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Chapter 4

On men reprieved by its disdainful mercy, the immortal sea confers in
its justice the full privilege of desired unrest. Through the perfect
wisdom of its grace they are not permitted to meditate at ease upon
the complicated and acrid savour of existence. They must without pause
justify their life to the eternal pity that commands toil to be hard
and unceasing, from sunrise to sunset, from sunset to sunrise; till the
weary succession of nights and days tainted by the obstinate clamour of
sages, demanding bliss and an empty heaven, is redeemed at last by the
vast silence of pain and labour, by the dumb fear and the dumb courage
of men obscure, forgetful, and enduring.

The master and Mr. Baker coming face to face stared for a moment, with
the intense and amazed looks of men meeting unexpectedly after years of
trouble. Their voices were gone, and they whispered desperately at
one another.--"Any one missing?" asked Captain Allistoun.--"No. All
there."--"Anybody hurt?"--"Only the second mate."--"I will look after
him directly. We're lucky."--"Very," articulated Mr. Baker, faintly. He
gripped the rail and rolled bloodshot eyes. The little grey man made an
effort to raise his voice above a dull mutter, and fixed his chief mate
with a cold gaze, piercing like a dart.--"Get sail on the ship," he
said, speaking authoritatively and with an inflexible snap of his thin
lips. "Get sail on her as soon as you can. This is a fair wind. At once,
sir--Don't give the men time to feel themselves. They will get done up
and stiff, and we will never... We must get her along now"... He reeled
to a long heavy roll; the rail dipped into the glancing, hissing water.
He caught a shroud, swung helplessly against the mate... "now we have a
fair wind at last------Make------sail." His head rolled from shoulder to
shoulder. His eyelids began to beat rapidly. "And the pumps------pumps,
Mr. Baker." He peered as though the face within a foot of his eyes
had been half a mile off. "Keep the men on the move to------to get her
along," he mumbled in a drowsy tone, like a man going off into a doze.
He pulled himself together suddenly. "Mustn't stand. Won't do," he said
with a painful attempt at a smile. He let go his hold, and, propelled
by the dip of the ship, ran aft unwillingly, with small steps, till he
brought up against the binnacle stand. Hanging on there he looked up in
an aimless manner at Singleton, who, unheeding him, watched anxiously
the end of the jib-boom--"Steering gear works all right?" he asked.
There was a noise in the old seaman's throat, as though the words had
been rattling together before they could come out.--"Steers... like a
little boat," he said, at last, with hoarse tenderness, without giving
the master as much as half a glance--then, watchfully, spun the wheel
down, steadied, flung it back again. Captain Allistoun tore himself away
from the delight of leaning against the binnacle, and began to walk the
poop, swaying and reeling to preserve his balance....

The pump-rods, clanking, stamped in short jumps while the fly-wheels
turned smoothly, with great speed, at the foot of the mainmast, flinging
back and forth with a regular impetuosity two limp clusters of men
clinging to the handles. They abandoned themselves, swaying from the hip
with twitching faces and stony eyes. The carpenter, sounding from time
to time, exclaimed mechanically: "Shake her up! Keep her going!" Mr.
Baker could not speak, but found his voice to shout; and under the goad
of his objurgations, men looked to the lashings, dragged out new
sails; and thinking themselves unable to move, carried heavy blocks
aloft--overhauled the gear. They went up the rigging with faltering and
desperate efforts. Their heads swam as they shifted their hold, stepped
blindly on the yards like men in the dark; or trusted themselves to the
first rope at hand with the negligence of exhausted strength. The narrow
escapes from falls did not disturb the languid beat of their hearts; the
roar of the seas seething far below them sounded continuous and faint
like an indistinct noise from another world: the wind filled their eyes
with tears, and with heavy gusts tried to push them off from where they
swayed in insecure positions. With streaming faces and blowing hair
they flew up and down between sky and water, bestriding the ends of
yard-arms, crouching on foot-ropes, embracing lifts to have their hands
free, or standing up against chain ties. Their thoughts floated vaguely
between the desire of rest and the desire of life, while their stiffened
fingers cast off head-earrings, fumbled for knives, or held with
tenacious grip against the violent shocks of beating canvas. They glared
savagely at one another, made frantic signs with one hand while they
held their life in the other, looked down on the narrow strip of flooded
deck, shouted along to leeward: "Light-to!"... "Haul out!"... "Make
fast!" Their lips moved, their eyes started, furious and eager with the
desire to be understood, but the wind tossed their words unheard upon
the disturbed sea. In an unendurable and unending strain they worked
like men driven by a merciless dream to toil in an atmosphere of ice or
flame. They burnt and shivered in turns. Their eyeballs smarted as if
in the smoke of a conflagration; their heads were ready to' burst with
every shout. Hard fingers seemed to grip their throats. At every roll
they thought: Now I must let go. It will shake us all off--and thrown
about aloft they cried wildly: "Look out there--catch the end."...
"Reeve clear"... "Turn this block...." They nodded desperately; shook
infuriated faces, "No! No! From down up." They seemed to hate one
another with a deadly hate, The longing to be done with it all gnawed
their breasts, and the wish to do things well was a burning pain. They
cursed their fate, contemned their life, and wasted their breath in
deadly imprecations upon one another.' The sailmaker, with his bald head
bared, worked feverishly, forgetting his intimacy with so many admirals.
The boatswain, climbing up with marlinspikes and bunches of spunyarn
rovings, or kneeling on the yard and ready to take a turn with the
midship-stop, had acute and fleeting visions of his old woman and the
youngsters in a moorland village. Mr. Baker, feeling very weak, tottered
here and there, grunting and inflexible, like a man of iron. He waylaid
those who, coming from aloft, stood gasping for breath. He ordered,
encouraged, scolded. "Now then--to the main topsail now! Tally on to
that gantline. Don't stand about there!"--"Is there no rest for us?"
muttered voices. He spun round fiercely, with a sinking heart.--"No! No
rest till the work is done. Work till you drop. That's what you're here
for." A bowed seaman at his elbow gave a short laugh.--"Do or die,"
he croaked bitterly, then spat into his broad palms, swung up his long
arms, and grasping the rope high above his head sent out a mournful,
wailing cry for a pull all together. A sea boarded the quarter-deck
and sent the whole lot sprawling to leeward. Caps, handspikes floated.
Clenched hands, kicking legs, with here and there a spluttering face,
stuck out of the white hiss of foaming water. Mr. Baker, knocked down
with the rest, screamed--"Don't let go that rope! Hold on to it! Hold!"
And sorely bruised by the brutal fling, they held on to it, as though it
had been the fortune of their life. The ship ran, rolling heavily, and
the topping crests glanced past port and starboard flashing their
white heads. Pumps were freed. Braces were rove. The three topsails
and foresail were set. She spurted faster over the water, outpacing the
swift rush of waves. The menacing thunder of distanced seas rose behind
her--filled the air with the tremendous vibrations of its voice. And
devastated, battered, and wounded she drove foaming to the northward, as
though inspired by the courage of a high endeavour....

The forecastle was a place of damp desolation. They looked at their
dwelling with dismay. It was slimy, dripping; it hummed hollow with the
wind, and was strewn with shapeless wreckage like a half-tide cavern in
a rocky and exposed coast. Many had lost all they had in the world, but
most of the starboard watch had preserved their chests; thin streams of
water trickled out of them, however. The beds were soaked; the blankets
spread out and saved by some nail squashed under foot. They dragged wet
rags from evil-smelling corners, and wringing the water out, recognised
their property. Some smiled stiffly. Others looked round blank and mute.
There were cries of joy over old waistcoats, and groans of sorrow over
shapeless things found among the splinters of smashed bed boards. One
lamp was discovered jammed under the bowsprit. Charley whimpered a
little. Knowles stumped here and there, sniffing, examining dark places
for salvage. He poured dirty water out of a boot, and was concerned
to find the owner. Those who, overwhelmed by their losses, sat on the
forepeak hatch, remained elbows on knees, and, with a fist against each
cheek, disdained to look up. He pushed it under their noses. "Here's
a good boot. Yours?" They snarled, "No--get out." One snapped at him,
"Take it to hell out of this." He seemed surprised. "Why? It's a good
boot," but remembering suddenly that he had lost every stitch of his
clothing, he dropped his find and began to swear. In the dim light
cursing voices clashed. A man came in and, dropping his arms, stood
still, repeating from the doorstep, "Here's a bloomin' old go! Here's a
bloomin' old go!" A few rooted anxiously in flooded chests for tobacco.
They breathed hard, clamoured with heads down. "Look at that Jack!"...
"Here! Sam! Here's my shore-going rig spoilt for ever." One blasphemed
tearfully, holding up a pair of dripping trousers. No one looked at him.
The cat came out from somewhere. He had an ovation. They snatched him
from hand to hand, caressed him in a murmur of pet names. They wondered
where he had "weathered it out;" disputed about it. A squabbling
argument began. Two men brought in a bucket of fresh water, and all
crowded round it; but Tom, lean and mewing, came up with every hair
astir and had the first drink. A couple of hands went aft for oil and

