Without further incident of note, the _Lycoming_ ran on down the
Atlantic coast, passed through the Florida Straits, and bore straight
across the Gulf to her destination. When she was safely docked and the
process of unloading well under way, the big mate one day mounted the
ladder to the wireless house.

“Good-morning, Roy,” he said. “How would you like to take a little trip
over to the oil fields? I have to go over there for the captain and I’d
be glad to take you along.”

“How far is it, and how long will it take?” inquired Roy.

“About sixty miles, I suppose. It will likely take us two hours to run

“Thank you,” said Roy. “I’ll be mighty glad to go. I have never seen an

They ferried across the bay to Port Bolivar and there took a train
for the oil fields. Soon Roy was very glad indeed that he had come.
Everything was different from what he was accustomed to at home. The
country was low and level. Nowhere was there an elevation that could be
called a hill. In the open spaces he could see for miles and miles over
the flat land. His view in this direction was almost as unlimited as it
was on the ocean. To Roy, accustomed as he was to hills and mountains,
this flat land seamed monotonous and uninteresting. In places he
saw herds of cattle on these open reaches, and cowboys galloping on
horseback. For a considerable stretch Roy and his comrade rode over the
bare, level prairie. Then they came to some bits of woodland.

“I never realized before,” said Roy, “how beautiful trees are. Look at
that fine grove over there.”

“Down here they call a grove like that a motte,” rejoined Roy’s
companion with a smile.

“A what?” ejaculated Roy in astonishment.

“A motte. It means a little grove of trees in a prairie.”

“Well, that’s a new one to me,” said Roy.

“You’ll run into lots more things that seem strange,” said the mate.
“You know you’re a long way from home. If you were in Europe, you’d be
in a foreign land at this distance from your home.”

“Well, I see something already that’s new. What ails the trees in that
‘motte’? They look as if somebody had hung veils or something on them.”

The first officer laughed. “You aren’t so far out of the way, Roy,” he
said, “only what you see is moss, and it was hung there by nature.”

“Moss!” exclaimed Roy. “Why, I never saw any moss like that. The stuff
must be a yard long.”

“Yes; and it’s moss. They call it Spanish moss, and sometimes it is
known as pirate’s beard. It often grows three feet long. In this part
of the world the trees are festooned with it. After a while we’ll take
a walk through a wood where it grows thick, and you’ll agree with me
that it is very beautiful.”

The train passed a number of ranch-houses, or rather a number were
visible at a distance. They were little, low structures, painted a
dazzling white. There was little or no shade about them, and it seemed
to Roy as though they must be unendurably hot, out there on the open
prairie with the blazing Texas sun beating down on them. Several of
these ranch-houses had curious, low trees near them that spread out
horizontally like enormous umbrellas. They caught Roy’s eye at once.

“What are those funny trees?” he demanded.

“Those are China-trees, Roy. They have quantities of colored berries
on them in the winter season, the juice of which is intoxicating.
Young robins often eat the berries and get drunk. Then they can be
knocked over with a stick, and, in consequence, many poor young robins
go into potpies down here. It is said that a robin that has once been
intoxicated by the berries will never touch them a second time, but I
don’t know how true it is.”

The railroad crossed several small streams. Along the course of each
were luxuriant growths of trees. Some of these were quite unfamiliar
to Roy. One species in particular caught his attention because of its
dark, glossy foliage.

“That is the live-oak,” explained Mr. Young. “It is really an
evergreen, although it has leaves like our deciduous trees.”

In about two hours the train drew near the oil fields. Mr. Young did
not have to tell Roy where they were, for Roy’s nose told him very
plainly. The air was redolent with crude oil.

“Phew!” cried Roy. “That’s pretty strong. I don’t believe I would like
to live in such a smell.”

“You’d soon get used to it,” replied the mate. “A person can get used
to anything, apparently, though I’ve sometimes wondered how anybody
could ever become accustomed to the smell of the factories where they
turn fish into oil and fertilizer. I was in one once near the Delaware

“If it smelled any worse than this,” laughed Roy, “I’m glad it’s near
the Delaware Breakwater. That’s quite close enough for me.”

When they got out of the train they walked toward the oil field. Roy
had seen pictures of the Pennsylvania oil fields, which were hardly
a hundred miles from his home. He expected to see a derrick here and
a derrick there, and so he was utterly amazed at what he now beheld.
Oil-derricks rose before him in dense masses. From a distance it seemed
to Roy that they were as close together as trees in a forest. There
were hundreds and hundreds of them. Instead of being spread out all
over the region they were crowded together. Mr. Young explained that
this was because the oil pocket was in that particular neighborhood. As
they drew nearer, they could see the pumps at work, the walking-beams
going rhythmically up and down.

