By the World Forgot: A Double Romance of the East and Westскачать книгу бесплатно
If there was one person rough, hard-bitten Bill Woywod had an abiding affection for, it was George Harnash. Whenever his ship dropped anchor in New York the first person-and about the only respectable person-he visited was his boyhood friend. To be sure, there was not much congeniality between them. The only tie that bound them was that boyhood friendship, but both of them were men without kith or kin, and they somehow clung to that association. Woywod was proud of his friendship with the rising young broker, and there was a kind of refreshment in the person of the breezy sailor which Harnash greatly enjoyed, especially as the visits of the seaman were not frequent or long enough to pall upon the New Yorker.
Harnash usually took an afternoon and night off when Woywod arrived. They took in the baseball game at the Polo Grounds, dined thereafter at some table d'hote resort which Harnash would never have affected under ordinary circumstances, but which seemed to Woywod the very height of luxury. Then they repaired to some theatre, usually one of the high-kicking variety avowedly designed for the tired business man, which was extremely congenial to the care-free sailor; and not to go further into details it may be alleged that they had a good time together until far in the night or early in the morning, rather. Harnash was usually not a little ashamed next morning; Woywod, never! With sturdy independence Woywod would alternate being host on these occasions. On land and out of his element he was a fairly agreeable companion in his rough, coarse way. It was only on the ship that he became a brute. In the nature of things the devotion, if such it could be called, was all on Woywod's side. It was an aspiration on his part and a condescension on the part of Harnash, however much the latter strove to disguise it.
The Susquehanna had been loaded to her capacity and beyond with war equipment for the Russian Government and was about to take her departure from New York, when Woywod, who had been prevented before by the duties imposed by the necessity of getting the ship ready quickly for her next long voyage, paid his annual or semi-annual visit to his friend. Now these visits had become so thoroughly a matter of custom that Woywod had established the right of entrance. None of the clerks in the outer office would have thought of stopping him, and although Harnash was very strict in requiring respect for the sanctity of his private office Woywod made no hesitation about entering it unceremoniously.
Like all sailors, he moved with cat-like softness and quickness. He opened the door noiselessly and surprised his friend seated at his desk, his face buried in his hands in an attitude of the deepest dejection. Friendship has a discerning power as well as greater passions.
"Why, George, old boy," began Woywod, laying his hand on the other's shoulder, and that touch gave Harnash the first warning that he was not alone, "what's the matter?"
Harnash looked up quickly, rose to his feet as he recognized his visitor, and grasped him by the hand with a warmth he had not shown in years.
"Bill," he explained, "I'm in the deepest trouble that ever fell on a man, and you come like an angel in time to help me."
Harnash must have meant a dark angel, but Woywod knew nothing of that.
"What is it, old man?" he asked.
"If it's money you're needin' I got a shot or two in the locker an'-"
"No, it's not money. I'm making more than ever."
"Been buckin' up agin the law an' want a free passage to safety? Well, me an' old man Fish is as thick as peas in a pod, an' the Susquehanna's at your service."
"It's not that, either."
"What in blazes is it, then?"
"Look here, George," said Woywod, "I'm about as rough as they make 'em an' there ain't no man as ever sailed with me that won't endorse that there statement, but I never done no harm to no woman an' if you've been-"
"You're on the wrong tack again, Bill," interposed Harnash, smiling. "It's a woman I love and who loves me."
"Well, I don't reckon I can help you there unless you want me to be best man at the weddin'."
That suggestion struck Harnash as intensely comical, as it well might, but he hastened to add diplomatically:
"I couldn't wish a better man if there were going to be any wedding, but-"
"Do you love a married woman?" asked Woywod, going directly to the point.
"What d'ye mean?"
"I'll explain if you'll only give me a chance," answered Harnash, and in as few words as possible he put the sailor in possession of the facts.
"So you want to get rid of the man, do you?" he asked, when the story had been told.
"Yes. I don't want him harmed. I just want him out of the way."
"And you think that I-"
"If you can't help me I don't know who can."
"Look here, George," said Woywod, earnestly. "Is this square an' above board? Are you givin' me the truth?"
"An' the gal loves you an' you love her an' she don't love this other chap which she wants to git out of marryin' him?"
"Then it's easy."
"I thought you'd find a way."
"It don't take much schemin' for that. Just p'int him out to me an' git him down on the river front some dark night where I can git a hold of him, with a few drinks in him, an' that'll be all there is to it. You won't hear from him until the Susquehanna gits to Vladivostok, an' mebbe not then."
