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The Mystery

"Old Scrubs" Comes Ashore
The inevitable happened. One noon Pulz looked up from his labour of pulling the
whiskers from the evil-smelling masks.
"How many of these damn things we got?" he inquired.
"About three hunder' and fifty," Thrackles replied.
"Well, we've got enough for me. I'm sick of this job. It stinks."
They looked at each other. I could see the disgust rising in their eyes, the reek of rotten
blubber expanding their nostrils. With one accord they cast aside the masks.
"It ain't such a hell of a fortune," growled Pulz, his evil little white face thrust forward.
"There's other things worth all the seal trimmin's of the islands."
"Diamon's," gloomed the Nigger.
"You've hit it, Doctor," cut in Solomon.
There we were again, back to the old difficulty, only worse. Idleness descended on us
again. We grew touchy on little things, as a misplaced plate, a shortage of firewood, too
deep a draught at the nearly empty bucket. The noise of bickering became as constant as
the noise of the surf. If we valued peace, we kept our mouths shut. The way a man spat,
or ate, or slept, or even breathed became a cause of irritation to every other member of
the company. We stood the outrage as long as we could; then we objected in a wild and
ridiculous explosion which communicated its heat to the object of our wrath. Then there
was a fight. It needed only liquor to complete the deplorable state of affairs.
Gradually the smaller things came to worry us more and more. A certain harmless singer
of the cricket or perhaps of the tree-toad variety used to chirp his innocent note a short
distance from our cabin. For all I know he had done so from the moment of our
installation, but I had never noticed him before. Now I caught myself listening for his
irregular recurrence with every nerve on the quiver. If he delayed by ever so little, it was
an agony; yet when he did pipe up, his feeble strain struck to my heart cold and
paralysing like a dagger. And with every advancing minute of the night I became broader
awake, more tense, fairly sweating with nervousness. One night--good God, was it only
last week? ... it seems ages ago, another existence ... a state cut off from this by the
wonder of a transmigration, at least ... Last week!
I did not sleep at all. The moon had risen, had mounted the heavens, and now was sailing
overhead. By the fretwork of its radiance through the chinks of our rudely-built cabin I
had marked off the hours. A thunderstorm rumbled and flashed, hull down over the
horizon. It was many miles distant, and yet I do not doubt that its electrical influence had
dried the moisture of our equanimity, leaving us rattling husks for the winds of destiny to
 
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