on the British tramp steamer Glencairn
seamen's forecastle. On the right above the bunks three or four portholes
covered with black cloth can be seen. On the floor near the doorway is a
pail with a tin dipper. A lantern in the middle of the floor, turned down
very low, throws a dim light around the place. Five men, Scotty, Ivan,
Swanson, Smitty and Paul, are in their bunks apparently asleep. It is
about ten minutes of twelve on a night in the fall of the year 1915.
turns slowly in his bunk and, leaning out over the side, looks from one to
another of the men as if to assure himself that they are asleep. Then he
climbs carefully out of his bunk and stands in the middle of the
forecastle fully dressed,
but in his stocking feet, glancing around him suspiciously. Reassured, he
leans down and cautiously pulls out a suit-case from under the bunks in
front of him.
at this moment Davis appears in the doorway, carrying a large steaming
coffee-pot in his hand. He stops short when he sees Smitty. A puzzled
expression comes over his face, followed by one of suspicion, and he
retreats farther back in the alleyway, where he can watch Smitty without
the latter's movements indicate a fear of discovery. He takes out a small
bunch of keys and unlocks the suit-case, making a slight noise as he does
so. Scotty wakes up and peers at him over the side of the bunk. Smitty
opens the suit-case and takes out a small black tin box, carefully places
this under his mattress, shoves the suit-case back under the bunk, climbs
into his bunk again and closes his eyes.
enters the forecastle, places the coffee-pot beside the lantern, and goes
from one to the other of the sleepers and shakes them vigorously, saying
to each in a low voice: Near
eight bells, Scotty. Arise and shine, Swanson. Eight bells, Ivan. Smitty
yawns loudly with a great pretense of having been dead asleep. All of the
rest of the men tumble out of their bunks, stretching and gaping, and
commence to pull on their shoes. They go one by one to the cupboard near
the open door, take out their cups and spoons, and sit down together on
the benches. The coffee-pot is passed around. They munch their biscuits
and sip their coffee in dull silence.
jumping to his feet—nervously)
Where's that air comin' from? (All are startled and look at him
squat, surly faced Swede grumpily) What air? I don't feel nothing.
I kin feel it—a
draft. (He stands on the bench and looks around—suddenly
exploding) Damn fool square-head! (He leans over the upper bunk in
which Paul is sleeping and slams the porthole shut.) I got a good
notion to report him. Serve him bloody well right! What's the use o'
blindin' the ports when that thick-head goes an' leaves 'em open?
sleepy to be aroused by anything—carelessly)
Dey don't see what little light go out yust one port.
Dinna be a loon, Swanson! D'ye no ken the dangerr o' showin' a light wi' a
pack o' submarrines lyin' aboot?
his shaggy ox-like head in an emphatic affirmative) Dot's right,
Scotty. I don' li-ike blow up, no, by devil!
manner slightly contemptuous) I don't think there's much danger of
meeting any of their submarines, not until we get into the War Zone, at
and Scotty look at Smitty suspiciously—harshly)
You don't, eh? (He lowers his voice and speaks slowly.) Well, we're
in the war zone right this minit if you wants to know. (The effect of
this speech is instantaneous. All sit bolt upright on their benches and
stare at Davis.)
do you know, Davis?
'Cos Drisc heard the First send the Third below to wake the skipper when
we fetched the zone—bout
five bells, it was. Now whata y' got to say?
Oh, I wasn't doubting your word, Davis; but you know they're not pasting
up bulletins to let the crew know when the zone is reached—especially
on ammunition ships like this.
I don't li-ike dees voyage. Next time I ship on windjammer Boston to River
Plate, load with wood only so it float, by golly!
I hope British navy blow 'em to hell, those submarines, py damn!
at Smitty, who is staring at the doorway in a dream, his chin on his hands—meaningly)
It is no the submarrines only we've to fear, I'm thinkin'.
eagerly) That's no lie, Scotty.
mean the mines?
wasna thinkin' o' mines eitherr.
many a good ship blown up and at the bottom of the sea, what never hit no
mine or torpedo.
ye neverr read of the Gerrman spies and the dirrty work they're doin' all
the war? (He and Davis both glance at Smitty, who is deep in thought
and is not listening to the conversation.)
the clever way they fool you!
