Part 1 out of 3
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A TRIO AND QUARTETTE
'There is a tide in the affairs of men.'
Chapter 1. NIGHT ON THE BEACH
Throughout the island world of the Pacific, scattered men of
many European races and from almost every grade of society
carry activity and disseminate disease. Some prosper, some
vegetate. Some have mounted the steps of thrones and owned
islands and navies. Others again must marry for a livelihood; a
strapping, merry, chocolate-coloured dame supports them in
sheer idleness; and, dressed like natives, but still retaining
some foreign element of gait or attitude, still perhaps with some
relic (such as a single eye-glass) of the officer and gentleman,
they sprawl in palm-leaf verandahs and entertain an island
audience with memoirs of the music-hall. And there are still
others, less pliable, less capable, less fortunate, perhaps less
base, who continue, even in these isles of plenty, to lack bread.
At the far end of the town of Papeete, three such men were
seated on the beach under a purao tree.
It was late. Long ago the band had broken up and marched
musically home, a motley troop of men and women, merchant
clerks and navy officers, dancing in its wake, arms about waist
and crowned with garlands. Long ago darkness and silence had
gone from house to house about the tiny pagan city. Only the
street lamps shone on, making a glow-worm halo in the umbrageous
alleys or drawing a tremulous image on the waters of the
port. A sound of snoring ran among the piles of lumber by the
Government pier. It was wafted ashore from the graceful
clipper-bottomed schooners, where they lay moored close in like
dinghies, and their crews were stretched upon the deck under
the open sky or huddled in a rude tent amidst the disorder of
But the men under the purao had no thought of sleep. The
same temperature in England would have passed without
remark in summer; but it was bitter cold for the South Seas.
Inanimate nature knew it, and the bottle of cocoanut oil stood
frozen in every bird-cage house about the island; and the men
knew it, and shivered. They wore flimsy cotton clothes, the same
they had sweated in by day and run the gauntlet of the tropic
showers; and to complete their evil case, they had no breakfast
to mention, less dinner, and no supper at all.
In the telling South Sea phrase, these three men were ON THE
BEACH. Common calamity had brought them acquainted, as the
three most miserable English-speaking creatures in Tahiti; and
beyond their misery, they knew next to nothing of each other,
not even their true names. For each had made a long
apprenticeship in going downward; and each, at some stage of the
descent, had been shamed into the adoption of an alias. And yet
not one of them had figured in a court of justice; two were men
of kindly virtues; and one, as he sat and shivered under the
purao, had a tattered Virgil in his pocket.
Certainly, if money,could have been raised upon the book,
Robert Herrick would long ago have sacrificed that last
possession; but the demand for literature, which is so marked a
feature in some parts of the South Seas, extends not so far as
the dead tongues; and the Virgil, which he could not exchange
against a meal, had often consoled him in his hunger. He would
study it, as he lay with tightened belt on the floor of the old
calaboose, seeking favourite passages and finding new ones only
less beautiful because they lacked the coinsecration of
remembrance. Or he would pause on random country walks; sit on
the path side, gazing over the sea on the mountains of Eimeo; and
dip into the Aeneid, seeking sortes. And if the oracle (as is
the way of oracles) replied with no very certain nor encouraging
voice, visions of England at least would throng upon the exile's
memory: the busy schoolroom, the green playing-fields, holidays
at home, and the perennial roar of London, and the fireside, and
the white head of his father. For it is the destiny of those
grave, restrained and classic writers, with whom we make enforced
and often painful acquaintanceship at school, to pass into the
blood and become native in the memory; so that a phrase of
Virgil speaks not so much of Mantua or Augustus, but of
English places and the student's own irrevocable youth.
Robert Herrick was the son of an intelligent, active, and
ambitious man, small partner in a considerable London house.
Hopes were conceived of the boy; he was sent to a good school,
gained there an Oxford scholarship, and proceeded in course to
the Western University. With all his talent and taste (and he had
much of both) Robert was deficient in consistency and
intellectual manhood, wandered in bypaths of study, worked at
music or at metaphysics when he should have been at Greek, and
took at last a paltry degree. Almost at the same time, the London
house was disastrously wound up; Mr Herrick must begin the
world again as a clerk in a strange office, and Robert relinquish
his ambitions and accept with gratitude a career that he detested
and despised. He had no head for figures, no interest in affairs,
detested the constraint of hours, and despised the aims and the
success of merchants. To grow rich was none of his ambitions;
rather to do well. A worse or a more bold young man would
have refused the destiny; perhaps tried his future with his pen;
perhaps enlisted. Robert, more prudent, possibly more timid,
consented to embrace that way of life in which he could most
readily assist his family. But he did so with a mind divided;
fled the neighbourhood of former comrades; and chose, out of
several positions placed at his disposal, a clerkship in New
His career thenceforth was one of unbroken shame. He did
not drink, he was exactly honest, he was never rude to his
employers, yet was everywhere discharged. Bringing no interest
to his duties, he brought no attention; his day was a tissue of
things neglected and things done amiss; and from place to place
and from town to town, he carried the character of one
thoroughly incompetent. No man can bear the word applied to
him without some flush of colour, as indeed there is none other
that so emphatically slams in a man's face the door of self-
respect. And to Herrick, who was conscious of talents and
acquirements, who looked down upon those humble duties in
which he was found wanting, the pain was the more exquisite.
Early in his fall, he had ceased to be able to make remittances;
shortly after, having nothing but failure to communicate, he
ceased writing home; and about a year before this tale begins,
turned suddenly upon the streets of San Francisco by a vulgar
and infuriated German Jew, he had broken the last bonds of
self-respect, and upon a sudden Impulse, changed his name and
invested his last dollar in a passage on the mail brigantine, the
City of Papeete. With what expectation he had trimmed his flight
for the South Seas, Herrick perhaps scarcely knew. Doubtless
there were fortunes to be made in pearl and copra; doubtless
others not more gifted than himself had climbed in the island
world to be queen's consorts and king's ministers. But if Herrick
had gone there with any manful purpose, he would have kept
his father's name; the alias betrayed his moral bankruptcy; he
bad struck his flag; he entertained no hope to reinstate himself
or help his straitened family; and he came to the islands (where
he knew the climate to be soft, bread cheap, and manners easy)
a skulker from life's battle and his own immediate duty. Failure,
he had said, was his portion; let it be a pleasant failure.
It is fortunately not enough to say 'I will be base.' Herrick
continued in the islands his career of failure; but in the new
scene and under the new name, he suffered no less sharply than
before. A place was got, it was lost in the old style; from the
long-suffering of the keepers of restaurants he fell to more open
charity upon the wayside; as time went on, good nature became
weary, and after a repulse or two, Herrick became shy. There
were women enough who would have supported a far worse
and a far uglier man; Herrick never met or never knew them: or
if he did both, some manlier feeling would revolt, and he
preferred starvation. Drenched with rains, broiling by day,
shivering by night, a disused and ruinous prison for a bedroom,
his diet begged or pilfered out of rubbish heaps, his associates
two creatures equally outcast with himself, he had drained for
months the cup of penitence. He had known what it was to be
resigned, what it was to break forth in a childish fury of
rebellion against fate, and what it was to sink into the coma of
despair. The time had changed him. He told himself no longer
tales of an easy and perhaps agreeable declension; he read his
nature otherwise; he had proved himself incapable of rising, and
he now learned by experience that he could not stoop to fall.
Something that was scarcely pride or strength, that was perhaps
only refinement, withheld him from capitulation; but he looked
on upon his own misfortune with a growing rage, and sometimes
wondered at his patience.
It was now the fourth month completed, and still there was
no change or sign of change. The moon, racing through a world
of flying clouds of every size and shape and density, some black
as ink stains, some delicate as lawn, threw the marvel of her
Southern brightness over the same lovely and detested scene: the
island mountains crowned with the perennial island cloud, the
embowered city studded with rare lamps, the masts in the
harbour, the smooth mirror of the lagoon, and the mole of the
barrier reef on which the breakers whitened. The moon shone
too, with bull's-eye sweeps, on his companions; on the stalwart
frame of the American who called himself Brown, and was
known to be a master mariner in some disgrace; and on the
dwarfish person, the pale eyes and toothless smile of a vulgar
and bad-hearted cockney clerk. Here was society for Robert
Herrick! The Yankee skipper was a man at least: he had sterling
qualities of tenderness and resolution; he was one whose hand
you could take without a blush. But there was no redeeming
grace about the other, who called himself sometimes Hay and
sometimes Tomkins, and laughed at the discrepancy; who had
been employed in every store in Papeete, for the creature was
able in his way; who had been discharged from each in turn, for
he was wholly vile; who had alienated all his old employers so
that they passed him in the street as if he were a dog, and all
his old comrades so that they shunned him as they would a
Not long before, a ship from Peru had brought an influenza,
and it now raged in the island, and particularly in Papeete. From
all round the purao arose and fell a dismal sound of men
coughing, and strangling as they coughed. The sick natives, with
the islander's impatience of a touch of fever, had crawled from
their houses to be cool and, squatting on the shore or on the
beached canoes, painfully expected the new day. Even as the
crowing of cocks goes about the country in the night from farm to
farm, accesses of coughing arose, and spread, and died in the
distance, and sprang up again. Each miserable shiverer caught the
suggestion from his neighbour, was torn for some minutes by that
cruel ecstasy, and left spent and without voice or courage when
it passed. If a man had pity to spend, Papeete beach, in that
cold night and in that infected season, was a place to spend it
on. And of all the sufferers, perhaps the least deserving, but
surely the most pitiable, was the London clerk. He was used to
another life, to houses, beds, nursing, and the dainties of the
sickroom; he lay there now, in the cold open, exposed to the
gusting of the wind, and with an empty belly. He was besides
infirm; the disease shook him to the vitals; and his companions
watched his endurance with surprise. A profound commiseration
filled them, and contended with and conquered their abhorrence.
