Part 2 out of 7
Again Mr. Pike nodded his head and agreed, and I noted his two big
paws, relaxed the moment before and drooping over the rail, quite
unconsciously tensed and folded themselves into fists. Also, I noted
fresh abrasions on the knuckles. Miss West laughed heartily, as from
"I remember one time when we sailed from San Francisco with a most
hopeless crew. It was in the Lallah Rookh--YOU remember her, Mr.
"Your father's fifth command," he nodded. "Lost on the West Coast
afterwards--went ashore in that big earthquake and tidal wave.
Parted her anchors, and when she hit under the cliff, the cliff fell
"That's the ship. Well, our crew seemed mostly cow-boys, and
bricklayers, and tramps, and more tramps than anything else. Where
the boarding-house masters got them was beyond imagining. A number
of them were shanghaied, that was certain. You should have seen them
when they were first sent aloft." Again she laughed. "It was better
than circus clowns. And scarcely had the tug cast us off, outside
the Heads, when it began to blow up and we began to shorten down.
And then our mates performed miracles. You remember Mr. Harding--
"Don't I though!" Mr. Pike proclaimed enthusiastically. "He was some
man, and he must have been an old man even then."
"He was, and a terrible man," she concurred, and added, almost
reverently: "And a wonderful man." She turned her face to me. "He
was our mate. The men were sea-sick and miserable and green. But
Mr. Harding got the sail off the Lallah Rookh just the same. What I
wanted to tell you was this:
"I was on the poop, just like I am now, and Mr. Harding had a lot of
those miserable sick men putting gaskets on the main-lower-topsail.
How far would that be above the deck, Mr. Pike?"
"Let me see . . . the Lallah Rookh." Mr. Pike paused to consider.
"Oh, say around a hundred feet."
"I saw it myself. One of the green hands, a tramp--and he must
already have got a taste of Mr. Harding--fell off the lower-topsail-
yard. I was only a little girl, but it looked like certain death,
for he was falling from the weather side of the yard straight down on
deck. But he fell into the belly of the mainsail, breaking his fall,
turned a somersault, and landed on his feet on deck and unhurt. And
he landed right alongside of Mr. Harding, facing him. I don't know
which was the more astonished, but I think Mr. Harding was, for he
stood there petrified. He had expected the man to be killed. Not so
the man. He took one look at Mr. Harding, then made a wild jump for
the rigging and climbed right back up to that topsail-yard.
Miss West and the mate laughed so heartily that they scarcely heard
"Astonishing! Think of the jar to the man's nerves, falling to
apparent death that way."
"He'd been jarred harder by Silas Harding, I guess," was Mr. Pike's
remark, with another burst of laughter, in which Miss West joined.
Which was all very well in a way. Ships were ships, and judging by
what I had seen of our present crew harsh treatment was necessary.
But that a young woman of the niceness of Miss West should know of
such things and be so saturated in this side of ship life was not
nice. It was not nice for me, though it interested me, I confess,--
and strengthened my grip on reality. Yet it meant a hardening of
one's fibres, and I did not like to think of Miss West being so
I looked at her and could not help marking again the fineness and
firmness of her skin. Her hair was dark, as were her eyebrows, which
were almost straight and rather low over her long eyes. Gray her
eyes were, a warm gray, and very steady and direct in expression,
intelligent and alive. Perhaps, taking her face as a whole, the most
noteworthy expression of it was a great calm. She seemed always in
repose, at peace with herself and with the external world. The most
beautiful feature was her eyes, framed in lashes as dark as her brows
and hair. The most admirable feature was her nose, quite straight,
very straight, and just the slightest trifle too long. In this it
was reminiscent of her father's nose. But the perfect modelling of
the bridge and nostrils conveyed an indescribable advertisement of
race and blood.
Hers was a slender-lipped, sensitive, sensible, and generous mouth--
generous, not so much in size, which was quite average, but generous
rather in tolerance, in power, and in laughter. All the health and
buoyancy of her was in her mouth, as well as in her eyes. She rarely
exposed her teeth in smiling, for which purpose she seemed chiefly to
employ her eyes; but when she laughed she showed strong white teeth,
even, not babyish in their smallness, but just the firm, sensible,
normal size one would expect in a woman as healthy and normal as she.
I would never have called her beautiful, and yet she possessed many
of the factors that go to compose feminine beauty. She had all the
beauty of colouring, a white skin that was healthy white and that was
emphasized by the darkness of her lashes, brows, and hair. And, in
the same way, the darkness of lashes and brows and the whiteness of
skin set off the warm gray of her eyes. The forehead was, well,
medium-broad and medium high, and quite smooth. No lines nor hints
of lines were there, suggestive of nervousness, of blue days of
depression and white nights of insomnia. Oh, she bore all the marks
of the healthy, human female, who never worried nor was vexed in the
spirit of her, and in whose body every process and function was
frictionless and automatic.
"Miss West has posed to me as quite a weather prophet," I said to the
mate. "Now what is your forecast of our coming weather?"
"She ought to be," was Mr. Pike's reply as he lifted his glance
across the smooth swell of sea to the sky. "This ain't the first
time she's been on the North Atlantic in winter." He debated a
moment, as he studied the sea and sky. "I should say, considering
the high barometer, we ought to get a mild gale from the north-east
or a calm, with the chances in favour of the calm."
She favoured me with a triumphant smile, and suddenly clutched the
rail as the Elsinore lifted on an unusually large swell and sank into
the trough with a roll from windward that flapped all the sails in
"The calm has it," Miss West said, with just a hint of grimness.
"And if this keeps up I'll be in my bunk in about five minutes."
She waved aside all sympathy. "Oh, don't bother about me, Mr.
Pathurst. Sea-sickness is only detestable and horrid, like sleet,
and muddy weather, and poison ivy; besides, I'd rather be sea-sick
than have the hives."
Something went wrong with the men below us on the deck, some
stupidity or blunder that was made aware to us by Mr. Mellaire's
raised voice. Like Mr. Pike, he had a way of snarling at the sailors
that was distinctly unpleasant to the ear.
On the faces of several of the sailors bruises were in evidence.
One, in particular, had an eye so swollen that it was closed.
"Looks as if he had run against a stanchion in the dark," I observed.
Most eloquent, and most unconscious, was the quick flash of Miss
West's eyes to Mr. Pike's big paws, with freshly abraded knuckles,
resting on the rail. It was a stab of hurt to me. SHE KNEW.
That evening the three men of us had dinner alone, with racks on the
table, while the Elsinore rolled in the calm that had sent Miss West
to her room.
"You won't see her for a couple of days," Captain West told me. "Her
mother was the same way--a born sailor, but always sick at the outset
of a voyage.''
"It's the shaking down." Mr. Pike astonished me with the longest
observation I had yet heard him utter at table. "Everybody has to
shake down when they leave the land. We've got to forget the good
times on shore, and the good things money'll buy, and start watch and
watch, four hours on deck and four below. And it comes hard, and all
our tempers are strung until we can make the change. Did it happen
that you heard Caruso and Blanche Arral this winter in New York, Mr.
I nodded, still marvelling over this spate of speech at table.
"Well, think of hearing them, and Homer, and Witherspoon, and Amato,
every night for nights and nights at the Metropolitan; and then to
give it the go-by, and get to sea and shake down to watch and watch."
"You don't like the sea?" I queried.
"I don't know. But of course the sea is all I know--"
"Except music," I threw in.
"Yes, but the sea and all the long-voyaging has cheated me out of
most of the music I oughta have had coming to me."
"I suppose you've heard Schumann Heink?"
"Wonderful, wonderful!" he murmured fervently, then regarded me with
an eager wistfulness. "I've half-a-dozen of her records, and I've
got the second dog-watch below. If Captain West don't mind . . . "
(Captain West nodded that he didn't mind). "And if you'd want to
hear them? The machine is a good one."
And then, to my amazement, when the steward had cleared the table,
this hoary old relic of man-killing and man-driving days, battered
waif of the sea that he was, carried in from his room a most splendid
collection of phonograph records. These, and the machine, he placed
on the table. The big doors were opened, making the dining-room and
the main cabin into one large room. It was in the cabin that Captain
West and I lolled in big leather chairs while Mr. Pike ran the
phonograph. His face was in a blaze of light from the swinging
lamps, and every shade of expression was visible to me.
In vain I waited for him to start some popular song. His records
were only of the best, and the care he took of them was a revelation.
He handled each one reverently, as a sacred thing, untying and
unwrapping it and brushing it with a fine camel's hair brush while it
revolved and ere he placed the needle on it. For a time all I could
see was the huge brute hands of a brute-driver, with skin off the
knuckles, that expressed love in their every movement. Each touch on
the discs was a caress, and while the record played he hovered over
it and dreamed in some heaven of music all his own.
During this time Captain West lay back and smoked a cigar. His face
was expressionless, and he seemed very far away, untouched by the
music. I almost doubted that he heard it. He made no remarks
between whiles, betrayed no sign of approbation or displeasure. He
seemed preternaturally serene, preternaturally remote. And while I
watched him I wondered what his duties were. I had not seen him
perform any. Mr. Pike had attended to the loading of the ship. Not
until she was ready for sea had Captain West come on board. I had
not seen him give an order. It looked to me that Mr. Pike and Mr.
Mellaire did the work. All Captain West did was to smoke cigars and
keep blissfully oblivious of the Elsinore's crew.
When Mr. Pike had played the "Hallelujah Chorus" from the Messiah,
and "He Shall Feed His Flock," he mentioned to me, almost
apologetically, that he liked sacred music, and for the reason,
perhaps, that for a short period, a child ashore in San Francisco, he
had been a choir boy.
"And then I hit the dominie over the head with a baseball bat and
sneaked off to sea again," he concluded with a harsh laugh.
And thereat he fell to dreaming while he played Meyerbeer's "King of
Heaven," and Mendelssohn's "O Rest in the Lord."
When one bell struck, at quarter to eight, he carried his music, all
carefully wrapped, back into his room. I lingered with him while he
rolled a cigarette ere eight bells struck.
"I've got a lot more good things," he said confidentially: "Coenen's
'Come Unto Me,' and Faure's 'Crucifix'; and there's 'O Salutaris,'
and 'Lead, Kindly Light' by the Trinity Choir; and 'Jesu, Lover of My
Soul' would just melt your heart. I'll play 'em for you some night."
"Do you believe in them?" I was led to ask by his rapt expression and
by the picture of his brute-driving hands which I could not shake
from my consciousness.
He hesitated perceptibly, then replied:
"I do . . . when I'm listening to them."
My sleep that night was wretched. Short of sleep from the previous
night, I closed my book and turned my light off early. But scarcely
had I dropped into slumber when I was aroused by the recrudescence of
my hives. All day they had not bothered me; yet the instant I put
out the light and slept, the damnable persistent itching set up.
