The trade-room of the Morning Star; Lying Bill Pincher; M. L’Hermier des Plantes, future governor of the Marquesas; story of McHenry and the little native boy, His Dog.
“Come ’ave a drink!” Captain Pincher called from the cabin, and leaving the spray-swept deck where the rain drummed on the canvas awning I went down the four steps into the narrow cabin-house.
The cabin, about twenty feet long, had a tiny semi-private room for Captain Pincher, and four berths ranged about a table. Here, grouped around a demijohn of rum, I found Captain Pincher with my three fellow-passengers; McHenry and Gedge, the traders, and M. L’Hermier des Plantes, a young officer of the French colonial army, bound to the Marquesas to be their governor.
The captain was telling the story of the wreck in which he had lost his former ship. He had tied up to a reef for a game of cards with a like-minded skipper, who berthed beside him. The wind changed while they slept. Captain Pincher awoke to find his schooner breaking her backs on the coral rocks.
“Oo can say wot the blooming wind will do?” he said, thumping the table with his glass. “There was Willy’s schooner tied up next to me, and ’e got a slant and slid away, while my boat busts ’er sides open on the reef, The ’ole blooming atoll was ’eaped with the blooming cargo. Willy ’ad luck; I ’ad ’ell. It’s all an ’azard.”
He had not found his aitches since he left Liverpool, thirty years earlier, nor dropped his silly expletives. A gray-haired, red-faced, laughing man, stockily built, mild mannered, he proved, as the afternoon wore on, to be a man from whom Muenchausen might have gained a story or two.
“They call me Lying Bill,” he said to me. “You can’t believe wot I say.”
“He’s straight as a mango tree, Bill Pincher is,” McHenry asserted loudly. “He’s a terrible liar about stories, but he’s the best seaman that comes to T’yti, and square as a biscuit tin. You know how, when that schooner was stole that he was mate on, and the rotten thief run away with her and a woman, Bill he went after ’em, and brought the schooner back from Chile. Bill, he’s whatever he says he is, all right—but he can sail a schooner, buy copra and shell cheap, sell goods to the bloody natives, and bring back the money to the owners. That’s what I call an honest man.”
Lying Bill received these hearty words with something less than his usual good-humor. There was no friendliness in his eye as he looked at McHenry, whose empty glass remained empty until he himself refilled it. Bullet-headed, beady-eyed, a chunk of rank flesh shaped by a hundred sordid adventures, McHenry clutched at equality with these men, and it eluded him. Lying Bill, making no reply to his enthusiastic commendation, retired to his bunk with a paper-covered novel, and to cover the rebuff McHenry turned to talk of trade with Gedge, who spoke little.