First Page Project Gutenberg Header Page 78 of 193 Next Page Last Page CHAPTER XVI - Michael, Brother of Jerry


Two days later, as the steamer _Mariposa_ plied her customary route between Tahiti and San Francisco, the passengers ceased playing deck quoits, abandoned their card games in the smoker, their novels and deck chairs, and crowded the rail to stare at the small boat that skimmed to them across the sea before a light following breeze. When Big John, aided by Ah Moy and Kwaque, lowered the sail and unstepped the mast, titters and laughter arose from the passengers. It was contrary to all their preconceptions of mid-ocean rescue of ship-wrecked mariners from the open boat.

It caught their fancy that this boat was the Ark, what of its freightage of bedding, dry goods boxes, beer-cases, a cat, two dogs, a white cockatoo, a Chinaman, a kinky-headed black, a gangly pallid-haired giant, a grizzled Dag Daughtry, and an Ancient Mariner who looked every inch the part. Him a facetious, vacationing architect's clerk dubbed Noah, and so greeted him.

"I say, Noah," he called. "Some flood, eh? Located Ararat yet?"

"Catch any fish?" bawled another youngster down over the rail.

"Gracious! Look at the beer! Good English beer! Put me down for a case!"

Never was a more popular wrecked crew more merrily rescued at sea. The young blades would have it that none other than old Noah himself had come on board with the remnants of the Lost Tribes, and to elderly female passengers spun hair-raising accounts of the sinking of an entire tropic island by volcanic and earthquake action.

"I'm a steward," Dag Daughtry told the _Mariposa's_ captain, "and I'll be glad and grateful to berth along with your stewards in the glory-hole. Big John there's a sailorman, an' the fo'c's'le 'll do him. The Chink is a ship's cook, and the nigger belongs to me. But Mr. Greenleaf, sir, is a gentleman, and the best of cabin fare and staterooms'll be none too good for him, sir."

And when the news went around that these were part of the survivors of the three-masted schooner, _Mary Turner_, smashed into kindling wood and sunk by a whale, the elderly females no more believed than had they the yarn of the sunken island.

"Captain Hayward," one of them demanded of the steamer's skipper, "could a whale sink the _Mariposa_?"

"She has never been so sunk," was his reply.

"I knew it!" she declared emphatically. "It's not the way of ships to go around being sunk by whales, is it, captain?"

"No, madam, I assure you it is not," was his response. "Nevertheless, all the five men insist upon it."

"Sailors are notorious for their unveracity, are they not?" the lady voiced her flat conclusion in the form of a tentative query.

"Worst liars I ever saw, madam. Do you know, after forty years at sea, I couldn't believe myself under oath."

* * * * *

Nine days later the _Mariposa_ threaded the Golden Gate and docked at San Francisco. Humorous half-columns in the local papers, written in the customary silly way by unlicked cub reporters just out of grammar school, tickled the fancy of San Francisco for a fleeting moment in that the steamship _Mariposa_ had rescued some sea-waifs possessed of a cock-and- bull story that not even the reporters believed. Thus, silly reportorial unveracity usually proves extraordinary truth a liar. It is the way of cub reporters, city newspapers, and flat-floor populations which get their thrills from moving pictures and for which the real world and all its spaciousness does not exist. Next Page

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Charles-Louis de Secondat Montesquieu