Part 3 out of 7
every detail of the little round of living, that I cannot orient
myself. My mind continually strays from things non-understandable to
things incomprehensible--from our Samurai captain with the exquisite
Gabriel voice that is heard only in the tumult and thunder of storm;
on to the ill-treated and feeble-minded faun with the bright, liquid,
pain-filled eyes; to the three gangsters who rule the forecastle and
seduce the second mate; to the perpetually muttering O'Sullivan in
the steel-walled hole and the complaining Davis nursing the marlin-
spike in the upper bunk; and to Christian Jespersen somewhere adrift
in this vastitude of ocean with a coal-sack at his feet. At such
moments all the life on the Elsinore becomes as unreal as life to the
philosopher is unreal.
I am a philosopher. Therefore, it is unreal to me. But is it unreal
to Messrs. Pike and Mellaire? to the lunatics and idiots? to the
rest of the stupid herd for'ard? I cannot help remembering a remark
of De Casseres. It was over the wine in Mouquin's. Said he: "The
profoundest instinct in man is to war against the truth; that is,
against the Real. He shuns facts from his infancy. His life is a
perpetual evasion. Miracle, chimera and to-morrow keep him alive.
He lives on fiction and myth. It is the Lie that makes him free.
Animals alone are given the privilege of lifting the veil of Isis;
men dare not. The animal, awake, has no fictional escape from the
Real because he has no imagination. Man, awake, is compelled to seek
a perpetual escape into Hope, Belief, Fable, Art, God, Socialism,
Immortality, Alcohol, Love. From Medusa-Truth he makes an appeal to
Ben will agree that I have quoted him fairly. And so, the thought
comes to me, that to all these slaves of the Elsinore the Real is
real because they fictionally escape it. One and all they are
obsessed with the belief that they are free agents. To me the Real
is unreal, because I have torn aside the veils of fiction and myth.
My pristine fictional escape from the Real, making me a philosopher,
has bound me absolutely to the wheel of the Real. I, the super-
realist, am the only unrealist on board the Elsinore. Therefore I,
who penetrate it deepest, in the whole phenomena of living on the
Elsinore see it only as phantasmagoria.
Paradoxes? I admit it. All deep thinkers are drowned in the sea of
contradictions. But all the others on the Elsinore, sheer surface
swimmers, keep afloat on this sea--forsooth, because they have never
dreamed its depth. And I can easily imagine what Miss West's
practical, hard-headed judgment would be on these speculations of
mine. After all, words are traps. I don't know what I know, nor
what I think I think.
This I do know: I cannot orient myself. I am the maddest and most
sea-lost soul on board. Take Miss West. I am beginning to admire
her. Why, I know not, unless it be because she is so abominably
healthy. And yet, it is this very health of her, the absence of any
shred of degenerative genius, that prevents her from being great . .
. for instance, in her music.
A number of times, now, I have come in during the day to listen to
her playing. The piano is good, and her teaching has evidently been
of the best. To my astonishment I learn that she is a graduate of
Bryn Mawr, and that her father took a degree from old Bowdoin long
ago. And yet she lacks in her music.
Her touch is masterful. She has the firmness and weight (without
sharpness or pounding) of a man's playing--the strength and surety
that most women lack and that some women know they lack. When she
makes a slip she is ruthless with herself, and replays until the
difficulty is overcome. And she is quick to overcome it.
Yes, and there is a sort of temperament in her work, but there is no
sentiment, no fire. When she plays Chopin, she interprets his
sureness and neatness. She is the master of Chopin's technique, but
she never walks where Chopin walks on the heights. Somehow, she
stops short of the fulness of music.
I did like her method with Brahms, and she was not unwilling, at my
suggestion, to go over and over the Three Rhapsodies. On the Third
Intermezzo she was at her best, and a good best it was.
"You were talking of Debussy," she remarked. "I've got some of his
stuff here. But I don't get into it. I don't understand it, and
there is no use in trying. It doesn't seem altogether like real
music to me. It fails to get hold of me, just as I fail to get hold
"Yet you like MacDowell," I challenged.
"Y. . . es," she admitted grudgingly. "His New England Idylls and
Fireside Tales. And I like that Finnish man's stuff, Sibelius, too,
although it seems to me too soft, too richly soft, too beautiful, if
you know what I mean. It seems to cloy."
What a pity, I thought, that with that noble masculine touch of hers
she is unaware of the deeps of music. Some day I shall try to get
from her just what Beethoven, say, and Chopin, mean to her. She has
not read Shaw's Perfect Wagnerite, nor had she ever heard of
Nietzsche's Case of Wagner. She likes Mozart, and old Boccherini,
and Leonardo Leo. Likewise she is partial to Schumann, especially
Forest Scenes. And she played his Papillons most brilliantly. When
I closed my eyes I could have sworn it was a man's fingers on the
And yet, I must say it, in the long run her playing makes me nervous.
I am continually led up to false expectations. Always, she seems
just on the verge of achieving the big thing, the super-big thing,
and always she just misses it by a shade. Just as I am prepared for
the culminating flash and illumination, I receive more perfection of
technique. She is cold. She must be cold . . . Or else, and the
theory is worth considering, she is too healthy.
I shall certainly read to her The Daughters of Herodias.
Was there ever such a voyage! This morning, when I came on deck, I
found nobody at the wheel. It was a startling sight--the great
Elsinore, by the wind, under an Alpine range of canvas, every sail
set from skysails to try-sails and spanker, slipping across the
surface of a mild trade-wind sea, and no hand at the wheel to guide
No one was on the poop. It was Mr. Pike's watch, and I strolled
for'ard along the bridge to find him. He was on Number One hatch
giving some instructions to the sail-makers. I awaited my chance,
until he glanced up and greeted me.
"Good morning," I answered. "And what man is at the wheel now?"
"That crazy Greek, Tony," he replied.
"A month's wages to a pound of tobacco he isn't," I offered.
Mr. Pike looked at me with quick sharpness.
"Who is at the wheel?"
"Nobody," I replied.
And then he exploded into action. The age-lag left his massive
frame, and he bounded aft along the deck at a speed no man on board
could have exceeded; and I doubt if very many could have equalled it.
He went up the poop-ladder three steps at a time and disappeared in
the direction of the wheel behind the chart-house.
Next came a promptitude of bellowed orders, and all the watch was
slacking away after braces to starboard and pulling on after braces
to port. I had already learned the manoeuvre. Mr. Pike was wearing
As I returned aft along the bridge Mr. Mellaire and the carpenter
emerged from the cabin door. They had been interrupted at breakfast,
for they were wiping their mouths. Mr. Pike came to the break of the
poop, called down instructions to the second mate, who proceeded
for'ard, and ordered the carpenter to take the wheel.
As the Elsinore swung around on her heel Mr. Pike put her on the back
track so as to cover the water she had just crossed over. He lowered
the glasses through which he was scanning the sea and pointed down
the hatchway that opened into the big after-room beneath. The ladder
"Must have taken the lazarette ladder with him," said Mr. Pike.
Captain West strolled out of the chart-room. He said good morning in
his customary way, courteously to me and formally to the mate, and
strolled on along the poop to the wheel, where he paused to glance
into the binnacle. Turning, he went on leisurely to the break of the
poop. Again he came back to us. Fully two minutes must have elapsed
ere he spoke.
"What is the matter, Mr. Pike? Man overboard?"
"Yes, sir," was the answer.
"And took the lazarette ladder along with him?" Captain West queried.
"Yes, sir. It's the Greek that jumped over at Baltimore."
Evidently the affair was not serious enough for Captain West to be
the Samurai. He lighted a cigar and resumed his stroll. And yet he
had missed nothing, not even the absence of the ladder.
Mr. Pike sent look-outs aloft to every skysail-yard, and the Elsinore
slipped along through the smooth sea. Miss West came up and stood
beside me, searching the ocean with her eyes while I told her the
little I knew. She evidenced no excitement, and reassured me by
telling me how difficult it was to lose a man of Tony's suicidal
"Their madness always seems to come upon them in fine weather or
under safe circumstances," she smiled, "when a boat can be lowered or
a tug is alongside. And sometimes they take life--preservers with
them, as in this case."
At the end of an hour Mr. Pike wore the Elsinore around, and again
retraced the course she must have been sailing when the Greek went
over. Captain West still strolled and smoked, and Miss West made a
brief trip below to give Wada forgotten instructions about Possum.
Andy Pay was called to the wheel, and the carpenter went below to
finish his breakfast.
It all seemed rather callous to me. Nobody was much concerned for
the man who was overboard somewhere on that lonely ocean. And yet I
had to admit that everything possible was being done to find him. I
talked a little with Mr. Pike, and he seemed more vexed than anything
else. He disliked to have the ship's work interrupted in such
Mr. Mellaire's attitude was different.
"We are short-handed enough as it is," he told me, when he joined us
on the poop. "We can't afford to lose him even if he is crazy. We
need him. He's a good sailor most of the time."
The hail came from the mizzen-skysail-yard. The Maltese Cockney it
was who first sighted the man and called down the information. The
mate, looking to windwards, suddenly lowered his glasses, rubbed his
eyes in a puzzled way, and looked again. Then Miss West, using
another pair of glasses, cried out in surprise and began to laugh.
"What do you make of it, Miss West?" the mate asked.
"He doesn't seem to be in the water. He's standing up."
Mr. Pike nodded.
"He's on the ladder," he said. "I'd forgotten that. It fooled me at
first. I couldn't understand it." He turned to the second mate.
"Mr. Mellaire, will you launch the long boat and get some kind of a
crew into it while I back the main-yard? I'll go in the boat. Pick
men that can pull an oar."
"You go, too," Miss West said to me. "It will be an opportunity to
get outside the Elsinore and see her under full sail."
Mr. Pike nodded consent, so I went along, sitting near him in the
stern-sheets where he steered, while half a dozen hands rowed us
toward the suicide, who stood so weirdly upon the surface of the sea.
The Maltese Cockney pulled the stroke oar, and among the other five
men was one whose name I had but recently learned--Ditman Olansen, a
Norwegian. A good seaman, Mr. Mellaire had told me, in whose watch
he was; a good seaman, but "crank-eyed." When pressed for an
explanation Mr. Mellaire had said that he was the sort of man who
flew into blind rages, and that one never could tell what little
thing would produce such a rage. As near as I could grasp it, Ditman
Olansen was a Berserker type. Yet, as I watched him pulling in good
time at the oar, his large, pale-blue eyes seemed almost bovine--the
last man in the world, in my judgment, to have a Berserker fit.
