The Sandman: His Ship Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Unloading 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  had just got back from her first voyage to a far country, and she lay at that wharf. And the men had begun to take out of her all the many things that she had brought back from that far country. To do that some of the men had little low trucks, something like the little trucks that men use now to load steamers and freight cars, and they wheeled the little trucks up the long plank with little ups on it when the trucks were empty, and they ran down the plank with them when they were full. The little ups did not go all the way across the plank, but were only in the middle of it, so that the men could walk on them but they wouldn't be in the way of the wheels. And some of the men carried things on their backs, and some of them carried barrows without any wheels, one man at each end. And Captain Solomon saw to the unloading, and was very careful that they didn't break anything.

First they brought out the china dishes that Captain Jacob had bought for Lois. All the dishes and platters and plates and cups and saucers were packed in barrels, with straw around them, so that they wouldn't get broken. And a man took a barrel and got it carefully on a truck and walked down the plank with the truck, and over to one corner of the wharf. And when he got to that corner of the wharf, he took the barrel carefully off the truck and set it down. And pretty soon there was a procession of men going up one plank and down another with Lois's things, and they were all put in that corner of the wharf.

When the china dishes that had the houses and trees and birds painted on them in blue had all been taken off, they took the big boxes that had the tea-sets of delicate china in them, and the tea-pots of queer shapes. And those boxes were put with the barrels. And they took the little boxes that had the carved ivory images in them, and then they brought the tables that had the tops inlaid with ebony and ivory, and the tables of teak-wood, and the trays that were shiny black with birds and flowers painted on them in red and silver and gold. But they didn't take Lois's camel's hair shawl nor the piece to go around her neck, because Lois had taken them herself. And when the men had taken all of those things out, they had all the things that were Lois's, and they were all together in the corner of the wharf.


While those men were taking Lois's things out, other men were getting ready to empty the hold of the Industry. The hold is the place under the deck of a ship, nearest the bottom. The Industry  had only one deck in the middle part of her, so all that was under that deck was the hold. And there was a big square hole in the deck to get the things in and out. That hole is called the hatchway, and there is a strong cover to fasten over it when the ship is sailing.

These other men had fastened ropes to the yard and had swung the yard around so that the ropes were almost over the hatchway. The ropes were fastened so that it would be easier to hoist things up, in somewhat the same way that the men at the shipyard had hoisted the mast, to step it, when the ship was built. Then they lowered the end of the rope down into the hold, and some men who were down there fastened it around a lot of the chests of tea, and the men on deck hoisted, and the tea came up, slowly, until it was high enough. Then they swung it over the side, and let it down upon the wharf. And some men undid the rope, and they were ready to hoist something else.

And so they did, until the hold of the Industry  was all emptied. Some of the things they could not let down upon the wharf, and those things the men took down on their little trucks. They took out the tea, and the chests of camphor-wood and the chests of cedar and the spices in great packages. And they took out the images carved out of ivory; and those had been packed carefully in boxes. And they took out the little trays and tables of lacquered wood, and the tables of ebony and ivory and teak-wood. And, last of all, they took out the logs of teak-wood. But the camel's hair shawls and the cloth of goat's hair were not in the hold, but had been put in chests of camphor-wood and kept in the cabin.

At last the Industry  was all unloaded, and she floated higher in the water than she had done, for all those things were heavy. And Captain Solomon sent for a big wagon. And the wagon came down the steep hill on the narrow road on to the wharf, and Captain Solomon had it back up to the place where the men had put all the things that were Lois's. But the things that were Captain Jonathan's and Captain Jacob's, the men carried up to their office on the little trucks. And Captain Jonathan and Captain Jacob were there, and they saw all the things and told the men where to put them.

The men who had come with the wagon loaded all the things that were Lois's upon the wagon. There were so many of them that they couldn't get them all on, but they had to come again for another load. And when the wagon was loaded, the men started the horses and the horses pulled very hard, and away they went up the steep hill and to Captain Jacob's house, and there was Lois. She had the men unload the wagon, and unpack the things in the yard. And the servants carried the things into the house very carefully, and put them where Lois had told them to.

First, they carried all the platters and the plates and the vegetable dishes and the cups and the saucers, that had trees and houses painted on them in blue, into the kitchen and the pantry. There were a great many of these dishes, and they filled up all the tables and all the chairs, and some of them had to be put on the floor. Then two maids washed and wiped them, and there were so many dishes that it took them a long time; but when they were all washed, the picture that was painted on the platters and the plates and the vegetable dishes and the cups and the saucers was all pretty and shiny, so that it could be seen plainly. It was a picture that showed a Chinese house, that is queer and not like our houses; and there was a funny little hump-backed bridge over some water, and two people were on that bridge. And there were some queer looking trees and two birds were in the air over the two people. It was a Chinese fairy story that the picture told, and some day you may learn what the two people were there for, and why they were changed into the two birds. Some of those very platters and plates and cups and saucers are in that little city still, in a china closet in the house that was once Captain Jacob's and Lois's.


They filled up all the tables and all the chairs.

