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by Henry Leverage

Author of "The Iron Dollar."

WHEN Ivan with the long surname walked down the beach at Novgorod he found three men. These men were sitting on their haunches staring out over the Japan Sea. Ivan spoke to them in English.

"I have a ship," he said.

The first man glanced at the second; the second stared at the third. They rose from their haunches and wrapped their rags around gaunt limbs.

"A ship in this accursed port?" asked one.

"A bloody lie!" exclaimed a second castaway.

"Ah hae me doots," rasped a third derelict.

"It is a fact, gentlemen," said Ivan with the long surname. "The ship is loading between here and Vladivostok. She wants but a master, a mate and an engineer."

The three men grew sad. They had been broken on the rack of peace. They had come ashore at Novgorod in a leaking sampan. The government of Japan was at that moment interested in their whereabouts.

"Our papers were lost in a great storm at sea," said the leader of the trio, whom men called "Micky" McMasters. "You mind the vast simoom?"

Ivan, the Russian, spread out his hands. His great spade-shaped beard fluttered in the warm Japanese breeze. He thumped a be-medaled chest.

"Come with me!" he said. "Papers or no papers—it is you three who shall take the Shongpong out across the sea."

"He talks like a poet writes," whispered "Red" Landyard, a Yankee mate, to Mike Monkey, the Scotch engineer.

"Ah hae noo doot he's read a wee bit. How otherwise would he know we were on the beach at Novgorod? There is a price on our heads."

Micky McMasters edged the big Russian away from his whispering companions.

"This ship," asked the little skipper, "this boat you 'ave loading between 'ere and Vladivostok—what flag does she fly?"

"Her home flag is Chinese. Her crew are loyal Russians. Her cargo, now going aboard, is caravan tea. This tea must be taken to America where Victoria on the Island of Vancouver is. Do you know the route?"

Micky felt his heart thump like a mallet inside a cask. He had sweated and toiled and starved on the mud flats of Novgorod. He sensed the coming of a bitter Winter. And here was a hard-eyed Russian offering him and his mates a ship for the Pacific broadside, where white men walked and roses bloomed and shirts could be worn.

"I've steamed and sailed, man and boy," he explained, "going on thirty years. I'm 'Umber born—at Great Grimsby on the North. Sea. My mate, the tall man with the red face, is an American out of New Bedford. My first engineer came from Tyneside—where they build good ships. We take no back-slack from nobody. Show me your ship, says I, and I'll work 'er across the Japan Sea and east by the line to Victoria."

"That is settled," said Ivan Alexandrovski. "You may come with me."

Micky McMasters gathered the tattered collar of his dungaree coat around his unshaven neck.

"One more question before it becomes a contract," he said suspiciously. "Are you loyal Russian or are you Bolshevik?"

Ivan with the long surname smiled blandly. He stroked his straggling beard. He stared down at the little castaway.

"Loyal Russian," he said. "I have a home in Vladivostok—where Allied troops are guarding."

Micky turned, jerked his head toward his mates who stood shivering in their rags, and shouted:

"The contract's signed! A fair thing for all of us. We work the Shongpong across the western Pacific."

"Ye arranged about terms?" asked Mike Monkey, siding up to the skipper and glancing at the Russian.


"Bonuses and wages?"

"We'll leave that to our noble friend."

Mike gulped and spat to the mud flat.

"Last time Ah left that," he said, "Ah had nothing coming to me when Ah went ashore."

The Russian drew himself erect.

"The scale of wages," he declared, "shall be, for you three officers, one thousand rubles a week—paid at Victoria."

"How much is a ruble?" asked Mike.

"Two shillin'," hissed the cockney skipper.

"Twa shillin'? That make a hundred pun a week! Ah hae noa doot it'll be well earned before the end of the passage."

"Where's the ship?" asked Red Landyard. "Show me the Shongpong!"

The Russian led the way up the beach. Two hours stiff walking brought the castaways to a cove in which lay a rusty tramp flying the Chinese flag and swarming with coolies—like ants on a cockroach.

