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The Cruise of the "Idlewild" by Theodore Dreiser


It would be difficult to say just how the trouble aboard the Idlewild began, or how we managed to sail without things going to smash every fifteen minutes; but these same constitute the business of this narrative. It was at Spike, and the weather was blistering hot. Some of us, one in particular, were mortal tired of the life we were leading. It was a dingy old shop inside, loaded with machines and blacksmithing apparatus and all the paraphernalia that go to make up the little depots and furniture that railways use, and the labor of making them was intrusted to about a hundred men all told--carpenters, millwrights, woodturners, tinsmiths, painters, blacksmiths, an engineer, and a yard foreman handling a score of "guineas," all of whom were too dull to interest the three or four wits who congregated in the engine room.

Old John, the engineer, was one of these--a big, roly-poly sort of fellow, five foot eleven, if he was an inch, with layers of flesh showing through his thin shirt and tight trousers, and his face and neck constantly standing in beads of sweat. Then there was the smith, a small, wiry man of thirty-five, with arms like a Titan and a face that was expressive of a goodly humor, whether it was very brilliant or not--the village smith, as we used to call him. Then there was Ike, little Ike, the blacksmith's helper, who was about as queer a little cabin boy as ever did service on an ocean-going steamer or in a blacksmith's shop--a small misshapen, dirty-faced lad, whose coat was three, and his trousers four, times too large for him--hand-me-downs from some mysterious source; immensely larger members of his family, I presume. He had a battered face, such as you sometimes see given to satyrs humorously represented in bronze, and his ears were excessively large. He had a big mouthful of dirty yellow teeth, two or three missing in front. His eyes were small and his hands large, but a sweeter soul never crept into a smaller or more misshapen body. Poor little Ike. To think how near he came to being driven from his job by our tomfoolishness!

I should say here that the Idlewild was not a boat at all, but an idea. She evolved out of our position on Long's Point, where the Harlem joins the Hudson, and where stood the shop in which we all worked, water to the south of us, water to the west of us, water to the north of us, and the railroad behind us landward, just like the four--or was it the six? hundred--at Balaklava. Anyhow, we got our idea from the shop and the water all around, and we said, after much chaffering about one thing and another, that we were aboard the Idlewild, and that the men were the crew, and that the engineer was the captain, and I was the mate, just as if everything were ship-shape, and this were a really and truly ocean-going vessel.

As I have said before. I do not know exactly how the idea started, except that it did. Old John was always admiring the beautiful yachts that passed up and down the roadstead of the Hudson outside, and this may have had something to do with it. Anyhow, he would stand in the doorway of his engine room and watch everything in the shape of a craft that went up and down the stream. He didn't know much about boats, but he loved to comment on their charms, just the same.

"That there now must be Morgan's yacht," he used to say of a fine black-bodied craft that had a piano-body finish to it, an' "That there's the Waterfowl, Governor Morton's yacht. Wouldn' ja think, now, them fellers'd feel comfortable a-settin' back there on the poop deck an' smokin' them dollar cigars on a day like this? Aw, haw!"

It would usually be blistering hot and the water a flashing blue when he became excited over the yacht question.

"Right-o," I once commented enviously.

"Aw, haw! Them's the boys as knows how to live. I wouldn' like nothin' better on a day like this than to set out there in one o' them easy chairs an' do up about a pound o' tobacco. Come now, wouldn't that be the ideal life for your Uncle Dudley?"

"It truly would," I replied sadly but with an inherent desire to tease, "only I don't think my Uncle Dudley is doing so very badly under the circumstances. I notice he isn't losing any flesh."

"Well, I dunno. I'm a little stout, I'll admit. Still, them conditions would be more congenial-like. I ain't as active as I used to be. A nice yacht an' some good old fifty-cent cigars an' a cool breeze'd just about do for me."

"You're too modest, John. You want too little. You ought to ask for something more suited to your Lucullian instincts. What do you say to a house in Fifth Avenue, a country place at Newport, and the friendship of a few dukes and earls?"

"Well, I'm not backward," he replied. "If them things was to come my way I guess I could live up to 'em. Aw, haw!"

"Truly, truly, John, you're quite right, but you might throw in a few shovelfuls of shavings just to show that there are no hard feelings between you and the company while you're waiting for all this. I notice your steam is getting low, eh? What?"

