THE MAKER OF MARVELS
As they had gathered to hear Ralph Slade’s tale, so now the depleted mess of the Wolverine grouped themselves for Percy Darrow’s sequel. Slade himself sat directly across from the doctor’s assistant. Before him lay a paper covered with jotted notes. Trendon slouched low in the chair on Slade’s right. Captain Parkinson had the other side. Convenient to Darrow’s hand lay the material for cigarettes. As he talked he rolled cylinder after cylinder, and between sentences consumed them in long, satisfying puffs.
“First you will want to learn of the fate of your friends and shipmates,” he began. “They are dead. One of them, Mr. Edwards, fell to my hands to bury, as you know. He lies beside Handy Solomon. The others we shall probably not see: any one of a score of ocean currents may have swept them far away. The last great glow that you saw was the signal of their destruction. So the work of a great scientist, a potent benefactor of the race, a gentle and kindly old heart, has brought about the death of your friends and of my enemies. The innocent and the guilty ... the murderer with his plunder, the officer following his duty ... one and the same end ... a paltry thing our vaunted science is in the face of such tangled fates.” He spoke low and bitterly. Then he squared his shoulders and his manner became businesslike.
“Interrupt me when any point needs clearing up,” he said. “It’s a blind trail at best. You’ve the right to see it as plain as I can make it—with Slade’s help. Cut right in with your questions: There’ll be plenty to answer and some never will be answered....
“Now let me get this thing laid out clearly in my own mind. You first saw the glow—let me see—”
“Night of June 2d,” said Barnett.
“June 2d,” agreed Darrow. “That was the end of Solomon, Thrackles & Co. A very surprising end to them, if they had time to think,” he added grimly.
“Surprising enough, from the survivor’s viewpoint,” said Slade.
“Doubtless. They’ve had that story from you; I needn’t go over it. This ship picked up the Laughing Lass, deserted, and put your first crew aboard. That night, was it not, you saw the second pillar of fire?”
“So your men met their death. Then came the second finding of the empty schooner.... Captain Parkinson, they must have been brave men who faced the unknown terrors of that prodigy.”
“They volunteered, sir,” said the Captain, with simple pride.