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   Chapter 4 No.4

The Blood Ship By Norman Springer Characters: 33578

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


We signed articles in the Swede's house, almost within the hour. A little man with a pimply, bulbous nose appeared in the house; he carried in his person the authority of Shipping Commissioner and in his hand the articles of the Golden Bough. After the careless fashion of the day and port we signed on without further ado for a voyage to Hong Kong and beyond-sitting at a table in the back room, and cementing the contract with a drink around.

The Shipping Commissioner made the usual pretense of reading the articles. Then he squinted up at us.

"What's yer John Henry's?" says he.

My big shipmate mused a moment. He stroked the scar on his forehead-a habit he had when thinking. He smiled.

"My name is Newman," he made answer. "It is a good name."

He took the pen from the Shipping Commissioner's hand and wrote the name in the proper place upon the articles. "A. Newman," that is how he wrote it. Not the first time he had clapped eyes upon ship's articles, one could see with half an eye. I wrote my own "John Shreve" below his name, with an outward flourish, but with a sinking sensation inwardly.

As soon as the ceremony was completed, A. Newman got to his feet, refused my pressing invitation to visit the bar, and went upstairs to his room. Now, this seemed very peculiar to my sailor's way of thinking; it seemed more peculiar than his choice of a name. Here we were, shipmates, together committed to a high adventure, yet the man would not tarry by my side long enough to up-end a schooner to a fair passage. I was to have other surprises before the day was out-the mean-faced beggar, and the way in which the Knitting Swede put us on board the Golden Bough. Surprising incidents. But this refusal of my new shipmate to drink with me was most surprising. Think of a sailor, a hard case, too, moping alone in his room on the day he shipped, when downstairs he could wassail away the day. I was surprised and resentful. It is hard for a nineteen-year-old man to stand alone, and I felt that Newman, my shipmate, should give me the moral support of his companionship.

I strutted away the day in lonely glory. I had not the courage to violate the hoary traditions of the foc'sle and join my ship sober, so I imbibed as steadily as my youthful stomach permitted. Towards evening I was, as sailors say, "half seas over."

I was mellow, but not befuddled. I saw things clearly, too clearly. Of a sudden I felt an urgent necessity to get away from the Swede's barroom. I wanted to breathe a bit of fresh air, I wanted to shut out from my mind the sights and sounds and smells of the groggery, the reek and the smut and the evil faces. Above all, I wished to escape the importunities of the little Jewess. She had gotten upon my nerves. Oh, I was her fancy boy to-day, you bet! I was spending my advance money, you see, and this was her last chance at my pocketbook.

So, when opportunity offered, I slipped away from the crowd unobserved, and went rolling along East street as though that thoroughfare belonged to me. And in truth it did. Aye, I was the chesty lad, and my step was high and proud, during that stroll. For men hailed me, and pointed me out. I was the rough, tough king of the beach that hour; I was the lad who had whipped the Knitting Swede's bully, and shipped in the Golden Bough.

Upon a corner, some blocks from the Knitting Swede's house, I came upon a fellow who was spitting blood into the gutter. He was the sorriest-looking wretch I had ever seen, the gaunt ruin of a man. He drew his filthy rags about him, and shivered, and prefaced his whine for alms with a fit of coughing that seemed to make his bones rattle.

I can't say that my heart went out to the man. It didn't. He was too unwholesome looking, and his face was mean and sly. His voice was as remarkable as anything about him; instead of speaking words, he whined them, through his nose it sounded like, and though his tone seemed pitched low, his whine cut through the East street uproar like a sharp knife through butter.

Well, he was a pitiful wreck. On the rocks for good, already breaking up and going to pieces. Without thinking much about it, I emptied my pockets of their change. He pounced upon that handful of silver with the avidity of a miser, and slobbered nasal thanks at me. I was the kindest-hearted lad he had met in many a day, he said.

We would have gone our different ways promptly but for a flurry of wind. I suspect that, with the money in his hand, he was as eager to see the last of me as I was to see the last of him. But I felt ashamed of my distaste of him; it seemed heartless. And when the cold wind came swooping across from the docks, setting him shivering and coughing, I thought of the spare pea-coat I had in my bag. It was serviceable and warm, and I had a new one to wear.