Mike Monkey stared at the boxes which the coolies were carrying aboard the ship.

"Tay!" he spat. "Aya, it may be tay and it may be something else. Them ain't Chinese marks on the sides."

"Russian!" explained Ivan. "Come with me aboard my ship. You can see the boxes are marked with Russian letters."

Micky McMasters jabbed the engineer, in the ribs as they trailed up a shaky gangplank and sprang from the Shongpong's unpolished rail at die waist.

"Be careful!" he warned. "Don't ask no bloomin' questions. Wait till we cross the Sea o' Japan!"

Mike gulped. He eyed the decrepit back-stays and standing rigging of the tramp. He ranged a fluttering glance along the dirty planks of the freighter. He shifted his tongue in his mouth as he stared at the drunken-looking funnel, which bore evidences of poorly patched shot holes.

"A rum hooker," he told Red Landyard. "She's had her name painted out about five times. She's no more'n eight hundred tons, if she's that. She's a broodin' menace ov some kind. Ah wash my hands of this voyage."

"You're 'ands need washin'!" snapped Micky McMasters. "Drop below and look over the engines. See hif there's any coal or supplies aboard. Report to me on the bridge."

"D'ye call that a bridge?" Mike pointed forward of the tipsy funnel, which was painted light blue.

"Hit's a better bridge than the mud flats of Novgorod!" Micky said. "Get below and report. I'm skipper 'ere!"

MIKE'S report, delivered between clamps upon a chew of Chinese tobacco borrowed from a coolie, was tense and bitter.

"Ye hae no conception of the state of things below," he told Micky McMasters. "There's only one double-door boiler. It was made in Canton—China. The engines are cross-compound of the vintage of Isaac Watt and Robert Fulton. The coal is Japanese—twa bunkers of it. The stoke-hold leaks and the shaft-alley is full of bilge muck. Ah saw the stuffin'-boxes jettin' water myself. The last engineer of this packet wrote wot he thought of it on the ditty-box door. He said enough. His name was MacFarland."

"What's that got to do with hus?"

Mike walked from starboard to port of the tramp. He stared down at the fine of coolies who were staggering aboard under the last of the boxes. He watched the yellow hands of the gang in the fore-hold reach for the cargo. He came back to Micky McMasters.

"Wot's it got to do with us?" he repeated. "It's got a lot. Ah doot if we make Japan—let alone Victoria."

"We'll try," said Micky sadly. "The Russian says we can clear at nightfall. 'E and 'is crew are coming aboard then. I tested the steering-gear. It works. Who got steam up?"

"Three coolies who are sittin' in the engine-room waiting to go ashore. Ah borrowed some cut-plug from them—enough to last the voyage—if it lasts. They can't talk anything but pidgin English. Their clothes are not worth taking—or I'd of taken them."

Micky McMasters rubbed a bristly chin reflectively. He stared at Mike Monkey's faded outfit. He swung his gaze to where Red Landyard stood on the forecastle deck, directing a gang of coolies who were clearing away wreckage which had fallen about the capstan.

"This Russian," he said with an anxious glance at the dark outlines of the shore, "this man who hired us at a thousand rubles a week is some kind of a big labor captain or prince. The coolies salute him. The two Tatars standing guard at that shed ashore bowed when he spoke to them. There's a whackin' mystery 'ere!"

"Ah thought ye would get yer foot in it when ah saw ye chinnin' with that Russian on the mud flat. He is a smuggler!"

"No! 'E don't look like one."

"Looks is only skin deep. He ought to be skinned—with his thousand rubles a week."

" 'E 'as nobody to navigate the ship, and the tea 'as got to be taken hover the western Pacific."

"Tay? Ye are daft? D'ye call that tay?"

Mike Monkey pointed a scornful finger at the boxes piled around the fore-hatch. He spat to the bridge-deck.

"That ain't tay! That's opium or hashish or fireworks of some sort. Ah never saw tay boxes with Russian letters on them."

"There is good tea grown in some parts of Russia."

