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Chapter 6

THE PARTNERS

Each took a side of the fixed table; it was the first time they
had sat down at it together; but now all sense of incongruity,
all memory of differences, was quite swept away by the presence
of the common ruin.

'Gentlemen,' said the captain, after a pause, and with very
much the air of a chairman opening a board-meeting, 'we're
sold.'

Huish broke out in laughter. 'Well, if this ain't the 'ighest old
rig!' he cried. 'And Dyvis, 'ere, who thought he had got up so
bloomin' early in the mornin'! We've stolen a cargo of spring
water! Oh, my crikey!' and he squirmed with mirth.

The captain managed to screw out a phantom smile.

'Here's Old Man Destiny again,' said he to Herrick, 'but this
time I guess he's kicked the door right in.'

Herrick only shook his head.

'O Lord, it's rich!' laughed Huish. 'it would really be a
scrumptious lark if it 'ad 'appened to somebody else! And wot
are we to do next? Oh, my eye! with this bloomin' schooner,
too?'

'That's the trouble,' said Davis. 'There's only one thing
certain: it's no use carting this old glass and ballast to Peru.
No, SIR, we're in a hole.'

'O my, and the merchand' cried Huish; 'the man that made
this shipment! He'll get the news by the mail brigantine; and
he'll think of course we're making straight for Sydney.'

'Yes, he'll be a sick merchant,' said the captain. 'One thing:
this explains the Kanaka crew. If you're going to lose a ship, I
would ask no better myself than a Kanaka crew. But there's one
thing it don't explain; it don't explain why she came down
Tahiti ways.'

'Wy, to lose her, you byby!' said Huish.

'A lot you know,' said the captain. 'Nobody wants to lose a
schooner; they want to lose her ON HER COURSE, you skeericks!
You seem to think underwriters haven't got enough sense to
come in out of the rain.'

'Well,' said Herrick, 'I can tell you (I am afraid) why she came
so far to the eastward. I had it of Uncle Ned. It seems these two
unhappy devils, Wiseman and Wishart, were drunk on the
champagne from the beginning--and died drunk at the end.'

The captain looked on the table.

'They lay in their two bunks, or sat here in this damned
house,' he pursued, with rising agitation, 'filling their skins
with the accursed stuff, till sickness took them. As they
sickened and the fever rose, they drank the more. They lay here
howling and groaning, drunk and dying, all in one. They didn't
know where they were, they didn't care. They didn't even take the
sun, it seems.'

'Not take the sun?' cried the captain, looking up. 'Sacred
Billy! what a crowd!'

'Well, it don't matter to Joe!' said Huish. 'Wot are Wiseman
and the t'other buffer to us?'

'A good deal, too,' says the captain. 'We're their heirs, I
guess.'

'It is a great inheritance,' said Herrick.

'Well, I don't know about that,' returned Davis. 'Appears to
me as if it might be worse. 'Tain't worth what the cargo would
have been of course, at least not money down. But I'll tell you
what it appears to figure up to. Appears to me as if it amounted
to about the bottom dollar of the man in 'Frisco.'

''Old on,' said Huish. 'Give a fellow time; 'ow's this, umpire?'

'Well, my sons,' pursued the captain, who seemed to have
recovered his assurance, 'Wiseman and Wishart were to be paid
for casting away this old schooner and its cargo. We're going to
cast away the schooner right enough; and I'll make it my private
business to see that we get paid. What were W. and W. to get?
That's more'n I can tell. But W. and W. went into this business
themselves, they were on the crook. Now WE'RE on the square,
we only stumbled into it; and that merchant has just got to
squeal, and I'm the man to see that he squeals good. No, sir!
there's some stuffing to this Farallone racket after all.'

'Go it, cap!' cried Huish. 'Yoicks! Forrard! 'Old 'ard! There's
your style for the money! Blow me if I don't prefer this to the
hother.'

'I do not understand,' said Herrick. 'I have to ask you to
excuse. me; I do not understand.'

'Well now, see here, Herrick,' said Davis, 'I'm going to have a
word with you anyway upon a different matter, and it's good
that Huish should hear it too. We're done with this boozing
business, and we ask your pardon for it right here and now. We
have to thank you for all you did for us while we were making
hogs of ourselves; you'll find me turn-to all right in future;
and as for the wine, which I grant we stole from you, I'll take
stock and see you paid for it. That's good enough, I believe. But
what I want to point out to you is this. The old game was a risky
game. The new game's as safe as running a Vienna Bakery. We
just put this Farallone before the wind, and run till we're well
to looard of our port of departure and reasonably well up with
some other place, where they have an American Consul. Down
goes the Farallone, and good-bye to her! A day or so in the
boat; the consul packs us home, at Uncle Sam's expense, to
'Frisco; and if that merchant don't put the dollars down, you
come to me!'

'But I thought,' began Herrick; and then broke out; 'oh, let's
get on to Peru!'

