The Wreck of the Titan or, Futility

The Pirates

Chapter VI

Morgan Robertson

DENMAN saw the boat for a moment or two as it came alongside, and noticed the still form of the woman in the stern sheets, her face hidden by a black silk neckerchief. Then he could only know by the voices that they were lifting her aboard and aft to the captain’s quarters. But he was somewhat surprised to see the door that led to these quarters opened by Jenkins, who beckoned him.

“We’ve picked up a poor woman, sir,” he said, “and put her in here. Now, we’re too busy on deck to ’tend to her, Mr. Denman, and then—we don’t know how; but—well, you’re an educated man, and a gentleman. Would you mind? I’ve chased the bunch out, and I won’t let ’em bother you. It’s just an extension of your cruising radius.”

“Certainly,” said Denman. “I’ll do what I can for her.”

“All right, sir. I’ll leave this door open, but I must lock the after companion.”

He went on deck by the wardroom stairs, while Denman passed through to the woman. She lay on a transom, dripping water from her clothing to the carpet, and with the black cloth still over her face; but, on hearing his footsteps, she removed it, showing a countenance puffed and crimson from the scalding of the live steam that had blown her overboard. Then, groaning pitifully, she sat up, and looked at him through swollen eyelids.

“What is it?” she exclaimed, weakly. “What has happened? Where is father?”

“Madam,” said Denman, gently, “you have been picked up from a steam yacht which exploded her boilers. Are you in pain? What can I do for you?”

“I don’t know. Yes, I am in pain. My face.”

“Wait, and I will get you what I can from the medicine-chest.”

Denman explored the surgeon’s quarters, and returned with bandages and a mixture of linseed oil and lime water. He gently laved and bound the poor woman’s face, and then led her to the captain’s berth.

“Go in,” he said. “Take off your wet clothes, and put on his pajamas. Here they are”—he produced them from a locker—“and then turn in. I will be here, and will take care of you.”

He departed, and when he saw the wet garments flung out, he gathered them and hung them up to dry. It was all he could do, except to look through the surgeon’s quarters for stimulants, which he found. He poured out a strong dose of brandy, which he gave to the woman, and had the satisfaction of seeing her sink into profound slumber; then, returning to the wardroom, he found Jenkins waiting for him.

“I am after a sextant, Mr. Denman,” he said, “an almanac—a nautical almanac. Forsythe wants them.”

“You must find them yourself, then,” answered Denman. “Neither under parole nor confinement will I aid you in any way unless you surrender.”

“Nonsense,” said Jenkins, impatiently, as he stepped past Denman, and approached a bookcase. “When we’re through with the boat you can have her.”

He had incautiously turned his back. Denman saw the protruding butt of his pistol in Jenkins’ pocket, and, without any formulated plan for the future, only seeing a momentary advantage in the possession of the weapon, pounced on his shoulders, and endeavored to secure it.

But he was not able to; he could only hold on, his arms around Jenkins’ neck, while the big sailor hove his huge body from side to side, and, gripping his legs, endeavored to shake him off.

No word was spoken—only their deep breathing attested to their earnestness, and they thrashed around the wardroom like a dog and a cat, Denman, in the latter similitude, in the air most of the time. But he was getting the worst of it, and at last essayed a trick he knew of, taught him in Japan, and to be used as a last resort.

Gripping his legs tightly around the body of Jenkins, he sagged down and pressed the tips of his forefingers into two vulnerable parts of the thick neck, where certain important nerves approach the surface—parts as vulnerable as the heel of Achilles. Still clinging, he mercilessly continued the pressure, while Jenkins swayed back and forth, and finally fell backward to the floor.

Denman immediately secured the pistol; then, panting hard, he examined his victim. Jenkins was breathing with the greatest difficulty, but could not speak or move, and his big eyes glared piteously up at his conqueror. The latter would have ironed him at once, but the irons were forward in the armroom, so he temporarily bound him hand and foot with neckties replevined from his fellow officers’ staterooms.

Then, relieving Jenkins of his keys, he went through the forward door to the armroom, from which he removed, not only wrist and leg arms, but every cutlass and service revolver that the boat was stocked with, and a plentiful supply of ammunition.

First properly securing the still inert and helpless Jenkins, he dragged him to a corner, and then stowed the paraphernalia of war in his room, loading as many as a dozen of the heavy revolvers.

