The Sandman: His Ship Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Fitting Story

O NCE upon a time there was a wide river that ran into the ocean, and beside it was a little city. And in that city was a wharf where great ships came from far countries. And a narrow road led down a very steep hill to that wharf, and anybody that wanted to go to the wharf had to go down the steep hill on the narrow road, for there wasn't any other way. And because ships had come there for a great many years, and all the sailors and all the captains and all the men who had business with the ships had to go on that narrow road, the flagstones that made the sidewalks were much worn. That was a great many years ago.

The river and the ocean are there yet, as they always have been and always will be; and the city is there, but it is a different kind of a city from what it used to be. And the wharf is slowly falling down, for it is not used now; and the narrow road down the steep hill is all grown up with weeds and grass.

One day, in the long ago, the brig Industry  lay at that wharf, and she had been unloaded and the things that she had brought from the far country had been put away in the great warehouse that was Captain Jonathan's and Captain Jacob's, and some of the things had been taken to Captain Jacob's house. Captain Solomon was the captain of the Industry.

Now Captain Solomon thought that the ship ought to have some new things before she started out on another voyage, for some of the sails were not so strong as they ought to be, and some of the ropes had been used so much that they were beginning to be frayed and old. The sails and the ropes had been strong and good when she first sailed on the voyage to the far country; but the sails had been blown upon by the winds of the great ocean for almost a year, and the ropes had been pulled and hauled and they had been wet with rains and with the water of the ocean, and they had been chafed by the blocks where they ran through them so often, and Captain Solomon thought there was danger that they wouldn't last through the whole of another long voyage. A great deal depends upon the strength of the sails and the ropes and the spars.

So he went to the sailmakers and told them that he would like to have them come and measure the Industry  for some new sails. And the sailmakers heard him, and said that they would come. And they came and measured the ship for what new sails she needed, and then they went back to the sail-loft and began to make them.

And Captain Solomon went to the riggers of ships, and he told them that he would like to have them come and take down all the yards of the Industry, and get ready to rig her with new running rigging. The shrouds and the stays were strong and good. And she might need some new yards, for some of the old yards might be strained or cracked. And the riggers heard him, and they said that they would come. And they came, and they took down all the yards, and they took out all the ropes that the sailors pull and haul on, that are called the running rigging, and they took down the very tip-topmasts, for they found that these top-gallant-masts had been cracked in the storm that the Industry  went through, on her voyage to the far country. And they began to make new yards to take the place of those that were strained, and they made new masts to go in the place of the tip-topmasts. And when these were done they would fit the iron straps and bands and rings that belonged.

While the sailmakers and the riggers of ships were busy in making the new things for the Industry, Captain Solomon had her taken to the marine railway. This was very near the wharf where she had been lying, so that the men could pull her to it with ropes. There was a great cradle with wheels that went on a track right down into the water, and it could be pulled up, out of the water, with great ropes. And the men got the Industry  over the cradle when it was let down. They did this at high tide; and the tide fell, and the ship settled into the cradle as the water got lower, and the men pushed and pulled her until she was right, and they braced her firmly to the cradle so that she couldn't fall over.

When the men had got her braced firmly enough, two horses were started going round and round, up at the head of the railway, winding the rope in very slowly. And the cradle started going up, very slowly indeed, with the ship on it. And in two or three hours she was all out of the water and far enough up. Then the men could look at her bottom and could fix anything that needed to be fixed. There wasn't much to do, for the Industry  was a new ship; but they took off some of the copper sheets which had got torn, and they put new sheets of copper in their places, and they put in new copper nails where the old nails had got pulled out. And when they saw that there wasn't anything more to be done, they let the ship slowly down into the water again, and she was pulled back to the wharf that was Captain Jonathan's and Captain Jacob's.

Then the riggers came, and they got the new masts, that had been made, up to their places, and they got the yards up. And they put in new ropes for the sailors to pull and haul, and they got the ship all rigged excepting for her sails, and when they had done all that they could they went away.

While the riggers were doing their work, Captain Solomon had had men loading the Industry. The things that she was to carry, on her next voyage, had come, and a part of them were already on the wharf. And the men took their little trucks, and they began to go, in a procession, up one plank, pushing the loaded trucks, and down the other, dragging the empty trucks behind them but when they came down, with the empty trucks, they ran. And other men had the rope arranged for hoisting, and what could be hoisted they hoisted up from the wharf and let down through the hatchway. And more things kept coming until there was as much as the Industry  could carry, and the men kept putting them in the ship, and by the time the riggers had their work all done the ship was almost all loaded.


They began to go, in a procession, up one plank . . . and down the other.

Then the sailmakers came with the sails, and they put them on, each in its place, and when they were all on, they furled them nicely, up against the yards. And the sailmakers went away. And Captain Solomon saw that the Industry  was all ready to sail on another voyage as soon as he had got his crew, and as soon as he had the things to eat and the water that they would drink. But those things were left until the very last. And Captain Solomon was glad; for, at that time, he wasn't married, and he didn't care about staying ashore, but he was looking forward to his voyage as captain.

And that's all.