Mrs. Dunn sat under the awning stretched over the quarter-deck of the
yacht _Sayonara_ lying in the stream, off the government coal-dock, at
Key West. It was winter, but the air was warm, and white linen duck was
the most comfortable clothing. Even the six men who composed the crew
of the trim little schooner showed nothing but white in their garments,
save the black silk ties knotted rakishly, drawing together their wide
sailor-collars. Phenix Dunn was a broker, a gambler in the productions
of others, and because of this he was wealthy. He had bought and sold
certain commodities known as stocks, and they had proved profitable–so
profitable that he had decided to take a few months away from the
excitement of the game and buy a yacht and cruise.
Mrs. Dunn was something of a beauty. That is, many men thought so. Some
women differed in opinions, especially those women whom she counted
as her friends. Anyhow, she possessed a dashing air, a figure beyond
criticism, and clothes that made Phenix say many bad words when the
bills came in. Also she had a disposition the gentle side of which had
not been overdeveloped. She was not quarrelsome. Far from it. She had
plenty of tact and ability, but the absence of children and household
cares had given her more time than necessary for the contemplation of
self, and this had not been satisfying. She worked it off by dint of
much outdoor exercise.
Dunn joined her at the taffrail and flung himself into a chair with a
show of wrath. Something had gone wrong, as it always does upon yachts
of any size where the owner is not used to the sea or its peculiar
“The steward is gone, the cook is going, and here we are a thousand
miles from anywhere at all–anywhere at all, I say; and the commandant
of the yard will be aboard to-morrow with not less than twenty officers
and their wives. What’ll we do about it?” he rapped out.
“Why do you ask me?–I’m not good at riddles,” answered his wife lazily.
“Well, we’ve got to take on a couple of blacks–niggers they call ’em
here–and I don’t like the idea of it. I’ve no use for ’em. What I
want is Japanese servants. Japanese are good. Good fighters make good
servants. You don’t want a servant to think, and a good fighter never
thinks. If he did he would see something else besides glory in walking
up to a man with a gun. The Japs do that–and they are good servants. I
don’t want any of these black people aboard this vessel.”
“Well, what are you going to do about it?”
“I don’t know,” grumbled Dunn, “but when in doubt, take a drink–I’ll
go and get one.”
While he was below, a dingy-looking vessel came slowly in the northwest
channel. She was a heavily built sloop, and upon her deck lounged
a rather numerous crew. They were picturesque, half-clothed in
nondescript rags, their bare arms and shoulders seeming impervious to
the rays of the torrid sunshine, for along the Florida reef, even in
winter, the sun is burning.
The craft dropped anchor about twenty fathoms astern of the yacht,
and when Dunn came from below, bringing with him an odour of gin and
bitters, the crew of the sloop regarded him silently.
“Hello, a wrecker!” exclaimed Dunn.
His sailing-master had come to the taffrail and was gazing at the
stranger, while Mrs. Dunn, careless of nautical neighbours, read her
“Yes, seems like one of the wreckers,” said Captain Smart; “an
ugly-looking crew, for a fact. They say these spongers divide their
time between wrecking and smuggling. Not that either’s bad if indulged
in moderately, but they are apt to get loose after awhile and do queer
“There ought to be plenty of good in a wrecker, if he plied his trade
right–ought to save lives and property,” said Dunn. “Let’s have a look
through the glass.”
The men of the wrecking-sloop gazed back insolently at the yachtsman,
and a giant black man among them rose up, placed his fingers in line,
and applied the thumb of one hand to his big, flat nose, wiggling his
huge digits in derision.
“That fellow is a corker,” said Dunn, watching the wrecker
“He’s a big one, all right,” assented Smart, “and I reckon they don’t
like us looking so hard at ’em.”
“Lower a boat and send over for that fellow–I want him,” said Dunn.
The captain looked at him for a moment. “I go ashore for Miss Marion
Harsha in a few minutes,” he said. “Mrs. Dunn gave the order. If you
say so, I’ll let the gig go for the wrecker afterward–go myself in
The yacht skipper was about forty, and slightly grizzled, his tanned
face lined from work and exposure in more than one hard-run merchant
vessel. But he made a rather good-looking yacht captain when dressed in
his blue broadcloth coat with gold-braided cuffs, white duck trousers,
and white canvas shoes. His cap bore the flag of Mr. Dunn upon its
front, and was the only badge of dependence about him.
“All right, go ahead when you’re ready; I’m in no hurry,” said the
owner. “Only I want to see that big nigger who was insolent enough
to poke his fingers at me. Seems like he’d make a good man aboard
here–steward, maybe, or even cook, if he knows how to do the work.
They say these Southern darkies know how to cook like a French
chef–and maybe his wife takes in washing. Get him, bring him
in–there’s some one waving on the dock now.”
“Bring the gig to the starboard gangway,” ordered Smart; and two men
swung into her from the boom-end and dropped her aft. In a moment the
captain was on his way to the dock.
Miss Harsha was young, stout, pug-nosed, and short-haired, but she
dressed well and swung her parasol daintily as she walked down the
dock end beside a uniformed marine officer from the yard. At the
landing-steps the officer assisted her into the gig, talking so
interestedly that she failed to notice the yacht captain until he took
her hand and helped her into the cushions in the stern-sheets. She
suddenly dropped his hand, started, and stared at him a moment.
“You–you–what are you doing here?” she stammered.
“I’m to bring you aboard–Mrs. Dunn’s orders,” said Smart.
“Er–yes, I suppose so. Oh, good-bye, Major Simson, we’ll see you
to-morrow; you must come aboard, you know. Nice little boat–so
different from a ship, and Miss Jennings will be there. Good-bye.”
The officer bowed low, waved his helmet, and started back as the small
boat pulled away.
“I thought you were still aboard the liner–the _Ampersand_,” said Miss
Harsha casually, as she edged away to give the captain room to steer.
“No, I left the next voyage. I was taught that a ship’s officer was not
in the class I supposed him to be.”
“Please don’t,” interrupted the girl. “You know, or ought to know,
the difference between a common sailor–a mate of a transatlantic
steamer–and a naval officer. I hoped to spare your feelings, but you
would not listen to me. I am the daughter of a naval officer. You are
very little different from Mr. Dunn’s butler, socially speaking. You
wear his livery—-”
“A very pretty uniform it is,” suggested the skipper, interrupting and
smiling complacently at her.
“You must pardon me if I hurt your feelings, but it seems necessary for
me to make myself plainly understood—-”
“Oh, I understand you thoroughly,” said Captain Smart gently. “You are
away above me–high up. I know I’m only a sailor. So was my father.
But I’m not a bit ashamed of it. I work for my living. I have no kind
Uncle Sam to provide for me that I may loaf about in white duck and
seek diversion among the fairer sex. You’ll excuse me if I cannot hold
a poorer opinion of myself than I do of many of those who wear the
country’s livery and draw pay for it. They are mostly good fellows–but
there are others.”
