The crew consisted of Weeks, three fairly competent hands, and a baker’s assistant, when the Willing Mind slipped out of Yarmouth. Alexander Duncan, the photographer from Derby, joined the smack afterwards under peculiar circumstances. Duncan was a timid person, but aware of his timidity. He was quite clear that his paramount business was to be a man; and he was equally clear that he was not successful in his paramount business. Meanwhile he pretended to be, hoping that on some miraculous day a sudden test would prove the straw man he was to have become real flesh and blood. A visit to a surgeon and the flick of a knife quite shattered that illusion. He went down to Yarmouth afterwards, fairly disheartened. The test had been applied, and he had failed.
Now, Weeks was a particular friend of Duncan’s. They had chummed together on Gorleston Quay some years before, perhaps because they were so dissimilar. Weeks had taught Duncan to sail a boat, and had once or twice taken him for a short trip on his smack; so that the first thing that Duncan did on his arrival at Yarmouth was to take the tram to Gorleston and to make inquiries.
A fisherman lounging against a winch replied to them—-
“If Weeks is a friend o’ yours I should get used to missin’ ’im, as I tell his wife.”
There was at that time an ingenious system by which the skipper might buy his smack from the owner on the instalment plan—as people buy their furniture—only with a difference: for people sometimes get their furniture. The instalments had to be completed within a certain period. The skipper could do it—he could just do it; but he couldn’t do it without running up one little bill here for stores, and another little bill there for sail-mending. The owner worked in with the sail-maker, and just as the skipper was putting out to earn his last instalment, he would find the bailiffs on board, his cruise would be delayed, he would be, consequently, behindhand with his instalment and back would go the smack to the owner with a present of four-fifths of its price. Weeks had to pay two hundred pounds, and had eight weeks to earn it in. But he got the straight tip that his sail-maker would stop him; and getting together any sort of crew he could, he slipped out at night with half his stores.
“Now the No’th Sea,” concluded the fisherman, “in November and December ain’t a bobby’s job.”
Duncan walked forward to the pier-head. He looked out at a grey tumbled sky shutting down on a grey tumbled sea. There were flecks of white cloud in the sky, flecks of white breakers on the sea, and it was all most dreary. He stood at the end of the jetty, and his great possibility came out of the grey to him. Weeks was shorthanded. Cribbed within a few feet of the smack’s deck, there would be no chance for any man to shirk. Duncan acted on the impulse. He bought a fisherman’s outfit at Gorleston, travelled up to London, got a passage the next morning on a Billingsgate fish-carrier, and that night went throbbing down the great water street of the Swim, past the green globes of the Mouse. The four flashes of the Outer Gabbard winked him good-bye away on the starboard, and at eleven o’clock the next night far out in the North Sea he saw the little city of lights swinging on the Dogger.
The Willing Mind’s boat came aboard the next morning and Captain Weeks with it, who smiled grimly while Duncan explained how he had learnt that the smack was shorthanded.
“I can’t put you ashore in Denmark,” said Weeks knowingly. “There’ll be seven weeks, it’s true, for things to blow over; but I’ll have to take you back to Yarmouth. And I can’t afford a passenger. If you come, you come as a hand. I mean to own my smack at the end of this voyage.”
Duncan climbed after him into the boat. The Willing Mind had now six for her crew, Weeks; his son Willie, a lad of sixteen; Upton, the first hand; Deakin, the decky; Rall, the baker’s assistant, and Alexander Duncan. And of these six four were almost competent. Deakin, it is true, was making his second voyage; but Willie Weeks, though young, had begun early; and Upton, a man of forty, knew the banks and currents of the North Sea as well as Weeks.
“It’s all right,” said the skipper, “if the weather holds.” And for a month the weather did hold, and the catches were good, and Duncan learned a great deal. He learnt how to keep a night-watch from midnight till eight in the morning, and then stay on deck till noon; how to put his tiller up and down when his tiller was a wheel, and how to vary the order according as his skipper stood to windward or to lee; he learnt to box a compass and to steer by it; to gauge the leeway he was making by the angle of his wake and the black line in the compass; above all, he learnt to love the boat like a live thing, as a man loves his horse, and to want every scanty inch of brass on her to shine.
But it was not for this that Duncan had come out to sea. He gazed out at night across the rippling starlit water, and the smacks nestling upon it, and asked of his God: “Is this all?” And his God answered him.
