Which sleep, though deep, did not last long – being interrupted by a forced entry to my cabin on the part of Cuffy McGraw. He was quite drunk; his eyes achieving the difficult feat of rolling each in different directions. Nevertheless, his physical presence was enough to put a gentleman recently woken at a considerable disadvantage. Certainly, if one took the pistol being pointed at my good self into account.
'Werrrzamoney, No-nor-nth... Mistuh!'
The prospect of the firearm being inadvertently discharged seemed imminent.
'Mr McGraw, I told....'
The ruffian let out a bellow whose concomitant exhalation would have rivalled the fire-power of the weapon wavering at my chest.
I kept my counsel, and waited for some more intelligible discourse.
He closed one eye and this had the beneficial effect of halting the rolling of its mate.
'Yuh gotta have it. We wuz tole!'
'Very well, very well. If you would just allow me to get dressed, Mr McGraw.'
Like many of the New-Worlders, the man proved to be somewhat prudish, and turned away. Perhaps he would not have done so, had he not been so inebriated. No matter; my knife travelled upwards through the nape of his neck, under the cranium and thereby solved the immediate problem. His pockets revealed little of interest to me, save a quantity of genuine silver dollars and a fine lace 'kerchief as might be carried by a lady. Naturally, it had become grubby in the hands of such a fellow, whilst the remains of an embroidered monogram were insufficent as to allow any conjecture as to the initial it had represented. It had a faint musky smell, as though a lady had used it in a more intimate fashion than customary, and for that reason I secreted it in a pocket of my clothes.
Dressed, with the waistcoat about my torso, I realised that it was strange that the poor fit of this garment had excited no attention, although for the most part the other clothes that I had purloined from Mr Northrup were more than passable. With some effort, I laid Cuffy McGraw's corpse on the bunk. The adjustments to his posture to enable this meant that few would mistake him for a sleeping drunk. Besides, the floorboards of the cabin still told a tale in spite of my efforts with McGraw's jacket.
It was my belief that the Grand Turk was to draw alongside in Hannibal during the early evening of the current day. Therefore, I resolved to enquire of the man on board most likely to have the right of it. At the Pilot House I was struck once more by the relative elegance of its appointments. There seemed altogether more fresh paint and shined brass than one might have expected. I gave a firm knock at the entrance, although both the Captain and Pilot had seen me approach, I was sure.
'C'mawn in, Northrup, ain't it?' the Captain bellowed.
The Pilot gave no more than the slightest flinch, although the Captain's mouth had been scarce inches from his ear.
The Pilot House was so warm as to be uncomfortable: indeed beads of sweat decorated the low forehead of Captain Holden Grey. No such concession to the heat was being made by the Pilot's mortal vessel. I imagined he would have been as little affected by the icebergs of the frozen North as the fire of Hades itself.
'Quite correct, Captain,' I said, ' I wonder if I might enquire as to our arrival in Hannibal. I mean to say, sir, at what time can we expect to come alongside.'
The Captain exhaled noisily, causing a flapping of lips like that of an exasperated horse.
'We-ell, cain't rightly say. We's s'posed tuh git there t'day, shore. But who knows, the Mississip' is as capreeshee-us as a un-marrit woman.'
I refrained from remarking that - in my experience - the boon of a husband was in no way a restraint on the capriciousness of women. In any event, the Captain – as I suspected he was in many things – was gainsaid by the Pilot.
'You'll be on dry land at a quarter after five this evenin', Mistuh.' and his expectoration struck the cuspidor with a sound between a slap and a clang, which punctuation put an end to any discussion of the matter.