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The Tribulations of Incivility by Jonathan F. Kelley


“A gentleman by the name of Collins stopping with you?”

“Collins?” was the response.

“Yes, Collins, or Collings, I ain't sure which,” said the hardy-looking, bronzed seaman, to the gaily-dressed, flippant-mannered, be-whiskered man of vast importance, presiding over the affairs of one of our “first-class hotels.”

“Very indefinite inquiry, then,” said the hotel manager.

“Well, I brought this small package from Bremen for a gentleman who came out passenger with us some time ago; he left it in Bremen—wanted me to fetch it out when the ship returned—here it is.”

“What do you want to leave it here for? We know nothing about the man, sir.”

“You don't? Well, you ought to, for the gentleman put up here, and told me he'd be around when we got into port again. He was a deuced clever fellow, and you ought to have kept the reckoning of such a man,” said the seaman.

“Ha, ha! we keep so many clever fellows,” said he of the hotel, “that they are no novelties, sir.”

“I wonder then,” said the seaman, “you do not imitate some of them, for there's no danger of the world's getting crowded with a crew of good men.”

“If you have any business with us we shall attend to it, sir, but we want none of your impertinence!”

“O, you don't? Well, Mister, I've business aboard of your craft; if you're the commodore, I'd like you to see that my friend Collins is piped up, or that this package be stowed away where he could come afoul of it. His name is Collins; here it is in black and white, on the parcel, and here's where I was to drop it.”

One of the “understrappers” overhearing the dispute, whispered his dignified superior that Mr. Collins, an English gentleman, late from Bremen, was in the house, whereupon the dignified empressario, turning to the self-possessed man of the sea, said—

“Ah, well, leave the parcel, leave the parcel; we suppose it's correct.”

“There it is,” said the seaman; “commodore, you see that the gentleman gets it; and I say,” says the sailor, pushing back his hat and giving his breeches a regular sailor twitch, “I wish you'd please to say to the gentleman, Mr. Collins, you know, that Mr. Brace, first officer of the Triton, would like to see him aboard, any time he's at leisure.”

But in the multiplicity of greater affairs, the hotel gentleman hardly attempted to listen or attend to the sailor's message, and Mr. Brace, first officer of the Triton, bore away, muttering to himself—

“These land-crabs mighty apt to put on airs. I'd like to have that powder monkey in my watch about a week—I'd have him down by the lifts and braces!”

Let us suppose it to be in the glorious month of October, when the myriads of travellers by land and ocean are wending their way from the chilly north towards the sunny south, when the invalid seeks the tropics in pursuit of his health, and the speculative man of business returns with his “invoices,” to his shop, or factory, where profit leads the way.

We are on board ship—the Triton ploughing the deep blue waters of the ocean track from Sandy Hook to New Orleans; for October, the weather is rather unruly, damp, and boisterous. We perceive a number of passengers on board, and by near guess of our memory, we see a person or two we have seen before. Our be-whiskered friend of the “first-class hotel,” is there; he does not look so self-possessed and pompous on board the heaving and tossing ship as he did behind his marble slab in “the office.” “The sea, the sea!” as the song says, has quite taken the starch out of our stiff friend, who is not enjoying a first-rate time. And from an overheard conversation between two hardy, noble specimens of men that are men—two officers of the stoutly-timbered ship, the comfort of the be-whiskered gentleman is in danger of a commutation.

“Do you know him, Mr. Brace?”

“Yes, I know him; I knew him as soon as I got the cut of his jib coming aboard. Now, says I, my larky, you and I've got to travel together, and we'll settle a little odd reckoning, if you please, or if you don't please, afore we see the Balize. You see, that fellow keeps a crack hotel in York; I goes in there to deliver a package for a deuced good fellow as ever trod deck, and this powder monkey, loblolly-looking swab, puts on his airs, sticks up his nose, and hardly condescends to exchange signals with me. Ha! ha! I've met these galore cocks before; I can take the tail feathers out of 'em!” says Mr. Brace, who is the same hardy, frank and free fellow, with whom the reader has already formed something of a brief acquaintance. The person to whom Brace was addressing himself was the second officer of the merchantman, and it was settled that whatever nautical knowledge and skill could do to make things uneasy for Mr. Lollypops, the empressario of the “first-class hotel,” was to be done, by mutual management of the two salt-water jokers.

