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  ― 277 ―

A Cape Horn Christmas.

ALL hands in Yamba hut had turned in, except a couple at the end of the long rough table.

These late birds were playing euchre by the flickering light of an evil-smelling slush lamp. The cook had banked up the fire for the night, but the myall ashes still glowed redly and cast heat around. On the stone hearth stewed a bucket of tea. But for the snores of the men in the double tier of bunks ranged ship-fashion along both sides of the big hut, the frizzling of the grease in the lamp, and the muttered exclamations of the players, everything was very quiet.

‘Pass me!’

‘Make it!’

‘Hearts!’

And both men dropped their hands and sprang up in affright as a wild scream rang out from the bunk just above them.

As they gazed, a white face, wet with the sweat of fear, poked out and stared down upon them with eyes in which the late terror still lived.




  ― 278 ―

‘What the dickens is up?’ asked one, recovering from his surprise, whilst the grumbles of awakened sleepers travelled around the hut.

‘My God! what a dream! what a dream!’ exclaimed the man addressed, sticking out a pair of naked legs, and softly alighting on the earthen floor, and standing there trembling.

‘Shoo!’ said the station wit, as he turned for a fresh start; ‘it's only Jack the Sailor had the night-horse.’

But the man, crouching close to the players, and wiping his pallid face with his loose shirt sleeve, still exclaimed,—

‘What a dream! My God! What a dream!’

‘Tell us what it were all about, Jack,’ asked one of the others, handing him a pannikin of tea. ‘It oughter been bad, judgin' by the dashed skreek as you give.’

‘It was,’ said the other—a grizzled, tanned, elderly man — as he warmed his legs, and looked rather ashamed of himself. ‘But hardly enough to make such a row over as you chaps reckons I did. I was dreamin',’ he continued, speaking slowly, ‘as I was at sea again. It was on Christmas Day, an' the ship was close to Cape Horn. How I knowed that, I can't tell. But the land was in sight quite plain. Me an' another feller — I can see his ugly face yet, and sha'n't never forget it — was makin' fast one of the jibs. Presen'ly we seemed to 'ave some words out there, hot an' sharp. Then I done a thing,


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the like o' which ud never come into my mind when awake—not if I lived to the age of Methyuseler—I puts my sheath-knife into him right up to the handle.

‘The weather were heavy, an' the ship a - pitchin' bowsprit under into a head sea. Well, I was just watchin' his face turn sorter slate colour, an' him clingin' on to a gasket an' starin' hard, when she gives a dive fathoms deep.

‘When I comes up again I was in the water, an' there was the ship half-a-mile away.

‘Swimmin' an' lookin' round, I spies the other feller alongside me on top of a big comber, with the white spume all red about him.

‘Nex' minute, down he comes, an' I feels his two hands a-grippin' me tight by the throat. I expect's it was then I sung out an' woke myself,’ and the man shivered as he gazed intently into the heart of the glowing myall ashes.

‘Well, Jack Ashby,’ said one of his hearers, gathering up the scattered cards, ‘it wasn't a nice dream. If I was you I should take it as a warnin' never to go a-sailorin' no more. Never was at the game myself, and don't want to be. There can't be much in it, though, when just the very thoughts o' what's never 'appened, an' what's never a-goin' to 'appen, is able to give a chap such a start as you got.’

‘Ugh!’ exclaimed the sailor, getting up and shaking himself as he climbed into his bunk. ‘No, I'll never go back to sea again!’




  ― 280 ―

But, in course of time, Jack Ashby became tired of station life—became tired of the everlasting drudgery of the rouseabout, the burr-cutting, lamb-catching, and all the rest of it.

He had no more dreams of the kind. But when o' nights the wind whistled around and shook the crazy old hut, he would turn restlessly in his bunk and listen for the hollow thud of the rope-coils on the deck above, the call of ‘All hands,’ the wild racket of the gale, and the hiss of stormy waters.

So his thoughts irresistibly wandered back again to the tall ships and the old shipmates, and all the magic and mystery of the great deep on whose bosom he had passed his life. He knew that he was infinitely better off where he was—better paid, better fed, better off in every respect than he could ever possibly hope to be at sea.

Battling with his longing, he contrasted the weevilly biscuits and salt junk of the fo'k'stle with the wholesome damper and fresh mutton and beef of the hut.

