Moran of the Lady Letty HTML version
II. A Nautical Educatton
In the course of the next few moments, while the little vessel was being got under way,
and while the Ridgeways' "Petrel" gleamed off into the blue distance, Wilbur made
The name of the boat on which he found himself was the "Bertha Millner." She was a
two-topmast, 28-ton keel schooner, 40 feet long, carrying a large spread of sail--
mainsail, foresail, jib, flying-jib, two gaff-topsails, and a staysail. She was very dirty and
smelt abominably of some kind of rancid oil. Her crew were Chinamen; there was no
mate. But the cook--himself a Chinaman-- who appeared from time to time at the door
of the galley, a potato-masher in his hand, seemed to have some sort of authority over
the hands. He acted in a manner as a go-between for the Captain and the crew,
sometimes interpreting the former's orders, and occasionally giving one of his own.
Wilbur heard the Captain address him as Charlie. He spoke pigeon English fairly. Of the
balance of the crew--the five Chinamen-- Wilbur could make nothing. They never spoke,
neither to Captain Kitchell, to Charlie, nor to each other; and for all the notice they took
of Wilbur he might easily have been a sack of sand. Wilbur felt that his advent on the
"Bertha Millner" was by its very nature an extraordinary event; but the absolute
indifference of these brown-suited Mongols, the blankness of their flat, fat faces, the
dulness of their slanting, fishlike eyes that never met his own or even wandered in his
direction, was uncanny, disquieting. In what strange venture was he now to be involved,
toward what unknown vortex was this new current setting, this current that had so
suddenly snatched him from the solid ground of his accustomed life?
He told himself grimly that he was to have a free cruise up the bay, perhaps as far as
Alviso; perhaps the "Bertha Millner" would even make the circuit of the bay before
returning to San Francisco. He might be gone a week. Wilbur could already see the
scare-heads of the daily papers the next morning, chronicling the disappearance of
"One of Society's Most Popular Members."
"That's well, y'r throat halyards. Here, Lilee of the Vallee, give a couple of pulls on y'r
peak halyard purchase."
Wilbur stared at the Captain helplessly.
"No can tell, hey?" inquired Charlie from the galley. "Pullum disa lope, sabe?"
Wilbur tugged at the rope the cook indicated.
"That's well, y'r peak halyard purchase," chanted Captain Kitchell.