Strength of the Strong and Other Stories
"That wull be the doctor's launch," said Captain MacElrath.
The pilot grunted, while the skipper swept on with his glass from the launch to the
strip of beach and to Kingston beyond, and then slowly across the entrance to
Howth Head on the northern side.
"The tide's right, and we'll have you docked in two hours," the pilot vouchsafed,
with an effort at cheeriness. "Ring's End Basin, is it?"
This time the skipper grunted.
"A dirty Dublin day."
Again the skipper grunted. He was weary with the night of wind in the Irish
Channel behind him, the unbroken hours of which he had spent on the bridge.
And he was weary with all the voyage behind him - two years and four months
between home port and home port, eight hundred and fifty days by his log.
"Proper wunter weather," he answered, after a silence. "The town is undistinct. Ut
wull be rainun' guid an' hearty for the day."
Captain MacElrath was a small man, just comfortably able to peep over the
canvas dodger of the bridge. The pilot and third officer loomed above him, as did
the man at the wheel, a bulky German, deserted from a warship, whom he had
signed on in Rangoon. But his lack of inches made Captain MacElrath a no less
able man. At least so the Company reckoned, and so would he have reckoned
could he have had access to the carefully and minutely compiled record of him
filed away in the office archives. But the Company had never given him a hint of
its faith in him. It was not the way of the Company, for the Company went on the
principle of never allowing an employee to think himself indispensable or even
exceedingly useful; wherefore, while quick to censure, it never praised. What was
Captain MacElrath, anyway, save a skipper, one skipper of the eighty-odd
skippers that commanded the Company's eighty-odd freighters on all the
highways and byways of the sea?
Beneath them, on the main deck, two Chinese stokers were carrying breakfast
for'ard across the rusty iron plates that told their own grim story of weight and
wash of sea. A sailor was taking down the life-line that stretched from the
forecastle, past the hatches and cargo-winches, to the bridge-deck ladder.
"A rough voyage," suggested the pilot.