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David W. (David William) Bone.

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looking mate borrowed a few cigars and some to-
bacco from the P.O., "jest t' keep me goin' till I
get ashore," he said. Next morning, when going
their rounds, they met an ill-used man. He had a
bruised lip, was out of breath, and vowing sum-
mary vengeance. Ill-used seamen are plentiful
enough about the docks, and little attention would
have been paid to him but that he was telling a
'docker something about a Nova Scotia mate, and
how hard they were on fo'c'sle hands. 'When
shipmates fall out the Customs come by their due' ;
and a little sympathy elicited the facts that he was
one of the crew of the barque, that he had made
the voyage, was hard worked, and treated cruel,
and now, after a drop o' drink, had had words
with the mate, been 'clouted,' and bundled ashore.
He muttered many threats against his aggressor,
he would be even with him yet the dog! The
'Customs' were ready listeners, and the P.O.
hinted at his own opinion of the mate's character.
At this the ill-used man became suspicious, and
when it was suggested that he might know some-
thing of the mate's 'plank' (hiding-place) became
indignant.

"No! No! Bad's bad, but Ah ain't goin' t'
give away no shipmate t' you bloomin' sharks. If
Ah meets 'im ashore arter dark, A'll give 'im one,



284 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

that's wot Vll get, one acrost th' bloomin' jaw,
but Ah ain't a'goin' t' give 'im away, no bloomin'
'fear. Me? Not much!"

This was a 'scent,' and when it was represented
to the ill-used man that the contraband being
found ( u and found it will be, if we've got t' stand
the barque on 'er 'ead an' shake 'er") he would
be fixed on as accessory, he reluctantly laid the in-
formation :

"Mind ye, Ah knows nothin' fer certain; but
w'en we was in th' river, 'im an' th' bloomin' nig-
ger stooard was a-muckin' about th' chain locker,
an' if there ain't 'baccy in that there chain locker,
call me a bloomin' Dutchman, that's awl!"

The chain locker is that compartment where the
ship's anchor cables are kept, and to clear it for
inspection would be no small task, but here was
information, the bruised lip stamping it as genuine,
so the 'breakdown gang' again boarded the barque
and set to work.

They were met at the gangway by the mate.
"Hullo! Ain't you satisfied yet? Guess you kant
hev much t' do, when you come hear a-roustin' th'
rats about!"

In spite of his bold front, he seemed ill at ease,
and watched their preparations for heaving out
the chain with evident perturbation.

"Wall! Look you hear," he said. "If you
start that chain, you'll stow it again, every ruddy



HIS MAJESTY'S CUSTOMS 285

link, an' it ain't no fool job gettin' th' range right
in a small locker like that!"

"Oh! That's all right, mister," answere'd the
P.O. "Never you fear, we'll put the chain back
as we get it If we find no contraband about!"

Jackets came off, and they started on the star-
board anchor, heaving up, and letting the chain
run into the dock. It was hard work; the windlass
was old-fashioned and rusty, but the rummagers
hove with a will, and the pawls went clank, clank,
clank, as if there was a twelve-months' pay to lift
at the windlass bars. Two hundred and forty
fathoms of cable there were, but hope was at the
'bitter' end, and by midday both chains were chock
up, and they were able to get down to the floor
of the locker. For over an hour they probed
around, tramping, ankle-deep, in the mud and
refuse of a hundred anchorages. Odd things they
found queer shells from tropical seas, bits of
coral, decayed seaweed, scraps of chain and wire
all the refuse that had come up in the wake of
the chain from countless ocean bottoms but there
was no contraband, nothing dutiable.

For long they searched, reluctant to give it up,
and that they only did when the mate shouted
down, wanting to know what they had found.
"Wall! Look a hear," he said. "I guess you'd
better take a rest, an' let me get my hands on t'
clear that muck out o' th' locker what I've been



286 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

wantin' t' Ho this three year or more, only never
had hands t' spare t' roust th' cable up !" Sadly
they clambered up the ladders, to find the ill-used
man and another waiting in the fo'c'sle with
buckets and brooms and a heaving line, all .ready
for their job of clearing out the locker.

Grinning, the ill-used man said that he'd found
that the mate wasn't a half-bad sort after all, that
he had looked over his being drunk and fighting in
the 'Lord Nelson' last night, and had promised
him the bosun's job on the next voyage !



XXXVIII
THE CATALOGUE

A T the Stores, an energetic shop-manager
* pressed a catalogue of their wares upon me.
The tome was bulky and I demurred, but it was of
no use.

"Ah," he said, with a confident smile, "you will
find it very useful, sir, during your stay in India."