As we drew close to the Greek he began to scream menacingly at us and
to brandish a sheath-knife. His weight sank the ladder until the
water washed his knees, and on this submerged support he balanced
himself with wild writhing and outflinging of arms. His face,
grimacing like a monkey's, was not a pretty thing to look upon. And
as he continued to threaten us with the knife I wondered how the
problem of rescuing him would be solved.
But I should have trusted Mr. Pike for that. He removed the boat-
stretcher from under the Maltese Cockney's feet and laid it close to
hand in the stern-sheets. Then he had the men reverse the boat and
back it upon the Greek. Dodging a sweep of the knife, Mr. Pike
awaited his chance, until a passing wave lifted the boat's stern
high, while Tony was sinking toward the trough. This was the moment.
Again I was favoured with a sample of the lightning speed with which
that aged man of sixty-nine could handle his body. Timed precisely,
and delivered in a flash and with weight, the boat-stretcher came
down on the Greek's head. The knife fell into the sea, and the
demented creature collapsed and followed it, knocked unconscious.
Mr. Pike scooped him out, quite effortlessly it seemed to me, and
flung him into the boat's bottom at my feet.
The next moment the men were bending to their oars and the mate was
steering back to the Elsinore. It was a stout rap Mr. Pike had
administered with the boat-stretcher. Thin streaks of blood oozed on
the damp, plastered hair from the broken scalp. I could but stare at
the lump of unconscious flesh that dripped sea-water at my feet. A
man, all life and movement one moment, defying the universe, reduced
the next moment to immobility and the blackness and blankness of
death, is always a fascinating object for the contemplative eye of
the philosopher. And in this case it had been accomplished so
simply, by means of a stick of wood brought sharply in contact with
If Tony the Greek be accounted an APPEARANCE, what was he now?--a
DISAPPEARANCE? And if so, whither had he disappeared? And whence
would he journey back to reoccupy that body when what we call
consciousness returned to him? The first word, much less the last,
of the phenomena of personality and consciousness yet remains to be
uttered by the psychologists.
Pondering thus, I chanced to lift my eyes, and the glorious spectacle
of the Elsinore burst upon me. I had been so long on board, and in
board of her, that I had forgotten she was a white-painted ship. So
low to the water was her hull, so delicate and slender, that the
tall, sky-reaching spars and masts and the hugeness of the spread of
canvas seemed preposterous and impossible, an insolent derision of
the law of gravitation. It required effort to realize that that slim
curve of hull inclosed and bore up from the sea's bottom five
thousand tons of coal. And again, it seemed a miracle that the mites
of men had conceived and constructed so stately and magnificent an
element-defying fabric--mites of men, most woefully like the Greek at
my feet, prone to precipitation into the blackness by means of a rap
on the head with a piece of wood.
Tony made a struggling noise in his throat, then coughed and groaned.
From somewhere he was reappearing. I noticed Mr. Pike look at him
quickly, as if apprehending some recrudescence of frenzy that would
require more boat-stretcher. But Tony merely fluttered his big black
eyes open and stared at me for a long minute of incurious amaze ere
he closed them again.
"What are you going to do with him?" I asked the mate.
"Put 'm back to work," was the reply. "It's all he's good for, and
he ain't hurt. Somebody's got to work this ship around the Horn."
When we hoisted the boat on board I found Miss West had gone below.
In the chart-room Captain West was winding the chronometers. Mr.
Mellaire had turned in to catch an hour or two of sleep ere his watch
on deck at noon. Mr. Mellaire, by the way, as I have forgotten to
state, does not sleep aft. He shares a room in the 'midship-house
with Mr. Pike's Nancy.
Nobody showed sympathy for the unfortunate Greek. He was bundled out
upon Number Two hatch like so much carrion and left there unattended,
to recover consciousness as he might elect. Yes, and so inured have
I become that I make free to admit I felt no sympathy for him myself.
My eyes were still filled with the beauty of the Elsinore. One does
grow hard at sea.
One does not mind the trades. We have held the north-east trade for
days now, and the miles roll off behind us as the patent log whirls
and tinkles on the taffrail. Yesterday, log and observation
approximated a run of two hundred and fifty-two miles; the day before
we ran two hundred and forty, and the day before that two hundred and
sixty-one. But one does not appreciate the force of the wind. So
balmy and exhilarating is it that it is so much atmospheric wine. I
delight to open my lungs and my pores to it. Nor does it chill. At
any hour of the night, while the cabin lies asleep, I break off from
my reading and go up on the poop in the thinnest of tropical pyjamas.
I never knew before what the trade wind was. And now I am infatuated
with it. I stroll up and down for an hour at a time, with whichever
mate has the watch. Mr. Mellaire is always full-garmented, but Mr.
Pike, on these delicious nights, stands his first watch after
midnight in his pyjamas. He is a fearfully muscular man. Sixty-nine
years seem impossible when I see his single, slimpsy garments pressed
like fleshings against his form and bulged by heavy bone and huge
muscle. A splendid figure of a man! What he must have been in the
hey-day of youth two score years and more ago passes comprehension.
The days, so filled with simple routine, pass as in a dream. Here,
where time is rigidly measured and emphasized by the changing of the
watches, where every hour and half-hour is persistently brought to
one's notice by the striking of the ship's bells fore and aft, time
ceases. Days merge into days, and weeks slip into weeks, and I, for
one, can never remember the day of the week or month.
The Elsinore is never totally asleep. Day and night, always, there
are the men on watch, the look-out on the forecastle head, the man at
the wheel, and the officer of the deck. I lie reading in my bunk,
which is on the weather side, and continually over my head during the
long night hours impact the footsteps of one mate or the other,
pacing up and down, and, as I well know, the man himself is for ever
peering for'ard from the break of the poop, or glancing into the
binnacle, or feeling and gauging the weight and direction of wind on
his cheek, or watching the cloud-stuff in the sky adrift and a-scud
across the stars and the moon. Always, always, there are wakeful
eyes on the Elsinore.
Last night, or this morning, rather, about two o'clock, as I lay with
the printed page swimming drowsily before me, I was aroused by an
abrupt outbreak of snarl from Mr. Pike. I located him as at the
break of the poop; and the man at whom he snarled was Larry,
evidently on the main deck beneath him. Not until Wada brought me
breakfast did I learn what had occurred.
Larry, with his funny pug nose, his curiously flat and twisted face,
and his querulous, plaintive chimpanzee eyes, had been moved by some
unlucky whim to venture an insolent remark under the cover of
darkness on the main deck. But Mr. Pike, from above, at the break of
the poop, had picked the offender unerringly. This was when the
explosion occurred. Then the unfortunate Larry, truly half-devil and
all child, had waxed sullen and retorted still more insolently; and
the next he knew, the mate, descending upon him like a hurricane, had
handcuffed him to the mizzen fife-rail.
Imagine, on Mr. Pike's part, that this was one for Larry and at least
ten for Kid Twist, Nosey Murphy, and Bert Rhine. I'll not be so
absurd as to say that the mate is afraid of those gangsters. I doubt
if he has ever experienced fear. It is not in him. On the other
hand, I am confident that he apprehends trouble from these men, and
that it was for their benefit he made this example of Larry.
Larry could stand no more than an hour in irons, at which time his
stupid brutishness overcame any fear he might have possessed, because
he bellowed out to the poop to come down and loose him for a fair
fight. Promptly Mr. Pike was there with the key to the handcuffs.
As if Larry had the shred of a chance against that redoubtable aged
man! Wada reported that Larry, amongst other things, had lost a
couple of front teeth and was laid up in his bunk for the day. When
I met Mr. Pike on deck after eight o'clock I glanced at his knuckles.
They verified Wada's tale.
I cannot help being amused by the keen interest I take in little
events like the foregoing. Not only has time ceased, but the world
has ceased. Strange it is, when I come to think of it, in all these
weeks I have received no letter, no telephone call, no telegram, no
visitor. I have not been to the play. I have not read a newspaper.
So far as I am concerned, there are no plays nor newspapers. All
such things have vanished with the vanished world. All that exists
is the Elsinore, with her queer human freightage and her cargo of
coal, cleaving a rotund of ocean of which the skyline is a dozen
I am reminded of Captain Scott, frozen on his south-polar venture,
who for ten months after his death was believed by the world to be
alive. Not until the world learned of his death was he anything but
alive to the world. By the same token, was he not alive? And by the
same token, here on the Elsinore, has not the land-world ceased? May
not the pupil of one's eye be, not merely the centre of the world,
but the world itself? Truly, it is tenable that the world exists
only in consciousness. "The world is my idea," said Schopenhauer.
Said Jules de Gaultier, "The world is my invention." His dogma was
that imagination created the Real. Ah, me, I know that the practical
Miss West would dub my metaphysics a depressing and unhealthful
exercise of my wits.
To-day, in our deck chairs on the poop, I read The Daughters of
Herodias to Miss West. It was superb in its effect--just what I had
expected of her. She hemstitched a fine white linen handkerchief for
her father while I read. (She is never idle, being so essentially a
nest-maker and comfort-producer and race-conserver; and she has a
whole pile of these handkerchiefs for her father.)
She smiled, how shall I say?--oh, incredulously, triumphantly, oh,
with all the sure wisdom of all the generations of women in her warm,
long gray eyes, when I read:
"But they smile innocently and dance on,
Having no thought but this unslumbering thought:
'Am I not beautiful? Shall I not be loved?'
Be patient, for they will not understand,
Not till the end of time will they put by
The weaving of slow steps about men's hearts."
"But it is well for the world that it is so," was her comment.
Ah, Symons knew women! His perfect knowledge she attested when I
read that magnificent passage:
"They do not understand that in the world
There grows between the sunlight and the grass
Anything save themselves desirable.
It seems to them that the swift eyes of men
Are made but to be mirrors, not to see
Far-off, disastrous, unattainable things.
'For are not we,' they say, 'the end of all?
Why should you look beyond us? If you look
Into the night, you will find nothing there:
We also have gazed often at the stars.'"
"It is true," said Miss West, in the pause I permitted in order to
see how she had received the thought. "We also have gazed often at
It was the very thing I had predicted to her face that she would say.
"But wait," I cried. "Let me read on." And I read:
"'We, we alone among all beautiful things,
We only are real: for the rest are dreams.
Why will you follow after wandering dreams
When we await you? And you can but dream
Of us, and in our image fashion them.'"
"True, most true," she murmured, while all unconsciously pride and
power mounted in her eyes.
"A wonderful poem," she conceded--nay, proclaimed--when I had done.
"But do you not see . . ." I began impulsively, then abandoned the
attempt. For how could she see, being woman, the "far-off,
disastrous, unattainable things," when she, as she so stoutly
averred, had gazed often on the stars?