But what amazed Roy perhaps even more than the mass of derricks
were the colonies of tanks to hold the oil. In every direction were
clusters of tanks. These were great, circular structures of steel,
each holding 30,000 gallons or more. Roy noticed that each group of
tanks was laid out with mathematical precision, like checkers standing
at even distances from one another on a checker-board. The idea was
emphasized by the fact that each tank had a dike or low wall of earth
thrown up about it in the form of a great square, like the lines in the
checker-board. Roy asked why the dikes were there.

“Sometimes an oil-tank catches fire,” said Mr. Young, “and the burning
oil gets out. If there is a dike about a tank the burning oil can’t
reach the tanks next to it and set them on fire.”

“It’s a good idea,” commented Roy.

“If ever you see a tank afire, you’ll think so,” said Mr. Young.
“Sometimes a tank explodes and showers burning oil all about. A tank
will burn for days, and the entire field is endangered as long as the
blaze lasts. Everything about an oil field is soaked with oil, you will
notice, and if a fire spreads, it may sweep over the entire field. That
has happened more than once. Whenever a tank gets afire, they begin at
once to pump the oil out of the tanks around it.”

Presently Roy caught sight of a great string of tank-cars. “Jiminy
crickets!” he exclaimed. “I didn’t know there were so many oil cars in
the country. Why, there must be hundreds of them.”

“I suppose there are,” answered Mr. Young. “Do you see those racks
running along the tracks just beside the cars? Those are huge oil
pipes. They connect with oil-tanks somewhere. When a train is to be
filled, a connecting pipe is run out to each tank-car and the pumps are
started. They can load a hundred cars as easily as one.”

Presently a man on a buckboard dashed toward them, crying, “Here’s your
hot tamales. Just fresh out of the kettle.”

“Have you eaten a hot tamale, Roy?” asked Mr. Young.

“No,” said Roy. “I didn’t know they were things you ate. I thought that
was just a slang term.”

Mr. Young laughed and said, “We’ll try some. Then you’ll know what that
bit of slang means.”

He motioned to the vender, who raced over to them and pulled his horses
up short. They were bronchos and interested Roy. They were small but
apparently tough and wiry. Mr. Young bought two tamales and handed one
to Roy. The latter looked at it quizzically. He didn’t know whether
he was the victim of a joke or not; for what Mr. Young had given him
was a piece of a corn-husk. It was piping hot, and was wrapped around
something soft.

“Open it,” said Mr. Young.

Roy carefully unrolled the husk. Within was the steaming tamale. It was
a little cake of meal and minced meat, cooked in the husk. Roy took a
bite. There were tears in his eyes before he got it down.

“Great Cæsar!” he cried, “what’s in that?”

“Corn-meal, minced meat, cayenne pepper, and perhaps some other
things,” said Mr. Young.

“Principally pepper, I think,” said Roy, sucking in fresh air to cool
his burning mouth. Then, after a moment, he laughed. “I certainly do
know what that slang term means,” he said. “Whoever invented that dish,

“The Mexicans,” said Mr. Young. “There are a lot more Mexican dishes
you may want to try while you’re down here–enchiladas and chili con
carne, for instance.”

“Not for mine,” said Roy ruefully. “At least not if they are anything
like hot tamales.”

“They are,” laughed the first officer, “only more so. That’s one thing
I never could understand–why people in a country as hot as Mexico
should want to eat food as hot and greasy as the Mexicans like it, for
they use about as much lard as they do pepper.”

“I’m glad I’m not a Mexican,” laughed Roy.

They walked through the oil field to the headquarters of a drilling
company. Mr. Young transacted the business on which he had come. Roy,
meantime, wandered about, watching operations. He was particularly
interested in the digging of a great, round hollow near by. Hundreds of
men were at work in it, and scores of mules. With scrapers the men were
hollowing out a great circle and dragging the scooped-out earth up in a
mound that ran around it.

“What are they doing?” asked Roy when Mr. Young rejoined him.

“Building an earthen tank for oil,” replied the mate. “They will lay
planks to form the circular wall and back that up with the earth in the
mound. The roof will be of boards. The tank will hold several hundred
gallons and will be pretty much under ground. It’s a cheap way to build
a reservoir and it makes a pretty safe receptacle. Now we’ll go look at
that bit of woods I mentioned.”

They left the oil field and walked toward a woodland that was visible
at some distance. It proved to be extensive and lay along a little
stream of water. Roy was instantly attracted by the wonderful growths
of pirate’s beard. It was everywhere. In great festoons it hung from
the trees, giving the woods a misty, hazy look. Roy got hold of some
and examined it. The moss was like coarse, gray-green fibres more or
less loosely grown together. It reminded him of an old man’s beard and
he thought it was well named.

