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Chapter 5

CHAPTER V

That was the first of many talks with Dan, who told Harvey why he
would transfer his dory's name to the imaginary Burgess-modelled
haddocker. Harvey heard a good deal about the real Hattie at
Gloucester; saw a lock of her hair - which Dan, finding fair words
of no avail, had "hooked" as she sat in front of him at school
that winter - and a photograph. Hattie was about fourteen years
old, with an awful contempt for boys, and had been trampling on
Dan's heart through the winter. All this was revealed under oath
of solemn secrecy on moonlit decks, in the dead dark, or in
choking fog; the whining wheel behind them, the climbing deck
before, and without, the unresting, clamorous sea. Once, of
course, as the boys came to know each other, there was a fight,
which raged from bow to stern till Penn came up and separated
them, but promised not to tell Disko, who thought fighting on
watch rather worse than sleeping. Harvey was no match for Dan
physically, but it says a great deal for his new training that he
took his defeat and did not try to get even with his conqueror by
underhand methods.

That was after he had been cured of a string of boils between his
elbows and wrists, where the wet jersey and oilskins cut into the
flesh. The salt water stung them unpleasantly, but when they were
ripe Dan treated them with Disko's razor, and assured Harvey that
now he was a "blooded Banker"; the affliction of gurry-sores being
the mark of the caste that claimed him.

Since he was a boy and very busy, he did not bother his head with
too much thinking. He was exceedingly sorry for his mother, and
often longed to see her and above all to tell her of his wonderful
new life, and how brilliantly he was acquitting himself in it.
Otherwise he preferred not to wonder too much how she was bearing
the shock of his supposed death. But one day, as he stood on the
fo'c'sle ladder, guying the cook, who had accused him and Dan of
hooking fried pies, it occurred to him that this was a vast
improvement on being snubbed by strangers in the smoking-room of a
hired liner.

He was a recognised part of the scheme of things on the "We're
Here"; had his place at the table and among the bunks; and could
hold his own in the long talks on stormy days, when the others
were always ready to listen to what they called his "fairy-tales"
of his life ashore. It did not take him more than two days and a
quarter to feel that if he spoke of his own life - it seemed very
far away - no one except Dan (and even Dan's belief was sorely
tried) credited him. So he invented a friend, a boy he had heard
of, who drove a miniature four-pony drag in Toledo, Ohio, and
ordered five suits of clothes at a time, and led things called
"germans" at parties where the oldest girl was not quite fifteen,
but all the presents were solid silver. Salters protested that
this kind of yarn was desperately wicked, if not indeed positively
blasphemous, but he listened as greedily as the others; and their
criticisms at the end gave Harvey entirely new notions on
"germans," clothes, cigarettes with gold-leaf tips, rings,
watches, scent, small dinner-parties, champagne, card-playing, and
hotel accommodation. Little by little he changed his tone when
speaking of his "friend," whom Long Jack had christened "the Crazy
Kid," "the Gilt-edged Baby," "the Suckin' Vanderpoop," and other
pet names; and with his sea-booted feet cocked up on the table
would even invent histories about silk pajamas and specially
imported neckwear, to the "friend's" discredit. Harvey was a very
adaptable person, with a keen eye and ear for every face and tone
about him.

Before long he knew where Disko kept the old green-crusted
quadrant that they called the "hog-yoke" - under the bed-bag in
his bunk. When he 'took the sun, and with the help of "The Old
Farmer's" almanac found the latitude, Harvey would jump down into
the cabin and scratch the reckoning and date with a nail on the
rust of the stove-pipe. Now, the chief engineer of the liner could
have done no more, and no engineer of thirty years' service could
have assumed one half of the ancient-mariner air with which
Harvey, first careful to spit over the side, made public the
schooner's position for that day, and then and not till then
relieved Disko of the quadrant. There is an etiquette in all these
things.

