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datatime: 2022-07-04 17:34:21 Author:Liberation network

I hadn’t time to answer him—besides I couldn’t, I was all shook up like; but while I was trying to get my thinking-gear in order, there was a bang, all the sufferers yelled at once, and then all was quiet. Both the mate and myself sprang into the arena, fully expecting to find all the actors dead, but, bless you, they were all laying round looking as if they’d been having no end of a spree. All except the monkey, that is. He was a very unhandsome little corpse, and I picked him up by the tail to throw him overboard, getting a shock through my right arm that took all the use out of it for quite a while. Presently the fellows began to get up one by one and slink away forrard, still with that half-drunk smile on their heads, but when we came to the skipper, although he wore a wide smile too, he hadn’t any get up about him. Not he. He lay there as comfy as you please, taking no notice of anything we said, or any heed of the deliberate way in which the mate was pushing the remains of his machinery out through the gaping port with a broom. We couldn’t move him. He was just charged jam full of electricity, and one of the men who did touch him let a yell out of him fit to call D. Jones, Esq., up from below, but it didn’t change the skipper’s happy look one fragment. Well, he laid there all night alongside of the steward, and in the morning he gets up just before wash-deck time, and, says he, Mr. Roper, I shan’t give any more scientific exhibitions this trip; I think they’re immoral. With that he hobbled into his cabin, and we saw no more of him for a week. When we did, you couldn’t have got a grain140 of science out of him with a small-tooth comb, and the mate looked as glad as if he’d been appointed Lord High Admiral. And from thenceforward she was, as I had at first imagined she would be, the most comfortable vessel I ever sailed in.

Harmless Well, of all the—�?Good heavens,131 man, you hain’t the least idea—but, there, what’s the use er talkin�? Better letcher wait ’n see fer yerself. Come on up onter the poop ’n git a whiff er fresh Calcutta mixtcher, dreadful refreshin�? ain’t it?

I stared in utter amazement at a most extraordinary collection of queer looking instruments, models, retorts, crucibles, and specimen glasses, turning round after completing my scrutiny, and gazing into the mate’s face without speaking.

I stared in utter amazement at a most extraordinary collection of queer looking instruments, models, retorts, crucibles, and specimen glasses, turning round after completing my scrutiny, and gazing into the mate’s face without speaking.

Indeed, yes, growled the mate; but I’ll bet you a month’s wages you won’t say ‘indeed�?like that when we’ve ben to sea a few days. I’ll tell you what it is, I’ve been with some rum pups of skippers in my time, but this one scoops the pot. He’s a good enough sailor man, too. But as fer his condemn science—well, he thinks he’s the whole Royle Serciety an�?Trinity House biled down into one, an�?I’m damfee knows enough to come in when it rains. He’s just worryin me bald-headed, that’s what he is. Why, if it wasn’t fer the good hash and bein�?able to do pretty much as I mind to with the ship, I’d a ben a jibbin mainyac ’fore now, I’m dead shore o�?that. Looky here, and he sprang up and flung a state-room door wide open, djever see anythin�?like that outen a mewseeum?

All preparations complete, we unmoored, and in tow of the Court Hey proceeded majestically down the Hooghly, waking all the echoes and scaring the numberless pigeons of the King of Oude’s palace with the exultant strains of Sally Brown. One of those majestic creatures, the Calcutta pilots, paced the poop in awful state, alone, the skipper being nowhere visible. Presently, my lord the pilot, feeling slightly fatigued, I suppose, threw himself into the old man’s favourite chair, an elaborately cushioned affair of peculiar shape and almost as long as a sofa. No sooner had he done so than, with a most amazing movement, the whole fabric changed its shape, and became one of the most bewildering entanglements conceivable, gripping the astounded pilot in so many places at once that he was in imminent danger of being throttled. I rushed to his assistance, and exerted all my strength to set him free, but my energetic efforts only seemed to hamper him more, and fearing lest I should break him all to pieces, I rushed below for the skipper. That gentleman was busy in his laboratory, making carburetted hydrogen, I should judge, from the feel of the smell, as the Scotch say, but in answer to my agitated call he emerged, serene and bland, to inquire my business. Faith, I could hardly tell him, what with the reek, my haste, and the anxiety I felt. Somehow I managed to135 convey to him that the pilot was being done to death in his chair, and as I did so I noticed (or thought I did) a momentary gleam of satisfaction in his starboard eye. But he mounted the companion, and gliding to the spot where the unhappy man, voiceless and black in the face, was struggling, he stooped, touched a spring, and that infernal chair fell out flat like a board. I stooped to assist the victim, but, unluckily for me, he sprang to his feet at the same moment, and his head catching me under the chin, I had urgent business of my own to attend to for some little time. When I got quite well again, I heard conversation. In fact I might almost say the coolies in the jungle heard it. The pilot was expressing his opinion upon his recent experience, and from his manner I concluded that he was annoyed. When at last he had finished, and the lingering echoes had died away, the old man, looking as happy as a lamb, offered to show him the beauty and ingenuity of the mechanism. But the pilot merely suggested that the only sight that could interest him just then would be the old man dangling by the neck at the cro’jack yard-arm, with that something (I didn’t quite catch the adjective) chair jammed on to his legs. And then the unreasonable man walked forward, leaving the skipper looking after him with a puzzled, yearning expression upon his pleasant face. Perhaps it is hardly necessary to say that thenceforward relations between the pilot and the captain were somewhat strained. At any rate, the former potentate refused to come below, taking his meals on deck with an air as of a man whose life was at the mercy of irresponsible136 beings, and when at last we hauled up at the mouth of the river for the pilot brig to send a boat for our pilot, he left the ship looking supremely relieved. To the skipper’s outstretched hand he was blind, and to that gentleman’s kindly good-bye he said naught but thank God, I’m safe out of your ship. Away he went, never once looking back to where we were busily setting sail for the long homeward passage.

