon was nearly over; he must have gone to sleep.
Returning to the office, he gave his bookkeeper some orders and then
went to the station. The pavements were slippery with frost, and tall
buildings with yellow lights loomed in the fog. Cartwright shivered, but
reflected that Davies, fighting the snow and gale, was no doubt colder.
For a day or two he must bear the suspense, and then, if no cablegram
arrived, he could take it for granted that _Oreana_ had reached the
Atlantic. After dinner he sat by the fire and smoked while Mrs.
"In the afternoon I went to Mrs. Oliver's and met Mrs. Seaton," she said
presently. "She talked to me for some time. At the beginning, I thought
"It's pretty obvious that you don't like her," Cartwright remarked.
"Ellen Seaton is not my sort, but I understand she was a friend of
"She was my friend," said Cartwright carelessly. "It's long since, and I
rather doubt if she is my friend now."
"Then why did she buy her shares in the line?"
"Ellen did not buy the shares. Seaton bought them when shipping was
Mrs. Cartwright looked relieved and Cartwright resumed: "All the same, I
don't see her object for telling you she was a shareholder."
"She wanted to sell her shares to me; I knew she had some plan when she
crossed the floor. I was talking to Janet, but Ellen got Janet away and
persuaded a young man on the other side to move. It was clever. I don't
think Mrs. Oliver or anybody else remarked what she was doing. But you
"I know Ellen rather well," said Cartwright dryly. "However, when you
saw she wanted to get you alone, why did you indulge her?"
"For one thing, I was curious; then it wasn't worth while to spoil her
plan. I didn't think Ellen would persuade me, if I did not approve."
Cartwright smiled. Clara did not argue much and generally agreed with
him, but sometimes she was as immovable as a rock. He pictured with
amusement the little comedy at Mrs. Oliver's, but all the same he was
"Well, Ellen wanted you to buy her shares? Did she give you any
"She declared she wanted money. Then she said it would help you if I
took the lot. There might be a dispute at the meeting; the directors'
report would not be satisfactory. People would ask awkward questions,
and she expected some organized opposition. It would be useful for you
to command a large number of votes."
Cartwright's face got red. Ellen was well informed; in fact, it was
ominous that she knew so much. Had she not been greedy, he thought she
would have kept the shares in order to vote against him, but she
obviously meant to sell them before the crash she expected came. If a
number of others agreed with her, his retirement would be forced.
"What price were you to pay?" he asked.
Mrs. Cartwright told him, and he laughed. "If Ellen found a buyer at a
number of shillings less, she would be lucky! Well, I understand you
didn't take her offer?"
"I did not," said Mrs. Cartwright tranquilly. "When I wanted to buy some
shares not long since, you did not approve. Since you refused to let me
help, I didn't mean to be persuaded by Ellen Seaton!"
"You're staunch," said Cartwright and Mrs. Cartwright resumed her
knitting. In the morning he went to the office sooner than usual, but
there was no news and the dark, cold day passed drearily. When he
started for home Gavin promised to wait until the cable offices closed,
and Cartwright had gone to dinner when he was called to the telephone.
When he took down the instrument his hand shook.
"Hallo!" he said hoarsely. "Is that you, Gavin?"
"Yes, sir," said a voice he knew. "Cablegram from Davies just arrived,
part in code. I'll give it you slow--"
"Go on," said Cartwright.
"_Oreana_ ashore east Cape Chat, surrounded ice, water in fore hold.
Think some plates broken; have abandoned ship. Salvage impossible until
There was a pause, and Gavin added: "That's all. Have you got it, sir?"
"I've got enough," Cartwright replied.
He hung up the instrument, and going back to the dining-room, drained
his glass. Then he turned to Mrs. Cartwright, who had remarked his grim
"I've got a nasty knock. _Oreana's_ in the ice and may be wrecked.
Anyhow, we can't get her off until spring, and she's the best of the
Mrs. Cartwright gave him a sympathetic glance and signed a servant to
bring another plate. As a rule she did not say much. She studied her
husband quietly and was not much comforted when he resumed his dinner.
This was characteristic, but it was plain he had got a nasty knock.
THE SHAREHOLDERS' MEETING
The afternoon was dark and electric lights burned along the cornice of
the room engaged for the shareholders' meeting. The room was big and
cold, and as Gavin moved about the table on the platform his steps
echoed hollowly. He was the company's secretary and was putting down
papers by the blotting pads. A group of gentlemen, engaged in thoughtful
talk, stood by the fire. They were directors of the line and did not
look happy. Nominally, by the company's constitution, the shareholders
elected the Board; in practice, Cartwright had, so far, appointed the
directors, and meant, if possible, to do so again. The gentlemen by the
fire were eligible for reelection, and Cartwright was satisfied,
although he had not chosen them for their business talent. Their names
were good in Liverpool and their honesty was known. Cartwright did not
want clever men. He was head of the house and knew it would totter to a
disastrous fall unless he kept his firm control.
Now and then Gavin gave his employer a keen glance. Cartwright's lips
were rather blue and the lines round his eyes were sharply drawn. His
white mustache stuck out, and one got a hint of stubbornness, but except
for this his face was inscrutable. Although Gavin thought Cartwright
would score again, he was anxious. Nobody but Cartwright could persuade
the dissatisfied shareholders to accept _that_ balance sheet.
Cartwright himself felt in rather good form. He had curtailed his lunch
and been satisfied with a single glass of liquor that generally braced
him up. He imagined he would need all his skill and coolness before the
meeting was over. The trouble was, he might not get much support. The
directors did not know all he knew, but they knew something, and he saw
one or two hesitated. Then Mrs. Cartwright was ill, and although she had
given her husband her proxy votes, had sent Mortimer. Mortimer was
entitled to come because he had some shares, but Cartwright did not know
the line he meant to take. The pup did not like him and was cunning.
Presently Cartwright looked at his watch.
"They won't be long. I imagine we are going to have some opposition."
"It's very possible," one of the others agreed. "A two-per-cent dividend
is disappointing and we are paying this by cutting down the reserve
fund. Then people know we have lost the use of our best boat for six
months and may lose her for good. When we reduced our insurance, I urged
that we were rash."
"We saved a good sum and economy was needful," Cartwright rejoined.
"Insurance is expensive for our type of boats."
"The balance sheet looks bad. I'll admit I'd sooner not be accountable
for a state of things like this," another remarked.
Cartwright smiled. The balance sheet looked better than it was, but
Jordan had given him a useful lead. He knew his colleagues' weaknesses
and how they might be worked upon.
"We are all accountable. I have consulted you frankly and you approved
Jordan gave him a rather doubtful look. "Anyhow, we must front an
awkward situation. Suppose the shareholders ask for an investigation
"We must refuse," said Cartwright, with quiet firmness. "A frightened
committee would probably urge a drastic re-construction scheme, the
writing off much of our capital, and perhaps winding up the line. When
rates are bad and cargo's scarce, one must take a low price for ships;
our liabilities are large, and I imagine selling off would leave us much
Cartwright paused. He saw his remarks carried weight and knew his
co-directors. He would give them a few moments for thought before he
finished his argument.
"Very well," he resumed. "Jordan declares he does not like to be
accountable for an unsatisfactory balance sheet. I take it he would much
less like to be made accountable for a bad bankruptcy! No doubt you
sympathize with him?"
