Page:Yule Logs.djvu/56

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40
VENTURE OF THE "BERTHA" WHALER

"The dear mother was very unwilling to let us go, though the step-pater did not seem to care! Poor, dear mother! I think she spoke to the captain about us, Reggie."

"I am sure she induced Mr. Halbrake to come with us instead of the other man from the firm. Halbrake, being a doctor (surgeon, I mean), is in the right place, particularly as the captain is a bit 'touchy' and obstinate. The mate is simply a beast."

"Yes; he and the master had a nice row over that paper which was found in the chart-room, or in the cabin above. The old skipper declared it was a warning. Didn't he get riled, too? and he nearly blew himself up as well as the mate."

"Next time he'll have a fit. It strikes me the mate aggravates him purposely. The captain can't stand any kind of interference. Well, I'm going on deck. Hurry up now," said Reginald. This conversation took place in the lads' berth on board the Bertha, a sturdy barque in which they were voyaging. She was fitted as a "whaler," and belonged to the firm of Boscombe & Halbrake — chiefly Boscombe. The senior partner was the step-father of the Rushtons, for their mother, a rich widow, had married Mr. Boscombe, a gentleman whom the lads most cordially disliked. Shortly after the marriage he, at first gently, and later very firmly, had suggested a voyage for Arthur, who seemed delicate. Then he decided upon sending the Bertha to seal in the Antarctic, and to search for a missing vessel, the Gladiator. When this was arranged, Reginald volunteered to accompany his brother. Mr. Boscombe made no objection. Mr. Halbrake, a young surgeon, usually called "Doctor," also embarked under the old and experienced master, Blake, an eccentric, touchy man, obstinate to a degree, and always easily "drawn" when his attainments were questioned. He and his mate, Esau Cordell, were always at loggerheads. It seemed, as Reginald