Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- West Wind Drift - 2/60 -
of fortune whose gods had lured them into the comparative safety of South American revolutions; miners, stock buyers and raisers, profiteersmen, diplomats, priests, preachers, gamblers, smugglers and thieves; others who had gone out for the Allies to buy horses, beeves, grain, metal, chemicals, manganese and men; financiers, merchants, lawyers, writers, musicians, doctors, dentists, architects; gentiles and Jews, Protestants and Catholics, skeptics and infidels,--in short, good men, bad men, beggar men, thieves.
The world will readily recall such names and personalities as these: Abel T. Landover, the great New York banker; Peter Snipe, the novelist; Solomon Nicklestick, the junior member in the firm of Winkelwein & Nicklestick, importers of hides, etc., Ninth Avenue, New York; Moses Block, importer of rubber; James January Jones, of San Francisco, promoter and financier; Randolph Fitts, of Boston, the well-known architect; Percy Knapendyke, the celebrated naturalist; Michael O'Malley Malone, of the law firm of Eads, Blixton, Solomon, Carlson, Vecchiavalli, Revitsky, Perkins & Malone, New York; William Spinney, of the Chicago Police force, (and his prisoner, "Soapy" Shay, diamond thief); Denby Flattner, the taxidermist; Morris Shine, the motion picture magnate; Madame Careni-Amori, soprano from the Royal Opera, Rome; Signer Joseppi, the new tenor, described as the logical successor to the great Caruso; Madame Obosky and three lesser figures in the Russian Ballet, who were coming to the United States to head a long-heralded tour, "by special arrangement with the Czar"; Buck Chizler, the famous jockey,--and so on.
These were the names most conspicuously displayed by the newspapers during the anxious, watchful days and weeks that succeeded the sailing of the Doraine from the port in the Tropic of Capricorn.
Dozens of cities in the United States were represented by one or more persons on board the Doraine, travellers of both sexes who, being denied the privilege of a customary dash to Europe for the annual holiday, resolved not to be deprived of their right to wander, nor the right to return when they felt inclined. Whilom, defiant rovers in search of change, they scoffed at conditions and went their way regardless of the peril that stalked the seas. In the main they were money-spending, time-dragging charges against the resources of a harassed, bewildered government, claiming protection in return for arrogance.
Far to the south, off the Falkland Islands, at the bottom of the sea, lay the battered hulls of what ware supposed to be the last of the German fighting-ships in South Atlantic waters. Report had it, however, that several well-armed cruisers had either escaped the hurricane of shells from the British warships, or had been detached from the squadron before the encounter took place. In any event, no vessel left a South American port without maintaining a sharp lookout for prowling survivors of the vanquished fleet, and no passenger went aboard who did not experience the thrill of a hazardous undertaking. The ever-present and ever-ready individual with official information from sources that could not be questioned, travelled with remarkable regularity on each and every craft that ventured out upon the Hun-infested waters. In the smoke-room the invariable word went round that raiders were sinking everything in sight. Every ship that sailed had on board at least one individual who claimed to have been chased on a former voyage by a blockade-breaker,--(according to the most reliable reports, the Germans were slipping warships through the vaunted British net with the most astounding ease and frequency,)--and there was no one with the hardihood or desire to question his veracity; indeed, it was something of a joy to believe him, for was he not a living and potential document to prove that the merchant marine could outwit, outrace and outshoot the German pirates?
The Doraine was barely twenty-four hours out from port and ploughing along steadily through a choppy sea when Mr. Mott, the First Officer, reported to Captain Trigger that a stowaway had been found on board.
"German?" inquired Captain Trigger tersely.
"No, sir. At least, he doesn't look it and, what's more, he doesn't act it. Claims to be American born and bred."
"That's what a great many Germans are claiming these days, Mr. Mott. We can't take any chances, you know. Where was he found?"
Mr. Mott cleared his throat. "Ahem! He wasn't what you might call found, sir. As a matter of fact, he applied in person to the Chief Engineer about half an hour ago and asked for a job. He said he was perfectly willing to work out his passage home. Mr. Gray had him conducted to me, sir,--rather sharply guarded, of course,--and he--"
"Fetch him here at once, Mr. Mott," commanded Captain Trigger. "I'll hear what he has to say first hand."
