THE CARGO OF CHAMPAGNE
The ship's head was laid to clear Eimeo to the north, and the
captain sat down in the cabin, with a chart, a ruler, and an
'East a half no'the,' said he, raising his face from his labours.
'Mr Hay, you'll have to watch your dead reckoning; I want
every yard she makes on every hair's-breadth of a course. I'm
going to knock a hole right straight through the Paumotus, and
that's always a near touch. Now, if this South East Trade ever
blew out of the S.E., which it don't, we might hope to lie within
half a point of our course. Say we lie within a point of it.
That'll just about weather Fakarava. Yes, sir, that's what we've
got to do, if we tack for it. Brings us through this slush of
little islands in the cleanest place: see?' And he showed where
his ruler intersected the wide-lying labyrinth of the Dangerous
Archipelago. 'I wish it was night, and I could put her about
right now; we're losing time and easting. Well, we'll do our
best. And if we don't fetch Peru, we'll bring up to Ecuador. All
one, I guess. Depreciated dollars down, and no questions asked. A
remarkable fine institootion, the South American don.'
Tahiti was already some way astern, the Diadem rising from
among broken mountains--Eimeo was already close aboard,
and stood black and strange against the golden splendour of the
west--when the captain took his departure from the two
islands, and the patent log was set.
Some twenty minutes later, Sally Day, who was continually
leaving the wheel to peer in at the cabin clock, announced in a
shrill cry 'Fo'bell,' and the cook was to be seen carrying the
soup into the cabin.
'I guess I'll sit down and have a pick with you,' said Davis to
Herrick. 'By the time I've done, it'll be dark, and we'll clap
the hooker on the wind for South America.'
In the cabin at one corner of the table, immediately below the
lamp, and on the lee side of a bottle of champagne, sat Huish.
'What's this? Where did that come from?' asked the captain.
'It's fizz, and it came from the after-'old, if you want to
know,' said Huish, and drained his mug.
'This'll never do,' exclaimed Davis, the merchant seaman's
horror of breaking into cargo showing incongruously forth on
board that stolen ship. 'There was never any good came of
games like that.'
'You byby!' said Huish. 'A fellow would think (to 'ear him)
we were on the square! And look 'ere, you've put this job up
'ansomely for me, 'aven't you? I'm to go on deck and steer while
you two sit and guzzle, and I'm to go by nickname, and got to
call you "sir" and "mister." Well, you look here, my bloke: I'll
have fizz ad lib., or it won't wash. I tell you that. And you
know mighty well, you ain't got any man-of-war to signal now.'
Davis was staggered. 'I'd give fifty dollars this had never
happened,' he said weakly.
'Well, it 'as 'appened, you see,' returned Huish. 'Try some;
it's devilish good.'
The Rubicon was crossed without another struggle. The
captain filled a mug and drank.
'I wish it was beer,' he said with a sigh. 'But there's no
denying it's the genuine stuff and cheap at the money. Now,
Huish, you clear out and take your wheel.'
The little wretch had gained a point, and he was gay. 'Ay, ay,
sir,' said he, and left the others to their meal.
'Pea soup!' exclaimed the captain. 'Blamed if I thought I
should taste pea soup again!'
Herrick sat inert and silent. It was impossible after these
months of hopeless want to smell the rough, high-spiced sea
victuals without lust, and his mouth watered with desire of the
champagne. It was no less impossible to have assisted at the
scene between Huish and the captain, and not to perceive, with
sudden bluntness, the gulf where he had fallen. He was a thief
among thieves. He said it to himself. He could not touch the
soup. If he had moved at all, it must have been to leave the
table, throw himself overboard, and drown--an honest man.
'Here,' said the captain, 'you look sick, old man; have a drop
The champagne creamed and bubbled in the mug; its bright
colour, its lively effervescence, seized his eye. 'It is too late
to hesitate,' he thought; his hand took the mug instinctively; he
drank, with unquenchable pleasure and desire of more; drained
the vessel dry, and set it down with sparkling eyes.
'There is something in life after all!' he cried. 'I had forgot
what it was like. Yes, even this is worth while. Wine, food, dry
clothes--why, they're worth dying, worth hanging, for! Captain,
tell me one thing: why aren't all the poor folk foot-pads?'
'Give it up,' said the captain.
'They must be damned good,' cried Herrick. 'There's something
here beyond me. Think of that calaboose! Suppose we
were sent suddenly back.' He shuddered as though stung by a
convulsion, and buried his face in his clutching hands.
