By the World Forgot: A Double Romance of the East and Westскачать книгу бесплатно
Beekman never moved. The men came crowding around.
"By sea law," said Templin, "he's got a right to see the master of the ship, an' we proposes to see that he gits that right."
"You mutinous dogs," cried Woywod, confronting them.
But they were not overawed, and they did not give back.
"Come along," he said to Beekman, "an' you'll be sorry you ever done it."
Without looking behind him, he sprang up the ladder and, followed closely by Beekman, he went aft, descended the companionway, and found Captain Fish seated at the cabin table, on which a huge joint of cold meat and bread were spread out, with some bottles and glasses to bear them company. The captain was not alone. The steward, a Spanish half-caste, named Manuel, had just brought in a steaming pot of coffee from the galley.
"Well, Mr. Woywod," began Fish, "what about that infernal lubber that caused the loss of the mainto'gall'nt mast?"
"Smith, here, has come aft demandin' to see you an' p'r'aps he'll tell you. Will you see him?"
"What is it, Smith?" said the captain, sharply.
"Seaman Wramm," began Beekman, "is probably dying. I'm not a doctor, but so near as I can make out he has a fractured skull; his jaw is certainly broken and he is covered with bruises."
"How came he in that condition?" asked the captain.
"That murdering blackguard yonder struck him over the head with a belaying pin, kicked him when he was down and-"
"By God!" cried Woywod, springing forward, "you dare refer to me in that way?"
"Steady, Mr. Woywod," said Fish, his eyes gleaming. "I know how to deal with this man. Are you aware-you pretend to be a gentleman of education-that your language is in the highest degree mutinous, that I can have you put in double irons, and-"
"Am I to stand by and see a poor, helpless, dull-witted man, who has been hazed to death every day of this cruise by your blackguardly assessors, beaten to death, killed without a word?"
"You'd better look out for yourself rather than for him."
"I don't care what becomes of me. I've had just about enough of it. If that man dies, I'm going to bring a charge of murder against this bullying scoundrel, and if you don't put him in irons I'll bring it against you, too."
Beekman was beside himself with wrath. His temper was gone. His control had vanished in thin air. The cumulative repression of three months had been lost. He stepped forward, shaking his fist in the captain's face.
"Manuel," said the captain, "tell Mr. Salver to send a couple of men down here. Tell him to have the bo's'n fetch me some double irons." Fish was white with wrath. "Do you think I'll allow any wharf rat like you to talk like that to me on my own ship? I've no doubt but that thick-headed Dutchman will recover, but whether he does or not I'll deal with him. You'll prefer charges against me, will you? By God, you can count yourself lucky if you're not swinging at a yardarm tomorrow.
For two cents I'd run you up now."
"With your permission, cap'n," began Woywod. "Keep fast, Manuel, I can handle him alone. I've been itchin' fer this chance ever since he came aboard. Now, Smith," he laughed, evilly, "I've got you. I knew you couldn't keep your temper."
Woywod stepped toward him. Beekman did not give back an inch.
"If you lay a hand on me," he shouted, "if I have to die for it the next minute, I'll-"
But Woywod, who did not give him a chance to finish the sentence, with fist upraised leaped forward. Beekman hit him. It was a much more powerful blow than the first he had delivered to the mate on the day that he waked up and found himself shanghaied. Three months of hard work and clean living and plain food had made a different man of him. Woywod was lucky. He partly parried the blow, but it struck him full on the chest and drove him smashing back against the bulkhead by the side of Manuel. The frightened steward hauled him to his feet.
The captain had arisen and was bawling for the officer of the watch. He was oblivious to the fact that one of the men was peering down into the cabin over the combing of the skylight. There was a trample of feet on the deck above. Salver himself appeared on the companion ladder, but Woywod had got to his feet. He was black with rage, mad with passion. He reached into the side pocket of his short peajacket and drew forth a heavy revolver.
"You're witnesses that he struck me," he cried, as he raised the weapon, but again Beekman was too quick for him.
A big, broad-bladed carving knife was lying by the side of a piece of salt beef on the table. Beekman clutched it, and as Woywod pulled the trigger, he leaped forward and buried it to the hilt in the mate's breast.
THE MYSTERY OF THE LAST WORDS
So powerful was the stroke, so deep and inveterate the hate that nerved the arm, that the sharp knife was driven clear to the handle into Woywod's breast. The big mate threw up his arms. He staggered back. The pistol went off harmlessly and dropped on the table. Then the huge hulk of the stricken man collapsed on the deck. Quick as a flash Captain Fish leaned over and seized the weapon.
