Full Online Books
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWest Wind Drift - Book 1 - Chapter 1
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
West Wind Drift - Book 1 - Chapter 1 Post by :dbhatta Category :Long Stories Author :George Barr Mccutcheon Date :May 2012 Read :2504

Click below to download : West Wind Drift - Book 1 - Chapter 1 (Format : PDF)

West Wind Drift - Book 1 - Chapter 1


The Captain of the liner was an old man. He had sailed the seas for two-score years, at least half of them as master. At the outbreak of the Great War he was given command of the Doraine, relieving a younger man for more drastic duty in the North Sea. He was an Englishman, and his name, Weatherby Trigger, may be quite readily located on the list of retired naval officers in the British Admiralty offices if one cares to go to the trouble to look it up.

After two years the Doraine, with certain other vessels involved in a well-known and somewhat thoroughly debated transaction, became to all intents and purposes the property of the United States of America; she flew the American flag, carried an American guncrew and American papers, and, with some difficulty, an English master. The Captain was making his last voyage as master of the ship. An American captain was to succeed him as soon as the Doraine reached its destination in the United States. Captain Trigger, a little past seventy, had sailed for nearly two years under the American flag at a time when all Englishmen were looking askance at it and wondering if it was ever to take its proper place among the righteous banners of the world. It had taken its place among them, and the "old man" was happy.

His crew of one hundred and fifty was what might be aptly described as international. The few Englishmen he had on board were noticeably unfit for active duty in the war zone. There was a small contingent of Americans, a great many Portuguese, some Spaniards, Norwegians, and a more or less polyglot remainder without national classification.

His First Officer was a Scotch-American, the Second an Irish-American, the Chief Engineer a plain unhyphenated American from Baltimore, Maryland. The purser, Mr. Codge, was still an Englishman, although he had lived in the United States since he was two years old,--a matter of forty-seven years and three months, if we are to believe Mr. Codge, who seemed rather proud of the fact that his father had neglected to forswear allegiance to Queen Victoria, leaving it to his son to follow his example in the case of King Edward the Seventh and of King George the Fifth.

There were eighty-one first-cabin passengers, one hundred and nineteen in the second cabin,--for the two had not been consolidated on the Doraine as was the case with the harried trans-Atlantic liners,--and approximately three hundred and fifty in the steerage. The first and second cabin lists represented many races, South Americans predominating.

The great republics in the lower half of the hemisphere were cut off almost entirely from the Old World so far as general travel was concerned. The people of Argentine, Brazil and Chili turned their eyes from the east and looked to the north, where lay the hitherto ignored and sometime hated continent whose middle usurped the word American. A sea voyage in these parlous days meant but one thing to the people of South America: a visit to an unsentimental land whose traditions, if any were cherished at all, went back no farther than yesterday and were to be succeeded by fresh ones tomorrow. At least, such was the belief of the Latin who still dozed superciliously in the glory of his long-dead ancestors. Not having Paris, or London, or Madrid, or Rome as the Mecca of his dreams, his pilgrimage now carried him to the infidel realities of the North,--to Washington, New York, New Orleans, Newport and Atlantic City! He had the money for travel, so why stay at home? He had the money to waste, so why not dissipate? He had the thirst for sin, so why famish?

There were lovely women on board, and children with and without the golden spoon; there were men whose names were known on both sides of the Atlantic and whose reputations for integrity, sagacity, intellect, and,--it must be confessed,--corruptness, (with the author's apology for the inclusion); doughty but dogmatic university men who had penetrated the wildernesses as naturalists, entomologists, mineralogists, archaeologists, explorers; sportsmen who had forsaken the lion, rhinoceros, hartebeest and elephant of Africa for the jaguar, cougar, armadillo and anteater of South America; soldiers of fortune whose gods had lured them into the comparative safety of South American revolutions; miners, stock buyers and raisers, profiteersmen, diplomats, priests, preachers, gamblers, smugglers and thieves; others who had gone out for the Allies to buy horses, beeves, grain, metal, chemicals, manganese and men; financiers, merchants, lawyers, writers, musicians, doctors, dentists, architects; gentiles and Jews, Protestants and Catholics, skeptics and infidels,--in short, good men, bad men, beggar men, thieves.

