Chapter V

We Find A Ship

     Partly from the diary of Robert Wallace and partly from the lips of his daughter I gathered the story set down in the two preceding chapters.
     If I have given it with some detail, believe me, it is not because I care to linger over the shadow of tragedy that from the first hung about the ill-gathered treasure, but rather that you may understand clearly the issue facing us.
     Some men would have turned their back upon the adventure and voted the gold well lost.  I wanted to see the thing out to a finish.
     I shall never deny that the personality of her who was to be my partner in the enterprise had something to do with the decision to which I came.  The low, sweet voice of the Southland, the gay, friendly eyes, the piquant face, all young, all irresistibly eager and buoyant, would have won a less emotional man than Jack Sedgwick.
     But why make apologies?  After all, every man that lives has his great adventure, whether it come garbed in drab or radiant with the glow of the sunrise.  A prosaic, money-grubbing age we call this, but by the gods! romance hammers once in a lifetime at the door of every mother's son of us.  There be those too niggardly to let her in, there be those to whom the knock comes faintly; and there be a happy few who fling wide the door and embrace her like a lover.
     For me, I am Irish, as I have said.  I cried "Aye!" and shook hands on the bargain.  We would show Captain Boris Bothwell a thing or two.  It would be odds but we would beat him to those chests hidden in the sand.
     This was all very well, but one cannot charger and outfit a ship for a long cruise upon daydreams.  The moneyed men that I approached smiled and shook their wise gray heads.  To them the whole story was no more than a castle in Spain.   For two days I tramped the streets of San Francisco and haunted the offices of capitalists without profit to our enterprise.
     On the afternoon of the third I retired, temporarily defeated, to my club, the Golden Gate.  On my salary I had no business belonging to so expensive a club, but I had inherited from my college days a taste for good society and I gratified it at the expense of other desires.
     In the billiard-room I ran across an acquaintance I had met for the first time on the Valdez trail some years earlier.  His name was Samuel Blythe.   By birth he was English, by choice cosmopolitan.  Possessed of more money than he knew what to do with, he spent a great deal of time exploring unknown corners of the earth.  He was as well known at Hong Kong and Simla as in Paris and Vienna.   Within the week he had returned to San Francisco from an attempt to reach the summit of Mount McKinley.
     He was knocking balls about aimlessly.
     "Shoot you a game of pool, Sedgwick," he proposed.
     Then I had an inspiration.
     "I can give you more fun for your money another way.   Come into the library, Blythe."
     There I told him the whole story.  He heard me out without a smile.  For that alone I could have thanked him.  When I had finished he looked for a minute out of the window with a faraway expression in his eyes.
     "It's a queer yarn," he said at last.
     "And of course you don't believe a word of it?" I challenged.
     "Don't I?  Let me tell you this, old man.  There are a number of rum things in this old world.  I've bucked up against two or three of them.  Let me see your map."
     I had made another copy of it, with the latitude and longitude omitted.  This I handed to him.
     While he examined it his eyes shone.
     "By Jove, this is a lark.  You can have the old tub if you want it."
     He was referring to his splendid steam yacht the Argos, in which he had made the trip to Alaska.
     "I have.  You'll have to let me be your bank.  But I say, Sedgwick, you'll need a sailing master.  You're not a seaman."
     Our eyes met.
     "Could Sam Blythe be persuaded to take the place?"
     "Could I?"  He got up and wrung my hand.   "That's what I wanted you to say.  Of course I'll go—jump at the chance."
     "There's the chance of a nasty row.  We're likely to meet Bothwell in that vicinity.  If we do, there will be trouble."
     "So I gather from your description of the gentleman."
     I was delighted.  Blythe was not only a good navigator; he was a tried companion, true as steel, an interesting fellow who had passed through strange experiences but never used them to impress upon others a sense of his importance.
     He had served through the Boer and the Spanish-American wars with distinction.  As I looked at him—a spare tall man with a bronzed face of power, well-shouldered, clear-eyed, and light-footed—I felt he was the one out of ten thousand for my purpose.
     "Too bad I didn't know a week ago.  I've let my crew go.  But we can pick up another.  My sailing master Mott s a thoroughly reliable man.  He'll look after the details.  My opinion is that we ought to get under way as soon as possible.  That fellow Bothwell is going to crowd on all sail in his preparations.  I take it as a sure thing that he means to have a try for the treasure.
     "My notion too.  He struck me as a man of resource and determination."
     "So much the better.  He'll give us a run for our money.  My dear fellow, you've saved my life.  I was beginning to get bored to extinction.  This will be a bully picnic."
     "How long will it take you to get the yacht ready?"
     "Give me a week to pick a crew and get supplies aboard.   I'll offer a bonus to get things pushed."
     To see the enthusiasm he put into the adventure did me good after the three days of disappointment I had endured.  I was eager to have him and Miss Wallace meet, and I got her at once on the telephone and made arrangements to bring him up after dinner to the private hotel where she and her aunt were stopping.
     They took to each other at once.  Inside of ten minutes we were all talking about our equipment for the trip.
     "If we have a good run and the proper luck we'll be back to you with the treasure inside of a month, Miss Wallace," Blythe promised as he rose to leave.