“But you won’t understand. It isn’t that. It’s the–well, we won’t
discuss it any further. I know you are too much of a man to make me
uncomfortable aboard the yacht. If you do, I shall have to speak to
Captain Smart chuckled softly. He seemed to enjoy the situation very
much, but he said no more, for the men rowing were beginning to listen
to the conversation. He swung the boat alongside with precision, and
assisted the girl up the companion.
Aboard the wrecker the crew watched these proceedings with interest.
The big mate bit off a piece of tobacco and settled himself comfortably
in the sun upon the deck, with his head just above the rail.
“Here comes the boat for us,” grinned Captain Sanders, poking his head
out of the cuddy. The rest grinned silently in turn.
Captain Smart came alongside, and the big mate rose to a sitting
position at the rail, squirting a stream of tobacco over the side,
barely missing the gig.
“Mr. Dunn, the owner of the _Sayonara_, would like to see you aboard
the schooner,” said Smart, addressing the black.
“What fur?” growled the giant.
“Oh, he has some business, I suppose–will you come?”
Sanders winked at his mate, and a Dutchman named Heldron nudged him in
“Sho’, I’ll come,” said the mate.
“Me, too,” said Sanders, winking hard at the rest. “I’m the captain of
the wreckin’-sloop _Sea-Horse_, an’ it’s no more’n proper for me to pay
my respect to his nibs. This here little black boy”–pointing to the
black giant–“is my first officer. They calls him Bahama Bill. He’s a
bad man to call out o’ his name.”
Bahama Bill frowned and his ugly face leered for a moment at the crew
on deck. Then he swung easily over the side and dropped with a crash
into the small boat. Some of the men sniggered, but Sanders gave them a
look and followed.
“Shove off,” said Smart, and in a moment the gig was heading for the
Upon the deck of the schooner the captain and mate of the _Sea-Horse_
seemed slightly out of place, but Bahama Bill swaggered aft with an
air that had little retirement or modesty about it, and his skipper
followed behind him.
The giant mate was much amused by the immaculate decks, the new
rigging, and, above all, the spotless clothes of the crew. He knew
a good ship, and this toy, this playship of the rich Northerner was
much to his liking, for the _Sayonara_ was strongly built and had much
valuable material in her building.
Dunn was sitting under the awning aft when the visitors were announced.
Sanders, hat in hand, stood awkwardly smiling and smirking at the
ladies, but his mate cocked his cap over his ear and leered savagely at
“You sent fur us, cap–an’ here we is,” said he.
Dunn had been watching them for several seconds.
“Yes, yes, my good man, I wanted to see you,” he said. “Do you know of
any one who wants a job cooking aboard here? I heard there were some
good sea-cooks knocking about these keys, perhaps you’re one–what?”
“Does I look like a cook?” said Bahama Bill, staring at him.
“Most certainly not, but appearances are sometimes deceptive. Maybe you
know of one–what?”
“I does,” said Bill.
“Can you get him aboard here to-day?” asked Dunn.
“I cayn’t–nussur. I cayn’t.”
“Why not? I’ll give good pay–fifty dollars. Steady job, if they make
“Well, de onliest good cook I knows is ‘Scrappy Jule,’ dey calls
“Oh, no, she won’t do; we don’t want any disrep—-”
“She’s my wife,” went on Bill, with a smoothness in his tone that made
his captain smile broader than ever, “an’ don’t reckon she’ll come
abo’d no boat onless hit’s me dat takes her.”
“Perhaps she’ll do some washing for us, then?”
Bill stared at the yachtsman for nearly a minute, and the smile died
away from Sanders’ face.
“Look here, yo’ white man, did yo’ send fur us to come ober heah to
listen to a lot ob nonsense?” said Bill solemnly. “What yo’ takes me
fur, anyhow? We comes ober to take a drink an’ pass de time o’ day like
ship’s officer, an’ yo’ begins wid a lot o’ foolishness ’bout cooks
an’ washerwomen. What yo’ reckon I am?”
“Good heavens! Captain Smart, come here a minute,” called Mr. Dunn,
while the two ladies who were near enough to hear the last part of the
conversation sat staring at the wreckers in amazement.
“Take these men forward and give ’em liquor,” said Dunn, as his skipper
came aft, “and then send them back aboard their craft. They won’t suit
“You men come with me,” said Smart, motioning to Sanders and Bahama
Bill. His tone was quiet, but there was no mistaking its meaning. He
had seen enough of them, and would put them back aboard their craft.
He had known from the first that it was a mistake to have brought
them. They were a rough, independent type who respected no one, a type
that had furnished the worst class of buccaneers and pirates some
generations before. The West Indies had been infested with them for
years, and these wreckers, the descendants of the wild seamen of the
Spanish Main, were not the kind of men for a yacht.
Bahama Bill glared sourly at the men forward as he made his way to the
gangway followed by Sanders.
“I don’t drink with no such po’ white men as yo’,” said the giant. “Yo’
kin put me back abo’d the _Sea-Horse_–sorry I came.”
“I’ll take a pull afore I go,” put in Sanders. “Bring out yer pizen
an’ let’s have a try at it. I seen more onsociable fellers than your
owner–but I can’t quite call to mind jest where.”
“You ought to know yachtsmen, captain,” said Smart. “There’s a
difference between them and seamen. I’ll drink with you, if you don’t
“Naw, yer needn’t. I don’t want nothin’ more to do with yer–see? I
Smart took a bottle of liquor from the boy, who had brought it from the
cabin and poured a tumblerful, handing it to Sanders.
“Drink, and make your getaway,” he said.
Sanders tossed off the glassful, and looked hard at him.
“I’ll go when I git good an’ ready,” he said. “Don’t give me none o’
your slack, or I’ll take it out o’ yer.” Then he flung the dregs of the
liquor into Smart’s face.
The sting of the fiery stuff blinded the captain for an instant, but it
also angered him enough to do a foolish thing. He brought the bottle
down upon the wrecker’s head and stretched him upon the deck. The next
instant he was seized by the giant black man and flung like a coil of
rope into the scuppers.
“Don’t make no rough-house, or you’ll be sorry. Put us abo’d the
_Sea-Horse_,” said the big mate.
Dunn had rushed for the cabin at the first signs of a fracas, and now
came forward with a rifle held in readiness.
Smart saw that any further strain would result in bloodshed, and he was
used to handling men. With strong self-control he sprang to his feet
and held up his hand to Dunn. Then he called for the boat in a natural
tone, and the men who had witnessed the trouble obeyed.
The yacht’s deck was not the place for an affair of force. Captain
Smart knew it at once and deplored his action. In a second he could
precipitate a fight that would be fatal to at least one or more men,
for Dunn was an excellent shot and exceedingly quick. The mate of
the _Sea-Horse_ cared as little for the rifle as for a cane, if he
once broke loose. Even Sanders would not hesitate to face any kind of
weapon. The two wreckers were ushered over the side and rowed back to
Bahama Bill was sullenly silent all the afternoon. Something, an
indefinable something of refinement, of an air above what he had been
used to, had kept him from an outbreak aboard the yacht. He had many
times gone forth on the beach and made rough-house for the sport of
it, handling half a dozen tough longshoremen, armed and unarmed. On
the _Sayonara_ the presence of the ladies had kept him in check. He
could not quite understand it. Sanders had less control of himself, and
growled out vengeance during the hours of daylight. When it grew dark
he took his mate to one side.
