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THE ship was pushing steadily through the solid blackness of a night as stifling and oppressive as only a night in the doldrums can be. It was time for me to turn in; but I stood in my pyjamas outside my cabin door and eyed that oven-like interior with loathing. Its steel walls blazed raw-white in the glare of the unshaded electrics, and I knew the engine-room bulkhead beside my bunk was hot enough to burn the naked hand. A multitude of fat but active cockroaches disported joyously in this salubrious environment; and a sour nauseating whiff from the gaping mouth of a hold ventilator bore witness that our cargo of sugar was heating. These things caused me to think regretfully of that clean and spacious liner's stateroom, with its whirring fans, the booking of which I had abandoned so recklessly VOL. CCXXI.—NO. MCCCXXXV.

at the bidding of my friend, the master of this unclean and ancient tramp. Across a gap of years we two had met again on the steps of the shipping office at Port Louis, and, after explanations, he had suddenly slapped me on the back and cried, "What! going Home in a gilded steam-hotel? Why, we're sailing for London River the first thing in the morning. Now, why not come with me?' He assured me that I should thereby see life, save money, and be some one for him to talk to; and I had accordingly saved my money, and was now seeing life-as it is lived aboard a strictly utilitarian and economical tramp upon the high seas. I was finding it a life chock-full of interest-and discomfort.

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There were compensations, though. For instance, "Passengers are not allowed on this


deck " is a notice which bars one from the most desirable portions of any passenger ship; but this s.s. Wisby Hall was mine own, all of her, to do as I liked with. So I turned from that distressful cabin and climbed the ladder to the lower bridge in search of a draught of air. A cane chair creaked, and out of the darkness came the Skipper's voice. "Ah!" said he, "I can't sleep either. I think this is the coolest spot in the ship; but, if you want to get clear of the smell, the crow's-nest is the place."

"I'll never touch sugar again as long as I live," I grumbled. "It's making me feel sick, and I can't sleep. I only wish I'd known the ship was going to smell like this before I joined her. You ought to have told me, and then I shouldn't have come."

"Yes, it's pretty bad now it's started to sweat," said the Skipper. "It's a nasty cargo to live with is sugar-but I've known worse."

"I don't believe it," said I; and I fear the ill-humour caused by my bodily discomforts showed a little in my voice.

"Oh! You get used to sugar in time and don't notice it," said my host soothingly.

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There are worse cargoes-dye wood, for instance. I loaded a cargo of logs once at Puerto Caballos, and they fairly crawled with scorpions and spiders-not to mention snakes. You'd find 'em in your bunk. It was nasty. But even that

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Well, cattle are bad, too. So are sheep. The smell from them's so bad sometimes it almost blinds you. Really blinds you, I mean. It's the ammonia in their droppings, I think."

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Lord!" said I, "I'm beginning to feel glad we've only got sugar aboard."

"Yes. But I wasn't thinking of cattle," went on the Skipper. "It's human cargoes I don't like. Passengers are bad enough, and I wouldn't command a liner for any money. But it's a cargo of coolies we once had aboard this ship that I'm talking about. Chinese they were-800 of 'em-and they were the limit."

The Skipper paused for a little, and presently he surprised me by sighing profoundly in the darkness. I held my peace, and waited. But nothing happened, so I became diplomatic. They must have been bad," said I, "if the thought of them makes you feel like that still."

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"Bad!" said the Skipper, as if the adjective hurt him. Bad. Why, they were, without a doubt, the very toughest gang of roughs on record. If you sweep up the scrapings from the jails of all China, it stands to reason you are going to get a precious collection of bad eggs. And if, on top of

that, you go to work and sort was that, when the ships turned up, they just emptied their jails into them, thus getting rid of their criminals, saving

out the worst specimens from your collection, you can then be certain you have achieved a most notable concentration the expense of their keep, and Well-that's how my cargo of devils was raked up."

of thugs.

