A Maritime Holiday Gift

Holiday gift giving is always difficult, but you know what they say, it is not the size of the gift, it is the thought that counts.

What to give to those who love maritime, and that can be given to all our many friends anywhere around the world?

Books are nice, but they need to be shipped and that would be a lot of books to a lot of friends. Technology helps us, since somehow it must be possible to upload a list of recipients to the Amazon account and then to push a button and all these books will be sent out all over the world. But what book to send? My friend Arthur Mournian once sent me a photocopy of what he considered the best maritime story ever. It is called “Bread upon the Waters” by Rudyard Kipling. And it is nothing like what one would expect, but anybody who has dealt with H&M claims, salvage, general average, marine engineering or maritime law will love it.

It is not even available on Amazon, but it is off copyright and available on Gutenberg.

So here is our Holiday present, Bread Upon the Water” from The Day’s Work by Rudyard Kipling.

Happy reading over the Holidays!

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If you remember my improper friend Brugglesmith, you will also bear
in mind his friend McPhee, Chief Engineer of the Breslau, whose dingey
Brugglesmith tried to steal. His apologies for the performances of
Brugglesmith may one day be told in their proper place: the tale before
us concerns McPhee. He was never a racing engineer, and took special
pride in saying as much before the Liverpool men; but he had a
thirty-two years' knowledge of machinery and the humours of ships.
One side of his face had been wrecked through the bursting of a
pressure-gauge in the days when men knew less than they do now, and his
nose rose grandly out of the wreck, like a club in a public riot. There
were cuts and lumps on his head, and he would guide your forefinger
through his short iron-grey hair and tell you how he had come by his
trade-marks. He owned all sorts of certificates of extra-competency,
and at the bottom of his cabin chest of drawers, where he kept the
photograph of his wife, were two or three Royal Humane Society medals
for saving lives at sea. Professionally--it was different when crazy
steerage-passengers jumped overboard--professionally, McPhee does not
approve of saving life at sea, and he has often told me that a new Hell
awaits stokers and trimmers who sign for a strong man's pay and fall
sick the second day out. He believes in throwing boots at fourth and
fifth engineers when they wake him up at night with word that a bearing
is redhot, all because a lamp's glare is reflected red from the twirling
metal. He believes that there are only two poets in the world; one being 
Robert Burns, of course, and the other Gerald Massey. When he has
time for novels he reads Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade chiefly the
latter--and knows whole pages of "Very Hard Cash" by heart. In the
saloon his table is next to the captain's, and he drinks only water
while his engines work.

He was good to me when we first met, because I did not ask questions,
and believed in Charles Reade as a most shamefully neglected author.
Later he approved of my writings to the extent of one pamphlet of
twenty-four pages that I wrote for Holdock, Steiner & Chase, owners of
the line, when they bought some ventilating patent and fitted it to the
cabins of the Breslau, Spandau, and Koltzau. The purser of the Breslau
recommended me to Holdock's secretary for the job; and Holdock, who is a
Wesleyan Methodist, invited me to his house, and gave me dinner with
the governess when the others had finished, and placed the plans and
specifications in my hand, and I wrote the pamphlet that same afternoon.
It was called "Comfort in the Cabin," and brought me seven pound ten,
cash down--an important sum of money in those days; and the governess,
who was teaching Master John Holdock his scales, told me that Mrs.
Holdock had told her to keep an eye on me, in case I went away with
coats from the hat-rack. McPhee liked that pamphlet enormously, for it
was composed in the Bouverie-Byzantine style, with baroque and rococo
embellishments; and afterwards he introduced me to Mrs. McPhee, who
succeeded Dinah in my heart; for Dinah was half a world away, and it
is wholesome and antiseptic to love such a woman as Janet McPhee. They
lived in a little twelve-pound house, close to the shipping. When McPhee
was away Mrs. McPhee read the Lloyds column in the papers, and called on
the wives of senior engineers of equal social standing. Once or twice,
too, Mrs. Holdock visited Mrs. McPhee in a brougham with celluloid
fittings, and I have reason to believe that, after she had played
owner's wife long enough, they talked scandal. The Holdocks lived in an
old-fashioned house with a big brick garden not a mile from the McPhees,
for they stayed by their money as their money stayed by them; and in
summer you met their brougham solemnly junketing by Theydon Bois or
Loughton. But I was Mrs. McPhee's friend, for she allowed me to convoy
her westward, sometimes, to theatres where she sobbed or laughed or
shivered with a simple heart; and she introduced me to a new world of
doctors' wives, captains' wives, and engineers' wives, whose whole talk
and thought centred in and about ships and lines of ships you have never
heard of. There were sailing-ships, with stewards and mahogany and
maple saloons, trading to Australia, taking cargoes of consumptives and
hopeless drunkards for whom a sea-voyage was recommended; there were
frowzy little West African boats, full of rats and cockroaches, where
men died anywhere but in their bunks; there were Brazilian boats whose
cabins could be hired for merchandise, that went out loaded nearly
awash; there were Zanzibar and Mauritius steamers and wonderful
reconstructed boats that plied to the other side of Borneo. These were
loved and known, for they earned our bread and a little butter, and we
despised the big Atlantic boats, and made fun of the P. & O. and Orient
liners, and swore by our respective owners--Wesleyan, Baptist, or
Presbyterian, as the case might be.

I had only just come back to England when Mrs. McPhee invited me to
dinner at three o'clock in the afternoon, and the notepaper was almost
bridal in its scented creaminess. When I reached the house I saw that
there were new curtains in the window that must have cost forty-five
shillings a pair; and as Mrs. McPhee drew me into the little
marble-papered hall, she looked at me keenly, and cried:

"Have ye not heard? What d' ye think o' the hatrack?"

Now, that hat-rack was oak-thirty shillings, at least. McPhee came
down-stairs with a sober foot--he steps as lightly as a cat, for all his
weight, when he is at sea--and shook hands in a new and awful manner--a
parody of old Holdock's style when he says good-bye to his skippers. I
perceived at once that a legacy had come to him, but I held my peace,
though Mrs. McPhee begged me every thirty seconds to eat a great deal
and say nothing. It was rather a mad sort of meal, because McPhee and
his wife took hold of hands like little children (they always do after
voyages), and nodded and winked and choked and gurgled, and hardly ate a

A female servant came in and waited; though Mrs. McPhee had told me time
and again that she would thank no one to do her housework while she had
her health. But this was a servant with a cap, and I saw Mrs. McPhee
swell and swell under her garance-coloured gown. There is no small
free-board to Janet McPhee, nor is garance any subdued tint; and with
all this unexplained pride and glory in the air I felt like watching
fireworks without knowing the festival. When the maid had removed the
cloth she brought a pineapple that would have cost half a guinea at that
season (only McPhee has his own way of getting such things), and a Canton
china bowl of dried lichis, and a glass plate of preserved ginger, and
a small jar of sacred and Imperial chow-chow that perfumed the room.
McPhee gets it from a Dutchman in Java, and I think he doctors it with
liqueurs. But the crown of the feast was some Madeira of the kind
you can only come by if you know the wine and the man. A little
maize-wrapped fig of clotted Madeira cigars went with the wine, and the
rest was a pale blue smoky silence; Janet, in her splendour, smiling on
us two, and patting McPhee's hand.