“When the tide turns we’ll rake her–hey?” he said.
“I dunno–I cayn’t quite make up my mind,” said Bill.
“Feared?”–with a sneer.
“Feared o’ what?” asked the black man.
“Oh, I dunno. I reckon the captain, or the owner–hey?”
Bahama Bill spat disdainfully over the side into the dark water where
the phosphorus shone in the ripples. He sat for an hour upon the rail,
and the rest of the crew watched him, for they knew pretty well what
After supper the big mate went on deck. Heldron brought him a hook, a
powerful instrument with a long tooth that would reach well into the
seams of a vessel and pull out any calking that might be there. Sanders
took out a fine steel bar, a regular jimmy, and joined them. The rest
of the crew remained below and played checkers or cards, making no
The giant mate took the bar and hook and slid gently over the side, and
the next instant they saw a thin line of fire, his wake, leading toward
Aboard the yacht the incident of the afternoon was almost forgotten.
Miss Harsha played the piano and Mrs. Dunn sang sea songs, while Dunn
smoked and applauded alternately. The men were all below, and only
Smart and his mate, a tall Yankee sailor from Maine, sat on deck, for
the air was chill.
“Looks like we’ll have a bit o’ weather coming along soon,” said the
mate to Smart; “heavy bank makin’ to th’ north’ard.”
The captain smoked in silence. He thought of the scene on deck that
day, and he felt more than ever that Miss Harsha had reason to feel
displeased at his attentions. He remembered the nights upon the liner
when he had taken the girl for walks against the rules of the company,
the usual ending of such affairs, and the cold-blooded manner in which
she had sent him off. He was occupied intensely with his thoughts and
keenly disgusted. In the dark water alongside a large fish seemed to
make considerable disturbance and attracted his attention. He went to
the rail and looked over, and instantly the creature, whatever it was,
sank below the surface. Then he went back and smoked.
Bahama Bill, the wrecker, had reached the yacht and had started to work
her seams about three strakes below the water-line. It was his business
to drag out the oakum and spread the seam, leaving nothing but a bare
thread to keep the water from coming into the hull.
It was an old game, but new to the vicinity and victims. When the
vessel filled and sank, which she would surely do if not docked at
once, the wreckers would be on hand to claim their salvage. As this
would amount to about one-third the value of the yacht, it would be
worth while. Even if the marks of bar and hook were discovered, no one,
unless an expert in the methods of the reefers, would suspect what had
caused the trouble. No one could possibly give any testimony of any
value against the wreckers.
They would board her boldly at just the right moment, and, knowing her
condition, would have no rivals on hand. Her salvage would ease the
pain of the insults they had received at the hands of her owner. He
wouldn’t drink with them–what? He would wish he had drunk many bottles
before they were through with him, the rich bum. Who was he to put on
airs to them?
The giant black diver had raked the seam and then swung his weight
upon the bar. The two-inch planking of the small vessel gave to his
tremendous strength. His head, a foot beneath the surface, kept him out
of sight while he worked, but he had to raise it clear every little
while to breathe. At these times he turned his eyes upward and tried to
pierce the gloom, letting just his nose come out, and drawing breath
ready for instant disappearance should any one be looking over the side.
It was desperate work, toiling there in the tideway, and, in spite of
his power, he found that he must rest after the first seam had been
raked to the bends. He jammed the bar fast in a seam and clung to it,
lying at full-length and letting his body float with the current.
The night was quite still and very dark. The bank of cloud in the
north told of a heavy wind approaching, the uncomfortable norther
which sweeps at periods over the reef during the winter months. The
water, however, was always warm; the close proximity of the Gulf Stream
kept it near the temperature of eighty all through the year. While he
rested, he was aware of a movement in the sea near him, and he sniffed
the air uneasily. The smell of a shark was plain in his nostrils.
To lie quietly in the sea at night with a shark in the vicinity was
to invite almost certain destruction. To thresh about aimlessly would
surely attract attention from the deck above, and bring death in the
shape of a rifle-bullet, or, worse yet, a boat, which would catch
him before he could gain the _Sea-Horse_. He left the bar in the
_Sayonara’s_ side, and, grasping the hook, swam strongly to the bobstay.
Silently the mighty black hauled himself clear of the water, just as
a long shadow, darker than the surrounding sea passed beneath him,
leaving a long line of fire to mark its passage. He had cleared with
about a second to spare. The sea-monster passed on down the tide toward
the open ocean, but Bahama Bill waited before slipping back again to
In a short time he worked the next seam; then, taking the thin cotton
line he had fast about him as a belt, he unwound it, pulled the last of
the calking oakum out, and replaced it quickly with the line the entire
length of the destroyed seam, leaving the ends clear to be jerked forth
at a moment’s notice. It would at once let a stream of water into the
hull of the yacht which would test her pumps to their fullest capacity,
and where he had worked there was hardly a trace of violence. A few
augur-holes would have accomplished the end more readily, but they
would remain as telltale evidence. The starting of a seam and butts
could not be proven against such careful work.
At the right minute the wreckers would pull the cord, and then it would
be–stand by the pumps or run her ashore. All they would have to do
now would be to follow her about the reef until she arrived at a spot
conveniently far from a tugboat or dry dock, follow her like a shark
until, wounded and unable to keep the sea, they would fall upon her the
instant her crew and owner would leave her, or call for help.
Bahama Bill had just put the finishing touches upon his excellent work,
and was resting, preparatory to swimming back to the _Sea-Horse_,
where he knew Sanders and the rest were awaiting his arrival with some
impatience. He had his bar jammed in a seam, and was hanging upon it,
when the mate of the _Sayonara_ happened to peer over the side.
The wrecker saw him just in time, and sank from view. In doing so he
made a slight disturbance in the sea, and the phosphorus flared and
trailed from him, giving him the long shape beneath the surface common
to a fish of about his length.
“I reckon I’ll take a whack at them fellers swimmin’ around us,” said
the sailor to Smart, “seems to me there might be a barracuda, or
jew-fish, loafing about. I’m going to get the harpoon.”
Bill, instead of making good his getaway, at this moment, hung easily
on to his resting-place and poked his head clear about the time the
mate had ceased speaking. Seeing that the head over the rail had gone,
the wrecker started to pull his bar clear, and had just shoved off from
the yacht’s side, when the mate arrived with the iron.
The long Yankee had been accustomed to spearing sword-fish upon his
native coast in summer, and he hesitated not an instant, but hurled
the iron at the form below him. As he did so Bill saw the movement and
gave a mighty shoot ahead. It saved his life by a fraction of a second,
but the iron struck him fair upon the ankle and passed through between
his heel-cord, or tendon, and the bone. He was hung as securely as a
quarter of beef upon a hook.
“I got him,” yelled the mate. “Lend me a hand. Captain Smart.”
“Killed him outright,” said the captain. “He makes no flurry for a
heavy fish. Must have struck his backbone.”
