Back aboard the Regular Vein
It was Friday morning, and the seas were choppy and breezy, and the blue sky was field to a huge rank and file of puffy clouds. All creation, from top to bottom, was marching west by northwest, and not a speck of land in sight. The hands on duty were doing just that - their duty - and precious little more; not much special attention being required in these regular seas, on this regular ship.
All of a sudden, the Port-Sands Mariner came busting out of the forecastle, rolling up his sleeves and whistling, and looking around for someone with some spare time and a fresh ear. Everyone was instantly busy as soon as they saw him. Foget, scrubbing the deck, fell to it with renewed focus. The others were calling to each other and swinging about on the rigging with their long lemur-like arms. One fellow was repairing some tackle, and instantly remembered that he needed a small kind of a hack-saw that he had left down below. None of this was lost on Port-sands.
“Why all the fuss all of a sudden, hey? It an’t so blowy out here as to ratterfy all this fuss! Stand down, there! Don’t you know what is good for you? Come here and learn from one of your betters! Y’hear!”
“Bark harder, wharf-hound! We’re not home!” shouted Bill Norr, heartily amused by his own pun. “Wharf! Wharf!”
“You heathen disgrace!” A pause and a furious search for a repartee. “There’s not a regular vein in your body!” Loud guffaws from the opposition. “Heave to, lads, in-deed,” muttered Port-Sands. “You’d think there was a squall on. I’ll be blowed if it’s so blowy as all that.”
Standing away up on the quarterdeck, the silhouette of the captain and first mate could be seen against the bright eastern sky of the morning, looking for all the nation like wooden fixtures of the ship, as it heaved up and down with the waves. “It’s no good, Mr. Port-sands,” called out the first mate. “It’s nice out. No one wants to listen to your yarns today. It’s not human nature. It would be a waste of the outdoors. And besides, it’s creditable in you that you inspire them to such diligence.”
“‘Diligence!’ It’s only their slothful indolent natures setting them on to working so! ‘Diligence’ my eye…” Port-sands strode over into the forecastle and his bunk.
After a short while, he reappeared on deck, carrying some pants and a sewing kit. He sat down next to where Foget was scrubbing. He tightened his lips and started away with thread and needle. Foget was smiling to himself; Port-sands just kept his eye on his work. “You know what’s wrong on this ship?” he began. “Consideration. There’s nobody up there has the smallest, most metric pint of consideration. I’m not just talking about affable helpful considerate; I mean the genuine general article of thoughtfulness.
“Take this ship, for instance. Where are we headed? West-northwest. Why? Nobody knows. Does anyone care? If they did, they’d ask questions about it; they’d be curious. They’d have a appetite for hearing about what we may run into. They’d want to hear from someone who’d been there before. They’d pay attention. They’d mark a fellow’s words and not mind whether it was nice outside. They’d master their passions. But see, they don’t consider it. Consideration. And there’s only two ways to see that clear, if they really have none of it.
“One, simpleness. It isn’t in their capacity, maybe? But they can play checkers, and almost every one of em could read and write the log on this mouldy boat! So much to say for number one. Two, they choose not to think on it. It’s the only alternative. So there you are. They choose to stop their ears, which is a inexcusary point of willful sinful indolence in them, and so I affirm it when I say they redouble their work out of sheer slothfulness.
“But why won’t they think on it? Well only consider. Where are we headed? West-northwest. Are we pushing ourselves that way or are we being a-pushed? Why, being pushed, of course. All creation is going thataway. The wind is going west-northwest, the waves are going west-northwest, and the clouds are going - west-northwest also. What can we do about it? Not much. We can swing a few points either way, but there’s no way of going back, not unless all creation goes back too. If you thought on it long, you’d realize we can’t very well go anywhere of our own accord; we’re only tagging along. A frightening thought for a green mind, and that’s to say nothing of exactly what port we’ll land at and what the accounts will look like when we get there.”
Nobody never did anything by halves on that ship, not even morning conversation. And Port-sands was their figurehead, and he did put life into them, with his every noise and gesture. He was a motion picture, a living portrait. You could take a photograph of him at any instant, and any museum would pay a thousand dollars for it - but only because they wouldn’t have been able to hear him speaking.
“Look at the white teeth of the captain, away up on deck there! Why doesn’t he ever stop grinning!”
“There’s nothing so contagious in a boat as rivets going.”
— Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)