Nares and I began operations by tossing up pell-mell through the
companion, and piling in a squalid heap about the wheel, all clothes,
personal effects, the crockery, the carpet, stale victuals, tins of
meat, and in a word, all movables from the main cabin. Thence, we
transferred our attention to the captain's quarters on the starboard
side. Using the blankets for a basket, we sent up the books,
instruments, and clothes to swell our growing midden on the deck; and
then Nares, going on hands and knees, began to forage underneath
the bed. Box after box of Manilla cigars rewarded his search. I took
occasion to smash some of these boxes open, and even to guillotine
the bundles of cigars; but quite in vain - no secret cache of opium
encouraged me to continue.
"I guess I've got hold of the dicky now!" exclaimed Nares, and turning
round from my perquisitions, I found he had drawn forth a heavy iron
box, secured to the bulkhead by chain and padlock. On this he was now
gazing, not with the triumph that instantly inflamed my own bosom, but
with a somewhat foolish appearance of surprise.
"By George, we have it now!" I cried, and would have shaken hands with
my companion; but he did not see, or would not accept, the salutation.
"Let's see what's in it first," he remarked dryly. And he adjusted the
box upon its side, and with some blows of an axe burst the lock open.
I threw myself beside him, as he replaced the box on its bottom and
removed the lid. I cannot tell what I expected; a million's worth of
diamonds might perhaps have pleased me; my cheeks burned, my heart
throbbed to bursting; and lo! there was disclosed but a trayful of
papers, neatly taped, and a cheque-book of the customary pattern. I made
a snatch at the tray to see what was beneath; but the captain's hand
fell on mine, heavy and hard.
"Now, boss!" he cried, not unkindly, "is this to be run shipshape? or is
it a Dutch grab-racket?"
And he proceeded to untie and run over the contents of the papers,
with a serious face and what seemed an ostentation of delay. Me and my
impatience it would appear he had forgotten; for when he was quite done,
he sat a while thinking, whistled a bar or two, refolded the papers,
tied them up again; and then, and not before, deliberately raised the
I saw a cigar-box, tied with a piece of fishing-line, and four fat
canvas-bags. Nares whipped out his knife, cut the line, and opened the
box. It was about half full of sovereigns.
"And the bags?" I whispered.
The captain ripped them open one by one, and a flood of mixed silver
coin burst forth and rattled in the rusty bottom of the box. Without a
word, he set to work to count the gold.
"What is this?" I asked.
"It's the ship's money," he returned, doggedly continuing his work.
"The ship's money?" I repeated. "That's the money Trent tramped and
traded with? And there's his cheque-book to draw upon his owners? And he
has left it?"
"I guess he has," said Nares, austerely, jotting down a note of the
gold; and I was abashed into silence till his task should be completed.
It came, I think, to three hundred and seventy-eight pounds sterling;
some nineteen pounds of it in silver: all of which we turned again into
"And what do you think of that?" I asked.
"Mr. Dodd," he replied, "you see something of the rumness of this job,
but not the whole. The specie bothers you, but what gets me is the
papers. Are you aware that the master of a ship has charge of all the
cash in hand, pays the men advances, receives freight and passage
money, and runs up bills in every port? All this he does as the owner's
confidential agent, and his integrity is proved by his receipted bills.
I tell you, the captain of a ship is more likely to forget his pants
than these bills which guarantee his character. I've known men drown to
save them: bad men, too; but this is the shipmaster's honour. And here
this Captain Trent - not hurried, not threatened with anything but a free
passage in a British man-of-war - has left them all behind! I don't want
to express myself too strongly, because the facts appear against me, but
the thing is impossible."
Dinner came to us not long after, and we ate it on deck, in a grim
silence, each privately racking his brain for some solution of the
mysteries. I was indeed so swallowed up in these considerations, that
the wreck, the lagoon, the islets, and the strident sea-fowl, the strong
sun then beating on my head, and even the gloomy countenance of the
captain at my elbow, all vanished from the field of consciousness. My
mind was a blackboard, on which I scrawled and blotted out hypotheses;
comparing each with the pictorial records in my memory: cyphering with
pictures. In the course of this tense mental exercise I recalled and
studied the faces of one memorial masterpiece, the scene of the saloon;
and here I found myself, on a sudden, looking in the eyes of the Kanaka.
