World Travel – First Days as Jimmy Legs

THE ” bit of information ” furnished by the chief officer took half an hour for delivery. I had a lot of questions put to me, and then he began to ex-plain the duties of my position. ” There are three of you masters-at-arms,” he said, “and you are the policemen of the ship.” I started at this, for I hadn’t expected to join the police force, ashore or afloat. ” There are six watches of four hours each,” continued the mate, ” and you’ll have to go on from twelve to four in the afternoon and from twelve to four in the morning. While you’re on watch you’ll have to go up and down the decks and all over the ship. It’s your business to see that there’s no smoking between decks, no fire where it shouldn’t be, and no disturbance of any sort. You must see that the sailors obey the rules of the ship. They can’t bring any liquor on board, and if they try it, you’ll have to take it away from them. If you discover any fights in progress, you must step in and stop the trouble.” I began to think of the brawny seamen I had seen, and almost wished that I were back in New York instead of a police-man on board that transport. I somehow felt that if any fights were in progress, my safest place would be at the other end of the ship. Of course I didn’t mention my fears to the mate. I listened to what he had to say, and then saluted and left his cabin. He told me that if I wanted any further information I’d better see old Captain Casey, the chief master-at-arms. P> My Fellow Sailors

I was naturally anxious to see what my fellow officials were like, so I went below and asked for Mr. Casey. I found him in a tiny stateroom near the engine-room entrance. He appeared to be about seventy years old, and a more pleasant old man I never met anywhere. He was unwilling to talk about himself, but when I told him the mate had sent me, and I was a new master-at-arms, he softened considerably, and asked me to have a seat. I turned up a tin-pail I saw there and made myself as comfortable as might be, while the old man talked. ” Why,” he said, ” I never thought I’d have a mate as young as you, my boy. When you opened my door I thought you were one of the passengers sure, and I says to myself, says I, ‘ Them aristocrats is becomin’ familiar rather early in the trip.’ ” Mr. Casey talked in a pleasant Irish brogue, which was delightful to hear, and my heart warmed toward him as I thought that here at last was an officer whom I could easily understand. ” Didn’t you think I looked like a policeman?” I inquired, donning my cap. ” I was priding myself that I looked rather fierce.” ” Well,” laughed the master-at-arms in chief, ” I guess yez’ll do now that ye’ve a cap on. But in the beginnin’, if ye has occasion to use the handcuffs, just call on me. Two heads is better than one, and so is four hands better than two. I’m an old hand at the business, and none o’ the chaps tries to go any monkey-shines with me.” I lost no time in expressing my willingness to receive help with the handcuffs on any and every occasion. ” Ah, it isn’t a hard life,” said Mr. Casey, ” after ye’re once used to it. It’s the first few weeks as is hard, and in the beginnin’ ye’ll be wishin ye were back on Broadway. But ye’ll have as fine a mate in Timmie as ye could want for, and when ye’re acquainted with all the boys ye’ll get along famous.”

I was interested in the mention of Timmie, my mate, and inquired whether he was the other master-at-arms. Mr. Casey said he was and that he’d go out and find him, so that we could arrange our watches right away. He was gone only a minute, and came back with a fellow about nineteen years old. ” This is Timmie,” he said to me, ” and what may your name be, my lad? ” I told him that they could call me Harry. I shook hands with Timmie, and upon looking him over decided that he would be a very acceptable mate. He was clean, and refined in appearance, and he said that he’d be willing to help me in any way. ” I was green myself, once,” he said, ” and I know how it feels to be on a strange ship among strangers. Did the mate upstairs tell you what watch you’re to have?” I explained that I had been given the watch from twelve to four, afternoon and morning. ” Well,” said Timmie, ” you can take that one this week, and I’ll take it the next. We can have it turn about. A fellow can’t sleep much on that watch, but on the eight to twelve watch next week you can do better.” This kindness of Timmie’s touched me exceedingly, and I began to feel at home right away.

Learning Things

Mr. Casey said that the berth I ought to have to sleep in was being cleaned out, for good reasons, and that he didn’t know where I’d sleep at first. Timmie had bunked in with him, but there was hardly room for three in his little room, he said. He advised me to see the Quartermaster-Captain, and when I inquired in what way the Quartermaster-Captain differed from the regular sailing-master, he proceeded to explain one of the intricacies of the transport service. He said that the sailing-master fulfilled the duties of any ordinary ship’s captain, but the Quartermaster was an army captain, and was sent along to represent the War Department. He was in supreme authority, though he wasn’t supposed to interfere with the sailing department. ” It’s a wrong management, my boy,” said Mr. Casey. ” It’s as bad to have two captains on a ship as to have two first cooks in a kitchen, and I never yet was on a transport where the two o’ them wasn’t fightin more or less all through the voyage. Now the Quartermaster on this tub is the best o’ the two, and whenever ye want any favor ye’d better go to him. As regards the sailing-master, your safest plan will be to keep out of his sight as much as ye can. Ye don’t want to hunt no trouble by asking him for favors.”

I thanked the master-at-arms in chief for this valuable bit of information and hurried upstairs to find the Quartermaster.