Wada had not yet gone to bed, and from him I got more cream of
tartar. It was useless, however, and at midnight, when I heard the
watch changing, I partially dressed, slipped into my dressing-gown,
and went up on to the poop.
I saw Mr. Mellaire beginning his four hours' watch, pacing up and
down the port side of the poop; and I slipped away aft, past the man
at the wheel, whom I did not recognize, and took refuge in the lee of
Once again I studied the dim loom and tracery of intricate rigging
and lofty, sail-carrying spars, thought of the mad, imbecile crew,
and experienced premonitions of disaster. How could such a voyage be
possible, with such a crew, on the huge Elsinore, a cargo-carrier
that was only a steel shell half an inch thick burdened with five
thousand tons of coal? It was appalling to contemplate. The voyage
had gone wrong from the first. In the wretched unbalance that loss
of sleep brings to any good sleeper, I could decide only that the
voyage was doomed. Yet how doomed it was, in truth, neither I nor a
madman could have dreamed.
I thought of the red-blooded Miss West, who had always lived and had
no doubts but what she would always live. I thought of the killing
and driving and music-loving Mr. Pike. Many a haler remnant than he
had gone down on a last voyage. As for Captain West, he did not
count. He was too neutral a being, too far away, a sort of favoured
passenger who had nothing to do but serenely and passively exist in
some Nirvana of his own creating.
Next I remembered the self-wounded Greek, sewed up by Mr. Pike and
lying gibbering between the steel walls of the 'midship-house. This
picture almost decided me, for in my fevered imagination he typified
the whole mad, helpless, idiotic crew. Certainly I could go back to
Baltimore. Thank God I had the money to humour my whims. Had not
Mr. Pike told me, in reply to a question, that he estimated the
running expenses of the Elsinore at two hundred dollars a day? I
could afford to pay two hundred a day, or two thousand, for the
several days that might be necessary to get me back to the land, to a
pilot tug, or any inbound craft to Baltimore.
I was quite wholly of a mind to go down and rout out Captain West to
tell him my decision, when another presented itself: THEN ARE YOU,
THE THINKER AND PHILOSOPHER, THE WORLD-SICK ONE, AFRAID TO GO DOWN,
TO CEASE IN THE DARKNESS? Bah! My own pride in my life-
pridelessness saved Captain West's sleep from interruption. Of
course I would go on with the adventure, if adventure it might be
called, to go sailing around Cape Horn with a shipload of fools and
lunatics--and worse; for I remembered the three Babylonish and
Semitic ones who had aroused Mr. Pike's ire and who had laughed so
terribly and silently.
Night thoughts! Sleepless thoughts! I dismissed them all and
started below, chilled through by the cold. But at the chart-room
door I encountered Mr. Mellaire.
"A pleasant evening, sir," he greeted me. "A pity there's not a
little wind to help us off the land."
"What do you think of the crew?" I asked, after a moment or so.
Mr. Mellaire shrugged his shoulders.
"I've seen many queer crews in my time, Mr. Pathurst. But I never
saw one as queer as this--boys, old men, cripples and--you saw Tony
the Greek go overboard yesterday? Well, that's only the beginning.
He's a sample. I've got a big Irishman in my watch who's going bad.
Did you notice a little, dried-up Scotchman?"
"Who looks mean and angry all the time, and who was steering the
evening before last?"
"The very one--Andy Fay. Well, Andy Fay's just been complaining to
me about O'Sullivan. Says O'Sullivan's threatened his life. When
Andy Fay went off watch at eight he found O'Sullivan stropping a
razor. I'll give you the conversation as Andy gave it to me:
"'Says O'Sullivan to me, "Mr. Fay, I'll have a word wid yeh?"
"Certainly," says I; "what can I do for you?" "Sell me your sea-
boots, Mr. Fay," says O'Sullivan, polite as can be. "But what will
you be wantin' of them?" says I. "'Twill be a great favour," says
O'Sullivan. "But it's my only pair," says I; "and you have a pair of
your own," says I. "Mr. Fay, I'll be needin' me own in bad weather,"
says O'Sullivan. "Besides," says I, "you have no money." "I'll pay
for them when we pay off in Seattle," says O'Sullivan. "I'll not do
it," says I; "besides, you're not tellin' me what you'll be doin'
with them." "But I will tell yeh," says O'Sullivan; "I'm wantin' to
throw 'em over the side." And with that I turns to walk away, but
O'Sullivan says, very polite and seducin'-like, still a-stroppin' the
razor, "Mr. Fay," says he, "will you kindly step this way an' have
your throat cut?" And with that I knew my life was in danger, and I
have come to make report to you, sir, that the man is a violent
"Or soon will be," I remarked. "I noticed him yesterday, a big man
muttering continually to himself?"
"That's the man," Mr. Mellaire said.
"Do you have many such at sea?" I asked.
"More than my share, I do believe, sir."
He was lighting a cigarette at the moment, and with a quick movement
he pulled off his cap, bent his head forward, and held up the blazing
match that I might see.
I saw a grizzled head, the full crown of which was not entirely bald,
but partially covered with a few sparse long hairs. And full across
this crown, disappearing in the thicker fringe above the ears, ran
the most prodigious scar I had ever seen. Because the vision of it
was so fleeting, ere the match blew out, and because of the scar's
very prodigiousness, I may possibly exaggerate, but I could have
sworn that I could lay two fingers deep into the horrid cleft and
that it was fully two fingers broad. There seemed no bone at all,
just a great fissure, a deep valley covered with skin; and I was
confident that the brain pulsed immediately under that skin.
He pulled his cap on and laughed in an amused, reassuring way.
"A crazy sea cook did that, Mr. Pathurst, with a meat-axe. We were
thousands of miles from anywhere, in the South Indian Ocean at the
time, running our Easting down, but the cook got the idea into his
addled head that we were lying in Boston Harbour, and that I wouldn't
let him go ashore. I had my back to him at the time, and I never
knew what struck me."
"But how could you recover from so fearful an injury?" I questioned.
"There must have been a splendid surgeon on board, and you must have
had wonderful vitality."
He shook his head.
"It must have been the vitality . . . and the molasses."
"Yes; the captain had old-fashioned prejudices against antiseptics.
He always used molasses for fresh wound-dressings. I lay in my bunk
many weary weeks--we had a long passage--and by the time we reached
Hong Kong the thing was healed, there was no need for a shore
surgeon, and I was standing my third mate's watch--we carried third
mates in those days."
Not for many a long day was I to realize the dire part that scar in
Mr. Mellaire's head was to play in his destiny and in the destiny of
the Elsinore. Had I known at the time, Captain West would have
received the most unusual awakening from sleep that he ever
experienced; for he would have been routed out by a very determined,
partially-dressed passenger with a proposition capable of going to
the extent of buying the Elsinore outright with all her cargo, so
that she might be sailed straight back to Baltimore.
As it was, I merely thought it a very marvellous thing that Mr.
Mellaire should have lived so many years with such a hole in his
We talked on, and he gave me many details of that particular
happening, and of other happenings at sea on the part of the lunatics
that seem to infest the sea.
And yet I could not like the man. In nothing he said, nor in the
manner of saying things, could I find fault. He seemed generous,
broad-minded, and, for a sailor, very much of a man of the world. It
was easy for me to overlook his excessive suavity of speech and
super-courtesy of social mannerism. It was not that. But all the
time I was distressingly, and, I suppose, intuitively aware, though
in the darkness I couldn't even see his eyes, that there, behind
those eyes, inside that skull, was ambuscaded an alien personality
that spied upon me, measured me, studied me, and that said one thing
while it thought another thing.
When I said good night and went below it was with the feeling that I
had been talking with the one half of some sort of a dual creature.
The other half had not spoken. Yet I sensed it there, fluttering and
quick, behind the mask of words and flesh.
But I could not sleep. I took more cream of tartar. It must be the
heat of the bed-clothes, I decided, that excited my hives. And yet,
whenever I ceased struggling for sleep, and lighted the lamp and
read, my skin irritation decreased. But as soon as I turned out the
lamp and closed my eyes I was troubled again. So hour after hour
passed, through which, between vain attempts to sleep, I managed to
wade through many pages of Rosny's Le Termite--a not very cheerful
proceeding, I must say, concerned as it is with the microscopic and
over-elaborate recital of Noel Servaise's tortured nerves, bodily
pains, and intellectual phantasma. At last I tossed the novel aside,
damned all analytical Frenchmen, and found some measure of relief in
the more genial and cynical Stendhal.
Over my head I could hear Mr. Mellaire steadily pace up and down. At
four the watches changed, and I recognized the age-lag in Mr. Pike's
promenade. Half an hour later, just as the steward's alarm went off,
instantly checked by that light-sleeping Asiatic, the Elsinore began
to heel over on my side. I could hear Mr. Pike barking and snarling
orders, and at times a trample and shuffle of many feet passed over
my head as the weird crew pulled and hauled. The Elsinore continued
to heel over until I could see the water against my port, and then
she gathered way and dashed ahead at such a rate that I could hear
the stinging and singing of the foam through the circle of thick
glass beside me.
The steward brought me coffee, and I read till daylight and after,
when Wada served me breakfast and helped me dress. He, too,
complained of inability to sleep. He had been bunked with Nancy in
one of the rooms in the 'midship-house. Wada described the
situation. The tiny room, made of steel, was air-tight when the
steel door was closed. And Nancy insisted on keeping the door
closed. As a result Wada, in the upper bunk, had stifled. He told
me that the air had got so bad that the flame of the lamp, no matter
how high it was turned, guttered down and all but refused to burn.
Nancy snored beautifully through it all, while he had been unable to
close his eyes.
"He is not clean," quoth Wada. "He is a pig. No more will I sleep
in that place."
On the poop I found the Elsinore, with many of her sails furled,
slashing along through a troubled sea under an overcast sky. Also I
found Mr. Mellaire marching up and down, just as I had left him hours
before, and it took quite a distinct effort for me to realize that he
had had the watch off between four and eight. Even then, he told me,
he had slept from four until half-past seven.
"That is one thing, Mr. Pathurst, I always sleep like a baby . . .
which means a good conscience, sir, yes, a good conscience."
And while he enunciated the platitude I was uncomfortably aware that
that alien thing inside his skull was watching me, studying me.
In the cabin Captain West smoked a cigar and read the Bible. Miss
West did not appear, and I was grateful that to my sleeplessness the
curse of sea-sickness had not been added.
Without asking permission of anybody, Wada arranged a sleeping place
for himself in a far corner of the big after-room, screening the
corner with a solidly lashed wall of my trunks and empty book boxes.
It was a dreary enough day, no sun, with occasional splatters of rain
and a persistent crash of seas over the weather rail and swash of
water across the deck. With my eyes glued to the cabin ports, which
gave for'ard along the main deck, I could see the wretched sailors,
whenever they were given some task of pull and haul, wet through and
through by the boarding seas. Several times I saw some of them taken
off their feet and rolled about in the creaming foam. And yet,
erect, unstaggering, with certitude of weight and strength, among
these rolled men, these clutching, cowering ones, moved either Mr.
