Harry Castlemon.

George at the Wheel

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"Must I kick somebody who has never done me any harm, simply because somebody else has kicked me?" cried Tony.

"If you want to get square, that's the only way you can do it," said his new friend, indifferently.

If Tony had never known before, that it will not do to put implicit faith in everything one reads in books, he knew it now. In his favorite sea-novels there was no mention made of the hardships of a sailor's life, and the cruelties that are practised upon him. His existence was described as one of ease and pleasure. Of course there were wrecks, and fights with pirates and mutinous crews; but the typical sailor, who was always loyal to his captain, rather enjoyed such things as these, for they served to break the monotony of long voyages, and gave him opportunity to show his skill and courage, and win a reward. The constant annoyances and punishments to which a foremast hand is sometimes subjected, were never spoken of; but Tony's new friend referred to them as though they were matters of everyday occurrence. The runaway found that they were, too. He began to believe that he had made a mistake, and while he was informing himself of the fact, his companion led him down to a pier and across to a little schooner that lay on the opposite side. This was the Princeton – an ill-looking craft to bear so dignified a name. She was not more than half as large as the brig to which Tony's new acquaintance belonged, and neither did her deck present the same scene of neatness and order.

"She's bound for Rio, so the old man told me this morning; and on the way, she's going to stop at Havana," said the young sailor, as he and Tony fell in behind a couple of longshoremen, who were rolling a heavy cask down the gang-plank.

"To Rio Janeiro!" exclaimed Tony. "Why, that's in Brazil. This little brig can't go there."

"This is a schooner," replied the young sailor, with some contempt in his tones.

"She has two masts, just like yours."

"She's got two masts, I know, but she ain't like my vessel. Can't you see that she is a fore-and-after, while mine is square rigged?"

This was all Greek to Tony, who could only gaze about the vessel and look bewildered.

"Avast, there!" suddenly cried his companion, seizing him by the arm and pulling him away from an open hatch, into which he would have walked in a moment more. "Don't fall into the hold and break your neck before you sign articles. Say, captain," he added, as he and Tony approached a short, broad-shouldered, red-faced man, who had just ascended the companion-ladder. "You told me this morning, that you wanted a cabin-boy. How do you like the looks of this fellow?"

The captain run his eyes over Tony's face and figure, took one or two pulls at his pipe, and said in a hoarse voice:

"He looks well enough, but can he do anything?"

"Nary thing," replied the young sailor, with refreshing candor. "Can't you see for yourself that his mouth is always gaping like a contribution box for dimes? He don't know a schooner from a brig.

You'll have to break him in."


The captain gave Tony another good looking over, after which he took his pipe out of his mouth long enough to say "Humph!" Then he put it back again.

"Oh, he can make up the bunks and sweep the cabin and help the doctor, if he don't know the ropes," exclaimed the sailor, who thought he ought to say a good word for Tony, seeing that the latter did not know enough to say it for himself. "You can do that, can't you, shipmate?"

"No, I can't," answered Tony. "I don't know anything about medicine; I can't help the doctor."

The young sailor stared at the captain, and the captain looked hard at Tony. Then they both looked up at the main top-mast, and broke out into loud peals of laughter. After that the skipper also swore a good-natured oath, and asked Tony where he lived.

"In St. Louis," was the reply.

"Why didn't you stay there?"

"Because I didn't want to. I would like to see something of the world, and earn a living at the same time."

"All right; I'll take you."

"At how much a month, captain?" asked the sailor.

"Eight dollars," replied the skipper.

"That's settled," said the sailor. "Have you got any money? You want an outfit – some bedding and clothes that will do to work in."

"Oh, yes, I've got enough for that," replied Tony.

"Then let's go ashore, and I'll show you where to get them. I am my own master to-day, for we shan't begin to break cargo until to-morrow. When do you sail, captain?"

"About four o'clock. Look here, Bradley, I'll leave that greenhorn in your charge, and I want you to bring him back as soon as you can. And you, Abraham," added the skipper, looking at the runaway.

"I am Anthony Richardson," replied the owner of that name. "Tony, for short."

"Well, Tony, when you come back, report to the doctor."

As the boy was about turning away without making any reply, the captain called sharply after him.

"Did you hear me?" he demanded.

"Say 'ay, ay, sir!'" whispered Bradley, giving the runaway a prod in the ribs with his elbow.