He thought of the ‘all night in' of undisturbed rest, contrasting it with the ‘Watch ahoy! Now then, you sleepers, turn out!’ of each successive four hours.

He thought, too, of tyrannous masters and mates; of drenched decks and leaking fo'k'stles, of frozen rigging, of dark wild nights of storm, and of swaying foot-ropes and thundrous canvas slatting like iron plates about his ears; of hunger, wet, and misery.

Long and carefully he thought of all these things, and weighed the balance for and against. Then, one morning,


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rolling up his swag hurriedly, he went straight back to them.

Even the thought of his dream had no power to stay him.

But he made a reservation to himself. Said he,—

‘No more deep water! I'll try the coast. I've heard it's good No more deep water; and, above all, no Cape Horn!’

He shipped on board a coaster, and went trips to Circular Head for potatoes; got bar-bound for weeks in eastern rivers looking for maize and fruit; sailed coal-laden, with pumps going clan-ketty-clank all down the land, and finally, after some months of this sort of work, found himself in Port Adelaide, penniless, and fresh from a gorgeous spree. Here he fell in with an old deep-water shipmate belonging to one of the vessels in harbour.

‘Come home with us, Jack,’ said his friend. ‘She ain't so bad for a limejuicer—patent reefs, watch an' watch, an' no stun's'ls for'ard. The mate's a Horse. But the ole man's right enough; an' he wants a couple o' A.B.'s.’

‘No,’ said Jack Ashby, firmly, ‘I'll never go deep water again. The coast's the ticket for this child. I've got reasons, Bill.’

And then he told his friend of the dream.

The latter did not appear at all surprised. Nor did he laugh. Sailors attach more importance to such things than do landsmen. All he said was,—

‘The Dido's a fine big ship. She's a-goin' home by


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Good Hope. Was it a ship or a barque, now, as you was on in that dream?’

‘Can't say for certain,’ replied Ashby, reflectively; ‘but, by the size o' her spars, I should reckon she'd be full-rigged. Howsomever, if ever I clap eyes on his ugly mug again—which the Lord forbid—you may bet your bottom dollar, Bill Baker, as I'll swear to that, with its big red beard, an' the tip o' the nose sliced clean off.’

‘A-a-a-h!’ said the other, staring for a minute, and then hastily finishing his pint of ‘sheoak.’ And he pressed Ashby no more to go to England in the Dido.

But the latter found it just then anything but easy to get another berth in a coaster. Also he was in debt to his boarding-house; and, altogether, it seemed as if presently he would have to take the very first thing that offered, o' be ‘chucked out.’

‘Two A.B.'s wanted for the Dido,’ roared the shipping master into a knot of seamen at his office door one day shortly after Jack and his old shipmate had foregathered at the ‘Lass o' Gowrie.’ And the former, feeling very uncomfortable, and as a man between the Devil and the Deep Sea, signed articles.

His one solitary consolation was that the Dido was not bound round Cape Horn. He cared for none other of the world's promontories. Also, as he cheered up a little, it came into his mind that it would be rather pleasant than otherwise once more to have a run down Ratcliffe Highway, a lark with the girls in Tiger Bay, and a look-in at the old penny gaff in Whitechapel.


  ― 283 ―
But the main point was that there was no Cape Horn. Had not Bill Baker told him so? ‘Falmouth and the United Kingdom,’ said the Articles. Certainly there was no particular route mentioned. But who should know if Bill Baker did not?

But all too surely had the thing that men call Fate laid fast hold on the Dreamer. And the boarding-house-keeper cashed his advance note—returning nothing—and carted him to the Dido, and left him stretched out on the fo'k'stle floor, not knowing or caring where he was, or who he was, or where he was going, and oblivious of all things under the sun.

Nor did he show on deck again until, in the grey of next morning, a man with a great red beard and a flat nose looked into his bunk and called him obscene names, and bade him jump aloft and loose the fore-topsail, or he would let him know what shirking meant on board of the Dido.

‘This is a bad beginning,’ thought Jack Ashby, as, with trembling body and splitting head, he unsteadily climbed the rigging, listening as one buy yet half awake to the clank of the windlass pawls and the roaring chorus of the men at the brakes. ‘That's the feller, sure enough!’ he gasped, as, winded, he dragged himself into the fore-top. ‘I'd swear to him anywhere. Thank the Lord we ain't goin' round the Horn! I wonder if he knowed me? He's the mate. An' Bill was right; he is a Horse. Damn deep water!’

