Instantly before me came Munkacsy’s picture of the Master before Pilate, evoked by the profanity of the wharf boss, but explaining the vision of a moment ago. The Noa-Noa emitted a cry from her iron throat. The engines started, and the distance between our deck and the pier grew as our bow swung toward the Golden Gate. The strange man who had been put ashore, with his one sandal in his hand, and holding his torn toga about him, hastened to the nearest stringer of the wharf and waved good-by to us. It was as if a prophet, or even Saul of Tarsus, blessed us in our quest. He stood on a tall group of piles, and called out something indistinguishable.
The passengers hurried below, to return in coats and caps to meet the wind that blows from China, and the second officer and the surgeon came by, talking animatedly.
“Oh, yus,” said the seaman, chuckling, “’e wuz ’auled out finally. The beggar ’ad ’id ’imself good and proper this time. ’E wuz in the linen-closet, and ’ad disguised ‘imself as a bundle o’ bloomin’ barth-towels. ’E wuz a reg’lar grand Turk, ’e wuz. Blow me, if you’d ‘a’ knowed ’im from a bale of ’em, ’e wuz so wrapped up in ’em. ’E almost ’ad us ’ull down this time. The blighter made a bit of a row, and said as ’ow he just could n’t ‘elp stowin’ aw’y every boat for T’iti.”
“He’s a bally nut,” said the surgeon. “I say, though, he did take me back to Sunday school.”
I recalled a man who walked the streets of San Francisco carrying a small sign in his upraised hand, “Christ has come!” He looked neither to the right nor the left, but bore his curious announcement among the crowds downtown, which smiled jestingly at him, or looked frightened at the message. If many had believed him, the panic would have been illimitable. He was dressed in a brown cassock, and looked like the blue-eyed man who had been refused passage to my destination. Probably, that American in the toga and sandals, exiled from the island he loved so well, had a message for the Tahitians or others of the Polynesian tribes of the South Seas; Essenism, maybe, or something to do with virginal beards and long hair, or sandals and the simple life. I wished he were with us.
We were in the Golden Gate now, that magnificent opening in the California shores, riven in the eternal conflict of land and water, and the rending of which made the bay of San Francisco the mightiest harbor of America. Before our bows lay the immense expanse of the mysterious Pacific.
The second officer was directing sailors who were snugging down the decks.
“What did the queer fellow want to go to Tahiti for?” I asked him.
He regarded me a moment in the stolid way of seamen.
“The blighter likes to live on bananas and breadfruit and that kind of truck,” he replied. “The French won’t let ’im st’y there. ’E’s too bloomin’ nyked. ’E’s a nyture man. They chysed ’im out, and every steamer ’e tries to stow ’imself aw’y. ‘E’s a bleedin’ trial to these ships.”