Part 1 out of 7
This etext was scanned by David Price, email email@example.com
from the 1915 Mills and Boon edition. It was proofed by Rab Hughes.
THE MUTINY OF THE ELSINORE
by Jack London
From the first the voyage was going wrong. Routed out of my hotel on
a bitter March morning, I had crossed Baltimore and reached the pier-
end precisely on time. At nine o'clock the tug was to have taken me
down the bay and put me on board the Elsinore, and with growing
irritation I sat frozen inside my taxicab and waited. On the seat,
outside, the driver and Wada sat hunched in a temperature perhaps
half a degree colder than mine. And there was no tug.
Possum, the fox-terrier puppy Galbraith had so inconsiderately
foisted upon me, whimpered and shivered on my lap inside my greatcoat
and under the fur robe. But he would not settle down. Continually
he whimpered and clawed and struggled to get out. And, once out and
bitten by the cold, with equal insistence he whimpered and clawed to
His unceasing plaint and movement was anything but sedative to my
jangled nerves. In the first place I was uninterested in the brute.
He meant nothing to me. I did not know him. Time and again, as I
drearily waited, I was on the verge of giving him to the driver.
Once, when two little girls--evidently the wharfinger's daughters--
went by, my hand reached out to the door to open it so that I might
call to them and present them with the puling little wretch.
A farewell surprise package from Galbraith, he had arrived at the
hotel the night before, by express from New York. It was Galbraith's
way. Yet he might so easily have been decently like other folk and
sent fruit . . . or flowers, even. But no; his affectionate
inspiration had to take the form of a yelping, yapping two months'
old puppy. And with the advent of the terrier the trouble had begun.
The hotel clerk judged me a criminal before the act I had not even
had time to meditate. And then Wada, on his own initiative and out
of his own foolish stupidity, had attempted to smuggle the puppy into
his room and been caught by a house detective. Promptly Wada had
forgotten all his English and lapsed into hysterical Japanese, and
the house detective remembered only his Irish; while the hotel clerk
had given me to understand in no uncertain terms that it was only
what he had expected of me.
Damn the dog, anyway! And damn Galbraith too! And as I froze on in
the cab on that bleak pier-end, I damned myself as well, and the mad
freak that had started me voyaging on a sailing-ship around the Horn.
By ten o'clock a nondescript youth arrived on foot, carrying a suit-
case, which was turned over to me a few minutes later by the
wharfinger. It belonged to the pilot, he said, and gave instructions
to the chauffeur how to find some other pier from which, at some
indeterminate time, I should be taken aboard the Elsinore by some
other tug. This served to increase my irritation. Why should I not
have been informed as well as the pilot?
An hour later, still in my cab and stationed at the shore end of the
new pier, the pilot arrived. Anything more unlike a pilot I could
not have imagined. Here was no blue-jacketed, weather-beaten son of
the sea, but a soft-spoken gentleman, for all the world the type of
successful business man one meets in all the clubs. He introduced
himself immediately, and I invited him to share my freezing cab with
Possum and the baggage. That some change had been made in the
arrangements by Captain West was all he knew, though he fancied the
tug would come along any time.
And it did, at one in the afternoon, after I had been compelled to
wait and freeze for four mortal hours. During this time I fully made
up my mind that I was not going to like this Captain West. Although
I had never met him, his treatment of me from the outset had been, to
say the least, cavalier. When the Elsinore lay in Erie Basin, just
arrived from California with a cargo of barley, I had crossed over
from New York to inspect what was to be my home for many months. I
had been delighted with the ship and the cabin accommodation. Even
the stateroom selected for me was satisfactory and far more spacious
than I had expected. But when I peeped into the captain's room I was
amazed at its comfort. When I say that it opened directly into a
bath-room, and that, among other things, it was furnished with a big
brass bed such as one would never suspect to find at sea, I have said
Naturally, I had resolved that the bath-room and the big brass bed
should be mine. When I asked the agents to arrange with the captain
they seemed non-committal and uncomfortable. "I don't know in the
least what it is worth," I said. "And I don't care. Whether it
costs one hundred and fifty dollars or five hundred, I must have
Harrison and Gray, the agents, debated silently with each other and
scarcely thought Captain West would see his way to the arrangement.
"Then he is the first sea captain I ever heard of that wouldn't," I
asserted confidently. "Why, the captains of all the Atlantic liners
regularly sell their quarters."
"But Captain West is not the captain of an Atlantic liner," Mr.
Harrison observed gently.
"Remember, I am to be on that ship many a month," I retorted. "Why,
heavens, bid him up to a thousand if necessary."
"We'll try," said Mr. Gray, "but we warn you not to place too much
dependence on our efforts. Captain West is in Searsport at the
present time, and we will write him to-day.
To my astonishment Mr. Gray called me up several days later to inform
me that Captain West had declined my offer. "Did you offer him up to
a thousand?" I demanded. "What did he say?"
"He regretted that he was unable to concede what you asked," Mr. Gray
A day later I received a letter from Captain West. The writing and
the wording were old-fashioned and formal. He regretted not having
yet met me, and assured me that he would see personally that my
quarters were made comfortable. For that matter he had already
dispatched orders to Mr. Pike, the first mate of the Elsinore, to
knock out the partition between my state-room and the spare state-
room adjoining. Further--and here is where my dislike for Captain
West began--he informed me that if, when once well at sea, I should
find myself dissatisfied, he would gladly, in that case, exchange
quarters with me.
Of course, after such a rebuff, I knew that no circumstance could
ever persuade me to occupy Captain West's brass bed. And it was this
Captain Nathaniel West, whom I had not yet met, who had now kept me
freezing on pier-ends through four miserable hours. The less I saw
of him on the voyage the better, was my decision; and it was with a
little tickle of pleasure that I thought of the many boxes of books I
had dispatched on board from New York. Thank the Lord, I did not
depend on sea captains for entertainment.
I turned Possum over to Wada, who was settling with the cabman, and
while the tug's sailors were carrying my luggage on board I was led
by the pilot to an introduction with Captain West. At the first
glimpse I knew that he was no more a sea captain than the pilot was a
pilot. I had seen the best of the breed, the captains of the liners,
and he no more resembled them than did he resemble the bluff-faced,
gruff-voiced skippers I had read about in books. By his side stood a
woman, of whom little was to be seen and who made a warm and gorgeous
blob of colour in the huge muff and boa of red fox in which she was
"My God!--his wife!" I darted in a whisper at the pilot. "Going
along with him? . . . "
I had expressly stipulated with Mr. Harrison, when engaging passage,
that the one thing I could not possibly consider was the skipper of
the Elsinore taking his wife on the voyage. And Mr. Harrison had
smiled and assured me that Captain West would sail unaccompanied by a
"It's his daughter," the pilot replied under his breath. "Come to
see him off, I fancy. His wife died over a year ago. They say that
is what sent him back to sea. He'd retired, you know."
Captain West advanced to meet me, and before our outstretched hands
touched, before his face broke from repose to greeting and the lips
moved to speech, I got the first astonishing impact of his
personality. Long, lean, in his face a touch of race I as yet could
only sense, he was as cool as the day was cold, as poised as a king
or emperor, as remote as the farthest fixed star, as neutral as a
proposition of Euclid. And then, just ere our hands met, a twinkle
of--oh--such distant and controlled geniality quickened the many tiny
wrinkles in the corner of the eyes; the clear blue of the eyes was
suffused by an almost colourful warmth; the face, too, seemed
similarly to suffuse; the thin lips, harsh-set the instant before,
were as gracious as Bernhardt's when she moulds sound into speech.
So curiously was I affected by this first glimpse of Captain West
that I was aware of expecting to fall from his lips I knew not what
words of untold beneficence and wisdom. Yet he uttered most
commonplace regrets at the delay in a voice provocative of fresh
surprise to me. It was low and gentle, almost too low, yet clear as
a bell and touched with a faint reminiscent twang of old New England.
"And this is the young woman who is guilty of the delay," he
concluded my introduction to his daughter. "Margaret, this is Mr.
Her gloved hand promptly emerged from the fox-skins to meet mine, and
I found myself looking into a pair of gray eyes bent steadily and
gravely upon me. It was discomfiting, that cool, penetrating,
searching gaze. It was not that it was challenging, but that it was
so insolently business-like. It was much in the very way one would
look at a new coachman he was about to engage. I did not know then
that she was to go on the voyage, and that her curiosity about the
man who was to be a fellow-passenger for half a year was therefore
only natural. Immediately she realized what she was doing, and her
lips and eyes smiled as she spoke.
As we moved on to enter the tug's cabin I heard Possum's shivering
whimper rising to a screech, and went forward to tell Wada to take
the creature in out of the cold. I found him hovering about my
luggage, wedging my dressing-case securely upright by means of my
little automatic rifle. I was startled by the mountain of luggage
around which mine was no more than a fringe. Ship's stores, was my
first thought, until I noted the number of trunks, boxes, suit-cases,
and parcels and bundles of all sorts. The initials on what looked
suspiciously like a woman's hat trunk caught my eye--"M.W." Yet
Captain West's first name was Nathaniel. On closer investigation I
did find several "N.W's." but everywhere I could see "M.W's." Then I
remembered that he had called her Margaret.
I was too angry to return to the cabin, and paced up and down the
cold deck biting my lips with vexation. I had so expressly
stipulated with the agents that no captain's wife was to come along.
The last thing under the sun I desired in the pet quarters of a ship
was a woman. But I had never thought about a captain's daughter.
For two cents I was ready to throw the voyage over and return on the
tug to Baltimore.
By the time the wind caused by our speed had chilled me bitterly, I
noticed Miss West coming along the narrow deck, and could not avoid
being struck by the spring and vitality of her walk. Her face,
despite its firm moulding, had a suggestion of fragility that was
belied by the robustness of her body. At least, one would argue that
her body must be robust from her fashion of movement of it, though
little could one divine the lines of it under the shapelessness of
I turned away on my heel and fell moodily to contemplating the
mountain of luggage. A huge packing-case attracted my attention, and
I was staring at it when she spoke at my shoulder.
"That's what really caused the delay," she said.
"What is it?" I asked incuriously.
"Why, the Elsinore's piano, all renovated. When I made up my mind to
come, I telegraphed Mr. Pike--he's the mate, you know. He did his
best. It was the fault of the piano house. And while we waited to-
day I gave them a piece of my mind they'll not forget in a hurry."
She laughed at the recollection, and commenced to peep and peer into
the luggage as if in search of some particular piece. Having
satisfied herself, she was starting back, when she paused and said:
"Won't you come into the cabin where it's warm? We won't be there
for half an hour."
"When did you decide to make this voyage?" I demanded abruptly.
So quick was the look she gave me that I knew she had in that moment
caught all my disgruntlement and disgust.
"Two days ago," she answered. "Why?"
Her readiness for give and take took me aback, and before I could
speak she went on:
"Now you're not to be at all silly about my coming, Mr. Pathurst. I
probably know more about long-voyaging than you do, and we're all
going to be comfortable and happy. You can't bother me, and I
promise you I won't bother you. I've sailed with passengers before,
and I've learned to put up with more than they ever proved they were
able to put up with. So there. Let us start right, and it won't be
any trouble to keep on going right. I know what is the matter with
you. You think you'll be called upon to entertain me. Please know
that I do not need entertainment. I never saw the longest voyage
that was too long, and I always arrive at the end with too many
things not done for the passage ever to have been tedious, and . . .
I don't play Chopsticks."
The Elsinore, fresh-loaded with coal, lay very deep in the water when
we came alongside. I knew too little about ships to be capable of
admiring her lines, and, besides, I was in no mood for admiration. I
was still debating with myself whether or not to chuck the whole
thing and return on the tug. From all of which it must not be taken
that I am a vacillating type of man. On the contrary.
The trouble was that at no time, from the first thought of it, had I
been keen for the voyage. Practically the reason I was taking it was
because there was nothing else I was keen on. For some time now life
had lost its savour. I was not jaded, nor was I exactly bored. But
the zest had gone out of things. I had lost taste for my fellow-men
and all their foolish, little, serious endeavours. For a far longer
period I had been dissatisfied with women. I had endured them, but I
had been too analytic of the faults of their primitiveness, of their
almost ferocious devotion to the destiny of sex, to be enchanted with
them. And I had come to be oppressed by what seemed to me the
futility of art--a pompous legerdemain, a consummate charlatanry that
deceived not only its devotees but its practitioners.
In short, I was embarking on the Elsinore because it was easier to
than not; yet everything else was as equally and perilously easy.
That was the curse of the condition into which I had fallen. That
was why, as I stepped upon the deck of the Elsinore, I was half of a
mind to tell them to keep my luggage where it was and bid Captain
West and his daughter good-day.
I almost think what decided me was the welcoming, hospitable smile
Miss West gave me as she started directly across the deck for the
cabin, and the knowledge that it must be quite warm in the cabin.
Mr. Pike, the mate, I had already met, when I visited the ship in
Erie Basin. He smiled a stiff, crack-faced smile that I knew must be
painful, but did not offer to shake hands, turning immediately to
call orders to half-a-dozen frozen-looking youths and aged men who
shambled up from somewhere in the waist of the ship. Mr. Pike had
been drinking. That was patent. His face was puffed and
discoloured, and his large gray eyes were bitter and bloodshot.
I lingered, with a sinking heart watching my belongings come aboard
and chiding my weakness of will which prevented me from uttering the
few words that would put a stop to it. As for the half-dozen men who
were now carrying the luggage aft into the cabin, they were unlike
any concept I had ever entertained of sailors. Certainly, on the
liners, I had observed nothing that resembled them.
One, a most vivid-faced youth of eighteen, smiled at me from a pair
of remarkable Italian eyes. But he was a dwarf. So short was he
that he was all sea-boots and sou'wester. And yet he was not
entirely Italian. So certain was I that I asked the mate, who
"Him? Shorty? He's a dago half-breed. The other half's Jap or
One old man, who I learned was a bosun, was so decrepit that I
thought he had been recently injured. His face was stolid and ox-
like, and as he shuffled and dragged his brogans over the deck he
paused every several steps to place both hands on his abdomen and
execute a queer, pressing, lifting movement. Months were to pass, in
which I saw him do this thousands of times, ere I learned that there
was nothing the matter with him and that his action was purely a
habit. His face reminded me of the Man with the Hoe, save that it
was unthinkably and abysmally stupider. And his name, as I was to
learn, of all names was Sundry Buyers. And he was bosun of the fine
American sailing-ship Elsinore--rated one of the finest sailing-ships
Of this group of aged men and boys that moved the luggage along I saw
only one, called Henry, a youth of sixteen, who approximated in the
slightest what I had conceived all sailors to be like. He had come
off a training ship, the mate told me, and this was his first voyage
to sea. His face was keen-cut, alert, as were his bodily movements,
and he wore sailor-appearing clothes with sailor-seeming grace. In
fact, as I was to learn, he was to be the only sailor-seeming
creature fore and aft.
The main crew had not yet come aboard, but was expected at any
moment, the mate vouchsafed with a snarl of ominous expectancy.
Those already on board were the miscellaneous ones who had shipped
themselves in New York without the mediation of boarding-house
masters. And what the crew itself would be like God alone could
tell--so said the mate. Shorty, the Japanese (or Malay) and Italian
half-caste, the mate told me, was an able seaman, though he had come
out of steam and this was his first sailing voyage.
"Ordinary seamen!" Mr. Pike snorted, in reply to a question. "We
don't carry Landsmen!--forget it! Every clodhopper an' cow-walloper
these days is an able seaman. That's the way they rank and are paid.
The merchant service is all shot to hell. There ain't no more
sailors. They all died years ago, before you were born even."
I could smell the raw whiskey on the mate's breath. Yet he did not
stagger nor show any signs of intoxication. Not until afterward was
I to know that his willingness to talk was most unwonted and was
where the liquor gave him away.
"It'd a-ben a grace had I died years ago," he said, "rather than to
a-lived to see sailors an' ships pass away from the sea."
"But I understand the Elsinore is considered one of the finest," I
"So she is . . . to-day. But what is she?--a damned cargo-carrier.
She ain't built for sailin', an' if she was there ain't no sailors
left to sail her. Lord! Lord! The old clippers! When I think of
'em!--The Gamecock, Shootin' Star, Flyin' Fish, Witch o' the Wave,
Staghound, Harvey Birch, Canvas-back, Fleetwing, Sea Serpent,
Northern Light! An' when I think of the fleets of the tea-clippers
that used to load at Hong Kong an' race the Eastern Passages. A fine
sight! A fine sight!"
I was interested. Here was a man, a live man. I was in no hurry to
go into the cabin, where I knew Wada was unpacking my things, so I
paced up and down the deck with the huge Mr. Pike. Huge he was in
all conscience, broad-shouldered, heavy-boned, and, despite the
profound stoop of his shoulders, fully six feet in height.
"You are a splendid figure of a man," I complimented.
"I was, I was," he muttered sadly, and I caught the whiff of whiskey
strong on the air.
I stole a look at his gnarled hands. Any finger would have made
three of mine. His wrist would have made three of my wrist.
"How much do you weigh?" I asked.
"Two hundred an' ten. But in my day, at my best, I tipped the scales
close to two-forty."
"And the Elsinore can't sail," I said, returning to the subject which
had roused him.
"I'll take you even, anything from a pound of tobacco to a month's
wages, she won't make it around in a hundred an' fifty days," he
answered. "Yet I've come round in the old Flyin' Cloud in eighty-
nine days--eighty-nine days, sir, from Sandy Hook to 'Frisco. Sixty
men for'ard that WAS men, an' eight boys, an' drive! drive! drive!
Three hundred an' seventy-four miles for a day's run under
t'gallantsails, an' in the squalls eighteen knots o' line not enough
to time her. Eighty-nine days--never beat, an' tied once by the old
Andrew Jackson nine years afterwards. Them was the days!"
"When did the Andrew Jackson tie her?" I asked, because of the
growing suspicion that he was "having" me.
"In 1860," was his prompt reply.
"And you sailed in the Flying Cloud nine years before that, and this
is 1913--why, that was sixty-two years ago," I charged.
"And I was seven years old," he chuckled. "My mother was stewardess
on the Flyin' Cloud. I was born at sea. I was boy when I was
twelve, on the Herald o' the Morn, when she made around in ninety-
nine days--half the crew in irons most o' the time, five men lost
from aloft off the Horn, the points of our sheath-knives broken
square off, knuckle-dusters an' belayin'-pins flyin', three men shot
by the officers in one day, the second mate killed dead an' no one to
know who done it, an' drive! drive! drive! ninety-nine days from land
to land, a run of seventeen thousand miles, an' east to west around
"But that would make you sixty-nine years old," I insisted.
"Which I am," he retorted proudly, "an' a better man at that than the
scrubby younglings of these days. A generation of 'em would die
under the things I've been through. Did you ever hear of the Sunny
South?--she that was sold in Havana to run slaves an' changed her
name to Emanuela?"
"And you've sailed the Middle Passage!" I cried, recollecting the old
"I was on the Emanuela that day in Mozambique Channel when the Brisk
caught us with nine hundred slaves between-decks. Only she wouldn't
a-caught us except for her having steam."
I continued to stroll up and down beside this massive relic of the
past, and to listen to his hints and muttered reminiscences of old
man-killing and man-driving days. He was too real to be true, and
yet, as I studied his shoulder-stoop and the age-drag of his huge
feet, I was convinced that his years were as he asserted. He spoke
of a Captain Sonurs.
"He was a great captain," he was saying. "An' in the two years I
sailed mate with him there was never a port I didn't jump the ship
goin' in an' stay in hiding until I sneaked aboard when she sailed
"The men, on account of the men swearin' blood an' vengeance and
warrants against me because of my ways of teachin' them to be
sailors. Why, the times I was caught, and the fines the skipper paid
for me--and yet it was my work that made the ship make money.''
He held up his huge paws, and as I stared at the battered, malformed
knuckles I understood the nature of his work.
"But all that's stopped now," he lamented. "A sailor's a gentleman
these days. You can't raise your voice or your hand to them."
At this moment he was addressed from the poop-rail above by the
second mate, a medium-sized, heavily built, clean-shaven, blond man.
"The tug's in sight with the crew, sir," he announced.
The mate grunted an acknowledgment, then added, "Come on down, Mr.
