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H. BEDFORD JONES

ONE STAYED, ONE WENT

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First published in Adventure, February 1939

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Adventure, February 1939, with "One Stayed, One Went"



Headpiece

A GROUP of us were sitting one evening in a corner of the Belair Club, and I noticed that the cigarette girl was hovering around, as though interested in our talk. This was odd, because we were discussing "firsts" of the sea—the first compass, the first binnacle lamp, the first wheel, and such impossibilities.

Why on earth would a pert lass with short skirts and a saucy eye and a cigarette tray be fascinated by such talk. Perhaps because of the salty language that slipped out now and then, I thought; but here I was in error.

"There's one thing nobody knows," I said, to start things off fresh. "The first steel sailing ship is rusting over at Pedro right now. I've got a fathom of chain from her, holding up a lantern on my front porch. But go further back, to the first iron ship of all, the first iron steamer!"

"Nerts to you," said somebody impolitely. "The Royal William, of course!"

"The British turned out iron ships before that," chirped up another.

"You all miss the point," I said, as the discussion warmed. "A matter of record who built the ships, yes; I don't care a hang who built them. What brain was behind the first iron ship? No matter whether she was built in Halifax or Glasgow, what was the human element behind her? What man thought of bolting iron plates together? Why did he think of it? That's what I'd like to know."

"What does it matter?" someone asked, with a sniff. "Nobody knows, and nobody cares. You could rake up some yarn, and it'd be denied hither and yon. The only important things are records in black and white."

"The only important things," I said heatedly, "are apt to be those of which no records exist that could be taken into court. The first iron ships were turned out in the eighteen forties, all right. But who thought them up? You don't know. You don't know who thought up the clove hitch or the running bowline, either, and you wish you did! If you could say right out who first invented soapsuds and why, you'd proclaim it from the housetops; but here's one of the greatest advances in commerce ever made, and you don't know the answer!"

The cigarette girl had come close to our table and was staring at us.

"I do, sir," she piped up. We all looked at her, and someone laughed.

"What's the joke, sister?"

"It's no joke. It was my great-great-grandfather," she said, and meant it.

Later that night, I took the cigarette girl home, which, considering my time of life, was proper enough.

"They're old letters that he wrote," she said, producing an old fashioned lead-lined tea caddy that was stuffed with letters. "It was before the days of envelopes, you see; they were just folded and mailed. You may take them, if you'll promise to bring them back by the end of the week."

I would pretty near have promised marriage to get at those letters. She was wrong about one thing—envelopes were used as far back as 1750, and these letters barely went back a hundred years. Well, maybe a few years over, considering that this is 1939.

Even with the passage of a hundred years, however, the use of real names might step on some protruding toes, so just bear in mind that all names herein are fictitious, as the movie labels say.


Illustration

GLENN HARDIE had written those letters from hither and yon. He had written voluminously and well, but it took a lot of work to patch up the whole story. He was a Bluenose, a Halifax man, a hard, frosty-eyed jack-of-all-trades, who had been everything from blacksmith to surveyor. Now he was second mate in the Annie Todd, a Boston barque so thoroughly battered by hurricane that she put into the West Indies port of San Sebastian almost in a sinking condition. She was a long time refitting, and before she was finished a lot of things happened to Glenn Hardie.

There were plenty of Britishers in San Sebastian and Hardie, having a good education, was made free of local society. So far as Hardie went, there were only two people in the place that counted. One was the lean, dark, magnetic Dr. Kinsale, of whom he made a friend in no time; Kinsale had a fine mahogany sloop and spent a good bit of time pottering around among the cays and islets.

The other was Jean Graham, whose rum-soaked, liver-soured old Scotch father was the chief commercial agent locally and living on borrowed time.

Hardie had a quick temper. His Yankee skipper was choleric and they did not get along. Upon a day, as he was overseeing repairs to the rudder post, the idea flashed into Hardie's brain and staggered him.

