In Secret

Robert W. Chambers




The man had been desperately ill in soul and mind and body. And now in some curious manner the ocean seemed to be making him physically better but spiritually worse. Something, too, in the horizonwide waste of waters was having a sinister effect on his brain. The grey daylight of early May, bitter as December--the utter desolation, the mounting and raucous menace of the sea, were meddling with normal convalescence. 

Dull animosity awoke in a battered mind not yet readjusted to the living world. What had these people done to him anyway? The sullen resentment which invaded him groped stealthily for a vent. 

Was THIS, then, their cursed cure?--this foggy nightmare through which he moved like a shade in the realm of phantoms? Little by little what had happened to him was becoming an obsession, as he began to remember in detail. Now he brooded on it and looked askance at the girl who was primarily responsible--conscious in a confused sort of way that he was a blackguard for his ingratitude. 

But his mind had been badly knocked about, and its limping machinery creaked. 

"That meddling woman," he thought, knowing all the time what he owed her, remembering her courage, her unselfishness, her loveliness. "Curse her!" he muttered, amid the shadows confusing his wounded mind. 

Then a meaningless anger grew with him: She had him, now! he was trapped and caged. A girl who drags something floundering out of hell is entitled to the thing if she wants it. He admitted that to himself. 

But how about that "cure"? 

Was THIS it--this terrible blankness--this misty unreality of things? Surcease from craving--yes. But what to take its place--what to fill in, occupy mind and body? What sop to his restless soul? What had this young iconoclast offered him after her infernal era of destruction? A distorted world, a cloudy mind, the body-substance of a ghost? And for the magic world she had destroyed she offered him a void to live in--Curse her! 

There were no lights showing aboard the transport; all ports remained screened. Arrows, painted on the decks in luminous paint, pointed out the way. Below decks, a blue globe here and there emitted a feeble glimmer, marking corridors which pierced a depthless darkness. 

No noise was permitted on board, no smoking, no other lights in cabin or saloon. There was scarcely a sound to be heard on the ship, save the throbbing of her engines, the long, splintering crash of heavy seas, and the dull creak of her steel vertebrae tortured by a million rivets. 

As for the accursed ocean, that to McKay was the enemy paramount which had awakened him to the stinging vagueness of things out of his stupid acquiescence in convalescence. 

He hated the sea. It was becoming a crawling horror to him in its every protean phase, whether flecked with ghastly lights in storms or haunted by pallid shapes in colour--always, always it remained repugnant to him under its eternal curse of endless motion. 

He loathed it: he detested the livid skies by day against which tossing waves showed black: he hated every wave at night and their ceaseless unseen motion. McKay had been "cured." McKay was very, very ill. 

There came to him, at intervals, a girl who stole through the obscurity of the pitching corridors guiding him from one faint blue light to the next--a girl who groped out the way with him at night to the deck by following the painted arrows under foot. Also sometimes she sat at his bedside through the unreal flight of time, her hand clasped over his. He knew that he had been brutal to her during his "cure." 

He was still rough with her at moments of intense mental pressure--somehow; realised it--made efforts toward self-command--toward reason again, mental control; sometimes felt that he was on the way to acquiring mental mastery. 

But traces of injury to the mind still remained--sensitive places--and there were swift seconds of agony--of blind anger, of crafty, unbalanced watching to do harm. Yet for all that he knew he was convalescent--that alcohol was no longer a necessity to him; that whatever he did had now become a choice for him; that he had the power and the authority and the will, and was capable, once more, of choosing between depravity and decency. But what had been taken out of his life seemed to leave a dreadful silence in his brain. And, at moments, this silence became dissonant with the clamour of unreason. 

On one of his worst days when his crippled soul was loneliest the icy seas became terrific. Cruisers and destroyers of the escort remained invisible, and none of the convoyed transports were to be seen. The watery, lowering daylight faded: the unseen sun set: the brief day ended. And the wind went down with the sun. But through the thick darkness the turbulent wind appeared to grow luminous with tossing wraiths; and all the world seemed to dissolve into a nebulous, hell-driven thing, unreal, dreadful, unendurable! 

"Mr. McKay!" 