Pike or Mr. Mellaire. They were never taken off their feet. They
never shrank away from a splash of spray or heavier bulk of down-
falling water. They had fed on different food, were informed with a
different spirit, were of iron in contrast with the poor miserables
they drove to their bidding.
In the afternoon I dozed for half-an-hour in one of the big chairs in
the cabin. Had it not been for the violent motion of the ship I
could have slept there for hours, for the hives did not trouble.
Captain West, stretched out on the cabin sofa, his feet in carpet
slippers, slept enviably. By some instinct, I might say, in the deep
of sleep, he kept his place and was not rolled off upon the floor.
Also, he lightly held a half-smoked cigar in one hand. I watched him
for an hour, and knew him to be asleep, and marvelled that he
maintained his easy posture and did not drop the cigar.
After dinner there was no phonograph. The second dog-watch was Mr.
Pike's on deck. Besides, as he explained, the rolling was too
severe. It would make the needle jump and scratch his beloved
And no sleep! Another weary night of torment, and another dreary,
overcast day and leaden, troubled sea. And no Miss West. Wada, too,
is sea-sick, although heroically he kept his feet and tried to tend
on me with glassy, unseeing eyes. I sent him to his bunk, and read
through the endless hours until my eyes were tired, and my brain,
between lack of sleep and over-use, was fuzzy.
Captain West is no conversationalist. The more I see of him the more
I am baffled. I have not yet found a reason for that first
impression I received of him. He has all the poise and air of a
remote and superior being, and yet I wonder if it be not poise and
air and nothing else. Just as I had expected, that first meeting,
ere he spoke a word, to hear fall from his lips words of untold
beneficence and wisdom, and then heard him utter mere social
commonplaces, so I now find myself almost forced to conclude that his
touch of race, and beak of power, and all the tall, aristocratic
slenderness of him have nothing behind them.
And yet, on the other hand, I can find no reason for rejecting that
first impression. He has not shown any strength, but by the same
token he has not shown any weakness. Sometimes I wonder what resides
behind those clear blue eyes. Certainly I have failed to find any
intellectual backing. I tried him out with William James' Varieties
of Religious Experience. He glanced at a few pages, then returned it
to me with the frank statement that it did not interest him. He has
no books of his own. Evidently he is not a reader. Then what is he?
I dared to feel him out on politics. He listened courteously, said
sometimes yes and sometimes no, and, when I ceased from very
discouragement, said nothing.
Aloof as the two officers are from the men, Captain West is still
more aloof from his officers. I have not seen him address a further
word to Mr. Mellaire than "Good morning" on the poop. As for Mr.
Pike, who eats three times a day with him, scarcely any more
conversation obtains between them. And I am surprised by what seems
the very conspicuous awe with which Mr. Pike seems to regard his
Another thing. What are Captain West's duties? So far he has done
nothing, save eat three times a day, smoke many cigars, and each day
stroll a total of one mile around the poop. The mates do all the
work, and hard work it is, four hours on deck and four below, day and
night with never a variation. I watch Captain West and am amazed.
He will loll back in the cabin and stare straight before him for
hours at a time, until I am almost frantic to demand of him what are
his thoughts. Sometimes I doubt that he is thinking at all. I give
him up. I cannot fathom him.
Altogether a depressing day of rain-splatter and wash of water across
the deck. I can see, now, that the problem of sailing a ship with
five thousand tons of coal around the Horn is more serious than I had
thought. So deep is the Elsinore in the water that she is like a log
awash. Her tall, six-foot bulwarks of steel cannot keep the seas
from boarding her. She has not the buoyancy one is accustomed to
ascribe to ships. On the contrary, she is weighted down until she is
dead, so that, for this one day alone, I am appalled at the thought
of how many thousands of tons of the North Atlantic have boarded her
and poured out through her spouting scuppers and clanging ports.
Yes, a depressing day. The two mates have alternated on deck and in
their bunks. Captain West has dozed on the cabin sofa or read the
Bible. Miss West is still sea-sick. I have tired myself out with
reading, and the fuzziness of my unsleeping brain makes for
melancholy. Even Wada is anything but a cheering spectacle, crawling
out of his bunk, as he does at stated intervals, and with sick,
glassy eyes trying to discern what my needs may be. I almost wish I
could get sea-sick myself. I had never dreamed that a sea voyage
could be so unenlivening as this one is proving.
Another morning of overcast sky and leaden sea, and of the Elsinore,
under half her canvas, clanging her deck ports, spouting water from
her scuppers, and dashing eastward into the heart of the Atlantic.
And I have failed to sleep half-an-hour all told. At this rate, in a
very short time I shall have consumed all the cream of tartar on the
ship. I never have had hives like these before. I can't understand
it. So long as I keep my lamp burning and read I am untroubled. The
instant I put out the lamp and drowse off the irritation starts and
the lumps on my skin begin to form.
Miss West may be sea-sick, but she cannot be comatose, because at
frequent intervals she sends the steward to me with more cream of
I have had a revelation to-day. I have discovered Captain West. He
is a Samurai.--You remember the Samurai that H. G. Wells describes in
his Modern Utopia--the superior breed of men who know things and are
masters of life and of their fellow-men in a super-benevolent, super-
wise way? Well, that is what Captain West is. Let me tell it to
We had a shift of wind to-day. In the height of a south-west gale
the wind shifted, in the instant, eight points, which is equivalent
to a quarter of the circle. Imagine it! Imagine a gale howling from
out of the south-west. And then imagine the wind, in a heavier and
more violent gale, abruptly smiting you from the north-west. We had
been sailing through a circular storm, Captain West vouchsafed to me,
before the event, and the wind could be expected to box the compass.
Clad in sea-boots, oilskins and sou'wester, I had for some time been
hanging upon the rail at the break of the poop, staring down
fascinated at the poor devils of sailors, repeatedly up to their
necks in water, or submerged, or dashed like straws about the deck,
while they pulled and hauled, stupidly, blindly, and in evident fear,
under the orders of Mr. Pike.
Mr. Pike was with them, working them and working with them. He took
every chance they took, yet somehow he escaped being washed off his
feet, though several times I saw him entirely buried from view.
There was more than luck in the matter; for I saw him, twice, at the
head of a line of the men, himself next to the pin. And twice, in
this position, I saw the North Atlantic curl over the rail and fall
upon them. And each time he alone remained, holding the turn of the
rope on the pin, while the rest of them were rolled and sprawled
Almost it seemed to me good fun, as at a circus, watching their
antics. But I did not apprehend the seriousness of the situation
until, the wind screaming higher than ever and the sea a-smoke and
white with wrath, two men did not get up from the deck. One was
carried away for'ard with a broken leg--it was Iare Jacobson, a dull-
witted Scandinavian; and the other, Kid Twist, was carried away,
unconscious, with a bleeding scalp.
In the height of the gusts, in my high position, where the seas did
not break, I found myself compelled to cling tightly to the rail to
escape being blown away. My face was stung to severe pain by the
high-driving spindrift, and I had a feeling that the wind was blowing
the cobwebs out of my sleep-starved brain.
And all the time, slender, aristocratic, graceful in streaming
oilskins, in apparent unconcern, giving no orders, effortlessly
accommodating his body to the violent rolling of the Elsinore,
Captain West strolled up and down.
It was at this stage in the gale that he unbent sufficiently to tell
me that we were going through a circular storm and that the wind was
boxing the compass. I did notice that he kept his gaze pretty
steadily fixed on the overcast, cloud-driven sky. At last, when it
seemed the wind could not possibly blow more fiercely, he found in
the sky what he sought. It was then that I first heard his voice--a
sea-voice, clear as a bell, distinct as silver, and of an ineffable
sweetness and volume, as it might be the trump of Gabriel. That
voice!--effortless, dominating! The mighty threat of the storm, made
articulate by the resistance of the Elsinore, shouted in all the
stays, bellowed in the shrouds, thrummed the taut ropes against the
steel masts, and from the myriad tiny ropes far aloft evoked a
devil's chorus of shrill pipings and screechings. And yet, through
this bedlam of noise, came Captain West's voice, as of a spirit
visitant, distinct, unrelated, mellow as all music and mighty as an
archangel's call to judgment. And it carried understanding and
command to the man at the wheel, and to Mr. Pike, waist-deep in the
wash of sea below us. And the man at the wheel obeyed, and Mr. Pike
obeyed, barking and snarling orders to the poor wallowing devils who
wallowed on and obeyed him in turn. And as the voice was the face.
This face I had never seen before. It was the face of the spirit
visitant, chaste with wisdom, lighted by a splendour of power and
calm. Perhaps it was the calm that smote me most of all. It was as
the calm of one who had crossed chaos to bless poor sea-worn men with
the word that all was well. It was not the face of the fighter. To
my thrilled imagination it was the face of one who dwelt beyond all
strivings of the elements and broody dissensions of the blood.
The Samurai had arrived, in thunders and lightnings, riding the wings
of the storm, directing the gigantic, labouring Elsinore in all her
intricate massiveness, commanding the wisps of humans to his will,
which was the will of wisdom.
And then, that wonderful Gabriel voice of his, silent (while his
creatures laboured his will), unconcerned, detached and casual, more
slenderly tall and aristocratic than ever in his streaming oilskins,
Captain West touched my shoulder and pointed astern over our weather
quarter. I looked, and all that I could see was a vague smoke of sea
and air and a cloud-bank of sky that tore at the ocean's breast. And
at the same moment the gale from the south-west ceased. There was no
gale, no moving zephyrs, nothing but a vast quietude of air.
"What is it?" I gasped, out of equilibrium from the abrupt cessation
"The shift," he said. "There she comes."
And it came, from the north-west, a blast of wind, a blow, an
atmospheric impact that bewildered and stunned and again made the
Elsinore harp protest. It forced me down on the rail. I was like a
windle-straw. As I faced this new abruptness of gale it drove the
air back into my lungs, so that I suffocated and turned my head aside
to breathe in the lee of the draught. The man at the wheel again
listened to the Gabriel voice; and Mr. Pike, on the deck below,
listened and repeated the will of the voice; and Captain West, in
slender and stately balance, leaned into the face of the wind and
slowly paced the deck.
It was magnificent. Now, and for the first time, I knew the sea, and
the men who overlord the sea. Captain West had vindicated himself,
exposited himself. At the height and crisis of storm he had taken
charge of the Elsinore, and Mr. Pike had become, what in truth was
all he was, the foreman of a gang of men, the slave-driver of slaves,
serving the one from beyond--the Samurai.
A minute or so longer Captain West strolled up and down, leaning
easily into the face of this new and abominable gale or resting his
back against it, and then he went below, pausing for a moment, his
hand on the knob of the chart-room door, to cast a last measuring
look at the storm-white sea and wrath-sombre sky he had mastered.