The disgust attendant on so ugly a sickness magnified this
dislike; at the same time, and with more than compensating
strength, shame for a sentiment so inhuman bound them the more
straitly to his service; and even the evil they knew of him
swelled their solicitude, for the thought of death is always the
least supportable when it draws near to the merely sensual and
selfish. Sometimes they held him up; sometimes, with mistaken
helpfulness, they beat him between the shoulders; and when the
poor wretch lay back ghastly and spent after a paroxysm of
coughing, they would sometimes peer into his face, doubtfully
exploring it for any mark of life. There is no one but has some
virtue: that of the clerk was courage; and he would make haste to
reassure them in a pleasantry not always decent.
'I'm all right, pals,' he gasped once: 'this is the thing to
strengthen the muscles of the larynx.'
'Well, you take the cake!' cried the captain.
'O, I'm good plucked enough,' pursued the sufferer with a broken
utterance. 'But it do seem bloomin' hard to me, that I should be
the only party down with this form of vice, and the only one to
do the funny business. I think one of you other parties might
wake up. Tell a fellow something.'
'The trouble is we've nothing to tell, my son,' returned the
'I'll tell you, if you like, what I was thinking,' said Herrick.
'Tell us anything,' said the clerk, 'I only want to be reminded
that I ain't dead.'
Herrick took up his parable, lying on his face and speaking
slowly and scarce above his breath, not like a man who has
anything to say, but like one talking against time.
'Well, I was thinking this,' he began: 'I was thinking I lay on
Papeete beach one night--all moon and squalls and fellows
coughing--and I was cold and hungry, and down in the mouth, and
was about ninety years of age, and had spent two hundred and
twenty of them on Papeete beach. And I was thinking I wished I
had a ring to rub, or had a fairy godmother, or could raise
Beelzebub. And I was trying to remember how you did it. I knew
you made a ring of skulls, for I had seen that in the
Freischultz: and that you took off your coat and turned up your
sleeves, for I had seen Formes do that when he was playing
Kaspar, and you could see (by the way he went about it) it was a
business he had studied; and that you ought to have something to
kick up a smoke and a bad smell, I dare say a cigar might do, and
that you ought to say the Lord's Prayer backwards. Well, I
wondered if I could do that; it seemed rather a feat, you see.
And then I wondered if I would say it forward, and I thought I
did. Well, no sooner had I got to WORLD WITHOUT END, than I saw a
man in a pariu, and with a mat under his arm, come along the
beach from the town. He was rather a hard-favoured old party,
and he limped and crippled, and all the time he kept coughing. At
first I didn't cotton to his looks, I thought, and then I got
sorry for the old soul because he coughed so hard. I remembered
that we had some of that cough mixture the American consul gave
the captain for Hay. It never did Hay a ha'porth of service, but
I thought it might do the old gentleman's business for him, and
stood up. "Yorana!" says I. "Yorana!" says he. "Look here," I
said, "I've got some first-rate stuff in a bottle; it'll fix your
cough, savvy? Harry my and I'll measure you a tablespoonful in
the palm of my hand, for all our plate is at the bankers." So I
thought the old party came up, and the nearer he came, the less I
took to him. But I had passed my word, you see.'
'Wot is this bloomin' drivel?' interrupted the clerk. 'It's like
the rot there is in tracts.'
'It's a story; I used to tell them to the kids at home,' said
Herrick. 'If it bores you, I'll drop it.'
'O, cut along!' returned the sick man, irritably. 'It's better
'Well,' continued Herrick, 'I had no sooner given him the
cough mixture than he seemed to straighten up and change, and
I saw he wasn't a Tahitian after all, but some kind of Arab, and
had a long beard on his chin. "One good turn deserves another,"
says he. "I am a magician out of the Arabian Nights, and this
mat that I have under my arm is the original carpet of
Mohammed Ben Somebody-or-other. Say the word, and you
can have a cruise upon the carpet." "You don't mean to say this
is the Travelling Carpet?" I cried. "You bet I do," said he.
"You've been to America since last I read the Arabian Nights,"
said I, a little suspicious. "I should think so," said he. "Been
everywhere. A man with a carpet like this isn't going to moulder
in a semi-detached villa." Well, that struck me as reasonable.
"All right," I said; "and do you mean to tell me I can get on
that carpet and go straight to London, England?" I said,
"London, England," captain, because he seemed to have been
so long in your part of the world. "In the crack of a whip," said
he. I figured up the time. What is the difference between Papeete
and London, captain?'
'Taking Greenwich and Point Venus, nine hours, odd minutes and
seconds,' replied the mariner.
'Well, that's about what I made it,' resumed Herrick, 'about
nine hours. Calling this three in the morning, I made out I would
drop into London about noon; and the idea tickled me
immensely. "There's only one bother," I said, "I haven't a
copper cent. It would be a pity to go to London and not buy the
morning Standard." "O!" said he, "you don't realise the
conveniences of this carpet. You see this pocket? you've only got
to stick your hand in, and you pull it out filled with
'Double-eagles, wasn't iff inquired the captain.
'That was what it was!' cried Herrick. 'I thought they seemed
unusually big, and I remember now I had to go to the
money-changers at Charing Cross and get English silver.'
'O, you went there?' said the clerk. 'Wot did you do? Bet you
had a B. and S.!'
'Well, you see, it was just as the old boy said--like the cut of
a whip,' said Herrick. 'The one minute I was here on the beach
at three in the morning, the next I was in front of the Golden
Cross at midday. At first I was dazzled, and covered my eyes,
and there didn't seem the smallest change; the roar of the Strand
and the roar of the reef were like the same: hark to it now, and
you can hear the cabs and buses rolling and the streets resound!
And then at last I could look about, and there was the old place,
and no mistake! With the statues in the square, and St Martin's-
in-the-Fields, and the bobbies, and the sparrows, and the hacks;
and I can't tell you what I felt like. I felt like crying, I
believe, or dancing, or jumping clean over the Nelson Column. I
was like a fellow caught up out of Hell and flung down into the
dandiest part of Heaven. Then I spotted for a hansom with a
spanking horse. "A shilling for yourself, if you're there in
twenty minutes!" said I to the jarvey. He went a good pace,
though of course it was a trifle to the carpet; and in nineteen
minutes and a half I was at the door.'
'What door?' asked the captain.
'Oh, a house I know of,' returned Herrick.
'But it was a public-house!' cried the clerk--only these were
not his words. 'And w'y didn't you take the carpet there instead
of trundling in a growler?'
'I didn't want to startle a quiet street,' said the narrator.
'Bad form. And besides, it was a hansom.'
'Well, and what did you do next?' inquired the captain.
'Oh, I went in,' said Herrick.
'The old folks?' asked the captain.
'That's about it,' said the other, chewing a grass.
'Well, I think you are about the poorest 'and at a yarn!' cried
the clerk. 'Crikey, it's like Ministering Children! I can tell
you there would be more beer and skittles about my little jaunt.
I would go and have a B. and S. for luck. Then I would get a big
ulster with astrakhan fur, and take my cane and do the la-de-la
down Piccadilly. Then I would go to a slap-up restaurant, and
have green peas, and a bottle of fizz, and a chump chop--Oh!
and I forgot, I'd 'ave some devilled whitebait first--and green
gooseberry tart, and 'ot coffee, and some of that form of vice in
big bottles with a seal--Benedictine--that's the bloomin' nyme!
Then I'd drop into a theatre, and pal on with some chappies,
and do the dancing rooms and bars, and that, and wouldn't go
'ome till morning, till daylight doth appear. And the next day
I'd have water-cresses, 'am, muffin, and fresh butter; wouldn't I
just, O my!'
The clerk was interrupted by a fresh attack of coughing.
'Well, now, I'll tell you what I would do,' said the captain: 'I
would have none of your fancy rigs with the man driving from
the mizzen cross-trees, but a plain fore-and-aft hack cab of the
highest registered tonnage. First of all, I would bring up at the
market and get a turkey and a sucking-pig. Then I'd go to a
wine merchant's and get a dozen of champagne, and a dozen of
some sweet wine, rich and sticky and strong, something in the
port or madeira line, the best in the store. Then I'd bear up for
a toy-store, and lay out twenty dollars in assorted toys for the
piccaninnies; and then to a confectioner's and take in cakes and
pies and fancy bread, and that stuff with the plums in it; and
then to a news-agency and buy all the papers, all the picture
ones for the kids, and all the story papers for the old girl
about the Earl discovering himself to Anna-Mariar and the escape
of the Lady Maude from the private madhouse; and then I'd tell
the fellow to drive home.'
'There ought to be some syrup for the kids,' suggested Herrick;
'they like syrup.'
'Yes, syrup for the kids, red syrup at that!' said the captain.
'And those things they pull at, and go pop, and have measly
poetry inside. And then I tell you we'd have a thanksgiving day
and Christmas tree combined. Great Scott, but I would like to
see the kids! I guess they would light right out of the house,
when they saw daddy driving up. My little Adar--'
The captain stopped sharply.
'Well, keep it up!' said the clerk.
'The damned thing is, I don't know if they ain't starving!'
cried the captain.
'They can't be worse off than we are, and that's one comfort,'
returned the clerk. 'I defy the devil to make me worse off.'
It seemed as if the devil heard him. The light of the moon had
been some time cut off and they had talked in darkness. Now
there was heard a roar, which drew impetuously nearer; the face
of the lagoon was seen to whiten; and before they had staggered
to their feet, a squall burst in rain upon the outcasts. The rage
and volume of that avalanche one must have lived in the tropics
to conceive; a man panted in its assault, as he might pant under
a shower-bath; and the world seemed whelmed in night and water.
They fled, groping for their usual shelter--it might be almost
called their home--in the old calaboose; came drenched into its
empty chambers; and lay down, three sops of humanity on the
cold coral floors, and presently, when the squall was overpast,
the others could hear in the darkness the chattering of the
'I say, you fellows,' he walled, 'for God's sake, lie up and try
to warm me. I'm blymed if I don't think I'll die else!'
So the three crept together into one wet mass, and lay until
day came, shivering and dozing off, and continually re-awakened
to wretchedness by the coughing of the clerk.
