"Star of the Sea"
The glorious last voyage of a gallant old captain and a ship with what sailors call a soul
OUT at the end of the quiet backwater, tree-rimmed and dark sheltered even on sunny days of boisterous winds, was a bright patch of the outer harbor, blue and sparkling in the afternoon light. A black-hulled, yellowfunnelled China tramp, inward bound, steamed past the narrow entrance, a giant Australasian liner, with tiered white decks, slid by, spinning a flat highway of lacy brine; ferries tooted and churned along, their top decks hung with passengers, the setting sun flashing back in beaten gold from long lines of windows.
But into the peaceful lagoon these busy traffickers never strayed It was secluded, protected by its low, wooded hills; and even the wild gales that lashed the coast outside caused hardly a ripple to disturb the even surface. It was a cloister spiritually removed from the world of living things; and close inshore, moored bulwark to bulwark, dingy, beaten to an even, nondescript grey by time and weather, w ith a spidery maze of spars and rigging etched black again.,v the crimson sky, was a line of anchored hulks.
They were old-time sailing ships mainly; fiveand sixmasted schooners; a barkentine or two; a small brig; a bluff-ended, full-rigged ship, her masts cut down to stumps. Bedraggled rope ends, bights. Irish pennants, hung drearily from their rotting spars and rigging. They were unkempt, uncart'd for, swept into this quiet lagoon by the tide of maritime progress. T he swarming sun-baked seaports that they had entered on proud, whitespread wings had forgotten them; the looming purple headlands, the distant, surf laced landfalls knew them no more, and they lay now in Rotten Row, that dreaded purgatory of deep-water ships. And at the end, closest to shore, was a big. four-masted bark.
The others were plodders: worn-out drudges of the sea. waiting, with the humble, uncomplaining patience of old work-horses for the end and the knacker's yard. But the bark, somehow was different. She was dirty. Her paintwork scaled in broken blisters from the hot summer suns of many years; rope ends dangled from inaccessible points on her spreading yards; the bottom was foul with barnacles and trailing sea grass Yet there was something about her Her lofty spars soared, delicately tapering, toward the evening stars, and neglect never could dim her perfect lines nor alter the exquisite curve of the bow as it swept back and down from the jib boom to the water. On her graceful counter, in faded letters above the port of registry, Liverpool, was her once famous name. Star of 'he Sea. Ánd loveliness haunted her still, like sweet remembered beauty on the tranquil face of an aged belle.
Captain Lingard, her master, caretaker of the dejected fleet, was sitting in a lowslung canvas chair near the break of the poop with a pair of binoculars on the deck beside him. and his big thumb marking the page of an open book that lay idly on his knees. His eyes strayed down the quiet
reach of the inlet toward the harbor beyond. Grasping the binoculars, he stood up and focused them ujx>n a three-masted schooner that was booming across the gap and heeling to the press of the fresh outside breeze. In a moment she w-as gone, and he lowered the glasses regretfully; but his eyes still watched the inlet mouth.
The old seaman’s tallness had been curtailed an inch or so by the years that had worn some of the flesh from his gaunt, wide-shouldered frame; and his suit of clean white drill, short in the sleeves, hung on him rather than fitted. His eyes, a light and faded blue, faintly pink around the lids, were set in a massive face the color of saddle leather; his nose was generous and tufted at the nostrils; and his hair, a mop of thin-spun silver, stirred slightly in the evening breeze. There was about him a fineness and cleanliness, an air of upstanding resolution, which was reflected in the long, bony jaw and^the firm but kindly set of his mouth.
He was about to resume his seat when his eyes caught a flash of something in the distant gap, and again he levelled the glasses. A smart, highly varnished power launch had turned in from the harbor and was streaking up the lagoon in a sw-ift arrowhead of foam. Lingard turned to the ojxin cabin skylight and hailed.
“Below there, Davy ! Here comes the harbor master’s launch. Lay along to the accommodation ladder and give him a hand aboard.’’
A short, wide-set old man limped up and stfxxl looking under his palm at the approaching boat.
He was built and colored like a chunk of square-sawn teak, and his head shone bald in the mellow light that streamed across the poop; but his eyes were quick and bright, and there was jxiwer still in his w-ork-hardened body.
