First Page Project Gutenberg Header Page 51 of 193 Next Page Last Page CHAPTER XII - Michael, Brother of Jerry

CHAPTER XII

So sailed the Ship of Fools--Michael playing with Scraps, respecting Cocky and by Cocky being bullied and wheedled, singing with Steward and worshipping him; Daughtry drinking his six quarts of beer each day, collecting his wages the first of each month, and admiring Charles Stough Greenleaf as the finest man on board; Kwaque serving and loving his master and thickening and darkening and creasing his brow with the growing leprous infiltration; Ah Moy avoiding the Black Papuan as the very plague, washing himself continuously and boiling his blankets once a week; Captain Doane doing the navigating and worrying about his flat-building in San Francisco; Grimshaw resting his ham-hands on his colossal knees and girding at the pawnbroker to contribute as much to the adventure as he was contributing from his wheat-ranches; Simon Nishikanta wiping his sweaty neck with the greasy silk handkerchief and painting endless water-colours; the mate patiently stealing the ship's latitude and longitude with his duplicate key; and the Ancient Mariner, solacing himself with Scotch highballs, smoking fragrant three-for-a-dollar Havanas that were charged to the adventure, and for ever maundering about the hell of the longboat, the cross-bearings unnamable, and the treasure a fathom under the sand.

Came a stretch of ocean that to Daughtry was like all other stretches of ocean and unidentifiable from them. No land broke the sea-rim. The ship the centre, the horizon was the invariable and eternal circle of the world. The magnetic needle in the binnacle was the point on which the _Mary Turner_ ever pivoted. The sun rose in the undoubted east and set in the undoubted west, corrected and proved, of course, by declination, deviation, and variation; and the nightly march of the stars and constellations proceeded across the sky.

And in this stretch of ocean, lookouts were mastheaded at day-dawn and kept mastheaded until twilight of evening, when the _Mary Turner_ was hove-to, to hold her position through the night. As time went by, and the scent, according to the Ancient Mariner, grow hotter, all three of the investors in the adventure came to going aloft. Grimshaw contented himself with standing on the main crosstrees. Captain Doane climbed even higher, seating himself on the stump of the foremast with legs a-straddle of the butt of the fore-topmast. And Simon Nishikanta tore himself away from his everlasting painting of all colour-delicacies of sea and sky such as are painted by seminary maidens, to be helped and hoisted up the ratlines of the mizzen rigging, the huge bulk of him, by two grinning, slim-waisted sailors, until they lashed him squarely on the crosstrees and left him to stare with eyes of golden desire, across the sun-washed sea through the finest pair of unredeemed binoculars that had ever been pledged in his pawnshops.

"Strange," the Ancient Mariner would mutter, "strange, and most strange. This is the very place. There can be no mistake. I'd have trusted that youngster of a third officer anywhere. He was only eighteen, but he could navigate better than the captain. Didn't he fetch the atoll after eighteen days in the longboat? No standard compasses, and you know what a small-boat horizon is, with a big sea, for a sextant. He died, but the dying course he gave me held good, so that I fetched the atoll the very next day after I hove his body overboard." Next Page

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