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Title: The Bonadventure - A Random Journal of an Atlantic Holiday
Author: Blunden, Edmund, 1896-1974
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE BONADVENTURE



  THE WAGGONER
  and other poems by
  Edmund Blunden

  JOHN CLARE
  Poems chiefly from MSS.
  selected and edited with
  a biographical note by
  Edmund Blunden
  and
  Alan Porter

  THE SHEPHERD
  and other poems of
  Peace and War by
  Edmund Blunden
  awarded the
  Hawthornden Prize, 1922
  Third Edition



THE BONADVENTURE

A Random Journal of an Atlantic Holiday

By EDMUND BLUNDEN

  "There ships divide their wat'ry way,
  And flocks of scaly monsters play;
  There dwells the huge Leviathan,
  And foams and sports in spite of man."

                            Isaac Watts.

LONDON

RICHARD COBDEN-SANDERSON

17 THAVIES INN



Copyright 1922

Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner, Frome and London



  To
  H.W.M.
  THIS
  "ROUND TRIP"



AUTHOR'S NOTE

A few facts are perhaps needed in this place. The autumn of 1921 found me
in bad health, which seemed to me to be gaining ground. The Editors for
whom it is my privilege to work were of that mind too, and suggested a sea
voyage. I am one of that large class who can afford little more than
voyages in ships which are hauled over on chains; but this was allowed
for in every possible way by my Editors, in consequence of whose active
generosity and that of the owners to whom my case was made known, I
suddenly found myself bound for the River Plate. I can but say that when
my friends expressed their envy I was well able to understand their
feelings and my good luck.

For the rest, this little book is not intended for anything beyond
the statement on the title page. I am sorry myself that there are no
adventures of the blood-curdling sort in it; but I could not go out of
my way, nor do tramps find time, it seems, for propitiating cannibals.
Of unrehearsed effects on voyages, indeed, my belief is that it is
possible sometimes to have too much. Eastward of Madagascar, we read, lies
Tromelin Island--a sandbank a mile long. In 1761 the _Utile_ was wrecked
there, and eighty blacks were left behind; all died except seven of the
women, who clung to life for fifteen years, nourished on shell fish
and brackish water, until Captain Tromelin landed and saved them. Now I
cannot feel sorry that I was not one of that party.

There is, naturally, some slender disguise of names and so forth through
my journal. There may be, it occurs, a S.S. _Bonadventure_ at the present
day; if it is so, this is not the ship. My grateful recollections of
Captain Hosea, his officers and crew apply to those gentlemen indeed,
but they do not sign on by the names which I have for this occasion
invented. Thus their own example leads me; how much oftener was I
hailed as "Skylark" and "Jonah" than as

                                                    EDMUND BLUNDEN.



                                                London,
                                                   December 23, 1921.

Dear Blunden,--

There you are, outward bound and southward ho! Here am I, with the
newsboys outside shouting the latest imbecility to the murk, trying to get
warm and happy by considering a dull electric heater and the faded
memory of another ship (she went downstairs in the war) which, years ago,
on a December morning, passed through the lock gates at Swansea for Para
and all, while I stood by her rail sorry for the people who had not my
luck. Now it is your turn. Make the most of it. It will do something
to take away the taste of Stuff Trench. You will find me, when you come
home, still over the electric stove listening to the newsboys. I shall
call for wine, and you must tell me all about the Fortunate Isles. I am
sure they are still there, and that you will see them.

    O, a Cardiff ship sails down the river
          (Blow, boys, blow!)
    Her masts and yards they shine like silver
          (Blow, my bully boys, blow!)

Sing up, Blunden! And don't forget to take soap, towels and matches. Do
you smoke a pipe? You'll wish presently you knew how to do it, if you have
misspent your time and never learned. But I suppose eighteenth-century
literature and the baby have absorbed all your energies. A pipe is only
fit for the idle-minded.

There's another thing. Don't forget that the ship's master is a greater
man than a colonel. You know colonels, don't you? (All right, all right!)
Well, make no mistake about it, master mariners, as a rule, are different.
It is long odds that your new master will know his job. If you are nice to
him, he may even confess to a taste for your poetry; ships' masters are
like pie, I have found, to little lost children like ourselves who know
nothing about ships, but they are perfectly frightful towards those
who know all about ships, and know it all wrong.

A happy Christmas and a lucky New Year.

                                            Yours ever,
                                                     H. M. TOMLINSON.



I


On the eleventh of January my uncertainty was ended by the apparition (and
in the village of Staizley it is no less) of a girl with a telegram. Her
walk of three miles or thereabouts, from our nearest telegraph office,
brought her to my gate at three in the afternoon; and with her customary
awed speechlessness she gave me her message. It was from "Kingfisher," the
decoded entity of which was the great shipping owner to whom I owed my
arrangements; and in response I hastily attempted to leave a semblance
of order behind me and to seem unexcited. My luggage, no cumbrous
affair, had already been packed. By six, the trap of an ingenious
neighbour, who lives by all sorts of traps, was heard at the gate, and
Mary and myself got in. Determined protest, not at my departure, but
at the apparent departure of her mother, was now raised by the youngest
among us. My comforting promises were ignored, and the infant's cries
redoubled. Nevertheless, off we went.

The evening had been pouring out, with the vigour of an elemental
Whistler, sleet and hail, and now though the wind was down our drive
lay through fields half whitened with the storm; and the air was livid
with the clouded moon and as cold as the ebbing light. With its multitude
of pollards, its desolate great fields, its chilling breaths, the
countryside might have been Flanders. This aspect seemed incidentally
to demonstrate the wisdom of going elsewhere for a month or two.

We now came into Slowe, discussing all the time our past, present and
future; the chief result of the discussion was the placing of my
unanswered letters at Mary's disposal. The town of Slowe was at peace.
Its station wore the familiar air of having nothing to do with the coarse
noise of traffic. Here Mary spent some moments in melancholy visions of
my funeral at sea. She hoped these were wrong, and I, beginning to be
affected also, hoped so equally.

"Good-bye" to Mary! The curve of the track carried her out of sight,
and, imagining with resolution that the carriage was comfortably warm, I
resigned myself to the journey to Liverpool Street. By way of passing the
time, I fell back upon my habit of considering how the Latin poets might
render the words, upon which few Englishmen have not been reared:

    "The use of this rack for heavy and bulky packages...."

But though the sentiment which they convey is salutary, and though
such metrical gifts as "graviora" and "viatores" instantly suggested
themselves, the task once again defeated me.

Some such deadening pastime (Tennyson advises it) was necessary. There
are many stations between Slowe and Liverpool Street, and the train, the
last of the day between those places, stopped at each one. Arrived in
London, and shivering with cold, I sought out my relations; reported with
a certain amount of pride, which evoked no corresponding admiration at
such a late hour, my impending voyage, and was rewarded with a bed.



II


My instructions were to present myself next morning, without fail, at
the shipping offices of Messrs. Wright, Style and Storey, in Cardiff.
Mary's double accordingly hurried me through my breakfast and led the
way to Paddington. I urged myself to realize that I was going upon
holiday; but, it cannot be withheld, the thought of this particular
pleasure had a serious tinge. Paddington itself, to such an islander as
I am, had some of the credit of this. To me, that large terminus is, as a
jumping-off position, less human than, for example, Victoria. From
Paddington, with its Western propaganda, it may well seem that humanity
is travelling out into the round world's imagined corners; but Victoria,
with its lesser range in sight, leaves a quieter speculation. From
Brighton there is no such press of mammoth liners? Even when the
destination was the B.E.F., it was comforting to me to set out from
Victoria, whence the way led through a compact, placid, formerly
uninternational, still un-Atlantic quarter. A Society for the Suppression
of Astronomers has been mooted by the lazy-minded. I am not sure that
geographers should not be included. Distances, no doubt, are as essential
to romance as to Copley Fielding's water-colours; but they can rouse in
some of us troubling thoughts, which, summed up, say "Leave us alone!"
Such thoughts had disturbed me when, with farewells from Bess, I retired
to the sporting columns of my newspaper, and the train moved out.

In compensation for my experience of the previous evening, the journey
went quickly by. A sunny morning, blue and still, lit up the country.
So fine was the day, and the country, with its ancient timber, its
mole-hilled pastures, its feeding horses and cheerful rooks, appeared so
mellow, that the wisdom of leaving it behind was not so conspicuous as,
the night before, it had been. Cardiff. I knew nothing about it, except
as "Cardiff." I entrusted myself, therefore, to a taxi-driver, who
claimed to know more, even to the whereabouts of the shipping office
to which I was bound. After meanderings and advice from the police and
the public, he made amends for his inaccuracy by setting me down at
the foot of a gloomy staircase leading to the rooms of Messrs. Wright,
Style and Storey.

And now for a few moments I was in trouble. Thinking that the telegram
which warranted my calling at this Cardiff office of the London Company
would best explain my intrusion, I handed it over the fateful counter.
The clerk took it, assumed a serious air, avoided looking at me, and
referred to a superior. I was puzzled. More so, the superior. A murderer,
concerned in the atrocity at Bournemouth, was at that time untraced,
and I fancy that the official had the mystery in his mind at this point.
At any rate, eyeing the wire with doubt for some time, he suddenly
advanced towards me and put the question, in stern accents: "Who are you?"

Who are you?

I feel sure that my explanation was unbusinesslike, but he presently
divined the truth. Word of my movement had not been sent him from London.
He withdrew to the telephone or time-table; then restoring to me my
sibylline leaf, told me to go to Barry Docks, where I should find the
_Bonadventure_, recognizable by a white S painted on the funnel, lying
at Tip Eleven or Twelve, and to go aboard and report myself to the
captain. I went, fearing lest the captain likewise might know as little
in advance about the trembling suspect before him.

Urchins scrambled for my luggage at the Barry Docks Station, an hour
or so later, and the two victors hurried it along to Tip Eleven. These
coal-tips overhead and the shipping alongside, with knots of workmen
passing masked in coal-dust, engaged my mind as we went, and before I
was fully aware of it we were aboard a vessel which the boys recognized as
the _Bonadventure_. I paid the carriers, who went away at speed, and
asked a wooden-faced seaman, who seemed to be alone, where I could find
the captain. He at once cut short my search by the tone in which he
observed, "The captain! He's having his dinner at the present." I was
rebuked, and stood by. (I had still to witness the multitudes who want to
find the captain of a ship in port.)

I took a look at the ship, but felt lost as I did so. She was large, and
of vague shape. I could not determine where she began and where she left
off. A pall of coal covered everything. Heaps of cinders, which a casual
glance described as of some seniority, lay against the deck railing. I saw
hut-like structures about me where I stood, amidships, as the boys had
said; but I feared to explore. At times some one with a plate or a jug
was seen stooping swiftly through their doorways--evidence indeed of the
captain's dinner-hour. Inaction, nevertheless, grew unpromising; and at
last I asked an officer, as I rightly thought him, who had come out
to keep an eye on several blasphemous and strongly individual beings
with large spades, whether I might see the captain. When he heard my
business, he quickly took me to him. I found myself speaking to a quiet,
smiling, and enviably robust man who, to my relief, was not mystified
by my arrival. He set me at my ease, told me that I should sign on as
a member of the crew to-morrow, and allowed me to stay on the ship
meanwhile. I was glad of this, being weary of quests for the time being.

Not quite at home, as may be gathered, I went out on deck, and watched the
tips in action; admired the mimic thunder--first the abrupt and rending,
shattering crash, then the antistrophe of continued rollings--which each
truckful of coal makes as it is tumbled into the shoot and thereby into
the ship's holds. Truck after truck was drawn up, the pin knocked away
from the end board and the coal hurled, its dusky clouds fuming out,
into the ship: its atmosphere did not seem to strain or irritate the
breathing organs of those worthies with the spades, and the pipes,
whose vague labouring silhouettes enlivened the gloom. Engines plied
constantly beside the docks with long trains of coal. As if expressing
itself, one emitted a peculiar twofold groan. All this, of course,
ancient history, but I was new to it. It seemed like the beginnings of
wisdom.

But the world of iron and smoke could not warm my body as well as it did
my mind, and while I was brooding over the increasing bite in the air of
that January afternoon, the officer whom I was to know soon as the mate, a
young man of clear-cut features and tranquil manner, told me to make use
of the saloon. I sat there reading, when another introduction took place.
The steward, a weighty old man remarkable at first sight for his brown
skull-cap, came in to say he had fitted me up with a cabin. Following him
up a staircase, I took over this dugout-like dwelling with no small
satisfaction. It was to be my home, he said, for three or four months
on this South American run. I unpacked, and washed away the unearned, and
unsuspected, film of coal-dust which was to characterize my home for the
same length of time.

Tea came, and I was mildly puzzled again, when the steward's assistant
asked me to choose between a bloater, cold meat, and so on. I was deciding
on something slenderer, when I realized that tea included supper, and
applied for a kipper. The captain's wife kept conversation alive. The
topic, I remember, was the lamented custom which once permitted captains'
wives to make "the round trip" with their husbands.

The coal still rattled into the holds every moment or two, and the same
process was going on all round us. The water was bright in the moon,
and the reflections of the lamps fastened high over the ships swum like
golden serpents in the ripples. In such a light, to such a watcher,
there seemed no end to the serried framework and the cordage to the
giant sea travellers of steel. The constant clanging and whistling and
crash spoke to the work of the machines, an occasional shout to the
guiding energies of the men.



III


The shipping office itself left no clear impression upon me, the next
morning, when I attended the business of signing on; but the visit
gave me my first view of the crew of the _Bonadventure_, which was
welcome. Many of them were coloured men, as ever, dressed in eye-catching
smartness. I reflected on the extent to which the market of boots of two
colours must depend on these firemen. Among the others, a Cornishman of
odd automatic gait, whose small head balanced a squarish black hat,
moved about with an inconsequence suggestive of some clever comedian. He
gave, however, no evidence of humorous abilities. The wooden-faced
man, to whom I have referred, answered the call of "Cook." Sitting on
the bench in the corner, I felt a curious stare upon me, and looking
across the room, saw its owner, a tough customer by the expression he
wore. For some peculiarity of conduct, this sailor was the next evening
removed from the _Bonadventure_ by the police, with no passive resistance,
as I vaguely heard. The police recovered.

Two youths sat by me, their good nature showing itself in their talk. They
painted my near future. The heat we should soon be feeling, 130 in the
shade; the troubled Biscay, where "seven seas meet, which causes a great
upheaval," chequered the vista. The function of crossing the Line was
described as bygone, even in its less inconvenient traditions, such as
giving the greenhorn binoculars through which a (hair) "Line" was plain
enough.

My name was called, and I went to the front. The captain conferred with
the clerk. For technical purposes, as I supposed, I was put down "purser."
The rank was given, but not the talents.

Now, the hour of the _Bonadventure's_ sailing being imminent, the
ship's officers who had been away were returning. The chief engineer,
obviously regarded as a wise man; the second mate, full of stories; the
wireless operator, youthful and brilliantined, appeared at the cabin
table. The captain's wife drew up matrimonial plans for the third mate,
who was not beyond blushing over his late tea--the not impossible, but
improbable, She was evidently a recognized memory of Hamburg. The
captain was striving to get at the facts when a doctor came in, summoned
to see an apprentice; and he left his meal to hear the diagnosis.
Reappearing, he said, "The only bit of luck we've had. The boy's got
appendicitis." This was not euphemism; what might have happened had
the ship left before the boy's illness was known for what it was, both
to boy and authorities, he went on to hint. This piece of recognition
was due to the mate.

We were not leaving that evening, though loading ceased. I walked into
Barry, and found its cinematograph programme somewhat worse than is
the average. This, and the change of the weather from keen to mizzling,
persuaded me back to my cabin for the rest of the evening; and after the
night's rest, broken sometimes by sounds of "mighty workings," I looked
through my porthole to discover that the ship had left the tips. She
was now lying, under a cloudy, showery sky, well out to the middle of
the water, and the buildings round the Docks Station, dwarfed somewhat
by the large sign of "WARD, BUTCHER," were in sight. We should soon be
away.

The solidity of ship's breakfast was an early fact among those I was
gleaning. Yesterday, an ample steak, with potatoes--and onions--had
been set before me, after the preparatory porridge; this day, two tough
sausages, with potatoes--and onions--were provided. Yet I fell to with
an appetite, and only hoped I should feel as able in the days to come.

The inert morning seemed suited to the curious quiet of the ship.
That quiet was, however, disturbed in undertone. The incessant tramp of
feet and sometimes the banging of gear were echoing. The final period,
in the main "all serene," could not be without its thousand and one
adjustments; though the holds, trimmed, I suppose, even to the steward's
satisfaction--he had been in high choler the night before at the attempted
delivery of meat to a store just made inaccessible by the delivery of
coal--now were covered with tarpaulins. I had time to meditate, and the
cold air recommended my cabin as the place.

To the Plate and back again, in a cargo ship! (To the Somme and back
again--that had seemed less surprising.) The voyage, no doubt, would be
more arduous than that in the leave-boat from Boulogne to Folkestone.
Would my resolution be equal to the greater strain on the system? I
suspected that the first few days might find me groaning within myself;
asking why I had left my draughty study, which was at least stationary?
what I had found amiss with the array of books for review--pleasant,
unjustly despised labour? Landlord, insurance agent, general dealer,
rags-and-bones, watch-and clock-repairer, bricklayer come to fix the
chimney, carpenter to take measurements for far-off bookshelves, secretary
of football for subscriptions, and many another familiar--in the middle
of an attempt to answer the question, "What is Poetry?"--should I be
considering them as unhonoured privileges? Repent, repent.

From the mild exercise, and a book, I was aroused by the brown skull-cap
of the steward, who in some pain of feature uttered round the door a
solemn "Well, I declare!" I had disregarded his bell--Jim had rung it; he
had rung it--for dinner.

There were friendly visitors afterwards. I was wished a good voyage, and
a better room--one more artistic, I think, was in the speaker's mind.
But comfort was cordially anticipated. The ship was not one of the older
sort that roll. The captain, too, said that his ship did not roll. The
shore captain grinned, but said nothing, except that, if I had been over
to France, I should find the voyage just the same. It was the captain's
turn to grin. Next, the second mate came, book in hand, and entered the
name of my next-of-kin.

During the afternoon the funnel of the _Bonadventure_ had sent forth
smoke, and the hooter, hoots; the cold increased, and, having heard
that we were to go out at about six, for all my apprehensions I felt
eager for that hour. The surroundings were gloomy. The _Bonadventure_
lay in a row of coal-carrying steamers, with something grim about their
iron flatness; the _Phryne_, _Marie Nielsen_, _Sandvik_, many another,
their cold colours reminding me of the huge blue-painted unexploded
shell which once I ventured to help remove from a trench at Givenchy.
The grey-green pool swilled sulkily about them: and the red bricks in
the background offered no relief to an unprogressive eye. Sooty, hard
and bleak, the scene itself urged my impatience to be gone.

A call announced the arrival of the pilot; and, at ten minutes to six,
in obedience to a process of which I gathered little, the ship began to
move gently out of the dock. The shouts of the pilot on the bridge, his
"Hard-a-port," his "Hard-a-starboard," were taken up from the forepart
of the ship, where a number of substantial figures were at work with
winch and cable. The _Bonadventure_ was guided with nice gradation into
a channel not much exceeding her own width; on the quay beside men
were shouting and scampering; the wireless clerk leaning over against all
gravity grabbed a bag of "mail" from one of them; and out we passed.
The wind livened. The lights of the town slowly dwindled behind us.
Into the channel close after the _Bonadventure_ came the green lamp of
another ship. Soon the _Bonadventure_ was definitely, at a growing
speed, running down the Bristol Channel, under a veiled sky through
which the moon always seemed about to emerge, and among the scattered
lights of other ships going into Barry, or waiting in readiness to go in.

The thing had never occurred to me before, and I may be pardoned for
reflecting, while I stood watching, in a manner somewhat grandiose. The
energy of Man, maker of cathedrals, high-roads, aqueducts, railroads, was
passing before me; and this one manifestation of it seemed perhaps the
most surprising. The millions of times that this restless creature Man
had weighed his anchor and in cockle-shell or galleon or clipper or tramp
set out to ferry over the seas at his own sweet will! This matter was
now put in a more prosaic light by the wireless clerk, who, beckoning
me to a place out of the wind, informed me that at a charge he could,
as soon as the _Bonadventure_ was out of touch of land, transmit any
message I had for home. With this youngster I tried to speak on his own
province, in which I had made some elementary excursions in Flanders
times: but this intrusion upon his mysteries appeared to affect him,
and I learned only that the modern wireless was different.

The doleful tolling of a bell, later on, with its suggestion of the
Inchcape Rock, reached me in my bunk, where, noticing the oscillations
of the ship, I had early withdrawn.



IV


My theory of repentance during the first few days at sea was to be fact.
At the start, I seemed to myself to be perfectly steady. The breeze
blew cold; I thought it even pleasant; and without over-exercise, I took
my last views of English coasts, and watched ships ahead of us blackly
smudging a vaporous sky. I attended dinner, and began to swell with vanity.

By this time the ship was rolling (after all yesterday's kind assurances).
There was no mistake about it: and my vanity and observation were at once
cut short by a surprise attack of sea-sickness. A dismal cowardice
came on me. The wind seemed changing, or perhaps--I inquired but
little--the course of the ship; the effect needed no inquiry. Time and
again, lowering my _morale_ at each arrival, the seas beat in a great
crash upon the ship's sides, and, with the attendant tilt, the scarcely
less welcome seethe of the waters flowing down the decks would follow.
The ship seemed to be provided with cogs, on which she was raised and
lowered with horrible deliberate jolts over a half-circle: then again,
the big wave would jump in with a punch like some giant Fitzsimmons.
My experience was growing. The sunshine died off the porthole; the
breeze was half a gale already, droning and whining louder and louder;
and I felt that my breaking-in was to be thorough enough.

Captain Hosea found time, now and then, to look at his passenger. We
kept up eloquent discourse, though I was handicapped. The origin of
species and the riddle of the universe are topics on which much enlivening
debate may occur, and certainly did then; but the floor of the debating
society should be made steady and not to lift and lean and recover with a
monstrous jerk as a point is being approached. "It's fierce," said he,
referring to the idea of infinite abyss. I could agree from the smaller
one which I myself seemed to be probing.

Sleep was not easy during these early hours of my holiday. I spent an
awkward night or two, listening to rattlings of all sorts, the
battering-ram shocks of the seas, and the thump of the engines,
watching the sweat on the rivets of my roof roll like the bubble in a
spirit-level, and my towel float out to an apparent unperpendicular
side to side. In this state of things I easily came to know the features
of my cabin, described on the door-key as "spare cabin port." Amidships it
was, between the wireless operator's premises and the captain's. The
porthole faced the poop, and more immediately, the ship's squat
funnel. Beneath the porthole, a padded seat was fixed; and I had on
one length of the room a disused radiator, a chest of drawers and a
washstand with mirror, where, despite a ventilator above, light rarely
seemed to come. On the opposite length there was a tall malodorous
cupboard and two bunk beds, of which I chose the lower one from sound
instinct at the beginning, keeping to it from force of habit afterwards.
Such was my dwelling; but I must not fail to mention the electric light
and fan. The place was painted white, but its past use as a store had
variegated it.

The steward likewise visited me here, and sympathized. The old fellow
talked to me much as if I had known him all my life; he being known well
enough, indeed, to the company for whom he was going to sea in his old
age. A scarred nose distinguished him for a time. He complained, with
a sort of personal visualization of the sea's boorishness, that while
attending to some stores he had been blown off a case into a barrel of
flour.

Having therefore spent the best part of my first two days at sea in
my cabin, which offered no great variety in itself, I was much pleased
to find myself able to arise, manfully, the third day. But I avoided
breakfast. The morning looked inviting, the black funnel gleaming even
richly in the sun, so presently I took the air. First, I had found some
difficulty in shaving, even with a safety razor; but it was accomplished.

We were still in the Bay of Biscay, and the _Bonadventure_ had not done
lurching and wallowing. To my naïve eye, the sea was in considerable
commotion. Like ever-changing rocky coasts, the horizon rose and fell. As
unsteady as that, the day left behind its sunny comfort and brought
clouds and chillier air. I saw the navigators passing on their business,
but I could not emulate their equipoise; I attached myself to a rail
or fixture to watch them, this one coiling a rope, that trailing a
coco-nut mat in the sea--a capital cleanser; to watch the gulls also,
so easily keeping up with the plunging brows, amid all their side-shows of
wheeling and darting flights. Inured, I presently joined in at dinner in
the saloon; ate, and had no serious trouble. A framework, which was
described as a "fiddle," covered the table and checked the more mobile
crockery; but it could not prevent an accident in the steward's own
department, which caused his tone of private feud with Neptune to sound
clearly in the apostrophe, "Break 'em all, then, so we shall have none
for the fine weather." But fine weather was expected now.



V


My prospect brightened with the weather. "Things are looking bad,"
observed the chief engineer with an anxious glance at me. "Why?" I said
more anxiously. "There's three teaspoons missing," he answered, satisfied
at having played his joke. The morning, though the wind blew hard
against us, was sunny and cheerful; the light blue sky flying here and
there the streamer of a shining cloud, the moon going down ahead of us,
the drove of gulls still pleasing themselves in glistening whims of flight
among the waves. Warmer it was, but not yet warm enough for me: and going
out on the deck I often sheltered behind the cabins with fingers as of
old turning waxen for want of blood. I found the ancient sea a new
pleasure in its aspects: I liked to see the wave-tops suddenly become
crystalline with a clear green glow. Such a greenness immediately
associated itself with, and, I even thought, comprehended, the curious
emanation of the old mermaid stories. It is a light wherein the sudden
arising of a supernatural might seem natural.

Aboard, less remote interests revealed themselves. The cook, that lean
aproned figure, walked slowly between the stores and his stronghold
the galley, carrying perhaps a couple of large onions; and the smell
of cooking might rise above that of the Atlantic. The tawny firemen
emptied their buckets of cinders in long series through the iron chute
over the side; or found, by request, work for an oilcan round the funnel.
Everything said, in its manner, "No blind hurry, no delay."

Hosea invited me to his ampler room for daily conversations over the
friendly glass; we talked much, but not about the sea. His active mind,
after searching through the files of recent newspapers saved up during his
stay in port, had many an opinion on affairs less adjacent; and he had a
curious miscellany of reading at his service. Sir Edwin Arnold was one
of his few poets, and for him he spoke out most generously. Here I was
obliged to watch my behaviour. As a person engaged in literature, I
could not precisely admit the ignorance of the _Light of Asia_ which I
have always enjoyed; and I wished I had read it. The conversation should
have run upon the sharks, the hula hula, typhoon and the submarine
barrage, by rights; not upon the history in blank verse of the founder
of Buddhism. It was some relief to find Hosea turning to Tennyson, whose
works he had upon his desk. Shakespeare, he said, he had been advised
by old captains to leave alone until he had turned forty.

From his book cupboard he lent me several books, of which I only failed
to master one. This was _The Lone Star Ranger_, by Zane Grey; a fiction in
which beauty was reached through blood, but not in this world. Far more
romantic was a large official treatise styled _North Atlantic Directory_,
reading which, I determined never again to leave any book about ships
and the sea in the threepenny tub.

Meals, the important thing in the trenches, began to impress me as
furnishing the incidents of seafaring life. They seldom came too soon.
Their atmosphere puzzled me in a minor way, until I was acclimatized
to the habits of the saloon. Little would be said at them for a long
time; then some one would quietly mention some occurrence of technical
bearings in the first place, and so educed, a few anecdotes would follow.
Phillips, the chief engineer, with his seasoned air and dry ironical
ease of speech, was perhaps the narrator of the saloon. I remember his
first tale that I heard: it was simple, yet picturesque. "Once we were
running in the banana trade. We went to Labrador for some fish. The
captain was putting in to Cape Sidney, and he didn't like the look of
some of the lights. So he went down to the bottle and got blotto. The
second mate--a little Greek, he was--was on the bridge, and he found
the captain was blotto, and he'd never been to Cape Sidney before,
and he was worried out of his wits. So he came down and asked me what
he should do. 'I can't tell you,' I said. 'But if I were you, I should
bring her round in circles outside here until daylight comes.' And there
he stayed, steering round in circles all night."

