EM EM : monthly magazine - 01.07.1941, Blaðsíða 35

EM EM : monthly magazine - 01.07.1941, Blaðsíða 35
Em Em 35 tiuw, prcLty mucn 01 a oiur co me. I remember helping launch two boats and a raft. I remember ty- ing: lifebelts around half a dozen people. X remember knocking down a poor frightened little man who was trying to slide into a boat with the women. And I remember flnding myself at long Iast, with the ship’s oflicers and some twenty of the crew, alone on the deck of the foundering Alderbaron. Two boats had been capsized in launching. All the others on the starboard side were clear of the ship and standing by a little dis- tance away. The boats on the port side were still on their davits; the ship’s list had grown too great to permit of their launching. All at once I realized that I had no lifebelt. Pulling myself up the slanting deck with difflculty, I threw open the door of the first cabin I came to. I fumbled in the darkness—the ship’s dynamos had ceased to function—and found two lifebelts in their rack. I dragged them down, slid through the door onto the deck and came face to face with Captain Eldridge. The skipper, with the ship’s log and papers under his arm, had just come off the bridge. “Captain, you haven’t a Ufebelt,” I said. The man shook his head. In the öim starUght his face shone gray and hollow-cheeked. X caught him toy the arm. Oh, I knew the traditions of the sea as weU as any sea-going man, but I had always felt that some of them were senseless. I could see no sane reason why a captain should go down with his ship, pro- vided he had done everything pos- sible to save the lives of his pas- sengers and crew. “See here, skipper,” I began. “You’re not responsible for this thing that has happened to your ship. It is up to you to do all you can to find the men who are. Go- ing down with your ship won’t help, you know.” “I know, lieutenant,” Eldridge protested feebly. “But you don’t understand. Those women—good God! Struggling there in the wa- ter. The boat crashing on their heads. I—I—” I understood. I knew there could be no hell greater than that which the captain had passed through during the last hour. After it, death would be more merciful than life. But there were other things to be considered. X opened a lifebelt and held it out. “Pull yourself together, Cap- tain!” I said sharply. “Climb into this belt. Climb in, I tell you!” Eldridge was too dazed and *—---1 Ufia q rmu snppea im.0 uie jacKec. l puiiea lt around him and tied the straps across his chest. He slid down the deck- to the rail, over which the other officers and the last of the crew were climbing. As I was about to pick up the other jacket, the deck lurched sharply. The starboat-d rail dipped under and a great wave rushed in- board. I took a deep breath and dove to meet it. The wave caught me and hurled me back against the deck-house. Gasping, the breath knocked out of my lungs, I fought against the roaring water that beat on me from every side. For a moment or two my head remained above wa- ter. Then, rising with the flood, I found myself wedged tightly against the heavy canvas awning which covered that portion of the deck. The situation dawned on me, and I knew it spelled curtains. The ship was going down and I was caught beneath the awning, held there by the pressure of wa- ter as tightly as though I were bound hand and foot. And that pressure would not be reUeved un- til the ship hit bottom. Further struggle, I knew, was useless. Relaxing, I lay spread- eagled against the canvas awning. Strangely enough I was not frightened. I felt only bitterness and resentment that I had to die now, that I was destined to play no part in helping bring to jus- tice the men responsible for this terrible disaster. Suddenly the pressure that wedged me against the awning vanished. I realized I was float- ing free, that the roaring din of tumbUng water had ceased. It flashed through my mind that the ship was at the bottom. With my lungs almost bursting, my head reeling, I acted instinc- tively. In the utter darkness, I had no idea in which direction lay the side of the ship. But some in- nate sense sent me clawing fran- ticaUy along the canvas and in a moment or two, all but uncon- scious, I had reached the edge of the awning and was fighting to- ward the surface. X held my breath until the pounding pulse in my ears sound- ed like trip-hammers. I fought with all my strength and all my will. But at last my buming lungs could stand the strain no longer. My head began to spin like a top, and abruptly it seemed to burst. I knew nothing more. When I woke up I found myself flat on my back on the deck of a ship. There were people around me on every side, bedraggled men anA warattn with the cleam oí hor- ror suu xn cneir eyes. n. imn man, who still wore a lifebelt, knelt by my side. I recognized Captain Eldridge. “How do you feel?” the captain asked. “Terrible,” I said. “Who picked us up?” “The Libertad. A yacht. I be- lieve she belongs to Carretos. She arrived on the seene 10 minutes after the ship went down.” I sat up and looked around. I didn’t see anything of Mildred among the mob of people that clut- tered the deck of the Libertad. “Would you know Miss Baird if you saw her?” I asked. “Yes. She’s all right. But you only pulled out by the skin of your teeth.” “I guess it was a close shave. Things are beginning to come back to me now. I went down with the ship, didn’t I? I got caught under the awning. I don’t see how I ever canie up witho'ut a lifebelt.” “You were imconscious when I saw you,” the captain said. “You bobbed right up beside me. I held your head above water until we were picked up.” I didn’t talk for a while—I was too busy being sick. And after that I was busy trying to think, trying to put two and two to- gether, and not even getting three. Finally I tumed to Eldridge. “Captain, does it strike you as peculiar that Carretos’ yacht should appear on the scene so quickly?” The skipper shmgged. “They picked up my SOS.” “She was still plenty close. She must have left Caimora right after we did, and she must have followed the same course as ours. That means she was bound for Colon. Why should Carretos have taken passage on the Alderbaron when his yacht was following right along to Colon?” The captain shrugged wearily and didn’t say anything. Of course, there was an answer to my ques- tion. Carretos had taken passage on the liner to be with Mildred Baird. And yet I was too stub- bom, too vindioative, to accept such an answer. I wanted to go further. I asked finally: “Have you any idea what caused the sinking?” “The sea cocks were open. We found it out too late to close them.” “Then that accounts for the murder of the carpenter,” I said quickly. “Yes. He had the keys to the double bottoms.” After that we didn’t talk any more about the mystery. TJhe Libertad. I lcarncd waa


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