"There's one thing I can put beyond doubt, at all events," I cried,
relinquishing my dinner and getting briskly afoot. "There was that
Kanaka I saw in the bar with Captain Trent, the fellow the newspapers
and ship's articles made out to be a Chinaman. I mean to rout his
quarters out and settle that."
"All right," said Nares. "I'll lazy off a bit longer, Mr. Dodd; I feel
pretty rocky and mean."
We had thoroughly cleared out the three after-compartments of the ship:
all the stuff from the main cabin and the mate's and captain's quarters
lay piled about the wheel; but in the forward stateroom with the two
bunks, where Nares had said the mate and cook most likely berthed,
we had as yet done nothing. Thither I went. It was very bare; a few
photographs were tacked on the bulkhead, one of them indecent; a single
chest stood open, and, like all we had yet found, it had been partly
rifled. An armful of two-shilling novels proved to me beyond a doubt
it was a European's; no Chinaman would have possessed any, and the most
literate Kanaka conceivable in a ship's galley was not likely to have
gone beyond one. It was plain, then, that the cook had not berthed aft,
and I must look elsewhere.
The men had stamped down the nests and driven the birds from the galley,
so that I could now enter without contest. One door had been already
blocked with rice; the place was in part darkness, full of a foul stale
smell, and a cloud of nasty flies; it had been left, besides, in some
disorder, or else the birds, during their time of tenancy, had knocked
the things about; and the floor, like the deck before we washed it, was
spread with pasty filth. Against the wall, in the far corner, I found
a handsome chest of camphor-wood bound with brass, such as Chinamen and
sailors love, and indeed all of mankind that plies in the Pacific. From
its outside view I could thus make no deduction; and, strange to
say, the interior was concealed. All the other chests, as I have said
already, we had found gaping open, and their contents scattered abroad;
the same remark we found to apply afterwards in the quarters of the
seamen; only this camphor-wood chest, a singular exception, was both
closed and locked.
I took an axe to it, readily forced the paltry Chinese fastening, and,
like a Custom-House officer, plunged my hands among the contents. For
some while I groped among linen and cotton. Then my teeth were set
on edge with silk, of which I drew forth several strips covered with
mysterious characters. And these settled the business, for I recognised
them as a kind of bed-hanging popular with the commoner class of the
Chinese. Nor were further evidences wanting, such as night-clothes of
an extraordinary design, a three-stringed Chinese fiddle, a silk
handkerchief full of roots and herbs, and a neat apparatus for smoking
opium, with a liberal provision of the drug. Plainly, then, the cook had
been a Chinaman; and, if so, who was Jos. Amalu? Or had Jos. stolen the
chest before he proceeded to ship under a false name and domicile? It
was possible, as anything was possible in such a welter; but, regarded
as a solution, it only led and left me deeper in the bog. For why
should this chest have been deserted and neglected, when the others were
rummaged or removed? and where had Jos. come by that second chest, with
which (according to the clerk at the What Cheer) he had started for
"And how have YOU fared?" inquired the captain, whom I found luxuriously
reclining in our mound of litter. And the accent on the pronoun, the
heightened colour of the speaker's face, and the contained excitement
in his tones, advertised me at once that I had not been alone to make
"I have found a Chinaman's chest in the galley," said I, "and John (if
there was any John) was not so much as at the pains to take his opium."
Nares seemed to take it mighty quietly. "That so?" said he. "Now, cast
your eyes on that and own you're beaten!" And with a formidable clap
of his open hand he flattened out before me, on the deck, a pair of
I gazed upon them dully, being in no mood for fresh discoveries.
"Look at them, Mr. Dodd," cried the captain sharply. "Can't you look
at them?" And he ran a dirty thumb along the title. "'_Sydney Morning
Herald_, November 26th,' can't you make that out?" he cried, with rising
energy. "And don't you know, sir, that not thirteen days after this
paper appeared in New South Pole, this ship we're standing in heaved her
blessed anchors out of China? How did the _Sydney Morning Herald_ get to
Hong Kong in thirteen days? Trent made no land, he spoke no ship, till
he got here. Then he either got it here or in Hong Kong. I give you your
choice, my son!" he cried, and fell back among the clothes like a man
weary of life.
"Where did you find them?" I asked. "In that black bag?"
"Guess so," he said. "You needn't fool with it. There's nothing else but
a lead-pencil and a kind of worked-out knife."
