Lister's Great Adventure
Part 4 out of 5
Their feet made no noise; for a moment one saw their sweat-streaked
faces and then they vanished. Lister sat on a tool-box, an old pipe in
his mouth, and was happier than he had been for long. For one thing, his
men were getting sober and he saw they knew their job; then he was
satisfied with his engines and relished the sense of control. He was
_chief_, and until the tug came back from Africa the engines were his.
In the meantime he need not move about. It was like listening to an
orchestra of which he knew all the instruments, and he heard no jarring
notes. The harmony was good and the rhythm well marked. The clash and
clang rose and fell with a measured beat; but the smooth running of his
engines did not account for all Lister's satisfaction. In a sense,
Barbara had given him his job, he was her servant, doing her work, and
this was much, although he scarcely durst hope for another reward.
Cartwright had not without careful thought sent Lister on board. He knew
the young fellow's staunchness as he knew Barbara's, and, because his
need was great, had not hesitated to use him and the girl. He was old
and must be resigned to sit at his desk and plan, but, as a rule, his
plans worked, and he had a talent for choosing his tools. When it was
possible, he used his tools carefully; he hated to overstrain fine
_Terrier's_ regular lurch and roll indicated that she was steaming along
the coast, in some shelter from the wind that blew obliquely off the
land. By and by, however, the lurches got violent, and when Lister heard
the thud of water on deck he went up, and opening the door on the lee
side, looked out. Water splashed against the ledge that protected the
engine-room; the stack of coal worked and he heard big lumps fall. Spray
blew across the bulwarks and fell in heavy showers from a boat on the
skids. For a few moments this was all he could distinguish, and then he
saw slopes of water slanting away from the tug's low side. A half-moon
shone for a few moments between ragged clouds and was hidden.
Lister stepped across the ledge and went aft. _Terrier_ felt the drag of
the hulk astern, and he wanted to see how she was towing. He heard the
iron ring clang on the hook, and when he stopped by the horse, the big
tow-rope surged to and fro across the arch. The hulk steered wildly, and
if the sea got worse, he doubted if they could hold her. He knew where
he was, because he had steamed along the coast on board the cattle boat.
The Anglesey shore was fringed by reefs, the tide-races ran in white
turmoil across the ledges. The tide had now nearly run out, but when
they turned the corner at Carmel Point they would meet the flood stream
and the big combers the gale drove up channel. Going to the pilot-house,
Lister lighted his pipe.
"A fierce night!" he remarked to Brown, who peered through the
spray-swept glass. "I reckon you'll want to slow down when we make
The house was dark, but Lister saw the captain turn. "I'm bothered,"
Brown admitted. "We ought to push on, but while we might tow the hulk
under, we can't tow her down channel. We can't turn and run; it's
blowing down the Menai Strait like a bellows spout, and there's all the
Mersey sands to leeward. We have got to face the sea and try to make
Holyhead. Will your engines shove her through?"
"They'll give you six or seven knots, head to wind. Will your tow rope
"I doubt. We have a steel hawser ready, but if she breaks the hemp rope
she'll probably break the wire."
Lister agreed. The thick hemp rope stretched and absorbed the strain;
the wire was less elastic. They were approaching Carmel Point, and
Holyhead was not far, but they must front the gale when they got round
the corner. In the meantime, the engines were running smoothly, and
Lister smoked and waited while the sea got worse. Flashing lights ahead
and the violent lurching indicated that they crept round the point. Then
_Terrier_ plunged into a white sea and deck and bulwarks vanished. Her
bows swung out of the foam and Lister ran to the door. He felt the tug
leap forward and knew the rope had gone.
He got out in front of Brown and plunged down the ladder. Since
_Terrier_ must be stopped and turned, he was needed. Water ran from his
clothes when he reached a slanted platform and seized a greasy wheel.
The telegraph gong was clanging and the beat of engines slackened as he
followed the orders. Then the spinning cranks stopped altogether and for
a minute or two there was a strange quietness. One heard the wind, and
water splashed in the bilges.
Lister got the signal _Ahead slow_, and when he restarted his engines
ran up the ladder. He could trust the man he left, and wanted to see
what was happening. It was a moment or two before he could satisfy his
curiosity, and then a bright beam illuminated the tug and angry water.
Brown was burning a blue-light while _Terrier_ crept up to the hulk. He
meant to pass the fresh hawser, but could not launch a boat, and Lister
doubted if the men on the hulk could heave the heavy wire rope on board.
Although one must get near to throw a line, it looked as if Brown were
Two dark figures, crouched on _Terrier's_ rail like animals ready to
spring, cut against the blaze. Brown was going alongside; anyhow, he was
going near enough for the men to jump, but the thing was horribly risky.
If the rolling hulk struck the tug planks and iron plates would be
beaten in; moreover the men must jump from the slanted rail, and if they
jumped short, their long boots and oilskins would drag them down.
It looked as if Cartwright knew how to choose men for an awkward job,
for as the tug got nearer Lister saw the men meant to go. She swung up
on the top of a white sea; the hulk, swept by spray, rolled down, with
her deck close below the steamer's rail. One felt they must shock, but
they did not. The dark figures leaped, there was a faint shout, a line
whirled out from _Terrier's_ bridge and the hulk drove astern. Then the
blue light vanished and Lister plunged into the engine-room. Somehow the
thing was done.
The gong signaled _Half-speed_, the rhythmic clash of engines began, and
Lister felt _Terrier_ tremble as she tightened the rope. Brown had
played his part and Lister's had begun. He wondered whether they could
keep the water out of the engine-room. They had drifted off-shore, and
now they had opened up the channel the combers leaped on board. The seas
were not regular; they ran in short, steep ridges, and gave the tug no
time to lift. While she swung her bows from the foaming turmoil the next
swept her deck. But to watch the seas and keep the hulk in line was the
captain's business, and Lister was occupied by his.
Standing on a slanted platform with his hand on the throttle, he waited
for the lurch that lifted the spinning screw. When the blades left the
water, the engines raced with a horrible din and he must cut off steam.
If he let the engines go, something might break when the propeller got
hold again. The work demanded a firm but delicate touch, since the
pressure must change with the swiftly-changing load. One could not argue
when the bows would plunge and the stern swing clear; one must know
instinctively. The muscular effort was not hard, but Lister's face was
wet with sweat, and when he was slow and the engine-room rang with the
clash of machinery his heart beat. The big columns that held the
cylinders rocked; crank and connecting-rod spun too fast for him to see.
There was a confusing flash of steel and a daunting uproar.
For the most part, he was able to get control before the stern came
down. Moreover, he was not using full steam; to let her go would swamp
the boat and wash the men off the laboring hulk. Lister knew the rope
held because he felt the heavy drag. Although she rolled and plunged,
there was no life in _Terrier's_ movements. She was sluggish,
embarrassed by the load she hauled.
Lister thought about the men on board the hulk. Two, buffeted by wind
and spray, must hold the wheel on the short quarter-deck that lifted
them above the shelter of the bulwarks. Forward of this, the water
rolled about, washing on board and pouring out. The men could not for a
moment slack their watchfulness. Sweating and straining at the spokes,
they must hold her straight. To let her sheer when she crossed a
comber's top would break the rope.
The strain on the laboring engines indicated that the men held out and
Lister fixed his thoughts on his machinery. One could not see much, but
while he turned the valve-wheel he listened. If a bearing got hot or a
brass shook loose, he would hear the jar. An engine running as it ought
to run was like a well-tuned instrument.
He heard no discord. The heavy thud of the cross-heads, flashing between
their guides, beat time to the clang of the valve-gear, a pump throbbed
like a kettledrum, and something tinkled like a high-pitched triangle.
All went well, the engines were good and _Terrier_ stubbornly forged
By and by the strain was less marked. The load was getting lighter and
after a time Lister let go the wheel and wiped his wet face. He could
stand on the platform without support, the plunges were easy and
regular. Calling a man to relieve him, he went to the door.
The sea was white, but it no longer ran in crested ridges and a vague
dark line crossed the foam ahead. Sometimes part of the line vanished
and reappeared like a row of dots with broad gaps between. Lister knew
it was breakwater. On the other side anchor-lights tossed, and in the
background a dull, reflected illumination indicated a town. Then the
gong rang and Lister went back to the platform. In a few minutes he
would get the signal to stop his engines. The first struggle was over;
Brown had made Holyhead.
The night was calm, but now and then a faint, hot wind blew from the
shadowy coast, and rippling the water, brought a strange, sour smell.
Lister did not know the smell; Brown knew and frowned, for he had been
broken by the malaria that haunts West African river mouths. Heavy dew
dripped from the awnings on _Terrier's_ bridge and in places trickled
through the material, since canvas burns in the African sun. Brown
searched the dark coast with his glasses, trying to find the marks he
had noted on the chart. Lister leaned against the rails and mused about
They had ridden out a winter's gale in the Bay of Biscay and for a night
had lost the hulk and the men on board. Then they went into Vigo, where
Lister's firemen wrecked a wine shop and it cost him much in bribes to
save them from jail. He had another taste of their quality at Las
Palmas, where they made trouble with the port guards and Brown brawled
in the cheap wine shops behind the cathedral. In fact, it was some
relief when the captain fell off the steam tram that runs between town
and port, and a cut on his head stopped his adventures.
Then they steamed for fourteen-hundred miles before the Northeast
Trades, with a misty blue sky overhead and long, white-topped seas
rolling up astern. The Trade breeze was cool and bracing, but they lost
it near the coast, and now the air was hot and strangely heavy. One felt
languid and cheerfulness cost an effort. The men had begun to grumble
and Lister was glad the voyage was nearly over and it was time to get to
Lightning flickered on the sea, touching the back of the smooth swell,
and then for a few moments left all very dark. The moon was new, the sky
was cloudy, and the swell ran high, for it rolled, unbroken and
gathering momentum, from the Antarctic ice. When the lightning was
bright, one saw a low cloud that looked like steam, with a white streak
beneath that marked the impact of the big rollers on the sandy coast.
The crash of breakers came out of the dark, like the rattle of a goods
train crossing an iron bridge.
"Four fathoms at spring tides, and a shifting channel!" Brown remarked,
quoting from a pilot-book. "The depth, however, varies with the wind,
and a stranger must use caution when entering the lagoon." He stopped,
and laughed as he resumed: "If this was a sober undertaking I'd steam
off and wait for daylight."
"I reckon it would be prudent," said Lister dryly.
