“Very well. Then I’ll tell you what happened after I went off watch. No, I wasn’t spying. I know the woman, that’s all. She said you looked tired, and wouldn’t it be all right if you sat down for a moment and talked to her.”
“No; she said she was nervous.”
“The same thing—only better. Then she persisted in talking of the crime, and finally she said she would like to see the axe. It wouldn’t do any harm. She, wouldn’t touch it.”
He watched me uneasily.
“She didn’t either,” he said. “I’ll swear to that, Leslie. She didn’t go near the bunk. She covered her face with her hands, and leaned against the door. I thought she was going to faint.”
“Against the door, of course! And got an impression of the key. The door opens in. She could take out the key, press it against a cake of wax or even a cake of soap in her hand, and slip it back into the lock again while you—What were you doing while she was doing all that?”
“She dropped her salts. I picked them up.”
“Exactly! Well, the axe is gone.”
He started up on his elbow.
“Thrown overboard, probably. It is not in the cabin.”
It was brutal, perhaps; but the situation was all of that. As Burns fell back, colorless, Tom, the cook, brought into the tent the wire key that Singleton had made.
That morning I took from inside of Singleton’s mattress a bunch of keys, a long steel file, and the leg of one of his chairs, carefully unscrewed and wrapped at the end with wire a formidable club. One of the keys opened Singleton’s door.
That was on Saturday. Early Monday morning we sighted land.
A BAD COMBINATION
We picked up a pilot outside the Lewes breakwater a man of few words. I told him only the outlines of our story, and I believe he half discredited me at first. God knows, I was not a creditable object. When I took him aft and showed him the jolly-boat, he realized, at last, that he was face to face with a great tragedy, and paid it the tribute of throwing away his cigar.
He suggested our raising the yellow plague flag; and this we did, with a ready response from the quarantine officer. The quarantine officer came out in a power-boat, and mounted the ladder; and from that moment my command of the Ella ceased. Turner, immaculately dressed, pale, distinguished, member of the yacht club and partner in the Turner line, met him at the rail, and conducted him, with a sort of chastened affability, to the cabin.
Exhausted from lack of sleep, terrified with what had gone by and what was yet to come, unshaven and unkempt, the men gathered on the forecastle-head and waited.