"Hang the steam! If the road was decent they'd give a man coal to burn. It takes a hundred tons of shavin's a day to keep this blinged old cormorant goin'. Think of me havin' to stand here all day an' shovelin' in shavin's! Seems to me all I do here is shovel. I'm an engineer, not a fireman. They ought to gimme a man for that, by rights."

"Quite so! Quite so! We'll see about that later--only, for the present, the shavings for yours. Back to the shovel, John!" The tone was heavily bantering.

"Well, the steam was gettin' a little low," John would cheerfully acknowledge, once he was able to resume his position in the doorway. It was these painful interruptions which piqued him so.

Out of such chaffering and bickering as this it was that the spirit of the Idlewild finally took its rise. It came up from the sea of thought, I presume.

"What's the matter with us having a boat of our own, John?" I said to him one day. "Here we are, out here on the bounding main, or mighty near it. This is as good as any craft, this old shop. Ease the thing around and hoist the Jolly Roger, and I'll sail you up to White Plains. What's the matter with calling her the Idlewild? The men will furnish the idle, and the bosses will furnish the wild, eh? How's that for an appropriate title?"

"Haw! Haw!" exclaimed stout John. "Bully! We'll fix 'er up to-day. You be the captain an' I'll be the mate an'--"

"Far be it from me, John," I replied humbly and generously, seeing that he had the one point of vantage in this whole institution which would serve admirably as a captain's cabin--with his consent, of course. It was more or less like a captain's cabin on a tug-boat, at that, picturesque and with a sea view, as it were. "You be the captain and I'll be the mate. Far be it from me to infringe on a good old sea dog's rights. You're the captain, all right, and this is a plenty good enough cabin. I'm content to be mate. Open up steam, Cap, and we'll run the boat up and down the yard a few times. Look out the window and see how she blows. It's ho! for a life on the bounding main, and a jolly old crew are we!"

"Right-o, my hearty!" he now agreed, slapping me on the back at the same time that he reached for the steamcock and let off a few preliminary blasts of steam--by way of showing that we were moving, as it were. The idea that we were aboard a real yacht and about to cruise forth actually seized upon my fancy in a most erratic and delightsome way. It did on John's, too. Plainly we needed some such idyllic dream. Outside was the blue water of the river. Far up and down were many craft sailing like ourselves, I said.

Inside of fifteen minutes we had appointed the smith, bos'n, and little Ike, the smith's helper, the bos'n's mate. And we had said that the carpenters and turners and millwrights were the crew and that the "guineas" were the scullions. Mentally, we turned the engineroom into the captain's cabin, and here now was nothing but "Heave ho-s" and "How does she blow thar, Bill-s?" and "Shiver my timbers-s" and "Blast my top-lights-s" for days to come. We "heaved ho" at seven o'clock in the morning when the engine started, "lay to and dropped anchor" at noon when the engine stopped, "hoisted and set sail" again at one, for heaven knows what port, and "sighted Spike" and "put hard to port" at six. Sometimes during the day when it was hot and we were very tired we took ideal runs to Coney and Manhattan Beach and Newport, where the best of breezes are, in imagination, anyhow, and we found it equally easy to sail to all points of the compass in all sorts of weather. Many was the time we visited Paris and London and Rome and Constantinople, all in the same hour, regardless, and our calls upon the nobility of these places were always a matter of light comment. At night we always managed to promptly haul up at Spike, which was another subject of constant congratulation between the captain and the mate. For if we had missed our trains and gotten home late!-- Regardless of the fact that we were seafaring men, we wanted our day to end promptly, I noticed.

During the days which followed we elaborated our idea, and the Idlewild became more of a reality than is to be easily understood by those who have not indulged in a similar fancy. We looked upon the shop as a trusty ship with a wheel at the stern, where the millwright, an Irishman by the name of Cullen, ran the giant plane, and an anchor at the prow, where the engine-room was. And there was a light in the captain's eye at times which, to me at least, betokened a real belief. It is so easy to enter upon a fancy, especially when it is pleasing. He would stand in the doorway of his small, hot engine-room, or lean out of the window which commanded the beautiful sweep of water so close to our door, and at times I verily believe he thought we were under way, so great is the power of self-hypnotism. The river was so blue and smooth these summer days, the passing boats so numerous. We could see the waters race to and fro as the tides changed. It was such a relief from the dull wearisome grind of shoveling in shavings and carrying out ashes or loading cars, as I was occasionally compelled to do--for my health, in my own case, I should explain. I am sure that, as an ordinary fifteen-cent-an-hour-shaving-carrier, I valued my title of mate as much as I ever valued anything, and the smith, "the village smith," was smilingly proud to be hailed as "Bos'n." Little Ike being of an order of mind that fancied the world ended somewhere abruptly in the Rocky Mountains, and that you really could shoot buffaloes after you left Buffalo, New York, did not grasp the meaning of it all at once, but at last it dawned upon him. When he got the idea that we really considered this a ship and that he was the bos'n's mate with the privilege of lowering the boats in case of a wreck or other disaster, he was beside himself.

"Hully chee!" he exclaimed, "me a bos'n's mate! Dat's de real t'ing, ain't it! Heave ho, dere!" And he fell back on the captain's locker and kicked his heels in the air.

"You want to remember, though, Ike," I said, once in an evil moment--what small things regulate the good and evil fortunes of all things!--"that this is the captain's cabin and bos'n's mates are not much shucks on a vessel such as the Idlewild. If you want to retain your position you want to be respectful, and above all, obedient. For instance, if the captain should choose to have you act as stoker for a few minutes now and then, it would be your place to rejoice at the request. You get that, do you?"

"Not on yer life," replied Ike irritably, who understood well enough that this meant more work.

"That's right, though," chimed in big John, pleased beyond measure at this latest development. "I'm captain here now, an' you don't want to forget that. No back lip from any bos'n's mate. What the mate says goes. The shovel for yours, bos'n, on orders from the captain. Now jist to show that the boat's in runnin' order you can chuck in a few shovelfuls right now."

"Na! I will not!"

"Come, Ike," I said, "no insubordination. You can't go back on the captain like that. We have the irons for recalcitrants," and I eyed a pile of old rusty chains lying outside the door. "We might have to truss him up, Cap, and lay him down below," and to prove the significance of my thought I picked up one end of a chain and rattled it solemnly. The captain half choked with fat laughter.

"That's right. Git the shovel there, Ike."

Ike looked as if he doubted the regularity of this, as if life on the briny deep might not be all that it was cracked up to be, but for the sake of regularity and in order not to be reduced to the shameful condition of a scullion, or worse, "irons," which was the only alternative offered, he complied. After he had thrown in eight scoopfuls we both agreed that this was true order and that the organization and dignity of the Idlewild might well be looked upon now as established.

Things went from good to better. We persuaded Joe, who was the millwright's assistant, back at the "wheel," that his dignity would be greatly enhanced in this matter if he were to accept the position of day watch, particularly since his labors in that capacity would accord with his bounden duties as a hireling of the road; for, if he were stationed in the rear (front room, actually) anyhow, and compelled, owing to the need of receiving and taking away various planks and boards as they came out of the planes and molding machines, to walk to and fro, it would be an easy matter to notice any suspicious lights on the horizon forward and to come aft at once, or at least at such times as the boss was not looking, or when he came to heat his coffee or get a drink, and report.

Amiable Joe! I can see him yet, tall, ungainly, stoop-shouldered, a slight cast in one eye, his head bobbing like a duck's as he walked--a most agreeable and pathetic person. His dreams were so simple, his wants so few. He lived with his sister somewhere in Eleventh Avenue downtown in a tenement, and carried home bundles of firewood to her at night all this great distance, to help out. He received (not earned--he did much more than that) seventeen and a half cents an hour, and dreamed of what? I could never quite make out. Marriage? A little cheap flat somewhere? Life is so pathetic at times.

"Light on the starboard bow," or "Light on the port bow," were the chosen phrases which we told him he was in duty bound to use, adding always "Sir," as respectful subordinates should. Also we insisted on his instantly making known to us at such times as we twain happened to be in the engine-room together, all bell buoys, whistle buoys, lighthouses, passing vessels and most of all the monthly pay car as it rounded the curve half a mile up the track about the fifteenth of every month. The matter of reporting the approach of the pay car was absolutely without exception. If he failed to do that we would be compelled, sad as it might be and excellent as his other services had been, to put him in irons. Here we showed him the irons also.

Joe cheerfully accepted. For days thereafter he would come back regularly when the need of heating his coffee or securing a drink necessitated, and lifting a straight forefinger to his forehead, would report, "Light on the port bow, Sir. I think it's in the steel works jist up the track here," or "Light on the starboard, Sir. It's the fast mail, maybe, for Chicago, jist passin' Kingsbridge."

"No thinks, Joseph," I used to reprimand. "You are not supposed to give your thinks. If the captain wishes to know what it is, he will ask. Back to the molding machine for yours, Joseph."

Joseph, shock-headed, with dusty hair, weak eyes and a weaker smile, would retire, and then we would look at each other, the captain and I, and grin, and he would exclaim:

"Pretty fair discipline, mate."

"Oh, I think we've got 'em going, Captain."

"Nothin' like order, mate."

"You're right, Cap."

"I don't suppose the mate'd ever condescend to take orders like that, eh, mate?"

"Well, hardly, Cap."

"Still, you don't want to forget that I'm captain, mate."

"And you don't want to forget that I'm mate, Captain."

Thus we would badger one another until one of the scullion crew arrived, when without loss of dignity on either side we could easily turn our attention to him.

And these scullions! What a dull crew! Gnarled, often non-English-speaking foreigners against or in front of whom we could jest to our hearts' content. They could not even guess the amazing things we were ordering them to do on penalty of this, that, and the other.

Things went from better to best. We reached the place where the fact of the shop's being a ship, and the engineer the captain, and I the mate, and the smith the bos'n, ad infinitum, came to be a matter of general knowledge, and we were admired and congratulated and laughed with until nearly all the workers of the shop, with some trifling and unimportant exceptions, the foreman for one, began to share our illusion--carpenters, cabinet-makers, joiners, all. The one exception, as I say, was the foreman, only he was a host in himself, a mean, ill-dispositioned creature, of course, who looked upon all such ideas as fol-de-rol, and in a way subversive of order and good work. He was red-headed, big-handed, big-footed, dull. He had no imagination beyond lumber and furniture, no poetry in his soul. But the crew, the hundred-headed crew, accepted it as a relief. They liked to think they were not really working, but out upon a blue and dancing sea, and came back one by one, the carpenters, the tinsmiths, the millwrights, one and all, with cheerful grins to do us honor.

"So you're the captain, eh?" lazy old Jack, the partner of car-loading Carder, asked of the engineer, and John looked his full dignity at once.

"That I am, Jack," he replied, "only able seamen ain't supposed to ask too many familiar questions. Are they, mate?"

"Well, I should say not," I replied, arriving with a basket of shavings. "Able seamen should always salute the captain before addressing him, anyhow, and never fail to say Sir. Still, our crew is new. It's not very able and the seamen end of it is a little on the fritz, I'm thinking. But, all things considered, we can afford to overlook a few errors until we get everything well in hand. Eh, Captain?"

"Right, mate," returned the captain genially. "You're always right--nearly."

Before I could start an argument on this score, one of the able seamen, one who was thus discourteously commented on, observed, "I don't know about that. Seems to me the mate of this here ship ain't any too much shucks, or the captain either."

The captain and I were a little dismayed by this. What to do with an able seaman who was too strong and too dull to take the whole thing in the proper spirit? It threatened smooth sailing! This particular person was old Stephen Bowers, the carpenter from the second floor who never to us seemed to have quite the right lightness of spirit to make a go of all this. He was too likely to turn rough but well-meant humor into a personal affront to himself.

"Well, Captain, there you are," I said cautiously, with a desire to maintain order and yet peace. "Mutiny, you see."

"It does look that way, don't it?" big John replied, eyeing the newcomer with a quizzical expression, half humorous, half severe. "What'll we do, mate, under such circumstances?"

"Lower a boat, Captain, and set him adrift," I suggested, "or put him on bread and water, along with the foreman and the superintendent. They're the two worst disturbers aboard the boat. We can't have these insubordinates breaking up our discipline."

This last, deftly calculated to flatter, was taken in good part, and bridged over the difficulty for the time being. Nothing was taken so much in good part or seemed to soothe the feelings of the rebellious as to include them with their superiors in an order of punishment which on the very first day of the cruise it had been decided was necessary to lay upon all the guiding officers of the plant. We could not hope to control them, so ostensibly we placed them in irons, or lowered them in boats, classifying them as mutineers and the foreman's office as the lock-up. It went well.

