It was all about gallant knights and noble lords, of damsels passing fair, of tourneys and feasts and battles fierce and long. Story after story he devoured, until he came to the best one of all. It told of a beautiful damsel with a mantle richly furred, who was girt with a cumbrous sword which did her great sorrow; for she might not be delivered of it save by a knight who was of passing good name both of his lands and deeds. And after that all the great knights had striven in vain to draw the sword from its sheath, a poor knight, poorly arrayed, felt in his heart that he might essay it, but was abashed. At last, however, when the damsel was departing, he plucked up courage to ask if he might try; and when she hesitated he said: “Fair damsel, worthiness and good deeds are not only in arrayment, but manhood and worship are hid within man’s person.” Then the poor knight took the sword by the girdle and sheath and drew it out easily.
And it was not until then that Sandy knew that he had had no dinner, and that the sun had climbed over to the other side of the steamer, and that a continual cheering was coming up from the deck below. Cautiously he pulled back the canvas flap and emerged like the head of a turtle from his shell. The bright sunshine dazzled him for a moment, then he saw a sight that sent the dreams flying. There, just ahead, was the Great Britain under full way, valiantly striving to hold her record against the oncoming steamer.
Sandy sat up and breathlessly watched the champion of the sea, her smoke-stacks black against the wide stretch of shining waters. The Union Jack was flying in insolent security from her flagstaff. There were many figures on deck, and her music was growing louder every minute. Inch by inch the America gained upon her, until they were bow and bow. The crowd below grew wilder, cheers went up from both steamers, the decks were white with the flutter of handkerchiefs. Suddenly the band below struck up “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Sandy gave one triumphant glance at the Stars and Stripes floating overhead, and in that moment became naturalized. He leaped to his feet in the boat, and tearing the blouse from his back, waved the tattered banner in the face of the vanquished Great Britain, as he sent up yell after yell of victory for the land of his adoption.
[Illustration: “He sent up yell after yell of victory for the land of his adoption”]
Then he was seized by the ankle and jerked roughly down upon the deck. Over him stood the deck steward.
“You`re a rum egg for that old boat to hatch out,” he said. “I guess the cap’n will be wantin’ to see you.”
Sandy, thus peremptorily summoned from the height of patriotic frenzy, collapsed in terror. Had the deck steward not been familiar with stowaways, he doubtless would have been moved by the flood of eloquent persuasion which Sandy brought to bear.
As it was, he led him ruthlessly down the narrow steps, past the long line of curious passengers, then down again to the steerage deck, where he deposited him on a coil of rope and bade him stay there until he was sent for.