William Lawrence and his wonderful windjammer
Bluenosers scoffed and debts piled up like leaves in the fall. But the stubborn Nova Scotian built the world’s biggest sailing ship and took her around the world on a voyage that’s never been equalled
Joseph Schuil, Canadian war correspondent, short-story writer and TV dramatist, turns now to recreate the days when the wooden ships of our Atlantic seaboard were known in every port on the high seas. Two breeds of men dominated the era: the visionary gambling shipowner and the hardbitten resolute ship’s captain. This story of the YV. D. Lawrence, the biggest wooden sailing ship afloat, brings together two such men in a stirring and captivating saga of Canada's vanished maritime glory. It is excerpted from the hook, The Salt YVater Men, to be published this fall by Macmillan of Canada.
William D. Lawrence had done pretty well in Maitland, Nova Scotia. He was in his middle fifties, he stood six feet three in his hoots, and he had lived his life amid the clatter of shipyards. His early years with the broad-axe and the maul had been spent in Dartmouth. Then he had gone south to Boston to learn something of ship design from the famous Donald MacKay, the Shelburne boy who was building clippers for the Americans. After a few years of that he had come north again and settled at Maitland, ready to build his own ships. Somewhere along the road he had learned to play the fiddle.
For his first little ship, he had gone into the woods himself, chopped down the trees he wanted and carried out the timber on his shoulders. Soon other men were doing his fetching and carrying. Carpenters’ sheds and blacksmith shops and stores of seasoning timber stood beside the Lawrence house along the banks of the Shubenacadie River where it empties into Minas Basin. By 1868 six able vessels had come down his slipways and put to sea.
He was a widower now but his daughter Mary had married Jim Ellis, of Shubenacadie, and there were three young grandchildren. It was a fine little family, prosperous and affectionate. The only trouble was that W.D. didn't see much of them. Jim was captain of the Lawrence ship Pegasus, Mary and the
A MACLEAN’S FLASHBACK
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Slowly her mighty ribs climbed high over the house, her hull running 250 feet to the river
children sailed with him, and Grandfather was left at home. There were the shipyards to occupy him in the daytime, and (he fiddle to console him at night, but neither was quite enough. In the evenings when W.D. sat alone in his study scraping the how across the strings, with the housekeeper wincing in the kitchen, he did a lot of thinking.
He thought about ships, he thought about the sea, and he thought about Jim and Mary and the children. It occurred to him that he wasn’t, perhaps, taking as much advantage as he should of the chances offered to a man by the carrying trade. Most of his ships had been safe but small. It occurred to him that the children were growing up hardly knowing their grandfather. It also occurred to him that he had seen very little of the sea. He was growing no younger, and still his life was lived among chips and shavings, tar and hemp and tackle, on the banks of the Shubenacadic. Six times in his life he had stood by watching a hull he had huilt move out toward the oceans. And still the far places of the earth were nothing to him but names on bills of lading.
A dream of bigger ships
In the summer of 1868 the seagoing Ellises were home for a spell, and Captain Jim found his father-in-law preoccupied. There was no vessel building outside this year, but there were a lot of papers and drawings cluttering up the study. W.D. would shuffle them around and talk a little evasively of the need for bigger ships, ships that would carry twice the cargo of the little ones with the same crew. When he walked with Jim in the woods and talk turned to the next voyage of Pegasus he seemed more concerned than usual about the profits that might be made. It wasn’t that he was hard up for money, he protested, but money might come in handy in a year or so. His son-in-law looked at the empty yards and thought of the plans in the study. By the time he gathered tip Mary and the children and left to join Pegasus again, he had a pretty good idea of what was in W.D.’s mind.