“It appears to me, that a—bless me, sir, a—how this ship rolls!” said Lollypops, coming upon deck, and addressing Mr. Brace; “I—a never saw a ship roll so.”

“Heavy sea on, sir,” said Brace; “nothing to what we'll catch before a week's out.”

“Bad coast, I believe, at this time o' year?” said Lollypops, balancing himself on first one leg and then the other.

“Worst coast in the world, sir; I'd rather go to Calcutta any time than go to Orleans; more vessels lost on the coast than are lost anywhere else on the four seas.”

“You don't say so!” said Lollypops.

“Fact, sir,” said Brace, who occasionally kept exchanging private and mysterious signals with the second officer, who held the wheel.

“Let her up a point, Mr. Brown, let her up!” Mr. Brown did let her up, and the way the Triton took head down and heels up and a roll to windward, did not speak so well for the nautical menage of the officers as it did for the quiet deviltry of the salt-water Joe Millers. The avalanche of brine inundated the decks, making the sailors look quite asquirt, and driving Mr. Lollypops, an ancient voyager or two, and sundry other travelling gentry—very suddenly into the cabin. The next day the same performance followed; the appearance of Lollypops on deck was a signal for Brace or Brown, to go in, get up a double roll on the ship, an imaginary gale was discussed, wrecks and reefs, dangerous points and dreadful currents were descanted upon, until Mr. Lollypops' health, at the end of the first week, was no better fast; in fact, he was getting sick of the voyage, while others around grew fat upon it. A fine morning induced the invalid to light his regalia and walk the decks; immediately Mr. Brace, or Brown, gave orders to wash down the decks. Mr. Lollypops went aloft, ergo, as far as the main top; immediately the first officer had the men “going about,” heaving here and letting go there; in short, so endangering the hat and underpinning of the be-whiskered landlord of the “first-class hotel” that he was fain to crawl down, take the wet decks, tip-toe, and crawl into the cabin, damp as a dishcloth, and utterly disgusted with what he had seen of the sea! Accidentally, one afternoon, a tar pot fell from aloft; somehow or other, the careless sailor who held it, or should have held it—“let go all” just when Mr. Lollypops was in the immediate neighborhood; the result was that he had a splendid dressing-gown and other equipments—ruined eternally! Going into the cabin, Lollypops inquires for the Captain—

“Sir!” says he, “I am mad, Sir, very mad, Sir; yes, I am, Sir; look at me, only look at me! In rough weather we do not expect pleasant times at sea, but, Sir, ever since I have been on board, Sir, your infernal officers, Sir, have thrown this ship into all manner of unpleasant situations, kept the decks wet, rattled chains over my berth, wang-banged the rigging around, and finally, by thunder, I'm covered all over with villanous soap fat and tar! Now, Sir, this is not all the result of accident—it's premeditated rascality!”

“Sir”—says the bully mate, coming forward, at this crisis, “my name's Mr. Brace; when I was aboard your craft, in New York, you rather put on airs, and I said if you and I ever got to sea together—we'd have a blow out. Now we're about even; if you're a mind we'll call the matter square—”

“Yes, yes, for heaven's sake, let us have no more of this!” says Lollypops.

“We'll have a bottle together, and wish for a clean run to Orleans!” continued officer Brace.

Lollypops agreed; he not only stood the wine, but got over his anger, vowed to look deeper into character, and never again rebuff honest manliness, though hid under the coarse costume of a son of Neptune! A hearty laugh closed the scene, and fair weather and a fine termination attended the voyage of the Triton to New Orleans; for a finer, drier craft never danced over the ocean wave, than that good ship, under rational management.


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