Chapter 2. MORNING ON THE BEACH - THE THREE LETTERS
The clouds were all fled, the beauty of the tropic day was spread
upon Papeete; and the wall of breaking seas upon the reef, and
the palms upon the islet, already trembled in the heat. A French
man-of-war was going out, homeward bound; she lay in the
middle distance of the port, an ant heap for activity. In the
night a schooner had come in, and now lay far out, hard by the
passage; and the yellow flag, the emblem of pestilence, flew on
her. From up the coast, a long procession of canoes headed
round the point and towards the market, bright as a scarf with
the many-coloured clothing of the natives and the piles of fruit.
But not even the beauty and the welcome warmth of the
morning, not even these naval movements, so interesting to
sailors and to idlers, could engage the attention of the
outcasts. They were still cold at heart, their mouths sour from
the want of steep, their steps rambling from the lack of food;
and they strung like lame geese along the beach in a disheartened
silence. It was towards the town they moved; towards the town
whence smoke arose, where happier folk were breakfasting; and as
they went, their hungry eyes were upon all sides, but they were
only scouting for a meal.
A small and dingy schooner lay snug against the quay, with
which it was connected by a plank. On the forward deck, under
a spot of awning, five Kanakas who made up the crew, were
squatted round a basin of fried feis, and drinking coffee from
'Eight bells: knock off for breakfast!' cried the captain with a
miserable heartiness. 'Never tried this craft before; positively
my first appearance; guess I'll draw a bumper house.'
He came close up to where the plank rested on the grassy
quay; turned his back upon the schooner, and began to whistle
that lively air, 'The Irish Washerwoman.' It caught the ears of
the Kanaka seamen like a preconcerted signal; with one accord
they looked up from their meal and crowded to the ship's side,
fei in hand and munching as they looked. Even as a poor brown
Pyrenean bear dances in the streets of English towns under his
master's baton; even so, but with how much more of spirit and
precision, the captain footed it in time to his own whistling,
and his long morning shadow capered beyond him on the grass. The
Kanakas smiled on thie performance; Herrick looked on heavy-eyed,
hunger for the moment conquering all sense of shame; and a little
farther off, but still hard by, the clerk was torn by the
seven devils of the influenza.
The captain stopped suddenly, appeared to perceive his audience
for the first time, and represented the part of a man surprised
in his private hour of pleasure.
'Hello!' said he.
The Kanakas clapped hands and called upon him to go on.
'No, SIR!' said the captain. 'No eat, no dance. Savvy?'
'Poor old man!' returned one of the crew. 'Him no eat?'
'Lord, no!' said the captain. 'Like-um too much eat. No got.'
'All right. Me got,' said the sailor; 'you tome here. Plenty
toffee, plenty fei. Nutha man him tome too.'
'I guess we'll drop right in,' observed the captain; and he and
his companions hastened up the plank. They were welcomed on
board with the shaking of hands; place was made for them
about the basin; a sticky demijohn of molasses was added to the
feast in honour of company, and an accordion brought from the
forecastle and significantly laid by the performer's side.
'Ariana," said he lightly, touching the instrument as he spoke;
and he fell to on a long savoury fei, made an end of it, raised
his mug of coffee, and nodded across at the spokesman of the
crew. 'Here's your health, old man; you're a credit to the South
Pacific,' said he.
With the unsightly greed of hounds they glutted themselves
with the hot food and coffee; and even the clerk revived and the
colour deepened in his eyes. The kettle was drained, the basin
cleaned; their entertainers, who had waited on their wants
throughout with the pleased hospitality of Polynesians, made
haste to bring forward a dessert of island tobacco and rolls of
pandanus leaf to serve as paper; and presently all sat about the
dishes puffing like Indian Sachems.
'When a man 'as breakfast every day, he don't know what it
is,' observed the clerk.
'The next point is dinner,' said Herrick; and then with a
passionate utterance: 'I wish to God I was a Kanaka!'
'There's one thing sure,' said the captain. 'I'm about desperate,
I'd rather hang than rot here much longer.' And with the
word he took the accordion and struck up. 'Home, sweet home.'
'O, drop that!' cried Herrick, 'I can't stand that.'
'No more can I,' said the captain. 'I've got to play something
though: got to pay the shot, my son.' And he struck up 'John
Brown's Body' in a fine sweet baritone: 'Dandy Jim of Carolina,'
came next; 'Rorin the Bold,' 'Swing low, Sweet Chariot,' and
'The Beautiful Land' followed. The captain was paying his shot
with usury, as he had done many a time before; many a meal
had he bought with the same currency from the melodious-minded
natives, always, as now, to their delight.
He was in the middle of 'Fifteen Dollars in the Inside Pocket,'
singing with dogged energy, for the task went sore against the
grain, when a sensation was suddenly to be observed among the
'Tapena Tom harry my,' said the spokesman, pointing.
And the three beachcombers, following his indication, saw
the figure of a man in pyjama trousers and a white jumper
approaching briskly from the town.
'Captain Tom is coming.'
'That's Tapena Tom, is it?' said the captain, pausing in his
music. 'I don't seem to place the brute.'
'We'd better cut,' said the clerk. "E's no good.,
'Well,' said the musician deliberately, 'one can't most generally
always tell. I'll try it on, I guess. Music has charms to soothe
the savage Tapena, boys. We might strike it rich; it might
amount to iced punch in the cabin.'
'Hiced punch? O my!' said the clerk. 'Give him something 'ot,
captain. "Way down the Swannee River"; try that.'
'No, sir! Looks Scotch,' said the captain; and he struck, for
his life, into 'Auld Lang Syne.'
Captain Tom continued to approach with the same business-like
alacrity; no change was to be perceived in his bearded face
as he came swinging up the plank: he did not even turn his eyes
on the performer.
'We twa hae paidled in the burn
Frae morning tide till dine,'
went the song.
Captain Tom had a parcel under his arm, which he laid on
the house roof, and then turning suddenly to the strangers:
'Here, you!' he bellowed, 'be off out of that!'
The clerk and Herrick stood not on the order of their going,
but fled incontinently by the plank. The performer, on the other
hand, flung down the instrument and rose to his full height
'What's that you say?' he said. 'I've half a mind to give you a
lesson in civility.'
'You set up any more of your gab to me,' returned the Scotsman,
'and I'll show ye the wrong side of a jyle. I've heard tell of
the three of ye. Ye're not long for here, I can tell ye that.
The Government has their eyes upon ye. They make short work
of damned beachcombers, I'll say that for the French.'
'You wait till I catch you off your ship!' cried the captain:
and then, turning to the crew, 'Good-bye, you fellows!' he said.
'You're gentlemen, anyway! The worst nigger among you would
look better upon a quarter-deck than that filthy Scotchman.'
Captain Tom scorned to reply; he watched with a hard smile
the departure of his guests; and as soon as the last foot was off
the plank; turned to the hands to work cargo.
The beachcombers beat their inglorious retreat along the
shore; Herrick first, his face dark with blood, his knees
trembling under him with the hysteria of rage. Presently, under
the same purao where they had shivered the night before, he cast
himself down, and groaned aloud, and ground his face into the
'Don't speak to me, don't speak to me. I can't stand it,' broke
The other two stood over him perplexed.
'Wot can't he stand now?' said the clerk. ''Asn't he 'ad a
meal? I'M lickin' my lips.'
Herrick reared up his wild eyes and burning face. 'I can't beg!'
he screamed, and again threw himself prone.
'This thing's got to come to an end,' said the captain with an
intake of the breath.
'Looks like signs of an end, don't it?' sneered the clerk.
'He's not so far from it, and don't you deceive yourself,'
replied the captain. 'Well,' he added in a livelier voice, 'you
fellows hang on here, and I'll go and interview my
Whereupon he turned on his heel, and set off at a swinging
sailor's walk towards Papeete.
It was some half hour later when he returned. The clerk was
dozing with his back against the tree: Herrick still lay where he
had flung himself; nothing showed whether he slept or waked.
'See, boys!' cried the captain, with that artificial heartiness
of his which was at times so painful, 'here's a new idea.' And he
produced note paper, stamped envelopes, and pencils, three of
each. 'We can all write home by the mail brigantine; the consul
says I can come over to his place and ink up the addresses.'
'Well, that's a start, too,' said the clerk. 'I never thought of
'It was that yarning last night about going home that put me
up to it,' said the captain.
'Well, 'and over,' said the clerk. 'I'll 'ave a shy,' and he
retired a little distance to the shade of a canoe.
The others remained under the purao. Now they would write
a word or two, now scribble it out; now they would sit biting at
the pencil end and staring seaward; now their eyes would rest
on the clerk, where he sat propped on the canoe, leering and
coughing, his pencil racing glibly on the paper.
'I can't do it,' said Herrick suddenly. 'I haven't got the
'See here,' said the captain, speaking with unwonted gravity;
'it may be hard to write, and to write lies at that; and God
knows it is; but it's the square thing. It don't cost anything to
say you're well and happy, and sorry you can't make a remittance
this mail; and if you don't, I'll tell you what I think it
is--I think it's about the high-water mark of being a brute
'It's easy to talk,' said Herrick. 'You don't seem to have
written much yourself, I notice.'
'What do you bring in me for?' broke from the captain. His
voice was indeed scarce raised above a whisper, but emotion
clanged in it. 'What do you know about me? If you had
commanded the finest barque that ever sailed from Portland; if
you had been drunk in your berth when she struck the breakers
in Fourteen Island Group, and hadn't had the wit to stay there
and drown, but came on deck, and given drunken orders, and
lost six lives--I could understand your talking then! There,' he
said more quietly, 'that's my yarn, and now you know it. It's a
pretty one for the father of a family. Five men and a woman
murdered. Yes, there was a woman on board, and hadn't no
business to be either. Guess I sent her to Hell, if there is such
a place. I never dared go home again; and the wife and the little
ones went to England to her father's place. I don't know what's
come to them,' he added, with a bitter shrug.
'Thank you, captain,' said Herrick. 'I never liked you better.'
They shook hands, short and hard, with eyes averted, tenderness
swelling in their bosoms.
'Now, boys! to work again at lying!' said the captain.
'I'll give my father up,' returned Herrick with a writhen smile.
'I'll try my sweetheart instead for a change of evils.'