The beginning of it was the sudden looming of ships upon the horizon, very clear, till they looked like carved toys. The skipper got out his accounts and totted up his catches, and the prices they had fetched in Billingsgate Market. Then he went on deck and watched the sun set. There were no cloud-banks in the west, and he shook his head.
“It’ll blow a bit from the east before morning,” said he, and he tapped on the barometer. Then he returned to his accounts and added them up again. After a little he looked up, and saw the first hand watching him with comprehension.
“Two or three really good hauls would do the trick,” suggested Weeks.
The first hand nodded. “If it was my boat I should chance it to-morrow before the weather blows up.”
Weeks drummed his fists on the table and agreed.
On the morrow the Admiral headed north for the Great Fisher Bank, and the fleet followed, with the exception of the Willing Mind. The Willing Mind lagged along in the rear without her topsails till about half-past two in the afternoon, when Captain Weeks became suddenly alert. He bore away till he was right before the wind, hoisted every scrap of sail he could carry, rigged out a spinnaker with his balloon fore-sail, and made a clean run for the coast of Denmark. Deakin explained the manoeuvre to Duncan. “The old man’s goin’ poachin’. He’s after soles.”
“Keep a look-out, lads!” cried Weeks. “It’s not the Danish gun-boat I’m afraid of; it’s the fatherly English cruiser a-turning of us back.”
Darkness, however, found them unmolested. They crossed the three-mile limit at eight o’clock, and crept close in under the Danish headlands without a glimmer of light showing.
“I want all hands all night,” said Weeks; “and there’s a couple of pounds for him as first see the bogey-man.”
“Meaning the Danish gun-boat,” explained Deakin.
The trawl was down before nine. The skipper stood by his lead. Upton took the wheel, and all night they trawled in the shallows, bumping on the grounds, with a sharp eye for the Danish gun-boat. They hauled in at twelve and again at three and again at six, and they had just got their last catch on deck when Duncan saw by the first grey of the morning a dun-coloured trail of smoke hanging over a projecting knoll.
“There she is!” he cried.
“Yes, that’s the gun-boat,” answered Weeks. “We can laugh at her with this wind.”
He put his smack about, and before the gun-boat puffed round the headland, three miles away, was reaching northwards with his sails free. He rejoined the fleet that afternoon. “Fifty-two boxes of soles!” said Weeks. “And every one of them worth two-pound-ten in Billingsgate Market. This smack’s mine!” and he stamped on the deck in all the pride of ownership. “We’ll take a reef in,” he added. “There’s a no’th-easterly gale blowin’ up and I don’t know anything worse in the No’th Sea. The sea piles in upon you from Newfoundland, piles in till it strikes the banks. Then it breaks. You were right, Upton; we’ll be lying hove-to in the morning.”
They were lying hove-to before the morning. Duncan, tossing about in his canvas cot, heard the skipper stamping overhead, and in an interval of the wind caught a snatch of song bawled out in a high voice. The song was not reassuring, for the two lines which Duncan caught ran as follows—
You never can tell when your death-bells are ringing,|
Your never can know when you’re going to die.
Duncan tumbled on to the floor, fell about the cabin as he pulled on his sea-boots and climbed up the companion. He clung to the mizzen-runners in a night of extraordinary blackness. To port and to starboard the lights of the smacks rose on the crests and sank in the troughs, with such violence they had the air of being tossed up into the sky and then extinguished in the water; while all round him there flashed little points of white which suddenly lengthened out into a horizontal line. There was one quite close to the quarter of the Willing Mind. It stretched about the height of the gaff in a line of white. The line suddenly descended towards him and became a sheet; and then a voice bawled, “Water! Jump! Down the companion! Jump!”
There was a scamper of heavy boots, and a roar of water plunging over the bulwarks, as though so many loads of wood had been dropped on the deck. Duncan jumped for the cabin. Weeks and the mate jumped the next second and the water sluiced down after them, put out the fire, and washed them, choking and wrestling, about on the cabin floor. Weeks was the first to disentangle himself, and he turned fiercely on Duncan.
“What were you doing on deck? Upton and I keep the watch to-night. You stay below, and, by God, I’ll see you do it! I have fifty-two boxes of soles to put aboard the fish-cutter in the morning, and I’m not going to lose lives before I do that! This smack’s mine!”