So I carried him back to the Swede's house with me. I did not take him into the barroom, though he brazenly hinted he would like to stop in there; but I feared the gibes of the boisterous gang. This bum of mine was such grotesque horror that the drunken wits of the house would not, I knew, fail to seize the chance to ridicule me upon my choice of a chum. Besides it was clothes not whisky I intended giving him.

I took him upstairs by the side entrance, the entrance to the lodging-house section of the Knitting Swede's establishment. The house was a veritable rookery above the first floor. I lodged on the third floor, in a room overlooking the street, a shabby, dirty little cubicle, but one of the choice rooms at the Swede's disposal-for was I not spending money in his house?

My companion's complaining whine filled the halls as we ascended the stairs. He was damning the times and the hard hearts of men. As we walked along the hall towards my room, the door of the room next to mine opened and the big man, who signed himself Newman, looked out at us. I had not known before that he occupied this room, he was so silent and secretive in his comings and goings.

I hailed Newman heartily, but he gave me no response, not even a direct glance. He was regarding the derelict; aye, and there was something in his face as he looked at the man that sent a thrill through me. There was recognition in his look, and something else. It made me shiver. As for this fellow with me-he stopped short at first sight of Newman. He said, "Oh, my God!" and then he seemed to choke. He stumbled against the banisters, and clung to them for support while his knees sagged under him. He'd have run, undoubtedly, if he had had the strength.

"Hello, Beasley," said Newman, in a very quiet voice. He came out of his room, and approached us. Then this man of mine threw a fit indeed. I never saw such fright in a man's face. He opened his mouth as If to scream, but nothing came out except a gurgle; and he lifted his arm as if to ward off an expected blow.

But Newman made no move to strike him. He looked down at him, studying him, with his stern mouth cracked into a little smile (but, God's truth, there was no mirth in it) and after a moment he said, "Surprised? Eh? But no more surprised than I."

The poor wreck got some sound out of his mouth that sounded like

"How-how-" several times repeated.

"And I wanted to meet you more than I can tell," went on Newman. "I want to talk to you-about--"

The other got his tongue to working in a half-coherent fashion, though the disjointed words he forced out of his mouth were just husky whispers. "Oh, my God-you! Not me-oh, my God, not me!-him-he made me-it was--"

No more sense than that to his agonized mumbling. And he got no more than that out of him when he choked, and an ugly splotch of crimson appeared upon his pale lips. His knees gave way altogether, and he crouched there on the floor, gibbering silently at the big man, and plainly terrified clean out of his wits.

Well, I felt out of it, so to speak. The feeling made me a little resentful. After all, this bum was my bum.

"Look here, the man's sick," I said to Newman. "Don't look at him like that-he'll die. You've half scared him to death already."

"Oh, no; he'll not die-yet," said Newman. "He's just a little bit surprised at the encounter. But he's glad to see me-aren't you, Beasley? Stop that nonsense, and get up!" This last was barked at the fellow; it was a soft-voiced but imperative command.

The command was instantly obeyed. That was Newman for you-people didn't argue with him, they did what he said. I'd have obeyed too, just as quickly, if he had spoken to me in that tone. There was something in that man, something compelling, and, besides, he had the habit of command in his manner.

So Beasley tottered to his feet, and stood there swaying. He found his tongue, too, in sensible speech. "For God's sake, get me a drink!" he said.

I was glad to seize the cue. It gave me an excuse to do something.

"I'll get some whisky downstairs," I sang out to Newman, as I moved for the stairs. "Take him into my room; I'll be right back."

But when I returned with the liquor a few moments later, I discovered that Newman had taken his prize into his own room. I heard the murmur of voices through the closed door. But I had rather expected this. Half seas over I might be, but I was still clear-witted enough to realize that I had accidentally brought two old acquaintances together, and that one was pleased at the meeting and the other terrified, and that whatever was or had been between the two was none of my business. I had no intention of intruding upon them. But the fellow, Beasley, had looked so much in need of the stimulant that I ventured a knock upon the door.

