The Project Gutenberg EBook of Sea Stories, by Various

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Title: Sea Stories

Author: Various

Editor: Cyrus Townsend Brady

Release Date: March 25, 2013 [EBook #42409]

Language: English

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The Merchantman and the Pirate

The Merchantman and the Pirate

Young Folks’ Library in Twenty Volumes
Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Editor-in-Chief





Copyright, 1902,
Boston, U.S.A.

Stanhope Press





Most of us have passed through a period of life during which we have ardently longed to be, if not actually a rover, a buccaneer, or a pirate, at least and really a sailor! To run away to sea has been the misdirected ambition of many a youngster, and some lads there are who have realized their desire to their sorrow. The boy who has not cherished in his heart and exhibited in his actions at sometime or other during his youthful days, a love of ships and salt water, is fit for—well, he is fit for the shore, and that is the worst thing a sailor could say about him!

The virile nations, the strong peoples, are those whose countries border on the sea. They who go down to the great deep in ships are they who master the world. On the ocean as well as on the mountain top dwells the spirit of freedom. When men have struggled with each other in the shock of war, or the emulation of peace, when they have matched skill against skill, strength to strength, courage with courage, the higher quality of manhood in each instance has been required upon the sea; for there the sharp contention has been not only between man and man but between nature and man as well. A double portion of heroic spirit is needed to meet the double demand. That is the reason we love the sea. It is this Homeric spirit of the Ocean Masters that fills the dreams of youth and stirs the memories of old age.

In these dreams and memories the veriest boy catches glimpses of the perpetual Titanic struggle of, and on, the deep; dimly discerning in his youthful way, a thousand generations of heroic achievement before, and through which, he begins to be; and he realizes that the ocean affords such a field for the exhibition of every high quality that goes to make a man as may be found nowhere else. The deck of the ship is the arena upon which he can play a mighty part, and he loves it. In imagination the boy now discovers a new world, like Columbus and America; in dreams he opens a vast empire to civilization, like Perry in Japan; sometimes he fights the battles of the free, like Nelson at Trafalgar; or he strikes for his own flag on the decks of some gallant Constitution. If he be a sportsman, he may pursue the great fighting sperm-whale, or angle for “Jack Sharkee;” if an adventurer, he may seek to pierce the icy barrier of mystery ringed about that polar star by which he guides his ship; if a trader, he may visit strange lands and seek new markets for his product; if a missionary, he may carry his gospel of good tidings to dark peoples, ignorant of the meaning of that southern cross which flashes in splendor above them in the midnight heavens, and tell to them the story of the Ruler of the deep. Wherever men achieve and do, wherever nations grow and prosper, they have a mastery of the sea.

In these pages are gathered stories of the heroes of peace, not less kings of the sea than those who have startled the mighty depths with the thunder of their war-ship guns. The freshness, the freedom of it, the joy and delight, the calm and rest, the strenuous life, the labor and sorrow, the peril and danger, the reward and success, all are here. We turn back some hundred years to go a-cruising with Cleveland. We hunt the cachelot with Bullen. Our own Cooper takes us breathless with the romantic Pilot over the dangers of the Devil’s Grip. Under the Antarctic Circle we watch the sea lions play. Here a mighty monster of the hideous depths seems to spread its tentacles across the printed page in a struggle which Victor Hugo immortalizes. Flame and smoke are those deadliest of perils to ships toward which gentle Jean Ingelow conducts us. The sudden mutiny, the long cruise in the small boat, the lonely islet affording the shipwrecked a haven, appeal to us in these pages. We drift through the teeming waters of the Gulf Stream. Daniel DeFoe, and Melville and Marryat and Cupples and Russell and Kingston, unroll before us the panorama of the ocean. There are also men great in other fields of letters who have felt the witchery of the sea and tell us what it says to them—Charles Dickens, Pierre Loti, Stevenson, Charles Reade, and Kingsley.

We envy the boy or girl who reads these tales for the first time. Fain would we again enjoy such a happy privilege. And our envy deepens when we think of the wide range of literature to which this volume will introduce them. Lucky young people who open such pages for a first glance!

Cyrus Townsend Brady

Philadelphia, Penna.
December 20th, 1901.



(From Chambers’s Miscellany.)


About the year 1786, the merchants and planters interested in the West India Islands became anxious to introduce an exceedingly valuable plant, the bread-fruit tree, into these possessions, and as this could best be done by a government expedition, a request was preferred to the crown accordingly. The ministry at the time being favorable to the proposed undertaking, a vessel, named the Bounty, was selected to execute the desired object. To the command of this ship Captain W. Bligh was appointed, Aug. 16, 1787. The burden of the Bounty was nearly two hundred and fifteen tons. The establishment of men and officers for the ship was as follows:—1 lieutenant to command, 1 master, 1 boatswain, 1 gunner, 1 carpenter, 1 surgeon, 2 master’s mates, 2 midshipmen, 2 quarter-masters, 1 quarter-master’s mate, 1 boatswain’s mate, 1 gunner’s mate, 1 carpenter’s mate, 1 carpenter’s crew, 1 sailmaker, 1 armorer, 1 corporal, 1 clerk and steward, 23 able seamen—total, 44. The addition of two men appointed to take care of the plants, made the whole ship’s crew amount to 46. The ship was stored and victualled for eighteen months.

Thus prepared, the Bounty set sail on the 23d of December, and what ensued will be best told in the language of Captain Bligh.

Monday, 27th April 1789.—The wind being northerly in the evening, we steered to the westward, to pass to the south of Tofoa. I gave directions for this course to be continued during the night. The master had the first watch, the gunner the middle watch, and Mr. Christian the morning watch.

Tuesday, 28th.—Just before sunrising, while I was yet asleep, Mr. Christian, with the master-at-arms, gunner’s mate, and Thomas Burkitt, seaman, came into my cabin, and seizing me, tied my hands with a cord behind my back, threatening me with instant death if I spoke or made the least noise. I, however, called as loud as I could, in hopes of assistance; but they had already secured the officers who were not of their party, by placing sentinels at their doors. There were three men at my cabin door, besides the four within; Christian had only a cutlass in his hand, the others had muskets and bayonets. I was pulled out of bed, and forced on deck in my shirt, suffering great pain from the tightness with which they had tied my hands. I demanded the reason of such violence, but received no other answer than abuse for not holding my tongue. The master, the gunner, the surgeon, Mr. Elphinstone, master’s mate, and Nelson, were kept confined below, and the fore-hatchway was guarded by sentinels. The boatswain and carpenter, and also the clerk, Mr. Samuel, were allowed to come upon deck. The boatswain was ordered to hoist the launch out, with a threat if he did not do it instantly to take care of himself.

When the boat was out, Mr. Hayward and Mr. Hallett, two of the midshipmen, and Mr. Samuel, were ordered into it. I demanded what their intention was in giving this order, and endeavored to persuade the people near me not to persist in such acts of violence; but it was to no effect. Christian changed the cutlass which he had in his hand for a bayonet that was brought to him, and holding me with a strong grip by the cord that tied my hands, he with many oaths threatened to kill me immediately if I would not be quiet; the villains round me had their pieces cocked and bayonets fixed. Particular people were called on to go into the boat, and were hurried over the side, whence I concluded that with these people I was to be set adrift. I therefore made another effort to bring about a change, but with no other effect than to be threatened with having my brains blown out.

The boatswain and seamen who were to go in the boat were allowed to collect twine, canvas, lines, sails, cordage, an eight-and-twenty-gallon cask of water, and Mr. Samuel got a hundred and fifty pounds of bread, with a small quantity of rum and wine, also a quadrant and compass; but he was forbidden, on pain of death, to touch either map, ephemeris, book of astronomical observations, sextant, time-keeper, or any of my surveys or drawings.

The officers were next called upon deck, and forced over the side into the boat, while I was kept apart from every one abaft the mizzen-mast.

Isaac Martin, one of the guard over me, I saw had an inclination to assist me, and, as he fed me with shaddock (my lips being quite parched), we explained our wishes to each other by our looks; but this being observed, Martin was removed from me. He then attempted to leave the ship, for which purpose he got into the boat; but with many threats they obliged him to return. The armorer, Joseph Coleman, and two of the carpenters, M’Intosh and Norman, were also kept contrary to their inclination; and they begged of me, after I was astern in the boat, to remember that they declared that they had no hand in the transaction. Michael Byrne, I am told, likewise wanted to leave the ship.

It appeared to me that Christian was some time in doubt whether he should keep the carpenter or his mates; at length he determined on the latter, and the carpenter was ordered into the boat. He was permitted, but not without some opposition, to take his tool-chest. The officers and men being in the boat, they only waited for me, of which the master-at-arms informed Christian; who then said, “Come, Captain Bligh, your officers and men are now in the boat, and you must go with them; if you attempt to make the least resistance, you will instantly be put to death:” and without further ceremony, with a tribe of armed ruffians about me, I was forced over the side, where they untied my hands. Being in the boat, we were veered astern by a rope. A few pieces of pork were thrown to us, and some clothes, also four cutlasses; and it was then that the armorer and carpenters called out to me to remember that they had no hand in the transaction. After having undergone a great deal of ridicule, and having been kept some time to make sport for these unfeeling wretches, we were at length cast adrift in the open ocean.

I had eighteen persons with me in the boat. There remained on board the Bounty twenty-five hands, the most able men of the ship’s company. Having little or no wind, we rowed pretty fast towards Tofoa, which bore north-east about ten leagues from us. While the ship was in sight, she steered to the west-north-west; but I considered this only as a feint; for when we were sent away, “Huzza for Otaheite!” was frequently heard among the mutineers.

It will very naturally be asked, What could be the reason for such a revolt? In answer to which, I can only conjecture that the mutineers had flattered themselves with the hopes of a more happy life among the Otaheitans than they could possibly enjoy in England; and this, joined to some female connections, most probably occasioned the whole transaction. The women at Otaheite are handsome, mild and cheerful in their manners and conversation, possessed of great sensibility, and have sufficient delicacy to make them admired and beloved. The chiefs were so much attached to our people, that they rather encouraged their stay among them than otherwise, and even made them promises of large possessions. Under these, and many other attendant circumstances equally desirable, it is now perhaps not so much to be wondered at, though scarcely possible to have been foreseen, that a set of sailors, most of them void of connections, should be led away: especially when, in addition to such powerful inducements, they imagined it in their power to fix themselves in the midst of plenty, on one of the finest islands in the world, where they need not labor, and where the allurements of dissipation are beyond anything that can be conceived.


My first determination was to seek a supply of breadfruit and water at Tofoa, and afterwards to sail for Tongataboo, and there risk a solicitation to Poulaho, the king, to equip our boat, and grant us a supply of water and provisions, so as to enable us to reach the East Indies. The quantity of provisions I found in the boat was a hundred and fifty pounds of bread, sixteen pieces of pork, each piece weighing two pounds, six quarts of rum, six bottles of wine, with twenty-eight gallons of water, and four empty barrecoes.


We got to Tofoa when it was dark, but found the shore so steep and rocky that we could not land. We were obliged, therefore, to remain all night in the boat, keeping it on the lee-side of the island, with two oars. Next day (Wednesday, April 29) we found a cove, where we landed. I observed the latitude of this cove to be 19 degrees 41 minutes south. This is the northwest part of Tofoa, the north-westernmost of the Friendly Islands. As I was resolved to spare the small stock of provisions we had in the boat, we endeavored to procure something towards our support on the island itself. For two days we ranged through the island in parties, seeking for water, and anything in the shape of provisions, subsisting, meanwhile, on morsels of what we had brought with us. The island at first seemed uninhabited, but on Friday, May 1, one of our exploring parties met cove, and brought two cocoa-nut shells of water. I endeavored to make friends of these people, and sent them away for bread-fruit, plantains, and water. Soon after, other natives came to us; and by noon there were thirty about us, from whom we obtained a small supply. I was much puzzled in what manner to account to the natives for the loss of my ship: I knew they had too much sense to be amused with a story that the ship was to join me, when she was not in sight from the hills. I was at first doubtful whether I should tell the real fact, or say that the ship had overset and sunk, and that we only were saved: the latter appeared to be the most proper and advantageous for us, and I accordingly instructed my people, that we might all agree in one story. As I expected, inquiries were made about the ship, and they seemed readily satisfied with our account; but there did not appear the least symptom of joy or sorrow in their faces, although I fancied I discovered some marks of surprise. Some of the natives were coming and going the whole afternoon.

Towards evening, I had the satisfaction to find our stock of provisions somewhat increased; but the natives did not appear to have much to spare. What they brought was in such small quantities, that I had no reason to hope we should be able to procure from them sufficient to stock us for our voyage. At night, I served a quarter of a bread-fruit and a cocoa-nut to each person for supper; and a good fire being made, all but the watch went to sleep.

Saturday, 2d.—As there was no certainty of our being supplied with water by the natives, I sent a party among the gullies in the mountains, with empty shells, to see what could be found. In their absence the natives came about us, as I expected, and in greater numbers; two canoes also came in from round the north side of the island. In one of them was an elderly chief, called Macca-ackavow. Soon after, some of our foraging party returned, and with them came a good-looking chief, called Egijeefow, or Eefow.

Their affability was of short duration, for the natives began to increase in number, and I observed some symptoms of a design against us. Soon after, they attempted to haul the boat on shore, on which I brandished my cutlass in a threatening manner, and spoke to Eefow to desire them to desist; which they did, and everything became quiet again. My people, who had been in the mountains, now returned with about three gallons of water. I kept buying up the little bread-fruit that was brought to us, and likewise some spears to arm my men with, having only four cutlasses, two of which were in the boat. As we had no means of improving our situation, I told our people I would wait till sunset, by which time, perhaps, something might happen in our favor; for if we attempted to go at present, we must fight our way through, which we could do more advantageously at night; and that, in the meantime, we would endeavor to get off to the boat what we had bought. The beach was lined with the natives, and we heard nothing but the knocking of stones together, which they had in each hand. I knew very well this was the sign of an attack. At noon I served a cocoa-nut and a bread-fruit to each person for dinner, and gave some to the chiefs, with whom I continued to appear intimate and friendly. They frequently importuned me to sit down, but I as constantly refused; for it occurred both to Nelson and myself that they intended to seize hold of me, if I gave them such an opportunity. Keeping, therefore, constantly on our guard, we were suffered to eat our uncomfortable meal in some quietness.

After dinner, we began, by little and little, to get our things into the boat, which was a troublesome business, on account of the surf. I carefully watched the motions of the natives, who continued to increase in number; and found that, instead of their intention being to leave us, fires were made, and places fixed on for their stay during the night. Consultations were also held among them, and everything assured me we should be attacked. I sent orders to the master that, when he saw us coming down, he should keep the boat close to the shore, that we might the more readily embark.

The sun was near setting when I gave the word, on which every person who was on shore with me boldly took up his proportion of things and carried them to the boat. The chiefs asked me if I would not stay with them all night. I said “No, I never sleep out of my boat; but in the morning we will again trade with you, and I shall remain till the weather is moderate, that we may go, as we have agreed, to see Poulaho, at Tongataboo.” Macca-ackavow then got up and said, “You will not sleep on shore, then, Mattie?” (which directly signifies, we will kill you); and he left me. The onset was now preparing: every one, as I have described before, kept knocking stones together; and Eefow quitted me. All but two or three things were in the boat, when we walked down the beach, every one in a silent kind of horror. We all got into the boat except one man, who, while I was getting on board, quitted it, and ran up the beach to cast the sternfast off, notwithstanding the master and others called to him to return, while they were hauling me out of the water.

I was no sooner in the boat than the attack began by about two hundred men; the unfortunate poor man who had run up the beach was knocked down, and the stones flew like a shower of shot. Many Indians got hold of the stern rope, and were near hauling the boat on shore, which they would certainly have effected, if I had not had a knife in my pocket, with which I cut the rope. We then hauled off to the grapnel, every one being more or less hurt. At this time I saw five of the natives about the poor man they had killed, and two of them were beating him about the head with stones in their hands.

We had no time to reflect, for, to my surprise, they filled their canoes with stones, and twelve men came off after us to renew the attack; which they did so effectually, as to nearly disable us all. We were obliged to sustain the attack without being able to return it, except with such stones as lodged in the boat. I adopted the expedient of throwing overboard some clothes, which, as I expected, they stopped to pick up; and as it was by this time almost dark, they gave over the attack, and returned towards the shore, leaving us to reflect on our unhappy situation.

The poor man killed by the natives was John Norton: this was his second voyage with me as a quarter-master, and his worthy character made me lament his loss very much. He has left an aged parent, I am told, whom he supported.

We set our sails, and steered along shore by the west side of the island of Tofoa, the wind blowing fresh from the eastward. My mind was employed in considering what was best to be done, when I was solicited by all hands to take them towards home; and when I told them that no hopes of relief for us remained, except what might be found at New Holland, till I came to Timor, a distance of full twelve hundred leagues, where there was a Dutch settlement, but in what part of the island I knew not, they all agreed to live on one ounce of bread and a quarter of a pint of water per day. Therefore, after examining our stock of provisions, and recommending to them, in the most solemn manner, not to depart from their promise, we bore away across a sea where the navigation is but little known, in a small boat, twenty-three feet long from stem to stern, deep laden with eighteen men. I was happy, however, to see that every one seemed better satisfied with our situation than myself.

Our stock of provisions consisted of about one hundred and fifty pounds of bread, twenty-eight gallons of water, twenty pounds of pork, three bottles of wine, and five quarts of rum. The difference between this and the quantity we had on leaving the ship was principally owing to our loss in the bustle and confusion of the attack. A few cocoa-nuts were in the boat, and some bread-fruit, but the latter was trampled to pieces.

Sunday, 3d.—At daybreak the gale increased; the sun rose very fiery and red—a sure indication of a severe gale of wind. At eight it blew a violent storm, and the sea ran very high, so that between the seas the sail was becalmed, and when on the top of the sea, it was too much to have set; but we could not venture to take in the sail, for we were in very imminent danger and distress, the sea curling over the stern of the boat, which obliged us to bail with all our might. A situation more distressing has perhaps seldom been experienced.

Our bread was in bags, and in danger of being spoiled by the wet: to be starved to death was inevitable, if this could not be prevented. I therefore began to examine what clothes there were in the boat, and what other things could be spared; and having determined that only two suits should be kept for each person, the rest was thrown overboard, with some rope and spare sails, which lightened the boat considerably, and we had more room to bail the water out.


Fortunately the carpenter had good chest in the boat, in which we secured the bread the first favorable moment. His tool-chest also was cleared, and the tools stowed in the bottom of the boat, so that this became a second convenience.

I served a teaspoonful of rum to each person (for we were very wet and cold), with a quarter of a breadfruit, which was scarce eatable, for dinner. Our engagement was now strictly to be carried into execution, and I was fully determined to make our provisions last eight weeks, let the daily proportion be ever so small.

Monday, 4th.—At daylight our limbs were so benumbed, that we could scarcely find the use of them. At this time I served a teaspoonful of rum to each person, from which we all found great benefit. Just before noon, we discovered a small flat island, of a moderate height, bearing west-south-west four or five leagues. I observed our latitude to be 18 degrees 58 minutes south; our longitude was, by account, 3 degrees 4 minutes west from the island of Tofoa, having made a north 72 degrees west course, distance ninety-five miles, since yesterday noon. I divided five small cocoa-nuts for our dinner, and every one was satisfied. During the rest of that day we discovered ten or twelve other islands, none of which we approached. At night I served a few broken pieces of bread-fruit for supper, and performed prayers.

Tuesday, 5th.—The night having been fair, we awoke after a tolerable rest, and contentedly breakfasted on a few pieces of yams that were found in the boat. After breakfast we examined our bread, a great deal of which was damaged and rotten; this, nevertheless, we were glad to keep for use. We passed two islands in the course of the day. For dinner I served some of the damaged bread, and a quarter of a pint of water.

Wednesday, 6th.—We still kept our course in the direction of the North of New Holland, passing numerous islands of various sizes, at none of which I ventured to land. Our allowance for the day was a quarter of a pint of cocoa-nut milk, and the meat, which did not exceed two ounces to each person. It was received very contentedly, but we suffered great drought. To our great joy we hooked a fish, but we were miserably disappointed by its being lost in trying to get it into the boat.

As our lodgings were very miserable, and confined for want of room, I endeavored to remedy the latter defect by putting ourselves at watch and watch; so that one-half always sat up while the other lay down on the boat’s bottom, or upon a chest, with nothing to cover us but the heavens. Our limbs were dreadfully cramped, for we could not stretch them out; and the nights were so cold, and we so constantly wet, that, after a few hours’ sleep, we could scarcely move.

Thursday, 7th.—Being very wet and cold, I served a spoonful of rum and a morsel of bread for breakfast. We still kept sailing among the islands, from one of which two large canoes put out in chase of us; but we left them behind. Whether these canoes had any hostile intention against us must remain a doubt: perhaps we might have benefited by an intercourse with them; but, in our defenceless situation, to have made the experiment would have been risking too much.

I imagine these to be the islands called Feejee, as their extent, direction, and distance from the Friendly Islands answer to the description given of them by those islanders. Heavy rain came on at four o’clock, when every person did their utmost to catch some water, and we increased our stock to thirty-four gallons, besides quenching our thirst for the first time since we had been at sea; but an attendant consequence made us pass the night very miserably, for, being extremely wet, and having no dry things to shift or cover us, we experienced cold shiverings scarcely to be conceived. Most fortunately for us, the forenoon, Friday 8th, turned out fair, and we stripped and dried our clothes. The allowance I issued to-day was an ounce and a half of pork, a teaspoonful of rum, half a pint of cocoa-nut milk, and an ounce of bread. The rum, though so small in quantity, was of the greatest service. A fishing-line was generally towing from the stern of the boat, but though we saw great numbers of fish, we could never catch one.

In the afternoon we cleaned out the boat, and it employed us till sunset to get everything dry and in order. Hitherto I had issued the allowance by guess, but I now made a pair of scales with two cocoa-nut shells, and having accidentally some pistol-balls in the boat, twenty-five of which weighed one pound, or sixteen ounces, I adopted one[1] as the proportion of weight that each person should receive of bread at the times I served it. I also amused all hands with describing the situation of New Guinea and New Holland, and gave them every information in my power, that, in case any accident happened to me, those who survived might have some idea of what they were about, and be able to find their way to Timor, which at present they knew nothing of more than the name, and some not even that. At night I served a quarter of a pint of water and half an ounce of bread for supper.

Saturday, 9th.—About nine in the evening the clouds began to gather, and we had a prodigious fall of rain, with severe thunder and lightning. By midnight we caught about twenty gallons of water. Being miserably wet and cold, I served to the people a teaspoonful of rum each, to enable them to bear with their distressed situation. The weather continued extremely bad, and the wind increased; we spent a very miserable night, without sleep, except such as could be got in the midst of rain. The day brought no relief but its light. The sea broke over us so much, that two men were constantly bailing; and we had no choice how to steer, being obliged to keep before the waves, for fear of the boat filling.

The allowance now regularly served to each person was 1-25th of a pound of bread, and a quarter of a pint of water, at eight in the morning, at noon, and at sunset. To-day I gave about half an ounce of pork for dinner, which, though any moderate person would have considered only as a mouthful, was divided into three or four.

All Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, the wet weather continued, with heavy seas and squalls. As there was no prospect of getting our clothes dried, my plan was to make every one strip, and wring them through the salt water, by which means they received a warmth that, while wet with rain, they could not have. We were constantly shipping seas and bailing, and were very wet and cold during the night. The sight of the islands which we were always passing served only to increase the misery of our situation. We were very little better than starving, with plenty in view; yet to attempt procuring any relief was attended with so much danger, that prolonging of life, even in the midst of misery, was thought preferable, while there remained hopes of being able to surmount our hardships. For my own part, I consider the general run of cloudy and wet weather to be a blessing of Providence. Hot weather would have caused us to have died with thirst, and probably being so constantly covered with rain or sea protected us from that dreadful calamity.

Saturday, 16th.—The sun breaking out through the clouds gave us hopes of drying our wet clothes; but the sunshine was of short duration. We had strong breezes at south-east by south, and dark gloomy weather, with storms of thunder, lightning, and rain. The night was truly horrible, and not a star to be seen, so that our steerage was uncertain.

Sunday, 17th.—At dawn of day I found every person complaining, and some of them solicited extra allowance, which I positively refused. Our situation was miserable; always wet, and suffering extreme cold during the night, without the least shelter from the weather. Being constantly obliged to bail, to keep the boat from filling, was perhaps not to be reckoned an evil, as it gave us exercise.

The little rum we had was of great service. When our nights were particularly distressing, I generally served a teaspoonful or two to each person; and it was always joyful tidings when they heard of my intentions.

The night was dark and dismal, the sea constantly breaking over us, and nothing but the wind and waves to direct our steerage. It was my intention, if possible, to make to New Holland, to the southward of Endeavor Straits, being sensible that it was necessary to preserve such a situation as would make a southerly wind a fair one; that we might range along the reefs till an opening should be found into smooth water, and we the sooner be able to pick up some refreshments.

Monday and Tuesday were terrible days, heavy rain with lightning. We were always bailing. On Wednesday the 20th, at dawn of day, some of my people seemed half dead. Our appearance was horrible, and I could look no way but I caught the eye of some one in distress. Extreme hunger was now too evident; but no one suffered from thirst, nor had we much inclination to drink—that desire, perhaps, being satisfied through the skin. The little sleep we got was in the midst of water, and we constantly awoke with severe cramps and pains in our bones.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, we were in the same distressed condition, and I began to fear that such another night or two would put an end to us. On Saturday, however, the wind moderated in the evening, and the weather looked much better, which rejoiced all hands, so that they ate their scanty allowance with more satisfaction than for some time past. The night also was fair; but being always wet with the sea, we suffered much from the cold.

Sunday, 24th.—A fine morning, I had the pleasure to see produce some cheerful countenances; and the first time, for fifteen days past, we experienced comfort from the warmth of the sun. We stripped, and hung our clothes up to dry, which were by this time become so threadbare, that they would not keep out either wet or cold.

This afternoon we had many birds about us which are never seen far from land, such as boobies and noddies. As the sea began to run fair, and we shipped but little water, I took the opportunity to examine into the state of our bread, and found that, according to the present mode of issuing, there was a sufficient quantity remaining for twenty-nine days’ allowance, by which time I hoped we should be able to reach Timor; but as this was very uncertain, and it was possible that, after all, we might be obliged to go to Java, I determined to proportion the allowance so as to make our stock hold out six weeks. I was apprehensive that this would be ill received, and that it would require my utmost resolution to enforce it; for small as the quantity was which I intended to take away for our future good, yet it might appear to my people like robbing them of life; and some, who were less patient than their companions, I expected would very ill brook it. However, on my representing the necessity of guarding against delays that might be occasioned in our voyage by contrary winds or other causes, and promising to enlarge upon the allowance as we got on, they cheerfully agreed to my proposal. It was accordingly settled that every person should receive 1-25th of a pound of bread for breakfast, and the same quantity for dinner; so that, by omitting the proportion for supper, we had forty-three days’ allowance.

Monday, 25th.—At noon some noddies came so near to us, that one of them was caught by hand. This bird was about the size of a small pigeon. I divided it, with its entrails, into eighteen portions, and by a well-known method at sea, of “Who shall have this?”[2] it was distributed, with the allowance of bread and water for dinner, and ate up, bones and all, with salt water for sauce. I observed the latitude 13 degrees 32 minutes south; longitude made 35 degrees 19 minutes west; course north 89 degrees west, distance one hundred and eight miles.

In the evening, several boobies flying very near to us, we had the good fortune to catch one of them. This bird is as large as a duck. I directed the bird to be killed for supper, and the blood to be given to three of the people who were most distressed for want of food. The body, with the entrails, beak, and feet, I divided into eighteen shares, and, with an allowance of bread, which I made a merit of granting, we made a good supper, compared with our usual fare.

Sailing on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I at length became satisfied that we were approaching New Holland. This was actually the case; and after passing the reefs which bound that part of the coast, we found ourselves in smooth water. Two islands lay about four miles to the west by north, and appeared eligible for a resting-place, if for nothing more; but on our approach to the nearest island, it proved to be only a heap of stones, and its size too inconsiderable to shelter the boat. We therefore proceeded to the next, which was close to it, and towards the main. We landed to examine if there were any signs of the natives being near us: we saw some old fireplaces, but nothing to make me apprehend that this would be an unsafe situation for the night. Every one was anxious to find something to eat, and it was soon discovered that there were oysters on these rocks, for the tide was out; but it was nearly dark, and only a few could be gathered. I determined, therefore, to wait till the morning, when I should know better how to proceed.

Friday, 29th.—As there were no appearances to make me imagine that any of the natives were near us, I sent out parties in search of supplies, while others of the people were putting the boat in order. The parties returned, highly rejoiced at having found plenty of oysters and fresh water. I had also made a fire by the help of a small magnifying glass; and, what was still more fortunate, we found among a few things which had been thrown into the boat, and saved, a piece of brimstone and a tinder-box, so that I secured fire for the future.

One of the people had been so provident as to bring away with him from the ship a copper pot: by being in possession of this article, we were enabled to make a proper use of the supply we now obtained; for, with a mixture of bread, and a little pork, we made a stew that might have been relished by people of far more delicate appetites, and of which each person received a full pint. The general complaints of disease among us were a dizziness in the head, great weakness of the joints, and violent tenesmus.

The oysters which we found grew so fast to the rocks, that it was with difficulty they could be broken off, and at length we discovered it to be the most expeditious way to open them where they were fixed. They were of a good size, and well tasted. To add to this happy circumstance, in the hollow of the land there grew some wire-grass, which indicated a moist situation. On forcing a stick about three feet long into the ground, we found water, and with little trouble dug a well, which produced as much as our necessities required.


As the day was the anniversary of the restoration of King Charles II., I named the island Restoration Island. Our short stay there, with the supplies which it afforded us, made a visible alteration for the better in our appearance. Next day, Saturday the 30th, at four o’clock, we were preparing to embark, when about twenty of the natives appeared, running and hallooing to us, on the opposite shore. They were each armed with a spear or lance, and a short weapon which they carried in their left hand. They made signs for us to come to them, but I thought it prudent to make the best of our way. They were naked, and apparently black, and their hair or wool bushy and short.

Sunday, 31st.—Many small islands were in sight to the northeast. We landed at one of a good height, bearing north one-half west. The shore was rocky, but the water was smooth, and we landed without difficulty. I sent two parties out, one to the northward, and the other to the southward, to seek for supplies, and others I ordered to stay by the boat. On this occasion fatigue and weakness so far got the better of their sense of duty, that some of the people expressed their discontent at having worked harder than their companions, and declared that they would rather be without their dinner, than go in search of it. One person, in particular, went so far as to tell me, with a mutinous look, that he was as good a man as myself. It was not possible for me to judge where this might have an end, if not stopped in time; therefore, to prevent such disputes in future, I determined either to preserve my command, or die in the attempt; and seizing a cutlass, I ordered him to take hold of another and defend himself, on which he called out that I was going to kill him, and immediately made concessions. I did not allow this to interfere further with the harmony of the boat’s crew and everything soon became quiet. We here procured some oysters and clams, also some dog-fish caught in the holes of the rocks, and a supply of water.

Leaving this island, which I named Sunday Island, we continued our course towards Endeavor Straits. During our voyage Nelson became very ill, but gradually recovered. Next day we landed at another island, to see what we could get. There were proofs that the island was occasionally visited by natives from New Holland. Encamping on the shore, I sent out one party to watch for turtle, and another to try to catch birds. About midnight the bird party returned, with only twelve noddies, birds which I have already described to be about the size of pigeons; but if it had not been for the folly and obstinacy of one of the party, who separated from the other two, and disturbed the birds, they might have caught a great number. I was so much provoked at my plans being thus defeated, that I gave this offender a good beating. This man afterwards confessed that, wandering away from his companions, he had eaten nine birds raw. Our turtling party had no success.

Tuesday and Wednesday we still kept our course north-west, touching at an island or two for oysters and clams. We had now been six days on the coast of New Holland, and but for the refreshment which our visit to its shores afforded us, it is all but certain that we must have perished. Now, however, it became clear that we were leaving it behind, and were commencing our adventurous voyage through the open sea to Timor.

On Wednesday, June 3d, at eight o’clock in the evening, we once more launched into the open ocean. Miserable as our situation was in every respect, I was secretly surprised to see that it did not appear to affect any one so strongly as myself. I encouraged every one with hopes that eight or ten days would bring us to a land of safety; and after praying to God for a continuance of his most gracious protection, I served an allowance of water for supper, and directed our course to the west-south-west, to counteract the southerly winds in case they should blow strong. For six days our voyage continued; a dreary repetition of those sufferings which we had experienced before reaching New Holland. In the course of the night we were constantly wet with the sea, and exposed to cold and shiverings; and in the daytime we had no addition to our scanty allowance, save a booby and a small dolphin that we caught, the former on Friday the 5th, and the latter on Monday the 8th. Many of us were ill, and the men complained heavily. On Wednesday the 10th, after a very comfortless night, there was a visible alteration for the worse in many of the people, which gave me great apprehensions. An extreme weakness, swelled legs, hollow and ghastly countenances, a more than common inclination to sleep, with an apparent debility of understanding, seemed to me the melancholy presages of an approaching dissolution.

Thursday, 11th.—Every one received the customary allowance of bread and water, and an extra allowance of water was given to those who were most in need. At noon I observed in latitude 9 degrees 41 minutes south; course south 77 degrees west, distance 109 miles; longitude made 13 degrees 49 minutes west. I had little doubt of having now passed the meridian of the eastern part of Timor, which is laid down in 128 degrees east. This diffused universal joy and satisfaction.

Friday, 12th.—At three in the morning, with an excess of joy, we discovered Timor bearing from west-south-west to west-north-west, and I hauled on a wind to the north-north-east till daylight, when the land bore from south-west by south to north-east by north; our distance from the shore two leagues. It is not possible for me to describe the pleasure which the blessing of the sight of this land diffused among us. It appeared scarcely credible to ourselves that, in an open boat, and so poorly provided, we should have been able to reach the coast of Timor in forty-one days after leaving Tofoa, having in that time run, by our log, a distance of 3618 miles and that, notwithstanding our extreme distress, no one should have perished in the voyage.

I have already mentioned that I knew not where the Dutch settlement was situated, but I had a faint idea that it was at the south-west part of the island. I therefore, after daylight, bore away along shore to the south-south-west, which I was the more readily induced to do, as the wind would not suffer us to go towards the north-east without great loss of time.

We coasted along the island in the direction in which I conceived the Dutch settlement to lie, and next day, about two o’clock, I came to a grapnel in a small sandy bay, where we saw a hut, a dog, and some cattle. Here I learned that the Dutch governor resided at a place called Coupang, which was some distance to the north-east. I made signs for one of the Indians who came to the beach to go in the boat and show us the way to Coupang, intimating that I would pay him for his trouble; the man readily complied, and came into the boat. The Indians, who were of a dark tawny color, brought us a few pieces of dried turtle and some ears of Indian corn. This last was the most welcome, for the turtle was so hard, that it could not be eaten without being first soaked in hot water. They offered to bring us some other refreshments, if I would wait; but, as the pilot was willing, I determined to push on. It was about half-past four when we sailed.

Sunday, 14th.—At one o’clock in the morning, after the most happy and sweet sleep that ever men enjoyed, we weighed, and continued to keep the east shore on board, in very smooth water. The report of two cannon that were fired gave new life to every one; and soon after, we discovered two square-rigged vessels and a cutter at anchor to the eastward. After hard rowing, we came to a grapnel near daylight, off a small fort and town, which the pilot told me was Coupang.

On landing, I was surrounded by many people, Indians and Dutch, with an English sailor among them. A Dutch captain, named Spikerman, showed me great kindness, and waited on the governor, who was ill, to know at what time I could see him. Eleven o’clock having been appointed for the interview, I desired my people to come on shore, which was as much as some of them could do, being scarce able to walk; they, however, were helped to Captain Spikerman’s house, and found tea, with bread and butter, provided for their breakfast.

The abilities of a painter, perhaps, could seldom have been displayed to more advantage than in the delineation of the two groups of figures which at this time presented themselves to each other. An indifferent spectator would have been at a loss which most to admire—the eyes of famine sparkling at immediate relief, or the horror of their preservers at the sight of so many spectres, whose ghastly countenances, if the cause had been unknown, would rather have excited terror than pity. Our bodies were nothing but skin and bone, our limbs were full of sores, and we were clothed in rags: in this condition, with tears of joy and gratitude flowing down our cheeks, the people of Timor beheld us with a mixture of horror, surprise, and pity.

The governor, Mr. William Adrian Van Este, notwithstanding extreme ill health, became so anxious about us, that I saw him before the appointed time. He received me with great affection, and gave me the fullest proofs that he was possessed of every feeling of a humane and good man. Though his infirmity was so great that he could not do the office of a friend himself, he said he would give such orders as I might be certain would procure us every supply we wanted. A house should be immediately prepared for me, and with respect to my people, he said that I might have room for them either at the hospital or on board of Captain Spikerman’s ship, which lay in the road....


The intelligence of the mutiny, and the sufferings of Bligh and his companions, naturally excited a great sensation in England. Bligh was immediately promoted to the rank of commander, and Captain Edwards was despatched to Otaheite, in the Pandora frigate, with instructions to search for the Bounty and her mutinous crew, and bring them to England. The Pandora reached Matavai Bay on the 23d of March, 1791; and even before she had come to anchor, Joseph Coleman, formerly armorer of the Bounty, pushed off from shore in a canoe, and came on board. In the course of two days afterwards, the whole of the remainder of the Bounty’s crew (in number sixteen) then on the island surrendered themselves, with the exception of two, who fled to the mountains, where, as it afterwards appeared, they were murdered by the natives.

Nearly twenty years elapsed after the period of the above occurrences, and all recollection of the Bounty and her wrecked crew had passed away, when an accidental discovery, as interesting as unexpected, once more recalled public attention to that event. The captain of an American schooner having, in 1808, accidentally touched at an island up to that time supposed to be uninhabited, called Pitcairn’s Island, found a community speaking English, who represented themselves as the descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty, of whom there was still one man, of the name of Alexander Smith, alive amongst them. Intelligence of this singular circumstance was sent by the American captain (Folger) to Sir Sydney Smith at Valparaiso, and by him transmitted to the Lords of the Admiralty. But the government was at that time perhaps too much engaged in the events of the continental war to attend to the information, nor was anything further heard of this interesting little society until 1814. In that year two British men-of-war, cruising in the Pacific, made Pitcairn’s Island, and on nearing the shore, saw plantations regularly and orderly laid out. Soon afterwards they observed a few natives coming down a steep descent, with their canoes on their shoulders, and in a few minutes perceived one of these little vessels darting through a heavy surf and paddling off towards the ships. But their astonishment may be imagined when, on coming alongside, they were hailed in good English with, “Wont you heave us a rope now?” This being done, a young man sprang up the side with extraordinary activity, and stood on the deck before them. In answer to the question “Who are you?” he replied that his name was Thursday October Christian, son of the late Fletcher Christian, by an Otaheitan mother; that he was the first born on the island, and was so named because he was born on a Thursday in October. All this sounded singular and incredible in the ears of the British captains, Sir Thomas Staines and Mr. Pipon; but they were soon satisfied of its truth. Young Christian was at this time about twenty-four years old, a tall handsome youth, fully six feet high, with black hair, and an open interesting English countenance. As he wore no clothes, except a piece of cloth round his loins, and a straw-hat ornamented with black cock’s feathers, his fine figure and well-shaped muscular limbs were displayed to great advantage, and attracted general admiration. His body was much tanned by exposure to the weather; but although his complexion was somewhat brown, it wanted that tinge of red peculiar to the natives of the Pacific. He spoke English correctly both in grammar and pronunciation; and his frank and ingenuous deportment excited in every one the liveliest feelings of compassion and interest. His companion was a fine handsome youth, of seventeen or eighteen years of age, named George Young, son of one of the Bounty’s midshipmen.

The youths expressed great surprise at everything they saw, especially a cow, which they supposed to be either a huge goat or a horned sow, having never seen any other quadrupeds. When questioned concerning the Bounty, they referred the captains to an old man on shore, the only surviving Englishman, whose name, they said, was John Adams, but who proved to be the identical Alexander Smith before-mentioned, having changed his name from some caprice or other. The officers went ashore with the youths, and were received by old Adams (as we shall now call him), who conducted them to his house, and treated them to an elegant repast of eggs, fowl, yams, plantains, breadfruit, etc. They now learned from him an account of the fate of his companions, who, with himself, preferred accompanying Christian in the Bounty to remaining at Otaheite—which account agreed with that he afterwards gave at greater length to Captain Beechey in 1828. Our limits will not permit us to detail all the interesting particulars at length, as we could have wished, but they are in substance as follows:—

It was Christian’s object, in order to avoid the vengeance of the British law, to proceed to some unknown and uninhabited island, and the Marquesas Islands were first fixed upon. But Christian, on reading Captain Cartaret’s account of Pitcairn’s Island, thought it better adapted for the purpose, and shaped his course thither. Having landed and traversed it, they found it every way suitable to their wishes, possessing water, wood, a good soil, and some fruits. Having ascertained all this, they returned on board, and having landed their hogs, goats, and poultry, and gutted the ship of everything that could be useful to them, they set fire to her, and destroyed every vestige that might lead to the discovery of their retreat. This was on the 23d of January 1790. The island was then divided into nine equal portions amongst them, a suitable spot of neutral ground being reserved for a village. The poor Otaheitans now found themselves reduced to the condition of mere slaves; but they patiently submitted, and everything went on peaceably for two years. About that time Williams, one of the seamen, having the misfortune to lose his wife, forcibly took the wife of one of the Otaheitans, which, together with their continued ill-usage, so exasperated the latter, that they formed a plan for murdering the whole of their oppressors. The plot, however, was discovered, and revealed by the Englishmen’s wives, and two of the Otaheitans were put to death. But the surviving natives soon afterwards matured a more successful conspiracy, and in one day murdered five of the Englishmen, including Christian. Adams and Young were spared at the intercession of their wives, and the remaining two, M’Koy and Quintal (two desperate ruffians), escaped to the mountains, whence, however, they soon rejoined their companions. But the further career of these two villains was short. M’Koy, having been bred up in a Scottish distillery, succeeded in extracting a bottle of ardent spirits from the tee root; from which time he and Quintal were never sober, until the former became delirious, and committed suicide by jumping over a cliff. Quintal being likewise almost insane with drinking, made repeated attempts to murder Adams and Young, until they were absolutely compelled, for their own safety, to put him to death, which they did by felling him with a hatchet.

Adams and Young were at length the only surviving males who had landed on the island, and being both of a serious turn of mind, and having time for reflection and repentance, they became extremely devout. Having saved a Bible and prayer-book from the Bounty, they now performed family worship morning and evening, and addressed themselves to training up their own children and those of their unfortunate companions in piety and virtue. Young, however, was soon carried off by an asthmatic complaint, and Adams was thus left to continue his pious labors alone. At the time Captains Staines and Pipon visited the island, this interesting little colony consisted of about forty-six persons, mostly grown-up young people, all living in harmony and happiness together; and not only professing, but fully understanding and practising, the precepts and principles of the Christian religion. Adams had instituted the ceremony of marriage, and he assured his visitors that not one instance of debauchery and immoral conduct had occurred amongst them.

The visitors having supplied these interesting people with some tools, kettles, and other articles, took their leave. The account which they transmitted home of this newly-discovered colony was, strange to say, as little attended to by government as that of Captain Folger, and nothing more was heard of Adams and his family for nearly twelve years, when, in 1825, Captain Beechey, in the Blossom, bound on a voyage of discovery to Behring Strait, touched at Pitcairn’s Island. On the approach of the Blossom, a boat came off under all sail towards the ship, containing old Adams and ten of the young men of the island. After requesting and obtaining leave to come on board, the young men sprung up the side, and shook every officer cordially by the hand. Adams, who was grown very corpulent, followed more leisurely. He was dressed in a sailor’s shirt and trousers, with a low-crowned hat, which he held in his hand in sailor fashion, while he smoothed down his bald forehead when addressed by the officers of the Blossom. The little colony had now increased to about sixty-six, including an English sailor of the name of John Buffett, who, at his own earnest desire, had been left by a whaler. In this man the society luckily found an able and willing schoolmaster. He instructed the children in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and devoutly co-operated with old Adams in affording religious instruction to the community. The officers of the Blossom went ashore, and were entertained with a sumptuous repast at young Christian’s, the table being spread with plates, knives, and forks. Buffett said grace in an emphatic manner; and so strict were they in this respect, that it was not deemed proper to touch a morsel of bread without saying grace both before and after it. The officers slept in the house all night, their bedclothing and sheets consisting of the native cloth made of the native mulberry-tree. The only interruption to their repose was the melody of the evening hymn, which was chanted together by the whole family after the lights were put out; and they were awakened at early dawn by the same devotional ceremony. On Sabbath the utmost decorum was attended to, and the day was passed in regular religious observances.

In consequence of a representation made by Captain Beechey, the British government sent out Captain Waldegrave in 1830, in the Seringapatam, with a supply of sailors’ blue jackets and trousers, flannels, stockings and shoes, women’s dresses, spades, mattocks, shovels, pickaxes, trowels, rakes, etc. He found their community increased to about seventy-nine, all exhibiting the same unsophisticated and amiable characteristics as we have before described. Other two Englishmen had settled amongst them; one of them, called Nobbs, a low-bred, illiterate man, a self-constituted missionary, who was endeavoring to supersede Buffett in his office of religious instructor. The patriarch Adams, it was found, had died in March, 1829, aged sixty-five. While on his deathbed, he had called the heads of families together, and urged upon them to elect a chief; which, however, they had not yet done; but the greatest harmony still prevailed amongst them, notwithstanding Nobbs’s exertions to form a party of his own. Captain Waldegrave thought that the island, which is about four miles square, might be able to support a thousand persons, upon reaching which number they would naturally emigrate to other islands.

Such is the account of this most singular colony, originating in crime and bloodshed. Of all the repentant criminals on record, the most interesting, perhaps, is John Adams; nor do we know where to find a more beautiful example of the value of early instruction than in the history of this man, who, having run the full career of nearly all kinds of vice, was checked by an interval of leisurely reflection, and the sense of new duties awakened by the power of natural affections.


[1] It weighed 272 grains.

[2] One person turns his back on the object that is to be divided; another then points separately to the portions, at each of them asking aloud, “Who shall have this?” to which the first answers by naming somebody. This impartial method of division gives every man an equal chance of the best share.



(From the Cruise of the Cachalot.)
By FRANK T. BULLEN, First Mate.


Simultaneous ideas occurring to several people, or thought transference, whatever one likes to call the phenomenon, is too frequent an occurrence in most of our experience to occasion much surprise. Yet on the occasion to which I am about to refer the matter was so very marked that few of us who took part in the day’s proceedings are ever likely to forget it. We were all gathered about the fo’lk’sle scuttle one evening, a few days after the gale, and the question of whale-fishing came up for discussion. Until that time, strange as it may seem, no word of this, the central idea of all our minds, had been mooted. Every man seemed to shun the subject, although we were in daily expectation of being called upon to take an active part in whale-fighting. Once the ice was broken, nearly all had something to say about it, and very nearly as many addle-headed opinions were ventilated as at a Colney Hatch debating society. For we none of us knew anything about it. I was appealed to continually to support this or that theory, but as far as whaling went I could only, like the rest of them, draw upon my imagination for details. How did a whale act, what were the first steps taken, what chance was there of being saved if your boat got smashed, and so on unto infinity. At last, getting very tired of this “Portugee Parliament” of all talkers and no listeners, I went aft to get a drink of water before turning in. The harpooners and other petty officers were grouped in the waist, earnestly discussing the pros and cons of attack upon whales. As I passed I heard the mate’s harpooner say, “Feels like whale about. I bet a plug (of tobacco) we raise sperm whale to-morrow.” Nobody took his bet, for it appeared that they were mostly of the same mind, and while I was drinking I heard the officers in dignified conclave talking over the same thing. It was Saturday evening, and while at home people were looking forward to a day’s respite from work and care, I felt that the coming day, though never taken much notice of on board, was big with the probabilities of strife such as I at least had at present no idea of. So firmly was I possessed by the prevailing feeling.

An Old Whaler

An Old Whaler

The night was very quiet. A gentle breeze was blowing, and the sky was of the usual “Trade” character; that is, a dome of dark blue fringed at the horizon with peaceful cumulus clouds, almost motionless. I turned in at 4 A.M. from the middle watch, and, as usual, slept like a babe. Suddenly I started wide awake, a long mournful sound sending a thrill to my very heart. As I listened breathlessly other sounds of the same character, but in different tones, joined in, human voices monotonously intoning in long-drawn-out expirations the single word “bl-o-o-o-o-w.” Then came a hurricane of noise overhead, and adjurations in no gentle language to the sleepers to “tumble up lively there, no skulking; sperm whales.” At last, then, fulfilling all the presentiments of yesterday, the long-dreaded moment had arrived. Happily there was no time for hesitation—in less than two minutes we were all on deck, and hurrying to our respective boats. There was no flurry or confusion, and except that orders were given more quietly than usual, with a manifest air of suppressed excitement, there was nothing to show that we were not going for an ordinary course of boat drill. The skipper was in the main crow’s-nest with his binoculars. Presently he shouted, “Naow, then, Mr. Count, lower away soon’s y’like. Small pod o’ cows, an’ one’r two bulls layin’ off to west’ard of ’em.” Down went the boats into the water quietly enough, we all scrambled in and shoved off. A stroke or two of the oars were given to get clear of the ship and one another, then oars were shipped and up went the sails. As I took my allotted place at the main-sheet, and the beautiful craft started off like some big bird, Mr. Count leaned forward, saying impressively to me, “Y’r a smart youngster, an’ I’ve kinder took t’ yer; but don’t ye look ahead an’ get gallied, ’r I’ll knock ye stiff wi’ th’ tiller; y’hear me? ’N’ don’t ye dare to make thet sheet fast, ’r ye’ll die so sudden y’ won’t know whar y’r hurted.” I said as cheerfully as I could, “All right, sir,” trying to look unconcerned, telling myself not to be a coward, and all sorts of things; but the cold truth is that I was scared almost to death because I didn’t know what was coming. However, I did the best thing under the circumstances, obeyed orders, and looked steadily astern, or up into the bronzed, impassive face of my chief, who towered above me, scanning with eagle eyes the sea ahead. The other boats were coming flying along behind us, spreading wider apart as they came, while in the bows of each stood the harpooner with his right hand on his first iron, which lay ready, pointing over the bow in a raised fork of wood called the “crutch.”

All of a sudden, at a motion of the chief’s hand, the peak of our mainsail was dropped, and the boat swung up into the wind, lying “hove to,” almost stationary. The centre-board was lowered to stop her drifting to leeward, although I cannot say it made much difference that ever I saw. Now what’s the matter? I thought; when to my amazement the chief, addressing me, said, “Wonder why we’ve hauled up, don’t ye?” “Yes, sir, I do,” said I. “Wall,” said he, “the fish hev sounded, an’ ef we run over ’em, we’ve seen the last ov ’em. So we wait awhile till they rise agin, ’n then we’ll prob’ly git thar’ ’r thareabouts before they sound agin.” With this explanation I had to be content, although if it be no clearer to my readers than it then was to me, I shall have to explain myself more fully later on. Silently we lay, rocking lazily upon the gentle swell, no other word being spoken by any one. At last Louis, the harpooner, gently breathed “blo-o-o-w”; and there, sure enough, not half a mile away on the lee beam, was a little bushy cloud of steam apparently rising from the sea. At almost the same time as we kept away all the other boats did likewise, and just then, catching sight of the ship, the reason for this apparently concerted action was explained. At the main-mast head of the ship was a square blue flag, and the ensign at the peak was being dipped. These were signals well understood and promptly acted upon by those in charge of the boats, who were thus guided from a point of view at least one hundred feet above the sea.

“Stand up, Louey,” the mate murmured softly. I only just stopped myself in time from turning my head to see why the order was given. Suddenly there was a bump; at the same moment the mate yelled, “Giv’t to him, Louey, give’t to him!” and to me, “Haul that main sheet, naow; haul, why don’t ye?” I hauled it flat aft, and the boat shot up into the wind, rubbing sides as she did so with what to my troubled sight seemed an enormous mass of black india-rubber floating. As we crawled up into the wind, the whale went into convulsions befitting his size and energy. He raised a gigantic tail on high, thrashing the water with deafening blows, rolling at the same time from side to side until the surrounding sea was white with froth. I felt in an agony lest we should be crushed under one of those fearful strokes, for Mr. Count appeared to be oblivious of possible danger, although we seemed to be now drifting back on to the writhing leviathan. In the agitated condition of the sea, it was a task of no ordinary difficulty to unship the tall mast, which was of course the first thing to be done. After a desperate struggle, and a narrow escape from falling overboard of one of the men, we got the long “stick,” with the sail bundled around it, down and “fleeted” aft, where it was secured by the simple means of sticking the “heel” under the after thwart, two-thirds of the mast extending out over the stern. Meanwhile, we had certainly been in a position of the greatest danger, our immunity from damage being unquestionably due to anything but precaution taken to avoid it.

By the time the oars were handled, and the mate had exchanged places with the harpooner, our friend the enemy had “sounded”; that is, he had gone below for a change of scene, marvelling no doubt what strange thing had befallen him. Agreeably to the accounts which I, like most boys, had read of the whale fishery, I looked for the rushing of the line round the loggerhead (a stout wooden post built into the boat aft), to raise a cloud of smoke with occasional bursts of flame; so as it began to slowly surge round the post I timidly asked the harpooner whether I should throw any water on it. “Wot for?” growled he, as he took a couple more turns with it. Not knowing “what for,” and hardly liking to quote my authorities here, I said no more, but waited events. “Hold him up, Louey, hold him up, caint ye?” shouted the mate, and to my horror, down went the nose of the boat almost under water, while at the mate’s order everybody scrambled aft into the elevated stern sheets.

The line sang quite a tune as it was grudgingly allowed to surge round the loggerhead, filling one with admiration at the strength shown by such a small rope. This sort of thing went on for about twenty minutes, in which time we quite emptied the large tub and began on the small one. As there was nothing whatever for us to do while this was going on, I had ample leisure for observing the little game that was being played about a quarter of a mile away, Mr. Cruce, the second mate, had got a whale and was doing his best to kill it; but he was severely handicapped by his crew, or rather had been, for two of them were now temporarily incapable of either good or harm. They had gone quite “batchy” with fright, requiring a not too gentle application of the tiller to their heads in order to keep them quiet. The remedy, if rough, was effectual, for “the subsequent proceedings interested them no more.” Consequently his manœuvres were not so well or rapidly executed as he, doubtless, could have wished, although his energy in lancing that whale was something to admire and remember. Hatless, his shirt-tail out of the waist of his trousers streaming behind him like a banner, he lunged and thrust at the whale alongside of him as if possessed of a destroying devil, while his half-articulate yells of rage and blasphemy were audible even to us.

Suddenly our boat fell backward from her “slantin-dicular” position with a jerk, and the mate immediately shouted, “Haul line, there! look lively, now! you”—so on, et cetera, et cetera (he seemed to invent new epithets on every occasion). The line came in hand over hand, and was coiled in a wide heap in the stern sheets, for, silky as it was, it could not be expected in its wet state to lie very close. As it came flying in, the mate kept a close gaze upon the water immediately beneath us, apparently for the first glimpse of our antagonist. When the whale broke water, however, he was some distance off, and apparently as quiet as a lamb. Now, had Mr. Count been a prudent or less ambitious man, our task would doubtless have been an easy one, or comparatively so; but, being a little over-grasping, he got us all into serious trouble. We were hauling up to our whale in order to lance it, and the mate was standing, lance in hand, only waiting to get near enough, when up comes a large whale right alongside of our boat, so close, indeed, that I might have poked my finger in his little eye, if I had chosen. The sight of that whale at liberty, and calmly taking stock of us like that, was too much for the mate. He lifted his lance and hurled it at the visitor, in whose broad flank it sank, like a knife into butter, right up to the pole-hitches. The recipient disappeared like a flash, but before one had time to think, there was an awful crash beneath us, and the mate shot up into the air like a bomb from a mortar. He came down in a sitting posture on the mast-thwart; but as he fell, the whole framework of the boat collapsed like a derelict umbrella. Louis quietly chopped the line and severed our connection with the other whale, while in accordance with our instructions we drew each man his oar across the boat and lashed it firmly down with a piece of line spliced to each thwart for the purpose. This simple operation took but a minute, but before it was completed we were all up to our necks in the sea. Still in the boat, it is true, and therefore not in such danger of drowning as if we were quite adrift; but, considering that the boat was reduced to a mere bundle of loose planks, I, at any rate, was none too comfortable. Now, had he known it, was the whale’s golden opportunity; but he, poor wretch, had had quite enough of our company, and cleared off without any delay, wondering, no doubt, what fortunate accident had rid him of our very unpleasant attentions.

“He Lifted His Lance and Hurled It at the Visitor”

“He Lifted His Lance and Hurled It at the Visitor”

I was assured that we were all as safe as if we were on board the ship, to which I answered nothing; but, like Jack’s parrot, I did some powerful thinking. Every little wave that came along swept clean over our heads, sometimes coming so suddenly as to cut a breath in half. If the wind should increase—but no—I wouldn’t face the possibility of such a disagreeable thing. I was cool enough now in a double sense, for although we were in the tropics, we soon got thoroughly chilled.

By the position of the sun it must have been between ten A.M. and noon, and we, of the crew, had eaten nothing since the previous day at supper, when, as usual, the meal was very light. Therefore, I suppose we felt the chill sooner than the better-nourished mate and harpooner, who looked rather scornfully at our blue faces and chattering teeth.

In spite of all assurances to the contrary, I have not the least doubt in my own mind that a very little longer would have relieved us of all our burdens finally, because the heave of the sea had so loosened the shattered planks upon which we stood that they were on the verge of falling all asunder. Had they done so we must have drowned, for we were cramped and stiff with cold and our constrained position. However, unknown to us, a bright look-out upon our movements had been kept from the crow’s-nest the whole time. We should have been relieved long before, but that the whale killed by the second mate was being secured, and another boat, the fourth mate’s, being picked up, having a hole in her bilge you could put your head through. With all these hindrances, especially securing the whale, we were fortunate to be rescued as soon as we were, since it is well known that whales are of much higher commercial value than men.