"I don't want any harm to come to him."
"In course not. I'll use him jest as gentle as I do any man on the ship."
"And he must never know that I-"
"He won't know nothin'. When a man gits drunk enough he can't tell what happens. You might tell yer lady friend that this is a little weddin' present I'm makin' to my oldest an' best friend, that is, if you git spliced afore I gits back from Vladivostok."
"I'll surely let her know your part of the transaction. When does the Susquehanna sail?"
"Thursday morning. Tide turns at two o'clock. We'll git out about four."
"You don't touch anywhere?"
"Not a place unless we're druv to it by bad weather or some accident. But if we do git hold of a cable I'll see that he stays safe aboard, in case, which ain't likely, we're obliged to drop anchor in any civilized port."
"Have you got a wireless aboard?"
"Nary wireless. When we take our departure from Fire Island it's up to Cap'n Fish an' me an' the rest of us to bring her in."
"There's no danger?"
"Well, there's always danger in sailin' the seas, but nobody never thinks nothin' about it with a good ship, well officered, well manned an' well found. It's a damn sight safer than the streets of New York with all them automobiles runnin' on the wind an' by the wind an' across the wind an' every other way at the same time. It's as much as a man's life is worth to try to navigate a street. Never mind the danger. We've got to settle a few little details an' then the thing bein' off your mind we can have a royal good time. You ain't got anything on tonight?"
"No engagement that I can't break. If it had been tomorrow, Wednesday, it would have been different because that is the night my friend-"
"Oh, he's a friend of yourn. Why don't you tell-"
"No use, Bill; this is the only way. But because he is a friend of mine I tell you I don't want him to come to any harm or to get any bad treatment."
"If he buckles down to work an' accepts the situation he won't get no bad treatment from me."
This was perfectly honest, for in the brutal school in which he had been trained what he meted out to his men was what he had been taught was right and what he believed they indeed expected, without which indeed discipline could not be maintained and the work of the ship properly done. Harnash had some doubts as to Beekman's ability to buckle down or willingness, rather, but he had to risk something. The two friends put their heads together and the minor details were easily arranged.
"Better tell the gal it's goin' to be all right, hadn't you?" suggested Woywod.
"No," said Harnash, with a truer appreciation of the situation. "I think I'll surprise her."
"It'll be a surprise, all right," laughed the big sailor. "Well, you do your part an' I'll do mine an' if the man does his part he'll come back to find you married an' he can make the best of it. By the way, what's his name?"
"Is it necessary that I should tell you?"
"No, 'tain't necessary an' perhaps on the whole it wouldn't be best. If I don't know his name I can call him a damn liar whatever he says it is, with a clear conscience," went on the sailor blithely and guilelessly, as if conscience really mattered to him.
A BACHELOR'S DINNER AND ITS ENDING
Bachelors' dinners, masculine pre-nuptial festivities, that is, like everything else with which poor humanity deals, may roughly be divided into two kinds, which fall under the generic names of good or bad. Of course, in practice, as in life, goodness often degenerates into badness and badness is sometimes lifted into goodness. Such is the perversity of human nature even at its best that when the declaration is made that Beekman's bachelor dinner was a good one all interest in it is immediately lost! Bad is so much more attractive in literature and in life. Perhaps it may be said that while the dinner had not descended to the unbridled license which sometimes characterized such affairs, and while there were no ladies present in various stages of-shall it be said dress or undress-nevertheless, the young fellows who were present had a delightful time which if not as innocent as the festivities of Stephanie's final entertainment to her lovely attendants, was nevertheless quite what might have been expected from clean, healthy, well-bred young Americans with a reasonable amount of restraint.
The dinner was chosen with fine discrimination and epicurean taste; it was cooked by the best chef, served at the most exclusive club and accompanied by wines with which even the most captious bon vivant could not take issue. Perhaps some of the youngsters drank more than was good for them-which instantly raises the question, how much, or how little, if any, is good for a young man? They broke up at a decently early hour in the morning in much better condition than might have been expected.
Beekman was one of the most temperate of men. He took pride in his athletic prowess and he still kept himself in fine physical trim. A very occasional glass of wine usually limited his indulgence. In this instance, however, under conditions so unusual, he had partaken so much more freely than was his wont-his course being pardonable or otherwise in accordance with the viewpoint-that he was not altogether himself. This was not much more due to the plan of Harnash than to the solicitations of the other friends who found nothing so pleasant on that occasion as drinking to his health, and generally in bumpers. Indeed, not once but many times and oft around the board they pledged him and were pledged in return.