“Wonder what ’e wants?” he grumbled. “Nothin’ good. I’ll be bound.”
He descended the ladder to the waist, and stood at the head of the accommodation ladder while the master leaned over the poop rail. The harbor master’s launch cut under the stern in a short arc and swept alongside.
As the bowman stepped out and made fast, Captain Lingard shouted cheerful greeting.
The harbor master jumped nimbly out to the bottom grating of the ladder and climbed, and it was not until he liad stepped upon the poop that he responded to the other's repeated welcome.
"Ye must be in love. Captain Wallace,” Lingard said, his deep voice cracked with age. “’Tis the third time I’ve give ye ‘Good evening’ and got naught but a mouthful o’ silence. What’s on your mind?”
“Let’s sit down, captain. I’ve got some news for you.”
“No news is gtxxi news, so I hope it isn’t the other kind.” the old shipmaster said with a laugh that quavered a note. He shot the harbor master a quick and secret look from below his bushy brows. “Would ye like to go below? No. But ye’ll bide a while and have some supper with me?”
The harbor master assenting, he again summoned Davy.
“You know Davy, my old bos’n.”
“My sarvice to ye. sir,” old Davy said, with a bobbing scrape of his leg and a tug at a forelock that had almost been scoured away by the salt gales of four decades.
“’ fis Captain Blacklock, is it not?”
“No. 'tis not, ye old fraud,” said Captain Lingard tartly. "It’s Captain Wallace, the harbor master, as ye very well know. He was here just a week since, so don’t tell me ye’ve forgot him.”
‘ Me mem’ry ain’t what it was. sir,” said Davy. "But I remember now. Captain Blacklock left the sea and went into a steamboat and Captain Wallace got a job ashore. ’Tis the same thing, of course.”
“Stop your jaw.” Captain Lingard told him. “The harbor master’s going to take supper w ith us, so shake the weevils out o’ the grub.”
“Werv sir And if there’s no weevils, ’ow would an ’unk o’ pork from the ’amess cask do?”
“Anything you’ve got, Davy, thanks,” said the harbor master with a smile.
“Thank ’e. sir!” Davy made a leg. “That’s all we ’ave got." he grunted as he disappeared.
“An old shipmate’s license.” Captain Lingard remarked. “He’d die if he couldn’t pay out a fathom of impudence every day. Here, w-e’ll sit on the cabin skylight. Now! What’s your news?”
rT'HE harbor master avoided immediate reply. Instead, his glance roamed around the decks of the Star of the Sea. Dilapidated as the ancient beauty w-as, outboard and aloft, her decks were as clean and tidy as loving care could make them, even to white paint applied over the pitch seams in her planking and the highly polished brasswork.
“She was a lovely ship,” he said, thinking of her past. “She is a lovely ship,” Lingard corrected quietly. “As beautiful today as when I first saw her nearly seventy years ago—and she w-as not new then.”
The harbor master gazed over the side, and a sense of brooding peace flow-ed over him. There w-as a smell of kelp in the air, and a soft wind blowing in from the sea stirred a vague restlessness in his heart. The quiet tide washed gently past the old hulks, caressing their worn sides, and pushed smooth, opalescent ripples landward, to break with a faint hiss on the black sands that rimmed the silent shore.
“When did you first come into her?”
Captain Lingard laid his head back.
“It was—let me see. I was twelve when I saw her first.
Norman Reilly Raine
I’ll be seventy-eight in July—that’d make it 1865. She’d just completed a record voyage from Macassar to the Tyne. Old Farquahar was master of her then. He’d been in her since she was built. She was to have been o’ James Blaine’s Black bailers.”
“But she never was in the Black Ball Line.”
“No. The builders made some unwanted change in the specifications and Blaine refused to accept her, so she was sold to Caldwell, of Liverpool. Blaine lived to regret it, though, for she made a passage from Melbourne to Liverpool wi’ £700,000 in gold dust on board in seventy days, beating Bully Forbes and his famous Lightning by a week. Twenty days from Port Phillip Heads to the Horn!” Lingard’s eyes flamed. “Better than most steamers could do today, eh? That was my old Star of the Sea in the roarin’ days o’ sail.”
