Part 5 out of 7
For a time I could see nothing of the two men. Next, in the light
flashed from the stick, I guessed that Mr. Pike was in pursuit of the
thing. He evidently must have captured it at the rail against the
starboard rigging and caught a turn around it with a loose end of
rope. As the vessel rolled to windward some sort of a struggle
seemed to be going on. The second mate sprang to the mate's
assistance, and, together, with more loose ends, they seemed to
subdue the thing.
I descended to see. By the light-stick we made it out to be a large,
"She's been afloat for forty years," was Mr. Pike's judgment. "Look
at the size of the barnacles, and look at the whiskers."
"And it's full of something," said Mr. Mellaire. "Hope it isn't
I rashly lent a hand when they started to work the cask for'ard,
between seas and taking advantage of the rolls and pitches, to the
shelter under the forecastle-head. As a result, even through my
mittens, I was cut by the sharp edges of broken shell.
"It's liquor of some sort," said the mate, "but we won't risk
broaching it till morning."
"But where did it come from?" I asked.
"Over the side's the only place it could have come from." Mr. Pike
played the light over it. "Look at it! It's been afloat for years
"The stuff ought to be well-seasoned," commented Mr. Mellaire.
Leaving them to lash the cask securely, I stole along the deck to the
forecastle and peered in. The men, in their headlong flight, had
neglected to close the doors, and the place was afloat. In the
flickering light from a small and very smoky sea-lamp it was a dismal
picture. No self-respecting cave-man, I am sure, would have lived in
such a hole.
Even as I looked a bursting sea filled the runway between the house
and rail, and through the doorway in which I stood the freezing water
rushed waist-deep. I had to hold on to escape being swept inside the
room. From a top bunk, lying on his side, Andy Fay regarded me
steadily with his bitter blue eyes. Seated on the rough table of
heavy planks, his sea-booted feet swinging in the water, Mulligan
Jacobs pulled at his pipe. When he observed me he pointed to pulpy
book-pages that floated about.
"Me library's gone to hell," he mourned as he indicated the flotsam.
"There's me Byron. An' there goes Zola an' Browning with a piece of
Shakespeare runnin' neck an' neck, an' what's left of Anti-Christ
makin' a bad last. An' there's Carlyle and Zola that cheek by jowl
you can't tell 'em apart."
Here the Elsinore lay down to starboard, and the water in the
forecastle poured out against my legs and hips. My wet mittens
slipped on the iron work, and I swept down the runway into the
scuppers, where I was turned over and over by another flood that had
just boarded from windward.
I know I was rather confused, and that I had swallowed quite a deal
of salt water, ere I got my hands on the rungs of the ladder and
climbed to the top of the house. On my way aft along the bridge I
encountered the crew coming for'ard. Mr. Mellaire and Mr. Pike were
talking in the lee of the chart-house, and inside, as I passed below,
Captain West was smoking a cigar.
After a good rub down, in dry pyjamas, I was scarcely back in my bunk
with the Mind of Primitive Man before me, when the stampede over my
head was repeated. I waited for the second rush. It came, and I
proceeded to dress.
The scene on the poop duplicated the previous one, save that the men
were more excited, more frightened. They were babbling and
chattering all together.
"Shut up!" Mr. Pike was snarling when I came upon them. "One at a
time, and answer the captain's question."
"It ain't no barrel this time, sir," Tom Spink said. "It's alive.
An' if it ain't the devil it's the ghost of a drownded man. I see 'm
plain an' clear. He's a man, or was a man once--"
"They was two of 'em, sir," Richard Giller, one of the "bricklayers,"
"I think he looked like Petro Marinkovich, sir," Tom Spink went on.
"An' the other was Jespersen--I seen 'm," Giller added.
"They was three of 'em, sir," said Nosey Murphy. "O'Sullivan, sir,
was the other one. They ain't devils, sir. They're drownded men.
They come aboard right over the bows, an' they moved slow like
drownded men. Sorensen seen the first one first. He caught my arm
an' pointed, an' then I seen 'm. He was on top the for'ard-house.
And Olansen seen 'm, an' Deacon, sir, an' Hackey. We all seen 'm,
sir . . . an' the second one; an' when the rest run away I stayed
long enough to see the third one. Mebbe there's more. I didn't wait
Captain West stopped the man.
"Mr. Pike," he said wearily, "will you straighten this nonsense out."
"Yes, sir," Mr. Pike responded, then turned on the man. "Come on,
all of you! There's three devils to tie down this time."
But the men shrank away from the order and from him.
"For two cents . . . " I heard Mr. Pike growl to himself, then choke
He flung about on his heel and started for the bridge. In the same
order as on the previous trip, Mr. Mellaire second, and I bringing up
the rear, we followed. It was a similar journey, save that we caught
a ducking midway on the first span of bridge as well as a ducking on
We halted on top the for'ard-house. In vain Mr. Pike flashed his
light-stick. Nothing was to be seen nor heard save the white-flecked
dark water on our deck, the roar of the gale in our rigging, and the
crash and thunder of seas falling aboard. We advanced half-way
across the last span of bridge to the f ore-castle head, and were
driven to pause and hang on at the foremast by a bursting sea.
Between the drives of spray Mr. Pike flashed his stick. I heard him
exclaim something. Then he went on to the forecastle-head, followed
by Mr. Mellaire, while I waited by the foremast, clinging tight, and
endured another ducking. Through the emergencies I could see the
pencil of light, appearing and disappearing, darting here and there.
Several minutes later the mates were back with me.
"Half our head-gear's carried away," Mr. Pike told me. "We must have
run into something."
"I felt a jar, right after you' went below, sir, last time," said Mr.
Mellaire. "Only I thought it was a thump of sea."
"So did I feel it," the mate agreed. "I was just taking off my
boots. I thought it was a sea. But where are the three devils?"
"Broaching the cask," the second mate suggested.
We made the forecastle-head, descended the iron ladder, and went
for'ard, inside, underneath, out of the wind and sea. There lay the
cask, securely lashed. The size of the barnacles on it was
astonishing. They were as large as apples and inches deep. A down-
fling of bow brought a foot of water about our boots; and as the bow
lifted and the water drained away, it drew out from the shell-crusted
cask streamers of seaweed a foot or so in length.
Led by Mr. Pike and watching our chance between seas, we searched the
deck and rails between the forecastle-head and the for'ard-house and
found no devils. The mate stepped into the forecastle doorway, and
his light-stick cut like a dagger through the dim illumination of the
murky sea-lamp. And we saw the devils. Nosey Murphy had been right.
There were three of them.
Let me give the picture: A drenched and freezing room of rusty,
paint-scabbed iron, low-roofed, double-tiered with bunks, reeking
with the filth of thirty men, despite the washing of the sea. In a
top bunk, on his side, in sea-boots and oilskins, staring steadily
with blue, bitter eyes, Andy Fay; on the table, pulling at a pipe,
with hanging legs dragged this way and that by the churn of water,
Mulligan Jacobs, solemnly regarding three men, sea-booted and bloody,
who stand side by side, of a height and not duly tall, swaying in
unison to the Elsinore's down-flinging and up-lifting.
But such men! I know my East Side and my East End, and I am
accustomed to the faces of all the ruck of races, yet with these
three men I was at fault. The Mediterranean had surely never bred
such a breed; nor had Scandinavia. They were not blonds. They were
not brunettes. Nor were they of the Brown, or Black, or Yellow.
Their skin was white under a bronze of weather. Wet as was their
hair, it was plainly a colourless, sandy hair. Yet their eyes were
dark--and yet not dark. They were neither blue, nor gray, nor green,
nor hazel. Nor were they black. They were topaz, pale topaz; and
they gleamed and dreamed like the eyes of great cats. They regarded
us like walkers in a dream, these pale-haired storm-waifs with pale,
topaz eyes. They did not bow, they did not smile, in no way did they
recognize our presence save that they looked at us and dreamed.
But Andy Fay greeted us.
"It's a hell of a night an' not a wink of sleep with these goings-
on," he said.
"Now where did they blow in from a night like this?" Mulligan Jacobs
"You've got a tongue in your mouth," Mr. Pike snarled. "Why ain't
you asked 'em?"
"As though you didn't know I could use the tongue in me mouth, you
old stiff," Jacobs snarled back.
But it was no time for their private feud. Mr. Pike turned on the
dreaming new-comers and addressed them in the mangled and aborted
phrases of a dozen languages such as the world-wandering Anglo-Saxon
has had every opportunity to learn but is too stubborn-brained and
wilful-mouthed to wrap his tongue about.
The visitors made no reply. They did not even shake their heads.
Their faces remained peculiarly relaxed and placid, incurious and
pleasant, while in their eyes floated profounder dreams. Yet they
were human. The blood of their injuries stained them and clotted on
"Dutchmen," snorted Mr. Pike, with all due contempt for other breeds,
as he waved them to make themselves at home in any of the bunks.
Mr. Pike's ethnology is narrow. Outside his own race he is aware of
only three races: niggers, Dutchmen, and Dagoes.
Again our visitors proved themselves human. They understood the
mate's invitation, and, glancing first at one another, they climbed
into three top-bunks and closed their eyes. I could swear the first
of them was asleep in half a minute.
"We'll have to clean up for'ard, or we'll be having the sticks about
our ears," the mate said, already starting to depart. "Get the men
along, Mr. Mellaire, and call out the carpenter."
And no westing! We have been swept back three degrees of casting
since the night our visitors came on board. They are the great
mystery, these three men of the sea. "Horn Gypsies," Margaret calls
them; and Mr. Pike dubs them "Dutchmen." One thing is certain, they
have a language of their own which they talk with one another. But
of our hotch-potch of nationalities fore and aft there is no person
who catches an inkling of their language or nationality.
Mr. Mellaire raised the theory that they were Finns of some sort, but
this was indignantly denied by our big-footed youth of a carpenter,
who swears he is a Finn himself. Louis, the cook, avers that
somewhere over the world, on some forgotten voyage, he has
encountered men of their type; but he can neither remember the voyage
nor their race. He and the rest of the Asiatics accept their
presence as a matter of course; but the crew, with the exception of
Andy Fay and Mulligan Jacobs, is very superstitious about the new-
comers, and will have nothing to do with them.
"No good will come of them, sir," Tom Spink, at the wheel, told us,
shaking his head forebodingly.
Margaret's mittened hand rested on my arm as we balanced to the easy
roll of the ship. We had paused from our promenade, which we now
take each day, religiously, as a constitutional, between eleven and
"Why, what is the matter with them?" she queried, nudging me privily
in warning of what was coming.
"Because they ain't men, Miss, as we can rightly call men. They
ain't regular men."