The ship was reckoned, by those in higher authority, to do ten knots
to the hour, but for a week or so her average was no more than eight.
This circumstance was never far away from our table-talk. The playful
interrogative "Ten?" would welcome Phillips to his place at dinner, as
the second mate handed him the slip giving the results of the midday
observations.

As the ship's officers and the sailors became better used to me, and
I to them, my voyage began to assume its intended holiday character. The
southward progress of the _Bonadventure_, disappoint her chief engineer
as she might, was felt in the improving weather; and as sea weather was
still a new world to me, I was never for long without some variation of
amusement. The colours of the rainbow in the waves leaping up at the
ship's side and in the veils of spray that they flung to the whisking
wind were soon reflecting themselves in my remembrance. On dark blue
ridge of surly water and on snowy coronal, the broken arc of the rainbow
was for ever flickering, just beyond the uncertain shadow of the ship.
The lively wind, meanwhile, as if by a sudden stronger impulse, would
whirl the green toppling seas over the lower deck, and the light cold
spray as high as the bridge. Here, I thought, was a lyric indeed; and
so, it looked, thought the gulls that disported about the ships, and
the shoals that, I fancied, like those of any small stream, would be up to
enjoy the sun.

Swabbing was going on aboard at a great pace. The boatswain, a sort
of combined walrus and carpenter, seldom allowed his swabbers and his
hosepipe to rest. The flow of dirty water from the cabin roofs made the
deck dangerous ground. So perish all accumulated dust! The _Bonadventure_
began to look clean, even resplendent.

When Hosea joined the merchant service, he tells me, old hands would
often make a disparaging comment upon the decline of sailing days. "I'm
giving up going to sea. I'm going in steamers." True, in the very names of
the old sails, up to their skyscrapers and their moonrakers, there
lingers yet the elemental dignity of the earlier sort of argosy. Even
the same metaphorical fountain of description seems to have ceased to
flow with the falling asleep of the famous clippers: and I doubt whether
the author of _London River_, that rich reverie, kindred with an essay
which has weathered a hundred years' storms--Charles Lamb's _South-Sea
House_--would write of the sea to-day in his translucent classical
revivings:

    "The model of this Russian ship was as memorable as a Greek statue."

And yet, once or twice already, I was indistinctly aware of an antique
look about the ship forward, with her dark beak and all her shrouds and
spars and winches; as I watched her at twilight ploughing a grey sea
and still driving afield towards a horizon of sad vapours, braided with
the sunset's waning red, and, from time to time until darkness settled,
creviced with a primrose gleam, calm, clear and sweet amid its shadows.



VI


A swell running in its long undulations accompanied us until we had
passed Madeira, beyond its horizons. Mugs of tea slid suddenly and
swiftly across the saloon table; complaints were made at every meal,
and the mate hinted, with dreadful implications for my benefit, that a
special memorandum would be presented to Father Neptune, expected on board
shortly. Other hints of the passenger's future trials were made. We
were bound for the Plate, but we might be sent thence to Australia. That
addition, as a possibility, to my holiday perturbed me somewhat; I
envisaged the bailiffs in at home before I got back.

The second mate, Bicker, and the third mate, Mead, invited me to see
their observations and their watches. Bicker, a fine audacious spirit,
dark-haired, dark-eyed, four-or-five-and-twenty years old, had my
company in the afternoon, the days being warm and inviting. The typical
scene below the bridge was of Mead in his singlet rigging up a line,
whereon towels, socks and other properties were soon in the sun; while
mattresses aired over the cargo-hatch tarpaulin. Other toil at this hour,
save that of the engines and the man at the wheel, was not noticeable.
The boatswain and his wrinkled party, who actually did leave a sea-salt
impression in their stocking-turbans and greasy rags and roomy sea-boots,
had left the midships white, and had changed their ground for hose and
scrubber to the neighbourhood of the engines and the galley; but the
afternoons heard them not. An occasional whistle from the bridge would
summon hurrying feet up the ladder; the striking of the bell made Time's
pace perceived. Bicker would sometimes interrupt his large stories to
show me, or to try to show me, remote or tiny curiosities floating past
the ship. Perhaps a shoal of young porpoises bobbing along portended a
slight squall, its approach yielding those ever remarkable lights
that mark broken rain, lily-of-the-valley green, and on the waters a
silver glitter, while a shadow drooped over all. The third mate's
drying-ground was speedily cleared at these times.

Mead's watch occupied the four hours before noon, and the four before
midnight. At noon he would join with Bicker in "Shooting old Sol," a
process which, with its turning-up of pages packed with figures, reminded
me of old trouble in a famous mathematical school of severe traditions,
where hung on the walls a symbolic picture--a youth swimming for dear
life from a gigantic shark. In the evening I would find Mead on the
bridge, uttering to himself as likely as not his talismanic motto: _Quo
Fata Vocant_. He was a rover; from China he had gone to Australia to join
the Army in 1914; thence had seen Gallipoli, Egypt, and, I believe,
Palestine; went into the Navy with a commission after that; and now had
returned to the life in which he had been apprenticed a dozen years
before. As these evening colloquies with Mead became a rule with me,
and as it was Mead whom I came to know better than anyone else, other
matters relating to him will be found in their places.

There was no lack of good spirits aboard. Reminiscences of a humorous
tinge came up in almost every conversation; and conversation was an
earnest and frequent affair. Indeed, there was observable a certain
rivalry (as with those who supply the fashionable memoirs of the past
twenty or thirty years), who should remember the most: and each speaker
showed a vigorous faith in his own tale, which he scarcely extended
to his predecessor's. The mate, the clear-headed Meacock, with his
blunt serenity--embodying qualities in which I could not help seeing
the English seaman of the centuries--was eloquent one evening about
examiners. Examinations lie thick in the navigator's early way. He
recalled one well-known figure of these inquisitions, who, at a time
when no dinner interval was allowed to the candidates, used to bring out
frying-pan, steak and the rest, and tantalize every one by cooking himself
his dinner. (I wondered if this suggestion might be passed on to the
Universities.) Another original, Meacock went on, warming himself with the
recollection, had a preference for ordinary, that is seafaring, words.

_Examiner._ If I carry this barometer up a mountain, what happens?

_Candidate._ The mercury in the barometer subsides.

_Examiner (purple with disgust)._ You silly idiot, if you were sitting
on a table and I knocked you off, would _you_ subside?

Bicker was about to put in a reminiscence of his at this point, but
Meacock was already giving another instance of this examiner's zeal for
pure English.

_Examiner (producing a piece of wood)._ What colour's this?

_Candidate._ Chocolate.

_Examiner (purple once more)._ Chocolate! Chocolate be dam'd. Chocolate's
something to eat--What COLOUR is it?

The chief engineer, seeing me somewhat handicapped by temperament from
wandering about as inquisitively as I ought to have done, came up one
afternoon to take me into "_his_ little slice of the ship." I am sorry
to think how vague my imagination and how inactive my gratitude had been
up to that first descent down the iron stairways and crossings to the
engine-room. The stifling air and the throbbing roar, of course, kept
my notions vague, but the degree of vagueness was not so disgraceful as
it had been. He pointed out all things to one comprehending scarcely
anything, except a chalk legend on the wall which ran:

    Aston Villa
    Celtic
    Manchester U,

and so on, which I noticed for myself. The ruling passion--(passion at
the referee's ruling, says the cynic).

I was aware, meanwhile, of vast steel rods and arms in violent motion,
named severally by the chief in a mighty voice, which nevertheless
was too much of a whisper for me. The gangways round them, it was easier
to learn, were narrow and greasy. The cool skill with which an engineer
was anointing these whirling forms, his hand dapping mothlike with the
tapering can above them, was enough to amaze me. Under a strange
construction like a kiln, by way of a low red door, we went into the
vault where the dusky, glowing and actually grinning firemen were
tending the furnaces. (It happens all day, every day in thousands of
ships!) Above, we had looked in at a dark hole--I rightly thought, over
the boilers--and breathed for a moment a most parching element, so that
the heat of the stokehold did not frighten me. The chief introduced me
to the third engineer, Williams--we roared out cordially; and then he
inducted me to the mysteries aft, where, along the shaft which revolves
the propeller, a specially greasy passage runs. Here, as throughout this
cavernous region--I remembered Hedge Street Tunnels, which to the
initiated will be a sufficient allusion--might not E. A. Poe, to-day,
have set a story to rival the _Cask of Amontillado_? I suggested it to
the chief, but he saw no adventurous, unusual quality in his tunnel. Right
aft appeared a long vertical ladder, ascending to a manhole--a safety
appliance, he explained it, of the war, but to me it resembled a danger
appliance.

Having gone as far as we could, we turned back to the engine-room. I was
now accustomed enough to notice that the sultry air of the place was
occasionally tempered by a draught of the cooler kind. But I found it hard
to realize how man could tolerate surroundings so trying as these in
order to earn a wage which in a comfortable employment would be nothing
out of the way. I pictured myself as an engineer on a steamer. I feared
that, in time, the approach of each watch of four hours down among the
machinery, fume, sweat and thunder would become a formidable problem.
"Use" no doubt explained the nonchalance of pallid Williams as he groped
with his slush-lamp to his work. But I thought of the war, when, after
a while, useful "use" began to desert the soldier and to leave him on
tenterhooks worse than the apprehensions of the unused.

We were climbing upstairs again--up from the underworld of battle
headquarters?

I had appreciated the handful of cotton waste which the chief had given
me at the first: and now went off to read poems. The man to whom this
"divelish yron yngine"--if I do not misquote Spenser--is given for control
(and is controlled), returned to his outstanding labour--that of filing
part of a curious patent electric torch which the captain had asked him to
restore to life.



VII


The _Bonadventure_ entered the tropics, calm, hot, blue expanse. I do
not know why, but our passing into that zone was for me contemporary
with an access of wild and vivid dreams. These were odd enough to cause
me to record what remained of them in the morning, and as they still seem
prominent in my recollections of my sea-going, I make a note of some of
them. Now, it was no other than the great Lord Byron, pursuing me with a
knife, applauded by two ladies. The basis of actuality, at least, was
there. Now I was taking my way along weedy rivers, which at first
were the innocent shallow streams I once met and knew in Kent. But as the
dream progressed a Byronic change came over it; and these streams grew
more and more foul with weeds and grotesque in stagnation, until I
realized as if with an awakening that they were full of tremendous fish,
pike perhaps, often perch, and hybrids of many colours and streakings.
These fish lay watching, stretched from one bank to the other; their
number, my loneliness, their immensity, my fixity conspired to frighten me
unspeakably.

At other times the river was in flood, and I, as before, compelled by
the secret of the matter to walk along its towpath, in danger of its
torrents; the path itself became unknown, or lay between two huge channels
choking with muddy torrents. Ever expecting the worst, I was suddenly
at an ancient mill, watching

    Slow Lethe without coil,
    Softly, like a stream of oil

gliding under the footbridge. This was sickly phantasm, the very waters
breathing decay. The scene swiftly changed. Paddington! and you, dear
old friend C., racing with me across the metals to catch a train, and----
Then C. is in his grave again, and I am in a trap outside my old home;
a stranger stands in the road, cuts his throat; I look on, smile, and
shudder, for he races after the trap with his knife; but I outstare his
Malayan eyes, and he gives up the chase. By way of respite, I now walked
at leisure into a bookshop, and my hand fell upon rarities indeed. _The
Church_, by Leigh Hunt--I had never seen that before! "We don't have
much time for dinner," said the bookseller, and I took the hint and
went out.

And there were other familiar scenes in this phase of nightly alienation.
On occasion, though I awoke several times from a haunting, I fell asleep
again to return to it. Half-nonsense as these dreams were, there was a
persistent force about them. Here was the battalion, expecting to be
attacked. Its nerves, and mine, were restive. The attack broke out
farther up the line, and we got off with a reaction almost as unwelcome
as a battle. Or I was in a town behind the line, into which a number of
very small round gas-shells were falling; then, in the cattle-truck for
the front; presently, in the wild scenery of great hills and deep curving
ravines which I seemed to know so well. (The entrenched ridges in the
unnatural light of the flares looked monstrous once.) I was company
commander; we were to be relieved; and, God, what had I done? Begun to
bring my men out before the other crowd had come up! The mound would
be lost, I should be "for it." The company must be halted in the open;
and so we waited for the relief. It never came.

Still the dreams came: the war continued. S. S. was with me, walking up
a big cobbled road, muddy as ever, towards the front. On every side lay
exhausted men, not caring whether they were in the mud or not. I was
not quite sure, but was not this Poperinghe Station? At that station
was--I hope is--an hotel, bearing the legend, "Bifsteck à Toute Heure";
was this gaudy-looking place, perhaps, the same? At all events, S. S.
said, "Let's go and have a port." We did, and the drink appears to have
gone to my head, for I now found myself alone, walking across a large
common or pasture. Here Mary and another woman went by, but I could not
at the moment recognize them. There, beyond the common with its dry
tussocks, stood a town, flanked by mountains, which I knew to be--Barry.
A cathedral or abbey of white stone rose in gigantic strength into the
sunlight. This place, I soliloquized, so near the line, and yet not
shelled! But I was not to escape. I proceeded. The screen alongside was
blown down. Better slink along these hedges at the double! It was the
support line. Some large splinter-proof dugouts came into sight, and
some officers, who told me about an attack. We were going over. I
recognized my destined end.

However, I woke up alive, having again suffered more from fear and the
atmosphere of it--in projection--in a few seconds, than I was ever
conscious of suffering in a day of the actual war. With weary and aching
head, whether these fantasies were to blame or not, I looked out to
ask the wireless expert if there had been a storm in the night. He
grinned, and going farther I saw outside a sea of pale glow not a great
deal more disturbed than a looking-glass.

The ashen whiteness soon gave place to a deep blue, and our entry into
the tropics became plainer and plainer, the sea fluttering with the
sun's blaze. This was unfamiliar also, to be roasting on the water in
January. The pith-helmet season began. The third mate could not claim
a pith helmet, but he displayed what none of the others could, as he sat
washing on the step of the alleyway--a marvellous red and blue serpent
tattooed on his arm, by the very Chinaman, he said, who had tattooed King
George. It was, I still think, a superfine serpent.

Washing, or "dobing," was not Mead's sole recreation. Literature, and
even poetry, with limitations, had its power over him. Suspecting me of
critical curiosity about his favourite poets, he directly approached the
matter. Rudyard Kipling and "A Sentimental Bloke" were satisfactory, but
he couldn't bear the others who gave their views on love. Lawrence Hope
had done one or two good things--but the rest, as Keats, Ella Wheeler
Wilcox, and so forth, might as well be cut out. His approval of Kipling
was confirmed by Meacock's saying in the saloon, where books and authors
were a favourite pabulum, "H'm--the third mate seems to be getting very
interested in Kipling. He brought me a paper with all he could remember
of _IF_ written out on it, and asked me if I could supply any of the rest."

This literary halo aroused Bicker, who was already known to me as the
ship's poet, and had unfortunately left his MSS. at home. He now urged
his claims. "The gardener called me Poet when I was about seven or eight,
and I often get called that now." The chief, chuckling, brought off his
little joke. "I suppose that's what drove you to sea."

In connection, no doubt, with poetry, that strange device, the mate looked
back to a ship in which he once served, and which was chartered to carry
the largest whale ever caught in Japanese waters to New York for the
New York Museum. By whale, he said he meant the skeleton, of course;
but it had been sketchily cleaned, "and when we got her to New York,"
he said with a comical frown, "nobody could get near the hatches": and,
finding the sequence easy, he added that there was often some peculiar
cargo on that New York-Hong Kong run--take for instance those rows of
dead Chinamen in the 'tween-deck homeward bound.

The face of the sky often held me delighted. There is nothing, I think, of
dullness about this world's weather; and its hues and tones may still be
a sufficient testing theme for the greatest artists with pen or pencil.
To express the sunset uprising of clouds, many of them in semblance of
towering ships under full sail, many more like creatures mistily seen in
endless pastures, was an attempt in which my own vocabulary scarcely
lasted a moment. One evening, the nonpareil of its race, especially
"burned the mind."

At first the blue temple was hung with plumes of cloud, golden feathers.
When these at last were grey, a rosy flush swiftly came along them, like a
thought, and passed. It seemed as though the night had come, when the
loitering tinges of the rose in a few seconds grew unutterably red, and
the spectacle was that of an aerial lattice or trellis among the clouds,
overgrown with the heavenly original of all roses. "In Xanadu----" From
brightness the amassed cloud-bloom still increased to brightness: then
suddenly the flames turned to ember. Even now again a ghost of themselves
glowed, until all was gone, and Sirius entered upon his tenancy of
another glory, and Orion and Canopus, casting a hoar-frost glimmer ahead
of the riding ship.

Hosea agreed this was a remarkable sunset; then took me off to the
friendly tot and talk in his room. He loved to discuss all sorts of theory
in art and religion, of which he might have been, with a slight change
of circumstance in his boyhood, a student and enthusiast: meanwhile, the
sailor in him would be rummaging through the makings of a curiosity shop
which crowded his official desk, besides the manifests and ship's
articles--his watches, knives, coins and notes of twenty countries,
photographs of friends all over the world.



VIII


The flying-fishes could have dispensed with the _Bonadventure_. During
the night, sixteen or so had come aboard, to be seized by the apprentices
for breakfast; I saw with surprise how one had been driven and wedged
between the steam-pipes. In looks, when they were out of their element,
despite their large mild eyes, their long "wings" closed into a sort of
spur, being light spines webbed with a filmy skin, despite too the
purple-blue glowing from the dark back, they did not seem remarkable. But
under the hot and shining morning, where the _Bonadventure's_ sheering
bows alarmed the shoals into flight, they were seen more justly. In ones
and twos and crescents and troops they skimmed away, sometimes with their
dark backs and white undersides appearing as fishes, sometimes in the sun
nothing more than volleys of light-curved silvery darts. They turned in
the air at sharp angles without apparently losing their speed, which
was such that often one heard the water hiss as they entered it again.

The morning that they first came in numbers, it happened that the salt
fish for breakfast was relieved by reminiscences.

"You reminded me of Captain Shank just now, chief."

"Indeed--why?"

"When you ran your hand along the table for the treacle.... He used to
think the treacle was put aboard for him. He told the second mate off for
eating too much of it--said it wasn't really for his use. After that we
all began to eat the stuff like blazes."

"You must have had some funny captains in this line."

"He was. He'd come up sometimes on the bridge and sit down in the wheel
and start making noises to himself. He'd sit there with his old chin
drooping and say, '... I knew it.... Haw, haw.... The silly old b----....
Bless my soul....' for twenty minutes. I'd go away from the wheel for
fear of laughing out--and then he'd go somewhere else and do it."

"Davy Jones got him at the finish, didn't he?"

"--And a dam'd fine ship too."

"It was her maiden trip."

"What happened to her?"

"Ran ashore."

"Both the boats capsized."

"She had the most valuable cargo I ever heard of." A pause.

"Old Shank used to ask for it, though. Once in the Gulf of Mexico he was
down below, and the ship was on the course he'd given. (He never used
to take any notice of deviation.) The second mate heard breakers, you
could hear them quite plain, and not very far off; so he turns the ship
a little, and goes down to tell Shank. Old Shank jumped up and stormed
and stamped, and rushed up on the bridge roaring, '_Am I to be taught
after forty-eight years at sea by a set of b---- schoolboys?_' and had
her put back to the old course again. And then he walked off. You could
hear him snapping his teeth. Presently he stopped. You could see the
breakers now, the phosphorescence of them. '_What's that?_' he whipped
out, '_What's that?_ My God.'"

"He was one of the white-haired boys in the office, what's more."

"His officers saved him."

"Well, one night he gave me a course, and the last thing he said to me
on the bridge was, 'It's up to you to keep her there.' I soon found we
were going to fall on land, and I changed the course. And as it was, we
passed three-quarters of a mile inside the lightship. I went down to his
room and told him. 'Why, you damn'd fool,' he started off; he nearly
went mad. 'But I've hauled her out,' I said, 'I hauled her out.' And
then he yelled, 'Changed her course without orders, did you?' and so on."

"Well, the office made a pet of him. Some people get away with it."

"After my trip with him, the whole crew refused to sail with him again.
And the mate went up to Shields to join a new ship. And when he got there,
he found Shank had joined her as skipper!"

We came into the Doldrums, and I felt none too well. "Cold, worse; heat,
worse," became my diary's keynote. The steward also complained of a
persistent cold. Six bottles--six--of his own medicine since we left Barry
had not cured him. This notable Cardiff Irishman was always pleased to
answer questions about this cold of his, and they became suspiciously
frequent. Then his solemn face would grow still more solemn, his voice
of office would take on a pleasing melancholy, and he would shake his
grey head with dolorous realizations. Nevertheless, his stores being just
below my cabin, I grew accustomed to his morning rejuvenate roarings
from the threshold at the avarice of the modern sailor. It seemed that at
such times he was momentarily free of his illness.

He, nevertheless, at present, added his good word to the general approval
of the cook. The bread was universally admired, the pea-soup also. This
popularity did not cause any alteration in the melancholy orientalism
of its deserver. He looked forth from his galley with the same wooden
countenance. He was the thinnest man I think I ever saw.

His macaroni, however, appeared to fall under a general taboo. It was
"eschewed." Bicker, the most assiduous tale-teller, seized it as the
chance for describing an old shipmate's misfortune. It was in Italy: "He
was keen on seeing all the sights, so we asked him if he'd seen the
macaroni plantation. He said he'd like to. We told him to take the
tram out of the town and walk on another mile or so, when he'd see the
trees with macaroni growing on them like lace--natural lace. And he
went. But the best of it was that he'd sent a card home the day before
to say, 'To-morrow I am going to see the macaroni plantation.'" This,
which if true was stranger than fiction, elicited recollections of
fool's-errands in the shipyards ("Run and get a capful of nailholes,"
"Ask the storekeeper for a brass hook and a long stay"), which kept
us at table until the steward groaned aloud.

I led a lazy life. There was not much reason for being active. My
afternoon walk might reach as far as the fo'c'sle, in which lay a
kindly miscellany of wire, hemp and manila ropes in coils, and an aroma of
paint and tar was never absent. The heat, however, seemed intenser in
this house than in the open. Clouds and a little rain soon vanished,
and the sea was one long flame towards the sun. White uniforms were in
vogue. For me, the half-closed eye, with a flying-fish or two sometimes
glittering to awake its notice, in any corner out of the sun, was an
occupation. The unfortunate boatswain and his men were chipping paint,
clanging and banging in the heat; or I would see him perching on the
bulwarks directing some aerial operation, and a sailor seated in the
"bosun's chair" being hauled up the mast. They rested from Saturday noon
until Monday morning. Now, more than ever, the lot of the engineers
and firemen seemed unacceptable. The blaze, the fierce blue sea, and
a flagging breeze became a routine now. The rains of the Doldrums were
not much in evidence; a short shower, flying over the clay-coloured
water, might come towards evening.

Incidents were few. The sight of the flying-fishes still starting up and
skimming, veering and spurting into a safe distance from the intruder,
was no longer one for my absorbed watch. I woke up, heavy-headed, one
morning to find that Meacock had suspended one of these poor creatures
from my roof; there he hung swaying in the little breeze that there
was, in parched and doleful manner, and ever and anon turning upon me, who
felt much in his condition, his mild and magnificent eye. I threw him out
with sympathy. At night the boobies shrieked round the lights on the
masts, and appeared at morning flying over the water. Once the sleep of
the just was broken by profane language and scuffling in the passage
outside--a rat hunt. Boat drill took its turn one afternoon, the siren
summoning all hands available to their posts. I was questioned about
Colonel Lawrence, at intervals, having seen him in the flesh; and the
publisher of his _Life_ was expected to be named by me. I said that I
believed he himself would write his Memoirs. But this was not the thing.
A book about him by some one who knew how to paint the lily and improve on
possibility was what was sought. I think I could design a satisfactory
coloured cover.

The morning bucket was a transient happiness. To disturb the "gradual
dusky veil" now unescapable, since the bunkers were now chiefly filled
with coal-dust, was not too simple in a limited space, with limited hot
water. My porthole, looking over those fuming bunkers, had to be shut
at all hours. According to everybody, the _Bonadventure_ was "a dirty
ship"; although it seemed unlikely that a carrier of coal by thousands of
tons should be clean.

She at least began to please the chief with his coveted "Ten knots";
and at dinner on the seventeenth day out, he asked whether anyone had
seen a disturbance in the water. The old gentleman was expected. I was
sorry that he did not come, after all, with his "baptism," shave, and
medicine (and I believe other rites), when at about four in the afternoon
the _Bonadventure_ crossed the Equator; but old customs can scarcely be
eternal. The steward's cough mixture was the only medicine I got that
day. Neptuneless, the ship furrowed a sea almost silent, and evening
came on tranquilly among woolpacks of warm-kindled colouring.



IX


    Mary, what news?--
                    The lands, as I suppose,
    Are drenched with sleet or drifted up with snows,
    The east wind strips the slates and starves the blood,
    Or thaws and rains make life a sea of mud.
    You close each door, draw armchairs nigh the fire,
    But draughts sneak in and make you draw 'em nigher--
    No matter: still they come: play parlour gales
    And whisk about their hyperboreal tails;
    Bed's the one hope, and scarcely tried before
    Next morning's postman thunders at the door.

    Meanwhile--if I may gently hint--I wear
    But scanty clothes, though all the sun will bear;
    A red-hot sun smiles on a hot blue sea
    And leaves my bunk to laziness and me:
    I read, until a lethargy ensues,
    Tales of detectives frowning over clues
    And last month's papers; then the strain's too strong,
    Man wants but little, nor that little long,
    The deck-chair in the shadow now appeals,
    Until the next hash-hammer rings to meals.

    But not alone in climate may I claim
    Advantage; while you feel the slings of fame,
    Beset at all hours by the shapes of those
    Who volunteer your wants to diagnose,
    Who come with merchandise and go with cheques;
    No licensed interrupter haunts these decks,
    No vans of wares along these highways clatter.
    None urges to insure, buy broom or platter.
    There is no sheaf of letters every day,
    Regretting, and so forth: no minstrel's lay:
    Proofs, none: reminders, none--while daily you,
    Poor creature, tear your hair and struggle through,
    And darken paper till you light the lamps,
    And the last shilling disappears in stamps.

    Nor weightier cares you lack, it is decreed;
    The clock won't go, the chickens will not feed,
    The pump, always a huffy ancient, swears,
    "Water? if you wants water, try elsewheres":
    The infant wonder, she who must inquire,
    Investigates herself into the fire,
    The playful snowball whizzes through the pane,
    In brief, you try to kick the cat: in vain.
    Here no such troubles blot the almanac
    For me; no day is marked with red or black:
    Events--eventicles--are few, as these,
    The sighted school of bobbing porpoises,
    The flying-fish when first I saw them leap
    And flash like swallows over the blue deep;
    The rose-red sunset, or the Sunday duff,
    Or--but enumeration cries "Enough."

    There is no Mary in the Atlantic, true,
    Nor cellared bookshop to be foraged through.
    But as I said, at least I've found the sun
    And idle times--even this will soon be done;
    A corner where no rags-and-bones apply,
    Nor postman comes, nor poultry droop and die.



X


The South-East Trade was blowing fresh next day, if a damp clammy rush of
hot air deserves the term. The threatened heavy rains of the Doldrums had
not come; the heavy heat subdued talk at table. Cloud and sultry steamy
haze had hung about us during the morning; at two or thereabouts the
first land seen by the _Bonadventure_ since her first day's stubborn
entry into the English Channel came into view. My view was at first none
at all; but encouraged by Bicker and with his glasses I could make out
the island of Fernando Noronha, twenty miles away to the south-east. A
tall peak and the high ground about it for a space gave the illusion
of some great cathedral, a Mont St. Michel seen by Cotman faintly
forthshadowed; then, the willing fancy rebuked, I discerned its low
coasts of rock, inhospitable and mist-haunted.

This singular crag breaking out of the mid-ocean, I knew, was a convict
settlement. "Life sentences" were safely mewed up here. At length we
were abeam of this melancholy place, while the sun seemed to make a show
of its white prison camp, at a distance of twelve or thirteen miles.
It would have been hard not to imagine the despair of men condemned to
such a prison. The peak's stern finger might have struck with awe the
first navigators to approach it. To see the immutable pillar in every
sunset and at every sunrise, surveying all the drudgery, the emblem of
perpetual soullessness, must be an unnerving punishment. The constant
processions of ships, to whom Fernando Noronha is a welcome mark, with
their smoke vanishing swiftly to north or south, could scarcely tantalize
more?