Captain Weeks was transformed into a savage animal fighting for his own. All night he and the mate stood on the deck and plunged down the open companion with a torrent of water to hurry them. All night Duncan lay in his bunk listening to the bellowing of the wind, the great thuds of solid green wave on the deck, the horrid rush and roaring of the seas as they broke loose to leeward from under the smack’s keel. And he listened to something more—the whimpering of the baker’s assistant in the next bunk. “Three inches of deck! What’s the use of it! Lord ha’ mercy on me, what’s the use of it? No more than an eggshell! We’ll be broken in afore morning, broken in like a man’s skull under a bludgeon. . . . I’m no sailor, I’m not; I’m a baker. It isn’t right I should die at sea!”
Duncan stopped his ears, and thought of the journey some one would have to make to the fish-cutter in the morning. There were fifty-two boxes of soles to be put aboard.
He remembered the waves and the swirl of foam upon their crests and the wind. Two men would be needed to row the boat, and the boat must make three trips. The skipper and the first hand had been on deck all night. There remained four, or rather three, for the baker’s assistant had ceased to count—Willie Weeks, Deakin, and himself, not a great number to choose from. He felt that he was within an ace of a panic, and not so far, after all, from that whimperer his neighbour. Two men to row the boat—two men! His hands clutched at the iron bar of his hammock; he closed his eyes tight; but the words were thundered out at him overhead, in the whistle of the wind, and slashed at him by the water against the planks at his side. He found that his lips were framing excuses.
Duncan was on deck when the morning broke. It broke extraordinarily slowly, a niggardly filtering of grey, sad light from the under edge of the sea. The bare topmasts of the smacks showed one after the other. Duncan watched each boat as it came into view with a keen suspense. This was a ketch, and that, and that other, for there was the peak of its reefed mainsail just visible, like a bird’s wing, and at last he saw it—the fish-cutter—lurching and rolling in the very middle of the fleet, whither she had crept up in the night. He stared at it; his belly was pinched with fear as a starveling’s with hunger; and yet he was conscious that, in a way, he would have been disappointed if it had not been there.
“No other smack is shipping its fish,” quavered a voice at his elbow. It was the voice of the baker’s assistant.
“But this smack is,” replied Weeks, and he set his mouth hard. “And, what’s more, my Willie is taking it aboard. Now, who’ll go with Willie?”
Weeks swung round on Duncan and stared at him. Then he stared out to sea. Then he stared again at Duncan.
“When I shipped as a hand on the Willing Mind, I took all a hand’s risks.”
“And brought the willing mind,” said Weeks with a smile, “Go, then! Some one must go. Get the boat tackle ready, forward. Here, Willie, put your life-belt on. You, too, Duncan, though God knows life-belts won’t be of no manner of use; but they’ll save your insurance. Steady with the punt there! If it slips inboard off the rail there will be a broken back! And, Willie, don’t get under the cutter’s counter. She’ll come atop of you and smash you like an egg. I’ll drop you as close as I can to windward, and pick you up as close as I can to leeward.”
The boat was dropped into the water and loaded up with fish-boxes. Duncan and Willie Weeks took their places, and the boat slid away into a furrow. Duncan sat in the boat and rowed. Willie Weeks stood in the stern, facing him, and rowed and steered.
“Water!” said Willie every now and then, and a wave curled over the bows and hit Duncan a stunning blow on the back.
“Row,” said Willie, and Duncan rowed and rowed. His hands were ice, he sat in water ice-cold, and his body perspired beneath his oil-skins, but he rowed. Once, on the crest of a wave, Duncan looked out and saw below them the deck of a smack, and the crew looking upwards at them as though they were a horserace. “Row!” said Willie Weeks. Once, too, at the bottom of a slope down which they had bumped dizzily, Duncan again looked out, and saw the spar of a mainmast tossing just over the edge of a grey roller. “Row,” said Weeks, and a moment later, “Ship your oar!” and a rope caught him across the chest.
They were alongside the cutter.
Duncan made fast the rope.
“Push her off!” suddenly cried Willie, and grasped an oar. But he was too late. The cutter’s bulwarks swung down towards him, disappeared under water, caught the punt fairly beneath the keel and scooped it clean on to the deck, cargo and crew.
“And this is only the first trip!” said Willie.
The two following trips, however, were made without accident.
“Fifty-two boxes at two-pound-ten,” said Weeks, as the boat was swung inboard. “That’s a hundred and four, and ten two’s are twenty, and carry two, and ten fives are fifty, and two carried, and twenties into that makes twenty-six. One hundred and thirty pounds—this smack’s mine, every rope on her. I tell you what, Duncan: you’ve done me a good turn to-day, and I’ll do you another. I’ll land you at Helsund, in Denmark, and you can get clear away. All we can do now is to lie out this gale.”
