Max Brand.

Harrigan online

. (page 9 of 15)
Online LibraryMax BrandHarrigan → online text (page 9 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

"Go get Sloan - bring him here!"

McTee rose.

"No! Don't let me lay eyes on him - he brought me this! Go yourself
and carry him a message to send. The doctors are letting her die;
they think she has no money. Send them this message:

"_Save Beatrice at all costs. Call in the greatest doctors. I will pay
all bills ten times over._

"Quick! Why are you waiting here? You fool! Run! Minutes mean life or
death to her!"

McTee hastened back to the wireless house in the after-part of the
ship. To Sloan he gave the message, even exaggerating it somewhat.
After it was sent, he said: "Look here, my boy, do you realize that
it's dangerous to bring the captain messages like that last one you
carried to him?"

"Do I know it? I should say I do! Once the old boy jumped at me like
a tiger because I carried in a bad report."

"Could you make up a false message?"

"It's against the law, sir."

"It's not against the law to keep a man from going crazy."


"I mean what I say. Henshaw is balancing on the ragged edge of
insanity. Mark my words! If the news comes of his granddaughter's
death, he'll fall on the other side. Why can't you give him some hope
in the meantime? Suppose you work up something this afternoon like
this: 'Beatrice rallying rapidly. Doctor's much more hopeful.' What do
you say?"

"Crazy!" repeated the wireless operator, fascinated. "If the old man
loses his reason, we're all in danger."

"He's on the verge of it. I know something of this subject. I've
studied it a lot. A common sign is when one fancy occupies a man's
brain. Henshaw has two of them. One is what an old soothsayer told him:
that he would die by fire at sea; the other is his love for this girl.
Between the two, he's in bad shape. Remember that he's an old man."

"You're right, sir; and I'll do it. It may not be legal, but we can't
stop for law in a case like this."

McTee nodded and went back to Henshaw, whom he found walking the cabin
with a step surprisingly elastic and quick.

"Go back and send another message," he called. "I made a mistake. I
didn't send one that was strong enough. They may not understand. What I
should have said was - "

"I made it twice as strong as the way you put it," said McTee; and he
repeated his phrasing of the message with some exaggeration.

The lean hand of the captain wrung his.

"You're a good lad, McTee - a fine fellow. Stand by me. You'd never
guess how my brain is on fire; the old devil of a soothsayer was right.
But that message you sent will bring those deadheaded doctors to life.
Ah, McTee, if I were only there for a minute in spirit, I could restore
her to life - yes, one minute!"

"Of course you could. But in the meantime, for a change of thought,
suppose you finish that order you were about to write out and send to

"What order?"

"About Harrigan."

"Who the devil is Harrigan?"

McTee drew a deep breath and answered quietly: "The man you ordered to
work in the hole. Here's the paper and your pen."

He placed them in the hands of the captain, but the latter held them

"It's the frail ones who are carried off by the white plague. Am I

"No, you're wrong. The frail ones sometimes have a better chance than
the husky people. Look at the number of athletes who are carried away
by it!"

"God bless you, McTee!"

"The strength that counts is the strength of spirit, and this girl has
your own fighting spirit."

"Do you think so?"

"Yes; I saw it in her eyes."

Henshaw shook his head sadly.

"No; they're the eyes of her grandmother, and she had no fighting
spirit. I think I married her more for pity than for love. Her
grandmother died by that same disease, McTee."

The latter gave up the struggle and spent an hour soothing the excited
old man. When he managed to escape, he went up and down the deck
breathing deeply of the fresh air. For the moment Harrigan was safe,
but it would not be long before he would force Henshaw to deliver the
order. Into this reverie broke the voice of Jerry Hovey.

"Beg your pardon, Captain McTee."

The Scotchman turned to the bos'n with the smile still softening his
stern lips.

"Well?" he asked good-naturedly.

"Let me have half a dozen words, sir."

"A thousand, bos'n. What is it?"

Now, Hovey remembered what Harrigan had said about coming straight to
the point, and he appreciated the value of the advice. Particularly in
speaking to a man like McTee, for he recognized in the Scotchman some
of the same strong, blunt characteristics of Harrigan.

"Every man who's sailed the South Seas knows Captain McTee," he began.

"None of that, lad. If you know me, you also know that I'm called Black
McTee - and for a reason."

"More than that, sir, we know that whatever men say of you, your word
has always been good."


