I was aroused by a motion not of the ship, and a hoarse whisper in my ear: ‘Turn out, you are wanted in the cabin.
The skylight is stove in and the cabin is flooded, and the water is up nearly to the grating in the boiler room.
It is four o'clock, and the devil to pay generally.’
The occasion didn't seem to demand an elaborate toilet, so in the pitchy night I quickly groped my way to the cabin, and as I stepped from the companion-way into the swirling suds that swished half way up the bulkhead, the scene struck me as indescribably funny.
Officers sat about the table looking as though they had lost their best friend.
Saluting, I said (unwisely, no doubt), ‘Gentlemen, this looks very much like a fashionable watering-place.’
Whereupon one with somewhat of cant in his tone said, ‘This is no time for frivolity or jesting.’
Looking at the chevron on my sleeve, I made no audible reply, but to the bucket bearers I said, sotto voce, ‘They are in for how long?’
‘Well, we will bail them out, anyway,’ at which a broad smile broke out and went echoing down the cabin; and then we all ‘turned to,’ each one steering his own bucket.
An hour or so later I saw my frivolous friend making for the stairs.
‘After you, sir,’ rose to my lips, and halted there, while I preceded him up the winding stairs, letting my bucket, as the ship rolled, steer itself.
As I reached the deck the orderly looked in my bucket and asked, ‘Where is your water?’
‘In the chaplain's starboard boot—will explain later,’ I replied.
At sea, accidents sometimes occur in pairs or in sets
When I returned to the cabin I found a dapper little lieutenant issuing orders—forgetting that he was not commander-in-chief of the army and navy.
I stood at attention, and was about to quote a passage from an ancient volume, for I knew something was going to happen.
Just then a sea struck the ship under the counter, lifted her endwise, and dropped her so suddenly that the would-be commander sat down, in his best clothes, in the not over-clean water.
I turned my head to wipe away tears—or was it the dirty water he had splashed in my face?—and then sympathetically remarked, ‘You have dropped something, sir.’