The said "hog-yoke," an Eldridge chart, the farming almanac,
Blunt's "Coast Pilot," and Bowditch's "Navigator" were all the
weapons Disko needed to guide him, except the deep-sea lead that
was his spare eye. Harvey nearly slew Penn with it when Tom Platt
taught him first how to "fly the blue pigeon"; and, though his
strength was not equal to continuous sounding in any sort of a
sea, for calm weather with a seven-pound lead on shoal water Disko
used him freely. As Dan said: "'Tain't soundin's dad wants. It's
samples. Grease her up good, Harve." Harvey would tallow the cup
at the end, and carefully bring the sand, shell, sludge, or
whatever it might be, to Disko, who fingered and smelt it and gave
judgment. As has been said, when Disko thought of cod he thought
as a cod; and by some long-tested mixture of instinct and
experience, moved the "We're Here" from berth to berth, always
with the fish, as a blindfolded chess-player moves on the unseen
board.

But Disko's board was the Grand Bank - a triangle two hundred and
fifty miles on each side a waste of wallowing sea, cloaked with
dank fog, vexed with gales, harried with drifting ice, scored by
the tracks of the reckless liners, and dotted with the sails of
the fishing-fleet.
-
For days they worked in fog - Harvey at the bell - till, grown
familiar with the thick airs, he went out with Tom Platt, his
heart rather in his mouth. But the fog would not lift, and the
fish were biting, and no one can stay helplessly afraid for six
hours at a time. Harvey devoted himself to his lines and the gaff
or gob-stick as Tom Platt called for them; and they rowed back to
the schooner guided by the bell and Tom's instinct; Manuel's conch
sounding thin and faint beside them. But it was an unearthly
experience, and, for the first time in a month, Harvey dreamed of
the shifting, smoking floors of water round the dory, the lines
that strayed away into nothing, and the air above that melted on
the sea below ten feet from his straining eyes. A few days later
he was out with Manuel on what should have been forty-fathom
bottom, but the whole length of the roding ran out, and still the
anchor found nothing, and Harvey grew mortally afraid, for that
his last touch with earth was lost. "Whale-hole," said Manuel,
hauling in. "That is good joke on Disko. Come!" and he rowed to
the schooner to find Tom Platt and the others jeering at the
skipper because, for once, he had led them to the edge of the
barren Whale-deep, the blank hole of the Grand Bank. They made
another berth through the fog, and that time the hair of Harvey's
head stood up when he went out in Manuel's dory. A whiteness moved
in the whiteness of the fog with a breath like the breath of the
grave, and there was a roaring, a plunging, and spouting. It was
his first introduction to the dread summer berg of the Banks, and
he cowered in the bottom of the boat while Manuel laughed. There
were days, though, clear and soft and warm, when it seemed a sin
to do anything but loaf over the hand-lines and spank the drifting
"sun-scalds" with an oar; and there were days of light airs, when
Harvey was taught how to steer the schooner from one berth to
another.

It thrilled through him when he first felt the keel answer to his
hand on the spokes and slide over the long hollows as the foresail
scythed back and forth against the blue sky. That was magnificent,
in spite of Disko saying that it would break a snake's back to
follow his wake. But, as usual, pride ran before a fall. They were
sailing on the wind with the staysail - an old one, luckily - set,
and Harvey jammed her right into it to show Dan how completely he
had mastered the art. The foresail went over with a bang, and the
foregaff stabbed and ripped through the stay-sail, which, was of
course, prevented from going over by the mainstay. They lowered
the wreck in awful silence, and Harvey spent his leisure hours for
the next few days under Torn Platt's lee, learning to use a needle
and palm. Dan hooted with joy, for, as he said, he had made the
very same blunder himself in his early days.

Boylike, Harvey imitated all the men by turns, till he had
combined Disko's peculiar stoop at the wheel, Long Jack's swinging
overhand when the lines were hauled, Manuel's round-shouldered but
effective stroke in a dory, and Tom Platt's generous Ohio stride
along the deck.

"'Tis beautiful to see how he takes to ut," said Long Jack, when
Harvey was looking out by the windlass one thick noon. "I'll lay
my wage an' share 'tis more'n half play-actin' to him, an' he
consates himself he's a bowld mariner. 'Watch his little bit av a
back now!"

"That's the way we all begin," said Tom Platt. "The boys they make
believe all the time till they've cheated 'emselves into bein'
men, an' so till they die - pretendin' an' pretendin'. I done it
on the old Ohio, I know. Stood my first watch - harbor-watch -
feelin' finer'n Farragut. Dan's full o' the same kind o' notions.
See 'em now, actin' to be genewine moss-backs - every hair a rope-
yarn an' blood Stockholm tar." He spoke down the cabin stairs.
"'Guess you're mistook in your judgments fer once, Disko. What in
Rome made ye tell us all here the kid was crazy?"

