The diary of a soldier of fortune by Stanley Portal Hyatt ( 1911 ) Free PDF book

The diary of a soldier of fortune by Stanley Portal Hyatt ( 1911) Free PDF book

English Tramp: his experiences as an engineer, sheep station hand, labor agent, explorer, American soldier, blockade runner, tramp

The diary of a soldier of fortune

The vessel on which I left England the first time was — and I believe is still — one of the finest and fastest sailing ships ever launched. She had been built in the days when the cargo-tank was still a horror of the future, and she held the record from the Cape to Melbourne, having made the run in seventeen days. True, she had done the feat by accident, involuntarily, having been unable to heave to; but the fact of her achievement remains. However, when, as a youngster of seventeen, I was a passenger on her, she was not trying to startle the world of sailormen.

Her skipper was careful — the ship's company used to put it more crudely and emphatically; he liked to put his vessel to bed before he, himself, turned in; and the mates knew better than to set a single stitch more canvas until he reappeared. On the other hand, he used to hold a service every night before he shortened sail, and, possibly, that may have compensated for the extra work he caused. At any rate, it is to be hoped that his prayer in the cabin neutralized the effect of what was being said about him on deck. I did not like that skipper. Even now, I look back on him with a definite amount of resentment. 2 THE DIARY OF which the ordinary traveler would not understand. On the average mail boat, with its hundreds of passengers and its fixed time-table, the skipper is the " captain," a gold-laced personage, possessing a bland smile and showing infinite patience in answering futile questions. He appears at regular intervals, suave and shaven, in the saloon, on deck, in the smoking-room, and, before one out of a score of those on board has learned to know him at all, the voyage is over. On a sailing ship, however, the " captain" becomes the "old man" omnipotent and always present.

If his liver is out of order, every- one scurries to cover; if he has a fit of religion, everyone shares in his gloomy depression and hums alleged hymns; if he looks on the whiskey when it is yellow, the entire ship's company becomes afflicted with what is usually an unquenchable thirst. There is no gold lace about the old man of a sailing ship. This particular specimen used to wear a frock-coat of semi-clerical cut, and one of those wholly detestable hats, hybrids between the silk hat and the bowler, dear to the heart of the retired Anglo-Indian. Even in the Tropics, when the pitch in the seams was bright and sticky, and the livestock in the coops abaft the forecastle was gasping and dying for want of the breeze which would not come, the old man would stalk up and down the poop in that same garb, a female relative on either arm.

 I did not like him, as I have said, but he had a certain strength which one could not help admiring. Most people, meeting him on land, would have taken him for an uneaten missionary, who had awed his local heathen into a state of trembling submission, either by his grimness or by his possible toughness. One could imagine him converting a whole tribe, and then marching back, at the head of the inevitable punitive expedition, to avenge the roasting of his successor. But he was certainly out of place in command of an Australian clipper. The second mate, who had been in the United States, used to declare that the old man was a Hard-shell Baptist, although he admitted he was not quite certain of the tenets of that particular sect. Personally, I do know that the skipper abhorred tobacco and alcohol, and regarded me as a malign influence, possibly because I had objected to sharing a cabin with a man in an advanced state of tuberculosis. ,

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