The Confessions of Sir Horace Lazenby
BRITTON B. COOKE
SYNOPSIS. — Sir Horace Lazenby has been acquitted in court on a charge of trust making, acquitted through the candor of his statements on the witness stand.
He decides to take a holiday, to get away incognito for a longneeded rest. This holiday he uses for the writing of an autobiography, telling his life story from the beginning with the idea of justifying his operations in the realms of high finance. The story he tells starts with his home life in Garafraxa. He and his brothers run away from home and cross Lake Erie by stealing a passage on a grain boat, which results in the death of the two brothers. Young Lazenby makes his way to New York where he secures a position in the baggage department of a railroad controled by the famous John J. Vandervort. He is promoted to the position of private bodyguard
to the millionaire railroader and ultimately becomes his secretary. In this capacity he comes closely into touch with Vandervort and becomes thoroughly imbued with the importance of giving service to the public. The precepts that brought success to Vandervort impress themselves upon him and materially influence the ivhole course of his subsequent career. One night Lazenby attends a party and leaves it somewhat stimulated by wine. He wanders along the waterfront and is seized and taken aboard an outbound vessel. It must be understood that although many of the incidents contained in the story are founded on fact and on actual conditions, the central character is a purely fictitious one. Although a direct chain of events binds the story together each installment will be more or less complete in itself.
WHEN I was private secretary to old man Vandervort, the New York railway pioneer, I wore elaborate contrivances for holding up my socks, hose-supporters. When I woke up in the fo’csle of the Golden Queen the morning after my tipsy wanderings on the Jersey shore had ended in a blow over the head and the press gang of a “shanghai doctor,” I had no such luxuries.
When I had left the railway company’s office after despatching the last of the old chief’s mail and locking his personal safe, I was wearing a high collar with long points that projected upward and outward beyond the line of my jaw, and my cravat was something of a work of art. At the pleasant little evening party which had been the first step toward my undoing on that fatal night I was arrayed like any young beau of the town, for as old man Vandervort’s private secretary was I not earning twenty dollars a week! A colossal salary for a young man in those days—only a trifle more than a good male stenographer in my outside office draws nowadays. My evening clothes were th» secret pride of my life, and to wear a tile—one of the old-fashioned sort with a high flanging crown and
a sweeping brim—was like having a spotlight of a theatre turned my way. I strutted like any of the other young cocks. Being private secretary to Vandervort the Great, I thought I had quite “arrived.” I had even begun to think of marriage and had made some slight overtures in that general direction, to a desirable young woman whose name I can’t remember now, but who wore her raven locks dangling down on her alabaster neck, etc., and was supposed to titter when a young man addressed her, or consider herself bold and brazen. I wasn’t#even sentimental about her. I was much too successful a young business man for that. My relations toward the fair were entirely condescending^—and magnanimous. I was figuring on renting a small house about fiftieth street, a little west of Broadway. 1 was going to have in that house all the things that we had not had in our poor, shabby house up in Garafraxa, Ontario— I was eager to forget Garafraxa. Indeed, I intended to forget even my Canadian birth—may as well be honest about it— and show my real sense of appreciation for a real nation by joining the everswelling throng of Canadians who were then putting their brains and their muscle
into the building-up of American business institutions. Canada was then a by-word for near failure.
But with one blow from a sock filled with sand, neatly placed on the back of the cranium—all such dreams had been wiped out. Gone were the fancy hosesuspenders, gone were the natty dressclothes for which, by the way, I still owed a little to my tailor. Gone was Mister Horace Lazenby, private secretary to a great railroader. Pointed collars, cravats, careers, wife and conceit had been wiped out at one stroke. I awoke in the fo’csle of the Golden Queen dressed in an old and ragged flannel shirt and a pair of greenish-grey, faded trousers, held up by a worn strap and a nail. My hair was tousled. My face was grimy and bloody. I had no socks at all.
