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TO-DAY'S SHORT STORY.] Wind…

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TO-DAY'S SHORT STORY.] Wind v. Steam. A TALE OF A UNIQUE OCEAN RACE. I Captain Gooseneck walked lightly across the narrow gangway, and turned to survey his ship. He tilted his cap over his left eye, and surveyed the trim craft with hardly con- cealed glee. He even whistled appreciatively. For this was his first command; and he was young, ambitious, the proud possessor of an extra-master's certificate, and "keen" with the keenness of the young sailor of to-day. His finger strayed to the back of his head and he stroked his hair ruminatively. He turned, and was about to re-&ard his ship when a loud hail came to him from a burly figure that was proceeding pompously along the quay. "Mornin', Cap'n," said the new arrival. "Morning to you, Captain Sleek," answered Gooseneck cheerily, but with a tinge of patronage in his accent. There was a long- standing feud between the two sailors as to the respective merits of wind and steam in I regard to motive power. Gooseneck, being young. and of the new school, was apt to state his opinions in words that rankled in the minds of his seniors, and there was a desire in the heart of the older man to humble the pride of this youngster, who con- sidered that the possession of the coveted "blue ribbon" entitled his remarks to respect. "Looking the old ark oyer" queried Sleek urbanely. "About time she was broken up, isn't it? Or sold to the Norwegians? Pity to waste good money on paint and canvas for such a disreputable wreck as all that. If I were a young man like you I'd see the owners further before I'd go to sea in a float- ing death-trap like that. Coming ashore?" Gooseneck surveyed his fellow seaman with a large contempt. If I were an old man, and had the experience that some people have had, I'd try to cultivate a greater breadth of mind than to cast slurs on a ship which I knew to be immeasurably superior to my own old steam-kettle. I'd 00 humble, and I'd recognise that the Ajax is only an apology for a ship—one of the kind that you buy a mile of, and put a bow and stern to, turning the result out as a steamer. But as I'm only a young man, I'll content myself with sayig that &he Andromeda could give the Ajax a mile in ten, and then walk home ahead of her." "Tell you what," said the older man, "I'n back my pay-day against yours that the Ajax geta home before you. I'm sailing to-morrow, too, and I'm open to a race. See if you've got pluck enough to back your boasts." Gooseneck thought for a while. "Done with you," he said briskly. "My pay-day against yours that I pick up the Gravesend pilot first." Shall we have a drink on it?" asked Sleek "That's the best way of settling things." "Teetotaler myself," was the response, "but I don't mind a small lemonade." Come aboard the Ajax, then. Don't sup- pose you'll have a drop of decent brandy aboard that old mill. If I remember right, those owners cut you down to the last biscuit." Gooseneck winced, for he knew that the remark was just. Over a friendly cigar the old captain thawed perceptibly. "Don't go in for it unless you like, you know," he remarked. "If you feel like back ing out, say so, and I'll call the bet off." This was galling. "I'll keep to my bargain if I have to tear the ohain-plates out of Tier," replied Goose- neck. "I'm going to show some of you old stagers that there's life in the younger generation. I'll tell the pilot boat to look out for you when we get to Dover." Thus the bargain was ratified, and the two men parted, each loud in his confidence in his own vessel's superior powers. A strong sou' wester blew in boisterous gust6 as the tow-boat cast the Andromeda's hawser off and bellowed a sonorous farewell. As stretch after stretch of towering canvas climbed the tapering masts, Captain Goose- neck laughed a cheery laugh to himself. When the good ship heeled over to the strong, II passionate kiss of the breeze, the laugh developed into a chuckle; and when, a few I moments later, a tiny ourl of spray hissed lightly over the brace-blocks, he whistled aloud. The Andromeda had got the best start she could wish for-a t'gallant breeze on the quarter. But the roar of a mighty siren came up the wind, and Gooseneck, looking backwards, saw the Ajax volleying forth smoke in his wake, overhauling him with every beat of her threshing propeller. Fresh canvas leaped up to the very trucks, shoets were flattened taut, and the race