'Here, what's wrong with you?' cried the captain. There was
no reply; only Herrick's shoulders heaved, so that the table was
shaken. 'Take some more of this. Here, drink this. I order you
to. Don't start crying when you're out of the wood.'
'I'm not crying,' said Herrick, raising his face and showing his
dry eyes. 'It's worse than crying. It's the horror of that grave
that we've escaped from.'
'Come now, you tackle your soup; that'll fix you,' said Davis
kindly. 'I told you you were all broken up. You couldn't have
stood out another week.'
'That's the dreadful part of it!' cried Herrick. 'Another week
and I'd have murdered someone for a dollar! God! and I know
that? And I'm still living? It's some beastly dream.'
'Quietly, quietly! Quietly does it, my son. Take your pea
soup. Food, that's what you want,' said Davis.
The soup strengthened and quieted Herrick's nerves; another
glass of wine, and a piece of pickled pork and fried banana
completed what the soup began; and he was able once more to
look the captain in the face.
'I didn't know I was so much run down,' he said.
'Well,' said Davis, 'you were as steady as a rock all day: now
you've had a little lunch, you'll be as steady as a rock again.'
'Yes,'was the reply, 'I'm steady enough now, but I'm a queer
kind of a first officer.'
'Shucks!' cried the captain. 'You've only got to mind the
ship's course, and keep your slate to half a point. A babby could
do that, let alone a college graduate like you. There ain't
nothing TO sailoring, when you come to look it in the face. And
now we'll go and put her about. Bring the slate; we'll have to
start our dead reckoning right away.'
The distance run since the departure was read off the log by
the binnacle light and entered on the slate.
'Ready about,' said the captain. 'Give me the wheel, White
Man, and you stand by the mainsheet. Boom tackle, Mr Hay,
please, and then you can jump forward and attend head sails.'
'Ay, ay, sir,' responded Herrick.
'All clear forward?' asked Davis.
'All clear, sir.'
'Hard a-lee!' cried the captain. 'Haul in your slack as she
comes,' he called to Huish. 'Haul in your slack, put your back
into it; keep your feet out of the coils.' A sudden blow sent
Huish flat along the deck, and the captain was in his place.
'Pick yourself up and keep the wheel hard over!' he roared. 'You
wooden fool, you wanted to get killed, I guess. Draw the jib,' he
cried a moment later; and then to Huish, 'Give me the wheel
again, and see if you can coil that sheet.'
But Huish stood and looked at Davis with an evil countenance. 'Do
you know you struck me?' said he.
'Do you know I saved your life?' returned the other, not
deigning to look at him, his eyes travelling instead between the
compass and the sails. 'Where would you have been, if that
boom had swung out and you bundled in the clack? No, SIR,
we'll have no more of you at the mainsheet. Seaport towns are
full of mainsheet-men; they hop upon one leg, my son, what's left
of them, and the rest are dead. (Set your boom tackle, Mr
Hay.) Struck you, did I? Lucky for you I did.'
'Well,' said Huish slowly, 'I daresay there may be somethink
in that. 'Ope there is.' He turned his back elaborately on the
captain, and entered the house, where the speedy explosion of a
champagne cork showed he was attending to his comfort.
Herrick came aft to the captain. 'How is she doing now?' he
'East and by no'the a half no'the,' said Davis. 'It's about as
good as I expected.'
'What'll the hands think of it?' said Herrick.
'Oh, they don't think. They ain't paid to,' says the captain.
'There was something wrong, was there not? between you
and--' Herrick paused.
'That's a nasty little beast, that's a biter,' replied the
captain, shaking his head. 'But so long as you and me hang in, it
Herrick lay down in the weather alleyway; the night was
cloudless, the movement of the ship cradled him, he was
oppressed besides by the first generous meal after so long a time
of famine; and he was recalled from deep sleep by the voice of
Davis singing out: 'Eight bells!'
He rose stupidly, and staggered aft, where the captain gave
him the wheel.
'By the wind,' said the captain. 'It comes a little puffy; when
you get a heavy puff, steal all you can to windward, but keep
her a good full.'
He stepped towards the house, paused and hailed the
'Got such a thing as a concertina forward?' said he. 'Bully for
you, Uncle Ned. Fetch it aft, will you?'
The schooner steered very easy; and Herrick, watching the
moon-whitened sails, was overpowered by drowsiness. A sharp
report from the cabin startled him; a third bottle had been
opened; and Herrick remembered the Sea Ranger and Fourteen
Island Group. Presently the notes of the accordion sounded, and
then the captain's voice:
'O honey, with our pockets full of money,
We will trip, trip, trip, we will trip it on the quay,
And I will dance with Kate, and Tom will dance with Sall,
When we're all back from South Amerikee.'