Ten minutes later, below, passing the open cabin door, I glanced in
and saw him. Sea-boots and storm-trappings were gone; his feet, in
carpet slippers, rested on a hassock; while he lay back in the big
leather chair smoking dreamily, his eyes wide open, absorbed, non-
seeing--or, if they saw, seeing things beyond the reeling cabin walls
and beyond my ken. I have developed an immense respect for Captain
West, though now I know him less than the little I thought I knew him
Small wonder that Miss West remains sea-sick on an ocean like this,
which has become a factory where the veering gales manufacture the
selectest and most mountainous brands of cross-seas. The way the
poor Elsinore pitches, plunges, rolls, and shivers, with all her
lofty spars and masts and all her five thousand tons of dead-weight
cargo, is astonishing. To me she is the most erratic thing
imaginable; yet Mr. Pike, with whom I now pace the poop on occasion,
tells me that coal is a good cargo, and that the Elsinore is well-
loaded because he saw to it himself.
He will pause abruptly, in the midst of his interminable pacing, in
order to watch her in her maddest antics. The sight is very pleasant
to him, for his eyes glisten and a faint glow seems to irradiate his
face and impart to it a hint of ecstasy. The Elsinore has a snug
place in his heart, I am confident. He calls her behaviour
admirable, and at such times will repeat to me that it was he who saw
to her loading.
It is very curious, the habituation of this man, through a long life
on the sea, to the motion of the sea. There IS a rhythm to this
chaos of crossing, buffeting waves. I sense this rhythm, although I
cannot solve it. But Mr. Pike KNOWS it. Again and again, as we
paced up and down this afternoon, when to me nothing unusually antic
seemed impending, he would seize my arm as I lost balance, and as the
Elsinore smashed down on her side and heeled over and over with a
colossal roll that seemed never to end, and that always ended with an
abrupt, snap-of-the-whip effect as she began the corresponding roll
to windward. In vain I strove to learn how Mr. Pike forecasts these
antics, and I am driven to believe that he does not consciously
forecast them at all. He FEELS them; he knows them. They, and the
sea, are ingrained in him.
Toward the end of our little promenade I was guilty of impatiently
shaking off a sudden seizure of my arm in his big paw. If ever, in
an hour, the Elsinore had been less gymnastic than at that moment, I
had not noticed it. So I shook off the sustaining clutch, and the
next moment the Elsinore had smashed down and buried a couple of
hundred feet of her starboard rail beneath the sea, while I had shot
down the deck and smashed myself breathless against the wall of the
chart-house. My ribs and one shoulder are sore from it yet. Now how
did he know?
And he never staggers nor seems in danger of being rolled away. On
the contrary, such a surplus of surety of balance has he that time
and again he lent his surplus to me. I begin to have more respect,
not for the sea, but for the men of the sea, and not for the
sweepings of seamen that are as slaves on our decks, but for the real
seamen who are their masters--for Captain West, for Mr. Pike, yes,
and for Mr. Mellaire, dislike him as I do.
As early as three in the afternoon the wind, still a gale, went back
to the south-west. Mr. Mellaire had the deck, and he went below and
reported the change to Captain West.
"We'll wear ship at four, Mr. Pathurst," the second mate told me when
he came back. "You'll find it an interesting manoeuvre."
"But why wait till four?" I asked.
"The Captain's orders, sir. The watches will be changing, and we'll
have the use of both of them, without working a hardship on the watch
below by calling it out now."
And when both watches were on deck Captain West, again in oilskins,
came out of the chart-house. Mr. Pike, out on the bridge, took
charge of the many men who, on deck and on the poop, were to manage
the mizzen-braces, while Mr. Mellaire went for'ard with his watch to
handle the fore-and main-braces. It was a pretty manoeuvre, a play
of leverages, by which they cased the force of the wind on the after
part of the Elsinore and used the force of the wind on the for'ard
Captain West gave no orders whatever, and, to all intents, was quite
oblivious of what was being done. He was again the favoured
passenger, taking a stroll for his health's sake. And yet I knew
that both his officers were uncomfortably aware of his presence and
were keyed to their finest seamanship. I know, now, Captain West's
position on board. He is the brains of the Elsinore. He is the
master strategist. There is more in directing a ship on the ocean
than in standing watches and ordering men to pull and haul. They are
pawns, and the two officers are pieces, with which Captain West plays
the game against sea, and wind, and season, and ocean current. He is
the knower. They are his tongue, by which he makes his knowledge
A bad night--equally bad for the Elsinore and for me. She is
receiving a sharp buffeting at the hands of the wintry North
Atlantic. I fell asleep early, exhausted from lack of sleep, and
awoke in an hour, frantic with my lumped and burning skin. More
cream of tartar, more reading, more vain attempts to sleep, until
shortly before five, when the steward brought me my coffee, I wrapped
myself in my dressing-gown, and like a being distracted prowled into
the cabin. I dozed in a leather chair and was thrown out by a
violent roll of the ship. I tried the sofa, sinking to sleep
immediately, and immediately thereafter finding myself precipitated
to the floor. I am convinced that when Captain West naps on the sofa
he is only half asleep. How else can he maintain so precarious a
position?--unless, in him, too, the sea and its motion be ingrained.
I wandered into the dining-room, wedged myself into a screwed chair,
and fell asleep, my head on my arms, my arms on the table. And at
quarter past seven the steward roused me by shaking my shoulders. It
was time to set table.
Heavy with the brief heaviness of sleep I had had, I dressed and
stumbled up on to the poop in the hope that the wind would clear my
brain. Mr. Pike had the watch, and with sure, age-lagging step he
paced the deck. The man is a marvel--sixty-nine years old, a life of
hardship, and as sturdy as a lion. Yet of the past night alone his
hours had been: four to six in the afternoon on deck; eight to
twelve on deck; and four to eight in the morning on deck. In a few
minutes he would be relieved, but at midday he would again be on
I leaned on the poop-rail and stared for'ard along the dreary waste
of deck. Every port and scupper was working to ease the weight of
North Atlantic that perpetually fell on board. Between the rush of
the cascades, streaks of rust showed everywhere. Some sort of a
wooden pin-rail had carried away on the starboard-rail at the foot of
the mizzen-shrouds, and an amazing raffle of ropes and tackles washed
about. Here Nancy and half-a-dozen men worked sporadically, and in
fear of their lives, to clear the tangle.
The long-suffering bleakness was very pronounced on Nancy's face, and
when the walls of water, in impending downfall, reared above the
Elsinore's rail, he was always the first to leap for the life-line
which had been stretched fore and aft across the wide space of deck.
The rest of the men were scarcely less backward in dropping their
work and springing to safety--if safety it might be called, to grip a
rope in both hands and have legs sweep out from under, and be
wrenched full-length upon the boiling surface of an ice-cold flood.
Small wonder they look wretched. Bad as their condition was when
they came aboard at Baltimore, they look far worse now, what of the
last several days of wet and freezing hardship.
From time to time, completing his for'ard pace along the poop, Mr.
Pike would pause, ere he retraced his steps, and snort sardonic glee
at what happened to the poor devils below. The man's heart is
callous. A thing of iron, he has endured; and he has no patience nor
sympathy with these creatures who lack his own excessive iron.
I noticed the stone-deaf man, the twisted oaf whose face I have
described as being that of an ill-treated and feeble-minded faun.
His bright, liquid, pain-filled eyes were more filled with pain than
ever, his face still more lean and drawn with suffering. And yet his
face showed an excess of nervousness, sensitiveness, and a pathetic
eagerness to please and do. I could not help observing that, despite
his dreadful sense-handicap and his wrecked, frail body, he did the
most work, was always the last of the group to spring to the life-
line and always the first to loose the life-line and slosh knee-deep
or waist-deep through the churning water to attack the immense and
depressing tangle of rope and tackle.
I remarked to Mr. Pike that the men seemed thinner and weaker than
when they came on board, and he delayed replying for a moment while
he stared down at them with that cattle-buyer's eye of his.
"Sure they are," he said disgustedly. "A weak breed, that's what
they are--nothing to build on, no stamina. The least thing drags
them down. Why, in my day we grew fat on work like that--only we
didn't; we worked so hard there wasn't any chance for fat. We kept
in fighting trim, that was all. But as for this scum and slum--say,
you remember, Mr. Pathurst, that man I spoke to the first day, who
said his name was Charles Davis?"
"The one you thought there was something the matter with?"
"Yes, and there was, too. He's in that 'midship room with the Greek
now. He'll never do a tap of work the whole Voyage. He's a hospital
case, if there ever was one. Talk about shot to pieces! He's got
holes in him I could shove my fist through. I don't know whether
they're perforating ulcers, or cancers, or cannon-shot wounds, or
what not. And he had the nerve to tell me they showed up after he
came on board!"
"And he had them all the time?" I asked.
"All the time! Take my word, Mr. Pathurst, they're years old. But
he's a wonder. I watched him those first days, sent him aloft, had
him down in the fore-hold trimming a few tons of coal, did everything
to him, and he never showed a wince. Being up to the neck in the
salt water finally fetched him, and now he's reported off duty--for
the voyage. And he'll draw his wages for the whole time, have all
night in, and never do a tap. Oh, he's a hot one to have passed over
on us, and the Elsinore's another man short."
"Another!" I exclaimed. "Is the Greek going to die?"
"No fear. I'll have him steering in a few days. I refer to the
misfits. If we rolled a dozen of them together they wouldn't make
one real man. I'm not saying it to alarm you, for there's nothing
alarming about it; but we're going to have proper hell this voyage."
He broke off to stare reflectively at his broken knuckles, as if
estimating how much drive was left in them, then sighed and
concluded, "Well, I can see I've got my work cut out for me."
Sympathizing with Mr. Pike is futile; the only effect is to make his
mood blacker. I tried it, and he retaliated with:
"You oughta see the bloke with curvature of the spine in Mr.
Mellaire's watch. He's a proper hobo, too, and a land lubber, and
don't weigh more'n a hundred pounds, and must be fifty years old, and
he's got curvature of the spine, and he's able seaman, if you please,
on the Elsinore. And worse than all that, he puts it over on you;
he's nasty, he's mean, he's a viper, a wasp. He ain't afraid of
anything because he knows you dassent hit him for fear of croaking
him. Oh, he's a pearl of purest ray serene, if anybody should slide
down a backstay and ask you. If you fail to identify him any other
way, his name is Mulligan Jacobs."
After breakfast, again on deck, in Mr. Mellaire's watch, I discovered
another efficient. He was at the wheel, a small, well-knit, muscular
man of say forty-five, with black hair graying on the temples, a big
eagle-face, swarthy, with keen, intelligent black eyes.
Mr. Mellaire vindicated my judgment by telling me the man was the
best sailor in his watch, a proper seaman. When he referred to the
man as the Maltese Cockney, and I asked why, he replied:
"First, because he is Maltese, Mr. Pathurst; and next, because he
talks Cockney like a native. And depend upon it, he heard Bow Bells
before he lisped his first word."
