THE MORNING AFTER
| My opening eyes fell upon Evelyn.
She was putting the last touches to the bandage on my arm, which was already dressed and
bound. Evidently I had been unconscious some time.
"It's all right. We won," were my first words to her.
"I know," she answered with a faint glow of color. "Thanks to the brave men who risked their lives for us!"
"Poor Williams was killed, and Morgan was hurt. Has his wound been looked to?"
"On the job now," sang out Yeager. "When I get through with him he'll be as good as new. Eh, Morgan?"
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," returned that impassive individual.
"Where's Sam?" I asked.
"Back at the wheel."
"Alderson is with him. Don't worry about them. You couldn't dynamite that bunch of pirates on deck just now. There'll be nothing doing until they get Dutch courage from the bottle. We jolted them a heap harder than they did us," Tom rejoined lightly.
It was all very well for him to keep up his cheerful talk to raise the spirits of our friends, but I did not forget the fact that since the beginning of hostilities we had lost as many men as they had in killed, and only one less in wounded. To be sure, with the exception of Dugan, their disabled were in worse condition than ours. Morgan had only a scratch, and a day or two of rest would set me right.
"Time is fighting for us too, you bet," continued Tom briskly. "We're a unit, and I'll bet they're pulling already every which way. We've got them traveling south, Miss Wallace."
Perhaps his cheerful, matter-of-fact talk was the best possible tonic for the depression which had settled upon us. I could not help think what a blessing it was that we had picked up at Lost Angeles this competent frontiersman whose strong, brown hands could make or dress a wound with equal skill.
It was plain to me that during the next few hours I would not be of much use. Out of ten thousand, Tom Yeager was the one I would have picked to take charge of the defense in my absence.
When a few minutes later the beat of the screw began again the sound of it was like wine to me. It meant that, for the present, the mutineers had had enough. They would join in a tacit truce while the yacht was being worked south.
"Help Mr. Sedgwick down to his cabin, Morgan, and then both of you turn in for a few hours' sleep. We'll look out for trouble. Won't we, Jimmie? You and I and Billie Blue, eh?"
"Yes, Mr. Yeager."
"You'll call us if another attack threatens?" I asked.
The steady throbthrobthrob of the propeller was again shaking the yacht as she took up her journey. This might be a ruse to throw us off our guard, but I did not think so. The enemy was badly demoralized, and the chances were that Bothwell would welcome a chance to whip his forces into shape again.
"Is the door from the galley to the main deck locked and nailed up, Billie?" I asked of the flunky.
"Nail planks across the window too. Philips will help you get dinner if you can find him. I'll expect you to see that our party is well fed."
"Yes, sir," the young fellow promised.
"You must go to your room at a moment's notice, Miss Wallace. Have Philips nail up your porthole. You need not be a bit afraid. We hold a very safe position at present. Get all the sleep you can tonight."
"That's good advice, Mr. Sedgwick. Take it yourself," she returned with a little flicker of a wan smile.
For an instant her hand, warm and firm, rested in mine. If I had not been sure of my love before, there was no uncertainty now. While her brave eyes met mine I seemed to drown fathoms deep in the blue of them. Trouble was what I read in them, but part of that trouble was for me. I gloried in that certainty.
She might not love meit was presumptuous to suppose she didbut at least I held a place in her regard. That was the thought I carried with me downstairs, and it stayed pleasantly with me till I fell asleep in spite of the pain in my arm.
About nine o'clock I was awakened by a knock on the door. Philips had brought me dinner on a tray.
His eye would not meet mine. He was ashamed because he had shown the white feather in the scrimmage.
"II've got a wife and three little children, sir," he blurted out before he left.
I nodded pleasantly at him.
"You're going to see them again. But you must help us beat those ruffians. You see we can do it. We've done it once."
"Yes, sir. Ihope to do better next time."
"I'm sure you will, Philips."
We shook hands on it.
I must have fallen asleep again almost immediately. When I opened my eyes it was day. I pushed the electric bell. Philips presently appeared.
"All well?" I asked him.
"Yes, sir. No more trouble. The yacht is still on her course. Doing about nine knots I should judge."
"Heard from Dugan this morning?"
"He isn't doing just what you could call first rate, sir. I think he is delirious. Miss Wallace and Miss Berry are taking care of him by turns."
"Quite all right, sir. Your arm must be stiff. Shall I shave you this morning? I used to be a barber, sir."
"Thanks. If you have time."
Breakfast was served in the English fashion, for it was necessary to keep some one on guard all the time. The Arizonian was making play with a platter of bacon and fried eggs when I joined him.