And here is what he wrote:
'Emma, I have scratched out the beginning to my father, for I
think I can write more easily to you. This is my last farewell to
all, the last you will ever hear or see of an unworthy friend and
son. I have failed in life; I am quite broken down and disgraced.
I pass under a false name; you will have to tell my father that
with all your kindness. It is my own fault. I know, had I chosen,
that I might have done well; and yet I swear to you I tried to
choose. I could not bear that you should think I did not try. For
I loved you all; you must never doubt me in that, you least of
all. I have always unceasingly loved, but what was my love
worth? and what was I worth? I had not the manhood of a
common clerk, I could not work to earn you; I have lost you
now, and for your sake I could be glad of it. When you first
came to my father's house--do you remember those days? I
want you to--you saw the best of me then, all that was good in
me. Do you remember the day I took your hand and would not
let it go--and the day on Battersea Bridge, when we were
looking at a barge, and I began to tell you one of my silly
stories, and broke off to say I loved you? That was the
beginning, and now here is the end. When you have read this
letter, you will go round and kiss them all good-bye, my father
and mother, and the children, one by one, and poor uncle; And
tell them all to forget me, and forget me yourself. Turn the key
in the door; let no thought of me return; be done with the poor
ghost that pretended he was a man and stole your love. Scorn of
myself grinds in me as I write. I should tell you I am well and
happy, and want for nothing. I do not exactly make money, or I
should send a remittance; but I am well cared for, have friends,
live in a beautiful place and climate, such as we have dreamed
of together, and no pity need be wasted on me. In such places,
you understand, it is easy to live, and live well, but often hard
to make sixpence in money. Explain this to my father, he will
understand. I have no more to say; only linger, going out, like
an unwilling guest. God in heaven bless you. Think of me to the
last, here, on a bright beach, the sky and sea immoderately blue,
and the great breakers roaring outside on a barrier reef, where a
little isle sits green with palms. I am well and strong. It is a
more pleasant way to die than if you were crowding about me on a
sick-bed. And yet I am dying. This is my last kiss. Forgive,
forget the unworthy.'
So far he bad written, his paper was all filled, when there
returned a memory of evenings at the piano, and that song, the
masterpiece of love, in which so many have found the expression
of their dearest thoughts. 'Einst, O wunder!' he added. More
was not required; he knew that in his love's heart the context
would spring up, escorted with fair images and harmony; of
how all through life her name should tremble in his ears, her
name be everywhere repeated in the sounds of nature; and when
death came, and he lay dissolved, her memory lingered and
thrilled among his elements.
'Once, O wonder! once from the ashes of my heart
Arose a blossom--'
Herrick and the captain finished their letters about the same
time; each was breathing deep, and their eyes met and were
averted as they closed the envelopes.
'Sorry I write so big,' said the captain gruffly. 'Came all of a
rush, when it did come.'
'Same here,' said Herrick. 'I could have done with a ream when I
got started; but it's long enough for all the good I had to say.'
They were still at the addresses when the clerk strolled up,
smirking and twirling his envelope, like a man well pleased. He
looked over Herrick's shoulder.
'Hullo,' he said, 'you ain't writing 'ome.'
'I am, though,' said Herrick; 'she lives with my father. Oh, I
see what you mean,' he added. 'My real name is Herrick. No
more Hay'--they had both used the same alias--'no more Hay
than yours, I dare say.'
'Clean bowled in the middle stump!' laughed the clerk. 'My
name's 'Uish if you want to know. Everybody has a false nyme
in the Pacific. Lay you five to three the captain 'as.'
'So I have too,' replied the captain; 'and I've never told my own
since the day I tore the title page out of my Bowditch and
flung the damned thing into the sea. But I'll tell it to you,
boys. John Davis is my name. I'm Davis of the Sea Ranger.'
'Dooce you are!' said Hush. 'And what was she? a pirate or a
'She was the fastest barque out of Portland, Maine,' replied
the captain; 'and for the way I lost her, I might as well have
bored a hole in her side with an auger.'
'Oh, you lost her, did you?' said the clerk. ''Ope she was
No answer being returned to this sally, Huish, still brimming
over with vanity and conversation, struck into another subject.
'I've a good mind to read you my letter,' said he. 'I've a good
fist with a pen when I choose, and this is a prime lark. She was
a barmaid I ran across in Northampton; she was a spanking fine
piece, no end of style; and we cottoned at first sight like
parties in the play. I suppose I spent the chynge of a fiver on
that girl. Well, I 'appened to remember her nyme, so I wrote to
her, and told her 'ow I had got rich, and married a queen in the
Hislands, and lived in a blooming palace. Such a sight of
crammers! I must read you one bit about my opening the nigger
parliament in a cocked 'at. It's really prime.'
The captain jumped to his feet. 'That's what you did with the
paper that I went and begged for you?' he roared.
It was perhaps lucky for Huish--it was surely in the end
unfortunate for all--that he was seized just then by one of his
prostrating accesses of cough; his comrades would have else
deserted him, so bitter was their resentment. When the fit had
passed, the clerk reached out his hand, picked up the letter,
which had fallen to the earth, and tore it into fragments, stamp
'Does that satisfy you?' he asked sullenly.
'We'll say no more about it,' replied Davis.
Chapter 3. THE OLD CALABOOSE - DESTINY AT THE DOOR
The old calaboose, in which the waifs had so long harboured, is
a low, rectangular enclosure of building at the corner of a shady
western avenue and a little townward of the British consulate.
Within was a grassy court, littered with wreckage and the traces
of vagrant occupation. Six or seven cells opened from the court:
the doors, that had once been locked on mutinous whalermen,
rotting before them in the grass. No mark remained of their old
destination, except the rusty bars upon the windows.
The floor of one of the cells had been a little cleared; a bucket
(the last remaining piece of furniture of the three caitiffs)
stood full of water by the door, a half cocoanut shell beside it
for a drinking cup; and on some ragged ends of mat Huish sprawled
asleep, his mouth open, his face deathly. The glow of the tropic
afternoon, the green of sunbright foliage, stared into that shady
place through door and window; and Herrick, pacing to and fro
on the coral floor, sometimes paused and laved his face and
neck with tepid water from the bucket. His long arrears of
suffering, the night's vigil, the insults of the morning, and the
harrowing business of the letter, had strung him to that point
when pain is almost pleasure, time shrinks to a mere point, and
death and life appear indifferent. To and fro he paced like a
caged brute; his mind whirling through the universe of thought
and memory; his eyes, as he went, skimming the legends on the
wall. The crumbling whitewash was all full of them: Tahitian
names, and French, and English, and rude sketches of ships
under sail and men at fisticuffs.
It came to him of a sudden that he too must leave upon these
walls the memorial of his passage. He paused before a clean
space, took the pencil out, and pondered. Vanity, so hard to
dislodge, awoke in him. We call it vanity at least; perhaps
unjustly. Rather it was the bare sense of his existence prompted
him; the sense of his life, the one thing wonderful, to which he
scarce clung with a finger. From his jarred nerves there came a
strong sentiment of coming change; whether good or ill he could
not say: change, he knew no more--change, with inscrutable
veiled face, approaching noiseless. With the feeling, came the
vision of a concert room, the rich hues of instruments, the
silent audience, and the loud voice of the symphony. 'Destiny
knocking at the door,' he thought; drew a stave on the plaster,
and wrote in the famous phrase from the Fifth Symphony. 'So,'
thought he, 'they will know that I loved music and had classical
tastes. They? He, I suppose: the unknown, kindred spirit that
shall come some day and read my memor querela. Ha, he shall
have Latin too!' And he added: terque quaterque beati Queis
ante ora patrum.
He turned again to his uneasy pacing, but now with an
irrational and supporting sense of duty done. He had dug his
grave that morning; now he had carved his epitaph; the folds of
the toga were composed, why should he delay the insignificant
trifle that remained to do? He paused and looked long in the
face of the sleeping Huish, drinking disenchantment and distaste
of life. He nauseated himself with that vile countenance. Could
the thing continue? What bound him now? Had he no rights? -
only the obligation to go on, without discharge or furlough,
bearing the unbearable? Ich trage unertragliches, the quotation
rose in his mind; he repeated the whole piece, one of the most
perfect of the most perfect of poets; and a phrase struck him
like a blow: Du, stolzes Herz, A hast es ja gewolit. Where was
the pride of his heart? And he raged against himself, as a man
bites on a sore tooth, in a heady sensuality of scorn. 'I have no
pride, I have no heart, no manhood,' he thought, 'or why should
I prolong a life more shameful than the gallows? Or why should
I have fallen to it? No pride, no capacity, no force. Not even a
bandit! and to be starving here with worse than banditti--with
this trivial hell-hound!' His rage against his comrade rose and
flooded him, and he shook a trembling fist at the sleeper.
A swift step was audible. The captain appeared upon the
threshold of the cell, panting and flushed, and with a foolish
face of happiness. In his arms he carried a loaf of bread and
bottles of beer; the pockets of his coat were bulging with
He rolled his treasures on the floor, grasped Herrick by both
hands, and crowed with laughter.
'Broach the beer!' he shouted. 'Broach the beer, and glory
'Beer?' repeated Huish, struggling to his feet. 'Beer it is!'
cried Davis. 'Beer and plenty of it. Any number of persons can
use it (like Lyon's tooth-tablet) with perfect propriety and
neatness. Who's to officiate?'
'Leave me alone f6r that,' said the clerk. He knocked the
necks off with a lump of coral, and each drank in succession
from the shell.
'Have a weed,' said Davis. 'It's all in the bill.'
'What is up?' asked Herrick.
The captain fell suddenly grave. 'I'm coming to that,' said he.
'I want to speak with Herrick here. You, Hay--or Huish, or
whatever your name is--you take a weed and the other bottle,
and go and see how the wind is down by the purao. I'll call you
when you're wanted!'
'Hay? Secrets? That ain't the ticket,' said Huish.
'Look here, my son,' said the captain, 'this is business, and
don't you make any mistake about it. If you're going to make
trouble, you can have it your own way and stop right here. Only
get the thing right: if Herrick and I go, we take the beer.