She? What could she see, save what all women see--that they only are
real, and that all the rest are dreams.
"I am proud to be a daughter of Herodias," said Miss West.
"Well," I admitted lamely, "we agree. You remember it is what I told
you you were."
"I am grateful for the compliment," she said; and in those long gray
eyes of hers were limned and coloured all the satisfaction, and self-
certitude and answering complacency of power that constitute so large
a part of the seductive mystery and mastery that is possessed by
Heavens!--how I read in this fine weather. I take so little exercise
that my sleep need is very small; and there are so few interruptions,
such as life teems with on the land, that I read myself almost
stupid. Recommend me a sea-voyage any time for a man who is behind
in his reading. I am making up years of it. It is an orgy, a
debauch; and I am sure the addled sailors adjudge me the queerest
creature on board.
At times, so fuzzy do I get from so much reading, that I am glad for
any diversion. When we strike the doldrums, which lie between the
north-east and the south-east trades, I shall have Wada assemble my
little twenty-two automatic rifle and try to learn how to shoot. I
used to shoot, when I was a wee lad. I can remember dragging a shot-
gun around with me over the hills. Also, I possessed an air-rifle,
with which, on great occasion, I was even able to slaughter a robin.
While the poop is quite large for promenading, the available space
for deck-chairs is limited to the awnings that stretch across from
either side of the chart-house and that are of the width of the
chart-house. This space again is restricted to one side or the other
according to the slant of the morning and afternoon sun and the
freshness of the breeze. Wherefore, Miss West's chair and mine are
most frequently side by side. Captain West has a chair, which he
infrequently occupies. He has so little to do in the working of the
ship, taking his regular observations and working them up with such
celerity, that he is rarely in the chart-room for any length of time.
He elects to spend his hours in the main cabin, not reading, not
doing anything save dream with eyes wide open in the draught of wind
that pours through the open ports and door from out the huge crojack
and the jigger staysails.
Miss West is never idle. Below, in the big after-room, she does her
own laundering. Nor will she let the steward touch her father's fine
linen. In the main cabin she has installed a sewing-machine. All
hand-stitching, and embroidering, and fancy work she does in the
deck-chair beside me. She avers that she loves the sea and the
atmosphere of sea-life, yet, verily, she has brought her home-things
and land-things along with her--even to her pretty china for
Most essentially is she the woman and home-maker. She is a born
cook. The steward and Louis prepare dishes extraordinary and de luxe
for the cabin table; yet Miss West is able at a moment's notice to
improve on these dishes. She never lets any of their dishes come on
the table without first planning them or passing on them. She has
quick judgment, an unerring taste, and is possessed of the needful
steel of decision. It seems she has only to look at a dish, no
matter who has cooked it, and immediately divine its lack or its
surplusage, and prescribe a treatment that transforms it into
something indescribably different and delicious--My, how I do eat! I
am quite dumbfounded by the unfailing voracity of my appetite.
Already am I quite convinced that I am glad Miss West is making the
She has sailed "out East," as she quaintly calls it, and has an
enormous repertoire of tasty, spicy, Eastern dishes. In the cooking
of rice Louis is a master; but in the making of the accompanying
curry he fades into a blundering amateur compared with Miss West. In
the matter of curry she is a sheer genius. How often one's thoughts
dwell upon food when at sea!
So in this trade-wind weather I see a great deal of Miss West. I
read all the time, and quite a good part of the time I read aloud to
her passages, and even books, with which I am interested in trying
her out. Then, too, such reading gives rise to discussions, and she
has not yet uttered anything that would lead me to change my first
judgment of her. She is a genuine daughter of Herodias.
And yet she is not what one would call a cute girl. She isn't a
girl, she is a mature woman with all the freshness of a girl. She
has the carriage, the attitude of mind, the aplomb of a woman, and
yet she cannot be described as being in the slightest degree stately.
She is generous, dependable, sensible--yes, and sensitive; and her
superabundant vitality, the vitality that makes her walk so
gloriously, discounts the maturity of her. Sometimes she seems all
of thirty to me; at other times, when her spirits and risibilities
are aroused, she scarcely seems thirteen. I shall make a point of
asking Captain West the date of the Dixie's collision with that river
steamer in San Francisco Bay. In a word, she is the most normal, the
most healthy, natural woman I have ever known.
Yes, and she is feminine, despite, no matter how she does her hair,
that it is as invariably smooth and well-groomed as all the rest of
her. On the other hand, this perpetual well-groomedness is relieved
by the latitude of dress she allows herself. She never fails of
being a woman. Her sex, and the lure of it, is ever present.
Possibly she may possess high collars, but I have never seen her in
one on board. Her blouses are always open at the throat, disclosing
one of her choicest assets, the muscular, adequate neck, with its
fine-textured garmenture of skin. I embarrass myself by stealing
long glances at that bare throat of hers and at the hint of fine,
Visiting the chickens has developed into a regular function. At
least once each day we make the journey for'ard along the bridge to
the top of the 'midship-house. Possum, who is now convalescent,
accompanies us. The steward makes a point of being there so as to
receive instructions and report the egg-output and laying conduct of
the many hens. At the present time our four dozen hens are laying
two dozen eggs a day, with which record Miss West is greatly elated.
Already she has given names to most of them. The cock is Peter, of
course. A much-speckled hen is Dolly Varden. A slim, trim thing
that dogs Peter's heels she calls Cleopatra. Another hen--the
mellowest-voiced one of all--she addresses as Bernhardt. One thing I
have noted: whenever she and the steward have passed death sentence
on a non-laying hen (which occurs regularly once a week), she takes
no part in the eating of the meat, not even when it is metamorphosed
into one of her delectable curries. At such times she has a special
curry made for herself of tinned lobster, or shrimp, or tinned
Ah, I must not forget. I have learned that it was no man-interest
(in me, if you please) that brought about her sudden interest to come
on the voyage. It was for her father that she came. Something is
the matter with Captain West. At rare moments I have observed her
gazing at him with a world of solicitude and anxiety in her eyes.
I was telling an amusing story at table yesterday midday, when my
glance chanced to rest upon Miss West. She was not listening. Her
food on her fork was suspended in the air a sheer instant as she
looked at her father with all her eyes. It was a stare of fear. She
realized that I was observing, and with superb control, slowly, quite
naturally, she lowered the fork and rested it on her plate, retaining
her hold on it and retaining her father's face in her look.
But I had seen. Yes; I had seen more than that. I had seen Captain
West's face a transparent white, while his eyelids fluttered down and
his lips moved noiselessly. Then the eyelids raised, the lips set
again with their habitual discipline, and the colour slowly returned
to his face. It was as if he had been away for a time and just
returned. But I had seen, and guessed her secret.
And yet it was this same Captain West, seven hours later, who
chastened the proud sailor spirit of Mr. Pike. It was in the second
dog-watch that evening, a dark night, and the watch was pulling away
on the main deck. I had just come out of the chart-house door and
seen Captain West pace by me, hands in pockets, toward the break of
the poop. Abruptly, from the mizzen-mast, came a snap of breakage
and crash of fabric. At the same instant the men fell backward and
sprawled over the deck.
A moment of silence followed, and then Captain West's voice went out:
"What carried away, Mr. Pike?"
"The halyards, sir," came the reply out of the darkness.
There was a pause. Again Captain West's voice went out.
"Next time slack away on your sheet first."
Now Mr. Pike is incontestably a splendid seaman. Yet in this
instance he had been wrong. I have come to know him, and I can well
imagine the hurt to his pride. And more--he has a wicked, resentful,
primitive nature, and though he answered respectfully enough, "Yes,
sir," I felt safe in predicting to myself that the poor devils under
him would receive the weight of his resentment in the later watches
of the night.
They evidently did; for this morning I noted a black eye on John
Hackey, a San Francisco hoodlum, and Guido Bombini was carrying a
freshly and outrageously swollen jaw. I asked Wada about the matter,
and he soon brought me the news. Quite a bit of beating up takes
place for'ard of the deck-houses in the night watches while we of the
after-guard peacefully slumber.
Even to-day Mr. Pike is going around sullen and morose, snarling at
the men more than usual, and barely polite to Miss West and me when
we chance to address him. His replies are grunted in monosyllables,
and his face is set in superlative sourness. Miss West who is
unaware of the occurrence, laughs and calls it a "sea grouch"--a
phenomenon with which she claims large experience.
But I know Mr. Pike now--the stubborn, wonderful old sea-dog. It
will be three days before he is himself again. He takes a terrible
pride in his seamanship, and what hurts him most is the knowledge
that he was guilty of the blunder.
To-day, twenty-eight days out, in the early morning, while I was
drinking my coffee, still carrying the north-east trade, we crossed
the line. And Charles Davis signalized the event by murdering
O'Sullivan. It was Boney, the lanky splinter of a youth in Mr.
Mellaire's watch, who brought the news. The second mate and I had
just arrived in the hospital room, when Mr. Pike entered.
O'Sullivan's troubles were over. The man in the upper bunk had
completed the mad, sad span of his life with the marlin-spike.
I cannot understand this Charles Davis. He sat up calmly in his
bunk, and calmly lighted his pipe ere he replied to Mr. Mellaire. He
certainly is not insane. Yet deliberately, in cold blood, he has
murdered a helpless man.
"What'd you do it for?" Mr. Mellaire demanded.
"Because, sir," said Charles Davis, applying a second match to his
pipe, "because"--puff, puff--"he bothered my sleep." Here he caught
Mr. Pike's glowering eye. "Because"--puff, puff--"he annoyed me.
The next time"--puff, puff--"I hope better judgment will be shown in
what kind of a man is put in with me. Besides"--puff, puff--"this
top bunk ain't no place for me. It hurts me to get into it"--puff,
puff--"an' I'm gem' back to that lower bunk as soon as you get
O'Sullivan out of it."
"But what'd you do it for?" Mr. Pike snarled.
"I told you, sir, because he annoyed me. I got tired of it, an' so,
this morning, I just put him out of his misery. An' what are you
goin' to do about it? The man's dead, ain't he? An' I killed 'm in
self-defence. I know the law. What right'd you to put a ravin'
lunatic in with me, an' me sick an' helpless?"
"By God, Davis!" the mate burst forth. "You'll never draw your pay-
day in Seattle. I'll fix you out for this, killing a crazy lashed
down in his bunk an' harmless. You'll follow 'm overside, my
"If I do, you'll hang for it, sir," Davis retorted. He turned his
cool eyes on me. "An' I call on you, sir, to witness the threats
he's made. An' you'll testify to them, too, in court. An' he'll
hang as sure as I go over the side. Oh, I know his record. He's
afraid to face a court with it. He's been up too many a time with
charges of man-killin' an' brutality on the high seas. An' a man
could retire for life an live off the interest of the fines he's
paid, or his owners paid for him--"
"Shut your mouth or I'll knock it out of your face!" Mr. Pike roared,
springing toward him with clenched, up-raised fist.
Davis involuntarily shrank away. His flesh was weak, but not so his
spirit. He got himself promptly in hand and struck another match.
"You can't get my goat, sir," he sneered, under the shadow of the
impending blow. "I ain't scared to die. A man's got to die once
anyway, an' it's none so hard a trick to do when you can't help it.
O'Sullivan died so easy it was amazin'. Besides, I ain't goin' to
die. I'm goin' to finish this voyage, an' sue the owners when I get
to Seattle. I know my rights an' the law. An' I got witnesses."
Truly, I was divided between admiration for the courage of this
wretched sailor and sympathy for Mr. Pike thus bearded by a sick man
he could not bring himself to strike.
Nevertheless he sprang upon the man with calculated fury, gripped him
between the base of the neck and the shoulders with both gnarled
paws, and shook him back and forth, violently and frightfully, for a
full minute. It was a wonder the man's neck was not dislocated.
"I call on you to witness, sir," Davis gasped at me the instant he
He coughed and strangled, felt his throat, and made wry neck-
movements indicative of injury.
"The marks'll begin to show in a few minutes," he murmured
complacently as his dizziness left him and his breath came back.
This was too much for Mr. Pike, who turned and left the room,
growling and cursing incoherently, deep in his throat. When I made
my departure, a moment later, Davis was refilling his pipe and
telling Mr. Mellaire that he'd have him up for a witness in Seattle.
So we have had another burial at sea. Mr. Pike was vexed by it
because the Elsinore, according to sea tradition, was going too fast
through the water for a proper ceremony. Thus a few minutes of the
voyage were lost by backing the Elsinore's main-topsail and deadening
her way while the service was read and O'Sullivan was slid overboard
with the inevitable sack of coal at his feet.
"Hope the coal holds out," Mr. Pike grumbled morosely at me five
And we sit on the poop, Miss West and I, tended on by servants,
sipping afternoon tea, sewing fancy work, discussing philosophy and
art, while a few feet away from us, on this tiny floating world, all
the grimy, sordid tragedy of sordid, malformed, brutish life plays
itself out. And Captain West, remote, untroubled, sits dreaming in
the twilight cabin while the draught of wind from the crojack blows
upon him through the open ports. He has no doubts, no worries. He
believes in God. All is settled and clear and well as he nears his
far home. His serenity is vast and enviable. But I cannot shake
from my eyes that vision of him when life forsook his veins, and his
mouth slacked, and his eyelids closed, while his face took on the
white transparency of death.
I wonder who will be the next to finish the game and depart with a
sack of coal.
"Oh, this is nothing, sir," Mr. Mellaire remarked to me cheerfully as
we strolled the poop during the first watch. "I was once on a voyage
on a tramp steamer loaded with four hundred Chinks--I beg your
pardon, sir--Chinese. They were coolies, contract labourers, coming
back from serving their time.
"And the cholera broke out. We hove over three hundred of them
overboard, sir, along with both bosuns, most of the Lascar crew, and
the captain, the mate, the third mate, and the first and third
engineers. The second and one white oiler was all that was left
below, and I was in command on deck, when we made port. The doctors
wouldn't come aboard. They made me anchor in the outer roads and
told me to heave out my dead. There was some tall buryin' about that
time, Mr. Pathurst, and they went overboard without canvas, coal, or
iron. They had to. I had nobody to help me, and the Chinks below
wouldn't lift a hand.
"I had to go down myself, drag the bodies on to the slings, then
climb on deck and heave them up with the donkey. And each trip I
took a drink. I was pretty drunk when the job was done."
"And you never caught it yourself?" I queried. Mr. Mellaire held up
his left hand. I had often noted that the index finger was missing.
"That's all that happened to me, sir. The old man'd had a fox-
terrier like yours. And after the old man passed out the puppy got
real, chummy with me. Just as I was making the hoist of the last
sling-load, what does the puppy do but jump on my leg and sniff my
hand. I turned to pat him, and the next I knew my other hand had
slipped into the gears and that finger wasn't there any more.
"Heavens!" I cried. "What abominable luck to come through such a
terrible experience like that and then lose your finger!"
"That's what I thought, sir," Mr. Mellaire agreed.
"What did you do?" I asked.
"Oh, just held it up and looked at it, and said 'My goodness
gracious!' and took another drink."
"And you didn't get the cholera afterwards?"
"No, sir. I reckon I was so full of alcohol the germs dropped dead
before they could get to me." He considered a moment. "Candidly,
Mr. Pathurst, I don't know about that alcohol theory. The old man
and the mates died drunk, and so did the third engineer. But the
chief was a teetotaller, and he died, too."
Never again shall I wonder that the sea is hard. I walked apart from
the second mate and stared up at the magnificent fabric of the
Elsinore sweeping and swaying great blotting curves of darkness
across the face of the starry sky.
Something has happened. But nobody knows, either fore or aft, except
the interested persons, and they will not say anything. Yet the ship
is abuzz with rumours and guesses.
This I do know: Mr. Pike has received a fearful blow on the head.
At table, yesterday, at midday, I arrived late, and, passing behind
his chair, I saw a prodigious lump on top of his head. When I was
seated, facing him, I noted that his eyes seemed dazed; yes, and I
could see pain in them. He took no part in the conversation, ate
perfunctorily, behaved stupidly at times, and it was patent that he
was controlling himself with an iron hand.
And nobody dares ask him what has happened. I know I don't dare ask
him, and I am a passenger, a privileged person. This redoubtable old
sea-relic has inspired me with a respect for him that partakes half
of timidity and half of awe.
He acts as if he were suffering from concussion of the brain. His
pain is evident, not alone in his eyes and the strained expression of
his face, but by his conduct when he thinks he is unobserved. Last
night, just for a breath of air and a moment's gaze at the stars, I
came out of the cabin door and stood on the main deck under the break
of the poop. From directly over my head came a low and persistent
groaning. My curiosity was aroused, and I retreated into the cabin,
came out softly on to the poop by way of the chart-house, and
strolled noiselessly for'ard in my slippers. It was Mr. Pike. He
was leaning collapsed on the rail, his head resting on his arms. He
was giving voice in secret to the pain that racked him. A dozen feet
away he could not be heard. But, close to his shoulder, I could hear
his steady, smothered groaning that seemed to take the form of a
chant. Also, at regular intervals, he would mutter:
"Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear." Always he repeated
the phrase five times, then returned to his groaning. I stole away
as silently as I had come.
Yet he resolutely stands his watches and performs all his duties of
chief officer. Oh, I forgot. Miss West dared to quiz him, and he
replied that he had a toothache, and that if it didn't get better
he'd pull it out.
Wada cannot learn what has happened. There were no eye-witnesses.
He says that the Asiatic clique, discussing the affair in the cook's
room, thinks the three gangsters are responsible. Bert Rhine is
carrying a lame shoulder. Nosey Murphy is limping as from some
injury in the hips. And Kid Twist has been so badly beaten that he
has not left his bunk for two days. And that is all the data to
build on. The gangsters are as close-mouthed as Mr. Pike. The
Asiatic clique has decided that murder was attempted and that all
that saved the mate was his hard skull.
Last evening, in the second dog-watch, I got another proof that
Captain West is not so oblivious of what goes on aboard the Elsinore
as he seems. I had gone for'ard along the bridge to the mizzen-mast,
in the shadow of which I was leaning. From the main deck, in the
alley-way between the 'midship-house and the rail, came the voices of
Bert Rhine, Nosey Murphy, and Mr. Mellaire. It was not ship's work.
They were having a friendly, even sociable chat, for their voices
hummed genially, and now and again one or another laughed, and
sometimes all laughed.
I remembered Wada's reports on this unseamanlike intimacy of the
second mate with the gangsters, and tried to make out the nature of
the conversation. But the gangsters were low-voiced, and all I could
catch was the tone of friendliness and good-nature.
Suddenly, from the poop, came Captain West's voice. It was the
voice, not of the Samurai riding the storm, but of the Samurai calm
and cold. It was clear, soft, and mellow as the mellowest bell ever
cast by eastern artificers of old time to call worshippers to prayer.
I know I slightly chilled to it--it was so exquisitely sweet and yet
as passionless as the ring of steel on a frosty night. And I knew
the effect on the men beneath me was electrical. I could FEEL them
stiffen and chill to it as I had stiffened and chilled. And yet all
he said was:
"Yes, sir," answered Mr. Mellaire, after a moment of tense silence.
"Come aft here," came Captain West's voice.
I heard the second mate move along the deck beneath me and stop at
the foot of the poop-ladder.
"Your place is aft on the poop, Mr. Mellaire," said the cold,
"Yes, sir," answered the second mate.
That was all. Not another word was spoken. Captain West resumed his
stroll on the weather side of the poop, and Mr. Mellaire, ascending
the ladder, went to pacing up and down the lee side.
I continued along the bridge to the forecastle head and purposely
remained there half an hour ere I returned to the cabin by way of the
main deck. Although I did not analyze my motive, I knew I did not
desire any one to know that I had overheard the occurrence.
I have made a discovery. Ninety per cent. of our crew is brunette.
Aft, with the exception of Wada and the steward, who are our
servants, we are all blonds. What led me to this discovery was
Woodruff's Effects of Tropical Light on White Men, which I am just
reading. Major Woodruff's thesis is that the white-skinned, blue-
eyed Aryan, born to government and command, ever leaving his
primeval, overcast and foggy home, ever commands and governs the rest
of the world and ever perishes because of the too-white light he
encounters. It is a very tenable hypothesis, and will bear looking
But to return. Every one of us who sits aft in the high place is a
blond Aryan. For'ard, leavened with a ten per cent, of degenerate
blonds, the remaining ninety per cent, of the slaves that toil for us
are brunettes. They will not perish. According to Woodruff, they
will inherit the earth, not because of their capacity for mastery and
government, but because of their skin-pigmentation which enables
their tissues to resist the ravages of the sun.
And I look at the four of us at table--Captain West, his daughter,
Mr. Pike, and myself--all fair-skinned, blue-eyed, and perishing, yet
mastering and commanding, like our fathers before us, to the end of
our type on the earth. Ah, well, ours is a lordly history, and
though we may be doomed to pass, in our time we shall have trod on
the faces of all peoples, disciplined them to obedience, taught them
government, and dwelt in the palaces we have compelled them by the
weight of our own right arms to build for us.