"It's grown! Aye, it's grown! Wot's to prove this cargo growed there. It may have been brought to this cove in a sampan—it may have been brought in a Chinese junk—it may have——"

"'Vast with your 'may-have's!' Get below to the boiler! 'Ere comes a caravan or a funeral. They're Russians of the province of the Don. See their beards and their robes. There's the big fellow who hired us. 'E's a bloomin' juke, that's wot 'e is! Kow-tow when 'e comes aboard."

"Ye told me to go below."

"'Urry hup! Never mind the kowtowin'. You walk straight and take my orders until we get on the 'igh seas."

The first engineer fluttered a pair of pale lashes in the general direction of the squad of Russians who were winding around the shore shed. He climbed down the rusty bridge-ladder and glided for the engine-room companion. He went through the single grating and thrust his hands into the broken pockets of his dungaree trousers as he eyed the three coolies sitting on the crank-shaft of the cross-compound engine.

"On deck!" he roared at the chinamen. "Ye all get on deck, and don't show yer miserable faces here again. Ye're discharged! Ye built my fires in Oriental fashion—upside down with all the Japanese coal on the grates. Ye left me nothing but clinkers and salt water in the boiler and leaking gaskets and——"

The last yellow man stared down through the grating on his way to the deck and departure.

"Plenty much you learn by and by," he said softly—too softly. "Plenty much——"

Mike picked up a rusty spanner. He had drawn this back when there sounded the raucous clang of an ancient gong in the engine-room. Micky McMasters, wasting no time, had rung for quarter-speed forward before the Russian crew were well aboard.

Two men came down the engine-room ladder in awkward fashion. They blinked at Mike. They stared at the engine as if it were an idol in a temple. They stroked their whiskers.

"Are ye coal-passers?" asked Mike.



"We are passengers."

"Ah asked ye if ye are coal-passers?"

Mike Monkey pointed toward the low door through the bulkhead which separated the engine-room from the stoke-hold.

"Get forrard!" he rasped. "D'ye know the skipper rang for a turn on the engines? D'ye know there's only thirty pounds ov steam?"

The Russians moved toward the stokehold door. Mike picked up his spanner and followed them. He spent the next lurid hour breaking in two green firemen whose manners were sullen and morose.

IT WAS after sundown when the Shongpong clamped from her anchorage in the cove and started eastward over the polished waters of the Japan Sea.

A tan-colored moon hung in the sky. A soft breeze swung out from Manchuria. The powdered stars spangled the velvet dome of heaven.

Red Landyard, Micky Masters and Mike Monkey came together on the decrepit bridge of the freighter like three men making a common report.

Ivan with the long surname and most of his following were in the lighted cabin where rose the quarter-deck of the freighter. A lone lookout stood on the forecastle head. He was smoking a long-stemmed pipe. The ashes from the bowl of this pipe made tinder of his whiskers. Now and then he pressed out the sparks and swore in Russian.

A second and sinister figure squatted on the fore-hatch. He had a rifle across his knees. The end of this rifle was tipped with a polished bayonet.

"Standin' guard," said Micky McMasper. "The grand juke put 'im there to watch the tea."

"Tay!" said Mike Monkey. "Ye still insist it is tay?"

Micky squared his jaw. "I know nothing," he said, "save that we are 'oldin' a course for 'Akodate and the Inland Sea, which we should reach this time day after tomorrow—if the steam don't die out altogether."

Red Landyard stared at the Russian on the fore-hatch. He eyed the bright point of the steel bayonet.

"They're quiet now," he drawled, "but we're hardly out of sight of land. I expect I'll have to chain a man or two before long. The forecastle is a volcano. Hear them talking? They're arguing some point in Russian."

Micky swung and eyed the break of the quarter-deck, which showed four lighted port-holes within the smudge of smoke that draped from the tipsy funnel.

"They're doing the same aft," he said. "Ivan, the grand juke, is leadin' in the prayin' or whatever it is. I never saw such a crew for talking. I don't know who are passengers and who are workin' the ship. I wish I'd studied Russian."