Newman opened, and I handed him the bottle without comment. I could see my erstwhile tow sitting upon the bed, slumped in an attitude of collapse. He looked so abject; his condition might have touched a harder heart than mine. But there was no softening of Newman's heart, to judge from his face; the little mirthless smile had vanished and his features were hard and set. Aye, and his manner towards me was curt enough.

"Thank you; he needs a pick-me-up," he said, as he took the bottle.

"And now-you'll excuse us, lad."

It wasn't a question, that last; it was a statement. Little he cared if I excused him or not. He shut the door in my face, and I heard the key turn in the lock.

Well, I suppose I should have been incensed by this off-hand dismissal. Oh, I was no meek and humble specimen; my temper was only too touchy, and besides there was my reputation as a hard case to look to. But strangely enough I did not become incensed; I never thought of kicking down the door, I never thought of harboring a grudge. It wasn't fear of the big man, either. It was-well, that was Newman. He could do a thing like that, and get away with it.

The carousing gang downstairs was more than ever distasteful to me. I went into my own room and lay down upon the bed. The liquor that was in me made me a bit drowsy, and I rather relished the thought of a nap.

But I discovered I was likely to be cheated of even the nap by my next door neighbors. The walls in the Swede's house were poor barriers to sounds, and lying there on the bed I suddenly found myself overhearing a considerable part of the conversation in the next room. Newman's deep voice was a mere rumble, a menacing rumble, with the words undistinguishable, but the beggar's disagreeable whine carried through the partition so distinctly I could not help overhearing nearly every word he said. I didn't try to eavesdrop; at the time Beasley's words had little interest or meaning for me. But afterwards, on the ship, I had reason to ponder over what he said.

The burden of his speech was to the effect that somebody referred to as "he" was to blame. Aye, trust a rat of that caliber to set up that wail. For some time that was all I got from the words that came through the wall. I wasn't trying to listen; I was drowsing, and paying very little attention.

But gradually Beasley's whine grew louder and more distinct. I suppose the whisky was oiling his tongue. Once he cried out sharply, "For God's sake, don't look at me like that! I'm telling the truth, I swear I am!" The scrape of a chair followed this outburst, and when the whine began again it was closer to the wall, and more distinct than ever.

"I didn't want to, but he made me. I had to look out for myself, hadn't I? I had to do what he said. He had this paper of mine-he knew they were forgeries-I had to do what he said. But, my God, I didn't know what he was planning-I swear I didn't!"

Newman's rumble broke in, and then the voluble, reedy voice continued, "But he was wild when he came home and found you and Mary so thick, and everybody just waiting for the announcement that it was a match. Why, he had the whole thing planned, the very day he arrived. I know he had, because he came to me, in the tavern, and told me I was to drop hints here and there through the village that you and Beulah Twigg had been seen together in Boston. I didn't want to, but I had to obey him. Why, those checks-he could have put me in prison. My father would not have helped me. You remember my father-he was ready to throw me out anyway. He never could make allowances for a young fellow's fun.

"He had others dropping hints around. Trust him to handle a job like that. He was your friend, and Mary's friend-your very best friend, and all the time the tongues were wagging behind your back. Why, it was the talk of the town. You and Beulah Twigg, together in Boston; you and Beulah together at sea; you and Beulah-well, you know what a story they would make of it in a little town like Freeport. Mary must have heard the gossip about you; the women would tell her.

"But it didn't seem to have any effect. The two of you were as thick as ever. We were laying bets in the tavern that you would be married before you went to sea again. He didn't like that-the talk about your wedding. But he wasn't beaten yet; he was just preparing his ground. Oh, he was a slick devil!

"He came to me one day and said, 'Beasley, give me the key to the Old

Place-and keep your mouth shut and stay away from there.'

"Now you begin to understand? The Old Place-that tumble-down old ruin of a house all alone out there on the cliffs. It belonged to my father, you remember, but it hadn't been lived in for years. I had a key because we young bloods used the place for card-playing, and high jinks.

