The Shanghaied Millionaire

The Shanghaied Millionaire  (1915) 
by William MacLeod Raine

Extracted from McBride's Magazine, Nov 1915, pp. 114–121. Title illustration may be omitted.


MRS. CARDIGAN cupped her chin in the palm of her hand and leaned with graceful lankness toward the host.

“Who is the young person hating us so candidly?” she asked, nodding in the direction of the fore deck.

Hilary, mindful of the mock flirtation that was always a little joke between them, came to time with a contribution. “Didn't know anybody could hate you.” His glance swept the deck and reached a full stop upon a girl standing by the rail. “By Jove, where did she come from? Looks like a Norse goddess. Sorry, but I haven't the pleasure of knowing her.”

“She'll know you again,” laughed Mrs. Cardigan with the quiet provocative insolence that distinguished her. “Looks as if she'd like to sweep us all into the sea. She must be the captain at least.”

“May be the captain's daughter. Ever see anything more spirited and untamed? I'd like to paint her just as she stands. 'The Daughter of a Viking.' Gad!”

Frona Sigmund looked the part. In her pose and bearing were the elemental vigor of the sea, the buoyant strength of a young race just coming to its place in the sun. Her hair was of a lustrous copper, thick and wavy. It fell in two thick ropes across the shoulders to the waist. Something savage gleamed from the flashing eyes that met the amused ones of Hilary so stormily. In spite of its slenderness, her young lithe body promised power in every line. Contrasted with the group of people taking tea under the awning, in whose faces was written the Twentieth Century quintessence of worldliness, this girl breathed the note of the primitive. She was what the wind and the sea and a life of freedom had made her.

Hilary guessed only vaguely the cause of her anger. It was plain that she resented their presence on board the freighter. But why? Their visit to the Santa Clara had been born of a whim, the passing fancy of one of the young women who had been his guests. His man had telephoned a caterer, and they had motored down to the wharf. Though he owned the line of which this ship was a unit, he had never before set eyes on the vessel. But surely he had a right to have an awning rigged and give a little tea on the deck of his own boat. What matter if he did delay the sailing till next tide?

It cannot be denied that Hilary was rather a spoiled favorite of fortune. Most of the good things of life had been his without effort. At college he had been popular, and ever since had been the focus of attention. It was not the fault of capable mothers that he had as yet escaped a dozen matrimonial snares. No doubt he wore, unconsciously and always amiably, the manner of a monarch of all he surveyed. He could not, for instance, understand why this young Norse beauty should boil with rage merely because he enjoyed his own.

From the viewpoint of Frona it was bad enough to interfere with the loading of the Santa Clara for such a frivolous reason as an afternoon tea. But the manner of this dapper young overlord made his offense infinitely worse. He had sent down his men to make arrangements for the affair with scarce a by-your-leave to Captain Sigmund. The caterer had taken possession of the cook's galley as a matter of course and had grumbled because it lacked conveniences. The careless apology of Hilary to her father for putting him to so much trouble had been entirely inadequate, and the cool negligence with which the women had left Captain Sigmund and his daughter out of the picture was intolerable. Did they not know that on his own deck a captain was supreme and an owner a mere nobody?

Frona crossed the deck toward the cabin, her eyes deliberately ignoring the party under the awning. Mrs. Cardigan stopped her. She held up an empty plate for the girl.

“Will you bring some more of these biscuits, steward?”

The eyes of the woman and of the girl met. Frona read in those of Mrs. Cardigan a hint of piquant amusement, of malicious audacity.

The anger of the girl had been a banked fire. Now it blazed out. She took the plate and with one sweeping gesture sent it sailing across the rail into the dirty waters of the bay.

Turning on her heel, she walked quickly away, the supple, erect figure and the little clenched fists eloquent of fury.


IT was late—or early if one counts time by the clock—when Hilary came out from his club into the crisp night air. After hours of poker in a hot room the light cool breath of wind was refreshing. He waved aside the cabman and strode down the street. His rooms made no appeal to him. Never had he felt less sleepy. And a vague but urgent impulse was drawing him from the conventional routine of his life. It was odd how the memory of a young girl's anger recurred, how her frank contempt came to him as a sort of reproach.

Some errant fancy drew his footsteps toward the waterfront through that lower part of the town beneath the dead line where the derelicts of the city floated without a rudder. A cold, damp mist had crept up from the bay and enwrapped the streets so that the lights showed like blurred moons.