"We have nothing to do with prudence," Brown rejoined. "Our job's to
work in a sun that knocks a white man down, and stew in the hot malaria
damp the land breeze brings off at night. Cartwright's orders are to
lose no time and I want to finish before the fever finishes me. Very
well! When the moon is new, high-water's at twelve o'clock, and along
this coast sunset's about six hours later. If we wait for
noon-to-morrow, it will be four or five o'clock before we get on board
the wreck--I understand the tide doesn't leave her until about four
hours' ebb. If we push across the bar to-night, we'll see her at
daybreak and can make our plans for getting to work."
Lister agreed. Expenses were heavy and it was important they should not
lose a day. Moreover, Cartwright had hinted that he expected them to run
risks, and Lister had promised Barbara to help him out. If Brown touched
bottom steaming in, tug and barge would soon break up; but Lister was
not going to be daunted.
"I'll go down and raise some extra steam," he said. "You'll need full
pressure to shove her through the surf."
He was occupied for some time, but when a plume of steam blew from the
escape-pipe he came up to the door and looked about. _Terrier's_ languid
roll was getting sharper; mast and funnel swung into a wide sweep.
Sometimes the dark hull lurched up high above the tug's stern, and
sometimes sank in a hollow. The rollers had angry white tops, and a belt
of filmy vapor that looked luminous closed the view ahead. Lister knew
the vapor was phosphorescent spray, flung up by the turmoil on the bar,
through which they must go. If the tug struck and stopped, the white
seas would beat her down into the sand. In the meantime, she was using
full steam, because, since tide and surf carried her on, one must have
speed to steer.
The spray cloud got thick, and wavered with luminous tremblings when the
long rollers broke. They came up, spangled with green and gold flashes,
from astern, shook their fiery crests about the tug, and vanished ahead,
but one heard them crash. Lister thought the tug throbbed to the savage
concussion. He could not hear his engines; one heard nothing but the
By and by he felt a shock; not a violent shock, but as if the boat had
touched, and was pushing through, something soft. She slowed and Lister
saw the black hulk swing up and ride forward on a giant roller's top. It
looked as if she were coming on board the tug, and Lister jumped through
and slammed the iron door. Brown would need him now.
He heard the roar of water on deck, there was a crash of broken glass,
and a shower fell on his head. A cloud of steam and a loud hissing came
from the stokehold, and he knew the sea that swept the tug had covered
the gratings. If she stuck, the next sea would swamp her and drown the
fires, but she had not altogether stopped. The propeller was beating
hard and he opened the throttle wide. He felt her move and tremble, as
if she struggled in the grip of the sand, and then lift buoyantly. The
water that pressed her down had rolled off the deck and the oncoming
comber had picked her up and was carrying her along.
Her progress was obvious. One felt the headlong rush, and Lister thought
about a toboggan speeding down an icy slope. The roller would bear her
on until it broke, but if she struck the sand she might not lift again.
She did not strike; there was another wild leap forward, a savage
plunge, and a comber crashed astern. It looked as if she had crossed the
shoal and Lister let go the wheel and got his breath. He had used no
effort, but he gasped and his hand shook.
The gong signaled _half-speed_, and when he slowed his engines the roar
of escaping steam pierced the turmoil of the surf. This was significant,
because he could not have heard the steam a few minutes earlier.
_Terrier_ rolled, but the rolling was not violent and began to get easy.
The gong signaled _stand by, stop_; he shut the valve and presently
heard the anchor plunge and the rattle of running chain. Then _Terrier_
swung languidly and all was quiet but for the monotonous rumble in the
background. Lister gave some orders and went to his room.
In the morning, he put a greasy jacket over his pajamas and went on
deck. The land breeze had dropped and it was very calm. Vague trees
loomed in the fog that hid the beach; there was a belt of dull, heaving
water, and then the spray cloud closed the view. The air was heavy, the
men on deck moved slackly, and Lister's skin was wet by sweat. He felt
dull and shrank from effort, but when he saw Brown in a boat alongside
he jumped on board.
The light was getting brighter and the wreck lay about a hundred yards
off. The stump of her broken funnel, a bare iron mast, a smashed
deckhouse, and a strip of slanted side rose from the languid swell. The
rows of plates were red with rust and encrusted by shells. When the
smooth undulations sank, long weed swung about in the sandy water.
Lister thought the story of the wreck was, on the surface, plain.
Steaming out with a heavy load, _Arcturus_ had struck the bar. The surf
had beaten in her hatches, broken some plates, and afterwards washed her
back across the sand. Then, while the captain tried to reach the beach,
she had sunk in deeper water. The story was plausible, but, if
Cartwright had found the proper clew, it did not account for all.
They rowed round _Arcturus_. She lay with a sharp list and her other
side was under water. The tide was beginning to rise and when it crept
up her slanted deck they pulled back to the tug.
"We'll moor the hulk alongside and rig the diving pumps. I think that's
all to-day," Brown remarked. "When the sun is low I'll go to the factory
up the creek and try to hire some native boys. On this coast, a white
man who does heavy work soon gets fever."
In the afternoon they took two men and rowed up a muddy creek that
flowed into the lagoon, but the factory was farther than they thought
and when they landed dusk was falling. The white-washed wooden house
stood near the bank, with a stockaded compound between it and the water.
It was built on piles and at the top of the outside stairs a veranda ran
along the front. The compound was tunneled by land-crabs' holes, and
light mist crept about the giant cotton woods behind. There was no
movement of air, a sickly smell rose from the creek, and all was very
Lister and Brown went up the stairs and were received by a white man in
a big damp room. A lamp hung from a beam and the light touched the
patches of mildew on the discolored walls. There was not much furniture;
a few canvas chairs, a desk and a table. Flies crawled about the table
and hovered in a black swarm round the lamp. The room smelt of palm oil
and river mud. The white man was young, but his face was haggard and he
looked worn. His rather long hair was wet and his duck jacket was dirty.
It was obvious that he did not bother about his clothes.
"Good of you to look me up! I expect you know I'm Montgomery; the house
is Montgomery and Raeburn," he said. "However, to begin with, you had
better have a drink. I'll call my boy."
A negro came in and got a bottle and some glasses. He was a
strongly-built fellow with a blue stripe on his forehead, and muscular
arms and chest, but his legs, which stuck out from short cotton
trousers, were ridiculously thin. He beat up some frothy liquor in a jug
and when he filled the big glasses Lister felt disturbed, for he knew
Brown and had noted the quantity of gin the negro used. The captain,
however, was cautious and they began to talk. Lister asked Montgomery if
he carried on the factory alone.
"I'm doing so for a time. My clerk died two or three weeks since and I
haven't got another yet."
"Fever?" said Brown.
"Common malaria. Perhaps this spot is worse than others, because,
although we're beginning to kill mosquitos and poison the drains, we
can't keep English boys. The last two didn't hold out six months."
Lister got thoughtful. He knew the African coast was unhealthy, but had
not imagined it was as bad as this. He said nothing and Montgomery
resumed: "I have been forced to lie up and am shaky yet. Malaria gets us
all, but as a rule it gets strangers, particularly the young, soonest.
Looks as if the microbe liked fresh blood."
"If I was an African merchant, I'd let an agent run my factories," Brown
Montgomery smiled. "Sometimes it's necessary for me to come out. This
factory is perhaps our best, and when Nevis, our agent, died, I started
by the first boat. Montgomery's is an old house, but since the big men
combined and the Amalgamation built a factory on the next creek, we have
had some trouble to pull along. Our capital is small and we can't use
up-to-date methods. In fact, I imagine our situation is much like
Cartwright's. When he bought the wreck he no doubt felt some strain. But
won't you take another drink?"
Brown indicated his glass, which still held some liquor, and Lister
refused politely. He noted that Montgomery knew their object and was
surprised, since he thought Cartwright had not talked much about the
undertaking. Then, although Montgomery was obviously ill, one felt he
tried to paint the coast in the darkest colors.
"What do you think about our job?" Brown asked.
"I think it a rash experiment and imagine Cartwright agrees. All the
same, the old fellow's a bold gambler and is perhaps willing to
speculate on the chance of getting out of his embarrassments. However,
this is his business and you'll, no doubt, get your wages, although you
won't float the wreck."
"What do you reckon the obstacles?"
"Fever," said Montgomery dryly. "The salvage people lost some men. Surf
will wash the sand about her, if the wind comes fresh from the
south-east. Then the sharks may give you some trouble. They're nearly as
numerous as they are at Lagos Roads." He paused and added carelessly: "I
expect you know my father loaded _Arcturus_?"
"I heard something about it," Brown replied. "All the same, Cartwright
sent us to lift her and we have got to try. Will you let me hire some of
your factory boys?"
"Sorry, but they're Liberian Kroos, engaged on a twelve-months' contract
to work in my compound, and I'm accountable for them to the Liberian
"Then what about boys from the bush?"
Montgomery smiled. "I can't recommend the bushmen. They're a turbulent
lot, but you might send a present to the headman at the native town up
river, and it's possible he'll let you go to see him. For all that, some
caution's indicated. The fellow's a cunning old rascal."
Brown looked thoughtful, but began to talk about something else and by
and by got up. Montgomery went with him and Lister to the steps and when
they reached the compound they found the sailors bemused with gin under
the veranda. Brown had some trouble to get the men on board, and when
they awkwardly pulled away Lister was conscious of relief.
"I agree with the fellow. Caution _is_ indicated," Brown observed.
A FUEL PROBLEM
A few days after his visit to the factory, Lister sat one morning under
a tarpaulin they had stretched across the hulk. The paint on the canvas
smelt as if it burned, but the awning gave some shade and one could not
front the sun on the open deck. The sea breeze had not sprung up and
dazzling reflections played about the oily surface of the swell. In one
place, where the shadow of the wreck fell, the water was a cool, dull
A row of bubbles slowly crossed the belt of shade, stopped and made a
frothy patch, and then lengthened out. A flexible pipe slipped across
the edge of the open gangway, and Lister felt the line he held. The line
was slack and he knew the diver needed nothing. Two half-naked men,
their skins shining with sweat, turned the air-pumps handles, and the
rattle of the cranks cut the dull rumble of the surf. Brown, sitting on
a tool-box, studied a plan of the wreck Cartwright had given him, and
Lister thought it typical Cartwright had got the plan. The old fellow
was very keen.
By and by Brown looked up and indicated the panting men.
"We want colored boys for this job and must get a gang. I expect you
noted Montgomery declared his lot were Kroos. The Kroos are hefty boys
and pretty good sailors, but they come from Liberia and there are
regulations about their employment. You must engage them on a contract,
hold yourself accountable for their return and so forth. All the same my
notion is, Montgomery didn't mean to help."
"Then we had better try the native headman he talked about."