"Make a move an' you're a dead man," he roared, covering Beekman. "Mr. Salver, I'll keep Smith covered with this pistol until you get the double irons on him. Log a charge of mutiny an' murder against him. If he resists, you can go to any length to subdue him. I wouldn't like him killed aboard ship, however. I'd rather see him hanged ashore."
Salver grabbed Beekman by the shoulder.
"You, Manuel, go to his assistance," said Fish, still keeping him covered. "You infernal coward," he added to the steward, who was as white as death and trembling like a weather brace in a heavy wind; "he can't do you no harm. If he moves I'll put a bullet through him."
But Beekman had no desire to do any one any harm. The blow that had let life out of Woywod had let the passion out of Beekman. He stood staring and bending over, he caught the man's last broken words.
"Done-for-Tell Harnash-I-" and then silence.
Captain Fish came around the table as soon as Mr. Salver had got a firm grip on one of Beekman's arms and the steward had gingerly taken the other. Shoving the pistol close into Beekman's ribs, he ordered the three men on deck. A passing glance at Woywod told the captain that his mate was dead. He could attend to him later. Beekman must be secured first.
The boatswain had been awakened, and, according to orders, he now came aft with the irons. Beekman was handcuffed and irons were put on his ankles. He was searched rapidly. His sailor's sheath knife was taken from him and then-
"Where'll we stow him, sir?" asked Mr. Salver.
There was no "brig," as a prison is called on a man-o'-war, on the Susquehanna. Forward a little room had been partitioned off on one side of the ship abaft the forecastle for the boatswain. On the opposite side there was another similar cabin occupied by the carpenter and sailmaker. The captain thought a moment.
"Mr. Gersey," he said, at last, "you'll come aft to take the second mate's watch. Mr. Salver will act as the mate. Clear your belongings out of your cabin. We'll stow him there for the present. Take a couple of men to help you shift aft, an' be quick about it. When he's safely locked in bring me the key. There's been mutiny an' murder aboard my ship," he continued, loudly, for the benefit of the watch. "This dog has put a knife in Mr. Woywod's heart. Not a thing was bein' done to him. We were jest reasonin' with him, treatin' him kind, as we do every man on this ship. Manuel, here, can swear to that, can't you?"
"Yes, sir, of course, sir," cringed the steward, who was completely under the domination of the brutal ship-master.
"I'll prepare a proper statement and enter it in the log, to be signed by the steward and myself, in case anything should happen to us," he continued.
"What'll I do with this man, sir, while we're waitin' for Mr. Gersey to git his cabin cleaned out?" asked Salver.
"Lash him to the bridge yonder. I'll keep my eyes on him until you git him safe in the bo's'n's cabin. See that the door is locked yourself personally, and bring me the key. Understand?"
"We don't dare to take no chances with such a desperate murderer."
"No, sir; of course not."
"Men," shouted the captain, "you heard what's been said?"
"We did, sir; an' we seen it all from the beginnin'," answered a voice out of the darkness, a voice full of ugly threat and menace, which the captain did not recognize and thought best to pass unnoticed.
"Poor Mr. Woywod's been killed, you understand. Mr. Salver will take his place as mate of the ship. Mr. Gersey will come aft as second mate, to be obeyed and respected accordin'."
"Damn good riddance," yelled another voice out of the darkness, carefully disguised.
This was too much. He could not overlook a remark of this kind, and yet in the black night there was little he could do, since the speaker was unrecognizable.
"Who said that?" blustered the captain, handling his pistol and peering forward.
There was no answer, of course.
"If the man who made that remark dares to repeat it in daylight, I'll cut his heart out. An' if I hear any more such talk, I'll let fly at the bunch of you as it is. Get for'ard an' to your stations."
The unknown commentator had obviously expressed the prevalent opinion aboard the ship on the death of Mr. Woywod. There was nothing else to be said or done then. The captain's orders were carried out as a matter of course. The excited men dispersed without comment, but with a feeling that all the honors were with them. The boatswain came aft, having stripped his cabin. The prisoner was finally locked therein and left to himself. Bread and water were handed to him sufficient to keep life in him and not much else. The ship was hove to and Woywod was buried the next morning with due ceremony, the captain himself reading the service, the whole crew being mustered in due form, but never a man was shot down into the vasty deep with less of the spirit of prayer and forgiveness following him than the mate who had met his just deserts, if the looks of the crew, to which the captain was perforce oblivious, gave any indication of their feelings.