'Up in a balloon, boys,
Up in a balloon,
All among the little stars
And round about the moon.'
'O honey, with our pockets full of money,
We will trip, trip, trip, we will trip it on the quay:'
so the words ran in his head; and the honey took on visible
form, the quay rose before him and he knew it for the lamplit
Embankment, and he saw the lights of Battersea bridge bestride
the sullen river. All through the remainder of his trick, he
stood entranced, reviewing the past. He had been always true to
his love, but not always sedulous to recall her. In the growing
calamity of his life, she had swum more distant, like the moon
in mist. The letter of farewell, the dishonourable hope that had
surprised and corrupted him in his distress, the changed scene,
the sea, the night and the music--all stirred him to the roots of
manhood. 'I WILL win her,' he thought, and ground his teeth.
'Fair or foul, what matters if I win her?'
'Fo' bell, matey. I think um fo' bell'--he was suddenly recalled
by these words in the voice of Uncle Ned.
'Look in at the clock, Uncle,' said he. He would not look
himself, from horror of the tipplers.
'Him past, matey,' repeated the Hawaiian.
'So much the better for you, Uncle,' he replied; and he gave
up the wheel, repeating the directions as he had received them.
He took two steps forward and remembered his dead reckoning. 'How
has she been heading?' he thought; and he flushed
from head to foot. He had not observed or had forgotten; here
was the old incompetence; the slate must be filled up by guess.
'Never again!' he vowed to himself in silent fury, 'never again.
It shall be no fault of mine if this miscarry.' And for the
remainder of his watch, he stood close by Uncle Ned, and read
the face of the compass as perhaps he had never read a letter
from his sweetheart.
All the time, and spurring him to the more attention, song,
loud talk, fleering laughter and the occasional popping of a
cork, reached his ears from the interior of the house; and when
the port watch was relieved at midnight, Huish and the captain
appeared upon the quarter-deck with flushed faces and uneven
steps, the former laden with bottles, the latter with two tin
mugs. Herrick silently passed them by. They hailed him in thick
voices, he made no answer, they cursed him for a churl, he paid
no heed although his belly quivered with disgust and rage. He
closed-to the door of the house behind him, and cast himself on
a locker in the cabin--not to sleep he thought--rather to think
and to despair. Yet he had scarce turned twice on his uneasy
bed, before a drunken voice hailed him in the ear, and he must
go on deck again to stand the morning watch.
The first evening set the model for those that were to follow.
Two cases of champagne scarce lasted the four-and-twenty
hours, and almost the whole was drunk by Huish and the
captain. Huish seemed to thrive on the excess; he was never
sober, yet never wholly tipsy; the food and the sea air had soon
healed him of his disease, and he began to lay on flesh. But
with Davis things went worse. In the drooping, unbuttoned figure
that sprawled all day upon the lockers, tippling and reading
novels; in the fool who made of the evening watch a public
carouse on the quarter-deck, it would have been hard to
recognise the vigorous seaman of Papeete roads. He kept himself
reasonably well in hand till he had taken the sun and yawned
and blotted through his calculations; but from the moment he
rolled up the chart, his hours were passed in slavish
self-indulgence or in hoggish slumber. Every other branch of his
duty was neglected, except maintaining a stern discipline about
the dinner table. Again and again Herrick would hear the cook
called aft, and see him running with fresh tins, or carrying away
again a meal that had been totally condemned. And the more
the captain became sunk in drunkenness, the more delicate his
palate showed itself. Once, in the forenoon, he had a bo'sun's
chair rigged over the rail, stripped to his trousers, and went
overboard with a pot of paint. 'I don't like the way this
schooner's painted,' said he, 'and I've taken a down upon her
name.' But he tired of it in half an hour, and the schooner went
on her way with an incongruous patch of colour on the stern,
and the word Farallone part obliterated and part looking
through. He refused to stand either the middle or the morning
watch. It was fine-weather sailing, he said; and asked, with a
laugh, 'Who ever heard of the old man standing watch himself?'
To the dead reckoning which Herrick still tried to keep, he
would pay not the least attention nor afford the least
'What do we want of dead reckoning?' he asked. 'We get the
sun all right, don't we?'
'We mayn't get it always though,' objected Herrick. 'And you
told me yourself you weren't sure of the chronometer.'
'Oh, there ain't no flies in the chronometer!' cried Davis.