Pegasus sailed from Saint John in September 1868. She carried a cargo of timber to Liverpool and went on to Cardiff for coal. She carried the coal to Yokohama. From Yokohama she went in ballast to the Chincha Islands off the west coast of South America, and waited her turn in the roadstead among scores of other ships. At last she moved in under the chutes running out from the cliffs and opened her hatches to load guano. For days she lay amid clouds of evil-smelling dust while coolies shoveled thousands of tons of the ancient rock into her hold. At last she sealed her hatches, scrubbed her decks, and rolled away around the Horn for Antwerp, another in the long train of guanocarriers enriching the farms of Europe. From Antwerp she cleared for Cardiff, went out to Montevideo with coal, and on to the Chinchas again. This time she carried the guano to Hamburg, returned
to Cardiff for her third cargo of coal, and swayed off for Hong Kong. The next leg was Hong Kong to the Philippines in ballast, and from the Philippines she sailed deep-laden with a cargo of sugar for Boston. There, in December 1872, her voyage ended, with a profit to her owners of $82,716.
The Ellises came from Boston to Halifax by the coastal steamer, with the captain wearing his darkest, grimmest sea face as he lounged about the hated “steam pot." They changed at Halifax for the Windsor train, and at last they were in Maitland again, four years and three months from the time they had set out, with youngsters who had rounded the Horn half a dozen times, were familiar with the north and south Atlantic, the north and south Pacific, the China Sea and the Sea of Japan, but had yet to find their way through the woods to the little schoolhouse.
Jim Filis had known he would see a ship building when he got back. Bluenose captains had come into Hamburg, Calcutta, San Francisco and Manila with rumors of it. Bluenose ships had hailed him on the high seas to retail the gossip that was running through the Maritime ports and out around the world. But even with all that, he hadn’t quite realized what his father-in-law was up to. The mighty thing towering beside the house had been an unlikely ghost, a wraith in W.D.’s mind four years ago.
The bow overshadowed the chimney tops. The hull frame ran like a wall down the length of the lawn to the edge of the Shubenacadic two hundred and fifty feet away. Seventy-five workmen swarmed about the stocks. The whole neighborhood, from the river bank to the far woods, echoed to the whine of handsaws, the clink of caulking mallets, and the thud of mauls driving home bolts in timber.
She was going to be the largest wooden sailing ship afloat. Filis and W.D. passed under the loom of the hows and looked up. Her stem rose forty-seven feet from keel to rail. The two men climbed the brow-stage scaffolding and paced off the two hundred and seventyfive feet of her deck length. As Filis measured her forty-eight-foot beam, his grinning father-in-law supplied some other statistics. The deck timbers were eighteen inches through, and beneath them ran the timbers of two more decks, all as huge, all braced and supported by iron knees. Filis walked to the side and looked out over the roof of the house toward the woods where the timber had grown. He ran his hand along the inner wall of the hull. The broad spruce planks were each a foot thick, cunningly curved, aligned and fitted together; and they were bolted to the frames with black iron bolts, each as thick through as a man’s two thumbs. The massive vertical ribwork of the frame was spaced so closely that it was almost another wall, and bolted to the outside of the frame was the still heavier timber of the planking. Jim Ellis reached across from the inner hull and tried to touch the outer edge of the planking. He couldn't make it. The length
of a man's arm and the upper half of his body could not span the thickness of that mighty triple bulwark.
The ship was still only half built. T here would be two years of work yet. and it would be work by fits and starts as the money came in and ran out. She gulped down the eighty-two thousand dollars earned by Pegasus, she swallowed most of W.D. s savings and she put a mortgage on the house. She kept Jim Ellis at home for twenty-four months, hurrying oil to Halifax for supplies and gear and tackle, hurrying home to figure out how to pay the hills. And always with the sickening refrain in his ears, humming from the wharves of Halifax to the riverside at Maitland: “she'll never sail," "she’ll be too big to handle," “she'll flounder round like a hull playing a fiddle."
W.D. was always around the ship, and not concerned, it seemed, either about the bills or the gossip. He had walked one of the noisiest sceptics out of the yards, hut the ranting of most drew nothing but a smile and a shrug from him. Eor the worried Ellis it was a relief sometimes to talk with Isaac Douglas in the smithy where the old man was forging the last of the ship's ironwork. Isaac thought she'd sail. So did Shaw, the wood-carver, tranquilly at work on the bearded, forward-looking gentleman who was to he the figurehead, draped in a flowing cloak and carrying a scroll with flic motto. God Defend the Right.