"Wot good would that do?" asked Mike Monkey. "They wouldn't reveal their secret plans to usv Wot did they bring the rifle aboard for? Wot's to prove we ain't shipmates with a howlin' bunch of anarchists? They're quiet now. Them twa in the stoke-hold only look at me and chew on their beards when Ah give orders. They're waitin' for somethin'!"

Micky strode across the bridge. He gazed sadly at the ripples that curved from the Shongpong's straight bow. He estimated the speed of the ship to be not more than seven knots an hour. There was no bridge-rail log.

He came back to Mike Monkey and Red Landyard.

"Briefly stated," ye said, "we're in the 'ands of Providence. Anything is likely to 'appen with all that talking fore and aft. The course the grand juke gave me is to the Pacific—by the nearest strait. I'm 'olding that course. That's all I know. I 'ave a wife and children at 'ome. I was thinkin' of them when I took the contract to work this ship to Victoria."

Mike studied the little skipper's dungaree jacket and unshaven face.

"How many Russians are there aboard?" he asked.

"Sixty or seventy."

"Then Ah resign if it comes to blows. Ah am weak from starving on the beach of Novgorod. All Ah have been able to find to eat on this hooker is caviar and salt fish. Ah would as soon eat clinkers."

A door slid open aft. A rolling voice struck forward. Ivan appeared, followed by two Russians. They were wrapped to the beards in great coats trimmed with fur. They climbed the bridge-ladder and stared at the binnacle.

"East she is," said Micky. "East, a quarter point north."

Ivan swept the sea with a long glance. He nodded and pointed over the freighter's stumpy jib-boom.

"Japan lays there?" he questioned Micky.

"Yes. Habout four 'undred miles."

"Have you sighted any ships?"

"None, yet."

"If you do call me on deck. Answer no signals. Keep the Chinese flag flying."

"The Union Jack would look better!"

Ivan stroked his beard.

"You take my orders," he said icily.

"Avoid any suggestions. Keep away from smoke, sails and particularly gunboats of foreign powers. I'll double the thousand rubles which I have agreed to give you three officers. I'll increase it to two thousand rubles a week."

Mike gulped and drew his scrawny neck deep into his collar. He waited until Ivan and the Russians had descended the bridge-ladder and walked slowly aft to where the light streamed from the open cabin door.

"Ye heard that!" grated the engineer with scorn. "Ah thought it was possible to get a thousand rubles a week. Ah expect nothing now. It's too good to be true. Ah minds the likes o' that Russian! It was in Guatemala where I was paid three thousand pesos a month. The pesos were worth sixpence on the pound."

Micky McMasters shook his head.

"Anyway," he said, "we're on the first leg 'ome to blighty. We're gettin' a free passage. That's something!"

Mike Monkey went below to the clanking engines. Red Landyard stared forward and aft. He entered the chart-house and turned in across the single seaweed mattress it contained.

Micky stood the watch until midnight. He woke the Yankee mate, gave the course and dropped down into the engine-room. He sat with Mike until two bells. The Scotch-Irish engineer was bitter against the Russians. He rose now and then and peered through the stoke-hold door, where a lurid light glowed.

"Twa stokers," he said, "and no fire to speak of."

Micky glanced around in caution as the engineer came back for the third tune.

"Investigate the fore-hold," he whispered. "Find out what is in those tea boxes. Don't let anybody see you doing it. There's a plot of some kind aboard this ship."

"They've talked enough for a revolution."

The little skipper paused on the first round of the engine-room grating.

"Get forrard when you can," he whispered. "Open one of those boxes."

Mike gulped and nodded. He drowsed out the morning hours and climbed to the deck at the first crack of dawn. He waited all the day for a chance to creep through the stoke-hold without being detected by the two Russian stokers. A second night came and after night the twinkling lights of the Inland Sea. No chance afforded itself in the passage between the Japanese Islands.

It was morning of the third day when Ivan with the long surname dashed thoughts of a discovery in the forehold by summoning all hands to the waist of the Shongpong.

A WILD seascape greeted Mike's eyes as he hurried up the engine-room ladder and braced his spindle legs athwart the planks.