"I'm going to ask you to give me your word that what I have to say, if
it doesn't please you, will go out one ear as fast as it goes in the

"You have my word."

"And maybe your hand, sir?"

McTee, stirred by curiosity, shook hands.

Hovey began: "Some of us have sailed a long time and never got much in
the pocket to show for it."

"Yes, that's true of me."

"But there's none of us would turn our backs on the long green?"

McTee grinned.

"Well, sir, I have a little plan. Suppose you knew an old man - a man so
old, sir, that he was sure to die in a year or so. And suppose he had
one heir - a girl who was about to die - "

"Mutiny, bos'n," said McTee coldly.

But the eye of Hovey was fully as cold; he knew his man.

"Well?" he queried.

"Talk ahead. I've given you my word to keep quiet."

"Suppose this old man had a lot of money. Would it be any crime - any
great crime to slip a little of that long green into our pockets?"

Two pictures were in McTee's mind - one of the safe piled full of gold,
and the other of the half-crazed old skipper with his dying
granddaughter. After all, it was only a matter of months before Henshaw
would be dead, for certainly he would not long survive the death of
Beatrice. Even a small portion of that hoard would enable him to leave
the sea - to woo Kate as she must be wooed before he could win her.
Golden would be the veil with which he could blind her eyes to the
memory of Harrigan after he had removed the Irishman from his path.

"Very well, bos'n. I understand what you mean. I've seen the inside of
that safe in the cabin. Now I come straight to the point. Why do you
talk with me?"

"Because I need a man like you."

"To lead the mutiny?"

"Tell me first, are you with us?"

"Who are us?"

"You'll have to speak first."

"I'm with you."

"Now I'll tell you. The whole forecastle is hungry for the end of White
Henshaw. Your share of the money is whatever you want to make it. You
can have all my part; what I want is the sight of Henshaw crawlin' at
our feet."

"You're a good deal of a man, Hovey. Henshaw has put you in his school,
and now you're about to graduate, eh? But why do you want me? What
brought you to me?"

"I thought I didn't need you a while ago; now I have to have somebody
stronger than I am. I was the king of the bunch yesterday; but the last
man we took into our plan proved to be stronger than I am."



McTee straightened slowly and his eyes brightened. Hovey went on:
"Before he'd been with us ten minutes, the rest of the men in the
forecastle were looking up to him. He has the reputation. He won it by
facing you and Henshaw at the same time. Now the lads listen to me, but
they keep their eyes on Harrigan. I know what that means. That's why I
come here and offer the leadership to you."

McTee was thinking rapidly.

"A plan like this is fire, bos'n, and I have an idea I might burn my
fingers unless you have enough of the crew with you. If you have
Harrigan, it certainly means that you have a majority of the rest."

Hovey grinned: "Aye, you know Harrigan."

The insinuation made McTee hot, but he went on seriously: "If you could
make me sure that you have Harrigan, I'd be one of you."

"What proof do you want?"

"None will do except the word out of his own mouth. Listen! Along about
four bells this afternoon I'll find some way of sending Miss Malone out
of her cabin. Then I'll go in there and wait. Bring Harrigan close to
that door at that tune and make him talk about the mutiny. Can you do

"But why the room of the girl?"

"You're stupid, Hovey. Because if you talked outside of the cabin where
I sleep - that being the office of Henshaw - he'd hear you as well as I

"Then I'll bring him to the door of the girl's cabin. At four bells?"


"After that we'll talk over the details, sir?"

"We will. And keep away from me, Hovey. If Henshaw sees me talking with
members of his crew, he might begin to think - and any of his thinking
is dangerous for the other fellow."

The bos'n touched his cap.

"Aye, aye, sir. You can begin hearin' the chink of the money, and I
begin to see White Henshaw eatin' dirt. With Black McTee - excusin' the
name, sir - to lead us, there ain't nothin' can stop us."


He went off toward the forecastle hitching at his trousers and
whistling an old English song of the Spanish Main. As for Black McTee,
he remained staring after Hovey with a rising thought of perjury. The
loot of the _Heron_ was a deep temptation, and his pledged word to the
bos'n was a strong bond, for as Hovey had said, the honor of Black
McTee, in spite of his other failings, was respected throughout the
South Seas. For one purpose, however, he would have sacrificed all
hopes of plunder and a thousand plighted words, and that purpose was
the undoing of Harrigan in the eyes of Kate.