However, help came at last, and we were hauled alongside. Long exposure had weakened us to such an extent that it was necessary to hoist us on board, especially the mate, whose “sudden stop,” when he returned to us after his little aërial excursion, had shaken his sturdy frame considerably, a state of body which the subsequent soaking had by no means improved. In my innocence I imagined that we should be commiserated for our misfortunes by Captain Slocum, and certainly be relieved from further duties until we were a little recovered from the rough treatment we had just undergone. But I never made a greater mistake. The skipper cursed us all (except the mate, whose sole fault the accident undoubtedly was) with a fluency and vigor that was, to put it mildly, discouraging. Moreover, we were informed that he “wouldn’t have no [adjective] skulking;” we must “turn to” and do something after wasting the ship’s time and property in such a blank manner. There was a limit, however, to our obedience, so although we could not move at all for awhile, his threats were not proceeded with farther than theory.

A couple of slings were passed around the boat, by means of which, she was carefully hoisted on board, a mere dilapidated bundle of sticks and raffle of gear. She was at once removed aft out of the way, the business of cutting in the whale claiming precedence over everything else just then. The preliminary proceedings consisted of rigging the “cutting stage.” This was composed of two stout planks a foot wide and ten feet long, the inner ends of which were suspended by strong ropes over the ship’s side about four feet from the water, while the outer extremities were upheld by tackles from the main rigging, and a small crane abreast the try-works.

These planks were about thirty feet apart, their two outer ends being connected by a massive plank, which was securely bolted to them. A handrail about as high as a man’s waist, supported by light iron stanchions, ran the full length of this plank on the side nearest the ship, the whole fabric forming an admirable standing-place from whence the officers might, standing in comparative comfort, cut and carve at the great mass below to their hearts’ content.

Sperm Whale

Sperm Whale

So far the prize had been simply held alongside by the whale-line, which at death had been “rove” through a hole cut in the solid gristle of the tail; but now it became necessary to secure the carcass to the ship in some more permanent fashion. Therefore, a massive chain like a small ship’s cable was brought forward, and in a very ingenious way, by means of a tiny buoy and a hand-lead, passed round the body, one end brought through a ring in the other, and hauled upon until it fitted tight round the “small” or part of the whale next the broad spread of the tail. The free end of the fluke-chain was then passed in through a mooring-pipe forward, firmly secured to a massive bitt at the heel of the bowsprit (the fluke-chain-bitt), and all was ready.

If ... too much stress has been laid upon the smashing of our own boat and consequent sufferings, while little or no notice was taken of the kindred disaster to Mistah Jones’ vessel, my excuse must be that the experience “filled me right up to the chin,” as the mate concisely, if inelegantly, put it. Poor Goliath was indeed to be pitied, for his well-known luck and capacity as a whaleman seemed on this occasion to have quite deserted him. Not only had his boat been stove upon first getting on to the whale, but he hadn’t even had a run for his money. It appeared that upon striking his whale, a small, lively cow, she had at once “settled,” allowing the boat to run over her; but just as they were passing, she rose, gently enough, her pointed hump piercing the thin skin of half-inch cedar as if it had been cardboard. She settled again immediately, leaving a hole behind her a foot long by six inches wide, which effectually put a stop to all further fishing operations on the part of Goliath and his merry men for that day, at any rate. It was all so quiet, and so tame and so stupid, no wonder Mistah Jones felt savage. When Captain Slocum’s fluent profanity flickered around him, including vehemently all he might be supposed to have any respect for, he did not even look as if he would like to talk back; he only looked sick and tired of being himself.

The third mate, again, was of a different category altogether. He had distinguished himself by missing every opportunity of getting near a whale while there was a “loose” one about, and then “saving” the crew of Goliath’s boat, who were really in no danger whatever. His iniquity was too great to be dealt with by mere bad language. He crept about like a homeless dog—much, I am afraid, to my secret glee, for I couldn’t help remembering his untiring cruelty to the green hands on first leaving port.

lances, spade illustration

In consequence of these little drawbacks we were not a very jovial crowd forward or aft. Not that hilarity was ever particularly noticeable among us, but just now there was a very decided sense of wrong-doing over us all, and a general fear that each of us was about to pay the penalty due to some other delinquent. But fortunately there was work to be done. Oh, blessed work! how many awkward situations you have extricated people from! How many distracted brains have you soothed and restored, by your steady, irresistible pressure of duty to be done and brooking of no delay!

The first thing to be done was to cut the whale’s head off. This operation, involving the greatest amount of labor in the whole of the cutting-in, was taken in hand by the first and second mates, who, armed with twelve-foot spades, took their station upon the stage, leaned over the handrail to steady themselves, and plunged their weapons vigorously down through the massive neck of the animal,—if neck it could be said to have,—following a well-defined crease in the blubber. At the same time the other officers passed a heavy chain sling around the long, narrow lower jaw, hooking one of the big cutting tackle into it, the “fall” of which was then taken to the windlass and hove tight, turning the whale on her back. A deep cut was then made on both sides of the rising jaw, the windlass was kept going, and gradually the whole of the throat was raised high enough for a hole to be cut through its mass, into which the strap of the second cutting tackle was inserted, and secured by passing a huge toggle of oak through its eye. The second tackle was then hove taut, and the jaw, with a large piece of blubber attached, was cut off from the body with a boarding-knife, a tool not unlike a cutlass blade set into a three-foot-long wooden handle.

whaling apparatus

Upon being severed the whole piece swung easily inboard and was lowered on deck. The fast tackle was now hove upon while the third mate on the stage cut down diagonally into the blubber on the body, which the purchase ripped off in a broad strip or “blanket” about five feet wide and a foot thick. Meanwhile the other two officers carved away vigorously at the head, varying their labors by cutting a hole right through the snout. This when completed received a heavy chain for the purpose of securing the head. When the blubber had been about half stripped off the body, a halt was called in order that the work of cutting off the head might be finished, for it was a task of incredible difficulty. It was accomplished at last, and the mass floated astern by a stout rope, after which the windlass pawls clattered merrily, the “blankets” rose in quick succession, and were cut off and lowered into the square of the main hatch or “blubber-room.” A short time sufficed to strip off the whole of the body-blubber, and when at last the tail was reached, the backbone was cut through, the huge mass of flesh floating away to feed the innumerable scavengers of the sea. No sooner was the last of the blubber lowered into the hold than the hatches were put on and the head hauled up alongside. Both tackles were secured to it and all hands took to the windlass levers. This was a small cow whale of about thirty barrels, that is, yielding that amount of oil, so it was just possible to lift the entire head on board; but as it weighed as much as three full-grown elephants, it was indeed a heavy lift for even our united forces, trying our tackle to the utmost. The weather was very fine, and the ship rolled but little; even then, the strain upon the mast was terrific, and right glad was I when at last the immense cube of fat, flesh, and bone was eased inboard and gently lowered on deck.

The “Blankets” rose in quick succession

The “Blankets” rose in quick succession

As soon as it was secured the work of dividing it began. From the snout a triangular mass was cut, which was more than half pure spermaceti. This substance was contained in spongy cells held together by layers of dense white fibre, exceedingly tough and elastic, and called by the whalers “white-horse.” The whole mass, or “junk” as it is called, was hauled away to the ship’s side and firmly lashed to the bulwarks for the time being, so that it might not “take charge” of the deck during the rest of the operations.

The upper part of the head was now slit open lengthwise, disclosing an oblong cistern or “case” full of liquid spermaceti, clear as water. This was bailed out with buckets into a tank, concreting as it cooled into a wax-like substance, bland and tasteless. There being now nothing more remaining about the skull of any value, the lashings were loosed, and the first leeward roll sent the great mass plunging overboard with a mighty splash. It sank like a stone, eagerly followed by a few small sharks that were hovering near.

As may be imagined, much oil was running about the deck, for so saturated was every part of the creature with it that it really gushed like water during the cutting-up process. None of it was allowed to run to waste, though, for the scupper-holes which drain the deck were all carefully plugged, and as soon as the “junk” had been dissected all the oil was carefully “squeegeed” up and poured into the try-pots.

mincing knife

Mincing Knife

Two men were now told off as “blubber-room men,” whose duty it became to go below, and squeezing themselves in as best they could between the greasy masses of fat, cut it up into “horse-pieces” about eighteen inches long and six inches broad. Doing this they became perfectly saturated with oil, as if they had taken a bath in a tank of it; for as the vessel rolled it was impossible to maintain a footing, and every fall was upon blubber running with oil. A machine of wonderful construction had been erected on deck in a kind of shallow trough about six feet long by four feet wide and a foot deep. At some remote period of time it had no doubt been looked upon as a triumph of ingenuity, a patent mincing machine. Its action was somewhat like that of a chaff-cutter, except that the knife was not attached to the wheel, and only rose and fell, since it was not required to cut right through the “horse-pieces” with which it was fed. It will be readily understood that in order to get the oil quickly out of the blubber it needs to be sliced as thin as possible, but for convenience in handling the refuse (which is the only fuel used) it is not chopped up in small pieces, but every “horse-piece” is very deeply scored, as it were, leaving a thin strip to hold the slices together. This, then, was the order of work. Two harpooners attended the try-pots, replenishing them with minced blubber from the hopper at the port side, and bailing out the sufficiently boiled oil into the great cooling tank on the starboard. One officer superintended the mincing, another exercised a general supervision over all. There was no man at the wheel and no look-out, for the vessel was “hove-to” under two close-reefed topsails and foretopmast-staysail, with the wheel lashed hard down. A look-out man was unnecessary, since we could not run anybody down, and if anybody ran us down, it would only be because all hands were asleep, for the glare of our try-works fire, to say nothing of the blazing cresset before mentioned, could have been seen for many miles. So we toiled watch and watch, six hours on and six off, the work never ceasing for an instant night or day. Though the work was hard and dirty, and the discomfort of being so continually wet through with oil great, there was only one thing dangerous about the whole business. That was the job of filling and shifting the huge casks of oil. Some of these were of enormous size, containing three hundred and fifty gallons when full, and the work of moving them about the greasy deck of a rolling ship was attended with a terrible amount of risk. For only four men at most could get fair hold of a cask, and when she took it into her silly old hull to start rolling, just as we had got one half-way across the deck, with nothing to grip your feet, and the knowledge that one stumbling man would mean a sudden slide of the ton and a half weight, and a little heap of mangled corpses somewhere in the lee scuppers,—well, one always wanted to be very thankful when the lashings were safely passed.

whaling tools

The whale being a small one, as before noted, the whole business was over within three days, and the decks scrubbed and re-scrubbed until they had quite regained their normal whiteness. The oil was poured by means of a funnel and long canvas hose into the casks stowed in the ground tier at the bottom of the ship, and the gear, all carefully cleaned and neatly “stopped up,” stowed snugly away below again.

This long and elaborate process is quite different from that followed on board the Arctic whale ships, whose voyages are of short duration, and who content themselves with merely cutting the blubber up small and bringing it home to have the oil expressed. But the awful putrid mass discharged from a Greenlander’s hold is of a very different quality and value, apart from the nature of the substance, from the clear and sweet oil which after three years in cask is landed from a south-seaman as inoffensive in smell and flavor as the day it was shipped. No attempt is made to separate the oil and spermaceti beyond boiling the “head matter,” as it is called, by itself first, and putting it into casks which are not filled up with the body oil. Spermaceti exists in all the oil, especially that from the dorsal hump; but it is left for the refiners ashore to extract and leave the oil quite free from any admixture of the wax-like substance, which causes it to become solid at temperatures considerably above the freezing-point.

Uninteresting as the preceding description may be, it is impossible to understand anything of the economy of a south-sea whaler without giving it, and I have felt it the more necessary because of the scanty notice given to it in the only two works published on the subject, both of them highly technical, and written for scientific purposes by medical men. Therefore I hope to be forgiven if I have tried the patience of my readers by any prolixity.

It will not, of course, have escaped the reader’s notice that I have not hitherto attempted to give any details concerning the structure of the whale just dealt with. The omission is intentional. During this, our first attempt at real whaling, my mind was far too disturbed by the novelty and danger of the position in which I found myself for the first time, for me to pay any intelligent attention to the party of the second part.

But I may safely promise that from the workman’s point of view, the habits, manners, and build of the whales shall be faithfully described as I saw them during my long acquaintance with them, earnestly hoping that if my story be not as technical or scientific as that of Drs. Bennett and Beale, it may be found fully as accurate and reliable; and perhaps the reader, being like myself a mere layman, so to speak, may be better able to appreciate description free from scientific formula and nine-jointed words.

Greener’s Harpoon Gun and Harpoon

Greener’s Harpoon Gun and Harpoon

Two things I did notice on this occasion which I will briefly allude to before closing this chapter. One was the peculiar skin of the whale. It was a bluish-black, and as thin as gold-beater’s skin; so thin, indeed, and tender, that it was easily scraped off with the fingernail. Immediately beneath it, upon the surface of the blubber, was a layer or coating of what for want of a better simile I must call fine, short fur, although unlike fur it had no roots or apparently any hold upon the blubber. Neither was it attached to the skin which covered it; in fact, it seemed merely a sort of packing between the skin and the surface of the thick layer of solid fat which covered the whole area of the whale’s body. The other matter which impressed me was the peculiarity of the teeth. For up till that time I had held, in common with most seamen, and landsmen, too, for that matter, the prevailing idea that a “whale” lived by “suction” (although I did not at all know what that meant), and that it was impossible for him to swallow a herring. Yet here was a mouth manifestly intended for greater things in the way of gastronomy than herrings; nor did it require more than the most casual glances to satisfy one of so obvious a fact. Then the teeth were heroic in size, protruding some four or five inches from the gum, and solidly set more than that into its firm and compact substance. They were certainly not intended for mastication, being, where thickest, three inches apart, and tapering to a short point, curving slightly backwards. In this specimen, a female, and therefore small, as I have said, there were twenty of them on each side, the last three or four near the gullet being barely visible above the gum.

Bomb Lance Gun and Lance

Bomb Lance Gun and Lance

Another most convincing reason why no mastication could have been possible was that there were no teeth visible in the upper jaw. Opposed to each of the teeth was a socket where a tooth should apparently have been, and this was conclusive evidence of the soft and yielding nature of the great creature’s food. But there were signs that at some period of the development of the whale it had possessed a double row of teeth, because at the bottom of these upper sockets we found in a few cases what seemed to be an abortive tooth, not one that was growing, because they had no roots, but a survival of teeth that had once been perfect and useful, but from disuse, or lack of necessity for them, had gradually ceased to come to maturity. The interior of the mouth and throat was of a livid white, and the tongue was quite small for so large an animal. It was almost incapable of movement, being somewhat like a fowl’s. Certainly it could not have been protruded even from the angle of the mouth, much less have extended along the parapet of that lower mandible, which reminded one of the beak of some mighty albatross or stork.



(From A Narrative of Voyages)

Bomb Lance Gun and Lance

In the ordinary course of a commercial education, in New England, boys are transferred from school to the merchant’s desk at the age of fourteen or fifteen. When I had reached my fourteenth year it was my good fortune to be received into the counting-house of Elias Hasket Derby, Esq., of Salem; a merchant, who may justly be termed the father of the American commerce to India; one whose enterprise and commercial sagacity were unequalled in his day, and, perhaps, have not been surpassed by any of his successors. To him our country is indebted for opening the valuable trade to Calcutta; before whose fortress his was the first vessel to display the American flag; and, following up the business, he had reaped golden harvests before other merchants came in for a share of them. The first American ships, seen at the Cape of Good Hope and at the Isle of France, belonged to him. His were the first American ships which carried cargoes of cotton from Bombay to China; and among the first ships which made a direct voyage to China and back, was one owned by him. He continued to prosecute a successful business, on an extensive scale, in those countries, until the day of his death. In the transaction of his affairs abroad, he was liberal, greatly beyond the practice in modern times, always desirous that every one, even the foremost hand, should share the good fortune to which he pointed the way; and the long list of masters of ships, who have acquired ample fortunes in his employment, is a proof, both of his discernment in selecting and of his generosity in paying them.

Without possessing a scientific knowledge of the construction and the sparring of ships, Mr. Derby seemed to have an intuitive faculty in judging of models and proportions; and his experiments, in several instances, for the attainment of swiftness of sailing, were crowned with a success unsurpassed in our own or any other country. He built several ships for the India trade, immediately in the vicinity of the counting-house; which afforded me an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the building, sparring, and rigging of ships. The conversations, to which I listened, relating to the countries then newly visited by Americans, the excitement on the return of an adventure from them, and the great profits which were made, always manifest from the result of my own little adventures, tended to stimulate the desire in me of visiting those countries, and of sharing more largely in the advantages they presented. Consequently, after having passed four years in this course of instruction, I became impatient to begin that nautical career on which I had determined, as presenting the most sure and direct means of arriving at independence; and in the summer of 1792 I embarked on my first voyage. It was one of only three months’ duration; but it was sufficient to produce a most thorough disgust of the pursuit, from the severe suffering of sea-sickness; so that, if I had perceived, on my return, any prospect on shore equally promising, I should have abandoned the sea. None, however, presenting itself, I persevered, and finally overcame the difficulty.

Having in this, and other voyages to the East and West Indies and to Europe, acquired the experience and nautical skill deemed sufficient to qualify me for taking the command of a ship, I was invited, in the autumn of 1795, by the eldest son of Mr. Derby, to take charge of his bark Enterprise, and proceed on a voyage to the Isle of Bourbon. The confidence, thus evinced, in intrusting the management of a valuable vessel and cargo to so young and inexperienced a man, for I had then only attained my majority, was very gratifying to my ambition, and was duly appreciated.

In those almost primitive days of our commerce, a coppered vessel was scarcely known in the United States; and on the long East India voyages, the barnacles and grass, which accumulated on the wooden sheathing, retarded the ship’s sailing so much, that a third more time, at least, was required for the passages, than is needed since the practice of sheathing with copper has been adopted. A year, therefore, was generally consumed in a voyage to the Isle of France or Bourbon; and mine was accomplished within that term. The success attending it was very satisfactory to my employer, of which he gave evidence in despatching me again, in the same vessel, on a voyage to Europe, and thence to Mocha, for a cargo of coffee.

While at Havre de Grâce, in the summer of 1797, engaged in making preparations for pursuing the voyage, I had the mortification to learn, by letters from my employer, that some derangement had occurred in his affairs, which made it necessary to abandon the Mocha enterprise, and to place in his hands, with the least possible delay, the funds destined for that object. Among the numerous commercial adventures, in which our merchants, at that time, had been engaged to the eastward of the Cape of Good Hope, no voyage had been undertaken to Mocha. To be the first, therefore, in an untried adventure was highly gratifying to my ambition; and my disappointment was proportionately great when compelled to relinquish it. To have detained the vessel in France, while waiting the slow progress of the sale of the cargo, would have been injudicious; and she was therefore despatched for home, under charge of the mate, William Webb, of Salem.

Being thus relieved from the necessity of an immediate return to the United States, I flattered myself, that, even with the very contracted means which I possessed, I might still engage, with a little assistance, and on a very humble scale, in some enterprise to the Isle of France and India. When, therefore, I had accomplished the business with which I had been charged, by remitting to the owner in Salem his property with me, I began earnestly to put to the test the practicability of the object of which I was so desirous. A coincidence of favorable and very encouraging circumstances aided my views. A friend of mine had become proprietor of a little cutter of thirty-eight tons burden, which had been a packet between Dover and Calais. This vessel had been taken for a debt; and the owner, not knowing what to do with her, offered her to me for a reasonable price, and to pay when I had the ability. This credit would enable me to put all my capital in the cargo, excepting what was required for coppering and fitting the cutter for the contemplated voyage, about five hundred dollars; leaving me fifteen hundred to be invested in the cargo. On making known to others of my friends the plan of my voyage, two of them engaged to embark to the amount of a thousand dollars each, on condition of sharing equally the profits at the end of the voyage. Having become proprietor of the cutter, which, with all additional expenses, cost, ready for sea, about one thousand dollars, an investment of articles best suited to the market of the Isle of France, was purchased to the amount of three thousand five hundred dollars; making vessel and cargo amount to four thousand five hundred. It is not probable that the annals of commerce can furnish another example of an Indiaman and cargo being fitted and expedited on so humble a scale.

I had now the high gratification of uncontrolled action. An innate love of independence, an impatience of restraint, an aversion to responsibility, and a desire to have no other limits to my wanderings than the globe itself, reconciled me to the endurance of fatigues and privations, which I knew to be the unavoidable consequence of navigating in so frail a bark, rather than to possess the comparative ease and comfort, coupled with the restraint and responsibility, which the command of a fine ship belonging to another would present.

As there are, doubtless, many persons, not excepting those, even, who are familiar with commercial and maritime affairs, who will view this enterprise as very hazardous from sea risk, and as offering but a very small prospect of emolument, it is proper, so far as I am able, to do away with such impressions by briefly stating the object I had in view. On my late voyage to the Isle of Bourbon, I had perceived a great deficiency in the number of vessels requisite for the advantageous conveyance of passengers and freight to and from the Isles of France and Bourbon. If my cutter had been built expressly for the purpose, she could not have been more suitable. With a large and beautifully finished cabin, where passengers would be more comfortably accommodated than in many vessels of greater dimensions; with but small freighting room, and requiring, therefore, but little time to load, and of greater speed in sailing than the generality of merchant vessels, I had no doubt of being able to sell her there for more than double the cost; or I might find it to be more advantageous to employ her in freighting between the islands. In either event, I felt entire confidence in being amply remunerated for the time and risk. On the cargo, composed of such articles as my late experience had proved to be most in demand, I had no doubt of making a profit of from fifty to one hundred per cent on its cost. The proceeds of vessel and cargo, invested in the produce of the island, and shipped to Europe or the United States, would, at that time, have yielded a clear gain of thirty-three and one-third per cent. Thus, in the course of one year, I should make two hundred per cent on the original capital; a result which might be considered abundant compensation for the time it would consume, and should take from the enterprise the character of quixotism, with which it had been stigmatized.

As soon as it became known at Havre, that my destination was the Isle of France, some of my friends, anxious for my safety, and perceiving in the enterprise only the ardor and temerity of inexperienced youth, endeavored to dissuade me from it, by painting to me, in glowing colors, the distress and probable destruction I was preparing for myself and men. But, however friendly and considerate the advice, I felt myself more competent to judge of the risk than they were, and, consequently, disregarded them.

The vessel, being all ready for sea on the 20th of September, 1797, was detained several days by the difficulty of procuring men. Those who were engaged one day would desert the next; and the dangerous character of the enterprise having been discussed and admitted among the seamen in port, I began to be seriously apprehensive, that I might not succeed in procuring a crew. At length, however, with much difficulty, and some additional pay, I succeeded in procuring four men; and, having previously engaged a mate, our number was complete.

To delay proceeding to sea a moment longer than was necessary, would have been incurring a risk of the loss of my men, and the pay I had advanced them. Hence, I was induced to sail when appearances were very inauspicious. A strong north wind was blowing into the bay with such violence as already to have raised a considerable sea; but I flattered myself, that, as the sun declined, it would abate; that, if we could weather Cape Barfleur, we should make a free wind down channel; and that, if this should be found impracticable, we could, at all events, return to Havre Roads, and wait there a more favorable opportunity.

The Storm

The Storm

With such impressions, we sailed from Havre on the 25th of September. A great crowd had assembled on the pier head to witness our departure, and cheered us as we passed. It was about noon, and we were under full sail; but we had scarcely been out two hours, when we were obliged to reduce it to a double-reefed mainsail, foresail, and second-sized jib. With the sail even thus diminished, the vessel, at times, almost buried herself; still, as every part of the equipment was new and strong, I flattered myself with being able to weather the Cape, and pressed forward through a sea in which we were continually enveloped, cheered with the hope that we had nothing worse to experience, and that we should soon be relieved by the ability to bear away and make a free wind. I was destined, however, to a sad disappointment; for the wind and sea having increased towards midnight, an extraordinary plunge into a very short and sharp sea completely buried the vessel, and, with a heavy crash, snapped off the bowsprit by the board. The vessel then luffed into the wind, in defiance of the helm, and the first shake of the foresail stripped it from the bolt rope.

No other alternative now presented, than to endeavor to regain the port of Havre; a task, under existing circumstances, of very difficult and doubtful accomplishment. The sea had increased in so great a degree, and ran so sharp, that we were in continual apprehension of having our decks swept. This circumstance, combined with the sea-sickness, which none escaped, retarded and embarrassed the operation of wearing round on the other tack. The violent motion of the vessel had also prevented the possibility of obtaining sleep; indeed, no person had been permitted to go below before the disaster; and none had the disposition to do so afterwards; but all were alert in the performance of their duty, which had for its immediate object the getting of the vessel’s head pointed towards Havre.

This was at length effected; but, as we had no spar suitable for a jury bowsprit, we could carry only such part of our mainsail as was balanced by a jib, set in the place of a foresail. With this sail, we made so much lee way, that it was evident, as soon as daylight enabled me to form a judgment, that we could not reach Havre; nor was it less evident, that nothing but an abatement of the gale could save us from being stranded before night. With the hope of this abatement, the heavens were watched with an intensity of interest more easily imagined than described; but no favorable sign appeared; and before noon we had evidence of being to leeward of the port of Havre. We now cleared away the cables and anchors, and secured with battens the communications with the cabin and forecastle. While thus engaged, the man at the mast head announced the appalling, but expected intelligence, of “breakers under the lee.”

This information had the effect of an electric shock to rouse the crew from that apathy which was a natural consequence of twenty-four hours’ exposure to great fatigue, incessant wet and cold, and want of sleep and food; for we had not been able to cook anything. The rapidity with which we were driven to leeward, soon made the breakers discernible from deck; and they were of such extent, as to leave us no choice, whether we headed east or west; for the forlorn hope of being held by our anchors was all that remained to us. No one on board possessed any knowledge of the shore we were approaching; but our chart denoted it as rocky. It was easy to perceive, that to be thrown among rocks, by such a sea, must be the destruction of us all. Hence it was of the utmost importance to discover, and to anchor off, the part of the shore which appeared to be most free from rocks; and with this view the mate was looking out from the mast head. As he perceived an apparently clear beach east of us, and within our ability of reaching, we steered for it; and when the water was only six fathoms deep, we lowered our sails and came to anchor. But as our anchor dragged, a second was let go, which, for a moment only, brought the vessel head to the sea, when one cable parted; and as we were drifting rapidly with the other, we cut it, then hoisted the jib, and steered directly for the clear space in the beach. Going in with great velocity, on the top of a high breaker, we were soon enveloped in its foam, and in that of several others which succeeded. The vessel, however, notwithstanding she struck the ground with a violence which appeared sufficient to dash her in pieces, still held together, in defiance of this and several minor shocks; and, as the tide was falling, she soon became so still, and the water so shoal, as to enable us to go on shore.

As the alarm gun had been fired, the peasantry had come down in great numbers; and when they perceived us leaving the vessel, they ran into the surf, and, with such demonstrations of humanity and kindness as our forlorn situation was calculated to excite, supported us to the shore, which we had no sooner reached, than they complimented us on the judicious selection we had made of a place to come on shore. And it was now obvious to us, that if we had struck half a mile, either on one side or the other from this spot, there would have been scarce a possibility of saving our lives.

We were fortunate, not only in the selection of the spot, but also in the circumstance of its being nearly high water when the vessel struck. The concurrence of two such circumstances turned the scale in my favor; and immediately after landing I was convinced, that the vessel and cargo, though much damaged, would both be saved. When the tide had so fallen as to leave the vessel dry, the inhabitants showed no disposition to take advantage of our distress, by stipulating for a certain proportion of what they might save, before going to work; but, prompted by their humane feelings, set about discharging the vessel, in such numbers and with such earnestness, that before sunset she was completely unloaded, and the cargo carried above high water mark.

The gale, towards evening, had very much abated, and, before the next high water, was fortunately succeeded by a calm and a great decrease of sea. In the mean time, the leaks, made in the bottom, were stopped, as well as time and circumstances would permit; an anchor was carried as far as the retreat of the tide would admit, and the cable hove taut. Having made these dispositions, I engaged a pilot and a sufficient number of men, to attend, at full tide, to heave the vessel off, and to endeavor to remove her into the river Orme, which was near by. These arrangements being made, I went with my men to an inn, in the neighboring town of Oistreham, to get some refreshment, and to pass the night; compelled by exhaustion to place entire dependence on those who were strangers to us, for getting the vessel afloat, as well as to secure the cargo from being plundered.

Though worn out by fatigue and anxiety, my distress of mind was so great, that I could not sleep. The thoughts, that I had contracted a debt which I might never be able to pay, that no insurance had been effected, that, without credit, I might be compelled to sacrifice what had been saved to defray the expenses incurred, and that my fortune and prospects were ruined, were so incessantly haunting my imagination, that the night rather added to, than diminished my feelings of exhaustion.

The following morning, I found the vessel lying safely in the river Orme; and men were also there, ready to make those temporary repairs which were indispensable to enable us to return to Havre. In the forenoon it was required of me to go to Caen (two or three miles distant) for the purpose of making the customary report to the municipal authorities, which was a business of very little intricacy, and of very speedy accomplishment. An examination of the vessel and cargo satisfied me, that the former could be repaired at very trifling expense, and that the latter was not damaged to much amount. The alacrity to render us assistance, in the people of this place, from the beginning of our disaster, was extended to the period, when, the cargo having been transported to the vessel and re-shipped, we were prepared to return to Havre.

As in cases of vessels stranding, it seems to be a practice, sanctioned by long established usage (particularly on the other side of the channel), to consider the unfortunate as those abandoned by Heaven, from whom may lawfully be taken all that the elements have spared, I was prepared for a demand of salvage to a considerable amount. But in this expectation I found I had done great injustice to these good people; for, on presenting their account, it appeared they had charged no more than for ordinary labor, and that at a very moderate rate. It is a circumstance, also, very creditable to them, that notwithstanding some packages of the cargo, of much value, and of such bulk as to be easily concealed, were in their possession, exclusively, for several days and nights, yet nothing was lost. Although these transactions are of a date so remote, that probably many of the actors therein have “ceased from their earthly labors,” yet I never recall them to mind, without a feeling of compunction that I had not ascertained the names of the principals in the business, and made that public acknowledgment for the disinterested and important services rendered me, which gratitude, no less than justice, demanded. For this omission my perturbed state of mind is my only apology.

With a favorable wind for Havre, we proceeded for that port, where we arrived in about ten days after having sailed from there. The reception I met with at Havre, from my friend James Prince, Esq., of Boston, who was more largely interested in the adventure than any other individual excepting myself, was kind and friendly in the extreme, and tended to counteract the effects of my deep mortification, and to raise my spirits for the prosecution of the original plan. He relieved my anxiety relative to the means of defraying the expenses of repairs, by engaging to provide them. He gave me a room at his house; and while I was ill there (for this I did not escape) he facilitated my recovery by his care and kindness. With such attentions, my health was soon reëstablished, my spirits renewed, and I pursued the repairing and refitting the vessel with my accustomed ardor.

On examination of the cargo, it was found to be very little damaged. The vessel was considerably injured so near the keel, that it was necessary to lay her on blocks, where it was discovered that the lower plank was so much broken that several feet of it would require to be replaced with new. This being accomplished, the other repairs made, and the cargo again put on board, there was nothing to prevent proceeding immediately to sea, excepting a difficulty in procuring men, which seemed to be insurmountable. No one of my former crew, excepting a black man (George), would try it again. We had arrived at the close of the month of November; and each day’s delay, by the advance of winter, increased the difficulty and danger of our enterprise. Indeed, the westerly gales were already of frequent occurrence; the nights had become long, and when I heard the howling winds and beating rain, and recollected in what a frail boat I had to contend with them, I wished that my destiny had marked out for me a task of less difficult accomplishment.



The hero of Cooper’s stirring sea-tale is a mysterious Pilot known as Mr. Gray, who, during the American Revolution, came aboard the Yankee frigate Alliance one stormy night to guide her in a privateering expedition along the east coast of England. Captain Munson had been intrusted by Congress with the dangerous errand of venturing into the enemy’s own waters in order to capture prize ships and prisoners of war, who were to be held for exchange. Inspired by the Pilot’s presence, the daring Yankee bluejackets captured the British cutter Alacrity, in a sharp contest near the shore. Following this victory, the frigate’s officers in council determined upon an invasion of the enemy’s country. Accordingly, one night a party of officers and marines from the Alliance, headed by the Pilot himself, landed near the abbey of St. Ruth, and after many exciting adventures and narrow escapes, secured as prisoners Captain Borroughcliffe of the king’s service, Colonel Howard, a wealthy Tory recently returned from America, and the latter’s nieces, Cecilia Howard and Katherine Plowden. Before leaving America the girls had become engaged to Griffith and Barnstaple, young lieutenants on this very frigate; and it was to separate them from their Yankee lovers that Colonel Howard had brought his wards to England, guarding them like prisoners at St. Ruth. Moreover, Merry, the midshipman on board the Alliance was the girls’ favorite cousin. They therefore willingly accepted the situation, and were not sorry to be transported to the frigate, preparing to enjoy a sea voyage in pleasant company. But the officers knew that reports of the Yankee cruiser must have spread abroad and that pursuit was to be expected. The following pages describe the narrow escape of the Alliance from a British man-of-war.


(From the Pilot.)

“Furious press the hostile squadron,
  Furious he repels their rage,
Loss of blood at length enfeebles;
  Who can war with thousands wage?”

Spanish War Song.


We cannot detain the narrative, to detail the scenes which busy wonder, aided by the relation of divers marvellous feats, produced among the curious seamen who remained in the ship, and their more fortunate fellows who had returned glory from an expedition to the land. For nearly an hour the turbulence of a general movement was heard, issuing from the deep recesses of the frigate, and the boisterous sounds of hoarse merriment were listened to by the officers in indulgent silence; but all those symptoms of unbridled humor ceased by the time the morning repast was ended, when the regular sea-watch was set, and the greater portion of those whose duty did not require their presence on the vessel’s deck, availed themselves of the opportunity to repair the loss of sleep sustained in the preceding night. Still no preparations were made to put the ship in motion, though long and earnest consultations, which were supposed to relate to their future destiny, were observed by the younger officers to be held between their captain, the first lieutenant, and the mysterious Pilot. The latter threw many an anxious glance along the eastern horizon, searching it minutely with his glass, and then would turn his impatient looks at the low, dense bank of fog, which stretching across the ocean like a barrier of cloud, entirely intercepted the view towards the south. To the north and along the land the air was clear, and the sea without spot of any kind; but in the east a small white sail had been discovered since the opening of day, which was gradually rising above the water, and assuming the appearance of a vessel of some size. Every officer on the quarter-deck in his turn had examined this distant sail, and had ventured an opinion on its destination and character; and even Katherine, who with her cousin was enjoying, in the open air, the novel beauties of the ocean, had been tempted to place her sparkling eye to a glass, to gaze at the stranger.

“It is a collier,” Griffith said, “who has hauled from the land in the late gale, and who is luffing up to his course again. If the wind holds here in the south, and he does not get into that fog-bank, we can stand off for him and get a supply of fuel before eight bells are struck.”

“I think his head is to the northward, and that he is steering off the wind,” returned the Pilot, in a musing manner. “If that Dillon succeeded in getting his express far enough along the coast, the alarm has been spread, and we must be wary. The convoy of the Baltic trade is in the North Sea, the news of our presence could easily have been taken off to it by some of the cutters that line the coast. I could wish to get the ships as far south as the Helder!”

“Then we lose this weather tide!” exclaimed the impatient Griffith. “Surely we have the cutter as a lookout! besides, by beating into the fog, we shall lose the enemy, if enemy it be, and is it thought meet for an American frigate to skulk from her foes?”

The scornful expression that kindled the eye of the Pilot, like a gleam of sunshine lighting for an instant some dark dell and laying bare its secrets, was soon lost in the usually quiet look of his glance, though he hesitated, like one who was struggling with his passions, before he answered—

“If prudence and the service of the States require it, even this proud frigate must retreat and hide from the meanest of her enemies. My advice, Captain Munson, is that you make sail, and beat the ship to windward, as Mr. Griffith has suggested, and that you order the cutter to precede us, keeping more in with the land.”

The aged seaman, who evidently suspended his orders, only to receive an intimation of the other’s pleasure, immediately commanded his youthful assistant to issue the necessary mandates to put these measures in force. Accordingly, the Alacrity, which vessel had been left under the command of the junior lieutenant of the frigate, was quickly under way; and, making short stretches to windward, she soon entered the bank of fog, and was lost to the eye. In the meantime the canvas of the ship was loosened, and spread leisurely, in order not to disturb the portion of the crew who were sleeping; and, following her little consort, she moved heavily through the water, bearing up against the dull breeze.

The quiet of regular duty had succeeded to the bustle of making sail; and, as the rays of the sun fell less obliquely on the distant land, Katherine and Cecilia were amusing Griffith by vain attempts to point out the rounded eminences which they fancied lay in the vicinity of the deserted mansion of St. Ruth. Barnstable, who had resumed his former station in the frigate, as her second lieutenant, was pacing the opposite side of the quarter-deck, holding under his arm the speaking-trumpet, which denoted that he held the temporary control of the motions of the ship, and inwardly cursing the restraint that kept him from the side of his mistress. At this moment of universal quiet, when nothing above low dialogues interrupted the dashing of the waves as they were thrown lazily aside by the bows of the vessel, the report of a light cannon burst out of the barrier of fog, and then rolled by them on the breeze, apparently vibrating with the rising and sinking of the waters.

“There goes the cutter!” exclaimed Griffith, the instant the sound was heard.

“Surely,” said the captain, “Somers is not so indiscreet as to scale his guns, after the caution he has received!”

“No idle scaling of guns is intended there,” said the Pilot, straining his eyes to pierce the fog, but soon turning away in disappointment at his inability to succeed, “that gun is shotted, and has been fired in the hurry of a sudden signal! can your lookout see nothing, Mr. Barnstable?”

The lieutenant of the watch hailed the man aloft, and demanded if anything were visible in the direction of the wind, and received for answer, that the fog intercepted the view in that quarter of the heavens, but that the sail in the east was a ship, running large, or before the wind. The Pilot shook his head doubtingly at this information, but still he manifested a strong reluctance to relinquish the attempt of getting more to the southward. Again he communed with the commander of the frigate, apart from all other ears; and while they yet deliberated, a second report was heard, leaving no doubt that the Alacrity was firing signal-guns for their particular attention.

“Perhaps,” said Griffith, “he wishes to point out his position, or to ascertain ours; believing that we are lost like himself in the mist.”

“We have our compasses!” returned the doubting captain; “Somers has a meaning in what he says!”

“See!” cried Katherine, with girlish delight, “see, my cousin! see, Barnstable! how beautifully that vapor is wreathing itself in clouds above the smoky line of fog! It stretches already into the very heavens like a lofty pyramid!”

Barnstable sprang lightly on a gun, as he repeated her words—

“Pyramids of fog! and wreathing clouds! By Heaven!” he shouted, “’tis a tall ship! Royals, sky-sails, and studding-sails all abroad! She is within a mile of us, and comes down like a race-horse, with a spanking breeze, dead before it! Now know we why Somers is speaking in the mist!”

“Ay,” cried Griffith, “and there goes the Alacrity, just breaking out of the fog, hovering in for the land!”

“There is a mighty hull under all that cloud of canvas, Captain Munson,” said the observant but calm Pilot; “it is time, gentlemen, to edge away, to leeward.”

“What, before we know from whom we run!” cried Griffith; “my life on it, there is no single ship King George owns, but would tire of the sport before she had played a full game of bowls with—”

The haughty air of the young man was daunted by the severe look he encountered in the eye of the Pilot, and he suddenly ceased, though inwardly chafing with impatient pride.

“The same eye that detected the canvas above the fog, might have seen the flag of a vice-admiral fluttering still nearer the heavens,” returned the collected stranger; “and England, faulty as she may be, is yet too generous to place a flag-officer in time of war in command of a frigate, or a captain in command of a fleet. She knows the value of those who shed their blood in her behalf, and it is thus that she is so well served! Believe me, Captain Munson, there is nothing short of a ship of the line under that symbol of rank, and that broad show of canvas!”

“We shall see, sir, we shall see,” returned the old officer, whose manner grew decided, as the danger appeared to thicken; “beat to quarters, Mr. Griffith, for we have none but enemies to expect on this coast.”

The order was instantly issued, when Griffith remarked, with a more temperate zeal—

“If Mr. Gray be right, we shall have reason to thank God that we are so light of heel!”

The cry of “a strange vessel close aboard the frigate,” having already flown down the hatches, the ship was in an uproar at the first tap of the drum. The seamen threw themselves from their hammocks, and lashing them rapidly into long, hard bundles, they rushed to the decks, where they were dexterously stowed in the netting, to aid the defences of the upper part of the vessel. While this tumultuous scene was exhibiting, Griffith gave a secret order to Merry, who disappeared, leading his trembling cousins to a place of safety in the inmost depths of the ship.

The guns were cleared of their lumber, and loosened. The bulk-heads were knocked down, and the cabin relieved of its furniture; and the gun-deck exhibited one unbroken line of formidable cannon, arranged in all the order of a naval battery ready to engage. Arm-chests were thrown open, and the decks strewed with pikes, cutlasses, pistols, and all the various weapons for boarding. In short, the yards were slung, and every other arrangement was made with a readiness and dexterity that were actually wonderful, though all was performed amid an appearance of disorder and confusion that rendered the ship another Babel during the continuance of the preparations. In a very few minutes everything was completed, and even the voices of the men ceased to be heard answering to their names, as they were mustered at their stations, by their respective officers. Gradually the ship became as quiet as the grave; and when even Griffith or his commander found it necessary to speak, their voices were calmer, and their tones more mild than usual. The course of the vessel was changed to an oblique line from that in which their enemy was approaching, though the appearance of flight was to be studiously avoided to the last moment. When nothing further remained to be done, every eye became fixed on the enormous pile of swelling canvas that was rising, in cloud over cloud, far above the fog, and which was manifestly moving, like driving vapor, swiftly to the north. Presently the dull, smoky boundary of the mist which rested on the water was pushed aside in vast volumes, and the long taper spars that projected from the bowsprit of the strange ship issued from the obscurity, and were quickly followed by the whole of the enormous fabric to which they were merely light appendages. For a moment, streaks of reluctant vapor clung to the huge floating pile; but they were soon shaken off by the rapid vessel, and the whole of her black hull became distinct to the eye.

“One, two, three rows of teeth!” said Boltrope, deliberately counting the tiers of guns that bristled along the sides of the enemy; “a three-decker! Jack Manly would show his stern to such a fellow! and even the Scotchman would run!”

“Hard up with your helm, quartermaster!” cried Captain Munson; “there is indeed no time to hesitate, with such an enemy within a quarter of a mile! Turn the hands up, Mr. Griffith, and pack on the ship from her trucks to her lower studding-sail booms. Be stirring, sir, be stirring! Hard up with your helm! Hard up, sir!”

The unusual earnestness of their aged commander acted on the startled crew like a voice from the deep, and they waited not for the usual signals of the boatswain and drummer to be given, before they broke away from their guns, and rushed tumultuously to aid in spreading the desired canvas. There was one minute of ominous confusion, that to an inexperienced eye would have foreboded the destruction of all order in the vessel, during which every hand, and each tongue, seemed in motion; but it ended in opening the immense folds of light duck which were displayed along the whole line of the masts, far beyond the ordinary sails, overshadowing the waters for a great distance, on either side of the vessel. During the moment of inaction that succeeded this sudden exertion, the breeze, which had brought up the three-decker, fell fresher on the sails of the frigate, and she started away from her dangerous enemy with a very perceptible advantage in point of sailing.

“The fog rises!” cried Griffith; “give us but the wind for an hour, and we shall run her out of gunshot!”

“These nineties are very fast off the wind,” returned the captain, in a low tone, that was intended only for the ears of his first lieutenant and the Pilot; “and we shall have a struggle for it.”

The quick eye of the stranger was glancing over the movements of his enemy, while he answered—

“He finds we have the heels of him already! he is making ready, and we shall be fortunate to escape a broadside! Let her yaw a little, Mr. Griffith; touch her lightly with the helm; if we are raked, sir, we are lost!”

The captain sprang on the taffrail of his ship with the activity of a younger man, and in an instant he perceived the truth of the other’s conjecture.

Both vessels now ran for a few minutes, keenly watching each other’s motions like two skilful combatants; the English ship making slight deviations from the line of her course, and then, as her movements were anticipated by the other, turning as cautiously in the opposite direction, until a sudden and wide sweep of her huge bows told the Americans plainly on which tack to expect her. Captain Munson made a silent but impressive gesture with his arm, as if the crisis were too important for speech, which indicated to the watchful Griffith the way he wished the frigate sheered, to avoid the weight of the impending danger. Both vessels whirled swiftly up to the wind, with their heads towards the land; and as the huge black side of the three-decker checkered with its triple batteries, frowned full upon her foe, it belched forth a flood of fire and smoke, accompanied by a bellowing roar that mocked the surly moanings of the sleeping ocean. The nerves of the bravest man in the frigate contracted their fibres, as the hurricane of iron hurtled by them, and each eye appeared to gaze in stupid wonder, as if tracing the flight of the swift engines of destruction. But the voice of Captain Munson was heard in the din, shouting while he waved his hat earnestly in the required direction—

“Meet her! meet her with the helm, boy! meet her, Mr. Griffith, meet her!”

Griffith had so far anticipated this movement, as to have already ordered the head of the frigate to be turned in its former course, when, struck by the unearthly cry of the last tones uttered by his commander, he bent his head, and beheld the venerable seaman driven through the air, his hat still waving, his gray hair floating in the wind, and his eye set in the wild look of death.

“Great God!” exclaimed the young man, rushing to the side of the ship, where he was just in time to see the lifeless body disappear in the waters that were dyed in its blood; “he has been struck by a shot! Lower-away the boat, lower-away the jolly-boat, the barge, the tiger, the”—

“’Tis useless,” interrupted the calm deep voice of the Pilot; “he has met a warrior’s end, and he sleeps in a sailor’s grave! The ship is getting before the wind again, and the enemy is keeping his vessel away.”

The youthful lieutenant was recalled by these words to his duty, and reluctantly turned his eyes away from the bloody spot on the waters, which the busy frigate had already passed, to resume the command of the vessel with a forced composure.

“He has cut some of our running gear,” said the master, whose eye had never ceased to dwell on the spars and rigging of the ship; “and there’s a splinter out of the maintopmast, that is big enough for a fid! He has let daylight through some of our canvas too; but, taking it by-and-large, the squall has gone over and little harm done. Didn’t I hear something said of Captain Munson getting jammed by a shot?”

“He is killed!” said Griffith, speaking in a voice that was yet husky with horror; “he is dead, sir, and carried overboard; there is more need that we forget not ourselves, in this crisis.”

“Dead!” said Boltrope, suspending the operation of his active jaws for a moment, in surprise; “and buried in a wet jacket! Well, it is lucky ’tis no worse; for damme if I did not think every stick in the ship would have been cut out of her!”

With this consolatory remark on his lips, the master walked slowly forward, continuing his orders to repair the damages with a singleness of purpose that rendered him, however uncouth as a friend, an invaluable man in his station.

Griffith had not yet brought his mind to the calmness that was so essential to discharge the duties which had thus suddenly and awfully devolved on him, when his elbow was lightly touched by the Pilot, who had drawn closer to his side.

“The enemy appear satisfied with the experiment,” said the stranger; “and as we work the quicker of the two, he loses too much ground to repeat it, if he be a true seaman.”

“And yet as he finds we leave him so fast,” returned Griffith, “he must see that all his hopes rest in cutting us up aloft. I dread that he will come by the wind again, and lay us under his broadside; we should need a quarter of an hour to run without his range, if he were anchored!”

“He plays a surer game; see you not that the vessel we made in the eastern board shows the hull of a frigate? ’Tis past a doubt that they are of one squadron, and that the expresses have sent them in our wake. The English admiral has spread a broad clew, Mr. Griffith; and, as he gathers in his ships, he sees that his game has been successful.”

The faculties of Griffith had been too much occupied with the hurry of the chase to look at the ocean; but, startled at the information of the Pilot, who spoke coolly, though like a man sensible of the existence of approaching danger, he took the glass from the other, and with his own eye examined the different vessels in sight. It is certain that the experienced officer, whose flag was flying above the light sails of the three-decker, saw the critical situation of his chase, and reasoned much in the same manner as the Pilot, or the fearful expedient apprehended by Griffith would have been adopted. Prudence, however, dictated that he should prevent his enemy from escaping by pressing so closely on his rear, as to render it impossible for the American to haul across his bows and run into the open sea between his own vessel and the nearest frigate of his squadron. The unpractised reader will be able to comprehend the case better by accompanying the understanding eye of Griffith, as it glanced from point to point, following the whole horizon. To the west lay the land, along which the Alacrity was urging her way industriously, with the double purpose of keeping her consort abeam, and of avoiding a dangerous proximity to their powerful enemy. To the east, bearing off the starboard bow of the American frigate, was the vessel first seen, and which now began to exhibit the hostile appearance of a ship of war, steering in a line converging towards themselves, and rapidly drawing nigher; while far in the northeast was a vessel as yet faintly discerned, whose evolutions could not be mistaken by one who understood the movements of nautical warfare.

“We are hemmed in effectually,” said Griffith, dropping the glass from his eye; “and I know not but our wisest course would be to haul in to the land, and, cutting everything light adrift, endeavor to pass the broadside of the flagship.”

“Provided she left a rag of canvas to do it with!” returned the Pilot. “Sir, ’tis an idle hope! She would strip your ship in ten minutes, to her plank shears. Had it not been for a lucky wave on which so many of her shot struck and glanced upward, we should have nothing to boast of left from the fire she has already given; we must stand on, and drop the three-decker as far as possible.”

“But the frigates?” said Griffith, “what are we to do with the frigates?”

“Fight them!” returned the Pilot, in a low, determined voice; “fight them! Young man, I have borne the stars and stripes aloft in greater straits than this, and even with honor! Think not that my fortune will desert me now.”

“We shall have an hour of desperate battle!”

“On that we may calculate; but I have lived through whole days of bloodshed! You seem not one to quail at the sight of an enemy.”

“Let me proclaim your name to the men!” said Griffith; “’twill quicken their blood, and at such a moment be a host in itself.”

“They want it not,” returned the Pilot, checking the hasty zeal of the other with his hand. “I would be unnoticed, unless I am known as becomes me. I will share your danger, but would not rob you of a tittle of your glory. Should we come to a grapple,” he continued, while a smile of conscious pride gleamed across his face, “I will give forth the word as a war-cry, and, believe me, these English will quail before it!”

Griffith submitted to the stranger’s will; and, after they had deliberated further on the nature of their evolutions, he gave his attention again to the management of the vessel. The first object which met his eye on turning from the Pilot was Colonel Howard, pacing the quarter-deck with a determined brow and a haughty mien, as if already in the enjoyment of that triumph which now seemed certain.

“I fear, sir,” said the young man, approaching him with respect, “that you will soon find the deck unpleasant and dangerous: your wards are”—

“Mention not the unworthy term!” interrupted the colonel. “What greater pleasure can there be than to inhale the odor of loyalty that is wafted from yonder floating tower of the king? And danger! you know but little of old George Howard, young man, if you think he would for thousands miss seeing that symbol of rebellion levelled before the flag of his majesty.”

“If that be your wish, Colonel Howard,” returned Griffith, biting his lip, as he looked around at the wondering seamen who were listeners, “you will wait in vain; but I pledge you my word, that when that time arrives, you shall be advised, and that your own hand shall do the ignoble deed.”

“Edward Griffith, why not this moment? This is your moment of probation—submit to the clemency of the crown, and yield your crew to the royal mercy! In such a case I would remember the child of my brother Harry’s friend; and believe me, my name is known to the ministry. And you, misguided and ignorant abettors of rebellion! cast aside your useless weapons, or prepare to meet the vengeance of yonder powerful and victorious servant of your prince.”

“Fall back! back with ye, fellows!” cried Griffith, fiercely, to the men who were gathering around the colonel, with looks of sullen vengeance. “If a man of you dare approach him, he shall be cast into the sea.”

The sailors retreated at the order of their commander; but the elated veteran had continued to pace the deck for many minutes before stronger interests diverted the angry glances of the seamen to other objects.

Notwithstanding the ship of the line was slowly sinking beneath the distant waves, and in less than an hour from the time she had fired the broadside, no more than one of her three tiers of guns was visible from the deck of the frigate, she yet presented an irresistible obstacle against retreat to the south. On the other hand, the ship first seen drew so nigh as to render the glass no longer necessary in watching her movements. She proved to be a frigate, though one so materially lighter than the American, as to have rendered her conquest easy, had not her two consorts continued to press on for the scene of battle with such rapidity. During the chase, the scene had shifted from the point opposite to St. Ruth, to the verge of those shoals where our tale commenced. As they approached the latter, the smallest of the English ships drew so nigh as to render the combat unavoidable. Griffith and his crew had not been idle in the intermediate time, but all the usual preparations against the casualties of a sea-fight had been duly made, when the drum once more called the men to their quarters, and the ship was deliberately stripped of her unnecessary sails, like a prize-fighter about to enter the arena, casting aside the incumbrances of dress. At the instant she gave this intimation of her intention to abandon flight, and trust the issue to the combat, the nearest English frigate also took in her light canvas in token of her acceptance of the challenge.

“He is but a little fellow,” said Griffith to the Pilot, who hovered at his elbow with a sort of fatherly interest in the other’s conduct of the battle, “though he carries a stout heart.”

“We must crush him at a blow,” returned the stranger; “not a shot must be delivered until our yards are locking.”

“I see him training his twelves upon us already; we may soon expect his fire.”

“After standing the brunt of a ninety-gun ship,” observed the collected Pilot, “we shall not shrink from the broadside of a two-and-thirty.”

“Stand to your guns, men!” cried Griffith, through his trumpet; “not a shot is to be fired without the order.”

This caution, so necessary to check the ardor of the seamen, was hardly uttered, before the enemy became wrapped in sheets of fire and volumes of smoke, as gun after gun hurled its iron missiles at their vessel in quick succession. Ten minutes might have passed, the two vessels sheering close to each other every foot they advanced, during which time the crew of the American were compelled, by their commander, to suffer the fire of their adversary, without returning a shot. This short period, which seemed an age to the seamen, was distinguished in their vessel by deep silence. Even the wounded and dying, who fell in every part of the ship, stifled their groans, under the influence of the severe discipline, which gave a character to every man, and each movement of the vessel; and those officers who were required to speak, were heard only in the lowest tones of resolute preparation. At length the ship slowly entered the skirts of the smoke that enveloped their enemy; and Griffith heard the man who stood at his side whisper the word “Now.”

“Let them have it!” cried Griffith, in a voice that was heard in the remotest parts of the ship.

The shout that burst from the seamen appeared to lift the decks of the vessel, and the affrighted frigate trembled like an aspen with the recoil of her own massive artillery, that shot forth a single sheet of flame, the sailors having disregarded, in their impatience, the usual order of firing. The effect of the broadside on the enemy was still more dreadful; for a deathlike silence succeeded to the roar of guns, which were only broken by the shrieks and execrations that burst from her, like the moanings of the damned. During the few moments in which the Americans were again loading their cannon, and the English were recovering from their confusion, the vessel of the former moved slowly past her antagonist, and was already doubling across her bows, when the latter was suddenly, and, considering the inequality of their forces, it may be added desperately, headed into her enemy. The two frigates grappled. The sudden and furious charge made by the Englishman, as he threw his masses of daring seamen along his bowsprit, and out of his channels, had nearly taken Griffith by surprise; but Manual, who had delivered his first fire with the broadside, now did good service, by ordering his men to beat back the intruders, by a steady and continued discharge. Even the wary Pilot lost sight of their other foes, in the high daring of that moment, and smiles of stern pleasure were exchanged between him and Griffith as both comprehended, at a glance, their advantages.

“Lash his bowsprit to our mizzen-mast,” shouted the lieutenant, “and we will sweep his decks as he lies!”

Twenty men sprang eagerly forward to execute the order, among the foremost of whom were Boltrope and the stranger.

“Ay, now he’s our own!” cried the busy master, “and we will take an owner’s liberties with him, and break him up—for by the eternal—”

“Peace, rude man,” said the Pilot, in a voice of solemn remonstrance; “at the next instant you may face your God; mock not his awful name!”

The master found time, before he threw himself from the spar on the deck of the frigate again, to cast a look of amazement at his companion, who, with a steady mien, but with an eye that lighted with a warrior’s ardor, viewed the battle that raged around him, like one who marked its progress to control the result.

“The Two Frigates Grappled”

“The Two Frigates Grappled”

The sight of the Englishman rushing onward with shouts and bitter menaces, warmed the blood of Colonel Howard, who pressed to the side of the frigate, and encouraged his friends by his gestures and voice, to come on.

“Away with ye, old croaker!” cried the master, seizing him by the collar; “away with ye to the hold, or I’ll order you fired from a gun.”

“Down with your arms, rebellious dog!” shouted the colonel, carried beyond himself by the ardor of the fray, “down to the dust, and implore the mercy of your injured prince!”

Invigorated by a momentary glow, the veteran grappled with his brawny antagonist; but the issue of the short struggle was yet suspended, when the English, driven back by the fire of the marines, and the menacing front that Griffith with his boarders presented, retreated to the forecastle of their own ship, and attempted to return the deadly blows they were receiving, in their hull, from the cannon that Barnstable directed. A solitary gun was all they could bring to bear on the Americans; but this, loaded with canister, was fired so near as to send its glaring flame into the very faces of their enemies. The struggling colonel, who was already sinking beneath the arm of his foe, felt the rough grasp loosen from his throat at the flash, and the two combatants sunk powerless on their knees, facing each other.

“How now, brother!” exclaimed Boltrope, with a smile of grim fierceness; “some of that grist has gone to your mill, ha!”

No answer could, however, be given before the yielding forms of both fell to the deck, where they lay helpless, amid the din of the battle and the wild confusion of the eager combatants.

Notwithstanding the furious struggle they had witnessed, the elements did not cease their functions; and, urged by the breeze, and lifted irresistibly on a wave, the American ship was forced through the water still farther across the bows of her enemy. The idle fastenings of hemp and iron were snapped asunder like strings of tow, and Griffith saw his own ship borne away from the Englishman at the instant that the bowsprit of the latter was torn from its lashings and tumbled into the sea, followed by spar after spar, until nothing of all her proud tackling was remaining, but the few parted and useless ropes that were left dangling along the stumps of her lower masts. As his own stately vessel moved from the confusion she had caused, and left the dense cloud of smoke in which her helpless antagonist lay, the eye of the young man glanced anxiously towards the horizon, where he now remembered he had more foes to contend against.

“We have shaken off the thirty-two most happily!” he said to the Pilot, who followed his motions with singular interest; “but here is another fellow sheering in for us, who shows as many ports as ourselves, and who appears inclined for a closer interview; besides, the hull of the ninety is rising again, and I fear she will be down but too soon!”

