He laughed. Out of his cabin there was no smack of the preacher in him. His men said he was a stout seaman, mad on the subject of grog and girls. Why, it was on account of grog and girls that he was giving us this dish of salt-water to purify us! Grog and girls! cried we. We vowed upon our honour as gentlemen we had tasted grog for the first time in our lives on board the Priscilla. How about the girls? they asked. We informed them we knew none but girls who were ladies. Thereupon one sailor nodded, one sent up a crow, one said the misfortune of the case lay in all girls being such precious fine ladies; and one spoke in dreadfully blank language, he accused us of treating the Priscilla as a tavern for the entertainment of bad company, stating that he had helped to row me and my associates from the shore to the ship.
‘Poor Mr. Double!’ says he; ’there was only one way for him to jump you two young gentlemen out o’ that snapdragon bowl you was in—or quashmire, call it; so he ‘ticed you on board wi’ the bait you was swallowing, which was making the devil serve the Lord’s turn. And I’ll remember that night, for I yielded to swearing, and drank too!’ The other sailors roared with laughter.
I tipped them, not to appear offended by their suspicions. We thought them all hypocrites, and were as much in error as if we had thought them all honest.
Things went fairly well with the exception of the lessons in Scripture. Our work was mere playing at sailoring, helping furl sails, haul ropes, study charts, carry messages, and such like. Temple made his voice shrewdly emphatic to explain to the captain that we liked the work, but that such lessons as these out of Scripture were what the eeriest youngsters were crammed with.
’Such lessons as these, maybe, don’t have the meaning on land they get to have on the high seas,’ replied the captain: ’and those youngsters you talk of were not called in to throw a light on passages: for I may teach you ship’s business aboard my barque, but we’re all children inside the Book.’
He groaned heartily to hear that our learning lay in the direction of Pagan Gods and Goddesses, and heathen historians and poets; adding, it was not new to him, and perhaps that was why the world was as it was. Nor did he wonder, he said, at our running from studies of those filthy writings loose upon London; it was as natural as dunghill steam. Temple pretended he was forced by the captain’s undue severity to defend Venus; he said, I thought rather wittily, ’Sailors ought to have a respect for her, for she was born in the middle of the sea, and she steered straight for land, so she must have had a pretty good idea of navigation.’
But the captain answered none the less keenly, ’She had her idea of navigating, as the devil of mischief always has, in the direction where there’s most to corrupt; and, my lad, she teaches the navigation that leads to the bottom beneath us.’