Seeing himself out of the talk, and having completely growled down the quartermaster, the bos’n started another subject. This was a tirade against bad skippers and crimps who stood in too thick with the shipping commissioners, and whom he swore were in league with each other and the devil. He was an old sailor, and his seamed face was expressive when launching into a favorite subject. Here was Jim’s chance, and he spoke out. “Whatever became of Jameson, what was took off by Andrews?” he asked Chipps.
“Was he doped?” I asked.
“Didn’t ye niver hear tell from O’Toole an’ Garnett? They was Andrews’s mates for a spell, until th’ Irishman, God bless him, knocked him overboards an’ nearly killed him in a scuffle on th’ India Docks.”
“Cast loose; I want to hear,” said the bos’n.
There was a moment’s silence, and Chips looked at me as though questioning the senior officer of his watch. Then he fixed himself comfortably on the chest by jamming himself against the bulkhead, locking his hands about his knees, blowing smoke in a thick cloud.
I heard the hail of Trunnell from the bridge during this pause, asking about a t’gallant leach-line. Thinking it well to take a look out, I did so to see if the men obeyed his orders, and found them rather slow slacking the line. This made it necessary for me to take a hand in matters and instil a little discipline among them, which kept me on deck for some minutes.
When I had a chance to slip back into the forward house, Chips had already “cast loose” and was in full swing.
“There ain’t no use of tellin’ everything one sees aboard ship,” he was saying, “for you know whin things happen on deep water th’ world ain’t much th’ wiser fer hearing about them. There ain’t no telegraphs, an’ th’ only witnesses is the men concerned—or the wimmen. The men may or mayn’t say a thing or two after getting the run av th’ beach, but as th’ critters have to wait half a year afore getting there, the news av th’ occurrence wears off an’ regard for the effects on th’ teller takes place. It’s just as often as not th’ men keep mum. You know that as well as I do.
“This same Andrews as is forrads in irons was running the Starbuck with Jameson as mate, an’ old Garnett as second under him. Ye all know that old pirit. But this time he didn’t have any hand in Andrews’s game. Andrews wanted to marry the girl Jameson had, an’ whin he found he had lost her he played his devil’s trick.
“Jameson hadn’t been married a week afore Andrews took him around b’ th’ foot av Powell Street in ‘Frisco an’ set up some drinks. That’s the last any one sees av Jameson fer a year or more on th’ West Coast, fer whin he comes to, he was at sea on that old tank, th’ Baldwin, an’ old man Jacobs would as soon have landed him on th’moon as put him ashore.”
“A purty bloomin’ mean trick,” interrupted the bos’n.