I read it in paper many time.
is about to speak but hesitates and finishes lamely) you got to watch
out, that's all I says.
the last of his coffee and slamming his fist on the bench explosively)
I tell you dis rotten coffee give me bellyache, yes! (They all look at
him in amused disgust.)
Dinna fret about it, Ivan. If we blow up ye'll no be mindin' the pain in
your middle. (Jack enters. He is a young American with a tough,
good-natured face. He wears dungarees and a heavy jersey.)
I don' hear bell ring.
and yuh won't hear any ring, yuh boob—(lowering
his voice unconsciously) now we're in the war zone.
Is the boats all ready?
we can lower 'em in a second.
lot o' good the boats'll do, with us loaded deep with all kinds o'
dynamite and stuff the like o' that! If a torpedo hits this hooker we'll
all be in hell b'fore you could wink your eye.
ain't goin' to hit us, see? That's my dope. Whose wheel is it?
My wheel. (He lumbers out.)
I tink. (He follows Ivan.)
A hell of a lot of use keepin' a lookout! We couldn't run away or fight if
we wanted to. (to Scotty and Smitty) Better look up the bo'sun or
the Fourth, you two, and let 'em see you're awake. (Scotty goes to the
doorway and turns to wait for Smitty, who is still in the same position,
head on hands, seemingly unconscious of everything. Jack slaps him roughly
on the shoulder and he comes to with a start.) Aft and report, Duke!
What's the matter with yuh—in
a dope dream? (Smitty goes out after Scotty without answering. Jack
looks after him with a frown.) He's a queer guy. I can't figger him
no one else. (lowering his voice—meaningly)
An' he's liable to turn out queerer than any of us think if we ain't
What d'yuh mean? (They are interrupted by the entrance of Driscoll and
Blimey if I don't fink I'll put in this 'ere watch ahtside on deck. (He
and Driscoll go over and get their cups.) I down't want to be caught
in this We if they 'its us. (He pours out coffee.)
his) Divil a bit ut wud matther where ye arre. Ye'd be blown to
smithereens b'fore ye cud say your name. (He sits down, overturning as
he does so the untouched cup of coffee which Smitty had forgotten and left
on the bench. They all jump nervously as the tin cup hits the floor with a
bang. Driscoll flies into an unreasonable rage.) Who's the dirty scut
left this cup where a man 'ud sit on ut?
the cup across the forecastle) Does he think he's too much av a bloody
gentleman to put his own away loike the rist av us? If he does I'm the
bye'll beat that noshun out av his head.
the airs 'e puts on you'd think 'e was the Prince of Wales. Wot's 'e doin'
on a ship, I arsks yet? 'E ain't now good as a sailor, is 'e?—dawdlin'
abaht on deck like a chicken wiv 'is 'cad cut orf!
Aw, the Duke's all right. S'posin' he did ferget his cup—what's
the diff? (He picks up the cup and puts it away—with
a grin) This war zone stuff's got yer goat, Drisc—and
yours too, Cocky—and
I ain't cheerin' much fur it myself, neither.
a sigh) Blimey, it ain't no bleedin' joke, yer first trip, to know as
there's a ship full of shells li'ble to go orf in under your bloomin'
feet, as you might say, if we gets ,it be a torpedo or mine. (with
sudden savagery) Calls theyselves 'uman bein's, too! Blarsted 'Uns!
'Tis me last trip in the bloody zone, God help me. The divil take their
twenty-foive percent bonus—and
be drowned like a rat in a trap in the bargain, mavbe.
be so bad if she wasn't carryin' ammunition. Them's the kind the subs is
Fur the love av hivin, don't be talkin' about ut. I'm sick wid thinkin'
and jumpin' at iviry bit av a noise. (There is a pause during which
they all stare gloomily at the floor.)
