October 22 (day)

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‘HERE she comes,’ said Davies. It was nine o’clock on the next day, 22nd October, and we were on deck waiting for the arrival of the steamer from Norddeich. There was no change in the weather–still the same stringent cold, with a high barometer, and only fickle flaws of air; but the morning was gloriously clear, except for a wreath or two of mist curling like smoke from the sea, and an attenuated belt of opaque fog on the northern horizon. The harbour lay open before us, and very commodious and civilized it looked, enclosed between two long piers which ran quite half a mile out from the land to the road-stead (Riff-Gat by name) where we lay. A stranger might have taken it for a deep and spacious haven; but this, of course, was an illusion, due to the high water. Davies knew that three-quarters of it was mud, the remainder being a dredged-out channel along the western pier. A couple of tugs, a dredger, and a ferry packet with steam up, were moored on that side–a small stack of galliots on the other. Beyond these was another vessel, a galliot in build, but radiant as a queen among sluts; her varnished sides and spars flashing orange in the sun. These, and her snow-white sail-covers and the twinkle of brass and gun-metal, proclaimed her to be a yacht. I had already studied her through the glasses and read on her stern Medusa. A couple of sailors were swabbing her decks; you could hear the slush of the water and the scratching of the deck-brooms. ‘They can see us anyway,’ Davies had said.

For that matter all the world could see us–certainly the incoming steamer must; for we lay as near to the pier as safety permitted, abreast of the berth she would occupy, as we knew by a gangway and a knot of sailors.

A packet boat, not bigger than a big tug, was approaching from the south.

‘Remember, we’re not supposed to know he’s coming,’ I said; ‘let’s go below.’ Besides the skylight, our ‘coach-house’ cabin top had little oblong side windows. We wiped clean those on the port side and watched events from them, kneeling on the sofa.

The steamer backed her paddles, flinging out a wash that set us rolling to our scuppers. There seemed to be very few passengers aboard, but all of them were gazing at the Dulcibella while the packet was warped alongside. On the forward deck there were some market-women with baskets, a postman, and a weedy youth who might be an hotel waiter; on the after-deck, standing close together, were two men in ulsters and soft felt hats.

‘There he is!’ said Davies, in a tense whisper; ‘the tall one.’ But the tall one turned abruptly as Davies spoke and strode away behind the deck-house, leaving me just a lightning impression of a grey beard and a steep tanned forehead, behind a cloud of cigar smoke. It was perverse of me, but, to tell the truth, I hardly missed him, so occupied was I by the short one, who remained leaning on the rail, thoughtfully contemplating the Dulcibella through gold-rimmed pince-nez: a sallow, wizened old fellow, beetlebrowed, with a bush of grizzled moustache and a jet-black tuft of beard on his chin. The most remarkable feature was the nose, which was broad and flat, merging almost imperceptibly in the wrinkled cheeks. Lightly beaked at the nether extremity, it drooped towards an enormous cigar which was pointing at us like a gun just discharged. He looked wise as Satan, and you would say he was smiling inwardly.

‘Who’s that?’ I whispered to Davies. (There was no need to talk in whispers, but we did so instinctively.)

‘Can’t think,’ said Davies. ‘Hullo! she’s backing off, and they’ve not landed.’

Some parcels and mail-bags had been thrown up, and the weedy waiter and two market-women had gone up the gangway, which was now being hauled up, and were standing on the quay. I think one or two other persons had first come aboard unnoticed by us, but at the last moment a man we had not seen before jumped down to the forward deck. ‘Grimm!’ we both ejaculated at once.

The steamer whistled sharply, circled backwards into the road-stead, and then steamed away. The pier soon hid her, but her smoke showed she was steering towards the North Sea.

‘What does this mean?’ I asked.

‘There must be some other quay to stop at nearer the town,’ said Davies. ‘Let’s go ashore and get your letters.’

We had made a long and painful toilette that morning, and felt quite shy of one another as we sculled towards the pier, in much-creased blue suits, conventional collars, and brown boots. It was the first time for two years that I had seen Davies in anything approaching a respectable garb; but a fashionable watering-place, even in the dead season, exacts respect; and, besides, we had friends to visit.

We tied up the dinghy to an iron ladder, and on the pier found our inquisitor of the night before smoking in the doorway of a shed marked ‘Harbour Master’. After some civilities we inquired about the steamer. The answer was that it was Saturday, and she had, therefore, gone on to Juist. Did we want a good hotel? The ‘Vier Jahreszeiten’ was still open, etc.

‘Juist, by Jove!’ said Davies, as we walked on. ‘Why are those three going to Juist?’

‘I should have thought it was pretty clear. They’re on their way to Memmert.’

Davies agreed, and we both looked longingly westward at a straw-coloured streak on the sea.

‘Is it some meeting, do you think?’ said Davies.

‘Looks like it. We shall probably find the Kormoran here, wind-bound.’

And find her we did soon after, the outermost of the stack of galliots, on the farther side of the harbour. Two men, whose faces we took a good look at, were sitting on her hatch, mending a sail.

Flooded with sun, yet still as the grave, the town was like a dead butterfly for whom the healing rays had come too late. We crossed some deserted public gardens commanded by a gorgeous casino, its porticos heaped with chairs and tables; so past kiosques and _cafés,_ great white hotels with boarded windows, bazaars and booths, and all the stale lees of vulgar frivolity, to the post-office, which at least was alive. I received a packet of letters and purchased a local time-table, from which we learned that the steamer sailed daily to Borkum via Norderney, touching three times a week at Juist (weather permitting). On the return journey to-day it was due at Norderney at 7.30 p.m. Then I inquired the way to the ‘Vier Jahreszeiten’. ‘For whatever your principles,

Davies,’ I said, ‘we are going to have the best breakfast money can buy! We’ve got the whole day before us.’

The ‘Four Seasons’ Hotel was on the esplanade facing the northern beach. Living up to its name, it announced on an illuminated sign-board, ‘Inclusive terms for winter visitors; special attention to invalids, etc.’ Here in a great glass restaurant, with the unruffled blue of ocean spread out before us, we ate the king of breakfasts, dismissed the waiter, and over long and fragrant Havanas examined my mail at leisure.

‘What a waste of good diplomacy!’ was my first thought, for nothing had been tampered with, so far as we could judge from the minutest scrutiny, directed, of course, in particular to the franked official letters (for to my surprise there were two) from Whitehall.