It was obvious that they did so and one said, "If I thought my occupying
a seat on the Board would lead to this, I would sooner have given my
"I have not talked about my feelings," Cartwright went on. "All the
same, I am head of the old house; you can imagine I do not want to see
it fall. But rates are not always low, and if I'm not embarrassed by
rash meddlers, my persuasion is, I can keep the fleet running until
better times arrive."
He saw he had won them. The number of shares they owned was not very
large: for the most part, the men were rich and not disturbed about
their money. They valued a high place in business and social circles and
their good name. To be entangled by a bankruptcy was unthinkable.
"Then, I feel we ought to support you," Jordan replied. "For all that,
our power's not very great. We are going to meet some opposition and if
the dissatisfied people are resolute they can turn us out."
"So long as I know the Board will back me, I'm not afraid of the
shareholders," Cartwright declared.
"You imagine you can save the situation?" a red-faced gentleman
"It's possible," said Cartwright dryly.
"Very well," said the other. "We must try to see you out."
They went to the table soon afterwards and the shareholders began to
arrive. They were not numerous, and the scattered groups emphasized the
bareness of the big echoing room. Cartwright studied the people as they
came in. Some looked gloomy and some stubborn; a few looked frankly
bored. There were five or six women and two whispered, while the others
glanced about with jerky movements. Cartwright's face hardened when he
saw Mrs. Seaton, and then he noted Hyslop in a back row. He thought
Hyslop looked languidly amused.
When all was quiet, he took the notes Gavin handed him, glanced at the
paper, and put it down. Then, speaking in a steady voice, he gave the
report of the year's work and talked about the balance sheet. He was
frank but not apologetic, and claimed, in view of the difficulties, that
the directors had well guarded the company's interests. When he stopped
there were murmurs of approval, as if some of the despondent had begun
to hope; the cautious admitted that Cartwright had made a bad situation
One or two asked questions, which he answered candidly, and then there
was a pause and somebody moved the adoption of the chairman's report and
balance sheet. His seconder made a short nervous speech, and Mrs. Seaton
got up at the end of the room. She pushed back her veil, took out her
handkerchief, put her hand on a chair in front, and gave the directors
an apologetic smile.
"I don't know if it is usual for a woman to speak at a business meeting,
but I have a number of shares in the line and it's long since I got a
good dividend," she said. "Two per cent is ridiculous and my lawyer
tells me I could get four per cent, where the security is really good."
She paused and added naively: "To have twice as much to spend would be
Somebody laughed and Cartwright braced himself. Ellen Seaton was
cleverer than she looked, and he thought her dangerous, but in the
meantime he durst not stop her.
"One feels that security's important and it's plain ours is not
first-class," she resumed. "Well, I suppose if we accept the report, it
means we are satisfied to let the company's business be managed on the
"It does mean something like that," a man agreed.
"Then I'm _not_ satisfied. For one thing, I want a proper dividend."
"We all want a proper dividend," somebody remarked.
Mrs. Seaton smiled, as if she were encouraged. "To go without is
disappointing, but perhaps the dividend is not most important. I'd like
to feel my shares were worth the money they cost, and find out they are
not. We have drawn on the reserves and I expect this implies we are
losing money. You can't go on losing money very long, and we ought to
stop while we have some capital left."
A number of the others applauded and she continued: "Our directors have
worked very hard. To manage ships that don't pay must be tiring and
perhaps we oughtn't to ask them to bear the heavy strain. Could we not
choose somebody with fresh ideas to help?"
"That's what we want!" said one. "The Board needs new blood!"
Then the storm broke and for a time Cartwright lost control of the
meeting. Mrs. Seaton had loosed passions he might have restrained and
the shareholders were frankly moved by fear, distrust, and greed. Men
got up, asking angry questions and shouting implications, but for a few
minutes Cartwright sat like a rock and let them rage. When they stopped
and there was an awkward pause, Mortimer Hyslop got up. He looked
languid and his voice was soft, but Cartwright admitted his speech was
He and Mrs. Cartwright, whom he represented, owned shares in the line,
and he had not risen before because the chairman was his relation. Now,
when attacks, perhaps not altogether justified, had been made on the
Board, he was forced to state his conviction that nobody else could have
steered the company past the dangers that threatened. One must admit the
situation was bad; and for a minute or two Mortimer cleverly indicated
its drawbacks. For all that, he argued, it was rash to change pilot and
officers in the middle of a storm. The officers they knew and had
trusted must be left control until the gale blew over.
Mortimer sat down and Cartwright knitted his brows. On the surface, his
step-son had taken the proper line. Mortimer meant to support the Board,
but he had indicated that he did so because it was his duty. His remarks
about the dangers by which the company was surrounded had made things
look worse. All the same, he had calmed the meeting, but Cartwright did
not know if this was an advantage. Criticism was harder to meet when the
critics were cool.
Another man got up and began to talk in a quiet voice.
"Mr. Hyslop has an object for trusting the chairman that we have not
got. We won't grumble about his staunchness, but we are entitled to
weigh his arguments, which are not altogether sound. He owns the
situation is awkward and the outlook dark, but he urges us to trust the
officers who got the ship in danger. One feels this is not remarkably
logical. Then he declares nobody else could have kept the fleet running.
I think the claim is rash. In this city we are conservative and names
long known in business circles carry an exaggerated weight; we expect a
man to work wonders because his father started a prosperous line, and
another because he long since made a lucky plunge. Men like these are
often satisfied with former triumphs while times and methods change. We
want fresh thought and modern methods. It's obvious the old have brought
us near the rocks!"
Cartwright saw the shareholders were moved and the time for him to speak
had come. He got up and fronted a doubting and antagonistic audience.
His face was inscrutable, but he looked dignified.
"We have heard angry criticism and hints about slackness," he began.
"Some of you have suggested rejecting the report, a committee of
inquiry, and new members for the Board, but no substantive motion has
been put. Well, before this is done, I claim your patience for a few
minutes. If you are not satisfied, I and your directors are jointly
accountable. We stand together; if you get rid of one, you get rid of
all. This is a drastic but risky cure--"
He paused and one or two of the gentlemen at the table looked surprised.
It was plain they felt the chairman had gone farther than he ought. The
red-faced man, however, smiled as if he approved and Cartwright resumed:
"Times are bad, the markets are flat, and goods are not moved about the
world. I venture to state no steamship company is free from
embarrassments. You can, no doubt, find men with business talent equal
to ours and give them control; but you cannot give them the knowledge,
gained by long experience, one needs to grapple with the particular
difficulties the Cartwright line must meet. The personal touch is
needed; your manager must be known by the company's friends, and its
antagonists, who would not hesitate to snatch our trade from a stranger.
They know me and the others, and are cautious about attacking us. In all
that's important, until times get better, _I am the company_--"
Cartwright stopped and drank some water. He saw he had struck the right
note and began again:
"I will not labor the argument; the thing is obvious! If I go, the line
will stop running before the new men learn their job. Well, I'm old and
tired, but it would hurt to see the house-flag hauled down; it was
carried by famous oak clippers in my grandfather's time. You hesitate to
risk your money? I risk mine and much that money cannot buy; the honor
of a house whose ships have sailed from Liverpool for a hundred years!"