Davis, what was you sayin' about Smitty when they come in?
a great air of mystery) I'll tell you in a minit. I want to wait an'
see if he's comin' back. (impressively) You won't be callin' him
all right when you hears what I seen with my own eyes. (He adds with an
air of satisfaction) An' you won't be feelin' no safer, neither. (They
all look at him with puzzled glances full of a vague apprehension.)
blarst ut! (He fills his pipe and lights it. The others, with an air of
remembering something they had forgotten, do the same. Scotty enters.)
awed tones) Mon, but it's clear outside the nicht! Like day.
low tones) Where's Smitty, Scotty?
on the hatch starin' at the moon like a mon half-daft.
you see him from the doorway?
to doorway and carefully peeks out) Aye; he's still there.
your eyes on him for a moment. I've got something I wants to tell the boys
and I don't want him walkin' in in the middle of it. Give a shout if he
starts this way.
suppressed excitement) Aye, I'll watch him. And I've somethin' myself
to tell aboot his Lordship.
Out wid ut! You're talkin' more than a pair av auld women wud be standin'
in the road, and gittin' no further along.
You 'member when I went to git the coffee, Jack?
I brings it down here same as usual and got as far as the door there when
I sees him.
Smitty! He was standin' in the middle of the fo'c's'tle there (pointing)
lookin' around sneakin'—like
at Ivan and Swanson and the rest 's if he wants to make certain they're
asleep. (He pauses significantly, looking from one to the other of his
listeners. Scotty is nervously dividing his attention between Smitty on
the hatch outside and Davis's story, fairly bursting to break in with his
What of it?
He was standin' right there—(pointing
again) in his stockin' feet—no
shoes on, mind, so he wouldn't make no noise!
heeding the interruption) I seen right away somethin' on the queer was
up so I slides back into the alleyway where I kin see him but he can't see
me. After he makes sure they're all asleep he goes in under the bunks
careful not to raise a noise, mind!—an'
takes out his bag there. (By this time everyone, Jack included, is
listening breathlessly to his story.) Then he fishes in his pocket an'
takes out a bunch o' keys an' kneels down beside the bag an' opens it.
to keep silent longer) Mon, didn't I see him do that same thing wi'
these two eyes. 'Twas just that moment I woke and spied him.
and a bit nettled to have to share his story with anyone) Oh, you seen
him, too, eh? (to the others) Then Scotty kin tell you if I'm lyin'
what did he do whin he'd the bag opened?
bends down and reaches out his hand sort o' scared—like,
like it was somethin' dang'rous he was after, an' feels round in under his
in under his duds an' wrapped up in 'em, it was—an'
he brings out a black iron box!
around him with a frightened glance) Gawd blimey! (The others
likewise betray their uneasiness, shuffling their feet nervously.)
that right, Scotty?
as rain, I'm tellin' ye'!
the others with an air of satisfaction) There you are! (lowering
his voice) An' then what d'you suppose he did? Sneaks to his bunk an'
slips the black box in under his mattress—in
under his mattress, mind!—
it's there now?
it is! (Jack starts toward Smitty's bunk. Driscoll grabs him by the
be touchin' ut, Jack!
needn't worry. I ain't goin' to touch it. (He pulls up Smitty's
mattress and looks down. The others stare at him, holding their breaths.
He turns to them, trying hard to assume a careless tone.) It's there,
upset) I'm gointer 'op it aht on deck. (He gets up but Driscoll
pulls him down again. Cocky protests) It fair guvs me the trembles
sittin' still in 'ere.
Are ye frightened, ye toad? 'Tis a hell av a thing fur grown men to be
shiverin' loike childer at a bit av a black box. (scratching his head
in uneasy perplexity) Still, ut's damn queer, the looks av ut.
A bit of a black box, eh? How big d'you think them—(he
has to be—big
as this fo'c's'tle?
a voice meant to be reassuring) Aw, hell! I'll bet it ain't nothin'
but some coin he's saved he's got locked up in there.