The first in order of date (6th Oct.) ran: ‘Dear Carruthers.–Take another week by all means.–Yours, etc.’

The second (marked ‘urgent’) had been sent to my home address and forwarded. It was dated 15th October, and cancelled the previous letter, requesting me to return to London without delay–‘I am sorry to abridge your holiday, but we are very busy, and, at present, short-handed.–Yours, etc.’ There was a dry postscript to the effect that another time I was to be good enough to leave more regular and definite information as to my whereabouts when absent.

‘I’m afraid I never got this!’ I said, handing it to Davies.

‘You won’t go, will you?’ said he, looking, nevertheless, with unconcealed awe at the great man’s handwriting under the haughty official crest. Meanwhile I discovered an endorsement on a corner of the envelope: ‘Don’t worry; it’s only the chief’s fuss.–M–‘ I promptly tore up the envelope. There are domestic mysteries which it would be indecent and disloyal to reveal, even to one’s best friend. The rest of my letters need no remark; I smiled over some and blushed over others–all were voices from a life which was infinitely far away. Davies, meanwhile, was deep in the foreign intelligence of a newspaper, spelling it out line by line, and referring impatiently to me for the meaning of words.

‘Hullo!’ he said, suddenly; ‘same old game! Hear that siren?’ A curtain of fog had grown on the northern horizon and was drawing shorewards slowly but surely.

‘It doesn’t matter, does it?’ I said.

‘Well, we must get back to the yacht. We can’t leave her alone in the fog.’

There was some marketing to be done on the way back, and in the course of looking for the shops we wanted we came on the Schwannallée and noted its position. Before we reached the harbour the fog was on us, charging up the streets in dense masses. Happily a tramline led right up to the pier-head, or we should have lost our way and wasted time, which, in the event, was of priceless value. Presently we stumbled up against the Harbour Office, which was our landmark for the steps where we had tied up the dinghy. The same official appeared and good-naturedly held the painter while we handed in our parcels. He wanted to know why we had left the flesh-pots of the ‘Vier Jahreszeiten’. To look after our yacht, of course. There was no need, he objected; there would be no traffic moving while the fog lasted, and the fog, having come on at that hour, had come to stay. If it did clear he would keep an eye on the yacht for us. We thanked him, but thought we would go aboard.

‘You’ll have a job to find her now,’ he said.

The distance was eighty yards at the most, but we had to use a scientific method, the same one, in fact, that Davies had used last night in the approach to the eastern pier.

‘Row straight out at right angles to the pier,’ he said now. I did so, Davies sounding with his scull between the strokes. He found the bottom after twenty yards, that being the width of the dredged-out channel at this point. Then we turned to the right, and moved gently forward, keeping touch with the edge of the mud-bank (for all the world like blind men tapping along a kerbstone) and taking short excursions from it, till the Dulcibella hove in view. ‘That’s partly luck,’ Davies commented; ‘we ought to have had the compass as well.’

We exchanged shouts with the man on the pier to show we had arrived.

‘It’s very good practice, that sort of thing,’ said Davies, when we had disembarked.

‘You’ve got a sixth sense,’ I observed. ‘How far could you go like that?’

‘Don’t know. Let’s have another try. I can’t sit still all day. Let’s explore this channel.’

‘Why not go to Memmert?’ I said, in fun.

‘To Memmert?’ said Davies, slowly; ‘by Jove! that’s an idea!’

‘Good Heavens, man! I was joking. Why, it’s ten mortal miles.’

‘More,’ said Davies, absently. ‘It’s not so much the distance–what’s the time? Ten fifteen; quarter ebb–What am I talking about? We made our plans last night.’

But seeing him, to my amazement, serious, I was stung by the splendour of the idea I had awakened. Confidence in his skill was second nature to me. I swept straight on to the logic of the thing, the greatness, the completeness of the opportunity, if by a miracle it could be seized and used. Something was going on at Memmert to-day; our men had gone there; here were we, ten miles away, in a smothering, blinding fog. It was known we were here–Dollmann and Grimm knew it; the crew of the Medusa knew it; the crew of the Kormoran knew it; the man on the pier, whether he cared or not, knew it. But none of them knew Davies as I knew him. Would anyone dream for an instant–?

‘Stop a second,’ said Davies; ‘give me two minutes.’ He whipped out the German chart. ‘Where exactly should we go?’ (‘Exactly!’ The word tickled me hugely.)

‘To the depot, of course; it’s our only chance.’

‘Listen then–there are two routes: the outside one by the open sea, right round Juist, and doubling south–the simplest, but the longest; the depot’s at the south point of Memmert, and Memmert’s nearly two miles long.’

‘How far would that way be?’

‘Sixteen miles good. And we should have to row in a breaking swell most of the way, close to land.’

‘Out of the question; it’s too public, too, if it clears. The steamer went that way, and will come back that way. We must go inside over the sands. Am I dreaming, though? Can you possibly find the way?’

‘I shouldn’t wonder. But I don’t believe you see the hitch. It’s the time and the falling tide. High water was about 8.15: it’s now 10.15, and all those sands are drying off. We must cross the See-Gat and strike that boomed channel, the Memmert Balje; strike it, freeze on to it–can’t cut off an inch–and pass that “watershed” you see there before it’s too late. It’s an infernally bad one, I can see. Not even a dinghy will cross it for an hour each side of low water.’

‘Well, how far is the “watershed”?’

‘Good Lord! What are we talking for? Change, man, change! Talk while we’re changing.’ (He began flinging off his shore clothes, and I did the same.) ‘It’s at least five miles to the end of it; six, allowing for bends; hour and a half hard pulling; two, allowing for checks. Are you fit? You’ll have to pull the most. Then there are six or seven more miles–easier ones. And then–What are we to do when we get there?’

‘Leave that to me,’ I said. ‘You get me there.’

‘Supposing it clears?’

‘After we get there? Bad; but we must risk that. If it clears on the way there it doesn’t matter by this route; we shall be miles from land.’

‘What about getting back?’

‘We shall have a rising tide, anyway. If the fog lasts–can you manage in a fog and dark?’ ‘The dark makes it no more difficult, if we’ve a light to see the compass and chart by. You trim the binnacle lamp–no, the riding-light. Now give me the scissors, and don’t speak a word for ten minutes. Meanwhile, think it out, and load the dinghy–(by Jove! though, don’t make a sound)–some grub and whisky, the boat-compass, lead, riding-light, matches, small boat-hook, grapnel and line.’

