I believed her—I believed anything she said. I think that if she had chosen to say that I had wielded the murderer’s axe on the Ella, I should have gone to the gallows rather than gainsay her. From that night, I was the devil’s advocate, if you like. I was determined to save Marshall Turner.
She wished us to take her taxicab, dropping her at her hotel; and, reckless now of everything but being with her, I would have done so. But McWhirter’s discreet cough reminded me of the street-car level of our finances, and I made the excuse of putting on more suitable clothing.
I stood in the street, bareheaded, watching her taxicab as it rattled down the street. McWhirter touched me on the arm.
“Wake up!” he said. “We have work to do, my friend.”
We went upstairs together, cautiously, not to rouse the house. At the top, Mac turned and patted me on the elbow, my shoulder being a foot or so above him.
“Good boy!” he said. “And if that shirtfront and tie didn’t knock into eternal oblivion the deck-washing on the Ella, I’ll eat them!”
I deserve no credit for the solution of the Ella’s mystery. I have a certain quality of force, perhaps, and I am not lacking in physical courage; but I have no finesse of intellect. McWhirter, a foot shorter than I, round of face, jovial and stocky, has as much subtlety in his little finger as I have in my six feet and a fraction of body.
All the way to the river, therefore, he was poring over the drawing. He named the paper at once.
“Ought to know it,” he said, in reply to my surprise. “Sold enough paper at the drugstore to qualify as a stationery engineer.” He writhed as was his habit over his jokes, and then fell to work at the drawing again. “A book,” he said, “and an axe, and a gibbet or gallows. B-a-g—that makes ‘bag.’ Doesn’t go far, does it? Humorous duck, isn’t he? Any one who can write ‘ha! ha!’ under a gallows has real humor. G-a-b, b-a-g!”
The Ella still lay in the Delaware, half a mile or so from her original moorings. She carried the usual riding-lights—a white one in the bow, another at the stern, and the two vertical red lights which showed her not under command. In reply to repeated signals, we were unable to rouse the watchman. I had brought an electric flash with me, and by its aid we found a rope ladder over the side, with a small boat at its foot.
Although the boat indicated the presence of the watchman on board, we made our way to the deck without challenge. Here McWhirter suggested that the situation might be disagreeable, were the man to waken and get at us with a gun.
We stood by the top of the ladder, therefore, and made another effort to rouse him. “Hey, watchman!” I called. And McWhirter, in a deep bass, sang lustily: “Watchman, what of the night?” Neither of us made, any perceptible impression on the silence and gloom of the Ella.