OCR Interpretation


The Aberdeen Democrat. (Aberdeen, South Dakota) 1???-1909, April 09, 1909, Image 7

Image and text provided by South Dakota State Historical Society – State Archives

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98069055/1909-04-09/ed-1/seq-7/

What is OCR?


Thumbnail for

I?
".St
SIX
rfiL
Mm
vj
'3
MS
TH'J
LAST VOYAGE
OF THE
DONNA ISABEL
BY RANDALL PARRISH
Author of
"Bob Hampton of Placer"
etc.
Illustrated Uy Dearborn Moivill
Copyright A C. AluCIurtf & Co ,.nio."
ly against a bulkhead, while Do Nova,
bare-headed, his little black mustache
clearly outlined against the olive of
his cheek, occupied the stool between
them. The Kanaka firemen were out
of sight, but the red-faced engineer
was on his knees tinkering over a
refractory bolt with a monkey-wrench.
"Everything working all right, Mr.
De Nova?" I questioned, quietly.
The eyes of the. four men instantly
turned toward me, the engineer
straightening up, monkey-wrench in
hand.
"No troubles here, monsieur," and
the mate rose to his foet, his white
teeth showing. "Were are we now?"
"Just oft the point, with the light
house dropping astern, and the swell
of the ocean under our forefoot. I am
going to call in the boats. Have you
plenty of coal?"
"Bunkers all full, monsieur."
"How Is your steam?"
He stepped over to the gauge, peer
ing at it across the burly shoulder of
the engineer, who still stood staring
at me.
"Pretty near up to ze danger mark,
monsieur."
"Then stand by for signals."
The engineer came to life as though
treated to an electric shock, his fist,
still grasping the monkey-wrench,
suddenly extended, his red face pur
pling with passion.
"You damned, bloody pirate!" h«
yelled, glaring at me savegly. "It's
"You Damned Bloody Pirate!" He
Yelled, Glaring at Me Savagely.
hung the whole lot of you will be for
1
this bloody night's work. No, I won't
keep still, you moon-faced mulatto. I'm
a free-born Briton, an* I'll smash In
the heads of some of you yet, an' I'll
live to se« the rest hung In chains for
the bloody pirates you are. Just wait
till you're caught, an' then you won't
he grlnnln' that way at an honest
man. Oh, you'll git It all right, my
fine lads. There'll be hell to pay for
this Job, let me tell you! It's on
nothln' you'll be dancln' then, you
murderin' spawn o' hell!"
De Nova pressed the barrel of a re
volver Into the man's neck, with a
stern threat and an unpleasant gleam
ing of white teeth. The sailors re
mained leaning on their guns, grinning
as if in enjoyment of the play.
"Never min' w'at he say, sir," and
the mate glanced up toward me, as if
in apology. 'He bust out zat way
ever* fly*' minutes since we be down
here. We have club him, two, t'ree
time, but he stick here just ze same,
an' run ee engine. Qui, oul, it just
«e way wlz ze bull-headed Engllsher."
'1 .see," I acknowledged, drawing
^baclr, "only watch that he doesn't kink
(he machinery."
I was not in, the least surprised at
•^discovering one of his nationality in
recharge of the vessel's engine room,
i^nor was I sorry. Hoi would feel little
Wml Interest In the affair, after he
mice clearly comprehended the situa
tion. while a native Chilean might be
Impelled by a spirit of patriotism to
s«ause as serious trouble. Englishmen
Were my Wequently met with in for
jjeign engine rooms this fellow had
l-probably been picked "op because' of
pwtter qualifications than any hattve
(.applicant: or,' indeed he might have:
member of the original crew of
yacht before it was disposed of
f'lL-r"1 *0Ternment. tVould have a
t- WW*SiWtth .him laterj,} meanwhile ha
certainly in good hands and I
enough else to .attend to. Th«h
came in hand over hano^
coUeddripp&igonthefor*
*0®
#8088$!