"He wuz," Disko replied. "Crazy ez a loon when he come aboard; but
I'll say he's sobered up consid'ble sence. I cured him."

"He yarns good," said Tom Platt. "T'other night he told us abaout
a kid of his own size steerin' a cunnin' little rig an' four
ponies up an' down Toledo, Ohio, I think 'twas, an' givin' suppers
to a crowd o' sim'lar kids. Cur'us kind o' fairy-tale, but blame
interestin'. He knows scores of 'em."

"'Guess he strikes 'em outen his own head," Disko called from the
cabin, where he was busy with the log-book. "'Stands to reason
that sort is all made up. It don't take in no one but Dan, an' he
laughs at it. I've heard him, behind my back."

"Y'ever hear what Sim'on Peter Ca'houn said when they whacked up a
match 'twix' his sister Hitty an' Lorin' Jerauld, an' the boys put
up that joke on him daown to Georges?" drawled Uncle Salters, who
was dripping peaceably under the lee of the starboard dory-nest.

Tom Platt puffed at his pipe in scornful silence: he was a Cape
Cod man, and had not known that tale more than twenty years. Uncle
Salters went on with a rasping chuckle:

"Sim'on Peter Ca'houn he said, an' he was jest right, abaout
Lorin', 'Ha'af on the taown,' he said, 'an' t'other ha'af blame
fool; an' they told me she's married a 'ich man.' Sim'on Peter
Ca'houn he hedn't no roof to his mouth, an' talked that way."

"He didn't talk any Pennsylvania Dutch," Tom Platt replied. "You'd
better leave a Cape man to tell that tale. The Ca'houns was
gipsies frum 'way back."

"Wal, I don't profess to be any elocutionist," Salters said. "I'm
comin' to the moral o' things. That's jest abaout what aour Harve
be! Ha'af on the taown, an' t'other ha'af blame fool; an' there's
some'll believe he's a rich man. Yah!"

"Did ye ever think how sweet 'twould be to sail wid a full crew o'
Salterses?" said Long Jack. "Ha'af in the furrer an' other ha'af
in the muck-heap, as Ca'houn did not say, an' makes out he's a
fisherman!"

A little laugh went round at Salters's expense.

Disko held his tongue, and wrought over the log-book that he kept
in a hatchet-faced, square hand; this was the kind of thing that
ran on, page after soiled page:

"July 17. This day thick fog and few fish. Made berth to
northward. So ends this day.

"July 18. This day comes in with thick fog. Caught a few fish.

"July 19. This day comes in with light breeze from N. E. and fine
weather. Made a berth to eastward. Caught plenty fish.

"July 20. This, the Sabbath, comes in with fog and light winds. So
ends this day. Total fish caught this week, 3,478."

They never worked on Sundays, but shaved, and washed themselves if
it were fine, and Pennsylvania sang hymns. Once or twice he
suggested that, if it was not an impertinence, he thought he could
preach a little. Uncle Salters nearly jumped down his throat at
the mere notion, reminding him that he was not a preacher and
mustn't think of such things. We'd hev him rememberin' Johnstown
next," Salters explained, "an' what would happen then?" So they
compromised on his reading aloud from a book called "Josephus." It
was an old leather-bound volume, smelling of a hundred voyages,
very solid and very like the Bible, but enlivened with accounts of
battles and sieges; and they read it nearly from cover to cover.
Otherwise Penn was a silent little body. He would not utter a word
for three days on end sometimes, though he played checkers,
listened to the songs, and laughed at the stories. When they tried
to stir him up, he would answer. "I don't wish to seem
unneighbourly, but it is because I have nothing to say. My head
feels quite empty. I've almost forgotten my name." He would turn
to Uncle Salters with an expectant smile.

"Why, Pennsylvania Pratt," Salters would shout. "You'll fergit me
next!"