The rough overhanging pinnacle faded again, and evening fell. Leaning
with the third mate over the bridge canvas, while the moon, now waxing,
riding through the frontiers of a black cloud, cast a dim avenue over
the sea, and from other dishevelled clouds a few quiet drops came down,
was a most peaceful luxury. About the bows the water was lit up by sudden
flashes gone too soon. These travelling lights--akin to the gem of the
glow-worm seen close--were, according to Mead, the Portugee men-of-war
which I had seen by day. No name could be less descriptive. These small
creatures, at night living lamps of green, by day with their glassy red
and blue like the floating petals of some sea-rose, were worthy of some
gentler imagist. When, Mead said, you take them from the water, they
are nothing but a little slime; evanescent as the rainbow on the spray.

Splendour and fiery heat marked the day still. I had discarded jacket and
socks, enjoying the soothing gush of air about the ankles; otherwise
even reading was made unprofitable by the drug-like heat. The same sky
and seascape, the same condemnations of "a dirty ship" recurred day by
day. "The worst ship I ever sailed on, mister. You turn in washed and
you wake up black." The bath was still an enjoyable interlude, despite
mechanical drawbacks. The bath proper was out of order, owing tosome
deficiency of the water-pipes. At one end, in substitution, you lodged
your bucket in a board with a hole in it. At the other end a crossbar
offered the bather a seat. Much splashing transferred the water from
the bucket to your coal-dust surface; while, there being little air in
the bathroom, you breathed sparingly. Yet how well off was the acrobat
with his sponge, compared with the fireman who just then was taking
bucket after bucket of ashes from the stokehold hoist and tipping them
overboard--a job that was never done until the engines rested in port;
that punctuated our progress, as did the morning hosepipe on the cabins
and the bridge deck.

Not much was said of the country to which we were going. Englishmen
were definitely unpopular there, said some one; English sailors, on the
slightest pretext, taken off by the police to the "calaboosh." "You
only want to look like an Englishman." "Well, what about trying to look
like a German?" The chief engineer rarely missed a chance to rub in his
politics, and he jumped at this one--"Doesn't the same thing apply at
home?"--with eager irony.

Ships were discussed and compared at almost every meal. Some, luxurious.

"But that yacht she was pretty, there's no getting away from it."

"That was _my_ yacht."

"They must employ quite a lot of shore labour to keep these yachts from
looking like ships."

"Well, they couldn't very well make them look like standard ships, if they
wanted to."

"Oh, I don' know--get the second mate and the chief to co-operate--saw off
the funnel halfway, and throw a few ashes about the decks."

Some, ideal.

"She looked just like the model of a ship--and she was spotless."

Some, not what they ought to be.

"I looked and saw her name, _The Duke of York_. I thought to myself, I'll
write to him and tell him about the state of his namesake. She looked like
a wreck."

Some, again, like the _Bonadventure_, standard ships, the hasty
replacements of submarine wastage. The criticism here, of course, had
the severity of domestic familiarity.

"They have these ships made in one piece at the shipyard. When they want
one, they just cut off a length, and join the ends."

"Well, I say the man who designed this ship ought to have designed another
and pegged out."

"Mister, she's a dirty ship."

I detected--it was not difficult--a vague prejudice against wireless.
The wireless operator was foolish enough to have at his fingers' ends
all the tabular details of shipping companies and their vessels, and to
display this dry knowledge in the middle of his seniors' recollections.
His seafaring experience, it may be mentioned, was altogether recent,
and among the elders he would have done better _not_ to know. It was of
course impersonally aired, this prejudice against wireless. First, there
was the view that as ships had hitherto, beginning with the Ark, gone to
sea without the invention, they could continue to do so. Then, the fact
that wireless might save life admitted, the system current was decried.
It seemed that the merchant ships of over 1,600 tons carried wireless
operators and sets, but that one operator to a ship was the allowance; now
one operator watched eight hours out of the twenty-four, and all were
off duty at the same time. So it was believed. "There's nothing in the
Bible," the critic would urge, "to say a ship mustn't be wrecked when all
the operators are off duty."

I had expected music--chanteys, or at least accordions--aboard a
merchantman; but very little was that expectation justified. There had
been a gramophone (and step-dancing), but it was out of action after one
evening's protracted use. It was not often, yet, that I had heard even a
whistled scrap; occasionally the coloured firemen would sing in falsetto.

An epidemic of hair-cutting broke out. Every time I saw the process
going on, the artist was a fresh one; and I was inclined to think that
we are a nation of hair-cutters. Among the practitioners, the cook,
with his usual severe expression, plied a neat pair of scissors. It
was a scene which reminded me of old trench life. I thought of a close
support trench opposite Auchy, about the month of June, 1916, where a
sickly programme of sniping by field guns, rifle grenades, "pineapples,"
and incredible escapes from them did not prevent my being shorn by the
steadiest of amateurs. With what outward intrepidity I sat there!

At the captain's request, the cook advanced to cut his hair. That done, he
cut mine. Venturing to talk, I was soon exchanging sallies of the British
Expeditionary Force, for he had been thereof, a tunneller. Of his being
in a countermined shaft at the wrong moment at Vimy, and his luck in
being dragged out by the sergeant-major, he gave some details; but the
first evident attack of mirth to which I had ever seen him give way
came as he mused over rations supplied by the French for a fortnight at
St. Quentin under some temporary arrangement. "Wine, beans, and b----
horseflesh," he said, _staccato_, and with a dry laugh like the rattling
of beans. "First we'd all get bound up and then we'd all get diarrhoea.
Oh, it was the hell of a go." "There," he said, leaving a little tuft over
my forehead, "you'll still be able to have a couple of quiffs there."

He was not only cook and hairdresser off duty, I found: he was given to
sketching portraits. I went once or twice to talk with him in the galley,
where the heat was enough to make the famous Lambert himself turn thin.
And his work, he pointed out, was continuous, with his assistant's
services; he had to put up double meals to suit the watches. "But why
do I stick it?" he said, taking a batch of bread from the oven and
standing it on end against the others. "A man can stick shore jobs all
right when there's five mouths depending on him. There's not a lot of
shore jobs now."

His drawings were done in the little corner where he and his mate had
their bunks. They were pictures of ladies and seamen of his acquaintance;
crude, with lips of a bitter redness, and cheeks faintly pink, staring
and disproportioned, yet done with such pains, such strivings after
"likeness," that when he requested me to help him to a post as artist
to _The Times_, I much wished that I could! I had no sooner made the
acquaintance of the cook's portraits than a poem was bashfully brought
to me by its author, Bicker. I must say that, although his lines had
occasionally been eked out with last resorts, there was a heartiness
about them which I liked; and, going down presently to his cabin, I got
him to show me more. He had already written several rhyming epistles
during the trip, which with the retiring instinct of poets he had left
to blush unseen. So we had aboard among a crew of forty or so a painter of
portraits and a writer of verse.

We had our philosopher too, Phillips, the chief engineer, veteran of
Khartoum, master of machinery, physician less active but more reliable
than the steward; but above all, the Diogenes--with a slush-lamp. His
philosophy might be no ill store about this time, when in the heat the
pitch melted from the seams of his cabin roof and mottled his bed, as he
put it: a circumstance not yet mentioned in sonnets wooing tardy sleep,
and which of course called upon that nimble sixpence of _Bonadventure_
conversation, "She _is_ a dirty ship."



XI


A note of a train of thought forced upon me hereabouts may find a place
here, as it was set down.

(_Feb. 4._) It was nothing more nor less than the appearance at dinner
to-day of a bully stew and a sort of ration lime juice, which drove my
thoughts, always willing to be driven in that direction, towards a
nervous period of 1916, my initiation into trench warfare. The meal
was something of a facsimile; and soon after it, by a coincidence, I
was sitting under the scissors of a volunteer barber much as once after
such a dinner I sat in the alleyway by company headquarters, opposite the
red roofs of Auchy. The _Bonadventure's_ bridge, I meditated as I endured
the shears of a B.E.F. man again, looked not unlike those so-called
"communication trenches" in the Richebourg district, those make-believes;
and, as the steam-valve suddenly made me jump with its thudding volley
of minor explosions, I experienced an echo of the ancient terrors in
those same scantily covered ways when cross-firing machine-guns opened
upon my working-party.

The lime juice, in the present case, was of a milder disposition than
that to which we were accustomed. Yet there was perceptible in it that
uncivilized strength which proved it to come of the same honest origin. We
were, I must confess--it is not too late--much lacking in our appreciation
of that uncompromising, biting liquid which circulated in the trenches,
carried in jars which should have been, it was felt, carrying rum. In
itself a sort of candid friend, that lime juice lacked advancement
through faults not its own. I mean, there was the chlorinated water,
which for all its virtues was hardly popular, and there was the sugar,
which was half-and-half, associating, very friendly, with tea dust.
Moreover, this same _sugar_, in its nocturnal progress at the bottom of
a sandbag, while its carrier now stepped into an artificial lake and
now lay down for the bullets of Quinque Jimmy to pass by unimpeded, had
acquired an interspersion of hairy particles; as generally did our loaves
of bread, which in some cases might easily be supposed to be wearing
wigs. In this manner, the germ-destroyer, the intrusion of tea dust and
the moulted coat of sandbags, combined to prevent the lime juice, like
crabbed poet, "from being as generally tasted as he deserved to be."

At Company Headquarters, too, there was often in those easy times a rival
beverage. Here and there a messenger might be sent back to an estaminet
and return to the war with comforts within a couple of hours.

Yet I myself did my best to cultivate the "lime-juice habit," and to me
it remains an integral part of the interiors, gone but not forgotten,
of many a Rotten Row in the Béthune Sectors. I see its gloomy and
mottled surface, in the aluminium tumbler, besides my platter of "meat and
vegetable" or (as to-day) of bully rehabilitated by the smoky cooks;
and about me the shape of the lean-to dugout rises sufficiently high for
a tall man to enter without going on all fours. Here, is the earth
settee, running round three sides of the table, there, the glory hole in
which, one at a time, we crawl to sleep, with a fine confused bedding of
British Warms and sandbags. The purple typescript of _Comic Cuts_,[4]
in which what imagination and telescope has striven to reveal of the
"other fellow," mind, body and soul, is set in military prose, flaps
neglectedly from its nail. In their furious tints, the ladies of the
late Kirchner beam sweetly upon him who sets put on patrol and him who
returns; while in the convenient niches between the walls and the
corrugated iron roof above, which as a protection might perhaps amount
to the faith of the ostrich, Mills bombs and revolvers and ammunition
nestle.

There, given the noise of shells travelling over, trench mortar bombs
dropping short, machine guns firing high--or of shells alighting abruptly
on the parados, trench mortar bombs thundering into the next traverse,
machine guns in spitfire temper stripping the top layer of sandbags--the
boyish gay P. would with his subalterns pore over the maps, receive
with sinking heart the ominous "secret and confidential" and "very
secret" messages brought in by those fine youths the runners; fill in, not
without murmurings, those _pro forma's_ which at one time seemed likely to
turn fighting into clerkship, or "censor" those long pages of homely
scrawl in copying pencil which were to keep up yet a day more the spirits
of sweethearts, mothers and wives.

Thus the particular memories of trenches and our times and seasons in
them, roused by such a light matter as this which has aroused them now,
pass with the greatest emotion before the mind. It is not fashionable
to talk of the war. Is the counsel, then, to follow the Psalmist:

    I said, I will take heed to my ways: that I offend not in my
    tongue....

    I held my tongue, and spake nothing. I kept silence, yea, even
    from good words; but it was pain and grief to me.

One has not to follow him very long in that.

    My heart was hot within me, and while I was thus musing the
    fire kindled: and at the last I spake with my tongue.

One wonders, though, how the Psalmist himself, had he been one of us,
would have found means to communicate his strange undertones of
experience, according to their significance for himself? To whom would it
be of interest, if he described such a particle as St. Vaast Keep on
the Richebourg road, though he saw daily again in some odd way its
sandbagged posts with the fine wood panels from the shell-like house
beside built in?--seen once, for a lifetime. Or Port Arthur, that wreckage
of a brewery near Neuve Chapelle--why should every yard of its flimsy
fortification be coexistent with me? I could lead the hearer through
its observation-posts, its emplacements, its warrens for human beings,
its relics of other days, with practical and geographical accuracy; but
the words would not contain my own sense of the place, which from the
very first I never needed nor endeavoured to put into words. And yet
it is intense and instant. The reflection of the crazy stronghold as it
was, and with what it meant for me, comes in a second when my thoughts
lie that way, and it is but one of a series of equal insistency. It is no
question, this, of looking back on such a past as in any degree
glorious, of shirking the anguish that overcast any adventurous gleam that
these scenes awakened. Their memory is as sombre and as frightening as
they were themselves in their aspect and their annals.

    They come unbidden,

and when they will come, the mind is led by them as birds are said to be
lured by the serpent's eye. A tune, a breath of sighing air, an odour--and
there goes the foolish ghost back to Flanders.

Even here, I suppose, in the Atlantic's healthy blue, I am at the mercy of
a coincidence in lime-juice.

-----

[Footnote 4: Divisional Intelligence Report.]



XII


Following a roaster of day, with a slack wind astern covering the deck
forward with showers of cinders like shot, I admired the moonlight
and the sweet night air before I turned in to sleep soundly. I woke
thinking I heard the usual swabbing of decks beginning, but this was
incorrect. It was quite dark, and I began to think with gratitude of
a second innings of sleep; but when I looked at my watch it was after
seven. The din of water outside, mingled with the rushing of a mighty
wind, persuaded me to go to the door. In a few moments the storm was
at its height, the sea shrouded in a thick deluge almost to the ship's
side, and its waves beaten down by the rain into pallid foam-veined
inertia. An ashen grey light was about us, but the clouds of rain veiled
the poop from one's eyes amidships, and the siren trumpeted out its
warnings; while sheet-like lightning flamed through the vapours, and
bursts of deeper thunder than I had ever heard followed hard upon them.
The decks were racing with water from overhead covers and stairways, and
in each lifting of the storm the awning over the sailors' quarters aft
could be seen tearing at its tethers.

This fury soon slackened, and green and blue, pale as yet, returned to
the seas as they leapt away from the bows. Breakfast intervened. Attention
was requested from the storm by the appearance of a new and experimental
kind of ham.

"Yes. What d'ye think of the ham--tinned boneless smoked ham?"

"Well, I like it well enough; but it's boneless. If you take the bone away
from ham, you take away the nature of it."

This ham later on became much esteemed, but the ingenious mind was for
dissembling the fact: "We'd better not give a too enthusiastic report on
it or they'll only give it to the passenger boats" of the same company.

It was blowing still, from the coast of South America. "Smell the mould?"
asked Hosea, and I did; a strange frightening fragrance, of the earth
earthy, a heavy and swooning smell. It was so strong as to puzzle Bicker
even, in his watch; and its most unpleasant manifestation caused him to
look about for the carcass of a rat on the bridge deck.

We had come by this time into a highway of ships. The first that passed
us, a small steamer, was not much noticed; nor the next, which passed in
the night. "Her lamp gave a blink and then went out," said Bicker, and
wished he could have emulated a mate of his acquaintance who likewise
signalled to a passer-by in vain. "If you damn'd foreigners can't answer,"
he sent out as she came alongside presently, "why the hell don't you
keep out of sight? Good night!" But, on being pressed, he admitted that
the "foreigner" replied: "Thank you. And you're a lady."

Then, however, another ship belonging to the same company with the
_Bonadventure_ was seen afar through the afternoon. As the two drew
level, ceremony took place. The houseflag was dipped and raised and
dipped again by both; the red ensign was dipped; and the homeward-bound
sounded her monosyllable three times, to which our own whistle replied
in equal number. This, as old-fashioned a courtesy as could be wished,
excited several others aboard the _Bonadventure_ besides the tyro; and
as the chief engineer began his tea, he thus referred to the prevailing
spirit.

"--Well, so we passed one of _our_ ships again to-day! I was lying in my
hammock asleep, when the mess-room boy came running up, panting out:
'Sir, here's one of our ships!' And I mumbled out something like, 'All
right, John, there's room enough for us to pass, isn't there?' Everybody
was seemingly out on deck, peering up at the mate to see if he had
forgotten the flags; everybody was staring at the funnel with the eye of
expectancy, wondering 'When the hell's that damn'd whistle going?'--I
didn't get up for it. I suppose that's equivalent to contempt of court or
high treason."

The bland face of the sage lighted up with pleasure as he carefully gave
us this impression of his.

After the storm, the air was thunder-heavy all that day. Great
dragon-flies, and butterflies in sultry brown and red, and that must
have been borne out to sea on the strong breeze, were fluttering over the
decks and the water. At night, there was abundant lightning in the
distance: most of all on the eastern horizon, with its world of
waters, the flashes were of a dusky redness, and of vague mountainous
outline. They came fast and furious, until the moon at last seemed to
overawe such wild carouse, and in good earnest to govern the night;
while in a deep blue darkness, among the folds of white cloud, stars
shone with new clearness. Under this celestial content, the _Bonadventure_
moved over a gleaming sea.

Mead, on his watch, was troubled. He sought in his mind a life better
paid and more exciting. Every few moments, he would add some detail aloud
to a scheme for piracy in these waters, which he thought might be made
a profitable occupation. He pictured a coaster, duly registered, running
with ordinary cargo to and fro, but on the lines of a "Q" boat, a sort
of marine wolf in sheep's clothing, armed with torpedo tubes. In all
respects, himself being already chosen as captain, its crew should form
a co-operative society. The pirate should carry a wireless installation
of the noisiest sort. In brief, the whole scheme appealed to him so
warmly that he was ready, apart from details to be arranged, especially
a financier, to put it into practice. Me he would accept as purser,
not so much because I showed any promise as a book-keeper, as that I had
been in an infantry battalion in the Line.

The ship was slowing down, and the chief was worried. One morning he
offered me employment, "cleaning the tubes. You come round to my place." I
went round at about nine, when the ship's engines were stopped, and found
that he had as ever been amusing himself in his quiet way. He himself,
with the firemen, was now ready to act as the ship's chimney-sweeps.
After a full morning's work, masked in sweat and soot, they came up on
deck again from the job. I did not regret my earlier "disappointment."
Relieved of the clogging soot, the _Bonadventure_ ran with fresh speed,
against a tough head wind. For the first time for some days, one heard
the harsh drumming of the excess of steam escaping through its valve.
The wind drove the water, hereabouts of a jade green colour, into long
waves and their fine manes of spray, upon which the sun made many a
small and fleeting rainbow. With this head wind piping, and the cargo,
it seemed, having shifted lately, the ship had an uncomfortable list to
port and swayed as she went. "Here, you," cried Meacock to me, "your
extra weight on the port side's doing this." "Yes, it's perfectly plain he
is the Jonah of the voyage."

A dozen big black birds appeared as travelling companions, white-breasted
and easy-going. At a closer view, I found that they were not properly
black but of that dingy russet grey towards which old mushrooms grow.
They seemed never to clap their wings, but sailed as our gulls do on the
wind, wheeling and looping with a leisurely grace, and patrolling the sea
as closely as an owl beats a meadow without wetting a wing-tip.

Nor was this the only token of our nearing our first destination.
Shore-going suits and boots were out in the sun already. The steward's
usual attitude became that of a priest, as he carried the captain's
suits gingerly here and there.

But there was still time for trouble. A relapse in the sainted manner
of the old fellow occurred one day at breakfast. The most tremendous
roarings, himself and the offending donkeyman in turn or in chorus,
suddenly broke out, and ended in the steward's ascent with a complaint to
Hosea. Then, one evening, after my quiet enjoyment of the pure blue
sky after a shower, with its Southern Cross and the false cross and other
stars strange to me glittering marvellously keen, I went in to my cabin to
write, when I instantly perceived something in the air. A most pungent
aroma, indeed, had been instilled through the house; and going to inquire
I found Cyrano of Cardiff kneeling on the saloon floor, applying a
special kind of red paint. Properly, he said, it was used for the keels
of ships. I thought too that that was its proper application.

At dinner, too, events took a serious turn. When I had in previous
days heard spaghetti hailed as Wind-pipes, for instance, I had realized
the phrase as a humorous hyperbole. But now the tinned meat problem
presented itself to me in a more sinister light--I was not so sure!
There before me was a godless lump of briny red fat and stringy appendages
floating more or less in a thick brown liquid which demanded the
spectacles of optimism. A reinforcement of stony beans did not mend the
matter. The meat, as it fell out, wore a portion of skin, remarkable
for prickly excrescences, and hinting that I was about to batten on
the relics of a young porcupine, or at least peculiar pork. Presently
I asked Meacock what sort of flesh this was. He answered: "O Lord, _I_
don't know--it's--well, I don't think you can get beyond tinned _meat_."

Another incident affected the administration. An apprentice, whose stature
brought him, beyond the chance of escape, the nickname Little Tich, and
who was generally being bantered by someone or other, was cleaning the
brasswork of the compass in the wheel-house. Meacock went in to take a
bearing. The bearing he got nonplussed him, and he got Mead to try. Mead
also found the needle giving strange evidence. Suddenly it dawned upon
them that its delusion was due to a tremendous dagger worn by the very
small and keenly occupied Tich.

The _Bonadventure_ maintained her mended pace, and also her awkward
list, which conspired with a strong swell; thus it was that the "fiddle"
so necessary to the safety of cups and plates in the Bay of Biscay
reappeared at this late stage. The nights were beautiful, with their white
moon and moonlight far over the water, their stars, few, and of the
moon's glowing whiteness, the light veilings of cloud blown in silence
about the sky, and little else heard except the subdued measure of the
ship's engines, the lapping repulse of waves from the bows, and the
sharp call of birds ahead and astern. Well might Mead be glad of his
roving temperament, as on his watch we talked and smoked above the
expanse of rimpled water, and looked towards the sword-like lightnings
in the south.



XIII


We came into grey waters, and also into a grey sort of day, overcast and
moody. In the evening the wind was strong from the land, and laden with
that earthy scent which had so surprised me when I first encountered it;
a languid, rich and beguiling perfume, that is tomb-like and unnerving in
its suggestion, rising over us. It made out for me the spirit of Tom
Hood's last song, if it was his last song; the one beginning "Farewell,
life, my senses swim"; its first verse ending "I smell the Mould above the
Rose," and its second, "I smell the Rose above the Mould."

Hosea engaged me in discussion of Tennyson and Edwin Arnold. He had been
carrying out a lively campaign in his room, where an unwelcome insect
had appeared lately; one would have doubted whether any insect, however
irrepressible, could have existed in the atmosphere of cigar smoke which
he daily thickened in that room of his. But there it was, the bug had been
seen, and the whole room was overhauled.

This did not in any way deflect him from his evening pursuit of the
abstract. His resolution in following a problem through its own difficult
aspects, combined with his control of the _Bonadventure_, often made me
wonder whether he was typical of his fellow-captains. Though, as he said,
the roaring-bull style of master mariner was almost extinct, I could not
help thinking him singular.

I woke at about four, following an inquiry into some remote subject,
from a dream of roaring thunderbolts, out of whose red and whizzing track
I was crouching on the lee side of barns and cowsheds. I looked out;
there was a loud wind much like that which brought the storm of the
other Sunday. I went back to bed a little disappointed. This squall left
the makings of a very good breeze blowing and moreover lowered the
temperature. The mate complained of his khaki shorts; the second mate
had had to bring out another blanket, although it was a sunny morning. The
colour of the sea was changing as we went at a striking rate; but
prevailing, in those shallower roads turbid with silt or sand was a
greenness as of horse-chestnut leaves at their prime. Here and there were
dark acres of discoloured water drifting by, contrasting magnificently
with the green and its bright white-crested waves. The afternoon brought
into sight the dim shapes of coastline with those now less familiar things
trees and houses. This advance was welcomed by Mead and the apprentices
who lived in his alleyway with spirited but not spiritual songs.

The next day, Hosea was very early at the door of the wireless operator's
cabin, endeavouring to get a reply from the ship's agents in Monte
Video, to questions sent some days before. I do not think he succeeded.
There was, however, much buzzing, and I got up to enjoy the time of day.
It was still keen outside--"a nipping and an eager air"--the sky being
blue and the sun unclouded none the less; over the drab green sea, a
seagull or two in their lordly fashions flapping against the wind; to
starboard, in a gentle haze, a view of rugged shore. This point was one
of mountainous eminences, rolling like larger Downs, with white cliffs
or sandy beaches under their light red masses. Other steamers were in our
neighbourhood, on the same course out or home, some bright with new
paint, others scarred and rusty. Probably they were having tripe in
batter for breakfast like ourselves, the prose part of me suggested; and
I felt with gratitude that I must have become a new and better man,
who could now face and even look forward to a food which had hitherto
only interested me as a favourite with C. Lamb.

The continued cold caused me to return to socks; but I delayed the
reinstatement of the collar, which I had found no such necessity to human
happiness.

It seemed no time at all before we had passed Flores Island, and Monte
Video came into view. Bright sandy shores gave place to a parched sort of
greenery, as it looked, with large buildings here and there; the town
beyond lay terraced on rising ground, its square monotonous buildings hot
in the sun, whose fervour the roofs returned in dazzling mirror-glare.
The spires and minarets of its more pretentious architecture, something
scantily, relieved the greyness of the formal rows, barracks, warehouses
and whatever else. Farther on a rough squat cone of barren-looking
ground surmounted with another heavy square-cut building caught but
scarcely charmed the eye. As the heat was dreary, so at a casual glance
through the smouldering air this town of flat roofs and tiers.

Hosea, very smart, with his telescope under his arm, and the second mate
beside him, stood on the bridge. Hosea was giving orders, the second mate
passing them on to the engineer below on the ringing telegraph, and by
megaphone to Meacock, who with the carpenter stood to the anchor forward.
Flags were run up announcing the _Bonadventure_. No answer, in the form
of a launch, was vouchsafed so early, although other ships moored round
about us were being visited by agents or doctors. The word was given
to let go the anchor. "Forty-five on the windlass!" The cumbrous chain
unwound and ran down with a cloud of rust. The _Bonadventure_ lay still,
even the cocoa-like mud which her propeller had been diffusing in a few
moments thinning away.

A gangway was let down over the side. Firemen and engineers came up
from the underworld and all--not only the passenger--looked towards a
motor launch which now appeared making swiftly towards us. She was tied
up a moment later with ropes at the foot of the gangway, and an Englishman
emerging from her small beautifully polished saloon, asked in supercilious
fashion for the captain. "Come aboard." "No, I can't," Hosea stalked
forth with successful dignity, as if unaware that anyone should be
calling; then, going back for the ship's papers, boarded the launch, and
we heard that we were going on to Buenos Aires. The papers were quickly
seen and restored; letters--general gloom!--were absent, probably with
some other agents; and the launch and the young man in his beautiful
suit, raiment for a diplomat, departed.

We stayed here at anchor through the afternoon; telescopes sprang up on
all sides, even if to unacquainted, non-cubist eyes the view was rather
interesting than pleasing. Every half-hour or so, some tramp would leave
the harbour. Curiosity in their case was small. Every half-hour, launches
puffed along to take back their pilots. The purlieus of Monte Video with
their apparent but distant gaiety, even, were soon disregarded.

Bicker and Meacock exchanged humorous history by the engine bunkers,
in holiday mood. The steward, who had lost little time in putting out
a fishline, leaned over the rail in meditation, not knowing that his
misanthropic look was being almost to a line caught by Bicker behind him.
Bicker also illustrated in dumb show the action of heaving the poor old
man overboard. And, meanwhile, it was hot: no doubt of that! Presently the
doleful patience of the steward was rewarded with a foolish-looking
fish perhaps three pounds in weight, which was soon cut into sectors
and salted.

When towards seven in the evening the anchor was got up and the ship
began to move up the River Plate to Buenos Aires, the scene was one to be
remembered. Astern lay Monte Video with its lines of lights, and from
its hill one great light glowed out momently; ahead lay the buoys of the
channel, flashing first red and then white in reassuring alternation
along our course; and the moon overhead, pale with a stratum of thin
cloud, or lost at times behind echelons of stormier vapours, gave light
enough to hint at the look of the shores. At first the captain, the mate
and the anchor appeared the three forces acting on the ship, the anchor
especially, which was loath to come aboard. At last it came, and the
_Bonadventure_ went steadily up the river to the pipe of a rising wind.