Beekman's reflections could easily be imagined. To his dying day he would never forget the surprised, puzzled look on the mate's face, the change of his countenance from mad passion to astonishment, from that amazement to pain, to horror, to deadly fear! He would never forget the convulsive struggle of the man on the deck at his feet, the white bone handle of the knife sticking out of his breast and shining in the light of the big hanging lamp against his blue shirt. There was a human life on his hands, calloused and hardened as they were. There was blood upon them. Had the blood been shed righteously? Had he been well advised to give way to his passion? Had the fact that he had gone there in behalf of another, a helpless weakling, dying himself from the ruthless treatment meted out to him, entitled him to take the mate's life? Would the mate have shot him with that pistol? Was it self-defense? Had that only been back of his blow and his thrust?
Beekman had to admit that he hated the mate; that he had lusted to kill him. He realized in the flash of time that had intervened between the blow and the thrust that he had been glad of the excuse. Was he a murderer in the eyes of the law, in his own consciousness, in his heart? He had killed the mate, but the mate had beaten him in the long struggle between them. He had sworn that the latter should not provoke him, but he had done so and now he was in peril of his life, grave peril. The presumption of guilt is always against the sailor in charges of mutiny. It would require the strongest evidence to establish his innocence. He knew of no witnesses, save the captain and the steward. The steward was one man on the ship whom he had not won. Indeed, having most of his relations aft and living there in a bunk off his pantry, the steward was hated by the men. He was a tale-bearer and a sneak. He had to live aft for his own protection. He was purely a creature of the captain's. He would swear to anything the captain dictated. Beekman knew that, of course.
Before he had been bound to the ladder of the bridge Beekman had heard what the captain had said. The crew, of course, could testify as to Woywod's character, but he knew enough of sailors to realize they would scatter as soon as they could get away from the ship. He could scarcely depend upon them. There was old Gersey, but what could he do? What could he hope from the Russian authorities at Vladisvostok? The captain would be hand and glove with them, naturally. Things looked black for Beekman.
After a time, reviewing again all the scenes of the dreadful drama his mind reverted to those final words of Woywod's. He remembered them perfectly. They were etched upon his brain.
"Done for. Tell Harnash I-"
He repeated those words. The first two were clear. But the last three-
"Tell Harnash I-"
Tell Harnash what? Why tell Harnash anything? What did he have to do with the present situation? Harnash was his friend. Harnash had arranged his bachelor dinner. Harnash had jokingly plied him with wine, but so had the others. Beekman was an abstemious, temperate chap. He drank occasionally, in a moderate way, but never to excess. It was Harnash who had taken the lead in urging him. He had gone out from that dinner in the small hours of the morning with Harnash, and the last person he remembered was Harnash. Could Harnash have-
Good God, no! It was impossible. It could not be. Such treachery, such criminality was unthinkable by a loyal man like Beekman. There was no motive for it. The business affairs of the firm were prosperous. At his partner's insistence an expert had gone over the books on his return from Hawaii. There was not a thing wrong. He would have trusted Harnash with everything he owned, and with right. He could not have wanted to get him out of the way, unless-
Why had Harnash looked so haggard and miserable? Why had Stephanie presented the same countenance? Could those two– He would not think it. Yet what could Woywod have meant?
Suddenly Beekman remembered that he had heard Harnash had a sailor friend, who at infrequent intervals was accustomed to visit him. There had been some reference to it. Beekman had never heard the man's name, and he never chanced to have met him. Woywod had never referred to Harnash in Beekman's hearing on that cruise until those faltered words as he died. Could it be Woywod? It must. Was it merely chance that Beekman had fallen into the hands of Harnash's friend on the very night before his wedding, when his last companion had been Harnash himself? Now, Beekman was an intensely loyal man and he resolutely put these suspicions out of his mind, but they would not stay out. Why should Woywod stare up at him with fast closing eyes as he spoke? Did Woywod know who Beekman was? Were those muttered words an admission? By heaven, could it be that Harnash was in love with Stephanie and she with him?
When Beekman asked himself that question he began to go over the times in which he had seen the two together. Little things, unnoticed and unmarked before now, grew strangely significant. Beekman loathed himself for entertaining the suspicions. It was not possible, yet– Could Stephanie herself be a party to it? That, too, was unthinkable. So it was that Harnash– Yet those words! Well, if he could get out of this horrible situation now, so much worse than it had been, he certainly would tell Harnash and Harnash should tell him. Meanwhile, there was added to his horror and regret the fact that Woywod was dead and that he had killed him.