Mellaire, and meet our passenger."
I could not help noting the air and carriage with which Mr. Mellaire
came down the poop-ladder and took his part in the introduction. He
was courteous in an old-world way, soft-spoken, suave, and
unmistakably from south of Mason and Dixon.
"A Southerner," I said.
"Georgia, sir." He bowed and smiled, as only a Southerner can bow
His features and expression were genial and gentle, and yet his mouth
was the cruellest gash I had ever seen in a man's face. It was a
gash. There is no other way of describing that harsh, thin-lipped,
shapeless mouth that uttered gracious things so graciously.
Involuntarily I glanced at his hands. Like the mate's, they were
thick-boned, broken-knuckled, and malformed. Back into his blue eyes
I looked. On the surface of them was a film of light, a gloss of
gentle kindness and cordiality, but behind that gloss I knew resided
neither sincerity nor mercy. Behind that gloss was something cold
and terrible, that lurked and waited and watched--something catlike,
something inimical and deadly. Behind that gloss of soft light and
of social sparkle was the live, fearful thing that had shaped that
mouth into the gash it was. What I sensed behind in those eyes
chilled me with its repulsiveness and strangeness.
As I faced Mr. Mellaire, and talked with him, and smiled, and
exchanged amenities, I was aware of the feeling that comes to one in
the forest or jungle when he knows unseen wild eyes of hunting
animals are spying upon him. Frankly I was afraid of the thing
ambushed behind there in the skull of Mr. Mellaire. One so as a
matter of course identifies form and feature with the spirit within.
But I could not do this with the second mate. His face and form and
manner and suave ease were one thing, inside which he, an entirely
different thing, lay hid.
I noticed Wada standing in the cabin door, evidently waiting to ask
for instructions. I nodded, and prepared to follow him inside. Mr.
Pike looked at me quickly and said:
"Just a moment, Mr. Pathurst."
He gave some orders to the second mate, who turned on his heel and
started for'ard. I stood and waited for Mr. Pike's communication,
which he did not choose to make until he saw the second mate well out
of ear-shot. Then he leaned closely to me and said:
"Don't mention that little matter of my age to anybody. Each year I
sign on I sign my age one year younger. I am fifty-four, now, on the
"And you don't look a day older," I answered lightly, though I meant
it in all sincerity.
"And I don't feel it. I can outwork and outgame the huskiest of the
younglings. And don't let my age get to anybody's ears, Mr.
Pathurst. Skippers are not particular for mates getting around the
seventy mark. And owners neither. I've had my hopes for this ship,
and I'd a-got her, I think, except for the old man decidin' to go to
sea again. As if he needed the money! The old skinflint!"
"Is he well off?" I inquired.
"Well off! If I had a tenth of his money I could retire on a chicken
ranch in California and live like a fighting cock--yes, if I had a
fiftieth of what he's got salted away. Why, he owns more stock in
all the Blackwood ships . . . and they've always been lucky and
always earned money. I'm getting old, and it's about time I got a
command. But no; the old cuss has to take it into his head to go to
sea again just as the berth's ripe for me to fall into."
Again I started to enter the cabin, but was stopped by the mate.
"Mr. Pathurst? You won't mention about my age?"
"No, certainly not, Mr. Pike," I said.
Quite chilled through, I was immediately struck by the warm comfort
of the cabin. All the connecting doors were open, making what I
might call a large suite of rooms or a whale house. The main-deck
entrance, on the port side, was into a wide, well-carpeted hallway.
Into this hallway, from the port side, opened five rooms: first, on
entering, the mate's; next, the two state-rooms which had been
knocked into one for me; then the steward's room; and, adjoining his,
completing the row, a state-room which was used for the slop-chest.
Across the hall was a region with which I was not yet acquainted,
though I knew it contained the dining-room, the bath-rooms, the cabin
proper, which was in truth a spacious living-room, the captain's
quarters, and, undoubtedly, Miss West's quarters. I could hear her
humming some air as she bustled about with her unpacking. The
steward's pantry, separated by crosshalls and by the stairway leading
into the chart-room above on the poop, was placed strategically in
the centre of all its operations. Thus, on the starboard side of it
were the state-rooms of the captain and Miss West, for'ard of it were
the dining-room and main cabin; while on the port side of it was the
row of rooms I have described, two of which were mine.
I ventured down the hall toward the stern, and found it opened into
the stern of the Elsinore, forming a single large apartment at least
thirty-five feet from side to side and fifteen to eighteen feet in
depth, curved, of course, to the lines of the ship's stern. This
seemed a store-room. I noted wash-tubs, bolts of canvas, many
lockers, hams and bacon hanging, a step-ladder that led up through a
small hatch to the poop, and, in the floor, another hatch.
I spoke to the steward, an old Chinese, smooth-faced and brisk of
movement, whose name I never learned, but whose age on the articles
"What is down there?" I asked, pointing to the hatch in the floor.
"Him lazarette," he answered.
"And who eats there?" I indicated a table with two stationary sea-
"Him second table. Second mate and carpenter him eat that table."
When I had finished giving instructions to Wada for the arranging of
my things I looked at my watch. It was early yet, only several
minutes after three so I went on deck again to witness the arrival of
The actual coming on board from the tug I had missed, but for'ard of
the amidship house I encountered a few laggards who had not yet gone
into the forecastle. These were the worse for liquor, and a more
wretched, miserable, disgusting group of men I had never seen in any
slum. Their clothes were rags. Their faces were bloated, bloody,
and dirty. I won't say they were villainous. They were merely
filthy and vile. They were vile of appearance, of speech, and
"Come! Come! Get your dunnage into the fo'c's'le!"
Mr. Pike uttered these words sharply from the bridge above. A light
and graceful bridge of steel rods and planking ran the full length of
the Elsinore, starting from the poop, crossing the amidship house and
the forecastle, and connecting with the forecastle-head at the very
bow of the ship.
At the mate's command the men reeled about and glowered up at him,
one or two starting clumsily to obey. The others ceased their
drunken yammerings and regarded the mate sullenly. One of them, with
a face mashed by some mad god in the making, and who was afterwards
to be known by me as Larry, burst into a guffaw, and spat insolently
on the deck. Then, with utmost deliberation, he turned to his
fellows and demanded loudly and huskily:
"Who in hell's the old stiff, anyways?"
I saw Mr. Pike's huge form tense convulsively and involuntarily, and
I noted the way his huge hands strained in their clutch on the
bridge-railing. Beyond that he controlled himself.
"Go on, you," he said. "I'll have nothing out of you. Get into the
And then, to my surprise, he turned and walked aft along the bridge
to where the tug was casting off its lines. So this was all his high
and mighty talk of kill and drive, I thought. Not until afterwards
did I recollect, as I turned aft down the deck, that I saw Captain
West leaning on the rail at the break of the poop and gazing for'ard.
The tug's lines were being cast off, and I was interested in watching
the manoeuvre until she had backed clear of the ship, at which
moment, from for'ard, arose a queer babel of howling and yelping, as
numbers of drunken voices cried out that a man was overboard. The
second mate sprang down the poop-ladder and darted past me along the
deck. The mate, still on the slender, white-painted bridge, that
seemed no more than a spider thread, surprised me by the activity
with which he dashed along the bridge to the 'midship house, leaped
upon the canvas-covered long-boat, and swung outboard where he might
see. Before the men could clamber upon the rail the second mate was
among them, and it was he who flung a coil of line overboard.
What impressed me particularly was the mental and muscular
superiority of these two officers. Despite their age--the mate
sixty-nine and the second mate at least fifty--their minds and their
bodies had acted with the swiftness and accuracy of steel springs.
They were potent. They were iron. They were perceivers, willers,
and doers. They were as of another species compared with the sailors
under them. While the latter, witnesses of the happening and
directly on the spot, had been crying out in befuddled helplessness,
and with slow wits and slower bodies been climbing upon the rail, the
second mate had descended the steep ladder from the poop, covered two
hundred feet of deck, sprung upon the rail, grasped the instant need
of the situation, and cast the coil of line into the water.
And of the same nature and quality had been the actions of Mr. Pike.
He and Mr. Mellaire were masters over the wretched creatures of
sailors by virtue of this remarkable difference of efficiency and
will. Truly, they were more widely differentiated from the men under
them than were the men under them differentiated from Hottentots--ay,
and from monkeys.
I, too, by this time, was standing on the big hawser-bitts in a
position to see a man in the water who seemed deliberately swimming
away from the ship. He was a dark-skinned Mediterranean of some
sort, and his face, in a clear glimpse I caught of it, was distorted
by frenzy. His black eyes were maniacal. The line was so accurately
flung by the second mate that it fell across the man's shoulders, and
for several strokes his arms tangled in it ere he could swim clear.
This accomplished, he proceeded to scream some wild harangue and
once, as he uptossed his arms for emphasis, I saw in his hand the
blade of a long knife.
Bells were jangling on the tug as it started to the rescue. I stole
a look up at Captain West. He had walked to the port side of the
poop, where, hands in pockets, he was glancing, now for'ard at the
struggling man, now aft at the tug. He gave no orders, betrayed no
excitement, and appeared, I may well say, the most casual of
The creature in the water seemed now engaged in taking off his
clothes. I saw one bare arm, and then the other, appear. In his
struggles he sometimes sank beneath the surface, but always he
emerged, flourishing the knife and screaming his addled harangue. He
even tried to escape the tug by diving and swimming underneath.
I strolled for'ard, and arrived in time to see him hoisted in over
the rail of the Elsinore. He was stark naked, covered with blood,
and raving. He had cut and slashed himself in a score of places.
From one wound in the wrist the blood spurted with each beat of the
pulse. He was a loathsome, non-human thing. I have seen a scared
orang in a zoo, and for all the world this bestial-faced, mowing,
gibbering thing reminded me of the orang. The sailors surrounded
him, laying hands on him, withstraining him, the while they guffawed
and cheered. Right and left the two mates shoved them away, and
dragged the lunatic down the deck and into a room in the 'midship
house. I could not help marking the strength of Mr. Pike and Mr.
Mellaire. I had heard of the superhuman strength of madmen, but this
particular madman was as a wisp of straw in their hands. Once into
the bunk, Mr. Pike held down the struggling fool easily with one hand
while he dispatched the second mate for marlin with which to tie the
"Bughouse," Mr. Pike grinned at me. "I've seen some bughouse crews
in my time, but this one's the limit."