'Oblige me so far, captain,' said Herrick stiffly. 'I am anxious
to keep this reckoning, which is a part of my duty; I do not
know what to allow for current, nor how to allow for it. I am
too inexperienced; and I beg of you to help me.'
'Never discourage zealous officer,' said the captain, unrolling
the chart again, for Herrick had taken him over his day's work
and while he was still partly sober. 'Here it is: look for
yourself; anything from west to west no'the-west, and anyways
from five to twenty-five miles. That's what the A'm'ralty chart
says; I guess you don't expect to get on ahead of your own
'I am trying to do my duty, Captain Brown,' said Herrick,
with a dark flush, 'and I have the honour to inform you that I
don't enjoy being trifled with.'
'What in thunder do you want?' roared Davis. 'Go and look
at the blamed wake. If you're trying to do your duty, why don't
you go and do it? I guess it's no business of mine to go and
stick my head over the ship's rump? I guess it's yours. And I'll
tell you what it is, my fine fellow, I'll trouble you not to come
the dude over me. You're insolent, that's what's wrong with you.
Don't you crowd me, Mr Herrick, Esquire.'
Herrick tore up his papers, threw them on the floor, and left
'He's turned a bloomin' swot, ain't he?' sneered Huish.
'He thinks himself too good for his company, that's what ails
Herrick, Esquire,' raged the captain. 'He thinks I don't
understand when he comes the heavy swell. Won't sit down with us,
won't he? won't say a civil word? I'll serve the son of a gun as
he deserves. By God, Huish, I'll show him whether he's too good
for John Davis!'
'Easy with the names, cap',' said Huish, who was always the
more sober. 'Easy over the stones, my boy!'
'All right, I will. You're a good sort, Huish. I didn't take to
you at first, but I guess you're right enough. Let's open another
bottle,' said the captain; and that day, perhaps because he was
excited by the quarrel, he drank more recklessly, and by four
o'clock was stretched insensible upon the locker.
Herrick and Huish supped alone, one after the other, opposite
his flushed and snorting body. And if the sight killed Herrick's
hunger, the isolation weighed so heavily on the clerk's spirit,
that he was scarce risen from table ere he was currying favour
with his former comrade.
Herrick was at the wheel when he approached, and Huish
leaned confidentially across the binnacle.
'I say, old chappie,' he said, 'you and me don't seem to be
such pals somehow.'
Herrick gave her a spoke or two in silence; his eye, as it
skirted from the needle to the luff of the foresail, passed the
man by without speculation. But Huish was really dull, a thing he
could support with difficulty, having no resources of his own.
The idea of a private talk with Herrick, at this stage of their
relations, held out particular inducements to a person of his
character. Drink besides, as it renders some men hyper-sensitive,
made Huish callous. And it would almost have required a blow
to make him quit his purpose.
'Pretty business, ain't it?' he continued; 'Dyvis on the lush?
Must say I thought you gave it 'im A1 today. He didn't like it a
bit; took on hawful after you were gone.--"'Ere," says I, "'old
on, easy on the lush," I says. "'Errick was right, and you know
it. Give 'im a chanst," I says.--"Uish," sezee, "don't you
gimme no more of your jaw, or I'll knock your bloomin' eyes
out." Well, wot can I do, 'Errick? But I tell you, I don't 'arf
like it. It looks to me like the Sea Rynger over again.'
Still Herrick was silent.
'Do you )ear me speak?' asked Huish sharply. 'You're pleasant,
'Stand away from that binnacle,' said Herrick.
The clerk looked at him, long and straight and black; his
figure seemed to writhe like that of a snake about to strike;
then he turned on his heel, went back to the cabin and opened a
bottle of champagne. When eight bells were cried, he slept on
the floor beside the captain on the locker; and of the whole
starboard watch, only Sally Day appeared upon the summons.
The mate proposed to stand the watch with him, and let Uncle
Ned lie down; it would make twelve hours on deck, and
probably sixteen, but in this fair-weather sailing, he might
safely sleep between his tricks of wheel, leaving orders to be
called on any sign of squalls. So far he could trust the men,
between whom and himself a close relation had sprung up. With
Uncle Ned he held long nocturnal conversations, and the old man
told him his simple and hard story of exile, suffering, and
injustice among cruel whites. The cook, when he found Herrick
messed alone, produced for him unexpected and sometimes
unpalatable dainties, of which he forced himself to eat. And one
day, when he was forward, he was surprised to feel a caressing
hand run down his shoulder, and to hear the voice of Sally Day
crooning in his ear: 'You gootch man!' He turned, and, choking
down a sob, shook hands with the negrito. They were kindly,
cheery, childish souls. Upon the Sunday each brought forth his
separate Bible--for they were all men of alien speech even to
each other, and Sally Day communicated with his mates in English
only, each read or made believe to read his chapter, Uncle Ned
with spectacles on his nose; and they would all join together in
the singing of missionary hymns. It was thus a cutting reproof to
compare the islanders and the whites aboard the Farallone.