‘Foghorn?’

‘Yes, and the whistle too.’

‘A gun?’

‘What for?’

‘We’re after ducks.’

‘All right. And muffle the rowlocks with cotton-waste.’

I left Davies absorbed in the charts, and softly went about my own functions. In ten minutes he was on the ladder, beckoning.

‘I’ve done,’ he whispered. ‘Now shall we go?’

‘I’ve thought it out. Yes,’ I answered.

This was only roughly true, for I could not have stated in words all the pros and cons that I had balanced. It was an impulse that drove me forward; but an impulse founded on reason, with just a tinge, perhaps, of superstition; for the quest had begun in a fog and might fitly end in one.

It was twenty-five minutes to eleven when we noiselessly pushed off. ‘Let her drift,’ whispered Davies, ‘the ebb’ll carry her past the pier.’

We slid by the Dulcibella, and she disappeared. Then we sat without speech or movement for about five minutes, while the gurgle of tide through piles approached and passed. The dinghy appeared to be motionless, just as a balloon in the clouds may appear to its occupants to be motionless, though urged by a current of air. In reality we were driving out of the Riff-Gat into the See-Gat. The dinghy swayed to a light swell.

‘Now, pull,’ said Davies, under his breath; ‘keep it long and steady, above all steady–both arms with equal force.’

I was on the bow-thwart; he vis-à-vis to me on the stern seat, his left hand behind him on the tiller, his right forefinger on a small square of paper which lay on his knees; this was a section cut out from the big German chart.  On the midship-thwart between us lay the compass and a watch. Between these three objects–compass, watch, and chart–his eyes darted constantly, never looking up or out, save occasionally for a sharp glance over the side at the flying bubbles, to see if I was sustaining a regular speed. My duty was to be his automaton, the human equivalent of a marine engine whose revolutions can be counted and used as data by the navigator. My arms must be regular as twin pistons; the energy that drove them as controllable as steam. It was a hard ideal to reach, for the complex mortal tends to rely on all the senses God has given him, so unfitting himself for mechanical exactitude when a sense (eyesight, in my case) fails him. At first it was constantly ‘left’ or ‘right’ from Davies, accompanied by a bubbling from the rudder.

‘This won’t do, too much helm,’ said Davies, without looking up. ‘Keep your stroke, but listen to me. Can you see the compass card?’

‘When I come forward.’

‘Take your time, and don’t get flurried, but each time you come forward have a good look at it. The course is sou’-west half-west. You take the opposite, north-east half-east, and keep her stern on that. It’ll be rough, but it’ll save some helm, and give me a hand free if I want it.’

I did as he said, not without effort, and our progress gradually became smoother, till he had no need to speak at all. The only sound now was one like the gentle simmer of a saucepan away to port–the lisp of surf I knew it to be–and the muffled grunt of the rowlocks. I broke the silence once to say ‘It’s very shallow.’ I had touched sand with my right scull.

‘Don’t talk,’ said Davies.

About half an hour passed, and then he added sounding to his other occupations. ‘Plump’ went the lead at regular intervals, and he steered with his hip while pulling in the line. Very little of it went out at first, then less still. Again I struck bottom, and, glancing aside, saw weeds. Suddenly he got a deep cast, and the dinghy, freed from the slight drag which shallow water always inflicts on a small boat, leapt buoyantly forward. At the same time, I knew by boils on the smooth surface that we were in a strong tideway.

‘The Buse Tief,’ muttered Davies. ‘Row hard now, and steady as a clock.’

For a hundred yards or more I bent to my sculls and made her fly. Davies was getting six fathom casts, till, just as suddenly as it had deepened, the water shoaled–ten feet, six, three, one–the dinghy grounded.

‘Good!’ said Davies. ‘Back her off! Pull your right only.’ The dinghy spun round with her bow to N.N.W. ‘Both arms together! Don’t you worry about the compass now; just pull, and listen for orders. There’s a tricky bit coming.’

He put aside the chart, kicked the lead under the seat, and, kneeling on the dripping coils of line, sounded continuously with the butt-end of the boat-hook, a stumpy little implement, notched at intervals of a foot, and often before used for the same purpose. All at once I was aware that a check had come, for the dinghy swerved and doubled like a hound ranging after scent.

‘Stop her,’ he said, suddenly, ‘and throw out the grapnel.’

I obeyed and we brought up, swinging to a slight current, whose direction Davies verified by the compass. Then for half a minute he gave himself up to concentrated thought. What struck me most about him was that he never for a moment strained his eyes through the fog; a useless exercise (for five yards or so was the radius of our vision) which, however, I could not help indulging in, while I rested. He made up his mind, and we were off again, straight and swift as an arrow this time. and in water deeper than the boat-hook. I could see by his face that he was taking some bold expedient whose issue hung in the balance … Again we touched mud, and the artist’s joy of achievement shone in his eyes. Backing away, we headed west. and for the first time he began to gaze into the fog.

‘There’s one!’ he snapped at last. ‘Easy all!’

A boom, one of the usual upright saplings, glided out of the mist. He caught hold of it, and we brought up.

‘Rest for three minutes now,’ he said. ‘We’re in fairly good time.’

It was 11.10. I ate some biscuits and took a nip of whisky while Davies prepared for the next stage.

We had reached the eastern outlet of Memmert Balje, the channel which runs east and west behind Juist Island, direct to the south point of Memmert. How we had reached it was incomprehensible to me at the time, but the reader will understand by comparing my narrative with the dotted line on the chart. I add this brief explanation, that Davies’s method had been to cross the channel called the Buse Tief, and strike the other side of it at a point well south of the outlet of the Memmert Balje (in view of the northward set of the ebb-tide), and then to drop back north and feel his way to the outlet. The check was caused by a deep indentation in the Itzendorf Flat; a cul-de-sac, with a wide mouth, which Davies was very near mistaking for the Balje itself. We had no time to skirt dents so deep as that; hence the dash across its mouth with the chance of missing the upper lip altogether, and of either being carried out to sea (for the slightest error was cumulative) or straying fruitlessly along the edge.