Before the afternoon the air was dark with a swither of foam and spray blown off the waves in the thickness of a fog. The heavy bows of the smack beat into the seas with a thud and a hiss—the thud of a steam-hammer, the hiss of molten iron plunged into water; the waves raced exultingly up to the bows from windward, and roared angrily away in a spume of foam from the ship’s keel to lee; and the thrumming and screaming of the storm in the rigging exceeded all that Duncan had ever imagined. He clung to the stays appalled. This storm was surely the perfect expression of anger, too persistent for mere fury. There seemed to be a definite aim of destruction, a deliberate attempt to wear the boat down, in the steady follow of wave upon wave, and in the steady volume of the wind.
Captain Weeks, too, had lost all of a sudden all his exhilaration. He stood moodily by Duncan’s side, his mind evidently labouring like his ship. He told Duncan stories which Duncan would rather not have listened to, the story of the man who slipped as he stepped from the deck into the punt, and weighted by his boots, had sunk down and down and down through the clearest, calmest water without a struggle; the story of the punt which got its painter under its keel and drowned three men; the story of the full-rigged ship which got driven across the seven-fathom part of the Dogger—the part that looks like a man’s leg in the chart—and which was turned upside-down through the bank breaking. The skipper and the mate got outside and clung to her bottom, and a steam-cutter tried to get them off, but smashed them both with her iron counter instead.
“Look!” said Weeks, gloomily pointing his finger. “I don’t know why that breaker didn’t hit us. I don’t know what we should have done if it had. I can’t think why it didn’t hit us! Are you saved?”
Duncan was taken aback, and answered vaguely—“I hope so.”
“But you must know,” said Weeks, perplexed. The wind made a theological discussion difficult. Weeks curved his hand into a trumpet, and bawled into Duncan’s ear: “You are either saved or not saved! It’s a thing one knows. You must know if you are saved, if you’ve felt the glow and illumination of it.” He suddenly broke off into a shout of triumph: “But I got my fish on board the cutter. The Willing Mind’s the on’y boat that did.” Then he relapsed again into melancholy: “But I’m troubled about the poachin’. The temptation was great, but it wasn’t right; and I’m not sure but what this storm ain’t a judgment.”
He was silent for a little, and then cheered up. “I tell you what. Since we’re hove-to, we’ll have a prayer-meeting in the cabin to-night and smooth things over.”
The meeting was held after tea, by the light of a smoking paraffin-lamp with a broken chimney. The crew sat round and smoked, the companion was open, so that the swish of the water and the man on deck alike joined in the hymns. Rall, the baker’s assistant, who had once been a steady attendant at Revivalist meetings, led off with a Moody and Sankey hymn, and the crew followed, bawling at the top pitch of their lungs, with now and then some suggestion of a tune. The little stuffy cabin rang with the noise. It burst upwards through the companion-way, loud and earnest and plaintive, and the winds caught it and carried it over the water, a thin and appealing cry. After the hymn Weeks prayed aloud, and extempore and most seriously. He prayed for each member of the crew by name, one by one, taking the opportunity to mention in detail each fault which he had had to complain of, and begging that the offender’s chastisement might be light. Of Duncan he spoke in ambiguous terms.
“O Lord!” he prayed, “a strange gentleman, Mr. Duncan, has come amongst us. O Lord! we do not know as much about Mr. Duncan as You do, but still bless him, O Lord!” and so he came to himself.
“O Lord! this smack’s mine, this little smack labouring in the North Sea is mine. Through my poachin’ and your lovin’ kindness it’s mine; and, O Lord, see that it don’t cost me dear!” And the crew solemnly and fervently said “Amen!”
But the smack was to cost him dear. For in the morning Duncan woke to find himself alone in the cabin. He thrust his head up the companion, and saw Weeks with a very grey face standing by the lashed wheel.
“Halloa!” said Duncan. “Where’s the binnacle?”
“Overboard,” said Weeks.
Duncan looked round the deck.
“Where’s Willie and the crew?”
“Overboard,” said Weeks. “All except Rall! He’s below deck forward and clean daft. Listen and you’ll hear ’im. He’s singing hymns for those in peril on the sea.”
