The Yellow Schooner

GARRITY looked sheepish when he came to the bridge. He had been excited, carried away by the fight and the rush of events; also he had talked more than a little with that wife of his, Marie. When Boris Kryalpin and the others had been put into a boat and sent adrift, Garrity had been aflame with reckless enthusiasm, thinking naught of disobeying Venable. But now he had cooled down appreciably, and he began to understand that by parting with Jason, the Kum Chao had been turned into a blinded, brute thing.

“We shouldn’t ha’ done it,” he said, miserable before Venable’s lack of reproach. “I’m sorry, Parson—but I didn’t think. Say! Turn about, now, and be headin’ back! We could pick up them birds.”

Venable shook his head and pointed to the chart.

“We know exactly where we are, Garrity; Jason has kept everything shipshape, and we’ve been moving at a steady speed. As it is now, we can at least try to make some port where we can pick up a navigator. If we began to quarter the ocean, we would very likely fail to pick up the boat, and then we’d be miles off our course and helpless.”

Garrity nodded. He was nothing of a seaman himself—little more of one than was Venable, in fact—else he would have realized the sheer folly of not trying to pick up the boat. To him, as to Venable, the horizon looked terribly wide, and the compass was confusing.

“Then go ahead, and the saints be kind to us!” he said at length. “Where’ll we head for now?”

They went to the chart-table. Their last noted position was 132 E. by 29 N., and since the previous day they had held almost a straight course.

“Thank the Lord! ” said Garrity fervently. “We’ve been hittin’ nine and a half steady; you can work out where we are, easy enough, makin’ allowance for the sea we been buckin’. Take the log now—it’s one of them patent things—and average her up with this mornin’s reading. What’s that you’re pointin’ at?”

Venable’s finger had passed down the outflung string of the Ladrones, to come to rest at their southernmost tip.

“Guam!” he answered. “United States soil, Garrity—and all the help we want!”

“Ah! That’s better,” said Garrity briskly. “And not so far neither—a matter o’ three hundred miles.”

“Six hundred,” corrected Venable. “It’s a mere dot in the ocean.”

“Go to it!” retorted the engineer. “Go ahead, man—ye’re bound to be hittin’ something from the looks o’ that chart! If not Guam, then ye can get directions. Divil and all, I could sail a ship meself with charts like them, and islands all around to ask your way from! We’ll do fine, Parson; so go ahead and don’t be botherin’ Mrs. Ivanoff about it.”

VENABLE shrugged his shoulders. “Very well. But when you go down, see if anyone on board knows anything about navigation. It would help a lot.”

“I’ve already asked, with no luck,” and Garrity grinned. “It’s in your hands, me lad, and more power to ye! By the way, have ye observed Marie at all?”

“Your wife?”

“Well, the one I married—yes. It’s a wonderful woman she is, Parson; upon me word, ’twould amaze ye to talk with her a bit! And do ye know, she’s done with all that socialist stuff—poor girl, she’s had a hell of a time with them Bullsheviks and all! They all come to it, Parson—that is, if they got any real gumption, like she’s got. They all quit it and come back to earth.”

Venable regarded him, smiling queerly.

“So!” he said. Under his look, reading the thought in his eyes, Garrity flushed bright red. “So! It would be a strange thing, now—wouldn’t it?—if you two were—”

“Aw, hell!” uttered Garrity. “You ’tend to them charts, Parson! So long.”

The engineer fled hastily. Still smiling, Venable turned to his work, and fell sober. The immensity of sea and sky, the utter futility of all his knowledge, the appalling density of the coral reefs dotted on the chart, brought him to a grave doubt of himself and his task. He was afraid.

“Li John!” At his word, the Quartermaster turned to him. “Pick out the best men from each watch for the lookouts, and warn them to sing out at the first sign of reefs or islands. You will take charge of the ship when I’m off watch, and call me when you sight anything. You under stand?”

“My savvy plenty fine, sah,” answered the yellow man.

Venable went out on the bridge. As he stood there, gazing ahead, he saw Mrs. Ivanoff and Marie walk out on the fore-deck, talking together. Mrs. Ivanoff looked up at him and beckoned. Venable descended the ladder and joined them. He was more than glad to see that between them lay friendliness; both women were smiling as he came up.

“We were just speaking of you,” said Mrs. Ivanoff brightly. “I was telling Marie about the package wrapped in burlap that I gave you.”

“Oh!” Venable’s brows lifted. He was slightly perplexed. “Yes, of course. You want it back again?”

“If you please,” answered Mrs. Ivanoff, and laughed. “You see, all Marie’s jewels were in that package.”

Venable whistled in astonishment. Before his amazement both women smiled again.

“So that was it!” he ejaculated. “And you handed it over to me as though it were some paltry—”

Mrs. Ivanoff touched his arm. In her sea-gray eyes lay a swift appeal.