Brown smiled, "I've no use for bushmen, but didn't see much use in
telling Montgomery I'd been on the Coast before. For one thing, his boys
were not all Kroos. You know the Kroo by his blue forehead-stripe, but I
saw two or three with another mark. Thought them Gold Coast Fantis, and
a Fanti fisherman is useful on board ship. In a day or two I'm going
back to see."
Lister lighted his pipe and weighed the captain's remarks. On the whole,
he agreed that it did not look as if Montgomery meant to help. The
fellow was hospitable, but hospitality that implied his pressing liquor
on the captain and making the sailors drunk had drawbacks. Brown had
used control, but Lister doubted if his resolution would stand much
strain. Then, although Montgomery's story about the need for his being
on the spot was plausible, it was, perhaps, strange the head of a
merchant house would stop for some time at a factory where his clerks
died. However, now Lister thought about it, Montgomery did not state if
he had been there long.
"The fellow was generous with his liquor and his boy can mix a
cocktail," he remarked.
Brown grinned. "On the Coast, they're all generous with liquor.
Montgomery knows this; but I've a notion you are wondering whether he
knows me. I reckon not, but he knows the kind of skipper you generally
meet in the palm oil trade. Still the type's going out; now ship-owners
pay higher, they get better men. In fact, I'm something of a survival
from the old school."
He picked up the plan and Lister thought about Montgomery. The man was
ill and highly-strung, but this was not strange. The factory was rather
a daunting spot; reeking with foul smells and haunted by a sense of
gloom. Lister thought one might get morbid and imaginative if one
stopped there long. Yet he rather liked Montgomery; there was something
attractive about him. Perhaps if they had met in brighter surroundings,
when the other's health and mood were normal, they might have been
friends. Now, however, he doubted and saw Brown was not satisfied.
The line he held jerked and he signed to the men at the pump. One kept
the cranks turning; the other went to the top of a ladder lashed to the
hulk's side. The bubbles moved away from the wreck and broke the surface
in a fixed, sparkling patch. The diver was coming up and Lister
presently helped him on board. When they had taken off his copper helmet
and unfastened his canvas he leaned against the pump and breathed hard.
"Well?" said Brown, after waiting a minute or two for the man to get
back his normal breathing.
"She lies with a sharp list; sand's high up her starboard bilge.
Engine-room doors jambed, but I found the stokehold grating and got some
way down the ladder. Sand's washed down and buried the starboard
bunkers. To clear out the stuff will be a long job."
The diver nodded. "Like cement! I reckon the pump won't move it."
Lister understood the captain's frown. Sometimes the sand that enters a
sunken vessel solidifies, with the pressure of surf or tide, into a mass
that one can hardly dig out. This, however, was not all.
"Starboard bunkers buried?" Brown resumed. "They were pretty full. When
she left Forcados she had a list to port, and they trimmed her by using
the coal on that side first. Well, it's awkward! I reckoned on getting
"There is some coal on the port side," said Lister.
"If Cartwright's plan and notes are accurate, there's not enough to see
us out. The wrecking pump will burn a lot," Brown rejoined and turned to
the diver. "Did you see any sharks?"
"One big fellow; he hung about as if he was curious and I didn't like
him near my air-pipe, but he left me alone. The pulps you meet in warm
seas are worse than sharks. When I was down at the Spanish boat,
crawling through the holes in her broken hull was nervous work. Once I
saw an arm as thick as mine waving in the dark, and started for the
ladder. We blew in that piece of her bilge with dynamite before I went
on board again. However, when I've cleared up a bit, I'll take Mr.
The diver got into the boat and rowed to the tug, but the others stopped
in the shade of the awning. They had brought a spare diving dress, and
before they tried to lift the wreck Lister must find out if Cartwright's
supposition was correct, because if Cartwright had found the proper clew
the job would be easier. For all that, Lister frankly shrank from the
preparatory exercise. Diving in shark-haunted water had not much charm.
In the morning they hauled the tug alongside the wreck and at low-water
rigged a derrick and opened the fore hatch. The palm kernels had rotted
and a horrible pulpy mass, swollen by fermentation, rose nearly to the
ledge. It was glutinous and too thick for the pump to lift, since the
water that filled the vessel drained away through the broken plates as
the tide sank. Brown, kneeling on the hatch-coaming, knitted his brows.
"The stuff's water-borne, forced up by its buoyancy," he said. "We may
find it looser as we get down. In the meantime, suction's no use; we
have got to break it out by hand. Start your winch and we'll fill the
Lister signaled a man on board the tug, the winch rattled, and a big
iron bucket, hanging by a wire rope, dropped into the hold. A gang of
men climbed across the ledge and began to cut the slimy mass with
spades. The surface heaved beneath them like a treacherous bog and the
smell was horrible. Now and then a spade made an opening for the gases
to escape and the nauseated men were driven back. For all that, they
filled the skip and the swinging derrick carried the load across the
deck and tilted it overboard.
The heat was almost unbearable, the reflections from the oily swell and
wet deck hurt one's eyes, and Lister noted that the deck did not dry
until the sea breeze began to blow. The wind brought a faint coolness
and drove back the smell, but the men's efforts presently got slack. The
labor was exhausting and one must wear some clothes because the sun
burned one's skin. They held out until the rising water drove them from
the hatch and when they went back to the tug Brown looked thoughtful.
"The men can't keep it up; the thing's impossible! A week like this
would knock out the lot," he said. "We must use native boys and I'm
going to get some."
In the morning Lister took his first diving lesson, and when the big
copper helmet was screwed on and the air began to swell his canvas
clothes, he shrank from the experiment. The load of metal he carried was
crushing, he could hardly drag his weighted boots across the deck, and
at the top of the ladder he hesitated, watching the bubbles that marked
the spot where the diver had vanished. Then he remembered his promise to
Barbara and cautiously went down.
The dazzling sunshine vanished, a wave of misty green closed above the
helmet glass, hot compressed air blew about his head, and his ear-drums
began to throb. Then lead and copper lost their weight; he felt buoyant
and clung to the steps. At the bottom he was for a few moments afraid to
let go, but an indistinct, monstrous object came out of the strange
green gloom and beckoned him on. Lister went, making an effort for
balance, because he now felt ridiculously light. Then the reflections
were puzzling, for the light came and went with the rise and fall of the
swell. Yet he could see and he followed the diver until they stopped
opposite the wreck's port bilge. Her side went up like a dark wall,
covered by waving weed.
Lister's head ached and his breathing was labored, but not much pressure
was needed to keep out the shallow water and the diver had promised to
warn him when they had stayed long enough. He forced himself to examine
the plate the other indicated. _Arcturus_ was a butt-strapped vessel and
a number of the straps had burst. Plates were smashed and some of the
holes were large, but in places the iron was drilled and in others
patches had been bolted on. The salvage company had done part of this
work and he thought it possible to make the damage good. If they could
stop the remaining holes, the big pump ought to throw out the water; but
Cartwright had talked about another opening and this would be awkward to
Signing the diver to go on, he followed him round the vessel's stern.
The sand on the other side was high and one could climb on board, but
Lister shrank from the dark alleyway that led to the engine-room. For
all that, he went in and saw the diver had opened the jambed door. When
he reached the ledge a flash from the other's electric lamp pierced the
gloom and he tried to forget his throbbing head and looked about.
Sparkling bubbles from his and the diver's helmets floated straight up
to the skylights, along which they glided and vanished through a hole in
the glass. The water, moving gently with the pulse of the swell, broke
the beam of light and objects it touched were distorted and magnified.
The top of the big low-pressure cylinder looked gigantic, and the thick
columns appeared to bend. Long weed clung to the platforms, from which
iron ladders went down, but so far as Lister could distinguish, all
below was buried in sand.
He had seen enough. To clear the engines would be a heavy task, and one
must work in semi-darkness amidst a maze of ladders, gratings, and
machinery. To keep signal-line and air-pipe free from entanglement
looked impossible, but perhaps when they had broken the surface the pump
would lift the sand. Anyhow, he was getting dizzy and his breath was
He touched the diver and they went back along the alleyway and round the
vessel's stern. Lister was desperately anxious to reach the ladder and
it cost him an effort to use control. As he went up his dress got heavy
and he was conscious of his weighted boots. The pressure on his lungs
lessened, he was dazzled by a strong light, and feeling the edge of the
hulk's deck, he got his knee on her covering-board and lurched forward.
Somebody took off his helmet and lifted the weight from his chest. He
shut his eyes and for a few moments lay on the deck.
"Well?" said Brown presently. "You reached the engine-room?"
Lister nodded. "She's badly sanded up. It's plain we shan't get much
coal from the starboard bunkers until we can lift her to an even keel."
"That will be long," Brown rejoined and pondered. "We must have coal,"
he resumed. "If I can't find another plan, you must take the tug to
Sierra Leone and bring a load; but we'll let it go just now. The first
thing is to hire some negro laborers, and as soon as I can leave the
wreck I'll try again."
High-water was near and a trail of smoke, creeping up along the coast,
streaked the shining sea. Brown watched the smoke until two masts and a
funnel rose out of the vapor and began to get distinct. Then he put down
his glasses and lighted his pipe. The steamer was making for the lagoon.
He had not long since gone to the native town up the creek and returned
with a gang of laborers. So far, the negroes had worked well, but just
now he did not need them and they lay about in the shade, some wearing a
short waist-cloth and some a sheet of cotton that hung from their
shoulders. The tide had covered the wreck, but the big rotary pump was
running and, since the men had loosened the top of the cargo, it lifted
the slimy stuff.
A plume of steam that looked faint and diaphanous in the strong light
blew away from the noisy machine. A large flexible pipe rose from the
submerged hold and another ran from the pump across the hulk's deck.
From the end of the pipe a thick, brown flood poured into the water and
stained the green lagoon as the flood tide carried it along. The clash
and rattle of the engine carried far, for the load was heavy and Lister
was using full steam. The boiler was large and the furnace burned more
coal than he had thought. Sometimes palm kernels that had not altogether
rotted jambed the fans, and he held the valve-wheel, trying to ease the
shocks, while the perspiration dripped from his blistered skin. When
Brown indicated the steamer he looked up.
"She's coming in; I think I know the hooker," the captain remarked.
"Shallow-draught, coasting tank; goes anywhere she'll float for twenty
tons of freight. The skipper, no doubt, expects Montgomery's got a few
hogsheads of oil, and it's possible he'll sell us some coal. The
parcels-vanners are pretty keen to trade."
"We want coal," said Lister and turned abruptly.
The pump jarred and stopped, the swollen suction pipe shrank, and the
splash of the discharge died away. For some time Lister was occupied and
when he restarted the engine and looked about again the steamer was
steering for the hulk. She was a small vessel, going light, with much of
her rusty side above water. A big surf-boat hung, ready for lowering, at
her rail and a wooden awning covered her bridge-deck. When the throb of
her engines slackened two or three white men leaned over her bulwarks
and looked down at the hulk with languid curiosity. Their faces were
haggard and their poses slack. The stamp of the fever-coast was plain.
