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The captain's face clouded, but his voice was kind.
"I'm sorry for you, Clark," he said. "Unless you are man enough to break this habit and start fresh, there isn't any future for you anywhere. We can't keep you here. The navy isn't a reformschool, and nothing spreads as rapidly as a bad habit. I wish I could help you— but this is a time when you must help yourself. Cocaine is the entrance-ticket to the insane-asylum and the gutter—and to nothing else."
The list proceeded. "Smoking out of hours" was the most popular cause for getting on the report, although overstaying liberty— while communing with long-lost friends from other ships—ran it a close race.
One exuberant youthported for "continued spitting on the deck"—announced belligerently that he "couldn't work if he couldn't spit"; another frankly admitted an aversion
for vaccination: while a third vociferously defended his pastime of "sleeping in a life-boat" when he should be working.
Stealing, the most contemptible sin in the community life aboard ship, was severely dealt with.
The last prisoner was reached.
"Mark Simmons. Reported by the officer of the deck for overstaying liberty eight hours," read the yeoman.
The captain looked carefully through the record.
"First report against you in the three
overstaying liberty eight hours," read the yeoman.
years you've been on this ship, Simmons. What kept you?"
The sailor shook his head.
"Were you drunk ?" asked the captain.
Again the dumb head-shake.
"Anything to say?" suggested the captain.
"No, sir," answered Simmons faintly.
The captain hesitated, then turned away.
"No more reports," announced the yeoman, closing the book and bundling his papers together.
"Attention!" commanded the masterat-arms to the prisoners.
The captain started across the deck, paused, and returned.
"Simmons-—one moment," he said to the last prisoner.
The sailor stepped back and lifted his heavy eyes to the captain's face.
"What is it, Simmons—something you are afraid to tell?" asked the captain.
"My wife, sir," said the boy, and swallowed hard. "The baby came yesterday morning ... we had a civilian doctor . . . but he was drunk! They think we people in the navy haven't much money, and aren't here long ... so it don't matter how they treat us ... I did all I could . . . but she had kind of chills ... I came back as soon as I dared leave her."
His shoulders shook; he leaned his face against his blue sleeve.
"Good lord, man! Why didn't you tell that when you came aboard? Is any one with your wife—is her home in this city?" demanded the captain.
"She's all alone—in a lodging-house. Her folks live in San Francisco," said Simmons.
The captain turned. "Ask Dr. Knapp to come here," he said to the orderly. And to the master-at-arms: "Erase that report against Simmons; he's going ashore —with the doctor."
"Ay, ay, sir!" answered the masterat-arms, facing the prisoners. "Right about! Forward—march!" he commanded.
Eight bells struck.
Above their clanging clamor came the clear notes of the bugle "sounding mess gear," and from the deck below arose a great clattering of plates. The band— which plays every day during the crew's dinner hour—sailed valiantly into the opening bars of the'' Anvil Chorus.'' Factory whistles in the near-by city shrieked their noon-day greetings, above the deep booming of bells.
"My wife's been alone for five hours," said Simmons miserably.
Late that night the captain finished his writing and went over the doctor's report.
Mrs. Simmons and the baby had been moved to a hospital and were comfortable. Simmons, tremulous with gratitude, had returned to the ship and was sleeping the sleep of exhaustion, two decks below.
The captain leaned back in his chair; facing him, on the shelf above, a woman smiled from a photograph—an old photograph, judging by the enormous sleeves and diminutive hat. How clearly he remembered the day that photograph was taken—just before he started on a Pacific cruise.
How they had laughed, and hoped, and planned, even to deciding on the college that "junior" should eventually honor by his presence—with Wellesley as an alternative—if fate should prove disobliging.
"All was well," and he had cabled from Valparaiso; and even if he had worried during those days of cruising through the Straits of Magellan he had been pitifully unprepared for the cablegram awaiting him at Montevideo. Five words—yet they told him that never again would he need to hurry home. . . .
The captain sighed. For a second the port hole framed the stretching road of the long years—but somewhere—around a little turn—she would be waiting for him, the baby in her arms
The captain smiled back at the photograph and, ringing for the orderly, switched off the desk lights.
HIS FATHER'S FLAG
By Armistead C. Gordon
Author of "Maje," "Ummirandy," etc.
Illustration By George Wright
HERE was a big field near his old home where he and the other boys, black and white, had played "round cat" and "chermany" in the summers before the war and had set their rabbit-traps in seasons of frost and snow. It lay near the edge of a wood, which was now cool and umbrageous with midsummer leanness. The wood had furnished a fine restingplace for the boys when their games were ended; and its giant trees and dense undergrowth had been imagined fortresses and robbers' dens in those days. Beyond the wood lay the Dragon Swamp, with its dark and unexplored recesses and jungles of intertwisted vines. It was a place of shuddering stories about runaway negroes and " patter-rollers " and murders and unsolved mysteries.
On the side of the field nearest the great house once stood a row of negro cabins, built of unshaped logs, whose interstices were chinked with mud and whose stick chimneys were "daubed" with the same material. They were snug and comfortable enough in winter and cool, with open door and unglazed window, in the summer-time, when the little slab-paled gardens in front smiled amid bowers of great nodding sunflowers and overflowed with succulent vegetables.