It began to seem, by the summer of 1874. that the ship would at least take to the water. The hull was finished. Seams had been caulked, water had been pumped in and out again, and leaks recaulked. Hatch coamings had heen fitted, and a village of deck-houses, all as massively built as the ship, stood clustered fore and aft. T he built spars of her lower masts, each forty-one inches through, had been stepped, and the three of them stood now supported by the hve-and-a-half-inch wire of the lower shrouds. Topmasts and t 'ga liant masts had grown above the lower masts, and finally it was time for the yards to go up and the riggers to come aboard.
The ninety-hve-foot fore and main yards swung up into the blue and settled across the masts with their trusses, lifts and braces anchoring them home. The topsail, topgallant and royal yards climbed above them, and still beyond them went the skysai! yards. The forms of the riggers dwindled and their voices grew faint as they rode them up. a hundred feet, a hundred and fifty, two hundred feet above the watchers. The maze of her standing and running gear climbed about the spars. The canvas followed—eight thousand yards of it. all on credit. She was an imposing sight. Jim Ellis reflected as he watched, almost as imposing as thzit pile of bills in W.D. s study.
The old man had insisted that she. have the best of everything. The people who visited her did not exclaim only about her size. T heir eyes grew wide as they looked at her seven-ton.rudder, at her steam - operated win,dlass. her patent double-action pumps, and her palatial quarters fore ?md aft. Nothing that seagoing marv'had yet thought of was lacking ia Yhe big ship, and more than enough of it was still to be paid for.
As the launching day neared. W.D. seemed to be spending a great deal of time in his study, fiddling in solitude. T he family were grateful to have a closed door separating them from that music, but fiddling with W.D. always meant thoughtfulness, and perhaps worry. A bit late for worrying now, reflected his sonin-law, but he felt a sense of relief the night W.D. opened the door and called him in. It was always best to know how
bad a situation was, and face up to it.
W.D. didn't appear to know that any situation existed. The hills lay in a. neat pile, untouched beside his fiddle. F,is eyes were tranquil, with a little gleam i n them, as he looked out the window at th,e shadow cast by the ship in the mo-onlight. He'd made a few decisions, he aju L and it was time for Jim to know :nout tl 1cmThe vessel was going to be Qded t^e v'V D. Lawrence. Jim was goin’ sad tvV-'r. of course, and the childr^ Would g° with them, so that would nean shippir •£ a tutor. Also, he added c‘learjng his throat slightly, this time Gr. Wa\;
going along. ¿
Ellis, weary and harasse«, . . h„n in'xyears ashore, was d
plode. Was this what all t^ fiddling had heen about? Every cent )hey had was sunk in that hull outside, a, . ^ Q was talking about tutors and E deasure trips. What if the ship turned ouY a ;,ad
sailer, as everyone expected^,, ^nd w|iat if they couldn't find the hufcv0 c;.rgoes they’d need to make money wi/fR -, y«?
W.D. smiled and producevll a letter which had come heavily nríarked with foreign postage a few day-s before. It was a charter from DreyTus Frères A Company of France for a carjgo of guano. Ehe Lawrence would go to' Liverpool with timber, and then take on an outward cargo of coal. After delivering ¿he coal she would go to Pabellón de Pica ion the west coast of South America and load guano for Erance. The cargoes wyould pay the hills, there wasn't any wlorry about that. This wasn't a pleasure trip, it was a business trip. And business or pleasure, he concluded with that inflexible gleam in his eye. it was a trip around the world and he was going to make it in his own ship.
A eider send-off for a giant 1
Tuesday, Oct. 27, 1874, wa's launching day. Eor an hour or so in 'the morning W. I). Lawrence was not among the crowd that filled the ya«rd. In company with the Presbyterian minister and his friend and fellow giant, Alfred Putnam, he was walking tovvard the Truro ferry dock with two defected strangers trundling a large keg of whiskey in a wheelbarrow. The strangers with their keg had got oil the ferry brisk and beaming, looking forward To a large business in the shipyard. They were now homeward bound with their wares unsold, escorted hy three -of the most determined teetotalers in TSova Scotia.
