“I’m glad you think so, my son. Just call down to the steward to bring me a bracer. Whew, just look at that!”
As he spoke a huge sea rose on the weather bow and bore down on the staggering ship. It struck her fair and rolled over her so heavily that I had to grab a line to keep from being knocked down. The main deck was full of water, and as it roared off through the ports and over the lee rail, I looked to see if anything had gone with it. Then I realized how well we had been washed during the night.
From the forecastle aft to the poop there was nothing left except the hatches and deck-house. The boats were all stove to matchwood except one that was lashed on the forward house. The bulwarks were smashed for many feet along both sides, but this was no real damage, as it allowed the sea to run off easier, relieving the deck of the heavy load. The whole main deck, fore and aft, was as clean stripped as could be, and the hatches alone were saving us from filling and going under.
It was a dismal sight, and the men who stood huddled on the forecastle and poop looked, in their yellow oilskins, like so many yellow ghosts. I went aft to the wheel and found that Hans and Johnson were steering without much difficulty, although they had all they could do to hold her when a sea struck aft. Far astern the light seemed to be growing brighter, and while I looked there appeared some long streaks in the heavy banks of vapor which showed a break or two. I took the glass which hung on the side of the grating and cleaned the lens with my hand. Sweeping the storm-torn horizon to the southward, nothing showed but rolling seas and haze. I turned the glass to the northward, and in a moment I saw a black speck rise and then disappear from the line of vision.
“Vessel to lor’ard, sir,” I bawled to the captain.
“I don’t care for forty vessels, Rolling. Get me that steward with the liquor, or there’ll be one afloat here without a second mate.”
It was with no good feeling that I went below to get the old man a drink. The steward met me and grinned as he brought forth the liquor.
“Yessah, it’s nine ob dem he takes endurin’ de watch. Lord, man, he’s got something pow’rful on his mind. Did yo’ ebber feel the heft ob his trunk he brought aboard, sah? No, sah, dat yo’ didn’t. Well, it’s pow’rful heavy fo’ a man’s baggage.”
“What’s in it?” I asked.
“’Deed, I doan know, man, jest what is in it, but I reckon it’s something what worries him. Dat an’ Cap’n Andrews forrads worries him some. Chips, he say as dey goes aft an’ have matters straightened out a bit. Dey is fo’ either weldin’ irons on de cap’n forrads or puttin’ him on de beach. Jim, Hans, Bendin, an’ Frenchy an’ a lot more are fo’ doing’ somethin’ with him. Yessah, dey is dat. Hab a leetle nip ‘fore yo’ goes?”