“We must keep the use of our braces and sails,” returned the Pilot, “and on no account close with the other frigate; we must play a double game, sir, and fight this new adversary with our heels as well as with our guns.”

“’Tis time then that we were busy, for he is shortening sail; and as he nears so fast, we may expect to hear from him every minute; what do you propose, sir?”

“Let him gather in his canvas,” returned the Pilot; “and when he thinks himself snug, we can throw out a hundred men at once upon our yards, and spread everything alow and aloft; we may then draw ahead of him by surprise; if we can once get him in our wake, I have no fears of dropping them all.”

“A stern chase is a long chase,” cried Griffith, “and the thing may do! Clear up the decks, here, and carry down the wounded; and, as we have our hands full, the poor fellows who have done with us must go overboard at once.”

This melancholy duty was instantly attended to, while the young seaman who commanded the frigate returned to his duty, with the absorbed air of one who felt its high responsibility. These occupations, however, did not prevent his hearing the sounds of Barnstable’s voice calling eagerly to young Merry. Bending his head towards the sound, Griffith beheld his friend, looking anxiously up the main hatch, with a face grimed with smoke, his coat off, and his shirt bespattered with human blood. “Tell me, boy,” he said, “is Mr. Griffith untouched? They say that a shot came in upon the quarter-deck that tripped up the heels of half a dozen.”

Before Merry could answer, the eyes of Barnstable which even while he spoke were scanning the state of the vessel’s rigging, encountered the kind looks of Griffith, and from that moment perfect harmony was restored between the friends.

“Ah! you are there, Griff, and with a whole skin, I see,” cried Barnstable, smiling with pleasure; “they have passed poor Boltrope down into one of his own store-rooms! If that fellow’s bowsprit had held on ten minutes longer, what a mark I should have made on his face and eyes!”

“’Tis perhaps best as it is,” returned Griffith; “but what have you done with those whom we are most bound to protect?”

Barnstable made a significant gesture towards the depths of the vessel, as he answered,—

“On the cables; safe as wood, iron, and water can keep them—though Katherine has had her head up three times to—”

A summons from the Pilot drew Griffith away; and the young officers were compelled to forget their individual feelings, in the pressing duties of their stations.

The ship which the American frigate had now to oppose was a vessel of near her own size and equipage; and when Griffith looked at her again, he perceived that she had made her preparations to assert her equality in manful fight.

Her sails had been gradually reduced to the usual quantity, and, by certain movements on her decks, the lieutenant and his constant attendant, the Pilot, well understood that she only wanted to lessen her distance a few hundred yards to begin the action.

“Now spread everything,” whispered the stranger.

Griffith applied the trumpet to his mouth, and shouted in a voice that was carried even to the enemy, “Let fall—out with your booms—sheet home—hoist away of everything!”

The inspiring cry was answered by a universal bustle; fifty men flew out on the dizzy heights of the different spars, while broad sheets of canvas rose as suddenly along the masts, as if some mighty bird were spreading its wings. The Englishman instantly perceived his mistake, and he answered the artifice by a roar of artillery. Griffith watched the effects of the broadside with an absorbing interest, as the shot whistled above his head; but when he perceived his masts untouched, and the few unimportant ropes only that were cut, he replied to the uproar with a burst of pleasure. A few men were, however, seen clinging with wild frenzy to the cordage, dropping from rope to rope like wounded birds fluttering through a tree, until they fell heavily into the ocean, the sullen ship sweeping by them in cold indifference. At the next instant the spars and masts of their enemy exhibited a display of men similar to their own, when Griffith again placed the trumpet to his mouth, and shouted aloud—

“Give it to them; drive them from their yards, boys, scatter them with your grape—unreeve their rigging!”

The crew of the American wanted but little encouragement to enter on this experiment with hearty good-will, and the close of his cheering words were uttered amid the deafening roar of his own cannon. The Pilot had, however, mistaken the skill and readiness of their foe; for, notwithstanding the disadvantageous circumstances under which the Englishman increased his sail, the duty was steadily and dexterously performed.

The two ships were now running rapidly on parallel lines, hurling at each other their instruments of destruction with furious industry, and with severe and certain loss to both, though with no manifest advantage in favor of either. Both Griffith and the Pilot witnessed with deep concern this unexpected defeat of their hopes; for they could not conceal from themselves, that each moment lessened their velocity through the water, as the shot of their enemy stripped the canvas from the yards, or dashed aside the lighter spars in their terrible progress.

“We find our equal here!” said Griffith to the stranger. “The ninety is heaving up again like a mountain; and if we continue to shorten sail at this rate, she will soon be down upon us!”

“You say true, sir,” returned the Pilot, musing; “the man shows judgment as well as spirit: but—”

He was interrupted by Merry, who rushed from the forward part of the vessel, his whole face betokening the eagerness of his spirit, and the importance of his intelligence.

“The breakers!” he cried, when nigh enough to be heard amid the din: “we are running dead on a ripple, and the sea is white not two hundred yards ahead.”

The Pilot jumped on a gun, and bending to catch a glimpse through the smoke, he shouted, in those clear, piercing tones, that could be even heard among the roaring of the cannon, “Port, port your helm! we are on the Devil’s Grip! pass up the trumpet, sir; port your helm, fellow; give it them, boys—give it to the proud English dogs!”

Griffith unhesitatingly relinquished the symbol of his rank, fastening his own firm look on the calm but quick eye of the Pilot, and gathering assurance from the high confidence he read in the countenance of the stranger. The seamen were too busy with their cannon and their rigging to regard the new danger; and the frigate entered one of the dangerous passes of the shoals, in the heat of a severely contested battle. The wondering looks of a few of the older sailors glanced at the sheets of foam that flew by them, in doubt whether the wild gambols of the waves were occasioned by the shot of the enemy, when suddenly the noise of cannon was succeeded by the sullen wash of the disturbed element, and presently the vessel glided out of her smoky shroud, and was boldly steering in the centre of the narrow passages. For ten breathless minutes longer the Pilot continued to hold an uninterrupted sway, during which the vessel ran swiftly by ripples and breakers, by streaks of foam and darker passages of deep water, when he threw down his trumpet and exclaimed—

“What threatened to be our destruction has proved our salvation! Keep yonder hill crowned with wood, one point open from the church tower at its base, and steer east by north; you will run through these shoals on that course in an hour, and by so doing you will gain five leagues of your enemy, who will have to double their tail.”

The Alliance and the English Thirty-Two

The Alliance and the English Thirty-Two

The moment he stepped from the gun, the Pilot lost the air of authority that had so singularly distinguished his animated form, and even the close interest he had manifested in the incidents of the day became lost in the cold, settled reserve he had affected during his intercourse with his present associates. Every officer in the ship, after the breathless suspense of uncertainty had passed, rushed to those places where a view might be taken of their enemies. The ninety was still steering boldly onward, and had already approached the two-and-thirty, which lay a helpless wreck, rolling on the unruly seas that were rudely tossing her on their wanton billows. The frigate last engaged was running along the edge of the ripple, with her torn sails flying loosely in the air, her ragged spars tottering in the breeze, and everything above her hull exhibiting the confusion of a sudden and unlooked-for check to her progress. The exulting taunts and mirthful congratulations of the seamen, as they gazed at the English ships, were, however, soon forgotten in the attention that was required to their own vessel. The drums beat the retreat, the guns were lashed, the wounded again removed, and every individual able to keep the deck was required to lend his assistance in repairing the damages of the frigate and securing her masts.

The promised hour carried the ship safely through all the dangers, which were much lessened by daylight; and by the time the sun had begun to fall over the land, Griffith, who had not quitted the deck during the day, beheld his vessel once more cleared of the confusion of the chase and battle, and ready to meet another foe. At this period he was summoned to the cabin, at the request of the ship’s chaplain. Delivering the charge of the frigate to Barnstable, who had been his active assistant, no less in their subsequent labors than in the combat, he hastily divested himself of the vestiges of the fight, and proceeded to obey the repeated and earnest call.



(From the Sea Lions.)


“Keep her a good full, Mr. Hazard,” said Roswell, as he was leaving the deck to take the first sleep in which he had indulged for four-and-twenty hours, “and let her go through the water. We are behind our time, and must keep in motion. Give me a call if anything like ice appears in a serious way.”

Hazard “ay-ay’d” this order, as usual, buttoned his pea-jacket tighter than ever, and saw his young superior—the transcendental delicacy of the day is causing the difference in rank to be termed “senior and junior”—but Hazard saw his superior go below with a feeling allied to envy, so heavy were his eyelids with the want of rest. Stimson was in the first mate’s watch, and the latter approached that old sea-dog with a wish to keep himself awake by conversing.

“You seem as wide awake, King Stephen,” the mate remarked, “as if you never felt drowsy.”

“This is not a part of the world for hammocks and berths, Mr. Hazard,” was the reply. “I can get along, and must get along, with a quarter part of the sleep in these seas as would serve me in a low latitude.”

“And I feel as if I wanted all I can get. Them fellows look up well into our wake, Stephen.”

“They do indeed, sir, and they ought to do it; for we have been longer than is for our good in their’n.”

“Well, now we have got a fresh start, I hope we may make a clear run of it. I saw no ice worth speaking of, to the nor’ard here, before we made sail.”

“Because you see’d none, Mr. Hazard, is no proof there is none. Floe-ice can’t be seen at any great distance, though its blink may. But, it seems to me, it’s all blink in these here seas!”

“There you’re quite right, Stephen, for turn which way you will the horizon has a show of that sort”—

“Starboard!” called out the lookout forward. “Keep her away—keep her away—there is ice ahead!”

“Ice in here!” exclaimed Hazard springing forward; “that is more than we bargained for. Where away is your ice, Smith?”

“Off here, sir, on our weather bow, and a mortal big field of it; jist sich a chap as nipp’d the Vineyard Lion when she first came in to join us. Sich a fellow as that would take the sap out of our bends, as a squeezer takes the juice from a lemon.”

Smith was a carpenter by trade, which was probably the reason why he introduced this figure. Hazard saw the ice with regret, for he had hoped to work the schooner fairly out to sea in his watch; but the field was getting down through the passage in a way that threatened to cut off the exit of the two schooners from the bay. Daggett kept close in his wake, a proof that this experienced navigator in such waters saw no means to turn farther to windward. As the wind was now abeam, both vessels drove rapidly ahead; and in half an hour the northern point of the land they had so lately left came into view close aboard of them. Just then the moon rose, and objects became more clearly visible.

Hazard hailed the Vineyard Lion, and demanded what was to be done. It was possible by hauling close on a wind to pass the cape a short distance to windward of it; and seemingly thus clear the floe. Unless this were done, both vessels would be compelled to wear, and run for the southern passage, which would carry them many miles to leeward, and might place them a long distance on the wrong side of the group.

“Is Captain Gar’ner on deck?” asked Daggett, who had now drawn close up on the lee quarter of his consort, Hazard having brailed his foresail and laid his topsail sharp aback to enable him to do so, “if he isn’t, I’d advise you to give him a call at once.”

This was done immediately; and while it was doing, the Vineyard Lion swept past the Oyster Pond schooner. Roswell announced his presence on deck just as the other vessel cleared his bows.

“There’s no time to consult, Gar’ner,” answered Daggett. “There’s our road before us. Go through it we must, or stay where we are until that field-ice gives us a jam down yonder in the crescent. I will lead, and you can follow as soon as your eyes are open.”

One glance let Roswell into the secret of his situation. He liked it little, but he did not hesitate.

“Fill the topsail, and haul aft the foresheet,” were the quiet orders that proclaimed what he intended to do.


Both vessels stood on. By some secret process, every man on board the two crafts became aware of what was going on, and appeared on deck. All hands were not called, nor was there any particular noise to attract attention, but the word had been whispered below that there was a great risk to run. A risk it was, of a verity! It was necessary to stand close along that iron-bound coast where the seals had so lately resorted, for a distance of several miles. The wind would not admit of the schooners steering much more than a cable’s length from the rock for quite a league; after which the shore tended to the southward, and a little sea-room would be gained. But on those rocks the waves were then beating heavily, and their bellowings as they rolled into the cavities were at almost all times terrific. There was some relief, however, in the knowledge obtained of the shore, by having frequently passed up and down it in the boats. It was known that the water was deep close to the visible rocks, and that there was no danger as long as a vessel could keep off them.

No one spoke. Every eye was strained to discern objects ahead, or was looking astern to trace the expected collision between the floe-ice and the low promontory of the cape. The ear soon gave notice that this meeting had already taken place; for the frightful sound that attended the cracking and rending of the field might have been heard fully a league. Now it was that each schooner did her best: yards were braced up, sheets flattened, and the helm tended. The close proximity of the rocks on the one side, and the secret presentiment of there being more field-ice on the other, kept every one wide awake. The two masters, in particular, were all eyes and ears. It was getting to be very cold; and the sort of shelter aloft that goes by the queer name of “crow’s-nest” had been fitted up in each vessel. A mate was now sent into each, to ascertain what might be discovered to windward. Almost at the same instant, these young seamen hailed their respective decks, and gave notice that a wide field was coming in upon them, and must eventually crush them, unless avoided. This startling intelligence reached the two commanders in the very same moment. The emergency demanded decision, and each man acted for himself. Roswell ordered his helm put down, and his schooner tacked. The water was not rough enough to prevent the success of the manœuvre. On the other hand, Daggett kept a rap full and stood on. Roswell manifested the more judgment and seamanship. He was now far enough away from the cape to beat to windward; and, by going nearer to the enemy, he might always run along its southern boundary, profit by any opening, and would be by as much as he could thus gain, to windward of the coast. Daggett had one advantage: by standing on, in the event of a return becoming necessary, he could gain in time. In ten minutes the two schooners were a mile asunder. We shall first follow that of Roswell Gardiner’s in his attempt to escape.

The first floe, which was ripping and tearing one of its angles into fragments, as it came grinding down on the cape, soon compelled the vessel to tack. Making short reaches, Roswell ere long found himself fully a mile to windward of the rocks, and sufficiently near to the new floe to discern its shape, drift, and general character. Its eastern end had lodged upon the field that first came in, and was adding to the first momentum with which that enormous floe was pressing down upon the cape. Large as was that first visitor to the bay, this was of at least twice if not of thrice its dimensions. What gave Roswell the most concern was the great distance that this field extended to the westward. He went up into the crow’s-nest himself, and, aided by the light of a most brilliant moon, and a sky without a cloud, he could perceive the blink of ice in that direction, as he fancied, for fully two leagues. What was unusual, perhaps, at that early season of the year, these floes did not consist of a vast collection of numberless cakes of ice, but the whole field, so far as could then be ascertained, was firm and united. The nights were now so cold that ice made fast wherever there was water; and it occurred to our young master that, possibly, fragments that had once been separated and broken by the waves, might have become reunited by the agency of the frost. Roswell descended from the crow’s-nest half chilled by the cutting wind, though it blew from a warm quarter. Summoning his mates, he asked their advice.

“It seems to me, Captain Gar’ner,” Hazard replied, “there’s very little choice. Here we are, so far as I can make it out, embayed, and we have only to box about until daylight comes, when some chance may turn up to help us. If so, we must turn it to account; if not, we must make up our minds to winter here.”

This was coolly and calmly said; though it was clear enough that Hazard was quite in earnest.

“You forget there may be an open passage to the westward, Mr. Hazard,” Roswell rejoined, “and that we may yet pass out to sea by it. Captain Daggett is already out of sight in the western board, and we may do well to stand on after him.”

“Ay, ay, sir—I know all that, Captain Gar’ner, and it may be as you say, but when I was aloft, half an hour since, if there wasn’t the blink of ice in that direction, quite round to the back of the island, there wasn’t the blink of ice nowhere hereabouts. I’m used to the sight of it, and can’t well be mistaken.”

“There is always ice on that side of the land, Hazard, and you may have seen the blink of the bergs which have hugged the cliffs in that quarter all summer. Still, that is not proving we shall find no outlet. This craft can go through a very small passage, and we must take care and find one in proper time. Wintering here is out of the question. A hundred reasons tell us not to think of such a thing, besides the interests of our owners. We are walking along this floe pretty fast, though I think the vessel is too much by the head; don’t it strike you so, Hazard?”

“Lord, sir, it’s nothing but the ice that has made, and is making for’ard! Before we got so near the field as to find a better lee, the little lipper that came athwart our bows froze almost as soon as it wet us. I do suppose, sir, there are now several tons of ice on our bows, counting from channel to channel, forward.”

On examination this proved to be true, and the knowledge of the circumstance did not at all contribute to Gardiner’s feeling of security. He saw there was no time to be lost, and he crowded sail with a view of forcing the vessel past the dangers if possible, and of getting her into a milder climate. But even a fast-sailing schooner will scarcely equal our wishes under such circumstances. There was no doubt that the Sea Lion’s speed was getting to be affected by the manner in which her bows were weighed down by ice, in addition to the discomfort produced by cold, damp, and the presence of a slippery substance on the deck and rigging. Fortunately there was not much spray flying, or matters would have been much worse. As it was, they were bad enough, and very ominous of future evil.


While the Sea Lion of Oyster Pond was running along the margin of the ice in the manner just described, and after the blink to the westward had changed to a visible field, making it very uncertain whether any egress was to be found in that quarter or not, an opening suddenly appeared trending to the northward, and sufficiently wide, as Roswell thought, to enable him to beat through it. Putting his helm down, his schooner came heavily round, and was filled on a course that soon carried her half a mile into this passage. At first, everything seemed propitious, the channel rather opening than otherwise, while the course was such—north-northwest—as enabled the vessel to make very long legs on one tack, and that the best. After going about four or five times, however, all these flattering symptoms suddenly changed, by the passage terminating in a cul de sac. Almost at the same instant the ice closed rapidly in the schooner’s wake. An effort was made to run back, but it failed in consequence of an enormous floe’s turning on its centre, having met resistance from a field closer in, that was, in its turn, stopped by the rocks. Roswell saw at once that nothing could be done at the moment. He took in all his canvas, as well as the frozen cloth could be handled, got out ice-anchors, and hauled his vessel into a species of cove where there would be the least danger of a nip, should the fields continue to close.

All this time Daggett was as busy as a bee. He rounded the headland, and flattered himself that he was about to slip past all the rocks, and get out into open water, when the vast fields of which the blink had been seen even by those in the other vessel, suddenly stretched themselves across his course in a way that set at defiance all attempts to go any farther in that direction. Daggett wore round, and endeavored to return. This was by no means as easy as it was to go down before the wind, and his bows were also much encumbered with ice; more so, indeed, than those of the other schooner. Once or twice his craft missed stays in consequence of getting so much by the head, and it was deemed necessary to heave-to, and take to the axes. A great deal of extra and cumbrous weight was gotten rid of, but an hour of most precious time was lost.

By the time Daggett was ready to make sail again, he found his return round the headland was entirely cut off, by the field’s having come in absolute contact with the rocks.

It was now midnight, and the men on board both vessels required rest. A watch was set in each, and most of the people were permitted to turn in. Of course, proper lookouts were had, but the light of the moon was not sufficiently distinct to render it safe to make any final efforts under its favor. No great alarm was felt, there being nothing unusual in a vessel’s being embayed in the ice; and so long as she was not nipped or pressed upon by actual contact, the position was thought safe rather than the reverse. It was desirable, moreover, for the schooners to communicate with each other; for some advantage might be known to one of the masters that was concealed by distance from his companion. Without concert, therefore, Roswell and Daggett came to the same conclusions, and waited patiently.

The day came at last, cold and dreary, though not altogether without the relief of an air that blew from regions far warmer than the ocean over which it was now travelling. Then the two schooners became visible from each other, and Roswell saw the jeopardy of Daggett, and Daggett saw the jeopardy of Roswell. The vessels were little more than a mile apart, but the situation of the Vineyard Lion was much the more critical. She had made fast to the floe, but her support itself was in a steady and most imposing motion. As soon as Roswell saw the manner in which his consort was surrounded, and the very threatening aspect of the danger that pressed upon him, his first impulse was to hasten to him, with a party of his own people, to offer any assistance he could give. After looking at the ice immediately around his own craft, where all seemed to be right, he called over the names of six of his men, ordered them to eat a warm breakfast, and to prepare to accompany him.

In twenty minutes Roswell was leading his little party across the ice, each man carrying an axe, or some other implement that it was supposed might be of use. It was by no means difficult to proceed; for the surface of the floe, one seemingly more than a league in extent, was quite smooth, and the snow on it was crusted to a strength that would have borne a team.

“The water between the ice and the rocks is a much narrower strip than I had thought,” said Roswell to his constant attendant, Stimson. “Here, it does not appear to be a hundred yards in width!”

“Nor is it, sir,—whew—this trotting in so cold a climate makes a man puff like a whale blowing—but, Captain Gar’ner, that schooner will be cut in two before we can get to her. Look, sir! the floe has reached the rocks already, quite near her; and it does not stop the drift at all, seemingly.”

Roswell made no reply; the state of the Vineyard Lion did appear to be much more critical than he had previously imagined. Until he came nearer to the land, he had formed no notion of the steady power with which the field was setting down on the rocks on which the broken fragments were now creeping like creatures endowed with life. Occasionally there would be loud disruptions, and the movement of the floe would become more rapid; then, again, a sort of pause would succeed, and for a moment the approaching party felt a gleam of hope. But all expectations of this sort were doomed to be disappointed.

“Look, sir!” exclaimed Stimson; “she went down afore it twenty fathoms at that one set. She must be awful near the rocks, sir!”

All the men now stopped. They knew they were powerless; and intense anxiety rendered them averse to move. Attention appeared to interfere with their walking on the ice; and each held his breath in expectation. They saw that the schooner, then less than a cable’s length from them, was close to the rocks; and the next shock, if anything like the last, must overwhelm her. To their astonishment, instead of being nipped, the schooner rose by a stately movement that was not without grandeur, upheld by broken cakes that had got beneath her bottom, and fairly reached the shelf of rocks almost unharmed. Not a man had left her; but there she was, placed on the shore, some twenty feet above the surface of the sea, on rocks worn smooth by the action of the waves! Had the season been propitious, and did the injury stop here, it might have been possible to get the craft into the water again, and still carry her to America.


But the floe was not yet arrested. Cake succeeded cake, one riding another, until a wall of ice rose along the shore, that Roswell and his companions, with all their activity and courage, had great difficulty in crossing. They succeeded in getting over it, however; but when they reached the unfortunate schooner, she was literally buried. The masts were broken, the sails torn, rigging scattered, and sides stove. The Sea Lion of Martha’s Vineyard was a worthless wreck—worthless as to all purposes but that of being converted into materials for a smaller craft, or to be used as fuel.

All this had been done in ten minutes! Then it was that the vast superiority of nature over the resources of man made itself apparent. The people of the two vessels stood aghast with this sad picture of their own insignificance before their eyes. The crew of the wreck, it is true, had escaped without difficulty; the movement having been as slow and steady as it was irresistible. But there they were, in the clothes they had on, with all their effects buried under piles of ice that were already thirty or forty feet in height.

“She looks as if she was built there, Gar’ner!” Daggett coolly observed, as he stood regarding the scene with eyes as intently riveted on the wreck as human organs were ever fixed on any object. “Had a man told me this could happen, I would not have believed him!”

“Had she been a three-decker, this ice would have treated her in the same way. There is a force in such a field that walls of stone could not withstand.”

“Captain Gar’ner—Captain Gar’ner,” called out Stimson, hastily; “we’d better go back, sir; our own craft is in danger. She is drifting fast in towards the cape, and may reach it afore we can get to her!”

Sure enough, it was so. In one of the changes that are so unaccountable among the ice, the floe had taken a sudden and powerful direction towards the entrance of the Great Bay. It was probably owing to the circumstance that the inner field had forced its way past the cape, and made room for its neighbor to follow. A few of Daggett’s people, with Daggett himself, remained to see what might yet be saved from the wreck; but all the rest of the men started for the cape, towards which the Oyster Pond craft was now directly setting. The distance was less than a league; and, as yet, there was not much snow on the rocks. By taking an upper shelf, it was possible to make pretty good progress; and such was the manner of Roswell’s present march.

It was an extraordinary sight to see the coast along which our party was hastening, just at that moment. As the cakes of ice were broken from the field, they were driven upward by the vast pressure from without, and the whole line of the shore seemed as if alive with creatures that were issuing from the ocean to clamber on the rocks. Roswell had often seen that very coast peopled with seals, as it now appeared to be in activity with fragments of ice, that were writhing and turning, and rising, one upon another, as if possessed of the vital principle.

In half an hour Roswell and his party reached the house. The schooner was then less than half a mile from the spot, still setting in, along with the outer field, but not nipped. So far from being in danger of such a calamity, the little basin in which she lay had expanded, instead of closing; and it would have been possible to handle a quick-working craft in it, under her canvas. An exit, however, was quite out of the question; there being no sign of any passage to or from that icy dock. There the craft still lay, anchored to the weather-floe, while the portion of her crew which remained on board was as anxiously watching the coast as those who were on the coast watched her. At first, Roswell gave his schooner up; but on closer examination found reason to hope that she might pass the rocks, and enter the inner, rather than the Great Bay.



(From The Green Hand.)


“What was my horror when I saw the quicksilver had sunk so far below the mark, probably fixed there that morning, as to be almost shrunk in the ball! Whatever the merchant service might know about the instrument in those days, the African coast was the place to teach its right use to us in the old Iris. I laid down my knife and fork as carelessly as I could, and went straight on deck.

“Here I sought out the mate, who was forward, watching the land—and at once took him aside to tell him the fact. ‘Well, sir,’ said he, coolly, ‘and what of that? A sign of wind, certainly, before very long; but in the meantime we’re sure to have it off the land.’ ‘That’s one of the very reasons,’ said I, ‘for thinking this will be from seaward—since towards evening the land’ll have plenty of air without it! But more than that, sir,’ said I, ‘I tell you, Mr. Finch, I know the west coast of Africa pretty well—and so far south as this, the glass falling so low as twenty-seven, is always the sign of a nor’westerly blow! If you’re a wise man, sir, you’ll not only get your upper spars down on deck, but you’ll see your anchors clear!’ Finch had plainly got furious at my meddling again, and said he, ‘Instead of that, sir, I shall hold on everything aloft, to stand out when I get the breeze!’ ‘D’ye really think, then,’ said I, pointing to the farthest-off streak of land, trending away by this time astern of us, faint as it was, ‘do you think you could ever weather that point, with anything like a strong nor’wester, besides a current heading you in, as you got fair hold of it again?’ ‘Perhaps not,’ said he, wincing a little as he glanced at it; ‘but you happen always to suppose what there’s a thousand to one against, sir. Why, sir, you might as well take the command at once. But, sir, if it did come to that, I’d rather—I’d rather see the ship lost—I’d rather go to the bottom with all in her, after handling her as I know well how, than I’d see the chance given to you!’ The young fellow fairly shouted this last word into my very ear—he was in a regular furious passion. ‘You’d better let me alone, that’s all I’ve got to say to you, sir!’ growled he, as he turned away; so I thought it no use to say more, and leaned over the bulwarks, resolved to see it out.

“The fact was, the farther we got off the land now, the worse, seeing that if what I dreaded should prove true, why, we were probably in thirty or forty fathoms of water, where no anchor could hold for ten minutes’ time—if it ever caught ground. My way would have been to get every boat out at once, and tow in till you could see the color of some shoal or other from aloft, then take my chance there to ride out whatever might come, to the last cable aboard of us. Accordingly, I wasn’t sorry to see that by this time the whole bight of the coast was slowly rising off our beam betwixt the high land far astern and the broad bluffs upon her starboard bow; which last came out already of a sandy reddish tint, and the lower part of a clear blue, as the sun got westward on our other side. What struck me was, that the face of the water, which was all over wrinkles and winding lines, with here and there a quick ripple, when I went below, had got on a sudden quite smooth as far as you could see, as if they’d sunk down like so many eels; a long uneasy ground-swell was beginning to heave in from seaward, on which the ship rose; once or twice I fancied I could observe the color different away towards the land, like the muddy chocolate spreading out near a river-mouth at ebb-tide—then again it was green, rather; and as for the look of the coast, I had no knowledge of it. I thought again, certainly, of the old quartermaster’s account in the Iris, but there was neither anything like to be seen, nor any sign of a break in the coast at all, though high headlands enough.

“The ship might have been about twelve or fourteen miles from the northeast point upon her starboard bow, a high rocky range of bluffs—and rather less from the nearest of what lay away off her beam; but after this you could mark nothing more, except it were that she edged farther from the point, by the way its bearings shifted or got blurred together: either she stood still, or she’d caught some eddy or underdrift, and the mate walked about quite lively once more. The matter was how to breathe, or bear your clothes—when all of a sudden I heard the second mate sing out from the forecastle—‘Stand by the braces, there! Look out for the tops’l hawl-yards!’

“He came shuffling aft the next moment as fast as his foundered old shanks could carry him, and told Mr. Finch there was a squall coming off the land. The mate sprang up on the bulwarks, and so did I—catching a glance from him, as much as to say, ‘There’s your gale from seaward, you pretentious lubber!’ The lowest streak of coast bore at present before our starboard quarter, betwixt east and south-east’ard, with some pretty high land running away up from it, and a sort of dim blue haze hanging beyond, as ’twere. Just as Macleod spoke, I could see a dusky dark vapor thickening and spreading in the haze, till it rose black along the flat, out of the sky behind it; whitened and then darkened again, like a heavy smoke floating up into the air. All was confusion on deck for a minute or two—off went all the awnings—and every hand was ready at his station, fisting the ropes; when I looked again at the cloud, and then at the mates. ‘By George!’ said I, noticing a pale wreath of it go curling up on the pale clear sky over it, as to a puff of air, ‘it is smoke! Some niggers, as they often do, burning the bush!’

“So it was; and as soon as Finch gave in, all hands quietly coiled up the ropes. It was scarce five minutes after, that Jacobs, who was coiling up a rope beside me, gave me a quiet touch with one finger. ‘Mr. Collins, sir,’ said he, in a low voice, looking almost right up, high over toward the ship’s larboard bow, which he couldn’t have done before, for the awnings so lately above us, ‘look, sir—there’s an ox-eye!’ I followed his gaze, but it wasn’t for a few seconds that I found what it pointed to, in the hot far-off-like blue dimness of the sky overhead, compared with the white glare of which to westward our canvas aloft was but dirty gray and yellow.

“’Twas what none but a seaman would have observed, and many a seaman wouldn’t have done so—but a man-o-war’s-man is used to look out at all hours, in all latitudes—and to a man that knew its meaning, this would have been no joke, even out of sight of land; as it was, the thing gave me a perfect thrill of dread. High aloft in the heavens northward, where they were freest from the sun—now standing over the open horizon amidst a wide bright pool of light—you managed to discern a small silvery speck, growing slowly, as it were, out of the faint blue hollow, like a star in the daytime, till you felt as if it looked at you, from God knows what distance away. One eye after another amongst the mates and crew joined Jacobs’ and mine, with the same sort of dumb fellowship to be seen when a man in London streets watches the top of a steeple; and however hard to make out at first, ere long none of them could miss seeing it, as it got slowly larger, sinking by degrees till the sky close about it seemed to thicken like a dusky ring round the white, and the sunlight upon our seaward quarter blazed out doubly strong—as if it came dazzling off a brass bell, with the bright tongue swinging in it far off to one side, where the hush made you think of a stroke back upon us, with some terrific sound to boot.

“The glassy water by this time was beginning to rise under the ship with a struggling kind of unequal heave, as if a giant you couldn’t see kept shoving it down here and there with both hands, and it came swelling up elsewhere.

“To north-westward or thereabouts, betwixt the sun and this ill-boding token aloft, the far line of open sea still lay shining motionless and smooth; next time you looked, it had got even brighter than before, seeming to leave the horizon visibly; then the streak of air just above it had grown gray, and a long hedge of hazy vapor was creeping as it were over from beyond—the white speck all the while travelling down towards it slantwise from nor’ard, and spreading its dark ring slowly out into a circle of cloud, till the keen eye of it at last sank in, and below, as well as aloft, the whole north-western quarter got blurred together in one gloomy mass. If there was a question at first whether the wind mightn’t come from so far nor’ard as to give her a chance of running out to sea before it, there was none now—our sole recourse lay either in getting nearer the land meanwhile, to let go our anchors ere it came on, with her head to it—or we might make a desperate trial to weather the lee-point now far astern. The fact was, we were going to have a regular tornado, and that of the worst kind, which wouldn’t soon blow itself out; though near an hour’s notice would probably pass ere it was on.

“The three mates laid their heads gravely together over the capstan for a minute or two, after which Finch seemed to perceive that the first of the two ways was the safer; though, of course, the nearer we should get to the land, the less chance there was of clearing it afterwards, should her cables part, or the anchors drag. The two boats still alongside, and two others dropped from the davits, were manned at once and set to towing the Indiaman ahead, in-shore; while the bower and sheet anchors were got out to the cat-heads ready for letting go, cables overhauled, ranged, and clinched as quickly as possible, and the deep-sea lead passed along to take soundings every few minutes.

“On we crept, slow as death, and almost as still, except the jerk of the oars from the heaving waters at her bows, and the loud flap of the big topsails now and then, everything aloft save them and the brailed foresail being already close furled; the clouds all the while rising away along our larboard beam nor’west and north, over the gray bank on the horizon, till once more you could scarce say which point the wind would come from, unless by the huge purple heap of vapor in the midst. The sun had got low, and he shivered his dazzling spokes of light behind one edge of it, as if ’twere a mountain you saw over some coast or other; indeed, you’d have thought the ship almost shut in by land on both sides of her, which was what seemed to terrify the passengers most, as they gathered about the poop-stairs and watched it—which was the true land and which the clouds, ’twas hard to say—and the sea gloomed writhing between them like a huge lake in the mountains.


“I saw Sir Charles Hyde walk out of the round-house and in again, glancing uneasily about; his daughter was standing with another young lady, gazing at the land; and at sight of her sweet, curious face, I’d have given worlds to be able to do something that might save it from the chance, possibly, of being that very night dashed amongst the breakers on a lee shore in the dark—or at best, suppose the Almighty favored any of us so far, perhaps landed in the wilds of Africa. Had there been aught man could do more, why, though I never should get a smile for it, I’d have compassed it, mate or no mate; but all was done that could be done, and I had nothing to say. Westwood came near her, too, apparently seeing our bad case at last to some extent, and both trying to break it to her, and to assure her mind; so I folded my arms again, and kept my eyes fixed hard upon the bank of cloud, as some new weather-mark stole out in it, and the sea stretched breathlessly away below, like new melted lead.

“The air was like to choke you—or rather there was none—as if water, sky, and everything else wanted life, and one would fain have caught the first rush of the tornado into his mouth—the men emptying the dipper on deck from the cask, from sheer loathing. As for the land, it seemed to draw nearer of itself, till every point and wrinkle in the headland off our bow came out in a red coppery gleam—one saw the white line of surf round it, and some blue country beyond like indigo; then back it darkened again, and all aloft was getting livid-like over the bare royal mast-heads.

“Suddenly, a faint air was felt to flutter from landward; it half lifted the topsails, and a heavy earthy smell came into your nostrils—the first of the land breeze, at last; but by this time it was no more than a sort of mockery, while a minute after you might catch a low, sullen, moaning sound far off through the emptiness, from the strong surf the Atlantic sends in upon the west coast before a squall. If ever landsmen found out what land on the wrong side is, the passengers of the Seringapatam did, that moment; the shudder of the topsails aloft seemed to pass into every one’s shoulders, and a few quietly walked below, as if they were safer in their cabins. I saw Violet Hyde look round and round with a startled expression, and from one place to another, till her eye lighted on me, and I fancied for a moment it was like putting some question to me. I couldn’t bear it!—’twas the first time I’d felt powerless to offer anything; though the thought ran through me again till I almost felt myself buffeting among the breakers with her in my arms. I looked to the land, where the smoke we had seen three-quarters of an hour ago, rose again with the puff of air, a slight flicker of flame in it, as it wreathed off the low ground toward the higher point—when all at once I gave a start, for something in the shape of the whole struck me as if I’d seen it before.

“Next moment I was thinking of old Bob Martin’s particular landmarks at the river-mouth he spoke of, and the notion of its possibly being hereabouts glanced on me like a godsend. In the unsure dusky sight I had of it, certainly, it wore somewhat of that look, and it lay fair to leeward of the weather; while, as for the dead shut-in appearance of it, old Bob had specially said you’d never think it was a river; but then again it was more like a desperate fancy owing to our hard case, and to run the ship straight for it would be the trick of a Bedlamite. At any rate, a quick cry from aft turned me round, and I saw a blue flare of lightning streak out betwixt the bank of gray haze and the cloud that hung over it—then another, and the clouds were beginning to rise slowly in the midst, leaving a white glare between, as if you could see through it towards what was coming. The men could pull no longer, but ahead of the ship there was now only about eight or ten fathoms of water, with a soft bottom. The boats were hoisted in, and the men had begun to clew up and hand the topsails, which were lowered on the caps, when, just in the midst of the hubbub and confusion, as I stood listening to every order the mate gave, the steward came up hastily from below to tell him that the captain had woke up, and, being much better, wanted to see him immediately. Mr. Pinch looked surprised, but he turned at once, and hurried down the hatchway.

“The sight which all of us who weren’t busy gazed upon, over the larboard bulwarks, was terrible to see; ’twas half dark, though the sun dropping behind the haze-bank, made it glimmer and redden. The dark heap of clouds had first lengthened out blacker and blacker, and was rising slowly in the sky like a mighty arch, till you saw their white edges below, and a ghastly white space behind, out of which the mist and scud began to fly. Next minute a long sigh came into her jib and foresail, then the black bow of cloud partly sank again, and a blaze of lightning came out all round her, showing you every face on deck, the inside of the round-house aft, with the Indian judge standing in it, his hand to his eyes—and the land far away, to the very swell rolling onto it. Then the thunder broke overhead in the gloom, in one fearful sudden crack, that you seemed to hear through every corner of cabins and forecastle below—and the wet back-fins of twenty sharks or so, that had risen out of the inky surface, vanished as suddenly.

“The Indiaman had sheered almost broadside on to the clouds, her jib was still up, and I knew the next time the clouds rose we should fairly have it. Flash after flash came, and clap after clap of thunder, such as you hear before a tornado—yet the chief officer wasn’t to be seen, and the others seemed uncertain what to do first; while everyone began to wonder and pass along questions where he could be. In fact, he had disappeared. For my part, I thought it very strange he stayed so long; but there wasn’t a moment to lose. I jumped down off the poop-stairs, walked forward on the quarter-deck, and said coolly to the men nearest me, ‘Run and haul down that jib yonder—set the spanker here, aft. You’ll have her taken slap on her beam: quick, my lads!’ The men did so at once. Macleod was calling out anxiously for Mr. Finch. ‘Stand by the anchors there!’ I sang out, ‘to let go the starboard one, the moment she swings head to wind!’ The Scotch mate turned his head; but Rickett’s face, by the next flash, showed he saw the good of it, and there was no leisure for arguing, especially as I spoke in a way to be heard. I walked to the wheel, and got hold of Jacobs to take the weather helm.

“We were all standing ready, at the pitch of expecting it. Westwood, too, having appeared again by this time beside me, I whispered to him to run forward and look after the anchors, when someone came hastily up the after-hatchway, with a glazed hat and pilot-coat on, stepped straight to the binnacle, looked in behind me, then at the black bank of cloud, then aloft. Of course I supposed it was the mate again, but didn’t trouble myself to glance at him further, when ‘Hold on with the anchors!’ he sang out in a loud voice. ‘Hold on there for your lives!’ Heavens! it was the captain himself!

“At this, of course, I stood aside at once; and he shouted again, ‘Hoist the jib and fore-topmast-staysail—stand by to set fore-course!’ By Jove! this was the way to pay the ship head off, instead of stern off, from the blast when it came—and to let her drive before it at no trifle of a rate, wherever that might take her. ‘Down with that spanker, Mr. Macleod, d’ye hear?’ roared Captain Williamson again; and, certainly, I did wonder what he meant to do with the ship. But his manner was so decided, and ’twas so natural for the captain to strain a point to come on deck in the circumstances, that I saw he must have some trick of seamanship above me, or some special knowledge of the coast; and I waited in a state of the greatest excitement for the first stroke of the tornado. He waved the second and third mates forward to their posts,—the Indiaman sheering and backing, like a frightened horse, to the long slight swell and the faint flow of the land-air. The black arch to windward began to rise again, showing a terrible white stare reaching deep in, and a blue dart of lightning actually ran zigzag before our glaring fore-to’-gallant-mast. Suddenly, the captain had looked at me, and we faced each other by the gleam; and, quiet, easy-going man as he was commonly, it just flashed across me there was something extraordinarily wild and raised in his pale visage, strange as the air about us made everyone appear. He gave a stride towards me, shouting, ‘Who are—’ when the thunder-clap took the words out of his tongue, and the next moment the tornado burst upon us, fierce as the wind from a cannon’s mouth.

“For one minute the Seringapatam heeled over to her starboard streak, almost broadside on, and her spars towards the land—all on her beam was a long ragged white gush of light and mist pouring out under the black brow of the clouds, with a trampling, eddying roar up into the sky. The swell plunged over her weather-side like the first break of a dam, and as we scrambled up to the bulwarks to hold on for bare life, we saw a roller fit to swamp us, coming on out of the sheet of foam, when crash went mizzen-topmast and main-to’-gallant-mast; the ship payed swiftly off by help of her head-sails, and, with a leap like a harpooned whale, off she drove fair before the tremendous sweep of the blast.

“The least yaw in her course, and she’d have never risen, unless every stick went out of her. I laid my shoulder to the wheel with Jacobs, and Captain Williamson screamed through his trumpet into the men’s ears, and waved his hands to ride down the foresheets as far as they’d go; which kept her right before it, though the sail could be but half set, and she rather flew than ran—the sea one breadth of white foam back to the gushes of mist, not having power to rise higher yet. Had the foresail been stretched, ’twould have blown off like a cloud. I looked at the captain: he was standing in the lee of the round-house, straight upright, though now and then peering eagerly forward, his lips firm, one hand on a belaying-pin, the other in his breast—nothing but determination in his manner: yet once or twice he started, and glanced fiercely to the after-hatchway near, as if something from below might chance to thwart him. I can’t express my contrary feelings, betwixt a sort of hope and sheer horror. We were driving right towards the land, at thirteen or fourteen knots to the hour—yet could there actually be some harborage hereaway, or that river the quartermaster of the Iris had mentioned, and Captain Williamson know of it?

“Something struck me as wonderfully strange in the whole matter, and puzzling to desperation—still, I trusted to the captain’s experience. The coast was scarce to be seen ahead of us, lying black against an uneven streak of glimmer, as she rushed like fury before the deafening howl of the wind; and right away before our lee-beam I could see the light blowing, as it were, across beyond the headland I had noticed, where the smoke in the bush seemed to be still curling, half-smothered, along the flat in the lee of the hills, as if in green wood, or sheltered as yet from seaweed, though once or twice a quick flicker burst up in it.

“All at once the gust of the tornado was seen to pour on it like a long blast from some huge bellows, and up it flashed—the yellow flame blazed into the smoke, spread away behind the point, and the ruddy brown smoke blew whitening over it—when, almighty power! what did I see as it lengthened in, but part after part of the old Bob’s landmarks creep out ink-black before the flare and the streak of sky together—first the low line of ground, then the notch in the block, the two rocks like steps, and the sugar-loaf shape of the headland, to the very mop-headed knot of trees on its rise! No doubt Captain Williamson was steering for it; but it was far too much on our starboard bow, and in half an hour at this rate we should drive right into the surf you saw running along to the coast ahead—so I signed to Jacob for God’s sake to edge her off as nicely as was possible.

“Captain Williamson caught my motion. ‘Port! port, sirrah!’ he sang out sternly. ‘Back with the helm, d’ye hear?’ and pulling out a pistol, he levelled it at me with one hand, while he held a second in the other. ‘Land! land!’ shouted he, and from the lee of the round-house it came more like a shriek than a shout. ‘I’ll be there though a thousand mutineers—’ His eye was like a wild beast’s. That moment the truth glanced across me—this was the green leaf, no doubt, the Scotch mate talked so mysteriously of. The man was mad! The land-fever was upon him, as I’d seen it before in men long off the African coast; and he stood eyeing me with one foot hard stamped before him. ’Twas no use trying to be heard, and the desperation of the moment gave me a thought of the sole thing to do. I took off my hat in the light of the binnacle, bowed, and looked him straight in the face with a smile; when his eye wavered, he slowly lowered his pistol, then laughed, waving his hand towards the land to leeward, as if, but for the gale, you’d have heard him cheer. At the instant I sprang behind him with the slack of a rope, and grappled his arms fast, though he’d got the furious power of a madman; and during half a minute ’twas wrestle for life with me. But the line was round him, arm and leg, and I made it fast, throwing him heavily on the deck just as one of the mates with some of the crew were struggling aft, by help of the belaying-pins, against the hurricane, having caught a glimpse of the thing by the binnacle light. They looked from me to the captain. The ugly top-man made a sign, as much as to say, ‘Knock the fellow down;’ but the whole lot hung back before the couple of pistol-barrels I handled. The Scotch mate seemed awfully puzzled; and others of the men, who knew from Jacobs what I was, came shoving along, evidently aware what a case we were in.


“A word to Jacobs served to keep him steering her anxiously, so as to head two or three points more southeast in the end, furiously as the wheel jolted. So there we stood, the tornado sweeping sharp as a knife from astern over the poop-deck, with a force that threw anyone back if he let go his hold to get near me, and going up like thunder aloft in the sky. Now and then a weaker flare of lightning glittered across the scud; and, black as it was overhead, the horizon to windward was but one jagged white glare, gushing full of broad shifting streaks through the drift of foam and the spray that strove to rise. Our fore-course still held: and I took the helm from Jacobs, that he might go and manage to get a pull taken on the starboard brace, which would not only slant the sail more to the blasts, but give her the better chance to make the sole point of salvation, by helping her steerage when most needed. Jacobs and Westwood together got this done; and all the time I was keeping my eyes fixed anxiously, as man can fancy, on the last gleams of the fire ashore, as her head made a fairer line with it; but, by little and little, it went quite out, and all was black—though I had taken its bearing by the compass—and I kept her to that for bare life, trembling at every shiver in the foresail’s edge, lest either it or the mast should go.

“Suddenly, we began to get into a fearful swell—the Indiaman plunged and shook in every spar left her. I could see nothing ahead, from the wheel, and in the dark; we were getting close in with the land, and the time was coming; but still I held south-east-by-east to the mark of her head in the compass-box, as nearly as might and main could do it, for the heaves that made me think once or twice she was to strike next moment.

“If she went ashore in my hands! why, it was like to drive one mad with fear; and I waited for Jacobs to come back, with a brain ready to turn, almost as if I’d left the wheel to the other helmsman, and run forward into the bows to look out. The captain lay raving and shouting behind me, though no one else could either have heard or seen him; and where the chief officer was all this time surprised me, unless the madman had made away with him, or locked him in his own cabin, in return for being shut up himself—which, in fact, proved to be the case, cunning as it was to send for him so quietly. At length Jacobs struggled aft to me again, and charging him, for Heaven’s sake, to steer exactly the course I gave, I drove before the full strength of the squall along decks to the bowsprit, where I held on and peered out. Dead ahead of us was the high line of coast in the dark—not a mile of swell between the ship and it. By this time the low boom of the surf came under the wind, and you saw the breakers lifting all along—not a single opening in them! I had lost sight of my landmarks, and my heart gulped into my mouth—what I felt ’twould be vain to say—till I thought I did make out one short patch of sheer black in the range of foam, scarce so far on our bow as I’d reckoned the fire to have been; indeed, instead of that, it was rather on her weather than her lee bow; and the more I watched it, and the nearer we drove in that five minutes, the broader it was. ‘By all that’s good!’ thought I, ‘if a river there is, that must be the mouth of it!’ But, by Heavens! on our present course the ship would run just right upon the point—and, to strike the clear water, her foreyard would require to be braced up, able or not, though the force of the tornado would come fearfully on her quarter, then. There was the chance of taking all the masts out of her; but let them stand ten minutes, and the thing was done, when we opened into the lee of the points—otherwise all was over.

“I sprang to the fore-braces and besought the men near me, for God’s sake, to drag upon the lee one—and that as if their life hung upon it—when Westwood caught me by the arm. I merely shouted through my hands into his ear to go aft to Jacobs and tell him to keep her head a single point up, whatever might happen, to the last—then I pulled with the men at the brace till it was fast, and scrambled up again to the bowsprit heel. Jove! how she surged to it: the little canvas we had strained like to burst; the masts trembled, and the spars aloft bent like whip-shafts, everything below groaning again; while the swell and the blast together made you dizzy, as you watched the white eddies rising and boiling out of the dark—her cutwater shearing through it and the foam, as if you were going under it. The sound of the hurricane and the surf seemed to be growing together into one awful roar—my very brain began to turn with the pitch I was wrought up to—and it appeared next moment we should heave far up into the savage hubbub of breakers. I was wearying for the crash and the wild confusion that would follow, when all of a sudden, still catching the fierce rush of the gale athwart her quarter into the fore-course, which steadied her though she shuddered to it—all of a sudden, the dark mass of the land seemed as if it were parting ahead of her, and a gleam of pale sky opened below the dusk into my very face. I no more knew what I was doing, by this time, nor where we were, than the spar before me—till again, the light broadened, glimmering low betwixt the high land and a lump of rising level on the other bow.

“I hurried aft past the confused knots of men holding on to the lee of the bulwarks, and seized a spoke of the wheel. ‘Tom,’ shouted I to Westwood, ‘run and let free the spanker on the poop! Down with the helm—down with it, Jacobs, my lad!’ I sang out, ‘never mind spars or canvas!’ Down went the helm—the spanker held to luff her to the strength of the gust—and away she went up to port, the heavy swells rolling her in, while the rush into her staysail and fore-course came in one terrible flash of roaring wind—tearing first one and then the other clear out of the bolt-ropes, though the loose spanker abaft was in less danger, and the way she had from both was enough to take her careening round the point into its lee. By heavens! there were the streaks of soft haze low over the rising moon, under the broken clouds, beyond a far line of dim fringy woods, she herself just tipping the hollow behind, big and red, when right down from over the cloud above us came a spout of rain, then a sheet of it lifting to the blast as it howled across the point. ‘Stand by to let go the larboard anchor!’ I sang through the trumpet; and Jacobs put the helm fully down at that moment, till she was coming head to wind, when I made forward to the mates and men. ‘Let—go!’ I shouted; not a look turned against me, and away thundered the cable through the hawse-hole; she shook to it, sheered astern, and brought up with her anchor fast. By that time the rain was plashing down in a perfect deluge—you couldn’t see a yard from you—all was one white pour of it; although it soon began to drive again over the headland, as the tornado gathered new food out of it. Another anchor was let go, cable paid out, and the ship soon began to swing the other way to the tide, pitching all the while on the short swell.

“The gale still whistled through her spars for two or three hours, during which it began by degrees to lull. About eleven o’clock it was clear moonlight to leeward, the air fresh and cool: a delicious watch it was, too. I was walking the poop by myself, two or three men lounging sleepily about the forecastle, and Rickett below on the quarter-deck, when I saw the chief officer himself rush up from below, staring wildly around him, as if he thought we were in some dream or other. I fancied at first the mate would have struck Rickett, from the way he went on, but I kept aft where I was. The eddies ran past the Indiaman’s side, and you heard the fast ebb of the tide rushing and rippling sweetly on her taut cables ahead, plashing about the bows and bends. We were in old Bob Martin’s river whatever that might be.”



(From Two Years Before the Mast.)
By R. H. DANA, Jr.


The fourteenth day of August was the day fixed upon for the sailing of the brig Pilgrim on her voyage from Boston round Cape Horn to the western coast of North America. As she was to get under way early in the afternoon, I made my appearance on board at twelve o’clock in full sea-rig, and with my chest, containing an outfit for a two or three years’ voyage, which I had undertaken from a determination to cure, if possible, by an entire change of life, and by a long absence from books and study, a weakness of the eyes, which had obliged me to give up my pursuits, and which no medical aid seemed likely to cure.

The change from the tight dress-coat, silk cap and kid gloves of an undergraduate at Cambridge, to the loose duck trousers, checked shirt and tarpaulin hat of a sailor, though somewhat of a transformation, was soon made, and I supposed that I should pass very well for a jack tar. But it is impossible to deceive the practised eye in these matters; and while I supposed myself to be looking as salt as Neptune himself, I was, no doubt, known for a landsman by every one on board as soon as I hove in sight.

A sailor has a peculiar cut to his clothes, and a way of wearing them which a green hand can never get. The trousers, tight round the hips, and thence hanging long and loose round the feet, a superabundance of checked shirt, a low-crowned, well-varnished black hat, worn on the back of the head, with half a fathom of black ribbon hanging over the left eye, and a peculiar tie to the black silk neckerchief, with sundry other minutiæ, are signs, the want of which betrayed the beginner, at once. Besides the points in my dress which were out of the way, doubtless my complexion and hands were enough to distinguish me from the regular salt, who, with a sunburnt cheek, wide step, and rolling gait, swings his broad and toughened hands athwart-ships, half open, as though just ready to grasp a rope.

“With all my imperfections on my head,” I joined the crew, and we hauled out into the stream, and came to anchor for the night. The next day we were employed in preparations for sea, reeving studding-sail gear, crossing royal-yards, putting on chafing gear, and taking on board our powder. On the following night, I stood my first watch. I remained awake nearly all the first part of the night from fear that I might not hear when I was called; and when I went on deck, so great were my ideas of the importance of my trust, that I walked regularly fore and aft the whole length of the vessel, looking out over the bows and taffrail at each turn, and was not a little surprised at the coolness of the old salt whom I called to take my place, in stowing himself snugly away under the long-boat, for a nap. That was a sufficient lookout, he thought, for a fine night, at anchor in a safe harbor.

The next morning was Saturday, and a breeze having sprung up from the southward, we took a pilot on board, hove up our anchor, and began beating down the bay. I took leave of those of my friends who came to see me off, and had barely opportunity to take a last look at the city and well-known objects, as no time is allowed on board ship for sentiment.

As we drew down into the lower harbor, we found the wind ahead in the bay, and we were obliged to come to anchor in the roads. We remained there through the day and a part of the night. My watch began at eleven o’clock at night, and I received orders to call the captain if the wind came out from the westward. About midnight the wind became fair, and having called the captain, I was ordered to call all hands. How I accomplished this I do not know, but I am quite sure that I did not give the true hoarse boatswain call of “A-a-ll ha-a-a-nds! up anchor, a ho-oy!” In a short time every one was in motion, the sails loosed, the yards braced, and we began to heave up the anchor, which was our last hold upon Yankee land.

I could take but little part in all these preparations. My little knowledge of a vessel was all at fault. Unintelligible orders were so rapidly given and so immediately executed; there was such a hurrying about, and such an intermingling of strange cries and strange actions, that I was completely bewildered. There is not so helpless and pitiable an object in the world as a landsman beginning a sailor’s life.

At length those peculiar, long-drawn sounds, which denote that the crew are heaving at the windlass, began, and in a few moments we were under way. The noise of the water thrown from the bows began to be heard, the vessel leaned over from the damp night breeze, and rolled with a heavy ground swell, and we had actually begun our long, long journey. This was literally bidding “good-night” to my native land.

The first day we passed at sea was the Sabbath. As we were just from port, and there was a great deal to be done on board, we were kept at work all day, and at night the watches were set, and everything put into sea order. When we were called aft to be divided into watches, I had a good specimen of the manner of a sea captain. After the division had been made, he gave a short characteristic speech, walking the quarter-deck with a cigar in his mouth, and dropping the words out between the puffs:

“Now, my men, we have begun a long voyage. If we get along well together, we shall have a comfortable time; if we don’t, we shall have hell afloat. All you’ve got to do is to obey your orders and do your duty like men,—then you’ll fare well enough;—if you don’t, you’ll fare hard enough,—I can tell you. If we pull together, you’ll find me a clever fellow; if we don’t, you’ll find me a bloody rascal. That’s all I’ve got to say. Go below, the larboard watch!”

I being in the starboard, or second mate’s watch, had the opportunity of keeping the first watch at sea. S——, a young man, making, like myself, his first voyage, was in the same watch, and as he was the son of a professional man, and had been in a counting-room in Boston, we found that we had many friends and topics in common. We talked these matters over:—Boston, what our friends were probably doing, our voyage, etc., until he went to take his turn at the lookout, and left me to myself.

I had now a fine time for reflection. I felt for the first time the perfect silence of the sea. The officer was walking the quarter-deck, where I had no right to go, one or two men were talking on the forecastle, whom I had little inclination to join, so that I was left open to the full impression of everything about me. However much I was affected by the beauty of the sea, the bright stars, and the clouds driven swiftly over them, I could not but remember that I was separating myself from all the social and intellectual enjoyments of life. Yet, strange as it may seem, I did then and afterward take pleasure in these reflections, hoping by them to prevent my becoming insensible to the value of what I was leaving.

But all my dreams were soon put to flight by an order from the officer to trim the yards, as the wind was getting ahead; and I could plainly see by the looks the sailors occasionally cast to windward, and by the dark clouds that were fast coming up, that we had bad weather to prepare for, and had heard the captain say that he expected to be in the Gulf Stream by twelve o’clock. In a few minutes eight bells were struck, the watch called, and we went below.

I now began to feel the first discomforts of a sailor’s life. The steerage in which I lived was filled with coils of rigging, spare sails, old junk, and ship stores, which had not been stowed away. Moreover, there had been no berths built for us to sleep in, and we were not allowed to drive nails to hang our clothes upon. The sea, too, had risen, the vessel was rolling heavily, and everything was pitched about in grand confusion. There was a complete “hurrah’s nest,” as the sailors say, “everything on top and nothing at hand.” A large hawser had been coiled away upon my chest; my hats, boots, mattress and blankets had all fetched away and gone over leeward, and were jammed and broken under the boxes and coils of rigging. To crown all, we were allowed no light to find anything with, and I was just beginning to feel strong symptoms of sea-sickness, and that listlessness and inactivity which accompany it.

Giving up all attempts to collect my things together, I lay down upon the sails, expecting every moment to hear the cry of “All hands ahoy,” which the approaching storm would soon make necessary. I shortly heard the rain-drops falling on deck, thick and fast, and the watch evidently had their hands full of work, for I could hear the loud and repeated orders of the mate, the trampling of feet, the creaking of blocks, and all the accompaniments of a coming storm. In a few minutes the slide of the hatch was thrown back, which let down the noise and tumult of the deck still louder, the loud cry of “All hands, ahoy! tumble up here and take in sail!” saluted our ears, and the hatch was quickly shut again.