He was still without a plan, working under intense excitement, and could only follow impulses, the next of which was to lock the wardroom companion down which Jenkins had come, and to see that the forward door and the after companion were secured. This done, he sat down abreast of his prisoner to watch him, and think it out. There was no change in Jenkins; he still breathed hard, and endeavored unsuccessfully to speak, while his eyes—the angry glare gone from them—looked up inquiringly.

“Oh, you’re all right, Captain Jenkins,” said Denman. “You’ll breathe easier to-morrow, and in a week, perhaps, you may speak in a whisper; but you are practically deprived from command. So make the best of it.”

Jenkins seemed willing to, but this did not solve the problem; there were twelve other recalcitrants on deck who might not be so easily jujutsued into weakness and dumbness.

As the situation cleared, he saw two ways of solving it, one, to remain below, and from the shelter of his room to pot them one by one as they came down; the other, to take the initiative, assert himself on deck behind the menace of cocked revolvers, and overawe them into submission.

The first plan involved hunger, for he could eat nothing not provided by them; the other, a quick and certain ending of the false position he was in—a plan very appealing to his temperament.

He rose to his feet with a final inspection of Jenkins’ bonds, and, going to his room, belted and armed himself with three heavy revolvers, then opened the wardroom companion door, and stepped to the deck. No one was in sight, except the man at the wheel, not now steering in the close, armored conning tower, but at the upper wheel on the bridge.

He looked aft, and, spying Denman, gave a shout of warning.

But no one responded, and Denman, with a clear field, advanced forward, looking to the right and left, until he reached the engine-room hatch, down which he peered. Riley’s anxious face looked up at him, and farther down was the cringing form of King, his mate of the starboard watch. Denman did not know their names, but he sternly commanded them to come up.

“We can’t leave the engines, sir,” said Riley, shrinking under the cold argument of two cold, blue tubes pointed at them.

“Shut off your gas, and never mind your engines,” commanded Denman. “Come up on deck quietly, or I’ll put holes in you.”

King shut off the gas, Riley turned a valve that eased off the making steam, and the two appeared before Denman.

“Lie down on deck, the two of you,” said Denman, sharply. “Take off your neckerchiefs, and give them to me.”

They obeyed him. He took the two squares of black silk—similar to that which had covered the face of the rescued woman, and with them he bound their hands tightly behind their backs.

“Lie still, now,” he said, “until I settle matters.”

They could rise and move, but could not thwart him immediately. He went forward, and mounted to the bridge.

“How are you heading?” he demanded, with a pistol pointed toward the helmsman.

“South—due south, sir,” answered the man—it was Davis, of the starboard watch.

“Leave the wheel. The engine is stopped. Down on deck with you, and take off your neckerchief.”

Davis descended meekly, gave him his neckerchief, and was bound as were the others. Then Denman looked for the rest.

So far—good. He had three prisoners on deck and one in the wardroom; the rest were below, on duty or asleep. They were in the forecastle—the crew’s quarters—in the wireless room below the bridge, in the galley just forward of the wardroom. Denman had his choice, and decided on the forecastle as the place containing the greatest number. Down the fore-hatch he went, and entered the apartment. A man rolled out of a bunk, and faced him.

“Up with your hands,” said Denman, softly. “Up, quickly.”

The man’s hands went up. “All right, sir,” he answered, sleepily and somewhat weakly. “My name’s Hawkes, and I haven’t yet disobeyed an order from an officer.”

“Don’t,” warned Denman, sharply. “Take off your neckerchief.”

Off came the black silk square.

“Wake up the man nearest you. Tie his hands behind his back, and take off his necktie.”

It was a machinist named Sampson who was wakened and bound, with the cold, blue tube of Denman’s pistol looking at him; and then it was Dwyer, his watch mate, and Munson, the wireless man off duty, ending with old Kelly, the gunner’s mate—each tied with the neckerchief of the last man wakened, and Hawkes, the first to surrender, with the neckerchief of Kelly.

“On deck with you all,” commanded Denman, and he drove them up the steps to the deck, where they lay down beside Riley, King, and Davis. None spoke or protested. Each felt the inhibition of the presence of a commissioned officer, and Denman might have won—might have secured the rest and brought them under control—had not a bullet sped from the after companion, which, besides knocking his cap from his head, inflicted a glancing wound on his scalp and sent him headlong to the deck.

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