Chapter XII

My Unexpected Guest

     "And will they murder us all in our beds?"
     Miss Berry, very white but not at al hysterical, had Blythe penned in a corner by the piano as she asked the question.
     "Don't be a goose, auntie," her niece smiled affectionately.
     "The fact is that we were afraid you might complain of ennui, so we have stirred up a little excitement," explained Sam.
     "Truly, Mr. Blythe?"
     My friend looked at me appealingly and I came to the rescue.
     "Sailors are a queer lot.  They often get notions that have to be knocked out of them.  We'll try not to disturb you while we do the hammering, Miss Berry."
     A faint color washed back into her face.
     "Oh, I hope you are right.  It would be dreadful if—"  She interrupted herself to take a more cheerful view.  "But I am sure Mr. Mott is right.  He has been on the seas a great many years more than you two.  He ought to know best, oughtn't he?"
     "Certainly," I conceded.  "And I hope he does."
     "Besides, Captain Bothwell is such a gentleman.  I'm sure he wouldn't do anything so dreadful.  I wish I could talk to him.  He was always so reasonable with me, though Evie and he couldn't get along."
     I concealed my smile at the thought of Miss Berry converting him.
     The trumpet call to dinner diverted our thoughts.  I dropped into my room to wash before dinner, with the surprising result that I lost the meal.
     As I opened the door a low voice advised me to close it at once.   Since I was looking into the wrong end of a revolver, and that weapon was in the hand of a very urgent person, I complied with the suggestion.  The man behind the gun was Boris Bothwell.
     "Hope I don't intrude," I apologized, glancing at the disorder in my stateroom.
     The floor was littered with papers, coats, collars, ties, and underwear.  Drawers had been dragged out and emptied, my trunk gutted of its contents.  Evidently the captain had been engaged in a thorough search of the cabin when my entrance diverted his attention.
     "Not at all.  I was hoping you would come," he answered pleasantly.
     "Perhaps I should have knocked before entering, but then I didn't expect to find you here."
     "I came on impulse," he explained.  "I had reason to suppose you would be busy for an hour or two.  By the way, Evie is entertaining.  Did I ever mention to you that it is my intention to marry her?"
     "I think of."
     "Ah! Then I make confidant of you now.  Congratulate me, my friend."
     "Is this an official announcement?" I asked.
     "Hardly official, I think.  The lady does not know it."
     "Then I think I'll wait till the engagement gets her O.K."
     "As you like, Mr. Sedgwick, but I assure you I am an irresistible lover."
     "So I hear you say," I replied coldly.  "Was it to tell me this that you have put me in debt to you for this call?"
     "Hardly.  To be frank, I came to get a map."
     I sat down on the edge of the bed.
     "As you say, again."
     "Quite like old times, isn't it?  I am reminded of our 'Frisco Nights' Entertainment.  The search for a map in other people's apartments is becoming rather a habit with you, isn't it?"
     "I'm a persistent beggar," he admitted.
     "I regret we have no more copies to lend."
     He laughed indulgently.
     Touché, monsieur.  But I don't care for copies.   I am a collector of originals."
     "They are said to be expensive."
     "But valuable."
     "Still, the cost is a consideration."
     "Not when some one else pays the shot, Mr. Sedgwick."
     "I see. You expect those poor devils whom you are misleading to draw the chestnut out of the fire for you."
     "Exactly," he admitted with the gayest aplomb.
     "You are willing that they should pay to the limit?" I asked, curious to see how far his cynical audacity would carry him.
     He shrugged, with a lift of his strong hands.
     "That is as luck, or fate, or Providence—whichever you believe in, Mr. Sedgwick—deals out the cards.  I'm not a god, you know."
     "You know that you cannot follow the course outlined without lives being lost," I persisted.
     "I'll take your word for it," he flung back lightly.
     "That won't deter you in the lest?"
     "Wasn't it Napoleon who said one couldn't make an omelet without breaking eggs?"
     "And yet his omelet was not a success," I reflected aloud.
     "Whose is, Mr. Sedgwick?  We all have our Waterloos.   Love, ambition, the search for wealth—none of them satisfy.  But though none of us find happiness we yet seek.  That is human nature."
     I shot a question at him abruptly.
     "Suppose you got all this treasure—would you keep faith with those poor, deluded ruffians and share with them?"
     His hardy smile approved me.
     "You're deep, my friend.  Now I wonder what I would do?   My tools are deluded.  Wealth could not bring them the happiness they think it would.  Most of them it would ruin.  I fear it would be my duty to—"
     "—let them hold the sack," I finished for him.
     "There is, then, no honor among thieves."
     "Not a bit.  No more than there is among gentlemen.   But since you object to having eggs broken, I offer you an alternative."
     I waited.
     "In order to save eggs I'll ask you to turn over to me the map."