"It was a bit irregular, their manner of coming on board," she
"That's just it, Miss," Tom Spink exclaimed, brightening perceptibly
at the hint of understanding. "Where'd they come from? They won't
tell. Of course they won't tell. They ain't men. They're spirits--
ghosts of sailors that drowned as long ago as when that cask went
adrift from a sinkin' ship, an' that's years an' years, Miss, as
anybody can see, lookin' at the size of the barnacles on it."
"Do you think so?" Margaret queried.
"We all think so, Miss. We ain't spent our lives on the sea for
nothin'. There's no end of landsmen don't believe in the Flyin'
Dutchman. But what do they know? They're just landsmen, ain't they?
They ain't never had their leg grabbed by a ghost, such as I had, on
the Kathleen, thirty-five years ago, down in the hole 'tween the
water-casks. An' didn't that ghost rip the shoe right off of me?
An' didn't I fall through the hatch two days later an' break my
"Now, Miss, I seen 'em makin' signs to Mr. Pike that we'd run into
their ship hove to on the other tack. Don't you believe it. There
wasn't no ship."
"But how do you explain the carrying away of our head-gear?" I
"There's lots of things can't be explained, sir," was Tom Spink's
answer. "Who can explain the way the Finns plays tom-fool tricks
with the weather? Yet everybody knows it. Why are we havin' a hard
passage around the Horn, sir? I ask you that. Why, sir?"
I shook my head.
"Because of the carpenter, sir. We've found out he's a Finn. Why
did he keep it quiet all the way down from Baltimore?"
"Why did he tell it?" Margaret challenged.
"He didn't tell it, Miss--leastways, not until after them three
others boarded us. I got my suspicions he knows more about 'm than
he's lettin' on. An' look at the weather an' the delay we're
gettin'. An' don't everybody know the Finns is regular warlocks an'
My ears pricked up.
"Where did you get that word warlock?" I questioned.
Tom Spink looked puzzled.
"What's wrong with it, sir?" he asked.
"Nothing. It's all right. But where did you get it?"
"I never got it, sir. I always had it. That's what Finns is--
"And these three new-comers--they aren't Finns?" asked Margaret.
The old Englishman shook his head solemnly.
"No, Miss. They're drownded sailors a long time drownded. All you
have to do is look at 'm. An' the carpenter could tell us a few if
he was minded."
Nevertheless, our mysterious visitors are a welcome addition to our
weakened crew. I watch them at work. They are strong and willing.
Mr. Pike says they are real sailormen, even if he doesn't understand
their lingo. His theory is that they are from some small old-country
or outlander ship, which, hove to on the opposite tack to the
Elsinore, was run down and sunk.
I have forgotten to say that we found the barnacled cask nearly
filled with a most delicious wine which none of us can name. As soon
as the gale moderated Mr. Pike had the cask brought aft and broached,
and now the steward and Wada have it all in bottles and spare
demijohns. It is beautifully aged, and Mr. Pike is certain that it
is some sort of a mild and unheard-of brandy. Mr. Mellaire merely
smacks his lips over it, while Captain West, Margaret, and I
steadfastly maintain that it is wine.
The condition of the men grows deplorable. They were always poor at
pulling on ropes, but now it takes two or three to pull as much as
one used to pull. One thing in their favour is that they are well,
though grossly, fed. They have all they want to eat, such as it is,
but it is the cold and wet, the terrible condition of the forecastle,
the lack of sleep, and the almost continuous toil of both watches on
deck. Either watch is so weak and worthless that any severe task
requires the assistance of the other watch. As an instance, we
finally managed a reef in the fore-sail in the thick of a gale. It
took both watches two hours, yet Mr. Pike tells me that under similar
circumstances, with an average crew of the old days, he has seen a
single watch reef the foresail in twenty minutes.
I have learned one of the prime virtues of a steel sailing-ship.
Such a craft, heavily laden, does not strain her seams open in bad
weather and big seas. Except for a tiny leak down in the fore-peak,
with which we sailed from Baltimore and which is bailed out with a
pail once in several weeks, the Elsinore is bone-dry. Mr. Pike tells
me that had a wooden ship of her size and cargo gone through the
buffeting we have endured, she would be leaking like a sieve.
And Mr. Mellaire, out of his own experience, has added to my respect
for the Horn. When he was a young man he was once eight weeks in
making around from 50 in the Atlantic to 50 in the Pacific. Another
time his vessel was compelled to put back twice to the Falklands for
repairs. And still another time, in a wooden ship running back in
distress to the Falklands, his vessel was lost in a shift of gale in
the very entrance to Port Stanley. As he told me:
"And after we'd been there a month, sir, who should come in but the
old Lucy Powers. She was a sight!--her foremast clean gone out of
her and half her spars, the old man killed from one of the spars
falling on him, the mate with two broken arms, the second mate sick,
and what was left of the crew at the pumps. We'd lost our ship, so
my skipper took charge, refitted her, doubled up both crews, and we
headed the other way around, pumping two hours in every watch clear
The poor wretched chickens! Because of their ill-judged moulting
they are quite featherless. It is a marvel that one of them
survives, yet so far we have lost only six. Margaret keeps the
kerosene stove going, and, though they have ceased laying, she
confidently asserts that they are all layers and that we shall have
plenty of eggs once we get fine weather in the Pacific.
There is little use to describe these monotonous and perpetual
westerly gales. One is very like another, and they follow so fast on
one another's heels that the sea never has a chance to grow calm. So
long have we rolled and tossed about that the thought, say, of a
solid, unmoving billiard-table is inconceivable. In previous
incarnations I have encountered things that did not move, but . . .
they were in previous incarnations.
We have been up to the Diego Ramirez Rocks twice in the past ten
days. At the present moment, by vague dead reckoning, we are two
hundred miles east of them. We have been hove down to our hatches
three times in the last week. We have had six stout sails, of the
heaviest canvas, furled and double-gasketed, torn loose and stripped
from the yards. Sometimes, so weak are our men, not more than half
of them can respond to the call for all hands.
Lars Jacobson, who had his leg broken early in the voyage, was
knocked down by a sea several days back and had the leg rebroken.
Ditman Olansen, the crank-eyed Norwegian, went Berserker last night
in the second dog-watch and pretty well cleaned out his half of the
forecastle. Wada reports that it required the bricklayers,
Fitzgibbon and Gilder, the Maltese Cockney, and Steve Roberts, the
cowboy, finally to subdue the madman. These are all men of Mr.
Mellaire's watch. In Mr. Pike's watch John Hackey, the San Francisco
hoodlum, who has stood out against the gangsters, has at last
succumbed and joined them. And only this morning Mr. Pike dragged
Charles Davis by the scruff of the neck out of the forecastle, where
he had caught him expounding sea-law to the miserable creatures. Mr.
Mellaire, I notice on occasion, remains unduly intimate with the
gangster clique. And yet nothing serious happens.
And Charles Davis does not die. He seems actually to be gaining in
weight. He never misses a meal. From the break of the poop, in the
shelter of the weather cloth, our decks a thunder and rush of
freezing water, I often watch him slip out of his room between seas,
mug and plate in hand, and hobble for'ard to the galley for his food.
He is a keen judge of the ship's motions, for never yet have I seen
him get a serious ducking. Sometimes, of course, he may get
splattered with spray or wet to the knees, but he manages to be out
of the way whenever a big graybeard falls on board.
A wonderful event to-day! For five minutes, at noon, the sun was
actually visible. But such a sun!--a pale and cold and sickly orb
that at meridian was only 90 degrees 18 minutes above the horizon.
And within the hour we were taking in sail and lying down to the
snow-gusts of a fresh south-west gale.
WHATEVER YOU DO, MAKE WESTING! MAKE WESTING!--this sailing rule of
the navigators for the Horn has been bitten out of iron. I can
understand why shipmasters, with a favouring slant of wind, have left
sailors, fallen overboard, to drown without heaving-to to lower a
boat. Cape Horn is iron, and it takes masters of iron to win around
from east to west.
And we make easting! This west wind is eternal. I listen
incredulously when Mr. Pike or Mr. Mellaire tells of times when
easterly winds have blown in these latitudes. It is impossible.
Always does the west wind blow, gale upon gale and gales everlasting,
else why the "Great West Wind Drift" printed on the charts! We of
the afterguard are weary of this eternal buffeting. Our men have
become pulpy, washed-out, sore-corroded shadows of men. I should not
be surprised, in the end, to see Captain West turn tail and run
eastward around the world to Seattle. But Margaret smiles with
surety, and nods her head, and affirms that her father will win
around to 50 in the Pacific.
How Charles Davis survives in that wet, freezing, paint-scabbed room
of iron in the 'midship-house is beyond me--just as it is beyond me
that the wretched sailors in the wretched forecastle do not lie down
in their bunks and die, or, at least, refuse to answer the call of
Another week has passed, and we are to-day, by observation, sixty
miles due south of the Straits of Le Maire, and we are hove-to, in a
driving gale, on the port tack. The glass is down to 28.58, and even
Mr. Pike acknowledges that it is one of the worst Cape Horn snorters
he has ever experienced.
In the old days the navigators used to strive as far south as 64
degrees or 65 degrees, into the Antarctic drift ice, hoping, in a
favouring spell, to make westing at a prodigious rate across the
extreme-narrowing wedges of longitude. But of late years all
shipmasters have accepted the hugging of the land all the way around.
Out of ten times ten thousand passages of Cape Stiff from east to
west, this, they have concluded, is the best strategy. So Captain
West hugs the land. He heaves-to on the port tack until the leeward
drift brings the land into perilous proximity, then wears ship and
heaves-to on the port tack and makes leeway off shore.
I may be weary of all this bitter movement of a labouring ship on a
frigid sea, but at the same time I do not mind it. In my brain burns
the flame of a great discovery and a great achievement. I have found
what makes all the books go glimmering; I have achieved what my very
philosophy tells me is the greatest achievement a man can make. I
have found the love of woman. I do not know whether she cares for
me. Nor is that the point. The point is that in myself I have risen
to the greatest height to which the human male animal can rise.
I know a woman and her name is Margaret. She is Margaret, a woman
and desirable. My blood is red. I am not the pallid scholar I so
proudly deemed myself to be. I am a man, and a lover, despite the
books. As for De Casseres--if ever I get back to New York, equipped
as I now am, I shall confute him with the same ease that he has
confuted all the schools. Love is the final word. To the rational
man it alone gives the super-rational sanction for living. Like
Bergson in his overhanging heaven of intuition, or like one who has
bathed in Pentecostal fire and seen the New Jerusalem, so I have trod
the materialistic dictums of science underfoot, scaled the last peak
of philosophy, and leaped into my heaven, which, after all, is within
myself. The stuff that composes me, that is I, is so made that it
finds its supreme realization in the love of woman. It is the
vindication of being. Yes, and it is the wages of being, the payment
in full for all the brittleness and frailty of flesh and breath.
And she is only a woman, like any woman, and the Lord knows I know
what women are. And I know Margaret for what she is--mere woman; and
yet I know, in the lover's soul of me, that she is somehow different.
