**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

"Choice Spirits"
by [?]

The day was fine, and the breeze so light that the old patched sails were taking the schooner along at a gentle three knots per hour. A sail or two shone like snow in the offing, and a gull hovered in the air astern. From the cabin to the galley, and from the galley to the untidy tangle in the bows, there was no sign of anybody to benefit by the conversation of the skipper and mate as they discussed a wicked and mutinous spirit which had become observable in the crew.

“It’s sheer rank wickedness, that’s what it is,” said the skipper, a small elderly man, with grizzled beard and light blue eyes.

“Rank,” agreed the mate, whose temperament was laconic.

“Why, when I was a boy you wouldn’t believe what I had to eat,” said the skipper; “not if I took my Bible oath on it, you wouldn’t.”

“They’re dainty,” said the mate.

“Dainty!” said the other indignantly. “What right have hungry sailormen to be dainty? Don’t I give them enough to eat? Look! Look there!”

He drew back, choking, and pointed with his forefinger as Bill Smith, A.B., came on deck with a plate held at arm’s length, and a nose disdainfully elevated. He affected not to see the skipper, and, walking in a mincing fashion to the side, raked the food from the plate into the sea with his fingers. He was followed by George Simpson, A.B., who in the same objectionable fashion wasted food which the skipper had intended should nourish his frame.

“I’ll pay ’em for this!” murmured the skipper.

“There’s some more,” said the mate.

Two more men came on deck, grinning consciously, and disposed of their dinners. Then there was an interval–an interval in which everybody, fore and aft, appeared to be waiting for something; the something being at that precise moment standing at the foot of the foc’sle ladder, trying to screw its courage up.

“If the boy comes,” said the skipper in a strained, unnatural voice, “I’ll flay him alive.”

“You’d better get your knife out then,” said the mate.

The boy appeared on deck, very white about the gills, and looking piteously at the crew for support. He became conscious from their scowls that he had forgotten something, and remembering himself, stretched out his skinny arms to their full extent, and, crinkling his nose, walked with great trepidation to the side.

“Boy!” vociferated the skipper suddenly.

“Yessir,” said the urchin hastily.

“Comm’ere,” said the skipper sternly.

“Shove your dinner over first,” said four low, menacing voices.

The boy hesitated, then walked slowly towards the skipper.

“What are you going to do with that dinner?” demanded the latter grimly.

“Eat it,” said the youth modestly.

“What d’yer bring it on deck for, then?” inquired the other, bending his brows on him.

“I thought it would taste better on deck, sir,” said the boy.

“Taste better!” growled the skipper ferociously. “Ain’t it good?”

“Yessir,” said the boy.

“Speak louder,” said the skipper sternly. “Is it very good?”

“Beautiful,” said the boy in a shrill falsetto.

“Did you ever taste better wittles than you get aboard this ship?” demanded the skipper, setting him a fine example in loud speaking.

“Never,” yelled the boy, following it.

“Everything as it should be?” roared the skipper.

“Better than it should be,” shrilled the craven.

“Sit down and eat it,” commanded the other.

The boy sat on the cabin skylight, and, taking out his pocket-knife, began his meal with every appearance of enjoyment, the skipper, with his elbows on the side, and his legs crossed, regarding him serenely.

“I suppose,” he said loudly, after watching the boy for some time, “I s’pose the men threw theirs overboard becos they hadn’t been used to such good food?”

“Yessir,” said the boy.

“Did they say so?” bawled the other.

The boy hesitated, and glanced nervously forward. “Yessir,” he said at length, and shuddered as a low, ominous growl came from the crew. Despite his slowness, the meal came to an end at last, and, in obedience to orders, he rose, and taking his plate forward, looked entreatingly at the crew as he passed them.