They put their weight upon the line, and it came in easily, hauling as
though a log were fastened to the iron. And in the meantime Bahama Bill
was whirling over, trying to think of some way to cut clear.
Still holding to his bar, the giant wrecker came swashing alongside
the yacht, making a lot of foam and fire, which completely hid his
identity. By good luck the men above him stopped hauling just when his
great weight began to put a heavy strain upon the line.
Captain Smart, not wishing to trust the thin runner, went for a heavy
line to make a bowline to slip over the fish’s tail and heave him
aboard shipshape Bill jammed the jimmy into a seam and worked it
far enough in to get a strong hold. His head was half-submerged, but
he held on while the strain upon the harpoon lifted his leg clear of
the sea. His leg was numbed from the wound, and when they slipped the
bowline down upon it he knew there was no use of further resistance.
The pain was intense when they put the line to a tackle, and he gave
up. Throwing the bar clear to make away with the last evidence of his
work, he let them haul him feet foremost into the air and hang him
dangling over the rail.
“A nigger, by all that’s holy!” exclaimed the long mate. “Now, how in
the name did—-”
“The mate of the wrecker,” said Smart, slacking the giant down upon the
deck and gazing at him. “Hooked in the ankle, all right and seamanlike.
Is he drowned?”
“Naw, I ain’t drowned,” said Bill, staggering to his feet, the iron
from the harpoon still transfixing his leg. “Yo’ put a stopper on that
barb, and pull that iron out. Cayn’t a man take a swim without you
fellows huntin’ him like a bloody fish?”
The mate offered his apologies, somewhat tinged with humour, for the
mistake, and, being entirely without suspicion, went below to get a
stiff drink for his victim. The giant black stood gazing down at the
yacht captain for a moment, and as the wound did not bleed to any
extent, he refused to have any further fuss made over it.
“Aren’t you afraid of sharks–to be swimming about this harbour in the
night?” asked Smart.
“No, I ain’t scared o’ much,” said Bill, “an’ I takes it all in good
part, yo’ ketchin’ me the way yo’ did. I don’t mind the little hole in
mah laig, but I do mind bein’ h’isted up feet fo’most. I don’t allow no
liberties wid me body, ‘n’ ef yo’ had dun it a purpose, I sho’ would
have tu wake yo’ up some–but I takes no offence.”
The long mate appeared with the liquor, and the wrecker drank it down.
“Ah’m goin’ now,” said Bill, and without further ado he made a plunge
over the rail and was gone. A faint trail of fire showed his rapid
progress toward the _Sea-Horse_, and his captors were left alone again
“That was something strange–what?” said the mate.
“‘Twas a bit out of the ordinary,” said Smart, thinking of the
strangeness of the scene, the dark night, the disturbed water, and
the sudden appearance of a giant negro hauled on deck feet foremost
by a bowline run over a whale-iron. “You better keep an anchor-watch
to-night. Some of those fellows might steal half our brasswork before
morning. I’m going to turn in. Good night.”
In the brisk wind of the failing norther, the _Sayonara_ hoisted
her snowy canvas. The mainsail, taut as a board and white as the
coral-beach, stood with luff cutting the wind and leach cracking gently
while the boom-tackles held it like a hound in leash. The foresail was
run up, and the word was passed aft that the ship was ready.
Mr. Dunn stood near the companion and chatted to Miss Harsha, while
Mrs. Dunn entertained two marine officers from the yard with tales of
the yacht. The reception aboard the day before had been a success, and
these remaining guests were to spend a week cruising to the northward
as far as Boca Grande.
Dunn was a keen fisherman, and would try for tarpon, the giant herring
of the reef.
“I tell you, Miss Marion,” said he, “it’s a great sport. It takes skill
to land one of those fellows, skill to hook him, skill to play him, and
skill to kill ’em–are you a good fisherman?”
Miss Marion, pug-nosed, fat, and not entirely good-natured, thought a
moment. Not upon fish, but concerning certain officers she had known
“I–er–I really don’t quite know, you know. I never tried it. It must
be something grand. It appeals to me, the idea of fishing. It must be
awfully exciting when you’ve hooked him.” And her eyes roved just for a
moment in the direction of Mrs. Dunn and her friends.
“She’s hove short, sir,” said Smart, coming near. “Shall we break her
out and let her go? The tide is just right, and the wind a close reach
up the Hawk’s Channel.”
“Er–yes. I don’t know. Well, yes, let her go. What’s the odds?”
murmured Dunn, losing interest suddenly. “You’ll excuse me, Miss
Marion.” And he went down the companionway. “When in doubt, take a
drink,” he repeated to himself. “Maybe I’ll run into some people who
think of something besides their–their—–” but he left the sentence
unfinished as he drank off a dram of gin and lime-juice. Dunn was a bit
of a sport at bottom, and his wife’s friends were not–not of the kind
he was used to. It was hard to run a yacht as big as his schooner for
the amusement of silly women, and even more silly men.
Captain Smart hove up his anchor, hoisted both jib and staysail, and
while the trim little ship broke off to port, the white-ducked crew
neatly catted her hook and stretched up her topsails, sending out a
big balloon forward which bellied out and sent her racing through the
It was a beautiful day, and the sun shining upon the white hull made
a very pretty picture of the fabric rushing through a whitening path
upon the blue water. The solid-silver trophies in the saloon were made
fast in their places, for the vessel was leaning heavily away from the
breeze, and Dunn locked his little buffet and came on deck to join his
The men of the _Sea-Horse_ watched the yacht until she was hull-down to
the northward, her canvas alone marking the spot of her whereabouts,
which was changing at the rate of ten knots an hour. But they were in
no particular hurry to follow.
Sanders had found out where she was bound, and it was not until late in
the afternoon, when the sun was setting, that the _Sea-Horse_ hoisted
her dirty mainsail. Then she stood away for Cuba, passing out by the
Sand Key Light into the Gulf Stream.
When darkness fell she was shortened down and allowed to drift along
slowly with the current, which took her many miles before the following
In the morning the _Sayonara_ stood in through the pass of Boca Grande.
It is here that the tarpon, the giant herring of the south sea, makes
his entrance to the shallow waters of the Florida reef. Dunn lost no
time engaging guides and preparing for the kill. In the waters of the
reef one does not catch fish; he kills them. A tarpon is not usually
eaten, and is caught solely for the excitement of the fight. Nearly all
the great game fish are equally unpalatable, therefore the sportsman
has long ceased to speak of his catch, which in other waters is useful,
and generally brought home for food.
The small boats were gotten overboard, and the party, made up in pairs
with a guide to each, headed into the pass. Boats from the floating
hotel back among the keys joined them, and during the forenoon the fish
Dunn managed to land two huge fellows, but the boat containing Miss
Harsha and the major of marines caught nothing. If there was an
attempted killing, it was only witnessed by the guide, and he, being
a discreet “Conch,” had the good taste to remain silent for ever
Late in the evening, after the fish had stopped striking, the party
sat upon the deck of the _Sayonara_ enjoying the soft air of the
semi-tropical sea. Far away to the southward the sail of a single
vessel rose above the sapphire rim of the horizon. The air was warm,
and felt almost oppressive. There was evidently going to be a change in
the weather, and Smart noticed it at once.