commenced in dead earnest. The sailing ship, however, was hopelessly outclassed at this initial stage of the contest, and before night fell down the steamer hissed up alongside, throwing such a wave from her forefoot as might mark the pro- gress of an ironclad. A figure on the steamer's bridge was seen to pick up a megaphone, and Ca.ptain Sleek's voice came beating against the drums of waiting ears. What he said was: "Andromeda ahoy! I'll give you a tow now, if you like. If you'd rather wait, I'll look out for you off Ushant. Only don't ask me to pick you up if you keep that press of canvas on. For answer. Gooseneck shook a threaten- ing fist; and the bo's'n of the Andromeda, seeing a figure that he knew leaning over the steamer's rail, picked up a piece of holy- stone and let fly with precision. The Ajax's bo's'n gave vent to a howl that put the siren to shame, and a regular fusillade of small coal answered the one chance shot. But pre- sently the steamer swung her stern round with an insolent lurch, her whistle echoed once more, and then her tail-light slowly crept ahead in the gathering gloom. When morning came, no sign of his rival gladdened the eyes of Captain Gooseneck. But he held on his way with a stern determination to refuse defea t. No matter that a tearful mate besought his captain to take off some of the lighter canvas, no matter that growling sailors swore loud, far-recaohing oaths at being brought out in the middle of the night to stand-by the halliards until a fiercer squall than usual was past—Gooseneck took such chances as would have driven a less cool man grey-headed. Cape Horn was reached and passed in a gale that was enough to "blow the whiskers off old Neptune"—to use the words of the sailmaker. But though the sea. was running mountains high, the captain disregarded the earnest protests of his officers, and swung the ship round on her northward way without even taking the trouble to get an offing from the menacing coastline. By a special providence he weathered that treacherous cape, and though the Andromeda all but laid her weary bones to rest on the shores of the Falklands, an opportune shift of wind enabled her to beat off at the last moment, and hasten on. At times, far head. like a faint, elusive will- o'the-wisp, a tiny curl of smoke would appear; and fixing his eyes on this sign of the enemy's presence, Gooseneck would swear that nothing should stand between himself and victory. Then, one day, the curl of smoke ahead grew in size. Soon it was possible to dis tinguish a funnel shooting up out of the heaving surface of the sea, and by the aid of powerful binoculars Gooseneck could make out the crossed keys—white on a black ground—that were the Ajax'e distinguishing marks. And the next day—oh! the happiness that filled Captain Gooseneck's heart—the steamer was broad on the beam. The captain could not resist the temptation, and as the sailing- vessel slowly forged ahead, he took the end of a rope and waved it mockingly to the angry figures on the Ajax's bridge. He was offering to tow thom home! But a flat calm took the Andromeda in the Doldrums, and Gooseneck had the chagrin ot seeing his rival steam leisurely past him, whilst he lay there helpless to resent. He sat idly on the taffrail, whistling for the breeze that would not come, and watching the steamer disappear beneath the northern horizon. He thought ruefully of that wagered pay-day; thought of many foolish words he had spoken-and forgot all when a strong gust swept up over the smooth water, tearing it into little wavelets that seemed to be laughing in glee. The Bay of Biscay welcomed the Ajax with such a gale as is rare even in that haunt of a tumultuous Boreas. For a matter of a dozen hours the steamer laboured heavily in the trough of the tremendous sea then running, and the engineers' faces grew grave and long. With a heavy quarter sea the modern "tramp" is a woeful object. She has no sails to steady her against the play of the sea; and she rolls in such sickening lurches that the heart flies to the mouth at every heave. The day that had been grey with storm was dwindling away into the misty twilight that heralded the night, when the chief engineer of the steamer made his way cautiously to the bridge, and there, buffeted by wind and spray, told the Captain that his engines would not be able to stand such battering for much longer. "The thrust-blocks are workin' awful loose," he cried-anything less than a howl would have been inaudible in the gale-" an' I doot the