Thorne Smith.

Out o' luck; Biltmore Oswald very much at sea online

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c opy "L


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U. S. N. R. F.

Author of "Biltmore Oswald^*




{"Dick Dorgan") .
V. S. N. R. P.






Copyright, IQIQ, By
Frederick A. Stokes Company

All Rights Reserved

Reprinted from

The Broadside

A Journal For

The Naval Reserve Force


UN 201^19
©CU515936 "





I am by far the sickest man aboard this ship" Frontispiece



" 'Well, thank God, it ain't a submarine provoker' ' . 2

"* Who dropped that hammock?'" 5

" Tony dangled a piece of fat before our stricken eyes ^* 6
" 'You must let him kiss you, Tim, it's the custom' " . 14
"We were accompanied to the ship amid flags and an

admiring populace" ^7

"I sprang aside just in time to avoid an unpleasant

contact" ^°

" 'What are you doing here?' " 21

"The poor misguided Italian fell amid a volley of im-

precations ^-^

" *What do you know about me? What do you know

about my morals?' " 20

"*The "Exec" said that you were a "wicked old

man" and for me to keep away from you' " . 29
" *You nearly spoiled my grasshopper' " . . . .36
" 'What's so blooming wonderful about this,' says I,

edging behind an open work chair" . . . . 39

" 'See that window over there?' " 4^

"It seems that Mr. Fogerty's sweetie has given him

the go by" 5^

"The beautiful woman I hope to make my jailer" . 58
"My eye, what a walk! She did everything but loop-

the-loop" <5i

" 'You must break it to her gently,' she murmured,

kissing my neck" ^°




* 'Aren't there any beds save mine between here and

the South?'" 71

*I realized that my position was not an enviable one'* 78

* 'Certainly,' I replied, 'certainly, little bell boy, and

perhaps you might like the funny trousers also?' " 81

Bell boy, you're not saying it right' " .... 90
'Mr. Fogerty is a papa. He has seven babies, all
dogs" 93

* 'Maiden, I have here with me a homeless cat' " . 100

'The left shoulder of the young lady gave a slight, but
ever so eloquent hitch" 103

' 'Say, don't you think that my horse looks sick?' " 106

' 'Let's swap horses,' I cried, as I passed her com-
paratively mild-mannered mount" .... 109

'Sailors have an unpleasant habit of glaring" . .112

'At first I thought that he was getting into communi-
cation with my great grandfather" . . . .115

' 'Good-bye, Fogerty,' says I, 'be good to your fam-
ilies' " 116

'Now I must hasten to sow some jazz-weeds" . . ii'9


Biltmore Oswald Very Much at Sea

Sept. 7th. — My first impression of the ship was not a
reassuring one. As I regarded the tall, slim masts, with
a lookout or crow's-nest forward that somehow reminded me
of an eggcup, a nervous sensation made itself manifest and
enlarged in the pit of my stomach. The very idea of there
existing a bare possibility of my being forced to ascend one
of those masts in a pitching sea and ensconce myself in the
crow's-nest made the bitter, sweat-washed memory of the
coal pile back at camp seem sweet. As I stood gazing at
the vessel that was destined to bear me out upon the turbu-
lent seas of the high adventure, I considered how unlike the
sensations of the heroes of all the sea novels I had ever read
were mine. The scent of tar, which is guaranteed in all
the best sellers to send a thrill through the stalwart young
adventurer, served only to cast a gloomy and nauseating
foreboding of future complications over my rather meager
frame. The bustle and hurry on the dock, so dear to the
valiant hearts of the youthful mariners, confused my addled
brain to a point bordering closely on idiocy. The ^ip
seemed to be altogether too large. There would be many
decks to holystone — too many, I decided. Furthermore,
there would be much bright work to brighten. I pictured
long days of ceaseless toil and nights of extreme danger
during which the ship would play leap-frog with a series
of submarines stretching away into the mist.

"Well, thank God, it ain't a Submarine Provoker at any
rate," said Tim in a relieved voice.

"Too big," breathed Tony, "thata ship he much too big.
Whata you think, Bilta?"



**Well, it could be smaller," said I, "but she looks safe."

"Wonder when they issue the life preservers," said the
Spider in a dispirited voice. "I'd sort of like to put mine
on before we went aboard."

