Text - " The Blue Grass Seminary Girls on the Water" Carolyn Judson Burnett
The sun was just sinking below the horizon, but there were still several hours before darkness would fall. The view was indeed picturesque and the passengers were impressed with it. The steamship Yucatan was now on the last leg of her journey toward Colon. In the main salon a crowd of men had gathered. On the upper deck, the gallery deck, the promenade deck and the main deck they had also gathered in knots. They blocked the main staircase and the exits from the engine room below. A group somewhat larger than the rest had assembled about the captain's cabin. A close observer would have noticed that each man among these different groups wore a peculiar little button in the lapel of his coat. Each group was silent. It appeared that they were waiting for something. Now a young man appeared and spoke to the first group holding his open watch in his hand. Then he passed on to the next, then to the next, until he had approached all. Then he took his place with the others near the bridge, and waited, watch in hand. Suddenly he pulled a little whistle from his pocket, put it to his lips, waited a moment, and then blew a shrill blast, that penetrated to the farthest part of the ship. Instantly the various groups of men wearing the button of peculiar design came to action. The passengers on the promenade deck, the Willing party among them, found themselves under the muzzles of many revolvers. On the gallery, the deck, the main salon, the grand stairway a like condition prevailed. Only the men who guarded the exit from the engine and boiler rooms were inactive, but these stood with drawn revolvers. A dozen men swarmed from the bridge into the wheel house, where they confronted the pilot, the Captain, the first and second officers, who chanced to be there together. Officers in other parts of the ship also had been held up. The surprise had been complete. The Yucatan was at the mercy of this army of conspirators, whoever they chanced to be. Shirley and Mabel had eyed the strange proceedings upon their section of the ship with no less amazement than the rest of the passengers. Mr. Willing, Colonel Ashton and Dick were equally astonished. "What is it, a wholesale hold-up?" demanded the colonel. "Worse, I'm afraid," declared Mr. Willing. "I know!" exclaimed Shirley suddenly. "Mr. Bristow is concerned in this." "My goodness! I believe you are right Shirley," declared Mabel. "I know I am right," returned Shirley positively. "This is why he sailed on the Yucatan." In the meantime the captors of the vessel had relieved all on board of whatever weapons they had. They had made a systematic search of the cabins, while some of their number kept the crew and passengers covered. Of the many aboard the ship the only ones who did not know what had happened were the engine crew and stokers. The wireless had been among the first points seized, and the operator had had no opportunity of sending a message. And now a young man moved about among the passengers, assuring them that there was no danger so long as they kept quiet. This young man came aft on the promenade deck where the Willing party stood. Even as Shirley had surmised, he was Henry Bristow. He smiled as he approached them. "Well," growled Mr. Willing, "I see you have put the thing through." "Part of it sir, part of it," was the reply. "The rest is to come." "What are you going to do now, Mr. Bristow?" asked Mabel. The latter smiled at her. "Captain Von Blusen, if you please, Miss Ashton," he said, "I am no longer Henry Bristow, but Captain Friederich Von Blusen, of His Imperial Majesty's service." "And what are you going to do with the ship?" asked Shirley. "Why, we shall do a little cruising," was the reply. "We have established a naval base off the coast of Cuba, but we have no ships on this side of the Atlantic. Therefore we must have ships. This is the first." "And what are you going to do with us, captain?" asked Mabel. "Ah, that is the hard part," was the reply, "but, before starting, we came to a conclusion, though none of the passengers is likely to be pleased. We shall set you adrift in small boats." The others staggered back in dismay. "Impossible," declared Mr. Willing. "Surely you are not barbarians." "The law of necessity must be obeyed," replied the captain. He took his departure. "The cold-blooded scoundrel," declared Colonel Ashton. "This is what we get for helping him to escape." "And that is my fault," declared Mabel. "Well, there is no use talking about it now," said Dick. "It's too late." An hour later the new crew began getting out the boats, and all the passengers provided themselves with life preservers. Fortunately, the weather was calm and the sea smooth and there was little likelihood of a storm at this time of year. With everything in readiness, Captain Von Blusen once more approached the Willing party, and drew Mabel slightly to one side in spite of the protests of the others. "Miss Ashton," he said, "in your cabin the other day you spoke of your sympathies to the German cause. Now I shall tell you something, for you have done much for me. Advise the others to make no attempt to reach Colon, should they be picked up." "And why not?" demanded Shirley. The captain hesitated. "Well, there is no harm in telling you," he said at last. "Of course, you may not know that Germany is trying to bring the United States into this war on her side. We have at last found a way. Just off Colon are several Japanese warships. We shall near them unobserved, and signal by wireless that a certain thing must be done, representing ourselves as one of the Japanese battleships. "Naturally, we shall be refused permission. Now we have a new invention that would enable us to destroy Colon from a distance, and in our message we shall threaten this unless the supposed Japanese demand is granted. Do you understand?" Mabel nodded her head slowly. She was beyond words. "And when the demand is refused," continued the captain "we shall use some of this new explosive. That will mean war between Japan and the United States, and therefore, England also, as she is Japan's ally. Do you see?" "Yes, I see," said Mabel quietly. "And what do you think of the plan?" "I think it is contemptible," declared Mabel. "But, but" began the captain. "I don't care to hear any more," said Mabel. "But you will not succeed, I am sure of that. You can not succeed." She turned on her heel and made her way back to the others, the captain standing as if rooted to the deck as he stared after her. Mabel turned the matter over in her mind. She felt certain that the captain had been boasting, and the more she thought it over the more she became convinced of it. Therefore, she decided to say nothing about it to the others. Under the muzzles of the revolvers of the captors of the big steamship, captain, officers, crew and passengers now took their places in the small boats, and were lowered over the side. Each boat was well stocked with provisions and water, for the Germans had no mind to set their prisoners adrift and let them starve or perish of thirst. The shore of Cuba was not far away, and, with steady rowing by the men, it would be possible for them to reach there within twelve hours. Besides, there was always the chance they would be picked up by a passing vessel. Fortunately, the passenger list was not large. The bulk of it had been made up of the men who had later captured the ship. Therefore, officers, passengers and crew included, there were not more than three hundred set adrift. The engine room crew had been impressed into service by the Germans.
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