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Monty was on deck when the inspiration seized him, and he lost no time in telling his guests, who were at breakfast. Although he had misgivings about their opinion of the scheme, he was not prepared for the ominous silence that followed his announcement.
"Are you in earnest, Mr. Brewster?" asked Captain Perry, who was the first of the company to recover from the surprise.
"Of course I am. I chartered this boat for four months with the privilege of another month. I can see no reason to prevent us from prolonging the trip." Monty's manner was full of self-assurance as he continued: "You people are so in the habit of protesting against every suggestion I make that you can't help doing it now."
"But, Monty," said Mrs. Dan, "what if your guests would rather go home?"
"Nonsense; you were asked for a five months' cruise. Besides, think of getting home in the middle of August, with everyone away. It would be like going to Philadelphia."
Brave as he was in the presence of his friends, in the privacy of his stateroom Monty gave way to the depression that was bearing down upon him. It was the hardest task of his life to go on with his scheme in the face of opposition. He knew that every man and woman on board was against the proposition, for his sake at least, and it was difficult to be arbitrary under the circumstances. Purposely he avoided Peggy all forenoon. His single glance at her face in the salon was enough to disturb him immeasurably.
The spirits of the crowd were subdued. The North Cape had charms, but the proclamation concerning it had been too sudden — had reversed too quickly the general expectation and desire. Many of the guests had plans at home for August, and even those who had none were satiated with excitement. During the morning they gathered in little knots to discuss the situation. They were all generous and each one was sure that he could cruise indefinitely, if on Monty's account the new voyage were not out of the question. They felt it their duty to take a desperate stand.
The half-hearted little gatherings resolved themselves into ominous groups and in the end there was a call for a general meeting in the main cabin. Captain Perry, the first mate, and the chief engineer were included in the call, but Montgomery Brewster was not to be admitted. Joe Bragdon loyally agreed to keep him engaged elsewhere while the meeting was in progress. The doors were locked and a cursory glance assured the chairman of the meeting, Dan DeMille, that no member of the party was missing save the devoted Bragdon. Captain Perry was plainly nervous and disturbed. The others were the victims of a suppressed energy that presaged subsequent eruptions.
"Captain Perry, we are assembled here for a purpose," said DeMille, clearing his throat three times. "First of all, as we understand it, you are the sailing master of this ship. In other words, you are, according to maritime law, the commander of this expedition. You alone can give orders to the sailors and you alone can clear a port. Mr. Brewster has no authority except that vested in a common employer. Am I correct?"
"Mr. DeMille, if Mr. Brewster instructs me to sail for the North Cape, I shall do so," said the captain, firmly. "This boat is his for the full term of the lease and I am engaged to sail her with my crew until the tenth of next September."
"We understand your position, captain, and I am sure you appreciate ours. It isn't that we want to end a very delightful cruise, but that we regard it as sheer folly for Mr. Brewster to extend the tour at such tremendous expense. He is — or was — a rich man, but it is impossible to ignore the fact that he is plunging much too heavily. In plain words, we want to keep him from spending more of his money on this cruise. Do you understand our position, Captain Perry?"
"Fully. I wish with all my soul that I could help you and him. My hands are tied by contract, however, much as I regret it at this moment."
"How does the crew feel about this additional trip, captain?" asked DeMille.
"They shipped for five months and will receive five months' pay. The men have been handsomely treated and they will stick to Mr. Brewster to the end," said the captain.
"There is no chance for a mutiny, then?" asked Smith regretfully. The captain gave him a hard look, but said nothing. Everybody seemed uncomfortable.
"Apparently the only way is the one suggested by Mr. Smith this morning," said Mrs. Dan, speaking for the women. "No one will object, I am sure, if Captain Perry and his chief officers are allowed to hear the plan."
"It is very necessary, in fact," said Mr. Valentine. "We cannot proceed without them. But they will agree with us, I am sure, that it is wise."
An hour later the meeting broke up and the conspirators made their way to the deck. It was a strange fact that no one went alone. They were in groups of three and four and the mystery that hung about them was almost perceptible. Not one was willing to face the excited, buoyant Brewster without help; they found strength and security in companionship.
Peggy was the one rebel against the conspiracy, and yet she knew that the others were justified in the step they proposed to take. She reluctantly joined them in the end, but felt that she was the darkest traitor in the crowd. Forgetting her own distress over the way in which Monty was squandering his fortune, she stood out the one defender of his rights until the end and then admitted tearfully to Mrs. DeMille that she had been "quite unreasonable" in doing so.
Alone in her stateroom after signing the agreement, she wondered what he would think of her. She owed him so much that she at least should have stood by him. She felt that he would be conscious of this. How could she have turned against him? He would not understand — of course he would never understand. And he would hate her with the others — more than the others. It was all a wretched muddle and she could not see her way out of it.
Monty found his guests very difficult. They listened to his plans with but little interest, and he could not but see that they were uncomfortable. The situation was new to their experience, and they were under a strain. "They mope around like a lot of pouting boys and girls," he growled to himself. "But it's the North Cape now in spite of everything. I don't care if the whole crowd deserts me, my mind is made up."
Try as he would, he could not see Peggy alone. He had much that he wanted to say to her and he hungered for the consolation her approval would bring him, but she clung to Pettingill with a tenacity that was discouraging. The old feeling of jealousy that was connected with Como again disturbed him.
"She thinks that I am a hopeless, brainless idiot," he said to himself. "And I don't blame her, either."
Just before nightfall he noticed that his friends were assembling in the bow. As he started to join the group "Subway" Smith and DeMille advanced to meet him. Some of the others were smiling a little sheepishly, but the two men were pictures of solemnity and decision.
"Monty," said DeMille steadily, "we have been conspiring against you and have decided that we sail for New York to-morrow morning."
Brewster stopped short and the expression on his face was one they never could forget. Bewilderment, uncertainty and pain succeeded each other like flashes of light. Not a word was spoken for several seconds. The red of humiliation slowly mounted to his cheeks, while in his eyes wavered the look of one who has been hunted down.
"You have decided?" he asked lifelessly, and more than one heart went out in pity to him.
"We hated to do it, Monty, but for your own sake there was no other way," said "Subway" Smith quickly. "We took a vote and there wasn't a dissenting voice."
"It is a plain case of mutiny, I take it," said Monty, utterly alone and heart-sick.
"It isn't necessary to tell you why we have taken this step," said DeMille. "It is heartbreaking to oppose you at this stage of the game. You've been the best ever and — "
"Cut that," cried Monty, and his confidence in himself was fast returning. "This is no time to throw bouquets."
"We like you, Brewster." Mr. Valentine came to the chairman's assistance because the others had looked at him so appealingly. "We like you so well that we can't take the responsibility for your extravagance. It would disgrace us all."
"That side of the matter was never mentioned," cried Peggy indignantly, and then added with a catch in her voice, "We thought only of you."
"I appreciate your motives and I am grateful to you," said Monty. "I am more sorry than I can tell you that the cruise must end in this way, but I too have decided. The yacht will take you to some point where you can catch a steamer to New York. I shall secure passage for the entire party and very soon you will be at home. Captain Perry, will you oblige me by making at once for any port that my guests may agree upon?" He was turning away deliberately when "Subway" Smith detained him.
"What do you mean by getting a steamer to New York? Isn't the 'Flitter' good enough?" he asked.
"The 'Flitter' is not going to New York just now," answered Brewster firmly, "notwithstanding your ultimatum. She is going to take me to the North Cape."