«Mr«»d fafasoutthe tpf,
tumbled silently over
'tri^vthe: ^antaie
IngntahlngTutUe's
U^|*l»listat'shufr
""'Iiimrtw11'iiin mm mini ii ii in
tinguisning tne raint responsive tinkle
of the bell far beneath. Like a hound
suddenly released for tho chase, the
steamer sprang forward Into the fog
Early dawn reached us in sodden
gray, the sun a shapeless blob of dull
red, with no vestige of its golden
light forcing passage through those
dense clouds of misty vapor closing us
In as between curtained walls. The
swell of the sea was not heavy, but
the pervading glooin gave to the sur
rounding water a peculiarly sullen ap
pearance, through which we tore, reck
less of accidont, at full speed. A new
hand was at the wheel, Johnson hav
ing gone below an hour since, but I
still clung to the bridge, my eyes
heavy from peering forth Into the fog
bank, my clothing sodden with the
constant drip.
Only a few of the men were visible,
three or tour grouped about the cap
stan on the forecastle head, and as
many more gathered along the lee
side of the charthouse. Evidently reg
ular watches were already chosen, and
a portion of the crew had been turned
in for their trick below. Tattle him
self, clad in wet, glistening oil-skins 1
and looking gaunt and cadaverous, his
chin-beard forking straight out over
the high collar, was standing aft, be
side the fellow who still kept guard
over the companion. I moved across
to the. starboard end of the bridge,
and, when he glanced around, made
signal tor htm to join me.
"Not very much chance of any one
overhauling us in this fog, Mr. Tuttle,"
I said, pleasantly. "It would be like
hunting a needle in a haystack."
'Tis as the Lord wills," he re
turned, rather sourly. "Man proposes,
but God disposes. The sun will lift
that whole outfit in another hour. How
far do you figure we're off shore?"
"Figure it for yourself. We're doing
aii of 1G knots, and have been for
four hours at that speed. With an
other to be added, even our smoke
ought to be below the horizon. We've
given them the slip all right, and
from now on It's merely a question of
steaming to keep ahead. I don't re
call anything in the Chilean navy that
can overhaul us. What discoveries
have you made below?"
He turned his crafty, glitering eyes
toward me, twisting the lump of tobac
co under his tongue. In some way, be
neath the revealing daylight, I became
even more distrustful of the man,
more conscious of his hypocrisy.
"Not a great deal," his mouth at
tempting a grin "except that we've
got the crew caged. Everybody was
ashore but the harbor watch."
"fThen you found the forecastle
em^ty?"
"Nothln' there but dunnage and bilge
water regular sea-parlor, sir."
"And no officer on board?" I asked,
scarcely believing it possible.
"None, barring the engineer, so far
as I know. The cabin was locked up
"by your orders, so I let that alone."
"And that, then, Is all you have dis
covered, Is It, Mr. Tuttle?"
He shifted his long logs, but made
no effort to turn and face me.
"Well, I guess that's about the
whole of It," he answered, slowly, as
though deliberating over the choice
of words. "Only I'm a bit puzzled
about some things what don't look just
right. We started out, as I understand
it, to run off with a Chilean warship
named the Esmeralda, a schooner
rigged steam yacht. That was the con
tract, wasn't it, sir?"
I nodded, gravely, wondering what
the man could possibly be driving at
"That was my understanding," hla
nasal tone becoming more pronounced
and disagreeable. "And somehow
what we've got here looks just a bit
odd. This here is a schooner-rigged
steam-yacht all right, an' I guess the
tonnage isn't very far out of the Es
meralda class, but we haven't found a
blame Chilean on board—two Swedes,
a Dutchman, two Kanakas, an' a
bloomin' English engineer."
"Well, what of that?" I broke In
impatiently. "You know as well as I
do that the entire Chilean navy Is
filled with
foreisrnprs
"Sure," he coincided, with a swift,
questioning glance toward me ''that's
all true enough, sir, but I never saw
a whole crew of those beggars an' no
Chilean bossin' 'em. But then that's
only a part of it. Every one of them
small boats down there, a®' the life
preservers hangin' in front of the
cabin, have got the name Sea Queen
painted on them. Dam' if It ain't, here,
too, on this tarpaulin."
I bent over the rail looking down
at the lettering he pointed out, yet
with no feeling of .uneasiness.
