A Son of the Sun

A SON OF THE SUN

(First published in The Saturday Evening Post, May 27, 1911)

VI

The Willi-Waw was tearing through the water with a bone in her teeth, for the breath of the passing squall was still strong. The blacks were swinging up the big mainsail, which had been lowered on the run when the puff was at its height. Jacobsen, superintending the operation, ordered them to throw the halyards down on deck and stand by, then went for'ard on the lee-bow and joined Griffiths. Both men stared with wide-strained eyes at the blank wall of darkness through which they were flying, their ears tense for the sound of surf on the invisible shore. It was by this sound that they were for the moment steering.

The wind fell lighter, the scud of clouds thinned and broke, and in the dim glimmer of starlight loomed the jungle-clad coast. Ahead, and well on the lee-bow, appeared a jagged rock-point. Both men strained to it.

Amboy Point, Griffiths announced. Plenty of water close up. Take the wheel, Jacobsen, till we set a course. Get a move on!

Running aft, barefooted and barelegged, the rainwater dripping from his scant clothing, the mate displaced the black at the wheel.

How's she heading? Griffiths called.

South-a-half-west!

Let her come up south-by-west! Got it?

Right on it!

Griffiths considered the changed relation of Amboy Point to the Willi-Waw's course.

And a-half-west! he cried.

And a-half-west! came the answer. Right on it!

Steady! That'll do!

Steady she is! Jacobsen turned the wheel over to the savage. You steer good fella, savve? he warned. No good fella, I knock your damn black head off.

Again he went for'ard and joined the other, and again the cloud-scud thickened, the star-glimmer vanished, and the wind rose and screamed in another squall.

Watch that mainsail! Griffiths yelled in the mate's ear, at the same time studying the ketch's behaviour.

Over she pressed, and lee-rail under, while he measured the weight of the wind and quested its easement. The tepid sea-water, with here and there tiny globules of phosphorescence, washed about his ankles and knees. The wind screamed a higher note, and every shroud and stay sharply chorused an answer as the Willi-Waw pressed farther over and down.

Down mainsail! Griffiths yelled, springing to the peak-halyards, thrusting away the black who held on, and casting off the turn.

Jacobsen, at the throat-halyards, was performing the like office. The big sail rattled down, and the blacks, with shouts and yells, threw themselves on the battling canvas. The mate, finding one skulking in the darkness, flung his bunched knuckles into the creature's face and drove him to his work.

The squall held at its high pitch, and under her small canvas the Willi-Waw still foamed along. Again the two men stood for'ard and vainly watched in the horizontal drive of rain.

We're all right, Griffiths said. This rain won't last. We can hold this course till we pick up the lights. Anchor in thirteen fathoms. You'd better overhaul forty-five on a night like this. After that get the gaskets on the mainsail. We won't need it.

Half an hour afterward his weary eyes were rewarded by a glimpse of two lights.

There they are, Jacobsen. I'll take the wheel. Run down the forestaysail and stand by to let go. Make the niggers jump.

Aft, the spokes of the wheel in his hands, Griffiths held the course till the two lights came in line, when he abruptly altered and headed directly in for them. He heard the tumble and roar of the surf, but decided it was farther away—as it should be, at Gabera.

He heard the frightened cry of the mate, and was grinding the wheel down with all his might, when the Willi-Waw struck. At the same instant her mainmast crashed over the bow. Five wild minutes followed. All hands held on while the hull upheaved and smashed down on the brittle coral and the warm seas swept over them. Grinding and crunching, the Willi-Waw worked itself clear over the shoal patch and came solidly to rest in the comparatively smooth and shallow channel beyond.

Griffiths sat down on the edge of the cabin, head bowed on chest, in silent wrath and bitterness. Once he lifted his face to glare at the two white lights, one above the other and perfectly in line.

There they are, he said. And this isn't Gabera. Then what the hell is it?

Though the surf still roared and across the shoal flung its spray and upper wash over them, the wind died down and the stars came out. Shoreward came the sound of oars.

What have you had?—an earthquake? Griffiths called out. The bottom's all changed. I've anchored here a hundred times in thirteen fathoms. Is that you, Wilson?

A whaleboat came alongside, and a man climbed over the rail. In the faint light Griffiths found an automatic Colt's thrust into his face, and, looking up, saw David Grief.

No, you never anchored here before, Grief laughed. Gabera's just around the point, where I'll be as soon as I've collected that little sum of twelve hundred pounds. We won't bother for the receipt. I've your note here, and I'll just return it.

You did this! Griffiths cried, springing to his feet in a sudden gust of rage. You faked those leading lights! You've wrecked me, and by—

Steady! Steady! Grief's voice was cool and menacing. I'll trouble you for that twelve hundred, please.

To Griffiths, a vast impotence seemed to descend upon him. He was overwhelmed by a profound disgust—disgust for the sunlands and the sun-sickness, for the futility of all his endeavour, for this blue-eyed, golden-tinted, superior man who defeated him on all his ways.

Jacobsen, he said, will you open the cash-box and pay this—this bloodsucker— twelve hundred pounds?

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