He admired the live-oaks with their picturesque growth and beautiful
leaves, so green and glossy. Here and there great bunches of mistletoe
with its yellow-green stems and leaves caught his eye. But what pleased
Roy most were the beautiful holly-trees. There were none in his part of
the country, but he had seen holly branches in the stores at Christmas
time and he instantly knew what they were. There were no red berries
on the trees at this season, but they were beautiful even without
the berries, with their smooth, gray trunks that reminded Roy of the
beeches in his own neighborhood, and the glossy, dark green leaves,
with their prickly edges. There were many other strange and interesting
growths, and Roy went back to the train feeling that he had been richly
repaid for his journey.

The return trip was made without incident and in due time Roy and his
friend found themselves back on the _Lycoming_. Captain Lansford nodded
to them as they came aboard and inquired pleasantly if Roy had enjoyed
the trip. Roy answered briefly, then went to the wireless house. His
heart was beating high. The captain had never said one word to him
concerning the fog and the part Roy had played in helping to prevent a
collision, but ever since that event he had seemed different to Roy.
His greeting now made Roy feel that perhaps at last he was making some
headway in his struggle to win the captain’s good-will. At any rate, he
felt sure that the captain no longer disliked him.

But Roy was soon to find that the captain’s favor, like success, could
be gained by no royal road. It was true that the captain’s feeling
toward Roy was perhaps altered somewhat, but not nearly so much as Roy
either hoped or at first believed. The captain treated him less coldly
than before, but there was nothing like cordiality in his manner toward
Roy. Distinctly the captain’s attitude was like that of the man from
Missouri. He still wanted to be shown.

It was a long time before Roy grasped the idea that the captain was
still skeptical concerning the desirability of wireless. But as time
and distance from the _Merrimack_ incident gave him a saner view of
the affair, he came to understand the captain’s point of view. That
was that though Roy had possibly been helpful in averting a collision,
it did not by any means follow that if Roy had not been aboard a
collision would have occurred. The men on the bridge plainly heard the
_Merrimack’s_ whistle. They knew she was near and coming closer. They
were straining every nerve and sense to prevent an accident. All that
Roy had told them that they did not already know was the fact that the
_Merrimack_ was within two thousand feet. And they might have guessed
even that. When Roy, after much deliberation, had reasoned this out
for himself, he saw his own part in a new light. It seemed to him now
very commonplace and inconsequential. Perhaps he now erred as much
in this new opinion as previously he had erred in overestimating his

But at any rate his new point of view helped him. More and more, as he
saw new crises arising, now over delays in loading, now over breaks
in machinery or equipment, now through storms or other superhuman
causes, and saw the captain rise superior to one after another of
these obstacles, he got his true bearings. He understood what a really
insignificant place he occupied. For thirty years the captain had
wrestled, and wrestled triumphantly, with every form of obstacle known
to the mariner, while he, Roy, had sailed the seas hardly more than
thirty days and knew nothing of the thousand difficulties of navigation.

It was fortunate indeed for Roy that he could thus come to understand
his true situation. It prevented him, on the one hand, from becoming
conceited, and so ruining his chances of ever getting ahead; and,
on the other hand, it kept him from growing sullen and becoming
indifferent in his work. And while it could hardly have been called
encouraging, it was far from being discouraging. For Roy’s entire
experience of life made him believe firmly that if he worked hard
enough and used his brains along with his hands, nothing could keep
him from succeeding. The net result of all his cogitations, therefore,
was to make him grit his teeth the tighter and vow in his heart that
nothing should prevent him from winning out. He would do perfectly
every task that could possibly be required of him.

Week after week went by with no noticeable alteration in the captain’s
attitude toward Roy. The captain spoke to him politely but without
cordiality. He never came to the wireless house and he never invited
Roy to the bridge, or the wheel-house, or his own cabin. He sent no
messages other than those required by his work. He never asked for
weather-reports or storm warnings, or the nightly news-letter, though
Roy unfailingly laid these before the captain. But whether the latter
welcomed them or took any interest in them Roy could not discover.

All the while Roy continued to pick up useful information. He got
acquainted with every member of the crew. He learned exactly how a ship
is coaled and how the coal is stored in the bunkers. Often he visited
the fire-room and the water-tenders explained to him exactly how fires
should be handled. He watched the crew load and unload the ship and
soon found that if the cargo was to be stowed in such a manner that it
would not shift in a storm and endanger the ship, it must be packed
with fine skill. Harder than ever he tried to make himself agreeable to
the passengers, for he bore ever in mind the fact that it was his duty
to get as much business for the company as he could.