Duncan stared in disbelief. The skipper’s face drove the disbelief out of him.
“Why didn’t you wake me?” he asked.
“What’s the use? You want all the sleep you can get, because you an’ me have got to sail my smack into Yarmouth. But I was minded to call you, lad,” he said, with a sort of cry leaping from his throat. “The wave struck us at about twelve, and it’s been mighty lonesome on deck since with Willie callin’ out of the sea. All night he’s been callin’ out of the welter of the sea. Funny that I haven’t heard Upton or Deakin, but on’y Willie! All night until daybreak he called, first on one side of the smack and then on t’other, I don’t think I’ll tell his mother that. An’ I don’t see how I’m to put you on shore in Denmark, after all.”
What had happened Duncan put together from the curt utterances of Captain Weeks and the crazy lamentations of Rall. Weeks had roused all hands except Duncan to take the last reef in. They were forward by the mainmast at the time the wave struck them. Weeks himself was on the boom, threading the reefing-rope through the eye of the sail. He shouted “Water!” and the water came on board, carrying the three men aft. Upton was washed over the taffrail. Weeks threw one end of the rope down, and Rall and Willie caught it and were swept overboard, dragging Weeks from the boom on to the deck and jamming him against the bulwarks.
The captain held on to the rope, setting his feet against the side. The smack lifted and dropped and tossed, and each movement wrenched his arms. He could not reach a cleat. Had he moved he would have been jerked overboard.
“I can’t hold you both!” he cried, and then, setting his teeth and hardening his heart, he addressed his words to his son: “Willie! I can’t hold you both!” and immediately the weight upon the rope was less. With each drop of the stern the rope slackened, and Weeks gathered the slack in. He could now afford to move. He made the rope fast and hauled the one survivor on deck. He looked at him for a moment. “Thank God, it’s not my son!” he had the courage to say.
“And my heart’s broke!” had gasped Rall. “Fair broke.” And he had gone forward and sung hymns.
They saw little more of Rall. He came aft and fetched his meals away; but he was crazed and made a sort of kennel for himself forward, and the two men left on the smack had enough upon their hands to hinder them from waiting on him. The gale showed no sign of abatement; the fleet was scattered; no glimpse of the sun was visible at any time; and the compass was somewhere at the bottom of the sea.
“We may be making a bit of headway no’th, or a bit of leeway west,” said Weeks, “or we may be doing a sternboard. All that I’m sure of is that you and me are one day going to open Gorleston Harbour. This smack’s cost me too dear for me to lose her now. Lucky there’s the tell-tale compass in the cabin to show us the wind hasn’t shifted.”
All the energy of the man was concentrated upon this wrestle with the gale for the ownership of the Willing Mind; and he imparted his energy to his companion. They lived upon deck, wet and starved and perishing with the cold—the cold of December in the North Sea, when the spray cuts the face like a whip-cord. They ate by snatches when they could, which was seldom; and they slept by snatches when they could, which was even less often. And at the end of the fourth day there came a blinding fall of snow and sleet, which drifted down the companion, sheeted the ropes with ice, and hung the yards with icicles, and which made every inch of brass a searing-iron and every yard of the deck a danger to the foot.
It was when this storm began to fall that Weeks grasped Duncan fiercely by the shoulder.
“What is it you did on land?” he cried. “Confess it, man! There may be some chance for us if you go down on your knees and confess it.”
Duncan turned as fiercely upon Weeks. Both men were overstrained with want of food and sleep.
“I’m not your Jonah—don’t fancy it! I did nothing on land!”
“Then what did you come out for?”
“What did you? To fight and wrestle for your ship, eh? Well, I came out to fight and wrestle for my immortal soul, and let it go at that!”
Weeks turned away, and as he turned, slipped on the frozen deck. A lurch of the smack sent him sliding into the rudder-chains, where he lay. Once he tried to rise, and fell back. Duncan hauled himself along the bulwarks to him.
“Leg broke. Get me down into the cabin. Lucky there’s the tell-tale. We’ll get the Willing Mind berthed by the quay, see if we don’t.” That was still his one thought, his one belief.
Duncan hitched a rope round Weeks, underneath his arms, and lowered him as gently as he could down the companion.
“Lift me on to the table so that my head’s just beneath the compass! Right! Now take a turn with the rope underneath the table, or I’ll roll off. Push an oily under my head, and then go for’ard and see if you can find a fish-box. Take a look that the wheel’s fast.”