That's likely, ain't it? Then why does he act so s'picious? He's been on
ship near two year, ain't he? He knows damn well there ain't no thiefs in
this fo'c's'tle, don't he? An' you know 's well 's I do he didn't have no
money when he came on board an' he ain't saved none since. Don't you? (Jack
doesn't answer.) Listen! D'you know what he
done after he put that thing in under his mattress?—an'
Scotty'll tell you if I ain't speakin' truth. He looks round to see if
anyone's woke up—
clapped my eyes shut when he turned round.
then he crawls into his bunk an' shuts his eyes, pretendin' he was asleep,
I could see him.
when I goes to call him, I don't even shake him. I just says, "Eight
bells, Smitty," in a'most a whisper-like, an' up he gets yawnin' an'
stretchin' fit to kill hisself 's if he'd been dead asleep.
his head) Ut looks bad, divil a doubt av ut.
An' now I come to think of it, there's the porthole. How'd it come to git
open, tell me that? I know'd well Paul never opened it. Ain't he grumblin'
about bein' cold all the time?
mon that opened it meant no good to this ship, whoever he was.
What porthole? What're yuh talkin' about?
over Paul's bunk) There. It
was open when I come in. I felt the cold air on my neck an' shut it. It
would'a been clear's a lighthouse to any sub that was watchin'—an'
we s'posed to have all the ports blinded! Who'd do a dirty trick like
that? It wasn't none of us, nor Scotty here, nor Swanson, nor Ivan. Who
would it be, then?
Must'a been 'is bloody Lordship.
all's we know he might'a been signalin' with it. They does it like that by
winkin' a light. Ain't you read how they gets caught doin' it in London
an' on the coast?
convinced now) An' wots 'e doin' aht alone on the 'atch—keepin'
'isself clear of us like 'e was afraid?
your eye on him, Scotty.
no a move oot o' him
(in irritated perplexity) But, hell, ain't he an Englishman? What'd
How d'we know he's English? Cos he talks it? That ain't no proof. Ain't
you read in the papers how all them German spies they been catchin' in
England has been livin' there for ten, often as not twenty years,
an' talks English as good's anyone? An' look here, ain't you noticed he
don't talk natural? He talks it too damn good, that's what I mean. He
don't talk exactly like a toff, does he, Cocky?
like any toff as I ever met up wiv.
an' 'e don't talk it like us, that's certain. An' he don't look English.
An' what d'we know about him when you come to look at it? Nothin'! He
ain't ever said where he comes from or why. All we knows is he ships on
here in London 'bout a year b'fore the war starts, as an A. B.—stole
his papers most lik'ly—when
he don't know how to box the compass, hardly. Ain't that queer in itself?
An' was he ever open with us like a good shipmate? No; he's always had
that sly air about him 's if he was hidin' somethin'.
Divil take me if I don't think ye have the truth av ut, Davis.
Latin' on be 'is silly airs, and all, Vs the son of a blarsted earl or
the name he calls hisself—Smith!
I'd risk a quid of my next pay day that his real name is Schmidt, if the
truth was known.
fighting against his own conviction) Aw, say, you guys give me a pain!
What'd they want puttin' a spy on this old tub for?
his head sagely) They're deep ones, an' there's a lot o' things a
sailor'll see in the ports he puts in ought to be useful to 'em. An' if he
kin signal to 'em an' they blows us up it's one ship less, ain't it? (lowering
his voice and indicating Smitty's bunk) Or if he blows us up hisself.
alarmed tones) Hush, mon! Here he comes! (Scotty hurries over to a
bench and sits down. A thick silence settles over the forecastle. The men
look from one to another with uneasy glances. Smitty enters and sits down
beside his bunk. He is seemingly unaware of the dark glances of suspicion
directed at him from all sides. He slides his band back stealthily over
his mattress and his fingers move, evidently feeling to make sure the box
is still there. The others follow this movement carefully with quick looks
out of the corners of their eyes. Their attitudes grow tense as if they
were about to spring at him. Satisfied the box is safe, Smitty draws his
hand away slowly and utters a sigh of relief.)
