“Weren’t you very seasick?” I asked.
“Ho! ho! ho!” Jaffery roared derisively.
“Mr. Chayne’s pretty tough, sir,” said the Captain with a grave smile. “He has missed his vocation. He’s a good sailor lost.”
“Remember that night off Vigo?”
“I don’t ever want to see such another, Mr. Chayne. It was touch and go.” Captain Maturin’s smile faded. No commander likes to think of the time when a freakish Providence and not his helpless self was responsible for the saving of his ship.
“He was on the bridge sixty hours at a stretch,” said Jaffery.
“Sixty hours?” I exclaimed.
“Thousands have done it before and thousands have done it since, myself included. On this occasion Mr. Chayne saw it through with me.”
Two days and nights and a day without sleep; standing on a few planks, holding on to a rail, while you are tossed up and down and from side to side and drenched with dashing tons of ice-cold water and fronting a hurricane that blows ice-tipped arrows, and all the time not knowing from one minute to the next whether you are going to Kingdom come—No. It is my idea of duty, but not my idea of fun. And even as duty—I thanked merciful Heaven that never since the age of nine, when I was violently sick crossing to the Isle of Wight, have I had the remotest desire to be a mariner, either professional or amateur. I looked at the two adventurers wonderingly; and so did Liosha.
“I love the sea,” she said. “Don’t you?”
“I can’t say I do, ma’am. I’ve got a wife and child at Pinner, and I grow sweet peas for exhibition. All of which I can’t attend to on board ship.”
He said it very seriously. He was not the man to talk flippantly for the entertainment of a pretty woman.
“But if he’s a month ashore, he fumes to get back,” boomed Jaffery.
“It’s the work I was bred to,” replied the Captain soberly. “If a man doesn’t love his work, he’s not worth his salt. But that’s not saying that I love the sea.”
With such discourse did we beguile the short journey to the Hotel, Restaurant and Cafe Tortoni in the Place Gambetta. The terrace was thronged with the good Havre folks, husbands and wives and families enjoying the Sunday afternoon aperitif.
“Now let us have a drink,” cried Jaffery, huge pioneer through the crowd. Liosha would have left us three men to our masculine devices. But Jaffery swept her along. Why shouldn’t we have a pretty woman at our table as well as other people? She flushed at the compliment, the first, I think, he had ever paid her. A waiter conjured a vacant table and chairs from nowhere, in the midst of the sedentary throng. For Liosha was brought grenadine syrup and soda, for me absinthe, at which Captain Maturin, with the steady English sailor’s suspicion of any other drink than Scotch whisky, glanced disapprovingly. Jaffery, to give himself an appetite for dinner, ordered half a litre of Munich beer.