The shareholders were moved and one heard murmurs of sympathy. Boldness
paid, and Cartwright saw he was recovering his shaken power, but it was
not all good acting. To some extent, he was sincere. He got his breath
"I don't urge you with a selfish object to let me keep my post; I'd be
relieved to let it go. Counted in money, the reward for my labor is not
large. I want to save the Cartwright line, to pilot it into port, and,
if there is no rash meddling, I believe I can. But I warn you the thing
is in no other's power. Well, I have finished. You must choose whether
your directors go or not."
There was an awkward silence, and then somebody asked: "Will the
chairman state if he has a plan for meeting a situation he admits is
Cartwright smiled rather grimly. "I will not make a public statement
that might be useful to our antagonists! So long as I am chairman, you
must trust me. My proposition is, give us six months, and then, if
things are no better, we will welcome a committee of inquiry. In the
meantime, a motion is before the meeting--"
"It is proposed and seconded that the directors' report and balance
sheet be accepted," Gavin remarked.
The resolution was carried, the directors were reelected, and the
meeting broke up. Cartwright sat down rather limply and wiped his face.
"I pulled it off, but they pushed me hard," he said. "At one time, it
looked as if our defenses would go down."
"You have put off the reckoning; I think that's all," one of the
"We have six months," said Cartwright. "This is something. If they call
a meeting then, I imagine I can meet them."
He signed to Gavin, who helped him with his big coat, and went off to
the underground restaurant, where he presently fell asleep in a chair by
A STOLEN EXCURSION
Barbara stopped at the top of James Street and looked down hill to the
river. The afternoon was dark and the pavement wet. Thin fog drifted
about the tall offices, lights shone in the windows, and she heard
steamers' whistles. Down the street, a white plume of steam, streaking
the dark-colored fog, marked the tunnel station, and Barbara glanced at
a neighboring clock.
She could get a train in a few minutes, but she would be forced to wait
at a station on the Cheshire side, and there was not another train for
some time. She had bought the things she needed and did not know what to
do. One could pass half an hour at a cafe; but Mrs. Cartwright did not
like her to go to a cafe; alone and Barbara frowned impatiently. Her
mother was horribly conventional and Barbara missed the freedom she had
enjoyed in Canada. In fact, it was very dull at home; Grace's correct
serenity and cold disapproval made one savage; Mortimer's very proper
friends were tiresome.
Barbara was restless and dissatisfied. She wanted to play an active part
and feel she was alive. Moreover, since she came home she had felt she
was being watched, and, so to speak, protected from herself. Her
relations had forgiven her Canadian escapade, but they meant to guard
against her doing something of the kind again. Perhaps from their point
of view, they were justified, but Barbara was not tempted to make a
fresh experiment. She had not yet got over the shock; she saw how near
her romantic trustfulness had brought her to disaster and thought her
faith in men and women had gone. This was perhaps the worst, because she
was generous and had frankly trusted people she liked.
Now she imagined the gloomy day had re-acted on her spirits. She was
moody and longed for something that would banish the dreariness.
Starting down hill for the station, she stopped abruptly a few moments
afterwards. Lister was crossing the street, and if she went on they
would meet. It was some time since she had seen him and she noted with
surprise that he wore a rather soiled blue uniform. His cap, which had a
badge in front, was greasy, and he carried an oilskin coat.
He walked quickly, looking straight in front, with his head well up, and
Barbara got a hint of purposeful activity. Barbara liked him much, but
she had, as a rule, quietly baffled his efforts to know her better. She
waited, rather hoping he would pass, until he looked round and advanced
to meet her.
"I'm lucky!" he remarked, and his satisfaction was comforting. "It's
long since I have seen you."
"You know our house," Barbara rejoined.
"Oh, well," he said with a twinkle, "when I last came, you talked to me
for about two minutes and then left me to play billiards with your
brother. He was polite, but in Canada we play pool and my game's not
very good. I imagined he was bored."
"Mortimer is like that," said Barbara. "But why are you wearing the
steamship badge and sailor's clothes?"
Lister laughed. "They're engineer's clothes. I go to sea; that's another
reason I didn't come over."
"Ah," said Barbara. "Did my step-father get you a post on board ship?"
"He did not. He told me to look him up at the office, but I didn't go.
One would sooner not bother one's friends."
"Canadians are an independent lot," Barbara remarked. "In this country,
we use our friends for all they are worth, and we're justified so long
as they want to help. If Cartwright said he would help, he meant to do
so. But what ship are you on board?"
"_Ardrigh_, cross-channel cattle boat. She's unloading Irish steers,
sheep and pigs not far off. Will you come and see her? I don't suppose
you've been on board a Noah's ark before."
Barbara did not hesitate. She doubted if Mrs. Cartwright would approve
and knew Grace would not, but this was not important. Grace disapproved
all she did and the stolen excursion would break the monotony. Then
Lister's twinkling smile appealed, and somehow her reserve vanished when
she was out of doors with him.
"I'd like to go," she said.
"Then, come along," he urged, and they started for the elevated railway
at the bottom of the street.
While the electric cars rolled along the docks Barbara's moodiness went.
She could not see much in the fog. Wet warehouse roofs, masts and
funnels, and half-seen hulls floating on dull water, loomed up and
vanished. Inside the car, lights glimmered on polished wood; the
rattling and shaking were somehow cheerful. Barbara felt braced and
alert. Lister talked and she laughed. She could not hear all he said,
because of the noise, and thought he did not hear her, but she did not
mind. She liked his cheerfulness and frank satisfaction. The gloom
outside and the blurred lights in the fog gave the excursion a touch of
They got down at a station by a muddy dock-road. Ponderous lorries with
giant horses rolled out of the gloom between stacks of goods; wet cattle
were entangled in the press of traffic, and Barbara was relieved when
Lister pushed back a sliding door. Then she stopped for a moment, half
daunted by the noise and bustle, and looked about.
Big lights hung from the room of the long shed, but did not pierce the
gloom that lurked between the piles of cargo. A flock of sheep, moving
in a dense woolly mass, came down a gangway; squealing pigs occupied a
bay across the piles of goods. The front of the shed was open and in
places one saw a faint reflection that looked like water. Opposite
Barbara, the gap between the low roof and dock-sill was filled by a
deckhouse and a steamer's funnel. Steam blew across the opening farther
on, and in the vapor bales and boxes shot up and rattling chains plunged
down. Through the roar of the winches she heard coarse shouts and the
bellowing of cattle.
Lister took her to a slanting plank that spanned a dark gulf and she saw
dim water and then the hollow of a steamer's hold. Men who looked like
ghosts moved in the gloom and indistinct cattle came up a railed plank.
Barbara could not see where they came from; they plunged out of the
dark, their horns glimmering in the beam of the lamps.
After a few moments Lister helped her down on the steamer's bridge-deck.
The boat listed away from the wall. Her tall red funnel was inclined
sharply, much of her side was above water, and muddy streams poured from
the scuppers on the after deck, where men with long boots pulled a
hose-pipe about. The boat was horribly dirty, but her lean bows and the
length of the iron engine-room casing indicated speed.
A man came along the bridge-deck, and Barbara thought the gold bands on
his cap indicated the captain. He stopped and when he glanced at Lister
she blushed, for there was a hint of sympathetic understanding in her
"We won't want you until high-water," he said and went off.
Barbara hoped Lister had not seen her blush and thought he had not. He
took her down some iron steps and to a door in a dark passage.