He had already got into his wool dressing-robe and felt shoes, and he sat now very still on the edge of his berth, listening stealthily with the cunning of distorted purpose. 

Her tiny room was just across the corridor. She seemed to be eternally sleepless, always on the alert night and day, ready to interfere with him. 

Finally he ventured to rise and move cautiously to his door, and he made not the slightest sound in opening it, but her door opened instantly, and she stood there confronting him, an ulster buttoned over her nightdress. 

"What is the matter?" she said gently. 


"Are you having a bad night?" 

"I'm all right. I wish you wouldn't constitute yourself my nurse, servant, mentor, guardian, keeper, and personal factotum!" Sudden rage left him inarticulate, and he shot an ugly look at her. "Can't you let me alone?" he snarled. 

"You poor boy," she said under her breath. 

"Don't talk like that! Damnation! I--I can't stand much more--I can't stand it, I tell you!" 

"Yes, you can, and you will. And I don't mind what you say to me." His malignant expression altered. 

"Do you know," he said, in a cool and evil voice, "that I may stop SAYING things and take to DOING them?" 

"Would you hurt me physically? Are you really as sick as that?" 

"Not yet.... How do I know?" Suddenly he felt tired and leaned against the doorway, covering his dulling eyes with his right forearm. But his hand was now clenched convulsively. 

"Could you lie down? I'll talk to you," she whispered. "I'll see you through." 

"I can't--endure--this tension," he muttered. "For God's sake let me go!" 


"You know." 

"Yes.... But it won't do. We must carry on, you and I." 

"If you--knew--" 

"I do know! When these crises come try to fix your mind on what you have become." 

"Yes.... A hell of a soldier. Do you really believe that my country needs a thing like me?" She stood looking at him in silence--knowing that he was in a torment of some terrible sort. His eyes were still covered by his arm. On his boyish brow the blonde-brown hair had become damp. 

She went across and passed her arm through his. His hand rested, fell to his side, but he suffered her to guide him through the corridors toward a far bluish spark that seemed as distant as Venus, the star. 

They walked very slowly for a while on deck, encountering now and then the shadowy forms of officers and crew. The personnel of the several hospital units in transit were long ago in bed below. 

Once he said: "You know, Miss Erith, it is not _I_ who behaves like a scoundrel to you." 

"I know," she said with a dauntless smile. 

"Because," he went on, searching painfully for thought as well as words, "I'm not really a brute--was not always a blackguard--" 

"Do you suppose for one moment that I blame a man who has been irresponsible through no fault of his, and who has made the fight and has won back to sanity?" 

"I--am not yet--well!" 

"I understand." 

They paused beside the port rail for a few moments. 

"I suppose you know," he muttered, "that I have thought--at times--of ending things--down there. ... You seem to know most things. Did you suspect that?" 


"Don't you ever sleep?" 

"I wake easily." 

"I know you do. I can't stir in bed but I hear you move, too.... I should think you'd hate and loathe me--for all I've done--for all I've cost you." 

"Nurses don't loathe their patients," she said lightly. 

"I should think they'd want to kill them." 

"Oh, Mr. McKay! On the contrary they--they grow to like them--exceedingly." 

"You dare not say that about yourself and me." 

Miss Erith shrugged her pretty shoulders: "I don't have to say anything, do I?" 

He made no reply. After a long silence she said casually: "The sea is calmer, I think. There's something resembling faint moonlight up among those flying clouds." 

He lifted his tragic face and gazed up at the storm-wrack speeding overhead. And there through the hurrying vapours behind flying rags of cloud, a pallid lustre betrayed the smothered moon. 

There was just enough light, now, to reveal the forward gun under its jacket, and the shadowy gun-crew around it where the ship's bow like a vast black, plough ripped the sea asunder in two deep, foaming furrows. 

"I wish I knew where we are at this moment," mused the girl. She counted the days on her fingertips: "We may be off Bordeaux.... It's been a long time, hasn't it?" 

To him it had been a century of dread endured through half-awakened consciousness of the latest inferno within him. 

"It's been very long," he said, sighing. 

A few minutes later they caught a glimpse of a strangled moon overhead--a livid corpse of a moon, tarnished and battered almost out of recognition. 

