| Yeager was sitting with the ladies under
the awning telling them some story of his beloved Arizona. At a signal from me he
arose and excused himself. We passed into the reception room and down the stairway.
"You're armed, of course," I said.
"me? I always pack a gun. Got the habit when I was a kid and never shucked it. For rattlesnakes," he added with a grin.
"We have a few of them on board. Yeager, the kid saw Bothwell in the engine room talking with Fleming. Do you know what that means?"
"I can guess, I reckon," he drawled.
"It means warand soon."
"And war is hell, Sherman said. Let's make it hell for Bothwell. It's about time for me to begin earning my passage. What's the matter with me happening down into the forecastle and inviting Capt. Bothwell up to be more sociable?"
"Won't do at all. If he were alone it would be a different matter. If you went down there you'd never come up alive. We need every man we've got. Think of the women."
His light-blue eye rested in mine.
"I'd give twenty cows if they were back in Los Angeles, Jack,"
From my pocket I took the key which unlocked the door of the room we called the armory. After I had selected two revolvers I left him there attending to business. Morgan I found in Blythe's cabin. He took my news quietly enough, though he lost color when I told him what we had to expect.
"I don't know much about revolvers, sir," he said, handling very respectfully the one I handed him.
"You'll know more in a day or two," I promised. Morgan, we're going to beat these scoundrels. Be quite sure of that."
"Yes, sir. Glad to hear it, sir," he answered doubtfully.
"You know Captain Blythe. He's worth half a dozen of these wharf rats. So is Mr. Yeager."
"Areare all the crew against us?" he asked after a moment's struggle with his trepidation.
"No, we know of at least two who are for us. Probably there are others. Don't be afraid. We're going to smash this mutiny."
"Yes, sir, Captain Blythe will see to that. I put my faith in him."
But in spite of what I had said it was plain that Morgan's faith was a quavering one. He was a useful man, competent in his own line, but his métier plainly was not fighting. My news had given him a shock from which he would not quickly recover.
It was nearly time for the change of watches, and when I returned to the deck I saw that Mott was already on the bridge. He listened to our story with plain incredulity.
"I know nothing about this man Bothwell, but say the word and I'll go down and haul him on deck for you, Captain Blythe," he offered, contemptuously.
"You don't understand the situation. He's as dangerous as a mad dog."
"I've yet to see the first stowaway I couldn't bring to time. They're a chicken-hearted lot, take my word for it."
"He isn't a stowaway at all in the ordinary sense of the world. I'll be plain, Mr. Mott. We're after treasure, and Bothwell means to get it. the crew are with him."
"Slap doodle bugs!" retorted our first officer. "I make nothing at all of your story, captain. Thirty years I've sailed this coast and I've yet to see my first mutiny. Haul up this fellow Bothwell and set him swabbing decks. If he shows his teeth, give him a rope's end or a marlinspike. I'll haze him for you a-plenty."
I could have smiled at Mott's utter lack of appreciation of our dilemma if his bull-headed obstinacy had not been likely to cost us so much.
"You don't understand the man with whom we have to deal, Mr. Mott. He sticks at nothing," I explained.
"Beg pardon, Mr. Sedgwick. He'd stick at deck swabbing if I stood over him with a handspike," the burly mater answered grimly. "Truth is, gentlemen, I don't think that of your mutiny." And he snapped his fingers with a complacent laugh. "Mind you, I don't deny the men are a bit unsettled. What with all this talk of treasure that's going around. What they need is roughing and, by the jumping mercury, Johnny Mott is the man to do it!"
There are none so blind as those who will not see. We could not even persuade Mott to accept a revolver. He had made up his mind that the whole thing was nothing more or less than a mare's nest.
"What do you know of the men?" I urged. "Take our engineers. We picked up the Flemings on the wharf because we needed engineers in a hurry. The day before we sailed I saw George Fleming on the wharf talking to this man Bothwell. They are working together against us."
"What of it? Let them work. But don't go to dreaming about mutiny, Mr. Sedgwick. You ask what I know of the crew. By your leave, I know this much. I've bullied American seamen for thirty years come next November, and there's not an ounce of mutiny in a million of them."
And at that we had to let it go for the present. There were more important things on hand than the conversion of a wooden-headed tar.
Leaving Mott at the wheel we adjourned to the deck saloon for a discussion of ways and means. Miss Wallace sauntered in with a magazine in her hand.
The captain's eye questioned mine. I nodded. She would have to learn soon how things stood, and I trusted to her courage to hear the news without any fainting or hysterics. The color washed out of her face, but she showed not the lest sign of panic.
