The After House (Chapter 5, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 5

With the disappearance of Schwartz, the Ella was short-handed: I
believe Captain Richardson made an attempt to secure me to take the
place of Burns, now moved up into Schwartz's position. But the
attempt met with a surly refusal from Turner.

The crew was plainly nervous and irritable. Sailors are
simple-minded men, as a rule; their mental processes are elemental.
They began to mutter that the devil-ship of the Turner line was at
her tricks again.

That afternoon, going into the forecastle for some of my clothing,
I found a curious group. Gathered about the table were Tom, the
mulatto cook, a Swede named Oleson, Adams, and Burns of the crew.
At the head of the table Charlie Jones was reading the service for
the burial of the dead at sea. The men were standing, bareheaded.
I took off my cap and stood, just inside the door, until the simple
service was over. I was strongly moved.

Schwartz disappeared in the early morning of August 9. And now I
come, not without misgiving, to the night of August 12. I am
wondering if, after all, I have made clear the picture that is before
my eyes: the languid cruise, the slight relaxation of discipline, due
to the leisure of a pleasure voyage, the Ella again rolling gently,
with hardly a dash of spray to show that she was moving, the sun
beating down on her white decks and white canvas, on the three women
in summer attire, on unending-bridge, with its accompaniment of tall
glasses filled with ice, on Turner's morose face and Vail's watchful
one. In the forecastle, much gossip and not a little fear, and in
the forward house, where Captain Richardson and Singleton had their
quarters, veiled hostility and sullen silence.

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