"Beyond doubt, that was the yacht's
name before the Chilean government
purchased her and renamed her Es
meralda for their service. She was
.bought from English parties, I've
heard. Probably the new owners have
found no opportunity to repaint the
name."
Tuttle drew forth a red bandanna
and blew his nose, his voice more sul
lenly insolent as he resumed Bpeech.
..."Cllad ye take it so cool, an' maybe
*er right. However, it looks dam'
odd to me."
I glanced aside at the wheelman ap
prehensively. The fellow was gazing
straight ahead of him into the rapidly
thinning fog. It was the manner of
the mate more than his words that im
pressed me.
"toe here, Mr. Tuttle," and I
dropped my hand rather heavily on
Us sleeve, "kindly explain exaotly
what you are driving at Do you in
tend to insinuate that we have made
a mistake in the dark. and run oil
I?®
I
the,
*«»g wwelT Why, man,
that Is impossible. We aire sailors,
not landlubbers. Both of us have had
chance* to see the Bsaeralds. attS vou
'a fV
cerraimy Knew wi
yesterday."
1
wreaths and buried her sharp nose in
the sea.
CHAPTER VII.
In Which I Suspect Evil.
wmmfi
"Well, when I come to think It
over, I don't feel quite so everlasting
ly sure about that. The mind o' man
Is mighty deceitful," he admitted,
slowly. "You see, I never saw her I
any closer than maybe a mile, an'
even then she was half hid behind oUi
er shippin'. Of course I took notice of
her outline an' rig, but I didn't pay
much attention to details. To-night we
was all of us excited, an' colors don't
show up much in the dark! Now, her
funnel is painted red, an' unless' I'm
a liar the Esmeralda's was black with
a valler stripe round the top. Toa
see, Mr. Stephens, we kept in pretty
close under cover all yesterday, an'
maybe they hauled the Esmeralda up
to the government docks, and run an
other boat into her anchorage."
I laughed aloud, not in the least lm
pressed with his argument.
"A very likely story that there were
two vessels in that harbor so near
alike as to deceive all of us."
He remained stubbornly silent, evi
dently uuconvinced, plucking at his
chin-beard.
"There is a certain way of settling
the matter," I went on, decisively,
"that is, by an examination of the pa
pers In the cabin. Take charge of the
bridge, and I'll run down and clear up
this affair beyond any further contro
versy. We may even have one of the
ship's officers stowed away there,
sleeping oft his late celebration. If
there is, he's due for a rude awaken
ing. Keep the yacht's head as she is,
and I'll be back directly."
I was aware that he watched me
closely as I descended the steps, but
felt little Interest In such surveillance.
That we could have been guilty of so
serious an error as he suggested was
beyond possibility. Nevertheless the
mere suspicion was irritating, leaving
me filled with a vague unrest. It was
quite true that I might have been de
ceived. I realized that, because I had
enjoyed no opportunity to observe the
Esmeralda in daylight, and ne occasion
to study her lines with care at any
time. To me she had appeared merely
as an extremely graceful vessel, in
teresting to the eye of a seaman. But
Tuttle and his crew must have known
the truth. If we were, Indeed, on
board the wrong vessel, it was from
no innocent mistake of the darkness,
but rather the result of deliberate
plan, the full purpose of which was
beyond my comprehension. I swore
savagely under my breath, even as I
laughed sarcastically at the vague sus
picion, aroused largely, as I well
realized, by my increasing dislike of
the ex-whaleman. The wrong ship?
Why, the very conception of such an
accident was grotesque, ridiculous, be
yond belief! It was the hallucination
of a fool. One of the men assisted me
to unbar the slide across the compan
ionway, and, bidding him stand by
ready for a hail, I started below, my
fingers on the brass rail, my feet firm
en the rubber-lined stairs.
These led into as handsome a sea
parlor as ever I remember gazing
upon. Everything was effective and
In elaborate taste, evidencing an ex
penditure that made me stare about in
amazement. So deeply did it impress
me that I remained there grasping the
the rail, gazing about in surprise, hesi
tating to press my investigations fur
ther. Yet this feeling was but mo
mentJu'y, the'vSry 'desertioa and si
lence quickly convincing me that the
cabin contained no occupants. The
movement of the vessel, the trampling
of men on the deck, and the ceaseless
noise of the screw were more notice
able here than forward, and no sea
man, however overloaded with liquor
he might have been the night before,
could have slept undisturbed through
the hubbub and changes of the past
few hours.
