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.”