He came aboard at Loraine, Ohio, a small, thin man who despite the hundred degree August heat was dressed in a dark wool suit, with the coat buttoned, and who wore a tie, a white shirt, and a gray wool cap. Swede spotted him first.
“Look here,” he said.
It was about the sixtieth time Swede had stopped work and said look here in the past ten minutes, but I looked anyway, since I didn’t enjoy shoveling drop ore any more than he did, and the two of us watched the stranger come up the deck. He carried a small cardboard suitcase in one hand, a slip of paper in the other. He came to a halt in front of us and read from the paper:
“Captain James F. Stanton.”
“He’s up in the wheelhouse,” I told him.
“The wheelhouse,” I said, and pointed up the deck. “That white shack up there.”
He looked at the wheelhouse out of eyes that were gray, flat, and hard, like pieces of chipped flint, and then folded the paper and placed it in his inside pocket. In the worn but neatly pressed and brushed suit he looked like a country man come to town for a funeral or a wedding—not like any sailor I had seen, even on the Lakes.
“You the new deckhand?” Swede asked.
Instead of replying the stranger picked up the suitcase and started up the deck, walking with the flat-footed, slightly lurching gait of a man accustomed to spending long hours on his feet.
“Hey,” Swede shouted.
The stranger stopped and looked back at us.
“If you’re the new deckhand, you hadn’t ought to bother the Capt’n,” Swede said. “Just take your hiring slip to the First Mate. Name’s Larsen. You’ll likely find him in that cabin there to the starboard; the right.”
“Written here I report to the master of the vessel,” the stranger said evenly.
“Yeah, but that’s just the hiring slip. They all say that. That don’t mean—” Swede suddenly shut his mouth, picked up his shovel, and began throwing ore back into the hold; I thought he had gone crazy for a second, until I heard Larsen’s voice, close by, and then I got busy with my own shovel.