"I gave him the key. Why not? It was a small matter. He went off to Boston-business trip, he said. I could make a good guess at the nature of the business. Didn't I know his ways? But I wouldn't blab; he owned me body and soul. I was afraid of him. His soft voice, his slick ways, and what he could do to me if I didn't obey!

"He brought Beulah Twigg back with him from Boston. Now you understand? Little Beulah-pretty face, empty head, too much heart. He owned her body and soul, too. When folks wondered where she had run off to, I could have told them. I knew how he'd played with her, on the quiet, while he sparked Mary in the open-last time he was home. You were home then, also. Remember, you left a day ahead of him, to join your ship in New York? A China voyage, wasn't it? Well-Beulah left the same day. Just disappeared. And poor old Twigg couldn't understand it. You remember the old fool? Beulah was all the family he had, and after she skipped out he got to drinking. They found him one morning at the bottom of the cliffs, not a hundred yards from the spot where they afterwards found her.

"But I knew what had become of Beulah. I guessed right. Didn't I know his ways with the girls? You know there weren't many women who could stand out against him. Mary could, and did-that's why he was so wild against you. But little Beulah-she threw herself at him. And when she ran away, it was to join him in Philadelphia, and go sailing with him to South America.

"Now you know how he turned the trick on you, don't you? But-don't look at me like that! I didn't know what he was doing, I swear I didn't! I thought he just wanted his sweetheart near him, or that she insisted on coming, or something like that. I thought it was devilish bold of him, bringing the girl where everybody knew her. But then, he really wasn't taking such a chance, because nobody ever went near the Old Place, except upon my invitation, and he drove her over from the next township in the night, and she didn't come near the village. I knew, but he knew I wouldn't blab. My God, no!

"Well, he came to me the next day after he got back from Boston. 'I ask a favor of you,' he said to me. Yes-asking favors, when he knew I must do what he said. Smiling and purring-you remember the pleasant ma

nner he had. 'Just a short note. I know you are handy with the pen,' he said.

"What could I do? I had to look out for myself. He gave me a page from an old letter as a sample of the handwriting. It was Mary Barntree's writing; oh, I knew it well. I had it perfect in a few minutes. You know-I had a rare trick with the pen in those days-before this cough got me, and my hand got shaky. The note I wrote for him was a mere line. 'Meet me at Beasley's Old Place at three,' with her initial signed. That was all. But he had a sheet of her own special note paper for me to write on (no, I don't know where he got it!) and of course he knew-like we all knew-how fond the two of you were of lovers' walks out on the cliffs.

"Do you remember how you got that note? Oh, he was a slick devil. He thought of everything. Abel Horn brought it to you-remember? He told you, with a wink and a grin, that it was from a lady-but he didn't say what lady. Remember? Well, Beulah had given him the note, and told him to say that-not to mention names. Abel was a good fellow; he wouldn't gossip. He knew that.

"That wasn't the only note he had written. He made Beulah write one, too, addressed to Mary, and asking her to come to the Old Place, and be secret about it. Ah, now you understand? But-I swear I didn't know what he was leading up to. No, I didn't. I thought it was-well, all's fair in love, you know. And I had to do what he said, I had to!

"Poor little Beulah had to do what he said, too. I only feared him, but she loved and feared him both. He owned her completely. He had made her into a regular echo of himself. She didn't want to, she cried about it, but she had to do what he said.

"Mary came, as he knew she would. Didn't she have the kindest heart in the country? And there he was, with Beulah, with his eyes on her, and his soft, sly words making her lie seem more true. I heard it all. I was upstairs. He placed me there, in case Mary didn't believe; then I was to come in and tell about seeing you and Beulah together in Boston, and how she begged me to bring her home. But-for God's sake!-I didn't do it. I didn't have to. Mary believed. How could she help believing-the gossip, and poor little Beulah sobbing out her story. Beulah said it was you who got the best of her. She didn't want to say it, she faltered and choked on the lie, but his eyes were on her, and his voice urged her, and so she had to say it. The very way she carried on made the lie seem true.

"Well, Mary did just what he expected her to do. She promised to help Beulah; she told Beulah she would make you make amends. Then she rushed out of the house and met you coming along the cliff road-coming along all spruced up, and with the look about you of one going to meet a lady. Just as he planned.

