A Deal in Wheat And Other Stories
know more about it you may write to ask Ryder what B. 300 is. If he chooses to tell you,
that is his affair.
For B. 300--let us confess it--is, as Hardenberg puts it, as crooked as a dog's hind leg. It is
as risky as barratry. If you pull it off you may--after paying Ryder his share--divide sixty-
five, or possibly sixty-seven, thousand dollars between you and your associates. If you
fail, and you are perilously like to fail, you will be sure to have a man or two of your
companions shot, maybe yourself obliged to pistol certain people, and in the end fetch up
at Tahiti, prisoner in a French patrol-boat.
Observe that B. 300 is spoken of as still open. It is so, for the reason that the Three Black
Crows did not pull it off. It still stands marked up in red ink on the map that hangs over
Ryder's desk in the San Francisco office; and any one can have a chance at it who will
meet Cyrus Ryder's terms. Only he can't get the Glarus for the attempt.
For the trip to the island after B. 300 was the last occasion on which the Glarus will smell
blue water or taste the trades. She will never clear again. She is lumber.
And yet the Glarus on this very blessed day of 1902 is riding to her buoys off Sausalito in
San Francisco Bay, complete in every detail (bar a broken propeller shaft), not a rope
missing, not a screw loose, not a plank started--a perfectly equipped steam-freighter.
But you may go along the "Front" in San Francisco from Fisherman's Wharf to the China
steamships' docks and shake your dollars under the seamen's noses, and if you so much as
whisper Glarus they will edge suddenly off and look at you with scared suspicion, and
then, as like as not, walk away without another word. No pilot will take the Glarus out;
no captain will navigate her; no stoker will feed her fires; no sailor will walk her decks.
The Glarus is suspect. She has seen a ghost.
* * * * *
It happened on our voyage to the island after this same B. 300. We had stood well off
from shore for day after day, and Hardenberg had shaped our course so far from the track
of navigation that since the Benevento had hulled down and vanished over the horizon no
stitch of canvas nor smudge of smoke had we seen. We had passed the equator long
since, and would fetch a long circuit to the southard, and bear up against the island by a
circuitous route. This to avoid being spoken. It was tremendously essential that the
Glarus should not be spoken.
I suppose, no doubt, that it was the knowledge of our isolation that impressed me with the
dreadful remoteness of our position. Certainly the sea in itself looks no different at a
thousand than at a hundred miles from shore. But as day after day I came out on deck at
noon, after ascertaining our position on the chart (a mere pin-point in a reach of empty
paper), the sight of the ocean weighed down upon me with an infinitely great
awesomeness--and I was no new hand to the high seas even then.