Poor Roy! No matter how hard he tried, it seemed, the captain would
still be dissatisfied with him. To Roy the captain’s harsh remark
seemed the very essence of injustice. He did not desire praise. He
neither expected nor wished any special consideration. But he did
desire just recognition of his services. If the captain was truthful
in telling Mr. Adams that the capture of the thieves had saved him,
Captain Lansford, from trouble, then, it seemed to Roy, the captain
should have thanked him instead of reprimanding him. Bitter, indeed,
were Roy’s thoughts.
Again it was the kind-hearted purser who helped Roy in his difficulty.
Like everybody else on board, Mr. Robbins was aroused by the hubbub. He
threw on some clothes and hurried to the deck to see what was wrong.
There he speedily learned about the capture of the thieves; and Sam,
the steward, told him of Roy’s part in the affair and what the captain
had said to Roy.
The purser waited to hear no more. In another minute he was in the
wireless house. “I hear you have done a fine piece of work, Roy,” he
said. “I congratulate you. Everybody is talking about it.”
There was no joy in the face Roy turned to his friend. “Everybody but
the captain, perhaps,” he sighed. “He gave me thunder again. Is there
_anything_ that would satisfy him? I’ve worked my head nearly off on
this trip and he will barely speak to me. Now I have helped prevent a
theft and if what the captain says is true, I have helped keep him out
of difficulty. And what do I get for it? A reprimand before the entire
“How’s that?” demanded the purser, as though it were news to him. “Tell
me what happened.”
After Roy had related the entire incident in detail, the purser said
sympathetically, “That does seem rough. But perhaps you don’t fully
understand the captain’s position, Roy. You see, he’s responsible for
any smuggling that goes on in this ship. If smuggling is done and the
revenue officers discover it, the captain may be punished. Naturally,
when he is aboard and smugglers are discovered at work, he wants to
know about it. You wouldn’t want a sailor from the forecastle sending
out important despatches for you, particularly if you were aboard,
“You bet I wouldn’t,” promptly answered Roy. “It might get me into a
heap of trouble with the Marconi people.”
“Well, that’s exactly the way the captain saw the matter. What was
going on below might have gotten him into no end of trouble with the
government. He was here to handle the matter himself. Instead of
calling him, a boy with no experience attempts to manage the affair. Do
you see how it appeared to the captain?”
“I do,” said Roy soberly, “and I don’t blame him. But he might at least
have asked why I didn’t call him. There were reasons why I couldn’t.”
“Ah! That is another matter, Roy. That is where the captain was too
hasty. It is always dangerous to jump at conclusions. But you must
remember that the captain’s whole training has been to act and act
quick. When things go wrong on a ship or the craft is in danger, the
captain has to do something and do it quick. When you are half a
thousand miles from land and your ship is in danger of going to the
bottom, you can’t sit around and think or hold courts of inquiry, Roy.
You have to do something instantly. The captain has been doing that
for thirty years and it has become a habit. Just wait until we get in
some tight pinch. You’ll be so glad we have a captain aboard who knows
what to do and how to do it quick that you’ll forgive all the overhasty
things he does in times of quiet.”
“I’m glad you told me all this,” said Roy. “I still think the captain
was unjust, but I feel differently about the matter. And I’ll feel more
so if they prove to be smugglers instead of plain thieves.”
“I don’t believe there’s any doubt about their being smugglers. Let’s
go down and see what the police have discovered.”
They descended to the deck. The ship’s lights had been turned on and
the stolen goods hoisted aboard. They were small bales of hemp. A
policeman was breaking one of them open. Roy remembered that they had
been brought aboard with the very first of the cargo and trucked to the
forward part of the ship. Evidently they had immediately been secreted
by the four smugglers who had joined the crew and were at work in the
hold. When the policeman had torn away a part of the hemp, out rolled
a four-gallon can filled with liquid. The screw-cap was cautiously
removed and the policeman gingerly sniffed the contents. Then a smile
spread over his face.
