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A Water Front Conspiracy
CAPTAIN JOHNNY O'DWYER, master ot the steam lighter Her cules, surged along the South-st. pavement with a heedless and abstracted air while he con sulted a slip of paper in his list. "Three hundred barrels of oil from Hoboken to the Red Star j>ier." he muttered; "and two hundred and thiny cases of cheese from the Dutch boat to the Fall River line. That imported cheese is a strong man's v>l on a warm. day. It's a shame to see bo many horse aver wasted as i- penned up in them boxes if limburger. And forty bales "' — '.'. He mopped his brick red face and scowled at the loafing groups of longshoremen, stokers, stewards. itnd seamen who crowded the pavement in front of the sal- » >ns from whose doors came whiffs of stale lieer and staler free lunch. A roustabout^ half seas over, lurched against the ]>eppery little gray haired lighterman, whose absorption in the day's work ended with ■■•'.•. abruptness. He whirled about and let drive both lis: s it the face of the offender, who nil sprawling in the gutter. The onlookers laughed, and Johnny O'Dwyer. repenting of his hair trigger temjier. was "nastily getting under way ;»gain when a friendly voice smote his ear. "' You vas mit the war paint on to-day, eh. skip per? Come inside and cool oil before you kills any in- >re of those loafers. I V.: looking !"r you al ready." The lighterman grinned at sight of the ponderous bulk of Fritz Osterhaus framed in the doorway of a dingy storefront above which hung the sign, Shi] Chandler and Dealer i*i Junk." i 1 .-11 i, you Dutchrobber!" was the cheery retort. "I don't want any second hand hawsers to-day. You'll have t<> bunko me some other time." Osterhaus let one eyelid droop in an elephantine wink, and frowned gloomily as if momentous mat • ter* were in his mind. O'Divyer had halted near enough for a huge paw to be clamped down on his shoulder, and he was hauled bodily through the doorway. His captor sat him down on a barrel of eye bolts and cut his protests short with rumbling emphasis. "It '••- somethings worth your so precious time, Johnny. I .11 spank you if you tries to run away. lilow oil some of that steam and come into the back room und we vill be chummy.". " Hut 1 want to get out on the river," snorted the victim. "The Hercules is pantin' to be up and doin'." " Let her wear out her pants at the dock. Johnny,", was the reply. *'I vas not fooling. Do you re member the Bermuda und some other things? Maybe some other country has troubles mil herself down where the .... grow Vas you getting JH-Xt ' " "Another filibusterin* job"-" cried O'Dwyer in an eager tone. Then he caught himself and lowered V .v Hj\c Y.ir \*»r Pa. fit On. Eh ' " By RALPH D. PAINE I i- voice as he cast a quick glance around the room. "Aye, aye. Fritz, I'll walk into your parlor." The} threaded their way through a litter of e< 'ik-<l piles of chain cable, clustered heaps <>£ pulley blocks, and barrels "t salt beef and pickles. the German closed and locked the d"..r behind them. '"It vas a very funny panic, and I don't like it wry much," be began as he slumped im<> a battered arm chair and rubbed his chin ; "Inn maybe those i verheated brains of yours vill be "l some use." "Fire away!" snapped O'Dwyer. '"If a man brains is needed, you're <>ut of your class al ready. Dutchy." "You vas like a buzzy wuzzy misquito mit your jokes, Johnny, but Idont 1< t you sting me mit 'em,'! beamed Fril -Ac "Here vas the facts in a peanut shelL Two creeks ago old Captain Willi- come into my shop. Vbu know him better a< me. He vas making his same old bluff mit his hite whiskers, und his big voice, und his Mack <. iai mit the grease spots down the lr<'nt eh? I is wanting to make a touch of me for a dollar, und I vas not hospitable. Hut he swell out his chest and ask me t<> talk business on the dead quiet." •Old Hank Willis!" broke in O'Dwyer with an oath. "He's a counterfeit, Fritz, and he'd si.ll you his grandmother's coffin handles f>>r junk. He's been a human barnacle ever since he lost his berth ■ for bein' mixed up in that dirty Morning Star salvage case. You're an easy mark, Dutchv." "But he delivers the goods this time, Johnny. Uiracles vill happen. While he vas snoopering ; looking tor suckers between here and the I c got himself next t>> a Portuguese from Central America mit money t<> build bonfires und a revolution in his bonnet. Well, what you think? He makes this tan colored gent mit the 1> lie think Hank Willis vas the only daredevil ship master und < pper fastened conspirator in New York. Und Willis wind- up mil a commission to <^et the ip und command the expedition to •. uras. "Tv ■ rt cut mil a long story, this IK-rr r General Lopez turn- up in tow of old Willis, und makes good mit the cash. Und I contracts t>> deliver eg for seven thousand men, rifles, etes, ammunition, und some other things like saddles und medical stores, Willis vas ff und take charge of. the ship und when ever he vas ntn >t watched." "And I'm to put the ( ar^ r " aboard the st< i nd take chai • • ir " o immented r, with . • ■ mile. '■ Y«*u vill come to my house to-night at eight o'clock," con cluded PritZ, "und meet the General, und old man Willis vill be there. You can size it up on your own hook, Johnny; but I depends "n you t<> take the g< * ds m\ hands. It vas a game we played pretty well, one or three times, eh? " 'I c home <>f the ship chandler was h;tr<l by the water front which he loved, an ancient brick dwell ing almost submerged among the stores, warehouses and tenements r from Coenties Slip. \\'<u O'Dwyer mounted the deeply worn si "iic steps he faced an other > -aller who was fumbling with the rusty bell pull. The flickering light from a street lamp on the corner shovred him a slight • I ■• » 'pintr figure topped by a wide slouch hat. The two men eyed each other shrewdly, until Fritz Osterhaus opened the door with a growl of welcome. Once they were in the hall, the host ex< iaimed : "General Lopez, this is my friend vat I tow you about, the master of the Hercules. He vasa regular sun downer, this feller I ihnny < >'l)\\yer " The lighterman surveyed the General with a somewhat pitying •j.iZi- as if wondering how he could have been unlucky enough to fall afoul of old man Willis. There was something attractive and ap jK-aling in the aspect ( >f thisel ilerly soldier from Central Amer ica. It was the face of a genuine patriot, and the impulsive sym pathies <>f O'Dwyer were warmly stirred even before General Lopez laid .: hand <>n his sleeve with a kind of flutter ing caress and said : "I have heard O'Dwyer as the friend of liber ty. Now y«ui will serve my poor, unhappy country; is it so?* 1 '" I have mistrust ed some of your breed," frankly con fessed O'Dwyer; "but you look to me to be all r;. Let's get l>usy . | chart a course, it I'm to be in this deal." Usterhaus le 1 them up stairs to his den, which was so crammed relics of deep w ater ships that it kx >ked like an annex i junk shop. Captain Hank Willis was sil - ting beneath a fes tooned row i>i fish nets, and what with his long white beard and general air of having ! ■ ■ : '.'•■■' !•: ' rise, hit looked like a rather battered Father Neptune. He rose with pompous dignity and cordially hailed O'Dwyer: "Hello, shipmate! I told the General you were the one man we had to have in our business." It was on the tip of the lighterman's tongue I • make a biting retort, but he decided to await devel opments. Fritz < tsterhaus stretched himself on a divan tiiat was built like a ship's transom and annoui <d '"The scandalous merchandise vill be ready in five or six days, Johnny, I*>xed and marked as usual It vill be shipped heavily disguised as canvased und tinned beef und barb wire und such packed in stout l*>xes for the export trade. Und part of the rifles goes a s shovels und axes, eh? It vas up to you next ." O'Dwyer twisted in his chair and turned to Gen eral Lopez. " 111 take over th's cargo from m\ Dvi . friend here and put it aboard a steamer in the bay or off shore, and it will cost you a thousand dollars. I run the risk of bein' jailed for two years bke Captain Freiburg of the Orienta, savvy? But I don't expect a cent till I deliver the goods." "That's satisfactory to us," observed Captain Willis with a patronizing flourish. "You play with your whiskers till I'm done!'! flashed O'Dwyer. "I'm talkin' to the los>." General Lopez patted O'Dwyer's knee and -aid soothingly: "We are all in the same boat. El ( 'apt' tan. It is not pood to have trouble among com rades. I have worked for this for ten long years. All my fortune is staked in this expedition, and the money of my friends. It is my religion, my love, my life, to free my beloved country. Ah, you do not know!" "" Who in Mazes put you next to that old terrapin?" exploded O'Dwyer, nodding violently at the benign ant Willis. "Never mind. It's none of my busi ness, and it's too late to pull out now." Captain Hank Willis stroked his beard and iooke I more grieved than angered, while Osterhaus si ered his protests by asking: "There vas no chance of a slip about the steamer, Willis?" "She's layin' here ready for sea," sonorously proi laimed that worthy. "I've chartered the stanch steamer Mary Hall, a picked crew is signed, and I'm prepared to take her wherever the General wants her put, as long as she floats." "The Mary Hall!" cried O'Dwyer, red in the face with honest wrath. "That condemned, rotten old bundle of scrap iron! Why, her paint is ail ti.iit holds her together." The mild mannered General Lopez appeared to be ruffled by this outburst, as if O'Dwyer was med dling with a part of the program that did not con cern him. The latter perceived the futility of up setting matters by uttering more aspersions con cerning the maritime repute of that hardened old reprobate. Captain Hank Willis, and therefore resigned himself to threshing out the detail- oi the lawless undertaking. When O'Dwyer said good night. Fritz Osterhaus followed him to the door and whispered : "It vas foolishness to kick up a shindy, Johnny. Willis has twisted him his linger around, und the job is dune. Maybe old Willis \.i- straight tor -J The General From Central America.