Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
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
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWest Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 1
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 1 Post by :rankwarforum Category :Long Stories Author :George Barr Mccutcheon Date :May 2012 Read :1214

Click below to download : West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 1 (Format : PDF)

West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 1

BOOK II CHAPTER I

The warm, summer season was well-advanced in this far southern land before the strenuous, tireless efforts of the marooned settlers began to show definite results.

Some six weeks after the stranding of the Doraine, staunch log cabins were in course of completion along the base of the hills overlooking the clear, rolling meadow-land to the north and east. Down in the lowlands scores of men were employed in sowing and planting. The soil was rich. Farmers and grain-raisers among the passengers were unanimously of the opinion that almost any vegetable, cereal or fruit indigenous to Argentina (or at the worst, Patagonia), could be produced here. Uncertainty as to the duration of the warm period, so vital to the growing and maturing of crops, was the chief problem. No time was to be lost if there were to be harvests before the cold and blighting weather set in.

It was extremely doubtful if the spring and summer seasons combined covered more than five months in this latitude. Assuming that the climate in this open part of the world was anything like that of the Falkland Islands, the rainy season was overdue. Midwinter usually comes in July, with the temperature averaging between 35 deg. and 10 deg. above zero over a period of four or five months. At the time of the wreck, the thermometers were registering about 70 deg. during the day, and dropping to 50 deg. or thereabouts after nightfall. This would indicate that spring was fairly well-advanced, and that midsummer might be figured on as coming in January. It was now the end of November. Warm weather probably would last until February or March. Possibly they would be too late with their planting, but they went about it speedily, determinedly, just the same.

All of them had had crop failures before. All of them had seen the labour of months go for naught in the blight of an evening's frost, or the sweep of a prairie fire. So here on this virgin isle, in soil whose sod had never been turned, they sowed from the bins of the slumbering ship. Wheat and oats and flax, brought from the Argentina plains; potatoes, squash and beet-root; even beans and peas were tried, but with small hope. And there were women ready to till the soil and work the gardens, women to draw the strangely fashioned ploughshares as willing beasts of burden, to wield the hoe and spade, and to watch for the cherished sprout that was to glorify their deeds.

The ring of the ax resounded in the forest; the clangour of hammer and nail, the rasp of the saw, the clatter of timber went on from dawn to dusk,--for there was no eight-hour law in this smiling land, nor was there any other union save that of staunch endeavour, no other Brotherhood except that of Man. There was never a question of wage, never a dispute as to hours, never a thought of strike. Every labourer was worthy of his hire,--and his hire was food!

The Doraine was gradually being dismantled. She was being stripped of every bit of material that could be used in constructing and furnishing the huts. The new camp lay not more than a mile and a half from the basin. A road had been cleared through the wood from the small, hastily constructed dock and runway on the eastern side of the basin to the open territory beyond.

Material, supplies, equipment were carried through the densely shaded avenue, and later on, after the warehouses and granaries had been built, the leafy lane witnessed the transportation of ton upon ton of stores, patiently borne in hundredweight lots, in bushel bags, in clumsy parcels, by men whose work seemed endless; wheat, barley, oats, sugar, coffee and other commodities entrusted to the steamship company for delivery in the United States. Tobacco, canned and refrigerated meats, olives, flour, figs and dates in large quantities were included in the vast cargo, to say nothing of the enormous supply of canned fruits and vegetables. Washed wool, tanned leather, homespun cotton and woollen cloth, silks, hides, furs, rugs, laces, linseed oil, blankets,--all these came ashore in course of time, but of the sinister treasure that had inspired the destruction of the ship, i.e., the manganese, the rubber, the nitrates, the copper bars, and the stacks of high explosives, not a pound was moved. All this was left for another and more leisurely day.

In the end, the once luxurious liner was to be reduced to "skin and bones," to employ a trite but eminently appropriate phrase. Ultimately she became a black, unlovely skeleton, bereft of every vestige of her former opulence. Her decks were torn up and the timbers hauled away to make floors in the huts; the doors, mirrors, stairways, windows, rails, carpets, pipes, bathtubs, toilets, lamps, every foot of woodwork from stem to stern, berths, washbasins, kitchen ranges, boilers,--in fact, everything that man could make use of was taken from the ship, leaving nothing of her but a hollow, echoing shell through which the wind howled or moaned a ghostly requiem.