Then in the yellow light and in the intervals of mopping the deck they
crunched hard bread, arranging to "worry through somehow." Men chummed
as to beds. Turns were settled for wearing boots and having the use of
oilskin coats. They called one another "old man" and "sonny" in cheery
voices. Friendly slaps resounded. Jokes were shouted. One or two
stretched on the wet deck, slept with heads pillowed on their bent arms,
and several, sitting on the hatch, smoked. Their weary faces appeared
through a thin blue haze, pacified and with sparkling eyes. The
boatswain put his head through the door. "Relieve the wheel, one of
you"--he shouted inside--"it's six. Blamme if that old Singleton hasn't
been there more'n thirty hours. You are a fine lot." He slammed the door
again. "Mate's watch on deck," said some one. "Hey, Donkin, it's your
relief!" shouted three or four together. He had crawled into an empty
bunk and on wet planks lay still. "Donkin, your wheel." He made no
sound. "Donkin's dead," guffawed some one, "Sell 'is bloomin' clothes,"
shouted another. "Donkin, if ye don't go to the bloomin' wheel they will
sell your clothes--d'ye hear?" jeered a third. He groaned from his
dark hole. He complained about pains in all his bones, he whimpered
pitifully. "He won't go," exclaimed a contemptuous voice, "your turn,
Davis." The young seaman rose painfully, squaring his shoulders. Donkin
stuck his head out, and it appeared in the yellow light, fragile
and ghastly. "I will giv' yer a pound of tobaccer," he whined in a
conciliating voice, "so soon as I draw it from aft. I will--s'elp me..."
Davis swung his arm backhanded and the head vanished. "I'll go," he
said, "but you will pay for it." He walked unsteady but resolute to
the door. "So I will," yelped Donkin, popping out behind him. "So I
will--s'elp me... a pound... three bob they chawrge." Davis flung the
door open. "You will pay my price... in fine weather," he shouted over
his shoulder. One of the men unbuttoned his wet coat rapidly, threw it
at his head. "Here, Taffy--take that, you thief!" "Thank you!" he cried
from the darkness above the swish of rolling water. He could be heard
splashing; a sea carme on board with a thump. "He's got his bath
already," remarked a grim shellback. "Aye, aye!" grunted others. Then,
after a long silence, Wamibo made strange noises. "Hallo, what's up with
you?" said some one grumpily. "He says he would have gone for Davy,"
explained Archie, who was the Finn's interpreter generally. "I believe
him!" cried voices.... "Never mind, Dutchy... You'll do, muddle-head....
Your turn will come soon enough... You don't know when ye're well off."
They ceased, and all together turned their faces to the door. Singleton
stepped in, advanced two paces, and stood swaying slightly. The sea
hissed, flowed roaring past the bows, and the forecastle trembled, full
of deep murmurs; the lamp flared, swinging like a pendulum. He looked
with a dreamy and puzzled stare, as though he could not distinguish
the still men from their restless shadows. There were awestruck
exclamations:--"Hallo, hallo"... "How does it look outside now,
Singleton?" Those who sat on the hatch lifted their eyes in silence, and
the next oldest seaman in the ship (those two understood one another,
though they hardly exchanged three words in a day) gazed up at his
friend attentively for a moment, then taking a short clay pipe out of
his mouth, offered it without a word. Singleton put out his arm towards
it, missed, staggered, and suddenly fell forward, crashing down, stiff
and headlong like an uprooted tree. There was a swift rush. Men pushed,
crying:--"He's done!"... "Turn him over!"... "Stand clear there!" Under
a crowd of startled faces bending over him he lay on his back, staring
upwards in a continuous and intolerable manner. In the breathless
silence of a general consternation, he said in a grating murmur:--"I am
all right," and clutched with his hands. They helped him up. He mumbled
despondently:--"I am getting old... old."--"Not you," cried Belfast,
with ready tact. Supported on all sides, he hung his head.--"Are you
better?" they asked. He glared at them from under his eyebrows with
large black eyes, spreading over his chest the bushy whiteness of a
beard long and thick.--"Old! old!" he repeated sternly. Helped along,
he reached his bunk. There was in it a slimy soft heap of something that
smelt, as does at dead low water a muddy foreshore. It was his soaked
straw bed. With a convulsive effort he pitched himself on it, and in the
darkness of the narrow place could be heard growling angrily, like an
irritated and savage animal uneasy in its den:--"Bit of breeze...
small thing... can't stand up... old!" He slept at last, high-booted,
sou'wester on head, and his oilskin clothes rustled, when with a
deep sighing groan he turned over. Men conversed about him in quiet,
concerned whispers. "This will break'im up"... "Strong as a horse"...
"Aye. But he ain't what he used to be." In sad murmurs they gave him up.
Yet at midnight he turned out to duty as if nothing had been the matter,
and answered to his name with a mournful "Here!" He brooded alone more
than ever, in an impenetrable silence and with a saddened face. For
many years he had heard himself called "Old Singleton," and had serenely
accepted the qualification, taking it as a tribute of respect due to
a man who through half a century had measured his strength against the
favours and the rages of the sea. He had never given a thought to his
mortal self. He lived unscathed, as though he had been indestructible,
surrendering to all the temptations, weathering many gales. He had
panted in sunshine, shivered in the cold; suffered hunger, thirst,
debauch; passed through many trials--known all the furies. Old! It
seemed to him he was broken at last. And like a man bound treacherously
while he sleeps, he woke up fettered by the long chain of disregarded
years. He had to take up at once the burden of all his existence, and
found it almost too heavy for his strength. Old! He moved his arms,
shook his head, felt his limbs. Getting old... and then? He looked
upon the immortal sea with the awakened and groping perception of
its heartless might; he saw it unchanged, black and foaming under the
eternal scrutiny of the stars; he heard its impatient voice calling
for him out of a pitiless vastness full of unrest, of turmoil, and of
terror. He looked afar upon it, and he saw an immensity tormented and
blind, moaning and furious, that claimed all the days of his tenacious
life, and, when life was over, would claim the worn-out body of its

This was the last of the breeze. It veered quickly, changed to a black
south-easter, and blew itself out, giving the ship a famous shove to the
northward into the joyous sunshine of the trade. Rapid and white she ran
homewards in a straight path, under a blue sky and upon the plain of a
blue sea. She carried Singleton's completed wisdom, Donkin's delicate
susceptibilities, and the conceited folly of us all. The hours of
ineffective turmoil were forgotten; the fear and anguish of these dark
moments were never mentioned in the glowing peace of fine days. Yet from
that time our life seemed to start afresh as though we had died and had
been resuscitated. All the first part of the voyage, the Indian Ocean
on the other side of the Cape, all that was lost in a haze, like an
ineradicable suspicion of some previous existence. It had ended--then
there were blank hours: a livid blurr--and again we lived! Singleton was
possessed of sinister truth; Mr. Creighton of a damaged leg; the cook of
fame--and shamefully abused the opportunities of his distinction. Donkin
had an added grievance. He went about repeating with insistence:--"'E
said 'e would brain me--did yer 'ear? They are goin' to murder us now
for the least little thing." We began at last to think it was rather
awful. And we were conceited! We boasted of our pluck, of our capacity
for work, of our energy. We remembered honourable episodes: our
devotion, our indomitable perseverance--and were proud of them as though
they had been the outcome of our unaided impulses. We remembered our
danger, our toil--and conveniently forgot our horrible scare. We decried
our officers--who had done nothing--and listened to the fascinating
Donkin. His care for our rights, his disinterested concern for our
dignity, were not discouraged by the invariable contumely of our words,
by the disdain of our looks. Our contempt for him was unbounded--and we
could not but listen with interest to that consummate artist. He told
us we were good men--a "bloomin' condemned lot of good men." Who thanked
us? Who took any notice of our wrongs? Didn't we lead a "dorg's loife
for two poun' ten a month?" Did we think that miserable pay enough
to compensate us for the risk to our lives and for the loss of our
clothes? "We've lost every rag!" he cried. He made us forget that he,
at any rate, had lost nothing of his own. The younger men listened,
thinking--this 'ere Donkin's a long-headed chap, though no kind of man,
anyhow. The Scandinavians were frightened at his audacities; Wamibo did
not understand; and the older seamen thoughtfully nodded their heads
making the thin gold earrings glitter in the fleshy lobes of hairy ears.
Severe, sunburnt faces were propped meditatively on tattooed forearms.
Veined, brown fists held in their knotted grip the dirty white clay of
smouldering pipes. They listened, impenetrable, broad-backed, with bent
shoulders, and in grim silence. He talked with ardour, despised and
irrefutable. His picturesque and filthy loquacity flowed like a troubled
stream from a poisoned source. His beady little eyes danced, glancing
right and left, ever on the watch for the approach of an officer.
Sometimes Mr. Baker going forward to take a look at the head sheets
would roll with his uncouth gait through the sudden stillness of the
men; or Mr. Creighton limped along, smooth-faced, youthful, and more
stern than ever, piercing our short silence with a keen glance of his
clear eyes. Behind his back Donkin would begin again darting stealthy,
sidelong looks.--"'Ere's one of 'em. Some of yer 'as made 'im fast
that day. Much thanks yer got for it. Ain't 'ee a-drivin' yer wusse'n
ever?... Let 'im slip overboard.... Vy not? It would 'ave been less
trouble. Vy not?" He advanced confidentially, backed away with great
effect; he whispered, he screamed, waved his miserable arms no thicker
than pipe-stems--stretched his lean neck--spluttered squinted. In the
pauses of his impassioned orations the wind sighed quietly aloft, the
calm sea unheeded murmured in a warning whisper along the ship's side.
We abominated the creature and could not deny the luminous truth of his
contentions. It was all so obvious. We were indubitably good men; our
deserts were great and our pay small. Through our exertions we had saved
the ship and the skipper would get the credit of it. What had he done?
we wanted to know. Donkin asked:--"What 'ee could do without hus?" and
we could not answer. We were oppressed by the injustice of the world,
surprised to perceive how long we had lived under its burden without
realising our unfortunate state, annoyed by the uneasy suspicion of
our undiscerning stupidity. Donkin assured us it was all our "good
'eartedness," but we would not be consoled by such shallow sophistry.
We were men enough to courageously admit to ourselves our intellectual
shortcomings; though from that time we refrained from kicking him,
tweaking his nose, or from accidentally knocking him about, which last,
after we had weathered the Cape, had been rather a popular amusement.
Davis ceased to talk at him provokingly about black eyes and flattened
noses. Charley, much subdued since the gale, did not jeer at him.
Knowles deferentially and with a crafty air propounded questions such
as:--"Could we all have the same grub as the mates? Could we all stop
ashore till we got it? What would be the next thing to try for if we got
that?" He answered readily with contemptuous certitude; he strutted with
assurance in clothes that were much too big for him as though he had
tried to disguise himself. These were Jimmy's clothes mostly--though
he would accept anything from anybody; but nobody, except Jimmy, had
anything to spare. His devotion to Jimmy was unbounded. He was for ever
dodging in the little cabin, ministering to Jimmy's wants, humouring his
whims, submitting to his exacting peevishness, often laughing with him.
Nothing could keep him away from the pious work of visiting the sick,
especially when there was some heavy hauling to be done on deck. Mr.
Baker had on two occasions jerked him out from there by the scruff
of the neck to our inexpressible scandal. Was a sick chap to be
left without attendance? Were we to be ill-used for attending a
shipmate?--"What?" growled Mr. Baker, turning menacingly at the mutter,
and the whole half-circle like one man stepped back a pace. "Set the
topmast stunsail. Away aloft, Donkin, overhaul the gear," ordered the
mate inflexibly. "Fetch the sail along; bend the down-haul clear. Bear
a hand." Then, the sail set, he would go slowly aft and stand looking at
the compass for a long time, careworn, pensive, and breathing hard as if
stifled by the taint of unaccountable ill-will that pervaded the ship.
"What's up amongst them?" he thought. "Can't make out this hanging back
and growling. A good crowd, too, as they go nowadays." On deck the
men exchanged bitter words, suggested by a silly exasperation against
something unjust and irremediable that would not be denied, and would
whisper into their ears long after Donkin had ceased speaking.
Our little world went on its curved and unswerving path carrying a
discontented and aspiring population. They found comfort of a
gloomy kind in an interminable and conscientious analysis of their
unappreciated worth; and inspired by Donkin's hopeful doctrines they
dreamed enthusiastically of the time when every lonely ship would travel
over a serene sea, manned by a wealthy and well-fed crew of satisfied