“The glass has fallen considerable since morning,” said he to Dunn,
“and the pass is not the best anchorage in the world. I don’t exactly
like the idea of lying so far off.”
“We’ll stay as long as the fish bite,” said Dunn. “Now that I’ve gotten
here you’ll not scare me away until there’s something happened. Give
her plenty of scope and let her ride it out, if it blows. A bit of
motion will do the party good, shake ’em up and put some sense into
them. Stay where you are.”
“All right, sir,” said Captain Smart. “I don’t want to cut out the
sport, but if I know anything of the weather by signs, it’ll sure blow
some before this time to-morrow. The warm weather may make the fish
come in, but it means something back of it. It’s too late in the season
for such warm air up here, or it’s too early. We’ll catch it from the
southeast, and we’ll have a nasty sea where we are lying.”
“Let her blow,” said Dunn, “but when in doubt, take a drink.” He went
“I do so wish we would have a terrible storm–then you could have a
chance to show how superior a U.S. marine officer is in an emergency,”
said Miss Harsha, smiling up at the major, who had noticed the
threatened weather and had heard part of the conversation between Dunn
and his captain.
The major leered at her. He was trying to think how a pug-nose and
freckles would inspire him at the psychological moment. It seemed to
cause him an effort, for he spoke wearily in reply.
“You remember what we did at Guantanamo?” he said.
“Yes, but I have heard of nothing else since the Spanish War,” said the
girl sweetly. “You surely have something else in the record of your
excellent corps, for I know personal bravery exists everywhere in it. I
love heroes–men who can do things. It’s foolish, no doubt, but, then,
most women are foolish. What use would your beautiful uniform be to us
if we were not?”
The major gazed out over the darkening sea and watched the tiny speck
of white where the single sail rose above the horizon. He was tired and
thirsty, and he had seen Dunn go below.
“We are to have a fish-dinner–I must go and get out of these
fish-killing togs,” said Miss Harsha, and she left him to follow his
The night was dark and quiet, the sea murmuring distantly under the
black pall which crept up from the southward. The glass fell lower, and
Smart ranged twenty fathoms of cable to let out when the wind struck.
He also got his heavy anchor ready to let go, with sixty more, and made
ready with hemp-stoppers to take the strain off the bitts when she
There were only four fathoms of water in the part of the pass where
they lay, and with a great scope to both anchors he felt certain that
he could hold on unless some accident happened.
The sea would not break where he lay, on account of the formation
of the reef beyond, and if he could get all his line out before she
started to drag, he could hold her without great danger, although she
would do some lively jumping if it blew heavy. A man on watch would
report the first change for the worse.
By midnight all was silent aboard. The anchor-light burned brightly,
and its rays fell upon the form of the man upon the forecastle, who
nodded drowsily. The calm continued, and the great flame from the
lighthouse at the pass sent long streaks into the darkness.
Coming along with the flood-tide and just going fast enough to keep
steering-way upon her, a small vessel headed into the pass, burning no
lights and heading close to where the _Sayonara_ lay. At her helm a
giant negro sprawled, and upon her deck several men lay in attitudes of
“She lays still, like mit a ghost,” said Heldron, peering at the yacht.
“Good graft,” said Sam, straining his eyes to catch every detail.
“I reckon we’ll git to work on her,” said Sanders. “Lower down those
jibs and slack the anchor away easy when I luff her under the lee o’
that p’int yander. How is it, Bill? Do you feel like swimming to-night?”
Bahama Bill, the mate of the wrecker, growled out an assent. His
leg was sore from his experience with the iron in the hands of the
_Sayonara’s_ mate, and his feelings were exceedingly ruffled from
certain personal affronts he had endured from the yacht’s owner. Could
he cook? Could his wife, the renowned Julia, wash? Well, he would ask a
few questions some day after settling his account with the yacht–maybe.
At present the cotton line he had placed in the opened seam was ready
to haul out. Then he would witness some work upon that yacht’s deck.
There would be something doing.
He grinned as he thought of the trim white duck clothes. How they
would look after twenty-four hours’ work at the pumps! Even the
yacht’s captain, who seemed to be something of a sailor in spite of
his wonderful rig, would have something to do besides sitting about
like a well-dressed monkey. And as for those officers, the guests of
Dunn–well, he had already had dealings with them, and once spent the
night in the “cooler” for ruffling a couple of their Jap messmen.
“Yo’ kin lower down the starbo’d boat when we lets go,” said Bahama
Bill; “‘n’ I wants one o’ you fellers to drap to lor’ard toe pick me
up, fer I’ll be comin’ mighty fast–see?”
Sam understood, and a few minutes later the _Sea-Horse_ had hooked the
reef close in the shelter of the key and about a mile distant from the
yacht. Her mainsail was left standing, in case of sudden need. They
could lower it any minute after the job was done. If anything happened
they could stand out in less time than it takes to tell of it, for the
head-sails were all ready to hoist and the anchor just holding. Six
strokes upon the brakes, and she would go clear. Then, with everything
drawing, she would stand through the pass.
The mate dropped into the small boat, and Sam rowed him rapidly ahead
of the yacht. He would drop overboard and drift and swim quickly down
with the current, while the small boat would circle around at a great
distance and out of sight to pick him up after he had finished and
Swimming strongly with a deep breast-stroke which made no foam or
noise, Bill slipped through the black sea like a fish. In a short time
he gained the anchor-chain, which strained out ahead with the force of
the tide upon the hull.
Resting for a few moments and listening to make sure the man on deck
had not seen him, he let himself drift along the vessel’s side until he
reached the end of his line. This he pulled out of the seam and let go.
It opened her for a length of thirty feet–a thin, nasty leak, which
would be hard to find and impossible to stop without docking. It was
the work of an expert wrecker, and he grinned to himself as he let the
current take him away.
Not a mark had he made upon the beautiful white hull, and yet she was
even now filling rapidly through seams which had been carefully calked.
Of course, if the weather remained calm enough for them to work a small
boat alongside and study her bilge a couple of feet below the water,
they would come upon the seam. But the weather was not going to remain
calm very long. He knew it would be blowing hard before daybreak,
before there would be any light to see her smooth side below the water
where the green of her copper paint had hardly been disturbed.
He had passed his knife along the seam after the line was removed, and
it was open. His work was done.
Sam picked him up half a mile astern, and they rowed silently back
aboard the _Sea-Horse_. All the others had turned in, and they did
likewise, after lowering down the mainsail and paying out enough cable
to hold the vessel should it blow before they awoke. The small boat
was towed astern, for they were well back behind the key, and quite
In the still hours of the early morning Captain Smart was awakened
by the unusual sound of water washing about in the yacht’s bilge. He
roused himself and listened. The first note of the rising wind droned
through the rigging, and the man on watch came to his door to call him.
In a moment he was on deck.