"What can I do?" she asked in a steady voice.
"At present you may join an officers' council, Miss Wallace," said he. "The first thing to find out is who are for us and who against. Let's take the enemy first. There is Bothwell himself to begin with, and, of course, the two Flemings and Caine. Are we sure of any others?"
"Johnson," I replied at once. "He was one of the two men who attacked me at San Pedro. I thought at the time one of the voices sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it. After I reached the boat I noticed Caine watching me closely. The reason is clear enough to me now. He and Johnson slugged me, and he was watching to see if I had any suspicion of him."
Quite. I couldn't swear to them, but I'm morally certain. Johnson's English is just little broken. It was his voice I knew."
"That makes five against us so far. We can add the firemen to that, since George Fleming chose them."
"Eight to begin with. What about the rest of the crew?"
"The man they call Tot Dennis was signed for me by Caine. Afraid we'll have to give him to the enemy."
"Williams is a great friend of Dennis. I've seen them together a lot." Evelyn suggested.
"That's true, but Williams has sailed with me twice before. I did think I could have trusted him."
"No doubt Caine and Bothwell have been influencing him. Put Williams down doubtful."
We checked off the rest of the crew by name, but could find no evidence against any of them.
"How many can we depend upon?" Evelyn asked.
"Yeager, Mott, Morgan, Jack here, and myself. That's five to begin with," counted Blythe.
"Dugan and Alderson," I added.
"Seven. Any more?"
"Our steward. Phillips is his name."
"Sure, Miss Wallace?"
"He's the most harmless creature on earth."
The captain smiled.
"Afraid he won't be of much use to us then. We want harmful men. But count him. That makes eight for us, nine against us, six doubtful. We'll do very nicely."
"And there's the cook. He's so fat and good-natured he must be all right," Evenly suggested.
"By Jove! I'd forgotten "Arry "Iggins. No, he's against us. He talked to my man Morgan."
"And I suppose his flunky, Billie Blue, goes with cookie?" I added.
"The nine against us is now eleven," the girl said quietly.
I spoke cheerfully, which is far from how I felt.
"Oh, well, what's the odds? Nine or eleven, we'll beat them."
A steamer rug lying on a lounge at the end of the room heaved itself up. From its folds emerged the red head of Jimmie, belligerently. Its owner had evidently been roused from a nap.
"Where do I get off at I'd like to know?" demanded the indignant namesake of a martyred President. "Didn't I run down his nibs for you in "Frisco and wise you where he was staying? Didn't I find out he was aboard here? Why ain't you countin' me in?"
Blythe assented gravely, but with a twinkle in his eye.
"Our error, Jimmie. Counting you we have nine good men and true."
One of Jimmie's strong points is that he doesn't talk. He knows how to keep his mouth shut. Don't you, Jimmie?"
"Sure thing, Mr. Sedgwick. I'm a clam, I am."
"Then run along and keep an eye on things outside. If you see anything suspicious, let me know at once.
"Yes, sir. You bet you." And the boy was off at the word.
"Couldn't we put back to San Diego?" Miss Wallace asked.
The captain shook his head.
"No. If I turned the ship's head they would be about our ears like rats."
"We'll have to keep on as we are going."
A sardonic smile touched Blythe's strong, lean face.
"It's Mr. Bothwell's move. If we turned back he would have to stop us; if we continue to Panama he must prevent us from going into the harbor, or his game is up."
"Then what will he do?"
"He'll move, Miss Wallace."
She looked at him, a man of quiet, contained strength, and some sort of vision of what we were to go through flitted before her mind. Her lips were gray and bloodless.
"That dreadful treasure!" she murmured. "Why did we ever come after it?"
A faint sound drew me to my feet and across the room to the stairway. A fat bulk of a man was crouched on the steps about half-way down. He scuttled to his feet at sight of me.
"Good afternoon, Higgins! Just taking a nap on the stairs, I presume," was my ironical greeting.
The color faded from his blotched face.
"No, sir, not as you might say" He moistened his dry lips with the tip of his tongue and tried again. "Truth is, sir, Hi wanted to ask Miss Wallace what she would like for dinner."
"That's very considerate of you. And I'm sure it's the truth. You were merely resting on the way. Come on up, Higgins. That is, if you're now able to finish the journey. Or shall I help you?"
the tail of his eye had swung round to take in the lower deck. I could have sworn the man was considering making a bolt for it, but at my words he gave up the idea with a fat sigh. He came up slowly, his eyes fixed on mine as if I held them fascinated. Tiny beads of sweat stood out on his forehead. "Arry "Iggins was not at that moment comfortable in his mind.