A strange and terrible reality, that, to this sometime dilettante in life.
THE TRIANGLE BECOMES A QUADRILATERAL
Perhaps no one ever realizes so completely the immensity of the world and the littleness of man as he who is alone on the face of the waters. The deep becomes indeed vasty when seen from a small boat in the center of an unbroken horizon. It is a question whether the loneliness of the desert is greater than the loneliness of the sea. Perhaps it depends upon the thinker and his temperament. There is, of course, life in the sea in that it is usually quick, in motion, and there is sound that accompanies it.
The desert is still, but in the desert you can get somewhere. You know that beyond the horizon is some place. Not even the flattest land but suggests change as it is traversed. Somewhere within reaching distance hills rise, mountains lift themselves in the air, oases beckon attractively. In the sea you may go for days and days and days, each day like the other, and still find only the waste of waters and the unbroken horizon.
Beekman had sailed every one of the seven seas, but in some luxurious yacht or some mighty ocean liner. This was the first time in his life he had ever been alone in a small boat. Even the Susquehanna had long since faded out of his view. The lights from her stern windows had been lost during the night, and when day broke, although he eagerly searched the northwest, there was no sign of her. Not even when he rose high on some uptossed wave could he catch a glimpse of a to'gall'nts'l or a royal against the blue line of the horizon.
He was glad and he was sorry to be alone. The gladness manifested itself presently, but at first he was overwhelmed by the sense of loneliness. The crew of the Susquehannahad not mutinied openly, but they had taken matters in their own hands and had done the best they could for the man who had relieved them, whether righteously or unrighteously they did not stop to speculate, from a tyranny that had become unsupportable; because, in his animosity to Beekman, Woywod had been harder than ever before on the rest.
They had deliberately, if surreptitiously, provisioned the whaleboat which hung from the davits astern. They had filled her water breakers, had added a compass, had overhauled her mast and sail, had thrown in a couple of blankets, a tarpaulin, an axe and some tools and whatever else they could come at, including a little bag of silver dollars from their own scanty store, which might prove valuable in the end. They had done this very quietly in the darkness, under the leadership of Templin on the night following the death of the mate.
They had chosen Mr. Gersey's watch for their operations and he had been conveniently blind. Possessing themselves of the carpenter's tools, they had bored holes around the lock of the boatswain's room and had freed Beekman. With cold chisels and hammers they had struck the fetters from his wrists and ankles, grievously cutting him and bruising him in the process.
"Mr. Gersey told us," said Templin to the astonished prisoner, "that he heard the old man an' Salver plottin' the ship's position at noon today. There are islands with white people on 'em about a hundred leagues to the west'ard. The course'll be about sou'west-by-west. We've pervisioned the whaleboat. She's unsinkable, with her airtight tanks for'ard an' aft an' a good sailer. I follered you aft, pertendin' to overhaul the gear on the mizzen mast last night. Through the skylight I seen the mate threatenin' you with a pistol in the cabin. We all believes you done perfectly right. Wramm's dead. Died tonight, without never regainin' consciousness. Woywod was a murderer, if ever there was one, an' he got his jest desarts. We don't want to mutiny an' git hung for it. Some of us has families. But we don't mean you to suffer. The only way to save you is to git you out of the ship afore we lands at Vladivostok. It seemed to us that a good sailor like you could easily make them islands, an' then you can shift for yourself. It's a big world. They'll never find you again. Here," he added, "is a little bag o' dollars." He passed a bulging little bag into the hands of the astonished Beekman. "'Tain't much, but it's all we got. I guess that's all."
"But I don't want to leave the ship."
"You'll be hung at the end of the v'yage if you don't," said Templin, inexorably. "Them Russians ain't more'n half civilized, anyway, an' they'll do pretty much as the cap'n says. This is your only chance."
"Does Gersey know?"
"Of course. He's the one that made the whole plan, only the officers ain't to know that."
"You don't expect to be able to lower that boat and cast it adrift without attracting attention, do you?"
"In course not, but it's a dark night an' we're goin' to git you down an' afloat, whatever happens."
"But the captain will immediately come after me."
"He can't brace the yards hisself an' work the ship alone with only Salver an' the bo's'n, can he?"
"I see, but I don't want to get you in trouble."
"Every man on the ship 'ceptin' the steward is with you, an' we're simply not goin' to let him hang you."
"Templin, I want you to remember two names and an address."
"What are they?"
"Harnash and Beekman, 33 Broadway, New York."
"That's easy," said Templin, repeating the words. "Why?"скачать книгу бесплатно