The After House
2. I Unclench My Hands
From the first the captain disclaimed responsibility for me. I was housed in the
forecastle, and ate with the men. There, however, my connection with the crew
and the navigation of the ship ended. Perhaps it was as well, although I resented
it at first. I was weaker than I had thought, and dizzy at the mere thought of going
As a matter of fact, I found myself a sort of deck-steward, given the responsibility
of looking after the shuffle-board and other deck games, the steamer-rugs, the
cards, - for they played bridge steadily, - and answerable to George Williams, the
colored butler, for the various liquors served on deck.
The work was easy, and the situation rather amused me. After an effort or two to
bully me, one of which resulted in my holding him over the rail until he turned
gray with fright, Williams treated me as an equal, which was gratifying.
The weather was good, the food fair. I had no reason to repent my bargain. Of
the sailing qualities of the Ella there could be no question. The crew, selected by
Captain Richardson from the best men of the Turner line, knew their business,
and, especially after the Williams incident, made me one of themselves. Barring
the odor of formaldehyde in the forecastle, which drove me to sleeping on deck
for a night or two, everything was going smoothly, at least on the surface.
Smoothly as far as the crew was concerned. I was not so sure about the after
As I have said, owing to the small size, of the vessel, and the fact that
considerable of the space had been used for baths, there were, besides the
family, only two guests, a Mrs. Johns, a divorcee, and a Mr. Vail. Mrs. Turner and
Miss Lee shared the services of a maid, Karen Hansen, who, with a stewardess,
Henrietta Sloane, occupied a double cabin. Vail had a small room, as had
Turner, with a bath between which they used in common. Mrs. Turner's room
was a large one, with its own bath, into which Elsa Lee's room also opened. Mrs.