Shame ran in Herrick's blood to remember what employment
he was on, and to see these poor souls--and even Sally Day, the
child of cannibals, in all likelihood a cannibal himself--so
faithful to what they knew of good. The fact that he was held in
grateful favour by these innocents served like blinders to his
conscience, and there were times when he was inclined, with
Sally Day, to call himself a good man. But the height of his
favour was only now to appear. With one voice, the crew
protested; ere Herrick knew what they were doing, the cook
was aroused and came a willing volunteer; all hands clustered
about their mate with expostulations and caresses; and he was
bidden to lie down and take his customary rest without alarm.
'He tell you tlue,' said Uncle Ned. 'You sleep. Evely man hae
he do all light. Evely man he like you too much.'
Herrick struggled, and gave way; choked upon some trivial
words of gratitude; and walked to the side of the house, against
which he leaned, struggling with emotion.
Uncle Ned presently followed him and begged him to lie
'It's no use, Uncle Ned,' he replied. 'I couldn't sleep. I'm
knocked over with all your goodness.'
'Ah, no call me Uncle Ned no mo'!' cried the old man. 'No
my name! My name Taveeta, all-e-same Taveeta King of Islael. Wat
for he call that Hawaii? I think no savvy nothing--all-e-
It was the first time the name of the late captain had been
mentioned, and Herrick grasped the occasion. The reader shall
be spared Uncle Ned's unwieldy dialect, and learn in less
embarrassing English, the sum of what he now communicated.
The ship had scarce cleared the Golden Gates before the captain
and mate had entered on a career of drunkenness, which was
scarcely interrupted by their malady and only closed by death.
For days and weeks they had encountered neither land nor ship;
and seeing themselves lost on the huge deep with their insane
conductors, the natives had drunk deep of terror.
At length they made a low island, and went in; and Wiseman
and Wishart landed in the boat.
There was a great village, a very fine village, and plenty
Kanakas in that place; but all mighty serious; and from every
here and there in the back parts of the settlement, Taveeta heard
the sounds of island lamentation. 'I no savvy TALK that island,'
said he. 'I savvy hear um CLY. I think, Hum! too many people die
here!' But upon Wiseman and Wishart the significance of that
barbaric keening was lost. Full of bread and drink, they
rollicked along unconcerned, embraced the girls who had scarce
energy to repel them, took up and joined (with drunken voices) in
the death wail, and at last (on what they took to be an
invitation) entered under the roof of a house in which was a
considerable concourse of people sitting silent. They stooped
below the eaves, flushed and laughing; within a minute they came
forth again with changed faces and silent tongues; and as the
press severed to make way for them, Taveeta was able to perceive,
in the deep shadow of the house, the sick man raising from his
mat a head already defeatured by disease. The two tragic triflers
fled without hesitation for their boat, screaming on Taveeta to
make haste; they came aboard with all speed of oars, raised
anchor and crowded sail upon the ship with blows and curses, and
were at sea again--and again drunk--before sunset. A week after,
and the last of the two had been committed to the deep. Herrick
asked Taveeta where that island was, and he replied that, by
what he gathered of folks' talk as they went up together from
the beach, he supposed it must be one of the Paumotus. This
was in itself probable enough, for the Dangerous Archipelago
had been swept that year from east to west by devastating
smallpox; but Herrick thought it a strange course to lie from
Sydney. Then he remembered the drink.
'Were they not surprised when they made the island?' he
'Wise-a-mana he say "dam! what this?"' was the reply.
'O, that's it then,' said Herrick. 'I don't believe they knew
where they were.'
'I think so too,' said Uncle Ned. 'I think no savvy. This one
mo' betta,' he added, pointing to the house where the drunken
captain slumbered: 'Take-a-sun all-e-time.'
The implied last touch completed Herrick's picture of the life
and death of his two predecessors; of their prolonged, sordid,
sodden sensuality as they sailed, they knew not whither, on their
last cruise. He held but a twinkling and unsure belief in any
future state; the thought of one of punishment he derided; yet
for him (as for all) there dwelt a horror about the end of the
brutish man. Sickness fell upon him at the image thus called up;
and when he compared it with the scene in which himself was
acting, and considered the doom that seemed to brood upon the
schooner, a horror that was almost superstitious fell upon him.