"Hi strive to please, sir," he explained. "Whatever the young lady would like. Hin a manner of speakin' I'm 'er 'umble servant, very respectably, "Arry "Iggins."
He ducked his head toward her and again toward Blythe.
"Come here," the captain ordered.
Higgins shuffled reluctantly forward.
"When did you first meet this man Bothwell?"
"Beg pardon, sir. Don't think I know the gent, sir."
The Englishman's eyes pierced into his fellow countryman like a drill.
"Don't lie to me."
The cook had recourse to a large bandanna handkerchief to mop away his perspiration.
"If you mean the stowaway, sir, Hi met 'im just before we reached Los Angeles."
"How many of crew are with him in this mutiny?"
"I don't mince words. How many?"
"There you 'ave me, sir. S'elp me, Captain Blythe, Hi'm not in 'is confidence."
the man's painful assumption of innocence would have been pathetic had it not been ridiculous.
"I know that," retorted my friend contemptuously. "He'll use you and chuck you aside, dead or alive, whichever is most convenient. Bothwell would as soon knife his fat friend as wink. But that's not the point just now. You'lltellmeallyouknowaboutthisaffairatonce. Understand?"
Higgins wriggled like a trout on the hook, but he had to tell what he knew. In point of fact this was not much more than we had already learned.
"You will go back to Bothwell and tell him to start the band playing just as soon as he has his program arranged. Tell him we don't care a jackstraw for his mutiny, and that if he lives through it we'll take him n irons to Panama and have him hanged as high as Haman. Get that, my man?" demanded Blythe.
"Yes, sir. "Anged as 'igh as "Aman. Hi'll remember, sir."
Sam turned to me and spoke in a low voice.
"Before this fellow goes I want Mott to hear what he has said. Take Yeager up with you and relieve him. And see that Alderson gets a revolver."
I took our mate's place at the wheel and sent him forward. Tom Yeager leaned on the ship's rail and looked away across the glassy waters of the Pacific. I remember that he was humming, as was his fashion, a snatch from a musical comedy.
It was such a day as one dreams about, with that pleasant warmth in the air that makes for indolent content. One or two of the men were lounging lazily on the forecastle deck. Caine was reading a book of travels I had lent him the previous day.
Were we all, as Mott believed, the victims of a stupid nightmare? Or could it be true that beneath all this peace boiled a volcano ready at any minute for an eruption?
Mott returned in an unpleasant mood. The truth is that he was nursing a grudge because he was the last man on board to know that we were on a cruise for treasure. He resented it that our party had not told him, and he took it with a bad grace that every man jack of the crew had been whispering for days about something of which he had been kept in the dark. Upon my word I think he had some just cause of complaint.
While he jeered at the precautions we were taking I tried to placate him, for now of all times we could least afford to have any quarrels in our party.
"You will admit there is no hard in going prepared, Mr. Mott?" I argued.
"To be sure. Ballast yourselves with revolvers, for all I care. I'll carry one because Captain Blythe has ordered it, but don't expect me to join in the play acting."
I felt myself flushing.
"The situation appears to us a very serious one."
"Slap doodle bugs! Let Captain Blythe give the word and I'll go down and bring up this bogey man, that is, if there is such a fellow aboard at all."
Presently I was called down to luncheon. I found Miss Wallace lingering with Blythe in the dining room. As soon as I arrived the captain left.
Philips waited on me. He had already heard the news, and was ashen. His hands trembled as he passed dishes so that I was sorry for him.
"He's badly frightened, poor man," the young woman whispered to me across the table during one of his absences. "I wish I could tell him that there will probably be no serious trouble."
Her eyes appealed to mine. I could see that with her aunt and poor Philips on her hands she was in for no easy time. But I could not lie to her.
"What do you think yourself? You know your cousin. Will he lie down and let us win without a fight?"
She shook her head slowly. "No. He'll go through with his villainy, no matter what it costs"
"Yes. There is no use blinking the facts. We're in for a test of strength. I'm sorry, but the only way to meet the situation is to accept it and be ready for it. I don't fear the result."
She looked steadily at me.
"Nor I. But it's dreadful to have to wait and hold our hands. I wish I could do something."
"You can," I smiled. "You may pass me the potatoes, and after I have finished eating you may play for us. We must show these scurvy ruffians that we aren't a bit afraid of them.