“Come aboard,” cried the mate, “and I will knock your block off.”
The whole waterfront heard the challenge. Stores were deserted to witness the imminent fight.
The dark-faced captain ascended the gang-plank, and walked to the forecastle head, where the mate was directing the making taut a line.
“Now,” said the skipper, a foot from the mate, “knock!”
The mate hesitated. That would be a crime; he would go to jail and the captain would be delighted.
The master taunted him:
“Knock my block off! Touch my block, and I’ll whip you so your mother wouldn’t know you, you dirty, drunken, son of a sea-cook!”
The mate looked at him angrily, but uncertainly. He heard the laughter and the cheers of the bystanders on the quay and in the embowered street. He looked down at the deck, and he caught sight of a capstan-bar, which he gazed at longingly. Any blow would send him to prison, but why not for a sheep instead of a lamb?
He hesitated, and lifted his eyes to the black brow of the skipper, lowering within touch.
“Make fast your line about that cannon!” said the master, sharply.
The sailors waited joyfully for the fray, and the Raratonga stevedores on other vessels stopped their work. But nothing happened.
“Aye, aye, sir,” said the mate, and shouted the order to the men ashore. The captain regarded him balefully, muttered a few words, and returned to the club for a Dr. Funk. That medical man ranked here above Colonel Rickey, who invented the gin-rickey in America.
Herr Funk was better known in the Cercle Bougainville than Charcot or Lister or Darwin. The doctor part of the drink’s name made it seem almost like a prescription, and often, when amateurs sought to evade a second or third, the old-timers laughed at their fears of ill results, and said:
“That old Doctor Funk knew what he was about. Why, he kept people alive on that mixture. It’s like mother’s milk.”
The Noa-Noa comes to port—Papeete en fete—Rare scene at the Tiare Hotel—The New Year celebrated—Excitement at the wharf—Battle of the Limes and Coal.
The Noa-Noa came in after many days of suspense, during which rumors and reports of war grew into circumstantial statements of engagements at sea and battles on land. A mysterious vessel was said to have slipped in at night with despatches for the governor. All was sensation and canard, on dit and oui dire, and all was proved false when the liner came through the passage in the reef. Nothing had happened to disturb the peace of nations, but a dock strike in Auckland had tied up the ship. The relief of mind of the people of Papeete caused a wave of joy to pass over them. Business men and officials, tourists who expected to leave for America and the outside world on the Noa-Noa, overflowed with evidence of their delight. The consuls of the powers met at the Cercle Militaire the governor, and laughed hectically at the absurd balloon of tittle-tattle which had been pricked by the Noa-Noa’s facts. There had been absolutely nothing to the rumors but the fears or the antipathies of nationals in Tahiti.