Something else was gone too. Something young men and even old men value when they have it and can scarcely understand when they have lost it: the sense of personal worth—dignity. I had lost my place in life when I lost my smooth clothes and my seemingly important position. With the clothes of a fo’scle waif I had donned also a feeling of humiliation, a sense of lost worth and lost
self-esteem that so often accompanies the men of that sphere of so-called “life.”
As I lay in the unkempt bunk, in the foul-smelling fo’csle, groping for my mental bearings, the mate came thundering into the place, brushing aside the men who had apparently just come in off watch, until he stood in front of my bunk.
“What in -!” he roared, “Didn’t y’
hear the whistle pipin’? Come! Get up out of that!” and with that he struck out with his foot. He had been drinking, I judged.
I scrambled to my feet like a whipped dog and stood trembling from weakness and, partly, from fear beside the bunk
“What y’ mean,” roared the mate again, evidently trying to work himself up into
a passion, “What the - d’ ye mean
standin’ there, glaumerin’ at me? Get out man! Get above or I’ll throw ye over on a rope end for a morning bath. Out with ye”
And I went—staggering with the roll of the laboring ship.
Two days before, meeting the mate on the street I should have brushed him off the sidewalk had he been in my way. Was I not, then, a citizen and he merely a sailor —a “low person”? Why? Because behind me was all the dignity of being old man Vandervort’s secretary and wearing clothes to match. Now, stripped of that dignity, I found, as most young men find sooner or later, that I had for the moment no dignity at all, no sense of just how much I could and how much I couldn’t take from a fellow man, no proper sense of my own value and my own rights to respect and consideration. I had been drifting along on a false basis of dignity, like your modern branch bank manager who often puts on all the side of an Eastern potentate, because he is associated with a powerful institution, or like the clerk who snubs the petty customer because he feels the contrast between that humble purchaser of a yard of cheap baby-ribbon and the opulent shop with which he is connected. Strip a newspaper man of his ink and paper, or the manufacturer of his money and his authority. Put them all— banker, clerk, writer, manufacturer—in overalls that are greasy, and a two-days’ growth of beard, and how much of their dignity remains? There is only one sound basis for self-respect and self-confidence. It isn’t a matter of money or family or authority or what the newspapers say about you. It is what your own intelligence— not your vanity—tells you, honestly, you are worth. It took me many years to learn this. Surface dignities often swamp the real dignity of a man, or away down, underneath everything else, the real man survives. Stripped of position, clothes and authority I had been reduced to the lowest common condition of manhood. As, on the open deck, I caught the fresh salt air in my face and the splatter of sun-light in my eyes, part of the truth of this came to my mind. The headache slipped away with a freshening Atlantic nor’wester. As I took bucket and brush and began washing down the poop, as I had been instructed the stiffness of my muscles disappeared. In an hour, when the mate came back with his bullyragging air, I was in better form to meet it.
“You can do that whole job over again.” he muttered as he came up on the poop to examine the work. “Just do it twice over for fun. Yer hands are too —white. What!”
“I’ve done it once,” I replied stoutly.
“I’ve done it once.”
He lashed out with his right but missed. I checked his left but made no effort to strike back. Perhaps something in my attitude altered the bucko’s decision, for he dropped his hands to his sides.
“Lady killer!” he sneered.
“I’m a gentleman,” I asserted. I was far from having lost my office conceits.
“Gen’l’man;” he bellowed “Hell—you ain’t a man! You do that deck twice more,” he went on. And I did. The mate had derided my pretensions of being a “gentleman.” I smarted under the sneers because the mate had been nearer right than either of us knew. It is a long time since I have liked the word gentleman. To me the simpler word “man” means more—and isn’t half so often abused by parlor ornaments. I have to thank a-murdering mate for that.
