In this 8500 word comedy from Morley Roberts, it's the crew of a tramp steamer vs. a three-fourths grown clouded Manchurian tiger whose tail is in doubt....
The Tramp And The Tiger
by Morley Roberts
(Illustrated by Harry Roundtree)
WHEN the Star of the East had taken her lumber aboard at Vladivostock, she hauled out from her berth and anchored in the bay. She was an old-fashioned three-masted ocean tramp, and belonged to an owner who did not believe a ship could be a ship unless she could sail when she couldn't steam. But otherwise she was built for business and not for pleasure. Mr. Sadler, her chief mate, and Mr. Quin, her second mate, were agreed upon this point, though they were of extremely different dispositions. The only person on board entirely satisfied with the tramp and himself was Captain Cradgett. He was still ashore in Vladivostock when the sun went down, and the two mates sat and smoked in the chart-house.
"What I want to do is to get into the passenger trade, sir, just as soon as I can," said Mr. Quin, as he lighted another cigarette. "As you so frequently say, it's not excitin' in this kind of trade, and there's nobody to speak to."
Mr. Sadler nodded, and then shook his head in the most melancholy manner.
"Ah," he said, "I thought I was goin' to have an excitin' time, too, when I went to sea. Once when I was in Liverpool a very nice young woman said to me, 'How excitin' it must be to go to sea, Mr. Sadler.' And what I said to her was, 'Excitin'! Oh, miss, you think it's excitin', do you ? Why my dear, it's dull--dull to a degree. Drivin' a bus in the Whitechapel Road is far more excitin' and joyous.' She couldn't understand that."
"Why, yes, sir," said the second mate, eagerly; "but somethin' always may happen, you know. Sometimes I wish I hadn't been a sailor at all, but a traveller."
"What would you have travelled in?" asked Mr. Sadler.
"I don't mean that sort of traveller," said the second mate. "I mean wanderin' about on land, with real adventures."
"They don't happen so thick even on land," said the melancholy chief mate. "Don't you rely on books, Mr. Quin, to tell the truth about land any more than about the sea."
"Well, but there's big-game huntin'," said the second mate. "Surely that's excitin'."
"Is it?" asked the incredulous mate. "As far as I've read it amounts to hidin' up a tree all night and catchin' colds and cramps. And how would you like to face a tiger? Oh, a tiger would disgruntle you. It's a very awkward animal, a tiger."
"I don't know that I ever actually saw one," said Mr. Quin. "But with a good gun--"
"Did you say you never saw a tiger?" interrupted Mr. Sadler, with peculiar earnestness.
"Well, no, I never actually did," said Quin.
"Ah," said the first mate, with an air of the deepest thought, "but you can see number two hatch, Mr. Quin can't you?"
"Well, I can if I get up," replied the second mate.
"And it's all clear of lumber, ain't it?" asked Mr. Sadler.
"Yes, sir," said the second mate. "Wasn't I wonderin' why Captain Cradgett insisted on keepin' number two clear? There might have been a deck load there as well as anywhere else."
Mr. Sadler looked at him with a very strange expression and shook his head.
"Oh, no, there mightn't," he said, firmly. "That's where you're off it, Mr. Quin."
"Off it--why, sir?" asked the second mate.
"Yes, off it--a long way off it," repealed Mr, Sadler. "Number two hatch is bein' kept clear for a cage, Mr. Quin."
"A what?" asked the astonished second mate.
"I said a cage," repeated the melancholy mate. "The captain would do it, though I urged him not to with tears in my eyes."
"Not to what, sir?" asked Quin, inharmoniously.
"Why, just what I said," repeated Mr. Sadler, out of an even thicker gloom.
"Oh, no; you haven't said yet what the cage is for," said the second mate.
"Bless my soul!" said Mr. Sadler. "Don't I keep tellin' you it's for a tiger?"
"For a tiger?" asked the second mate, in great astonishment.
"Why, yes, Mr, Quin, a three parts grown tiger; a clouded Manchurian tiger they call it," said the chief mate, rubbing his forehead thoughtfully. "Were takin' it to Calcutta for the Rajah of Jugpore. I do hope it won't get out. If that tiger did get out, Mr. Quin, you could have all the huntin' for me. I'd be up aloft as far as I could get. But I suppose it'd tickle you to death to hunt a tiger with a hand-spike in the middle of the Indian Ocean."
"Yes, it'd he awkward if he did get out," said Quin, cheerfully. "At least, I suppose so."
The next morning a lighter was towed by a tug alongside the tramp. On board the lighter was a big cage, and in the tug was Captain Cradgett. When he had got on board the tramp he climbed up to the bridge and, rubbing his hands cheerfully, said: --
"Well, there you are, Mr, Sadler. This finishes us at this forsaken place. You can sign for one three-parts-grown clouded Manchurian tiger, shipped in good condition, with the end of his tail in doubt."