The dusky outlines of the Japanese Coast were fast fading in the west. The wind swung out of a biting north. The sea had been stirred by the tail of a storm. The dingy freighter, with her tipsy funnel and standing rigging, rolled and tossed. She threatened to have the two masts out of her at any moment.

Micky McMaster stood the bridge with Red Landyard. Ivan and all of the Russians, including the crowd from the forecastle, were gathered beneath the shelter of the quarter-deck's lift. They glanced at Mike Monkey and started chattering in Russian. His eyes lifted over their heads. He gulped and moved his Adam's apple up and down his scrawny throat. He spat to the deck.

The Chinese flag which had been flying from the jack staff had been replaced by a red oblong. It showed baleful in the rays of the sun.

Mike turned his chin. He looked at Micky. The little skipper's jaw was square set. His shoulders were thrown back. There was a fighting fire in his eyes.

"Wot happened?" asked Mike shrilly.

"Our friends are in charge of the ship," said Micky over the bridge-rail. "Come up 'ere! They're going to take a vote for captain, mate and engineer. They say all things in their government should be settled by a vote. They're going to elect a citizen captain."

"Wot is their government?"

Micky gripped the rail.

"Bolshevik!" he snapped.

Mike steadied himself on the wet planks. He spat to the deck for a second time. His glance ranged from the little skipper to Ivan's broad face.

"Ah thought so!" he rasped. "We're deluded men!"

Ivan strode from the press of Russians beneath the break of the quarter-deck. He mounted the main-hatch. His voice rose and fell with the whine of the north wind. He spoke in gusty torrents. He pointed to the red flag aft. He turned and leveled an accusing finger at the bridge where Red Landyard and Micky stood with folded arms.

Mike squinted at the half-circle of Russians. They were being worked up to a storm by their leader. A fur cap was passed. Into this was dropped slips of paper upon which were scrawled names. A rifle's bayonet lifted above the heads of the Bolsheviki. A club swung.

Mike leaped for the bridge-ladder and climbed to the bridge like a frightened ape. He worked his lashless brows up and down. He spat through yellow teeth:

"Wot's the answer? Wot happened?"

Micky McMasters sighed. He thrust his hands in his pockets resignedly.

"Hit's hall hup!" he declared. "They're electing a citizen captain to take my place. They're voting for an engineer and mate. They say there should be equality on the sea as well as on the land. 'Ere comes hour substitutes!"

Mike glared at three Russians who had detached themselves from the others. One was a former coal-passer. Another had come aft from the forecastle. Ivan made the third.

The Russian stood beneath the rocking bridge and said sternly:

"You mutineers get below to the stokehold. We will guide the Shongpong out across the Pacific. We will make our own report without your aid. We need you on deck no longer."

Red Landyard snatched up a belaying pin from the lee rail.

"—— you!" he shouted. "I signed on as mate—and I'll be mate!"

"And I'm captain!" shrieked Micky.

The fight which followed was all one-sided. A hoarse command from Ivan was answered by a determined rush forward. The Bolshevik horde swarmed over the bridge of the wallowing freighter. Micky and Red Landyard fought them tooth and nail. They swung belaying-pins and a chart-case. They finished their end of the struggle upon their knees—to which position they were beaten by the press of numbers.

Mike, considering discretion the better part of valor, managed to creep along the weather rail and spring for the engine-room companion. He sprawled down the ladder head foremost. He rebounded at the grating. He snatched up a spanner and glared upward. He braced a foot in the pit, out of which flashed the slow-moving cranks of the cross-compound engines.

His chin described a quarter-circle. The companion-way was darkened by the form of a man. Micky, still fighting, dropped down and struck the grating. Red Landyard was hurled after the little skipper. Both seamen had been shorn of most of their clothes. Their faces were bleeding. Welts showed upon their shoulders.

"Gorblyme!" cried Micky. "Gorblyme—give me a hose! Give me hot water! Give me steam!"

"Go easy," drawled the Yankee mate, squinting at the whiskered faces which blocked the entire companion. "There's a few of them left. We didn't kill them all."

