Lister's Great Adventure
Part 5 out of 5
anxiously. The bubbles broke the surface above the wreck and the
signal-line was slack, but Lister had been down longer than he ought. He
wars not a diver, and the others who knew their job, had come up sooner.
Then Brown had other grounds for anxiety. If Lister were beaten, their
chance of floating the wreck was small.
At length, the bubbles began to move towards the hulk, the ladder shook,
and a dull, red reflection shone through the water. Then the copper
helmet broke the surface, rose a few inches, and stopped, and Brown ran
to the gangway. Lister was exhausted and his worn-out body could not
meet the change of pressure. They dragged him on board and took off his
helmet and canvas dress. For some minutes he lay like a log, and then
opened his eyes and looked at Brown.
"Cartwright was on the track!" he gasped. "We can go ahead--"
The sun was low, but the pitch in the seams was liquid and smeared the
hot planks, and Brown pulled Lister into the shade. For a time he was
quiet, but by and by he said, "When the tide falls we'll start the pump
and let her go all night. I must get up and tell Jones to clean the
"I'll tell him. You stay there until we get some food," Brown replied.
The cook served the meal on deck, but they had hardly begun when he
lighted a storm-lamp. As soon as the red sun dipped thick vapor floated
off from the swamps, the water got oily black, and dark clouds rolled
across the sky. Flickering lightning illumined the tumbling surf and
sandy beach, but there was no thunder and the night was calm. The hulk
and tug were moored at opposite sides of the wreck, forward of her
engine room, and thick wire ropes that ran between them had been dragged
back under the vessel for some distance from her bow. The ropes,
however, were not yet hauled tight. When the cook took away the plates
Brown made a rough calculation.
"We have caulked all hatches and gratings forward, and stopped the
ventilators," he said. "I reckon the water will leave the deck long
enough for the pump to give her fore-end some buoyancy. If she rises
with the flood tide, well heave the cables aft, until we can get a hold
that will lift her bow from the ground. Then you can pump out the fore
hold and we'll make a fresh start aft. We'll soon know if Cartwright's
notion is correct."
"We know _now_; I'll satisfy you in the morning," Lister rejoined and
his confidence was not exaggerated.
A steamer's hull below her load-line is pierced in places to admit water
for the condensers and ballast tanks. Lister had found some inlets open,
but now they were shut.
"I'll own old Cartwright's a great man," Brown said thoughtfully. "When
he takes on a job he studies things all round. The salvage folks, no
doubt, reckoned on the possibility that the valves were open, but they
couldn't get at the controls and didn't know all Cartwright knew--" He
paused and added with a laugh: "I wonder how much the other fellows got
for the job! But it's time we started."
Lister got up with an effort and went to the pump, which presently began
to throb. The mended engine ran well and the regular splash of water,
flung out from the big discharge pipe, drowned the languid rumble of the
surf. The hull shook; shadowy figures crossed the beam of light from the
furnace, and vanished in the dark. Twinkling lamps threw broken
reflections on the water that looked like black silk, lightning flashed
in the background, and when the swell broke with phosphorescent sparkles
about the wreck Lister marked the height the pale illumination crept up
her plates. She would not lift that tide, but the pump was clearing the
hold, and he hoped much water was not coming in. If the leakage was not
excessive, her bow ought to rise when the next tide flowed.
For some hours he kept his watch, dragging himself wearily about the
engine and pump. He had helpers, but control was his, and to an engineer
a machine is not a dead mass of metal. Lister, so to speak, felt the
pump had individuality and temperament, like a spirited horse. Sometimes
it must be humored and sometimes urged; it would run faster for a man
whose touch was firm but light than for another. Perhaps he was
fanciful, and he was certainly over-strung, but he imagined the big,
rattling machine knew his hand.
At length when he looked at the gauge glass he found he could not see
the line that marked the water-level. His head swam and his legs shook,
and calling a fireman to keep watch, he sat down in the coal. He wanted
to get to the awning, out of the dew, but could not, and leaning against
the rough blocks, he went to sleep.
In the morning, he knew the fever that bothered him now and then had
returned. For all that, he must hold out and he began his labor in the
burning sun. When the flood tide rippled about the wreck it was obvious
the pump was getting the water down. The bows lifted, and starting the
winches, they hauled aft the ropes. If they could keep it, before long
they might heave her from the sand.
It was a time of stubborn effort and crushing strain. Some of the men
were sick and all had lost their vigor. The fierce sun had not burned
but bleached their skin; their blood was poisoned by the miasma the land
breeze blew off at night. For all that, Cartwright's promise was they
should share his reward and somehow they held on.
At length, in the scorching heat one afternoon when the flood tide began
to run, they hauled the hulk and tug abaft the wreck's engine-room and
made the great ropes fast. If Lister's calculations were accurate, the
pump had thrown out enough water, and the buoyancy of the other craft
would lift the wreck's stern. If not--but he refused to think about
The sea breeze had dropped and the smoke of the engine went straight up.