And, when the dishes were washed, a maid brought them and put most of them in the great china closet in the dining- room. The china closet was double and it took up nearly the whole side of the room. And it had two sets of doors, one on the right and one on the left, and each of the four doors had funny little panes of glass that were diamond-shaped; but they were all over the doors except a little round place at the top, so that the china that was in the closet showed when the doors were shut.

And the maid put the vegetable dishes and the dinner plates on the lowest shelves of the closet, and she stood the platters up on edge behind them. And on the next shelves she put the plates for soup and the breakfast plates of all kinds and the supper plates. And then she put in most of the cups and the saucers and the tea-pots and the sugar bowls and the cream pitchers. But there were two platters and two soup tureens that were too big to go in that closet, anywhere. And those she put on the top of the great mahogany sideboard, because she didn't know where else to put them. And there they stood for a long time, beside the cream pitcher and the tea-pot and the sugar bowl made of silver. This cream pitcher and the tea-pot and the sugar bowl were Lois's own, and they were old, even then, for they had been her grandmother's. Between the platters, in the middle of the sideboard, stood the wine glasses and the two decanters, that were Captain Jacob's; and the decanters were kept filled with wine.

When the maid had got all these dishes put away in the dining-room, Lois told her to bring a tea-pot and a sugar bowl and a cream pitcher and two cups and saucers, that were a part of that set that had the fairy story painted on each piece, up to her room. And while the maid was getting the things, Lois went up-stairs to get a place ready for them.

In Lois's room was a great mahogany bedstead. It didn't have any springs because they didn't make springs to beds then, but it was corded, instead. That is, there was a rope wound around pegs in the sides and the ends, back and forth; and on the cords there was a mattress stuffed with corn husks. This mattress was pretty hard but it didn't have any lumps in it, so it didn't matter that it was hard, for on top of it was a great feather bed. And at each corner of the bed carved posts went up almost to the ceiling, and across the top of the four posts was a canopy, that had curtains hanging down. The curtains were drawn back now, for it was summer; but on winter nights and mornings it was very cold in that room, for people didn't have furnaces in houses then, and when there was a fire it was covered at night, so that it didn't heat the room much. A good deal of the time Lois didn't have a fire, because it took so long to get the room warmed that she was dressed long before it got warm. So she needed to have the curtains about the bed in the winter. And, at the head of the bed, hung a warming-pan. Inside the warming-pan they put coals from the fire, and they used to slide it in the bed, between the sheets, to warm the bed.


And there was a mahogany bureau and a dressing-table, and above the dressing-table hung a Dutch mirror. And, beside the bed, was a little square mahogany sewing-table, with two drawers and with a leaf on each side that would lift up and make the table bigger. And, on the other side of the bed, was a little three-legged table with the top turned up on a hinge. That table was mahogany, too, and the top was an oval shape.

And Lois came, and she went to the little table that had the top turned up, and she turned down the top, so that it was flat, and when she had turned it down, there was a spring bolt that fastened it so that it could not tip and so that none of the things which were put on it could slide off. And she put a napkin on the top, and then the maid came in with one of the trays that was shiny black with birds and flowers painted on it, in red and silver and gold. And on the tray were the tea-things which Lois had told her to bring. And she put the tray down on the little oval top of the table, and went away. But Lois stood for a long while, looking at the little table with the tray and the tea-things on it, and thinking how pretty it all was. And she happened to think that she hadn't any tea.

"Well, I never!" said Lois. And she gave a little laugh, and she called to the maid to bring a little caddy of tea—a china caddy that belonged with those things. And presently the maid came, and she brought a little china tea-caddy, that had the same picture painted on it, in blue. And she set it down and went away, and pretty soon Lois went downstairs again.

Then the maids asked where they should put the other things. And Lois had them carry the tea-set of delicate china into the parlor and she took it herself and put the thin, pretty cups and saucers and the pitchers and the sugar bowl into an ebony case, that Captain Jacob had there. There were doors to the case, so that Lois thought the delicate china would not get broken. And she put some of the tea-pots made in the shape of dragons and queer beasts in the parlor and some she put in the sitting-room.

And the little tables of teak-wood and ebony and ivory she put wherever she could find room for them—some in the parlor and some in the sitting-room. But there was one little table for chess-playing, and that she had put in the sitting-room by Captain Jacob's chair, for he liked to play chess in the evening, and Lois had to play with him, whether she wanted to or not. That table had its top inlaid with ivory and ebony in little squares, first a black square then a white square; and around the squares went two thin lines of black and white. But the top of the table was round, so that the man who made it had put a pattern in black and white in the round parts beyond the squares.

And Lois put the image of the procession of elephants, that was carved out of a great tusk, on the mantel-piece in the parlor, between the two brass candlesticks that stood there, one on each corner. But the squatting idol, that Lois thought was very ugly, she put on a shelf at one side of the parlor, beside some great shells that Captain Jacob had.

At last, she had all the things put away somewhere, and she was very tired.

And it was almost supper time. So she went up to her room to get ready, and then she sat down to wait for Captain Jacob.

And that's all.