"Clearing weather," she said cheerfully, adding: "To-morrow we may be in the danger zone.... Did you ever see a submarine?" 

"Yes. Did you?" 

"There were some up the Hudson. I saw them last summer while motoring along Riverside Drive." 

The spectral form of an officer appeared at her elbow, said something in a low voice, and walked aft. 

She said: "Well, then, I think we'd better dress. ... Do you feel better?" 

He said that he did, but his sombre gaze into darkness belied him. So again she slipped her arm through his and he suffered himself to be led away along the path of shinning arrows under foot. 

At his door she said cheerfully: "No more undressing for bed, you know. No more luxury of night-clothes. You heard the orders about lifebelts?" 

"Yes," he replied listlessly. 

"Very well. I'll be waiting for you." 

She lingered a moment more watching him in his brooding revery where he stood leaning against the doorway. And after a while he raised his haunted eyes to hers. 

"I can't keep on," he breathed. 

"Yes you can!" 

"No.... The world is slipping away--under foot. It's going on without me--in spite of me." 

"It's you that are slipping, if anything is. Be fair to the world at least--even if you mean to betray it--and me." 

"I don't want to betray anybody--anything." He had begun to tremble when he stood leaning against his door. "I--don't know--what to do." 

"Stand by the world. Stand by me. And, through me, stand by your own self." 

The young fellow's forehead was wet with the vague horror of something. He made an effort to speak, to straighten up; gave her a dreadful look of appeal which turned into a snarl. 

He whispered between writhing lips: "Can't you let me alone? Can't I end it if I can't stand it--without your blocking me every time--every time I stir a finger--" 

"McKay! Wait! Don't touch me!--don't do that!" 

But he had her in a sudden grip now--was looking right and left for a place to hurl her out of the way. 

"I've stood enough, by God!" he muttered between his teeth. "Now I'm through--" 

"Please listen. You're out of your mind," she said breathlessly, not struggling to free herself, but striving to twist both her arms around one of his. 

"You hurt me," she whimpered. "Don't be brutal to me!" 

"I've got to get you out of my way." He tried to fling her across the corridor into her own cabin, but she had fastened herself to him. 

"Don't!" she panted. "Don't do anything to yourself--" 

"Let go of me! Unclasp your arms!" 

But she clung the more desperately and wound her limbs around his, almost tripping him. 

"I WON'T give you up!" she gasped. 

"What do you care?" he retorted hoarsely, striving to tear himself loose. "I want to get some rest--somewhere!" 

"You're hurting! You're breaking my arm! Kay! Kay! what are you doing to me?" she wailed. 

Something--perhaps the sound of his own name falling from her lips for the first time--checked his mounting frenzy. She could feel every muscle in his body become rigidly inert. 

"Kay!" she whispered, fastening herself to him convulsively. For a full minute she sustained his half-insane stare, then it altered, and her own eyes slowly closed, though her head remained upright on the rigid marble of her neck. 

The crisis had been reached: the tide of frenzy was turning, had turned, was already ebbing. She felt it, was conscious that he also had become aware of it. Then his grasp slackened, grew lax, loosened, and almost spent. She ventured to unwind her limbs from his, to relax her stiffened fingers, unclasp her arms. 

It was over. She could scarcely stand, felt blindly for support, rested so, and slowly unclosed her eyes. 

"I've had to fight very hard for you," she whispered. "But I think I've won." 

He answered with difficulty. 

"Yes--if you want the dog you fought for." 

"It isn't what _I_ want, Kay." 

"All right, I guess I can face it through--after this.... But I don't know why you did it." 

"I do." 

"Do you? Don't you know I'm not a man, but a beast? And there are half a hundred million real men to replace me--to do what you and the country expect of real men." 

"What may be expected of them I expect of you. Kay, I've made a good fight for you, haven't I?" 

He turned his quenched eyes on her. "From gutter to hospital, from hospital to sanitarium, from sanitarium to ship," he said in a colourless voice. "Yes, it was--a--good--fight." 

"What a Calvary!" she murmured, looking at him out of clear, sorrowful eyes. "And on your knees, poor boy!" 

