The boat was launched. Sorenson was swimming—his oaths proved that—but rapidly receding. The Glow-worm rushed out of the cabin, Framtree following. The latter halted, however, at a sharp command of the Spaniard. Then Miss Mallory heard Bedient’s voice. It was not lifted above the normal tone, and hoarse with thirst.
She craned her head forward from the wheel to peer into the cabin. Bedient’s face was like death. He did not even have a pistol in his hand, but there was a look in his eyes she had never seen in any eyes before, and he was smiling. The disturbance on deck, Bedient’s face and command, had held Rey and Framtree, but the former’s hand now reached toward his hip. Bedient caught it with an incredibly quick movement, and took the gun from the Senor’s pocket.
“Just to reduce tension to a minimum, Senor,” he said.
The third Chinese opened the door from the galley, but a look and gesture from Bedient sent him back, and the lock was turned upon him. Bedient now placed the gun upon the table, and directed his attention to Framtree.
“You made it rather hard for me to have a talk with you, my friend,” he said.
The place was terrible with strain....
There had been a moment, as the Spaniard’s hand crept to his pocket, in which Miss Mallory was powerless with fear, but she could not scream. It was as if Bedient’s eyes had held her, too. She watched the pistol now. It was out of Key’s reach, and he could not rise from a chair without great difficulty. Framtree did not seem to be armed, for which she was greatly attracted to him.... He had started to speak two or three times, but found no words. The appearance of Bedient seemed to have fascinated him for a moment, but now he managed to declare:
“It must have been the Chinese who turned, Senor.... Somebody went overboard—I think Sorenson.”
And not until now did Miss Mallory venture to take her eyes from the cabin interior.... Madame Sorenson was fighting windmills of hysteria. Far back there was a blotch in the darkness, and a curious blend of sea-water, Russian and Chinese, as Sorenson was dragged into the boat; back farther still the lights of Jaffier’s gunboat.... And now she found the Glow-worm staring at her, the big face drawing closer, and a rising flame of hope in the strange eyes.
“What have you done, dearest?” she questioned softly.
“He could swim. He told me he could swim,” Miss Mallory heard herself repeating vaguely.
THE GLOW-WORM’S ONE HOUR
Sorenson and the two Chinese were now eliminated. Senor Rey, disarmed, was not a physical menace; third Chinese was locked in the galley; in a sense Bedient and Framtree equalized; Madame Sorenson was having trouble to overcome her own hysteria; and Adith Mallory uncovered no hostility in the Glow-worm—quite the opposite. Framtree answered Bedient: