Part 6 out of 7
Events still crowded so closely that I missed much. I saw the
steward, belligerent and cautious, his long knife poised for a slash,
emerge from the chart-house. Margaret followed him, and behind her
came Wada, who carried my .22 Winchester automatic rifle. As he told
me afterwards, he had brought it up under instructions from her.
Mr. Pike was glancing with cool haste at his Colt to see whether it
was jammed or empty, when Margaret asked him the course.
"By the wind," he shouted to her, as he bounded for'ard. "Put your
helm hard up or we'll be all aback."
Ah!--yeoman and henchman of the race, he could not fail in his
fidelity to the ship under his command. The iron of all his years of
iron training was there manifest. While mutiny spread red, and death
was on the wing, he could not forget his charge, the ship, the
Elsinore, the insensate fabric compounded of steel and hemp and woven
cotton that was to him glorious with personality.
Margaret waved Wada in my direction as she ran to the wheel. As Mr.
Pike passed the corner of the chart-house, simultaneously there was a
report from amidships and the ping of a bullet against the steel
wall. I saw the man who fired the shot. It was the cowboy, Steve
As for the mate, he ducked in behind the sheltering jiggermast, and
even as he ducked his left hand dipped into his side coat-pocket, so
that when he had gained shelter it was coming out with a fresh clip
of cartridges. The empty clip fell to the deck, the loader clip
slipped up the hollow butt, and he was good for eight more shots.
Wada turned the little automatic rifle over to me, where I still
stood under the weather cloth at the break of the poop.
"All ready," he said. "You take off safety."
"Get Roberts," Mr. Pike called to me. "He's the best shot for'ard.
If you can't get 'm, jolt the fear of God into him anyway."
It was the first time I had a human target, and let me say, here and
now, that I am convinced I am immune to buck fever. There he was
before me, less than a hundred feet distant, in the gangway between
the door to Davis' room and the starboard-rail, manoeuvring for
another shot at Mr. Pike.
I must have missed Steve Roberts that first time, but I came so near
him that he jumped. The next instant he had located me and turned
his revolver on me. But he had no chance. My little automatic was
discharging as fast as I could tickle the trigger with my fore-
finger. The cowboy's first shot went wild of me, because my bullet
arrived ere he got his swift aim. He swayed and stumbled backward,
but the bullets--ten of them--poured from the muzzle of my Winchester
like water from a garden hose. It was a stream of lead I played upon
him. I shall never know how many times I hit him, but I am confident
that after he had begun his long staggering fall at least three
additional bullets entered him ere he impacted on the deck. And even
as he was falling, aimlessly and mechanically, stricken then with
death, he managed twice again to discharge his weapon.
And after he struck the deck he never moved. I do believe he died in
As I held up my gun and gazed at the abruptly-deserted main-deck I
was aware of Wada's touch on my arm. I looked. In his hand were a
dozen little .22 long, soft-nosed, smokeless cartridges. He wanted
me to reload. I threw on the safety, opened the magazine, and tilted
the rifle so that he could let the fresh cartridges of themselves
slide into place.
"Get some more," I told him.
Scarcely had he departed on the errand when Bill Quigley, who lay at
my feet, created a diversion. I jumped--yes, and I freely confess
that I yelled--with startle and surprise, when I felt his paws clutch
my ankles and his teeth shut down on the calf of my leg.
It was Mr. Pike to the rescue. I understand now the Western
hyperbole of "hitting the high places." The mate did not seem in
contact with the deck. My impression was that he soared through the
air to me, landing beside me, and, in the instant of landing, kicking
out with one of those big feet of his. Bill Quigley was kicked clear
away from me, and the next moment he was flying overboard. It was a
clean throw. He never touched the rail.
Whether Mike Cipriani, who, till then, had lain in a welter, began
crawling aft in quest of safety, or whether he intended harm to
Margaret at the wheel, we shall never know; for there was no
opportunity given him to show his purpose. As swiftly as Mr. Pike
could cross the deck with those giant bounds, just that swiftly was
the Italian in the air and following Bill Quigley overside.
The mate missed nothing with those eagle eyes of his as he returned
along the poop. Nobody was to be seen on the main deck. Even the
lookout had deserted the forecastle-head, and the Elsinore, steered
by Margaret, slipped a lazy two knots through the quiet sea. Mr.
Pike was apprehensive of a shot from ambush, and it was not until
after a scrutiny of several minutes that he put his pistol into his
side coat-pocket and snarled for'ard:
"Come out, you rats! Show your ugly faces! I want to talk with
Guido Bombini, gesticulating peaceable intentions and evidently
thrust out by Bert Rhine, was the first to appear. When it was
observed that Mr. Pike did not fire, the rest began to dribble into
view. This continued till all were there save the cook, the two
sail-makers, and the second mate. The last to come out were Tom
Spink, the boy Buckwheat, and Herman Lunkenheimer, the good-natured
but simple-minded German; and these three came out only after
repeated threats from Bert Rhine, who, with Nosey Murphy and Kid
Twist, was patently in charge. Also, like a faithful dog, Guido
Bombini fawned close to him.
"That will do--stop where you are," Mr. Pike commanded, when the crew
was scattered abreast, to starboard and to port, of Number Three
It was a striking scene. MUTINY ON THE HIGH SEAS! That phrase,
learned in boyhood from my Marryatt and Cooper, recrudesced in my
brain. This was it--mutiny on the high seas in the year nineteen
thirteen--and I was part of it, a perishing blond whose lot was cast
with the perishing but lordly blonds, and I had already killed a man.
Mr. Pike, in the high place, aged and indomitable; leaned his arm on
the rail at the break of the poop and gazed down at the mutineers,
the like of which I'll wager had never been assembled in mutiny
before. There were the three gangsters and ex-jailbirds, anything
but seamen, yet in control of this affair that was peculiarly an
affair of the sea. With them was the Italian hound, Bombini, and
beside them were such strangely assorted men as Anton Sorensen, Lars
Jacobsen, Frank Fitzgibbon, and Richard Giller--also Arthur Deacon
the white slaver, John Hackey the San Francisco hoodlum, the Maltese
Cockney, and Tony the suicidal Greek.
I noticed the three strange ones, shouldering together and standing
apart from the others as they swayed to the lazy roll and dreamed
with their pale, topaz eyes. And there was the Faun, stone deaf but
observant, straining to understand what was taking place. Yes, and
Mulligan Jacobs and Andy Fay were bitterly and eagerly side by side,
and Ditman Olansen, crank-eyed, as if drawn by some affinity of
bitterness, stood behind them, his head appearing between their
heads. Farthest advanced of all was Charles Davis, the man who by
all rights should long since be dead, his face with its wax-like
pallor startlingly in contrast to the weathered faces of the rest.
I glanced back at Margaret, who was coolly steering, and she smiled
to me, and love was in her eyes--she, too, of the perishing and
lordly race of blonds, her place the high place, her heritage
government and command and mastery over the stupid lowly of her kind
and over the ruck and spawn of the dark-pigmented breeds.
"Where's Sidney Waltham?" the mate snarled. "I want him. Bring him
out. After that, the rest of you filth get back to work, or God have
mercy on you."
The men moved about restlessly, shuffling their feet on the deck.
"Sidney Waltham, I want you--come out!" Mr. Pike called, addressing
himself beyond them to the murderer of the captain under whom once he
The prodigious old hero! It never entered his head that he was not
the master of the rabble there below him. He had but one idea, an
idea of passion, and that was his desire for vengeance on the
murderer of his old skipper.
"You old stiff!" Mulligan Jacobs snarled back.
"Shut up, Mulligan!" was Bert Rhine's command, in receipt of which he
received a venomous stare from the cripple.
"Oh, ho, my hearty," Mr. Pike sneered at the gangster. "I'll take
care of your case, never fear. In the meantime, and right now, fetch
out that dog."
Whereupon he ignored the leader of the mutineers and began calling,
"Waltham, you dog, come out! Come out, you sneaking cur! Come out!"
ANOTHER LUNATIC, was the thought that flashed through my mind;
another lunatic, the slave of a single idea. He forgets the mutiny,
his fidelity to the ship, in his personal thirst for vengeance.
But did he? Even as he forgot and called his heart's desire, which
was the life of the second mate, even then, without intention,
mechanically, his sailor's considerative eye lifted to note the draw
of the sails and roved from sail to sail. Thereupon, so reminded, he
returned to his fidelity.
"Well?" he snarled at Bert Rhine. "Go on and get for'ard before I
spit on you, you scum and slum. I'll give you and the rest of the
rats two minutes to return to duty."
And the leader, with his two fellow-gangsters, laughed their weird,
"I guess you'll listen to our talk, first, old horse," Bert Rhine
retorted. "--Davis, get up now and show what kind of a spieler you
are. Don't get cold feet. Spit it out to Foxy Grandpa an' tell 'm
"You damned sea-lawyer!" Mr. Pike snarled as Davis opened his mouth
Bert Rhine shrugged his shoulders, and half turned on his heel as if
to depart, as he said quietly:
"Oh, well, if you don't want to talk . . . "
Mr. Pike conceded a point.
"Go on!" he snarled. "Spit the dirt out of your system, Davis; but
remember one thing: you'll pay for this, and you'll pay through the
nose. Go on!"
The sea-lawyer cleared his throat in preparation.
"First of all, I ain't got no part in this," he began.
"I'm a sick man, an' I oughta be in my bunk right now. I ain't fit
to be on my feet. But they've asked me to advise 'em on the law, an'
I have advised 'em--"
"And the law--what is it?" Mr. Pike broke in.
But Davis was uncowed.
"The law is that when the officers is inefficient, the crew can take
charge peaceably an' bring the ship into port. It's all law an' in
the records. There was the Abyssinia, in eighteen ninety-two, when
the master'd died of fever and the mates took to drinkin'--"Go on!"
Mr. Pike shut him off. "I don't want your citations. What d'ye
want? Spit it out."
"Well--and I'm talkin' as an outsider, as a sick man off duty that's
been asked to talk--well, the point is our skipper was a good one,
but he's gone. Our mate is violent, seekin' the life of the second
mate. We don't care about that. What we want is to get into port
with our lives. An' our lives is in danger. We ain't hurt nobody.
You've done all the bloodshed. You've shot an' killed an' thrown two
men overboard, as witnesses'll testify to in court. An' there's
Roberts, there, dead, too, an' headin' for the sharks--an' what for?
For defendin' himself from murderous an' deadly attack, as every man
can testify an' tell the truth, the whole truth, an' nothin' but the
truth, so help 'm, God--ain't that right, men?"
A confused murmur of assent arose from many of them.
"You want my job, eh?" Mr. Pike grinned. "An' what are you goin' to
do with me?"
"You'll be taken care of until we get in an' turn you over to the
lawful authorities," Davis answered promptly. "Most likely you can
plead insanity an' get off easy."
At this moment I felt a stir at my shoulder. It was Margaret, armed
with the long knife of the steward, whom she had put at the wheel.
"You've got another guess comin', Davis," Mr. Pike said. "I've got
no more talk with you. I'm goin' to talk to the bunch. I'll give
you fellows just two minutes to choose, and I'll tell you your
choices. You've only got two choices. You'll turn the second mate
over to me an' go back to duty and take what's comin' to you, or
you'll go to jail with the stripes on you for long sentences. You've
got two minutes. The fellows that want jail can stand right where
they are. The fellows that don't want jail and are willin' to work
faithful, can walk right back to me here on the poop. Two minutes,
an' you can keep your jaws stopped while you think over what it's
goin' to be."
He turned his head to me and said in an undertone, "Be ready with
that pop-gun for trouble. An' don't hesitate. Slap it into 'em--the
swine that think they can put as raw a deal as this over on us."
It was Buckwheat who made the first move; but so tentative was it
that it got no farther than a tensing of the legs and a sway forward
of the shoulders. Nevertheless it was sufficient to start Herman
Lunkenheimer, who thrust out his foot and began confidently to walk
aft. Kid Twist gained him in a single spring, and Kid Twist, his
wrist under the German's throat from behind; his knee pressed into
the German's back, bent the man backward and held him. Even as the
rifle came to my shoulder, the hound Bombini drew his knife directly
beneath Kid Twist's wrist across the up-stretched throat of the man.
It was at this instant that I heard Mr. Pike's "Plug him!" and pulled
the trigger; and of all ungodly things the bullet missed and caught
the Faun, who staggered back, sat down on the hatch, and began to
cough. And even as he coughed he still strained with pain-eloquent
eyes to try to understand.
No other man moved. Herman Lunkenheimer, released by Kid Twist, sank
down on the deck. Nor did I shoot again. Kid Twist stood again by
the side of Bert Rhine and Guido Bombini fawned near.
Bert Rhine actually visibly smiled.
"Any more of you guys want to promenade aft?" he queried in velvet
"Two minutes up," Mr. Pike declared.
"An' what are you goin' to do about it, Grandpa?" Bert Rhine sneered.
In a flash the big automatic was out of the mate's pocket and he was
shooting as fast as he could pull trigger, while all hands fled to
shelter. But, as he had long since told me, he was no shot and could
effectively use the weapon only at close range--muzzle to stomach
As we stared at the main deck, deserted save for the dead cowboy on
his back and for the Faun who still sat on the hatch and coughed, an
eruption of men occurred over the for'ard edge of the 'midship-house.
"Shoot!" Margaret cried at my back.
"Don't!" Mr. Pike roared at me.
The rifle was at my shoulder when I desisted. Louis, the cook, led
the rush aft to us across the top of the house and along the bridge.
Behind him, in single file and not wasting any time, came the
Japanese sail-makers, Henry the training-ship boy, and the other boy
Buckwheat. Tom Spink brought up the rear. As he came up the ladder
of the 'midship-house somebody from beneath must have caught him by a
leg in an effort to drag him back. We saw half of him in sight and
knew that he was struggling and kicking. He fetched clear abruptly,
gained the top of the house in a surge, and raced aft along the
bridge until he overtook and collided with Buckwheat, who yelled out
in fear that a mutineer had caught him.
We who are aft, besieged in the high place, are stronger in numbers
than I dreamed until now, when I have just finished taking the ship's
census. Of course Margaret, Mr. Pike, and myself are apart. We
alone represent the ruling class. With us are servants and serfs,
faithful to their salt, who look to us for guidance and life.
I use my words advisedly. Tom Spink and Buckwheat are serfs and
nothing else. Henry, the training-ship boy, occupies an anomalous
classification. He is of our kind, but he can scarcely be called
even a cadet of our kind. He will some day win to us and become a
mate or a captain, but in the meantime, of course, his past is
against him. He is a candidate, rising from the serf class to our
class. Also, he is only a youth, the iron of his heredity not yet
tested and proven.
Wada, Louis, and the steward are servants of Asiatic breed. So are
the two Japanese sail-makers--scarcely servants, not to be called
slaves, but something in between.
So, all told, there are eleven of us aft in the citadel. But our
followers are too servant-like and serf-like to be offensive
fighters. They will help us defend the high place against all
attack; but they are incapable of joining with us in an attack on the
other end of the ship. They will fight like cornered rats to
preserve their lives; but they will not advance like tigers upon the
enemy. Tom Spink is faithful but spirit-broken. Buckwheat is
hopelessly of the stupid lowly. Henry has not yet won his spurs. On
our side remain Margaret, Mr. Pike, and myself. The rest will hold
the wall of the poop and fight thereon to the death, but they are not
to be depended upon in a sortie.
At the other end of the ship--and I may as well give the roster, are:
the second mate, either to be called Mellaire or Waltham, a strong
man of our own breed but a renegade; the three gangsters, killers and
jackals, Bert Rhine, Nosey Murphy, and Kid Twist; the Maltese Cockney
and Tony the crazy Greek; Frank Fitzgibbon and Richard Giller, the
survivors of the trio of "bricklayers"; Anton Sorensen and Lars
Jacobsen, stupid Scandinavian sailor-men; Ditman Olansen, the crank-
eyed Berserk; John Hackey and Arthur Deacon, respectively hoodlum and
white slaver; Shorty, the mixed-breed clown; Guido Bombini, the
Italian hound; Andy Pay and Mulligan Jacobs, the bitter ones; the
three topaz-eyed dreamers, who are unclassifiable; Isaac Chantz, the
wounded Jew; Bob, the overgrown dolt; the feeble-minded Faun, lung-
wounded; Nancy and Sundry Buyers, the two hopeless, helpless bosuns;
and, finally, the sea-lawyer, Charles Davis.
This makes twenty-seven of them against the eleven of us. But there
are men, strong in viciousness, among them. They, too, have their
serfs and bravos. Guido Bombini and Isaac Chantz are certainly
bravos. And weaklings like Sorensen, and Jacobsen, and Bob, cannot
be anything else than slaves to the men who compose the gangster
I failed to tell what happened yesterday, after Mr. Pike emptied his
automatic and cleared the deck. The poop was indubitably ours, and
there was no possibility of the mutineers making a charge on us in
broad daylight. Margaret had gone below, accompanied by Wada, to see
to the security of the port and starboard doors that open from the
cabin directly on the main deck. These are still caulked and tight
and fastened on the inside, as they have been since the passage of
Cape Horn began.
Mr. Pike put one of the sail-makers at the wheel, and the steward,
relieved and starting below, was attracted to the port quarter, where
the patent log that towed astern was made fast. Margaret had
returned his knife to him, and he was carrying it in his hand when
his attention was attracted astern to our wake. Mike Cipriani and
Bill Quigley had managed to catch the lazily moving log-line and were
clinging to it. The Elsinore was moving just fast enough to keep
them on the surface instead of dragging them under. Above them and
about them circled curious and hungry albatrosses, Cape hens, and
mollyhawks. Even as I glimpsed the situation one of the big birds, a
ten-footer at least, with a ten-inch beak to the fore, dropped down
on the Italian. Releasing his hold with one hand, he struck with his
knife at the bird. Feathers flew, and the albatross, deflected by
the blow, fell clumsily into the water.
Quite methodically, just as part of the day's work, the steward
chopped down with his knife, catching the log-line between the steel
edge and the rail. At once, no longer buoyed up by the Elsinore's
two-knot drag ahead, the wounded men began to swim and flounder. The
circling hosts of huge sea-birds descended upon them, with
carnivorous beaks striking at their heads and shoulders and arms. A
great screeching and squawking arose from the winged things of prey
as they strove for the living meat. And yet, somehow, I was not very
profoundly shocked. These were the men whom I had seen eviscerate
the shark and toss it overboard, and shout with joy as they watched
it devoured alive by its brethren. They had played a violent, cruel
game with the things of life, and the things of life now played upon
them the same violent, cruel game. As they that rise by the sword
perish by the sword, just so did these two men who had lived cruelly
"Oh, well," was Mr. Pike's comment, "we've saved two sacks of mighty
Certainly our situation might be worse. We are cooking on the coal-
stove and on the oil-burners. We have servants to cook and serve for
us. And, most important of all, we are in possession of all the food
on the Elsinore.
Mr. Pike makes no mistake. Realizing that with our crowd we cannot
rush the crowd at the other end of the ship, he accepts the siege,
which, as he says, consists of the besieged holding all food supplies
while the besiegers are on the imminent edge of famine.
"Starve the dogs," he growls. "Starve 'm until they crawl aft and
lick our shoes. Maybe you think the custom of carrying the stores
aft just happened. Only it didn't. Before you and I were born it
was long-established and it was established on brass tacks. They
knew what they were about, the old cusses, when they put the grub in
Louis says there is not more than three days' regular whack in the
galley; that the barrel of hard-tack in the forecastle will quickly
go; and that our chickens, which they stole last night from the top
of the 'midship-house, are equivalent to no more than an additional
day's supply. In short, at the outside limit, we are convinced the
men will be keen to talk surrender within the week.
We are no longer sailing. In last night's darkness we helplessly
listened to the men loosing headsail-halyards and letting yards go
down on the run. Under orders of Mr. Pike I shot blindly and many
times into the dark, but without result, save that we heard the
bullets of answering shots strike against the chart-house. So to-day
we have not even a man at the wheel. The Elsinore drifts idly on an
idle sea, and we stand regular watches in the shelter of chart-house
and jiggermast. Mr. Pike says it is the laziest time he has had on
the whole voyage.
I alternate watches with him, although when on duty there is little
to be done, save, in the daytime, to stand rifle in hand behind the
jiggermast, and, in the night, to lurk along the break of the poop.
Behind the chart-house, ready to repel assault, are my watch of four
men: Tom Spink, Wada, Buckwheat, and Louis. Henry, the two Japanese
sail-makers, and the old steward compose Mr. Pike's watch.
It is his orders that no one for'ard is to be allowed to show
himself, so, to-day, when the second mate appeared at the corner of
the 'midship-house, I made him take a quick leap back with the thud
of my bullet against the iron wall a foot from his head. Charles
David tried the same game and was similarly stimulated.
Also, this evening, after dark, Mr. Pike put block-and-tackle on the
first section of the bridge, heaved it out of place, and lowered it
upon the poop. Likewise he hoisted in the ladder at the break of the
poop that leads down to the main deck. The men will have to do some
climbing if they ever elect to rush us.
I am writing this in my watch below. I came off duty at eight
o'clock, and at midnight I go on deck to stay till four to-morrow
morning. Wada shakes his head and says that the Blackwood Company
should rebate us on the first-class passage paid in advance. We are
working our passage, he contends.
Margaret takes the adventure joyously. It is the first time she has
experienced mutiny, but she is such a thorough sea-woman that she
appears like an old hand at the game. She leaves the deck to the
mate and me; but, still acknowledging his leadership, she has taken
charge below and entirely manages the commissary, the cooking, and
the sleeping arrangements. We still keep our old quarters, and she
has bedded the new-comers in the big after-room with blankets issued
from the slop-chest.
In a way, from the standpoint of her personal welfare, the mutiny is
the best thing that could have happened to her. It has taken her
mind off her father and filled her waking hours with work to do.
This afternoon, standing above the open booby-hatch, I heard her
laugh ring out as in the old days coming down the Atlantic. Yes, and
she hums snatches of songs under her breath as she works. In the
second dog-watch this evening, after Mr. Pike had finished dinner and
joined us on the poop, she told him that if he did not soon re-rig
his phonograph she was going to start in on the piano. The reason
she advanced was the psychological effect such sounds of revelry
would have on the starving mutineers.
The days pass, and nothing of moment happens. We get nowhere. The
Elsinore, without the steadying of her canvas, rolls emptily and
drifts a lunatic course. Sometimes she is bow on to the wind, and at
other times she is directly before it; but at all times she is
circling vaguely and hesitantly to get somewhere else than where she
is. As an illustration, at daylight this morning she came up into
the wind as if endeavouring to go about. In the course of half an
hour she worked off till the wind was directly abeam. In another
half hour she was back into the wind. Not until evening did she
manage to get the wind on her port bow; but when she did, she
immediately paid off, accomplished the complete circle in an hour,
and recommenced her morning tactics of trying to get into the wind.
And there is nothing for us to do save hold the poop against the
attack that is never made. Mr. Pike, more from force of habit than
anything else, takes his regular observations and works up the
Elsinore's position. This noon she was eight miles east of
yesterday's position, yet to-day's position, in longitude, was within
a mile of where she was four days ago. On the other hand she
invariably makes nothing at the rate of seven or eight miles a day.
Aloft, the Elsinore is a sad spectacle. All is confusion and
disorder. The sails, unfurled, are a slovenly mess along the yards,
and many loose ends sway dismally to every roll. The only yard that
is loose is the main-yard. It is fortunate that wind and wave are
mild, else would the iron-work carry away and the mutineers find the
huge thing of steel about their ears.
There is one thing we cannot understand. A week has passed, and the
men show no signs of being starved into submission. Repeatedly and
in vain has Mr. Pike interrogated the hands aft with us. One and
all, from the cook to Buckwheat, they swear they have no knowledge of
any food for'ard, save the small supply in the galley and the barrel
of hardtack in the forecastle. Yet it is very evident that those
for'ard are not starving. We see the smoke from the galley-stove and
can only conclude that they have food to cook.
Twice has Bert Rhine attempted a truce, but both times his white
flag, as soon as it showed above the edge of the 'midship-house, was
fired upon by Mr. Pike. The last occurrence was two days ago. It is
Mr. Pike's intention thoroughly to starve them into submission, but
now he is beginning to worry about their mysterious food supply.
Mr. Pike is not quite himself. He is obsessed, I know beyond any
doubt, with the idea of vengeance on the second mate. On divers
occasions, now, I have come unexpectedly upon him and found him
muttering to himself with grim set face, or clenching and unclenching
his big square fists and grinding his teeth. His conversation
continually runs upon the feasibility of our making a night attack
for'ard, and he is perpetually questioning Tom Spink and Louis on
their ideas of where the various men may be sleeping--the point of
which always is: WHERE IS THE SECOND MATE LIKELY TO BE SLEEPING?
No later than yesterday afternoon did he give me most positive proof
of his obsession. It was four o'clock, the beginning of the first
dog-watch, and he had just relieved me. So careless have we grown,
that we now stand in broad daylight at the exposed break of the poop.
Nobody shoots at us, and, occasionally, over the top of the for'ard-
house, Shorty sticks up his head and grins or makes clownish faces at
us. At such times Mr. Pike studies Shorty's features through the
telescope in an effort to find signs of starvation. Yet he admits
dolefully that Shorty is looking fleshed-up.
But to return. Mr. Pike had just relieved me yesterday afternoon,
when the second mate climbed the forecastle-head and sauntered to the
very eyes of the Elsinore, where he stood gazing overside.
"Take a crack at 'm," Mr. Pike said.
It was a long shot, and I was taking slow and careful aim, when he
touched my arm.
"No; don't," he said.
I lowered the little rifle and looked at him inquiringly.
"You might hit him," he explained. "And I want him for myself."
Life is never what we expect it to be. All our voyage from Baltimore
south to the Horn and around the Horn has been marked by violence and
death. And now that it has culminated in open mutiny there is no
more violence, much less death. We keep to ourselves aft, and the
mutineers keep to themselves for'ard. There is no more harshness, no
more snarling and bellowing of commands; and in this fine weather a
general festival obtains.
Aft, Mr. Pike and Margaret alternate with phonograph and piano; and
for'ard, although we cannot see them, a full-fledged "foo-foo" band
makes most of the day and night hideous. A squealing accordion that
Tom Spink says was the property of Mike Cipriani is played by Guido
Bombini, who sets the pace and seems the leader of the foo-foo.
There are two broken-reeded harmonicas. Someone plays a jew's-harp.
Then there are home-made fifes and whistles and drums, combs covered
with paper, extemporized triangles, and bones made from ribs of salt
horse such as negro minstrels use.
The whole crew seems to compose the band, and, like a lot of monkey-
folk rejoicing in rude rhythm, emphasizes the beat by hammering
kerosene cans, frying-pans, and all sorts of things metallic or
reverberant. Some genius has rigged a line to the clapper of the
ship's bell on the forecastle-head and clangs it horribly in the big
foo-foo crises, though Bombini can be heard censuring him severely on
occasion. And to cap it all, the fog-horn machine pumps in at the
oddest moments in imitation of a big bass viol.
And this is mutiny on the high seas! Almost every hour of my deck-
watches I listen to this infernal din, and am maddened into desire to
join with Mr. Pike in a night attack and put these rebellious and
inharmonious slaves to work.
Yet they are not entirely inharmonious. Guido Bombini has a
respectable though untrained tenor voice, and has surprised me by a
variety of selections, not only from Verdi, but from Wagner and
Massenet. Bert Rhine and his crowd are full of rag-time junk, and
one phrase that has caught the fancy of all hands, and which they
roar out at all times, is: "IT'S A BEAR! IT'S A BEAR! IT'S A
BEAR!" This morning Nancy, evidently very strongly urged, gave a
doleful rendering of Flying Cloud. Yes, and in the second dog-watch
last evening our three topaz-eyed dreamers sang some folk-song
strangely sweet and sad.
And this is mutiny! As I write I can scarcely believe it. Yet I
know Mr. Pike keeps the watch over my head. I hear the shrill
laughter of the steward and Louis over some ancient Chinese joke.
Wada and the sail-makers, in the pantry, are, I know, talking
Japanese politics. And from across the cabin, along the narrow
halls, I can hear Margaret softly humming as she goes to bed.
But all doubts vanish at the stroke of eight bells, when I go on deck
to relieve Mr. Pike, who lingers a moment for a "gain," as he calls
"Say," he said confidentially, "you and I can clean out the whole
gang. All we got to do is sneak for'ard and turn loose. As soon as
we begin to shoot up, half of 'em'll bolt aft--lobsters like Nancy,
an' Sundry Buyers, an' Jacobsen, an' Bob, an' Shorty, an' them three
castaways, for instance. An' while they're doin' that, an' our bunch
on the poop is takin' 'em in, you an' me can make a pretty big hole
in them that's left. What d'ye say?"
I hesitated, thinking of Margaret.
"Why, say," he urged, "once I jumped into that fo'c's'le, at close
range, I'd start right in, blim-blam-blim, fast as you could wink,
nailing them gangsters, an' Bombini, an' the Sheeny, an' Deacon, an'
the Cockney, an' Mulligan Jacobs, an' . . . an' . . . Waltham."
"That would be mine," I smiled. "You've only eight shots in your
Mr. Pike considered a moment, and revised his list. "All right," he
agreed, "I guess I'll have to let Jacobs go. What d'ye say? Are you
Still I hesitated, but before I could speak he anticipated me and
returned to his fidelity.
"No, you can't do it, Mr. Pathurst. If by any luck they got the both
of us . . . No; we'll just stay aft and sit tight until they're
starved to it . . . But where they get their tucker gets me. For'ard
she's as bare as a bone, as any decent ship ought to be, and yet look
at 'em, rolling hog fat. And by rights they ought to a-quit eatin' a
Yes, it is certainly mutiny. Collecting water from the leaders of
the chart-house in a shower of rain this morning, Buckwheat exposed
himself, and a long, lucky revolver-shot from for'ard caught him in
the shoulder. The bullet was small-calibre and spent ere it reached
him, so that he received no more than a flesh-wound, though he
carried on as if he were dying until Mr. Pike hushed his noise by
cuffing his ears.
I should not like to have Mr. Pike for my surgeon. He probed for the
bullet with his little finger, which was far too big for the
aperture; and with his little finger, while with his other hand he
threatened another ear-clout, he gouged out the leaden pellet. Then
he sent the boy below, where Margaret took him in charge with
antiseptics and dressings.
I see her so rarely that a half-hour alone with her these days is an
adventure. She is busy morning to night in keeping her house in
order. As I write this, through my open door I can hear her laying
the law down to the men in the after-room. She has issued
underclothes all around from the slop-chest, and is ordering them to
take a bath in the rain-water just caught. And to make sure of their
thoroughness in the matter, she has told off Louis and the steward to
supervise the operation. Also, she has forbidden them smoking their
pipes in the after-room. And, to cap everything, they are to scrub
walls, ceiling, everything, and then start to-morrow morning at
painting. All of which serves to convince me almost that mutiny does
not obtain and that I have imagined it.
But no. I hear Buckwheat blubbering and demanding how he can take a
bath in his wounded condition. I wait and listen for Margaret's
judgment. Nor am I disappointed. Tom Spink and Henry are told off
to the task, and the thorough scrubbing of Buckwheat is assured.
The mutineers are not starving. To-day they have been fishing for
albatrosses. A few minutes after they caught the first one its
carcase was flung overboard. Mr. Pike studied it through his sea-
glasses, and I heard him grit his teeth when he made certain that it
was not the mere feathers and skin but the entire carcass. They had
taken only its wing-bones to make into pipe-stems. The inference was
obvious: STARVING MEN WOULD NOT THROW MEAT AWAY IN SUCH FASHION.
But where do they get their food? It is a sea-mystery in itself,
although I might not so deem it were it not for Mr. Pike.
"I think, and think, till my brain is all frazzled out," he tells me;
"and yet I can't get a line on it. I know every inch of space on the
Elsinore, and know there isn't an ounce of grub anywhere for'ard, and
yet they eat! I've overhauled the lazarette. As near as I can make
it out, nothing is missing. Then where do they get it? That's what
I want to know. Where do they get it?"
I know that this morning he spent hours in the lazarette with the
steward and the cook, overhauling and checking off from the lists of
the Baltimore agents. And I know that they came up out of the
lazarette, the three of them, dripping with perspiration and baffled.
The steward has raised the hypothesis that, first of all, there were
extra stores left over from the previous voyage, or from previous
voyages, and, next, that the stealing of these stores must have taken
place during the night-watches when it was Mr. Pike's turn below.
At any rate, the mate takes the food mystery almost as much to heart
as he takes the persistent and propinquitous existence of Sidney
I am coming to realize the meaning of watch-and-watch. To begin
with, I spend on deck twelve hours, and a fraction more, of each
twenty-four. A fair portion of the remaining twelve is spent in
eating, in dressing, and in undressing, and with Margaret. As a
result, I feel the need for more sleep than I am getting. I scarcely
read at all, now. The moment my head touches the pillow I am asleep.
Oh, I sleep like a baby, eat like a navvy, and in years have not
enjoyed such physical well-being. I tried to read George Moore last
night, and was dreadfully bored. He may be a realist, but I solemnly
aver he does not know reality on that tight, little, sheltered-life
archipelago of his. If he could wind-jam around the Horn just one
voyage he would be twice the writer.
And Mr. Pike, for practically all of his sixty-nine years, has stood
his watch-and-watch, with many a spill-over of watches into watches.
And yet he is iron. In a struggle with him I am confident that he
would break me like so much straw. He is truly a prodigy of a man,
and, so far as to-day is concerned, an anachronism.
The Faun is not dead, despite my unlucky bullet. Henry insisted that
he caught a glimpse of him yesterday. To-day I saw him myself. He
came to the corner of the 'midship-house and gazed wistfully aft at
the poop, straining and eager to understand. In the same way I have
often seen Possum gaze at me.
It has just struck me that of our eight followers five are Asiatic
and only three are our own breed. Somehow it reminds me of India and
of Clive and Hastings.
And the fine weather continues, and we wonder how long a time must
elapse ere our mutineers eat up their mysterious food and are starved
back to work.
We are almost due west of Valparaiso and quite a bit less than a
thousand miles off the west coast of South America. The light
northerly breezes, varying from north-east to west, would, according
to Mr. Pike, work us in nicely for Valparaiso if only we had sail on
the Elsinore. As it is, sailless, she drifts around and about and
makes nowhere save for the slight northerly drift each day.
Mr. Pike is beside himself. In the past two days he has displayed
increasing possession of himself by the one idea of vengeance on the
second mate. It is not the mutiny, irksome as it is and helpless as
it makes him; it is the presence of the murderer of his old-time and
admired skipper, Captain Somers.
The mate grins at the mutiny, calls it a snap, speaks gleefully of
how his wages are running up, and regrets that he is not ashore,
where he would be able to take a hand in gambling on the reinsurance.
But the sight of Sidney Waltham, calmly gazing at sea and sky from
the forecastle-head, or astride the far end of the bowsprit and
fishing for sharks, saddens him. Yesterday, coming to relieve me, he
borrowed my rifle and turned loose the stream of tiny pellets on the
second mate, who coolly made his line secure ere he scrambled in-
board. Of course, it was only one chance in a hundred that Mr. Pike
might have hit him, but Sidney Waltham did not care to encourage the
And yet it is not like mutiny--not like the conventional mutiny I
absorbed as a boy, and which has become classic in the literature of
the sea. There is no hand-to-hand fighting, no crash of cannon and
flash of cutlass, no sailors drinking grog, no lighted matches held
over open powder-magazines. Heavens!--there isn't a single cutlass
nor a powder-magazine on board. And as for grog, not a man has had a
drink since Baltimore.
Well, it is mutiny after all. I shall never doubt it again. It may
be nineteen-thirteen mutiny on a coal-carrier, with feeblings and
imbeciles and criminals for mutineers; but at any rate mutiny it is,
and at least in the number of deaths it is reminiscent of the old
days. For things have happened since last I had opportunity to write
up this log. For that matter, I am now the keeper of the Elsinore's
official log as well, in which work Margaret helps me.
And I might have known it would happen. At four yesterday morning I
relieved Mr. Pike. When in the darkness I came up to him at the
break of the poop, I had to speak to him twice to make him aware of
my presence. And then he merely grunted acknowledgment in an absent
sort of way.
The next moment he brightened up, and was himself save that he was
too bright. He was making an effort. I felt this, but was quite
unprepared for what followed.
"I'll be back in a minute," he said, as he put his leg over the rail
and lightly and swiftly lowered himself down into the darkness.
There was nothing I could do. To cry out or to attempt to reason
with him would only have drawn the mutineers' attention. I heard his
feet strike the deck beneath as he let go. Immediately he started
for'ard. Little enough precaution he took. I swear that clear to
the 'midship-house I heard the dragging age-lag of his feet. Then
that ceased, and that was all.
I repeat. That was all. Never a sound came from for'ard. I held my
watch till daylight. I held it till Margaret came on deck with her
cheery "What ho of the night, brave mariner?" I held the next watch
(which should have been the mate's) till midday, eating both
breakfast and lunch behind the sheltering jiggermast. And I held all
afternoon, and through both dog-watches, my dinner served likewise on
And that was all. Nothing happened. The galley-stove smoked three
times, advertising the cooking of three meals. Shorty made faces at
me as usual across the rim of the for'ard-house. The Maltese Cockney
caught an albatross. There was some excitement when Tony the Greek
hooked a shark off the jib-boom, so big that half a dozen tailed on
to the line and failed to land it. But I caught no glimpse of Mr.
Pike nor of the renegade Sidney Waltham.
In short, it was a lazy, quiet day of sunshine and gentle breeze.
There was no inkling to what had happened to the mate. Was he a
prisoner? Was he already overside? Why were there no shots? He had
his big automatic. It is inconceivable that he did not use it at
least once. Margaret and I discussed the affair till we were well a-
weary, but reached no conclusion.
She is a true daughter of the race. At the end of the second dog-
watch, armed with her father's revolver, she insisted on standing the
first watch of the night. I compromised with the inevitable by
having Wada make up my bed on the deck in the shelter of the cabin
skylight just for'ard of the jiggermast. Henry, the two sail-makers
and the steward, variously equipped with knives and clubs, were
stationed along the break of the poop.
And right here I wish to pass my first criticism on modern mutiny.
On ships like the Elsinore there are not enough weapons to go around.
The only firearms now aft are Captain West's .38 Colt revolver, and
my .22 automatic Winchester. The old steward, with a penchant for
hacking and chopping, has his long knife and a butcher's cleaver.
Henry, in addition to his sheath-knife, has a short bar of iron.
Louis, despite a most sanguinary array of butcher-knives and a big
poker, pins his cook's faith on hot water and sees to it that two
kettles are always piping on top the cabin stove. Buckwheat, who on
account of his wound is getting all night in for a couple of nights,
cherishes a hatchet.
The rest of our retainers have knives and clubs, although Yatsuda,
the first sail-maker, carries a hand-axe, and Uchino, the second
sail-maker, sleeping or waking, never parts from a claw-hammer. Tom
Spink has a harpoon. Wada, however, is the genius. By means of the
cabin stove he has made a sharp pike-point of iron and fitted it to a
pole. To-morrow be intends to make more for the other men.
It is rather shuddery, however, to speculate on the terrible
assortment of cutting, gouging, jabbing and slashing weapons with
which the mutineers are able to equip themselves from the carpenter's
shop. If it ever comes to an assault on the poop there will be a
weird mess of wounds for the survivors to dress. For that matter,
master as I am of my little rifle, no man could gain the poop in the
day-time. Of course, if rush they will, they will rush us in the
night, when my rifle will be worthless. Then it will be blow for
blow, hand-to-hand, and the strongest pates and arms will win.
But no. I have just bethought me. We shall be ready for any night-
rush. I'll take a leaf out of modern warfare, and show them not only
that we are top-dog (a favourite phrase of the mate), but WHY we are
top-dog. It is simple--night illumination. As I write I work opt
the idea--gasoline, balls of oakum, caps and gunpowder from a few
cartridges, Roman candles, and flares blue, red, and green, shallow
metal receptacles to carry the explosive and inflammable stuff; and a
trigger-like arrangement by which, pulling on a string, the caps are
exploded in the gunpowder and fire set to the gasoline-soaked oakum
and to the flares and candles. It will be brain as well as brawn
against mere brawn.
I have worked like a Trojan all day, and the idea is realized.
Margaret helped me out with suggestions, and Tom Spink did the
sailorizing. Over our head, from the jiggermast, the steel stays
that carry the three jigger-trysails descend high above the break of
the poop and across the main deck to the mizzenmast. A light line
has been thrown over each stay, and been thrown repeatedly around so
as to form an unslipping knot. Tom Spink waited till dark, when he
went aloft and attached loose rings of stiff wire around the stays
below the knots. Also he bent on hoisting-gear and connected
permanent fastenings with the sliding rings. And further, between
rings and fastenings, is a slack of fifty feet of light line.
This is the idea: after dark each night we shall hoist our three
metal wash-basins, loaded with inflammables, up to the stays. The
arrangement is such that at the first alarm of a rush, by pulling a
cord the trigger is pulled that ignites the powder, and the very same
pull operates a trip-device that lets the rings slide down the steel
stays. Of course, suspended from the rings, are the illuminators,
and when they have run down the stays fifty feet the lines will
automatically bring them to rest. Then all the main deck between the
poop and the mizzen-mast will be flooded with light, while we shall
be in comparative darkness.
Of course each morning before daylight we shall lower all this
apparatus to the deck, so that the men for'ard will not guess what we
have up our sleeve, or, rather, what we have up on the trysail-stays.
Even to-day the little of our gear that has to be left standing
aroused their curiosity. Head after head showed over the edge of the
for'ard-house as they peeped and peered and tried to make out what we
were up to. Why, I find myself almost looking forward to an attack
in order to see the device work.
And what has happened to Mr. Pike remains a mystery. For that
matter, what has happened to the second mate? In the past three days
we have by our eyes taken the census of the mutineers. Every man has
been seen by us with the sole exception of Mr. Mellaire, or Sidney
Waltham, as I assume I must correctly name him. He has not appeared-
-does not appear; and we can only speculate and conjecture.
In the past three days various interesting things have taken place.
Margaret stands watch and watch with me, day and night, the clock
around; for there is no one of our retainers to whom we can entrust
the responsibility of a watch. Though mutiny obtains and we are
besieged in the high place, the weather is so mild and there is so
little call on our men that they have grown careless and sleep aft of
the chart-house when it is their watch on deck. Nothing ever
happens, and, like true sailors, they wax fat and lazy. Even have I
found Louis, the steward, and Wada guilty of cat-napping. In fact,
the training-ship boy, Henry, is the only one who has never lapsed.
Oh, yes, and I gave Tom Spink a thrashing yesterday. Since the
disappearance of the mate he had had little faith in me, and had been
showing vague signs of insolence and insubordination. Both Margaret
and I had noted it independently. Day before yesterday we talked it
"He is a good sailor, but weak," she said. "If we let him go on, he
will infect the rest."
"Very well, I'll take him in hand," I announced valorously.
"You will have to," she encouraged. "Be hard. Be hard. You must be
Those who sit in the high places must be hard, yet have I discovered
that it is hard to be hard. For instance, easy enough was it to drop
Steve Roberts as he was in the act of shooting at me. Yet it is most
difficult to be hard with a chuckle-headed retainer like Tom Spink--
especially when he continually fails by a shade to give sufficient
provocation. For twenty-four hours after my talk with Margaret I was
on pins and needles to have it out with him, yet rather than have had
it out with him I should have preferred to see the poop rushed by the
gang from the other side.
Not in a day can the tyro learn to employ the snarling immediacy of
mastery of Mr. Pike, nor the reposeful, voiceless mastery of a
Captain West. Truly, the situation was embarrassing. I was not
trained in the handling of men, and Tom Spink knew it in his chuckle-
headed way. Also, in his chuckle-headed way, he was dispirited by
the loss of the mate. Fearing the mate, nevertheless he had depended
on the mate to fetch him through with a whole skin, or at least
alive. On me he has no dependence. What chance had the gentleman
passenger and the captain's daughter against the gang for'ard? So he
must have reasoned, and, so reasoning, become despairing and
After Margaret had told me to be hard I watched Tom Spink with an
eagle eye, and he must have sensed my attitude, for he carefully
forebore from overstepping, while all the time he palpitated just on
the edge of overstepping. Yes, and it was clear that Buckwheat was
watching to learn the outcome of this veiled refractoriness. For
that matter, the situation was not being missed by our keen-eyed
Asiatics, and I know that I caught Louis several times verging on the
offence of offering me advice. But he knew his place and managed to
keep his tongue between his teeth.
At last, yesterday, while I held the watch, Tom Spink was guilty of
spitting tobacco juice on the deck.
Now it must be understood that such an act is as grave an offence of
the sea as blasphemy is of the Church.
It was Margaret who came to where I was stationed by the jiggermast
and told me what had occurred; and it was she who took my rifle and
relieved me so that I could go aft.
There was the offensive spot, and there was Tom Spink, his cheek
bulging with a quid.
"Here, you, get a swab and mop that up," I commanded in my harshest
Tom Spink merely rolled his quid with his tongue and regarded me with
sneering thoughtfulness. I am sure he was no more surprised than was
I by the immediateness of what followed. My fist went out like an
arrow from a released bow, and Tom Spink staggered back, tripped
against the corner of the tarpaulin-covered sounding-machine, and
sprawled on the deck. He tried to make a fight of it, but I followed
him up, giving him no chance to set himself or recover from the
surprise of my first onslaught.
Now it so happens that not since I was a boy have I struck a person
with my naked fist, and I candidly admit that I enjoyed the trouncing
I administered to poor Tom Spink. Yes, and in the rapid play about
the deck I caught a glimpse of Margaret. She had stepped out of the
shelter of the mast and was looking on from the corner of the chart-
house. Yes, and more; she was looking on with a cool, measuring eye.
Oh, it was all very grotesque, to be sure. But then, mutiny on the
high seas in the year nineteen-thirteen is also grotesque. No lists
here between mailed knights for a lady's favour, but merely the
trouncing of a chuckle-head for spitting on the deck of a coal-
carrier. Nevertheless, the fact that my lady looked on added zest to
my enterprise, and, doubtlessly, speed and weight to my blows, and at
least half a dozen additional clouts to the unlucky sailor.
Yes, man is strangely and wonderfully made. Now that I coolly
consider the matter, I realize that it was essentially the same
spirit with which I enjoyed beating up Tom Spink, that I have in the
past enjoyed contests of the mind in which I have out-epigrammed
clever opponents. In the one case, one proves himself top-dog of the
mind; in the other, top-dog of the muscle. Whistler and Wilde were
just as much intellectual bullies as I was a physical bully yesterday
morning when I punched Tom Spink into lying down and staying down.
And my knuckles are sore and swollen. I cease writing for a moment
to look at them and to hope that they will not stay permanently
At any rate, Tom Spink took his disciplining and promised to come in
and be good.
"Sir!" I thundered at him, quite in Mr. Pike's most bloodthirsty
"Sir," he mumbled with bleeding lips. "Yes, sir, I'll mop it up,
sir. Yes, sir."
I could scarcely keep from laughing in his face, the whole thing was
so ludicrous; but I managed to look my haughtiest, and sternest, and
fiercest, while I superintended the deck-cleansing. The funniest
thing about the affair was that I must have knocked Tom Spink's quid
down his throat, for he was gagging and hiccoughing all the time he
mopped and scrubbed.
The atmosphere aft has been wonderfully clear ever since. Tom Spink
obeys all orders on the jump, and Buckwheat jumps with equal
celerity. As for the five Asiatics, I feel that they are stouter
behind me now that I have shown masterfulness. By punching a man's
face I verily believe I have doubled our united strength. And there
is no need to punch any of the rest. The Asiatics are keen and
willing. Henry is a true cadet of the breed, Buckwheat will follow
Tom Spink's lead, and Tom Spink, a proper Anglo-Saxon peasant, will
lead Buckwheat all the better by virtue of the punching.
Two days have passed, and two noteworthy things have happened. The
men seem to be nearing the end of their mysterious food supply, and
we have had our first truce.
I have noted, through the glasses, that no more carcasses of the
mollyhawks they are now catching are thrown overboard. This means
that they have begun to eat the tough and unsavoury creatures,
although it does not mean, of course, that they have entirely
exhausted their other stores.
It was Margaret, her sailor's eye on the falling barometer and on the
"making" stuff adrift in the sky, who called my attention to a coming
"As soon as the sea rises," she said, "we'll have that loose main-
yard and all the rest of the top-hamper tumbling down on deck."
So it was that I raised the white flag for a parley. Bert Rhine and
Charles Davis came abaft the 'midship-house, and, while we talked,
many faces peered over the for'ard edge of the house and many forms
slouched into view on the deck on each side of the house.
"Well, getting tired?" was Bert Rhine's insolent greeting. "Anything
we can do for you?"
"Yes, there is," I answered sharply. "You can save your heads so
that when you return to work there will be enough of you left to do
"If you are making threats--" Charles Davis began, but was silenced
by a glare from the gangster.
"Well, what is it?" Bert Rhine demanded. "Cough it off your chest."
"It's for your own good," was my reply. "It is coming on to blow,
and all that unfurled canvas aloft will bring the yards down on your
heads. We're safe here, aft. You are the ones who will run risks,
and it is up to you to hustle your crowd aloft and make things fast
"And if we don't?" the gangster sneered.
"Why, you'll take your chances, that is all," I answered carelessly.
"I just want to call your attention to the fact that one of those
steel yards, end-on, will go through the roof of your forecastle as
if it were so much eggshell."
Bert Rhine looked to Charles Davis for verification, and the latter
"We'll talk it over first," the gangster announced.
"And I'll give you ten minutes," I returned. "If at the end of ten
minutes you've not started taking in, it will be too late. I shall
put a bullet into any man who shows himself."
"All right, we'll talk it over."
As they started to go back, I called:
They stopped and turned about.
"What have you done to Mr. Pike?" I asked.
Even the impassive Bert Rhine could not quite conceal his surprise.
"An' what have you done with Mr. Mellaire!" he retorted. "You tell
us, an' we'll tell you."
I am confident of the genuineness of his surprise. Evidently the
mutineers have been believing us guilty of the disappearance of the
second mate, just as we have been believing them guilty of the
disappearance of the first mate. The more I dwell upon it the more
it seems the proposition of the Kilkenny cats, a case of mutual
destruction on the part of the two mates.
"Another thing," I said quickly. "Where do you get your food?"
Bert Rhine laughed one of his silent laughs; Charles Davis assumed an
expression of mysteriousness and superiority; and Shorty, leaping
into view from the corner of the house, danced a jig of triumph.
I drew out my watch.
"Remember," I said, "you've ten minutes in which to make a start."
They turned and went for'ard, and, before the ten minutes were up,
all hands were aloft and stowing canvas. All this time the wind, out
of the north-west, was breezing up. The old familiar harp-chords of
a rising gale were strumming along the rigging, and the men, I verily
believe from lack of practice, were particularly slow at their work.
"It would be better if the upper-and-lower top-sails are set so that
we can heave to," Margaret suggested. "They will steady her and make
it more comfortable for us."
I seized the idea and improved upon it.
"Better set the upper and lower topsails so that we can handle the
ship," I called to the gangster, who was ordering the men about,
quite like a mate, from the top of the 'midship-house.
He considered the idea, and then gave the proper orders, although it
was the Maltese Cockney, with Nancy and Sundry Buyers under him, who
carried the orders out.
I ordered Tom Spink to the long-idle wheel, and gave him the course,
which was due east by the steering compass. This put the wind on our
port quarter, so that the Elsinore began to move through the water
before a fair breeze. And due east, less than a thousand miles away,
lay the coast of South America and the port of Valparaiso.
Strange to say, none of our mutineers objected to this, and after
dark, as we tore along before a full-sized gale, I sent my own men up
on top the chart-house to take the gaskets off the spanker. This was
the only sail we could set and trim and in every way control. It is
true the mizzen-braces were still rigged aft to the poop, according
to Horn practice. But, while we could thus trim the mizzen-yards,
the sails themselves, in setting or furling, were in the hands of the
Margaret, beside me in the darkness at the break of the poop, put her
hand in mine with a warm pressure, as both our tiny watches swayed up
the spanker and as both of us held our breaths in an effort to feel
the added draw in the Elsinore's speed.
"I never wanted to marry a sailor," she said. "And I thought I was
safe in the hands of a landsman like you. And yet here you are, with
all the stuff of the sea in you, running down your easting for port.
Next thing, I suppose, I'll see you out with a sextant, shooting the
sun or making star-observations."
Four more days have passed; the gale has blown itself out; we are not
more than three hundred and fifty miles off Valparaiso; and the
Elsinore, this time due to me and my own stubbornness, is rolling in
the wind and heading nowhere in a light breeze at the rate of nothing
but driftage per hour.