'Well, if you're going to Peru for your health, I won't say no!'
replied. the captain. 'But for what other blame' shadow of a
reason you should want to go there, gets me clear. We don't
want to go there with this cargo; I don't know as old bottles is
a lively article anywheres; leastways, I'll go my bottom cent, it
ain't Peru. It was always a doubt if we could sell the schooner;
I never rightly hoped to, and now I'm sure she ain't worth a hill
of beans; what's wrong with her, I don't know; I only know it's
something, or she wouldn't be here with this truck in her inside.
Then again, if we lose her, and land in Peru, where are we? We
can't declare the loss, or how did we get to Peru? In that case
the merchant can't touch the insurance; most likely he'll go
bust; and don't you think you see the three of us on the beach of
Callao?'

'There's no extradition there,' said Herrick.

'Well, my son, and we want to be extraded,' said the captain.

'What's our point? We want to have a consul extrade us as far
as San Francisco and that merchant's office door. My idea is
that Samoa would be found an eligible business centre. It's dead
before the wind; the States have a consul there, and 'Frisco
steamers call, so's we could skip right back and interview the
merchant.'

'Samoa?' said Herrick. 'It will take us for ever to get there.'

'Oh, with a fair wind!' said the captain.

'No trouble about the log, eh?' asked Huish.

'No, SIR,' said Davis. 'Ligbt airs and baffling winds. Squalls
and calms. D. R.: five miles. No obs. Pumps attended. And fill
in the barometer and thermometer off of last year's trip.' 'Never
saw such a voyage,' says you to the consul. 'Thought I was
going to run short . . .' He stopped in mid career. "Say,' he
began again, and once more stopped. 'Beg your pardon, Herrick,'
he added with undisguised humility, 'but did you keep the
run of the stores?'

'Had I been told to do so, it should have been done, as the
rest was done, to the best of my little ability,' said Herrick.
'As it was, the cook helped himself to what he pleased.'

Davis looked at the table.

'I drew it rather fine, you see,' he said at last. 'The great
thing was to clear right out of Papeete before the consul could
think better of it. Tell you what: I guess I'll take stock.'

And he rose from table and disappeared with a lamp in the
lazarette.

"Ere's another screw loose,' observed Huish.

'My man,' said Herrick, with a sudden gleam of animosity, 'it
is still your watch on deck, and surely your wheel also?'

'You come the 'eavy swell, don't you, ducky?' said Huish.

'Stand away from that binnacle. Surely your w'eel, my man.
Yah.'

He lit a cigar ostentatiously, and strolled into the waist with
his hands in his pockets.

In a surprisingly short time, the captain reappeared; he did
not look at Herrick, but called Huish back and sat down.

'Well,' he began, 'I've taken stock--roughly.' He paused as if
for somebody to help him out; and none doing so, both gazing
on him instead with manifest anxiety, he yet more heavily
resumed. 'Well, it won't fight. We can't do it; that's the bed
rock. I'm as sorry as what you can be, and sorrier. We can't
look near Samoa. I don't know as we could get to Peru.'

'Wot-ju mean?' asked Huish brutally.

'I can't 'most tell myself,' replied the captain. 'I drew it
fine; I said I did; but what's been going on here gets me!
Appears as if the devil had been around. That cook must be the
holiest kind of fraud. Only twelve days, too! Seems like
craziness. I'll own up square to one thing: I seem to have
figured too fine upon the flour. But the rest--my land! I'll
never understand it! There's been more waste on this twopenny
ship than what there is to an Atlantic Liner.' He stole a glance
at his companions; nothing good was to be gleaned from their dark
faces; and he had recourse to rage. 'You wait till I interview
that cook!' he roared and smote the table with his fist. 'I'll
interview the son of a gun so's he's never been spoken to before.
I'll put a bead upon the--'

'You will not lay a finger on the man,' said Herrick. 'The fault
is yours and you know it. If you turn a savage loose in your
store-room, you know what to expect. I will not allow the man
to be molested.'

It is hard to say how Davis might have taken this defiance;
but he was diverted to a fresh assailant.

'Well!' drawled Huish, 'you're a plummy captain, ain't you?
You're a blooming captain! Don't you, set up any of your chat
to me, John Dyvis: I know you now, you ain't any more use
than a bloomin' dawl! Oh, you "don't know", don't you? Oh,
it "gets you", do it? Oh, I dessay! W'y, we en't you 'owling for
fresh tins every blessed day? 'Ow often 'ave I 'eard you send the
'ole bloomin' dinner off and tell the man to chuck it in the
swill tub? And breakfast? Oh, my crikey! breakfast for ten, and
you 'ollerin' for more! And now you "can't 'most tell"! Blow me,
if it ain't enough to make a man write an insultin' letter to
Gawd! You dror it mild, John Dyvis; don't 'andle me; I'm
dyngerous.'

Davis sat like one bemused; it might even have been doubted
if he heard, but the voice of the clerk rang about the cabin like
that of a cormorant among the ledges of the cliff.

'That will do, Huish,' said Herrick.

'Oh, so you tyke his part, do you? you stuck-up sneerin' snob!
Tyke it then. Come on, the pair of you. But as for John Dyvis,
let him look out! He struck me the first night aboard, and I
never took a blow yet but wot I gave as good. Let him knuckle
down on his marrow bones and beg my pardon. That's my last
word.'