Now, how did he know I was a new-comer?
Perhaps there was something in my dress or man-
ner, my topee would be too aggressively new, or
my crash jacket would show a tailor's fold as dis-
tinct from a dhobe's! He was evidently an ob-
servant person, but not sufficiently observant to
deduce that I was leaving Bombay on the morrow
which I was. I did not require a Stores cata-
logue, but he insisted, so I brought it with me.

It was a very bulky volume, some 1040 pages,
and all the items were fully illustrated. The
Stores are properly a chemist's and druggist's es-
tablishment, but the catalogue, beginning at A
'Abaca, roots, Manilla ran through the entire
classification of requirements, ancient and modern.
C Cachous, liquorice; D Diaries, Stores spe-

287



288 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

cial; E Entree "dishes, plated, best and so on to
Z Zymometers, adjustable, nickel-steel.

All this I read on my way to visit a man at
Colaba. I decided that such a volume was not
conducive to a spirit of contentment and economy,
that its further perusal would tend to show me
how ill-supplied I was with even the necessaries
of a polite existence. Already I was grieved that
I did not possess a D Dressing-case, fitted, gold-
mounted, warranted Rs. 780, As. 12.

I resolved to discard the tempting book, and, to
that end, stowed it under the sea f of the hackney
gharry that was bearing me on. I took pains that
the driver should not see me do this. I waited
until he was deep in an argument with the driver
of an overtaking tramcar. At Greaves' bungalow
I paid the gharry off. On my way upstairs I dis-
tinctly saw my late driver preparing for a rest.
He brought grass fodder from a bag under the
gharry and placed it on the ground where his
horse, a broken-winded arab, could get at it. Then
he lay back on the floor of the carriage, set his
feet high up on the wheel guards, unloosed his
jacket, and lay still.

But for my having seen this I would still have
faith in the Bombay gharriwallah. In spite of
frequent differences on money matters, I had, till
this, a tolerant regard for the dusky jehu who
bows me so magnificently to my seat and lets me



THE CATALOGUE 289

step oft in tHe mu'd, he sighing only at the smallness
of his backsheesh.

As I say, I saw him at his rest. Judge, then, of
my surprise when, half an hour later, Greaves'
bearer interrupted our conversation with the in-
formation that a gharriwallah had called back
with a book which the Sahib had left in his gharry.

"Oh! that catalogue," I said. "I 'don't want
it." Then it occurred to me that this would be a
bad precedent. "Oh, well! Take it, O Bargoo,
and let the man go !"

But no! Bargoo returned with the statement
that the gharriwallah so great was his honesty
would return the book to none but the Sahib him-
self.

There was nothing for it. The man was
brought in. He looked hot and hurried, but I
noticed that his jacket was still unbuttoned. At
sight of me he smiled a proud, glad smile. He
had the wretched book tightly clasped in his hands.

"Thy book, O Sahib, that I, Sheik Ebram,
found in our gharry." He twisted the brass
badge on his arm so that I could note his number.
"It was a long way off at Dhobe Talao be-
fore I saw that the Sahib had left it. ... Here
have I hurried back, although there was business
for me at Bori Bundar. ... I hurried back in
haste, lest the Sahib should be gone!"

His hurried speech and breathing were well



290 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

simulatecl but that unbuttoned jacket! Then
there was the point that only by lying down in the
gharry could he have seen the book as I had placed
it. If I had troubled to look over the east ver-
andah, I would surely have seen the gharry in the
same spot the winded crock still struggling with
the last straws of his meal. Besides, there is not
in Bombay a public gharry horse capable of going
from Middle Colaba to Dhobe Talao and back in
half an hour.

I knew that he was lying and he knew that I
knew but there was the miserable book, undoubt-
edly my property Hutt! I gave him six annas,
and the staid Bargoo saw him off the premises, he
protesting loudly about the smallness of his re-
ward.

Having thus paid money for the book, I decided
to keep it. Greaves was laughing at me, and I
swore that nothing should part me from my vol-
ume. During what remained of my leave ashore
I kept firm hold of it. Even when playing a last
hundred up at Greens', I had a wary eye on the
spot wherfi I Ha'd laid it by. As a result I lost
bacUy.



Sailing clay is busy clay. !A' lengthy boulevard
in the nether regions must be paved with the good
intentions that are only brought to mind when the
'blue peter' is run up. Everything and every one



THE CATALOGUE 291

is hurried. There is the usual mad rush to com-
plete our loading in time, the doubt whether all
the cargo can be stowed, the fitting and finishing
of a good burthen, the clearing up and coiling
away of harbour gear sea-trim must be the word
when the tide serves.