In the height of the gusts, in the three days and nights of the gale,
we logged as much as eight, and even nine, knots. What bothered me
was the acquiescence of the mutineers in my programme. They were
sensible enough in the simple matter of geography to know what I was
doing. They had control of the sails, and yet they permitted me to
run for the South American coast.
More than that, as the gale eased on the morning of the third day,
they actually went aloft, set top-gallant-sails, royals, and
skysails, and trimmed the yards to the quartering breeze. This was
too much for the Saxon streak in me, whereupon I wore the Elsinore
about before the wind, fetched her up upon it, and lashed the wheel.
Margaret and I are agreed in the hypothesis that their plan is to get
inshore until land is sighted, at which time they will desert in the
"But we don't want them to desert," she proclaims with flashing eyes.
"We are bound for Seattle. They must return to duty. They've got
to, soon, for they are beginning to starve."
"There isn't a navigator aft," I oppose.
Promptly she withers me with her scorn.
"You, a master of books, by all the sea-blood in your body should be
able to pick up the theoretics of navigation while I snap my fingers.
Furthermore, remember that I can supply the seamanship. Why, any
squarehead peasant, in a six months' cramming course at any seaport
navigation school, can pass the examiners for his navigator's papers.
That means six hours for you. And less. If you can't, after an
hour's reading and an hour's practice with the sextant, take a
latitude observation and work it out, I'll do it for you."
"You mean you know?"
She shook her head.
"I mean, from the little I know, that I know I can learn to know a
meridian sight and the working out of it. I mean that I can learn to
know inside of two hours."
Strange to say, the gale, after easing to a mild breeze, recrudesced
in a sort of after-clap. With sails untrimmed and flapping, the
consequent smashing, crashing, and rending of our gear can be
imagined. It brought out in alarm every man for'ard.
"Trim the yards!" I yelled at Bert Rhine, who, backed for counsel by
Charles Davis and the Maltese Cockney, actually came directly beneath
me on the main deck in order to hear above the commotion aloft.
"Keep a-runnin, an' you won't have to trim," the gangster shouted up
"Want to make land, eh?" I girded down at him. "Getting hungry, eh?
Well, you won't make land or anything else in a thousand years once
you get all your top-hamper piled down on deck."
I have forgotten to state that this occurred at midday yesterday.
"What are you goin' to do if we trim?" Charles Davis broke in.
"Run off shore," I replied, "and get your gang out in deep sea where
it will be starved back to duty."
"We'll furl, an' let you heave to," the gangster proposed.
I shook my head and held up my rifle. "You'll have to go aloft to do
it, and the first man that gets into the shrouds will get this."
"Then she can go to hell for all we care," he said, with emphatic
And just then the fore-topgallant-yard carried away--luckily as the
bow was down-pitched into a trough of sea-and when the slow,
confused, and tangled descent was accomplished the big stick lay
across the wreck of both bulwarks and of that portion of the bridge
between the foremast and the forecastle head.
Bert Rhine heard, but could not see, the damage wrought. He looked
up at me challengingly, and sneered:
"Want some more to come down?"
It could not have happened more apropos. The port-brace, and
immediately afterwards the starboard-brace, of the crojack-yard-
carried away. This was the big, lowest spar on the mizzen, and as
the huge thing of steel swung wildly back and forth the gangster and
his followers turned and crouched as they looked up to see. Next,
the gooseneck of the truss, on which it pivoted, smashed away.
Immediately the lifts and lower-topsail sheets parted, and with a
fore-and-aft pitch of the ship the spar up-ended and crashed to the
deck upon Number Three hatch, destroying that section of the bridge
in its fall.
All this was new to the gangster--as it was to me--but Charles Davis
and the Maltese Cockney thoroughly apprehended the situation.
"Stand out from under!" I yelled sardonically; and the three of them
cowered and shrank away as their eyes sought aloft for what new spar
was thundering down upon them.
The lower-topsail, its sheets parted by the fall of the crojack-yard,
was tearing out of the bolt-ropes and ribboning away to leeward and
making such an uproar that they might well expect its yard to carry
away. Since this wreckage of our beautiful gear was all new to me, I
was quite prepared to see the thing happen.
The gangster-leader, no sailor, but, after months at sea, intelligent
enough and nervously strong enough to appreciate the danger, turned
his head and looked up at me. And I will do him the credit to say
that he took his time while all our world of gear aloft seemed
smashing to destruction.
"I guess we'll trim yards," he capitulated.
"Better get the skysails and royals off," Margaret said in my ear.
"While you're about it, get in the skysails and royals!" I shouted
down. "And make a decent job of the gasketing!"
Both Charles Davis and the Maltese Cockney advertised their relief in
their faces as they heard my words, and, at a nod from the gangster,
they started for'ard on the run to put the orders into effect.
Never, in the whole voyage, did our crew spring to it in more lively
fashion. And lively fashion was needed to save our gear. As it was,
they cut away the remnants of the mizzen-lower-topsail with their
sheath-knives, and they loosed the main-skysail out of its bolt-
The first infraction of our agreement was on the main-lower-topsail.
This they attempted to furl. The carrying away of the crojack and
the blowing away of the mizzen-lower-topsail gave me freedom to see
and aim, and when the tiny messengers from my rifle began to spat
through the canvas and to spat against the steel of the yard, the men
strung along it desisted from passing the gaskets. I waved my will
to Bert Rhine, who acknowledged me and ordered the sail set again and
the yard trimmed.
"What is the use of running off-shore?" I said to Margaret, when the
kites were snugged down and all yards trimmed on the wind. "Three
hundred and fifty miles off the land is as good as thirty-five
hundred so far as starvation is concerned."
So, instead of making speed through the water toward deep sea, I hove
the Elsinore to on the starboard tack with no more than leeway
driftage to the west and south.
But our gallant mutineers had their will of us that very night. In
the darkness we could hear the work aloft going on as yards were run
down, sheets let go, and sails dewed up and gasketed. I did try a
few random shots, and all my reward was to hear the whine and creak
of ropes through sheaves and to receive an equally random fire of
It is a most curious situation. We of the high place are masters of
the steering of the Elsinore, while those for'ard are masters of the
motor power. The only sail that is wholly ours is the spanker. They
control absolutely--sheets, halyards, clewlines, buntlines, braces,
and down-hauls--every sail on the fore and main. We control the
braces on the mizzen, although they control the canvas on the mizzen.
For that matter, Margaret and I fail to comprehend why they do not go
aloft any dark night and sever the mizzen-braces at the yard-ends.
All that prevents this, we are decided, is laziness. For if they did
sever the braces that lead aft into our hands, they would be
compelled to rig new braces for'ard in some fashion, else, in the
rolling, would the mizzenmast be stripped of every spar.
And still the mutiny we are enduring is ridiculous and grotesque.
There was never a mutiny like it. It violates all standards and
precedents. In the old classic mutinies, long ere this, attacking
like tigers, the seamen should have swarmed over the poop and killed
most of us or been most of them killed.
Wherefore I sneer at our gallant mutineers, and recommend trained
nurses for them, quite in the manner of Mr. Pike. But Margaret
shakes her head and insists that human nature is human nature, and
that under similar circumstances human nature will express itself
similarly. In short, she points to the number of deaths that have
already occurred, and declares that on some dark night, sooner or
later, whenever the pinch of hunger sufficiently sharpens, we shall
see our rascals storming aft.
And in the meantime, except for the tenseness of it, and for the
incessant watchfulness which Margaret and I alone maintain, it is
more like a mild adventure, more like a page out of some book of
romance which ends happily.
It is surely romance, watch and watch for a man and a woman who love,
to relieve each other's watches. Each such relief is a love passage
and unforgettable. Never was there wooing like it--the muttered
surmises of wind and weather, the whispered councils, the kissed
commands in palms of hands, the dared contacts of the dark.
Oh, truly, I have often, since this voyage began, told the books to
go hang. And yet the books are at the back of the race-life of me.
I am what I am out of ten thousand generations of my kind. Of that
there is no discussion. And yet my midnight philosophy stands the
test of my breed. I must have selected my books out of the ten
thousand generations that compose me. I have killed a man--Steve
Roberts. As a perishing blond without an alphabet I should have done
this unwaveringly. As a perishing blond with an alphabet, plus the
contents in my brain of the philosophizing of all philosophers, I
have killed this same man with the same unwaveringness. Culture has
not emasculated me. I am quite unaffected. It was in the day's
work, and my kind have always been day-workers, doing the day's work,
whatever it might be, in high adventure or dull ploddingness, and
always doing it.
Never would I ask to set back the dial of time or event. I would
kill Steve Roberts again, under the same circumstances, as a matter
of course. When I say I am unaffected by this happening I do not
quite mean it. I am affected. I am aware that the spirit of me is
informed with a sober elation of efficiency. I have done something
that had to be done, as any man will do what has to be done in the
course of the day's work.
Yes, I am a perishing blond, and a man, and I sit in the high place
and bend the stupid ones to my will; and I am a lover, loving a royal
woman of my own perishing breed, and together we occupy, and shall
occupy, the high place of government and command until our kind
perish from the earth.
Margaret was right. The mutiny is not violating standards and
precedents. We have had our hands full for days and nights. Ditman
Olansen, the crank-eyed Berserker, has been killed by Wada, and the
training-ship boy, the one lone cadet of our breed, has gone overside
with the regulation sack of coal at his feet. The poop has been
rushed. My illuminating invention has proved a success. The men are
getting hungry, and we still sit in command in the high place.
First of all the attack on the poop, two nights ago, in Margaret's
watch. No; first, I have made another invention. Assisted by the
old steward, who knows, as a Chinese ought, a deal about fireworks,
and getting my materials from our signal rockets and Roman candles, I
manufactured half a dozen bombs. I don't really think they are very
deadly, and I know our extemporized fuses are slower than our voyage
is at the present time; but nevertheless the bombs have served the
purpose, as you shall see.
And now to the attempt to rush the poop. It was in Margaret's watch,
from midnight till four in the morning, when the attack was made.
Sleeping on the deck by the cabin skylight, I was very close to her
when her revolver went off, and continued to go off.
My first spring was to the tripping-lines on my illuminators. The
igniting and releasing devices worked cleverly. I pulled two of the
tripping-lines, and two of the contraptions exploded into light and
noise and at the same time ran automatically down the jigger-trysail-
stays, and automatically fetched up at the ends of their lines. The
illumination was instantaneous and gorgeous. Henry, the two sail-
makers, and the steward--at least three of them awakened from sound
sleep, I am sure--ran to join us along the break of the poop. All
the advantage lay with us, for we were in the dark, while our foes
were outlined against the light behind them.
But such light! The powder crackled, fizzed, and spluttered and
spilled out the excess of gasolene from the flaming oakum balls so
that streams of fire dripped down on the main deck beneath. And the
stuff of the signal-flares dripped red light and blue and green.