The Elsinore depicts this in miniature. The best of the food and all
spacious and beautiful accommodation is ours. For'ard is a pig-sty
and a slave-pen.
As a king, Captain West sits above all. As a captain of soldiers,
Mr. Pike enforces his king's will. Miss West is a princess of the
royal house. And I? Am I not an honourable, noble-lineaged
pensioner on the deeds and achievements of my father, who, in his
day, compelled thousands of the lesser types to the building of the
fortune I enjoy?
The north-west trade carried us almost into the south-east trade, and
then left us for several days to roll and swelter in the doldrums.
During this time I have discovered that I have a genius for rifle-
shooting. Mr. Pike swore I must have had long practice; and I
confess I was myself startled by the ease of the thing. Of course,
it's the knack; but one must be so made, I suppose, in order to be
able to acquire the knack.
By the end of half an hour, standing on the heaving deck and shooting
at bottles floating on the rolling swell, I found that I broke each
bottle at the first shot. The supply of empty bottles giving out,
Mr. Pike was so interested that he had the carpenter saw me a lot of
small square blocks of hard wood. These were more satisfactory. A
well-aimed shot threw them out of the water and spinning into the
air, and I could use a single block until it had drifted out of
range. In an hour's time I could, shooting quickly and at short
range, empty my magazine at a block and hit it nine times, and, on
occasion, ten times, out of eleven.
I might not have judged my aptitude as unusual, had I not induced
Miss West and Wada to try their hands. Neither had luck like mine.
I finally persuaded Mr. Pike, and he went behind the wheel-house so
that none of the crew might see how poor a shot he was. He was never
able to hit the mark, and was guilty of the most ludicrous misses.
"I never could get the hang of rifle-shooting," he announced
disgustedly, "but when it comes to close range with a gat I'm right
there. I guess I might as well overhaul mine and limber it up."
He went below and came back with a huge '44 automatic pistol and a
handful of loaded clips.
"Anywhere from right against the body up to ten or twelve feet away,
holding for the stomach, it's astonishing, Mr. Pathurst, what you can
do with a weapon like this. Now you can't use a rifle in a mix-up.
I've been down and under, with a bunch giving me the boot, when I
turned loose with this. Talk about damage! It ranged them the full
length of their bodies. One of them'd just landed his brogans on my
face when I let'm have it. The bullet entered just above his knee,
smashed the collarbone, where it came out, and then clipped off an
ear. I guess that bullet's still going. It took more than a full-
sized man to stop it. So I say, give me a good handy gat when
"Ain't you afraid you'll use all your ammunition up?" he asked
anxiously half an hour later, as I continued to crack away with my
He was quite reassured when I told him Wada had brought along fifty
thousand rounds for me.
In the midst of the shooting, two sharks came swimming around. They
were quite large, Mr. Pike said, and he estimated their length at
fifteen feet. It was Sunday morning, so that the crew, except for
working the ship, had its time to itself, and soon the carpenter,
with a rope for a fish-line and a great iron hook baited with a chunk
of salt pork the size of my head, captured first one, and then the
other, of the monsters. They were hoisted in on the main deck. And
then I saw a spectacle of the cruelty of the sea.
The full crew gathered about with sheath knives, hatchets, clubs, and
big butcher knives borrowed from the galley. I shall not give the
details, save that they gloated and lusted, and roared and bellowed
their delight in the atrocities they committed. Finally, the first
of the two fish was thrown back into the ocean with a pointed stake
thrust into its upper and lower jaws so that it could not close its
mouth. Inevitable and prolonged starvation was the fate thus meted
out to it.
"I'll show you something, boys," Andy Fay cried, as they prepared to
handle the second shark.
The Maltese Cockney had been a most capable master of ceremonies with
the first one. More than anything else, I think, was I hardened
against these brutes by what I saw them do. In the end, the
maltreated fish thrashed about the deck entirely eviscerated.
Nothing remained but the mere flesh-shell of the creature, yet it
would not die. It was amazing the life that lingered when all the
vital organs were gone. But more amazing things were to follow.
Mulligan Jacobs, his arms a butcher's to the elbows, without as much
as "by your leave," suddenly thrust a hunk of meat into my hand. I
sprang back, startled, and dropped it to the deck, while a gleeful
howl went up from the two-score men. I was shamed, despite myself.
These brutes held me in little respect; and, after all, human nature
is so strange a compound that even a philosopher dislikes being held
in disesteem by the brutes of his own species.
I looked at what I had dropped. It was the heart of the shark, and
as I looked, there under my eyes, on the scorching deck where the
pitch oozed from the seams, the heart pulsed with life.
And I dared. I would not permit these animals to laugh at any
fastidiousness of mine. I stooped and picked up the heart, and while
I concealed and conquered my qualms I held it in my hand and felt it
beat in my hand.
At any rate, I had won a mild victory over Mulligan Jacobs; for he
abandoned me for the more delectable diversion of torturing the shark
that would not die. For several minutes it had been lying quite
motionless. Mulligan Jacobs smote it a heavy blow on the nose with
the flat of a hatchet, and as the thing galvanized into life and
flung its body about the deck the little venomous man screamed in
"The hooks are in it!--the hooks are in it!--and burnin' hot!"
He squirmed and writhed with fiendish delight, and again he struck it
on the nose and made it leap.
This was too much, and I beat a retreat--feigning boredom, or
cessation of interest, of course; and absently carrying the still
throbbing heart in my hand.
As I came upon the poop I saw Miss West, with her sewing basket,
emerging from the port door of the chart-house. The deck-chairs were
on that side, so I stole around on the starboard side of the chart-
house in order to fling overboard unobserved the dreadful thing I
carried. But, drying on the surface in the tropic heat and still
pulsing inside, it stuck to my hand, so that it was a bad cast.
Instead of clearing the railing, it struck on the pin-rail and stuck
there in the shade, and as I opened the door to go below and wash my
hands, with a last glance I saw it pulse where it had fallen.
When I came back it was still pulsing. I heard a splash overside
from the waist of the ship, and knew the carcass had been flung
overboard. I did not go around the chart-house and join Miss West,
but stood enthralled by the spectacle of that heart that beat in the
Boisterous shouts from the sailors attracted my attention. They had
all climbed to the top of the tall rail and were watching something
outboard. I followed their gaze and saw the amazing thing. That
long-eviscerated shark was not dead. It moved, it swam, it thrashed
about, and ever it strove to escape from the surface of the ocean.
Sometimes it swam down as deep as fifty or a hundred feet, and then,
still struggling to escape the surface, struggled involuntarily to
the surface. Each failure thus to escape fetched wild laughter from
the men. But why did they laugh? The thing was sublime, horrible,
but it was not humorous. I leave it to you. What is there laughable
in the sight of a pain-distraught fish rolling helplessly on the
surface of the sea and exposing to the sun all its essential
I was turning away, when renewed shouting drew my gaze. Half a dozen
other sharks had appeared, smaller ones, nine or ten feet long. They
attacked their helpless comrade. They tore him to pieces they
destroyed him, devoured him. I saw the last shred of him disappear
down their maws. He was gone, disintegrated, entombed in the living
bodies of his kind, and already entering into the processes of
digestion. And yet, there, in the shade on the pin-rail, that
unbelievable and monstrous heart beat on.
The voyage is doomed to disaster and death. I know Mr. Pike, now,
and if ever he discovers the identity of Mr. Mellaire, murder will be
done. Mr. Mellaire is not Mr. Mellaire. He is not from Georgia. He
is from Virginia. His name is Waltham--Sidney Waltham. He is one of
the Walthams of Virginia, a black sheep, true, but a Waltham. Of
this I am convinced, just as utterly as I am convinced that Mr. Pike
will kill him if he learns who he is.
Let me tell how I have discovered all this. It was last night,
shortly before midnight, when I came up on the poop to enjoy a whiff
of the south-east trades in which we are now bowling along, close-
hauled in order to weather Cape San Roque. Mr. Pike had the watch,
and I paced up and down with him while he told me old pages of his
life. He has often done this, when not "sea-grouched," and often he
has mentioned with pride--yes, with reverence--a master with whom he
sailed five years. "Old Captain Somers," he called him--"the finest,
squarest, noblest man I ever sailed under, sir."
Well, last night our talk turned on lugubrious subjects, and Mr.
Pike, wicked old man that he is, descanted on the wickedness of the
world and on the wickedness of the man who had murdered Captain
"He was an old man, over seventy years old," Mr. Pike went on. "And
they say he'd got a touch of palsy--I hadn't seen him for years. You
see, I'd had to clear out from the coast because of trouble. And
that devil of a second mate caught him in bed late at night and beat
him to death. It was terrible. They told me about it. Right in San
Francisco, on board the Jason Harrison, it happened, eleven years
"And do you know what they did? First, they gave the murderer life,
when he should have been hanged. His plea was insanity, from having
had his head chopped open a long time before by a crazy sea-cook.
And when he'd served seven years the governor pardoned him. He
wasn't any good, but his people were a powerful old Virginian family,
the Walthams--I guess you've heard of them--and they brought all
kinds of pressure to bear. His name was Sidney Waltham."
At this moment the warning bell, a single stroke fifteen minutes
before the change of watch, rang out from the wheel and was repeated
by the look-out on the forecastle head. Mr. Pike, under his stress
of feeling, had stopped walking, and we stood at the break of the
poop. As chance would have it, Mr. Mellaire was a quarter of an hour
ahead of time, and he climbed the poop-ladder and stood beside us
while the mate concluded his tale.
"I didn't mind it," Mr. Pike continued, "as long as he'd got life and
was serving his time. But when they pardoned him out after only
seven years I swore I'd get him. And I will. I don't believe in God
or devil, and it's a rotten crazy world anyway; but I do believe in
hunches. And I know I'm going to get him."
"What will you do?" I queried.
"Do?" Mr. Pike's voice was fraught with surprise that I should not
know. "Do? Well, what did he do to old Captain Somers? Yet he's
disappeared these last three years now. I've heard neither hide nor
hair of him. But he's a sailor, and he'll drift back to the sea, and
some day . . . "
In the illumination of a match with which the second mate was
lighting his pipe I saw Mr. Pike's gorilla arms and huge clenched
paws raised to heaven, and his face convulsed and working. Also, in
that brief moment of light, I saw that the second mate's hand which
held the match was shaking.
"And I ain't never seen even a photo of him," Mr. Pike added. "But
I've got a general idea of his looks, and he's got a mark
unmistakable. I could know him by it in the dark. All I'd have to
do is feel it. Some day I'll stick my fingers into that mark."