Captain Logan was in his cabin, and he was in the good humor which I afterwards learned was his habitual state. He was a man who, believed in treating everyone the same, and in being as pleasant as possible on every occasion. He asked me to sit down in his cabin, and when I explained that I was the new master-at-arms, he examined me critically. ” You don’t look as though you’ve had much experience at sea,” he remarked. I told him that I had been twice to Europe. ” Oh,” he said, ” that’s only a little suburban trip compared to this voyage you’re embarked on now. It’ll be thirteen days before you see land at all, and we can scarcely arrive at Manila under ten weeks. You’re sure to get more sea experience now than you’ve ever had before.” I said that experience was what I was after, and Captain Logan laughed. When I told him that Mr. Casey didn’t have any place for me to sleep up forward, he immediately said there was plenty of room in the first cabin. ” You might as well have a bunk there as anywhere else,” he said, ” for they will only go empty throughout the trip. I’ll call my clerk and have him fix you up right away. If anyone says anything to you, you simply tell him that I gave you that berth. I reckon that’ll settle any trouble. The Major spoke to me about you in New York, and asked me to do everything I. could to give you a comfortable voyage.”

The Kindness of the Quartermaster

I went off with the clerk, feeling that everything was bound to be pleasant when Mr. Casey and Timmie and the Quartermaster were so kind. I was given a pleasant berth, and after depositing my suitcase there I hurried back again to Mr. Casey, for it was time to begin my first watch. He told me that there wasn’t so much to look after in the daytime as in the night. He said that I needn’t report to the bridge officer in the afternoon, and that the only thing necessary was to keep moving, and see that there was no smoking between decks and no unusual disturbance among the soldiers and sailors.

That first watch was a very interesting one. I had plenty of opportunity to observe the sailors, and I noticed that they were also observing me. None of them spoke to me, and answered me shortly when I addressed them. I decided they were waiting to find out more about me before offering me their friendship. Once, when my back was turned, a deck-hand called out, ” Hi there, jimmy Legs,” but when I swung round none seemed to have heard the remark. I couldn’t imagine why I should be called jimmy Legs, but Mr. Casey told me afterward that every master-at-arms is called that in the navy. When I visited the promenade deck I had a chance to observe some of the passengers. Beside the eight Congressmen there were several army officers and a number of army women, but the persons who interested me most were two boys about my own age. They looked to be agreeable fellows, and I wondered where they were going and for what purpose. It never occurred to me that we could be friends during the voyage, for I had learned already that a master-at-arms is an unimportant person, and I didn’t suppose I would have any opportunity to make friends among the passengers. These boys eyed me with some curiosity, and I wondered whether I looked so different from the others of the crew that they should notice me in this way.

I didn’t have much chance to exercise my authority during my first watch. My only discovery was a soldier smoking while lying in his bunk between decks. When I ordered him to smoke on deck he growled out something about ” young upstarts,” but I saw that he didn’t light any more cigarettes. Most of the recruits appeared to be nice fellows, and I didn’t anticipate any trouble from them during the voyage. Many of them came from Georgia and North Carolina, and were going out to join the twenty-sixth regiment of infantry in the Philippines. Some of them had never been away from home before, and they were almost spellbound at the sight of the limitless ocean stretching out before them.

At four o’clock, when my watch was over, I told Mr. Casey that I was going to lie down. I was already beginning to feel a little nauseated by the smells of the ship, and decided that I would be better off in my bunk than anywhere else. He said he would call me at midnight, when my next watch began. Everyone was surprised that I was willing to miss my supper, and while it was no surprise to me, I was thoroughly disgusted to think that I was to pass through the miseries of seasickness once again. On my return from my second trip to Europe I had been perfectly well all through the voyage, and had prided myself that I was at last free from the dreadful malady. It was humiliating, too, to suffer from such an illness just when all the sailors were watching me so closely.

Alone on Deck

I was dressed and on deck within ten minutes after Mr. Casey called me at a quarter of twelve. I heard the bells strike eight, then Timmie mounted the bridge and said to the officer there, ” All’s well below, sir.” In a minute the sailor in the crow’s nest sung out, ” Lights are burnin’ bright, sir.” The officer answered ” All right,” and then the watches changed. Timmie and Mr. Casey came to say good-night, and both offered to do my watch for me if I were ill, but I said I would be better off on deck than down below. In fact, I rather enjoyed being alone on the bare upper deck at that hour. I had plenty of chance to think over the events of the day and to consider what might be ahead of me in the days to come. I felt well satisfied with the results of my first day as master-at-arms, and was delighted to have found some companionable fellows as mates. I felt that I could have chosen none more satisfactory than Timmie and Mr. Casey. Evidently, too, the Quartermaster was anxious to make things pleasant, or he would never have given me that comfortable bunk, so altogether things were progressing very nicely. The only drawback to my present happiness was that dreadful seasickness, which almost made the future look dark before me. I made the round of the ship as best I could, but I could hardly bring myself to visit the soldiers’ sleeping quarters, where the air was hot and close. When two bells struck at one o’clock I mounted the bridge by a great effort and saluted the officer there. ” All’s well below, sir,” I said, in a thin, tired voice. The fourth mate came up and looked me in the face. ” Well,” he said, ” you don’t appear as if all is well below with you. I think you’d better call Mr. Casey and go back to bed until you’re feeling better.” I blushed in the dark and hurried down the ladder, but, of course, I didn’t go to bed. That would have been too weak a thing for a master-at-arms to do.