"You ought to know. You have made every station with me--on your tender bleeding knees of a girl!" He choked, turned his head swiftly; and she caught his hand. The break had come. 

"Oh, Kay! Kay!" she said, quivering all over, "I have done my bit and you are cured! You know it, don't you? Look at me, turn your head." She laid her slim hand flat against his tense cheek but could not turn his face. But she did not care; the palm of her hand was wet. The break had come. She drew a deep, uneven breath, let go his hand. 

"Now," she said, "we can understand each other at last--our minds are rational; and whether in accord or conflict they are at least in contact; and mine isn't clashing with something disordered and foreign which it can't interpret, can't approach." 

He said, not turning toward her: "You are kind to put it that way.... I think self-control has returned--will-power--all that.... I won't-betray you--Miss Erith." 

"YOU never would, Mr. McKay. But I--I've been in terror of what has been masquerading as you." 

"I know.... But whatever you think of such a--a man--I'll do my bit, now. I'll carry on--until the end." 

"I will too! I promise you." 

He turned his head at that and a mirthless laugh touched his wet eyes and drawn visage: 

"As though you had to promise anybody that you'd stick! You! You beautiful, magnificent young thing--you superb kid--" 

Her surprise and the swift blaze of colour in her face silenced him. 

After a moment, the painful red still staining his face, he muttered something about dressing. 

He watched her turn and enter her room; saw that she had closed her door-something she had not dared do heretofore; then he went into his own room and threw himself down on the bunk, shaking in every nerve. 

For a long while, preoccupied with the obsession for self-destruction, he lay there face downward, exhausted, trying to fight off the swimming sense of horror that was creeping over him again..... Little by little it mounted like a tide from hell.... He struggled to his feet with the unuttered cry of a dreamer tearing his throat. An odd sense of fear seized him and he dressed and adjusted his clumsy life-suit. For the ship was in the danger zone, now, and orders had been given, and dawn was not far off. Perhaps it was already day! he could not tell in his dim cabin. 

And after he was completely accoutred for the hazard of the Hun-cursed seas he turned and looked down at his bunk with the odd idea that his body still lay there--that it was a thing apart from himself--something inert, unyielding, corpse-like, sprawling there in a stupor--something visible, tangible, taking actual proportion and shape there under his very eyes. 

He turned his back with a shudder and went on deck. To his surprise the blue lights were extinguished, and corridor and saloon were all rosy with early sunlight. 

Blue sky, blue sea, silver spindrift flying and clouds of silvery gulls--a glimmer of Heaven from the depths of the pit--a glimpse of life through a crack in the casket--and land close on the starboard bow! Sheer cliffs, with the bonny green grass atop all furrowed by the wind--and the yellow-flowered broom and the shimmering whinns blowing. 

"Why, it's Scotland," he said aloud, "it's Glenark Cliffs and the Head of Strathlone--my people's fine place in the Old World--where we took root--and--O my God! Yankee that I am, it looks like home!" 

The cape of a white fleece cloak fluttered in his face, and he turned and saw Miss Erith at his elbow. 

Yellow-haired, a slender, charming thing in her white wind-blown coat, she stood leaning on the spray-wet rail close to his shoulder. 

And with him it was suddenly as though he had known her for years--as though he had always been aware of her beauty and her loveliness--as though his eyes had always framed her--his heart had always wished for her, and she had always been the sole and exquisite tenant of his mind. 

"I had no idea that we were off Scotland," he said--"off Strathlone Head--and so close in. Why, I can see the cliff-flowers!" 

She laid one hand lightly on his arm, listening; high and heavenly sweet above the rushing noises of the sea they heard the singing of shoreward sky-larks above the grey cliff of Glenark. 

He began to tremble. "That nightmare through which I've struggled," he began, but she interrupted: 

"It is quite ended, Kay. You are awake. It is day and the world's before you." At that he caught her slim hand in both of his: 

"Eve! Eve! You've brought me through death's shadow! You gave me back my mind!" 

She let her hand rest between his. At first he could not make out what her slightly moving lips uttered, and bending nearer he heard her murmur: "Beside the still waters." The sea had become as calm as a pond. 