"What are you going to do?" I asked. "The man will bleed to death."
"And good riddance," he answered promptly. "We'll have our hands
full of him until we can lose him somehow. When he gets easy I'll
sew him up, that's all, if I have to ease him with a clout of the
I glanced at the mate's huge paw and appreciated its anaesthetic
qualities. Out on deck again, I saw Captain West on the poop, hands
still in pockets, quite uninterested, gazing at a blue break in the
sky to the north-east. More than the mates and the maniac, more than
the drunken callousness of the men, did this quiet figure, hands in
pockets, impress upon me that I was in a different world from any I
Wada broke in upon my thoughts by telling me he had been sent to say
that Miss West was serving tea in the cabin.
The contrast, as I entered the cabin, was startling. All contrasts
aboard the Elsinore promised to be startling. Instead of the cold,
hard deck my feet sank into soft carpet. In place of the mean and
narrow room, built of naked iron, where I had left the lunatic, I was
in a spacious and beautiful apartment. With the bawling of the men's
voices still in my ears, and with the pictures of their drink-puffed
and filthy faces still vivid under my eyelids, I found myself greeted
by a delicate-faced, prettily-gowned woman who sat beside a lacquered
oriental table on which rested an exquisite tea-service of Canton
china. All was repose and calm. The steward, noiseless-footed,
expressionless, was a shadow, scarcely noticed, that drifted into the
room on some service and drifted out again.
Not at once could I relax, and Miss West, serving my tea, laughed and
"You look as if you had been seeing things. The steward tells me a
man has been overboard. I fancy the cold water must have sobered
I resented her unconcern.
"The man is a lunatic," I said. "This ship is no place for him. He
should be sent ashore to some hospital."
"I am afraid, if we begin that, we'd have to send two-thirds of our
complement ashore--one lump?
"Yes, please," I answered. "But the man has terribly wounded
himself. He is liable to bleed to death."
She looked at me for a moment, her gray eyes serious and
scrutinizing, as she passed me my cup; then laughter welled up in her
eyes, and she shook her head reprovingly.
"Now please don't begin the voyage by being shocked, Mr. Pathurst.
Such things are very ordinary occurrences. You'll get used to them.
You must remember some queer creatures go down to the sea in ships.
The man is safe. Trust Mr. Pike to attend to his wounds. I've never
sailed with Mr. Pike, but I've heard enough about him. Mr. Pike is
quite a surgeon. Last voyage, they say, he performed a successful
amputation, and so elated was he that he turned his attention on the
carpenter, who happened to be suffering from some sort of
indigestion. Mr. Pike was so convinced of the correctness of his
diagnosis that he tried to bribe the carpenter into having his
appendix removed." She broke off to laugh heartily, then added:
"They say he offered the poor man just pounds and pounds of tobacco
to consent to the operation."
"But is it safe . . . for the . . . the working of the ship," I
urged, "to take such a lunatic along?"
She shrugged her shoulders, as if not intending to reply, then said:
"This incident is nothing. There are always several lunatics or
idiots in every ship's company. And they always come aboard filled
with whiskey and raving. I remember, once, when we sailed from
Seattle, a long time ago, one such madman. He showed no signs of
madness at all; just calmly seized two boarding-house runners and
sprang overboard with them. We sailed the same day, before the
bodies were recovered."
Again she shrugged her shoulders.
"What would you? The sea is hard, Mr. Pathurst. And for our sailors
we get the worst type of men. I sometimes wonder where they find
them. And we do our best with them, and somehow manage to make them
help us carry on our work in the world. But they are low . . . low."
As I listened, and studied her face, contrasting her woman's
sensitivity and her soft pretty dress with the brute faces and rags
of the men I had noticed, I could not help being convinced
intellectually of the rightness of her position. Nevertheless, I was
hurt sentimentally,--chiefly, I do believe, because of the very
hardness and unconcern with which she enunciated her view. It was
because she was a woman, and so different from the sea-creatures,
that I resented her having received such harsh education in the
school of the sea.
"I could not help remarking your father's--er, er sang froid during
the occurrence." I ventured.
"He never took his hands from his pockets!" she cried.
Her eyes sparkled as I nodded confirmation.
"I knew it! It's his way. I've seen it so often. I remember when I
was twelve years old--mother was alone--we were running into San
Francisco. It was in the Dixie, a ship almost as big as this. There
was a strong fair wind blowing, and father did not take a tug. We
sailed right through the Golden Gate and up the San Francisco water-
front. There was a swift flood tide, too; and the men, both watches,
were taking in sail as fast as they could.
"Now the fault was the steamboat captain's. He miscalculated our
speed and tried to cross our bow. Then came the collision, and the
Dixie's bow cut through that steamboat, cabin and hull. There were
hundreds of passengers, men, women, and children. Father never took
his hands from his pockets. He sent the mate for'ard to superintend
rescuing the passengers, who were already climbing on to our bowsprit
and forecastle-head, and in a voice no different from what he'd use
to ask some one to pass the butter he told the second mate to set all
sail. And he told him which sails to begin with."
"But why set more sails?" I interrupted.
"Because he could see the situation. Don't you see, the steamboat
was cut wide open. All that kept her from sinking instantly was the
bow of the Dixie jammed into her side. By setting more sail and
keeping before the wind, he continued to keep the bow of the Dixie
"I was terribly frightened. People who had sprung or fallen
overboard were drowning on each side of us, right in my sight, as we
sailed along up the water-front. But when I looked at father, there
he was, just as I had always known him, hands in pockets, walking
slowly up and down, now giving an order to the wheel--you see, he had
to direct the Dixie's course through all the shipping--now watching
the passengers swarming over our bow and along our deck, now looking
ahead to see his way through the ships at anchor. Sometimes he did
glance at the poor, drowning ones, but he was not concerned with
"Of course, there were numbers drowned, but by keeping his hands in
his pockets and his head cool he saved hundreds of lives. Not until
the last person was off the steamboat--he sent men aboard to make
sure--did he take off the press of sail. And the steamboat sank at
She ceased, and looked at me with shining eyes for approbation.
"It was splendid," I acknowledged. "I admire the quiet man of power,
though I confess that such quietness under stress seems to me almost
unearthly and beyond human. I can't conceive of myself acting that
way, and I am confident that I was suffering more while that poor
devil was in the water than all the rest of the onlookers put
"Father suffers!" she defended loyally. "Only he does not show it."
I bowed, for I felt she had missed my point.
I came out from tea in the cabin to find the tug Britannia in sight.
She was the craft that was to tow us down Chesapeake Bay to sea.
Strolling for'ard I noted the sailors being routed out of the
forecastle by Sundry Buyers, for ever tenderly pressing his abdomen
with his hands. Another man was helping Sundry Buyers at routing out
the sailors. I asked Mr. Pike who the man was.
"Nancy--my bosun; ain't he a peach?" was the answer I got, and from
the mate's manner of enunciation I was quite aware that "Nancy" had
been used derisively.
Nancy could not have been more than thirty, though he looked as if he
had lived a very long time. He was toothless and sad and weary of
movement. His eyes were slate-coloured and muddy, his shaven face
was sickly yellow. Narrow-shouldered, sunken-chested, with cheeks
cavernously hollow, he looked like a man in the last stages of
consumption. Little life as Sundry Buyers showed, Nancy showed even
less life. And these were bosuns!--bosuns of the fine American
sailing-ship Elsinore! Never had any illusion of mine taken a more
It was plain to me that the pair of them, spineless and spunkless,
were afraid of the men they were supposed to boss. And the men!
Dore could never have conjured a more delectable hell's broth. For
the first time I saw them all, and I could not blame the two bosuns
for being afraid of them. They did not walk. They slouched and
shambled, some even tottered, as from weakness or drink.
But it was their faces. I could not help remembering what Miss West
had just told me--that ships always sailed with several lunatics or
idiots in their crews. But these looked as if they were all lunatic
or feeble-minded. And I, too, wondered where such a mass of human
wreckage could have been obtained. There was something wrong with
all of them. Their bodies were twisted, their faces distorted, and
almost without exception they were under-sized. The several quite
fairly large men I marked were vacant-faced. One man, however, large
and unmistakably Irish, was also unmistakably mad. He was talking
and muttering to himself as he came out. A little, curved, lop-sided
man, with his head on one side and with the shrewdest and wickedest
of faces and pale blue eyes, addressed an obscene remark to the mad
Irishman, calling him O'Sullivan. But O'Sullivan took no notice and
muttered on. On the heels of the little lop-sided man appeared an
overgrown dolt of a fat youth, followed by another youth so tall and
emaciated of body that it seemed a marvel his flesh could hold his
Next, after this perambulating skeleton, came the weirdest creature I
have ever beheld. He was a twisted oaf of a man. Face and body were
twisted as with the pain of a thousand years of torture. His was the
face of an ill-treated and feeble-minded faun. His large black eyes
were bright, eager, and filled with pain; and they flashed
questioningly from face to face and to everything about. They were
so pitifully alert, those eyes, as if for ever astrain to catch the
clue to some perplexing and threatening enigma. Not until afterwards
did I learn the cause of this. He was stone deaf, having had his
ear-drums destroyed in the boiler explosion which had wrecked the
rest of him.
I noticed the steward, standing at the galley door and watching the
men from a distance. His keen, Asiatic face, quick with
intelligence, was a relief to the eye, as was the vivid face of
Shorty, who came out of the forecastle with a leap and a gurgle of
laughter. But there was something wrong with him, too. He was a
dwarf, and, as I was to come to know, his high spirits and low
mentality united to make him a clown.
Mr. Pike stopped beside me a moment and while he watched the men I
watched him. The expression on his face was that of a cattle-buyer,
and it was plain that he was disgusted with the quality of cattle
"Something the matter with the last mother's son of them," he
And still they came: one, pallid, furtive-eyed, that I instantly
adjudged a drug fiend; another, a tiny, wizened old man, pinch-faced
and wrinkled, with beady, malevolent blue eyes; a third, a small,
well-fleshed man, who seemed to my eye the most normal and least
unintelligent specimen that had yet appeared. But Mr. Pike's eye was
better trained than mine.