“It was no lack of trust, Mr. Venable. I was the only one who knew what was in that package, and I preferred to keep the secret to myself until the time came. Now the time has come, and I want to return what does not belong to me.”

“I see,” Venable nodded, and turned.

He halted, staring blankly along the starboard rail. His jaw fell.

“What’s the matter?” demanded Marie quickly.

“The matter? That boat—the after boat is gone!”

MRS. IVANOFF frowned suddenly. “The boat? Yes. That was the one they sent away the prisoners in.”

Venable made a tragic gesture—a motion of helplessness, of futility. He turned to them a face furrowed deeply.

“I opened up the cover of that boat,” he said, “and put the package under one of the thwarts, then laced it up again. And Gerin gave them that boat—”

Understanding broke upon them. Marie’s eyes flamed; her cheeks went white as she gazed at him. Then, under his grave gaze, the anger died from her face and left it miserable. Despair thickened her voice when she broke the silence.

“No use—no use! It seems that—that fate—that everything is in vain.”

She turned her back to them,, choking; but Mrs. Ivanoff put an arm about her shoulders, and caressed the masses of bronze hair.

“My dear! I am so sorry; I am sorry, for your sake! It was my fault entirely!”

“No!” Marie straightened and whirled, facing her. “Don’t say that; you are a noble woman, and I’m a—a poor miserable girl who has failed in everything—even in theft! It was not your fault at all. Oh, can’t you see that I’m not grieving for the loss!”

They stood silent before her, wondering. Perhaps Mrs. Ivanoff, who understood everything, comprehended what was passing in her heart; but Venable was astonished.

“I’m glad it’s gone!” cried out Marie passionately. “There was blood on each one of those stones; I had dreamed of their staining my soul—oh, I can’t tell you all of it! But now it’s gone, and I’m glad. It was like a bloody nemesis out of the old life, hanging over me always; could I have enjoyed that money, that blood-money, those thirty pieces of silver? No, I’m done with it all now—all the old life is behind me and done with! I’ve thrown away the best of my youth and have bartered my soul for a bubble that is broken.”

Tears suffused her eyes. Mrs. Ivanoff threw Venable a look, a swiftly commanding look that tacitly bade him begone; and he obeyed it. As he stumbled back up to the bridge, the two women disappeared toward the after-deck.

“Regeneration there,” thought Venable, marveling at it all. “Strange how it’s working out with her! Poor girl, she’s been one of the sincere ones, but now she’s badly shattered and in need of aid. And the aid comes to her from Mrs. Ivanoff—the type of aristocrat she had hated and plotted to overthrow! Very queer—mysterious, rather. Yes, mysterious! God’s still at work in the world.”

THE thought of the treasure, as such, did not move him in the least, had no appeal for him. He cared nothing about its disposition, except as it affected the others around him; and yet the guiding chance of this whole affair was very curious. Kryalpin, defeated and kicked adrift on the seas, had none the less won the great stake! Gerin, coolly murdering men in order to give Marie possession of the treasure, had deliberately but ignorantly turned over that treasure with his hatred; in venting his fear and vengeance upon Boris and the others, he had made them rich men—had let them depart with the jewels!

“It will go hard with Gerin when he learns the truth,” thought Venable, quite without pity. He could not forget how Captain Hewson had been murdered; poet-wise, Gerin had pictured the scene for him in a dozen words that lingered in his memory.

Later, when he stood in Gerin’s cabin and told the poet of the happenings, Gerin said nothing at all. He turned his beautiful face to the wall, and was silent.

It appeared that Mrs. Ivanoff had handed over to the ex-Bolshevists her own trunk containing relics and jewels, as stipulated at their first meeting, the morning after leaving Taku. The jewels had been given to Marie for safe-keeping, while the relics had been left undisturbed. Marie had kept these stones separate from the others, so that they had not been in the burlap package. She had now returned them with the relics to Mrs. Ivanoff.

IN the wheel-house, upon the following morning, Venable bent over figures and charts, hard at work. After hours of absorbed calculation, after much fruitless poring over Knight and Bowditch and other books found in the skipper’s cabin, he reached the odd but unassailable conclusion that the Kum Chao was at that precise moment smack in the center of Dolares Island, a speck of land midway between the Riukiu and Bonin groups. As he leaned back and considered this queer situation, there came a hail from the bows, repeated by Li John.

“Land ho, cap’n! Him catchum land! Two points to po’t!”

Flurried, Venable rang for half speed, then summoned Garrity up above for a consultation. On the rim of the wine-dark sea ahead, slightly to port, was a low-hung bluish break, a dot of land.

Garrity arrived on the run, and listened to Venable’s exposition, rubbing his broken nose the while. At length he broke into a grin, his star-blue eyes twinkling.

