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Needs Must When The Devil Drives
by [?]

Hogged at bow and stern, her deck sloped at the ends like a truck’s platform, while a slight twist in the old hull canted the foremast to port and the mizzen to starboard. It would be hard to know when she was on an even keel. The uneven planking, inboard and out, was scarred like a chopping-block, possibly from a former and intimate acquaintance with the coal trade. Aloft were dingy gray spars, slack hemp rigging, untarred for years, and tan-colored sails, mended with patch upon patch of lighter-hued canvas that seemed about to fall apart from their own weight. She was English-built, bark-rigged, bluff in the bow, square in the stern, unpainted and leaky–on the whole as unkempt and disreputable-looking a craft as ever flew the black flag; and with the clank of the pumps marking time to the wailing squeak of the tiller-ropes, she wallowed through the waves like a log in an eddying tideway.

Even the black flag at the gaff-end wore a makeshift, slovenly air. It was a square section of the bark’s foreroyal, painted black around the skull-and-cross-bones design, which had been left the original hue of the canvas. The port-holes were equally slovenly in appearance, being cut through between stanchions with axes instead of saws; and the bulwarks were further disfigured by extra holes smashed through at the stanchions to take the lashings of the gun-breechings. But the guns were bright and cared for, as were the uniforms of the crew; for they had been lately transhipped. Far from home, with a general cargo, this ancient trader had been taken in a fog by Captain Swarth and his men an hour before their own well-found vessel had sunk alongside–which gave them just time to hoist over guns and ammunition. When the fog shifted, the pursuing English war-brig that had riddled the pirate saw nothing but the peaceful old tub ahead, and went on into the fog, looking for the other.

“Any port in a storm, Angel,” remarked Captain Swarth, as he flashed his keen eyes over the rickety fabric aloft; “but we’ll find a better one soon. How do the boys stand the pumping?”

Mr. Angel Todd, first mate and quartermaster, filled a black pipe before answering. Then, between the first and second deep puffs, he said: “Growlin’–dammum.”

“At the work?”

“Yep, and the grub. And they say the ‘tween-deck and forecastle smells o’ bedbugs and bilge-water, and they want their grog. ‘An ungodly witness scorneth judgment: and the mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity.'” Mr. Todd had been educated for the pulpit; but, going out as a missionary, he had fallen into ungodly ways and taken to the sea, where he was more successful. Many of his old phrasings clung to him.

“Well,” drawled the captain, “men get fastidious and high-toned in this business,–can’t blame them,–but we’ve got to make the coast, and if we don’t pick up something on the way, we must careen and stop the leak. Then they’ll have something to growl about.”

“S’pose the brig follows us in?”

“Hope she will,” said Captain Swarth, with a pleasant smile and a lightening of his eyes–“hope she will, and give me a chance. Her majestic widowship owes me a brig, and that’s a fine one.”

Mr. Todd had never been known to smile, but at this speech he lifted one eyebrow and turned his saturnine face full at his superior, inquiry written upon every line of it. Captain Swarth was musing, however, and said no more; so the mate, knowing better than to attempt probing his mind, swung his long figure down the poop-ladder, and went forward to harass the men–which, in their opinion, was all he was good for.

According to his mood, Mr. Todd’s speech was choicest English or the cosmopolitan, technical slang of the sea, mingled with wonderful profanity. But one habit of his early days he never dropped: he wore, in the hottest weather, and in storm and battle, the black frock and choker of the clerical profession. Standing now with one foot on the fore-hatch, waving his long arms and objurgating the scowling men at the pumps, he might easily have seemed, to any one beyond the reach of his language, to be a clergyman exhorting them. Captain Swarth watched him with an amused look on his sunburnt face, and muttered: “Good man, every inch of him, but he can’t handle men.” Then he called him aft.