The next three miles were the most critical of all. They included the ‘watershed’, whose length and depth were doubtful; they included, too, the crux of the whole passage, a spot where the channel forks, our own branch continuing west, and another branch diverging from it north-westward. We must row against time, and yet we must negotiate that crux. Add to this that the current was against us till the watershed was crossed; that the tide was just at its most baffling stage, too low to allow us to risk short cuts, and too high to give definition to the banks of the channel; and that the compass was no aid whatever for the minor bends. ‘Time’s up,’ said Davies, and on we went. I was hugging the comfortable thought that we should now have booms on our starboard for the whole distance; on our starboard, I say, for experience had taught us that all channels running parallel with the coast and islands were uniformly boomed on the northern side. Anyone less confident than Davies would have succumbed to the temptation of slavishly relying on these marks, creeping from one to the other, and wasting precious time. But Davies knew our friend the ‘boom’ and his eccentricities too well; and preferred to trust to his sense of touch, which no fog in the world could impair. If we happened to sight one, well and good, we should know which side of the channel we were on. But even this contingent advantage he deliberately sacrificed after a short distance, for he crossed over to the south or unboomed side and steered and sounded along it, using the ltzendorf Flat as his handrail, so to speak. He was compelled to do this, he told me afterwards, in view of the crux, where the converging lines of booms would have involved us in irremediable confusion. Our branch was the southern one, and it followed that we must use the southern bank, and defer obtaining any help from booms until sure we were past that critical spot.

For an hour we were at the extreme strain, I of physical exertion, he of mental. I could not get into a steady swing, for little checks were constant. My right scull was for ever skidding on mud or weeds, and the backward suck of shoal water clogged our progress. Once we were both of us out in the slime tugging at the dinghy’s sides; then in again, blundering on. I found the fog bemusing, lost all idea of time and space, and felt like a senseless marionette kicking and jerking to a mad music without tune or time. The misty form of Davies as he sat with his right arm swinging rhythmically forward and back, was a clockwork figure as mad as myself, but didactic and gibbering in his madness. Then the boat-hook he wielded with a circular sweep began to take grotesque shapes in my heated fancy; now it was the antenna of a groping insect, now the crank of a cripple’s selfpropelled perambulator, now the alpenstock of a lunatic mountaineer, who sits in his chair and climbs and climbs to some phantom ‘watershed’. At the back of such mind as was left me lodged two insistent thoughts: ‘we must hurry on,’ ‘we are going wrong.’ As to the latter, take a link-boy through a London fog and you will experience the same thing: he always goes the way you think is wrong. ‘We’re rowing back!’ I remember shouting to Davies once, having become aware that it was now my left scull which splashed against obstructions. ‘Rubbish,’ said Davies. ‘I’ve crossed over’; and I relapsed.

By degrees I returned to sanity, thanks to improved conditions. It is an ill wind that blows nobody good, and the state of the tide, though it threatened us with total failure, had the compensating advantage that the lower it fell the more constricted and defined became our channel; till the time came when the compass and boat-hook were alike unnecessary, because our hand-rail, the muddy brink of the channel, was visible to the eye, close to us; on our right hand always now, for the crux was far behind, and the northern side was now our guide. All that remained was to press on with might and main ere the bed of the creek dried.

What a race it was! Homeric, in effect; a struggle of men with gods, for what were the gods but forces of nature personified’? If the God of the Falling Tide did not figure in the Olympian circle he is none the less a mighty divinity. Davies left his post. and rowed stroke. Under our united efforts the dinghy advanced in strenuous leaps, hurling miniature-rollers on the bank beside us. My palms, seasoned as they were, were smarting with watery blisters. The pace was too hot for my strength and breath.

‘I must have a rest,’ I gasped.

‘Well, I think we’re over it,’ said Davies.

We stopped the dinghy dead, and he stabbed over the side with the boat-hook. It passed gently astern of us, and even my bewildered brain took in the meaning of that.

‘Three feet and the current with us. Well over it,’ he said. ‘I’ll paddle on while you rest and feed.’

It was a few minutes past one and we still, as he calculated. had eight miles before us, allowing for bends.

‘But it’s a mere question of muscle,’ he said.

I took his word for it, and munched at tongue and biscuits. As for muscle, we were both in hard condition. He was fresh, and what distress I felt was mainly due to spasmodic exertion culminating in that desperate spurt. As for the fog. it had more than once shown a faint tendency to lift, growing thinner and more luminous, in the manner of fogs, always to settle down again, heavy as a quilt.

Note the spot marked ‘second rest’ (approximately correct. Davies says) and the course of the channel from that point westward. You will see it broadening and deepening to the dimensions of a great river, and finally merging in the estuary of the Ems. Note, too, that its northern boundary, the edge of the now uncovered Nordland Sand, leads, with one interruption, direct to Memmert, and is boomed throughout. You will then understand why Davies made so light of the rest of his problem. Compared with the feats he had performed, it was child’s play, for he always had that visible margin to keep touch with if he chose, or to return to in case of doubt. As a matter of fact–observe our dotted line–he made two daring departures from it, the first purely to save time, the second partly to save time and partly to avoid the very awkward spot marked A, where a creek with booms and a little delta of its own interrupts the even bank. During the first of these departures–the shortest but most brilliant–he let me do the rowing, and devoted himself to the niceties of the course; during the second, and through both the intermediate stages, he rowed himself, with occasional pauses to inspect the chart. We fell into a long, measured stroke, and covered the miles rapidly, scarcely exchanging a single word till, at the end of a long pull through vacancy, Davies said suddenly;

‘Now where are we to land?’

A sandbank was looming over us crowned by a lonely boom.

‘Where are we?’

‘A quarter of a mile from Memmert.’

‘What time is it?’

‘Nearly three.’

[22 The Quartette]

HIS tour de force was achieved, and for the moment something like collapse set in.

‘What in the world have we come here for?’ he muttered; ‘I feel a bit giddy.’

I made him drink some whisky, which revived him; and then, speaking in whispers, we settled certain points.

I alone was to land. Davies demurred to this out of loyalty, hut common sense, coinciding with a strong aversion of his own, settled the matter. Two were more liable to detection than one. I spoke the language well, and if challenged could cover my retreat with a gruff word or two; in my woollen overalls, sea-boots, oilskin coat, with a sou’-wester pulled well over my eyes, I should pass in a fog for a Frisian. Davies must mind the dinghy; but how was I to regain it? I hoped to do so without help, by using the edge of the sand; but if he heard a long whistle he was to blow the foghorn.

‘Take the pocket-compass,’ he said. ‘Never budge from the shore without using it, and lay it on the ground for steadiness. Take this scrap of chart, too–it may come in useful; but you can t miss the depot, it looks to be close to the shore. How long will you be’?’

‘How long have I got’?’