I looked in the bag, however, and was well rewarded.
"Every man to his trade, captain," said I. "You're a sailor, and you've
given me plenty of points; but I am an artist, and allow me to
inform you this is quite as strange as all the rest. The knife is a
palette-knife; the pencil a Winsor and Newton, and a B B B at that.
A palette-knife and a B B B on a tramp brig! It's against the laws of
"It would sicken a dog, wouldn't it?" said Nares.
"Yes," I continued, "it's been used by an artist, too: see how it's
sharpened - not for writing - no man could write with that. An artist, and
straight from Sydney? How can he come in?"
"O, that's natural enough," sneered Nares. "They cabled him to come up
and illustrate this dime novel."
We fell a while silent.
"Captain," I said at last, "there is something deuced underhand about
this brig. You tell me you've been to sea a good part of your life. You
must have seen shady things done on ships, and heard of more. Well, what
is this? is it insurance? is it piracy? what is it ABOUT? what can it be
"Mr. Dodd," returned Nares, "you're right about me having been to sea
the bigger part of my life. And you're right again when you think I know
a good many ways in which a dishonest captain mayn't be on the square,
nor do exactly the right thing by his owners, and altogether be just a
little too smart by ninety-nine and three-quarters. There's a good many
ways, but not so many as you'd think; and not one that has any mortal
thing to do with Trent. Trent and his whole racket has got to do with
nothing - that's the bed-rock fact; there's no sense to it, and no use
in it, and no story to it: it's a beastly dream. And don't you run away
with that notion that landsmen take about ships. A society actress don't
go around more publicly than what a ship does, nor is more interviewed,
nor more humbugged, nor more run after by all sorts of little
fussinesses in brass buttons. And more than an actress, a ship has a
deal to lose; she's capital, and the actress only character - if she's
that. The ports of the world are thick with people ready to kick a
captain into the penitentiary if he's not as bright as a dollar and as
honest as the morning star; and what with Lloyd keeping watch and watch
in every corner of the three oceans, and the insurance leeches, and the
consuls, and the customs bugs, and the medicos, you can only get
the idea by thinking of a landsman watched by a hundred and fifty
detectives, or a stranger in a village Down East."
"Well, but at sea?" I said.
"You make me tired," retorted the captain. "What's the use - at sea?
Everything's got to come to bearings at some port, hasn't it? You can't
stop at sea for ever, can you? - No; the Flying Scud is rubbish; if it
meant anything, it would have to mean something so almighty intricate
that James G. Blaine hasn't got the brains to engineer it; and I vote
for more axeing, pioneering, and opening up the resources of this
phenomenal brig, and less general fuss," he added, arising. "The
dime-museum symptoms will drop in of themselves, I guess, to keep us
But it appeared we were at the end of discoveries for the day; and we
left the brig about sundown, without being further puzzled or further
enlightened. The best of the cabin spoils - books, instruments, papers,
silks, and curiosities - we carried along with us in a blanket, however,
to divert the evening hours; and when supper was over, and the table
cleared, and Johnson set down to a dreary game of cribbage between his
right hand and his left, the captain and I turned out our blanket on the
floor, and sat side by side to examine and appraise the spoils.
The books were the first to engage our notice. These were rather
numerous (as Nares contemptuously put it) "for a lime-juicer." Scorn
of the British mercantile marine glows in the breast of every Yankee
merchant captain; as the scorn is not reciprocated, I can only suppose
it justified in fact; and certainly the old country mariner appears of a
less studious disposition. The more credit to the officers of the Flying
Scud, who had quite a library, both literary and professional. There
were Findlay's five directories of the world - all broken-backed, as is
usual with Findlay, and all marked and scribbled over with corrections
and additions - several books of navigation, a signal code, and an
Admiralty book of a sort of orange hue, called _Islands of the Eastern
Pacific Ocean, Vol. III._, which appeared from its imprint to be the
latest authority, and showed marks of frequent consultation in the
passages about the French Frigate Shoals, the Harman, Cure, Pearl, and
Hermes reefs, Lisiansky Island, Ocean Island, and the place where
we then lay - Brooks or Midway. A volume of Macaulay's _Essays_ and a
shilling Shakespeare led the van of the belles lettres; the rest were
novels: several Miss Braddons - of course, _Aurora Floyd_, which has
penetrated to every isle of the Pacific, a good many cheap detective
books, _Rob Roy_, Auerbach's _Auf der Hohe_ in the German, and a prize
temperance story, pillaged (to judge by the stamp) from an Anglo-Indian
"The Admiralty man gives a fine picture of our island," remarked Nares,
who had turned up Midway Island. "He draws the dreariness rather mild,
but you can make out he knows the place."