A member of the guns' crew, one of the hardest looking
white men I have ever seen, unfortunately overheard this
last remark, and almost barked. I thought for a moment
that he was going to bite the Spider, but he seemed to think
better of it.

"You fellers ain't agoin' ter git no life preservers," said
he, regarding our unheroic group through eyes that had
recently looked on something other than water. "We
drown such guys as you for the good of the service."

"How's your head, buddy?" says I all of a sudden,
prompted by some mad impulse. He looked at me with
extreme earnestness for a moment before he spoke, and when
he did speak all he said was, "I'm going to remember you ;"
but that was quite enough for me. My first enemy 1 Tim
threw a protecting arm around my shoulder and at the same
time faced my avowed foe.

"Don't worry about that guy," says Tim, "if he's got
anything to do with the guns I'm glad that I took out in-

"Oh, is that so?" says the sailor snappily.

"What a hot answer!" jeered the Spider. "He's got a
good line of stuff, that guy."

"You think so, do you?" says the other, moving closer
to us.

I expected the worst. He would at least break one of
my arms. I wondered if sailors rated a wound mark for
getting injured under such circumstances, but at that mo-
ment a diversion occurred in the form of a weather-beaten

"Grab your gear and get aboard, lads," he said in a
hearty voice. "Step lively now. Up with them outfits."

Accordingly we shouldered our bags and hammocks and
started for the ship. It was a great moment. At last we


'who dropped that hammock?' '* — Page 6


were going to be sailors, but for the life of me I couldn't
figure out on which side of the ship we were entering.
The excitement had caused me to forget all the knowledge
I had so laboriously gained at camp.

And then a terrible thing occurred. I can scarcely bring
myself to write these lines. But I must be truthful, or
else the record of my life in the Navy would be of little
value. Anyway, no one is going to see these pages, so pos-
sibly it doesn't matter. How can I describe the horrible
incident. It wasn't my fault, I swear it. The blame lies
with the guy that belonged to the guns' crew. He "remem-
bered" me with a vengeance. He said he would, and he was
as good as his word. It came to pass this way or after
this manner, for it all happened so suddenly that I have only
a confused impression of the details. As usual I was among
the stragglers, and finding it very difficult going. The
plank was steep and my outfit extremely heavy. There
were a few men behind me, and at my side I saw to my
horror the guns' crew guy. He was observing my efforts
with a malevolent grin. And then it happened — this fear-
ful thing. I had just reached the steepest pitch of the gang-
plank and was about to step aboard, when suddenly I felt
myself pushed violently backward. Something became en-
tangled in my legs, and I completely lost my balance. As
my hammock and bag flew from my grasp I uttered a low,
despairing cry and tumbled over backwards. Down the
gang-plank I rolled with incredible speed, gathering momen-
tum at every foot. Vague thoughts flashed across my mind
in the course of my frantic evolutions. *'Where is the
bottom?" I wondered. "If Polly could only see me now,"
came into my mind, and through it all I was fervently
cursing my enemy. He had pushed me. I knew it. Fur-
thermore, to make my ruin complete, he had tripped me.
This I also knew. My flight was becoming more rapid
every moment. I seemed to be hurtling through intermin-
able leagues of space. Vaguely I remember encountering
several pairs of legs on the way. The legs instantly disap-


peared and violent swearing broke out in my wake. Sud-
denly I brought up against something other than sailor legs.
These legs seemed to be invested with all the slim, blue
dignity of an officer. They, too, disappeared, and a body
fell heavily upon me. My flight was over. I was lying
on the dock at the foot of the gang-plank. Dreamily I
opened my eyes and stared into those of an incensed junior
lieutenant. He was lying hardly five Inches from me.
Gravity is no respecter of gold braid.

"A thousand damns!" screamed the infuriated officer, try-
ing to rise. He was unable to, owing to the fact that I was
on one of his legs.

"A thousand pardons," I moaned as he unceremoniously
rolled me over.

At that moment I felt a heavy hand on my collar and I
was violently placed on my feet. The Chief was glaring
into my face. A low cheer arose from those on the ship.

"You simple-faced lubber," grated the Chief, "you almost
ruined our lieutenant."

"I have apologized to him," I replied, "but he wouldn't
accept it."

"Out of my sight!" roared the officer.