"I beg your pardon, sir," said Mr. Sadler, as if he hadn't quite understood what was said to him; "but why's the end of his tail in doubt?"
"Because he got it nipped puttin' it out when he was bein' lowered into the lighter," said Captain Cradgett. "He made a deal of fuss about it, and kept on turnin' round to look at it in the most surprisin' way. So make out the receipt as I'm tellin' you."
The cage looked a good strong cage. It was made of hard wood, clamped here and there with iron.
"He'll never get out of that," said Captain Cradgett, joyously, when the tiger stood on his hind legs and clawed at his bars. "But he looks awfully as if he'd like to eat a sailor-man, don't he? What do you think of him, Mr.Quin?"
"Oh, he's splendid," said the second mate, with enthusiasm.
"He's all right as long as he's inside that cage," said Mr. Sadler, doubtfully.
"It'll be your business and Mr. Macintosh's to see he stays inside," said the skipper. "I'm to get a premium on him if I deliver him safe. They offered him to Captain Parker, of the Rising Sun, and to Watts, of the Tower of London, and they wouldn't have him."
And half an hour later the Star of the East was on her way to Calcutta, with sawed lumber, some soya beans, a few bales of silk, and one tiger in good condition, though one of the joints of his tail was still in doubt.
The crowd took a mighty interest in the tiger, and spent most of the second dog watch every evening sitting round him romancing. A tough from Liverpool, called Ryan, said he'd rather face that tiger than the mate of the Wanderer. He said that facing that tiger would be a joyous picnic after sailing in a Cape Horner with a mate whose only exercise was knocking sailormen down and kicking them up.
As a ship must have a subject to talk about, the tiger was their chief joy all the way down the China coast and through the Straits of Malacca into the Indian Ocean, and even till they were close up with the Nicobars. And if they talked about it in the fo'c'sle it was equally talked of by the skipper and his mates. Captain Cradgett said he was beginning to get very fond of it. But Mr. Sadler was nervous when he saw the tiger sharpening his claws.
"He'll be out of it one of these days," said Mr. Sadler. "I see it in his hopeful eye."
"You're takin' a sad view of things, sir," said the optimistic Quin.
"I never was a hopeful man," replied the miserable Mr. Sadler. "I made a mistake comin' to sea. Oh, it is that dull."
"But you take a kind of pleasure in thinkin' about him gettin' out," said Quin. "If he did we'd catch him again."
"Ah," said the chief mate, "and what's your plan for dealin' with a large tiger loose on a deck load, and him hungry enough to scoff a ring-bolt?"
"What's my plan, sir?" asked the second mate. "Why, I'd skin up aloft and think about it," said Mr. Quin, lightly.
But the chief mate shook his head.
"It's a very good plan, too, only it ain't exactly genius," he grunted. "I could have thought of that myself. But supposin' the tiger climbed the ratlines, what would your plan be then?"
"I'd go up aloft higher still, of course," said the second mate.
"But supposin' he followed you?" urged Mr. Sadler.
"When I couldn't go any farther I should jump overboard, I suppose," said Quin.
The chief mate shook his head again.
"I think nothin' whatever of that part of your plan," he retorted. "I can't swim. Now, I've got a much better plan than that, Mr. Quin, for my notion is to get the cage strengthened. Well see what Macintosh has got to say about it to-morrow. If I had my way I'd rouse up a cable and pass it round and round and round and round that cage until the tiger got perfectly hopeless. I hate to see a tiger in a cage so full of hope as that tiger is."
It certainly seemed, when Great Nicobar was close aboard on the port bow, and the captain was telling the mates of the adventures he had had there in a sailing ship in the early days, that it was time to take precautions. But Captain Cradgett was an optimist, and so was Mr. Quin. Mr. Sadler's pessimism, although far-reaching and very thorough, did not save him. Indeed, as he once remarked blackly to Captain Cradgett, there is nothing like being too thorough for making a man late for his market. Just as Captain Cradgett was enlarging upon the miserable appearance and character of the inhabitants of the Great Nicobar, there was an awful squeal and uproar in the tiger's cage, and when the "old man" and his mates looked down on number two hatch they saw the clouded Manchurian three-parts through the bars.
Though he was momentarily detained by them closing on his hindquarters, there was every sign that he would be out in two shakes of a lamb's tail. It was quite easy to understand what the tiger was saying without an interpreter, and Captain Cradgett, although he was so stout, translated his message into motion before either of his mates. Although he had rarely been aloft since he was a second mate, he made a run and jump for the fore-rigging, and skipped up it as fast as if he were a boy with a bo'sun behind him. Inside fifteen seconds the distribution of the crew was as follows. The captain and both his mates were on the foreyard, Ryan and Jim Cook, the Cockney, were on the main cross-trees, while the greater number of the crew were shut up in the fo'c'sle. The cook was in his galley, armed with an ineffective saucepan; the steward was trembling in the saloon, and the whole engine-room outfit, not having been able to shut the deck door, were hastily heating slice-bars in the furnace with a view to keeping the narrow iron stairs if the tiger came that way. For now the tiger was free, after one final struggle which had the result of putting some of his fur in doubt. But at first he showed no anger, only a great curiosity.
"Walks gracefully , don't he?" said Mr. Quin, eagerly.
"I ain't admirin' his walk any," said the captain, angrily. "Didn't you tell me, Mr. Quin, that Mr. Macintosh was goin' to reinforce that cage with iron bars? Why didn't he do it? Why didn't you see that he did it? And, Mr. Sadler, why d'dn't you liste to me when I was always tellin' you that he might get out?"
Mr. Sadler said nothing. He thought all this was most unjust on the part of the skipper. But he was always prepared for injustice.
"The thing is," he said, presently, "to know what we're goin' to do."
"Well, and what are we goin' to do? " asked the skipper.
"Ask me another, sir," said the mate, bitterly. "You can't expect me to deal with him. But I dare say Mr. Quin's got a plan; he always lets on he has one."
"Oh, no," said Quin, modestly, "oh, no. My plan went no farther than what I said yesterday, Mr. Sadler."
"And how far was that?" asked the captain, showing some hope.
"All I said was I'd skin up aloft and think," said Quin.
"Well, didn't I do as much as that before you?" asked the skipper, angrily, "and without takin' any time to consider it either. And now you're up here, can you think?"
"I can't think if I'm hurried, sir," urged Mr. Quin. "But I think we ought to be able to lure him back somehow. We might lure him back with some meat if we had it."
"Yes, if we had it," said the captain, savagely.
"Yes, it's a very good idea," said the second mate.
And then he rubbed his chin.
"Oh, if we only had a cowboy with a lariat that he could put over him!"
"Yes, that's a very useful plan," snorted the skipper. "But where's the cowboy and his outfit?"
"I believe I've almost got the idea," said Sadler, brightening up just a little for the first time for days, "but I own it comes out of what Mr. Quin says. Suppose we roped him, sir?"
"Yes, and what with?" asked the skipper, who grew more and more nervous.
The mate turned to Mr. Quin.
"You understand me, Mr. Quin?"
"Of course, sir," said Quin. "Suppose we try and catch him in a runnin' bowline? What do you think of that?"
"That's what I meant," said Mr. Sadler, looking as unhappy as if he was going to hang with it.
"Yes, and that's what I meant," said Quin, "when I talked about a cowboy and a lariat. I was comin' to it."
"Talk, talk, talk," said the skipper, contemptuously. "Who's goin' to put it over him? Here you talk and talk, and nothin' doin'."
By this time the tiger, having sniffed every hole and corner for'ard, made a couple of bounds and began to investigate the bridge and the chart-house. He displayed all the characteristics of the cat tribe when in new surroundings. Presently he looked up and saw the three men overhead, and deliberately spat at them and said something that sounded like "Hrrrrhh!"
"He seems angry," said the skipper. "Do you think he'll come up?"
As he spoke he prepared, if necessary, to ascend to the topsail yard. But Mr. Quin thought it was unlikely the tiger would try to climb up aloft while he smelt so many men down below. At that Mr. Sadler nodded as many times as a Chinese mandarin.
"Didn't I say at Vladivostock, sir, that I wouldn't take one if I was you?" he asked. "I'm not like Mr. Quin here, who brags he wants to go big game huntin'."
"Oh, does he?" asked the skipper. "Then here's his chance. You can have it all for me, Mr. Quin."
And Quin felt it was up to him to deal with the tiger or perish.
"Come, Quin, we rely on you, so think--just think," said the chief mate.
"Well," said Quin, rather unhappily, "I am thinkin', thinkin' hard, Mr. Sadler."
"Don't forget," said Mr. Sadler, "that all hands are relyin' on us, lookin' to us, and mainly to Captain Cradgett, for help and assistance in distress."
"Yes, here we are up aloft, and I don't like bein' up aloft," said the unhappy skipper. "It doesn't suit me. Though now I'm glad she's got good sticks in her, and no mistake about that."
He sat on the yard, facing aft, with his arm about the mast. On the other side sat Mr. Sadler. Mr. Quin, with his feet jammed in the narrow upper ratlines of the rigging, did his best to think. Presently he looked up.
"I want a cigarette, Mr. Sadler," he said. "I can't ever think without one."
"But do you think you can think if you do get one?" asked the "old man."
"Oh, yes, I'm sure of it, sir," said Mr. Quin.
"Then here you are," said the skipper, reluctantly producing his case. "And I hope they'll work."
The first one didn't, and the second didn't. And in the meantime the tiger didn't seem to care two straws for the way the plan-making Mr. Quin fixed him with his eye. Quin seemed to feel that he couldn't make a plan about the tiger without the tiger being in sight. He explained that to the skipper and Mr. Sadler when they groused about his slowness.