When I got upon deck, a new scene and a new experience was before me. The little brig was close-hauled upon the wind, and lying over, as it then seemed to me, nearly upon her beam ends. The heavy head sea was beating against her bows with the noise and force almost of a sledge-hammer, and flying over the deck, drenching us completely through. The topsail halyards had been let go, and the great sails were filling out and backing against the masts with a noise like thunder. The wind was whistling through the rigging, loose ropes flying about; loud and, to me, unintelligible orders constantly given and rapidly executed, and the sailors “singing out” at the ropes in their hoarse and peculiar strains. In addition to all this, I had not got my “sea legs” on, was dreadfully sick, with hardly strength enough to hold on to anything, and it was “pitch dark.” This was my state when I was ordered aloft, for the first time, to reef topsails.

How I got along, I cannot now remember. I “laid out” on the yards and held on with all my strength. I could not have been of much service, for I remember having been sick several times before I left the topsail yard. Soon all was snug aloft, and we were again allowed to go below. This I did not consider much of a favor, for the confusion of everything below, and the inexpressible sickening smell, caused by the shaking up of the bilge-water in the hold, made the steerage but an indifferent refuge from the cold wet decks.

I had often read of the nautical experiences of others, but I felt as though there could be none worse than mine; for in addition to every other evil, I could not but remember that this was only the first night of a two years’ voyage. When we were on deck we were not much better off, for we were continually ordered about by the officer, who said that it was good for us to be in motion. Yet anything was better than the horrible state of things below. I remember very well going to the hatchway and putting my head down, when I was oppressed by nausea, and always being relieved immediately. It was as good as an emetic.

This state of things continued for two days.

Wednesday, Aug. 20th. We had the watch on deck from four till eight, this morning. When we came on deck at four o’clock, we found things much changed for the better. The sea and wind had gone down, and the stars were out bright. I experienced a corresponding change in my feelings; yet continued extremely weak from my sickness. I stood in the waist on the weather side, watching the gradual breaking of the day, and the first streaks of the early light. Much has been said of the sunrise at sea; but it will not compare with the sunrise on shore. It wants the accompaniments of the songs of birds, the awakening hum of men, and the glancing of the first beams upon trees, hills, spires, and house-tops, to give it life and spirit. But though the actual rise of the sun at sea is not so beautiful, yet nothing will compare with the early breaking of day upon the wide ocean.

There is something in the first gray streaks stretching along the eastern horizon and throwing an indistinct light upon the face of the deep, which combines with the boundlessness and unknown depth of the sea round you, and gives one a feeling of loneliness, of dread, and of melancholy foreboding, which nothing else in nature can give. This gradually passes away as the light grows brighter, and when the sun comes up, the ordinary monotonous sea day begins.

From such reflections as these, I was aroused by the order from the officer, “Forward there! rig the head-pump!” I found that no time was allowed for day-dreaming, but that we must “turn to” at the first light. Having called up the “idlers,” namely carpenter, cook, steward, etc., and rigged the pump, we commenced washing down the decks. This operation, which is performed every morning at sea, takes nearly two hours; and I had hardly strength enough to get through it.

After we had finished, swabbed down, and coiled up the rigging, I sat down on the spars, waiting for seven bells, which was the sign for breakfast. The officer, seeing my lazy posture, ordered me to slush the main-mast, from the royal mast-head down. The vessel was then rolling a little, and I had taken no sustenance for three days, so that I felt tempted to tell him that I had rather wait till after breakfast; but I knew that I must “take the bull by the horns,” and that if I showed any sign of want of spirit or of backwardness, that I should be ruined at once. So I took my bucket of grease and climbed up to the royal-mast-head. Here the rocking of the vessel, which increases the higher you go from the foot of the mast, which is the fulcrum of the lever, and the smell of the grease, which offended my fastidious senses, upset my stomach again, and I was not a little rejoiced when I got upon the comparative terra firma of the deck. In a few minutes seven bells were struck, the log hove, the watch called, and we went to breakfast.

Here I cannot but remember the advice of the cook, a simple-hearted African.

“Now,” said he, “my lad, you are well cleaned out; you haven’t got a drop of your ’long-shore swash aboard of you. You must begin on a new tack—pitch all your sweetmeats overboard, and turn-to upon good hearty salt beef and sea bread, and I’ll promise you, you’ll have your ribs well sheathed, and be as hearty as any of ’em, afore you are up to the Horn.”

This would be good advice to give passengers, when they speak of the little niceties which they have laid in, in case of sea-sickness.

I cannot describe the change which half a pound of cold salt beef and a biscuit or two produced in me. I was a new being. We had a watch below until noon, so that I had some time to myself; and getting a huge piece of strong, cold salt beef from the cook, I kept gnawing upon it until twelve o’clock. When we went on deck I felt somewhat like a man, and could begin to learn my sea duty with considerable spirit.

At about two o’clock we heard the loud cry of “Sail ho!” from aloft, and soon saw two sails to windward, going directly athwart our hawse. This was the first time that I had seen a sail at sea. I thought then, and have always since, that it exceeds every other sight in interest and beauty. They passed to leeward of us, and out of hailing distance; but the captain could read the names on their sterns with the glass. They were the ship Helen Mar, of New York, and the brig Mermaid, of Boston. They were both steering westward, and were bound in for our “dear native land.”

Thursday, Aug. 21st. This day the sun rose clear, we had a fine wind, and everything was bright and cheerful. I had now got my sea legs on, and was beginning to enter upon the regular duties of a sea-life. About six bells, that is, three o’clock, P.M., we saw a sail on our larboard bow. I was very anxious, like every new sailor, to speak her. She came down to us, backed her maintopsail and the two vessels stood “head on,” bowing and curvetting at each other like a couple of war-horses reined in by their riders. It was the first vessel that I had seen near, and I was surprised to find how much she rolled and pitched in so quiet a sea. She plunged her head into the sea, and then, her stern settling gradually down, her huge bows rose up, showing the bright copper, and her stern, and breast-hooks dripping, like old Neptune’s locks, with the brine. Her decks were filled with passengers who had come up at the cry of “Sail ho,” and who by their dress and features appeared to be Swiss and French emigrants. She hailed us in French, but receiving no answer, she tried us in English. She was the ship La Carolina, from Havre, for New York. We desired her to report the brig Pilgrim, from Boston, for the northwest coast of America, five days out. She then filled away and left us to plough on through our waste of waters. This day ended pleasantly; we had got into regular and comfortable weather, and into that routine of sea-life which is only broken by a storm, a sail, or the sight of land.

As we had now a long “spell” of fine weather, without any incident to break the monotony of our lives, there can be no better place to describe the duties, regulations, and customs of an American merchantman, of which ours was a fair specimen.

The captain, in the first place, is lord paramount. He stands no watch, comes and goes when he pleases, and is accountable to no one, and must be obeyed in everything, without a question, even from his chief officer. He has the power to turn his officers off duty, and even to break them and make them do duty as sailors in the forecastle. Where there are no passengers and no supercargo, as in our vessel, he has no companion but his own dignity, and no pleasures, unless he differs from most of his kind, but the consciousness of possessing supreme power and, occasionally, the exercise of it.

The prime minister, the official organ, and the active and superintending officer, is the chief mate. He is first lieutenant, boatswain, sailing-master, and quartermaster. The captain tells him what he wishes to have done, and leaves to him the care of overseeing, of allotting the work, and also the responsibility of its being well done. The mate (as he is always called, par excellence) also keeps the logbook, for which he is responsible to the owners and insurers, and has the charge of the stowage, safe-keeping, and delivery of the cargo. He is also ex-officio, the wit of the crew; for the captain does not condescend to joke with the men, and the second mate no one cares for; so that when “the mate” thinks fit to entertain “the people” with a coarse joke or a little practical wit, every one feels bound to laugh.

The second mate’s is proverbially a dog’s berth. He is neither officer nor man. The men do not respect him as an officer, and he is obliged to go aloft to reef and furl the topsails, and to put his hands into the tar and slush, with the rest. The crew call him the “sailor’s waiter,” as he has to furnish them with spun-yarn, marline, and all other stuffs that they need in their work, and has charge of the boatswain’s locker, which includes serving-boards, marline-spikes, etc. He is expected to maintain his dignity and to enforce obedience, and still is kept at a great distance from the mate, and obliged to work with the crew. He is one to whom little is given and of whom much is required. His wages are usually double those of a common sailor, and he eats and sleeps in the cabin; but he is obliged to be on deck nearly all his time, and eats at the second table, that is, makes a meal out of what the captain and chief mate leave.

The steward is the captain’s servant, and has charge of the pantry, from which every one, even the mate himself, is excluded. These distinctions usually find him an enemy in the mate, who does not like to have any one on board who is not entirely under his control; the crew do not consider him as one of their number, so he is left to the mercy of the captain.

The cook is the patron of the crew, and those who are in his favor can get their wet mittens and stockings dried, or light their pipes at the galley in the nightwatch. These two worthies, together with the carpenter and sail-maker, if there be one, stand no watch, but, being employed all day, are allowed to “sleep in” at night unless all hands are called.

The crew are divided into two divisions, as equally as may be, called the watches. Of these the chief mate commands the larboard, and the second mate the starboard. They divide the time between them, being on and off duty, or, as it is called, on deck and below, every other four hours. If, for instance, the chief mate with the larboard watch have the first night-watch from eight to twelve; at the end of the four hours the starboard watch is called, and the second mate takes the deck while the larboard watch and the first mate go below until four in the morning, when they come on deck again and remain until eight; having what is called the morning watch. As they will have been on deck eight hours out of the twelve, while those who had the middle watch—from twelve to four—will only have been up four hours, they have what is called a “forenoon watch below,” that is, from eight A.M. till twelve M. In a man-of-war, and in some merchantmen, this alternation of watches is kept up throughout the twenty-four hours; but our ship, like most merchantmen, had “all hands” from twelve o’clock to dark, except in bad weather, when we had “watch and watch.”

An explanation of the “dog-watches” may, perhaps, be of use to one who has never been at sea. They are to shift the watches each night, so that the same watch need not be on deck at the same hours. In order to effect this, the watch from four to eight A.M. is divided into two half, or dog-watches, one from four to six; and the other from six to eight. By this means they divide the twenty-four hours into seven watches instead of six, and thus shift the hours every night. As the dog-watches come during twilight, after the day’s work is done, and before the night-watch is set, they are the watches in which everybody is on deck. The captain is up, walking on the weather side of the quarter-deck, the chief mate on the lee side, and the second mate about the weather gangway. The steward has finished his work in the cabin, and has come up to smoke his pipe with the cook in the galley. The crew are sitting on the windlass or lying on the forecastle, smoking, singing, or telling long yarns. At eight o’clock, eight bells are struck, the log is hove, the watch set, the wheel relieved, the galley shut up, and the other watch goes below.

The morning commences with the watch on deck “turning-to” at day-break and washing down, scrubbing, and swabbing the decks. This together with filling the “scuttled butt” with fresh water, and coiling up the rigging, usually occupies the time until seven bells (half after seven), when all hands get breakfast. At eight, the day’s work begins, and lasts until sundown, with the exception of an hour for dinner.

Before I end my explanations, it may be well to define a day’s work, and to correct a mistake prevalent among landsmen about a sailor’s life. Nothing is more common than to hear people say—“Are not sailors very idle at sea? what can they find to do?” This is a very natural mistake, and being very frequently made, it is one which every sailor feels interested in having corrected. In the first place, then, the discipline of the ship requires every man to be at work upon something when he is on deck, except at night and on Sundays. Except at these times, you will never see a man, on board a well-ordered vessel, standing idle on deck, sitting down, or leaning over the side. It is the officer’s duty to keep every one at work, even if there is nothing to be done but to scrape the rust from the cabin cables. In no state prison are the convicts more regularly set to work, and more closely watched. No conversation is allowed among the crew at their duty, and though they frequently do talk when aloft, or when near one another, yet they always stop when an officer is nigh.

With regard to the work upon which the men are put, it is a matter which probably would not be understood by one who has not been at sea. When I first left port, and found that we were kept regularly employed for a week or two, I supposed that we were getting the vessel into sea trim and that it would soon be over, and we should have nothing to do but to sail the ship; but I found that it continued so for two years, and at the end of the two years there was as much to be done as ever. As has often been said, a ship is like a lady’s watch, always out of repair. When first leaving port, studding-sail gear is to be rove, all the running rigging to be examined, that which is unfit for use to be got down, and new rigging rove in its place; then the standing rigging is to be overhauled, replaced, and repaired, in a thousand different ways; and wherever any of the numberless ropes or the yards are chafing or wearing upon it, there “chafing gear,” as it is called, must be put on. This chafing gear consists of worming, parcelling, roundings, battens, and service of all kinds—both rope-yarns, spun-yarn, marline, and seizing-stuffs. Taking off, putting on, and mending the chafing gear alone, upon a vessel, would find constant employment for two or three men, during working hours, for a whole voyage.

The next point to be considered is, that all the “small stuffs” which are used on board a ship—such as spun-yarn, marline, seizing-stuff, etc.—are made on board. The owners of a vessel buy up incredible quantities of “old junk,” which the sailors unlay after drawing out the yarns, knot them together and roll them up in balls. These “rope-yarns” are constantly used for various purposes, but the greater part is manufactured into spun yarn. For this purpose every vessel is furnished with a “spun-yarn winch”; which is very simple, consisting of a wheel and spindle. This may be heard constantly going on deck in pleasant weather; and we had employment, during a great part of the tune, for three hands in drawing and knotting yarns, and making spun-yarn.

Another method of employing the crew is “setting up” rigging. Wherever any of the standing rigging becomes slack (which is continually happening), the seizing and coverings must be taken off, tackles got up, and after the rigging is bowsed well taut, the seizings and coverings replaced; which is a very nice piece of work.

There is also such a connection between different parts of a vessel, that one rope can seldom be touched without altering another. You cannot stay a mast aft by the back-stays without slacking up the head-stays, etc. If we add to this all the tarring, greasing, oiling, varnishing, painting, scraping, and scrubbing which is required in the course of a long voyage, and also remember this is all to be done in addition to watching at night, steering, reefing, furling, bracing, making and setting sail, and pulling, hauling, and climbing in every direction, one will hardly ask, “What can a sailor find to do at sea?”

If, after all this labor—after exposing their lives and limbs in storms, wet and cold,

“Wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch;
The lion and the belly-pinched wolf
Keep their furs dry;—”

the merchants and captains think that they have not earned their twelve dollars a month (out of which they clothe themselves), and their salt beef and hard bread, they keep them picking oakum—ad infinitum.

This is the usual resource upon a rainy day, for then it will not do to work upon rigging; and when it is pouring down in floods, instead of letting the sailors stand about in sheltered places, and talk, and keep themselves comfortable, they are separated to different parts of the ship and kept at work picking oakum. I have seen oakum stuff placed about in different parts of the ship, so that the sailors might not be idle in the snatches between the frequent squalls upon crossing the equator.

Some officers have been so driven to find work for the crew in a ship ready for sea, that they have set them to pounding the anchors (often done) and scraping the chain cables. The “Philadelphia Catechism” is,

“Six days shalt thou labor and do all that thou art able,
And on the seventh—holystone the decks and scrape the cable.”

This kind of work, of course, is not kept up off Cape Horn, Cape of Good Hope, and in extreme north and south latitudes; but I have seen the decks washed down and scrubbed, when the water would have frozen if it had been fresh; and all hands kept at work upon the rigging, when we had on our pea-jackets, and our hands so numb that we could hardly hold our marline-spikes.

I have here gone out of my narrative course in order that any who read this may form as correct an idea of a sailor’s life and duty as possible. I have done it in this place because, for some time, our life was nothing but the unvarying repetition of these duties which can be better described together.

Before leaving this description, however, I would state, in order to show landsmen how little they know of the nature of a ship, that a ship carpenter is kept in constant employ during good weather on board vessels which are in, what is called, perfect sea order.

After speaking the Carolina, on the 21st August, nothing occurred to break the monotony of our life until—

Friday, Sept. 5th, when we saw a sail on our weather (starboard) beam. She proved to be a brig under English colors, and passing under our stern, reported herself as forty-nine days from Buenos Ayres, bound to Liverpool. Before she had passed us, “Sail ho!” was cried again and we made another sail, far on our weather bow, and steering athwart our hawse. She passed out of hail, but we made her out to be an hermaphrodite brig, with Brazilian colors in her main rigging. By her course, she must have been bound from Brazil to the south of Europe, probably Portugal.

Sunday, Sept. 7th. Fell in with the northeast trade winds. This morning we caught our first dolphin, which I was very eager to see. I was disappointed in the colors of this fish when dying. They were certainly very beautiful, but not equal to what has been said of them. They are too indistinct. To do the fish justice, there is nothing more beautiful than the dolphin when swimming a few feet below the surface, on a bright day. It is the most elegantly formed, and also the quickest fish, in salt water; and the rays of the sun striking upon it, in its rapid and changing motions, reflected from the water, make it look like a stray beam from a rainbow.

This day was spent like all pleasant Sabbaths at sea. The decks are washed down, the rigging coiled up, and everything put in order; and throughout the day, only one watch is kept on deck at a time. The men are all dressed in their best white duck trousers, and red or checked shirts, and have nothing to do but to make the necessary changes in the sails. They employ themselves in reading, talking, smoking, and mending their clothes. If the weather is pleasant, they bring their work and their books upon deck, and sit down upon the forecastle and windlass. This is the only day on which these privileges are allowed them. When Monday comes, they put on their tarry trousers again, and prepare for six days of labor.

To enhance the value of the Sabbath to the crew, they are allowed on that day a pudding, or as it is called a “duff.” This is nothing more than flour boiled with water, and eaten with molasses. It is very heavy, dark, and clammy, yet it is looked upon as a luxury, and really forms an agreeable variety with salt beef and pork. Many a rascally captain has made friends of his crew by allowing them duff twice a week on the passage home.

On board some vessels this is made a day of instruction and of religious exercises; but we had a crew of swearers, from the captain to the smallest boy; and a day of rest, and of something like quiet social enjoyment, was all that we could expect.

We continued running large before the northeast trade winds for several days, until Monday—

Sept. 22d., when, upon coming on deck at seven bells in the morning we found the other watch aloft throwing water upon the sails, and looking astern we saw a small clipper-built brig with a black hull heading directly after us. We went to work immediately, and put all the canvas upon the brig which we could get upon her, rigging out oars for studding-sail yards; and continued wetting down the sails by buckets of water whipped up to the mast-head, until about nine o’clock, when there came on a drizzling rain.

The vessel continued in pursuit, changing her course as we changed ours, to keep before the wind. The captain, who watched her with his glass, said that she was armed, and full of men, and showed no colors. We continued running dead before the wind, knowing that we sailed better so, and that clippers are fastest on the wind. We had also another advantage. The wind was light, and we spread more canvas than she did, having royals and sky-sails fore and aft, and ten studding sails, while she, being an hermaphrodite brig, had only a gaff-topsail aft. Early in the morning she was overhauling us a little, but after the rain came on and the wind grew lighter, we began to leave her astern.

“The Vessel Continued in Pursuit, Changing Her Course as We Changed Ours”

“The Vessel Continued in Pursuit, Changing Her Course as We Changed Ours”

All hands remained on deck throughout the day, and we got our arms in order; but we were too few to have done anything with her, if she had proved to be what we feared. Fortunately there was no moon, and the night which followed was exceeding dark, so that by putting out all the lights on board and altering her course four points, we hoped to get out of her reach. We had no light in the binnacle, but steered by the stars, and kept perfect silence through the night. At daybreak there was no sign of anything in the horizon, and we kept the vessel off to her course.

Wednesday, Oct. 1st. Crossed the equator in long. 24° 24’ W. I now, for the first time, felt at liberty, according to the old usage, to call myself a son of Neptune, and was very glad to be able to claim the title without the disagreeable initiation which so many have to go through. After once crossing the line you can never be subjected to the process, but are considered as a son of Neptune, with full powers to play tricks upon others. This ancient custom is now seldom allowed, unless there are passengers on board, in which case there is always a good deal of sport.

It had been obvious to all hands for some time that the second mate, whose name was Foster, was an idle, careless fellow, and not much of a sailor, and that the captain was exceedingly dissatisfied with him. The power of the captain in these cases was well known, and we all anticipated a difficulty.

Foster (called Mr. by virtue of his office) was but half a sailor, having always been short voyages and remained at home a long time between them. His father was a man of some property, and intended to have given his son a liberal education; but he, being idle and worthless, was sent off to sea, and succeeded no better there; for, unlike many scamps, he had none of the qualities of a sailor—he was “not of the stuff that they make sailors of.” He was one of the class of officers who are disliked by their captain and despised by the crew. He used to hold long yarns with the crew, and talk about the captain, and play with the boys, and relax discipline in every way.

This kind of conduct always makes the captain suspicious, and is never pleasant in the end, to the men; they preferring to have an officer active, vigilant, and distant as may be, with kindness. Among other bad practices, he frequently slept on his watch, and having been discovered asleep by the captain, he was told that he would be turned off duty if he did it again. To prevent it in every way possible, the hen-coops were ordered to be knocked up, for the captain never sat down oh deck himself, and never permitted an officer to do so.

The second night after crossing the equator, we had the watch from eight till twelve, and it was “my helm” for the last two hours. There had been light squalls through the night, and the captain told Mr. Foster, who commanded our watch, to keep a bright lookout. Soon after I came to the helm, I found that he was quite drowsy, and at last he stretched himself on the companion and went fast asleep.

Soon afterward, the captain came very quietly on deck, and stood by me for some time looking at the compass. The officer at length became aware of the captain’s presence, but pretending not to know it, began humming and whistling to himself, to show that he was not asleep, and went forward, without looking behind him, and ordered the main-royal to be loosed. On turning round to come aft, he pretended surprise at seeing the master on deck.

This would not do. The captain was too “wide awake” for him, and beginning upon him at once, gave him a grand blow-up, in true nautical style—“You’re a lazy good-for-nothing rascal; you’re neither man, boy, soger, nor sailor! you’re no more than a thing aboard a vessel! you don’t earn your salt! you’re worse than a Mahon soger!” and other still more choice extracts from the sailor’s vocabulary. After the poor fellow had taken this harangue, he was sent into his stateroom, and the captain stood the rest of the watch himself.

At seven bells in the morning, all hands were called aft and told that Foster was no longer an officer on board, and that we might choose one of our number for second mate. It is usual for the captain to make this offer, and it is very good policy, for the crew think themselves the choosers and are flattered by it, but have to obey, nevertheless.

Our crew, as is usual, refused to take the responsibility of choosing a man of whom we would never be able to complain, and left it to the captain. He picked out an active and intelligent young sailor born near the Kennebec, who had been several Canton voyages, and proclaimed him in the following manner:

“I choose Jim Hall—he’s your second mate. All you’ve got to do is, to obey him as you would me; and remember that he is Mr. Hall.” Foster went forward into the forecastle as a common sailor, and lost the handle to his name, while young foremast Jim became Mr. Hall, and took up his quarters in the land of knives and forks and tea-cups.

Sunday, Oct. 5th. It was our morning watch; when, soon after day began to break, a man on the forecastle called out, “Land ho!” I had never heard the cry before, and did not know what it meant (and few would suspect what the words were, when hearing the strange sound for the first time), but I soon found, by the direction of all eyes, that there was land stretching along on our weather beam. We immediately took in the studding sails and hauled our wind, running for the land. This was done to determine our longitude; for by the captain’s chronometer we were in 25° W., but by his observations we were much further, and he had been for some time in doubt whether it was his chronometer or his sextant which was out of order. This landfall settled the matter, and the former instrument was condemned, and becoming still worse, was never afterwards used.

As we ran in toward the coast, we found that we were directly off the port of Pernambuco, and could see with the telescope the roofs of the houses, and one large church, and the town of Olinda. We ran along by the mouth of the harbor, and saw a full-rigged brig going in. At two P.M., we again kept off before the wind, leaving the land on our quarter, and at sundown it was out of sight.

It was here that I first saw one of those singular things called catamarans. They are composed of logs lashed together upon the water; have one large sail, are quite fast, and, strange as it may seem, are trusted as good sea boats. We saw several, with from one to three men in each, boldly putting out to sea, after it had become almost dark. The Indians go out in them after fish, and as the weather is regular in certain seasons, they have no fear. After taking a new departure from Olinda, we kept off on our way to Cape Horn.

We met with nothing remarkable until we were in the latitude of the river La Plata. Here there are violent gales from the southwest called Pamperos, which are very destructive to the shipping in the river, and are felt for many leagues at sea. They are usually preceded by lightning. The captain told the mates to keep a bright lookout, and if they saw lightning at the southwest, to take in sail at once. We got the first touch of one during my watch on deck. I was walking in the lee gangway, and thought that I saw lightning on the bow. I told the second mate, who came over and looked out for some time. It was very black in the southwest, and in about ten minutes we saw a distinct flash. The wind, which had been southeast, had now left us, and it was dead calm. We sprang aloft immediately and furled the royals and top-gallant-sails, and took in the flying-jib, hauled up the mainsail and trysail, squared the after yards and awaited the attack. A huge mist capped with black cloud came driving towards us, extending over that quarter of the horizon, and covering the stars, which shone brightly in the other part of the heavens. It came upon us at once with a blast, and a shower of hail and rain, which almost took our breath from us. The hardiest was obliged to turn his back. We let the halyards run, and fortunately were not taken aback. The little vessel “paid off” from the wind, and ran on for some time directly before it, tearing through the water with everything flying. Having called all hands, we close reefed the topsails and trysail, furled the courses and jib, set the foretopmast staysail, and brought her up nearly to her course, with the weather braces hauled in a little, to ease her.

This was the first blow, that I have seen, which could really be called a gale. We had reefed our topsails in the Gulf Stream, and I thought it something serious, but an older sailor would have thought nothing of it. As I had now become used to the vessel and to my duty, I was of some service on a yard, and could knot my reef-point as well as anybody. I obeyed the order to lay[1] aloft with the rest, and found the reefing a very exciting scene; for one watch reefed the foretopsail, and the other the main, and every one did his utmost to get his topsail hoisted first. We had a great advantage over the larboard watch, because the chief mate never goes aloft, while our new second mate used to jump into the rigging as soon as we began to haul out the reef-tackle, and have the weather earing passed before there was a man upon the yard. In this way we were almost always able to raise the cry of “Haul out to leeward” before them, and having knotted our points, would slide down the shrouds and back-stays, and sing out at the topsail halyards to let it be known that we were ahead of them.

Reefing is the most exciting part of a sailor’s duty. All hands are engaged upon it, and after the halyards are let go, there is no time to be lost—no “sogering,” or hanging back, then. If one is not quick enough, another runs over him. The first on the yard goes to the weather earing, the second to the lee, and the next two to the dog’s ears, while the others lay along the bunt, just giving each other elbow-room. In reefing, the yard-arms (the extremes of the yards), are the posts of honor; but in furling, the strongest and most experienced stand in the slings (or, middle of the yard), to make up the bunt. If the second mate is a smart fellow, he will never let any one take either of these posts from him; for if he is wanting either in seamanship, strength, or activity, some better man will get the bunt and earings from him; which immediately brings him into disrepute.

We remained for the rest of the night, and throughout the next day, under the same close sail, for it continued to blow very fresh; and though we had no more hail, yet there was a soaking rain, and it was quite cold and uncomfortable; the more so, because we were not prepared for cold weather, but had on our thin clothes. We were glad to get a watch below, and put on our thick clothing, boots, and southwesters. Toward sundown the gale moderated a little, and it began to clear off in the southwest. We shook our reefs out, one by one, and before midnight had topgallant-sails upon her.

We had now made up our minds for Cape Horn and cold weather, and entered upon every necessary preparation.

Tuesday Nov. 4th. At daybreak, saw land upon our larboard quarter. There were two islands, of different size, but of the same shape; rather high, beginning low at the water’s edge, and running with a curved ascent to the middle. They were so far off as to be of a deep blue color, and in a few hours we sunk them in the northeast. These were the Falkland Islands. We had run between them and the main land of Patagonia. At sunset the second mate, who was at the masthead, said that he saw land on the starboard bow. This must have been the island of Staten Land; and we were now in the region of Cape Horn, with a fine breeze from the northward, topmast and topgallant-studding-sails set, and every prospect of a speedy and pleasant passage round.


[1] This word “lay,” which is in such general use on board ship, being used in giving orders instead of “go;” as, “Lay forward!” “Lay aft!” “Lay aloft!” etc., I do not understand to be the neuter verb lie, mispronounced, but to be the active verb lay with the objective case understood; as, “Lay yourselves forward!” “Lay yourselves aft!” etc.



(From the Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.)


In an ill hour, God knows, on the 1st of September, 1651, I went on board a ship bound for London. Never any young adventurer’s misfortunes, I believe, began sooner, or continued longer, than mine. The ship was no sooner out of the Humber, than the wind began to blow and the sea to rise in a most frightful manner; and, as I had never been at sea before, I was most inexpressibly sick in body, and terrified in mind. I began now seriously to reflect upon what I had done, and how justly I was overtaken by the judgment of Heaven, for my wicked leaving my father’s house, and abandoning my duty. All the good counsels of my parents, my father’s tears and my mother’s entreaties, came now fresh into my mind; and my conscience, which was not yet come to the pitch of hardness to which it has since, reproached me with the contempt of advice, and the breach of my duty to God and my father.

All this while the storm increased, and the sea went very high, though nothing like what I have seen many times since; no, nor what I saw a few days after; but it was enough to affect me then, who was but a young sailor, and had never known anything of the matter. I expected every wave would have swallowed us up, and that every time the ship fell down, as I thought it did, in the trough or hollow of the sea, we should never rise more; in this agony of mind, I made many vows and resolutions, that if it would please God to spare my life in this one voyage, if ever I got once my foot upon dry land again, I would go directly home to my father, and never set it into a ship again while I lived; that I would take his advice, and never run myself into such miseries as these any more. Now I saw plainly the goodness of his observations about the middle station of life, how easy, how comfortably he had lived all his days, and never had been exposed to tempests at sea, or troubles on shore; and I resolved that I would, like a true repenting prodigal, go home to my father.

These wise and sober thoughts continued all the while the storm lasted, and indeed some time after; but the next day the wind was abated, and the sea calmer, and I began to be a little inured to it: however, I was very grave for all that day, being also a little sea-sick still; but towards night the weather cleared up, the wind was quite over, and a charming fine evening followed; the sun went down perfectly clear, and rose so the next morning; and having little or no wind, and a smooth sea, the sun shining upon it, the sight was, as I thought, the most delightful that ever I saw.

Crusoe is Bantered by His Friend After the Storm.

Crusoe is Bantered by His
Friend After the Storm.

I had slept well in the night, and was now no more sea-sick, but very cheerful, looking with wonder upon the sea that was so rough and terrible the day before, and could be so calm and so pleasant in so little a time after. And now, lest my good resolutions should continue, my companion, who had enticed me away, comes to me: “Well, Bob,” says he, clapping me upon the shoulder, “how do you do after it? I warrant you were frighted, wer’n’t you, last night, when it blew but a capful of wind?” “A capful d’you call it?” said I; “’twas a terrible storm.” “A storm, you fool you,” replies he; “do you call that a storm? why, it was nothing at all; give us but a good ship and sea room, and we think nothing of such a squall of wind as that; but you’re but a fresh-water sailor, Bob. Come, let us make a bowl of punch, and we’ll forget all that; d’ye see what charming weather ’tis now?” To make short this sad part of my story, we went the way of all sailors; the punch was made, and I was made half drunk with it; and in that one night’s wickedness I drowned all my repentance, all my reflections upon my past conduct, all my resolutions for the future. In a word, as the sea was returned to its smoothness of surface and settled calmness by the abatement of that storm, so the hurry of my thoughts being over, my fears and apprehensions of being swallowed up by the sea being forgotten, and the current of my former desires returned, I entirely forgot the vows and promises that I made in my distress. I found, indeed, some intervals of reflection; and the serious thoughts did, as it were, endeavor to return again sometimes; but I shook them off, and roused myself from them as it were from a distemper, and applying myself to drinking and company, soon mastered the return of those fits—for so I called them; and I had in five or six days got as complete a victory over conscience as any young fellow that resolved not to be troubled with it could desire. But I was to have another trial for it still; and Providence, as in such cases generally it does, resolved to leave me entirely without excuse; for if I would not take this for a deliverance, the next was to be such a one as the worst and most hardened wretch among us would confess both the danger and the mercy of.

The sixth day of our being at sea we came into Yarmouth Roads; the wind having been contrary and the weather calm, we had made but little way since the storm. Here we were obliged to come to an anchor, and here we lay, the wind continuing contrary, viz., at south-west, for seven or eight days, during which time a great many ships from Newcastle came into the same Roads, as the common harbor where the ships might wait for a wind for the river.

We had not, however, rid here so long, but we should have tided it up the river, but that the wind blew too fresh, and after we had lain four or five days, blew very hard. However, the Roads being reckoned as good as a harbor, the anchorage good, and our ground tackle very strong, our men were unconcerned, and not in the least apprehensive of danger, but spent the time in rest and mirth, after the manner of the sea; but the eighth day, in the morning, the wind increased, and we had all hands at work to strike our topmasts, and make everything snug and close, that the ship might ride as easy as possible. By noon the sea went very high indeed, and our ship rode forecastle in, shipped several seas, and we thought once or twice our anchor had come home; upon which our master ordered out the sheet-anchor, so that we rode with two anchors ahead, and the cables veered out to the better end.

By this time it blew a terrible storm indeed; and now I began to see terror and amazement in the faces even of the seamen themselves. The master, though vigilant in the business of preserving the ship, yet as he went in and out of his cabin by me, I could hear him softly to himself say, several times, “Lord, be merciful to us! we shall be all lost; we shall be all undone!” and the like. During these first hurries I was stupid, lying still in my cabin, which was in the steerage, and cannot describe my temper: I could ill resume the first penitence which I had so apparently trampled upon, and hardened myself against: I thought the bitterness of death had been past; and that this would be nothing like the first; but when the master himself came by me, as I said just now, and said we should be all lost, I was dreadfully frighted. I got up out of my cabin and looked out; but such a dismal sight I never saw: the sea ran mountains high, and broke upon us every three or four minutes; when I could look about, I could see nothing but distress round us; two ships that rode near us, we found, had cut their masts by the board, being deep laden; and our men cried out, that a ship which rode about a mile ahead of us was foundered. Two more ships, being driven from their anchors, were run out of the Roads to sea, at all adventures, and that not with a mast standing. The light ships fared the best, as not so much laboring in the sea; but two or three of them drove, and came close by us, running away with only their spritsail out before the wind.

Towards evening the mate and boatswain begged the master of our ship to let them cut away the foremast, which he was very unwilling to do; but the boatswain protesting to him, that if he did not the ship would founder, he consented; and when they had cut away the foremast, the mainmast stood so loose, and shook the ship so much, they were obliged to cut that away also, and make a clear deck.

Any one must judge what a condition I must be in at all this, who was but a young sailor, and who had been in such a fright before at but a little. But if I can express at this distance the thoughts I had about me at that time, I was in tenfold more horror of mind upon account of my former convictions, and the having returned from them to the resolutions I had wickedly taken at first, than I was at death itself; and these, added to the terror of the storm, put me into such a condition, that I can by no words describe it. But the worst was not come yet; the storm continued with such fury, that the seamen themselves acknowledged they had never seen a worse. We had a good ship, but she was deep laden, and wallowed in the sea, so that the seamen every now and then cried out she would founder. It was my advantage in one respect that I did not know what they meant by founder, till I inquired. However the storm was so violent, that I saw, what is not often seen, the master, the boatswain, and some others more sensible than the rest, at their prayers, and expecting every moment when the ship would go to the bottom. In the middle of the night, and under all the rest of our distresses, one of the men that had been down to see, cried out we had sprung a leak; another said, there was four feet water in the hold. Then all hands were called to the pump. At that word, my heart, as I thought died within me: and I fell backwards upon the side of my bed where I sat, in the cabin. However, the men roused me, and told me, that I, that was able to do nothing before, was as well able to pump as another; at which I stirred up, and went to the pump, and worked very heartily. While this was doing, the master seeing some light colliers, who, not able to ride out the storm, were obliged to slip, and run away to the sea, and would come near us, ordered to fire a gun as a signal of distress. I, who knew nothing what they meant, thought the ship had broken, or some dreadful thing happened. In a word, I was so surprised that I fell down in a swoon. As this was a time when everybody had his own life to think of, nobody minded me, or what was to become of me; but another man stepped up to the pump, and thrusting me aside with his foot, let me lie, thinking I had been dead; and it was a great while before I came to myself.

We worked on; but the water increasing in the hold, it was apparent that the ship would founder; and though the storm began to abate a little, yet it was not possible she could swim till we might run into any port; so the master continued firing guns for help: and a light ship, who had rid it out just ahead of us, ventured a boat out to help us. It was with the utmost hazard the boat came near us; but it was impossible for us to get on board, or for the boat to lie near the ship’s side, till at last the men rowing very heartily, and venturing their lives to save ours, our men cast them a rope over the stern with a buoy to it, and then veered it out a great length, which they, after much labor and hazard, took hold of, and we hauled them close under our stern, and got all into their boat. It was to no purpose for them or us, after we were in the boat, to think of reaching their own ship; so all agreed to let her drive, and only to pull her in towards shore as much as we could; and our master promised them, that if the boat was staved upon shore, he would make it good to their master: so partly rowing, and partly driving, our boat went away to the northward, sloping towards the shore almost as far as Winterton Ness.

We were not much more than a quarter of an hour out of our ship till we saw her sink, and then I understood for the first time what was meant by a ship foundering in the sea. I must acknowledge I had hardly eyes to look up when the seamen told me she was sinking; for from the moment that they rather put me into the boat, than that I might be said to go in, my heart was, as it were, dead within me, partly with fright, partly with horror of mind, and the thoughts of what was yet before me.

While we were in this condition—the men yet laboring at the oar to bring the boat near the shore—we could see (when, our boat mounting the waves, we were able to see the shore) a great many people running along the strand, to assist us when we should come near; but we made but slow way towards the shore; nor were we able to reach the shore, till, being past the lighthouse at Winterton, the shore falls off to the westward towards Cromer, and so the land broke off a little the violence of the wind. Here we got in, and, though not without much difficulty, got all safe on shore, and walked afterwards on foot to Yarmouth, where, as unfortunate men, we were used with great humanity, as well by the magistrates of the town, who assigned us good quarters, as by particular merchants and owners of ships, and had money given us sufficient to carry us either to London or back to Hull, as we thought fit....



(From David Copperfield.)


In the evening I started, ... down the road I had traversed under so many vicissitudes.

“Don’t you think that,” I asked the coachman, in the first stage out of London, “a very remarkable sky? I don’t remember to have seen one like it.”

“Nor I—not equal to it,” he replied. “That’s wind, sir. There’ll be mischief done at sea, I expect, before long.”

It was a murky confusion—here and there blotted with a color like the color of the smoke from damp fuel—of flying clouds tossed up into most remarkable heaps, suggesting greater heights in the clouds than there were depths below them to the bottom of the deepest hollows in the earth, through which the wild moon seemed to plunge headlong, as if, in a dread disturbance of the laws of nature, she had lost her way and were frightened. There had been a wind all day: and it was rising then, with an extraordinary great sound. In another hour it had much increased, and the sky was more overcast, and it blew hard.

But, as the night advanced, the clouds closing in and densely overspreading the whole sky, then very dark, it came on to blow, harder and harder. It still increased, until our horses could scarcely face the wind. Many times, in the dark part of the night (it was then late in September, when the nights were not short), the leaders turned about, or came to a dead stop; and we were often in serious apprehension that the coach would be blown over. Sweeping gusts of rain came up before this storm like showers of steel; and at those times, when there was any shelter of trees or lee walls to be got, we were fain to stop, in a sheer impossibility of continuing the struggle.

When the day broke, it blew harder and harder. I had been in Yarmouth when the seamen said it blew great guns, but I had never known the like of this, or anything approaching to it. We came to Ipswich—very late, having had to fight every inch of ground since we were ten miles out of London; and found a cluster of people in the market-place, who had risen from their beds in the night, fearful of falling chimneys. Some of these, congregating about the inn-yard while we changed horses, told us of great sheets of lead having been ripped off a high church-tower, and flung into a by-street, which they then blocked up. Others had to tell of country people, coming in from neighboring villages, who had seen great trees lying torn out of the earth, and whole ricks scattered about the roads and fields. Still, there was no abatement in the storm, but it blew harder.

As we struggled on, nearer and nearer to the sea, from which this mighty wind was blowing dead on shore, its force became more and more terrific. Long before we saw the sea, its spray was on our lips, and showered salt rain upon us. The water was out, over miles and miles of the flat country adjacent to Yarmouth; and every sheet and puddle lashed its banks, and had its stress of little breakers setting heavily towards us. When we came within sight of the sea, the waves on the horizon, caught at intervals above the rolling abyss, were like glimpses of another shore with towers and buildings. When at last we got into the town, the people came out to the doors, all aslant, and with streaming hair, making a wonder of the mail that had come through such a night.

I put up at the old inn, and went down to look at the sea; staggering along the street, which was strewn with sand and sea-weed, and with flying blotches of sea-foam; afraid of falling slates and tiles; and holding by people I met at angry corners. Coming near the beach, I saw, not only the boatmen, but half the people of the town, lurking behind buildings; some, now and then braving the fury of the storm to look away to sea, and blown sheer out of their course in trying to get zigzag back.

Joining these groups, I found bewailing women whose husbands were away in herring or oyster boats, which there was too much reason to think might have foundered before they could run in anywhere for safety. Grizzled old sailors were among the people, shaking their heads as they looked from water to sky, and muttering to one another; shipowners, excited and uneasy; children huddling together, and peering into older faces; even stout mariners, disturbed and anxious, levelling their glasses at the sea from behind places of shelter, as if they were surveying an enemy.

The tremendous sea itself, when I could find sufficient pause to look at it, in the agitation of the blinding wind, the flying stones and sand, and the awful noise, confounded me. As the high watery walls came rolling in, and, at their highest tumbled into surf, they looked as if the least would ingulf the town. As the receding wave swept back with a hoarse roar, it seemed to scoop out deep caves in the beach, as if its purpose were to undermine the earth. When some white-headed billows thundered on, and dashed themselves to pieces before they reached the land, every fragment of the late whole seemed possessed by the full might of its wrath, rushing to be gathered to the composition of another monster. Undulating hills were changed to valleys, undulating valleys (with a solitary storm-bird sometimes skimming through them) were lifted up to hills; masses of water shivered and shook the beach with a booming sound; every shape tumultuously rolled on, as soon as made, to change its shape and place, and beat another shape and place away; the ideal shore on the horizon, with its towers and buildings, rose and fell; the clouds flew fast and thick; I seemed to see a rending and upheaving of all nature.

Not finding Ham among the people whom this memorable wind—for it is still remembered down there as the greatest ever known to blow upon that coast—had brought together, I made my way to his house. It was shut; and as no one answered to my knocking, I went by back ways and by-lanes, to the yard where he worked. I learned, there, that he had gone to Lowestoft, to meet some sudden exigency of ship-repairing in which his skill was required; but that he would be back to-morrow morning, in good time.


I went back to the inn; and when I had washed and dressed, tried to sleep, but in vain, it was five o’clock in the afternoon. I had not sat five minutes by the coffee-room fire, when the waiter coming to stir it, as an excuse for talking, told me that two colliers had gone down, with all hands, a few miles away; and that some other ships had been seen laboring hard in the Roads, and trying in great distress, to keep off shore. Mercy on them, and on all poor sailors, said he, if we had another night like the last!

I was very much depressed in spirits; very solitary; and felt an uneasiness in Ham’s not being there, disproportionate to the occasion. I was seriously affected, without knowing how much, by late events; and my long exposure to the fierce wind had confused me. There was that jumble in my thoughts and recollections, that I had lost the clear arrangement of time and distance. Thus, if I had gone out into the town, I should not have been surprised, I think, to encounter some one who I knew must be then in London. So to speak, there was in these respects a curious inattention in my mind. Yet it was busy, too, with all the remembrances the place naturally awakened; and they were particularly distinct and vivid.

In this state, the waiter’s dismal intelligence about the ships immediately connected itself, without any effort of my volition, with my uneasiness about Ham. I was persuaded that I had an apprehension of his returning from Lowestoft by sea, and being lost. This grew so strong with me, that I resolved to go back to the yard before I took my dinner, and ask the boat-builder if he thought his attempting to return by sea at all likely? If he gave me the least reason to think so, I would go over to Lowestoft and prevent it by bringing him with me.

I hastily ordered my dinner, and went back to the yard. I was none too soon; for the boat-builder, with a lantern in his hand, was locking the yard-gate. He quite laughed, when I asked him the question, and said there was no fear; no man in his senses, or out of them, would put off in such a gale of wind, least of all Ham Peggotty, who had been born to seafaring.

So sensible of this, beforehand, that I had really felt ashamed of doing what I was nevertheless impelled to do, I went back to the inn. If such a wind could rise, I think it was rising. The howl and roar, the rattling of the doors and windows, the rumbling in the chimneys, the apparent rocking of the very house that sheltered me, and the prodigious tumult of the sea, were more fearful than in the morning. But there was now a great darkness besides; and that invested the storm with new terrors, real and fanciful.

I could not eat, I could not sit still, I could not continue steadfast to anything. Something within me, faintly answering to the storm without, tossed up the depths of my memory, and made a tumult in them. Yet, in all the hurry of my thoughts, wild running with the thundering sea,—the storm and my uneasiness regarding Ham, were always in the foreground.

My dinner went away almost untasted, and I tried to refresh myself with a glass or two of wine. In vain. I fell into a dull slumber before the fire, without losing my consciousness, either of the uproar out of doors, or of the place in which I was. Both became overshadowed by a new and indefinable horror; and when I awoke—or rather when I shook off the lethargy that bound me in my chair—my whole frame thrilled with objectless and unintelligent fear.

I walked to and fro, tried to read an old gazetteer, listened to the awful noises: looked at faces, scenes, and figures in the fire. At length, the steady ticking of the undisturbed clock on the wall, tormented me to that degree that I resolved to go to bed.

It was reassuring, on such a night, to be told that some of the inn-servants had agreed together to sit up until morning. I went to bed, exceedingly weary and heavy; but, on my lying down, all such sensations vanished, as if by magic, and I was broad awake, with every sense refined.

For hours I lay there, listening to the wind and water; imagining, now, that I heard shrieks out at sea; now, that I distinctly heard the firing of signal guns; and now, the fall of houses in the town. I got up, several times, and looked out; but could see nothing, except the reflection in the window-panes of the faint candle I had left burning, and of my own haggard face looking in at me from the black void.

At length, my restlessness attained to such a pitch, that I hurried on my clothes, and went down stairs. In the large kitchen, where I dimly saw bacon and ropes of onions hanging from the beams, the watchers were clustered together, in various attitudes, about a table, purposely moved away from the great chimney, and brought near the door. A pretty girl, who had her ears stopped with her apron, and her eyes upon the door, screamed when I appeared, supposing me to be a spirit; but the others had more presence of mind, and were glad of an addition to their company. One man, referring to the topic they had been discussing, asked me whether I thought the souls of the collier-crews who had gone down, were out in the storm?

I remained there, I dare say, two hours. Once, I opened the yard-gate, and looked into the empty street. The sand, the sea-weed, and the flakes of foam, were driving by, and I was obliged to call for assistance before I could shut the gate again, and make it fast against the wind.

There was a dark gloom in my solitary chamber, when I at length returned to it; but I was tired now, and, getting into bed again, fell—off a tower and down a precipice—into the depths of sleep. I have an impression that, for a long time, though I dreamed of being elsewhere and in a variety of scenes, it was always blowing in my dream. At length, I lost that feeble hold upon reality, and was engaged with two dear friends, but who they were I don’t know, at the siege of some town in a roar of cannonading.

The thunder of the cannon was so loud and incessant, that I could not hear something I much desired to hear, until I made a great exertion and awoke. It was broad day—eight or nine o’clock; the storm raging, in lieu of the batteries; and some one knocking and calling at my door.

“What is the matter?” I cried.

“A wreck! Close by!”

I sprung out of bed, and asked what wreck?

“A schooner, from Spain or Portugal, laden with fruit and wine. Make haste, sir, if you want to see her! It’s thought down on the beach, she’ll go to pieces every moment.”

The excited voice went clamoring along the staircase; and I wrapped myself in my clothes as quickly as I could, and ran into the street.

Numbers of people were there before me, all running in one direction, to the beach. I ran the same way, outstripping a good many, and soon came facing the wild sea.

The wind might by this time have lulled a little, though not more sensibly than if the cannonading I had dreamed of, had been diminished by the silencing of half-a-dozen guns out of hundreds. But, the sea, having upon it the additional agitation of the whole night, was infinitely more terrific than when I had seen it last. Every appearance it had then presented, bore the expression of being swelled; and the height to which the breakers rose, and, looking over one another, bore one another down, and rolled in, in interminable hosts, was most appalling.

In the difficulty of hearing anything but winds and waves, and in the crowd, and the unspeakable confusion, and my first breathless efforts to stand against the weather, I was so confused that I looked out to sea for the wreck, and saw nothing but the foaming heads of the great waves. A half-dressed boatman, standing next me, pointed with his bare arm (a tattoo’d arrow on it, pointing in the same direction) to the left. Then, O great Heaven, I saw it, close in upon us!

One mast was broken short off, six or eight feet from the deck, and lay over the side, entangled in a maze of sail and rigging; and all that ruin, as the ship rolled and beat—which she did without a moment’s pause, and with a violence quite inconceivable—beat the side as if it would stave it in. Some efforts were even then being made, to cut this portion of the wreck away; for, as the ship, which was broadside on, turned towards us in her rolling, I plainly descried her people at work with axes, especially one active figure with long curling hair, conspicuous among the rest. But, a great cry, which was audible even above the wind and water, rose from the shore at this moment; the sea, sweeping over the rolling wreck, made a clean breach, and carried men, spars, casks, planks, bulwarks, heaps of such toys, into the boiling surge.

The second mast was yet standing, with the rags of a rent sail, and a wild confusion of broken cordage flapping to and fro. The ship had struck once, the same boatman hoarsely said in my ear, and then lifted in and struck again. I understood him to add that she was parting amidships, and I could readily suppose so, for the rolling and beating were too tremendous for any human work to suffer long. As he spoke, there was another great cry of pity from the beach; four men arose with the wreck out of the deep, clinging to the rigging of the remaining mast; uppermost, the active figure with the curling hair.

There was a bell on board; and as the ship rolled and dashed, like a desperate creature driven mad, now showing us the whole sweep of her deck, as she turned on her beam-ends towards the shore, now nothing but her keel, as she sprung wildly over and turned towards the sea, the bell rang; and its sound, the knell of those unhappy men, was borne towards us on the wind. Again we lost her, and again she rose. Two men were gone. The agony on shore increased. Men groaned, and clasped their hands; women shrieked, and turned away their faces. Some ran wildly up and down along the beach, crying for help where no help could be. I found myself one of these, frantically imploring a knot of sailors whom I knew, not to let those two lost creatures perish before our eyes.

They were making out to me, in an agitated way—I don’t know how, for the little I could hear I was scarcely composed enough to understand—that the life-boat had been bravely manned an hour ago, and could do nothing; and that as no man would be so desperate as to attempt to wade off with a rope, and establish a communication with the shore, there was nothing left to try; when I noticed that some new sensation moved the people on the beach, and saw them part, and Ham came breaking through them to the front.

I ran to him—as well as I know, to repeat my appeal for help. But, distracted though I was, by a sight so new to me and terrible, the determination in his face, and his look, out to sea—exactly the same look as I remembered in connection with the morning after Emily’s flight—awoke me to a knowledge of his danger. I held him back with both arms; and implored the men with whom I had been speaking, not to listen to him, not to do murder, not to let him stir from off that sand!

Another cry arose on shore; and looking to the wreck, we saw the cruel sail, with blow on blow, beat off the lower of the two men, and fly up in triumph round the active figure left alone upon the mast.

Against such a sight, and against such determination as that of the calmly desperate man who was already accustomed to lead half the people present, I might as hopefully have entreated the wind. “Mas’r Davy,” he said, cheerily grasping me by both hands, “if my time is come, ’tis come. If ’tan’t, I’ll bide it. Lord above bless you, and bless all! Mates, make me ready! I’m a going off!”

I was swept away, but not unkindly, to some distance, where the people around me made me stay; urging, as I confusedly perceived, that he was bent on going, with help or without, and that I should endanger the precautions for his safety by troubling those with whom they rested. I don’t know what I answered, or what they rejoined; but, I saw hurry on the beach, and men running with ropes from a capstan that was there, and penetrating into a circle of figures that hid him from me. Then I saw him standing alone, in a seaman’s frock and trousers: a rope in his hand, or slung to his wrist: another round his body: and several of the best men holding, at a little distance, to the latter, which he laid out himself, slack upon the shore, at his feet.

The wreck, even to my unpractised eye, was breaking up. I saw that she was parting in the middle, and that the life of the solitary man upon the mast hung by a thread. Still, he clung to it. He had a singular red cap on,—not like a sailor’s cap, but of a finer color; and as the few yielding planks between him and destruction rolled and bulged, and his anticipative death-knell rung, he was seen by all of us to wave it. I saw him do it now, and thought I was going distracted, when his action brought an old remembrance to my mind of a once dear friend.


Ham watched the sea, standing alone, with the silence of suspended breath behind him, and the storm before, until there was a great retiring wave, when, with a backward glance at those who held the rope which was made fast round his body, he dashed in after it, and in a moment was buffeting with the water; rising with the hills, falling with the valleys, lost beneath the foam; then drawn again to land. They hauled in hastily.

He was hurt. I saw blood on his face, from where I stood; but he took no thought of that. He seemed hurriedly to give them some directions for leaving him more free—or so I judged from the motion of his arm—and was gone as before.

And now he made for the wreck, rising with the hills, falling with the valleys, lost beneath the rugged foam, borne in towards the shore, borne on towards the ship, striving hard and valiantly. The distance was nothing, but the power of the sea and wind made the strife deadly. At length he neared the wreck. He was so near, that with one more of his vigorous strokes he would be clinging to it,—when, a high, green, vast hillside of water, moving on shoreward, from beyond the ship, he seemed to leap up into it with a mighty bound, and the ship was gone!

Some eddying fragments I saw in the sea, as if a mere cask had been broken, in running to the spot where they were hauling in. Consternation was in every face. They drew him to my very feet—insensible—dead. He was carried to the nearest house; and, no one preventing me now, I remained near him, busy, while every means of restoration were tried; but he had been beaten to death by the great wave, and his generous heart was stilled forever.



Victor Hugo’s “Toilers of the Sea” is a story of the Channel Islands between England and France. Gilliatt, the hero, was a seaman of extraordinary skill and physical strength, a solitary fellow who used to cruise about alone in his sloop, dreaming of Déruchette, the prettiest maid of Guernsey. Déruchette was the niece of Mess Lethierry, an old sailor who was fast growing rich from the income of his steamboat, the Durande, which plied between Guernsey and the French coast. One foggy night the Durande was wrecked on the Douvres, dangerous rocks in the open sea, five leagues out from Guernsey, and her skipper, Sieux Clubin was drowned. The Durande, however, did not sink, but hung suspended between the two great rocks; and her valuable machinery was safe so long as the wreck should hold together. Déruchette promised to marry any brave man who would rescue the engines of her uncle’s boat; and for so great a prize Gilliatt resolved to undertake the dangerous and almost hopeless task. He sailed out to the Douvres, and for two months lived among the barren rocks, suffering every kind of peril and privation while working on the wreck of the Durande. At last, after superhuman efforts, he succeeded in loading the machinery upon his sloop, and was about to return triumphantly and claim his reward, when a fearful tempest burst upon him, and forced him to terrible exertions in order to save himself and his completed work from being dashed to pieces in the caverns of the Douvres. Successful at last, but utterly exhausted by the struggle, Gilliatt sank upon the deck of his sloop and fell into a heavy sleep. The famous story of his adventure with the devil-fish begins at this juncture.


(From Toilers of the Sea.)


When he awakened he was hungry.

The sea was growing calmer. But there was still a heavy swell, which made his departure, for the present at least, impossible. The day, too, was far advanced. For the sloop with its burden to get to Guernsey before midnight, it was necessary to start in the morning.

Although pressed by hunger, Gilliatt began by stripping himself, the only means of getting warmth. His clothing was saturated by the storm, but the rain had washed out the sea-water, which rendered it possible to dry them.

He kept nothing on but his trousers, which he turned up nearly to the knees.

His overcoat, jacket, overalls, and sheepskin he spread out and fixed with large round stones here and there.

Then he thought of eating.

He had recourse to his knife, which he was careful to sharpen, and to keep always in good condition; and he detached from the rock a few limpets, similar in kind to the clonisses of the Mediterranean. It is well known that these are eaten raw; but after so many labors, so various and so rude, the pittance was meagre. His biscuit was gone; but of water he had now abundance.

He took advantage of the receding tide to wander among the rocks in search of crayfish.

He wandered, not in the gorge of the rocks, but outside among the smaller breakers. It was there that the Durande, ten weeks previously, had struck upon the sunken reef.

For the search that Gilliatt was prosecuting, this part was more favorable than the interior. At low water the crabs are accustomed to crawl out into the air. They seem to like to warm themselves in the sun, where they swarm sometimes to the disgust of the loiterers, who recognize in these creatures, with their awkward sidelong gait, climbing clumsily from crack to crack the lower stages of the rocks like the steps of a staircase, a sort of sea vermin.

For two months Gilliatt had lived upon these vermin of the sea.

On this day, however, the crayfish and crabs were both wanting. The tempest had driven them into their solitary retreats; and they had not yet mustered courage to venture abroad. Gilliatt held his open knife in his hand, and from time to time scraped a cockle from under the bunches of sea-weed, which he ate while still walking.

He could not have been far from the very spot where Sieur Clubin had perished.

As Gilliatt was determining to content himself with the sea-urchins and the chataignes de mer, a little clattering noise at his feet aroused his attention. A large crab, startled by his approach, had just dropped into a pool. The water was shallow, and he did not lose sight of it.

He chased the crab along the base of the rock; the crab moved fast.

Suddenly it was gone.

It had buried itself in some crevice under the rock.

Gilliatt clutched the protections of the rock, and stretched out to observe where it shelved away under the water.

As he suspected, there was an opening there in which the creature had evidently taken refuge. It was more than a crevice; it was a kind of porch.

