In the evening about half-past ten, the lookout in the crow’s nest sang out: “Smoke—oh!” sounding upon his fish horn. The boatkeeper ran aft and lit a huge calcium flare, holding it so as to illuminate the big number on the mainsail. Suddenly, about a quarter of a mile off their weather-bow, a couple of rockets left a long trail of yellow against the night. It was the Cape Horner, and presently Vandover made out her lights, two glowing spots moving upon the darkness, like the eyes of some nocturnal sea-monster. In a few minutes she showed a blue light on the bridge; she wanted a pilot.
The schooner approached and was laid to, and the towering mass of the great deep-sea tramp began to be dimly seen through the darkness. There was little confusion in making the transfer of the castaways. Most of them seemed still benumbed with their recent terrible exposure. They docilely allowed themselves to be pushed into the pilot tender and again endured the experience of being lowered to the shifting waves below. Silently, like frightened sheep, they stood up in turn in the rocking tender and allowed the life preserver to be fitted about their shoulders to protect them from the bite of the rope’s noose beneath their arms. There followed a sickening upward whirl between sea and sky, and then the comforting grasp of many welcoming hands from the deck above. By three o’clock in the morning the transfer had been made.
Vandover boarded the Cape Horner in company with the pilot and the rest and reached San Francisco late on the next day, which happened to be a Sunday.
About ten o’clock Vandover went ashore in the ship’s yawl and landed in the city on a literally perfect day in early November. It seemed many years since he had been there. The drizzly morning upon which the Santa Rosa had cast off was already too long ago to be remembered. The city itself as he walked up Market Street toward Kearney seemed to have taken on a strange appearance.
It was Sunday, the downtown streets were deserted except for the cable-cars and an occasional newsboy. The stores were closed and in their vestibules one saw the peddlers who were never there on week-days, venders of canes and peddlers of glue with heavy weights attached to mended china plates.
Vandover had had no breakfast and was conscious of feeling desperately hungry. He determined to breakfast downtown, as he would arrive home too late for one meal and too early for the other.
Almost all of his money had been lost with the Mazatlan; he found he had but a dollar left. He would have preferred breakfasting at the Grillroom, but concluded he was too shabby in appearance, and he knew he would get more for his money at the Imperial.
It was absolutely quiet in the Imperial at the hour when he arrived. The single bartender was reading a paper, and in the passage between the private rooms a Chinese with a clean napkin wound around his head was polishing the brass and woodwork. In the passage he met Toby, the red-eyed waiter, just going off night duty, without his usual apron or white coat, dressed very carefully, wearing a brown felt hat.