I became the ship’s menial. Forward, facing the door into the fo’csle, under the fo’csle head, the pigs and a cow were kept in pens. One of the pigs was a pet and was allowed to wander on the main deck whenever the weather was fair. I was made valet-in-chief to this and the other pigs and groom to the sad-eyed cow. I helped the cook, whose galley, crawling with cock-roaches, was a few doors down the centre deck house, from the pens. The ship’s deck was raised at the two ends, as is the case with most big sailing vessels to this day: the poop was the equivalent to a “bridge” but lay at the stern and contained the captain’s quarters beneath it and the wheel, spare wheel and navigating tools on top. The captain’s quarters were entered from the level of the main deck and to reach the wheel he had to come out on deck and ascend wooden steps to the poop. In the bow, the fo’csle, on deck-level, under-lay the fo’csle head on which a great pair of winches were set, and where two tremendous anchors lay made fast on the planking. When I— ex-dandy—was not engaged with pig or cow or galley or the scrubbing of the poop, or running errands for the captain or the captain’s wife, I snatched occasional moments clinging to the port or starboard anchor on the fo’csle head, watching the lazy seas approach majestically as though with solemn manner and awful show of force they threatened to smash us to bits for daring to face their power. Then just at the ^ast moment each big roller would seem to dive under us and send us rushing down into the great green valley behind him, ready for his successor to play the trick over again. Sometimes they were less docile and broke over the fo’csle head and over the sides onto the main deck. Sometimes they raced against us, furious and frothing, and shattered themselves against our planking with a sound like continuous thunder, while the wind roared in the standing rigging and whipped the very breath from the nostrils of the men at the wheel. But in the main we had easy weather and for a landsman I was less troubled by the ways
of the sea than might have been expected. They were mostly long, rolling sort of days. As the fore-peak would be hoisted high on a hill of turquoise water I would one minute observe the captain’s wife, sitting complacently knitting close by the wheelsman, on the poop far down below me in the hollow of the wave. Then, next minute, the poop would be high—the captain’s wife’s face lit by the sun and her ball of yarn blown from her lap by a gust of wind, while the bow-sprit buried itself in the belly of another monster sea and I, clinging by the anchor, face down, was in the cool shadow of the trough, watching for the exquisite moment when the long plunge forward ended, and the shimmering water, suddenly beginning to pile up under the ship’s fore-foot again, heaved the bow high into the sun and wind again. Spray-drenched and sun-dried I stole my rare moments of idleness as we beat our way toward the equator, until, having crossed the line and made farther and farther south off the east coast of the Argentine, the sun lost some of his warming powers and the sea was cooler.
As we drew nearer the Cape the captain’s wife sent forward a batch of heavy socks she had been knitting and such odd pieces of heavy clothing as she thought would fit various members of the crew, out of the stock of things given her by some New England sewing circle with which the little old lady had spent her last days ashore, apparently.
Now the green lights died out of the sea and the decks were no longer yellow at noon. The seas were steel colored, touched here and there with white. The wind, even on a fair day, made a different sound: it had a snarling, whimpering, snapping way, like a she-fox kept from her pups.
I HAVE been showing this to Anderson. Anderson is shocked. He does not approve of business men writing and particularly men who have been unfortunately often in the public eye. He says people will misunderstand if they ever find out who is the real author of these lines. I said: “Let them.” Anderson also says: “What has this business of going to sea got to do with the confessions of a business man?” I think he is a little afraid for the dignity of the firm. I begin to see that even he, even my own private secretary would rather not have it known that the chief executive of Lazenby’s Limited, was once a sailor before the mast and had to wear grey wool socks given to him by the wife of a plain sea captain. Anderson means no harm. He has the usual clerkish snobbery. Sitting here on the afterdeck of this ship on our way to London and thence to Scotland for the only holiday I can take, I have told him so. He doesn’t understand yet. It is another case of mistaken values. I never had warmer socks in all my life than those the captain’s wife sent up to the fo’csle of the Golden Queen. Anderson wears silk. I don’t. I buy the heaviest type of looseknit wool socks, rough and shaggy, for summer and winter. They aren’t made to order.