The sea entered beneath it, but was not deep. The bottom was visible, covered with large pebbles. The pebbles were green and clothed with confervæ, indicating that they were never dry. They were like the tops of a number of heads of infants, covered with a kind of green hair.

Holding his knife between his teeth, Gilliatt descended, by the help of feet and hands, from the upper part of the escarpment, and leaped into the water. It reached almost to his shoulders.

He made his way through the porch, and found himself in a blind passage, with a roof in the form of a rude arch over his head.

The walls were polished and slippery. The crab was nowhere visible. He gained his feet and advanced in daylight growing fainter, so that he began to lose the power to distinguish objects.

At about fifteen paces the vaulted roof ended overhead. He had penetrated beyond the blind passage. There was here more space, and consequently more daylight. The pupils of his eyes, moreover, had dilated; he could see pretty clearly. He was taken by surprise.

He had made his way again into the singular cavern which he had visited in the previous month. The only difference was that he had entered by the way of the sea.

His eyes became more accustomed to the place. His vision became clearer and clearer. He was astonished. He found, above the level of the water, and within reach of his hand, a horizontal fissure. It seemed to him probable that the crab had taken refuge there, and he plunged his hand in as far as he was able, and groped about in that dusky aperture.

Suddenly he felt himself seized by the arm. A strange indescribable horror thrilled through him.

Some living thing, thin, rough, flat, cold, slimy, had twisted itself round his naked arm, in the dark depth below. It crept upward toward his chest. Its pressure was like a tightening cord, its steady persistence like that of a screw. In less than a moment some mysterious spiral form had passed round his wrist and elbow, and had reached his shoulder. A sharp point penetrated beneath the armpit.

Gilliatt recoiled; but he had scarcely power to move! He was, as it were, nailed to the place. With his left hand, which was disengaged, he seized his knife, which he still held between his teeth, and with that hand, holding the knife, he supported himself against the rocks, while he made a desperate effort to withdraw his arm. He succeeded only in disturbing his persecutor, which wound itself still tighter. It was supple as leather, strong as steel, cold as night.

A second form, sharp, elongated, and narrow, issued out of the crevice, like a tongue out of monstrous jaws. It seemed to lick his naked body. Then suddenly stretching out, it became longer and thinner, as it crept over his skin, and wound itself round him. At the same time a terrible sense of pain, comparable to nothing he had ever known, compelled all his muscles to contract. He felt upon his skin a number of flat rounded points. It seemed as if innumerable suckers had fastened to his flesh and were about to drink his blood.

A third long undulating shape issued from the hole in the rock; and seemed to feel its way about his body; lashed round his ribs like a cord, and fixed itself there.

Agony when at its height is mute. Gilliatt uttered no cry. There was sufficient light for him to see the repulsive forms which had entangled themselves about him. A fourth ligature, but this one swift as an arrow, darted toward his stomach, and wound around him there.

It was impossible to sever or tear away the slimy bands which were twisted tightly round his body, and were adhering by a number of points. Each of the points was the focus of frightful and singular pangs. It was as if numberless small mouths were devouring him at the same time.

A fifth long, slimy, riband-shaped strip issued from the hole. It passed over the others, and wound itself tightly around his chest. The compression increased his sufferings. He could scarcely breathe.

These living thongs were pointed at their extremities, but broadened like the blade of a sword toward its hilt. All belonged evidently to the same centre. They crept and glided about him; he felt the strange points of pressure, which seemed to him like mouths, change their places from time to time.

Suddenly a large, round, glutinous mass issued from beneath the crevice. It was the centre; the five thongs were attached to it like spokes to the nave of a wheel. On the opposite side of this disgusting monster appeared the commencement of three other tentacles, the ends of which remained under the rock. In the middle of this slimy mass appeared two eyes.

The eyes were fixed on Gilliatt.

He recognized the devil-fish.

It is difficult for those who have not seen it to believe in the existence of the devil-fish.

Compared to this creature, the ancient hydras are insignificant.

If terror were the object of its creation, nothing could be imagined more perfect than the devil-fish.

The devil-fish has no muscular organization, no menacing cry, no breastplate, no horn, no dart, no claw, no tail with which to hold or bruise; no cutting fins, or wings with nails, no prickles, no sword, no electric discharge, no poison, no talons, no beak, no teeth. Yet he is of all creatures the most formidably armed.

What, then, is the devil-fish? It is the sea vampire.

This frightful apparition, which is always possible among the rocks in the open sea, is a grayish form, which undulates in the water. It is of the thickness of a man’s arm, and in length nearly five feet. Its outline is ragged. Its form resembles an umbrella closed, and without a handle. This irregular mass advances slowly toward you. Suddenly it opens, and eight radii issue abruptly from around a face with two eyes. These radii are alive; their undulation is like lambent flames; they resemble, when opened, the spokes of a wheel, of four or five feet in diameter. A terrible expansion! It springs upon its prey.

The devil-fish harpoons its victim.

It winds around the sufferer, covering and entangling him in its long folds. Underneath it is yellow; above a dull, earthy hue; nothing could render that inexplicable shade dust-colored. Its form is spider-like, but its tints are like those of the chameleon. When irritated, it becomes violet. Its most horrible characteristic is its softness.

Its folds strangle, its contact paralyzes.

It has an aspect like gangrened or scabrous flesh. It is a monstrous embodiment of disease.

It adheres closely to its prey, and cannot be torn away; a fact which is due to its power of exhausting air. The eight antennæ, large at their roots, diminish gradually, and end in needle-like points. Underneath each of these feelers range two rows of pustules, decreasing in size, the largest ones near the head, the smaller at the extremities. Each row contains twenty-five of these. There are, therefore, fifty pustules to each feeler, and the creature possesses in the whole four hundred. These pustules are capable of acting like cupping-glasses. They are cartilaginous substances, cylindrical, horny, and livid. Upon the large species they diminish gradually from the diameter of a five-franc piece to the size of a split pea. These small tubes can be thrust out and withdrawn by the animal at will. They are capable of piercing to a depth of more than an inch.

This sucking apparatus has all the regularity and delicacy of a key-board. It stands forth at one moment and disappears the next. The most perfect sensitiveness cannot equal the contractibility of these suckers; always proportioned to the internal movement of the animal, and its exterior circumstances. The monster is endowed with the qualities of the sensitive plant.

When swimming, the devil-fish rests, so to speak, in its sheath. It swims with all its parts drawn close. It may be likened to a sleeve sewn up with a closed fist within. The protuberance, which is the head, pushes the water aside and advances with a vague undulatory movement. Its two eyes, though large, are indistinct, being of the color of the water.

The devil-fish not only swims, it walks. It is partly fish, partly reptile. It crawls upon the bed of the sea. At these times, it makes use of its eight feelers, and creeps along in the fashion of a species of swift-moving caterpillar.

It has no blood, no bones, no flesh. It is soft and flabby; a skin with nothing inside. Its eight tentacles may be turned inside out like the fingers of a glove.

It has a single orifice in the centre of its radii, which appears at first to be neither the vent nor the mouth. It is, in fact, both one and the other. The orifice performs a double function. The entire creature is cold.

The jelly-fish of the Mediterranean is repulsive. Contact with that animated gelatinous substance which envelopes the bather, in which the hands sink, and the nails scratch ineffectively; which can be torn without killing it, and which can be plucked off without entirely removing it—that fluid and yet tenacious creature which slips through the fingers, is disgusting; but no horror can equal the sudden apparition of the devil-fish, that Medusa with its eight serpents.

It is with the sucking apparatus that it attacks. The victim is oppressed by a vacuum drawing at numberless points; it is not a clawing or a biting, but an indescribable scarification. A tearing of the flesh is terrible, but less terrible than a sucking of the blood. Claws are harmless compared with the horrible action of these natural air-cups. The muscles swell, the fibres of the body are contorted, the skin cracks under the loathsome oppression, the blood spurts out and mingles horribly with the lymph of the monster, which clings to its victim by innumerable hideous mouths. The hydra incorporates itself with the man; the man becomes one with the hydra. The spectre lies upon you; the tiger can only devour you; the devil-fish, horrible, sucks your life-blood away.

He draws you to him, and into himself; while bound down, glued to the ground, powerless, you feel yourself gradually emptied into this horrible pouch, which is the monster itself.

Such was the creature in whose power Gilliatt had fallen for some minutes.

The monster was the inhabitant of the grotto; the terrible genii of the place. A kind of sombre demon of the water.

All the splendors of the cavern existed for it alone.

On the day of the previous month when Gilliatt had first penetrated into the grotto, the dark outline, vaguely perceived by him in the ripples of the secret waters, was this monster. It was here in its home.

When entering for the second time into the cavern in pursuit of the crab, he had observed the crevice in which he supposed that the crab had taken refuge, the pieuvre was there lying in wait for prey.

Gilliatt had thrust his arm deep into the opening; the monster had snapped at it. It held him fast, as the spider holds the fly.

He was in the water up to his belt; his naked feet clutching the slippery roundness of the huge stones at the bottom; his right arm bound and rendered powerless by the flat coils of the long tentacles of the creature, and his body almost hidden under the folds and cross folds of this horrible bandage.

Of the eight arms of the devil-fish three adhered to the rock, while five encircled Gilliatt. In this way, clinging to the granite on the one hand, and with the other to its human prey, it enchained him to the rock. Two hundred and fifty suckers were upon him, tormenting him with agony and loathing. He was grasped by gigantic hands, the fingers of which were each nearly a yard long, and furnished inside with living blisters eating into the flesh.

It is impossible to tear one’s self from the folds of the devil-fish. The attempt ends only in a firmer grasp. The monster clings with more determined force. Its effort increases with that of its victim; every struggle produces a tightening of its ligatures.

Gilliatt had but one resource, his knife.

His left hand only was free; but the reader knows with what power he could use it. It might have been said that he had two right hands.

His open knife was in his hand.

The antennæ of the devil-fish cannot be cut; it is a leathery substance impossible to divide with the knife, it slips under the edge; its position in attack also is such that to cut it would be to wound the victim’s own flesh.

The creature is formidable, but there is a way of resisting it. The fishermen of Sark know this, as does any one who has seen them execute certain abrupt movements in the sea. The porpoises know it also; they have a way of biting the cuttle-fish which decapitates it. Hence the frequent sight on the sea of pen-fish, poulps, and cuttle-fish without heads.

The devil-fish, in fact, is only vulnerable through the head.

Gilliatt was not ignorant of this fact.

With the devil-fish, as with a furious bull, there is a certain moment in the conflict which must be seized. It is the instant when the devil-fish advances its head. The movement is rapid. He who loses that moment is destroyed.

The things we have described occupied only a few moments. Gilliatt, however, felt the increasing power of its innumerable suckers.

The monster is cunning; it tries first to stupefy its prey. It seizes and then pauses a while.

Gilliatt grasped his knife; the sucking increased.

He looked at the monster, which seemed to look at him.

Suddenly it loosened from the rock its sixth antenna, and darting it at him, seized him by the left arm.

At the same moment it advanced its head with a violent movement. In one second more its mouth would have fastened on his breast. Bleeding in the sides, and with his two arms entangled, he would have been a dead man.

But Gilliatt was watchful. He avoided the antenna, and at the moment when the monster darted forward to fasten on his breast, he struck it with the knife clenched in his left hand. There were two convulsions in opposite directions; that of the devil-fish and that of its prey. The movement was rapid as a double flash of lightning.

He had plunged the blade of his knife into the flat, slimy substance, and by a rapid movement, like the flourish of a whip in the air, describing a circle around the two eyes, he wrenched the head off as a man would draw a tooth.

The struggle was ended. The folds relaxed. The monster dropped away, like the slow detaching of bands. The four hundred suckers, deprived of their sustaining power, dropped at once from the man and the rock. The mass sank to the bottom of the water.

Breathless with the struggle, Gilliatt could perceive upon the stones at his feet two shapeless, slimy heaps, the head on one side, the remainder of the monster on the other.

Fearing, nevertheless, some convulsive return of his agony he recoiled to avoid the reach of the dreaded tentacles.

But the monster was quite dead.

Gilliatt closed his knife.

It was time that he killed the devil-fish. He was almost suffocated. His right arm and his chest were purple. Numberless little swellings were distinguishable upon them; the blood flowed from them here and there.

The remedy for these wounds is sea-water. Gilliatt plunged into it, rubbing himself at the same time with the palms of his hands. The swellings disappeared under the friction.



(From Ninety-Three.)


One of the carronades of the battery, a twenty-four pounder, had broken loose.

This is the most dangerous accident that can possibly take place on shipboard. Nothing more terrible can happen to a sloop of war in open sea and under full sail.

A cannon that breaks its moorings suddenly becomes some strange, supernatural beast. It is a machine transformed into a monster. That short mass on wheels moves like a billiard-ball, rolls with the rolling of the ship, plunges with the pitching, goes, comes, stops, seems to meditate, starts on its course again, shoots like an arrow, from one end of the vessel to the other, whirls around, slips away, dodges, rears, bangs, crashes, kills, exterminates. It is a battering ram capriciously assaulting a wall. Add to this, the fact that the ram is of metal, the wall of wood.

It is matter set free; one might say, this eternal slave was avenging itself; it seems as if the total depravity concealed in what we call inanimate things had escaped, and burst forth all of a sudden; it appears to lose patience, and to take a strange mysterious revenge; nothing more relentless than this wrath of the inanimate. This enraged lump leaps like a panther, it has the clumsiness of an elephant, the nimbleness of a mouse, the obstinacy of an axe, the uncertainty of the billows, the zigzag of the lightning, the deafness of the grave. It weighs ten thousand pounds, and it rebounds like a child’s ball. It spins and then abruptly darts off at right angles.

And what is to be done? How put an end to it? A tempest ceases, a cyclone passes over, a wind dies down, a broken mast can be replaced, a leak can be stopped, a fire extinguished, but what will become of this enormous brute of bronze? How can it be captured? You can reason with a bull-dog, astonish a bull, fascinate a boa, frighten a tiger, tame a lion; but you have no resource against this monster, a loose cannon. You cannot kill it, it is dead; and at the same time it lives. It lives with a sinister life which comes to it from the infinite. The deck beneath it gives it full swing. It is moved by the ship, which is moved by the sea, which is moved by the wind. This destroyer is a toy. The ship, the waves, the winds, all play with it, hence its frightful animation. What is to be done with this apparatus? How fetter this stupendous engine of destruction? How anticipate its comings and goings, its returns, its stops, its shocks? Any one of its blows on the side of the ship may stave it in. How foretell its frightful meanderings? It is dealing with a projectile, which alters its mind, which seems to have ideas, and changes its direction every instant. How check the course of what must be avoided? The horrible cannon struggles, advances, backs, strikes right, strikes left, retreats, passes by, disconcerts expectation, grinds up obstacles, crushes men like flies. All the terror of the situation is in the fluctuations of the flooring. How fight an inclined plane subject to caprices? The ship has, so to speak, in its belly, an imprisoned thunderstorm, striving to escape; something like a thunderbolt rumbling above an earthquake.

In an instant the whole crew was on foot. It was the fault of the gun captain, who had neglected to fasten the screw-nut of the mooring-chain, and had insecurely clogged the four wheels of the gun carriage; this gave play to the sole and the framework, separated the two platforms, and finally the breeching. The tackle had given way, so that the cannon was no longer firm on its carriage. The stationary breeching, which prevents recoil, was not in use at this time. A heavy sea struck the port, the carronade insecurely fastened, had recoiled and broken its chain, and begun its terrible course over the deck.

To form an idea of this strange sliding, let one image a drop of water running over glass.

At the moment when the fastenings gave way, the gunners were in the battery. Some in groups, others scattered about, busied with the customary work among sailors getting ready for a signal for action. The carronade, hurled forward by the pitching of the vessel, made a gap in this crowd of men and crushed four at the first blow; then sliding back and shot out again as the ship rolled, it cut in two a fifth unfortunate, and knocked a piece of the battery against the larboard side with such force as to unship it. This caused the cry of distress just heard. All the men rushed to the companion-way. The gun deck was vacated in a twinkling.

The enormous gun was left alone. It was given up to itself. It was its own master, and master of the ship. It could do what it pleased. This whole crew, accustomed to laugh in time of battle, now trembled. To describe the terror is impossible.

Captain Boisberthelot and Lieutenant La Vieuville, although both dauntless men, stopped at the head of the companion-way, and dumb, pale, and hesitating, looked down on the deck below. Some one elbowed past and went down.

It was their passenger, the peasant, the man of whom they had just been speaking a moment before.

Reaching the foot of the companion-way, he stopped.

The cannon was rushing back and forth on the deck. One might have supposed it to be the living chariot of the Apocalypse. The marine lantern swinging overhead added a dizzy shifting of light and shade to the picture. The form of the cannon disappeared in the violence of its course, and it looked now black in the light, now mysteriously white in the darkness.

It went on in its destructive work. It had already shattered four other guns and made two gaps in the side of the ship, fortunately above the water-line, but where the water would come in, in case of heavy weather. It rushed frantically against the framework; the strong timbers withstood the shock; the curved shape of the wood gave them great power of resistance; but they creaked beneath the blows of this huge club, beating on all sides at once, with a strange sort of ubiquity. The percussions of a grain of shot shaken in a bottle are not swifter or more senseless. The four wheels passed back and forth over the dead men, cutting them, carving them, slashing them, till the five corpses were a score of stumps rolling across the deck; the heads of the dead men seemed to cry out; streams of blood curled over the deck with the rolling of the vessel; the planks, damaged in several places, began to gape open. The whole ship was filled with the horrid noise and confusion.

The captain promptly recovered his presence of mind and ordered everything that could check and impede the cannon’s mad course to be thrown through the hatchway down on the gun deck—mattresses, hammocks, spare sails, rolls of cordage, bags belonging to the crew, and bales of counterfeit assignats, of which the corvette carried a large quantity—a characteristic piece of English villany regarded as legitimate warfare.

But what could these rags do? As nobody dared to go below to dispose of them properly, they were reduced to lint in a few minutes.

There was just sea enough to make the accident as bad as possible. A tempest would have been desirable, for it might have upset the cannon, and with its four wheels once in the air there would be some hope of getting it under control. Meanwhile, the havoc increased.

There were splits and fractures in the masts, which are set into the framework of the keel and rise above the decks of ships like great, round pillars. The convulsive blows of the cannon had cracked the mizzen-mast, and had cut into the main-mast.

The battery was being ruined. Ten pieces out of thirty were disabled; the breaches in the side of the vessel were increasing, and the corvette was beginning to leak.

The old passenger, having gone down to the gun deck, stood like a man of stone at the foot of the steps. He cast a stern glance over this scene of devastation. He did not move. It seemed impossible to take a step forward. Every movement of the loose carronade threatened the ship’s destruction. A few moments more and shipwreck would be inevitable.

They must perish or put a speedy end to the disaster; some course must be decided on; but what? What an opponent was this carronade! Something must be done to stop this terrible madness—to capture this lightning—to overthrow this thunderbolt.

Boisberthelot said to La Vieuville,—

“Do you believe in God, chevalier?”

La Vieuville replied: “Yes—no. Sometimes.”

“During a tempest?”

“Yes, and in moments like this.”

“God alone can save us from this,” said Boisberthelot.

Everybody was silent, letting the carronade continue its horrible din.

Outside, the waves beating against the ship responded with their blows to the shocks of the cannon. It was like two hammers alternating.

Suddenly, in the midst of this inaccessible ring, where the escaped cannon was leaping, a man was seen to appear, with an iron bar in his hand. He was the author of the catastrophe, the captain of the gun, guilty of criminal carelessness, and the cause of the accident, the master of the carronade. Having done the mischief, he was anxious to repair it. He had seized the iron bar in one hand, a tiller-rope with a slip-noose in the other, and jumped down the hatchway to the gun deck.

Then began an awful sight; a Titanic scene; the contest between gun and gunner; the battle of matter and intelligence, the duel between man and the inanimate.

The man stationed himself in a corner, and with bar and rope in his two hands, he leaned against one of the riders, braced himself on his legs, which seemed two steel posts, and livid, calm, tragic, as if rooted to the deck, he waited.

He waited for the cannon to pass by him.

The gunner knew his gun, and it seemed to him as if the gun ought to know him. He had lived long with it. How many times he had thrust his hands into its mouth! It was his own familiar monster. He began to speak to it as if it were his dog.

“Come!” he said. Perhaps he loved it.

He seemed to wish it to come to him.

But to come to him was to come upon him. And then he would be lost. How could he avoid being crushed! That was the question. All looked on in terror.

Not a breast breathed freely, unless perhaps that of the old man, who was alone in the battery with the two contestants, a stern witness.

He might be crushed himself by the cannon. He did not stir.

Beneath, them the sea blindly directed the contest.

At the moment when the gunner, accepting this frightful hand-to-hand conflict, challenged the cannon, some chance rocking of the sea caused the carronade to remain for an instant motionless and as if stupefied. “Come, now!” said the man. It seemed to listen.

Suddenly it leaped towards him. The man dodged the blow.

The battle began. Battle unprecedented. Frailty struggling against the invulnerable. The gladiator of flesh attacking the beast of brass. On one side, brute force; on the other, a human soul.

All this was taking place in semi-darkness. It was like the shadowy vision of a miracle.

A soul—strange to say, one would have thought the cannon also had a soul; but a soul full of hatred and rage. This sightless thing seemed to have eyes. The monster appeared to lie in wait for the man. One would have at least believed that there was craft in this mass. It also chose its time. It was a strange, gigantic insect of metal, having or seeming to have the will of a demon. For a moment this colossal locust would beat against the low ceiling overhead, then it would come down on its four wheels like a tiger on its four paws, and begin to run at the man. He, supple, nimble, expert, writhed away like an adder from all these lightning movements. He avoided a collision, but the blows which he parried fell against the vessel, and continued their work of destruction.

The Contest Between Gun and Gunner

The Contest Between Gun and Gunner

An end of broken chain was left hanging to the carronade. This chain had in some strange way become twisted about the screw of the cascabel. One end of the chain was fastened to the gun-carriage. The other, left loose, whirled desperately about the cannon, making all its blows more dangerous.

The screw held it in a firm grip, adding a thong to a battering-ram, making a terrible whirlwind around the cannon, an iron lash in a brazen hand. This chain complicated the contest.

However, the man went on fighting. Occasionally, it was the man who attacked the cannon; he would creep along the side of the vessel, bar and rope in hand; and the cannon, as if it understood, and as though suspecting some snare, would flee away. The man, bent on victory, pursued it.

Such things cannot long continue. The cannon seemed to say to itself, all of a sudden, “Come, now! Make an end of it!” and it stopped. One felt that the crisis was at hand. The cannon, as if in suspense, seemed to have, or really had—for to all it was a living being—a ferocious malice prépense. It made a sudden, quick dash at the gunner. The gunner sprang out of the way, let it pass by, and cried out to it with a laugh, “Try it again!” The cannon, as if enraged, smashed a carronade on the port side; then, again seized by the invisible sling which controlled it, it was hurled to the starboard side at the man, who made his escape. Three carronades gave way under the blows of the cannon; then, as if blind and not knowing what more to do, turned its back on the man, rolled from stern to bow, injured the stern and made a breach in the planking of the prow. The man took refuge at the foot of the steps, not far from the old man who was looking on. The gunner held his iron bar in rest. The cannon seemed to notice it, and without taking the trouble to turn around, slid back on the man, swift as the blow of an axe. The man, driven against the side of the ship, was lost. The whole crew cried out with horror.

But the old passenger, till this moment motionless, darted forth more quickly than any of this wildly swift rapidity. He seized a package of counterfeit assignats, and, at the risk of being crushed, succeeded in throwing it between the wheels of the carronade. This decisive and perilous movement could not have been made with more exactness and precision by a man trained in all the exercises described in Durosel’s “Manual of Gun Practice at Sea.”

The package had the effect of a clog. A pebble may stop a log, the branch of a tree turn aside an avalanche. The carronade stumbled. The gunner, taking advantage of this critical opportunity, plunged his iron bar between the spokes of one of the hind wheels. The cannon stopped. It leaned forward. The man using the bar as a lever, held it in equilibrium. The heavy mass was overthrown, with the crash of a falling bell, and the man, rushing with all his might, dripping with perspiration, passed the slip-noose around the bronze neck of the subdued monster.

It was ended. The man had conquered. The ant had control over the mastodon; the pigmy had taken the thunderbolt prisoner.

The mariners and sailors clapped their hands.

The whole crew rushed forward with cables and chains, and in an instant the cannon was secured.

The gunner saluted the passenger.

“Sir,” he said, “you have saved my life.”

The old man had resumed his impassive attitude, and made no reply.



(From Off the Skelligs.)


“What is it?” I exclaimed; “what can it be?”

She pointed with her finger, and as the yacht swung round she said, “Look there, ma’am, look!”

As she spoke two strange objects came into my view. One was a great pale moon, sickly and white, hanging and seeming to brood over the horizon; the other, which looked about the same size, was red and seemed to lie close at her side. It was not round, but looked blotted and blurred in the mist. Could it be a meteor? a lighthouse? Whatever it was, it was the cause of the commotion which had been so intense, and which now seemed to be already subsiding. I had heard the men called up not three minutes before, and now two boats were already lowered, and Tom was in command of the foremost. I heard his voice coming from the water, and no one prevented me now from rushing to the side to look over, turning my back on the moon and her lurid companion. Though the night was not dark I could not discern the boats; and after straining my eyes into the mist, I observed that it was rapidly melting away, and rolling on as well as rolling together, so that spaces of water here and there were clear, and moonlight glittered on them. The binnacle light glared in my uncle’s face as he stooped over it. I heard Brand whisper to his wife that he had taken charge of the yacht, and I did not dare to speak to him, though what it might be that alarmed them I could not tell.

It was as it seemed but a moment that I had stared out into the mist, looking for the boats with still sleepy eyes; then, as the sailors that were left tramped back to the fore part of the yacht, I turned again. The mist had shaken itself and rolled on before a light air that was coming. I saw two great pathways now lying along the waters; one was silver white, the pathway of the wan moon, the other was blood-red and angry, and a burning vessel lay at her head.

Oh, that sight! can I ever forget it? The fire was spurting from every crevice of the black hull, her great main-mast was gone, the mizzen-mast lay with several great white sails surging about in the water, and she was dragging it along with her. The foremast only stood, and its rigging and sails had not yet caught. A dead silence had succeeded now to the commotion in the vessel; men were standing stock-still, perhaps waiting for their orders, and my uncle’s were the only eyes that were not strained to follow the leaping and dazzling spires.

Every moment we approached. Now the first waft of the smoke came in our faces, now we could hear the crackling and rending, the creak and shiver, and the peculiar roaring noise made by a mastering fire.

“A full-rigged ship,” I heard Brand whisper to his wife. “Eleven hundred tons at the least.”

“Merciful heaven,” she whispered in reply. “I hope she won’t blow up. Anyhow, I thank the Lord we’ve got Master in command himself.”

I never saw anything like the horrible beauty of that red light. It added tenfold to the terror of the scene to see her coming on so majestically, dragging with her broken spars and great yards and sprawling sails. She looked like some splendid live creature in distress, and rocked now a good deal in the water, for every moment the wind seemed to rise, bringing up a long swell with it.

The moon went down, and in a few minutes the majestic ship supplied all the light to the dark sky and black water. I saw the two little dark boats nearing her; knew that my brother was in the foremost, and shook with fear, and cried to God to take care of him; but while I and all gazed in awful silence on the sailing ship, the flames, bursting through the deck in a new place, climbed up the fore-rigging, and in one single leap, as if they had been living things, they were licking the sails off the ropes, and, shooting higher than her topsails, they spread themselves out like quivering fans. I saw every sail that was left in an instant bathed in flames; a second burst came raging up from below, blackening and shrivelling everything before it; then I saw the weltering fire run down again, and still the wreck, plunging her bows in the water, came rocking on and on.

“How near does our old man mean to go?” whispered Mrs. Brand; and almost at that instant I observed that he had given some order to the man at the helm, and I could distinctly hear a murmur of satisfaction; then almost directly a cry of horror rose—we were very near her, and while the water hissed with strange distinctness, and steamed in her wake, her blazing foremast fell over the side, plunging with a tremendous crash into the sea, sending up dangerous showers of sparks and burning bits of sail-cloth, and covering our decks with falling tinder.

The black water took in and quenched all that blazing top-hamper, and still the awful hissing was audible, till suddenly, as we seemed to be sheering off from her, there was a thunderous roll that sounded like the breaking of her mighty heart, and still glorious in beauty she plunged head foremost, and went down blazing into the desolate sea.

In one instant that raging glow and all the fierce illumination of the fire were gone; darkness had settled on the face of the deep. I saw a few lighted spars floating about, that was all, and I smelt the fire and felt the hot smoke rushing past my face as the only evidence that this was not a dream. Oh! the misery of the next half-hour! The boats, when that ill-fated ship went down, must, I knew, have been very near her. Had they been sucked in? Had they been overturned, or had they been so blessed as to be saved, and to save some of the wretched passengers and crew? Of all persons in the yacht then, perhaps I suffered most. I was the most ignorant; I had no one to speak to; for Mrs. Brand, perhaps lest I should question her, had retreated, and I could not think of addressing my uncle; he had plenty on his mind and on his hands. I could only observe the activity of others by the light of the many lanterns which were now hung out from various parts of the rigging, and hope that we should soon find the boats, though every light hung up seemed to increase the darkness, and make us more unable to see anything beyond the bounds of the yacht.

At last, Brand standing near me again, I said, “O Brand! cannot we go nearer the place where that ship sunk? Perhaps some poor creatures may be floating on the waters still.”

“Ma’am,” he replied, “we are sailing now as nigh as may be over the very spot where she went down; but you have no call to be frightened; everything has been done that can be done. We hove to directly we sighted her.”

“Yes,” I said; “but what good could that do?”

“Why, ma’am,” he replied, “we could not have lowered the boats without that; and then, you know, when they were off we filled, and stood in as nigh as we dared.”

“Then where are the boats?” I inquired.

“God knows, ma’am.”

“And what are these lights for? Every one you put up makes it harder to see anything. How are we to find them?”

“We have no call to find them,” he replied; “we want them to find us. Most likely there are other boats about, besides our own, boats from the ship—we want to make ourselves as conspicuous as we can. At least, I reckon that is why Master has ordered all these lights out.”

“And why cannot we pick up any of the poor creatures that may have been on board? Surely we could have heard their cries, and could now—we are not half a quarter of a mile from her.”

“No, ma’am; nothing like that distance—not half that distance; that’s why our people think she may have been deserted.”

The steward passed on, and I covered my face with my hands and moaned in the misery of my heart. Oh! my only brother! had I really lost him so?

I listened. The silence about me was so intense that I knew there was much anxiety felt; every face as it passed under a lantern had a restless and yet awestruck look; my uncle’s, when he bent over the illuminated compass, did not at all reassure me.

But such a misfortune as I had dreaded, such a terrible blow, we were to be spared. I got up again, gazed out over the dark water and longed for the dawn. Something better than dawn was destined to meet my eyes; between us and a spar that still glowed, two dark objects stood suddenly—a boat and black figures and moving oars, another behind her.

I shall never forget with what a thrill of joy I heard our people cheer. In ten minutes we could hear the stroke of their oars, and directly after Tom was on deck and his crew with him.

“God bless you!” said my uncle to Tom; “anybody saved?”

“One,” said Tom; “only one, sir.”



(From At Last.)



The appearance of the first fragments of gulf-weed caused quite a little excitement, and set an enthusiastic pair of naturalists, a midland hunting squire, and a travelled scientific doctor who had been twelve years in the Eastern Archipelago, fishing eagerly over the bows, with an extemporized grapple of wire, for gulf-weed, a specimen of which they did not catch. However, more and more still would come in a day or two, perhaps whole acres, even whole leagues, and then (so we hoped, but hoped in vain) we should have our feast of zoöphytes, crustacea, and what not.

Meanwhile it must be remembered that this gulf-weed has not, as some of the uninitiated fancy from its name, anything to do with the Gulf Stream, along the southern edge of which we were streaming. Thrust away to the south by that great ocean-river, it lies in a vast eddy, or central pool of the Atlantic, between the Gulf Stream and the equatorial current, unmoved save by surface-drifts of wind, as floating weeds collect and range slowly round and round in the still corners of a tumbling-bay or salmon pool. One glance at a bit of the weed, as it floats past, showed that it was like no Fucus of our shores, or any thing we ever saw before. The difference of look is undefinable in words, but clear enough. One sees in a moment that the sargassos, of which there are several species on tropical shores, are a genus of themselves and by themselves; and a certain awe may, if the beholder be at once scientific and poetical, come over him at the first sight of this famous and unique variety thereof, which has lost ages since the habit of growing on rock or sea-bottom, but propagates itself forever floating, and feeds among its branches a whole family of fish, crabs, cuttle-fish, zoöphytes, mollusks, which, like the plant which shelters them, are found nowhere else in the world. And that awe, springing from “the scientific use of the imagination,” would be increased if he recollected the theory—not altogether impossible—that this sargasso (and possibly some of the animals which cling to it) marks the site of an Atlantic continent, sunk long ages since; and that transformed by the necessities of life from a rooting to a floating plant,

“Still it remembers its august abodes,”

and wanders round and round as if in search of the rocks where once it grew. We looked eagerly day by day for more and more gulf-weed, hoping that

“Slimy things would crawl with legs
Upon that slimy sea,”

and thought of the memorable day when Columbus’s ship first plunged her bows into the tangled “ocean meadow,” and the sailors, naturally enough, were ready to mutiny, fearing hidden shoals, ignorant that they had four miles of blue water beneath their keel, and half recollecting old Greek and Phœnician legends of a weedy sea off the coast of Africa, where the vegetation stopped the ships, and kept them entangled till all on board were starved.

Day after day we passed more and more of it, often in long processions, ranged in the direction of the wind; while, a few feet below the surface, here and there floated large fronds of a lettuce-like weed, seemingly an ulva, the bright green of which, as well as the rich orange hue of the sargasso, brought out by contrast the intense blue of the water.

Very remarkable, meanwhile, and unexpected, was the opacity and seeming solidity of the ocean when looked down on from the bows. Whether sapphire under the sunlight, or all but black under the clouds, or laced and streaked with beads of foam, rising out of the nether darkness, it looks as though it could resist the hand; as if one might almost walk on it; so unlike any liquid, as seen near shore or inland, is this leaping, heaving plain, reminding one, by its innumerable conchoidal curves, not of water, not even of ice, but rather of obsidian.



After all, we got little of the sargasso. Only in a sailing ship and in calms or light breezes can its treasures be explored. Twelve knots an hour is a pace sufficient to tear off the weed, as it is hauled alongside, all living things which are not rooted to it. We got, therefore, no crustacea; neither did we get a single specimen of the calamaries, which may be described as cuttle-fish carrying hooks on their arms as well as suckers, the lingering descendants of a most ancient form, which existed as far back as the era of the shallow oolitic seas, x or y thousand years ago. A tiny curled spirorbis, a lepraria, with its thousand-fold cells, and a tiny polype belonging to the campanularias, with a creeping stem, which sends up here and there a yellow-stalked bell, were all the parasites we saw. But the sargasso itself is a curious instance of the fashion in which one form so often mimics another of a quite different family. When fresh out of the water it resembles not a sea-weed so much as a sprig of some willow-leaved shrub, burdened with yellow berries, large and small; for every broken bit of it seems growing, and throwing out ever new berries and leaves—or what, for want of a better word, must be called leaves in a sea-weed. For it must be remembered that the frond of a sea-weed is not merely leaf, but root also; that it not only breathes air, but feeds on water; and that even the so-called root by which a sea-weed holds to the rock is really only an anchor, holding mechanically to the stone, but not deriving, as the root of a land-plant would, any nourishment from it. Therefore it is, that to grow while uprooted and floating, though impossible to most land-plants, is easy enough to many sea-weeds, and especially to the sargasso.



The flying-fish now began to be a source of continual amusement, as they scuttled away from under the bows of the ship, mistaking her, probably, for some huge devouring whale. So strange are they when first seen, though long read of and looked for, that it is difficult to recollect that they are actually fish. The first little one was mistaken for a dragon-fly, the first big one for a gray plover. The flight is almost exactly like that of a quail or partridge-flight I must say; for in spite of all that has been learnedly written to the contrary, it was too difficult as yet for the English sportsmen on board to believe that their motion was not a true flight, aided by the vibration of the wings, and not a mere impulse given (as in the leap of the salmon) by a rush under water. That they can change their course at will is plain to one who looks down on them from the lofty deck, and still more from the paddle-box. The length of the flight seems too great to be attributed to a few strokes of the tail; while the plain fact that they renew their flight after touching, and only touching, the surface, would seem to show that it was not due only to the original impetus, for that would be retarded, instead of being quickened, every time they touched. Such were our first impressions, and they were confirmed by what we saw on the voyage home.

The nights as yet, we will not say disappointed us—for to see new stars, like Canopus and Fomalhaut, shining in the far south; even to see Sirius, in his ever-changing blaze of red and blue, riding high in a December heaven, is interesting enough; but the brilliance of the stars is not, at least at this season, equal to that of a frosty sky in England. Nevertheless, to make up for the deficiency, the clouds were glorious—so glorious that I longed again and again, as I did afterward in the West Indies, that Mr. Ruskin were by my side, to see and to describe, as none but he can do. The evening skies are fit weeds for widowed Eos weeping over the dying Sun; thin, formless, rent—in carelessness, not in rage; and of all the hues of early autumn leaves, purple and brown, with green and primrose lakes of air between; but all hues weakened, mingled, chastened into loneliness, tenderness, regretfulness, through which still shines, in endless vistas of clear western light, the hope of the returning day. More and more faint, the pageant fades below toward the white haze of the horizon, where, in sharpest contrast, leaps and welters against it the black, jagged sea; and richer and richer it glows upward till it cuts the azure overhead; until, only too soon,

“The sun’s rim dips, the stars rush out,
At one stride comes the dark,”

to be succeeded, after long balmy night, by a sunrise which repeats the colors of the sunset, but this time gaudy, dazzling, triumphant, as befits the season of faith and hope. Such imagery, it may be said, is hackneyed now, and trite even to impertinence. It might be so at home; but here, in presence of the magnificent pageant of tropic sunlight, it is natural, almost inevitable; and the old myth of the daily birth and death of Helios, and the bridal joys and widowed tears of Eos, reinvents itself in the human mind as soon as it asserts its power—it may be its sacred right—to translate nature into the language of the feelings.



(From the Child of the Wreck.)


I am not likely to forget that next morning, the 28th of August, (17—). It was a fine summer’s morning, and there was just a little sea on, with a strongish breeze blowing from the eastward, but not enough to prevent boats coming off from Portsmouth. I counted forty sail-of-the-line, a dozen frigates and smaller ships of war, and well-nigh three hundred merchant vessels, riding, as of course we were, to the flood with our heads towards Cowes.

You will understand that under the lower-deck was fitted a cistern, into which the sea-water was received and then pumped up by a hand-pump, fixed in the middle of the gun-deck, for the purpose of washing the two lower gun-decks. The water was let into this cistern by a pipe which passed through the ship’s side, and which was secured by a stopcock on the inside. It had been found the morning before that this watercock, which was about three feet below the water line, was out of order, and must be repaired.

The foreman came off from the dockyard, and said that it was necessary to careen the ship over to port, sufficiently to raise the mouth of the pipe, which went through the ship’s timbers below, clean out of the water, that he and his men might work at it. Between seven and eight o’clock the order was given to run the larboard guns out as far as they could go, the larboard ports being opened. The starboard guns were also run in amidships and secured by tackles, the moving over of this great weight of metal bringing the larboard lower-deck port-sills just level with the water. The men were then able to get at the mouth of the pipe. For an hour the ship remained in this position, while the carpenters were at work. We had been taking in rum and shot on the previous day, and now a sloop called the Lark, which belonged to the three brothers, came alongside with the last cargo of rum; she having been secured to the larboard side, the hands were piped to clear the lighter.

I had been on duty on the main-deck. Several ladies had come off early in the morning, friends and relations of the officers. Some of them were either in the ward-room or gun-room, and others were walking the quarter-deck with the help of their gentlemen friends, as it was no easy matter, the ship heeling over as much as she was then doing. They thought it very good fun, however, and were laughing and talking, as they tried to keep their feet from slipping. I had been sent with a message to Mr. Hollingbury, our third lieutenant, who was officer of the watch. He seemed out of temper, and gave me a rough answer; as he generally did. He was not a favorite, indeed, with us, and we used to call him “Jib-and-Foresail Jack,” for when he had the watch at night, he was always singing out, “Up jib,” and “Down jib;” “Up foresail,” “Down foresail;” and from a habit he had of moving his fingers about when walking the quarter-deck, we used to say that he had been an organ player in London. Just as I got back to the main-deck, I caught a glimpse of a young lady in black, leading a little boy. She turned her face towards me, and I saw that she was the very same who had come to my wife’s cottage the previous evening; indeed I should have known her by the little boy by her side. I had to return to the quarter-deck again, and when I once more came back to the main-deck, I could nowhere see her; but whether she went into the ward-room or had gone below, I could not learn. I asked several people, for I thought she might have brought me off a message from Susan; and I might, I fancied, have been of use to her in finding the person she wished to see. While I was looking about, Mr. Webb, the purser’s clerk, who had received orders to go on shore in charge of a boat, came up and ordered me to call the crew away; a couple of midshipmen were going with him. This took up some time, and prevented me from finding the young lady. Just then, as I went up to report the boat gone to Mr. Hollingbury, Mr. Williams, the carpenter, came up from the lower-deck, and requested that he would be pleased to order the ship to be righted, as she was heeling over more than she could bear. The lieutenant gave one of his usual short answers to the carpenter, who went below, looking as though he did not at all like it. He was back again, however, before I had left the deck, when he said in a short quick way, as if there was not a moment to lose,—

“If you please, sir, the ship is getting past her bearings; it’s my duty to tell you, she will no longer bear it!”

“If you think, sir, you can manage the ship better than I can, you had better take the command,” answered Mr. Hollingbury, in an angry tone, twitching his fingers and turning away.

About this time there were a good many men in the waist who heard what the carpenter had said, and what answer the lieutenant gave. They all knew, as I did, that the ship must be in great danger, or the carpenter would not have spoken so sharply as he had.

A large number of the crew, however, were below; some on board the lighter, others at the yard-tackles and stay-falls, hoisting in casks; some in the spirit-room stowing away, others bearing the casks down the hatchway, all busy clearing the lighter. The greater number, it will be understood, were on the larboard side, and that brought the ship down more to larboard. There was a little more sea on than before, which had begun to wash into the lower-deck ports, and having no escape there was soon a good weight of water on the lower-deck. Several of the men, not dreaming of danger, were amusing themselves, laughing and shouting, catching mice, for there were a good many of them in the ship, which the water had driven out of their quarters. It’s my belief, however, that the casks of rum hoisted in, and lying on the larboard side, before they could be lowered into the hold, helped very much to bring the ship down.

There stood the lieutenant, fuming at the way the carpenter had spoken to him. Suddenly, however, it seemed to occur to him that the carpenter was right, and he ordered the drummer to beat to quarters, that the guns might be run into their places and the ship righted.

“Dick Tattoo” was shouted quick enough along the deck, for every one now saw that not a moment was to be lost, as the ship had just then heeled over still more. The moment the drummer was called, all hands began tumbling down the hatchways to their quarters, that they might run in their guns.

Just then I saw a young midshipman, whom I had observed going off with Mr. Webb, standing at the entrance-port singing out for the boat. He had forgotten his dirk, he said, and had come back to fetch it. The boat, however, had gone some distance off, and he was left behind. Poor fellow, it was a fatal piece of forgetfulness for him.

“Never mind, Jemmy Fish,” said little Crispo, one of the smallest midshipmen I ever saw, for he was only nine years old. “There is another boat going ashore directly, and you can go in her.”

He gave an angry answer, and went back into the gun-room, swearing at his ill-luck.

The men had just got hold of the gun-tackles, and were about to bowse out their guns which had been run in amidship, some five hundred of them or more having for the purpose gone over to the larboard side, which caused the ship to heel over still more, when the water made a rush into the larboard lower-deck ports, and, do all they could, the guns ran in again upon them. Feeling sure that the ship could not be righted, I, seizing little Crispo, made a rush to starboard, and dashing through an open port found myself outside the ship, which at that moment went completely over, her masts and spars sinking under the water. Somehow or other the young midshipman broke from me and slipped over into the sea. I thought the poor little fellow would have been lost, but he struck out bravely, which was, as it turned out, the best thing he could have done, as he could swim well.

I had just before seen all the port-holes crowded with seamen, trying to escape, and jamming one another so that they could scarcely move one way or the other. The ship now lying down completely on her larboard broadside, suddenly the heads of most of the men disappeared, they having dropped back into the ship, many of those who were holding on being hauled down by others below them. It was, you see, as if they had been trying to get out of a number of chimneys, with nothing for their feet to rest upon. Directly afterwards there came such a rush of wind through the ports, that my hat was blown off. It was the air from the hold, which, having no other vent, escaped as the water pouring in took up its space. The whole side of the ship was, I said, covered with seamen and marines, and here and there a Jew maybe, and a good many women and a few children shrieking and crying out for mercy. Never have I heard such a fearful wailing. One poor woman near me shrieked out for her husband, but he was nowhere to be seen, and she thought that he was below with those who by this time were drowned; for there were hundreds who had been on the lower decks, and in the hold, who had never even reached the ports, and some who had fallen back into the sea as it rushed in at the larboard side. She implored me to help her, and I said I would if I could. We could see boats putting off from the ships all round to our help, and here and there people swimming for their lives who had leaped from the stern-ports, or had been on the upper deck. I could not help thinking of our fine old admiral, and wished that he might be among them; but he was not, for he was writing in his cabin at the time, and when the captain tried to let him know that the ship was sinking, he found the door so jammed by her heeling over that he could not open it, and was obliged to rush aft and make his escape through a stern-port to save his life. This I afterwards heard.

“The Ship Went Completely Over.”

“The Ship Went Completely Over.”

As the ship had floated for some minutes, I began to hope that she would continue in the same position, and that I and others around me on her side might be saved. I hoped this for my own sake, and still more for that of my dear wife. I had been thinking of her all the time, for I knew that it would go well-nigh to break her heart if I was taken from her, as it were, just before her eyes. Suddenly, I found to my horror, that the ship was settling down; the shrieks of despair which rent the air on every side, not only from women, but from many a man I had looked upon as a stout fellow, rang in my ears. Knowing that if I went down with the ship I should have a hard job to rise again, I seized a poor woman by her dress, and leaped off with her into the sea; but to my horror, her dress tore, and before I could get hold of her again she was swept from me. I had struck out for some distance, when I felt myself as it were drawn back, and, on looking round, I saw the ship’s upper works disappear beneath the waters, which was covered with a mass of human beings, shrieking and lifting up their hands in despair. Presently they all disappeared. Just then I felt myself drawn down by some one getting hold of my foot under the water, but, managing to kick off my shoe, I quickly rose again and struck out away from the spot, impelled by instinct rather than anything else, for I had no time for thought; then directly afterwards up came the masts almost with a bound, as it were, and stood out of the water, with a slight list only to starboard, with the fore, main, and mizzen-tops all above water, as well as part of the bowsprit and ensign-staff, with the flag still hoisted to it; many people were floating about, making for the tops and riggings, several of them terror-stricken, who could not swim, catching hold of those that could. I thought, on seeing this, that it would be wiser to keep clear of them, till I could reach a boat coming towards the wreck at no great distance off. I was pretty nigh exhausted when I reached the boat, in which were a waterman and two young gentlemen, who happened to be crossing from Ryde to Portsmouth at the time. They soon hauled me in, and I begged them to pull on and save some of the drowning people. As neither of them could row—quickly recovering—I took one of the oars, and was about to sit down to help the waterman, when I saw not far off, several sheep, pigs, and fowls swimming in all directions, while hencoops and all sorts of articles were floating about....

Out of nearly a thousand souls who had been alive and well on board the ship in the morning, between seven and eight hundred were now lifeless. Besides our gallant admiral, who had been drowned while sitting writing in his cabin, three of the lieutenants, including the one whose obstinacy had produced the disaster, the larger number of the midshipmen, the surgeon, master, and the major, and several other officers of marines, were drowned, as were some ladies who had just before come on board. Sixty of the marines had gone on shore in the morning, a considerable number of the rest who were on the upper-deck were saved, but the greater number of the crew, many of whom were in the hold stowing away the rum casks, had perished; indeed, out of the ship’s whole complement, seventy seamen only escaped with their lives.

I was sorry to hear that Mr. Williams, the carpenter, whose advice, had it been followed, would have saved the ship, was drowned; his body was picked up directly afterwards, and carried on board the Victory, where it was laid on the hearth before the galley-fire, in the hopes that he might recover, but life was extinct.

Captain Waghorn, though he could not swim, was saved. After trying to warn the admiral, he rushed across the deck and leaped into the sea, calling on others to follow his example. A young gentleman, Mr. Pierce, was near him.

“Can you swim?” he asked.

“No,” was the answer.

“Then you must try, my lad,” he said, and hurled him into the water.

Two men, fortunately good swimmers, followed, one of them getting hold of the captain, supported him, and swam away from the ship: the other fell upon Mr. Pierce, of whom he got hold, and supported above water till the ship settled, when he placed him on the main-top, and both were saved. The captain, in the meantime, was struggling in the water, and was with great difficulty kept afloat. A boat with our seventh lieutenant, Mr. Philip Durham, had on the very instant the ship went over come alongside, when she was drawn down, and all in her were thrown into the water. Mr. Durham had just time to throw off his coat before the ship sank and left him floating among men and hammocks. A drowning marine caught hold of his waistcoat, and drew him several times under water. Finding that he could not free himself, and that both would be drowned, he threw his legs round a hammock, and unbuttoning his waistcoat with one hand, he allowed it to be drawn off, and then swam for the main shrouds. When there he caught sight of the captain struggling in the water, and a boat coming to take him off, he refused assistance, till Captain Waghorn and the seaman supporting him were received on board. The captain’s son, poor lad, who had been below, lost his life.

I heard that the body of the marine was washed on shore ten days afterwards with the lieutenant’s waistcoat round his arm, and a pencil-case, having his initials on it, found safe in the pocket. There was only one woman saved out of the three hundred on board, and I believe she was the one I had helped out of the port; her name was Horn, and I was glad to find that her husband was saved also. It was curious that the youngest midshipman, Mr. Crispo, and probably one of the smallest children, our little chap, should have been saved, while so many strong men were drowned....

Our first lieutenant, Mr. Saunders, who had been busy in the wings, was drowned; his body, with his gold watch and some money in his pocket, was picked up, floating under the stern of an Indiaman off the Motherbank.

Of the three brothers who owned the sloop, two perished and one was saved. It was owing to her being lashed alongside that the ship righted, or she would have probably remained on her side. I was a good swimmer myself, and had I not been, I should have lost my life long ago; I have often thought, what a pity it is that all seamen do not learn to swim. Many more might have been saved; but those who could not swim got hold of the men who could, and both were drowned together. If all had struck out from the ship when they found her going over, a greater number would have been picked up; instead of that, afraid to trust themselves in the water, they stuck by her, and they and a large number who got into the launch were drawn down with the ship, and all perished. The foreman of the plumbers, whose boat was lashed head and stern, was, with all his men, drawn into the vortex as the ship went down, and not one of them escaped. It was a sad sight, ten days or a fortnight afterwards, to see the bodies which were picked up; some were buried in Kingston churchyard, near Portsmouth, and a large number in an open spot to the east of Ryde. Some time afterwards a monument was put up in Kingston churchyard, to the memory of the brave Admiral Kempenfelt and his ship’s company. A court of inquiry was held, when Captain Waghorn was honorably acquitted, and it came out, that in so rotten a state was the side of the ship, that some large portions of her frame must have given way, and it is only a wonder that she did not go down before. When I come to think that she had upwards of one thousand tons of dead weight and spirits on board, it is surprising that she should have held together.

An attempt was made soon afterwards to raise the Royal George, and very nearly succeeded, as she was lifted up, and moored some way from the spot where she went down; but a heavy gale coming on, some of the lighters sank, and the gear gave way, and she was again lost. It was whispered that on account of her rotten state the admiralty had no wish to have her afloat, but that might have been scandal.



(From Jean Berny, Sailor.)


Within the tropics, on a wondrous evening when the Southern trades were blowing with their balmiest softness, the corporeal portion of his being tired with a healthy muscular fatigue, gently lulled by the slumberous rhythmic motion of the ship, as a little child is rocked to sleep in his cradle, Jean was half sitting, half lying on the deck in the mild light of the new-born stars, in the midst of the gathering swarm of white-jacketed sailor lads, who were coming up from below, one after another, and forming snug little groups preparatory to passing the pleasant hours of evening in one another’s society. And in those moments of calmness and repose that precede slumber his thoughts, as usual, assumed a more sombre cast as the future and that dreaded examination rose before his mind.

Close at hand, on his right, were his two chosen comrades, Le Marec, quartermaster, and Joal, captain of the mizzen-top, both hailing from the Côtes-du-Nord, surrounded at that moment by a group of young pays—or men from their own district—who were listening reverentially to their conversation.

On his left was a little congregation of Basques, a race apart, who every now and then would break out and chatter in an unintelligible jargon, older than the hills.

A little further away another group was singing in chorus a lively air in couplets, in which the refrain: “Old Neptune, Monarch of the Sea,” came in every minute or so in a light, catchy way.

Among the Bretons a blood-curdling, marrow-freezing story of mystery and darkness was going on, the confused beginning of which Jean had failed to catch. The yarn was of a suspicious-looking brig, derelict and abandoned by her crew, that had been encountered in the English Channel in the twilight at the close of a dim winter’s day; a ghostly wanderer on the water that no one dared board for fear of encountering dead men on her.

The Basques of the group to the left were listening to a wild tale of warlike adventure beneath a blazing sun and on the burning sands of Dahomey.

The two stories, equally lurid and fantastic, reached Jean’s ears in disconnected fragments, and were mingled and blended in his brain, over which sleep was beginning to exert its confusing influence, while from the chorus in the distance came the persistently reiterated refrain of “Old Neptune,” running thread-like through the whole and connecting the parts by a sort of obligato accompaniment. There is small opportunity for privacy on shipboard of a fine evening, when the crew are all on deck.


“Well,” Le Marec was saying—he had been a fisherman of Brieuc in his younger days—“well, at last we concluded to board her” (it was of that grewsome derelict that he was speaking). “It was none too light, for the weather was thick and the night was close at hand, and I tell you what it is, boys, I felt pretty shaky about that time. All the same, though, I raise my hands and catch onto the gunwale, so as to hoist myself up and get a look at what was inside—and then, my friends, what think you it is I see? A huge, tall form, with black face, and horns, and a long, pointed beard, that springs to its feet and makes a rush for me—”

“It was the Devil, wasn’t it?” asked Joal, convinced that he had guessed aright.

We thought it was, for certain, for a while—but no; it was only an old billy-goat! but such a great, big fellow, you can’t imagine. I don’t believe any one ever saw his like.”

And Turubeta, a Basque from Zitzarry, was running on at the same time, in a voice, that, compared with the deep tones of the honest Bretons, seemed shrill and piercing as a fife.

“It was the Amazon who had informed on the poor beggar of a spy, don’t you see? Then the other fellow, the big black man, catches hold of him. ‘Come along to the beach,’ he says to him. ‘Come along, come along; I am going to chop off your head!’”

“And did he go?” inquired the sceptical Etcheverry—who was from Biarritz, where the sailors are beginning to acquire more modern ideas.

“Did he go? of course he did! Because he couldn’t help himself, don’t you see? the moment he was caught playing the spy he knew it was all up with him. He didn’t feel any too good over it, all the same, as you may suppose.”

And the Breton continued to reel off his yarn of mystery and darkness:

“The billy-goat was the only living soul on board the brig, and as she was carrying a cargo of barley in bulk, he had had plenty to eat. If I were to try to tell you how fat he was you wouldn’t believe me—”

“So he goes to work and binds the dirty spy’s hands behind his back,” Turubeta continued, “that way, with a rope of straw, such as they use to fasten their horses with in that beastly country, and makes him get down on his knees upon the sand, and begins to hack away at the back of his neck with his old cheese-toaster. But now that it was fairly begun, the other fellow didn’t want any more of it—oh, boys, you ought to have heard the fuss he made! And the Amazon grinned and showed her white teeth—see, like that—to show how glad she was, I suppose. Well, you may believe me or not, just as you choose, but his regulation sabre was so dull that he could not do the job with it, and in order to finish the business he had to go down into his pocket and bring out a cheap little knife that I myself had given him, and for which I paid old Mother Virginie, in the bazaar at Goree, ten sous when it was new.”

While the listeners were making merry over this original method of executing a death sentence, their neighbors, the Bretons, were brooding reflectively over the history of the abandoned brig and the black goat, and Jean, who, toward the conclusion of the two narratives, had bent his ear alternately to left and right to listen, smiled indulgently at the childish credulity of his shipmates; the sprightly song “Old Neptune” also inspired him with some of its irresistible, contagious gayety. He had never felt himself so completely and thoroughly a sailor as he did that evening. His anxieties for the future, which had been growing less troublesome with each succeeding day, now vanished entirely in the sensation of well-being and repose experienced by his weary body. He yielded himself up to the purely animal delight of living and breathing, on that pleasant evening, of feeling his muscles so hard and supple under his loosely fitting garments. He stretched himself at full length on the snow-white planks, which were his most frequent bed, and made a pillow of the man who chanced to be next to him, a neighborly courtesy to which no sailorman objects.

It was of all the twenty-four the enchanting hour on those summer seas where the gentle trade winds blow. For a moment he was conscious of the tall edifice of snowy canvas towering above his head and oscillating with a regular rhythmic movement upon the deep blue of the heavens; then the bright constellations of the southern sky blazed forth between the sails and rigging, now growing more shadowy and indistinct, and seemed to be playing a solemn game of hide and seek, vanishing at uniform intervals and reappearing, then hiding again, to commence afresh their stately evolutions in unison with the easy rolling of the vessel. At last they faded from his sight, and beneficent slumber, bearer of oblivion and peace, descended and sealed his eyes.