‘Now then, fore-top, there, shift your pins or I'll haze you,’ came up in a bellow from the deck, making poor


  ― 284 ―
Jack jump again as he stared ruefully down at the fierce upturned face, its red beard forking out like a new swab.

‘Thank the Lord, we ain't goin' round the Horn!’ said Jack Ashby, as, with tremulous fingers, he loosened the gaskets and let the stiff folds of canvas fall, and sang out to sheet home.

Down the Gulf with a fair wind rattled the Dido, through Investigator Straits and out into the Southern Ocean, whilst Jack cast a regretful look at the lessening line of distant blue, and exclaimed once more,—

‘Damn deep water!’

That evening the officers spin a coin, and proceed to pick their respective watches.

To his disgust, Jack is the very first man chosen by the fierce chief mate, who has won the toss, and who at once says,—

‘Go below the port watch!’—his own.

It is blowing a fresh breeze when he comes on deck again at eight bells. It is his wheel. He finds his friend Bill Baker there.

‘East by sowthe,’ says Bill emphatically, giving him a pitying look, and walking for'ard.

‘East by sowthe it is,’ replies Jack, mechanically.

Then, as he somewhat nervously, after the long absence, eyes the white bobbing disc in the binnacle, and squints aloft at the dark piles of canvas, it suddenly bursts upon him. Whilst he has been asleep the wind has shifted into the west. It blows now as if it meant to stay there. They are bound round Cape Horn after all.

Mind your hellum, you booby,’ roars the mate, just


  ― 285 ―
come on deck. ‘Where are you going to with the ship—back to Adelaide? I'll keep an eye on you, my lad,’ lurching aft, and glancing first at Jack's face and then at the compass.

Truth to tell, the latter had been so flustered that he had let the Dido come up two or three points off her course. But he soon got her nose straight again, with, for the first time, a feeling of hot satisfaction at his heart that, upon a day not far distant, he and the man with the red beard, and tip off his nose might, if there was any truth in dreams, be quits. Be sure that, by this Jack's story was well known for'ard of the foremast. Bill Baker's tongue had not been idle, and, although a few scoffed, more believed, and waited expectantly.

‘There's more in dreams than most people thinks for,’ remarked an old sailor in the starboard watch, shaking his head sagely. ‘The first part o' Jack's has comed true. If I was Mister Horse I'd go a bit easy, an' not haze the chap about the way he's a doing of.’

But the chief officer seemed to have taken an unaccountable dislike to Ashby from the moment he had first seen him. And this dislike he showed in every conceivable way until he nearly drove the poor chap frantic.

At sea an evil-minded man in authority can do things of this sort with impunity. The process is called ‘hazing.’ The sufferer gets all the dirtiest and most disagreeable of the many such jobs to be found on shipboard. He is singled out from his fellows of the watch and sent aloft with tarry wads to hang on to a stay by his eyelashes.


  ― 286 ―
Or he is set to scraping masts, or greasing down, or slung outboard on a stage scrubbing paintwork, where every roll submerges him neck high, whilst his more fortunate companions are loafing about the decks.

If the hazed one openly rebels, and gives his persecutor a good thrashing, he is promptly ‘logged,’ perhaps ironed, and at the end of the passage loses his pay, holding himself lucky not to have got six months in gaol for ‘mutiny on the high seas.’ There is another thing that may and does happen; and every day the crew of the Dido watched placidly for the heavy iron-clad block, or marlingspike, sharp-pointed and massive, that by pure accident should descend from some lofty nook and brain or transfix their first officer—the Horse, as unmindful of the qualities of that noble animal, they had named him. But Jack Ashby never thought of such a thing. Nor did he take any notice of friendly hints from his mates—also sufferers, but in a less degree—that the best of spike lanyards would wear out by constant use, and that the best-fitted block-strops would at times fail to hold.

Jack's mind was far too much occupied by the approaching test to which his dream was to be subjected to bother about compassing a lesser revenge that might only end in maiming.

He, by this, fully believed things were going to turn out exactly as he had seen them that night in Yamba men's but in the far-away Australian Bush. Therefore he looked upon himself and his tyrant as lost men.

At times, even, he caught himself regarding the first


  ― 287 ―
officer with an emotion of curious pity, as one whose doom was so near and yet so unexpected. And, by degrees, the men, recognising this attitude of his, and sympathising heartily with it in different fashions, and different degrees of credulity, forbore further advice, and waited with what patience they might.

It was getting well on towards Christmas.

I no more wished to go to London viâ Cape Horn than did John Ashby. But my reasons were altogether different.

When I had engaged a saloon passage on the Dido it was an understood thing that she would take the other Cape for it. But a short four hours' fight against a westerly wind so sickened the captain that he put his helm up, and squared his yards, and shaped a course that would bring him closer to Staten Island than to Simon's Bay.

It was some time before I had any conception of how things stood for'ard, with respect at least to the subject of this story.

I saw, of course, that the chief officer was a bully, and that he was heartily disliked by the men. But of Jack Ashby and his dream I knew nothing. Nor, until my attention was especially drawn to it, did I perceive that he was undergoing the hazing process.

As the only passenger, and one who had paid his footing liberally, I was often on the fo'k'stle and in other parts of the ship supposed to belong peculiarly to the men.




  ― 288 ―

Thus, one night, happening to be having a smoke on the top-gallant fo'k'stle, underneath which lay the quarters of the crew, I sat down on the anchor stock, and watched the cold-looking seas rolling up from the Antarctic Circle, and exchanging at intervals a word with the look-out man as he stumped across from rail to rail.

Close beside me was a small scuttle, with the sliding-lid of it pushed back.

I had scarcely lit my pipe when up through this, making me nearly drop it from my mouth, came a long, sharp scream as one in dire agony.

‘What's the matter down there?’ shouted my companion, falling on his knees and craning his head over the coamings of the hatch.

Without waiting for an answer, we both bolted on to the main deck and into the fo'k'stle, where could be heard broken murmurs and growlings from the sleepy watch who filled the double tier of open bunks running with the sheer of the ship right into the eyes of her.

And on one of these, as I struck a match and lit the swinging slush lamp, and glanced around me, I saw a man sitting, his bare legs dangling over the side. Down his pale face ran great drops of sweat, and his eyes were staring, glassy, and fixed. One or two of his mates tumbled out; others poked their heads over the bunk-boards and swore that it couldn't be eight bells already. But the man still gazed over and beyond us with that horrible stare in his dilated eyes, and when I laid my hand on him


  ― 289 ―
he was rigid. Then one who, in place of drinking his ‘tot’ of rum that night, had treasured it up for another time, produced it; and, laying the man back, and forcing open the clenched teeth, we got some of it down his throat; and presently he came to himself and sat up.

His first words were,—

‘I've had it again! Just the same—the mate an me!’ Then, with a look around, ‘I'm sorry to have roused ye up, mates. I'm all right now.’ Then, to myself, ‘How long afore we're off the Horn, sir?’

‘About a week if the wind holds. Why?’

‘Because,’ replied he, lying back and rolling over in his blankets, ‘I've got a week longer to live.’

‘That was Jack Ashby, an' he's had his dream again,’ said the lookout man in an awed voice as we hurried on deck, fearful of wandering bergs.

Then (his name was Baker) he told me the whole story, and, in spite of my utter incredulity, I became interested, and, having little to do, watched closely the progress of the expected drama.

Also, after that night, I had many a talk with Ashby I found him a man rather above the average run of his class, and one open to reason and argument; nor, on the whole, very superstitious. But on the subject of his vision he was immovable.

‘You saw the land in your dreams, did you not?’ I once asked.

‘Yes, sir,’ replied he. ‘Big cliffs, not more 'n a mile


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away.’ and he described its appearance, and the position of the vessel.

‘Well, then,’ I said, ‘it may interest you to know that the skipper intends to keep well to the south'ard, and that we're more likely to sight the Shetlands than the Horn.’

But he only shook his head and smiled faintly as he replied,—

‘He was goin' home by Good Hope, sir. But he didn't. What the skipper means to do, an' what the Lord wills is two very different things. My time's gettin' short; but we'll both go together—him an' me. I don't reckon as there 'll be any hazin' to speak of in the next world. P'r'aps it's best as it is. If I wasn't sure an' certain o' what's comin', I'd have killed him long ago. But,’ he concluded, ‘I'm ready. I've been showed how it's ordained to happen; an’, so long as I've the company I want, I don't care.’

During these days, impressed, somehow, by the feeling of intense expectation that pervaded all hands for'ard, I took more notice of Mr Harris, the mate, than I had hitherto done.

‘He was no favourite of mine, and, beyond passing the time of day, we had found very little to say to each other.

And now, although scouting the idea of anything being about to happen to the man, I watched him and listened to him with curiosity.

Certainly he was an ill-favoured customer. Besides being plentifully pitted with smallpox over what of his


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face was visible through the red tangle of hair and beard, the fleshy tip of his nose had been sliced clean off, leaving a nasty-looking, flat, red scar.

This, he said, was the work of a Malay Kreese, whilst ashore at Samarang on a drunken spree. But the captain once told me confidentially that common report around Limehouse and the Docks attributed the mishap to Mrs Harris and a carving-knife.

Be this as it may, he was a bad-tempered, overbearing brute, although, I believe, a good seaman.

At meal times he rarely spoke, but, gulping his food down, left the table as quickly as possible.

The captain, who occupied the whole of his time in making models of a new style of condenser, for which he had taken out a patent, but by no means could get to work properly, never interfered with his first officer, but left the ship entirely in his charge.

No thought of approaching evil appeared to trouble Mr Harris, and he became, if possible, more tyrannical in his behaviour towards the crew, Ashby in particular. Truly wonderful is it how much hazing Mercantile Jack will stand before having recourse to the limited amount of comparatively safe reprisal that a heavy object and a high altitude endows him with!

But the Jacks of the Dido were waiting, with more or less of faith, the fulfilment of their shipmate's dream.

It was on the 23d of December—which, by the way, was also the extra day we gained—that the strong westerlies, after serving us so well, began to haul to the south'ard.




  ― 292 ―

‘You'll see the Horn after all,’ remarked the captain to me that morning. ‘Two years ago I was becalmed close to it. But I scarcely think that such a thing will happen this time,’ and off he went to his condenser.

It was bitterly cold, and the sharp wind from the ice-fields cut like a knife. The water was like green glass for the colour and clearness of it, the sky speckless, and as bitter looking as the water. Gradually freshening, and hauling still to the south, the wind at length made it necessary to shorten some of the plain sail the Dido had carried right across. On the 24th land was sighted, and the captain, coming on deck with his pockets full of tools and little tin things, told us that it was Cape Horn.

The fo'k'stle head was crowded with men, one minute all gazing at the land, the next staring aft.

‘What the deuce are those fellows garping at?’ growled the mate, walking for'ard.

Whereupon the watchers scattered.

Looking behind me, I saw that Jack Ashby was at the wheel.

He smiled as his eye caught mine, and pointed one mittened hand at the chief officer's back. I looked at the land, and began for the first time, to feel doubtful.

Coming on deck that Christmas morning, I rubbed my eyes before being able to take in the desolation of the scene, and make sure that I was indeed on board the Dido.




  ― 293 ―

The ship looked as if she had been storm-driven across the whole Southern Ocean, and then mopped all over with a heavy rain-squall.

The wet decks, the naked spars, the two top-sails tucked up to a treble reef, and seeming mere strips of canvas, grey with damp, the raffle of gear lying about, with here and there a man over his knees in water slowly coiling it up, hanging on meanwhile by one hand, combined, with the lowering sky and leaden sea, to make up a gloomy picture indeed. The ship was nearly close-hauled, and a big lump of a head-sea on, with which she was doing her level, or rather, most unlevel, best to fill her decks fore and aft.

I oad on the port bow loomed the land—great cliffs, stern and ragged—at whose base, through the thin mist that was softly drizzling, could be seen a broad white belt o' broken water.

‘Cape Horn weather!’ quoth the captain at my elbow.

He was swathed in oilskins, and squinting rather anxiously at the sky.

‘The glass is falling,’ he continued; ‘but there's more southing in the wind. Might give us a slant presently through the Straits of Le Maire.’

And with that, pulling out a bit of the condenser, and looking lovingly at it, he went below. The mate was standing near, staring hard at the land. It might have been the shadow of the sou'-wester on his face, but I thought he appeared even more surly and forbidding than ever.




  ― 294 ―

Of course it was a holiday. During the last four hours both watches had been on deck shortening sail. After clearing up the washing raffle of ropes, and leaving a man at the wheel and another on the lookout, they were free to go into the fo'k'stle, and smoke or sleep, as they pleased.

Dinner—a curious acrobatic feat that Christmas day in the Dido's cabin—over, I donned waterproofs and sea-boots, and, putting four bottles of rum in a handbag, which I slung over my shoulder, I stepped across the washboards and made for the fo'k'stle.

