The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Atlantic
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“I’m disappointed,” confessed Jack frankly. “I thought it was much larger. Why, it doesn’t look like much more than a parade ground!”
“Well, it wasn’t much of a ‘parade’ at the time of the battle, with three hundred thousand men tearing at each other’s throats for five or six hours and leaving fifty thousand dead and wounded on the field,” commented Raynor, who was well up in history.
Then they drove over the road built by Napoleon fifteen years before the battle.
“Might have been a good cavalry road, but it sure is a bone-shaker in this rig,” remarked Jack, and his companion agreed with him. They were much interested in the farm house of Hougomont, or rather its shell-battered ruins. This was the hottest point of the battle. The French assaulted it for hours, but did not succeed in taking it.
The family, who own the house, make a good living selling souvenirs to visitors.
“I’ve been told,” said Jack, with a smile, “that every fall they plant little bullets and souvenirs. The winter snow and spring rains make the crop ready to be plowed up.”
“Profitable farming,” laughed Raynor. However, the boys bought a grape shot and what purported to be an insignia from an artilleryman’s cap.
“It must have been a great battle,” said Raynor as they paid off their hack bill, the size of which made them raise their eyebrows.
“Yes, and the Belgians are still able to charge,” remarked Jack dryly.
In the railroad carriage on the way back a self-assertive Englishman was holding forth on what a great victory Wellington had achieved. “Which,” he added, turning to the boys, “was all the more creditable because he fought with raw recruits. Most of our seasoned soldiers were in your country at the time.”
“And most of them are planted there yet,” remarked Raynor.
The Englishman glared at him; but Jack smoothed things over and everything was amiable till Raynor again disrupted international peace.
“Deuced funny clothes those beggars wear,” remarked the son of Britain, gazing out at a wooden-shoed, baggy-breeched peasant.
“Oh, I don’t know. Not so much funnier than an Englishman’s,” said the American lad; after which there ensued a silence lasting till the train rolled into Brussels.
The boys thought they had never seen so many vari-colored uniforms as were on parade in Brussels. They passed a fresh one every minute.
“I guess every soldier designs his own,” said Raynor.
“Well, some of them certainly look it,” agreed Jack as a dapper little man with a bottle green uniform with yellow stripes and facings and a cap without a peak swung by.
They went to the Church of St. Gudule, an old Gothic structure on the top of a hill, which Jack wished to see. Raynor came along for company.
“I’ve seen enough ruins,” he declared.
“Well, this will be the last one,” promised Jack.
In the church they found many people at prayer, especially in front of an altar on which were hung models of arms, legs and every portion of the human anatomy, as a reminder to the saint of what part of the body needs help.
“There’s Adam and Eve,” exclaimed Raynor in low tones, motioning to the figures of the father and mother of the race carved under a fine pulpit.Some American tourists were admiring these figures at the same time as the boys.
“Oh, look!” cried one of the lady tourists. “Wasn’t that sculptor a mean thing?”
“Why?” asked her companion innocently.
“Just look! He’s put all the lions and tigers around Adam and given poor Eve nothing but peacocks, monkeys and parrots. It’s a shame!”
The boys had dinner at a side-walk caf?. They found it very amusing to watch the various types of Belgians who went strolling by, enjoying the evening air. More uniforms than ever seemed to be out. To their surprise the bill for their meal was moderate, although the caf? declared that it “Catered to the King.”
“Well, if this is all he pays for his meals I wonder what he does with the rest of his money,” was Raynor’s comment.
After dinner the boys went out to the “Kirmess,” which lasts six weeks each summer.
“Like a cheap Coney Island,” was their verdict as, not much impressed, they sought a theater. Here they found that they might as well have saved their money – almost their last – for nearly every act they saw was American.
Early the next day they had to return to Antwerp, tired out but happy from sight-seeing and conscious of exceedingly light pockets.
“Anyhow, we’ve had our money’s worth,” declared Jack.
“Yes; both in adventure and sight-seeing,” added Raynor, as they returned to the ship.
They found a warm invitation from the La Farge family awaiting them; but had to decline it, with sincere regrets, for there were minor repairs to be made on the wireless and, besides, Raynor was on duty in the fire room.
The next day the Ajax was ready for sea. She was to sail “in ballast,” that is, without cargo. Jack thought her uglier than ever as she lay at the dock with steam up, as a white plume from her scape pipe testified, and with big patches of rust on her black sides; for the work of repairing these ugly patches would not be done till a few days before she arrived in New York.
Now that she was so high out of the water, the “tanker” looked like a big black cigar with a miniature turret on either end.