     "Back to me!"  She looked first at him and then at me.  "You don't think that I'm not going, too, do you?"
     It is odd that the point had not come up before, but I had taken it for granted she would wait in 'Frisco for us.
     "It's hardly a lady's job, I should say," was my smiling answer.
     "Nonsense!  Of course I am going."  Sharp decision rang in her voice.
     "It may be dangerous."
     "Fiddlesticks!  Panama is a tourist point of travel these days.  Half of my schoolgirl chums have been there.  It's as safe as—Atlantic City."
     "Atlantic City isn't safe if one ventures too far out in the surf," I reminded her.
     "I'll stick close to the life line," she promised.
     Both Blythe and I were embarrassed.  It was of course her right to go if she insisted.  I appealed to her aunt, a plump, amiable lady nearer fifty than forty.
     "Don't you think, Miss Berry, that it would be better to wait here for us?  there would be discomforts to which you are not used."
     "That is just what Boris told us," Evelyn put in mischievously.
     Miss Berry gave a little shrug of her shoulders.
     "Oh, I'd as soon stay here, but Evie will have her way."  Her pleasant smile took from the words any sting they might otherwise have held.
     "Of course I shall.  This is a matter of business," Miss Wallace triumphantly insisted.
     Excitement danced in her eyes.  She might put it on commercial grounds if she liked, but the truth is that the romance of the quest had taken hold of her even as it had of us.  One could not blame her for wanting to go.
     I consulted Sam with my eyes.
     "I suppose there is no absolute bar to letting the ladies go.  There is room enough on the Argos."
     "There's plenty of room" he admitted.
     After all it was fanciful to suppose that we should run across Bothwell on the face of the broad Pacific.  Why shouldn't they have the pleasure of month's yachting?  Certainly their presence would make the voyage a more pleasant one for us.
     "All right.  Go if you must, but don't blame me if it turns out to be no picnic."
     "Thank you, Mr. Sedgwick.  That's just what it is going to be—a nice long picnic," the girl beamed.
     "Wish I had your beautiful confidence.  Have you forgotten Captain Bothwell?  Shall we take him along, too?" I asked with a laugh.
     "I'm afraid he would want all the cake.  No, we'll not ask him to our picnic.  He may stay at home."
     "Let's hope he will," Miss Berry contributed cheerfully.
     I don't think she gave the least weight to our fears of Bothwell.   In fact he was rather a favorite of hers.
     "If he comes he'll have to take what is left.  He understands he's not invited," Miss Wallace nodded gaily.
     Blythe was fortunately able to secure his sailing master, Mott, and one of the crew that had sailed with him before, a man named Williams.  The Englishman's valet, Morgan, went as steward.  For the rest, we had to be content with such men as we could get hurriedly together.
     Two brothers named Fleming were secured as engineers, a little cockney as fat as a prize pig for cook.  He answered to the cognomen of "Arry "Iggins, though on the ship's register the letter H was the first initial of both his names.  Caine, the boatswain, was a sinister looking fellow, but he knew his business.  Taken as a whole, the crew appeared to average well enough.
     From long practice Blythe was an adept at outfitting a yacht for a cruise. Without going into details I'll only say that we carried very little that was superfluous and lacked nothing that would tend to increase our comfort.
     I am no sailor, but it did not take a professional eye to see that the Argos was a jewel of a boat.  Of her seagoing qualities I knew nothing except by repute, but her equipment throughout was of the best.  She was a three-masted schooner with two funnels, fitted with turbines and Yarrow boilers.  To get eighteen knots out of her was easy, and I have seen her do twenty in a brisk wind.
     In addition to her main deck the Argos carried a topgallant forecastle and a bridge, the latter extended on stanchions from the main deck to the sides of the ship so as to give plenty of space for games or promenades.  the bridge contained a reception and a tea room, which were connected by a carved stairway with the deck below.
     The rooms of the commander, the cook, and other servants lay well forward under the bridge.  Abaft of these were the kitchen and the pantry, the dining room, the saloon, and the rooms of the owner and his guests.
     The conventional phrase "a floating palace" will do well enough to describe the interior of this turbine yacht.  No reasonable man could have asked more of luxury than was to be found in the well designed bath rooms, in the padded library with its shelves of books, its piano and music rack, and in the smoking room arranged to satisfy the demands of the most fastidious.
     I had resigned my place with Kester & Wilcox to help push the preparation for our departure, but I was still spending a good deal of my time in the office cleaning up some matters upon which I had been working.  Much of the time I was down at the docks, and when I could not be there my thoughts were full of the Argos and her voyage.
     Since I was giving my time to the firm without pay I took the liberty of using the boy Jimmie to run errands for me.  Journeying back and forth to the wharf with messages and packages, he naturally worked up a feverish interest in our cruise, even though he did not know the object of it.  When he came out pointblank one morning with a request to go with us as cabin boy I was not surprised.  I sympathized with Master Jimmie's desire, but I very promptly put the lid on his hopes.
     "Nothing doing, Mr. James A. Garfield Welch."
     "You've gotter have a kid to run errands for youse, Mr. Sedgwick," he pleaded.
     "No use talking, Jimmie.  You're not going."
     "All right," he acquiesced meekly.
     Too meekly, it occurred to me later.