"We'll drink," said McPhee, slowly, rubbing his chin, "to the eternal
damnation o' Holdock, Steiner & Chase."

Of course I answered "Amen," though I had made seven pound ten shillings
out of the firm. McPhee's enemies were mine, and I was drinking his

"Ye've heard nothing?" said Janet. "Not a word, not a whisper?"

"Not a word, nor a whisper. On my word, I have not."

"Tell him, Mac," said she; and that is another proof of Janet's goodness
and wifely love. A smaller woman would have babbled first, but Janet is
five feet nine in her stockings.

"We're rich," said McPhee. I shook hands all round.

"We're damned rich," he added. I shook hands all round a second time.

"I'll go to sea no more--unless--there's no sayin'--a private yacht,
maybe--wi' a small an' handy auxiliary."

"It's not enough for that," said Janet. "We're fair rich--well-to-do,
but no more. A new gown for church, and one for the theatre. We'll have
it made west."

"How much is it?" I asked.

"Twenty-five thousand pounds." I drew a long breath. "An' I've been
earnin' twenty-five an' twenty pound a month!"

The last words came away with a roar, as though the wide world was
conspiring to beat him down.

"All this time I'm waiting," I said. "I know nothing since last
September. Was it left you?"

They laughed aloud together. "It was left," said McPhee, choking. "Ou,
ay, it was left. That's vara good. Of course it was left. Janet, d' ye
note that? It was left. Now if you'd put that in your pamphlet it would
have been vara jocose. It was left." He slapped his thigh and roared
till the wine quivered in the decanter.

The Scotch are a great people, but they are apt to hang over a joke too
long, particularly when no one can see the point but themselves.

"When I rewrite my pamphlet I'll put it in, McPhee. Only I must know
something more first."

McPhee thought for the length of half a cigar, while Janet caught my
eye and led it round the room to one new thing after another--the new
vine-pattern carpet, the new chiming rustic clock between the models
of the Colombo outrigger-boats, the new inlaid sideboard with a purple
cut-glass flower-stand, the fender of gilt and brass, and last, the new
black-and-gold piano.

"In October o' last year the Board sacked me," began McPhee. "In October
o' last year the Breslau came in for winter overhaul. She'd been runnin'
eight months--two hunder an' forty days--an' I was three days makin' up
my indents, when she went to dry-dock. All told, mark you, it was this
side o' three hunder pound--to be preceese, two hunder an' eighty-six
pound four shillings. There's not another man could ha' nursed the
Breslau for eight months to that tune. Never again--never again! They
may send their boats to the bottom, for aught I care."

"There's no need," said Janet, softly. "We're done wi' Holdock, Steiner
& Chase."

"It's irritatin', Janet, it's just irritatin'. I ha' been justified
from first to last, as the world knows, but--but I canna forgie 'em. Ay,
wisdom is justified o' her children; an' any other man than me wad ha'
made the indent eight hunder. Hay was our skipper--ye'll have met him.
They shifted him to the Torgau, an' bade me wait for the Breslau under
young Bannister. Ye'll obsairve there'd been a new election on the
Board. I heard the shares were sellin' hither an' yon, an' the major
part of the Board was new to me. The old Board would ne'er ha' done it.
They trusted me. But the new Board were all for reorganisation. Young
Steiner--Steiner's son--, was at the bottom of it, an' they did 
not think it worth their while to send me word. The first I knew--an'
I was Chief Engineer--was the notice of the line's winter sailin's, and
the Breslau timed for sixteen days between port an' port! Sixteen days,
man! She's a good boat, but eighteen is her summer time, mark you.
Sixteen was sheer flytin', kitin' nonsense, an' so I told young

"We've got to make it,' he said. 'Ye should not ha' sent in a three
hunder pound indent.'

"Do they look for their boats to be run on air?' I said. 'The Board's

"'E'en tell 'em so,' he says. 'I'm a married man, an' my fourth's on the
ways now, she says.'"

"A boy--wi' red hair," Janet put in. Her own hair is the splendid
red-gold that goes with a creamy complexion.

"My word, I was an angry man that day! Forbye I was fond o' the old
Breslau, I looked for a little consideration from the Board after
twenty years' service. There was Board-meetin' on Wednesday, an' I slept
overnight in the engine-room, takin' figures to support my case. Well,
I put it fair and square before them all. 'Gentlemen,' I said, 'I've run
the Breslau eight seasons, an' I believe there's no fault to find wi' my
wark. But if ye haud to this'--I waggled the advertisement at 'em--'this
that I've never heard of it till I read it at breakfast, I do assure you
on my professional reputation, she can never do it. That is to say, she
can for a while, but at a risk no thinkin' man would run.'

"'What the deil d' ye suppose we pass your indents for?' says old
Holdock. 'Man, we're spendin' money like watter.'

"'I'll leave it in the Board's hands,' I said, 'if two hunder an'
eighty-seven pound is anything beyond right and reason for eight
months.' I might ha' saved my breath, for the Board was new since
the last election, an' there they sat, the damned deevidend-huntin'
ship-chandlers, deaf as the adders o' Scripture.

"'We must keep faith wi' the public,' said young Steiner.

"'Keep faith wi' the Breslau, then,' I said. 'She's served you well,
an' your father before you. She'll need her bottom restiffenin', an'
new bed-plates, an' turnin' out the forward boilers, an' re-turnin' all
three cylinders, an' refacin' all guides, to begin with. It's a three
months' job.'

"'Because one employee is afraid? 'says young Steiner. 'Maybe a piano in
the Chief Engineer's cabin would be more to the point.'

"I crushed my cap in my hands, an' thanked God we'd no bairns an' a bit
put by.

"'Understand, gentlemen,' I said. 'If the Breslau is made a sixteen-day
boat, ye'll find another engineer.'

"'Bannister makes no objection,' said Holdock.