The world will readily recall such names and personalities as these: Abel T. Landover, the great New York banker; Peter Snipe, the novelist; Solomon Nicklestick, the junior member in the firm of Winkelwein & Nicklestick, importers of hides, etc., Ninth Avenue, New York; Moses Block, importer of rubber; James January Jones, of San Francisco, promoter and financier; Randolph Fitts, of Boston, the well-known architect; Percy Knapendyke, the celebrated naturalist; Michael O'Malley Malone, of the law firm of Eads, Blixton, Solomon, Carlson, Vecchiavalli, Revitsky, Perkins & Malone, New York; William Spinney, of the Chicago Police force, (and his prisoner, "Soapy" Shay, diamond thief); Denby Flattner, the taxidermist; Morris Shine, the motion picture magnate; Madame Careni-Amori, soprano from the Royal Opera, Rome; Signer Joseppi, the new tenor, described as the logical successor to the great Caruso; Madame Obosky and three lesser figures in the Russian Ballet, who were coming to the United States to head a long-heralded tour, "by special arrangement with the Czar"; Buck Chizler, the famous jockey,--and so on.

These were the names most conspicuously displayed by the newspapers during the anxious, watchful days and weeks that succeeded the sailing of the Doraine from the port in the Tropic of Capricorn.

Dozens of cities in the United States were represented by one or more persons on board the Doraine, travellers of both sexes who, being denied the privilege of a customary dash to Europe for the annual holiday, resolved not to be deprived of their right to wander, nor the right to return when they felt inclined. Whilom, defiant rovers in search of change, they scoffed at conditions and went their way regardless of the peril that stalked the seas. In the main they were money-spending, time-dragging charges against the resources of a harassed, bewildered government, claiming protection in return for arrogance.

Far to the south, off the Falkland Islands, at the bottom of the sea, lay the battered hulls of what ware supposed to be the last of the German fighting-ships in South Atlantic waters. Report had it, however, that several well-armed cruisers had either escaped the hurricane of shells from the British warships, or had been detached from the squadron before the encounter took place. In any event, no vessel left a South American port without maintaining a sharp lookout for prowling survivors of the vanquished fleet, and no passenger went aboard who did not experience the thrill of a hazardous undertaking. The ever-present and ever-ready individual with official information from sources that could not be questioned, travelled with remarkable regularity on each and every craft that ventured out upon the Hun-infested waters. In the smoke-room the invariable word went round that raiders were sinking everything in sight. Every ship that sailed had on board at least one individual who claimed to have been chased on a former voyage by a blockade-breaker,--(according to the most reliable reports, the Germans were slipping warships through the vaunted British net with the most astounding ease and frequency,)--and there was no one with the hardihood or desire to question his veracity; indeed, it was something of a joy to believe him, for was he not a living and potential document to prove that the merchant marine could outwit, outrace and outshoot the German pirates?

The Doraine was barely twenty-four hours out from port and ploughing along steadily through a choppy sea when Mr. Mott, the First Officer, reported to Captain Trigger that a stowaway had been found on board.

"German?" inquired Captain Trigger tersely.

"No, sir. At least, he doesn't look it and, what's more, he doesn't act it. Claims to be American born and bred."

"That's what a great many Germans are claiming these days, Mr. Mott. We can't take any chances, you know. Where was he found?"

Mr. Mott cleared his throat. "Ahem! He wasn't what you might call found, sir. As a matter of fact, he applied in person to the Chief Engineer about half an hour ago and asked for a job. He said he was perfectly willing to work out his passage home. Mr. Gray had him conducted to me, sir,--rather sharply guarded, of course,--and he--"

"Fetch him here at once, Mr. Mott," commanded Captain Trigger. "I'll hear what he has to say first hand."

"Very well, sir." Mr. Mott started away, hesitated, rubbed his chin dubiously, and then came back. "He's having a bit of breakfast, sir, and has asked for the loan of Mr. Codge's razors--"

"What?" roared the captain.

"I informed him he would have to appear before you at once, sir, and he said he was quite willing to do so, but would it be possible for him to tidy up a bit beforehand. I am obliged to confess, sir, that I have never encountered a more interesting stowaway in all my career, which leads me to confess still further that I gave orders to feed him,--he hasn't had a mouthful to eat since we left port, owing to the fact, he says, that his luggage shifted the first day out and try as he would he couldn't locate it without a match, or something to that effect,--he rather stumped me, sir, with the graceful way he lies,--and then Mr. Codge agreed to let him take one of his razors, and when I left him below, sir, it seemed quite certain that Mr. Gray was on the point of lending him a shirt and a change of underwear. I--"

"Good God, sir!" gasped Captain Trigger, with something more than emotion in his voice. "What is this you are telling me?"

"He seems a most likeable chap," explained Mr. Mott lamely. "Quite a courteous fellow, too, sir. I forgot to mention that he sent his compliments to you and asks for an interview at your earliest conven--"

"Asked for an interview? Drag him here at once--by the heels, if necessary. Tell him I shan't keep him waiting an instant," said the captain ironically.

