PART TWO: The Sea-cook
Chapter 10: The Voyage
Aboard ship he carried his crutch by a lanyard round
his neck, to have both hands as free as possible. It
was something to see him wedge the foot of the crutch
against a bulkhead, and propped against it, yielding to
every movement of the ship, get on with his cooking
like someone safe ashore. Still more strange was it to
see him in the heaviest of weather cross the deck. He
had a line or two rigged up to help him across the
widest spaces--Long John's earrings, they were called;
and he would hand himself from one place to another,
now using the crutch, now trailing it alongside by the
lanyard, as quickly as another man could walk. Yet
some of the men who had sailed with him before
expressed their pity to see him so reduced.
"He's no common man, Barbecue," said the coxswain to
me. "He had good schooling in his young days and can
speak like a book when so minded; and brave--a lion's
nothing alongside of Long John! I seen him grapple
four and knock their heads together--him unarmed."
All the crew respected and even obeyed him. He had a
way of talking to each and doing everybody some
particular service. To me he was unweariedly kind, and
always glad to see me in the galley, which he kept as
clean as a new pin, the dishes hanging up burnished and
his parrot in a cage in one corner.
"Come away, Hawkins," he would say; "come and have a
yarn with John. Nobody more welcome than yourself, my
son. Sit you down and hear the news. Here's Cap'n
Flint--I calls my parrot Cap'n Flint, after the famous
buccaneer--here's Cap'n Flint predicting success to our
v'yage. Wasn't you, cap'n?"
And the parrot would say, with great rapidity, "Pieces
of eight! Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!" till you
wondered that it was not out of breath, or till John
threw his handkerchief over the cage.