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The voyage of the Calipha came to its usual termination about ten o’clock on the following morning, when she passed Boston lights and steamed slowly down the smooth waters of the harbour. The seven passengers were all upon deck in wonderfully transformed guise. Already the steamer chairs were being tied up and piled away; the stewards, officiously anxious to render some last service, were hovering around. Mrs. Watson, in a plain tailor gown and quiet felt hat, was sitting heavily veiled apart and alone. There were no signs of either Mr. Watson or Mr. Sabin. The captain was on the bridge talking to the pilot. Scarcely a hundred yards away lay the Kaiser Wilhelm, white and stately, with her brass work shining like gold in the sunlight, and her decks as white as snow.
The Calipha was almost at a standstill, awaiting the doctor’s brig, which was coming up to her on the port side. Every one was leaning over the railing watching her. Mr. Watson and Mr. Sabin, who had just come up the gangway together, turned away towards the deserted side of the boat, engaged apparently in serious conversation. Suddenly every one on deck started. A revolver shot, followed by two heavy splashes in the water, rang out clear and crisp above the clanking of chains and slighter noises. There was a moment’s startled silence—every one looked at one another—then a rush for the starboard side of the steamer. Above the little torrent of minor exclamations, the captain’s voice sang out like thunder.
“Lower the number one boat. Quartermaster, man a crew.”
The seven passengers, two stewards, and a stray seaman arrived on the starboard side of the gangway at about the same moment. There was at first very little to be seen. A faint cloud of blue smoke was curling upwards, and there was a strong odour of gunpowder in the air. On the deck were lying a small, recently-discharged revolver and a man’s white linen cap, which, from its somewhat peculiar shape, every one recognised at once as belonging to Mr. Sabin. At first sight, there was absolutely nothing else to be seen. Then, suddenly, some one pointed to a man’s head about fifty yards away in the water. Every one crowded to the side to look at it. It was hard at that distance to distinguish the features, but a little murmur arose, doubtful at first, but gaining confidence. It was the head of Mr. Watson. The murmur rather grew than increased when it was seen that he was swimming, not towards the steamer, but away from it, and that he was alone. Where was Mr. Sabin?
A slight cry from behind diverted attention for a moment from the bobbing head. Mrs. Watson, who had heard the murmurs, was lying in a dead faint across a chair. One of the women moved to her side. The others resumed their watch upon events.
A boat was already lowered. Acting upon instructions from the captain, the crew combined a search for the missing man with a leisurely pursuit of the fugitive one. The first lieutenant stood up in the gunwale with a hook in his hand, looking from right to left, and the men pulled with slow, even strokes. But nowhere was there any sign of Mr. Sabin.
The man who was swimming was now almost out of sight, and the first lieutenant, who was in command of the little search party, reluctantly gave orders for the quickening of his men’s stroke. But almost as the men bent to their work, a curious thing happened. The fugitive, who had been swimming at a great pace, suddenly threw up his arms and disappeared.
“He’s done, by Jove!” exclaimed the lieutenant. “Row hard, you chaps. We must catch him when he rises.”
But to all appearance, Mr. J. B. Watson, of New York, never rose again. The boat was rowed time after time around the spot where he had sunk, but not a trace was to be found of him. The only vessel anywhere near was the Kaiser Wilhelm. They rowed slowly up and hailed her.
An officer came to the railing and answered their inquiries in execrable English. No, they had not seen any one in the water. They had not picked any one up. Yes, if Herr Lieutenant pleased, he could come on board, but to make a search—no, without authority. No, it was impossible that any one could have been taken on board without his knowledge. He pointed down the steep sides of the steamship and shrugged his shoulders. It was indeed an impossible feat. The lieutenant of the Calipha saluted and gave the order to his men to backwater. Once more they went over the ground carefully. There was no sign of either of the men. After about three-quarters of an hour’s absence, they reluctantly gave up the search and returned to the Calipha.
The first lieutenant was compelled to report both men drowned. The captain was in earnest conversation with an official in plain dark livery. The boat of the harbour police was already waiting below. The whole particulars of the affair were scanty enough. Mr. Sabin and Mr. Watson were seen to emerge from the gangway together, engaged in animated conversation. They had at first turned to the left, but seeing the main body of the passengers assembled there, had stepped back again and emerged on the starboard side which was quite deserted. After then, no one except the captain had even a momentary glimpse of them, and his was so brief that it could scarcely be called more than an impression. He had been attracted by a slight cry, he believed from Mr. Sabin, and had seen both men struggling together in the act of disappearing in the water. He had seen none of the details of the fight; he could not even say whether Mr. Sabin or Mr. Watson had been the aggressor, although on that subject there was only one opinion. Mrs. Watson was absolutely overcome, and unable to answer any questions, but as regards the final quarrel and struggle between the two men, it was impossible for her to have seen anything of it, as she was sitting in a steamer chair on the opposite side of the boat. There was at present absolutely no further light to be thrown upon the affair. The sergeant of police signalled for his boat and went off to make his report. The Calipha at half-speed steamed slowly for the dock.
Arrived there her passengers, crew and officers became the natural and recognised prey of the American press-man. The captain sternly refused to answer a single question, and in peremptory fashion ordered every stranger off his ship. But nevertheless his edict was avoided in the confusion of landing, and the Customs House effectually barred flight on the part of their victims. Somehow or other, no one exactly knew how or from what source they came, strange rumours began to float about. Who was Mr. J. B. Watson of New York, yacht owner and millionaire? No one had ever heard of him, and he did not answer in the least to the description of any known Watson. The closely veiled features of his widow were eagerly scanned—one by one the newspaper men confessed themselves baffled. No one had ever seen her before. One man, the most daring of them, ventured upon a timid question as she stepped down the gangway. She passed him by with a swift look of contempt. None of the others ventured anything of the sort—but, nevertheless, they watched her, and they made note of two things. The first was that there was no one to meet her—the second that instead of driving to a railway depôt, or wiring to any friends, she went straight to an hotel and engaged a room for the night.
The press-men took counsel together, and agreed that it was very odd. They thought it odder still when one of their number, calling at the hotel later in the day, was informed that Mrs. Watson, after engaging a room for the week, had suddenly changed her mind, and had left Boston without giving any one any idea as to her destination. They took counsel together, and they found fresh food for sensation in her flight. She was the only person who could throw any light upon the relations between the two men, and she had thought fit to virtually efface herself. They made the most of her disappearance in the thick black head-lines which headed every column in the Boston evening papers.
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