A SAILOR IN SPITE OF HIMSELF

And where were Bob Nellis and old Ben Watson all the time that this
uproar was being raised in the village? They were on board the J. W.
Smart, and two hundred miles at sea. We confess that we do not like to
accompany Bob on the water, for there were many interesting things that
happened during the next few months to which we had rather devote our
attention. We know by experience that it is the meanest and most
miserable life that a boy ever entered into. The second mate of the
Smart was a brutal fellow, and he more than once hazed the men till they
were on the point of jumping over-board.

Bob’s blow could not have been so severe as the one which knocked Ben
Watson down, for he had no sooner been tumbled into his bunk than he
came to himself. All that Joe Lufkin had done, and the sailors working
over him to get him aboard, was lost upon him. He was untied, the gag
was gone from his mouth, and he was at liberty to throw his arms about
as he pleased. He raised himself upon his elbow and looked about him. At
first he did not know where he was, but the unsavory smell of
bilge-water that saluted his nostrils told him that he was in the
forecastle of a ship that was outward bound. He could easily tell that
by listening to the hoarse commands and the sounds of hurrying feet over
his head. Then he thought of Joe Lufkin, and felt of the lump behind his
ear.

“I have been shanghaied,” said Bob, lying down again and covering his
face with his hands. “And that Joe Lufkin is at the bottom of it. I am
not a sailor, and I don’t want to learn to be one. If I get a chance
I’ll jump overboard and drown myself.”

The forecastle was dark, but Bob thought he could easily find his way to
the door. Slowly and cautiously he let himself out of the bunk, and then
his ears told him that there were three other men fast asleep, and
waiting until the whiskey they had taken had died out. Of course, men
who were dead drunk couldn’t be expected to handle a ship.

“My goodness, I wonder if old Ben Watson is here!” said Bob. “I am going
to find out, for I couldn’t think of going away and leaving him.”

With trembling hands he began feeling in one of the bunks, searching for
Ben’s whiskers. He was certain that he could recognize them anywhere.
The first fellow proved to be a moustached man, but with no whiskers at
all on his chin, and as Bob was about to turn away to begin an
examination of the occupant of the next bunk there came a warning from
the man he had just left. A sinewy arm shot out and a fist shot close by
his head; but Bob was just out of reach.

“Shay!” exclaimed the proprietor of that fist, in maudlin tones, “you
just want to keep your hands away from me! Hear me, don’t you? I’ve got
money, but you ain’t a-going to have it!”

“And it is mighty little you will find about your clothes when you wake
up,” added Bob, who felt sick at heart. “Somebody has been through you
before this time. I declare, here’s Ben. Wake up and speak to me, Ben!”

But Ben was past speaking to anybody just then, and Bob leaned against
the bunk which contained his companion and for a moment gave himself up
to despair. He could not think of saving himself while Ben was in
danger. And the worst of it was, there was Joe Lufkin, a man whom nobody
had ever suspected of treachery, to blame for it all.

“What will the folks at home say to him if they find it out?” said Bob,
fairly shuddering when the thought came into his mind. “He’ll have to go
to State’s prison, sure, or else run away and hide himself. And what
will Hank do? But I mustn’t let this weakness get the start of me. It
will kill me. I must go to work.”

Bob had scarcely come to this conclusion when a key grated harshly in
the lock—that showed Bob that he could not have got out if he tried
it—and a hoarse voice shouted:

“Jones, show yourself on deck.”

“Jones isn’t here, sir,” said Bob, looking around. “If he is, he’s
asleep.”

“He is, eh!” shouted the voice. “And who are you?”

“I am Bob Nellis, sir.”

“Well, I’ll Bob Nellis you if you don’t come out of that in less time
than you can say ‘scat!”

As Bob afterward learned, Barlow had shipped him under the name of
Jones. Of course he did not know that at the time, but still he did not
delay obeying the order to show himself on deck. Just as he reached the
top of the ladder a man standing there dealt him a severe blow, and as
Bob gathered himself up—for he was knocked flat—shouted:

“I am second mate of this ship, my hearty. Take that for your impudence.
Fore-top-mast stay-sail halliards.”

