In the Roaring Fifties

Edward Dyson
A free download from

In the Roaring Fifties

The Project Gutenberg EBook of In the Roaring Fifties, by Edward
Dyson This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and
with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away
or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at
Title: In the Roaring Fifties
Author: Edward Dyson
Release Date: November 11, 2005 [EBook #17045]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

Produced by Peter O'Connell


THE night was bright and cool, and the old East Indiaman moved
slowly on the heaving bosom of the ocean, under a strong full moon,
like a wind-blown ghost to whose wanderings there had been no
beginning and could be no end--so small, so helpless she seemed
between the two infinities of sea and sky. There was no cloud to break
the blue profundity of heaven, no line of horizon, no diversity in the
long lazy roll of the green waters to dispel the illusion of an
interminable ocean. The great crestless waves rose and fell with pulsing
monotony, round, smooth and intolerably silent. It was as if the
undulating sea had been stricken motionless, and the ship was damned
to the Sisyphean task of surmounting one mysterious hill that eternally
reappeared under her prow, and beyond which she might never pass.
Suddenly the ghost faltered on the crest of a wave, fluttering her rags in
the moonlight, possessed with a vague indecision. Shouting and the
noise of hurrying feet broke the silence. There was a startling upheaval
of men; they swarmed in the rigging, and faces were piled above the
larboard bulwarks. A boat dropped from the ship's side, striking the sea
with a muffled sound, and was instantly caught into the quaint lifting
and falling motion of the Francis Cadman, as the oily-backed waves
slid under. Four men in the boat bent smartly to the oars, a fifth stood
erect in the prow, peering under his hand over the waste of waters;
another at the tiller encouraged the rowers with cordial and well-meant
abuse. A hundred people shouted futile directions from the ship. The
gravity of the Indian Ocean was disturbed by the babble of dialects.
One voice rose above all the rest, sonorous, masterful, cursing the ship
into order with a deliberate flow of invective that had the dignity and
force of a judgment.
The boat drew off rapidly. The men, squarely and firmly seated, bent
their heavy shoulders with machine-like movements, and when they
threw back their faces the rays of the moon glittered and flashed in their
dilated eyes and on their bared teeth. The sailor at the tiller swayed in
unison, and grunted encouragement, breaking every now and then into

bitter speech, spoken as if in reverent accord with the night and their
mission, in a low, pleading tone, much as a patient mother might
address a wayward child.
'Lift her, lads--lift her, blast you! Oh, my blighted soul, Ellis! I'd get
more square-pullin' out of a starved cat with ten kittens--I would, by
thunder! Now, men, all together! Huh! Huh! hub!'
The boatswain strained as if tugging a stubborn oar. In the interval of
silence that followed all bent attentive ears, but no call came from the
sea. The sleek oars dipped into the waves without a sound, and swung
noiselessly in the worn rowlocks. The man at the prow remained rigid
as a statue, and Coleman resumed his whispered invocation.
'Bend to it, you devils! One! two! three! Morton, don't go to sleep, you
swine! Ryan! Tadvers, you herrin'-gutted, boss-eyed son of a barber's
ape, are you rowin' or spoonin' up hot soup? Pull, men! Huh! That's a
clinker! Huh! Shift her! Huh! May the fiend singe you for a drowsy
pack o' sea-cows! Pull!'
The men threw every ounce of power into each stroke, the voice of the
boatswain blending with their efforts like an intoned benediction, and
the treacly sea foamed under the prow into drifted snow which ran
merrily in their wake. For a tense moment the boat hung poised upon a
high roller, as if about to be projected into the air, and the man in the
prow, electrified, threw out an arm with a dramatic gesture. The
instincts of the ex-whaler triumphed in that moment of excitement.
'There she blows!'
Instantly Coleman fell into a condition of profound agitation; he poured
out a lava-flow of vituperation upon the heads of his men; he cursed
them for weaklings and waster and hissed phrases shameful to them
and discreditable
Continue reading on your phone by scaning this QR Code

 / 114
Tip: The current page has been bookmarked automatically. If you wish to continue reading later, just open the Dertz Homepage, and click on the 'continue reading' link at the bottom of the page.