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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-01-14 21:34:41
Typefacelarge in Small
“But, Captain Klenck,” I blurted out, “why did you lock me in my berth?”

As the pale dawn grew less weak, it revealed a tiny encampment, just a few odds and ends of drifting wreckage piled forlornly together, and yielding a dubious shelter to a huddled-up group of fourteen men, sleeping in spite of their surroundings. Presently, there were exposed, perched upon the snarling teeth of an outlying rock-cluster, the “ribs and trucks” of a small wooden ship, a barque-rigged craft of about four hundred tons. Her rigging hung in slovenly festoons from the drunkenly standing masts, the yards270 made more angles with their unstable supports than are known to Euclid, while through many a jagged gap in her topsides the mad sea rushed wantonly, as if elated with its opportunities of marring the handiwork of the daring sea-masters.

But my intention in these pages is far from that of discussing the economic future of China. Such a task would be indefinitely beyond my powers, besides being utterly unnecessary and out of place here. Besides, I do not really feel sufficiently interested in the Chinese collectively. My story is about a single Chinaman who played a very important part in my own history, and who well deserved a far more powerful testimony than any I am able to bear to his virtues.

Out into the black night we hurried, meeting the waiting mate at the foremast, and answering his first order of “man the fore tops’ls downhaul” with the usual repetition of his words. Weird cries arose as we hauled with all our strength on the downhauls and spilling lines, while overhead we could hear, even above the roar of the storm, the deep boom of the topsails fiercely fighting against the restraining gear. Then, with a hissing, spiteful snarl, came snow and sleet, lashing us like shotted whips, and making the darkness more profound because of the impossibility of opening the eyes against the stinging fragments of ice. But, after much stumbling and struggling, we got the four huge tops’ls down, and, without waiting for the order, started aloft to furl, the pitiful incapacity of our numbers most glaringly apparent. The pressure of the wind was so great that it was no easy matter to get aloft, but clinging like cats, we presently found ourselves (six of the port watch) on the fore topsailyard.

“Our ole man’s scientific, Mr. Roper.”

He stopped and looked around distressfully, and in that moment all our hearts warmed to him. We were a mixed crowd, of course, but nearly half of us were British, and there would have been a stormy scene if any of the aliens had ventured to raise a protest against M’Ginty’s incapacity. We didn’t express our sympathy, but we felt it, and he with native quickness knew that we did. And never from that day forward did the brave old chap hear a word of complaint from any of us about having to do his work.


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