The telegraph rang, the engines stopped, and a man on the bridge
shouted: "Good morning! You have taken on an awkward job!"
His voice was hollow and strained, and by contrast Brown's sounded full
"We're getting ahead all the same. Where are you for?"
"_Sar_ Leone, after we call at Montgomery's."
"Then you can fill your bunkers, and our coal's getting short. Can you
sell us some?"
The other asked how much Brown wanted and how much he would pay. Then he
beckoned a man on the deck to come up, and turned to Brown again.
"We might give you two or three surf-boat loads, but I'll see you when
we come back. We must get up the creek and moor her before the tide
He seized the telegraph handle, the propeller began to turn, and when
the steamer forged ahead Brown looked thoughtful.
"Perhaps I'd better take a trip up the creek in the evening. We want the
coal and I don't altogether trust Montgomery," he said.
Lister agreed that it might be prudent for Brown to go, but he was
occupied by the pump and they said no more. To lift the cargo when the
water covered the wreck's hatches and loosened the pulpy mass was easier
and he must keep his engine running full speed. When they stopped he was
exhausted by the heat and the strain of watching and did not go with
The captain did not, as he had promised, come back in the morning, but
after a time a smoke-trail streaked the forest and the steamer moved out
on the lagoon. Lister sent a boy for the glasses, since he expected
Brown was on board, but so far as he could see, the captain was not. The
white wave at the bows indicated that the vessel was steaming fast and
it did not look as if she was going to stop. In order to reach the
channel across the bar, she must pass near the hulk, and Lister waved to
"What about the coal?" he shouted.
The other leaned out from the rails and Lister, studying him with the
glasses, saw a small patch, like sticking plaster, on his forehead. The
side of his face was discolored, as if it were bruised, and frowning
savagely, he shook his fist.
"You can go to _Sar_ Leone or the next hottest spot for your coal!" he
roared and began to storm.
Lister had sometimes disputed with Western railroad hands and marine
firemen, but he thought the captain's remarks equaled the others' best
efforts. In fact, it was some relief when a lump of coal, thrown by a
sailor on the hulk, crashed upon the wooden awning, and for a moment the
savage skipper paused. For all that, Lister stopped the sailor, who was
going to throw another block.
"Hold on! The stuff is valuable!" he said.
The captain began again, but the steamer had forged ahead, and his voice
got fainter and was presently drowned by the beat of the screw. Lister
went back to the pump. The machine was running unevenly and sometimes
the powerful engine jarred. He meant to take it down, but so long as the
pump sucked up the kernels he durst not stop. Speed was important; they
must finish the job and get away before the heat and malaria wore them
out. In the meantime, he was disturbed about Brown, who ought to have
returned, and at sunset he started for the factory in the tug's second
Dark came suddenly and when he landed a hot, clammy fog thickened the
gloom. Little fires the factory boys had lighted by ancient custom
twinkled in the haze and a yellow beam from the veranda windows touched
the towering cottonwoods, but all else was dark and the spot was somehow
forbidding. One felt the gloom was sinister. A few miles up the creek,
the naked bushmen served their savage gods with fantastic rites and the
Ju-Ju men and Ghost Leopards ruled the shadowy land. At the factory
white men got sick and died.
Lister went up the steps, and entering the big room, saw Montgomery in a
Madeira chair. His face was wet by sweat, but although his thin form was
covered by a blanket he shook with ague. Brown occupied a rude couch,
made from two long boxes in which flintlock guns are shipped. He lay in
an ungainly pose, his head had fallen from a cushion, and his face was
dark with blood. His eyes were shut and he breathed with a snoring
"What's the matter with the captain?" Lister asked, although he thought
"He's exhausted by his efforts and the worse for liquor," Montgomery
answered with a laugh. "On the whole, I think you had better let him
sleep. Perhaps you remarked that some of the glass is broken and two of
my chairs are smashed!"
Lister had not remarked this, but he looked about and began to
understand. He had seen Brown throw a Spanish landlord out of a Grand
Canary wine shop.
"Your captain arrived when the steamboat men were dining with me,"
Montgomery resumed. "In this country we're a hospitable lot and it's the
custom to send West African factories a supply of liquor every three
months. Mine arrived not long since, and if you open the cupboard you'll
see how much is left. But there are cigarettes in the tin box; they
mildew unless they're canned. Make yourself a cocktail. I don't want to
get up and my boy's in the compound, playing a drum to keep off the
Lister lighted a cigarette and listened. A monotonous, rhythmic throb
stole into the room, and he felt there was something about the noise
"I'll cut out the cocktail. You're rather generous with your liquor," he
remarked dryly. "But how did the trouble Brown made begin?"
"By a dispute about some coal."
"Ah!" said Lister, who looked at Montgomery hard.
He imagined the steamboat captain had meant to give them coal, since the
man had agreed with Brown about the price. In fact, it looked as if he
had been willing to do so, until he arrived at the factory. Then he
refused, and Brown, no doubt, got savage.
Montgomery was not embarrassed and indicated the unconscious skipper.
"If Cartwright's not losing his keenness, it's strange he sent out a man
like this, but perhaps he couldn't get a sober captain to go."
"Brown has some talents. For example, he got the boys we wanted,
although you refused to help."
"We must see if he can keep them!" Montgomery rejoined, with a meaning
smile. "In the meantime, it's not important. Are you making much
progress at the wreck?"
Lister admitted that they were not getting on as fast as he had hoped,
and when Montgomery gave him a keen glance tried to brace himself. He
felt slack and his head ached. He had been getting slack recently, and
now, when he imagined he must be alert, to think was a bother.
"You have not been long at the lagoon, but you're beginning to feel the
climate," the other remarked. "It's perhaps the unhealthiest spot on an
unhealthy coast, and a white man cannot work in the African sun.
However, you know why the salvage company threw up their contract. They
lost a number of their men and if you stay until the morning you can see
their graves. The rest of the gang had had enough and were too sick to
keep the pump running."
"You are not encouraging," Lister observed.
"I don't exaggerate. I know the country and the caution one must use,
but you see I'm ill."
The thing was obvious. Montgomery's hollow face was wet by sweat, his
eyes were dull, and his hands shook. Lister saw he tried to be cool, but
thought him highly strung.
"If you're wise, you'll give up your post and get away before fever
knocks you out," Montgomery resumed. "In fact, I think I can promise you
another berth. The house owns two or three factories and at one we are
going to start a big oil-launch running to a native market up river.
Then we have bought new machinery for breaking palm nuts and extracting
the kernels and have fixed a site for the building at a dry, sandy spot.
I don't claim the neighborhood's healthy, but it's healthier than this,
and we have inquired about an engineer. Would you like the post?"
"I think not. I'm Cartwright's man. I've taken his pay."
Montgomery smiled ironically. "Let's be frank! I expect you want to
force me to make a high bid. You don't know the African coast yet, but
you're not a fool and are beginning to understand the job you have
undertaken. You can't float the wreck; the fellow Cartwright sent to
help you is a drunken brute, and I have grounds for thinking Cartwright,
himself, will soon go broke. Well, we need an engineer and I'll admit we
have not found good men keen about applying. If you can run the launch
and palm-nut plant, we'll give you two hundred pounds bonus for breaking
your engagement, besides better wages than Cartwright pays."
Lister knitted his brows and lighted a fresh cigarette. He was not
tempted, but he wanted to think and his brain was dull. To begin with,
he wondered whether Montgomery did not think him something of a fool,
because it was plain the fellow had grounds for offering a bribe. His
doing so indicated that he did not want the wreck floated. Anyhow,
Montgomery had imagined he would not hesitate to break his engagement
for two hundred pounds. He must be cautious and control his anger.
"On the whole, it wouldn't pay me to turn down Cartwright's job," he
said. "Two hundred pounds is not a very big wad, and if we can take the
boat home I reckon the salvage people would give me a good post. I must
wait until I'm satisfied the thing's impossible."
"When you are satisfied I'll have no object for engaging you. We want an
engineer now," Montgomery replied.
"Well," said Lister, "I reckon that is so." He paused, and thinking he
saw where the other led, resolved to make an experiment. "All the same,
since you are willing to buy me off, it looks as if we had a fighting
chance to make good. Then, if I am forced to quit, I rather think you'd
pay me something not to talk. For example, if I put Cartwright wise--"
Montgomery gave him a scornful smile. "You're keener than I thought, but
you can't tell Cartwright much he doesn't believe he knows. I'll risk
your talking to somebody else."
"Oh, well," said Lister, "I guess we'll let it go. In the meantime, I'll
get off and take the captain along. I allow you have fixed him pretty
good but he put his mark on the steamboat man and your furniture."
He called the sailors, and finding the two who had brought Brown to the
factory, carried him downstairs and put him on board the boat. The
captain snored heavily and did not awake. When they pushed off, and with
the other boat in tow drifted down the creek, Lister pondered.
He did not know if he had well played his part, but he had not wanted
Montgomery to think his staunchness to his employer must be reckoned on;
he would sooner the fellow thought him something of a fool. When
Montgomery offered the bribe he probably knew he was rash; his doing so
indicated that he was willing to run some risk, and this implied that
Cartwright's supposition about the wreck was justified. Montgomery was
obviously resolved she should not be floated and might be a troublesome
antagonist. For example, he had stopped their getting coal and Lister
was persuaded he had made Brown drunk. If the control the captain had so
far used broke down, it would be awkward, since Montgomery would no
doubt supply him with liquor.
It was plain the fellow meant to bother them as much as possible, but
since he had not owned the wrecked steamer his object was hard to see.
In the meantime, Lister let it go and concentrated on steering the boat
past the mud banks in the creek.
MONTGOMERY USES HIS POWER
Some time after Lister went to the factory he woke one night from
disturbed sleep. His small room under _Terrier's_ bridge was very hot
and the door and port were open. A faint draught blew in and the
mosquito curtain moved about his bed. The tug rolled languidly and the
water splashed against her side. Farther off the gentle swell broke with
a dull murmur across the wreck.
