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The Mutiny of the Elsinore

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From the first the voyage was going wrong.  Routed out of my hotel on a bitter March morning, I had crossed Baltimore and reached the pier-end precisely on time.  At nine o’clock the tug was to have taken me down the bay and put me on board the Elsinore, and with growing irritation I sat frozen inside my taxicab and waited.  On the seat, outside, the driver and Wada sat hunched in a temperature perhaps half a degree colder than mine.  And there was no tug.

Possum, the fox-terrier puppy Galbraith had so inconsiderately foisted upon me, whimpered and shivered on my lap inside my greatcoat and under the fur robe.  But he would not settle down.  Continually he whimpered and clawed and struggled to get out.  And, once out and bitten by the cold, with equal insistence he whimpered and clawed to get back.

His unceasing plaint and movement was anything but sedative to my jangled nerves.  In the first place I was uninterested in the brute.  He meant nothing to me.  I did not know him.  Time and again, as I drearily waited, I was on the verge of giving him to the driver.  Once, when two little girls—evidently the wharfinger’s daughters—went by, my hand reached out to the door to open it so that I might call to them and present them with the puling little wretch.

A farewell surprise package from Galbraith, he had arrived at the hotel the night before, by express from New York.  It was Galbraith’s way.  Yet he might so easily have been decently like other folk and sent fruit . . . or flowers, even.  But no; his affectionate inspiration had to take the form of a yelping, yapping two months’ old puppy.  And with the advent of the terrier the trouble had begun.  The hotel clerk judged me a criminal before the act I had not even had time to meditate.  And then Wada, on his own initiative and out of his own foolish stupidity, had attempted to smuggle the puppy into his room and been caught by a house detective.  Promptly Wada had forgotten all his English and lapsed into hysterical Japanese, and the house detective remembered only his Irish; while the hotel clerk had given me to understand in no uncertain terms that it was only what he had expected of me.

Damn the dog, anyway!  And damn Galbraith too!  And as I froze on in the cab on that bleak pier-end, I damned myself as well, and the mad freak that had started me voyaging on a sailing-ship around the Horn.

By ten o’clock a nondescript youth arrived on foot, carrying a suit-case, which was turned over to me a few minutes later by the wharfinger.  It belonged to the pilot, he said, and gave instructions to the chauffeur how to find some other pier from which, at some indeterminate time, I should be taken aboard the Elsinore by some other tug.  This served to increase my irritation.  Why should I not have been informed as well as the pilot?

An hour later, still in my cab and stationed at the shore end of the new pier, the pilot arrived.  Anything more unlike a pilot I could not have imagined.  Here was no blue-jacketed, weather-beaten son of the sea, but a soft-spoken gentleman, for all the world the type of successful business man one meets in all the clubs.  He introduced himself immediately, and I invited him to share my freezing cab with Possum and the baggage.  That some change had been made in the arrangements by Captain West was all he knew, though he fancied the tug would come along any time....