"What's the matter with YOU?" he snarled at the man.
"Nothing, sir," the fellow answered, stopping immediately.
"What's your name?"
Mr. Pike never spoke to a sailor save with a snarl.
"Charles Davis, sir."
"What are you limping about?"
"I ain't limpin', sir," the man answered respectfully, and, at a nod
of dismissal from the mate, marched off jauntily along the deck with
a heodlum swing to the shoulders.
"He's a sailor all right," the mate grumbled; "but I'll bet you a
pound of tobacco or a month's wages there's something wrong with
The forecastle now seemed empty, but the mate turned on the bosuns
with his customary snarl.
"What in hell are you doing? Sleeping? Think this is a rest cure?
Get in there an' rustle 'em out!"
Sundry Buyers pressed his abdomen gingerly and hesitated, while
Nancy, his face one dogged, long-suffering bleakness, reluctantly
entered the forecastle. Then, from inside, we heard oaths, vile and
filthy, urgings and expostulations on the part of Nancy, meekly and
I noted the grim and savage look that came on Mr. Pike's face, and
was prepared for I knew not what awful monstrosities to emerge from
the forecastle. Instead, to my surprise, came three fellows who were
strikingly superior to the ruck that had preceded them. I looked to
see the mate's face soften to some sort of approval. On the
contrary, his blue eyes contracted to narrow slits, the snarl of his
voice was communicated to his lips, so that he seemed like a dog
about to bite.
But the three fellows. They were small men, all; and young men,
anywhere between twenty-five and thirty. Though roughly dressed,
they were well dressed, and under their clothes their bodily
movements showed physical well-being. Their faces were keen cut,
intelligent. And though I felt there was something queer about them,
I could not divine what it was.
Here were no ill-fed, whiskey-poisoned men, such as the rest of the
sailors, who, having drunk up their last pay-days, had starved ashore
until they had received and drunk up their advance money for the
present voyage. These three, on the other hand were supple and
vigorous. Their movements were spontaneously quick and accurate.
Perhaps it was the way they looked at me, with incurious yet
calculating eyes that nothing escaped. They seemed so worldly wise,
so indifferent, so sure of themselves. I was confident they were not
sailors. Yet, as shore-dwellers, I could not place them. They were
a type I had never encountered. Possibly I can give a better idea of
them by describing what occurred.
As they passed before us they favoured Mr. Pike with the same
indifferent, keen glances they gave me.
"What's your name--you?" Mr. Pike barked at the first of the trio,
evidently a hybrid Irish-Jew. Jewish his nose unmistakably was.
Equally unmistakable was the Irish of his eyes, and jaw, and upper
The three had immediately stopped, and, though they did not look
directly at one another, they seemed to be holding a silent
conference. Another of the trio, in whose veins ran God alone knows
what Semitic, Babylonish and Latin strains, gave a warning signal.
Oh, nothing so crass as a wink or a nod. I almost doubted that I had
intercepted it, and yet I knew he had communicated a warning to his
fellows. More a shade of expression that had crossed his eyes, or a
glint in them of sudden light--or whatever it was, it carried the
"Murphy," the other answered the mate.
"Sir!" Mr. Pike snarled at him.
Murphy shrugged his shoulders in token that he did not understand.
It was the poise of the man, of the three of them, the cool poise
that impressed me.
"When you address any officer on this ship you'll say 'sir,'" Mr.
Pike explained, his voice as harsh as his face was forbidding. "Did
you get THAT?"
"Yes . . sir,'' Murphy drawled with deliberate slowness. "I
"Sir!" Mr. Pike roared.
"Sir," Murphy answered, so softly and carelessly that it irritated
the mate to further bullyragging.
"Well, Murphy's too long," he announced. "Nosey'll do you aboard
this craft. Got THAT?"
"I gotcha . . . sir," came the reply, insolent in its very softness
and unconcern. "Nosey Murphy goes . . . sir."
And then he laughed--the three of them laughed, if laughter it might
be called that was laughter without sound or facial movement. The
eyes alone laughed, mirthlessly and cold-bloodedly.
Certainly Mr. Pike was not enjoying himself with these baffling
personalities. He turned upon the leader, the one who had given the
warning and who looked the admixture of all that was Mediterranean
"What's YOUR name?"
"Bert Rhine . . . sir," was the reply, in tones as soft and careless
and silkily irritating as the other's.
"And YOU?"--this to the remaining one, the youngest of the trio, a
dark-eyed, olive-skinned fellow with a face most striking in its
cameo-like beauty. American-born, I placed him, of immigrants from
Southern Italy--from Naples, or even Sicily.
"Twist . . . sir," he answered, precisely in the same manner as the
"Too long," the mate sneered. "The Kid'll do you. Got THAT?"
"I gotcha . . . sir. Kid Twist'll do me . . . sir."
"Kid . . . sir."
And the three laughed their silent, mirthless laugh. By this time
Mr. Pike was beside himself with a rage that could find no excuse for
"Now I'm going to tell you something, the bunch of you, for the good
of your health." The mate's voice grated with the rage he was
suppressing. "I know your kind. You're dirt. D'ye get THAT?
You're dirt. And on this ship you'll be treated as dirt. You'll do
your work like men, or I'll know the reason why. The first time one
of you bats an eye, or even looks like batting an eye, he gets his.
D'ye get that? Now get out. Get along for'ard to the windlass."
Mr. Pike turned on his heel, and I swung alongside of him as he moved
"What do you make of them?" I queried.
"The limit," he grunted. "I know their kidney. They've done time,
the three of them. They're just plain sweepings of hell--"
Here his speech was broken off by the spectacle that greeted him on
Number Two hatch. Sprawled out on the hatch were five or six men,
among them Larry, the tatterdemalion who had called him "old stiff"
earlier in the afternoon. That Larry had not obeyed orders was
patent, for he was sitting with his back propped against his sea-bag,
which ought to have been in the forecastle. Also, he and the group
with him ought to have been for'ard manning the windlass.
The mate stepped upon the hatch and towered over the man.
"Get up," he ordered.
Larry made an effort, groaned, and failed to get up.
"I can't," he said.
"I can't, sir. I was drunk last night an' slept in Jefferson Market.
An' this mornin' I was froze tight, sir. They had to pry me loose."
"Stiff with the cold you were, eh?" the mate grinned.
"It's well ye might say it, sir," Larry answered.
"And you feel like an old stiff, eh?"
Larry blinked with the troubled, querulous eyes of a monkey. He was
beginning to apprehend he knew not what, and he knew that bending
over him was a man-master.
"Well, I'll just be showin' you what an old stiff feels like,
anyways." Mr. Pike mimicked the other's brogue.
And now I shall tell what I saw happen. Please remember what I have
said of the huge paws of Mr. Pike, the fingers much longer than mine
and twice as thick, the wrists massive-boned, the arm-bones and the
shoulder-bones of the same massive order. With one flip of his right
hand, with what I might call an open-handed, lifting, upward slap,
save that it was the ends of the fingers only that touched Larry's
face, he lifted Larry into the air, sprawling him backward on his
back across his sea-bag.
The man alongside of Larry emitted a menacing growl and started to
spring belligerently to his feet. But he never reached his feet.
Mr. Pike, with the back of same right hand, open, smote the man on
the side of the face. The loud smack of the impact was startling.
The mate's strength was amazing. The blow looked so easy, so
effortless; it had seemed like the lazy stroke of a good-natured
bear, but in it was such a weight of bone and muscle that the man
went down sidewise and rolled off the hatch on to the deck.
At this moment, lurching aimlessly along, appeared O'Sullivan. A
sudden access of muttering, on his part, reached Mr. Pike's ear, and
Mr. Pike, instantly keen as a wild animal, his paw in the act of
striking O'Sullivan, whipped out like a revolver shot, "What's that?"
Then he noted the sense-struck face of O'Sullivan and withheld the
blow. "Bug-house," Mr. Pike commented.
Involuntarily I had glanced to see if Captain West was on the poop,
and found that we were hidden from the poop by the 'midship house.
Mr. Pike, taking no notice of the man who lay groaning on the deck,
stood over Larry, who was likewise groaning. The rest of the
sprawling men were on their feet, subdued and respectful. I, too,
was respectful of this terrific, aged figure of a man. The
exhibition had quite convinced me of the verity of his earlier
driving and killing days.
"Who's the old stiff now?" he demanded.
"'Tis me, sir," Larry moaned contritely.
Larry got up without any difficulty at all.
"Now get for'ard to the windlass! The rest of you!"
And they went, sullenly, shamblingly, like the cowed brutes they
I climbed the ladder on the side of the for'ard house (which house
contained, as I discovered, the forecastle, the galley, and the
donkey-engine room), and went part way along the bridge to a position
by the foremast, where I could observe the crew heaving up anchor.
The Britannia was alongside, and we were getting under way.
A considerable body of men was walking around with the windlass or
variously engaged on the forecastle-head. Of the crew proper were
two watches of fifteen men each. In addition were sailmakers, boys,
bosuns, and the carpenter. Nearly forty men were they, but such men!
They were sad and lifeless. There was no vim, no go, no activity.
Every step and movement was an effort, as if they were dead men
raised out of coffins or sick men dragged from hospital beds. Sick
they were--whiskey-poisoned. Starved they were, and weak from poor
nutrition. And worst of all, they were imbecile and lunatic.
I looked aloft at the intricate ropes, at the steel masts rising and
carrying huge yards of steel, rising higher and higher, until steel
masts and yards gave way to slender spars of wood, while ropes and
stays turned into a delicate tracery of spider-thread against the
sky. That such a wretched muck of men should be able to work this
magnificent ship through all storm and darkness and peril of the sea
was beyond all seeming. I remembered the two mates, the super-
efficiency, mental and physical, of Mr. Mellaire and Mr. Pike--could
they make this human wreckage do it? They, at least, evinced no
doubts of their ability. The sea? If this feat of mastery were
possible, then clear it was that I knew nothing of the sea.
I looked back at the misshapen, starved, sick, stumbling hulks of men
who trod the dreary round of the windlass. Mr. Pike was right.
