The Edge of the Roncador

“The Canal needs men to dig,” said Booker, the head of the firm of
shippers at Kingston, “it’s up to us to get ’em and it’s up to you to
take ’em to Colon–”

“But I’m not running a slaver, I’m a merchantman, by George, an’ you
can go to–”

“Hold on, Captain James,” broke in the man of affairs, “if you can’t
run the _Enos_, a little five hundred ton steamer the way she should be
run, it’ll be about time for me to look for another skipper.”

“But, Mr. Booker, she’s as rotten as punk–there ain’t a plate in her
thicker’n a sheet of blotting paper, an’ blame little stronger. She
really ain’t fit to run passengers even if you bribe the inspectors to
let us. I ain’t kickin’ about the way you’ve treated me, it ain’t that
at all, but to ram that ship full o’ niggers and send her out is mighty
nigh murder, an’, that’s a fact.”

Captain James was a shifty, fat and altogether sodden specimen of the
tropical white islander. He had lost a fine vessel, and being unable
to get another had drifted about the West Indies handling whatever
he could command. Booker, Benson & Co. had found use for him in one
of their old ships which had seen her best days running bananas to
New Orleans. She had made money, paid for herself ten times over, and
now she was just able to stagger along with leaky boilers and scaled
plates to the tune of seven knots, heading, as James always thought,
for the port of missing ships. Each voyage seemed to be her last, but
she somehow drifted in to her port of destination with pumps working
and crew mutinous, to discharge and stagger home again. James could not
afford to give her up. To do so would have meant ruin for him, and as
long as her owners paid him his seventy-five dollars per month–enough
to pay for his rum and clothes–he stuck to her with the sullenness
of a hungry bulldog gripping a dry bone. How he hated her. He cursed
her daily, he swore at her free and fluently whenever she dipped her
dull gray sides into the beautiful blue water of the Caribbean at each
roll, and when he brought her to her dock, which he did with much care
and concern, his exclamations at her perverseness to minding the helm
were marvels of linguistic art. His mate, a tall, thin, saturnine
Scotchman with bleary eyes from rum and cola, would sometimes deign
to look at him with a languid interest during these moments of loud
speech, and once–only once–he had allowed himself to be so absorbed
in contemplating his master, that he forgot to cast the bowline from
the drum of the donkey engine which was winding it in, and by so doing
pulled and tore out an iron cleat upon the dock end. Then pandemonium
had reigned and the silent mate soon retired to the privacy of his room
to still his quaking conscience and steady his shaking nerves with
potations of his favourite beverage, rum and cola.

“You will proceed to Boddertown, and then to Georgetown in the Great
Cayman, and after seeing Jones there, who will see to clearing you all
right, you will run the crowd to Colon, do you understand,” said Mr.
Booker to his ship-master.

“How many will there be?” asked James sullenly, after finding that his
argument was of no avail.

“As many as she will carry–how many do you say, five hundred?”

“Good Lord, Mr. Booker–what? Five hundred niggers in that bit of a
ship? Man, think a little.”

“She has her ventilators–has both holds well-ventilated, a fruiter
is as comfortable below as on deck, has as much ventilation with her
blowers as a liner–”

“Make it three hundred at the limit,” said James with more decision
than his employer had ever given him credit for.

“Er–er, well, let it go at that, then. You’ll attend to stowing ’em,
give ’em plenty of grub–it’s only a couple of days with good weather,
and they can stand on deck for that time.”

“All right, then,” said the sailor with a sigh. He was not a bad man,
only weakened by misfortune. Had he lived a little differently, had
better luck and governed his thirst, he would have compared favourably
with many of the best skippers in the West India trade. He arose,
clapped on his grass hat and mopped his red face, squared his fat
shoulders under his dirty white linen coat, and strode forth into the
glaring sunshine. He went down the street, stopped at a saloon, took
several drinks, and after that went aboard, rousing the chief engineer
and ordering steam for five o’clock that afternoon.

“We will get to sea before dark,” said he to the mate Mr. McDuff.
“Don’t get too drunk, we’ve got a big job–I’ll tell you later.”

A week later the _Enos_ was steaming over the calm and beautiful
Caribbean. The sky was a tropical blue dotted with the lumpy trade
clouds, and the sea was that beautiful tint only seen during perfect
weather. She was running along smoothly down past the Quita-suena Bank,
between it and the Serrano Cays, and so far all had gone well. Jones
had proved an agent worthy of Mr. Booker’s best expectations. He had
managed to get together three hundred and ten strapping fellows who
were destined to dig for the good of maritime commerce, and he had held
out inducements which, while models of veracity, were also works of
art. He had made even the most sordid details of life upon the Isthmus
appear in the garb of most attractive romance, and money–why, money
was the thing the Canal cared less for than anything in the world.
Three hundred and ten men were destined to be rich in this world’s
goods. He had convinced even the most skeptical of this, and the only
thing that kept the rest of the population upon the Cayman was the size
of the _Enos_. He wished to ship five hundred, but James was sturdy
enough to stop him. Under the influence of six copious drinks of rum
and cola, he had managed to put up a determined opposition. He finally
threatened to go ashore and get very drunk if another man was sent him,
and Jones knowing him to be quite capable of keeping his word in this
respect, desisted at three hundred and ten.

“You fat sea-scutt, I’d fry the grease out o’ you if I could get
another man to take the ship,” said Jones in a fury. “I get a dollar
a head for those niggers, an’ you’ve done me to the tune of two
hundred–but you can bet I won’t forget you, you lobster, you blamed
fat lobster–”

Captain James contented himself with calling the agent every name he
could remember that carried disgrace or disrespect along with it, and
after that stood upon the bridge storming and fuming, every now and
then bursting forth when some new and especially choice adjective
happened to reach his memory.

By the time the _Enos_ reached the vicinity of Quita-suena Bank, the
skipper had cooled both mentally and physically, the evaporation of the
rum with which he supplied himself producing a revivifying effect only
to be appreciated by one who is addicted to rum and cola. His wrath had
subsided until he scarcely mumbled his disdain for the energetic Jones,
and his face, always red and swollen from both the fierce sunshine and
his diet, now took on a more natural hue.

“Let her go well to the westward of the Roncador,” said he to McDuff as
the mate came on the bridge that evening. “The current is very strong,
and I ain’t quite certain of the rate of our chronometer. Got a jolt
last voyage and seems to be going wrong ever since. Get your lights
burning brightly to-night–there’ll be some ships passing and there’s
no use saving five cents’ worth of oil for that buzzard, Booker–and
tell the chief to hustle her along, toss in the coals, and if the
second is drunk, turn the hose on him, for we’ll have to drive her
through. The niggers will have to go below at eight bells; can’t have
’em lying about the deck all night getting in the way. It’s cool enough
with the blowers on–keep ’em turned to the wind, that’s your business.
South five east by Standard, and that’ll be about south two by the
binnacle–keep your eye peeled. That’s all.”

Captain James retired to his room while the _Enos_ rolled slowly down
the Caribbean, dipping her gray sides alternately into the smooth sea
which rolled lazily. The gathering darkness still showed the forms of
many big coloured men lying upon the now silent deck, but when eight
bells struck off they were told to go below, and after that the deck
was deserted save by the men of the watch.

Below in the ‘tween-decks, where the banana racks had been removed, the
islanders were grouped in hot and uncomfortable groups. The blowers
made ventilation sufficient, but the air was warm and the odour from
three hundred hot bodies made it far from pleasant. The bo’sn who had
herded the crowd below stood near the hatchway in conversation with a
huge islander.

“Yes, I know it’s yo’ orders, but I don’t see why the captain makes us
stay below. I am a sailor man, sare, and I will not be in the way if
yo’ let me go on deck for the night,” said the negro.

“I ain’t got nothin’ to do with it,” answered the bo’sn, “my orders is
you stay here below–an’ here you stays.”

“But if I give you my word as a sailor man to help on deck, don’ yo’
think yo’ can allow me?” persisted the giant good-naturedly. “Look at
me, sare, I very warm.” And he showed his bare chest running water.

“Aw, you niggers ain’t satisfied wid anything,” said the bo’sn
impatiently. “You’ll get to a hotter place ‘n this before you
leave Panama. Get your crowd to sleep, fer I’m goin’ to fasten the
hatch–there’s water a-plenty in them barrels, you kin drink all you
want, an’ if you get short holler for the second to start the donkey
an’ pump some more in.”

“Very well, I reckon I must do as yo’ say,” and the giant negro
settled himself among his followers, who gradually made the best of
circumstances and went to sleep.

Midnight found the _Enos_ ploughing along over the smooth swell, a
bright moon shining upon the sea and making it almost as light as day.
McDuff on the bridge walked to and fro trying to keep awake, while
the hiss and tinkle of the side-wash was the only sound that broke
the stillness. The slight vibrations from the worn-out engines barely
reached the forward part of the ship, and only the low noise of the
foam told of the ship’s headway. She might almost have been at anchor,
rolling slowly from side to side as she took the long easy swell upon
her beam. The chief mate was warm and dry. He had been without liquid
refreshment for nearly four hours, and he saw a long vista ahead of
him into which the nose of the old ship pointed. He speculated a few
moments. He might go below for a drink, for there was nothing in sight,
and although it was against even the orders of James to drink while on
duty, there was no reason to suppose any one would be the wiser should
he do so. He went down the steps from the bridge and entered his room,
pouring forth from a bottle a good, nifty drink, and fizzing it well up
with the sparkling cola–ah, was there ever such refreshment anywhere
else in the world–what was that? Hark,–a jolt ran through the ship,
a slight jar, causing her to tremble. It seemed to McDuff as if the
engines stopped for a few moments–but no, they were going again, for
he could feel the vibration. He hurried on deck.

When he reached the bridge he looked about the horizon, and for a few
minutes saw nothing save the dim line where the night met the sea. Then
he gradually took in an outline close aboard to port. It was white,
and while he gazed he heard the low snore of the surf of the Roncador.
Almost instantly the chief engineer called up from below through the
tube.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. “Seemed to hit something an’ knock the engine
out a bit, but she’s goin’ all right now–if there’s anything wrong
let’s have it.”

“Nothin’ the matter I know of–port, hard a port,” he whispered to
the man at the wheel–“nothing wrong here,” he went on to the chief,
speaking through the tube. “If the engine is all right let her go,
ram the coal into her and wake her up.” Then to the man at the
wheel–“Steady, steady as she goes–how does she head now?”

“Sout’ b’ west, half west, sur,” said the sleepy helmsman.

Five minutes later the chief called up the tube.

“Water comin’ in by the jump–must have hit something–started both
pumps, but she’ll be over the fire-room floor in ten minutes–for God’s
sake tell me what has happened.”

McDuff stood petrified, irresolute. Then he drew a deep breath and
looked out over the sea and the ship. All was quiet, there was no sign
of panic or trouble below. Gazing aft he saw the two small boats in
their chocks with their canvas covers, and while he looked he knew it
would be but a few moments before the struggle to take possession of
them would begin. Three hundred and thirty men, or all hands, including
the extra messmen, would have to take to the boats, which would hold
at the most but forty of them. Nearly three hundred were doomed. Before
dawn they would be in the sea unless he ran the _Enos_ upon the bank.
But he could not do this without calling the captain. It was his ship,
or rather his command, and he knew his duty. He went quickly to the
master’s room.