What has the sea and the fo’castle of the Golden Queen and the voyage round
the Horn by way of Callao to Seattle, to do with Lazenby’s Limited and the confessions of a man who boasts of the trusts he has formed and the competition he has eliminated from certain lines of business? Much. First: the mate of the Golden Queen and the second-hand clothing which I inherited when I was shanghaied from the Jersey shore, taught me the difference between being a gentleman and a man. A month after the Golden Queen put down the lights of Sandy Hook I had a quarrel with the mate in which I gave him— George Hoover was his name—as good as he got and a little more and added to his love for me. In the second place the sea knocks out a great many false ideas from a young man’s head, and the rough work on the Golden Queen perfected in me the constitution which is just as necessary to success in business as, in a sense, in prize fighting. In the third place I caught my first glimpse of the evils of unrestrained competition as it was, and I think still is to be observed in the crew’s quarter’s of most ships. On board this modern liner, the crew is better housed than would have been the case in olden days. I admit that that is thanks to the seamens’ unions which have done, in the field of labor, what I have done in the field o f manufacture, service and distribution, i.e., cut out competition, or reduced it to etter dimensions.
The fourth thing for which I am indebted to the Golden Queen is—
Callao. Had I not seen that port on the hip of South America, on the Pacific, I doubt whether the forces of commerce and all that that word may be made to mean, would have impressed me as they did. I would not have understood half so well those gigantic tides and countertides, strokes and counter-strokes, pressures and counter-pressures, which constitute the war of business and of which mere men and women are the mere toys, like chips in a mill-race or beer bubbles on a fat man’s beverage.
Of the evils of competition as I saw it aboard ship I want to say this: I saw the conditions in the Golden Queen’s fo’csle, conditions not as bad as in most ships of her sort. I saw men treated like cattle, beaten and man-handled by a brutal mate and, later, second mate. I ate food that was often next to abominable and I slept and worked in conditions that could not help but brutalize men long forced to accept such conditions. And lying in the fore-peak I began to ask questions of
myself. Why these conditions? Why should not ship’s captains be able to give their men better treatment? Sailoring was a man’s work, a brave sort of work, having in itself nothing degrading or dishonorable except these unnecessary conditions of life. After much blundering thought, groping here and there in my mind for answers to but half-formed questions, I discovered, to myself, the untidiness of the world ! I said something like this: “Suppose the captain of this
ship gave better food and better hours and better quarters?”
Answer: The food bill would mount higher on a voyage. Fewer hours of work would mean more men in a crew—more wages. Better quarters would mean more space and less carrying space in the ship.
No, but enough to reduce the amount
of lumber or sugar or molasses or guano the ship could carry.
Well—even so: suppose these sarcifices were made: the ship’s owners would have to lose a part of their profit, already, so far as I could gather, none too great on the average (taking fat years and lean years altogether) ? They would have then to raise their rates. Rates!
Then I said : “Why shouldn’t rates be raised to a point where they allow the ship-owners of the world to do all things properly,” Answer? Because of competition. And who is the most ardent supporter of the old axiom: “Competition is the Life of Trade?” Who is most afraid that free competition will be lost? The workingman, the people of the same class as the sailor—victim of that popular motto.
That was a first, clumsy line of reasoning.