"And have you got another cigarette, sir?" he asked, presently.
"Well, take a few more," said the skipper, ungraciously, "and heave ahead. And if you do make a plan, I'll give you fifty."
And presently the second mate looked up at them with a strange expression on his face. It was rather like the breaking dawn in summer. He had a heavenly smile, or so he sometimes told Mr. Sadler. He knew it, because the girls said so.
"Have you got it, Mr. Quin?" asked Mr. Sadler, with a pessimistic sniff.
"Oh, Mr. Quin, have you pot it?" asked the skipper, brightening with hope.
And suddenly the second mate's face clouded over again.
"I thought I had--I thought I very nearly had," he said, lamely.
"Come, light another cigarette," said the skipper, feeling he might as well go all in.
And this time it seemed as if the cigarette worked. Dawn broke in glory on Quin's face. It was just as if the sun had lifted its upper limb out of the darkness and shot gleaming spokes into the zenith flecked here and there with faint fleeces of shining rose, the harbingers of glorious day.
"Yes, I've got it, I've got it!" said the enthusiastic second mate. "Oh, it's a heavenly plan, sir, and it's the only plan! I see that now. There isn't any other way to do it--oh, there isn't any other way to do it!"
"Well, what is it?" asked the skipper. "Come, out with it! Don't keep us up here, you know."
"Yes, what is it?" said Mr. Sadler. "Let's hear it."
"Oh, it's a most gorgeous plan," said Quin, with an air of self-gratulation, which almost shone like a halo.
And then again the sun's upper limb seemed a little clouded. A flicker of doubt passed across Mr. Quin's boyish and charming face. He said: --
"Yes, it's all right--if it works."
"Oh, if it works?" said the skipper. "After all my cigarettes you tell me you've got a gorgeous plan if it works! If I had a pinch of salt I suppose I might drop it on the tiger's tail and see if that worked. Oh, you do disappoint me."
And once again the second mate's face lighted up. The sun seemed to rise clear of all obstacles. He opened his eyes wide, and said:--
"Yes, sir; with a spreader it would work."
"With a what?" asked the sceptical skipper.
"Why, with a spreader, of course , sir," said the second mate.
"And what would work with a spreader?" asked the captain.
"Why, what I've been tellin' you, sir," said Quin, who had really been thinking so hard that he had come to the conclusion that they had heard the wheels working. But the skipper retorted on him:--
"Well, I ain't able to look into your dark mind, Mr. Quin. All that you've let on is that it would work with a spreader. What would work with a spreader?"
"Why, a runnin' bowline, sir," said Mr. Quin, "stopped with yarn and opened out with a sheer-pole, say."
"And are you goin' on deck with that fakement to put it over the tiger's neck?" roared Captain Cradgett. "Oh, do go! You and your plan and your spreader!"
"I don't mean to go down with it, sir," said Quin. "You quite mistake me. What I'm goin' to do is to fake up this gadgett and lower it down on deck, and wait till he walks through it."
The skipper rubbed his nose, and looked down at his subordinate as if he were a promising candidate for an idiot asylum.
"Ah," said Captain Cradgett, "I see. And we're to wait up here on this fore-yard till he walks through it! Well, Mr. Sadler, what do you think of Mr. Quin's plan?"
"I think it's dull," said Mr. Sadler, gloomily, "and not at all excitin'."
And he turned to the second mate.
"Besides, Mr. Quin, suppose he does walk through it; what are we to do then?"
"Why," said Mr. Quin, "don't you see? As soon as he steps inside we must haul it as hard as we can, break away the stop, and the bowline will catch him round the middle, and we shall have him right and tight and handy."
But the skipper shook his head. So did Mr. Sadler, And a deep silence fell on them for quite a little while. Then Captain Cradgett spoke.
"Well, I suppose it's better than nothin'," he said, grudgingly, "but we'll look pretty fools all the same up aloft here holdin' on to a large and powerful tiger middled, so to speak, by a runnin* bowline. Why, he'll fairly scoot away with us."
"Oh. no, he won't," said Mr. Quin; "I've thought of all that. If we catch a turn or a couple of turns round the mast we'll hold him, and every time he jumps we'll haul in some of the slack."
"By Jove!" said the skipper. "I begin to think, if he only walks through it, the thing might work."
"I'm sure of it," said Quin, joyfully. "And you'll see, sir, when we have hold of him he'll be very angry and jump and jump, and every time he does we'll haul in a bit more of the slack. And presently he'll be hoisted up in the middle, standing on his toes, and any of us can go down and do just what we like with him."
"Yes, you can go down and do what you like with him," said the skipper, with bitter generosity.
"Yes, and so you can for me," said Mr. Sadler, darkly.
"He'll be quite safe," said Mr. Quin; "perfectly safe!"
"I'm glad of that, on your account," said the skipper. "But what'll you do when you do go down?"