“What, hit the Roncador? How the–” but James was enough of a seaman
to spring on deck without wasting words. He was a bit groggy, but the
sight of the quiet ship steadied him. There was nothing to fear just
yet. He rang off the engines and the dull boom of the gong sounded
strangely loud through the quiet night, reverberating through the hull
and making those awake curious.

“For God’s sake don’t waste any time. Call the chief and second from
below–let ’em keep the pumps going, but we must get those small boats
over and away before the niggers get wind of what is happening. Lord,
if they knew we’d be goners–quick, get the watch quietly and lower
away.”

“But ain’t we going to run her ashore, sir?” asked McDuff.

“Lord, yes, we’ll start her fair for the surf, but we must get away if
we want to live. She won’t hold together half an hour, an’ we’ll be a
good mile from solid land–man, man, hurry for your life–those niggers
will take charge of everything–hurry–”

McDuff needed little urging. He called the watch quietly while the
captain spoke down the tube to the chief, telling him to get his crowd
up as quickly as he could. In less than two minutes men were working
like mad in the moonlight. Straps were cut and lashings cut, while
the low fierce oaths and half-whispered threats of the frantic men
told of their furious haste. The selfish brute was in supreme control,
and it showed in each strained face and trembling hand. The fire-crew
came tumbling from below, cursing each other as they came out of the
hatches, some vowing to take the lives of those who obstructed their
path, all panting, gasping, rushing about with the wild panic of men
who are suddenly forced to face their end. James swore fiercely at them
and struck right and left with a belaying-pin, threatening, begging
them not to alarm the cargo. It was their only chance.

The boats dropped noiselessly over the side, the men sliding down the
tackles, clambering down along the lines, all getting into them as
quickly as possible. The half-naked fire-crew with their bare bodies
shoved and pushed for places, and if there had been even a little sea
on they would have swamped the small craft.

James had run to the bridge intending to point the vessel for the edge
of the reef. He ran the wheel over, but at that moment the second
engineer, who had been told to start the ship ahead, not understanding,
or caring for the cargo, shut off steam and climbed over the side into
the boat below him. There was nothing for the captain to do but go
or be left behind, and he hesitated not an instant, but followed the
second over the side just as the men were pushing off. They rowed
rapidly away from the horrible vicinity, heading due west. Few cared
even to look back at what they felt must become a scene of slaughter,
and only now and then did some conscience-smitten seaman fix his eyes
upon the hull which now rolled silently upon the sea.

By daylight the boat in charge of McDuff sighted the liner bound for
Colon, and in a few moments their hail was answered. Signals were
made and within an hour the entire outfit was aboard the big ship and
heading for their port of destination.

It was a terrible tale the men told, a tale of a foundering ship which
had sprung a leak–how the crowd of negroes had fought for the boats
and how the crew, after desperate efforts, had driven them back. There
were many little deficiencies in the tales which their kind-hearted
rescuers essayed to fill, allowing that the stress and excitement had
made the imaginations of many quite acute. James landed the second day
afterwards and reported his vessel lost in mid-ocean, having suddenly
sprung a leak which all efforts failed to stop. She was somewhere in
the vicinity of the Roncador Bank.

Two days later, while he was standing upon the clock at Colon waiting
for passage on the steamer to Kingston, he noticed a strange-looking
ship coming into the harbour. She was lying on one side until her deck
was awash and she was slowly steaming at the rate of about four knots
an hour. Deep she was in the water, so deep that her plimsoll mark
was several feet under, but she was working slowly in. Upon her decks
were a crowd of negroes. As the ship drew near he noticed a huge black
fellow upon the bridge who walked athwart-ships with a determined
stride. The ship was the _Enos_, there was no mistake about it, his
ship afloat and coming to dock, and the man who walked the bridge and
commanded her was the giant islander, the foreman of the working gang.

“Yes, Ah’m a sailor man,” said the good-natured giant an hour later,
after the tugs had gotten to work pumping the flooded bilge. “Ah’m a
sailor man, an’ I brought the Captain James his vessel. I sho’d like to
know if he is still alive, fo’ I’ve reason to think he must hab been
lost in de small boats–has yo’ heard anything about him? Yo’ kin tell
him Bahama Bill would like to see him!”

“Yes, he’s here all right,” announced the inspector.

“Well, I’d like to have a minute’s talk with him, just a moment’s
little talk,” said the man gently in his musical voice.

“I’ll send for him at once,” said the official, “but how did you save
the ship? He said she foundered.”

“Ah, yes, it was a small matter, a matter of a mattress and some
lines–we drew it over the side and under the bilge whar she hit the
edge of de Roncador–oh, yes, it soon stopped and wid the pumps we kep’
her goin’, hundreds of us, sare, passin’ the water over the side in
barrels and buckets,–yo’ think I kin see de captain soon,–Ah’m very
anxious toe speak with him; I sho’ is–yo’ reckon I kin?”

Before the ship was properly docked the steamer for Kingston had pulled
out, and upon her decks a crowd of men gazed at the strange vessel
which had just come in. Captain James and McDuff stood side by side
at the rail, and as the ship passed they noticed the giant black man
coming forth from the pilot-house of the _Enos_. He gazed at them long
and intently.

“Come, it’s all over with us,” said McDuff sullenly, “let’s go get a
drink.”

The islander stood long in the sunshine, shading his eyes with his
hand, until the steamer was a mere speck out at sea.

“I sho’d like to hab spoken to Captain James,” he said to an agent who
had come to see him about the men to work on the Canal. “Yes, I sho’
feel that he missed somethin’–My name is Bahama Bill.”

“Well, well, never mind him now. Let’s get down to business. Let’s see
what we can do with this gang. He’ll be back after he has seen his
owners and straightened out this affair. He says you acted pretty rough
about trying to take his boats and he had to drive you off. He’ll be
back all right an’ you can talk with him–”

“No, he will never come back. No sah. I shall miss dat little talk with
him, but–well, as you say, I’ll check off the cargo of men, they’re
all good fellows every one. Come–”

“They’re a good gang,” said the agent to the engineer of the local
work that afternoon; “they’re as good a set of men as we’ll get. Lazy?
Of course they’re lazy, did you ever see a black man who wasn’t lazy?
Fight? No, they’re not much on a fight, but I believe there is one
fellow, the foreman, a Fortune Islander, who is set upon killing–he
has a way of asking after a fellow, the captain of the ship that
brought ’em here, that makes me a bit nervous, he’s so blamed gentle
and insistent about seein’ him–but he never will, so what’s the
difference. I’ll turn ’em to in the morning.”

Continue Reading

Shanghaing the Tong

Captain Smart sat upon the deck of the wrecking-sloop _Sea-Horse_,
and read a letter from the agents of the cartridge company which had
furnished the ammunition to the _Bulldog_, brig, wrecked some time
before upon the Great Bahama Bank. It caused him some uneasiness, for
he scowled and wrinkled his brow, read and re-read it until the giant
black mate, Bahama Bill, could keep back his curiosity no longer.

“What is it, cap? What dat guy say? No use keepin’ bad news back. I kin
stan’ it, I reckon. Let’s have his lay–ain’t dat cartridge case no
good?”

“He says,” began Smart, “that the samples are good, that the cases are
all right, and he will take the ten tons, about three hundred thousand
rounds, at a cent and a half, the cartridges retailing at three cents,
or thirty dollars per thousand. That nets us four thousand five
hundred, or a little over two thousand dollars apiece for our day’s
work—-”

“Well, dat ain’t so bad–no, dat’s all toe de good, hey?”

“So far, yes,” said Smart, “but the railroad won’t carry them under
three hundred dollars, and won’t give any guarantee that they’ll be
delivered on time; won’t insure them–in fact, won’t do anything but
carry them at an exorbitant rate, and they say they must have the goods
within one week from the eighth of this month, or upon the fifteenth.
Otherwise they won’t fill the order, they don’t want them. It’s now the
tenth–that’s the rub. How are we going to make good? Shall we trust
to the railroad? It never does what it agrees to, and in this case we
look like bad ones. That’s what’s worrying me. What do you say? You’re
half-partner–it’s up to you, Bill.”

The big black mate sat looking at the shore for some minutes. His
ugly face was wrinkled and his rheumy eyes were puckered in thought,
his huge shoulders hunching up, and giving him the air of one who has
struck a problem too great to solve. Finally he spoke.

“Jule will be along on the morning boat,” said he solemnly.

“Who is Jule?” asked Smart.

“Jule? Why, I thought you knew, cap–why, Jule is my wife. ‘Fightin’
Jule’ deys calls her, an’ I reckon dat’s a good name. She got dat
letter you wrote, and de money I sent from de diving at de gold plant.
She dun heard ob dat gold plant, an’ she’s comin’ on up. She’ll be here
in about an hour.”

“You think she can give us good advice–is that it?” suggested Smart,
eying the big mate keenly.

“Er–er–dat ain’t exactly what I was thinkin’–no, sah, cap,” said
Bahama Bill, with a sickly grin.

“I’m not a mind-reader, Bill,” said Smart.

“Well, sah, cap–seein’ as it’s you, well, sah–er–er–well, I don’t
know but what we better make de run toe Noo York ourselves. Or else
back toe Key West, an’ ketch de Noo York steamer. She kin make de run
in three days; dat’ll do de trick, hey?”

“Has your wife brought her children with her?” asked Smart.

“Oh, no, cap, she always leaves dem with her ma when she starts off on
de rampage—-”

“I see; you’re afraid of her,” said Smart, smiling.

“Not eggzactly dat, cap; not eggzactly–I ain’t afeared ob nothin’;
no, sah, dat I ain’t, but she shuah do make me nervous; she shuah
do make me feel–well, I jest don’t know how, but it’ll be best fo’
you–fo’ you, cap–if we start fo’ Noo York before she gits here. Yo’
understand?”

Captain Smart thought a moment. He had heard of Bahama Bill’s wife,
the well but not favourably known “Fighting Jule,” of Key West. On the
whole, it was worth considering. They might make the run in five or six
days. It had been done before, but not often. The _Sea-Horse_ was an
able sloop, but that was testing her too much. The great six-masters
had made the run to Havana in five days, two hundred miles farther on,
but they seldom did it in ten. It was a great risk; a risk which might
end up in the loss of the entire consignment, for they might not be
able to get another chance for a sale.

On the other hand, there was _Key West_, the New York steamer, which
would be due the next morning, and she would take the freight at proper
prices, and be sure to land it in town–she couldn’t help it, making
the run North in three days to a certainty. The Key West run seemed to
be the best one, but there were certain other considerations which had
to be thought of.

“How about Key West?” asked Smart. “Do you think we could run in after
that fracas at Journegan’s bar? Won’t the police want us pretty bad if
they think they can shake us down for a thousand dollars?”

“I shuah think dey will dat,” assented the mate, “if dey think we got
anything. Dey certainly trim de folks right smart down dere. I reckon
you’re right, ’tain’t no place fo’ us wid a cargo of ca’tridges. I
reckon you’re wise; I reckon we’d better be gittin’ farther No’th.”