There was not much of a fight, for the mutineers were shocked by our
fireworks. Margaret fired her revolver haphazardly, while I held my
rifle for any that gained the poop. But the attack faded away as
quickly as it had come. I did see Margaret overshoot some man,
scaling the poop from the port-rail, and the next moment I saw Wada,
charging like a buffalo, jab him in the chest with the spear he had
made and thrust the boarder back and down.
That was all. The rest retreated for'ard on the dead run, while the
three trysails, furled at the foot of the stays next to the mizzen
and set on fire by the dripping gasolene, went up in flame and burned
entirely away and out without setting the rest of the ship on fire.
That is one of the virtues of a ship steel-masted and steel-stayed.
And on the deck beneath us, crumpled, twisted, face hidden so that we
could not identify him, lay the man whom Wada had speared.
And now I come to a phase of adventure that is new to me. I have
never found it in the books. In short, it is carelessness coupled
with laziness, or vice versa. I had used two of my illuminators.
Only one remained. An hour later, convinced of the movement aft of
men along the deck, I let go the third and last and with its
brightness sent them scurrying for'ard. Whether they were attacking
the poop tentatively to learn whether or not I had exhausted my
illuminators, or whether or not they were trying to rescue Ditman
Olansen, we shall never know. The point is: they did come aft; they
were compelled to retreat by my illuminator; and it was my last
illuminator. And yet I did not start in, there and then, to
manufacture fresh ones. This was carelessness. It was laziness.
And I hazarded our lives, perhaps, if you please, on a psychological
guess that I had convinced our mutineers that we had an inexhaustible
stock of illuminators in reserve.
The rest of Margaret's watch, which I shared with her, was
undisturbed. At four I insisted that she go below and turn in, but
she compromised by taking my own bed behind the skylight.
At break of day I was able to make out the body, still lying as last
I had seen it. At seven o'clock, before breakfast, and while
Margaret still slept, I sent the two boys, Henry and Buckwheat, down
to the body. I stood above them, at the rail, rifle in hand and
ready. But from for'ard came no signs of life; and the lads, between
them, rolled the crank-eyed Norwegian over so that we could recognize
him, carried him to the rail, and shoved him stiffly across and into
the sea. Wada's spear-thrust had gone clear through him.
But before twenty-four hours were up the mutineers evened the score
handsomely. They more than evened it, for we are so few that we
cannot so well afford the loss of one as they can. To begin with--
and a thing I had anticipated and for which I had prepared my bombs--
while Margaret and I ate a deck-breakfast in the shelter of the
jiggermast a number of the men sneaked aft and got under the overhang
of the poop. Buckwheat saw them coming and yelled the alarm, but it
was too late. There was no direct way to get them out. The moment I
put my head over the rail to fire at them, I knew they would fire up
at me with all the advantage in their favour. They were hidden. I
had to expose myself.
Two steel doors, tight-fastened and caulked against the Cape Horn
seas, opened under the overhang of the poop from the cabin on to the
main deck. These doors the men proceeded to attack with sledge-
hammers, while the rest of the gang, sheltered by the 'midship-house,
showed that it stood ready for the rush when the doors were battered
Inside, the steward guarded one door with his hacking knife, while
with his spear Wada guarded the other door. Nor, while I had
dispatched them to this duty, was I idle. Behind the jiggermast I
lighted the fuse of one of my extemporized bombs. When it was
sputtering nicely I ran across the poop to the break and dropped the
bomb to the main deck beneath, at the same time making an effort to
toss it in under the overhang where the men battered at the port-
door. But this effort was distracted and made futile by a popping of
several revolver shots from the gangways amidships. One IS jumpy
when soft-nosed bullets putt-putt around him. As a result, the bomb
rolled about on the open deck.
Nevertheless, the illuminators had earned the respect of the
mutineers for my fireworks. The sputtering and fizzling of the fuse
were too much for them, and from under the poop they ran for'ard like
so many scuttling rabbits. I know I could have got a couple with my
rifle had I not been occupied with lighting the fuse of a second
bomb. Margaret managed three wild shots with her revolver, and the
poop was immediately peppered by a scattering revolver fire from
Being provident (and lazy, for I have learned that it takes time and
labour to manufacture home-made bombs), I pinched off the live end of
the fuse in my hand. But the fuse of the first bomb, rolling about
on the main deck, merely fizzled on; and as I waited I resolved to
shorten my remaining fuses. Any of the men who fled, had he had the
courage, could have pinched off the fuse, or tossed the bomb
overboard, or, better yet, he could have tossed it up amongst us on
It took fully five minutes for that blessed fuse to burn its slow
length, and when the bomb did go off it was a sad disappointment. I
swear it could have been sat upon with nothing more than a jar to
one's nerves. And yet, in so far as the intimidation goes, it did
its work. The men have not since ventured under the overhang of the
That the mutineers were getting short of food was patent. The
Elsinore, sailless, drifted about that morning, the sport of wind and
wave; and the gang put many lines overboard for the catching of
molly-hawks and albatrosses. Oh, I worried the hungry fishers with
my rifle. No man could show himself for'ard without having a bullet
whop against the iron-work perilously near him. And still they
caught birds--not, however, without danger to themselves, and not
without numerous losses of birds due to my rifle.
Their procedure was to toss their hooks and bait over the rail from
shelter and slowly to pay the lines out as the slight windage of the
Elsinore's hull, spars, and rigging drifted her through the water.
When a bird was hooked they hauled in the line, still from shelter,
till it was alongside. This was the ticklish moment. The hook,
merely a hollow and acute-angled triangle of sheet-copper floating on
a piece of board at the end of the line, held the bird by pinching
its curved beak into the acute angle. The moment the line slacked
the bird was released. So, when alongside, this was the problem: to
lift the bird out of the water, straight up the side of the ship,
without once jamming and easing and slacking. When they tried to do
this from shelter invariably they lost the bird.
They worked out a method. When the bird was alongside the several
men with revolvers turned loose on me, while one man, overhauling and
keeping the line taut, leaped to the rail and quickly hove the bird
up and over and inboard. I know this long-distance revolver fire
seriously bothered me. One cannot help jumping when death, in the
form of a piece of flying lead, hits the rail beside him, or the mast
over his head, or whines away in a ricochet from the steel shrouds.
Nevertheless, I managed with my rifle to bother the exposed men on
the rail to the extent that they lost one hooked bird out of two.
And twenty-six men require a quantity of albatrosses and mollyhawks
every twenty-four hours, while they can fish only in the daylight.
As the day wore along I improved on my obstructive tactics. When the
Elsinore was up in the eye of the wind, and making sternway, I found
that by putting the wheel sharply over, one way or the other, I could
swing her bow off. Then, when she had paid off till the wind was
abeam, by reversing the wheel hard across to the opposite hard-over I
could take advantage of her momentum away from the wind and work her
off squarely before it. This made all the wood-floated triangles of
bird-snares tow aft along her sides.
The first time I was ready for them. With hooks and sinkers on our
own lines aft, we tossed out, grappled, captured, and broke off nine
of their lines. But the next time, so slow is the movement of so
large a ship, the mutineers hauled all their lines safely inboard ere
they towed aft within striking distance of my grapnels.
Still I improved. As long as I kept the Elsinore before the wind
they could not fish. I experimented. Once before it, by means of a
winged-out spanker coupled with patient and careful steering, I could
keep her before it. This I did, hour by hour one of my men relieving
another at the wheel. As a result all fishing ceased.
Margaret was holding the first dog-watch, four to six. Henry was at
the wheel steering. Wada and Louis were below cooking the evening
meal over the big coal-stove and the oil-burners. I had just come up
from below and was standing beside the sounding-machine, not half a
dozen feet from Henry at the wheel. Some obscure sound from the
ventilator must have attracted me, for I was gazing at it when the
But first, the ventilator. This is a steel shaft that leads up from
the coal-carrying bowels of the ship beneath the lazarette and that
wins to the outside-world via the after-wall of the chart-house. In
fact, it occupies the hollow inside of the double walls of the
afterwall of the chart-house. Its opening, at the height of a man's
head, is screened with iron bars so closely set that no mature-bodied
rat can squeeze between. Also, this opening commands the wheel,
which is a scant fifteen feet away and directly across the booby-
hatch. Some mutineer, crawling along the space between the coal and
the deck of the lower hold, had climbed the ventilator shaft and was
able to take aim through the slits between the bars.
Practically simultaneously, I saw the out-rush of smoke and heard the
report. I heard a grunt from Henry, and, turning my head, saw him
cling to the spokes and turn the wheel half a revolution as he sank
to the deck. It must have been a lucky shot. The boy was perforated
through the heart or very near to the heart--we have no time for
post-mortems on the Elsinore.
Tom Spink and the second sail-maker, Uchino, sprang to Henry's side.
The revolver continued to go off through the ventilator slits, and
the bullets thudded into the front of the half wheel-house all about
them. Fortunately they were not hit, and they immediately scrambled
out of range. The boy quivered for the space of a few seconds, and
ceased to move; and one more cadet of the perishing breed perished as
he did his day's work at the wheel of the Elsinore off the west coast
of South America, bound from Baltimore to Seattle with a cargo of
The situation is hopelessly grotesque. We in the high place command
the food of the Elsinore, but the mutineers have captured her
steering-gear. That is to say, they have captured it without coming
into possession of it. They cannot steer, neither can we. The poop,
which is the high place, is ours. The wheel is on the poop, yet we
cannot touch the wheel. From that slitted opening in the ventilator-
shaft they are able to shoot down any man who approaches the wheel.
And with that steel wall of the chart-house as a shield they laugh at
us as from a conning tower.
I have a plan, but it is not worth while putting into execution
unless its need becomes imperative. In the darkness of night it
would be an easy trick to disconnect the steering-gear from the short
tiller on the rudder-head, and then, by re-rigging the preventer
tackles, steer from both sides of the poop well enough for'ard to be
out of the range of the ventilator.
In the meantime, in this fine weather, the Elsinore drifts as she
lists, or as the windage of her lists and the sea-movement of waves
lists. And she can well drift. Let the mutineers starve. They can
best be brought to their senses through their stomachs.
And what are wits for, if not for use? I am breaking the men's
hungry hearts. It is great fun in its way. The mollyhawks and
albatrosses, after their fashion, have followed the Elsinore up out
of their own latitudes. This means that there are only so many of
them and that their numbers are not recruited. Syllogism: major
premise, a definite and limited amount of bird-meat; minor premise,
the only food the mutineers now have is bird-meat; conclusion,
destroy the available food and the mutineers will be compelled to
come back to duty.