“But how-it doesn't seem reasonable," I exclaimed.

making an honest penny or so for themselves at one sweep. You can't beat a Chinaman at that sort of game. Well, that's how the dregs of China came to be dumped into the Transvaal. I've heard they were fine workers, though. They'd drill two holes in a shift against a Kaffir's one, and the mine people were mighty pleased with 'em. They'd escape from their compounds every now and again, of course, and then there'd be murder, robbery, and rape round and about Johannesburg for a bit. I have heard, too, that it paid to be popular with 'em if you worked below ground, on account of a playful habit they had of signalling Man coming' on the engine-room bell, and then sending up your severed head in the skip. They were tough, all right, but they did put their backs into their job, and the miners were mighty sorry when they had to send them all back again.

"Maybe not; but it happened anyhow," said the Skipper. "Very reasonably and simply, too, if it comes to that. You see, the gold mines on the Rand ran short of labour, because the simple Kaffir is a wise man, and he won't work unless he has to. He'd work until he'd earned enough to buy a wife to work for him, and then he retired smiling. The mine owners were silly enough to offer higher wages, thinking they'd attract more labour that way, I suppose; but the result was, of course, that the unmarried boys came in and earned their wife-money in less time than ever, and then they retired happy. After that the mines were in the cart -until somebody thought of recruiting labour in China. They went to the Chinese authorities for permission to recruit, and, you can believe me, the authorities were delighted. You know what the beggars are. They jumped at the chance. 'Yes,' they said. 'You bet. And, what's more, we will supply the men. send your ships and we'll fill 'em up with coolies-at so many dollars a head. You note the graft? The result they made trouble. They were



You remember that Chinese slavery fuss in the Home papers? I never quite got the true hang of it myself; but it seemed to me the mine people were happy, and so were the coolies. Apparently the Home politicians weren't, though; so those coolies had to be shipped back again. Some of them didn't want to go at all, and

mostly men who knew they'd do pretty well as they liked with be shot into prison the moment they landed in China, so you can't very well blame them for kicking. And I must say I don't blame the Chinese authorities either for wanting to make sure of those birds as soon as they arrived, for they weren't the kind of lads any authorities, even Chinese ones, would care to have loose about the country. The Peking Government didn't want 'em back at any price, and I believe they said so officially. In any case, what with one thing and another, the worst bunch of the lot, about eight hundred of 'em, were kept back till the last ship-load; and then, my luck being out as usual, this ship was chartered to load that unholy gang at Durban and take them to Ching-Wan-Tau. That's how I got the most infernal mob of toughs on record loaded on to me. I told you that at first, and you didn't believe it; but, as I said, the explanation's simple."

"I see," said I. "They must have been a handful. Did you have much trouble?"

"I did," replied the Skipper. "And I didn't have long to wait for it either. In fact, it started the moment the charterers took over the ship at Durban. They had to fit her up, of course, and they played Old Harry with her. Will you believe it, they actually pierced the 'tween deck plating in twenty-six different places-for latrine pipes! The terms of the charter-party allowed them to

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the ship, you see, and left me powerless to stop 'em. They fitted the after 'tween-decks solid with wooden bunks, and ran up four tiers of berths in Nos. 3 and 4 lower holds. They even built a hospital on top of the wheel-house aft; but, except for fixing a row of rice cookers the size of young donkey-boilers along both sides of No. 2 hatch, they left the fore end of the ship alone. Then they filled the main hold with stores, and put the ship down six inches by the head, and I went to the Agent and protested. I raised Cain. I said they'd made the ship unseaworthy, and the beggar just laughed at me. He said that six inches out of trim wouldn't hurt, and, anyhow, I'd have to lump it, because the fore part of the ship had to be kept absolutely clear of all coolies. 'If we were to give 'em a free run of the deck,' says he, 'it wouldn't be long before they'd take charge of the ship. You'd find them roosting in your bunk, Captain, and they'd certainly make trouble with your Lascar crew. They're dangerous men,' says he. 'They aren't safe, and that's a fact. And that's the reason we mean to make the after end of your ship a sort of prison for 'em. We're going to fit an eight-foot iron grill right across your deck amidships, and if you take my advice you won't let any of them get forward of it once you're out at sea.' Then he finished off by telling me that, instead of making

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