First Page Project Gutenberg Header Page 55 of 193 Next Page Last Page CHAPTER XIII - Michael, Brother of Jerry


Captain Doane worked hard, pursuing the sun in its daily course through the sky, by the equation of time correcting its aberrations due to the earth's swinging around the great circle of its orbit, and charting Sumner lines innumerable, working assumed latitudes for position until his head grew dizzy.

Simon Nishikanta sneered openly at what he considered the captain's inefficient navigation, and continued to paint water-colours when he was serene, and to shoot at whales, sea-birds, and all things hurtable when he was downhearted and sea-sore with disappointment at not sighting the Lion's Head peak of the Ancient Mariner's treasure island.

"I'll show I ain't a pincher," Nishikanta announced one day, after having broiled at the mast-head for five hours of sea-searching. "Captain Doane, how much could we have bought extra chronometers for in San Francisco--good second-hand ones, I mean?"

"Say a hundred dollars," the captain answered.

"Very well. And this ain't a piker's proposition. The cost of such a chronometer would have been divided between the three of us. I stand for its total cost. You just tell the sailors that I, Simon Nishikanta, will pay one hundred dollars gold money for the first one that sights land on Mr. Greenleaf's latitude and longitude."

But the sailors who swarmed the mast-heads were doomed to disappointment, in that for only two days did they have opportunity to stare the ocean surface for the reward. Nor was this due entirely to Dag Daughtry, despite the fact that his own intention and act would have been sufficient to spoil their chance for longer staring.

Down in the lazarette, under the main-cabin floor, it chanced that he took toll of the cases of beer which had been shipped for his especial benefit. He counted the cases, doubted the verdict of his senses, lighted more matches, counted again, then vainly searched the entire lazarette in the hope of finding more cases of beer stored elsewhere.

He sat down under the trap door of the main-cabin floor and thought for a solid hour. It was the Jew again, he concluded--the Jew who had been willing to equip the _Mary Turner_ with two chronometers, but not with three; the Jew who had ratified the agreement of a sufficient supply to permit Daughtry his daily six quarts. Once again the steward counted the cases to make sure. There were three. And since each case contained two dozen quarts, and since his whack each day was half a dozen quarts, it was patent that, the supply that stared him in the face would last him only twelve days. And twelve days were none too long to sail from this unidentifiable naked sea-stretch to the nearest possible port where beer could be purchased.

The steward, once his mind was made up, wasted no time. The clock marked a quarter before twelve when he climbed up out of the lazarette, replaced the trapdoor, and hurried to set the table. He served the company through the noon meal, although it was all he could do to refrain from capsizing the big tureen of split-pea soup over the head of Simon Nishikanta. What did effectually withstrain him was the knowledge of the act which in the lazarette he had already determined to perform that afternoon down in the main hold where the water-casks were stored. Next Page

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The center that I cannot find is known to my unconscious mind.
Wystan Hugh Auden