Her ways are not as the ways of other women, and all her ways are
delightful to me. In the end, I suppose, I shall become a nest-
builder, for of a surety nest-building is one of her pretty ways.
And who shall say which is the worthier--the writing of a whole
library or the building of a nest?
The monotonous days, bleak and gray and soggy cold, drag by. It is
now a month since we began the passage of the Horn, and here we are,
not so well forward as a month ago, because we are something like a
hundred miles south of the Straits of Le Maire. Even this position
is conjectural, being arrived at by dead reckoning, based on the
leeway of a ship hove-to, now on the one tack, now on the other, with
always the Great West Wind Drift making against us. It is four days
since our last instrument-sight of the sun.
This storm-vexed ocean has become populous. No ships are getting
round, and each day adds to our number. Never a brief day passes
without our sighting from two or three to a dozen hove-to on port
tack or starboard tack. Captain West estimates there must be at
least two hundred sail of us. A ship hove-to with preventer tackles
on the rudder-head is unmanageable. Each night we take our chance of
unavoidable and disastrous collision. And at times, glimpsed through
the snow-squalls, we see and curse the ships, east-bound, that drive
past us with the West Wind and the West Wind Drift at their backs.
And so wild is the mind of man that Mr. Pike and Mr. Mellaire still
aver that on occasion they have known gales to blow ships from east
to west around the Horn. It surely has been a year since we of the
Elsinore emerged from under the lee of Tierra Del Fuego into the
snorting south-west gales. A century, at least, has elapsed since we
sailed from Baltimore.
And I don't give a snap of my fingers for all the wrath and fury of
this dim-gray sea at the tip of the earth. I have told Margaret that
I love her. The tale was told in the shelter of the weather cloth,
where we clung together in the second dog-watch last evening. And it
was told again, and by both of us, in the bright-lighted chart-room
after the watches had been changed at eight bells. Yes, and her face
was storm-bright, and all of her was very proud, save that her eyes
were warm and soft and fluttered with lids that just would flutter
maidenly and womanly. It was a great hour--our great hour.
A poor devil of a man is most lucky when, loving, he is loved.
Grievous indeed must be the fate of the lover who is unloved. And I,
for one, and for still other reasons, congratulate myself upon the
vastitude of my good fortune. For see, were Margaret any other sort
of a woman, were she . . . well, just the lovely and lovable and
adorably snuggly sort who seem made just precisely for love and
loving and nestling into the strong arms of a man--why, there
wouldn't be anything remarkable or wonderful about her loving me.
But Margaret is Margaret, strong, self-possessed, serene, controlled,
a very mistress of herself. And there's the miracle--that such a
woman should have been awakened to love by me. It is almost
unbelievable. I go out of my way to get another peep into those
long, cool, gray eyes of hers and see them grow melting soft as she
looks at me. She is no Juliet, thank the Lord; and thank the Lord I
am no Romeo. And yet I go up alone on the freezing poop, and under
my breath chant defiantly at the snorting gale, and at the graybeards
thundering down on us, that I am a lover. And I send messages to the
lonely albatrosses veering through the murk that I am a lover. And I
look at the wretched sailors crawling along the spray-swept bridge
and know that never in ten thousand wretched lives could they
experience the love I experience, and I wonder why God ever made
"And the one thing I had firmly resolved from the start," Margaret
confessed to me this morning in the cabin, when I released her from
my arms, "was that I would not permit you to make love to me."
"True daughter of Herodias," I gaily gibed, "so such was the drift of
your thoughts even as early as the very start. Already you were
looking upon me with a considerative female eye."
She laughed proudly, and did not reply.
"What possibly could have led you to expect that I would make love to
you?" I insisted.
"Because it is the way of young male passengers on long voyages," she
"Then others have . . . ?"
"They always do," she assured me gravely.
And at that instant I knew the first ridiculous pang of jealousy; but
I laughed it away and retorted:
"It was an ancient Chinese philosopher who is first recorded as
having said, what doubtlessly the cave men before him gibbered,
namely, that a woman pursues a man by fluttering away in advance of
"Wretch!" she cried. "I never fluttered. When did I ever flutter!"
"It is a delicate subject . . . " I began with assumed hesitancy.
"When did I ever flutter?" she demanded.
I availed myself of one of Schopenhauer's ruses by making a shift.
"From the first you observed nothing that a female could afford to
miss observing," I charged. "I'll wager you knew as quickly as I the
very instant when I first loved you."
"I knew the first time you hated me," she evaded.
"Yes, I know, the first time I saw you and learned that you were
coming on the voyage," I said. "But now I repeat my challenge. You
knew as quickly as I the first instant I loved you."
Oh, her eyes were beautiful, and the repose and certitude of her were
tremendous, as she rested her hand on my arm for a moment and in a
low, quiet voice said:
"Yes, I . . . I think I know. It was the morning of that pampero off
the Plate, when you were thrown through the door into my father's
stateroom. I saw it in your eyes. I knew it. I think it was the
first time, the very instant."
I could only nod my head and draw her close to me. And she looked up
at me and added:
"You were very ridiculous. There you sat, on the bed, holding on
with one hand and nursing the other hand under your arm, staring at
me, irritated, startled, utterly foolish, and then . . . how, I don't
know . . . I knew that you had just come to know . . . "
"And the very next instant you froze up," I charged ungallantly.
"And that was why," she admitted shamelessly, then leaned away from
me, her hands resting on my shoulders, while she gurgled and her lips
parted from over her beautiful white teeth.
One thing I, John Pathurst, know: that gurgling laughter of hers is
the most adorable laughter that was ever heard.
I wonder. I wonder. Did the Samurai make a mistake? Or was it the
darkness of oncoming death that chilled and clouded that star-cool
brain of his, and made a mock of all his wisdom? Or was it the
blunder that brought death upon him beforehand? I do not know, I
shall never know; for it is a matter no one of us dreams of hinting
at, much less discussing.
I shall begin at the beginning--yesterday afternoon. For it was
yesterday afternoon, five weeks to a day since we emerged from the
Straits of Le Maire into this gray storm-ocean, that once again we
found ourselves hove to directly off the Horn. At the changing of
the watches at four o'clock, Captain West gave the command to Mr.
Pike to wear ship. We were on the starboard tack at the time, making
leeway off shore. This manoeuvre placed us on the port tack, and the
consequent leeway, to me, seemed on shore, though at an acute angle,
to be sure.
In the chart-room, glancing curiously at the chart, I measured the
distance with my eye and decided that we were in the neighbourhood of
fifteen miles off Cape Horn.
"With our drift we'll be close up under the land by morning, won't
we?" I ventured tentatively.
"Yes," Captain West nodded; "and if it weren't for the West Wind
Drift, and if the land did not trend to the north-east, we'd be
ashore by morning. As it is, we'll be well under it at daylight,
ready to steal around if there is a change, ready to wear ship if
there is no change."
It did not enter my head to question his judgment. What he said had
to be. Was he not the Samurai?
And yet, a few minutes later, when he had gone below, I noticed Mr.
Pike enter the chart-house. After several paces up and down, and a
brief pause to watch Nancy and several men shift the weather cloth
from lee to weather, I strolled aft to the chart-house. Prompted by
I know not what, I peeped through one of the glass ports.
There stood Mr. Pike, his sou'wester doffed, his oilskins streaming
rivulets to the floor, while he, dividers and parallel rulers in
hand, bent over the chart. It was the expression of his face that
startled me. The habitual sourness had vanished. All that I could
see was anxiety and apprehension . . . yes, and age. I had never
seen him look so old; for there, at that moment, I beheld the wastage
and weariness of all his sixty-nine years of sea-battling and sea-
I slipped away from the port and went along the deck to the break of
the poop, where I held on and stood staring through the gray and
spray in the conjectural direction of our drift. Somewhere, there,
in the north-east and north, I knew was a broken, iron coast of rocks
upon which the graybeards thundered. And there, in the chart-room, a
redoubtable sailorman bent anxiously over a chart as he measured and
calculated, and measured and calculated again, our position and our
And I knew it could not be. It was not the Samurai but the henchman
who was weak and wrong. Age was beginning to tell upon him at last,
which could not be otherwise than expected when one considered that
no man in ten thousand had weathered age so successfully as he.
I laughed at my moment's qualm of foolishness and went below, well
content to meet my loved one and to rest secure in her father's
wisdom. Of course he was right. He had proved himself right too
often already on the long voyage from Baltimore.
At dinner Mr. Pike was quite distrait. He took no part whatever in
the conversation, and seemed always to be listening to something from
without--to the vexing clang of taut ropes that came down the hollow
jiggermast, to the muffled roar of the gale in the rigging, to the
smash and crash of the seas along our decks and against our iron
Again I found myself sharing his apprehension, although I was too
discreet to question him then, or afterwards alone, about his
trouble. At eight he went on deck again to take the watch till
midnight, and as I went to bed I dismissed all forebodings and
speculated as to how many more voyages he could last after this
sudden onslaught of old age.
I fell asleep quickly, and awoke at midnight, my lamp still burning,
Conrad's Mirror of the Sea on my breast where it had dropped from my
hands. I heard the watches change, and was wide awake and reading
when Mr. Pike came below by the booby-hatch and passed down my hail
by my open door, on his way to his room.
In the pause I had long since learned so well I knew he was rolling a
cigarette. Then I heard him cough, as he always did, when the
cigarette was lighted and the first inhalation of smoke flushed his
At twelve-fifteen, in the midst of Conrad's delightful chapter, "The
Weight of the Burden," I heard Mr. Pike come along the hall.
Stealing a glance over the top of my book, I saw him go by, sea-
booted, oilskinned, sou'westered. It was his watch below, and his
sleep was meagre in this perpetual bad weather, yet he was going on
I read and waited for an hour, but he did not return; and I knew that
somewhere up above he was staring into the driving dark. I dressed
fully, in all my heavy storm-gear, from sea-boots and sou'-wester to
sheepskin under my oilskin coat. At the foot of the stairs I noted
along the hall that Margaret's light was burning. I peeped in--she
keeps her door open for ventilation--and found her reading.
"Merely not sleepy," she assured me.
Nor in the heart of me do I believe she had any apprehension. She
does not know even now, I am confident, the Samurai's blunder--if
blunder it was. As she said, she was merely not sleepy, although
there is no telling in what occult ways she may have received though
not recognized Mr. Pike's anxiety.
At the head of the stairs, passing along the tiny hall to go out the
lee door of the chart-house, I glanced into the chart-room. On the
couch, lying on his back, his head uncomfortably high, I thought,
slept Captain West. The room was warm from the ascending heat of the
cabin, so that he lay unblanketed, fully dressed save for oilskins
and boots. He breathed easily and steadily, and the lean, ascetic
lines of his face seemed softened by the light of the low-turned
lamp. And that one glance restored to me all my surety and faith in
his wisdom, so that I laughed at myself for having left my warm bed
for a freezing trip on deck.
Under the weather cloth at the break of the poop I found Mr.
Mellaire. He was wide awake, but under no strain. Evidently it had
not entered his mind to consider, much less question, the manoeuvre
of wearing ship the previous afternoon.
"The gale is breaking," he told me, waving his mittened hand at a
starry segment of sky momentarily exposed by the thinning clouds.
But where was Mr. Pike? Did the second mate know he was on deck? I
proceeded to feel Mr. Mellaire out as we worked our way aft, along
the mad poop toward the wheel. I talked about the difficulty of
sleeping in stormy weather, stated the restlessness and semi-insomnia
that the violent motion of the ship caused in me, and raised the
query of how bad weather affected the officers.
"I noticed Captain West, in the chart-room, as I came up, sleeping
like a baby," I concluded.
We leaned in the lee of the chart-house and went no farther.
"Trust us to sleep just the same way, Mr. Pathurst," the second mate
laughed. "The harder the weather the harder the demand on us, and
the harder we sleep. I'm dead the moment my head touches the pillow.
It takes Mr. Pike longer, because he always finishes his cigarette
after he turns in. But he smokes while he's undressing, so that he
doesn't require more than a minute to go deado. I'll wager he hasn't
moved, right now, since ten minutes after twelve."
So the second mate did not dream the first was even on deck. I went
below to make sure. A small sea-lamp was burning in Mr. Pike's room,
and I saw his bunk unoccupied. I went in by the big stove in the
dining-room and warmed up, then again came on deck. I did not go
near the weather cloth, where I was certain Mr. Mellaire was; but,
keeping along the lee of the poop, I gained the bridge and started
I was in no hurry, so I paused often in that cold, wet journey. The
gale was breaking, for again and again the stars glimmered through
the thinning storm-clouds. On the 'midship-house was no Mr. Pike. I
crossed it, stung by the freezing, flying spray, and carefully
reconnoitred the top of the for'ard-house, where, in such bad
weather, I knew the lookout was stationed. I was within twenty feet
of them, when a wider clearance of starry sky showed me the figures
of the lookout, whoever he was, and of Mr. Pike, side by side. Long
I watched them, not making my presence known, and I knew that the old
mate's eyes were boring like gimlets into the windy darkness that
separated the Elsinore from the thunder-surfed iron coast he sought
Coming back to the poop I was caught by the surprised Mr. Mellaire.
"Thought you were asleep, sir," he chided.
"I'm too restless," I explained. "I've read until my eyes are tired,
and now I'm trying to get chilled so that I can fall asleep while
warming up in my blankets."
"I envy you, sir," he answered. "Think of it! So much of all night
in that you cannot sleep. Some day, if ever I make a lucky strike, I
shall make a voyage like this as a passenger, and have all watches
below. Think of it! All blessed watches below! And I shall, like
you, sir, bring a Jap servant along, and I'll make him call me at
every changing of the watches, so that, wide awake, I can appreciate
my good fortune in the several minutes before I roll over and go to
We laughed good night to each other. Another peep into the chart-
room showed me Captain West sleeping as before. He had not moved in
general, though all his body moved with every roll and fling of the
ship. Below, Margaret's light still burned, but a peep showed her
asleep, her book fallen from her hands just as was the so frequent
case with my books.
And I wondered. Half the souls of us on the Elsinore slept. The
Samurai slept. Yet the old first mate, who should have slept, kept a
bitter watch on the for'ard-house. Was his anxiety right? Could it
be right? Or was it the crankiness of ultimate age? Were we
drifting and leewaying to destruction? Or was it merely an old man
being struck down by senility in the midst of his life-task?
Too wide awake to think of sleeping, I ensconced myself with The
Mirror of the Sea at the dining-table. Nor did I remove aught of my
storm-gear save the soggy mittens, which I wrung out and hung to dry
by the stove. Four bells struck, and six bells, and Mr. Pike had not
returned below. At eight bells, with the changing of the watches, it
came upon me what a night of hardship the old mate was enduring.
Eight to twelve had been his own watch on deck. He had now completed
the four hours of the second mate's watch and was beginning his own
watch, which would last till eight in the morning--twelve consecutive
hours in a Cape Horn gale with the mercury at freezing.
Next--for I had dozed--I heard loud cries above my head that were
repeated along the poop. I did not know till afterwards that it was
Mr. Pike's command to hard-up the helm, passed along from for'ard by
the men he had stationed at intervals on the bridge.
All that I knew at this shock of waking was that something was
happening above. As I pulled on my steaming mittens and hurried my
best up the reeling stairs, I could hear the stamp of men's feet that
for once were not lagging. In the chart-house hall I heard Mr. Pike,
who had already covered the length of the bridge from the for'ard-
"Mizzen-braces! Slack, damn you! Slack on the run! But hold a
turn! Aft, here, all of you! Jump! Lively, if you don't want to
swim! Come in, port-braces! Don't let 'm get away! Lee-braces!--if
you lose that turn I'll split your skull! Lively! Lively!--Is that
helm hard over! Why in hell don't you answer?"
All this I heard as I dashed for the lee door and as I wondered why I
did not hear the Samurai's voice.
Then, as I passed the chart-room door, I saw him.
He was sitting on the couch, white-faced, one sea-boot in his hands,
and I could have sworn his hands were shaking. That much I saw, and
the next moment was out on deck.
At first, just emerged from the light, I could see nothing, although
I could hear men at the pin-rails and the mate snarling and shouting
commands. But I knew the manoeuvre. With a weak crew, in the big,
tail-end sea of a broken gale, breakers and destruction under her
lee, the Elsinore was being worn around. We had been under lower-
topsails and a reefed foresail all night. Mr. Pike's first action,
after putting the wheel up, had been to square the mizzen-yards.
With the wind-pressure thus eased aft, the stern could more easily
swing against the wind while the wind-pressure on the for'ard-sails
paid the bow off.
But it takes time to wear a ship, under short canvas, in a big sea.
Slowly, very slowly, I could feel the direction of the wind altering
against my cheek. The moon, dim at first, showed brighter and
brighter as the last shreds of a flying cloud drove away from before
it. In vain I looked for any land.
"Main-braces!--all of you!--jump!" Mr. Pike shouted, himself leading
the rush along the poop. And the men really rushed. Not in all the
months I had observed them had I seen such swiftness of energy.
I made my way to the wheel, where Tom Spink stood. He did not notice
me. With one hand holding the idle wheel, he was leaning out to one
side, his eyes fixed in a fascinated stare. I followed its
direction, on between the chart-house and the port-jigger shrouds,
and on across a mountain sea that was very vague in the moonlight.
And then I saw it! The Elsinore's stern was flung skyward, and
across that cold ocean I saw land--black rocks and snow-covered
slopes and crags. And toward this land the Elsinore, now almost
before the wind, was driving.
From the 'midship-house came the snarls of the mate and the cries of
the sailors. They were pulling and hauling for very life. Then came
Mr. Pike, across the poop, leaping with incredible swiftness, sending
his snarl before him.
"Ease that wheel there! What the hell you gawkin' at? Steady her as
I tell you. That's all you got to do!"
From for'ard came a cry, and I knew Mr. Mellaire was on top of the
for'ard-house and managing the fore-yards.
"Now!"--from Mr. Pike. "More spokes! Steady! Steady! And be ready
to check her!"
He bounded away along the poop again, shouting for men for the
mizzen-braces. And the men appeared, some of his watch, others of
the second mate's watch, routed from sleep--men coatless, and
hatless, and bootless; men ghastly-faced with fear but eager for once
to spring to the orders of the man who knew and could save their
miserable lives from miserable death. Yes--and I noted the delicate-
handed cook, and Yatsuda, the sail-maker, pulling with his one
unparalysed hand. It was all hands to save ship, and all hands knew
it. Even Sundry Buyers, who had drifted aft in his stupidity instead
of being for'ard with his own officer, forebore to stare about and to
press his abdomen. For the nonce he pulled like a youngling of
The moon covered again, and it was in darkness that the Elsinore
rounded up on the wind on the starboard tack. This, in her case,
under lower-topsails only, meant that she lay eight points from the
wind, or, in land terms, at right angles to the wind.
Mr. Pike was splendid, marvellous. Even as the Elsinore was rounding
to on the wind, while the head-yards were still being braced, and
even as he was watching the ship's behaviour and the wheel, in
between his commands to Tom Spink of "A spoke! A spoke or two!
Another! Steady! Hold her! Ease her!" he was ordering the men
aloft to loose sail. I had thought, the manoeuvre of wearing
achieved, that we were saved, but this setting of all three upper-
topsails unconvinced me.
The moon remained hidden, and to leeward nothing could be seen. As
each sail was set, the Elsinore was pressed farther and farther over,
and I realized that there was plenty of wind left, despite the fact
that the gale had broken or was breaking. Also, under this
additional canvas, I could feel the Elsinore moving through the
water. Pike now sent the Maltese Cockney to help Tom Spink at the
wheel. As for himself, he took his stand beside the booby-hatch,
where he could gauge the Elsinore, gaze to leeward, and keep his eye
on the helmsmen.
"Full and by," was his reiterated command. "Keep her a good full--a
rap-full; but don't let her fall away. Hold her to it, and drive
He took no notice whatever of me, although I, on my way to the lee of
the chart-house, stood at his shoulder a full minute, offering him a
chance to speak. He knew I was there, for his big shoulder brushed
my arm as he swayed and turned to warn the helmsmen in the one breath
to hold her up to it but to keep her full. He had neither time nor
courtesy for a passenger in such a moment.
Sheltering by the chart-house, I saw the moon appear. It grew
brighter and brighter, and I saw the land, dead to leeward of us, not
three hundred yards away. It was a cruel sight--black rock and
bitter snow, with cliffs so perpendicular that the Elsinore could
have laid alongside of them in deep water, with great gashes and
fissures, and with great surges thundering and spouting along all the
length of it.
Our predicament was now clear to me. We had to weather the bight of
land and islands into which we had drifted, and sea and wind worked
directly on shore. The only way out was to drive through the water,
to drive fast and hard, and this was borne in upon me by Mr. Pike
bounding past to the break of the poop, where I heard him shout to
Mr. Mellaire to set the mainsail.
Evidently the second mate was dubious, for the next cry of Mr. Pike's
"Damn the reef! You'd be in hell first! Full mainsail! All hands
The difference was appreciable at once when that huge spread of
canvas opposed the wind. The Elsinore fairly leaped and quivered as
she sprang to it, and I could feel her eat to windward as she at the
same time drove faster ahead. Also, in the rolls and gusts, she was
forced down till her lee-rail buried and the sea foamed level across
to her hatches. Mr. Pike watched her like a hawk, and like certain
death he watched the Maltese Cockney and Tom Spink at the wheel.
