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A Fleet in Being, Rudyard Kipling None but the Irish can properly explain away failure. We left with our dozen fingerlings, under the impression—Mister Cornelius Crowley gave it—that we had caught ten-pounders. CHAPTER V So home, blown through and through with fresh air; sore with hanging on to the car and laughing at nothing; to dine with two Cruiser Captains aboard one of the big fleet-rams. My hosts had been friends since their _Britannia_ days (it is this uniformity of early training that gives to the Navy its enduring solidarity), and, one reminiscence leading to another, I listened enchanted to weird yarns in which Chinese Mandarins, West Coast nigger Chiefs, Archimandrites, Turkish Pashas, Calabrian Counts, dignity balls, Chilian beachcombers, and all the queer people of the earth were mingled. ‘But it’s a lonely life—a lonely life,’ said one. ‘I’ve commanded a ship since Eighty something, and—you see.’ How could one help seeing? Between the after-cabin and the rest of the world (with very few exceptions) lies the deep broad gulf that is only overpassed by sentries, signalmen, and subordinates entering with reports. A light tap, a light foot, a doffed cap, and—‘Rounds all correct, sir.’ Then the silence and the loneliness settle down again beyond the hanging red curtain in the white steel bulkhead. Herman Melville has it all in _White Jacket_, but it is awesome to see with bodily eyes.


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