This was all, but Lister was persuaded he had, when half awake, heard
something else. At dusk a drum had begun to beat across the lagoon and
the faint monotonous noise had jarred. It was typically African; the
negroes used drums for signaling, although white men had not found out
their code. Lister had come to hate all that belonged to the fever
The drum, however, was not beating now, and he rather thought he had
heard the splash of a canoe paddle. There was no obvious reason this
should bother him, but he was bothered and after a few minutes got up
and put on a thin jacket. On deck it was very hot and he felt the warmth
of the iron plates through his slippers. In West Africa one puts on
slippers as soon as one gets out of bed, for fear of the jigger insect
that bores into one's foot. A gentle land breeze blew across the lagoon
and the air was hot and damp like steam. Lister smelt river mud and
There was no moon, but he saw the dark hull rise and fall, and the flash
of phosphorescent foam where the swell washed across the deck. In the
distance, the surf rumbled and now and then there was a peal of thunder.
Lister wondered why he had left his berth. He was tired and needed
sleep, for he had been occupied all day at the pump, which was not
running well. Recently he had been conscious of a nervous strain and
things that were not important annoyed him; then he often woke at night,
feeling that some danger threatened.
Walking along the deck he found a white sailor sitting on the windlass
drum. The man did not move until Lister touched his arm.
"Did you hear something not very long since, Watson?"
"No, sir," said the other with a start. "Now and then a fish splashed
and she got her cable across the stem. Links rattled. That was all."
Lister thought the man had slept, but it was not important, since there
was no obvious necessity for keeping anchor watch.
"Did you hear something, sir?" the other inquired.
"I don't know. I imagine I did!"
The sailor laughed, as if he understood. "A queer country; I've been
here before! Beautiful, bits of it; shining surf, yellow sands, and
palms, but it plays some funny tricks with white men. About half of them
at the factories get addled brains if they stay long. Believe in things
the bushmen believe, ghosts and magic, and such. Perhaps it's the
climate, but on this coast you get fancies you get nowhere else. I'd
sooner take look-out on the fo'cas'le in a North Sea gale than keep
anchor watch in an African calm."
Lister nodded. He thought the man felt lonely and wanted to talk and he
sympathized. There was something insidious and daunting about the
African coast. He walked round the deck and then returning to his room
presently went to sleep.
At daybreak he heard angry voices and going out found Brown storming
about the deck. Two white sailors had come back in the boat from the
hulk, with the news that the negroes berthed on board her had vanished
in the night, except for three or four whom the sailors had brought to
the tug. When Brown got cooler he went up to the men who squatted
tranquilly on the hatch. They were big muscular fellows and wore,
instead of the usual piece of cotton, ragged duck clothes.
"Where's the rest of the gang?" Brown asked.
"No savvy, sah," said one. "Some fella put them t'ing Ju-Ju on him and
he lib for bush."
"What's a Ju-Ju?" Lister inquired.
"Hocus-pocus, magic of a sort," the captain growled. "When a white man
knows much about Ju-Ju his proper place is an asylum." He turned to the
boys. "How did them other fellows go?"
"No savvy, sah. We done hear not'ing."
"I expect they were afraid to meddle," Brown remarked, and resumed: "Why
did you lib for stop?"
"We Accra boy; white man's boy. Them bushman him d--n fool too much. Run
in bush like monkey, without him clo'es."
Brown knitted his brows and then made a sign of resignation. "I reckon
it's all we'll know! Well, the tide's falling and we must shift for some
kernels before the sun is hot. Better start your pump."
The pump was soon at work, and Lister, watching the engine, mused. He
wondered how much the Accra boys knew, or if it was possible the others
had stolen away without waking them. Watson, the look-out, had heard
nothing, and Lister remembered Brown's remarks about the Ju-Ju and
thought the boys did know something but were afraid to tell. Watson had
said the country was queer, and if he meant fantastic, Lister agreed.
There was something about it that re-acted strangely on one's
imagination. In the North American wilds, one was, so to speak, a
materialist and conquered savage Nature by using well-known rules. In
Africa one did not know the rules and felt the power of the
supernatural. It looked as if there was a mysterious, malignant force.
But the pump was running badly and Lister saw he must not philosophize.
When the sun got hot he stopped for breakfast and afterwards he and
Brown smoked for a few minutes under the awning.
"I'm bothered about the boys' going," the captain declared. "There's not
much doubt Montgomery got somebody to put Ju-Ju on them; bribed a
magician to frighten them by a trick. Since they're a superstitious lot,
I reckon we can't hire another gang in this neighborhood. However, now
he's stopped our coal, you'll have to go to _Sar_ Leone, and may pick up
some British Kroos about the port."
"Then I'd better go soon," said Lister. "The braces I bolted on the pump
won't hold long; she rocks and strains the shaft when she's running
hard. I must get a proper casting made at a foundry. Besides, the engine
crosshead's worn and jumps about. I must try to find a forge and
"They've got something of the kind at _Sar_ Leone; I don't know about a
foundry," Brown replied. "Take Learmont to navigate, and start when you
like. We'll shift the hulk to leeward of the wreck and she ought to ride
out a south-east breeze."
Lister sailed a few days afterwards, and reaching Sierra Leone found
nobody could make the articles he required. For all that, they must be
got, and he resolved to push on for Grand Canary. The distance was long,
he had not men enough for an ocean voyage, and would be lucky if he got
back to the lagoon in three or four weeks, but if he could not mend the
pump, the salvage work must stop. Lister knew when to run a risk was
After he passed the Gambier, wind and sea were ahead, his crew was
short, and he was hard pressed to keep the engine going and watch the
furnaces. He slept when he could, in snatches, with his clothes on, and
now and then used an exhausted fireman's shovel On the steamy African
coast the labor and watchfulness would have worn him out, but the cool
Trade breeze was bracing. Although he was thin, and got thinner, the
lassitude he had felt at the lagoon vanished, and the fatigue he fought
against was not the fatigue that kills.
In the meantime, _Terrier_ pushed stubbornly north across the long,
foam-tipped seas that broke in clouds of spray against her thrusting
bows. She was swept by the sparkling showers, but the showers were warm,
and the combers were not often steep enough to flood her deck. For all
that, their impact slowed her speed. She must be driven through their
tumbling crests, full steam was needed to overcome the shock, and the
worn-out men moved down coal from the stack on deck to feed the hungry
Lister's eyes ached from the glare of smoky lamps that threw puzzling
lights about the machinery. After long balancing on slanted platforms,
his back and legs were sore; his brows were knit in a steady frown, and
his mouth was always firm. When the strain was over, he sometimes
wondered what he thought about in the long, exhausting watches, but
remembered nothing except his obstinate concentration on his task. The
strange thing was, he did not think much about Barbara, although he was
vaguely conscious that, for her sake, he must hold out. He meant to hold
out. Perhaps his talents were not numerous, but he could handle engines,
and when it was necessary he could keep awake.
At length, Learmont called him one morning to the bridge, and he leaned
slackly against the rails. His eyes were dull, and for some hours he had
breathed the fumes of burning tallow. A slide had given him trouble; he
could keep the metal cool. On the bridge, however, the air was keen and
sweet, and he felt the contrast. _Terrier_ plunged and threw the spray
about, but the seas were short, as if something ahead broke the wind. By
and by Learmont indicated a lofty bank of mist.
"Teneriffe!" he said. "I was half-asleep when I took the sun, but my
reckoning was not very far out."
Lister looked up. In the distance a sharp white cone, rising from fleecy
vapor, cut the sky, and Lister, with dull satisfaction, knew the famous
peak. Nearer the tug was another bank of mist, that looked strangely
solid but ragged, as if it were wrapped about something with a broken
outline. Some minutes afterwards a high, dark object like a
mountain-top, loomed in the haze.
"Grand Canary!" Learmont remarked. "The range behind Las Palmas town. I
expect the smudge ahead is the Isleta hill."
"We've made it!" Lister said hoarsely, and braced himself. Now the
strain was gone, he felt very slack.
The sun rose out of the water, the mist began to melt, and rolling back,
uncovered a line of surf and a belt of rough hillside. Then volcanic
cliffs, a sandy isthmus, and a cluster of masts and funnels got
distinct, and Lister fixed the glasses on a white stripe across a cinder
hill. His hand shook, but he steadied the glasses and saw the stripe was
a row of huge letters.
"... _ary Engineering Co_ ..." he read.
His heart beat when he went below. Luck had given him a hard job, but he
had put it across. Soon after _Terrier_ arrived he went to the
engineering company's office and the manager looked at him curiously.
Then he gave Lister some wine and, after studying his drawings and
patterns, said he could make the things required. Lister drove to the
town, and going to a Spanish barber's, started when he saw his
reflection in a glass. He had not shaved for long, and fresh water was
scarce on board the tug. His face was haggard, the engine grime had got
into his skin, and his eyes were red. He was forced to wait, and while
the barber attended to other customers, he fell asleep in his chair.
When he left the shop he went to a hotel and slept for twelve hours.
LISTER MEETS AN OLD ANTAGONIST
The hotel Catalina, half-way between Las Palmas harbor and the town, was
not crowded, and a number of the quests had gone to a ball at the
neighboring Metropole. Barbara, going out some time after dinner, found
the veranda unoccupied and sat down. Mrs. Cartwright was getting better
and did not need her, and Barbara was satisfied to be alone. Her
thoughts were disturbing, and trying to banish them for a few minutes,
she looked about.
The veranda was long, and the lights from the hotel threw the shadow of
the wooden pillars across the dusty grass. Barbara's figure was outlined
in a dark silhouette. She did not wear a hat and, since the night was
warm, had put nothing over her thin dinner dress. She looked slender and
A strip of parched garden, where a few dusty palms grew, ran down to the
road, across which the square block of the Metropole cut the shining
sea. Steamers' lights swung gently against the dark background of the
Isleta hill. Beyond the Metropole a white belt of surf ran back to the
cluster of lights at the foot of the mountain that marked Las Palmas.
One heard the languid rollers break upon the beach and the measured
crash of surges on the reefs across the isthmus. Sometimes, when the
throb of the surf sank, music came from the Metropole. A distant rattle
indicated a steam-tram going to the port.
The long line across the harbor was the mole, and Barbara had thought
the small steamer, lying near its end, like _Terrier_. There was nothing
in the soft blue dark behind the mole until one came to the African
coast. Then Barbara firmly turned her glance. In a sense, she had sent
Lister to Africa, but she was not going to think about him yet. She must
not think about him until she had weighed something else.
A few hours since she had got a jar. Walking in the town she saw a man
whose figure and step she thought she knew. He was some distance off,
and she entered a shop and bought a Spanish fan she did not want.
Perhaps her disturbance was ridiculous, but the man was very like
Shillito, and their meeting at the busy port was not impossible. Las
Palmas was something like an important railway junction. Numerous
steamers called, and passengers from all quarters, particularly South
America and the West Indies, changed boats. Then Barbara understood that
a fugitive from justice was safer in South and Central America than
anywhere else. She wondered with keen anxiety whether the man had seen
She knew now she had not loved Shillito. He had cunningly worked upon
her ignorance, discontent, and longing for romance. Illumination had
come on board the train, but although she had found him out and escaped,
she had afterwards felt herself humiliated and set apart from happy
girls who had nothing to hide. The humiliation was not altogether
earned, and the people who knew about her adventure were not numerous,
but they were all the people for whom she cared. When she thought about
it, she hated Louis Shillito.
