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|The Lost Continent||Edgar Rice Burroughs|
|Page 7 of 11||
It was about six bells of the forenoon watch that Johnson returned to the bridge after an absence of some thirty minutes. He seemed nervous and ill at ease--a fact which made little impression on me at the time, but which both Alvarez and I recalled subsequently.
Not three minutes after his reappearance at my side the Coldwater suddenly commenced to lose headway. I seized the telephone at my elbow, pressing upon the button which would call the chief engineer to the instrument in the bowels of the ship, only to find him already at the receiver attempting to reach me.
"Numbers one, two, and five engines have broken down, sir," he called. "Shall we force the remaining three?"
"We can do nothing else," I bellowed into the transmitter.
"They won't stand the gaff, sir," he returned.
"Can you suggest a better plan?" I asked.
"No, sir," he replied.
"Then give them the gaff, lieutenant," I shouted back, and hung up the receiver.
For twenty minutes the Coldwater bucked the great seas with her three engines. I doubt if she advanced a foot; but it was enough to keep her nose in the wind, and, at least, we were not drifting toward thirty.
Johnson and Alvarez were at my side when, without warning, the bow swung swiftly around and the ship fell into the trough of the sea.
"The other three have gone," I said, and I happened to be looking at Johnson as I spoke. Was it the shadow of a satisfied smile that crossed his thin lips? I do not know; but at least he did not weep.
"You always have been curious, sir, about the great unknown beyond thirty," he said. "You are in a good way to have your curiosity satisfied." And then I could not mistake the slight sneer that curved his upper lip. There must have been a trace of disrespect in his tone or manner which escaped me, for Alvarez turned upon him like a flash.
"When Lieutenant Turck crosses thirty," he said, "we shall all cross with him, and God help the officer or the man who reproaches him!"
"I shall not be a party to high treason," snapped Johnson. "The regulations are explicit, and if the Coldwater crosses thirty it devolves upon you to place Lieutenant Turck under arrest and immediately exert every endeavor to bring the ship back into Pan-American waters."
"I shall not know," replied Alvarez, "that the Coldwater passes thirty; nor shall any other man aboard know it," and, with his words, he drew a revolver from his pocket, and before either I or Johnson could prevent it had put a bullet into every instrument upon the bridge, ruining them beyond repair.
And then he saluted me, and strode from the bridge, a martyr to loyalty and friendship, for, though no man might know that Lieutenant Jefferson Turck had taken his ship across thirty, every man aboard would know that the first officer had committed a crime that was punishable by both degradation and death. Johnson turned and eyed me narrowly.
"Shall I place him under arrest?" he asked.
"You shall not," I replied. "Nor shall anyone else."
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|The Lost Continent
Edgar Rice Burroughs
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