"Our mess-room," he said. "I expect it's the quietest spot on board the
He pushed the door open and stopped. The small room was bright with
electric light and a young man and woman sat opposite each other at the
table. The man's uniform was stained by oil; the girl was pretty and
fashionably dressed, but Barbara knew her clothes were cheap. She stood
at the door, hesitating, and the man gave Lister a smile like the
"I didn't expect you yet, but come in," he said. "The tea's not cold,
and Mike has made some doughnuts."
"Mr. Robertson, my chief," Lister said to Barbara, and the man presented
Lister to his companion, and put a machine in a box on the floor. "Now
there's room; I was pulling out the indicator diagrams," he added.
"Won't you take off your coat, Miss Hyslop, and try Mike's doughnuts?"
The little room was hot, and when Barbara hung up her furs she noted the
other girl's appraising glance. Miss Grant poured some black tea from a
big cracked pot and pushed across a tin of condensed milk and a plate of
greasy buns. When Barbara picked one up and looked at it doubtfully
Robertson opened a drawer.
"We pull ours in two, but I expect you'd like a knife," he said.
He found a knife, which he rubbed on the table-cloth. "I used the thing
on the indicator, the contraption in the box, but I think it's clean
Barbara ate her doughnut and drank the bitter tea. Miss Grant looked
friendly and she liked the engineer. They were frank, human people, and
she thought them kind. Robertson began to talk about carpets, gas-stoves
and pans, and Miss Grant told Barbara what the articles cost. They had
been buying furniture and Robertson stated they were to be married soon.
"I reckon you haven't got so far yet," he said to Lister, and when
Barbara saw Miss Grant touch him she blushed. It was ridiculous, but the
blood came to her skin, and then, noting Lister's embarrassment, she
began to laugh.
"Jim _will_ talk like that!" Miss Grant remarked.
"Oh, well," said Robertson, "I expect it's rather soon. Mr. Lister
hasn't joined us long, and you don't begin at the top." He turned to
Barbara with an encouraging smile. "All the same, he knows his job and
has got one move up. Perhaps if he sticks to it, for a year or two--"
Miss Grant stopped him and asked Barbara's views about curtains. She had
some patterns, and while they contrasted the material and the prices the
door opened and a greasy, red-haired fellow gave the group a benevolent
"Was thim doughnuts all right?" he inquired.
"I've had better, but you've made some worse, Mike," Robertson replied.
"Yez said _tea for two_. If ye'd told me it was a party, I'd have been
afther stealing the captain's Cork butter. A cook cannot do his best
whin the shore-steward sends him engine-grease. Annyhow, whin ye're
young an' romantic, what's it mather what ye ate?"
He went off and Robertson began to talk about _Ardrigh_. He was naively
proud of the boat and his engines, and narrated hard runs in bad weather
to land the livestock in time for important markets. Sometimes the
hollow channel-seas that buried the plunging forecastle filled the decks
and icy cataracts came down the stokehold gratings. Sometimes the cattle
pens broke and mangled bullocks rolled about in the water and wreckage.
Robertson had a talent for narrative and Barbara felt something of the
terror and lure of the sea. She liked the _Ardrigh's_ rather grimy crew,
their cheerfulness and rude good-humor. They did useful things, big
things now and then; they were strong, warm-blooded fellows, not
polished loafers like Mortimer's friends. Then she approved Miss Grant's
frank pride in her lover. There was something primitive about these
people. They were, so to speak, human, and not ashamed of their
humanity. Lister was somehow like them; she wondered whether this had
attracted her. Perhaps she was attracted, but the attraction must not be
By and by Miss Grant resumed her talk about curtains, and when they had
agreed about the material that ought to wear best Barbara looked at her
watch. Miss Grant gave her her hand and Robertson declared she must come
back when the boat was in port again. Lister took her down the gangway
and was quiet until they reached the station. Then he smiled
"You played up well. I didn't know Robertson was on board, but he's a
very good sort. So's the girl, I think."
Barbara laughed. "I didn't play up; I liked the people. The excursion
was delightful; I've enjoyed it all."
Lister saw she was sincere and thrilled. He had begun to think he ought
not to have suggested the adventure, but he was not sorry now; Barbara
was not bothered by ridiculous conventions. She talked gayly while the
cars rolled along beside the warehouse walls, but when they got down at
the station she stopped in the middle of a sentence. Cartwright had
alighted from the next car and was a yard or two in front. Lister knew
his fur coat and rather dragging walk. If he and Barbara went on, they
would confront Cartwright when he turned to go down the steps.
Barbara gave him a twinkling glance and remarked that he knitted his
brows but did not hesitate. In the few moments since her step-father
left the train she had seen three or four plans for avoiding him. Lister
obviously had not, and on the whole she approved his honesty. He
advanced and touched Cartwright.
"I didn't know you were on board our train, sir."
Cartwright looked at him rather hard and Barbara waited. Although she
had been caught enjoying a stolen excursion, she was not afraid of her
step-father, but she was curious.
"I was in front," said Cartwright dryly. "Barbara has picked a rather
dreary day for a run to the north docks. I understood she was going to
"Miss Hyslop met me near the station and I persuaded her to come and see
"Then you have got a ship?" said Cartwright. "If you are not on duty,
come to the office in the morning and tell me about the boat. In the
meantime, I'll put Barbara on the tunnel train."
He went off with the girl, but Barbara turned her head and Lister saw
CARTWRIGHT SEES A PLAN
In the morning Lister went to Cartwright's office. To some extent, he
was embarrassed, because he had begun to see that Barbara's relations
might not approve her going on board his ship and he imagined Cartwright
meant to talk about this. When he came in Cartwright gave him a nod and
indicated a chair.
"I understand you did not arrange for Barbara to meet you and go to the
dock?" he said.
"No, sir. I didn't expect to meet Miss Hyslop. I was talking about the
boat and thought Miss Hyslop might like to see her."
Cartwright turned and the electric light touched his face. He looked
thoughtful, but somehow Lister imagined he was not thinking about his
"Oh, well!" he said, as if the matter were not important, and went on:
"I might have got you a post had you looked me up. What boat are you on
"_Ardrigh_. Perhaps you know her?"
"Yes. Belfast model; long bow and fine lines aft. Don't know if I
approve the type. Give you speed, at the cost of carrying power, but
makes a wet ship in a head sea."
"She is wet," Lister agreed with a smile. "Last run we couldn't keep the
water out of the stokehold. Had to cover and batten gratings, and then a
boat fetched adrift and smashed the engine skylights."
"What's your rating?" Cartwright asked.
Lister told him and he remarked: "You have made some progress!"
"I was lucky. She burst some boiler tubes in my watch. We were steaming
hard, head to an ugly sea, with a lot of cattle on board, and were
forced to keep her going. Two firemen were scalded, but I was able to
put the patent-stoppers in the tubes. I used a trick I'd learned on a
Canadian lake boat; rather risky, but it worked. Afterwards the company
moved me up."
Cartwright was not surprised. He knew men and saw the young fellow was
all he had thought. All the same, it might be worth while to get some
particulars about the accident from the _Ardrigh's_ owners.
"You won't go far in the cross-channel trade. Why did you not try for a
berth with an Atlantic line!"
"There was some trouble about your Board of Trade rules and I might have
been required to prove my qualifications for an English certificate.