"We ought to!" spat Micky. "Bolsheviki? They're red-'anded murderers—that's wot they are!"

"That's my opinion," said Mike Monkey.

"You? You!" sputtered Micky. "Where were you when the fight started?"

"Ah came down here for a pinch bar. Ah was just going up when ye joined me—precipitously."

Micky rubbed his bleeding knuckles. He turned a cold shoulder upon the engineer, then stared upward. He made faces at the Bolsheviki and shook his broken right fist.

"I'll 'ave you know there's a law on the seas!" he snapped. "I'll report this outrage to the next British consul."

Ivan pushed away the men about the companion. He descended two rungs of the iron ladder, turned and sneered into the gloom of the engine-room.

"You are to remain below." he said coldly. "Get steam up and give us full speed. You will be thrown overboard if you do not obey my orders. The citizen captain so directs me."

"Where's me twa thousand rubles?" shouted Mike Monkey. "Coom down here —ye scum of the steepies! Coom down!"

Ivan started descending. He thought better of the action when Mike snatched up an iron bar and brandished it with agility.

"Coom down, ye Bolshevik dog! Coom down if ye dare!"

Ivan called in Russian. A ferocious face appeared over the edge of the companion. The sharp point of a bayonet extended into plain view. The muzzle of the rifle deflected until it was directly aimed at Mike.

He dropped the iron bar to the grating. He held up his hands.

"That let's me out!" he cried through chattering teeth. "Don't shoot!"

"Go forward," Ivan ordered. "You and the American go forward and put coal on the fires. You, McMasters, attend to the engines. None of you three men will be allowed on deck. You will all be shot if you do not keep the ship moving at full speed. Those are die orders of the citizen captain."

Micky picked up an oil can. He squirted a stream at the nearest crank.

"Steam on the engine!" he said to Mike and Red.

The two castaways went through the stoke-hold doorway. The shovels grated on the iron apron before the double fire-boxes. A biting Scotch oath rolled into the engine-room. Micky eyed the steam-gage on the main steam pipe. It was climbing. He glanced upward. The ferocious Russian was standing guard with the rifle. Ivan had disappeared.

DAYS passed in unending drudgery. Food was lowered down at the end of a line. The sentry was changed each watch. Ivan kept away from the companion, though his voice was heard in loud argument concerning the position of the freighter. Micky, stripped to his sweating waist and smarting from the blows he had received, grinned through the knuckle-thick bristle on his lips.

He kept the engines oiled. He saw to it that the throttle-wheel was wide open. Once he relieved Mike at passing coal. The ship made progress of a kind. It was evident that the citizen captain had headed for the center of the north Pacific. There was little danger of a lee shore.

"And may he wander like the Fly in' Dutchman!" said Mike Monkey on the sixteenth day. "Ah hope he's lost."

"No," said Red Landyard, "he's heading somewhere. The course is always east. I can tell by the sun. He hasn't changed a quarter point."

Micky McMasters glared at his two mates. They resembled stokers of Hades. Their skin was blistered. The callouses on their hands had become small cushions. The fighting fire in their eyes alone remained to remind the little cockney skipper what manner of men they were and had been.

"The plot," said Micky, "is thick and 'ard to fathom. For why are they 'eadin' to the States or Canada? No one wants them over there. They'll run their bloody 'eads hinto a noose."

Mike Monkey cocked a grease-lined ear. He blinked.

"Ye hear them chatterin'?" he asked. "They're sea lawyers! Ah hae hopes they start to massacre themselves."

Micky rubbed the bristles on his chin.

"We'll reach land in a day or two," he said. "Then we'll find out the answer for the boxes of tea and the voyage and the other questions."

"Tay!" exclaimed Mike. "Ye always said it was tay. This looks like a tay party. It—it——"

The Scotch-Irish engineer's statement was broken by the appearance of Ivan's bulky form in the companion. The Russian came down to the grating. The sentry pointed the rifle at the group. Mike dodged beneath the forward bulkhead door and waited there with bent head.

"McMasters!" called Ivan. "Come here, McMasters!"