a casual tone which to them sounds sinister) It's
a good light night for the subs if there's any about. (For a
moment he sits staring in front of him. Finally he seems to sense the
hostile atmosphere of the forecastle and looks from one to the other of
the men in surprise. All of them avoid his eyes. He sighs with a puzzled
expression and gets up and walks out of the doorway. There is silence for
a moment after his departure and then a storm of excited talk breaks
you see him feelin' if it was there?
ain't arf a sly one wiv 'is talk of submarines, Gawd blind 'im!
ye see the sneakin' looks he gave us?
ivir I saw black shame on a man's face 'twas on his whin he sat there!
convinced at last) He looked
bad to me. He's a crook, aw right.
What'll we do? We gotter do
somethin' quick or—
(He is interrupted by the sound of something hitting against the
port side of the forecastle with a dull, heavy thud. The men start to
their feet in wild-eyed terror and turn as if they were going to rush for
the deck. They stand that way for a strained moment, scarcely breathing
and listening intently.)
a sickly smile) Hell! It's
on'y a piece of driftwood or a floatin' log. (He sits down
Or a mine that didn't go off—that
a piece o' wreckage from some ship they've sent to Davy Jones.
his brow with a trembling hand) Blimey!
(He sinks back weakly on a bench.)
God blarst ut! No man at all cud be puffin' up wid the loike av this—an'
I'm not wan to be fearin' anything or any man in the worrld'll stand up to
me face to face; but this divil's trickery in the darrk—
(He starts for Smitty's bunk.) I'll throw
ut out wan av the portholes an' be done wid ut. (He reaches
toward the mattress.)
Arre ye daft, mon?
monkey with it, Drisc. I knows what to do. Bring the bucket o' water here,
Jack, will you? (Jack gets it and brings it over to Davis.) An'
you, Scotty, see if he's back on the hatch.
peering out) Aye, he's sittin' there the noo.
out if he makes a move. Lift up the mattress, Drisc—careful
now! (Driscoll does so with infinite caution.) Take it out, Jack—careful—don't
shake it now, for Christ's sake! Here—put
it in the water—easy!
There, that's fixed it! (They all sit down with great sighs of
relief.) The water'll git in and spoil it.
Davis on the back) Good wurrk for ye, Davis, ye scut! (He spits on
his hands aggressively.) An' now what's to be done wid that
Guv 'im a shove in the marf and 'eave 'im over the side!
serve him right!
say, give him a chance. Yuh can't prove nothin' till yuh find out what's
Is ut more proof ye'd be needin' afther what we've seen an' heard? Then
listen to me—an'
ut's Driscoll talkin'—if
there's divilment in that box an' we see plain 'twas his plan to murrdher
his own shipmates that have served him fair—
(He raises his fist.) I'll choke his rotten heart out wid me own
hands, an' over the side wid him, and one man missin' in the mornin'.
no one the wiser. He's the balmy kind what commits suicide.
'angs spies ashore.
If he's done what yuh think I'll croak him myself. Is that good enough for
down at the box) How'll we be openin' this, I wonder?
He's standin' up.
take his keys away from him when he comes in. Quick, Drisc! You an' Jack
get beside the door and grab him. (They get on either side of
the door. Davis snatches a small coil
of rope from one of the
upper bunks.) This'll do for me an' Scotty to tie him.
turnin' this way—he's
comin'! (He moves away from the door.)
by to lend a hand, Cocky.
(As Smitty enters the forecastle he is seized roughly
from both sides, and his
arms pinned behind him. At first he struggles
fiercely, but seeing the uselessness
of this, he finally stands
calmly and allows Davis and Scotty
to tie up his arms.)
they have finished—with
cold contempt) If this
is your idea of a joke I'll have to confess it's a bit too thick for me to
Shut yer marf, 'ear!
Ye'll find ut's no joke, me bucko, b'fore we're done wid you. (to
Scotty) Kape your eye peeled, Scotty, and sing out if anyone's comin'.