'Oh, I don't want to shove my oar in,' returned Huish. 'I'll
cut right enough. Give me the swipes. You can jaw till you're
blue in the face for what I care. I don't think it's the friendly
touch: that's all.' And he shambled grumbling out of the cell
into the staring sun.
The captain watched him clear of the courtyard; then turned
'What is it?' asked Herrick thickly.
'I'll tell you,' said Davis. 'I want to consult you. It's a
chance we've got. What's that?' he cried, pointing to the music
on the wall.
'What?' said the other. 'Oh, that! It's music; it's a phrase of
Beethoven's I was writing up. It means Destiny knocking at the
'Does it?' said the captain, rather low; and he went near and
studied the inscription; 'and this French?' he asked, pointing to
'O, it just means I should have been luckier if I had died at
horne,' returned Herrick impatiently. 'What is this business?'
'Destiny knocking at the door,' repeated the captain; and
then, looking over his shoulder. 'Well, Mr Herrick, that's about
what it comes to,' he added.
'What do you mean? Explain yourself,' said Herrick.
But the captain was again staring at the music. 'About how
long ago since you wrote up this truck?' he asked.
'What does it matter?' exclaimed Herrick. 'I dare say half an
'My God, it's strange!' cried Davis. 'There's some men would
call that accidental: not me. That--' and he drew his thick
finger under the music--'that's what I call Providence.'
'You said we had a chance,' said Herrick.
'Yes, SIR!' said the captain, wheeling suddenly face to face
with his companion. 'I did so. If you're the man I take you for,
we have a chance.'
'I don't know what you take me for,' was the reply. 'You can
scarce take me too low.'
'Shake hands, Mr Herrick,' said the captain. 'I know you.
You're a gentleman and a man of spirit. I didn't want to speak
before that bummer there; you'll see why. But to you I'll rip it
right out. I got a ship.'
'A ship?' cried Herrick. 'What ship?'
'That schooner we saw this morning off the passage.'
'The schooner with the hospital flag?'
'That's the hooker,' said Davis. 'She's the Farallone, hundred
and sixty tons register, out of 'Frisco for Sydney, in California
champagne. Captain, mate, and one hand all died of the
smallpox, same as they had round in the Paumotus, I guess.
Captain and mate were the only white men; all the hands
Kanakas; seems a queer kind of outfit from a Christian port.
Three of them left and a cook; didn't know where they were; I
can't think where they were either, if you come to that; Wiseman
must have been on the booze, I guess, to sail the course he did.
However, there HE was, dead; and here are the Kanakas as good
as lost. They bummed around at sea like the babes in the wood;
and tumbled end-on upon Tahiti. The consul here took charge. He
offered the berth to Williams; Williams had never had the
smallpox and backed down. That was when I came in for the
letter paper; I thought there was something up when the consul
asked me to look in again; but I never let on to you fellows,
so's you'd not be disappointed. Consul tried M'Neil; scared of
smallpox. He tried Capirati, that Corsican and Leblue, or
whatever his name is, wouldn't lay a hand on it; all too fond of
their sweet lives. Last of all, when there wasn't nobody else
left to offer it to, he offers it to me. "Brown, will you ship
captain and take her to Sydney?" says he. "Let me choose my own
mate and another white hand," says I, "for I don't hold with this
Kanaka crew racket; give us all two months' advance to get our
clothes and instruments out of pawn, and I'll take stock tonight,
fill up stores, and get to sea tomorrow before dark!" That's
what I said. "That's good enough," says the consul, "and you
can count yourself damned lucky, Brown," says he. And he said
it pretty meaningful-appearing, too. However, that's all one
now. I'll ship Huish before the mast--of course I'll let him
berth aft--and I'll ship you mate at seventy-five dollars and two
'Me mate? Why, I'm a landsman!' cried Herrick.
'Guess you've got to learn,' said the captain. 'You don't fancy
I'm going to skip and leave you rotting on the beach perhaps?
I'm not that sort, old man. And you're handy anyway; I've been
shipmates with worse.'
'God knows I can't refuse,' said Herrick. 'God knows I thank
you from my heart.'
'That's all right,' said the captain. 'But it ain't all.' He
turned aside to light a cigar.
'What else is there?' asked the other, with a pang of undefinable
'I'm coming to that,' said Davis, and then paused a little. 'See
here,' he began, holding out his cigar between his finger and
thumb, 'suppose you figure up what this'll amount to. You don't
catch on? Well, we get two months' advance; we can't get away
from Papeete--our creditors wouldn't let us go--for less; it'll
take us along about two months to get to Sydney; and when we
get there, I just want to put it to you squarely: What the better
'We're off the beach at least,' said Herrick.
'I guess there's a beach at Sydney,' returned the captain; 'and
I'll tell you one thing, Mr Herrick--I don't mean to try. No,
SIR! Sydney will never see me.'
'Speak out plain,' said Herrick.
'Plain Dutch,' replied the captain. 'I'm going to own that
schooner. It's nothing new; it's done every year in the Pacific.
Stephens stole a schooner the other day, didn't he? Hayes and
Pease stole vessels all the time. And it's the making of the
crowd of us. See here--you think of that cargo. Champagne! why,
it's like as if it was put up on purpose. In Peru we'll sell that
liquor off at the pier-head, and the schooner after it, if we can
find a fool to buy her; and then light out for the mines. If
you'll back me up, I stake my life I carry it through.'
'Captain,' said Herrick, with a quailing voice, 'don't do it!'
'I'm desperate,' returned Davis. 'I've got a chance; I may
never get another. Herrick, say the word; back me up; I think
we've starved together long enough for that.'
'I can't do it. I'm sorry. I can't do it. I've not fallen as low
as that,' said Herrick, deadly pale.
'What did you say this morning?' said Davis. 'That you
couldn't beg? It's the one thing or the other, my son.'
'Ah, but this is the jail!' cried Herrick. 'Don't tempt me. It's
'Did you hear what the skipper said on board that schooner?'
pursued the captain. 'Well, I tell you he talked straight. The
French have let us alone for a long time; It can't last longer;
they've got their eye on us; and as sure as you live, in three
weeks you'll be in jail whatever you do. I read it in the
'You forget, captain,' said the young man. 'There is another
way. I can die; and to say truth, I think I should have died
three years ago.'
The captain folded his arms and looked the other in the face.
'Yes,' said he, 'yes, you can cut your throat; that's a frozen
fact; much good may it do you! And where do I come in?'
The light of a strange excitement came in Herrick's face. 'Both
of us,' said he, 'both of us together. It's not possible you can
enjoy this business. Come,' and he reached out a timid hand, 'a
few strokes in the lagoon--and rest!'
'I tell you, Herrick, I'm 'most tempted to answer you the way
the man does in the Bible, and say, "Get thee behind me,
Satan!"' said the captain. 'What! you think I would go drown
myself, and I got children starving? Enjoy it? No, by God, I do
not enjoy it! but it's the row I've got to hoe, and I'll hoe it
till I drop right here. I have three of them, you see, two boys
and the one girl, Adar. The trouble is that you are not a parent
yourself. I tell you, Herrick, I love you,' the man broke out; 'I
didn't take to you at first, you were so anglified and tony, but
I love you now; it's a man that loves you stands here and
wrestles with you. I can't go to sea with the bummer alone; it's
not possible. Go drown yourself, and there goes my last
chance--the last chance of a poor miserable beast, earning a
crust to feed his family. I can't do nothing but sail ships, and
I've no papers. And here I get a chance, and you go back on me!
Ah, you've no family, and that's where the trouble is!'
'I have indeed,' said Herrick.
'Yes, I know,' said the captain, 'you think so. But no man's
got a family till he's got children. It's only the kids count.
There's something about the little shavers ... I can't talk of
them. And if you thought a cent about this father that I hear
you talk of, or that sweetheart you were writing to this morning,
you would feel like me. You would say, What matters laws, and
God, and that? My folks are hard up, I belong to them, I'll get
them bread, or, by God! I'll get them wealth, if I have to burn
down London for it. That's what you would say. And I'll tell
you more: your heart is saying so this living minute. I can see
it in your face. You're thinking, Here's poor friendship for the
man I've starved along of, and as for the girl that I set up to
be in love with, here's a mighty limp kind of a love that won't
carry me as far as 'most any man would go for a demijohn of
whisky. There's not much ROmance to that love, anyway; it's not
the kind they carry on about in songbooks. But what's the good of
my carrying on talking, when it's all in your inside as plain as
print? I put the question to you once for all. Are you going to
desert me in my hour of need?--you know if I've deserted you--or
will you give me your hand, and try a fresh deal, and go home (as
like as not) a millionaire? Say no, and God pity me! Say yes, and
I'll make the little ones pray for you every night on
their bended knees. "God bless Mr Herrick!" that's what they'll
say, one after the other, the old girl sitting there holding
stakes at the foot of the bed, and the damned little innocents. .
. He broke off. 'I don't often rip out about the kids,' he said;
'but when I do, there's something fetches loose.'
'Captain,' said Herrick faintly, 'is there nothing else?'
'I'll prophesy if you like,' said the captain with renewed
vigour. 'Refuse this, because you think yourself too honest, and
before a month's out you'll be jailed for a sneak-thief. I give
you the word fair. I can see it, Herrick, if you can't; you're
breaking down. Don't think, if you refuse this chance, that
you'll go on doing the evangelical; you're about through with
your stock; and before you know where you are, you'll be right
out on the other side. No, it's either this for you; or else it's
Caledonia. I bet you never were there, and saw those white,
shaved men, in their dust clothes and straw hats, prowling around
in gangs in the lamplight at Noumea; they look like wolves, and
they look like preachers, and they look like the sick; Hulsh is a
daisy to the best of them. Well, there's your company. They're
waiting for you, Herrick, and you got to go; and that's a
And as the man stood and shook through his great stature, he
seemed indeed like one in whom the spirit of divination worked
and might utter oracles. Herrick looked at him, and looked
away; It seemed not decent to spy upon such agitation; and the
young man's courage sank.