"Oh no, oh no, I don't want to be put in that class," old Bowers replied, the flattering unction having smoothed his ruffled soul. "I'm not so bad as all that."

"Very well, then," I replied briskly. "What do you think, Captain?"

The latter looked at me and smiled.

"Do you think we kin let him go this wunst?" he inquired of me.

"Sure, sure," I replied. "If he's certain he doesn't want to join the superintendent and the foreman."

Old Bowers went away smiling, seemingly convinced that we were going to run the boat in shipshape fashion, and before long most of the good-natured members of the crew consented to have themselves called able seamen.

For nearly a month thereafter, during all the finest summer weather, there existed the most charming life aboard this ideal vessel. We used the shop and all its details for the idlest purposes of our fancy. Hammers became belaying pins, the machines of the shop ship's ballast, the logs in the yard floating debris. When the yard became too cluttered, as it did once, we pretended we were in Sargasso and had to cut our way out--a process that took quite a few days. We were about all day commenting on the weather in nautical phrases, sighting strange vessels, reporting disorders or mutiny on the part of the officers in irons, or the men, or announcing the various "bells," lighthouses, etc.

In an evil hour, however, we lit upon the wretched habit of pitching upon little Ike, the butt of a thousand quips. Being incapable of grasping the true edge of our humor, he was the one soul who was yet genial enough to take it and not complain. We called upon him to shovel ashes, to split the wood, to run aft, that was, to the back gate, and see how the water stood. More than once he was threatened with those same "irons" previously mentioned, and on one occasion we actually dragged in a length, pretending to bind him with it and fasten him to the anvil (with the bos'n's consent, of course), which resulted in a hearty struggle, almost a row. We told him we would put him in an old desk crate we had, a prison, no less, and once or twice, in a spirit of deviltry, John tried to carry out his threat, nailing him in, much against his will. Finally we went to the length of attempting to physically enforce our commands when he did not obey, which of course ended in disaster.

It was this way. Ike was in the habit of sweeping up his room--the smith's shop--at three o'clock in the afternoon, which was really not reasonable considering that there were three hours of work ahead of all of us, and that he was inclined to resent having his fine floor mussed up thereafter. On the other hand I had to carry shavings through there all this time, and it was a sore temptation to drop a few now and then just for the devil's sake. After due consultation with the captain, I once requested him to order that the bos'n's mate leave the floor untouched until half past four, at least, which was early enough. The bos'n's mate replied with the very cheering news that the captain could "go to the devil." He wasn't going to kill himself for anybody, and besides, the foreman had once told him he might do this if he chose, heaven only knows why. What did the captain think that he (the bos'n's mate) was, anyhow?

Here at last was a stiff problem. Mutiny! Mutiny! Mutiny! What was to be done? Plainly this was inconveniencing the mate and besides, it was mutiny. And in addition it so lacerated our sense of dignity and order that we decided it could not be. Only, how to arrange it. We had been putting so much upon the bos'n's mate of late that he was becoming a little rebellious, and justly so, I think. He was always doing a dozen things he need not have done. Still, unless we could command him, the whole official management of this craft would go by the board, or so we thought. Finally we decided to act, but how? Direct orders, somehow, were somewhat difficult to enforce. After due meditation we took the bos'n, a most approving officer and one who loved to tease Ike (largely because he wanted to feel superior himself, I think), into our confidence and one late afternoon just after Ike had, figuratively speaking, swabbed up the deck, the latter sent him to some other part of the shop, or vessel, rather, while we strewed shavings over his newly cleaned floor with a shameless and lavish hand. It was intensely delicious, causing gales of laughter at the time--but--. Ike came back and cleaned this up--not without a growl, however. He did not take it in the cheerful spirit in which we hoped he would. In fact he was very morose about it, calling us names and threatening to go to the foreman [in the lock-up] if we did it again. However, in spite of all, and largely because of the humorous spectacle he in his rage presented we did it not once, but three or four times and that after he had most laboriously cleaned his room. A last assault one afternoon, however, resulted in a dash on his part to the foreman's office.

"I'm not goin' to stand it," he is declared to have said by one who was by at the time when he appeared in front of that official. "They're strewin' up my floor with shavin's two an' three times every day after I've cleaned it up for the day. I'll quit first."

The foreman, that raw, non-humorous person previously described, who evidently sympathized with Ike and who, in addition, from various sources, had long since learned what was going on, came down in a trice. He had decided to stop this nonsense.

"I want you fellows to cut that out now," he declared vigorously on seeing us. "It's all right, but it won't do. Don't rub it in. Let him alone. I've heard of this ship stuff. It's all damn nonsense."

The captain and mate gazed at each other in sad solemnity. Could it be that Ike had turned traitor? This was anarchy. He had not only complained of us but of the ship.--the Idlewild! What snakiness of soul! We retired to a corner of our now storm-tossed vessel and consulted in whispers. What would we do? Would we let her sink or try to save her? Perhaps it was advisable for the present to cease pushing the joke too far in that quarter, anyhow. Ike might cause the whole ship to be destroyed.

Nevertheless, even yet there were ways and ways of keeping her afloat and punishing an insubordinate even when no official authority existed. Ike had loved the engineroom, or rather, the captain's office, above all other parts of the vessel because it was so comfortable. Here between tedious moments of pounding iron for the smith or blowing the bellows or polishing various tools that had been sharpened, he could retire on occasion, when the boss was not about and the work not pressing (it was the very next room to his) and gaze from the captain's door or window out on the blue waters of the Hudson where lay the yachts, and up the same stream where stood the majestic palisades. At noon or a little before he could bring his cold coffee, sealed in a tin can, to the captain's engine and warm it. Again, the captain's comfortable locker held his coat and hat, the captain's wash bowl--a large wooden tub to one side of the engine into which comforting warm water could be drawn--served as an ideal means of washing up. Since the bos'n's mate had become friendly with the captain, he too had all these privileges. But now, in view of his insubordination, all this was changed. Why should a rebellious bos'n's mate be allowed to obtain favors of the captain? More in jest than in earnest one day it was announced that unless the bos'n's mate would forego his angry opposition to a less early scrubbed deck--

"Well, mate," the captain observed to the latter in the presence of the bos'n's mate, with a lusty wink and a leer, "you know how it goes with these here insubordinates, don't you? No more hot coffee at noon time, unless there's more order here. No more cleanin' up in the captain's tub. No more settin' in the captain's window takin' in the cool mornin' breeze, as well as them yachts. What say? Eh? We know what to do with these here now insubordinates, don't we, mate, eh?" This last with a very huge wink.

"You're right, Captain. Very right," the mate replied. "You're on the right track now. No more favors--unless-- Order must be maintained, you know."

"Oh, all right," replied little Ike now, fully in earnest and thinking we were. "If I can't, I can't. Jist the same I don't pick up no shavin's after four," and off he strolled.

Think of it, final and complete mutiny, and there was nothing more really to be done.

All we could do now was to watch him as he idled by himself at odd free moments down by the waterside in an odd corner of the point, a lonely figure, his trousers and coat too large, his hands and feet too big, his yellow teeth protruding. No one of the other workingmen ever seemed to be very enthusiastic over Ike, he was so small, so queer; no one, really, but the captain and the mate, and now they had deserted him.

It was tough.

Yet still another ill descended on us before we came to the final loss, let us say, of the good craft Idlewild. In another evil hour the captain and the mate themselves fell upon the question of priority, a matter which, so long as they had had Ike to trifle with, had never troubled them. Now as mate and the originator of this sea-going enterprise, I began to question the authority of the captain himself occasionally, and to insist on sharing as my undeniable privilege all the dignities and emoluments of the office--to wit: the best seat in the window where the wind blew, the morning paper when the boss was not about, the right to stand in the doorway, use the locker, etc. The captain objected, solely on the ground of priority, mind you, and still we fell a-quarreling. The mate in a stormy, unhappy hour was reduced by the captain to the position of mere scullion, and ordered, upon pain of personal assault, to vacate the captain's cabin. The mate reduced the captain to the position of stoker and stood in the doorway in great glee while the latter, perforce, owing to the exigencies of his position, was compelled to stoke whether he wanted to or no. It could not be avoided. The engine had to be kept going. In addition, the mate had brought many morning papers, an occasional cigar for the captain, etc. There was much rancor and discord and finally the whole affair, ship, captain, mate and all, was declared by the mate to be a creation of his brain, a phantom, no less, and that by his mere act of ignoring it the whole ship--officers, men, masts, boats, sails--could be extinguished, scuttled, sent down without a ripple to that limbo of seafaring men, the redoubtable Davy Jones's locker.