The liquor question settled. W.D. returned for the launching. A bottle ol innocuous cider smashed against the how. the keel blocks were split, and at two o’clock in the afternoon the hull began to move down the ways carrying her four hundred tons of stone ballast. The shadow of the bow drew away from the house, the sunny fields and woods that had lain so long out of view on the other side began to reappear, and the ship rode easily out onto the red waters of the Shubcnacadie.
Two months later, with her holds full stowed and her deck piled to the rail with timber, she moved out of Saint John harbor for Liverpool. Mary Ellis was below with the children, readying the pinepaneled afterquarters for sea. The big saloon was airy and spacious as her drawing-room at home, with the dining table at one end and the bronze lamp swinging in its gimbals overhead. W.D.’s big cabin and bathroom opened off from one side of the saloon, her own and Jim’s from the other, and there was an adjoining cabin for the children. The quarters of Mr. Johnson, the tutor, came next, and beyond them were the cabins of the offi-
She moaned as the wind punched into her sails. Could she stand the strain?
cers. The cook moved about in his whitetiled galley, and Evans, the steward from Pegasus, was his old chipper self. The noise overhead told of the usual difficulties with the crew, and a snatch of drunken song floated in through the heavy doors:
Who’s been here since I been gone?
Oh a big buck nigger with his sea boots on.
A hog-eye railroad nigger with his hog-
Row tie boat ashore with a hog-eye-o!
She wants a hog-eye man.
Mary shuddered, and hoped the children wouldn’t hear. Jim was worried, and W.l). fretted him with his enthusiasm and his everlasting questions. There was still no knowing how the ship would sail. And yet he could not deny the happy excitement stirring in her. There had been no hard parting this time: they were all together. After two years ashore there was stout timber under their feet again, lifting to the scene! of the sea.
In the pilothouse on the poop, Jim Ellis stood with W.D. beside the helmsman. The tug had cast off, and they were clearing Partridge Island under lower topsails. Ellis' face began to clear a little as he got the feel of the vessel, and he gave a course to the helmsman that caused W.D. to look at him with surprise. The wider channel lay down the bay off Digby Neck and Brier Island. Ellis was taking her between Grand Manan and the Maine shore. It was a shorter route but a narrower channel, and only a master who was sure of his ship would risk it. W.D. said nothing, but a small complacent gleam came into his eye.
The gleam was a glow by the time they reached Liverpool, and the enthusiasm of the builder was shared by the master. For all her size, the Lawrence handled like a yacht. She would never be a fast ship, but she hadn't been designed for speed. She would travel any sea comfortably and surely, and she would probably earn her keep. Her bottom still required copper sheathing for a voyage to southern waters, but the freight on her enormous timber cargo would pay for that.
W.D. left his son-in-law in Liverpool to supervise the sheathing. He was off with Mary and the children to see the wonders of London. He was still away as the ship left drydock and the black torrents of coal came tumbling into her hold. The decks, the sides, the rigging and even the captain himself were covered with greasy soot, but W.D. in immaculate linen and broadcloth was inspecting art galleries and museums and concert halls. Hatch covers had gone on again, holds were sealed, tarpaulins battened down, and the Lawrence sluiced up, scrubbed, dusted and painted before he returned.
The ship had her papers for Aden, and everything about her except the monstrous, money-making cargo holds, was fresh and sparkling on the night of the farewell party. Twenty Bluenose ships were in harbor in Liverpool, and all the captains and their wives had come on board to say good-by. They had dined regally, sung songs around the piano in the cabin, and W.D. was scraping his fiddle for them when a knock came at the door. An urgent letter had arrived for Lawrence from Dreyfus Frères & Compagnie.
It was necessary, the letter said, to cancel the charter for the cargo of guano. The firm had a surplus on hand, and new synthetic fertilizers had appeared which
threatened to destroy the market for guano altogether. Dreyfus Frères regretted the necessity of their action, but Mr. Lawrence would certainly understand.