(Scotty resumes his post
at the door.)
the same icy
contempt) If you'd be good enough to explain—
Explain, is ut? 'Tis you'll do the explainin'—an'
damn quick, or we'll know the reason why. (to Jack and Davis) Bring
him here, now. (They push Smitty
over to the bucket.) Look
here, ye murrdherin' swab. D'you see ut? (Smitty looks down
with an expression of amazement which rapidly
changes to one of anguish.)
a sneer) Look
at him! S'prised, ain't you? If you wants to try your dirty spyin' tricks
on us you've gotter git up earlier in the mornin'.
yer weren't 'arf a fox, didn't yer?
to restrain his growing rage) What—what
do you mean? That's only—
are you doing with my private belongings?
Ho yus! Private b'longings!
What is ut, ye swine? Will you tell us to our faces? What's in ut?
himself in check with
a great effort) Nothing but—
That's my business. You'll please attend to your own.
ut is, is ut? (shaking his fist
in Smitty's face) Talk aisy now if ye know what's best for you. Your
business, indade! Then we'll be makin' ut ours, I'm thinkin'. (to Jack
and Davis) Take his keys away from him an' we'll see if there's one'll
open ut, maybe. (They start
in searching Smitty, who tries
to resist and kicks out at
the bucket. Driscoll leaps
forward and helps them push him
away.) Try to kick ut over, would ye?
Did ye see him then? Tryin' to murrdher us all, the scut! Take that pail
out av his way, Cocky. (Smitty struggles with all of his strength and
keeps them busy for a few seconds. As Cocky grabs the pail Smitty makes a
final effort and, lunging forward, kicks again at the bucket but only
succeeds in hitting Cocky on the shin. Cocky immediately sets down the
pail with a bang and, clutching his knee in both hands, starts hopping
around the forecastle, groaning and swearing.)
Gawd strike me pink! Kicked me, 'e did! Bloody, bleedin', rotten Dutch 'og!
(approaching Smitty, who has given up the fight and is pushed back
against the wall near the doorway with Jack and Davis holding him on
at the top of his lungs) Kick me, will yet? I'll show yer what for,
yet bleedin' sneak! (He draws back his fist. Driscoll pushes him to one
your mouth! D'you want to wake the whole ship? (Cocky grumbles and
retires to a bench, nursing his sore shin.)
a small bunch of keys from Smitty's pocket) Here yuh are, Drisc.
them) We'll soon be knowin'. (He takes the pail and sits down,
placing it on the floor between his feet. Smitty again tries to break
loose but he is too tired and is easily held back against the wall.)
heavily and very pale) Cowards!
a growl) Nix on the rough talk, see! That don't git yuh nothin'.
at the lock on the box in the water and then scrutinizing the keys in his
hand) This'll be ut, I'm thinkin'. (He selects one and gingerly
reaches his hand in the water.)
face grown livid—chokingly)
Don't you open that box, Driscoll. If you do, so help me God, I'll kill
you if I have to hang for it.
hand in the water) Whin I open this box I'll not be the wan to be
kilt, me sonny bye! I'm no dirty spy.
voice trembling with rage. His eyes are fixed on Driscoll's hand.)
Spy? What are you talking about? I only put that box there so I could get
it quick in case we were torpedoed. Are you all mad? Do you think I'm—
(chokingly) You stupid curs! You cowardly dolts! (Davis claps
his hand over Smitty's mouth.)
be enough from you! (Driscoll takes the dripping box from the water and
starts to fit in the key. Smitty springs forward furiously, almost
escaping from their grasp, and drags them after him half-way across the
him, ye divils! (He puts the box back in the water and jumps to their
aid. Cocky hovers on the outskirts of the battle, mindful of the kick he
Cowards! Damn you! Rotten curs! (He is thrown to the floor and held
there.) Cowards! Cowards!
shut your dirty mouth for you. (He goes to his bunk and pulls out a big
wad of waste and comes back to Smitty.)
no gentle hand slaps the waste over Smitty's mouth) That'll teach you
to be misnamin' a man, ye sneak. Have ye a handkerchief, Jack? (Jack
hands him one and he ties it tightly around Smitty's head over the waste.)