The captain was not inclined to believe this at first. On the contrary, like a good skipper, he attempted to sail the craft alone. Only, unlike the mate, he lacked the curious faculty of turning jest and fancy into seeming fact. There was a something missing which made the whole thing seem unreal. Like two rival generals, we now called upon a single army to follow us individually, but the crew, seeing that there was war in the cabin, stood off in doubt and, I fancy, indifference. It was not important enough in their hardworking lives to go to the length of risking the personal ill-will of either of us, and so for want of agreement, the ship finally disappeared.

Yes, she went down. The Idlewild was gone, and with her, all her fine seas, winds, distant cities, fogs, storms.

For a time indeed, we went charily by each other.

Still it behooved us, seeing how, in spite of ourselves, we had to work in the same room and there was no way of getting rid of each other's obnoxious presence, to find a common ground on which we could work and talk. There had never been any real bitterness between us--just jest, you know, but serious jest, a kind of silent sorrow for many fine things gone. Yet still that had been enough to keep everything out of order. Now from time to time each of us thought of restoring the old life in some form, however weak it might be. Without some form of humor the shop was a bore to the mate and the captain, anyhow. Finally the captain sobering to his old state, and the routine work becoming dreadfully monotonous, both mate and captain began to think of some way in which they, at least, could agree.

"Remember the Idlewild, Henry?" asked the ex-captain one day genially, long after time and fair weather had glossed over the wretched memory of previous quarrels and dissensions.

"That I do, John," I replied pleasantly.

"Great old boat she was, wasn't she, Henry?"

"She was, John."

"An' the bos'n's mate, he wasn't such a bad old scout, was he, Henry, even if he wouldn't quit sweepin' up the shavin's?"

"He certainly wasn't, John. He was a fine little fellow. Remember the chains, John?"

"Haw! Haw!" echoed that worthy, and then, "Do you think the old Idlewild could ever be found where she's lyin' down there on the bottom, mate?"

"Well, she might, Captain, only she'd hardly be the same old boat that she was now that she's been down there so long, would she--all these dissensions and so on? Wouldn't it be easier to build a new one--don't you think?"

"I don't know but what you're right, mate. What'd we call her if we did?"

"Well, how about the Harmony, Captain? That sounds rather appropriate, doesn't it?"

"The Harmony, mate? You're right--the Harmony. Shall we? Put 'er there!"

"Put her there," replied the mate with a will. "We'll organize a new crew right away, Captain--eh, don't you think?"

"Right! Wait, we'll call the bos'n an' see what he says."

Just then the bos'n appeared, smiling goodnaturedly.

"Well, what's up?" he inquired, noting our unusually cheerful faces, I presume. "You ain't made it up, have you, you two?" he exclaimed.

"That's what we have, bos'n, an' what's more, we're thinkin' of raisin' the old Idlewild an' renamin' her the Harmony, or, rather, buildin' a new one. What say?" It was the captain talking.

"Well, I'm mighty glad to hear it, only I don't think you can have your old bos'n's mate any longer, boys. He's gonna quit."

"Gonna quit!" we both exclaimed at once, and sadly, and John added seriously and looking really distressed, "What's the trouble there? Who's been doin' anything to him now?" We both felt guilty because of our part in his pains.

"Well, Ike kind o' feels that the shop's been rubbin' it into him of late for some reason," observed the bos'n heavily. "I don't know why. He thinks you two have been tryin' to freeze him out, I guess. Says he can't do anything any more, that everybody makes fun of him and shuts him out."

We stared at each other in wise illumination, the new captain and the new mate. After all, we were plainly the cause of poor little Ike's depression, and we were the ones who could restore him to favor if we chose. It was the captain's cabin he sighed for--his old pleasant prerogatives.

"Oh, we can't lose Ike, Captain," I said. "What good would the Harmony be without him? We sorely can't let anything like that happen, can we? Not now, anyhow."

"You're right, mate," he replied. "There never was a better bos'n's mate, never. The Harmony's got to have 'im. Let's talk reason to him, if we can."

In company then we three went to him, this time not to torment or chastise, but to coax and plead with him not to forsake the shop, or the ship, now that everything was going to be as before--only better--and--

Well, we did.


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