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- The Belted Seas - 2/29 -
"There was a ship In Bailey's Slip. One evil day We sailed away From Bailey's Slip We sailed away, with Captain Clyde, An old, old man with a copper hide, In the _Hebe Maitland_ sailed, Hooroar! And fetched the coast of Ecuador."
"Aye," said Captain Tom. "Those were Kid Sadler's verses. There's many of 'em that Abe can say over, and he can glue a tune to 'em well, for he's got that kind of a memory that's loose, but stringy and long, and he always had. There's only Abe and Stevey Todd and me left of the _Hebe Maitland's_ crew, unless Sadler and Little Irish maybe, for I left them in Burmah, and they may be there. But what I was going to say, Pemberton, is, I made a mistake somewhere."
"Why," said Pemberton, "there you may be right."
"For I was that kind of young one," the captain went on, "which if he's blown up with dynamite, he comes down remarking it's breezy up there. I was that careless."
Then we drew nearer and knew that Captain Buckingham was hauling up his anchor, and maybe would take us on a long way, which he surely did. The afternoon slipped on, hour by hour, and the fire snapped and cast its red light in our faces, and the kettle sung and the storm outside kept up its mad business, and the surf its monotone.
"I was so, when I was a lad of eighteen or nineteen," Captain Buckingham said. "I was a wild one, though not large, but limber and clipper-built, and happy any side up, and my notion of human life was that it was something like a cake-walk, and something like a Bartlett pear, as being juicy anywhere you bit in."
THE "HEBE MAITLAND." CAPTAIN BUCKINGHAM'S NARRATIVE.
"I was that way," he said, "full of opinions, like one of those little terrier pups with his tail sawed off, so he wags with the stump, same way a clock does with the pendulum when the weight's gone --pretty chipper. I used to come often from the other end of Newport Street, where I was born, to Pemberton's. But that wasn't on account of Pemberton, though he was agreeable, but on account of Madge Pemberton. Madge and I were agreed, and Pemberton was agreeable, but I was restless and keyed high in those days, resembling pups, as stated.
"No anchoring to Pemberton's chimney for me," I says. "No digging clams and fishing for small fry in Long Island Sound for me. I'm going to sea."
And Madge asks, "Why?" calm and reasonable, and I was near stumped for reasons, having only the same reason as a lobster has for being green. It's the nature of him, which he'll change that colour when he's had experience and learned what's what in the boiling. I fished around for reasons.
"When I'm rich," I says, "I'll fix up Pemberton's for a swell hotel."
Madge says, "It's nice as it is," and acted low in her mind. But if she thought the less of me for wanting to go to sea, I couldn't say. Maybe not.
I left Greenough in the year '65, and went to New York, and the wharves and ships of East River, and didn't expect it would take me long to get rich.
There were fine ships and many in those days in the East River slips. South Street was full of folk from all over the world, but I walked there as cocky as if I owned it, looking for a ship that pleased me, and I came to one lying at dock with the name _Hebe Maitland_ in gilt letters on a board that was screwed to her, and I says, "Now, there's a ship!" Then I heard a man speak up beside me saying, "Just so," and I turned to look at him.
He didn't seem like a seaman, but was an old man, and grave-looking, and small, and precise in manner, and not like one trained to the sea, and wore a long, rusty black coat; and his upper lip was shaven.
"You like her, do ye?" he said. "Now I'm thinking you know a good one when you see her."
I said I thought I did, speaking rather knowing. But when he asked if I'd been to sea, I had to say I hadn't; not on the high seas, nor in any such vessel as the _Hebe Maitland_. She was painted dingy black, like most of the others, and I judged from her lines that she was a fleet sailer and built for that purpose, rather than for the amount of cargo she might carry.
"Why, come aboard," he said, and soon we were seated in a cabin with shiny panels, and a hinge table that swung down from the wall between us. He looked at me through half-shut eyes, pursing his dry lips, and he asked me where I came from.
That was my first meeting with Clyde. I know now that my coming from Connecticut was a point in my favour; still I judge he must have taken to me from the start. He surely was good to me always, and that curiously.