Much of this material was carefully stacked or stored away against the day when it could be utilized in the construction of a small but sturdy ship, in which a chosen company of sailors were to fare out to sea once more in search of the world they had lost.

Tireless and indomitable engineers later on succeeded in transferring portions of the damaged machinery, including dynamos, to the camp, where in course of time their skill and ingenuity bade fair to triumph over seemingly insurmountable difficulties in the matter of restoration.

Fully six weeks elapsed, however, before the women were allowed to leave the ship for their new homes on the land, and even then they came but a few at a time and only as huts were ready and fully equipped to receive them. Each hut contained a combination kitchen and living-room, with a single bedchamber. A substantial fireplace, built of stone and mortar, with a tall chimney at the back, was a feature in every house. The cracks between the logs, and all chinks, were sealed with thick layers of mortar; the ceilings, made of stout saplings, were treated in a similar manner, while the roof, resting on a sturdy ridge-pole, and securely anchored, was of three layers of poles, interstices mortared and the whole covered with a vast quantity of seaweed, moss and reeds held in place by several well-fastened sections of iron railing from the decks of the Doraine.

While the huts were uniform in size, shape and construction, there was nothing to prevent the occupant from subsequently enlarging and improving his house. For the present, however, the interests of all were best served by speed and compactness.

The superintendent of construction was Algernon Adonis Percival. As a matter of fact, the end of the first week found him occupying the position of General Manager for the whole enterprise, an unsolicited honour but one which he was resolved that no one, great or small, should deride. He had one stormy "run-in," as he described it, with Mr. Landover and his group of satellites. This occurred about the middle of their first week on the island when practically every able-bodied man from the Doraine was at work cutting a way through the forest or in constructing the dock at the water's edge. As the incident is entitled to a very definite place in this narrative, a more or less extended account of it may be given here and now, even at the risk of being classed as a digression, or a step backward in the sequence of the history.

Mr. Landover, Mr. Block, Mr. Nicklestick and two or three other men were grouped on the after-deck early one morning decrying the brainless scheme to build a camp out there in the open. Their audience included several women, among them Mrs. Spofford, Ruth Clinton, Madame Careni-Amori, Madame Obosky, Mrs. Block and a couple of loquacious Rio Janeiro ladies.

Percival bore down upon this group. He wasted no time in getting to the point.

"We've been at work for two days out there, gentlemen, and up to date not one of you has turned to with the rest of us. The understanding was that--"

Mr. Landover whirled on him, white with anger. "That will do!" he exclaimed. "Clear out! I do not intend to allow any such riff-raff as you to order me to--Oh, pray do not be alarmed, ladies! This rowdy is not likely to assault me. Nothing will happen, I assure you. Clear out, you bum,--do you hear me?"

Percival was smiling. "I wish you wouldn't interrupt me, Mr. Landover. As I was saying, it was understood that every man on this ship who is well enough to--"

"Can't you see that there are ladies present? Haven't you an atom of decency about you?"

"--understood that every man on this ship was to do his share of the work laid out. I owe these ladies an apology for reminding you in their presence that the boats are leaving for shore and that if you do not get off in the next relay you will be compelled to swim to that landing over there,--and I doubt very much whether any of you can make it."

"Wha-what's that?" demanded Mr. Block.

Mr. Landover was speechless. A hard glitter came to Percival's eyes, the smile left his lips.

"You heard what I said, Mr. Block. I'll make it plainer, however. If you men don't get into the next boat leaving this ship, I'm going to have you thrown overboard and made to swim to your work. I regret exceedingly, ladies, that I have been obliged to resort to harsh words in your presence, but time is so precious that I can't afford to give them a private audience."

"Oh, my goodness gracious!" cried Mrs. Block, twisting her fat hands in an agony of alarm. "Maybe you better go, Moses. You vas nearly drownded twice yet in pool at White Sulphur."

"This is the most outrageous, high-handed,--" began Landover, explosively, but stopped short as Percival levelled his unlovely forefinger at him.

