The Bell-Ringer of Angel's and Other Stories HTML version
Young Robin Gray
The good American barque Skyscraper was swinging at her moorings in the Clyde, off
Bannock, ready for sea. But that good American barque—although owned in
Baltimore—had not a plank of American timber in her hulk, nor a native American in her
crew, and even her nautical "goodness" had been called into serious question by divers of
that crew during her voyage, and answered more or less inconclusively with belaying-
pins, marlin-spikes, and ropes' ends at the hands of an Irish-American captain and a
Dutch and Danish mate. So much so, that the mysterious powers of the American consul
at St. Kentigern had been evoked to punish mutiny on the one hand, and battery and
starvation on the other; both equally attested by manifestly false witness and subornation
on each side. In the exercise of his functions the consul had opened and shut some jail
doors, and otherwise effected the usual sullen and deceitful compromise, and his flag was
now flying, on a final visit, from the stern sheets of a smart boat alongside. It was with a
feeling of relief at the end of the interview that he at last lifted his head above an
atmosphere of perjury and bilge-water and came on deck. The sun and wind were ruffling
and glinting on the broadening river beyond the "measured mile"; a few gulls were
wavering and dipping near the lee scuppers, and the sound of Sabbath bells, mellowed by
a distance that secured immunity of conscience, came peacefully to his ear.
"Now that job's over ye'll be takin' a partin' dhrink," suggested the captain.
The consul thought not. Certain incidents of "the job" were fresh in his memory, and he
proposed to limit himself to his strict duty.
"You have some passengers, I see," he said, pointing to a group of two men and a young
girl, who had apparently just come aboard.
"Only wan; an engineer going out to Rio. Them's just his friends seein' him off, I'm
thinkin'," returned the captain, surveying them somewhat contemptuously.
The consul was a little disturbed. He wondered if the passenger knew anything of the
quality and reputation of the ship to which he was entrusting his fortunes. But he was
only a PASSENGER, and the consul's functions—like those of the aloft-sitting cherub of
nautical song—were restricted exclusively to looking after "Poor Jack." However, he
asked a few further questions, eliciting the fact that the stranger had already visited the
ship with letters from the eminently respectable consignees at St. Kentigern, and
contented himself with lingering near them. The young girl was accompanied by her
father, a respectably rigid-looking middle-class tradesman, who, however, seemed to be
more interested in the novelty of his surroundings than in the movements of his daughter
and their departing friend. So it chanced that the consul re-entered the cabin—ostensibly
in search of a missing glove, but really with the intention of seeing how the passenger
was bestowed—just behind them. But to his great embarrassment he at once perceived
that, owing to the obscurity of the apartment, they had not noticed him, and before he