‘The young flood’s making–has been for nearly an hour–that bank (he measured it with his eye) will be covering in an hour and a half.’

‘That ought to be enough.’

‘Don’t run it too fine. It’s steep here, but it may shelve farther on. If you have to wade you’ll never find me, and you’ll make a deuce of a row. Got your watch, matches, knife? No knife? Take mine; never go anywhere without a knife.’ (It was his seaman’s idea of efficiency.)

‘Wait a bit, we must settle a place to meet at in case I’m late and can’t reach you here.’

‘Don’t be late. We’ve got to get back to the yacht before we’re missed.’

‘But I may have to hide and wait till dark–the fog may clear.’

‘We were fools to come, I believe,’ said Davies, gloomily. ‘There are no meeting-places in a place like this. Here’s the best I can see on the chart–a big triangular beacon marked on the very point of Memmert. You’ll pass it.’

‘All right. I’m off.’

‘Good luck,’ said Davies, faintly.

I stepped out, climbed a miry glacis of five or six feet, reached hard wet sand, and strode away with the sluggish ripple of the Balje on my left hand. A curtain dropped between me and Davies, and I was alone–alone, but how I thrilled to feel the firm sand rustle under my boots; to know that it led to dry land, where, whatever befell, I could give my wits full play. I clove the fog briskly.

Good Heavens! what was that? I stopped short and listened. From over the water on my left there rang out, dulled by fog, but distinct to the ear, three double strokes on a bell or gong. I looked at my watch.

‘Ship at anchor,’ I said to myself. ‘Six bells in the afternoon watch.’ I knew the Balje was here a deep roadstead, where a vessel entering the Eastern Ems might very well anchor to ride out a fog.

I was just stepping forward when another sound followed from the same quarter, a bugle-call this time. Then I understood–only men-of-war sound bugles–the Blitz was here then; and very natural, too, I thought, and strode on. The sand was growing drier, the water farther beneath me; then came a thin black ribbon of weed–high-water mark. A few cautious steps to the right and I touched tufts of marram grass. It was Memmert. I pulled out the chart and refreshed my memory. No! there could be no mistake; keep the sea on my left and I must go right. I followed the ribbon of weed, keeping it just in view, but walking on the verge of the grass for the sake of silence. All at once I almost tripped over a massive iron bar; others, a rusty network of them, grew into being above and around me, like the arms of a ghostly polyp.

‘What infernal spider’s web is this?’ I thought, and stumbled clear. I had strayed into the base of a gigantic tripod, its gaunt legs stayed and cross-stayed, its apex lost in fog; the beacon, I remembered. A hundred yards farther and I was down on my knees again, listening with might and main; for several little sounds were in the air–voices, the rasp of a boat’s keel, the whistling of a tune. These were straight ahead. More to the left. seaward, that is, I had aural evidence of the presence of a steamboat–a small one, for the hiss of escaping steam was low down. On my right front I as yet heard nothing, but the depot must be there.

I prepared to strike away from my base, and laid the compass on the ground–NW. roughly I made the course. (‘South-east–south-east for coming back,’ I repeated inwardly, like a child learning a lesson.) Then of my two allies I abandoned one, the beach, and threw myself wholly on the fog.

‘Play the game,’ I said to myself. ‘Nobody expects you; nobody will recognize you.’

I advanced in rapid stages of ten yards or so, while grass disappeared and soft sand took its place, pitted everywhere with footmarks. I trod carefully, for obstructions began to show themselves–an anchor, a heap of rusty cable; then a boat bottom upwards, and, lying on it, a foul old meerschaum pipe. I paused here and strained my ears, for there were sounds in many directions; the same whistling (behind me now), heavy footsteps in front, and somewhere beyond–fifty yards away, I reckoned–a buzz of guttural conversation; from the same quarter there drifted to my nostrils the acrid odour of coarse tobacco. Then a door banged.

I put the compass in my pocket (thinking ‘south-east, southeast’), placed the pipe between my teeth (ugh! the rank savour of it!) rammed my sou’-wester hard down, and slouched on in the direction of the door that had banged. A voice in front called, ‘Karl Schicker’; a nearer voice, that of the man whose footsteps I had heard approaching, took it up and called ‘Karl Schicker’: I, too, took it up, and, turning my back, called ‘Karl Schicker’ as gruffly and gutturally as I could. The footsteps passed quite close to me, and glancing over my shoulder I saw a young man passing, dressed very like me, but wearing a sealskin cap instead of a sou’-wester. As he walked he seemed to be counting coins in his palm. A hail came back from the beach and the whistling stopped.

I now became aware that I was on a beaten track. These meetings were hazardous, so I inclined aside, but not without misgivings, for the path led towards the buzz of talk and the banging door, and these were my only guides to the depot. Suddenly, and much before I expected it, I knew rather than saw that a wall was in front of me; now it was visible, the side of a low building of corrugated iron. A pause to reconnoitre was absolutely necessary; but the knot of talkers might have heard my footsteps, and I must at all costs not suggest the groping of a stranger. I lit a match–two–and sucked heavily (as I had seen navvies do) at my pipe, studying the trend of the wall by reference to the sounds. There was a stale dottle wedged in the bowl, and loathsome fumes resulted. Just then the same door banged again; another name, which I forget, was called out. I decided that I was at the end of a rectangular building which I pictured as like an Aldershot ‘hut’, and that the door I heard was round the corner to my left. A knot of men must be gathered there, entering it by turns. Having expectorated noisily, 1 followed the tin wall to my _right,_ and turning a corner strolled leisurely on, passing signs of domesticity, a washtub, a water-butt, then a tiled approach to an open door. I now was aware of the corner of a second building, also of zinc, parallel to the first, but taller, for I could only just see the eave. I was just going to turn off to this as a more promising field for exploration, when I heard a window open ahead of me in my original building.

I am afraid I am getting obscure, so I append a rough sketch of the scene, as I partly saw and chiefly imagined it. It was window (A) that I heard open. From it I could just distinguish through the fog a hand protrude, and throw something out–cigar-end? The hand, a clean one with a gold signet-ring, rested for an instant afterwards on the sash, and then closed the window.