"No - never," Penn would say, shutting his lips firmly.
"Pennsylvania Pratt, of course," he would repeat over and over.
Sometimes it was Uncle Salters who forgot, and told him he was
Haskins or Rich or McVitty; but Penn was equally content - till
next time.

He was always very tender with Harvey, whom he pitied both as a
lost child and as a lunatic; and when Salters saw that Penn liked
the boy, he relaxed, too. Salters was not an amiable person (he
esteemed it his business to keep the boys in order); and the first
time Harvey, in fear and trembling, on a still day, managed to
shin up to the main-truck (Dan was behind him ready to help), he
esteemed it his duty to hang Salters's big sea-boots up there - a
sight of shame and derision to the nearest schooner. With Disko,
Harvey took no liberties; not even when the old man dropped direct
orders, and treated him, like the rest of the crew, to "Don't you
want to do so and so?" and "Guess you'd better," and so forth.
There was something about the clean-shaven lips and the puckered
corners of the eyes that was mightily sobering to young blood.

Disko showed him the meaning of the thumbed and pricked chart,
which, he said, laid over any government publication whatsoever;
led him, pencil in hand, from berth to berth over the whole string
of banks - Le Have, Western, Banquereau, St. Pierre, Green, and
Grand - talking "cod" meantime. Taught him, too, the principle on
which the "hog-yoke" was worked.

In this Harvey excelled Dan, for he had inherited a head for
figures, and the notion of stealing information from one glimpse
of the sullen Bank sun appealed to all his keen wits. For other
sea-matters his age handicapped him. As Disko said, he should have
begun when he was ten. Dan could bait up trawl or lay his hand on
any rope in the dark; and at a pinch, when Uncle Salters had a
gurry-sore on his palm, could dress down by sense of touch. He
could steer in anything short of half a gale from the feel of the
wind on his face, humouring the "We're Here" just when she needed
it. These things he did as automatically as he skipped about the
rigging, or made his dory a part of his own will and body. But he
could not communicate his knowledge to Harvey.

Still there was a good deal of general information flying about
the schooner on stormy days, when they lay up in the fo'c'sle or
sat on the cabin lockers, while spare eye-bolts, leads, and rings
rolled and rattled in the pauses of the talk. Disko spoke of
whaling voyages in the Fifties; of great she-whales slain beside
their young; of death agonies on the black, tossing seas, and
blood that spurted forty feet in the air; of boats smashed to
splinters; of patent rockets that went off wrong-end-first and
bombarded the trembling crews; of cutting-in and boiling-down, and
that terrible "nip" of '71, when twelve hundred men were made
homeless on the ice in three days - wonderful tales, all true. But
more wonderful still were his stories of the cod, and how they
argued and reasoned on their private businesses deep down below
the keel.

Long Jack's tastes ran more to the supernatural. He held them
silent with ghastly stories of the "Yo-hoes" on Monomoy Beach,
that mock and terrify lonely clam-diggers; of sand-walkers and
dune-haunters who were never properly buried; of hidden treasure
on Fire Island guarded by the spirits of Kidd's men; of ships that
sailed in the fog straight over Truro township; of that harbour in
Maine where no one but a stranger will lie at anchor twice in a
certain place because of a dead crew who row alongside at midnight
with the anchor in the bow of their old-fashioned boat, whistling
- not calling, but whistling - for the soul of the man who broke
their rest.

Harvey had a notion that the east coast of his native land, from
Mount Desert south, was populated chiefly by people who took their
horses there in the summer and entertained in country-houses with
hardwood floors and Vantine portieres. He laughed at the ghost-
tales, - not as much as he would have done a month before, - but
ended by sitting still and shuddering.

Tom Platt dealt with his interminable trip round the Horn on the
old Ohio in the flogging days, with a navy more extinct than the
dodo - the navy that passed away in the great war. He told them
how red-hot shot are dropped into a cannon, a wad of wet clay
between them and the cartridge; how they sizzle and reek when they
strike wood, and how the little ship-boys of the Miss Jim Buck
hove water over them and shouted to the fort to try again. And he
told tales of blockade -long weeks of swaying at anchor, varied
only by the departure and return of steamers that had used up
their coal (there was no change for the sailing-ships); of gales
and cold - cold that kept two hundred men, night and day, pounding
and chopping at the ice on cable, blocks, and rigging, when the
galley was as red-hot as the fort's shot, and men drank cocoa by
the bucket. Tom Platt had no use for steam. His service closed
when that thing was comparatively new. He admitted that it was a
specious invention in time of peace, but looked hopefully for the
day when sails should come back again on ten-thousand-ton frigates
with hundred-and-ninety-foot booms.