Inspired to activity by this knowl
edge, and eager to settle the identity
of our prize, I began closer examina
tion of that Impressive interior, al
though not entirely relieved from the
spell of its royal magnificence. Six
doors, three upon each side, opened
oft from the main cabin. The full
length mirrors occupied the spaces be
tween, and the doors themselves were
marvels of decoration and carving.
Another, beneath the stairs, led di
rectly Into the steward's pantry, and
revealed, besides, a passageway lead
ing forward, probably to the lazarette
amidships. The others, as I tried their
brass knobs, exhibited merely com
fortable staterooms, fitted up for offi
cers' use three contained two bunks
each, the others only one. Four of the
beds had been carefully made, but the
remainder were in disorder, as though
quite lately occupied. Everything im
pressed me as unusually clean and
neat, evincing strict discipline. The
only desk I noticed was a roll-top, af
fair, securely locked, and with no lit
ter of papers lying anywhere about
This, I figured, was probably the berth
of the first officer the captain's room
would naturally be the one farthest
astern.
The upright piano, with the high
backed cushioned chairs surrounding
It, blocked my view aft, but on round
ing these I observed a closed door,
which apparently led Into a room
extending the entire width of the
cabin. Never suspecting that it might
be occupied, I grasped the brass knob,
and stepped within. Instantly I came
to a full stop, dazed by astonishment,
my teeth clenched in Quick effort at
self-control. The entire scene burst
In upon my consciousness with that
first surprised survey—the draped
portholes opening out upon the gray
fog-bank, the brass bed screwed to
the deck, the chairs upholstered in
green pluBh, the polished table with a
vaae of flowers topping It, the glisten
ihg front of a book-case In the corner,
the tiger rug Into which my feet sank.
All these things I perceived, scarcely
realxing that II did so, for myone
trueimpresslott concentrated' itself
noon the llvlnc occunanta.
I-
Mjf
ABERDEEN DEMOCRAT, FRIDAY, APRIL 9, 1909
mere were ivro present. a
cresting tx-ici toward ntfc,
fronting a mirror, yet with eyes
fastened upon an open book lying in
her lap, sat a woman. The lowered
head yielded me only an indistinct out
line of her features, yet the full throat
and rounded cheek gave pledge of
both youth and beauty. Standing al
most directly behind her chair, with
short, curly locks, crowncd by a smart
white cap, her hands busied amid her
mistresses' tresses, was a maid, petite,
roguish, fluttering about like a hum-
1
ming bird. The latter saw me at once,
pausing in her work with eyes wide
open in surprise, but the preoccupied
mistress did not even glance up. She
must have heard the sound of the
door, however, for she spoke care
lessly:
"1 thought you were never coming.
1
What caused you to sail so suddenly?"
These unexpected words, uttered so
naturally, served partially to arouse
me from the dull torpor of surprise. I
clenched my hands, wondering if I
was really awake, and stared back Into
the frightened eyes of the maid, who
appeared equally incapable of articula
tion. Suddenly she found voice.
"It Is not ze one, madame," she
cried, shrinking back. "N'on, non It
Is un liomme etranger."
"What Is that you say, Celeste?"
and the other arose swiftly to her
feet, the open book dropping to the
floor as she turned to face me. In
stantly I recognized her, in spite of
the long hair trailing unconfined far
below her waist—recognized her with
a sudden leap upward of my heart into
my thoat. There was no semblance of
fear, only undisguised amazement, in
the dark gray eyes that mot mine.
"What—what Is the meaning of this
strange intrusion? Are you a member
of the crew?"
Instantly my cap came off, the
thought occurring to* me of what a
rough figure I must be making in my
soaked jacket, with the glistening
peak of my cap shadowing my face.
"No, madame and I bowed before
her "I am not one of your crew. My
—my entrance here was entirely a
mistake."
She leaned forward, one white hand
grasping the back of her chair, the ex
pression in her eyes changing as she
read my face, perplexity merging into
faint recollection.