{graphic Sketch here}

My geography was clear now in one respect. That window belonged to the same room as the hanging door (B); for I distinctly heard the latter open and shut again, opposite me on the other side of the building. It struck me that it might be interesting to see into that room. ‘Play the game,’ I reminded myself, and retreated a few yards back on tiptoe, then turned and sauntered coolly past the window, puffing my villainous pipe and taking a long deliberate look into the interior as I passed– the more deliberate that at the first instant I realized that nobody inside was disturbing himself about me. As I had expected (in view of the fog and the time) there was artificial light within. My mental photograph was as follows: a small room with varnished deal walls and furnished like an office; in the far right-hand corner a counting-house desk, Grimm sitting at it on a high stool, side-face to me, counting money; opposite him in an awkward attitude a burly fellow in seaman’s dress holding a diver’s helmet. In the middle of the room a deal table, and on it something big and black. Lolling on chairs near it, their backs to me and their faces turned towards the desk and the diver, two men–von Brüning and an older man with a bald yellow head (Dollmann’s companion on the steamer, beyond a doubt). On another chair, with its back actually tilted against the window, Dollmann.

Such were the principal features of the scene; for details I had to make another inspection. Stooping low, I crept back, quiet as a cat, till I was beneath the window, and, as I calculated, directly behind Dollmann’s chair. Then with great caution I raised my head. There was only one pair of eyes in the room that I feared in the least, and that was Grimm’s, who sat in profile to me, farthest away. I instantly put Dollmann’s back between Grimm and me, and then made my scrutiny. As I made it, I could feel a cold sweat distilling on my forehead and tickling my spine; not from fear or excitement, but from pure ignominy. For beyond all doubt I was present at the meeting of a bona-fide salvage company. It was pay-day, and the directors appeared to be taking stock of work done; that was all.

Over the door was an old engraving of a two-decker under full sail; pinned on the wall a chart and the plan of a ship. Relics of the wrecked frigate abounded. On a shelf above the stove was a small pyramid of encrusted cannon-balls, and supported on nails at odd places on the walls were corroded old pistols, and what I took to be the remains of a sextant. In a corner of the floor sat a hoary little carronade, carriage and all. None of these things affected me so much as a pile of lumber on the floor, not firewood but unmistakable wreck-wood, black as bog-oak, still caked in places with the mud of ages. Nor was it the mere sight of this lumber that dumbfounded me. It was the fact that a fragment of it, a balk of curved timber garnished with some massive bolts, lay on the table, and was evidently an object of earnest interest. The diver had turned and was arguing with gestures over it; von Brüning and Grimm were pressing another view. The diver shook his head frequently, finally shrugged his shoulders, made a salutation, and left the room. Their movements had kept me ducking my head pretty frequently, but I now grew almost reckless as to whether I was seen or not. All the weaknesses of my theory crowded on me–the arguments Davies had used at Bensersiel; Fräulein Dollmann’s thoughtless talk; the ease (comparatively) with which I had reached this spot, not a barrier to cross or a lock to force; the publicity of their passage to Memmert by Dollmann, his friend, and Grimm; and now this glimpse of business-like routine. In a few moments I sank from depth to depth of scepticism. Where were my mines, torpedoes, and submarine boats, and where my imperial conspirators? Was gold after all at the bottom of this sordid mystery? Dollmann after all a commonplace criminal? The ladder of proof 1 had mounted tottered and shook beneath me. ‘Don’t be a fool,’ said the faint voice of reason. ‘There are your four men. Wait.’

Two more employés came into the room in quick succession and received wages; one looking like a fireman, the other of a superior type, the skipper of a tug, say. There was another discussion with this latter over the balk of wreck-wood, and this man, too, shrugged his shoulders. His departure appeared to end the meeting. Grimm shut up a ledger, and I shrank down on my knees, for a general shifting of chairs began. At the same time, from the other side of the building, I heard my knot of men retreating beachwards, spitting and chatting as they went. Presently someone walked across the room towards my window. I sidled away on all fours, rose and flattened myself erect against the wall, a sickening despondency on me; my intention to slink away south-east as soon as the coast was clear. But the sound that came next pricked me like an electric shock; it was the tinkle and scrape of curtain-rings.

Quick as thought I was back in my old position, to find my view barred by a cretonne curtain. It was in one piece, with no chink for my benefit, but it did not hang straight, bulging towards me under the pressure of something–human shoulders by the shape. Dollmann, I concluded, was still in his old place. I now was exasperated to find that I could scarcely hear a word that was said, not even by pressing my ear against the glass. It was not that the speakers were of set purpose hushing their voices–they used an ordinary tone for intimate discussion–but the glass and curtain deadened the actual words. Still, I was soon able to distinguish general characteristics. Von Brüning’s voice–the only one I had ever heard before–I recognized at once: he was on the left of the table, and Dollmann’s I knew from his position. The third was a harsh croak, belonging to the old gentleman whom, for convenience, I shall prematurely begin to call Herr Böhme. It was too old a voice to be Grimm’s; besides, it had the ring of authority, and was dealing at the moment in sharp interrogations. Three of its sentences I caught in their entirety. ‘When was that?’ ‘They went no farther?’ and ‘Too long; out of the question.’ Dollmann’s voice, though nearest to me, was the least audible of all. It was a dogged monotone, and what was that odd movement of the curtain at his back? Yes, his hands were behind him clutching and kneading a fold of the cretonne. ‘You are feeling uncomfortable, my friend,’ was my comment. Suddenly he threw back his head–I saw the dent of it–and spoke up so that I could not miss a word. ‘Very well, sir, you shall see them at supper to-night; I will ask them both.’

(You will not be surprised to learn that I instantly looked at my watch–though it takes long to write what I have described–but the time was only a quarter to four.) He added something about the fog, and his chair creaked. Ducking promptly I heard the curtain-rings jar, and: ‘Thick as ever.’

‘Your report, Herr Dollmann,’ said Böhme, curtly. Dollmann left the window and moved his chair up to the table; the other two drew in theirs and settled themselves.

‘Chatham,’ said Dollmann, as if announcing a heading. It was an easy word to catch, rapped out sharp, and you can imagine how it startled me. ‘That’s where you’ve been for the last month!’ I said to myself. A map crackled and I knew they were bending over it, while Dollmann explained something. But now my exasperation became acute, for not a syllable more reached me. Squatting back on my heels, I cast about for expedients. Should I steal round and try the door? Too dangerous. Climb to the roof and listen down the stove-pipe? Too noisy, and generally hopeless. I tried for a downward purchase on the upper half of the window, which was of the simple sort in two sections, working vertically. No use; it resisted gentle pressure, would start with a sudden jar if I forced it. I pulled out Davies’s knife and worked the point of the blade between sash and frame to give it play–no result; but the knife was a nautical one, with a marlin-spike as well as a big blade.