"You want a job," he says. "You've sailed a bit on fishing smacks in the Sound. But more'n that, the point with you is you're ambitious, and not above turning a penny or two in an odd way."
"That depends on the way," I says pretty uppish, and thinking I wasn't to be inveigled into piracy that way.
"Maybe I've got scruples," I says, and not a bit did I know what I was talking about. Captain Clyde rapped the table with his knuckles.
"I'm glad to hear you say it. Scruples! That's the word, and a right word and a good word. I don't allow any vicious goings-on aboard this ship. Wherever we go we carry the laws of the United States, and we stand by them laws. We're decent and we stick to our country's laws as duty is. Why now, I'm thinking of taking you, for I see you're a likely lad, and one that will argue for his principles. Good wages, good food, good treatment; will you go?" The last was shot out and cut off close behind, his lips shutting like a pair of scissors. I says, "That's what I'll do," and didn't know there was anything odd about it. It might have been the average way a shipmaster picked up a man for aught I knew. I shipped on the bark _Hebe Maitland_ as ordinary seaman.
The shipping news of that week contained this item:
"Sailed, Bark, _Hebe Maitland_, Clyde, Merchandise for Porto del Rey."
Now, there is such a place as Porto del Rey, for I was there once, but not till twenty years later.
The _Hebe Maitland_ didn't always go to the place she was billed for, and when she did she was apt to be a month late, and likely couldn't have told what she'd been doing in the meantime. Somebody had been doing something, but it wasn't the _Hebe Maitland_. Ships may have notions for aught I know, and the _Hebe Maitland_ was no fool, but if so, I judge she couldn't have straightened it out without help; and if she argued and got mad about it, that was no more than appropriate, for we all argued on the _Hebe Maitland_.
I've spoken of Captain Clyde. The crew, except one man called "Irish," were all Yankee folk that Clyde had trained, and most of them had been caught young and sailed with him already some years. I never saw so odd an acting crew in the way of arguing. I've seen Clyde and the bos'n with the Bible between them, arguing over it by the hour. It was a singular crew to argue. Stevey Todd here, who was cook, was a Baptist and a Democrat, and the mate he was a Presbyterian and Republican, and the bos'n he was for Women's Rights, and there was a man named Simms, who was strong on Predestination and had a theory of trade winds, but he got to arguing once with a man in Mobile, who didn't understand Predestination and shot him full of holes, supposing it might be dangerous. It was a singular crew, and especially in the matter of arguing.
They were all older than I. Stevey Todd was a few years older. I recognised Abe Dalrimple here, for he came from Adrian, though I'd seen him but seldom before. Three more I'll name, Kid Sadler, J. R. Craney, and Jimmy Hagan, who was called Irish; for they were ones that I had to do with later. I never met another crew like the _Hebe Maitland's_. I guess there never was one.
Aboard and under Clyde's eye they were a quiet crew, even Sadler, who wasn't what you'd call submissive by nature, but in port, Clyde would now and then let them run riotous. He was a little, old, dried up, and odd man with a vein of piousness in him, and he could handle men in a way that was very mysterious.
The fourth day out of New York, as I recollect it, was fair, the sun shining, and everything peaceful except on board the _Hebe Maitland_. But on the _Hebe Maitland_ the men were running around with paint pots and hauling out canvas from below. Nobody seemed to tell me what was the matter. The _Hebe Maitland's_ hull was any kind of a dingy black, but the rails, canvas, tarpaulins, and companion were all white. By the end of the day almost everything had modified. They'd got a kind of fore-shortening out of the bowsprit, and another set of canvas partly up that was dirty and patched. The boats were shifted and recovered, cupola taken off the cabin, and the whole look of the ship altered in mid-sea. Then Clyde came out of his cabin with a board in his hand, and they unscrewed the _Hebe Maitland's_ name from forward under the anchor hole, and the _Hebe Maitland_ in gilt was the _Hawk_ in white.
I went off and sat down on a coil of rope, and the more I thought it over, the more I didn't make it out.
After that I heard lively talking forward a little, and there was Captain Clyde, the bos'n, mate, Stevey Todd, and some others arguing.
The bos'n was saying he hadn't "sworn no allegiance to no country
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