And yet the strange thing was, he did not falter. He who had
proved his incapacity in so many fields, being now falsely placed
amid duties which he did not understand, without help, and it
might be said without countenance, had hitherto surpassed
expectation; and even the shameful misconduct and shocking
disclosures of that night seemed but to nerve and strengthen
him. He had sold his honour; he vowed it should not be in vain;
'it shall be no fault of mine if this miscarry,' he repeated. And
in his heart he wondered at himself. Living rage no doubt
supported him; no doubt also, the sense of the last cast, of the
ships burned, of all doors closed but one, which is so strong a
tonic to the merely weak, and so deadly a depressant to the
For some time the voyage went otherwise well. They weathered
Fakarava with one board; and the wind holding well to the
southward and blowing fresh, they passed between Ranaka and
Ratiu, and ran some days north-east by east-half-east under the
lee of Takume and Honden, neither of which they made. In
about 14 degrees South and between 134 and 135 degrees West, it
fell a dead calm with rather a heavy sea. The captain refused to
take in sail, the helm was lashed, no watch was set, and the
Farallone rolled and banged for three days, according to
observation, in almost the same place. The fourth morning, a
little before day, a breeze sprang up and rapidly freshened. The
captain had drunk hard the night before; he was far from sober
when he was roused; and when he came on deck for the first time
at half-past eight, it was plain he had already drunk deep again
at breakfast. Herrick avoided his eye; and resigned the deck with
indignation to a man more than half-seas over.
By the loud commands of the captain and the singing out of
fellows at the ropes, he could judge from the house that sail was
being crowded on the ship; relinquished his half-eaten breakfast;
and came on deck again, to find the main and the jib topsails
set, and both watches and the cook turned out to hand the
staysail. The Farallone lay already far over; the sky was
obscured with misty scud; and from the windward an ominous
squall came flying up, broadening and blackening as it rose.
Fear thrilled in Herrick's vitals. He saw death hard by; and if
not death, sure ruin. For if the Farallone lived through the
coming squall, she must surely be dismasted. With that their
enterprise was at an end, and they themselves bound prisoners to
the very evidence of their crime. The greatness of the peril
and his own alarm sufficed to silence him. Pride, wrath, and
shame raged without issue in his mind; and he shut his teeth
and folded his arms close.
The captain sat in the boat to windward, bellowing orders
and insults, his eyes glazed, his face deeply congested; a bottle
set between his knees, a glass in his hand half empty. His back
was to the squall, and he was at first intent upon the setting of
the sail. When that was done, and the great trapezium of canvas
had begun to draw and to trail the lee-rail of the Farallone
level with the foam, he laughed out an empty laugh, drained his
glass, sprawled back among the lumber in the boat, and fetched
out a crumpled novel.
Herrick watched him, and his indignation glowed red hot. He
glanced to windward where the squall already whitened the near
sea and heralded its coming with a singular and dismal sound.
He glanced at the steersman, and saw him clinging to the spokes
with a face of a sickly blue. He saw the crew were running to
their stations without orders. And it seemed as if something
broke in his brain; and the passion of anger, so long restrained,
so long eaten in secret, burst suddenly loose and shook him like
a sail. He stepped across to the captain and smote his hand
heavily on the drunkard's shoulder.
'You brute,' he said, in a voice that tottered, 'look behind
'Wha's that?' cried Davis, bounding in the boat and upsetting
'You lost the Sea Ranger because you were a drunken sot,' said
Herrick. 'Now you're going to lose the Farallone. You're going to
drown here the same way as you drowned others, and be damned. And
your daughter shall walk the streets, and your sons be thieves
like their father.'
For the moment, the words struck the captain white and
foolish. 'My God!' he cried, looking at Herrick as upon a ghost;
'my God, Herrick!'
'Look behind you, then!' reiterated the assailant.
The wretched man, already partly sobered, did as he was told,
and in the same breath of time leaped to his feet. 'Down
staysail!' he trumpeted. The hands were thrilling for the order,
and the great sail came with a run, and fell half overboard
among the racing foam. 'Jib topsail-halyards! Let the stays'l
be,' he said again.