That'll fix your gab. Stand him up, now, and tie his feet, too, so he'll
not be movin'. (They do so and leave him with his back against the wall
near Scotty. Then they all sit down beside Driscoll, who again lifts the
box out of the water and sets it carefully on his knees. He picks out the
key, then hesitates, looking from one to the other uncertainly.) We'd
best be takin' this to the skipper, d'you think, maybe?
To hell with the Old Man. This is our game and we c'n play it without no
bleedin' horficers, I says!
only be takin' all the credit and makin' heroes of theyselves.
Here goes, thin! (He slowly turns the key in the lock. The others
instinctively turn away. He carefully pushes the cover back on its hinges
and looks at what he sees inside with an expression of puzzled
astonishment. The others crowd up close. Even Scotty leaves his post to
take a look.) What is ut, Davis?
Looks funny, don't it? Somethin' square tied up in a rubber bag. Maybe
can't never tell.
it ain't got no works so it ain't no bomb, I'll bet.
They makes them all kinds, they do.
it up, Drisc.
now! (Driscoll takes a black rubber bag resembling a large tobacco
pouch from the box and unties the string which is wound tightly around the
top. He opens it and takes out a small packet of letters also tied up with
string. He turns these over in his hands and looks at the others
a broad grin) On'y letters! (slapping Davis on the back) Yuh're
a hell of a Sherlock Holmes, ain't yuh? Letters from his best girl too,
I'll bet. Let's turn the Duke loose, what d'yuh say? (He starts to get
him with a withering look) Don't be so damn smart, Jack. Letters, you
says, 's if there never was no harm in 'em. How d'you s'pose spies gets
their orders and sends back what they finds out if it ain't by letters and
such things? There's many a letter is worser'n any bomb.
They ain't as innercent as they looks, I'll take me oath, when you read
'em. (pointing at Smitty) Not 'is Lordship's letters; not be no
down again) Well, read 'em and find out. (Driscoll commences
untying the packet. There is a muffled groan of rage and protest from
There! Listen to him! Look at him tryin' to git loose! Ain't that proof
enough? He knows well we're findin' him out. Listen to me! Love letters,
you says, Jack, 's if they couldn't harm nothin'. Listen! I was readin' in
some magazine in New York on'y two weeks back how some German spy in Paris
was writin' love letters to some woman spy in Switzerland who sent 'em on
to Berlin, Germany. To read 'em you wouldn't s'pect nothin'—just
mush and all. (impressively) But they had a way o' doin' it—a
damn sneakin' way. They had a piece o' plain paper with pieces cut out of
it an' when they puts it on top o' the letter they sees on'y the words
what tells them what they wants to know. An' the Frenchies gets beat in a
fight all on account o' that letter.
Gawd blimey! They ain't 'arf smart bleeders!
his audience is again all with him) An' even if these letters of his
do sound all right they may have what they calls a code. You can't never
tell. (to Driscoll, who has finished untying the packet) Read one
of 'em, Drisc. My eyes is weak.
the first one out of its envelope and bends down to the lantern with it.
He turns up the wick to give him a better light.) I'm no hand to be
readin' but IT try ut. (Again there is a muffled groan from Smitty as
he strains at his bonds.)
Listen to him! He knows. Go ahead, Drisc!
brow furrowed with concentration) Ut begins: Dearest Man—
(His eyes travel down the page.) An' thin there's a lot av blarney
tellin' him how much she misses him now she's gone away to singin' school—an'
how she hopes he'll settle down to rale worrk an' not be skylarkin' around
now that she's away loike he used to before she met up wid him—and
ut ends: "I love you bather than anythin' in the worrld. You know
that, don't you, dear? But b'fore I can agree to live out my life wid you,
you must prove to me that the black shadow—I
won't menshun uts hateful name but you know what I mean—which
might wreck both our lives, does not exist for you. You can do that, can't
you, dear? Don't you see you must for my sake?" (He pauses for a
adds gruffly) Uts signed: "Edith." (At the sound of the
name Smitty, who has stood tensely with his eyes shut as if he were
undergoing torture during the reading, makes a muffled sound like a sob
and half turns his face to the wall.)
