He pointed under foot. Captain Parkinson rose and went to his cabin. Slade rose, too, but his knees were unsteady. He tottered, and but for the swift aid of Barnett’s arm, would have fallen.
“Overdone,” said Dr. Trendon, with some irritation. “Cost you something in strength. Foolish performance. Turn in now.”
Slade tried to protest, but the surgeon would not hear of it, and marched him incontinently to his berth. Returning, Trendon reported, with growls of discontent, that his patient was in a fever.
“Couldn’t expect anything else,” he fumed. “Pack of human interrogation points hounding him all over the place.”
“What do you think of his story?” asked Forsythe.
The grizzled surgeon drew out a cigar, lighted it, took three deliberate puffs, turned it about, examined the ash end with concentration, and replied:
“Man’s telling a straight story.”
“You think it’s all true?” cried Forsythe.
“Humph!” grunted the other. “He thinks it’s all true.”
An orderly appeared and knocked at the captain’s cabin.
“Beg pardon, sir,” they heard him say. “Mr. Carter would like to know how close in to run. Volcano’s acting up pretty bad, sir.”
Captain Parkinson went on deck, followed by the rest.
THE JOLLY ROGER
Feeling the way forward, the cruiser was soon caught in a maze of cross currents. Hither and thither she was borne, a creature bereft of volition. Order followed order like the rattle of quick-fire, and was obeyed with something more than the Wolverine’s customary smartness. From the bridge Captain Parkinson himself directed his ship. His face was placid: his bearing steady and confident. This in itself was sufficient earnest that the cruiser was in ticklish case. For it was an axiom of the men who sailed under Parkinson that the calmer that nervous man grew, the more cause was there for nervousness on the part of others.
The approach was from the south, but suspicious aspects of the water had fended the cruiser out and around, until now she stood prow-on to a bold headland at the northwest corner of the island. Above this headland lay a dark pall of vapour. In the shifting breeze it swayed sluggishly, heavily, as if riding at anchor like a logy ship of the air. Only once did it show any marked movement.
“It’s spreading out toward us,” said Barnett to his fellow officers, gathered aft.
“Time to move, then,” grunted Trendon.
The others looked at him inquiringly.
“About as healthful as prussic acid, those volcanic gases,” explained the surgeon.
The ship edged on and inward. Presently the sing-song of the leadsman sounded in measured distinctness through the silence. Then a sudden activity and bustle forward, the rattle of chains, and the Wolverine was at anchor. The captain came down from the bridge.