And now the transport was losing headway, scarcely moving at all. Forward and aft the gun-crews, no longer alert, lounged lazily in the sunshine watching a boat being loaded and swung outward from the davits. 

"Is somebody going ashore?" asked McKay. 

"We are," said the girl. 

"Just you and I, Eve?" 

"Just you and I." 

Then he saw their luggage piled in the lifeboat.' 

"This is wonderful," he said. "I have a house a few miles inland from Strathlone Head." 

"Will you take me there, Kay?" 

Such a sense of delight possessed him that he could not speak. 

"That's where we must go to make our plans," she said. "I didn't tell you in those dark hours we have lived together, because our minds were so far apart--and I was fighting so hard to hold you." 

"Have you forgiven me--you wonderful girl?" 

His voice shook so that he could scarcely control it. Miss Erith laughed. 

"You adorable boy!" she said. "Stand still while I unlace your life-belt. You can't travel in this." 

He felt her soft fingers at his throat and turned his face upward. All the blue air seemed glittering with the sun-tipped wings of gulls. The skylark's song, piercingly sweet, seemed to penetrate his soul. And, as his life-suit fell about him, so seemed to fall the heavy weight of dread like a shroud, dropping at his feet. And he stepped clear--took his first free step toward her--as though between them there were no questions, no barriers, nothing but this living, magic light--which bathed them both. 

There seemed to be no need of speech, either, only the sense of heavenly contact as though the girl were melting into him, dissolving in his arms. 


Her voice sounded as from an infinite distance. There came a smothered thudding like the soft sound of guns at sea; and then her voice again, and a greyness as if a swift cloud had passed across the sun. 


A sharp, cold wind began to blow through the strange and sudden darkness. He heard her voice calling his name--felt his numbed body shaken, lifted his head from his arms and sat upright on his bunk in the dim chill of his cabin. 

Miss Erith stood beside his bed, wearing her life-suit. 

"Kay! Are you awake?' 


"Then put on your life-suit. Our destroyers are firing at something. Quick, please, I'll help you!" 

Dazed, shaken, still mazed by the magic of his dream, not yet clear of its beauty and its passion, he stumbled to his feet in the obscurity. And he felt her chilled hand aiding him. 



"I thought your name--was Eve--" he stammered. "I've been--dreaming." 

Then was a silence as he fumbled stupidly with his clothing and life-suit. The sounds of the guns, rapid, distinct, echoed through the unsteady obscurity. 

She helped him as a nurse helps a convalescent, her swift, cold little fingers moving lightly and unerringly. And at last he was equipped, and his mind had cleared darkly of the golden vision of love and spring. 

Icy seas, monstrous and menacing, went smashing past the sealed and blinded port; but there was no wind and the thudding of the guns came distinctly to their ears. 

A shape in uniform loomed at the cabin door for an instant and a calm, unhurried voice summoned them. 

Corridors were full of dark figures. The main saloon was thronged as they climbed the companion-way. There appeared to be no panic, no haste, no confusion. Voices were moderately low, the tone casually conversational. 

Miss Erith's arm remained linked in McKay's where they stood together amid the crowd. 

"U-boats, I fancy," she said. 


After a moment: "What were you dreaming about, Mr. McKay?" she asked lightly. In the dull bluish dusk of the saloon his boyish face grew hot. 

"What was it you called me?" she insisted. "Was it Eve?" 

At that his cheeks burnt crimson. 

"What do you mean?" he muttered. 

"Didn't you call me Eve?" 

"I--when a man is dreaming--asleep--" 

"My name is Evelyn, you know. Nobody ever called me Eve.... Yet--it's odd, isn't it, Mr. McKay? I've always wished that somebody would call me Eve.... But perhaps you were not dreaming of me?" 


"Really. How interesting!" He remained silent. 

"And did you call me Eve--in that dream?... That is curious, isn't it, after what I've just told you?... So I've had my wish--in a dream." She laughed a little. "In a dream--YOUR dream," she repeated. "We must have been good friends in your dream--that you called me Eve." 

But the faint thrill of the dream was in him again, and it troubled him and made him shy, and he found no word to utter--no defence to her low-voiced banter. 