While I was inquiring I heard an engineer was wanted on board _Ardrigh_.
The regulations don't apply to coasting voyages."
"You might have got your certificate. Would it not have been worth
Lister hesitated. His main object for joining the _Ardrigh_ was that she
sailed from Liverpool and he wanted to see Barbara now and then. As a
rule, he was frank, but he did not think it prudent to enlighten
"I don't know," he said. "You see, I may go back to the railroad soon."
He wondered whether Cartwright did see and thought he had remarked his
hesitation; the old fellow was very keen. Cartwright's look, however,
was inscrutable and for a few moments he said nothing. Then he picked up
some papers on his desk.
"Look me up now and then when you're in port. I might have a job for
you, but I don't know yet," he said, and added in a meaning voice: "If
you want to see my family, Mrs. Cartwright will receive you at her
Lister colored and got up. "I'll remember, sir! Perhaps I oughtn't to
have persuaded Miss Hyslop--I didn't stop to think--"
When he went off Cartwright smiled, but soon afterwards he put his
cigar-case in his pocket and told Gavin he was going out. He thought he
knew where to find the cattle boat's shore-engineer, and when he did so
the waitress gave them a table at which they would not be disturbed. In
half an hour Cartwright had found out all he wanted to know, and
returning to his office, he smoked and mused.
Lister had not exaggerated; his pluck and coolness had kept _Ardrigh's_
engines going when to stop might have meant the loss of the livestock on
board. Well, Cartwright had known the fellow was good stuff and he might
soon want a man like that. Somebody staunch and resolute who knew his
job! He had beaten his antagonists at the shareholders' meeting, but
doubted if he could do so again. In fact, he had only put off the
reckoning for six months, in which he must make good, and he knitted his
brows while he studied _Titania's_ picture. He thought about her sister
ship, wrecked and abandoned on the African coast.
_Arcturus_ was a useful boat and cheap to run. Although times were bad,
Cartwright could run her and earn some profit. He had known the company
that bought her was getting near the rocks, but they had insured her
heavily and there was something strange about the wreck. Cartwright
understood the underwriters had hesitated before they paid. He, himself,
would not have paid; he had a notion--.
An effort had been made to float _Arcturus_, but the salvors did not
know all Cartwright thought he knew. If his supposition were correct,
the wreck might be worth buying and one could, no doubt, buy her very
cheap. The boat had for some time lain half-buried in shifting sands at
the mouth of an African river.
The underwriters would be lucky if they sold her for old iron.
Cartwright weighed the cost of floating. If he employed a regular
salvage company, this would be high, because they would bargain for a
large part of the value recovered; his plan was to do the job himself,
with cheaper appliances than theirs. The trouble was, he could not go
out and superintend. He was too old, and one ought to be an engineer;
Cartwright had grounds for imagining the job was rather an engineer's
than a sailor's. Well, he knew a young fellow who would not be daunted
and would work for him honestly, but to get the proper man was not all.
He pondered about the money. Somehow he might get the necessary sum, but
if the venture failed, it would be the last. Nobody would trust him
again; he would be forced into retirement and dependence on his wife. It
was a risk he hesitated to run and he resolved to wait.
In the evening after dinner Barbara joined him in the drawing-room, and
Cartwright waited with some amusement, for he thought he knew what she
"Did Mr. Lister come to the office?" she asked presently.
"He did come. Did you think he would not?"
"Oh, no!" said Barbara, smiling, "I knew he would come. Mr. Lister is
"I suppose you mean he's honest?"
"I think I mean he's scrupulous. When you crossed the station platform
in front of us he got a jolt."
"Then, you did not get a jolt?"
"Not at all," said Barbara. "To keep behind and meet you after I'd sent
Lister off would not have bothered me. However, I was curious, although
I think I knew the line he'd take. You see, for an unsophisticated young
man, the situation was awkward."
"If he felt it awkward, it indicated he knew he ought not to have taken
you on board his boat."
"You're horribly logical," Barbara rejoined with a twinkle. "When we
started he didn't know I ought not to have gone. Mr. Lister is not like
you; he's very obvious. Of course, I did know, but I went!"
"I wonder why!" said Cartwright dryly.
"Sometimes you're keen, but you didn't remark, I meant to give you a
lead. Well, I didn't go altogether because I wanted to enjoy Mr.
Lister's society. To see a cattle boat was something fresh and I was
"Then, when did Lister see a light? Since he stopped me, it's plain he'd
got some illumination."
"I think it was when the engineer and the girl Robertson is going to
marry began to talk about house furnishings in the _Ardrigh's_
mess-room. They took it for granted Lister was my lover and he was
horribly embarrassed. The thing really was humorous."
"Folks have hinted I'm getting a back-number," Cartwright remarked. "To
talk to a modern girl makes me feel I am out-of-date."
"Grace is not modern and to talk to her makes you tired," Barbara
rejoined. "But I'll tell you about the tea-party in the mess-room if you
"Then you got tea in the cattle boat's mess-room?"
"Of course," said Barbara. "Black tea and condensed milk, and a ruffian
with red hair whom they called Mike had made some doughnuts with lard
like engine-grease. For all that, they were very nice people, and if you
don't interrupt, I'll tell you--"
She told him about the party and Cartwright chuckled. He pictured her in
the dirty mess-room, looking exotic in her fashionable clothes and
expensive furs, but no doubt quite serene. She said the other girl was
pretty, but Cartwright admitted that Barbara was beautiful. He rather
sympathized with Lister's embarrassment, and wondered whether Barbara
meant to throw some light on the young man's character.
When she stopped, he asked: "Did they talk about some burst boiler
"No," said Barbara. "We talked about gas-stoves and kitchen pans." Then
she gave Cartwright a keen glance. "But what are boiler tubes? Do they
"They carry the flame from the furnace through the water. If you're much
interested, Gavin will show you a plan of a ship's boiler when you come
to the office. In the meantime, have you found out all you want to
"You really are keen!" Barbara rejoined.
"I was a little curious about what you said to Mr. Lister."
"Ah," said Cartwright, "I imagined something like this. I told him if he
wanted to see my family, he must come to the house."
Barbara looked thoughtful. "This was all? Was it worth while to tell him
to come to the office? To order him, in fact?"
"It was all that's important. I think it was important and expect you to
"Well, you have carried out your duty and ought to be satisfied," said
Barbara, who got up and gave Cartwright a smiling glance. "All the same,
if you want a man for an awkward job, I think you can trust Mr. Lister!"
She went off and Cartwright laughed. Barbara was clever. The strange
thing was, she had been cheated by a theatrical rogue, but clever girls
were sometimes like that. He imagined she liked Lister, but this was
perhaps all, since she had been frank. In one sense, Lister was the man
for Barbara; he was honest, sober, and resolute, and she needed firm
control. The girl was as wild as a hawk, and although she was marked by
a fine fastidiousness, would revolt from a narrow-minded prig. Lister
was not a prig; his blood was red.
In another sense, perhaps, the thing was ridiculous. Barbara was rich
and ought to make a good marriage, but good marriages sometimes brought
Human nature was stubborn; one paid for forcing it to obey the rules of
worldly prudence. Then Barbara had a romantic vein. She would risk all
for her lover and not grumble if she were forced to pay for her
staunchness. Besides, she and Lister had qualities he had not. They were
marked by something ascetic, or perhaps he meant Spartan, and if it were
worth while, could go without much that he required.