She had grown into a necessity to him. Though were she twice as
beautiful, he would never have paid her the dangerous honor of a second
glance under ordinary conditions, but their life together on the island
and his rivalry with Harrigan for her sake had made her infinitely dear
to him.

Seeing the opportunity to destroy all her respect for Harrigan, he
schemed instantly to betray his word to Hovey. Like Harrigan earlier in
the day, he had no purpose to reveal the planned mutiny at once. The
Irishman waited because he did not know to whom he could confide the
dangerous information; McTee delayed in the hope of nipping
insurrection in the bud at the very instant when it was about to
flower. It would be far more spectacular. Moreover, he saw in this a
manner of enlisting Kate on his side.

Shortly before four bells in the afternoon he went to her cabin and
knocked at the door. When she opened it to him, she stood with one hand
upon the knob, blocking the way and waiting silently for an explanation
of his coming. That quiet coldness banished from his mind the speech
which he had prepared.

He said at last: "Kate, I want you to talk with me for a few minutes."

She considered him seriously - without fear, but with such a deep
distrust that he was startled. He had not dreamed that matters had
progressed as far as that. At length she stepped back, and without a
word beckoned him to come inside. He entered and then his eyes raised
and met her glance with such a deep, still yearning that she was
startled. No woman can see the revelation of a man's love without being
moved to the heart.

She said: "You are in trouble, Angus?"

The hunger of his eyes came full in her face.

"Aye, trouble."

"And you have come to me - " she asked; and before she could finish her
sentence, McTee broke in, pleadingly:

"For help."

He saw her lips part, her eyes brighten; he knew it was his despair
which was winning her.

"Tell me!" And she made a little gesture with both hands toward him.

"I have seen it for days. I have lost all hope of you, Kate."

Her glance wandered slightly, and his hope increased.

"Because of Harrigan," he said.

She was remembering what Harrigan had said: "How to stop McTee? Make
yourself old and your skin yellow, and your hair gray, and take the
spring out of your step."

"Why do you keep the whip over him, Angus? He has saved your life, and
you his. Why will you not treat him as one strong and generous man
would treat another?"

"Because I love you, Kate."

"Angus, would you stop if you knew I loved him?"

"Is that a fair question, Kate? Even if you said you loved him, I could
not stop, because I would have to do my best to save you from

She looked her query silently.

"He is not worthy of you, Kate. Because he seems generous and simple,
do not be deceived. He is capable of things which even Black McTee
would turn from. I know it, for I know his type. But I, Kate - your head
is turned; do you hear me?"

She rose and cried: "Why have you both thought from the first that I
must choose between you? Are there no other men in the whole world?"

He answered doggedly: "You will never find another who will love you as
we do. To one of us you must finally belong."

"And that is why you go ahead with your schemes to torture Harrigan,
certain that when he is finished I will be helpless?"

"No, I am certain of nothing. But I am absolutely sure that Harrigan
stands between you and me, and I will have him done for."

"Let me think, Angus. You have pulled my old world about my ears, and
now I am trying to build another kingdom where force is the only god.
Can there be such a place?"

Four bells sounded. He wondered if Hovey would bring Harrigan at the
time they had agreed upon. And she stood with her hands pressed against
her eyes, trembling.

"In one thing at least you spoke the truth, Angus. There are only two
men left for me in the world. I must choose between you and Harrigan."

"Until that time comes, I must fight for you, Kate, in the only way I
know how to fight - with both my hands, trying to kill the things that
stand between us - Hush!"

For he heard the rumble of two deep voices near the door.


Kate and McTee both stood frozen with attention, for one of the voices
was Harrigan's, saying: "And why the devil have you brought me away up
here, bos'n?"

"Because we have to watch sharp, Harrigan. There are some of the lads
we can't trust too far, and they mustn't overhear us when we talk."

"Why, Hovey, they can hear us inside the cabin."

"She cannot. This is the girl's cabin, and I saw her go out a while

"Well, then, what is it you want to know?"

"I'll tell you, man to man. When you said you were with us last night,
I've been thinking you might have said it for fear of the lads."

"Hovey, you're thick in the head. Didn't you hear me talk?"

"I did, and I may be thick in the head, but I can't rest easy till you
give me your hand and tell me you're playin' straight with us. You were
backward at first, Harrigan."

There was an instant of pause, and then Harrigan answered: "I can't
take your hand, Hovey."

