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Chapter 5


"Are there many women aboard?" asked Larry, as he moved off through the rain toward the life-saving station with the rescued passenger.

"I was the only one," was the answer the woman made, in a pronounced Italian accent. "I am the purser's wife. They made me come first. Me and the baby," and she put her lips down and kissed the little face nestled in the folds of the shawl.

"The purser's wife!" exclaimed Larry. "Perhaps your husband will bring the passenger list with him. I would like to get it. I am a newspaper reporter," he added.

The woman, with a rapid movement, held out a bundle of papers to him.

"What are they?" Larry asked.

"The list of passengers! You reporters! I have heard of you in my country, but they do not such things as this! Go to wrecks to meet the passengers when they come ashore! You are very brave!"

"I think you were brave to come first across the waves," replied Larry. "The rope might break."

"I had my baby," was the answer, as if that explained it all.

"Do you think your husband would let me telegraph these names to my paper?" asked Larry.

"He gave them to me to bring ashore, in case—in case the ship did not last," the purser's wife said, with a catch in her voice. "You may use them, I say so. I will make it right."

This was just what Larry wanted. The hardest things to get in an accident or a wreck are the names of the saved, or the dead and injured. Chance had placed in Larry's hands just what he wanted.

He hurried on with the woman, who told him her name was Mrs. Angelino. He did not question her further, as he felt she must be suffering from the strain she had undergone. In a short time they were safe at the station, and there Mrs. Needam provided warm and dry garments for mother and child, and gave Mrs. Angelino hot drinks.

"Ah, there is my reporter!" exclaimed the purser's wife, when she was warm and comfortable, as she saw Larry busy scanning the list of passengers. "He came quick to the wreck!"

"Can you lend me some paper?" Larry asked Mrs. Needam.

"What for?"

"I want to write an account of the rescue and copy these names. I must hurry to the telegraph office. I left my paper in the fisherman's hut."

"I'll get you some," said Captain Needam's wife, and soon Larry was writing a short but vivid story of what had taken place, including a description of the storm, and the saving of the only woman on board, with her baby, by means of the breeches buoy. Then he copied the list of names.

"There's something I almost forgot," said Larry when he had about finished. "There's that passenger who came ashore on the life-raft. I wonder who he was? I'll ask Mrs. Angelino."

But she did not know. She was not aware that any one had come ashore on a raft, for, in the confusion of the breaking up of the ship in the storm, she thought only of her husband, her baby and herself.

"I can find out later," Larry thought.

He gave the list back to Mrs. Angelino, and then, with a good preliminary story of the wreck, having obtained many facts from the purser's wife, Larry set out through the storm for the nearest telegraph station.

"Don't you want some hot coffee before you go?" asked Mrs. Needam. "I've got lots—ready for the poor souls that'll soon be here."

Larry did want some. He was conscious of a woeful lack of something in his stomach, and the coffee braced him up in a way he very much needed.

It was quite a distance from the life-saving station to the nearest telegraph office, but Larry knew he must make it if he wanted an account of the wreck to get to his paper in time for the edition that day. So he set off for a tiresome trudge over the wet sand. As he was leaving, several men, who had been brought ashore from the ship, came to the station. From them Larry learned that part of the ship was likely to last until all the passengers and crew could be saved. He then resolved to telegraph the story of the saving of all, knowing he could make corrections by an additional message later in case, by some accident, any lives were lost.

To get to the telegraph office Larry had to go back to a point nearly opposite where the life savers were working, and then strike inland. As he was hurrying along he came to a little hummock of sand, from which elevation he could look down on the beach and see the crowd gathered about the breeches buoy. Out on the bar he could make out the wrecked vessel. As he stood there a moment he saw some one detach himself from the crowd and hurry across the intervening beach.

"That figure looks familiar," thought Larry. "I wonder if that's Bailey the fisherman?"

He waited a few minutes, and the figure became more distinct.

"It's Peter Manton!" cried Larry. "He's been sent down here to report the wreck! I wonder what paper he's on? But I guess I haven't any time to stand here wondering. I've got to beat him to the telegraph office if I want to get a scoop, though he can't have been on hand long enough to get much of an account."

Still Larry knew that even a brief and poor account of anything, if it got in first, was enough to discount or "take the edge off" a better story told later, and he made up his mind he would "scoop" Peter, his old enemy.