There was not a line on the glittering lagoon. The sea looked like
melted silver; one felt it give out light and heat. The men's eyes ached
and the intolerable sun pierced their double hats and dulled their
brains. When all was ready, they waited and watched the sandy water
creep up _Arcturus'_ plates until the ropes stretched and groaned and
the hulk began to list. On the wreck's other side, the tug's mast and
_Arcturus_ was not yet afloat, and the big wire-ropes, running beneath
her bilge, held down the helping craft. The ends were made fast by hemp
lashings and somebody had put an ax beside the post. For all that,
Lister did not think Brown would give the order to cut; he himself would
not. If they did not float Arcturus now, she must remain in the sand for
good. He would hold on until the rising tide flowed across the tug.
In the meantime, he watched the pump. The engine carried a dangerous
load and the spouting discharge pipe was swollen. Throbbing and
rattling, she fought the water that held _Arcturus_ down. A greaser
touched the crosshead-slides with a tallow swab, and a panting fireman
thrust a bar through the furnace door. Their skin was blackened by sweat
and coal dust; soaked singlets, tight like gloves, clung to their lean
bodies. Nobody else, however, was actively occupied. The negroes lay on
the deck and the white men lounged in the shade of the awning. They had
done all that flesh and blood could do, in a climate that breaks the
white man's strength, and now the tide ought to finish their labor. But
they did not know, and some doubted.
The ropes cracked and the hulk's list got sharp. On one side, her deck
was very near the water. She was broad, but if _Arcturus_ did not lift,
it was obvious she must soon capsize. Lister opened the engine throttle
until the valve-wheel would not turn. The cylinders shook, a gland blew
steam, and the pump clashed and rocked. All the same, he knew himself
ridiculous. The extra water the pump lifted would not help much now.
They had a few minutes, and then, if nobody cut the ropes, the hulk
would go down.
The massive oak mooring-post groaned and the deck-seams opened with the
strain; the wire-ropes were rigid; one could see no hint of curve. The
water touched the hulk's deck and began to creep up. Then it stopped,
the hulk shook, and the wreck's long side slowly got upright.
"She's off!" said Brown hoarsely. Somebody blew the tug's whistle, and
one or two shouted, but this was all. They had won a very stubborn
fight, but winning had cost them much, and Lister felt their triumph was
strangely flat. He smiled and owned he would be satisfied to lie down
Brown gave an order; _Terrier's_ propeller splashed noisily, and
_Arcturus_ began to move. Somehow it looked impossible, but she was
moving. They took her slowly and cautiously across the lagoon, and when
the tide was full put her on the sand. There was much to do yet and
Lister wondered whether he could hold out until all was done.
In the evening Montgomery came off on board a boat pulled by four sturdy
Kroos. He was very thin and haggard, but the fever had left him. When
his boat got near, Brown, frowning savagely, went to the rail.
"What d'you want?" he asked.
"Let me come on board. If we can't, agree, I'll go back in a few
minutes," Montgomery replied, and climbing the bulwarks, went to the
awning and lighted a cigarette.
"You have floated her, but the job's not finished," he said. "I expect
you mean to bring off the cargo you landed and you'll need a fresh gang
of native boys. Well, I can help."
"You imply you can bother us if we don't agree?" Brown remarked.
"Something like that! I can certainly make things awkward. However, all
I want is to go with you when you open the lazaret where the boxes of
gold were stored."
"Ah!" said Brown. "I expect you see what your wanting to go indicates?
Looks as if you knew something about the wreck."
"I imagine I do know something," Montgomery admitted quietly. "At the
beginning, I reckoned you would not float her, but in order to run no
risk, I meant to hinder you as much as possible. Now I'm beaten, I'm
going to be frank--"
He paused and resumed in a low voice: "When I was left control of a
respected business house I was young and ambitious. It was plain the
house had weathered a bad storm, but our fortunes were mending and I
thought they could be built up again. Well, I think I was honest, and
when one of _Arcturus'_ crew demanded money I got a jar. Since my father
loaded the ship, I expect you see where the fellow's threats led?"
"I see the line Cartwright might take," Brown remarked dryly. "If the
boxes don't hold gold, he could break you! We have found out enough
already to give him a strong pull on the boat's last owners. They're in
"He won't use his power. Cartwright is not that sort! Besides, the
company is bankrupt."
"You are not bankrupt. Do you know what sort Lister and I are?"
Montgomery smiled. "It's not important. If there is no gold in the
boxes, I don't want to carry on the house's business. You can do what
He stopped for a few moments and Lister began to feel some sympathy. The
man was desperate and had obviously borne much.
"My staying at the factory was a strain," Montgomery continued. "I was
ill and when at length I saw you might succeed, the suspense was
horrible. You see, I risked the honor of the house, my marriage, my
fortune. All I had and cared about!"
"Were you to be married?" Lister asked.
Montgomery signed agreement. "The wedding was put off. While it looked
as if my mended fortune was built on fraud and I had known, and agreed
to, the trick, I could not marry a high-principled girl."
Brown knitted his brows and was quiet for some moments. Then he said,
"You are now willing to get us the boys we want and help us where you
"That is so," Montgomery agreed.