“She’ll roll like a bottle going over,” the crew prophesied; a prophesy, by the way, which was to be fulfilled.
But Jack forgot all this when at last the orders to sail came from the agent’s office and, with a roaring of the whistle, the “tanker” started on the voyage home.
Raynor came up to Jack as he stood gazing down at the puffing tugs which were helping the marine monster clear.
“Glad to be going home, Jack?” he asked.
“What a question! Glad? I should say so! Of course I love my work and all that, but after all there’s no place like home, you know.”
“That’s so,” assented Raynor, “although I haven’t much of a home. Both my parents died when I was a kid, and except for a sister who lives way up New York state, I haven’t a relative in the world that I know of.”
“I am almost as badly off,” confessed Jack, and he went on to tell Raynor about his home life.
“What a jolly way to live,” cried the young engineer, “on a flower-garden schooner! That’s the greatest ever!”
“I didn’t think so all the time, I can assure you,” said Jack with a laugh, “but I guess the wireless I rigged up there made me think of this way of life.”
The ship was in the stream by this time and it was Raynor’s turn on watch. As he dived below, he took occasion to turn and grin at Jack.
“We ought to make a good run home,” said he.
“How is that?” asked Jack innocently.
“Oh, maybe a certain young lady has hold of the tow rope,” and, before Jack could reply, he had dived below.
The Ajax made the run through the Channel and out on to the broad Atlantic without incident. Coming through the Channel, they encountered fog and some bad weather, but on the whole the skipper was pleased with the conditions and the ship’s behavior.
They had been two days on the ocean and a fairly high sea was running one night, when Jack, who was seated in the wireless room, where he had been exchanging information and wireless small-talk with half a dozen other operators, noticed a sudden bustle on the deck outside.
A grimy fireman had run forward from the fire-room companionway and then the captain had hastened aft. He went to the door and looked out. He was just in time to see several men carrying up a limp form from the engine-room and taking it into the captain’s cabin.
“An accident!” exclaimed the boy. “Somebody hurt! I wonder who it can be?”
He hailed a passing fireman who was coming off watch and going forward.
“What has happened below?” he asked.
“An accident. Someone hurt.”
“Do you know who it is?”
The fireman shook his head.
“I was just coming off watch and didn’t stop to inquire.”
He made off and then Jack saw the captain hasten past and come hurrying back with his surgical case. Jack would have asked him, if he had dared. As it was, he buttonholed another grimy stoker on his way to the forecastle and put his question again.
“Sure I know,” was the reply, “one of the engineers hurt.”
“Who was it?”
“The third. Name’s Raynor, I guess.” And the man hurried on, leaving Jack standing there aghast.
SURGERY BY WIRELESS
While he still stood there, the captain emerged from his cabin and, to Jack’s surprise, came up to him.
“Know anything about surgery, Ready?” he asked.
“Why, no, sir. I heard there had been an accident. My friend Raynor. Is he badly injured, sir?”
The question was put with painful eagerness.
“Not necessarily, my lad. His arm was crushed in a shaft while he was oiling it. The deuce of it is, we’ve no doctor on board and I don’t know how to care for it. I may have to amputate it. I did that once on a sailing ship; and in that case, I’ll need assistants. That is why I asked you if you knew anything of surgery.”
“You’ll have to amputate it? Oh, sir! Poor Raynor!”
“I don’t want to do it if I can help it, but I don’t want to run the risk of blood poisoning. If only we had a doctor! It would go to my heart to deprive the boy of an arm, but what am I to do?”
Never had the captain seemed so human, so sympathetic to the young wireless man. He looked genuinely distressed.
“They ought to compel every ship to carry a doctor,” he said. “Accidents are always happening, and – strike my topsails! What’s the matter with the boy?”
For Jack’s eyes had suddenly begun to dance. He gave a sudden caper and snapped his fingers.
“I’ve got it, sir! I’ve got it!” he cried.
“What, in the name of Neptune? St. Vitus’s dance?”
“No, sir. A doctor. I can get you a doctor, sir.”
“Have you suddenly gone mad?” demanded the captain. “We’re a thousand miles out at sea.”
“I can get one by wireless, sir.”
“What do you mean?”
“All the big liners carry doctors, sir. I was in communication with one only a few minutes ago. The Parisian of the Ocean Line.”
“Where is she?”
“About three hundred miles to the west of us on the Atlantic track, sir.”
“Three hundred miles away! Then how can we get a doctor from her?”
“Very simply, sir, I think, as you say it may not be necessary to amputate. Have Raynor brought in here and laid on my cot. I’ll raise the Parisian and get her doctor on the wire. Then I can flash a full description of the case and the doctor can flash back to us, through the Parisian’s operator, full directions how to proceed!”