Hell! What's the use of readin' that stuff even if—
him sharply) Wait! Where's that letter from, Drisc?
no address on the top av ut.
What'd I tell you? Look at the postmark, Drisc,—on
name that's written is Sidney Davidson, wan hundred an'—
mind that. O' course it's a false name. Look at the postmark.
a furrin stamp on ut by the looks av ut. The mark's blurred so it's hard
to read. (He spells it out laboriously.) B-e-r—the
nixt is an l, I think—i—an'
Berlin! What did I tell you? I knew them letters was from Germany.
his fist in Smitty's direction) Rotten 'ound! (The others look at
Smitty as if this last fact had utterly condemned him in their eyes.)
me the letter, Drisc. Maybe I kin make somethin' out of it. (Driscoll
hands the letter to him.) You go through the others, Drisc, and sing
out if you sees anythin' queer. (He bends over the first letter as if
he were determined to figure out its secret meaning. Jack, Cocky and
Scotty look over his shoulder with eager curiosity. Driscoll takes out
some of the other letters, running his eyes quickly down the pages. He
looks curiously over at Smitty from time to time, and sighs frequently
with a puzzled frown.)
I gotter give it up. It's too deep for me, but we'll turn 'em over to the
perlice when we docks at Liverpool to look through. This one I got was
written a year before the war started, anyway. Find anythin' in yours,
all the same as the first—lovin'
blarney, an' how her singin' is doin', and the great things the Dutch
teacher says about her voice, an' how glad she is that her Sidney bye is
worrkin' harrd an' makin' a man av himself for her sake.
turns his face completely to the wall.)
If we on'y had the code!
up the bottom letter) Hullo! Here's wan addressed to this ship—s.
s. Glencairn, ut says—whin
we was in Cape Town sivin months ago—
(looking at the postmark) Ut's from London.
Read it! (There is another choking groan from Smitty.)
voice becomes lower and lower as he goes on) Ut begins wid simply the
name Sidney Davidson—no
dearest or sweetheart to this wan. "Ut is only from your chance
meetin' wid Harry—whin
you were drunk—that
I happen to know where to reach you. So you have run away
to sea loike the coward you are because you knew I had found out the truth—the
truth you have covered over with your mean little lies all the time I was
away in Berlin and blindly trusted you. Very well, you have chosen. You
have shown that your drunkenness means more to you than any love or faith
av mine. I am sorry—for
I loved you, Sidney Davidson—but
this is the end. I lave you—the
mem'ries; an' if ut is any satisfaction to you I lave you the real-i-zation
that you have wrecked my loife as you have wrecked your own. My one
remainin' hope is that nivir in God's worrld will I ivir see your face
again. Good-by. Edith." (As he finishes there is a deep silence,
broken only by Smitty's muffled sobbing. The men cannot look at each
other. Driscoll holds the rubber bag limply in his hand and some small
white object falls out of it and drops noiselessly on the floor.
Mechanically Driscoll leans over and picks it up, and looks at it
a dull voice) What's that?
A bit av a dried-up flower. (He drops it into the bag and gathers up
the letters and puts them back. He replaces the bag in the box, and locks
it and puts it back under Smitty's mattress. The others follow him with
their eyes. He steps softly over to Smitty and cuts the ropes about his
arms and ankles with his sheath knife, and unties the handkerchief over
the gag. Smitty does not turn around but covers his face with his hands
and leans his head against the wall. His shoulders continue to heave
spasmodically but he makes no further sound.)
back to the others—there
is a moment of silence, in which each man is in agony with the
hopelessness of finding a word he can say—then
Driscoll explodes) God stiffen us, are we never goin' to turn in fur a
wink av sleep? (They all start as if awakening from a bad dream and
gratefully crawl into their bunks, shoes and all, turning their faces to
the wall, and pulling their blankets up over their shoulders. Scotty
tiptoes past Smitty out into the darkness. Driscoll turns down the light
and crawls into his bunk as