"Very well!" said Brown. "We expect to open the lazaret at daybreak and
you can come with us. You had better send off your boat and stop on
BARBARA TAKES CONTROL
The sun was rising and the mist rolled back from the lagoon. The tide
was low and _Arcturus'_ rusty side rose high above the smooth green
water. Damp weed hung from the beams in her poop cabin and a dull light
came down through the broken glass. A sailor, kneeling on the slimy
planks, tried to force a corroded ring-bolt from its niche; another
trimmed a smoky lantern. Lister, Brown and Montgomery waited. In the
half-light, their faces looked gray and worn. The sun had given them a
dull pallor, and on the West African coast nobody sleeps much.
After a few minutes the sailor opened the swollen trap-door and then
went down, Brown carrying the lantern. As a rule a ship's lazaret is a
small, dark strong-room, used for stowing liquor and articles of value.
_Arcturus_ was wet and smelt of salt. A row of shelves crossed the
bulkhead and some water lay in the angle where the slanted floor met the
side sheathing. A thin jacket and an officer's peaked cap were in the
water. Brown indicated the objects.
"Looks as if somebody had stripped before he got to work, and then left
without bothering about his clothes," he said. "I don't know if I
expected this, but we'll examine the thing later." He lifted the lantern
and the flickering beam touched five or six small, thick boxes. "Well,
there's some of the gold!"
Lister seized a box and tried to lift it up, but stopped.
"It feels like gold," he said and signed to a sailor. "Help me get the
stuff on deck, Watson."
They carried the boxes up the ladder and Brown brought the cap and
"Second-mate's clothes," he said, indicating the bands round the cuffs
and cap. The imitation gold-lace had gone green but clung to the rotten
"Something in the pocket," he added and taking out a small wet book put
it in the sun. "We'll look at this again, and now for the first box! I
may want you to state you saw me break the seals."
Sitting in the shade of the poop, they opened the box, which was filled
with fine dull-yellow grains. Then Lister sent a man to the boat for
some things he had brought, and when the fellow came back hung a small
steel cup from a spring-balance.
"The scale's pretty accurate; I use it on board," he said. "Well, I got
the specific gravity of gold, zinc and copper from my pocket-tables, and
made a few experiments with some bearing metals. They're all brasses;
alloys of copper and zinc, with a little lead and tin in some. I weighed
and measured two or three small ingots and afterwards calculated what
they'd weigh, if their cubic size was the capacity of the cup. I'll give
you the figures."
He did so and then filled the cup with the yellow grains and held up the
balance. Montgomery, leaning forward, looked over his shoulder.
"Weighs more than your heaviest bearing metal! It's gold!" he exclaimed
"Yes," said Lister, "it's obviously gold. Perhaps we needn't open the
other boxes. When we get on board well weigh them against this lot. So
far as I can reckon after heaving them up the ladder, well not find much
Montgomery sat down, as if he were too limp to stand. "But these are not
all the boxes that were shipped--"
Brown went for the pocket-book he had put to dry and took out some
papers. "This thing belonged to Gordon Herries, second officer."
"Mr. Herries?" exclaimed the sailor Watson. "The second-mate as was
drowned when the surf-boat capsized!"
"What do you know about it?" Brown asked.
"I know something, sir," said Watson, but Montgomery stopped him and
turned to the others.
"It seems the second mate tried to _save_ the stuff."
"Looks like that," Brown agreed and signed to the sailor. "Now tell us
all you do know."
"We was lying in Forcados river, shifting cargo to the Lagos boat
alongside. Barret, my townie, was on board her; he'd made a run in
_Arcturus_, and told me about the wreck. When she struck, Mr. Herries
swung out number two surf-boat and Barret was her bowman. He went to the
lazaret with Herries and they got up some bags of special gum and some
heavy boxes. Barret thought they were gold, but hadn't seen them put on
board. Then a big comber hit the poop, smashed the skylights, and
flooded the lazaret. They reckoned she was going over and had some
bother to get out. Well, they got the surf-boat off her side; she was
pretty full with a load of Kroo boys and three or four white men. In the
surf, the steering oar broke, she yawed across a sea, and turned out the
lot. Some held on to her, but she rolled over and Barret made for the
beach. They all landed but Mr. Herries; Barret thought the boat hit him.
Gum and boxes went down in the surf."
"Very good," said Brown. "Now get off and send somebody to help heave
the boxes on board."
Montgomery turned his head and leaned against the poop. Lister saw he
trembled as if the reaction from the strain was keen. After a few
moments he braced himself.
"It's done with! I think all the boxes held gold, but they're gone."
Brown indicated the cloud of spray that tossed above the advancing lines
of foam. The long rollers had crashed on the bar from the beginning and
would never stop.
"All the surf gets it keeps," he said. "If there is a secret, I reckon
the secret's safe! However, we have to talk about something else. You
can get us some native boys?"
"I'll send you a fresh gang. If my new agent arrives soon, I'll go with
you as far as Sierra Leone. Since you're short-handed, I might perhaps
help, and I've had enough of the factory."