The night was still dark, although it was nearly four o’clock. The wind
had come from the southeast, and it was freshening every moment. The
hands were called, and the cable given to the anchor while the heavy
bower was dropped, that she might set back upon them both.
There was plenty of room, and she brought up nicely, riding easily to
the fast-increasing sea. She was heading it, and, therefore, had not
begun to plunge enough to wake the party aft. But every moment the
whistling snore aloft told of what was coming.
After seeing that his ship was snug and safe for the time being, Smart
went below to get into his oilskins. It had not yet started to rain,
but it was coming, and he would not have time to leave the deck if
anything went wrong.
While he sat upon his bunk-edge he again heard the washing sound from
below. It came loud and insistent, not to be confounded with the wash
from the sea outside. At that moment the mate came into his room.
“What’s the matter below, sir?” he asked. “Sounds like we’ve got water
in her. Shall I try the pumps?”
“Well, if we do, it will frighten every one. It’s going to blow a
regular snorter. There can’t be any water in her–she’s tight as a
bottle. You might sound her, but don’t let any one see you do it.”
Before Smart had buttoned on his sou’wester, the mate came below again.
He had a naturally long face and seemed solemn even in his most happy
moment. Now he pulled a face as long as a rope-yarn.
“Four feet of water in her, sir,” he said, and he looked at Smart as
though that officer had said something to hurt him.
Smart gazed at him for a moment-in perplexity. He saw his mate was
sober. He was too good a sailor to come aft with any silly story. He
knew there was something wrong, and he sprang up the companion.
In the rush of the wind on deck all sounds from below were, of course,
silenced. The droning roar in the rigging as squall after squall tore
past made it evident that it was beginning to blow some. Forms appeared
aft, and Dunn came staggering along the rail to the mainmast followed
by his male guests.
“Will she hold on all right?” called Dunn to his captain, who now stood
at the pump-well with the sounding-line in his hand. It was too dark
for the owner to notice the skipper’s movements, but Smart put the line
out of sight.
“Oh, yes, she’ll hold all right,” bawled the captain. “You better go
below for a bit, or else put on your rain-clothes; it’s going to wet up
The men stood near the mast for a few moments, and, seeing that nothing
unusual was taking place, began edging aft again. A spurt of rain sent
them down the cabin companion, and Smart dropped his line into the
well. It showed a depth of four and a half feet of water below, or just
up to the cabin floor.
Something must be done at once. All hands were called to the pumps, and
the clank of the brakes warned the owner that all was not well. He came
on deck with his guests, and as they were now in their rain-clothes,
Smart requested them to get busy. He would need all the men he could
get to keep her clear.
Daylight dawned upon a wild sea to the eastward. The reef roared in a
deep thunder, but the heaviest sea was shut off from them. Streaming
scud fled past above them with the gale, and the mastheads seemed to
pierce a gray sky, which hurled itself to the northward at a terrific
The sea that struck the _Sayonara_ was short, and had a great velocity,
but it was not high enough to make her plunge bows under. She rode it
with short jerks and leaps, smashing into it and sending a storm of
flying water as high as her crosstrees. This the wind hurled aft and
away in a heavy shower.
She was holding to one hundred fathoms on one, and seventy fathoms upon
her largest anchor, and as the sea was shallow where she lay, the taut
chains stretched right out ahead, like two stiff bars of metal.
“How did it happen–what is it?” Dunn kept asking; but his skipper
could give no response. All he knew was that she was filling fast, so
fast that they could just keep her about even with the leak. It was
three hours before it showed less than four feet of water below, and by
that time the men were getting tired.
Smart told off the watches, and sent one below for a rest while the
makeshift cook tried to get all hands some coffee. They were going to
have plenty of work cut out for them, and they needed all the rest and
refreshment they could get.
With only one watch at the pumps the water began to gain slowly upon
them, and by noon it was as high as ever again. The yacht plunged
heavily under this extra weight, and Smart gave her every link he had
aboard, afterward putting heavy stoppers upon both cables to take the
strain of the setback from the bitts.
He had done all he could, and now waited with anxious eye upon the
glass, hoping for the shift which he knew must soon come. If he could
hang on for another twelve hours, he felt certain he would ride the
gale down safely; then–well, then it was up to Dunn to say whether to
risk a run to Key West or beach her. Just now the sea was too heavy to
think of going to leeward anywhere. She would go to pieces on the reef.
Smart crouched under the lee of the foremast, watching men and anchors
alternately. Dunn joined him.
“The women are getting a bit nervous, Smart,” said the owner. “There’s
no danger as long as she holds, is there?”
“Not a bit,” was the short answer. He was thinking how much easier it
would have been if Dunn had allowed him to make a good anchorage before
the blow began.
“Well, I’ll go below and tell ’em–when in doubt take a drink–come!”
And his two guests followed him.
All that wild day the _Sayonara_ tugged and plunged at the end of her
cable, the water gaining slowly in her bilge; and when the darkness
with all its terrors came on, the men began to have some misgivings as
to what the yacht would do.
Just as the wild night darkened the storm-torn sea, Smart wiped the
ends of his glasses to get them free from the flying salt water and
spume. He then took a last look around to see if anything was in sight.
Only the lighthouse showed above the waste of reef and white water to
the westward. Not a sign of humanity. Not a thing else from which to
expect human sympathy.
Suddenly he noticed something like a mast rising from behind the end
of the key. Yes, it was a single vessel, snug and close in behind the
shelter. He could not make out her hull, or he would have at once
recognized the _Sea-Horse_, victor over many a hard-fought battle with
the elements of the Florida reef, now lying snug and safe as a house
with her crew below. He was not aware of it, but a pair of eyes were
at that moment gazing fixedly at his vessel, peering out of a dirty
Bahama Bill had never ceased to watch the yacht from the first drone
of the storm, and all the night the giant mate had kept watch upon the
tiny star of his anchor-light as it rose and fell with each plunge.
As the night wore on and the water had not gained sufficiently to make
it necessary to call all hands, Smart went below for the first time and
took a good meal, eating heartily of everything, and washing down the
food with two large cups of coffee.
It was now nearly midnight, and the glass showed signs of rising. The
squalls were of less violence, and the captain hoped now to weather it
out safely before putting his ship upon the beach to get at the leak.
While he ate he was aware of a sudden shock. The _Sayonara_ seemed to
shift her nose from dead into the sea, and then a peculiar trembling
of the hull told him of that thing all ship-masters dread. At the same
instant the rush of feet sounded upon the deck, and the mate poked his
head into the hatchway.
“Starboard anchor’s gone, sir–she’s dragging back unto the reef inside
“Get the foresail on her–all hands!” roared Smart, tearing up the
The _Sayonara_ had carried too heavy a load. She was too deep with the
water in her, and had at last parted her steel cable to starboard. The
other anchor was not heavy enough to hold her with the extra tons of
water below; she had broken it clear, and was dragging it back–back
upon the coral bank, where she would soon be a wreck if she struck.