"What more could Mary ask in the way of evidence than the sight of you in that place at that time? Of course she was convinced, completely convinced. And she behaved just as he knew she would behave-she denounced you, and threw your ring in your face, and raced off home. And you behaved just as he knew you would behave. He was a slick devil! He knew your pride and temper; he counted on them. He knew you would be too proud to chase Mary down and demand a full explanation; that you would be too angry to sift the thing to the bottom. You packed up and went off to New York that night to join your ship-and that was just what he wanted you to do.

"Next morning you were gone, and-they picked up little Beulah at the bottom of the cliffs. And you gone in haste, without a word. They said she jumped-desertion, despair, you know what they would make of it. The gossip-and Abel Horn's tale-and you running away to sea.

"And I-my flesh would creep when I looked at him. I was certain she-didn't jump. I tell you he was a devil. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do. He didn't have such a feeling as mercy. Didn't I find it out? He wanted to get rid of me-and he did. Before the week was out; before Beulah was fairly buried, before Mary was outdoors again. He showed those checks I had signed-and I had to go, I had to go far and in a hurry. After all I had done for him, that's the way he treated me."

There was a movement of chairs in the next room, and a scraping of feet. There was more talk, Newman's heavy murmur, and responding whines. But I do not remember what else was said. In fact, although I have given you Beasley's tale in straight-forward fashion, I did not overhear it as I tell it. I caught it in snatches, so to speak, rather disconnected snatches which I pieced together afterwards. I heard this fellow, Beasley, talk while lying drowsing on the bed, and not trying particularly to understand his words. In fact, I did drop off to sleep. First thing I knew, the Knitting Swede was shaking me awake. "Yump out of it, Yackie," says he. "We go aboard."

I turned out, shouldered my sea-bag, and went downstairs. There was Newman, with his dunnage, waiting. He was alone. There was no sign of my beggar about. In fact, I never saw him again. Newman's face didn't invite questions.

As a matter of fact, I didn't even think of asking him questions. I had forgotten Beasley; I was worrying about myself. Now that the hour had come to join the ship, I wasn't feeling quite so carefree and chesty. I went into the bar, and poured Dutch courage into myself, until the Knitting Swede was ready to leave.

We rode down to the dock in a hack. I was considerably elated when the vehicle drew up before the door; It is not every sailorman who rides down to the dock in a hack, you bet! The Swede was spreading himself to give us a grand send-off, I thought! But I changed my mind when we started. The hack was on Newman's account, solely; and he made a quick dash from the door to its shelter, with his face concealed by cap and pea-coat collar. He didn't want to be seen in the streets-that is why we rode in the hack!

The ride was made amidst a silence that proved to be a wet blanket to all my attempts to be jovial, and light-hearted and devil-may-care. The Swede slumped in one seat, with our dunnage piled by his side, wheezing profanely as the lurching of the hack over the cobblestones jolted the sea-bags against him, and grunting at my efforts to make conversation. Newman sat by my side. Once he spoke.

"You are sure the lady sails, Swede?" was what he said.

"Ja, I have it vrom Swope, himself," the crimp replied.

Now, of course, I had already reasoned it out that Newman was sailing in the Golden Bough because of the lady aft, and that he had once owned some other name than "Newman." That was as plain as the nose on my face. I didn't bother my head about it; the man's reasons were his own, and foc'sle custom said that a shipmate should be judged by his acts, not by his past, or his motives. But I did bother my head about his question in the hack-or rather about the Swede's manner of replying to it. It was a little thing, but very noticeable to a sailor.

The Swede's manner towards me was one of genial condescension, like a father towards an indulged child. This was a proper bearing for a powerful crimp to adopt towards a foremost hand. But the Swede's manner towards Newman was different. There was respect in it, as though he were talking to some skipper. It considerably increased the feeling of awe I was beginning to have for my stern shipmate.

I supposed we would join the rest of the crew at the dock, and go on board in orthodox fashion, on a tug, with drugged and drunken men lying around, to be met at the rail by the mates, and dressed down into the foc'sle. Such was the custom of the port. But when we alighted at Meigg's Wharf not a sailor or runner was in sight. A regiment of roosting gulls was in lonely possession of the planking. The hack rattled away; the Swede, bidding us gather up our dunnage and follow him, waddled to the wharf edge, and disappeared over the string-piece.