Ah, replied the skipper, with a placid smile, he’s a bit startled I see. He trod on the plate of my new battery, and got a slight shock, I think. But where’s his close?

It was a lovely evening, the sails just drawing to a steady air, while the sea was so smooth that the vessel was almost as motionless as if in dock. As it was my watch on deck, I mounted the poop, glanced at the standard compass, cast my eye aloft to see that all was as it should be, and then turned my gaze with intense interest upon the scene below. And what a scene it was to be sure. All hands were glaring upon the high priest of the mysteries as if mesmerised, every expression gone from their faces but that of painful anxiety to know what was going to happen. The skipper was as busy as two people about his wheels and things, and the unhappy steward like an image of fear obeyed mechanically the various commands of his dread master. At last a whirring sound was heard like the humming of some huge imprisoned bee, and to this accompaniment the skipper took up his parable and proceeded to talk. I frankly confess that I know no more what he said than I should have done had he138 been speaking in Sanskrit, and I am perfectly sure that none of his audience were in any better case. Indeed, from what I could see of their faces, I believe every other sense was merged in the full expectation of an explosion, and they couldn’t have taken their strained eyes off the buzzing gadget in their midst for any consideration whatever. Suddenly a dark shadow glided across the patch of deck behind the skipper, which I recognized as a monkey belonging to one of the crew. It reached the machine, and then——What really happened nobody is ever likely to know, for in a moment there was a shriek, a perfect shower of blue sparks and a writhing, kicking, biting heap of skipper, monkey, and steward. Some of the fellows, acting upon impulse, forgot their fears and rushed to the rescue, but only succeeded in adding to the infernal riot, as they too became involved in the mysterious calamity. Others, wiser in their generation, fled forward to the fo’c’sle, from whence they gradually crept aft again near enough to watch in safety the devil’s dance that was going on. I looked on in a sort of coma of all the faculties, until the mate touched me on the shoulder, and said in a sepulchral voice�?

He was peering at me curiously, and presently said, interrogatively, Well?