His earliest memories of the "quarters" were interwoven and embroidered with the kindly affections of their dusky denizens. There were no ginger cakes quite so good as those which he had eaten on the rough benches at their doors. No later watermelons ever had "meat" so red and ripe as theirs. No "pulled" molasses candy was so sweet. And the cold fried chicken legs and biscuits were unforgetable.
When he came back he found the field overgrown with sassafras bush and riotous vines and tangled briers. The cabins
had tumbled down and were deserted. Where the sunflowers had once lifted their gorgeous disks above the snaps and collards flourished a pestilent growth of jimson-weeds unconfined by any slab-palings. Broom-sedge possessed what had been a buckwheat patch near Uncle Orrin's cabin at the end of the row. He remembered the bees in the buckwheat blossoms and their hives under the scraggy peach-tree, and how he had watched them on lucent summer mornings long ago. The "bee-gums" had vanished; and Orrin's cabin, like the others, was a wreck. Orrin himself, on whose knees he had sat when a little chap and listened to wonderful tales of the "varmints" and the "creeturs," had long since become only one of the memories of his boyhood.
He traversed the brier-grown and almost invisible pathway, once so familiar, that led from the quarters to the mansionhouse, and walked past the stables where the horses had been kept. Their stalls were empty and the weather-boarding was ripped off in places. The corn-crib door hung open on a broken hinge.
His father had fallen in the Seven Days' Battles and his mother had soon followed. Thoughts of them impelled him in the direction of the brick-walled graveyard beyond the house from which the marble tombstones were visible above its green carpet of periwinkle vines. As he approached the mansion, in which five generations of his people had lived their quiet and uneventful lives, a sense of the futilities of existence overwhelmed him. He paused and looked beyond the broken hedge, and saw the gravestones grim and silent under the summer sun.
There was no one in the house to bid him welcome, no sign of life or movement about the place. The front door gaped open and the porch, where clambering tea-roses had filled the air of long ago with fragrance, was dropping down. The
windows stared, shutterless, from broken sash and pane upon the desolate lawn which once lay beneath them in smooth, luxuriant greenness.
The lilac bushes had disappeared; but some broken mimosa-trees, still crowned with delicate and lace-like foliage, remained. The leaves were yellowing, as though they lamented the departure of the pink and feathery blossoms with which the earlier summer had adorned them. The inevitable and vandal sassafras had usurped the places of the old japonicas and "sweet-smelling shrubs," and had taken brigand possession of the broad carriageway over which the great, curved-spring family carriage had rolled behind the bay horses, with Uncle Cupid on the boot, on Sundays, to take his father and mother to Christ Church.
Over the whole place hung the pall of poignant and inexpressible change. The past was engulfed in the desolation that had been wrought into everything within his vision. The illusions of his earlier life had vanished.
He could not find it in his heart to enter the old gray house now haunted by disappointments and sorrow. He stood and gazed at it.
A rabbit came hopping out of an undergrowth of briers in a corner of the yard and ran through the sassafras bushes near him.
He turned and strode away under the smiling August morning.
As he walked along the sandy river road toward the county court-house his mind was full of memories of the great struggle. They submerged his semiconscious recognition of the once familiar landmarks. He thought of the April morning in '61 when, with the confidence of youth, he had ridden with his father along this road in the direction in which he was now travelling.
"Lincoln has made the call for seventyfive thousand troops," he had said, "and the State has seceded. There are one hundred and fifty men in our company, and we shall be in Richmond in three days."
"It is a sad time for all of us, my boy," his father had responded, "but saddest for us older folk who have loved the Union so long. My prayer has been that God would preserve it." Vol. LXII.—45
"They are coming to invade the State, sir," he had said. "We should be false to our forefathers and to ourselves if we did not defend it."
His heart had been hot, and the vision of approaching war had kindled the fires of anticipated glory and adventure. Three weeks before he had been elected a lieutenant of the company.
More than four years had intervened between that April morning and this time of his home-coming—years of struggle, of hardship, of self-abnegation, and of conflict all in vain. The confidence that had known no misgivings was shattered. The end had come. Many of the lads with whom he had played in the old field as boys and marched to Richmond as soldiers were dead in battle; and the flag under which he and they had fought was furled in defeat forever.
After Appomattox he had gone South with many of his comrades in arms to join Johnston at Charlotte; and later he had ridden farther on with a few of them, in the vague hope of attaining a new Confederacy beyond the Mississippi. Now that it was all over he had come back home, ragged, penniless, bereft, unparoled. It was August, 1865, and he had never surrendered.
He entered the little village and walked along the grass-grown country road that was its main street until he reached the one-storied brick court-house, covered by Virginia creeper, that had stood there for more than a hundred years in its grove of ancient oak-trees. On either side were the modest houses of the villagers, weather-beaten and unpainted with their tiny green-palinged yards in front and their vegetable gardens at the back. They seemed very poor and forlorn as he regarded them and small with the littleness that physical objects often present to those who have gone away and return. In the stretch of open land between the court-house and the river his company had drilled before they went to Richmond; and he imagined now that he could see the phantom squads marching there and could hear the voice of the captain giving his sharp commands, and the roll of the drum.
Looking up from where the gate to the court-house yard had once been, he saw a