"I—I do quite co"ipr_u nd," he
confessed at iast, changing her speech
to a slightly broken Spanish. "You
—you are Senor Estevan?"
CHAPTER VIII.
In Which I Begin Discovery.
Stunned by this abrupt disclosure
of the extremely dangerous predica
ment we were in, I found no immedi
ate voice for reply, merely standing
there as if petrified, staring at them
both, cap In hand, grasping the edge
of tho door. Their faces swam before
me in the gray light streaming
through the stern ports the maid al
ready attempting a smile, as though
her fears had subsided, the mistress
viewing me in wondering perplexity.
She It was who first succeeded In
breaking the embarrassing silence.
"But, senor, what does this all
mean? Why are you here on board
the yacht?"
With strong effort at control I
broueht my senses to
ee then. desDerate
ly fronting thesis agreeable situation,
feeling myself scarcely less a victim
than she. If all that I now dimly sus
pected proved true, about us both were
being drawn the cords of treachery.
"I cannot explain, madame," I be
gan lamely enough. "At least not
until I comprehend the situation bet
ter myself than I do now. It is all
dark. I have reason to believe a most
serious mistake has been made—one
It will be very difficult to rectify. Per
haps I could see more clearly If you
would consent to answer a few ques
tion. May I ask them of you?"
She bent her head slightly, still
gazing directly at, me with widely open
eyes in which I read Increasing be
wilderment. I believe she thought
me a crazed man, whom she must con
tinue to humor.
"What vessel is this?"
"The steam yacht Sea Queen Liv
erpool, owned by Lord Darlington,"
she announced, soberly, her face and
lips white.
"How came you anchored oft the
government docks?"
"By special permission of the presl
dente. We were towed Into that berth
early last evening, after the Esmer
alda had been hauled up against the
quay to ship armament and stores."
I drew a deep breath, clenching and
unclenching my hands.
"Could you tell me if it was known
to others that you contemplated
anchoring there?"
She hesitated, her lips slightly apart,
one hand pressed against her tem
ple.
"It is most important that I learn
the exact truth," I urged, earnestly.
"I ask from no idle curiosity."
"I am not generally consulted in
such matters, senor," she admitted,'
"but I believe we had been waiting
several days for the opportunity to
take that position. This Is as I have
been told."
She seemed to be awaiting my ex
planation, striving to be courteous, yet
with her impatience slightly evidenced
by the continual tapping of her foot
on the rug. But I wa» not yet
through with my questioning.
"Were no ofllcers left on board last
nightt"
Her gray eyes widened.
"Certainly yes the first officer and
the engineer were in charge when I re
tired. The others, with the majority
of the crew, had gone ashore at sun
down to enjoy the fun- But why do
you ask, senor? Are these not on
board nowt"
"I regret being compelled to answer
no. Only the engineer, three of tie
Tartar Walsh, and some Kanaka fit*
men nave been xouna. have discov
ered no trace of the first officer."
"Then—then he must have rowed
ashore with two of the men!" she ex
claimed.
"How chanced you to be left here
alone?"
She hesitated, her hands clasped
on the chairback, her bosom rising
and falling tremulously. Yet finally she
forced her lips to reply, as though thus
seeking the quickest way of clarifying
the situation.
"We were all Invited to the palace
of the presidente, to listen to the
speeches and view the fireworks. Lord
Darlington was greatly Interested,
and most desirous of attending. The
unfortunate scene which occurred at
tho hotel early In the evening left
me, however, with so severe a head
ache that I begged to bo allowed to re
main here alone with Celeste. At first
both Lord Darlington and mamma re
fused to depart without me, but when
the presidente dispatched his own
steam launch to convey the party to
the wharf, they decided It would be
most discourteous not to attend. Lord
Darlington's membership in the house
of lords gives him a certain official
recognition abroad which he does not
care to have lapse. The yacht's cap
tain accompanied them, and no dream
of evil befalling those left behind ever
occurred to any one of us. O senor,
tell me, what does It all mean? What
Iisb hatmeaed.?"
"f pFesume I must explain," I said,
.-igretfully, "although it is not an
easy task by any means. You will
have confidence in me, Miss Doris?"
