The Red Eric

Robert Michael Ballantyne
The Red Eric, by R.M.

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Title: The Red Eric
Author: R.M. Ballantyne
Release Date: June 7, 2007 [EBook #21714]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII
ERIC ***

Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England


Captain Dunning stood with his back to the fireplace in the
back-parlour of a temperance coffee-house in a certain town on the
eastern seaboard of America.
The name of that town is unimportant, and, for reasons with which the
reader has nothing to do, we do not mean to disclose it.
Captain Dunning, besides being the owner and commander of a South
Sea whale-ship, was the owner of a large burly body, a pair of broad
shoulders, a pair of immense red whiskers that met under his chin, a
short, red little nose, a large firm mouth, and a pair of light-blue eyes,
which, according to their owner's mood, could flash like those of a tiger
or twinkle sweetly like the eyes of a laughing child. But his eyes
seldom flashed; they more frequently twinkled, for the captain was the
very soul of kindliness and good-humour. Yet he was abrupt and sharp
in his manner, so that superficial observers sometimes said he was
Captain Dunning was, so to speak, a sample of three primary colours--
red, blue, and yellow--a walking fragment, as it were, of the rainbow.
His hair and face, especially the nose, were red; his eyes, coat, and
pantaloons were blue, and his waistcoat was yellow.
At the time we introduce him to the reader he was standing, as we have
said, with his back to the fireplace, although there was no fire, the
weather being mild, and with his hands in his breeches pockets. Having
worked with the said hands for many long years before the mast, until
he had at last worked himself behind the mast, in other words, on to the
quarterdeck and into possession of his own ship, the worthy captain
conceived that he had earned the right to give his hands a long rest;
accordingly he stowed them away in his pockets and kept them there at
all times, save when necessity compelled him to draw them forth.
"Very odd," remarked Captain Dunning, looking at his black straw hat
which lay on the table before him, as if the remark were addressed to

it--"very odd if, having swallowed the cow, I should now be compelled
to worry at the tail."
As the black straw hat made no reply, the captain looked up at the
ceiling, but not meeting with any response from that quarter, he looked
out at the window and encountered the gaze of a seaman flattening his
nose on a pane of glass, and looking in.
The captain smiled. "Ah! here's a tail at last," he said, as the seaman
disappeared, and in another moment reappeared at the door with his hat
in his hand.
It may be necessary, perhaps, to explain that Captain Dunning had just
succeeded in engaging a first-rate crew for his next whaling voyage
(which was the "cow" he professed to have swallowed), with the
exception of a cook (which was the "tail," at which he feared he might
be compelled to worry).
"You're a cook, are you?" he asked, as the man entered and nodded.
"Yes, sir," answered the "tail," pulling his forelock.
"And an uncommonly ill-favoured rascally-looking cook you are,"
thought the captain; but he did not say so, for he was not utterly
regardless of men's feelings. He merely said, "Ah!" and then followed it
up with the abrupt question--
"Do you drink?"
"Yes, sir, and smoke too," replied the "tail," in some surprise.
"Very good; then you can go," said the captain, shortly.
"Eh!" exclaimed the man:
"You can go," repeated the captain. "You won't suit. My ship is a
temperance ship, and all the hands are teetotalers. I have found from
experience that men work better, and speak better, and in every way act
better, on tea and coffee than on spirits. I don't object to their smoking;

but I don't allow drinkin' aboard my ship; so you won't do, my man.
The "tail" gazed at the captain in mute amazement.
"Ah! you may look," observed the captain, replying to the gaze; "but
you may also
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