The ship moved slow and steady under close reefed topsails through a thick white haunting fog that surrounded it and those aboard like some mysterious shroud from the after world. It was if nature or other forces beyond their comprehension were telling these sea fearing pilgrims they had passed the point of no return. All was quiet with the exception of the faint splash of water against the hull of the ship and the double ring of the ship’s bell at one minute intervals. Mason stood forward with MacDonald, both of them trying to look through the underworld mist that was all around them. “Do you see anything Mr. MacDonald?” asked Mason his voice seemingly louder than usual in the quiet white. MacDonald shook his head, “Nary a thing Captain,” he said his gaze unfaltering. Mason turned and seeing the man he was looking for, shouted, “Crown, aloft with ya! Keep a sharp eye out for that pilot boat!” “Aye, aye Captain,” said the man swinging onto the mainmast shrouds and nimbly climbing up to the barrel at the top of the mast. Dunn was aft and stood near the helmsman alert and listening. Fog and coastal shores was never a good combination. “I hate this,” said Walker, the helmsman. “Steady, Walker,” said Dunn, “we’ll be tied up soon enough.” “Well, I hope so Mr. Dunn. Lord knows I don’t like the fog, especially round these parts.” “Not many sailors do. Just mind your helm and we’ll be fine,” said the second mate. “Aye, sir.” Hollister was amidships leaning on the starboard rail looking onto the abyss of mist that was all around. The stillness was unnerving, with muffled voices in the background, they seemed to magnify the situation. Even the seaman forward, tossing the lead line and singing out the depth below them, seemed distant and far away. “Some fog, huh Mr. Hollister?” said a nervous young voice on his right. The newspaper man turned to see young Timmy Reiner, the cook boy on his first voyage. Hollister forced himself to smile. “Its thick Timmy, but I’m sure Captain Mason has been through worse.” The boy nodded his head. “My father speaks highly of the Captain and Mr. MacDonald.” Hollister patted the boy on the shoulder, “As he should Timmy. The reputations of those two men are richly deserved, I believe.” With that said Hollister turned and walked aft to where Dunn was silently standing. When the second mate saw him approaching he smiled. “Hello Jack, nice fog, huh?” Hollister shook his head, “Where are we Isaac?” “Near Chebucto Head by best estimate, we’re waiting on the pilot.” “And where, pray tell is Chebucto Head?” asked Hollister. “McNab’s Island. Ya see Jack, Halifax Harbor is natural and ice free, but we gotta take the west entrance ya see?” “Why can’t we take the east entrance? Assuming there is one of course,” said Hollister, thinking that if there was a western entrance there certainly must be an eastern one. Dunn shook his head, “Naw, we can’t use the eastern passage, wouldn’t work for us.” “Why not?” asked Hollister again. “Cause it’s for shallow draft ships and boats, the SHY LADY is a bit big for that ‘un, besides even if we could, I doubt Captain Mason would want to use it. The charts aren’t the most reliable sources concerning the passage.” “So we have to take the western passage.” Dunn nodded, “Yeah, and to do that, we need a pilot.” “Deck there!” a voice called from the masthead, “small boat approaching, starboard midships.” Mason and MacDonald walked to the railing and looked into the mist, straining to see what the lookout Crown had just alerted them to. “Ahoy there!” came a voice out of the white. “What ship?” Mason cupped his hands around his mouth and called out, “SHY LADY, New Bedford!” A small boat pulled alongside and a short round man with red wiry hair and a large grin stepped aboard the whaling ship. Mason stepped forward and extended his hand. “I’m Mason, Captain of the SHY LADY, welcome aboard.” The visitor took the captain’s hand and shook it. “Pleased to meet ya, Captain. I’m Ian Nichols your pilot. Sorry I weren’t here sooner, the damned fog ya know.” “Quite understandable Mr. Nichols, I’m surprised you could find us at all, in this pea soup.” “Oh Captain,” said the newcomer, “I always finds the ship when they come in, its them that don’t wait that have the problem, why, just two months ago we had a French ship come in here, frog master, thought he knew it all,” the little man chuckled. “Ripped her hull, clean wide open. The whole thing wrote off as open salvage, lost some damn fine wine with that ship, she was supposed to take out a hold full of wheat and cotton, talk about some mad owners, them insurance folks weren’t none too happy either, I’m telling you!’ “Well, Mr. Nichols, I’m trust you are capable of bringing us in safe and sound, I certainly have no desire for my ship to imitate a damned Frenchman,” said Mason. “Oh, I’ll bring her in Captain, you needn’t worry about that,” said the pilot. “Mr. Dunn,” called Mason, “this is our pilot, Mr. Nichols. Assist him as needed.” “Aye, aye sir,” replied Dunn, leaving Hollister to confer with the pilot. Mason and MacDonald walked forward, both men were thinking the same thing not that that was unusual, everybody on board had the same thought, though some for different reasons than others. “I’ll be damned glad when we get into Halifax,” said Mason. “You and me both,” said MacDonald. “Mr. Higgins,” said Mason, seeing his third mate. “Send a man up to relieve Crown, and put a couple of extra men on the yards.” “Aye, aye Captain,” said the young third. “How long are we fixing to stay in Halifax?” asked MacDonald. Mason sighed. “A day, no longer than two, once we get them dogs aboard and check for any