THE CATCH OF THE ROSAN
At the forecastle head of the Rosan
stood a youth tolling the ship’s bell.
The windlass grunted and whined as the schooner came
up on her hawser with a thump, and overhead a useless
jib slatted and rattled.
The youth could scarcely see aft of
the foremast because of the thickness of the weather,
but he could hear what was going on. There was
a thump, a slimy slapping of wet fish, and a voice
counting monotonously as its owner forked his forenoon’s
catch into the pen amidships.
“Forty-nine,” said the
voice. “All right, boys, swing her in.”
And a moment later the dory, hauled high, dropped
down into her nest. Immediately there was a slight
bump against the side of the schooner, and the slapping
and counting would begin again.
“Eighty-seven, and high line
at that!” said the next man. “I’ll
bet that’s the only halibut on the Banks, and
he’s two hundred if he’s an ounce.”
The great, flat fish was raised to
the deck by means of the topping haul that swung in
Bijonah Tanner, who stood by the pen
watching the silver stream as it flowed over the side
into the pen, mussed his beard and shook his head.
The fish were fair, but not what should be expected
at this time of year. He would sail along to
another favorable anchorage. This was his first
day on the Banks and two days after Nellie’s
discovery of Elsa’s packet.
It was only noon, but Bijonah was
speculating, and when he saw the fog bank coming he
refused to run any risk with his men, and recalled
them to the schooner by firing his shotgun until they
all replied to the signal by raising one oar upright.
It must not be thought that it was
the fog that induced Bijonah to do this. Dorymen
almost always fish when a fog comes down, and trust
to their good fortune in finding the schooner.
Bijonah wanted to look over the morning’s catch
and get in tune with the millions under his keel.
By the time the last dory was in,
the pile of fish in the pen looked like a heap of
The men stretched themselves after
their cramped quarters, and greeted the cook’s
announcement with delight.
“You fellers fix tables fer
dressin’ down while the fust half mugs up,”
said Tanner. “Everybody lively now.
I cal’late to move just a little bit. The
bottom here don’t suit me yet.”
He went down from the poop and walked
the deck, listening between clangings of the bell
for any sound of an approaching vessel. The crew
worked swiftly at dressing and salting the catch.
“Haul up anchor,” he ordered when the
work was done.
The watch laid hold the windlass poles
and hauled the vessel forward directly above her hook.
Then there was a concerted heave and the ground tackle
broke loose and came up with a rush.
Under headsails and riding sail the
Rosan swung into the light air that stirred
the fog and began to crawl forward while the men were
still cat-heading the anchor. The youth who had
been ringing the bell now substituted the patent fog-horn,
as marine law requires when vessels are under way.
With his eyes on the compass, Turner
guided the ship himself. They seemed to move
through an endless gray world.
For an hour they sailed, the only
sounds being the flap of the canvas, the creaking
of the tiller ropes, and the drip of the fog.
Tanner was about to give the word to let go the anchor
when, without warning, they suddenly burst clear of
the fog and came out into the vast gray welter of
the open sea.
Tanner suddenly straightened up, and
slipping the wheel swiftly into the becket, he ran
to the taffrail and looked over the side.
“Good God!” he cried. “What’s
Not fifty feet away lay a blue dory,
heavy and loggy with water, and in the bottom the
unconscious figure of a man.
A second look at the face of the man and Tanner cried:
“Wheelan and Markle, overside
with the starboard dory. Here’s Code Schofield
adrift! Lively now!”
There was a rush aft, but Tanner met
the crew and drove them to the nested boats amidships.
“Over, I say!” he roared.
The men obeyed him, and Wheelan and
Markle were soon pulling madly to the blue dory astern.
When they reached it one man clambered
to the bow and cut the drag rope that Code, in his
extremity, had thrown over nearly two days before.
Then, fastening the short painter to a thwart in their
own craft, they hauled the blue dory and its contents
alongside the Rosan.
Code Schofield lay with his eyes closed,
pale as wax, and seemingly dead. In his right
hand he still gripped convulsively the bailing-can
he had used until consciousness left him.
Man, boat, and all, the dory was hauled
up and let gently down on the deck. Then the
eager hands lifted Schofield from the water and laid
him on the oiled boards.
“Take him into my cabin,”
ordered Tanner. “Johnson, bring hot water
and rags. Cookee, make some strong soup.
If there’s any life in him we’ll bring
it back. On the jump, there!”
“Wal,” said one man, when
Code had been carried below, “I thought my halibut
was high line to-day, but the skipper beat me out in