“It’s the real stuff, Rounds,” he said, passing the can to the waiting
The roundsman sampled the liquor. “The very same,” he replied, “and
worth a good many dollars a gallon. If the twenty-four bales each
contain four gallons, we’ve captured two good hogsheads of whiskey for
Uncle Sam, and saved him a nice little sum of revenue. We’ll just take
the booze along with the prisoners, Captain Lansford.”
“You are welcome to both,” said the captain. “We’ll make sure there
is no more of the stuff aboard. If we find any, I’ll let you know.
Meantime, I’m obliged to you for catching these fellows.”
“You’d better thank your wireless man, Captain. They’d have got away
with the stuff sure, if it hadn’t been for him. And we’d have missed
them again.” Then, turning to Roy, the roundsman thanked him warmly.
The whiskey and the prisoners were put into the captured motor-boat,
and towing their rowboat behind them, the police went chugging back to
During the days that the _Lycoming_ lay in her dock, Roy spent many an
hour in sober thought. He had had a taste of life afloat now, and more
than ever he felt sure that he wanted to be a wireless man. He wanted
to succeed. He wanted to reach the very top in his chosen calling. No
boy was ever more ambitious, ever more willing to work hard. Indeed,
the unusual quality in Roy, the thing that distinguished him from most
lads of his age, was the fact that he had early grasped the idea that
the road to success is named work.
Always Roy had done things with a will. When he played, he played hard.
When he studied, he studied hard. And after he had become interested
in radio communication, he had striven hard to perfect himself as an
operator. He understood his instruments perfectly. He could make new
parts or entire new instruments, if given the materials. He could
improvise a wireless outfit out of next to nothing. He could read
messages as fast as any human hand could send them, and he could
himself transmit with unusual speed. In short, despite his youth, Roy
was an unusually skilful wireless man.
But he lacked what most boys lack. He lacked experience of life and the
sane judgment that should go with experience. He lacked perspective.
He was impatient. He could not always see matters in their true
It was so now as he meditated concerning his own situation. He forgot
that he had been aboard the _Lycoming_ hardly a month. He did not
realize that the captain really knew nothing concerning his training
and ability. He did not understand that before a man like Captain
Lansford could place confidence in a subordinate, that subordinate
would have to prove his entire trustworthiness. And Roy had as yet had
no real test. His work had so far been all fair-weather work.
But the thing that Roy understood least of all was the captain’s actual
attitude toward him. He thought that the captain disliked him, that he
felt spiteful toward him, that he was purposely trying to humiliate
him. Had Roy understood the actual situation he might have felt even
worse. That was, that Captain Lansford was hardly conscious that Roy
was a member of his crew. He was for some reason prejudiced against
wireless, and he had for so many years navigated his ship without the
help of wireless that he gave no more heed to the innovation than he
would to a new plank laid on the deck. Roy’s messages concerning the
weather he took lightly. He had a barometer of his own that for thirty
years had told him all he needed to know about the weather. Roy’s
news-letters were more or less diverting. But the captain had gone
without the day’s news for so many years that he had no hunger for
it, as the constant newspaper reader has. It mattered little to him
whether he ever saw a paper or not.
But it did matter about the safety and punctuality of his ship.
No mariner alive was prouder of his record, more jealous of his
reputation, or more determined to keep up his good work. Every minute
the captain had the welfare of his ship in mind. Only those who had
proved their ability did he trust. He wanted them to prove it under his
own tutelage, and his was a stern way of training recruits.
Thus it was that while Roy was fretting his heart out at what he
considered the captain’s dislike of him and injustice toward him, the
captain was hardly giving Roy a thought. He was tolerating him as he
tolerated the wireless aerial swinging aloft; both had been ordered by
So Roy’s situation was far from being the hopeless one he considered
it. The dropping of water will wear away even the hardest stone.
Continued good service was certain to make an impression on even
Captain Lansford’s stern nature. And real service to the ship could not
fail to impress the captain deeply, since his ship’s welfare was the
captain’s one passion.