"I shall endeavor to do so," she re
turned, an increasing coldness In her
voice. "But I am Lady Darlington."
"Your pardon I supposed you to be
that gentleman's daughter."
The color swept In a wave of rich
crimson into her cheeks, the gray eyes
becoming darker.
"Nevertheless, senor, I am Lord
Darlington's wife."
Even in that moment ef embar
rassment and perplexity, whea I was
scarcely less agitated than herself,
this unexpected announcement of such
a relationship came to me as a shock.
Why It should, what difference it oould
possibly make, I did not in the least
realize, yet I was instantly conscious
of the disappointment, of deep regret
The revelation, thus calmly, proudly
made, was so unexpected, so destruc
tive of all my previous conceptions, as
to seem an Impossibility. Could this
young, clear-eyed woman be Indeed
the wife of that grim, inactive, ancient
peer of the realm?
"You apparently question the truth
of my words," she remarked, coldly
observant.
"It was onlx the natural surprise of
a moment, Lady Darlington," I
hastened to apologize. "The thought
of your marriage had never before oc
curred to me."
She looked directly Into my eyes,
her own plainly indignant, yet her
words strove to overcome the blunt
ncss of mj* speech.
"I do not feel, senor, that there
can be any necessity for discussing
my private affairs with you at present.
Enough that I am Lady Darlington,
and that I have patiently answered the
rather impudent .luestlons you have
seen fit to ask. Now, Senor Estevan,
kindly enlighten me as to the cause
of your Intrusion into this apartment,
and your presence on board the
yacht."
Her tone had changed to lmperious
ness. This was plainly a command,
and, back of the fair face 'fronting
me, I read strength of character and
a proud insistence long'accustomed to
control. It was not fear but disdain
that darkened her gray eyes. Her
manner begged nothing—It pictured
dominant command, the attitude of
one who addresses a servant, expect
ing Implicit obedience.
"Lady Darlington," I began, stand
ing directly before her, and reverting
to the use of English, so as to be
certain of making my meaning suffi
ciently clear, "whatever explanation I
may make cannot be pleasant, but it
shall be truthful. It is far better that
you comprehend fully the situation we
are in—your own peril, as well as my
responsibility
Her expression changed from ab
bitrary defiance to an amazement not
untlnged by a sudden development of
fear as her hands grasped the chair
back convulsively but I went on
steadily to the end.
"I am not, as you naturally sup
posed, a Chilean, but a native of North
America. My name is Stephens. I
was in Valparaiso under most un
pleasant circumstances, seeking vainly
to escape from the country, and
hounded by the secret police because
of my connection lately with a revo
lutionary movement along the Bolivian
frontier. The merits of that, affair
need not now be discussed, but I had
become involved in it through certain
business connections, and had at
tained Valparaiso after much hard
ship, seeking escape by sea. There I
discovered every avenue, closed
against me, and was reduced to a des
perate plight. I was in hiding from
the governmental authorities when. I
risked almost certain discovery—last
I evening. A little later—after you left
the hotel—a man who I was led to bo
lieve represented the Peruvian gov
ernment, approached me with a
strange proposition, which, however,
promised immediate, release from my
dangerous predicament, and, likewise,
.! a suitable reward for the successful
performance of a certain service. I
am a aailor, and the particular duty
required of me was to be performed
niton the sea. I was asked to assume'
the position of a Peruvian naval cap
tala. Incapacitated by sudden Ulnesa,
In the surprise and capture of a ChlV
ean yrar vessel, the steam yacht Es
meralda, then supposed to b« lying at
anchor, poorly guarded, in the outer
harbor off the goveinmeht dock*. For
that purpose I was presented with a
If
uly glance wauuerafi irum
tionless woman fronting me in such
white silence to Celeste, who had sunk
back upon the bed, her blue eyes
staring at me across the brass rail, ev
idently experiencing difficulty In trans
lating my rapid English speech.
"I had enjoyed but little opportunity
of examining the particular vessel we
were thus employed to capture, as I
dared not leave the hotel except after
nightfall." I continued, more slowly.