“There’s the New York ship from Jacksonville–how’s that?” asked Smart.
“We can make that run in two days with a good wind—-”

“Git de mainsail on her–Sam, Heldron–lay aft, yo fellers,” said
Bahama Bill, springing to action. “We’ll catch de Saturday ship, an’
git de stuff in town in plenty o’ time–dat’s de lay–Jacksonville–an’
dere’s de smoke o’ de _Key West_ comin’ up de Hawk’s Channel–see him?”
And he pointed to the southward.

“I’ll go ashore and get my clothes. They’re at the Chinese laundry,”
said Smart, jumping into the small boat.

“Yo’ want toe hurry up–we ain’t got no time toe lose. Git my shirts,
too, cap. I dun left ’em with de Chink las’ week–an’ git a five-poun’
ham on de way back, we’ll need a bit o’ grub—-”

Smart was already rowing briskly toward the shore, where he landed and
made his way rapidly up the street. Wah Lee, the Chinaman who ran the
laundry, stood within his doorway and gazed with mild amazement at the
unwonted gait of the seaman. Fast walking was not the habit of the
Florida cracker, and to see a man sprint along at Smart’s gait aroused
the suspicion that he was either making a “getaway” from some one or
something, or was bent upon most important business.

“He allee samee good mans,” said Wah Lee, to one of his numerous
brothers ironing a shirt. “Wachee mee skinee him–allee samee bunk. Him
sailor fell! Him gotee mon, mon, mon. Me con mans, allee samee bunk.
Ha! ha! You see.”

Smart stepped into the shanty with a brisk step.

“Get the clothes up, John. Get ’em tied fast right away–all, Bahama
Bill’s and mine both–hurry, you savvy? Hurry.” And the sailor handed
over his slip.

“You go to sea to-day?” asked the active Lee, scurrying around behind
his counter and trying to match the slip of paper with its strange
characters to one of the many bundles already tied fast with white
twine, and laid carefully upon the shelves along the walls.

“Yes; sail in a minute–hurry up. Got to get to sea before the steamer
gets in—-”

“Ah! Allee same good–you take him. Two dolla’ fiftee cent.”

“What! For just three shirts and two ducks? You are a robber.”

“Two dolla’ fiftee cent, allee right–you pay him–no shirt, no pay
him,” said the usurious Lee, lowering truculently at the skipper. One
of his brothers sniggered.

When a Celestial sniggers at a white man it is bad. Especially if the
white man happens to be a sailor–and in a hurry. Just what makes the
Easterner an inferior is not quite definite, not quite clear to the
socialistic mind, but that he is inferior is generally conceded–among
white men. Among the Orientals there is a quite different opinion
based upon their point of view, which, when discussed from its ethical
standpoint, is not illogical or unreasonable. Sailors seldom are
analytical, seldom go into the reason of things; they are content to
accept them as they are, or as they appear to be. Therefore, Smart was
much wroth at the sniggering Chink, the more so because he knew he was
being cheated by Wah Lee in his wash bill.

But Wah Lee was a hatchetman. He was a leader of the Hip Sing Tong, and
a very bad Chinese to fool with. He was in Florida only for his health,
not for gain; and the fact that gain came his way was incidental. He
took advantage of it. His little ratlike eyes glinted strangely as he
spoke his soft sing-song speech.

“Two dolla’ fiftee cent–no shirt, no pay–you savvy?” he drawled.

“Come, come, John, be quick about it, and don’t put up any
foolishness–I haven’t time to play this morning,” said Smart quickly.
“Get the clothes or I’ll wade in and take charge of some of those on
the shelves.”

“You pay two dolla’ fiftee cent–you no’ pay right off you pay tlee
dolla’ slixty cent,” sang Mr. Wah Lee, his eyes still narrowing, and
his hands feeling softly in among his sleeves, where he kept his
weapons; “I no time to foolish mans.”

“You’re on the ‘bunk,’ then,” said Smart; “is that it?”

“Two dolla’ fiftee cent, or—-”

His answer was quickly given. Smart swung for his jaw, and landed
full upon the Oriental chin. Wah Lee went to the floor with a crash,
bringing down an ironing-board with him; the flat-irons, clothes, and
other gear rolling in a mess. He drew a huge, blue-barrelled gun from
his sleeve, and, while he lay supine, levelled it at the sailor. Smart
missed getting the shot by a hair, and managed to land a kick upon
Lee’s pistol-arm before the furious Chink could fire, whereupon not
less than four powerful hatchetmen, trained athletes from the Orient,
sprang upon him at once.

The seaman was dumfounded at the assault. A Chink was beneath
contempt, and to find oneself beset by several powerful Orientals, who
were more than his match, was simply heart-breaking, pride-destroying.
He swung right and left, furiously clinched, and the five of them
rolled with a surging smash against the counter, breaking it down
in a mass of splinters, sending clothes, boards, and other laundry
paraphernalia in all directions.

One of the men let out a shrill yell, and the two not fighting sprang
to the doors and slammed them fast. It would not do to let the populace
of the town see the fracas. A Chinaman never advertises the fact that
he is a fighter, and is never glad to have it found out, especially
among Americans. Besides, had not the foreign pig struck down their
leader, the most high Wah Lee, and had not the august Lee essayed to
kill the pig–was he not doomed?

Yet none of them wished to act as executioner without direct and
explicit orders from the chief. This was a poor country to kill a man
in, his friends always made such a fuss; and the police with clubs
always made it bad, impossible to hide for a very long time. A rope and
a neighbouring tree were the usual finishing touches if they failed to
find the lost one.

Smart fought with a fury born of broken pride, lost self-esteem. He was
degraded, lowered to the level of common Chinks, and he gave short-arm
jolts with amazing lifting power begotten of many years’ hard hauling
upon lines.

With both hands and feet he strove wildly to free himself from the
tangle of baggy sleeves, cotton trousers, and yellow arms. The mass of
struggling men rolled and surged over the floor. Smart raised himself
again and again to his knees, striking, punching, clinching, using
elbows, feet, and knees; and the tide of struggling forms flowed across
the room, demolishing everything in its path.

Wah Lee tried in vain to use his gun, and a fellow ruffian tried to
strike with the deadly little hatchet used for such occasions, but ever
and again the pile of struggling arms, legs, and bodies prevented.
The noise of the struggle was drowned in the shrill curses of the
contestants, while the sailor fought silently like a bulldog, gripping,
smashing, kicking, and flinging the mass about in the vain hope to
throw them off enough to get in a full arm-stroke from his fists. If
he could but strike a full swing once or twice he felt sure of the
outcome, for a Chinaman will seldom stand to a full-arm stroke upon the
jaw.

Wah Lee, seeing that to shoot was to endanger his men, dropped his gun
into his cash-drawer, and fell foul of the bunch to try to do his share
in overcoming the foreign pig. His remaining followers seeing him,
flung themselves into the pile, and the mass of men was increased.

Smart began to feel the extra weight of numbers. He was growing
tired, and, in spite of his excellent wind, was panting hoarsely, his
breathing hampered considerably by gripping fingers he was forced to
tear time and again from his throat. He raised himself to his knee
for the last giant effort. His heart was breaking. He smashed wildly,
furiously; plunged, bucked, threw himself about, twisting, turning,
striving with the last remnant of his dying strength. Then he gradually
gave way, growing weaker, fighting slower, sinking gradually down,
while the pile of men fastened their grips upon him for the finish. In
a few moments he was lying limp, and the panting Celestials rose, one
after the other, to their feet, while Wah Lee passed a line about the
sailor’s arms and legs, making him secure.

It had been a most excellent affair; a most magnificent affray worthy
of a sailor striving for his rights; and Wah Lee gazed with narrowing
eye at the form while he panted out his losses to the surrounding
brothers of his Tong. The entire front of the laundry was swept bare,
the ironing-boards smashed, the clothes in masses of rags; bundles and
papers rolled and mixed in confusion. Flat-irons, holders, chairs,
and shelves arranged themselves in piles as though an earthquake had
swept through the place; and, while Lee looked sadly at the wreck, he
murmured: “Two dolla’ fiftee cent.”

It had been a bad business for the Chinaman. He had made another
mistake, but he would wreak his vengeance at will now upon the helpless
Smart. Hot irons, melted lead, and quicklime were some of the items
running through his furious mind, and just when and how he would use
them upon his victim. He would have to wait to see if the white pig
had many friends, who might make a thorough search, but sailors, as a
rule, had no friends at all; they were soon forgotten–then he would go
to work.

In the meantime he would place the seaman where the mosquitoes would
not trouble him, after first relieving him of any unnecessary valuables
he might have upon his despicable person.

Into a filthy den he carried the now insensible Smart, casting him into
a foul bunk, which had been used by a smoker of the drug common to the
Chinese coolie, and carefully covering him, so that no one would notice
the form even should the retreat be discovered. Then he set about with
his helpers to straighten up the shop.

PART II

During the period of time Smart spent in serious argument with the
august Lee, Bahama Bill fretted and fumed about the deck of the
wrecking-sloop, _Sea-Horse_. Sam and Heldron both came in for a
dressing, and both narrowly escaped getting a morning bath, for the
big black mate was in a passion at the delay. The steamer from Key
West came to the dock, and a form–the unmistakable form of “Fightin’
Jule”–stepped ashore, and moved with no uncertain stride in the
direction of the _Sea-Horse_.

Bahama Bill grunted forth anathemas, and sprang into the small boat to
gain the wharf before his spouse could intercept him. He felt there
might be something doing. When he arrived at the landing he looked up,
and gazed right into the eyes of his partner.

“Huccum yo’ toe git heah, Jule?” asked Bahama Bill.

“I come wid de boat, shuah, nigger. How yo’ think I come–swim? I come
toe see just what yo’ doin’; why yo’ don’t come home. I knows yo’,
Bill, yo’ been runnin’ wid some trashy nigger gal up heah—-”

“It ain’t so, Jule—-”

“Don’t yo’ contradict me, nigger. I _knows_ you. You ain’t sent me all
dat money fer nothin’; yo’ ain’t done it fo’ no reason ‘cept toe try
toe make me think yo’ keers fo’ me. Don’t yo’ make me mad.”

“But, Jule, I got ter git toe sea right away. I ain’t done nothin’
but gib up de dough fast as I makes it. Got a cargo ob ca’tridges now
abo’d, an’ got toe git dem No’th right away. I jest come heah toe see
you an’ git de partner I got in de deal. I sho’ nuff glad toe see yo’,
Jule.”

“Don’ yo’ gib me none o’ yo’ foolishness, Bill. I knows yo’. I tells
yo’ I _knows_ yo’, an’ I’ll set right heah tel yo’ gits de partner an’
gits ready toe go abo’d dat sloop–I wants to see de kind o’ partner
yo’ has. Don’ talk toe me. Ef I wasn’t a lady, I’d knock yo’ blame’
haid off. Gwan!”