Mr. Mott still hesitated. "In the event, sir, that he is in the midst of shaving--"

"I don't care a hang what he's in the midst of," exclaimed Captain Trigger. "Even in the midst of changing shirts. Present my compliments to him, Mr. Mott, and say that he needn't dress up on my account. I am an old-fashioned sailor-man. It is nothing new to me to see men who haven't shaved in a fortnight, and others who never change shirts."

"Very well, sir," said Mr. Mott, and departed.

Presently he reappeared with the stowaway in charge.

Captain Trigger beheld a well set-up young man of medium height, with freshly shaven chin and jaws, carefully brushed hair, spotless white shirt and collar, and,--revealed in a quick glance,--recently scrubbed hands. His brown Norfolk jacket was open, and he carried a brand new, though somewhat shapeless pan-ama hat in his hand. Evidently he had ceased fanning himself with it at the moment of entering the captain's presence. The keen, good-looking face was warm and moist as the result of a most violent soaping. He wore corduroy riding-breeches, cavalry boots that betrayed their age in spite of a late polishing at the hands of an energetic and carefully directed bootblack, and a broad leather belt from which only half an eye was required to see that a holster had been detached with a becoming regard for neatness. His hair was thick and sun-bleached; his eyes, dark and unafraid, met the stern gaze of the captain with directness and respect; his lips and chin were firm in repose, but they might easily be the opposite if relaxed; his skin was so tanned and wind-bitten that the whites of his eyes were startlingly defined and vivid. He was not a tall man,--indeed, one would have been justified in suspecting him of being taller than he really was because of the more or less deceiving erectness with which he carried himself. As a matter of fact, he was not more than five feet ten or ten and a half.

Captain Trigger eyed him narrowly for a moment.

"What is your name?"

"A. A. Percival, sir."

"Your full name, young man. No initials."

The stowaway seemed to add an inch to his height before replying.

"Algernon Adonis Percival, sir," he said, a very clear note of defiance in his voice.

The Captain looked at the First Officer, and the First Officer, after a brief stare at the speaker, looked at the Captain.

"It's his right name, you can bet, sir," said Mr. Mott, with conviction. "Nobody would voluntarily give himself a name like that."

"You never can tell about these Americans, Mr. Mott," said the Captain warily. "They've got what they call a keen sense of humour, you know."

Mr. Percival smiled. His teeth were very white and even.

"I am a first and only child," he explained. "That ought to account for it, sir," he went on, a trifle defensively.

Captain Trigger did not smile. Mr. Mott, however, looked distinctly sympathetic.

"You say you are an American,--a citizen of the United States?" demanded the former.

"Yes, sir. My home is in Baltimore."

"Baltimore?" repeated Mr. Mott quickly. "That's where Mr. Gray hails from, sir," he added, as a sort of apology to the Captain for the exclamation.

The Captain's gaze settled on the stowaway's spotless white shirt and collar. Then he nodded his head slowly.

"Mr. Gray is the Chief Engineer," he explained, with mock courtesy.

"Yes, sir,--I know," responded Percival. "He comes of one of the oldest and most highly connected families in Baltimore. He informs me that his father--"

"Never mind!" snapped the Captain. "We need not discuss Mr. Gray's antecedents. How old are you?"

"Thirty last Friday, sir."


"No, sir."

"Parents living?"

"No, sir."

"And now, what the devil do you mean by sneaking aboard this ship and hiding yourself in the--by the way, Mr. Mott, where was he hiding?"

Mr. Mott: "It doesn't seem to be quite clear as yet, sir."

Captain Trigger: "What's that?"

Mr. Mott: "I say, it isn't quite clear. We have only his word for it. You see, he wasn't discovered until he accosted Mr. Shannon on the bridge and asked--"

Captain Trigger: "On the bridge, Mr. Mott?"

Mr. Mott: "That is to say, sir, Mr. Shannon was on the bridge and he was below on the promenade deck. He asked Mr. Shannon if he was the Captain of the boat."

Captain Trigger: "He did, eh? Well?"

Mr. Mott: "He was informed that you were at breakfast, sir,--no one suspecting him of being a stowaway, of course,--and then, it appears, he started out to look for you. That's how he fell in with the Chief Engineer. Mr. Gray informs me that he applied for work, admitting that he was aboard without leave, or passage, or funds, or anything else, it would seem. But, as for where he lay in hiding, there hasn't been anything definite arrived at as yet, sir. He seems to have been hiding in a rather wide-spread sort of way."