These were not the brisk, devilish, able-bodied men who manned the
ships of the old clipper-ship days; who fought their officers, who
had the points of their sheath-knives broken off, who killed and were
killed, but who did their work as men. These men, these shambling
carcasses at the windlass--I looked, and looked, and vainly I strove
to conjure the vision of them swinging aloft in rack and storm,
"clearing the raffle," as Kipling puts it, "with their clasp knives
in their teeth." Why didn't they sing a chanty as they hove the
anchor up? In the old days, as I had read, the anchor always came up
to the rollicking sailor songs of sea-chested men.
I tired of watching the spiritless performance, and went aft on an
exploring trip along the slender bridge. It was a beautiful
structure, strong yet light, traversing the length of the ship in
three aerial leaps. It spanned from the forecastle-head to the
forecastle-house, next to the 'midship house, and then to the poop.
The poop, which was really the roof or deck over all the cabin space
below, and which occupied the whole after-part of the ship, was very
large. It was broken only by the half-round and half-covered wheel-
house at the very stern and by the chart-house. On either side of
the latter two doors opened into a tiny hallway. This, in turn, gave
access to the chart-room and to a stairway that led down into the
cabin quarters beneath.
I peeped into the chart-room and was greeted with a smile by Captain
West. He was lolling back comfortably in a swing chair, his feet
cocked on the desk opposite. On a broad, upholstered couch sat the
pilot. Both were smoking cigars; and, lingering for a moment to
listen to the conversation, I grasped that the pilot was an ex-sea-
As I descended the stairs, from Miss West's room came a sound of
humming and bustling, as she settled her belongings. The energy she
displayed, to judge by the cheerful noises of it, was almost
Passing by the pantry, I put my head inside the door to greet the
steward and courteously let him know that I was aware of his
existence. Here, in his little realm, it was plain that efficiency
reigned. Everything was spotless and in order, and I could have
wished and wished vainly for a more noiseless servant than he ashore.
His face, as he regarded me, had as little or as much expression as
the Sphinx. But his slant, black eyes were bright, with
"What do you think of the crew?" I asked, in order to put words to my
invasion of his castle.
"Buggy-house," he answered promptly, with a disgusted shake of the
head. "Too much buggy-house. All crazy. You see. No good.
Rotten. Down to hell."
That was all, but it verified my own judgment. While it might be
true, as Miss West had said, that every ship's crew contained several
lunatics and idiots, it was a foregone conclusion that our crew
contained far more than several. In fact, and as it was to turn out,
our crew, even in these degenerate sailing days, was an unusual crew
in so far as its helplessness and worthlessness were beyond the
I found my own room (in reality it was two rooms) delightful. Wada
had unpacked and stored away my entire outfit of clothing, and had
filled numerous shelves with the library I had brought along.
Everything was in order and place, from my shaving outfit in the
drawer beside the wash-basin, and my sea-boots and oilskins hung
ready to hand, to my writing materials on the desk, before which a
swing arm-chair, leather-upholstered and screwed solidly to the
floor, invited me. My pyjamas and dressing-gown were out. My
slippers, in their accustomed place by the bed, also invited me.
Here, aft, all was fitness, intelligence. On deck it was what I have
described--a nightmare spawn of creatures, assumably human, but
malformed, mentally and physically, into caricatures of men. Yes, it
was an unusual crew; and that Mr. Pike and Mr. Mellaire could whip it
into the efficient shape necessary to work this vast and intricate
and beautiful fabric of a ship was beyond all seeming of possibility.
Depressed as I was by what I had just witnessed on deck, there came
to me, as I leaned back in my chair and opened the second volume of
George Moore's Hail and Farewell, a premonition that the voyage was
to be disastrous. But then, as I looked about the room, measured its
generous space, realized that I was more comfortably situated than I
had ever been on any passenger steamer, I dismissed foreboding
thoughts and caught a pleasant vision of myself, through weeks and
months, catching up with all the necessary reading which I had so
Once, I asked Wada if he had seen the crew. No, he hadn't, but the
steward had said that in all his years at sea this was the worst crew
he had ever seen.
"He say, all crazy, no sailors, rotten," Wada said. "He say all big
fools and bime by much trouble. 'You see,' he say all the time.
'You see, You see.' He pretty old man--fifty-five years, he say.
Very smart man for Chinaman. Just now, first time for long time, he
go to sea. Before, he have big business in San Francisco. Then he
get much trouble--police. They say he opium smuggle. Oh, big, big
trouble. But he catch good lawyer. He no go to jail. But long time
lawyer work, and when trouble all finish lawyer got all his business,
all his money, everything. Then he go to sea, like before. He make
good money. He get sixty-five dollars a month on this ship. But he
don't like. Crew all crazy. When this time finish he leave ship, go
back start business in San Francisco."
Later, when I had Wada open one of the ports for ventilation, I could
hear the gurgle and swish of water alongside, and I knew the anchor
was up and that we were in the grip of the Britannia, towing down the
Chesapeake to sea. The idea suggested itself that it was not too
late. I could very easily abandon the adventure and return to
Baltimore on the Britannia when she cast off the Elsinore. And then
I heard a slight tinkling of china from the pantry as the steward
proceeded to set the table, and, also, it was so warm and
comfortable, and George Moore was so irritatingly fascinating.
In every way dinner proved up beyond my expectations, and I
registered a note that the cook, whoever or whatever he might be, was
a capable man at his trade. Miss West served, and, though she and
the steward were strangers, they worked together splendidly. I
should have thought, from the smoothness of the service, that he was
an old house servant who for years had known her every way.
The pilot ate in the chart-house, so that at table were the four of
us that would always be at table together. Captain West and his
daughter faced each other, while I, on the captain's right, faced Mr.
Pike. This put Miss West across the corner on my right.
Mr. Pike, his dark sack coat (put on for the meal) bulging and
wrinkling over the lumps of muscles that padded his stooped
shoulders, had nothing at all to say. But he had eaten too many
years at captains' tables not to have proper table manners. At first
I thought he was abashed by Miss West's presence. Later, I decided
it was due to the presence of the captain. For Captain West had a
way with him that I was beginning to learn. Far removed as Mr. Pike
and Mr. Mellaire were from the sailors, individuals as they were of
an entirely different and superior breed, yet equally as different
and far removed from his officers was Captain West. He was a serene
and absolute aristocrat. He neither talked "ship" nor anything else
to Mr. Pike.
On the other hand, Captain West's attitude toward me was that of a
social equal. But then, I was a passenger. Miss West treated me the
same way, but unbent more to Mr. Pike. And Mr. Pike, answering her
with "Yes, Miss," and "No, Miss," ate good-manneredly and with his
shaggy-browed gray eyes studied me across the table. I, too, studied
him. Despite his violent past, killer and driver that he was, I
could not help liking the man. He was honest, genuine. Almost more
than for that, I liked him for the spontaneous boyish laugh he gave
on the occasions when I reached the points of several funny stories.
No man could laugh like that and be all bad. I was glad that it was
he, and not Mr. Mellaire, who was to sit opposite throughout the
voyage. And I was very glad that Mr. Mellaire was not to eat with us
I am afraid that Miss West and I did most of the talking. She was
breezy, vivacious, tonic, and I noted again that the delicate, almost
fragile oval of her face was given the lie by her body. She was a
robust, healthy young woman. That was undeniable. Not fat--heaven
forbid!--not even plump; yet her lines had that swelling roundness
that accompanies long, live muscles. She was full-bodied, vigorous;
and yet not so full-bodied as she seemed. I remember with what
surprise, when we arose from table, I noted her slender waist. At
that moment I got the impression that she was willowy. And willowy
she was, with a normal waist and with, in addition, always that
informing bodily vigour that made her appear rounder and robuster
than she really was.
It was the health of her that interested me. When I studied her face
more closely I saw that only the lines of the oval of it were
delicate. Delicate it was not, nor fragile. The flesh was firm, and
the texture of the skin was firm and fine as it moved over the firm
muscles of face and neck. The neck was a beautiful and adequate
pillar of white. Its flesh was firm, its skin fine, and it was
muscular. The hands, too, attracted me--not small, but well-shaped,
fine, white and strong, and well cared for. I could only conclude
that she was an unusual captain's daughter, just as her father was an
unusual captain and man. And their noses were alike, just the hint-
touch of the beak of power and race.
While Miss West was telling of the unexpectedness of the voyage, of
how suddenly she had decided to come--she accounted for it as a whim-
-and while she told of all the complications she had encountered in
her haste of preparation, I found myself casting up a tally of the
efficient ones on board the Elsinore. They were Captain West and his
daughter, the two mates, myself, of course, Wada and the steward,
and, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the cook. The dinner vouched for
him. Thus I found our total of efficients to be eight. But the
cook, the steward, and Wada were servants, not sailors, while Miss
West and myself were supernumeraries. Remained to work, direct, do,
but three efficients out of a total ship's company of forty-five. I
had no doubt that other efficients there were; it seemed impossible
that my first impression of the crew should be correct. There was
the carpenter. He might, at his trade, be as good as the cook. Then
the two sailmakers, whom I had not yet seen, might prove up.
A little later during the meal I ventured to talk about what had
interested me and aroused my admiration, namely, the masterfulness
with which Mr. Pike and Mr. Mellaire had gripped hold of that woeful,
worthless crew. It was all new to me, I explained, but I appreciated
the need of it. As I led up to the occurrence on Number Two hatch,
when Mr. Pike had lifted up Larry and toppled him back with a mere
slap from the ends of his fingers, I saw in Mr. Pike's eyes a
warning, almost threatening, expression. Nevertheless, I completed
my description of the episode.
When I had quite finished there was a silence. Miss West was busy
serving coffee from a copper percolator. Mr. Pike, profoundly
occupied with cracking walnuts, could not quite hide the wicked,
little, half-humorous, half-revengeful gleam in his eyes. But
Captain West looked straight at me, but from oh! such a distance--
millions and millions of miles away. His clear blue eyes were as
serene as ever, his tones as low and soft.
"It is the one rule I ask to be observed, Mr. Pathurst--we never
discuss the sailors."
It was a facer to me, and with quite a pronounced fellow-feeling for
Larry I hurriedly added:
"It was not merely the discipline that interested me. It was the
feat of strength."
"Sailors are trouble enough without our hearing about them, Mr.
Pathurst," Captain West went on, as evenly and imperturbably as if I
had not spoken. "I leave the handling of the sailors to my officers.
