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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"You never can tell about these Americans, Mr. Mott," said the
Captain warily. "They've got what they call a keen sense of humour,
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
"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 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
"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."
"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
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
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
Captain Trigger: "How did you happen to get into that room,
young man? The doors are never unlocked when the rooms are
Mr. Percival: "You are mistaken, sir. I found at least three
stateroom doors unlocked that night, and my search was by no means
Captain Trigger: "This is most extraordinary, Mr. Mott,—if
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"My youngest son was killed in Flanders," said the Captain
"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."