"What did you say, sir, was the captain's name?" Mr. Mellaire asked
"Somers--old Captain Somers," Mr. Pike answered.
Mr. Mellaire repeated the name aloud several times, and then
"Didn't he command the Lammermoor thirty years ago?"
"That's the man."
"I thought I recognized him. I lay at anchor in a ship next to his
in Table Bay that time ago."
"Oh, the wickedness of the world, the wickedness of the world," Mr.
Pike muttered as he turned and strode away.
I said good-night to the second mate and had started to go below,
when he called to me in a low voice, "Mr. Pathurst!"
I stopped, and then he said, hurriedly and confusedly:
"Never mind, sir . . . I beg your pardon . . . I--I changed my mind."
Below, lying in my bunk, I found myself unable to read. My mind was
bent on returning to what had just occurred on deck, and, against my
will, the most gruesome speculations kept suggesting themselves.
And then came Mr. Mellaire. He had slipped down the booby hatch into
the big after-room and thence through the hallway to my room. He
entered noiselessly, on clumsy tiptoes, and pressed his finger
warningly to his lips. Not until he was beside my bunk did he speak,
and then it was in a whisper.
"I beg your pardon, sir, Mr. Pathurst . . . I--I beg your pardon;
but, you see, sir, I was just passing, and seeing you awake I . . . I
thought it would not inconvenience you to . . . you see, I thought I
might just as well prefer a small favour . . . seeing that I would
not inconvenience you, sir . . . I . . . I . . . "
I waited for him to proceed, and in the pause that ensued, while he
licked his dry lips with his tongue, the thing ambushed in his skull
peered at me through his eyes and seemed almost on the verge of
leaping out and pouncing upon me.
"Well, sir," he began again, this time more coherently, "it's just a
little thing--foolish on my part, of course--a whim, so to say--but
you will remember, near the beginning of the voyage, I showed you a
scar on my head . . . a really small affair, sir, which I contracted
in a misadventure. It amounts to a deformity, which it is my fancy
to conceal. Not for worlds, sir, would I care to have Miss West, for
instance, know that I carried such a deformity. A man is a man, sir-
-you understand--and you have not spoken of it to her?"
"No," I replied. "It just happens that I have not."
"Nor to anybody else?--to, say, Captain West?--or, say, Mr. Pike?"
"No, I haven't mentioned it to anybody," I averred.
He could not conceal the relief he experienced. The perturbation
went out of his face and manner, and the ambushed thing drew back
deeper into the recess of his skull.
"The favour, sir, Mr. Pathurst, that I would prefer is that you will
not mention that little matter to anybody. I suppose" (he smiled,
and his voice was superlatively suave) "it is vanity on my part--you
understand, I am sure."
I nodded, and made a restless movement with my book as evidence that
I desired to resume my reading.
"I can depend upon you for that, Mr. Pathurst?" His whole voice and
manner had changed. It was practically a command, and I could almost
see fangs, bared and menacing, sprouting in the jaws of that thing I
fancied dwelt behind his eyes.
"Certainly," I answered coldly.
"Thank you, sir--I thank you," he said, and, without more ado,
tiptoed from the room.
Of course I did not read. How could I? Nor did I sleep. My mind
ran on, and on, and not until the steward brought my coffee, shortly
before five, did I sink into my first doze.
One thing is very evident. Mr. Pike does not dream that the murderer
of Captain Somers is on board the Elsinore. He has never glimpsed
that prodigious fissure that clefts Mr. Mellaire's, or, rather,
Sidney Waltham's, skull. And I, for one, shall never tell Mr. Pike.
And I know, now, why from the very first I disliked the second mate.
And I understand that live thing, that other thing, that lurks within
and peers out through the eyes. I have recognized the same thing in
the three gangsters for'ard. Like the second mate, they are prison
birds. The restraint, the secrecy, and iron control of prison life
has developed in all of them terrible other selves.
Yes, and another thing is very evident. On board this ship, driving
now through the South Atlantic for the winter passage of Cape Horn,
are all the elements of sea tragedy and horror. We are freighted
with human dynamite that is liable at any moment to blow our tiny
floating world to fragments.
The days slip by. The south-east trade is brisk and small splashes
of sea occasionally invade my open ports. Mr. Pike's room was soaked
yesterday. This is the most exciting thing that has happened for
some time. The gangsters rule in the forecastle. Larry and Shorty
have had a harmless FIGHT. The hooks continue to burn in Mulligan
Jacobs's brain. Charles Davis resides alone in his little steel
room, coming out only to get his food from the galley. Miss West
plays and sings, doctors Possum, launders, and is for ever otherwise
busy with her fancy work. Mr. Pike runs the phonograph every other
evening in the second dog-watch. Mr. Mellaire hides the cleft in his
head. I keep his secret. And Captain West, more remote than ever,
sits in the draught of wind in the twilight cabin.
We are now thirty-seven days at sea, in which time, until to-day, we
have not sighted a vessel. And to-day, at one time, no less than six
vessels were visible from the deck. Not until I saw these ships was
I able thoroughly to realize how lonely this ocean is.
Mr. Pike tells me we are several hundred miles off the South American
coast. And yet, only the other day, it seems, we were scarcely more
distant from Africa. A big velvety moth fluttered aboard this
morning, and we are filled with conjecture. How possibly could it
have come from the South American coast these hundreds of miles in
the teeth of the trades?
The Southern Cross has been visible, of course, for weeks; the North
Star has disappeared behind the bulge of the earth; and the Great
Bear, at its highest, is very low. Soon it, too, will be gone and we
shall be raising the Magellan Clouds.
I remember the fight between Larry and Shorty. Wada reports that Mr.
Pike watched it for some time, until, becoming incensed at their
awkwardness, he clouted both of them with his open hands and made
them stop, announcing that until they could make a better showing he
intended doing all the fighting on the Elsinore himself.
It is a feat beyond me to realize that he is sixty-nine years old.
And when I look at the tremendous build of him and at his fearful,
man-handling hands, I conjure up a vision of him avenging Captain
Life is cruel. Amongst the Elsinore's five thousand tons of coal are
thousands of rats. There is no way for them to get out of their
steel-walled prison, for all the ventilators are guarded with stout
wire-mesh. On her previous voyage, loaded with barley, they
increased and multiplied. Now they are imprisoned in the coal, and
cannibalism is what must occur among them. Mr. Pike says that when
we reach Seattle there will be a dozen or a score of survivors, huge
fellows, the strongest and fiercest. Sometimes, passing the mouth of
one ventilator that is in the after wall of the chart-house, I can
hear their plaintive squealing and crying from far beneath in the
Other and luckier rats are in the 'tween decks for'ard, where all the
spare suits of sails are stored. They come out and run about the
deck at night, steal food from the galley, and lap up the dew. Which
reminds me that Mr. Pike will no longer look at Possum. It seems,
under his suggestion, that Wada trapped a rat in the donkey-engine
room. Wada swears that it was the father of all rats, and that, by
actual measurement, it scaled eighteen inches from nose to the tip of
tail. Also, it seems that Mr. Pike and Wada, with the door shut in
the former's room, pitted the rat against Possum, and that Possum was
licked. They were compelled to kill the rat themselves, while
Possum, when all was over, lay down and had a fit.
Now Mr. Pike abhors a coward, and his disgust with Possum is
profound. He no longer plays with the puppy, nor even speaks to him,
and, whenever he passes him on the deck, glowers sourly at him.
I have been reading up the South Atlantic Sailing Directions, and I
find that we are now entering the most beautiful sunset region in the
world. And this evening we were favoured with a sample. I was in my
quarters, overhauling my books, when Miss West called to me from the
foot of the chart-house stairs:
"Mr. Pathurst!--Come quick! Oh, do come quick! You can't afford to
Half the sky, from the zenith to the western sea-line, was an
astonishing sheet of pure, pale, even gold. And through this sheen,
on the horizon, burned the sun, a disc of richer gold. The gold of
the sky grew more golden, then tarnished before our eyes and began to
glow faintly with red. As the red deepened, a mist spread over the
whole sheet of gold and the burning yellow sun. Turner was never
guilty of so audacious an orgy in gold-mist.
Presently, along the horizon, entirely completing the circle of sea
and sky, the tight-packed shapes of the trade wind clouds began to
show through the mist; and as they took form they spilled with rose-
colour at their upper edges, while their bases were a pulsing,
bluish-white. I say it advisedly. All the colours of this display
As the gold-mist continued to clear away, the colours became garish,
bold; the turquoises went into greens and the roses turned to the red
of blood. And the purple and indigo of the long swells of sea were
bronzed with the colour-riot in the sky, while across the water, like
gigantic serpents, crawled red and green sky-reflections. And then
all the gorgeousness quickly dulled, and the warm, tropic darkness
drew about us.
The Elsinore is truly the ship of souls, the world in miniature; and,
because she is such a small world, cleaving this vastitude of ocean
as our larger world cleaves space, the strange juxtapositions that
continually occur are startling.
For instance, this afternoon on the poop. Let me describe it. Here
was Miss West, in a crisp duck sailor suit, immaculately white, open
at the throat, where, under the broad collar, was knotted a man-of-
war black silk neckerchief. Her smooth-groomed hair, a trifle
rebellious in the breeze, was glorious. And here was I, in white
ducks, white shoes, and white silk shirt, as immaculate and well-
tended as she. The steward was just bringing the pretty tea-service
for Miss West, and in the background Wada hovered.
We had been discussing philosophy--or, rather, I had been feeling her
out; and from a sketch of Spinoza's anticipations of the modern mind,
through the speculative interpretations of the latest achievements in
physics of Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir William Ramsay, I had come, as
usual, to De Casseres, whom I was quoting, when Mr. Pike snarled
orders to the watch.
"'In this rise into the azure of pure perception, attainable only by
a very few human beings, the spectacular sense is born,'." I was
quoting. "'Life is no longer good or evil. It is a perpetual play
of forces without beginning or end. The freed Intellect merges
itself with the World-Will and partakes of its essence, which is not
a moral essence but an aesthetic essence . . . "
And at this moment the watch swarmed on to the poop to haul on the
port-braces of the mizzen-sky-sail, royal and topgallant-sail. The
sailors passed us, or toiled close to us, with lowered eyes. They
did not look at us, so far removed from them were we. It was this
contrast that caught my fancy. Here were the high and low, slaves
and masters, beauty and ugliness, cleanness and filth. Their feet
were bare and scaled with patches of tar and pitch. Their unbathed
bodies were garmented in the meanest of clothes, dingy, dirty,
ragged, and sparse. Each one had on but two garments--dungaree
trousers and a shoddy cotton shirt.