McTee set his teeth. To have his plans upset when all so far had gone
with perfect smoothness was maddening.

"Why not?" asked Hovey sharply.

"It's just a queer hunch I've always had. I don't like the idea of
takin' any oath. I'm a man of action, Hovey. When the night comes, give
me a club, and you'll see where I stand!"

There was a subdued, purring danger in his voice which made Kate
tremble. Evidently it convinced Hovey.

"I guess you're right, Harrigan. I don't want to doubt you; God knows
we got a need for men like you when the time comes. The other lads
think there'll be nothin' to it, but I know Henshaw - I _know_!"

"It'll be a hard nut to crack. I don't make any mistake about that,"
said Harrigan; "but if we work cool and with a rush, we'll sweep them
off their feet."

"Now you're talkin'," said Hovey. "Speed is the thing we want most.
Speed, and no quarter."

"You'll need no urging for that. The boys are all set to kill. Have the
officers many revolvers?"

"Not many. Salvain has one, and so has Henshaw. I don't think the rest
pack any. Harrigan, I've got a weight off my mind, knowing that you're
sure with us. And you'll get any share of the loot you want to name."

There was another brief pause.

"I'm easy satisfied," said Harrigan. "What I want is that the girl who
has this cabin - Kate Malone - should be handled with gloves."

"Ah, there speaks the Irish!"

"I want the care of her to fall to my hands."

"Aye, you could have ten like her, as far as I'm concerned."

"Then I'm your man, Hovey. There comes one of the mates. Let's move

"Right-o, lad."

Their voices retreated, and after a time McTee looked down at Kate. She
was dazed, as if someone had struck her in the face.

"What does it mean, Angus?"

"Wasn't it plain? Mutiny!"

She struck her hand sharply across her forehead with a little moan.

"I warned you, Kate, that he was capable of anything, but I never
dreamed of a proof coming as quickly as this."

"I can't believe it; I won't believe it."

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Why should I blame him?" he said. "He sees a way to get you. I could
almost sink as low as that myself - but not quite - not quite! I know
something of mutinies at sea. Have you noticed the fellows who are in
this crew?"

"I don't know - yes - I'm too sick to remember a single face except one
scar-faced man."

"On the whole they're the roughest lot I've ever seen cooped up
together. If they should be turned loose, they would make a shambles of
this ship - a red shambles, Kate!"

There was not a trace of color in her face. She watched him with a
horrified fascination.

"Of course," he went on easily, "I'll be the first one to go down.
Harrigan would see to that. Well, it would be a worthwhile fight - while
I lasted!"

"It can never take place!" she said desperately. "You are forewarned.
Tell Captain Henshaw at once, and - "

He raised his hand solemnly.

"You must not do that, Kate. You must promise me not to speak a word on
the subject until I have given you leave."

"I will promise you anything - but why not speak of it at once? I feel
as if we were standing over a - a magazine of powder!"

"We are - only worse. But it would be madness to warn Henshaw now. He is
unnerved - almost insane. His granddaughter, for whom he had made all
his fortune and to whom he is going in the States - "

"Yes, Salvain told me. She is dying; it is pitiful, Angus, but - "

"He must not be told. He would start with the hand of iron, and the
first act of violence which he committed would be the touch of fire
which would set off this powder magazine. No, we must wait. Perhaps in
a little time I may be able to win over one of the mutineers and from
him learn all their plans, and then turn the tables on them. But I must
first know all the men who are concerned in the uprising. When we _do_
move - shall I spare Harrigan, Kate?"

He tried to ask it frankly, but a devil of malice was in his eyes.

"I don't know - I can't think! Angus, what did Dan mean?"

"I warned you of what he was capable," he said.

She caught his hands, stammering: "You are all that is left to me. You
will stand between me and danger, Angus? You will protect me? But wait!
I could go to Harrigan. I _know_ that if I plead with him, I can win
him away from the mutineers!"

"Kate, you are hysterical! Don't you see that a man who is capable of
planning a wholesale murder in the night would be quite able to lie to
you? No, no! Whatever you do, you must promise me not to speak a word
of this to anyone, most of all, to Harrigan."

"I will promise anything - I will do anything. It all rests with you,

"And when we strike at the mutineers - if Harrigan falls, will you
absolve me of his death, Kate?"

She was terribly moved, standing stiff and straight and helpless like a
child about to be punished.

"Angus, for the sake of pity, do not ask me."

"I must know."

