The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories HTML version

The Captain's Story
There was a good deal of pleasant gossip about old Captain 'Hurricane' Jones, of the
Pacific Ocean--peace to his ashes! Two or three of us present had known him; I,
particularly well, for I had made four sea- voyages with him. He was a very remarkable
man. He was born on a ship; he picked up what little education he had among his ship-
mates; he began life in the forecastle, and climbed grade by grade to the captaincy. More
than fifty years of his sixty-five were spent at sea. He had sailed all oceans, seen all lands,
and borrowed a tint from all climates. When a man has been fifty years at sea, he
necessarily knows nothing of men, nothing of the world but its surface, nothing of the
world's thought, nothing of the world's learning but it's a B C, and that blurred and
distorted by the unfocussed lenses of an untrained mind. Such a man is only a gray and
bearded child. That is what old Hurricane Jones was-- simply an innocent, lovable old
infant. When his spirit was in repose he was as sweet and gentle as a girl; when his wrath
was up he was a hurricane that made his nickname seem tamely descriptive. He was
formidable in a fight, for he was of powerful build and dauntless courage. He was
frescoed from head to heel with pictures and mottoes tattooed in red and blue India ink. I
was with him one voyage when he got his last vacant space tattooed; this vacant space
was around his left ankle. During three days he stumped about the ship with his ankle
bare and swollen, and this legend gleaming red and angry out from a clouding of India
ink: 'Virtue is its own R'd.' (There was a lack of room.) He was deeply and sincerely
pious, and swore like a fish-woman. He considered swearing blameless, because sailors
would not understand an order unillumined by it. He was a profound Biblical scholar--
that is, he thought he was. He believed everything in the Bible, but he had his own
methods of arriving at his beliefs. He was of the 'advanced' school of thinkers, and
applied natural laws to the interpretation of all miracles, somewhat on the plan of the
people who make the six days of creation six geological epochs, and so forth. Without
being aware of it, he was a rather severe satirist on modern scientific religionists. Such a
man as I have been describing is rabidly fond of disquisition and argument; one knows
that without being told it.
One trip the captain had a clergyman on board, but did not know he was a clergyman,
since the passenger list did not betray the fact. He took a great liking to this Rev. Mr.
Peters, and talked with him a great deal: told him yarns, gave him toothsome scraps of
personal history, and wove a glittering streak of profanity through his garrulous fabric
that was refreshing to a spirit weary of the dull neutralities of undecorated speech. One
day the captain said, 'Peters, do you ever read the Bible?'
'I judge it ain't often, by the way you say it. Now, you tackle it in dead earnest once, and
you'll find it'll pay. Don't you get discouraged, but hang right on. First you won't
understand it; but by-and-by things will begin to clear up, and then you wouldn't lay it
down to ^^^ear.'