“And when did you join her?”
“I was going to tell ye. She came into Newcastle-on-Tyne where my home was, and as my father was a shipping man he invited Farquahar and his officers to dinner. How well I remember it—the house full of burly, whiskered men in rough, pilot-cloth jackets, wi’ weather-hammered skins, and roarin’ voices, and deep, hearty laughter. They sat around the fire, talking o’ China and the tea ports; of Calcutta jute; of Australia, and Barbary and the Americas; of Dondra Head and Palembang and the great Southern ocean. And proudest of all their talk was o’ the record runs of the Star of the Sea, which even then was a famous ship. There
was a gale blowing. I recollect, wi’ lashing rain; a wild night that rattled the slates on the roof. And me—a white-faced, puny sort o’ brat I must ha’ been—with eyes as big as capstan crowns, sitting in a comer, living the tumult, hearin’ the scream of the wind through her rigging as she battled the seas off the Horn; seeing her drift under a blood-red moon the night she fought the pirate junks off Amoy.”
Lingard halted abruptly, and glanced at the harbor master’s grave face.
“Ye know what lads are,” he said diffidently.
“I know what you mean. Go on.”
“Well, at the end of the evening, I up and asked Farquahar to take me with him. She was sailing for Rangoon next day. I can see him and my father now, standing there, red and good-humored with port, smiling down at me, the fire shinin’ on their cheekbones. Farquahar laughed, and said he’d take me with him when I’d hair on my chest.
“Next day at dawn I ran away down to the Tyne; and there was the Star of the Sea lying at her berth, just as I’d dreamed her all the night through. She was making ready for sea, and I’ll never forget how it thrilled me—the smells, tar, cordage, canvas and all. Farquahar was on the poop— standing right over near that ladder there—and I marched up to him.
“ ‘I’m ready to go, sir,” piped I.
“He stared hard for a minute. ‘But ye know what I told ye last night, Philip,’ he said.
“So with that I opened my shirt; and the curls that I’d clipped oil my head I'd glued on my chest. And he let out a roar and called the mate, a silent man wi’ a broken nose, and they laughed together and made much o’ me.”
“Did he take you?”
“No. He said I was tot) young. But two years later he asked my father to apprentice me to him, and I made my first voyage in the Star of the Sea.”
CAPTAIN LINGARD fished in his pocket and drew out a cheap cheroot. He scratched a match on his heel, and as he straightened his eyes again glanced sideways at the harbor master from under the thickets of his brows. He said: “But ye didn’t come on board to hear me jaw about old times.”
The harbor master pretended not to hear him. He said, evenly:
“You didn't stop in her. though?”
“For six years I did. I was contented. What is it, Wallace, that makes us old-timers think the same hard breed o’ men don’t go to sea these days? Were the old shellbacks really men with every hair a rope yarn and blood of Stockholm tar, as we used to say? Or is it just because we’re growin’ old and they were the shipmates of our youth?”
“Oh, changed conditions, I suppose. Life at sea in steamers don’t demand so much from the individual man. The young fellows would all come up to scratch, same as we did, if their duty demanded it.”
Lingard nodded, smoke wreathing his massive head.
“You went out of her for a few years, did you not?” said the harlxir master. He was praying that Davy would api>ear and announce supix*r. He was sorry now that he had not told his news at once. It was getting harder to break, as Lingard’s cracked voice, with an undercurrent of fatalism, droned on, re-creating the early days of the famous bark.
"Aye. I knocked about in other vessels for a few years. But I 'd never forgotten the Star of the Seo”--Captain Lingard absently patted the worn teak of the skylight frame—"so I came back into her as mate. That was in 1879. Fiftytwo years on end we been together now, blow high, blow low, and many’s the time we cheated hell by the blink of an eyelash. But the old girl never failed me. She never let me down. And I never went back on her. No, never! She's all of my life that's counted; and if she ever was took from me, the best part o' me would go. too.” Again lie directed at Wallace that dark and searching look, as tlxnigh daring him to speak. The harbor master thought, “Now I’ll tell him; I’ve got to tell him now.” But he did not; and Lingard looked away from him, his heavy face set, and fell to musing, the fading light resting on his bowed white head.