It came, as such ideas do, superficially full-fledged and rounded out. He could see the whole thing before him, apparently perfect; it surged up like a blinding vision that blotted out all else. Forgetful of everything, he rushed aft to the cabin and wakened the skipper from his nap, and blurted everything out.

"I've a great idea, a tremendous idea, sir! Look here, we can do away with calking, and boring-worms, and a lot more troubles, for ever! There's no earthly reason why a ship couldn't be built of iron, d'ye see? Put steam engines into her, and wheel paddle-boxes, and you'd have an iron steamer!"

The Yankee skipper, who did not appreciate being disturbed, glared and purpled.

"Are you stark, staring mad, Mr. Hardie?"

"Not yet. Let me show you." An excited laugh broke from Hardie, blind to storm signals. "Build her of iron plates, d'ye see? Iron plates, shaped beforehand. They'd fasten together with rivets, for ever and ever! Half the troubles we have with wooden ships would be ended. No more copper bottoms. As for expense—"

Gathering that Glenn Hardie was thoroughly in earnest, the outraged skipper came to his feet.

"You're a sacrilegious scoundrel!" he exclaimed hotly. "An iron ship—arrgh! The very idea is enough to put a curse on you! It's only what one could expect of a Bluenose. Such a ship would be accursed from the day her keel was laid! She'd carry a curse ever after! Who ever heard of iron floating?"

One word led to another, and hot words led to blows. The upshot was a compromise; the battered skipper forbore any prosecution, and pocketed Hardie's pay, and Glenn Hardie took his black eye and his duffle bag and went ashore for good.

He was not worried. A thrifty soul, he had a bit of money laid by; and within him burned the flame of his idea, and the thought of Jean Graham, not to mention his friend Kinsale. As he very well knew, Kinsale had distant relatives in the shipbuilding game.


Illustration

SO Hardie got lodgings, pencils and paper; and keeping under cover to hide his shiner from anyone for a few days, he devoted himself to a mad frenzy of work—designs and sketches, plans, details. And through them all, at the back of his head ran the words of the Yankee skipper: "She'd carry a curse ever after!"

Glenn Hardie had a strong streak of superstition, but at the moment it was not uppermost.

By the time he was presentable, he had accomplished so much work that he had begun to realize, after the manner of inventors, how difficult was the attainment of simplicity. He was eager to lay all his great plans before the darkling lustre of Jean Graham's eyes, and if he had done this in the first place, destiny might have taken a different turn; but, finding his eye still a trifle sinister, he took a fistful of plans and went instead to have a gam with Dr. Kinsale.

A bachelor, Kinsale lived prosperously in what had once been a fine old Spanish mansion at the edge of town. He received Hardie with open arms. The evening was warmish, the cool rum drinks were potent, and if the two men had been friends before this, they speedily ripened to intimacy.

Kinsale listened to the great idea with smiling incredulity in his dark features, but upon glancing over the sketches, surmise sharpened in his quick eyes, and became swift interest.

"Word of mouth sounds absurd; black and white looks feasible," he exclaimed, as he eyed the designs. He glanced up. "You don't know anything about shipbuilding, do you?"

Hardie's frosty eyes wrinkled up humorously, and he rubbed his red cheek.

"Bad as that, eh? Well, I don't know much, for a fact. Do you?"

Kinsale nodded. "Yes. Oak ships, especially. When you bring oak from Denmark to build ships, you learn how to build 'em. I started out in the family business before I went into medicine, surgery and such nonsense. Fine old trade, ship-building. You used to do it pretty well by rule of thumb and a good master carpenter. These new-fangled engines have changed all that. Now it's stress and strain."

He clapped his hands. A dusky servant appeared, filled the glasses, laid out a box of Havana cigars. Kinsale bit at one.

"I've a couple of books somewhere, dealing with it. You, I see, have a few damned fine ideas in regard to working with these iron plates."

"Used to be an iron worker, once," said Hardie, over his drink. His red bony face was speculative. "Think this is a feasible thing, Kinsale?"