Bahama Bill was much disturbed, and he went up the street in no
pleasant frame of mind. His wife he knew would stay right in sight of
the sloop until the sloop sailed, and the indications were she’d want
to go along with him. It was very disturbing to a man of the mate’s
temperament. He went along as a man much occupied with his thoughts,
and looked neither to the right nor left until he reached the main
street. Here he met a sailor from a yacht lying in the harbour, and he
asked him if he had seen anything of Smart.

“Yo’ knows a yacht feller when yo’ see him, I reckon; have yo’ seen dat
Cap’n Smart?” he said.

“I saw your captain going toward the laundry about an hour ago,” said
the sailor.

Bahama Bill went into a saloon and took a drink. Where could Smart
have gone, except on a drunk, after going to the laundry. He eyed the
barkeeper sourly, and asked him if he had seen his sailor partner.

“Sure,” said the man of drinks, handing out a square-faced bottle and a
glass. “He stopped over across the way to the Chink’s–heard something
of a fracas going on over in that direction–shouldn’t wonder if he
beat up the heathen, only that Wah Lee is a corker; a sure winner for a
yaller skin.”

“What yo’ mean?” asked Bill.

“I means that the Chink is a scrapper–kin do ’em up; carries a Gatling
gun in his sleeve. He’s only here for a few months in the winter.
Belongs to the Hip Sing Tong, or some secret society in New York. He’s
something like Fat Duck, or Bill Puck, or some sech Chink I reads of in
th’ papers what does up whole theatres full o’ them yaller bellies.”

“Gimme another drink,” said Bahama Bill, meditatively gazing into his
empty glass. “It ain’t likely Cap’n Smart stayed wid no Chinks, but I
goes over dere an’ takes a peek, jest fer luck, sah. I shuah ain’t got
nothing agin’ no Chink, but I reckon I makes de yaller boy tell what he
knows.” And as he finished the gin, he put the glass down carefully and
strode forth.

He walked to the door of the laundry, and looked in where the men were
now hard at work again ironing, their outfit temporarily repaired, and
business going ahead as usual.

Bill looked at the place for a moment, and his trained eye saw marks of
combat still upon the walls and shelves, which showed in spite of the
new arrangements made.

“Seen a friend ob mine, a sailor man?” asked the mate, peering into the
door.

“No see no ones–heap workee, velly busy,” replied Wah Lee.

Bahama Bill entered and stuck forth his big, ugly head right close to
the Chinaman’s.

“You tell me where Cap’n Smart went after cleaning yo’ place up, yo’
heah?” he said menacingly.

The memory of the fracas was heavy upon Wah Lee. He backed away and
drew his big, blue-barrelled gun.

“You getee ‘way velly quick–see?” he said fiercely.

Bahama Bill reached over like lightning and grasped a Chinaman by the
slack of his pigtail, jerking him in front of himself, and seizing
him with his left hand, to keep him in place. An iron lay handy, and
instantly it was sailing straight for the head of the belligerent Lee.

It caught him full in the neck, propelled with the power of the giant
mate’s arm, and the Chinaman spun clear across the room, landing limp
and insensible.

The big gun failed to explode, and went clattering upon the floor.
Instantly Bill sprang for it, and seized its barrel just as a powerful
heathen grabbed it by the stock. The mate wrenched it free with a quick
jerk, and struck the fellow twice upon the top of his shaved head.
Then the whole crowd piled upon him, swarmed up against him, grasping,
clinging, gripping for his throat, while a hatchetman made a pass with
his weapon, which reached the black man’s skull.

Bahama Bill was tough and hard, his head was thick of bone, and,
although the hatchet struck him hard enough to kill an ordinary man,
the blade glanced off, and cut only a big gash in his scalp. The stars
danced before his eyes, and he staggered for an instant, and in that
instant the whole gang closed upon him. Then the realization of his
predicament dawned upon him, and he let forth a mighty yell, tore loose
from the strangling holds upon his neck, and then smashed right into
the crowd with the fury of a wounded tiger, the blood from his head
pouring over him.

There was a wild mixture of huge black arms, flying forms of pajamaed
Chinamen going through the air, and with yell after yell he grabbed and
smashed the first that came in his path, tearing up the whole place
with the struggle.

He seized an ironing-board and swung it about his head, yelling
hoarsely. Then he struck right and left with it, knocking Chinese,
gear, and clothes indiscriminately about the room, until there was not
the slightest movement to denote life anywhere but in his own mighty
frame.

Upon the floor the forms lay about–smashed, stunned, insensible. Then
his fury abating, he stopped for a moment to gaze through the haze of
blood and dust of conflict. He grinned hideously at the sight, his
wound making him grotesquely horrible. Then he was suddenly taken with
an idea.

He grasped the cue of a Chink and drew it across the room to that
of another, making them fast with a bend. Then he dragged the rest,
the whole six, and fastened them to Wah Lee’s cue. It made a pile of
Chinese aggregating about a thousand pounds in dead weight; and he
scanned the mass to contemplate. As he stopped, he was aware of a
sound in the partition. He listened for a moment, and thought he heard
his name called in a low voice–a voice which sounded far away and
indistinct. He roared out a reply, and listened again. Yes, it was the
voice of Captain Smart.

The captain was begging him to hurry and get him out of somewhere, and
the mate roared out in reply:

“Where is yo’? Where is yo’? How I get thar?” And he ran along the
partition, trying to discover a door or other opening. Nothing showed,
and, losing patience, he caught up an iron and began smashing the
planks. In a few minutes he had broken through into a dark recess, into
which he crawled without delay. Something smote him heavily upon the
head, and he fell sprawling, lying helpless and half-insensible, while
a shrill voice cried out in defiance.

* * * * *

Bahama Bill lay dazed and dizzy for a long time; probably ten minutes.
Then he was aware of Smart’s voice cursing furiously and calling for
help. The huge mate slowly gathered himself, managed to rise to his
knees, and, as he did so, the light which now shone through the gap in
the partition showed him a slight girl standing over him with an axe.
She had evidently struck him as he came through the bulkhead, and only
her youth and frailness had prevented the blow from finishing him. He
now saw she was about to repeat the operation, and he quickly snatched
the weapon from her, and drew her to him.

“What fo’ yo’ hit me?” he asked, angrily.

“You velly bad mans–go away!” screamed the child.

Bill searched the surrounding gloom with a quick, comprehensive glance,
and noticed a form lying in a bunk covered with a cloth. He made his
way to it, and uncovered the prostrate form of Smart, securely bound,
but not securely gagged. The sailor could only use his tongue, but he
did use that member to its fullest extent, while he told quickly of the
way he had run up against Wah Lee. Then the sight of Bahama Bill’s head
caught his gaze, and he made a wry face. The giant mate was like a
black fury with his marks of combat upon him.

“This child is a wife of that rascal,” said Smart, explaining the
little girl’s presence in such a place. “She’s about twelve years old,
and his property–his slave, I suppose you would call it. He keeps her
in here, where no one can ever see her, and she thought you were some
fellow going to harm her when she struck you with the axe. I tried
to tell you as you came through, but couldn’t make you hear–that’s
better, now cut loose my feet.” And the mate passed his knife through
the cords, setting him free.

“I sho’ feel some ashamed toe think yo’ dun up by dese Chinks,” said
Bill, as Smart rose from the filthy bunk. “Yo’ ain’t much hurt?”

“Not hurt at all–not like you,” said Smart impatiently.

“Dat clip was jest accident–shuah, shuah. Dey ain’t hurt me none toe
speak of–only a little blood. But dat kid gal cum near killin’ me wid
dat axe. I ain’t quite through yet. Come along into the room where dey
lays.”

They took the child with them, and crawled through the bulkhead. One of
the wounded men upon the floor had recovered his senses, and was busily
at work trying to loosen his cue as Bahama Bill stepped up. A jolt with
his foot stopped operations for the time, and Smart stood contemplating
the victory.

“What’ll we do about it?” asked the yachtsman.

“Do? I jest reckon we’ll take de whole bunch abo’d de ship. We’ll need
some extra hands toe make de passage quick. We got toe git a move on,
fo’ we got the git dat stuff up toe catch de steamer at Jacksonville.
Dere’s a cyart right in dat co’ner, sah. Help me pile ’em in.”

Smart, still furious from the treatment he had received, lent a willing
hand, and in a few minutes they had the whole bunch of Celestials
dumped in the cart and made secure.

“What’ll we do wif dat little gal?” asked Bill, eying the child. “She
ain’t all Chink, by de looks; reckon she’s a half-breed.”

“We’ll have to take her with us,” said Smart, and so they started out
of the shop, pushing the cart with the Chinese before them; and they
attracted no attention for some minutes, for the affrays had been
little noticed, as there had been no gun-fire.

“Hold on, let’s get the clothes,” said Smart, running back into the
doorway and grabbing what bundles he could reach handily, and which had
still been left intact from the whirlwind passage of the giant mate. He
tossed them into the cart, and they went rapidly down to the dock.

Some small boys and one or two loafers followed, wishing to see the
fun, but no one molested them or inquired their purpose. They reached
the water-side without mishap. Fighting Jule was sitting there waiting
for her lord to show up, and she was in anything but a sweet humour.
The sight of the little Chinese girl made her alter her purpose to
assault her huge partner, and she inquired briskly into details.

“Yo’ take de kid an’ keep her till we git de crew abo’d,” said Bill,
with the first approach at gentleness in his voice.

Jule took the child. She was motherly, matronly, and affectionate,
though a fighter. Her own progeny were safe at Key West, and this
little yellow girl, this Chinese, appealed to her curiosity and
motherhood alike. She gathered her in her arms and looked her over in
wonder, while the men lowered their victims into the small boat.

“Huccum yo’ toe be wif dem Chinks–is yo’ de little pickaninny ob dat
Wah Lee man?” she asked.

“Me Wah Lee’s wife,” said the child, crying.

“Yo’ stop tellin’ me lies, lil’ gal; yo’ ain’t nothin’ but a baby.”

“Me Wah Lee’s wife. He bought me last moon. Velly bad mans takee Wah
Lee away; velly bad mans takee me.” The child spoke remarkably well for
a Chinese.

A crowd of loafers had now been attracted by the unusual proceedings,
and, in spite of the apathy of the Florida cracker, they managed to
excite some wonder as to what the men of the _Sea-Horse_ were about.
In less time than it takes to tell it, Bahama Bill and Smart had the
Mongolians aboard, where Sam and Heldron were instructed to look after
them, and see that they went to work as soon as they were recovered
sufficiently to do duty.

“Ef yo’ boys don’t want toe work dis trip, yo’ kin make de Chinks work
fo’ yo’. Dey owes us a bit ob work. Break out dat hook an’ git dat jib
on her.”

In less than five minutes the _Sea-Horse_ was standing down the channel
out to sea, Sam and Heldron lost in amazement at the turn of affairs.
Some of the loafers on the dock shouted out something, but they made no
reply, and in a few minutes were beyond hailing.

“De boat leaves fo’ home at six–I reckon you’ll hab toe cum wif me,”
said Jule, leading the little girl away and gazing angrily after the
_Sea-Horse_. “Ef I wasn’t a lady I’d shuah knock dat coon in de haid,”
she added. “I dun paid er dollar an’ a half fo’ toe git heah, an’ now I
got toe go home–cum.”