"Well, sir, we'll hoist him up, and some of us could just entice him, so to speak, towards his cage," said Quin.
"Yes, yes, you can entice him," said the skipper; "or Mr. Sadler can entice him."
"Don't ask me to," said the chief mate, firmly, "because I won't, I wouldn't for an admiral."
"And if that doesn't work," said the second mate, "we could turn the cage on its side and hoist him up and lower him into it."
"Yes, yes," said Mr. Sadler, in a deep tone of despair; "and I see you gettin' him into the cage somewhere about this time two months. And I see the crowd comin' out to help you do it! Oh, no, I don't think anythin' of your plan, Mr. Quin."
Mr. Quin then alleged that he had a subsidiary plan, which was to drop a piece of beef into the cage. Then the tiger would follow the beef.
"Well, well," said the skipper, impatiently, "we can't stay here for a month of Sundays lookin' like three joskins! Now, now, come now, Mr. Quin, what are you goin' to do all this with?"
"I think that topsail brace will do the trick all right," said Quin.
"Very well, try it," said the skipper.
And Quin called to Ryan, up aloft in the main cross-trees.
"Here, Ryan, just cut adrift both parts of the port topsail brace under your foot."
And Ryan cut it adrift. Quin went up aloft on the fore-topsail yard and, hauling up the brace pendant, laid hold of the brace and unrove it. And presently, with it coiled over his shoulder, he came down on the fore-yard. He also brought the brace block and pendant which he had cut away at the yard-arm.
"Here we are," said Mr. Quin, proudly. "I really do believe it'll work."
And then he looked at the derrick triced to the mast and sighed.
"I wish somebody was down there to lower away on the span," he said.
The skipper sniffed.
"Why don't you ask the tiger?" he asked, satirically. "He looks an awful obligin' beast."
But Quin had his own methods. He and Mr. Sadler cut off a fathom of the brace and unlaid it. With the block and brace pendant Quin climbed out on the gaff of the boom-foresail. When he was up at the peak, with his arm round the halliards, he lashed the brace block there, having wound the pendant round and round and made it thoroughly fast. Then he took a couple of turns and a half hitch with the end of the brace round the peak and, having stopped it there, Mr. Sadler hauled it in, cut it, and made it fast as preventer halliards. He then slung the fresh end out to Quin, who caught it, rove it through his block, and, sliding down the gaff, brought it in with him. Once or twice while these manoeuvres were going on, the tiger, still as lively as a parched pea on a hot shovel, came and looked eagerly at the second mate. But now Quin made a big running bowline at the end of the brace. Then the skipper interfered.
"Look here, Mr. Quin, don't forget we mustn't cut the tiger in two. Just you put a knot in that contraption of yours where you think it'd prevent it running right home about his middle. Don't forget my premium at Calcutta,"
And Quin did as the skipper suggested. When he had got it arranged he used a sheer-pole as a spreader and stopped the whole fakement lightly with yarns from a footrope seizing,
"There we are, sir," said Mr. Quin, joyously. "When he gets inside it we mustn't let him have time to jump through. So let's take a couple of turns round the mast. Here you are, Mr. Sadler."
"Ah, the more I think of it the more hopeless I feel," said Mr. Sadler, in the deepest depression. "To sit up here on this yard fishin' for a tiger is dull to a degree."
But the skipper rebuked him.
"Do try and be more hopeful, Mr. Sadler; sometimes you quite depress me."
Quin paid no attention to this bickering. He lowered his ingenious contrivance down on the deck and prepared to wait with the patience of a pier fisherman.
"Yes, it looks pretty," said the unhopeful Mr. Sadler. "But why an intelligent tiger should take an interest in it fairly beats me."
"Oh, I'm not sayin' he will, sir," said Quin. "That's not the point. But just look at the way he goes about. If you didn't know better, what with the quickness of him you'd think there were several tigers. Now, accordin' to the doctrine of chances, it's long odds that inside of a day or two he'll be sure to walk through that bow- line."
"What, in a day or two?" asked the skipper, his jaw falling.
"Oh. yes, sir," said Quin, firmly and cheerfully. "Accordin' to the doctrine of chances, he must do it in the end, sir."
"I think very little of you and your doctrine of chances," said the skipper, for the first time showing real depression,
But just then the tiger brushed the noose as he went for'ard again. He sniffed the galley, inside of which was the trembling cook, and presently bounded on the fo'c'sle head, where he inspected the anchors with much more than the interest of a Lloyd's surveyor. Then once more he returned to the bridge-house. He looked long and eagerly at the three men on the fore-yard, and then, going on the fidley, burnt his nose against the funnel, and spat like an outraged cat.
"I didn't like the way he looked at us," said the skipper. "I didn't like it at all."
"Yes, but he must come here, sir, if we're to catch him," said Mr. Quin. "I've a good mind to go a little farther down, just to entice him. Or perhaps Mr. Sadler would."