It looked-as if it would be a long passage. The south-east trades, light
and unsteady, were left behind; and then, on the equator and under a
low grey sky, the ship, in close heat, floated upon a smooth sea that
resembled a sheet of ground glass. Thunder squalls hung on the horizon,
circled round the ship, far off and growling angrily, like a troop of
wild beasts afraid to charge home. The invisible sun, sweeping above the
upright masts, made on the clouds a blurred stain of rayless light, and
a similar patch of faded radiance kept pace with it from east to
west over the unglittering level of the waters. At night, through the
impenetrable darkness of earth and, heaven, broad sheets of flame waved
noiselessly; and for half a second the becalmed craft stood out with its
masts and rigging, with every sail and every rope distinct and black in
the centre of a fiery outburst, like a charred ship enclosed in a globe
of fire. And, again, for long hours she remained lost in a vast universe
of night and silence where gentle sighs wandering here and there like
forlorn souls, made the still sails flutter as in sudden fear, and the
ripple of a beshrouded ocean whisper its compassion afar--in a voice
mournful, immense, and faint....

When the lamp was put out, and through the door thrown wide open, Jimmy,
turning on his pillow, could see vanishing beyond the straight line of
top-gallant rail, the quick, repeated visions of a fabulous world made
up of leaping fire and sleeping water. The lightning gleamed in his
big sad eyes that seemed in a red flicker to burn themselves out in his
black face, and then he would lie blinded and invisible in the midst of
an intense darkness. He could hear on the quiet deck soft footfalls, the
breathing of some man lounging on the doorstep; the low creak of swaying
masts; or the calm voice of the watch-officer reverberating aloft, hard
and loud, amongst the unstirring sails. He listened with avidity, taking
a rest in the attentive perception of the slightest sound from the
fatiguing wanderings of his sleeplessness. He was cheered by the
rattling of blocks, reassured by the stir and murmur of the watch,
soothed by the slow yawn of some sleepy and weary seaman settling
himself deliberately for a snooze on the planks. Life seemed an
indestructible thing. It went on in darkness, in sunshine, in sleep;
tireless, it hovered affectionately round the imposture of his ready
death. It was bright, like the twisted flare of lightning, and more full
of surprises than the dark night. It made him safe, and the calm of
its overpowering darkness was as precious as its restless and dangerous

But in the evening, in the dog-watches, and even far into the first
night-watch, a knot of men could always be seen congregated before
Jimmy's cabin. They leaned on each side of the door peacefully
interested and with crossed legs; they stood astride the doorstep
discoursing, or sat in silent couples on his sea-chest; while against
the bulwark along the spare topmast, three or four in a row stared
meditatively; with their simple faces lit up by the projected glare of
Jimmy's lamp. The little place, repainted white, had, in the night,
the brilliance of a silver shrine where a black idol, reclining stiffly
under a blanket, blinked its weary eyes and received our homage. Donkin
officiated. He had the air of a demonstrator showing a phenomenon, a
manifestation bizarre, simple, and meritorious that, to the beholders,
should be a profound and an everlasting lesson. "Just look at 'im, 'ee
knows what's what--never fear!" he exclaimed now and then, flourishing
a hand hard and fleshless like the claw of a snipe. Jimmy, on his back,
smiled with reserve and without moving a limb. He affected the languor
of extreme weakness, so as to make it manifest to us that our delay in
hauling him out from his horrible confinement, and then that night spent
on the poop among our selfish neglect of his needs, had "done for
him." He rather liked to talk about it, and of course we were always
interested. He spoke spasmodically, in fast rushes with long pauses
between, as a tipsy man walks.... "Cook had just given me a pannikin
of hot coffee.... Slapped it down there, on my chest--banged the door
to.... I felt a heavy roll coming; tried to save my coffee, burnt my
fingers... and fell out of my bunk.... She went over so quick.... Water
came in through the ventilator.... I couldn't move the door... dark as a
grave... tried to scramble up into the upper berth.... Rats... a rat
bit my finger as I got up.... I could hear him swimming below me.... I
thought you would never come... I thought you were all gone overboard...
of course... Could hear nothing but the wind.... Then you came... to
look for the corpse, I suppose. A little more and..."

"Man! But ye made a rare lot of noise in here," observed Archie,

"You chaps kicked up such a confounded row above.... Enough to scare
any one.... I didn't know what you were up to.... Bash in the blamed
planks... my head.... Just what a silly, scary gang of fools would
do.... Not much good to me anyhow.... Just as well... drown.... Pah."

He groaned, snapped his big white teeth, and gazed with scorn. Belfast
lifted a pair of dolorous eyes, with a broken-hearted smile, clenched
his fists stealthily; blue-eyed Archie caressed his red whiskers with
a hesitating hand; the boatswain at the door stared a moment, and
brusquely went away with a loud guffaw. Wamibo dreamed.... Donkin
felt all over his sterile chin for the few rare hairs, and said,
triumphantly, with a sidelong glance at Jimmy:--"Look at 'im! Wish I
was 'arf has 'ealthy as 'ee is--I do." He jerked a short thumb over his
shoulder towards the after end of the ship. "That's the blooming way
to do 'em!" he yelped, with forced heartiness. Jimmy said:--"Don't be a
dam' fool," in a pleasant voice. Knowles, rubbing his shoulder against
the doorpost, remarked shrewdly:--"We can't all go an' be took sick--it
would be mutiny."--"Mutiny--gawn!" jeered Donkin, "there's no bloomin'
law against bein' sick."--"There's six weeks' hard for refoosing dooty,"
argued Knowles, "I mind I once seed in Cardiff the crew of an overloaded
ship--leastways she weren't overloaded, only a fatherly old gentleman
with a white beard and an umbreller came along the quay and talked to
the hands. Said as how it was crool hard to be drownded in winter just
for the sake of a few pounds more for the owner--he said. Nearly cried
over them--he did; and he had a square mainsail coat, and a gaff-topsail
hat too--all proper. So they chaps they said they wouldn't go to be
drownded in winter--depending upon that 'ere Plimsoll man to see 'em
through the court. They thought to have a bloomin' lark and two or
three days' spree. And the beak giv' 'em six weeks--coss the ship warn't
overloaded. Anyways they made it out in court that she wasn't. There
wasn't one overloaded ship in Penarth Dock at all. 'Pears that old coon
he was only on pay and allowance from some kind people, under orders
to look for overloaded ships, and he couldn't see no further than the
length of his umbreller. Some of us in the boarding-house, where I
live when I'm looking for a ship in Cardiff, stood by to duck that old
weeping spunger in the dock. We kept a good look-out, too--but he topped
his boom directly he was outside the court.... Yes. They got six weeks'