* * * * *

“I reckon I’ll change mah clothes en clean up er bit,” said the mate,
after they rounded the point and stood away northward.

“So will I,” said Smart. “Better open up the clothes I brought and get
some clean ones.”

Several of the shanghaied men were now able to get about, and Sam took
them in charge. Wah Lee gazed about him dizzily, but made no comment.
Heldron had passed his knife through his cue, cutting it off close to
his head, in order to loose him from the bunch. He looked angrily at
the sailor, and felt his strange-looking pate with a rueful hand.

“You heap sabbee work,” said Sam. “Git busy, you dam’ Chink.” And
he helped the truculent Tong leader to his feet with the toe of his
sea-boot.

The fight was pretty well worked out of Wah Lee, for he obeyed as best
he could, glancing with narrowing, wicked eyes at the sailor. Lines
were coiled up at the direction of the two men, and in less than half
an hour Sam and Heldron were lying at ease, hurling directions at the
bunch of Celestials, who endeavoured to obey orders.

Bahama Bill washed his wounded head, which ached sorely. Then he sought
clean clothes from the bundles brought from the laundry. By some chance
Smart had gotten hold of nothing save female apparel, but one bundle
happened to contain several pairs of pajamas; and, as the weather was
quite warm, he donned a suit and came on deck. Bahama Bill had no
recourse but to do likewise. He jammed his huge limbs into a pair of
the loose trousers, which came to his knees. This appeared not so bad,
for he was used to going barefooted. The loose coat covered him, the
sleeves reaching to his elbows; and thus attired he, also, came on deck
to take a look around.

The recalcitrant Wah Lee looked lugubriously at the black mate.

“Where you takee me?” he asked. “Where you go?”

“Toe China, toe de land ob Chinks,” said Bahama Bill lugubriously,
scowling at his former adversary. “Git out de shears, Sam; an’ yo’,
Heldron, git out de line toe make de Chinks fast.”

“What for you do?” asked Wah Lee.

“Me showee you, me showee you,” snarled Bahama Bill. “Is yo’ good
barber, cap’n?”

“I reckon I can cut the hair fairly well,” assented Smart.

“De razzer ob mine is in de locker, toe de right,” suggested Bill.

Wah Lee was quickly tied fast and his hair cut close. Then a lather was
made, and before many minutes his head was shaved as clean as a fairly
good razor could shave it.

“Next!” called Bahama Bill, in the tone of a barber.

All went through the same operation, two of the pigtails being kept as
souvenirs of the occasion. The débris was thrown overboard.

“Now yo’ Chinks git out de soap an’ de water–show ’em where dey
is kept, Heldron–an’ I wants toe see dishear ship washed fo’ an’
aft–see? Heap sabbee? I wants toe see dishear ship come inter
Jacksonville lookin’ like a yacht; lookin’ like she was something toe
be proud ob. Git toe work.”

The wind held fair, and for two days the _Sea-Horse_ ran up the coast,
making six or seven knots, raising the jetty off the bar the third
day out. The sloop had been scrubbed alow and aloft, her decks rubbed
white, her spare sails even scrubbed clean, and she looked good to a
nautical eye as she rounded the sea-buoy and stood up the St. John’s
River for town.

The inhabitants of Mayport and Pilotown were treated to the novel
sight of a heavily built sloop manned by a crew large enough for
a four-master, the officers uniformed in bright-coloured pajamas,
which fitted not at all, and the larger part of the hands distinctly
Mongolian. The customs officer stopped her and boarded her without
delay.

“Where do you come from–China?” asked the official, in amazement.

“Yo’ surely ain’t forgot de ole _Sea-Horse_, Marse Hennery,” said
Bahama Bill, coming on deck and recognizing an old acquaintance in
the boarding officer. “We got a consignment ob ca’tridges–American
ammunition–here’s de papers, an’ de crew we shipped in a hurry,
without gittin’ time toe sign ’em on in regular shape; but dey is all
right; dey belongs right in dishear State.”

As it is not necessary to sign on hands in small vessels coasting
unless there is especial reason for it, the officer left without
further remark, and the _Sea-Horse_ proceeded on her way.

The steamer for New York was at the dock, and would not sail until
after dark. There was plenty of time to make the consignment and get
the bill of sale through. The unruly crew were kept at work hoisting
out cases of ammunition until all was aboard the steamer. Then the
ship was washed down and gear put in place, and the _Sea-Horse_ looked
almost like a pleasure craft.

“I will give you a thousand dollars for her,” said a shipper who had
been attracted by the strange uniforms and crew.

“Make it fifteen hundred,” said Bahama Bill.

“She will never be in better condition to sell,” cautioned Smart, who
felt as though losing an old friend.

They finally compromised on twelve hundred, and, as Captain Sanders
showed up before dark, dead broke and very thirsty, he was more than
willing to get cash for his share. The deal was made, the money paid,
and the Celestial crew were at last allowed to go ashore.

Wah Lee made for the depot with his followers. He had no thought for
seeking redress by the aid of the authorities, for, with the Tong men,
the foreign pigs are always dealt with personally. There were plenty of
Chinese who ran laundries in Jacksonville who could be levied upon to
produce the railroad fare to get him and his gang back to their place
of business.

With new clothes and rigged out splendidly, all hands left the dock
long before darkness set in. Smart had a receipt for his share of the
salvaged ammunition, and the feeling that he had several thousand
dollars was not distasteful to him. His cruise on the wrecking-sloop
had been successful, and it was with a somewhat mixed feeling he said
good-bye to the big black mate.

“Good-bye, cap,” said Bahama Bill. “I shuah like yo’, an’ yo’ shuah
done well wif me–good-bye. Mebbe we kin make a new deal some day.
Dere’s plenty ob money wracking, ef yo’ know how toe wrack right.
Mebbe Sanders an’ us kin go inter de business right, and git a bigger
ship. Let me heah from yo’.”

“I certainly will,” said Smart. “Good-bye.” And the giant fingers of
the mate of the _Sea-Horse_ closed upon his own with their firm, solid
grip.

Late that night a sheriff came rapidly down the dock to where the
steamer was just pulling out.

“Seen anything of the sloop _Sea-Horse_?” he asked several bystanders.

“Thar she lays–right at the dock,” said the watchman of the wharf.

“Ah!” He smiled grimly.

“You want the crew?” asked the watchman.

“I certainly do that,” said the sheriff. “There’s a bit of a charge of
kidnapping against the mate and captain. Ran off with a whole lot of
Chinks from below. They are aboard, I suppose?”

“That sloop was sold out hours ago, the crew gone, and the whole thing
settled before five o’clock. It ain’t likely you’ll come up with the
men you’re after in this town. No, sir, they don’t belong here–good
night.” And the watchman grinned as the sheriff, after gazing down at
the deserted vessel, sadly went his way.

At the station Bahama Bill looked up to the window where Smart sat in
the train. He felt the parting with the keenness often developed in the
African character, and he was loath to leave until the train pulled
out.

“Good-bye ag’in, cap; good-bye,” he called up to him as the train
gathered headway slowly.

Sanders stood near, and, not knowing the friendship between the two,
was a little disconcerted at the mate’s warmth.

“Come on, we take the train going the other way, Bill,” he said, as the
mate waved his hand.

“Shuah, shuah. Good-bye, cap—-He was all right, Sanders; dat yacht
feller was all toe de good. I ain’t got but one t’ing agin’ him.”

“What’s that?” asked Captain Sanders.

“Well–er–er, well, I cayn’t hab de highest regyard fo’ his–well,
sah, I don’t know jest how toe say it, but he sho’ never ought toe been
dun up by dem Chinks–dat’s all.”

He put his hand into his pocket and drew forth two handsomely braided
queues.

“Yo’ see dese heah? Well, I’se gwine toe make a nice dog-whip ob dem
fo’ mah little boy Will toe play wif.” And he stroked their satin
length approvingly as he boarded the cars for home.

Continue Reading

Journegan’s Graft

When Stormalong Journegan found that running a saloon in coöperation
with the police had its draw-backs, he turned his attention to more
lucrative fields.

“It’s no use fooling with such fellows as you,” he said one day, “you
are sharks, pure blood-sucking sharks, you don’t give a fellow half
a show to make a living. I’m through with you. I’m done. I sell out
to-day. Shanahan might be able to stand you off, he’s rough, rough as a
file and ready to get into trouble. I’m past that stage of the game. I
want to live quietly without so much fuss, so much fracas and so much
blackmail. I’m going where brains count for as much as trickery and
downright rascality. I’m going where there are some educated Yankees,
some Northern men of means who can tell a man when they see him–yes,
I’m through with you Conchs and crabs.”

After delivering himself he spent several days winding up his affairs
at the Cayo Huesso, the beautiful white bar at Key West, converted his
belongings into cash and took the steamer for Miami, where he arrived
in due course of time. He stood upon the deck of the steamer one
morning and watched the rising of the Florida Cape to the northward,
stood and gazed at the beautiful bay of Biscayne, where the Northern
tourists had been flocking during the cold weather to fish and hunt
in the bright sunshine of the reef. The bay was full of small craft,
yachts of all descriptions thronged the dredged harbour and small boats
came and went over the bright coral banks which shone varicoloured a
few feet beneath the surface in the glare of the torrid sun. Yes, there
was some life here, something more than the dull and sullen Conchs, the
voracious grafters of the reef city and the straying ship’s passenger.
Here was Northern capital, Northern progress.

“It looks very good to me,” mused Mr. Journegan as he gazed serenely
down from the hurricane deck of the Key West steamer.

They passed several vessels he knew. There was the wrecking-sloop,
_Sea-Horse_ of Key West, the _Silver Bar_, schooner-yacht for charter,
and several others. Upon the deck of the wrecker he saw the big black
mate, Bahama Bill, sitting smoking his pipe, his muscular shoulders
shining like coal in the sunlight, while he rubbed his rheumy eyes, the
red-rimmed eyes of a diver in salt water, to see better as he watched
the approaching ship. Yes, and there was Captain Smart of the lost Dunn
schooner, sitting upon the taffrail fishing. He waved his hand to them
as the steamer swung past, the thudding of her paddles drowning his
hail of welcome which he called out when abreast.

He landed and made his way to the hotel. He had plenty of money and
would live right while he felt like it. There was no reason why he
should stint himself in any worldly pleasure. Several thousand dollars
would last him some time, and after it was spent–well, he seldom went
broke. It was not men of his ability who went broke. Oh, no, money was
too easy. He never could see why some people found it hard to get. Get,
why it seemed to come to him. He couldn’t keep it away. After all, he
figured that he must be something of a man to make it so easily when so
many strove so hard. Yes, it was brains that made money, brains, not
brawn, not toil–foolishness. Well, he was here to see, to watch, to
take notice. If there was anything floating about, it was most likely
he would pick it up. He couldn’t help it.