Could Roy have realized all this it would have saved him many a
heartburn. He did understand, however, that the way to make good
in any job was through efficient service. So the captain’s course,
although it hurt and angered Roy, really spurred him to greater
efforts. Some boys, in a similar situation, would have become careless
and sullen. Roy maintained his courteous, cheery manner and worked
harder than ever. He was on his mettle and was determined that he would
force recognition from his captain. And that was the very best attitude
he could have taken.
Although it is a long lane that has no turning, it seemed to Roy that
he was an extremely long time in reaching the bend in his particular
path. Things went on in the same old, uneventful way. He took messages
and sent them. He faithfully caught the weather-reports, the storm
signals, and the night’s news. And all these made about as much
impression on Captain Lansford as did the regular turning of one of the
piston-rods in the engine room. Roy saw that if he were going to make a
dent in Captain Lansford’s consciousness, he would have to do something
out of the ordinary routine. Think as he might, no opportunity seemed
to present itself. That made Roy keener than ever; and he soon reached
the point where he spent almost as much time considering the welfare
of the ship as the captain did. Everywhere and always he was asking
himself the question, “What can I do to help run the ship?”
The period of unloading and loading passed, and the _Lycoming_ started
south again, but still Roy’s opportunity did not come. He chafed under
the placid routine of his life as a captured tiger chafes in its cage.
The turn in the lane was near at hand, however, or at least there was a
slight bend directly ahead. That turn came in the form of a fog.
Bright skies and a summer sun looked down upon the _Lycoming_ as
she bade farewell to New York and sailed through the Narrows toward
the open sea. Twenty-four hours later she was buried in a fog-bank.
A great, gray, swirling mass of mist came drifting up from the
south, cutting off the vision as effectually as a curtain hides a
stage. In no time everything was wet and clammy. Rails, rigging,
window-sills,–everything was adrip with condensed moisture. A raw,
damp quality pervaded the atmosphere. The barometer was falling and the
wind rising. To make matters worse, it began to rain. At first the rain
was hardly more than a heavy mist. Then it fell in gentle drops. As
the wind rose the rain poured downward in torrents, driving in sheets
before the fitful blasts of the gale. It searched out every crack
and crevice, and came driving under doors and oozing in under tightly
The little wireless house, on the very top of the ship, caught the full
force of wind and rain. Water came under Roy’s door in such a stream
that he had to mop it up with a rag. At first he felt little concern.
The sea had not yet risen, and the ship was not rolling much, though
occasionally it seemed to stagger before a great gust of wind. Having
gone through a pretty fair gale, Roy saw by comparison that this storm,
at least as yet, was nothing to feel disturbed about.
But when he looked out of his window, and particularly when he opened
his door a moment later, he felt instant concern. The ship was
literally swallowed up, buried in the densest bank of fog Roy had ever
known. He could not see in any direction. He could hardly make out the
ship’s nose with distinctness. Under the buffeting of the wind the
steamer creaked and groaned. Windows rattled. Everything that was not
lashed fast thumped and pounded. The fitful blasts whistled in the
rigging and shrieked and howled about the little wireless house, and
the roar of the storm almost drowned the sound of the fog-horn. If he
could not hear the deep bellow of the _Lycoming’s_ great fog-horn, he
asked himself, how could those on other ships hear it? Instantly Roy
Long ago, he knew well enough, the captain had jumped into oilskins
and boots and sou’-wester and joined Mr. Young on the bridge. Into
Roy’s mind came a picture of the captain at his post, pacing from side
to side of the bridge, standing rigid, like a pointing setter, as he
listened with cupped hand to his ear, now on the port side, now on the
starboard, and all the while seeking to pierce with his eagle eyes that
vast, impenetrable, treacherous mass of fog. In his anxiety Roy pulled
on his raincoat and stepped to the deck to listen. He was blinded by
the torrent of rain and almost bowled over by the blasts of wind. He
clung to the hand-rail and listened, peering intently into the mist.