"The eighth wonder of the world. Nobody knows the first seven; you can wager a guinea and win it hands down, in any crowd. But this is the eighth," Kinsale said with hearty assurance. "There's a fortune in it. A dozen fortunes. It'll revolutionize the ship-building art, my lad! But it'll take a devil of a lot of figuring before it's in shape to present. Strain and stress. Are you good at math?"

Hardie blinked, then comprehended and shook his head. "A dunce. I can handle a ship by dead reckoning, but can't navigate; that's why I've no master's ticket. Every blockhead around me can navigate. I can't."

Dr. Kinsale grinned, his white teeth flashing.

"We might," he said slowly, "work this thing out together. But that wouldn't be fair to you, since it's your idea."

"I need help," Hardie said. "Say the word, and it's fifty-fifty."

The other reached out across the table, and they gripped hands.

"Now look here," Kinsale exclaimed with energy. "Yellow jack's getting bad over in the mestiso quarter; a regular outbreak's due. I'm working day and night, getting calls at all hours, and it'll be impossible to give this thing the time and concentration it demands. What do you say to running away for a fortnight, eh?"

"Away?" echoed Hardie.

"Just that. Let the Spanish medico handle yellow jack for a while. Old Graham has a cabin on Turtle Cay, up to the north; and he's badly in need of a trip away from this hell-hole. Put him aboard the sloop, take Jean along and a boy to cook, and get off. Saturday morning. What say? We'll work this thing out together."

It did not occur to Hardie as odd that Kinsale should run away with an outbreak of yellow fever coming; it did not strike him as odd, or sinister. He did not even think twice about it, but accepted with gusto.

Next afternoon, in fact, when he told Jean Graham about everything, he was filled with delight and gratitude. She studied him curiously, for this enthusiasm was a rare thing with him; this leaping eagerness with which Kinsale had inspired him, this warm admiration for the other man, was the last thing she had expected from him. When she hinted as much, his eyes went to her with shocked surprise.

"Eh? I thought Kinsale was a friend of yours?"

"He is," she said coolly. "But I'm not blind to the faults of anyone. I'm sorry you didn't talk with me before you went into matters so deeply with him. Kinsale's a hard, shrewd sort of man, the type that bides his time and gets what he wants."

"No harm in that," Hardie rejoined. "We're splitting even in this matter; he has all I lack. We'll get on."

"I hope so." She smiled. "The idea of an iron ship sounds fantastic."

"Think of an iron kettle in water; it floats, even loaded down. That's where I got the idea. A ship's the same, only a different shape. Oh, you'll see! It'll work, if we can get the details ironed out. That's not meant for a joke, either," he added, laughing. "What about the trip? Does it appeal to you?"

"Tremendously." Her face lit up, but her eyes remained cool. Odd, he thought, how cool her eyes always were; rarely did one surprise them off guard. She was frank enough, genuine and eager and smiling, yet ever with the indefinable air of being on the defensive. He did not understand it. That was because he knew little of what a girl like Jean Graham faced in a spot like San Sebastian.

"My father needs the vacation," she went on. "And I'd welcome it. I'd welcome anything to get away from this island! That is, almost anything."

His eyes widened. "Why? Don't you like it here? A fine place. Fine people, too!"

"Wonderful," she agreed dryly. "My father was like you when he came here; full of life and vigor and—well, intentions. Ambition, I suppose you'd call it. Now he's barely hanging on to life. Old Graham, they call him; yet he's not old at all. He's simply worn out. You'll be the same if you stay here long enough."

"Not I." Hardie shook his head emphatically. "Nor Kinsale either."

Her eyes darkened at the name. Those gray eyes had a trick of changing, now light, now dark; Hardie found it fascinating, but could not read their meanings yet. Some day, he told himself, he would. Gray eyes, always cool and guarded, belying the animation and satiny tenderness of her face, lending strength and mystery to it.

"I'm afraid," she said, "that you're blind to everything except your big idea."