"How d'ye do? Ready for the round-up again?" he asked cheerfully, with his mouth full.
"My arm's stiff, and when I move there's a pain jumps in it. Otherwise I'm fit as a fiddle. Anything new in the way of trouble?"
"Not a thing. We've arranged a code of signals with our friends at the wheel. You'll find the code pasted up in the saloon. Say, what do you think? That girl slipped out with breakfast for Cap. Blythe and Alderson while I wasn't looking."
"Crossed the deck with it?"
"That's whatever, and sauntered back as cool as you please. Two or three of them were on the forecastle deck, but they didn't lift a hand to hurt her."
I drew a long breath.
"We mustn't let her do it again."
"Not while I'm in the game. She's an ace-high trump just the same. Wonder if she would have any use for a maverick rancher from the alkali country? I got a pretty good outfit in the Flying D."
"Better ask her."
"I'm going to," he answered coolly. "Drift that butter down this way, will you?"
"Where is she now?" I asked.
"Not up yet. She took a two-hour turn watching while we slept. Then she sat by Dugan for a while. You'd ought to have seen her at the piano singing 'My Maryland' and 'Dixie' to use just as if she had starred in a mutiny every week of her life. She was doing it for what they call the moral effect, and it sure did keep up the nerve of the boys. I could see Jimmie and Billie get real gay again. Used to live in Tennessee, you know."
"Jimmie or Billie?" I asked innocently.
"You know who I mean all right, you old son of a gun. Try this bacon. It's the genuine guaranteed article. That Billie boy is some cook. Seems her mother was a Southerner before Wallace married her."
"What was she afterward?"
"My, you're a humorist! Say, do you reckon that little bald spot on the crown of my haid would be objectionable to her? I've never monkeyed with these here hair tonics, but I'd be willing to take a whirl at them."
"Here she comes now. You can ask her."
"Did you sleep well?" the young woman asked, after we had exchanged morning greetings.
"Clear round the clock and then some more. You must have had a fine night's rest yourself from what I hear. On watch till one, and nursing Dugan from one. Wasn't that about it?"
"Not quite. I had three hours' sleep. Is your arm paining you much?"
"Don't waste any sympathy on him, Miss Evelyn," the cowman interrupted. "His arm's just as good as a new wooden one, and his repartee is as sharp as the cutlas that broke the skin on it."
She smiled as she began on her grapefruit. "You you boys quarreling?"
"He hasn't had time to quarrel. He has been making a dreary waste of what was once a platter of eggs and bacon."
"Now I like that," Tom protested.
"So I judge. Never mind, Miss Wallace. Billie can cook you some more."
"Who is on guard?" Evelyn asked.
"The kid. He's a scout for fair too; imagines he's Apache Jim, the terror of the Navajos, or some other paper-backed hero. I hope his gun won't go off and shoot him up."
We made a lively breakfast of it till Yeager had to leave. You may think it strange that we could laugh and jest on that death ship, but one gets accustomed to the strain and on the reflex from anxiety arrives at a temporary gaiety.
After the cattleman had taken his breezy departure a constraint fell upon us. Evelyn's eyes were shy, and mine not a great deal bolder. Yesterday we could have chatted away with the most delightful freedom; today we were confined to the veriest commonplaces.
And all because our eyes had met for one long instant the evening before and hinted at something in the unspoken language of young people the world over.
The arrival of Jimmie Welch with a very robust appetite helped things a good deal, and we were presently ourselves again. After breakfast Miss Wallace went to relieve her aunt at the bedside of the wounded carpenter while I mounted to the bridge to take Blythe's place, Tom doing the same for Alderson.
It struck me as a piece of grim satire that I should be ringing orders down to the men in the engine room with whom a few hours before we had been battling for life, and probably soon would be again.
It was beyond doubt that we would have to measure strength with them a second time. Bothwell would never let us run into port at Panama if he could help it. The men were probably not anxious for another brush after the drubbing they had received, but the situation forced their hands. They must either take the ship or let us give them up to the authorities as mutineers.
My opinion is that if Bothwell had not been recognized by Jimmie he would have waited until we were actually on the treasure ground, and perhaps even until we had lifted it.
From the sounds that same forward to us from the forecastle it was plain that the enemy were drinking pretty steadily. More than once I saw an empty bottle flung through a porthole into the sea. Occasionally some one appeared on the deck aft, and from the drunken shouts bawled up and down the hatchway the condition of the crew could be guessed.
Blythe and I agreed that this probably meant an attack after darkness had fallen. Fortified by the courage which comes from whisky, they would try and slip up on us in the night and win by a surprise.