Cartwright admitted that indulgence had cost him dear. He had paid with
grim philosophy, but he did not want Barbara to pay. Although she was
not his daughter, he loved the girl, and her recent moodiness bothered
him. If she did not love Lister, why was she disturbed? Sometimes
Cartwright thought he saw a gleam of light. Suppose she did love the
fellow and was trying to keep him off because of her Canadian adventure?
Lister knew about that and Barbara was proud.
Cartwright's eyes got bloodshot and he clenched his fist. He would very
much like to meet Shillito. His muscles were getting slack, but he had
not lost all his power; anyhow, he could talk. Well, the thing was
humiliating, but he must not get savage. When he let himself go he
suffered for it afterwards. Getting up, he threw away his cigar, and
went off to talk to his wife.
A BOLD SPECULATION
After weighing for some weeks all he could learn about the wreck on the
African coast, Cartwright went to London and was carried up one morning
to the second floor of an imposing office block. Black marble columns
supported the molded roof of the long passage, the wide stairs were
guarded by polished mahogany and shining brass, and a screen of artistic
iron work enclosed the elevator shaft. Cartwright's fur coat and gloves
and varnished boots harmonized with the surroundings; he looked rich and
important, but as he went along the corridor his face was stern. He was
going to make a plunge that would mend or break his fortune. Unless he
got straight in the next six months, he must retire from the Board and
make the best bargain possible with his creditors.
He opened a door, and giving a clerk his card, was shown into a handsome
private office. Mr. Morse at a writing-table indicated a chair, and when
Cartwright sat down, rested his chin in his hand.
"We have considered your letters, and my partner, Mr. Bull, agrees that,
if we can come to terms, your suggestion has some advantages," he said.
"The advantages for your clients are obvious," Cartwright remarked.
The other smiled. "They paid out a good sum when _Arcturus_ was wrecked,
and would frankly like to get something back. Well, we understand you
are willing to buy her, _as she lies_."
"At my price! I'll give you a check when the agreement's signed."
"Then, I expect you have made some calculations and know all about the
efforts to float the wreck. If we sell her to you, the job is yours, but
I admit some curiosity. Why do you expect to float her when the salvage
"For one thing, they started the job on extravagant lines," Cartwright
replied. "They sent out two first-class tugs and a number of highly-paid
men; they ought to have hired negro laborers at the spot. The surf is
often bad, they could only work when it was calm, and while they were
doing nothing, wages mounted up. So did their bills for the coal they
must bring from Sierra Leone, where coal is expensive. Then they were
bothered by fever and were forced to send men home. They saw the
contract would not pay and let it go. The job was not impossible; it was
costing too much."
Mr. Morse agreed that Cartwright's statement was plausible and probably
accurate, but thought he rather labored his argument.
"You mean to use another plan?" he said.
"My outfit will be small and cheap. This has the advantage that when my
men can't work, I won't pay much for wasted time. All the same, my risk
is obvious. The thing's a rash speculation, on which I can't embark
unless you are satisfied to take a very small price."
For a few moments the ship broker pondered. Cartwright's line was the
line a man who wanted to buy something cheap would take. All the same,
Mr. Morse did not altogether see why he wanted to buy the wreck.
"What about the cargo?" he suggested. "Of course, you understand that I
have no authority to sell this; you noticed the wording of our original
advertisement? 'And for the salving of the cargo,' Precisely it is on
that basis alone that the cargo underwriters will deal. Together with
your offer for the steamer as she lies, you must accept a percentage of
the value of the cargo you save."
"What is the cargo?"
"She carried palm-kernels in the forehold; I expect they have fermented
and rotted. Perhaps the palm oil aft isn't spoiled."
"The barrels will have gone to bits."
"Oak barrel staves stand salt water long."
"The iron hoops do not," Cartwright rejoined. "Anyhow, I don't reckon on
the cargo; I expect to make my profit on buying the hull."
"Yet the cargo is worth something. I imagine you know she carried some
valuable gums, ivory and a quantity of gold?"
Cartwright smiled. "I do know the goods were on the ship's manifest. How
much gold did the salvage company get?"
"Six boxes; but this was not all that was shipped."
"I imagine it's all that will be recovered!" Cartwright remarked.
The other looked hard at him, but his face was inscrutable and he went
on: "Well, I don't want the cargo, and may be forced to heave much of it
overboard in order to lighten the hull. However, if we find stuff worth
saving, we'll put it on the beach and I'll take a third-part of the
value, and you can send out an agent to tally the goods."
"Very well," said the other, who approved the latter plan, although he
imagined Cartwright knew something he did not. "Let's be frank," he
resumed. "Personally, I felt from the beginning there was a mystery
about the wreck."
"Oh, well," said Cartwright, "the owners of the boat went broke, and the
merchant who put the goods on board died. His son sold the business to a
small company, in which he took shares. The new house is prosperous and
respectable; it would be necessary to know your ground well before you
bothered them. Then I have nothing to go upon but a vague supposition.
In fact, the thing's a risky plunge, and if you refuse my offer, I won't
grumble. All the same, I doubt if anybody else would give you, for
example, five hundred pounds for _Arcturus_."
"Five hundred pounds is, of course, ridiculous," the other rejoined, and
they began to bargain.
When Cartwright left the office he was, on the whole, satisfied. He
could finance the undertaking, but this was all. There would be no
margin to cover unforeseen difficulties. It was his last gamble, and,
besides his money, he staked his post and reputation. If he lost, he was
done for, and the house must fall. Soon after his return he sent for
Lister and told him about the wreck and his salvage plans.
"I had some bother to get a captain," he said. "The job has not much
attraction for a sober man, but Brown is not sober; he's frankly
reckless and irresponsible. The strange thing is, I've known him make
good where cautious men have failed. Then much depends on the engineer.
I brought you across to ask if you would go."
Lister's eyes sparkled. "Yes, sir. I've been looking for a chance like
Cartwright studied him quietly. Lister's keenness was obvious; the young
fellow liked adventure, but Cartwright imagined this did not account for
"From one point of view, I think the chance is pretty good," he said.
"If you can float the wreck and bring her home, I expect some of the big
salvage companies will offer you a post. Anyhow, you'll get your pay,
and if we are lucky, a bonus that will depend on the cost of the
undertaking and the value of all we salve."
"I'm going," Lister declared, and Cartwright noted that he did not
inquire about the pay. Then he hesitated and resumed: "But I haven't got
an English chief-engineer's certificate."
"I don't know if it's important. I expect you'll find the adventure is
marked by a number of small irregularities. However, to satisfy the
Board of Trade is my business."
"Then you can reckon on me; but there's another thing. Why do you hope
to lift the wreck when the salvage men could not?"
Cartwright smiled. "I have been asked this before, but saw no grounds
for satisfying the inquirer's curiosity. All the same, I'll enlighten
He did so, and Lister looked up sharply. He had known Cartwright was
clever, but the old fellow was cleverer than he thought. It was possible
he had solved a puzzle that had baffled the salvage engineers. After
all, perhaps, it was not strange they were baffled. They had reckoned on
mechanical obstacles; Cartwright had reckoned on the intricacies of
"I expect you have got it, sir," Lister agreed. "If her bilge was in the
sand and the divers couldn't break into the engine-room--" He paused and
laughed. "A powerful centrifugal pump lifts some water, but you can't
pump out the Atlantic!"