"Captain," I cried, "you've struck another point in this mad business.
See here," I went on eagerly, drawing from my pocket a crumpled fragment
of the _Daily Occidental_ which I had inherited from Jim: "'misled by
Hoyt's Pacific Directory'? Where's Hoyt?"
"Let's look into that," said Nares. "I got that book on purpose for this
cruise." Therewith he fetched it from the shelf in his berth, turned to
Midway Island, and read the account aloud. It stated with precision that
the Pacific Mail Company were about to form a depot there, in preference
to Honolulu, and that they had already a station on the island.
"I wonder who gives these Directory men their information," Nares
reflected. "Nobody can blame Trent after that. I never got in company
with squarer lying; it reminds a man of a presidential campaign."
"All very well," said I. "That's your Hoyt, and a fine, tall copy. But
what I want to know is, where is Trent's Hoyt?"
"Took it with him," chuckled Nares. "He had left everything else, bills
and money and all the rest; he was bound to take something, or it would
have aroused attention on the Tempest: 'Happy thought,' says he, 'let's
"And has it not occurred to you," I went on, "that all the Hoyts in
creation couldn't have misled Trent, since he had in his hand that red
admiralty book, an official publication, later in date, and particularly
full on Midway Island?"
"That's a fact!" cried Nares; "and I bet the first Hoyt he ever saw
was out of the mercantile library of San Francisco. Looks as if he had
brought her here on purpose, don't it? But then that's inconsistent with
the steam-crusher of the sale. That's the trouble with this brig racket;
any one can make half a dozen theories for sixty or seventy per cent
of it; but when they're made, there's always a fathom or two of slack
hanging out of the other end."
I believe our attention fell next on the papers, of which we had
altogether a considerable bulk. I had hoped to find among these matter
for a full-length character of Captain Trent; but here I was doomed, on
the whole, to disappointment. We could make out he was an orderly man,
for all his bills were docketed and preserved. That he was convivial,
and inclined to be frugal even in conviviality, several documents
proclaimed. Such letters as we found were, with one exception, arid
notes from tradesmen. The exception, signed Hannah Trent, was a somewhat
fervid appeal for a loan. "You know what misfortunes I have had to
bear," wrote Hannah, "and how much I am disappointed in George. The
landlady appeared a true friend when I first came here, and I thought
her a perfect lady. But she has come out since then in her true colours;
and if you will not be softened by this last appeal, I can't think what
is to become of your affectionate - - " and then the signature. This
document was without place or date, and a voice told me that it had gone
likewise without answer. On the whole, there were few letters anywhere
in the ship; but we found one before we were finished, in a seaman's
chest, of which I must transcribe some sentences. It was dated from some
place on the Clyde. "My dearist son," it ran, "this is to tell you your
dearist father passed away, Jan twelft, in the peace of the Lord. He had
your photo and dear David's lade upon his bed, made me sit by him.
Let's be a' thegither, he said, and gave you all his blessing. O my dear
laddie, why were nae you and Davie here? He would have had a happier
passage. He spok of both of ye all night most beautiful, and how ye used
to stravaig on the Saturday afternoons, and of auld Kelvinside. Sooth
the tune to me, he said, though it was the Sabbath, and I had to sooth
him Kelvin Grove, and he looked at his fiddle, the dear man. I cannae
bear the sight of it, he'll never play it mair. O my lamb, come home to
me, I'm all by my lane now." The rest was in a religious vein and quite
conventional. I have never seen any one more put out than Nares, when I
handed him this letter; he had read but a few words, before he cast
it down; it was perhaps a minute ere he picked it up again, and the
performance was repeated the third time before he reached the end.
"It's touching, isn't it?" said I.