"Land on the lee bow!" came a cry from for'ard, that was carried on
from mouth to mouth along the bridge to the poop.
I saw Mr. Pike nod his head grimly and sarcastically. He had already
seen it from the lee-poop, and what he had not seen he had guessed.
A score of times I saw him test the weight of the gusts on his cheek
and with all the brain of him study the Elsinore's behaviour. And I
knew what was in his mind. Could she carry what she had? Could she
Small wonder, in this tense passage of time, that I had forgotten the
Samurai. Nor did I remember him until the chart-house door swung
open and I caught him by the arm. He steadied and swayed beside me,
while he watched that cruel picture of rock and snow and spouting
"A good full!" Mr. Pike snarled. "Or I'll eat your heart out. God
damn you for the farmer's hound you are, Tom Spink!. Ease her! Ease
her! Ease her into the big ones, damn you! Don't let her head fall
off! Steady! Where in hell did you learn to steer? What cow-farm
was you raised on?"
Here he bounded for'ard past us with those incredible leaps of his.
"It would be good to set the mizzen-topgallant," I heard Captain West
mutter in a weak, quavery voice. "Mr. Pathurst, will you please tell
Mr. Pike to set the mizzen-topgallant?"
And at that very instant Mr. Pike's voice rang out from the break of
"Mr. Mellaire!--the mizzen-topgallant!"
Captain West's head drooped until his chin rested on his breast, and
so low did he mutter that I leaned to hear.
"A very good officer," he said. "An excellent officer. Mr.
Pathurst, if you will kindly favour me, I should like to go in. I .
. . I haven't got on my boots."
The muscular feat was to open the heavy iron door and hold it open in
the rolls and plunges. This I accomplished; but when I had helped
Captain West across the high threshold he thanked me and waived
further services. And I did not know even then he was dying.
Never was a Blackwood ship driven as was the Elsinore during the next
half-hour. The full-jib was also set, and, as it departed in shreds,
the fore-topmast staysail was being hoisted. For'ard of the
'midship-house it was made unlivable by the bursting seas. Mr.
Mellaire, with half the crew, clung on somehow on top the 'midship-
house, while the rest of the crew was with us in the comparative
safety of the poop. Even Charles Davis, drenched and shivering, hung
on beside me to the brass ring-handle of the chart-house door.
Such sailing! It was a madness of speed and motion, for the Elsinore
drove over and through and under those huge graybeards that thundered
shore-ward. There were times, when rolls and gusts worked against
her at the same moment, when I could have sworn the ends of her
lower-yardarms swept the sea.
It was one chance in ten that we could claw off. All knew it, and
all knew there was nothing more to do but await the issue. And we
waited in silence. The only voice was that of the mate,
intermittently cursing, threatening, and ordering Tom Spink and the
Maltese Cockney at the wheel. Between whiles, and all the while, he
gauged the gusts, and ever his eyes lifted to the main-topgallant-
yard. He wanted to set that one more sail. A dozen times I saw him
half-open his mouth to give the order he dared not give. And as I
watched him, so all watched him. Hard-bitten, bitter-natured, sour-
featured and snarling-mouthed, he was the one man, the henchman of
the race, the master of the moment. "And where," was my thought, "O
where was the Samurai?"
One chance in ten? It was one in a hundred as we fought to weather
the last bold tooth of rock that gashed into sea and tempest between
us and open ocean. So close were we that I looked to see our far-
reeling skysail-yards strike the face of the rock. So close were we,
no more than a biscuit toss from its iron buttress, that as we sank
down into the last great trough between two seas I can swear every
one of us held breath and waited for the Elsinore to strike.
Instead we drove free. And as if in very rage at our escape, the
storm took that moment to deal us the mightiest buffet of all. The
mate felt that monster sea coming, for he sprang to the wheel ere the
blow fell. I looked for'ard, and I saw all for'ard blotted out by
the mountain of water that fell aboard. The Elsinore righted from
the shock and reappeared to the eye, full of water from rail to rail.
Then a gust caught her sails and heeled her over, spilling half the
enormous burden outboard again.
Along the bridge came the relayed cry of "Man overboard!"
I glanced at the mate, who had just released the wheel to the
helmsmen. He shook his head, as if irritated by so trivial a
happening, walked to the corner of the half-wheelhouse, and stared at
the coast he had escaped, white and black and cold in the moonlight.
Mr. Mellaire came aft, and they met beside me in the lee of the
"All hands, Mr. Mellaire," the mate said, "and get the mainsail off
of her. After that, the mizzen-topgallant."
"Yes, sir," said the second.
"Who was it?" the mate asked, as Mr. Mellaire was turning away.
"Boney--he was no good, anyway," came the answer.
That was all. Boney the Splinter was gone, and all hands were
answering the command of Mr. Mellaire to take in the mainsail. But
they never took it in; for at that moment it started to blow away out
of the bolt-ropes, and in but few moments all that was left of it was
a few short, slatting ribbons.
"Mizzen-topgallant-sail!" Mr. Pike ordered. Then, and for the first
time, he recognized my existence.
"Well rid of it," he growled. "It never did set properly. I was
always aching to get my hands on the sail-maker that made it."
On my way below a glance into the chart-room gave me the cue to the
Samurai's blunder--if blunder it can be called, for no one will ever
know. He lay on the floor in a loose heap, rolling willy-nilly with
every roll of the Elsinore.
There is so much to write about all at once. In the first place,
Captain West. Not entirely unexpected was his death. Margaret tells
me that she was apprehensive from the start of the voyage--and even
before. It was because of her apprehension that she so abruptly
changed her plans and accompanied her father.
What really happened we do not know, but the agreed surmise is that
it was some stroke of the heart. And yet, after the stroke, did he
not come out on deck? Or could the first stroke have been followed
by another and fatal one after I had helped him inside through the
door? And even so, I have never heard of a heart-stroke being
preceded hours before by a weakening of the mind. Captain West's
mind seemed quite clear, and must have been quite clear, that last
afternoon when he wore the Elsinore and started the lee-shore drift.
In which case it was a blunder. The Samurai blundered, and his heart
destroyed him when he became aware of the blunder.
At any rate the thought of blunder never enters Margaret's head. She
accepts, as a matter of course, that it was all a part of the
oncoming termination of his sickness. And no one will ever undeceive
her. Neither Mr. Pike, Mr. Mellaire, nor I, among ourselves, mention
a whisper of what so narrowly missed causing disaster. In fact, Mr.
Pike does not talk about the matter at all.--And then, again, might
it not have been something different from heart disease? Or heart
disease complicated with something else that obscured his mind that
afternoon before his death? Well, no one knows, and I, for one,
shall not sit, even in secret judgment, on the event.
At midday of the day we clawed off Tierra Del Fuego the Elsinore was
rolling in a dead calm, and all afternoon she rolled, not a score of
miles off the land. Captain West was buried at four o'clock, and at
eight bells that evening Mr. Pike assumed command and made a few
remarks to both watches. They were straight-from-the-shoulder
remarks, or, as he called them, they were "brass tacks."
Among other things he told the sailors that they had another boss,
and that they would toe the mark as they never had before. Up to
this time they had been loafing in an hotel, but from this time on
they were going to work.
"On this hooker, from now on," he perorated, "it's going to be like
old times, when a man jumped the last day of the voyage as well as
the first. And God help the man that don't jump. That's all.
Relieve the wheel and lookout."
And yet the men are in terribly wretched condition. I don't see how
they can jump. Another week of westerly gales, alternating with
brief periods of calm, has elapsed, making a total of six weeks off
the Horn. So weak are the men that they have no spirit left in them-
-not even the gangsters. And so afraid are they of the mate that
they really do their best to jump when he drives them, and he drives
them all the time. Mr. Mellaire shakes his head.
"Wait till they get around and up into better weather," he astonished
me by telling me the other afternoon. "Wait till they get dried out,
and rested up, with more sleep, and their sores healed, and more
flesh on their bones, and more spunk in their blood--then they won't
stand for this driving. Mr. Pike can't realize that times have
changed, sir, and laws have changed, and men have changed. He's an
old man, and I know what I am talking about."
"You mean you've been listening to the talk of the men?" I challenged
rashly, all my gorge rising at the unofficerlike conduct of this
The shot went home, for, in a flash, that suave and gentle film of
light vanished from the surface of the eyes, and the watching,
fearful thing that lurked behind inside the skull seemed almost to
leap out at me, while the cruel gash of mouth drew thinner and
crueller. And at the same time, on my inner sight, was grotesquely
limned a picture of a brain pulsing savagely against the veneer of
skin that covered that cleft of skull beneath the dripping sou'-
wester. Then he controlled himself, the mouth-gash relaxed, and the
suave and gentle film drew again across the eyes.
"I mean, sir," he said softly, "that I am speaking out of a long sea
experience. Times have changed. The old driving days are gone. And
I trust, Mr. Pathurst, that you will not misunderstand me in the
matter, nor misinterpret what I have said."
Although the conversation drifted on to other and calmer topics, I
could not ignore the fact that he had not denied listening to the
talk of the men. And yet, even as Mr. Pike grudgingly admits, he is
a good sailorman and second mate save for his unholy intimacy with
the men for'ard--an intimacy which even the Chinese cook and the
Chinese steward deplore as unseamanlike and perilous.
Even though men like the gangsters are so worn down by hardship that
they have no heart of rebellion, there remain three of the frailest
for'ard who will not die, and who are as spunky as ever. They are
Andy Fay, Mulligan Jacobs, and Charles Davis. What strange, abysmal
vitality informs them is beyond all speculation. Of course, Charles
Davis should have been overside with a sack of coal at his feet long
ago. And Andy Fay and Mulligan Jacobs are only, and have always
been, wrecked and emaciated wisps of men. Yet far stronger men than
they have gone over the side, and far stronger men than they are laid
up right now in absolute physical helplessness in the soggy
forecastle bunks. And these two bitter flames of shreds of things
stand all their watches and answer all calls for both watches.
Yes; and the chickens have something of this same spunk of life in
them. Featherless, semi-frozen despite the oil-stove, sprayed
dripping on occasion by the frigid seas that pound by sheer weight
through canvas tarpaulins, nevertheless not a chicken has died. Is
it a matter of selection? Are these the iron-vigoured ones that
survived the hardships from Baltimore to the Horn, and are fitted to
survive anything? Then for a De Vries to take them, save them, and
out of them found the hardiest breed of chickens on the planet! And
after this I shall always query that phrase, most ancient in our
language--"chicken-hearted." Measured by the Elsinore's chickens, it
is a misnomer.
Nor are our three Horn Gypsies, the storm-visitors with the dreaming,
topaz eyes, spunkless. Held in superstitious abhorrence by the rest
of the crew, aliens by lack of any word of common speech,
nevertheless they are good sailors and are always first to spring
into any enterprise of work or peril. They have gone into Mr.