They listened, full of curiosity, nodding in the pauses their rough
pensive faces. Donkin opened his mouth once or twice, but restrained
himself. Jimmy lay still with open eyes and not at all interested. A
seaman emitted the opinion that after a verdict of atrocious partiality
"the bloomin' beaks go an' drink at the skipper's expense." Others
assented. It was clear, of course. Donkin said:--"Well, six weeks ain't
much trouble. You sleep all night in, reg'lar, in chokey. Do it on my
'ead." "You are used to it ainch'ee, Donkin?" asked somebody. Jimmy
condescended to laugh. It cheered up every one wonderfully. Knowles,
with surprising mental agility, shifted his ground. "If we all went sick
what would become of the ship? eh?" He posed the problem and grinned
all round.--"Let 'er go to 'ell," sneered Donkin. "Damn 'er. She ain't
yourn."--"What? Just let her drift?" insisted Knowles in a tone of
unbelief.--"Aye! Drift, an' be blowed," affirmed Donkin with fine
recklessness. The other did not see it--meditated.--"The stores would
run out," he muttered, "and... never get anywhere... and what about
payday?" he added with greater assurance.--"Jack likes a good pay-day,"
exclaimed a listener on the doorstep. "Aye, because then the girls put
one arm round his neck an' t'other in his pocket, and call him ducky.
Don't they, Jack?"--"Jack, you're a terror with the gals."--"He takes
three of 'em in tow to once, like one of 'em Watkinses two-funnel
tugs waddling away with three schooners behind."--"Jack, you're a lame
scamp."--"Jack, tell us about that one with a blue eye and a black eye.
Do."--"There's plenty of girls with one black eye along the Highway

--"No, that's a speshul one--come, Jack." Donkin looked severe and
disgusted; Jimmy very bored; a grey-haired sea-dog shook his head
slightly, smiling at the bowl of his pipe, discreetly amused.
Knowles turned about bewildered; stammered first at one, then at
another.--"No!... I never!... can't talk sensible sense midst you....
Always on the kid." He retired bashfully--muttering and pleased. They
laughed, hooting in the crude light, around Jimmy's bed, where on a
white pillow his hollowed black face moved to and fro restlessly. A puff
of wind came, made the flame of the lamp leap, and outside, high up,
the sails fluttered, while near by the block of the foresheet struck
a ringing blow on the iron bulwark. A voice far off cried, "Helm
up!" another, more faint, answered, "Hard-up, sir!" They became
silent--waited expectantly. The grey-haired seaman knocked his pipe
on the doorstep and stood up.' The ship leaned over gently and the sea
seemed to wake up, murmuring drowsily. "Here's a little wind comin',"
said some one very low. Jimmy turned over slowly to face the breeze. The
voice in the night cried loud and commanding:--"Haul the spanker out."
The group before the door vanished out of the light. They could be heard
tramping aft while they repeated with varied intonations:--"Spanker
out!"... "Out spanker, sir!" Donkin remained alone with Jimmy. There was
a silence. Jimmy opened and shut his lips several times as if swallowing
draughts of fresher air; Donkin moved the toes of his bare feet and
looked at them thoughtfully.

"Ain't you going to give them a hand with the sail?" asked Jimmy.

"No. If six ov 'em ain't 'nough beef to set that blamed, rotten spanker,
they ain't fit to live," answered Donkin in a bored, far-away voice, as
though he had been talking from the bottom of a hole. Jimmy considered
the conical, fowl-like profile with a queer kind of interest; he was
leaning out of his bunk with the calculating, uncertain expression of
a man who reflects how best to lay hold of some strange creature that
looks as though it could sting or bite. But he said only:--"The mate
will miss you--and there will be ructions."

Donkin got up to go. "I will do for 'im some dark night; see if I
don't," he said over his shoulder.

Jimmy went on quickly:--"You're like a poll-parrot, like a screechin'
poll-parrot." Donkin stopped and cocked his head attentively on one
side. His big ears stood out, transparent and veined, resembling the
thin wings of a bat.

"Yuss?" he said, with his back towards Jimmy.

"Yes! Chatter out all you know--like... like a dirty white cockatoo."

Donkin waited. He could hear the other's breathing, long and slow; the
breathing of a man with a hundredweight or so on the breastbone. Then he
asked calmly:--"What do I know?"

"What?... What I tell you... not much. What do you want... to talk about
my health so..."

"It's a blooming imposyshun. A bloomin', stinkin', first-class
imposyshun--but it don't tyke me in. Not it."

Jimmy kept still. Donkin put his hands in his pockets, and in one
slouching stride came up to the bunk.

"I talk--what's the odds. They ain't men 'ere--sheep they are. A driven
lot of sheep. I 'old you up... Vy not? You're well orf."

"I am... I don't say anything about that...."

"Well. Let 'em see it. Let 'em larn what a man can do. I am a man, I
know all about yer...." Jimmy threw himself further away on the pillow;
the other stretched out his skinny neck, jerked his bird face down at
him as though pecking at the eyes. "I am a man. I've seen the inside of
every chokey in the Colonies rather'n give up my rights...."

"You are a jail-prop," said Jimmy, weakly.

"I am... an' proud of it, too. You! You 'aven't the bloomin' nerve--so
you inventyd this 'ere dodge...." He paused; then with marked
afterthought accentuated slowly:--"Yer ain't sick--are yer?"

"No," said Jimmy, firmly. "Been out of sorts now and again this year,"
he mumbled with a sudden drop in his voice.

Donkin closed one eye, amicable and confidential. He whispered:--"Ye
'ave done this afore'aven'tchee?" Jimmy smiled--then as if unable to
hold back he let himself go:--"Last ship--yes. I was out of sorts on the
passage. See? It was easy. They paid me off in Calcutta, and the skipper
made no bones about it either.... I got my money all right. Laid up
fifty-eight days! The fools! O Lord! The fools! Paid right off." He
laughed spasmodically. Donkin chimed in giggling. Then Jimmy coughed
violently. "I am as well as ever," he said, as soon as he could draw

Donkin made a derisive gesture. "In course," he said, profoundly,
"any one can see that."--"They don't," said Jimmy, gasping like a
fish.--"They would swallow any yarn," affirmed Donkin.--"Don't you let
on too much," admonished Jimmy in an exhausted voice.--"Your little
gyme? Eh?" commented Donkin, jovially. Then with sudden disgust: "Yer
all for yerself, s'long as ye're right..."

So charged with egoism James Wait pulled the blanket up to his chin and
lay still for a while. His heavy lips protruded in an everlasting black
pout. "Why are you so hot on making trouble?" he asked without much

"'Cos it's a bloomin' shayme. We are put upon... bad food, bad pay... I
want us to kick up a bloomin' row; a blamed 'owling row that would make
'em remember! Knocking people about... brain us indeed! Ain't we men?"
His altruistic indignation blazed. Then he said calmly:--"I've been
airing yer clothes."--"All right," said Jimmy, languidly, "bring them
in."--"Giv' us the key of your chest, I'll put 'em away for yer," said
Donkin with friendly eagerness.--"Bring 'em in, I will put them
away myself," answered James Wait with severity. Donkin looked
down, muttering.... "What d'you say? What d'you say?" inquired Wait
anxiously.--"Nothink. The night's dry, let 'em 'ang out till the
morning," said Donkin, in a strangely trembling voice, as though
restraining laughter or rage. Jimmy seemed satisfied.--"Give me a little
water for the night in my mug--there," he said. Donkin took a stride
over the doorstep.--"Git it yerself," he replied in a surly tone. "You
can do it, unless you _are_ sick."--"Of course I can do it," said Wait,
"only... "--"Well, then, do it," said Donkin, viciously, "if yer can
look after yer clothes, yer can look after yerself." He went on deck
without a look back.

Jimmy reached out for the mug. Not a drop. He put it back gently with a
faint sigh--and closed his eyes. He thought:--That lunatic Belfast will
bring me some water if I ask. Fool. I am very thirsty.... It was very
hot in the cabin, and it seemed to turn slowly round, detach itself from
the ship, and swing out smoothly into a luminous, arid space where
a black sun shone, spinning very fast. A place without any water! No
water! A policeman with the face of Donkin drank a glass of beer by the
side of an empty well, and flew away flapping vigorously. A ship
whose mastheads protruded through the sky and could not be seen, was
discharging grain, and the wind whirled the dry husks in spirals along
the quay of a dock with no water in it. He whirled along with the
husks--very tired and light. All his inside was gone. He felt lighter
than the husks--and more dry. He expanded his hollow chest. The air
streamed in, carrying away in its rush a lot of strange things that
resembled houses, trees, people, lamp-posts.... No more! There was no
more air--and he had not finished drawing his long breath. But he was
in jail! They were locking him up. A door slammed. They turned the key
twice, flung a bucket of water over him--Phoo! What for?

He opened his eyes, thinking the fall had been very heavy for an empty
man--empty--empty. He was in his cabin. Ah! All right! His face was
streaming with perspiration, his arms heavier than lead. He saw the
cook standing in the doorway, a brass key in one hand and a bright tin
hook-pot in the other.

"I have locked up the galley for the night," said the cook, beaming
benevolently. "Eight bells just gone. I brought you a pot of cold tea
for your night's drinking, Jimmy. I sweetened it with some white cabin
sugar, too. Well--it won't break the ship."

He came in, hung the pot on the edge of the bunk, asked perfunctorily,
"How goes it?" and sat down on the box.--"H'm," grunted Wait,
inhospitably. The cook wiped his face with a dirty cotton rag, which,
afterwards, he tied round his neck.--"That's how them firemen do in
steamboats," he said, serenely, and much pleased with himself.
"My work is as heavy as theirs--I'm thinking--and longer hours.
Did you ever see them down the stokehold? Like fiends they
look--firing--firing--firing--down there."

