The After House
3. I Receive A Warning
The odor of formaldehyde in the forecastle having abated, permission for the
crew to sleep on deck had been withdrawn. But the weather as we turned south
had grown insufferably hot. The reek of the forecastle sickened me - the odor of
fresh paint, hardly dry, of musty clothing and sweaty bodies.
I asked Singleton, the first mate, for permission to sleep on deck, and was
refused. I went down, obediently enough, to be driven back with nausea. And so,
watching my chance, I waited until the first mate, on watch, disappeared into the
forward cabin to eat the night lunch always prepared by the cook and left there.
Then, with a blanket and pillow, I crawled into the starboard lifeboat, and settled
myself for the night. The lookout saw me, but gave no sign.
It was not a bad berth. As the ship listed, the stars seemed to sway above me,
and my last recollection was of the Great Dipper, performing dignified gyrations
in the sky.
I was aroused by one of the two lookouts, a young fellow named Burns. He was
standing below, rapping on the side of the boat with his knuckles. I sat up and
peered over at him, and was conscious for the first time that the weather had
changed. A fine rain was falling; my hair and shirt were wet.
"Something doing in the chart-room," he said cautiously. "Thought you might not
want to miss it."
He was in his bare feet, as was I. Together we hurried to the after house. The
steersman, in oilskins, was at his post, but was peering through the barred
window into the chart room, which was brilliantly lighted. He stepped aside
somewhat to let us look in. The loud and furious voices which had guided us had
quieted, but the situation had not relaxed.
Singleton, the first mate, and Turner were sitting at a table littered with bottles
and glasses, and standing over them, white with fury, was Captain Richardson.