"'I'm speakin' for myself,' I said. 'Bannister has bairns. 'An' then
I lost my temper. 'Ye can run her into Hell an' out again if ye pay
pilotage,' I said, 'but ye run without me.'

"'That's insolence,' said young Steiner.

"'At your pleasure,' I said, turnin' to go.

"'Ye can consider yourself dismissed. We must preserve discipline among
our employees,' said old Holdock, an' he looked round to see that the
Board was with him. They knew nothin'--God forgie 'em--an' they nodded
me out o' the line after twenty years--after twenty years.

"I went out an' sat down by the hall porter to get my wits again. I'm
thinkin' I swore at the Board. Then auld McRimmon--o' McNaughten &
McRimmon--came, oot o' his office, that's on the same floor, an' looked
at me, proppin' up one eyelid wi' his forefinger. Ye know they call him
the Blind Deevil, forbye he onythin' but blind, an' no deevil in his
dealin's wi' me--McRimmon o' the Black Bird Line.

"'What's here, Mister McPhee?' said he.

"I was past prayin' for by then. 'A Chief Engineer sacked after twenty
years' service because he'll not risk the Breslau on the new timin', an'
be damned to ye, McRimmon,' I said.

"The auld man sucked in his lips an' whistled. 'AH,' said he, 'the new
timin'. I see!' He doddered into the Board-room I'd just left, an' the
Dandie-dog that is just his blind man's leader stayed wi' me. That was
providential. In a minute he was back again. 'Ye've cast your bread on
the watter, McPhee, an' be damned to you,' he says. 'Whaur's my dog? My
word, is he on your knee? What garred ye curse your Board, McPhee? 
It's expensive.'

"'They'll pay more for the Breslau,' I said. 'Get off my knee, ye
smotherin' beast.'

"'Bearin's hot, eh?' said McRimmon. 'It's thirty year since a man daur
curse me to my face. Time was I'd ha' cast ye doon the stairway for

"'Forgie's all!' I said. He was wearin' to eighty, as I knew. 'I was
wrong, McRimmon; but when a man's shown the door for doin' his plain
duty he's not always ceevil.'

"'So I hear,' says McRimmon. 'Ha' ye ony objection to a tramp freighter?
It's only fifteen a month, but they say the Blind Deevil feeds a man
better than others. She's my Kite. Come ben. Ye can thank Dandie, here.
I'm no used to thanks. An' noo,' says he, 'what possessed ye to throw up
your berth wi' Holdock?'

"'The new timin',' said I. 'The Breslau will not stand it.'

"'Hoot, oot,' said he. 'Ye might ha' crammed her a little--enough to
show ye were drivin' her--an' brought her in twa days behind. What's
easier than to say ye slowed for bearin's, eh? All my men do it, and--I
believe 'em.'

"'McRimmon,' says I, 'what's her virginity to a lassie?'

"He puckered his dry face an' twisted in his chair. 'The warld an' a','
says he. 'My God, the vara warld an' a' (But what ha' you or me to do
wi' virginity, this late along?)'

"'This,' I said. 'There's just one thing that each one of us in his
trade or profession will not do for ony consideration whatever. If I run
to time I run to time barrio' always the risks o' the high seas. Less
than that, under God, I have not done. More than that, by God, I will
not do! There's no trick o' the trade I'm not acquaint wi'--'

"'So I've heard,' says McRimmon, dry as a biscuit.

"'But yon matter o' fair rennin' s just my Shekinah, ye'll understand. I
daurna tamper wi' that. Nursing weak engines is fair craftsmanship;
but what the Board ask is cheatin', wi' the risk o' manslaughter
addeetional.' Ye'll note I know my business.

"There was some more talk, an' next week I went aboard the Kite,
twenty-five hunder ton, simple compound, a Black Bird tramp. The deeper
she rode, the better she'd steam. I've snapped as much as eleven out of
her, but eight point three was her fair normal. Good food forward an'
better aft, all indents passed wi'out marginal remarks, the best coal,
new donkeys, and good crews. There was nothin' the old man would not do,
except paint. That was his deeficulty. Ye could no more draw paint than
his last teeth from him. He'd come down to dock, an' his boats a scandal
all along the watter, an' he'd whine an' cry an' say they looked all he
could desire. Every owner has his non plus ultra, I've obsairved. Paint
was McRimmon's. But you could get round his engines without riskin'
your life, an', for all his blindness, I've seen him reject five
flawed intermediates, one after the other, on a nod from me; an' his
cattle-fittin's were guaranteed for North Atlantic winter weather. Ye
ken what that means? McRimmon an' the Black Bird Line, God bless him!

"Oh, I forgot to say she would lie down an' fill her forward deck green,
an' snore away into a twenty-knot gale forty-five to the minute, three
an' a half knots an hour, the engines runnin' sweet an' true as a bairn
breathin' in its sleep. Bell was skipper; an' forbye there's no love
lost between crews an' owners, we were fond o' the auld Blind Deevil an'
his dog, an' I'm thinkin' he liked us. He was worth the windy side o'
twa million sterlin', an' no friend to his own blood-kin. Money's an
awfu' thing--overmuch--for a lonely man.

"I'd taken her out twice, there an' back again, when word came o' the
Breslau's breakdown, just as I prophesied. Calder was her engineer--he's
not fit to run a tug down the Solent--and he fairly lifted the engines
off the bed-plates, an' they fell down in heaps, by what I heard. So
she filled from the after stuffin'-box to the after bulkhead, an' lay
star-gazing, with seventy-nine squealin' passengers in the saloon, till
the Camaralzaman o' Ramsey & Gold's Cartagena line gave her a tow to
the tune o' five thousand seven hunder an' forty pound, wi' costs in the
Admiralty Court. She was helpless, ye'll understand, an' in no case
to meet ony weather. Five thousand seven hunder an' forty pounds, with
costs, an' exclusive o' new engines! They'd ha' done better to ha' kept
me on the old timin'.

"But, even so, the new Board were all for retrenchment. Young Steiner,
 was at the bottom of it. They sacked men right an' left, that
would not eat the dirt the Board gave 'em. They cut down repairs;
they fed crews wi' leavin's an' scrapin's; and, reversin', McRimmon's
practice, they hid their defeeciencies wi' paint an' cheap gildin'. Quem
Deus vult perrdere prrius dementat, ye remember.