All preparations complete, we unmoored, and in tow of the Court Hey proceeded majestically down the Hooghly, waking all the echoes and scaring the numberless pigeons of the King of Oude’s palace with the exultant strains of Sally Brown. One of those majestic creatures, the Calcutta pilots, paced the poop in awful state, alone, the skipper being nowhere visible. Presently, my lord the pilot, feeling slightly fatigued, I suppose, threw himself into the old man’s favourite chair, an elaborately cushioned affair of peculiar shape and almost as long as a sofa. No sooner had he done so than, with a most amazing movement, the whole fabric changed its shape, and became one of the most bewildering entanglements conceivable, gripping the astounded pilot in so many places at once that he was in imminent danger of being throttled. I rushed to his assistance, and exerted all my strength to set him free, but my energetic efforts only seemed to hamper him more, and fearing lest I should break him all to pieces, I rushed below for the skipper. That gentleman was busy in his laboratory, making carburetted hydrogen, I should judge, from the feel of the smell, as the Scotch say, but in answer to my agitated call he emerged, serene and bland, to inquire my business. Faith, I could hardly tell him, what with the reek, my haste, and the anxiety I felt. Somehow I managed to135 convey to him that the pilot was being done to death in his chair, and as I did so I noticed (or thought I did) a momentary gleam of satisfaction in his starboard eye. But he mounted the companion, and gliding to the spot where the unhappy man, voiceless and black in the face, was struggling, he stooped, touched a spring, and that infernal chair fell out flat like a board. I stooped to assist the victim, but, unluckily for me, he sprang to his feet at the same moment, and his head catching me under the chin, I had urgent business of my own to attend to for some little time. When I got quite well again, I heard conversation. In fact I might almost say the coolies in the jungle heard it. The pilot was expressing his opinion upon his recent experience, and from his manner I concluded that he was annoyed. When at last he had finished, and the lingering echoes had died away, the old man, looking as happy as a lamb, offered to show him the beauty and ingenuity of the mechanism. But the pilot merely suggested that the only sight that could interest him just then would be the old man dangling by the neck at the cro’jack yard-arm, with that something (I didn’t quite catch the adjective) chair jammed on to his legs. And then the unreasonable man walked forward, leaving the skipper looking after him with a puzzled, yearning expression upon his pleasant face. Perhaps it is hardly necessary to say that thenceforward relations between the pilot and the captain were somewhat strained. At any rate, the former potentate refused to come below, taking his meals on deck with an air as of a man whose life was at the mercy of irresponsible136 beings, and when at last we hauled up at the mouth of the river for the pilot brig to send a boat for our pilot, he left the ship looking supremely relieved. To the skipper’s outstretched hand he was blind, and to that gentleman’s kindly good-bye he said naught but thank God, I’m safe out of your ship. Away he went, never once looking back to where we were busily setting sail for the long homeward passage.

As he looked at me like a man who has just divulged130 some tremendous secret, I was more than a little puzzled what to say in reply, so I looked deeply interested, and murmured, Indeed.

Good morning, Mr. Martin, said the skipper, for it was himself, did you see where that heathen landed?

Now, Mr. Roper, djever strike anythin�?o�?this kind before. Ain’t it scientific? Ain’t he a holy terror at science? What I’d like ter know is, where do I come on in this Gypshun Hall business? Damfime goin�?ter be blame well paralyzed, or whatever it is, for all the skippers erflote, n�?yet—n�?yet; I don’t like ter see sech ungodly carryins on aboard of any ship I’m mate of.

Good morning, Mr. Martin, said the skipper, for it was himself, did you see where that heathen landed?

Dinghy-wallah, sab, waitin�?for speaky gentyman, sab.

He was going to say something else, but just then the steward emerged from the saloon—that is to say, he shot out as if he had been fired from a balista.132 When I saw him a few minutes before he was a suave olive-complexioned Hindoo, cat-like in his neatness, and snowy in his muslin rig. Now he was a ghastly apparition, with streaming scalp-lock and glaring eyeballs, his face a cabbage-water green, and his lank body as bare as a newly-scalded pig. Apparently incapable of flight, he crouched where he fell, salaaming with trembling hands, and chattering almost monkey-like. While the mate and I stood silently regarding him, and indignation at the poor wretch’s plight was rapidly ousting my alarm at the manner of his appearance, a mild and benevolent looking man of middle-age dressed in pyjamas appeared at the saloon door.

One evening, however, when we were drawing near the line, I came on deck at four bells to find the mate’s watch busy rigging up a sort of theatre aft. An awning had been stretched over the front of the poop, weather cloths were hung along each side, and seats arranged. As soon as I appeared, looking round me in astonishment, the mate approached me and said, th�?entertainment’s goin�?ter begin. Before I had time to question him as to his meaning, the old man emerged from the cabin loaded with sundry strange-looking137 machines, and followed by the steward bearing more. For a few minutes he was mighty busy placing his menagerie in order, and then he turned to me and said briskly, Now, Mr. Roper, I’m all ready, go forrard and invite the hands aft to the lecture. Aye, aye, sir, I answered mechanically, and departed. I found all hands outside the forecastle, evidently waiting for the summons, but looking as unlike men expecting a treat as one could possibly picture. But they all shambled aft in silence, and took their seats with eyes fixed upon the strange-looking assemblage of machinery in the centre.

’Looks as if the skipper was no end of a scientific pot, I must confess; but, after all, Mr. Martin, it’s a harmless fad enough, isn’t it?

As he looked at me like a man who has just divulged130 some tremendous secret, I was more than a little puzzled what to say in reply, so I looked deeply interested, and murmured, Indeed.