With all this there are our own personal affairs.
The laggard 'dhobe turns up with the washing he
should have 'delivered yesterday. A skilful move
this, for now there is no time to turn over and lay
bare the tears and rents so cleverly folded to show
a laundered surface to the casual eye. Then Aunt
Matilda's set of china has not turned up, and there
is a prospect of its having been delivered on board
some other vessel. A great army of expectant
retainers hangs around most of whom one does
not remember having seen before. They salaam
grandly whenever they happen to catch the eye,
and appeal mutely for backsheesh. At length the
feverish rush is over and the stevedore's gangs
have gone ashore. The barriers are put up and
yellow-turbaned police are there to see that no one
without a bill of health is allowed to go on board.
The port doctor comes to examine us an'd to cer-
tify that we are suitable for export.

We are all ready, and the dock pilot is clearing
his throat, when a running coolie breaks through
the police line and comes swiftly to the gangway.
The police wallahs follow and lay rough hands on
him: he is being told a lot of information about



292 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

the character of his women-folk. It is quite a
scene I The unmooring of the ship is temporarily
suspended. I am told that the man has a letter
and parcel for me. Observed of all, I open the
letter. It is from the barkeeper at Greens' :

SIR On occasion of last visit you left book which I
sending by the special coolie.

The book! That infernal catalogue again!
P-S. Please paying coolie hire, annas four.



XXXIX
FLOOD TIDE AND EBB

half-ebb to half-flood there is little 'do-
ing on the broad of the Mersey river; only
the ferry-boats pass from shore to shore, and a
coasting schooner, hung up on the last tide, works
slowly to an anchorage in the Sloyne. Traffic
afloat is at a standstill until the tide turns and
bears a burden of laden ships in from the sea.
Out in midstream a few vessels, too late to dock
on the flood, are anchored, and a great Cunarder,
with her blue peter at the fore, lies waiting off
the landing-stage for her appointed sailing hour.
To seaward the banks lie bare to sun and wind,
and the great grey gulls, the Mersey's scavengers,
are screaming and quarrelling over the moist
patches; already the rising water is lapping over
the sandy fringes and their feeding ground will
soon be covered. Across the river the Cheshire
shore lies steeped in the broad light of the westing
sun. There is a fresh wind, and the swift-moving
clouds cast long lines of shadow on the land and
water.

A fine sight. We the Engineer and I have
been sent round from the Clyde to meet a ship on

293



294 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

arrival and are now waiting to join her. We are
certainly better here than in the bar parlour of the
'Admiral Blake' across the way from the street
gates.

A group of tugs lie anchored off the 'dock en-
trance waiting for the ships to come in, and the
rising smoke from their funnels shows the expec-
tation of the ever-ready. Those inside the dock
to serve the outward bound are already casting
off their mooring ropes and getting trimmed for
their tide's work. Theirs is the first move in the
'dock, and soon they will be canting and twisting
their charges into the basins. We mount an erec-
tion behind some huts to count the blue peters in
sight. Bold among the spars of the shipping, the
fluttering tokens of departure are easily recog-
nised. . . . "Thirteen . . . fourteen . . . fifteen.
Fifteen ships ready for the sea."

"Av coorse," says the Engineer . . . "this is a
Setterday, th' great sailing day. It widna dae tae
let th' sailors hae their Sunday i' port. Nae fears !
They maun awa' aff t' sea t' mak' th' siller.
Mebbe th' owners i' th' kirk o' Sunday '11 pit
up a bit prayer f'r Jeck. Mmh! Mebbe no."

Away to seaward, beyond the Crosby, the
smoke wrack of incoming steamers is blown low
on the water. It is finely clear, and we watch the
vessels rounding the lightships and bearing up
the channels. They are the first of the tide load,
and being in good time, they come up under low,



FLOOD TIDE AND EBB 295

steam and anchor at their ease. A big steamer in
light trim has come in from the nor'ard, a ship
for the Manchester Canal, for her masts are low-
ered and men are working at the stagings on her
funnel she must be no more than sixty-eight feet
from the water-line to clear the lowest of the
bridges that span the ditch. There she goes,
thrashing her way up-river to be ready to enter at
Eastham on the level. Others are there at the
anchorage: Scandinavian timber-ships, listed awk-
wardly and with deck loads piled high; ore-car-
riers for the steel-works ; a fruit-steamer from the
West Indies; the Dublin cattle-boat, broad of
beam, with her cargo lowing and bellowing, passes
up on the Cheshire side. There is no sign of our,
ship; we see no familiar funnel among the in-'
comers. Late.

