Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

on.

“What are you carrying?” he shouted if for a moment the ship fell off broadside to the water-tender. "We 've got to to the seas, the giant waves would roll her keep a full head of steam on her to-night." over and over like an empty barrel in a

"We've got it, Mr. Neville-one hun- mill-race. The groaning of every rib and dred and sixty, an’ we 've held between plate in the hull, the crash of seas against that and sixty-five ever since I 've been the sides, the thunder of waves breaking

on deck, drowned the usual noises below. "The captain says we've made Tortu- The color of the men's courage began gas. We lost three hours on the run from to show. Some kept grimly at their work, Jupiter," Neville answered, and went dumb from fear. Others covered fright back to his engine.

with profanity, cursing the storm, the During the next hour no one on deck ship, their mates, cursing themselves. had to tell these men, toiling far below Larry, as he threw coal steadily through the water-line, that wind and sea had his fire-doors, hummed a broken tune. He risen. They had warnings enough. gave no heed to Dan, who grew more savWithin their steel-incased quarters every age as the slow hours of overtoil dragged bolt and rivet sounded the overstrain by. forced upon it. In the engine-room the About four in the morning Neville oiler could no longer move from the throt- called Larry to the engine-room. On his tle. Every few minutes now, despite his return Dan blazed out at him: watchfulness, a jarring shiver spread "Boot-lickin' Neville ag'in, was you? through the hull as the propeller, thrown I'd lay you out, you shrimp, only I want high, raced wildly in air before he could

you to do your work.” shut off steam.

Larry took up his shovel; as usual his At eleven-thirty the indicator clanged, silence enraged Sullivan. and its arrow jumped to half-speed ahead. "You chicken-livered wharf-rat, ain't A moment later the men below decks you got no spunk to answer wid?” Dan "felt the rudder" as the San Gardo, aban- jerked a slice-bar from the fire and hurled doning further attempts to hold her it to the floor at Larry's feet. The little course, swung about to meet the seas head man leaped in the air; the white-hot end on.

of the bar, bounding from the floor, missed Eight bells-midnight-struck, mark- his legs by an inch. ing the end of the shift; but no one came Larry's jaw shot out; he turned on Suldown the ladders to relieve Neville's livan, all meekness gone. watch. The growls of the tired men rose

"Dan," he cried shrilly, "if you try that above the noise in the fire-room. Again again-" Neville came through the passage.

“Great God! what 's that!" “The tube to the bridge is out of com- Dan's eyes were staring; panic showed mission," he called, “but I can raise the on every face in the room. The sound of chief. He says no man can live on deck ; an explosion had come from the forward one 's gone overboard already. The sec- hold. Another followed, and another, a ond watch can't get out of the forecastle. broadside of deafening reports. The terIt 's up to us, men, to keep this ship afloat, rifying sounds came racing aft. They and steam 's the only thing that 'll do it.” reached the bulkhead nearest them, and

For the next hour and the next the tore through the fire-room, bringing unfire-room force and the two men in the masked fear to every man of the watch. engine-room stuck doggedly to their work. The crew stood for a moment awed, then They knew that the San Gardo was mak- broke, and, rushing for the ladder, fought ing a desperate struggle, that it was touch fo: a chance to escape this new, unknown and go whether the ship would live out mai'ness of the storm. the hurricane or sink to the bottom. They Only Larry kept his head. knew also, to the last man of them, that “Stop! Come back!” His shrill voice

room.

He was

crew.

carried above the terrifying noise. "It 's ounce of sediment that had lain undisthe plates bucklin' between the ribs.” turbed beneath the floor-plates since the "Plates! Hell! we 're sinkin'!"

vessel's launching. Sometime between Neville rushed in from the engine- seven and eight all the bilge-pumps

clogged at the same moment, and the wa“Back to your fires, men, or we 'll all ter began rising at a rate that threatened drown! Steam, keep up-”

the fires. It became a question of minutes shouting at full-lung power, but his cries between life and death for all hands. Nevwere cut short. Again the deafening re- ille, working frantically to clear the ports started at the bows. Again, crash pumps, yelled to the oiler to leave the after crash, the sounds came tearing aft throttle and come to him. The water, as if a machine-gun were raking the ves- gaining fast, showed him that their comsel from bow to stern. At any time these bined efforts were hopeless. He ran to noises would bring terror to men locked the boiler-room for more aid. Here the below decks; but now, in the half-filled water had risen almost to the fires; as cargo spaces, each crashing report was like the ship rolled, it slushed up between the the bursting of a ten-inch shell.

floor-plates and ran in oily streams about Neville went among the watch, urging, the men's feet. Again panic seized the commanding, assuring them that these sounds meant no real danger to the ship. "Come on, lads!" Sullivan shouted He finally ended the panic by beating the above the infernal din. We 'll be more frightened ones back to their boilers. drowned in this hell-hole!"