He pointed his forefinger at the deck. Some gloomy thought darkened his
shining face, fleeting, like the shadow of a travelling cloud over the
light of a peaceful sea. The relieved watch tramped noisily forward,
passing in a body across the sheen of the doorway. Some one cried,
"Good-night!" Belfast stopped for a moment and looked at Jimmy,
quivering and speechless with repressed emotion. He gave the cook a
glance charged with dismal foreboding, and vanished. The cook cleared
his throat. Jimmy stared upwards and kept as still as a man in hiding.

The night was clear, with a gentle breeze. Above the mastheads the
resplendent curve of the Milky Way spanned the sky like a triumphal
arch of eternal light, thrown over the dark pathway of the earth. On the
forecastle head a man whistled with loud precision a lively jig, while
another could be heard faintly, shuffling and stamping in time. There
came from forward a confused murmur of voices, laughter--snatches of
song. The cook shook his head, glanced obliquely at Jimmy, and began to
mutter. "Aye. Dance and sing. That's all they think of. I am surprised
that Providence don't get tired.... They forget the day that's sure to
come... but you...."

Jimmy drank a gulp of tea, hurriedly, as though he had stolen it, and
shrank under his blanket, edging away towards the bulkhead. The cook got
up, closed the door, then sat down again and said distinctly:--

"Whenever I poke my galley fire I think of you chaps--swearing,
stealing, lying, and worse--as if there was no such thing as another
world.... Not bad fellows, either, in a way," he conceded, slowly;
then, after a pause of regretful musing, he went on in a resigned
tone:--"Well, well. They will have a hot time of it. Hot! Did I say? The
furnaces of one of them White Star boats ain't nothing to it."

He kept very quiet for a while. There was a great stir in his brain; an
addled vision of bright outlines; an exciting row of rousing songs
and groans of pain. He suffered, enjoyed, admired, approved. He was
delighted, frightened, exalted--as on that evening (the only time in his
life--twenty-seven years ago; he loved to recall the number of years)
when as a young man he had--through keeping bad company--become
intoxicated in an East-end music-hall. A tide of sudden feeling swept
him clean out of his body. He soared. He contemplated the secret of the
hereafter. It commended itself to him. It was excellent; he loved it,
himself, all hands, and Jimmy. His heart overflowed with tenderness,
with comprehension, with the desire to meddle, with anxiety for the
soul of that black man, with the pride of possessed eternity, with the
feeling of might. Snatch him up in his arms and pitch him right into the
middle of salvation... The black soul--blacker--body--rot--Devil. No!
Talk-strength--Samson.... There was a great din as of cymbals in his
ears; he flashed through an ecstatic jumble of shining faces, lilies,
prayer-books, unearthly joy, white skirts, gold harps, black coats,
wings. He saw flowing garments, clean shaved faces, a sea of light--a
lake of pitch. There were sweet scent, a smell of sulphur--red tongues
of flame licking a white mist. An awesome voice thundered!... It lasted
three seconds.

"Jimmy!" he cried in an inspired tone. Then he hesitated. A spark
of human pity glimmered yet through the infernal fog of his supreme

"What?" said James Wait, unwillingly. There was a silence. He turned his
head just the least bit, and stole a cautious glance. The cook's lips
moved without a sound; his face was rapt, his eyes turned up. He seemed
to be mentally imploring deck beams, the brass hook of the lamp, two

"Look here," said Wait, "I want to go to sleep. I think I could."

"This is no time for sleep!" exclaimed the cook, very loud. He had
prayerfully divested himself of the last vestige of his humanity. He was
a voice--a fleshless and sublime thing, as on that memorable night--the
night when he went walking over the sea to make coffee for perishing
sinners. "This is no time for sleeping," he repeated with exaltation. "I
can't sleep."

"Don't care damn," said Wait, with factitious energy. "I can. Go an'
turn in."

"Swear... in the very jaws!... In the very jaws! Don't you see the
everlasting fire... don't you feel it? Blind, chockfull of sin! Repent,
repent! I can't bear to think of you. I hear the call to save you. Night
and day. Jimmy, let me save you!" The words of entreaty and menace
broke out of him in a roaring torrent. The cockroaches ran away. Jimmy
perspired, wriggling stealthily under his blanket. The cook yelled....
"Your days are numbered!... "--"Get out of this," boomed Wait,
courageously.--"Pray with me!... "--"I won't!..." The little cabin
was as hot as an oven. It contained an immensity of fear and pain; an
atmosphere of shrieks and moans; prayers vociferated like blasphemies
and whispered curses. Outside, the men called by Charley, who informed
them in tones of delight that there was a holy row going on in Jimmy's
place, crowded before the closed door, too startled to open it. All
hands were there. The watch below had jumped out on deck in their
shirts, as after a collision. Men running up, asked:--"What is it?"
Others said:--"Listen!" The muffled screaming went on:--"On your knees!
On your knees!"--"Shut up!"--"Never! You are delivered into my hands....
Your life has been saved.... Purpose.... Mercy.... Repent."--"You are a
crazy fool!..."--"Account of you... you... Never sleep in this world,
if I..."--"Leave off."--"No!... stokehold... only think!..." Then
an impassioned screeching babble where words pattered like hail.--"No!"
shouted Wait.--"Yes. You are!... No help.... Everybody says so."--"You
lie!"--"I see you dying this minnyt... before my eyes... as good as dead
already."--"Help!" shouted Jimmy, piercingly.--"Not in this valley....
look upwards," howled the other.--"Go away! Murder! Help!" clamoured
Jimmy. His voice broke. There were moanings, low mutters, a few sobs.

"What's the matter now?" said a seldom-heard voice.--"Fall back,
men! Fall back, there!" repeated Mr. Creighton, sternly, pushing
through.--"Here's the old man," whispered some.--"The cook's in there,
sir," exclaimed several, backing away. The door clattered open; a broad
stream of light darted out on wondering faces; a warm whiff of vitiated
air passed. The two mates towered head and shoulders above the spare,
grey-haired man who stood revealed between them, in shabby clothes,
stiff and angular, like a small carved figure, and with a thin, composed
face. The cook got up from his knees. Jimmy sat high in the bunk,
clasping his drawn-up legs. The tassel of the blue night-cap almost
imperceptibly trembled over his knees. They gazed astonished at his
long, curved back, while the white corner of one eye gleamed blindly
at them. He was afraid to turn his head, he shrank within himself; and
there was an aspect astounding and animal-like in the perfection of his
expectant immobility. A thing of instinct--the unthinking stillness of a
scared brute. "What are you doing here?" asked Mr. Baker, sharply.--"My
duty," said the cook, with ardour.--"Your... what?" began the mate.
Captain Allistoun touched his arm lightly.--"I know his caper," he said,
in a low voice. "Come out of that, Podmore," he ordered, aloud.

The cook wrung his hands, shook his fists above his head, and his
arms dropped as if too heavy. For a moment he stood distracted and
speechless.--"Never," he stammered, "I... he I."--

"What--do--you--say?" pronounced Captain Allistoun. "Come out at
once--or..."--"I am going," said the cook, with a hasty and sombre
resignation. He strode over the doorstep firmly--hesitated--made a few
steps. They looked at him in silence.--"I make you responsible!" he
cried, desperately, turning half round. "That man is dying. I make you..
"--"You there yet?" called the master in a threatening tone.--"No, sir,"
he exclaimed, hurriedly, in a startled voice. The boatswain led him
away by the arm; some one laughed; Jimmy lifted his head for a stealthy
glance, and in one unexpected leap sprang out of his bunk; Mr. Baker
made a clever catch and felt him very limp in his arms; the group at the
door grunted with surprise.--"He lies," gasped Wait, "he talked
about black devils--he is a devil--a white devil--I am all right."
He stiffened himself, and Mr. Baker, experimentally, let him go. He
staggered a pace or two; Captain Allistoun watched him with a quiet and
penetrating gaze; Belfast ran to his support. He did not appear to
be aware of any one near him; he stood silent for a moment, battling
single-handed with a legion of nameless terrors, amidst the eager
looks of excited men who watched him far off, utterly alone in the
impenetrable solitude of his fear. The sea gurgled through the scuppers
as the ship heeled over to a short puff of wind.

"Keep him away from me," said James Wait at last m his fine baritone
voice, and leaning with all his weight on Belfast's neck. "I've been
better this last week:... I am well... I was going back to duty...
to-morrow--now if you like--Captain." Belfast hitched his shoulders to
keep him upright.

"No," said the master, looking at him, fixedly. Under Jimmy's armpit
Belfast's red face moved uneasily. A row of eyes gleaming stared on the
edge of light. They pushed one another with elbows, turned their heads,
whispered. Wait let his chin fall on his breast and, with lowered
eyelids, looked round in a suspicious manner.

"Why not?" cried a voice from the shadows, "the man's all right, sir."

"I am all right," said Wait, with eagerness. "Been sick... better...
turn-to now." He sighed.--"Howly Mother!" exclaimed Belfast with a heave
of the shoulders, "stand up, Jimmy."--"Keep away from me then," said
Wait, giving Belfast a petulant push, and reeling fetched against the
doorpost. His cheekbones glistened as though they had been varnished. He
snatched off his night-cap, wiped his perspiring face with it, flung it
on the deck. "I am coming out," he declared without stirring.

"No. You don't," said the master, curtly. Bare feet shuffled,
disapproving voices murmured all round; he went on as if he had not
heard:--"You have been skulking nearly all the passage and now you want
to come out. You think you are near enough to the pay-table now. Smell
the shore, hey?"