'I stand by the Captain,' said Herrick. 'That makes us two to
one, both good men; and the crew will all follow me. I hope I
shall die very soon; but I have not the least objection to
killing you before I go. I should prefer it so; I should do it
with no more remorse than winking. Take care--take care, you
little cad!'

The animosity with which these words were uttered was so
marked in itself, and so remarkable in the man who uttered
them that Huish stared, and even the humiliated Davis reared
up his head and gazed at his defender. As for Herrick, the
successive agitations and disappointments of the day had left
him wholly reckless; he was conscious of a pleasant glow, an
agreeable excitement; his head seemed empty, his eyeballs
burned as he turned them, his throat was dry as a biscuit; the
least dangerous man by nature, except in so far as the weak are
always dangerous, at that moment he was ready to slay or to be
slain with equal unconcern.

Here at least was the gage thrown down, and battle offered;
he who should speak next would bring the matter to an issue
there and then; all knew it to be so and hung back; and for
many seconds by the cabin clock, the trio sat motionless and
silent.

Then came an interruption, welcome as the flowers in May.

'Land ho!' sang out a voice on deck. 'Land a weatha bow!'

'Land!' cried Davis, springing to his feet. 'What's this? There
ain't no land here.'

And as men may run from the chamber of a murdered corpse,
the three ran forth out of the house and left their quarrel
behind them, undecided.

The sky shaded down at the sea level to the white of opals; the
sea itself, insolently, inkily blue, drew all about them the
uncompromising wheel of the horizon. Search it as they pleased,
not even the practisect eye of Captain Davis could descry the
smallest interruption. A few filmy clouds were slowly melting
overhead; and about the schooner, as around the only point of
interest, a tropic bird, white as a snowflake, hung, and circled,
and displayed, as it turned, the long vermilion feather of its
tall. Save the sea and the heaven, that was all.

'Who sang out land?' asked Davis. 'If there's any boy playing
funny dog with me, I'll teach him skylarking!'

But Uncle Ned contentedly pointed to a part of the horizon,
where a greenish, filmy iridescence could be discerned floating
like smoke on the pale heavens.

Davis applied his glass to it, and then looked at the Kanaka.
'Call that land?' said he. 'Well, it's more than I do.'

'One time long ago,' said Uncle Ned, 'I see Anaa all-e-same
that, four five hours befo' we come up. Capena he say sun go
down, sun go up again; he say lagoon all-e-same milla.'

'All-e-same WHAT?' asked Davis.

'Milla, sah,' said Uncle Ned.

'Oh, ah! mirror,' said Davis. 'I see; reflection from the lagoon.
Well, you know, it is just possible, though it's strange I never
heard of it. Here, let's look at the chart.'

They went back to the cabin, and found the position of the
schooner well to windward of the archipelago in the midst of a
white field of paper.

'There! you see for yourselves,' said Davis.

'And yet I don't know,' said Herrick, 'I somehow think there's
something in it. I'll tell you one thing too, captain; that's all
right about the reflection; I heard it in Papeete.'

'Fetch up that Findlay, then!' said Davis. 'I'll try it all
ways. An island wouldn't come amiss, the way we're fixed.'

The bulky volume was handed up to him, broken-backed as
is the way with Findlay; and he turned to the place and began
to run over the text, muttering to himself and turning over the
pages with a wetted finger.

'Hullo!' he exclaimed. 'How's this?' And he read aloud. 'New
Island. According to M. Delille this island, which from private
interests would remain unknown, lies, it is said, in lat. 12
degrees 49' 10" S. long. 113degrees 6' W. In addition to the
position above given Commander Matthews, H.M.S. Scorpion, states
that an island exists in lat. 12 degrees 0' S. long. 13 degrees
16' W. This must be the same, if such an island exists, which is
very doubtful, and totally disbelieved in by South Sea traders.'

'Golly!' said Huish.

'It's rather in the conditional mood,' said Herrick.

'It's anything you please,' cried Davis, 'only there it is!
That's our place, and don't you make any mistake.'

"'Which from private interests would remain unknown,"'
read Herrick, over his shoulder. 'What may that mean?'

'It should mean pearls,' said Davis. 'A pearling island the
government don't know about? That sounds like real estate. Or
suppose it don't mean anything. Suppose it's just an island; I
guess we could fill up with fish, and cocoanuts, and native
stuff, and carry out the Samoa scheme hand over fist. How long
did he say it was before they raised Anaa) Five hours, I think?'

'Four or five,' said Herrick.

Davis stepped to the door. 'What breeze had you that time
you made Anaa, Uncle Ned?' said he.

'Six or seven knots,' was the reply.

'Thirty or thirty-five miles,' said Davis. 'High time we were
shortening sail, then. If it is an island, we don't want to be
butting our head against it in the dark; and if it isn't an
island, we can get through it just as well by daylight. Ready
about!' he roared.

And the schooner's head was laid for that elusive glimmer in
the sky, which began already to pale in lustre and diminish in
size, as the stain of breath vanishes from a window pane. At the
same time she was reefed close down.


Robert Louis Stevenson

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