The gambling-place allowed by the management of the hotel was very
well kept. It was surrounded by palms and flowers, and its green
tables were made as enticing as human ingenuity allowed. Mr. Journegan
found them much to his taste, and as the days slipped by he found that
instead of a few thousand dollars in his pockets he had but a scant
hundred. He also had a hotel bill running up at something like twenty
dollars per day. He awoke slowly to the realization that he must quit
the game and hustle for cash. It was about this time that he made the
acquaintance of a gentleman from New York who had read much and studied
more, deeming the human race a fit problem to devote his mind upon. Mr.
Smithe, who insisted that he had an “e” to his name, found the yarns
of Journegan much to his liking. The two met upon the hotel verandas
and also at the gaming-tables, and after a few days they began to spar
for an opening for personal confidences.

“You know,” said the studious Smithe, “that there is an enormous waste
of material here. Just look at all that water, that magnificent bay.
Don’t you know, my dear Journegan, that every pint of sea-water holds a
small per cent. of gold, yes, real gold, gold that we are playing for
every night, gold that we need to pay our bills with–gold–”

“Are you stung, too?” asked Journegan irrelevantly, interrupting the
flow of wisdom.

Mr. Smithe eyed him a moment with some concern.

“You interrupted me–I don’t understand you,” he said.

“Come down. Is that straight, that gold business? Are you stringing me,
or is that a chemical fact?” said Journegan.

“I am not in the habit of lying, my friend. That gold remark is a
chemical fact, a truth which can be proven by any one familiar with
analytical chemistry–”

“And you’re stung,–broke, or whatever you choose to call it–same as
me, same as some more of the crowd what follows the spinning-wheel.
Smithe, you are the goods, you are the real thing, if you’re telling
the truth. If that gold yarn of yours is true, we win–see?”
interrupted the irrepressible Journegan, upon whose mind a great light
was dawning, a vast glare of an intellectual day.

“You seem a bit nutty,” spake the learned Smithe, breaking at last into
the speech of his youth. “What the hell has gold in the sea-water to do
with us, hey?”

“It grieves me to hear a learned man speak hastily,” said the now calm
Journegan, “but you are like many learned ones, perfectly helpless
when it comes to applying your knowledge to some purpose, to some real
use besides that of entertaining a few half-drunken admirers about a
table. Man, we’re as good as made if you are straight about that gold
business. You’re known here as the real thing in chemistry, you’re
something of a ‘Smart Alec’ among the push. If you can prove that gold
is in that sea-water–it’s all to the good–leave it all to me–don’t
waste time asking questions a babykins would laugh at–come away–come
away with your uncle, I want to talk with you–come.”

It was only two days later that the announcement was made that the
celebrated chemist, Mr. Smithe, and his friend and manager, Mr.
Journegan, were buying property along the shore for the purpose of
establishing a plant for converting the free gold held in solution in
the clear water of the reef to a commercial commodity in the shape
of gold dust, which same being worth about twenty dollars per ounce
in the coin of the realm. The announcement created some surprise,
and also some curious comment coupled with amusement, but the two
gentlemen maintained such a dignified silence concerning the affair,
and declined with such natural modesty to discuss it in any manner or
form, that the idle rich, from at first laughing, came to regard them
with respect, then with awe, and finally with a desire to a better
acquaintance. Mr. Smithe condescended to shake hands with some of
the most curious, told them many interesting yarns and anecdotes to
hold their attention, and all the time kept his method a mystery, his
discovery a thing which was of far too great importance to talk about
to strangers.

Journegan with commendable activity secured a small frontage a short
distance down the shore. Here he bought a small wharf running out into
the bay until a depth of six or seven feet was reached. With some haste
he had a small enclosure made, a sort of fish-pound built of small
piling and decked over across the middle so that a man could walk
upon the boards and gaze down into the liquid depths where the gold
undoubtedly was. The whole was screened from the curious gaze by high
boarding, and a small door was let into the fish-pound for allowing
free access of the tide. It was necessary, he explained, to have
the water change freely as it was quickly exhausted of its valuable
qualities by the process of electrolysis. The naming of the mysterious
current as part of the outfit caused more and more favourable comment
upon the part of the curious. Electricity, electricity, oh, how many
things unknown and mysterious are relegated to your strange power.
Yes, Journegan had heard of electric combs, electric shoes, electric
belts, electric–well, pretty much anything which an honest dealer
could not sell upon its merits alone. It sounded well to have the plant
run by electricity, convincing, undeniable. Who knew that electricity
would not do anything its master might bid it? It was a force in its
infancy, a giant unknown, undeveloped. It moved the carriages of the
rich. It might just as well separate them from some of their wealth. It
depended–

A set of wires was run from the plant furnishing the lights for the
town, and they were kept in exaggerated evidence all along the little
dock and building at its end. A few bulbs lit the scene at night and
caused more comment by those who passed the place after dark, when the
noise of workmen within could be heard plainly by the curious. It was
Journegan’s lay to have the place operated solely at night. He gave it
out finally that the night tides were most favourable for work, and
also that it was a time when for certain mysterious reasons they could
work to better advantage.

In a very few days Mr. Smithe began to let slip a few secrets
concerning the plant. It was now working all right, he assured his
listeners, and he would not only tell them how the thing was done but
would go so far as to show some of the more worthy the entire process.
If Mr. Jones, who was a millionaire furniture dealer suffering with
tuberculosis, would do him the honour, and Mr. Jackson, a millionaire
iron producer with gout, would also go along, he would show how he
produced gold from sea-water, precipitated it, he said, precipitated
it upon the end of an electric wire under the surface. They would have
refreshments served at the dock, and a negro would carry their things
for them. It might take several minutes to wait for the precipitation,
and as the night was warm, but damp, he would have their comforts
provided for. When this news was spread broadcast it created almost
a panic among the people of the town. When two such men of undoubted
wealth and position as Mr. Jones and Mr. Jackson were to see the thing
in operation it was no longer a thing to doubt, it must certainly be
a success. They had been living all their lives upon the very edge of
a vast gold mine without knowing it, and now these two strangers were
going to enlighten them to the real things of life. It was wonderful,
great, they might even get a chance to go into the thing later on. What
was the use of toiling when gold could be gotten for the trouble of
picking it from the end of a wire.

Mr. Smithe having made this announcement with a confidential air and a
manner urbanity itself, sought at once Mr. Journegan.

“I’ve invited the gents,” he announced with warmth, spitting fluently
at a spider crawling along the veranda, “but it’s up to you to make
good. How the thunder we’re going to get that piece of gold stuck to
the end of that wire while the current is playing upon it, beats me.
It took two twenties hammered into a passable nugget to make the bait.
Now it’s you to land the men, and fix that bait on the wire. Mind you,
it’s got to be done right there in that bullpen, right there under
their eyes. When the current is turned on it has got to form and become
attached to the end of the pole in the water.”

“It’ll be dead easy, Bo, dead easy. Go take a drink and sleep the
afternoon away. You trust in father Bullinger–an’ he will see you
through. Beat it, I say, and don’t come worrying me with such trifles
as making gold form on the ends of wires. Gimme somethin’ dead easy.
If you want to hold my attention explain the philosophy of love, or
something like that, but say, don’t come around me, you a full-grown
man, talking about not being able to make gold form on the end of a
wire. Man, you are a strange thing. You know some real facts, but
after that you’re at sea, clean plumb out to sea without a chart or
compass. You’ve done your share, the hard part, getting the yaps into
the game. Hell! that’s the whole thing, don’t you know it. Getting
the yaps interested. After that the game is like stealing taffy from
a kid, robbing a babe of its milk. You’re on. Go take a snooze. I’ll
finish this cigar and then attend to the details. I promise to see to
the details and if that gold don’t form on that wire you may strike
me dead for a galoot too drunk to know his name. Git out, Bo. Go take
a snooze and leave the rest to your Uncle Rube. Man, I haven’t seen
such easy graft for years. Why, we’ll be rich if we can hold it two
months. Rich, I say. Money to burn. Why, half a hundred yaps will be
frantic to cast their bread upon the waters, cast their money into our
pockets–and then what–and then–well, the boat leaves here daily for
Nassau–thence to–Oh, well, anywhere at all. What’s the difference
where you are if you have the coin in your clothes. Say, Bo, you’re all
right. You know a thing or two that’s worth knowing, the only thing I
can’t understand is how you grew up without becoming a millionaire.
Can’t fathom it, old man, can’t fathom it. Say, if I knew as much
of the books as you do I’d be in the Standard class all right–very
well–So long, sneak.”

Mr. Smithe went back into the hotel. He was a bit nervous for one
who had spent much time and great trouble ascertaining the value
of his fellow men. The scheme seemed now to be futile, for how any
one could finish with any hope of success appeared impossible. He
gathered together his belongings, made them into a bundle easy for
transportation, locked his new and somewhat aggressive trunk after
screwing it firmly to the floor, and having finished these necessary
preparations for a hurried departure, betook himself to the flowing
bowl, which in his case was nothing more or less than a bottle of very
bad whiskey furnished by the management of the hotel at two hundred
per cent. profit. The draught of alcohol gave him new courage. It
warmed the cockles of his heart, a heart that was none too rigorous in
its action, but under the influence of the stimulant he drowsed and
thought, dreamed and wondered at the versatility of his friend Mr.
Stormalong Journegan.

II

“Hello, Stormy,” growled the mate of the _Sea-Horse_, who was sitting
upon the deck of his sloop watching the shore, “seems like you struck
it rich fer a fact. Must be a wise one dat guy you goes with.”

Journegan had reached the edge of the dock about twenty feet distant
from the _Sea-Horse_ which was lying off.

“Oh, yes, we make a few thousand dollars a day at that gold plant.
‘Tain’t much, but it goes,” said he.

“Don’t suppose you’d chin with such fellers as me no more,” said Bill,
squirting a stream of tobacco into the sea with a vehemence that told
of his opinion of those who became stuck up at success, “but I ain’t
forgot that last deal you played. I’m glad we got clear with our coin,
not as you meant we should, but it goes dat way,” and Bahama Bill
looked thoughtfully into the distance. He had not forgotten the game
at Stormalong’s bar at the Cayo Huesso when Captain Smart had been
fleeced by the gang of Havana crooks, of which “Skinny Ike” had been
the leader. He had reason to remember that night, for it had made
it necessary for both him and Smart to get to sea without delay, he
himself getting a sore shoulder from the six-shooter of the head crook
for his interference. But he had cleaned up the entire crowd, with
Smart to help, and the memory was evidently pleasant, for he smiled as
he looked into the distance.

“Come abo’d, Stormy, if you don’t mind yo’ good clothes. Yo’ shuah is
gittin’ toe be a dude–how you come by dem duds, hey?” he said still
smiling. “I don’t need toe make yo’ acquainted with Cap Smart–yo’
remember him–what?”

Journegan remembered Smart very well indeed. He looked at him a moment
askance, for he had set out to do up the captain that night in Key
West, and would have succeeded but for the interference of the giant
mate. He, however, saw the point at once and never alluded to the past,
but grasped Smart’s hand with vigour and assured him that of all people
in the world he was most glad to see the captain doing so well. Smart
eyed him coldly, but waited for events to shape themselves, knowing
full well that the Conch was not there for idle pastime, but had some
ultimate purpose in view which was probably of importance.

Journegan was not long in getting down to business. He had plenty of
time, but the anxiety of his accomplice caused him to hurry matters and
settle the affair at once.