Hosea, well satisfied, sat down in his room with his "purser" to theorize
in our wonted way. The beauty of the commonplace, it was; then we were
considering the simplicity of seafaring men. They must be simple, he
said, to have done what they had done, including Columbus. Seafaring
in sailing ships, he described in the powerful phrase "fighting against
your God"; a phrase which I suppose the early mariners in their piety
might have applied to steamers.

    Those trim skiffs unknown of yore--

I condense Coleridge--

    That fear no spite of wind or tide!

Phillips joined us. "We're discussing nautical history, chief." Being
assured that this really was so, Phillips said he was uncertain about the
true story of the _Golden Hind's_ boatswain, but he felt certain about our
not reaching Buenos Aires in the morning. If he were not a moral man,
he would "bet you, sir, two pence on the point."

The pilot, a tan-brown moustached little man, came in--not for his
black straw hat, but for his oilskins and goloshes. "That's right," said
Phillips with malevolent sympathy, "that's right, pilot, always keep
your feet thoroughly dry." The pilot had at least the excuse that it
was drizzling outside.

It blew hard and harder all night; and the next morning, Sunday, one
thought of the collapse of an English October. About half-past seven we
dropped anchor in the "roads" outside our promised port; on all sides
bleakly lapping and passing the pea-soup waters of the River Plate. Father
Prout's whimsical haunting old lines pervaded my mind as I stared and
warmed myself with pacing up and down:

    With deep affection and recollection
        I often think of the Shandon bells,
    Whose sounds so wild would, in days of childhood,
        Fling round my cradle their magic spells.
    On this I ponder, where'er I wander,
        And thus grow fonder, sweet Cork, of thee,
        With thy bells of Shandon,
        That sound so grand on
    The pleasant waters of the River Lee.

Not far from his old loves, how did some of us once for a brief stay,
with those whirlpools in Flanders still roaring more hungrily in our
destiny, hear other bells ring in enchanting coolness over the gliding
boat, borne on the bosom of wooded Blackwater!

But these bleak and turbid waters turned the ringing song to parody, nor
did the _Bonadventure's_ bell, a war product, sound particularly grand
upon them as those past bells on their importal streams. The outlook and
the chilliness made breakfast unusually welcome. The pilot came in, but
having no English to speak of (or with) he could not tell us his real
views on the weather and such important matters. The chief loudly--for
more clarity--pressed him with such questions as "When does your next
STRIKE begin?" but he smiled and ate on.

About dinner-time a fine white launch came out to us; and a number of
authorities, including some doctors, came aboard. The ship's company
assembled aft like an awkward squad, and the doctors came along the
line feeling pulses; a task which they did genially and without strain.
That done, and no one being set aside for a further examination, all
dispersed. The authorities (a generous allowance of them) proceeded to
Hosea's quarters, no doubt to wind up the morning's work in comfort. I
listened meanwhile to Mead, who leaning over above their launch, amused
himself with making noisy and scandalous observations upon its crew,
their careers and their faces. Why this fury? I really believe it was
his way of expressing fraternity.

So there was nothing to do but wait for our new pilot on Monday morning:
to play cards with a pack whose age had given each card characteristic
markings besides those upon its face; to "yarn." At tea, Bicker was in
his most assiduous narrative mood. "We were in the West Indies in a boat
bringing the bumboat woman aboard--well, she started to climb up the
rope ladder and this fellow thought he'd lay his hand on her ankle. So he
made a move to do so. Just then" (his broad grin grew almost incredibly
broad), "the boat gave a roll, and as he had one foot on the gunwale, and
one on the rope ladder he fell into the water. Well, he went down past
rows and rows of plates, and we looked out for him to come up.--First a
hat, his black hat, came up. And then, a newspaper came up"--[_Chief_
(_ignored_) "To say he wasn't coming up?"]--and then, _he_ came up. Stern
first. We dragged him on deck, and there he was all spluttering, and
then he said as solemn as a judge:

    'That's the fruits of Blacklegging.'"

This closed the proceedings.

Under the sunset the river's dingy current began to take on a strange
glory, and changed into a tawny golden wilderness moving down to sea. Then
presently it was full moon and pale splendours. A great quiet prevailed;
but led by the moon, like the tide and the poets, Mead and myself paced
the decks for hours recalling the local colour of war apart from fighting.



XIV


A most placid morning. The sky ahead was silvered with the smoke of unseen
Buenos Aires, the water so gleaming that the flat coast lined with trees,
to starboard, appeared to be midway suspended between one mother-of-pearl
heaven and another. The new pilot arrived in this early tranquillity,
and the ship resumed her way up the channel marked out by buoys of several
shapes.

The sun increased in power all too fast. I stood on the bridge to hear the
pilot and the mates giving their directions: we came to a couple of
tugs told off to escort the _Bonadventure_ in. Ropes leapt aboard us,
tossed up in the adroitest way and caught as cleverly by our sailors; the
bigger cables were attached to them, drawn aboard the tugs and made fast;
and so we went on with tugboats fore and aft. The peculiar beauty of the
morning mist over Buenos Aires soon began to thin away and disclose
great buildings. And now we were almost at our journey's end; and in
hurrying ease, drew past fishing boats and small sailing craft into
the harbour mouth. On our port side, on a sort of palisade running out
into the estuary, a host of sea-eagles perched yelping, their lean black
bodies sharply designed in the white light. Their motto I took to be:
Multitude and solitude. Beyond their grand stand appeared a green grove
of downward foliage, the gaudy precinct of what, I was informed by the
wireless operator, who began to act the guide-book, was a destructor for
the frozen meat industry. He went on to specify the number of animals
daily converted and to give other details which interested him, as an
ex-wielder of the pole-axe; but my attention was distracted by the ships
swinging into an approach crowded with dredgers and their ugly barges
swilling mud, with motor-boats and lighters and as it looked to me
every sort of medium for water traffic, bright and drab, proud and
lowly in a confusion.

The waterway divides. To our left, a channel lies under giant steel
bridges. Our course is not there: we are piloted towards a dock for
passenger and cargo ships, and entering it in a hot glare, and colouring
that almost sears, of sky and water and paint, we make our berth,
wallowing once over the water's breadth to the anger of lesser navigators,
who go by in their boats bawling at the bridge in general. The handsome
passenger boats with their great paddle-wheels and their red awnings lie
opposite our plebeian resting-place: beside a grimy wharf, where small
cranes and coal carts seem to multiply.

Of an expectant company there on Wilson's Wharf, the chief feature was
by immediate common consent recognized in an old lady in a heliotrope
dress, tightly girdled--and she was of mountainous shape. The demure inch
of petticoat revealed below the hem of her well-hitched skirt was not
overlooked. Beside this beldame, a long thin youth, a very reed straw by
comparison, puffed at a cherry cigarette-holder, vacantly but fixedly
eyed the ship and seemed to await her instructions. A laundry cart, with
an insufficient animal in the shafts, stood behind them and showed what
they too stood for, emblems peculiar.

Scarcely had the _Bonadventure_ come to rest before a swarm of anxious
sallow ruffians were aboard for the "ship's orders." The rooms of Hosea
himself were not free from their invasion; not free that is, for a
moment. Their intruding faces caused him to roar in the most frightful
fashion; at which, hesitating as if before an injustice, they got out,
but still hung about the gangways. When, presently, he went ashore to pay
his official respects to the ship's agents, we saw a trail of these
indefatigables close on his heels, and on his return he said that four of
them had followed him all the way. I now perceived quite plainly why,
when I a stranger appeared aboard the _Bonadventure_ at Barry Dock and
desired to find the captain, there was no eager answer to my query.
Tailors, bootmakers (one with a motor-tyre or a piece of one over his
shoulder), engineers and I don't know who else formed the polysyllabic
cordon.

Meanwhile, the _Bonadventure_ was hauled in close to the edge of the
quay, and a gang of dock hands came on deck bearing ropes and pulley
blocks. The ship's derricks having been lifted, these made the first
preparations for discharging the cargo. The hatches were laid open, and
the planks covering them pitched aside much as though they were so many
walking-sticks. I was not the only one deluded by this despatch into
thinking our discharge likely to be over in a few days.

Buenos Aires; a tremendous town, a "southern Paris," a New-World epitome.
So much, so little I knew of it. It lay here, its heart not a half-hour's
walk from our mooring. But the vastness of the rumoured hive, the heat,
I daresay indolence too, prevented me from taking this first opportunity
for walking into the strange streets. It was excessively hot, and that
settled the matter. There was plenty to watch on the river and alongside:
it would have been odd, if it had not proved so. So, swollen somewhat
with the feeling that I was now a considerable seafarer, and not
unpleased to be mistaken for one by the miscellaneous visitors who had
by this examined the decks and accommodation--all doors locked--somewhat
fruitlessly, but still loitered, I stayed idle.

Trenches will recur to their old inhabitants. The small coal in the yards
here stood walled in with a breastwork of sandbags, built with tolerable
skill upon the old familiar pattern of headers and stretchers and as I
happened to be remarking upon this fact to the wireless man, interrupting
his propaganda about a strike in which he personally would resist to
the last, a little launch chanced past with the name _Ypres_ on her bows.

She was but one of an endless to and fro of small craft. The tall and airy
passenger boats, at intervals, came by in brilliance. When there was a
pause in this coming and going, and nothing more happening on the water
than the snapping of the small yellow catfish at bread floating below the
ship, I still felt a quiet and languid gratitude for the novelty of being
where I was.

That gratitude was to be tempered soon. The plague of the mosquitoes of
the docks had been painted dark enough for me during the days of approach;
and when I got to bed, the threatened invasion had begun. Determining
not to consider the question at all, I read deep in my pocket copy of
Young's _Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality_, as in worse
quarters many a time, and duly went to sleep like a philosopher.



XV


Could this be Saint Valentine's Day? Here in a dreary looking dock with a
surplus of sun but a seeming lack of oxygen, and only a sort of amphibious
race as company? Newspapers were at any rate valentine enough. They
were read with real care, football results being perhaps the consolation
most sought.

Hosea showed me the way into the town. We turned out over the docks, out
at last from a kingdom of coal-dust, over a swing bridge; took a tram,
and were soon at the shipping agents' offices. He spent some time in
earnest conference here, and the visit ended with a visit to other agents'
offices, and that again with an adjournment with a serene member of the
staff to a bar. In this excellent place, my ignorance of a kind of
drink, saffron in colour and with a piece of pineapple submerged, was
soon dispelled. The collection of olives, biscuits, monkey-nuts and
flakes of fried potato which the waiter brought with the drinks was to
me unexpected. We went, with our good-natured guide, to lunch in a huge
hotel. Gaining the top of the building by the lift, we sat at a table
near the windows of a luxurious room filled with luxurious people, and
had the pleasure of looking as we ate over the less celestial roofs of
the town to the calm flood of the River Plate beyond. Distance lent
enchantment to this view also. The conditions were good for eating, our
friend's romantic tales apart.

We departed from this commendable place, and, there being still
engagements for Hosea with the shipping agents, we went there. Emerging,
he had to go to the British Consulate. We hired a taxi. The traffic of
Buenos Aires, or practice and precept differ, was free from irksome
restrictions of speed; and we were whirled over the cobblestones and
tramlines and round trams, horsemen, wagons, rival cars and everything
else in a breath-taking rush. "I get in these things," said Hosea,
"saying to myself, If I don't come out of this alive, then I shan't."
We got out alive. The Consul's workshop (it was perhaps known by a
more dignified name) was in a scrubby street; and the young man in
charge had my sympathy. However, it was not my fault that he was being
slowly roasted.

That call left Hosea at liberty to explore the town. We walked on and
on, looking at the shops, and be it acknowledged at the beauties who went
by, until we arrived at the small park over which the Museum rises to that
southern sun, ornate and massy. Here we entered to spend the afternoon
among a few visitors and as many official incumbents. We entered solemnly
resolved to find a Palace of Art--Hosea putting away from him all his
connection with ships and the worries of that next necessity, the "charter
party."

Plaster casts and original statuary were plentiful in the Museum. The eye
of the weary mariners rested none too long upon these. The multitude of
paintings, however, were considered gently and methodically: Hosea would
stand before the weakest trying to comprehend the artist's intention,
and to claim something in his daub as a virtue. Sometimes he would put
on his eyeglass to survey the subject. To me, there seemed no such
quality here--I speak as a scribe, without authority--as there was
quantity.

There have been many energetic and accomplished administerings of paint,
but to what purpose? The eternal allegory, demanding one nude figure or
more, and justifying by the general level Hosea's praise of a well-known
picture called "September Morning," or sweetened description of evening,
with its cows coming home under its warped moon, its ploughman in a vague
acre, and the rest. Was this the southern genius?

One or two modern pictures here revealed a strength and idiosyncrasy
beyond almost all the rest. A portrait of six youths, drawn with fierce
intensity of colour and of line, expressing distinctions of character
in subtle vital sharpness, long detained me. Another untypical picture,
as recent as the last, was based upon a rustic festival or ritual with
which I of course was unacquainted; but the epic lives of peasant men and
women in their long combat with the stern giver of grain were legible in
the strange georgic faces and the mysterious melancholy glory of their
assembly.

            --Seemed listening to the earth,
    Their ancient mother, for some comfort yet.

Among the many harmless little pieces representing vases of flowers,
woodland melody, and other conventions, I caught sight of a portrait of a
young girl ("My lady at her casement" type) drawn with mild ability.
The signature, very large and clear, was

                                CH. CHAPLIN.

On referring to the minute brass plate beneath so innocent a vanity, we
learned that Charles Chaplin, 1825-1891, was a painter of the "French
School." Pictures must run in the family.

The first afternoon, Hosea and myself could find no specimen of an
English artist among the multitude: but returning another day to make
certain (and once again we had the gallery more or less to ourselves)
we found a small and typical study by Wilkie, and a portrait by Sir
Thomas Lawrence. Before this last, a work of the loftiest morality--in
its subject I mean--and of a colouring delicately fine, Hosea stood in
enthusiasm. "I'm not sure," he said, and once again drew an impression
before proceeding, "that that isn't the finest thing we've seen." The
spectacle of King Arthur in his bronze near the exit, in his bronze
but somehow devoid of his grandeur, ended our artistic adventures.
The business of criticism, no doubt, is to keep cool: but this we had
scarcely been able to do. I should have given up early, but for the
determination of Hosea; and even he began to feel the scorching heat above
the æsthetic calm.

The ship's football was brought out in the evening, and on a patch of
waste ground alongside, flanked by thickets of rank weed, and ankle-deep
in sand and coal-dust, we enjoyed ourselves most strenuously. There
were one or two real drawbacks. A vigorous and unwary kick was apt to
send the ball into the river, and to recover it meant clambering up
and down the slanting wall of the wharf, which was coated with black
grease, fishing with a pole, anxiously watching the currents, and quickly
becoming as black and greasy as the masonry. And on the other hand, there
was here a depôt of large drain-pipes, which might equally receive the
erratic ball; then arose the questions: Whereabouts in the pipes had
it bounced? Would the drain-pipe on which you were standing really roll
from under you and bring down a dozen others? Meanwhile the watchman of
the depôt would be there uttering untranslated dissatisfaction with
the whole affair.

We had not been in the South Basin many minutes when the chaplain of The
Missions to Seamen was among us with his witty stories and, I believe,
his put-and-take teetotum. At any rate, the latter became as well
recognized a part of his equipment as his quips. At his invitation, I
went several times to the Mission, which was quite the rendezvous for
the crews of British ships in the port. Its concert room, its billiard
room and other comfortable places were generally very lively, the two
chaplains apparently possessing an inexhaustible reserve of cheerfulness.
English ladies too came there to brighten the evenings, to sing and
join in at cards and conversation; their generosity, I believe, furnished
the other refreshments of these evenings.

Next door to the Mission, a dingy annexe to a sort of grocery, labelled
the "British Bar," was not neglected. Talk and beer and smoke prevailed
here until midnight and afterwards: indeed, I had scarcely sat down
before a vast mate from some other ship had challenged me to name a better
Test Match captain than Mr. Fender. Other patrons of the Oval soon took
up the cry, but I resisted for the rest of the session.

The discharge of coal began, a monotonous process however considered;
down in the hold one saw through the busy dust a small but growing
mine-crater done in coal, at the foot of which were lying, stooping,
chattering, the nearly naked figures of the labourers. Negroes they
looked down there, but were white unofficially. They shovelled now from
this side, now from that into a great iron bucket: above, at a sign, the
man with his lever set the winch working and the derrick hoisted the
bucket up and over, then down into the lighter that lay alongside. And
so with intervals through the day. Then at night, the dock's aboriginal
mosquitoes came forth; as the mate said, like a German band, all the most
agonizing shades of musical audacity emanating from them. They drove not
only me but old hands out on deck at night, where a chilly autumn wind
was blowing, which drove us indoors again. But as the light grew, our
tormentors lessened. The sun ariseth, and they get them away together,
and lay them down in their dens.

To avoid these visitors as much as possible, I refrained from exploring
the town over tiringly during the day, and went off with Mead in his
shore suit after the evening's football on the dust-patch: and stayed as
late as meanderings in the town could make it. We certainly departed from
the usual haunts of sailors the first night; went on and on, until even
the adventurous Mead had to say: "This is rather a depraved kind of
street." And more, there was something in the air--some way off, we
heard the interrupted fire of (what roused imagination converted into)
a machine gun. The slatternly folk sitting, with white gleams of face
or dress in the shadows, by their doors; the herds of unaccustomed
faces in the large threadbare bars; the many groups of folk standing
expectantly about the street, and our own alien solitude--all gave this
sensation of disquiet. In a manner enjoying it, we proceeded, past an
orator roaring out in fine fury to a small but intent crowd, and presently
found ourselves in a large square with its many lamps, its glossy cars
stealing swiftly by or waiting on the rank, its fountains playing like
mists among deep green of trees.

Magnificent, and nearly empty, was the café into which we went; brilliant
its interior; attached to the gilded columns, how eloquent of drinking as
a fine art, its scoreboards announcing the many specialities! We stayed
until midnight. Then, having roughly found out our way home, we set
out for the docks, and, pausing to divine the sense of a poster giving
details of a "Radical" demonstration for the next day, saw the police
come hurrying up to a gathering of people round the next bar door.
One of the police as he passed us at speed caught his toe against a
stone and with his sword and fine feathers came down flat on the pavement.
The gathering at the bar door were so absorbed in their topic that no one
looked, much less laughed at his loud discomfiture.

Sometimes I found an occasion to leave the _Bonadventure_ in her noisy
dishabille, during the day. There was one walk with the wireless
operator to a smaller tramp in a distant dock, aboard which somewhat
shapelier ship than the _Bonadventure_ he had an acquaintance. Walking
over the irregular cobbles and among the railway lines of the wharves in
the heat was a sufficient exercise. We left our ship carpeted with
coal-dust; passed cattle pounds, grain elevators glaring white, and on
the opposite side steamers in process of being loaded or discharged;
went along a rail track where the grains which had lain longest had
sprung up in unavailing green, and under chutes where sacks of corn were
sliding down to the holds of ships. The mate of the _Primrose_ whom we
had come to see was thoroughly happy, and resembled almost to a hair my
sergeant observer of years before. Putting on a record--his gramophone
was actually in order--and offering cigars, he produced an extraordinary
picture of his ship, in needlework. The ancient art of the sampler had
passed to him. He seemed, I noticed, _of_ his ship: its mahogany-lined
saloon and more domestic style were congenial with his paterfamilias air
and "Not to-day, thank you" mildness to various business callers. The
wireless operator, also, seemed to be less interested in the regulations
of his calling and more in photographs of ships and sailors. With these
kind spirits in my mind, I was somewhat preoccupied as we walked back
the way we came among the pigeons and the dock labourers stretched out
under every railway truck and crane for their siesta.

Then there were one or two more rounds of the town with Hosea, chiefly
in the busiest neighbourhood. I began to know the tall statue of Columbus
as a landmark. All the morning, perhaps, Hosea would be going from one
office to another, seeking to define the ship's future and to hasten
her discharge, while I kicked my heels in entrances under the suspicious
eyes of the janitors. Kindness was readier in the frowsy offices of the
ship's chandlers; whence the delectably dressed youth the firm's son
soon led the way to a table and vermouth in the Avenida de Mayo. We went
again, with a new companion, to the Florida restaurant for our lunch:
but the new companion and myself having been contemporary in the Ypres
salient, our excessive reminiscences began to pall upon the long-suffering
Hosea. One day Hosea entrusted to me, for transport to the ship, the
sailors' wages in notes, and the letters. He was staying ashore, and
did not fancy the prospect of carrying so much money about with him.
Neither did I; but it is hard to say whether the responsibility for the
pay overshadowed that for the letters. I was pleased to climb aboard the
_Bonadventure_ with both, after passing through the knock-off rush from
the docks. But I seemed to be blamed for not bringing letters for every
one; such is the lot of the volunteer.



XVI


There was a feeling (based on observation) aboard the _Bonadventure_ that
the discharge of the ship was not being carried out with all possible
speed, owing to the prevailing mysterious influences of the offices in the
town. Delays were many. This augury of a long sojourn in our present
berth depressed many of us: I had already observed, or judged, that
whatever the earlier mariners may have thought of seafaring, the modern
sailor's idea in sailing is to get back home as early as possible. We
soon heard that four days of public holiday, the Carnival, would be
added to our term. It was evident that one must make the best of it, and
be thankful on those days when some actual progress was made.

Mosquitoes, as I have said, were a great subject here. We had
opportunities to study them. With _Macbeth_ in hand as a convenient
weapon., I nightly reduced the horde, but these

    Stubborn spearsmen still made good
    The dark impenetrable wood.

The heat grew sickly sometimes at night, and the cabins were black with
flies and mosquitoes alike. To sleep there was to be slowly suffocated,
let alone the folly of sleeping among man-eaters. An outdoor faith was
forced upon me, and yet the deck was no real enclosure from the enemy:
the faith would end at four or so in the morning, a time of day to which
I was becoming as accustomed as of old, and when the riverside gave off a
smell which I remembered noticing in the trench regions east of Béthune.
Then, still hopeful, I would face my cabin and soon after swathing
myself in the brief sheets of the bunk would be asleep. That interim
unrecognized, here I was awake again in a world where chisels chip paint
and steam-driven machines tip tons of coal. The great buckets were now
being strung over to railway vans, which were shunted duly by a small
engine. Winches clattered and wrenched, the clanking engine bustled
almost ludicrously up and down the wharf, and all seemed in a great
hurry, but the hurry was only on the surface. The yellow river, the
coal-dust, the glaring sun, the dockside streets and warehouses and of
course the eternal mosquito began to play upon me. My body was in pain
from the innumerable bites and want of rest, and generally I was in as
low spirits as I could be.

The ship was daily haunted by newsboys, fruit-sellers, and others. The
news was difficult to discover from the queer columns of short cabled
messages, and yet we never sent the newsboy away unless, perhaps, our
only means was in English coppers. Sixpences he (not unwisely) was willing
to take. The fruit-sellers gave better value for sixpence, even though
their open panniers seemed always liable to the predatory paws of the
water police. The shoemaker with his motor tyre put pieces of it upon
my shoes, grunting out a satisfaction with the job which I hardly shared.
A thin gentleman with furs, puzzle boxes, and other cheap-jack gear was
not much called upon though called at.

Two Englishmen came also, sellers of furs; one, of my own Division in
France. They were very warm in their praise of Buenos Aires, and besides
bringing good furs with them they brought good spirits.

Football flourished. In red-hot sunlight, we met the team of another ship.
Grim determination was in the game and its afterthoughts; and by a happy
accident my foot scored the first goal of our victory. It was counted
unto me for righteousness. The form of address "Passenger" acquired a
respectful significance. There was immediately arranged a return match. But

    Antres et vous fontaines!

The hart desireth the waterbrooks; and so did we. Again, on such a
summer afternoon, we went at it, upon the field we had hired for the
ordeal. This time we lost, but still the blood of the team was up; the
_Bonadventure's_ fair name was in jeopardy. Again there was immediately
arranged a return match for the following evening. We lost, and it was
hotter still. This nevertheless cooled the ardour of the footballers,
and did not finally ruin the reputation of S.S. _Bonadventure_.

The evening form of this game continued upon the original ground, but my
connection, like Mead's, soon declined. The main cause was that the ball,
or Ball--its importance aboard requires the capital letter--flew off one
evening as usual into the dock, but there by some conspiracy of wind
and current sailed along at a merry rate until it was carried under the
framework of piers upon which the coal wharf was built--a noisome place,
a labyrinth of woodwork. If it stayed here, it was generally out of
sight and beyond reach; if it was swirled out, it would go on out, into
the middle stream, and doubtless into the Atlantic. We groped along the
filthy piles of the tunnel, and the darkness was imminent; when the
ball suddenly appeared, decidedly going out into the middle stream. At
this crisis, Mead with a war-cry plumped into the evil-looking water and
brought off a notable rescue.

Cricket would have seemed the more seasonable sport. Twice Mead and
myself joined the Mission XI for grand matches in the suburbs, and said
to ourselves, "In the midst of football we are in cricket"; but twice
we met with disappointment, the rain choosing the wrong days altogether.

I had naturally observed silence over my journalistic life of the remote
past, but one evening at the British Bar I was asked, was it not true
that I was a relation of Kipling? and at the Mission "your book" was
several times alluded to. It was, I think, taken for granted that being
a penman I should be _writing up_ my adventures, as though I were on
a voyage to Betelgueux or Sirius. I was asked to recite some of my poems,
also, by a lady, but I was churl enough to ask her pardon on that score.
She evidently felt this the basest ingratitude. "Why? Why not give us a
recitation? I'm sure you can." I tried to explain that my attempts were
frequently, almost invariably, of a meditative cast of mind, not suitable
for the platform. At this she sniffed and I felt that my explanation was
disgraceful in the highest degree.

Entertainment was not lacking there at the Mission. It was a hearty
place. One evening Tich, the pride of the _Bonadventure_, who in his
uniform cut a most splendid figure, went into the ring and laid about
him magnificently. Or there might be a concert, local talent obliging. A
passenger ship's varieties drew a large attendance both from the ships
and the shore; there was much funny man, much jazz band, much conjuring,
much sentimental singing--in fact plenty of everything which is expected
at popular concerts, and every one departed with reflected pride. Mead
and myself, however, quarrelled over the amount which I subscribed to
the whip-round. It was that or nothing--I had but one coin; and its
removal robbed us of our wonted refreshment. We walked somewhat moodily
down the road to the docks, unsoothed by their thick coarse greenery,
which the night filled with the incessant buzzing of crickets and a
loud piping whistle perhaps from a sort of cricket also, while here
and there a fire-fly went along with his glow-worm light.

We tried the cinematograph's recreations, once or twice. How strong is
habit! We could not settle down to these performances of single films;
nor to the box-like halls. A cowboy film of eight acts comes back to my
recollection from those evenings. It was full of miracles. The operator
believed, like the hero, in lightning speed. The hero on horseback was
far too speedy for the villain who dragged off the heroine into his car
and did his best to break records. These heroes will one day assume the
proportions, in the dark world, of the pleiosaurus in natural history.

But we had our reward. In a more expensive theatre, we found _The Kid_.
We had come out to see a much trumpeted film of a bullfight--Mead for
one set of reasons, I for another; but it was of yesterday, and we had
no difficulty in consoling ourselves. One Chaplin, we acknowledged, was
better than many toreadors.

And then, we had a glimpse of the Carnival. In our wonted quarter of
the town, that where the seafaring man mostly rested, it took the form
of some processions of hobbledehoys and urchins, beating as their kind
do on drums and things like drums. The next evening we took the same
dreary cobblestone walk as usual, but did not limit ourselves to that.
We took a tram, indeed, to more fashionable haunts and at last came into
the great Avenida and all its garish illuminations; its paper ribbons
were as multi-coloured as the lights, and, flung from the upper storeys of
the hotels, in some places they were thick enough to form a fantastic
and absurd cascade. Here the Carnival was in mid sprout. We got what we
came for--a diversion.

The pavements, broader here than in the generality of the streets we
knew, were chock-a-block with folks, the cafés overflowing, the towering
hotels gleaming with bright dresses on every balcony, and all this was
the accompaniment of the gorgeous procession that moved slowly along the
highway. Its vehicles of every kind, but their kind hidden from passing
observation by their curtains and festoons of flowers, trooped along
in the unreal glare. Here, ladies of most aristocratic air came by,
with the blackest of masks above the whitest of countenances; there was
a girl in the dress of a bull-fighter, driving her own light carriage;
next, a set of laughing "gipsies" apparently advertising a brand of
cigarettes; then, a collection of men with Cyrano disguises and attempting
Cyrano humour to the gods--

    All these and more came flocking.

But the privilege of gazing unrebuked upon the profusion of beauty, upon
raven hair and great deep-burning eyes, upon the pale cheeks of wintry
moons, the privilege of hearing the disjointed music of the fu-fu bands
and the verbal crackers of harlequins of the moment, was not without its
points of misery. The pavements represented a scrum on the largest
scale, in the forefront of one battering ram whereof Mead and myself were
securely wedged in for an hour or two. In this state of things, the usual
individual turned round to ask Mead "who he was pushing?"--the sense
of his remarks being obvious though couched in another tongue. Unable to
move the arms, and scarcely free to flicker the eyelashes, we were
borne compressedly and gradually on, until at last we were beyond the
main pleasure-ground; by this time even Mead had had enough of pleasures
which we had noticed others than Englishmen taking seriously. We took our
ease in our inn, and reflected.

The newspapers reported that the Carnival was declining year by year.
Perhaps the reporter, like ourselves, had corns and was caught in the
scrimmage.



XVII


I borrowed a Shakespeare from the second chaplain at the Mission to
escape from what seemed the dullness of our stay in South Basin, Buenos
Aires. Mead had taken over my own copy of the Tragedies, and by this time
had most of _Hamlet_ and _Macbeth_ by heart, so that our conversation
frequently ran by tags. Of Bicker we saw little. Highly favoured, he would
depart on most afternoons to the English suburb, where he had friends;
and it was impossible not to regard him, as he regarded himself, as a man
of superior rank, who had personal friends in this town. Once or twice in
the evenings, nevertheless, he came with us to our accustomed table in
that convenient but inglorious place the British Bar; and while there, he
did his best to annoy one of the waiters with the oft-repeated slur, "Yah,
Patagonio," or "You b---- Patagonian Indian," or "Patagonio no bonio."
The fellow bore it at first with grinning patience; but one evening
suddenly danced with fury, and rushing out summoned the greasy little
proprietor, who came in scowling and snarling, took stock of us--and went
out again. The alleged Patagonian was after this understood to be
meditating a fearful revenge.

At evening sometimes the autumn sun, going down, a golden ball, behind
the great buildings, and dimmed with a calm transition in the distance
of that time of day, removed my mind entirely from these and similar
matters. An incomplete state of recollection, the more delightful to me
from the strangeness of my temporary lodging, a presence felt but
understood, a trouble in the pool whose surface bore the evidence of
neither windwave's running V nor bubble subtly appearing, took hold
of me. Unable to remain aware of this confused echo long, without
endeavouring to resolve it into communicable notes, I would soon find
myself counting up memories as plainly as the fellow on the other side
of the water was tallying the brown hides discharged into river barges
by the paddle-wheeler. It was this verging upon a vision, unknown but
longed for, and this inevitable falling back to known fact, which
perhaps depressed me and made the time pass all too slowly here.

The rattle of the cranes, so often interrupted, was all the more welcome;
the news of progress began to assume a better look; the incidents of
life in dock, from the angry officiousness of the wharf manager, a crude
foreigner, to the arrival of passenger boats and the swarm of gay-coloured
families to and from them, became worth attention again. Food, so
interesting at sea, lately become a burden, was reinstated; boiled eggs
for instance were welcomed, after a régime of steaks, by the whole
saloon. The whole saloon--no; Bicker, the man about town, refused his with
a criticism, likening them to plasticine. With his put-and-take top,
the youthful-spirited chaplain came more often, and often expressed
his regret that we were soon to be away.

Orders were not yet forthcoming. It was feared, and often urged upon
me with reference to my late troubles, that the _Bonadventure_ would
be sent up the river to Rosario. I made a great mistake about Rosario
and other possible destinations up the river, their names suggesting
ancient Spanish romantic traditions to me: I mentioned my feelings to
the assembled saloon. All the romance there, it seemed, was hidden
behind a cloud of patriarchal mosquitoes.

The discharge of coal was at last over and done. The day following, Hosea
sent for me and told me that the ship would shift at two, and perhaps--for
all he knew--straight out to sea. I told him I should not be clinging to
the stones of Buenos Aires at that hour.

But it was not our fate to depart altogether that day. Instead of going
out into the open water, when at three the pilot and the tugs brought the
_Bonadventure_ out from her Stygian berth at Wilson's Wharf and down to
the outer port, we now turned into an arm of the docks called Riachuelo.
There, between a steel sailing-ship which gave no sign of life and a
great black mechanical ferry or transporter, and further--there was no
doubt about this--beside a guano works, we were tied up for a time as
yet undefined.

The change was, partly on account of the neighbouring industry,
"uncertain if for bale or balm." I felt that we might even miss the
lively sight of the passenger boats coming and going, and all their
gilded press of friends and acquaintances about the landing-places;
their tiers of bright lamps at night rounding the bend between us and the
Roads. Perhaps the youths would no longer come by with their ship's
stores of macaroni, their jars of wine and panniers of onions and other
vegetables; nor the lighters, with their crews glaring in unwashed and
unchallenged independence in the whole world's face, and their yellow
mongrels scampering up and down the decks. The British Bar with the
Patagonian Indian and the giant but amicable cockroaches would be too far
away. However, we had the prospect of other monotonous distractions if
not those. For there were evidence of benefit; green swampy groves, a
sort of common with ragged horses at feed, and farther off the irregular
line of a landscape not unlike summer's horizon, gave the eye a
pleasant change. Football would now be possible on grass and not a
dust-heap. Sailor-town was on the opposite bank--a miscellany of ship's
chandlers' offices, gin palaces, untidy trams, and nondescript premises.

The gangway was lowered, the donkeyman was seen at once going ashore with
his mandoline, and we ourselves of the football persuasion followed with
the Football. We returned in time to see the steward's patience nominally
rewarded with a small yellow catfish, who showed the greatest wrath at
the trick which had been played on him, stiffening his poisonous fin and
actually barking.

The next morning, despite the odour of the guano, was a better one than
those in South Basin. For all its mud, the river looked cheerful; its
many small craft, as yellow as vermilion or as green as paint could make
them, lying quiet or passing by, caught the early sun. Even the dredgers'
barges, with their hue of Thiepval in November, showed the agreeable
activities of a new day, and breakfast.

But we were not to be long in Riachuelo. About midday it became known
that the _Bonadventure_ was to leave before evening for Bahia Blanca,
a three days' journey to the south. The further orders, what cargo was
to be received, and where it was to be delivered, were as yet withheld.
Phillips, the chief engineer, was disappointed at this departure--his son
would have been able to meet him in town within a day or two. To leave a
message for him in charge of the Mission, he proposed that I should go
with him in the afternoon, and that I was happy to do.

Meanwhile, awaiting dinner, we strolled along the waterside. It was
sultry and glaring. We passed shipping of all sorts and conditions,
old junk, discarded masts, boilers eaten through with rust, anchors
imbedded in the ground, even a torpedo-boat gone to ruin, nameless;
saw an incredibly old man with his beard done in a knot, whittling away
at a piece of wood in the sun, tribes of mongrel dogs, and the casual
population of the tin town which rambled here drowsy and malodorous,
down to the water's edge. The purple trumpet-like flowers that climbed the
ragged woodwork seemed not more gay, nevertheless, than the young men
and women who crowded to and from the transporter between this shipping
parish and Buenos Aires.

From Buenos Aires itself, what but the hastiest impression could I take
away with me? Melancholy it was to me to find so little apparent survival
of the town as it must have been in its first centuries. My last walk
did not altogether revise my picture of bar-tobacconist-bar-tobacconist;
of powdered Venuses, over-dressed Adonises; of shops without display,
receding obscurely; of cinematograph theatres crudely decorated with
notices of rank buckjumping "dramas"; of innumerable tramways, here, there
and everywhere; of green sunny courtyards at the end of passages
between dismal shuttered façades; of trees with drooping foliage before
flat roofs with flimsy chimneys--mere drain-pipes--at the top of high
white dead walls; of bonneted policemen with their hands on their
swords; of boys teasing horses; of whizzing taxis, and dray-horses
fighting for a start on the inimical cobbles; of pavements suitable for
tight-rope walkers; of the power of money; of living for the present,
or the day after to-morrow; of a straw-hat existence. But I must
admit that my scantiest notions of a town refer in temper to the
quality of its second-hand bookshops.

So then, the ship being under orders to leave at four, soon after five
the port authorities held a sort of roll-call amidships, and the pilots
and the tugs arrived. The port authorities consisted of a young officer
who looked likely to trip himself up with his beautiful sword, a lanky
humorist, with sergeant's chevrons, at his heels, and one or two other
attendants. Soon after these vigilants had gone down the ladder again,
the _Bonadventure_ began to move, and the bags of guano were a tyranny
that is overpast. That channel into which I had been pleased to see
the _Bonadventure_ come I now watched her leave without remorse. The
dredgers fall behind our course, the fishing-boats, and the perches of
the sea-eagles. We met a breeze, surprisingly strong, which made even
these slothful waters choppy. The sun went out in a colder sky, beyond
the outlines of the great chimneys and transporters; and presently a
line of dwindling lights, surmounted by one or two more conspicuous,
stood for Buenos Aires. Meantime the wind blew hard and loud. When
the first pilot went to make his way home, the tug coming up for him
was flung against the sides of the ship two or three times, and he was
obliged to jump from his swaying rope ladder, "judging the time." We
ran on, with many red and yellow lights flashing around our track. The
taste of coal-dust, let alone the feel of it as a garment, made me
wish the wind an early good night.



XVIII


There were differences of opinion about the precise distance between
Buenos Aires and Bahia Blanca, in which it seemed the authority of the
steward was not accepted. Travelling light, however, the _Bonadventure_
seemed little concerned about fifty miles either way. A current assisted
in this turn of speed.

It was enjoyable to be out of sight of land once more, in a morning
coolness, with seagulls piping in our wake; although they were yellowish
waters that were rolling by. The second pilot went down to the motor boat
due to take him home; the blue peter was hauled down when he had gone;
and we hurried south. A dove came by, alighted; presumably our course
lay at no great distance from the coast: a sail, a smoke-trail here and
there dappled the circling scene. The sailors and apprentices set to,
cleaning the holds in preparation for a cargo of grain--a black job.
Bucketful after bucketful was flung over the side, the wind playfully
carrying off the murky clouds. I washed clothes at a safe distance.

It was at this time or near it that an addition to my daily course was
made. So long as the _Bonadventure_ was at sea, the ship's officers
received cocoa and sandwiches by way of supper. To this edible privilege I
could not imagine that I had the slightest claim, nor in fact was I
anxious to be elected; but when the steward out of his magnanimity
conferred it upon me I naturally received it with thanks.

The cocoa indeed was not to be lightly considered when ten o'clock
found me, as it mostly did, with Mead on his night watch. The first night
after we had left the mouth of the Plate, his mind was full of one matter.
Before we had been released from Wilson's Wharf, acting on the advice
of the vendor, he had bought a fifth share in a lottery ticket. With
this qualification, he began to paint his future in all the colours of
£1,166--his possible, or as he wished to be assured, his probable,
harvest. A small schooner, in the enchanted atmosphere of his pipe,
seemed already to own him master; she would trade for long years of
prosperity in South Sea islands, where uncultivated fruits and beauties
abound. While we agreed on the plan, the moon went down; multitudes of
stars shone out, and meteors at moments ran down the sky. A broad glow
to starboard revealed the nearness of the coast. Everything was most
still, except perhaps Mead's spirit. There might be some hitch. But no, he
felt his luck was in; he was sure, something told him that he carried the
winning number.

The day's entries in my diary now began thus, or nearly: "Need I say
it again--One mosquito, etc., but I killed him; then, one mosquito, etc."
The persistence of these self-satisfied hovering devils was puzzling,
for the mornings dawned almost bitterly fresh, and the breeze was
always awake. Its direction had now laid, during the night, a carpet of
glittering coal-dust along the passage outside the door; and the day
being Sunday, which should by all precedent be marked by an increased
radiance in the outward as well as in the inward man, it was impossible
to keep clean. For the inward man, I once again took refuge in Young's
_Night Thoughts_, which, despite the disapproval of Mr. Masefield's
Dauber, I will maintain to give room and verge enough to annotate,
parody, wilfully miscomprehend, skip, doze, and indulge what trains of
thought whether ethical, fanciful, or reminiscent.

A gentler air, a bluer sea, a sandy coast in view. There was something
lyrical about the "dirty ship" as with the buoyancy of her cargoless
holds she fleeted to the south. Mead, his future resplendent with £1,166
and its South Sea bubble, seemed to feel this rhythmical impulse. Every
now and then, in his consultations, he would break forth into singing,
but seldom more than a fragment at a time; now it was "Farewell and adieu
to you, bright Spanish Ladies"--a grand old tune--now "Six men dancing
on the dead man's chest." But most, he gave in honour of his native
Australia a ballad of a monitory sort with a wild yet sweet refrain.
It began

    I was born in the city of Sydney,
      And I was an apprentice bound,
    And many's the good old time I've had
      In that dear old Southern town.

The apprentice fell in with a dark lady--indeed "she came tripping right
into his way." It was an unfortunate encounter. He became her "darling
flash boy." He could readily put the case against her when, as receiver
of stolen goods, he had served some years in jail; and then, like the
author of _George Barnwell_, he addressed apprentices on the subject:

    So all young men take a warning and
    Beware of that black velvet tie.

But yet, and here was the charm of the ballad, and the token of his
entanglement by Neæra's hair, ever and anon came the burden

    For her eyes they shone like the diamonds,
      I thought her a Queen of the land,
    And the hair that hung over her shoulders was
      Tied up with a black velvet band.

When Mead later on gave me a copy of this song, which I shall not forget,
duly set out in "cantos," he was good enough to ornament it with a little
picture of the black bow as tailpiece.

The heat became very strong, and as the day declined, a great cloud-bank
rose up out to sea, and the air settled to that stillness in which the
fall of the ripples from the side sounds most insistent. Dark came
on, and from two arches or caverns of smouldering twilight under the
extremities of that mighty cloud the lightnings burst; lightnings in
whose general wide waft of brightness intense white wreaths suddenly
lived and withered, branches of fire stretched forth and were gone; while
in the opposite heaven "like a dying lady," went the horned moon.

Meanwhile the _Bonadventure_ not slacking her unusual speed came to a
lightship; then (for this was a pilot station) the engines thrashed up
the water as she manoeuvred for the pilot's most comfortable approach.
The boatmen came rowing him lustily out to us; our rope ladder was
lowered--at these moments I was sensible of a sort of proud anxiety on
the part of all aboard, that such a detail should be carried out with
all despatch--and up he came. And after him, a rope was asked for, and
sent down; up came a great stringful of fish, gleaming like the sea
under the moon; and once more the rope went down, and a collection of
jars which were at once thought to contain wine was hauled on board.
Then, from the boat "Finish!" but she did not depart, making fast to the
_Bonadventure_. She circling about the lightship, at length brought
her companion within a stone's throw. Then the boat was cut adrift,
and we went on our way towards a line of buoys whose flashes lit up the
expanse ahead.

We came now close by the misty lights of a town named Puerto Militar and
further on those of Ingeniero White, the little port of Bahia Blanca to
which the _Bonadventure_ was actually bound, began to beckon. About eleven
the anchors were let go, and the pilot retired to sleep; but I still
stayed with Mead, regarding dully the dull lights of our surroundings,
and consuming cocoa, and blessing the exhalation of the continent which
had first met me at sea some weeks ago. Already fishing, the steward
leaned over the rail close by; he had often painted the angling at Bahia
Blanca in enthusiastic colours. However, he seemed to catch nothing.

By this the moon, that had grown almost a giantess as she stooped down
the horizon, and had reddened like a glowing coal to the last almost, was
dwindling. The orb became a beacon dying on a hill; then dropped below
the sky. The lightnings over the quiet sea had almost ceased.



XIX


I slept heavily, and when I got up, the _Bonadventure_ had moved into the
channel towards Ingeniero White, and was lying at anchor outside that
place. The scenery about us was of pleasing ugliness, worthy of George
Crabbe's poetical painting. To seaward there lay long stretches of mud,
or banks of a sort of grass--long layers of brown and green ending at
the frontier of a blue-grey rainy sky; and the land was low, featureless
(save for a mountain height in the hazy interior) and dark. Close to
our mooring was the assemblage of motley huts and tenements, galvanized
iron roofs, tall chimneys, and more notably the grain elevators, under
which several other steamers were lying. Above the salt marshes a rainbow
touched the clouds, and too soon the sun was pouring upon everything
a dazzling sultry heat.

At breakfast the fish which the pilot had brought aboard as a kindly
offering during the night were eaten, curried. This mode of serving them
displeased the Saloon. The steward, affecting to be in a philosophic
doze in his lair, could not fail to have heard such scathing remarks as
these:

"The nicest fish I've had down here."

"Yes, spoiled."

"Wasted."

"Why the devil must they go and camouflage it?"

"If it had been high we'd have had it neat."

"Must have curry and rice on Monday morning. Mustn't go outside the
routine."

"Well, you see, if they started on the wrong note on Monday they wouldn't
be able to pick up the tune for the rest of the week."

"O, it's easy. Steak, steak, steak."

We hurried our breakfast amid these criticisms, as the port authority was
expected. Towards nine o'clock, all hands being assembled amidships,
his launch came to the foot of the gangway. Eight sailors in white uniform
rowed this launch. He divested himself of his sword, came up, and went
inside Hosea's quarters to "talk things over"; whereupon, the parade
broke up. The next event was, we changed our mooring. As we passed to the
new tether, which was among several tramps as ladylike as ourselves, I
had my first experience of the groaning, screeching and gasping noise
which the machinery of a dredger can make, as its buckets come round
on the endless chain and empty themselves into the barge alongside. I
wonder these contrivances were not introduced during the Passchendaele
operations. They would have served two purposes, that of keeping a good
depth of water for the infantry to swim through; and that of demoralizing
the enemy.

We remained only a few minutes in this new position. Then we moved into a
dock, lined with warehouses as they appeared, under whose grey tin roofs
were stacked bags of grain in large profusion. With much shouting and
manipulating of ropes, we got in, behind the steamer _Caxambu_; alongside
a framework of piles. On these, even the less accessible slanting
timbers, many a ship's name scrawled in black or red paint, and often
followed by the date of the call, addressed the new-comer's eye. In
these inscriptions the S's, B's, D's, and 9's, had a tendency to be
reversed. I thought that the exotic poets and others who deny their
readers capital letters, apostrophes and so forth might here find another
inspiration. The medley of names included such as the _Trebarthan_, the
_King Arthur_, the _Alf_, the _Olive_, the _Bilbao_. And the _Keats_;
why _Keats_? Apart from this mystery, I could not help contrasting
many of the names with those of the figure-head days, and like the
posy of a ring, some of them came into my mind, from my reading, the
_John and Judith_, _Charming Nancy_, _Love and Unity_, _Lancashire Witch_.

Here, the heat seemed to redouble, and the flies to bite harder
accordingly. For some time nothing much happened. The Captain, after
being visited by the doctor, ship's chandler and others, but not such a
swarm as on our previous berthing, went ashore, leaving Bicker, who
prided himself upon his mathematical faculty, to wrestle with the
problems of the Customs manifest. I myself had handed over trench
stores; this looked a worse job, and there were the familiar dilemmas
of one thing with different names.

The ship was not here, it soon showed, to take her time. Loading began
after dinner. A leather band or rather gutter working on rollers was
lifted out from the wharf over each of several holds, and a spout fixed
at its extremity; the gang in charge spread sacking under the feeding
band and directed the spout as they wished. Then the machinery behind
began to drone, and the grain, like a gliding brook, to travel along
the leather band; whence, at the overturn, it leapt into the spout which
directed its descent into the hold, while a sort of idle snowstorm of
chaff and draff glistened thick in the sunlight. Many heads looked
over the rails to see this process at first, but there was a sameness
about it and the heads quickly found other occupation. Presently I went
to look at the activities behind the scenes, where a gang was taking
bags of grain from a railway truck and emptying them through a grating
into another travelling conduit, which duly under the flooring of the
building bore the wheat to the automatic machines. There, it seemed
to my inept wish to learn, it was amassed until a certain weight was
registered, and that point reached the heap was flung forward into
the feeder which ran up to the spout over our hold. Before the yellow
current arrived there, it had been sampled at intervals by a boy who
squatted beside, dipping a horn-shaped can on the end of a stick into
it, and filling thereby small labelled sacks convenient to him.

The Brazilian steamer ahead of us was receiving the grain in bags, which
looked oddly like pigs asleep as they were hurried along the endless band.
On this steamer, the _Caxambu_, real live pigs and sheep were routing
about over the forecastle. I was told that she was an ex-German. Anyway,
though in déshabille, she was a handsome ship. Her bell was the most
resonant; the _Bonadventure's_ was known still more surely for a thin
tinkler when that gong rang.

For the settlement beyond, it was not conspicuous. The spires of Bahia
Blanca showed up white some few miles inland; the nearer scene was one of
tin roofs, of railway coaches and wagons, small muddy decks and mud
flats. Naturally the steward was fishing. But nothing was biting. He
stood pensively gazing into heaven, even holding the line listlessly, when
the third mate having collected a good attendance crept up behind him
as quiet as a cat and jerked the line with the hungry violence of a
monster, contriving also to make his retreat out of sight before the aged
angler had quite decided that he was _not_ going to catch a huge bass.
This heartless deception was very popular. Something was necessary to
while away the evening despite its bright array of dewy-lighted clouds,
which suited the coolness of the air. The grumble of the machinery gave
place to "Cock Robin" and other classic opportunities for bawling; and
cards were brought out.

The next day, cold enough for every one, and proving that the English
climate is not alone in its uncertain habits, went on quietly. The party
who brought the sacks of grain to the door of the railway truck, the
man who there at singular speed cut away the string from the mouths of
the sacks, the lads who swept all loose grain from the truck and its
neighbourhood--all were working to load us as if their lives depended on
it. Actually, no doubt, this was the case. The _Bonadventure_ ceased to
tower aloft out of the water.

Bicker, Mead and the passenger-purser passed the evening in the village.
We went in and out of shops in a casual manner. There was one whose
contents were sufficiently varied for the sailors' fancy. On one wall
hung a large collection of crudely cured pelts, the fur of wild cats,
foxes, and other animals. From the ceiling hung, unpitied, many canaries
imprisoned in yellow cages; under the counters were displayed baskets made
of turtle shells, lined with pink sateen. Cigarettes of all nationalities,
boot polishes of uncertain price and utility, and in the window a regiment
of notes and coins advertising the money-changer's department, caught
my eye. There were even old books. As we were leaving two sailors
entered bearing a cage wrapped in paper. They accosted the fat and greasy
shopkeeper abruptly.

"Canary eh? died 'smornin' eh?"

(This "eh?" was the mainstay of our Anglo-Argentine intercourse.)

"Ah, Ah, no give monjay!"

"Yes, mucho plenty monjay."

The question in short was, what about giving us our money back?--but we
could not stop long enough to see the result. Further along, children's
sandals were ranged in a window. Mead thought that he would shine in a
pair like them; but the shopkeeper thought his inquiry for sandals size 9
a good joke.

At this stage, when Mead emerged, I was very sorry to have to call his
attention to a board in the window, which in his concentration on the
sandals he had overlooked. It was a board giving the numbers (announced
that day) of the winning lottery tickets. None of these numbers coincided
with that owned by Mead.

The disappointment quite naturally led us to the refreshment room at the
station and kept us there until the hour of closing. The angry Mead in
some measure became reconciled to the injustice which he had suffered, and
we all enjoyed the friendliness of the waiters. These, not being over
busy, played the fool, except one who behind the bar sat with pen and
ink and a folio blank-book laboriously copying an English exercise on the
ancient pattern: Have you seen my glove?--Yes, I have seen your glove,
&c. One endeavoured to persuade us that he was a Russian, and feigned
a horrid interest in a news paragraph about Lenin. The other indulged in
an anti-French speech, with gestures. "La Liberté!" he jeered, at the same
time grasping vigorously in all directions.

Our nights were disturbed by mosquitoes, not so ferocious as formerly,
and cats. Aboard, it still seemed cold; but ashore there was little
breeze, and my walks round the town were warm work. The outskirts of this
ramshackle place were dreary, but I liked them better than city streets.
They formed a loose encampment of tin, or plaster, or matchboard, in
which one would perhaps notice most the open drains, the chickens, goats
(some of them of most sheepish appearance), cows, pigs, cats, dogs of
the silly sort, sunflowers, and gentlemen in blue cotton trousers, about
the thresholds. Grumble as you may at militarism, most army camps
would have been better favoured in some respects: since here, despite the
prospects of mud suggested by the dust of the present season, no hut
seemed to have a raised approach, whether stone causeway or duck-walk.
I never walked into Bahia Blanca, though not far short of its tall
spires, but found these habitations a sufficient view; the way back to
the _Bonadventure_ might be over a moorish level, thickly grown over
with yellow flowering weed, and all sorts of drouthy "flora of the
marsh." Marsh, however, it was not, the soil being thoroughly baked and
cracked. Here were a few birds, that seemed to me the thrushes of the
place; a few butterflies; beetles, lying dead here and there; lizards
in greater number. But the fields hereabouts had all a solitary look.
Often the track was inches deep in dust.

On one of my walks, the wireless operator being with me, we were seen
going up from the wharf by the ship's carpenter, who, it afterwards
came out, had tried to attract our attention by shouting. The reason for
his attempt is interesting. He was, in fact, at that time in "calaboosh,"
having been haled thither during the night, according to a prophecy of
Mead's. Looking too long on the wine (three glasses, by his reckoning)
and the beer (one innocent glass), he had succeeded in arriving abreast
of the Brazilian next to us. At this point, he had the misfortune to
lose the way to the _Bonadventure_; and presently for his safety the
police took him to the cells. Thence, the next afternoon, Chips was
released, and that without even a fine. The winter wind is not so unkind
as this cadaverous man's ingratitude to the gendarmes for their kindly
act. Asked about it, he complained in loud and bitter terms that such
things should be, and

                with swinish phrase
    Soiled their addition.

This episode appeared to please the mate, Meacock, in no small degree.
He recounted other imprisonments; told of black sheep among crews newly
arrived from Sing Sing and similar haunts, for whose arrest a warrant
was always handed to the police as soon as the ship arrived in port;
described the difficulty of getting these incorrigibles from the ship to
the wharf, the police having no sanction to touch them on the ship; and
how the Brazilian police got the upper hand of bruisers towering above
them by lambasting them with the flat of their swords.

Lethargy and grain dust seemed to hang in our air together. The
exploration of Ingeniero White as an amusement became less liked as
time went on, and as sometimes the dull sky broke in a drizzle of rain.
One hatch was filled with wheat; the gang trimmed it quickly; and the
loading of the other hatches continued apace, so that our going to sea
again looked close at hand. The sailors and apprentices with pots of
paint were perched at various points above and beside the ship; and it
was no great surprise to me when one of the boys, much given to
recreation, suddenly appeared in a waterlogged state.

The town was not without its Mission to Sailors. It depended upon the
energies of a very small English community, of course, but they kept up
a comfortable room, where dancing and singing were entered upon in
the evenings; the standards of pastime required by Bicker and Mead,
however, were not reached. It pleased them to drift about; to call at
the refreshment room of the station and throw dice for drinks, to prowl
about the town with an independent air. The funds at the disposal of
this party were dwindling. It was therefore proposed to take to the
vile syrup known as _caña_ instead of whisky, and an ingenious logic
was discovered in favour of the plan, apart from the great cheapness of
the caña. As thus: Even at B.A. (did you but know it) you often had
turpentine sold you for whisky; in fact, here, if you asked for whisky,
ten to one that what you received was caña at four times its proper
price. Better ask for caña straight away. This reasoning in favour of an
adopted plan could not be answered except by sudden wealth. These
driftings were mainly spent in wondering what to do next. (The only real
prospect was, to get back to the ship.) If any decision was made, it was
a picturesque one. For instance, the town being abed, we went into a
general stores where there was a light showing the proprietor about to
close. Somewhat to his surprise, and after the first few moments to his
discontent, supper was taken, dog biscuits and cream cheese, washed
down with yellow caña--a more inflammatory distillation even than the
white. And so home.



XX


We did not get away so quickly as had been thought, and as every one
seemed to wish. Heavy skies came on, giving the slack waters a leaden
look. The air, though it was not hot, was close; and the fine dust from
the grain which carpeted all the decks began to sit heavy on the lungs.
Among the business outstanding remained that of stowing 7,500 bags in
the bunker hatch--slower work, clearly, than the loading in bulk which had
until now been the method with the _Bonadventure_. Bicker and Mead, as
they supervised the trimming of hatches that had been filled, wore a
melancholy look, nor was the entry at breakfast of two young men from the
Customs, though pleasant acquaintances, considered a relief. If clouds
disappeared, and left the day like a furnace, there was every facility
for doing nothing at all. Even at evening the cabins were filled with
tepid air and flies: and most of us might be found leaning over the
rails in silence, watching sunset's orange red colour to the prime and
die away again in the sky and the water below it, scarcely marked with
a ripple; and then the moon riding high above our bridge, itself not
unexalted, not ungraceful by its proximity to the warehouse. In such a
night comes Mead, and a consultation ends in my approaching Mouldytop
the steward with respectful petition for ship's biscuits. These soon
refreshed in my mind Solomon's choosing a dish of herbs and love over a
stalled ox and hatred.

The time now arrived when I was honourably appointed to a job of work. I
felt proud indeed when Meacock explained it to me. It was, to keep
count of the number of bags of grain shipped for the bunker hatch and
another one aft. The tallyman employed by the merchants kept his record,
shouting out his "Una, dos, tres" until each tally of bags was complete;
the ship's representative looked on at the descending bags and made his
oblique strokes in his book accordingly. This work in effect was not so
simple as it sounds; sometimes after a pause the bags would be let
loose suddenly and in quick succession, nor moreover was it possible to
question the other tallyman at the moments of disagreement, since he
spoke no English and I no Spanish.

This delivery of some thousands of bags was to be completed in the course
of a day, but was not. The arrangement of shoots for the bags to travel
down was as neat as a scenic railway: they slid down one, were deflected
by a fixed bag at the foot of it to another shoot at right angles to
it, and so on down to the caverns and the packers. The day's work ended,
but some thousands of bags remained to be put aboard, and I felt that I
was growing used to times and seasons nautical, "the ways of a ship," in
the cook's phrase. When a sergeant-major says, Parade at 8.30, he is
understood to have ordered a parade for 8.15; but I suspect that at sea,
should the tramp be expected away this week, next week is the actual
time of departure.

Newspapers reached the ship from Buenos Aires, one day old, and by that
time having an antiquarian value of twenty centavos, or fourpence. In
consequence we generally went without; yet somehow important news, such as
the result of Cardiff City versus Tottenham Hotspur, was quickly passed
round. Unimportant, such as the latest development in the Anglo-Irish
situation, was considered "politics," and its seeker ignored.

The wharves were haunted, it goes without saying, by rats; more publicly,
by dogs. One grey giant was regarded, especially by the mess-room boy,
with romantic fondness. His history, if his, was current. He was "a
Yankee," but had lost his passage in the North American ship to which he
belonged; and now, it was maintained, he made a complete round of all the
docks, boarded every ship that came in, and looked into the alleyways
to try and recognize his own. The dog did, I agree, wear a saddened
expression. But, discreetly, I did not feel sure about his sentimental
journey. It was "Mess-room" too who encouraged a cat to prepare for the
homeward voyage, and I cannot say that he at first appeared likely to
persuade the animal, which, shut in for the night, like Chips on a
recent occasion, gave vent to piercing miaows. Parrots and monkeys,
without which surely no sailor should ever return to his native village,
were alike scarce.

The subject of my future standing in the village tavern had already been
discussed when others failed. It now arose again. The saloon's ideas
of rural England were almost as broad as mine of sea life. They could
see or affected to see nothing else in agriculture but one large joke;
and its communities as so many tribes of gaping lads in smocks, with
churchwardens, clustering about the oldest inhabitant. I had told them
not once nor twice that no one in my village had any sense of distance,
or wish to travel, or to hear of travels. But still it was believed
that on my return I should be received at the inevitable "Green Cow" or
"Pig and Whistle" with roars of applause, all mouths in the shape of
O's, all attentions grappled to my lightest word. More probably, I
hinted, if I were to return and mention as a news item a voyage in a
tramp to South America, the patronage would preserve a chilling silence,
as who should say, "We are too old for these youthful frivolities. We are
not amused"; and would then resume the old buzz of 'sheening and jack
hares and the riches of the rich'-- But I was not heard.

Lightning, a passion with me, grew bright and furious towards the end of
our stay, about the fall of darkness; in its blue flare, it was startling
to see how like a wreck a Swedish motor-ship, which had put in because
of a fire aboard, lay lonely at some distance from us. Presently the
rain came down and cooled the air; the night grew quiet then, the far
thunder dying out, or if there was noise, it was the cricket's cry, and
the gruff brief conversation of the ship's watchman with his comrade
on the wharf as he passed by.

Sunday came again, day of washing for Meacock and others; day of eggs and
bacon for the Saloon's breakfast, and with it special duff and crimson
sauce for dinner, tinned pineapple and cake for tea. Fortified thus,
Bicker and Mead and myself go a-fishing on the opposite quay, where some
Argentines have been catching fine fish. Now it is, to the best of my
memory, the fact that I have never yet caught one fish on Sunday; and
so I should have been wiser than to have joined in this excursion. Luck
stopped dead as soon as we began, and to make things worse, through a
sleepy reply of Bicker's I imagined the line to be made fast to the jetty,
and threw out the sinker with special success "far out at sea." That line
was not made fast. It had belonged to the steward. He, when he heard
the disaster, stood in a kind of _rigor_, gazing at high heaven as one
insensible to misfortune.

And now came our last day at Ingeniero White. Not too soon, it seemed;
the scenery of the port having but little of freshness, and the drama
of loading again lacking in situations. Mosquitoes here served me well
by arousing me in the early morning, as I was instructed to take a
hand at six with tallying the bags of grain. I was there to the moment,
but my duty proved to be that of standing by, enjoying life. At twelve,
all hands were mustered amidships and numbered by the port authority,
and one was missing. At length it was found out who, namely, one Towsle
the sleepiest of the apprentices, and where--in his bath, dozing unaware
of the parade outside the door. The pilot came aboard at three, and the
tug _Lydia_ presented herself to guide the _Bonadventure_ out: there was
much business with ropes fore and aft, and the ship swinging round was
free of the wharf about the top of the tide. The warehouses with their
stacks of bags, slippered blue-trousered handymen, surpliced overseers
with their sampling hollow bayonets, railway trucks and capstans,
ubiquitous dogs and all, began to recede. But we had not come more than a
couple of miles from the elevators, nor out of sight of the refugee-like
town behind them, when we anchored to await Hosea. At a considerable
space from the town, all alone, we saw as we waited the big drab square
building euphemistically known aboard as the "variety show." It was a
sad sight, and to me in its significance of some people's luck in this
world, a challenge to my random cheerful philosophy, which I have not yet
been able entirely to dismiss.

Presently from the land a storm began to foreshadow itself, and suddenly
there was a burst of wild piping wind, like a spiteful cry, that flung
sharp rain over us and in scarcely a minute had died down again. Its
short career sent every one interested scampering to take in the canvas
awnings, and left a breeze which when the captain arrived in a launch,
carrying some newspapers, blew them round him like a garment. He was
wearing a straw hat. He jammed it on with a will and hurried up the
rope ladder. With his return, we were at sea again, though not yet in
the open.

The evening was one of strange majesty. One saw clouds amassing in every
similitude of mountainous immensity and ascent, and wild lights everywhere
burning among them; but most of all, a tawny lion's colour mantled in a
great tract of the sky and below shone dim yet in a manner dazzling
from the darkening water. The heat of the day had been oven-like.
Lightnings began after a red weeping sunset, sheet lightnings often
veined with the fiercest forks of white flame, wreaths of golden fire,
volleys, cataracts, serpents; and these danced about the horizon until
daybreak, sometimes in silence, sometimes with deep but weary-sounding
thunderclaps. The light that these wanderers cast was often of an
intensity scarcely credible. A deluge of rain was always imminent, but
only towards dawn arrived.

The _Bonadventure_ had been, under these innumerable lights, making quiet
way down an avenue of buoys twinkling in their degree, and came into view
of the lightship beyond them. The pilot sounded the siren (for he was to
leave us here), and in reply to the second call of the siren the lamp of a
boat pulling out towards us appeared. It was good-bye to the pilot and
his bag, which on the end of a rope now caused a moment's interest; the
engines, stopped to let him depart, were started again, and the captain
fixed the ship's course. Mead's watch, as usually it was, shared by the
purser, engaged us in more recollections of the great war; and in the
glitter first of a swarm of dragon-flies, then presently the surly gleam
of the lightning, we talked on until midnight. I admired him for having
already forgotten all about his disappointment in the lottery, and begun
with new hopes according to his motto; _Quo fata vocant_.



XXI


The breakfast steaks were leathery past anticipations. The flies in
the cabin were thousands strong. But the _Bonadventure_ was homeward
bound, and a general spirit of liveliness prevailed. Conversation was
running much upon the value of the mark, for it was to Hamburg that we
were believed to be going. Base hopes were expressed that the rate of
exchange might be a thousand to the pound. No one imagined that this
would some day be surpassed by eleven thousand. The Argentine had been
expensive; the cheapness of Germany was thrown up all the clearer.
As, however, I had no anxiety to buy a safety razor, mouth-organs,
clocks, and pocket manicure sets, to which and other articles like them
I imagined the German cheapness would be limited, I was not elated on
that score.

At any rate, here we were steaming north at a steady speed, with a light
breeze ahead, and the coast of the Argentine slipping past, dimly seen.
And everything was bent for England. For weeks the chief had expressed a
longing for pancakes at almost every meal; and now, auspicious, they
came. On the other hand, the cheese was done. Dark suspicions about a
certain cake were also whispered; knowing ones, whose information was
that Hosea had sent one aboard from Bahia Blanca for the benefit of
the saloon, saw villainy in the delay of its forthcoming. When it did
appear its pomp of white icing and green and red crescents, and diamonds
of fruit ornaments, certainly warranted an anxiety, as for crown jewels.

Meacock, the ever-busy and never-flustered, about this time showed me
his private notebook, in which he had from time to time copied verses
and aphorisms, chiefly from _Nash's Magazine_, which he considered worthy.
In this anthology of his I might have seen the signs of a literary
revival aboard which shortly afterwards befell. I daresay he would have
expanded a remark of his, "Novels were untrue to life, but life was not
by itself interesting enough" (during the war he had commanded a trawler
in the Mediterranean), had not the slow flash of a lighthouse appeared
on the port side. He climbed to Monkey Island to take a bearing. The
blurred lights of Mar del Plata past, our course was altered to agree
with the set-back of the coast. Mead came up for his watch, eight bells
went, and Meacock departed. His "Ay, ay" to the retiring steersman's
report, the apprentice's reading of the log, and the forward lookout's
shout "The lights are bright, sir," always had a handsome resonance and
lingering dignity.

Mead was by this time full of Hamburg, and he kept breaking into songs
in very low Low German, and memories of one Helen, not without sighs.
That romance was not the first, nor the last, which I heard from him. He
would show me Hamburg! and by way of a Pisgah look, he drew gay pictures
of that town, omitting however its architectural glories. Like critics
of nature poetry, he saw the world in terms of men and women: and Hamburg
as the location of dancing saloons and a singular exhibition of waxworks.

The evening had at first looked stormy, and sharp fits of lightning lit
the low clouds, but all passed by. The clear and cool heaven was left,
diamonded with steady constellations, and crowned with the round moon
"and a star or two beside"; below like a field of silver lay the sea,
and the quiet ship flung by veils of lily foam, and the shadows stealthily
counter-changed the glistening decks. In these calm airs and waters, she
made such good speed that the next afternoon we came in view of Monte
Video. The pilot took over the bridge, and we were soon at anchor in
the harbour, which seemed thronged with ships. Our business here was
to load bunker coal, and as our coal was at the moment aboard a collier
which was to be seen some distance out of the breakwaters, nothing was
done this first evening. The news that his coal was yet to arrive at
Monte Video was cheerfully imparted to Phillips with the comment, "Well,
anyway, chief, you'll get your coal nice and fresh"; but he seemed by no
means consoled. Nor did the assurance of the shipping clerk--a somewhat
lilified young man in immaculate blue serge--that "Our Cardiff house have
let us down badly," act as a charm upon his depression. He told me to
stand by for the office of tallying at seven the next morning, and I
thanked him. The request implied, perhaps, the paternal anxiety for my
avoiding mischievous indolence which he had shown before.

But meanwhile what was there to do? We lay at a distance from the
shore, and had therefore no distraction. I watched the lighthouse on
the hill, the buoys, the ship's signals, the trams on the quay, the other
illuminant causes all round us; I listened to a brass band which, for
whatever reason, was playing close to the harbour until late in the
evening; and then, driven to extremes, I sat down to write a "novel"
which became my refuge from ennui during what remained of my holiday,
but which I fear will never be finished. I spoke to Mead about it. He
thought little of my hero. I agreed to have the hero killed in a bayonet
fight near Alberta pill-box, but he thought I might go still nearer to
propriety and have the hero kill his man, and go through his pockets.
There did seem something in this suggestion, and a few years ago such an
ending as it conjured up would have been popular, I think:

    "The battle was over. Whistling 'Tipperary,' and placing the
    wallet and watch of his prostrate antagonist in the pocket of
    his body shield, Arthur strode onward to join his comrades at
    their evening meal in Houthulst Wood. Here let us leave him,
    calmly facing the morrow as only an Englishman can.

                                 "THE END."

The next day brought the worst weather that we had met since we left the
Channel. At first it was merely cool and mild; but that was misleading.
Down came the rain, thick, cold, and steady; and there seemed a sufficient
supply to last until we left. I noticed it, myself, with more especial
observation, at my post of tallyman.

In the drizzle the lighters came alongside bringing the coal in bags.
The stevedore's gang and their own overseers arrived aboard. One of
these overseers was an Englishman, who by his manner and speech had
evidently been brought up in a widely different setting; but it was none
of our business, though Bicker and others considered it a disgrace for an
Englishman to be so employed. All I heard was that he came from the
West of England, and that he was wild (which appeared sufficiently in his
countenance); and I admired his intellect, and tried to make him feel
that. The other overseer was a fat old Italian, who tallied with me for
the lighter on the port side.

As these men and the poor fellows who were emptying the sacks into the
hatches or trimming the coal down below had been at work all the night,
it was not surprising that our affairs moved slowly. The winch, steaming
and thudding and jerking in a mutinous mood, brought up four bags at
a time, on my side. The sling that held them was lowered to the deck, the
hands rushed to swing them on to the improvised platforms beside the
hatches, with a concerted roaring as if over the capture of a tiger. While
these bags were being emptied, the sling would be descending into the
lighter again; and so it continued, with a fog of coal particles
wrapping the neighbourhood. The gang was a mixed multitude. Nationality
might have been anything. The prevailing colour was a sable (unsilvered),
under which mask might be distinguished Italian, Portuguese, Japanese,
West Indian, and other types. Among the most energetic of those who
were emptying the bags, the most vocal of the roarers, there was a
tall, thin, humorous fellow who reminded me irresistibly of a brilliant
poet and miscellanist of the modern school. I thought of that dazzling
smile, that æsthetic face transferred to the surroundings of Chelsea,
and what a success, if looks meant anything, he ought to be! So strongly
did I feel that in his hours of leisure and coallessness he was a
critic of verse and _moeurs_ that I almost asked him his name.

My co-tallyman was pleasantly disposed. He asked me if I would give
him one of several casks standing near the galley. I referred him to
Phillips, who referred him to Meacock, who referred him elsewhere. We
disagreed now and then over the tally, but I was able to hold my own.
The _lex talionis_ was in force. Sometimes I was induced to accept his
surplus over my figure as accurate, but then I would take him back at
another opportunity, and ignore his doleful "Make it _threeee_." My
imagination lagged behind his, which seemed to see occasional slings
put aboard by aerial hands, and aerial coal at that, and these went
down in his book. But altogether we "made it." Mutual mistrust served
the public good.

The chief lent me a boiler suit, for which I was insufficient, and added
an old macintosh presently. I soon grew black; even the tallyman, though
he seemed to have some natural gift in his stubbled skin which repelled
the grime, grew black. Presently I was disguised in the order of things
as a film thug, with waterlogged cap sagging over eyes heavily inlaid in
blackness. Tired as the labourers must have been, they went on working
as if they liked it, grinning, singing, enjoying comments upon each other,
and refreshing themselves with cheroots, cigarettes, peaches, or sups
from cans containing a brown decoction like strong tea. They ceased at
four.

It was by way of variation in the evening that Bicker and Mead fell upon
me, with the idea of shampooing the begrimed tallyman. Zambuk (Hosea's
trusted salve), lime cream, and talcum powder were employed. There was
a struggle, however, which disturbed Meacock opposite. He came to the
rescue, but leaping upon the two barbers, who were holding me down, he
forgot that I was underneath. "Rough house," the word went round.

When the stevedore's men arrived the following day, they were almost to
a man rigged out in the cleanest of suits, or costumes rather. This
was, to the best of my information, not the habit with the British
trimmer. Their hats were pleasing to the eye. In his jet-black felt,
my poetry-critic looked the picture of a member of the _Athenæum_ staff
(lamented _Athenæum_!). Others wore the type of hat but not the manner. A
number of matey caps, check and khaki and indigo, then white wideawakes as
though for haymaking, and a few pillbox-like creations in crimson and
daffodil, made part of the splendour. Some of the coalheavers wore
large sashes amidships, sashes of lurid colour also, violet and plum,
extra shade. In the shirts, more colour appeared. Here, like Aurora,
stepped Antonio in salmon pink; there, was a construction of red and
green rings on a white background. The bright-blue cotton suits added
to the general effect. Curious that these workers should come so clean,
only to be coated with coal-dust in half an hour! It spoke well for their
outlook.

The work was much as before. Wheelbarrows had to be got to put the sacks
beside other hatches which the winch did not command. The chief had some
argument with the Italian foreman about the last two hundred bags, which
he wished to be shot into the starboard hatch only, to bring the ship up
straight. The foreman asked him to withdraw this. "Damn you!" roared
Phillips, and put an end to the matter, "when I say NO I mean NO. Don't
you understand plain English?"

So that was that, and my job finished. The bosun and his worthies
quickly gathered to remove the disgraceful signs of bunkering; they swept
and garnished, the stylish shipping clerk came aboard with his final
papers to see Hosea and Phillips. Already the pilot was on the bridge;
soon we were slowly backing away from our mooring. The blue peter was
hauled down, the gangway got in. The _Bonadventure_ was manoeuvred past
the breakwaters and down the marked channel, at whose last buoy, or soon
afterwards, the tug to fetch the pilot came alongside. As he withdrew
in her she sounded the three blasts or rather hoots meaning a "Bon
voyage," and our own burly voice sounded three times in acknowledgment.
The many turrets and spires, chimneys and gaunt roofs of Monte Video,
distinctly ranged along a rainy sky with shelves of rock-like cloud,
lessened duly; the evening came on. Still the coast appeared here and
there, its yellow sands, its dark-blue cliffs and hills, and as if
shouldering the dull and heavy sky the sun burned out with a golden power
before he departed.

Mead bade good-bye for a short time--in all probability--and myself for
a long time, to South America, still symbolized by its lighthouses and
the night-glow of a seaside town or two. Once again I felt a regret that
I had not seen the elder Buenos Aires, whose extinction was no doubt a
wise thing, but which surely must have triumphed as a thing of beauty
over the present cubic blocks of utility. Mead was not sentimental about
going to sea once more. He was too deeply engaged with devising a piece
of invective against an enemy for an alleged injury, and immersed in the
troubles of rhyme. I thought he was acquitting himself very well.



XXII


I have mentioned a scarcely concealed feeling in the saloon against the
omniscience of the wireless operator. That was not all the opposition
to which this youth of the glazed locks was subject. He was understood,
while the ship was at sea, to receive news issued daily, and frequently
when a subject was being discussed by the ship's officers he sat there
in possession of the facts but with serene indifference to the general
interest. In this, he was carrying out the regulations, I imagine; but
his behaviour resembled that of the dog in the manger. To aggravate
this sense of injustice, he rashly told some one that the news might
be taken at three guineas.

This in the first place affected the saloon only. But it happened that
throughout the ship there was a particular desire for information. At
home, the football season was at its zenith. Important matches, in the
Leagues and the Cup competition, were known to be playing; and one
man on the ship when she was out at sea could, and it was believed did,
hear the results. But never a word said he. Looking in at the galley
during the evening to brew my cocoa, I would find animated discussion of
the favourite teams in progress. Kelly, the "Mess-room," would wipe his
fist across his mouth and huskily explain. "It's like this, mister." He
had known other wireless operators who gladly announced the football
results. But this fellow--he was too b---- stuck-up, mister--"The
Marconi," the term which he used for the offending operator, savoured
queerly of the phrase "The Bedlam" in _King Lear_.

Such was the background against which Mead's vision of the unfortunate
Sparks stood out, and with the particular unfriendliness which I must
briefly describe. Earlier in the trip, Sparks had, in Mead's opinion,
adopted a tone of equality and then even of command towards him, in the
course of the ship's routine. Mead had immediately resorted to warlike
acts. Sparks lodged a written complaint with Hosea, who gave both parties
the best advice. But it was a false step in Sparks to send in this
communication, which would if forwarded have cost Mead, perhaps, his
living; and it was made worse by Sparks's glib defence, "I was doing my
duty," since he had been at a safe distance from the war when Mead's
duty lay on the Gallipoli beaches. And he still affected to think of
upholding his letter.

Matters were therefore strained, and the more they were so the more Mead
liked it. "Don't let me catch you ashore," had been his way of passing
Sparks the time of day in port; at sea, he growled abuse at him whenever
he saw him, and if no better occasion offered itself, would suddenly
thrust his face in all the semblance of murderous intention through the
open porthole of the young man's room and utter calm, deliberate, and
unnatural purposes.

In this feud, my position was not comfortable. Unlicked as he was (up to
the present) and devoid of fine points, the Marconi, whose cabin was
neighbour to mine, wished me no harm, and even sought my esteem. Mead,
whom I did esteem, was discontented with any half-measures on my part, and
in any case I felt bound to observe neutrality. But the capers of my
angry friend were often amusing, the declarations of duty conscientiously
executed by his _bête noir_--Mead had a weakness for style--were not. And
it is scarcely necessary to repeat, the general view of Sparks was not a
moral support to Mead even if he had "no case."

On the occasion that I described, Mead had decided to drive his point
well home with the aid of rhyme. I took a copy of his somewhat indecorous
production. It had many "spirited couplets," embodying considerable
observations:

    To see you promenade the deck
    Gives me a pain in my ruddy neck.

Sparks had been unwise, again, in mentioning his pleasure in the
slaughterer's trade, and past experience. Mead did not miss the
opportunity.

    If the blood of sheep could make you glow
    Come and dare to make mine flow.
    I am no hero out for gore,
    I had the wind up in the war.

Names and menaces came fast and furious.

    ... Flowers there'll be which you won't smell,
    You swob, you'll learn a lot in hell.
    Had I been called half these things
    Some one or I'd be wearing wings.

This effusion, laboriously printed in CAPITALS so that its effect on the
recipient should be the more demoralizing, headed THE ANSWER, and signed
in characteristic fashion NULLI SECUNDUS, was to have been handed to its
theme in the saloon. Eventually, Mead rejected that as perhaps contrary to
tradition, and handed it in at the porthole aforesaid; but its object,
the arranging of "a little bout," was not achieved.



XXIII


A literary epoch began. Bicker, our authentic poet, and not an opportunist
like Mead, had been proposing a magazine for some little time past. On
a Saturday afternoon, he decided to produce the first number for the
Sunday following. The circulation was to be six: there being no aids
aboard such as the clay or hectograph, each copy had to be written by hand
throughout. Into this labour I, with the editor's satirical comments
upon my profession, was at once pressed. Material in prose and verse
was given to me, and filled three foolscap pages in a close handwriting.
I copied out these contributions, which scarcely stood the test of a
second reading, six times: and was rewarded with a vile headache. I
hoped the magazine would succeed, but only once. Bicker, like a born
editor, copied out his portion without feeling any the worse, and his
appreciation of the fare which he was providing grew with every copy.

The final details, however, delayed the appearance of the _Optimist_
until Sunday afternoon. Bicker said in self-protection that no Sunday
paper is available in the provinces before breakfast. When the _Optimist_
was published, there was no question of its being welcomed. It was of
the familiar kind, which seems to satisfy enough readers to satisfy its
promoters. A fable in a dialect generally considered a skilful parody of
the Old Testament, "Things we want to know," reports of the football
season at Buenos Aires, Answers to Correspondents, a poetical libel
beginning "It is an ancient Mariner," and much besides, principally from
the editor's pen, formed the bulk of it. There were columns devoted to
Amusements, and Advertisements of the principal business heads aboard. A
copy made its way aft to the bosun and his sea-dogs--the gentlemen who
were announced in it as the Chain Lightning Gang. Sitting on the poop in
Sunday neatness, they gave it a good reception. The bosun himself had
been ill, but was better after reading it.

With some copies a supplement was issued, and collectors will not need to
be advised to acquire these rarities. This supplement was a page of
drawings, by Mead, of common objects at Buenos Aires. The obese laundress,
Mme. Maria Maggi, was perhaps conspicuous among these (on another page
a report was printed that she had died, leaving £300,000 to her lean
charioteer). The watchman, with a label giving one of his typical
blasphemies, "Got-a-d---- b----" this, that, and the other, was seen at
full length. The altercation between the manager of the wharf (attached
to a balloon lettered YOU.ARE.USING.MY.BUCKETS. I.AM.THE.BANDOLIERO) and
Meacock, smoking as always and nevertheless replying YOU.BIG.STIFF _ore
rotundo_, was chronicled. And considering who the artist was, and his
recent poem, it was not surprising to find a malevolent caricature of one
still with us.

One afternoon, sleeping within my cabin, I heard the mate altering the
ship's course with "Hard a starboard" and so on, and feeling this to be
out of the ordinary I went out to see why. A mile off there was something
in the sea, which the apprentices declared to be a small boat with a
flag flying. I felt the light of adventure breaking in upon the murky
tramp. But as we drew nearer, the castaway proved to be nothing more
than a buoy, and visions of picking up a modern Crusoe faded suddenly. The
ship was put back to her course.

The breeze ahead grew stronger, and in the early morning, the sky being
quite grey, a slate-grey sea was running in sizable crests and valleys
and tossing the spray high aboard. "The devil's in the wind already."
"And the bread." The cook's reputation was gone at a blow. He, like a
wicket-keeper, did well without any notice taken; lapsed a moment, and
every one was barking. It seemed he had been unfortunate in the yeast
supplied him. There were sallies of wit: "Now's the time to pave the
alley," "Pass the holystone," over this doughy circumstance. For some
time, in the words of the Cambridge prize poet, the bread "was not
better, he was much the same," and ship's biscuits became unexpectedly
favourite. They were stiff but excellent eating; would have rejoiced
the soul of my late general, the noted "Admiral" H., alias "Monty,"
alias "The Schoolmaster," and other aliases. Can he ever be forgotten for
those diurnal and immortal questions of his, "Did your men have porridge
this morning?" and "Why did you not order your cook to give your men
duff to-day?" It wanted little imagination to picture him under his gold
oak leaves nibbling with dignity at a ship's biscuit and saying, "Very
good, Harrison, uncommonly tasty--I shall recommend them to Division."