Lawrence understood. The guano charter was the backbone of his voyage, the only source from which he could pay the debts on his ship. He also understood another thing. The charter had been signed before the Lawrence was launched, and a charter is a binding contract. There would be no reply to the letter, said W.D. The ship would sail as planned, and she would return with a cargo of guano.
They moved out of the Mersey next morning, bound for Aden. W.D. had nothing more to say about the charter. He was concerned only with the voyage ahead and with the sailing qualities of his ship. Jim Ellis found it hard to concentrate on either. Charters had been broken before, he knew, and luckless carriers had been left to hold the bag.
Her course lay south through the two Atlantic’s, around the Cape of Good Hope, and up through the Indian Ocean to blistering Aden near the mouth of the Red Sea. As the links with shore parted. the tangle of debt anil worry retreated little by little into the back of the captain's mind. His vessel shouldered cleanly into the long rollers. With thousands of tons of coal settled in her belly, comfortable and secure, she was a giant in her element, a contented ship. The weather held fine. The crew had smartened tip quickly under the hands of the mates. The deck watch gathered at the rail now, smirking complacently as passing vessels hailed and admired the mighty product ot the Maitland yards. A man forgot about business as he stood on the poop under the sighing cloud of the canvas and retid those admiring hoists. He became a seaman again, and a proud one.
What’ll she do with her clothes on?
W.D. had forgotten about business before they cleared the Mersey, and he was becoming almost too much of a seaman. His pride in the Lawrence was open and unblushing now, and day by day his questions and suggestions about the sailing of her came in an unending stream. W.D. was everywhere about his vessel, chatting with the men. absorbing sea lore, returning to the poop with bright ideas. It was amusing and it was delightful to see the old man getting such fun from his ship. But after a while Ellis began to wish he'd spend a little of his time below. The children were struggling with arithmetic there, reluctant prisoners in the hands of Mr. Johnson. W.D.’s authority and his head for figures would be handy in the cabin. On the poop, two captains was one too many.
W.D. was always properly deferential to his son-in-law. Ellis was master of the ship, and Ellis gave the orders. The suggestions from the owner continued, however. and one in particular grew more urgent as they rolled down out of the North Atlantic. It became a constant refrain in the captain's ears, continuing at mealtimes and off-hours in the cabin: “Let’s see what she’ll do with all her clothes on.’’ It irritated Ellis, partly because he was a sober and responsible master who saw no point in driving the ship to its limit, and more because he wanted to know as badly as W.D. He postponed and evaded as a sop to his conscience, but in his heart he was only waiting for the right day.
When it came it was a day for sou’westers and seaboots and oilskins, a day
for a seaman to forget the charters and bills and balance sheets and all the tangle of paper that governed his comings and goings about the world. It was the great boisterous South Atlantic weather that lifted a man’s heart. It made him a bit reckless, filled him with exuberant confidence in the mighty teamwork of wind and sea and ship. From early morning, with a guilty throb of excitement under his calm sea mask, Ellis had begun to pile sail on the Lawrence.
By noon all the kites were set. They climbed to the mastheads, from the huge bellying squares of the courses to the skysails dwindling into foggy shadows amid the low scud at the trucks. The great hull which had seemed so monstrous and unwieldy on the stocks at Maitland lifted cunningly with the crested surges, clove them away in graceful furrows. The white smother at the forefoot was climbing and washing back over the forecastle head With each lunging roll the Ice rail dipped until it was racing almost level with the foaming backwash. The timbers grown beside the Shubenacadie were earning their shillings now, carrying the coal for Aden through the long grey swells at a speed of fourteen knots.
W.D. shouted with excitement as he read off the log. Ellis was grinning in spite of himself. For three hours he held the Lawrence to it. Fifteen knots came up on the log count, and he knew it was time to rein in. You could hear the old girl “talking to herself.” The high-pitched moan in the rigging told of enormous strain. You could almost see the great fist of the wind driving into that mass of canvas overhead. The mate was eyeing the captain, and the look in those eyes said, “shorten down. "
Ellis gave the order, and the mate started for the deck; but W.D. was beyond the proprieties now. He grabbed the mate's arm and turned to the captain, pleading like a boy. Let her run for half an hour—fifteen minutes—she’d go to sixteen, he knew she would. Ellis looked up at the rigging again, shrugged with hypocritical reluctance, and told the mate to stand by. He was pretty sure she could make sixteen himself.
