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The Voyage of the Arrow

199 pages3 hours


In setting down this tale, I will say at the beginning that I am only a sailorman, and rough. Therefore, if I offend, I crave pardon, for my knowledge is only that of the sea, and my manners are ocean-bred. If any one is too delicately constituted to listen to a man like myself, and prefers a tale of gentleness and delicate desire, he had best pass over this narrative of part of my life, which has already received so much publicity. I know many people hold off from me. I know some sweet-scented sea lawyers who fancy they have a taste for description have called me many hard names, and that many honest folk hold away from me because of it. This and much more. But I have gone my way insilence and lived according to the little voice within me, as a strong man should. And it is not weakness now that prompts me to speak. I feel it my duty, and will tell what I know and remember about the part of my life which the public have chosen to discuss so freely.

I do not know who will believe a sailor’s tale, for sailors have been known to enlarge on their yarns, but my father was a sailor before me and was an honest man. So were many of the Gores, and I myself have been master of a deep-water clipper-ship.

In spite of this I hardly feel that I have reached an exalted pinnacle of human fame, for most people do not regard me as a success, nor am I held up as a shining example of what man might accomplish in his life’s work, although I was captain of the Southern Cross—until I ran her ashore and lost her on the Irish coast.

This was all owing to misdirected effort—that is, her loss was; for, after slaving twelve years fore and aft to get command of a ship and at last getting one, I tried to break the record from Hongkong to Liverpool. I did this by five days, and instead of holding offshore until the weather moderated, I overran my distance during a foggy, driving gale and left the whitening ribs of the Southern Cross to mark the success of my endeavour. Had I made harbour, my name would have gone down to posterity as that of the best sailor afloat, and I would have had the pick of the whole deep-water fleet, instead of being forced, as I was, to sign on as mate of the Arrow.

It made my eyes misty and something rose in my throat as I did this. I, a man of twenty-nine, signing the papers for a mate’s berth just as I had done years ago when barely twenty.

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