“But, sir,” stammered the young officer, “It is absolutely necessary that I go ashore again to-morrow. It is vital to me, sir.”
“I am sorry, Cantor,” said Captain Gales, “but the admiral’s orders leave me no discretion in the matter.”
Captain Gales, as he spoke, turned his back in order to reach for a report book behind hum.
Ten minutes later Commander Bainbridge was summoned in hot haste to the Captain’s office.
“Bainbridge,” announced Captain Gales, his face stern and set, “at three o’clock a bulky envelope lay on my desk. That envelope contained the full plan of the Navy landing in Vera Cruz, in case such landing becomes necessary. All that we are to accomplish, and even the duties of the different officers and detachments from this fleet were stated in that letter. Not later than within the last half-hour that envelope has disappeared!”
Instantly Commander Bainbridge’s face became grave indeed.
“Have you been out of the room, sir?” asked Bainbridge.
“Only once, and then, so the marine orderly at the door informs me, no one entered here.”
“This is serious!” cried the executive officer.”
“Serious?” repeated Captain Gales in a harsh tone. “I should say it was.”
“Let us search the room thoroughly, sir,” begged the executive officer.
Though no search could have been more thorough, the missing envelope was not found.
“Summon the officers—–all of them—–to meet me in the ward-room in five minutes!” rasped Captain Gales.
And there every officer of the “Long Island” reported immediately. After the doors had been closed Captain Gales announced the loss. Blank faces confronted him on all sides.
“Has any officer any information to offer that can throw the least light on thus matter?” demanded the Old Man, in a husky voice.
There was silence, broken at last by Lieutenant Cantor asking:
“May I make a suggestion, sir?”
“How many officers, sir, visited your office after the time you are certain of having seen the missing envelope on your desk?”
“Five,” replied Captain Gales. “Lieutenant-Commander Denton, Lieutenant-Commander Hansen, Lieutenant Holton, Lieutenant Trent and yourself.”
“Were there any enlisted men in your office, sir?”
“None since before the letter came aboard,” replied Captain Gales.
“Then I would beg to suggest, sir,” Lieutenant Cantor continued, “that each of the five officers you have named, myself included, request that their quarters be thoroughly searched. If the missing envelope is not found in their quarters, then I would suggest that the quarters of every other officer on board be searched.”
To this there was a low murmur of approval. The executive officer was instructed to take the chaplain, the surgeon and two other officers beside himself, these five to form the searching committee. In the meantime, the officers were to remain in the ward-room or on the quarterdeck.