Tony gave the required response, and the captain continued:

"Hereafter keep your ears open, and remember your manners."

"You had better bear that in mind," said Bradley, when he and Tony were once more ashore. "Whenever an officer gives you an order, say 'ay, ay, sir!' and don't waste any time about it, either."

"It hurts me to be obliged to show so much respect to such a fellow as that captain is," replied Tony. "I have had better men than he say 'sir' to me."

"That's what I thought," said Bradley; "and them are the fellows that you had ought to have stayed with. But that's all over now. The respect that's paid to a man on board ship don't depend upon the position he holds ashore, and you'll find it out. An able seaman who hasn't got a cent to his name, is worth more in a gale of wind than a landsman with a million dollars in his pocket."

"I suppose that's so," said Tony, with a sigh. "I suppose, too, that I shall be hauled over the coals a good many times before I know just what is required of me. But, Bradley, I can't be of any use to the doctor."

"Yes, you can. The doctor is the cook."

"O!" exclaimed Tony. "I understand. But what makes the old man so cross?"

"He ain't cross; it's only just his way. You won't have any trouble with him to speak of, if you only do your duty up to the handle. But there's one man there that you had better look out for. He's the captain's pet; and pets on shipboard are a nuisance."

"I'll not have anything to do with him, if you will tell me who he is," said Tony.

"You can't help yourself. He's the first mate. Now, I'll tell you, as near as I can, just what you will have to do, and the better you do it, the less trouble you'll get into."

Bradley then went on to describe the duties that were imposed upon himself when he first went to sea, and told of a good many difficulties he had fallen into, which he could have avoided if he had had a friend at the start to point them out to him. Tony listened with all his ears, and treasured everything up in his memory. Bradley told him what he had to expect in pretty plain language, and it was a wonder that Tony's courage did not give way altogether.

"If a sailor has to work so hard, what is there in the life that is so fascinating?" said he. "What is there about it that is pleasant?" he added, as Bradley turned toward him with an inquiring look.

"There's nothing about it that I ever heard of that is pleasant for poor Jack," was the reply. "Some of us like it, in spite of the hard work and harder fare, but the most of the men who are before the mast to-day are looking forward to the time when they can quit the sea and settle down on shore. It's the captains that have the bully times. If you could see the master of a fine ship come out of his cabin of a pleasant afternoon, when the wind is fair and everything draws, and sit down on his quarter-deck and smoke his cigar, you would say that he was the happiest man in the world. Those old fellows are happy, and some of them are rich, too. Let's go in here and see what we can find that is worth looking at."

So saying, Bradley led the way into a cheap clothing store near the levee, in which were to be found all articles of necessity and luxury required by sea-faring men; at least that was what the advertisement in the window said. If Tony had been left to himself he would not have known what to ask for; but Bradley selected the articles for him, and he went about it as though he understood it. Having purchased a good many outfits for himself, he knew almost to a penny what a shirt or a hat was worth, and setting his own price upon it, told the shop-keeper that he could take it or leave it alone – just as he pleased. The consequence was that he got the outfit for much less money than Tony would have been obliged to pay for the same articles. It was not a very extensive one, but Bradley assured him that it would answer until he could earn money enough to add to it. When everything had been paid for, the clothes were put into a canvas-bag, the mattrass was wrapped up in a pair of blankets, and each boy shouldered a bundle and set out to return to the Princeton. Tony's money had not much more than paid his expenses, for he had only fifteen dollars left.

Arriving at the Princeton, Bradley led the way at once into the forecastle, and throwing his bundle into the only empty bunk he found there, laughed heartily at the expression of blank amazement he saw on Tony's face. The latter had read much of the forecastle, and now he saw one for the first time. He could hardly bring himself to believe, that eight men could stow themselves away there. It was very small and dark, and pervaded by an odor that Tony did not like.

"It's mostly tobacco smoke," said Bradley, "and there's a little tar, slush and bilge-water mixed up with it. It's nothing when you get used to it."

"But I don't see how I can stand it," said Tony, heaving a deep sigh as he thought of his pleasant, little room at Kirkwood, with its neat writing-desk, well-filled bookcase and easy chairs. "I have been used to better things at home."

"Yes, I thought so, when I first slapped my peepers onto you," said Bradley, "and there's where you ought to have stayed. But since you are bent on snuffing salt water, it may comfort you to know, that better men than you have lived in just such places as this; and that some of those same men are now masters of our finest ships – East Indiamen, mail steamers and crafts like them. The only way to make a sailor out of a fellow is, to shove him in at the hawse-hole, and let him work his way aft, without help from anybody."

While the young sailor was speaking, he was busy making up Tony's bed in the empty bunk, which was in the lower tier and in the darkest corner of the forecastle. This work took up scarcely two minutes of his time, for all he had to do, was to put the mattrass in and spread the blankets over it.

"There you are," said he, when he had finished his task. "Now when you are ready to turn in, you can use your clothes-bag for a pillow. Is there anything more I can do for you?"

"I don't think of anything," answered Tony. "I am very grateful to you for the service you have rendered me."

"Belay that," said Bradley, hastily. "It's all right. If I was going with you, I could give you a hint now and then that would be of use to you."

"Why can't you go?" exclaimed Tony.

"Because the crew is all shipped – the bedding in these bunks shows that – and I am not yet discharged from the brig. I want my money before I leave her, and I don't know when I shall get it. It depends upon the work there is to be done. Good-by! Who knows but you and I may some day reef a top-sail together in a gale of wind? Now, pull off those shore duds, and put on one of the suits I bought for you. When you have done that, go on deck and report to the doctor, as the old man told you to do."

Bradley, having shaken hands with the runaway, mounted the ladder that led to the deck; while Tony, remembering that his new friend had told him that promptness in obeying orders, was of the utmost importance on ship-board, made all haste to pull off his fine clothes and put on one of his new suits. He was very lonely now that Bradley was gone, and for the first time since leaving St. Louis, he began to be homesick.

"I am really afraid I have made a mistake," thought he, as he packed his clothes carefully away in his bag. "Now, that I have got out into the world, I find that it doesn't look just as I thought it would. Instead of being my own master, as I supposed I should be, it seems that I shall have more people to rule me than I ever had before. I don't much like the idea of being ordered around by such a fellow as that captain; and then there's the cook. What if he should happen to be a darkey?"

Having prepared himself for work, Tony went on deck and made his way toward the cabin, intending to ask the skipper where he should go to find the cook, an idea which, if it had been carried out, would have got him into trouble immediately. But, fortunately for him, he learned what he wanted to know without making any inquiries of the captain. Passing a little house on deck, he looked into it, and saw a negro banging the pots and kettles about. There was a stove in it, and preparations for dinner were going on. Tony's heart sank within him. This was the galley, and beyond a doubt the man before him was the cook.

"Perhaps it would be well to show him at the start that I shall stand no nonsense from him," thought Tony, as he leaned his arms on the window sill, and looked into the galley. "Well, Snowball," said he, "is there anything I can do for you?"

"Who is you?" demanded the negro, plunging a long-handled fork into one of the kettles on the stove.

"I am the cabin boy, and the old man told me to report to you," replied Tony.

The cook turned upon him like a flash when he heard this. "Look heah, chile," he exclaimed, shaking the fork at Tony. "If you use any mo' sich onrespecful language as Snowball to me agin, I chuck you in de ribber. Dar can't no white trash like you talk dat ar way to me. Bring your lazy bones in here, an' take dat knife an' peel dem taters."

Tony again thought of the advice Bradley had given him while they were on their way to the clothing store, and what was more he was wise enough to act upon it. He had been told that he must never answer back, no matter how savagely he might be addressed. If he did that, he would have everybody in the schooner down on him, and then his life would be a hard one indeed. There were a thousand ways in which a sailor could bother a landsman, and the only way in which he could escape being made a victim of their malice, was to do cheerfully and willingly whatever he was told to do.

"I feel very cheerful just now, don't I?" thought Tony, as he walked into the galley, and began the work that had been assigned to him. "What would my father say if he could see me at this moment? I don't think it is quite safe to fool with that cook, for he looks to me like a man who would chuck a fellow over the side in a minute if he got mad at him. Say, doctor," he added, suddenly, knowing that if he wanted to keep up his spirits he must not give away to his gloomy thoughts, "I want to tell you – "

"I is Mr. Sands, I is," interrupted the cook.

All the rest of the crew aroused his ire every hour in the day by calling him some name he did not like, and he was determined that the cabin boy, the only person on board over whom he had any authority, should treat him with due respect.

