“Well, don’t stand gaping. Get to work and show what you are made of. Stow those slops of yours and get into a jumper quick. Where’s your bag?” I continued.
“I haven’t any.”
“Well, lay up there and help loose the maintopsail. Don’t stand here.”
He looked bewildered for a moment and then started up the fore rigging.
“Here, you blazing idiot,” I bawled. “What are you about? Don’t you know one end of a ship from another?”
The fellow came to me and spoke in a low voice.
“I have never shipped before the mast—only as cook, or steward,” he said.
“Well, you infernal beggar, do you mean to say that you’ve passed yourself off as a seaman or sailor here?” I cried.
“Then, blast you, if I don’t make a sailor of you before you get clear of the ship,” I said with some emphasis; for the idea of all hands being incapable made me angry, as the ship would be dependent entirely upon the sailors aboard, until we had taught the landsmen something. The whole outfit was such a scurvy lot it made me sick to think of what would happen if it should come on to blow suddenly and we had to shorten down to reefed topsails. The Pirate had double topsail yards fore and aft and all the modern improvements for handling canvas; but her yards were tremendous, and to lift either of her courses on the yards would take not less than half a dozen men even in good weather.
The fellow hung about while I dressed him down and told him about what a worthless specimen of humanity he was. Finally I sent him aft to help where he could, and he lent a hand at the braces in the waist under the direction of Mr. Trunnell, who stood on the break of the poop, with the young third mate beside him, and gave his orders utterly oblivious to the boy’s presence.
In a short time we made an offing, and as the pilot was on the tug, we had only to let go the line and stand away on our course. The t’gallant yards were sent up, then the royals sheeted home, and by dint of great effort and plenty of bawling we got the canvas on her fore and aft and trimmed the yards so as to make each one look as if at odds with its fellows, but yet enough to make a fair wind of the gentle southerly breeze. Then we let go the tow-line and stood to the westward, while the little tug gave a parting whistle and went heading away into the rising sun astern.
I will say now that when I look back on that morning it is evident there was a lack of discipline or command on board the Pirate; but at the time it did not appear to me to be the fact, because the lack of discipline was not apparent in my watch. Trunnell and I divided up the men between us, and I believe I laid down the law pretty plain to the Dagos and Swedes who fell to my lot. They couldn’t understand much of what I said, but they could tell something of my meaning when I held up a rope’s-end and belaying-pin before their eyes and made certain significant gestures in regard to their manipulation. This may strike the landsman as unnecessary and somewhat brutal; but, before he passes judgment, he should try to take care of a lot of men who are, for a part, a little lower than beasts.