Chapter VIII

Aboard The Argos

     Blythe and I had agreed that an attempt would be made to relieve us of the map while we were carrying it from the safety deposit vault to the ship.  So far as we could see it was Bothwell's last change to gain possession of the coveted chart, and he was not the man to leave a stone unturned.
     At half past three we drove in the car of a friend to the International Safe Deposit Company's place of business.  He waited outside while we went in to reclaim the document.
     Five minutes later we reappeared, the paper in the inside pocket of my tightly buttoned coat.  My eyes explored to right and left.
     The thunder of trolley cars, the rumble of wholesale wagons, the buzz of automobiles, all made their contribution to the roar of the busy caņon up and down which men and women passed by hundreds.  That Bothwell would make an attempt at a hold up here seemed inconceivable.  But if not here, then—where?  He had to have the map or give up the fight.
     Blythe followed me into the tonneau and our car swept out into the stream of traffic.  Less than a quarter of an hour later we stepped down from the machine, shook hands with or friend, and took the boat which was waiting for us at the wharf.  Even now we were alert, ready for any emergency that might occur.
     Nothing happened, except our safe arrival at the Argos.   Miss Wallace and her aunt were on deck to welcome us.  Sam and I exchanged rather sheepish glances.  Nobody likes to be caught making a mountain out of a mole hill, and that was apparently what we had done.  Our elaborate preparations to defend the map during the past half hour had been unnecessary.
     "Tide right, Mr. Mott?" Blythe asked.
     "Al right, sir."
     "Then we'll start at once."
     I retired to my cabin, disposed of a certain document and presently returned to the deck.  The engines were throbbing and the Argos was beginning to creep.
     "We're off," I said to Miss Wallace, who was standing by my side on the bridge deck leaning upon the rail.
     "Yes, we're off.  Luck with us," she cried softly with shining eyes.
     I looked at her and smiled.  The excitement that burned in her I could understand, since I too shred it.  We were answering the call of the sea and its romance was tingling in our blood.  Into what wild waters we were to be whirled none of us had the slightest guess.  It was fortunate that the future was screened by a veil behind which we could not peep.
     The quiver of the engines grew stronger.  The Argos was walking smartly out into the bay, her funnels belching black smoke.  A stiff wind was blowing and the vessel leaped as she took the waves.  Behind us in the falling dusk the lights of the city began to come out like stars.
     "I wonder when we'll see her again," my companion said softly, her gaze on the hill of twinkling lights.
     Like a Winged Victory her fine, lithe figure was outlined by the wind, which had flung back the white skirt against the slender limbs, showing the flowing lines as she moved.  In her jaunty yachting cap, the heavy chestnut hair escaping in blowing tendrils, a warmer color whipped into her soft cheeks by the breeze, there was a sparkle to her gayety, a champagne tang to her animation.  One guessed her an Ionian goddess of the sea reincarnated in the flesh of a delightful American girl.
     It was this impression on me that gave the impetus to my answer.
     "Not too soon, I hope."
     Miss Berry joined us.  I tucked her arm under mine and the three of us tramped the promenade deck.  Mott went down to his dinner and Blythe took the wheel.  My friend was an experienced sailor, and he had that dash of daring which somehow never results in disaster.  We could see the men scurrying to and fro at his orders.  The white sails began to belly out with the whistling wind.
     Blythe roared an order down the speaking tube and swung round the spokes of the wheel.  Straight toward the Golden Gate we sprang, blowing along with increasing speed.  Past Tamalpais we scudded and through the narrows, out to the fresh Pacific like a bloodhound taking the scent.
     "By the way she's going the Argos smells treasure at our journey's end," I laughed.
     "Oh, I like this!  Isn't it glorious?"  the girl murmured.
     "You come of sailor blood," I reminded her.   "Many a girl would be in the hands of the ship's doctor already."
     "Didn't know we had a doctor on board."
     "Morgan will have to serve in lieu of one.  But there goes the dinner gong.  We must go and get ready."
     "I suppose so," she sighed regretfully.  "But it's a pity to miss a moment of this.  Do you see that glow on the water?  Is that why it's called the Golden Gate?"
     "I fancy the argonauts called it that because it was the passage through which they passed on their way to the gold fields.  And for the same reason we can give it that name too."
     We moved to the stairway, which was in the pavilion, and descended to our rooms on the main deck.
     As soon as I had entered mine I switched on the light and threw off my coat.  Collar and tie followed the coat into the berth.  I passed into the bath room and washed.  At the moment I flung the towel back on the rack a sound came to me from my bedroom  I turned quickly, to see a diminutive figure roll from the back of the bed and untangle itself from my coat.
     Please, I'm awful sick, Mr. Sedgwick," a voice lugubriously groaned.
     I stood staring at the little face.  The forlorn urchin was our office boy, Jimmie Welch.