"You're quite wrong, Mr. Quin," grunted the chief mate. " The Mr. Sadler you refer to wouldn't go down a foot farther for five pounds. So there you have it."
"Well, I've got another plan," continued the ingenious second mate. " I was thinkin' of gettin' another line and heavin' it down to Mr. Macintosh for him to put a piece of beef on it out of the store, and then we could haul it up and dangle it round about the noose. That'd fetch him, sir; don't you think so?"
But the skipper shook his head.
"You are an ingenious young man," said Captain Cradgett, "but you don't see the bearin's of all your infernal notions. Just suppose you held a piece of beef down there, and just suppose he got it, what do you suppose he'd do?"
"Well, I suppose he'd eat it, sir," said the second mate,
"Well, yes," said the skipper, tartly, "that's what I suppose, and then I suppose he'd be quite happy; and I suppose he'd go to sleep for twenty-four hours; and I also suppose, Mr. Quin, that we'd be up here all the time, I don't like all these suppositions; I don't like 'em in the least."
But just at that moment Mr. Sadler gave a terrific yell, and bellowed:--
"Haul away! Haul away! Haul away!" "My gosh, we've got him!" roared the skipper.
"Oh, my plan's a wonder," said Mr. Quin, as he hauled with the others, find very nearly fell from aloft.
His plan had been successful. Down below the tiger now went through a series of gymnastic evolutions which were most surprising. But every time he uttered a roar of rage or spat like a cat or gave a jump and tried to tie a knot in himself, the joyful skipper, the cheerless Mr. Sadler, and the proud second mate hauled him up tighter. Presently his back assumed the form of a Norman arch, while he scratched viciously at the deck with what the skipper called his fore-and-aft claws. Each time he turned round to lay hold of the rope that had him in a clinch he was hoisted a little higher.
"Handsomely! We mustn't hoist him up too much," said the skipper, "I think the brace is all right, but you never know. We don't want to put too much strain on it. But he looks pretty helpless now, Mr. Quin, don't he? Oh, he's losin' ground every jump."
"Yes, sir, so he is," said Mr. Quin. "My plan just works like machinery."
"Yes, it's almost excitin'," said Mr. Sadler, slowly. "Oh, it's really almost excitin'. But what are we goin' to do now?"
"Ah," said the skipper, "the thing now is to get him back into the cage."
"Well, it ain't far from him," said Mr. Sadler. "It's fairly handy. Gettin' him in will be quite another matter. We may be here for months with him dancin' about there and us tryin' to get him in, and all, all in vain."
"Come, do dry up, Mr. Sadler," said the skipper, with sudden wrath. "You can't keep cheerful for a minute. I never met such a man. What shall we do now, Mr. Quin?"
"Well, sir, what I was thinkin' of," replied Mr. Quin, "was that one of us could get a piece of beef and put it in the cage. And we could rig up a fakement so that when the tiger got into the cage we could close the door from up aloft and shoot the bolts again."
"Yes," said Mr. Sadler, "that sounds all right. But it won't work--I know it won't."
"I don't see why not," said the skipper. "Now, Mr. Sadler, Mr. Quin's done a whole lot. Don't you think you could go down and get the beef and fix things up?"
Mr. Sadler shook his head.
"No, Captain Cradgett, I don't think I could. I don't in the least think I could. And what's more, I don't mind sayin' that I won't."
"Oh, but you've got to if I tell you to," said the skipper.
"Not at all sir," said Mr. Sadler. "I always try to do my duty, but I never shipped to go halves in the deck with a tiger, and I can't do it, sir. Why don't you try somebody else? There's Ryan up there; let him do it."
"Very well, well try it on Ryan," said the skipper. "Here, Ryan," he called out, "now the tiger's quite safe we want you, or one of you, to go with the cook and get out a quarter of beef and put it in the cage."
"Oh, do you, sir?" said Ryan, sitting very tight on the main cross-trees. "But beggin' your pardon, sir, I wouldn't go down there with a tiger tied up with a piece of string for the whole vally of the ship and the cargo. Nor my mate 'ere wouldn't, neither. Not 'im!"
And the skipper turned to Mr. Sadler and Mr. Quin.
"You see, if those curs won't do it," he said, "I don't see how I'm to make 'em. So it's up to one of you two to do it."
"Why, yes," said Mr. Sadler, who seemed to be thinking hard. "If Mr. Quin won't I suppose it's up to me."
"Yes, I think it's up to you now," said Quin. "I've done almost enough."
"There, you see, it's up to you, Mr. Sadler," said the skipper, with a certain uneasiness which both Quin and Sadler understood.
"Yes," said Sadler, very thoughtfully, "accordin' to sea custom, if the second mate won't do a thing the mate's got to. Such as goin' aloft in bad weather and the like, doin' desperate things and the like. But what's the sea custom, Captain Cradgett, if the mate won't go aloft or the crowd won't follow him if he does? What's the custom then? Why, the captain has to go, to be sure."