He could hear the distant cough of a tug as it fussed across the bay, and as he drew near the big Transcontinental wharves the black hulk of a Japanese liner rose out of the gray fog shadow. Hilary leaned on a pile and let his imagination people the harbor with the wandering children of the earth drawn from all its seafaring corners to this Mecca of trade. Here he knew were swarthy little Japanese with teas and silks, dusky Kanakas with copra, and Alaskan miners bound for the gold fields of the North. No doubt there were brigs from Buenos Ayres and schooners that had nosed into Robert Louis Stevenson's magic islands of the South Seas. Before him in that dim fog was the romance of the nations, and deep in innocent sleep lay Frona Sigmund, a child of the Vikings, who was a part of it by inheritance from her roving ancestors.

The sound of a stealthy footfall warned him of impending danger. He whirled, to face two men advancing upon him.

“What do you want?” he asked.

At the same instant Hilary caught the gleam of a revolver and closed with the man holding it. The attack was so sudden that the surprised ruffian gave ground, tripped on a cleat in the wharf flooring, and dropped the weapon as he fell.

Though flabby from lack of exercise, Hilary had been an athlete in his school days. He gave to the footpads the best that was in him. It was not good enough to save him, but it was sufficient to earn him a terrible beating. They hammered him from one end of the wharf to the other, and after he went stumbling down they beat his bruised face till the cheeks and eyes were puffed and discolored beyond recognition. The battle ended when one of the men thumped his head down hard on a heavy iron chain and Hilary lapsed into unconsciousness.

Voices floated hazily to Hilary as if from a long distance.

“Might as well go through with it. He'll never know who shipped him,” one was saying.

“Learn him not to be a blyme fool next time he's held up.”

“He's coming to,” a third voice said.

Hilary opened his eyes. He had just time to see that he was in a small, cheap room back of a saloon when someone thrust a bottle to his lips.

“Drink this, pal,” he was ordered.

He drank obediently.

“That dope'll hold him for awhile. We'll get him right out to Bully Blair.”

This was the last that Hilary heard before he fell asleep.


WHEN Hilary awoke it was daylight. His head throbbed painfully and when he turned on his side he groaned from the discomfort of sore muscles. It took his surprised mind some moments to identify the vile hole in which he lay as the forecastle of a ship. Gradually the facts sifted back to him, the fight with the footpads and the drink in the saloon. They must, of course, have drugged his whiskey. But why? They had his money and his watch. What more did they want?

Stiffly he rose from the bunk where he lay, and came to a new surprise. He was dressed in sailor's slops, a dirty and greasy outfit that offended greatly his fastidious taste. His underwear was coarse and foul. The rough, cheap boots hurt his feet. Holes gaped in the trousers and the shirt. A self-respecting tramp would have scorned such a garb.

Evidently the ship was on the high seas, for it rolled a good deal. By a succession of tacks Hilary reached the scuttle and climbed to the deck. Under a wintry sun he clung miserably to the hatchway, acutely aware that he had never felt so wretched in his life.

The steamer was plunging forward into choppy seas. He tasted on his lips the salt tang of flying spray. The singing cordage and the creaking blocks would have told him they were driving along fast even if the heeling of the boat and the smoke pouring from the funnel had not made it plain.

A long, lank figure paced the upper deck, occasionally bellowing an order in a tremendous voice like the roar of a bull. Hilary tested his sea legs and moved toward the officer, who chewed tobacco and paid not the least attention to him.

“What ship is this?” demanded Hilary.

The man was leaning on the rail. He turned his head slowly and looked Hilary over from head to foot. His eyes gleamed wickedly, but the voice that answered was unexpectedly suave and gentle.

“This boat, sport, is the Santa Clara, Blue Funnel line, Captain Sigmund, bound for San Pedro with a cargo of fir, and from there to Valparaiso. Anything else you'd like to know?”

Hilary missed the note of irony. His mind was busy with something else.

“The Santa Clara. Then the crimps have put me on board my own boat.”

The jaw of the officer grew salient. “Crimps! Did you say crimps, son?”

“I've been shanghaied. I can tell you this, my man, I'm going to have this investigated. Someone's going to lose his job on account of it,” announced Hilary angrily.

“You don't say,” murmured the officer. Then, sharply: “And who the blue blazes are you?”

“Harrison Hilary, the owner of the line.”

The big man glared at this disreputable wharf rat. Clearly the man was just emerging from a long drunk during which he had been villainously mauled. One of his eyes were closed, his puffed lip was discolored, bruises glistened red on the white face and cuts disfigured it. Bully Blair had seen sailormen in that condition before.