At the insistence of Harnash, Beekman had arranged to spend the night at the former's apartment in Washington Square. Harnash made the point that he was expected to look after him and produce him the next morning in the best trim, therefore he did not wish him to get out of his sight. Accordingly, Beekman had dismissed his own car and when the party broke up about two o'clock in the morning he went away with Harnash in the latter's limousine.
At somebody's suggestion-Beekman could never remember whose, whether it was his or his friend's-they stopped at several places on the way down town for further liquid refreshment of which Beekman partook liberally, Harnash sparingly or not at all. It was not difficult for an adroit man like Harnash, confronted by a rather befuddled man like Beekman, to introduce the infallible knock-out drops, with which he had been provided by Woywod, into the liquor.
As they crossed Twenty-third Street on their way down town Harnash stopped the car. His chauffeur lived on East Twenty-third Street, and Harnash dismissed him, saying he would drive the car down to his private garage back of his residence in Washington Mews himself. There was nothing unusual in this; the chauffeur subsequently testified that he had received the same thoughtful consideration from his employer on many previous occasions. When the chauffeur left the car, the drug had not yet got in its deadly work. Beekman was still all right apparently and the chauffeur subsequently testified that when Beekman bade him good-night he noticed nothing strikingly unusual. Beekman seemed to be himself, although the chauffeur could see that he was slightly under the influence of wine.
By the time the car, driven by Harnash with considerable ostentation and as much notice as possible, for he wanted to attract attention to his arrival, reached the garage, Beekman was absolutely unconscious on the floor of the tonneau, to which he had fallen. Harnash ran the car into the garage, closed the doors with a bang, and ran across the intervening court rapidly and noisily and up to his own apartments. He was ordinarily a considerate young man, and coming in at that hour he would have made as little noise as possible, but on this occasion his conduct was different. He stumbled on the stairs, banged the door behind him, fell over a chair in his room, swore audibly. People subsequently testified that they had heard him coming in and one even saw him, quite alone.
Without pausing an unnecessary moment in the room he made his exit from his apartment by means of the fire escape, and this time not a cat could have moved more silently. Fortunately, the back of the house was in deep shadow and there were no lights adjacent. The shadow of the fence also served him. He reentered the garage, having taken precaution the day before secretly to oil the doors. He dragged his unfortunate friend and companion from the limousine, stripped him of his overcoat and automobile cap, which he put on himself. The coat he had previously worn had differed in every particular from that of Beekman. He removed Beekman's watch and other jewelry and his money, of which he carried a considerable sum. These articles he stowed away in his private locker to which his chauffeur did not have a key. He could remove them to his office safe at his leisure. In Beekman's vest pocket he put a large roll of his own money-he could not steal, though abduction was his intent-and then he lifted him to the floor of his runabout which stood in the garage by the side of the limousine.
He next removed the number plates from the car, replaced them with false ones, and ran the car out of the garage by hand. Every part of it had been oiled so that its movement was absolutely noiseless. Then he shoved the car down the street, which was now deserted, until he got some distance away from the garage. The only really risky part of the enterprise was at that moment. Fortune favored him-or not, as the case may be. At any rate, no one appeared. It was after three o'clock in the morning, the street was deserted, and there was not a policeman in sight. He climbed into the car, started it, and drove off.
He proceeded cautiously at first, seeking unfrequented and narrow streets until he got far enough from the garage to change his going to suit his purpose. After a time he sought the broader streets and passed several people, mostly police officers, but them he now took no care to avoid. He drove near them so that they would notice his general build, which was that of his friend, and the clothes he wore, which were those of his friend, and indeed they testified afterward that they had seen a man dressed as and looking like Beekman, exactly as he had anticipated. He drove past them rapidly so as not to give them time for too close a scrutiny. Also he doubled on his trail often.
When he reached a dark, lonely, and unfrequented block near South Water Street he drew up before the door of a dimly lighted, forbidding looking building, the sign on which indicated that it was a sailors' boarding house. He got out of the car, taking precaution to slip on a false mustache and beard with which he had provided himself, and tapped on a door in a certain way which had been indicated to him. The door was at once opened by a burly, rough, villainous looking individual, the boarding house master, obviously a crimp of the worst class.
"What d'ye want?" he growled out, scrutinizing the newcomer by the aid of a gas jet burning inside the dirty, reeking hall, whose feeble light he supplemented by a flash from an electric torch which really revealed little, since Harnash carefully concealed his already disguised face.
