In the novel by Avi titled The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Captain Jaggary addresses his first mate, Hollybrass, and comments that the crew of the ship is short one sailor. In response, Hollybrass says,
“The second mate did the best he could, sir. No one else could be got to sign articles. Not for anything.”
In other words, no one else could be persuaded to sign a contract to join the crew. The meaning of the word “articles” here is similar to its meaning in the phrase “articles of association,” which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the rules, conditions, etc., on which a commercial agreement is founded.”
This meaning is made clearer a few paragraphs later when Captain Jaggary, addressing the crew members, says,
“If you give me les – one finger less – than the particulars of the articles you have signed, I shall take my due. Make no mistake I will.”
Jaggary, that is, expects the crew members to perform every single duty they promised to performed when they signed their “articles,” or contract of service.
Jaggary’s comments here are one of the first indications in the novel that he will be a very hard taskmaster and a relentlessly authoritarian figure.