“So, Mr. Harrison Hilary? Well, you hump aft and clap a hand to them sheets. Jump, you splay-footed son of a sea cook!” The mate had begun his words silkily, but the voice lifted suddenly to a raucous roar.

“Don't talk to me like that, you idiot,” began Hilary querulously.

He got no farther. The fist of the mate shot out and lifted him from his feet. Harrison Hilary, owner, landed in the scuppers.

A brisk voice cut in with a question. “What's this, Mr. Blair?”

From the wheel house had stepped a heavy-set, middle-aged man, evidently the captain. In the doorway stood a young woman.

“New hand impudent, sir. Just getting over a long jag.”

“What's he doing up here?”

The mate grinned. “Came to tell me he was the owner of the line. Said he's been shanghaied. Gave me some of his lip.”

“Send the man aft, Mr. Blair.”

“Just what I was doing, sir.”

Hilary got unsteadily to his feet. “Let me explain, Captain. You don't understand. I'm Hilary. I've been shanghaied. I——

“What's his name on the books?”

“Joe Butts. Brought on board last night still sleeping off a drunk. Guess he's got a touch of the jimmies.”

“That's a lie,” interrupted the victim.

The captain nodded ever so little to the mate, who whirled Hilary round and kicked him down the steps to the main deck. The millionaire lay there groaning. He was sick in body and mind. The world that had always accepted his will as law was quite another one from this.

Bully Blair strode to the rail and looked down. “Git a move on you, or I'll haze you till you don't know what end you're standing on.”

Hilary picked himself up, cast one appealing look toward the wheel house, and limped away. He carried away with him a picture of a girl standing in the doorway slim and erect. Was she laughing at him? He could not be quite sure.


HASRISON HILARY had known the seamy side of life only in books. All the rough corners had been padded for the heir of his father's wealth. From his birth he had been guarded against discomfort. The feet of this young prince of commerce had trod only primrose paths.

Under Bully Blair he learned lessons, hard, bitter, and humiliating. For the first time he had to stand on his own feet. At first the thing was unbelievable, but the impact of a belaying pin on the back of the head is a forceful prompter. Hilary shut his mouth and obeyed orders. He fetched and carried, said “Sir” to his superiors, ate poor fare, worked hard, and slept like a log on a mattress hard as Oregon fir. The soft flesh of his hands became torn and ragged, but his flabby muscles began to harden and develop. He stopped bemoaning his hard luck and actually found himself enjoying the experience.

Barefooted, he swabbed the forward deck one day under the direction of Frona, who took charge of him with a calm impersonal disregard of his feelings that stung.

“You've got the poorest idea of how to go to work,” she told him with candid contempt. “Lots of good that A.B. from Harvard has done you. I'm going to help Mr. Blair give you a postgraduate course free, Mr. Hilary.”

His face flushed. Sometimes she did not notice him at all, but when she did it was always for the purpose of humiliating him. One of her favorite methods was to call him Mr. Hilary in a voice of derisive irony.

“You'll find my name is Butts on the ship book, Miss Sigmund,” he corrected.

She flung a quick look at him. “I distinctly heard you say it was Hilary.”

“Lapse of memory, ma'am. Mr. Blair explained it at the time.”

“So he did. He argued it with you in his own forceful way. I hope you'll be careful how you talk back to him now.”

“Yes, ma'am. Thank you, ma'am.” Hilary touched a forelock humbly.

“If you give up your bad habits Mr. Blair will make a man of you.”

“I'm very grateful, ma'am.”

“Because you've had things easy all your life you are a softy. I suppose you were a bartender or something of that sort.”

She flung this last at him carelessly as she went aft to join her father.

Hilary grinned sardonically. She had come pretty near to putting the right tag on him. A softy! He had passed current because he had his father's millions back of him, but now that he had bumped up against Old Man Hard Luck he had to stand the acid test like other men.

His jaw clamped tighter as he watched her walking beside Captain Sigmund with the light, buoyant tread that made of her movements a sort of poetry. Her arm was tucked inside his and she was looking up into the rough, weatherbeaten face with a smile adorable and delightfully provocative. The girl's beauty was like the flush of a flame, born of the kindling of the ardent spirit within her. Hilary resolved to show her whether he had the stuff in him to stand the gaff of adversity.

