No, these waters were not the home of The Lulling Lullaby. No, not at all. Its narrow, rather smallish deck had but one cabin in the back, its high-rising rump got whipped by the Arctic sea like an insolent dog.
Something banged furiously.
In the silence that followed, only the rain hammered its incessant little sounds into the consciousness of all present. Apart from one, they all held themselves at loops of rope dangling from the low ceiling.
Another bang. Captain Blackpants, steam rising from under his hat, glared at his right hand which looked swollen and red. His eyes turned to the group of men in front of him.
“Yer was sayin’, Ralphie?”
A broad-shouldered man took a step forward, cap in hand.
“Again, sir, we think, we may have steered off course.”
“What makes yer tink dat?”
“Well, captain, we are too far to the West. I can see it on our instruments. Svalbard is this way. Besides, I would like to point out that we seem to not be equipped with the right clothes for the particular climate outside this cabin. Really, why are we here? It’s freezing.”
At this, the group of seamen behind Ralphie started murmuring in agreement. They stopped when they saw rum and spit trickling out from between Captain Blackpants’ trembling lips. Even a piece of chewed flesh found its way out and down into the man’s beard. Captain Blackpants swallowed.
“So”, he began slowly, “yer tink I done made a mistake, matey?”
“Well, sir, you do not seem to heed the advice of the compass. It does show us where North is.”
Captain Blackpants stood up slowly, supporting his bulk on two plate-like hands. His panting filled the cabin with the stink of rum and meat. He got right into Ralphie’s face.
“Dat’s all good and well, but I sees wiff me own eyes the Duck’s Head yonder. Eyes or instruments? Why are yer not at the wheel? Yer freeze, dat’s why! Standing here like a pack of dogs.”
Captain Blackpants marched through his crew and left the cabin. The crew listened to his footsteps as he clambered onto the aft deck on top of the cabin and placed himself behind the steering wheel. Slowly, they crept after him, with their heads bowed. One or two of them cast a disappointed look at Ralphie but no one said anything.
They saw their captain standing at the wheel on top of the cabin. He held it steady with one hand and looked through a glass in his other.
“Arr…” he grunted as they approached.
Ralphie drew himself up.
“Captain.” he began. Captain Blackpants ignored him.
“Svalbard’s dat way, lads. Me’s not want to hear any more of der nonsense. Here comes der trader. Get ready!”
A dozen heads turned and stared into the distance.
“Let’s gets us some blubbering gold!”
The crew continued staring. Captain Blackpants sighed, then shouted.
“Whale oil, idiots! A pound of it s’worf more den all of yer togeffer! Dem’s makin’ it out of der blubber!”
He watched his crew thinking. They thought slowly.
“Will yer get yerself ready to enter, for heaven’s sake?!”
Enter. That word, they understood. Ralphie drew his knife first. He looked at his captain.
“Yep, Ralphie, tha’s why. Dun care `bout yer compass, me. Now, get going, will yer?”
As the Lulling Lullaby prepared to enter the trader in the distance, the men each took a draught of rum, got their weapons and started singing expectantly:
“Fat belly trader, fat belly trader, sing your lulling lullaby…!“