Manuel's talk was slow and gentle - all about pretty girls in
Madeira washing clothes in the dry beds of streams, by moonlight,
under waving bananas; legends of saints, and tales of queer dances
or fights away in the cold Newfoundland baiting-ports. Salters was
mainly agricultural; for, though he read "Josephus" and expounded
it, his mission in life was to prove the value of green manures,
and specially of clover, against every form of phosphate
whatsoever. He grew libellous about phosphates; he dragged greasy
"Orange Judd" books from his bunk and intoned them, wagging his
finger at Harvey, to whom it was all Greek. Little Penn was so
genuinely pained when Harvey made fun of Salters's lectures that
the boy gave it up, and suffered in polite silence. That was very
good for Harvey.

The cook naturally did not join in these conversations. As a rule,
he spoke only when it was absolutely necessary; but at times a
queer gift of speech descended on him, and he held forth, half in
Gaelic, half in broken English, an hour at a time. He was
specially communicative with the boys, and he never withdrew his
prophecy that one day Harvey would be Dan's master, and that he
would see it. He told them of mail-carrying in the winter up Cape
Breton way, of the dog-train that goes to Coudray, and of the ram-
steamer Arctic, that breaks the ice between the mainland and
Prince Edward Island. Then he told them stories that his mother
had told him, of life far to the southward, where water never
froze; and he said that when he died his soul would go to lie down
on a warm white beach of sand with palm-trees waving above. That
seemed to the boys a very odd idea for a man who had never seen a
palm in his life. Then, too, regularly at each meal, he would ask
Harvey, and Harvey alone, whether the cooking was to his taste;
and this always made the "second half" laugh. Yet they had a great
respect for the cook's judgment, and in their hearts considered
Harvey something of a mascot by consequence.

And while Harvey was taking in knowledge of new things at each
pore and hard health with every gulp of the good air, the "We're
Here" went her ways and did her business on the Bank, and the
silvery-grey kenches of well-pressed fish mounted higher and
higher in the hold. No one day's work was out of the common, but
the average days were many and close together.

Naturally, a man of Disko's reputation was closely watched -
"scrowged upon," Dan called it - by his neighbours, but he had a
very pretty knack of giving them the slip through the curdling,
glidy fog-banks. Disko avoided company for two reasons. He wished
to make his own experiments, in the first place; and in the
second, he objected to the mixed gatherings of a fleet of all
nations. The bulk of them were mainly Gloucester boats, with a
scattering from Provincetown, Harwich, Chatham, and some of the
Maine ports, but the crews drew from goodness knows where. Risk
breeds recklessness, and when greed is added there are fine
chances for every kind of accident in the crowded fleet, which,
like a mob of sheep, is huddled round some unrecognised leader.
"Let the two Jeraulds lead 'em," said Disko. "We're baound to lay
among 'em fer a spell on the Eastern Shoals; though ef luck holds,
we won't hev to lay long. Where we are naow, Harve, ain't
considered noways good graound."

"Ain't it?" said Harvey, who was drawing water (he had learned
just how to wiggle the bucket), after an unusually long dressing-
down. "Shouldn't mind striking some poor ground for a change,
then."

"All the graound I want to see - don't want to strike her - is
Eastern Point," said Dan. "Say, dad, it looks 's if we wouldn't
hev to lay more'n two weeks on the Shoals. You'll meet all the
comp'ny you want then, Harve. That's the time we begin to work. No
reg'lar meals fer no one then. 'Mug-up when ye're hungry, an'
sleep when ye can't keep awake. Good job you wasn't picked up a
month later than you was, or we'd never ha' had you dressed in
shape fer the Old Virgin."