telegrams, I want to be out on the first available tide.” “And the crew?” “They stay aboard. I don’t want to take any chances with any of ‘em having second thoughts and missing the God damned boat and I sure as hell don’t wanna waste any time looking for ’em.” “Amen to that,” said MacDonald. “As soon as we’re tied up, send Dunn out with three reliable men to get the dogs and get their asses back here. I’ll check to see if Roland has sent us anything. You and Higgins stay aboard, keep the men in line. If they give ya any trouble you know what to do.” “Oh, I don’t see Danny and I having any problems,” said MacDonald. Mason smiled. “Nor do I, but if any of ’em give ya any lip, you can tell ’em that the British army garrison here ain’t real particular on where they find new recruits.” They were pier side by 4:00 pm and after clearing customs, Mason went ashore. He hadn’t been to Halifax in years and there were parts of it that reminded him of New Bedford. They had their share of whaling ships and fishing boats of course, but much of the wealth for Halifax came from the West Indies trade, rum and sugar and because Halifax was ice free year round it was well disposed for trade. Entering the telegraph office, he met a balding, speckled clerk in a striped shirt and black vest sitting at a large roll top desk. He wasn’t the neatest person as Mason could see, with food and coffee stains down the front of his shirt, but he appeared to be pleasant enough. “Can I help you sir?” asked the smiling clerk. “I’m Captain Mason of the SHY LADY, we’ve just pulled in and I’m wondering if there are any messages for me?” “Well Captain, let me check for you, you said your name is Mason is that right?” The ship’s master nodded his head. The clerk thumbed through a number of papers, mumbling names as he looked. “Mare, Mayweather, Mark…Melvin. No, Captain, I’m sorry, there are no messages for you. Would you like to send something out sir?” Mason shook his head, he was glad. One thing he didn’t want was Roland, Hughes and Jones trying to run the expedition from New York, not that he would have paid much attention to any message they sent concerning such. As it was, he still had a free hand which was what he wanted. “No, I don’t think so, thanks anyway.” The bells on the door jingled as he left. The dogs were barking, snapping and growling. They were a mean lot to be sure, just the type needed for what was planned. The dogs were in their assigned area aboard ship, loud as hell and pissing all over the place. Mason wasn’t going to like that but it couldn’t be avoided and it was a sure thing that the dogs cared little about what Captain Mason liked or disliked. Dunn counted the dogs and frowning, counted again to double check. He turned to face Kura, the Indian who had obtained the animals. “Goddamn it Kura! You said 70 dogs. I’m only counting 64 here, what the hell?” The stone faced Indian shrugged his shoulders, “I got 64.” “You said 70, you assured me of 70!” said Dunn. “Three dogs dead, two lame, one dog run away. These what I get Dunn, you should be glad, dogs like these hard to find. Many dogs bought and shipped out west, you know.” “Shit Kura!” “Look Dunn, you wanted dogs, I get dogs. You wanted a lot of dogs, I got 64 dogs, that’s it. If you don’t want ‘em I sell ‘em to fool tenderfoots for triple the price, looking for gold, I don’t care.” Dunn was furious, mostly at himself. He should have known better than to trust the old Indian but it was too late now. To make matters worse, Mason had just arrived onboard and Dunn knew he wasn’t going to like this at all. The ship’s master walked up to his second mate, his face didn’t hide the fact that he didn’t like all the noise the dogs were making or what they were doing to his deck. “Well,” he asked, “what about the dogs?” Dunn sighed, “We got 64 Captain.” Mason looked puzzled, “64? You told me at least 70.” “Yes Captain, I know,” said Dunn giving the Indian a foul look, “but we got 64.” “Hellfire!” shouted Mason with disgust, his eyes narrowed on the Indian dog trader. Kura was becoming frightened. He had dealt with Dunn before and knew he might be angry but this man staring at him now and the large black man with crossed arms…well, it was…frightening. “Look,” said Kura with some desperation, “I got a man who can help with the dogs, says he’ll work for food.” He pointed at an Eskimo in dirty clothes. “Work for food?” asked Mason, “You ain’t going?” The Indian nodded, “Yeah for food. He want to go home, maybe you take him, he work for food. I have to stay here, I have much work, but you take him home.” “What the hell are you doing that’s so God damned important?” asked Mason. “Well” stuttered Kura, “well, I got responsibilities many things I’m needed for. You go to Greenland, take the Eskimo with you. He knows dogs and it don’t cost you nothing.” Mason glared at the Indian and looked at the Eskimo. Dunn spoke up. “64 dogs is gonna be a lot of work, Captain. With the other drivers an’ me working the ship Somebody that knows dogs would be a big help, since Kura ain’t going with us.” “You speak English?” asked Mason. The Eskimo nodded his head, Dunn could detect a slight smell of alcohol from the presence of the Inuit and his face showed a little bit more than hard living on the trail, there was something about the eyes… “You gotta name?” asked Mason. “Keelut, Captain. My name is Keelut.” Mason sighed, “Mr. Higgins, sign on Mr. Keelut here, he’ll work with Mr. Dunn and the dogs. Alright everyone quit your damn dawdling, get this deck cleaned up! Mr. MacDonald, we’re leaving with the tide.” “Aye, sir,” said MacDonald. Mason went to his quarters without another word.