"It looks as if the salvage company tried," said Cartwright, dryly.
He talked about the undertaking, giving Lister particulars he thought he
ought to know, and when the young man went off, all important plans had
been agreed upon. Soon afterwards Cartwright went home and found Mrs.
Cartwright had gone to bed. He was getting disturbed about her, but
since the doctor had said she must rest, he talked to Barbara in the
evening. He told her about the wreck, and smiled when he stated that
Lister would have control.
"I think you declared he was the man for an awkward job," he said.
Barbara looked at him rather hard. "Perhaps I did say so. You don't
imply you are sending Mr. Lister because you thought I'd like it?"
"Not at all," said Cartwright. "The thing's a business venture. Still
your statement carried weight. I admit your judgment sometimes is
She turned her head and when she looked up and replied, her voice was
"You must not trust my judgment. I have been cheated."
"My dear!" said Cartwright. "Perhaps my remark was unlucky, but the
cleverest of us is sometimes cheated, and you were not cheated long.
We'll let it go. I'm bothered about your mother. She feels the damp and
cold and is not picking up. Perhaps we ought to send her South. I must
talk to the doctor."
In the morning he saw the doctor, who said they had better wait for a
time, and Cartwright occupied himself by outfitting the salvage
expedition. Finding it necessary to go to London, he called on the
gentleman from whom he had bought the wreck a short time ago.
"When we made the agreement, you asked if I knew anybody who would give
me five hundred pounds for the boat," remarked Mr. Morse. "Just then I
did not know, but not long since I was offered a better price than
"Ah," said Cartwright, thoughtfully. "She lay in the sand for some time
and nobody bothered about her. Who was willing to buy?"
The other smiled. "A shipbroker stated a sum at which he would take her
off our hands. It was plain he was an agent, but he wouldn't give his
customer's name. I don't imagine you will find out from him. I tried!"
Cartwright said it was strange, and went off soon afterwards. When he
went down in the lift he smiled, for he thought he saw a light; after
all, his speculation was not as rash as it looked.
When he got home Mrs. Cartwright had come downstairs and she joined the
others at dinner. The doctor said she was stronger and might soon
undertake a journey South; he suggested the Canaries, and Cartwright
"If you sail by a Cape liner, it's a short run, and after you leave the
Spanish coast the sea is generally smooth," he said. "Since I must stay
at the office, we must decide who is going with you."
Hyslop said he would like to go, and would do so if it were necessary,
but to get away just then was awkward. Grace declared somebody must stop
to look after Cartwright and the house, and she imagined this was her
post. For all that, since she was older than Barbara, it was hard to see
her duty. Mrs. Cartwright did not indicate whom she wanted, although she
glanced at Barbara. Since she was ill she had got very languid, and
Cartwright did not meddle. He knew his stepchildren, and it was
characteristic that Grace talked about her duty; taking care of an
invalid at a foreign hotel had not much charm for Grace.
"Very well," said Barbara, "I gave you and Mortimer first chance,
because I'm not important, but since you have good grounds for staying,
we won't argue." She turned to Mrs. Cartwright: "I'm going, because I
want to go."
Mrs. Cartwright gave her a gentle smile and it was plain that she was
satisfied, but when she had gone to bed and Cartwright was alone, he
pondered. Barbara loved her mother and would have gone had she not
wanted to go, but he thought she did want and had an object. He had told
her something about his plans, and had stated that he would use Grand
Canary as a supply depot for the expedition; then he had found the girl
studying an Atlantic chart in the library. Barbara had no doubt noted
the island lay conveniently near the African coast, and knew it was an
important coaling station, at which steamers bound South from Liverpool
called. Cartwright wondered whether she had argued she might see Lister
at Grand Canary.
Rain was falling and the light had hardly reached the opening between
the tall warehouses. In the dock the water was smooth and shone with
dull reflections, but the gates were open and the muddy swell the flood
tide brought up the river splashed about the entrance. Ponderous lorries
rumbled across a bridge, indistinct figures moved and shouted on the
pierhead, and men in wet oilskins splashed about _Terrier's_ deck.
She was a battered propeller tug and lay against the wall, with large
cases of machinery lashed to her bulwarks, and a stack of coal built up
beside the engine-skylights. Her bunkers were full, but the fuel she
carried would not last very long, and coal is dear at foreign ports.
Coils of thick wire rope and diving gear occupied her shallow hold, and
Cartwright was annoyed because she could not take the massive
centrifugal pump which he had sent by an African liner. Some extra coal
and supplies were loaded on a clumsy wooden hulk, but he durst not risk
her carrying expensive machinery.
When he talked to the captain in the pilot-house, he was, on the whole,
satisfied. Brown's face was flushed and his voice was hoarse, but he
would pull himself together after he got to sea. Cartwright knew Brown's
habits when he gave him the job, although, in an important sense, the
job was Lister's. To trust the young fellow was a bold experiment, but
Cartwright did so. If Lister were not the man he thought, Cartwright
imagined his control of the line would presently come to an inglorious
end. To some extent this accounted for his bringing Barbara to see the
salvage expedition start. He knew the power of love.
Barbara had not gone up the greasy ladder to the bridge and waited on
deck. She had left home without much breakfast, in the dark, and was
cold and rather depressed. All was gloomy and strangely flat. The tug
looked small and was horribly dirty. Coal-dust covered rails and ropes;
grimy drops from the rigging splashed on the trampled black mud on deck.
The crew were not sober and their faces were black. Two or three
draggled women called to them from the pierhead, their voices sounding
melancholy and harsh.
Barbara had not seen Lister and wondered where he was, until a man
plunged out from the neighboring door of the engine-room. The abruptness
of his exit indicated that he had been rudely propelled by somebody
behind, and as he lurched across the deck, Lister appeared at the door.
His cap was dark with grease, his overalls were stained, and a black
smear ran from his eye to chin.
"Hustle and get that oil drum on the wharf, you drunken hog!" he
shouted. "If I hadn't watched out you'd have left half the truck."
He stopped when he saw Barbara. "This is very kind," he said to her. "I
knew Cartwright was on board, but hadn't hoped you would come to give us
a good send-off."
Barbara noted his satisfaction and was moved by something in his voice.
He looked thin and fine-drawn in his stained engineer's clothes, and his
hands were greasy. The surroundings were not romantic, but somehow they
got brighter and her gloom vanished. Lister's eyes sparkled; he wore the
stamp of strength and confidence.
"I doubted if my step-father would bring me, but I really meant to
come," she said. "For one thing, I wanted to ask you--"
She hesitated, for it was hard to strike the right note. She had begun
to see there was something exciting and perhaps heroic about the
adventure. The handful of men had undertaken a big thing; there was much
against them, and daunting risks must be run. Moreover, she had studied
Cartwright and remarked the anxiety he thought he had hid. Cartwright
was rather inscrutable, but sympathy had given her power to understand.
She thought he was engaged in a reckless gamble and could not afford to
"Whatever you want--" Lister declared, but she stopped him.
"I want you to do your best."
"You can reckon on that, anyhow! Cartwright has hired me; I'm his man."