"Cut it out, Mr. Landover,--cut it out," he snapped, inelegantly. "Now, listen to me. For two days you and these boon companions of yours have been loafing on the job. While the rest of us have been working like dogs, you and your friends,--you needn't look insulted, because by the looks of things they are your friends,--you've been sitting up here talking to the ladies, smoking cigars, and telling every one how successfully you conduct a bank in New York. Now, Mr. Landover, you're not an old man. If you were, I'd be the first to suggest the easiest sort of work for you. You are under fifty and you're a strong, healthy man. You ride every morning in Central Park, you play golf in winter and summer, and you're one of the men who made Muldoon famous.

"You are able to work as the rest of us are working. Your hands are in a much better condition than mine. If we were in New York, I would take off my hat to you and admit that you are one of the greatest bankers in the world, and that you know your business. But we're not in New York. We're down here on a lonely island. You know how to build and conduct banks, I know how to build and conduct camps. We have no use for scientific bankers here, but we have considerable use for experienced camp builders. I have been put in charge of this work. I'm going to see it through. Up in the hills I got a full day's work out of my men,--and there were worse men among them than you will ever be. There were gunmen, knife slingers, cutthroats and bullies,--but they had to work, just the same. Just a minute, if you please. I'm not through. I think I appreciate your position, Mr. Landover.

"You regard me as a four-flusher, a tramp,--maybe a thief or worse. I am but little more than half your age and I am a person of absolutely no importance. That's neither here nor there. I have been selected to run this job because Captain Trigger, with Mr. Mott and virtually every other man on this ship, believes that I know how to handle it. But even that's neither here nor there. What I'm coming to is this. As long as I am in charge of this job, every man, woman and child has got to do something. Just at present there isn't much that the women and children can do, but there is work for every man who can stand on his feet. You needn't glare at me. I'm not afraid of you, Mr. Landover. You say you are going to stay on this ship. Well, I've come here to tell you that you are not going to do anything of the sort. The women and children are to remain on board until we've got houses built for them on shore, or until the time comes when there is work for them to do. If they choose to come ashore occasionally it will be to watch the men work and to cheer them up with their presence. But no man is to stay on this ship after we've once got the real job going out there. Now you've heard my statement, sir. I am willing to listen for a few minutes to your side of the question. Don't all speak at once,--and please be careful, there are ladies present."

While Percival did not take his eyes from Landover's face during this speech, he was aware that Miss Clinton and her aunt had turned abruptly away and were leaning against the rail a few yards distant, their backs to him. Olga Obosky and Careni-Amori were regarding him with shining, approving eyes, while Mrs. Block,--gulping furiously,--clasped her husband's arm and kept up a constant muttering. Something told him that Ruth Clinton and Mrs. Spofford had turned against him.

"I have nothing to say to you," said Landover, curtly. Turning on his heel, he joined the two ladies at the rail. He spoke a few words to them in a lowered tone, and then the three of them strode off without so much as a glance at the young man.

Percival flushed a dull red under his tan. His eyes followed them until they disappeared around a corner. Down in his heart he hoped that Ruth would not deny him a fleeting look of encouragement and approval.

Landover carried himself like a soldier. He was tall, well set-up, and almost offensively erect. He was a handsome man of perhaps forty-eight. His cleanshaven face was firm, aggressive, domineering. There was not a trace of grey in his dark hair. He typified strength, mentality, shrewdness and that most essential quality in the standards of wealth and power,--arrogance. In a word, he personified Finance.

"Now, see here, Percival," began Nicklestick, in a most cavalier manner, greatly encouraged by the lofty conduct of the Money King, "you know you can't do this sort of thing. We won't stand for it, not for a minute. We object to this high-handed business. You got to realize that--"

"Object and be hanged!" snapped Percival. "The next thing, you'll be calling yourselves conscientious objectors. Well, it's no use, Nicklestick. There's no such animal on board this Ark. I see a couple of boats returning from shore. You've got about fifteen minutes to shed that Stein & Bloch suit and jump into something that will never need pressing again,--your working clothes. I'm doing you a kindness. That gang out there won't stand for slackers. If you're wise you'll take my word for it."