Just now the door within opened and shut again, and I heard steps approaching round the corner to my right. I had the presence of mind not to lose a moment, but moved silently away (blessing the deep Frisian sand) round the corner of the big parallel building. Someone whom I could not see walked past till his boots clattered on tiles, next resounded on boards. ‘Grimm in his living-room,’ I inferred. The precious minutes ebbed away–five, ten, fifteen. Had he gone for good? I dared not return otherwise. Eighteen–he was coming out! This time I stole forward boldly when the man had just passed, dimly saw a figure, and clearly enough the glint of a white paper he was holding. He made his circuit and re-entered the room.

Here I felt and conquered a relapse to scepticism. ‘If this is an important conclave why don’t they set guards?’ Answer, the only possible one, ‘Because they stand alone. Their employés, like everyone we had met hitherto, know nothing. The real object of this salvage company (a poor speculation, I opined) is solely to afford a pretext for the conclave.’ ‘Why the curtain, even?’ ‘Because there are maps, stupid!’

I was back again at the window, but as impotent as ever against that even stream of low confidential talk. But I would not give up. Fate and the fog had brought me here, the one solitary soul perhaps who by the chain of circumstances had both the will and the opportunity to wrest their secret from these four men.

The marlin-spike! Where the lower half of the window met the sill it sank into a shallow groove. I thrust the point of the spike down into the interstice between sash and frame and heaved with a slowly increasing force, which I could regulate to the fraction of an ounce, on this powerful lever. The sash gave, with the faintest possible protest, and by imperceptible degrees I lifted it to the top of the groove, and the least bit above it, say half an inch in all; but it made an appreciable difference to the sounds within, as when you remove your foot from a piano’s soft pedal. I could do no more, for there was no further fulcrum for the spike, and I dared not gamble away what I had won by using my hands.

Hope sank again when I placed my cheek on the damp sill, and my ear to the chink. My men were close round the table referring to papers which I heard rustle. Dollmann’s ‘report’ was evidently over, and I rarely heard his voice; Grimm’s occasionally, von Brüning’s and Böhme’s frequently; but, as before, it was the latter only that I could ever count on for an intelligible word. For, unfortunately, the villains of the piece plotted without any regard to dramatic fitness or to my interests. Immersed in a subject with which they were all familiar, they were allusive, elliptic, and persistently technical. Many of the words I did catch were unknown to me. The rest were, for the most part, either letters of the alphabet or statistical figures, of depth, distance, and, once or twice, of time. The letters of the alphabet recurred often, and seemed, as far as I could make out, to represent the key to the cipher. The numbers clustering round them were mostly very small, with decimals. What maddened me most was the scarcity of plain nouns.

To report what I heard to the reader would be impossible; so chaotic was most of it that it left no impression on my own memory. All I can do is to tell him what fragments stuck, and what nebulous classification I involved. The letters ran from A to G, and my best continuous chance came when Böhme, reading rapidly from a paper, I think, went through the letters, backwards, from G, adding remarks to each; thus: ‘G. . . completed.’ ‘F.. . bad. . . 1.3 (metres?).. .2.5 (kilometres?).’ ‘E . . . thirty-two. .. 1.2.’ ‘D. . . 3 weeks… thirty.’ ‘C.. .’and soon.

Another time he went through this list again, only naming each letter himself, and receiving laconic answers from Grimm–answers which seemed to be numbers, but I could not be sure. For minutes together I caught nothing but the scratching of pens and inarticulate mutterings. But out of the muck-heap I picked five pearls–four sibilant nouns and a name that I knew before. The nouns were ‘Schlepp-boote’ (tugs); ‘Wassertiefe’ (depth of water); ‘Eisenbahn’ (railway); ‘ (pilots). The name, also sibilant and thus easier to hear, was ‘Esens’.

Two or three times I had to stand back and ease my cramped neck, and on each occasion I looked at my watch, for I was listening against time, just as we had rowed against time. We were going to be asked to supper, and must be back aboard the yacht in time to receive the invitation. The fog still brooded heavily and the light, always bad, was growing worse. How would they get back? How had they come from Juist? Could we forestall them? Questions of time, tide, distance–just the odious sort of sums I was unfit to cope with–were distracting my attention when it should have been wholly elsewhere. 4.20–4.25–now it was past 4.30 when Davies said the bank would cover. I should have to make for the beacon; but it was fatally near that steamboat path, etc., and I still at intervals heard voices from there. It must have been about 4.35 when there was another shifting of chairs within. Then someone rose, collected papers, and went out; someone else, without rising (therefore Grimm), followed him.

There was silence in the room for a minute, and after that, for the first time, I heard some plain colloquial German, with no accompaniment of scratching or rustling. ‘I must wait for this,’ I thought, and waited.

‘He insists on coming,’ said Böhme.

‘Ach!’ (an ejaculation of surprise and protest from von Brüning).

‘I said the 25th.’

‘Why?’

‘The tide serves well. The night-train, of course. Tell Grimm to be ready–‘ (An inaudible question from von Brüning.) ‘No, any weather.’ A laugh from von Brüning and some words I could not catch.

‘Only one, with half a load.’

‘. . .meet?’

‘At the station.’

‘So–how’s the fog?’

This appeared to be really the end. Both men rose and steps came towards the window. I leapt aside as I heard it thrown up, and covered by the noise backed into safety. Von Brüning called ‘Grimm!’ and that, and the open window, decided me that my line of advance was now too dangerous to retreat by. The only alternative was to make a circuit round the bigger of the two buildings–and an interminable circuit it seemed–and all the while I knew my compass-course ‘south-east’ was growing nugatory. I passed a padlocked door, two corners, and faced the void of fog. Out came the compass, and I steadied myself for the sum. ‘South-east before–I’m farther to the eastward now–east will about do’; and off I went, with an error of four whole points, over tussocks and deep sand. The beach seemed much farther off than I had thought, and I began to get alarmed, puzzled over the compass several times, and finally realized that I had lost my way. I had the sense not to make matters worse by trying to find it again, and, as the lesser of two evils, blew my whistle, softly at first, then louder. The bray of a foghorn sounded right behind me. I whistled again and then ran for my life, the horn sounding at intervals. In three or four minutes I was on the beach and in the dinghy.

[23 A Change of Tactics]

WE pushed off without a word, and paddled out of sight of the beach. A voice was approaching, hailing us.