“I want to get a good diver, Bill,” said he, finally. “I want a man
who will work for twenty dollars an hour in shallow water. Yes, I want
a man who can work at a little depth of six or seven feet and do what
he’s told without asking questions–do you know of any one?”

“Yep, there’s Sam–he kin work at that depth, an’ I reckon he’ll do it
for twenty an hour, an’ not squeal,” said the mate of the _Sea-Horse_,
his ugly face wrinkling into a strange smile and his rheumy eyes
turning slowly upon Journegan, fixing him with a curious squinting look
which seemed to go clear through him.

“Don’t you think you could do the trick for me?” asked Journegan
pointedly.

“Nix, not fo’ dat little money. Why, man, we’re just waitin’ fo’ a few
thousand dollars on some ammunition we salved from the wreck ob de
_Bulldog_, brig–out on de Bank two weeks ago. No, if yo’ kin pay a
man’s wages I might get toe work fo’ yo’, but don’t come around heah,
Mr. Journegan, with them clothes on an’ ask me, me, Bahama Bill, toe
work fo’ nothin’–Nix, I say nix–don’t keep up de conversation–I
don’t want toe hear no mo’.”

The mate of the _Sea-Horse_ had received a lesson in regard to pay
only a short time before from Smart when they had been chartered by
a stranger. He was not slow to learn, and he knew that if Journegan
would pay twenty dollars an hour he would pay a hundred–if he had it.
There must be some necessity for urgent work–some work perhaps upon
the gold plant down the bay which needed repair at once, or there might
be a corresponding loss of metal. He had heard of the outfit, and had
laughed when he found out it was Stormalong Journegan who was mixed
up in it. The name of the chemist was unknown to him, but he thought
it might well be that the Northerner had really found something worth
working.

“I’ll make it fifty an hour–only working one hour a night–how’s
that?” asked Journegan. “Work one hour and do as you’re told and you
get fifty–get the money in advance–what?”

“Yo’ make me tired, Stormy. I knows yo’ fo’ a good business man, I seen
dat at de Cayo Huesso, but don’t come abo’d heah an’ begin fool talk.
Cap’n Smart heah is my partner, jest now,–he wouldn’t let me work fo’
dat price.” And the big mate rose as though to go below.

Smart looked at Journegan with a cold eye. He knew the fellow, but he
knew also that they were both dead broke, that their money from the
salved cargo was no nearer than it had been the day they arrived in
port. It might be a month or two before they received anything on their
diving. The ammunition had to be tested and there was no use hurrying
matters. That it would be good, there was not the least doubt, but it
had been in the hold of the brig completely submerged for some time,
so long in fact that it had been abandoned by the first wrecking crew,
composed of the _Sea-Horse_ men and the steam tug from Key West. Yes,
fifty dollars an hour might get something to eat while they waited the
leisure of the agents of the ammunition house buying the stuff. Fifty
dollars was good pay, and he knew he could not afford to let the mate
pass it for any personal matter that might exist between himself and
Journegan. He watched the pair steadily and when Bahama Bill showed
signs of giving it up he spoke out.

“Better take it on, Bill,” he said, as the giant stretched himself at
the companionway. “I know you’re worth more’n that to Mr. Journegan,
but I think you might take it on for a few days.”

“De hell yo’ do,” quoth the mate, glaring at him.

“I’ll make it seventy-five,” said Journegan, “that’s as high as I’ll
go.”

“Well, so long as Cap’n Smart say do it, I’ll jest take it on dat
figure,” said the mate. “What’s de lay?”

“The process of extracting gold from sea-water is a secret one, my
dear Bill,” said Mr. Journegan. “I really don’t quite know the manner
of doing it myself. You will come up to the hotel in about an hour
and a half, or before sundown, and Mr. Smithe, the chemist, the
brains of the plant, will give you your instructions. You had better
come alone, and before you make the deal I want you, of course, to
promise that you will not tell of anything–not a thing you see in the
plant–understand. The process is patented, but if every one knew it
there would be no reason in the world why anybody couldn’t get money
the same way.”

“Dat seems fair enough,” assented Bill. “Ob co’se I kin see somethings
dere, but I promise not toe tell de neighbours–yep, it goes at
dat–I’ll be up toe de swell shack befo’ dark–so-long.”

Mr. Journegan stepped into the small boat and a moment later was
walking leisurely up the road to his rooms at the hotel. He could
count on the success of Mr. Smithe’s scheme to a certainty and the
knowledge gave him much pleasure. It had been quite easy, only
that shark of the reef, Bahama Bill, had robbed him. He cursed the
avaricious mate, cursed him freely and fluently for his greed, but
in the end he laughed, for was not the gold plant to be a great
success. Bah, a few hundred dollars one way or the other was not to
be considered. He and his partner had enough for a few days yet, and
by then they would be rich men. He made his way to the rooms of Mr.
Smithe, knocked at the door and was confronted with a six-shooter held
in that brainy gentleman’s hand.

“Aw, gwan–put it up,” said Journegan.

Mr. Smithe quickly did so. The knock had aroused him from pleasant
reveries to an acute appreciation of the present. He saw the form
of the marshal at his door and with trembling fingers he seized his
gun for a last stand. It had been something of a relief to find his
accomplice standing there with a complacent smile upon his face, his
long six feet three of skin and bone fairly shaking with laughter.

Journegan entered unbidden and quickly closed the door.

“It’s all right, Bo, the deed is done. I have the means at hand. They
will be here shortly. Let’s have a drink?” he said.

Mr. Smithe acquiesced, and over the liquor the plan was gone over to
the mutual satisfaction of both.

“Gad, but you’re not so bad, Mr. Journegan,” said the brainy Smithe.
“You have executive ability to a marked degree. You have imagination, a
thoughtful mind–oh, if it had only been trained in its youth–”

“Skin it, Bo,” said Journegan, “don’t make me feel badly. I have seen
things in my day, things just as instructive as anything you get out
of text-books, even chemistry. Have another drink. My man will be here
very soon. Don’t go around packing that light artillery. It won’t do
if we’re caught up suddenly. What would the Muldoons think if they
found us going around this peaceful hostelry armed with Gatlings of
forty-five calibre. No, put on your best duds and come away. We’ve
won–mark what I say–we’ve won. I have the best diver on the Great
Bahama Bank to do the trick, the best and biggest man on the reef–see.
It’s all right. Now, then, I hear his gentle footsteps on the veranda
and I think we had better get him in here without delay–what?”

Half an hour later the mate of the _Sea-Horse_ emerged from the room
with a faint smile upon his ugly face. He strode forth quickly and made
his way to the water-front, getting into a small boat waiting for him
and starting down the bay in the direction of the gold plant.

It was about eight in the evening, after supper at the hotel, that the
party set out in a gasoline launch for the dock where the gold plant
was located. The evening was fine and the western sky still showed
the last faint tints of the setting sun. Darkness came apace and the
cool sea-breeze made the ride very pleasant, the boat rushing through
the water leaving a long, bright wake, flaring here and there with
phosphorescence where the screw turned the water and sent it whirling
astern. By the time they reached the dock it was quite dark, so dark
in fact that the shadow of the wharf loomed dimly above the tide. The
launch was made fast at the steps and the party climbed up into the
enclosure.

“It is an ideal evening for our work,” said Mr. Smithe to Mr. Jackson.
“The tide is right and there seems to be no sea, no extraordinary
commotion which might interfere with the chemical result. It is
generally best to work on calm nights, but the process will obtain
under each and every condition the weather permits. Allow me to light
up.” So saying he switched on the electric lights and the enclosure lit
up dimly.

“Seems like you might have had a few more lamps,” said Mr. Jones
a little testily. “It’ll be hard to see anything with just two
sixteen-candle bulbs.”

“I shall have that attended to at once,” said Mr. Journegan. “You see
we have been so busy with the results that we seldom miss the lights
to any extent. The same current that lights up the place is used for
forming the precipitate upon the wire–the gold precipitate, you
understand.”

“Well, let her commence,” said Mr. Jackson, a little unfavourably
impressed at the stillness and peculiar surroundings of the outfit.
“I’ll sit here on this box and wait–I hope it won’t be long, but I
must say that if you men can do this thing, you certainly can do
something no one else has ever attempted in history–mind you, I don’t
say you won’t do it, but I say commence, I want to see with my own
eyes.”

Mr. Smithe, with great deliberation and some complex manoeuvring, took
up a wire and wrapped it in a cloth. He then fastened it with a small
piece of copper wire and dipped the whole into a strong solution of
something that had a most offensive odour.

“You see, gentlemen,” said he, “the contents of this basin,”–here he
pointed to the mixture which had such a terrific odour. “This is the
secret part of the whole process, it produces the electrolysis which
causes the gold to form upon the positive pole of the current. I shall
now toss it overboard and we will await results.”

He threw the wire over the edge of the enclosure and it disappeared at
once in the black depths below. The white cloth tied to the end still
showed faintly at a depth of six feet below the surface.

“I now shall start the current,” he said, and taking up a hammer he
struck savagely upon the flooring of the dock several time. There was
a faint sound from shoreward, the sound of a gentle splashing, but
this soon subsided. Suddenly a commotion in the water below attracted
the attention of Mr. Jones. A large fish appeared to break water at
the entrance of the enclosure. Then it disappeared, and Mr. Journegan
remarked that the small sharks of the reef were most numerous at this
season.

Mr. Smithe watched the surface of the water carefully. A huge dark
shadow glided beneath him towards the end of the wire which held the
white cloth.

“I must have more current,” he called petulantly to Mr. Journegan,
“give me more current for a few minutes, this wire is cold.”

For answer Journegan switched off the lights for few seconds. Mr. Jones
and Mr. Jackson watched the water steadily, but nothing broke its now
black surface.

“It’s getting warm now,” called Mr. Smithe, and on the instant
Journegan switched on the lights again. They all sat there for some
minutes awaiting the result but the water gave no token save that now
the cloth had disappeared from the end of the wire and as the minutes
dragged by Mr. Smithe called attention to this fact.

“You see, it has begun to work,” he called, pointing below at the
invisible wire. “In a moment I shall pull it up–a few dollars worth
of metal is all we need wait for to-night. I have an engagement at the
Casino at ten.”

Suddenly he pulled up the wire. Upon its end, fixed fast and apparently
imbedded, was a small mass of a peculiar metal, bright, shiny and
unmistakably gold. Yes, he had done it. He had made the sea give up
its own. There it was, gold, pure gold in an ingot Worth about forty
dollars. The astounded Mr. Jones gazed in wonder. The skeptical Mr.
Jackson let his eyes open wide. It was certainly the wonder of the
era. It was tremendous.

“You can take this specimen and have it assayed,” said Mr. Smithe,
handing the nugget to Mr. Jackson; “you can return it at your
convenience.”