The sea presently under a brightened sky grew to a rare intensity of
blue, that was at its most radiant in the overswirl of water sheered by
the bows. Gallant enough the _Bonadventure_ looked in the marvellous
expanse, having by dint of much early-morning swilling and swabbing thrown
the worst of her nighted colour off; but almost every day I heard bad
wishes to the designer of her, though on the score of utility, not the
pleasure of the eye. My fancy of a full-rigged ship bowing over these rich
seas was usually corrected with reference to "wind-bags"--not folks like
me, but ships.

Then there came rain, drizzling on doggedly hour after hour. The drops
hung on the railings like autumn dews on meadow fences. One of the effects
of such weather was that the cat, who had been induced after all to
make the trip, was driven to look about for a quiet, sheltered corner,
and having found one, was driven to look again. Finally she chose the
chart-room and settled upon the chart. South America was sodden with
rain and black with paw-marks when the second mate looked in, and that
cat, black or not, would have passed over, but for her being shortly to
become a mother. That fact also accounted for her worried expression,
voice, and manner, which I had misread as symptoms of sea-sickness.

And still the dull and rainy sky. When I went out one morning, the mate
leaned over the bridge rail and said, "You're the blooming Jonah! Now
look at that damn'd smoke." I looked at the customary coaly vapour flying
aft, but was unenlightened. "You Jonah," he went on, "you've brought
this wind, and it's carrying the cinders all over my new paint." Now,
I suspected the cat was the cause of the trouble; but my guilt was urged
by the chief also, as a current of a mile an hour was setting us back.

Not only the mariners of the _Bonadventure_ lived in suspense, awaiting
the football results.

"That fellow was funny this morning."

"Yes, you could see the excitement in his lamp."

"What was this?"

"Why, about four the So-and-so passed us, and the mate on watch signalled
us: 'Do you know the result of Tottenham v. Cardiff City?' So we sent back
that Cardiff had won but we didn't know the score. This fellow sent back:
'Oh, well done, Cardiff!' but he was that excited, he could scarcely hit
out a letter right. His first message had been--well, beautifully sent;
now his lamp was all over the place."

"We could almost see him dancing about the bridge!"

Spragg, the assistant steward, sometimes came to swab my cabin. He had
been in a battalion of the 38th Division, when my own Division relieved
them in January 1917 on the Canal Bank at Ypres; and he had been like
myself a witness and a part of the mammoth preparations of that summer,
which ended in such terrible failure. His manner and humorous way of
telling tales beside which the "Pit and Pendulum" appears to me an
idle piece of pleasantry, unspeakably brought back the queer times and
places which we had both seen. I saw him in my mind's eye, keen and
frank, standing behind his kit with "headquarters company"--those amiable
wits--at Elverdinghe Château (Von Kluck's rumoured country seat, for it
was never in my time bombarded); or with pick or shovel stooping along in
the Indian file of dark forms towards that vaunted, flimsy breastwork,
Pioneer Trench at Festubert.

But still my share of Mead's watch was my best recreation. Our talk was
disturbed but little; perhaps by the signals of some ship passing by, or
by some unusual noise, such as one evening we heard with a slight shock. A
succession of rifle-shots, it sounded; and the cause was evidently some
great fish departing by leaps and bounds from the approach of that
greater one the _Bonadventure_. The interruption over, he would go on
with plans for a future in Malay. "This life," he would say, "is killing
me." He was quite as healthy, mind and body, as any man aboard. I liked
his occasional rhapsodies, in which the smell of burning sandalwood
and of cotton trees, the clearings in sinister forests with the jewelled
birds, the rough huts, the dark ladies with the hibiscus flowers in
their hair, and the lone white settler (ex-digger Mead) thinking his
thoughts in the evening, all played their part. He wished the world
back in 1860; it had outdistanced him.



XXIV


It blew from the north-east strong against us always, and we were
travelling more slowly. The sun returned, however, among those ethereal
white clouds which to perfection fulfil the poet's word "Pavilions";
we ran on into a dark sea ridged and rilled with glintering silver, yet
seemed never to reach it, remaining in a bright blue race of waters
scattered, port and starboard, with white wreaths, waters leaping from
the heavy flanks of the ship in a seethe of gossamer atoms and glass-green
cascade.

The immediate scene was one of painters and paint-pots, and linen flying
on the lines. "This wind's playing hell with my curls," said one or two.
The matter with me was, that my room was almost untenable. I opened the
port at my peril; to do so was to entertain billows of coal-dust from the
bunkers below. White paint, the order of the day, whether flat white or
white enamel, made progress about the ship by an amateur dangerous, too.

The apparition of the steward under the evening lamps dressed in a
smock--he was of ample make--and brandishing a paint-brush, was generally
enjoyed. In fact, several spectators came to take a careful look at
one who was too often denominated "the mouldy-headed old b----."

A more tenuous apparition was heard of, as we ran north. Whether a hoax
or not, I do not know. My first information of it came in the form of
a drawing by the apprentice Tich, showing the ship's bell being struck by
a hand who never was on land or sea, and the apprentice Lamb leaving
his hold of the wheel in horror, and even Mead shaking all over and
gaping. A poem appended said that the facts were what the picture made
out. The _Bonadventure_ was so new a ship--her old name, showing her war
origin, still stood on the bells and the blue prints in the chart-room and
elsewhere--that there seemed every likelihood against the story being
the truth. I asked Mead, and he told me what he maintained to be true.

On the first watch, the voyage before this, he had gone into the
wheel-house for a word with the apprentice at the wheel. A shadow,
indistinct, yet leaving impressed on his recollection a human shape,
slipped suddenly past the wheel-house windows, softly rang the bell
once, and swiftly departed. The frightened boy drops the wheel, lets
the ship swing round completely out of her course: Mead runs out, but
there is nothing to be seen. He sends for the two A.B.'s who might
have come up on the bridge, but they say that they have not done so,
nor indeed would they come without object. The firemen, if they have to
communicate with the bridge, never come higher than the stairway to the
bridge deck, and it proved that no one of them had been there. By the
wheel-house clock, it was noticed that the precise time of the visitation
was 10.15, an hour not hitherto regarded by ghosts, I believe, as
preferable to midnight.

And more. Still imagining that some practical joker was at work, Mead
brought a big stick with him on his watch. This was no remedy. The ghost
appeared again, at much the same hour, on several nights; it was remarked,
mostly when the apprentice who first saw it had the wheel. Trying to stop
so strange a bell-ringer, Mead was met by a sharp flap of wind, from a
dead still night, and the glimmering shadow was gone to the air. All
this happened north of the line.

This was Mead's story, but the boy's seemed to support it; and when in the
shadows of the bridge deck, earnestly and without trimming, he told it
me, it seemed very true. I glanced about me occasionally after hearing it.

The wind continued, but the heat was becoming intense. Painting went on
like the wind. The derricks received a terra-cotta coat and their trellis
work looked an amenity, against the general whiteness. The fervour for
redecoration even affected me: was not my hutch to share the common lot?
But, though the walls needed it, the matter was postponed, on account
of the limited accommodation.

The newspaper was to appear again, but its circulation was being cut down.
One copy only would now have to serve the public. It was passed to me,
and my aid with paragraphs requested. I could not regret the reduction
made in the number, even though if that one copy was lost,

    We knew not where was that Promethean torch
    That could its light relumine.

Bicker, the editor, instead of reviewing his admired literature in his
journal, lengthened breakfast by doing so there _viva voce_. He was all
for Boeotian situations, and, on occasion, his cold re-dishing was
tactfully ended by a relief conversation on religion, the keynote of
which was in the unironically meant remark: "He was darned religious,
but he was a darned good man." I began to know a certain captain, from
talk during the voyage, almost by sight; one who "went in for Sunday
Schools, and put on a crown of glory as soon as he reached Wales," but
once away again, it appears that "he fell."

Another matter for the columns of the _Optimist_ was obtruded upon the
breakfast table. It was a conundrum:

    West was the wind, and West steered we,
    West was the land. How could that be?

The answer, apart from such evasions as "You were entering port," was that
West was the name of the helmsman. It was understood that the poem went
on in this strain, but the chief's protest came in time.

The cat (last heard of in disgrace), which was under the especial care
of the mess-room boy, was no doubt pleased hereabouts by our reaching
the regions of flying-fishes; but nevertheless continued, on the gospel
truth of Kelly, to take a chair in the engineer's mess at the critical
hours of twelve and five. I myself saw her there at twelve once or twice,
judging the time, no doubt, by the parade of table-cloth and cutlery.

Without any abatement of the stuffy heat inside our cabins, we ran into
a rainy area. The sea was overcast, and the showers splashed us well.
Meanwhile, the wind had veered round more to the east, and besides
bringing the grey vapours of rain tumultuously towards us thence, set
the spray flying over the lower decks and kept us on the roll. Blowing
on the beam, however, it seemed to please Phillips, ever anxious about
the hourly ten knots, which seemed too high an expectation. Squalls
threatened; it was a tropical April mood. The rolling influenced my
sleep, in which I fancied myself manipulating the airiest pleasure-boats,
overcrowded with passengers who refused to sit down, on an angry
flooded river.

The peaceful disposition of the four apprentices began to weigh upon
Mead's mind. A very happy and orderly set they were, although the current
_Optimist_ contained an illustrated article on the bosun's tyranny, as:

"YOUSE take them two derricks for'ard."

"YOUSE jes' pick up that ventilator, you flat-nosed son of a sea-cook."

The drawings of the well-known walrus head under the antique, unique grey
(_né_ white) one-sided sugar-loaf hat, were admirable. But to proceed.
The four boys were of the best behaviour, occasionally, indeed, laughing
or playing mouth-organs at unpopular hours, or even after the nightly exit
of the cook making flap-jacks, otherwise pancakes, from his properties
in the galley. When I joined Mead on his watch, one Sunday evening, he
began to "wonder what the boys are coming to." They were not like the
boys of his time. He delved into his own apprentice autobiography, and
rediscovered an era, a blissful era of whirling fists, blood, and booby
traps.

A day followed remarkable for the weather. A swell caused the ship to
roll with a will all day, but, as was expected in the doldrums, the
wind slackened. After a few hours of this lull, there was a piping and
groaning through all the scanty rigging that the steamer owned, and from
farther out to sea the grey obscurity of violent rainstorm, much as it
had done on our way south, bore down upon us. Soon the ship was cloaked
close in a cloud of rain pale as snow, which flecked the icy-looking
sea, veined white alongside us, with dark speckling bubbles. Then it
was time to sound the whistle, and its doleful groan went out again and
again (the wind still varying its note from a drone to a howl) until the
fiercer sting of the rain was spent, and distance began to grow ahead of
the ship. This storm lacked thunder and lightning; and yet, when Sparks
invited me to listen to his "lovely X-s," there was a continuous and
furious rolling uproar in the phones. Then, as strange again, as if
at a nod that din came to a sudden stop, leaving in the phones a lucid
calm in which ship-signals rang out clear.

At sunset of a day which washed off the new paint as soon as (in the
intervals) it had been put on, a thin red fringe glowed along the horizon,
making me long for green hills and white spires; at night, the stars
from Southern Cross to Charles's Waggon were gleaming, but the sea
lay profoundly black, and upon it all round us came and went glory after
glory of water-fire. The next day, however, it rained in the same dismal
style, and the sun's eclipse and the passing of Fernando Noronha were
but little heeded. I was called a Jonah by every one.

A mollyhawk, that evening, created some excitement. He first spent some
time in flying on an oval course round the ship, for his recreation, it
looked. His beautiful curves must have pleased him as they did me, for he
persuaded (or so it appeared) another mollyhawk to make the circuit with
him. Meacock and myself heard one of these strike against the wireless
aerial, and thought that it would have scared them away; but no, a few
minutes later we heard a croaking and a flapping while we stood in the lee
of the wheel-house, and there was a mollyhawk. He had struck some low
rope or fixture. He was prevented by his webbed feet from rising again,
and I had fears for his future which were by no means necessary; for
Meacock followed him, an awkward but speedy walker, down to the lower
bridge deck, and, fearing the swift white stabbing bill, waiting his
chance, suddenly caught at his nearest wing and launched him into the
air. If his speed could show it, that bird was relieved.

This incident was a welcome verification of some of the saloon's bird
anecdotes; and though it was nearly dark and the bird was only aboard for
two or three minutes, his release was watched by a very good gathering,
representative of engineers, firemen, the galley, sailors, and apprentices.



XXV


    _Whilst thou by art the silly Fish dost kill,_
    _Perchance the Devils Hook sticks in thy Gill._
              Flavel's New Compass for Sea-men, 1674.

I must have made a good many references here and there to the steward,
old Mouldytop, and it occurs to me that he deserves a paragraph to
himself. Of this ship, whom her most faithful lovers called a dirty
ship, with her short funnel pouring a greasy smoke over her graceless
body when even coal-dust rested--of this grimy tramp, playing a sufficient
part in the world's daily life, rolling and lurching up and down oceans
with fuel or foodstuff, thousands of tons at a time, it may be safely
said that the steward was the feature. In the _Optimist_ it was evident
that he as an inspiration excluded almost every other. In the round of
day and night, should he himself be unseen for a time, his voice would
generally claim your notice; if conversation took on dark and prophetic
tones, it was, for a ducat, some restatement of the ancient's wickedness,
and a realization of the strength of his position against all the world.
For behind Mouldytop was the power of Hosea.

The steward was built somehow after the shape of a buoy. It was Ireland,
and not Scotland, that his ancestors had left; but there was a doubt
about his own dialect. It was, and it was not, plain English. His bulbous,
melancholy face was topped with grey hairs, but those he hid under his
faded brown skull-cap. Forty-nine years, one understood, had Mouldytop
been at sea; and before that, the veil of mystery was thin enough to
show him in his first stage, a batman in the Army. This fact led him
to deprecate modern warfare, "It's all science, Mister," and those who
fought it; he claimed to have been blooded _fighting_ in some corner
of the desert with spear-brandishing multitudes. At the same time, he
reserved his reminiscences; for the refined insult, "You old soldier,"
needed no encouragement.

He seldom grew cheerful. I suppose that he was happiest when some one
(no doubt with serpent tongue) asked how his cold was. Then, his roar
softened into a resigned murmur, as he recorded that it was as bad as
ever; that six bottles of his own medicine taken regularly had not cured
him. This was a pleasure that he shared with the author of one of the most
melodious English songs, and it seems to be prophetic of his appearance--

    Welcome, folded arms and fixed eyes,
    A sigh that piercing mortifies,
    A look that's fastened to the ground,
    A tongue chained up without a sound,

as of his imaginative affections in his sombre cell--

    A midnight bell, a parting groan!
    These are the sounds we feed upon;
    Then stretch our bones in a still gloomy valley,
    Nothing's so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy.

Let but a sailor apply to him at the wrong hour--or even the right
hour--for tobacco, and his indisposition was gone in a second; his
tongue was unchained. The busy mockers grinned. "He'd tell Davy Jones
he'd been to sea before him."

In the Argentine ports he was in excellent voice. Did a native shoemaker
come aboard with his repair outfit, or a seller of fruit with his
panniers, and did any one propose to deal with these "Dagoes," out
skipped our old friend, bellowing: "Too much, man; what," (_crescendo_)
"d'ye think we pick up money in the streets?--I wouldn't have your blasted
country for all the blasted money there is in it." The charges, I am
bound to add, fell down quickly, while the old watchman standing by
observed with a respectful grin, "You a good man!"

The advance of age was a sore point with Mouldytop. Consequently, it was
one that was brought to his notice as often as it could be effective.
One evening, some one told him he was too old to play football. "Too
old, mister?" he bawled; "Too old!--why, give me that blasted ball,"
and he stood there in a prodigious rage, his eyes flashing, his fists
knotting. "Too old!"--His calenture ceased suddenly; there was a tug on
his fishing line. Up came a yellow catfish. Never have I perceived a
livelier disgust than the look showed which he cast upon this victim. It
seemed to blame the catfish personally for not being a rock salmon.

So Mouldytop regarded animated nature; which regarded him as a man whose
duties implied opportunities. "I'm a poor man, mister."--"The old son of
a gun says he's a poor man. You old liar, you've got streets of houses,
you know you have."

Some one who knew him at home was strongly of opinion that he was less
terrible by his own fireside: that there was a fellow creature under whose
guidance he roared like any sucking dove. It might be. Indeed, it was
my impression that it could hardly be otherwise. I thought I noticed a
certain caution even in his attitude to the large-bosomed laundrywoman
who took the ship's orders at Buenos Aires; and his comment on _her_
charges had been of the weakest.



XXVI


We crossed the line at six in the morning, and in drizzling rain. There
was not much comment, except upon the rain; the good thing about the
damp cloudy weather was that we were spared the more furious heat, though
the atmosphere had been oily and sultry. With the steamy clouds swarming
about us I could picture a past life hereabouts which might justly have
aroused man's wrath; the sailing days, when to take advantage of whatever
brief breeze might visit the sleepy doldrums, the sailors had to be
constantly running aloft in the drenching mist, and afterwards lay down in
their sweating glory-holes, in their soaked clothes, week after week.

The painting epidemic was not abated. Meacock and Mead camped out while
they made their rooms as white as ivory. Mead looked charming in a round
white cap, which he said a V.A.D. had given him. The steward, with his
experience of every sort of ship under the sun, had developed an artistic
eye: and, perhaps to relieve the whiteness, he decided upon a dado for
the saloon, which hitherto had been from ceiling to floor done in white
enamel. The dado was to be grained, in imitation of an actual wainscot.
He began his solemn task, applying by way of groundwork a brimstone
yellow and other sickly yellows which disturbed us at meals.

Meacock and Phillips varied these days with a discussion of firemen,
whether white or coloured firemen were the more difficult to manage?
Phillips was for his Africans, the excellent selection aboard at present
forming a contrast with his memories of ne'er-do-wells, "doctors,
remittance-men and all sorts," of English birth. Meacock was soon hard at
work describing with amusing mimicry a refractory negro, one of a
number of Somalis who, hearing of labour troubles in England, did their
best to be paid off in Africa. If they had succeeded, the ship would have
been without firemen for her return voyage; so their efforts were
resisted. The particular genius played the hand of "suicidal tendency."
Choosing a time when there were several people about the deck, he
climbed somewhat slowly up the bulwarks and prepared with gestures to
leap over the side. Meacock was a spectator of this piece of acting. The
actor was pulled back with some violence, and "about half-past four we
got the handcuffs on him. We would have had to turn the cook out of his
room aft to lock this fellow up, but I didn't want to do that, so I
fastened him up with the handcuffs round a stanchion in the poop. I
said, 'And the rats will probably eat you before the morning'; and I
really did expect to find him eaten by the morning; for there were some
monsters in the poop.

"Next day, he began saying 'Sick.'--'Sick? Where are you sick?'--'Sick all
over.' I had enough of this after a bit, and went and got the strongest
black draught I've yet known. He didn't want to drink it, and I said to
him, 'Now drink this up as quick as you can.' And so he did. After that,
whenever I looked in at the poop, this fellow would start waving his
arms and hollering out. In fact, he was mad; every time I got near
him, he was mad. That black draught was not popular, I think. When we
got to Cuxhaven, the medical authority put this man through a careful
examination. 'He's no more mad,' he said, 'than you or I. He's got a
slight touch of rheumatics in the arm. But,' he said, 'when you get to
Hamburg, you can satisfy yourself by sending this man to the asylum.' We
did. Two days--and he was back."

Meacock's laconic phrases were accompanied with grimaces which told the
tale to perfection.

The atmosphere had grown so literary that Mead now took pencil and
paper with him to his day watch as a matter of course. The pages of
the _Optimist_ were beginning to look somewhat laboured. He determined to
infuse a new vein. So a series of vividly coloured hoaxes came into
existence, the first of which, a harem story, was too much in its full
bloom for the editor's acceptance. Not surprised, and not dejected, Mead
offered "The Pirate," and it duly appeared. These fictions ended, as did
their successors, with a disillusionment:

    "And then what happened?"
    "The film broke."

It was about the period of hoaxes--April 1 arrived. Bicker appeared
at my cabin, where I was reading. "Meacock wants to see you." I went.
Bicker triumphed, and went his way convinced that he could beat the
intellectual at his own game, as the _Optimist_ had already shown him
he could.

A brighter sky and cooler wind came on. We were soon expected at Saint
Vincent. The new moon and calmer waters brought one evening of strange
watery beauty. Towards his setting the sun had hidden himself in black
clouds, whence he threw a silver light over sea spaces where sea and sky
were meeting: he sank, and left the heavens like green havens, with
these clouds slowly sailing through their utmost peace. The change soon
came; the head wind brought pale grey turbulent days, with the ship
playing at rocking-horses; over the head wind and rousing sea, the healthy
sun at length dawned on the Sunday of our arrival at Saint Vincent.
Sunday, without the voice of church bells or the sight of people going to
worship, seemed no Sunday despite its idle hours: at least, the mood
sometimes took me so.

The third engineer was acquiring no mean name as a cutter of hair, and I
felt the cold after I had been to his open-air chair, near the engine-room
staircase. While I sat to him, a characteristic of the mess-room boy was
borne on the air from the chief's room. It was his habit of replying
hastily to any observation, "Yes, yes," and this time the chief's voice
was heard: "Curse you, John, for a blasted nuisance." "Yes, yes, sir."

As the sun was stooping under the sea once more, land grew into sight
far ahead; mountain or cloud? The mountainous coast was mocked indeed
by great continents of cloud above, of its own grey hue. The wind blew
hard, but at ten o'clock we were running in under the rocky pinnacles
of Saint Vincent, against the blustering wind and the black racing sea. A
light or two, chiefly from other steamers, told something of the port. The
crescent moon, cloaked in a circling golden mist, was now near setting.
We anchored and spent the night in quiet.

A mile or so from our anchorage, in the morning's clear air, huddled
the pink unsightly little town. At distance the heights of rock looked
as unsubstantial as Prospero's magic; the clouds that swam over them and
across their steeps might have been solid, so phantasmal were those
rocks. Not so with the stony masses overpeering the town; those in their
iron-brown nakedness had the aspect of eternal immobility. The air
was cold and lucent; the water halcyon blue. Several tramps with rusty
black and red, and a sailing ship or two, lay around the _Bonadventure_;
barges of a rough old make clustered closer in to shore.

The invasion by natives began early. A dozen boats were tossing on the
waves alongside, with woolly heads and upward eyes seeking what or whom
they might devour, and quiet-footed rogues here and there on the decks
were trying to sell matches, cigarettes, and red bead handbags. To their
attempts, the politest answer was "No good." "No caree?" Nobody seemed
to care. Some of our firemen whose homes were here had gone ashore, with
the air of men allowing their old haunts to share their glory.

Two lighters, coppered below, bearded with dark green weed, blundered
alongside with bags of coal, and soon the gangs, a grimy and ragged
collection, were getting the bags aboard, and the winch grumbling
away. Yet it was now made known that we were not to pick up much coal
here, but to proceed to Las Palmas for the bulk of our wants. This was
unfortunate for the firemen who had gone home. All too soon the blue
peter at half-mast and the blowing of the hooter recalled them.

Now, too, it was rumoured that our port of discharge was to be Emden,
in Hanover: but of such arrangements it became more difficult to feel
assurance.

At midday we left. The most valued effect of our call at Saint Vincent
was the receipt of some giant flying-fishes, which we got, one apiece,
at tea. It was only by virtue of perseverance that a man could consume
his ration. They were good, if dry.

If I were a Bewick, I have in mind a little tailpiece for this chapter.
It would display, for the careful eye, the hatless Kelly filleting a
flying fish, against the bunker hatch, for his friend the cat, who should
be gazing up with cupboard love at her unshaven protector. The direction
of the wind, in true Bewick style, should be implied in a sprinkling of
coal-dust settling on the new paint of the "House."



XXVII


Glittering bright, northern weather outside. "Channel weather," as it was
described at breakfast. Whatever it might be, I was Jonah; fine, Jonah
bringing a head wind; wet, Jonah bringing the wet; the ship rolling, it
was Jonah's additional weight on the port side that was doing it; and so
on. The suggestion arose that the villain should be offered to the first
whale sighted; but "We should have more respect for the whale," said
Phillips. Nor could I be sure that I was not blamed for all finger marks
on the new paint. Meacock had been the eye-witness of one crime of mine of
the sort. "If you touch that new enamel, your name's mud"--and then the
_Bonadventure_ obliged with a lurch sideways which left the impression of
my hand in a most prominent place.

A more serious disgrace even befel me. Bicker and Meacock involved me in
an argument, which was very quickly twisted into the direct question. "Who
was England's greatest man?" Some wretched ghost whispered Shakespeare,
and Shakespeare I named. There was derision. Shakespeare! Nelson was the
man. I was obliged to stick to my choice. "We're talking about fellows
that DID something for their country," said Meacock, and I gave up.
Bicker was once agaia _in excelsis_ at this evidence of his superior
understanding, which he seemed about to back up with physical argument.
The shade of Nelson was vindicated; and then, I was informed that the
second greatest man was Kitchener. I asked with innocent ignorance what
he had effected of particular significance to our own lives? A photograph
was produced of the earlier, more Achillean Kitchener, by way of
settling _that_ point.

Meeting Kelly in the galley one evening as I went along to make my
cocoa, I was detained to hear of the wonders of Hamburg; and to watch
Tich making a Cornish cake with ingredients mysteriously come by. Kelly
was also of opinion that Hamburg's high place among towns was due to a
dancing saloon, where birthday suits were the fashion. "Flash society,"
he said with admiration. I was sorry to hear that in the argument over
great men I had missed the sight of one whale. Thus it is with the
conversationally inclined: pursuing minnows of our opinion, we miss
the leviathans of fact.

Days of reviving fine weather and swaying sea in hills and hollows,
flinging proud manes of spray aloft for the sun to gild with rainbows
again and again, gave place to one of skies generally overcast. Cold
blues and greens came and went above us; the wind blew bleak over a steely
sea. Land came into view on the port beam. Above it the clouds hung in
dim phantasmagoria; a gleam of silver white below announced the coast,
and, now sparkling, now dull, the lie of the land presented itself to our
gaze. And this was Grand Canary. The mountain's sides seemed chequered
with forest; at its bases white villages glistened; and further on, a
conical peak and headlands grew on the eye.

The sea had lately been crowded with porpoises, acre upon acre; and here
another vast assembly crossed our track. To a credulous eye, as they
leapt along, they might have painted the image of several sea serpents
writhing through the waves. Above them wheeled a flock of gulls, intent I
supposed on fishing.

The cathedral of Las Palmas appeared in mirage; then the _Bonadventure_
rounded the coast until the town came clearly before us. It was to the
harbour just beyond the town that we were making. As we approached,
boats came rowing ferociously towards us. One crew threw hooks carrying
ropes over our bulwarks, and sent a man aboard. His skill would have
done a spider credit; but to no purpose did he exert it, for the hooks
were thrown back and the invader held prisoner on the bridge during
Hosea's pleasure. When we anchored, a fleet of boats sprang up around
us, the chances of any individual one, of course, for the privilege of
supplying us with a bum-boatman being smallish. Not long afterwards,
the ship was swarming with miscellaneous merchants, and merchandise.
Bananas, monkeys, canaries, cigarettes, cigars, photographs (chiefly
improper), wicker chairs, matches, field glasses, parakeets and other
useful articles were pressed upon every one aboard who could possibly be
tackled. Some of the canaries were heard whistling loud and long, and yet
Kelly found that the bird which he bought, a seeming musician, was mute.

No cabin was left unguarded. It was pointed out that one gentleman offered
plain proof of knavery; on his right foot he wore an English boot, on
the left a tennis shoe. They were all tarred with the same brush: "Worse
than Port Said." I do not think they found much opportunity to enhance
the reputation at our expense.

A tug, the _Gando_, immediately re-named the _Can-do_, brought out our
lighters of coal. At that signal, an interesting enterprise moved nearer
to us. When bags are being slung over from hold to hold, a good deal
of coal is dropped into the water; and so the enterprise consisted in
a small barge, with the men, and material, for sending down divers to
rescue the estrays. The diver was a huge fellow, curiously wearing a
red tam-o'-shanter. He of course went down in a diving suit to survey
the ocean; when he thrust his muzzle out of the water again, up would
come at the same time his two bushel baskets; and as these were almost
full of coal, presumably that department of salvage had its rewards.