Old Davy interrupted them, and they went below to their supper.
There Lingard made the harbor master's task more difficult by peopling the softly lighted cabin with the shades of departed seamen; the masters and mates of the Star of the Sea. Davy, limping out after delivering the soup tureen, precipitated it.
“Call Captain Wallace’s boatmen up, Davy, and see that they are fed,” Lingard had ordered. He listened to the uneven steps of the old seaman tapping up the companionway.
“Should have been in Sailor’s Snug Home years ago, the crotchety old scoundrel,” he remarked. "But he won’t leave me, and if I was gone he wouldn’t leave the ship.”
Wallace dipped his oin the soup. Lmgard, his meal untasted, his eyes raised to the deckhead over and beyond the harbor master’s head, travelled down the long, wild corridors of the years gone by and dreamily recalled some of
the passages and incidents that had made his vessel one of the treasured legends of deep-water men the world over. Famous ships and gigantic captains of the past became a colorful tapestry', upon which he wove the deathless saga of his beloved Star of the Sea.
Old Davy, standing at his elbow, brought him abruptly back to the present. He looked up, and the pale fire faded from his eyes.
“I forget myself, thinking of the old days; I fear I make a poor host," he said to Wallace courteously.
He leaned back in his chair at length, the remains of his meal before him, and his eyes, of a sudden fiercely bright, rested on Wallace. He said, in a voice that would no longer brook denial :
"Now, my friend, ye have something to tell me. Some news, I believe ye said.”
The harbor master swallowed, and his mahogany-tinted hands, with their faint red and blue tattooing, slowly closed. He felt, inside, like one about to offer a deliberate indignity to a man infinitely older and wiser than himself. He said, past the swelling in his throat:
“Yes, Captain Lingard. I I had a letter today from your owners. The Star of the Sea has been sold.”
IINGARD’S weathered cheeks flushed.
J "Does that mean—that she’s to go to sea again?” he said, so quietly, so calmly, that the harbor master was almost deceived. Then, as Wallace did not immediately reply, Lingard’s big frame seemed to swell in the chair as though pressing against intolerable bonds. His big hands gripped the table edge, showing white at the knuckles. A cry was tom out of him.
"Wallace! Ye don’t mean—?”
The harbor master nodded. He said:
"She’s a grand old ship and she’s had a long and useful life. Captain Lingard, but she’s been laid up here in Rotten Row for seven years. Her usefulness—you must face it—is finished.”
"But if she has new owners, jierhaps there’s still a chance.” "She’s to be towed to Wai,temata Island. A summer resort’s Deing built there. She will be sunk and filled with cement, then paved over, to make a wharf for the pleasure steamers.”
He watched, with forced impassiveness, the blood ebbing slowly from Lingard’s face.
Lingard said with difficulty:
"My Star of the Sea to make a wharf—for pleasure boats. Dear man! We’ve done nothing to deserve this. Why. it’s disgrace —disgrace. You’re not playing some ghastly joke, now?”
"I’m an old Sou’-Spainer, Lingard. I wouldn’t joke about it.”
Lingard turned from the table and bent forward, his thick wrists projecting from his sleeves, his hands, veined and loose-skinned, pressed tight between his knees as he stared at the deck. The harbor master got up and walked to a port, and gazed unseeing out at the blank disc of the night. After a time he returned. Lingard’s big figure appeared to have shrunk; his face was immeasurably old. He asked dully:
“When are they taking her?”
Wallace tried to be matter-of-fact.
“There’ll be a tug alongside tomorrow midnight. She’ll be towed out past the Head and down the coast. I’ll see that things are done with proper respect. I know it’s a blow to you. captain, but this is a modern age. Things are bound to change.”
"Even the human heart, which no longer has regard for the pride nor beauty of the past.” Lingard said bitterly. "It’s a thin-spun, gutless age. Wallace . . . The Star of the Sea a wharf for bronchial little puff boats!”
The harbormaster laid a hand on his arm.