'Yet I knew her place of anchorage,
and that she was a
Bteam
yacht of
some 700 tons burden, schooner-rigged,
with lines promising great speed. Oth
erwise I relied entirely upon the
knowledge of the officers under me.
We boarded what I believed to be the
Esmeralda soon after midnight, over
came the small harbor watch with lit
tle difficulty, captured the engine
room, and, by holding a gun at his
ear, persuaded the engineer to operate
his machinery in our service. The
very audacity of the attempt brought
comparatively easy success. The main
cabin had been secured by my orders
when we first arrived aboard, and I
came below just now, after all danger
seemed far astern, to learn if any
officers were hidden away here. I had
examined all the other staterooms,
finding them empty, and at last
opened this door in my quest. Not
until I saw you did I in the slightest
realize that we were on board the
wrong vessel, r.or that we
1
en­
gaged in anything except an honorable
adventure of war."
That the hasty details of my story
both startled her and impressed her
with its truth, was evident enough, yet
her lips curled with contempt, and
her eyes remained unbelieving.
"How many men accompanied you?"
"A crew of 20, with two officers."
"Peruvians, I presume?"
"No, madam," reluctantly, "hotch
potch dragged from the seven seas."
Her expressive face darkened, her
fingers clenching again nervously
about the chairback.
"And you really expect me to be
lieve that preposterous tale!" she
burst forth, indignation shattering all
ordinary bounds of speech. "You
must, Indeed,, think very highly of my
intelligence. You—why, you are a
sea-robber, a pirate!"
My cheeks flushed at the harsh
words. I could feel the surge of blood,
yet I met her gaze quietly.
"I have told you the exact truth.
Lady Darlington, as I promised," I re
turned, seeking to speak calmly, "with
out any real hope that you would be
lieve. Yet I want you to try. It Is
all bad enough as It stands, without
endeavoring to make it appear worse."
She leaned slightly forward, clearly
impressed to some extent by the gravi
ty of my manner.
"Then prove it"
"How?"
"By steaming directly back to Val
paraiso and delivering up this stolen
vessel to its lawful owners."
"That sounds simple enough, but
do you-realize what our probable fate
would he?"
She clasped her hands tightly, press
ing them against her breast
"What do I care!" the contempt in
her voice grown bitter. "You have
done the evil, by your own confession
now you should pay the price. You
rescued me once from Insult, and 1
a Robber,
"You—Why, You Are
,•/- -PlratelT
•r.»"• i, j.
hold the remembrance of that act In
your favor. Prove yourself worthy a
woman's respect by making amends
for this wrong. Take the Sea Queen
baCk now, before it is forever too late,
and all I can do, or that my husband
can accomplish, shall be done to save
you from punishment. Prove, to me
that your words are not false."
I hesitated, doubt and suspicion
rendering me totally incapable of cleu
thinking before her insistent demand.
Her face grew whiter as she marked
my silence.
"So you—you lied, then!" the cruel
words faltered from between her lipi
almost unconsciously.
"No, I spoke the truth,". I answered,
gripping myself sternly, "but I ques
tion my power."
"Tour power? Why, you Just to
formed me yon were In command."
I advanced a step forward, my man
ner respectful enough, yet she hall
shrank back from my approach and
brought the protection of the ofr»«r b»
tween us.
"Perhaps I may never succeed lo
making you clearly comprehend my
present position," I said, soberly, "yet
I Intend to try, because. In truth,
need your assistance as greatly as you
need mine. Twenty minutes ago,
Lady Darlington, it was true I be
lieved myself to be In absolute com
mand of this vessel. Now I gravely
suspect whether I may not be a mere
puppet helpless in the hands of oth-
MJ, hav0 already endeavored to
y-\-r 7
explain, it was comparatively easy ror
me to mistake this yacht for the Es
meralda. They are very much alike,
and I had enjoyed no opportunity for
closely observing either. But it is im
possible for me to conceive how tho
others of my party could have inno
cently made such an error. What
project they may have had in mind I
cannot even guess, but I believe now
the Sea Queen was deliberately cap
tured, and that I have been decoyed
into the leadership of an act of piracy.