He saw nothing but fog and heard only the hoarse shriek of the ship’s
whistle and the roar of the wind. He turned back and shut the door.
Every moment he felt more fearful, for he knew there must be ships in
the vicinity. And now he began to feel grateful that Captain Lansford
was on the bridge. Every time he thought of that tall, undaunted figure
pacing the bridge, Roy felt safer.
A great desire to help in the battle with the elements came to Roy. But
what could he do? He might call other ships and get replies, but how
would that help? They could not locate the _Lycoming_ any more than he
could locate them. Besides, he didn’t know what ships to call, what
vessels were in his vicinity.
“But I can find out,” muttered Roy. “Maybe the captain would like to
When Roy became the _Lycoming’s_ wireless man, he subscribed for the
_New York Herald_. Daily the paper came to the office on the pier,
where Roy got it. When he returned from his first voyage, he secured
the back numbers that had come during his absence. And from every Issue
since he became a subscriber, Roy had clipped the shipping news and
carefully filed it away. He had had a vague notion that some day these
clippings might be useful. Already the time had come, for his clippings
contained very complete shipping news from all parts of the world. They
would tell him what ships were on the sea in his vicinity.
Roy wondered what his vicinity was. He had been busy and had not
followed the progress of the ship. But he knew she had been running at
her usual speed, which was about fifteen knots an hour. They had been
at sea but a trifle more than twenty-four hours. A little figuring told
Roy that the _Lycoming_ was perhaps 425 miles from New York. Taking
a chart from his book rack and a ruler, he calculated the distance
according to the scale and made a dot on the map. The _Lycoming_ was
off Cape Hatteras, the worst weather-breeder on our coast and the
graveyard of so many noble ships!
Then Roy did a little more figuring. He knew the _Lycoming_ was four
days from Galveston. At the same rate of speed, he found by measuring
his map, the _Lycoming_ was perhaps three and a half days from New
Orleans, a little less from Mobile, and not three days from Tampa.
Key West was a few hours more than two days distant, and Jacksonville
not much more than a day. Savannah, Charleston, and Wilmington were
within a day’s sail. Northern Cuba was only a trifle more than two days
distant, and various West Indian ports were but a few hours further,
while the Bahamas were some hours nearer. From some or all of these
ports and a few others besides, ships might have sailed in time to
bring them close to the _Lycoming_ now. Roy didn’t know the speed of
any of the ships that ply along the coast excepting the Lycoming’s, but
the captain would know. From his _Herald_ clippings Roy could learn
what ships were on the ocean.
Roy got out his clippings and jotted down the names of coastwise ships
sailing from various ports in recent days. He believed most of them
would average about the same speed as the _Lycoming_. Calculating on
that basis, he found that _El Alba_ from Galveston, the _Antilla_ from
Cuba, the _Algonquin_ from San Domingo, the _City of Columbus_ from
Savannah, the _Alabama_ from Port Arthur, and the _Merrimack_ from
Jacksonville, all bound north, were now due in the neighborhood of
Hatteras, while the _Matinicock_, bound from Baltimore to Tampico, and
the _Brunswick_, south-bound from Newport News, must be close ahead in
the fog. Now he had something to go on.
Taking down his signal book, Roy copied the call signals of each of
these vessels. Then he adjusted his receivers, threw over his switch
and began to call.
“KKL–KKL–KKL de WNA,” flashed Roy’s signal.
Again and again he repeated the call, but no answer greeted his ear.
Either _El Alba_ was not within hearing distance or else her wireless
man was not at his post.
Roy tried for the _Antilla_. “KWD–KWD–KWD de WNA,” he rapped out. Then
amid the roar of the storm he waited for an answer. “KWD–KWD–KWD de
WNA,” repeated Roy after an interval. And this time, very faintly, he
got a reply.
“KWD de WNA. Where are you?” called Roy. “Are my signals distinct?”
“WNA de KWD,” came the reply. “We must be about abreast of Cape Fear.
Your signals are very weak.”
“We don’t need to worry about the _Antilla_, then,” said Roy to
himself. “Cape Fear must be at least 175 miles south of us.”
Again Roy sent a call flashing from his instrument. “KVG–KVG–KVG de
The _Algonquin_ answered promptly. The signals were very faint. “WNA de
KVG. What do you want?”
“Where are you?” repeated Roy. “We’re off Hatteras.”
“We touched at Bermuda and left there three hours ago.”
“Good!” muttered Roy. “That’s another one out of the road.”
Again he consulted his list and sent forth a call. “KFA–KFA–KFA de
The answer came sharp and clear. “WNA de KFA. Go ahead.”
“Where are you?” asked Roy.
“Lost in the fog,” replied the operator on the _City of Columbus_. “I
don’t know where we are. We ought to be off Hatteras. Where are you?”
“Off Hatteras. Are my signals clear?”
“We must be near each other.”
The _Alabama_ did not answer Roy’s call, and he could get neither of
the south-bound ships ahead of the _Lycoming_. But the _Merrimack_
replied so sharply that she was quite evidently near at hand.
Roy picked up his telephone and called the captain. No answer came.
Again and again Roy called. Evidently the telephone was out of order.
Roy snatched on his raincoat and cap and rushed through the rain for
the bridge. Both the captain and Mr. Young were on duty. Roy thanked
his lucky stars that the first officer was there. Going close to him
and cupping his hands about his mouth, Roy shouted in the big mate’s
ear, “_City of Columbus_ and _Merrimack_ near us. Been talking to both.
They’re looking for us.”
The first officer nodded and crossed the bridge to repeat Roy’s report
to the captain. Roy waited lest the captain should have an order. The
latter merely nodded at the mate and peered into the storm again. Roy
went back to the wireless house, clutching a hand-rail and staggering
under the wind. He noticed that the ship was moving at half speed.
Again he called the _City of Columbus_. The reply seemed no sharper
than before. But when he signaled the _Merrimack_, the answer fairly
crackled in his ears. Evidently the two boats were much nearer to one
Roy’s heart began to pound furiously. Were the two ships about to
collide? Was there anything he could do to prevent it? What should he
do if they did? Sound the SOS of course and keep sending it until he
sank. That was his duty. He set his teeth. “I’ll do it,” he muttered.
“But there mustn’t be any collision. We must prevent it. But how?”
Roy’s brow wrinkled. What could he do? “If only I had a direction
finder like the one the government gave us during the spy hunt,” he
sighed, “I’d locate the _Merrimack_ quick.”
Again he called. “KQM de WNA. How are my signals now?”
“WNA de KQM. Sharper than ever. We must be very close.”
“Are you whistling?” asked Roy.
“Sure. Can’t you hear us? We can hear you.”
Roy laid down his receivers and opened the door. Faintly he heard the
booming of the _Merrimack’s_ whistle. Then it came with startling
distinctness. A third time it sounded apparently in the far, far
distance. From what direction the sound came Roy had not the slightest
idea. The fog now muffled, now magnified the sound, which seemed to
come from nowhere and everywhere.
An idea flashed into Roy’s head. He leaped back to his operating table.
“KQM de WNA,” he flashed. “Is there any way you can signal me and blow
your whistle at the same time?” he asked.
“Yes,” came the answer. “The captain and I will set our watches
together and send the two signals simultaneously. I’ll send three V’s.
Roy sprang up and opened his door, then leaped back to his operating
table. He clamped on his receivers, laid his watch on the table before
him, and watched it in breathless expectation.
His heart beat like a trip-hammer. The blood pounded in his brain. His
face was flushed with excitement. Somewhere out there in the fog the
great steamship was rushing toward the _Lycoming_. She might be a mile
away, she might be three hundred yards. The two might crash before ever
he heard the signals he was waiting for. Tense, rigid, yet inwardly
aquiver, Roy laid his finger on his key, ready to sound the SOS. Then
he listened. For what seemed an age he listened. The wind shrieked and
howled. The _Lycoming’s_ whistle boomed. The windows rattled. The rain
beat a tattoo on the roof. But no wireless signal greeted Roy’s ears.
He could hardly hold himself in his chair. Then it came. “V–V–V,”
went the signal. Roy noted the position of the second-hand on his watch
and waited breathlessly for the sound of the _Merrimack’s_ whistle.
One second passed–two–three–four–five.
“Mmmmmmmmm!” came the roar of the _Merrimack’s_ whistle.
“Five seconds,” said Roy. “She’s almost a mile away. Thank God.”
He pressed his key. Once more blue sparks leaped in his spark-gap.
“KQM de WNA. Five seconds difference,” he flashed. “You must be about a
mile away. Try it again.”
“WNA de KQM,” came back the answer. “Will repeat. Listen.”
Again Roy sat tense, listening for the voice that meant so much. Again
time seemed to stand still. The wind roared so loud Roy feared he might
not be able to hear the _Merrimack’s_ whistle. The rain was beating
on the roof like the crashing of a thousand drums. His own door was
banging as the ship swayed and lurched, and the rain drove in in
torrents, but Roy dared not close it. All he could do was to stare at
his watch and listen, listen, listen. He hardly dared breathe. He was
even afraid that the pounding of his heart would drown out the sounds
he was straining every sense to catch.
Suddenly something snapped in his ear. It was the _Merrimack’s_ signal,
loud as a thunderclap. Roy jumped in his seat, but kept his eyes on his
“Boom!” shrieked the _Merrimack’s_ whistle.
“KQM,” flashed Roy with trembling fingers. “Reverse. You’re almost
on us.” Then he dropped his receivers and darted into the storm.
Fearlessly he raced across the slippery deck.
“Reverse,” he cried, rushing up to the first mate. “The _Merrimack_ is
almost on us. A minute ago she was a mile away. Now she’s less than two
As though to verify Roy’s words, the hoarse bellowing roar of the
_Merrimack’s_ whistle rang out deafeningly. The first mate sprang to
the indicator and signaled to the engine room, “Reverse–full speed.”
The captain leaped for the whistle cord and the _Lycoming_ shrieked
her warning. As her propeller reversed, the _Lycoming_ shivered from
stem to stern, heeling far over, while the water about her was churned
into yeasty foam. She lost headway and began to wallow in the waves.
The captain signaled for the engines to stop.
“Mmmmmmmmm!” roared the _Lycoming’s_ whistle as she rolled from side to
“Mmmmmmmmm!” came back the awful echo from the _Merrimack_.
The two ships were almost on top of each other, yet neither was visible
to the other.
“Mmmmmmmmm!” “Mmmmmmmmm!” they bellowed at each other.
The captain put his mouth to the first mate’s ear. “Can you make out
where she is?” he shouted.
“To starboard, I think, sir.”
“So do I.”
The captain beckoned to Roy. “Tell that ship to stand still while I
pass it,” he shouted.
Roy tore back to the wireless house. Water ran from him in streams as
he sat down at his table.
“KQM de WNA,” he flashed. “Tell your captain to stand still while we
“All right–go ahead,” came the reply.
Roy scrambled back to the bridge with the message. The captain turned
the handle of the indicator. Slowly the _Lycoming_ gathered headway.
“Mmmmmmmm!” shrieked her whistle.
“Mmmmmmmm!” answered the _Merrimack_.
And now there could be no mistaking her position. She was to starboard
and close at hand. Slowly the _Lycoming_ crept around her, then went
nosing her way through the fog again. Once Roy thought he glimpsed the
_Merrimack_ but he was not sure. When her whistle was plainly astern,
Roy again shot a message to her wireless man.
“Close shave,” he flashed. “Thanks for your help.”
“You saved us from a collision, sure,” came back the answer. “Good-bye
and good luck to you.”
A few minutes later the two boats were miles apart.
On went the _Lycoming_, creeping cautiously through the fog. For hours
Roy sat at his instrument and kept in touch with the steamers he had
already talked to. Again he went over his newspaper file and searched
out all the other ships recorded that by any possibility at all could
be near the _Lycoming_. One by one he flung out their call signals.
Some he heard at a far distance, some he could not reach at all. From
time to time he talked with the _City of Columbus_, but she was still
afar off. When he had thoroughly combed the air with his wireless
signals, Roy breathed more freely. He felt certain that no steamer was
in the _Lycoming’s_ path or in her immediate neighborhood. The only
thing that remained to fear was some silent sailing ship that might
suddenly come plunging out of the mist bank. Roy hoped the time would
soon come when every ship afloat would be compelled to carry wireless.
Suddenly the fog lifted as mysteriously as it had come. The rain
ceased. The wind fell somewhat, but still continued high. Roy looked
at his watch and was surprised to see that they had been in the
fog-bank for more than eight hours. It was night. Roy had not even been
conscious that he had missed his supper. Now he was suddenly so hungry
he felt as though he could eat nails. The dining-room was closed. Roy
punched the bell for the steward. When the latter appeared, Roy said,
“Sam, could you get a fellow a bite to eat? We’ve been so busy up here
that I clean forgot to go to supper.”
Now Roy remembered that he was wet. Every garment he had on was sopping
with moisture. Puddles of water had gathered under his chair. His
operating table was soaked. His chair held a little pool of water. He
had been hot with excitement and had not been conscious of his wet
clothes. Now he threw off his clammy garments, rubbed himself briskly,
and pulled on dry clothes. Just as he finished, Sam returned with a pot
of steaming coffee, an enormous quantity of sandwiches, some freshly
boiled eggs, and a big piece of pie.
“That sure looks good to me,” said Roy, as he reached for a sandwich.
“I am much obliged to you, Sam.”
“Don’t mention it, suh. We all is mighty grateful to you fo’ what you
done fo’ de ship.” And Sam disappeared through the doorway, grinning.
Roy’s heart leaped with joy. At last he had won recognition. Then
he wondered how Sam knew about the occurrence. Perhaps he had only
guessed what had happened. Yet Roy knew that could not be. Some one
must have reported the occurrence and that some one could be only the
captain or Mr. Young. Roy was certain it was not the captain. It did
not matter to Roy who told it. Whoever did had considered Roy’s service
as meritorious or he would not have mentioned it. Roy felt that there
was no doubt that recognition had come to him. He resolved to be very
careful not to mention the matter himself lest he seem boastful.
After all, Roy asked himself, had he done anything remarkable? He had
merely made use of his knowledge of scientific principles. The captain,
who had sailed the sea for a generation and faced countless storms and
fogs without ever losing a man or a ship, had done a million times
more. That thought was both sobering and wholesome. It helped Roy to
see matters in their proper light. If anybody spoke to him now about
the matter he was in no danger of getting a “swelled head.” Compared
to the captain he felt very insignificant indeed.
It was well that these sobering thoughts came to Roy so soon, for very
shortly afterward Mr. Young stalked into the wireless house. He had
seldom visited Roy there and Roy was happy to see him. He was happier
still when Mr. Young walked over to the operating table, studied the
instruments intently, and, turning to Roy, demanded, “How did you do
that, Mr. Mercer?”
“Do what?” asked Roy.
“Find out how close that ship was? To begin with, how did you know she
“I was never in a big fog before,” said Roy, “but I saw at once that
the ship was in a dangerous situation. I wondered what I could do to
help. I knew that at least I could figure out what ships were in the
“How?” said the mate, much interested.
“You see,” explained Roy, “I have kept a file of the _Herald_ shipping
news ever since I joined the _Lycoming_. That gave me the names of the
ships of any size that have sailed from various ports in the last few
days. I made a list of them. Here it is.”
Roy handed the list to Mr. Young, who looked at it with interest.
“Then I tried to figure out which ones would be due in our
neighborhood. I didn’t know how fast any of them traveled, but you can
bet your boots that hereafter I’m going to learn the speed of every
ship we pass. I figured they would all go at about our rate–fifteen
knots. Then I worked out the distances from all the ports south of us,
including Cuban and West Indian ports, and reckoned what ships should
be near us. When I had found that out, I began calling them. Only one
of them seemed to be very close–the _Merrimack_.”
“How could you determine that?”
“Well, I knew we were off Hatteras, and most of the ships I talked with
knew where they were. But the _Merrimack_ was lost in the fog and her
wireless man didn’t know where he was.”
“Then how did you know she was near?”
“By the wireless signals. They were so loud and distinct that I knew
she was close at hand.”
“But how could you tell that she was five thousand feet away at one
time and a little later only two thousand feet? That’s what puzzles me.
I never heard of anything like it before.”
“It was this way,” explained Roy. “When I got into touch with her
wireless man, he asked if we could hear the _Merrimack’s_ whistle. He
said they could distinctly hear ours. At least he supposed it was
ours. I listened and heard the whistle, but one time it seemed near and
again far off. I couldn’t tell from what direction the sound came.”
“Correct,” said Mr. Young. “We heard it, too. Fog does the strangest
things to sound. That’s what makes it so dangerous for ships. The
officer in charge can usually hear another ship, but sometimes he can’t
for the life of him tell what direction the sound comes from.”
“Well,” continued Roy, “it occurred to me that if the _Merrimack’s_
whistle and her wireless instrument could signal at the same instant I
could tell how far away she was.”
“How?” asked the first mate, more interested than ever.
“Why, you know, Mr. Young, electricity is instantaneous, while it takes
sound a second to travel a thousand feet. If the two signals started
together, I could time the difference between their arrivals. It was
simple enough if only the _Merrimack_ could send the signals right.”
“Now what do you think of that?” cried the mate. “How did you manage
“The _Merrimack’s_ wireless man did that. I asked him if he could. He
said he would talk to the captain and they would set their watches
together and each signal at the same instant. All I had to do was
listen to the signals and catch the time between them.”
“Well, I’ll be darned!” ejaculated the first mate. “I never heard
anything like it. Is that what they teach you at the radio school?”
“I’ve never been to one,” said Roy. “All I know about wireless I picked
The first officer regarded Roy with astonishment. “Well, you’re a
pippin,” he said.
Roy laughed. “A little while ago,” he replied, “I thought I would
soon be a fish. When the _Merrimack_ signaled a second time and there
was only two seconds’ difference between her radio and her whistle, I
thought it was all up with us. I signaled her to reverse and raced out
to you on the bridge. You know the rest.”
“Mr. Mercer,” said the first mate, as he rose to go, “I’m going to
tell the captain every word of this. He has never thought very much of
wireless, because he always said, ‘What good is it? It won’t tell you
where you are, or where the other fellow is. And when you’re in a fog
those are the only things a skipper wants to know.’ But it seems that
in the right hands it will answer both questions.”
“Don’t be in a hurry,” said Roy, trying to change the subject. “Have a
bite to eat. Sam just brought me this stuff. The coffee’s piping hot.
You must be tired to death. You’ve been on the bridge more than twelve
“Thanks,” said the mate. “A cup of hot coffee and a sandwich _would_
taste good, if it won’t be robbing you.”
They sat and talked for half an hour, munching sandwiches as they
conversed. When Mr. Young finally went to his own quarters, Roy felt
as though they had been friends for years. Their brief comradeship in
danger had made their friendship real. Roy felt this so keenly that as
his big visitor rose to go, he said, “I wish you would call me Roy when
we’re alone, and not Mr. Mercer. You know I’m not used to being called
Mister yet and I’d rather not have my friends use that handle when they
talk to me.”
“All right, Roy. Good-night and my hearty thanks for your help to-day.”