For all answer, Nares exploded in a brutal oath; and it was some half an
hour later that he vouchsafed an explanation. "I'll tell you what broke
me up about that letter," said he. "My old man played the fiddle, played
it all out of tune: one of the things he played was _Martyrdom,_ I
remember - it was all martyrdom to me. He was a pig of a father, and I
was a pig of a son; but it sort of came over me I would like to hear
that fiddle squeak again. Natural," he added; "I guess we're all
"All sons are, I guess," said I. "I have the same trouble on my
conscience: we can shake hands on that." Which (oddly enough, perhaps)
Amongst the papers we found a considerable sprinkling of photographs;
for the most part either of very debonair-looking young ladies or old
women of the lodging-house persuasion. But one among them was the means
of our crowning discovery.
"They're not pretty, are they, Mr. Dodd?" said Nares, as he passed it
"Who?" I asked, mechanically taking the card (it was a quarter-plate)
in hand, and smothering a yawn; for the hour was late, the day had been
laborious, and I was wearying for bed.
"Trent and Company," said he. "That's a historic picture of the gang."
I held it to the light, my curiosity at a low ebb: I had seen Captain
Trent once, and had no delight in viewing him again. It was a photograph
of the deck of the brig, taken from forward: all in apple-pie order; the
hands gathered in the waist, the officers on the poop. At the foot of
the card was written "Brig Flying Scud, Rangoon," and a date; and above
or below each individual figure the name had been carefully noted.
As I continued to gaze, a shock went through me; the dimness of sleep
and fatigue lifted from my eyes, as fog lifts in the channel; and I
beheld with startled clearness the photographic presentment of a crowd
of strangers. "J. Trent, Master" at the top of the card directed me to
a smallish, weazened man, with bushy eyebrows and full white beard,
dressed in a frock coat and white trousers; a flower stuck in his
button-hole, his bearded chin set forward, his mouth clenched with
habitual determination. There was not much of the sailor in his looks,
but plenty of the martinet: a dry, precise man, who might pass for a
preacher in some rigid sect; and whatever he was, not the Captain
Trent of San Francisco. The men, too, were all new to me: the cook, an
unmistakable Chinaman, in his characteristic dress, standing apart on
the poop steps. But perhaps I turned on the whole with the greatest
curiosity to the figure labelled "E. Goddedaal, 1st off." He whom I had
never seen, he might be the identical; he might be the clue and spring
of all this mystery; and I scanned his features with the eye of a
detective. He was of great stature, seemingly blonde as a viking,
his hair clustering round his head in frowsy curls, and two enormous
whiskers, like the tusks of some strange animal, jutting from his
cheeks. With these virile appendages and the defiant attitude in which
he stood, the expression of his face only imperfectly harmonised. It was
wild, heroic, and womanish looking; and I felt I was prepared to hear he
was a sentimentalist, and to see him weep.
For some while I digested my discovery in private, reflecting how best,
and how with most of drama, I might share it with the captain. Then my
sketch-book came in my head; and I fished it out from where it lay, with
other miscellaneous possessions, at the foot of my bunk and turned to
my sketch of Captain Trent and the survivors of the British brig Flying
Scud in the San Francisco bar-room.
"Nares," said I, "I've told you how I first saw Captain Trent in that
saloon in 'Frisco? how he came with his men, one of them a Kanaka with
a canary-bird in a cage? and how I saw him afterwards at the auction,
frightened to death, and as much surprised at how the figures skipped up
as anybody there? Well," said I, "there's the man I saw" - and I laid
the sketch before him - "there's Trent of 'Frisco and there are his three
hands. Find one of them in the photograph, and I'll be obliged."
Nares compared the two in silence. "Well," he said at last, "I call this
rather a relief: seems to clear the horizon. We might have guessed at
something of the kind from the double ration of chests that figured."
"Does it explain anything?" I asked.
"It would explain everything," Nares replied, "but for the
steam-crusher. It'll all tally as neat as a patent puzzle, if you leave
out the way these people bid the wreck up. And there we come to a stone
wall. But whatever it is, Mr. Dodd, it's on the crook."
"And looks like piracy," I added.
"Looks like blind hookey!" cried the captain. "No, don't you deceive
yourself; neither your head nor mine is big enough to put a name on this
CHAPTER XV. THE CARGO OF THE "FLYING SCUD."
In my early days I was a man, the most wedded to his idols of my
generation. I was a dweller under roofs: the gull of that which we call
civilisation; a superstitious votary of the plastic arts; a cit; and
a prop of restaurants. I had a comrade in those days, somewhat of an
outsider, though he moved in the company of artists, and a man famous