Barbara smiled. "Yes; I know! You're honest and will do all you engaged;
but in a sense, this is not enough. I want you to make an extra effort,
She paused and the blood came to her skin when she went on: "You see,
it's important you should float the wreck and bring her home. It means
much to my step-father; very much, I think. He's kind and I love him. I
feel I ought to help."
Lister saw her statement was significant, and her embarrassment
indicated that she knew it was so. In fact, she had admitted that she
knew he would, for her sake, use all his powers. He was moved, but he
was not a fool. The girl, wearing her costly furs, looked rich and
dignified; he was a working engineer and conscious of his greasy
clothes. He loved her, but for a time he must be cautious. To begin
with, he would not have her think he made a claim.
"You're not very logical," he replied carelessly. "When I took the job I
undertook to earn my pay. Cartwright sends me off to float the wreck,
and if it's possible, I must make good."
"I am logical," Barbara declared, while her color came and went. "One
thinks one does one's best, but sometimes when the strain comes, one can
do better. It really isn't ridiculous! Emotion, sentiment, give one
extra force--" She stopped and resumed in a strangely gentle voice: "You
are young, and if you don't make good it won't hurt very much. Mr.
Cartwright's old; he can't try again. Then he's not my step-father only.
He's my friend, and I know he trusts you. For his sake, I must be
frank--I trust you!"
Lister smiled, but his voice betrayed him, although he thought he used
"Very well! If it's possible for flesh and blood, we'll bring _Arcturus_
home. That's all. The thing's done with."
She gave him her hand, and kept the glove with the dark grease stain.
Then, seeing there was no more to be said, she looked about. Ragged
clouds rolled up from the Southwest, and the disturbed swell that
splashed about the dock gates indicated wind down channel. A shower beat
upon the engine skylights and Barbara moved beneath the bridge. A great
rope rose out of the water as the men at the winch hauled up the clumsy
hulk. Two or three others, dragging a thin, stiff wire rope, floundered
unsteadily across the deck.
"They look rough, and they're not very sober," Barbara remarked.
Lister laughed. "They're frankly drunk! A pretty hard crowd, but Brown
and I have handled a hard crowd before. In fact, I reckon Cartwright has
got the proper men for the job."
"Captain Brown is like them," said Barbara, thoughtfully. "You are not."
"You haven't seen me hustling round when things go wrong."
"I saw you throw a man out of the engine-room not long since!"
"With a gang like ours, one must prove one's claim to be boss at the
start. Anyhow, there are different kinds of wastrels, and the fellow who
gets on a jag at intervals is often a pretty good sort. The wastrel one
has no use for is the fellow who keeps it up. But I see Mr. Cartwright
coming and mustn't philosophize."
A gateman on the pierhead began to shout to the captain, and Cartwright
gave Lister his hand.
"They are waiting for you and we must get ashore," he said. "Well, I've
given you and Brown a big job, but I expect you'll see me out."
"We'll put in all we've got, sir," said Lister quietly.
Cartwright nodded, as if he were satisfied, and touched Barbara, who
turned and gave Lister a smile.
"Good luck!" she said, and following Cartwright, went up the steps in
She thought it significant Cartwright had left her for some time and had
given Lister a quick, searching glance. Lister had said nothing about
their talk and his promise; she had known he would not do so. Yet this
was not because he was clever. He had a sort of instinctive
fastidiousness. She liked his reply to Cartwright; he _would_ put in all
he had got, and a man like that had much. Fine courage, resolution and
When Barbara reached the pierhead, _Terrier's_ engines began to throb.
The propeller churned the green water, and the tug bumped against the
wall. Gatemen shouted, the big tow-rope splashed and tightened with a
jerk, and the hulk began to move. Then the tug's bow crept round the
corner and swung off from the gates. The engine throbbed faster, and a
blast of the whistle echoed about the warehouses. Brown waved his cap
and signed to a man in the pilot-house. The hulk swung round in a wide
sweep, and the adventurous voyage had begun.
_Terrier_, steaming across the strong current, looked small and dingy;
when she rolled as the helm went over, the swell washed her low
bulwarks. She got smaller, until a rain squall blew across from the
Cheshire side and she melted into the background of dark water and
smoke. Barbara felt strangely forlorn, and it was some relief when
Cartwright touched her arm and they set off along the wall.
After the rain the wind freshened, and when Brown steamed out from the
river, a confused sea rolled across the shoals. The light was not good,
but a double row of buoys led out to sea, the ebb-tide was running, and
_Terrier_ made good progress. She shipped no water yet, and the hulk
lurched along without much strain on the rope. The rope was fastened to
a massive iron hook and ran across a curved wooden horse at the tug's
stern. Sometimes it slipped along the horse and tightened with a bang,
for the clumsy hulk sheered about. When her stern went up one saw an
indistinct figure holding the wheel.
When they passed the Bar Lightship, Lister climbed to the bridge and for
a few minutes looked about. The plunging red hull to starboard was the
last of the Mersey marks, for the North-West ship was hidden by low
clouds. Ahead the angry gray water was broken by streaks of foam.
_Terrier_ rolled and quivered when her bows smashed a sea, and showers
of spray beat like hail against the screens on the bridge.
"She's loggish," Brown remarked. "If you don't burn up that coal soon,
she'll wash it off. Looks like a dirty night, and I'm pushing across for
Lynas Point. With the wind at south-west, I want to get under the
Anglesey coast. There'll be some sea in the channel when we open up
"The boat's good," said Lister. "Engines a bit neglected, but they're
running smooth and cool, and she has power to shove her along.
Cartwright has an eye for a useful craft."
Brown nodded. "The old fellow has an eye for all that's useful; I reckon
he sees farther than any man I know. There's something encouraging about
this, because the job he's given us looks tough--"
He stopped, for the tow-rope slipped noisily across the horse. There was
a clang of iron as the hook took the strain, and the captain frowned.
"That hulk is going to bother us before very long."
Lister seized the slanted rails. The lightship had vanished, but a
bright beam pierced the haze astern. Ahead the sea was empty; gray water
rolled beneath low and ragged clouds. Spray flew about the plunging
bows, and the tug rolled uneasily. Lister turned and left the bridge,
but stopped for a few moments at the engine-room door. Barbara had stood
just opposite, where the iron funnel-stay ran down. Her rich furs gave
her girlish figure a touch of dignity, the color was in her face, and
her eyes shone.
Lister knew the picture would haunt him, and he would come to the engine
door to recapture it when he needed bracing. He would need bracing, for
there were obstacles ahead, but he had promised Barbara to help
Cartwright out. Stepping across the ledge to a slippery platform, he
PART III--THE BREAKING STRAIN
THE FIRST STRUGGLE
The engine-room floor-plates slanted, and light and shadow played about
the throbbing machinery. It looked as if the lamps swung in a
semicircle, but they did not. All else slanted at an ever-changing
angle; the swiveled lamps were still. Overhead the dark and bulky
cylinders cut against the reflected glimmer on the skylights; below,
valve-gear and connecting-rod flashed across the gloom, and the
twinkling cranks spun in their shallow pit. One saw the big columns
shake and strain as the crosshead shot up and down; the thrust-blocks
groaned with the back push of the propeller.
A door in the bulkhead was open, and now and then a blaze from the
stokehold lighted the engine-room. Shovels clanged and the thud of a
hammer jarred upon the throb of machinery. Men moved about like ghosts.
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