And we, in our comfortable deck-chairs, our two servants at our
backs, the quintessence of elegant leisure, sipped delicate tea from
beautiful, fragile cups, and looked on at these wretched ones whose
labour made possible the journey of our little world. We did not
speak to them, nor recognize their existence, any more than would
they have dared speak to us.
And Miss West, with the appraising eye of a plantation mistress for
the condition of her field slaves, looked them over.
"You see how they have fleshed up," she said, as they coiled the last
turns of the ropes over the pins and faded away for'ard off the poop.
"It is the regular hours, the good weather, the hard work, the open
air, the sufficient food, and the absence of whisky. And they will
keep in this fettle until they get off the Horn. And then you will
see them go down from day to day. A winter passage of the Horn is
always a severe strain on the men.
"But then, once we are around and in the good weather of the Pacific,
you will see them gain again from day to day. And when we reach
Seattle they will be in splendid shape. Only they will go ashore,
drink up their wages in several days, and ship away on other vessels
in precisely the same sodden, miserable condition that they were in
when they sailed with us from Baltimore."
And just then Captain West came out the chart-house door, strolled by
for a single turn up and down, and with a smile and a word for us and
an all-observant eye for the ship, the trim of her sails, the wind,
and the sky, and the weather promise, went back through the chart-
house door--the blond Aryan master, the king, the Samurai.
And I finished sipping my tea of delicious and most expensive aroma,
and our slant-eyed, dark-skinned servitors carried the pretty gear
away, and I read, continuing De Casseres:
"'Instinct wills, creates, carries on the work of the species. The
Intellect destroys, negatives, satirizes and ends in pure nihilism,
instinct creates life, endlessly, hurling forth profusely and blindly
its clowns, tragedians and comedians. Intellect remains the eternal
spectator of the play. It participates at will, but never gives
itself wholly to the fine sport. The Intellect, freed from the
trammels of the personal will, soars into the ether of perception,
where Instinct follows it in a thousand disguises, seeking to draw it
down to earth.'"
We are now south of Rio and working south. We are out of the
latitude of the trades, and the wind is capricious. Rain squalls and
wind squalls vex the Elsinore. One hour we may be rolling
sickeningly in a dead calm, and the next hour we may be dashing
fourteen knots through the water and taking off sail as fast as the
men can clew up and lower away. A night of calm, when sleep is well-
nigh impossible in the sultry, muggy air, may be followed by a day of
blazing sun and an oily swell from the south'ard, connoting great
gales in that area of ocean we are sailing toward--or all day long
the Elsinore, under an overcast sky, royals and sky sails furled, may
plunge and buck under wind-pressure into a short and choppy head-sea.
And all this means work for the men. Taking Mr. Pike's judgment,
they are very inadequate, though by this time they know the ropes.
He growls and grumbles, and snorts and sneers whenever he watches
them doing anything. To-day, at eleven in the morning, the wind was
so violent, continuing in greater gusts after having come in a great
gust, that Mr. Pike ordered the mainsail taken off. The great
crojack was already off. But the watch could not clew up the
mainsail, and, after much vain sing-songing and pull-hauling, the
watch below was routed out to bear a hand.
"My God!" Mr. Pike groaned to me. "Two watches for a rag like that
when half a decent watch could do it! Look at that preventer bosun
Poor Nancy! He looked the saddest, sickest, bleakest creature I had
ever seen. He was so wretched, so miserable, so helpless. And
Sundry Buyers was just as impotent. The expression on his face was
of pain and hopelessness, and as he pressed his abdomen he lumbered
futilely about, ever seeking something he might do and ever failing
to find it. He pottered. He would stand and stare at one rope for a
minute or so at a time, following it aloft with his eyes through the
maze of ropes and stabs and gears with all the intentness of a man
working out an intricate problem. Then, holding his hand against his
stomach, he would lumber on a few steps and select another rope for
"Oh dear, oh dear," Mr. Pike lamented. "How can one drive with
bosuns like that and a crew like that? Just the same, if I was
captain of this ship I'd drive 'em. I'd show 'em what drive was, if
I had to lose a few of them. And when they grow weak off the Horn
what'll we do? It'll be both watches all the time, which will weaken
them just that much the faster."
Evidently this winter passage of the Horn is all that one has been
led to expect from reading the narratives of the navigators. Iron
men like the two mates are very respectful of "Cape Stiff," as they
call that uttermost tip of the American continent. Speaking of the
two mates, iron-made and iron-mouthed that they are, it is amusing
that in really serious moments both of them curse with "Oh dear, oh
In the spells of calm I take great delight in the little rifle. I
have already fired away five thousand rounds, and have come to
consider myself an expert. Whatever the knack of shooting may be,
I've got it. When I get back I shall take up target practice. It is
a neat, deft sport.
Not only is Possum afraid of the sails and of rats, but he is afraid
of rifle-fire, and at the first discharge goes yelping and ki-yi-ing
below. The dislike Mr. Pike has developed for the poor little puppy
is ludicrous. He even told me that if it were his dog he'd throw it
overboard for a target. Just the same, he is an affectionate, heart-
warming little rascal, and has already crept so deep into my heart
that I am glad Miss West did not accept him.
And--oh!--he insists on sleeping with me on top the bedding; a
proceeding which has scandalized the mate. "I suppose he'll be using
your toothbrush next," Mr. Pike growled at me. But the puppy loves
my companionship, and is never happier than when on the bed with me.
Yet the bed is not entirely paradise, for Possum is badly frightened
when ours is the lee side and the seas pound and smash against the
glass ports. Then the little beggar, electric with fear to every
hair tip, crouches and snarls menacingly and almost at the same time
whimpers appeasingly at the storm-monster outside.
"Father KNOWS the sea," Miss West said to me this afternoon. "He
understands it, and he loves it."
"Or it may be habit," I ventured.
She shook her head.
"He does know it. And he loves it. That is why he has come back to
it. All his people before him were sea folk. His grandfather,
Anthony West, made forty-six voyages between 1801 and 1847. And his
father, Robert, sailed master to the north-west coast before the gold
days and was captain of some of the fastest Cape Horn clippers after
the gold discovery. Elijah West, father's great-grandfather, was a
privateersman in the Revolution. He commanded the armed brig New
Defence. And, even before that, Elijah's father, in turn, and
Elijah's father's father, were masters and owners on long-voyage
"Anthony West, in 1813 and 1814, commanded the David Bruce, with
letters of marque. He was half-owner, with Gracie & Sons as the
other half-owners. She was a two-hundred-ton schooner, built right
up in Maine. She carried a long eighteen-pounder, two ten-pounders,
and ten six-pounders, and she sailed like a witch. She ran the
blockade off Newport and got away to the English Channel and the Bay
of Biscay. And, do you know, though she only cost twelve thousand
dollars all told, she took over three hundred thousand dollars of
British prizes. A brother of his was on the Wasp.
"So, you see, the sea is in our blood. She is our mother. As far
back as we can trace all our line was born to the sea." She laughed
and went on. "We've pirates and slavers in our family, and all sorts
of disreputable sea-rovers. Old Ezra West, just how far back I don't
remember, was executed for piracy and his body hung in chains at
"The sea is father's blood. And he knows, well, a ship, as you would
know a dog or a horse. Every ship he sails has a distinct
personality for him. I have watched him, in high moments, and SEEN
him think. But oh! the times I have seen him when he does not think-
-when he FEELS and knows everything without thinking at all. Really,
with all that appertains to the sea and ships, he is an artist.
There is no other word for it."
"You think a great deal of your father," I remarked.
"He is the most wonderful man I have ever known," she replied.
"Remember, you are not seeing him at his best. He has never been the
same since mother's death. If ever a man and woman were one, they
were." She broke off, then concluded abruptly. "You don't know him.
You don't know him at all."
"I think we are going to have a fine sunset," Captain West remarked
Miss West and I abandoned our rubber of cribbage and hastened on
deck. The sunset had not yet come, but all was preparing. As we
gazed we could see the sky gathering the materials, grouping the gray
clouds in long lines and towering masses, spreading its palette with
slow-growing, glowing tints and sudden blobs of colour.
"It's the Golden Gate!" Miss West cried, indicating the west. "See!
We're just inside the harbour. Look to the south there. If that
isn't the sky-line of San Francisco! There's the Call Building, and
there, far down, the Ferry Tower, and surely that is the Fairmount."
Her eyes roved back through the opening between the cloud masses, and
she clapped her hands. "It's a sunset within a sunset! See! The
Farallones!"--swimming in a miniature orange and red sunset all their
own. "Isn't it the Golden Gate, and San Francisco, and the
Farallones?" She appealed to Mr. Pike, who, leaning near, on the
poop-rail, was divided between gazing sourly at Nancy pottering on
the main deck and sourly at Possum, who, on the bridge, crouched with
terror each time the crojack flapped emptily above him.
The mate turned his head and favoured the sky picture with a solemn
"Oh, I don't know," he growled. "It may look like the Farallones to
you, but to me it looks like a battleship coming right in the Gate
with a bone in its teeth at a twenty-knot clip."
Sure enough. The floating Farallones had metamorphosed into a giant
Then came the colour riot, the dominant tone of which was green. It
was green, green, green--the blue-green of the springing year, and
sere and yellow green and tawny-brown green of autumn. There were
orange green, gold green, and a copper green. And all these greens
were rich green beyond description; and yet the richness and the
greenness passed even as we gazed upon it, going out of the gray
clouds and into the sea, which assumed the exquisite golden pink of
polished copper, while the hollows of the smooth and silken ripples
were touched by a most ethereal pea green.
The gray clouds became a long, low swathe of ruby red, or garnet red-
-such as one sees in a glass of heavy burgundy when held to the
light. There was such depth to this red! And, below it, separated
from the main colour-mass by a line of gray-white fog, or line of
sea, was another and smaller streak of ruddy-coloured wine.
I strolled across the poop to the port side.
"Oh! Come back! Look! Look!" Miss West cried to me.
"What's the use?" I answered. "I've something just as good over
She joined me, and as she did so I noted, a sour grin on Mr. Pike's
The eastern heavens were equally spectacular. That quarter of the
sky was sheer and delicate shell of blue, the upper portions of which
faded, changed, through every harmony, into a pale, yet warm, rose,
all trembling, palpitating, with misty blue tinting into pink. The
reflection of this coloured sky-shell upon the water made of the sea
a glimmering watered silk, all changeable, blue, Nile-green, and
salmon-pink. It was silky, silken, a wonderful silk that veneered
and flossed the softly moving, wavy water.
