EM EM : monthly magazine - 01.07.1941, Blaðsíða 34

EM EM : monthly magazine - 01.07.1941, Blaðsíða 34
34 Em Em keep from showing that he trembled. Mildred seemed cool, though her face was colorless. She put out her hand to me, as though for comfort and protection, and I took ^it and pressed it hard. “Do you think,” she asked slow- ly, "that the shipisgoingtosink?” _I didn’t waste any words. “I’m very sure of it,” I told her. “I don’t know what caused this trouble, but that’s beside the point. The list is growing greater every minute and it won’t be long untii the cargo starts shifting. Then she’ll go down in a hurry. She’ll lay over on her side and sink like a rock.” “But—but what should we do?” “You come with me,” I ordered. I took her hand again, ignoring Carretos, and started across the deck to starboard, elbowingapath through the milling, panic-stricken passengers. “It’s already too late to iaunch a boat from the port side,” I told her, as we dodged into a thwart- ship passageway. “And from the way this crew is running wild, they may not be able to get any away from the starboard side.” Carretos followed us wordlessly. The ship from end to end was a scene of wildest confusion. Half- clad passengers swarmed every- where, asking senseless questions, sobbing, cursing, shouting. Mem- bers of the crew dashed back and forth helplessly, trying to find their stations. There was little order, little in the way of a con- certed attempt to abandon ship. Captain Eldridge was on the bridge. I heard his deep, calm voice as he fought to steady his men and officers, as he strove to reassure his hysterical passengers. My heart went out to him, for I liked the man, and I sensed that his task was almost hopeless. The thing had come too suddcn- ly. Disaster had swooped on passengers and crew without the slightest warning. Such a crisis calls for mental readjustment after the first shock, and there had been no time for that, very probably there would be no time, for I knew that the Alderbaron was sinking swiftly. I tossed my two life belts to women who had none and fought my way, pulling Mildred behind me, to the starboard rail. There the No. 4 lifeboat had already swung out from its davits. Men and women were struggling to get into it. The second officer, with a clubb- ed pistol in his hand, was fighting to get 3ome aemblance of order out of the chaos of frenzied pass- engers who surged around the boat. “Get back, confound you!” the second shouted. “I’ll kill the first man who tries to get into that boat. Ferguson! Haight! Climb in to release the falls. In the bow, Haight! Now vou women. In you go! Easy does it!” Carretos caught Mildred by the arm and started to push her toward the boat. I knocked his hand aside viciousiy. “You keep out of this!” Isnarled. And more calmly, to Mildred:" Not the first boat. It may get away from them. The crew is too ex- cited. Give ’em time to steady down.” I heard Carretos’ breath whist- ling through his nostrils. He cried excitedly: “There ees no timi to waste, Mees Baird! The boat. You must—” “Shut up,” I snapped. “You let another yap out of you and I’ll smack you down.” Nothing, probably, could have done more to calm Carretos than this affront to his dignity. He drew himself up to his full height, and his blazing eyes met mine. “I theenk, lieutenant, that Mees Baird has not aslted for your ad- vice. Eef you weel kindly take yourself away—” I had had enough. I swung my right, and I put all my weight be- hind it. It caught him flush on the jaw. The Andegoyan lurched for- ward, slipped to his knees, knelt there swaying. CHAPTER IV “Come on, Mildred,” x ardered. “I’ll try to get you in the next boat.” I pulled her along, but I didn’t look at her. I felt ashamed of my- self; this was no time to lose my temper. Though I had been long- ing to hit Carretos for months, now that I had done it I didn’t feel much satisfaction. With Mildred close behind me, I fought my way aft to Number 6, which was just being swung out. There was a little more order here. The crew was gradually re- acting to the example set by the officers. We had barely reached the boat, which was not yet clear of tlie rail, when I heard a chorus of hysterical screams. I ground my teeth as I heard the shrill creak of boat falls running wild through the blocks. ‘‘r>on’t lnok over the side.” I said quicaiy. —xrrai Doat avraj from them.” I swung Mildred inboard, held her there in the crook of my arm, and then glanced forward. Num- ber 4 lifeboat was hanging by its stern to one davit, its bow resting in the water. The forward fall had evidently carried away and the after fall had jammed. The boat’s cargo of women and children had been hurled into the sea. They were struggling in the water, screaming. Many of them had no lifebelts. Even as I watched, the jammed fall gave way and with a dull and sickening crash the lifeboat dropped on the uptumed heads of those screaming people. “Mildred! If I told you I thought it was best, would you be afraid to jump over the side?” She came close to me, looked up into my face. “I’U do anything you tell me, Ray.” “I think it’s your best chance. This crew may get steadied down, so they can launch a boat safely. But if they don’t—well, I don’t like to think of your being in a boat that gets away from them. After you jump, start swamming away from the ship as fast as you can. You’ll be picked up before morning, and in ® these warm waters you’re as safe in a lifebelt as you’d be in a boat. Keep your head and don’t struggle too hard. . . . Now you’d better hike, kid.” She did not move. Her eyes did not shift from mine. “Aren’t you coming, Ray?” “Would you want me to?” I jerked my head toward the pande- monium on the deck. "I can be of help here.” She turned then and I guided her along the sloping deck to the rail, lifted her over it. Suddenly her hands gripped my arms and I knew she saw the women and kids who were struggling around the capsized lifeboat. I knew that for a moment stark terror had her in its grasp. “Over you go,” I urged gently. “It isn’t far. Just start swimming as soon as you come up and you’U be all right. Goodby and good luck.” Tears shone in her eyes and her hold on mc tightened. “Won’t vou —please come with me?” sha begged. “No, Mildred. Sorry.” She took a deep breath. “Good- by, Ray,” she gasped, and jumped far out over the water. She land- ed cleanly, disappeared, came up an instant later and started swim- ming strongly away from the ship. I heaved a sigh of relief and turned away from the rail. The half hour tha.t followed is. even


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