He was turning away when Nicklestick intercepted him.

"What do you think they would do, Mr. Percival?" he inquired in some agitation. "We are gentlemen. We got a right to decide for ourselves vat we shall do. We can pay for--"

"You will find a lot of gentlemen out there who have already decided for themselves,--and very cheerfully, too. You will not be lonely. If you desire any further information as to the class of labourers you will come in contact with, Mr. Nicklestick, I would suggest a careful study of the first cabin list, the second cabin list, and finally the third cabin list, if you can find such a thing. You will also run up against some excellent material from the United States Navy, to say nothing of a fine lot of able seamen. They've adopted a common name. Do you know what they call each other?"

"No," said Nicklestick, wiping his brow. "Vat--vat do they call each other?"

"Men," said Percival, and walked away.

He was followed closely by Careni-Amori and Olga Obosky, and at some distance by the whispering, gesticulating Jews. The great soprano was profoundly agitated. Obosky, a pace or two behind her, was tense and silent. Her head was slightly bent. There was a strange, dog-like expression in her eyes as they regarded the back of Percival's head.

"But what will you do?" Careni-Amori was crying, as she clutched his arm. "He is a great man. He is a millionaire. He owns part of this steamship line,--so he have inform me. You will not throw him into the water,--yes?"

"As sure as you are a foot high, Madame Careni-Amori," said he, grimly.

"Oh, mon Dieu! You hear him, Obosky? He means what he have say."

"Be careful, my friend," said Obosky, drawing alongside of Percival. "Do you not see how the wind blows?"

"What do you mean?"

"Have you count the cost of victory? You may lose more than you will gain."

Percival looked at her intently for a moment; then, in a flash, the meaning of her words was revealed to him.

"Even so, Madame Obosky," he returned, his jaw setting, "I am a good loser."

"The spoils do not always go to the victor," she warned him.

"I still have your luck-piece," said he, smiling as he slapped his trousers-leg.

"It has always brought me luck," she said, looking straight into his eyes. "It may continue to do so, who knows? Alas for you, my friend, you may yet have to turn to me for consolation. It is the ill-wind that blows nobody good. Am I not shocking, Mr. Percivail?"

They had lost Madame Careni-Amori, who was behind them, shrieking a command through a port-hole to her maid.

He looked at her in amazement. "I don't know what to think of you, Madame Obosky." Then he grinned. "Good Lord! You--you can't be making me an offer of marriage?"

"Heaven forbid!" she cried. "I have had all I want of marriage, my friend. You will never catch me doing anything so foolish as that again. No, no! I do not desire to marry you, Mr. Percivail. Nothing so dreadful as that! Suppose we would be married,--what zen? Poof! Because I am an honest woman I would have to tell you some time zat I have had ze honour to be once the mistress of a Crown Prince,--and then you would hold up your holy hands and cry out, 'My God, what kind of a woman is this I have marry?' and--Oh, but I would not tell you about zat Crown Prince until we have been married a year or two, so do not look so pleased! In a year you would be hating me so much zat you would rejoice to hear about the Crown Prince, and I would be loathing you so much zat I would probably have to kill you,--because I do not believe in divorce any more than I believe in marriage. You see? Most women hate their husbands. They never hate their lovers. It is so difficult to get rid of the one, and so easy to keep the other,--zat is the explanation. So! Now you may know zat love is the humblest thing in the world, and passion the noblest, for love is for the weak while passion is for the strong. Love is easily deceived, passion never. Love endures, passion conquers. Love is blind, passion is sight itself. Love rules the world, but passion rules love. Love consents, passion demands. Love is law, passion is life. I could go on forever, but I see you do not like my discourse. Zat is because you are already in love, my friend. Poof! You will get over that!" She laughed.

Percival was white clear through. He was red-blooded, but at the same time his heart was clean. Once more he found himself contrasting the honest-eyed, pure-hearted Ruth with this sensual scoffer. There was no denying the physical appeal of the lithe, sinuous Russian; there was no gainsaying the call of the blood. On the other hand, the American girl stood for everything his own mother exemplified in flesh and spirit.