After much criticized anxiety about winches and blocks and guys, our
stevedore gangs began their work at good speed. I was again dressed up
in a borrowed boiler suit for the duties of tallyman. The weather became
burning hot. The coal-dust flew round in copious whirlpool. After an hour
I was full of discomfort, and not to be distinguished from any of the
coal heavers. Work continued in such hearty fashion that I gathered that
it was piece work. The foreman was another giant, with such a belly on him
that whenever he gesticulated--that was often--stamping his foot and
brandishing his hands, that belly really and truly quaked. His voice
was not a success. He would have roared like thunder, but only a feeble
croaking left his snapping jaws.

By six our bunker coals had been put aboard, I discarded my honourable
discomfort, my mask of grime, and my piratical appearance. The dealers
in Constantinople canaries and cork soles withdrew. About the harbour
of La Luz, the lights came out in the houses and aboard the shipping;
the masts and yards stood out calm against a quiet coloured evening, the
water rippled with no skirmish nor much voice to our sides. Beyond the
towns, the mountains gloomed with the dreams of romantic journeys.

An hour or so afterwards, the welcome though broken melody of the anchor's
uprising heralded our departure. It had been a colourable interlude. I
remember it best by a circular handed out by "Gumersindo Alejandro,
Bumboat Business." It ran through the rigmarole of desirable articles,
a few of which I have named above, and concluded

                      "and all kinds of silks suitable
                           for presents and use."

A harsh description of presents? Perhaps.



XXVIII


By some mystical means, the mates had charmed away from our Las Palmas
visitors at small cost or none an unusual supply of cigars and cigarettes.
These brightened up the melancholy purser, who was now approaching the
end of his employment. There were still, however, many things to amuse
his leisure. How often the table talk had come to the subject of hell and
its occupants! The latter seemed to be--after the landlubbers--shipowners,
ship's chandlers, ship's tailors, and Customs men. Curious pictures
were projected of notorious shipowners of the past, now compelled to
wield the shovel next to the firemen late of their employ. As to the
unfortunate Customs officials, witness A and B.

A. "... Yes, he quite got pally with this Customs fellow----?"

B (_older than A, hastily interrupting_): "I wouldn't trust any Customs
fellow, not if he'd got a pair of b---- wings on."

The _Optimist_ went on its way with the weeks. Mead added "The Vamp" to
his cabinet of tales of mystery; but the strain of discovering subjects
apart from the steward and the galley was clearly growing. The prominence
of food and meal times upon a tramp was described in a ballad published
about this time.

          THOUGHTS OF A ROMANTIC.

    Ten thousand miles from land are we,
      Hark how the wild winds pipe!
    What grand reflection swells in me?
      This morning we'll have tripe.

    For ever and evermore
      These billows rage and swell;
    O may I, through their angry roar,
      Not miss the breakfast bell.

    Here octopi, here great white whales,
      Here krakens haunt the Main;
    Mad mermaids sing--my courage fails--
      Here comes Harriet Lane.[1]

    There, far far down, what jewels lie,
      What corals, red enough
    To make this sauce[2] seem pale, which I
      Am wolfing with my duff!

    To think that one lone ship should thus
      Ride o'er the greedy seas!
    Alas! what will become of us
      Now we've run out of cheese?[3]

The northern spring came into the air. Scraps of the casual verse of one
English poet who never tired of the year afield started up in memory
now, where the pondered solemn music of others had no reverberation; and
so for the rest of my voyage. The sea for a time grew intensely calm, the
swell seeming to swim along under a mantle of pearl or quicksilver. The
undulating surface stretched to the horizon, unbroken anywhere by restless
foam; and over this calm lay the golden track to the setting sun. When
presently a breeze ruffled this strange sleep, it was as though shoals
of tiny fishes had everywhere risen to the surface; and in one or two
places, those bubbling, flickering shoals were actual and not imaginary.

As if schooled by misfortune, Sparks now posted up in the port alleyway a
statement of football results and tables; so that many bosoms aboard
needed no longer to feel a heaving anxiety. A turtle lazily floated by,
watched by many who could have welcomed him on deck; a whale passed,
shouldering and spouting the brine; and shortly, as the midnight moon
had portended, the dark green sea began to run in hilly ridges, sometimes
sluicing the decks, and tilting the _Bonadventure_ to one side or the
other. Grey rain-squalls flew over us now and then; but, considering our
near approach to the redoubtable Bay, we were in excellent weather. The
mate, however, was not one to take chances; and certain barrels, an anvil
and a few other heavy movables were shifted from the windward side of the
engines.

The steward and his adjutant had now little time certain in which to
reform my room, so they fell upon it with paint brushes and "flat white"
in vigorous style; it had been my hope to be allowed this labour, but I
remembered my "Tom Sawyer," where painting as a recreation was so truly
valued. Mouldytop was seldom seen in these days without his pot and
brush; he went at it from dawn to midnight and then did overtime. My
room was turned into a whited sepulchre, which is better than a sooted
one, but as it was a sort of receptacle for coal-dust, which was coal
grease withal, even when port, ventilator and door were all closed, it was
to be feared, _tamen usque recurret_, it would be black again in a week.

We came into a region of ships, tramps like ourselves for the most part,
and the less handsome oil-tankers also. Finisterre lighthouse shone
kindly upon us. With a fair wind, the concourse of shipping dwindling
away somewhat as we went on, we now entered the Bay. Our angles began
to be anything but right, but it was much gentler weather than I had any
reason to need. Fair as it was for us, save for the cinders that fell
in showers amidships, the vessels running in the teeth of the weather
were pitching with vigour. Grey and shrouded the sea met us in hills and
valleys, with white ridges and flecked with foaming veins; as we went
further into the famous corner, the _Bonadventure_ could not but roll and
lurch as though she liked it, and the waves were mountainous; yet out
there we passed a fishing boat making beautiful weather of it.

The second mate, Bicker, could scarcely get any sleep; but not on any
score of weather or discomfort. All his watch below, or most of it, one
might see him standing at his sea chest with pen scratching away at the
forthcoming _Optimist_. So sweet is journalism when wooed as a casual
mistress. Shall I go on? No.

My trouble was not what to write but what to read. Even Young's _Night
Thoughts_, buried in annotations reverent and irreverent, began to grow
familiar beyond all reason. _Pears' Cyclopædia_, _Brown's Nautical
Almanac_, _The South Indian Ocean Pilot_, _Phrenology for All_, and
other borrowed books, were all at much the same stage. This ship was
not the one recently reported in the newspapers in which the chief read
poetry like a passion, the cook chewed Froude with his morning crust, and
the cabin-boy needed the help of Hegel. I forget if those were the
actual claims, but in any case that was another ship. About now, an
accident happened to my Young. It seemed as if a Poltergeist had visited
the spare cabin port during the night, for awaking I found my settee,
and the _Night Thoughts_ thereon, waterlogged. Perhaps the heavy rain
had been answerable for this, but I could not see how--my port was
closed. Poltergeist had spared my novel, lying next to Young: evidently he
thought that already watery enough. Young, immortal, made a surprising
recovery.

Now, we were nearing the one country. It needed no drab island of Ushant
with its lighthouse to tell me this; for hardly had I put down in my
diary "Much milder," when it became necessary to write "Much colder."
The tumults of the Bay were over and gone, and we were under a dun sky
dropping rain which obviously belonged to the English Channel.

We swung round Ushant and became more aware of the ups and downs of
navigation; these were less noticeable as we ran on. The prospect, or say
circumspect of the day was narrowed in by dismal rainstorm, and once
more it was a bleak amusement trying to make out the forms of ships
through the foggy veils. The wind moaning, the rain splashing, measured
out long hours, till all saddened into night with little to notice, save
the gulls and divers whom such weather suited well. At any rate we were
not unfortunate in our direction. The _Hammonia_ going the other way with
passengers showed us that by contrast.

The night elapsed, we came abeam of the Isle of Wight, which showed
but indistinctly, though the day was cold and steady. Calm indeed lay the
green Channel up which the _Bonadventure_ with speed sufficient to
please Phillips was making her way. Ships, or their smoky evidences,
made the time pass quickly. It was Good Friday, a great day for my
childhood in Kent, land of plum-pudding-dogs and monkey-tail trees, a
day when I heard, as indeed my elder companions had long foretold, the
church bells rung muffled; although I was disappointed in the purple
cassocks which, tradition fabled, would be worn by the choir on that
day. Lent (and Advent too for that matter) was solemn then and real,
outside of churches; and with Good Friday it appeared undeniable that
there had been done some thing at which Nature must go in mourning. The
three hours' service, like the watch that rang out the dying year and
rang in the new, was in every one's thought that we met; such ceremony
was not for nothing. The melancholy hymns of the season were more than
sung verses.

To-day, at least, we had hot-cross buns to our breakfast. So is the
Lord remembered in these years of discretion. The sailors had the day
to themselves.

Our course lay more or less east, and brought us a succession of glimpses
of shining cliffs and misty downs. Off Dover we saw both coasts at
once. In 1919 I hoped I had seen the last of that piece of France.
Running out of this strait into the North Sea under a shrewish though a
moderate wind, we passed a number of fishermen, and what struck my
mind with the strangeness almost of the Flying Dutchman, a three-masted
barque under full sail, at a distance. It was sunset at the time. She
caught the light and bowed upon her journey, a sweet sight, too quickly
lost in the dark. Soon we picked up the flash of a lightship off the Dutch
shore, and soon after that the cold to which my wanderings had not made
me careless sent me inside.

Chilly brightness and blue sky saw us making rapidly over the North
Sea, visited by thrushes and linnets, while the water seemed crowded
with those clever birds, though so gawky upon the wing, the divers.
We crossed the wake of an oil-tank, burning the water almost like the
witch's oils in "The Ancient Mariner," and scenting the air unlike those
abstractions; came to a lightship, where our course was altered; and met
the pilot cutter in a calm sea and air vivid with sun and cold about four.
The rope ladder went down, the row-boat came alongside, and the pilot
was taken up to the bridge. I could not repress odd emotions at thus
seeing again "Brother Boche"--he looked a replica of ancient types of
my acquaintance--after such a long separation.

The estuary of the Ems received us, a flat sheet of water, with low
coastlands only noticed by reason of towers here and there. The tides
obliged us to anchor some miles outside Emden at six, and to wait until
midnight. The sky darkened and loured into rain. At twelve in a black
and gusty night, to the accompaniment of much hooting and shouting, the
_Bonadventure_ moved up the river, and in the greyness and chill of
daybreak berthed in a quiet basin at Emden.

Through this last movement I had tried to snatch some sleep, but was
harassed by the socialism of Bicker and Mead, who considered it but fair
that as they were being deprived of their sleep, I should be deprived
of mine. They, therefore, visited me at intervals, switched on my fan
which was now quite unnecessary, prodded me with toasting-forks, and
so saluted the happy morn, like those larks which were now singing and
soaring to justify any praise of them that ever was written.

-----

[Footnote 1: "Harriet Lane." The name of that unfortunate lady is often
applied to the curious tinned meat provided aboard.]

[Footnote 2: "This sauce." A pink luxury poured over Sunday's duff.]

[Footnote 3: "Cheese." In these closing lines the poet's hope was to
record the actual expression of the saloon in general on receipt of the
steward's pronouncement: "That there was no more cheese."]



XXIX


On Easter Day the sun--it was an old proverb--will dance; and this time
he was in the mood. We lay in a basin like other tramps; beyond, there
clustered red roofs with blessed ungainly angles, a pleasing sight after
those southern flat ones of grey. Farther off, the church spire climbed
above the trees, and though many people in their Sunday dress were walking
that way, more were taking their rounds beside these docks.

It was as certainly good to be here as that spring was here. The chirrup
of sparrows, jubilate of larks, noises of poultry, bleating of lambs
from an enclosure of young fruit trees close at hand, and the play of
children, were all comely and reviving.

Alas! that the Easter gift of the ship's officers should have been so out
of tune. An old gentleman of the same outlook as Polonius, the broker,
brought a packet of letters aboard at breakfast, and among these were the
wrong kind of Easter tidings--statements of their reductions in wages.
They accepted this falling off without murmur, save for a few dry remarks.

A motor-boat came bringing the stores, and, to the disgust of the cook
and other watchers, a great stack of long loaves, altogether leathery
in external appearance. Most of these were returned. The ship's chandler
must have thought we were arriving in force. Our own boat was tied at the
foot of the gangway, and the apprentices told off as ferrymen for the time
being.

Next day the larks were aloft again, and their melody, marvellous after
long absence from it, came dropping from heaven as undiminished, one
would say, as raindrops falling. So clear it sounded there even when they
were in the clouds. Meanwhile the bosun and party were getting the winches
and derricks into trim, with less silver voices: "H-h-hup, H-h-hup: Let
go a little: Here, youse...."

It was not unwelcome when the evening came, and Mead, Bicker, and their
friend so soon to be returned to duty set out up the cobbled road to
Emden; most bitter was the east wind blowing down the long colonnades
of trees, and we hastened into the sheltering streets of the little town.
We found it a quiet and beautiful place of ornamentation, and gables
and high houses, with a canal in the midst. Masterly seemed its spire,
stretching up into the sky with unexpected height and charming ease. It
was Easter Monday, and many folks were walking out--we looked curiously
about us, and while none were anything but tidy and decent, none had
any of the symptoms of much and to spare. They were evidently poor, but
far from poor in spirit.

We were puzzled by the Sabbath look of things to find a place to sit
down and apply some antidote to the effects of that rawish east wind. We
began drifting as usual, when an old fellow in black coat and Homburg
hat pushed past us, mumbling something. A light came swiftly into the
eyes of Mead and Bicker; the old fellow was fragrant with good beer.
We asked him for directions. He was off at once in a loud, hard voice:
"By Jesus Christ and General Jackson," he began (and _da capo_), "the
two best men in America. You come to my house." Following him, and coping
with his repeated invocations of the Messiah and the General, and requests
for an opinion of his English speech, we arrived by and by. He was an
innkeeper, and (by Jesus Christ) "an old sailing man himself."

The inn parlour was most excellently warm, free and easy. We set to with
hot grog, the brimmer being rebrimmed (if my memory serves me) not once
nor twice. The room was not one which depressed. Around it hung daubs
of full-rigged ships of Batavia in the fifties and sixties; there was an
automatic weighing machine, a most magnificent penny-in-the-slot piano,
and another apparatus for extracting copper from the air, dressed up as a
blue windmill, but I did not inquire what it was expected to yield. And
the wall-paper was tapped with an ample border, in which one saw smooth
waters, placid smacks, and more windmills.

The other occupants of the room were the quiet set at the tables, a
drunken Finn seaman with one arm in bandages, a dark-haired musician,
the landlord and his wife and their good-looking daughter; while from the
private house other members of the family came and went at need, as
will be seen.

We provided the landlord with grog. He melted with gratitude, rose,
and set his horrible piano going, whose wicked hammers champed upon some
of the harshest wires outside of the barbed-wire dumps. And what is
more, whenever the piano began, our friend the Finn thought his hour
had come to shine, and essayed a sort of stamping, stooping dance across
the floor. This led to persuasion. The landlord persuaded, the landlady
persuaded, unclassified assistants persuaded, and presently the dancer
was pleased to be seated once more, exclaiming, "When I come aboard he
says to me, he says, 'All right, Captain, all right, all right.'" No
sooner did the music begin afresh than this enthusiast would rise up
relentlessly as though hypnotized (by the pæan) and perhaps stamp out
a bar or two before being replaced by combined efforts. This kept on
happening.

None the less, the landlord, who had apparently spent the day in liquid
rejoicings, was swallowing grog and growing taleful. He claimed all
sorts of sea service and seemed to know what he was talking about,
posed even my expert friends with the sailing-ship question: What's
the difference in build between a Scotch ship, a Nova Scotian, and a
Yankee? Boxing too was in his line: "Scholar of John L. Sullivan," he
assured us, and directed admiration to his fist, which was normal. From
taleful he waxed tuneful. "I'm a chanty-man, y'know," and wiping back
his gingery-white whiskers he groaned out "Blow the man down," and "The
streams of our native Australia," in dreadful style. After these, finding
himself strangely appreciated, he offered and began "a real English song,
y'know--exchoose me, y'know, if I don't speak the plain English." It was
"The Maid of the Mill." His rendering was a strain on our tact, and too
much for one of the young ladies of the house, who was smitten with a fit
of giggling most right and justifiable. At that, the old villain flew
into a ridiculous passion, jumped up, and was for hitting this girl.
He was restrained.

After this unwanted diversion, he returned and (with starts of rage)
barked out the rest of his song. His wolfhound began, and we began, to
find the vocalist a nuisance; and as the evening wore on, I thought the
authentic musician, who played the violin, was beginning to resent our
presence and success. The daughter of the house foolishly sat at our
table. The musician, however, was soothed with an honorarium, and with
much "Auf wieder-sehen!" we went. Even now, however, it was thought
unseemly to reach the ship in one journey, so halts were called twice;
and once aboard, the usual arguments kept us out of our beds until four
or so in the morning.

The two grain-elevators in the port were still busy with a Greek steamer,
so that, apart from painting, the _Bonadventure_ was idle, and there was
little to do but row over to the canteens and return with undreamed-of
quantities of chocolate and cigarettes. Cigars were, to us, as lightly
bought as matches. As to the painting, it was again mysterious that
two of the apprentices fell off the stage on which they were working
alongside; they were soon dressed in borrowed plumage. Suddenly in the
evening our discharge began.

Lighters of the local type, very long and narrow, were already alongside
when the tugs swung the first elevator into his place. The huge floating
turret looked somewhat like a smock mill. The stevedores quickly made
fast their tackle: four large drain-pipe tubes were let down into the
chosen hold, and the suckers commenced. There was a drumming boom of
machinery, mixed with the swish of the ingulfing of the grain and its
disgorging through broader conduits on the other side of the elevator
into the river barges. It grew dark, the red and green railway lights
burned fiercely in brisk air against the last of an orange sunset. But
the elevator was kept at work, and arc lights hung over the hold showed
the novel scene of the sliding grain and its trimmers.

One effect of the late-continued drone and thud of the elevator was to
torment me with war dreams. First I was in an attack, among great rocks,
under a violent barrage; then, on one of those unforgettable raw, dark
mornings, I was at the window of a great ruined house behind the line,
watching the bleary effulgence of the Very lights starting up here and
there and expecting the worst from a nasty silence, only pierced by single
shell-bursts. Then, beside the elevator, an infuriated and intoxicated
bargee stood on the landing-stage about midnight bawling for a boat which
didn't come. His patience was, however, considerable; he bawled for a
long hour. In consequence, I suppose, of these matters I arrived very
late at breakfast amid the usual cries of "You Jonah, you!"

The second elevator arrived, and, like some great iron insect with many
beaks, began to swallow up the grain from the holds aft. The ship shook
with the speed and power of the pumping machinery; the long lighters with
their great round-table steering wheels filled up, battened down, and
swung away. In one of the holds there were the bags put in at Ingeniero
White; under them again lay the yellow grain in mass. The elevator's
proboscis dipped into that grain, while the trimmers unstowed, slit and
emptied the sacks; so the ship began to lighten, and her bow already
stood high out of the water.

The red evening sky was smoky with cold; then the stars sparkled with
frost; and a small gathering enjoyed the oil stove in Bicker's room.
The steward, in unusual radiance, came in presently, and sang a long
song concerning a tramp who was flung off a freight train by a brakesman.
"Because he was only a tramp" (_dying fall_).

This might have been a comment on Mr. W. H. Davies' Autobiography.
Warmed with his singing and other helps, the steward began to recall
his acquaintance (on guard) with Royalty, and spun off at tangents with
affairs half a century more recent: "That b---- flaming butcher-- I
was going to hit him with a box of matches," and other incidents. I
was sorry to hear the lank Chips, the next morning, bawling at the
entrance of the saloon a complaint about the toughness of his meat; the
steward's new mood deserved anything but that sort of damper.



XXX


With little to do, I fought a sort of pillow fight with Meacock, our
weapons being sacks well stuffed; he won, of course, but it was a popular
bout. Then there were acrobatic performances on the stays of the funnel.
The need I had for training appeared on our last night in Emden Port,
when my sleep was nipped in the bud by the entry of Bicker and Mead.
Both had the clear spirits raised, in two senses; both thickened voices
already thick enough. They were disguised (Mead's fancy, I warrant)
as members of the Ku-Klux-Klan; and besides their costume one bore a
revolver, the other an air gun impounded from an apprentice. I was
ordered out of bed, but wished to stop; we argued about it and by good
luck I hung on. After this, insidious, they declared that a lady who
knew me and wished to see me had come aboard. This flight of fancy and
flow of language went on until they sought variety, which they found
in painting the unfortunate Tich in the alley below in several colours.

The German police, green men and true, watched the ship closely. It was
rumoured that a shipping clerk and a young woman had eloped and were
aboard one of the tramps. "Love in a foc'sle," especially ours, was
considered no bad joke.

One more home circle was held in the starboard alleyway towards
midnight; gin very prevalent, and the steward also. He fell into a
sequence of army recollections, which (as the glass was thrust replenished
into his hand) began on this pattern, "Well, I'm telling you, Mister, at
three in the afternoon of March the twelfth 1873, we was parading
outside the Queen's pavilion...." Once more also Mead and myself made our
way into Emden. The old nooks of buildings and the vistas of narrow
thoroughfares and lazy waterways, the shops and the folk, all made a
kindly picture; after supper, we avoided a downpour of sleet in a café
with an orchestra, whose repertory of 4,000 pieces included two by
English composers, and his name was Sullivan. On our midnight way home,
we stopped at a Dutchman's bar and asked for and got a dozen hard-boiled
eggs for a second supper aboard. I was carrying a parcel in hand and
two bottles, or rather gas-cylinders, of gin in the lining of my
mackintosh when we reached the German sentry-box beside the Quay. He
puffed at his pipe as he felt the parcel and saw that all was well.

The iron in the ship began to sweat great drops, and the walls of one's
bunk glistened with damp. The glass was falling; the water of the basin
no longer lay smooth as oil but beat against the ship grudgingly. In
short, excellent Flanders weather ensued the old-established weather,
guaranteed to cure rabid individuals of war cant after one hour's trial
(unshelled) on sentry-go or at the ration dump. For the worst and even
hopeless cases, half an hour's trial on the banks of the Steenbeck was
confidently recommended--I was lucky now to have a roof leaking but
little. Phillips showed me the one dry corner in his room--a portion of
the settee about a foot square.

Hosea's wife joined us in the saloon, and not only by her genial presence
itself merited our best thanks, but also by her influence on the steward.
As if by magic, Ideal milk was added to our tinned pears (usually,
apricots); and the jam changed to strawberry.

At length the elevators ceased from troubling, and the supervisors from
dilating in _Platt Deutsch_ over the damage in the bilges. The bosun's
strangled noise timed the hoisting of the ship's boat, which had had
a busy holiday, to its normal place. The little broker made his last
appearance round the steward's precincts; and with the heaving up of the
gangway, the arrival of the tugs, the return of the wireless aerial to its
heights and the smoking funnel--it, no doubt, never looked better--we
were ready to depart.

It was twilight when our ropes fore and aft were loosed from the dolphins,
and the _Bonadventure_ slowly moved into the lock. Here while the port
authorities made a swift inspection for stowaways and concluded their
arrangements, we stopped a time, listening to the odd mixture of noise
from bleating of sheep and hooting of our whistle. Then we moved out to
sea, not without bumping into the lock wall and gashing the bow. The air
was intensely cold, and the iron frameworks against the last tinges of
sunset and the red and white lights were now all there was to see of
our port of discharge. That episode was over; after midnight, the ship
stopped at Borkum to put down the pilot, and then, on again. My voyage
was hurrying into memory.



XXXI


Short seas running and a squally wind abeam made the light ship jerk and
roll. The early sun was hidden in the dull purple of a racing sleet-cloud,
which passed over the _Bonadventure_ and swept on to lash the dunes of
Holland lying dim blue along the yellow horizon. The engines beat out
a cheerful tattoo and sent the ship, wobbling as she went, at eleven
knots through the green water. The wind grew westerly but not sisterly;
the melancholy began to expatiate on the short text, "The Longships,"
but the profusion of fishing smacks out around us seemed to show that no
tempestuous weather was at hand.

The next morning, a spiritual Beachy Head was glittering like crystal
in the distance; while the head wind fell upon us, and momently a great
thud like the impact of a great shell shook the ship's sizable frame and
lifted her in see-saw style. I watched the south coast sliding by with
as much excitement as if I had been coming home on leave again. Meacock
was at his most picturesque with his reminiscences of a hard-case
ship called the _Guildhall_, but I could not retain what he told me,
with this distraction of English shores and skies about us. The general
scene recorded itself; of all the magnificent evenings which my voyage
had brought forth this was perhaps the nonpareil. The skies were of
tumultuous colour, requiring one of the old Dutch masters to observe, let
alone to reproduce. A bright brazen sun, throwing at his whim (as it
were) his vesture of clouds about him, burnt out below a pavement of
light ever seething with the leaping waves, and sometimes hidden,
sometimes emerging, lit the sky astern to a tawny glow, or left it
sullen as clay. Here, the horizon was an olive green, there, a blue
girdle; ships in stippled blackness tilted this way and that against it,
or nearer ploughed grey expanses; and above pillars and cliffs of
rocky cloud lifted themselves enormously into a firmament purpled or
kindled into wild flame.

So we hurtled along, the wind flawing, abeam, ahead. The great prow
mounted high against the sunset, or thrust like the head of a porpoise
down again into the onslaught of rolling waters. The hand on the lookout
paced up and down the foc'sle head in loneliness, the officer on the
bridge answered his call as ever, the seagulls followed the ship with
their unvarying calm and pride of wing. Presently the fine light of
Eddystone was our solace.

The last day of my pursership dawned, a day I welcomed and yet was sorry
to find come. How swiftly it stole by! At seven that morning we were
midway between the Longships lighthouse and that yet lonelier one the
Wolf, with Land's End white with snow to feast the eye. The sun was a
Jolly Bacchus, the waves dancing as green as the young leaves sacred to
that god, and the happy porpoises ambled among them. Yet still, as we
swung round the corner, in a veritable procession of funnels and smoke
trails, a squall came down, heralded by a half-seen rainbow, threw us
rudely off the poise and chilled the air to winter again. But round went
the _Bonadventure_ and coasted beneath moors and tors sullenly green
into the Bristol Channel.

The heavy rolling died away as we passed from the Cornish shore (where
they are said to eat strangers), and my Emden chilblains felt the weather
growing much warmer. Indeed, we had not had so mild a day since we left
Las Palmas. Towards three we came abreast of Lundy Island's bluff, and
Hartland opposite, a sturdy cliff likewise. The tide helped us well,
but the wind was veering. Urged by those officers and engineers whose
wives would be at Barry Docks this evening to greet them, and by his
own wishes, the chief had promised to bring the _Bonadventure_ to the
tier in Barry Docks by seven.

Ilfracombe nestling happily under the moors was quickly passed; the
_Bonadventure_ could move when she had a mind; the mellow green country
of Somerset parcelled in such English fashion with such straight
hedgerows, faded astern. The coast of Wales revealed the twin lighthouses
called the Nash Lights, and still the ship raced on. Then, as if before
the time, we were entering the locks at Barry, in a smoky twilight,
after an evening shower; were inside, and tied up to the tier.

Not much remains to add. The next day I scrambled down the rope ladder,
and bade farewell to the _Bonadventure_, that "dirty ship," not unbeloved;
and Mead came next. The boat below carried us to the quay, under the
red hulls of ships gleaming with the light from the dancing ripples; then
came paying off, a most unpunctual and irritating performance, and
good-byes to the old friends, from Hosea to Kelly, of the last few
months; and most of all, perhaps, to that gay spirit Mead. My good-bye
to these might be, I hoped, no such final one; but my round trip was
accomplished and I felt that for me "there would be no more sea," so that
the actual signing off of the purser seemed to me a point in my life's
course. Then presently, after a hearty last word with Mead--kind be the
dog-watch stars to him, wherever his ship carry him--I departed; the
last train for Slowe having, naturally, gone out, I made for the nearest
town to Slowe, and finishing my journey part on foot, part on a borrowed
bicycle, was enabled to awaken Mary while the rest of the parish of
Staizley slept the sleep of the just.

[Illustration: Welcome Sailor!]





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