A Mainsail Haul/The Yarn of Lanky Job
THE YARN OF LANKY JOB
Lanky Job was a lazy Bristol sailor, notorious for his sleepiness throughout the seven seas. And though many captains had taken him in hand, none had ever made him spryer, or got more than a snail's work out of him. Perhaps he would have been more wakeful had he not been born with a caul, which preserved him at sea from any danger of drowning. Often he had fallen from aloft or from the forecastle rail while dreaming during his work or look-out. But his captains had always paused to pick him up, and to all his captains he had made a graceful speech of thanks which ended with a snore at the ninth or tenth word.
One day he was lolling on a bollard on the quay at Bristol as fast asleep as man could wish. He had fallen asleep in the forenoon, but when he woke the sun was setting, and right in front of him moored to the quay, was the most marvellous ship that ever went through water. She was bluff-bowed and squat, with a great castle in her bows and five poops, no less, one above the other, at her starn. And outside her bulwarks there were painted screens, all scarlet and blue and green, with ships painted on them, and burning birds and ladies in cloth of gold. And then above them were rows of hammocks covered with a white piece of linen. And every little poop had a rail. And her buckets were green, and in every bucket there were roses growing. And the masts were of ebony with mast-rings of silver. And her decks were all done in parquet-work in green and white woods, and the man who did the caulking had caulked the deck-seams with red tar, for he was a master of his trade. And the cabins was all glorious to behold with carving, and sweet to smell, like oranges. And right astern she carried a great gold lantern with a big blue banner underneath it, and an ivory staff to the whole, all carved by a Chinaman.
So Job looks at the ship, and he thinks he never see a finer, so he ups alongside, and along a gangway, and there he sees a little sea captain with a big red hat and feather, and a silver whistle to him, walking on the quarter-deck.
"Good morning, Job," says the little sea captain, "and how dy'ye like my ship?"
"Sir," says Job, "I never see a finer."
So the little sea captain takes Job forrard and gives him a bite in the forecastle, and then takes him aft and gives him a sup in the cabin.
"And Job," he says, "how would ye like to sail aboard this beautiful ship?"
So Job, who was all wide awake with the beauty of her, he says:
"Oh, sir, I'd like it of all things; she be so comely to see."
And immediately he said that, Job see the little captain pipe his whistle, and a lot of little sailors in red hats ran up and cast her hawsers off. And then the sheets sheeted home of themselves and the ship swung away from Bristol, and there was Job nodding on the quarter-deck, a mile out to sea, the ship running west like a deer.
"You'll be in the port watch," said the little captain to him, "and woe betide you, Lanky Job, if we catch you asleep in your watch."
Now Job never knowed much about that trip of his among them little men in red hats, but he knowed he slept once, and they stuck needles in him. And he knowed he slept twice, and they stuck hot pokers in him. And he knowed he slept a third time, and "Woe betide you, Lanky Job," they said, and they set him on the bowsprit end, with bread in one hand and a sup of water in the other. "And stay you there, Lanky Job," they said, "till you drop into the sea and drown."
Now pitiful was his case truly, for if he looked behind there was little red men to prick him, and if he looked before he got giddy, and if he looked down he got sick, and if he looked up he got dazzled. So he looked all four ways and closed his eyes, and down he toppled from his perch, going splash into the wash below the bows. "And now for a sleep," he says, "since there's no water wet enough to drown me." And asleep he falls, and long does he drift in the sea.
Now, by and by, when he had floated for quite a while, he sees a big ship, black as pitch, with heavy red sails, come sailing past him in the dawn. And although he had a caul and couldn't be drowned, he was glad enough to see that ship, and right glad indeed to clutch her braces as she rolled. She came swooping down on him, and he caught her main brace as she lay down to leeward from a gust. And with her windward roll and a great heave, he just managed to reach her deck before he fell asleep again. He noticed as he scrambled up the side that she was heavily barnacled, and that she had forty boats to a broadside, all swinging on ivory davits.
But when he woke from his sleep, lo and behold, the ship was manned by nothing but great rats, and they were all in blue clothes like sailors, and snarling as they swung the yards. And as soon as they saw Lanky Job they came around him, gnashing their long yellow teeth and twirling their hairy whiskers. And the multitude of them was beyond speech, and at every moment it seemed to Job that a boat came alongside with more of them, till the decks were ropy with their tails. Six or seven of them seized hold of him and dragged him aft to where a big bone tiller swung, with a helmsman on each side of it, seated in heavy golden chairs. These helmsmen were half men, half rats, and they were hairy like rats, and grey like rats, and they had rats' eyes. But they had the minds of men, and they were the captains of that hooker, and right grim they were to look at. Now when he sees those grim things sitting there, Job knew that he'd come aboard the rat flag-ship, whose boats row every sea, picking up the rats as they leave ships going to sink. And he gave a great scream and punched out at the gang who held him, and over the side he bounded. And he drifted a day and a night, till the salt-cracks were all over his body, and he came ashore half dead at Avonmouth, having been a week away. But always after that Lanky Job was a spry sailor, as smart as you could find anywheres.