"That, and you," he assented, a twinkle in his eyes. "Why afraid?"

"No, I should be glad," she replied thoughtfully. "Glad that you're blind to the sort of people here. It's a selfish place. They live here—even my father—for the purpose of getting what they can out of it. After they've got it, then it's too late to leave. Life's all sham and pretense, covering up selfish brutality and lust and greed. The sun and the rains sap out everything else."

"By gad!" he exclaimed. "What would the old hens back home say to hear such words on maiden lips? You're real. It's a rare thing."

"It doesn't come to the surface often," she said, and burst into a laugh, and began to talk of Turtle Cay.

That night, however, Hardie began to wonder why she was afraid. For he divined that behind her singular outbreak about the people and the island, there lay buried a motivating fear. It troubled him. All her background seemed placid and unruffled, to his eye; but he soon learned otherwise.


Illustration

SATURDAY morning saw them off, to a fair stiff breeze that bowled the mahogany sloop along at a great pace. Five of them: the black cook, Hardie, Kinsale, Jean Graham and her father.

Old Graham came aboard with death in his face and rum under his belt, stripped by illness of all pretense at bluff Scotch heart-of-oak. Hardie, with a mental gasp, saw him for the first time as he was, and shivered. He was used to seamen who took lust and greed in their stride and made no bones about it, as a part of the daylight. He felt glad that Jean had been born before this dying man came out to the islands; the root was good.

And Jean, tenderly caring for her father, saw with defiant eyes that he realized the truth.

He joined Kinsale, at the tiller, and lit his pipe with solid satisfaction. He liked Kinsale, liked the man's capability and air of blunt frankness. When he commented on Graham's looks, the doctor shrugged.

"Aye; the old man's waited a bit too long for his vacation," he said coolly. "If you live hard, as he's done, the islands make you pay hard; his whole machinery is worn out. He hasn't missed much, either, though he's concealed it for the girl's sake. Fine girl, Jean."

"The finest," said Hardie. The other gave him a glance from the black eyes, and smiled.

"Hold the course for a bit, will you? I'll labor with the old chap."

Hardie stretched out to the tiller and squinted at the islets breaking the horizon. After a bit Kinsale came back.

"He's asleep, down below; Jean's watching him. He'll pull through if his heart doesn't stop in his sleep. Yes, she's a grand lass. I'd marry her in a minute if she'd have me."

"You'd be doing her no favor," grunted Hardie, before he thought.

"True enough," and Kinsale laughed ruefully.

They raised Turtle Cay a bit after noon and ran quickly down to it. All white coral sand, with a bungalow overhung by trees; nothing to last, said Kinsale, if a hurricane ever struck it, but so far luck had played with him. A tiny bit of an islet, swept by invigorating breezes.

Somehow, Hardie got the flash that the black cook, Santos, was afraid of Kinsale—merely an indefinite impression, for the black fellow was spry and merry enough. They came into the cove and landed. Kinsale found the place undisturbed and opened up. The three rooms were furnished with barest essentials. The commissary was moved ashore, and Santos took charge in the lean-to kitchen.

To Hardie, the bare, sun-swept little isle was not inviting, but to the others it was escape from the monotony of San Sebastian. Graham relapsed into lethargic repose. Jean began putting the place in order. Kinsale beckoned Hardie to work; with paper and crayon, the two men plunged into the plans for the iron ship. The feverish intensity of Kinsale to get about it delighted Hardie.

Two days, three days passed. Graham took on vigor; Jean was gone much of the time, idling about the cay or fishing. Kinsale and Hardie worked like slaves. They had got into the thing over their heads, now. Kinsale had a decided grasp on elementals, and Hardie's gift for sketching and intimate knowledge of ships and ironwork made the plans take concrete form.

The farther they got, the more feasible seemed the wild scheme. Shaped plates of iron, riveted to an iron framework—that was all. Details of stem and stern, keelson and deck; mathematics helped here. Kinsale put his full share into it, no doubt of that. On the fourth day, Hardie was amazed to find that the worst difficulties were conquered—that is, in a superficial manner.