Mellaire's watch, and they are quite apart from the rest of the
sailors. And when there is a delay, or wait, with nothing to do for
long minutes, they shoulder together, and stand and sway to the heave
of deck, and dream far dreams in those pale, topaz eyes, of a
country, I am sure, where mothers, with pale, topaz eyes and sandy
hair, birth sons and daughters that breed true in terms of topaz eyes
and sandy hair.
But the rest of the crew! Take the Maltese Cockney. He is too
keenly intelligent, too sharply sensitive, successfully to endure.
He is a shadow of his former self. His cheeks have fallen in. Dark
circles of suffering are under his eyes, while his eyes, Latin and
English intermingled, are cavernously sunken and as bright-burning as
if aflame with fever.
Tom Spink, hard-fibred Anglo-Saxon, good seaman that he is, long
tried and always proved, is quite wrecked in spirit. He is whining
and fearful. So broken is he, though he still does his work, that he
is prideless and shameless.
"I'll never ship around the Horn again, sir," he began on me the
other day when I greeted him good morning at the wheel. "I've sworn
it before, but this time I mean it. Never again, sir. Never again."
"Why did you swear it before?" I queried.
"It was on the Nahoma, sir, four years ago. Two hundred and thirty
days from Liverpool to 'Frisco. Think of it, sir. Two hundred and
thirty days! And we was loaded with cement and creosote, and the
creosote got loose. We buried the captain right here off the Horn.
The grub gave out. Most of us nearly died of scurvy. Every man Jack
of us was carted to hospital in 'Frisco. It was plain hell, sir,
that's what it was, an' two hundred and thirty days of it."
"Yet here you are," I laughed; "signed on another Horn voyage."
And this morning Tom Spink confided the following tome:
"If only we'd lost the carpenter, sir, instead of Boney."
I did not catch his drift for the moment; then I remembered. The
carpenter was the Finn, the Jonah, the warlock who played tricks with
the winds and despitefully used poor sailormen.
Yes, and I make free to confess that I have grown well weary of this
eternal buffeting by the Great West Wind. Nor are we alone in our
travail on this desolate ocean. Never a day does the gray thin, or
the snow-squalls cease that we do not sight ships, west-bound like
ourselves, hove-to and trying to hold on to the meagre westing they
possess. And occasionally, when the gray clears and lifts, we see a
lucky ship, bound east, running before it and reeling off the miles.
I saw Mr. Pike, yesterday, shaking his fist in a fury of hatred at
one such craft that flew insolently past us not a quarter of a mile
And the men are jumping. Mr. Pike is driving with those block-square
fists of his, as many a man's face attests. So weak are they, and so
terrible is he, that I swear he could whip either watch single-
handed. I cannot help but note that Mr. Mellaire refuses to take
part in this driving. Yet I know that he is a trained driver, and
that he was not averse to driving at the outset of the voyage. But
now he seems bent on keeping on good terms with the crew. I should
like to know what Mr. Pike thinks of it, for he cannot possibly be
blind to what is going on; but I am too well aware of what would
happen if I raised the question. He would insult me, snap my head
off, and indulge in a three-days' sea-grouch. Things are sad and
monotonous enough for Margaret and me in the cabin and at table,
without invoking the blight of the mate's displeasure.
Another brutal sea-superstition vindicated. From now on and for
always these imbeciles of ours will believe that Finns are Jonahs.
We are west of the Diego de Ramirez Rocks, and we are running west at
a twelve-knot clip with an easterly gale at our backs. And the
carpenter is gone. His passing, and the coming of the easterly wind,
It was yesterday morning, as he helped me to dress, that I was struck
by the solemnity of Wada's face. He shook his head lugubriously as
he broke the news. The carpenter was missing. The ship had been
searched for him high and low. There just was no carpenter.
"What does the steward think?" I asked. "What does Louis think?--and
"The sailors, they kill 'm carpenter sure," was the answer. "Very
bad ship this. Very bad hearts. Just the same pig, just the same
dog. All the time kill. All the time kill. Bime-by everybody kill.
The old steward, at work in his pantry, grinned at me when I
mentioned the matter.
"They make fool with me, I fix 'em," he said vindictively. "Mebbe
they kill me, all right; but I kill some, too."
He threw back his coat, and I saw, strapped to the left side of his
body, in a canvas sheath, so that the handle was ready to hand, a
meat knife of the heavy sort that butchers hack with. He drew it
forth- it was fully two feet long--and, to demonstrate its razor-
edge, sliced a sheet of newspaper into many ribbons.
"Huh!" he laughed sardonically. "I am Chink, monkey, damn fool, eh?-
-no good, eh? all rotten damn to hell. I fix 'em, they make fool
And yet there is not the slightest evidence of foul play. Nobody
knows what happened to the carpenter. There are no clues, no traces.
The night was calm and snowy. No seas broke on board. Without doubt
the clumsy, big-footed, over-grown giant of a boy is overside and
dead. The question is: did he go over of his own accord, or was he
At eight o'clock Mr. Pike proceeded to interrogate the watches. He
stood at the break of the poop, in the high place, leaning on the
rail and gazing down at the crew assembled on the main deck beneath
Man after man he questioned, and from each man came the one story.
They knew no more about it than did we--or so they averred.
"I suppose you'll be chargin' next that I hove that big lummux
overboard with me own hands," Mulligan Jacobs snarled, when he was
questioned. "An' mebbe I did, bein' that husky an' rampagin' bull-
The mate's face grew more forbidding and sour, but without comment he
passed on to John Hackey, the San Francisco hoodlum.
It was an unforgettable scene--the mate in the high place, the men,
sullen and irresponsive, grouped beneath. A gentle snow drifted
straight down through the windless air, while the Elsinore, with
hollow thunder from her sails, rolled down on the quiet swells so
that the ocean lapped the mouths of her scuppers with long-drawn,
shuddering sucks and sobs. And all the men swayed in unison to the
rolls, their hands in mittens, their feet in sack-wrapped sea-boots,
their faces worn and sick. And the three dreamers with the topaz
eyes stood and swayed and dreamed together, incurious of setting and
And then it came--the hint of easterly air. The mate noted it first.
I saw him start and turn his cheek to the almost imperceptible
draught. Then I felt it. A minute longer he waited, until assured,
when, the dead carpenter forgotten, he burst out with orders to the
wheel and the crew. And the men jumped, though in their weakness the
climb aloft was slow and toilsome; and when the gaskets were off the
topgallant-sails and the men on deck were hoisting yards and sheeting
home, those aloft were loosing the royals.
While this work went on, and while the yards were being braced
around, the Elsinore, her bow pointing to the west, began moving
through the water before the first fair wind in a month and a half.
Slowly that light air fanned to a gentle breeze while all the time
the snow fell steadily. The barometer, down to 28.80, continued to
fall, and the breeze continued to grow upon itself. Tom Spink,
passing by me on the poop to lend a hand at the final finicky
trimming of the mizzen-yards, gave me a triumphant look.
Superstition was vindicated. Events had proved him right. Fair wind
had come with the going of the carpenter, which said warlock had
incontestably taken with him overside his bag of wind-tricks.
Mr. Pike strode up and down the poop, rubbing his hands, which he was
too disdainfully happy to mitten, chuckling and grinning to himself,
glancing at the draw of every sail, stealing adoring looks astern
into the gray of snow out of which blew the favouring wind. He even
paused beside me to gossip for a moment about the French restaurants
of San Francisco and how, therein, the delectable California fashion
of cooking wild duck obtained.
"Throw 'em through the fire," he chanted. "That's the way--throw 'em
through the fire--a hot oven, sixteen minutes--I take mine fourteen,
to the second--an' squeeze the carcasses."
By midday the snow had ceased and we were bowling along before a
stiff breeze. At three in the afternoon we were running before a
growing gale. It was across a mad ocean we tore, for the mounting
sea that made from eastward bucked into the West End Drift and
battled and battered down the huge south-westerly swell. And the big
grinning dolt of a Finnish carpenter, already food for fish and bird,
was astern there somewhere in the freezing rack and drive.
Make westing! We ripped it off across these narrowing degrees of
longitude at the southern tip of the planet where one mile counts for
two. And Mr. Pike, staring at his bending topgallant-yards, swore
that they could carry away for all he cared ere he eased an inch of
canvas. More he did. He set the huge crojack, biggest of all sails,
and challenged God or Satan to start a seam of it or all its seams.
He simply could not go below. In such auspicious occasions all
watches were his, and he strode the poop perpetually with all age-lag
banished from his legs. Margaret and I were with him in the chart-
room when he hurrahed the barometer, down to 28.55 and falling. And
we were near him, on the poop, when he drove by an east-bound lime-
juicer, hove-to under upper-topsails. We were a biscuit-toss away,
and he sprang upon the rail at the jigger-shrouds and danced a war-
dance and waved his free arm, and yelled his scorn and joy at their
discomfiture to the several oilskinned figures on the stranger
Through the pitch-black night we continued to drive. The crew was
sadly frightened, and I sought in vain, in the two dog-watches, for
Tom Spink, to ask him if he thought the carpenter, astern, had opened
wide the bag-mouth and loosed all his tricks. For the first time I
saw the steward apprehensive.
"Too much," he told me, with ominous rolling head. "Too much sail,
rotten bad damn all to hell. Bime-by, pretty quick, all finish. You
"They talk about running the easting down," Mr. Pike chortled to me,
as we clung to the poop-rail to keep from fetching away and breaking
ribs and necks. "Well, this is running your westing down if anybody
should ride up in a go-devil and ask you."
It was a wretched, glorious night. Sleep was impossible--for me, at
any rate. Nor was there even the comfort of warmth. Something had
gone wrong with the big cabin stove, due to our wild running, I
fancy, and the steward was compelled to let the fire go out. So we
are getting a taste of the hardship of the forecastle, though in our
case everything is dry instead of soggy or afloat. The kerosene
stoves burned in our state room, but so smelly was mine that I
preferred the cold.
To sail on one's nerve in an over-canvassed harbour cat-boat is all
the excitement any glutton can desire. But to sail, in the same
fashion, in a big ship off the Horn, is incredible and terrible. The
Great West Wind Drift, setting squarely into the teeth of the
easterly gale, kicked up a tideway sea that was monstrous. Two men
toiled at the wheel, relieving in pairs every half-hour, and in the
face of the cold they streamed with sweat long ere their half-hour
shift was up.
Mr. Pike is of the elder race of men. His endurance is prodigious.
Watch and watch, and all watches, he held the poop.
"I never dreamed of it," he told me, at midnight, as the great gusts
tore by and as we listened for our lighter spars to smash aloft and
crash upon the deck. "I thought my last whirling sailing was past.
And here we are! Here we are!