Then came Callao. Nobody ever goes
to Callao except sailors and railway men and copper miners and Peruvians who would choose somewhere else if they could. There is nothing ideal about it. Climate decent enough. Scenery—if you want scenery—not bad. But as against these things, as I remember, there were filthy streets and filthy people on the wharves; petty people at the head of affairs and petty gossip to keep tongues wagging. Who could want to live in Callao in those days when The Golden Queen with her lumber and a crew of land-thirsty, shipcramped men, crawled in past La Punta and the old Spanish Fort with its low walls glowering above the shoddy ramshackle buildings of the place? Yet it thrived. The harbor was filled with shipping. Cargoes were pouring in and pouring out. Lumber, railway materials, mining supplies for the workings up in the Andes, and coal, kerosene and wheat, went in : guano, hides, cotton, sugar, wool and precious metals, besides copper went out in the same ships. Over one hundred years before— Anderson tells me it was in 1743—a tidal wave swept away the whole town. The dirty, crooked and narrow streets, with their ill-designed, badly built and badly-kept buildings, lay close to the sea-level, with scarcely enough difference to provide decent drainage from the gutters. It was an inhopsitable-looking place. I went ashore once, with a message from the captain to a Spanish shipchandler. Before L found the chandlery I was hailed by a half dozen touts from one drinking place or gambling place or other resort for sailors. Meeting a supposed prospector in the ship-supply house I fell into a conversation—-the first I had had with a man of similar experience to my own—which resulted in an invitation to join him in a prospecting expedition. It seemed attractive but I was discreet in time. He was, I found, a sort of super-beach-comber looking for a victim for his particular kind of swindle. I was glad to be back on the ship and in my own stale quarters, rather than abroad in a foul-smelling city.
Yet here was an example of the miracle of Trade. No amount of inconvenience of life, no amount of lack of friends or agreeable surroundings, or easy circumstances, or even healthy working conditions—not even the possibility of another tidal wave—could keep trade from sending thousands of its human devotees
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swarming over that low-lying spit of dirty land. In scarcely any time after the sea had wiped Callao off the map, merchants were back on the same soil again. The high ground in the rear of the city proper could not hold them. The ships had to come to the nearest point for cargoes. Therefore, risk or no risk, the land trade came down to meet the ships with their sea-trade. Callao, in short was one of the focusing points of the great thing called Commerce. Here was a strategic point for the exchange of goods. Here, as in the Thames, as at Havre, or Hamburg, or Montreal, Halifax, St. John, Vancouver, Victoria and Prince Rupert to-day, was a convenient point for the caravans of sea and land to meet. And here, as in all other great ports, was competition !
Fascinating, of course. Night after night, coming off duty after my turn with the loading gangs—we had unshipped our lumber and were taking sugar for Seattle —I lingered with my fellows of the fo’csle or alone, puffing a short pipe and starring out over the rail at the city’s murk. I loathed the city but it commanded attention. It was like watching a McGill-Varsity football game, or a big Ottawa hockey match, or like—did you ever, as you were going in or coming out of Montreal, to or from Toronto, see the Grand Trunk and the C.P.R. trains race with one another for the short distance over which the tracks are parallel? Did you ever see the driving-rods straining, the fireman on the opposite train sweating in the glow of the open fire-box, the faces of the passengers pressed in white blurs against the pane of glass, to see whether your train or their’s was gaining? The feeling of exhilaration, the desire to enter the struggle and be a part of the great warring factions of trade, came to life within me as I watched sordid Callao. Were there not young and old men working to the limit of their strength to sell their goods at better advantage than their competitors? Were there not others, putting every ounce of cunning into making keener purchases than their competitors? Were there not men in that dull-looking, sweating city, directing every particle of energy toward making each process in business better than the last—better than the other fellow’s? I took a long breath. This was a better business world than I had sensed from the security of old Vandervort’s office. There I had seen the side of the man who had won. Now I glimpsed the other side, the side of the man who says “I will win !”
I can remember the plan I formed that night. I would stay with the ship as far as Seattle. There, with what wages were coming to me, I would desert. I would get back to New York by some means or another and get into trade. No office work for me. No application to Vandervort for help. I wanted to handle merchandise: to buy and sell: to reach and— yes, over-reach if I dared: match my wit, my judgment, my skill and wit against
the other man’s. And all other men’s! The full strength of the sea seemed to be behind me. I saw no obstacles. I saw only opportunities to match my strength against other men’s strength in business. The fo’csle became a mere incident and the round of work and abuse did not touch my inner plan. I had a new dignity, a self-confidence based upon a big plan in life, and the strength and confidence to J tackle it. I knew too little of real business i to be afraid.