'You talk of going home,' he objected. 'We could never do
'WE could,' said the other. 'Captain Brown couldn't, nor Mr
Hay, that shipped mate with him couldn't. But what's that to do
with Captain Davis or Mr Herrick, you galoot?'
'But Hayes had these wild islands where he used to call,' came
the next fainter objection.
'We have the wild islands of Peru,' retorted Davis. 'They were
wild enough for Stephens, no longer agone than just last year. I
guess they'll be wild enough for us.'
'And the crew?'
'All Kanakas. Come, I see you're right, old man. I see you'll
stand by.' And the captain once more offered his hand.
'Have it your own way then,' said Herrick. 'I'll do it: a strange
thing for my father's son. But I'll do it. I'll stand by you,
man, for good or evil.'
'God bless you!' cried the captain, and stood silent. 'Herrick,'
he added with a smile, 'I believe I'd have died in my tracks, if
you'd said, No!'
And Herrick, looking at the man, half believed so also.
'And now we'll go break it to the bummer,' said Davis.
'I wonder how he'll take it,' said Herrick.
'Him? Jump at it!' was the reply.
Chapter 4. THE YELLOW FLAG
The schooner Farallone lay well out in the jaws of the pass,
where the terrified pilot had made haste to bring her to her
moorings and escape. Seen from the beach through the thin line
of shipping, two objects stood conspicuous to seaward: the little
isle, on the one hand, with its palms and the guns and batteries
raised forty years before in defence of Queen Pomare's capital;
the outcast Farallone, upon the other, banished to the threshold
of the port, rolling there to her scuppers, and flaunting the
plague-flag as she rolled. A few sea birds screamed and cried
about the ship; and within easy range, a man-of-war guard boat
hung off and on and glittered with the weapons of marines. The
exuberant daylight and the blinding heaven of the tropics picked
out and framed the pictures.
A neat boat, manned by natives in uniform, and steered by
the doctor of the port, put from shore towards three of- the
afternoon, and pulled smartly for the schooner. The fore-sheets
were heaped with sacks of flour, onions, and potatoes, perched
among which was Huish dressed as a foremast hand; a heap of
chests and cases impeded the action of the oarsmen; and in the
stern, by the left hand of the doctor, sat Herrick, dressed in a
fresh rig of slops, his brown beard trimmed to a point, a pile of
paper novels on his lap, and nursing the while between his feet
a chronometer, for which they had exchanged that of the
Farallone, long since run down and the rate lost.
They passed the guard boat, exchanging hails with the
boat-swain's mate in charge, and drew near at last to the
forbidden ship. Not a cat stirred, there was no speech of man;
and the sea being exceeding high outside, and the reef close to
where the schooner lay, the clamour of the surf hung round her
like the sound of battle.
'Ohe la goelette!' sang out the doctor, with his best voice.
Instantly, from the house where they had been stowing away
stores, first Davis, and then the ragamuffin, swarthy crew made
'Hullo, Hay, that you?' said the captain, leaning on the rail.
'Tell the old man to lay her alongside, as if she was eggs.
There's a hell of a run of sea here, and his boat's brittle.'
The movement of the schooner was at that time more than
usually violent. Now she heaved her side as high as a deep sea
steamer's, and showed the flashing of her copper; now she
swung swiftly toward the boat until her scuppers gurgled.
'I hope you have sea legs,' observed the doctor. 'You will
Indeed, to board the Farallone, in that exposed position where
she lay, was an affair of some dexterity. The less precious goods
were hoisted roughly in; the chronometer, after repeated
failures, was passed gently and successfully from hand to hand;
and there remained only the more difficult business of embarking
Huish. Even that piece of dead weight (shipped A.B. at eighteen
dollars, and described by the captain to the consul as an
invaluable man) was at last hauled on board without mishap;
and the doctor, with civil salutations, took his leave.
The three co-adventurers looked at each other, and Davis
heaved a breath of relief.
'Now let's get this chronometer fixed,' said he, and led the
way into the house. It was a fairly spacious place; two
staterooms and a good-sized pantry opened from the main cabin;
the bulkheads were painted white, the floor laid with waxcloth.
No litter, no sign of life remained; for the effects of the dead
men had been disinfected and conveyed on shore. Only on the
table, in a saucer, some sulphur burned, and the fumes set them
coughing as they entered. The captain peered into the starboard
stateroom, where the bed-clothes still lay tumbled in the bunk,
the blanket flung back as they had flung it back from the
disfigured corpse before its burial.
'Now, I told these niggers to tumble that truck overboard,'
grumbled Davis. 'Guess they were afraid to lay hands on it. Well,
they've hosed the place out; that's as much as can be
expected, I suppose. Huish, lay on to these blankets.'
'See you blooming well far enough first,' said Huish, drawing
'What's that?' snapped the captain. 'I'll tell you, my young
friend, I think you make a mistake. I'm captain here.'
'Fat lot I care,' returned the clerk.
'That so?' said Davis. 'Then you'll berth forward with the
niggers! Walk right out of this cabin.'
'Oh, I dessay!' said Huish. 'See any green in my eye? A lark's
'Well, now, I'll explain this business, and you'll see (once for
all) just precisely how much lark there is to it,' said Davis.
'I'm captain, and I'm going to be it. One thing of three. First,
you take my orders here as cabin steward, in which case you mess
with us. Or second, you refuse, and I pack you forward--and
you get as quick as the word's said. Or, third and last, I'll
signal that man-of-war and send you ashore under arrest for
'And, of course, I wouldn't blow the gaff? O no!' replied the
'And who's to believe you, my son?' inquired the captain.
'No, sir! There ain't no lark about my captainising. Enough
said. Up with these blankets.'
Huish was no fool, he knew when he was beaten; and he was
no coward either, for he stepped to the bunk, took the infected
bed-clothes fairly in his arms, and carried them out of the house
without a check or tremor.
'I was waiting for the chance,' said Davis to Herrick. 'I
needn't do the same with you, because you understand it for
'Are you going to berth here?' asked Herrick, following the
captain into the stateroom, where he began to adjust the
chronometer in its place at the bed-head.
'Not much!' replied he. 'I guess I'll berth on deck. I don't
know as I'm afraid, but I've no immediate use for confluent
'I don't know that I'm afraid either,' said Herrick. 'But the
thought of these two men sticks in my throat; that captain and
mate dying here, one opposite to the other. It's grim. I wonder
what they said last?'
'Wiseman and Wishart?' said the captain. 'Probably mighty
small potatoes. That's a thing a fellow figures out for himself
one way, and the real business goes quite another. Perhaps
Wiseman said, "Here old man, fetch up the gin, I'm feeling
powerful rocky." And perhaps Wishart said, "Oh, hell!"'
'Well, that's grim enough,' said Herrick.
'And so it is,' said Davis. 'There; there's that chronometer
fixed. And now it's about time to up anchor and clear out.'
He lit a cigar and stepped on deck.
'Here, you! What's YOUR name?' he cried to one of the hands,
a lean-flanked, clean-built fellow from some far western island,
and of a darkness almost approaching to the African.
'Sally Day,' replied the man.
'Devil it is,' said the captain. 'Didn't know we had ladies on
board. Well, Sally, oblige me by hauling down that rag there.
I'll do the same for you another time.' He watched the yellow
bunting as it was eased past the cross-trees and handed down
on deck. 'You'll float no more on this ship,' he observed.
'Muster the people aft, Mr Hay,' he added, speaking unnecessarily
loud, 'I've a word to say to them.'
It was with a singular sensation that Herrick prepared for the
first time to address a crew. He thanked his stars indeed, that
they were natives. But even natives, he reflected, might be
critics too quick for such a novice as himself; they might
perceive some lapse from that precise and cut-and-dry English
which prevails on board a ship; it was even possible they
understood no other; and he racked his brain, and overhauled his
reminiscences of sea romance for some appropriate words.
'Here, men! tumble aft!' he said. 'Lively now! All hands aft!'
They crowded in the alleyway like sheep.
'Here they are, sir,' said Herrick.
For some time the captain continued to face the stern; then
turned with ferocious suddenness on the crew, and seemed to
enjoy their shrinking.
'Now,' he said, twisting his cigar in his mouth and toying
with the spokes of the wheel, 'I'm Captain Brown. I command
this ship. This is Mr Hay, first officer. The other white man is
cabin steward, but he'll stand watch and do his trick. My orders
shall be obeyed smartly. You savvy, "smartly"? There shall be
no growling about the kaikai, which will be above allowance.
You'll put a handle to the mate's name, and tack on "sir" to
every order I give you. If you're smart and quick, I'll make this
ship comfortable for all hands.' He took the cigar out of his
mouth. 'If you're not,' he added, in a roaring voice, 'I'll make
it a floating hell. Now, Mr Hay, we'll pick watches, if you
'All right,' said Herrick.
'You will please use "sir" when you address me, Mr Hay,'
said the captain. 'I'll take the lady. Step to starboard, Sally.'
And then he whispered in Herrick's ear: 'take the old man.'
'I'll take you, there,' said Herrick.
'What's your name?' said the captain. 'What's that you say?
Oh, that's no English; I'll have none of your highway gibberish
on my ship. We'll call you old Uncle Ned, because you've got
no wool on the top of your head, just the place where the wool
ought to grow. Step to port, Uncle. Don't you hear Mr Hay has
picked you? Then I'll take the white man. White Man, step to
starboard. Now which of you two is the cook? You? Then Mr
Hay takes your friend in the blue dungaree. Step to port,
Dungaree. There, we know who we all are: Dungaree, Uncle
Ned, Sally Day, White Man, and Cook. All F.F.V.'s I guess. And
now, Mr Hay, we'll up anchor, if you please.'
'For Heaven's sake, tell me some of the words,' whispered
An hour later, the Farallone was under all plain sail, the
rudder hard a-port, and the cheerfully clanking windlass had
brought the anchor home.
'All clear, sir,' cried Herrick from the bow.
The captain met her with the wheel, as she bounded like a
stag from her repose, trembling and bending to the puffs. The
guard boat gave a parting hail, the wake whitened and ran out;
the Farallone was under weigh.