Mr. Percival, amiably: "Permit me to explain, Captain Trigger. You see, I have been obliged to change staterooms three times. Naturally, that might be expected to create some little confusion in my mind. I began in the second cabin. Much to my surprise and chagrin I found, too late, that the stateroom I had chosen,--at random, I may say,--was merely in the state of being prepared for a lady and gentleman who had asked to be transferred from a less desirable one. I had some difficulty in getting out of it without attracting attention. I don't know what I should have done if the steward hadn't informed them that he could not move their steamer-trunk until morning. There wouldn't have been room for both of us under the berth, sir. If the gentleman had been alone I shouldn't have minded in the least remaining, under his berth, but he--"

Captain Trigger: "How did you happen to get into that room, young man? The doors are never unlocked when the rooms are unoccupied."

Mr. Percival: "You are mistaken, sir. I found at least three stateroom doors unlocked that night, and my search was by no means extensive."

Captain Trigger: "This is most extraordinary, Mr. Mott,--if true."

Mr. Mott: "It shall be looked into, sir."

Captain Trigger: "Go on, young man."

Mr. Percival: "I tried another room in the second cabin, but had to abandon it also. It had no regular occupant,--it was Number 221 remember,--but along about midnight two men opened the door with a key and came in. They were stewards. I gathered that they were getting the room ready for someone else, so when they departed,--very quietly, sir,--I sneaked out and decided to try for accommodations in the first cabin. I--"

Mr. Mott: "Did you say stewards?"

Mr. Percival: "That's what I took them to be."

Captain Trigger: "You are either lying, young man, or plumb crazy."

Mr. Percival, with dignity: "The latter is quite possible, Captain,--but not the former. I managed quite easily to get from the second cabin to the first. You'd be surprised to know how simple it was. Running without lights as you do, sir, simplified things tremendously. I found a very sick and dejected Jewish gentleman trying to die in the least exposed corner of the promenade deck. At least, he said he didn't want to live. I offered to put him to bed and to sit up with him all night if it would make him feel a little less like passing away. He lurched at the chance. I accompanied him to his stateroom, and so got a few much-needed hours of repose, despite his groans. I also ate his breakfast for him. Skirmishing around this morning, I found there were no unoccupied rooms in the first cabin, so I decided that we were far enough from land for me to reveal myself to the officer of the day,--if that's what you call 'em on board ship,--with a very honest and laudable desire to work my passage home. I can only add, Captain, that I am ready and willing to do anything from swabbing floors on the upper deck to passing coal at the bottom of the ship."

Captain Trigger stared hard at the young man, a puzzled expression in his eyes.

"You appear to be a gentleman," he said at last. "Why are you on board this ship as a stowaway? Don't you know that I can put you in irons, confine you to the brig, and put you ashore at the first port of call?"

"Certainly, sir. That's just what I am trying to avoid. As a gentleman, I am prepared to do everything in my power to relieve you of what must seem a most painful official duty."

Mr. Mott smiled. The Captain stiffened perceptibly.

"How did you come aboard this ship?" he demanded.

"As a coal passer, sir. Day before yesterday, when you were getting in the last lot of coal. I had a single five dollar gold piece in my pocket. It did the trick. With that seemingly insignificant remnant of a comfortable little fortune, I induced one of the native coal carriers,--a Portuguese nobleman, I shall always call him,--to part with his trousers, shirt and hat. I slipped 'em on over my own clothes, stuffed my boots and socks inside my shirt, picked up his basket of coal, and walked aboard. It isn't necessary, I suppose, to state that my career as a dock-hand ceased with that solitary basket of coal, or that having once put foot aboard the Doraine, I was in a position to book myself as a passenger."

"Well, I'm damned!" said Captain Trigger. "Some one shall pay for this carelessness, Mr. Mott. I've never heard of anything so cool. What did you say your name is, young man?"

"A. A. Percival, sir."

"Ah--ahem! I see. Will it offend you, A. A., if I make so bold as to inquire why the devil you neglected to book your passage in the regular way, as any gentleman from Baltimore might have been expected to do, and where is your passport, your certificate of health, your purse and your discharge from prison?"

Mr. Percival spread out his hands in a gesture of complete surrender.

"Would you be interested in my story, Captain Trigger? It is brief, but edifying. When I arrived in town, the evening before you were to sail, I had a wallet well-filled with gold, currency, and so forth. I had travelled nearly two thousand miles,--from the foothills of the Andes, to be more definite,--and I had my papers, my cancelled contract, and a clear right-of-way, so to speak. My personal belongings were supposed to have arrived in town on the train with me. A couple of cow-hide trunks, in fact. Well, they didn't arrive. I don't know what became of them. I had no time to investigate. This was the last boat I could get for two or three weeks that would land me in the U. S. A. I put up at the Alcazar Grand for the night. It was then too late to secure passage, but I fully intended to do so the first thing in the morning. There was a concert and dance at the hotel that night, and I went in to look on for awhile. I ran across a friend, an engineer who was on the job with me up in the hills a few months ago. He is also an American, a chap from Providence, Rhode Island. Connected with the consular service now. He was with a small party of Americans,--am I boring you?"