Life and movement are not only on the river
now, for there is a coming and going at the 'dock-
head. Boatmen, pierhands, stevedores, and shore
gangs are turning up, looking out for their jobs,
and the dock people are shipping levers and un-
hooking hand chains. Elsewhere in the city there!
is little work done on a Saturday afternoon, but
here, those who serve the tide must come at the
call, day or night, Sunday or weekday. Tide is
the tyrant master.

The work begins among the small craft. A!
bustling tug, towing a long line of barges and river
craft, sheers into the locks and brings ug : bumping



296 'BROKEN STOWAGE'

and grinding together, the flats in her wake come
to the lock walls. The flatmen sway long poles to
fend their boats, cast lines one to the other, and
shout warnings and hails. In most, the lady of
the barge is at the steering while her man tends the
lines. Now all are mustered in the locks and the
gates are swung to. The water swirls and eddies
as it drains to the river, and soon the level is
reached. The dockmen hail across the locks, hand
levers, and the sea-gates creak and strain in their
opening. One behind another the towing lines
come a-taut, and the barges pass out into the tide-
stream and line out behind their monitor; black
smoke pours from her funnels, and she scurries
up-stream favoured by the wind and tide.

Now the big ships are hauling through from the
inner docks, and the stir and bustle, shriek of
steam-whistles, churning of screw, hoarse orders,
rattle of warping capstans are heard where a
short hour before all was as quiet as a country
millpond. They are vessels of all sorts and sizes,
of all trades and many flags : huge cattle-ships and
Western Ocean liners, Levant traders with their
decks stowed over with waggon frames and furni-
ture vans, a French barque with her yards canted
at all angles, a Spanish mail-boat for Manilla (her
much-bewhiskered Commandant holding his hands
to high heaven in protest at the way the Mersey
pilot swings his ship to the gates).

The tide waiters are increasing: women are



FLOOD TIDE AND EBB 297

among us now, gazing anxiously seaward, enquir-
ing, listening, watching, soothing fractious chil-
'dren, folding and refolding shawls each with a
big doorkey in hand. The tide is hard to them.
In the Dock Office there is a constant whirring of
telephone bells, and stout elderly gentlemen pass
in and out, intent on the ordering of their ships.
One emerges gloomily, muttering abuse of wind
and weather, and gives orders to his boatmen.

"Aye, aye, sir," says the leader. "Come on,
'Arry. 'T aint ho use 'angin' 'bout 'ere. She only
passed 'Oly'ead at one, an' she carn't do more 'n
nine knots. Coom on, let's be orf. It'll be an-
other o' them Sunday mornin' jobs."

The sun has gone and dark is setting in. Lights
glimmer along the shore, and the electric arcs at
the dockhead splutter noisily in their first contact.
The Cunarder passes out to seaward, resplendent
in tier upon tier of gleaming ports. She looks like
a seaport herself a seaport suddenly drifted
away. The dock gates are now wide, and the out-
ward bound, in timely procession, pass out and
stem the flood. To some eyes they may seem to
be in hopeless confusion, a dangerous gathering
of moving ships, but there is a method in it all. A
loud-voiced dockmaster from behind a huge mega-
phone controls matters, and the basin is soon clear
for the ships to come in.

They are clustered off the 'dock, marking time
till they get the order to come alongside, and show



298 'BROKEN STOWAGE*

a bewildering jumble of rapidly changing lights,
red and green and white. Smartly, as they are
called on, but without haste, they drop out of the
rush of the tide, one after another, and sheer into
the east lockway. Like their sister ships now rac-
ing down the channels, they are of all classes, the
freight of seven seas brought up on one tide.

It is now nearly high water. A lumbering cattle-
boat is breasting her way across from the Wal-
lasey stage where she has discharged her steers,
and the dockmaster keeps the gates long open for
her entry. With her decks still reeking of the
hastily disembarked cattle, she passes through
no time to spare and the huge gates are swung
to behind her, locked to hold the prisoned water
till the next high tide.

Our ship has not come in: there is no word of
her. There will be fog perhaps, or bad weather
in the Bay. We, too, shall have one of these
Sunday morning jobs.

There is nothing coming in from the sea now,
the Canal-bound vessels in the Sloyne have all
hove up their anchors and are on their way the
river looks lonely after the stir and bustle of tide-
time. To seaward are the stern lights of depart-
ing vessels and the gleam of the warning light-
ships. Across the river the myriad lights of the
Tower Grounds are reflected, 'dancing and shim-
mering in the ebbing water.

THE END




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Online LibraryDavid W. (David William) BoneBroken stowage → online text (page 16 of 16)