Micky folded his arms across his hairy breast and stared at the Russian.

"What d'you want?" he asked.

Ivan peered through the engine-room gloom.

"We have decided," he said heavily, "that you can join us as a brother. We have voted on it. We will make you rich. You can be one of us."

"I'd rather be a dirty stoker than one of your breed!" replied Micky.

"We are going to give you a chance. You can help us navigate to our port of call. The citizen captain is not sure of his exact position. Assist us to obtain a reading and we will honor you by admission to the Benevolent Order of Reds. We intend to raise one billion dollars in Canada and the United States. We shall give you a share in it."

"To —— with you and your billion!" Micky screamed, brandishing a broken fist. "Get hout of the gangway!"

"Ye did right," whispered Mike as Ivan climbed hurriedly through the engine-room companion and disappeared on deck. "Ye were not to be bribed by the scum o' Russia. Wot's the answer to the billion dollars?"

Micky stared at the point of the bayonet which crossed the sky over his head. He glanced at the flashing cranks of the cross-compound engines. He raised his voice above the noise of their wallowing passage.

"The answer is this!" he snapped. "They're going to Victoria and Canada to raise a revolution. There are a lot of Bolsheviki in 'iding—from Victoria to the Atlantic seaboard. This is a plot to start somethin' against law and order. I'll smash that big grand juke with a 'ammer the next time 'e talks to me. 'E's insulted a British seaman—'e 'as!"

Mike shot a crafty glance at the stokehold door. He scratched his greasy neck.

"A plot?" he said. "Ah hae noo doot we can nip it in the bud. All we got to do is to open the bilge-cocks and drown the rats."

"And we go down with them?"


Micky shook his head.

"We're not martyrs," he suggested cuttingly. "There may be a better way to get rid of the scum of Siberia."

"Set the hooker on fire?"

"We'll roast with it!"

"Ah'll think it over, then."

Mike Monkey disappeared through the bulkhead door. Micky watched the engines for a long minute. He raised his eyes and saw a shadow cross the companion opening. A second bayonet joined the first. Ivan had posted two guards to watch the three men between decks. The big Russian also signaled for more speed. He was answered by oaths from Mike Monkey and Red Landyard.

A LONG, hot day passed. The heat of the stoke-hold and engine-room was a thing to remember. The three castaways sweated beneath the menace of the two bayonets and Ivan's brutal oaths. The sounds from the deck were those of a madhouse. It was evident that the citizen captain did not know his position on the ocean. Once the Shongpong headed due south. Her course was changed to northeast. She steadied and clamped onward, holding an uncertain path.

Night brought some relief from the heat. The Japan current was swinging along the American shore. A breeze sprang up. The ship rolled. Lurid oaths from the Russians came down the rusty ventilators. This was music to the castaways' ears.

Midnight and eight bells brought diversion. Running feet sounded on the ship's planks. A muffled cannon-shot echoed from the distance. A shell burst over the freighter's rigging.

Clanging bells for more speed drove Micky from the engine-room into the stokehold.

"A gunboat!" he exclaimed. "We're being chased!"

"Ah thought we would be!" rasped Mike Monkey. "Shall Ah draw the fires?"

The engineer's question was answered by a curdling oath from Ivan. The leader of the Bolsehviki descended to the stoke-hold door. He peered through the gloom.

"You heard the bells!" he snarled through his beard. "You all die if you don't keep up steam. We're going to escape from the cutter. Fortunately it is an old one."

Micky McMasters shook his head toward his two mates. He followed the Russian into the engine-room and picked up an oilcan as Ivan motioned for the sentries to get on deck. A silence fell upon the brooding ocean.

Red Landyard appeared between the stoke-hold and the engine-room. He braced his legs and toyed with a short iron bar. Now and then he stared forward to where the crimson light glowed from the fire doors. The steam mounted in the gages. Mike Monkey worked alone. The Scotch-Irish engineer had evolved an idea out of the situation. He had sent Red to the stoke-hold door in order to stand guard.

"What is 'e doing?" asked Micky in a whisper.