The others agreed and soon afterwards got to work. When the negroes
Montgomery sent arrived all the cargo worth salving was re-stowed, and
he bought the hulk for a floating store. Then, one night when the moon
and tide were full, _Terrier_ steamed slowly across the lagoon. Two
massive ropes trailed across her stern and _Arcturus'_ high dark bow
towered above her phosphorescent wake. The land breeze blew behind her
and the surf had not the fury the sea breeze gives by day, but when
_Terrier_ plunged into the turmoil Brown watched the tow ropes with
_Arcturus_ rolled and sheered about, putting a horrible strain on the
hawsers, and sometimes for a minute or two it looked as if she went
astern. Flame blew from the tug's funnel, lighting the black trail of
smoke; steam roared at her escape-pipe, and the engines throbbed hard.
The ebb tide, however, was beginning to run and helped her across the
shoals. The leadsman got deeper water, the rollers got smooth, and
presently the swell was long and regular and the spray cloud melted
astern. In the morning, a faint dark line to starboard was all that
indicated the African coast. Next day Brown steered for the land and
called Montgomery to the bridge.
"I reckon to make an anchorage before dark," he said. "We'll give the
boys the rest they need and send _Terrier_ to _Sar_ Leone for coal.
Learmont will land you."
"Then you're not going to take _Arcturus_ into port?" Montgomery
remarked with some surprise.
"I am not. Cartwright expects me to save him as much as possible and
there are British officers and Board of Trade rules at _Sar_ Leone. You
don't imagine they'd let me start for Las Palmas? Surveys, reports,
repairs and sending for another tug, might cost two or three thousand
pounds. Then half my crew are sick and some are helpless, though I
reckon they'll pick up sooner at sea than in an African hospital."
"It's a big risk. After all, I owe you much and know something about
curing malarial fever. Besides, I'm a yachtsman and can steer and use
the lead. If you'll take me, I'll go all the way. However, you ought to
send Lister off. He can't hold out."
"He claims he can," Brown said dryly. "We have argued about his going to
Grand Canary by a mail-boat, but he's obstinate. Means to finish the
job; that's his sort! Anyhow, it's possible the Trade breeze will brace
him up, and if he did go, the chances of my taking _Arcturus_ to
Liverpool are not good."
Montgomery stayed on board and when the tug returned with coal they hove
anchor and began the long run to Las Palmas. For a time, Lister kept the
engines going and superintended the pump on board the wreck, but he
could not sleep and in the morning it was hard to drag himself from his
bunk and start another laborious day. The strain was horrible and he was
weakening fast, but it would be cooler soon and perhaps he might hold
out until they met the invigorating Northeast breeze.
In the meantime, Cartwright went back to Liverpool, Mrs. Cartwright got
better, and Barbara waited for news. She had refused Lister, but to
refuse had cost her more than she had thought. After a time Cartwright
wrote and stated that the tug and Arcturus had started home. No fresh
news arrived and Barbara tried to hide her suspense, until one morning a
small African liner steamed into port. Some passengers landed and when
they lunched at the hotel one talked about his going off with the first
officer to a ship that signaled for help.
"It was a moving picture," he said. "The rusty, weed-coated steamer
rolling on the blue combers, and the little, battered tug, holding her
head-to-sea. The breeze was strong and for some days they had not made
three knots an hour. Well, I know something about fever, but they were
_all sick;_ the engineer delirious and very weak--"
Barbara, sitting near the passenger, made an effort for calm. Her heart
beat and her breath came fast. Nobody remarked her abrupt movement and
the other went on:
"Coal, food and fresh water were running out; their medicine chest was
empty. Everything was foul with soot, coal-dust and salt. I expect it
was long since they were able to clean decks. The skipper was in a
hammock under the bridge-awning and could not get up. An African trader,
Montgomery of a Liverpool house, seemed to have control. His skin was
yellow, like a mulatto's."
A young American doctor to whom Barbara had been talking looked up.
"Jaundice after malaria!" he remarked. "I don't know West Africa, but I
was at Panama! Was malaria all the rest had got?"
"It was not," the passenger replied meaningly. "However, if you know
"Did you try to tow the ship?" Barbara interrupted.
"The mate thought it impossible. She was big and foul with weed, our
boat is small, and we could not delay much because of the mails. We sent
a surf-boat across with water and food, and then steamed on."
Barbara looked about the table. Mrs. Cartwright was at the other end and
Barbara thought she had not heard. She touched the young doctor.
"Will you help me on board the African steamer? I must see the captain."
"Why, certainly! We'll look for a boat," the other replied and they went
Barbara saw the captain and when she stated that the owner of _Arcturus_
was her step-father he sent for the chief mate, who narrated his visit
to the wreck.
"You took the ship's doctor," said Barbara. "Is he now on board?"
The mate said he imagined the doctor had not landed and Barbara turned
"Go and find him! Find out all you can!"
For some time afterwards she talked to the ship's officers, and when
Wheeler returned went back to her boat. While the _peons_ rowed them to
the mole she asked Wheeler for his pocket-book and wrote an address.
"Don Luis Sarmiento is the best doctor in the town and had something to
do with a fever hospital in Cuba," she said. "If you tell him I sent
you, he will help. Take all the medicine he can give you and then go to
Leopard Trading Company and buy whatever you think sick men would need.
Bring me the bills."
"If I get all that would be useful, it will cost you high," said Wheeler
and helped her up the steps at the mole.
"That is not important. Get the things!"
"Very well. But the ship is six hundred miles off. How are you going to
put the truck on board?"
"I'm going to see about that next," Barbara replied and indicated a
cloud of dust rolling along the road. "There's the steam tram. Don't
Wheeler lifted his cap and running along the mole jumped on board the
When he had gone Barbara went to the office of an important English
merchant house and asked for the junior partner. She was strangely calm,
although she knew that when the strain was over she would pay. In the
meantime, she needed help and admitted it was lucky young men liked her;
she had not hesitated to use her charm on the American. The junior
partner was keen to help, and going with her to a coaling office,
offered to charter a powerful Spanish tug the company had recently
bought. The manager agreed and Barbara made a calculation.
"If you can get the boat ready to sail in the morning, I'll send you a
check when she starts," she said.
They went out and the merchant gave Barbara an approving smile. "I
imagine they haven't at the moment much use for the tug, which accounts
for their being willing to take a moderate sum. All the same, you
handled the situation like a good business man. Had they known much
about your plans before we agreed, they would have sent the tug and
claimed a large reward for salvage. In fact, it looks as if you had
saved Mr. Cartwright--"
"It's possible," Barbara broke in impatiently. "Still they don't know
where _Arcturus_ is and that her crew are ill. Now, however, we must
engage fresh men to relieve the others. I don't mind if you pay them
something over the usual rate."
The merchant engaged the crew of a Spanish fishing schooner that was
being laid up, and Barbara returning to the hotel found Wheeler in the
"I've got all the medicine and truck I reckon would be useful," he said.
"If the steamboat man didn't exaggerate, you want a doctor next."
Barbara gave him a level glance and smiled. "If you like, you may go! A
fast tug sails in the morning."
"Why," he said, "I'd be delighted! You can call it fixed. I came along
for a holiday, but soon found that loafing made me tired--"
"Thank you," said Barbara and was gone.
The doctor laughed and joining an English friend in the hotel ordered a
"I reckon I've been rushed," he remarked. "You folks look slow, but I
allow when you do get started some of you can move. Since lunch I've
been helping an English girl fix some things and she hit a pace that
left me out of breath."
"Miss Hyslop?" said the other. "Perhaps if she'd had a job for me I
might have used an effort to get up speed. A charming girl, and I think
"She's surely resolute!" Wheeler agreed. "Miss Hyslop sees where she
wants to go and gets there by the shortest road."
When dusk fell Barbara thought all was ready and sitting down by Mrs.
Cartwright narrated what she had done. After she stopped Mrs. Cartwright
put her hand gently on the girl's arm.
"It's lucky you came out with me," she said. "I would not have known
what to do, and I doubt if Mortimer--"
Barbara laughed. "Mortimer would have calculated, weighed one thing
against another, and studied his plans for a week. Mine are rude, but in
the morning they'll begin to work. After all, in a sense, I have not
done much. I have sent others, when I want to go myself."
"It's impossible, my dear," said Mrs. Cartwright, firmly.
"Well, I expect I must be resigned. One is forced to pay for breaking
rules! I have paid; but we'll talk about something else."
"The tug and supplies have, no doubt, cost much," Mrs. Cartwright
remarked. "You must let me give you a check."
"No," said Barbara in a resolute voice. "I will take no money until
mine's all gone. Father's a dear, I owe him much, and now I can help I'm
going to help. I have sent a cablegram he had better come out but in the
meantime he needn't be anxious because I have taken control."
Mrs. Cartwright let her go presently and Barbara went to her room. She
had borne a heavy strain, but the reaction had begun, and throwing
herself on a couch she covered her face with her hands and cried.
Signal flags fluttered in the breeze at the top of the Isleta and a
smoke cloud stained the blue horizon. For a few minutes the cloud
vanished, and then rolled up again, thicker than before. Cartwright
studied it carefully and gave the glasses to Barbara, who stood near him
on the Catalina mole.
"Is that _one_ trail of smoke?" he asked.
"I think I see two. Sometimes they melt, but they're getting distinct
now. There _are_ two!"
"Ah!" said Cartwright. "Then it's _Arcturus_. I expect your tug has
saved the situation."
"Lister saved _Arcturus_ before I meddled," Barbara declared with a
blush. "However, I'm glad I could help. You have often helped me."
Cartwright's eyes twinkled. "All I gave I have got back, but I'm not
persuaded you didn't mean to help another. Well, perhaps, the other
deserves your interest. Brown's a useful man, but he has some drawbacks
and I doubt if he could have carried through the undertaking."
"If you'll wait in the shade, I'll get a jacket," Barbara replied.
"There's a fresh breeze, the launch splashes, and I'm going with you to
When the first flag blew out from the Isleta staff, she had called
Cartwright, and they had hurried to the neighboring mole. Cartwright had
arrived two days before and they had watched the signals until the
longed for message came: _Steamer in tow from the South._
"I think you'll wait," said Cartwright quietly. "You don't know much
about fever and the men I sent are not altogether making a triumphant
The blood came to Barbara's skin. She had meant to go and hated to be
baffled, but Cartwright gave her a steady glance and she knew there was
no use in arguing when he looked like that.
"Did you or your mother tell me Mrs. Seaton arrived by a recent boat?"
Barbara was surprised, but said Mrs. Seaton was at the Metropole.
Cartwright looked at the tugs' smoke.
"Then, I ought to have time to see her before they tow _Arcturus_ in.
Some sea is running and they can't steam fast."
He started for the Catalina and when he stopped by Mrs. Cartwright's
chair his face was hot and he trembled. Hurry and muscular effort upset
him, but time was valuable.
"I have not yet asked you for money, Clara," he said.
"That is so," Mrs. Cartwright agreed. "Sometimes I was hurt because you
did not. You ought to know all that's mine is yours."
Cartwright smiled. "You are a good sort and I'm going to borrow now
because I can pay back. I want you to telegraph your bank to meet my
"I'll write you a check."
"No," said Cartwright, "I think the other plan is better. Well, the sum
is rather large--"
He stated the sum and Mrs. Cartwright said, "I'm not very curious, but
why do you want the money?"
"I'm going to buy Mrs. Seaton's shares."
"Ah," said Mrs. Cartwright with a disturbed look, "she tried to force
you to buy before."
Cartwright knew his placid, good-humored wife hated Mrs. Seaton.
"You're puzzled?" he remarked. "Well, I'd have bought the shares long
since, but I wasn't rich enough and didn't think my borrowing was
justified. All the same, the block she holds gives her a dangerous
power, and if I can get them I'll baffle the opposition at the company's
meeting. But I must be quick."
"If you want to baffle Ellen Seaton, you can use all the money I have
got!" Mrs. Cartwright declared. "Tell me what I must telegraph the
Cartwright did so and made for the Metropole as fast as possible,
because the tugs' smoke was not far off. When he reached the big square
hotel he gave a page his card and frowned while he waited in the
glass-roofed patio. Time was valuable and he hoped Mrs. Seaton would not
be long. On the whole, he did not think he was going to be shabby, but
perhaps shabbiness was justified. Ellen had not forgotten she had
thought him her lover, and although it was long since she would not
forget. She hated his wife and had tried to injure him. Cartwright
imagined she would try again, and so long as she kept her shares her
antagonism was dangerous.
She entered the patio with two young tourists, whom she sent off, and
beckoned Cartwright to a bench behind a palm. The sun that pierced the
glass roof was strong and he reflected with dry amusement that Ellen
looked better by electric light in the evening. Although she smiled, her
glance was keen and not friendly.
"I arrived some days since and met Barbara in the street, but she has
not been to see me yet," she said. "However, now you have come I ought
to be satisfied! Since you were able to get away from the office, I
expect shipping is languid."
Cartwright thought she meant to be nasty. For one thing, Barbara had not
gone to see her and perhaps had not urged her calling at the hotel.
Ellen did not like the girl, but she wanted to know people and Mrs.
Cartwright had stopped at Las Palmas for some time. As a rule, Clara's
friends were good. This, however, was not important. He must buy Ellen's
shares before _Arcturus_ arrived and the news of her salvage got about.
"Oh, well," he said, "although I think I see signs of improvement,
things are not very promising yet."
"If you are not hopeful, the outlook must be black," Mrs. Seaton
remarked meaningly. "Perhaps I ought to sympathize, but the effort's too
much. My investments have all gone wrong and my luck at the Grand
National was remarkably bad. In fact, if nobody will buy my shares in
your line, I may be forced to agree with the people who want to wind up
Cartwright thought his luck was good. Ellen was extravagant and a
gambler. No doubt, she needed money, but he knew she was willing to hurt
him and could do so. All the same, if she could force him to buy the
shares she thought worth nothing, her greed would conquer her
spitefulness. Well, he was going to indulge her.
"If you did join my antagonists, I might pull through, but I'll admit it
would be awkward," he replied. "In order to avoid the fight, I'll buy
your shares for ten shillings."
Mrs. Seaton hesitated. She did not want to lose her power, but she
wanted money. Nominally, the shares were worth a much larger sum, but
she had found out that nobody else was willing to buy the block. For all
that, Cartwright was cunning and she wondered whether he knew something
she did not. She asked for a higher price, but Cartwright refused. He
was cool and humorous, although he knew _Arcturus_ was steadily nearing
the harbor. Perhaps in a few minutes the look-out on the Isleta would
read her flags. At length he pulled out his watch.
"I have an engagement, but I rather want the shares. My getting them
would help me at the meeting," he said. "Shall we say twelve-and-sixpence?
This is the limit."
"Very well," said Mrs. Seaton and smiled with a sense of triumph. "It
looks very greedy, but when can I have a check? You see, I'm nearly
"Now," said Cartwright, and taking out his fountain pen, rang a bell.