"It's all shaping up now, fit to present to ship-builders, engineers, ironmen," said Kinsale when they knocked off for supper. "Build one such ship, make it a success, and wooden ships are done for! By the lord, d'you know what it means, man? A revolution, no less, in all trade and commerce!"

"Well, we've got the worst of the thing licked, and now I'll knock off for a day or so," declared Hardie wearily. "I don't want to talk or think about iron plates again for a while! After supper I'm going out and look at the moon."

Which he did, but not alone.

He wakened during the meal to some of the things around him. Jean had a queer look in her face. Old Graham was gruff and dignified, a sure sign that he had been at the rum; Kinsale was alert, imperious, dominant.

The meal finished, he and Graham went out for a pipe and a stroll in the cool of the evening. Hardie looked at Jean and rose.

"Come along. You're worried; something's wrong. Tell me about it."

She shook her head, but went with him; rather, he went with her to a spot she knew, a niche among the rocks. The tide was at ebb, and the wet sands stretched out before them, aglitter in the early moonlight.

"There's nothing wrong," she said at last, to his insistence, "except that you're a blind man lost in work."

"Ah, but that's done with for the moment," he said cheerfully. "And I haven't missed seeing you, at any rate."

"Look at the moon and make a wish," she suggested, more lightly.

"A wish? A dozen wishes every one of them for the most worthwhile thing in life."

"Oh! Your iron ship, eh? Your work. The thing that means most to you—"

"No, my dear," he broke in gently. "That's not so important, believe me. It may mean fame and success, but those aren't the really important things either. I have an uncle who's able to buy and sell half of Halifax; he's the best hated and most miserable man in all Nova Scotia. He swapped all the worthwhile things for money and position, even the girl he loved. It was a good lesson to me. I wouldn't swap one kiss from the woman I love for all the golden guineas in the queen's mint!"

"Oh!" she said. "Then you're in love with someone! What's she like?"

"You."


Illustration

HARDIE checked himself abruptly; rather, an angry, gusty voice silenced him. It came from around the corner of the rocks. Kinsale and old Graham came into sight, pacing along the wet sand; neither of them saw the two motionless figures sitting against the rocks. Graham, evidently finishing some tirade, knocked out his pipe against the heel of his hand with a shower of sparks.

"I'll no' do it," he concluded gruffly. Kinsale halted.

"You'll do it, and do it sharp," he snapped, such vicious dominance in his voice that Hardie stared incredulously. "I need the money, and I mean to have it! The halfcaste, Silva, will buy your business; I've arranged it with him. There'll be enough to pay me out, and leave you sufficient to live the rest of your rum-soaked life in comfort. Never mind about Jean. She goes to England with me by the next ship. Take it and like it, and make up your mind to it, you old fool!"

Graham stood shaking with wrath. "So? Because ye've loaned me a bit o' siller now and then, ye think to own me? Arranged it, have you! And Jean goes with you? Arrgh! That's one too many, my braw kestrel! She'll not soil her pretty hands with you. She knows all about your doings wi' the lass from Port o' Spain, and the mestiso who kept house for you last year; aye, and the Cuban agent who dined at your table and was dead before the dawn, and not a sign of his money ever found! Yellow jack, says you, and buried him in haste. Yellow jack—a likely lie! And you so cowardly that you'd run from it, with poor folk needing your help; you'd run from it and come here, with your black coward's heart!"

"Stop it!" Kinsale stepped close to him, dark and menacing. "D'ye hear? Stop your drunken lies! You'll do as I say and that's an end to it. Fine one you are to talk, you sodden old hypocrite!"

"But I'm no dirty-handed murderer," spat out Graham. "Aye, the blacks know your secrets! They know everything, those black folk. They're afraid of you, with death in your fist, but I'm not. I've taken your orders this long while, but if ye think to lay your filthy fingers on my Jeanie, I'll say ye nay with all my heart!"

