The After House
18. A Bad Combination
We picked up a pilot outside the Lewes breakwater a man of few words. I told
him only the outlines of our story, and I believe he half discredited me at first.
God knows, I was not a creditable object. When I took him aft and showed him
the jolly-boat, he realized, at last, that he was face to face with a great tragedy,
and paid it the tribute of throwing away his cigar.
He suggested our raising the yellow plague flag; and this we did, with a ready
response from the quarantine officer. The quarantine officer came out in a power-
boat, and mounted the ladder; and from that moment my command of the Ella
ceased. Turner, immaculately dressed, pale, distinguished, member of the yacht
club and partner in the Turner line, met him at the rail, and conducted him, with a
sort of chastened affability, to the cabin.
Exhausted from lack of sleep, terrified with what had gone by and what was yet
to come, unshaven and unkempt, the men gathered on the forecastle-head and
The conference below lasted perhaps an hour. At the end of that time the
quarantine officer came up and shouted a direction from below, as a result of
which the jolly-boat was cut loose, and, towed by the tug, taken to the quarantine
station. There was an argument, I believe, between Turner and the officer, as to
allowing us to proceed up the river without waiting for the police. Turner
prevailed, however, and, from the time we hoisted the yellow flag, we were on
our way to the city, a tug panting beside us, urging the broad and comfortable
lines of the old cargo boat to a semblance of speed.
The quarantine officer, a dapper little man, remained on the boat, and busied
himself officiously, getting the names of the men, peering at Singleton through
his barred window, and expressing disappointment at my lack of foresight in
having the bloodstains cleared away.