"I've been sick... now--better," mumbled Wait, glaring in the
light.--"You have been shamming sick," retorted Captain Allistoun with
severity; "Why..." he hesitated for less than half a second. "Why,
anybody can see that. There's nothing the matter with you, but you
choose to lie-up to please yourself--and now you shall lie-up to please
me. Mr. Baker, my orders are that this man is not to be allowed on deck
to the end of the passage."

There were exclamations of surprise, triumph, indignation. The dark
group of men swung across the light. "What for?" "Told you so..."
"Bloomin' shame..."--"We've got to say somethink about that," screeched
Donkin from the rear.--"Never mind, Jim--we will see you righted," cried
several together. An elderly seaman stepped to the front. "D'ye mean to
say, sir," he asked, ominously, "that a sick chap ain't allowed to get
well in this 'ere hooker?" Behind him Donkin whispered excitedly amongst
a staring crowd where no one spared him a glance, but Captain AUistoun
shook a forefinger at the angry bronzed face of the speaker.--"You--you
hold your tongue," he said, warningly.--"This isn't the way," clamoured
two or three younger men.--"Are we bloomin' masheens?" inquired Donkin
in a piercing tone, and dived under the elbows of the front rank.--"Soon
show 'im we ain't boys..."--"The man's a man if he is black."--"We
ain't goin' to work this bloomin' ship shorthanded if Snowball's
all right..."--"He says he is."--"Well then, strike, boys,
strike!"--"That's the bloomin' ticket." Captain AUistoun said sharply to
the second mate: "Keep quiet, Mr. Creighton," and stood composed in the
tumult, listening with profound attention to mixed growls and screeches,
to every exclamation and every curse of the sudden outbreak. Somebody
slammed the cabin door to with a kick; the darkness full of menacing
mutters leaped with a short clatter over the streak of light, and
the men became gesticulating shadows that growled, hissed, laughed
excitedly. Mr. Baker whispered:--"Get away from them, sir." The big
shape of Mr. Creighton hovered silently about the slight figure of the
master.--"We have been hymposed upon all this voyage," said a
gruff voice, "but this 'ere fancy takes the cake."--"That man is a
shipmate."--"Are we bloomin' kids?"--"The port watch will refuse
duty." Charley carried away by his feeling whistled shrilly, then
yelped:--"Giv' us our Jimmy!" This seemed to cause a variation in the
disturbance. There was a fresh burst of squabbling uproar. A lot of
quarrels were set going at once.--"Yes."--"No."--"Never been sick."--"Go
for them to once."--"Shut yer mouth, youngster---this is men's
work."--"Is it?" muttered Captain Allistoun, bitterly. Mr. Baker
grunted: "Ough! They're gone silly. They've been simmering for the last
month."--"I did notice," said the master.--"They have started a row
amongst themselves now," said Mr. Creighton with disdain, "better get
aft, sir. We will soothe them.--"Keep your temper, Creighton," said the
master. And the three men began to move slowly towards the cabin door.

In the shadows of the fore rigging a dark mass stamped, eddied,
advanced, retreated. There were words of reproach, encouragement,
unbelief, execration. The elder seamen, bewildered and angry, growled
their determination to go through with something or other; but the
younger school of advanced thought exposed their and Jimmy's wrongs with
confused shouts, arguing amongst themselves. They clustered round that
moribund carcass, the fit emblem of their aspirations, and encouraging
one another they swayed, they tramped on one spot, shouting that they
would not be "put upon." Inside the cabin, Belfast, helping Jimmy into
his bunk, twitched all over in his desire not to miss all the row, and
with difficulty restrained the tears of his facile emotion. James Wait,
flat on his back under the blanket, gasped complaints.--"We will back
you up, never fear," assured Belfast, busy about his feet.--

"I'll come out to-morrow morning------take my chance-------you fellows
must------" mumbled Wait, "I come out to-morrow------skipper or no
skipper." He lifted one arm with great difficulty, passed the hand over
his face; "Don't you let that cook..." he breathed out.--"No, no,"
said Belfast, turning his back on the bunk, "I will put a head on him
if he comes near you."--"I will smash his mug!" exclaimed faintly Wait,
enraged and weak; "I don't want to kill a man, but..." He panted fast
like a dog after a run in sunshine. Some one just outside the door
shouted, "He's as fit as any ov us!" Belfast put his hand on the
door-handle.--"Here!" called James Wait, hurriedly, and in such a clear
voice that the other spun round with a start. James Wait, stretched
out black and deathlike in the dazzling light, turned his head on the
pillow. His eyes stared at Belfast, appealing and impudent. "I am
rather weak from lying-up so long," he said, distinctly. Belfast nodded.
"Getting quite well now," insisted Wait.--"Yes. I noticed you getting
better this... last month," said Belfast, looking down. "Hallo! What's
this?" he shouted and ran out.

He was flattened directly against the side of the house by two men who
lurched against him. A lot of disputes seemed to be going on all round.
He got clear and saw three indistinct figures standing along in the
fainter darkness under the arched foot of the mainsail, that rose above
their heads like a convex wall of a high edifice. Donkin hissed:--"Go
for them... it's dark!" The crowd took a short run aft in a body--then
there was a check. Donkin, agile and thin, flitted past with his right
arm going like a windmill--and then stood still suddenly with his arm
pointing rigidly above his head. The hurtling flight of some heavy
object was heard; it passed between the heads of the two mates, bounded
heavily along the deck, struck the after hatch with a ponderous and
deadened blow. The bulky shape of Mr. Baker grew distinct. "Come to your
senses, men!" he cried, advancing at the arrested crowd. "Come back, Mr.
Baker!" called the master's quiet voice. He obeyed unwillingly. There
was a minute of silence, then a deafening hubbub arose. Above it Archie
was heard energetically:--"If ye do oot ageen I wull tell!" There were
shouts. "Don't!" "Drop it!"--"We ain't that kind!" The black cluster of
human forms reeled against the bulwark, back again towards the
house. Ringbolts rang under stumbling feet.--"Drop it!" "Let
me!"--"No!"--"Curse you... hah!" Then sounds as of some one's face being
slapped; a piece of iron fell on the deck; a short scuffle, and some
one's shadowy body scuttled rapidly across the main hatch before
the shadow of a kick. A raging voice sobbed out a torrent of filthy
language...--"Throwing things--good God!" grunted Mr. Baker in
dismay.--"That was meant for me," said the master, quietly; "I felt
the wind of that thing; what was it--an iron belaying-pin?"--"By Jove!"
muttered Mr. Creighton. The confused voices of men talking amidships
mingled with the wash of the sea, ascended between the silent and
distended sails-seemed to flow away into the night, further than
the horizon, higher than the sky. The stars burned steadily over the
inclined mastheads. Trails of light lay on the water, broke before the
advancing hull, and, after she had passed, trembled for a long time as
if in awe of the murmuring sea.

Meantime the helmsman, anxious to know what the row was about, had let
go the wheel, and, bent double, ran with long, stealthy footsteps to the
break of the poop. The _Narcissus_, left to herself, came up gently in
to the wind without any one being aware of it. She gave a slight roll,
and the sleeping sails woke suddenly, coming all together with a mighty
flap against the masts, then filled again one after another in a quick
succession of loud reports that ran down the lofty spars, till the
collapsed mainsail flew out last with a violent jerk. The ship trembled
from trucks to keel; the sails kept on rattling like a discharge of
musketry; the chain sheets and loose shackles jingled aloft in a thin
peal; the gin blocks groaned. It was as if an invisible hand had given
the ship an angry shake to recall the men that peopled her decks to the
sense of reality, vigilance, and duty.--"Helm up!" cried the master,
sharply. "Run aft, Mr. Creighton, and see what that fool there is up
to."--"Flatten in the head sheets. Stand by the weather fore-braces,"
growled Mr. Baker. Startled men ran swiftly repeating the orders. The
watch below, abandoned all at once by the watch on deck, drifted towards
the forecastle in twos and threes, arguing noisily as they went--"We
shall see to-morrow!" cried a loud voice, as if to cover with a menacing
hint an inglorious retreat. And then only orders were heard, the falling
of heavy coils of rope, the rattling of blocks. Singleton's white head
flitted here and there in the night, high above the deck, like the ghost
of a bird.--"Going off, sir!" shouted Mr. Creighton from aft.--"Full
again."--"All right... "--"Ease off the head sheets. That will do the
braces. Coil the ropes up," grunted Mr. Baker, bustling about.

