Que donneriez vous, belle,
Qui l’arnenerait ici?
Je donnerai Quebec,
Sorel et Saint Denis.”
“How was it my French didn’t go, and your sign-talk did?” Harvey demanded when the barter had been distributed among the We’re Heres.
“Sign-talk!” Platt guffawed. “Well, yes, ’twas sign-talk, but a heap older’n your French, Harve. Them French boats are chockfull o’ Freemasons, an’ that’s why.”
“Are you a Freemason, then?”
“Looks that way, don’t it?” said the man-o’-war’s man, stuffing his pipe; and Harvey had another mystery of the deep sea to brood upon.
The thing that struck him most was the exceedingly casual way in which some craft loafed about the broad Atlantic. Fishing-boats, as Dan said, were naturally dependent on the courtesy and wisdom of their neighbours; but one expected better things of steamers. That was after another interesting interview, when they had been chased for three miles by a big lumbering old cattle-boat, all boarded over on the upper deck, that smelt like a thousand cattle-pens. A very excited officer yelled at them through a speaking-trumpet, and she lay and lollopped helplessly on the water while Disko ran the ‘We’re Here’ under her lee and gave the skipper a piece of his mind. “Where might ye be—eh? Ye don’t deserve to be anywheres. You barn-yard tramps go hoggin’ the road on the high seas with no blame consideration fer your neighbours, an’ your eyes in your coffee-cups instid o’ in your silly heads.”
At this the skipper danced on the bridge and said something about Disko’s own eyes. “We haven’t had an observation for three days. D’you suppose we can run her blind?” he shouted.
“Wa-al, I can,” Disko retorted. “What’s come to your lead? Et it? Can’t ye smell bottom, or are them cattle too rank?”
“What d’ ye feed ’em?” said Uncle Salters with intense seriousness, for the smell of the pens woke all the farmer in him. “They say they fall off dretful on a v’yage. Dunno as it’s any o’ my business, but I’ve a kind o’ notion that oil-cake broke small an’ sprinkled—”
“Thunder!” said a cattle-man in a red jersey as he looked over the side. “What asylum did they let His Whiskers out of?”
“Young feller,” Salters began, standing up in the fore-rigging, “let me tell yeou ’fore we go any further that I’ve—”
The officer on the bridge took off his cap with immense politeness. “Excuse me,” he said, “but I’ve asked for my reckoning. If the agricultural person with the hair will kindly shut his head, the sea-green barnacle ’with the wall-eye may per-haps condescend to enlighten us.”
“Naow you’ve made a show o’ me, Salters,” said Disko, angrily. He could not stand up to that particular sort of talk, and snapped out the latitude and longitude without more lectures.
“Well, that’s a boat-load of lunatics, sure,” said the skipper, as he rang up the engine-room and tossed a bundle of newspapers into the schooner.