She came up to sixteen knots, passed it and began to edge toward seventeen. W.D. was sure she’d reach it, but beads of sweat were standing on the mate’s forehead, and Ellis had had enough. He was already turning to call in skysails and royals when there was a warning shout from the deck. The ship had fetched up on the back of a huge surge. It paused for an instant, quivering in every timber at the sudden check. Then the great spars towering to the cloud-rack whipped like match sticks, splintered far above, and the whole head of her uppet canvas was sheared away at a stroke. Yards, spars and sails, the three topmasts and the three top-gallant masts came thundering down onto the lower shrouds and backstays, bounced off them and plunged over the sides. A vast, fouled-up mess of rope, wire, timber and canvas spread out around the ship, tangling and battering her with the heave of the sea.
It wasn't a disaster. Three days of back-breaking work salvaged most of the gear and sent the Lawrence on her way. But she went around the Cape and tip through the Indian Ocean a limping juryrigged cripple, faced with a repair bill that would eat up most of her coal freight. The dreary bunkers of Aden came in sight at last, and the ship dropped anchor in the port on Aug. I. 1875.
The captain had been aloof and irritable since the accident, and the owner sub-
clued and contrite. W.D. knew that the thing had been a sore blow to a master’s pride, and it had been the owner’s fault. But he judged that the air was clear enough now to make another suggestion. They were going to need new spars, and they couldn’t get them at Aden. Somebody would have to go to Bombay for them, and it might as well be W.D.— with Mary and the children, of course.
Ellis looked at him and laughed, the first good laugh in quite a while. A spot of sea air was turning a sharp old businessman into a boy and a tourist. But it would be good to have Mary and the children away from the heat and coal dust, and it might be nice to ready the ship for her new spars without W.D. forever at his elbow. He forbore from mentioning the cost of repairs and the fact that they had no outward cargo. The family went off to Bombay, and the captain was left to unload His coal.
I he holds were opened and the yardarm tackle broken out. The great buckets went down into the hold, the crew shoveled them full, and the groaning donkey winch hoisted them to the dock. For days the ship sweltered at the heart of a greasy black cloud. Then, as she rose in the water, high and empty, the scrubbingdown and painting parties went to work. The riggers followed the painters, bringing new and costly tackle to replace the damaged gear. The spars arrived from Bombay at last, just ahead of the family. They were roused up and ready by the time W.D. had finished his tales of India, and on Sept. 13 the Lawrence put out again for Callao, Peru.
She was a sound ship once more, but there had been no cargo to be found in Aden. She was sailing with profitless ballast in her hold, and nothing but a dubious guano charter ahead. This time it was harder for Ellis to shake himself free of his worries. W.D. had forgotten about Bombay, but he still wouldn’t talk about business. The spell of new lands and waters claimed him as they nosed down through the Indian Ocean and turned into the Timor Sea. It was hard to get him away from the poop for meals. He stood more watches than the captain as they passed along the northern coast of Australia. steered through Torres Strait and the Coral Sea and reached away across the endless breadth of the South Pacific. Callao lifted on the horizon in the first days of December, and as they neared the Peruvian coast W.D. seemed to grow a little more thoughtful. Ellis hoped he was brooding on guano. But when he spoke at last it was of Lima, a lovely city eight miles from Callao. He’d heard of its wonders, and he and Mary and the children ought to see it.
Now at last the captain exploded. They’d come to Callao to get a permit from the Peruvian government to load guano. Had W.D. forgotten about that charter? No. W.D. hadn't forgotten. He’d arrange for the permit all right, but first he’d see Lima.