And the skipper visibly altered colour,
"Come, you mustn't talk like that," he said, hastily; "it's ridiculous. Remember the difference in our positions. I'm gettin' an old mam and besides, Mr. Sadler, I'm fat. As you know, the tiger never saw me without gettin' excited. But I've seen you, Mr. Sadler, stand by his cage for half an hour without him as much as lookin' at you. Why, you might have been a bone a month old for all the interest he took in you."
It is quite true that the chief mate was rather thin and bony.
"Well, I may be thin," he said, almost through his teeth, "but I'm not goin' to rely on him takin' no interest in me. I do wish you'd never brought him, sir."
"So do I," said the skipper. "But what's the good of talkin' about that now? We've got him, haven't we?"
"I think he's still got us," sighed Mr. Sadler. "I vote we put him overboard without projectin' with him any more. Look there, there's Great Nicohar. We've got no use for it, but he has. What's the good of land if it isn't for him to swim to? That's my plan. You saw just now how he stood up, put his paws on the rail and looked at it, and sniffed and sniffed and sniffed as if he smelt home. Yes, I vote we sling him overboard. What do you say, Mr. Quin?"
"It isn't at all such a had idea," said the second mate. "We could hoist him up, and I could rig a whip out to the yard-arm there and make it fast on that tigers tackle and swing him outboard, and then we could cut him adrift."
"Well, I really do think it's best to put him overboard," said the skipper, reluctantly.
If Quin had suggested that they should not do this Mr. Sadler would have probably urged it as the only resource left to them. But now he was once more full of the mournfullest doubts.
"It's all very well," he said; "but suppose we swing him up and suppose the rope parts, we'll all be in the same old trouble."
"Yes, yes , but somethin' must be done," said the skipper, desperately. "I'm gettin' that hungry and thirsty and stiff I don't know what to do. And losin' my premium too! But we must run some risk; what do you say, Mr. Quin?"
"Yes, sir, I suppose we must," said the second mate, who thought he had run about as much risk as anybody.
"Well, then, get to work and rig that whip," said the skipper, crossly. "Here, Mr. Sadler, that's somethin' you can do."
And presently they got the whip rigged at the yard-arm, and Quin swarmed out again to the peak of the gaff and took a rolling hitch with the hauling part round the brace as far down as he could reach. Then he clapped a stopper on the peak tackle, cleared the fall, and sent the end of it down on deck. Then once more it was a question as to who should go down and take the other fall to the winch.
"Come, Mr. Sadler," said the skipper, "I maintain it's your turn now."
"Oh, no," said Mr. Sadler, "not at all. Don't you worry about me."
"You're a coward, Mr. Sadler," said the skipper, angrily.
"Yes," said Mr. Sadler, very firmly, "where there's a tiger about I am a coward. I own it freely, and I don't care who knows it--man, woman, or child."
"Mr. Quin, I suppose we mustn't ask him," said the captain. "Poor Mr. Sadler's tremblin' like a leaf. I suppose you, and perhaps Ryan, might go down on deck, now he's quite safe, and take the end to the winch."
"Yes, but supposin' the rope breaks while we're hoistin' him," said Mr. Quin. "Where'll I and Ryan be then?"
Ryan interfered from the main cross-trees.
"Don't you trouble about me, Mr. Quin," said that able-bodied seaman; "I sha'n't be there."
"Oh, very well, you're a coward too, are you?" said the skipper. "But I've got a plan. We must have you safe, Mr. Quin, whatever happens. Look here, let's have another line up here and send us up a single block. We'll rig a whip to put round your waist, and Mr. Sadler and I will stand by it. If the rope breaks before he's over the side we'll run you up out of his way quick, d'ye see?"
"Yes, that's a very good notion," said Mr. Sadler; "a very good notion. I wouldn't like you to he hurt, Quin, I really wouldn't. It would make me very much depressed."
"Then I sincerely hope nothin' will happen to Mr. Quin," said the skipper; "for If you're more depressed than usual, Mr. Sadler, the only way to save me from cuttin' my throat will be for you to cut yours."
And when this plan was all arranged and the skipper and mate stood by the fall, the second mate went down to the winch.
"Mind you don't lose any time hoistin' me," said Quin, as he went down.
"You rely on us," said the skipper, cheerfully. "Well do our very best for you."
"Yes, yes," said Mr. Sadler, sombrely, "we'll do our best, Quin; but in case of accidents, have you any message s for home?"
"Dry up, Mr. Sadler, do dry up," said the skipper. "I never saw such a man as you, Mr. Sadler. Come now, lay hold there, and the moment there's the faintest sign of the yard-arm whip partin' hoist away quick."
And presently Mr. Quin had the winch going with plenty of turns round the barrel. He worked it very slowly, and gradually made a Gothic arch of the tiger, who uttered the most extraordinary noises and clawed the air viciously. The skipper was most excited and Mr. Sadler sighed audibly.
