us! I'd take six months, and thank 'em, just to warm my fist on his (etc.) face!" and so forth.
Duckling was wise to hold his peace. The men were furious enough to have massacred him had he opened his lips.
The older hands got into the boat in silence; but none of the rest left the ship without some candid expression of his feelings. One said he'd gladly pay a pound for leave to set fire to the ship. Another called her a floating workhouse. A third hoped that the vessel would be sunk, and the brutes commanding her drowned before this time to-morrow. Every evil wish that malice and rage could invent was hurled at the vessel and at those who remained in her. In after days I recalled that beautiful morning, the picture of the lugger alongside the ship, the hungry, ill-used men with their poor packs going over the vessel's side, and the curses they pronounced as they left us.
An incident followed the entry of the last of the men in the boat.
The sail was hoisted, the rope that held the boat let go, and her head was shoved off; when the "Portugee," in the excitement and fury of his feelings, drew in his breath and his cheeks, and spat with tremendous energy at Duckling, who was watching him: but the missile fell short; in a word, he spat full in the face of one of the old hands, who instantly knocked him down. He tumbled head over heels among the feet of the crowd of men, while Duckling roared out, "If the man who knocked that blackguard down will return to his duty, I'll be his friend." But all the answer he got was a roar which resembled in sound and character the mingled laughter and groans of a large mob; the fresh wind caught and filled the sail, the boat bounded away under the pressure, and in a few minutes was a long distance out of hail.
A fresh crew came down from London the following morning in charge of a crimp.
Duckling went ashore to meet them at the railway station, and they came off in the same boat that had landed the others on the previous day.
They appeared much the same sort of men as those who had left us; badly clothed for the most part, and but four of them had sea-chests, the rest bringing bags. There was one very big man among them, a fellow that dwarfed the others; he held himself erect, wore good boots, and might very well have passed for an escaped Lifeguardsman, were it not for the indescribable something in his gait, and the way in which he hung his hands, that marked him for a Jack.
Another fellow I noticed, as he scrambled over the ship's side, and sung out, in notes as hoarse as a raven's, to pitch him up his "blooming portmantey," had a very extraordinary face, altogether out of proportion with his head, being, I dare say, a full third too small. The back of the skull was immense, and was covered with hair coarser than Duckling's—as coarse as hemp-yarns. This hair grew down beside his ears, and got mixed up with streaky whiskers, which bound up the lower part of his face like a tar poultice. Out of this circle of hair looked a face as small as a young boy's; little half-closed Chinese eyes, a bit of a pug nose, and a square mouth, kept open so as to show that he wanted four front teeth. The frame belonging to this remarkable head and face was singularly vigorous though grievously misshapen. His long arms went far down his legs; his back, without having a hump, was as round as a shell, and he looked as if he measured a yard and a half from shoulder to shoulder. I watched this strange-looking creature with great curiosity until I lost sight of him in the forecastle.
The men bustled over the side with great alacrity, bawling for their bags and property to be handed up in a great variety of accents. There were two Dutchmen and a copper-coloured man, with African features, among them; the rest were English.
The crimp remained in the boat, watching the men go on board. He was from the other side of Jordan. His woolly hair was soaked with oil, and shone resplendent in the sun; the oil seemed to have got into his hat, too, for that had a most fearful polish. He wore a greatcoat that came down to his shins, and beneath this he exhibited a pair of blue serge breeches, terminating in boots as greasy as his hat. He was genteel enough to wear kid gloves; but the imagination was not to be seduced by such an artifice from picturing the dirt under the gloves.
I knew something of crimps, and amused myself with an idle speculation or two whilst watching the man. This was a fellow who would probably keep a lodging-house for sailors in some dirty little street leading out of the West India Dock Road. His terms would be very easy: seven shillings a week for board and lodging, and every gentleman to pay for extras. He would probably have two or three amiable and obliging sisters, daughters, or nieces living with him, knowing the generous and blind confidence Jack reposes in the endearments of the soft sex, and how very prodigally he will pay for them. So this greasy miscreant's dirty West India Dock Road lodging-house for sailors would always be pretty full, and he would never have much difficulty in mustering a crew when he got an order to raise one. Of course it would pay him as it pays other crimps to let lodgings to sailors, so as to have them always about him when a crew is wanted; for will he not obligingly cash their advance-notes for them, handing them say, thirty shillings for three pounds ten? "What do I do with this dirty risk?" he will exclaim, when Jack expostulates. "Supposing you cut stick? I lose my money! I only do this to obleege you. Go into the street," he cries, pretending to get into a passion, "and see what you'll get for your dirty piece of paper. You'll be comin' back to me on your bended knees, with the tears a tricklin' and runnin' over your cheeks, axing my parding for wronging me and willin' to say a prayer of thankfulness for me bein' put in your vay. You'll want a bag for your clothes, and here's one, dirt cheap, five and a 'arf. And you can't go to sea vith one pair o' brigs, and you shall have these beauties a bargain—come, fourteen and six, for you, and I'll ask you not to say what you gave for 'em, or I shall have four hundred and fifty-vun customers comin' in a rage to tell me I'm a villin for charging of 'em a guinea for the shame article. And here's a first-class knife and belt—something fit for the heye to rest upon—honestly vorth 'arf a sovrin, which I'll make you a present of for a bob, and if you say a vord I'll take everything back, for I can't stand ingratitood."
Our friend watched the crew over the vessel's side with jealous eyes, for had they refused at the last moment to remain in the ship, he would have been a loser to the amount he had given them for their advance-notes. He looked really happy when the last man was out of the lugger and her head turned for the shore. He raised his greasy hat to Duckling, and his hair shone like polished mahogany in the sun.
"Aft here, some of you, and ship this gangway. Boatswain, pipe all hands to get the ship under weigh," cried Duckling; and turning to me with a wink, he added, "If the grub is going to bring more rows, we must fight 'em on the high seas."
There was a little breeze from the south-east; quite enough to keep the lighter sails full and give us headway against the tide that was running up Channel. The men, zealous as all new-comers are, hastened briskly out of the forecastle on hearing