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Thrice Armed

Harold Edward Bindloss

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
It was with somewhat mixed feelings, and a curious little smile in his eyes, that Jim Wheelock stood with a brown hand on the Tyee's wheel as the deep-loaded schooner slid out through Vancouver Narrows before a fresh easterly breeze. Dim heights of snow rose faintly white against the creeping dusk above her starboard hand, and the busy British Columbian city, girt with mazy wires and towering telegraph poles, was fading slowly amidst the great black pines astern. An aromatic smell of burning followed the schooner, and from the levels at the head of the Inlet a long gray smear blew out across the water. A fire which had, as not infrequently happens, passed the bounds of somebody's clearing was eating its way into that part of the great coniferous forest that rolls north from Oregon to Alaska along the wet seaboard of the Pacific Slope. The schooner was making her six knots, with mainboom well out on her quarter and broad wisps of froth washing off beneath her bows, slanted until her leeward scuppers were close above the sliding foam. Wheelock stood right aft, with his shoulders just above the roof of the little deckhouse, and, foreshortened as the vessel was, she seemed from that point of view a mere patch of scarred and somewhat uncleanly deck surmounted by a towering mass of sail. Two partly seen figures were busy bending on a gaff-topsail about the foot of her foremast, and Wheelock turned as one of them came slouching aft when the sail had been sent aloft. The man wore dungaree and jean, with a dilapidated oilskin coat over them, for the wind was keen. He appeared to be at least fifty years of age. Leaning against the rail, he grinned at Wheelock confidentially. "She'll make a short trip of it if this breeze holds," he said. "I guess you find things kind of different from what they were in the mail-boats?" Jim Wheelock nodded as he pulled up a spoke of his wheel, for it was that difference that had brought the smile to his eyes. It was several years now since he had touched a vessel's wheel, or done more than raise a directing hand to the trimly uniformed quartermaster who controlled the big liner's steering engine. He was twenty-eight years of age, and held an extra-master's certificate, and he had just completed the year's training in a big British warship which gave him his commission as a lieutenant R.N.R. It was certainly a distinct change to figure as supernumerary on board the Canadian coasting schooner Tyee, but he did not resent the fact that it was the grizzled, hard-faced man leaning on the rail beside him who had brought him there.