Jack Easy, the hero of Captain Marryat’s story, was “no fool, but a bit of a philosopher.” He had been spoiled by an indulgent mother and a foolish father, who was continually prosing about “equality and the rights of man.” Indeed, Jack could even out-talk his father upon this subject. “There was no end to Jack’s arguing the point, though there seldom was point to his argument.” At sixteen he resolved to leave school and go to sea; and though Mr. Easy was unwilling, Jack insisted on his “rights” as his father’s “equal,” and the old man yielded. He was to sail as midshipman on the sloop-of-war Harpy, with Captain Wilson, a relative of his father’s. He set out for Portsmouth with plenty of money in his pockets, and squandering this he loitered three weeks in the town without reporting to his ship. When Captain Wilson heard of this he sent Mr. Sawbridge, his lieutenant, to summon the boy. Mr. Sawbridge peremptorily ordered Jack on board; but the officer was not in uniform, and Jack did not understand naval etiquette. He pertly refused to go until he should be ready, arguing his “equality” with any officer. Lieutenant Sawbridge departed, threatening that if Jack did not appear that night a file of marines should arrest him in the morning. He reported Jack’s disobedience to the Captain, but the latter, hoping to undo the father’s foolish lessons, resolved to discipline the boy gradually and gently. He sent a note inviting him to breakfast at nine on the following morning, which invitation Jack politely accepted. The next few pages give Jack’s first experience of “equality” at sea.


(From Mr. Midshipman Easy.)


The next morning Jack Easy would have forgotten all about his engagement with the captain, had it not been for the waiter, who thought that after the reception which our hero had given the first lieutenant, it would be just as well that he should not be disrespectful to the captain. Now Jack had not hitherto put on his uniform, and he thought this a fitting occasion, particularly as the waiter suggested the propriety of his appearance in it. Whether it was from a presentiment of what he was to suffer, Jack was not at all pleased, as most lads are, with the change in his dress. It appeared to him that he was sacrificing his independence; however, he did not follow his first impulse, which was to take it off again, but took his hat, which the waiter had brushed and handed to him, and then set off for the captain’s lodgings. Captain Wilson received him as if he had not been aware of his delay in joining his ship, or his interview with his first lieutenant, but before breakfast was over, Jack himself narrated the affair in a few words. Captain Wilson then entered into a detail of the duties and rank of every person on board of the ship, pointing out to Jack that where discipline was required it was impossible, when duty was carried on, that more than one could command; and that that one was the captain, who represented the king in person, who represented the country; and that, as the orders were transmitted from the captain through the lieutenant, and from the lieutenant to the midshipmen, who, in their turn, communicated them to the whole ship’s company, in fact, it was the captain alone who gave the orders, and that every one was equally obliged to obey. Indeed, as the captain himself had to obey the orders of his superiors, the admiral and the admiralty, all on board might be said to be equally obliged to obey. Captain Wilson laid a strong emphasis on the word equally, as he cautiously administered his first dose; indeed, in the whole of his address he made use of special pleading, which would have done credit to the bar; for at the same time that he was explaining to Jack that he was entering a service in which equality could never for a moment exist, if the service was to exist, he contrived to show that all the grades were levelled, by all being equally bound to do their duty to their country, and that, in fact, whether a seaman obeyed his orders, or he obeyed the orders of his superior officer, they were in reality only obeying the orders of the country, which were administered through their channels.


Jack did not altogether like this view of the subject, and the captain took care not to dwell too long upon it. He then entered upon other details which he was aware would be more agreeable to Jack. He pointed out that the articles of war were the rules by which the service was to be guided, and that everybody, from the captain to the least boy in the ship, was equally bound to adhere to them—that a certain allowance of provisions and wine were allowed to each person on board, and that this allowance was the same to all; the same to the captain as to the boy; the same in quantity as in quality; every one equally entitled to his allowance; that, although there were, of necessity, various grades necessary in the service, and the captain’s orders were obliged to be passed and obeyed by all, yet still, whatever was the grade of the officer, they were equally considered as gentlemen. In short, Captain Wilson, who told the truth, and nothing but the truth, without telling the whole truth, actually made Jack fancy that he had at last found out that equality he had been seeking for in vain on shore, when, at last, he recollected the language used by Mr. Sawbridge the evening before, and asked the captain why that personage had so conducted himself. Now, as the language of Mr. Sawbridge was very much at variance with equality, Captain Wilson was not a little puzzled. However, he first pointed out that the first lieutenant was, at the time being, the captain, as he was the senior officer on board, as would Jack himself be if he were the senior officer on board; and that, as he before observed, the captain or senior officer represented the country. That in the articles of war, everybody who absented himself from the ship committed an error, or breach of those articles; and if any error or breach of those articles was committed by any one belonging to the ship, if the senior officer did not take notice of it, he then himself committed a breach of those articles, and was liable himself to be punished, if he could not prove that he had noticed it; it was therefore to save himself that he was obliged to point out the error; and if he did it in strong language, it only proved his zeal for his country.

“Upon my honor, then,” replied Jack, “there can be no doubt of his zeal; for if the whole country had been at stake, he could not have put himself in a greater passion.”

“Then he did his duty; but depend upon it, it was not a pleasant one to him; and I’ll answer for it, when you meet him on board, he will be as friendly with you as if nothing had happened.”

“He told me that he’d soon make me know what a first lieutenant was: what did he mean by that?” inquired Jack.

“All zeal.”

“Yes, but he said that as soon as he got on board, he’d show me the difference between a first lieutenant and a midshipman.”

“All zeal.”

“He said my ignorance should be a little enlightened by and by.”

“All zeal.”

“And that he’d send a sergeant and marines to fetch me.”

“All zeal.”

“That he would put my philosophy to the proof.”

“All zeal, Mr. Easy. Zeal will break out in this way; but we should do nothing in the service without it. Recollect that I hope and trust one day to see you also a zealous officer.”

Here Jack cogitated considerably, and gave no answer.

“You will, I am sure,” continued Captain Wilson, “find Mr. Sawbridge one of your best friends.”

“Perhaps so,” replied Jack; “but I did not much admire our first acquaintance.”

“It will perhaps be your unpleasant duty to find as much fault yourself; we are all equally bound to do our duty to our country. But, Mr. Easy, I sent for you to say that we shall sail to-morrow; and, as I shall send my things off this afternoon by the launch, you had better send yours off also. At eight o’clock I shall go on board, and we can both go in the same boat.”

To this Jack made no sort of objection, and having paid his bill at the Fountain, he sent his chest down to the boat by some of the crew who came up for it, and attended the summons of the captain to embark. By nine o’clock that evening Mr. Jack Easy was safe on board his majesty’s sloop Harpy.

When Jack arrived on board it was dark, and he did not know what to do with himself. The captain was received by the officers on deck, who took off their hats to salute him. The captain returned the salute, and so did Jack very politely, after which the captain entered into conversation with the first lieutenant, and for awhile Jack was left to himself. It was too dark to distinguish faces, and to one who had never been on board of a ship, too dark to move, so Jack stood where he was, which was not far from the main bitts, but he did not stay long; the boat had been hooked on to the quarter davits, and the boatswain had called out:

“Set taut, my lads!”

And then, with a shrill whistle, and “Away with her!” forward came galloping and bounding along the men with the tackles; and in the dark Jack was upset, and half a dozen marines fell upon him; the men, who had no idea that an officer was floored among the others, were pleased at the joke, and continued to dance over those who were down, until they rolled themselves out of the way. Jack, who did not understand this, fared badly, and it was not until the calls piped belay, that he could recover his legs, after having been trampled upon by half the starboard watch, and the breath completely jammed out of his body. Jack reeled to a carronade slide, when the officers, who had been laughing at the lark as well as the men, perceived his situation—among others, Mr. Sawbridge, the first lieutenant.

“Are you hurt, Mr. Easy?” said he, kindly.

“A little,” replied Jack, catching his breath.

“You’ve had but a rough welcome,” replied the first lieutenant, “but at certain times on board ship, it is every man for himself and God for us all. Harpur,” continued the first lieutenant to the doctor, “take Mr. Easy down in the gun-room with you, and I will be down myself as soon as I can. Where is Mr. Jolliffe?”

“Here, sir,” replied Mr. Jolliffe, a master’s mate, coming aft from the booms.

“There’s a youngster come on board with the captain. Order one of the quartermasters to get a hammock slung.”

In the meantime Jack went down into the gun-room, where a glass of wine somewhat recovered him. He did not stay there long, nor did he venture to talk much. As soon as his hammock was ready, Jack was glad to go to bed—and as he was much bruised he was not disturbed the next morning till past nine o’clock. He then dressed himself, went on deck, found that the sloop was just clear of the Needles, that he felt very queer, then very sick, and was conducted by a marine down below, put into his hammock, where he remained during a gale of wind of three days, bewildered, confused, puzzled, and every minute knocking his head against the beams with the pitching and tossing of the sloop.

“And this is going to sea,” thought Jack; “no wonder that no one interferes with another here, or talks about a trespass; for I’m sure any one is welcome to my share of the ocean; and if I once get on shore again, the devil may have my portion if he chooses.”


Captain Wilson and Mr. Sawbridge had both allowed Jack more leisure than most midshipmen, during his illness. By the time the gale was over the sloop was off Cape Finisterre. The next morning the sea was nearly down, and there was but a slight breeze on the waters. The comparative quiet of the night before had very much recovered our hero, and when the hammocks were piped up, he was accosted by Mr. Jolliffe, the master’s mate, who asked “whether he intended to rouse a bit, or whether he intended to sail to Gibraltar between his blankets.”

Jack, who felt himself quite another person, turned out of his hammock and dressed himself. A marine had, by the captain’s orders, attended Jack during his illness, and this man came to his assistance, opened his chest, and brought him all which he required, or Jack would have been in a sad dilemma.

Jack then inquired where he was to go, for he had not yet been in the midshipman’s berth, although five days on board. The marine pointed it out to him, and Jack, who felt excessively hungry, crawled over and between chests, until he found himself fairly in a hole infinitely inferior to the dog-kennels which received his father’s pointers.

“I’d not only give up the ocean,” thought Jack, “and my share of it, but also my share of the Harpy, unto any one who fancies it. Equality enough here! for every one appears equally miserably off.”

As he thus gave vent to his thoughts he perceived that there was another person in the berth—Mr. Jolliffe, the master’s mate, who had fixed his eye upon Jack, and to whom Jack returned the compliment. The first thing that Jack observed was, that Mr. Jolliffe was very deeply pockmarked, and that he had but one eye, and that was a piercer; it appeared like a little ball of fire, and as if it reflected more light from the solitary candle than the candle gave.

“I don’t like your looks,” thought Jack; “we shall never be friends.”

But here Jack fell into the common error of judging by appearances, as will be proved hereafter.

“I’m glad to see you up again, youngster,” said Jolliffe; “you’ve been on your beam ends longer than usual, but those who are strongest suffer most—you made your mind up but late to come to sea. However, they say, ‘Better late than never.’”

“I feel very much inclined to argue the truth of that saying,” replied Jack; “but it’s no use just now. I’m terribly hungry—when shall I get some breakfast?”

“To-morrow morning at half-past eight,” replied Mr. Jolliffe. “Breakfast for to-day has been over these two hours.”

“But must I then go without?”

“No, I do not say that, as we must make allowances for your illness; but it will not be breakfast.”

“Call it what you please,” replied Jack, “only pray desire the servants to give me something to eat. Dry toast or muffins—anything will do, but I should prefer coffee.”

“You forget that you are off Finisterre, in a midshipman’s berth; coffee we have none—muffins we never see—dry toast cannot be made, as we have no soft bread; but a cup of tea, and ship’s biscuit and butter, I can desire the steward to get ready for you.”

“Well, then,” replied Jack, “I will thank you to procure me that.”

“Marine,” cried Jolliffe, “call Mesty.”

“Pass the word for Mesty,” cried the marine—and the two syllables were handed forward until lost in the forepart of the vessel.

The person so named must be introduced to the reader. He was a curious anomaly—a black man who had been brought to America as a slave, and there sold.

He was a very tall, spare-built, yet muscular form, and had a face by no means common with his race. His head was long and narrow, high cheek-bones from whence his face descended down to almost a point at the chin; his nose was very small, but it was straight, and almost Roman; his mouth also was unusually small, and his lips thin for an African; his teeth very white, and filed to sharp points. He claimed the rank of prince in his own country, with what truth could not of course be substantiated. His master had settled at New York, and there Mesty had learned English, if it could be so called: the fact is, that all the emigrant laborers at New York being Irishmen, he had learned English with the strong brogue and peculiar phraseology of the sister kingdom, dashed with a little Yankeeism.

Having been told that there was no slavery in England, Mesty had concealed himself on board an English merchant vessel and escaped. On his arrival in England he had entered on board of a man-of-war. Having no name, it was necessary to christen him on the ship’s books, and the first lieutenant, who had entered him, struck with his remarkable expression of countenance, and being a German scholar, had named him Mephistopheles Faust, from whence his Christian name had been razéed to Mesty. Mesty in other points was an eccentric character; at one moment, when he remembered his lineage, he was proud to excess, at others he was grave and almost sullen—but when nothing either in daily occurrences or in his mind ran contrary, he exhibited the drollery so often found in his nation, with a spice of Irish humor, as if he had caught up the latter with his Irish brogue.

Mesty was soon seen coming aft, but almost double as he crouched under the beams, and taking large strides with his naked feet.

“By the powers, Massa Yolliffe, but it is not seasonable at all to send for me just now, anyhow, seeing how the praters are in the copper and so many blackguard ’palpeens all ready to change net for net, and better themselves by the same mistake, ’dam um.’”

“Mesty, you know I never send for you myself, or allow others to do so, unless it is necessary,” replied Jolliffe; “but this poor lad has eaten nothing since he has been on board and is very hungry—you must get him a little tea.”

“Is it tay you mane, sir? I guess, to make tay, in the first place I must ab water, and in the next must ab room in the galley to put the kettle on—and ’pose you wanted to burn the tip of your little finger just now, it’s not in the galley that you find a berth for it—and den the water before seven bells. I’ve a notion its just impassible.”

“But he must have something, Mesty.”

“Never mind the tea, then,” replied Jack, “I’ll take some milk.”

“Is it milk massa manes, and the bumboat woman on the oder side of the bay?”

“We have no milk, Mr. Easy; you forget that we are on the blue water,” replied Jolliffe, “and I really am afraid that you’ll have to wait till dinner-time. Mesty tells the truth.”

“I tell you what, Massa Yolliffe, it just seven bells, and if the young gentleman would instead of tay try a little out of the copper, it might keep him asy. It but a little difference, tay soup and pay soup. Now a bowl of that, with some nuts and a flourish of pepper, will do him good, anyhow.”

“Perhaps the best thing he can take, Mesty; get it as fast as you can.”

In a few minutes the black brought down a bowl of soup and whole peas swimming in it, put before our hero a tin bread-basket full of small biscuit, called midshipmen’s nuts, and the pepper-caster. Jack’s visions of tea, coffee, muffins, dry toast, and milk vanished as he perceived the mess; but he was very hungry, and he found it much better than he expected; and he moreover found himself much the better after he had swallowed it. It struck seven bells, and he accompanied Mr. Jolliffe on deck.

When Jack Easy had gained the deck he found the sun shining gayly, a soft air blowing from the shore, and the whole of the rigging and every part of the ship loaded with the shirts, trousers, and jackets of the seamen, which had been wetted during the heavy gale, and were now hanging up to dry; all the wet sails were also spread on the booms or triced up in the rigging, and the ship was slowly forging through the blue water. The captain and first lieutenant were standing on the gangway in converse, and the majority of the officers were with their quadrants and sextants ascertaining the latitude at noon. The decks were white and clean, the sweepers had just laid by their brooms, and the men were busy coiling down the ropes. It was a scene of cheerfulness, activity, and order, which lightened his heart after the four days of suffering, close air, and confinement, from which he had just emerged.

The captain, who perceived him, beckoned to him, asked him kindly how he felt, the first lieutenant also smiled upon him, and many of the officers, as well as his messmates, congratulated him upon his recovery.

The captain’s steward came up to him, touched his hat, and requested the pleasure of his company to dinner in the cabin. Jack was the essence of politeness, took off his hat, and accepted the invitation. Jack was standing on a rope which a seaman was coiling down; the man touched his hat and requested he be so kind as to take his foot off. Jack took his hat off his head in return, and his foot off the rope. The master touched his hat and reported twelve o’clock to the first lieutenant—the first lieutenant touched his hat and reported twelve o’clock to the captain—the captain touched his hat and told the first lieutenant to make it so. The officer of the watch touched his hat and asked the captain whether they should pipe to dinner—the captain touched his hat and said, “if you please.”

The midshipman received his orders, and touched his hat, which he gave to the head boatswain’s mate, who touched his hat, and then the calls whistled cheerily.

“Well,” thought Jack, “politeness seems to be the order of the day, and every one has an equal respect for the other.” Jack stayed on deck; he peeped through the ports, which were open, and looked down into the deep blue waves; he cast his eyes aloft, and watched the tall spars sweeping and tracing with their points, as it were, a small portion of the clear sky, as they acted in obedience to the motion of the vessel; he looked forward at the range of carronades which lined the sides of the deck, and then he proceeded to climb one of the carronades, and lean over the hammocks to gaze on the distant land.

“Young gentleman, get off those hammocks,” cried the master, who was officer of the watch, in a surly tone.

Jack looked round.

“Do you hear me, sir? I’m speaking to you,” said the master again.

Jack felt very indignant, and he thought that politeness was not quite so general as he supposed.

It happened that Captain Wilson was upon deck.

“Come here, Mr. Easy,” said the captain; “it is a rule in the service, that no one gets on the hammocks unless in case of emergency—I never do—nor the first lieutenant—nor any of the officers or men—therefore, upon the principle of equality, you must not do it either.”

“Certainly not, sir,” replied Jack, “but still I do not see why that officer in the shining hat should be so angry, and not speak to me as if I were a gentleman as well as himself.”

“I have already explained that to you, Mr. Easy.”

“Oh, yes, I recollect now, it’s zeal; but this zeal appears to me to be the only unpleasant thing in the service. It’s a pity, as you said, that the service cannot do without it.”

Captain Wilson laughed, and walked away, and shortly afterward, as he turned up and down the deck with the master, he hinted to him that he should not speak so sharply to a lad who had committed such a trifling error through ignorance. Now Mr. Smallsole, the master, who was a surly sort of a personage, and did not like even a hint of disapprobation of his conduct, although very regardless of the feeling of others, determined to pay this off on Jack the very first convenient opportunity. Jack dined in the cabin, and was very much pleased to find that every one drank wine with him, and that everybody at the captain’s table appeared to be on an equality. Before the dessert had been on the table five minutes, Jack became loquacious on his favorite topic; all the company stared with surprise at such an unheard-of doctrine being broached on board of a man-of-war; the captain argued the point, so as to controvert, without too much offending, Jack’s notions, laughing the whole time that the conversation was carried on.

It will be observed that this day may be considered as the first in which Jack really made his appearance on board, and it also was on the first day that Jack made known, at the captain’s table, his very peculiar notions. If the company at the captain’s table, which consisted of the second lieutenant, purser, Mr. Jolliffe, and one of the midshipmen, were astonished at such heterodox opinions being started in the presence of the captain, they were equally astonished at the cool, good-humored ridicule with which they were received by Captain Wilson. The report of Jack’s boldness, and every word and opinion that he had uttered (of course much magnified), was circulated that evening through the whole ship; it was canvassed in the gun-room by the officers, it was descanted upon by the midshipmen as they walked the deck; the captain’s steward held a levee abreast of the ship’s funnel, in which he narrated this new doctrine. The sergeant of marines gave his opinion, in his berth, that it was atrocious. The boatswain talked over the matter with the other warrant officers, till the grog was all gone, and then dismissed it as too dry a subject; and it was the general opinion of the ship’s company that as soon as they arrived at Gibraltar Bay, our hero would bid adieu to the service, either by being sentenced to death by a court-martial, or by being dismissed, and towed on shore on a grating. Others, who had more of the wisdom of the serpent, and who had been informed by Mr. Sawbridge that our hero was a lad who would inherit a large property, argued differently, and considered that Captain Wilson had very good reason for being so lenient—and among them was the second lieutenant. There were but four who were well inclined toward Jack—to wit, the captain, the first lieutenant, Mr. Jolliffe, the one-eyed master’s mate, and Mephistopheles, the black, who, having heard that Jack had uttered such sentiments, loved him with all his heart and soul.



(From Peter Simple.)


We continued our cruise along the coast, until we had run down into the Bay of Arcason, where we captured two or three vessels, and obliged many more to run on shore. And here we had an instance showing how very important it is that the captain of a man-of-war should be a good sailor, and have his ship in such discipline as to be strictly obeyed by his ship’s company. I heard the officers unanimously assert, after the danger was over, that nothing but the presence of mind which was shown by Captain Savage could have saved the ship and her crew. We had chased a convoy of vessels to the bottom of the bay: the wind was very fresh when we hauled off, after running them on shore; and the surf on the beach even at that time was so great, that they were certain to go to pieces before they could be got afloat again. We were obliged to double-reef the topsails as soon as we hauled to the wind, and the weather looked very threatening. In an hour afterwards, the whole sky was covered with one black cloud, which sank so low as nearly to touch our mast-heads, and a tremendous sea, which appeared to have risen up almost by magic, rolled in upon us, setting the vessel on a dead lee shore. As the night closed in, it blew a dreadful gale, and the ship was nearly buried with the press of canvas which she was obliged to carry: for had we sea-room, we should have been lying-to under storm staysails; but we were forced to carry on at all risks, that we might claw off shore. The sea broke over us as we lay in the trough, deluging us with water from the forecastle, aft, to the binnacles; and very often as the ship descended with a plunge, it was with such force that I really thought she would divide in half with the violence of the shock. Double breechings were rove on the guns, and they were further secured with tackles; and strong cleats nailed behind the trunnions; for we heeled over so much when we lurched, that the guns were wholly supported by the breechings and tackles, and had one of them broken loose it must have burst right through the lee side of the ship, and she must have foundered. The captain, first lieutenant, and most of the officers, remained on deck during the whole of the night; and really, what with the howling of the wind, the violence of the rain, the washing of the water about the decks, the working of the chain-pumps, and the creaking and groaning of the timbers, I thought that we must inevitably have been lost; and I said my prayers at least a dozen times during the night, for I felt it impossible to go to bed. I had often wished, out of curiosity, that I might be in a gale of wind; but I little thought it was to have been a scene of this description, or anything half so dreadful. What made it more appalling was, that we were on a lee shore, and the consultations of the captain and officers, and the eagerness with which they looked out for daylight, told us that we had other dangers to encounter besides the storm. At last the morning broke, and the look-out man upon the gangway called out, “Land on the lee beam!” I perceived the master dash his feet against the hammock-rails, as if with vexation, and walk away without saying a word, looking very grave.

“Up there, Mr. Wilson,” said the captain to the second lieutenant, “and see how far the land trends forward, and whether you can distinguish the point.” The second lieutenant went up the main-rigging, and pointed with his hand to about two points before the beam.

“Do you see two hillocks, inland?”

“Yes, sir,” replied the second lieutenant.

“Then it is so,” observed the captain to the master, “and if we weather it we shall have more sea-room. Keep her full, and let her go through the water; do you hear, quartermaster?”

“Ay, ay, sir.”

“Thus, and no nearer, my man. Ease her with a spoke or two when she sends; but be careful, or she’ll take the wheel out of your hands.”

It really was a very awful sight. When the ship was in the trough of the sea, you could distinguish nothing but a waste of tumultuous water; but when she was borne up on the summit of the enormous waves, you then looked down, as it were, upon a low, sandy coast, close to you, and covered with foam and breakers. “She behaves nobly,” observed the captain, stepping aft to the binnacle, and looking at the compass; “if the wind does not baffle us, we shall weather.” The captain had scarcely time to make the observation, when the sails shivered and flapped like thunder, “Up with the helm; what are you about, quartermaster?”

“The wind has headed us, sir,” replied the quartermaster, coolly.

The captain and master remained at the binnacle watching the compass; and when the sails were again full, she had broken off two points, and the point of land was only a little on the lee-bow.

“We must wear her round, Mr. Falcon. Hands, wear ship—ready, oh, ready.”

“She has come up again,” cried the master, who was at the binnacle.

“Hold fast there a minute. How’s her head now?”

“N.N.E., as she was before she broke off, sir.”

“Pipe belay,” said the captain. “Falcon,” continued he, “if she breaks off again we may have no room to wear; indeed, there is so little room now, that I must run the risk. Which cable was ranged last night—the best bower?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Jump down, then, and see it double-bitted and stoppered at thirty fathoms. See it well done—our lives may depend upon it.”

The ship continued to hold her course good; and we were within half a mile of the point, and fully expected to weather it, when again the wet and heavy sails flapped in the wind, and the ship broke off two points as before. The officers and seamen were aghast, for the ship’s head was right on to the breakers. “Luff now, all you can, quartermaster,” cried the captain. “Send the men aft directly. My lads, there is no time for words—I am going to club-haul the ship, for there is no room to wear. The only chance you have of safety is to be cool, watch my eye, and execute my orders with precision. Away to your stations for tacking ship. Hands by the best bower anchor. Mr. Wilson, attend below with the carpenter and his mates, ready to cut away the cable at the moment that I give the order. Silence there, fore and aft. Quartermaster, keep her full again for stays. Mind you ease the helm down when I tell you.” About a minute passed before the captain gave any further orders. The ship had closed-to within a quarter-mile of the beach, and the waves curled and topped around us, bearing us down upon the shore, which presented one continued surface of foam, extending to within half a cable’s length of our position. The captain waved his hand in silence to the quartermaster at the wheel, and the helm was put down. The ship turned slowly to the wind, pitching and chopping as the sails were spilling. When she had lost her way, the captain gave the order, “Let go the anchor. We will haul all at once, Mr. Falcon,” said the captain. Not a word was spoken; the men went to the fore brace, which had not been manned; most of them knew, although I did not, that if the ship’s head did not go round the other way, we should be on shore, and among the breakers, in half a minute. I thought at the time that the captain had said that he would haul all the yards at once, there appeared to be doubt or dissent on the countenance of Mr. Falcon; and I was afterwards told that he had not agreed with the captain; but he was too good an officer, and knew that there was no time for discussion, to make any remark: and the event proved that the captain was right. At last the ship was head to wind, and the captain gave the signal. The yards flew round with such a creaking noise, that I thought the masts had gone over the side, and the next moment the wind had caught the sails; and the ship, which for a moment or two had been on an even keel, careened over to her gunwale with its force. The captain, who stood upon the weather hammock-rails, holding by the main-rigging, ordered the helm a-midships, looked full at the sails, and then at the cable, which grew broad upon the weather-bow, and held the ship from nearing the shore. At last he cried, “Cut away the cable!” A few strokes of the axes were heard, and then the cable flew out of the hawse-hole in a blaze of fire, from the violence of the friction, and disappeared under a huge wave, which struck us on the chesstree, and deluged us with water fore and aft. But we were now on the other tack, and the ship regained her way, and we had evidently increased our distance from the land.

“My lads,” said the captain to the ship’s company, “you have behaved well, and I thank you; but I must tell you honestly that we have more difficulties to get through. We have to weather a point of the bay on this tack. Mr. Falcon, splice the main-brace, and call the watch. How’s her head, quartermaster?”

“S.W. by S. Southerly, sir.”

“Very well; let her go through the water;” and the captain, beckoning to the master to follow him, went down into the cabin. As our immediate danger was over, I went down into the berth to see if I could get anything for breakfast, where I found O’Brien and two or three more.

“By the powers, it was as nate a thing as ever I saw done,” observed O’Brien: “the slightest mistake as to time or management, and at this moment the flatfish would have been dubbing at our ugly carcases. Peter, you’re not fond of flatfish, are you, my boy? We may thank Heaven and the captain, I can tell you that, my lads; but now, where’s the chart, Robinson? Hand me down the parallel rules and compasses, Peter; they are in the corner of the shelf. Here we are now, a devilish sight too near this infernal point. Who knows how her head is?”

“I do, O’Brien: I heard the quartermaster tell the captain S.W. by S. Southerly.”

“Let me see,” continued O’Brien, “variation 2¼—leeway—rather too large an allowance of that, I’m afraid; but, however, we’ll give her 2½ points; the Diomede would blush to make any more, under any circumstances. Here—the compass—now, we’ll see;” and O’Brien advanced the parallel rule from the compass to the spot where the ship was placed on the chart. “Bother! you see, it’s as much as she’ll do to weather the other point now, on this tack, and that’s what the captain meant when he told us we had more difficulty. I could have taken my Bible oath that we were clear of everything, if the wind held.”

“See what the distance is, O’Brien,” said Robinson. It was measured, and proved to be thirteen miles. “Only thirteen miles; and if we do weather, we shall do very well, for the bay is deep beyond. It’s a rocky point, you see, just by way of variety. Well, my lads, I’ve a piece of comfort for you, anyhow. It’s not long that you’ll be kept in suspense, for by one o’clock this day you’ll either be congratulating each other upon your good luck, or you’ll be past praying for. Come, put up the chart, for I hate to look at melancholy prospects; and, steward, see what you can find in the way of comfort.” Some bread and cheese, with the remains of yesterday’s boiled pork, were put on the table, with a bottle of rum, procured at the time they “spliced the main brace”; but we were all too anxious to eat much, and one by one returned on deck to see how the weather was, and if the wind at all favored us. On deck the superior officers were in conversation with the captain, who expressed the same fear that O’Brien had in our berth. The men, who knew what they had to expect, were assembled in knots, looking very grave, but at the same time not wanting in confidence. They knew that they could trust to the captain, as far as skill or courage could avail them; and sailors are too sanguine to despair, even at the last moment. As for myself, I felt such admiration for the captain, after what I had witnessed that morning, that, whenever the idea came over me, that in all probability I should be lost in a few hours, I could not help acknowledging how much more serious it was that such a man should be lost to his country. I do not intend to say that it consoled me, but it certainly made me still more regret the chances with which we were threatened.

Before twelve o’clock the rocky point which we so much dreaded was in sight, broad on the lee bow; and if the low sandy coast appeared terrible, how much more did this, even at a distance. The captain eyed it for some minutes in silence, as if in calculation.

“Mr. Falcon,” said he, at last, “we must put the mainsail on her.”

“She never can bear it, sir.”

“She must bear it,” was the reply. “Send the men aft to the mainsheet. See that careful men attend the buntlines.”

The mainsail was set, and the effect of it upon the ship was tremendous. She careened over so that her lee channels were under the water; and when pressed by a sea, the lee side of the quarter-deck and gangway were afloat. She now reminded me of a goaded and fiery horse, mad with the stimulus applied; not rising as before, but forcing herself through whole seas, and dividing the waves, which poured in one continual torrent from the forecastle down upon the decks below. Four men were secured to the wheel—the sailors were obliged to cling to prevent being washed away—the ropes were thrown in confusion to leeward—the shot rolled out of the lockers, and every eye was fixed aloft, watching the masts, which were expected every moment to go over the side. A heavy sea struck us on the broadside, and it was some moments before the ship appeared to recover herself; she reeled, trembled, and stopped her way, as if it had stupefied her. The first lieutenant looked at the captain, as if to say, “This will not do.” “It is our only chance,” answered the captain to the appeal. That the ship went faster through the water, and held a better wind, was certain; but just before we arrived at the point the gale increased in force. “If anything starts we are lost, sir,” observed the first lieutenant again.

“I am perfectly well aware of it,” replied the captain, in a calm tone; “but, as I said before, and as you must now be aware, it is our only chance. The consequence of any carelessness or neglect in the fitting and securing of the rigging will be felt now; and this danger, if we escape it, ought to remind us how much we have to answer for if we neglect our duty. The lives of a whole ship’s company may be sacrificed by the neglect or incompetence of an officer when in harbor. I will pay you the compliment, Falcon, to say, that I feel convinced that the masts of the ship are as secure as knowledge and attention can make them.”

The first lieutenant thanked the captain for his good opinion, and hoped that it would not be the last compliment which he paid him.

“I hope not, too; but a few minutes will decide the point.”

The ship was now within two cables’ lengths of the rocky point; some few of the men I observed to clasp their hands, but most of them were silently taking off their jackets, and kicking off their shoes, that they might not lose a chance of escape provided the ship struck.

“’Twill be touch and go, indeed, Falcon,” observed the captain (for I had clung to the belaying pins, close to them for the last half-hour that the mainsail had been set). “Come aft, you and I must take the helm. We shall want nerve there, and only there, now.”


The captain and first lieutenant went aft, and took the fore-spokes of the wheel, and O’Brien, at a sign made by the captain, laid hold of the spokes behind him. An old quartermaster kept his station at the fourth. The roaring of the seas on the rocks, with the howling of the wind, were dreadful; but the sight was more dreadful than the noise. For a few moments I shut my eyes, but anxiety forced me to open them again. As near as I could judge, we were not twenty yards from the rocks, at the time that the ship passed abreast of them. We were in the midst of the foam, which boiled around us; and as the ship was driven nearer to them, and careened with the wave, I thought that our main yard-arm would have touched the rock; and at this moment a gust of wind came on, which laid the ship on her beam-ends, and checked her progress through the water, while the accumulating noise was deafening. A few moments more the ship dragged on, another wave dashed over her and spent itself upon the rocks, while the spray was dashed back from them, and returned upon the decks. The main rock was within ten yards of the counter, when another gust of wind laid us on our beam-ends, the foresail and mainsail split, and were blown clean out of the bolt-ropes—the ship righted, trembling fore and aft. I looked astern:—the rocks were to windward on our quarter, and we were safe. I thought at the time that the ship, relieved of her courses, and again lifting over the waves, was not a bad similitude of the relief felt by us all at that moment; and, like her, we trembled as we panted with the sudden reaction, and felt the removal of the intense anxiety which oppressed our breasts.

The captain resigned the helm, and walked aft to look at the point, which was now broad on the weather-quarter. In a minute or two, he desired Mr. Falcon to get new sails up and bend them, and then went below to his cabin. I am sure it was to thank God for our deliverance: I did most fervently, not only then, but when I went to my hammock at night. We were now comparatively safe—in a few hours completely so; for, strange to say, immediately after we had weathered the rocks, the gale abated, and before morning we had a reef out of the topsails.



Melville’s exciting sea-tale relates the adventures of the Pequod, a Nantucket whaler, in pursuit of the great white whale, Moby Dick, the terror of the sea. Ahab, the captain of the Pequod, a grim and grizzled old fellow, was half crazy with rage against the monster, who in a previous voyage had shorn off his leg at the knee. On each side of the Pequod’s deck an auger-hole was bored, where the skipper could steady his artificial leg of whale ivory. At the beginning of the voyage Ahab nailed to the mast a Spanish gold doubloon, promising it to the man who should raise “a white-headed whale with a wrinkled brow and crooked jaw, with three harpoon holes punctured in the starboard fluke.” Ahab’s three mates, Starbuck, Stubb and Flask, were Nantucket whalers. But the rest of the crew obeying this crazy captain was a miscellaneous collection of half-savages. Three chief harpooners were Tashtego, an American Indian, Daggoo, a gigantic coal-black negro, and Fedallah, a mysterious East Indian. The Pequod sailed from Nantucket, rounding Cape Horn to the Pacific, where Captain Ahab expected to meet his enemy somewhere in his favorite feeding-grounds along the Equator. They killed many whales, and had many wild adventures; but they were continually on the watch for Moby Dick, and sought tidings of the monster from every ship they met. Gradually the news became more definite and recent, until they met a whaler which on the previous day had encountered the great white whale, losing five good men thereby. Immediately Captain Ahab became wild with excitement, and ordered everyone to keep constant lookout. The story of “The Chase” begins at this point.


(From Moby Dick.)


That night, in the mid-watch, when the old man—as his wont at intervals—stepped forth from the scuttle in which he leaned, and went to his pivot-hole, he suddenly thrust out his face fiercely, snuffing up the sea air as a sagacious ship’s dog will, in drawing nigh to some barbarous isle. He declared that a whale must be near. Soon that peculiar odor, sometimes to a great distance given forth by the living sperm whale, was palpable to all the watch; nor was any mariner surprised when, after inspecting the compass, and then the dog-vane, and then ascertaining the precise bearing of the odor as nearly as possible, Ahab rapidly ordered the ship’s course to be slightly altered, and the sail to be shortened.

The acute policy dictating these movements was sufficiently vindicated at daybreak, by the sight of a long sleek on the sea directly and lengthwise ahead, smooth as oil, and resembling in the pleated watery wrinkles bordering it, the polished metallic-like marks of some swift tide-rip, at the mouth of a deep, rapid stream.

“Man the mast-heads! Call all hands!”

Thundering with the butts of three clubbed handspikes on the forecastle deck, Daggoo roused the sleepers with such judgment claps that they seemed to exhale from the scuttle, so instantaneously did they appear with their clothes in their hands. “What d’ye see?” cried Ahab, flattening his face to the sky.

“Nothing, nothing, sir!” was the sound hailing down in reply.

“T’ gallant-sails! stunsails alow and aloft, and on both sides!”

All sails being set, he now cast loose the life-line, reserved for swaying him to the main royal-masthead; and in a few moments they were hoisting him thither, when, while but two-thirds of the way aloft, and while peering ahead through the horizontal vacancy between the main-topsail and topgallant sail, he raised a gull-like cry in the air, “There, she blows!—there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!”

Fired by the cry which seemed simultaneously taken up by the three look-outs, the men on deck rushed to the rigging to behold the famous whale they had so long been pursuing. Ahab had now gained his final perch, some feet above the other lookouts, Tashtego standing just beneath him on the cap of the topgallant-mast, so that the Indian’s head was almost on a level with Ahab’s heel. From this height the whale was now seen some mile or so ahead, at every roll of the sea revealing his high sparkling hump, and regularly jetting his silent spout into the air. To the incredulous mariners it seemed the same silent spout they had so long ago beheld in the moonlit Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

“And did none of ye see it before?” cried Ahab, hailing the perched men all around him.

“I saw him almost that same instant, sir, that Captain Ahab did, and I cried out,” said Tashtego.

“Not the same instant; not the same—no, the doubloon is mine, Fate reserved the doubloon for me. I only; none of ye could have raised the white whale first. There she blows! there she blows!—there she blows! There again!—there again!” he cried, in long-drawn, lingering, methodic tones, attuned to the gradual prolongings of the whale’s visible jets. “He’s going to sound! In stunsails! Down topgallant-sails! Stand by three boats. Mr. Starbuck, remember, stay on board, and keep the ship. Helm there! Luff, luff a point! So; steady, man, steady! There go flukes! No, no; only black water! All ready the boats there? Stand by, stand by! Lower me, Mr. Starbuck; lower, lower,—quick, quicker!” and he slid through the air to the deck.

“He is heading straight to leeward, sir,” cried Stubb, “right away from us; cannot have seen the ship yet.”

“Be dumb, man! Stand by the braces! Hard down the helm!—brace up! Shiver her!—shiver her! So; well that! Boats, boats!”

Soon all the boats but Starbuck’s were dropped; all the boat-sails set—all the paddles plying; with rippling swiftness, shooting to leeward; and Ahab heading the onset. A pale, death-glimmer lit up Fedallah’s sunken eyes; a hideous motion gnawed his mouth.


Like noiseless nautilus shells, their light prows sped through the sea; but only slowly they neared the foe. As they neared him, the ocean grew still more smooth; seemed drawing a carpet over its waves; seemed a noon-meadow, so serenely it spread. At length the breathless hunter came so nigh his seemingly unsuspecting prey, that his entire dazzling hump was distinctly visible, sliding along the sea as if an isolated thing, and continually set in a revolving ring of finest, fleecy, greenish foam. We saw the vast involved wrinkles of the slightly projecting head beyond. Before it, far out on the soft Turkish-rugged waters, went the glistening white shadow from his broad, milky forehead, a musical rippling playfully accompanying the shade; and behind, the blue waters interchangeably flowed over into the moving valley of his steady wake; and on either hand bright bubbles arose and danced by his side. But these were broken again by the light toes of hundreds of gay fowl softly feathering the sea, alternate with their fitful flight; and like to some flag-staff rising from the painted hull of an argosy, the tall but shattered pole of a recent lance projected from the white whale’s back; and and intervals one of the cloud of soft-toed fowls hovering, and to and fro skimming like a canopy over the fish, silently perched and rocked on this pole, the long tail feathers streaming like pennons.

A gentle joyousness—a mighty mildness of repose in swiftness, invested the gliding whale. Not the white bull Jupiter swimming away with ravished Europa clinging to his graceful horns; his lovely, leering eyes sideways intent upon the maid; with smooth bewitching fleetness, rippling straight for the nuptial bower in Crete; not Jove, not that great majesty Supreme! did surpass the glorified white whale as he so divinely swam.

On each soft side—coincident with the parted swell, that but once leaving him, then flowed so wide away—on each bright side, the whale shed off enticings. No wonder there had been some among the hunters who namelessly transported and allured by all this serenity, had ventured to assail it; but had fatally found that quietude but the vesture of tornadoes. Yet calm, enticing calm, oh, whale! thou glidest on, to all who for the first time eye thee, no matter how many in that same way thou may’st have bejuggled and destroyed before.

And thus, through the serene tranquillities of the tropical sea, among waves whose hand-clappings were suspended by exceeding rapture, Moby Dick moved on, still withholding from sight the full terrors of his submerged trunk, entirely hiding the wretched hideousness of his jaw. But soon the fore part of him slowly rose from the water; for an instant his whole marbleized body formed a high arch, like Virginia’s Natural Bridge, and warningly waving his bannered flukes in the air, the grand god revealed himself, sounded, and went out of sight. Hoveringly halting, and dipping on the wing, the white sea-fowls longingly lingered over the agitated pool that he left.

With oars apeak, and paddles down, the sheets of their sails adrift, the three boats now stilly floated, awaiting Moby Dick’s reappearance.

“An hour,” said Ahab, standing rooted in his boat’s stern; and he gazed beyond the whale’s place, towards the dim blue spaces and wide wooing vacancies to leeward. It was only an instant; for again his eyes seemed whirling round in his head as he swept the watery circle. The breeze now freshened. The sea began to swell.

“The birds! the birds!” cried Tashtego.

In long Indian file, as when herons take wing, the white birds were now all flying towards Ahab’s boat; and when within a few yards began fluttering over the water there, wheeling round and round, with joyous, expectant cries. Their vision was keener than man’s. Ahab could discover no sign in the sea. But suddenly as he peered down and down into its depths, he profoundly saw a white living spot no bigger than a white weasel, with wonderful celerity uprising, and magnifying as it rose, till it turned, and then there were plainly revealed two long crooked rows of white, glistening teeth, floating up the undiscoverable bottom. It was Moby Dick’s open mouth and scrolled jaw; his vast, shadowed bulk still half blending with the blue of the sea. The glittering mouth yawned beneath the boat like an open-doored marble tomb; and giving one sidelong sweep with his steering oar, Ahab whirled the craft aside from this tremendous apparition. Then, calling upon Fedallah to change places with him, he went forward to the bows, and seizing Perth’s harpoon, commanded his crew to grasp their oars and stand by to stern.


Now, by reason of this timely spinning round the boat upon its axis, its bow, by anticipation, was made to face the whale’s head while yet under water. But as if perceiving this stratagem, Moby Dick, with that malicious intelligence ascribed to him, sidelingly transplanted himself, as it were, in an instant, shooting his plated head lengthwise beneath the boat.

Through and through; through every plank and each rib, it thrilled for an instant, the whale obliquely lying on his back, in the manner of a biting shark, slowly and feelingly taking its bows full within his mouth, so that the long, narrow, scrolled lower jaw curled high up into the open air, and one of the teeth caught in a row-lock. The bluish pearl-white of the inside of the jaw was within six inches of Ahab’s head, and reached higher than that. In this attitude the white whale now shook the slight cedar as a mildly cruel cat her mouse. With unastonished eyes Fedallah gazed, and crossed his arms; but the tiger-yellow crew were tumbling over each other’s heads to gain the uttermost stern.

And now, while both elastic gunwales were springing in and out as the whale dallied with the doomed craft in this devilish way, and from his body being submerged beneath the boat, he could not be darted at from the bows, for the bows were almost inside of him, as it were; and while the other boats involuntarily paused, as before a quick crisis impossible to withstand, then it was that monomaniac Ahab, furious with this tantalizing vicinity of his foe, which placed him alive and helpless in the very jaws he hated; frenzied with all this, he seized the long bone with his naked hands, and wildly strove to wrench it from its grip. As now he thus vainly strove, the jaw slipped from him; the frail gunwales bent in, collapsed, and snapped, as both jaws, like an enormous shears, sliding further aft, bit the craft completely in twain, and locked themselves fast again in the sea, midway between the two floating wrecks. These floated aside, the broken ends drooping, the crew at the stern-wreck clinging to the gunwales, and striving to hold fast to the oars to lash them across.

At that preluding moment, ere the boat was yet snapped, Ahab, the first to perceive the whale’s intent, by the crafty upraising of his head, a movement that loosed his head for the time; at that moment his hand had made one final effort to push the boat out of the bite. But only slipping further into the whale’s mouth, and tilting over sideways as it slipped, the boat had shaken off his hold on the jaw, spilled him out of it as he leaned to push, and so he fell flat-faced upon the sea.

Ripplingly withdrawing from his prey, Moby Dick now lay at a little distance, vertically thrusting his oblong white head up and down in the billows, and at the same time slowly revolving his whole spindled body, so that when his vast wrinkled forehead rose—some twenty or more feet out of the water—the now rising swells, with all their confluent waves, dazzling broke against it, vindictively tossing their shivered spray still higher into the air.[1]

But soon resuming his horizontal attitude, Moby Dick swam swiftly round and round the wrecked crew, sideways, churning the water in his vengeful wake, as if lashing himself up to still another and more deadly assault. The sight of the splintered boat seemed to madden him, as the blood of grapes and mulberries cast before Antiochus’s elephants in the book of Maccabees. Meanwhile Ahab, half smothered in the foam of the whale’s insolent tail, and too much of a cripple to swim,—though he could still keep afloat, even in the heart of such a whirlpool as that,—helpless Ahab’s head was seen, like a tossed bubble which the least chance shock might burst. From the boat’s fragmentary stern, Fedallah incuriously and mildly eyed him; the clinging crew, at the other drifting end, could not succor him; more than enough was it for them to look to themselves. For so revolvingly appalling was the white whale’s aspect, and so planetarily swift the ever-contracting circles he made, that he seemed horizontally swooping upon them. And though the other boats, unharmed, still hovered hard by, still they dared not pull into the eddy to strike, lest that should be the signal for the instant destruction of the jeopardized castaways, Ahab and all; nor in that case could they themselves hope to escape. With straining eyes, then, they remained on the outer edge of the direful zone, whose centre had now become the old man’s head.

Meantime, from the beginning all this had been descried from the ship’s mastheads; and squaring her yards, she had borne down upon the scene, and was now so nigh that Ahab in the water hailed her. “Sail on the—” but that moment a breaking sea dashed on him from Moby Dick, and whelmed him for the time. But struggling out of it again, and chancing to rise on a towering crest, he shouted, “Sail on the whale!—Drive him off!”

The Pequod’s prows were pointed; and breaking up the charmed circle, she effectually parted the white whale from his victim. As he sullenly swam off, the boats flew to the rescue.

Dragged into Stubb’s boat with blood-shot, blinded eyes, the white brine caking in his wrinkles, the long tension of Ahab’s bodily strength did crack, and helplessly he yielded to his body’s doom: for a time, lying all crushed in the bottom of Stubb’s boat, like one trodden under foot of herds of elephants. Far inland, nameless wails came from him, as desolate sounds from out ravines.

But this intensity of his physical prostration did but so much the more abbreviate it. In an instant’s compass great hearts sometimes condense to one great pang, the sum total of those shallow pains kindly diffused through feebler men’s whole lives. And so, such hearts, though summary in each one suffering, still (if the gods decree it) in their lifetime aggregate a whole age of woe, wholly made up of instantaneous intensities; for even in their pointless centres those noble natures contain the entire circumferences of inferior souls.

“The harpoon,” said Ahab, half-way rising, and draggingly leaning on one bended arm, “is it safe?”

“Aye, sir, for it was not darted; this is it,” said Stubb, showing it.

“Lay it before me; any missing men?”

“One, two, three, four, five; there were five oars, sir, and here are five men.”

“That’s good. Help me, man; I wish to stand. So, so, I see him! there! there! going to leeward still; what a leaping spout!—Hands off from me! The eternal sap runs up in Ahab’s bones again! Set the sail; out oars; the helm!”

It is often the case that when a boat is stove, its crew, being picked up by another boat, help to work that second boat; and the chase is thus continued with what is called double-banked oars. It was thus now. But the added power of the boat did not equal the added power of the whale, for he seemed to have treble-banked his every fin—swimming with a velocity which plainly showed that if now, under these circumstances, pushed on, the chase would prove an indefinitely prolonged (if not a hopeless) one; nor could any crew endure for so long a period such an unintermitted, intense straining at the oar—a thing barely tolerable only in some one brief vicissitude. The ship itself, then, as it sometimes happens, offered the most promising intermediate means of overtaking the chase. Accordingly, the boats now made for her, and were soon swayed up to their cranes—the two parts of the wrecked boat having been previously secured by her; and then hoisting everything to her side, and stacking her canvas high up, and sideways outstretching it with stun-sails, like the double-jointed wings of an albatross, the Pequod bore down in the wake of Moby Dick. At the well-known, methodic intervals, the whale’s glittering spout was regularly announced from the manned mastheads; and when he would be reported as just gone down, Ahab would take the time, and then pacing the deck, binnacle-watch in hand, so soon as the last second of the allotted hour expired, his voice was heard. “Whose is the doubloon now? D’ye see him?” And if the reply was, “No, sir,” straightway he commanded them to lift him to his perch. In this way the day wore on; Ahab, now aloft and motionless; anon, unrestingly pacing the planks.

As he was thus walking, uttering no sound, except to hail the men aloft, or to bid them to hoist a sail still higher, or to spread one to a still greater breadth, thus to and fro pacing, beneath his slouched hat, at every turn he passed his own wrecked boat, which had been dropped upon the quarter-deck, and lay there reversed; broken bow to shattered stern. At last he paused before it; and as in an already over-clouded sky fresh troops of clouds will sometimes sail across, so over the old man’s face there now stole some such added gloom as this.

Stubb saw him pause; and perhaps intending, not vainly, though, to evince his own unabated fortitude, and thus keep up a valiant place in his captain’s mind, he advanced, and eying the wreck exclaimed, “The thistle the ass refused. It pricked his mouth too keenly, sir; ha! ha!”

“What soulless thing is this that laughs before a wreck? Man, man! did I not know thee brave as fearless fire (and as mechanical) I could swear thou wert a poltroon. Groan nor laugh should be heard before a wreck.”

“Aye, sir,” said Starbuck drawing near, “’tis a solemn sight; an omen, and an ill one.”

“Omen? omen?—the dictionary! If the gods think to speak outright to man, they will honorably speak outright; not shake their heads, and give an old wife’s darkling hint. Begone! Ye two are the opposite poles of one thing. Starbuck is Stubb reversed, and Stubb is Starbuck; and ye two are all mankind; and Ahab stands alone among the millions of the peopled earth, nor gods nor men his neighbors! Cold, cold—I shiver! How now? Aloft there! D’ye see him? Sing out for every spout, though he spout ten times a second!”

The day was nearly done; only the hem of his golden robe was rustling. Soon, it was almost dark, but the look-out men still remained unset.

“Can’t see the spout now, sir;—too dark,” cried a voice from the air.

“How heading when last seen?”

“As before, sir,—straight to leeward.”

“Good! he will travel slower now ’tis night. Down royals and top-gallant stun-sails, Mr. Starbuck. We must not run over him before morning. He’s making a passage now, and may heave-to a while. Helm there! keep her full before the wind!—Aloft! come down!—Mr. Stubb, send a fresh hand to the foremast head, and see it manned till morning.” Then advancing towards the doubloon in the mainmast, “Men, this gold is mine, for I earned it; but I shall let it abide here till the white whale is dead; and then, whosoever of ye first raises him, upon the day he shall be killed, this gold is that man’s; and if on that day I shall again raise him, then, ten times its sum shall be divided among all of ye! Away now!—the deck is thine, sir.”

And so saying, he placed himself halfway within the scuttle, and slouching his hat, stood there till dawn, except when at intervals rousing himself to see how the night wore on....


[1] This motion is peculiar to the sperm whale. It receives its designation (pitchpoling) from its being likened to that preliminary up-and-down poise of the whale-lance, in the exercise called pitchpoling. By this motion the whale must best and most comprehensively view whatever objects may be encircling him. So, in a gale, the but half-baffled Channel billows only recoil from the base of the Eddystone, triumphantly to overleap its summit with their scud.



(From White-Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War.)


Through drizzling fogs and vapors, and under damp, double-topsails, our wet-decked frigate drew nearer and nearer to the squally Cape.

Who has not heard of it? Cape Horn, Cape Horn—a horn indeed, that has tossed many a good ship. Was the descent of Orpheus, Ulysses, or Dante into Hell, one whit more hardy and sublime than the first navigator’s weathering of that terrible Cape. Turned on her heel by a fierce west wind, many an outward-bound ship has been driven across the southern Ocean to the Cape of Good Hope—that way to seek a passage to the Pacific. And that stormy Cape, I doubt not, has sent many a fine craft to the bottom, and told no tales. At those ends of the earth are no chronicles. What signify the broken spars and shrouds that, day after day, are driven before the prows of more fortunate vessels? or the tall masts, imbedded in icebergs, that are found floating by? They but hint the old story—of ships that have sailed from their ports, and never more have been heard of.


Impracticable Cape! You may approach it from this direction or that—in any way you please, from the east or from the west; with the wind astern, or abeam, or on the quarter; and still Cape Horn is Cape Horn. Cape Horn it is that takes the conceit out of fresh-water sailors, and steeps in a still salter brine the saltest. Woe betide the tyro; the fool-hardy, Heaven preserve!

Your Mediterranean captain, who with a cargo of oranges has hitherto made merry runs across the Atlantic, without so much as furling a t’-gallant-sail, oftentimes, off Cape Horn, receives a lesson which he carries to the grave; though the grave—as is too often the case—follows so hard on the lesson that no benefit comes from the experience.

Other strangers who draw nigh to this Patagonian termination of our Continent, with their souls full of its shipwrecks and disasters—topsails cautiously reefed and everything guarded snug—these strangers at first unexpectedly encountering a tolerably smooth sea, rashly conclude that the Cape, after all, is but a bugbear; they have been imposed upon by fables, and founderings and sinkings hereabouts are all cock-and-bull stories.

“Out reefs, my hearties; fore and aft set t’-gallant-sails! stand by to give her the fore-topmast stun’-sail!”

But, Captain Rash, those sails of yours were much safer in the sailmaker’s loft. For now, while the heedless craft is bounding over the billows, a black cloud rises out of the sea; the sun drops down from the sky; and horrible mist far and wide spreads over the water.

“Hands by the halyards! Let go! Clew up!”

Too late.

For ere the ropes’ ends can be cast off from the pins, the tornado is blowing down to the bottom of their throats. The masts are willows, the sails ribbons, the cordage wool; the whole ship is brewed into the yeast of the gale.

And now, if, when the first green sea breaks over him, Captain Rash is not swept overboard, he has his hands full to be sure. In all probability his three masts have gone by the board, and, ravelled into list, his sails are floating in the air. Or, perhaps, the ship broaches to, or is brought by the lee. In either case, Heaven help the sailors, their wives and their little ones; and Heaven help the underwriters.

Familiarity with danger makes a brave man braver, but less daring. Thus with seamen: he who goes the oftenest round Cape Horn goes the most circumspectly. A veteran mariner is never deceived by the treacherous breezes which sometimes waft him pleasantly toward the latitude of the Cape. No sooner does he come within a certain distance of it—previously fixed in his own mind—than all hands are turned to setting the ship in storm trim; and never mind how light the breeze, down come his t’-gallant-yards. He “bends” his strongest storm-sails, and lashes everything on deck securely. The ship is then ready for the worst; and if, in reeling round the headland, she receives a broadside, it generally goes well with her. If ill, all hands go to the bottom with quiet consciences.

Among sea-captains, there are some who seem to regard the genius of the Cape as a wilful, capricious jade, that must be courted and coaxed into complaisance. First, they come along under easy sails; do not steer boldly for the headland, but tack this way and that—sidling up to it. Now they woo the Jezebel with t’-gallant-studding-sail; anon, they deprecate her wrath with double-reefed-topsails. When, at length, her inappeasable fury is fairly aroused, and all round the dismantled ship the storm howls and howls for days together, they still persevere in their efforts. First, they try unconditional submission; furling every rag and heaving to; lying like a log, for the tempest to toss wheresoever it pleases.

This failing, they set a spencer or trysail, and shift on the other tack. Equally vain! The gale sings as hoarsely as before. At last, the wind comes round fair; they drop the foresail; square the yards, and scud before it; their implacable foe chasing them with tornadoes, as if to show her insensibility to the last.

Other ships, without encountering these terrible gales, spend week after week endeavoring to turn this boisterous world-corner against a continual head-wind. Tacking hither and thither, in the language of sailors they polish the Cape by beating about its edges so long.

Le Mair and Schouten, two Dutchmen, were the first navigators who weathered Cape Horn. Previous to this, passages have been made to the Pacific by the Straits of Magellan; nor, indeed, at that period, was it known to a certainty that there was any other route, or that the land now called Terra del Fuego was an island. A few leagues southward from Terra del Fuego is a cluster of small islands, the Diegoes; between which and the former island are the Straits of Le Mair, so called in honor of their discoverer, who first sailed through them into the Pacific. Le Mair and Schouten, in their small, clumsy vessels, encountered a series of tremendous gales, the prelude to the long train of similar hardships which most of their followers have experienced. It is a significant fact, that Schouten’s vessel, the Horne, which gave its name to the Cape, was almost lost in weathering it.

The next navigator round the Cape was Sir Francis Drake, who, on Raleigh’s Expedition, beholding for the first time, from the Isthmus of Darien, the “goodly South Sea,” like a true-born Englishman, vowed, please God, to sail an English ship thereon; which the gallant sailor did, to the sore discomfort of the Spaniards on the coasts of Chile and Peru.

But perhaps the greatest hardships on record, in making this celebrated passage, were those experienced by Lord Anson’s squadron in 1736. Three remarkable and most interesting narratives record their disasters and sufferings. The first, jointly written by the carpenter and gunner of the Wager; the second by young Byron, a midshipman in the same ship; the third, by the chaplain of the Centurion. White-Jacket has them all; and they are fine reading of a boisterous March night, with the casement rattling in your ear, and the chimney-stacks blowing down upon the pavement, bubbling with rain-drops.


But if you want the best idea of Cape Horn, get my friend Dana’s unmatchable “Two Years Before the Mast.” But you can read, and so you must have read it. His chapters describing Cape Horn must have been written with an icicle.