It was the custom on board the Santa Clara for the ship's boy to do the washing of the captain's cabin. Soon after leaving San Pedro the boy sprained his ankle badly. Frona washed her own things and then sent for Hilary.

“Have you ever washed clothes, Mr. Hilary?” she asked.

“No, ma'am. And my name is Butts,” he corrected.

“Very well, Butts. Mr. Blair says you're not much of a seaman and he can spare you. So I'm going to teach you a new trade. Take those clothes out of the boiler and put them in that tub. Rub them clean on the washboard. Not that way, stupid. Hold your hands like this. See!”

Inside of ten minutes Hilary had rubbed the skin from his knuckles but was making progress in his new trade. Miss Frona stood over him and scoffed while she gave directions and censure. He humbly did his best, even when Blair joined the girl and asked the washerman ironically why he did not introduce a scrubbing party as a new social diversion when he got back to his friends.

Hilary shut his teeth on his annoyance and attended to business. He had a perfectly good come-back that some day would make Bully Blair sick, but this did not seem quite the time to spring it. Both Frona Sigmund and the mate were due to receive the surprise of their lives when they discovered that the filthily clothed roustabout they had hazed was after all the owner of the line.

With the arrival of Blair on the scene Frona's attitude toward the washerman sensibly changed. She had been scornful of his work and rather sharp in criticism. But evidently she felt quite able to handle him without any help from the mate.

“You're so kind, Mr. Blair,” the girl told him smoothly. “If I think he needs to be hit over the head with a handspike I'll send for you.”

A dark flush swept the face of the mate. More than once Frona had come to a disagreement with him about his methods of handling the crew. But since he was a candidate for her hand he could not afford to quarrel with her.

“I know my business, Miss Frona, and I know these wharf rats that ship on American boats. When they need a bit of roughing I'm the man to do it,” he answered sulkily.

“I'm quite sure you are, Mr. Blair.” She looked directly at him with cool steadiness. “And, as I said before, when I need your help I'll be sure to send for you.”

Frona turned her back pointedly on him and gave Hilary directions how to wash the feet of socks. Blair stood in the background glowering in sullen anger. After a minute he moved away. Presently they heard his raucous voice flinging oaths at the head of the first sailor he saw.


HILARY was scouring brasswork on the upper deck with one eye upon his task and the other upon Frona and Blair. They were moving slowly along the lower deck toward him. The mate was talking urgently in a low, angry voice and the girl was listening coldly. Neither of them saw the man above when they came to a halt just below the upper deck. Before Hilary could notify them with a little cough of his presence Blair had given the situation away.

“Why not? That's what I want to know. Ain't I good enough for you? Spit it out, if that's it.”

“I've told you a dozen times that I don't care for you, Mr. Blair. I wish you'd let me alone.”

“Look here.” He caught hold of her two wrists and gave her a little jerk towards him. “I'm the man you're going to belong to. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, girl.”

“Take your hands away. You're hurting my wrists,” she flashed angrily.

“You answer my question first. What's the matter with me? Why don't you like me?”

“Because you're a brute. Let me go, I tell you.” Her eyes blazed. She stamped passionately on the deck.

From above came an exclamation of dismay. Blair started to look up. At the same moment a bucket, half full of warm water and suds, descended bottom side up and extinguished the mate. He stamped around like a blindfolded Bull of Bashan, streams of water pouring down his clothes on all sides.

The bucket was a tight fit and it was some moments before Blair could free his head from the enveloping helmet. In that interval the eyes of Frona met those of Hilary. She did not need to ask him whether he had done it on purpose.

“Sorry, sir. Accidents will happen,” explained Hilary as the mate flung the bucket into the scuppers.

Blair took the steps three at a time. Hilary was standing at the top of the stairway. The mate struck at him as he came up. The young man flung out a forearm in defence. It caught the officer under the chin and lifted him backward to the deck below.

“You're excited, sir. Better stay down there,” suggested Hilary quietly.

Bully Blair let out a roar and rushed again. His opponent retreated, parrying his wild blows. One of the swings got home and cut open a cheek.

A wild exultation flamed up in Hilary's heart. The chance he had longed for had come. He would show Frona Sigmund whether he was a softy or not.

“Since you've got to have it, take that, Bully Blair.” Hilary lashed out straight from the shoulder with his left and sent the mate reeling back against the ship's rail.

The man hung there dazed for an instant, then charged again. The other sidestepped, but his right and afterward his left caught Blair flush as he went past. Hilary had always been a good boxer, but inside of five minutes he knew that a month before the mast had given him the stamina of a fighter, too. Though Blair was a bigger and a stronger man he took a first-class thrashing and ended by staying down the third time he was knocked from his feet.

