The After House HTML version

15. A Knocking In The Hold
It rained heavily all that day. Late in the afternoon we got some wind, and all
hands turned out to trim sail. Action was a relief, and the weather suited our
disheartened state better than had the pitiless August sun, the glaring white of
deck and canvas, and the heat.
The heavy drops splashed and broke on top of the jolly-boat, and, as the wind
came up, it rode behind us like a live thing.
Our distress signal hung sodden, too wet to give more than a dejected response
to the wind that tugged at it. Late in the afternoon we sighted a large steamer,
and when, as darkness came on, she showed no indication of changing her
course, Burns and I sent up a rocket and blew the fog horn steadily. She altered
her course then and came towards us, and we ran up our code flags for
immediate assistance; but she veered off shortly after, and went on her way. We
made no further effort to attract her attention. Burns thought her a passenger
steamer for the Bermudas, and, as her way was not ours, she could not have
been of much assistance.
One or two of the men were already showing signs of strain. Oleson, the Swede,
developed a chill, followed by fever and a mild delirium, and Adams complained
of sore throat and nausea. Oleson's illness was genuine enough. Adams I
suspected of malingering. He had told the men he would not go up to the crow's-
nest again without a revolver, and this I would not permit.
Our original crew had numbered nine - with the cook and Williams, eleven. But
the two Negroes were not seamen, and were frightened into a state bordering on
collapse. Of the men actually useful, there were left only five: Clarke, McNamara,
Charlie Jones, Burns, and myself; and I was a negligible quantity as regarded the
working of the ship.
With Burns and myself on guard duty, the burden fell on Clarke, McNamara, and
Jones. A suggestion of mine that we release Singleton was instantly vetoed by