There was a great festival in Lima, with dancing and bright costumes and lovely women. W.D. came back to Callao enchanted with his visit. He talked about it all the way to the government offices, but his son-in-law was not listening. He had already called at those offices, and he had talked to other masters around the docks. He knew what they would hear. So far as the Peruvian government was concerned, said the officials, it was quite in order for the W. D. Lawrence to go down the coast to Pabellón de Pica. She could take guano if she could get it. But twenty ships were already waiting in the roadstead there, and the agents of the guano importers, who held a monopoly, refused to load them. It appeared that
there was little market for guano in Europe at the moment. And the thought of paying long ocean freights on an unsaleable cargo was most repugnant to such companies as Dreyfus Frères.
As they listened to the polite official, Jim Ellis saw a change come over his father-in-law. All at once the eager tourist was a businessman again. His face wasn't exactly hard, but it wasn't soft either. T he official would kindly complete the permit. T he W. I). Lawrence was sailing for Pabellón de Pica tomorrow.
T he Lawrence sailed, and at long last the desolate grey-white headland of Pabellón de Pica lifted on the southern horizon. The ship rounded into the open roadstead. Twenty or thirty ships lay anchored in careful order ahead of her. Their barnacled sides and blistered paintwork told of a long stay. The grim faces of the men idly watching from their decks told that it was a hopeless one.
France wouldn’t budge
Above the harbor with its rocky, sunbaked shores there were swooping clouds of sea-birds — gulls, pelicans, penguins, gannets, terns and cormorants. In the breathless air stirred only by the wild crying of the birds, the headland stood out waterless, treeless, cheerless. A few miserable shacks clustered on the slopes, and near them were half a dozen tumbledown sheds. Officials of the guano monopoly lived in the shacks, and the larger buildings were the bunkhouses of Chinese coolies, brought here to labor till they dropped. Large wooden chutes reached out over the water from the steep brows of the hill. Down these chutes in past years had come a billion dollars' worth of ancient evil-smelling rock and powder. It had circled the world in thousands of ships, and even at this moment it was bringing new life to the hungry soil of Europe. But there wa no life here. From the deck you could see a few coolies moving about aimlessly or sprawled in front of the bunkhouses. The chutes were idle.
The bored clerks in the huts ashore had one reply for every captain who
came to them. They gave it to Ellis and W.D. There was no guano to load. The grey mountain towering outside their door gave them the lie. Ellis gave them the lie. Weren't they weary of that idiotic story? Very weary, they agreed, hut their instructions from France were definite.
Many of the ships in Pabellón were Bluenose ships, and their masters came aboard the Lawrence that evening. Some of them had been waiting for a month and were ready to give up. Nothing could he done if the French refused to load them, and the French seemed determined to starve them out. W.D. listened with polite interest, and announced that he would stay.
A month went by, and the Lawrence swung to her anchor with the other ships in the roadstead. A second month passed, and five of the ships gave up and sailed. Four later arrivals looked into the roadstead, sized up the situation, and turned away. Barnacles began to grow on the clean sides of the Lawrence. Her paint cracked in the heat. The crew leaned on the rails, muttering, as the screaming swarms of the birds crossed and recrossed the grey mountain. A steamer came up the coast bringing fresh provisions, and Ellis eyed his crew dourly. He would have to keep a sharp watch on the men. Some of them were already ripe to jump ship.
He was looking in the wrong direction. The famous port of Moliendo was only a little way up the coast, and from there a railway led into the Andes. Mary and the children were looking a hit pale, and W.D. was of no particular use at the moment in Pabellón. He thought he’d take the trip. Ellis looked at his father-in-law unbelievingly, shrugged and turned away.
The railway led from Moliendo to the city of Arequipa, eight thousand feet above sea level. From there another line climbed seven thousand feet higher to Pizarro's Lake Titicaca. W.D. returned to Pabellón refreshed by mountain air. lyrical over sunsets in the high valleys, and aglow with tales of Pizarro. T he tired man waiting on the hot deck in Pabellón found it hard to appreciate them.