During the short stay we made in port after my joining, nothing further occurred to change the opinion I had already formed that I was in a very comfortable ship. The fellows forward seemed fairly well contented and willing. The food both fore and aft was wonderfully good, and so was the cooking, for a marvel. But that was because we had a Madrassee cook who had served an arduous apprenticeship in P. and O. boats, from which excellent service he had been driven by some amiable inability to comprehend the laws of meum and tuum. Here there was no chance for him to steal, and every inducement for him to earn a good name by pleasing his many masters. The result was singularly happy for all of us. The foremast hands were fairly divided into Britons and Scandinavians, all good seamen and quiet, well-behaved men. One thing, however, was noticeable, they all seemed nervously anxious to avoid the after part of the ship as much as possible. All seamen before the mast have an inbred sense of reverence for the quarter-deck, walking delicately thereon, and studiously keeping to the lee-side, unless compelled by duty to go to windward. But in the Ranee, whenever a man came aft for any purpose whatever, his movements were much like those of a man visiting a menagerie for the first time alone, and morbidly suspicious that some of the134 cage doors were unfastened. This behaviour was highly amusing to me, for I had never seen anything like it before, and I couldn’t help wondering how the helmsman would hang out a trick at the wheel when we got to sea.

He was peering at me curiously, and presently said, interrogatively, Well?

One evening, however, when we were drawing near the line, I came on deck at four bells to find the mate’s watch busy rigging up a sort of theatre aft. An awning had been stretched over the front of the poop, weather cloths were hung along each side, and seats arranged. As soon as I appeared, looking round me in astonishment, the mate approached me and said, th�?entertainment’s goin�?ter begin. Before I had time to question him as to his meaning, the old man emerged from the cabin loaded with sundry strange-looking137 machines, and followed by the steward bearing more. For a few minutes he was mighty busy placing his menagerie in order, and then he turned to me and said briskly, Now, Mr. Roper, I’m all ready, go forrard and invite the hands aft to the lecture. Aye, aye, sir, I answered mechanically, and departed. I found all hands outside the forecastle, evidently waiting for the summons, but looking as unlike men expecting a treat as one could possibly picture. But they all shambled aft in silence, and took their seats with eyes fixed upon the strange-looking assemblage of machinery in the centre.

A long confab succeeded to the accompaniment of many cigars and sundry pegs, but not another word about the skipper and his hobbies did the mate let slip. No; we discussed, as housewives are said to do when they meet, the shortcomings of those over whom we were put in authority, compared notes as to the merits and demerits of skippers we had served under, and generally sampled the gamut of seafaring causeries, until, with my head buzzing like a mosquito in a bottle, I gave the mate good-night, and retired to my bunk in an enviable state of satisfaction at my good fortune. Next morning I was up at coffee-time, and while sitting on the after-hatch coamings enjoying the enlivening drink and chatting with the mate, a most unearthly howl fairly made my whiskers bristle. I looked at Mr. Martin, whose face wore a sarcastic grin, but never a word spake he. Another nerve-tearing yell resounded, starting me to my feet, while I exclaimed�?

Oh yes, sir, drawled the mate, ’eer ’e is, what’s left ov ’im.

For some days everything went on greased wheels. Except for an air of mystery that overhung the ship, and which puzzled me not a little, she was the most comfortable craft I ever sailed in. The skipper scarcely ever appeared, although sundry strange noises and unpleasant odours proceeding from his laboratory were evidence all-sufficient that he was on the alert. I was somewhat aggrieved though by the mate’s sardonic grin every time he relieved me, and made the usual remark, still alive, eh? Still, as each quiet day succeeded a quieter night my wonderment became dulled, and I thought that either the mate was mistaken or that he had been trying to fool me.

You might as well stay to supper an�?keep me company, unless you’ve got to get back anywhere.

Seeing that I was expected to make some sort of a reply, I said, with a cheerful air�?

He was going to say something else, but just then the steward emerged from the saloon—that is to say, he shot out as if he had been fired from a balista.132 When I saw him a few minutes before he was a suave olive-complexioned Hindoo, cat-like in his neatness, and snowy in his muslin rig. Now he was a ghastly apparition, with streaming scalp-lock and glaring eyeballs, his face a cabbage-water green, and his lank body as bare as a newly-scalded pig. Apparently incapable of flight, he crouched where he fell, salaaming with trembling hands, and chattering almost monkey-like. While the mate and I stood silently regarding him, and indignation at the poor wretch’s plight was rapidly ousting my alarm at the manner of his appearance, a mild and benevolent looking man of middle-age dressed in pyjamas appeared at the saloon door.

Good morning, Mr. Martin, said the skipper, for it was himself, did you see where that heathen landed?

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