“Faith, Parson, ye’ve accomplished a miracle, no less! How ye did it is past me, but it’s done.”

“What do you mean?”

“Yonder is Dolares Island; that’s all!” Garrity pointed to the chart. “Your figures were right enough at a guess. Now lay your course sou’-sou’east by three-quarters east, and ye’ll fetch Guam—barrin’ accidents. More power to ye!”

VENABLE gave the course to the quartermaster; while he was doing so, Mrs. Ivanoff arrived. Garrity departed to his own place, while Venable pointed out their position to Mrs. Ivanoff. In reply to her questions he explained the odd relationship between Garrity and Marie, and detailed his own friendship with the engineer. Nor did he spare himself in the telling, but filled out the portrait of himself with strong, harsh strokes.

“We’re not unlike,” she answered softly, the rich timbre of her voice thrilling and vibrating within him. “We’ve each suffered; and now we’re traveling the same path toward the better things. I’ve doubted much—”

“By to-morrow night,” Venable said, smiling, “we’ll be through our worries, I trust.”

He pointed out their course to Guam. Dolares Island was already on the starboard horizon and dropping behind. But as he put down the chart, Li John turned to him from the wheel and jerked one hand aft and to port.

“Catchum ship, Cap’n!”

“A ship!”

Venable took the binoculars from the rack and stepped outside, Mrs. Ivanoff at his elbow. To the northwest was a dot against the horizon. Venable focused the glasses on her, and made out a ship crawling down the sea-rim after them.

“A small craft of some kind!” He handed the glasses to Mrs. Ivanoff.

“But faster than we, for she seems to be catching up with us,” was her comment. “Hm! She’s heading as though to speak us, too.”

“Good!” exclaimed Venable. “We’ll be able to verify our position from her and obtain the proper course to Guam. I think we’d better come down to half speed and let her catch us up if she wants to.”

MRS. IVANOFF returned the glasses, frowning a little.

“I—I’m silly,” she said hesitantly, “but I’m afraid of everything, Mr. Venable. After what has happened since leaving Tientsin, I can’t help feeling as though—”

“More trouble were coming?” Venable laughed. “Nonsense! We’re all right, I assure you; still, if you prefer, I’ll not slow down. By the way, how is Gerin?”

“I looked in on him just before coming up here,” she replied, her eyes on the crawling dot. “He seemed quite himself. Mr. Stormalong was fixing his crutch so he could use it again. Did you notice his face?”

“Yes. It’s very remarkable.” Venable took out his pipe and filled it. “The man himself is a strange mixture of good and bad; his devotion to Marie is a beautiful thing, while his actions are the exact contrary. Altogether complex! The man is a shadow like the rest of us, eh? Too much imagination for his own good.”

“He did much evil in Russia,” she said, her voice low and repressed. “And some good, also. Such a man can never find happiness; he cannot find his place in the world. I wonder what his conception of heaven can be?”

“What is yours?” asked Venable unexpectedly.

“Mine?” She hesitated, searching him with her eyes. “Ah—that is hard to say! One’s point of view changes at times..... Well, au revoir!

He wondered what she had meant by those words, but could arrive at no answer. He was filled with a great reverence for her, an unmixed admiration. Something deeper was in this feeling, too—something he could not express or visualize. It was as though she had brought something into his empty life, filling the vacant spaces. Her eyes seemed always to be calling him, speaking to him of inward things. Such a woman, he pondered, would be an inspiration to the world, an inspiration to any man.

His thoughts ended there, for the dot on the sea-rim was coming closer now, and he could make out signals flying from her gaff. She was a schooner, but obviously under motor power, for she had no canvas spread.

Venable sought among the skipper’s books and papers for some explanation of the signals, and presently found a copy of the International code. After much study of the schooner’s signals, entirely strange to his eye, he made them out to indicate that she wanted to speak.

“Oh! You want to speak us, do you?” muttered Venable. He had previously summoned Terence Garrity to the tube, and repeated the signal. “Shall we stop or not?”

“If she’s faster than we are, let her run up!” returned Garrity with an oath.

So Venable paid no heed to the signal. As he examined the schooner through his glass, he made out that a group of men was busied about a large tarpaulin on her fore-deck. When the tarpaulin was re moved, a glittering object, to Venable’s gaze quite unfamiliar, was laid bare. The men working on the schooner’s deck seemed to be brown or yellow.

Suddenly an exclamation burst from Venable, staring amazedly through the glasses. From the after companion of the schooner a group of men had come up on her deck, one of them a Japanese, the other three white. And the white men were Mr. Jason, Boris Kryalpin and the wounded Deardorf!

Barely had Venable recognized them when the gun on the fore-deck of the schooner sent a white burst of smoke. Before the shot sounded, there was a terrific explosion somewhere in the bowels of the Kum Chao. Her engines stopped.