"I must be getting ashore.” he said, feeling like Judas. "I ’ll come off tomorrow to make final arrangements. Good night.”
lie went up the companion, but Lingard did not appear to hear his going. He sat motionless, trying to focus what had occurred into some kind of sharp outline. He could not do it. Reality floated from him. and was lost in a haze in which past and present became inextricably confused.
AFTER a time he rose and went on deck. The night had clouded over and there was a mist of rain. He paced the poop, up and down, ceaselessly, for hours, as he had done through the night watches of nearly sixty years. The darkness, stretching out on each side, was so dense as to hide the neighboring hulks. It spread, impalpable, without dimension, like a vast and soundless ocean, through which the Star of the Sea appeared to forge steadily, silently, her ghostly wet sails, bellied full by the wind of fate, driving her into the unknown. Lingard could feel the swell and lift of her as she mounted the noiseless combers; and the familiar parts of his vessel were s clear to him then as in broadest day.
Faces came and went; familiar voices spoke out of the dripping void. There was Armstrong, his old second mate, humped over the taffrail in his indolent way, smoking his vile old pipe; Armstrong, who had been lost in a gale off Cape Comorin forty years ago. Lingard spoke to him, and
he turned, showing his gaunt drowned face. He faded, and others took his place; red-bearded Hoskins, a Comishman with childish blue eyes, as he had appeared before he left the ship and was lost in the wreck of the Finisterre; OneNo-Trump Clixby, a famous character who played hymns on a w'heezy melodeon in his watch below, and always had a dewdrop on the end of his veinous nose.
They disappeared, but always other men, other scenes from the .oast arose. Time reversed itself, and he saw again the molten doldrums of the Indian Ocean, with the trucks rolling idly against a blank, brassy sky, and the dorsal fins of sharks cutting circles around the ship. And now* he was first-mate Lingard again, in a line of grotesque figures leaning over the taffrail at the command of black-bearded Hellfire Nicholson, invoking the old German windjammer custom of calling the wind. All hands were there, leaning out w'ith arms outstretched, then pulling themselves back, with arms crooked, as though gathering in the wind to fill the slatting sails, and everyone in chorus roaring, Heu-u-agh!
The indigo sky faded to a clear and icy grey. Far to port, two rival ships were hove to under close canvas, burying themselves to the half deck in the smoking seas; but Lingard’s ship was carrying sail till it threatened to blow out of the bolt ropes, for she was making a record passage.
Creak of cordage, scream of wind, roar and crash of thundering seas, flying spume caking his lips with salt— the w'orld-famous Star of the Sea, Philip Lingard, master, running the easting down !
Unaccountably old Davy’s hand w'as on his arm. The wild scene faded, and Lingard was enveloped in damp and clinging darkness. There was a smell in his nostrils of mildewed timbers and rotten cordage; the foul breath of the hulks of Rotten Row*.
Old Davy’s voice was cracked and querulous.
“What are ye doing up here, sir? Why ain’t ye in your bunk? Do you know* what time it is? It’s four o’clock in the morning. Eight bells, sir.”
Captain Lingard turned; roused slowly from his dreams of the past. He cried:
FOR the balance of the dark hours Lingard lay in his bunk, but sleep would not come, and time and time again his mind slipped away into the past. He rose finally and went on deck, pacing the poop until long after dawn. At nine o’clock he met the harbor master at the top of the accommodation ladder.
"It’s all fixed, Captain Lingard,” Wallace told him. "We’re going to send her on her last voyage as befits her fame. The tug will bring off a crew of old wind-ship men from Sailor’s Snug Home at eleven tonight to man her as she moves out.”
For a minute Captain Lingard appeared not to have heard. There had come over him a subtle change. New lines had grooved him overnight, but he was composed, almost abstracted ; and constantly his questing eyes sought the gap at the harbor mouth. He spoke suddenly, loudly.
"I’ll want a show' of sail bent on her. She can’t go out under bare poles. She wouldn’t like it.”
Wallace shot him a keen look, then glanced quickly away. “Yes, she shall have it,” he said. "It is only her due.” “And I’ll expect the hands on board at eleven o’clock; eleven sharp, if ye please.” Lingard said in the same loud, imperative voice. He turned sharp on his heel and mounted the poop.