"Why, where is the crew?" I asked of Newman. "You and I, alone, aren't going to sail the ruddy packet?"

"They'll follow later," replied Newman. "The Swede is going to put us two aboard. He's getting the boat free now."

I stopped stock still. The constant surprises were rapidly shocking me sober, and this last one fairly took my breath for a moment. The Swede was putting us on board!

Now, the King of Crimps didn't put sailormen on board. He hired runners to oversee the disposal of the slaves. The most he did was lounge in the sternsheets of his Whitehall while his retainers rowed him out to a ship to interview the captain, and collect his blood money. It was unusual for the Swede to go down to the dock with a couple of men; and now, he was going to fasten his lordly hands upon a pair of oars and row us out to our vessel!

"Say, what is the idea?" I demanded of Newman. "We are no flaming dukes to be coddled this way!"

Newman placed his hand upon my shoulders. "What say you call it off, lad?" he said. "That hell-ship yonder is no proper berth for you. Take my advice, and dodge around the corner with your bag. I can fix it with the Swede, all right."

I should have liked to have taken the advice, I admit. I was not in nearly such a vainglorious mood as I had been back in the Swede's barroom, with the waterfront applauding me. If Newman had offered to dodge around the corner with me, I'd have gone. The aspect of that empty wharf was depressing, and there was something sinister about all these unusual circumstances surrounding our joining the ship. I began to feel that there was something wrong about the Golden Bough besides her bucko mates, and I possessed the superstitions of my kind. But Newman did not offer to dodge around the corner with me. He was merely advising me, in a fatherly, pitying fashion that my nineteen-year-old manhood could not stomach.

"I shipped in her, and I'll sail in her," I told him, shortly. "I can stand as much hell as any man, and I'd join her if I had to swim for it. That flaming packet can't scare me away; I'll take a pay-day from her, yet!" I was bound I'd live up to my reputation as a hard case! I was letting Newman know I was just as proper a nut as himself.

The Swede hailed us from the darkness beyond. We reached the wharf edge, and dimly made out the Swede's huge bulk squatting in a Whitehall boat below. "Yump in!" he bade us. We tossed our bags down, followed ourselves, and a moment later I was bidding farewell to the beach.

The Swede lay back manfully on the oars, grunting with every stroke. He was expert; he seemed to make nothing of the inrushing tide, and quickly ferried us out into the fairway. Newman and I sat together in the sternsheets, each wrapped in his mantle of dignified silence. I kept my eyes on the black bulk of the vessel we were rapidly nearing, and I confess my thoughts were not very cheerful. One needed jolly companions, and more drink inside than I had, to have cheerful thoughts when joining the Golden Bough.

The Swede lay on his oars when we were a few hundred yards from the ship, allowing us to drift down with the tide. He fumbled about his clothes for a moment, and produced a bottle. "Here, yoongstar, you take a yolt!" he commanded, passing me the bottle.

I thought he was just bolstering up my courage, and I was grateful. I swallowed a great gulp of the fiery stuff. It was good liquor, and possessed an added flavor to which I was stranger.

I passed the bottle to Newman; he accepted it, but I noticed he did not drink.

The Swede lifted up his voice and hailed the ship. Immediately, the most magnificent fore-topsail-yard-ahoy voice I had ever heard bellowed a reply, "Ahoy, the boat! What d'ye want?"

"That ban Lynch," remarked the Swede to us. Then he called in reply. "Ay ban Swede Olson with two hands for you! Heave over da Yacob's ladder, Mistar Lynch!" He lay back on his oars, and shot us under the quarter.

A moment later the three of us were standing on the clipper maindeck, confronting a large man who inspected us with the aid of a lantern. Afterwards, I discovered Mister Second Mate Lynch to be a handsome, muscular chap, with not so much of the "bucko" in his bearing as his reputation led one to expect. But at the moment I was impressed only by his big body and stern face. In truth, even that impression was hazy, for the drink I had taken from the Swede's bottle a moment before proved to be surprisingly potent. No sooner did I set foot upon the deck than I commenced to feel a heavy languor overcoming my body and mind.