One instant told Smart what he must do. He was too far in to try
to get to sea, and, even if he were not, he could not drive the
half-sunken vessel up against that sea and wind. To do so would be
certain destruction, for there would be no chance to keep the leak
under. He must run her in and beach her where it would be least
In the blackness of midnight he might make a mistake and hit a bad
spot, but it was the only chance. If he could get her far enough in
behind the key to make a lee upon the bank beyond, he might save
her–at least save all hands. There was little room to work her, but
she was a stanch ship.
“Cut the chain–break it with an axe!” he bawled. And the men sprang to
The thunder of the close-reefed foresail brought Dunn from below, but
as he was no use forward he wisely remained aft. His two guests stood
near him. A feminine form appeared in the companionway.
Smart was at the wheel, rolling it hard over to break the yacht off and
fill away the foresail, but he caught the words:
“Oh, isn’t it grand? A real storm! Oh, major, this is what you’re used
to. I know you will bring us out of it all right. No, I don’t need a
wrap, my dear Mrs. Dunn. Splendid!”
The _Sayonara_ filled away, the chain was broken, and the dragging
anchor left behind. With the wind upon her quarter, she tore away
through the night, leaving a white path astern.
Smart strained his eyes for the edge of the bank behind the lower key.
It was the most sheltered spot, but even in a sheltered spot to leeward
there would be a mighty sea breaking, with the wind blowing with
hurricane force. He would do the best he could.
The whole uselessness of the affair lay upon him, and he swore,
muttering at the folly of his owner. A little shelter and the yacht
would have ridden down anything as long as she would float. The leak
would not have mattered so much had they been in out of that heavy sea
that made her surge so heavily upon her cables. He could have kept it
under easily enough, but now he was running the vessel to her end to
save those aboard.
The light of the Boca Grande Pass showed him the direction of the reef.
The surrounding blackness showed nothing. He must make his landing by
the bearing of the lighthouse, and trusting that his distance would be
A heavy squall snored over him, and the straining bit of foresail
responded to the furious rush, heeling the _Sayonara_ down to her deck.
All about them the water was snow-white with the sweep of the wind. He
heard a call from forward, and saw his mate running aft at full speed.
A heavier sea lifted the yacht, heeled her to leeward; then there was a
A wild burst of sea tore over the yacht, the following sea had broken
against her side as she stopped in her run. The water was blinding, but
Smart could feel her swing up, and off from the wind. The wheel was
suddenly whirled out of his hands, and with a crash the _Sayonara_ set
her heel again into the coral of the reef.
“Get below, every one,” roared Smart, and the struggling Dunn, with the
major, who had been washed to leeward, fought their way back to the
Smart shoved them roughly down and followed, closing the hatchway after
him. It was the only way. To remain on deck while the sea broke over
her would be to invite almost certain death. Again and again the yacht
rose and crashed down upon the coral bank beneath, the smashing crash
of her rending timbers making a deafening noise to those confined in
her. It was like being within a drum while it was being beaten by a
If they could remain below until the vessel drove well up on the bank,
it would be well. If the filling hold drove them on deck they would
have to face a whirling sea, which was breaking in a wild smother clear
across the wreck. Smart watched the water rising above the cabin floor,
Forward, the mate had got the crew below and closed all hatches. It
would be some time before she filled full enough to drive them on deck,
and all the time the stanch little craft was driving higher and higher
up the bank into shallow water.
Smart took a look at the glass. It was rising. There would be three
more hours of inky darkness, and he hoped the little ship would last
it out. In the morning it would break clear, and there would be good
weather, a splendid chance to save not only the people aboard the
vessel, but much of her valuable fittings.
Dunn tried to calm the fears of his guests. The major, white and
ghastly in the light of the cabin lamp, tried to put on an air of
unconcern. His companion tried to joke with Miss Harsha, but even that
young woman seemed to feel that the storm was entirely too real, the
end not quite in sight.
“When in doubt, take a drink,” suggested the owner, and proceeded to
fill three glasses. A sudden rise and smash of the yacht flung the
glasses to leeward, where they shivered into fragments upon the cabin
deck. Dunn saved his whiskey only by hanging on to it with one hand,
while he clung to the buffet with the other.
The water rose rapidly in the cabin. It was over the floor two feet
deep by three o’clock, and the mate came through the bulkhead door and
announced that the yacht had stove amidships, and was hanging upon a
point of coral, which prevented her from driving farther in.
As near as he could make out, there was still seven feet of water
alongside to leeward, the vessel now lying almost broadside to the sea,
which broke heavily over her. She had been drawing twelve feet, and had
driven up five feet, resting upon her starboard bilge, except when she
lifted with the sea. Something must be done, for the water would be too
deep below to remain there much longer. It would be at least five feet
deep in the cabin, and would swash about enough to drown any one.
The roar of the wind was growing rapidly less, but the crash of the
seas prevented Smart from noting it definitely. He waited and watched
the rising flood. O for a little daylight, to see where he had struck!
Was there a chance to make a landing? To put off in that smother
in the small boats without knowing where he would bring up was too
disagreeable to contemplate until the last moment.
The water gained steadily, and the women became panicky. The major no
longer jested, and Dunn was not in doubt. He had stopped drinking, for
the peril of the night was upon him now in earnest.
Smart, with the mate, made his way on deck, closing the hatchway after
them. They crawled along the weather-rail and gained the waist, where
the whale-boat was snugly stowed under the shelter of the rail to
leeward. The water broke over them constantly, but the wind was going
down, and Smart decided to make ready to try to effect a landing.
The whale-boat was in perfect order, and it would hold all hands, but
he decided that half of the crew should make the first attempt, in
order to see if there was any place to make the beach. They could bring
her back for the rest, and if they failed, there was the gig; it would
hold the women and the rest of the crew.
When they had the boat over the side, it was all they could do in the
darkness to keep it from smashing back with the back-wash of the sea.
The mate managed to get four men into her, and sprang in himself. Smart
went aft and brought Dunn and some of the others, the major staying
with Mrs. Dunn and Miss Harsha. Ten men left the _Sayonara_, and were
instantly swallowed up in the gloom. Then Smart went back below to
await the mate’s return.
In the meantime the water below had risen so high that even the
transoms upon which the refugees perched were several inches under, and
at each surge it went all over them, roaring and washing about. The
cabin lamp was extinguished, and the black darkness which ensued lent
terror to the turmoil in that little cabin.
An hour passed, and no boat came back. It looked ominous. The mate
would surely come back if he could. He was evidently lost or unable to
pull up against the heavy wind and sea. There was no use waiting any
longer. The water was still rising below, and the women must be taken
ashore if it were possible.
Smart got the rest of the watch to work upon the gig, and by superhuman
efforts they finally swung her to leeward, and held her clear of the
side. Miss Harsha was lowered into her, and then Mrs. Dunn. The latter
seemed perfectly at ease, and scorned the assistance of the major,
who gallantly offered to go with her. The noise of the roaring water
precluded any attempt at conversation, and the darkness made all cling
close to the rail in a bunch, each helping the other as best they could.
After all hands had jumped in, Smart followed, and gave the order to
shove clear, and, with the hope of striking the bank in a safe spot,
he headed out from under the lee of the wreck. The gray dawn of early
morning was breaking upon the scene, and the wind was falling rapidly.
It looked as though there would be no great trouble making the land.
But the sea was very heavy.
From under the lee of the wrecked yacht a giant roller, which had
failed to burst upon the outer reef, foamed in a huge smother, and
swept down upon the small boat. Smart had kept her head to the sea,
and was allowing her to drift back very slowly, so that in case he saw
a bad place he could pull out and away without turning around. The
surge struck her and filled her half-full, but she rose again and rode
safely. Men bailed for dear life.
In the growing light Smart saw the rise of the bank to leeward, and the
sea falling heavily upon it. It was a most dangerous surf for a small
boat. He stopped his craft, and lay heading the sea for half an hour,
waiting for a chance to run in, and in the meantime the dawn came to
reveal the desolate coral bank.
Smart stood up and looked about him. Not a sign of the whale-boat
showed anywhere. His own craft was taking the sea heavily, and kept
every one not rowing busy bailing. He saw it was no use waiting any
longer, and began to go back into the surf.
Steering with one of the oars, he managed to keep the craft’s head to
the sea until they were in less than six feet of water. The bank being
flat for nearly a mile to leeward of the yacht, the seas rolled foaming
across it. He was within a quarter of a mile of the dry reef, which
showed in the growing light, when a rolling sea caught the small boat
and swerved her head a bit.
The next instant the steering-oar broke, and before the men rowing
could swing her straight to the sea, she took the following one
broadside and rolled over in the smother.
Smart had a vision of floundering men, women, and boat. The seas broke
over his head and blinded him, strangled him, and seemed to hold
him under. It was all white water, rolling foam, and it was almost
impossible to breathe in it.
Then the sense of the danger dawned upon him with renewed force, and he
struggled to where the dress of Miss Harsha showed upon the surface. He
seized her, and dragged her to the upturned boat.
The major was already holding on to the keel, assisted by two men. Mrs.
Dunn swam easily alongside, and grasped a line thrown her. The painter
was passed along the keel and made fast to a ring-bolt aft. Then all
hands held fast to this line, and waited for the sea to wash them in.
After an hour of struggling it became apparent that the boat was not
nearing the shallow water fast enough. The tide was ebbing, and setting
her out to the deep water; carrying her to the heavy sea, when it
would soon be impossible to live.
“If you will take Miss Harsha, major,” said Smart, “you will be able to
make a landing. Take two men with you, and swim her ashore before it’s
“I think I’ll stay by the boat,” said the major.
The girl was half-fainting.
“It’s my duty to stay by the boat, Mrs. Dunn,” said Smart, “but unless
some one takes Miss Marion in, we’ll lose her. I’m going to try for it.”
Taking the ablest man to help him, Smart fastened a couple of the oars
together, for an aid to float, and then started the struggle in through
It was a long, desperate fight through the broken water over the flat
coral bank. Sometimes they would be able to touch the bottom, and then
were swept from their feet again by the sea. Sometimes they would be
gaining, and then the current, sweeping strongly out, would set them
offshore until the fight seemed hopeless.
With the girl’s head resting upon his shoulder, and the oars under his
arms, Smart kept the struggle up. The sailor helped him, and finally
they managed to get into water shoal enough to stand. Then they were
aware of forms approaching along the shore, and the recognized the mate
and his men who had gone in the whale-boat. In a few minutes willing
hands dragged them to the dry land.
The mate’s boat had been stove in, and this had kept him from coming
back. He had made a successful landing, but had failed to notice the
other until a few minutes before he had sighted Smart in the breakers.
A glimpse of sunlight shot through the flying scud. The wind was
slacking up and the sea going down very fast. The key they were upon
was separated from the one with the light by a broad sheet of water.
They were unable to reach any help from there.
While they gazed at the speck of the upturned boat, Smart rubbed the
wrists of the fainting girl, and endeavoured to revive her.
The mate spoke up. “Seems like I see a boat coming around the key to
the s’uthard,” he said.
From the masthead of the _Sea-Horse_, Bahama Bill had seen the accident
to the gig, and he was coming into the surf with a heavy boat, manned
by a full crew of men who knew the reef. They watched him, and saw him
pick up the survivors of the accident, one by one, and then row slowly
in to where the rest of the yachting-party stood.
In a short time all were landed safely, and by the time they looked
about them they were aware of the wrecking-sloop getting under way and
running to leeward from her shelter. She rounded up to windward of the
_Sayonara_, and dropped both anchors, paying out cable until she was
close to the wreck. Then she signalled to the giant black, and he stood
ready to take passengers aboard.
Dunn came forward and began to thank him for his heroism, but the black
man looked over his head, and just the faintest flicker of a sneer
seemed to show upon his ugly face.
“Yo’ think I make a good cook, eh?” he asked, with a leer. “I don’t
believe yo’ need no washin’ done fer a day er two. Git inter that
boat wid de rest, an’ thank me fer takin’ yo’, yo’ gin-drinkin’,
whiskey-swillin’ good-fer-nothin’ white man.” And Dunn did as he was
Aboard the _Sea-Horse_ they were made as comfortable as possible.
That afternoon, when the sea went down and the wind sank to a gentle
breeze, the entire party were taken to the lighthouse in the pass,
and arrangements were made to send them to Key West. The major was
extremely cool and formal in his manner to all, but Mrs. Dunn cheered
them the best she could.
Miss Marion Harsha paid some attention to Captain Smart, more than is
usual to a yacht captain; but Smart appeared tired and unresponsive.
“You saved my life,” said the girl indulgently, when they were alone
at the lighthouse. “You saved me from a very disagreeable death–and I
shall never be able to repay you. The major acted abominably. Won’t you
forget what I said at Key West?”
“Most certainly,” said Smart, “but not what you meant. I was a
fool–and paid the penalty. I’ll go back to the liner to-morrow.
There’s a great difference between the way we’ve lived. It could never
be forgotten. I forgive you with all my heart, and if you’ll allow me,
I’ll kiss you good-bye.”
The next day Smart and his owner–owner no longer, for his vessel
was too badly wrecked to use again as a yacht–rowed out to get what
personal belongings they wanted before starting for Key West. Upon the
deck of the _Sayonara_ stood the giant mate of the _Sea-Horse_.
“What yo’ want abo’d here?” asked the black man, as they came alongside.
“What d’ you mean?” asked Dunn smartly.
“Well, this here wessel was abandoned–left by her crew–an’ I be here
to take charge,” drawled the black. “Yo’ cayn’t take nothin’ away from
her without my permission. Ef yo’ want to make a deal wid the skipper,
he’s abo’d de _Sea-Horse_. We generally claims two-third salvage. Yo’
kin make de deal wid him–see?”
Dunn didn’t see, but Smart finally convinced him of the truth. It was
humiliating, but there was no help for it–it was the law.
“Right fine ship, cap’n,” leered Bahama Bill to Smart, after things
were settled; “seems a shame to have to wrack her. Wouldn’t yo’ like a
job as cook till yo’ git another berth?”
Later they towed her hull into Key West.