"And has O'Sullivan bought Andy Fay's sea-boots yet?" I queried.
It was at this moment that Miss West emerged upon the poop. She was
as rosy and vital as ever, and certainly, if she had been sea-sick,
she flew no signals of it. As she came toward me, greeting me, I
could not help remarking again the lithe and springy limb-movement
with which she walked, and her fine, firm skin. Her neck, free in a
sailor collar, with white sweater open at the throat, seemed almost
redoubtably strong to my sleepless, jaundiced eyes. Her hair, under
a white knitted cap, was smooth and well-groomed. In fact, the
totality of impression she conveyed was of a well-groomedness one
would not expect of a sea-captain's daughter, much less of a woman
who had been sea-sick. Life!--that is the key of her, the essential
note of her--life and health. I'll wager she has never entertained a
morbid thought in that practical, balanced, sensible head of hers.
"And how have you been?" she asked, then rattled on with sheer
exuberance ere I could answer. "Had a lovely night's sleep. I was
really over my sickness yesterday, but I just devoted myself to
resting up. I slept ten solid hours--what do you think of that?"
"I wish I could say the same," I replied with appropriate dejection,
as I swung in beside her, for she had evinced her intention of
"Oh, then you've been sick?"
"On the contrary," I answered dryly. "And I wish I had been. I
haven't had five hours' sleep all told since I came on board. These
I held up a lumpy wrist to show. She took one glance at it, halted
abruptly, and, neatly balancing herself to the roll, took my wrist in
both her hands and gave it close scrutiny.
"Mercy!" she cried; and then began to laugh.
I was of two minds. Her laughter was delightful to the ear, there
was such a mellowness, and healthiness, and frankness about it. On
the other hand, that it should be directed at my misfortune was
exasperating. I suppose my perplexity showed in my face, for when
she had eased her laughter and looked at me with a sobering
countenance, she immediately went off into more peals.
"You poor child," she gurgled at last. "And when I think of all the
cream of tartar I made you consume!"
It was rather presumptuous of her to poor-child me, and I resolved to
take advantage of the data I already possessed in order to ascertain
just how many years she was my junior. She had told me she was
twelve years old the time the Dixie collided with the river steamer
in San Francisco Bay. Very well, all I had to do was to ascertain
the date of that disaster and I had her. But in the meantime she
laughed at me and my hives.
"I suppose it is--er--humorous, in some sort of way," I said a bit
stiffly, only to find that there was no use in being stiff with Miss
West, for it only set her off into more laughter.
"What you needed," she announced, with fresh gurglings, "was an
"Don't tell me I've got the chicken-pox or the measles," I protested.
"No." She shook her head emphatically while she enjoyed another
paroxysm. "What you are suffering from is a severe attack . . . "
She paused deliberately, and looked me straight the eyes.
"Of bedbugs," she concluded. And then, all seriousness and
practicality, she went on: "But we'll have that righted in a jiffy.
I'll turn the Elsinore's after-quarters upside down, though I know
there are none in father's room or mine. And though this is my first
voyage with Mr. Pike I know he's too hard-bitten" (here I laughed at
her involuntary pun) "an old sailor not to know that his room is
clean. Yours" (I was perturbed for fear she was going to say that I
had brought them on board) "have most probably drifted in from
for'ard. They always have them for'ard.
"And now, Mr. Pathurst, I am going down to attend to your case.
You'd better get your Wada to make up a camping kit for you. The
next couple of nights you'll spend in the cabin or chart-room. And
be sure Wada removes all silver and metallic tarnishable stuff from
your rooms. There's going to be all sorts of fumigating, and tearing
out of woodwork, and rebuilding. Trust me. I know the vermin.
Such a cleaning up and turning over! For two nights, one in the
chart-room and one on the cabin sofa, I have soaked myself in sleep,
and I am now almost stupid with excess of sleep. The land seems very
far away. By some strange quirk, I have an impression that weeks, or
months, have passed since I left Baltimore on that bitter March
morning. And yet it was March 28, and this is only the first week in
I was entirely right in my first estimation of Miss West. She is the
most capable, practically masterful woman I have ever encountered.
What passed between her and Mr. Pike I do not know; but whatever it
was, she was convinced that he was not the erring one. In some
strange way, my two rooms are the only ones which have been invaded
by this plague of vermin. Under Miss West's instructions bunks,
drawers, shelves, and all superficial woodwork have been ripped out.
She worked the carpenter from daylight till dark, and then, after a
night of fumigation, two of the sailors, with turpentine and white
lead, put the finishing touches on the cleansing operations. The
carpenter is now busy rebuilding my rooms. Then will come the
painting, and in two or three more days I expect to be settled back
in my quarters.
Of the men who did the turpentining and white-leading there have been
four. Two of them were quickly rejected by Miss West as not being up
to the work. The first one, Steve Roberts, which he told me was his
name, is an interesting fellow. I talked with him quite a bit ere
Miss West sent him packing and told Mr. Pike that she wanted a real
This is the first time Steve Roberts has ever seen the sea. How he
happened to drift from the western cattle-ranges to New York he did
not explain, any more than did he explain how he came to ship on the
Elsinore. But here he is, not a sailor on horseback, but a cowboy on
the sea. He is a small man, but most powerfully built. His
shoulders are very broad, and his muscles bulge under his shirt; and
yet he is slender-waisted, lean-limbed, and hollow-cheeked. This
last, however, is not due to sickness or ill-health. Tyro as he is
on the sea, Steve Roberts is keen and intelligent . . . yes, and
crooked. He has a way of looking straight at one with utmost
frankness while he talks, and yet it is at such moments I get most
strongly the impression of crookedness. But he is a man, if trouble
should arise, to be reckoned with. In ways he suggests a kinship
with the three men Mr. Pike took so instant a prejudice against--Kid
Twist, Nosey Murphy, and Bert Rhine. And I have already noticed, in
the dog-watches, that it is with this trio that Steve Roberts chums.
The second sailor Miss West rejected, after silently watching him
work for five minutes, was Mulligan Jacobs, the wisp of a man with
curvature of the spine. But before she sent him packing other things
occurred in which I was concerned. I was in the room when Mulligan
Jacobs first came in to go to work, and I could not help observing
the startled, avid glance he threw at my big shelves of books. He
advanced on them in the way a robber might advance on a secret hoard
of gold, and as a miser would fondle gold so Mulligan Jacobs fondled
these book-titles with his eyes.
And such eyes! All time bitterness and venom Mr. Pike had told me
the man possessed was there in his eyes. They were small, pale-blue,
and gimlet-pointed with fire. His eyelids were inflamed, and but
served to ensanguine the bitter and cold-blazing intensity of the
pupils. The man was constitutionally a hater, and I was not long in
learning that he hated all things except books.
"Would you care to read some of them?" I said hospitably.
All the caress in his eyes for the books vanished as he turned his
head to look at me, and ere he spoke I knew that I, too, was hated.
"It's hell, ain't it?--you with a strong body and servants to carry
for you a weight of books like this, and me with a curved spine that
puts the pot-hooks of hell-fire into my brain?"
How can I possibly convey the terrible venomousness with which he
uttered these words? I know that Mr. Pike, dragging his feet down
the hall past my open door, gave me a very gratifying sense of
safety. Being alone in the room with this man seemed much the same
as if I were locked in a cage with a tiger-cat. The devilishness,
the wickedness, and, above all, the pitch of glaring hatred with
which the man eyed me and addressed me, were most unpleasant. I
swear I knew fear--not calculated caution, not timid apprehension,
but blind, panic, unreasoned terror. The malignancy of the creature
was blood curdling; nor did it require words to convey it: it poured
from him, out of his red-rimmed, blazing eyes, out of his withered,
twisted, tortured face, out of his broken-nailed, crooked talons of
hands. And yet, in that very moment of instinctive startle and
repulsion, the thought was in my mind that with one hand I could take
the throat of the weazened wisp of a crippled thing and throttle the
malformed life out of it.
But there was little encouragement in such thought--no more than a
man might feel in a cave of rattlesnakes or a pit of centipedes, for,
crush them with his very bulk, nevertheless they would first sink
their poison into him. And so with this Mulligan Jacobs. My fear of
him was the fear of being infected with his venom. I could not help
it; for I caught a quick vision of the black and broken teeth I had
seen in his mouth sinking into my flesh, polluting me, eating me with
their acid, destroying me.
One thing was very clear. In the creature was no fear. Absolutely,
he did not know fear. He was as devoid of it as the fetid slime one
treads underfoot in nightmares. Lord, Lord! that is what the thing
was, a nightmare.
"You suffer pain often?" I asked, attempting to get myself in hand by
the calculated use of sympathy.
"The hooks are in me, in the brain, white-hot hooks that burn an'
burn," was his reply. "But by what damnable right do you have all
these books, and time to read 'em, an' all night in to read 'em, an'
soak in them, when me brain's on fire, and I'm watch and watch, an'
me broken spine won't let me carry half a hundredweight of books
about with me?"
Another madman, was my conclusion; and yet I was quickly compelled to
modify it, for, thinking to play with a rattle-brain, I asked him
what were the books up to half a hundredweight he carried, and what
were the writers he preferred. His library, he told me, among other
things included, first and f ore-most, a complete Byron. Next was a
complete Shakespeare; also a complete Browning in one volume. A full
hall-dozen he had in the forecastle of Renan, a stray volume of
Lecky, Winwood Reade's Martyrdom of Man, several of Carlyle, and
eight or ten of Zola. Zola he swore by, though Anatole France was a
He might be mad, was my revised judgment, but he was most differently
mad from any madman I had ever encountered. I talked on with him
about books and bookmen. He was most universal and particular. He
liked O. Henry. George Moore was a cad and a four--flusher. Edgar
Saltus' Anatomy of Negation was profounder than Kant. Maeterlinck
was a mystic frump. Emerson was a charlatan. Ibsen's Ghosts was the
stuff, though Ibsen was a bourgeois lickspittler. Heine was the real
goods. He preferred Flaubert to de Maupassant, and Turgenieff to
Tolstoy; but Gorky was the best of the Russian boiling. John
Masefield knew what he was writing about, and Joseph Conrad was
living too fat to turn out the stuff he first turned out.
And so it went, the most amazing running commentary on literature I
had ever heard. I was hugely interested, and I quizzed him on
sociology. Yes, he was a Red, and knew his Kropotkin, but he was no
anarchist. On the other hand, political action was a blind-alley
leading to reformism and quietism. Political socialism had gone to
pot, while industrial unionism was the logical culmination of
Marxism. He was a direct actionist. The mass strike was the thing.
Sabotage, not merely as a withdrawal of efficiency, but as a keen
destruction-of-profits policy, was the weapon. Of course he believed
in the propaganda of the deed, but a man was a fool to talk about it.