Her berth had been close to the pass. Even as she forged
ahead Davis slewed her for the channel between the pier ends of
the reef, the breakers sounding and whitening to either hand.
Straight through the narrow band of blue, she shot to seaward:
and the captain's heart exulted as he felt her tremble underfoot,
and (looking back over the taffrail) beheld the roofs of Papeete
changing position on the shore and the island mountains rearing
higher in the wake.
But they were not yet done with the shore and the horror of the
yellow flag. About midway of the pass, there was a cry and
a scurry, a man was seen to leap upon the rail, and, throwing
his arms over his head, to stoop and plunge into the sea.
'Steady as she goes,' fhe captain cried, relinquishing the wheel
The next moment he was forward in the midst of the Kanakas,
belaying pin in hand.
'Anybody else for shore?' he cried, and the savage trumpeting
of his voice, no less than the ready weapon in his hand, struck
fear in all. Stupidly they stared after their escaped companion,
whose black head was visible upon the water, steering for the
land. And the schooner meanwhile slipt like a racer through the
pass, and met the long sea of the open ocean with a souse of
'Fool that I was, not to have a pistol ready!' exclaimed Davis.
'Well, we go to sea short-handed, we can't help that. You have
a lame watch of it, Mr Hay.'
'I don't see how we are to get along,' said Herrick.
'Got to,' said the captain. 'No more Tahiti for me.'
Both turned instinctively and looked astern. The fair island
was unfolding mountain top on mountain top; Eimeo, on the
port board, lifted her splintered pinnacles; and still the
schooner raced to the open sea.
'Think!' cried the captain with a gesture, 'yesterday morning
I danced for my breakfast like a poodle dog.'
Chapter 5. THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE
The ship's head was laid to clear Eimeo to the north, and the
captain sat down in the cabin, with a chart, a ruler, and an
'East a half no'the,' said he, raising his face from his labours.
'Mr Hay, you'll have to watch your dead reckoning; I want
every yard she makes on every hair's-breadth of a course. I'm
going to knock a hole right straight through the Paumotus, and
that's always a near touch. Now, if this South East Trade ever
blew out of the S.E., which it don't, we might hope to lie within
half a point of our course. Say we lie within a point of it.
That'll just about weather Fakarava. Yes, sir, that's what we've
got to do, if we tack for it. Brings us through this slush of
little islands in the cleanest place: see?' And he showed where
his ruler intersected the wide-lying labyrinth of the Dangerous
Archipelago. 'I wish it was night, and I could put her about
right now; we're losing time and easting. Well, we'll do our
best. And if we don't fetch Peru, we'll bring up to Ecuador. All
one, I guess. Depreciated dollars down, and no questions asked. A
remarkable fine institootion, the South American don.'
Tahiti was already some way astern, the Diadem rising from
among broken mountains--Eimeo was already close aboard,
and stood black and strange against the golden splendour of the
west--when the captain took his departure from the two
islands, and the patent log was set.
Some twenty minutes later, Sally Day, who was continually
leaving the wheel to peer in at the cabin clock, announced in a
shrill cry 'Fo'bell,' and the cook was to be seen carrying the
soup into the cabin.
'I guess I'll sit down and have a pick with you,' said Davis to
Herrick. 'By the time I've done, it'll be dark, and we'll clap
the hooker on the wind for South America.'
In the cabin at one corner of the table, immediately below the
lamp, and on the lee side of a bottle of champagne, sat Huish.
'What's this? Where did that come from?' asked the captain.
'It's fizz, and it came from the after-'old, if you want to
know,' said Huish, and drained his mug.
'This'll never do,' exclaimed Davis, the merchant seaman's
horror of breaking into cargo showing incongruously forth on
board that stolen ship. 'There was never any good came of
games like that.'
'You byby!' said Huish. 'A fellow would think (to 'ear him)
we were on the square! And look 'ere, you've put this job up
'ansomely for me, 'aven't you? I'm to go on deck and steer while
you two sit and guzzle, and I'm to go by nickname, and got to
call you "sir" and "mister." Well, you look here, my bloke: I'll
have fizz ad lib., or it won't wash. I tell you that. And you
know mighty well, you ain't got any man-of-war to signal now.'
Davis was staggered. 'I'd give fifty dollars this had never
happened,' he said weakly.
'Well, it 'as 'appened, you see,' returned Huish. 'Try some;
it's devilish good.'
The Rubicon was crossed without another struggle. The
captain filled a mug and drank.
'I wish it was beer,' he said with a sigh. 'But there's no
denying it's the genuine stuff and cheap at the money. Now,
Huish, you clear out and take your wheel.'
The little wretch had gained a point, and he was gay. 'Ay, ay,
sir,' said he, and left the others to their meal.
'Pea soup!' exclaimed the captain. 'Blamed if I thought I
should taste pea soup again!'
Herrick sat inert and silent. It was impossible after these
months of hopeless want to smell the rough, high-spiced sea
victuals without lust, and his mouth watered with desire of the
champagne. It was no less impossible to have assisted at the
scene between Huish and the captain, and not to perceive, with
sudden bluntness, the gulf where he had fallen. He was a thief
among thieves. He said it to himself. He could not touch the
soup. If he had moved at all, it must have been to leave the
table, throw himself overboard, and drown--an honest man.
'Here,' said the captain, 'you look sick, old man; have a drop
The champagne creamed and bubbled in the mug; its bright
colour, its lively effervescence, seized his eye. 'It is too late
to hesitate,' he thought; his hand took the mug instinctively; he
drank, with unquenchable pleasure and desire of more; drained
the vessel dry, and set it down with sparkling eyes.
'There is something in life after all!' he cried. 'I had forgot
what it was like. Yes, even this is worth while. Wine, food, dry
clothes--why, they're worth dying, worth hanging, for! Captain,
tell me one thing: why aren't all the poor folk foot-pads?'
'Give it up,' said the captain.
'They must be damned good,' cried Herrick. 'There's something
here beyond me. Think of that calaboose! Suppose we
were sent suddenly back.' He shuddered as though stung by a
convulsion, and buried his face in his clutching hands.
'Here, what's wrong with you?' cried the captain. There was
no reply; only Herrick's shoulders heaved, so that the table was
shaken. 'Take some more of this. Here, drink this. I order you
to. Don't start crying when you're out of the wood.'
'I'm not crying,' said Herrick, raising his face and showing his
dry eyes. 'It's worse than crying. It's the horror of that grave
that we've escaped from.'
'Come now, you tackle your soup; that'll fix you,' said Davis
kindly. 'I told you you were all broken up. You couldn't have
stood out another week.'
'That's the dreadful part of it!' cried Herrick. 'Another week
and I'd have murdered someone for a dollar! God! and I know
that? And I'm still living? It's some beastly dream.'
'Quietly, quietly! Quietly does it, my son. Take your pea
soup. Food, that's what you want,' said Davis.
The soup strengthened and quieted Herrick's nerves; another
glass of wine, and a piece of pickled pork and fried banana
completed what the soup began; and he was able once more to
look the captain in the face.
'I didn't know I was so much run down,' he said.
'Well,' said Davis, 'you were as steady as a rock all day: now
you've had a little lunch, you'll be as steady as a rock again.'
'Yes,'was the reply, 'I'm steady enough now, but I'm a queer
kind of a first officer.'
'Shucks!' cried the captain. 'You've only got to mind the
ship's course, and keep your slate to half a point. A babby could
do that, let alone a college graduate like you. There ain't
nothing TO sailoring, when you come to look it in the face. And
now we'll go and put her about. Bring the slate; we'll have to
start our dead reckoning right away.'
The distance run since the departure was read off the log by
the binnacle light and entered on the slate.
'Ready about,' said the captain. 'Give me the wheel, White
Man, and you stand by the mainsheet. Boom tackle, Mr Hay,
please, and then you can jump forward and attend head sails.'
'Ay, ay, sir,' responded Herrick.
'All clear forward?' asked Davis.
'All clear, sir.'
'Hard a-lee!' cried the captain. 'Haul in your slack as she
comes,' he called to Huish. 'Haul in your slack, put your back
into it; keep your feet out of the coils.' A sudden blow sent
Huish flat along the deck, and the captain was in his place.
'Pick yourself up and keep the wheel hard over!' he roared. 'You
wooden fool, you wanted to get killed, I guess. Draw the jib,' he
cried a moment later; and then to Huish, 'Give me the wheel
again, and see if you can coil that sheet.'
But Huish stood and looked at Davis with an evil countenance. 'Do
you know you struck me?' said he.
'Do you know I saved your life?' returned the other, not
deigning to look at him, his eyes travelling instead between the
compass and the sails. 'Where would you have been, if that
boom had swung out and you bundled in the clack? No, SIR,
we'll have no more of you at the mainsheet. Seaport towns are
full of mainsheet-men; they hop upon one leg, my son, what's left
of them, and the rest are dead. (Set your boom tackle, Mr
Hay.) Struck you, did I? Lucky for you I did.'
'Well,' said Huish slowly, 'I daresay there may be somethink
in that. 'Ope there is.' He turned his back elaborately on the
captain, and entered the house, where the speedy explosion of a
champagne cork showed he was attending to his comfort.
Herrick came aft to the captain. 'How is she doing now?' he
'East and by no'the a half no'the,' said Davis. 'It's about as
good as I expected.'
'What'll the hands think of it?' said Herrick.
'Oh, they don't think. They ain't paid to,' says the captain.
'There was something wrong, was there not? between you
and--' Herrick paused.
'That's a nasty little beast, that's a biter,' replied the
captain, shaking his head. 'But so long as you and me hang in, it
Herrick lay down in the weather alleyway; the night was
cloudless, the movement of the ship cradled him, he was
oppressed besides by the first generous meal after so long a time
of famine; and he was recalled from deep sleep by the voice of
Davis singing out: 'Eight bells!'
He rose stupidly, and staggered aft, where the captain gave
him the wheel.
'By the wind,' said the captain. 'It comes a little puffy; when
you get a heavy puff, steal all you can to windward, but keep
her a good full.'
He stepped towards the house, paused and hailed the
'Got such a thing as a concertina forward?' said he. 'Bully for
you, Uncle Ned. Fetch it aft, will you?'