; 'T'HREE days out of Callao I did for George Hoover, the mate. This is not a confession of murder for I was tried and acquitted by the captain—or say rather the captain’s wife. Anderson, to whom I mentioned this fact before starting to write this chapter, was first of all horrified, then vaguely uneasy. Now I think he understands it.
The many outbreaks between the bucko mate and the land-lubber recruit had not resulted in complete victory for the mate. There had been many encounters but, on the advice of a wise old seaman whose bunk was over mine, I never tried to do more than defend myself well. To beat George Hoover in a fight meant, said the old seaman, sure death. Hoover’s authority would be gone and the only recourse open to him then would be some trick, some foul manoeuvre, that would put his ' opponent out of the way.
Three days out, in heavy weather, the I mate came forward with a quarrel readyi made in his own mind. He would have
no d-d gentlemen aboard the ship, and
if the captain wouldn’t teach me manners, by-, he would. The details don’t mat-
ter. The other members of the crew who saw the fight said that Hoover struck first. The fight was going evenly enough, when I placed a left on the mate’s jaw. Seeing the right coming, he endeavored to escape it, lost his footing and came down with the roll of the schooner, on the deck. Under his head was the edge of the iron coaming, intended to keep the ordinary wash of the deck out of the small shelter space beneath the fo’csle head, and leading to the fo’csle proper. Hoover died.
Out of the fo’csle, as the first mate fell, came a younger man, William Hoover the second mate, brother to the first. He had better reach and twenty pounds the better of me in weight. I went down in shamefully short time. It was a brutal affair in which the second mate’s boots figured after I was down. I have a scar in my cheek and another on the temple —from William Hoover’s boot. It was copper-toed. When I came to Hoover was first mate, and was declaiming to a circle of sailors, the captain and the captain’s wife sitting at the head of my bunk, how I had killed his brother. The captain’s wife merely nodded her head and made a clucking sound with her tongue. The captain wrote down in the log-book my statement of the case, for fear I should die. They expected me to die then, but when I recovered they tried me. Though the mate and a half-dozen of his partisans stood on the other side, the rest of the watch, led by the little old woman, maintained my defence. The captain wrote a
long account of the evidence of each man in the log, and signed his own verdict, laboriously.
I was released from irons. But a week before we were due at Seattle a belaying pin was dropped from nowhere, close by my feet. A partisan of Hoover’s was aloft at the time. Other petty accidents took place now and again. At Seattle, as we lay to, waiting for a pilot the night of our arrival, the Captain’s wife sent for me.
“Look’ee, young man,” she said, as I faced her and the captain in the little combination chart-house and bed-room for the captain, “Yon Hoover means trouble for ye ashore. The captain here, and m’self have been thinkin’ of y’r case. Y’r pay is eighty dollars. When we get alongside the wharfage the captain will send ye with a message ashore—with the customs papers and himself. Ye will go up through the city with him on his message. There will be none leave the ship at the same time. But ye must fend for y’rself after ye deliver the message.”
On the flood tide we heaved over a line to the pilot’s boat. At two in the morning we were made fast by the snubbing posts of the Eagle Wharf. At dawn, as arranged by the captain, I was to come aft for my message. As I stepped out of the fo’csle door I was met with a glancing blow in the face. I knocked someone over and ran. Others leaped in my path, silently. I reached the captain’s door and found the skipper muffling himself for his journey ashore. I took his letter and making a rude excuse, left him, ran up onto the poop and down the long plank that had been laid from the stern to the wharf. Some one, not the captain, darted over the plank in my wake, stumbled and with an oath fell into the waters of the harbor. I paid no heed. A water-front policeman made to stop me but was too sleepy.
In an hour I was out of the vicinity of the Seattle waterfront in a small tavern apparently frequented by real estate dealers. I was reading the address on the letter which the captain’s wife had given me.
(To Be Continued.)