His job was to do it and keep his mouth shut, and the way to do it
was to shoot the evidence. Of course, HE talked; but what of it?
Didn't he have curvature of the spine? He didn't care when he got
his, and woe to the man who tried to give it to him.
And while he talked he hated me. He seemed to hate the things he
talked about and espoused. I judged him to be of Irish descent, and
it was patent that he was self-educated. When I asked him how it was
he had come to sea, he replied that the hooks in his brain were as
hot one place as another. He unbent enough to tell me that he had
been an athlete, when he was a young man, a professional foot-racer
in Eastern Canada. And then his disease had come upon him, and for a
quarter of a century he had been a common tramp and vagabond, and he
bragged of a personal acquaintance with more city prisons and county
jails than any man that ever existed.
It was at this stage in our talk that Mr. Pike thrust his head into
the doorway. He did not address me, but he favoured me with a most
sour look of disapprobation. Mr. Pike's countenance is almost
petrified. Any expression seems to crack it--with the exception of
sourness. But when Mr. Pike wants to look sour he has no difficulty
at all. His hard-skinned, hard-muscled face just flows to sourness.
Evidently he condemned my consuming Mulligan Jacobs's time. To
Mulligan Jacobs he said in his customary snarl:
"Go on an' get to your work. Chew the rag in your watch below."
And then I got a sample of Mulligan Jacobs. The venom of hatred I
had already seen in his face was as nothing compared with what now
was manifested. I had a feeling that, like stroking a cat in cold
weather, did I touch his face it would crackle electric sparks.
"Aw, go to hell, you old stiff," said Mulligan Jacobs.
If ever I had seen murder in a man s eyes, I saw it then in the
mate's. He lunged into the room, his arm tensed to strike, the hand
not open but clenched. One stroke of that bear's paw and Mulligan
Jacobs and all the poisonous flame of him would have been quenched in
the everlasting darkness. But he was unafraid. Like a cornered rat,
like a rattlesnake on the trail, unflinching, sneering, snarling, he
faced the irate giant. More than that. He even thrust his face
forward on its twisted neck to meet the blow.
It was too much for Mr. Pike; it was too impossible to strike that
frail, crippled, repulsive thing.
"It's me that can call you the stiff," said Mulligan Jacobs. "I
ain't no Larry. G'wan an' hit me. Why don't you hit me?"
And Mr. Pike was too appalled to strike the creature. He, whose
whole career on the sea had been that of a bucko driver in a
shambles, could not strike this fractured splinter of a man. I swear
that Mr. Pike actually struggled with himself to strike. I saw it.
But he could not.
"Go on to your work," he ordered. "The voyage is young yet,
Mulligan. I'll have you eatin' outa my hand before it's over."
And Mulligan Jacobs's face thrust another inch closer on its twisted
neck, while all his concentrated rage seemed on the verge of bursting
into incandescence. So immense and tremendous was the bitterness
that consumed him that he could find no words to clothe it. All he
could do was to hawk and guttural deep in his throat until I should
not have been surprised had he spat poison in the mate's face.
And Mr. Pike turned on his heel and left the room, beaten, absolutely
I can't get it out of my mind. The picture of the mate and the
cripple facing each other keeps leaping up under my eyelids. This is
different from the books and from what I know of existence. It is
revelation. Life is a profoundly amazing thing. What is this bitter
flame that informs Mulligan Jacobs? How dare he--with no hope of any
profit, not a hero, not a leader of a forlorn hope nor a martyr to
God, but a mere filthy, malignant rat--how dare he, I ask myself, be
so defiant, so death-inviting? The spectacle of him makes me doubt
all the schools of the metaphysicians and the realists. No
philosophy has a leg to stand on that does not account for Mulligan
Jacobs. And all the midnight oil of philosophy I have burned does
not enable me to account for Mulligan Jacobs . . . unless he be
insane. And then I don't know.
Was there ever such a freight of human souls on the sea as these
humans with whom I am herded on the Elsinore?
And now, working in my rooms, white-leading and turpentining, is
another one of them. I have learned his name. It is Arthur Deacon.
He is the pallid, furtive-eyed man whom I observed the first day when
the men were routed out of the forecastle to man the windlass--the
man I so instantly adjudged a drug-fiend. He certainly looks it.
I asked Mr. Pike his estimate of the man.
"White slaver," was his answer. "Had to skin outa New York to save
his skin. He'll be consorting with those other three larrakins I
gave a piece of my mind to."
"And what do you make of them?" I asked.
"A month's wages to a pound of tobacco that a district attorney, or a
committee of some sort investigating the New York police is lookin'
for 'em right now. I'd like to have the cash somebody's put up in
New York to send them on this get-away. Oh, I know the breed."
"Gangsters?" I queried.
"That's what. But I'll trim their dirty hides. I'll trim 'em. Mr.
Pathurst, this voyage ain't started yet, and this old stiff's a long
way from his last legs. I'll give them a run for their money. Why,
I've buried better men than the best of them aboard this craft. And
I'll bury some of them that think me an old stiff."
He paused and looked at me solemnly for a full half minute.
"Mr. Pathurst, I've heard you're a writing man. And when they told
me at the agents' you were going along passenger, I made a point of
going to see your play. Now I'm not saying anything about that play,
one way or the other. But I just want to tell you, that as a writing
man you'll get stuff in plenty to write about on this voyage. Hell's
going to pop, believe me, and right here before you is the stiff
that'll do a lot of the poppin'. Some several and plenty's going to
learn who's an old stiff."
How I have been sleeping! This relief of renewed normality is
delicious--thanks to Miss West. Now why did not Captain West, or Mr.
Pike, both experienced men, diagnose my trouble for me? And then
there was Wada. But no; it required Miss West. Again I contemplate
the problem of woman. It is just such an incident among a million
others that keeps the thinker's gaze fixed on woman. They truly are
the mothers and the conservers of the race.
Rail as I will at Miss West's red-blood complacency of life, yet I
must bow my head to her life-giving to me. Practical, sensible,
hard-headed, a comfort-maker and a nest-builder, possessing all the
distressing attributes of the blind-instinctive race-mother,
nevertheless I must confess I am most grateful that she is along.
Had she not been on the Elsinore, by this time I should have been so
overwrought from lack of sleep that I would be biting my veins and
howling--as mad a hatter as any of our cargo of mad hatters. And so
we come to it--the everlasting mystery of woman. One may not be able
to get along with her; yet is it patent, as of old time, that one
cannot get along without her. But, regarding Miss West, I do
entertain one fervent hope, namely, that she is not a suffragette.
That would be too much.
Captain West may be a Samurai, but he is also human. He was really a
bit fluttery this morning, in his reserved, controlled way, when he
regretted the plague of vermin I had encountered in my rooms. It
seems he has a keen sense of hospitality, and that he is my host on
the Elsinore, and that, although he is oblivious of the existence of
the crew, he is not oblivious of my comfort. By his few expressions
of regret it appears that he cannot forgive himself for his careless
acceptance of the erroneous diagnosis of my affliction. Yes; Captain
West is a real human man. Is he not the father of the slender-faced,
strapping-bodied Miss West?
"Thank goodness that's settled," was Miss West's exclamation this
morning, when we met on the poop and after I had told her how
gloriously I had slept.
And then, that nightmare episode dismissed because, forsooth, for all
practical purposes--it was settled, she next said:
"Come on and see the chickens."
And I accompanied her along the spidery bridge to the top of the
'midship-house, to look at the one rooster and the four dozen fat
hens in the ship's chicken-coop.
As I accompanied her, my eyes dwelling pleasurably on that vital gait
of hers as she preceded me, I could not help reflecting that, coming
down on the tug from Baltimore, she had promised not to bother me nor
require to be entertained.
COME AND SEE THE CHICKENS!--Oh, the sheer female possessiveness of
that simple invitation! For effrontery of possessiveness is there
anything that can exceed the nest-making, planet-populating, female,
human woman?--COME AND SEE THE CHICKENS! Oh, well, the sailors
for'ard may be hard-bitten, but I can promise Miss West that here,
aft, is one male passenger, unmarried and never married, who is an
equally hard-bitten adventurer on the sea of matrimony. When I go
over the census I remember at least several women, superior to Miss
West, who trilled their song of sex and failed to shipwreck me.
As I read over what I have written I notice how the terminology of
the sea has stolen into my mental processes. Involuntarily I think
in terms of the sea. Another thing I notice is my excessive use of
superlatives. But then, everything on board the Elsinore is
superlative. I find myself continually combing my vocabulary in
quest of just and adequate words. Yet am I aware of failure. For
example, all the words of all the dictionaries would fail to
approximate the exceeding terribleness of Mulligan Jacobs.
But to return to the chickens. Despite every precaution, it was
evident that they had had a hard time during the past days of storm.
It was equally evident that Miss West, even during her sea-sickness,
had not neglected them. Under her directions the steward had
actually installed a small oil-stove in the big coop, and she now
beckoned him up to the top of the house as he was passing for'ard to
the galley. It was for the purpose of instructing him further in the
matter of feeding them.
Where were the grits? They needed grits. He didn't know. The sack
had been lost among the miscellaneous stores, but Mr. Pike had
promised a couple of sailors that afternoon to overhaul the
"Plenty of ashes," she told the steward. "Remember. And if a sailor
doesn't clean the coop each day, you report to me. And give them
only clean food--no spoiled scraps, mind. How many eggs yesterday?"
The steward's eyes glistened with enthusiasm as he said he had got
nine the day before and expected fully a dozen to-day.
"The poor things," said Miss West--to me. "You've no idea how bad
weather reduces their laying." She turned back upon the steward.
"Mind now, you watch and find out which hens don't lay, and kill them
first. And you ask me each time before you kill one."
I found myself neglected, out there on top the draughty house, while
Miss West talked chickens with the Chinese ex-smuggler. But it gave
me opportunity to observe her. It is the length of her eyes that
accentuates their steadiness of gaze--helped, of course, by the dark
brows and lashes. I noted again the warm gray of her eyes. And I
began to identify her, to locate her. She is a physical type of the
best of the womanhood of old New England. Nothing spare nor meagre,
nor bred out, but generously strong, and yet not quite what one would
call robust. When I said she was strapping-bodied I erred. I must
fall back on my other word, which will have to be the last: Miss
West is vital-bodied. That is the key-word.
When we had regained the poop, and Miss West had gone below, I
ventured my customary pleasantry with Mr. Mellaire of:
"And has O'Sullivan bought Andy Fay's sea-boots yet?"
"Not yet, Mr. Pathurst," was the reply, "though he nearly got them
early this morning. Come on along, sir, and I'll show you."
Vouchsafing no further information, the second mate led the way along
the bridge, across the 'midship-house and the for'ard-house. From
the edge of the latter, looking down on Number One hatch, I saw two
Japanese, with sail-needles and twine, sewing up a canvas-swathed
bundle that unmistakably contained a human body.