"All right, Mr. Sands," said Tony, who was rather amused by this assumption of dignity. "I want to tell you that I know nothing whatever about a cabin-boy's duties, and still less about cooking, and I want you to be easy on me till I learn how to do my work."

"Well, den, peel dem taters thinner'n dat," said the negro, pointing at Tony with his long-handled fork. "It's wastin' the schooner's money to cut off so much tater wid dem skins."

The darkey, remembering that his new assistant had addressed him by a title that he particularly despised, was inclined to be sulky at first, but he gradually recovered his good-nature and began to question Tony. The latter enjoyed the conversation, and exerted himself to do his part of it. While he was talking, he was not thinking of the dismal prospect before him.

Not being accustomed to work, Tony soon grew tired enough to sit down, but he could not find the opportunity. No sooner was one thing done than he was ordered to take up something else. Dinner being ready, the cook showed him how to set the table in the cabin, and when the officers were summoned, he had to take his stand behind the captain's chair in readiness to pass dishes, or execute any other orders he might receive. He took a good look at the two mates, whom he now saw for the first time, and although he did not admire the appearance of one of them, he was sure he would have liked the other if he had not been warned against him. There was nothing in the countenance of the first mate to indicate that he was such a brute as he afterwards showed himself to be. He looked more like a gentleman than either of the other officers.

When the captain and his mates had satisfied their appetites, Tony, having been previously instructed, set to work to clear away the table and put the cabin in order. This done, he went into the galley, where he was met by the cook, who, with his mouth too full to speak, waved his hand toward some viands he had placed upon one of the shelves, and nodded his head to Tony, as if inviting him to help himself. The boy looked at the food with rather a doubtful eye. It was a portion of what had been left over from the dinner in the cabin, and it was not dished up with the same care that the cook had expended upon it when he placed it before the captain.

"Have I got to be satisfied with other's leavings?" asked Tony, putting his hands into his pockets and looking at the cook.

"Why, chile, dat's your grub!" exclaimed the darkey.

"Of course it is; and you may see the day when you will be glad to put up with worse!" exclaimed another voice.

Tony faced about and saw the first mate standing in the door. He did not look as amiable now as he did while he was eating his dinner.

"Who are you that comes aboard this vessel and finds fault with the way things are done?" demanded the officer, angrily. "You are afraid to eat after gentlemen, are you? Come out of that and turn to."

Tony had heard orders issued often enough to know that "turn to" meant "go to work." He knew, also, that it was customary, when the work was not very pressing, to allow the crew ample time to eat their dinner and take a smoke after it. He did not want to smoke, but he was hungry, and he did want something to eat.

"I haven't had my dinner yet," said he.

No sooner had the words left his lips, than he recalled Bradley's advice, but it was too late to act upon it. The officer walked into the galley, and seizing the boy by the collar, shook him until he was so dizzy that he could scarcely stand when he was released. Then he dragged him to the door, and giving him a kick to hasten his movements, said in savage tones: "Jump into that yawl at the stern and hook them falls on. Lay aft, the rest of us, and run that boat up," he added, waving his hand to the crew who were sitting around the windlass.

Fortunately for Tony he understood this order. He made his way aft and found the second mate then overhauling the falls. The yawl floated close under the stern, and it was the work of but a few seconds for Tony to drop down into it and hook the blocks fast to ring-bolts in the bow and stern. By this time the crew arrived, and the boat with Tony in it, was hauled up to the davits and made fast there.

"I believe I have made a mistake," thought Tony, as he climbed back to the schooner's deck, after pulling the plug out of the yawl, so that the water that had leaked into her could run out. "This thing of working under the eye of a darkey, and waiting at table, and saying 'sir' to men I wouldn't have looked at a few days ago, isn't what it is cracked up to be. It isn't what I want to go to sea for, either. If the mate is going to make a practice of shaking me up in that way, I shan't have brains enough left to learn the ropes. I wonder if I can eat my dinner now."

He found out when he reached the galley. As he was about to enter the door, the cook held up his hand warningly; but before Tony could ask him what he meant, the first mate appeared and seized him by the collar.

"Didn't I tell you to turn to?" he demanded, tightening his grasp until the boy's neck-tie began to choke him.

"Yes, sir; but I thought I had got through," gasped Tony.

"Well, you haven't got through, and you won't as long as you stay aboard this vessel. We want to get to sea some time this month, and you are to help to clear up the decks. Go for'ard, now, and the second mate will tell you what to do."

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