Fortunately Bob was acquainted with a good many ropes, and knew where to
go to find them. He did not understand what he was expected to do with
the halliards, but he staggered to the foremast and uncoiled the rope
just as the crew came hurrying forward to hoist the stay-sail. While he
was hauling with the others he made out to cast a glance over the
fife-rail. The night was pitch-dark, there was a heavy breeze on, and
the J. W. Smart, propelled by a favorable wind, was doing her best to
make an offing before the storm, which had been threatening them all the
afternoon, came up. But when the storm came up it proved to be a mere
capful of wind the bulk of the tempest having passed to the northward of
them. It became necessary to shorten sail, and Bob, being always in the
way, received many a kick and blow there-for, and it was two o’clock
before he was permitted to go below. He had no clothes for his empty
bunk, but he turned in and slept soundly in spite of his gloomy
thoughts, for he was utterly exhausted. At the first peep of day he was
awakened by the hoarse voice of the second mate, and, recalling his last
night’s experience, lost no time in throwing on the few clothes he had
taken off before lying down and hurrying to the deck. Almost the first
man he saw when he reached the head of the ladder was old Ben Watson.
The recognition was mutual, but before Bob could speak to the old sailor
Ben gave him a meaning gesture and turned away. Bob was overjoyed to
find that his friend had so easily got over the blow that made him a
prisoner on board the Smart. Here was just what he needed in his
helpless situation—a person to whom he could go for sympathy and advice;
one who would teach him his duty, and thus enable him to avoid the kicks
and blows of the second mate.

“Wait a while before you tell me your story,” whispered Ben. “I know how
you came here, and if I ever get back to Clifton I’ll get even with that
Joe Lufkin.”

“Here, too,” said Bob, in the same cautious whisper. “He has swelled
your head up awfully.”

At breakfast Bob met the two men who had been sleeping off their
potations the night before. They felt mean and sneaking indeed, but like
old sailor-men they knew that they must accept what the fates had in
store for them.

“Look at that,” said the one who had struck at Bob the night before; and
as he spoke he pulled out his ditty-bag to show that it was empty. “I
had two hundred dollars in good and lawful money in that bag when I went
ashore, and where is it now? I am wholly to blame for it. If I had
placed my money in the bank, where I determined I would put it when I
left my vessel, I would have had it now.”

“Do you know who put you here?” asked Bob.

“No, I don’t. The last I remember is of lying down in a dark alley and
going to sleep. The next thing I knew I found myself in my bunk. I tell
you, whiskey is a bad thing for sailor-men.”

“I will bet Barlow had a hand in that,” said Bob. “He is always on the
lookout for a scheme like that.”

“Who’s Barlow?” asked the man.

“He is the man who is responsible for sending me and my friend off to
this vessel. He hired a man to knock us down.”

“Well, I wish I had been myself and that somebody had tried to knock
_me_ down,” said the sailor, doubling up his huge fist and bringing it
down on the deck with a sounding whack. “I’ll bet you I wouldn’t be here
now.”

“Fo’castle, there!” shouted a voice at the head of the ladder. “You have
got done eating or you couldn’t pound the deck that way. Come up here
and prepare to straighten up.”

The men responded “Aye, aye, sir!” and although some of them had not had
time to taste their breakfast, they set down their kits and hastened to
obey the order. When Bob was going up the ladder the second mate laid
his hand on his collar.

“See here, Jones, I will give you an easy job,” said he. “Go back and
gather up all the dishes that are left in the fo’castle and take them to
the doctor, and help him until I call for you.”

“Very good, sir,” replied Bob.

He knew that the “doctor” was the cook of the vessel, and it would be
new business to him to help the cook. He was a fat, jolly man, and
seemed to be as good-natured as the second mate was cross and surly. He
went into the forecastle and began gathering up the dishes, and when he
thought that the second mate had gone forward to superintend the men he
thrust his hand into his pocket and pulled out his wallet.

“Thank goodness that is safe,” said he, running over the bills to make
sure that they were all there. “It is all in my wallet, with the
exception of the twenty-six dollars that I paid to the livery-stable
keeper for the keeping of my ponies. I tell you, Joe Lufkin didn’t know
how much money he was handling when he knocked me down.”

“Hi yah, boy!” exclaimed the doctor, as he came into the galley with his
arms full of dishes. “Has you been detailed to help me?”

“Detailed,” said Bob. “That sounds as though you had been in the
service.”

“Thank goodness, I was dar,” replied the doctor. “I belonged to General
Potter’s brigade, an’ was in the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts when we
marched into Charleston. Every one of us used to be slaves. Yes, sar; I
was dar.”

“Then you won’t be very hard on me,” said Bob. “My father used to
command a gun-boat during the war, and my friend used to be boatswain’s
mate of her.”

“Say, look here, boy.” The doctor tiptoed to the door, thrust his head
out to make sure there was no one within hearing, and then stepped back
again. “You ain’t got no business here. I saw you ashore yesterday,
driving a span of ponies. Did dem ponies b’long to you?”

“Yes, they are mine, although a relative tried to cheat me out of them.”

“I wonder if you ain’t that boy in Clifton that everybody is making so
much fuss about?” said the darky. He glanced out of the galley window
and saw the second mate approaching, and that made him change his tune.
“Dar, now, put dem dishes right down dar an’ den go back an’ get the
balance. You hear me?”

Bob went out, and in two more trips brought the dishes all in. The next
thing was to wash them. It was not a very agreeable job, for the dishes
were greasy, and the cook did not wash them as though he intended to get
the grease all off. He found a cloth, to which the darky directed his
attention, and forthwith proceeded to wipe them.




“You’ll have to handle your fingers a little more easy than that, ’cause
we’s bound to go to work an’ get dinner right away,” said the cook; but
by this time the second mate had gone away and he began to speak in his
ordinary tone of voice. “You mustn’t think hard of anything that I say
to you while the second mate is around. I don’t feel that way toward you
at all.”

“I know you don’t,” replied Bob. “That second mate acts as though he
hadn’t been well brought up.”

“Well, we’ll never mind him. Is you the boy they have been taking all
the money away from? If you is, you ain’t got any business here.”

“Yes, I guess I am the one you have reference to. I was kidnapped by one
I had no reason to fear, and brought aboard this ship insensible.”

“‘Fore de land! I never heard of such doings before. An’ you did not
sign the articles?”

“I never saw them. I don’t know where the vessel is bound.”

“If I was in your place, boy, I’d desert.”

“That’s what I mean to do, although I haven’t said anything to my friend
about it. Do you know the first port at which we will touch?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Do you mean to say that you signed the articles and never noticed which
way the ship was going?” asked Bob, in astonishment.

“Yes, sir, I done just that. You see, I can’t read writing.”

If there was anything for which Bob blessed his lucky stars it was that
Barlow did not ship him under the rate of an able seaman, but had told
the second mate, when he came aboard to get his advance, that he was a
landsman. This was the reason the second mate gave him a place in the
galley. The work was steady; he did not have a moment’s time to sit
down, but it was comparatively easy, and he was in no danger of getting
blows from some one without knowing what they were for. Once, during the
day, he heard the call for all hands to shorten sail, and when the cook
dropped his frying-pan, which he was washing, and rushed out on deck,
grabbed a rope and laid out his strength upon it, Bob was close at his
heels, although he did not know where the rope led to. At the end of an
hour the work was done, and the doctor went back to his dish-washing and
Bob put more wood in the stove.

“Dat’s right, boy,” said the cook, encouragingly. “Whenever you hear the
call ‘All hands,’ you drop everything you’ve got in your hands an’ grab
a rope an’ pull the best you know how. Then the mate won’t have no cause
to whack you.”

“There is one thing I would like to speak about,” said Bob, first making
sure that the second mate was not anywhere around. “Do they have such a
thing as a slop-chest aboard this ship?”

“No, they don’t. They have ’em aboard the whale ships that are going out
for a three years’ cruise, but they don’t have ’em here.”

“Then I don’t know what I am going to do. I didn’t have any bundle when
I was brought aboard, and how am I going to provide clothes for my
bunk?”

“Hain’t you got any?”

“Not a thing. The bunk is just as bare as the floor.”

“Well, I reckon I can give you some. It won’t be much, but it will be
enough to keep you off’n the boards.”

This much was settled, and Bob breathed easier after that. He would get
a good night’s sleep, anyway, provided the mate didn’t find it necessary
to shorten sail too often. All that day Bob was kept busy in the galley,
and when the dishes were washed up after supper he was done for the day.
The cook filled his pipe and went out for a smoke, and Bob strolled out
to find Ben Watson.