"O'Sullivan used a razor," said Mr. Mellaire.
"And that is Andy Fay?" I cried.
"No, sir, not Andy. That's a Dutchman. Christian Jespersen was his
name on the articles. He got in O'Sullivan's way when O'Sullivan
went after the boots. That's what saved Andy. Andy was more active.
Jespersen couldn't get out of his own way, much less out of
O'Sullivan's. There's Andy sitting over there."
I followed Mr. Mellaire's gaze, and saw the burnt-out, aged little
Scotchman squatted on a spare spar and sucking a pipe. One arm was
in a sling and his head was bandaged. Beside him squatted Mulligan
Jacobs. They were a pair. Both were blue-eyed, and both were
malevolent-eyed. And they were equally emaciated. It was easy to
see that they had discovered early in the voyage their kinship of
bitterness. Andy Fay, I knew, was sixty-three years old, although he
looked a hundred; and Mulligan Jacobs, who was only about fifty, made
up for the difference by the furnace-heat of hatred that burned in
his face and eyes. I wondered if he sat beside the injured bitter
one in some sense of sympathy, or if he were there in order to gloat.
Around the corner of the house strolled Shorty, flinging up to me his
inevitable clown-grin. One hand was swathed in bandages.
"Must have kept Mr. Pike busy," was my comment to Mr. Mellaire.
"He was sewing up cripples about all his watch from four till eight."
"What?" I asked. "Are there any more?"
"One more, sir, a sheeny. I didn't know his name before, but Mr.
Pike got it--Isaac B. Chantz. I never saw in all my life at sea as
many sheenies as are on board the Elsinore right now. Sheenies don't
take to the sea as a rule. We've certainly got more than our share
of them. Chantz isn't badly hurt, but you ought to hear him
"Where's O'Sullivan?" I inquired.
"In the 'midship-house with Davis, and without a mark. Mr. Pike got
into the rumpus and put him to sleep with one on the jaw. And now
he's lashed down and talking in a trance. He's thrown the fear of
God into Davis. Davis is sitting up in his bunk with a marlin-spike,
threatening to brain O'Sullivan if he starts to break loose, and
complaining that it's no way to run a hospital. He'd have padded
cells, straitjackets, night and day nurses, and violent wards, I
suppose--and a convalescents' home in a Queen Anne cottage on the
"Oh dear, oh dear," Mr. Mellaire sighed. "This is the funniest
voyage and the funniest crew I've ever tackled. It's not going to
come to a good end. Anybody can see that with half an eye. It'll be
dead of winter off the Horn, and a fo'c's'le full of lunatics and
cripples to do the work.--Just take a look at that one. Crazy as a
bedbug. He's likely to go overboard any time.''
I followed his glance and saw Tony the Greek, the one who had sprung
overboard the first day. He had just come around the corner of the
house, and, beyond one arm in a sling, seemed in good condition. He
walked easily and with strength, a testimonial to the virtues of Mr.
Pike's rough surgery.
My eyes kept returning to the canvas-covered body of Christian
Jespersen, and to the Japanese who sewed with sail-twine his sailor's
shroud. One of them had his right hand in a huge wrapping of cotton
"Did he get hurt, too?" I asked.
"No, sir. He's the sail-maker. They're both sail-makers. He's a
good one, too. Yatsuda is his name. But he's just had blood-
poisoning and lain in hospital in New York for eighteen months. He
flatly refused to let them amputate. He's all right now, but the
hand is dead, all except the thumb and fore-finger, and he's teaching
himself to sew with his left hand. He's as clever a sail-maker as
you'll find at sea."
"A lunatic and a razor make a cruel combination," I remarked.
"It's put five men out of commission," Mr. Mellaire sighed. "There's
O'Sullivan himself, and Christian Jespersen gone, and Andy Fay, and
Shorty, and the sheeny. And the voyage not started yet. And there's
Lars with the broken leg, and Davis laid off for keeps--why, sir,
we'll soon be that weak it'll take both watches to set a staysail."
Nevertheless, while I talked in a matter-of-fact way with Mr.
Mellaire, I was shocked--no; not because death was aboard with us. I
have stood by my philosophic guns too long to be shocked by death, or
by murder. What affected me was the utter, stupid bestiality of the
affair. Even murder--murder for cause--I can understand. It is
comprehensible that men should kill one another in the passion of
love, of hatred, of patriotism, of religion. But this was different.
Here was killing without cause, an orgy of blind-brutishness, a thing
Later on, strolling with Possum on the main deck, as I passed the
open door of the hospital I heard the muttering chant of O'Sullivan,
and peeped in. There he lay, lashed fast on his back in the lower
bunk, rolling his eyes and raving. In the top bunk, directly above,
lay Charles Davis, calmly smoking a pipe. I looked for the marlin-
spike. There it was, ready to hand, on the bedding beside him.
"It's hell, ain't it, sir?" was his greeting. "And how am I goin' to
get any sleep with that baboon chattering away there. He never lets
up--keeps his chin-music goin' right along when he's asleep, only
worse. The way he grits his teeth is something awful. Now I leave
it to you, sir, is it right to put a crazy like that in with a sick
man? And I am a sick man.''
While he talked the massive form of Mr. Pike loomed beside me and
halted just out of sight of the man in the bunk. And the man talked
"By rights, I oughta have that lower bunk. It hurts me to crawl up
here. It's inhumanity, that's what it is, and sailors at sea are
better protected by the law than they used to be. And I'll have you
for a witness to this before the court when we get to Seattle."
Mr. Pike stepped into the doorway.
"Shut up, you damned sea-lawyer, you," he snarled. "Haven't you
played a dirty trick enough comin' on board this ship in your
condition? And if I have anything more out of you . . . "
Mr. Pike was so angry that he could not complete the threat. After
spluttering for a moment he made a fresh attempt.
"You . . . you . . . well, you annoy me, that's what you do."
"I know the law, sir," Davis answered promptly. "I worked full able
seaman on this here ship. All hands can testify to that. I was
aloft from the start. Yes, sir, and up to my neck in salt water day
and night. And you had me below trimmin' coal. I did full duty and
more, until this sickness got me--"
"You were petrified and rotten before you ever saw this ship," Mr.
Pike broke in.
"The court'll decide that, sir," replied the imperturbable Davis.
"And if you go to shoutin' off your sea-lawyer mouth," Mr. Pike
continued, "I'll jerk you out of that and show you what real work
"An' lay the owners open for lovely damages when we get in," Davis
"Not if I bury you before we get in," was the mate's quick, grim
retort. "And let me tell you, Davis, you ain't the first sea-lawyer
I've dropped over the side with a sack of coal to his feet."
Mr. Pike turned, with a final "Damned sea-lawyer!" and started along
the deck. I was walking behind him when he stopped abruptly.
Not as an officer to a passenger did he thus address me. His tone
was imperative, and I gave heed.
"Mr. Pathurst. From now on the less you see aboard this ship the
better. That is all."
And again he turned on his heel and went his way.
No, the sea is not a gentle place. It must be the very hardness of
the life that makes all sea-people hard. Of course, Captain West is
unaware that his crew exists, and Mr. Pike and Mr. Mellaire never
address the men save to give commands. But Miss West, who is more
like myself, a passenger, ignores the men. She does not even say
good-morning to the man at the wheel when she first comes on deck.
Nevertheless I shall, at least to the man at the wheel. Am I not a
Which reminds me. Technically I am not a passenger. The Elsinore
has no licence to carry passengers, and I am down on the articles as
third mate and am supposed to receive thirty-five dollars a month.
Wada is down as cabin boy, although I paid a good price for his
passage and he is my servant.
Not much time is lost at sea in getting rid of the dead. Within an
hour after I had watched the sail-makers at work Christian Jespersen
was slid overboard, feet first, a sack of coal to his feet to sink
him. It was a mild, calm day, and the Elsinore, logging a lazy two
knots, was not hove to for the occasion. At the last moment Captain
West came for'ard, prayer-book in hand, read the brief service for
burial at sea, and returned immediately aft. It was the first time I
had seen him for'ard.
I shall not bother to describe the burial. All I shall say of it is
that it was as sordid as Christian Jespersen's life had been and as
his death had been.
As for Miss West, she sat in a deck-chair on the poop busily engaged
with some sort of fancy work. When Christian Jespersen and his coal
splashed into the sea the crew immediately dispersed, the watch below
going to its bunks, the watch on deck to its work. Not a minute
elapsed ere Mr. Mellaire was giving orders and the men were pulling
and hauling. So I returned to the poop to be unpleasantly impressed
by Miss West's smiling unconcern.
"Well, he's buried," I observed.
"Oh," she said, with all the tonelessness of disinterest, and went on
with her stitching.
She must have sensed my frame of mind, for, after a moment, she
paused from her sewing and looked at me
Your first sea funeral, Mr. Pathurst?
"Death at sea does not seem to affect you," I said bluntly.
"Not any more than on the land." She shrugged her shoulders. "So
many people die, you know. And when they are strangers to you . . .
well, what do you do on the land when you learn that some workers
have been killed in a factory you pass every day coming to town? It
is the same on the sea."
"It's too bad we are a hand short," I said deliberately.
It did not miss her. Just as deliberately she replied:
"Yes, isn't it? And so early in the voyage, too." She looked at me,
and when I could not forbear a smile of appreciation she smiled back.
"Oh, I know very well, Mr. Pathurst, that you think me a heartless
wretch. But it isn't that it's . . . it's the sea, I suppose. And
yet, I didn't know this man. I don't remember ever having seen him.
At this stage of the voyage I doubt if I could pick out half-a-dozen
of the sailors as men I had ever laid eyes on. So why vex myself
with even thinking of this stupid stranger who was killed by another
stupid stranger? As well might one die of grief with reading the
murder columns of the daily papers."
"And yet, it seems somehow different," I contended.
"Oh, you'll get used to it," she assured me cheerfully, and returned
to her sewing.
I asked her if she had read Moody's Ship of Souls, but she had not.
I searched her out further. She liked Browning, and was especially
fond of The Ring and the Book. This was the key to her. She cared
only for healthful literature--for the literature that exposits the
vital lies of life.
For instance, the mention of Schopenhauer produced smiles and
laughter. To her all the philosophers of pessimism were laughable.
The red blood of her would not permit her to take them seriously. I
tried her out with a conversation I had had with De Casseres shortly
before leaving New York. De Casseres, after tracing Jules de
Gaultier's philosophic genealogy back to Schopenhauer and Nietzsche,
had concluded with the proposition that out of their two formulas de
Gaultier had constructed an even profounder formula. The "Will-to-
Live" of the one and the "Will-to-Power" of the other were, after
all, only parts of de Gaultier's supreme generalization, the "Will-
I flatter myself that even De Casseres would have been pleased with
the way I repeated his argument. And when I had concluded it, Miss
West promptly demanded if the realists might not be fooled by their
own phrases as often and as completely as were the poor common
mortals with the vital lies they never questioned.