Old Davy climbed from the companionway and shuffled about, snuffling and grumbling. The harbor master called to him and told him what was in prospect.
"Aye,” said Davy. “I know. The captain told me they was plannin’ to do the old gal in at last. But I’m to have me old job o’ bos’n when the anchor’s tripped and the Star of the Sea begins her last voyage.”
"You shall have it, Davy,” Lingard replied.
The morning passed in an Irish hurricane, as old Davy called it—a flat calm and a érizzle of rain. Lingard paced the poop restlessly as a party of riggers came off at noon by Wallace’s order, and. after dragging the worn and mildewed canvas from the sail locker, managed to bend a couple of headsails, the fore-course, the lower main-topsail, the mizzensail and spanker. It was a string and sealing-wax rig, a travesty of the smartness of the old-time Star of the Sea, but it was all that the rotting gear w'ould stand, and it had to suffice.
Lingard disappeared below w'hile the w'ork was in progress. He remained there for the balance of the day. poring over old papers and charts, but at night he was on the poop again. A mounting excitement seemed to have gripped him, discernible under a hard, grim recrudescence of the driving qualities of his youth. His replies to Wallace’s remarks, while courteous enough, were crisp and sharp. He seemed, in an indefinable way. to have recaptured some of the alertness of the days when he was in active command; to be imbued with a secret and mysterious fire which caused his rugged face to light at times with an almost fanatical exaltation.
Low* scud, w'ith a spit of rain, was driving across the sky when darkness fell. Outside the Cape the wind was blowing up, and although nothing of its force was felt in the sheltered backwater, the ancient hulks of Rotten Row tugged uneasily
at their anchor cables as though sensing that a change impended. The Star of the Sea, her shabbiness and pitiful sail-spread mercifully hidden by the blackness of the night, seemed, too, to grow restless as the hour of parting neared.
A big sea-going tug loomed out of the dark, her deck clustered with aged men, seasoned and homy survivors of the golden days of sail; seamen, mates and masters out of famous old ships, many of them, with a sprinkling of younger hands, eager to do homage to the Star of the Sea on her final voyage. The tug ranked alongside, and the bark shipped her crew. Orders were few. for old hearts do not forget, and the veterans shuffled to their posts. There w'as the creak of straining cordage, the squeak of sheaves in their blocks as the ancients tailed on to the braces. Lingard stood on the poop, the harbor master beside him. Old Davy was at the wheel. Forward, the port running light spilled its beam like ebbing blood over the black water.
The tugboat captain shouted:
“Are you ready, sir?”
"Aye, ready and waiting!” Lingard’s voice was loud and clear. He commanded, "Let go, forrard!”
“Let go, forrard !” The command was echoed from ahead.
The rusty capstan pawls began a clank, clank, clank, as the order w'as carried out.
Suddenly a clear, powerful baritone rose, and Lingard stiffened. The voices of the shellbacks, some cracked and piping, others deep and hoarse, picked up the song. It drifted out over the dark waters of the lagoon, softly at first, then swelling out. full and strong, as the veterans stamped around the capstan and the links came in.
"Heave w'ith a will and heave long and strong;
Good-by, fare ye well !
Good-by, fare ye well !
Sing a good chorus, for ’tis the last song;
Hurrah! My boys, she’s homeward bound!”
Lingard turned to Wallace, and, black as the night was, the harbor master noticed the sea mist in his eyes.
“They’ve brought a chanteyman along,” he said deeply. "That’s more than I’d bargained for.” He was silent for a minute, then he asked: "Where is the crew leaving her?”
"Just before we pass Dampier Head. I’m having an extra tug come alongside there. They’ll escort you out to sea.”
A long-drawn, deep-sea wail floated aft.
“All gone forrard, sir!”
There was a sharp ring from the tug’s telegraph. She sheered away with her line aboard, and ran out ahead of the bark. The last traverse of the Star of the Sea had commenced.
THERE was a rift in the clouds overhead. It quickly closed up again, but it was sufficient to disclose the masts and yards of the ancient bark in stately progress, as she drew away from the line of abandoned hulks. She rose and fell on the slight swell that ran up from the harbor mouth, and appeared to dip in dainty salute to each old comrade as she passed. As she gathered way her sharp cutwater played a tinkling little melody upon the water, and the six-foot streamers of sea grass that encumbered her hull rose to the surface in gentle hissing, as she rippled along.