The schooner steered very easy; and Herrick, watching the
moon-whitened sails, was overpowered by drowsiness. A sharp
report from the cabin startled him; a third bottle had been
opened; and Herrick remembered the Sea Ranger and Fourteen
Island Group. Presently the notes of the accordion sounded, and
then the captain's voice:
'O honey, with our pockets full of money,
We will trip, trip, trip, we will trip it on the quay,
And I will dance with Kate, and Tom will dance with Sall,
When we're all back from South Amerikee.'
So it went to its quaint air; and the watch below lingered and
listened by the forward door, and Uncle Ned was to be seen in
the moonlight nodding time; and Herrick smiled at the wheel,
his anxieties a while forgotten. Song followed song; another cork
exploded; there were voices raised, as though the pair in
the cabin were in disagreement; and presently it seemed the
breach was healed; for it was now the voice of Huish that struck
up, to the captain's accompaniment--
'Up in a balloon, boys,
Up in a balloon,
All among the little stars
And round about the moon.'
A wave of nausea overcame Herrick at the wheel. He wondered why
the air, the words (which were yet written with a certain knack),
and the voice and accent of the singer, should all
jar his spirit like a file on a man's teeth. He sickened at the
thought of his two comrades drinking away their reason upon
stolen wine, quarrelling and hiccupping and waking up, while
the doors of the prison yawned for them in the near future.
'Shall I have sold my honour for nothing?' he thought; and a
heat of rage and resolution glowed in his bosom--rage against
his comrades--resolution to carry through this business if it
might be carried; pluck profit out of shame, since the shame at
least was now inevitable; and come home, home from South
America--how did the song go?--'with his pockets full of
'O honey, with our pockets full of money,
We will trip, trip, trip, we will trip it on the quay:'
so the words ran in his head; and the honey took on visible
form, the quay rose before him and he knew it for the lamplit
Embankment, and he saw the lights of Battersea bridge bestride
the sullen river. All through the remainder of his trick, he
stood entranced, reviewing the past. He had been always true to
his love, but not always sedulous to recall her. In the growing
calamity of his life, she had swum more distant, like the moon
in mist. The letter of farewell, the dishonourable hope that had
surprised and corrupted him in his distress, the changed scene,
the sea, the night and the music--all stirred him to the roots of
manhood. 'I WILL win her,' he thought, and ground his teeth.
'Fair or foul, what matters if I win her?'
'Fo' bell, matey. I think um fo' bell'--he was suddenly recalled
by these words in the voice of Uncle Ned.
'Look in at the clock, Uncle,' said he. He would not look
himself, from horror of the tipplers.
'Him past, matey,' repeated the Hawaiian.
'So much the better for you, Uncle,' he replied; and he gave
up the wheel, repeating the directions as he had received them.
He took two steps forward and remembered his dead reckoning. 'How
has she been heading?' he thought; and he flushed
from head to foot. He had not observed or had forgotten; here
was the old incompetence; the slate must be filled up by guess.
'Never again!' he vowed to himself in silent fury, 'never again.
It shall be no fault of mine if this miscarry.' And for the
remainder of his watch, he stood close by Uncle Ned, and read
the face of the compass as perhaps he had never read a letter
from his sweetheart.
All the time, and spurring him to the more attention, song,
loud talk, fleering laughter and the occasional popping of a
cork, reached his ears from the interior of the house; and when
the port watch was relieved at midnight, Huish and the captain
appeared upon the quarter-deck with flushed faces and uneven
steps, the former laden with bottles, the latter with two tin
mugs. Herrick silently passed them by. They hailed him in thick
voices, he made no answer, they cursed him for a churl, he paid
no heed although his belly quivered with disgust and rage. He
closed-to the door of the house behind him, and cast himself on
a locker in the cabin--not to sleep he thought--rather to think
and to despair. Yet he had scarce turned twice on his uneasy
bed, before a drunken voice hailed him in the ear, and he must
go on deck again to stand the morning watch.
The first evening set the model for those that were to follow.
Two cases of champagne scarce lasted the four-and-twenty
hours, and almost the whole was drunk by Huish and the
captain. Huish seemed to thrive on the excess; he was never
sober, yet never wholly tipsy; the food and the sea air had soon
healed him of his disease, and he began to lay on flesh. But
with Davis things went worse. In the drooping, unbuttoned figure
that sprawled all day upon the lockers, tippling and reading
novels; in the fool who made of the evening watch a public
carouse on the quarter-deck, it would have been hard to
recognise the vigorous seaman of Papeete roads. He kept himself
reasonably well in hand till he had taken the sun and yawned
and blotted through his calculations; but from the moment he
rolled up the chart, his hours were passed in slavish
self-indulgence or in hoggish slumber. Every other branch of his
duty was neglected, except maintaining a stern discipline about
the dinner table. Again and again Herrick would hear the cook
called aft, and see him running with fresh tins, or carrying away
again a meal that had been totally condemned. And the more
the captain became sunk in drunkenness, the more delicate his
palate showed itself. Once, in the forenoon, he had a bo'sun's
chair rigged over the rail, stripped to his trousers, and went
overboard with a pot of paint. 'I don't like the way this
schooner's painted,' said he, 'and I've taken a down upon her
name.' But he tired of it in half an hour, and the schooner went
on her way with an incongruous patch of colour on the stern,
and the word Farallone part obliterated and part looking
through. He refused to stand either the middle or the morning
watch. It was fine-weather sailing, he said; and asked, with a
laugh, 'Who ever heard of the old man standing watch himself?'
To the dead reckoning which Herrick still tried to keep, he
would pay not the least attention nor afford the least
'What do we want of dead reckoning?' he asked. 'We get the
sun all right, don't we?'
'We mayn't get it always though,' objected Herrick. 'And you
told me yourself you weren't sure of the chronometer.'
'Oh, there ain't no flies in the chronometer!' cried Davis.
'Oblige me so far, captain,' said Herrick stiffly. 'I am anxious
to keep this reckoning, which is a part of my duty; I do not
know what to allow for current, nor how to allow for it. I am
too inexperienced; and I beg of you to help me.'
'Never discourage zealous officer,' said the captain, unrolling
the chart again, for Herrick had taken him over his day's work
and while he was still partly sober. 'Here it is: look for
yourself; anything from west to west no'the-west, and anyways
from five to twenty-five miles. That's what the A'm'ralty chart
says; I guess you don't expect to get on ahead of your own
'I am trying to do my duty, Captain Brown,' said Herrick,
with a dark flush, 'and I have the honour to inform you that I
don't enjoy being trifled with.'
'What in thunder do you want?' roared Davis. 'Go and look
at the blamed wake. If you're trying to do your duty, why don't
you go and do it? I guess it's no business of mine to go and
stick my head over the ship's rump? I guess it's yours. And I'll
tell you what it is, my fine fellow, I'll trouble you not to come
the dude over me. You're insolent, that's what's wrong with you.
Don't you crowd me, Mr Herrick, Esquire.'
Herrick tore up his papers, threw them on the floor, and left
'He's turned a bloomin' swot, ain't he?' sneered Huish.
'He thinks himself too good for his company, that's what ails
Herrick, Esquire,' raged the captain. 'He thinks I don't
understand when he comes the heavy swell. Won't sit down with us,
won't he? won't say a civil word? I'll serve the son of a gun as
he deserves. By God, Huish, I'll show him whether he's too good
for John Davis!'
'Easy with the names, cap',' said Huish, who was always the
more sober. 'Easy over the stones, my boy!'
'All right, I will. You're a good sort, Huish. I didn't take to
you at first, but I guess you're right enough. Let's open another
bottle,' said the captain; and that day, perhaps because he was
excited by the quarrel, he drank more recklessly, and by four
o'clock was stretched insensible upon the locker.
Herrick and Huish supped alone, one after the other, opposite
his flushed and snorting body. And if the sight killed Herrick's
hunger, the isolation weighed so heavily on the clerk's spirit,
that he was scarce risen from table ere he was currying favour
with his former comrade.
Herrick was at the wheel when he approached, and Huish
leaned confidentially across the binnacle.
'I say, old chappie,' he said, 'you and me don't seem to be
such pals somehow.'
Herrick gave her a spoke or two in silence; his eye, as it
skirted from the needle to the luff of the foresail, passed the
man by without speculation. But Huish was really dull, a thing he
could support with difficulty, having no resources of his own.
The idea of a private talk with Herrick, at this stage of their
relations, held out particular inducements to a person of his
character. Drink besides, as it renders some men hyper-sensitive,
made Huish callous. And it would almost have required a blow
to make him quit his purpose.
'Pretty business, ain't it?' he continued; 'Dyvis on the lush?
Must say I thought you gave it 'im A1 today. He didn't like it a
bit; took on hawful after you were gone.--"'Ere," says I, "'old
on, easy on the lush," I says. "'Errick was right, and you know
it. Give 'im a chanst," I says.--"Uish," sezee, "don't you
gimme no more of your jaw, or I'll knock your bloomin' eyes
out." Well, wot can I do, 'Errick? But I tell you, I don't 'arf
like it. It looks to me like the Sea Rynger over again.'
Still Herrick was silent.
'Do you )ear me speak?' asked Huish sharply. 'You're pleasant,
'Stand away from that binnacle,' said Herrick.
The clerk looked at him, long and straight and black; his
figure seemed to writhe like that of a snake about to strike;
then he turned on his heel, went back to the cabin and opened a
bottle of champagne. When eight bells were cried, he slept on
the floor beside the captain on the locker; and of the whole
starboard watch, only Sally Day appeared upon the summons.
The mate proposed to stand the watch with him, and let Uncle
Ned lie down; it would make twelve hours on deck, and
probably sixteen, but in this fair-weather sailing, he might
safely sleep between his tricks of wheel, leaving orders to be
called on any sign of squalls. So far he could trust the men,
between whom and himself a close relation had sprung up. With
Uncle Ned he held long nocturnal conversations, and the old man
told him his simple and hard story of exile, suffering, and
injustice among cruel whites. The cook, when he found Herrick