When Mr. Smithe struck the blows with the hammer, thereby causing the
current to flow, it roused Bahama Bill from his drowsing in the bottom
of a small boat close to the shore. He grinned and arose. He had been
told just what to do and paid heavily for keeping his mouth shut about
doing it. It was none of his business why they did these things, it
was his business to dive for money, no matter what the affair. He was
well paid and he saw no reason why he should not take the money. A man
of more refined mind would have possibly refused the work, but Bahama
Bill was brought up in the school where it was necessary to live,
necessary to have the means to live without going too far outside the
rules of the game. It was Journegan’s business to make gold out of
sea-water. It was his to do a bit of diving for him and perform certain
feats which might or might not affect the pockets of the gentlemen now
waiting to see the result. There were so many questionable ways of
separating folks from their coin that he was amused at the graft of
these two. At the gambling house kept by the pious and strict manager
of the hotel, there were many ways of separating folks from their
cash. It had the sanction of the “Boss”–that was the only difference
he could see in the matter. He was a plain wrecker, a man who made
his living from the misfortunes of others. Yet it was a legitimate
business, and he generally played fair. He was simply a big, powerful
man, a giant diver of the Bank. He dropped his trousers and stood forth
naked in the darkness as the last banging of the hammer died away. It
was the signal agreed upon and without a moment’s hesitation he made
a long clean dive into the dark water. Coming to the surface he swam
quickly and noiselessly toward the end of the dock where the gate, or
opening in the piling, would allow him to get within the enclosure. He
was a little doubtful of finding the end of the wire, as he had been
instructed to, but he thought the white cloth might make it visible,
for the water was very clear.

He never fancied swimming at night over the coral banks, for there
were always many denizens of the ocean that came in and either rested
or fed during the hours of darkness. Many a big shark lay log-wise in
the waters of the reef during the night, waiting for a rush upon the
feeding mullet or other small fry. He had found sharks always dangerous
at this season of the year, and he was now without even a knife.
However, he managed to reach opposite the opening without mishap. Then
he floated silently and took a few deep breaths for the work in hand.

He could hear the voices of the men within the enclosure and he heard
Mr. Smithe announce that the wire was ready. He was just about to
dive when a disturbance in the sea close to him made him hesitate
and turn. A triangular fin cut the surface not two fathoms distant.
It was that of a gigantic shark. Instantly the diver went under and
strove with mighty strokes to gain the opening in the piling. He felt
instinctively that the monster would follow him, but it was the nearest
place of refuge. Guided solely by memory of direction, he fairly tore
through the water, struck the opening with his hand and with a mighty
effort swung himself within, remaining under and shooting ahead with
the momentum of his flight. A commotion, a sweep of a strong current
at the gate told of a passing heavy body, but nothing touched him. He
could not hold his breath much longer on account of the sudden effort,
and he was sworn not to come to the surface within the piles. It was
at this moment that Mr. Smithe, seeing something of what had occurred
by the shadows beneath the surface, called for more electricity, and
Journegan with his rare presence of mind switched off the lights.
Bahama Bill came to the surface gently, and had it not been for the
noisy conversation of Smithe, his deep breathing would surely have made
his presence known to all. As it was he lay upon his back, close within
the shadow of the piling and just let his nose come into the air. In a
few moments he had regained his wind and sank downward to the end of
the wire. Then Mr. Smithe switched on the light and announced that the
wire was warm. It was a close call, close in more ways than one, but
the mate had made good, he had done his part. He saw the white cloth
without difficulty and attached the piece of gold. Then he fled for
the open with a courage which might have called forth the admiration of
the watchers had they known his danger.

Once clear, he swam silently and with all his strength for the small
boat. The feeling that something was pursuing him kept him nerved to
the utmost. He fairly tore through the sea, but only raised his head
every twenty to thirty feet to breathe. He swam almost all the way
under water. This he knew was the safest, for the predatory denizens of
the coral banks depend as much on hearing, or a sense akin to it, as on
sight. The feeling that something still followed drove him along at his
top speed, but he could see nothing, know nothing of its shape or form.
It was just the instinctive fear, or nerve straining one feels in the
dark where danger lurks. He gained the small boat quickly and at that
instant a great shadow swept past leaving a trail of phosphorescent
fire in its wake.

“If you gentlemen are satisfied, we will now go back to the hotel,”
said Mr. Smithe with his most urbane manner. “If at any other time you
would like a renewal of the test, we shall be only too glad to give it,
provided of course, neither you nor your guests talk of the process and
thus set curious people at work to find out our secret.”

Amid murmurs of approval and congratulations, the party broke up and
started back in the launch, Mr. Journegan especially active in getting
away from the dock and explaining vehemently the reason that the
extraction had not been made before was that it took a man with brains
and one with executive ability to work a thing like that together, to a
successful conclusion.

Before twenty-four hours had elapsed there had been a company formed
with Mr. Smithe at its head, and there had been twenty-five thousand
dollars in ready cash put at its disposal in the town bank for the
purpose of carrying on the experiments and continuing the production of
gold from the waters of the Bay of Biscayne.

Twice during the week following the experiment was repeated with equal
success. The cloth disappeared from the wire and the gold was found
upon the pole. It was astounding, but there was no way of contradicting
the evidence of the senses. There was the gold. That was enough for
many–gold, gold, gold. The thing took like wild-fire. The news was
spread broadcast, and Bahama Bill sat in the mornings reading the
papers with a grin of derision upon his big ugly face.

“Of course, it’s none of my business,” said Smart, “but if you’re wise
you’ll not go into any crooked game. It’s all well enough to repair
their outfit, but if you’re in anything crooked, you’re not playing
fair with me.”

“Yo’ wanted me toe go into it,” growled the mate.

“I dun promised not to gib way nuthin’–fo’ a big stake. Yous livin’
high on fresh beef and good whack, Sam and Heldron is paid off and
everythin’ seems all right ‘Tain’t none of mah business what those
fellows do–I’m jest doin’ what I agreed to–jest divin’–divin’–see.”

“Better quit it when you’ve got enough to lay by with until we make our
deal,” said Smart. “Of course you can’t tell me what you do, what your
lay is down at the plant?”

“I dun passed mah word,” said Bahama Bill gravely. “I ain’t playin’
straight, but I dun passed mah word–”

“Could you give an exhibition of the part you play?” asked the sailor.

The big mate thought a moment. He did not seem to like the idea, it was
not fair according to his standpoint of honour. He had his limitations,
but he generally did what he said he would. At the same time he knew he
was getting into a game which would cause him trouble in the end if he
did not get out quickly. The thing was too good to last.

“Yep,–I–might,” he finally said, grinning.

“I’ll get some of the gentlemen down to the plant in the small boat and
let them see, for I for one don’t take much stock in that fellow who
tried to skin me in his barroom to the southward,” said Smart.

“Git ’em any time yo’ see fit–I’ll do the part I generally does,” said
the mate.

Smart dressed and went to the hotel. It was afternoon and the two
partners in the gold plant were at the tables playing heavily. They
were somewhat at ease as to their finances, for the thing was a
veritable gold mine in fact. They knew nothing of the departure of Mr.
Jones and Mr. Jackson in company with Smart and Bahama Bill, rowing
down the shore in the small boat of the _Sea-Horse_. Reaching the dock,
Smart had little difficulty in effecting a landing at the enclosure
and of making an entrance. There was no lock upon the door, for there
was nothing to secure, and the four men were soon within the sacred
precincts of the gold plant.

“Which is the wire?” asked Smart of Mr. Jones. The gentleman explained.

“Was there anything on it?” he asked.

Mr. Jones said there was something like a bit of cloth. Smart tied a
piece to it.

“Now, Bill, do what you generally do,” said the captain.

The big mate grinned. He was undecided as to whether he was acting
fairly with those who had employed him. Then he sprang into the small
boat and rowed away a short distance. The three within the place waited.

Suddenly Smart called attention to a shadow approaching under the
surface of the water. It came quickly within the gate of the pound,
and although it was deep below the surface all had no difficulty in
recognizing the giant form of Bahama Bill. The great black diver swam
quickly to the end of the wire, pulled off the cloth and attached
something in its place, going away instantly with powerful strokes.
He was within the enclosure but a minute altogether and as he went
rapidly through the water-gate into the open bay, he broke the surface
just a little with one huge ham-like foot.

“As a swimming feat, that was the best exhibition I ever saw,” said
Jones to his friend. “In the night time it was wonderful. That white
cloth was there for an excellent purpose, but even in that clear water
it must have been hard to have picked it up to a certainty in the dark.
I suppose the sooner we get the news to the marshal the better it will
be for all hands. I for one am not very much ashamed of myself.”

“Nor I,” said Mr. Jackson.

“You will understand,” said Smart, “that neither my mate nor myself had
anything to do with the game further than to obey orders and accept pay
for diving.”

“You will neither be mentioned nor asked to appear–no matter what
happens,” assured Mr. Jones. “We will make this discovery ourselves.
It is due us as intelligent men–eh?” he added to Mr. Jackson. That
gentleman agreed with vigour.

Stormalong Journegan had lost heavily at the wheel, the seductive
roulette. He said very little, but arose before his accomplice and
going to the bank drew out nearly the whole amount to the credit of the
company. As it happened the whistle of the Nassau steamer was blowing
its first warning blast for the people to get ashore who were not going
to sea within a few minutes. Journegan noticed it and walked along
the water-front. As he went his way he noticed the small boat of the
_Sea-Horse_ with Mr. Jones, Mr. Jackson, Smart and–yes, there was no
mistake–Bahama Bill. The giant mate was rowing and sending the craft
along with sweeping strokes. Stormalong Journegan looked but for a
moment more. Then he ran with all the speed his long legs could give
for the steamer. He reached her just as she was pulling out from the
wharf and managed to make the jump aboard without creating comment. He
instantly made his way to the lavatory, where he remained for at least
an hour, washing and rewashing his hands. When he appeared on deck the
steamer was well down the channel standing for the open sea. He was
never seen again after landing the next morning at Nassau.

Mr. Smithe was aroused by a knock at his door some time that afternoon
and he called out affably to the person to enter, thinking it his
energetic partner, Mr. Journegan, whom he had missed for several hours.
The marshal entered, and Mr. Smithe had the satisfaction of seeing his
trusty gun lying safe and snug in his bureau drawer.

“You can raise your hands, Mr. Smithe,” said the officer of the law.

Mr. Jones waited not very long before paying his hotel bill. He
proceeded to the writing-room and wrote a short note home, telling of
his marked improvement, his ability to travel alone, and that he would
soon be North again. “I have been taking the gold cure,” said he as he
ended his letter, leaving his family very much disturbed.

Mr. Jackson found urgent business calling him North the next day. He
declined to be interviewed. “In the interest of science, I shall keep
the secret of the chemical precipitation of gold in sea-water,” he
said. “It is a wonderful discovery.”

Bahama Bill sat and grinned in the morning as he read the news in the
daily paper. Captain Smart felt easier in his mind.

“That man, Journegan, surely was a fellow of ability,” he said. “He has
cleared–gone clean away on the ship for Nassau–but I don’t think he
will ever come back.”

“‘Tain’t likely,” grunted Bahama Bill. “No, it won’t do for him toe
come along dis way agin–if yo’ don’t mind, cap, I’ll git yo’ toe write
me a letter to my wife–fightin’ Jule–I reckon I better be gittin’
some ob dishear money down toe her, or she’ll be a-coming along up
heah fo’ toe take a look at things.–I see dat Mr. Smithe has been let
go–no one to prosecute him–toe bad, toe bad.”

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