Gradually the tramping noises, the confused sound of voices, died out,
and the officers, coming together on the poop, discussed the events. Mr.
Baker was bewildered and grunted; Mr. Creighton was calmly furious;
but Captain Allistoun was composed and thoughtful. He; listened to Mr.
Baker's growling argumentation, to Creighton's interjected and severe
remarks, while look-' ing down on the deck he weighed in his hand the
iron belaying-pin--that a moment ago had just missed his head--as if it
had been the only tangible fact of the whole transaction. He was one
of those commanders who speak little, seem to hear nothing, look at no
one--and know everything, hear every whisper, see every fleeting shadow
of their ship's life. His two big officers towered above his lean, short
figure; they talked over his head; they were dismayed, surprised, and
angry, while between them the little quiet man seemed to have found his
taciturn serenity in the profound depths of a larger experience. Lights
were burning in the forecastle; now and then a loud gust of babbling
chatter came from forward, swept over the decks, and became faint, as if
the unconscious ship, gliding gently through the great peace of the sea,
had left behind and for ever the foolish noise of turbulent mankind. But
it was renewed again and again. Gesticulating arms, profiles of heads
with open mouths appeared for a moment in the illuminated squares of
doorways; black fists darted--withdrew... "Yes. It was most damnable to
have such an unprovoked row sprung on one," assented the master. ... A
tumult of yells rose in the light, abruptly ceased.... He didn't think
there would be any further trouble just then.... A bell was struck aft,
another, forward, answered in a deeper tone, and the clamour of ringing
metal spread round the ship in a circle of wide vibrations that ebbed
away into the immeasurable night of an empty sea.... Didn't he know
them! Didn't he! In past years. Better men, too. Real men to stand by
one in a tight place. Worse than devils too sometimes--downright, horned
devils. Pah! This--. nothing. A miss as good as a mile.... The wheel was
being relieved in the usual way.--"Full and by," said, very loud, the
man going off.--"Full and by," repeated the other, catching hold of the
spokes.--"This head wind is my trouble," exclaimed the master, stamping
his foot in sudden anger; "head wind! all the rest is nothing." He was
calm again in a moment. "Keep them on the move to-night, gentlemen; just
to let them feel we've got hold all the time--quietly, you know. Mind
you keep your hands off them, Creighton. To-morrow I will talk to them
like a Dutch Uncle. A crazy crowd of tinkers! Yes, tinkers! I could
count the real sailors amongst them on the fingers of one hand. Nothing
will do but a row--if--you--please." He paused. "Did you think I had
gone wrong there, Mr. Baker?" He tapped his forehead, laughed short.
"When I saw him standing there, three parts dead and so scared--black
amongst that gaping lot--no grit to face what's coming to us all--the
notion came to me all at once, before I could think. Sorry for him--like
you would be for a sick brute. If ever creature was in a mortal funk
to die! ... I thought I would let him go out in his own way. Kind of
impulse. It never came into my head, those fools.... H'm! Stand to it
now--of course." He stuck the belaying-pin in his pocket, seemed ashamed
of himself, then sharply:--"If you see Podmore at his tricks again tell
him I will have him put under the pump. Had to do it once before. The
fellow breaks out like that now and then. Good cook tho'." He walked
away quickly, came back to the companion. The two mates followed him
through the starlight with amazed eyes. He went down three steps, and
changing his tone, spoke with his head near the deck:--"I shan't turn in
to-night, in case of anything; just call out if... Did you see the eyes
of that sick nigger, Mr. Baker? I fancied he begged me for something.
What? Past all help. One lone black beggar amongst the lot of us, and
he seemed to look through me into the very hell. Fancy, this wretched
Podmore! Well, let him die in peace. I am master here after all. Let
him be. He might have been half a man once... Keep a good look-out." He
disappeared down below, leaving his mates facing one another, and more
impressed than if they had seen a stone image shed a miraculous tear of
compassion over the incertitudes of life and death....

In the blue mist spreading from twisted threads that stood upright in
the bowls of pipes, the forecastle appeared as vast as a hall. Between
the beams a heavy cloud stagnated; and the lamps surrounded by halos
burned each at the core of a purple glow in two lifeless flames without
rays. Wreaths drifted in denser wisps. Men sprawled about on the deck,
sat in negligent poses, or, bending a knee, drooped with one shoulder
against a bulkhead. Lips moved, eyes flashed, waving arms made sudden
eddies in the smoke. The murmur of voices seemed to pile itself higher
and higher as if unable to run out quick enough through the narrow
doors. The watch below in their shirts, and striding on long white legs,
resembled raving somnambulists; while now and then one of the watch on
deck would rush in, looking strangely over-dressed, listen a moment,
fling a rapid sentence into the noise and run out again; but a few
remained near the door, fascinated, and with one ear turned to the deck.
"Stick together, boys," roared Davis. Belfast tried to make himself
heard. Knowles grinned in a slow, dazed way. A short fellow with a
thick clipped beard kept on yelling periodically:--"Who's afeard? Who's
afeard?" Another one jumped up, excited, with blazing eyes, sent out
a string of unattached curses and sat down quietly. Two men discussed
familiarly, striking one another's breast in turn, to clinch arguments.
Three others, with their heads in a bunch, spoke all together with a
confidential air, and at the top of their voices. It was a stormy chaos
of speech where intelligible fragments tossing, struck the ear. One
could hear:--"In the last ship"--"Who cares? Try it on any one of us

"Knock under"--"Not a hand's turn"--"He says he is all right"--"I always
thought"--"Never mind...." Donkin, crouching all in a heap against the
bowsprit, hunched his shoulderblades as high as his ears, and hanging
a peaked nose, resembled a sick vulture with ruffled plumes. Belfast,
straddling his legs, had a face red with yelling, and with arms thrown
up, figured a Maltese cross. The two Scandinavians, in a corner, had
the dumbfounded and distracted aspect of men gazing at a cataclysm. And,
beyond the light, Singleton stood in the smoke, monumental, indistinct,
with his head touching the beam; like a statue of heroic size in the
gloom of a crypt.

He stepped forward, impassive and big. The noise subsided like a broken
wave: but Belfast cried once more with uplifted arms:--"The man is
dying I tell ye!" then sat down suddenly on the hatch and took his head
between his hands. All looked at Singleton, gazing upwards from the
deck, staring out of dark corners, or turning their heads with curious
glances. They were expectant and appeased as if that old man, who looked
at no one, had possessed the secret of their uneasy indignations and
desires, a sharper vision, a clearer knowledge. And indeed standing
there amongst them, he had the uninterested appearance of one who had
seen multitudes of ships, had listened many times to voices such as
theirs, had already seen all that could happen on the wide seas. They
heard his voice rumble in his broad chest as though the words had been
rolling towards them out of a rugged past. "What do you want to do?" he
asked. No one answered. Only Knowles muttered--"Aye, aye," and somebody
said low:--"It's a bloomin' shame." He waited, made a contemptuous
gesture.--"I have seen rows aboard ship before some of you were born,"
he said, slowly, "for something or nothing; but never for such a
thing."--"The man is dying, I tell ye," repeated Belfast, woefully,
sitting at Singleton's feet.--"And a black fellow, too," went on the old
seaman, "I have seen them die like flies." He stopped, thoughtful, as if
trying to recollect gruesome things, details of horrors, hecatombs of
niggers. They looked at him fascinated. He was old enough to remember
slavers, bloody mutinies, pirates perhaps; who could tell through what
violences and terrors he had lived! What would he say? He said:--"You
can't help him; die he must." He made another pause. His moustache and
beard stirred. He chewed words, mumbled behind tangled white hairs;
incomprehensible and exciting, like an oracle behind a veil....--"Stop
ashore------sick.-------Instead------bringing all this head wind.
Afraid. The sea will have her own.------Die in sight of land. Always so.
They know it------long passage------more days, more dollars.------You----"

He seemed to wake up from a dream. "You can't help yourselves," he
said, austerely, "Skipper's no fool. He has something in his mind. Look
out--say! I know 'em!" With eyes fixed in front he turned his head from
right to left, from left to right, as if inspecting a long row of
astute skippers.--"'Ee said 'ee would brain me!" cried Donkin in a
heartrending tone. Singleton peered downwards with puzzled attention,
as though he couldn't find him.--"Damn you!" he said, vaguely, giving it
up. He radiated unspeakable wisdom, hard unconcern, the chilling air
of resignation. Round him all the listeners felt themselves somehow
completely enlightened by their disappointment, and mute, they lolled
about with the careless ease of men who can discern perfectly the
irremediable aspect of their existence. He, profound and unconscious,
waved his arm once, and strode out on deck without another word.

Belfast was lost in a round-eyed meditation. One or two vaulted heavily
into upper berths, and, once there, sighed; others dived head first
inside lower bunks--swift, and turning round instantly upon themselves,
like animals going into lairs. The grating of a knife scraping burnt
clay was heard. Knowles grinned no more. Davis said, in a tone of ardent
conviction: "Then our skipper's looney." Archie muttered: "My faith! we
haven't heard the last of it yet!" Four bells were struck.--"Half our
watch below gone!" cried Knowles in alarm, then reflected. "Well, two
hours' sleep is something towards a rest," he observed, consolingly.
Some already pretended to slumber; and Charley, sound asleep, suddenly
said a few slurred words in an arbitrary, blank voice.--"This blamed
boy has worrums!" commented Knowles from under a blanket, in a learned
manner. Belfast got up and approached Archie's berth.--"We pulled
him out," he whispered, sadly.--"What?" said the other, with sleepy
discontent.--"And now we will have to chuck him overboard," went on
Belfast, whose lower lip trembled.--"Chuck what?" asked Archie.--"Poor
Jimmy," breathed out Belfast.--"He be blowed!" said Archie with
untruthful brutality, and sat up in his bunk; "It's all through him.
If it hadn't been for me, there would have been murder on board this
ship!"--"'Tain't his fault, is it?" argued Belfast, in a murmur; "I've
put him to bed... an' he ain't no heavier than an empty beef-cask,"
he added, with tears in his eyes. Archie looked at him steadily, then
turned his nose to the ship's side with determination. Belfast wandered
about as though he had lost his way in the dim forecastle, and nearly
fell over Donkin. He contemplated him from on high for a while. "Ain't
ye going to turn in?" he asked. Donkin looked up hopelessly.--"That
black'earted Scotch son of a thief kicked me!" he whispered from the
floor, in a tone of utter desolation.--"And a good job, too!" said
Belfast, still very depressed; "You were as near hanging as damn-it
to-night, sonny. Don't you play any of your murthering games around my
Jimmy! You haven't pulled him out. You just mind! 'Cos if I start to
kick you"--he brightened up a bit--"if I start to kick you, it will be
Yankee fashion--to break something!" He tapped lightly with his knuckles
the top of the bowed head. "You moind that, my bhoy!" he concluded,
cheerily. Donkin let it pass.--"Will they split on me?" he asked, with
pained anxiety.--"Who--split?" hissed Belfast, coming back a step. "I
would split your nose this minyt if I hadn't Jimmy to look after! Who
d'ye think we are?" Donkin rose and watched Belfast's back lurch through
the doorway. On all sides invisible men slept, breathing calmly. He
seemed to draw courage and fury from the peace around him. Venomous and
thin-faced, he glared from the ample misfit of borrowed clothes as if
looking for something he could smash. His heart leaped wildly in his
narrow chest. They slept! He wanted to wring necks, gouge eyes, spit
on faces. He shook a dirty pair of meagre fists at the smoking lights.
"Ye're no men!" he cried, in a deadened tone. No one moved. "Yer 'aven't
the pluck of a mouse!" His voice rose to a husky screech. Wamibo darted
out a dishevelled head, and looked at him wildly. "Ye're sweepings
ov ships! I 'ope you will all rot before you die!" Wamibo blinked,
uncomprehending but interested. Donkin sat down heavily; he blew with
force through quivering nostrils, he ground and snapped his teeth, and,
with the chin pressed hard against the breast, he seemed busy gnawing
his way through it, as if to get at the heart within....