Then for hours, at every plunge of the In the next second he was half-way up ship, the deafening boom of buckling the ladder; below him, clinging to the plates continued until the watch was rungs like frightened apes, hung other crazed by the sound.

stokers. This new terror began between four

"Come back, you

fool!". Neville and five in the morning, when the men shouted. "Open that deck-door, and you had served double time under the gruel- 'll swamp the ship!" ing strain. At sunrise another misery was Dan continued to climb. added to their torture: the rain increased "Come down or I 'll fire!" suddenly, and fell a steady cataract to “Shoot an' be damned to you !” Dan the decks. This deluge and the flying called back. spray sent gallons of water down the The report of Neville's revolver was stack; striking the breeching-plates, it was lost in the noise; but the bullet, purposely instantly turned to steam and boiling wa- sent high, spattered against the steel plate ter. As the fagged stokers bent before above Dan's head. He looked down. the boilers, the hot water, dripping from Neville, swaying with the pitching floor, the breeching, washed scalding channels was aiming true for his second shot. through the coal-dust down their bare Cursing at the top of his voice, Dan backs. They hailed this new torment scrambled down the ladder, pushing the with louder curses, but continued to en- men below him to the floor. dure it for hours, while outside the hurri- “Back to your boilers !" Neville orcane raged, with no end, no limit, to its dered; but the stokers, huddled in a 'frightpower.

ened group, refused to leave the ladder. Since the beginning of the watch the It was only a matter of seconds now bilge-pumps had had all they could do before the fires would be drenched. Bilgeto handle the leakage coming from the water was splashing against the under seams of the strained hull. Twice Nev- boiler-plates, filling the room with dense ille had taken the throttle and sent his steam. Neville left the en and raced oiler to clear the suctions. The viclent for the engine-room. He found Larry lurching of the ship had churned up every and the oiler working desperately at the valve-wheel of the circulating-pump. Nev- As the men slunk back through the pasille grasped the wheel, and gave the best sage Dan growled : he had to open the valve. This manifold, "May that man some day burn in hell!" connecting the pump with the bilges, was "Don't be wishin' him no such luck," intended only for emergency use.

It had

an angry voice answered ; "wish him down not been opened for months, and was now here wid us." rusted tight. The three men, straining every muscle, failed to budge the wheel. The morning dragged past; noon came, After the third hopeless attempt, Larry marking the sixteenth hour that the men, let go,

and without a word bolted through imprisoned below the sea-swept decks, had the passage to the fire-room.

struggled to save the ship. Sundown fol"You miserable quitter!" Neville

Neville lowed, and the second night of their unscreamed after him, and bent again to the broken toil began. They stuck to it, stood wheel.

up somehow under the racking grind, As he looked up, despairing of any their nerves quivering, their bodies cravchance to loosen the rusted valve, Larrying food, their eyes gritty from the urge came back on the run, carrying a coal- of sleep, while always the hideous noises pick handle. He thrust it between the of the gale screamed in their ears. The spokes of the wheel.

machine-gun roar of buckling plates, rak“Now, Mr. Neville, all together!" His ing the battered hull, never ceased. Celtic jaw was set hard.

With each crawling minute the men All three threw their weight against grew more silent, more desperate. Dan the handle. The wheel stirred.

Sullivan let no chance pass to vent his As they straightened for another effort, spleen on Larry. Twice during the day a louder noise of hissing steam sounded his fellow-stokers, watching the familiar from the boilers, and the fire-room force, scene, saw the big man reach the point of mad with fright, came crowding through crushing the small one; but the ever-exthe passage to the higher Aoor of the en- pected blow did not fall. gine-room.

Shortly after midnight the first hope "Quick! Together!" Neville gasped. came to the exhausted men that their fight The wheel moved an inch.

might not be in vain. Though the buckOnce more! Now!"

ling plates still thundered, though the The wheel turned and did not stop.

floor under their feet still pitched at crazy The three men dropped the lever, seized angles, there was a “feel” in the fire-room the wheel, and threw the valve wide open. that ribs and beams and rivets were not

Good work, men !” Neville cried, and so near the breaking-point. fell back exhausted.