"You'll change your tune when you sober up, and this may help you," snarled Kinsale, and his fist lashed out. Old Graham staggered to the blow, and fell.

Hardie gathered his muscles, but the hand of Jean caught hard at his wrist.

"No!" she breathed. "No! For my sake, no!"

He stiffened. Kinsale looked down at Graham, laughed, and walked away. When he had passed around the point of rocks, Hardie looked sideways at the girl.

"Let me go and help him—"

"No," she broke in. "Wait."

He complied. Graham came staggering to one knee, then to his feet; he stood swaying for a moment, sobbing and gasping and whining. It was terrible to hear. Then he, too, turned about and passed from sight.

"His pride," whispered the girl. Even in the moonlight, her face was pallid and set. "If he knew we'd seen this, he'd never get over it. The one thing he has left, the little sham of pride."

"Oh!" Hardie suddenly comprehended, and marveled at her restraint, her intuition. "Good God! I never dreamed such things—about Kinsale, I mean. They're not true?"

"Quite true," she said in a lifeless voice. "More than you know."

"Hm! Come to think of it, it's a bit queer that he'd leave the island when he's so badly needed. I never gave it two thoughts. He's not a coward, surely?"

"In some ways, yes. But now you've got the whole miserable business. Father will have to give in to him; he'll do it, when sober. There's no other way. He's borrowed money from Kinsale; he's mismanaged the business lately. Silva wants to buy it and build it up again. We'll have to do it. I've had to be pleasant to Kinsale, for father's sake, to avoid a row and a scandal; a doctor gets to know a lot of things. I told you Kinsale always gets what he wants. He'd stop at nothing. And father's been no angel, as you can guess. But he's my father and I'll go all the way with him."

"You would, God bless you!" said Hardie. A slow understanding of everything crept across his mind. The terror hidden away in the girl's heart; the queer look in her eyes; the fear of Kinsale he had divined in black Santos, and remembered now he had seen in other blacks about Kinsale's house.

One thing and another, a dozen things. How Kinsale had spoken, that day, about running away up here from the yellow fever.

"You know," he went on slowly, flexing and unflexing his hands in the moonlight, and watching them, "I've never killed a man in my life, and never expected to. Until now."

She turned abruptly to him.

"Don't be a fool! Promise me you'll do no such thing. Even poor old father could boast he had no blood on his hands. I'd not want it. I couldn't bear to think it of you. Promise me!"

"Oh! All right, I promise," said Hardie bitterly. "Mind you, I don't believe in light promises; what I agree to, I do. You've made a mistake, for I mean to take a hand in this affair."

"No, you shall not. There's nothing you can do," she rejoined, "except go away and forget all about us. We'll go back to San Sebastian tomorrow; I'll arrange it. Get yourself away and don't mix your life in our existence. It'd only ruin you. I was a silly fool ever to think—to hope anything else. Kinsale gets what he wants, always, and I can't fight off the inevitable any longer."

"Aye?" said Hardie. "Two can play at the game of getting what they want, my lass. I want you, with my whole heart and soul. Will you come to me?"

"I will not, and for your own sake," she said. "The daughter of such a father—"

"Answer enough." He rose with a lithe spring, and held out his hand to her. She took it and came to her feet. "The finest and most regal girl I ever knew before I met you," he said thoughtfully, "was a half-breed Micmac lass in the North woods, who didn't know her own father. No one could be worse thought of, on such grounds. And what happened to her? She married the son of a lord and went back to the old country with him, and sits in a fine castle and goes to court—and deserves it all, praise God! Now get back to the house with you and leave me to think a bit. I may find some way out."

"There's none," she said. "Good-by." And she turned and walked away, her head high.


Illustration

THERE was one at least, but his promise had blocked it. Striding up and down on the firm wet sand of the ebb tide, Hardie shook his head ruefully as he sucked at his pipe. He had never killed a man, but now that the time had come, he would have done so gladly. Still, that was denied him; his own promise, and the reason for it. Those gray eyes of Jean would never see him in the same light, if he killed Kinsale.