In the morning the ship, beginning another day of her wandering life,
had an aspect of sumptuous freshness, like the spring-time of the earth.
The washed decks glistened in a long clear stretch; the oblique sunlight
struck the yellow brasses in dazzling splashes, darted over the polished
rods in lines of gold, and the single drops of salt water forgotten here
and there along the rail were as limpid as drops of dew, and sparkled
more than scattered diamonds. The sails slept, hushed by a gentle
breeze. The sun, rising lonely and splendid in the blue sky, saw a
solitary ship gliding close-hauled on the blue sea.

The men pressed three deep abreast of the mainmast and opposite the
cabin-door. They shuffled, pushed, had an irresolute mien and stolid
faces. At every slight movement Knowles lurched heavily on his short
leg. Donkin glided behind backs, restless and anxious, like a man
looking for an ambush. Captain Allistoun came out on the quarter-deck
suddenly. He walked to and fro before the front. He was grey, slight,
alert, shabby in the sunshine, and as hard as adamant. He had his right
hand in the side-pocket of his jacket, and also something heavy in there
that made folds all down that side. One of the seamen cleared his throat
ominously.--"I haven't till now found fault with you men," said the
master, stopping short. He faced them with his worn, steely gaze, that
by a universal illusion looked straight into every individual pair of
the twenty pairs of eyes before his face. At his back Mr. Baker, gloomy
and bull-necked, grunted low; Mr. Creighton, fresh as paint, had rosy
cheeks and a ready, resolute bearing. "And I don't now," continued the
master; "but I am here to drive this ship and keep every man-jack aboard
of her up to the mark. If you knew your work as well as I do mine,
there would be no trouble. You've been braying in the dark about 'See
to-morrow morning!' Well, you see me now. What do you want?" He waited,
stepping quickly to and fro, giving them searching glances. What did
they want? They shifted from foot to foot, they balanced their bodies;
some, pushing back their caps, scratched their heads. What did they
want? Jimmy was forgotten; no one thought of him, alone forward in
his cabin, fighting great shadows, clinging to brazen lies, chuckling
painfully over his transparent deceptions. No, not Jimmy; he was more
forgotten than if he had been dead. They wanted great things. And
suddenly all the simple words they knew seemed to be lost for ever in
the immensity of their vague and burning desire. They knew what they
wanted, but they could not find anything worth saying. They stirred on
one spot, swinging, at the end of muscular arms, big tarry hands with
crooked fingers. A murmur died out.--"What is it--food?" asked the
master, "you know the stores have been spoiled off the Cape."--"We know
that, sir," said a bearded shell-back in the front rank.--"Work too
hard--eh? Too much for your strength?" he asked again. There was an
offended silence.--"We don't want to go shorthanded, sir," began at last
Davis in a wavering voice, "and this 'ere black...."--"Enough!" cried
the master. He stood scanning them for a moment, then walking a few
steps this way and that began to storm at them coldly, in gusts
violent and cutting like the gales of those icy seas that had known
his youth.--"Tell you what's the matter? Too big for your boots. Think
yourselves damn good men. Know half your work. Do half your duty. Think
it too much. If you did ten times as much it wouldn't be
enough."--"We did our best by her, sir," cried some one with shaky
exasperation.--"Your best," stormed on the master; "You hear a lot on
shore, don't you? They don't tell you there your best isn't much to
boast of. I tell you--your best is no better than bad."

"You can do no more? No, I know, and say nothing. But you stop your caper
or I will stop it for you. I am ready for you! Stop it!" He shook a
finger at the crowd. "As to that man," he raised his voice very much;
"as to that man, if he puts his nose out on deck without my leave I will
clap him in irons. There!" The cook heard him forward, ran out of the
galley lifting his arms, horrified, unbelieving, amazed, and ran in
again. There was a moment of profound silence during which a bow-legged
seaman, stepping aside, expectorated decorously into the scupper. "There
is another thing," said the master, calmly. He made a quick stride and
with a swing took an iron belaying-pin out of his pocket. "This!" His
movement was so unexpected and sudden that the crowd stepped back. He
gazed fixedly at their faces, and some at once put on a surprised air as
though they had never seen a belay-ing-pin before. He held it up. "This
is my affair. I don't ask you any questions, but you all know it; it has
got to go where it came from." His eyes became angry. The crowd stirred
uneasily. They looked away from the piece of iron, they appeared shy,
they were embarrassed and shocked as though it had been something
horrid, scandalous, or indelicate, that in common decency should not
have been flourished like this in broad daylight. The master watched
them attentively. "Donkin," he called out in a short, sharp tone.

Donkin dodged behind one, then behind another, but they looked over
their shoulders and moved aside. The ranks kept on opening before him,
closing behind, till at last he appeared alone before the master as
though he had come up through the deck. Captain Allistoun moved close to
him. They were much of a size, and at short range the master exchanged a
deadly glance with the beady eyes. They wavered.--"You know this?"
asked the master.--"No, I don't," answered the other, with cheeky
trepidation.--"You are a cur. Take it," ordered the master. Donkin's
arms seemed glued to his thighs; he stood, eyes front, as if drawn
on parade. "Take it," repeated the master, and stepped closer; they
breathed on one another. "Take it," said Captain Allistoun again, making
a menacing gesture. Donkin tore away one arm from his side.--"Vy are yer
down on me?" he mumbled with effort and as if his mouth had been full of
dough.--"If you don't..." began the master. Donkin snatched at the pin
as though his intention had been to run away with it, and remained stock
still holding it like a candle. "Put it back where you took it from,"
said Captain Allistoun, looking at him fiercely. Donkin stepped back
opening wide eyes. "Go, you blackguard, or I will make you," cried the
master, driving him slowly backwards by a menacing advance. He dodged,
and with the dangerous iron tried to guard his head from a threatening
fist. Mr. Baker ceased grunting for a moment.--"Good! By Jove," murmured
appreciatively Mr. Creighton in the tone of a connoisseur.--"Don't tech
me," snarled Donkin, backing away.--"Then go. Go faster."--"Don't yer
'it me.... I will pull yer up afore the magistryt.... I'll show yer
up." Captain Allistoun made a long stride, and Donkin, turning his back
fairly, ran off a little, then stopped and over his shoulder showed
yellow teeth.--"Further on, fore-rigging," urged the master, pointing
with his arm.--"Are yer goin' to stand by and see me bullied?" screamed
Donkin at the silent crowd that watched him. Captain Allistoun walked
at him smartly. He started off again with a leap, dashed at the
fore-rigging, rammed the pin into its hole violently. "I'll be even
with yer yet," he screamed at the ship at large and vanished beyond
the foremast. Captain Allistoun spun round and walked back aft with a
composed face, as though he had already forgotten the scene. Men moved
out of his way. He looked at no one.--"That will do, Mr. Baker. Send
the watch below," he said, quietly. "And you men try to walk straight
for the future," he added in a calm voice. He looked pensively for a
while at the backs of the impressed and retreating crowd. "Breakfast,
steward," he called in a tone of relief through the cabin door.--"I
didn't like to see you--Ough!--give that pin to that chap, sir,"
observed Mr. Baker; "he could have bust--Ough!--bust your head like an
eggshell with it."--"O! he!" muttered the master, absently. "Queer lot,"
he went on in a low voice. "I suppose it's all right now. Can never tell
tho' nowadays, with such a... Years ago; I was a young master then--one
China voyage I had a mutiny; real mutiny, Baker. Different men tho'. I
knew what they wanted: they wanted to broach the cargo and get at the
liquor. Very simple.... We knocked them about for two days, and when
they had enough--gentle as lambs. Good crew. And a smart trip I made."
He glanced aloft at the yards braced sharp up. "Head wind day after
day," he exclaimed, bitterly. "Shall we never get a decent slant this
passage?"--"Ready, sir," said the steward, appearing before them as if
by magic and with a stained napkin in his hand.--"Ah! All right. Come
along, Mr. Baker--it's late--with all this nonsense."

Joseph Conrad

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