“I thought he was crazy,” went on Cap’n Amazon, shaking his head. “I wasn’t projectin’ much about superstitions. No, ma’am! We had all we could do—the two of us—handlin’ the wheel with them old graybacks huntin’ us. Them old he waves hunt in droves mostly, and when one did board us we couldn’t scarce get clear of the wash of it before another would rise right up over our rail and fill the waist, or mebbe sweep ev’rything clean from starn to bowsprit.
“It was sundown (only we hadn’t seen no sun in a week) when that albatross was killed and hove overboard. At four bells of the mornin’ watch one o’ them big waves come inboard. It washed everything that wasn’t lashed into the scuppers and took one of our smartest men overboard with it. But there, floatin’ in the wash it left behind, was the dead albatross!”
“Oh, how terrible!” murmured Mrs. Conroth, watching Cap’n Amazon much as a charmed bird is said to watch a snake.
“Yes, ma’am; tough to lose a shipmate like that, I agree. But that was only the beginning. Cap’n Hicks pitched the thing overboard himself. Couldn’t ha’ got one of the men, mebbe, to touch it. Jim Ledward says: ‘Skipper, ye make nothin’ by that. It’s too late. Bad luck’s boarded us.’
“And sure ’nough it had,” sighed Cap’n Amazon, as though reflecting. “You never did see such a time as we had in gettin’ round the Cape. And we got it good in the roarin’ forties, too—hail, sleet, snow, rain, and lightnin’ all mixed, and the sea a reg’lar hell’s broth all the time.”
“I beg of you, sir,” breathed the lady, shuddering again. Cap’n Amazon, enthralled by his own narrative, steamed ahead without noticing her shocked expression.
“One hurricane on top of another—that’s what we got. We lost four men overboard, includin’ the third officer, one time and another. I was knocked down myself and got a broken arm—had it in a sling nine weeks. We got fever in a port that hadn’t had such an epidemic in six months, and seven of the crew had to be took ashore.
“Bad luck dogged us and the ship. Only, it never touched the skipper or Tony Spadello—the only two that had handled the albatross. That is, not as far as I know. Last time I see Cappy Hicks he was carryin’ his cane with the albatross beak for a handle; and Tony Spadello has made a barrel of money keeping shop on the Bedford docks.
“But birds have an influence in the world, I take it, like other folks. You wouldn’t think, ma’am, how much store my brother Abe sets by old Jerry yonder.”
Aunt Euphemia jumped up with an exclamation of relief. “Louise!” she uttered as she saw the girl, amusement in her eyes, standing in the doorway.
WASHY GALLUP’S CURIOSITY
“I do not see how you can endure it, Louise! He is impossible—quite impossible! I never knew your tastes were low!”