It seemed to Duncan that the last chance was gone. There was just one inexperienced amateur to change the sails and steer a seventy-ton ketch across the North Sea into Yarmouth Roads. He said nothing, however, of his despair to the indomitable man upon the table, and went forward in search of a fish-box. He split up the sides into rough splints and came aft with them.
“Thank ’ee, lad,” said Weeks. “Just cut my boot away, and fix it up best you can.”
The tossing of the smack made the operation difficult and long. Weeks, however, never uttered a groan. Only Duncan once looked up, and said—“Halloa! You’ve hurt your face too. There’s blood on your chin!”
“That’s all right!” said Weeks, with an effort. “I reckon I’ve just bit through my lip.”
Duncan stopped his work.
“You’ve got a medicine-chest, skipper, with some laudanum in it—?”
“Daren’t!” replied Weeks. “There’s on’y you and me to work the ship. Fix up the job quick as you can, and I’ll have a drink of Friar’s Balsam afterwards. Seems to me the gale’s blowing itself out, and if on’y the wind holds in the same quarter—” And thereupon he fainted.
Duncan bandaged up the leg, got Weeks round, gave him a drink of Friar’s Balsam, set the teapot within his reach, and went on deck. The wind was going down; the air was clearer of foam. He tallowed the lead and heaved it, and brought it down to Weeks. Weeks looked at the sand stuck on the tallow and tasted it, and seemed pleased.
“This gives me my longitude,” said he, “but not my latitude, worse luck. Still, we’ll manage it. You’d better get our dinner now; any odd thing in the way of biscuits or a bit of cold fish will do, and then I think we’ll be able to run.”
After dinner Duncan said: “I’ll put her about now.”
“No; wear her and let her jibe,” said Weeks, “then you’ll on’y have to ease your sheets.”
Duncan stood at the wheel, while Weeks, with the compass swinging above his head, shouted directions through the companion. They sailed the boat all that night with the wind on her quarter, and at daybreak Duncan brought her to and heaved his lead again. There was rough sand with blackish specks upon the tallow, and Weeks, when he saw it, forgot his broken leg.
“My word,” he cried, “we’ve hit the Fisher Bank! You’d best lash the wheel, get our breakfast, and take a spell of sleep on deck. Tie a string to your finger and pass it down to me, so that I can wake you up.”
Weeks waked him up at ten o’clock, and they ran southwest with a steady wind till six, when Weeks shouted—
“Take another cast with your lead.”
The sand upon the tallow was white like salt.
“Yes,” said Weeks; “I thought we was hereabouts. We’re on the edge of the Dogger, and we’ll be in Yarmouth by the morning.” And all through the night the orders came thick and fast from the cabin. Weeks was on his own ground; he had no longer any need of the lead; he seemed no longer to need his eyes; he felt his way across the currents from the Dogger to the English coast; and at daybreak he shouted—
“Can you see land?”
“There’s a mist.”
“Lie to, then, till the sun’s up.”
Duncan lay the boat to for a couple of hours, till the mist was tinged with gold and the ball of the sun showed red on his starboard quarter. The mist sank, the brown sails of a smack thrust upwards through it; coastwards it shifted and thinned and thickened, as though cunningly to excite expectation as to what it hid. Again Weeks called out—
“Yes,” said Duncan, in a perplexed voice. “I see something. Looks like a sort of mediaeval castle on a rock.”
A shout of laughter answered him.
“That’s the Gorleston Hotel. The harbour-mouth’s just beneath. We’ve hit it fine,” and while he spoke the mist swept clear, and the long, treeless esplanade of Yarmouth lay there a couple of miles from Duncan’s eyes, glistening and gilded in the sun like a row of dolls’ houses.
“Haul in your sheets a bit,” said Weeks. “Keep no’th of the hotel, for the tide’ll set you up and we’ll sail her in without dawdlin’ behind a tug. Get your mainsail down as best you can before you make the entrance.”
Half an hour afterwards the smack sailed between the pier-heads.
“Who are you?” cried the harbour-master.
“The Willing Mind.”
“The Willing Mind’s reported lost with all hands.”
“Well, here’s the Willing Mind,” said Duncan, “and here’s one of the hands.”
The irrepressible voice bawled up the companion to complete the sentence—
“And the owner’s reposin’ in his cabin.” But in a lower key he added words for his own ears. “There’s the old woman to meet. Lord! but the Willing Mind has cost me dear.”