Creeping from hold to hold along the weather bulwarks, at times up to my waist in water, I wondered how any ship could pitch as the Dido was doing and yet live.

One moment, looking aft, you would imagine that the man at the wheel was about to fall on your head; the next that the jibbooms were a fourth mast; whilst incessantly poured such foaming torrents over her fo'k'stle that, as I slowly approached, I seriously doubted of getting in safely with my precious freight. Luckily, the men were watching me, and a couple, running out, caught hold of my hands, roaring in my ear,—

‘Run, sir, when she lifts again!’

And, making a dash for it, we got through the doorless entrance just in time to escape another avalanche.

I found the fo'k'stle awash, chests and bags lashed into lower bunks, and the greater part of both watches sitting on the upper ones, smoking, and eyeing the


  ― 295 ―
cold sparking water as it rushed to and fro their habitation.

My arrival, or rather, perhaps, my cargo, was hailed with acclamation.

The captain certainly had sent them a couple of dozen of porter. But, as one explained,—

‘What's the good of sich rubbishin' swankey as that when a feller wants somethin' as 'll warm 'is innards this weather?’

‘Where's Ashby?’ I asked, hoisting on to a bunk amongst the crowd.

‘Here I am, sir,’ replied a voice close to in the dimness.

‘Well,’ I said, cheerily, ‘what did I tell you? Here's Christmas Day well on for through, everything snug—if damp—and nothing happening. Give him a stiff nip, one of you, and let us drink to better times, and no more nonsense. Once we're round the corner, yonder, this trip will soon be over.’

‘Thank you kindly, sir,’ replied Ashby, as he emptied the pannikin, which was being so carefully passed around by the one appointed, who, holding on like grim death, after every poured-out portion, held the bottle up to the light to see how the contents were faring. ‘Thank you kindly, sir,’ said he. ‘But Christmas Day isn't done yet.’

Even as he spoke, a form clad in glistening oilskins came through the water-curtain that was roaring over the break of the fo'k'stle, and, leaning upon the windlass. sang out,—




  ― 296 ―

‘You there, Ashby?’

‘Ay, ay, sir,’ replied the seaman.

‘Lie out, then,’ continued the mate, for he it was, ‘and put another gasket around that inner jib! It's coming adrift! Bear a hand, now!’

The ship for a minute seemed to stand quite still, as if waiting to hear the answer, and each man turned to look at his neighbour.

Then Ashby, jumping down, with a curious set expression on his face, walked up to the mate and said very loud,—

‘Don't send a man where you'd be frightened to go yourself.’

‘You infernal soger!’ shouted the other, enraged beyond measure at this first sign of rebellion in his victim. ‘Come out here and I'll show you all about that! Come out and crawl after me, and I'll learn you how to do your work!’

He disappeared, and Ashby followed him like a flash. In a trice every soul was outside—some clinging to the running gear around the foremast, others on the galley, others in the fore rigging.

I could see no sign of any of the head sails being adrift. All, except the set fore-topmast stay-sail, lay on their booms, masses of sodden canvas, off which poured green cataracts as the Dido lifted her nose from a mighty plunge.

For a minute or two, so dense was the smother for'ard of the windlass bits, that nothing was visible but foam. But, presently, as the Dido paused, weaving her head


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backwards and forwards as if choosing a good spot for her next dive, we saw, clear of everything, and high in air fronting us, the two men.

One was on the boom, the other on the foot-rope. The topmost man seemed to be hitting rapidly at the one below him, who strove with uplifted arm to shield himself.

Perhaps for half a minute this lasted. Then the ship gave her headlong plunge, the crest of a great wave met the descending bows, and when the bitter spray cleared out of our eyes again the lower figure was missing.

From the other, overhanging us, a black streak against the sullen sky, came what sounded like a faint cheer. There was a rapid throwing motion of the arm released from the supporting stay, followed by clink of steel on the roof of the galley. Then came once more the roaring plunge, and slow upheaval as of a creature mortally wounded.

But, this time, the booms were vacant, and a man beside me was curiously examining a sheath-knife, bloody from point of blade to tip of wooden handle.

Louder shrieked the gale through the strained rigging, and more heavily beat the thundrous seas against the Dido's sides, as, breathless, drenched and horrified, I staggered into the captain's state-room.

‘I think I've got it now,’ said he, smiling, and holding up a thing like a tin saucepan.

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