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Thorne Smith.

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

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special occasions I can get even still more seasick."

"What," says the Quartermaster, "you mean to say that
you're seasick now on this glassy sea?"

"I mean to say," says I, "that I have been seasick every
minute since I left the station and that ten years from now
the mere thought of what you seem fit to term a glassy sea
will be sufficient cause for a hasty exit from any company,
no matter how entertaining."

"Why, this ain't no seat at all," replies the Quartermaster,
scornfully, "just a mere easy-running ground swell."

He gazed to windward for a moment and scanned an un-
intelligent expanse of stupid gray sky with a discerning eye.

"Just wait," says he, as if he were promising me a stick
of candy, "just you wait until six bells and I'll show you
what a real sea is."

"Something rough, eh?" says I, as the ship pitched shiv-
eringly down the side of a valley of dark green, concentrated
oneryness and sent me sprawling across the deck.























\














i J


i








I SPRANG ASIDE JUST IN TIME TO AVOID AN UNPLEASANT CONTACT "—

Page i8




'what are you doing here?' ** — Page 21



OUT O' LUCK 21

"Yes," say^ he, "something rough, something veiy rough
— not calm like it is now."

*Well, I ain't agoin' to wait," says I, "I don't have to,"
and I made my way feebly aft to a place of seclusion, and
here among other things, I prayed for peace. Then I pro-
ceeded to hide myself behind a hammock rack and wait for
six bells. The storm was punctual to the minute, if any-
thing a little before hand. Storms never have good taste
anyway, and they never leave one. Well, that ship did
everything but gallop. It waltzed, it fox-trotted, it per-
formed several very elaborate Oriental muscle dances and a
couple of buck and wings. I did all of these things with it.
The first lurch sent me spinning across the deck to the end
of the compartment; the second one carried me back with
a resounding bang; the third conveyed me through the door
and among the legs of the executive officer.

"What are you doing here?" asked the officer in an in-
jured tone.

"Suffering," I replied, digging my nails into the deck.

"Don't you like it in the Navy?" he asked as I tried to
rise.

"No, sir," says I, "I don't like it at all in the Navy, sir,"
and then, carried away by an irresistible impulse of curiosity,
I added, "Do you, sir?"

The officer smiled on me with kindly eyes. "I love it,
my boy," he said. "I enjoy it; it's my life."

"Oh, God!" I breathed as another wave hit the ship and
sent me sliding from the officer's sight, "those are the guys
that have press-agented the Navy and kidded poor innocent
people like me into believing it a romantic sport."

"Where you going?" says Tim, as he caught me sliding
past him.

"Going," says I, "I'm going to vote for Mr. McAdoo
if he ever runs for office. He builds tunnels under rivers
and things and perhaps he might run one across the ocean."

Later this evening the Quartermaster spoke to me apolo-
getically.



22 OUT O' LUCK

"Sorry, Buddy," says he, "but I was wrong about that
storm. Thought we were going to have one, but it must
have got shunted off somewhere along the line."

"What!" I screamed, "you mean to say this isn't a
storm ?"

"Certainly not," says he, "this isn't even a blow."

For the first time since I joined the Navy I cried. He
did not see me, for no tears ran down my face, but my
soul was drenched with them.

"Not even a blow," I repeated in a heart-broken voice
as I staggered back to my compartment. What a war!

Sept. 26th. — ^At four bells this afternoon the stern gun
began barking furiously and Tony came dashing into our
compartment, utterly demented.

"Submarine, he come!" he shouted, throwing everything
around in wild disorder. "Submarine, he come!" he re-
peated, and with that he dropped an armful of whites, seized
his guitar and rushed up on deck. Of course we all were
close behind him, his temperamental nature having com-
pletely upset all our instructions.

"Submarine, he come," Tony frantically informed the
world as he cleared the hatch. We clustered around him
and looked eagerly seaward.

"What the hell yer doin' here?" shouted the Quarter-
master, spying us standing near the hatch. "Are you going
to serenade the old man?"

"Submarine, he " started Tony, but he never finished.

"Submarine me eye," cried the Quartermaster, "you poor
simple lubbers, you calf-eyed, lily-livered, clay-footed spawn
of satan, you swabs, don't you know that this is only
practice ?"

"Then the submarine, he doesn't come?" asked the Spider,
deliberately.

"No, he doesn't," snapped the Quartermaster.