     "Where do you think I keep it?  You've already searched my rooms and my person.  I'm no wizard."
     His black eyes bored into mine.
     "We've been over this ground before before, Mr. Sedgwick.   You know me.  I'm here for business."
     "So I judge."
     "Come!  This won't do.  I'm a determined man.   That map I'm going to have.  Unless you want the scene to close with the final exit of John Sedgwick, find for me the map."
     "Suppose I tell you that I haven't it?"
     "I shall believe you, since the evidence would support the assertion.  I should then ask who has it?"
     "I shall believe you, since the evidence would support the assertion.  I should then ask who has it?"
     "You certainly are a man of one idea.  I think I've never had the pleasure of talking with you that you didn't switch the conversation back to that map."
     He raised the revolver.
     "I asked a question."
     There was a step outside, followed by a knock on the door.   "Come in," I sang out instantly.
     Bothwell's furious gaze came back from the door just as I leaped.   A bullet crashed through the skylight, for my arm had deflected his.  I wrapped myself about him in silent struggle for the weapon.  We swayed against the bed and went down upon it hard, our weight tearing through the springs.  Desperately I clung to his arm to keep the weapon from pointing at me.
     "Let go, Sedgwick," a voice ordered.
     Sinewy fingers had tightened on Bothwell's throat and a strong hand had wrenched the revolver from him.
     Panting, I struggled to my feet.  My opportune friend covered the Russian with his own weapon and drawled out a warning.
     "Don't you now, Mr. Pirate, or I'll certainly have to load you up with lead."
     Bothwell lay on the bed, his breast heaving from his exertions.   In no man's looks have I ever seen a more furious malice, but he had sense enough to recognize that this was our moment.
     "If it ain't butting in, what were you gentlemen milling around so active about this warm day?" asked Yeager.
     "Same old point of difference.  Captain Bothwell wanted a map."
     Tom laughed gently.
     "Sho!  You hadn't ought to be so blamed urgent, cap.   It don't buy you anything."
     "The Russian struggled with his rage, fought it down, and again found his ironic smile.
     "I am under the impression that it would have bought me a map if it had not been for your arrival, sir."
     "Too bad I spoiled yore game, then."
     "For the present," amended the defeated man.   "I am a person of much resource, Mr. Sedgwick will tell you."  Then, with a glance at the bit of plaster on my head:  "He still wears a souvenir to remind him of it."
     "My little adventure at San Pedro.  I always credited you with that, captain.  Thanks."
     "You're entirely welcome.  More to follow," he smiled.
     "What are you allowing to do with your guest, Sedgwick?" asked Yeager.
     "We'll leave that to Blythe.  I suppose we had better put him in irons and guard him.  We can drop him off at Panama."
     "Any port in a time of storm," suggested our prisoner blithely.
     "Personally, I'd like to see you marooned for a few months," I growled, for the man's insolence ruffled me.
     I found Blythe on the bridge with Mott.
     "I have to report a prisoner of war captured, captain," I announced in formal military style.
     Blythe laughed.
     "Who is he?"
     "Captain Boris Bothwell, sir."
     I told him and Mott the circumstances.  The mate unbent a little.
     "And the lubber shot at you?  In your own cabin!   Put him in irons and throw him ashore at Panama.  That's my advice, Mr. Blythe.  Get rid of him, and you'll not hear any more about this mutiny business."
     "I'm of that opinion myself, Mr. Mott.  We'll keep him under guard until he's in safe custody."
     Blythe followed me down to my cabin, and for the first time he and Bothwell looked each other over.
     "This isn't a passenger ship, sir," announced the owner of the Argos bluntly.  "You've made a mistake, sir.  We'll hand you over to the authorities at Panama."
     Bothwell bowed.
     "Dee-lighted!  I've always wanted to see the old city of Pizarro, Drake and Morgan.  Many a galleon has been looted of ingots and bullion by the old seadogs there.  If I weren't so conscientious, by Jupiter, I'd turn pirate myself."
     "Haven't a doubt of it," Blythe assented curtly.   "We'll try to see that your opportunities don't match your inclinations.   Unless I guess wrong you wouldn't hesitate to cut a throat to escape if your hands were free."
     "Not at all."
     "Just so.  Merely as a formality we'll take the precaution of making sure you haven't any weapons that might go off and injure you—or anybody else.  Jack,may I trouble you to look in my cabin for a pair of handcuffs—middle right hand drawer of my dressing table?"
     We made our prisoner secure and spelled each other watching him.   The first three hours fell to me.  Except the Arizonian I think all of us felt a weight lifted from our hearts.  The chief villain was in our hands and the mutiny nipped in the bud.
     But Bothwell had managed to inject a fly into the ointment of my content.
     "We've drawn your sting now," Blythe had told him before he left.
     "Have you?  Bet you a pony I'll be free inside of twenty-four hours," the Russian had coolly answered.