But before it was well uttered, the squall shouted aloud and
fell, in a solid mass of wind and rain commingled, on the
Farallone; and she stooped under the blow, and lay like a thing
dead. From the mind of Herrick reason fled; he clung in the
weather rigging, exulting; he was done with life, and he gloried
in the release; he gloried in the wild noises of the wind and the
choking onslaught of the rain; he gloried to die so, and now,
amid this coil of the elements. And meanwhile, in the waist up
to his knees in water--so low. the schooner lay--the captain
was hacking at the foresheet with a pocket knife. It was a
question of seconds, for the Farallone drank deep of the
encroaching seas. But the hand of the captain had the advance;
the foresail boom tore apart the last strands of the sheet and
crashed to leeward; the Farallone leaped up into the wind and
righted; and the peak and throat halyards, which had long been
let go, began to run at the same instant.
For some ten minutes more she careered under the impulse of
the squall; but the captain was now master of himself and of his
ship, and all danger at an end. And then, sudden as a trick
change upon the stage, the squall blew by, the wind dropped
into light airs, the sun beamed forth again upon the tattered
schooner; and the captain, having secured the foresail boom and
set a couple of hands to the pump, walked aft, sober, a little
pale, and with the sodden end of a cigar still stuck between his
teeth even as the squall had found it. Herrick followed him; he
could scarce recall the violence of his late emotions, but he
felt there was a scene to go through, and he was anxious and even
eager to go through with it.
The captain, turning at the house end, met him face to face,
and averted his eyes. 'We've lost the two tops'ls and the
stays'l,' he gabbled. 'Good business, we didn't lose any sticks.
I guess you think we're all the better without the kites.'
'That's not what I'm thinking,' said Herrick, in a voice
strangely quiet, that yet echoed confusion in the captain's mind.
'I know that,' he cried, holding up his hand. 'I know what
you're thinking. No use to say it now. I'm sober.'
'I have to say it, though,' returned Herrick.
'Hold on, Herrick; you've said enough,' said Davis. 'You've
said what I would take from no man breathing but yourself;
only I know it's true.'
'I have to tell you, Captain Brown,' pursued Herrick, 'that I
resign my position as mate. You can put me in irons or shoot
me, as you please; I will make no resistance--only, I decline in
any way to help or to obey you; and I suggest you should put
Mr Huish in my place. He will make a worthy first officer to
your captain, sir.' He smiled, bowed, and turned to walk
'Where are you going, Herrick?' cried the captain, detaining
him by the shoulder.
'To berth forward with the men, sir,' replied Herrick, with
the same hateful smile. 'I've been long enough aft here with you
'You're wrong there,' said Davis. 'Don't you be too quick with
me; there ain't nothing wrong but the drink--it's the old
story, man! Let me get sober once, and then you'll see,' he
'Excuse me, I desire to see no more of you,' said Herrick.
The captain groaned aloud. 'You know what you said about
my children?' he broke out.
'By rote. In case you wish me to say it you again?' asked
'Don't!' cried the captain, clapping his hands to his ears.
'Don't make me kill a man I care for! Herrick, if you see me put
glass to my lips again till we're ashore, I give you leave to
put bullet through me; I beg you to do it! You're the only man
aboard whose carcase is worth losing; do you think I don't
know that? do you think I ever went back on you? I always
knew you were in the right of it--drunk or sober, I knew that.
What do you want?--an oath? Man, you're clever enough to
see that this is sure-enough earnest.'
'Do you mean there shall be no more drinking?' asked
Herrick, 'neither by you nor Huish? that you won't go on
stealing my profits and drinking my champagne that I gave my
honour for? and that you'll attend to your duties, and stand
watch and watch, and bear your proper share of the ship's
work, instead of leaving it all on the shoulders of a landsman,
and making yourself the butt and scoff of native seamen? Is that
what you mean? If it is, be so good as to say it categorically.'
'You put these things in a way hard for a gentleman to
swallow,' said the captain. 'You wouldn't have me say I was
ashamed of myself? Trust me this once; I'll do the square thing,
and there's my hand on it.'
'Well, I'll try it once,' said Herrick. 'Fail me again. . .'
'No more now!' interrupted Davis. 'No more, old man!
Enough said. You've a riling tongue when your back's up,
Herrick. Just be glad we're friends again, the same as what I
am; and go tender on the raws; I'll see as you don't repent it.
We've been mighty near death this day--don't say whose fault
it was!--pretty near hell, too, I guess. We're in a mighty bad
line of life, us two, and ought to go easy with each other.'
He was maundering; yet it seemed as if he were maundering
with some design, beating about the bush of some communication
that he feared to make, or perhaps only talking against
time in terror of what Herrick might say next. But Herrick had
now spat his venom; his was a kindly nature, and, content with
his triumph, he had now begun to pity. With a few soothing
words, he sought to conclude the interview, and proposed that
they should change their clothes.