That's their business, and they are quite aware that I tolerate no
undeserved roughness or severity."
Mr. Pike's harsh face carried the faintest shadow of an amused grin
as he stolidly regarded the tablecloth. I glanced to Miss West for
sympathy. She laughed frankly, and said:
"You see, father never has any sailors. And it's a good plan, too."
"A very good plan," Mr. Pike muttered.
Then Miss West kindly led the talk away from that subject, and soon
had us laughing with a spirited recital of a recent encounter of hers
with a Boston cab-driver.
Dinner over, I stepped to my room in quest of cigarettes, and
incidentally asked Wada about the cook. Wada was always a great
gatherer of information.
"His name Louis," he said. "He Chinaman, too. No; only half
Chinaman. Other half Englishman. You know one island Napoleon he
stop long time and bime by die that island?"
"St. Helena," I prompted.
"Yes, that place Louis he born. He talk very good English."
At this moment, entering the hall from the deck, Mr. Mellaire, just
relieved by the mate, passed me on his way to the big room in the
stern where the second table was set. His "Good evening, sir," was
as stately and courteous as any southern gentleman of the old days
could have uttered it. And yet I could not like the man. His
outward seeming was so at variance with the personality that resided
within. Even as he spoke and smiled I felt that from inside his
skull he was watching me, studying me. And somehow, in a flash of
intuition, I knew not why, I was reminded of the three strange young
men, routed last from the forecastle, to whom Mr. Pike had read the
law. They, too, had given me a similar impression.
Behind Mr. Mellaire slouched a self-conscious, embarrassed
individual, with the face of a stupid boy and the body of a giant.
His feet were even larger than Mr. Pike's, but the hands--I shot a
quick glance to see--were not so large as Mr. Pike's.
As they passed I looked inquiry to Wada.
"He carpenter. He sat second table. His name Sam Lavroff. He come
from New York on ship. Steward say he very young for carpenter,
maybe twenty-two, three years old."
As I approached the open port over my desk I again heard the swish
and gurgle of water and again realized that we were under way. So
steady and noiseless was our progress, that, say seated at table, it
never entered one's head that we were moving or were anywhere save on
the solid land. I had been used to steamers all my life, and it was
difficult immediately to adjust myself to the absence of the
"Well, what do you think?" I asked Wada, who, like myself, had never
made a sailing-ship voyage.
He smiled politely.
"Very funny ship. Very funny sailors. I don't know. Mebbe all
right. We see."
"You think trouble?" I asked pointedly.
"I think sailors very funny," he evaded.
Having lighted my cigarette, I strolled for'ard along the deck to
where work was going on. Above my head dim shapes of canvas showed
in the starlight. Sail was being made, and being made slowly, as I
might judge, who was only the veriest tyro in such matters. The
indistinguishable shapes of men, in long lines, pulled on ropes.
They pulled in sick and dogged silence, though Mr. Pike, ubiquitous,
snarled out orders and rapped out oaths from every angle upon their
Certainly, from what I had read, no ship of the old days ever
proceeded so sadly and blunderingly to sea. Ere long Mr. Mellaire
joined Mr. Pike in the struggle of directing the men. It was not yet
eight in the evening, and all hands were at work. They did not seem
to know the ropes. Time and again, when the half-hearted suggestions
of the bosuns had been of no avail, I saw one or the other of the
mates leap to the rail and put the right rope in the hands of the
These, on the deck, I concluded, were the hopeless ones. Up aloft,
from sounds and cries, I knew were other men, undoubtedly those who
were at least a little seaman-like, loosing the sails.
But on deck! Twenty or thirty of the poor devils, tailed on a rope
that hoisted a yard, would pull without concerted effort and with
painfully slow movements. "Walk away with it!" Mr. Pike would yell.
And perhaps for two or three yards they would manage to walk with the
rope ere they came to a halt like stalled horses on a hill. And yet,
did either of the mates spring in and add his strength, they were
able to move right along the deck without stopping. Either of the
mates, old men that they were, was muscularly worth half-a-dozen of
the wretched creatures.
"This is what sailin's come to," Mr. Pike paused to snort in my ear.
"This ain't the place for an officer down here pulling and hauling.
But what can you do when the bosuns are worse than the men?"
"I thought sailors sang songs when they pulled," I said.
"Sure they do. Want to hear 'em?"
I knew there was malice of some sort in his voice, but I answered
that I'd like to very much.
"Here, you bosun!" Mr. Pike snarled. "Wake up! Start a song!
In the pause that followed I could have sworn that Sundry Buyers was
pressing his hands against his abdomen, while Nancy, infinite
bleakness freezing upon his face, was wetting his lips to begin.
Nancy it was who began, for from no other man, I was confident, could
have issued so sepulchral a plaint. It was unmusical, unbeautiful,
unlively, and indescribably doleful. Yet the words showed that it
should have ripped and crackled with high spirits and lawlessness,
for the words poor Nancy sang were:
"Away, way, way, yar,
We'll kill Paddy Doyle for bus boots."
"Quit it! Quit it!" Mr. Pike roared. "This ain't a funeral! Ain't
there one of you that can sing? Come on, now! It's a topsail-yard--
He broke off to leap in to the pin-rail and get the wrong ropes out
of the men's hands to put into them the right rope.
"Come on, bosun! Break her out!"
Then out of the gloom arose Sundry Buyers' voice, cracked and crazy
and even more lugubrious than Nancy's:
"Then up aloft that yard must go,
Whiskey for my Johnny."
The second line was supposed to be the chorus, but not more than two
men feebly mumbled it. Sundry Buyers quavered the next line:
"Oh, whiskey killed my sister Sue."
Then Mr. Pike took a hand, seizing the hauling-part next to the pin
and lifting his voice with a rare snap and devilishness:
"And whiskey killed the old man, too,
Whiskey for my Johnny."
He sang the devil-may-care lines on and on, lifting the crew to the
work and to the chorused emphasis of "Whiskey for my Johnny."
And to his voice they pulled, they moved, they sang, and were alive,
until he interrupted the song to cry "Belay!"
And then all the life and lilt went out of them, and they were again
maundering and futile things, getting in one another's way, stumbling
and shuffling through the darkness, hesitating to grasp ropes, and,
when they did take hold, invariably taking hold of the wrong rope
first. Skulkers there were among them, too; and once, from for'ard
of the 'midship house, I heard smacks, and curses, and groans, and
out of the darkness hurriedly emerged two men, on their heels Mr.
Pike, who chanted a recital of the distressing things that would
befall them if he caught them at such tricks again.
The whole thing was too depressing for me to care to watch further,
so I strolled aft and climbed the poop. In the lee of the chart-
house Captain West and the pilot were pacing slowly up and down.
Passing on aft, I saw steering at the wheel the weazened little old
man I had noted earlier in the day. In the light of the binnacle his
small blue eyes looked more malevolent than ever. So weazened and
tiny was he, and so large was the brass-studded wheel, that they
seemed of a height. His face was withered, scorched, and wrinkled,
and in all seeming he was fifty years older than Mr. Pike. He was
the most remarkable figure of a burnt-out, aged man one would expect
to find able seaman on one of the proudest sailing-ships afloat.
Later, through Wada, I was to learn that his name was Andy Fay and
that he claimed no more years than sixty-three.
I leaned against the rail in the lee of the wheel-house, and stared
up at the lofty spars and myriad ropes that I could guess were there.
No, I decided I was not keen on the voyage. The whole atmosphere of
it was wrong. There were the cold hours I had waited on the pier-
ends. There was Miss West coming along. There was the crew of
broken men and lunatics. I wondered if the wounded Greek in the
'midship house still gibbered, and if Mr. Pike had yet sewed him up;
and I was quite sure I would not care to witness such a transaction
Even Wada, who had never been in a sailing-ship, had his doubts of
the voyage. So had the steward, who had spent most of a life-time in
sailing-ships. So far as Captain West was concerned, crews did not
exist. And as for Miss West, she was so abominably robust that she
could not be anything else than an optimist in such matters. She had
always lived; her red blood sang to her only that she would always
live and that nothing evil would ever happen to her glorious
Oh, trust me, I knew the way of red blood. Such was my condition
that the red-blood health of Miss West was virtually an affront to
me--for I knew how unthinking and immoderate such blood could be.
And for five months at least--there was Mr. Pike's offered wager of a
pound of tobacco or a month's wages to that effect--I was to be pent
on the same ship with her. As sure as cosmic sap was cosmic sap,
just that sure was I that ere the voyage was over I should be
pestered by her making love to me. Please do not mistake me. My
certainty in this matter was due, not to any exalted sense of my own
desirableness to women, but to my anything but exalted concept of
women as instinctive huntresses of men. In my experience women
hunted men with quite the same blind tropism that marks the pursuit
of the sun by the sunflower, the pursuit of attachable surfaces by
the tendrils of the grapevine.
Call me blase--I do not mind, if by blase is meant the world-
weariness, intellectual, artistic, sensational, which can come to a
young man of thirty. For I was thirty, and I was weary of all these
things--weary and in doubt. It was because of this state that I was
undertaking the voyage. I wanted to get away by myself, to get away
from all these things, and, with proper perspective, mull the matter
It sometimes seemed to me that the culmination of this world-sickness
had been brought about by the success of my play--my first play, as
every one knows. But it had been such a success that it raised the
doubt in my own mind, just as the success of my several volumes of
verse had raised doubts. Was the public right? Were the critics
right? Surely the function of the artist was to voice life, yet what
did I know of life?
So you begin to glimpse what I mean by the world-sickness that
afflicted me. Really, I had been, and was, very sick. Mad thoughts
of isolating myself entirely from the world had hounded me. I had
even canvassed the idea of going to Molokai and devoting the rest of
my years to the lepers--I, who was thirty years old, and healthy and
strong, who had no particular tragedy, who had a bigger income than I
knew how to spend, who by my own achievement had put my name on the
lips of men and proved myself a power to be reckoned with--I was that
mad that I had considered the lazar house for a destiny.
Perhaps it will be suggested that success had turned my head. Very
well. Granted. But the turned head remains a fact, an
incontrovertible fact--my sickness, if you will, and a real sickness,
and a fact. This I knew: I had reached an intellectual and artistic
climacteric, a life-climacteric of some sort. And I had diagnosed my
own case and prescribed this voyage. And here was the atrociously
healthy and profoundly feminine Miss West along--the very last
ingredient I would have considered introducing into my prescription.