“Jove, boy! You have got a head on your shoulders, after all. It sounds extraordinary, but why shouldn’t it be done?”
“It is worth trying, anyhow, sir,” said Jack, his face radiant at the idea that he might be the means of saving his poor chum’s arm. The captain hastened off to give the necessary orders, while Jack raised the Parisian once more.
In crisp, flashing sentences he sent, volleying through the air, an explanation of the case. By the time poor Raynor, white and unconscious, was carried to the bunk and laid out there, while the open-eyed sailors looked on, the Parisian’s doctor was standing by the side of the liner’s operator listening gravely to the symptoms of the case as they came pulsing through space.
The captain, with bandages, instruments, antiseptics and so forth, sat by Raynor’s side, anxiously awaiting Jack’s first bulletin.
“Anything coming yet?” he asked more than once as Jack sat alert, waiting for the first word from the doctor who was to treat a surgical case across three hundred miles of ocean.
The silence was tense and taut, and broken only by the heavy breathing of the injured engineer.
“What is the man doing?” said the captain impatiently at length.
“It takes even shore doctors time to give a correct diagnosis in some cases, sir,” ventured Jack gravely. “I suppose he is considering the conditions.”
“Absent treatment at three hundred miles,” muttered the captain. “Ready, I begin to believe that this is a crack-brained bit of business, after all.”
“Wait a minute,” warned Jack, holding up his hand to command attention, “here is something coming now!”
His pencil flew over the pad and then stopped while he flashed back:
“Thanks, that’s all for now. I’ll cut in again when we are ready for the next step.”
He turned to the captain and read slowly from his pad the doctor’s directions for treating the injury.
“He says that, from your description, there are no bones broken. The arm is merely crushed,” said the boy; and then, bit by bit, he read off the far-distant surgeon’s directions for treating the injured member. As he read, the captain and his assistant amateur surgeons plied dressings and antiseptics with diligent care.
At last the doctor of the Parisian said that he had no more advice to give that night, but flashed a prescription for a soothing draught to be compounded from the ship’s medicine chest.
By midnight the patient was sleeping peacefully without any symptoms of fever, and Jack cut off communication with the distant liner after promising to “call up the doctor in the morning.”
“YOU SAVED MY ARM.”
It was two days later. Young Raynor, his injured arm in a sling, sat on the edge of Jack’s bunk. They had passed out of range of the Parisian, but, thanks to Jack’s quick wit, the crushed arm was getting along well, and the “wireless doctor” had left instructions for the treatment of the case as it progressed.
“Jack, old fellow, you saved this flipper for me, all right, with those Hertzian waves of yours,” said Raynor, “and you know just how I feel about it. But how in the world did you ever come to think of such a stunt?”
“I can’t claim that it was very original,” was Jack’s rejoinder; “in fact, it has been done two or three times before on freight ships that carry no doctors.”
“Tell us about it,” urged the invalid.
“Well,” was the answer, “one case I heard about occurred on board the S. S. Parismina, while she was crossing the Gulf of Mexico. A sudden call came to her from a small island out of the path of regular ships called Suma. A small colony lived there like so many Robinson Crusoes, mining phosphates.
“A tramp steamer happened along once in a while, and they could sail to the mainland, but those were their only links with civilization. To carry the phosphates from the mines to the coast, they had a narrow gauge railway. One day this railway cut up didoes; a train ran away and crushed a workman’s foot.
“Luckily, the island had a wireless station with a powerful equipment. There was no doctor and the man was so badly injured that it was feared he would die before they could get one. Well, what did the bright young wireless man do but get busy and start sending out calls broadcast for a doctor.
“At last the Parismina picked up his message, and Dr. C. S. Carter of the ship volunteered his services. The Parismina was then just two hundred miles away from the island. The doctor transferred his office to the liner’s wireless room and took the patient’s pulse and temperature, via the air line. Then he told them just how to prepare a strong antiseptic and how to fix up the broken ligaments.
“The wireless treatment was kept up till the Parismina was four hundred and twenty miles away, when the doctor was able to dismiss the case.”
“Some class to that,” said Raynor admiringly. “Do you know any more like that?”
“Yes, there is one other I can recall, so you see that I can’t claim the credit for any originality in the idea.”
“Tell us about that other one,” urged Raynor.
Jack paused a moment to adjust his instruments and send a message to another ship, giving their position and the weather. Then he shut off the connection and turned to his chum.
“This other one, as you call it, occurred on the freighter Herman Frasch, while she was well out at sea. Captain McGray of the ship was seized with a bad attack of ptomaine poisoning. He grew worse, although they did all they could for him with the help of the ship’s medicine chest and the book of directions that goes with it.