"In January we went to dry-dock, an' in the next dock lay the Grotkau,
their big freighter that was the Dolabella o' Piegan, Piegan & Walsh's
line in '84--a Clyde-built iron boat, a flat-bottomed, pigeon-breasted,
under-engined, bull-nosed bitch of a five thousand ton freighter, that
would neither steer, nor steam, nor stop when ye asked her. Whiles
she'd attend to her helm, whiles she'd take charge, whiles she'd wait to
scratch herself, an' whiles she'd buttock into a dockhead. But Holdock
and Steiner had bought her cheap, and painted her all over like the Hoor
o' Babylon, an' we called her the Hoor for short." (By the way, McPhee
kept to that name throughout the rest of his tale; so you must read
accordingly.) "I went to see young Bannister--he had to take what the
Board gave him, an' he an' Calder were shifted together from the Breslau
to this abortion--an' talkin' to him I went into the dock under her.
Her plates were pitted till the men that were paint, paint, paintin' her
laughed at it. But the warst was at the last. She'd a great clumsy iron
twelve-foot Thresher propeller--Aitcheson designed the Kites'--and just
on the tail o' the shaft, behind the boss, was a red weepin' crack ye
could ha' put a penknife to. Man, it was an awful crack!

"'When d' ye ship a new tail-shaft?' I said to Bannister.

"He knew what I meant. 'Oh, yon's a superfeecial flaw,' says he, not
lookin' at me.

"'Superfeecial Gehenna!' I said. 'Ye'll not take her oot wi' a solution
o' continuity that like.'

"'They'll putty it up this evening,' he said. 'I'm a married man,
an'--ye used to know the Board.'

"I e'en said what was gied me in that hour. Ye know how a drydock
echoes. I saw young Steiner standin' listenin' above me, an', man, he
used language provocative of a breach o' the peace. I was a spy and a
disgraced employ, an' a corrupter o' young Bannister's morals, an' he'd
prosecute me for libel. He went away when I ran up the steps--I'd ha'
thrown him into the dock if I'd caught him--an' there I met McRimmon,
wi' Dandie pullin' on the chain, guidin' the auld man among the railway

"'McPhee,' said he, 'ye're no paid to fight Holdock, Steiner, Chase &
Company, Limited, when ye meet. What's wrong between you?'

"'No more than a tail-shaft rotten as a kail-stump. For ony sakes go an'
look, McRimmon. It's a comedietta.'

"'I'm feared o' yon conversational Hebrew,' said he. 'Whaur's the flaw,
an' what like?'

"'A seven-inch crack just behind the boss. There's no power on earth
will fend it just jarrin' off.'


"'That's beyon' my knowledge,' I said.

"'So it is; so it is,' said McRimmon. 'We've all oor leemitations. Ye're
certain it was a crack?'

"'Man, it's a crevasse,' I said, for there were no words to describe
the magnitude of it. 'An' young Bannister's sayin' it's no more than a
superfeecial flaw!'

"'Weell, I tak' it oor business is to mind oor business. If ye've
ony friends aboard her, McPhee, why not bid them to a bit dinner at

"'I was thinkin' o' tea in the cuddy,' I said. 'Engineers o' tramp
freighters cannot afford hotel prices.'

"'Na! na!' says the auld man, whimperin'. 'Not the cuddy. They'll laugh
at my Kite, for she's no plastered with paint like the Hoor. Bid them to
Radley's, McPhee, an' send me the bill. Thank Dandie, here, man. I'm no
used to thanks.' Then he turned him round. (I was just thinkin' the vara
same thing.) 'Mister McPhee,' said he, 'this is not senile dementia.'

"'Preserve 's!' I said, clean jumped oot o' mysel'. 'I was but thinkin'
you're fey, McRimmon.'

"Dod, the auld deevil laughed till he nigh sat down on Dandie. 'Send me
the bill,' says he. 'I'm long past champagne, but tell me how it tastes
the morn.'

"Bell and I bid young Bannister and Calder to dinner at Radley's.
They'll have no laughin' an' singin' there, but we took a private
room--like yacht-owners fra' Cowes."

McPhee grinned all over, and lay back to think.

"And then?" said I.

"We were no drunk in ony preceese sense o' the word, but Radley's showed
me the dead men. There were six magnums o' dry champagne an' maybe a
bottle o' whisky."

"Do you mean to tell me that you four got away with a magnum and a half
a piece, besides whisky?" I demanded.

McPhee looked down upon me from between his shoulders with toleration.

"Man, we were not settin' down to drink," he said. "They no more than
made us wutty. To be sure, young Bannister laid his head on the table
an' greeted like a bairn, an' Calder was all for callin' on Steiner at
two in the morn an' painting him galley-green; but they'd been drinkin'
the afternoon. Lord, how they twa cursed the Board, an' the Grotkau, an'
the tail-shaft, an' the engines, an' a'! They didna talk o' superfeecial
flaws that night. I mind young Bannister an' Calder shakin' hands on
a bond to be revenged on the Board at ony reasonable cost this side o'
losing their certificates. Now mark ye how false economy ruins business.
The Board fed them like swine (I have good reason to know it), an' I've
obsairved wi' my ain people that if ye touch his stomach ye wauken the
deil in a Scot. Men will tak' a dredger across the Atlantic if they 're
well fed, an' fetch her somewhere on the broadside o' the Americas; but
bad food's bad service the warld over.

"The bill went to McRimmon, an' he said no more to me till the week-end,
when I was at him for more paint, for we'd heard the Kite was chartered
Liverpool-side. 'Bide whaur ye're put,' said the Blind Deevil. 'Man, do
ye wash in champagne? The Kite's no leavin' here till I gie the order,
an'--how am I to waste paint onher, wi' the Lammergeyer docked for who
knows how long an' a'?'

"She was our big freighter--McIntyre was engineer--an' I knew she'd
come from overhaul not three months. That morn I met McRimmon's
head-clerk--ye'll not know him--fair bitin' his nails off wi'

"'The auld man's gone gyte,' says he. 'He's withdrawn the Lammergeyer.'

"'Maybe he has reasons,' says I.

"'Reasons! He's daft!'

"'He'll no be daft till he begins to paint,' I said.

"'That's just what he's done--and South American freights higher than
we'll live to see them again. He's laid her up to paint her--to paint
her--to paint her!' says the little clerk, dancin' like a hen on a hot
plate. 'Five thousand ton o' potential freight rottin' in drydock, man;
an' he dolin' the paint out in quarter-pound tins, for it cuts him
to the heart, mad though he is. An' the Grotkau--the Grotkau of all
conceivable bottoms--soaking up every pound that should be ours at

"I was staggered wi' this folly--considerin' the dinner at Radley's in
connection wi' the same.

"Ye may well stare, McPhee,' says the head-clerk. 'There's engines, an'
rollin' stock, an' iron bridgesd' ye know what freights are noo? an'
pianos, an' millinery, an' fancy Brazil cargo o' every species
pourin' into the Grotkau--the Grotkau o' the Jerusalem firm--and the
Lammergeyer's bein' painted!'

"Losh, I thought he'd drop dead wi' the fits.

"I could say no more than 'Obey orders, if ye break owners,' but on the
Kite we believed McRimmon was mad; an' McIntyre of the Lammergeyer was
for lockin' him up by some patent legal process he'd found in a book o'
maritime law. An' a' that week South American freights rose an' rose. It
was sinfu'!

"Syne Bell got orders to tak' the Kite round to Liverpool in
water-ballast, and McRimmon came to bid's good-bye, yammerin' an'
whinin' o'er the acres o' paint he'd lavished on the Lammergeyer.

"'I look to you to retrieve it,' says he. 'I look to you to reimburse
me! 'Fore God, why are ye not cast off? Are ye dawdlin' in dock for a

"'What odds, McRimmon?' says Bell. 'We'll be a day behind the fair at
Liverpool. The Grotkau's got all the freight that might ha' been ours
an' the Lammergeyer's.' McRimmon laughed an' chuckled--the pairfect
eemage o' senile dementia. Ye ken his eyebrows wark up an' down like a

"'Ye're under sealed orders,' said he, tee-heein' an' scratchin'
himself. 'Yon's they'--to be opened seriatim.

"Says Bell, shufflin' the envelopes when the auld man had gone ashore:
'We're to creep round a' the south coast, standin' in for orders his
weather, too. There's no question o' his lunacy now.'

"Well, we buttocked the auld Kite along--vara bad weather we
made--standin' in all alongside for telegraphic orders, which are the
curse o' skippers. Syne we made over to Holyhead, an' Bell opened the
last envelope for the last instructions. I was wi' him in the cuddy, an'
he threw it over to me, cryin': 'Did ye ever know the like, Mac?'

"I'll no say what McRimmon had written, but he was far from mad. There
was a sou'wester brewin' when we made the mouth o' the Mersey, a bitter
cold morn wi' a grey-green sea and a grey-green sky--Liverpool weather,
as they say; an' there we lay choppin', an' the crew swore. Ye canna
keep secrets aboard ship. They thought McRimmon was mad, too.

"Syne we saw the Grotkau rollin' oot on the top o' flood, deep an'
double deep, wi' her new-painted funnel an' her new-painted boats an'
a'. She looked her name, an', moreover, she coughed like it. Calder
tauld me at Radley's what ailed his engines, but my own ear would ha'
told me twa mile awa', by the beat o' them. Round we came, plungin' an'
squatterin' in her wake, an' the wind cut wi' good promise o' more to
come. By six it blew hard but clear, an' before the middle watch it was
a sou'wester in airnest.

"'She'll edge into Ireland, this gait,' says Bell. I was with him on the
bridge, watchin' the Grotkau's port light. Ye canna see green so far as
red, or we'd ha' kept to leeward. We'd no passengers to consider, an'
(all eyes being on the Grotkau) we fair walked into a liner rampin' home
to Liverpool. Or, to be preceese, Bell no more than twisted the Kite
oot from under her bows, and there was a little damnin' betwix' the twa
bridges. "Noo a passenger"--McPhee regarded me benignantly--"wad ha'
told the papers that as soon as he got to the Customs. We stuck to the
Grotkau's tail that night an' the next twa days--she slowed down to five
knot by my reckonin' and we lapped along the weary way to the Fastnet."

"But you don't go by the Fastnet to get to any South American port, do
you?" I said.

"We do not. We prefer to go as direct as may be. But we were followin'
the Grotkau, an' she'd no walk into that gale for ony consideration.
Knowin' what I did to her discredit, I couldna blame young Bannister.
It was warkin' up to a North Atlantic winter gale, snow an' sleet an' a
perishin' wind. Eh, it was like the Deil walkin' abroad o' the surface
o' the deep, whuppin' off the top o' the waves before he made up his
mind. They'd bore up against it so far, but the minute she was clear
o' the Skelligs she fair tucked up her skirts an' ran for it by Dunmore
Head. Wow, she rolled!

"'She'll be makin' Smerwick,' says Bell.

"She'd ha' tried for Ventry by noo if she meant that,' I said.

"'They'll roll the funnel oot o' her, this gait,' says Bell. 'Why canna
Bannister keep her head to sea?'

"It's the tail-shaft. Ony rollin''s better than pitchin' wi'
superfeecial cracks in the tail-shaft. Calder knows that much,' I said.

"'It's ill wark retreevin' steamers this weather,' said Bell. His beard
and whiskers were frozen to his oilskin, an' the spray was white on the
weather side of him. Pairfect North Atlantic winter weather!

"One by one the sea raxed away our three boats, an' the davits were
crumpled like ram's horns.

"'Yon's bad,' said Bell, at the last. 'Ye canna pass a hawser wi'oot a
boat.' Bell was a vara judeecious man--for an Aberdonian.

"I'm not one that fashes himself for eventualities outside the
engine-room, so I e'en slipped down betwixt waves to see how the Kite
fared. Man, she's the best geared boat of her class that ever left
Clyde! Kinloch, my second, knew her as well as I did. I found him dryin'
his socks on the main-steam, an' combin' his whiskers wi' the comb Janet
gied me last year, for the warld an' a' as though we were in port. I
tried the feed, speered into the stoke-hole, thumbed all bearin's, spat
on the thrust for luck, gied 'em my blessin', an' took Kinloch's socks
before I went up to the bridge again.

"Then Bell handed me the wheel, an' went below to warm himself. When he
came up my gloves were frozen to the spokes an' the ice clicked over my
eyelids. Pairfect North Atlantic winter weather, as I was sayin'.

"The gale blew out by night, but we lay in smotherin' cross-seas that
made the auld Kite chatter from stem to stern. I slowed to thirty-four,
I mind--no, thirty-seven. There was a long swell the morn, an' the
Grotkau was headin' into it west awa'.

"'She'll win to Rio yet, tail-shaft or no tail-shaft,' says Bell.

"'Last night shook her,' I said. 'She'll jar it off yet, mark my word.'

"We were then, maybe, a hunder and fifty mile westsou'west o' Slyne
Head, by dead reckonin'. Next day we made a hunder an' thirty--ye'll
note we were not racin-boats--an' the day after a hunder an' sixty-one,
an' that made us, we'll say, Eighteen an' a bittock west, an' maybe
Fifty-one an' a bittock north, crossin' all the North Atlantic liner
lanes on the long slant, always in sight o' the Grotkau, creepin' up by
night and fallin' awa' by day. After the gale it was cold weather wi'
dark nights.

"I was in the engine-room on Friday night, just before the middle watch,
when Bell whustled down the tube: 'She's done it'; an' up I came.

"The Grotkau was just a fair distance south, an' one by one she ran up
the three red lights in a vertical line--the sign of a steamer not under

"'Yon's a tow for us,' said Bell, lickin' his chops. 'She'll be worth
more than the Breslau. We'll go down to her, McPhee!'

"'Bide a while,' I said. 'The seas fair throng wi' ships here.'

"'Reason why,' said Bell. 'It's a fortune gaun beggin'. What d' ye
think, man?'

"'Gie her till daylight. She knows we're here. If Bannister needs help
he'll loose a rocket.'

"'Wha told ye Bannister's need? We'll ha' some rag-an'-bone tramp
snappin' her up under oor nose,' said he; an' he put the wheel over. We
were goin' slow.

"'Bannister wad like better to go home on a liner an' eat in the
saloon. Mind ye what they said o' Holdock & Steiner's food that night
at Radley's? Keep her awa', man--keep her awa'. A tow's a tow, but a
derelict's big salvage.'

"'E-eh! 'said Bell. 'Yon's an inshot o' yours, Mac. I love ye like a
brother. We'll bide whaur we are till daylight'; an' he kept her awa'.

"Syne up went a rocket forward, an' twa on the bridge, an' a blue light
aft. Syne a tar-barrel forward again.

"'She's sinkin',' said Bell. 'It's all gaun, an' I'll get no more than a
pair o' night-glasses for pickin' up young Bannister--the fool!'

"' Fair an' soft again,' I said. 'She's signallin' to the south of us.
Bannister knows as well as I that one rocket would bring the Breslau.
He'll no be wastin' fireworks for nothin'. Hear her ca'!'

"The Grotkau whustled an' whustled for five minutes, an' then there were
more fireworks--a regular exhibeetion.

"'That's no for men in the regular trade,' says Bell. 'Ye're right,
Mac. That's for a cuddy full o' passengers.' He blinked through the
night-glasses when it lay a bit thick to southward.

"'What d' ye make of it?' I said.

"'Liner,' he says. 'Yon's her rocket. Ou, ay; they've waukened the
gold-strapped skipper, an'--noo they've waukened the passengers. They're
turnin' on the electrics, cabin by cabin. Yon's anither rocket! They're
comin' up to help the perishin' in deep watters.'

"'Gie me the glass,' I said. But Bell danced on the bridge, clean
dementit. 'Mails-mails-mails!' said he. 'Under contract wi' the
Government for the due conveyance o' the mails; an' as such, Mac, yell
note, she may rescue life at sea, but she canna tow!--she canna tow!
Yon's her night-signal. She'll be up in half an hour!'

"'Gowk!' I said, 'an' we blazin' here wi' all oor lights. Oh, Bell,
ye're a fool!'

"He tumbled off the bridge forward, an' I tumbled aft, an' before ye
could wink our lights were oot, the engine-room hatch was covered, an'
we lay pitch-dark, watchin' the lights o' the liner come up that the
Grotkau'd been signallin' to. Twenty knot an hour she came, every cabin
lighted, an' her boats swung awa'. It was grandly done, an' in the
inside of an hour. She stopped like Mrs. Holdock's machine; down went
the gangway, down went the boats, an' in ten minutes we heard the
passengers cheerin', an' awa' she fled.

"'They'll tell o' this all the days they live,' said Bell. 'A rescue at
sea by night, as pretty as a play. Young Bannister an' Calder will be
drinkin' in the saloon, an' six months hence the Board o' Trade 'll gie
the skipper a pair o' binoculars. It's vara philanthropic all round.'

"We'll lay by till day--ye may think we waited for it wi' sore eyes an'
there sat the Grotkau, her nose a bit cocked, just leerin' at us. She
looked paifectly ridiculous.

"'She'll be fillin' aft,' says Bell; 'for why is she down by the stern?
The tail-shaft's punched a hole in her, an'--we 've no boats. There's
three hunder thousand pound sterlin', at a conservative estimate,
droonin' before our eyes. What's to do?' An' his bearin's got hot again
in a minute: he was an incontinent man.

"'Run her as near as ye daur,' I said. 'Gie me a jacket an' a lifeline,
an' I'll swum for it.' There was a bit lump of a sea, an' it was cold
in the wind--vara cold; but they'd gone overside like passengers, young
Bannister an' Calder an' a', leaving the gangway down on the lee-side.
It would ha' been a flyin' in the face o' manifest Providence to
overlook the invitation. We were within fifty yards o' her while Kinloch
was garmin' me all over wi' oil behind the galley; an' as we ran past
I went outboard for the salvage o' three hunder thousand pound. Man, it
was perishin' cold, but I'd done my job judgmatically, an' came scrapin'
all along her side slap on to the lower gratin' o' the gangway. No one
more astonished than me, I assure ye. Before I'd caught my breath I'd
skinned both my knees on the gratin', an' was climbin' up before she
rolled again. I made my line fast to the rail, an' squattered aft to
young Bannister's cabin, whaaur I dried me wi' everything in his bunk,
an' put on every conceivable sort o' rig I found till the blood was
circulatin'. Three pair drawers, I mind I found--to begin upon--an'
I needed them all. It was the coldest cold I remember in all my

"Syne I went aft to the engine-room. The Grotkau sat on her own tail, as
they say. She was vara shortshafted, an' her gear was all aft. There was
four or five foot o' water in the engine-room slummockin' to and fro,
black an' greasy; maybe there was six foot. The stoke-hold doors were
screwed home, an' the stoke-hold was tight enough, but for a minute the
mess in the engine-room deceived me. Only for a minute, though, an' that
was because I was not, in a manner o' speakin', as calm as ordinar'. I
looked again to mak' sure. 'T was just black wi' bilge: dead watter that
must ha' come in fortuitously, ye ken."

"McPhee, I'm only a passenger," I said, "but you don't persuade me that
six foot o' water can come into an engine-room fortuitously."

"Who's tryin' to persuade one way or the other?" McPhee retorted. "I'm
statin' the facts o' the case--the simple, natural facts. Six or seven
foot o' dead watter in the engine-room is a vara depressin' sight if ye
think there's like to be more comin'; but I did not consider that such
was likely, and so, yell note, I was not depressed."

"That's all very well, but I want to know about the water," I said.

"I've told ye. There was six feet or more there, wi' Calder's cap
floatin' on top."

"Where did it come from?"

"Weel, in the confusion o' things after the propeller had dropped off
an' the engines were racin' an' a', it's vara possible that Calder might
ha' lost it off his head an' no troubled himself to pick it up again. I
remember seem' that cap on him at Southampton."

"I don't want to know about the cap. I'm asking where the water came
from and what it was doing there, and why you were so certain that it
wasn't a leak, McPhee?"

"For good reason-for good an' sufficient reason."

"Give it to me, then."

"Weel, it's a reason that does not properly concern myself only. To
be preceese, I'm of opinion that it was due, the watter, in part to an
error o' judgment in another man. We can a' mak' mistakes."

"Oh, I beg your pardon?"

"I got me to the rail again, an', 'What's wrang?' said Bell, hailin'.

"'She'll do,' I said. 'Send's o'er a hawser, an' a man to steer. I'll
pull him in by the life-line.'

"I could see heads bobbin' back an' forth, an' a whuff or two o' strong
words. Then Bell said: 'They'll not trust themselves--one of 'em--in
this waiter--except Kinloch, an' I'll no spare him.'

"'The more salvage to me, then,' I said. 'I'll make shift solo.'

"Says one dock-rat, at this: 'D' ye think she's safe?'

"'I'll guarantee ye nothing,' I said, 'except maybe a hammerin' for
keepin' me this long.'

"Then he sings out: 'There's no more than one lifebelt, an' they canna
find it, or I'd come.'

"'Throw him over, the Jezebel,' I said, for I was oot o' patience; an'
they took haud o' that volunteer before he knew what was in store, and
hove him over, in the bight of my life-line. So I e'en hauled him upon
the sag of it, hand over fist--a vara welcome recruit when I'd tilted
the salt watter oot of him: for, by the way, he could na swim.

"Syne they bent a twa-inch rope to the life-line, an' a hawser to that,
an' I led the rope o'er the drum of a hand-winch forward, an' we sweated
the hawser inboard an' made it fast to the Grotkau's bitts.

"Bell brought the Kite so close I feared she'd roll in an' do the
Grotkau's plates a mischief. He hove anither life-line to me, an' went
astern, an' we had all the weary winch work to do again wi' a second
hawser. For all that, Bell was right: we'd along tow before us, an'
though Providence had helped us that far, there was no sense in leavin'
too much to its keepin'. When the second hawser was fast, I was wet wi'
sweat, an' I cried Bell to tak' up his slack an' go home. The other man
was by way o' helpin' the work wi' askin' for drinks, but I e'en told
him he must hand reef an' steer, beginnin' with steerin', for I was
goin' to turn in. He steered--oh, ay, he steered, in a manner o'
speakin'. At the least, he grippit the spokes an' twiddled 'em an'
looked wise, but I doubt if the Hoor ever felt it. I turned in there an'
then, to young Bannister's bunk, an' slept past expression. I waukened
ragin' wi' hunger, a fair lump o' sea runnin', the Kite snorin' awa'
four knots an hour; an' the Grotkau slappin' her nose under, an' yawin'
an' standin' over at discretion. She was a most disgracefu' tow. But the
shameful thing of all was the food. I raxed me a meal fra galley-shelves
an' pantries an' lazareetes an' cubby-holes that I would not ha' gied to
the mate of a Cardiff collier; an' ye ken we say a Cardiff mate will
eat clinkers to save waste. I'm sayin' it was simply vile! The crew had
written what they thought of it on the new paint o' the fo'c'sle, but I
had not a decent soul wi' me to complain on. There was nothin' for me to
do save watch the hawsers an' the Kite's tail squatterin' down in
white watter when she lifted to a sea; so I got steam on the after
donkey-pump, an' pumped oot the engine-room. There's no sense in leavin'
waiter loose in a ship. When she was dry, I went doun the shaft-tunnel,
an' found she was leakin' a little through the stuffin'box, but nothin'
to make wark. The propeller had e'en jarred off, as I knew it must, an'
Calder had been waitin' for it to go wi' his hand on the gear. He told
me as much when I met him ashore. There was nothin' started or strained.
It had just slipped awa' to the bed o' the Atlantic as easy as a man
dyin' wi' due warning--a most providential business for all concerned.
Syne I took stock o' the Grotkau's upper works. Her boats had been
smashed on the davits, an' here an' there was the rail missin', an' a
ventilator or two had fetched awa', an' the bridge-rails were bent by
the seas; but her hatches were tight, and she'd taken no sort of harm.
Dod, I came to hate her like a human bein', for I was eight weary days
aboard, starvin'--ay, starvin'--within a cable's length o' plenty. All
day I laid in the bunk reading the' Woman-Hater,' the grandest book
Charlie Reade ever wrote, an' pickin' a toothful here an' there. It was
weary, weary work. Eight days, man, I was aboard the Grotkau, an' not
one full meal did I make. Sma' blame her crew would not stay by her. The
other man? Oh I warked him wi' a vengeance to keep him warm.

"It came on to blow when we fetched soundin's, an' that kept me standin'
by the hawsers, lashed to the capstan, breathin' twixt green seas. I
near died o' cauld an' hunger, for the Grotkau towed like a barge, an'
Bell howkit her along through or over. It was vara thick up-Channel,
too. We were standin' in to make some sort o' light, an' we near walked
over twa three fishin'-boats, an' they cried us we were overclose to
Falmouth. Then we were near cut down by a drunken foreign fruiter that
was blunderin' between us an' the shore, and it got thicker an' thicker
that night, an' I could feel by the tow Bell did not know whaur he was.
Losh, we knew in the morn, for the wind blew the fog oot like a candle,
an' the sun came clear; and as surely as McRimmon gied me my cheque, the
shadow o' the Eddystone lay across our tow-rope! We were that near--ay,
we were that near! Bell fetched the Kite round with the jerk that came
close to tearin' the bitts out o' the Grotkau, an' I mind I thanked
my Maker in young Bannister's cabin when we were inside Plymouth

"The first to come aboard was McRimmon, wi' Dandie. Did I tell you our
orders were to take anything we found into Plymouth? The auld deil had
just come down overnight, puttin' two an' two together from what Calder
had told him when the liner landed the Grotkau's men. He had preceesely
hit oor time. I'd hailed Bell for something to eat, an' he sent it o'er
in the same boat wi' McRimmon, when the auld man came to me. He grinned
an' slapped his legs and worked his eyebrows the while I ate.

"'How do Holdock, Steiner & Chase feed their men?' said he.

"'Ye can see,' I said, knockin' the top off another beer-bottle. 'I did
not sign to be starved, McRimmon.'

