Good man! For a long while after we had thrust off from the quay, the two seamen in the cock-boat towing us, he stood there and waved farewells; but turned before we reached the river bend, and went his way up through the woods—since in Cornwall it is held unlucky to watch departing friends clean out of sight.
Almost at once I went below in search of my hammock, and there slept ten solid hours by the clock; a feat of which I never witted until, coming upon deck, I rubbed my eyes to find no sight of land, but the sea all around us, and Captain Pomery at the helm, with the sun but a little above his right shoulder. The sky, but for a few fleeced clouds, was clear; a brisk north-westerly breeze blew steady on our starboard quarter, and before it the ketch ran with a fine hiss of water about her bluff bows. My father and Nat were stretched with a board between them on the deck by the foot of the mizzen, deep in a game of chequers: and without disturbing them I stepped amidships where Mr. Fett lay prone on his belly, his chin propped on both hands, in discourse with Billy and Mr. Badcock, who reclined with their backs against the starboard bulwark.
“Tut, man!” said Mr. Fett, cheerfully, addressing Billy. “You have taken the right classical way with her: think of Theseus and Ariadne, Phaon and Sappho. . . . We are back in the world’s first best age; when a man, if he wanted a woman to wife, sailed in a ship and abducted her, as did the Tyrian sea-captain with Io daughter of Inachus, Jason with Medea, Paris with Helen of Greece; and again, when he tired of her, left her on an island and sailed away. There was Sappho, now; she ran and cast herself off a rock. And Medea, she murdered her children in revenge. But we are over hasty, to talk of children.”
Billy groaned aloud, “I meant no harm to the woman.”
“Nor did these heroes. As I was saying, on board this ship I find myself back in the world’s dawn, ready for any marvels, but responsible (there’s the beauty of it) only to my ledger. As supercargo I sit careless as a god on Olympus. My pen is trimmed, my ink-pot filled, and my ledger ruled and prepared for miracles. Item, a Golden Fleece. Item, A king’s runaway daughter, slightly damaged:
the good ship Argo
It didn’t affect the supercargo,”
who whistled and sat composing blank verse, having discovered that Jason rhymed most unheroically with bason:
daughter of Aeson
Sat Jason, a bason his knees on—”
“You don’t help a man much, sir, so far as I understand you,” grumbled Billy, with a nervous glance around the horizon.
“Well, then I’ll prescribe you another way. Nobody believes me when I tell the following story: but ’tis true nevertheless. So listen—