"Angus," came her broken voice, "I _cannot_ give up my faith in him."

His face grew as dark as night, but he laid a gentle hand on her
shoulder and said: "Your mind is distraught. You shall have time to
think this over; but remember, Kate, we must fight fire with fire, and
the time has come when you must choose between us."

And then, very wisely, he slipped from the room.


On the promenade outside he met Sloan, the wireless operator, on his
way to Captain Henshaw's cabin with a slip of paper in his hand. Sloan
winked at him broadly.

"The good news has come, sir," he grinned. "Take a look at this!"

And McTee eagerly read the typewritten slip.

_Beatrice is rallying. Doctors have decided effusion of blood was not
hemorrhage. Opinion now very hopeful._

"Will that bring the old boy around for a while?" asked Sloan.

"He'll slip you a twenty on the strength of that and give you a drink
as well," said McTee.

They reached the cabin and entered together to find that White Henshaw
lay on the couch in the corner. His physical strength was apparently
exhausted, and one long, lean arm dangled to the floor. At sight of the
dreaded wireless operator with the message in his hand, his yellow face
turned from yellow to pale ivory. He rose and supported himself with
one hand against the wall, scowling as if he dared them to notice his

"Good news!" called Sloan cheerily, and extended the paper.

The captain snatched the paper, his eyes were positively wolfish while
he devoured the message.

"Sloan - good lad," he stammered. "Stay by your instrument every minute,
my boy. Before night we'll have word that she's past all danger."

Sloan touched his cap and withdrew.

"Good news!" said McTee amiably. "I'm mighty glad to hear it, captain."

The old man fell back into a chair, holding the precious piece of paper
with its written lie in both trembling hands.

"Good news," he croaked. "Aye, McTee. You were right, lad! Those damned
doctors don't know their business. They're making the case out bad so
they'll get more credit for the cure. See how they're fooling with me -
and me with my heart on fire in the middle of the sea!"

His eyes wandered strangely in the midst of his exultation.

"That would be a strange death, eh, McTee - to burn in the middle of the
sea with a ship full of gold?"

The Scotchman shuddered.

"Forget that, man. You're not going to burn at sea. You're going to
reach port with all your gold and you're going to stand beside Beatrice
and say - "

Henshaw broke in: "And say, 'Beatrice, I've come to make you happy.
We'll leave this country where the fogs are so thick and the sun never
shines, and we'll go south, far south, where there's summer all the
year.' That's what I'll say!"

"Right," nodded McTee. "If her lungs are weak, that's the place to take

Henshaw jerked erect in his chair. "Weak lungs? Who said she had weak
lungs? McTee, you're a fool! A little cold on the chest, that's all
that's the matter with the girl! The doctors have made the sickness -
they and their rotten medicines! And now they're making sport out of
White Henshaw. I'll skin them alive, I will!"

McTee lighted a cigar and nodded judiciously as he puffed it.

"Very good idea, Henshaw. If you want me to, I'll go along and help you

"You're a brick, McTee. Maybe I'll need you. Getting old; not what I
used to be."

"I see you're not," said McTee boldly.

Henshaw scowled: "What do you mean?"

"That affair of Harrigan. He's still going scot-free, you know."

"Right! McTee, I'm getting feeble-minded, but I'll make up for lost

He caught up pen and paper, while McTee drew a long breath of relief. A
moment later he was astonished to note that the captain had not written
a single letter.

"I'd forgotten," murmured Henshaw. "When I started to write that order
this morning - just as I was putting pen to paper - in came Sloan with
the message from the doctors saying that Beatrice was in a critical
situation. It may be, captain, that this message is bad luck for me,

"Nonsense," said McTee easily, gripping his hand with rage, while he
fought to control his voice. "You mustn't let superstitions run away
with you."

"So! So!" frowned Henshaw. "You're a young man to give me advice,
McTee. I've followed superstitions all my life. I tell you there's
something in those star-gazing devils of the South Seas. They know
things that aren't in the books."

"What about the old fool who prophesied that you'd die by fire at sea?"

Henshaw shivered, and his eyes narrowed as he stared at McTee.

"How do you know he's an old fool, eh? We haven't reached port yet - not
by a long sight!"

"Well," said McTee, with a carefully assumed carelessness, "this ship
belongs to you - you're the skipper; but on a boat I was captain of, no

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryMax BrandHarrigan → online text (page 9 of 15)