Meantime, Roy matured rapidly. All his pleasing frankness and his jolly
good nature he retained. More and more he grew dependable. Before
many weeks passed everybody aboard the _Lycoming_, from the captain
down, understood that if Roy said he would do a thing or if he were
ordered to do a thing, that thing would be done, and done promptly
and well. Roy hardly realized what a reputation he had gained. And
even if he had, it is hardly likely that he would have appreciated
the full importance of such a reputation. Though he knew in his heart
that any real success must be based on just such a reputation for
trustworthiness, he was constantly on the lookout for an opportunity
to prove his merit in ways more striking. The opportunity came to Roy
far sooner than he ever believed it would and in a way it would have
terrified him to contemplate, could he have foreseen all that lay
before him.

Early September found Roy on his last voyage aboard the _Lycoming_.
At least he believed it to be his last. The three months’ period
during which a possible successor was being prepared for his position
was almost at an end. The captain had given no indication that he
thought more highly of Roy or that he desired him to continue at his
post. Neither had he ever mentioned, after their first interview, the
probability of a successor for Roy. But Roy understood that he would
not. The new man would simply come aboard and Roy would be told to
report to the Marconi office. What would happen to him then he did not
know. He hated to think of the day when this would happen, for it might
mean the end of his career as a Marconi operator. More than that, it
would certainly mean an end to his relations with the purser and the
first mate and all the other friends who had been so good to him on the
_Lycoming_, and of whom he had become so fond. So it was with a rather
heavy heart that he put to sea early in September on what he believed
would be his very last trip aboard the _Lycoming_. It was hard to keep
a stiff upper lip and to continue smiling. But Roy took a grip on
himself and made the effort.

Apparently the journey was to be as uneventful as the last few trips
had been. Two days passed without incident. Then the barometer began to
fall. Roy did not know that, but he had grown sufficiently weather-wise
to know that a storm was brewing. At first he thought little of it. The
captain’s face, as usual, was inscrutable, but Mr. Young looked sober.
When Roy noticed that he began to feel concerned. Then he remembered
that it was the ninth of September–the very period of the year when
the worst storms visit the Gulf.

The _Lycoming_ was already far down the Florida coast. The Bahama
Islands were just ahead. The passage between Palm Beach and the Great
Bahama Island was hardly sixty miles wide–a mere nothing in a storm,
should anything go wrong. Only a few hours distant were the Florida
Straits, with their treacherous currents and their far-flung string
of keys, like a chain to catch the unwary mariner, with Key West like
a pendant at the end of the chain, and the Dry Tortugas still farther
west. Perilous indeed would be the position of any ship overtaken
thereabout by a hurricane.

Roy inspected his apparatus, made sure his telephone was in working
order, and got ready for an emergency. Late in the day Roy went on
the bridge to talk to Mr. Young, who was in command. Already there
were signs of the coming storm. The wind was soughing ominously and
rising steadily. The sea was beginning to heave. The _Lycoming_ rolled
unsteadily. Roy thanked his lucky stars that he had gotten his sea-legs
and could stand rough weather without being seasick. He might be needed
and he wanted to be fit if he were.

“What do you think of it?” asked Roy.

“Looks bad to me,” said the first officer. “The barometer is falling
fast. Something is sure to come out of it. And now’s just the time
of year when the worst storms hit the Gulf. If we can get past the
Dry Tortugas before it strikes us, we’ll be all right. We’ll have the
entire Gulf before us then.”

“What does the captain think of it?” inquired Roy.

“He never says much about what he thinks,” replied the big mate, “but
he’s had his eye on the barometer all the forenoon, and he’s asleep
now, so it’s evident what he thinks.”

“You mean he thinks there’s nothing to worry about?”

“I mean just the contrary. If we do have a bad storm, the captain will
be out here on the bridge until it’s over or until he can’t stand any
longer, and he’s resting up.”

Roy returned to the wireless house, feeling vaguely uneasy.

Palm Beach was passed early in the afternoon. Roy saw that even at
her best speed the _Lycoming_ could hardly reach the Straits before
midnight, and it would be close to ten hours more before they were
safely past the Dry Tortugas. Twenty hours must elapse before they were
through the danger zone and had the wide Gulf before them. He hoped
that the storm would hold off that length of time.

Sunset saw little change in the weather. Wind and wave were far from
boisterous. The thing that troubled the first officer was the way
in which the barometer still fell steadily. Late in the day he gave
an order to make everything fast. Roy, chancing to come out of the
wireless house, saw sailors below battening down hatches, lashing every
movable object fast, and otherwise making things tight. He had never
seen that done before. At supper Roy noticed that the waiters were
serious and preoccupied. Somehow a distinct air of apprehension seemed
to be abroad. And yet there was nothing to be alarmed at excepting the
steady fall of the barometer.

Roy went directly from the supper table to his instrument and began
searching the seas for ships. The atmosphere played all sorts of tricks
with his wireless. One minute he could hear nothing and the next he
would catch part of a message from New York. He got into touch with
the Mallory liner _Comal_. She was anchored at Key West. He heard the
steamer _Valbanera_ and talked with her. She was off Havana. A terrible
storm was raging there and the ship’s master was afraid to try to enter
the harbor. So he had put to sea again. Once Roy heard a message sent
by the _Empress_ to some other ship. The _Empress_ had left Havana for
Galveston, a new schedule having gone into effect.

“The captain will see his brother this voyage,” thought Roy. “It will
be a happy trip for him.”

He tried to reach the _Empress_, but call as he would, he could get no
response. He talked with a number of shore stations, but there seemed
to be nothing out of the ordinary to report. The sea was not very rough
and the chances of getting nicely through the Straits seemed good. Yet
Roy could not help feeling apprehensive and depressed. He knew the
Gulf was in a tumult off Havana. Could he have seen the barometer and
the sober face of Captain Lansford, who had now taken command, he would
have known there was good cause to feel apprehensive.

Just when the storm struck the _Lycoming_, Roy never knew. Hour after
hour he stuck to the wireless house, now listening in, now calling,
calling for ships he knew ought to be within call, but which he could
not reach. So intent was Roy upon his work that he did not hear the
rising wind or notice the increasing violence of the waves, until
suddenly the _Lycoming_ staggered and heeled far over. The sudden lurch
almost threw Roy out of his chair.

He pulled off his receivers and was instantly aware that the wind
was shrieking about the wireless house with terrific force. The
windows rattled, the door creaked under its pressure, and the entire
superstructure of the ship seemed to shiver. He could hear the groaning
of masts and derricks, of life-boats and rafts lashed to the deck, of a
hundred objects here and there. He thanked providence the mate had had
things made fast. The roll of the rain on the roof was like thunder.
When Roy rose to his feet he found he could not stand without holding
to something. At once he knew he had never been in such a storm as
this. But it was not until he opened the door of the wireless house
that he understood how violent the storm really was. The instant he
turned the latch the door flew inward, striking him with great force.
The wind rushed in with a deafening shriek and almost flung him on
the floor. The rain beat in in torrents. The roar of the elements
was beyond description. It was a deafening welter of sound. Like
demons howling in agony the winds roared and shrieked. The rain beat
a terrific monotone on deck and roof. The crests of the waves broke
before the wind with a hissing roar like the thunder of a thousand
Niagaras. The rigging rattled. Woodwork everywhere creaked and groaned.
Stays and guy lines beat a very devil’s tattoo under the awful blasts.
All about him, papers, despatches, records, clothes, were whirling like
dust before a swirling wind. With all his might Roy strove to shut the
door. He was not able to do it. Then an awful lurch of the ship flung
the door violently shut and threw Roy against the opposite wall. His
chair flew across the room with a crash. The remainder of the furniture
was fastened to the floor.

Roy picked himself up, righted his chair, and attempted to collect
the articles scattered by the wind. Now he realized how the sea had
risen. Down, down, down, the ship seemed to go. It lifted as suddenly,
sending Roy staggering against the wall. Now it lurched this way, now
that. Never had he supposed a great ship could be pitched about as the
_Lycoming_ now was. Far to one side it tilted. As suddenly it shot far
to the other side. Then it pitched forward. Now it seemed as though it
was trying to stand on its stern. Suddenly it dipped sidewise, falling,
falling, until Roy cried out in very fear. He was sure the ship was
turning over. Nor was his the only heart that stood still with terror.
White-faced the man in the pilot-house clung to his wheel.

“Great God!” he muttered. “A sixty-degree roll,” and waited breathless,
like Roy, for the ship to right itself.

Down in the stewards’ quarters the negroes were gathered together with
blanched faces, some praying, some moaning. Amid all this welter of
wind and wave, Captain Lansford stood on the bridge, holding to the
rail like grim death, the rain falling on his oilskins in torrents, the
blasts tearing at his garments, as he peered through the blinding spray
and listened to the tumult of the tempest, unmoved, immovable, a man of
iron with a heart of steel, grappling with a tempest.

It was the thought of the captain that brought courage back to Roy. As
the _Lycoming_ hung for what seemed an age at that terrifying angle,
Roy lost his grip on himself. For perhaps the first time in his life,
he felt physical terror. An awful fear gripped his soul. His heart
actually stopped beating. The blood rushed from his cheeks till they
were like chalk. He seemed paralyzed. He could not even cry out. He
was completely unmanned. Death was so near at hand and the thought
of it came so suddenly that it overpowered him. Then Roy thought of
the captain. He knew he was out on the bridge. He knew he was facing
the awful wind, the driving rain, the blinding spray, the danger of
being washed overboard, and that there he would stand, hour after hour
defying death and the elements to bring the _Lycoming_ safe to port.

“Thank God for Captain Lansford!” cried Roy. “He’ll win through. He’ll
bring us safe to port. He’s never failed yet. He won’t fail now. Thank
God, Captain Lansford is in command.”

The color flew back into Roy’s cheeks. His heart began to pound
bravely. His pulses beat with courage.

“We’ve got to help him, every one of us!” he cried aloud. “What can I
do? What can I do?”

A still, small voice answered, “Your duty.”

“My duty,” said Roy aloud, “is right at that instrument. That’s my post
as long as this storm lasts.”

He shoved his chair across the room, sat down at his desk, and clamped
the receivers to his ears. He was just in time to catch a message.
The United States Weather Bureau at New Orleans, seven hundred miles
away, was sending out a storm warning to Louisiana coast towns and
other places along the Gulf which the hurricane had not yet reached.
“Tropical disturbance in southeastern Gulf moving northwest will cause
increasing northeast winds.”

According to rule, Roy jotted down the time the message was received.
It was just ten o’clock.

“I wonder if I should give this to the captain,” said Roy, with a grin.
“He might like to know there’s going to be a storm.”

Then his face became sober enough and he settled to work. For long
periods he listened for voices in the storm. Again and again he flashed
out messages to ships that he thought should be near, but he could
reach nobody. After a time he got an answer from the _Comal_, with
which he had talked before. She was still fast to her moorings in Key
West, but in imminent danger of being torn away. Even as Roy talked to
her it happened.

“We’re loose,” flashed her operator to Roy, “and blowing ashore. I’ve
got to stand by to send messages for the skipper. Good-bye. Good luck
to you.”

There were tears in Roy’s eyes as he jotted down the message. “Wishing
us good luck while he’s going perhaps to his death,” muttered Roy.
“He’s a man–as every wireless operator ought to be.” And while he
listened for other signals, he sent up a silent prayer that when the
pinch came he would be equally brave.

Meantime the ship staggered on. With the stars blotted out, with the
seas mounting higher and higher, with the wind blowing at hurricane
force, it was impossible to tell what speed the ship was making,
whether she was being blown far from her course, or where she was. Yet
the captain must decide all these things and decide them right, if the
_Lycoming_ was to come through the storm in safety. The most hazardous
part of her journey still lay ahead of her. It would be doubly
hazardous now because the wind would be abeam when she turned west to
pass through the Straits.

In the early hours of the morning the motion of the ship seemed to
alter. For Roy, on the very top of the vessel, every movement was
intensified. At once he was conscious of this altered motion. Before,
her movements had been mostly violent forward plunges. Now she rolled
fearfully from side to side. First she rolled far over to port. Then
she dipped at a terrifying angle to starboard. Roy could not understand
it. After a time it came to him that the ship was wallowing in the
trough of the waves. Had something gone wrong? Had the steering-gear
broken? Was the ship out of control and drifting toward land, even as
the _Comal_ had done? These and a hundred other questions Roy asked
himself as he sat breathless at his operating table. Should he call
the bridge to see if the captain wanted the SOS sounded? Small chance
they would have of getting help in such a storm, Roy told himself, when
it was all any ship could do to keep herself afloat, let alone help
another. All the while Roy was conscious of the regular vibration of
the ship’s engines. Presently it occurred to him that if the ship were
unmanageable the engines would probably be stopped. Then he knew what
was wrong. The ship had turned west. They were in the Straits. The
waves were catching the _Lycoming_ abeam. The pinch had come. Could the
_Lycoming_ survive it?

Hardly had Roy asked himself the question before there was an awful
roar. With a noise like a thousand thunders a mighty sea struck the
_Lycoming_ broadside and poured over her decks. It was the first sea
that had come aboard. By intuition Roy knew what had happened. His
thoughts reverted to the day when he had expressed surprise, almost
incredulity, at the purser’s statement that waves sometimes swept the
deck. Thirty feet, the purser had said the waves sometimes rose. He
wondered how high this one was. He knew it was a monster. He wondered
what the sea looked like with waves like that. He wished it were day
so he could see. Then he was glad it was not day. He was afraid he
would be afraid. Whatever happened, he did not want to be a coward. The
thought of the captain on the bridge heartened him. It was wonderful
how the bare thought of that fearless man restored Roy’s courage.

On and on plunged the _Lycoming_, ploughing through cross-seas,
wallowing between mighty waves, fighting her way through a welter of
water such as Roy had never dreamed of. Hour by hour, the force of
the wind increased. The seas mounted higher. The ship labored more
heavily. Time and again great waves swept over her. Her bulwarks were
smashed. Railings and woodwork were torn away. Iron stanchions were
bent like wire. The bridge was battered. The waters clawed at her hull
and the winds tore at her superstructure. But unflinching, unyielding,
undaunted, gripping the rail with grasp of iron, the captain stood on
the bridge, master of wave and wind.

Never had Roy welcomed daylight as he welcomed the dawn next morning.
All night long he had sat at his instrument, waiting, waiting, waiting
for the moment when he might be needed. A hundred times he had pictured
the sea to himself; but his wildest picture was tame in comparison with
the actual scene as revealed by the light of dawn. The confusion of
the waters was beyond conception. Mountain high the seas were piling
up. Under the awful blasts of wind they rushed forward like frenzied
demons, frothing, seething, hissing, roaring, climbing up and up until
the hurricane tore their tops away, flinging the spray like tropic rain
in blinding sheets. Again and again Roy watched with bated breath as a
monster wave bore down on the ship, rising higher and higher, until it
plunged forward on the _Lycoming_ with a crash, shaking the sturdy ship
from stem to stern. The roar of the elements was deafening. Beyond all
power of imagination, the tempest was awful.

Hour by hour the stanch vessel fought her way through the maelstrom.
The wind tended ever to blow her toward the keys and shoals that
menaced on the north, but the man on the bridge kept pointing her into
the wind. No land was visible. Neither was the sun. It was impossible
to take a reckoning and determine the ship’s position. Yet with that
instinct born of years of experience, the captain allowed for the
drift, gauged the ship’s speed, and kept her on her course. Noon should
normally have seen her far past the Dry Tortugas. It was hours later
when the _Lycoming_ actually reached them. For a few minutes the rain
ceased and the air cleared. Again and again the man on the bridge
swept the horizon with his glasses. Finally he glimpsed land. That one
glance told him all he wanted to know. He had seen a landmark on the
Dry Tortugas. He knew he was only slightly off his course. At once he
rectified his position. The wide Gulf was now before him and, barring
accident, he knew he should come through safely. But he was traveling
with the hurricane. He did not run through it, but advanced with it. So
the storm continued hour after hour without abatement.

Late in the day, Roy sought food. If he had thought the storm terrible,
within the shelter of the wireless house, he had no words to describe
it now as he stood in the open, exposed to the elements. Clutching
the rail with all his strength, bending low before the gale, Roy
advanced foot by foot. He was almost afraid to go down the ladder lest
he be pitched headlong into the hissing seas. A step at a time he
descended, hugging the ladder tenaciously. Then, crouching close to the
superstructure of the ship, he fought his way against an awful wind
until he reached a door. In another second he was inside, trembling all
over from the violence of his efforts and his close contact with the
storm. When he remembered that for twenty hours the captain had stood
on the bridge, facing that awful wind and those crashing seas, he was
speechless with admiration. It was more than admiration. It was almost
worship. A burning desire came into his heart to do something in return
for the captain.

Roy got some food and the steward provided him with a little bag of
provisions so that he need not leave the wireless house again until the
storm was over. Then Roy crept back up the ladder and flung himself on
his bed.

He slept for hours. During that time the ship staggered on. All day and
all night the hurricane raged, and all the next day and the next night.
For forty-eight hours Captain Lansford never left the bridge. Then,
utterly exhausted, he staggered to his cabin and dropped asleep, while
Mr. Young took command. For twenty-four hours the captain lay like one
dead. Then he returned to the bridge and again took command. During
all that time the storm continued without abatement. The seas climbed
higher every hour under the terrific lashing of the tempest.

Roy spent long hours at his post. Indeed, he hardly laid aside his
receivers except when he snatched a little sleep. He got into touch
with the _Comal_ again and learned that she had been beached by the
wind, but that no one was hurt. The British oil tanker _Tonawanda_
had been scuttled to save the _Comal_. The steamer _Grampus_ and the
schooner _E. V. Drew_ had gone down in the harbor, while Key West
itself was prostrated. Three hundred and twenty houses, together with
stores, churches, and other buildings had been demolished. The wind
had reached a velocity of 110 miles an hour. From other stations Roy
learned of other damage. The town of Gould was virtually razed. The
wireless station at Fort Taylor was wrecked. Towns all along the
eastern Gulf shore were badly damaged by the awful wind. When Roy
learned that the _Valbanera_ had gone down with all on board, his
face was very sober indeed. But for Captain Lansford, thought Roy, the
_Lycoming_, too, might now be somewhere on the bottom of the Gulf.

Another day passed. The hurricane blew with undiminished force. With
every hour of wind the seas grew higher. But the _Lycoming_ weathered
both wind and wave. She was drawing near her destination. Her harbor
was not many hours distant. But could she make it? Would she dare try
to run between those walls of stone in such a sea? Would she not have
to put back into the open Gulf, like the _Valbanera_, and try to ride
out the storm? These and a hundred other questions Roy asked himself
when he realized that the _Lycoming_ was drawing near to Galveston.
Then he thought of the sea-wall and felt thankful it was there. If the
_Lycoming_ had withstood the tempest, he felt sure the sea-wall had,
too. He shuddered to think what would have happened had there been no

All the time Roy was working with his instruments, trying to pick up
news, listening for voices in the air. Again and again he had tried to
get into touch with Galveston, but in vain. It was not until the middle
of the afternoon that he finally reached the Marconi man there. It was
late Saturday afternoon. The Galveston operator said the storm was then
at its worst. The sea was beating furiously at the sea-wall. The wind
was blowing nearly seventy miles an hour. The barometer was way below
thirty. But the city was safe. He did not believe it would be wise to
attempt to enter the harbor with such a sea running.

“Another night of it,” groaned Roy to himself, as the Galveston man
flashed good-bye. “I hope I never see another storm like this. I’ll
have to give this news to the captain.”

Roy laid aside his receivers and picked up his telephone. His signal
was answered by the captain.

“Galveston man says storm at its height there now,” telephoned Roy.
“Does not think it safe to try to enter harbor. Seventy-mile wind

There was no reply. The captain had turned away from the telephone in
anger. He was the judge of whether to enter the harbor or not, and not
some landlubber sitting where he couldn’t even see the water.

Roy adjusted his receivers again. Hardly were they in place before a
sound crackled in his ears, “SOS–SOS–SOS.”

It galvanized Roy into action. The blood surged through his heart.
With eager, trembling fingers he flung back a reply.

“Who are you? I have your signal of distress.”

For what seemed an age he waited for an answer. Outside, the wind was
howling like a pack of demons. The wireless house shook and trembled
under its awful blasts. The ship plunged from side to side. Roy clung
to his table as he sat, tense and rigid, waiting for a reply.

“Who are you?” he flashed again. “I have your signal of distress.”

Again he waited. Would the wireless play him false at such a critical
minute? Were the atmospherics to trick him again?

Then it came. “Steamer _Empress_, Rudder broken. Drifting helpless.”

“Where are you?” flashed back Roy. “What is your latitude and

Crash! Bang! A terrible sea swept over the _Lycoming_. She heeled far
over. Something had given way. Something was wrong with his wireless.
Trembling, Roy ran to his door and peered out. His aerial was gone. It
might take hours perhaps to rig a new one, even if he could get it up
in the gale. What should he do? He _must_ get the _Empress’_ reply. Roy
leaped to the deck. The broken lead-in wire was whipping in the wind.
Quick as thought, he snatched it up and ran back into the wireless
house with it. He scraped the insulation from the broken end and dived
under his couch. In a second he had attached the end of the wire to the
couch spring. In another he was back at his table, receivers clamped to
his head. Tense, breathless, rigid, he listened. Would it work? Could
he hear?

Then it came. “Latitude 28. Longitude 96.”

That was all he needed. Throwing his receivers aside, Roy picked up
his telephone. Again he signaled the bridge. There was no response.
He signaled sharply. No answer came. Again and again Roy tried to get
the captain. The telephone was silent. Either it had been broken or
the captain had been washed away by the awful sea that had struck the
ship. In either case there was nothing to do but take the message to
the bridge himself. Roy leaped to his feet and ran out of the wireless
house, utterly forgetful of wind and wave. Slipping, scrambling,
clutching rails and stanchions, Roy fought his way forward. There was
but one thought in his mind–to get the news to the captain. The latter
was still at his post, though the bridge rail was partly gone and the
wheel-house was stove in. The telephone apparatus was smashed beyond
recognition. Putting his mouth to the captain’s ear, Roy shouted,
“Steamer _Empress_ drifting with broken rudder. Latitude 28; longitude

The captain looked at him incredulously.

“She left Havana before her usual time,” shouted Roy. “New schedule.”

For a single instant Captain Lansford bent his piercing eyes on Roy.
“Stand by to send a message,” he roared. Then he sprang for the chart