The Wreck of the Titan or, Futility

The Pirates

Chapter XIII

Morgan Robertson

“NO, you don’t,” said Denman, grimly. “Fair play is wasted on you, so back you go to the Land of Nod.”

He drew back his right fist, and again sent it crashing on the chin of his victim, whom he could just see in the starlight from the companion, and Forsythe rolled back.

Like Jenkins, he had arrayed himself in an officer’s uniform, and there was no convenient neckerchief with which to bind him; but Denman took his own, and securely tied his hands behind his back, and with another string tie from his room tied his ankles together. Then only did he think of Florrie, and called to her. She answered hysterically.

“It’s all right, Florrie girl,” he said. “It was Forsythe, but I’ve knocked him silly and have him tied hand and foot. Go to sleep now.”

“I can’t go to sleep, Billie,” she wailed. “I can’t. Don’t leave me alone any more.”

“I must, Florrie,” he answered. “I’m going on deck to get them all. I’ll never have a better chance. Keep quiet and don’t come out, no matter what you hear.”

“But come back soon, Billie,” she pleaded.

“I will, soon as I can. But stay quiet in there until I do.”

He stole softly up the stairs and looked forward. The stars illuminated the deck sufficiently for him to see the prostrate forms scattered about, but not enough for him to distinguish one from another until he had crept close. The big machinist, Sampson, he found nearest to the companion, as though he had picked this spot to guard, even in drunken sleep, the sacred after cabin. Denman’s heart felt a little twinge of pain as he softly untied and withdrew the big fellow’s neckerchief and bound his hands behind him. Sampson snored on through the process.

The same with the others. Kelly, Daniels, and Billings lay near the after funnel; Munson, Casey, Dwyer, and King were in the scuppers amidships; Riley, Davis, and Hawkes were huddled close to the pilot-house; and not a man moved in protest as Denman bound them, one and all, with their own neckerchiefs. There was one more, the stricken Jenkins in the forecastle; and Denman descended and examined him by the light of a match. He was awake, and blinked and grimaced at Denman, striving to speak.

“Sorry for you, Jenkins,” said Billie. “You’ll get well in time, but you’ll have to wait. You’re harmless enough now, however.”

There was more to do before he felt secure of his victory. He must tie their ankles; and, as neckerchiefs had run out, he sought, by the light of matches, the “bos’n’s locker” in the fore peak. Here he found spun yarn, and, cutting enough lengths of it, he came up and finished the job, tying knots so hard and seamanly that the strongest fingers of a fellow prisoner could not untie them. Then he went aft.

Forsythe was still unconscious. But he regained his senses while Denman dragged him up the steps and forward beside his enemy, Sampson; and he emitted various sulphurous comments on the situation that cannot be recorded here.

Denman wanted the weapons; but, with engines dead, there was no light save from his very small supply of matches, and for the simple, and perhaps very natural, desire to save these for his cigar lights, he forbore a search for them beyond an examination of each man’s pockets. He found nothing, however. It seemed that they must have agreed upon disarmament before the drinking began. But from Forsythe he secured a bunch of keys, which he was to find useful later on.

All else was well. Each man was bound hand and foot, Jenkins was still a living corpse; and Forsythe, the soberest of the lot, had apparently succumbed to the hard knocks of the day, and gone to sleep again. So Denman went down, held a jubilant conversation with Florrie through the keyhole, and returned to the deck, where, with a short spanner in his hand—replevined from the engine room for use in case of an emergency—he spent the night on watch; for, with all lights out, a watch was necessary.

But nothing happened. The men snored away their drunkenness, and at daylight most of them were awake and aware of their plight. Denman paid no attention to their questions; but, when the light permitted, went on a search for the arms and irons, which he found in the forecastle, carefully stowed in a bunk.

He counted the pistols, and satisfied himself that all were there; then he carried them aft to his room, belted himself with one of them, and returned for the cutlasses, which he hid in another room.

But the irons he spread along the deck, and, while they cursed and maligned him, he replaced the silk and spun-yarn fetters with manacles of steel. Next he dragged the protesting prisoners from forward and aft until he had them bunched amidships, and then, walking back and forth before them, delivered a short, comprehensive lecture on the unwisdom of stealing torpedo-boat destroyers and getting drunk.

Like all lecturers, he allowed his audience to answer, and when he had refuted the last argument, he unlocked the irons of Billings and Daniels and sternly ordered them to cook breakfast.

They meekly arose and went to the galley, from which, before long, savory odors arose. And, while waiting for breakfast, Denman aroused Miss Florrie and brought her on deck, clothed and bandaged, to show her his catch.

“And what will you do now, Billie?” she asked, as she looked at the unhappy men amidships.

“Haven’t the slightest idea. I’ve got to think it out. I’ll have to release some of them to work the boat, and I’ll have to shut down and iron them while I sleep, I suppose. I’ve already freed the two cooks, and we’ll have breakfast soon.”

“I’m glad of that,” she answered. “There was no supper last night.”

“And I’m hungry as a wolf myself. Well, they are hungry, too. We’ll have our breakfast on deck before they get theirs. Perhaps the sight will bring them to terms.”

“Why cannot I help, Billie?” asked the girl. “I could watch while you were asleep, and wake you if anything happened.”

“Oh, no, Florrie girl. Of course I’ll throw the stuff overboard, but I wouldn’t trust some of them, drunk or sober.”

Billings soon reported breakfast ready, and asked how he should serve the captives.

“Do not serve them at all,” said Denman, sharply. “Bring the cabin table on deck, and place it on the starboard quarter. Serve breakfast for two, and you and Daniels eat your own in the galley.”

“Very good, sir,” answered the subdued Billings, with a glance at the long, blue revolver at Denman’s waist. He departed, and with Daniels’ help arranged the breakfast as ordered.

Florrie was forced to remove her bandage; but as she faced aft at the table her face was visible to Denman only. He faced forward, and while he ate he watched the men, who squirmed as the appetizing odors of broiled ham, corn bread, and coffee assailed their nostrils. On each countenance, besides the puffed, bloated appearance coming of heavy and unaccustomed drinking, was a look of anxiety and disquiet. But they were far from being conquered—in spirit, at least.

Breakfast over, Denman sent Florrie below, ordered the dishes and table below, and again put the irons on Billings and Daniels. Then he went among them.

“What do you mean to do?” asked Forsythe, surlily, as Denman looked down on him. “Keep us here and starve us?”

“I will keep you in irons while I have the power,” answered Denman, “no matter what I may do with the others. Sampson,” he said to the big machinist, “you played a man’s part last night, and I feel strongly in favor of releasing you on parole. You understand the nature of parole, do you not?”

“I do, sir,” answered the big fellow, thickly, “and if I give it, I would stick to it. What are the conditions, sir?”

“That you stand watch and watch with me while we take this boat back to Boston; that you aid me in keeping this crowd in subjection; that you do your part in protecting the lady aft from annoyance. In return, I promise you my influence at Washington. I have some, and can arouse more. You will, in all probability, be pardoned.”

“No, sir,” answered Sampson, promptly. “I am one of this crowd—you are not one of us. I wouldn’t deserve a pardon if I went back on my mates—even this dog alongside of me. He’s one of us, too; and, while I have smashed him, and will smash him again, I will not accept my liberty while he, or any of the others, is in irons.”

Denman bowed low to him, and went on. He questioned only a few—those who seemed trustworthy—but met with the same response, and he left them, troubled in mind.

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