Upon receiving this information the Spider, with the same
disinterested ease of manner, turned and kicked Tony down




"the poor misguided ITALIAN FELL AMID A VOLLEY OF IMPRECATIONS **



—Pagg 2$



OUT O' LUCK 25

the hatch. The poor misguided Italian fell amid a volley
of imprecations and jingling notes as his guitar bounced
along the steps.

"You were wrong, Tony," said Tim later, "it isn't *sub-
marine, he come,' but 'submarine, she come.* All subma-
rines are shes. As soon as you get intimate with one you're
sunk, get me?"

Whereupon started an argument about submarines and
women which lasted until lights. We all agreed that both
were equally lawless and that both had the ability to make
the bravest man feel uncomfortable in their presence.

Sept. 27th. — Last night I dreamed that I was just about
to kiss Polly, when suddenly there appeared upon her upper
lip a huge bristling, upturned mustache and I woke up with
a shriek.

"Damn the Kaiser!" I muttered.

There was silence for a moment and then way down in
the darkness at the end of the compartment I heard some-
body say in a low voice, "Damn Ludendorf !"

Again there was silence, and again it was broken by a
subdued voice in another part of the darkness muttering,
"Damn the Crown Prince."

"Damn it all!" whispered some one, and with that the
Master-at-arms damned us. Then there was silence, save
for snores which in the Navy is considered the same thing.

Sept. 28th. — Now that they've published my first diary in
regular book form I might just as well tell of a terrible
thing that happened. I took some of the books along with
me on this trip and wrote fitting little sentiments in each
one of them for my respective friends. Thinking it would
be a sweet little attention I inscribed in the one intended
for the Executive Officer the following words: "With the
sincere respects of the author," and in the one intended for a
friend of mine in camp I wrote: "To a loose-talking old
party of unsound morals from Biltmore Oswald." I won't



26 OUT O' LUCK

say what I wrote in Polly's. This morning I was called
into the Executive's stateroom.

"Ah," thinks I to myself, as I made my way thither, **he
probably intends to recommend me for a commission on the
mere strength of my book." However, when I saw him
there was something in his expression that made me instantly
reverse my opinion. He was sitting by a'table, and on this
table was a copy of Biltmore Oswald, and on this copy
rested a large, tanned, seafaring hand which clutched con-
vulsively upon my child as I entered.

"Yes, sir," says I.

"Your name Oswald?" says he.

"Yes, sir," says I.

"Did ye send me this book?" says he.

"Yes, sir," says I for the third time.

"Did ye write this in it?" he continues, holding up the
book to me.

"Yes, sir," says I, "but not for you, sir, honest to God,
sir

"That will do," he snapped. Then, adjusting his spec-
tacles on his nose, he proceeded to read in a portentous voice :
" *To a loose-talking old party of unsound morals, from
Biltmore Oswald.' "

He looked over his glasses at me and even he seemed to
be awed by the horror of the situation.

"Not for you, sir," I managed to gasp, "honest "

"That will do," says he, and there was a pause. Finally
I heard him speaking.

"To begin with," says he, "you must have been feeble-
minded to have ever written such a book, and further than
that — ^you must have been utterly mad to have written such
a thing about me, an officer of the United States Navy in it.
What have you got to say for yourself?"

"I didn't mean " I began.

"That will do," said he in a voice that sounded as if
he had listened to a lengthy explanation with infinite
patience.




llv\iiUkliilllllL



WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT ME? WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT MY
MORALS?' '* — Page 2Q







*« *_,,^ "^„-.,-,»>



THE EXEC SAID THAT YOU WERE A WICKED OLD MAN AND FOB. ME
TO KEEP AWAY FROM YOU* ** — Page J I



OUT O' LUCK 29

I was almost frantic by this time.

He opened the book again and I thought he was going to
begin to read it all over in that same grim voice, but all I
heard was such broken snatches as "loose-talking," pause, "un-
sound morals," longer pause, and then "general court-mar-
tial." Suddenly his face became very red and he sprang to
his feet and shook the offending book which I heartily
wished I had never written, under my shrinking nose.

"What do you know about me?" he shouted. "What do
you know about my morals?"

"Nothing, sir," says I, "nothing "

"You do," he shouted back to me, "you do. Has that
lying old boatswain's mate been talking to you ? What did
he say, eh?"

"Nothing at all, sir," says I, "honest, sir "

"That will do," says he, striding up and down the cabin;
"The slandering old devil," he muttered ; "the old liar."

At this moment the skipper entered the room and hope
departed from my heart.

"What's wrong?" asks the skipper of the infuriated
officer.

"Wrong!" says the officer, "wrong! Read this," he
says, holding out the book in a shaking hand. "Written by
this miserable sailor."

The skipper read it through and handed it back.

"I have never read in fewer words a more accurate char-
acterization," he remarked in a calm voice. "It is nothing
short of genius."

"I know, sir," I broke in, not wishing to contradict the
skipper, "it might be true, but honestly it's all a mis-
take "

"There's no mistake about it," continues the skipper^ as
if he had not heard me, "it's all true, every word of it."

"It's all that old lying Murphy's fault," said the Execu-
tive Officer, in a complaining voice; "every ship I get on
with him he blackens my character."



30 OUT O' LUCK

"He knows too much," says the Captain in an insinuating
voice.

"And not about me alone," replies the Exec, with equal
insinuation.

"Oh," says the Captain, "I dare say you fancy Murphy
could blacken my character?"

The Executive Officer turned away to hide an obviously
sarcastic smile. "Oh, no," says he, "not Murphy nor any
other man."

"Right," says the Captain; "above reproach — open like
a book — ^white like a lily — my character."

"How about Yokohama?" says the Exec, sudden like.

"That will do," says the Captain, and both of them
seemed to remember my presence for the first time.

"Well, young man, what have you to say?" asked the
Captain, frowning. When I had finished telling my story
about the books getting mixed up the Executive Officer
still seemed to be a little suspicious.

"You can*t prefer charges," said the skipper; "every officer
knows it's true. No court-martial would convict him."

"But isn't an old officer faithful in his duty going to
have some protection?" expostulated the Exec.

"Virtue and a clean conscience are a man's only shield
and buckler," said the skipper as he left the room.

We were alone together once more, but not for long.

"You swear it's true what you've just told me?" he said,
and I swore by some several known and unknown species
of gods.

"All right," says he, "you can go, but bring back the right
book this time."

As I was leaving I stopped in the doorway for a moment.

"Can I ask Murphy about Yokohama?" says I.

He leveled a pair of inscrutable eyes on me.

"Keep away from that wicked old man," says he, "but
if you do go near him confine your questions to the Captain ;
leave me out of it, ye understand ?"

I did.



OUT O' LUCK 31

Sept. 29th. — "The Exec, said that you were a Vicked
old man' and for me to keep away from you," I remarked
to the white-haired old boatswain's mate this evening.

"He did, eh?" said the old fellow, glaring at me from
under his eyebrows.

"Yes," says I, "and he said that you were an 'old liar*
and a 'slandering old devil,' " I continued cheerfully.

"Ah, he did, eh?" repeated the aged person. "He said
that, did he?"

" *A wicked old man,* " I repeated, " *an old liar,' and lots
more that I don't remember right now."

"Now look here, young feller," began the boatswain's
mate, pointing his equally venerable pipe at me, "now just
you look here — I knew that man when he was nothing but
a midshipman, and I have followed him around the world
several times since, and for a more characterless, desperate
acting, misbehaving man, you'd have to look somewhere
other than in this world. Now I can remember once in

Lisbon " And all this evening I have been learning

things about the Navy and several of its officers. What
days the old days must have been! What good old days!
Not like these.

Sept. 30th. — ^This day I found out what a windsail was.
It is not at all a difficult thing to do. All you have to do
is to fall down it, and if you come through alive your repu-
tation is eternally made. I was already quite well known
on this ship before but now I'm notorious.

"There goes the guy wot fell down the windsail," they
say as I pass by.

"Yeah," says another, "an' wot lost the lead."

"An' almost killed our ship's painter," adds a third.

"Not to speak of laming our navigator by his clumsy
falling and sprawling," puts in still another member of the
company unwilling that one item of my long list of mis-
deeds should pass unremarked.

"Some sailor," they chime in a sarcastic chorus, "Wot a



32 OUT O' LUCK

guy," and I hasten on my way with bitterness in my heart.
But all this has nothing to do with my quick road to fame
via the windsail. And, after all, there is nothing to tell
save that I fell down the thing. It wasn't at all what I
thought it, neither are many other things. My inglorious
career of trial and error in the Navy has taught me at
least that much. Nothing is what you think it, not even
liberty. Sometimes things are more so, sometimes less, but
never true to form. That's life and largely stomach. Lots
of the world's best poetry has come from a bad stomach
and, of course, vice versa. Some of the finest murders of
our times had their inception originally in a badly setting
breakfast; divorces, marriages, fires and labor troubles — ^bad
stomachs every time. If your food disagrees with you, you
get married; if it continues to disagree you get unmarried,
and if these expedients fail to work you get religion, dys-
pepsia or buried. There's no getting away from your
stomach. I've tried it; I know. It sometimes gets away
from you, but you can never get away from it. Ever since
I set foot upon this St. Vitus stricken ship I've been trying
to get away from my stomach, what little there is of it,
but it's been right with me all the time and it's been bad.
I've never known my stomach to be so bad. It's been
terrible. Upset and all that ; boxing the compass, doing the
flips, standing on its ear and falling downstairs. Well,
these are revolutionary times and every stomach is an out and
out Bolshevist (popular conception). No stable government.
No diplomatic exchange. No rest. Anarchy and torment from
wave to wave. I never realized the sea could be so rough when
I used to take my sweetie, that beautiful woman, out in a
canoe on the lake, but maybe that was the reason. If
sailors had their sweeties with them maybe they'd never
get seasick. This is a good idea, but the Navy Department
wouldn't like it, I guess. Much better to have them in
every port; rich ones with automobiles and lots of food
on the table and a floor that doesn't wiggle and a nice,
big sofa in front of a swell fire and a couple of electric



OUT O' LUCK 33

lights burning somewhere down In the cellar — oh, boy,
this small man's navy is making a polygamist of me, if
that's the right word. I don't know that it is, because
mother never let such words in the front door at home,
never any further than that. She always said that her hus-
band was as bad as she knew him to be and if he was any
worse than that she'd have to hand it to him. She did — on
numerous occasions. But then again this has nothing to do
with the windsail I fell down. Well, that's all I did.
Just fell down it. Lit on the back of my neck and stayed
there for some time. I have read of people falling down
the windsail, but I never knew they did it in real life.
They do though, at least I do. But that doesn't matter,
for I can do anything — ^wrong.

Note. — For those who are unfamiliar with the windsail,
and certainly there must be some, I might mention that it
is a large, compact canvas tube with an open flare at the
head, lots of wind inside, and a hole at the deck end through
which the wind and unfortunate people like myself pass
swiftly down into the interior of the ship. Well, that's a
windsail, and I'm the "guy wot fell down it." That's who
I am and will be ever more even if I should chance to meet,
which I hope I don't, any member of this crew twenty years
from now in any part of this world of ours.

Oct. 1st. — ^Without word or warning we steamed up the
Narrows to-day. If I had known yesterday that we were
so close to home I would have jumped overboard and tried
to swim it. We rate liberty to-morrow. Tony is already
beginning to apply large quantities of horrid smelling oil
to his hair. He claims to have a little pig that loves it.
If so she must always have a cold In her head.

Oct. and. — New York, a large city on the Hudson River,
chiefly given over to coming and going. I have been here
before, but I never thought that I'd ever get back again.
The tall buildings are quite tall, the fine hotels are just that,
there are many people on the streets and many streets for



34 OUT O' LUCK

them to be on, but I don't see why they are on the streets,
for if I was in civilian clothes Td be in a cafe, and if I ever
got into a cafe Vd never get back again to the street, and
I'd be glad of it — for awhile. New York has a nice sub-
way that gets quite excited around 42d street and loses its
head and everybody loses their tempers, but this is all right,
for it serves many a commuter with an excuse for getting
home late for dinner, or not getting home at all, or getting
home too much so, and all that.

There are lots of nice canteens for sailors and soldiers
in New York City, and in one of these canteens I found a
grasshopper. How he had gotten there I don't know, but
nevertheless there he was a-grasshoppering around in the
most approved style, and most of the ladies were up on the
tables getting their nice white canvas shoes all dirty in the
soldiers* and sailors* soup, and if Coles Phillips, the ankle
artist, had been there with his pad and pencil, he would
have been able to get enough material to supply an adver-
tising agency with a campaign extending over several years.

Well, however that may be, I stalked this grasshopper
from foot to soup, cornered him in a pile of baked beans,
and eventually brought the grim pursuit to an end on the
outskirts of some ham and eggs. No one would help me.
They were all too busy looking at the ladies.

"It isn't a rat," I explained to the ladies between hops.

"No,** cried a sailor promptly, "but he's just as danger-
ous.**

So the ladies stayed where they were, which was evidently
where most everybody thought they should be.