Neville came to the end of the passage. The centrifugal pump was thrown in “The hurricane 's blowing itself to at the last desperate moment. When the death,” he shouted. “Stick to it, boys, rusted valve finally opened, water had for an hour longer; the second watch can risen to the lower grate-bars under every reach us by then.” boiler in the fire-room. But once in ac- The hour passed, but no relief came. tion, the twelve-inch suction of the giant The wind had lost some force, but the pump did its work with magic swiftness. seas still broke over the bows, pouring In less than thirty seconds the last gallon tons of water to the deck. The vessel of water in the bilges had been lifted and pitched as high, rolled as deep, as before. sent, rushing through the discharge, over- As the men fired their boilers they board.

rested the filled scoops on the floor and Neville faced the boiler-room

waited for the ship to roll down. Then a sternly.

quick jerk of the fire-door chain, a quick “Now, you cowards, get to your fires!" heave of the shovel, and the door was he said.

snapped shut before the floor rolled up

crew

now?"

again. Making one of these hurried Neville had heard Larry's cry and passes, Larry swayed on tired legs. He rushed to the boiler-room. managed the toss and was able to close “For God's sake! what 's happened the door before he fell hard against Dan. His sullen enemy instantly launched a Dan pointed a shaking finger. Neville new tirade, fiercer, more blasphemous, looked once at what only a moment before than any before. He ended a stream of had been the legs and feet of a man. As oaths, and rested the scoop ready for his he turned quickly from the sight the enthrow.

gineer's face was like chalk. "I 'll learn yuh, yuh snivelin'_" The “Here, two of you,” he called unsteadship rolled deep. Dan jerked the fire-door ily, "carry him to the engine-room." open-"yuh snivelin' shrimp!" He glared Dan threw the men roughly aside. at Larry as he made the pass. He missed “Leave him be," he growled. "Don't the opening. His shovel struck hard a one of you put hand on him!" He lifted against the boiler front. The jar knocked Larry gently and, careful of each step, Dan to the floor, pitched that moment at crossed the swaying floor. its steepest angle. He clutched desper- "Lay him there by the dynamo," Nevately to gain a hold on the smooth-worn ille ordered when they had reached the steel plates, his face distorted by fear as engine-room. he slid down to the fire.

Dan hesitated. Larry, crying a shrill warning, sprang

“'Tain't fittin', sir, an' him so bad between Sullivan and the open furnace. hurt. Let me be takin' him to the storeHe stooped, and with all the strength he room." could gather shoved the big stoker from Neville looked doubtfully up the nardanger. Then above the crashing sounds

row stairs. a shriek tore the steam-clouded air of the "We can't get him there with this sea fire-room. Larry had fallen!

running." As his feet struck the ash-door, the ship Sullivan spread his legs wide, took both rolled up. A cascade falling from Dan's of Larry's wrists in one hand, and swung fire had buried Larry's legs to the knees the unconscious man across his back. He under a bed of white-hot coals. He strode to the iron stairs and began to shrieked again the cry of the mortally hurt climb. As he reached the first grating as Dan dragged him too late from before Larry groaned. Dan stopped dead; near the open door.

him the great cross-heads were plunging “Mouse! Mouse!” Horror throbbed steadily up and down. in Sullivan's voice. "You 're hurted bad!" "God, Mr. Neville, did he hit ag'in' He knelt, holding Larry in his arms, while somethin'?" The sweat of strain and others threw water on the blazing coals. fear covered his face. "Speak, lad !" Dan pleaded. "Speak to The vessel leaped to the crest of a wave,

and dropped sheer into the trough beyond. The fire-room force stood over them "No; but for God's sake, man, go on! silenced. Accident, death even, they al- You ’ll pitch with him to the floor if she ways expected; but to see Dan Sullivan does that again!" show pity for any living thing, and, above Dan, clinging to the rail with his free all, for the Bunker Mouse

hand, began climbing the second flight. The lines of Larry's tortured face eased. At the top grating Neville sprang past

"It 's the last hurt I 'll be havin', Dan,” him to the store-room door. he said before he fainted.

“Hold him a second longer,” he called, "Don't speak the word, Mouse, an' you and spread an armful of cotton waste on just after savin’ me life!" Then the men the vise bench. in the fire-room saw a miracle, for tears Dan laid Larry on the bench. He filled the big stoker's eyes.

straightened his own great body for a

a

me!”

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors]

“Dan, clinging to the rail with his free hand, began climbing the second flight'

« AnkstesnisTęsti »