When she approached the gap it was evident that the wind was coming up fast. A dollup of cold sea water met the bark’s stem and was shivered to spray.
Wallace grew uneasy.
“It’s blowing up for a gale, I’m afraid.” he remarked to Lingard. “I hope they get you under the lee of the island before it catches you. It’s only a three hour pull, fortunately.”
They passed out through the gap into the freer waters of the upper harbor, and changed course a few points. The city was asleep as the Star of the Sea was towed past the silent wharves. The pinprick lines of street lights climbed in long perspective over the hill beyond, then fell gradually astern. The wind was beginning to moan through the vessel’s gaunt rigging, and there was a slatting thunder as it began to fill out her sails.
Lingard grasped the harbor master’s arm.
“There’s a light winking ahead. What is it?”
Wallace stared out over the port bow. A message in Morse was blinking through the night from Dampier Head.
S-T-A-R O-F T-H-E S-E-A, S-T-A-R O-F T-H-E S-E-A!
"It’s the naval signal station,” Wallace said. “Sending you a message.”
The big lamp blinked out:
“GOOD-BY. STAR OF THE SEA. ALL SAILORMEN BOTH OLD AND NEW BID YOU A PLEASANT VOYAGE AND A FOND FAREWELL. GOOD-BY, STAR OF THE SEA.
As they approached the Head, a strong, cold wind blew in from the sea, increasing in strength. Overhead the clouds were ripped to flying shreds, and the whine of the blast through the rigging took on a higher, wilder note.
“That’s nothing to this old lady; she’ll laugh at it,” • Continued on page 52
Continued on page 52
Continued from page 16
Lingard replied to Wallace’s worried comment. “It’s pretty near time for you to take the men off. isn’t it?”
“Yes. There’s the lights of the tug on the starboard beam now.”
The tug swept rapidly alongside the lowered accommodation ladder and made fast, progressing with the slow movement of the bark.
The harbor master turned to Lingard. “Good-by, captain,” he said. “I’d like to stay with you. but you’ve said you’d rather have it otherwise. Just you and old Davy to take her around. Is that right?” “That’s right. We belong together, we three.” Lingard’s eyes were mystical in the dim light of the hurricane lamp that shone through the chartroom window. “I’m going to take the wheel. I’m thankful to ye for what ye did for me and my old ship tonight.” j The tug’s master was shouting:
"Come on now, lads! Jump aboard, and ' let’s get under way.”
The old seamen trooped along the decks and down the ladder to the tug. Wallace j followed them, and the tug sheered off. Lingard and old Davy were alone once more with the Star of the Sea.
THE wind was thrumming, full and strong through the cordage. The lighthouse to port slipped along the port beam, cleared the quarter, fell astern. The loom of the cape passed unseen, and the bark felt the first surge of the opep sea. She dipped her pretty forefoot deep, and rose, scattering brine. A heavy puff blew out of the east and she heeled to it, burying her lee rail for an instant in snowy foam.
“She’s going to blow !” old Davy said, but Lingard did not answer. His big hands gripping the spokes of the wheel, he brought her up a point. The bark felt the push of the wind in her sails. Her bow lifted joyously and she slipped through the making sea with increased speed.
“Easy, sir,” old Davy cautioned. “Ye’ll overrun the tug.”
“Overrun her !” Lingard’s voice suddenly was strident. “Do you realize we're out to sea once more? She’s got only a jury rig. but I could run her to hell and back before yon clumsy tug could clear the coast!”
A hissing rain squall descended, and with the rapid increase in wind force the rising seas were crested with snarling white. Lingard spoke again, loudly.
“Davy ! Do ye feel the grand pull of her? The old Star of the Sea is not done yet. It’ll be blowing more than a capful before morning .. . And the gear is holding. Davy, do ye mind the time we raced the Ariel home ¡from Colombo, and the main and mizzen carried away in a gale off the Portugee coast?”