"'Nor to swum, either,' said he, for Bell had tauld him how I carried
the line aboard. 'Well, I'm thinkin' you'll be no loser. What freight
could we ha' put into the Lammergeyer would equal salvage on four hunder
thousand pounds--hull an' cargo? Eh, McPhee? This cuts the liver out
o' Holdock, Steiner, Chase & Company, Limited. Eh, McPhee? An' I'm
sufferin' from senile dementia now? Eh, MCPhee? An' I'm not daft, am I,
till I begin to paint the Lammergeyer? Eh, McPhee? Ye may weel lift
your leg, Dandie! I ha' the laugh o' them all. Ye found watter in the

"'To speak wi'oot prejudice,' I said, 'there was some watter.'

"'They thought she was sinkin' after the propeller went. She filled wi'
extraordinary rapeedity. Calder said it grieved him an' Bannister to
abandon her.'

"I thought o' the dinner at Radley's, an' what like o' food I'd eaten
for eight days.

"'It would grieve them sore,' I said.

"'But the crew would not hear o' stayin' and workin' her back under
canvas. They're gaun up an' down sayin' they'd ha' starved first.'

"'They'd ha' starved if they'd stayed,' said I.

"'I tak' it, fra Calder's account, there was a mutiny a'most.'

"'Ye know more than I, McRimmon' I said. 'Speakin' wi'oot prejudice, for
we're all in the same boat, who opened the bilgecock?'

"'Oh, that's it--is it?' said the auld man, an' I could see he was
surprised. 'A bilge-cock, ye say?'

"'I believe it was a bilge-cock. They were all shut when I came aboard,
but some one had flooded the engine-room eight feet over all, and shut
it off with the worm-an'-wheel gear from the second gratin' afterwards.'

"'Losh!' said McRimmon. 'The ineequity o' man's beyond belief. But it's
awfu' discreditable to Holdock, Steiner & Chase, if that came oot in

"'It's just my own curiosity,' I said.

"'Aweel, Dandie's afflicted wi' the same disease. Dandie, strive against
curiosity, for it brings a little dog into traps an' suchlike. Whaur was
the Kite when yon painted liner took off the Grotkau's people?'

"'Just there or thereabouts,' I said.

"'An' which o' you twa thought to cover your lights?' said he, winkin'.

"'Dandle,' I said to the dog, 'we must both strive against curiosity.
It's an unremunerative business. What's our chance o' salvage, Dandie?'

"He laughed till he choked. 'Tak' what I gie you, McPhee, an' be
content,' he said. 'Lord, how a man wastes time when he gets old. Get
aboard the Kite, mon, as soon as ye can. I've clean forgot there's a
Baltic charter yammerin' for you at London. That'll be your last voyage,
I'm thinkin', excep' by way o' pleasure.'

"Steiner's men were comin' aboard to take charge an' tow her round, an'
I passed young Steiner in a boat as I went to the Kite. He looked down
his nose; but McRimmon pipes up: 'Here's the man ye owe the Grotkau
to--at a price, Steiner--at a price! Let me introduce Mr. McPhee to
you. Maybe ye've met before; but ye've vara little luck in keepin' your
men--ashore or afloat!'

"Young Steiner looked angry enough to eat him as he chuckled an'
whustled in his dry old throat.

"'Ye've not got your award yet,' Steiner says.

"'Na, na,' says the auld man, in a screech ye could hear to the Hoe,
'but I've twa million sterlin', an' no bairns, ye Judeeas Apella, if ye
mean to fight; an' I'll match ye p'und for p'und till the last p'und's
oot. Ye ken me, Steiner! I'm McRimmon o' McNaughten & McRimmon!'

"'Dod,' he said betwix' his teeth, sittin' back in the boat, 'I've
waited fourteen year to break that firm, an' God be thankit I'll do
it now.'

"The Kite was in the Baltic while the auld man was warkin' his warks,
but I know the assessors valued the Grotkau, all told, at over three
hunder and sixty thousand--her manifest was a treat o' richness--an'
McRimmon got a third for salvin' an abandoned ship. Ye see, there's
vast deeference between towin' a ship wi' men on her an' pickin' up a
derelict--a vast deeference--in pounds sterlin'. Moreover, twa three o'
the Grotkau's crew were burnin' to testify about food, an' there was a
note o' Calder to the Board, in regard to the tail-shaft, that would ha'
been vara damagin' if it had come into court. They knew better than to

"Syne the Kite came back, an' McRimmon paid off me an' Bell personally,
an' the rest of the crew pro rata, I believe it's ca'ed. My share--oor
share, I should say--was just twenty-five thousand pound sterlin'."

At this point Janet jumped up and kissed him.

"Five-and-twenty thousand pound sterlin'. Noo, I'm fra the North, and
I'm not the like to fling money awa' rashly, but I'd gie six months'
pay--one hunder an' twenty pounds--to know who flooded the engine-room
of the Grotkau. I'm fairly well acquaint wi' McRimmon's eediosyncrasies,
and he'd no hand in it. It was not Calder, for I've asked him, an' he
wanted to fight me. It would be in the highest degree unprofessional o'
Calder--not fightin', but openin' bilge-cocks--but for a while I thought
it was him. Ay, I judged it might be him--under temptation."

"What's your theory?" I demanded.

"Weel, I'm inclined to think it was one o' those singular providences
that remind us we're in the hands o' Higher Powers.".

"It couldn't open and shut itself?"

"I did not mean that; but some half-starvin' oiler or, maybe, trimmer
must ha' opened it awhile to mak' sure o' leavin' the Grotkau. It's a
demoralisin' thing to see an engine-room flood up after any accident to
the gear--demoralisin' and deceptive both. Aweel, the man got what
he wanted, for they went aboard the liner cryin' that the Grotkau was
sinkin'. But it's curious to think o' the consequences. In a' human
probability, he's bein' damned in heaps at the present moment aboard
another tramp freighter; an' here am I, wi' five-an'-twenty thousand
pound invested, resolute to go to sea no more--providential's the
preceese word--except as a passenger, ye'll understand, Janet."

    *    *    *    *    *

McPhee kept his word. He and Janet went for a voyage as passengers in
the first-class saloon. They paid seventy pounds for their berths; and
Janet found a very sick woman in the second-class saloon, so that for
sixteen days she lived below, and chatted with the stewardesses at the
foot of the second-saloon stairs while her patient slept. McPhee was a
passenger for exactly twenty-four hours. Then the engineers' mess--where
the oilcloth tables are--joyfully took him to its bosom, and for the
rest of the voyage that company was richer by the unpaid services of a
highly certificated engineer.