‘Hail back,’ whispered Davies; ‘pretend we’re a galliot.’

‘Ho-a,’ I shouted. ‘where am I?’

‘Off Memmert,’ came back. ‘Where are you bound?’

‘Delfzyl,’ whispered Davies.

‘Delf-zyl,’ I bawled.

A sentence ending with ‘anchor’ was returned.

‘The flood’s tearing east,’ whispered Davies; ‘sit still.’

We heard no more, and, after a few minutes’ drifting ‘What luck?’ said Davies.

‘One or two clues, and an invitation to supper.’

The clues I left till later; the invitation was the thing, and I explained its urgency.

‘How will they get back?’ said Davies; ‘if the fog lasts the steamer’s sure to be late.’

‘We can count for nothing,’ I answered. ‘There was some little steamboat off the depot, and the fog may lift.

Which is our quickest way?’ ‘At this tide, a bee-line to Norderney by compass; we shall have water over all the banks.’ He had all his preparations made, the lamp lit in advance, the compass in position, and we started at once; he at the bow-oar, where he had better control over the boat’s nose; lamp and compass on the floor between us.

Twilight thickened into darkness–a choking, pasty darkness–and still we sped unfalteringly over that trackless waste, sitting and swinging in our little pool of stifled orange light. To drown fatigue and suspense I conned over my clues, and tried to carve into my memory every fugitive word I had overheard.

‘What are there seven of round here?’ I called back to Davies once (thinking of A to G). ‘Sorry,’ I added, for no answer came.

‘I see a star,’ was my next word, after a long interval. ‘Now it’s gone. There it is again! Right aft!’

‘That’s Borkum light,’ said Davies, presently; ‘the fog’s lifting.’

A keen wind from the west struck our faces, and as swiftly as it had come the fog rolled away from us, in one mighty mass, stripping clean and pure the starry dome of heaven, still bright with the western after-glow, and beginning to redden in the east to the rising moon. Norderney light was flashing ahead, and Davies could take his tired eyes from the pool of light.

‘Damn!’ was all he uttered in the way of gratitude for this mercy, and I felt very much the same; for in a fog Davies in a dinghy was a match for a steamer; in a clear he lost his handicap.

It was a quarter to seven. ‘An hour’ll do it, if we buck up,’ he pronounced, after taking a rough bearing with the two lights. He pointed out a star to me, which we were to keep exactly astern, and again I applied to their labour my aching back and smarting palms.

‘What did you say about seven of something?’ said Davies.

‘What are there seven of hereabouts?’

‘Islands, of course,’ said Davies. ‘Is that the clue?’

‘Maybe.’

Then followed the most singular of all our confabulations. Two memories are better than one, and the sooner I carved the cipher into his memory as well as mine the better record we should have. So, with rigid economy of breath, I snapped out all my story, and answered his breathless questions. It saved me from being mesmerized by the star, and both of us from the consciousness of over-fatigue.

‘Spying at Chatham, the blackguard?’ he hissed.

‘What do you make of it?’ I asked.

‘Nothing about battleships, mines, forts?’ he said.

‘No.’

‘Nothing about the Ems, Emden, Wilhelmshaven?’

‘No.’

‘Nothing about transports?’

‘No.’

‘I believe–I was right–after all–something to do–with the channels–behind islands.’

And so that outworn creed took a new lease of life; though for my part the words that clashed with it were those that had sunk the deepest. ‘Esens,’ I protested; ‘that town behind Bensersiel.’

‘Wassertiefe, Lotsen, Schleppboote,’ spluttered Davies.

‘Kilometre–Eisenbahn,’ from me, and so on.

I should earn the just execration of the reader if I continued to report such a dialogue. Suffice to say that we realized very soon that the substance of the plot was still a riddle. On the other hand, there was fresh scent, abundance of it; and the question was already taking shape–were we to follow it up or revert to last night’s decision and strike with what weapons we had? It was a pressing question, too, the last of many–was there to be no end to the emergencies of this crowded day?–pressing for reasons I could not define, while convinced that we must be ready with an answer by supper-time to-night.

Meantime, we were nearing Norderney; the See-Gat was crossed, and with the last of the flood tide fair beneath us, and the red light on the west pier burning ahead, we began insensibly to relax our efforts. But I dared not rest, for I was at that point of exhaustion when mechanical movement was my only hope.

‘Light astern,’ I said, thickly. ‘Two–white and red.’

‘Steamer,’ said Davies; ‘going south though.’

‘Three now.’

A neat triangle of gems–topaz, ruby, and emerald–hung steady behind us.

‘Turned east,’ said Davies. ‘Buck up–steamer from Juist. No, by Jove! too small. What is it?’

On we laboured, while the gems waxed in brilliancy as the steamer overhauled us.

‘Easy,’ said Davies, ‘I seem to know those lights–the Blitz’s launch–don’t let’s be caught rowing like madmen in a muck sweat. Paddle inshore a bit.’ He was right, and, as in a dream, I saw hurrying and palpitating up the same little pinnace that had towed us out of Bensersiel.

‘We’re done for now,’ I remember thinking, for the guilt of the runaway was strong in me; and an old remark of von Brüning’s about ‘police’ was in my ears. But she was level with and past us before I could sink far into despair.

‘Three of them behind the hood,’ said Davies: ‘what are we to do?’

‘Follow,’ I answered, and essayed a feeble stroke, but the blade scuttered over the surface.

‘Let’s waif about for a bit,’ said Davies. ‘We’re late anyhow. If they go to the yacht they’ll think we’re ashore.’

‘Our shore clothes–lying about.’

‘Are you up to talking?’

‘No; but we must. The least suspicion’ll do for us now.’

‘Give me your scull, old chap, and put on your coat.’

He extinguished the lantern, lit a pipe, and then rowed slowly on, while I sat on a slack heap in the stern and devoted my last resources of will to the emancipation of the spirit from the tired flesh.

In ten minutes or so we were rounding the pier, and there was the yacht’s top-mast against the sky. I saw, too, that the launch was alongside of her, and told Davies so. Then I lit a cigarette, and made a lamentable effort to whistle. Davies followed suit, and emitted a strange melody which I took to be ‘Home, Sweet Home,’ but he has not the slightest ear for music.

‘Why, they’re on board, I believe,’ said I; ‘the cabin’s lighted. Ahoy there!’ I shouted as we came up. ‘Who’s that?’

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