The steam-tram stopped at the Metropole and went on to the port,
trailing a cloud of dust. When the rattle it made began to die away,
Barbara roused herself with a start from her moody thoughts. A man was
coming up the path, and when he reached the steps she shrank back
against the wall. The light from the hotel touched his face and she saw
it was Shillito.
Anger conquered her shrinking, for Barbara had pluck and her temper was
hot. When Shillito, lifting his hat, advanced, she got up and stood by a
pillar. Her skin had gone very white, but her eyes sparkled and her
hands were clenched. Shillito bowed and smiled.
"It looks as if I was lucky!" he remarked, and Barbara imagined his not
finding Mrs. Cartwright about accounted for his satisfaction.
"I suppose you saw me in the _calle mayor_?" she said.
He nodded. "You went into a shop. Your object was pretty obvious. I
allow it hurt."
Barbara gave him a scornful glance. "The statement's ridiculous! Do you
imagine you can cheat me now, as you cheated me in Canada?"
"In one way, I did not cheat you. When I said I loved you, I was
"I doubt it! All was dishonest from the beginning. You taught me deceit
and made me ashamed for my shabbiness. For your sake I tricked people
who loved and trusted me; but to you I was rashly sincere. I trusted you
and was willing to give up much in order to marry you."
"You mean you thought you were willing, until you knew the cost?"
Shillito rejoined. "Then you saw you couldn't make good and resolved to
turn me down."
The blood came to Barbara's skin, but she fronted him steadily.
"I had _found you out_. Had you been something of the man I thought, I
might have gone with you and helped to baffle the police; but you were
not. You were very dull and played a stupid part. When you thought you
had won and I was in your power, I knew you for a brute."
Shillito colored, but forced a smile. "Perhaps I was dull; I was
desperate. You had kept me hanging round the summer camp when I knew the
police were on my track; and I had been put wise they might hold up the
train. A man hitting the trail for liberty doesn't use the manners of a
highbrow carpet-knight. I reckoned you were human and your blood was
"Ah," said Barbara, "I was very human! Although I was afraid, I felt all
the passion hate can rouse. You declared I must stay with you, because I
durst not go back; I had broken rules and my fastidious relations would
have no more to do with me. Something like that! In a sense, it wasn't
true; but you said it with brutal coarseness. When I struck you I meant
to hurt; I looked for something that would hurt--"
She stopped and struggled for calm. To indulge her anger was some
relief, but she felt the man was dangerous and she must be cool. There
was not much use in leaving him and going to her mother, because he
would, no doubt, follow and disturb Mrs. Cartwright. It was unlucky her
step-father had not arrived; he was coming out, but his boat was not
expected for a day or two.
"Oh, well," said Shillito, "let's talk about something else. I didn't
calculate to meet you at Las Palmas, but when I saw you in the _calle_,
I hoped you might, after all, be kind for old times' sake. However, it's
obvious you have no use for me, and if you are willing to make it
easier, I'll pull out and leave you alone."
Barbara gave him a keen glance. She had known he wanted something.
"How can I make it easier for you to go?"
"You don't see? Well, I've had some adventures since you left me on
board the train. I had money, but I'd waited too long to negotiate some
of the bonds and my partner robbed me. I made San Francisco and found
nothing doing there. Went down the coast to Chile and got fixed for a
time at a casino, in which I invested the most part of my wad. One night
a Chileno pulled his knife on another who cleaned him out, and when the
police got busy the casino shut down. I pushed across for Argentina, but
my luck wasn't good, and I made Las Palmas not long since on board an
Italian boat. On the whole, I like the dagos, and reckoned I might try
Cuba, or perhaps the Philippines--"
"A Lopez boat sails for Havana in two or three days," Barbara
"That is so," Shillito agreed, smiling because he noted her relief. "The
trouble is, I haven't much money. Five hundred pounds would help me
"You thought I would give you five hundred pounds?"
"Sure," said Shillito, coolly. "You're rich; anyhow, Mrs. Cartwright is
rich, and I reckoned you would see my staying about the town has
drawbacks. For one thing, the English tourists are a gossiping lot. It
ought to pay you and your mother to help me get off."
Barbara tried to think. The drawbacks Shillito indicated were plain, and
as long as he stayed at Las Palmas she would know no ease of mind, but
she had not five hundred pounds, and Mrs. Cartwright must not be
disturbed. Moreover, one could not trust the fellow. He might take the
money and then use his power again. He had power to humiliate her, but
unless she was willing to meet all his claims, she must resist some
"I imagine you put your importance too high," she said. "You can stay,
if you like. I certainly will not bribe you to go away."
He studied her for a few moments; Barbara looked resolute, but he
thought her resolution forced.
"Very well! Since I can't start for Cuba without money, I must find an
occupation at Las Palmas, and I have a plan. You see, I know some
Spanish and something about running a gambling joint. The people here
are sports, and one or two are willing to put up the money to start a
club that ought to attract the English tourists. If I found the thing
didn't pay before you went back, I could quit and get after you."
"I think not," said Barbara, desperately. "If you came to England, a
cablegram to the Canadian police--"
Shillito laughed. "You wouldn't send a cablegram! If I was caught I
could tell a romantic story about the girl who helped me get off. No;
I'm not going to bother about your putting the police on my trail!"
He turned his head and Barbara clenched her hand, for a rattle of wheels
in the road broke off, as if a _tartana_ had stopped at the gate. If the
passengers from the vehicle were coming to the hotel she must get rid of
Shillito before they arrived.
"You waste your arguments," she declared. "I will not give you money. If
you come back, I will tell the _mayordomo_ you are annoying me and he
must not let you in."
"The plan's not very clever," Shillito rejoined. "If I made trouble for
the hotel porters, the guests would wonder, and when people have nothing
to do but loaf, they like to talk. I expect you'd find their curiosity
awkward--" He paused and laughed when he resumed: "You're embarrassed
now because somebody will see us!"
Barbara was embarrassed. A man was coming up the path, and she knew her
figure and Shillito's cut against the light. When the stranger reached
the veranda he would see she was disturbed; but to move back into the
gloom, where Shillito would follow her, would be significant. She
thought he meant to excite the other's curiosity.
The man stopped for a moment at the bottom of the steps and Barbara
turned her head, since she imagined he would think she was quarreling
with her lover. Then he ran up the steps, and when he stopped in front
of Shillito her heart beat fast. It was Lister, and she knew he had
remarked her strained look, for his face was very stern.
"Hallo!" he said. "Are you bothering Miss Hyslop again?" He glanced at
Barbara. "I expect the fellow is bothering you?"
For a moment Barbara hesitated, but she had borne a heavy strain and her
control was going. Besides, one could trust Lister and he knew ... She
signed agreement and he touched Shillito.
"Get off the veranda!"
Shillito did not move. His pose was tense and he looked malevolent.
"You won't help Miss Hyslop by butting in like a clumsy fool. The
thing's too delicate for you to meddle--"
"Get off the veranda!" Lister shouted, and threw Shillito back.
He was highly strung, and worn by want of sleep and exhausting labor,
but he had some notion of all Barbara had borne on Shillito's account.
Although perhaps caution and tact were indicated, he was going to use
force. When Shillito struck him he seized the fellow, and rocking in a
savage grapple, they fell with a crash against the rails. Lister felt
the other's hand at his throat, and straining back, jerked his head away
while he tried to lift his antagonist off the ground. He pulled him from
the rails and they reeled across the veranda and struck the wall.
A neighboring window rattled with the shock, the heavy tramp of their
feet shook the boards, and Barbara knew the noise would soon bring a
group of curious servants to the door; besides, all the guests had not
gone to the Metropole. Yet she could not meddle. The men's passions were
unloosed; they fought like savage animals, driven by an instinctive fury
that would not vanish until one was beaten. She looked on, trembling and
helpless, while they wrestled, with swaying bodies and hands that felt
for a firmer hold. Her face was very white and she got her breath in
painful gasps. There was something horribly primitive about the
struggle, but it fascinated.
In the meantime, Lister was conscious that he had been rash. Shillito
was muscular and fresh, but he was tired. It was plain he could not keep
it up for long. Moreover, unless the fight soon ended, people would come
to see what the disturbance was about. This would be awkward for
Barbara; he wanted to tell her to go away, but could not. He was
breathless and Shillito was trying to choke him.
Afterwards he knew he was lucky. They had got near the steps and he
threw Shillito against the post at the top. The jar shook the other, his
grasp got slack, and Lister saw that for a moment the advantage was his.
Using a desperate effort he pushed his antagonist back and struck him a
smashing blow. Shillito vanished and a crash in the gloom indicated that
he had fallen on an aloe in a tub by the path. Lister leaned against the
rail and laughed, because he knew aloe spikes are sharp.
Then he heard steps and voices in the hotel, and turned to Barbara. His
face was cut, his hat was gone, and his white jacket was torn. He looked
strangely savage and disheveled, but Barbara went to him and her eyes
shone. Lister stopped her.
"Don't know if I've helped much, but you must get off!" he gasped.
"People are coming. Go in by another door!"
He turned and plunged down the stairs, and Barbara, seeing that Shillito
had vanished, ran along the veranda. A few moments afterwards she stood
by the window of her room and saw a group of curious servants and one or
two tourists in the path at the bottom of the steps. It looked as if
they were puzzled, and the _mayordomo_ gravely examined Lister's
Barbara went from the window and sat down. She was horribly overstrained
and wanted to cry, but she began to laugh, and for some minutes could
not stop. She must get relief from the tension and, after all, in a
sense, the thing was humorous.
In the morning Barbara went to the Catalina mole. The short lava pier
was not far off, and one got the breeze, although the hotel garden was
hot. Besides, she did not want to meet people and talk about the strange
disturbance on the veranda. On the whole, she thought nobody imagined
she could satisfy the general curiosity. Finding a block of lava in the
shade, she sat down and looked about.
A boat crossed the harbor mouth, swinging up on the smooth swell and
vanishing when the undulations rolled by. A tug towed a row of barges to
an anchored steamer, and the rattle of winches came down the wind. In
the background, clouds of dust blew about the coaling wharfs, and a
string of flags fluttered from the staff on the Isleta hill. Barbara
beckoned a port-guard and inquired what the signal meant.
