“You’re ordered aboard the schooner for the night, Congdon,” said the captain.
“Is there any reason why you do not wish to go?”
The man hesitated, looking miserable. Finally he blurted out, not without a certain dignity:
“I obey orders, sir.”
“Speak out, my man,” urged the captain kindly.
“Well, sir: it’s Mr. Edwards, then. You couldn’t scare him off a ship, sir, unless it was something—something——”
He stopped, failing of the word.
“You know what Mr. Edwards was, sir, for pluck,” he concluded.
“Was!” cried the captain sharply. “What do you mean?
“The schooner got him, sir. You don’t make no doubt of that, do you, sir?” The man spoke in a hushed voice, with a shrinking glance back of him.
“Will you go aboard under Mr. Ives?”
“Anywhere my officer goes I’ll go, and gladly, sir.”
Ives was sent aboard in charge. For that night, in a light breeze, the two ships lay close together, the schooner riding jauntily astern. But not until morning illumined the world of waters did the Wolverine’s people feel confident that the Laughing Lass would not vanish away from their ken like a shape of the mist.
When Barnett come on deck very early in the morning of June 7th, he found Dr. Trendon already up and staring moodily out at the Laughing Lass. As the night was calm the tow had made fair time toward their port in the Hawaiian group. The surgeon was muttering something which seemed to Barnett to be in a foreign tongue.
“Thought out any clue, doctor?” asked the first officer.
“Petit Chel—Pshaw! Jolie Celimene! No,” muttered Trendon. “Marie—Marie—I’ve got it! The Marie Celeste.”
“Got what? What about her?”
“Parallel case,” said Trendon. “Sailed from New York back in the seventies. Seven weeks out was found derelict. Everything in perfect order. Captain’s wife’s hem on the machine. Boats all accounted for. No sign of struggle. Log written to within forty-eight hours.”
“What became of the crew?”
“Wish I could tell you. Might help to unravel our tangle.” He shook his head in sudden, unwonted passion.
“Evidently there’s something criminal in her record,” said Barnett, frowning at the fusty schooner astern. “Otherwise the name wouldn’t be painted out.”
“Painted out long ago. See how rusty it is. Schermerhorn’s work maybe,” replied Trendon. “Secret expedition, remember.”
“In the name of wonders, why should he do it?”
“Secret expedition, wasn’t it?”
“Um-ah; that’s true,” said the other thoughtfully. “It’s quite possible.”
“Captain wishes to see both of you gentlemen in the ward room, if you please,” came a message.