And the pale moon looked like a wet pearl gleaming through the tinted
mist of the sky-shell.
In the southern quadrant of the sky we discovered an entirely
different sunset--what would be accounted a very excellent orange-
and-red sunset anywhere, with grey clouds hanging low and lighted and
tinted on all their under edges.
"Huh!" Mr. Pike muttered gruffly, while we were exclaiming over our
fresh discovery. "Look at the sunset I got here to the north. It
ain't doing so badly now, I leave it to you."
And it wasn't. The northern quadrant was a great fen of colour and
cloud, that spread ribs of feathery pink, fleece-frilled, from the
horizon to the zenith. It was all amazing. Four sunsets at the one
time in the sky! Each quadrant glowed, and burned, and pulsed with a
sunset distinctly its own.
And as the colours dulled in the slow twilight, the moon, still
misty, wept tears of brilliant, heavy silver into the dim lilac sea.
And then came the hush of darkness and the night, and we came to
ourselves, out of reverie, sated with beauty, leaning toward each
other as we leaned upon the rail side by side.
I never grow tired of watching Captain West. In a way he bears a
sort of resemblance to several of Washington's portraits. He is six
feet of aristocratic thinness, and has a very definite, leisurely and
stately grace of movement. His thinness is almost ascetic. In
appearance and manner he is the perfect old-type New England
He has the same gray eyes as his daughter, although his are genial
rather than warm; and his eyes have the same trick of smiling. His
skin is pinker than hers, and his brows and lashes are fairer. But
he seems removed beyond passion, or even simple enthusiasm. Miss
West is firm, like her father; but there is warmth in her firmness.
He is clean, he is sweet and courteous; but he is coolly sweet,
coolly courteous. With all his certain graciousness, in cabin or on
deck, so far as his social equals are concerned, his graciousness is
cool, elevated, thin.
He is the perfect master of the art of doing nothing. He never
reads, except the Bible; yet he is never bored. Often, I note him in
a deck-chair, studying his perfect finger-nails, and, I'll swear, not
seeing them at all. Miss West says he loves the sea. And I ask
myself a thousand times, "But how?" He shows no interest in any phase
of the sea. Although he called our attention to the glorious sunset
I have just described, he did not remain on deck to enjoy it. He sat
below, in the big leather chair, not reading, not dozing, but merely
gazing straight before him at nothing.
The days pass, and the seasons pass. We left Baltimore at the tail-
end of winter, went into spring and on through summer, and now we are
in fall weather and urging our way south to the winter of Cape Horn.
And as we double the Cape and proceed north, we shall go through
spring and summer--a long summer--pursuing the sun north through its
declination and arriving at Seattle in summer. And all these seasons
have occurred, and will have occurred, in the space of five months.
Our white ducks are gone, and, in south latitude thirty-five, we are
wearing the garments of a temperate clime. I notice that Wada has
given me heavier underclothes and heavier pyjamas, and that Possum,
of nights, is no longer content with the top of the bed but must
crawl underneath the bed-clothes.
We are now off the Plate, a region notorious for storms, and Mr. Pike
is on the lookout for a pampero. Captain West does not seem to be on
the lookout for anything; yet I notice that he spends longer hours on
deck when the sky and barometer are threatening.
Yesterday we had a hint of Plate weather, and to-day an awesome
fiasco of the same. The hint came last evening between the twilight
and the dark. There was practically no wind, and the Elsinore, just
maintaining steerage way by means of intermittent fans of air from
the north, floundered exasperatingly in a huge glassy swell that
rolled up as an echo from some blown-out storm to the south.
Ahead of us, arising with the swiftness of magic, was a dense slate-
blackness. I suppose it was cloud-formation, but it bore no
semblance to clouds. It was merely and sheerly a blackness that
towered higher and higher until it overhung us, while it spread to
right and left, blotting out half the sea.
And still the light puffs from the north filled our sails; and still,
as the Elsinore floundered on the huge, smooth swells and the sails
emptied and flapped a hollow thunder, we moved slowly towards that
ominous blackness. In the cast, in what was quite distinctly an
active thunder cloud, the lightning fairly winked, while the
blackness in front of us was rent with blobs and flashes of
The last puffs left us, and in the hushes, between the rumbles of the
nearing thunder, the voices of the men aloft on the yards came to
one's ear as if they were right beside one instead of being hundreds
of feet away and up in the air. That they were duly impressed by
what was impending was patent from the earnestness with which they
worked. Both watches toiled under both mates, and Captain West
strolled the poop in his usual casual way, and gave no orders at all,
save in low conventional tones, when Mr. Pike came upon the poop and
conferred with him.
Miss West, having deserted the scene five minutes before, returned, a
proper sea-woman, clad in oil-skins, sou'wester, and long sea-boots.
She ordered me, quite peremptorily, to do the same. But I could not
bring myself to leave the deck for fear of missing something, so I
compromised by having Wada bring my storm-gear to me.
And then the wind came, smack out of the blackness, with the
abruptness of thunder and accompanied by the most diabolical thunder.
And with the rain and thunder came the blackness. It was tangible.
It drove past us in the bellowing wind like so much stuff that one
could feel. Blackness as well as wind impacted on us. There is no
other way to describe it than by the old, ancient old, way of saying
one could not see his hand before his face.
"Isn't it splendid!" Miss West shouted into my ear, close beside me,
as we clung to the railing of the break of the poop.
"Superb!" I shouted back, my lips to her ear, so that her hair
tickled my face.
And, I know not why--it must have been spontaneous with both of us--
in that shouting blackness of wind, as we clung to the rail to avoid
being blown away, our hands went out to each other and my hand and
hers gripped and pressed and then held mutually to the rail.
"Daughter of Herodias," I commented grimly to myself; but my hand did
not leave hers.
"What is happening?" I shouted in her ear.
"We've lost way," came her answer. "I think we're caught aback! The
wheel's up, but she could not steer!"
The Gabriel voice of the Samurai rang out. "Hard over?" was his
mellow storm-call to the man at the wheel. "Hard over, sir," came
the helmsman's reply, vague, cracked with strain, and smothered.
Came the lightning, before us, behind us, on every side, bathing us
in flaming minutes at a time. And all the while we were deafened by
the unceasing uproar of thunder. It was a weird sight--far aloft the
black skeleton of spars and masts from which the sails had been
removed; lower down, the sailors clinging like monstrous bugs as they
passed the gaskets and furled; beneath them the few set sails, filled
backward against the masts, gleaming whitely, wickedly, evilly, in
the fearful illumination; and, at the bottom, the deck and bridge and
houses of the Elsinore, and a tangled riff-raff of flying ropes, and
clumps and bunches of swaying, pulling, hauling, human creatures.
It was a great moment, the master's moment--caught all aback with all
our bulk and tonnage and infinitude of gear, and our heaven-aspiring
masts two hundred feet above our heads. And our master was there, in
sheeting flame, slender, casual, imperturbable, with two men--one of
them a murderer--under him to pass on and enforce his will, and with
a horde of inefficients and weaklings to obey that will, and pull,
and haul, and by the sheer leverages of physics manipulate our
floating world so that it would endure this fury of the elements.
What happened next, what was done, I do not know, save that now and
again I heard the Gabriel voice; for the darkness came, and the rain
in pouring, horizontal sheets. It filled my mouth and strangled my
lungs as if I had fallen overboard. It seemed to drive up as well as
down, piercing its way under my sou'wester, through my oilskins, down
my tight-buttoned collar, and into my sea-boots. I was dizzied,
obfuscated, by all this onslaught of thunder, lightning, wind,
blackness, and water. And yet the master, near to me, there on the
poop, lived and moved serenely in all, voicing his wisdom and will to
the wisps of creatures who obeyed and by their brute, puny strength
pulled braces, slacked sheets, dragged courses, swung yards and
lowered them, hauled on buntlines and clewlines, smoothed and
gasketed the huge spreads of canvas.
How it happened I know not, but Miss West and I crouched together,
clinging to the rail and to each other in the shelter of the
thrumming weather-cloth. My arm was about her and fast to the
railing; her shoulder pressed close against me, and by one hand she
held tightly to the lapel of my oilskin.
An hour later we made our way across the poop to the chart-house,
helping each other to maintain footing as the Elsinore plunged and
bucked in the rising sea and was pressed over and down by the weight
of wind on her few remaining set sails. The wind, which had lulled
after the rain, had risen in recurrent gusts to storm violence. But
all was well with the gallant ship. The crisis was past, and the
ship lived, and we lived, and with streaming faces and bright eyes we
looked at each other and laughed in the bright light of the chart-
"Who can blame one for loving the sea?" Miss West cried out
exultantly, as she wrung the rain from her ropes of hair which had
gone adrift in the turmoil. "And the men of the sea!" she cried.
"The masters of the sea! You saw my father . . . "
"He is a king," I said.
"He is a king," she repeated after me.
And the Elsinore lifted on a cresting sea and flung down on her side,
so that we were thrown together and brought up breathless against the
I said good-night to her at the foot of the stairs, and as I passed
the open door to the cabin I glanced in. There sat Captain West,
whom I had thought still on deck. His storm-trappings were removed,
his sea-boots replaced by slippers; and he leaned back in the big
leather chair, eyes wide open, beholding visions in the curling smoke
of a cigar against a background of wildly reeling cabin wall.
It was at eleven this morning that the Plate gave us a fiasco. Last
night's was a real pampero--though a mild one. To-day's promised to
be a far worse one, and then laughed at us as a proper cosmic joke.
The wind, during the night, had so eased that by nine in the morning
we had all our topgallant-sails set. By ten we were rolling in a
dead calm. By eleven the stuff began making up ominously in the
The overcast sky closed down. Our lofty trucks seemed to scrape the
cloud-zenith. The horizon drew in on us till it seemed scarcely half
a mile away. The Elsinore was embayed in a tiny universe of mist and
sea. The lightning played. Sky and horizon drew so close that the
Elsinore seemed on the verge of being absorbed, sucked in by it,
sucked up by it.
Then from zenith to horizon the sky was cracked with forked
lightning, and the wet atmosphere turned to a horrid green. The
rain, beginning gently, in dead calm, grew into a deluge of enormous
streaming drops. It grew darker and darker, a green darkness, and in
the cabin, although it was midday, Wada and the steward lighted
lamps. The lightning came closer and closer, until the ship was
enveloped in it. The green darkness was continually a-tremble with
flame, through which broke greater illuminations of forked lightning.
These became more violent as the rain lessened, and, so absolutely
were we centred in this electrical maelstrom, there was no connecting
any chain or flash or fork of lightning with any particular thunder-
clap. The atmosphere all about us paled and flamed. Such a crashing