"Send a page for some notepaper and write an undertaking to deliver me
Mrs. Seaton did so and Cartwright wrote the check. Then she signed to
one of the young men she had sent off. "Since you are very
business-like, you had better have a witness! I'm relieved to get the
check, particularly since I expected you would be forced to ask Clara
for the money."
Cartwright had to smile. The sneer was Ellen's Parthian shot. She was
retiring from the field, but he owned that she might have beaten him by
a bold attack and he had been afraid.
He went to the bar and ordered a drink, and then going out saw fresh
signals blow from the Isleta staff. _Arcturus'_ hull was visible in the
tugs' thick smoke; the look-out on the hill with his big telescope had
read her flags and was signaling her name and number to the town.
Cartwright had won by a few minutes and was satisfied, although he had
given Mrs. Seaton twelve-and-sixpence for her shares, when perhaps he
need not. This was now about their just value, and, for old time's sake,
he had not meant to cheat her. In the meantime a launch was waiting to
take him on board _Arcturus_ and he hurried to the mole.
Barbara saw the launch start, with mixed emotions. She was something of
a rebel and had anybody but Cartwright ordered her to stop she would not
have obeyed. She waited in the shade, fixing her eyes on the laboring
tugs. Sometimes she felt a thrill of triumph because Lister had
conquered; sometimes she was tortured by suspense. She did not know if
he stood at the levers in the engine-room, or lay, unconscious, in his
bunk. Well, she would soon know and she shrank.
She rubbed the glasses and looked again. There were two towropes;
_Terrier_ plunged across the rollers on _Arcturus'_ starboard bow, the
Spanish tug to port. It looked as if the wreck's steering-gear did not
work. Spray blew about the boats and the crested seas broke in foaming
turmoil against the towed vessel's side until she drew in behind the
Isleta. A few minutes afterwards she swung round the mole and Barbara
thought the picture moving.
The tugs looked very small; the half-loaded hull they towed to an
anchorage floated high above her proper water-line. Rolling on the
languid swell at the harbor mouth, she looked huge. Her rusty side was
like a warehouse wall. When she lifted her plates from the water one saw
the wet weed shine; higher up it clung, parched and dry, to the red
iron, although there were clean belts where the stuff was scraped away.
Barbara pictured the exhausted men scraping feebly when the sea was calm
and the sun did not touch the vessel's side.
All the same, the men had won a triumph. It looked impossible that the
handful of bemused ruffians she had seen start at Liverpool could have
dragged the big vessel from the bottom of the lagoon, but the thing was
done. _Arcturus_, battered and rusty, with sagging masts and broken
funnel, was coming into harbor. A big pump throbbed on board, throwing
water down her side; she flew a small, bright red ensign aft and a new
house-flag at the masthead. Barbara thought the flag flaunted proudly
and the thing was significant. Cartwright had weathered the storm, but
she had helped.
The tugs' engines stopped and Barbara's heart beat, for a yellow flag
went up. She hated the ominous signal, and turning the glasses, followed
the doctor's launch. The boat ran alongside _Terrier_, a man went on
board, returned and climbed a ladder to _Arcturus'_ deck. He did not
come back for some time and Barbara looked for Lister, but could not see
him. Then the yellow flag was hauled down and _Arcturus_ moved slowly up
A fleet of shore-boats followed and when the anchor dropped crowded
about the ship. Barbara braced herself and waited. Half the voyage was
over and when the engines were cleaned and mended _Arcturus_ would steam
to England. The salvors had won, but sometimes victory cost much, and
Barbara knew she might have to pay.
A launch with an awning steamed to the mole and vanished behind the
wall. Barbara stopped in the shade; somehow she durst not go to the
steps. Cartwright came up, but seeing his grave look, she let him pass.
Then the American doctor reached the top and called to somebody below.
Three or four men awkwardly lifted a stretcher to the pavement, and
Cartwright signed to the driver of a carriage waiting in the road.
Wheeler stopped him.
"It's not far. Carrying will be smoother."
"Very well, I'll see all's ready," said Cartwright and got into the
Then Barbara went to the stretcher, which was covered by green canvas.
She thought she knew who lay behind the screens, and her look was
"Is Mr. Lister very ill?" she asked.
Wheeler gave her a sympathetic glance. "He is pretty sick; he was nearly
all in when I boarded the ship. Now it's possible he'll get better."
Barbara turned her head, but after a few moments looked up. "Thank you
for going! Where are the others?"
"We have sent some to the Spanish hospital, landed them at the coaling
wharf. They're not very sick. The rest are on board."
"_All_ the rest?"
"Three short," said the doctor quietly. "They have made their last
voyage. But the boys are waiting to get off with the stretcher."
Barbara let him go and followed. He looked very tired and she did not
want to talk. She saw the stretcher carried up the hotel steps and along
a passage, and then went to her room. A Spanish doctor and nurse were
waiting and she knew she would be sent away. To feel she could not help
was hard, but she tried to be resigned and stopped in the quiet room,
listening for steps. Somebody might bring a message that Lister wanted
The message did not come and she was conscious of some relief, although
she was tormented by regretful thoughts. Lister loved her and she had
refused him, because she was proud. Perhaps her refusal was justified,
but she was honest, and admitted that she had known he would not let her
go, and had afterwards wondered how she would reply when he asked her
again. Now she knew. The strain had broken her resolution. She had
indulged her ridiculous pride and saw it might cost her much. Her lover
was very ill; Wheeler doubted if he would get better.