Then, not far away on the port quarter, a deck-gun spoke with a sharper explosion, and intense stillness reigned in the saloon. 

"If there's any necessity," he whispered, "you recollect your boat, don't you?" 

"Yes.... I don't want to go--without you." He said, in a pleasant firm voice which was new to her: "I know what you mean. But you are not to worry. I am absolutely well." 

The girl turned toward him, the echoes of the guns filling her ears, and strove to read his face in the ghastly, dreary light. 

"I'm really cured, Miss Erith," he said. "If there's any emergency I'll fight to live. Do you believe me?" 

"If you tell me so." 

"I tell you so." 

The girl drew a deep, unsteady breath, and her arm tightened a trifle within his. 

"I am--so glad," she said in a voice that sounded suddenly tired. 

There came an ear-splitting detonation from the after-deck, silencing every murmur. 

"Something is shelling us," whispered McKay. "When orders come, go instantly to your boat and your station." 

"I don't want to go alone." 

"The nurses of the unit to which you--" 

The crash of a shell drowned his voice. Then came a deathly silence, then the sound of the deck-guns in action once more. 

Miss Erith was leaning rather heavily on his arm. He bent it, drawing her closer. 

"I don't want to leave you," she said again. 

"I told you--" 

"It isn't that.... Don't you understand that I have become--your friend?" 

"Such a brute as I am?" 

"I like you." 

In the silence he could hear his heart drumming between the detonations of the deck-guns. He said: "It's because you are you. No other woman on earth but would have loathed me... beastly rotter that I was--" 

"Oh-h, don't," she breathed.... "I don't know--we may be very close to death.... I want to live. I'd like to. But I don't really mind death. ... But I can't bear to have things end for you just as you've begun to live again--" 

Crash! Something was badly smashed on deck that time, for the brazen jar of falling wreckage seemed continuous. 

Through the metallic echo she heard her voice: 

"Kay! I'm afraid--a little." 

"I think it's all right so far. Listen, there go our guns again. It's quite all right, Eve dear." 

"I didn't know I was so cowardly. But of course I'll never show it when the time comes." 

"Of course you won't. Don't worry. Shells make a lot of noise when they explode on deck. All that tinpan effect we heard was probably a ventilator collapsing--perhaps a smokestack." 

After a silence punctured by the flat bang of the deck-guns: 

"You ARE cured, aren't you, Kay?" 


She repeated in a curiously exultant voice: "You ARE cured. All of a sudden--after that black crisis, too, you wake up, well!" 

"You woke me." 

"Of course, I did--with those guns frightening me!" 

"You woke me, Eve," he repeated coolly, "and my dream had already cured me. I am perfectly well. We'll get out of this mess shortly, you and I. And--and then--"He paused so long that she looked up at him in the bluish dusk: 

"And what then?" she asked. 

He did not answer. She said: "Tell me, Kay." 

But as his lips unclosed to speak a terrific shock shook the saloon--a shock that seemed to come from the depths of the ship, tilt up the cabin floor, and send everybody reeling about. 

Through the momentary confusion in the bluish obscurity the cool voice of an officer sounded unalarmed, giving orders. There was no panic. The hospital units formed and started for the deck. A young officer passing near exchanged a calm word with McKay, and passed on speaking pleasantly to the women who were now moving forward. 

McKay said to Miss Erith: "It seems that we've been torpedoed. We'll go on deck together. You know your boat and station?" 


"I'll see you safely there. You're not afraid any more, are you?" 


He gave a short dry laugh. "What a rotten deal," he said. "My dream was--different.... There is your boat--THAT one!... I'll say good luck. I'm assigned to a station on the port side. ... Good luck.... And thank you, Eve." 

"Don't go--" 

"Yes, I must.. We'll find each other--ashore--or somewhere." 

"Kay! The port boats can't be launched--" 

"Take your place! you're next, Eve."... Her hand, which had clung to his, he suddenly twisted up, and touched the convulsively tightening fingers with his lips. 

"Good luck, dear," he said gaily. And watched her go and take her place. Then he lifted his cap, as she turned and looked for him, and sauntered off to where his boat and station should have been had not the U-boat shells annihilated boat and rail and deck. 