"Lord! Lord! I sailed third mate in the little Vampire before you
were born. Fifty-six men before the mast, and the last Jack of 'em
an able seaman. And there were eight boys, an' bosuns that was
bosuns, an' sail-makers an' carpenters an' stewards an' passengers to
jam the decks. An' three driving mates of us, an' Captain Brown, the
Little Wonder. He didn't weigh a hundredweight, an' he drove us--he
drove US, three drivin' mates that learned from him what drivin' was.
"It was knock down and drag out from the start. The first hour of
puttin' the men to fair perished our knuckles. I've got the smashed
joints yet to show. Every sea-chest broke open, every sea-bag turned
out, and whiskey bottles, knuckle-dusters, sling-shots, bowie-knives,
an' guns chucked overside by the armful. An' when we chose the
watches, each man of fifty-six of 'em laid his knife on the main-
hatch an' the carpenter broke the point square off.-Yes, an' the
little Vampire only eight hundred tons. The Elsinore could carry her
on her deck. But she was ship, all ship, an' them was men's days."
Margaret, save for inability to sleep, did not mind the driving,
although Mr. Mellaire, on the other hand, admitted apprehension.
"He's got my goat," he confided to me. "It isn't right to drive a
cargo-carrier this way. This isn't a ballasted yacht. It's a coal-
hulk. I know what driving was, but it was in ships made to drive.
Our iron-work aloft won't stand it. Mr. Pathurst, I tell you frankly
that it is criminal, it is sheer murder, to run the Elsinore with
that crojack on her. You can see yourself, sir. It's an after-sail.
All its tendency is to throw her stern off and her bow up to it. And
if it ever happens, sir, if she ever gets away from the wheel for two
seconds and broaches to . . . "
"Then what?" I asked, or, rather, shouted; for all conversation had
to be shouted close to ear in that blast of gale.
He shrugged his shoulders, and all of him was eloquent with the
unuttered, unmistakable word-finish."
At eight this morning Margaret and I struggled up to the poop. And
there was that indomitable, iron old man. He had never left the deck
all night. His eyes were bright, and he appeared in the pink of
well-being. He rubbed his hands and chuckled greeting to us, and
took up his reminiscences.
"In '51, on this same stretch, Miss West, the Flying Cloud, in
twenty-four hours, logged three hundred and seventy-four miles under
her topgallant-sails. That was sailing. She broke the record, that
day, for sail an' steam."
"And what are we averaging, Mr. Pike?" Margaret queried, while her
eyes were fixed on the main deck, where continually one rail and then
the other dipped under the ocean and filled across from rail to rail,
only to spill out and take in on the next roll.
"Thirteen for a fair average since five o'clock yesterday afternoon,"
he exulted. "In the squalls she makes all of sixteen, which is going
some, for the Elsinore."
"I'd take the crojack off if I had charge," Margaret criticised.
"So would I, so would I, Miss West," he replied; "if we hadn't been
six weeks already off the Horn."
She ran her eyes aloft, spar by spar, past the spars of hollow steel
to the wooden royals, which bent in the gusts like bows in some
invisible archer's hands.
"They're remarkably good sticks of timber," was her comment.
"Well may you say it, Miss West," he agreed. "I'd never a-believed
they'd a-stood it myself. But just look at 'm! Just look at 'm!"
There was no breakfast for the men. Three times the galley had been
washed out, and the men, in the forecastle awash, contented
themselves with hard tack and cold salt horse. Aft, with us, the
steward scalded himself twice ere he succeeded in making coffee over
At noon we picked up a ship ahead, a lime-juicer, travelling in the
same direction, under lower-topsails and one upper-topsail. The only
one of her courses set was the foresail.
The way that skipper's carryin' on is shocking," Mr. Pike sneered.
"He should be more cautious, and remember God, the owners, the
underwriters, and the Board of Trade."
Such was our speed that in almost no time we were up with the
stranger vessel and passing her. Mr. Pike was like a boy just loosed
from school. He altered our course so that we passed her a hundred
yards away. She was a gallant sight, but, such was our speed, she
appeared standing still. Mr. Pike jumped upon the rail and insulted
those on her poop by extending a rope's end in invitation to take a
Margaret shook her head privily to me as she gazed at our bending
royal-yards, but was caught in the act by Mr. Pike, who cried out:
"What kites she won't carry she can drag!"
An hour later I caught Tom Spink, just relieved from his shift at the
wheel and weak from exhaustion.
"What do you think now of the carpenter and his bag of tricks?" I
"Lord lumme, it should a-ben the mate, sir," was his reply.
By five in the afternoon we had logged 314 miles since five the
previous day, which was two over an average of thirteen knots for
twenty-four consecutive hours.
"Now take Captain Brown of the little Vampire," Mr. Pike grinned to
me, for our sailing made him good-natured. "He never would take in
until the kites an' stu'n'sails was about his ears. An' when she was
blown' her worst an' we was half-fairly shortened down, he'd turn in
for a snooze, an' say to us, 'Call me if she moderates.' Yes, and
I'll never forget the night when I called him an' told him that
everything on top the houses had gone adrift, an' that two of the
boats had been swept aft and was kindling-wood against the break of
the cabin. 'Very well, Mr. Pike,' he says, battin' his eyes and
turnin' over to go to sleep again. 'Very well, Mr. Pike,' says he.
'Watch her. An' Mr. Pike . . .' 'Yes, sir,' says I. 'Give me a
call, Mr. Pike, when the windlass shows signs of comin' aft.' That's
what he said, his very words, an' the next moment, damme, he was
It is now midnight, and, cunningly wedged into my bunk, unable to
sleep, I am writing these lines with flying dabs of pencil at my pad.
And no more shall I write, I swear, until this gale is blown out, or
we are blown to Kingdom Come.
The days have passed and I have broken my resolve; for here I am
again writing while the Elsinore surges along across a magnificent,
smoky, dusty sea. But I have two reasons for breaking my word.
First, and minor, we had a real dawn this morning. The gray of the
sea showed a streaky blue, and the cloud-masses were actually pink-
tipped by a really and truly sun.
Second, and major, WE ARE AROUND THE HORN! We are north of 50 in the
Pacific, in Longitude 80.49, with Cape Pillar and the Straits of
Magellan already south of east from us, and we are heading north-
north-west. WE ARE AROUND THE HORN! The profound significance of
this can be appreciated only by one who has wind-jammed around from
east to west. Blow high, blow low, nothing can happen to thwart us.
No ship north of 50 was ever blown back. From now on it is plain
sailing, and Seattle suddenly seems quite near.
All the ship's company, with the exception of Margaret, is better
spirited. She is quiet, and a little down, though she is anything
but prone to the wastage of grief. In her robust, vital philosophy
God's always in heaven. I may describe her as being merely subdued,
and gentle, and tender. And she is very wistful to receive gentle
consideration and tenderness from me. She is, after all, the genuine
woman. She wants the strength that man has to give, and I flatter
myself that I am ten times a stronger man than I was when the voyage
began, because I am a thousand times a more human man since I told
the books to go hang and began to revel in the human maleness of the
man that loves a woman and is loved.
Returning to the ship's company. The rounding of the Horn, the
better weather that is continually growing better, the easement of
hardship and toil and danger, with the promise of the tropics and of
the balmy south-east trades before them--all these factors contribute
to pick up our men again. The temperature has already so moderated
that the men are beginning to shed their surplusage of clothing, and
they no longer wrap sacking about their sea-boots. Last evening, in
the second dog-watch, I heard a man actually singing.
The steward has discarded the huge, hacking knife and relaxed to the
extent of engaging in an occasional sober romp with Possum. Wada's
face is no longer solemnly long, and Louis' Oxford accent is more
mellifluous than ever. Mulligan Jacobs and Andy Fay are the same
venomous scorpions they have always been. The three gangsters, with
the clique they lead, have again asserted their tyrrany and thrashed
all the weaklings and feeblings in the forecastle. Charles Davis
resolutely refuses to die, though how he survived that wet and
freezing room of iron through all the weeks off the Horn has elicited
wonder even from Mr. Pike, who has a most accurate knowledge of what
men can stand and what they cannot stand.
How Nietzsche, with his eternal slogan of "Be hard! Be hard!" would
have delighted in Mr. Pike!
And--oh!--Larry has had a tooth removed. For some days distressed
with a jumping toothache, he came aft to the mate for relief. Mr.
Pike refused to "monkey" with the "fangled" forceps in the medicine-
chest. He used a tenpenny nail and a hammer in the good old way to
which he was brought up. I vouch for this. I saw it done. One blow
of the hammer and the tooth was out, while Larry was jumping around
holding his jaw. It is a wonder it wasn't fractured. But Mr. Pike
avers he has removed hundreds of teeth by this method and never known
a fractured jaw. Also, he avers he once sailed with a skipper who
shaved every Sunday morning and never touched a razor, nor any
cutting-edge, to his face. What he used, according to Mr. Pike, was
a lighted candle and a damp towel. Another candidate for Nietzsche's
immortals who are hard!
As for Mr. Pike himself, he is the highest-spirited, best-conditioned
man on board. The driving to which he subjected the Elsinore was
meat and drink. He still rubs his hands and chuckles over the memory
"Huh!" he said to me, in reference to the crew; "I gave 'em a taste
of real old-fashioned sailing. They'll never forget this hooker--at
least them that don't take a sack of coal overside before we reach
"You mean you think we'll have more sea-burials?" I inquired.
He turned squarely upon me, and squarely looked me in the eyes for
the matter of five long seconds.
"Huh!" he replied, as he turned on his heel. "Hell ain't begun to
pop on this hooker."
He still stands his mate's watch, alternating with Mr. Mellaire, for
he is firm in his conviction that there is no man for'ard fit to
stand a second mate's watch. Also, he has kept his old quarters.
Perhaps it is out of delicacy for Margaret; for I have learned that
it is the invariable custom for the mate to occupy the captain's
quarters when the latter dies. So Mr. Mellaire still eats by himself
in the big after-room, as he has done since the loss of the
carpenter, and bunks as before in the 'midship-house with Nancy.
Mr. Mellaire was right. The men would not accept the driving when
the Elsinore won to easier latitudes. Mr. Pike was right. Hell had
not begun to pop. But it has popped now, and men are overboard
without even the kindliness of a sack of coal at their feet. And yet
the men, though ripe for it, did not precipitate the trouble. It was
Mr. Mellaire. Or, rather, it was Ditman Olansen, the crank-eyed
Norwegian. Perhaps it was Possum. At any rate, it was an accident,
in which the several-named, including Possum, played their respective
To begin at the beginning. Two weeks have elapsed since we crossed
50, and we are now in 37--the same latitude as San Francisco, or, to
be correct, we are as far south of the equator as San Francisco is
north of it. The trouble was precipitated yesterday morning shortly
after nine o'clock, and Possum started the chain of events that
culminated in downright mutiny. It was Mr. Mellaire's watch, and he
was standing on the bridge, directly under the mizzen-top, giving
orders to Sundry Buyers, who, with Arthur Deacon and the Maltese
Cockney, was doing rigging work aloft.