A woman! Woman! Heaven knows I had been sufficiently tormented by
their persecutions to know them. I leave it to you: thirty years of
age, not entirely unhandsome, an intellectual and artistic place in
the world, and an income most dazzling--why shouldn't women pursue
me? They would have pursued me had I been a hunchback, for the sake
of my artistic place alone, for the sake of my income alone.
Yes; and love! Did I not know love--lyric, passionate, mad, romantic
love? That, too, was of old time with me. I, too, had throbbed and
sung and sobbed and sighed--yes, and known grief, and buried my dead.
But it was so long ago. How young I was--turned twenty-four! And
after that I had learned the bitter lesson that even deathless grief
may die; and I had laughed again and done my share of philandering
with the pretty, ferocious moths that fluttered around the light of
my fortune and artistry; and after that, in turn, I had retired
disgusted from the lists of woman, and gone on long lance-breaking
adventures in the realm of mind. And here I was, on board the
Elsinore, unhorsed by my encounters with the problems of the
ultimate, carried off the field with a broken pate.
As I leaned against the rail, dismissing premonitions of disaster, I
could not help thinking of Miss West below, bustling and humming as
she made her little nest. And from her my thought drifted on to the
everlasting mystery of woman. Yes, I, with all the futuristic
contempt for woman, am ever caught up afresh by the mystery of woman.
Oh, no illusions, thank you. Woman, the love-seeker, obsessing and
possessing, fragile and fierce, soft and venomous, prouder than
Lucifer and as prideless, holds a perpetual, almost morbid,
attraction for the thinker. What is this flame of her, blazing
through all her contradictions and ignobilities?--this ruthless
passion for life, always for life, more life on the planet? At times
it seems to me brazen, and awful, and soulless. At times I am made
petulant by it. And at other times I am swayed by the sublimity of
it. No; there is no escape from woman. Always, as a savage returns
to a dark glen where goblins are and gods may be, so do I return to
the contemplation of woman.
Mr. Pike's voice interrupted my musings. From for'ard, on the main
deck, I heard him snarl:
"On the main-topsail-yard, there!--if you cut that gasket I'll split
your damned skull!"
Again he called, with a marked change of voice, and the Henry he
called to I concluded was the training-ship boy.
"You, Henry, main-skysail-yard, there!" he cried. "Don't make those
gaskets up! Fetch 'em in along the yard and make fast to the tye!"
Thus routed from my reverie, I decided to go below to bed. As my
hand went out to the knob of the chart-house door again the mate's
voice rang out:
"Come on, you gentlemen's sons in disguise! Wake up! Lively now!"
I did not sleep well. To begin with, I read late. Not till two in
the morning did I reach up and turn out the kerosene reading-lamp
which Wada had purchased and installed for me. I was asleep
immediately--perfect sleep being perhaps my greatest gift; but almost
immediately I was awake again. And thereafter, with dozings and cat-
naps and restless tossings, I struggled to win to sleep, then gave it
up. For of all things, in my state of jangled nerves, to be
afflicted with hives! And still again, to be afflicted with hives in
cold winter weather!
At four I lighted up and went to reading, forgetting my irritated
skin in Vernon Lee's delightful screed against William James, and his
"will to believe." I was on the weather side of the ship, and from
overhead, through the deck, came the steady footfalls of some officer
on watch. I knew that they were not the steps of Mr. Pike, and
wondered whether they were Mr. Mellaire's or the pilot's. Somebody
above there was awake. The work was going on, the vigilant seeing
and overseeing, that, I could plainly conclude, would go on through
every hour of all the hours on the voyage.
At half-past four I heard the steward's alarm go off, instantly
suppressed, and five minutes later I lifted my hand to motion him in
through my open door. What I desired was a cup of coffee, and Wada
had been with me through too many years for me to doubt that he had
given the steward precise instructions and turned over to him my
coffee and my coffee-making apparatus.
The steward was a jewel. In ten minutes he served me with a perfect
cup of coffee. I read on until daylight, and half-past eight found
me, breakfast in bed finished, dressed and shaved, and on deck. We
were still towing, but all sails were set to a light favouring breeze
from the north. In the chart-room Captain West and the pilot were
smoking cigars. At the wheel I noted what I decided at once was an
efficient. He was not a large man; if anything he was undersized.
But his countenance was broad-browed and intelligently formed. Tom,
I later learned, was his name--Tom Spink, an Englishman. He was
blue-eyed, fair-skinned, well-grizzled, and, to the eye, a hale fifty
years of age. His reply of "Good morning, sir" was cheery, and he
smiled as he uttered the simple phrase. He did not look sailor-like,
as did Henry, the training-ship boy; and yet I felt at once that he
was a sailor, and an able one.
It was Mr. Pike's watch, and on asking him about Tom he grudgingly
admitted that the man was the "best of the boiling."
Miss West emerged from the chart-house, with a rosy morning face and
her vital, springy limb-movement, and immediately began establishing
her contacts. On asking how I had slept, and when I said wretchedly,
she demanded an explanation. I told her of my affliction of hives
and showed her the lumps on my wrists.
"Your blood needs thinning and cooling," she adjudged promptly.
"Wait a minute. I'll see what can be done for you."
And with that she was away and below and back in a trice, in her hand
a part glass of water into which she stirred a teaspoonful of cream
"Drink it," she ordered, as a matter of course.
I drank it. And at eleven in the morning she came up to my deck-
chair with a second dose of the stuff. Also she reproached me
soundly for permitting Wada to feed meat to Possum. It was from her
that Wada and I learned how mortal a sin it was to give meat to a
young puppy. Furthermore, she laid down the law and the diet for
Possum, not alone to me and Wada, but to the steward, the carpenter,
and Mr. Mellaire. Of the latter two, because they ate by themselves
in the big after-room and because Possum played there, she was
especially suspicious; and she was outspoken in voicing her
suspicions to their faces. The carpenter mumbled embarrassed
asseverations in broken English of past, present, and future
innocence, the while he humbly scraped and shuffled before her on his
huge feet. Mr. Mellaire's protestations were of the same nature,
save that they were made with the grace and suavity of a
In short, Possum's diet raised quite a tempest in the Elsinore
teapot, and by the time it was over Miss West had established this
particular contact with me and given me a feeling that we were the
mutual owners of the puppy. I noticed, later in the day, that it was
to Miss West that Wada went for instructions as to the quantity of
warm water he must use to dilute Possum's condensed milk.
Lunch won my continued approbation of the cook. In the afternoon I
made a trip for'ard to the galley to make his acquaintance. To all
intents he was a Chinese, until he spoke, whereupon, measured by
speech alone, he was an Englishman. In fact, so cultured was his
speech that I can fairly say it was vested with an Oxford accent.
He, too, was old, fully sixty--he acknowledged fifty-nine. Three
things about him were markedly conspicuous: his smile, that embraced
all of his clean-shaven Asiatic face and Asiatic eyes; his even-
rowed, white, and perfect teeth, which I deemed false until Wada
ascertained otherwise for me; and his hands and feet. It was his
hands, ridiculously small and beautifully modelled, that led my
scrutiny to his feet. They, too, were ridiculously small and very
neatly, almost dandifiedly, shod.
We had put the pilot off at midday, but the Britannia towed us well
into the afternoon and did not cast us off until the ocean was wide
about us and the land a faint blur on the western horizon. Here, at
the moment of leaving the tug, we made our "departure"--that is to
say, technically began the voyage, despite the fact that we had
already travelled a full twenty-four hours away from Baltimore.
It was about the time of casting off, when I was leaning on the poop-
rail gazing for'ard, when Miss West joined me. She had been busy
below all day, and had just come up, as she put it, for a breath of
air. She surveyed the sky in weather-wise fashion for a full five
minutes, then remarked:
"The barometer's very high--30 degrees 60. This light north wind
won't last. It will either go into a calm or work around into a
"Which would you prefer?" I asked.
"The gale, by all means. It will help us off the land, and it will
put me through my torment of sea-sickness more quickly. Oh, yes,"
she added, "I'm a good sailor, but I do suffer dreadfully at the
beginning of every voyage. You probably won't see me for a couple of
days now. That's why I've been so busy getting settled first."
"Lord Nelson, I have read, never got over his squeamishness at sea,"
"And I've seen father sea-sick on occasion," she answered. "Yes, and
some of the strongest, hardest sailors I have ever known."
Mr. Pike here joined us for a moment, ceasing from his everlasting
pacing up and down to lean with us on the poop-rail.
Many of the crew were in evidence, pulling on ropes on the main deck
below us. To my inexperienced eye they appeared more unprepossessing
"A pretty scraggly crew, Mr. Pike," Miss West remarked.
"The worst ever," he growled, "and I've seen some pretty bad ones.
We're teachin' them the ropes just now--most of 'em."
"They look starved," I commented.
"They are, they almost always are," Miss West answered, and her eyes
roved over them in the same appraising, cattle-buyer's fashion I had
marked in Mr. Pike. "But they'll fatten up with regular hours, no
whiskey, and solid food--won't they, Mr. Pike?"
"Oh, sure. They always do. And you'll see them liven up when we get
'em in hand . . . maybe. They're a measly lot, though."
I looked aloft at the vast towers of canvas. Our four masts seemed
to have flowered into all the sails possible, yet the sailors beneath
us, under Mr. Mellaire's direction, were setting triangular sails,
like jibs, between the masts, and there were so many that they
overlapped one another. The slowness and clumsiness with which the
men handled these small sails led me to ask:
"But what would you do, Mr. Pike, with a green crew like this, if you
were caught right now in a storm with all this canvas spread?"
He shrugged his shoulders, as if I had asked what he would do in an
earthquake with two rows of New York skyscrapers falling on his head
from both sides of a street.
"Do?" Miss West answered for him. "We'd get the sail off. Oh, it
can be done, Mr. Pathurst, with any kind of a crew. If it couldn't,
I should have been drowned long ago."
"Sure," Mr. Pike upheld her. "So would I."
"The officers can perform miracles with the most worthless sailors,
in a pinch," Miss West went on.