'Not right yet,' said Davis. 'There's another thing I want to
tell you first. You know what you said about my children? I
want to tell you why it hit me so hard; I kind of think you'll
feel bad about it too. It's about my little Adar. You hadn't
ought to have quite said that--but of course I know you didn't
know. She--she's dead, you see.'
'Why, Davis!' cried Herrick. 'You've told me a dozen times
she was alive! Clear your head, man! This must be the drink.'
"No, SIR,' said Davis. 'She's dead. Died of a bowel complaint.
That was when I was away in the brig Oregon. She lies in
Portland, Maine. "Adar, only daughter of Captain John Davis
and Mariar his wife, aged five." I had a doll for her on board. I
never took the paper off'n that doll, Herrick; it went down the
way it was with the Sea Ranger, that day I was damned.'
The Captain's eyes were fixed on the horizon, he talked with
an extraordinary softness but a complete composure; and Herrick
looked upon him with something that was almost terror.
'Don't think I'm crazy neither,' resumed Davis. 'I've all the
cold sense that I know what to do with. But I guess a man that's
unhappy's like a child; and this is a kind of a child's game of
mine. I never could act up to the plain-cut truth, you see; so I
pretend. And I warn you square; as soon as we're through with
this talk, I'll start in again with the pretending. Only, you
see, she can't walk no streets,' added the captain, 'couldn't
even make out to live and get that doll!'
Herrick laid a tremulous hand upon the captain's shoulder.
'Don't do that" cried Davis, recoiling from the touch. 'Can't
you see I'm all broken up the way it is? Come along, then; come
along, old man; you can put your trust in me right through;
come along and get dry clothes.'
They entered the cabin, and there was Huish on his knees
prising open a case of champagne.
"Vast, there!' cried the captain. 'No more of that. No more
drinking on this ship.'
'Turned teetotal, 'ave you?' inquired Hu'sh. 'I'm agreeable.
About time, eh? Bloomin' nearly lost another ship, I fancy.' He
took out a bottle and began calmly to burst the wire with the
spike of a corkscrew.
'Do you hear me speak?' cried Davis.
'I suppose I do. You speak loud enough,' said Huish. 'The
trouble is that I don't care.'
Herrick plucked the captain's sleeve. 'Let him free now,' he
said. 'We've had all we want this morning.'
'Let him have it then,' said the captain. 'It's his last.'
By this time the wire was open, the string was cut, the head
of glided paper was torn away; and Huish waited, mug in hand,
expecting the usual explosion. It did not follow. He eased the
cork with his thumb; still there was no result. At last he took
the screw and drew it. It came out very easy and with scarce a
"Illo!'said Huish. "Ere's a bad bottle.'
He poured some of the wine into the mug; it was colourless and
still. He smelt and tasted it.
'W'y, wot's this?' he said. 'It's water!'
If the voice of trumpets had suddenly sounded about the ship
in the midst of the sea, the three men in the house could
scarcely have been more stunned than by this incident. The mug
passed round; each sipped, each smelt of it; each stared at the
bottle in its glory of gold paper as Crusoe may have stared at
the footprint; and their minds were swift to fix upon a common
apprehension. The difference between a bottle of champagne
and a bottle of water is not great; between a shipload of one or
the other lay the whole scale from riches to ruin.
A second bottle was broached. There were two cases standing
ready in a stateroom; these two were brought out, broken open,
and tested. Still with the same result: the contents were still
colourless and tasteless, and dead as the rain in a beached
'Crikey!' said Huish.
'Here, let's sample the hold!' said the captain, mopping his
brow with a back-handed sweep; and the three stalked out of
the house, grim and heavy-footed.
All hands were turned out; two Kanakas were sent below,
another stationed at a purchase; and Davis, axe in hand, took
his place beside the coamings.
'Are you going to let the men know?' whispered Herrick.
'Damn the men!' said Davis. 'It's beyond that. We've got to
Three cases were sent on deck and sampled in turn; from each
bottle, as the captain smashed it with the axe, the champagne
ran bubbling and creaming.
'Go deeper, can't you?' cried Davis to the Kanakas in the
The command gave the signal for a disastrous change. Case
after case came up, bottle after bottle was burst and bled mere
water. Deeper yet, and they came upon a layer where there was
scarcely so much as the intention to deceive; where the cases
were no longer branded, the bottles no longer wired or papered,
where the fraud was manifest and stared them in the face.
'Here's about enough of this foolery!' said Davis. 'Stow back
the cases in the hold, Uncle, and get the broken crockery
overboard. Come with me,' he added to his co-adventurers, and
led the way back into the cabin.