I hastily looked for my bag and hammock, feeling a strong
desire to withdraw not only from his sight but from the
eyes of the world. The bag and hammock were nowhere
to be seen. They had vanished In thin air. Several men
were pointing to the water between the ship and the dock
from which arose the most astounding volume of oaths I
have ever heard. Peering over the dock I beheld my bag
and hammock floating around in the water. A sailor was
also floundering around in the oily substance, and there were
several overturned buckets of paint on a nearby scow.

"Who dropped that hammock?" yelled the man in the
water. "Just tell me who done it and I'll cut his heart


I moved quickly back from the edge of the pier.
"We'll show him to you later on!" yelled several voices



from the ship as I stood by helplessly and watched my bag
and hammock, together with the enraged ship's painter,
fished from the water.

''Get aboard," said the Chief, and I marched up the
gang-plank with thousands of eyes upon me. My outfit
was presented to me with elaborate courtesy, the whole
ship's crew taking part in the ceremony. It was twice as
heavy as before, and Tim had to help me carry it. As I
turned away the Chief stopped me.

"The mere fact that you are aboard this ship," he said
in a loud voice so that all might hear, "is sufficient reason
to give comfort to the enemy, and for that reason alone you
deserve to be shot. Get below!" I got. Thus have I
once more sprung into fame. Everyone on the ship knows
me. I have been overwhelmed with jests and questions.
The ship's painter is still looking for me. My outfit is in
terrible shape. I hope a submarine gets me soon. Life
is a great deal too much.

Sept. 9th. — The Spider was the first to go. Merely
looking at him made me feel nervous. His face was slowly
taking on a soft, greenish tint, but he said nothing. How
long could he last I wondered. Finally I could restrain
myself no longer.

"You're getting sick, Spider, aren't you?" I asked him.

"Getting!" gasped the Spider as he rose unsteadily to his
feet. "I've already got," and he dashed away, but I was
close on his heels. Tim brought up the rear. Tony seems
not to mind it. I can't write any more. I wish the ship's
painter would find me and put me out of my misery.

Sept. loth. — Impossible to write. Unable to cat, unable
to sleep. Great suffering and endless toil. How much
longer will it last. Tony dangled a piece of fat before our
stricken eyes this morning and we all three rose as one and
went elsewhere. Many others are sick, but I am by far the
sickest man not only aboard this ship, but aboard any ship
afloat. I must go.


Sept. 12th. — ^The worst is over, but misfortune still hangs
like a black pall over my head.

"Get up in the chains," said the Quartermaster to me
last night, "I got to try some of you guys out to see how
you cast the lead."

Grabbing my Blue Jacket's Manual I made my way
limply forward. Here I placed myself in the so-called
chains and carefully untied the lead from the rail.

"Heave!" cried the Quartermaster from the darkness be-
hind me. I hove.

"Catch it!" he shouted, and I caught the line.

"Where is it at?" he demanded.

"Wait a minute," says I.

"What for?" says he.

"I'm looking for the place."

"What place ?" he asks.

"Where it tells about the lead," I replied. By the dim
light I could hardly make out what the book said.

"By the marks and deeps 3%," I cried, taking a chance.

"What!" came a surprised voice from the darkness, "By
the what?"

"Oh, well," says I, "I'll try again."

"You'd better," growls the Quartermaster.

This time I gave the lead a mighty heave and felt the
line flying through my hand.

"Stop her!" cried the Quartermaster, but it was too late.
I had lost control of the line and the last foot of it slipped
through my grasp.

"What she read ?" demanded the Quartermaster.

Silence from the chains. I was afraid to answer. Crouch-
ing there in the darkness I stared ahead at the broad, dim
ocean, and contemplated my fate. I had lost the lead. How
could I tell him ?

"Are you still there?" called the man who was destined
to slay me as soon as he learned the horrid truth.

I came slowly back to him.

"Well?" says he.


"I lost the lead," says I.

"Lost it," says he, "why it was secured to the rail."

"I know," says I, "but I undid it. You see, I thought
that was the thing to do, so I just . . ." My voice trailed
away across the starless night.

"Gord!" breathed the Quartermaster, "youVe gone and
lost our lead." There was silence. The ship panted swiftly
through the night. "Some war!" thought I miserably.

"Come aft," says the Quartermaster in a quiet voice. It
was altogether too quiet. When the storm broke it would
be all the more violent for having been controlled. He took
me up to the Master-at-Arms.

"He lost the lead," said the Quartermaster to the Jimmy-
legs. The bald simplicity of the statement made my crime
appear even more appalling.

