(From 'The Wrecker' by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Chapter XII, published 1892)

. . . And with that he smiled like a man recalling something. “Look here, that brings a yarn in my head,” he resumed; “and for the sake of the joke, I'll give myself away. It was in 1874, I shipped mate in the British ship Maria, from 'Frisco for Melbourne. She was the queerest craft in some ways that ever I was aboard of. The food was a caution; there was nothing fit to put your lips to—but the lime-juice, which was from the end bin no doubt; it used to make me sick to see the men's dinners, and sorry to see my own. The old man was good enough, I guess; Green was his name—a mild, fatherly old galoot. But the hands were the lowest gang I ever handled; and whenever I tried to knock a little spirit into them, the old man took their part! It was Gilbert and Sullivan on the high seas; but you bet I wouldn't let any man dictate to me. 'You give me your orders, Captain Green,' I said, 'and you'll find I'll carry them out; that's all you've got to say. You'll find I do my duty,' I said; 'how I do it is my lookout; and there's no man born that's going to give me lessons.' Well, there was plenty dirt on board that Maria first and last. Of course, the old man put my back up, and, of course, he put up the crew's; and I had to regular fight my way through every watch. The men got to hate me, so's I would hear them grit their teeth when I came up. At last, one day, I saw a big hulking beast of a Dutchman booting the ship's boy. I made one shoot of it off the house and laid that Dutchman out. Up he came, and I laid him out again. 'Now,' I said, 'if there's a kick left in you, just mention it, and I'll stamp your ribs in like a packing-case.' He thought better of it, and never let on; lay there as mild as a deacon at a funeral; and they took him below to reflect on his native Dutchland.

What does I made one shoot of it off the house mean in this context; especially, the words of it trouble me - what do they mean there?

  • 1
    To shoot can mean "to move in a particular direction very quickly and directly" or "to throw, hit, or kick a ball or other object toward a goal", perhaps "shoot a punch". I don't know about "off the house" but I guess the whole phrase to mean that he made an instant decision to hit the man. Oct 16, 2023 at 11:44
  • I suspect off the house is meant locative - the whole thing takes place on a schooner deck and house is the cabin or the small pilothouse of the schooner - but it's just a guess.
    – philphil
    Oct 16, 2023 at 12:15
  • 2
    Perhaps "I made one shoot of it" means "I did it in a single attempt". Oct 16, 2023 at 12:21
  • 1
    I think "of it" means "of the job". Oct 16, 2023 at 12:32
  • 1
    "I made one shoot of it off the house" could mean "covered the distance between us with a single leap from the pilot house" and "of it" would refer to the distance that needed to be traversed in order to be within striking distance of the Dutchman. Compare: "There was a lot of work to be done hauling those stones to the barn, but I made a single go of it and was done by dinnertime." Oct 16, 2023 at 13:58

1 Answer 1


To "make one shoot of something" is a more literary way of saying do something in a single action. The more modern version of this is do something in one shot/one go.

So in this context, it means he did whatever "it" is in one attempt.

I believe "house" was once an informal word for "head". It's clear from the context that he beat the other man, so I'm guessing the whole phrase means roughly:

... knocked the Dutchman down with a single punch to the head

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