"Oh, by thunder, it works!" said the skipper. "My plan works!"
"Yes, it does almost seem to work," said Mr. Sadler, lugubriously.
"Heave away handsomely, very slow," said the skipper. "Don't take any risks, Mr. Quin."
Quin felt he was taking a great many, and thought it was about time somebody helped him. He stopped the winch and called to Ryan.
"Look here, Ryan, I wish you'd come down here. Don't be a coward, man; I want you to slack away on the main purchase as I heave in on the yard-arm whip."
And to this appeal Ryan succumbed.
"I never shipped to do it, sir, and I don't like to," said Ryan; "but you bein' there, I'll come if I perish, for I feels I must."
So presently, as Quin went slow with his winch, Ryan slacked away on the barrel of the other, after the mate aloft had cast off the stopper on the peak purchase.
"Oh, things are goin' splendidly," said the skipper, " splendidly."
And just at that moment Sadler, who was above him, slipped and knocked the skipper off his perch. The two of them having hold of the fall of the whip attached to Mr. Quin, completely overbalanced the whole arrangement. With the rope running easy in the block they hoisted Quin nearly up to the foreyard, while they went down on deck quite close to the furious and enraged tiger. As they descended the noise the tiger made was more than equalled by the roars of the skipper and his mate. As Quin had been forcibly hauled from the winch, Ryan made a dash and saw to it that the tiger was still held taut. He got hold of the whip-fall while he still held on to his own. But that, of course, the skipper and Mr. Sadler could not know in the hurry of their descent. No sooner had they reached the deck load than they both let go of the fall and bolted for the fore rigging, while poor Quin came down with a crash on top of Ryan, and knocked him as flat as a jib-down-haul. In the meantime an extraordinarily active skipper and a still more active mate were struggling wildly for precedence on the starboard fore-shrouds, a precedence which was gained in the most insubordinate manner by the chief mate. And now Quin, rendered desperate by this emergency, reckoned he'd chance things and work more quickly. He set the winch going, and the tiger rose smartly, as Ryan slacked away on the old fore-topsail brace. The animal made one desperate attempt to claw the rail, but was finally swung over the side, and no sooner was he above the Indian Ocean than the rope of the yard-arm tackle parted, and he went into the water with a terrific roar. The mate, the skipper, Quin, and the courageous Ryan uttered yells of triumph, and no sooner had they shouted, "He's overboard, he's overboard!" than the rest of the crew emerged cautiously from their quarters and presently lined the port side of the Star of the Last. Then the captain and Mr. Sadler came down from aloft slowly.
"Can I help you at all, sir? I should be glad to help you if I could, sir," said the chief mate, anxiously, to his superior.
"Not the way you did just now, by climbing over me," said the skipper, angrily, "puttin' those boots of yours in my neck. I never believed you were such an active man, Mr. Sadler, and I hope I'll never have the chance to prove it again. And you that knocked me over, too!"
It was certain now that the tiger not only smelt land but saw it. By the way he swam towards Great Nicobar it looked as if he was glad to get rid of the Star of the East.
"Ah!" said the skipper, thoughtfully; "a tiger in the Nicobar Islands, especially a clouded Manchurian tiger, will be a great surprise to the naturalists, and also to the natives. They're a measly lot, a very measly lot. Twenty-five years ago I was in Nancowry Harbour in an old wind-jammer. It's a fine harbour, Mr. Sadler, but I have a very poor opinion of the inhabitants, and a few of them will never be missed. Nor would most of the crowd here but Mr. Quin and Ryan."
And then he turned viciously to the chief engineer.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Macintosh, that you were in a safe place," said the skipper, "and if I could I'd dock the premium I've lost out of your money. It was up to you to look after that cage, and you didn t do it. I've a very poor opinion of you, Mr. Macintosh; but there, get her goin' again. We don't want to be lolloppin' round Great Nicobar all day."
Having freed his mind, he retired with dignity. Sadler turned to the second mate, and said, darkly:--
"You mark me, Mr. Quin, if you want those cigarettes you'd better go and ask for 'em, and wait till he hands 'em out. I oughtn't to say it, but he's mean to a degree. Did you notice up aloft how he kept on sayin', 'My plan, my plan, my plan'?"
"Yes, sir, I noticed it," said Mr. Quin
"When it was mostly mine," said Mr. Sadler, with an air of depression that might have sent the glass down an inch. "But there, you never get credit for anythin' at sea. And, oh, it's mostly so very dull!"
"But surely it hasn't been dull to-day. sir?" asked Mr. Quin, as he wiped his heated brow.
The chief mate rubbed his chin.
"Well, no," he said, sadly, "I suppose you couldn't call it exactly dull. But it's mostly dull, very dull indeed. I'd much rather drive a bus up and down the Whitechapel Road."
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