“The ship was out in the Atlantic off the Florida coast. The captain suddenly thought of a plan by which his case might be treated intelligently. He knew there was a government station at Dry Tortugas, Florida, one hundred miles off. He ordered a despatch sent there.
“As it so chanced, the despatch was not picked up by the government station, but by the operator of the Ward Liner Merida, which was just leaving Progresso, Yucatan.
“‘Doc!’ he exclaimed, rushing into the cabin of the Merida’s doctor, ‘there’s a man awful sick with ptomaine poisoning.’
“The doctor lost no time in grabbing up his medicine case.
“‘Where is he, my man? What stateroom?’ he asked. ‘I don’t want to lose any time on such a case.’
“‘Well, he’s about eight hundred miles to the west of us, Doc,’ said the operator dryly, ‘but here is the diagnosis,’ and he handed the doctor a long aerogram.
“The doctor whistled.
“‘Pretty bad,’ said he, ‘temperature 104, nausea, rash on face and neck.’ Then he added quickly, ‘Give me an aerogram blank quickly.’
“He wrote out a prescription and a few minutes later it was being flashed across the sea to the Frasch. The medicine was prepared, and not long after the wireless reported that the captain was ‘Resting easily.’
“The following morning the captain’s temperature was sent and he was reported ‘a little better.’ The prescription was changed and the captain improved rapidly. By this time a number of other ships had picked up the messages, and the stricken skipper might have had a consultation of physicians if his case had demanded it.
“So you see I did nothing very wonderful,” concluded Jack with a smile, turning once more to his key.
“You saved my arm,” insisted Raynor stoutly, and then he left Jack to his work and hastened off to the chief engineer’s cabin to ascertain how soon he could be taken off the sick list.
A RIOT ON THE DOCKS
In due time the voyage ended at the port of New York. The Ajax would not be ready for sea again for two weeks to come, and in the meantime her crew was paid off, Jack among them.
Raynor, after promising to call on the young wireless man on board the Venus as soon as he returned from a flying visit to his sister, shook hands warmly with his young chum. He proffered his left hand, though, for his injured arm was not entirely mended even then.
Uncle Toby received his young nephew with characteristic demonstrations of delight. He inquired if he had had occasion to use anything from the voluminous chest of medicines that the drug-compounding uncle had given to the boy. Jack had not the heart to tell the anxious old man that the contents of most of the bottles had gone overboard, although he had given some of them to a stout old quartermaster, who was as fond of dosing himself as are most sailors. The patient had drunk off the embrocations and rubbed in the internal remedies and declared himself much benefited; so that Jack could, without stretching the truth, tell his uncle that his remedies had accomplished a lot of good on the Ajax.
“I knew it! I knew it!” declared the old man, rubbing his hands delightedly. “They were never known to fail. I’ll give you another boxful when you are ready for sea again.”
“I’ve plenty left of the old lot, uncle,” declared Jack.
“Nothing like being well provided, though, my hearty,” said his uncle. “I’d hate to think of you being sick, away out at sea, without some of the ‘Universal Tonic and Pain Eradicator’ handy.”
The night after his return Jack bethought himself of some bits of apparatus he had left in his cabin on the Ajax. He decided to go over to her dock and get them. It would not take long and he was anxious to conduct some experiments with a view to the betterment of his “wireless alarm,” which had not worked quite satisfactorily.
The Ajax was not berthed in the Erie Basin, there being temporarily no room for her there, but lay at one of the Titan Line’s wharves in New York City.
The dock was on West Street, and it was not a long trip across the Brooklyn Bridge to where she lay.
“I’ll be back in an hour or so,” he told his uncle as he left.
“All right, my hearty,” said the old salt, engrossed in the composition of an invaluable malarial remedy for a captain bound for the South American coast.
When Jack reached the ship the evening had turned from a cloudy, dull twilight into a damp, disagreeable drizzle. A heavy Scotch mist filled the air and the big electric lights on the pier shone through the haze like blobs of pale yellow.
At the head of the gangplank was an old ship’s watchman who readily passed him on board on his explaining his business. Jack was surprised to see that there were several vague figures flitting about the elevated after-structure of the “tanker.”
“I thought all hands were ashore,” he said.
“No; there’s the fireman and an engineer left on board,” said the watchman. “They mean to keep up steam till it’s time to berth her over in the Basin, I guess.”
Jack’s mission took him longer than he had thought it would. He decided not to go home to supper, but to take it at any nearby restaurant and then come back to search for what he wanted later.
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