propeller's michty near to fallin' off. Anither dizen hoors like the&e last, an' we'll be seein* things, ye'll ken." "Will she hold out a few hours longer?" asked Sleek. "If you can patch her up a bit till then, we'll manage to weather this blow. The Andromeda will be logging four- teen knots in this wind, and she'll be over- hauling us as fast as if we were standing still. It isn't the pay-day I'm think about, Mac—it's the ship's name. Hang it all!" he burst out violently, Gooseneck said his old wind-jammer could sail round this craft!" The Scotsman's eyes flashed. "Did he say that? Weel, sirr, I'll drive the little ehippie all she'll go. I'll melt the bearin's and break the thrust-blocks awa' frae their moorin's before I'll hae a sailin'-ship body laugh at ma engines." And he went below to whfre the whirling masses of steel buzzed in agony. But at midnight something, with a crash like the crack of doom, seemed to collapse. The steamer gave a long, shuddering heave, and the engines whizzed round madly for one brief instant. Then a dull, unearthly stillness took the place of the row that had deafened every ear. Sleek stood on the bridge grasping the rails and peering through the storm with salt-blinded eyes. Startled from his abstraction by the sudden quietness, he turned for an explanation. A grimy figure wa? mounting the ladder. It was the chief engineer and Sleek clutched him by the shoulder. For the love of Heaven, Mac," he cried, what's gone wrong with the old coffee- mill?" The chief was as unmoved as chief engineer could be. She'd just twisted, the propeller aff hersel' he remarked calmly. She's torn a great piece oot, an' the water's runnin' in like a mill-race. I've got all the pumps workin' as hard as they'll gang, but the water's risin' fast, and it's nearly up tae the fires moo. Ye'll need to abandon the bit shippie, I doot." Sleek's face expressed every tsagic feeling that the human visage is oapable of showing. Surprise, chagrin, despair chased eaoh other over his features, and he wrung his hands. A light crept slowly up astern, flickering uncertainly, now dying away, now re-appear- ing as the ship that bore it rose to the top of a wave. It was green, and looked very small in all that vast waste of waters. In response to a hurried order a rocket soared aloft from the bridge of the Ajax. Another followed, then another. Still that tiny light held on its blinking way, and Captain Sleek lifted up his voice in anathema on the mis- guided wastrels who would let their fellows drown. "It's that Gooseneck. I'll wager," he said to the chief, as the two men watched the flicker dying away ahead. The coward's deserting us. H'm! I might have known better than to expect anything from a young- ster like th £ ±—all blow and gilt-edge. And a wind-jammer, too! Fancy a sailing-ship helping a steamer!" "Weel," responded Mae, "there's times when you've got tae sink yer pride, an' this is one o' them. For my adn part, I'd tak' help frae a Deal hobbler. But I doot ye're oot o' your reckonin' a bit if ye say he's des a.irtin ye. He's fceavin' to, or I'm a Dutchman." The engineer was right. The green light, that seemed to be so quickly disappearing, vanished utterly. Then, while men held their breath, a tiny red light blazed out in its place. An answering rocket shot high into the storm-filled sky, and, as it fell, Sleek made out a small object battling with the waves. Another rocket went up, and the object resolved itself into a boat. He may be a young man," said Sleek, handsomely, but he's got an old head on his shoulders. Now, no man but one who knew his job would have climbed up to wind- ward like that. There! he's filling once more. He's going to stand down to leeward to pick up his boat. And that's the man I sa-id I wouldn't stop to pick up, no matter what happened!" It is a matter of history now how the Andromeda saved the men of the Ajax. One sea rescue is so much like another that it is unnecessary to enter into detail; but every man from the steamer was saved. With a change of dTy clothing, and a steaming glass of something hot before him, Captain Sleek paid generous tribute to the nautioal skill of his rival. I'm blessed if I could have done it better myself," he said. I give up—you're beet man. Will you shake hands?" Gooseneck passed his hand over the table. Touching that little matter of a pay- day," began the elder man presently. Better keep that to buy yourself new duds," said Gooseneck.

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