Get the picture and the situation in all its ridiculousness. Mr.
Pike, thermometer in hand, was coming back along the bridge from
taking the temperature of the coal in the for'ard hold. Ditman
Olansen was just swinging into the mizzen-top as he went up with
several turns of rope over one shoulder. Also, in some way, to the
end of this rope was fastened a sizable block that might have weighed
ten pounds. Possum, running free, was fooling around the chicken-
coop on top the 'midship-house. And the chickens, featherless but
indomitable, were enjoying the milder weather as they pecked at the
grain and grits which the steward had just placed in their feeding-
trough. The tarpaulin that covered their pen had been off for
Now observe. I am at the break of the poop, leaning on the rail and
watching Ditman Olansen swing into the top with his cumbersome
burden. Mr. Pike, proceeding aft, has just passed Mr. Mellaire.
Possum, who, on account of the Horn weather and the tarpaulin, has
not seen the chickens for many weeks, is getting reacquainted, and is
investigating them with that keen nose of his. And a hen's beak,
equally though differently keen, impacts on Possum's nose, which is
as sensitive as it is keen.
I may well say, now that I think it over, that it was this particular
hen that started the mutiny. The men, well-driven by Mr. Pike, were
ripe for an explosion, and Possum and the hen laid the train.
Possum fell away backwards from the coop and loosed a wild cry of
pain and indignation. This attracted Ditman Olansen's attention. He
paused and craned his neck out in order to see, and, in this moment
of carelessness, the block he was carrying fetched away from him
along with the several turns of rope around his shoulder. Both the
mates sprang away to get out from under. The rope, fast to the block
and following it, lashed about like a blacksnake, and, though the
block fell clear of Mr. Mellaire, the bight of the rope snatched off
Mr. Pike had already started an oath aloft when his eyes caught sight
of the terrible cleft in Mr. Mellaire's head. There it was, for all
the world to read, and Mr. Pike's and mine were the only eyes that
could read it. The sparse hair upon the second mate's crown served
not at all to hide the cleft. It began out of sight in the thicker
hair above the ears, and was exposed nakedly across the whole dome of
The stream of abuse for Ditman Olansen was choked in Mr. Pike's
throat. All he was capable of for the moment was to stare,
petrified, at that enormous fissure flanked at either end with a
thatch of grizzled hair. He was in a dream, a trance, his great
hands knotting and clenching unconsciously as he stared at the mark
unmistakable by which he had said that he would some day identify the
murderer of Captain Somers. And in that moment I remembered having
heard him declare that some day he would stick his fingers in that
Still as in a dream, moving slowly, right hand outstretched like a
talon, with the fingers drawn downward, he advanced on the second
mate with the evident intention of thrusting his fingers into that
cleft and of clawing and tearing at the brain-life beneath that
pulsed under the thin film of skin.
The second mate backed away along the bridge, and Mr. Pike seemed
partially to come to himself. His outstretched arm dropped to his
side, and he paused.
"I know you," he said, in a strange, shaky voice, blended of age and
passion. "Eighteen years ago you were dismasted off the Plate in the
Cyrus Thompson. She foundered, after you were on your beam ends and
lost your sticks. You were in the only boat that was saved. Eleven
years ago, on the Jason Harrison, in San Francisco, Captain Somers
was beaten to death by his second mate. This second mate was a
survivor of the Cyrus Thompson. This second mate'd had his skull
split by a crazy sea-cook. Your skull is split. This second mate's
name was Sidney Waltham. And if you ain't Sidney Waltham . . . "
At this point Mr. Mellaire, or, rather, Sidney Waltham, despite his
fifty years, did what only a sailor could do. He went over the
bridge-rail side-wise, caught the running gear up-and-down the
mizzen-mast, and landed lightly on his feet on top of Number Three
hatch. Nor did he stop there. He ran across the hatch and dived
through the doorway of his room in the 'midship-house.
Such must have been Mr. Pike's profundity of passion, that he paused
like a somnambulist, actually rubbed his eyes with the back of his
hand, and seemed to awaken.
But the second mate had not run to his room for refuge. The next
moment he emerged, a thirty-two Smith and Wesson in his hand, and the
instant he emerged he began shooting.
Mr. Pike was wholly himself again, and I saw him perceptibly pause
and decide between the two impulses that tore at him. One was to
leap over the bridge-rail and down at the man who shot at him; the
other was to retreat. He retreated. And as he bounded aft along the
narrow bridge the mutiny began. Arthur Deacon, from the mizzen-top,
leaned out and hurled a steel marlin-spike at the fleeing mate. The
thing flashed in the sunlight as it hurtled down. It missed Mr. Pike
by twenty feet and nearly impaled Possum, who, afraid of firearms,
was wildly rushing and ki-yi-ing aft. It so happened that the sharp
point of the marlin-spike struck the wooden floor of the bridge, and
it penetrated the planking with such force that after it had fetched
to a standstill it vibrated violently for long seconds.
I confess that I failed to observe a tithe of what occurred during
the next several minutes. Piece together as I will, after the event,
I know that I missed much of what took place. I know that the men
aloft in the mizzen descended to the deck, but I never saw them
descend. I know that the second mate emptied the chambers of his
revolver, but I did not hear all the shots. I know that Lars Johnson
left the wheel, and on his broken leg, rebroken and not yet really
mended, limped and scuttled across the poop, down the ladder, and
gained for'ard. I know he must have limped and scuttled on that bad
leg of his; I know that I must have seen him; and yet I swear that I
have no impression of seeing him.
I do know that I heard the rush of feet of men from for'ard along the
main deck. And I do know that I saw Mr. Pike take shelter behind the
steel jiggermast. Also, as the second mate manoeuvred to port on top
of Number Three hatch for his last shot, I know that I saw Mr. Pike
duck around the corner of the chart-house to starboard and get away
aft and below by way of the booby-hatch. And I did hear that last
futile shot, and the bullet also as it ricochetted from the corner of
the steel-walled chart-house.
As for myself, I did not move. I was too interested in seeing. It
may have been due to lack of presence of mind, or to lack of
habituation to an active part in scenes of quick action; but at any
rate I merely retained my position at the break of the poop and
looked on. I was the only person on the poop when the mutineers, led
by the second mate and the gangsters, rushed it. I saw them swarm up
the ladder, and it never entered my head to attempt to oppose them.
Which was just as well, for I would have been killed for my pains,
and I could never have stopped them.
I was alone on the poop, and the men were quite perplexed to find no
enemy in sight. As Bert Rhine went past, he half fetched up in his
stride, as if to knife me with the sheath knife, sharp-pointed, which
he carried in his right hand; then, and I know I correctly measured
the drift of his judgment, he unflatteringly dismissed me as
unimportant and ran on.
Right here I was impressed by the lack of clear-thinking on any of
their parts. So spontaneously had the ship's company exploded into
mutiny that it was dazed and confused even while it acted. For
instance, in the months since we left Baltimore there had never been
a moment, day or night, even when preventer tackles were rigged, that
a man had not stood at the wheel. So habituated were they to this,
that they were shocked into consternation at sight of the deserted
wheel. They paused for an instant to stare at it. Then Bert Rhine,
with a quick word and gesture, sent the Italian, Guido Bombini,
around the rear of the half-wheelhouse. The fact that he completed
the circuit was proof that nobody was there.
Again, in the swift rush of events, I must confess that I saw but
little. I was aware that more of the men were climbing up the ladder
and gaining the poop, but I had no eyes for them. I was watching
that sanguinary group aft near the wheel and noting the most
important thing, namely, that it was Bert Rhine, the gangster, and
not the second mate, who gave orders and was obeyed.
He motioned to the Jew, Isaac Chantz, who had been wounded earlier in
the voyage by O'Sullivan, and Chantz led the way to the starboard
chart-house door. While this was going on, all in flashing fractions
of seconds, Bert Rhine was cautiously inspecting the lazarette
through the open booby-hatch.
Isaac Chantz jerked open the chart-house door, which swung outward.
Things did happen so swiftly! As he jerked the iron door open a two-
foot hacking butcher knife, at the end of a withered, yellow hand,
flashed out and down on him. It missed head and neck, but caught him
on top of the left shoulder.
All hands recoiled before this, and the Jew reeled across to the
rail, his right hand clutching at his wound, and between the fingers
I could see the blood welling darkly. Bert Rhine abandoned his
inspection of the booby-hatch, and, with the second mate, the latter
still carrying his empty Smith & Wesson, sprang into the press about
the chart-house door.
O wise, clever, cautious, old Chinese steward! He made no emergence.
The door swung emptily back and forth to the rolling of the Elsinore,
and no man knew but what, just inside, with that heavy, hacking knife
upraised, lurked the steward. And while they hesitated and stared at
the aperture that alternately closed and opened with the swinging of
the door, the booby-hatch, situated between chart-house and wheel,
erupted. It was Mr. Pike, with his .44 automatic Colt.
There were shots fired, other than by him. I know I heard them, like
"red-heads" at an old-time Fourth of July; but I do not know who
discharged them. All was mess and confusion. Many shots were being
fired, and through the uproar I heard the reiterant, monotonous
explosions from the Colt's .44
I saw the Italian, Mike Cipriani, clutch savagely at his abdomen and
sink slowly to the deck. Shorty, the Japanese half-caste, clown that
he was, dancing and grinning on the outskirts of the struggle, with a
final grimace and hysterical giggle led the retreat across the poop
and down the poop-ladder. Never had I seen a finer exemplification
of mob psychology. Shorty, the most unstable-minded of the
individuals who composed this mob, by his own instability
precipitated the retreat in which the mob joined. When he broke
before the steady discharge of the automatic in the hand of the mate,
on the instant the rest broke with him. Least-balanced, his balance
was the balance of all of them.
Chantz, bleeding prodigiously, was one of the first on Shorty's
heels. I saw Nosey Murphy pause long enough to throw his knife at
the mate. The missile went wide, with a metallic clang struck the
brass tip of one of the spokes of the Elsinore's wheel, and clattered
on the deck. The second mate, with his empty revolver, and Bert
Rhine with his sheath-knife, fled past me side by side.
Mr. Pike emerged from the booby-hatch and with an unaimed shot
brought down Bill Quigley, one of the "bricklayers," who fell at my
feet. The last man off the poop was the Maltese Cockney, and at the
top of the ladder he paused to look back at Mr. Pike, who, holding
the automatic in both hands, was taking careful aim. The Maltese
Cockney, disdaining the ladder, leaped through the air to the main
deck. But the Colt merely clicked. It was the last bullet in it
that had fetched down Bill Quigley.
And the poop was ours.