"Aye, sir, indeed I do !” Slow fire began to creep through old Davy’s blood. Excitement grew upon him. “We brought her into Lime’ouse Basin under a jury rig not much better than this she’s carryin’ now, an’ beat the Ariel by a fortnight!”
He peered forward in the gloom, striving to make out his captain’s expression, and what he saw swept forty years away. The long, bony chin was set like stone, the eyes were indomitable sparks. Just so had Captain Lingard, famous master of a famous ship, looked when their names were bywords in the ports of the world.
Lingard was bellowing over the noise of the wind.
“And do ye mind the voyage we trimmed Bully Forbes and his Lightning around the Horn?”
; “We could do it again, sir,” shouted old Davy with reckless glee. “Feel the way she’s lifting to it. And the wind’s on the j quarter where she always did 'er best.” Lingard’s next words were snatched away by the gale. Davy put his ear close to the j master's lips. Lingard repeated.
“Sailor's Snug Home is warm and com\ fortable and sea water’s perishin’ cold at ! five hundred fathom down.” i "The old Star o' the Sea ’ll find it cold.
too, lyin’ out. with her ola heart stopped up wi’ cement, makin’ a wharf for tinpot puffboxes, sir.”
Another roaring squajl shut down, and Lingard wrestled with the wheel, trying to spill the wind from the straining canvas. The Star of the Sea drove through it, thrumming in every stay. Lingard raised his streaming face to the sky and the wild wind blew through his hair.
“Davy!” he shouted.
Old Davy came close to him in the darkness.
“We can’t let the old ship down. She’d never forgive us—she out in the cold and the wet, and us lying snug and warm ashore. Just look at the way she’s leaping now\ She’s frightened, poor thing, and her old bones are longing to run wide and free. Davy—?”
Old Davy pulled off his cap and the wind buffeted his ears as he crossed himself. “I’m ready, sir,” he muttered, and straightened, “whenever ye give the word.”
ON THE leading tug the harbor master stared tensely into the screaming night astern. The tug’s captain ran aft through the blinding squall.
“She’s broke adrift! She’s gone!” he yelled. The tug was coming about, wallowing and sloshing. The tugboat man roared again, over the noise of the crashing seas. “It’s a full gale and a lee shore. I’ve got to catch her. She’ll never live the night out.” The pride of the old Sou’-Spainer in his contemporaries of sail burned like flame in the harboi master’s chest. He cupped his hands; shouted into the tugboat master’s ear.
“You can’t pick her up now. Don’t you realize she’s one of the swiftest craft that ever sailed? Lingard cut her adrift. It’s the way he wished to go!”
The cluster of awed and silent veterans gathered on the tug’s broad fantail stared mutely into the turmoil astern. Then one of them raised his arm and pointed.
“Look !” he screamed.
Out of the dark and the thundering gale, her sidelights gleaming through a break in the murk, rode the truncated pyramid of the Star of the Sea. Banners of gleaming white streamed away from her bows, and she trampled the puny combers that leaped at her old throat as once she had conquered the mighty grey wolves of the Horn. She rose like a feather to the lift of the sea, and sent it foaming yards away in snarling defeat. Close aboard the tug she ran, handled with consummate skill; so close that, in a momentary clearing of the squall, the anxious watchers were able to see Lingard and Davy standing together at the wheel, the master’s silvery hair flying wild and reckless in the wind.
As she forged swiftly ahead Lingard turned to look at them, raising his arm in a gesture of hail and farewell; and even in the confusion of darkness and the storm they were able to read upon her counter that famous name. Star of the Sea. Lingard and Davy were singing—the squeaky treble of old Davy, the deep, triumphant roar of Lingard—the beloved chantey of the sailormen of old :
“Her anchor we’ll weigh, but no sails we’ll set,
Good-by, fare ye well !
Good-by, fare ye w'ell !
Tis the last leave parting, she leaves with regret.
Hurrah! My boys, she’s homeward bound !’ ’
The last thin notes rode down the wind, as, like a wild wraith, she fled past, her ancient canvas iron hard in the press of the gale, snowy phosphorescence bubbling in her wake. Breathless they watched as she darted away, going like blown spindrift on the wings of the night, diminishing in the distance. until she plunged from sight into the black belly of a thundering squall.