"I have something for Mr. Woywod."
"The mate of the Susquehanna?"
"Well, he told me to receive an' deliver what you got."
"That was our agreement," said Harnash, the little dialogue convincing each man that no doubt was to be entertained of the other.
"Well, where's the goods?"
"In the car."
"Fetch him in."
"He's rather heavy. Perhaps you'll give me a hand."
"Oh, all right," answered the man, putting his electric torch in his pocket.
The two went to the car and the man easily picked up the unconscious Beekman and unaided carried him within the door. Harnash followed. He observed the man glanced at the numbers on the car and was glad that he had taken the precaution to change them. The crimp now dropped the unconscious Beekman in the hallway and turned to Harnash. He found the latter standing quietly, but with an automatic pistol in his hand.
"You needn't be afraid of me," said the man.
"I'm not," answered Harnash. He was ghastly pale and extremely nervous, but not from fear of the crimp. "This is just a matter of precaution."
"Well, what do I git out of this yere job?" asked the man.
"I understand Mr. Woywod will settle with you for that."
"Well, he does, but what I gits from him is the price of a foremast hand, an' 'tain't enough."
The crimp bent over Beekman, flashed the light on him, and pulled out the roll of bills, which he quickly counted.
"It's fair, but I'd ought to git more. This here's a swell job; look at them clo'es."
"They're yours also, if you wish."
"That's somethin', but-"
"It's all you'll get," said Harnash, laying his hand on the door.
The man lifted the torch. Harnash lifted the pistol.
"Just put that torch back in your pocket," he said.
"You're a cool one," laughed the man, but he obeyed the order.
"If it is learned tomorrow that this man has disappeared you'll receive through the United States mail in a plain envelope a hundred dollar bill. If not, you get nothing."
"Suppose I croak him, how'd you know anything about it?"
"Mr. Woywod has arranged to inform me, and he will also put your part of the transaction on record, so if you say a word you'll be laid by the heels and get nothing for your pains. There are a number of things against you, I'm told. The police would be most happy to get you, I know. Just bear that in mind."
The man nodded. He knew when the cards were stacked against him. After all, this did not greatly differ from an ordinary job and he was getting, for him, very well paid for his part of it.
"I got relations with Woywod an' lots of other seafarin' men. My business would be ruined if I played tricks on 'em. You can trust me to keep quiet."
"I thought so," answered Harnash. "Good-night."
He opened the door, stepped outside, closed the door behind him, and waited a moment, but the crimp made no effort to follow him. After all, it was only an every day matter with him. Harnash next drove the car down the street near one of the wharves, where he met Woywod.
"Is it all right, George?" asked the latter.
"All right, Bill. He's at the place you told me to leave him. Can you keep the crimp's mouth shut?"
"Trust me for that," said Woywod confidently. "He's mixed up in too many shady transactions to give anybody any information."
"I'll never forget what you've done for me," said Harnash. "Remember, use him well."
"No fear," laughed his friend as the two shook hands and parted.
Then Harnash drove up the street, waited until he came to a dark alley, turned into it, unobserved, got out of the car, put Beekman's coat and hat into it, donned his own overcoat and cap, which he had brought with him, and still wearing the false mustache and beard changed the numbers on the car, started it, and let it wreck itself against the nearest water hydrant.
It was a long walk up town, even to Washington Square, and he had to go very circumspectly because he did not now wish to be seen by anyone. Again fortune favored him. He gained the garage, crossed the court, mounted the fire escape to his rooms, and sank down, utterly exhausted but triumphant.
His defense was absolutely impregnable. No one could controvert his story. He rehearsed it. He had come home with Beekman after the dinner had terminated. They had had one or two drinks on the way. They had dismissed the chauffeur at Twenty-third Street. When they reached the garage Beekman, moved by some sudden whim, had insisted upon going back to his own apartment up town in Harnash's little roadster. He had been drinking, of course. He was not altogether in possession of his normal faculties, but Harnash was in the same condition and therefore he had not been too insistent. Beekman was as capable of driving the car as Harnash had just showed himself to be. There was nothing he could do to prevent Beekman from going away. He could not even remember, when he was questioned, whether he had tried it or not. At any rate, Beekman had gone away in the roadster and Harnash had gone to bed. So dwellers in the building who heard him come in testified. One who happened to go to the window even had seen him come in. No one had seen or heard him go out. Harnash swore that he had not left the apartment until the next morning.скачать книгу бесплатно