Lynch turned, and his voice rumbled into the lighted cabin alleyway.

"Oh, Fitz, come here. Those two jaspers we heard of have come aboard."

A moment later a man came from the cabin and stood by Lynch's side.

Here was a true bucko, even my addled wits sensed that. A human

gorilla, with a battered face and brutal, pitiless mouth-the dreaded

Fitzgibbon, "chief kicker" of the Golden Bough.

Mister "Fitz" regarded us with a sneering smile. "Huh, stewed to the gills! What did you dope 'em with, Swede?" he said. Then he added to Lynch, "Good beef, though. They'll pull their weight. Hope there are more like them." He gave his regard to me, looked me up and down slowly, and then turned his eyes on Newman. "Shipped themselves, did they? Two jumps ahead o' the police, I bet! Lord, what a cargo he's got aboard!"

This last referred to Newman. I was staring at him, myself, with stupid surprise, his peculiar antics aiding me to retain a slender clutch on my senses.

For Newman was drunk, rip-roaring drunk. Now mind, he had been cold sober a few moments before when I handed him the Swede's bottle, and I was quite certain he had not touched that bottle to his lips. He came over the rail with the bottle clutched in his hand, and as soon as he touched the deck he was as pickled as any sailor who ever joined a ship. He hung his head, and lurched unsteadily from foot to foot, mumbling to himself. Suddenly he brandished the bottle, and commenced to howl, "Blow the Man Down," in a raucous voice.

"Stow that!" commanded Lynch, shortly. "You'll wake up the lady!"

Newman shut up. "Vas da lady on board?" asked the Swede, respectfully.

"Yes, and if that jasper rouses her, I'll shove a pin down his gullet!" answered Lynch. "Here you two," he commanded us, "gather up your dunnage and get for'rd!"

Newman and I grappled laboriously with our bags. Fitzgibbon spoke to the Swede. "When does the crew come off?"

"Flood tide," answered the Swede. "Captain Swope comes with them. And

I send a port gang to get you oondar way."

"Hope there are some more huskies like these two," said Lynch.

"Ja, day ban all able seamans," declared the Swede.

"You're a filthy liar!" I heard Lynch comment. But further words I lost, for Newman and I went stumbling forward to the forecastle.

We dumped our bags upon the floor, and Newman lighted the lamp. My knees gave way, and I sat down upon the bench that ran around beside the tiers of empty bunks. Then, when the flickering light revealed my companion's face, I felt another shock of surprise.

For Newman was sober again. As soon as he was out of sight of the group on the after deck, he dropped his inebriety like a mantle. The face I looked into was alert and hard set, and the eyes gleamed strangely as though the man were laboring under a strong, repressed excitement. Newman wore an air of triumph, as though he had just accomplished a difficult victory. My tongue had suddenly become very thick, but I managed to mumble a query. "Say, matey, what's the game?"

He regarded me sharply. "What's the matter with you, lad?" he exclaimed. He leaned over, pressed up one of my eyelids, and looked into my eye. Then he tilted the bottle he still carried, and wetted his laps with the liquor. "That . . . Swede! He drugged this bottle! Bound to get the blood money for you!"

I didn't answer. I couldn't, for while Newman was speaking, a wonderful thing happened. He suddenly dwindled in size until he was no larger than a manikin, going through the motion of drinking from a tiny bottle; while in contrast, his voice increased so tremendously in volume it broke upon my ears like a surf upon a beach. I couldn't grasp the miracle.

". . . well, not enough to hurt . . . all right tomorrow . . ." Newman boomed. Then he picked me up in his arms and deposited me in a bunk. He got a blanket out of my bag and spread it over me. I found something very comical about this, though I couldn't laugh as I wished. One hard case tucking in another hard case, like a mother tucks in her child!

The last thing I saw, or thought I saw, ere oblivion overcrept me, was Newman's manikin-sized figure stretching out in a manikin-sized bunk opposite.

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