I have acted on this bit of logic. I began experimentally by tossing
small chunks of fat pork and crusts of stale bread overside. When
the birds descended for the feast I shot them. Every carcass thus
left floating on the surface of the sea was so much less meat for the
But I bettered the method. Yesterday I overhauled the medicine-
chest, and I dosed my chunks of fat pork and bread with the contents
of every bottle that bore a label of skull and cross-bones. I even
added rough-on-rats to the deadliness of the mixture--this on the
suggestion of the steward.
And to-day, behold, there is no bird left in the sky. True, while I
played my game yesterday, the mutineers hooked a few of the birds;
but now the rest are gone, and that is bound to be the last food for
the men for'ard until they resume duty.
Yes; it is grotesque. It is a boy's game. It reads like Midshipman
Easy, like Frank Mildmay, like Frank Reade, Jr.; and yet, i' faith,
life and death's in the issue. I have just gone over the toll of our
dead since the voyage began.
First, was Christian Jespersen, killed by O'Sullivan when that maniac
aspired to throw overboard Andy Fay's sea-boots; then O'Sullivan,
because he interfered with Charles Davis' sleep, brained by that
worthy with a steel marlin-spike; next Petro Marinkovich, just ere we
began the passage of the Horn, murdered undoubtedly by the gangster
clique, his life cut out of him with knives, his carcass left lying
on deck to be found by us and be buried by us; and the Samurai,
Captain West, a sudden though not a violent death, albeit occurring
in the midst of all elemental violence as Mr. Pike clawed the
Elsinore off the lee-shore of the Horn; and Boney the Splinter,
following, washed overboard to drown as we cleared the sea-gashing
rock-tooth where the southern tip of the continent bit into the
storm-wrath of the Antarctic; and the big-footed, clumsy youth of a
Finnish carpenter, hove overside as a Jonah by his fellows who
believed that Finns control the winds; and Mike Cipriani and Bill
Quigley, Rome and Ireland, shot down on the poop and flung overboard
alive by Mr. Pike, still alive and clinging to the log-line, cut
adrift by the steward to be eaten alive by great-beaked albatrosses,
mollyhawks, and sooty-plumaged Cape hens; Steve Roberts, one-time
cowboy, shot by me as he tried to shoot me; Herman Lunkenheimer, his
throat cut before all of us by the hound Bombini as Kid Twist
stretched the throat taut from behind; the two mates, Mr. Pike and
Mr. Mellaire, mutually destroying each other in what must have been
an unwitnessed epic combat; Ditman Olansen, speared by Wada as he
charged Berserk at the head of the mutineers in the attempt to rush
the poop; and last, Henry, the cadet of the perishing house, shot at
the wheel, from the ventilator-shaft, in the course of his day's
No; as I contemplate this roll-call of the dead which I have just
made I see that we are not playing a boy's game. Why, we have lost a
third of us, and the bloodiest battles of history have rarely
achieved such a percentage of mortality. Fourteen of us have gone
overside, and who can tell the end?
Nevertheless, here we are, masters of matter, adventurers in the
micro-organic, planet-weighers, sun-analysers, star-rovers, god-
dreamers, equipped with the human wisdom of all the ages, and yet,
quoting Mr. Pike, to come down to brass tacks, we are a lot of
primitive beasts, fighting bestially, slaying bestially, pursuing
bestially food and water, air for our lungs, a dry space above the
deep, and carcasses skin-covered and intact. And over this menagerie
of beasts Margaret and I, with our Asiatics under us, rule top-dog.
We are all dogs--there is no getting away from it. And we, the fair-
pigmented ones, by the seed of our ancestry rulers in the high place,
shall remain top-dog over the rest of the dogs. Oh, there is
material in plenty for the cogitation of any philosopher on a
windjammer in mutiny in this Year of our Lord 1913.
Henry was the fourteenth of us to go overside into the dark and salty
disintegration of the sea. And in one day he has been well avenged;
for two of the mutineers have followed him. The steward called my
attention to what was taking place. He touched my arm half beyond
his servant's self, as he gloated for'ard at the men heaving two
corpses overside. Weighted with coal, they sank immediately, so that
we could not identify them.
"They have been fighting," I said. "It is good that they should
fight among themselves."
But the old Chinese merely grinned and shook his head.
"You don't think they have been fighting?" I queried.
"No fight. They eat'm mollyhawk and albatross; mollyhawk and
albatross eat'm fat pork; two men he die, plenty men much sick, you
bet, damn to hell me very much glad. I savve."
And I think he was right. While I was busy baiting the sea-birds the
mutineers were catching them, and of a surety they must have caught
some that had eaten of my various poisons.
The two poisoned ones went over the side yesterday. Since then we
have taken the census. Two men only have not appeared, and they are
Bob, the fat and overgrown feebling youth, and, of all creatures, the
Faun. It seems my fate that I had to destroy the Faun--the poor,
tortured Faun, always willing and eager, ever desirous to please.
There is a madness of ill luck in all this. Why couldn't the two
dead men have been Charles Davis and Tony the Greek? Or Bert Rhine
and Kid Twist? or Bombini and Andy Fay? Yes, and in my heart I know
I should have felt better had it been Isaac Chantz and Arthur Deacon,
or Nancy and Sundry Buyers, or Shorty and Larry.
The steward has just tendered me a respectful bit of advice.
"Next time we chuck'm overboard like Henry, much better we use old
"Getting short of coal?" I asked.
He nodded affirmation. We use a great deal of coal in our cooking,
and when the present supply gives out we shall have to cut through a
bulkhead to get at the cargo.
The situation grows tense. There are no more sea-birds, and the
mutineers are starving. Yesterday I talked with Bert Rhine. To-day
I talked with him again, and he will never forget, I am certain, the
little talk we had this morning.
To begin with, last evening, at five o'clock, I heard his voice
issuing from between the slits of the ventilator in the after-wall of
the chart-house. Standing at the corner of the house, quite out of
range, I answered him.
"Getting hungry?" I jeered. "Let me tell you what we are going to
have for dinner. I have just been down and seen the preparations.
Now, listen: first, caviare on toast; then, clam bouillon; and
creamed lobster; and tinned lamb chops with French peas--you know,
the peas that melt in one's mouth; and California asparagus with
mayonnaise; and--oh, I forgot to mention fried potatoes and cold pork
and beans; and peach pie; and coffee, real coffee. Doesn't it make
you hungry for your East Side? And, say, think of the free lunch
going to waste right now in a thousand saloons in good old New York."
I had told him the truth. The dinner I described (principally coming
out of tins and bottles, to be sure) was the dinner we were to eat.
"Cut that," he snarled. "I want to talk business with YOU."
"Right down to brass tacks," I gibed. "Very well, when are you and
the rest of your rats going to turn to?"
"Cut that," he reiterated. "I've got you where 1 want you now. Take
it from me, I'm givin' it straight. I'm not tellin' you how, but
I've got you under my thumb. When I come down on you, you'll crack."
"Hell is full of cocksure rats like you," I retorted; although I
never dreamed how soon he would be writhing in the particular hell
preparing for him.
"Forget it," he sneered back. "I've got you where I want you. I'm
just tellin' you, that's all."
"Pardon me," I replied, "when I tell you that I'm from Missouri.
You'll have to show ME."
And as I thus talked the thought went through my mind of how I
naturally sought out the phrases of his own vocabulary in order to
make myself intelligible to him. The situation was bestial, with
sixteen of our complement already gone into the dark; and the terms I
employed, perforce, were terms of bestiality. And I thought, also,
of I who was thus compelled to dismiss the dreams of the utopians,
the visions of the poets, the king-thoughts of the king-thinkers, in
a discussion with this ripened product of the New York City inferno.
To him I must talk in the elemental terms of life and death, of food
and water, of brutality and cruelty.
"I give you your choice," he went on. "Give in now, an' you won't be
hurt, none of you."
"And if we don't?" I dared airily.
"You'll be sorry you was ever born. You ain't a mush-head, you've
got a girl there that's stuck on you. It's about time you think of
her. You ain't altogether a mutt. You get my drive?"
Ay, I did get it; and somehow, across my brain flashed a vision of
all I had ever read and heard of the siege of the Legations at
Peking, and of the plans of the white men for their womenkind in the
event of the yellow hordes breaking through the last lines of
defence. Ay, and the old steward got it; for I saw his black eyes
glint murderously in their narrow, tilted slits. He knew the drift
of the gangster's meaning.
"You get my drive?" the gangster repeated.
And I knew anger. Not ordinary anger, but cold anger. And I caught
a vision of the high place in which we had sat and ruled down the
ages in all lands, on all seas. I saw my kind, our women with us, in
forlorn hopes and lost endeavours, pent in hill fortresses, rotted in
jungle fastnesses, cut down to the last one on the decks of rocking
ships. And always, our women with us, had we ruled the beasts. We
might die, our women with us; but, living, we had ruled. It was a
royal vision I glimpsed. Ay, and in the purple of it I grasped the
ethic, which was the stuff of the fabric of which it was builded. It
was the sacred trust of the seed, the bequest of duty handed down
from all ancestors.
And I flamed more coldly. It was not red-brute anger. It was
intellectual. It was based on concept and history; it was the
philosophy of action of the strong and the pride of the strong in
their own strength. Now at last I knew Nietzsche. I knew the
rightness of the books, the relation of high thinking to high-
conduct, the transmutation of midnight thought into action in the
high place on the poop of a coal-carrier in the year nineteen-
thirteen, my woman beside me, my ancestors behind me, my slant-eyed
servitors under me, the beasts beneath me and beneath the heel of me.
God! I felt kingly. I knew at last the meaning of kingship.
My anger was white and cold. This subterranean rat of a miserable
human, crawling through the bowels of the ship to threaten me and
mine! A rat in the shelter of a knot-hole making a noise as beast-
like as any rat ever made! And it was in this spirit that I answered
"When you crawl on your belly, along the open deck, in the broad
light of day, like a yellow cur that has been licked to obedience,
and when you show by your every action that you like it and are glad
to do it, then, and not until then, will I talk with you."
Thereafter, for the next ten minutes, he shouted all the Billingsgate
of his kind at me through the slits in the ventilator. But I made no
reply. I listened, and I listened coldly, and as I listened I knew
why the English had blown their mutinous Sepoys from the mouths of
cannon in India long years ago.
And when, this morning, I saw the steward struggling with a five-
gallon carboy of sulphuric acid, I never dreamed the use he intended
In the meantime I was devising another way to overcome that deadly
ventilator shaft. The scheme was so simple that I was shamed in that
it had not occurred to me at the very beginning. The slitted opening
was small. Two sacks of flour, in a wooden frame, suspended by ropes
from the edge of the chart-house roof directly above, would
effectually cover the opening and block all revolver fire.
No sooner thought than done. Tom Spink and Louis were on top the
chart-house with me and preparing to lower the flour, when we heard a
voice issuing from the shaft.
"Who's in there now?" I demanded. "Speak up."