The Spaniard said an African mail-boat from England was coming in, and
Barbara was conscious of some relief. Cartwright was on board and would
arrive sooner than she had thought; the boat had obviously not called at
Madeira, the time-bills stated. Cartwright would know how to deal with
Shillito if he bothered her again. In the meantime she mused about
Lister. She had thrilled when he ran up the steps at the hotel, but, in
a sense, his arrival just then was awkward.
She turned her head, for the sunshine on the water dazzled her eyes, and
the port was not attractive. The limekilns, coal-wharfs, and shabby lava
houses had for a background volcanic rocks, bare cinder slopes and
tossing dust. Besides, she wanted to think. She would see Lister soon;
she wanted to see him, but she shrank. For one thing, the line she ought
to take was hard.
By and by she heard a rattle of oars thrown on board a boat behind the
neighboring wall; somebody shouted, and Lister came up. His white
clothes were clean but crumpled, and Barbara smiled when she saw his hat
was new. Crossing the lava pavement, he stopped opposite her and she
noted a piece of sticking-plaster on his cheek.
"May I join you for a few minutes?" he asked.
"Of course," she said graciously.
Lister sat down. The sailors had gone off, and except for an officer of
the _Commandancia_, nobody was about.
"I was going to the hotel to look for you. For one thing, I reckoned I
ought to apologize. When I came into the veranda and saw Shillito--"
"I think you stopped for a moment at the bottom of the steps!" Barbara
He colored, but gave her a steady look. "That is so. I admit the thing's
ridiculous; but at first I felt I'd better pull out. Then I noted
something about your pose; you looked angry."
"Ah," said Barbara. "It was a relief to see I was angry? You were
"I was really satisfied before. It was impossible you should engage a
brute like that in friendly talk. Anyhow, I took the wrong line and
might have made things awkward. In fact, the situation needed a lighter
touch than mine. All the same, when I saw the fellow was bullying you--"
"You butted in?" Barbara suggested, smiling, although her heart beat.
"Like a bull moose," said Lister with a frown. "I ought to have kept
cool, used caution, and frozen him off by a few short arguments. You can
picture Cartwright's putting across the job! After all, however, I don't
know the arguments I could have used, and I remembered how the fellow
had injured you--"
He saw Barbara's color rise, and stopped for a moment. It looked as if
he had not used much caution now.
"Since I thought you in Africa, I don't understand how you arrived," she
"The thing's not very strange," said Lister. "I saw your name in a
visitors' list and meant to ask for you in the morning. Then I ran up
against Shillito, who didn't know me, and when he got on board the steam
tram, I hired a _tartana_. Thought he might mean trouble and I'd better
"Well," he resumed, "I'm sorry I handled the job clumsily, since I might
have hurt you worse; but I hated the fellow on my own account and saw
red. Perhaps it was lucky I was able to throw him down the steps,
because I expect neither of us meant to quit until the other was knocked
out." He paused and added, with a laugh: "Now I'm cool, I think the
chances were I got knocked out. Last time we met he threw me off the
car; I reckon my luck has turned!"
Barbara studied him and was moved by pity and some other emotions. He
was very thin and his face was pinched. He looked as if he were
exhausted by the work she had sent him to do. Barbara admitted that she
had sent him. Before Cartwright planned the salvage undertaking she had
declared he would find Lister the man for an awkward job.
"You ran some risk for my sake, and I must acknowledge a fresh debt,"
she said. "I would sooner be your debtor than another's, but sometimes
I'm embarrassed. You see, I owe you so much."
"You have paid all by letting me know you," Lister declared.
She was quiet for a few moments, and then asked: "Are you making much
progress at the wreck?"
"Our progress is slow, but we are getting there," Lister replied, and
seeing her interest, narrated his and Brown's struggles, and his long
voyage with a short crew on board the tug.
The story was moving and Barbara's eyes sparkled. Lister had borne much
and done all that flesh and blood could do. He was the man she had
thought, and she knew it was for her sake that he had labored.
"It's a splendid fight!" she said.
"We haven't won yet," he replied, and was quiet for a few moments. Then
his look got very resolute and he went on: "All the same, if the thing
is anyhow possible, I'm going to win. You see, I've got to win! When
Cartwright engaged me I was engineer on board a cattle boat; a man of no
importance, without friends or money, and with no particular chance of
making good. Now I've got my chance. If we put across the job a big
salvage company turned down, I'll make my mark. Somebody will give me a
good post; I'll have got my foot on the ladder that leads to the top."
"I wish you luck," said Barbara. "I expect you will get near the top."
"If you are willing, you can help."
"Ah," said Barbara, with forced quietness, "I think not--"
He stopped her. "I didn't expect to find you willing. My business is to
persuade you, and I mean to try. Well, I wasn't boasting, and my
drawbacks are plain, but if I make good in Africa, some will be cut out
and you can help me remove the others. I've long wanted you, and now my
luck's turning. I was going to Catalina to tell you so. If Brown and I
float _Arcturus_, will you marry me?"
Barbara's color came and went, but she said quietly: "When you came to
the hotel in the evening you met Shillito!"
"I did," said Lister, with incautious passion. "If I had killed the
brute I'd have been justified! However, I threw him on to the aloe tub
and ran off. The thing was grotesquely humorous. A boy's fool trick!"
"You ran off for my sake," said Barbara. "I liked you for it. I like you
for many things, but I will not marry you."
He saw she was resolute. Her mouth was firm and her hand was tightly
closed. He thought he knew the grounds for her refusal, and his heart
sank. Barbara was stubborn and very proud. Moreover, the situation was
awkward, but the awkwardness must be fronted.
"Let's be frank; perhaps you owe me this," he urged. "Since you allow
you do like me, what's to stop our marrying?"
"For one thing, my adventure in Canada," she replied and turned her
Lister put his hand on her arm and forced her to look up. "Now you're
clean ridiculous! Shillito cheated you; he's a plausible wastrel, but
you found him out. It doesn't count at all! Besides, nobody but your
"You know," said Barbara, and, getting up started along the mole.
Lister tried to brace himself, for he saw she could not be moved. Yet
there was something to be said.
"You are the girl I mean to marry," he declared. "Some day, perhaps,
you'll see you're indulging a blamed extravagant illusion and I'm going
to wait. When you're logical I'll try again."
Barbara forced a smile. "Sometimes I am logical; I feel I'm logical now.
But I have left my mother alone rather long and you must let me go."
Lister went with her to the road and got on a tram going to the town. He
was hurt and angry, but not altogether daunted. Barbara's ridiculous
pride might break and she was worth waiting for. When he returned on
board, a small African liner had anchored not far off, and while he
watched the boats that swarmed about the ship, one left the others and
came towards the tug. The Spanish crew were pulling hard and a passenger
occupied the stern. Learmont, lounging near, turned his glasses on the
"I'm not sorry you are boss," he said. "The Old Man is coming!"
A few minutes afterwards Cartwright got over the tug's rail. His face
was red, and he looked very stern.
"Why have you left the wreck?" he asked Lister.
"I came for some castings I couldn't get at Sierra Leone. The pump and
engine needed mending."
"Then where's Brown?"
"He's busy at the lagoon, sir. There's enough to keep him occupied,
unless the pump plays out before I get back."
Cartwright looked relieved, but asked meaningly: "Did you know Mrs.
Cartwright and Miss Hyslop were at Las Palmas?"
"I did not know until yesterday evening, twenty-four hours after I
arrived; but we'll talk about this again. I expect you want to know how
we are getting on at the wreck?"
Cartwright nodded. "I think my curiosity is natural! Let's get out of
the sun, and if you have liquor on board, order me a drink. When the
mail-boat steamed round the mole and I saw _Terrier_, I got a nasty
Lister took him to the captain's room and gave him some sour red Canary
wine. Cartwright drained his glass and looked up with an ironical smile.
"If you use stuff like this. Brown ought not to be tempted much!
However, you can tell me what you have done at the lagoon, and the
difficulties you have met. You needn't bother to smooth down Brown's
extravagances, I knew the captain before I knew you."
Lister told his story, and when he stopped Cartwright filled his glass,
raised it to his lips and put it back with a frown.
"Send somebody along the mole to Garcia's shop for two or three bottles
of his Amontillado and white Muscatel. Charge the stuff to ship's
victualing. When you got Brown out of the factory, did you think it
possible he had a private stock of liquor?"
"I'm satisfied he had not. Montgomery gave him the liquor, and I imagine
meant to give him too, much."
"It looks like that," Cartwright agreed. "If we take something I suspect
for granted, Montgomery's opposition would be logical. I imagine you
know part of the cargo was worth much? Expensive stuff in small bulk,
"I have studied the cargo-lists and plans of the holds, sir."
Cartwright nodded. "We'll find out presently if my notion how the boat
was lost is accurate," The cargo's another thing. There may have been
conspiracy between merchant and ship-owner; I don't know yet, but if it
was conspiracy, this would account for much. Some of the gum shipped was
very costly, and African alluvial gold, washed by the negroes, has been
found mixed with brass filings."
"Montgomery frankly stated his father loaded the vessel."
"His frankness may have been calculated," Cartwright rejoined and
knitted his brows. "Yet I'll admit the young fellow's name is good at
Liverpool, and all he sells is up to sample. His father was another
sort, but he died, and the house is now well run. However, in the
meantime we'll let it go."
He looked up, for a fireman, carrying a basket, came in. Cartwright took
the basket and opened a bottle of white wine.
"Take some of this," he said. "I understand you have seen Mrs.
"Not yet, sir," said Lister, quietly. "I met Miss Hyslop soon before
your boat arrived. Perhaps I ought to tell you I asked her if she would
marry me if we floated the wreck."
"Ah!" said Cartwright. "But why did you add the stipulation?"
"It ought to be obvious. If we put the undertaking over, I expect to get
a post that will enable me to support a wife, although she might be
forced to go without things I'd like to give her."
"I see!" said Cartwright, with some dryness. "Well, I don't know if
Barbara is extravagant, but she has not used much economy. Was she
willing to take the plunge?"
"She was not, sir."
"Then I suppose she stated her grounds for refusing?"
"That is so," said Lister. "Perhaps Miss Hyslop will tell you what they
are. I will not."
Cartwright looked at him hard. "All the same, I imagine you did not
"I did not agree. If I make good at the wreck, I will try again."
"Barbara is pretty obstinate," Cartwright remarked with a smile, and
then filled Lister's glass. "I must go; but come to the hotel in the
morning. We must talk about the salvage plans."
He went off, but when the boat crossed the harbor he looked back at the
tug with twinkling eyes. Lister was honest and had not asked Barbara to
marry him until he saw some chance of his supporting a wife. Since
Barbara was rich, the thing was amusing. All the same, it was possible
the young fellow must wait. Barbara exaggerated and indulged her
imagination, but she was firm.
