World Travel - Last Days on the Transport
( Originally Published 1903 )
MR. CASEY and Timmie, and everyone else, agreed that it was simple meanness which caused Captain Linder to make me help with checking off freight. That is a part of the master-at-arms' duties, to be sure, but there were a number of applicants for my position, and any one of them could have done the work as well as I. So long as I was anxious to have my freedom, the Captain might have made a new appointment at once, and given me my discharge.
The removal of the freight began on the very day of our arrival. A troop of Filipinos, in cascoes, came out to act as porters, the hatches were all opened, and the army supplies were transferred to the cascoes as fast as Timmie and Mr. Casey and I could check them off. One of the bridge quartermasters checked at the Number 4 hatch, and with all four of the holds being emptied at once, it looked as though we might finish the work within a week. The sun was very hot, and there wasn't much fresh air in the holds, so the work of checking wasn't exactly pleasant. I was willing to keep at it day and night, however, if doing so would enable me to gain my discharge any sooner. About dark, however, on this first day, it began to rain, and the Filipinos immediately started for shore in their cascoes. They declined absolutely to work in the wet. When I saw that nothing further could be done, I told Mr. Casey that I was going ashore without asking permission of anyone. " I'm not afraid of being put off the ship, now," I said, " and if they want to make a row about my absence, they can do it. I'm going to get my mail from home, and as soon as I've done that, I'll come back again."
A Night Visit to Manila
So I called a banco, or canoe, and was rowed into the mouth of the Pasig River. The water was quite rough in the bay, and it looked several times as if the boat might be upset, but this only added to my enjoyment of the adventure I was having. It was much more exciting to land in the Philippines without permission than to do so in the regular way, and I felt like some explorer who had just escaped his captives. The city didn't appear to have any too many lights, and the rain gave everything a dreary appearance, so I didn't feel any great desire to stay in Manila longer than was necessary. The boatman landed me at a wharf, and I had no difficulty in finding a carriage-driver who understood English. I gave him the address to which I had my letters sent, and told him to drive there as quickly as possible.
After about fifteen minutes the carriage stopped in front of a building which bore the familiar letters Y. M. C. A., and I knew that I was all right. I went inside and asked for my mail, and when I had received it I started out again. The secretary in charge, who knew that I was coming, wanted to know if I wasn't going to stay, now that I had arrived. Well," I explained, " I haven't really arrived yet, since I was ordered to remain on board the transport. But I am visiting Manila incognito, so to speak, and will have to return to the ship this evening." He warned me about the danger of the bay being rough after dark, and said I must be careful what boatman I hired.
A Dangerous Trip
At the wharf I tried to find the same boatmen who had brought me in, but they had disappeared, and I had to content myself with a couple of men who looked anything but pleasant. They agreed to row me out for a dollar Mex., which is fifty cents in American money. We started bravely, but when we rounded the end of the breakwater, I saw that the waves were even higher than when I landed, and that there was real danger that we might be swamped. The boatmen then began a little drama which they acted to a most successful finish. They pretended to be almost exhausted by the tremendous effort they were making, and finally they stopped altogether. This frightened me, for the waves tossed the banco about as if it were only a feather. I could see the McClellan's lights gleaming about half a mile away, and for once I wished myself on board. One of the boatmen began to talk in broken English. I could understand only about half of what he said, but I realized its meaning. He said that they would have to turn back unless I would agree to give them two dollars then and there. I saw by their expressions that they were in earnest, and I knew that I was altogether in their power, so I handed out the money. This was what they wanted, so they picked up their oars and went ahead as if nothing had happened. When we came alongside the transport I thought the canoe would never get up to the gangway, on account of the heavy sea; but after a time I gave a leap and grasped the side ropes. I was in water up to my waist before I could climb up the steps, but I didn't notice that at all, after my exciting experience. Mr. Casey said that he didn't expect me back at all that night, and that I was very foolish to risk being upset in order to be on hand for the morning work.
None of the officers appeared to know anything of my taking " French leave " and the next day the checking went on as usual, and we worked until mid-night. At supper time, when I had a few moments on deck, I could see the carriages driving on the Luneta, and the crowds of people attending a band concert there. I thought of what a good time Howard and Kenneth Eddy must be having, and it seemed harder than ever to be obliged to remain on board the ship. The days passed more slowly than at any time during the long voyage from New-York. We worked up to midnight every day, and the only encouragement I had was to see the piles of merchandise decreasing hourly, as they were sent ashore. It seemed to me that there were canned goods enough to last the whole army in the Philippines for years to come, and candy sufficient to sweeten the water of Manila Bay. There were army wagons, too, and supplies for the hospital corps, to say nothing of thousands of bags of oats. We never suspected that there could be such quantities of things stored in the hold of the old McClellan, and we realized for the first time that she had some other object in coming to Manila than to bring out the Congressmen.