The representative of the Leader hurried on. Peter caught sight of Larry, and recognized him in spite of his oilskins. Peter wore a rain-coat, which was wet through.

"Hold on, Larry!" he cried. "I'm on the Scorcher again. What have you got?"

It was the newspaper man's way of asking his brother-of-the-pencil for such information as he possessed. But though, as a general thing, when several reporters are on a general story, they interchange common news, Larry was in no mind to share what he had with Peter. His paper had gone to the trouble to send him down in good season, a piece of forethought which the other journals' editors had neglected. Therefor Larry felt that he was not violating the common practice (though it is against the strict office rules) if he ignored Peter.

"Haven't time!" he called back.

"Wait a minute!" cried the rival reporter. "I just came down on the first train, and I walked about five miles to find the wreck. I'm going to the telegraph office to send my account in for an extra. We'll whack up on it."

"We'll do nothing of the sort!" exclaimed Larry. "I don't want anything to do with you." He had never forgiven Peter for his part in the kidnapping of Jimmie.

"Needn't get huffy about it," remarked Peter. "I want to be friendly."

Larry thought it was hardly Peter's place to offer to be "friendly" after the mean part he had played.

"I haven't time to stop now," said Larry. "I'm in a hurry. You'll have to get along the best you can."

"So that's how you feel, eh?" asked the rival reporter. "Not very white of you, Larry Dexter. I've only just got back my job on the Scorcher after they laid me off for getting beaten, and I've got to make good. But never mind. The beach is free, and I've got as good a right to the telegraph office as you have. I'd like to see you beat me."

Larry himself did not just see how he would, but he made up his mind to attempt it. Peter was now keeping pace with him. There was nothing for it but to hurry on. Whoever reached the office first and "filed his copy" would have the right to the wire. Larry resolved that he would win in the race, even as he had won in the other, at the big flood, but he knew there was time enough yet. If he started to run Peter would run also, and the way was too long for a fast sprint.

The two kept on, side by side, neither speaking. The only sound was the patter of the rain, and the rustle and rattle of Larry's oilskin suit.

They passed through the deserted summer resort. It was about a mile now to the telegraph office. Larry recalled that Bailey had told him there was a short cut by keeping to the railroad track, and he turned into that highway, followed by Peter, who, it seemed, had resolved not to lose sight of his rival.

It was now about nine o'clock, though his activity since early morning made it seem much later to Larry. He knew he had a good story safe in his pocket, and he was pretty sure Peter had only a garbled account, for he could not have gotten the facts so quickly. Nor did he, Larry was sure, have the passenger list, which was the best part of the story.

On and on the two rivals trudged silently. They must be near the office now, Larry thought, and he looked ahead through the rain. They were in the midst of a little settlement of fishermen's houses—a small village—but it was nearly deserted, as most of the inhabitants had gone to the wreck. Larry saw a building on which was a sign informing those who cared to know that it contained a store, the post-office and a place whence telegrams might be sent and received. Peter saw it at the same instant.

"Here's where I beat you!" he cried as he sprang forward on the run.

Larry tried to follow, but his legs became entangled in the oilskin coat and he fell. He was up again in an instant, only to see Peter entering the office. Larry's heart seemed like lead. Had he worked so hard only to be beaten at the last?

Something spurred him on. He stumbled into the office in time to hear Peter saying:

"I want to hold a wire for a long despatch to the New York Scorcher. I've got a big account of the wreck."

"Where's your copy?" asked the young man in charge of the clicking instruments.

"I'll have it ready for you in a minute," replied Peter, sitting down to a table, and beginning to dash off words and sentences as fast as his pencil could fly.

"I can't hold any wire for you," said the operator. "If you have any press stuff to file let me have it. That's the only way you can keep a wire."

"I'll have it for you in a second," Peter replied as he looked anxiously at the door.

"That will not answer. I must have copy in order to keep the wire busy."

"Here it is!" cried Larry, as he entered at that moment and pulled from his pocket his hastily written account of the wreck, including the list of passengers. "I'll be obliged to you if you can get this off to the New York Leader as soon as possible."

"I was here first!" angrily cried Peter.

"But I have his copy first," the operator said. "It is the filing of the despatch first that counts, not who gets here first. I'll get this off right away for you," he added, turning to Larry.

And thus it was that Larry got his scoop, for his account took so long to telegraph that, when the operator began on Peter's, the Leader had the story in the office, and was preparing to get out an extra.

Victor Appleton

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