CARTWRIGHT GETS TO WORK
The morning was hot and Barbara, sitting on the hotel veranda, struggled
against a flat reaction. The glitter of the sea hurt her eyes, and the
dust that blew in clouds from the road smeared her white dress. Her
mouth dropped and her pose was languid. To refuse Lister had cost her
much, and although she had done so because she felt she ought, the sense
of having carried out a duty was not remarkably soothing. It was a
relief to know she need not pretend to Cartwright, who occupied a
basket-chair opposite. One could not cheat her step-father by false
"When you disappointed Lister you took the prudent line," he said. "The
young fellow has some talent, but he has not yet made his mark. I
approve your caution, and expect your mother will agree."
"I wasn't cautious; I didn't argue at all like that," Barbara declared.
"Besides, I haven't told mother. She mustn't be disturbed."
Cartwright looked thoughtful. To some extent he was sympathetic, and to
some extent amused.
"Then I don't altogether understand why you did refuse!"
"Oh, well," said Barbara, and the blood came to her skin, "for one
thing, Mr. Lister waited for some time, and then asked me to marry him,
after Shillito arrived." She paused and her look got hard when she
resumed: "Perhaps he thought he ought; sometimes he's chivalrous."
Cartwright imagined Barbara was badly hurt, and this accounted for her
"Your reasoning isn't very obvious, but I think I see a light," he said.
"It's possible, however, he asked you because he wanted you, and there
is an explanation for his waiting. I understand he hesitated because he
doubted if he could support a wife. It looks as if Mr. Lister didn't
know you were rich."
"He doesn't know; I think I didn't want him to know," Barbara admitted
with some embarrassment.
"Shillito knew, but one learns caution," Cartwright remarked. "Well,
Shillito became somewhat of a nuisance, and I don't imagine you want him
to look us up again. I rather think I must get to work."
"I hate him!" said Barbara, passionately. "Until your boat was signaled
I was horribly alarmed, but then the trouble went. I felt I needn't
bother after you arrived." Her voice softened as she added: "You are a
clever old dear! One feels safe while you're about!"
"Thank you," said Cartwright. "I am old, but I have some useful talents.
Well, is there something else about which you want to talk?"
Barbara hesitated. There was something for which she meant to ask,
although her object was not very plain. Perhaps Shillito's demand for
money had made her feel its power; moreover, she was independent and
liked to control her affairs.
"My birthday was not long since, and I'm entitled to use some of the
money that is mine."
"That is so," Cartwright agreed with a twinkle. "All the same, you're
not entitled to use much until you marry, and you have just sent off one
lover. Would you like me to send you out a sum?"
"I think I'd like a check book, and then I needn't bother people."
Cartwright nodded. Barbara was not extravagant. "Very well. I expect we
can trust you, and the money is yours. I can probably arrange for a
business house to meet your drafts. I'll see about it when I'm in the
He started for Las Palmas presently, and after some inquiries stopped at
a Spanish hotel, where he found Shillito. The latter frowned when he saw
Cartwright, but went with him to the courtyard and they sat down in the
"Have you bought your ticket for Havana?" Cartwright asked.
"I have not," said Shillito. "So far I haven't decided to leave Las
"Then I imagine you had better decide _now_. If money is a difficulty, I
might lend you enough for a second-class passage, but that is all."
Shillito smiled. "If you want to get rid of me, you'll have to go
higher. I reckon it's worth while!"
"I think not," said Cartwright, dryly. "In fact, since I can get rid of
you for nothing, I doubt if it's worth the price of a cheap berth on
board the Lopez boat. However, I'll risk this, in order to save
"Bluff! You can cut it out and get to business!"
"Very well. Your call at the Catalina didn't help you much, and if you
come again you will not be received by Miss Hyslop, but by me. I have
met and beaten fellows like you before. My offer's a second-class berth.
You had better take it!"
"Not at all," said Shillito. "Before long you'll want to raise your
Cartwright got up and crossed the flags; the other frowned and
hesitated, but let him go. When he reached the street Cartwright called
his _tartana_ and told the driver to take him to the British
Vice-Consul's. The Vice-Consul was a merchant who sometimes supplied the
Cartwright boats with stores, and he gave his visitor a cigar.
Cartwright told him as much about Shillito as he thought useful, and the
Vice-Consul weighed his remarks.
"The extradition of a criminal is a long and troublesome business," he
observed. "In the meantime the fellow must not be allowed to annoy you,
and I imagine my duty is to inform the Spanish _justicia_. Don Ramon is
tactful, and I think will handle the situation discreetly. Suppose we go
to see him?"
He took Cartwright to an old Spanish house, with the royal arms above
the door, and a very dignified gentleman received them politely. He
allowed the Vice-Consul to tell Cartwright's story in Castilian, and
"Senor Graham has our thanks for the warning he has brought," he said.
"In this island we are sportsmen. We have our cockpits and casinos, but
our aim is to develop our commerce and not make the town a Monte Carlo.
Then the play at the casinos must be honest. Our way with cardsharpers
The Vice-Consul's eyes twinkled. He knew Don Ramon, who resumed: "Senor
Cartwright's duty is to inform the British police. No doubt he will do
so, but until they apply to our _justicia_ in the proper form, I cannot
put in prison a British subject for a robbery he did not commit on
Spanish soil. Perhaps, however, this is not necessary?"
"On the whole, I don't think it is necessary," Cartwright remarked. "The
fellow is a dangerous scoundrel, but I don't know that it is my duty to
give you the bother extradition formalities would imply. Still you may
find him a nuisance if he stays long."
Don Ramon smiled. "I imagine he will not stay long! My post gives me
power to deal with troublesome foreigners. Well, I thank you, and can
promise you will not be disturbed again."
He let them go, and when they went out the Vice-Consul laughed.
"You can trust Don Ramon. For one thing, he knows I have some claim; in
this country a merchant finds it pays to acknowledge fair treatment by
the men who rule. For all that, Don Ramon is just and uses prudently a
power we do not give British officials. The Spanish know the advantages
of firm control, and I admit their plan works well."
Shillito did not return to the Catalina. When he was playing cards for
high stakes one evening, two _guardias civiles_ entered the gambling
house and one touched Shillito's arm.
"You will come with us, senor," he said politely.
Shillito pushed back his chair and looked about. The man carried a
pistol, and the civil guards have power to shoot. His comrade watched
"What is your authority for bothering me?" he asked.
"It is possible Don Ramon will tell you. He is waiting," said the other.
He took Shillito to the house with the coat of arms, and Don Ramon,
sending off the guards, indicated a chair.
"We have heard something about you, and do not think you ought to remain
at Las Palmas," he remarked. "In fact, since we understand you meant to
go to Cuba, we expect you to start by the Lopez boat."
"I don't mean to go to Cuba," Shillito rejoined.
Don Ramon shrugged. "Well, we do not mind if you sail for another
country. Numerous steamers touch here and the choice is yours. So long
as you leave Las Palmas--"
Shillito looked at him hard. "I am a British subject and stay where I
"You are obstinate, senor, but I think your statement's rash," Don Ramon
observed. "A British subject is governed by British laws, but we will
not talk about this."
He paused and studied Shillito, who began to look disturbed. "One would
sooner be polite and take the easy line," Don Ramon resumed. "So far
this is possible, because you are not on the list sent our Government by
the British police, but we have power to examine foreigners about whom
we are not satisfied. Well, I doubt if you could satisfy us that you
ought to remain, and when we begin to investigate, a demand for your
extradition might arrive. If you forced us to inquire about you, a
cablegram would soon reach London."
Shillito saw he was beaten and got up.
"I'll buy my ticket for Havana in the morning," he replied.
The Lopez liner was some days late, and in the meantime Lister haunted
the office of the engineering company. At length the articles he needed
were ready, and one afternoon Cartwright hired a boat to take him and
Barbara across the harbor. _Terrier_ lay with full steam up at the end
of the long mole, and when her winch began to rattle, Cartwright told
the Spanish _peons_ to stop rowing. The tug's mooring ropes splashed,
her propeller throbbed, and she swung away from the wall.
She was rusty and dingy; the screens along her bridge were cracked and
burned by the sun. The boat at her rail was blackened by soot, and when
she rolled the weed streamed down from her water-line. She looked very
small and overloaded by the stack of coal on deck. The wash round her
stern got whiter, ripples ran back from her bows, and when she steamed
near Cartwright's boat, her whistle shrieked. Cartwright stood up and
waved; Learmont, on the bridge, touched his cap, but for a few moments
Barbara fixed her eyes on _Terrier's_ deckhouse. Then she blushed and
her heart beat, for she saw Lister at the door of the engine-room. He
saw her and smiled.
The tug's whistle was drowned by a deeper blast. A big liner, painted
black from water-line to funnel-top, was coming out, and Cartwright's
boat lay between her and the tug. Barbara gave the great ship a careless
glance and then started, for she read the name at the bow. This was the
Studying the groups of passengers at the rails, she thought she saw a
face she knew. The face got distinct, and when the liner's lofty side
towered above the boat, Shillito, looking down, lifted his cap and bowed
with ironical politeness. Barbara turned her head and tried for calm
while she watched the tug.
Lister had not gone. Barbara knew he would not go so long as he could
see the boat, and standing up, with her hand on Cartwright's shoulder,
she waved her handkerchief. Lister's hand went to his cap, but he was
getting indistinct and _Terrier_ had begun to plunge on the long swell
outside the wall. She steered for open sea, the big black liner followed
the coast, and presently Cartwright signed the men to pull. Then he
looked at Barbara and smiled, for he knew she had seen Shillito.
"Things do sometimes happen like that!" he said. "I think the fellow has
gone for good, but the other will come back."
LISTER MAKES GOOD
_Arcturus'_ holds were empty and a long row of oil puncheons occupied
the beach, but the men who had dragged the goods from the water were
exhausted by heavy toil in the scorching sun, and some were sick. The
divers had bolted on plates to cover the holes in the vessel's bilge
before one fell ill and his mate's nerve went. The heat and poisonous
vapors from the swamps had broken his health, and he got a bad jar one
day his air-pipe entangled and the pump-gang dragged him, unconscious,
to the top.
Afterwards, for the most part, Lister undertook the diving, but for long
his efforts to reach the floor of the engine-room were baffled. To crawl
across slanted gratings and down weedy ladders, while air-pipe and
signal-line trailed about the machinery, was horribly dangerous, but he
kept it up, although he got slacker and felt his pluck was breaking.
Then one afternoon he knew he could not go down again, and he stayed
under water long.
Brown, standing by the air-pumps, looked at his watch and waited
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