A Sailor Boy with Dewey/Chapter 1

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"What do you think of this storm, Oliver?"

"I think it is going to be a heavy one, Dan," I answered. "Just look at those black clouds rolling up from the southeast. We'll catch it before midnight."

"Just what I think," answered my chum, Dan Holbrook. "Where is Captain Kenny?"

"Where he always is, in his cabin, more than half intoxicated. I tell you, Dan, I would never have taken passage on the Dart had I known what sort of a man Captain Kenny was. Why, our lives are not safe in his hands."

"Humph! I don't know as they are safe out of his hands, Oliver," returned Dan, with a toss of his handsome head. "Since we left China we've struck two heavy hurricanes,—perhaps that coming on will finish us."

"Gracious! don't say that!" I cried, with a shiver. "We don't want to be finished—at least, I don't."

"Neither do I. But when a storm comes, it comes, that is all there is to it."

"True, but we might do something toward meeting it," I went on, with a grave shake of my head, for I did not altogether like Dan's light-hearted way of looking at things. "In my opinion Captain Kenny ought to be on deck this instant, watching this storm."

"Supposing you tell him that?"

"I've a good mind to."

"You'll get a belaying pin over your head, as Dawson, the mate, got. Captain Kenny is not a man to be talked to. He is bad enough when he is sober, and when he isn't he is simply terrible."

"But he has no right to imperil the lives of twenty or more people by his drunkenness," I rejoined warmly. "If I had my way, I'd put the captain in irons and place Dawson in command of the Dart. He knows enough to keep sober, and——"

"Ye would do thet, would ye?" roared a hoarse voice at my shoulder, and turning swiftly I found myself confronted by Captain Kenny. "I'll teach ye how to talk ag'in the master o' this vessel, an' don't ye forgit it!" And he grabbed me by the arm.

Captain Kenny's face was as red as a beet. Usually it was far from being handsome, now it was positively hideous. His breath was heavily laden with the odor of rum, showing that he had been imbibing more than usual.

I was a boy of sixteen, tall and strong for my age. I was not a poor, down-trodden lad, knocking about from pillar to post, trying to earn my living. My father, Samuel Raymond, was a rich merchant of San Francisco, owning interests in several lines of trade, with offices at San Francisco, Hong Kong, Manila in the Philippine Islands, and several other points.

Just six months before I had graduated at a business college in California. As I was to follow my father into trade, it was not thought worth while to give me a term at the University, or any similar institute of learning. Instead, tny father called me into his library and said to me:

"Oliver, I believe you understand that you are to go into business with me."

"I do, sir," had been my reply. "I wish for nothing better."

"Usually I do not believe in letting boys remain idle after their school days are over, but in this case I think an exception should be made. You have worked hard, and come out at the top of your class. You deserve a good, long holiday. How will you take it?"

To answer this question puzzled me at first, for I knew I had the whole world before me. I had been as far east as New York and as far south as St. Louis, and had even taken a trip on Lake Michigan. I concluded that I had gone eastward far enough.

"If it's all the same, I'll go to Hong Kong and get acquainted with our branch out there," was my answer, and the use of the words, "our branch," made my father laugh.

"That will suit me exactly," was his return. "You shall go from San Francisco direct to Hong Kong, and you can return by way of the Philippines and see how our place of business is doing at Manila. The place at Manila is running down—the Spaniards are doing their best to drive us out altogether, and if you can see any way of improving conditions, now or later on, so much the better."

In less than two weeks I was ready to start, but I did not leave home even then as quickly as did my father, who received word which took him to the east and then to Cuba. What happened to my parent in Cuba has been excellently told by my friend, Mark Carter, in his story which has been printed under the title of "When Santiago Fell." At that time I did not know Mark at all, but since then we have become very intimately acquainted, as my readers will soon learn.

The voyage from the Golden Gate to Hong Kong was made without anything unusual happening. On landing at the Chinese-English port I was immediately met by Dan Holbrook, whose father was one of my parent's partners. Dan had put in two years at Hong Kong and the vicinity, and he took me around, and talked Chinese for me whenever it was required.

At last came the time when I thought I ought to think of returning to San Francisco by way of Manila, or at least to run over to the Philippines and back and then start for home. "If only you could go to Manila with me!" had been my words to Dan, to whom I was warmly attached.

"I will go," had been the ready answer, which surprised me not a little. Soon I learned that Dan had been talking the matter over with his father and mother. Mr. Holbrook was as anxious as my father to have the business connection at Manila improved, and he thought that both of us ought to be able to do something, even though I was but a boy and Dan was scarcely a young man.

Manila, the principal city of the Philippines, is located but four or five days' sail from Hong Kong and there is a regular service of steamers between the two ports. But both Dan and I had seen a good deal of ocean travel on steamers, and we decided to make the trip to Manila Bay in a sailing craft, and, accordingly, took passage on the Dart, a three-masted schooner, carrying a miscellaneous cargo for Manila, Iloilo, and other points.

When we secured our berths we did not see Captain Kenny, only the first and second mates of the vessel. Had we seen the captain with his tough-looking and bloated face, it is quite likely that we would have endeavored to secure passage to the Philippines elsewhere.

Yet for several days all went well. The weather was not all that it should have been, for we were sailing in a portion of our globe where hurricanes and earthquakes are of frequent occurrence. Our course had been set directly for Corregidor Island at the entrance to Manila Bay, but it had begun to blow harder and harder, we drove up in the direction of Subig Bay.

The weather kept growing fouler and fouler, and with this Captain Kenny gave himself over to liquor until he was totally unfit to command the Dart. He was a man to allow sails to be set when they should have been furled, and already had he lost one sheet through his foolishness.

The mate, Tom Dawson, was a first-rate fellow, as kind and considerate as the captain was rough and brutal. How he had shipped with such a beast was a mystery, but it did not concern me and I did not bother my head about it. On three occasions I had seen the captain attack Dawson, but each time the mate had escaped and refused to take up the quarrel. In the meantime the second mate and the men grumbled a good deal, but so far no open rupture had occurred among the forecastle hands.

"You let go of that arm," I said, as I found Captain Kenny's harsh face poked out close to my cheek.

"I'll let go when I'm done with you, not afore!" he went on, with increasing wrath. "Call me a drunkard, will ye!" And he gave the arm a savage twist that hurt not a little. "On board o' my own ship, too!"

"If I did I only spoke the truth," I said steadily. "You drink altogether too much for the good of those on board. We are going to have a big storm soon, and you ought to have your wits about you, if you want to save the Dart from going down."

"I know my business, boy—ye can't teach it me nohow! Take thet fer talkin' to me in this fashion!"

Releasing my arm, he aimed a heavy blow at my head. But I was on the alert and dodged, and the blow nearly carried the irate skipper off his feet. Then, as he came on again, I shoved him backward, and down he went in a heap on the deck.

"By Jove, now you've done it!" whispered Dan.

"I don't care, it serves him right," I answered. "He had no right to touch me."

"That's true. But you must remember that a captain is king on his own deck, on the high seas."

"A brute can never be a king—and make me submit, Dan."

By this time Captain Kenny was scrambling up, his face full of rage. Instantly he made for me again.

"I'll teach ye!" he screamed. "You good-fer-nuthin landlubber! I've had it in fer ye ever since ye took passage. Maybe my ship aint good enough fer ye! If thet's so, I'll pitch ye overboard!" And he tried to grab me once more.

But now Dan stepped between us. "Captain Kenny, you let Raymond alone," he ordered sternly.

"I won't—he's called me a drunkard, and—"

"He told the truth. You attend to your business and we'll attend to ours."

"I'll—I'll put him in irons. He shan't talk so afore my crew!" fumed the captain.

"You shan't touch him."

"Shan't I?" The half-drunken man glared at both of us. Then he backed away, shaking his fist. "Just wait a minute and I'll show you a trick or two—just wait!" And still shaking his fist, he reeled off to the companion way, almost fell down the stairs, and disappeared into the cabin.