“No—he’s got half a dozen of ’em. In Paris in ’70 he was Baron Germunde with estates in Hungary. Lived like a fighting-cock; knew everybody at the Palace and everybody knew him—stayed there all through the Franco-Prussian War. In London in ’75 he was plain Mr. Loring, trying to raise money for a mine somewhere in Portugal—knew nobody but stockbrokers and bank presidents. In New York five years ago he was Mr. Norvic Bing, and worked on some kind of a dictionary; lived in a boarding-house on Union Square.”
I could not conceal my delight.
“I knew I was right!” I cried, laying my hand on his arm. “I lived with him there a whole winter.”
“Yes, he told me so. That’s why I am telling you the rest of it.” Alcorn was smiling, a curious expression lighting his face.
“And how came he to be such a friend of the Prince’s?” I asked.
“He isn’t his friend—isn’t anybody’s friend. He’s a special agent of the Russian Secret Service.”
Wide of beam, stout of mast, short-bowspritted, her boom clewed up to clear her deck load of rough stone; drawing ten feet aft and nine feet for’ard; a twelve-horse hoisting engine and boiler in her forecastle; at the tiller a wabbly-jointed, halibut-shaped, moon-faced (partially eclipsed, owing to a fringe of dark whiskers), sleepy-eyed skipper named Baxter,— such was the sloop Susie Ann, and her outfit and her commander, as she lay alongside the dock in New London Harbor, ready to discharge her cargo at the site of Shark Ledge Lighthouse, eight miles seaward.
On the dock itself, over a wharf post sprawled her owner, old Abram Marrows, a thin, long, badly put together man, awkward as a stepladder and as rickety, who, after trying everything from farming to selling a patent churn, had at last become a shipowner, the Susie Ann, comprising his entire fleet. Marrows had come to see her off; this being the sloop’s first trip for the season.
Lying outside the Susie Ann—her lines fast to an off-shore spile, was the construction tug of the lighthouse gang, the deck strewn with diving gear, water casks and the like,—all needed in the furthering of the work at the ledge. On the tug’s forward deck, hat off and jacket swinging loose, stood Captain Joe Bell in charge of the submarine work at the site, glorious old Captain Joe, with the body of a capstan, legs stiff as wharf posts, arms and hands tough as cant hooks and heart twice as big as all of them put together.
Each and every piece of stone,—some of them weighed seven tons,—stowed aboard the Susie Ann, was, when she arrived alongside the foundation of the lighthouse, to be lowered over her side and sent down to Captain Joe to place in thirty feet of water. This fact made him particular both as to the kind of vessel engaged and the ability of the skipper. Bad seamanship might not only endanger the security of the work but his own life as well,—a diver not being as quick as a crab or blackfish in getting from under a seven-ton stone dropped from tripdogs at the signal to “lower away.”