"I've been a fool!" he muttered. "Wrapped up in the work, and seeing nothing around me, or in Kinsale himself." He halted suddenly; the words of the Yankee skipper hit him between the eyes. "Such a ship would be accursed! She'd carry a curse forever after! Aye, and I believe there's truth in it. The whole idea carries a curse in it!"

He stood for a while staring out at the rippling moonlit sea, his streak of superstition all on the surface. At last he drew a deep breath, and turned back toward the house.

A figure came running, stumbling through the sand. It was Jean, all her stolidity broken. She caught at him, gasping.

"What's wrong, Jean?"

"Nothing—oh, everything! I don't know what to do; I had to tell you, warn you! I spoke with him. It's all arranged. We're to go back tomorrow. Father's asleep, and I turned in beside him, but couldn't close my eyes. He talked with Santos—"

"He? Who? Take it easy, now."

"Kinsale." She shivered a little. "I could just hear enough to frighten me; something about you not going back. And I peeped into the front room. He was mixing drinks. Do you understand? You mustn't take a drink with him! He means to leave you here!"

Hardie grunted. He could see it clearly enough, yes. Leave him here, marooned. Kinsale would go with Jean, with the plans, with everything—would take ship for England and leave Glenn Hardie marooned. Food and water in plenty, but everything lost.

"Thanks." Hardie drew her to him and kissed her gently. "Now get back to your bed and let me think a while longer."

She departed, cutting across the dry sand to gain the cottage from the rear.


Illustration

HARDIE stuffed his pipe and lit it, and walked on; he did not stop for any thinking, there was no more need of that. As he came to the cottage, he saw black Santos going aboard the sloop. He turned in, and entered the lighted front room, where he and Kinsale bunked. Kinsale was seated at the table with a book, and glanced up with a smile.

"Oh, hello! Just in time to join me in a nightcap. What say?"

Hardie nodded and drew up a stool. Dr. Kinsale went to the rum-chest and set about mixing two drinks; if one was already mixed, he said nothing of it. When Kinsale set the drinks on the table and sat down, Hardie lifted his own, clinked glasses, and tasted; then he set down his glass and regarded the other man amiably.

"I fancy I have a touch of fever, Kinsale; must get you to look at me later, perhaps," he said. "First, I've something on my mind. Do you really think there's anything in the iron ship idea? In our plans?"

Kinsale regarded him, the dark eyes appraising, cautious.

"Of course I do, Hardie! What's got into you?"

Hardie shrugged. "I told you what that Yankee skipper said, before we had the row—about such a ship being accursed. Well, I've come to think there may be something in it. A curse carries. And I've come to like San Sebastian; there are reasons. I want to propose a dicker to you. Jean hinted that her father owed you some money he can't pay—quite a bit."

He spoke slowly, carefully, and now paused, rubbing his chin. He seemed quite unaware of Kinsale's piercing gaze, yet he could guess at every thought behind those magnetic eyes.

"Yes?" said Kinsale warily.

"Well, it's like this," resumed Hardie in his awkward way. "Suppose you made over the debt to me, in return for my half interest in the ship plans, if you feel like a gamble. I'll throw up the idea definitely. I don't like that curse, for a fact!"

Kinsale caught his breath slightly. "You mean, you'd sell me your half of the whole thing for a debt that can't be paid out?"

"Yes, if you put it that way. I thought I might work it out with Graham, take on a job with him, in the business. Haven't figured it out exactly. What do you say?"

Kinsale lifted his drink and sipped, trying to conceal his eagerness.

"Why," he rejoined, "of course! But you'd be very foolish to do that; I'd hate to take advantage of you. The amount I've loaned Graham comes to quite a bit, but there's no chance of his paying it out unless he sells his business."

The voice was calm, but not the eyes. They were breath-taking. Hardie smiled.