"Lost the lead!" said the Jimmy-legs in an incredulous
voice. "That ain't never been done before on this ship."

"He did it," said the Quartermaster.

"Impossible!" replied the Master-at-Arms.

"Not for this guy," said the Quartermaster.

"First he almost ruins our junior lieutenant, and then he
goes and loses our lead," says the Legs, as if to himself.
"He shouldn't be allowed at large."

"How about the galley?" suggested the Quartermaster.
The suggestion was accepted. All day I have been washing
dishes at angles varying between 20° and 75°. The Jimmy-
legs has told everyone to observe my actions closely. He
fears, he says, for the safety of the ship.

The ship's painter has just thrust his head through the
door and looked at me a long time. "So that's the guy,"
he said as he withdrew.

"Yes," replied the Master-at-Arms, "he lost the lead."

"Gord !" said the painter. "What a sailor !"

Sept. 14th. — ^The destroyers picked us up a while back
and I breathed a sigh of relief. We are bound for some
unnamed French port, at which we are to dock some time


soon. Tim has been going around with a French-English
conversation book. From time to time he mutters "Je vous
aime" and "une jolie fille." He seems to place a great deal
of importance on these two phrases. The Spider has learned
how to say "de vin/' which he earnestly believes flows freely
at all French ports. Today during a few spare moments
I came upon a magazine that would have delighted mother.
It was filled with underwear advertisements. It seems from
these advertisements that anyone to wear a suit of under-
wear must either belong to a country club or own at least
two high-powered motors. It is evidently remarkable stuff,
for as soon as it is put on the wearer immediately begins to
play leap-frog, golf or tennis with some other fortunate gen-
tleman similarly clad, or else large, jolly families, all wear-
ing these miraculous garments begin to wrestle with each
other or to hold an impromptu track meet. From the illus-
trations, no one but the very pick of supermen and women
are ever sufficiently interested in underwear to the extent of
having their photographs taken when clad in it. Now I
guess I have worn more kinds of underwear than most peo-
ple, and I have never felt like any of these remarkable peo-
ple apparently feel. It would do my heart good to see for
once an underwear advertisement showing a broken old man
and a couple of fleshless, anti-athletic young men like my-
self, all seemingly unhappy, clad in the vaunted product.
Napoleon wore underwear, I am told on good but intimate
authority, yet I feel sure he hardly looked imposing in it.
But all this has nothing to do with dodging tinfish in mid-
ocean. I must return to the mop. Leisure begets idle

Sept. 15th. — ^The Quartermaster in a sudden burst of
confidence has just given me to understand that my hungry
eyes shall soon feast on the sight of land. I almost broke
down upon the reception of the news.

(Later) The Quartermaster for once spoke the truth.
We made out the blue coast of France several hours back.


This so delighted me that in a burst of gratitude I gave
Tony my wrist watch. Several planes are now circling
around us. I wonder how sick an aviator can get ? I should
say, considerable. There is little env>' in me for that sort
of a pastime. We are now entering some kind of a har-
bor. It seems to speak French. There are no signs urging
the perplexed visitor to drink this special brand of water
and live forever.

Sept. i6th. At an Unnamed French Port. — Owing to
a delay in something or other we were granted a certain
amount of liberty. I have just returned aboard. What a
time we had!

Tim, with his two French phrases ; Tony and the Spider,
loudly calling for "de vin," went ashore with me. For some
time we wandered around the streets looking at the queer
signs. Tim became very dispirited because of the noticeable
absence of "les jolie filles" as he called them. Presently he
brought us up before a place that looked like a cross be-
tween a refreshment shop and a fish market.

"I guess this is where they dance on the tables," said Tim,
still clinging to his dream. The guns* crew were there be-
fore us, and had spread themselves over the place in heroic
attitudes. They seemed to recognize me as I entered, and
several ironical remarks were tossed my way.

"Sure," said one of them, "that's the guy that lost the
lead — some sailor, what?" and all of them laughed coarsely.

Without paying any attention we sat down at a long table
at which several Frenchmen were carrying on an animated
conversation by hands and shoulders and eyebrows and forks
and plates and everything, in short, that was movable. They
were all excited and enthusiastic about the recent victories.
Suddenly one of them, in an uncontrollable outburst of patri-
otism, leaned across the table and kissed Tim on either

"Mon frere," he exclaimed as he did so. Tim pushed


him back in his seat with undue violence. The Frenchman
looked at him in surprise.

