Some Other Fellow Would
Prefer Writing The Great American Novel To Winning The Water-Fight
Or Mastering The Horse.
Possibly the proudest achievement of my life, my moment of highest
living, occurred when I was seventeen.
I was in a three-masted
schooner off the coast of Japan. We were in a typhoon. All hands
had been on deck most of the night. I was called from my bunk at
seven in the morning to take the wheel. Not a stitch of canvas was
set. We were running before it under bare poles, yet the schooner
fairly tore along. The seas were all of an eighth of a mile apart,
and the wind snatched the whitecaps from their summits, filling.
The air so thick with driving spray that it was impossible to see
more than two waves at a time. The schooner was almost
unmanageable, rolling her rail under to starboard and to port,
veering and yawing anywhere between south-east and south-west, and
threatening, when the huge seas lifted under her quarter, to broach
to. Had she broached to, she would ultimately have been reported
lost with all hands and no tidings.
I took the wheel. The sailing-master watched me for a space. He
was afraid of my youth, feared that I lacked the strength and the
nerve. But when he saw me successfully wrestle the schooner through
several bouts, he went below to breakfast. Fore and aft, all hands
were below at breakfast. Had she broached to, not one of them would
ever have reached the deck.
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