"What a devil of a mess!" he said to a petty officer near him. A young doctor smoking a cigarette surveyed his own life-suit and the clumsy apparel of his neighbours with unfeigned curiosity! 

"How long do these things keep one afloat?" he inquired. 

"Long enough to freeze solid," replied an ambulance driver. 

"Did we get the Hun?" asked McKay of the petty officer. 

"Naw," he replied in disgust, "but the destroyers ought to nail him. Look out, sir--you'll go sliding down that slippery toboggan!" 

"How long'll she float?" asked the young ambulance driver. 

"This ship? SHE'S all right," remarked the petty officer absently. 

She went down, nose first. Those in the starboard boats saw her stand on end for full five minutes, screws spinning, before a muffled detonation blew the bowels out of her and sucked her down like a plunging arrow. 

Destroyers and launches from some of the cruisers were busy amid the wreckage where here, on a spar, some stunned form clung like a limpet, and there, a-bob in the curling seas, a swimmer in his life-suit tossed under the wintry sky. 

There were men on rafts, too, and several clinging to hatches; there was not much loss of life, considering. 

Toward midday a sea-plane which had been releasing depth-bombs and hovering eagerly above the wide iridescent and spreading stain, sheered shoreward and shot along the coast. 

There was a dead man afloat in a cave, rocking there rather peacefully in his life-suit--or at least they supposed him to be dead. 

But on a chance they signalled the discovery to a distant trawler, then soared upward for a general coup de l'oeil, turned there aloft like a seahawk for a while, sheering in widening spirals, and finally, high in the grey sky, set a steady course for parts unknown. 

Meanwhile a boat from the trawler fished out McKay, wrapped him in red-hot blankets, pried open his blue lips, and tried to fill him full of boiling rum. Then he came to life. But those honest fishermen knew he had gone stark mad because he struck at the pannikin of steaming rum and cursed them vigorously for their kindness. And only a madman could so conduct himself toward a pannikin of steaming rum. They understood that perfectly. And, understanding it, they piled more hot blankets upon the struggling form of Kay McKay and roped him to his bunk. 

Toward evening, becoming not only coherent but frightfully emphatic, they released McKay. 

"What's this damn place?" he shouted. 

"Strathlone Firth," they said. 

"That's my country!" he raged. "I want to go ashore!" 

They were quite ready to be rid of the cracked Yankee, and told him so. 

"And the boats? How about them?" he demanded. 

"All in the Firth, sir." 

"Any women lost?" 

"None, sir." 

At that, struggling into his clothes, he began to shed gold sovereigns from his ripped money-belt all over the cabin. Weatherbeaten fingers groped to restore the money to him. But it was quite evident that the young man was mad. He wouldn't take it. And in his crazy way he seemed very happy, telling them what fine lads they were and that not only Scotland but the world ought to be proud of them, and that he was about to begin to live the most wonderful life that any man had ever lived as soon as he got ashore. 

"Because," he explained, as he swung off and dropped into the small boat alongside, "I've taken a look into hell and I've had a glimpse of heaven, but the earth has got them both stung to death, and I like it and I'm going to settle down on it and live awhile. You don't get me, do you?" They did not. 

"It doesn't matter. You're a fine lot of lads. Good luck!" 

And so they were rid of their Yankee lunatic. 

On the Firth Quay and along the docks all the inhabitants of Glenark and Strathlone were gathered to watch the boats come in with living, with dead, or merely the news of the seafight off the grey head of Strathlone. 

At the foot of the slippery waterstairs, green with slime, McKay, grasping the worn rail, lifted his head and looked up into the faces of the waiting crowd. And saw the face of her he was looking for among them. 

He went up slowly. She pushed through the throng, descended the steps, and placed one arm around him. 

"Thanks, Eve," he said cheerfully. "Are you all right?" 

"All right, Kay. Are you hurt?" 

"No.... I know this place. There's an inn ... if you'll give me your arm--it's just across the street." 

They went very leisurely, her arm under his--and his face, suddenly colourless, half-resting against her shoulder.  


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.. copyright @ 2003 Miskatonic University Press / Yankee Classic Pictures, Inc. All rights reserved. MU-LBS-0315