After I had caught this grasshopper I didn't know what
to do with it. It is hardly an animal that you can reconcile
to captivity. Everywhere you put it it hops. You can't put
it out and tell it to be still, and you can't threaten it with
punishment as you would a dog, and still you can't kill
it, particularly when on a visit to New York, as was evi-
dently this grasshopper.

"Take it outside!" several ladies cried in chorus, and so I



OUT O' LUCK 35

gathered up my bundle in one hand and caging the grass-
hopper in the other I left amid cheers. But Fifth Avenue
is no place for a grasshopper — not a live grasshopper. It's
all right for a dead grasshopper or a despondent grass-
hopper, but a live, cheerful active grasshopper should never
go on Fifth Avenue. It's very bad hopping there. I put
the old battler down, but nearly had heart failure because
the very first hop sent him under the uplifted foot of a
heavy pedestrian. Hoppers are not good navigators. Too
reckless. With a loud yell I pushed the gentleman from
off my unusual protege.

"You nearly spoiled my grasshopper," I explained to him.

From the man's expression I knew there was no doubt in
his mind about my being balmy.

"Grasshopper," he ejaculated, "humbug!'*

"In a sense, yes," I answered ; "but this one isn*t a hum-
bug, it's some bug. You just ought to see him hop."

When we looked to find him he was no longer there, and
the old guy thought I'd been kidding him.

"No more of your tricks," he said, and passed on, leaving
me groping around the feet of New York for a weak-minded
grasshopper.

"Pardon me, sir," I said suddenly to an English officer,
"but you are about to step on my favorite grasshopper," and
I scooped the greatly interrupted insect out from under his
high polished boot.

"Grasshopper," said the officer severely. "Grasshopper.
Shouldn't be here. Not regular. Country the place for
grasshoppers. Hang it all, it isn't right. Bad taste. Not
cricket."

"Oh, no," says I, misunderstanding him; "it's a grass-
hopper all right, not a cricket."

"No place for it," said the officer briefly. "It's not
regular. All wrong."

"Not for our grasshoppers," I replied. "You see, sir,
American grasshoppers are altogether different from English
grasshoppers. They are brought up differently; more lib-



36 OUT O' LUCK

erty, and all that. Frequently they spend weeks at a time
in the city."

"Fancy that," replied the officer, much perplexed, "but
it*s all wrong. Not right. City no place for it. Good-
bye."

And he, too, passed down the street, leaving me with
this grasshopper to dispose of. It seemed to have come
into my life permanently. Suddenly I had a bright idea.

"Why not take it over to the park back of the Library
and let it go? There it can find everything that any reason-
able grasshopper should expect. Lots of grass and plenty
of room for hopping."

I carried this move into effect, and just on the other side
of Fifth Avenue — other, meaning the side opposite the one
I had just left — I encountered an elderly naval officer and
was forced to salute him. There was a bundle in my left
hand and a grasshopper in my right, but I did my best.

"Young man," said the officer blocking my progress, "are
you shaking your fist at me?"

"No, sir," says L

"Well what^s the matter with your hand?" he asked in
a suspicious voice.

"I got a grasshopper in it," I replied very simply and
unafFectedly.

For a long time he gazed searchingly in my face as if
trying to read my mind. I could see that he received my
information with the greatest distrust. Presently curiosity
overcame his dignity.

"Let's see it," says he.

I held my hand up and let him peek through the fingers
through which the beady eyes of the grasshopper peered out
upon the world with great discontent.

"See it!" says I excitedly. "See it!"

And with this remark the poor benighted insect made one
leap for freedom and landed upon the officer's breast. For
a moment it looked like an assault. I pounced upon the




'you nearly spoiled my grasshopper' " — Page 55







«* ««,»,. ^»,



WHAT S SO BLOOMING WONDERFUL ABOUT THIS,' SAYS I, EDGING BEHIND

AN OPEN WORK chair" — Page 42



OUT O' LUCK 39

grasshopper, and consequently had to pounce upon the
officer, and nearly tore his campaign stripes off.

"Got him," says I triumphantly.

The officer regained his balance and regarded me darkly.

"Keep him," he says, and hctchels away.

So I kept him until I got into the park, and here I
launched him forth to freedom with much ceremony.

"Good hopping, old sport," says I as I tossed him to
the grass.

But, strange to relate, he didn*t hop. All he did was
to sit there and curl his whiskers at me for all the world
like a mad photographer I once knew. I couldn't drag my-
self away from the spot until I saw him hop. I feared he
had gone sick on me. The moral responsibility of having


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