"Never mind arguments. Yes or no, on the nail! Agree, and write it out and sign, here and now."

Kinsale rose. "Very well. But mind, in the morning we'll tear up the agreement if you've changed your mind."

He got paper and pen and settled down to write, hardly able to conceal the haste of his fingers. Hardie lifted the glass to his lips, wet them, set it down.

"Never mind specifying the amount of the loans," he said carelessly. "Just make it all sums owed you by Graham."

Kinsale nodded and scribbled faster. When he had finished, he signed the paper and Hardie took it, examined it carefully, passed it back.

"Seems all shipshape. Make your copy, and I'll sign."

"You make it." Kinsale handed him the pen. "If you stick to it, the holograph will stand in lieu of witnesses. For your own sake, I hope you don't stick to it. I've counted a lot on our pushing this thing through together—"

Hardie ignored the words and wrote. When he had finished, he signed and handed over the paper. That which Kinsale had drawn up, he pocketed. Then, reaching out, he changed glass for glass, and lifted his own.

"Drink to it, and good luck!"

"Eh? Why change the glasses?" Kinsale shook his head. "I can't drink from your glass, if you've a touch of fever!"

Hardie burst out laughing, set his glass aside, and rose.

"Come on outside," he said, jerking his head toward the door. "Something I want to say; we don't want to wake 'em up in there."

Mystified, frowning, black eyes uneasy, Dr. Kinsale followed him out. They stepped out into the white sand and the moonlight, and Hardie turned.

"Not a bad idea," he said. "Leave me marooned; old Graham ignorant of the bargain, so you could force him into the sale with Silva; keep him under your thumb, and walk off with the ship plans. Eat your cake and have it too, eh?"

"What d'you mean?" snapped Kinsale, and reached for his pocket.

Hardie's fist reached him first, and when it came to fists, Glenn Hardie knew exactly what he was about.

Kinsale fought. He shouted to Santos for help; he got a vicious little knife out of his pocket; he battled like a maniac. None of it did him the least good. He was battered away from the cottage down toward the wet sands. He was knocked down time and again, and kicked to his feet.

When black Santos at last came running, Kinsale was sprawled out, a bleeding, inert mass, little more than breathing.

Hardie turned to the staring, helpless black.

"Take him aboard and go back home—now. At San Sebastian, tell somebody to come over and pick us up in a day or two. No hurry. Hold on! I'll give you something to take with him; everything must be shipshape."

He strode back into the cottage. Jean was there, wide-eyed. Hardie got the portfolio of plans and strode back. He gave the portfolio to Santos.

"All right. Now off with him."

He stood watching, until the white canvas of the sloop lifted and filled in the moonlight, and she stood away. Then he walked down to the incoming tide and stooped, washing his darkened hands carefully.

Another look at the lessening canvas, and he turned to find Jean approaching from the cottage.

"What have you done?" she demanded, breathless. "Why did he shout? What have you done?"

Hardie put out his hands to her, drew her close, and looked into her face.

"My dear," he said, "I've just made a trade, the best trade I'll ever make in my life! I've swapped all the things that don't matter, for the really important ones; and it's done beyond any recall, so you can't protest or argue. Just give me a kiss, the kind you're dying to give me, and then we'll talk about setting your father's business on its feet!"

And the little ripples of the incoming tide laughed along the shore.


Illustration

SO there was the story that lay in the old, old letters given me by the cigarette girl. I went over it with her, when I returned the letters, and she looked at me with shining eyes—eyes like those of Jean Graham, for their gray changed from light to dark.

"Oh! I knew you'd understand it, you'd get what was back of it!" she broke out eagerly. "There was another letter, but I haven't been able to find it, anywhere. A letter that told about the two of them—after old Graham was dead, and they sold out and came up to New England!"

"But none of them tell what became of Kinsale," I said. She shook her head.

"I know already; anyone would know. Just what happens to everyone who swaps the really important things for those that glitter."

I fear she was right. Iron ships made plenty of money in those days.


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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