“Next time I looked he was coming down the ladder slowly, one foot at a time, the dog looking down at him, his big, human eyes peering into the captain’s face, his long, pointed nose thrust out, his ears bent forward. If he could have spoken—and he looked as if he was speaking—he would be telling him how glad he felt at savin’ the old woman, and how happy he was that they’d all three got clear. My own collie used to talk to me like that—had a kind of low whine when he’d get that way; tell me about his sheep stuck in the snow, and the way the—”
The first officer stopped, cleared his throat, shook the ashes from his pipe and laid it on the table. After a while he went on. His words came slower now, as if they hurt him.
“When the captain got half-way down the ladder I saw him stand still for a moment and look straight tip into the dog’s eyes. Then I heard him say:
“‘Down, Bayard! Stay where you are.’
“The dog crouched and lay with his paws on the edge of the rail. That’s what he’d done all his life— just obeyed orders without question. Again I saw the captain stop. This time he slipped his hand into his side-pocket, half drew out his revolver, put it back again, and kept on his way down the ladder to the boat.
“Then the captain’s order rang out:
“‘Get ready to shove off!’
“Hardly had the words left his lips when there came another dull, muffled roar, and a sheet of flame licked the whole length of the deck. Then she fell over on her beam.
“‘My God!’ I cried; ‘left that dog to die!’
For a moment the first officer did not answer. Then he raised his eyes to mine and said in a voice full of emotion:
“Yes; there was nothin’ else to do. It’s against orders to take animals into life-boats. They take room and must be fed, and we hadn’t a foot of space or an ounce of grub and water to spare, and we had two hundred miles to go. I begged the captain. ’I’ll give Bayard my place,’ I said. I knew he was right; but I couldn’t help it. ’Let me go back and get him.’ I know now it would have been foolish; but I’d have done it all the same. So would you, maybe, if you’d known that dog and seen his trusting eyes lookin’ out of his scorched face and remembered what he’d just done.
“The captain never looked at me when he answered. He couldn’t; his eyes were too full.
“‘Your place is where you are, sir,’ he said, short and crisp. ‘Shove off, men.’
“He will never get over it. That dog stood for the girl he’d lost, somehow. That’s the captain’s bell. I’m wanted on the bridge. Good-night.”
Again the cabin door swung free, letting in a blast of raw ice-house air, the kind that chills you to the bone. The gale had increased. Through the opening I could hear the combers sweeping the bow and the down-swash of the overflow striking the deck below.
With the outside roar came the captain, his tarpaulins glistening with spray, his cap pulled tight down to his ears, his storm-beaten face ruddy with the dash and cut of the wind. He looked like a sea Titan that had stepped aboard from the crest of a wave.