Free at Last
When a week had passed there was very little remaining to be checked, and on the eighth day I told Captain Linder that I had done my duty and now wanted my discharge. He had nothing to say, but sent me to the first officer, and when that gentleman filled out the blank by saying that my conduct was " very good," I almost fainted. I had every expectation that he would put me down, " bad " or " indifferent," and this commendation was all the more welcome because it was unexpected. When I had the discharge safely in my pocket, and had received the money which was due me from the Quartermaster's clerk, I went down to the little hole next to the engine-room to get my belongings together. Timmie was there to help me, and so many of the sailors crowded into the space that I could hardly move. Old Dan Driscoll brought me a fine canvas bag in which I could carry things that I couldn't crowd into the suit-case. It was an excellent piece of workmanship, and something which I hope to keep always. " Now," he said, when he gave it to me, " you are a sure enough sailor. You've got your discharge and you've got a sailor's bag, and I don't know, by jiminy, but what you've got a sailor's walk, as . well." Everyone laughed at this, but there was some truth in the remark. I had observed myself, when I went ashore, that I had the jackie's swagger, and I felt rather proud of it. It was only natural that I should have some of a sailor's ways, after three months in the forward deck.
There were tears in my eyes when I thought that I was really leaving the old ship for the last time, and there was no telling when I would see my sailor, friends again. Mr. Casey was the one I would miss most during the next few weeks, and I couldn't be sure of seeing him, "even in Manila, because he went ashore so seldom. Timmie gave me his promise that he would get his discharge on the first of the month, which would come in a week. He had fully decided to throw in his fortunes with mine, and go home with me across the Pacific, after we had visited Japan and China.
I said farewell to the McClellan about six o'clock in the evening, when the crew was at supper. I hoped to get away without them seeing me, because I knew there would be a lot of noise and a consequent loss of temper on the part of the officers. But Mike, the messman, saw me as I was going down the gang-way, and immediately the rail was lined with my friends. They all had some farewell advice to give me, and there were numerous hopes that we'd all meet again in New York at Christmas time. I'm sure most of the men were as sorry to have me go as I was to leave them behind, and I could see them waving at me until my canoe rounded the breakwater and the transport was out of sight.
A Cloud with a Silver Lining
I certainly felt relieved to know that I had my discharge safe in my pocket, and that I was done with my life as master-at-arms. I was wearing one of the Singapore duck suits and a straw-hat, so that none would ever know that I had been a petty officer, and I felt as if I wanted to forget that I had ever been on a ship in my life. I had a lonely feeling, too. New York seemed very, very far away, as I looked about and saw the tropical scenery and the low-roofed buildings of the Philippine capital, and I wondered what further adventures would be mine before I was privileged to walk down Broadway again. Nature seemed to celebrate the evening on which I gained my freedom, for there was one of the most gorgeous sunsets I ever witnessed. The whole western sky was indescribably beautiful, and the colors were such as are never seen in more northern climes. T decided at once that I would surely like a place where there were such displays of color, and everything that I saw during my first evening in Manila pleased me very much. The scene in the Pasig River, which was crowded with boats of every description, reminded me of the busy Thames in London, and when I left the wharf and started about the city to find a lodging, I found everything I saw to be of interest. What particularly delighted me was the number of Americans I saw in the streets. Of course the natives largely predominated, but there were a sufficient number of soldiers and civilians to make me feel more at home than in any city we had visited since leaving New York.
I visited two or three places which had advertised lodgings to let, and didn't find any of them sufficiently reasonable in price, so I was feeling rather discouraged, when all at once someone yelled, Hello, there, Jimmy Legs." I looked around, and there were Howard and Kenneth Eddy, running after me down the street. " I thought you were coming to see us just as soon as you landed," said Howard. I told him that I thought I'd better find myself a bed before I made any calls. " Well, we've got a bed for you," he said, " and mother wants you to come right to our house. We've told her all about how you're working your way around the world, and she says that you've got to stay with us as long as you're in Manila."
This was better fortune than I expected to find in far-off Manila, and when I reached the Eddy's pleasant home that evening, and was made as welcome as an old friend, I decided that darkest clouds do really have silver linings.