At the present day the horrors of the Cape have somewhat abated. This is owing to a growing familiarity with it; but, more than all, to the improved condition of ships in all respects, and the means now generally in use of preserving the health of the crews in times of severe and prolonged exposure....

Ere the calm had yet left us, a sail had been discerned from the fore-topmasthead, at a great distance, probably three leagues or more. At first it was a mere speck, altogether out of sight from the deck. By the force of attraction, or something equally inscrutable, two ships in a calm, and equally affected by the currents, will always approximate more or less. Though there was not a breath of wind, it was not a great while before the strange sail was descried from our bulwarks; gradually it drew still nearer.

What was she, and whence? There is no object which so excites interest and conjecture, and, at the same time, baffles both, as a sail, seen as a mere speck on these remote seas off Cape Horn.

A breeze! a breeze! for lo! the stranger is now perceptibly nearing the frigate; the officer’s spyglass pronounces her a full-rigged ship, with all sail set, and coming right down to us, though in our own vicinity the calm still reigns.

She is bringing the wind with her. Hurrah! Ay, there it is! Behold how mincingly it creeps over the sea, just ruffling and crisping it.

Our top-men were at once sent aloft to loose the sails, and presently they faintly began to distend. As yet we hardly had steerage-way. Toward sunset the stranger bore down before the wind, a complete pyramid of canvas. Never before, I venture to say, was Cape Horn so audaciously insulted. Stun’-sails alow and aloft; royals, moonsails, and everything else. She glided under our stern, within hailing distance, and the signal-quarter-master ran up our ensign to the gaff.

“Ship ahoy!” cried the lieutenant of the watch, through his trumpet.

“Halloa!” bawled an old fellow in a green jacket, clapping one hand to his mouth, while he held on with the other to the mizzen-shrouds.

“What ship’s that?”

“The Sultan, Indiaman, from New York, and bound to Callao and Canton, sixty days out, all well. What frigate’s that?”

“The United States ship Neversink, homeward bound.”

“Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!” yelled our enthusiastic countryman, transported with patriotism.

By this time the Sultan had swept past, but the lieutenant of the watch could not withhold a parting admonition.

“D’ye hear? You’d better take in some of your flying-kites there. Look out for Cape Horn!”

But the friendly advice was lost in the now increasing wind. With a suddenness by no means unusual in these latitudes, the light breeze soon became a succession of sharp squalls, and our sail-proud braggadocio of an Indiaman was observed to let everything go by the run, his t’gallant-stun’-sails and flying-jib taking quick leave of the spars; the flying-jib was swept into the air, rolled together for a few minutes, and tossed about in the squalls like a football. But the wind played no such pranks with the more prudently managed canvas of the Neversink, though before many hours it was stirring times with us.

About midnight, when the starboard watch, to which I belonged, was below, the boatswain’s whistle was heard, followed by the shrill cry of “All hands take in sail! jump, men, and save the ship!”

Springing from our hammocks, we found the frigate leaning over to it so steeply, that it was with difficulty we could climb the ladders leading to the upper deck.

Here the scene was awful. The vessel seemed to be sailing on her side. The main-deck guns had several days previous been run in and housed, and the portholes closed, but the lee carronades on the quarter-deck and forecastle were plunging through the sea, which undulated over them in milk-white billows of foam. With every lurch to leeward the yard-arm-ends seemed to dip in the sea, while forward the spray dashed over the bows in cataracts, and drenched the men who were on the fore-yard. By this time the deck was alive with the whole strength of the ship’s company, five hundred men, officers and all, mostly clinging to the weather bulwarks. The occasional phosphorescence of the yeasting sea cast a glare upon their uplifted faces, as a night fire in a populous city lights up the panic-stricken crowd.

In a sudden gale, or when a large quantity of sail is suddenly to be furled, it is the custom for the first lieutenant to take the trumpet from whoever happens then to be officer of the deck. But Mad Jack had the trumpet that watch; nor did the first lieutenant now seek to wrest it from his hands. Every eye was upon him, as if we had chosen him from among us all, to decide this battle with the elements, by single combat with the spirit of the Cape; for Mad Jack was the saving genius of the ship, and so proved himself that night. I owe this right hand, that at this moment is flying over my sheet, and all my present being to Mad Jack. The ship’s bows were now butting, battering, ramming and thundering over and upon the head seas, and with a horrible wallowing sound our whole hull was rolling in the trough of the foam. The gale came athwart the deck, and every sail seemed bursting with its wild breath.

At the Wheel During a Storm.

At the Wheel During a Storm.

All the quartermasters, and several of the forecastle-men, were swarming round the double-wheel on the quarter-deck, some jumping up and down, with their hands upon the spokes; for the whole helm and galvanized keel were fiercely feverish with the life imparted to them by the tempest.

“Hard up the helm!” shouted Captain Claret, bursting from his cabin like a ghost, in his nightdress.

“Curse you!” raged Mad Jack to the quartermasters; “hard down, hard down, I say.”

Contrary orders! But Mad Jack’s were obeyed. His object was to throw the ship into the wind, so as the better to admit of close-reefing the topsails. But though the halyards were let go, it was impossible to clew down the yards, owing to the enormous horizontal strain on the canvas. It now blew a hurricane. The spray flew over the ship in floods. The gigantic masts seemed about to snap under the world-wide strain of the three entire topsails.

“Clew down! clew down!” shouted Mad Jack, husky with excitement, and in a frenzy, beating his trumpet against one of the shrouds. But, owing to the slant of the ship, the thing could not be done. It was obvious that before many minutes something must go—either sails, rigging, or sticks; perhaps the hull itself, and all hands.

Presently a voice from the top exclaimed that there was a rent in the main-topsail. And instantly we heard a report like two or three muskets discharged together; the vast sail was rent up and down like the veil of the Temple. This saved the mainmast; for the yard was now clewed down with comparative ease, and the top-men laid out to stow the shattered canvas. Soon the two remaining topsails were also clewed down and close reefed.

Above all the roar of the tempest and the shouts of the crew, was heard the dismal tolling of the ship’s bell—almost as large as that of a village church—which the violent rolling of the ship was occasioning. Imagination cannot conceive the horror of such a sound in a night tempest at sea.

“Stop that ghost!” roared Mad Jack; “away, one of you, and wrench off the clapper!”

But no sooner was this ghost gagged than a still more appalling sound was heard, the rolling to and fro of the heavy shot, which, on the gun-deck, had broken loose from the gun-racks, and converted that part of the ship into an immense bowling-alley. Some hands were sent down to secure them; but it was as much as their lives were worth. Several were maimed; and the midshipmen who were ordered to see the duty performed reported it impossible, until the storm had abated.

The most terrific job of all was to furl the mainsail, which, at the commencement of the squalls, had been clewed up, coaxed and quieted as much as possible with the bunt-lines and slab-lines. Mad Jack waited some time for a lull, ere he gave an order so perilous to be executed; for to furl this enormous sail in such a gale, required at least fifty men on the yard, whose weight, superadded to that of the ponderous stick itself, still further jeopardized their lives. But there was no prospect of a cessation of the gale, and the order was at last given.

At this time a hurricane of slanting sleet and hail was descending upon us; the rigging was coated with a thin glare of ice, formed within the hour.

“Aloft, main-yard men! and all you main-top men! and furl the mainsail!” cried Mad Jack.

I dashed down my hat, slipped out of my quilted jacket in an instant, kicked the shoes from my feet, and, with a crowd of others, sprang for the rigging. Above the bulwarks (which in a frigate are so high as to afford much protection to those on deck) the gale was horrible. The sheer force of the wind flattened out to the rigging as we ascended, and every hand seemed congealing to the icy shrouds by which we held.

“Up, up, my brave hearties!” shouted Mad Jack; and up we got, some way or other, all of us, and groped our way out on the yard-arms.

“Hold on, every mother’s son!” cried an old quarter-gunner at my side. He was bawling at the top of his compass; but in the gale, he seemed to be whispering, and I only heard him from his being right to windward of me.

But his hint was unnecessary; I dug my nails into the jackstays, and swore that nothing but death should part me and them until I was able to turn round and look to windward. As yet this was impossible; I could scarcely hear the man to leeward at my elbow; the wind seemed to snatch the words from his mouth and fly away with them to the South Pole.

All this while the sail itself was flying about, sometimes catching over our heads, and threatening to tear us from the yard in spite of all our hugging. For about three-quarters of an hour we thus hung suspended right over the rampant billows, which curled their very crests under the feet of some four or five of us clinging to the lee yard-arm, as if to float us from our place.

Presently, the word passed along the yard from windward, that we were ordered to come down and leave the sail to blow, since it could not be furled. A midshipman, it seemed, had been sent up by the officer of the deck to give the order, as no trumpet could be heard where we were.

Those on the weather yard-arm managed to crawl upon the spar and scramble down the rigging; but with us, upon the extreme leeward side, this feat was out of the question; it was literally like climbing a precipice to get to windward in order to reach the shrouds; besides, the entire yard was now encased in ice, and our hands and feet were so numb that we dared not trust our lives to them. Nevertheless, by assisting each other, we contrived to throw ourselves prostrate along the yard, and embrace it with our arms and legs. In this position the studding-sail-booms greatly assisted in securing our hold. Strange as it may appear, I do not suppose that, at this moment, the slightest sensation of fear was felt by one man on that yard. We clung to it with might and main; but this was instinct. The truth is, that in circumstances like these the sense of fear is annihilated in the unutterable sights that fill all the eye, and the sounds that fill all the ear. You become identified with the tempest; your insignificance is lost in the riot of the stormy universe around.

Below us, our noble frigate seemed thrice its real length—a vast black wedge, opposing its widest end to the combined fury of the sea and wind.

At length the first fury of the gale began to abate, and we at once fell to pounding our hands, as a preliminary operation to going to work; for a gang of men had now ascended to help secure what was left of the sail. We somehow packed it away at last, and came down.

At noon the next day, the gale so moderated that we shook two reefs out of the topsails, set new courses, and stood due east, with the wind astern.

Thus all the fine weather we encountered, after first weighing anchor on the pleasant Spanish coast, was but the prelude to this one terrific night, more especially that treacherous calm immediately preceding it. But how could we reach our long-promised homes without encountering Cape Horn? By what possibility avoid it? And though some ships have weathered it without these perils, yet by far the greater part must encounter them. Lucky it is that it comes about midway in the homeward-bound passage, so that the sailors have time to prepare for it, and time to recover from it after it is astern.

But, sailor or landsman, there is some sort of a Cape Horn for all. Boys! beware of it; prepare for it in time. Graybeards! thank God it is passed. And ye lucky livers, to whom, by some rare fatality, your Cape Horns are placid as Lake Lemans, flatter not yourselves that good luck is judgment and discretion; for all the yolk in your eggs, you might have foundered and gone down, had the Spirit of the Cape said the word.



(From Hard Cash.)


North Latitude 23½, Longitude East 113; the time March of this same year; the wind southerly; the port Whampoa in the Canton River. Ships at anchor reared their tall masts here and there; and the broad stream was enlivened and colored by junks and boats of all sizes and vivid hues, propelled on the screw principle by a great scull at the stern, with projecting handles for the crew to work; and at times a gorgeous mandarin boat, with two great glaring eyes set in the bows, came flying, rowed with forty paddles by an armed crew, whose shields hung on the gunwale and flashed fire in the sunbeams; the mandarin, in conical and buttoned hat, sitting on the top of his cabin calmly smoking Paradise, alias opium, while his gong boomed and his boat flew fourteen miles an hour, and all things scuttled out of his celestial way. And there, looking majestically down on all these water ants, the huge Agra, cynosure of so many loving eyes and loving hearts in England, lay at her moorings; homeward bound.

Her tea not being yet on board, the ship’s hull floated high as a castle, and to the subtle, intellectual, doll-faced, bolus-eyed people, that sculled to and fro, busy as bees, though looking forked mushrooms, she sounded like a vast musical shell: for a lusty harmony of many mellow voices vibrated in her great cavities, and made the air ring cheerily around her. The vocalists were the Cyclops, to judge by the tremendous thumps that kept clean time to their sturdy tune. Yet it was but human labor, so heavy and so knowing, that it had called in music to help. It was the third mate and his gang completing his floor to receive the coming tea chests. Yesterday he had stowed his dunnage, many hundred bundles of light flexible canes from Sumatra and Malacca; on these he had laid tons of rough saltpetre, in 200 lb. gunny-bags: and was now mashing it to music, bags and all. His gang of fifteen, naked to the waist, stood in line, with huge wooden beetles, called commanders, and lifted them high and brought them down on the nitre in cadence with true nautical power and unison, singing as follows, with a ponderous bump on the last note in each bar:—

Here goes one, Owe me there one;
One now it is gone, There’s an-oth-er yet to
come, and a-way we’ll go to Flanders, A-mongst
our wood-en commanders, where we’ll get wine in
plen-ty, Rum, bran-dy, and Ge-na-vy.
Here goes two. Owe me there two, &c.

And so up to fifteen, when the stave was concluded with a shrill “Spell, oh!” and the gang relieved streaming with perspiration. When the saltpetre was well mashed, they rolled ton waterbutts on it, till the floor was like a billiard table. A fleet of chop boats then began to arrive, so many per day, with the tea chests. Mr. Grey proceeded to lay the first tier on his saltpetre floor, and then built the chests, tier upon tier, beginning at the sides, and leaving in the middle a lane somewhat narrower than a tea chest. Then he applied a screw jack to the chests on both sides, and so enlarged his central aperture, and forced the remaining tea chests in; and behold the enormous cargo packed as tight as ever shopkeeper packed a box—19,806 chests, 60 half chests, 50 quarter chests.

While Mr. Grey was contemplating his work with singular satisfaction, a small boat from Canton came alongside, and Mr. Tickell, midshipman, ran up the side, skipped on the quarter-deck, saluted it first, and then the first mate; and gave him a line from the captain, desiring him to take the ship down to Second Bar—for her water—at the turn of the tide.

Two hours after receipt of this order the ship swung to the ebb. Instantly Mr. Sharpe unmoored, and the Agra began her famous voyage, with her head at right angles to her course; for the wind being foul, all Sharpe could do was to set his topsails, driver, and jib, and keep her in the tide way, and clear of the numerous craft, by backing or filling as the case required; which he did with considerable dexterity, making the sails steer the helm for the nonce: he crossed the Bar at sunset, and brought to with the best bower anchor in five fathoms and a half. Here they began to take in their water, and on the fifth day the six-oared gig was ordered up to Canton for the captain. The next afternoon he passed the ship in her, going down the river to Lin Tin, to board the Chinese admiral for his chop, or permission to leave China. All night the Agra showed three lights at her mizzen peak for him, and kept a sharp lookout. But he did not come: he was having a very serious talk with the Chinese admiral; at daybreak, however, the gig was reported in sight: Sharpe told one of the midshipmen to call the boatswain and man the side. Soon the gig ran alongside; two of the ship’s boys jumped like monkeys over the bulwarks, lighting, one on the main channels, the other on the midship port, and put the side ropes assiduously in the captain’s hands; he bestowed a slight paternal smile on them, the first the imps had ever received from an officer, and went lightly up the sides. The moment his foot touched the deck, the boatswain gave a frightful shrill whistle; the men at the sides uncovered, the captain saluted the quarterdeck, and all the officers saluted him, which he returned, and stepping for a moment to the weather side of his deck, gave the loud command, “All hands heave anchor.” He then directed Mr. Sharpe to get what sail he could on the ship, the wind being now westerly, and dived into his cabin.

The boatswain piped three shrill pipes, and “All hands up anchor” was thrice repeated forward, followed by private admonitions, “Rouse and bitt!” “Show a leg!” etc., and up tumbled the crew with “homeward bound” written on their tanned faces.

(Pipe.) “Up all hammocks!”

In ten minutes the ninety and odd hammocks were all stowed neatly in the netting, and covered with a snowy hammock cloth; and the hands were active, unbitting the cable, shipping the capstan bars, etc.

“All ready below, sir,” cried a voice.

“Man the bars,” returned Mr. Sharpe from the quarter-deck. “Play up, fifer. Heave away!”

Out broke the merry fife with a rhythmical tune, and tramp, tramp, tramp went a hundred and twenty feet round and round, and, with brawny chests pressed tight against the capstan bars, sixty fine fellows walked the ship up to her anchor, drowning the fife at intervals with their sturdy song, as pat to their feet as an echo:

Heave with a will ye jolly boys,
Heave around:
We’re off from Chainee, jolly boys,
Homeward bound.

“Short stay apeak, sir,” roars the boatswain from forward.

“Unship the bars. Way aloft. Loose sails. Let fall!”

The ship being now over her anchor, and the topsails set, the capstan bars were shipped again, the men all heaved with a will, the messenger grinned, the anchor was torn out of China with a mighty heave, and then run up with a luff tackle and secured; the ship’s head cast to port:

“Up with a jib! man the topsail halyards! all hands make sail!” Round she came slow and majestically; the sails filled, and the good ship bore away for England.

She made the Bogue forts in three or four tacks, and there she had to come to again for another chop, China being a place as hard to get into as Heaven, and to get out of as—Chancery. At three P.M. she was at Macao, and hove to four miles from the land, to take in her passengers.

A gun was fired from the forecastle. No boats came off. Sharpe began to fret: for the wind, though light, had now got to the N.W., and they were wasting it. After a while the captain came on deck, and ordered all the carronades to be scaled. The eight heavy reports bellowed the great ship’s impatience across the water, and out pulled two boats with the passengers. While they were coming, Dodd sent and ordered the gunner to load the carronades with shot, and secure and apron them....

The Agra had already shown great sailing qualities: the log was hove at sundown and gave eleven knots; so that with a good breeze abaft few fore-and-aft-rigged pirates could overhaul her. And this wind carried her swiftly past one nest of them at all events; the Ladrone Isles. At nine P.M. all the lights were ordered out. Mrs. Beresford had brought a novel on board, and refused to comply; the master-at-arms insisted; she threatened him with the vengeance of the Company, the premier, and the nobility and gentry of the British realm. The master-at-arms, finding he had no chance in argument, doused the glim—pitiable resource of a weak disputant—then basely fled the rhetorical consequences.

The northerly breeze died out, and light variable winds baffled the ship. It was the 6th April ere she passed the Macclesfield Bank in latitude 16. And now they sailed for many days out of sight of land; Dodd’s chest expanded: his main anxiety at this part of the voyage lay in the state cabin; of all the perils of the sea none shakes a sailor like fire. He set a watch day and night on that spoiled child.

On the 1st of May they passed the great Nantuna, and got among the Bornese and Malay Islands: at which the captain’s glass began to sweep the horizon again: and night and day at the dizzy foretop-gallant-masthead he perched an eye.

They crossed the line in longitude 107, with a slight breeze, but soon fell into the Doldrums. A dead calm, and nothing to do but kill time....

After lying a week like a dead log on the calm but heaving waters, came a few light puffs in the upper air and inflated the topsails only: the ship crawled southward, the crew whistling for wind.

At last, one afternoon, it began to rain, and after the rain came a gale from the eastward. The watchful skipper saw it purple the water to windward, and ordered the topsails to be reefed and the lee ports closed. This last order seemed an excess of precaution; but Dodd was not yet thoroughly acquainted with his ship’s qualities: and the hard cash round his neck made him cautious. The lee ports were closed, all but one, and that was lowered. Mr. Grey was working a problem in his cabin, and wanted a little light and a little air, so he just dropped his port; but, not to deviate from the spirit of his captain’s instructions, he fastened a tackle to it; that he might have mechanical force to close it with should the ship lie over.

Down came the gale with a whoo, and made all crack. The ship lay over pretty much, and the sea poured in at Mr. Grey’s port. He applied his purchase to close it. But though his tackle gave him the force of a dozen hands, he might as well have tried to move a mountain: on the contrary, the tremendous sea rushed in and burst the port wide open. Grey, after a vain struggle with its might, shrieked for help; down tumbled the nearest hands, and hauled on the tackle in vain. Destruction was rushing on the ship, and on them first. But meantime the captain, with a shrewd guess at the general nature of the danger he could not see, had roared out, “Slack the main sheet!” The ship righted, and the port came flying to, and terror-stricken men breathed hard, up to their waists in water and floating boxes. Grey barred the unlucky port, and went aft, drenched in body, and wrecked in mind, to report his own fault. He found the captain looking grim as death. He told him, almost crying, what he had done, and how he had miscalculated the power of the water.

Dodd looked and saw his distress. “Let it be a lesson, sir,” said he, sternly. “How many ships have been lost by this in fair weather, and not a man saved to tell how the craft was fooled away?”

“Captain, bid me fling myself over the side, and I’ll do it.”

“Humph! I’m afraid I can’t afford to lose a good officer for a fault he—will—never—repeat.”

It blew hard all night and till twelve the next day. The Agra showed her weak point: she rolled abominably. A dirty night came on. At eight bells Mr. Grey touched by Dodd’s clemency, and brimful of zeal, reported a light in Mrs. Beresford’s cabin. It had been put out as usual by the master-at-arms; but the refractory one had relighted it.

“Go and take it away,” said Dodd.

Soon screams were heard from the cabin. “Oh! mercy! mercy! I will not be drowned in the dark.”

Dodd, who had kept clear of her so long, went down and tried to reassure her.

“Oh, the tempest! the tempest!” she cried. “And to be drowned in the dark!

“Tempest? It is blowing half a gale of wind; that is all.”

“Half a gale! Ah, that is the way you always talk to us ladies. Oh, pray give me my light, and send me a clergyman!”

Dodd took pity, and let her have her light, with a midshipman to watch it. He even made her a hypocritical promise that, should there be one grain of danger, he would lie to; but said he must not make a foul wind of a fair one for a few lee lurches. The Agra broke plenty of glass and crockery though with her fair wind and her lee lurches.

Wind down at noon next day, and a dead calm.

At two P.M. the weather cleared; the sun came out high in heaven’s centre; and a balmy breeze from the west.

At six twenty-five, the grand orb set calm and red, and the sea was gorgeous with miles and miles of great ruby dimples: it was the first glowing smile of southern latitude. The night stole on so soft, so clear, so balmy, all were loth to close their eyes on it: the passengers lingered long on deck, watching the Great Bear dip, and the Southern Cross rise, and overhead a whole heaven of glorious stars most of us have never seen, and never shall see in this world. No belching smoke obscured, no plunging paddles deafened; all was musical; the soft air sighing among the sails; the phosphorescent water bubbling from the ship’s bows; the murmurs from little knots of men on deck subdued by the great calm: home seemed near, all danger far; Peace ruled the sea, the sky, the heart: the ship, making a track of white fire on the deep, glided gently yet swiftly homeward, urged by snowy sails piled up like alabaster towers against a violet sky, out of which looked a thousand eyes of holy tranquil fire. So melted the sweet night away.

Now carmine streaks tinged the eastern sky at the water’s edge; and that water blushed; now the streaks turned orange, and the waves below them sparkled. Thence splashes of living gold flew and settled on the ship’s white sails, the deck, and the faces; and with no more prologue, being so near the line, up came majestically a huge, fiery, golden sun, and set the sea flaming liquid topaz.

Instantly the lookout at the foretop-gallant-masthead hailed the deck below.

“Strange sail! Right ahead!”

The strange sail was reported to Captain Dodd, then dressing in his cabin. He came soon after on deck and hailed the lookout: “Which way is she standing?”

“Can’t say, sir. Can’t see her move any.”

Dodd ordered the boatswain to pipe to breakfast; and taking his deck glass went lightly up to the foretop-gallant-mast-crosstrees. Thence, through the light haze of a glorious morning, he espied a long low schooner, lateen-rigged, lying close under Point Leat, a small island about nine miles distant on the weather bow; and nearly in the Agra’s course then approaching the Straits of Gaspar, 4 Latitude S.

“She is hove to,” said Dodd, very gravely.

At eight o’clock, the stranger lay about two miles to windward; and still hove to.

“By this Time all Eyes were Turned upon Her”

“By this Time all Eyes were Turned upon Her”

By this time all eyes were turned upon her, and half a dozen glasses. Everybody, except the captain, delivered an opinion. She was a Greek lying to for water: she was a Malay coming north with canes, and short of hands: she was a pirate watching the Straits.

The captain leaned silent and sombre with his arms on the bulwarks, and watched the suspected craft.

Mr. Fullalove joined the group, and levelled a powerful glass, of his own construction. His inspection was long and minute, and, while the glass was at his eye, Sharpe asked him half in a whisper, could he make out anything?

“Wal,” said he, “the varmint looks considerably snaky.” Then, without moving his glass, he let drop a word at a time, as if the facts were trickling into his telescope at the lens, and out at the sight. “One—two—four—seven, false ports.”

There was a momentary murmur among the officers all round. But British sailors are undemonstrative: Colonel Kenealy, strolling the deck with a cigar, saw they were watching another ship with maritime curiosity, and making comments; but he discerned no particular emotion nor anxiety in what they said, nor in the grave low tones they said it in. Perhaps a brother seaman would though.

The next observation that trickled out of Fullalove’s tube was this: “I judge there are too few hands on deck, and too many—white—eyeballs—glittering at the portholes.”

“Confound it!” muttered Bayliss, uneasily; “how can you see that?”

Fullalove replied only by quietly handing his glass to Dodd. The captain, thus appealed to, glued his eye to the tube.

“Well, sir; see the false ports, and the white eyebrows?” asked Sharpe, ironically.

“I see this is the best glass I ever looked through,” said Dodd doggedly, without interrupting his inspection.

“I think he is a Malay pirate,” said Mr. Grey.

Sharpe took him up very quickly, and, indeed, angrily: “Nonsense! And if he is, he won’t venture on a craft of this size.”

“Says the whale to the swordfish,” suggested Fullalove, with a little guttural laugh.

The captain, with the American glass at his eye, turned half round to the man at the wheel: “Starboard!”

“Starboard it is.”

“Steer South South East.”

“Ay, ay, sir.” And the ship’s course was thus altered two points.

This order lowered Dodd fifty per cent in Mr. Sharpe’s estimation. He held his tongue as long as he could: but at last his surprise and dissatisfaction burst out of him, “Won’t that bring him out on us?”

“Very likely, sir,” replied Dodd.

“Begging your pardon, captain, would it not be wiser to keep our course, and show the blackguard we don’t fear him?”

“When we do? Sharpe, he has made up his mind an hour ago whether to lie still, or bite; my changing my course two points won’t change his mind; but it may make him declare it; and I must know what he does intend, before I run the ship into the narrows ahead.”

“Oh, I see,” said Sharpe, half convinced.

The alteration in the Agra’s course produced no movement on the part of the mysterious schooner. She lay to under the land still, and with only a few hands on deck, while the Agra edged away from her and entered the straits between Long Island and Point Leat, leaving the schooner about two miles and a half distant to the N.W.

Ah! The stranger’s deck swarms black with men.

His sham ports fell as if by magic, his guns grinned through the gaps like black teeth; his huge foresail rose and filled, and out he came in chase.

The breeze was a kiss from Heaven, the sky a vaulted sapphire, the sea a million dimples of liquid, lucid, gold....

The way the pirate dropped the mask, showed his black teeth, and bore up in chase, was terrible: so dilates and bounds the sudden tiger on his unwary prey. There were stout hearts among the officers of the peaceable Agra; but danger in a new form shakes the brave; and this was their first pirate: their dismay broke out in ejaculations not loud but deep....

“Sharpe,” said Dodd, in a tone that conveyed no suspicion of the newcomer, “set the royals, and flying jib.—Port!”

“Port it is,” cried the man at the helm.

“Steer due South!” And, with these words in his mouth, Dodd dived to the gun deck.

By this time elastic Sharpe had recovered the first shock; and the order to crowd sail on the ship galled his pride and his manhood; he muttered, indignantly, “The white feather!” This eased his mind, and he obeyed orders briskly as ever. While he and his hands were setting every rag the ship could carry on that tack, the other officers, having unluckily no orders to execute, stood gloomy and helpless, with their eyes glued, by a sort of sombre fascination, on that coming fate....

Realize the situation, and the strange incongruity between the senses and the mind in these poor fellows! The day had ripened its beauty; beneath a purple heaven shone, sparkled, and laughed a blue sea, in whose waves the tropical sun seemed to have fused his beams; and beneath that fair, sinless, peaceful sky, wafted by a balmy breeze over those smiling, transparent, golden waves, a bloodthirsty Pirate bore down on them with a crew of human tigers; and a lady babble babble babble babble babble babble babbled in their quivering ears.

But now the captain came bustling on deck, eyed the loftier sails, saw they were drawing well, appointed four midshipmen a staff to convey his orders; gave Bayliss charge of the carronades, Grey of the cutlasses, and directed Mr. Tickell to break the bad news gently to Mrs. Beresford, and to take her below to the orlop deck; ordered the purser to serve out beef, biscuit, and grog to all hands, saying, “Men can’t work on an empty stomach: and fighting is hard work;” then beckoned the officers to come round him. “Gentlemen,” said he, confidentially, “in crowding sail on this ship I had no hope of escaping that fellow on this tack, but I was, and am, most anxious to gain the open sea, where I can square my yards and run for it, if I see a chance. At present I shall carry on till he comes up within range: and then, to keep the Company’s canvas from being shot to rags, I shall shorten sail; and to save ship and cargo and all our lives, I shall fight while a plank of her swims. Better to be killed in hot blood than walk the plank in cold.”

The officers cheered faintly: the captain’s dogged resolution stirred up theirs....

“Shorten sail to the taupsles and jib, get the colors ready on the halyards, and then send the men aft....”

Sail was no sooner shortened, and the crew ranged, than the captain came briskly on deck, saluted, jumped on a carronade, and stood erect. He was not the man to show the crew his forebodings.

(Pipe.) “Silence fore and aft.”

“My men, the schooner coming up on our weather quarter is a Portuguese pirate. His character is known; he scuttles all the ships he boards, dishonors the women, and murders the crew. We cracked on to get out of the narrows, and now we have shortened sail to fight this blackguard, and teach him not to molest a British ship. I promise, in the Company’s name, twenty pounds prize money to every man before the mast if we beat him off or out-manœuvre him; thirty if we sink him; and forty if we tow him astern into a friendly port. Eight guns are clear below, three on the weather side, five on the lee; for, if he knows his business, he will come up on the lee quarter: if he doesn’t, that is no fault of yours nor mine. The muskets are all loaded, the cutlasses ground like razors—”


“We have got women to defend—”


“A good ship under our feet, the God of justice overhead, British hearts in our bosoms, and British colors flying—run ’em up!—over our heads.” (The ship’s colors flew up to the fore, and the Union Jack to the mizzen peak.) “Now lads, I mean to fight this ship while a plank of her (stamping on the deck) swims beneath my foot and—what do you say?”

The reply was a fierce “hurrah!” from a hundred throats, so loud, so deep, so full of volume, it made the ship vibrate, and rang in the creeping-on pirate’s ears. Fierce, but cunning, he saw mischief in those shortened sails, and that Union Jack, the terror of his tribe, rising to a British cheer; he lowered his mainsail, and crawled up on the weather quarter. Arrived within a cable’s length, he double reefed his foresail to reduce his rate of sailing nearly to that of the ship; and the next moment a tongue of flame, and then a gash of smoke, issued from his lee bow, and the ball flew screaming like a seagull over the Agra’s mizzen top. He then put his helm up, and fired his other bow-chaser, and sent the shot hissing and skipping on the water past the ship. This prologue made the novices wince. Bayliss wanted to reply with a carronade; but Dodd forbade him sternly, saying, “If we keep him aloof we are done for.”

The pirate drew nearer, and fired both guns in succession, hulled the Agra amidships, and sent an eighteen pound ball through her foresail. Most of the faces were pale on the quarter-deck; it was very trying to be shot at, and hit, and make no return. The next double discharge sent one shot smash through the stern cabin window, and splintered the bulwark with another, wounding a seaman slightly.

Lie down forward!” shouted Dodd, through his trumpet. “Bayliss, give him a shot.”

The carronade was fired with a tremendous report, but no visible effect. The pirate crept nearer, steering in and out like a snake to avoid the carronades, and firing those two heavy guns alternately into the devoted ship. He hulled the Agra now nearly every shot.

The two available carronades replied noisily, and jumped as usual; they sent one thirty-two pound shot clean through the schooner’s deck and side; but that was literally all they did worth speaking of.

“Curse them!” cried Dodd; “load them with grape! they are not to be trusted with ball. And all my eighteen-pounders dumb! The coward won’t come alongside and give them a chance.”

At the next discharge the pirate chipped the mizzen mast, and knocked a sailor into dead pieces on the forecastle. Dodd put his helm down ere the smoke cleared, and got three carronades to bear, heavily laden with grape. Several pirates fell, dead or wounded, on the crowded deck, and some holes appeared in the foresail; this one interchange was quite in favor of the ship.

But the lesson made the enemy more cautious; he crept nearer, but steered so adroitly, now right astern, now on the quarter, that the ship could seldom bring more than one carronade to bear, while he raked her fore and aft with grape and ball.

In this alarming situation, Dodd kept as many of the men below as possible; but, for all he could do four were killed and seven wounded.

Fullalove’s word came too true: it was the swordfish and the whale: it was a fight of hammer and anvil; one hit, the other made a noise. Cautious and cruel, the pirate hung on the poor hulking creature’s quarters and raked her at point blank distance. He made her pass a bitter time. And her captain! To see the splintering hull, the parting shrouds, the shivered gear, and hear the shrieks and groans of his wounded; and he unable to reply in kind! The sweat of agony poured down his face. Oh, if he could but reach the open sea, and square his yards, and make a long chase of it; perhaps fall in with aid. Wincing under each heavy blow, he crept doggedly, patiently on, towards that one visible hope.

At last, when the ship was cloven with shot, and peppered with grape, the channel opened: in five minutes more he could put her dead before the wind.

No. The pirate, on whose side luck had been from the first, got half a broadside to bear at long musket shot, killed a midshipman by Dodd’s side, cut away two of the Agra’s mizzen shrouds, wounded the gaff: and cut the jib stay; down fell that powerful sail into the water, and dragged across the ship’s forefoot, stopping her way to the open sea she panted for; the mates groaned; the crew cheered stoutly, as British tars do in any great disaster; the pirates yelled with ferocious triumph, like the devils they looked.

But most human events, even calamities, have two sides. The Agra being brought almost to a standstill, the pirate forged ahead against his will, and the combat took a new and terrible form. The elephant gun popped, and the rifle cracked, in the Agra’s mizzen top, and the man at the pirate’s helm jumped into the air and fell dead: both Theorists claimed him. Then the three carronades peppered him hotly; and he hurled an iron shower back with fatal effect. Then at last the long 18-pounders on the gun-deck got a word in. The old Niler was not the man to miss a vessel alongside in a quiet sea; he sent two round shot clean through him; the third splintered his bulwark, and swept across his deck.

“His masts! fire at his masts!” roared Dodd to Monk, through his trumpet; he then got the jib clear, and made what sail he could without taking all the hands from the guns.

This kept the vessels nearly alongside a few minutes, and the fight was hot as fire. The pirate now for the first time hoisted his flag. It was black as ink. His crew yelled as it rose: the Britons, instead of quailing, cheered with fierce derision: the pirate’s wild crew of yellow Malays, black chinless Papuans, and bronzed Portuguese, served their side guns, 12-pounders, well and with ferocious cries; the white Britons, drunk with battle now, naked to the waist, grimed with powder, and spotted like leopards with blood, their own and their mates’, replied with loud undaunted cheers, and deadly hail of grape from the quarter-deck; while the master gunner and his mates, loading with a rapidity the mixed races opposed could not rival, hulled the schooner well between wind and water, and then fired chain shot at her masts, as ordered, and began to play the mischief with her shrouds and rigging. Meantime, Fullalove and Kenealy, aided by Vespasian, who loaded, were quietly butchering the pirate crew two a minute, and hoped to settle the question they were fighting for; smooth bore v. rifle: but unluckily neither fired once without killing; so “there was nothing proven.”

The pirate, bold as he was, got sick of fair fighting first; he hoisted his mainsail and drew rapidly ahead, with a slight bearing to windward, and dismounted a carronade and stove in the ship’s quarter-boat, by way of a parting kick.

The men hurled a contemptuous cheer after him; they thought they had beaten him off. But Dodd knew better. He was but retiring a little way to make a more deadly attack than ever: he would soon wear, and cross the Agra’s defenceless bows, to rake her fore and aft at pistol-shot distance; or grapple, and board the enfeebled ship two hundred strong.

Dodd flew to the helm, and with his own hands put it hard a weather, to give the deck guns one more chance, the last, of sinking or disabling the Destroyer. As the ship obeyed, and a deck gun bellowed below him, he saw a vessel running out from Long Island, and coming swiftly up on his lee quarter.

It was a schooner. Was she coming to his aid?

Horror! A black flag floated from her foremast head.

While Dodd’s eyes were staring almost out of his head at this death-blow to hope, Monk fired again; and just then a pale face came close to Dodd’s, and a solemn voice whispered in his ear: “Our ammunition is nearly done!”

Dodd seized Sharpe’s hand convulsively, and pointed to the pirate’s consort coming up to finish them; and said, with the calm of a brave man’s despair, “Cutlasses! and die hard!”

At that moment the master gunner fired his last gun. It sent a chain shot on board the retiring pirate, took off a Portuguese head and spun it clean into the sea ever so far to windward, and cut the schooner’s foremast so nearly through that it trembled and nodded, and presently snapped with a loud crack, and came down like a broken tree, with the yard and sail; the latter overlapping the deck and burying itself, black flag and all, in the sea; and there, in one moment, lay the Destroyer buffeting and wriggling—like a heron on the water with its long wing broken—an utter cripple.

The victorious crew raised a stunning cheer.

“Silence!” roared Dodd, with his trumpet. “All hands make sail!”

He set his courses, bent a new jib, and stood out to windward close hauled, in hopes to make a good offing, and then put his ship dead before the wind, which was now rising to a stiff breeze. In doing this he crossed the crippled pirate’s bows, within eighty yards; and sore was the temptation to rake him; but his ammunition being short, and his danger being imminent from the other pirate, he had the self command to resist the great temptation.

He hailed the mizzen top: “Can you two hinder them from firing that gun?”

“I rather think we can,” said Fullalove, “eh, colonel?” and tapped his long rifle.

The ship no sooner crossed the schooner’s bows than a Malay ran forward with a linstock. Pop went the colonel’s ready carbine, and the Malay fell over dead, and the linstock flew out of his hand. A tall Portuguese, with a movement of rage, snatched it up, and darted to the gun; the Yankee rifle cracked, but a moment too late. Bang! went the pirate’s bow-chaser, and crashed into the Agra’s side, and passed nearly through her.

“Ye missed him! Ye missed him!” cried the rival theorist, joyfully. He was mistaken: the smoke cleared, and there was the pirate captain leaning wounded against the mainmast with a Yankee bullet in his shoulder, and his crew uttering yells of dismay and vengeance. They jumped, and raged, and brandished their knives, and made horrid gesticulations of revenge; and the white eyeballs of the Malays and Papuans glittered fiendishly; and the wounded captain raised his sound arm and had a signal hoisted to his consort, and she bore up in chase, and jamming her fore lateen flat as a board, lay far nearer the wind than the Agra could, and sailed three feet to her two besides. On this superiority being made clear, the situation of the merchant vessel, though not so utterly desperate as before Monk fired his lucky shot, became pitiable enough. If she ran before the wind, the fresh pirate would cut her off: if she lay to windward, she might postpone the inevitable and fatal collision with a foe as strong as that she had only escaped by a rare piece of luck; but this would give the crippled pirate time to refit and unite to destroy her. Add to this the failing ammunition, and the thinned crew!

Dodd cast his eyes all round the horizon for help.

The sea was blank.

The bright sun was hidden now; drops of rain fell, and the wind was beginning to sing; and the sea to rise a little.

“Gentlemen,” said he, “let us kneel down and pray for wisdom, in this sore strait.”

He and his officers kneeled on the quarter-deck. When they rose, Dodd stood rapt about a minute; his great thoughtful eye saw no more the enemy, the sea, nor anything external; it was turned inward. His officers looked at him in silence.

“Sharpe,” said he, at last, “there must be a way out of them with such a breeze as this is now; if we could but see it.”

“Ay, if,” groaned Sharpe.

Dodd mused again.

“About ship!” said he, softly, like an absent man.

“Ay, ay, sir!”

“Steer due north!” said he, still like one whose mind was elsewhere.

While the ship was coming about, he gave minute orders to the mates and the gunner, to ensure co-operation in the delicate and dangerous manœuvres that were sure to be on hand.

The wind was W.N.W.: he was standing north: one pirate lay on his lee beam stopping a leak between wind and water, and hacking the deck clear of his broken masts and yards. The other fresh, and thirsting for the easy prey, came up to weather on him and hang on his quarter, pirate fashion.

When they were distant about a cable’s length, the fresh pirate, to meet the ship’s change of tactics, changed his own, luffed up, and gave the ship a broadside, well aimed but not destructive, the guns being loaded with ball.

Dodd, instead of replying immediately, put his helm hard up and ran under the pirate’s stern, while he was jammed up in the wind, and with his five eighteen-pounders raked him fore and aft, then paying off, gave him three carronades crammed with grape and canister; the almost simultaneous discharge of eight guns made the ship tremble, and enveloped her in thick smoke; loud shrieks and groans were heard from the schooner; the smoke cleared; the pirate’s mainsail hung on deck, his jib-boom was cut off like a carrot and the sail struggling; his foresail looked lace, lanes of dead and wounded lay still or writhing on his deck, and his lee scuppers ran blood into the sea. Dodd squared his yards and bore away.

The ship rushed down the wind, leaving the schooner staggered and all abroad. But not for long; the pirate wore and fired his bow chasers at the now flying Agra, split one of the carronades in two, and killed a Lascar, and made a hole in the foresail; this done, he hoisted his mainsail again in a trice, sent his wounded below, flung his dead overboard, to the horror of their foes, and came after the flying ship, yawning and firing his bow chasers. The ship was silent. She had no shot to throw away. Not only did she take these blows like a coward, but all signs of life disappeared on her, except two men at the wheel, and the captain on the main gangway.

Dodd had ordered the crew out of the rigging, armed them with cutlasses, and laid them flat on the forecastle. He also compelled Kenealy and Fullalove to come down out of harm’s way, no wiser on the smooth-bore question than they went up.

The great patient ship ran environed by her foes; one destroyer right in her course, another in her wake, following her with yells of vengeance, and pounding away at her—but no reply.

Suddenly the yells of the pirates on both sides ceased, and there was a moment of dead silence on the sea.

Yet nothing fresh had happened.

Yes, this had happened: the pirates to windward, and the pirates to leeward, of the Agra, had found out, at one and the same moment, that the merchant captain they had lashed, and bullied, and tortured, was a patient but tremendous man. It was not only to rake the fresh schooner he had put his ship before the wind, but also by a double, daring, master-stroke to hurl his monster ship bodily on the other. Without a foresail she could never get out of his way. Her crew had stopped the leak, and cut away and unshipped the broken foremast, and were stepping a new one, when they saw the huge ship bearing down in full sail. Nothing easier than to slip out of her way could they get the foresail to draw; but the time was short, the deadly intention manifest, the coming destruction swift. After that solemn silence came a storm of cries and curses, as their seamen went to work to fit the yard and raise the sail; while their fighting men seized their matchlocks and trained the guns. They were well commanded by an heroic able villain. Astern the consort thundered; but the Agra’s response was a dead silence more awful than broadsides.

For then was seen with what majesty the enduring Anglo-Saxon fights.

One of that indomitable race on the gangway, one at the foremast, two at the wheel, conned and steered the great ship down on a hundred matchlocks, and a grinning broadside, just as they would have conned and steered her into a British harbor.

“Starboard!” said Dodd, in a deep calm voice, with a motion of his hand.

“Starboard it is.”

The pirate wriggled ahead a little. The man forward made a silent signal to Dodd.

“Port!” said Dodd, quietly.

“Port it is.”

But at this critical moment the pirate astern sent a mischievous shot, and knocked one of the men to atoms at the helm.

Dodd waved his hand without a word, and another man rose from the deck, and took his place in silence, and laid his unshaking hand on the wheel stained with that man’s warm blood whose place he took.

The high ship was now scarce sixty yards distant: she seemed to know: she reared her lofty figure-head with great awful shoots into the air.

But now the panting pirates got their new foresail hoisted with a joyful shout: it drew, the schooner gathered way, and their furious consort close on the Agra’s heels just then scourged her deck with grape.

“Port!” said Dodd, calmly.

“Port it is.”

The giant prow darted at the escaping pirate. That acre of coming canvas took the wind out of the swift schooner’s foresail; it flapped: oh, then she was doomed!... Crash! the Indiaman’s cut-water in thick smoke beat in the schooner’s broadside: down went her masts to leeward like fishing-rods whipping the water; there was a horrible shrieking yell; wild forms leaped off on the Agra, and were hacked to pieces almost ere they reached the deck—a surge, a chasm in the ear, filled with an instant rush of engulfing waves, a long, awful, grating, grinding noise, never to be forgotten in this world, all along under the ship’s keel—and the fearful majestic monster passed on over the blank she had made, with a pale crew standing silent and awestruck on her deck; a cluster of wild heads and staring eyeballs bobbing like corks in her foaming wake, sole relic of the blotted-out Destroyer; and a wounded man staggering on the gangway, with hands uplifted and staring eyes.



(From John Holdsworth, Chief Mate.)


At midnight Holdsworth came on deck to relieve the second mate. A man out of the port watch came to the wheel, and stood yawning, scarcely awake. The night was dark—a hazy atmosphere, through which the stars gleamed sparely, and the sea like ebony. The rise and fall of the ship flapped the sails against the masts and drove eddies of air about the decks, but in reality there was not a breath of wind. There was something stupendous in the black, profound, and breathless placidity of the night. The compass swung round in the binnacle anywhere, but the swell made the rudder kick heavily now and again, and gave the wheel a twist that flung the spokes out of the man’s hand and woke him up.

This prolonged inactivity was galling. One longed to hear the rush of parting water and the singing of the wind in the shrouds.

The mainsail flapped so heavily that Holdsworth ordered it to be furled. The song of the men brought the captain on deck. He flitted, shadow-like, about the binnacle, sniffed at the night impatiently, and then went to Holdsworth.

“The glass has fallen half an inch since eight bells,” said he.

“Yes, sir; there’ll be a change before morning.”

“Better stow the royals and mizzentop-gall’ns’l.”

“Ay, ay, sir.”

Furling Sail.

Furling Sail.

These, the topmost sails of the ship, were just discernible from the deck. In a few moments their dim outlines melted, and some dark figures went up into the gloom and vanished.

The captain returned to his cabin, and Holdsworth strolled the deck. At two bells (one o’clock) the haze went out of the sky and the stars shone fiercely. Holdsworth, standing on the starboard side of the poop, felt a light air creeping about his face, and the sound of the flapping sails ceased.

“How’s her head?”

“North-a-quarter-west, sir.”

He sang out an order, and a crowd of figures came tumbling out of the forecastle and manned the port braces. The air died away, but presently came a quick puff which made the water bubble around the ship.

Holdsworth’s eyes were upon the weather horizon. The stars burned purely, but away upon the water-line was a thick shadow.

Again the wind died out, and there was a breathless stillness, amid which you might hear a sound—vague, murmurous, indescribable—a distant echo it might seem of something infinitely distant.

“Stand by the topgallant halyards!”

A sense of expectation seemed to pervade the very ship herself as she stood upright, with her dim canvas flapping in the darkness above.

The distant murmur grew more defined, and took such a tone as you may hear in small sharp rain falling at a distance upon leaves. Then out of the murky horizon some clouds came rolling—long, attenuated shadows, resembling visionary arms clutching at the stars. The murmur approached; the clouds, swinging along the sky, formed into compact groups. Hark to the quick hissing of the water lashed by the wind!

In a moment the sails were round and hard, the ship with her port-chains under water, and the wind screeching fiercely over the ebony surface of the sea and whitening it with foam.

The captain was on the poop, holding on to the main-topgallant backstay, and shrieking orders like one possessed. It was, indeed, briefly, a case of “Let go everything!” Under full topsail, foresail, staysail, and jibs, the ship was too heavily weighted for the surprising violence of the wind, and was powerless to right herself. But every order given was the right one. And now you heard the deep tones of Holdsworth’s powerful voice mingling with the agitated commands of the skipper, while yards came rushing down upon the caps, and sails banged and roared aloft, and men shouted lustily about the decks, and the sea fled in cataracts of foam under the vessel’s bows.

A time of deep excitement, but scarcely of suspense—there was too much hurrying for that.

There would have been something incredible to an inexperienced landsman in the sight of the dark figures swarming up the shrouds to give battle to the wild array of canvas which groaned and bellowed like a dozen thunder-storms in the sky—a spectacle of human pluck not to be realized, or in the faintest degree appreciated, by those who have not beheld it. The night black; the yards slanting so that the extremity of the mainyard touched the water; the footing upon those yards a thin line which must be felt for by the feet; the canvas, loosened by the lowering of the yard, bellied by the force of the wind many feet above the heads of the reefers, and presenting to their hands a surface of iron; and the three masts quivering under the shocks and convulsions of the sails!

All hands were at work now, and there were men enough to reef both big topsails at once, while others over their heads furled the topgallant-sails. Holdsworth had been one of the first to spring up the main-rigging; he knew the value of every pair of hands in that moment of danger; and away—active, daring, his hands and arms like steel—he clambered for the weather-earing. But the boatswain was before him, so he made for the lee yard-arm.

Figure a smooth spar, forty-five feet long, sloping at a height of as many feet to the water’s surface, the said surface not being a mill-pond, but a sheet of foam; figure a pitch-dark night, a line stretched along the yard down which you must slide to the extremity, a sail weighing half-a-dozen tons banging at your head and your feet, and doing its utmost to throw you; then, having reached the extremity of the yard, figure your legs thrown across it as you might bestride a horse, beneath you the foaming sea, almost at right angles the inclined deck of the ship, a long stone’s-throw distant—a deep darkness everywhere, save where a wave, breaking massively, flings out a phosphorescent light and deepens the blackness of its own chasm—while the gale yells about your ears, and blinds you with spray that stings like hail!

Figure this, and then you will very faintly realize what “taking the lee-earing” in a gale at sea means.

The cries of the men aloft, and the beating of the canvas, sounded like an unearthly contest in mid-air; but they ceased presently, and then the hands came hurrying down the rigging and fell to the halyards. Holdsworth sprang on to the poop, his cap gone, his hair blown about his eyes, and roared out orders, while the captain, more easy in his mind about his spars, went aft and hung about the binnacle, watching the compass often.

The ship was now under double-reefed topsails, and reeling through the darkness almost bare of sail. The wind was increasing in violence every five minutes, and an ugly Atlantic sea was running right athwart the ship’s course, hurling great waves against her starboard beam, which ran in water-spouts of foam as high as the maintop, and was blown in big, hissing flakes through the rigging to leeward. It was soon deemed expedient to close reef the topsails; but even under these mere streaks of canvas the Meteor lay over to the gale down to her water-ways, with the water bubbling in her lee-scuppers. But luckily the gale was right abeam, and the vessel could hold her course; but her speed was comparatively small, and she labored heavily.

So passed the darkest hours of the night. At four o’clock the gale was at its worst. They had rigged up a hurricane-house in the mizzen-rigging—a square of tarpaulin, which the wind flattened hard against the shrouds—and under this shelter sat Holdsworth and the captain, scarce able to hear their own voices, pitched in the loudest key, amid the howling of the tempest. Once Holdsworth went below to look at the glass, and came back saying it was steady. The skipper roared that he never before remembered so sudden a gale, and Holdsworth owned that only once was he so caught—in the Pacific, when they lost their foretop-mast.

There was nothing more to be done, unless they hove the ship to; but this was not needful. The dawn broke at five, and the pale, cheerless light illuminated a wild and dreary scene of tumbling desolate waters billowing in mountains to the horizon. The Meteor, almost under bare poles, her yards pointed to the gale, her ropes and lines blown in semicircles to leeward, labored heavily, caught now by a sea that threw her on her beam-ends, and now swooping into a chasm walled with boiling green water, making the gale screech like a million steam-whistles through her rigging, as she drove up against it, while coiling tongues of water ran in cataracts up her glistening sides and fell in dead weights upon her deck. The sky, from horizon to horizon, was a dark lead color, along which under-clouds, in appearance resembling volumes of smoke, were swept along, torn and rent, and discharging at intervals quick, biting showers of rain.

Some of the passengers came on deck—the general, Mr. Holland, and Mr. St. Aubyn. The general turned about when he had advanced a few feet, and disappeared; Mr. Holland in a very short time followed his example; but the actor, with manifest looks of terror in his pallid face, pushed onward with outstretched hands for the hurricane-house. The captain advised him to go below; but at that moment the ship, rolling suddenly to windward, shipped a shower of spray, which soaked the poor actor through and through; a moment after, the vessel heeled heavily over to leeward; away rolled the actor, impelled both by the wind and the unerring law of gravitation, and was flung against the lee mizzen-rigging, to which he was pinned by the violence of the gale as effectually as if he had been lashed to the shrouds. He screamed for help, on which Holdsworth went over to him, took him by the arm, and dragged him against the wind to the companion-hatchway. As Mr. St. Aubyn staggered below, clinging like a kitten to whatever he could lay hands on, he was heard to implore Holdsworth to tell him if there was any danger; but, before the words were out of his mouth, Holdsworth was clinging to the weather-rigging and calling the captain’s attention to a brig, which had risen out of the sea like an apparition, and was tearing before the gale with full topsails and topgallant-sails set.

“A Yankee, by her build!” said the captain. “It’s only a Yankee who would carry that sail in such a wind.”

It was a sight to see her flying along, sinking her hull sometimes out of sight, then poised on the giddy summit of a huge wave, whose crest broke under her bows, her copper bottom glistening like red gold against the slate-colored water. She passed within a quarter of a mile of the Meteor’s weather-beam, and up flew the stars and stripes and stood like a painted board at her peak. The second mate answered the salutation by bending on the small ensign and running it up. Any further signalling was out of the question in that gale. The men on board the brig could just be made out. She was a smart vessel, black-hulled, with bows like a knife, and skysail poles, which gave her masts an aspect of perfect symmetry; and she was splendidly handled. She went like a swan over the seething billows, streaming a foaming wake, and in a very few moments was lost in the haze and gloom of the near horizon.

As the morning advanced the gale decreased, but a terrible sea was up, which made the ship labor so furiously that to steady her in some degree they set the trysail and foresail. There was, however, the comfort of daylight abroad, and the men could see what they were about. Both Holdsworth and the captain went below to get a little sleep, and the vessel was left in command of the second mate, a young man named Thompson. There were two hands at the wheel and two on the lookout on the forecastle, glittering in oil-skins, and ducking now and again to the seas which swept over the ship’s bows.

The fore and main hatches were battened down, and the main-deck was a foot deep in water, which washed to and fro as the ship rolled, and which, as fast as it ran through the scupper-holes, was replaced by fresh and heavy inroads of the sea.

But all this was trifling; the vessel was snug, the gale was moderating, and the extra sail that had been made was driving the ship through the water in fine style.

Meanwhile, the passengers below, having been reassured by the captain, were making what breakfast they could off the rolls, tea, and rashers of ham which clattered about the table and tumbled into their laps. The trays swung wildly from the deck, and it demanded great vigilance and close attention to their convulsive movements to repossess one’s self of the cup or plate one placed upon them for safety. The negro steward shambled round the table, halting every moment to make a grasp at anything that came in his road to steady himself. Now and again you heard the smash of crockery. Some conversation was attempted, and the general invited Mr. Holland to go up on deck and witness a scene which would probably exceed in majesty Niagara Falls; but Mr. Holland said he would wait until the vessel was steadier. Mr. St. Aubyn had changed his clothes and sat holding on to the table, looking the part of fear infinitely better than he could hope to impersonate it before the footlights. The ladies remained in their cabins. Mrs. Ashton, overcome with sickness and the fear of drowning, was driving her maid distracted with orders which it was out of the poor wretch’s power to execute. In truth, the maid’s legs were perfectly useless to her, which Mrs. Ashton, lying on her back, refused to understand. Cries were repeatedly coming from the direction of her cabin for “Harry! Harry!” which received no attention, owing to Harry’s—in other words, to Mr. Ashton’s—utter incapacity to move a step without being flung upon the deck.

A somewhat different scene was presented by the interior of the forecastle, where both watches were having breakfast. Men holding tin pannikins stepped easily round to the galley, where the cook was dispensing a milkless, sugarless black fluid called tea, and retreated into the twilight of the forecastle, carrying the steaming beverage. There sat the sailors, some swinging in hammocks with their legs dangling down, some on sea-chests, some on canvas bags, drinking from pannikins, swallowing lumps of biscuit hard as iron, or hacking with the knives they wore in their belts at bits of cold pork or beef floating in vinegar in tin dishes held between their knees; some smoking, some making ready to “turn in,” and all jabbering away as gayly as if they were comfortably seated in a Liverpool or Poplar singing house—the mariner’s earthly paradise—and each with his Sue or his Betsey by his side. Here, more than in any other part of the ship, you felt her motion—the mighty lifting of her bows, and the long sweeping fall as she pitched nose under, while the heavy seas boomed against her outside as though at any moment the timbers must dispart and the green waves rush in.

At twelve o’clock the gale had decreased to such a degree that they were able to shake two reefs out of the main-topsail and set the topgallant-sail. The action of the sea, moreover, was much less violent. The weather had cleared, the pale blue sky could be seen shining through the white mist that fled along it, and the sun stood round and clean and coppery in the heavens, throwing a dark red lustre upon the quick, passionate play of the sea beneath.

Some of the passengers crawled upon deck and gazed with wonderment around them. Certainly the panorama was a somewhat different one from what had been unrolled to their eyes the day before. The ship had a fagged and jaded look with her drenched decks, her ropes blown slack with the violence of the wind, and the canvas made unequal to the eye by the reefs in the topsails. It was again Holdsworth’s watch on deck. The captain walked up and down, chuckling over the improved aspect of the weather and on the wind, which was drawing more easterly, and therefore more favorable.

“You can shake out the reefs, Mr. Holdsworth. She’ll bear it now,” he called out.

Out reefs it was: the ship felt the increased pressure, and rushed forward like a liberated race-horse.

“This is capital!” exclaimed the old general, tottering about with out-stretched hands, ever on the alert for a special roll. “A week of this, captain, will carry us a good way on our road.”

“Ay, sir, and we must make up for lost time.”

And then presently he gave orders to set the mainsail and the other two topgallant-sails.

“The glass still keeps low, sir,” said Holdsworth.

“But let’s take advantage of the daylight, Mr. Holdsworth. We mustn’t lose an opportunity.”

