The After House HTML version

4. A Terrible Night
With the disappearance of Schwartz, the Ella was short-handed: I believe
Captain Richardson made an attempt to secure me to take the place of Burns,
now moved up into Schwartz's position. But the attempt met with a surly refusal
from Turner.
The crew was plainly nervous and irritable. Sailors are simple-minded men, as a
rule; their mental processes are elemental. They began to mutter that the devil-
ship of the Turner line was at her tricks again.
That afternoon, going into the forecastle for some of my clothing, I found a
curious group. Gathered about the table were Tom, the mulatto cook, a Swede
named Oleson, Adams, and Burns of the crew. At the head of the table Charlie
Jones was reading the service for the burial of the dead at sea. The men were
standing, bareheaded. I took off my cap and stood, just inside the door, until the
simple service was over. I was strongly moved.
Schwartz disappeared in the early morning of August 9. And now I come, not
without misgiving, to the night of August 12. I am wondering if, after all, I have
made clear the picture that is before my eyes: the languid cruise, the slight
relaxation of discipline, due to the leisure of a pleasure voyage, the Ella again
rolling gently, with hardly a dash of spray to show that she was moving, the sun
beating down on her white decks and white canvas, on the three women in
summer attire, on unending-bridge, with its accompaniment of tall glasses filled
with ice, on Turner's morose face and Vail's watchful one. In the forecastle, much
gossip and not a little fear, and in the forward house, where Captain Richardson
and Singleton had their quarters, veiled hostility and sullen silence.
August 11 was Tuesday, a hot August day, with only enough air going to keep
our sails filled. At five o'clock I served afternoon tea, and shortly after I went to
Williams's cabin in the forward house to dress the wound in his head, a long cut,
which was now healing. I passed the captain's cabin, and heard him quarreling