“Had enough?” demanded Hilary.

“You'll go in irons, you damned mutineer,” flung back the beaten man.

Frona sailed past him with shining eyes. She had watched the fight with a strange excitement fluttering her pulses.

“Thank you—thank you! You did it splendidly. I take it all back—everything I've said. You're a man.”

The owner laughed as they shook hands. “If I am I've got you to thank for it.”

Their eyes held fast. Slowly the color flamed into her face. She dropped his hand and turned away.

The news of a fight spreads on the wings of the wind. Several sailors had reached the deck in time to see the close of the set-to and they had watched it with a lively interest based on arrear debts of the same nature due the mate from themselves. They were on Hilary's side to a man, but at the orders of the mate they seized the offender. For the first article of ship's discipline is obedience. Very shortly Hilary found himself in irons.

As soon as she heard of it Frona marched straight to the cabin of her father and set the case before him.

Sigmund, interrupted while writing, punched holes in the blotter with his pen point while he listened.

“Sorry, Frona, but I can't step between Blair and this man. Got to enforce obedience—absolutely essential the men should learn this. By your own story Butts struck his officer repeatedly.”

“Of course he did. Your precious mate was attacking him.”

“Then he'll have to face the music. I can't interfere. It wouldn't do.”

“If you knew who he——” Frona checked herself. “So you're going to let this man rot in the hold because he stopped a brute from insulting your daughter. Is that it?” she demanded stormily.

The captain smiled, slipped an arm around her waist, and drew her closer. “Don't slip your cable too soon, little girl. What this man Butts did for you was unofficial—it goes as an accident. I'll see he gets paid for it at the proper time. But this isn't the time. When he strikes an officer he's up against a law of the sea that always has stood and always must. He must know I can't interfere in his favor for personal reasons. If he's any kind of a man he won't expect it.”

Frona looked down at her father coldly.

“All right, dad. But I tell you now that I'm on his side. I'm a passenger on your old ship. I don't have to obey your stupid rules of the sea—and I'm not going to do it, either.”

“Then I'll have to put you in irons, too,” he laughed.

The Santa Clara steamed into the harbor of Valparaiso next day and Captain Sigmund went ashore. Blair, in charge of the ship, was making up lost sleep in his cabin. Without any compunction Frona stole from the cabin of her father the keys to the room in which Hilary was locked. Watching her opportunity, she slipped down the companionway to the hold and let herself into the prison of her defender.

“You, Miss Sigmund!” exclaimed Hilary.

In the darkness she felt herself flushing with joy at the glad note in his voice.

“Yes. I've come to free you. Father is ashore and Mr. Blair is asleep. We're in the harbor.”

The messages of love are carried swifter than words. The first thing that Hilary did when he was free was to take her in his arms. They came together by a perfectly natural impulse as men and maids will till the end of time.

“Mr. Hilary!” the conventional young woman in her felt moved to protest faintly.

“Butts—Joe Butts,” he corrected with a happy laugh.

She made confession with her face buried in his shoulder. “I've known all along that you were Mr. Hilary.”

Surprised, he held her out at arms' length. “What! You've known who I am—all the time?”

She nodded her head quickly. “From the very first. I thought that——

“—It would be for the good of my soul to learn to stand on my own legs instead of those my father built for me. Isn't that it?”

“Do you—hate me for it?” she asked in a small voice.

“Not if you've forgiven me for being a millionaire.”

“You can't help it. Why should I blame you?” She laughed, with a touch of shy audacity. “And if I don't like it, you'll give your money away, won't you?”

“Of course. But there is so much you have to forgive me, my little Viking sweetheart. That Harvard A.B., for one thing,” he reminded her.

Frona gave him another surprise. “I don't think college is such a bad place. I was graduated from one three days before we started on this voyage,” she admitted.

“You little hypocrite,” he cried delightedly.

Fifteen minutes later she reminded him demurely that if he wanted to escape he had better take advantage of the chance.

His answer is not on record, but the ship's book shows that Joe Butts was one of the crew on the return trip of the Santa Clara. Mrs. Harrison Hilary keeps that page pasted in her memory book where she can frequently see it. Her husband is very proud of it, since he says it represents the first month of honest work he ever did.

“Was the pay satisfactory?” she asks, tilting a smile at him.

Then he always kisses her.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1954, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 68 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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