     "You young cub, what are you doing here?" I demanded.
     I"m a stowaway," he groaned.  "Like Hall Hiccup, the boy Pirate, you know.  But, by crickey, I wouldn't a come if I'd a known it would be like this."
     "Didn't I tell you that you couldn't come?  How did you get here?"
     "Golly, I'm sick!  I'm going to die."
     "Serves you right, you young rascal."
     I didn't blow him up any more just then.  Instead I hurriedly offered first aid to the seasick.  He felt a little better after that.
     "I told Mr. Mott you had sent me on an errand.  He thought I'd gone ashore again, mebbe."
     "That's where you'll go as soon as we reach San Pedro."
     "Yes, sir.  Hope so."  He groaned woefully.   "Thought you'd need a cabin boy, sir, but I'll never do it again, s'elp me."
     "I'm going to give you a licking as soon s you get well.   don't forget that.  Now I have to leave you.  I'll be back after a while.   Go to sleep if you can."
     By reason of Jimmie I reached the dinner table as the soup was being removed.  Only four of us messed in the cabin.  Mott, the engineers, and Morgan had a separate table of their own aft.
     "Late already, my boy.  This won't do.  Ship's discipline, you know.  Make a report and clear yourself," Blythe called out as I entered.
     "My patient seems a bit better," I announced, sitting down opposite Miss Wallace.
     "Your patient?" that young woman repeated.
     "Yes, I find I have a guest to share my cabin with me, and he has begun by yielding to an attack of mal-de-mer."
     "Is this a conundrum?  I'm not good at them."   This from Miss Berry.
     "No, it's a stowaway.  The conundrum is to know what to do with the little rascal."
     "Meaning who?"
     "James A. Garfield Welch.  I found him tucked away in my berth, very much the worse for wear."
     The Englishman helped himself to asparagus tips and laughed.
     "He's certainly a persevering young beggar.  He hung around me for three days trying to persuade me to take him.  Now he's here on French leave."
     "He'll have to make himself useful, now he's here.  The little idiot imagines himself a sort of boy pirate, so he explained to me.  I'm going to try to introduce a little sense into his system by means of a strap applied to the cuticle."
     "Oh, I wouldn't," Evelyn begged quickly.   "Poor fellow!  I daresay he wanted to come as badly as we did."
     "He happens to have a mother," I added dryly.   "She's no doubt worrying her life out about the young pirate.  I really think we owe him a licking on her account."
     "Poor woman!  She must be feeling dreadfully.   Isn't there any way of letting her know that he is safe?" Miss Berry asked.
     "We'll have to call in at San Pedro, though that means the loss of a day.  We can send the youngster home from Los Angeles," Blythe suggested.
     "If he mother is willing, Jimmie might go on with us.   He would be useful to run errands," Evelyn proposed.
     "Jimmie has a staunch friend in you, Miss Wallace.   We'll think it over.  There's plenty of time before we reach Los Angeles," our captain answered.  "He can take the upper berth in the cook's cabin.  Have him moved after dinner, Morgan."
     We lingered after dinner till the second dog watch was over, when Blythe excused himself to go on deck.  I soon followed him, for though I am no sailor I was rated as second officer on the Argos, Mott being the first.
     I had not yet had a good view of the crew and I looked them over carefully as Blythe divided them in watches.  They appeared a lively enough lot, though it struck me that one or two showed sullen faces.
     Caine, the boatswain, was a villainous looking fellow, due in part to the squint of his eyes that set them at different angles.  But he turned out a thoroughly capable man with a knack of getting out of the men all that was in them.
     Under Mott's supervision I took a turn at the wheel, for I did not intend, if I could help it, to be deadwood throughout the whole cruise.  I could see Miss Wallace pacing the deck with Blythe for hours, his cigar tip glowing in the darkness as they advanced toward the wheel house.  I would have liked to join them, but I set out to make of myself enough of a sailor to serve at a pinch, and I stuck to my task.  It was late when I reached my cabin.  I must have fallen asleep at once, for it was day again before I knew anything more.
     We met at breakfast, the four of us, and not one but was touched by the liveliness of which we were the center.  It was not a new story to Blythe—this blue arched roof of sky, this broad stretch of sea, this warm sun on a day cool enough to invigorate the blood—but he too showed a lively pleasure in it.
     Miss Berry took some fancy work and a magazine with her on dick and spent the morning placidly in a steamer chair, but her niece and I were too full of our pleasure to rest so contentedly.
     To any who have sailed on the glassy breast of the Pacific day after day, knowing all the little pleasures of life aboard a well-found turbine yacht, a description would be superfluous; to one who has never known it, such an attempt would be entirely futile.  By either alternative I am debarred from trying to set down the delight of our days, the glory of our nights of stars.