In the evening Montgomery joined Cartwright in a corner of the
"I expect Captain Brown told you about the bother I gave him," he
"That is so," said Cartwright. "He, however, stated you gave him some
"All the same, at the beginning, I held up the job. When Brown could not
work, your expenses ran on and I feel I ought to pay."
"It's just. Coming home, when my men were sick and Brown was in his
bunk, you undertook the duties of doctor and navigator, and Wheeler
admits your cures were good. Since you have a counter-claim, suppose we
say we're quits?"
Montgomery felt some relief. It looked as if Cartwright did not mean to
use his advantage; the old fellow was generous. Montgomery hesitated for
a moment and then resumed: "I understand you bought the wreck?"
"I used the shareholders' money; at all events, I used as much as I
durst. She's the company's ship."
"But the cargo?"
"The cargo's mine. That is, I get an allowance, agreed upon with the
underwriters for all I have salved. I rather think the sum will be
"Then you're satisfied? Although you didn't get all the gold and lost
the valuable gum in the lazaret?"
Cartwright's eyes twinkled. "I've some grounds for satisfaction, and I
know when to stop! But perhaps I'd better be as frank as is needful.
Very well! I get salvage on some of the gold. The rest is under the surf
and nobody will open the boxes now. The thing's done with."
Montgomery was moved, but he saw there was no more to be said and asked
quietly: "Will you tell me what you think about the prospects of the
"On the whole, I imagine the prospects are good. We have got a useful
boat for a very small sum, and the last report was _Oreana_ could
probably be floated without much damage when the St. Lawrence ice
breaks. Well, I calculate next year's trading will earn us a small
dividend, and since business is improving, we ought to prosper before
"Thank you," said Montgomery. "I know something about the line and
imagine the directors may need support. Just now I have some money that
does not earn much. Would it help if I bought a number of your shares?"
"I think not," said Cartwright. "The plan has drawbacks. People are
sometimes uncharitable and I have antagonists who might hint at a bribe.
Besides, I don't need support. My luck has turned and I rather think I
can break the opposition." He smiled and getting up, put his hand on
Montgomery's arm. "All the same, when I send a boat to Africa you can
load her up. Now I'm going to find the nurse and ask about Lister."
Lister was delirious, and for two or three days the doctors doubted his
recovery. Then, one morning, they said his temperature had fallen and
there was hope. Next morning they admitted that he was slowly making
progress. Barbara did not leave the hotel, lest she miss the latest news
from the sick-room. She was not allowed to go in, and when evening came
she knew she could not sleep. She had not slept much since they carried
Lister up the steps.
When all was quiet and the guests had gone to bed she went to the
veranda and leaned against the rails. She was highly strung and
rebellious. Lister had sent her a message, but she was not allowed to
see him yet. She wanted to see him and was persuaded that for him to see
her would not hurt. She knew he wanted her.
The moon was bright, but the shadow of the hotel stretched across the
garden. Somebody was moving about in the gloom and Barbara started when
she saw it was the nurse. The tired woman had gone out to rest for a few
minutes in the cool night air and Barbara saw her opportunity.
Stealing across the veranda, she went along a passage and up some
stairs. The landing at the top was dark, but she knew Lister's door, and
turning the handle quietly, looked in. Bright moonlight shone through
the open window and a curtain moved in the gentle breeze. Mosquito gauze
wavered about the bed where a quiet figure lay. Barbara stole across the
floor and pulled back the guard. The rings rattled and Lister opened his
eyes. He smiled, and Barbara, kneeling by the bed, put her arm round his
"My dear! You know me?"
"Of course! I wanted you. Since I got my senses back, I've tried to call
"You called not long since. I cheated the nurse and came; but if you
ought to be quiet, I mustn't talk. The doctors said--"
"They don't understand," said Lister. "Now I have seen you, I'm going to
Barbara lifted her head and studied him. His face was pinched, his skin
was very white and wet. Her eyes filled and she was moved by tender
"Oh, my dear!" she said. "It was for my sake you went!"
Lister took her hand, and she felt his was thin and hot. "I'm paid for
all! But, Barbara, I think you're _logical_ When I'm better--?"
She kissed him. "Of course. I'll marry you when you like. In the
meantime you're weak and tired and must go to sleep."
"I am tired," he admitted. "Besides, the nurse will come."
Barbara gently touched his wet hair and moved his pillow. "The nurse is
not important, but you mustn't talk."
She gave him her hand again and he went to sleep. Some time afterwards
the nurse returned and started when she saw the white figure kneeling by
the bed. Then she began to talk angrily in a low voice. Barbara was
getting cramped, but without moving her body, she looked at the nurse
and her eyes sparkled with rebellious fire.
"Be quiet; he mustn't wake!" she said. "There's no use in arguing. I
mean to stay!"
Back to Full Books