His father-in-law seemed to have for-
gotten, he suggested, that they had come for guano and were not likely to get any. He seemed to have forgotten the bills in Maitland, and the new bills that were growing around the ship every day along with the barnacles. W.D. had not forgotten the bills, he replied mildly, but there was perhaps one thing that the captain had overlooked. A ship kept waiting through no fault of her own was entitled to demurrage charges of a hundred and fifty dollars a day. Demurrage had now been accruing to the Lawrence for about three months. He thought per-
haps he'd go fishing with the sailors.
The fourth month went by and the steamer came again. There was a great holiday at hand in Valparaiso—-the festival of Chilean independence was to be celebrated. A sight like that shouldn’t be missed when a man was so near. W.D. went off for Valparaiso.
By the time he returned the fifth month was wearing away. The sixth, seventh and eighth passed. Twelve of the ships had gone now. The barnacles were a thick crust on the Lawrence’s sides and bottom, the crew were growling openly. De-
parting captains had laughed sourly at W.D.’s talk of demurrage charges. A ship that couldn’t get a cargo under her charter would certainly not be able to collect demurrage. Ellis believed them. Mary’s cheerfulness was failing at last, and the children were dull and listless. In Maitland, half a world away, debts mounted while the ship lay decaying here. The family was already bankrupt and it was time to go home and face the music. Instead there was music to be faced in Pabellón. W.D.. immovable as rock, had turned to his fiddle again.
He pointed out that there was a condition attached to the guano monopoly at Pabellón. The company was compelled by the Peruvian government to load at least one ship a year. He would stay that year, if necessary, and he would collect demurrage for the wait.
The ninth, tenth and eleventh month went by. The crew's sulky fury had begun to change to a kind of dull amusement. They were sorry for Mary and the children, and they didn’t blame the captain. He was as hopeless as they were, and as bored with the heat and smell and the everlasting clamor of the birds. They’d even stopped blaming the old man. It was interesting in a gruesome sort of way to find out just how stubborn he was.
The ships ahead of the Lawrence had given up and departed now, except for one. She was Antoinette, a ship with a stubborn master too, and a Bluenose. On the night of Dec. I, 1876, Antoinette’s master climbed into a boat and went ashore. It was a night like any other of the three hundred and thirty-odd that had gone before, hot and airless, with the men of the two crews trading bored grumblings across the water. But in the morning there was a change.
Shouts from the deck brought Ellis tumbling out of the cabin. He looked toward the shore, the way the men were pointing. Antoinette had moved under the chutes, there were coolies on the hill above, and guano was charging down into her hold.
W.D. took in the scene with a quick glance and ordered out a boat. In half an hour he and Ellis were in the office ashore. The Antoinette was being loaded, the clerk agreed, but she would be the only ship. His instructions were definite. W.D.’s reply was equally definite. The operation proceeding outside had demonstrated first that there was guano to be had, and, second, that the loading gear was in order. Lawrence would be under the chutes within an hour of Antoinette’s departure, and she would be loaded— either by the staff at Pabellón or by the Lawrence’s crew.
A week later the big ship, deep in the water with all the guano she could carry, was swinging off for the Horn. She rounded it with all sail up, because that was the way W.D. wanted to make the famous journey. With her bottom fouled by a year in tropic waters she made a slow passage through the South Pacific and the two Atlantics, but it was quite fast enough for the unwelcoming Dreyfus Frères in Le Havre. They had cancelled the charter, they protested, they did not wish the cargo, and they refused to pay demurrage.
In the law courts of France the suit of W. D. Lawrence versus Dreyfus Frères & Compagnie dragged on interminably, but the time did not drag for W.D. He saw the opera, the circus, the masked balls, Versailles, and the lovely countryside. He stored his memories of France with all the other pictures of the wide world living in his mind, and brought them home at last when the weary mutterings of the lawyers reached their conclusion.
To W. D. Lawrence, of Maitland, Nova Scotia, Canada, was awarded the sum of £12,380 sterling in freight, plus demurrage charges in the sum of 620 sterling for delay caused his ship through no fault of the
On a memorable day in Maitland the old man stood with Ellis surveying a great pile of golden sovereigns heaped on his study table. Then he swept them all into a huge bandanna handkerchief, and walked down the street in his shirtsleeves to pay the debts on his ship. ★