The sky had now cleared, the sun shone cheerily; the wind, having drawn aft, was now no more than what sailors would call a main-royal breeze.



The story of the wreck of the Grosvenor is supposed to be told by Mr. Royle, the second mate of that unlucky ship. She was a small vessel bound from England to Valparaiso with a heavy cargo and no passengers. Captain Coxon and his first mate, Duckling, were so brutal in their treatment of the crew, that before many days a mutiny arose, headed by Stevens the ship’s carpenter. The captain and the mate were murdered, but Royle was spared to guide the ship to the West Indies. The crew were a treacherous gang, and near Bermuda they scuttled the Grosvenor and abandoned her to sink with the skipper, the boatswain, and the steward who remained faithful to him, and Mary Robertson, a girl whom Royle had rescued from a passing wreck. But the mutineers’ plot had been discovered by the boatswain, who plugged up the holes in the ship’s side, and when the crew deserted her the Grosvenor cheerfully sailed away. Discovering their mistake one boatload of the villains went in pursuit. In the ensuing skirmish all of this party, except Jim Cornish, were killed, and he was captured with the quarter-boat itself. But even with Cornish turned a faithful ally, the Grosvenor had not sufficient crew to man her, and she was soon crippled by a tremendous gale. Their signal of distress was disregarded by a Russian ship which might have rescued them, and the shock of this disappointment destroyed the poor steward’s wits and broke the heart of Cornish. The Grosvenor was fast sinking; there was no alternative but to take to the quarter-boat which they had captured from the mutineers. The following story tells how the three men and the girl were saved from the wreck of the Grosvenor.


(From The Wreck of the Grosvenor.)


We had never yet had the leisure to inspect the stores with which the mutineers had furnished the quarter-boat, and we now found, in spite of their having shifted a lot of provisions out of her into the long-boat before starting in pursuit of us, that there was still an abundance left: four kegs of water, several tins of cuddy bread, preserved meats and fruits, sugar, flour, and other things, not to mention such items as boxes of lucifer matches, fishing-tackle, a burning glass, a quantity of tools and nails; in a word, everything which men in the condition they had hoped to find themselves in might stand in need of to support life. Indeed, the foresight illustrated by the provisioning of this boat was truly remarkable, the only things they had omitted being a mast and sail, it having been their intention to keep this boat in tow of the other. I even found that they had furnished the boat with the oars belonging to the disabled quarter-boat in addition to her own.

However, the boat was not yet stocked to my satisfaction. I therefore repaired to my cabin and procured the boat’s compass, some charts, a sextant, and other necessary articles such as the “Nautical Almanac,” and pencils and paper wherewith to work out my observations, which I placed very carefully in the locker in the stern-sheets of the boat.

I allowed Mary to help me, that the occupation might divert her mind from the overwhelming thoughts which the gradual settling of the ship on which we stood must have excited in the strongest and bravest mind; and, indeed, I worked busily and eagerly to guard myself against any terror that might come upon me. She it was who suggested that we should provide ourselves with lamps and oil; and I shipped a lantern to hoist at our masthead when the darkness came, and the bull’s-eye lamp to enable me to work out observations of the stars, which I intended to make when the night fell. To all these things, which sound numerous, but in reality occupied but little space, I added a can of oil, meshes for the lamps, top coats, oil-skins, and rugs to protect us at night, so that the afternoon was well advanced before we had ended our preparations. Meanwhile, the boatswain had stepped a topgallant-stun’-sail boom to serve us for a mast, well stayed, with a block and halyards at the masthead to serve for hoisting a flag or lantern, and a spare topgallant-stun’-sail to act as a sail.

By this time the wind had completely died away; a peaceful deep-blue sky stretched from horizon to horizon; and the agitation of the sea had subsided into a long and silent swell, which washed up against the ship’s sides, scarcely causing her to roll, so deep had she sunk in the water.

I now thought it high time to lower the boat and bring her alongside, as our calculation of the length of time to be occupied by the ship in sinking might be falsified to our destruction by her suddenly going stern down with us on board.

We therefore lowered the boat and got the gangway-ladder over the side.

The boatswain got into the boat first to help Mary into her. I then took the steward by the arms and brought him along smartly, as there was danger in keeping the boat washing against the ship’s side. He resisted at first, and only smiled vacantly when I threatened to leave him; but on the boatswain crying out that his wife was waiting for him, the poor idiot got himself together with a scramble, and went so hastily over the gangway that he narrowly escaped a ducking.

I paused a moment at the gangway and looked around, striving to remember if there was anything we had forgotten which would be of some use to us. Mary watched me anxiously, and called to me by my Christian name, at the same time extending her arms. I would not keep her in suspense a moment, and at once dropped into the boat. She grasped and fondled my hand, and drew me close beside her.

“I should have gone on board again had you delayed coming,” she whispered.

The boatswain shoved the boat’s head off, and we each shipped an oar and pulled the boat about a quarter of a mile away from the ship; and then, from a strange and wild curiosity to behold the ship sink, and still in our hearts clinging to her, not only as the home where we had found shelter for many days past, but as the only visible object in all the stupendous reach of waters, we threw in the oars and sat watching her.

She had now sunk as deep as her main-chains, and was but a little higher out of the water than the hull from which we had rescued Mary and her father. It was strange to behold her even from a short distance and notice her littleness in comparison with the immensity of the deep on which she rested, and recall the terrible seas she had braved and triumphed over.


Few sailors can behold the ship in which they have sailed sinking before their eyes without the same emotion of distress and pity, almost, which the spectacle of a drowning man excites in them. She has grown a familiar name, a familiar object; thus far she has borne them in safety; she has been rudely beaten, and yet has done her duty; but the tempest has broken her down at last; all the beauty is shorn from her; she is weary with the long and dreadful struggles with the vast forces that nature arrayed against her; she sinks, a desolate, abandoned thing, in mid-ocean, carrying with her a thousand memories which surge up in the heart with the pain of a strong man’s tears.

I looked from the ship to realize our own position. Perhaps not yet could it be keenly felt, for the ship was still a visible object for us to hold on by; and yet, turning my eyes away to the far reaches of the horizon at one moment borne high on the summit of the ocean swell, which appeared mountainous when felt in and viewed from the boat, then sinking deep in the hollow, so that the near ship was hidden from us—the supreme loneliness of our situation, our helplessness, and the fragility and diminutiveness of the structure on which our lives depended, came home to me with the pain and wonder of a shock.

Our boat, however, was new this voyage, with a good beam, and showing a tolerably bold side, considering her dimensions and freight. Of the two quarter-boats with which the Grosvenor had been furnished, this was the larger and the stronger built, and for this reason had been chosen by Stevens. I could not hope, indeed, that she would live a moment in anything of a sea; but she was certainly stout enough to carry us to the Bermudas, providing that the weather remained moderate.

It was now six o’clock. I said to the boatswain:

“Every hour of this weather is valuable to us. There is no reason why we should stay here.”

“I should like to see her sink, Mr. Royle; I should like to know that poor Jim found a regular coffin in her,” he answered. “We can’t make no headway with the sail, and I don’t recommend rowin’ for the two or three mile we can fetch with the oars. It ’ud be wurse nor pumpin’.”

He was right. When I reflected, I was quite sure I should not, in my exhausted state, be able to handle one of the big oars for even five minutes at a stretch; and, admitting that I had been strong enough to row for a couple of hours, yet the result to have been obtained could not have been important enough to justify the serious labor.

The steward all this time sat perfectly quiet in the bottom of the boat, with his back against the mast. He paid no attention to us when we spoke, nor looked around him, though sometimes he would fix his eyes vacantly on the sky as if his shattered mind found relief in contemplating the void. I was heartily glad to find him quiet, though I took care to watch him, for it was difficult to tell whether his imbecility was not counterfeited, by his madness, to throw us off our guard, and furnish him with an opportunity to play us and himself some deadly trick.

As some hours had elapsed since we had tasted food, I opened a tin of meat and prepared a meal. The boatswain ate heartily, and so did the steward: but I could not prevail upon Mary to take more than a biscuit and sherry and water.

Indeed, as the evening approached, our position affected her more deeply, and often, after she had cast her eyes toward the horizon, I could see her lips whispering a prayer, and feel her hand tightening on mine.

The ship still floated, but she was so low in the water that I every minute expected to see her vanish. The water was above her main-chains, and I could only attribute her obstinacy in not sinking to the great quantity of wood—both in cases and goods—which composed her cargo.

The sun was now quite close to the horizon, branding the ocean with a purple glare, but itself descending in a cloudless sky. I cannot express how majestic and wonderful the great orb looked to us who were almost level with the water. Its disk seemed vaster than I had ever before seen it, and there was something sublimely solemn in the loneliness of its descent. All the sky about it, and far to the south and north, was changed into the color of gold by its lustre; and over our heads the heavens were an exquisite tender green, which melted in the east into a dark blue.

I was telling Mary that ere the sun sunk again we might be on board a ship, and whispering any words of encouragement and hope to her, when I was startled by the boatswain, crying, “Now she’s gone! Look at her!”

I turned my eyes toward the ship, and could scarcely credit my senses when I found that her hull had vanished, and that nothing was to be seen of her but her spars, which were all aslant sternward.

I held my breath as I saw the masts sink lower and lower. First the cross-jack yard was submerged, the gaff with the ensign hanging dead at the peak, then the main-yard; presently only the main-topmast cross-trees were visible, a dark cross upon the water; they vanished. At the same moment the sun disappeared behind the horizon; and now we were alone on the great, breathing deep, with all the eastern sky growing dark as we watched.

“It’s all over!” said the boatswain, breaking the silence, and speaking in a hollow tone. “No livin’ man’ll ever see the Grosvenor again!”

Mary shivered and leaned against me. I took up a rug and folded it round her, and kissed her forehead.

The boatswain had turned his back upon us, and sat with his hands folded, I believe in prayer. I am sure he was thinking of Jim Cornish, and I would not have interrupted that honest heart’s communion with its Maker for the value of the ship that had sunk.

Darkness came down very quickly, and, that we might lose no chance of being seen by any distant vessel, I lighted the ship’s lantern and hoisted it at the masthead. I also lighted the bull’s-eye lamp and set it in the stern-sheets.

“Mary,” I whispered, “I will make you up a bed in the bottom of the boat. While this weather lasts, dearest, we have no cause to be alarmed by our position. It will make me happy to see you sleeping, and be sure that while you sleep there will be watchful eyes near you.”

“I will sleep as I am here, by your side; I shall rest better so,” she answered. “I could not sleep lying down.”

It was too sweet a privilege to forego; I passed my arm around her and held her close to me; and she closed her eyes like a child, to please me.

Worn out as I was, enfeebled both intellectually and physically by the heavy strain that had been put upon me ever since that day when I had been ironed by Captain Coxon’s orders, I say—and I solemnly believe in the truth of what I am about to write—that had it not been for the living reality of this girl, encircled by my arm, with her head supported by my shoulder; had it not been for the deep love I felt for her, which localized my thoughts, and, so to say, humanized them down to the level of our situation, forbidding them to trespass beyond the prosaic limits of our danger, of the precautions to be taken by us, of our chances of rescue, of the course to be steered when the wind should fill our sail—I should have gone mad when the night came down upon the sea and enveloped our boat (a lonely speck on the gigantic world of water) in the mystery and fear of the darkness. I know this by recalling the fancy that for a few moments possessed me in looking along the water, when I clearly beheld the outline of a coast, with innumerable lights winking upon it; by the whirling, dizzy sensation in my head which followed the extinction of the vision; by the emotion of wild horror and unutterable disappointment which overcame me when I detected the cheat. I pressed my darling to me, and looked upon her sweet face, revealed by the light shed by the lantern at the masthead, and all my misery left me; and the delight which the knowledge that she was my own love, and that I held her in my arms, gave me, fell like an exorcism upon the demons of my stricken imagination.

She smiled when I pressed her to my side, and when she saw my face close to hers, looking at her; but she did not know that she had saved me from a fate more dreadful than death, and that I—so strong as I seemed, so earnest as I had shown myself in my conflicts with fate, so resolutely as I had striven to comfort her—had been rescued from madness by her whom I had a thousand times pitied for her helplessness.

She fell asleep at last, and I sat for nearly two hours motionless, that I should not awaken her. The steward slept with his head in his arms, kneeling—a strange, mad posture. The boatswain sat forward, with his face turned aft and his arms folded. I addressed him once, but he did not answer. Probably I spoke too low for him to hear, being fearful of waking Mary; but there was little we had to say. Doubtless he found his thoughts too engrossing to suffer him to talk.

Being anxious, to “take a star,” as we say at sea, and not knowing how the time went, I gently drew out my watch and found the hour a quarter to eleven. In replacing the watch I aroused Mary, who raised her head and looked round her with eyes that flashed in the lantern light.

“Where are we?” she exclaimed, and bent her head to gaze at me, on which she recollected herself. “Poor boy!” she said, taking my hand, “I have kept you supporting my weight. You were more tired than I. But it is your turn now. Rest your head on my shoulder.”

“No, it is still your turn,” I answered, “and you shall sleep again presently. But since you are awake, I will try to find out where we are. You shall hold the lamp for me while I make my calculations, and examine the chart.”

Saying which, I drew out my sextant and got across the thwarts to the mast, which I stood up alongside of to lean on; for the swell, though moderate enough to pass without notice on a big vessel, lifted and sank the boat in such a way as to make it difficult to stand steady.

I was in the act of raising the sextant to my eye, when the boatswain suddenly cried, “Mr. Royle, listen!”

“What do you hear?” I asked.

“Hush! listen now!” he answered, in a breathless voice.

I strained my ear, but nothing was audible to me but the wash of the water against the boat’s side.

“Don’t you hear it, Mr. Royle?” he cried, in a kind of agony, holding up his finger. “Miss Robertson, don’t you hear something?”

There was another interval of silence, and Mary answered: “I hear a kind of throbbing.”

“It is so!” I exclaimed. “I hear it now! it is the engines of a steamer.”

“A steamer? Yes! I hear it! where is she?” shouted the boatswain, and he jumped on to the thwart on which I stood.

We strained our ears again.

That throbbing sound, as Mary had accurately described it, closely resembling the rhythmical running of a locomotive-engine heard in the country on a silent night at a long distance, was now distinctly audible; but so smooth was the water, so breathless the night, that it was impossible to tell how far away the vessel might be; for so fine and delicate a vehicle of sound is the ocean in a calm, that, though the hull of a steamship might be below the horizon, yet the thumping of her engines would be heard.

Once more we inclined our ears, holding our breath as we listened.

“It grows louder!” cried the boatswain. “Mr. Royle, bend your bull’s-eye lamp to the end o’ one o’ the oars and swing it about, while I dip this masthead lantern.”

Very different was his manner now from what it had been that morning when the Russian hove in sight.

I lashed the lamp by the ring of it to an oar and waved it to and fro. Meanwhile the boatswain had got hold of the masthead halyards, and was running the big ship’s lantern up and down the mast.

“Mary,” I exclaimed, “lift up the seat behind you, and in the left-hand corner you will find a pistol.”

“I have it,” she answered, in a few moments.

“Point it over the stern and fire!” I cried.

She levelled the little weapon and pulled the trigger; the white flame leaped, and a smart report followed.

“Listen now!” I said.

I held the oar steady, and the boatswain ceased to dance the lantern. For the first few seconds I heard nothing, then my ear caught the throbbing sound.

“I see her!” cried the boatswain; and, following his finger (my sight being keener than my hearing), I saw not only the shadow of a vessel down in the south-west, but the smoke from her funnel pouring along the stars.

“Mary,” I cried, “fire again!”

She drew the trigger.


The clear report whizzed like a bullet past my ear.

Simultaneously with the second report a ball of blue fire shot up into the sky. Another followed, and another.

A moment after a red light shone clear upon the sea.

“She sees us!” I cried, “God be praised! Mary, darling, she sees us!”

I waved the lamp furiously. But there was no need to wave it any longer. The red light drew nearer and nearer; the throbbing of the engines louder and louder, and the revolutions of the propeller sounded like a pulse heating through the water. The shadow broadened and loomed larger. I could hear the water spouting out of her side and the blowing off of the safety-valve.

Soon the vessel grew a defined shape against the stars, and then a voice, thinned by the distance, shouted, “What light is that?”

I cried to the boatswain: “Answer, for God’s sake! My voice is weak.”

He hollowed his hands and roared back: “We’re shipwrecked seamen adrift in a quarter-boat!”

Nearer and nearer came the shadow, and now it was a long, black hull, a funnel pouring forth a dense volume of smoke, spotted with fire-sparks, and tapering masts and fragile rigging, with the stars running through them.

“Ease her!”

The sound of the throbbing grew more measured. We could hear the water as it was churned up by the screw.

“Stop her!”

The sounds ceased, and the vessel came looming up slowly, more slowly, until she stopped.

“What is that?—a boat?” exclaimed a strong bass voice.

“Yes!” answered the boatswain. “We’ve been shipwrecked; we’re adrift in a quarter-boat.”

“Can you bring her alongside?”

“Ay, ay, sir!”

I threw out an oar, but trembled so violently that it was as much as I could do to work it. We headed the boat for the steamer and rowed toward her. As we approached, I perceived that she was very long, bark-rigged, and raking, manifestly a powerful, iron-built ocean steamer. They hung a red light on the forestay and a white light over her port quarter, and lights flitted about her gangway.

A voice sung out: “How many are there of you?”

The boatswain answered: “Three men and a lady.”

On this the same voice called, “If you want help to bring that boat alongside, we’ll send to you.”

“We’ll be alongside in a few minutes,” returned the boatswain.


But the fact was, the vessel had stopped her engines when further off from us than we had imagined; being deceived by the magnitude of her looming hull, which seemed to stand not a hundred fathoms away from us, and by the wonderful distinctness of the voice that had spoken us.

I did not know how feeble I had become until I took the oar; and the violent emotions excited in me by our rescue, now to be effected after our long and heavy trials, diminished still the little strength that was left in me; so that the boat moved very slowly through the water, and it was full twenty minutes starting from the time when we had shipped oars, before we came up with her.

“We’ll fling you a rope’s end,” said a voice; “look out for it.”

A line fell into the boat. The boatswain caught it, and sung out, “All fast!”

I looked up the high side of the steamer: there was a crowd of men assembled round the gangway, their faces visible in the light shed not only by our own masthead lantern (which was on a level with the steamer’s bulwarks), but by other lanterns which some of them held. In all this light we, the occupants of the boat, were to be clearly viewed from the deck; and the voice that had first addressed us said:

“Are you strong enough to get up the ladder? If not, we’ll sling you on board.”

I answered that if a couple of hands would come down into the boat so as to help the lady and a man (who had fallen imbecile) over the ship’s side, the other two would manage to get on board without assistance.

On this a short gangway-ladder was lowered, and two men descended and got into the boat.

“Take that lady first,” I said, pointing to Mary, but holding on, as I spoke, to the boat’s mast, for I felt horribly sick and faint, and knew not, indeed, what was going to happen to me; and I had to exert all my power to steady my voice.

They took her by the arms, and watching the moment when the wash of the swell brought the boat against the ship’s side, landed her cleverly on the ladder and helped her on to the deck.


(From Tom Cringle’s Log.)


The northwester still continued, with a clear blue sky, without a cloud overhead by day, and a bright, cold moon by night. It blew so hard for the three succeeding days, that we could not carry more than close-reefed topsails to it, and a reefed foresail. Indeed, toward six bells in the forenoon watch of the third day, it came thundering down with such violence, and the sea increased so much, that we had to hand the fore-topsail. This was by no means an easy job. “Ease her a bit,” said the first lieutenant,—“there,—shake the wind out of her sails for a moment, until the men get the canvas in.” Whirl, a poor fellow pitched off the lee foreyard-arm into the sea. “Up with the helm—heave him the bight of a rope.” We kept away, but all was confusion, until an American midshipman, one of the prisoners on board, hove the bight of a rope at him. The man got it under his arms, and after hauling him along for a hundred yards at the least—and one may judge of the velocity with which he was dragged through the water, by the fact that it took the united strain of ten powerful men to get him in—he was brought safely on board, pale and blue, when we found that the running of the rope had crushed in his broad chest, below his arms, as if it had been a girl’s waist, indenting the very muscles of it and of his back half an inch deep. He had to be bled before he could breathe, and it was an hour before the circulation could be restored, by the joint exertions of the surgeon and gun-room steward, chafing him with spirits and camphor, after he had been stripped and stowed away between the blankets in his hammock.

The same afternoon we fell in with a small prize to the squadron in the Chesapeake, a dismantled schooner, manned by a prize crew of a midshipman and six men. She had a signal of distress, an American ensign, with the union down, hoisted on the jury-mast, across which there was rigged a solitary lug-sail. It was blowing so hard that we had some difficulty in boarding her, when we found that she was a Baltimore pilot-boat-built schooner, of about seventy tons burden, laden with flour, and bound for Bermuda. But three days before, in a sudden squall, they had carried away both masts short by the board, and the only spar which they had been able to rig was a spare topmast, which they had jammed into one of the pumps,—fortunately she was as tight as a bottle,—and stayed it the best way they could. The captain offered to take the little fellow who had charge of her, and his crew and cargo on board, and then scuttle her; but no—all he wanted was a cask of water and some biscuit; and having had a glass of grog, he trundled over the side again, and returned to his desolate command. However, he afterwards brought his prize safe into Bermuda.

The weather still continued very rough, but we saw nothing until the second evening after this. The forenoon had been even more boisterous than any of the preceding, and we were all fagged enough with “Make sail,” and “Shorten sail,” and “All hands,” the whole day through; and as the night fell, I found myself, for the fourth time, in the maintop. The men had just lain in from the maintopsail-yard, when we heard the watch called on deck,—“Starboard watch, ahoy!”—which was a cheery sound to us of the larboard, who were thus released from duty on deck and allowed to go below.

The men were scrambling down the weather shrouds, and I was preparing to follow them, when I jammed my left foot in the grating of the top, and capsized on my nose. I had been up nearly the whole of the previous night, and on deck the whole of the day, and actively employed too, as during the greater part of it it blew a gale. I stooped down in some pain, to see what had bolted me to the grating; but I had no sooner extricated my foot than, overworked and overfatigued as I was, I fell over in the soundest sleep that ever I have enjoyed before or since, the back of my neck resting on a coil of rope, so that my head hung down within it.

The rain all this time was beating on me, and I was drenched to the skin. I must have slept for four hours or so, when I was awakened by a rough thump on the side from the stumbling foot of the captain of the top, the word having been passed to shake a reef out of the topsails, the wind having rather suddenly gone down. It was done; and now broad awake, I determined not to be caught napping again, so I descended and swung myself in on deck out of the main rigging, just as Mr. Treenail was mustering the crew at eight bells. When I landed on the quarterdeck, there he stood abaft the binnacle, with the light shining on his face, his glazed hat glancing, and the raindrops sparkling at the brim of it. He had noticed me the moment I descended.

“Heyday, Master Cringle, you are surely out of your watch. Why, what are you doing here, eh?”

I stepped up to him and told him the truth, that, being over-fatigued, I had fallen asleep in the top.

“Well, well, boy,” said he, “never mind, go below, and turn in; if you don’t take your rest, you never will be a sailor.

“But what do you see aloft?” glancing his eye upwards, and all the crew on deck, as I passed them, looked anxiously up also amongst the rigging, as if wondering what I saw there, for I had been so chilled in my snooze, that my neck, from resting in the cold on the coil of rope, had become stiffened and rigid to an intolerable degree; and although, when I first came on deck, I had, by a strong exertion, brought my caput to its proper bearings, yet the moment I was dismissed by my proper officer, I for my own comfort was glad to conform to the contraction of the muscle, whereby I once more staved along the deck, glowering up into the heavens as if I had seen some wonderful sight there.

“What do you see aloft?” repeated Mr. Treenail, while the crew, greatly puzzled, continued to follow my eyes, as they thought, and to stare up into the rigging.

“Why, sir, I have thereby got a stiff neck—that’s all, sir.”

“Go and turn in at once, my good boy—make haste, now—tell our steward to give you a glass of hot grog, and mind your hand that you don’t get sick.”


I did as I was desired, swallowed the grog, and turned in; but I could not have been in bed above an hour, when the drum beat to quarters, and I had once more to bundle out on the cold wet deck, where I found all excitement. At the time I speak of, we had been beaten by the Americans in several actions of single ships, and our discipline improved in proportion as we came to learn by sad experience that the enemy was not to be undervalued. I found that there was a ship in sight, right ahead of us—apparently carrying all sail. A group of officers were on the forecastle with night-glasses, the whole crew being stationed in dark clusters round the guns at quarters. Several of the American skippers were forward amongst us, and they were of opinion that the chase was a man-of-war, although our own people seemed to doubt this. One of the skippers insisted that she was the Hornet, from the unusual shortness of her lower masts, and the immense squareness of her yards. But the puzzle was, if it were the Hornet, why she did not shorten sail. Still this might be accounted for, by her either wishing to make out what we were before she engaged us, or she might be clearing for action. At this moment a whole cloud of studding-sails were blown from the yards as if the booms had been carrots; and to prove that the chase was keeping a bright lookout, she immediately kept away, and finally bore up dead before the wind, under the impression, no doubt, that she would draw ahead of us, from her gear being entire, before we could rig out our light sails again.

And so she did for a time, but at length we got within gun-shot. The American masters were now ordered below, the hatches were clapped on, and the word was passed to see all clear. Our shot was by this time flying over and over her, and it was evident she was not a man-of-war. We peppered away—she could not even be a privateer; we were close under her lee-quarter, and yet she had never fired a shot; and her large swaggering Yankee ensign was now run up to the peak, only to be hauled down the next moment. Hurrah! a large cotton ship, from Charleston to Bourdeaux, prize to H.M.S. Torch.

She was taken possession of, and proved to be the Natches, of four hundred tons burden, fully loaded with cotton.

By the time we got the crew on board, and the second lieutenant, with a prize crew of fifteen men, had taken charge, the weather began to lower again; nevertheless we took the prize in tow, and continued on our voyage for the next three days, without anything particular happening. It was the middle watch, when I was startled by a violent jerking of my hammock, and a cry “that the brig was amongst the breakers.” I ran on deck in my shirt, where I found all hands, and a scene of confusion such as I never had witnessed before. The gale had increased, yet the prize had not been cast off, and the consequence was, that by some mismanagement or carelessness, the sway of the large ship had suddenly hove the brig in the wind, and taken the sails aback. We accordingly fetched stern away, and ran foul of the prize, and there we were, in a heavy sea, with our stern grinding against the cotton ship’s high quarter.

The mainboom, by the first rasp that took place after I came on deck, was broken short off, and nearly twelve feet of it hove right in over the taffrail; the vessels then closed, and the next rub ground off the ship’s mizzen channel as clean as if it had been sawed away. Officers shouting, men swearing, rigging cracking, the vessels crashing and thumping together, I thought we were gone, when the first lieutenant seized his trumpet—“Silence, men; hold your tongues, you cowards, and mind the word of command!”

The effect was magical. “Brace round the foreyard; round with it—set the jib—that’s it—foretopmast staysail—haul—never mind if the gale takes it out of the bolt rope”—a thundering flap, and away it flew in truth down to leeward, like a puff of white smoke. “Never mind, men, the jib stands. Belay all that—down with the helm, now don’t you see she has stern way yet? Zounds! we shall be smashed to atoms if you don’t mind your hands, you lubbers—main-topsail sheets let fly—there she pays off, and has headway once more, that’s it—right your helm now—never mind his spanker-boom, the fore-stay will stand it—there—up with helm, sir—we have cleared him—hurrah!” And a near thing it was too, but we soon had everything snug; and although the gale continued without any intermission for ten days, at length we ran in and anchored with our prize in Five Fathom Hole, off the entrance to St. George’s Harbor.

It was lucky for us that we got to anchor at the time we did, for that same afternoon, one of the most tremendous gales of wind from the westward came on that I ever saw. Fortunately it was steady and did not veer about, and having good ground-tackle down, we rode it out well enough. The effect was very uncommon; the wind was howling over our mastheads, and amongst the cedar bushes on the cliffs above, while on deck it was nearly calm, and there was very little swell, being a weather shore; but half a mile out at sea all was white foam, and the tumbling waves seemed to meet from north and south, leaving a space of smooth water under the lee of the island, shaped like the tail of a comet, tapering away, and gradually roughening and becoming more stormy, until the roaring billows once more owned allegiance to the genius of the storm. Then we rode, with three anchors ahead, in safety through the night; and next day, availing of a temporary lull, we ran up, and anchored off the Tanks. Three days after this, the American frigate President was brought in by the Endymion, and the rest of the squadron.



Jim Hawkins, the boy hero of Stevenson’s tale, had sailed with a party of adventuresome gentlemen on the ship Hispaniola, to find the pirate gold which, as they had private proof, lay buried on Treasure Island. Unfortunately, the crew was largely composed of ruffians, who had themselves been pirates, and who also knew of the buried treasure. On reaching the island, these fellows mutinied and tried to kill brave Captain Smollett and the party of gold-seekers. As their only means of safety the latter went ashore and entrenched themselves in a stockade which former visitors had built there; while the Hispaniola, anchored in the harbor, fell into the hands of the pirates, who promptly hoisted the black flag. One foggy night Jim, who was an adventurous and inquisitive lad, secretly stole out from the stockade and found hidden in a cove a tiny home-made boat, clumsy and queer. This boat was “buoyant and clever in a sea-way, but the most cross-grained, lopsided craft to manage. Turning round and round was the manœuvre she was best at.” However, he managed to paddle out to the Hispaniola, intending to cut her moorings. With some difficulty he accomplished this design, but immediately a change of wind and current seized both ship and coracle, and sent them spinning out through the narrows towards open sea. Expecting to be dashed in pieces on some bar or in the raging breakers, Jim lay down helpless, and overcome by weariness and anxiety fell asleep. “The Cruise of the Coracle” begins at this point.


(From Treasure Island.)


It was broad day when I awoke, and found myself tossing at the southwest end of Treasure Island. The sun was up, but was still hid from me behind the great bulk of the Spy-glass, which on this side descended almost to the sea in formidable cliffs. Haulbowline Head and Mizzenmast Hill were at my elbow; the hill bare and dark, the head bound with cliffs forty or fifty feet high, and fringed with great masses of fallen rock. I was scarce a quarter of a mile to seaward, and it was my first thought to paddle in and land.

That notion was soon given over. Among the fallen rocks the breakers spouted and bellowed; loud reverberations, heavy sprays flying and falling, succeeded one another from second to second; and I saw myself, if I ventured nearer, dashed to death upon the rough shore, or spending my strength in vain to scale the beetling crags.

Nor was that all; for crawling together on flat tables of rock, or letting themselves drop into the sea with loud reports, I beheld huge slimy monsters—soft snails, as it were, of incredible bigness—two or three score of them together, making the rocks to echo with their barkings.

I have understood since that they were sea-lions, and entirely harmless. But the look of them, added to the difficulty of the shore and the high running of the surf, was more than enough to disgust me of that landing-place. I felt willing rather to starve at sea than to confront such perils.

In the meantime I had a better chance, as I supposed, before me. North of Haulbowline Head, the land runs in a long way, leaving, at low tide, a long stretch of yellow sand. To the north of that, again, there comes another cape—Cape of the Woods, as it was marked upon the chart—buried in tall green pines, which descended to the margin of the sea.

I remembered what Silver had said about the current that sets northward along the whole west coast of Treasure Island; and seeing from my position that I was already under its influence, I preferred to leave Haulbowline Head behind me, and reserve my strength for an attempt to land upon the kindlier-looking Cape of the Woods.

There was a great, smooth swell upon the sea. The wind blowing steady and gentle from the south, there was no contrariety between that and the current, and the billows rose and fell unbroken.

Had it been otherwise, I must long ago have perished; but as it was, it is surprising how easily and securely my little and light boat could ride. Often, as I still lay at the bottom, and kept no more than an eye above the gunwale, I would see a big blue summit heaving close above me; yet the coracle would but bounce a little, dance as if on springs, and subside on the other side into the trough as lightly as a bird.

I began after a little to grow very bold, and sat up to try my skill at paddling. But even a small change in the disposition of the weight will produce violent changes in the behavior of a coracle. And I had hardly moved before the boat, giving up at once her gentle dancing movement, ran straight down a slope of water so steep that it made me giddy, and struck her nose, with a spout of spray, deep into the side of the next wave.

I was drenched and terrified, and fell instantly back into my old position, whereupon the coracle seemed to find her head again, and led me as softly as before among the billows. It was plain she was not to be interfered with, and at that rate, since I could in no way influence her course, what hope had I left of reaching land?

I began to be horribly frightened, but I kept my head, for all that. First, moving with all care, I gradually baled out the coracle with my sea-cap; then getting my eye once more above the gunwale, I set myself to study how it was she managed to slip so quietly through the rollers.

I found each wave, instead of the big, smooth, glossy mountain it looks from shore, or from a vessel’s deck, was for all the world like any range of hills on the dry land, full of peaks and smooth places and valleys. The coracle, left to herself, turning from side to side, threaded, so to speak, her way through these lower parts, and avoided the steep slopes and higher, toppling summits of the waves.

“Well, now,” thought I to myself, “it is plain I must lie where I am, and not disturb the balance; but it is plain, also, that I can put the paddle over the side, and from time to time, in smooth places, give her a shove or two towards land.” No sooner thought upon than done. There I lay on my elbows, in the most trying attitude, and every now and again gave a weak stroke or two to turn her head to shore.

It was very tiring, and slow to work, yet I did visibly gain ground; and, as we drew near the Cape of the Woods, though I saw I must infallibly miss that point, I had still made some hundred yards of easting. I was, indeed, close in. I could see the cool, green tree-tops swaying together in the breeze, and I felt sure I should make the next promontory without fail.

It was high time, for I now began to be tortured with thirst. The glow of the sun from above, its thousand-fold reflection from the waves, the sea-water that fell and dried upon me, caking my very lips with salt, combined to make my throat burn and my brain ache. The sight of the trees so near at hand had almost made me sick with longing; but the current had soon carried me past the point; and, as the next reach of sea opened out, I beheld a sight that changed the nature of my thoughts.

Right in front of me, not half a mile away, I beheld the Hispaniola under sail. I made sure, of course, that I should be taken; but I was so distressed for want of water, that I scarce knew whether to be glad or sorry at the thought; and, long before I had come to a conclusion, surprise had taken entire possession of my mind, and I could do nothing but stare and wonder.

The Hispaniola was under her mainsail and two jibs, and the beautiful white canvas shone in the sun like snow or silver. When I first sighted her, all her sails were drawing; she was lying a course about north-west; and I presumed the men on board were going round the island on their way back to the anchorage. Presently she began to fetch more and more to the westward, so that I thought they had sighted me and were going about in chase. At last, however, she fell right into the wind’s eye, was taken dead aback, and stood there a while helpless, with her sails shivering.

“Clumsy fellows,” said I; “they must still be drunk as owls.” And I thought how Captain Smollett would have set them skipping.

Meanwhile, the schooner gradually fell off, and filled again upon another tack, sailed swiftly for a minute or so, and brought up once more dead in the wind’s eye. Again and again was this repeated. To and fro, up and down, north, south, east, and west, the Hispaniola sailed by swoops and dashes, and at each repetition ended as she had begun, with idly-flapping canvas. It became plain to me that nobody was steering. And, if so, where were the men? Either they were dead drunk, or had deserted her, I thought, and perhaps if I could get on board, I might return the vessel to her captain.

The current was bearing coracle and schooner southward at an equal rate. As for the latter’s sailing, it was so wild and intermittent, and she hung each time so long in stays, that she certainly gained nothing, if she did not even lose. If only I dared to sit up and paddle, I made sure that I could overhaul her. The scheme had an air of adventure that inspired me, and the thought of the water beaker beside the fore companion doubled my growing courage.

Up I got, was welcomed almost instantly by another cloud of spray, but this time stuck to my purpose; and set myself, with all my strength and caution, to paddle after the unsteered Hispaniola. Once I shipped a sea so heavy that I had to stop and bale, with my heart fluttering like a bird; but gradually I got into the way of the thing, and guided my coracle among the waves, with only now and then a blow upon her bows and a dash of foam in my face.

I was now gaining rapidly on the schooner; I could see the brass glisten on the tiller as it banged about; and still no soul appeared upon her decks. I could not choose but suppose she was deserted. If not, the men were lying drunk below, where I might batten them down, perhaps, and do what I chose with the ship.

For some time she had been doing the worst thing possible for me—standing still. She headed nearly due south, yawing, of course, all the time. Each time she fell off her sails partly filled, and these brought her, in a moment, right to the wind again. I have said this was the worst thing possible for me; for helpless as she looked in this situation, with the canvas cracking like cannon, and the blocks trundling and banging on the deck, she still continued to run away from me, not only with the speed of the current, but by the whole amount of her leeway, which was naturally great.


But now, at last, I had my chance. The breeze fell, for some seconds, very low, and the current gradually turning her, the Hispaniola revolved slowly round her centre, and at last presented me her stern, with the cabin window still gaping open, and the lamp over the table still burning on into the day. The mainsail hung drooped like a banner. She was stock-still, but for the current.

For the last little while I had even lost; but now redoubling my efforts, I began once more to overhaul the chase.

I was not a hundred yards from her when the wind came again in a clap; she filled on the port tack, and was off again, stooping and skimming like a swallow.

My first impulse was one of despair, but my second was towards joy. Round she came, till she was broadside on to me—round still till she had covered a half, and then two-thirds, and then three-quarters of the distance that separated us. I could see the waves boiling white under her forefoot. Immensely tall she looked to me from my low station in the coracle.

And then, of a sudden, I began to comprehend. I had scarce time to think—scarce time to act and save myself. I was on the summit of one swell when the schooner came stooping over the next. The bowsprit was over my head. I sprang to my feet, and leaped, stamping the coracle under water. With one hand I caught the jib-boom, while my foot was lodged between the stay and the brace; and as I still clung there panting, a dull blow told me that the schooner had charged down upon and struck the coracle, and that I was left without retreat on the Hispaniola.



(From The Swiss Family Robinson.)


For many days we had been tempest-tossed. Six times had the darkness closed over a wild and terrific scene, and returning light as often brought but renewed distress, for the raging storm increased in fury until on the seventh day all hope was lost. We were driven completely out of our course; no conjecture could be formed as to our whereabouts. The crew had lost heart, and were utterly exhausted by incessant labor....

My heart sank as I looked round upon my family in the midst of these horrors. Our four young sons were overpowered by terror. “Dear children,” said I, “if the Lord will, he can save us even from this fearful peril; if not, let us calmly yield our lives into his hand, and think of the joy and blessedness of finding ourselves forever and ever united in that happy home above.”

At these words my weeping wife looked bravely up, and, as the boys clustered round her, she began to cheer and encourage them with calm and loving words. I rejoiced to see her fortitude, though my heart was ready to break as I gazed on my dear ones....

Amid the roar of the thundering waves I suddenly heard the cry of “Land, land!” while at the same instant the ship struck with a frightful shock, which threw everyone to the deck, and seemed to threaten her immediate destruction.

Dreadful sounds betokened the breaking up of the ship, and the roaring waters poured in on all sides.

Then the voice of the captain was heard above the tumult, shouting, “Lower away the boats! We are lost!”...

Throughout the night my wife and I maintained our prayerful watch, dreading at every fresh sound some fatal change in the position of the wreck.

At length the faint dawn of day appeared, the long, weary night was over, and with thankful hearts we perceived that the gale had begun to moderate; blue sky was seen above us, and the lovely hues of sunrise adorned the eastern horizon.

I aroused the boys, and we assembled on the remaining portion of the deck, when they, to their surprise, discovered that no one else was on board.

“Hallo, papa! what has become of everybody? Are the sailors gone? Have they taken away the boats? Oh, papa! why did they leave us behind? What can we do by ourselves?”

“My good children,” I replied, “we must not despair, although we seem deserted. See how those on whose skill and good faith we depended have left us cruelly to our fate in the hour of danger. God will never do so. He has not forsaken us, and we will trust him still. Only let us bestir ourselves, and each cheerily do his best. Let each try to procure what will be of most use to us.”...

Fritz brought out a couple of guns, shot belt, powder flasks, and plenty of bullets.

Ernest produced a cap full of nails, an axe and a hammer, while pinchers, chisels, and augers stuck out of all his pockets.

Little Franz carried a box, and eagerly began to show us the “nice sharp little hooks” it contained. “Well done, Franz,” cried I; “these fish-hooks, which you, the youngest, have found, may contribute more than anything else in the ship to save our lives by procuring food for us. Fritz and Ernest, you have chosen well.”

“Will you praise me, too?” said my dear wife. “I have nothing to show, but I can give you good news. Some useful animals are still alive; a cow, a donkey, two goats, six sheep, a ram and a fine sow. I was but just in time to save their lives by taking food to them.”

“All these things are excellent indeed,” said I; “but my friend Jack here has presented me with a couple of huge, hungry, useless dogs, who will eat more than any of us.”

“Oh, papa, they will be of use! Why, they will help us to hunt when we get on shore!”

“No doubt they will, if ever we do get on shore, Jack; but I must say I don’t know how it is to be done.”

“Can’t we each get into a big tub, and float there?” returned he. “I have often sailed splendidly like that, round the pond at home.”

“My child, you have hit on a capital idea,” cried I. “Now, Ernest, let me have your tools, hammers, nails, saws, augers, and all; and then make haste to collect any tubs you can find!”

We very soon found four large casks, made of sound wood, and strongly bound with iron hoops; they were floating with many other things in the water in the hold, but we managed to fish them out, and drag them to a suitable place for launching them. They were exactly what I wanted, and I succeeded in sawing them across the middle. Hard work it was, and we were glad enough to stop and refresh ourselves with wine and biscuits.

My eight tubs now stood ranged in a row near the water’s edge, and I looked at them with great satisfaction; to my surprise, my wife did not seem to share my pleasure!

“I shall never,” said she, “muster courage to get into one of those!”

“Do not be too sure of that, dear wife; when you see my contrivance completed, you will perhaps prefer it to this immovable wreck.”...

All being ready, we cast off, and moved away from the wreck. My good, brave wife sat in the first compartment of the boat; next her was Franz, a pretty little boy, nearly eight years old. Then came Fritz, a handsome, spirited young fellow of fifteen; the two centre tubs contained the valuable cargo; then came our bold, thoughtless Jack; next him Ernest, my second son, intelligent, well-formed, and rather indolent. I myself, the anxious, loving father, stood in the stern, endeavoring to guide the raft with its precious burden to a safe landing-place.

The elder boys took the oars; every one wore a float belt, and had something useful close to him in case of being thrown into the water.

The tide was flowing, which was a great help to the young oarsmen. We emerged from the wreck and glided into the open sea. All eyes were strained to get a full view of the land, and the boys pulled with a will; but for some time we made no progress, as the boat kept turning round and round, until I hit upon the right way to steer it, after which we merrily made for the shore.

We had left two large dogs, Turk and Juno, on the wreck, as being both large mastiffs we did not care to have their additional weight on board our craft; but when they saw us apparently deserting them, they set up a piteous howl, and sprang into the sea. I was sorry to see this, for the distance to the land was so great that I scarcely expected them to be able to accomplish it. They followed us, however, and, occasionally resting their fore-paws on the outriggers, kept up with us well. Jack was inclined to deny them this, their only chance of safety. “Stop,” said I, “that would be unkind as well as foolish; remember, the merciful man regardeth the life of his beast.”

Our passage, though tedious, was safe; but the nearer we approached the shore the less inviting it appeared; the barren rocks seemed to threaten us with misery and want.

Many casks, boxes, and bales of goods floated on the water around us. Fritz and I managed to secure a couple of hogsheads, so as to tow them alongside. With the prospect of famine before us, it was desirable to lay hold of anything likely to contain provisions.

By and by we began to perceive that, between and beyond the cliffs, green grass and trees were discernible. Fritz could distinguish many tall palms, and Ernest hoped they would prove to be cocoanut trees, and enjoyed the thought of drinking the refreshing milk.

“I am very sorry I never thought of bringing away the captain’s telescope,” said I.

“Oh, look here, father!” cried Jack, drawing a little spyglass joyfully out of his pocket.

By means of this glass, I made out that at some distance to the left the coast was much more inviting; a strong current however, carried us directly toward the frowning rocks, but I presently observed an opening, where a stream flowed into the sea, and saw that our geese and ducks were swimming towards this place. I steered after them into the creek, and we found ourselves in a small bay or inlet where the water was perfectly smooth and of moderate depth. The ground sloped gently upward from the low banks of the cliffs, which here retired inland, leaving a small plain, on which it was easy for us to land. Everyone sprang gladly out of the boat but little Franz, who, lying packed in his tub like a potted shrimp, had to be lifted out by his mother....

Fritz meanwhile, leaving a loaded gun with me, took another himself, and went along the rough coast to see what lay beyond the stream; this fatiguing sort of walk not suiting Ernest’s fancy, he sauntered down to the beach, and Jack scrambled among the rocks, searching for shellfish.

I was anxious to land the two casks which were floating alongside our boat, but on attempting to do so I found that I could not get them up the bank on which we had landed, and was therefore obliged to look for a more convenient spot. As I did so, I was startled by hearing Jack shouting for help, as though in great danger. He was at some distance, and I hurried toward him with a hatchet in my hand. The little fellow stood screaming in a deep pool, and as I approached, I saw that a huge lobster had caught his leg in its powerful claw. Poor Jack was in a terrible fright; kick as he would, his enemy still clung on. I waded into the water, and seizing the lobster firmly by the back, managed to make it loosen its hold, and we brought it safe to land. Jack, having speedily recovered his spirits, and anxious to take such a prize to his mother, caught the lobster in both hands, but instantly received such a severe blow from its tail that he flung it down, and passionately hit the creature with a large stone. This display of temper vexed me. “You are acting in a very childish way, my son,” said I; “never strike an enemy in a revengeful spirit.” Once more lifting the lobster, Jack ran triumphantly toward the tent.

“Mother, mother! a lobster, Ernest! look here, Franz! mind, he’ll bite you! Where’s Fritz?” All came crowding round Jack and his prize, wondering at its unusual size, and Ernest wanted his mother to make lobster soup directly, by adding it to what she was now boiling.

She, however, begged to decline making any such experiment, and said she preferred cooking one dish at a time. Having remarked that the scene of Jack’s adventure afforded a convenient place for getting my casks on shore, I returned thither and succeeded in drawing them up on the beach, where I set them on end, and for the present left them.

On my return, I resumed the subject of Jack’s lobster, and told him he should have the offending claw all to himself, when it was ready to be eaten, congratulating him on being the first to discover anything useful.

“As to that,” said Ernest, “I found something very good to eat, as well as Jack, only I could not get at them without wetting my feet.”

“Pooh!” cried Jack, “I know what he saw—nothing but some nasty mussels; I saw them too. Who wants to eat trash like that? Lobster for me!”

“I believe them to be oysters, not mussels,” returned Ernest calmly.

“Be good enough, my philosophical young friend, to fetch a few specimens of these oysters in time for our next meal,” said I; “we must all exert ourselves, Ernest, for the common good, and pray never let me hear you object to wetting your feet. See how quickly the sun has dried Jack and me.”

“I can bring some salt at the same time,” said Ernest. “I remarked a good deal lying in the crevices of the rocks; it tasted very pure and good, and I concluded it was produced by the evaporation of sea-water in the sun.”

“Extremely probable, learned sir,” cried I; “but if you had brought a bagful of this good salt instead of merely speculating so profoundly on the subject, it would have been more to the purpose. Run and fetch some directly.”

It proved to be salt sure enough, although so impure that it seemed useless, till my wife dissolved and strained it, when it became fit to put in the soup.

“Why not use the sea-water itself?” asked Jack.

“Because,” said Ernest, “it is not only salt, but bitter too. Just try it.”

“Now,” said my wife, tasting the soup with the stick with which she had been stirring it, “dinner is ready, but where can Fritz be?” she continued, a little anxiously....

He presently appeared before us, his hands behind his back, and a look of disappointment upon his countenance.

“Unsuccessful!” said he.

“Really!” I replied; “never mind, my boy, better luck next time.”

“Oh, Fritz!” exclaimed his brothers, who had looked behind him, “a sucking-pig, a little sucking-pig. Where did you get it? How did you shoot it? Do let us see it!”....

“It was one of several,” said Fritz, “which I found on the shore; most curious animals they are; they hopped rather than walked, and every now and then would squat down on their legs and rub their snouts with their fore-paws. Had not I been afraid of losing them all, I would have tried to catch one alive, they seemed so tame.”

Meanwhile Ernest had been carefully examining the animal in question.

“This is no pig,” he said; “and except for its bristly skin, does not look like one. See, its teeth are not like those of a pig, but rather those of a squirrel. In fact,” he continued, looking at Fritz, “your sucking-pig is an agouti.”

“Dear me,” said Fritz; “listen to the great professor lecturing! He is going to prove that a pig is not a pig!”

“You need not be so quick to laugh at your brother,” said I, in my turn; “he is quite right. I, too, know the agouti by descriptions and pictures, and there is little doubt that this is a specimen. The little animal is a native of North America, where it makes its nest under the roots of trees, and lives upon fruit. But, Ernest, the agouti not only looks something like a pig, but most decidedly grunts like a porker.”

While we were thus talking, Jack had been vainly endeavoring to open an oyster with his large knife. “Here is a simpler way,” said I, placing an oyster on the fire; it immediately opened. “Now,” I continued, “who will try this delicacy?” All at first hesitated to partake of them, so unattractive did they appear. Jack, however, tightly closing his eyes and making a face as though about to take medicine, gulped one down. We followed his example, one after the other, each doing so rather to provide himself with a spoon than with any hope of cultivating a taste for oysters.

Our spoons were now ready, and gathering round the pot we dipped them in, not, however, without sundry scalded fingers. Ernest then drew from his pocket the large shell he had procured for his own use, and scooping up a good quantity of soup he put it down to cool, smiling at his own foresight.

“Prudence should be exercised for others,” I remarked; “your cool soup will do capitally for the dogs, my boy; take it to them, and then come and eat like the rest of us....”

By this time the sun was sinking beneath the horizon, and the poultry, which had been straying to some little distance, gathered round us, and began to pick up the crumbs of biscuits which had fallen during our repast. My wife hereupon drew from her mysterious bag some handfuls of oats, peas, and other grain, and with them began to feed the poultry. She showed me at the same time several other seeds of various vegetables. “That was indeed thoughtful,” said I; “but pray be careful of what will be of such value to us; we can bring plenty of damaged biscuits from the wreck, which, though of no use as food for us, will suit the fowls very well indeed.”

The pigeons now flew up to crevices in the rocks, the fowls perched themselves on our tent pole, and the ducks waddled off, cackling and quacking, to the marshy margin of the river. We, too, were ready for repose, and having loaded our guns, and offered up our prayers to God, thanking Him for His many mercies to us, we commended ourselves to His protecting care, and as the last ray of light departed, closed our tent and lay down to rest.


Cooper, J. F., born in New Jersey, 1789; died, 1851. He followed the sea for five years, after three years at Yale. His first novel, “Precaution,” was published when he was thirty. His chief books are “The Spy,” “The Pilot,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “The Prairie,” “Red Rover,” “The Bravo,” “The Pathfinder,” “The Deerslayer,” “The Two Admirals,” “Wing and Wing,” and “Satanstoe,” all of them either sea-tales or tales of frontier life.

Bullen, F. T., English author and lecturer, born, 1857; educated at a dame’s school; started life as errand-boy; from 1869 to 1883 was at sea in all capacities up to and including chief mate, then clerk in the English meteorological office until 1899. In addition to “The Cruise of the Cachalot,” he has written “Idylls of the Sea,” “The Log of a Sea Waif,” “The Men of the Merchant Service,” “With Christ at Sea,” and many articles, poems, and sketches.

Cleveland, R. J., was the brother of the great-grandfather of Grover Cleveland; born in Salem in 1740; died about 1786; when sixteen years old was seized by a press-gang in Boston streets, and served for several years on board an English frigate under William Trelawney, afterwards Sir William, Governor of Jamaica. He was long occupied in the merchant service; and when the Revolution broke out he, with his brig Pilgrim, captured over fifty British prizes. His “Narrative of Voyages and Commercial Enterprises” was not published until 1842, and it was republished at once in England, and went through three editions here.

Cupples, George, born in Berwickshire, Scotland, 1822; died, 1901. Son of a Scottish clergyman. He had a strong desire to go to sea: at sixteen he was apprenticed as a sailor, and made a voyage to India and back. After studying art and divinity, on his return, he devoted himself to literature, and besides “The Green Hand,” he wrote “The Two Frigates” and some other books, and contributed largely to magazines.

Dana, R. H., American author and lawyer; born, 1815; died 1882; graduated at Harvard 1837; afterward shipped as a common sailor and made a voyage to California. He described the voyage in “Two Years Before the Mast.” Became a distinguished maritime lawyer, and wrote “The Seaman’s Friend,” “To Cuba and Back,” and edited an edition of Wheaton’s International Law.

Defoe, D., born in London, 1661; died, 1731; a great politician in his time, but best remembered by his “Robinson Crusoe.” His political pamphlets, of which he wrote over four hundred, caused him to be imprisoned and pilloried, and his books to be burned by the common hangman. Among his other writings are “The Memoirs of a Cavalier,” “Captain Singleton,” “A History of the Plague,” and “The History of Colonel Jack.”

Dickens, Charles, born, 1812; died, 1870. As a boy he had a very hard life, and much of the story of “David Copperfield” is autobiographical. He became a reporter, and began to write about 1833. His chief books are “Sketches by Boz,” “Pickwick,” “Oliver Twist,” “Nicholas Nickleby,” “Old Curiosity Shop,” “Barnaby Rudge,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” “Martin Chuzzlewit,” “Bleak House,” “Dombey and Son,” “Little Dorrit,” and “Our Mutual Friend.”

Ingelow, J., English poetess and novelist, born, 1820; died, 1899. Her chief novels are “Off the Skelligs,” “Fated to be Free,” “Don John,” and “Sarah de Berenger.” “The Hightide on the Coast of Lincolnshire,” and “A Story of Doom,” are the best known of her poetical writings.

Kingsley, Charles, an English clergyman and author, born in Devonshire, 1819; died, 1875. From 1844, until his death, he was rector of Eversley, in Hampshire. In 1873 he was appointed Canon of Westminster and Chaplain to Queen Victoria. He wrote “Alton Locke” and “Yeast,” “Two Years Ago,” “Hereward the Wake,” “Hypatia,” and “Westward Ho!” And under the pen-name of “Parson Lot” wrote much on Christian Socialism. A charming book of travel, “At Last,” and “The Heroes,” “Glaucus,” “The Water Babies,” “Prose Idylls,” “Health and Education,” are some of his other books. His “Life,” by his widow, is a most interesting biography.

Kingston, W. H. G., English writer of boys’ stories; born, 1814; died, 1880. His father was a merchant in Oporto, and his voyages thence to London gave him his knowledge of ships and sailing. His first book for boys, “Peter, the Whaler,” had an immense success. Among his most popular books are “The Three Midshipmen,” “The Three Lieutenants,” and “The Three Admirals.” He wrote over 120 books of this kind, all simple, vigorous, and healthy in tone.

Loti, Pierre, French marine officer and author, born in 1850. He entered the navy in 1867, and at first sailed the Pacific Ocean. He went through the Chinese campaign with distinction. Among his numerous books may be cited, “Aziyadé,” “Le Mariage de Loti,” “The Romance of a Spahi,” “The Iceland Fisherman,” “Madame Chrysanthemum,” “The Romance of a Child,” “The Book of Pity and of Death,” and “A Phantom of the East.”

Marryat, Capt. F., English author, born, 1792; died, 1848. In 1806 went as midshipman on board the frigate Impérieuse. He followed the sea until 1830, and then devoted himself to literature. He wrote “Frank Mildmay,” “The King’s Own,” “Peter Simple,” “Jacob Faithful,” “Mr. Midshipman Easy,” “Snarleyyow,” “The Pasha of Many Tales,” etc. In 1837 he visited America, and afterward published his “Diary in America;” “Settlers in Canada,” and “The Children of the New Forest,” were his last works.

Melville, H., American author, born, 1819; died, 1891; became a sailor, and deserted, owing to the captain’s harsh treatment; was kept prisoner by a savage tribe in the Marquesas Islands, and was rescued by an Australian whaler. “Typee” contains an account of this adventure. “Omoo” continues his adventures in the Marquesas. “Moby Dick” and “Red Jacket” are among his best-known sea tales. He also published some volumes of verse.

Reade, C., English novelist and playwright, born, 1814; died, 1884; studied at Oxford, and was called to the bar. He wrote several plays which proved very popular. Of his eighteen novels may be mentioned “Peg Woffington,” “Christie Johnson,” “It is Never Too Late to Mend,” “The Cloister and the Hearth,” “Hard Cash,” “Griffith Gaunt,” “Foul Play,” and “A Terrible Temptation.”

Russell, W. Clark, sea-story writer, born in New York, 1844. Son of Henry Russell, author of “Cheer, Boys, Cheer.” He went to sea in a merchantman at thirteen and a half, but abandoned it after seven or eight years. His first nautical novel was “John Holdsworth, Chief Mate” (published in 1874). “The Wreck of the Grosvenor” is the most popular of his stories. He also wrote “A Sailor’s Sweetheart,” “Little Lou,” “An Ocean Free Lance,” “A Sea Queen,” “The Lady Maud,” “My Shipmate Louise,” “Round the Galley Fire,” “An Ocean Tragedy,” “The Emigrant Ship,” “List, Ye Landsmen,” “What Cheer,” “The Two Captains,” “The Romance of a Midshipman,” and many others.

Scott, Michael, English author, born, 1789; died, 1835. Spent a great part of his life in the West Indies, and finally established himself in business in Glasgow, where he died. He wrote “Tom Cringle’s Log” and “The Cruise of the Midge,” and contributed largely to Blackwood’s Magazine, in which these stories first appeared.

Stevenson, R. L., born in Edinburgh, 1850; died, 1894; was trained as a lawyer, but soon turned his attention to literature. From his childhood he had written constantly. Among essays and stories, he wrote “An Inland Voyage,” “Travels with a Donkey,” “Virginibus Puerisque,” “New Arabian Nights,” “Treasure Island,” “Kidnapped,” “The Master of Ballantrae,” “Prince Otto,” “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” etc., and “A Child’s Garden of Verse.”

Wyss, J. R., born in Switzerland, 1781; died, 1830, at Bern, where he was professor of philosophy and chief librarian. “The Swiss Family Robinson” is the work by which his name is best remembered. It appeared in two volumes in 1812-13. Was translated into English, the first volume in 1820, the second in 1849. Since then countless editions have appeared.



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