Harvey understood from the Eldridge chart that the Old Virgin and
a nest of curiously named shoals were the turning-point of the
cruise, and that with good luck they would wet the balance of
their salt there. But seeing the size of the Virgin (it was one
tiny dot), he wondered how even Disko with the hog-yoke and the
lead could find her. He learned later that Disko was entirely
equal to that and any other business, and could even help others.
A big four-by-five blackboard hung in the cabin, and Harvey never
understood the need of it till, after some blinding thick days,
they heard the unmelodious tooting of a foot-power fog-horn - a
machine whose note is as that of a consumptive elephant.

They were making a short berth, towing the anchor under their foot
to save trouble. "Squarerigger bellowin' fer his latitude," said
Long Jack. The dripping red headsails of a bark glided out of the
fog, and the "We're Here" rang her bell thrice, using sea
shorthand.

The larger boat backed her topsail with shrieks and shoutings.

"Frenchman," said Uncle Salters, scornfully. "Miquelon boat from
St. Malo." The farmer had a weatherly sea-eye. "I'm most outer
'baccy, too, Disko."

"Same here," said Tom Platt. "Hi! Backez vouz - backez vouz!
Standez awayez, you butt-ended mucho-bono! Where you from - St.
Malo, eh?"

Ah, ha! Mucho bono! Oui! oui! Clos Poulet - St. Malo! St. Pierre
et Miquelon," cried the other crowd, waving woollen caps and
laughing. Then all together, "Bord! Bord!"

"Bring up the board, Danny. Beats me how them Frenchmen fetch
anywheres, exceptin' America's fairish broadly. Forty-six forty-
nine's good enough fer them; an' I guess it's abaout right, too."

Dan chalked the figures on the board, and they hung it in the
main-rigging to a chorus of mercis from the bark.

"Seems kinder unneighbourly to let 'em swedge off like this,"
Salters suggested, feeling in his pockets.

"Hev ye learned French then sence last trip'?" said Disko. "I
don't want no more stone-ballast hove at us 'long o' your calm'
Miquelon boats 'footy cochins,' same's you did off Le Have."

"Harmon Rush he said that was the way to rise 'em. Plain United
States is good enough fer me. We're all dretful short on
terbakker. Young feller, don't you speak French?"

"Oh, yes," said Harvey, valiantly; and he bawled: "Hi! Say!
Arretez vous! Attendez! Nous sommes venant pour tabac."

"Ah, tabac, tabac!" they cried, and laughed again.

"That hit 'em. Let's heave a dory over, anyway," said Tom Platt.
"I don't exactly hold no certificates on French, but I know
another lingo that goes, I guess. Come on, Harve, an' interpret."

The raffle and confusion when he and Harvey were hauled up the
bark's black side was indescribable. Her cabin was all stuck round
with glaring coloured prints of the Virgin - the Virgin of
Newfoundland, they called her. Harvey found his French of no
recognised Bank brand, and his conversation was limited to nods
and grins. But Tom Platt waved his arms and got along swimmingly.
The captain gave him a drink of unspeakable gin, and the opera-
comique crew, with their hairy throats, red caps, and long knives,
greeted him as a brother. Then the trade began. They had tobacco,
plenty of it - American, that had never paid duty to France. They
wanted chocolate and crackers. Harvey rowed back to arrange with
the cook and Disko, who owned the stores, and on his return the
cocoa-tins and cracker-bags were counted out by the Frenchman's
wheel. It looked like a piratical division of loot; but Tom Platt
came out of it roped with black pigtail and stuffed with cakes of
chewing and smoking tobacco. Then those jovial mariners swung off
into the mist, and the last Harvey heard was a gay chorus:

"Par derriere chez ma tante,
Il y a un bois joli,
Et le rossignol y chante
Et le jour et la nuit...
Que donneriez vous, belle,
Qui I'amènerait ici?
Je donnerai Québec,
Sorel et Saint Denis."

"How was it my French didn't go, and your sign-talk did?" Harvey
demanded when the barter had been distributed among the "We're
Heres".

"Sign-talk!" Platt guffawed. "Well, yes, 'twas sign-talk, but a
heap older'n your French, Harve. Them French boats are chock-full
o' Freemasons, an' that's why."

"Are you a Freemason, then?"

"Looks that way, don't it?" said the man-o'war's man, stuffing his
pipe; and Harvey had another mystery of the deep sea to brood
upon.

Rudyard Kipling

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