We were taking a walk on deck one evening, when we came across the stowaway. It was twilight and we did not see him until we had almost stepped on him. He was blithely walking in front of us as if he didn’t have a care in the world and indeed he shouldn’t have had any worries as he made his presence felt in the best stowaway fashion, only when the ship was far away from land. We picked up the pigeon and examined him. There was nothing particularly remarkable about him apart from a metal band fixed around his leg which gave us his code number and told us that he was from Spain. He must have come aboard our ship while we were at Algeciras.
He seemed to like being at sea and the sailors started spoiling him dreadfully. Our ship was crossing the Atlantic Ocean and having the pigeon on board reduced the monotony of the long voyage. The stewards fed him grain and brought him water to drink in a cup and saucer belonging to one of the ship’s best tea sets. The officers and crew vied with each other to feed him special delicacies. Soon the pigeon was busy playing favourites much to the disappointment of those less in favour. He was a greedy little bird and he paid more attention to those who fed him in larger quantities. However, he looked at me with complete disapproval for he always hopped away when he saw me approaching even though I made several overtures of friendship. The pigeon could have been a mind reader and if so, he must have known the number of times that I visualized Roast Pigeon on the menu at meal times when the cook prepared some of his less appetizing dishes.
The pigeon soon grew quite plump as the direct result of the tender ministrations of the ship’s crew. He waddled along the alleyways and inspected the cabins, but he spent most of his time on deck. As we approached the Archipelago of Azores, everyone wondered whether the pigeon would decide to make his home on one of the nine islands. There was great excitement when the pigeon did leave in order to fly towards the Island closest to the ship, but he soon returned as Azores did not meet with his approval.
We reached Chesapeake Bay and were anchored off Norfolk but the pigeon seemed to have no immediate plans of migrating to the United States. However, dozens of small birds flew onto our ship and soon discovered the supper set out on the deck for the pigeon. When we sailed out, the majority of these birds remained on our ship and cheerfully shared the pigeon’s meals, while he looked on in a huff. The moment we reached Ocean Cay, an island in the Bahamas, the birds flew away in one small cloud. The pigeon remained with us when we sailed out and seemed pleased to have our undivided attention once again.
When we reached New Orleans late one night, the pigeon took off immediately without a backward glance. The sailors laughingly remarked that he seemed to be flying towards Bourbon Street, which is renowned for its nightlife. We waited anxiously for some days, but the pigeon never did return to our ship and we had to sail out without him since he no longer had the desire to be a sea dog.