"Sist!" said the Yankee. "Pretend to oil the engines and keep busy. Don't let the sentries suspect anything. Watch the steam. It's going up to the bursting point."

Micky watched the gage on the main steam leader. It started climbing from one hundred and seventy to one hundred and ninety. It went over the two hundred mark. It dropped and mounted again.

The little cockney skipper heard the fire doors clanging. A baleful light streamed past Red Landyard. A roar sounded in the single funnel. It was as if the ship were equipped with a double-fan forced draft. The cross-compound engine spun like a turbine.

"What's 'e putting on the fires?" questioned Micky.

"The tea!"

"The what?"

"The boxes of tea in the forehold,", husked Red. "We broke through and looked the Bolshevik cargo over. It's combustible all right."


"Nope! Look out! That sentry is cocking his gun. Duck aft. Don't let him see you talking with me."

Micky crawled down the narrow shaft-alley. He sat on the thrust block and searched his heated brain for an answer to Mike's energy. Hours later he heard the scraping of rocks and shale under the Shongpong's keel. The ship heeled and plunged on. Her bow crashed upon a shelving beach. The Bolsheviki cursed. A mast went by the board. It splintered the deck. The funnel fell with its load of soot. The engine-room filled with choking smoke.

Mike Monkey burst through this pall. He started mounting the ladder to the companion. Red and Micky followed the engineer. They stood on deck and ranged their smarting eyes over a desperate scene.

The citizen captain of the Shongpong had found his port of call—a wooded cove on Vancouver Island. In his zeal at the discovery of the rendezvous he had neglected to stop the ship. The freighter lay with a seven-degree list to starboard. Her deck was a mass of wreckage from fallen standing rigging, mast and funnel. Above this melee of twisted lines and back-stays and smoking ventilators, towered Ivan of the long surname, his great spade-shaped beard lifted on high.

His followers swarmed around him on the tottering bridge. A red light showed through the tall stems of fir-trees. This fight moved as a signal. A score of furtive shadows flitted in the underbrush at the head of the cove. Russian faces stared out over the shoal waters of the rendezvous. A shout of brotherhood passed between ship and shore.

"Coom on," whispered Mike Monkey to Micky and the Yankee seaman. "Coom aft. They're too busy forrard to notice us. We'll lower the dingey and escape."

The cockney skipper climbed over the deserted quarter-deck and loosened the falls. He dropped the bow of the small boat into the waves that curled astern of the grounded freighter. Red Landyard lowered the after part of the dingey. The three castaways found oars. They rowed for a dark cape that struck out into the cove. They gained the beach of this point and staggered ashore. They turned and stared at the canted freighter.

"See," said Mike Monkey. "They're opening the fore-hold. Ah wish them luck in wot they find beneath the hatch."

Micky squinted through the gloom. He discerned dancing figures on the deck of the Shongpong. A bloodthirsty yell of baffled rage rose to the western stars. It was echoed by the conspirators ashore.

"Ah hae noo doot," Mike Monkey rasped, "they found ah had burned all the tay. Didn't Old Whiskers ask us to keep the fires burning hot and nice? Ah kept them burning—at a price. Ah put all of the tay boxes through the fire doors. There's none left."

"What was in them?" asked Micky.

Mike closed a lashless eyelid. He drew a greasy handful of papers from beneath his shirt. He offered diem to the little skipper.

"Rubles!" he said. "Bolshevik bonds and rubles! They were bringing them to Canada and the States. Ah hae an idea they were going to sell them to the Reds in both countries. All ah know to be sure is— there ain't no rubles left. Ah found them better to burn than the miserable slag called Japanese coal."

Micky saw a light. He squareset his unshaven chin and pointed south along the coast.

"We'll walk the beach," he said, "until we come to a coast guard. No doubt the cutter that chased the Bolsheviki is nosin' around. We'll show it where to go."

Mike thrust his ruble notes back within his shirt.

"Ah'll keep these!" he declared. "They ain't worth a ha'penny, but they're what we can expect to get for wages if the Reds start runnin' the governments."