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THE VISION SPLENDID (chapter16,part1)

2006-08-28 23:39

    CHAPTER 16

    A young man left his father's house to see the world. Everywhere he found busy human beings. Cities were rising toward the skies, seas and plains were being lined with traffic, school, mill and office hummed with life. He wondered why men were so busy and what they were trying to do.

    He went to a railroad director and asked: "Why are you building railroads?" "For profits," was the answer. But a laborer beckoned him aside and whispered: "No——we are making the _World_ one neighborhood. East is now next door to West, and all peoples dwell in one continuing city."

    The young man went to the boss of a labor union. "Why," he asked, "do you spend your days breeding discontent and leading strikes?" "Why?" repeated the leader fiercely, "that the workers receive more pay for shorter hours." "No," whispered a laborer, "we are teaching the _World_ the sacred value of human beings. We are learning how to be brotherly——how to stand up for each other. ——James Oppenheim.


    PART 1

    "Man overboard!"

    Somebody on the liner sang it out. Instantly there was a rush of passengers to the side. From the schooner a boat was being lowered and manned.

    "I see him. He's swimming this way. I believe he's trying to escape," one slender young woman cried.

    "Nonsense, Alice! He fell overboard and he's probably so frightened he doesn't know which way he is swimming." This suggestion was from the beautiful blonde with bronze hair who stood beside her under a tan parasol held by a fresh-faced globetrotter.

    "Don't you believe it, Val. Look how he's cutting through the water.

    He's trying to reach us. Oh, I hope they won't get him. Somebody get a rope to throw out."

    "By Jove, you're right, Miss Alice," cried the Englishman. "It's a race, and it's going to be a near thing." He disappeared and was presently back with a rope.

    "Come on! Come on!" screamed the passengers to the swimmer. "He's ripping strong with that overhead stroke. Ye gods, it's close!" exclaimed the Britisher.

    It was. The swimmer reached the side of the ship not four yards in front of the pursuing boat. He caught at the trailing rope and began to clamber up hand over hand, while the Englishman, a man standing near, and Alice Frome dragged him up.

    The mate of the Nancy Hanks, standing up in the boat, caught at his foot and pulled. The man's hold loosened on the rope. He slid down a foot, steadied himself. Suddenly the left leg shot out and caught the grinning mate in the mouth. He went over backward into the bottom of the boat. Before he could extricate himself from the tangle his fall had precipitated, the dripping figure of the swimmer stood safely on the deck of the _Bellingham._

    In his wet foul slops the man was a sight to draw stares. The cabin passengers moved back to give him a wide circle, as men do with a wet retriever.

    "What does this mean, my man?" demanded the captain of the _Bellingham,_ pushing forward. He was a big red-faced figure with a heavy roll of fat over his collar.

    "I have been shanghaied, sir. From Verden. I'm the editor of the _World_ of that city."

    "That's a lie," proclaimed the mate of the _Nancy Hanks_ , who by this time had reached the deck. "He's a nutty deckswabber we picked up at 'Frisco."

    "Why, it's Mr. Farnum," cried a fresh young voice from the circle.

    The rescued man turned. His eyes joined those of a slim golden girl and he was struck dumb.

    "You know this man, Miss Frome?" the captain asked.

    "I know him by sight." She stepped to the front. "There can't be any doubt about it. He's Mr. Farnum of Verden, the editor of the _World._"

    "You're quite sure?"

    "Quite sure, Captain Barclay. My cousin knows him, too."

    The captain turned to Mrs. Van Tyle. She nodded languidly.

    Barclay swung back to the mate of the _Nancy Hanks_ . "I know your kind, my man, and I can tell you that I think the penitentiary would be the proper place for you and your captain, with my compliments to him."

    "Better come and pay 'em yourself, sir," sneered the mate.

    "Get off my deck, you dirty crimp," roared the captain. "Slide now, or I'll have you thrown off."

    Mr. Jones made a hurried departure. Once in the boat, he shook his fist at Barclay and cursed him fluently.

    The captain turned away promptly. "Mr. Farwell, if you'll step this way the steward will outfit you with some clothes. If they don't fit they'll do better than those togs you're wearing."

    The English youth came forward with a suggestion. "Really, I think I can do better than that for Mr. Far——" He hesitated for the name.

    "Farnum," supplied the owner of it.

    "Ah! You're about my size, Mr. Farnum. If you don't mind, you know, you're quite welcome to anything I have."

    "Thank you very much."

    "Very well. Mr. Farwell——Farnum, I mean——shake hands with Lieutenant Beauchamp," and with the sense of duty done the worthy captain dismissed the new arrival from his mind.

    Jeff bowed to Miss Frome and followed his broad-shouldered guide to a cabin. He was conscious of an odd elation that had not entirely to do with a brave adventure happily ended. The impelling cause of it was rather the hope of a braver adventure happily begun.

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