If so, then I am only one man pitted
against 20. What I may accomplish
I have at present no means of know
ing. I must see the others, endeavor
to discover their secret purpose, and
learn whether or not I possess any
real authority on board. Lady Darling
ton, do you at least comprehend what
I mean? Do I make it clear to you
that I am in a position scarcely less
perilous than your own?"
With lips parted and hands clenched
over her heaving breast she stood
silent, apparently deeply aroused by
my earnest appeal, yet totally unable
to repose full confidence In me. Yet
her very hesitancy was to me an en
couragement
"You certainly have every reason to
doubt me at present, madam," I
urged, with increased confidence, "yet
I mean to prove myself worthy your
trust by deeds rather than words.
Will you consent to do as I wish, at
least for the moment?"
She did not appear to know what
she had better do or say, her glance
wandering In uncertainty from my
face to the questioning eyes of the
maid. The latter leaned forward with
some eagerness.
"Surely it is best to say oui, mad
ame ze man has ze look honorable,"
her hands gesticulating despair. "An'
on ze whol' ship zere was no one else
to help us."
"As you say, Celeste, there is no
choice and Lady Darlington's gray
eyes again sought mine reluctantly.
"I sincerely desire to repose complete
confidence in you to believe you
worthy. What is it you wish us
to do?"
"Merely to remain where you are,
beyond the observation of others, until
I can ascertain the exact truth of our
situation. So soon as I learn this, I
shall return with the information. Will
you accede to this?"
She lowered her head slightly, In
silent acquiescence, and, still facing
them both, I backed out of the room
and closed the door.
CHAPTER IX.
In Which I Learn Our Port
I sank down into the depths of an
upholstered divan without, rested my
head within my hands, and endeavored
earnestly to collect thought and nerve
for the coming struggle. The terrible
ness of our situation only became
more apparent as I considered it in
the light of the discoveries already
made, and in my understanding of the
nature of those with whom I was now
associated. Neither Tuttle nor De
Nova had ever mistaken, the Sea
Queen for the warship Esmeralda. It
was impossible to conceive that these
two trained seamen could have made
such an error, or that the men under
them could have been so utterly de
ceived. Tuttle's boat came up directly
beneath the bows, with the riding
lamps burning brightly and revealing
the name every man aboard must
have seen it plainly. Yet what ob
ject could have led to so desperate an
act of piracy? What part was I des
tined to play In the final working out
of their lawless scheme?
The longer I studied over the prob
lem the more thoroughly did I become
mystified and confused. What could
these men ever hope to accomplish in
this lawless fashion? They must be
fools or madmen. This was not the
age of piracy every league of sea was
patrolled every port protected by
telegraphic communication. Where
could they sail? Where could they ex
pect to land? Where on all the round
globe could they hope to go to escape
the vengeance of British power on the
high seas? What object could pos
sibly inspire them to so reckless an
act?
Difficult as my own situation un
doubtedly was, apparently helpless
among this crew of sea devils, with
out a man on board in whom I could
put trust, it was rendered a thousand
times harder by the presence of those
two women. In what way could I pro
tecjt and serve them? I wondered II
4
all the crew forward were in the plot,
or were the leaders alone Involved?
Could I count on finding a single hon
est sailor in all that riffraff who would
stand by me in revolt?- There were
others on board—-the three seamen
and. the engineer of the yacht's crew,
the Chileajfi officer captured on shore
—but they were prisoners, far more
helpless even than myself. The longer
I thought the darker grew the pros
pect the closer the cords of Fate
pressed about me. There was noth
ing to do except to face the conspira
tors boldly, and thus ascertain tho
whole truth. I glanced upward at the
telltale compass overhead—the ves
sel's course had already been altered
we were now headed westward, direct
ly out into the broad Pacific.
I met Tuttle at the end of tho
bridge, clinging to the handrail his
oilskins flapping in the head wind. Ho
never glanced toward me, the cool,
studied insolence of the fellow causing
me to feel more deeply than ever be
fore his consciousness of power.
"The yacht is several points off her
course Mr. Tuttle." I said, sharply,
determined to test him. "May I
If the change was mads ny
(lo Bo Continued.|4^
The AMERICAN reaches the very
people that yon want to have read
you* ad,,^
!%.

xml | txt