"Very well, sir." Mr. Mott started away, hesitated, rubbed his chin dubiously, and then came back. "He's having a bit of breakfast, sir, and has asked for the loan of Mr. Codge's razors--"
"What?" roared the captain.
"I informed him he would have to appear before you at once, sir, and he said he was quite willing to do so, but would it be possible for him to tidy up a bit beforehand. I am obliged to confess, sir, that I have never encountered a more interesting stowaway in all my career, which leads me to confess still further that I gave orders to feed him,--he hasn't had a mouthful to eat since we left port, owing to the fact, he says, that his luggage shifted the first day out and try as he would he couldn't locate it without a match, or something to that effect,--he rather stumped me, sir, with the graceful way he lies,--and then Mr. Codge agreed to let him take one of his razors, and when I left him below, sir, it seemed quite certain that Mr. Gray was on the point of lending him a shirt and a change of underwear. I--"
"Good God, sir!" gasped Captain Trigger, with something more than emotion in his voice. "What is this you are telling me?"
"He seems a most likeable chap," explained Mr. Mott lamely. "Quite a courteous fellow, too, sir. I forgot to mention that he sent his compliments to you and asks for an interview at your earliest conven--"
"Asked for an interview? Drag him here at once--by the heels, if necessary. Tell him I shan't keep him waiting an instant," said the captain ironically.
Mr. Mott still hesitated. "In the event, sir, that he is in the midst of shaving--"
"I don't care a hang what he's in the midst of," exclaimed Captain Trigger. "Even in the midst of changing shirts. Present my compliments to him, Mr. Mott, and say that he needn't dress up on my account. I am an old-fashioned sailor-man. It is nothing new to me to see men who haven't shaved in a fortnight, and others who never change shirts."
"Very well, sir," said Mr. Mott, and departed.
Presently he reappeared with the stowaway in charge.
Captain Trigger beheld a well set-up young man of medium height, with freshly shaven chin and jaws, carefully brushed hair, spotless white shirt and collar, and,--revealed in a quick glance,--recently scrubbed hands. His brown Norfolk jacket was open, and he carried a brand new, though somewhat shapeless pan-ama hat in his hand. Evidently he had ceased fanning himself with it at the moment of entering the captain's presence. The keen, good-looking face was warm and moist as the result of a most violent soaping. He wore corduroy riding-breeches, cavalry boots that betrayed their age in spite of a late polishing at the hands of an energetic and carefully directed bootblack, and a broad leather belt from which only half an eye was required to see that a holster had been detached with a becoming regard for neatness. His hair was thick and sun-bleached; his eyes, dark and unafraid, met the stern gaze of the captain with directness and respect; his lips and chin were firm in repose, but they might easily be the opposite if relaxed; his skin was so tanned and wind-bitten that the whites of his eyes were startlingly defined and vivid. He was not a tall man,--indeed, one would have been justified in suspecting him of being taller than he really was because of the more or less deceiving erectness with which he carried himself. As a matter of fact, he was not more than five feet ten or ten and a half.
Captain Trigger eyed him narrowly for a moment.
"What is your name?"
"A. A. Percival, sir."
"Your full name, young man. No initials."
The stowaway seemed to add an inch to his height before replying.
"Algernon Adonis Percival, sir," he said, a very clear note of defiance in his voice.
The Captain looked at the First Officer, and the First Officer, after a brief stare at the speaker, looked at the Captain.
"It's his right name, you can bet, sir," said Mr. Mott, with conviction. "Nobody would voluntarily give himself a name like that."
"You never can tell about these Americans, Mr. Mott," said the Captain warily. "They've got what they call a keen sense of humour, you know."
Mr. Percival smiled. His teeth were very white and even.
"I am a first and only child," he explained. "That ought to account for it, sir," he went on, a trifle defensively.
Captain Trigger did not smile. Mr. Mott, however, looked distinctly sympathetic.
"You say you are an American,--a citizen of the United States?" demanded the former.
"Yes, sir. My home is in Baltimore."
"Baltimore?" repeated Mr. Mott quickly. "That's where Mr. Gray hails from, sir," he added, as a sort of apology to the Captain for the exclamation.
The Captain's gaze settled on the stowaway's spotless white shirt and collar. Then he nodded his head slowly.
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 10 20 30 40 50 60
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything