enabled, all unobserved myself, to observe with a still-
growing closeness the face and the demeanour of Captain
Warmed by whiskey and encouraged by the eager-
ness of the bystanders, that gentleman was now
rehearsing the history of his misfortune. It was but
scraps that reached me : how he " filled her on the star-
board tack," and how "it came up sudden out of the
nor'nor'west," and "there she was, high and dry."
Sometimes he would appeal to one of the men
" That was how it was, Jack ? " and the man would
reply, "That was the way of it, Captain Trent."
FACES ON THE CITY FRONT. 171
Lastly, lie started a fresh tide of popular sympathy by
enunciating the sentiment, " Damn all these Admirality
Charts, and that's what I say ! " From the nodding of
heads and the murmurs of assent that followed, I
could see that Captain Trent had established himself in
the public mind as a gentleman and a thorough navi-
gator: about which period, my sketch of the four men
and the canary-bird being finished, and all (especially
the canary-bird) excellent likenesses, I buckled up my
book, and slipped from the saloon.
Little did I suppose that I was leaving Act I, Scene I,
of the drama of my life ; and yet the scene, or rather the
captain's face, lingered for some time in my memory. I
was no prophet, as I say; but I was something else: I
was an observer; and one thing I knew, I knew when a
man was terrified. Captain Trent, of the British brig
Flying Scud, had been glib ; he had been ready ; he had
been loud ; but in his blue eyes I could detect the chill,
and in the lines of his countenance spy the agitation of
perpetual terror. Was he trembling for his certificate ?
In my judgment, it was some livelier kind of fear that
thrilled in the man's marrow as he turned to drink.
Was it the result of recent shock, and had he not yet
recovered the disaster to his brig ? I remembered how
a friend of mine had been in a railway accident, and
shook and started for a month; and although Captain
Trent of the Flying Scud had none of the appearance of
a nervous man, I told myself, with incomplete convic-
tion, that his must be a similar case.
172 THE WRECKER.
THE WRECK OF THE " FLYING SCUD."
The next morning I found Pinkerton, who had risen
before me, seated at our usual table, and deep in the
perusal of what I will call the Daily Occidental. This
was a paper (I know not if it be so still) that stood out
alone among its brethren in the West ; the others, down
to their smallest item, were defaced with capitals, head
lines, alliterations, swaggering misquotations, and the
shoddy picturesque and unpathetic pathos of the Harry
Millers : the Occidental alone appeared to be written by
a dull, sane, Christian gentleman, singly desirous of
communicating knowledge. It had not only this merit,
which endeared it to me, but was admittedly the best
informed on business matters, which attracted Pinkerton.
"Loudon," said he, looking up from the journal, "you
sometimes think I have too many irons in the fire. My
notion, on the other hand, is, when you see a dollar
lying, pick it up ! Well, here I've tumbled over a whole
pile of 'em on a reef in the middle of the Pacific."
" Why, Jim, you miserable fellow ! " I exclaimed ;
" haven't we Depew City, one of God's green centres for
this State ? haven't we "
"Just listen to this," interrupted Jim. "It's miser-
able copy; these Occidental reporter fellows have no fire;
THE WKECK OF THE "FLYING SCUD." 173
but the facts are right enough, I guess." And he began
to read :
"WRECK OF THE BRITISH BRIG, ' FLYING SCUD.'
"H. B. M. S. Tempest, which arrived yesterday at this
port, brings Captain Trent and four men of the British
brig Flying Scud, cast away February 12th on Midway
Island, and most providentially rescued the next day.
The Flying Scud was of 200 tons burthen, owned in
London, and has been out nearly two years tramping.
Captain Trent left Hong Kong December 8th, bound for
this port in rice and a small mixed cargo of silks, teas,
and China notions, the whole valued at $10,000, fully
covered by insurance. The log shows plenty of fine
weather, with light airs, calms, and squalls. In lat. 28 ~N.,
long. 177 W., his water going rotten, and misled by Hoyt's
North Pacific Directory, which informed him there was
a coaling station on the island, Captain Trent put in to
Midway Island. He found it a literal sandbank, sur-
rounded by a coral reef mostly submerged. Birds were
very plenty, there was good fish in the lagoon, but no
firewood; and the water, which could be obtained by
digging, brackish. He found good holding-ground off
the north end of the larger bank in fifteen fathoms
water ; bottom sandy, with coral patches. Here he
was detained seven days by a calm, the crew suffering
severely from the water, which was gone quite bad;
and it was only on the evening of the 12th, that a little
174 THE WRECKER.
wind sprang up, coming puffy out of N.N.E. Late as
it was, Captain Trent immediately weighed anchor and
attempted to get out. While the vessel was beating up
to the passage, the wind took a sudden lull and then
veered squally into N. and even N.N.W., driving the brig
ashore on the sand at about twenty minutes before six
o'clock. John Wallen, a native of Finland, and Charles
Holdorsen, a native of Sweden, were drowned alongside,
in attempting to lower a boat, neither being able to
swim, the squall very dark, and the noise of the breakers
drowning everything. At the same time John Brown,
another of the crew, had his arm broken by the falls.
Captain Trent further informed the OCCIDENTAL re-
porter, that the brig struck heavily at first bows on,
he supposes upon coral; that she then drove over the
obstacle, and now lies in sand, much down by the head
and with a list to starboard. In the first collision she
must have sustained some damage, as she was making
water forward. The rice will probably be all destroyed :
but the more valuable part of the cargo is fortunately
in the afterhold. Captain Trent was preparing his long-
boat for sea, when the providential arrival of the Tem-
pest, pursuant to Admiralty orders to call at islands in
her course for castaways, saved the gallant captain from
all further danger. It is scarcely necessary to add that
both the officers and men of the unfortunate vessel speak
in high terms of the kindness they received on board the
man-of-war. We print a listjof the survivors: Jacob
THE WRECK OF THE "FLYING SCUD." 175
Trent, master, of Hull, England ; Elias Goddedaal, mate,
native of Christiansand, Sweden ; Ah Wing, cook, native
of Sana, China; John Brown, native of Glasgow, Scot-
land; John Hardy, native of London, England. The
Flying Scud is ten years old, and this morning will be
sold as she stands, by order of Lloyd's agent, at public'
auction for the benefit of the underwriters. The auc-
tion will take place in the Merchants' Exchange at ten
" Farther Particulars. Later in the afternoon the
OCCIDENTAL reporter found Lieutenant Sebright, first
officer of H. B. M. S. Tempest, at the Palace Hotel. The
gallant officer was somewhat pressed for time, but con-
firmed the account given by Captain Trent in all particu-
lars. He added that the Flying Scud is in an excellent
berth, and except in the highly improbable event of a
heavy N.W. gale, might last until next winter."
" Tou will never know anything of literature," said I,
when Jim had finished. " That is a good, honest, plain
piece of work, and tells the story clearly. I see only
one mistake : the cook is not a Chinaman ; he is a Kan-
aka, and I think a Hawaiian."
" Why, how do you know that ? " asked Jim.
" I saw the whole gang yesterday in a saloon," said L
"I even heard the tale, or might have heard it, from
Captain Trent himself, who struck me as thirsty and
176 THE WRECKER.
" Well, that's neither here nor there," cried Pinkertoa
"The point is, how about these dollars lying on a reef ? "
"Will it pay?" I asked.
" Pay like a sugar trust ! " exclaimed Pinkerton.
" Don't you see what this British officer says about the
safety ? Don't you see the cargo's valued at ten thou-
sand ? Schooners are begging just now ; I can get my
pick of them at two hundred and fifty a month; and
how does that foot up ? It looks like three hundred per
cent to me."
"You forget," I objected, "the captain himself de-
clares the rice is damaged."
"That's a point, I know," admitted Jim. "But the
rice is the sluggish article, anyway; it's little more
account than ballast ; it's the tea and silks that I look
to : all we have to find is the proportion, and one look at
the manifest will settle that. I've rung up Lloyd's on
purpose ; the captain is to meet me there in an hour, and
then I'll be as posted on that brig as if I built her.
Besides, you've no idea what pickings there are about a
wreck copper, lead, rigging, anchors, chains, even the
crockery, Loudon ! "
"You seem to me to forget one trifle," said I. "Be
fore you pick that wreck, you've got to buy her, and
how much will she cost ? "
" One hundred dollars," replied Jim, with the prompti-
tude of an automaton.
"How on earth do you guess that ? " I cried.
THE WRECK OF THE "FLYING SCUD/' 177
"I don't guess; I know it," answered the Commercial
Force. " My dear boy, I may be a galoot about litera-
ture, but you'll always be an outsider in business. How
do you suppose I bought the James L. Moody for two
hundred and fifty, her boats alone worth four times the
money ? Because my name stood first in the list.
Well, it stands there again; I have the naming of the
figure, and I name a small one because of the distance :
but it wouldn't matter what I named ; that would be the
" It sounds mysterious enough," said I. " Is this pub-
lic auction conducted in a subterranean vault ? Could
a plain citizen myself, for instance come and see ? "
"0, everything's open and above board!" he cried
indignantly. "Anybody can come, only nobody bids
against us ; and if he did, he would get frozen out. It's
been tried before now, and once was enough. We hold
the plant ; we've got the connection ; we can afford to go
higher than any outsider ; there's two million dollars in.
the ring; and we stick at nothing. Or suppose any-
body did buy over our head I tell you, London, he
would think this town gone crazy j he could no more get
business through on the city front than I can dance ;
schooners, divers, men all he wanted the prices
would fly right up and strike him."
"But how did you get in?." I asked. "You were
once an outsider like your neighbours, I suppose ? "
" I took hold of that thing, Loudon, and just studied
178 THE WRECKER.
it up," he replied. "It took my fancy ; it was so roman.
tic, and then I saw there was boodle in the thing ; and
I figured on the business till no man alive could give me
points. Nobody knew I had an eye on wrecks till one
fine morning I dropped in upon Douglas B. Longhurst
in his den, gave him all the facts and figures, and put
it to him straight : * Do you want me in this ring ? or
shall I start another ? ' He took half an hour, and when
I came back, ' Pink/ says he, * I've put your name on.*
The first time I came to the top, it was that Moody
racket ; now it's the Flying Scud."
Whereupon Pinkerton, looking at his watch, uttered
an exclamation, made a hasty appointment with myself
for the doors of the Merchants' Exchange, and fled to
examine manifests and interview the skipper. I finished
my cigarette with the deliberation of a man at the end
of many picnics ; reflecting to myself that of all forms
of the dollar hunt, this wrecking had by far the most
address to my imagination. Even as I went down town,
in the brisk bustle and chill of the familiar San Francisco
thoroughfares, I was haunted by a vision of the wreck,
baking so far away in the strong sun, under a cloud of
sea-birds ; and even then, and for no better reason, my
heart inclined towards the adventure. If not myself,
something that was mine, some one at least in my em-
ployment should voyage to that ocean-bounded pin-point
and descend to that deserted cabin.
Pinkerton met me at the appointed moment, pinched
THE WRECK OF THE "FLYING SCUD." 179
of lip and more than usually erect of bearing, like one
conscious of great resolves.
" Well," said he, " it might be better,- and it might be
worse. This Captain Trent is a remarkably honest fel-
low one out of a thousand. As soon as he knew I was
in the market, he owned up about the rice in so many
words. By his calculation, if there's thirty mats of it
saved, it's an outside figure. However, the manifest was
cheerier. There's about five thousand dollars of the
whole value in silks and teas and nut-oils and that, all
in the lazarette, and as safe as if it was in Kearney
Street. The brig was new coppered a year ago. There's
upwards of a hundred and fifty fathom away-up chain.
It's not a bonanza, but there's boodle in it; and we'll
try it en."
It was by that time hard on ten o'clock, and we turned
at once into the place of sale. The Flying Scud, al-
though so important to ourselves, appeared to attract a
very humble share of popular attention. The auctioneer
was surrounded by perhaps a score of lookers-on, big
fellows, for the most part, of the true Western build,
long in the leg, broad in the shoulder, and adorned (to
a plain man's taste) with needless finery. A jaunty,
ostentatious comradeship prevailed. Bets were flying,
and nicknames. "The boys" (as they would have called
themselves) were very boyish; and it was plain they
were here in mirth, and not on business. Behind, and
180 THE WRECKEB.
certainly in strong contrast to these gentlemen, I could
detect the figure of my friend Captain Trent, come (as
I could very well imagine that a captain would) to hear
the last of his old vessel. Since yesterday, he had
rigged himself anew in ready-made black clothes, not
very aptly fitted ; the upper left-hand pocket showing a
corner of silk handkerchief, the lower, on the other side,
bulging with papers. Pinkerton had just given this
man a high character. Certainly he seemed to have been
very frank, and I looked at him again to trace (if possi-
ble) that virtue in his face. It was red and broad and
flustered and (I thought) false. The whole man looked
sick with some unknown anxiety ; and as he stood there,
unconscious of my observation, he tore at his nails,
scowled on the floor, or glanced suddenly, sharply, and
fearfully at passers-by. I was still gazing at the man in
a kind of fascination, when the sale began.
Some preliminaries were rattled through, to the irrev-
erent, uninterrupted gambolling of the boys ; and then,
amid a trifle more attention, the auctioneer sounded for
some two or three minutes the pipe of the charmer.
Fine brig new copper valuable fittings three fine
boats remarkably choice cargo what the auctioneer
would call a perfectly safe investment ; nay, gentlemen,
he would go further, he would put a figure on it : he
had no hesitation (had that bold auctioneer) in putting
it in figures ; and in his view, what with this and that,
and one thing and another, the purchaser might expect
THE WRECK OF THE "FLYING SCTJD." 181
to clear a sum equal to the entire estimated value of the
cargo ; or, gentlemen, in other words, a sum of ten thou-
sand dollars. At this modest computation the roof im-
mediately above the speaker's head (I suppose, through
the intervention of a spectator of ventriloquial tastes)
uttered a clear " Cock-a-doodle-doo ! " whereat all
laughed, the auctioneer himself obligingly joining.
"Now, gentlemen, what shall we say," resumed that
gentleman, plainly ogling Pinkerton, " what shall we
say for this remarkable opportunity ? "
" One hundred dollars," said Pinkerton.
" One hundred dollars from Mr. Pinkerton," went the
auctioneer, " one hundred dollars. No other gentleman
inclined to make any advance? One hundred dollars,
only one hundred dollars . . ."
The auctioneer was droning on to some such tune as
this, and I, on my part, was watching with something
between sympathy and amazement the undisguised emo-
tion of Captain Trent, when we were all startled by the
interjection of a bid.
"And fifty," said a sharp voice.
Pinkerton, the auctioneer, and the boys, who were all
equally in the open secret of the ring, were now all
equally and simultaneously taken aback.
" I beg your pardon," said the auctioneer. " Anybody
"And fifty," reiterated the voice, which I was now
able to trace to its origin, on the lips of a small, un-
182 THE WBECKER.
seemly rag of human-kind. The speaker's skin wag
gray and blotched ; he spoke in a kind of broken song,
with much variety of key; his gestures seemed (as in
the disease called Saint Vitus's dance) to be imperfectly
under control ; he was badly dressed ; he carried himself
with an air of shrinking assumption, as though he were
proud to be where he was and to do what he was doing,
and yet half expected to be called in question and
kicked out. I think I never saw a man more of a piece ;
and the type was new to me ; I had never before set
eyes upon his parallel, and I thought instinctively of
Balzac and the lower regions of the Comtdie Humaine.
Pinkerton stared a moment on the intruder with no
friendly eye, tore a leaf from his note-book, and scribbled
a line in pencil, turned, beckoned a messenger boy, and
whispered "To Longhurst." Next moment, the boy
had sped upon his errand, and Pinkerton was again fac-
ing the auctioneer.
" Two hundred dollars," said Jim.
"And fifty," said the enemy.
"This looks lively," whispered I to Pinkerton,
"Yes; the little beast means cold drawn biz,** re-
turned my friend. "Well, he'll have to have a lesson.
Wait till I see Longhurst. Three hundred," he added
" And fifty," came the echo.
It was about this moment when my eye fell again on
Captain Trent. A deeper shade had mounted to his
THE WRECK OF THE "FLYING SCUD." 183
crimson face: the new coat was unbuttoned and all
flying open ; the new silk handkerchief in busy requisi-
tion ; and the man's eye, of a clear sailor blue, shone
glassy with excitement. He was anxious still, but now
(if I could read a face) there was hope in his anxiety.
"Jim," I whispered, "look at Trent. Bet you what
you please, he was expecting this."
"Yes," was the reply, "there's some blame' thing
going on here." And he renewed his bid.
The figure had run up into the neighbourhood of a thou-
sand when I was aware of a sensation in the faces oppo-
site, and looking over my shoulder, saw a very large,
bland, handsome man come strolling forth and make a
little signal to the auctioneer.
" One word, Mr. Borden," said he ; and then to Jim,
" Well, Pink, where are we up to now ? "
Pinkerton gave him the figure. " I ran up to that on
my own responsibility, Mr. Longhurst," he added, with a
flush. " I thought it the square thing."
"And so it was," said Mr. Longhurst, patting him
kindly on the shoulder, like a gratified uncle. "Well,
you can drop out now ; we take hold ourselves. You
can run it up to five thousand; and if he likes to go
beyond that, he's welcome to the bargain."
" By the by, who is he ? " asked Pinkerton. " He
looks away down."
"I've sent Billy to find out." And at the very moment
Mr. Longhurst received from the hands of one of the
184 THE WBBCKEK.
expensive young gentlemen a folded paper. It was
passed round from one to another till it came to me, and
I read : " Harry D. Bellairs, Attorney-at-Law ; defended
Clara Varden ; twice nearly disbarred."
" Well, that gets me ! " observed Mr. Longhurst.
" Who can have put up a shyster l like that ? Nobody
with money, that's a sure thing. Suppose you tried
a big bluff? I think I would, Pink. Well, ta-ta !
Your partner, Mr. Dodd ? Happy to have the pleasure
of your acquaintance, sir." And the great man with-
" Well, what do you think of Douglas B. ? " whispered
Pinkerton, looking reverently after him as he departed.
"Six foot of perfect gentleman and culture to his
During this interview the auction had stood trans-
parently arrested, the auctioneer, the spectators, and
even Bellairs, all well aware that Mr. Longhurst was
the principal, and Jim but a speaking-trumpet. But now
that the Olympian Jupiter was gone, Mr. Borden thought
proper to affect severity.
" Come, come, Mr. Pinkerton. Any advance ? " he
And Pinkerton, resolved on the big bluff, replied,
" Two thousand dollars."
Bellairs preserved his composure. "And fifty," said
1 A low lawyer.
THE WRECK OF THE "FLYING SCUD." 185
he. But there was a stir among the onlookers, and what
was of more importance, Captain Trent had turned pale
and visibly gulped.
" Pitch it in again, Jim," said I. " Trent is weaken-
" Three thousand," said Jim.
"And fifty," said Bellairs.
And then the bidding returned to its original move-
ment by hundreds and fifties ; but I had been able in
the meanwhile to draw two conclusions. In the first
place, Bellairs had made his last advance with a smile of
gratified vanity ; and I could see the creature was glory-
ing in the kudos of an unusual position and secure of
ultimate success. In the second, Trent had once more
changed colour at the thousand leap, and his relief,
when he heard the answering fifty, was manifest and
unaffected. Here then was a problem : both were pre-
sumably in the same interest, yet the one was not in the
confidence of the other. Nor was this all. A few bids
later it chanced that my eye encountered that of Captain
Trent, and his, which glittered with excitement, was
instantly, and I thought guiltily, withdrawn. He
wished, then, to conceal his interest ? As Jim had said,
there was some blamed thing going on. And for cer-
tain, here were these two men, so strangely united, so
strangely divided, both sharp-set to keep the wreck from
Us. and that at an exorbitant figure.
Was the wreck worth more than we supposed ? A
186 THE WKECKEB.
sudden heat was kindled in my brain; the bids were
nearing Longhurst's limit of five thousand; another
minute, and all would be too late. Tearing a leaf from
my sketch-book, and inspired (I suppose) by vanity in
my own powers of inference and observation, I took the
one mad decision of my life. " If you care to go ahead"
I wrote, " Pm in for all I'm worth."
Jim read, and looked round at me like one bewildered ;
then his eyes lightened, and turning again to the auc-
tioneer, he bid, " Five thousand one hundred dollars."
" And fifty," said monotonous Bellairs.
Presently Pinkerton scribbled, " What can it be f " and
I answered, still on paper : " I can't imagine ; but there's
something. Watch Bellairs ; he'll go up to the ten thou-
sand; see if he don't."
And he did, and we followed. Long before this, word
had gone abroad that there was battle royal: we were
surrounded by a crowd that looked on wondering; and
when Pinkerton had offered ten thousand dollars (the
outside value of the cargo, even were it safe in San
Francisco Bay), and Bellairs, smirking from ear to ear
to be the centre of so much attention, had jerked out his
answering, " And fifty," wonder deepened to excitement.
"Ten thousand one hundred," said Jim; and even
as he spoke, he made a sudden gesture with his hand,
his face changed, and I could see that he had guessed,
or thought that he had guessed, the mystery. As he
scrawled another memorandum in his note-book, his hand
shook like a telegraph-operator'g.
THE WBECK OF THE "FLYING SCUD." 187
"Chinese ship" ran the legend; and then, iu big,
tremulous half-text, and with a nourish that overran
the margin, " Opium I "
To be sure! thought I: this must be the secret. I
knew that scarce a ship came in from any Chinese
port, but she carried somewhere, behind a bulkhead, or
in some cunning hollow of the beams, a nest of the
valuable poison. Doubtless there was some such treas-
ure on the Flying Scud. How much was it worth?
We knew not, we were gambling in the dark ; but Trent
knew, and Bellairs ; and we could only watch and judge.
By this time neither Pinkerton nor I were of sound
mind. Pinkerton was beside himself, his eyes like
lamps. I shook in every member. To any stranger
entering (say) in the course of the fifteenth thousand,
we should probably have cut a poorer figure than Bellairs
himself. But we did not pause ; and the crowd watched
us, now in silence, now with a buzz of whispers.
Seventeen thousand had been reached, when Douglas
B. Longhurst, forcing his way into the opposite row of