"No, no,--get on with it," urged Captain Trigger.

"Several of them were sailing on this ship, and they were having a little farewell party. That, however, has nothing to do with the case. I left them at midnight and went up to my room. Now comes the part you will not believe. During the night,--I sleep very soundly,--some one entered my room, rifled my pockets, and got away with everything I possessed, except my clothes and the five-dollar gold piece I have carried ever since I left home,--as a lucky coin, you know. He--"

"How did he happen to overlook your lucky coin?" inquired the Captain sarcastically.

"Because it couldn't be a lucky coin if I carried it in my purse. No coin is ever lucky that gets into my purse, Captain. I always kept it tightly sewed up in the band of my trousers, safe from the influence of evil companions. I did not discover the loss until morning. It was then too late to do anything, as you were sailing at eight. My Providence friend was not available. I knew no one else. But I was determined to sail on the Doraine. That's the story, sir, in brief. I leave it to you if I wasn't justified in doing the best I could under the circumstances."

Captain Trigger was not as fierce as he looked. He could not keep the twinkle out of his eye.

"We will see about that," he managed to say with commendable gruffness. "Assuming that your story is true, why are you in such a tremendous hurry to reach the United States? Skipping out for some reason, eh?"

"Well," said the young man slowly, "you see, news is a long time getting out into the wilderness where I've been located for a couple of years. We knew, of course, that there was a war on, but we didn't know how it was progressing. Down here in this part of the world we have a war every two or three months, and we've got so used to having 'em over within a week or two that we just naturally don't pay much attention to them. We don't even care who wins. But a couple of months ago we got word up there that the United States had finally got into it with everybody under the sun, and that the Germans were bound to win if we didn't get a couple of million men across in pretty short order. I am thirty years old, Captain, strong and healthy, and I'm a good American. That's why I want to get home. I've told you the truth about being robbed. I don't mind losing the money,--only a couple of thousand pesos, you know,--but if you chuck me off at the next port of call, Captain Trigger, I'll curse you to my dying day. I'm willing to work, I'm willing to be put in irons, I'm willing to get along on bread and water, but you've just got to land me in the United States. You are an Englishman. I suppose you've got relatives over in France fighting the Germans. Maybe you've had some one killed who is dear to you."

"My youngest son was killed in Flanders," said the Captain simply.

"I am sorry, sir. Well, for every Englishman and every Frenchman who has died over there, my country ought to supply some one to take his place. I expect to be one of those men, Captain. I have no other excuse for coming aboard your ship as a stowaway."

The Captain still eyed him narrowly.

"I believe you are honest, young man. If I am deceived in you I shall never trust the eyes of another man as long as I live. Sit down, Mr. Percival. I shall put you to work, never fear, but in the meantime I am very much interested in what you were doing up in the hills. You will oblige me by going as fully as possible into all the details. I shall not pass judgment on you until I've heard all of your story."

If you like this book please share to your friends :

West Wind Drift - Book 1 - Chapter 2 West Wind Drift - Book 1 - Chapter 2

West Wind Drift - Book 1 - Chapter 2
BOOK I CHAPTER IIAlgernon Adonis Percival, civil and mining engineer, Cornell, had gone through certain rather harsh stages of development in the mines of Montana and later in the perilous districts of Northern Mexico. A year or two prior to the breaking out of the great World War, he was sent to South America to replace the general superintendent of a new copper-mining enterprise in a remote section of the Andes, on the Bolivian side of the mountains. Here he was in charge of the heterogeneous horde of miners, labourers, structural workers and assayists who were engaged in the development and

West Wind Drift - Introduction West Wind Drift - Introduction

West Wind Drift - Introduction
On a bright, still morning in October, the Doraine sailed from a South American port and turned her glistening nose to the northeast. All told, there were some seven hundred and fifty souls on board; and there were stores that filled her holds from end to end,--grain, foodstuffs, metals, chemicals, rubber and certain sinister things of war. Her passenger list contained the names of men who had achieved distinction in world affairs,--in finance, in business, in diplomacy, in war, besides that less subtle pursuit, adventure: men from both hemispheres, from all continents. It was a cosmopolitan company that sailed out to