And there we were. An ordinary young woman, who had never vexed her
brains with ultimate problems, hears such things stated for the first
time, and immediately, and with a laugh, sweeps them all away. I
doubt not that De Casseres would have agreed with her.
"Do you believe in God?" I asked rather abruptly. She dropped her
sewing into her lap, looked at me meditatively, then gazed on and
away across the flashing sea and up into the azure dome of sky. And
finally, with true feminine evasion, she replied:
"My father does."
"But you?" I insisted.
"I really don't know. I don't bother my head about such things. I
used to when I was a little girl. And yet . . . yes, surely I
believe in God. At times, when I am not thinking about it at all, I
am very sure, and my faith that all is well is just as strong as the
faith of your Jewish friend in the phrases of the philosophers.
That's all it comes to, I suppose, in every case--faith. But, as I
say, why bother?"
"Ah, I have you now, Miss West!" I cried. "You are a true daughter
"It doesn't sound nice," she said with a moue.
"And it isn't," I exulted. "Nevertheless, it is what you are. It is
Arthur Symon's poem, The Daughters of Herodias. Some day I shall
read it to you, and you will answer. I know you will answer that
you, too, have looked often upon the stars."
We had just got upon the subject of music, of which she possesses a
surprisingly solid knowledge, and she was telling me that Debussy and
his school held no particular charm for her, when Possum set up a
The puppy had strayed for'ard along the bridge to the 'midship-house,
and had evidently been investigating the chickens when his disaster
came upon him. So shrill was his terror that we both stood up. He
was dashing along the bridge toward us at full speed, yelping at
every jump and continually turning his head back in the direction
whence he came.
I spoke to him and held out my hand, and was rewarded with a snap and
clash of teeth as he scuttled past. Still with head turned back, he
went on along the poop. Before I could apprehend his danger, Mr.
Pike and Miss West were after him. The mate was the nearer, and with
a magnificent leap gained the rail just in time to intercept Possum,
who was blindly going overboard under the slender railing. With a
sort of scooping kick Mr. Pike sent the animal rolling half across
the poop. Howling and snapping more violently, Possum regained his
feet and staggered on toward the opposite railing.
"Don't touch him!" Mr. Pike cried, as Miss West showed her intention
of catching the crazed little animal with her hands. "Don't touch'm!
He's got a fit."
But it did not deter her. He was half-way under the railing when she
caught him up and held him at arm's length while he howled and barked
"It's a fit," said Mr. Pike, as the terrier collapsed and lay on the
deck jerking convulsively.
"Perhaps a chicken pecked him," said Miss West. "At any rate, get a
bucket of water."
"Better let me take him," I volunteered helplessly, for I was
unfamiliar with fits.
"No; it's all right," she answered. "I'll take charge of him. The
cold water is what he needs. He got too close to the coop, and a
peck on the nose frightened him into the fit."
"First time I ever heard of a fit coming that way," Mr. Pike
remarked, as he poured water over the puppy under Miss West's
direction. "It's just a plain puppy fit. They all get them at sea."
"I think it was the sails that caused it," I argued. "I've noticed
that he is very afraid of them. When they flap, he crouches down in
terror and starts to run. You noticed how he ran with his head
"I've seen dogs with fits do that when there was nothing to frighten
them," Mr. Pike contended.
"It was a fit, no matter what caused it," Miss West stated
conclusively. "Which means that he has not been fed properly. From
now on I shall feed him. You tell your boy that, Mr. Pathurst.
Nobody is to feed Possum anything without my permission."
At this juncture Wada arrived with Possum's little sleeping box, and
they prepared to take him below.
"It was splendid of you, Miss West," I said, "and rash, as well, and
I won't attempt to thank you. But I tell you what-you take him.
He's your dog now."
She laughed and shook her head as I opened the chart-house door for
her to pass.
"No; but I'll take care of him for you. Now don't bother to come
below. This is my affair, and you would only be in the way. Wada
will help me."
And I was rather surprised, as I returned to my deck chair and sat
down, to find how affected I was by the little episode. I
remembered, at the first, that my pulse had been distinctly
accelerated with the excitement of what had taken place. And
somehow, as I leaned back in my chair and lighted a cigarette, the
strangeness of the whole voyage vividly came to me. Miss West and I
talk philosophy and art on the poop of a stately ship in a circle of
flashing sea, while Captain West dreams of his far home, and Mr. Pike
and Mr. Mellaire stand watch and watch and snarl orders, and the
slaves of men pull and haul, and Possum has fits, and Andy Fay and
Mulligan Jacobs burn with hatred unconsumable, and the small-handed
half-caste Chinese cooks for all, and Sundry Buyers perpetually
presses his abdomen, and O'Sullivan raves in the steel cell of the
'midship-house, and Charles Davis lies about him nursing a marlin-
spike, and Christian Jespersen, miles astern, is deep sunk in the sea
with a sack of coal at his feet.
Two weeks out to-day, on a balmy sea, under a cloud-flecked sky, and
slipping an easy eight knots through the water to a light easterly
wind. Captain West said he was almost convinced that it was the
north-east trade. Also, I have learned that the Elsinore, in order
to avoid being jammed down on Cape San Roque, on the Brazil coast,
must first fight eastward almost to the coast of Africa. On
occasion, on this traverse, the Cape Verde Islands are raised. No
wonder the voyage from Baltimore to Seattle is reckoned at eighteen
I found Tony, the suicidal Greek, steering this morning when I came
on deck. He seemed sensible enough, and quite rationally took off
his hat when I said good morning to him. The sick men are improving
nicely, with the exceptions of Charles Davis and O'Sullivan. The
latter still is lashed to his bunk, and Mr. Pike has compelled Davis
to attend on him. As a result, Davis moves about the deck, bringing
food and water from the galley and grumbling his wrongs to every
member of the crew.
Wada told me a strange thing this morning. It seems that he, the
steward, and the two sail-makers foregather each evening in the
cook's room--all being Asiatics--where they talk over ship's gossip.
They seem to miss little, and Wada brings it all to me. The thing
Wada told me was the curious conduct of Mr. Mellaire. They have sat
in judgment on him and they do not approve of his intimacy with the
three gangsters for'ard.
"But, Wada," I said, "he is not that kind of a man. He is very hard
and rough with all the sailors. He treats them like dogs. You know
"Sure," assented Wada. "Other sailors he do that. But those three
very bad men he make good friends. Louis say second mate belong aft
like first mate and captain. No good for second mate talk like
friend with sailors. No good for ship. Bime by trouble. You see.
Louis say Mr. Mellaire crazy do that kind funny business."
All of which, if it were true, and I saw no reason to doubt it, led
me to inquire. It seems that the gangsters, Kid Twist, Nosey Murphy,
and Bert Rhine, have made themselves cocks of the forecastle.
Standing together, they have established a reign of terror and are
ruling the forecastle. All their training in New York in ruling the
slum brutes and weaklings in their gangs fits them for the part. As
near as I could make out from Wada's tale, they first began on the
two Italians in their watch, Guido Bombini and Mike Cipriani. By
means I cannot guess, they have reduced these two wretches to
trembling slaves. As an instance, the other night, according to the
ship's gossip, Bert Rhine made Bombini get out of bed and fetch him a
drink of water.
Isaac Chantz is likewise under their rule, though he is treated more
kindly. Herman Lunkenheimer, a good-natured but simple-minded dolt
of a German, received a severe beating from the three because he
refused to wash some of Nosey Murphy's dirty garments. The two
bosuns are in fear of their lives with this clique, which is growing;
for Steve Roberts, the ex-cowboy, and the white-slaver, Arthur
Deacon, have been admitted to it.
I am the only one aft who possesses this information, and I confess I
don't know what to do with it. I know that Mr. Pike would tell me to
mind my own business. Mr. Mellaire is out of the question. And
Captain West hasn't any crew. And I fear Miss West would laugh at me
for my pains. Besides, I understand that every forecastle has its
bully, or group of bullies; so this is merely a forecastle matter and
no concern of the afterguard. The ship's work goes on. The only
effect I can conjecture is an increase in the woes of the
unfortunates who must bow to this petty tyranny for'ard.
- Oh, and another thing Wada told me. The gangster clique has
established its privilege of taking first cut of the salt-beef in the
meat-kids. After that, the rest take the rejected pieces. But I
will say, contrary to my expectations, the Elsinore's forecastle is
well found. The men are not on whack. They have all they want to
eat. A barrel of good hardtack stands always open in the forecastle.
Louis bakes fresh bread for the sailors three times a week. The
variety of food is excellent, if not the quality. There is no
restriction in the amount of water for drinking purposes. And I can
only say that in this good weather the men's appearance improves
Possum is very sick. Each day he grows thinner. Scarcely can I call
him a perambulating skeleton, because he is too weak to walk. Each
day, in this delightful weather, Wada, under Miss West's
instructions, brings him up in his box and places him out of the wind
on the awninged poop. She has taken full charge of the puppy, and
has him sleep in her room each night. I found her yesterday, in the
chart-room, reading up the Elsinore's medical library. Later on she
overhauled the medicine-chest. She is essentially the life-giving,
life-conserving female of the species. All her ways, for herself and
for others, make toward life.
And yet--and this is so curious it gives me pause--she shows no
interest in the sick and injured for'ard.
They are to her cattle, or less than cattle. As the life-giver and
race-conserver, I should have imagined her a Lady Bountiful, tripping
regularly into that ghastly steel-walled hospital room of the
midship-house and dispensing gruel, sunshine, and even tracts. On
the contrary, as with her father, these wretched humans do not exist.
And still again, when the steward jammed a splinter under his nail,
she was greatly concerned, and manipulated the tweezers and pulled it
out. The Elsinore reminds me of a slave plantation before the war;
and Miss West is the lady of the plantation, interested only in the
house-slaves. The field slaves are beyond her ken or consideration,
and the sailors are the Elsinore's field slaves. Why, several days
back, when Wada suffered from a severe headache, she was quite
perturbed, and dosed him with aspirin. Well, I suppose this is all
due to her sea-training. She has been trained hard.
We have the phonograph in the second dog-watch every other evening in
this fine weather. On the alternate evenings this period is Mr.
Pike's watch on deck. But when it is his evening below, even at
dinner, he betrays his anticipation by an eagerness ill suppressed.
And yet, on each such occasion, he punctiliously waits until we ask
if we are to be favoured with music. Then his hard-bitten face
lights up, although the lines remain hard as ever, hiding his
ecstasy, and he remarks gruffly, off-handedly, that he guesses he can
play over a few records. And so, every other evening, we watch this
killer and driver, with lacerated knuckles and gorilla paws, brushing
and caressing his beloved discs, ravished with the music of them,
and, as he told me early in the voyage, at such moments believing in
A strange experience is this life on the Elsinore. I confess, while
it seems that I have been here for long months, so familiar am I with