"You must let him kiss you, Tim," I told him. "It's
the custom."

"Custom bosh!" said Tim in his most brutal voice, look-
ing reproachfully at the Frenchman.

"M'appelez-vous bosh?" cried that gentleman, his eyes

"Wee, wee," cried Tim, not knowing what the French-
man had said.

"Sacre nom de nom!" screamed the Frenchman, leaping
up and overturning the table.

"II m'appel bosh," he cried, pointing to Tim.

"It is all a terrible mistake," I tried to shout above the up-
roar, but my voice could not be heard. The guns* crew
sided with the Frenchman and a frightful scene took place.
Tables were overturned, the store seemed to settle on its
foundation, and plates went crashing to the floor. In the
fury of the melee I remember seeing a cup bounce ofiE Tim's
large red head. He apparently did not notice it. Standing
on one of the guns' crew he was waving a chair in the face
of another. Slowly we retreated to the door. Someone had
kicked me in the stomach. I suspected my original enemy,
and emptied a bottle of vinegar on his head, which had
somehow gotten tangled up with my feet.

"Kick him," cried Tim, pointing to the head, but I
couldn't bring myself to do it, although I felt like it. For
no apparent reason a Frenchman was standing on a table in
the corner singing the "Marseillaise" at the top of his voice.
The odds were too great for us, and, realizing this, Tim
called to us to cut and run. This we did in a whole-hearted
manner. Down the narrow street of the little French town
we sped with its whole populace streaming after us.

"Tuez-les! Tuez-les!" we could hear the Frenchman
screaming, "II m'appel bosh!"

"You should have let him kiss you," breathed the Spider
as we rounded a corner and broke for the open country.


"we were accompanied to the ship amid flags and an admiring

POPULACE** — Page 17


"I ain't agoing to let no man kiss me," said Tim in a
stubborn voice. **Jolie fille, yes, but furrin' men, no."

"You gotta let 'em kiss you," panted Tony, "that whatta
they do."

"I don't got to let them kiss me," cried Tim getting ex-
cited, "I ain't agoin' to do it."

"You should have ought of done it," said the Spider, "and
we wouldn't have been in this mess."

The shouts were dying out in the distance. We were
outstripping our pursuers, although we could still faintly
hear the Frenchman entreating the world to "Tuez-les."

"What's that mean?" asked Tim.

"He's asking them to kill us," I replied, remembering my
scanty freshman French.

"Gord!" said Tim, "what people! He was wanting to
kiss me ten minutes ago."

We were by this time some distance from the town, and
gradually cracking beneath the strain.

"We musn't be far from the front now," said the Spider
wearily. "Let's stop this side of the Rhine."

So we rested by the roadside. On the way back the
Frenchman, who had learned that Tim had not intentionally
called him a Boche, met us in the middle of the street and
embraced us affectionately. We were accompanied to the
ship amid flags and an admiring populace. My stomach is
still a little tender, however. I do wish that guns' crew
guy would stop remembering me.

Sept. 17th. (Under way once more.) — ^This morning
we left this port still unnamed and cleared away for the
American coast which I devoutly trust I shall soon see. One
observes very little of the war in this line of work. So far
my experiences have been purely personal. This morning
I was cleaning brass as if the future tranquillity of my soul
depended on the power of my elbows. So bright did I
polish the brass that I was enabled to observe in it the re-
flection of the ship's painter standing behind me with a


large, flat stick, evidently made especially for my enjoyment,
raised high in the air and on the point of descending with
great force upon my unprotected person. I sprang aside
just in time to avoid an unpleasant contact. The ship's
painter went away like a thwarted leopard and I gave the
brass an extra shine out of sheer gratitude.

Sept. 25th (at sea). — "How often can a guy get sea-
sick?" I asked the Quartermaster this morning between a
lull in my labors. The Quartermaster spat reflectively over
the lea side rail and gave due consideration to the question
before committing himself.

"Well," says he, "there's some what get seasick perpetu-
ally and then there are those what only gets seasick inter-
mittently or just every now and then."

"I must belong to both classes," says I in a cheerless voice.

"How's that?" asks the Quartermaster.

"Well," says I, "you see, I'm always seasick, perpetually,
as you said, but intermittently I get more seasick and on

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