As it is with all men, he was absolutely incapable of associating passion with the mother who bore him, or with sisters who marry and give them nieces and nephews to adore. It was impossible, utterly impossible that they should have possessed the instincts of this woman beside him. But even as the thought raced through his mind he experienced the sudden, almost staggering realization that after all the chief, probably the only difference between his women and Olga Obosky was that they were good!

"Do you want me to tell you what I think of you?" he inquired, his eyes hardening.

"Yes," she said calmly. "But not now. When you have more time, my friend. I shall be very much interested to hear what you think of me. In the meantime, I am troubled for you. You are in love with her,--oh, yes, you are,--and I am very much afraid zat you will lose her if you are not careful. I am your friend. Be warned in time, Mr. Percivail. She is sorry for him. Landover. You have humiliated him before all of us. He is the friend of her family. Go slow, my friend, or she will turn against you and you will lose her. You have still a good chance. She is more nearly in love with you than she suspects. A little good judgment on your part, my friend, and you will win. She will marry you, and when she have done so, zen you may with impunity toss Mr. Landover in the sea,--but not now, my friend, not now."

"By Jove, you've got me guessing, Madame Obosky," he exclaimed, frankly puzzled. "I can't make you out at all."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Zat is because I am a thousand years old and very, oh, so very wise, Mr. Percivail," she returned, with a smile. "Au revoir!"

Percival went straight to Captain Trigger.

"See here, Captain," he said at once, "I'm up against it with Landover. He refuses to take orders from me. I don't want to do anything drastic without consulting you. If you say I'm to let him off, that's the end of it so far as I'm concerned. Of course, I can't answer for the rest of the crowd. But if you say I am to go ahead along the line originally laid out, I'll do it."

Captain Trigger's eyes, red from loss of sleep, pinched with anxiety, rested for a few seconds on the three boats coming across the basin. Then he turned to the young man.

"Mr. Landover is one of the owners of this steamship line, Percival."

"So I understand, sir."

"He notified me this morning that he will see that I am dismissed from the service if I continue to support this silly, suicidal plan to build a camp on shore."

"Yes, sir. And you?"

"I promptly tendered my resignation as master of this vessel," answered the Captain.

"You did?" cried Percival, dismayed.

"To take effect when I have tied her safely up to her pier in New York," said the old man, striking the rail with his fist.

"Great!" cried Percival.

"He has just come to me with the complaint that you have threatened to throw him overboard. Is that true, Percival?"

"Yes, sir,--in a way. I mentioned an alternative."

"Mr. Landover is no better than any of the rest of us. You will proceed to throw him overboard, Percival, if he refuses to do his share of the work."

Percival gulped, and then saluted.

"Orders, sir?"

"Orders!"

The young man started away, but the Captain called him back.

"What are you going to do after you have had him thrown into the water?"

"Why, dammit all," exclaimed Percival, "what can I do but jump in and save his life? You don't suppose I'd let him drown, do you? And, God knows, nobody else would save it. They want to tar and feather him, as it is, or lynch him, or make him walk the plank."

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

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

West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 2
BOOK II CHAPTER IIThe first of the two boats came alongside, and men began to go clumsily, even fearfully down the ladders. Throughout the early stages of activity on shore, the passengers and crew went out in shifts, so to speak. Percival and others experienced in construction work had learned that efficiency and accomplishment depend entirely upon the concentration of force, and so, instead of piling hundreds of futile men on shore to create confusion, they adopted the plan of sending out daily detachments of fifty or sixty, to work in regular rotation until all available man power had been broken
PREVIOUS BOOKS

West Wind Drift - Book 1 - Chapter 10 West Wind Drift - Book 1 - Chapter 10

West Wind Drift - Book 1 - Chapter 10
BOOK I CHAPTER XAfter the second reading of the foregoing report, the first being in English, Percival requested his fellow explorers to verify the statements contained therein. This they did promptly. He then went on: "I am delegated by Captain Trigger and the officers of this vessel, after a conference just concluded,--and of which you are all well aware,--to put before you as briefly and as clearly as possible the decision that has been reached. I may as well confess in the beginning that this decision is based on the recommendations of the party who went to the top of the
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT