The Wind-Jammers by Hains, T. Jenkins (Thornton Jenkins)
produced from images available at The Internet Archive)
T. Jenkins Hains
The Windjammers $1.50 The Black Barque 1.50 The Voyage of the Arrow 1.50
L. C. PAGE & COMPANY New England Building BOSTON, MASS.
[Illustration: “CLAWING OFF THE CAPE.”
Copyright by S. S. McClure Co.]
By T. JENKINS HAINS
Author of “The Voyage of the Arrow,” “The Black Barque,” “The Strife of the Sea,” etc.
BOSTON L. C. PAGE & COMPANY PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1894, 1898, 1899, by T. JENKINS HAINS Copyright, 1897, by FRANK A. MUNSEY
Sixth Impression, March, 1906.
COLONIAL PRESS PRINTED BY C. H. SIMONDS & CO. BOSTON, U. S. A.
TO GENERAL P. C. HAINS UNITED STATES ARMY A STERN CRITIC AND MY OLDEST FRIEND
THE EXECUTIVE OF THE RANDOLPH 9
TIMBER NOGGINS 28
OFF THE HORN: A TALE OF THE SOUTHERN OCEAN 38
THE BLACK CREW OF COOPER’S HOLE 52
THE TREASURE OF TINIAN REEF 84
THE LE MAIRE LIGHT 110
THE BACKSLIDERS 124
CAPTAIN CRAVEN’S COURAGE 146
THE DEATH OF HUATICARA 161
A BLUNDER 181
TO CLIPPERTON REEF 196
THE TRANSMIGRATION OF AMOS JONES 227
MURPHY OF THE CONEMAUGH 235
MY PIRATE 244
THE CURSE OF WOMAN 264
_THE EXECUTIVE OF THE RANDOLPH_
I was a few months over sixteen when my father set me to work in the ship-yard. My task consisted in carrying water for the men to drink and distributing among them armfuls of bolts and trunnels.
In this way I became acquainted with the different men employed upon the various parts of the vast hull for the ship of war that was being set up, and I knew their peculiarities and some of their affairs.
My father was working with several other men, one day, on the dead-wood aft, when an unfinished butt flew out from its fastenings and struck a man named Simms, injuring him so badly that he was laid off. As the building dragged very slowly, other men were put on and my father had a new assistant.
This new man was about thirty years of age and rather good-looking. He had no beard or mustache, and his sensitive mouth wore a grave expression, as if he were much given to deep thought.
It was his eyes, however, that appeared to me most remarkable. They seldom met mine when he took his water from me, and when they did I always had the impression that I had seen only the whites of them in their corners.
Only once did he look straight at me, and that was when I was a trifle slow about bringing him a bolt. Then he gazed at me for fully a quarter of a minute, and I was so frightened by his fierce look that I almost dropped the bolt from my hand.
At other times he smiled so pleasantly, and said so many flattering things to everybody, that the other workmen took a strong liking to him. He always had the latest war news, and solemnly bade the men thank Providence for each success that attended General Washington’s army.
My father finally invited him to our house one Sunday, and he appeared there all dressed and powdered like any gentleman of wealth and position, much to my father’s disgust and to my sister Peggy’s astonishment.
He saw our looks, and explained that he was more careful of his appearance on the Lord’s day, inasmuch as he had held clerical orders, and that the only reason he took up the work at the ship-yard was because he felt that he could serve the Lord better by helping to build defences for the suffering country than by talking.
His manner to both Peggy and my mother was such, that had they been of the blood royal, he could hardly have treated them with more deference and respect.
The way he took to Peggy was remarkable, and he spent much time, after this first visit, in her company talking of church affairs, with which he appeared to be quite familiar. My mother and father did not object to this, for they were religious people, and their dislike for the young man’s effeminacy soon gave place to admiration for his zeal in these elevating matters.
The only person frequenting our house who did not take greatly to Mr. Robinson was George Rhett, our young Episcopal clergyman, who was very attentive to Peggy. He thought Mr. Robinson’s conversation more fascinating than instructive.
One day, late in the winter, three rough-looking men appeared in the yard and asked for work. They were put on the gang under my father. The leader of these men was a perfect giant in size, and had a head as big and bald as the butt of a twelve-pounder. He also had a face and manner of peculiar fierceness.
I happened to be near him one day when my father gave him an order, which he roughly answered with a great oath. Instantly Mr. Robinson turned about and, holding up his hands, raised his face to heaven and bade him ask forgiveness for using such language.
The deep tones of his voice startled me at first with their intenseness, but the great ruffian laughed. Then he suddenly caught Mr. Robinson’s eye, and a change came upon him.
He quietly asked my father’s forgiveness and apologized for swearing; then he resumed work with an agility that reminded me I must not stand about gaping.
Mr. Robinson, however, was not satisfied with what he had accomplished. He went to the foreman and, after a little argument, persuaded him to discharge the three new men, much to the big bald-headed ruffian’s apparent disgust.
This fellow and his comrades left the yard with some show of feeling against Mr. Robinson, and went directly to our young pastor, Mr. Rhett, with their grievance. They showed him letters telling of their good character, signed by several prominent officers in the army at the North, and explained that they wished to work, and could do so to some advantage on a part of the hull where Mr. Robinson would not be annoyed by their presence.
When Mr. Rhett heard it was Mr. Robinson who had had the men discharged his indignation ran high, and he went about telling such a tale of persecution that even my mild-mannered sister Peggy was ready to take up matters in their behalf.
Mr. Rhett went to the foreman and had the men put back on the work, and was loud in his praise of them.
They really were the best men for heavy work in the yard, and when, a few days later, they asked to have several of their friends employed, Mr. Rhett was quite willing to recommend them. As he was very popular in the community, his word was of so much value that they were immediately turned to with their comrades.
Mr. Robinson took no further notice of the matter, but about a week before the launching Peggy came to me and, with many pretty blushes, told me I was about to have a new brother. My father and mother had consented to the marriage and every one was as happy as could be. That is, every one except Mr. Rhett.
The wedding took place the day of the launching of the ship, and Peggy was a proud girl as she stood there on the forward deck and watched a beautiful woman break a bottle of wine over the vessel’s bows. Then a cannon-shot boomed out and the name “Randolph” was cheered again and again. It was a memorable day in our family, and my father came home in such a state my poor mother instantly sent me for the doctor.
Of course, after this event of the launching, all talk was of the war and of what part the frigate--named after the Hon. Peyton Randolph, of Virginia--would take in it.
It was not long before the ship had her guns aboard and the riggers were through with her. Then Captain Biddle began looking for volunteers to help man her.
Seamen were not plentiful, but as a man-of-war must have men to man her battery, landsmen are as good as any other class for this work after they have had a little training.
I begged hard to join, and as I had now been out of employment nearly two months, while the frigate was fitting out, and as I also had a hearty appetite, my poor father and mother at last consented. This, provided that I could be regularly shipped, and so have some chance of promotion.
I was very happy and excited the morning my father took me on board and asked Captain Biddle for his favor, and when I found I was really to go to sea in that splendid ship I fairly danced with joy.
I was a heavy, active boy, and soon learned to handle a musket, cutlass, or boarding-pike in a satisfactory manner.
The best men for this sort of thing, however, were those recommended by Mr. Rhett. There were over twenty men aboard in this party, and they had enlisted for the full term of the cruise. It was astonishing to see how that bald ruffian would perk himself up when handling a musket or cutlass.
Finally the day came for sailing, and a great crowd collected to bid us farewell. I saw my parents early in the day, and then Peggy and her husband came to bid me an affectionate good-by, my poor sister weeping upon my shoulder and hugging me again and again.
Three hundred and five men stood upon the frigate’s deck and manned the yards, to answer the shouts from the shore with three ringing cheers. A gun boomed the parting salute, our yards were braced sharp on the backstays to the southerly breeze, and we stood rapidly out to sea.
When the bar was crossed and the long, easy roll of the ocean was felt, I began to get a little homesick. I forgot the grand thoughts I had indulged in but an hour before.
I struggled against this peculiar feeling for some time, and then a particularly heavy rolling sea taking the frigate squarely on the beam, I leaned over the side, and cared not whether I was alive or dead.
My paroxysms must have attracted some attention, for I heard several men laugh. I turned quickly, and at that moment a hand was laid heavily upon my shoulder, and Mr. Robinson stood before me. He flashed a look at the grinning men and they turned away.
Then he raised that thin, piping voice of his into a deep, sonorous tone, and, lifting his face skyward, bade me have faith in the Lord. I had actually begun to think I was dying, for the qualms were most severe; so the grave face and solemn manner of my brother-in-law were very welcome to me in spite of my utter astonishment at seeing him aboard.
I thanked him for his kindness, and gained much strength from his words, and then, without further remark, I lay down beside a broadside gun and tried to lose consciousness.
All that night and the next day I suffered agony, but I found myself able to attend to some duties, and asked Mr. Robinson why and how he came to be on board. These questions he answered abruptly, but gave me to understand that it was my sister’s wish that he should serve his country as a sailor.
In a few days I was entirely well, and I was put to work as a powder-boy, to help pass ammunition from the magazine to the guns.
The gun crews were drilled and the pieces fired to test their accuracy and exercise the men. Then we were ready for any enemy of our size and rating. Even greater, for that matter; for while we only rated as a thirty-six-gun frigate, Captain Biddle was an officer of such high spirit and courage that he would have willingly engaged a ship of the line had one appeared.
Robinson was made captain of an after broadside gun crew, for in spite of his knowledge of religious matters he was every inch a sailor, and knew more of nautical affairs--including the handling of naval guns--than any man on the ship, except, perhaps, Captain Biddle himself.
Four of the men recommended by Mr. Rhett were in his gun’s crew, and they were the stoutest and most grim-looking ruffians when working stripped to the waist that ever stood behind the breech of a twenty-four-pounder. When they drilled, they would practise running in their gun and whirling it around on the deck, and then send the tackles about in a most confusing manner.
Finally the officer of the deck had to interfere, and give Robinson to understand that gymnastic exercises were out of place on the gun-deck.
In spite of this he was highly esteemed by Captain Biddle, and when his men yelled at each discharge he was not reprimanded.
We were off Charleston one evening, cruising to the eastward under easy canvas, and waiting for a prize to heave in sight. Several British vessels were known to be bound for the colonies, loaded with arms and supplies for the enemy’s troops, and it would be a godsend to catch up with one, as there were not half enough muskets ashore to equip the volunteers in the Carolinas.
It was noticed by some on board that, while the majority of the men and all the officers appeared anxious for a meeting with the foe, there was a peculiar apathy shown among a part of the crew. These were the men whom Mr. Rhett had helped to get work, and they appeared quiet and listless, taking no interest in the sails we raised above the horizon and maintaining a manner of sullen effrontery to all who did not share their intimacy.
It was first supposed that the new life and discipline did not appeal favorably to them, but as they made no complaint little thought was given to the matter. Robinson kept away from this crowd except at drill times, and then he did much to exhort them not to be so profane.
Several times I noticed groups of men, who were not on watch, having a large sprinkling of these fellows among them standing about, talking in a manner that could hardly be said to speak well of the discipline aboard the ship.
The sun had gone down but little over half an hour, dyeing the light clouds in the west a fiery red, when the man on the lookout in the foretop hailed the deck.
“Sail dead ahead, sir!” he bawled.
In half a second all eyes were turned in that direction. Instantly royals were sheeted home, while the outer jibs, topmast, and topgallant-staysails were run up, making the frigate heel to leeward under the pressure.
Men were sent to quarters, the magazines opened, the guns loaded and run out, and everything was ready for action.
We had little time to wait to find out what the vessel was ahead, for her captain was evidently as anxious to meet us as we were to meet him, and he stood for us with every stitch of canvas drawing alow and aloft.
It grew quite dark, but we could still see the stranger, and by the heavy topsails and well-trimmed yards it was easy to see that the vessel was a man-of-war.
In about half an hour we came abreast, and not more than fifty fathoms distant, but somehow the Randolph was sent to leeward, giving the stranger the weather-gage. Then we had no difficulty in recognizing the frigate Yarmouth, sixty-four guns, commanded by Captain Vincent of his majesty’s navy.
As we were new and unknown, the British ensign had been run up to deceive the enemy, Captain Biddle hoping to get in close and deliver a crippling broadside before the Yarmouth was aware of our intentions, but I am not certain whether it was seen or not in the darkness.
Every man was at his post, standing silent and motionless in the dim light of the battle-lanterns, and every gun on the starboard broadside was kept trained on the British frigate.
We drew directly abreast, and a hoarse voice hailed us through the gloom.
“Fire!” came the order clear and distinct from the quarter-deck, and our answer to the hail was the deep rolling thunder of twenty heavy guns, fired almost simultaneously.
Then, as we ran clear of the cloud from our guns, the Yarmouth appeared to burst into a spitting line of flame, and the shot from her answering broadside crashed among us while she disappeared in a storm of smoke.
The scene on our spar-deck was frightful. Men struck by the flying shot or splinters were hurled and pitched about and fell in mangled groups upon the sanded planks.
Then the order came to wear ship, and we paid off rapidly to the northward, to bring our port broadside to bear upon the enemy as she crossed our wake, coming after us in full chase.
We were new and light, and probably able to go two knots to her one, if no accident happened to our sailing gear. Our rigging had not been seriously cut and our spars were sound, so it is hard to tell just how the action would have ended had the fight continued as it commenced.
But there were other matters at hand far more dangerous to us than his majesty’s sixty-four-gun frigate Yarmouth.
As I passed a powder charge to the after starboard gun, I turned and looked across the deck at Robinson and his crew.
Instead of running his gun out and laying it towards the enemy, he and his men quickly shifted the tackles and, slewing it around, trained it down the port broadside through the line of gun crews. As he did so, some thirty men--among whom I recognized the big bald ruffian and his comrades of the ship-yard--rushed down the starboard side, and came aft, yelling and swearing and with their cutlasses swinging in their hands.
They took their places around and behind Robinson’s gun, while one man stepped out and coolly rammed a bag of musket-balls down the muzzle.
“What are you doing?” roared the officer of the deck from the break of the poop.
“Watch me,” said Robinson, quietly; and with that he let off the heavy gun, double charged, along the deck.
The discharge swept the gangway clear of living men, the poor, surprised fellows going down in groups like grass before a scythe-blade. Then, with a roaring yell, the ruffians left the spar-deck to the gun crews and rushed aft in a body, with Robinson and the bald-headed giant at their front.
It was all so sudden no one realized what was taking place. The ship was off before the wind, racing along to the northward through the gloom.
The lanterns of the port battery were smashed or blown out, and the shrieks and groans of the wounded men added to the confusion and terror of the scene. Those men left alive and unhurt on the port side were tailing on to the waring braces.
The officers forward bawled and swore at the bewildered sailors, trying to get them to realize their position, and while they did so the villains were taking the quarter-deck.
It was a short, desperate fight aft, but they had laid their plans so well that every officer was taken off his guard and cut down before even preparing to make a defence. Then the ruffians were masters of the quarter-deck.
I saw the Yarmouth on the port quarter. She loomed dimly through the gloom nearly a mile away, and as I looked I saw the intermittent flashes of her bow-chasers and heard the regular firing.
A shot from one of her long twenty-fours tore past me, and killed a man who was just starting aft to join in the affray on the poop. I thought for an instant that they might know on the Yarmouth what was taking place on board the Randolph, but afterwards I found they knew nothing.
In a few moments the men forward began to see what had happened aft, and they just recovered themselves as Robinson and his crew finished off the last man and were running the ship away to the northward without a thought of engaging the enemy.
So far the villains had been successful, and with another turn of good luck would be masters of a large frigate, fully equipped and provisioned for a long cruise.
Robinson could then have become a wealthy pirate in the West Indian and South American waters, and retired from the sea in a year or two without much danger of being caught, for his vessel was larger and faster than any he would be likely to meet. From the capes of Virginia to the river Plate no vessel of this size had cruised for years, and he would have had a good chance to make a clean sweep before anything caught up with him.
But this turn of luck for him did not occur. When he had finished his deadly work aft and started his men forward, our men rallied, and, led on by the under officers left alive, began to make a stand.
Robinson rushed his men on in a style worthy of a better cause. And the way that great bald ruffian went into our poor fellows was astounding.
They charged up the port gangway in a close body and engaged with pike and cutlass, forcing those before them who were not cut down, until they reached the mainmast. Robinson appeared like a fiend. He roared and yelled to his men to press on, and slashed right and left with amazing power.
The great bald ruffian, who now appeared as his right-hand man, kept close to him, and they went along that deck leaving a bloody path to mark their course.
They cut down and killed or wounded every man who had the hardihood to dispute their way. I saw Robinson strike a gunner a blow that stretched him dead with his skull cleft to the ears, and then, instantly recovering his weapon, he drove it clear through the body of the man next to him.
One officer alone stood before the rush. I do not remember his name, but he commanded the forward battery.
He engaged Robinson for an instant and smote him sorely with his weapon, for, although I could not see the stroke in the gloom, I heard the villain cry out fiercely as if in pain. The next instant the bald man struck the officer to the deck and pressed on harder than ever.
This officer evidently understood the situation to be more desperate than it really was, for, as the crowd of ruffians passed over him, he arose with difficulty and staggered to the hatchway which led to the magazine. I guessed his purpose the instant he disappeared, and I saw him no more.
The fight went on forward for some minute longer, and I was driven to the forecastle by a fierce scoundrel who bore down on me with a reeking cutlass. Then a sudden rally of our men turned my enemy and their rush was brought to an end.
As we were five to one in point of numbers, it now began to look as if we would soon make way against the assault. Some of our men got around in their rear, and we began to close in on them with something like a chance of winning the fight, but it was never fought out.
I saw the big bald man strike furiously at a man near me, and swing his weapon around so fiercely that not one of our men dared get within its reach, although they brought up stubbornly just beyond it. Then Robinson dashed in to where I stood with my loaded musket. I fired blindly and then saw his blade flash up, and I felt my end had come.
At that instant the whole ship shivered and burst into a mass of flame. I felt myself hurled into the air as the deck disappeared under me, and the next moment I found myself in the water.
I looked around me on all sides and saw nothing but the waves that stretched away into the surrounding gloom. I was uninjured and swam easily, thinking that my end must be near, and that I could only prolong my existence by half an hour’s hard struggle.
I was much dazed, but remembered the Yarmouth, and looked about for some sign of her.
Finally I made out a dark object over a mile away, and soon I recognized her standing directly for me. This gave me hope for a short time, and I struck out strongly, thinking it might be possible to gain her if she remained in the vicinity of the blown-up frigate.
I was a good swimmer, and made some headway until I butted hard into a floating object I failed to see in the darkness and nearly stove in my skull. I reached wildly upward, and my hands clutched the combings of a hatchway.
Then I recovered myself and drew my tired body clear of the sea. I had a float that would keep me from sinking as long as I had strength to stay upon it.
The Yarmouth bore down on me, and I cried out. She altered her course a point or two, but did not stop, and in a moment she was gliding away into the darkness, leaving me alone on the hatchway.
I could hear the rush of the water under her bluff bows, and the cries of the men on deck calling out orders. Then she faded away into the night.
In a little while I heard a cry from the dark water near me, and soon I made out a man’s head close to the hatch. I called to him, and reached out and pulled him up on the float, for he was too weak to help himself.
He raised his face as it came close to mine, and I recognized my brother-in-law, Mr. Robinson.
He was very feeble, and I soon saw that he was badly hurt, but he said not a word and lay there on his back, quietly gazing up at the stars.
I could see his features with that look of profound thought expressed upon them as in the days we worked in the ship-yard together.
My only feeling towards him was one of awe. No idea of killing him entered my head, though I could easily have disposed of him in his present weak state, so there I sat gazing at him, and he took no more notice of me than if I was part of the floating hatchway.
In a little while I made out another dark object in the water near us, and presently a voice hailed me. I answered, and soon afterwards a piece of spar supporting three men came alongside the hatch.
They were all Robinson’s followers. Taking some of the rigging that trailed from the spar, they lashed it to the hatch, and the two pieces together made a serviceable raft.
Then all drew themselves clear of the water and lay prone on the float to rest.
It was an awful night we spent on that bit of wood washed by the waves, but when morning dawned the breeze fell away entirely, so the sea no longer broke over us.
The sun rose and shone hot on a glassy ocean, and not a sail was in sight.
There is little use in describing the four days of suffering spent on that float. Robinson was horribly burned and badly cut by a blow from a cutlass. His left arm was shattered from the shot I fired at him, and he was otherwise used up from the minor blows he had received in his fierce rush. But he lived long enough to prevent his ruffian crew from killing me. I was bound by a solemn oath to say nothing of the affair as I had seen it, so that if we were the sole survivors--which we were not certain of being at that time--there could be no evidence to implicate my shipmates.
Robinson must have known that he was fatally hurt, and that is the reason he made them spare my life. Whatever I told would not harm him; and, besides, I really think he turned to the memory of my sister during those last hours.
He died very shortly after the Yarmouth picked us up, and the British officers and men buried him with some ceremony; especially respectful were they when they were told that he was our executive officer.
There was some truth in this grim falsehood, although not of the kind suspected.
He was sewn carefully in canvas the day after we were rescued, and had a twelve-pound shot lashed to his feet. The burial service was read by the ship’s chaplain in much the same tone I had heard Robinson quote from the Scriptures in my father’s house.
All the officers uncovered as he was dropped over the side, and the silence that followed the splash of his body into the sea was the most impressive I have ever observed to fall on so large a body of men.
Had they known the truth about this villain, it is doubtful if they would have shown him so much honor and respect; but then the truth is often hard to secure, and also often undesirable when attained.
Peggy mourned her husband a year or more, but after her boy began to occupy her attention she brightened up and married Mr. Rhett, who was ever faithful to her.
I kept my oath because I took it. The three surviving ruffians had joined the British navy and no retribution could be meted out to them; and as for my sister, she always held her husband’s memory sacred, and only harm could come to her and her son through knowledge of the truth about him.
Captain Vincent of the Yarmouth may have thought it strange a frigate like the Randolph should have met such a sudden end, but it was always understood that she must have blown up from the effects of the shot from his bow-chasers. Some of these did hull her, and it was the most reasonable way to understand the matter.
Now, when all are gone, there can be no harm in telling what I know of that affair.
Mr. Ropesend, the senior member of the firm of Snatchblock, Tackle & Co., sat in his office and drew forth his pocket-knife. Upon the desk before him lay a small wooden box which contained a patent taffrail log. After some deliberation he opened his knife and began to pry off the lid of the box, whistling softly as he did so. In doing this he awakened a strange-looking animal which lay at his feet. But the animal, which Mr. Ropesend called a “daschund,” after raising its long body upon four twisted and double-jointed legs until its belly barely cleared the floor, appeared overcome by the effort and flopped down again with its head towards its master and its hind legs trailing out behind on the floor.
Mr. Ropesend carefully removed the lid of the box and with considerable anxiety removed the instrument. Then he laid it carefully upon the table, while Gaff, his pet, looked lazily up with one eye, and then, not caring for logs, slowly closed it again.
Presently Mr. Ropesend appeared to have developed an idea. He rang the bell. A boy appeared almost instantly at the door leading into the main office.
“Tell Mr. Tackle to step here a moment, please,” said Mr. Ropesend in a soothing tone.
The boy vanished, and in a few minutes a man with red whiskers trimmed “dishonestly”--with bare chin--made his appearance.
“Good-morning, Mr. Tackle; here’s the patent log for Captain Green. What do you think of it?”
“H’m. Yes. H’m-m. I see. I don’t know as I’m any particular judge of logs, although I’ve been in this shipping house for twenty years. But it appears to me to be a very fine instrument. Very fine indeed, sir. Sort of screw-propeller that end affair, ain’t it?”
“That’s it, of course,” said Mr. Ropesend in a tone bordering on contemptuous; “sort of a fin-screw with long pitch. It says in order to regulate it you simply have to adjust the timber noggins. I should suppose a man who has been in a shipping house as long as you have would know all about a plain taffrail log and be able to regulate it so as to use it, if necessary.”
“Ah, yes, I see,” said Mr. Tackle instantly, without appearing to hear the last part of the senior’s remarks. “Eggzackly. Regulated by timber noggins, of course. I didn’t notice it, but any one might know it couldn’t be regulated without timber noggins. Let me see it closer. That new cord gave it a strange look.”
“I’m glad you like it and understand all about it,” said Mr. Ropesend in a tone of decision, “for I’m very busy, and you can just take it into your office and explain it to Captain Green when he comes for it. He will be here presently.”
So saying the senior quickly replaced the instrument in the box and had it in the astonished Tackle’s hands before he could get out an H’m-m. Then he commenced writing rapidly upon some important-looking papers before him, giving Mr. Tackle to understand that the incident had closed.
Mr. Tackle flushed, hesitated a moment, and then quickly retired into the outer office, and Mr. Ropesend, having rid himself of the log, smiled grimly to Gaff, turned half-way around in his chair, proceeded to light a cigar and puff the smoke at the dog’s face.
This provoked the animal to such an extent that he growled, snarled, and grew quite savage, much to Mr. Ropesend’s delight.
The dog finally grew frantic, and had just risen from the floor to find more congenial quarters, when the door opened suddenly and Captain Green stepped into the room with a hoarse roar of “Good-morning, Mr. Ropesend; I’ve come for that patent log.”
This sudden entrance of the loud-voiced skipper was too much for Gaff’s nerves, and he no sooner found himself attacked in the rear than he made a sudden turn, and grabbed the first thing that came within his reach.
This happened to be the calf of Captain Green’s left leg, which he held on to in a manner that showed he had a healthy appetite.
“Let go, you son of a sea cook!” bawled the skipper. “Let go, or I’ll stamp the burgoo out o’ you.”
“Let go, Gaff; that’s a good doggie,” said Mr. Ropesend in his mildest tone. “Let go, Gaff; you’ll hurt your teeth, doggie.”
“Let go, you son of a pirate!” roared the skipper. “Let go, or I’ll smash you!”
“Good heavens, Captain Green, you forget yourself. What, strike a poor dumb brute!” cried Mr. Ropesend. And he arose from his chair as if to ward oft a threatened blow.
Gaff at this juncture looked up, and apparently realized the energy stored within the skipper’s raised boot. He let go and waddled under his master’s desk, his long belly touching the ground amidships, as his legs were too short to raise it clear. From this safe retreat he sent forth peculiar sounds which were evidently intended by nature to terrify the enemy.
“Wouldn’t strike him, hey!” roared the skipper, rubbing his leg. “Well, maybe I wouldn’t, I don’t think. By Gorry, Mr. Ropesend, that’s a long-geared critter. I didn’t know but what he was a sort o’ walking snake or sea-sarpint. I felt as if a shark had me. It’s a good thing I had on these sea-boots.”
“Calm yourself. Calm yourself, captain,” said the senior. “Did he hurt you?”
“No, confound him, not to speak of. It’s a fine watch-dog he is when he bites his friends like this.--I came for that log you spoke of the other day.”
“Oh, yes,” said Mr. Ropesend; “I’ve just given it to Mr. Tackle to give to you. He will explain it to you,--how it works and all that. Right in the front office,--yes, that door. Good-morning.” And the skipper went out cursing softly.
In the front office he met the boy with the box containing the log and a note from Mr. Tackle delivering the same to him, in which he excused himself from explaining the management of the instrument by the fact that he was called out suddenly. The note concluded, however, with the remark that “the instrument was quite easy to regulate by means of the timber noggins, and that he anticipated no difficulty with it.”
The captain took the box and carried it on board his ship, and locked it in the cabin. He was going to sea the next morning, and, as he had a good deal to attend to, he couldn’t stop to investigate further.
When the ship had crossed the bar, the next afternoon, and backed her main-yards in order to put the pilot off, the mate brought out the box containing the log, and proposed to put the instrument over the taffrail. The third mate happened to be standing near and noticed him.
The third mate’s name was Joseph, but being a very young man, and very bright, having a fine grammar-school education, he was familiarly called Joe by his superiors for fear that the handle of “Mister” to his name might trim him too much by the head. Joe despised his superiors with all the scornful feeling that a highly educated sailor has for the more ignorant officers above him, and it required more than ordinary tact on his part to keep from getting into trouble.
“Why, the skipper don’t know enough to be mate of a liner,” said he to the steward one day in a burst of confidence. “As for Gantline, he don’t know nothing. You just wait and see if I don’t get a shove up before we make another voyage around the Cape.”
He had waited, but Joseph was still in his old berth this voyage.
It was natural he should be a little more scornful than ever now, and as he watched the mate clumsily handling the patent log a strong desire to revenge himself for slighted genius came upon him.
When the ship’s yards were squared again the skipper took up the log and examined it.
“I suppose you know how to regulate the machine, Mr. Gantline,” said he, addressing the mate.
“Can’t say as I do. I never seen one like this before.”
“Why, blast you, all you’ve got to do is to twist them timber noggins till it goes right, and that does the whole business. Then you let her go.”
“Where’s any timber noggins hereabouts?” asked the mate.
“Why, on the tail of the log; see?” and the skipper took up the trailing-screw.
“Ah, yes, I see; but how about this clock machine that goes on the rail. Don’t seem to open exactly.”
The skipper took up this part and examined it carefully.
“That’s all right. It don’t open; you just keep on letting her twist, and add on to where you start from or subtract from where you are.”
“I see,” said the mate, and without further ado he dropped the trailing-screw overboard.
The third mate saw all this, and he determined to investigate the instrument during his watch that night.
When he went forward he stopped at the carpenter’s room.
“Chips,” said he, addressing his chum, “we’ve got a new log on board and the skipper and mate don’t know how to use it. Now, I’ll bet you they will have to get me to show them, and if I do, I’ll make them shove me up the next voyage. Why, I tell you, putting a good instrument like that in the hands of such men is like casting pearls before--before--Captain Green and Gantline. You just wait and see.”
That night there was very little wind, but the third mate wound the log up for about fifty miles more than the ship travelled.
“We don’t need any more sights for a while,” said the skipper the next morning. “Mr. Snatchblock said that the log was dead accurate, so we’ll let her run. Must have blown pretty stiff during the mid-watch, Mr. Gantline, eh?” he continued, as he looked at what the log registered.
“No, I can’t say as it did,” said the mate, scratching his head thoughtfully as he looked at the night’s run.
“’Pears to me as if we made an all-fired long run of it.”
“Well, I guess you were a little off your first night out. You’ll be sober in a day or so,” said the skipper, with a grin.
The next day it was dead calm and foggy, but in spite of this the log registered a good fifty-mile run, and, as the ship was to put into Norfolk to complete her cargo, she was headed more to the southward.
“I haven’t any faith in that log, captain,” said Mr. Gantline; “it don’t seem as if we were off shore enough to head the way we do.”
“Well, haul it in and let’s look at it,” said the skipper.
The third mate was standing close by and helped haul in the line. “Captain,” said he, as the screw came over the rail, “this log is not set right; and if we’ve been running by it, we are too close in to the beach.”
“Eh! what’s that? Too close in are we? How do you know the log ain’t all right?”
“Why, it’s just a matter of calculation of angles,” replied the third mate. “These fins that Mr. Tackle calls timber noggins are set at the wrong angle. You see the sine of the angle, at which this blade meets the water, must be in the same proportion to the cosine of the angle to which it is bent as its tangent is to its secant, see?”
“H’m-m, yes, I see,” growled the skipper; “but why didn’t you mention it before, if you knew it all this time, instead of waiting until we got way in here? Why didn’t you tell Mr. Gantline?” His voice rising with his anger. “Why didn’t you tell Mr. Gantline this when you knew he’d never seen a log like this before? What do you suppose you are here for, anyhow?” he fairly roared. “Go forward, sir; I won’t have such a man for a mate on my ship.”
“Mr. Gantline,” he said, after Joe had gone, “get the lead-line and make a few casts, sir, by yourself,--by yourself, sir,--and then come and tell me how much water we’ve got under us.”
The mate, without any unnecessary disturbance, got out the lead, and, as it was calm and the vessel had no motion, he had no difficulty in making a deep-sea sounding. He was also materially aided by the startling effect of the lead, when he hove it over the side with fifty fathoms of coiled line to follow it. To his great amazement the line suddenly ceased running out after the five-fathom mark had passed over, and it became necessary to heave the remaining forty-five fathoms of coiled line after it, in order not to transmit this startling fact to any one that might be looking on. Then, with a great deal of exertion, he laboriously hauled the forty-five fathoms in again, and then called to Joe to haul in and coil down the rest, and then put the lead away. After this he went quickly aft to the skipper and whispered something in his ear that sounded to the man at the wheel like “Shoal--Barnegat.” The man at the wheel might have been mistaken, and it is only fair to presume that he was, but in a very short time the ship was headed due east again.
As night came on, a slight breeze came through the fog and the ship gathered headway. The captain, who had been walking fore and aft on the quarter in his shirt-sleeves, mopping great beads of perspiration from his forehead, now seemed to be aware of the chilliness of the air and forthwith went below.
The ship made a very quick voyage around Cape Horn, and a year later, when she returned, Mr. Ropesend met Captain Green in his office the morning he arrived.
“How did you like the patent log, captain?” said Mr. Ropesend.
“Mr. Ropesend,” said the captain, in a deep voice that made Gaff look up and recognize his old friend,--“Mr. Ropesend, I don’t believe in these new-fangled logs what’s regulated by timber noggins, no more’n I do in these worthless third mates that’s only good for teaching school.”
_OFF THE HORN: A TALE OF THE SOUTHERN OCEAN_
The average man knows as little of the region where the backbone of the American continent disappears beneath the ocean as he does of the heart of Africa. The mighty chain of mountains that raise their peaks miles above the surrounding country at the equator sink gradually until only a single cone-shaped hump--the last vertebra--raises itself above the sea in latitude 55° 50’ south. This is the desolate and uninhabited end of the southern continent, commonly known as Cape Horn, and no man gets any nearer to it than he can help. Past it flows the deep ocean stream known as the Pacific Antarctic Drift, and over it whirl fierce hurricanes in almost uninterrupted succession.
To the southward and westward rise the jagged rocks of the Ramirez, but these do not break in any manner the force of the high, rolling sea which sweeps down from the Pacific. There is but little life on any of these tussock-covered peaks, and they offer no shelter, save to the white albatross and the wingless penguin.
It is past this dreaded cape, in a region of almost continual storm and with a rapidly shifting needle, the navigator of the sailing vessel has to drive his way. The Straits of Magellan offer no passage to the handler of square canvas, and the furious, whirling current of the Le Maire is usually avoided, as when navigated it only saves a few miles of westing. The floating ice is always a dreaded menace, for with the spume-drift flying before a freezing gale and surrounded by the gloom of the high latitude in winter, it is difficult to distinguish an object fifty fathoms ahead of a ship’s cut-water.
Rough, hard men were the “wind-jammers” as they were called, who earned a right to live by driving overloaded ships around this cape, from 50° south latitude on one side to 50° south latitude on the other. With the yards “jammed” hard on the backstays, they would take advantage of every slant in the wind, until at last it would swing fair, and then away they would go, running off for the other side of the world with every rag the vessel would stand tugging away at clew and earring, sending her along ten or twelve knots an hour towards the latitude of the trade-wind.
Men of iron nerve, used to suffering and hardship, they were, for they had to stand by for a call to shorten sail at any hour of the day or night. Their food consisted of salt-junk and hardtack, with roasted wheat boiled for coffee, and a taste of sugar to sweeten it. Beans and salt pork were the only other articles to vary the monotonous and unhealthful diet. As for lime-juice, it existed only in the imagination of the shipping commissioner who signed-on the men.
* * * * *
The Silver Sea was manned and officered by a set of men who had been longer in the trade around the Cape than any others of the deep-water fleet. She crossed the 50th parallel on the morning of June 20, and not being certain of her exact longitude, Captain Enoch Moss headed her a trifle to the eastwards to clear Staten Land. The second day afterwards land was looked for, the first to be seen in eighty days out of New York.
Enoch Moss was said to be a hard man among hard men. His second mate was a man named Garnett, a fellow who had been so smashed, shot, and stove up, in the innumerable fracases in which he had taken part, that to an unnautical eye he appeared an almost helpless old man. His twisted bow-legs, set wide apart, gave him a peculiar lurching motion when he walked, and suggested the idea that he was continually trying to right himself into equilibrium upon the moving world beneath his feet.
A large, red-headed Irishman, with a freckled, hairless face, named O’Toole, was the first officer on board. It was his watch on deck, and he stood, quadrant in hand, calling off time sights to the skipper, who sat below checking up his reckoning.
Garnett sat on the main-hatch and smoked, waiting and resting, for he seldom turned in during his day watches below. A man sat in the maintop, and, as O’Toole took his last sight, hailed the deck.
“Land ho!” he bawled. “Little for’ard o’ the beam!” And he pointed to the ragged peaks of Staten Land showing dimly through the haze to the westward. It was very close reckoning after all, and O’Toole was well pleased as he bawled the news down the companion-way to the skipper. Then he turned to Garnett, who had come on the poop.
“’Tis a pity, Garnett, yer eddication was so misplaced ye don’t know a hog-yoke from a dead-eye, fer ye miss all the cream av navigation.”
Garnett removed his cap and mopped the dent in the top of his bald cranium.
“You an’ your hog-yoke be hanged. If I used up as much canvas as you the company would be in debt to the sail-makers. I mayn’t be able to take sights like you, but blast me if I would lift a face like yourn to heaven. No, stave me if I wouldn’t be afraid of giving offence. I mayn’t have much of a show hereafter, but I wouldn’t like to lose the little I have.”
“Git out, ye owld pirit! And say, Garnett, ye know this is the first land sighted, so ye better get your man ready to go ashore. The owld man swore he’d put him ashore on the first rock sighted, for sez he, ‘I don’t want no more cutting fracases aboard this ship.’”
The man referred to was a tall, dark-haired Spaniard, who had already indulged in four fights on board in which his sheath-knife had played a prominent part. Having been put in double irons he had worked himself loose, so the captain, not wishing to be short-handed with wounded men off the Cape, had decided to hold court in the after cabin before marooning the man, as he had sworn to do when the ruffian had broken loose and again attacked a former opponent. The news of sighting the land brought him on deck while the mates were talking, and he made known his course in the matter a few moments after O’Toole had ceased speaking.
“You can bring the fellow aft, Mr. Garnett,” said he. “And twelve men of your watch can have a say in the matter before I put him ashore.”
Garnett left the poop and went forward and told his watch what was wanted, and they in turn told the man, Gretto Gonzales, whom they held tightly bound for further orders.
“Eet iz no fair! Yo no hablo Engleeze!” cried the ruffian, who began to understand his position.
“Colorado maduro, florifino perfecto,” replied Garnett, gravely, remembering what Spanish he had read on the covers of various cigar-boxes. “If you don’t savey English, I’m all solid with your bloomin’ Spanish. So bear a hand, bullies, and bring the convict aft.”
His victim, a mortally wounded man lying in a bunk, and two others badly cut in the onslaughts Gonzales had begun the first day at sea, smiled hopefully. Davis, the principal object of his attacks, cursed him quietly, although his lungs had been pierced twice by the Spaniard’s knife. The two other men, Americans, who had taken his part in the affrays and suffered in consequence, also swore heartily, and sarcastically wished Gonzales a pleasant sojourn on the Tierra del Fuego.
Although the ship carried no passengers, Enoch Moss had thought fit to provide a stewardess. This woman was well known to many deep-water skippers, and at one time had possessed extreme beauty. Her early history no one knew, but since she had taken to the sea she had endeavored to make up for this deficiency by creating enough for several women.
Plump and rosy she was still, and much thought of by all with whom she sailed. Many a poor sailor had reason to thank Moll, as she was called, for the tidbits she brought forward from the cabin mess, for often a few meals of good food did much to save a man from the horrible scurvy which for years has been the curse of the deep-water fleet.
Whatever faults the woman had, she also had good qualities in abundance.
It was a strange scene there in the cabin when Gonzales was brought before the captain. The twelve sailors shuffled about uneasily as they stood against the cabin bulkhead, while Enoch Moss sat at the head of the table with his charts and instruments before him. On one side stood the condemned man, who was to be tried again, so that the skipper’s oath to maroon him would be more than a sudden condemnation. It would have the backing of twelve honest sailors in case of further developments. That the twelve honest sailors would agree with the captain was evident by the respectful attitude in which they stood, and the uneasy and fearful glances they cast at him across the cabin table. O’Toole stood in the cabin door, and behind him, looking over his shoulder, stood Moll.
Enoch Moss looked up at the man before him and spoke in his deep, hoarse voice.
“You have fought four times since you’ve been aboard,” said he; “the last time you broke out your irons and nearly killed Davis, and I promised to maroon you. I’ll do it before night.” Then he turned to the men. “We have tried to keep this fellow in irons and he breaks out. He has cut three of you. Do you agree with me that it is best to put him ashore before further trouble, or not?”
“Yes, sir, put him on the beach,” came a hoarse answer from the men that made O’Toole smile.
“Got anything to say before you go?” asked the skipper.
The poor fellow looked across to the door in the bulkhead. His eyes met those of Moll, and he gazed longingly at her a moment while a look of peculiar tenderness spread over his coarse, fierce face. Then he looked at a seam in the cabin floor for an instant and appeared to be thinking.
“Well, speak up,” growled Enoch Moss.
“Yo no hablo Americano. Yo no understand. No, I say nothin’; yes, I say thank you.” And he looked the skipper squarely in the face.
“You can take him forward,” said Enoch Moss.
As they filed out again into the cold and wet, Moll watched them, and after they had gone the skipper called her.
“Do you know Gonzales or Davis?” said he.
“Never saw either of them before they came aboard this ship,” she answered in a steady voice.
The captain looked long and searchingly at the woman before him. She met his gaze fairly for the space of a minute; then her lip trembled slightly.
“That will do. You may go,” said he, and his voice had a peculiar sadness that few people had ever heard.
O’Toole’s step sounded on the deck overhead, and, as the stewardess went forward into the main cabin, the mate’s voice sounded down the companion-way. “It’s hauled to the north’ard, sir. Shall I let her come as high as sou’-sou’west, sir?”
Enoch Moss sat silent at the table. He was thinking of a Spanish crest he had seen tattooed on the white arm of the stewardess. It belonged to her “family,” she had told him, and was tattooed there when she was a child of sixteen.
“Yes, let her head up to the southwest, and call me when we get in close enough to lower a boat,” he replied.
Before dark they were as close in as they dared to go, much closer than one skipper out of ten would take his ship, even in calm weather. Then a boat was lowered and Gonzales was put into it with enough to eat to last him a month. Garnett and two sailors jumped in, and all was ready.
The skipper stood at the break of the poop, and beside him stood O’Toole.
“Ye better not cast th’ raskil adrift till ye get ashore,” said the mate, “for by th’ faith av th’ howly saints, ’twill be himself that will be for coming aboard an’ laving ye to hunt a route from th’ Cape.”
“Trust me to see the pirit landed safely,” replied Garnett. “I’ve handled _men_ before.”
A female head appeared at the door of the forward cabin just beneath the skipper’s feet. He looked down at it unnoticed for a moment. Then he spoke in a low voice, moving away from O’Toole, so he could not hear,--
“Would you like to go with him?”
Moll started as if shot. Then she looked up at the captain with a face pale and drawn into a ghastly smile. She gave a hard laugh, and walked out on the main-deck and looked at the boat as the oars fell across. The condemned man looked up, and his eyes met hers, but she rested her arms on the bulwarks and gazed steadily at him over the top-gallant-rail until he went slowly out of sight.
Two hours later Garnett and the men returned with the empty boat.
The ship was headed away to the southwest, and the struggle to turn the corner began with one man less in the port-watch.
In the dog-watch Garnett met O’Toole on the main-deck.
“We landed him right enough,” he said, “for we just put him ashore, and then only cast off his hands, so we could get into the boat afore he could walk. But what seemed almighty queer was his asking me to give the skipper’s stewardess that ring. Do you suppose they was ever married or knowed each other afore?”
“I don’t suppose nothin’, Garnett; but you better give her the ring. Davis is a good enough man, but one man don’t try to kill another, so strong, for nothin.’ Better give her the ring--and you want to git that chafing-gear on the fore-royal-backstay a little higher up; it’s cuttin’ through against the yard.”
The following night at two bells the wind began to come in puffs, and in less than half an hour afterwards it was snorting away in true Cape Horn style.
It was Garnett’s watch on deck at midnight, and as he came on the poop he saw there was to be some discomfort. Each rope of the standing and running rigging, shroud and backstay, downhaul and clew-line, was piping away with a lively note, and the deep, smothered, booming roar overhead told how the ship stood to it and that the canvas was holding. The three lower storm-topsails and the main spencer were all the sails set, and for a while the ship stood up to it in good shape. At ten minutes past three in the morning she shipped a sea that smothered her. With a rush and thundering shock a hundred tons of water washed over her. The ship was knocked off into the trough of the sea, and hove down on her beam ends. The water poured down her hatch openings in immense volumes; the main-hatch, being a “booby,” was smashed; and all hands were called to save ship.
O’Toole and his watch managed to get the mizzen-trysail on her while Garnett got the clew of the foretop-sail on the yard without bursting it. Then the vessel gradually headed up again to the enormous sea.
The ship sagged off to leeward all the next day and was driven far below the latitude of the Cape; then, as she gradually cleared the storm belt, the wind slacked and top-gallant-sails were put on her to drive her back again.
Five times did she get to the westward of the Cape, only to be driven back again by gales of peculiar violence. She lost three sets of topsails, two staysails, a mizzen-trysail, besides a dozen or more pieces of lighter canvas, before the first day of August.
Part of this day she was in company with the large ship Shenandoah, but as the wind was light she drew away, for in that high rolling sea it is very dangerous for one ship to get close to another, as a sudden calm might bring them in contact, which would prove fatal to one or both.
The night was bitter cold. The canvas rolled on the yards was as hard as iron, and that which was set was as stiff to handle as sheet tin. Old Dan, the quartermaster, and Sadg Bilkidg, the African sailor, were at the wheel; the quartermaster swathed in a scarf and muffled up to the chin, with his long, hooked nose sticking forward, looked as watchful as--and not unlike--the great albatross that soared silently in the wake.
A giant sea began rolling in from the southwest and the wind followed suddenly. The foretop-sail went out of the bolt-ropes, and, as the ship was to the westward of Tierra del Fuego and the wind blowing her almost dead on it, she was hove-to with great difficulty. After a terrible night the wind hauled a little. Not much, but enough to throw her head a couple of points and let the sea come over her.
A huge mass of water fell on deck and washed a man, named Johnson, overboard. He was one of Davis’s friends, and had been cut by Gonzales. He remained within ten fathoms of the plunging ship for fully five minutes, but nothing could be done for him.
Three days passed before the gale eased and swung to the southward, and the high land of Tierra del Fuego was then in plain sight under the lee.
The man Davis was dead, and he was dropped overboard as soon as the gale slacked enough to permit walking on the main-deck. Sail was made, in spite of the heavy sea, and the ship headed away to the northward, at last, with a crew almost dead from exposure. Everything was put on forward, starting at a reefed foresail, until finally on the second day she was tearing along under a maintop-gallant-sail.
The well was then sounded, and it was found she was making water so fast that the pumps could just keep her afloat. Six days after this she came logging into Valparaiso with her decks almost awash. A tug came alongside and relieved a crew of men who looked more like a set of swollen corpses than anything else. Men with arms blue and puffed to bursting from the steady work at the pump-brakes, their jaws set and faces seamed and lined with the strain, dropped where they stood beside the welling pump-lead upon the deck.
They had weathered the Cape and saved the ship with her cargo of railroad iron, for they had stood to it, and steam took the place of brawn just as the water began lapping around the hatch combings. O’Toole approached Garnett as they started to turn in for a rest after the fracas.
“There’s a curse aboard us, Garnett. Come here!” said the mate. He led the way into the cabin, and pointed to the open door of the stewardess’s room.
“It’s a good thing to be a woman,” growled Garnett. “Just think of a man being able to turn in and sleep peaceful-like that way, hey? Stave me, but I’d like to turn in for a week and sleep like that,” and he looked at the quiet form in the bunk.
“Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t a good thing to be a woman,” said O’Toole, quietly. “Faith, it may be a good thing to be woman, but as for me, I’ll take me place as a man, an’ no begrudgin’. Moll is dead, man,--been dead for two days gone. The owld man ain’t said nothin’, for he wanted to bring her ashore, dacent an’ quiet like. She bruk into th’ medicin’-chist off th’ Straits.”
Garnett removed his cap, and wiped the dent in the top of his bald head.
“Ye don’t say!” he said, slowly. Then he was silent a moment while they both looked into the room. Garnett put up his handkerchief and rubbed his head again.
“It was so, then, hey?” he said. “An’ Davis was the man what broke ’em up. Too bad, too bad!”
“By th’ look av th’ matter, it must ha’ been. Yes, ’pon me whurd, for a fact, it must ha’ been.”
The captain’s step sounded in the after-cabin, and the mates went forward to their bunks.
_THE BLACK CREW OF COOPER’S HOLE_
To the southward of Cape Horn, a hundred leagues distant across the Antarctic Ocean, lie the South Orkneys. Sailors seldom see these strange islands more than once. Those who do see them are not always glad of it afterwards, for they usually have done so with storm topsails straining away at the clews and the deep roar of a hurricane making chaos of sound on the ship’s deck. Then those on watch have seen the drift break away to leeward for a few moments, and there, rising like some huge, dark monster from the wild southern ocean, the iron-hard cliffs appear to warn the Cape Horner that his time has come. If they are a lucky crew and go clear, they may live to tell of those black rocks rising to meet the leaden sky. If they are too close to wear ship and make a slant for it, then there is certain to be an overdue vessel at some port, and they go to join the crews of missing ships. The South Orkney ledges tell no tales, for a ship striking upon them with the lift of the Cape Horn sea will grind up like a grain of coffee in a mill.
In the largest of these grim rocks is a gigantic cleft with walls rising a sheer hundred fathoms on either side. The cleft is only a few fathoms across, and lets into the rocky wall until suddenly it opens again into a large, quiet, land-locked harbor. This is the Great Hole of the Orkneys. On all sides of this extinct volcanic crater rise the walls, showing marks of eruptions in past ages, and a lead-line dropped at any point in the water of the hole will show no bottom at a hundred fathoms.
Since the days of Drake and Frobisher the hole has been visited at long intervals, but it is safe to say that not more than six white men have visited it since Cook’s Antarctic voyage. To get in and out of the passage safely requires a knowledge of the currents of the locality, and the heavy sea that bursts into a churning caldron of roaring white smother on each side of the entrance would make the most daring sailor hesitate before sending even a whale-boat through those grinding ledges into the dark passage beyond.
To the eastward of the Horn, all along the coast of Tierra del Fuego, the fur seals are plentiful. At the Falklands many men of the colony hunt them for their pelts. The schooners formerly used in this trade were small vessels, ranging from sixty to a hundred tons, and the crews were usually a mixture of English and native.
After working along the southern shore of Tierra del Fuego they often went as far north as the forty-fifth parallel. They then used to rendezvous at the coaling station in the Straits of Magellan, sell out their catch, and afterwards, with enough supplies to carry them home, they would clear for the Falklands or the West Coast.
A rough, savage lot were these sealing crews, but they were well equipped with rifles of the best make and unlimited numbers of cartridges. Sometimes they carried a whale-gun forward and took chances with it at the great fin-backs for a few tons of bone. These cannon threw a heavy exploding harpoon which both killed and secured the whale if struck in a vital part.
The largest schooner of the Falkland fleet, the Lord Hawke, was lying off the coaling station, one day, sending ashore her pelts for shipment to Liverpool. Her skipper, John Nelson, was keeping tally of the load upon a piece of board with the bullet end of a long rifle cartridge. Two other vessels were anchored in the channel, already discharged, and their crews were either getting ready to put to sea or lounging about the station. John Nelson suddenly looked up from his tally and saw a strange figure standing outlined against the sky upon a jagged spur of rock about half a mile distant on the other side of the Strait. The natives to the southward of the Strait are very fierce and dangerous, so Nelson swore at a sailor passing a hide and bade him “avast.” Then he took up his glass and examined the figure closely.
It appeared to be that of a white man clothed in skins, carrying either a staff or gun, upon which he leaned.
“There are no men from the schooner ashore over there; hey, Watkins?” said Nelson.
“Naw,” said his mate, looking at the solitary figure. “It’s one of those cannibals from the s’uth’ard.”
“Pass me a rifle,” said the skipper.
The mate did so, and Nelson slipped in the cartridge he had been using for a pencil.
“Now stand by and see the critter jump,” said he, and his crew of six Fuegians stopped shifting hides and waited.
John Nelson was an Englishman of steady nerves, but he rested his rifle carefully against the topmost backstay and drew the sights fine upon the man on the rock.
It was a useless act of brutality, but John Nelson was a fierce butcher, and the killing of countless seals had hardened him. A man who kills a helpless seal when the poor creature raises its eyes with an imploring half-human appeal for mercy will develop into a vicious butcher if he does it often.
The picture on the schooner’s deck was not very pleasant. Nelson, with his hard, bronzed face pressed to the rifle-stock, and his gleaming eye looking along the sights at the object four hundred fathoms distant. It was a long shot, but the cold gray twilight of the Antarctic spring-time made the mark loom strangely distinct against the lowering evening sky.
There was a sharp report and all hands looked at the figure. Nelson lowered his rifle and peered through the spurt of smoke. The man on the rock gave a spring to one side, then he waved his hand at the schooner and disappeared.
“Bloody good shot, that,” said John Nelson, handing Watkins the rifle. “That’s one for the crew of the Golden Arrow. I guess that fellow won’t care so much about eating sailors as he did when those poor devils went ashore to the s’uth’ard last year.”
“Think you hit him, for sure?” asked the mate.
“Didn’t you see him jump?”
“Oh, yes,” said Watkins. “Here, Sam, go ahead with the skins. Take that pelt--damn!” As he spoke the faint crack of a rifle sounded and Nelson saw his mate clutch his leg.
“Nipped you, by thunder! Now where in the name of Davy Jones did that fellow get a gun? Blow me, but things are coming to a pretty pass when a vessel can’t unload in this blooming Strait without somebody getting shot. I’d lay ten to one it was that Dago the Silver Sea marooned last year.”
Watkins was not badly hurt, however, and after the cut in his leg was tied up he sat about the deck and cursed at the way the British government allowed its stations to be open to the attacks of savages. The station was not well fortified, but the few men there had had little trouble, and the block-house of wood and stone was found to be sufficient shelter. There was little for the natives to steal save coal, so they were left alone. When a few straggling Fuegians crossed the Strait, as they sometimes did, they were peaceful enough, and only traded in skins and rum. Fire-arms they never used and did not care for.
After the last boat-load of hides was sent ashore from the Hawke, the crew went below and began to trim the vessel’s stores for getting under way. They would start for the Falklands at daylight.
It was late when the lookout was set and all hands off watch had turned in.
Nelson and his mate, Watkins, were sleeping in the cabin to starboard while the harpooner and a half-breed hunter occupied the port bunks. The fire burned low in the small stove and the cabin was dark.
About three in the morning several canoes shot out from the southern shore of the Strait and headed rapidly towards the Lord Hawke. It was getting light in the east and the man on the lookout could make out the grim monument of Admiral Drake’s, where that truculent commander had once swung off a mutineer into eternity. The man on the lookout struck off six bells and then went below to get a pipe of tobacco.
When he came on deck, five minutes later, he was astonished to meet twenty gigantic Patagonians clad in skins, who were being led towards the hatchway by a dark-faced, heavy built Spaniard.
“_Hace bien tiempo quel a manana_,” observed the leader, nodding and smiling pleasantly.
But before he could finish, a savage struck him a blow on the head with a club, and that ended his interest in things of this world. He was quickly knifed and dropped overboard. Then the Spaniard led the way aft. Nelson and his comrades awoke to find a couple of black giants bending over each of them. Before they could offer any resistance the knives and clubs of the black crew had put an end to any possible discussion. There was an outcry, but even the skipper’s single fierce yell was not heard by the men on the other vessels. The leader grasped Nelson by the throat while four natives held his arms and legs.
“You shot at me yesterday,” said the Spaniard.
“I didn’t know you were a white man. Who are you?” gasped Nelson, in a strangling whisper.
“The man whose wife was stewardess on the Silver Sea--you were marooned for killing the man who ran off with her?”
“How you hear?”
“Saw it in last year’s newspaper--let go of my throat---- Ah!”
It was all over, and the crew of the sealing schooner were dropped overboard. The men at the station were astonished to find the Lord Hawke standing out to sea so early in the morning without settling for the trade at the company’s store. A few weeks later the crews of the other Falkland schooners were more astonished to find that the Lord Hawke had not returned to the islands. At the end of two months John Nelson and his crew were given up for lost, for the Hawke was seen no more in the sealing fleet. Gretto Gonzales, the Spaniard, held her head straight for the South Orkneys and ran her through the entrance of the Great Hole. Once safe inside, he built huts of stone for his stores, and then stood to sea again to meet the Cape Horn fleet.
As he had by some means--previous to the taking of the Hawke--heard of the death of Davis from the wounds he had given him in the fight on the Silver Sea, he was afraid to set foot in one of the Strait stations. Captain Enoch Moss had marooned him two years ago for his savage conduct aboard his ship, and since then he had become a chief among the fierce eastern natives. These savages were large and active, and unlike the hopeless Fuegians of Smith’s Channel. His life, like theirs, was wild and restless, but it was unbearable for its monotony, so he had picked his crew and determined on this wild plan of piracy. His thoughts also appear to have been often with his wife, whom he believed to be alive, for many of his actions point that this was his chief motive in holding up the vessels of the Cape Horn fleet.
The first vessel he sighted was the Norwegian bark Erik, and he boarded her in his whale-boat during a calm. She was reported as missing.
The next vessel was the large ship James Burk, of San Francisco. He fought her, and followed her for nearly ten days, and finally took her abreast of the Ramirez after having shot half her crew from his own deck. She was also added to the list of missing ships and no one in the civilized world was the wiser.
For over a year and a half Gonzales held up vessels of all kinds, and not a soul escaped to tell a tale. How many ships, still overdue, were taken by him no one will ever know, but it is safe to say they were many. His storehouses at the Orkneys were filled with enough material to supply a colony.
After taking enough supplies to last him for years, Gonzales ceased to attack vessels. This was proved in the case of the Sentinel, whose skipper reported a fast, black sealing schooner, without a name, manned by a crew of Patagonians, having spoken him in south latitude 50°, west longitude 96° 35’. The skipper of the sealing vessel came aboard and asked the captain of the Sentinel to sell him Remington 45-90 cartridges for sealing. After this he asked to see all the passengers, and insisted on talking for some time to the stewardess. Then he left in his boat, calling out a farewell in Spanish.
The English ship Porpoise, a few months later, reported the same strange sealer off Juan Fernandez. He came aboard with a dozen of his giant crew, and asked for rifle cartridges. He also held a long conversation about the different vessels in the Cape Horn trade, and asked many questions in regard to their skippers and after guards.
“I haf a wife; she runs away on ship,--I look for her,” said he to the captain of the Porpoise.
“Hope you will find her,” said the Englishman, with a sneering grin and a glance at the Spaniard’s strange dress.
“You seem amused,” said Gonzales.
“I am,” replied the skipper, laughing.
“Then see I don’t kill you,” said Gonzales, and he left without another word.
The sealing schooner was within fifty fathoms of the ship, and after Gonzales went back aboard the captain watched him. As he looked, he saw the Spaniard raise a gun to his shoulder and the smoke spurt forth. At the same instant a bullet tore its way through the taffrail, within an inch of his waist.
“Sink him, if his wife hasn’t driven him mad,” cried the captain, as he dived below.
Five other vessels reported meeting this strange sealer before the year was out, and each told of a somewhat similar experience in regard to the stranger’s inquiries. As sealers seldom speak deep-water ships, this was thought strange, and when Enoch Moss, of the Yankee clipper Silver Sea, read the latest account at Havre, he called his first mate, Mr. O’Toole, into the after cabin.
“Have you read the _Marine Journal_?” said he, looking up at the big red-headed Irishman.
“No, sir; how is it now?”
“Read that, and tell me what you make of it.”
O’Toole looked hard at the page for some moments, and then replied,--
“’Pon me whurd, for a fact, it’s him, Gonzales, th’ very man we marooned off th’ Cape for knifin’ Davis. Now, what in th’ name av th’ saints is he doin’ aboard a sealer with a native crew? He don’t know poor Moll is dead, for sure, but he’s heard av th’ man he knifed.”
“Maybe he will visit us to the s’uth’ard,” said Enoch Moss.
“In that case, ’twill be as well to have a few rifles aboard, for a fact. Shall I see to it?”
“Yes; we clear to-morrow at noon.”
And O’Toole went forward.
At the main-hatch he met Garnett, the second mate, and he asked,--
“D’ye mind Gonzales? Th’ same as ye put off on th’ rocks av Hermite Isle?”
“The Dago who killed Davis for his wife’s sake?”
“Well, I reckon I do, but what of him? He won’t turn up as long as there’s danger of swinging.”
“He’s sealin’ to th’ s’uth’ard av th’ Cape, an’ speakin’ vessels what carry stewardesses. He shot at th’ skipper av th’ Porpoise for no more than a joke.”
“Stave me! You don’t mean it. He’s looking for Moll, then. Suppose he meets us?”
“’Pon me whurd, I feel sorry for ye if he does, Garnett. Ye are an owld villain, an’ ye haven’t much chance if he sees ye. Now, for a fact, ye’ll be in a bad way.” And O’Toole grinned hopefully.
“Bah!” said Garnett, and he went on with his work.
Ten weeks later the Silver Sea raised Cape St. John, and stood away for the Horn under top-gallant-sails. It was mid-summer, and Christmas day was daylight twenty hours out of the twenty-four. There was little difficulty in seeing anything that might rise above the horizon. It came on to blow very hard from the northwest during the day, and the ship, being quite deep, was snugged down to her single lower maintop-sail. She lay to on the starboard tack, and made heavy weather of the high, rolling sea.
“’Tis a bad spell for th’ ‘wind-jammers,’” said O’Toole, as he stood under the lee of the mizzen, where he had just come to relieve Garnett.
“Divil av a thing have we sighted but a blooming owld penguin this blessed week.”
“It’s a most ornery live sea rolling,” said Garnett, removing his sou’wester, and mopping the dent in the top of his bald head. “I wonder how that Dago would like to board us to-day?”
“He was good enough sailor; but, say, Garnett, what d’ye make av that white t’ the west’ard? ’Pon me whurd, for a fact, ’tis a small vessel comin’ afore it.”
Garnett looked to windward. There, coming out of the thick haze of the flying drift, appeared a small black schooner running before the storm, with nothing but a small trysail on the foremast. She rode the giant seas like an albatross, and bore down on the Silver Sea at a tremendous pace. Several figures appeared upon her dripping deck, and several more appeared aft at her helm. The white foam dripped from her black sides at each roll, and was flung far to either side of her shearing bows, leaving a broad, white road on the following sea to mark her wake.
From the time O’Toole first saw her outlined against the blue steel-colored sky through the flying spray and spume drift to that when she came abreast the Silver Sea was but a few minutes. But it was long enough for Garnett to call the skipper, who came on deck and examined her through his glass.
“Gonzales and his black crew, by all that’s holy,” said Enoch Moss, quietly.
“’Pon me whurd it is, an’ he’s going to kape us company. Look!” said O’Toole.
As he spoke, the little vessel began to broach to on the weather-beam. As she bore up in the trough, a tremendous comber struck her and laid her flat on her beam ends, so that for several minutes she was quite out of sight in the smother. Then her masts were seen to rise again out of that storm-torn sea, and she was taking the weight of it forward of her starboard beam. It was an interesting sight to see that little craft rise like a live thing and throw her dripping forefoot high in the air until her keel was visible clear back to her foremast. Great splashes of snowy white foam, dripping from her black sides, were blown into long streamers by the gale, and everything alow and aloft glistened with salt water. Then she would descend with a wild plunge and bury herself almost out of sight in the sea, only to rise again in a perfect storm of flying spray. She was heading well and making good weather of it, half a mile off the Silver Sea’s weather-quarter.
Enoch Moss watched her through his glass.
“It’s Gonzales, and he has a gun. I reckon he will signal us,” said he. “No,” he continued; “he has raised it and put it down again. Sink him; I believe he has fired at us.”
There was no report heard above the deep booming roar of the gale, but instantly after the skipper spoke a small hole appeared in the maintop-sail. The hole grew in size every moment as the pressure of the gale tore the parting canvas. Then, with a loud crack, the sail split from head to foot and began to thrash to ribbons from the yard.
“Stave me, but he has the range of us all right,” said Garnett, and the next instant he was plunging forward bawling for the watch to lay aft and secure the remains of the storm-topsail.
“Shall we put the spencer on her?” bawled O’Toole to the skipper, who had sprung to the wheel.
“No use,” roared Enoch Moss. “Trim the yards sharp and let her hold on the best she can. If she pays off put a tarpaulin in the mizzen.”
The Silver Sea did hold her head up to the sea without any canvas, for she was very deep, and she sagged off to leeward less than the Hawke.
Enoch Moss went below and came on deck again with a Winchester rifle. Then he seated himself comfortably near the wheel and fired cartridge after cartridge at the trysail of the schooner. After half an hour’s sport there was nothing to indicate that his shots had taken effect, so he desisted. All Christmas day the vessels were within sight of each other and towards evening the wind began to slack up.
Gonzales was first to take advantage of the lull. He put a close-reefed mainsail on his little vessel, and, with a bonneted jib hoisted high above the sea-washed forecastle, he sent the Hawke reaching through it like mad.
He came close under the Silver Sea’s lee-quarter, and fired his whale-gun slap into the ship’s cabin. The shell burst and scattered the skipper’s charts all over the deck and set fire to the bulkhead. Then began the most novel fight that ever occurred on deep water.
Enoch Moss, O’Toole, and Garnett kept up a rapid fire with their rifles upon the schooner’s deck, but, although the range was not great, the motion of the plunging vessels made it almost impossible to hit even a good-sized mark. Gonzales, in turn, fired his whale-gun as long as he was close enough to use it, and he made the splinters fly from the deck-house and cabin. Then he and his fellows took to their sealing rifles and kept up a hot fire until the Hawke passed ahead out of range. Three times did the Spaniard go to windward and run down on the heavily loaded ship, while all hands worked to get canvas on her. Finally, when the Silver Sea hoisted topsails, fore and aft, she began to drive ahead at a reasonable rate, but with dangerous force, into the heavy sea. Even then Gonzales could outpoint her, and had no difficulty in keeping within easy rifle range. From there he kept up a slow but steady fire upon everything that had the appearance of life on the Silver Sea’s deck.
Late in the evening it was still quite light, and he drew closer. A huge Patagonian was seen upon the schooner’s forecastle, firing slowly and carefully. Soon after this a sailor was struck and badly injured. The faint crack of the sealing rifle continued to sound at regular intervals, and Enoch Moss began to get desperate. He stood behind the mizzen, watching the Hawke following him as a dog follows a boar.
“This can’t keep up forever,” he said to O’Toole. “He’ll wear us out before we make port. I reckon we might as well stand away for the Falklands.”
“’Tis no use; I can’t hit him,” said O’Toole, jamming his rifle into the furled spanker. “Th’ men are all scared half mad, an’ if it falls calm he’ll board us certain; ’pon me whurd he will.”
“We must chance it, then,” said Enoch Moss. “Hoist away the fore-and main-t’gallant-sails. We’ll run for it.”
In ten minutes the Silver Sea was standing away to the eastward, with half a gale on her quarter. She hoisted sail after sail, until she drove along fully twelve knots an hour, leaving a wide, white wake into which Gonzales squared away. But he could not overhaul her. He shook out his reefs and hoisted a foresail, burying his little vessel’s head in a wild smother of foam.
Enoch Moss stood aft looking at him, and, as his ship flew along with top-gallant-masts bending like whips, his spirits rose.
“He’ll spring something yet, if he holds on,” he cried to O’Toole and Garnett, who stood near.
“’Pon me whurd he will,” said the mate.
“Look!” bawled Garnett.
As he spoke, a huge sea, following in the Spaniard’s wake, began its combing rush. It struck the little schooner full upon her weather-quarter, and rolled over her stern, swinging her broadside to. As it did so the mainsail caught the weight of the flying crest, and the mast went over the side. The next instant it carried the foremast with it. Then the Hawke lay a complete and helpless wreck upon the high, rolling seas of the Horn.
“We’ve got him,” bawled Enoch Moss, springing upon the poop. “Fore-and main-t’gallant-sails, quick!” And the mates dashed forward, bawling for all hands to secure the canvas. Jennings and Bilkidg stood at the wheel, and steadied the heavy ship as she came on the wind, and the way she tore along gave them all they could do.
Everything held, and they were soon several miles to windward of the Lord Hawke. Then Enoch Moss wore ship, and stood for the schooner close hauled. There was still a stiff gale blowing, and the heavy ship tore her way through the high sea with a lurch and tremble that bade fair to take her topmasts out of her. But Enoch Moss held on.
“Point her head for him,” he bawled to the men at the wheel. “Hold her tight and hit him fair; we’ll smash him under this time.”
Garnett stood on the forecastle-head and watched the Spaniard giving directions to the helmsmen by waving his hands. He saw a dozen or more natives launch their whale-boat and try to clear the schooner just as the Silver Sea came rushing down upon them, with a roaring waste of snowy surge under her forefoot, fifty fathoms distant.
Gonzales stood on the schooner’s deck, rifle in hand, and he fired at Enoch Moss as the Silver Sea towered over his doomed vessel. The next instant the heavy ship rose on the sea, and, with her great sloping cut-water storming through it at ten knots an hour, swooped downwards. There was a heavy jar that almost knocked Garnett overboard, but Enoch Moss, gripping his arm where the rifle-shot had passed through, rushed to the side and peered over in time to see the forward half of the Lord Hawke sink from view. The native crew barely got clear, and, as the Silver Sea passed on, they and their boat were the only objects left floating in her wake.
“Now for the rest,” roared the skipper, smarting from his wound. “Stand by to wear ship.”
“We’ll never touch them,” said O’Toole. “They’ve picked up Gonzales and are heading dead to windward, rowing six oars double banked.”
The Silver Sea bore up again to the northward, but the black crew of the Hawke were then a good mile in the wind’s eye, pulling with giant strokes. She wore again after jamming for an hour, but when she crossed their wake the whale-boat was a tiny speck in the distance.
“’Tis a long row home they’ll have,” said O’Toole, looking after them.
“I hope the old man won’t ship any more pretty stewardesses,” growled Garnett.
“’Pon me whurd, I don’t belave he will.”
“Let her head her course, west-nor’west,” said Enoch Moss, and he went below holding his bandaged arm.
The last they saw of Gonzales and his crew was the tiny speck appearing and disappearing upon the high rolling seas of the Pacific Antarctic Drift.
At eight bells, after the dog-watch, I went aft to relieve Gantline, and found him talking to the skipper. It isn’t good ship etiquette to interrupt a superior officer, so I went to leeward along the poop and gained the wheel. There I waited until the discussion ended.
Gantline was somewhat excited at a remark made by the “old man,” and was holding forth in explanation.
“No, sir,” said he; “let the boys come aboard for’ard--through the hawse-pipe, as the saying is--not in the cabin. It’s the little devils who run away and ship that make the sailors. They take to a slush-pot or tar-bucket as if there was honor in getting afoul of them. All the stinks of the fo’castle, all the hard knocks, bad grub, and every mean thing that happens in a sailor’s life--and Lord knows there are lots of them--are all taken as part of that big thing--agoing to sea. I know you want your boys to sign on, regular like. You say it protects them. Maybe it does. But I say, give me the little rascals who are full of the song of the thing. Yes, sir, you may laugh, but that’s it. They go into the thing different, and hard knocks ain’t going to hurt them much.
“You know a man has to be rough on deep water. No matter how easy he is, sometimes he gets a hard crew, and he must know how to handle them when the time comes.”
“But how about that case we were speaking of?” said the skipper; “there was the investigation, and some of the men gave Jensen a pretty rough name, considering he’s a dead man. They didn’t lay any particular blame on you.”
Gantline was somewhat disturbed in mind, and he forthwith went to leeward and spat a stream of tobacco juice into the sea. Then he came back wiping his mouth on the back of his great, horny hand, his face wearing a thoughtful look.
“You see, this is the way the thing was,” said he, stopping and throwing one leg upon the rail near where the skipper sat.
“That little fellow came aboard while we were lying at the dock in the East River. He was a dirty, ragged little rascal. I saw him sneak over the rail and dodge behind the deck-house. When I collared him he began crying, and asked me not to let the ‘cops’ get him. He begged so hard and seemed so thin a little shaver I couldn’t see him run in, so I let him down in the forepeak, and he hid behind some empty harness-casks. We were going out the next day, and I intended to see him ashore all right in the morning, and as it was past six bells then I went uptown to have a last look about.
“Two watchmen stopped me and asked if I had seen a boy come aboard, and when I asked what they wanted him for they were short enough.
“No, I ain’t much but a deep-water mate, but most men are civil enough to me.”
Captain Green smiled, but said nothing.
“A mate ain’t supposed to know much,” continued Gantline, not liking the smile, “but I didn’t have to stand on my head to take the sun the first time I crossed the line,” and he looked meaningly at the skipper, who smoked in silence.
“So when those fellows talked short and big, I just told them to hurry up to the place they were sure to fetch up in some day and went on uptown. You know what a sailor is, so you know how he spends his last night on the beach.
“I got aboard in the morning and was feeling pretty blue. After sticking my head in a pail of water I came on deck just as we got the word to clear. In a few minutes we were towing out, and I never thought of that little shaver until the next day. Then Mr. Jensen dragged him aft to the ‘old man’ by the scruff of his poor little neck.
“Crojack was feeling blue then, and he didn’t want any boys aboard, so he told the mate to flog him and turn him to with his watch.
“The poor little fellow begged hard not to get the rope’s end, but the mate wouldn’t listen.
“I can’t say I was against lamming him, for I felt he had taken advantage of me.
“Jensen went too far, though, and we came near having a set-to over the child before we were off soundings. Johnnie was cast loose and he fell down on deck. Then old Williams, the bos’n, took him into the fo’castle. After that Jensen took him in hand pretty regular.
“‘In my day,’ said he, ‘boys were taught something, and there weren’t no dudes. And the only way to get knowledge into a boy’s hide is to lam it in with a rope’s end. It stays there then.’ So he would lecture Johnnie on the wicked ways of the world, and after the poor little fellow would listen to the rigmarole and gibble gabble he would take him under the t’gallant fo’castle and lam him beyond all reason, just so he wouldn’t forget a word he told him.”
“That’s what the men said,” broke in Zack Green. “He was a ruffian to the little fellow and a d----d coward, and meaner than the wrath of Davy Jones. It’s all because he wasn’t signed on regular.”
Gantline was silent for a time, and then continued:
“He grew fat and strong and in a couple of months could go aloft with the men. He feared nothing but Jensen, and the men used to call out for fun, ‘Here comes the mate, Johnnie,’ just to hear him curse.
“Curse? Lord love ye, he could beat anything I ever heard. Why, I’ve seen the mate go for’ard to see what the men were laughing at, when it was just Johnnie calling Jensen names to them.”
“Shows how the coward was ruining him,” broke in the skipper.
“Well, he did have a queer way of training him,” went on Gantline. “He would ask him questions about navigation, too, and then lam him afterwards. One I remember.
“‘Johnnie,’ said he, ‘if this hooker should be driven clear to the Pole and steered away nor’west, how would she steer to get back, considering she had left something there she wanted to go back for, for instance.’
“‘Steer away nor’west, sir? Get back, sir? Why, just the opposite direction, southeast’
“‘Now, how in the name of Davy Jones can a vessel get to the Pole steering southeast, hey?’ he would yell. ‘What’s the matter with you? I’ll give you till the watch is called to answer, and if you don’t, I’ll peel you fore an’ aft.’”
“A cowardly, ignorant fool, sure enough,” said the skipper.
Gantline bit off a fresh chew of tobacco and stowed it carefully in his cheek.
“Still,” he went on, slowly, “when the weather got cold he saw the poor boy shivering one day, and he went aft and bought him a new set of slops, good and warm. He must have paid half a month’s wage for them, for the old man never gave things away off the Horn. You may say it wasn’t much, but he did it, anyway.
“It was July when we got off the Cape. You know how it is in that month. Cold, dark, stormy weather, with the giant nor’west sea rolling down from the Pacific. We had been knocking about now, too, for three weeks and were down below 61° south, so it was hard enough. The cold was terrible. Nearly all of us were badly frozen. There wasn’t any floating ice, but the log-line broke from the weight of ice frozen to it as it dipped and rose with the ship.
“It was dark nearly all the time and so gloomy, even when it wasn’t blowing hard; all hands were used up. Jensen kept Johnnie warmed up just the same, and I guess he thought it helped him.
“One day it got still. The wind died away entirely, and the maintop-sail--the only rag we had on her--began to jerk fore and aft, slatting loud as the ship rolled her channels under in a great live sea that came rolling down on us from the north’ard.
“It was so dark at six bells in the afternoon the forms of the men loomed strange like through the gloom as they walked fore and aft in the gangways. It was my watch on deck; but there was nothing to do, so I sat on the step to windward on the poop and smoked to keep warm.
“The mate came on deck after a little while to take a look around, and he called Johnnie to coil down some running rigging at the mizzen.
“‘The bloody glass has fallen an inch since eight bells,” said he, coming to where I sat.
“‘It is sort of bad looking,’ said I, ‘and I don’t quite like the quick run of this sea,--seems to go faster than ever, as if something was behind it.’ And as I spoke the old hooker rammed her nose clear to her knight-heads into a living hill. It rolled under us silently, and the slatting of the topsail and rush of water in the channels were the only sounds it made. The voices of the men jarred on my ears, strange like.
“All of a sudden a long, hoarse cry broke from the gloom and silence to windward.
“‘What’s that?’ asked Johnnie, and he dropped the rope.
“‘That’s the Cape Horn devil,’ said the bos’n, grinning; ‘every time he winks his eye he gives er yell, an’ wice wersa; see?’
“‘Cape Horn thunder,’ growled Jensen; ‘you an’ me will disagree somewhat, Williams, if you try an’ scare the boy like that. Jump, blast you, and lay up on that foreyard an’ see if there ain’t some serving wanted on that weather lift. Git!’
“‘Cape Horn h----,” he went on to Johnnie. ‘That ain’t nothing but a bleeding old penguin, and may the devil take his infernal soul.’
“Johnnie didn’t know any more than he did before he spoke, so he kept looking out of the clew of his eye to windward while he worked. The mate was strange and queer when he heard that cry. I don’t know what it was, but it sounded like some one calling out of that great blackness. Jensen went below, and when he came on deck I smelled rum on his breath.
“Soon the cry was repeated, and I must say it did have a depressing effect.
“‘Sure sign of westerly wind,’ said Jensen, as he lit his pipe and walked fore and aft. ‘Better make all snug for’ard there, for, by hookey, it looks as if we were goin’ to have a fracas.’
“I went for’ard and saw all snug and then came aft again. The old man had come on deck, and I could see on his face the glow of his pipe as he drew it. He was standing close to the rail and looking hard to the north’ard.
“‘I don’t believe a barometer is any good in these here latitudes,’ I heard Jensen say to him. ‘I’ve seen the glass way below the centre of a West India hurricane an’ no more wind than now for days on end.’
“It wasn’t five minutes afterwards that I felt a puff, and the topsail came aback with a crack. The old man was on the break of the poop in a second, bawling, ‘All hands wear ship; hard up the wheel!’
“The men jumped for the braces, but it was nearly ten minutes before we got way on her. The wind came slowly. By the time she paid off it had increased, and came harder and harder at every puff, so before we had her braced around on the port-tack it was snorting away in true Cape Horn style. Soon we were switching into it at a great rate, and the big sea that took us fair on the port-bow made a nasty mess on the main-deck, while the maintop-sail with the sheet slacked off, to spill some of the wind out of it, bellied out like some huge monster in the gloom overhead.
“There was nothing more to do, so when the watch was changed I turned in, and after wedging myself into my bunk I fell asleep.
“It seemed as though I had hardly closed my eyes before there was a sharp banging at my door. I turned out, and opening it found Johnnie standing in the for’ard cabin with the water dripping from his shining oil-skins and blowing his fingers to try and get them warm.
“‘Eight bells, sir,’ said he, ‘an’ the mate wants you, sir.’
“‘All right; how is it now?’ I said.
“‘Bad night, sir, and plenty of water on deck.’
“I buttoned on my sou’wester and followed Johnnie to the cabin door. It was on the lee side, so there was no trouble getting out.
“As I stepped on deck I saw that the gale had increased in force, and the dull booming roar overhead told that the old ship was standing up to it manfully.
“She was plunging and switching into a giant sea, and every now and then a huge mass of water fell on deck with a tremendous crash and roared off to leeward through the water-ways.
“We kept clear of the main-deck and joined the rest of the watch on the poop, where some of them had stayed to keep clear of the water.
“As my eyes were almost blinded at first from the flying drift, I couldn’t make out anything, but soon they got accustomed to the darkness and water, and I looked about me.
“The maintop-sail was still holding with the foot rope stretching and bending until it was almost on the yard, but the sheet, being slacked off, eased it, while the way the wind roared out from under the foot of the sail told plainly of the pressure.
“To leeward, on the main-deck, the foam showed ghastly white, and it was evident that the waist was full of ice-cold water. I soon made out the forms of the rest of the watch huddled behind the for’ard house, swinging their arms to keep their hands warm. The old man stood on the break of the poop holding on to the pin-rail and beside him stood the mate, both watching the maintop-sail as it surged and strained at the clews.
“I saw in a moment that if the sail went there would be nothing to do but run for it, as it was all two men at the wheel could do to hold her up to it as it was.
“While I was looking at the sail I heard a loud crack like a gun and saw the lee-clew part from the yard-arm. It was gone to ribbons in a second, but the weather-clew still held.
“‘Goose-wing it!’ roared the old man, and Jensen bawled for all hands to lay out on that yard.
“The men for’ard saw what had happened even if they didn’t hear the mate. Just as they started aft to the main-rigging a tremendous sea rolled right over the weather-rail. The for’ard house saved the men, but they were up to their waists in cold water and held back.
“‘Lay out on that yard!’ bawled Jensen, and we fought our way along the weather-rail to the backstays. ‘Lay out there!’ and his voice rose to a screech, for it was duff or dog’s belly, as the saying is, and it meant life or death for all hands.
“In the gloom I saw a slight form spring into the ratlines and go aloft hand over hand. Then the men followed, while Jensen was bawling, ‘Come down, you devil’s limb! come down, or I’ll skin you!’
“But Johnnie was leading the way over the futtock-shrouds, so I grabbed the ratlines and went up with the rest.”
Here Gantline stopped for a moment and expectorated violently down the weather-side most unsailorly.
“And didn’t that coward Jensen go along, or was he too scared?” asked Captain Green.
Gantline wiped his mouth and continued, slowly, “He may or may not have been scared. He went aft. Johnnie gained the yard first with Williams close behind him, and they started out to leeward with the watch following.
“The yard-arm was jumping and springing under the shock of flying canvas, and it was all a good sailor could do to hold on. The men soon passed a line under the sail and got it on the yard amidships, while Johnnie, knife in hand, cut away the flying canvas from the bolt-rope to leeward.
“It was bitter work on that yard-arm in that freezing gale, and it took a long time to get the sail ‘goose-winged,’--that is, with the bunt on the yard and the weather-clew drawing,--and when we got through my hands were so nearly frozen I could hardly hold on to a rope.
“The mate was on the poop, and we had just finished lashing the sail, when I felt the vessel take a tremendous heave to windward.
“‘Hold hard!’ I yelled, for I knew what was coming. With a great heave she rolled to leeward, and above the roar I heard the smothering rush of water as the sea went over her.
“From the darkness to leeward I heard a sharp cry, and, looking to where I had last seen Johnnie, I saw he was gone.
“I grasped the topsail clew-line and slid down to the deck. Making my way aft somehow, I found the old man and one of the men at the wheel holding on to a rope that trailed taut over the lee-quarter, while the old man was bawling for some one to lay aft and help pull it in.
“I grabbed hold and we hauled it in together. A dark lump came over the side and I grabbed hold of it and pulled it aboard. It was all that was left of Jensen. He had seen Johnnie go, and had gone after him with the line around his waist.
“The old man said nothing, but took his shoulders and I took his feet and we carried him below. He was as dead as could be. A sea had hove him under the ship’s counter as she squatted, and the top of his head was stove flat.
“The old man didn’t say much, but I could see by the light of the lamp there was more water in his eyes than that of the flying drift.
“The next day the carpenter sewed the mate up in canvas, along with some sheet-lead. The old man read the service in spite of the gale, and then he raised his hand.
“The men of the mate’s watch tilted the plank he was laying on, and the white bundle went to leeward with a heavy plunge.
“Just at that minute the long, hoarse cry of a penguin broke on our ears from the darkness to the s’uth’ard. That was all.”
Zach Green sat smoking, but said nothing. Gantline turned and noticed me. Then he spat his quid overboard, and, giving me the course for my watch, went slowly forward.
_THE TREASURE OF TINIAN REEF_
The tropical sun shone fiercely on the beach of coral sand. The tall-trunked cocoanuts, with their bunchy, long-leaved tops, rustled softly in the trade-wind on the shore, and stood like bold sentinels, or a picket-line, for the serried ranks of thick jungle growth on the land behind them. The long, heavy roll of the Pacific heaved itself up, as if in defiance, as it rolled towards the land, mounting higher and higher upon itself, until the blue wall wavered an instant, then fell with a mighty roar into a waste of sparkling foam as it rolled over the barrier-reef and rushed towards the beach beyond.
Sometimes the seas would come in quick couples, and the deep thundering jar of their falling bodies could be heard clear back to Sunharon, where Sangaan lived in the pride of his manhood and a grass-thatched palace.
Northward from the reef, well off shore, lay a small schooner, rolling deep in the swell. Her mainsail was hauled flat aft, and she lay hove to, while a small white speck in the sea between her and the shore, growing rapidly larger every moment, told plainly to the curious native sitting on the beach in the shadow of a palm that a boat was soon to make a landing.
But Warto was not uneasy. He had seen boats land there before, and had once helped to carry some of the men ashore, where a large fire had been built and knives sharpened; but that was long ago, long before Mr. Easyman had come there and taught him how to take care of his soul as well as his huge brown body.
Still, memory made his eyes bright, and he involuntarily clutched a short spear with his right hand as he sat and watched the small boat near the surf.
“Steady your bow oar!” roared a deep-voiced, bow-legged man who stood at the steering oar. Then he removed his cap and wiped a dent in the top of his bald head, while he gazed steadfastly at a floating mass in the water. “By the Holy Smoke, Gantline! but that’s some o’ that whale slush, or bust my eyes!”
Gantline, pulling stroke oar, turned quickly in his seat at this and gazed in the direction the boat was heading, where a small object floated like a lump of tallow on the smooth water. His gray eyes grew suddenly bright as he brought the object in range of his vision, but he assumed a careless air as he answered Garnett.
“Nothing but a piece of whale-blubber,” he muttered, as he drew his oar inboard. “Some of those niggers been trying out on the beach; and, by thunder! if that ain’t one squatting there under that big palm right ahead.”
“Get out your boat-hook,” roared Garnett to the man at the bow oar, “and make a pass at it; for, by the Pope! it looks to me like a lump of amber-grease.”
They were very close to the line of lifting water, closer, in fact, than Garnett supposed; but he was so intent on capturing the floating prize that he did not realize his danger.
The man forward reached for the floating mass with his boat-hook and drew it alongside, but it took the united efforts of himself and the man next him to lift the spongy, slippery lump into the boat.
There it was, a good hundred pounds of ambergris, worth fifty dollars a pound anywhere on the West Coast.
Garnett removed his cap and mopped the top of his bald head, while his eyes remained fixed upon the prize. “By the Holy Smoke, Gantline! you see what comes o’ being in charge of a party. I came mighty near letting you go ashore with the boat by yourself, and then I’d been out a few thousand; but never mind, I’ll give you a pound o’ the stuff, anyways.”
Gantline gave a loud grunt of disgust. “Seems to me half and half would sound better among old messmates like us. By thunder! if I had picked it up you would have had your share fast enough.”
Garnett smiled broadly and replaced his cap on his head.
“It’s a pity that the devilish desire to prosper should come atween two old shipmates like us two; but I remember the time, onct, when the terbacker gave out on the Moose, and you never so much as offered me a quid off your plug, even when you knowed I was suffering. Besides, it not only wouldn’t do to divy up from a physical stand-point, but it’s ’gainst all morals and religion. What d’ye suppose old Easyman, ashore there, would say if I gave up my rights? The Bible says, ‘He that have got, shall have; and he that haven’t got, shall have that which he ain’t taken from him,’ which goes to show that by all rights and religion I should take away that pound I promised you.”
Gantline muttered something that Garnett couldn’t hear, and then resumed his oar.
During all this time the boat had been drifting towards the beach, but the wind had caused her to swing nearly broadside on while all hands were busy with the prize. Suddenly Gantline looked seaward, and gave a quick exclamation that brought Garnett to his senses and the steering oar with a jump.
“Back port! Give way starboard, for God’s sake!” roared the mate, as he swung all his weight on the steering oar to slew the boat head-on; but it was too late. A great blue sea rose just outside of them, with its inshore slope growing steeper and steeper, until it was almost perpendicular. Then, curling clear and green, it fell over them, and in an instant boat and men disappeared in the white smother.
“’Ternal bliss! ’ternal bliss!” lisped Warto, sweetly, as he sat scraping his great toe-nail with a piece of shell. Then he glanced sharply up and down the beach to see if anybody was looking who might tell the missionary, and, grasping his spear firmly, dropped his grass cloth and made for the surf.
The first thing that attracted his attention was a shining bald head which glistened brightly in the sunshine, and he made his way swiftly towards it.
“Get onto the divil av a naygur makin’ for us,” said a sailor. “Faith, an’ if me eyes ain’t entirely full of salt, I do believe the black haythen has a harpoon along with him. Now, bless me----”
This last remark was caused by the actions of Garnett, who was swimming a little in advance of the rest, turning his head every now and then to watch for the following breakers. The mate had an oar under each arm and was using the boat-hook for a paddle, when he was aware of a black head, with shining eyes and grinning teeth, close aboard him.
There was something suspicious in the manner the savage swam, for, while he often held one hand clear of the water, Garnett noticed that the other was always below the surface.
“Git out the way, ye murdering shark, or I’ll hook ye higher than Haman!” roared Garnett, as he flourished his boat-hook and glared fiercely at the islander. “None o’ your cannibal tricks on me;” and with that he made a pass with his weapon so quick that Warto came near ending his career as a beach-comber then and there.
As it was, he ducked his head just in time, and then, completely cowed by this show of resistance from what he supposed were helpless men, made for the beach.
Before Garnett made the land quite a crowd had collected, for the fleeing savage had spread the news in a few moments, and then hastened back to see if anything was to be gained from the new arrivals.
These came ashore in due course of time on whatever flotsam that happened within their reach, Gantline astride of a keg which bore the missionary’s name in large black letters, painted on the ends, while the two sailors clung tenaciously to the sides of the capsized boat.
Soon the majestic form of Sangaan was seen approaching, accompanied by a crowd of servants and the Reverend Father Easyman himself.
At an order from their chief, several stout fellows plunged into the surf and assisted in getting Gantline and the men safely ashore; but Garnett flourished his boat-hook when they approached him, and glared at them so savagely that they soon let him alone and turned their attention to securing whatever stuff still floated in the broken water.
When Garnett could stand, he turned and cast his eye along the white line of rolling surge in search of his prize, but failing to see it, he walked slowly ashore, looking intently from right to left.
Gantline and the men were already surrounded by the crowd of natives, and the missionary was alternately shaking their hands and offering up thanks for their safe deliverance from the perils of the sea. At a wave of the good man’s hand, two strapping fellows picked up his keg and made off in the direction of the mission, but the rest of the supplies, that still floated, were piled in a heap upon the sand as fast as the men could rescue them from the water.
“By the Holy Smoke! Mr. Easyman,” grunted Garnett, with a string of oaths, “but you’re making a fine lot o’ these naygers when they swim out and try to murder a man as soon as he gets into trouble. There was----”
“Ah, me!” gasped the missionary, lifting his hands and raising his eyes; “so it is the violent one I see again,--the man of fierce speech. A warm welcome to you, friend; for it has been a long time since you and Father Tellman’s pig left the Marquesas suddenly on the same day. A mere coincidence, however! a mere coincidence!” and he shot a vengeful look at the mate, who smiled and spat a stream of tobacco and salt water upon the sand.
“What is the invoice of goods that you have landed so disastrously. I had thought you were a right good sailor, though I reckoned you a poor Christian. Give me the bill and I’ll check off what I owe your captain for. Ah, my friend, it gives me great unease to hear you use such strange and unholy words, especially before my great friend, Chief Sangaan, the greatest chief in the Archipelago, and also the greatest ras----”
“’Tis Garnett, sure enough,” he continued to himself, as that sailor, having handed him the list of goods, hurried off down the beach, where Gantline stood with his eyes fixed on an object in the surf.
“Blast his eyes! if he don’t remember me when I was on the Pigeon,” said Garnett, as he reached Gantline. “You remember that foolishness I told you about concerning a pretty wench he had at the mission--ewe lamb, he called her--and that infernal pig I pulled out of his friend’s pen the day we sailed. Dernation! the beast was so tough I can taste it yet.”
“There’s a saying in the Holy Book that stolen fruits is sweetest,” answered Gantline, with a grin; “which goes to show the onreliability of misplacing these quotations. Which, the same, you seem to be doing in regard to that lump of whale stuff. It seems to me that I might enter into a dispute with you in regard to the ownership of it; for, if I see straight, there it is just inside the first line of breakers, and belongs to the man who can abide the longest for its sake.”
“Now, by the eyes of that sky-pilot, if you are bent on quarrelling and intent on mutiny, it won’t take long for me to show you who is running this affair,” said Garnett, as he glared at Gantline and began to make a few preparations necessary for establishing his authority.
“We’re on the beach; and, Lord love ye, Garnett, I’ll make a fair showing if you start for me. Afloat I’ll obey orders, but ashore you’ve got to prove what’s what before I believe it.”
So saying, Gantline plunged into the surf and made his way rapidly towards the floating mass, which represented, in value, his profits of a dozen voyages.
“This is too infernal bad,” muttered Garnett to himself, as several natives started out to help Gantline. “Here I’ll have to fight Gantline or lose half of that lump o’ grease; but he brings it on himself, for it’s mutiny.”
He grasped the boat-hook which he still carried, and waited patiently until the lump was brought ashore. Then he approached the second mate, who had had the prize carried above high-water mark, where he stood astride of it.
The natives saw that something was wrong between the white men, although they knew nothing of the dispute or the value of the fetid prize, so they began to crowd around them in the hope of viewing and enjoying the hostilities in which they had no desire to take part.
“’Tis no use, Garnett; you are too old a dog to make headway against me, even with that hook, though there was a time when you might have held on to some purpose.”
“I have had a clip or two in my time,” answered Garnett; “but we’ll see. No matter if you do get to windward of me, Easyman and the chief will hold you for mutiny till the skipper gets you. So stand away to leeward of that lump or I’ll be for boarding ye.”
“Stand off!” bawled Gantline; “if I fire this chunk of coral into that dent in your forepeak there’ll be trouble.”
“Ah, brothers! ah, brothers! what is this strife about? and what is that lump on the sand?” asked a voice on the outside of the group. The natives instantly stood aside, and the Reverend Father Easyman stood before the quarrelling mates. “Oh, ho! it is my friend of the godless tongue; and pray, my friend, what is it he desires to take from you? for I reckon him a covetous man,” said the missionary, looking at Garnett, but addressing Gantline.
“It’s just a find of grease,” answered Gantline, “and, as I went into the surf after it, I want to divide it with Garnett here, who says it’s his because he saw it first.”
“Lump of grease! Now, bless me, my friend, it has a most unholy odor for grease. ’Tis a poor beef that gives forth such tallow; but let me examine it closer, for there is no need to guard it, as Sangaan there will have no disputes about the ownership of property on his most civilized island.”
“Sangaan be hanged!” grunted Garnett; “the stuff’s mine, and I’ll have it if I have to bring the schooner in and fire on the village with our twelve-pounder. Who’s Sangaan, that he must meddle with the affairs of an American citizen, hey? After a while I suppose I’ll have to be asking permission from every chief in the Archipelago to carry the stuff we just brought ashore for you. Have your niggers clear our boat and give me the bill, for it’s time we were aboard again.”
“Not so fast, friend Garnett,” said the missionary; “your boat is stove, and it will take a man a half a day to repair it, and as you haven’t enough spare hands aboard your vessel to man another, you will have to stay ashore with me this evening. Perhaps I may find a nice tender shote and entertain you according to your taste,” and he glanced sharply at the sailor. “As for this find, as you call it, it seems to me that I have heard of the stuff before, and that it has some value; so I will have it carried up to the village and stored safely. In the mean time we can discuss its ownership and also examine certain articles billed to me at our leisure; for although your captain is an honest trader and a true Christian man, yet one of his last year’s kegs did contain a most unsavory mixture, and gave rise to the impression that his vessel’s hold contained much liquid tar in a free state. As for Sangaan, it will be well for you to show him some deference, for, although a good chief and a devout man, he has little love for sailors, as you may remember if you have not forgotten that affair of the Petrel. He is coming this way now with his men, so have a care.”
Garnett saw there was nothing to do but as the missionary said. The boat was injured so as to be unsafe for a long pull through the heavy surf, and it would have to be repaired before launching again.
Gantline had the fetid mass which he was guarding so closely put into an empty keg, and several natives carried it off to the mission as Sangaan walked up.
The chief evidently remembered the mate, for he advanced smiling and held out his hand, saying, in good English, “How do you do? Had a bad time in surf, so come up to the mission and we’ll have a good time.”
Garnett shook his hand, and then, the missionary joining them, they walked towards the mission house together. They proceeded in silence, Garnett eyeing the chief suspiciously and trying to remember if he had ever committed any deviltries which Sangaan might still feel sore about. The missionary kept Gantline and the two sailors in view, but appeared to be lost in deep thought. A close observer, however, might have noticed an unholy twinkle in his eye when he glanced at the natives who were carrying the keg of ambergris towards his home.
As for Sangaan, he suddenly seemed to remember some of Garnett’s former trips through the Archipelago, and asked very abruptly, “How’s Mr. ’Toole?” And at the memory of O’Toole’s affairs with the natives Garnett snapped out, “He’s dead.” Whereupon the chief laughed so heartily that Garnett’s suspicions were aroused again, and he remained silent.
“And Captain Crojack, how is he? He used to do good trade with the people to the southward.”
“Oh, he’s still alive,” answered Garnett, somewhat reassured. “He’s in the China trade now.”
“And ’Toole, his mate,--I think you must lie----”
“He is dead, I tell you,” answered the mate quickly, for it was evident that the chief still wished to hear some news of him. “That’s a fine big mission house, by the---- Beg your pardon, but it is just the same; and, by thunder, it’s the best on the islands.”
“Be not so violent, friend Garnett,” said the missionary. “It is a good house, and, by the blessing of Providence, we have striven successfully to keep it in good repair against the fierce typhoon and the hot sun.”
“It’s good and large,” said Sangaan, with pride; “and you and your men may sleep upstairs. The room is wide and cool.”
Garnett grunted out thanks for the chief’s hospitality, but remarked that if the boat could be fixed in time he would rather go aboard the ship. All he wished for was the loan of a few tools and a piece of wood, and he thought the boat could be fixed fast enough. These the missionary lent him; so, after going over the list of goods and testing some of the contents of the kegs and packages, he and Gantline, accompanied by the two sailors, went back to the beach and began work on the boat.
They were soon surrounded by a curious crowd of natives, who squatted around them in a circle and looked on, regardless of the hot sunshine, while the mates and men toiled bravely at their task.
The boat was so badly stove, however, that it was dark before they were half through repairing her; so, when Father Easyman came down on the beach and told them that they would find something to eat at the mission, all hands knocked off and started for it.
Garnett and Gantline had been arguing about the possession of their find of the morning, but had not come to blows; for the mate knew that it would rest with the skipper as to who would have the largest share of it, and that nothing could be settled until they got aboard ship. There was little use, either, in getting the missionary mixed up in the matter, for he would be likely to press the weight of his judgment against him if called upon to help decide the case.
The mission house was a large frame building, built of boards brought ashore from a vessel, and had a sloping thatch roof. It was two stories high, however, the upper one serving as a loft for storing supplies belonging to the missionary. It was now nearly empty; a large, cool room, with a slight opening all around it under the overhanging eaves of the thatch.
In this loft Garnett and his men were left to pass the night, after having partaken of a good meal at the expense of their host, who lived several hundred yards farther back in the village, in a modest little cottage close to the larger abode of Sangaan.
The good chief had offered them shelter under his roof, but as he had a numerous company in his household, and the weather being warm, the mates had expressed a keen desire to sleep alone with their men. The keg containing their prize was also stored away with them for the night, and soon silence settled upon the peaceful village of Sunharon.
The gentle rustle of the trade-wind soothed the ears of the tired men and they slept soundly on.
“By the Holy Smoke! what’s up?” exclaimed Garnett, as he sprang up from the tarpaulin on which he and the men were lying.
There was a tremendous uproar in the room beneath, and the voice of Sangaan could be heard singing lustily. It was a little past midnight, but the chieftain’s voice was thick and husky, and it was evident that he intended celebrating the arrival of the supplies.
Garnett had carefully withdrawn the charges from the brace of huge muzzle-loading pistols he had carried ashore with him, and had managed to get a handful or two of dry powder from the missionary, so he was prepared to defend any attack upon his treasure.
He awaited developments, but as no one appeared on the ladder which led to the loft, he crawled to the opening and looked below.
About twoscore of natives, with Sangaan in their midst, were crowding around a keg which Garnett recognized as one of his own wares, and a smile broke upon his grizzled features.
Gantline had come to his side, and they gazed down upon the mob.
In a moment Sangaan saw their faces and waved his hands, “Come down! come down!” he cried in a thick voice, and the whole assembly took up the cry, laughing and shouting.
“Come, drink health!” bawled Sangaan, as he staggered towards the ladder.
“No, sirree!” roared Garnett. “What! you expect me to come down and drink with a lot o’ niggers like them. No, sirree, not by a darned sight.”
“Go t’ell, then!” bawled Sangaan, and he walked to the keg for another drink, flourishing an empty cocoanut shell as he went.
It was well that the natives could not understand Garnett’s remarks, or there might have been trouble, but, instead of paying any attention whatever to the white men, they shouted, laughed, and sang in the highest good humor.
“Gad, Lord love ye, but what heads you’ll have in the morning,” muttered Gantline, with a grin. “’Tis nearly half Norway tar the devils are pouring into their skins. However, I suppose it’s best, after all, for if ’twas the real stuff, like what we gave the missionary, they would set fire to half the village before morning and probably murder us.”
“By thunder, I’m about tired of the racket as it is,” said Garnett; “let’s see, if we can’t get a move on them anyhow,” and he poked one of his pistols down the opening. “Yell together, Gantline.”
“Hooray! Let ’er go slow!” they roared as Garnett fired. “Hooray!” and he banged away with the other, filling the place with smoke and smashing the lantern on the table beneath him.
“Load her up, Gantline,” and he passed one of the pistols to the second mate. There was wild scrambling for the door in the room beneath, but before the frightened natives could get clear the mates had fired again, yelling all the time like madmen, while the two sailors hove everything they could get their hands on down upon the struggling crowd. In a few moments Sangaan had retreated, but, as he carried the keg of rum along with him, he doubtless thought it was not worth while to go back again. The shouting gradually died away in the distance, and only a faint hum from the direction of Sangaan’s abode told that the celebrating natives were still in high good humor.
“After all, Gantline,” said Garnett, “now that these barkers are dry and in good condition, we might decide who’s to be owner of that keg, if we only had a little more light,” and he began to reload one of the pistols.
“You’re the most bloody-minded devil I ever sailed with,” growled Gantline; “but I’ll just go you this time, for there’s light enough for me to see to bore a hole in that stove-in figure-head of yours. Here, give me a bullet and powder and take your place over there by that barrel of rice, and let Jim here give the word.”
“If it’s murder ye’re up to, I’ll be for calling the missionary,” cried the sailor. “Faith, an’ who iver heard ave fi’tin’ a jewel in sich a dark hole. As fer me, I won’t witness it,” and he started for the ladder, closely followed by his shipmate.
“Go, and be hanged,” growled Garnett; “but mark ye, this is a fair fight and don’t you go trying to make the missionary believe different, for I never struck a sailor or mate under me that couldn’t have a chance to strike back. I don’t belong to that kind o’ crowd.”
“Take your place and stop your jaw tackle; if you don’t hurry they’ll be back with a crowd before we begin,” said Gantline, as the sailors disappeared down the ladder and started off. “We ought to have stopped them.”
“Darnation! but it’s dark. Where are you now?” asked Garnett from his position.
“Ready. Fire!” bawled Gantline, and his pistol lit up the darkness.
Bang went Garnett’s, and then there was a dead silence.
“Garnett,” growled Gantline.
“Blast you! what is it?”
“Did you get a clip?”
“No, you infernal fool; but you came within an inch of my ear, and I fired before I put the ball in my pistol. You owe me a shot.”
“It’ll be a hard debt to collect, mate, for I’ll be stove endways before we try that again. Here comes Easyman with the men now.”
As he spoke there was a rush of feet, and the two sailors, followed by the missionary and a crowd of half-sober natives, burst into the room below.
“Hello aloft, there!” sung out a sailor.
“What’s the matter?” asked Garnett, quietly, from the opening above.
“Have you done him any harm?” asked the missionary, in a voice that showed him to be a man of action when necessary.
“No,” answered Gantline; “there’s nothing happened.”
A lantern flashed in the room, and in a moment Father Easyman was upon the ladder.
In another moment he was in the loft, and the sailors with a crowd of natives followed.
“Now,” said the missionary, “hand over those pistols, or I will have to assert my authority, even as the good King David did of old. I know you, Garnett, a fierce and unholy man, but you have enough sins on your soul now, so don’t force me to set these men upon you.”
“By thunder!” growled the mate, “it’s to protect ourselves we’ve been forced to fire, to scare that drunken Sangaan out of the room below. It’s a pretty mess he’s been making in a decent mission house, coming here drinking that tar--I mean rum, and waking us out of peaceful sleep.”
“Fact, he woke us up with his yelling,” said Gantline, “and we fired down below just to scare the crowd away.”
“But what is this the men say about you two fighting?” asked the missionary.
“Oh, they were as badly frightened as the niggers. Hey, Jim, ain’t that so?” said Garnett, and he gave the sailor so fierce a look that the fellow stammered out, “Faith, an’ it must ’a’ been so; it was so dark we couldn’t see nothing at all.”
“Well, come with me, anyway,” said the missionary. “It won’t do for Sangaan to take it into his head to come back here if he gets drunk. He is easy enough to manage sober, but you remember the Petrel affair.”
“Sangaan be blowed,” grunted Garnett. “I can take care of any crowd o’ niggers that ever saw a mission, but if you insist on our cruising with a sky-pilot, why, we’re agreeable. Come on, Gantline.”
They followed the good man down the ladder and up the village street to his house. When they were in the starlight the mates noticed that several of the natives who had followed the men back carried short spears, and one or two had long knives in the belts of their grass cloths. When they saw this they began to realize that perhaps the missionary was right after all, and it was just as well that they changed their sleeping quarters for the remainder of the night.
The next morning they patched the stove-in plank on the boat’s bottom, and after getting all the gear into her, including the keg into which they had put their treasure the day before, they ran her out into the surf and started off. Several natives helped them until they were beyond the first line of breakers, but Garnett was in a bad humor and accepted this favor on their part in very bad grace.
When the men and Gantline put good way on the craft with their oars, the mate swore a great oath and rapped the nearest native, holding to the gunwale, a sharp blow across the head with his boat-hook and bade them get ashore. This fellow gave a yell which was taken up by the crowd on the beach, and instantly several rushed into the surf carrying short spears.
“Give way, bullies,” grunted Garnett, “or the heathen will be aboard of us.” And the men bent to their oars with a hearty good will.
As it was, several managed to get within throwing distance, and a spear passed between the mate’s bow-legs and landed in the bottom of the boat. He instantly picked it up and threw it with such wonderful aim at a native that it cut a scratch in the fellow’s shoulder. This had the effect of stopping the most ambitious of the crowd, and they contented themselves with yelling and brandishing their weapons.
“Steady, bullies,” said Garnett, as they neared the outer line of combing water; “if we miss it this time there’ll be trouble.”
The old mate balanced himself carefully on his bow-legs and grasped the steering oar firmly as they neared the place where the sea fell over the outer barrier.
They went ahead slowly until there came a comparatively smooth spell, then they went for the open water as hard as they could.
As they reached almost clear, a heavy sea rose before them with its crest growing sharper and sharper every moment. Garnett, with set jaw and straining muscles, held her true, and with a “Give way, bullies,” hissed between his teeth, the boat’s head rose almost perpendicular for an instant on the side of the moving wall. Then with a smothering roar it broke under and over her and she fell with a crash into the smooth sea beyond.
“Drive her!” he roared, as the half-swamped craft lay almost motionless; and Gantline, bracing his feet, gave three gigantic strokes and his oar snapped short off at the rowlock.
“Drive her through!” he roared again, as one of the men turned with a scared look at the sea ahead. “Drive her or I’ll drive this boat-hook through you!” and he made a motion towards the bottom of the boat. The two remaining oars bent and strained under the pressure, and in another instant they rose on a smooth crest and went clear, while the sea fell but two fathoms astern.
“Lord love ye, Garnett, but that was a close shave,” panted Gantline; “give us the bailer and let me get some of this water out of her. It’s astonishing how those seas deceive one, for from here it looks as smooth on the reef as the top of Easyman’s head. It’s evident that you calculate to go out of the island trade on the profits of this voyage. They would have handled us rough enough had we been stove down on the reef again.”
Garnett muttered something, as he glared astern at the crowd on the beach, and passed Gantline the bailer from the after-locker.
He then headed the boat for the schooner, which had been working in all the morning, and now lay hove-to about a mile distant.
In a little while they were on board and Captain Foregaff was handed the receipts of his trade, which he carried below and deposited in a strong box; making a note afterwards, in a small book, of the percentage due his mates. Then he came on deck, and as the boat was dropped astern he drew away his head-sheets and stood to the eastward.
On going forward he noticed the keg they had brought back with them and instantly demanded to know its contents.
“It’s a find o’ grease,” said Garnett, as he picked it up and carried it aft, where he deposited it carefully in the cockpit.
“Find o’ what?” asked Foregaff, as he and Gantline followed hard in his wake.
“Find o’ whale grease,” said the mate. “It’s the stuff that sells so high in the States. I found it in the surf, and Gantline here has been trying to prove half of it his because he was along with me.”
“Well, where, in the name o’ Davy Jones, do I come in on this deal?” bawled Foregaff. “Ain’t we running this business on shares, I want’er know?”
“So far as concerns trade, you’re right; but d’ye mean to say that what I find ain’t my own?” said the mate in a menacing tone.
“Trade be blowed! Gantline and I come in on this, share an’ share alike. Knock in the head o’ the keg an’ let’s have a look at it.” And the skipper’s eyes gleamed with anticipation.
Gantline reached an iron belaying-pin and quickly knocked in the top of the keg and tore off the pieces.
“You see, it’s ill-smellin’ stuff,” grunted Garnett, “and its value is according to its smell.” He bent over the keg and peered into it. “It’s pretty hard,” he continued, “when a man’s been through all the danger and trouble o’ getting a prize to have to divy up with them that ain’t in the contract----”
“Gord A’mighty! Hard down the wheel there! Spring your luff!” he roared, as he sprang to his feet. “Pig grease! s’help me, the scoundrel’s robbed us!”
The men rushed to the sheets as the schooner came up on the wind and headed for the island again, while Gantline and Foregaff bent over the open keg.
“’Tis as good lard as ever fried doughnut,” said the skipper, as he stuck his finger into the mass and then drew it through his lips, while Gantline glared at it as though it was the ghost of Father Tellman’s pig.
“Clear away the gun for’ard, and get----”
“Hello, what’s the matter?” asked the skipper, as Garnett was getting ready for action.
“Why, we can’t get ashore there again. They well-nigh murdered us as it was,” said the mate.
“Well, what good can we do with that gun, then? It won’t throw a ball across the surf, let alone to the village. You must have been up to some deviltry ashore.” And the skipper eyed the mates suspiciously.
“Devil be hanged! We were as soft as you please, but they were for mischief from the time we rolled over in the surf. I guess, perhaps, you’d better go ashore, though, for old Easyman don’t like me.”
“Not by the holy Pope,” said the skipper, with a grin. “You don’t catch me on that beach for all the whale grease afloat, or ashore either, for that matter. If that’s the game, we might as well stand off again.”
“Let’s at least have a try at that sky-pilot’s house,” growled Garnett. “Give me a couple of charges and I’ll see what I can do, anyhow.”
“As for that, go ahead; but no good’ll come of it,” muttered the skipper.
Garnett was on the forecastle in a few minutes with several cartridges for the old twelve-pounder.
The schooner was rapidly nearing the surf, and Foregaff could see the natives with great distinctness through his glass.
When she was as near as was safe to navigate, she yawed and Garnett fired.
The shot struck the crest of a comber, in spite of all he could do to elevate the gun, and ricochetted on to the sand, where a native picked it up and danced a peculiarly aggressive dance while he held it aloft in his hand.
The flag on the mission dipped gracefully three times while Garnett loaded for a second shot.
“If I only had a shell I’d make those niggers see something,” he muttered, as he rammed home the charge.
“Fire!” And the gun banged again.
The flag dipped again in the breeze, and several natives, joining hands, danced wildly to and fro.
“Keep her off!” bawled the skipper, with a broad smile on his face. “Done by a nigger chief,” he muttered to himself. “I want’er know, I want’er know.”
_THE LE MAIRE LIGHT_
It had been calm all day, and the dull light of the overcast sky made the sea have that peculiar black tint seen in this latitude. It rolled silently with the swell, like a heaving world of oily ink, and, although we were almost midway between the Falklands and the Straits of Magellan, Captain Green determined to try a deep-sea sounding. This proved barren of result with a hundred-fathom line on end.
The silent calm continued, and the weird, lonesome cry of a penguin greeted our ears for the first time on the voyage.
Late in the afternoon a light breeze sprang up from the westward. As the ship gathered headway, a school of Antarctic porpoises came plunging and jumping after her. The toggle-iron was brought out, and the carpenter tried his luck at harpooning one on the jump. After lacerating the backs of several he gave it up and turned the iron over to Gantline, with the hope that he might do better.
The old mate took the iron in his right hand and balanced it carefully. Then he took several short coils of line in his left hand, and, bracing himself firmly on the backstays just forward of the cathead, waited for a “throw.” Almost instantly a big fellow came jumping and plunging towards the vessel, swerving from side to side with lightning-like rapidity. He passed under the bowsprit end so quickly that Gantline’s half-raised arm was hardly rigid before it was too late to throw. Suddenly back he came like a flash across the ship’s cut-water. There was a sharp “swish,” and the line was trailing taut through the snatch-block with three men heaving on it as hard as they could. It was done so quickly that it seemed less than a second from the time the animal flashed past to when he hung transfixed a few feet above the sea beneath the bowsprit end.
Chips, who had harpooned many a porpoise in the low latitudes, was filled with admiration, and instantly lent a hand to get the striped fellow on deck.
I went aft, for it was my watch on deck, and we expected to sight land before darkness compelled us to stand off to the eastward. At five o’clock a man stationed in the mizzen-top sung out that he could see something on the weather-beam to the westward, and soon by the aid of the glass we made out the high, grim cliffs of Staten Land looming indistinctly through the haze on the horizon. The first land sighted for seventy days.
The ship’s head was again pointed well up to the wind to try and turn the “last corner” of the world,--Cape Horn.
Captain Zack Green stood looking at the land a long time, and then remarked,--
“I would have gone through the Straits ten years ago, but I don’t want to get in there any more.”
“What!” I asked, “would you take a vessel as heavy as we are through the Straits of Magellan?”
“Straits of thunder!” he replied. “Who said anything about going through the Straits of Magellan with a deep loaded clipper ship? Man alive! That’s the way of it. Whenever anybody talks of going through the Straits, every eternal idiot thinks it the Magellan, when he ought to know no sailing ship ever goes through Smith’s Channel. Strait of Le Maire, man, between Staten Land and Tierra del Fuego. It would have saved us thirty miles westing, and thirty miles may be worth thirty days when you are to the s’uth’ard.”
I admitted that what he said was true, but as people knew very little of this part of the world, they usually associated the word “Straits” down here with the Magellan.
“Well,” said he, “they ought to know better, for nothing but small sailing craft and steamers could go through there without standing a good chance of running foul of the rocks. It’s the Le Maire Strait I was thinking of; but even that is dangerous, for there is no light there any more, and the current swirls and cuts through like a tide-race. I’ve been going to the eastward since they had trouble with the light and can’t get any one to stay and tend it.”
“What’s the matter?” I asked; “is it too lonely?”
“No,” he answered, slowly, “it isn’t that altogether, though I reckon it’s lonely enough with nothing but the swirling tide on one side and barren rocks and tussac on the other. I was ashore there once and saw the fellows who ran the light, before they died, and the head man told me some queer things. It’s a bad place for the falling sickness, too, and that’s against it, but the mystery of the light-keepers was enough to scare a man.
“I knew old Tom Jackson, the skipper of the relief boat, and he asked me to go over to the light with him. It’s only a day’s run from the Falklands, and, as I was laid up with a topmast gone, I went.
“We had a whaling steamer to go over in. A vessel about one hundred tons, with an infernal sort of cannon mounted for’ard which threw a bomb-harpoon big enough to stave the side of a frigate.
“On the way over Jackson told me how hard it was to get any one to stay at the light, and how he came across the two men who were now keepers.
“Two men had drifted ashore near the settlement lashed to the thwarts of a half-sunken whale-boat. They were all but dead and unable to speak. Finally, after careful nursing, one began to show some life, and he raved about a lost ship and the Cooper’s Hole.
“You see, over there in the South Orkneys there is a hole through the cliffs about a hundred feet wide, with the rocks rising straight up hundreds of feet on both sides. Inside this narrow passage, which is like an open door, is the great hole, miles around inside, with water enough for all the vessels afloat to lie in without fouling.
“This fellow raved about driving a ship through the hole during a storm. He talked of revenge, and would laugh when he raved about the captain of the ship.
“When these men were well again they told a straight story about the loss of the ship Indian. As near as they could make out, they had been fifteen days in that open boat, which they clung to when the vessel foundered off the Horn. They had nothing saved but the rags they came ashore in, so they were glad enough to take Jackson’s offer of two hundred pounds a year to tend the Le Maire light.
“We arrived off the light the next afternoon. There was no place to land except on the rocks, where the heave of the swell made it dangerous. It was dead calm this evening, so we got ashore all right. As we climbed the rocks towards the light the fellows there came out of the small house to meet us.
“The head keeper walked in front, and he was the queerest-looking critter that ever wore breeches. His hair was half a fathom long and the color of rope yarn, and his eye was as green and watery as a cuttlefish’s. The other fellow was somewhat younger, but he seemed taken up with the idea that his feet were the only things in nature worth looking at, so I paid little attention to him.
“The older fellow with long hair grunted something to Jackson and held out his hand, which the skipper shook heartily.
“‘Well,’ he roared, ‘how’s things on the rocks? Damme if I don’t wish I was a light-keeper myself, so’s I could sit around and admire the sun rise and set.’
“‘I wish to blazes you was,’ grunted the long-haired heathen; ‘as for me, I’m about tired of this here job, and you might as well tell the governor that if he gives me the whole East Falkland I wouldn’t stay here through another winter.’
“‘That’s just the way with a man soon as he gets a soft job. Never satisfied. Now, here’s my friend Green just waiting to step into your shoes the minute you think two hundred pounds a year is too infernal much for a gent like you to live on.’
“The old fellow looked hard at me with his fishy eyes, but said nothing.
“‘No,’ went on Jackson, ‘you wouldn’t be satisfied with ten thousand. What’s the matter, anyhow? Have you seen the bird lately?’
“At this the fellow glanced around quickly and took in every point of the compass, but he didn’t answer.
“Finally he mumbled, ‘To-night’s the night.’ Then he turned to me and asked, ‘Be you going to stay ashore to-night?’
“‘No,’ I answered, ‘not if we can get back on board.’
“Then the fellow turned and led the way to the light and Jackson and I followed after him.
“The light-house was built of heavy timber, brought ashore from a vessel, and the lantern was one of those small lenses like what you see in the rivers of the States. It had a small platform around it, guarded by an iron hand-rail, which, I should judge, was about fifty feet above the rocks. Outside the lens was the ordinary glass covering, making a small room about the lantern, and outside of all was a heavy wire netting to keep birds from driving through the light during a storm.
“There were some repairs needed, and the lampist had to go back on board the steamer for some tools. He had hardly started before the dull haze settled over the dark water, and in half an hour you couldn’t see ten fathoms in any direction.
“‘By thunder! Green, we are in for a night of it, sure,’ said Jackson to me. ‘There’ll be no chance of that boat coming back while this lasts.’
“‘Let her go,’ I replied; ‘I’d just as soon spend a night in the lantern as in that infernal hooker soaked in sour oil and jammed full of bedbugs. I don’t know but what I’d rather like the change.’
“‘Like it or not, here we are, so we might as well take a look around before dark.’
“We hadn’t gone more than half a mile through the gigantic tussac-grass when I felt a peculiar sensation at my heart. The next moment I was lying flat on my back and Jackson was doing all he could to bring me to. I had the falling sickness, and I realized what the governor meant by the order that no person should be allowed to travel alone on the Falklands.
“In a little while I grew better, and with Jackson’s help managed to get back to the light, faint and weak.
“That old long-haired fellow was there waiting for us, and he expressed about as much surprise and feeling at my mishap as if I had been an old penguin come ashore to die. However, after I had a glass of spirits and eaten some of the truck he had cooked for supper, I felt better. Then the old fellow went into the lantern and lit up for the night. He then came back and joined us in the house, where we sat talking.
“‘It’s the first quarter o’ the moon an’ third day,’ said he, coming in and sitting down at the table and lighting his pipe from the sperm-oil lamp.
“‘I never made any remarks to the contrary,’ said Jackson.
“‘It’s this night, sure, and the Strait will be crowded before morning; then he’ll be here.’
“‘Who?’ I asked.
“Old man Jackson laughed. ‘That’s his friend the bird,’ he said, looking towards me. ‘He has a visitor every now and then, you see, so it isn’t so blooming lonesome here after all.’
“The keeper looked hard at me with his fishy eyes, and then continued.
“‘He has been here twice before,’ he said.
“‘Well, suppose he has,’ snapped Jackson.
“‘If you can get another man, get him. I don’t want to be here when he comes again.’
“I looked at Jackson and saw his face contracted into a frown. ‘It’s some sailor’s joke,’ said he. ‘Nobody but a fool would send a message tied to the leg of an albatross.’
“‘It’s a joke I don’t like, an’ I’d like you to take us away.’
“‘Well, joke or no joke, you’ll have to stay until I get some one to take your place,’ and Jackson filled his pipe and smoked vigorously.
“I must have been dozing in my chair, for it was quite late and the fire in the stove almost out, when I was aroused by a peculiar sound.
“I noticed Jackson start up from the table and then stand rigid in the centre of the room.
“There was a deep moaning coming from the water that sounded like wind rushing through the rigging of a ship. Then I heard cries of men and the tumbling rush of water, as if a vessel were tearing through it like mad. Jackson sprang to the door and was outside in an instant. I followed, but the old keeper sat quietly smoking.
“Outside, the light from the tower shone like a huge eye through the gloom, and as the fog was thick, it lit up the calm sea only a few fathoms beyond the ledge. This made the blackness beyond all the more intense.
“‘That vessel will be on the rocks if they don’t look sharp,’ said Jackson. ‘Ship ahoy!’ he bawled in his deep base voice, but the sound died away in the vast stillness about us.
“‘There’s no wind,’ said I; ‘but I distinctly heard the rattle of blocks and snaps of slatting canvas as she came about.’
“We stood there staring into the night, and were aware of the presence of the old keeper, who had joined us. Suddenly we heard the rushing sound again, and it seemed as if a mighty wind was blowing through the Strait. There were faint cries as if at a great distance. Then the noise of waring braces coupled with the sharp snapping of slatting canvas.
“Jackson looked at me, and there was a strange look in his eyes.
“‘They’ll pass through all night,’ said the old keeper, ‘and in the morning there won’t be a sail in sight, calm or storm.’
“We stood in the fog for half an hour listening to the noises in the Strait, while the glare from the light made the mist-drifts form into gigantic shapes which came and melted again into the darkness. Once again Jackson went to the water’s edge and bawled into the blackness. The long-haired keeper smiled at his attempts, and his eyes had a strange glow in them like the phosphor flares in water of the tropics.
“‘The devil take this infernal place!’ said Jackson. ‘I never heard of so many vessels passing through here in a whole season. The whole Cape Horn fleet are standing to the s’uth’ard to-night.’
“I felt a little creepy up the back as we went into the house. Jackson made up the fire, while I lay in a bunk.
“‘It’s been so since the light went out last winter; but it was the fault of the oil, not me,’ said the old keeper.
“‘Why didn’t you stay awake and look to it?’ asked Jackson.
“‘It was a terrible night, and I got wet. I sat by the stove and fell asleep, and when I woke up it was daylight, and the light was out. That bird was there on the platform.’
“Jackson talked to the old fellow sharply, but I finally fell asleep. He aroused me at daylight, and I went outside.
“The sun was shining brightly, and the light air had drifted the fog back across the Strait to the ragged shore of Tierra del Fuego, where it hung like a huge gray pall, darkening underneath. To the northward lay the steamer, but besides her there was not a floating thing visible.
“The younger keeper, with the hang-dog look, started up the tower to put out the light, and I followed, taking the telescope to have a look around. We had just reached the platform when there waddled out from behind the lantern the most gigantic albatross I ever saw. The creature gave a hoarse squawk and stretched its wings slowly outward as if about to rise. But instead of going it stood motionless, while the keeper gave a gasp and nearly fell over the rail, his face showing the wildest terror.
“‘That’s him,’ he whispered.
“And I must say I felt startled at seeing a bird four fathoms across the wings. I stood looking at the creature a moment, and was aware of something dangling from its leg. Then I went slowly towards it. It stood still while I bent down and unfastened the piece of canvas hanging to its leg, but it kept its great black eye fixed on me; then it snapped its heavy hooked beak savagely, and I started backward.
“The creature dropped gracefully over the edge of the platform, and, falling in a great circular sweep, rose again and held its way down the Strait. I watched it with the telescope until it disappeared in the distance, and then swept the horizon for signs of a sail. There was nothing in sight, and the sea was like oil as far as the eye could reach. I put down the glass and examined the piece of rag. It was nothing but a bit of tarred canvas, with nothing on it to tell where it came from. The keeper asked to see it, and he could make no more of it than I could. Then we went down, and as we approached the house the old keeper came out of the door and looked around in the air above him. I held out the piece of canvas and he gave a start.
“‘He was there, then?’ he asked.
“‘If you mean that all-fired big albatross, yes,’ I answered. ‘But why the devil are you so scared of him?’
“The old fellow didn’t answer, but stood looking at the piece of canvas, saying, ‘Only one left. This is the third time.’
“‘Only one fool!’ I cried. ‘How, by Davy, can you read anything on that bit of canvas when it’s as blank as a fog-bank?’
“‘And you are that fool,’ he replied, in a low tone, so smoothly that I damned him fore and aft for every kind of idiot I could think of.
“‘Let him alone,’ said Jackson, hearing the rumpus. ‘All these outlying keepers are as crazy as mollyhawks. It’s some joke, or some fellow’s trying to get the place.’
“In a little while we went aboard the steamer and started for the Falklands.
“I was still there three weeks later, when two small sealing schooners came in and unloaded their pelts. The men aboard them told a strange tale of a wreck in the great hole of the Orkneys. They had gone into the crater after seals and had found a large ship driven into a cleft in the rocky wall. Her bow was clear of the water, but her stern was fathoms deep in it, so they couldn’t tell her name. On their way up they had gone to the westward and come through the Le Maire. They had hunted for two days off the rocks and reported the light out both nights.
“Jackson started off in a day or so to see what was the matter, and he took a goose-gun for that albatross. When he reached the light there wasn’t a sign of those keepers. Everything was in its place and the house was open, but there was nothing to tell how the fellows left.
“In a little while he noticed the head of an albatross peering over the platform of the light, and he tried to get a sight at it. But the critter seemed to know better than to show itself.
“He finally started up the ladder and gained the platform. There were the two keepers, stark and stiff, one of them holding an oil-can in his dead grip. The sight gave him such a turn that when the giant bird gave a squawk and started off he missed it clean, although it wasn’t three fathoms from the muzzle of his gun. He yelled to the men below to come up, but by the time they got there the whole top was afire from the spilled oil catching at the flash, or burning wad, from his gun.
“There was no way to put the fire out, so they had the satisfaction of climbing down and watching the tower burn before their eyes.
“It’s hard to say just how those keepers died. It may have been the falling sickness, or it may have been natives that killed them. As for me, I’ve believed there was something unnatural about the whole affair, for I’ve never heard of an albatross landing on a light before. There was some talk about fear of mutiny aboard the Indian by her owners, but there was no ground for it. Those fellows probably told a straight story. There was a boat picked up to the northward of the Strait some time afterwards, but there was no name on it, and the only man in it was dead. He had several ugly knife wounds, but it proved nothing.
“There’s room to the eastward of the island for me. You had better watch those fore-and mizzen-t’gallant-sails,--it looks as if we may get a touch of the Cape before morning.”
I went forward and started some men aft to the mizzen. We were about to begin the struggle “around the corner.” The deepening gloom of the winter evening increased, and the distant flares and flashes from the Land of Fire gave ominous thoughts of the future in store for us.
“Wal, I swow!” exclaimed Captain Breeze, as he came to the break of the poop the morning after the Northern Light had dropped down the bay to await the tide before putting to sea. The object that had called forth this remark was the figure of a very pretty and strongly built woman, dressed in a close-fitting brown dress with a white apron, standing at the galley door waiting to receive the breakfast things from the “doctor,” who was busy with the morning meal inside.
It was quite early and the mates were forward getting the men to the windlass. The tug was alongside waiting to take the tow as soon as the anchor came to the cat-head. The passengers were still below in their bunks and the skipper had only just turned out. He was bound out on a long voyage to the West Coast, and both he and his mates had enjoyed a more than usually convivial time the evening before. This accounted for the skipper not having seen his stewardess until the next morning, for she had come aboard quietly and had gone unperceived to her state-room in the forward cabin. He had asked for a good stewardess this voyage, for he had several female passengers. The company had evidently tried to accommodate him, for this girl certainly looked everything that was good and nothing bad. He stood gazing at her in amazement. Stewardesses on deep-water ships were not of this breed. Forward, the men manned the brakes, and a lusty young fellow looking aft from the clew of his eye caught a glimpse of the vision at the galley door and broke forth, all hands joining in the chorus,--
“A Bully sailed from Bristol town, Singing yo, ho, ho, oh, blow a man down; A Bully sailed, and made a tack, Hooray for the Yankee Jack, Waiting with his yard aback, Soo-aye! Hooray! Oh, knock a man down.”
The rising sun shone upon the white topsails hanging in the buntlines and glittered upon the brass binnacle and companion-rail. In the bright light the hair of the young woman at the galley door looked like burnished copper or a deep red gold. The curve of her rosy cheek was perfect, and every now and then the skipper caught a glimpse of red lips and a gleam of white teeth.
“Wal, I swow!” he exclaimed again.
“Anchor’s short, sir!” came the hoarse cry of Mr. Enlis from the head of the top-gallant-forecastle.
“Sink me if that ain’t the all-aroundest, fore an’ aft, alow an’ aloft, three skysail-yard, close-sailin’ little clipper I----”
“Anchor’s short, sir!” came Garnett’s bawl from the capstan.
“----I ever see,” continued the skipper, completely deaf and lost to everything else.
“Stand by to take the line!” roared Mr. Enlis to the tow-boat.
He was a cool, collected, and extremely profane mate, and he saw in an instant that if the tug did not get the ship’s head she would swing around with the sea-breeze and be standing up the harbor with the tide.
As it was, she kept paying off so long that the natural sailorly instinct, alive in every true deep-water navigator as to a sudden change of bearings, asserted itself in the skipper and brought him out of his dream with a start. His vision faded, and in its place he saw his vessel swinging towards Staten Island, her topsails filling partly as they hung.
“What’s the matter for’ard?” he roared. “Wake up, you----,” and he let drive a volley of oaths which for descriptive power stood far and away above any of that extensive collection of words found in the English dictionary. Had Mr. Garnett been of a literary turn of mind he might have noted them down for future reference, but he apparently did not appreciate their depth and power, for he caught them up carelessly as they came and flung them into the faces of the crew with no concern whatever.
No one was affected much by this outburst, but after the skipper had taken pains to explain that his mates and crew were all sons of female dogs, and that they had inherited a hundred other bad things besides low descent from their ancestors, he subsided a little and another voice was heard from the main-deck.
“That’s right, old man; don’t mind me. Cuss them out, I shan’t pay any attention. I’ll get used to your tune, even if I don’t to your words,” cried the pretty girl from the galley door, smiling up at him.
Jimmy Breeze looked down upon the main-deck from the break of the poop. Then he scratched his head, first on one side and then on the other. Never before in the twenty years he had followed deep water had he ever heard of a stewardess addressing a captain like this. Had she been old and ugly a belaying-pin would have found itself flying through the air in the direction of her head. But this beautiful, gentle young girl!
It was too much for the skipper, so he turned slowly upon his heel and walked aft with the air of a much disturbed man, muttering incoherently to himself.
At three bells in the morning the female passengers had their breakfast served in the saloon. The skipper happened to be in his room adjoining and could hear the praise bestowed upon his stewardess by Mrs. O’Hara, the Misses O’Hara, and Mrs. McCloud.
“A perfect jewel,” affirmed the latter, while “Carrie” was forward getting her tea. “I really don’t think we could make a voyage without her.”
“And so beautiful and good,” said the Misses O’Hara.
“Faith, tu be sure, she’s a rale saint av a gurl,” added Mrs. O’Hara, just as she appeared with the tea things. “An’, Carrie, me gurl, d’ye like th’ sea that ye follow it alone, so to spake?” she continued, addressing the stewardess.
“Yes, indeed, ma’am. But it’s not alone I am entirely, for surely the captain is the finest I ever saw, and they told me he was a father to his crew. He’s a man after my own heart.”
“Humph!” growled Jimmy Breeze in the solitude of his state-room. He thought his stewardess was not only very pretty, but an extremely discerning young woman. It was, however, this very perfection in appearance and deportment that caused trouble this morning, for when “Bill,” the cabin boy, passed the stewardess in the alley-way he was quite overcome by the vision of loveliness. He had some of the dinner things for the officers’ mess, and when he turned suddenly at the door, a heavy lurch of the vessel sent him against the coamings. This had the effect of throwing the things scattering to leeward about the feet of Mr. Enlis.
“You holy son of Belial!” roared the mate. And he continued to curse him loudly until Mr. Garnett came up.
“Whang him!” grunted the second officer, shortly. “Whang the lights out of him, the burgoo-eating, lazy,” etc.
Mr. Enlis had seized the unfortunate “Bill” by the slack of his coat and had yanked him to the mast to “whang” him, when the form of the stewardess appeared at the door of the forward cabin.
The mate laid on one good whang, when he was interrupted by the remark, “Soak it to him; don’t mind me, I’ll get used to hearing him pipe.” And the pretty girl smiled pleasantly.
“Ye had better go below, missie, for there’s a-going to be a little hee-hawing for’ards. Come back again soon,” said Garnett, with a leer.
“Not exactly, while the fun lasts,” answered Miss Carrie.
But, somehow, the mate could not curse loud enough to keep his temper up before the young girl, and he ended matters by giving Bill a kick that sent him to leeward, where he landed in the mess-kit. Then the mate touched his forelock to Miss Carrie and went forward muttering something about there being no discipline aboard a boat with wimmen folks around. Garnett balanced himself upon his short bow-legs to the heave of the ship, which was now well off shore, and took his cap in his hand while he mopped a deep, greasy dent in the top of his bald head. Then he took out a vial of peppermint salts and sniffed loudly at it, looking out of the clew of his eye at the stewardess. “Holy smoke an’ blazes, but she’s a craft to sail with! To think of a tender-hearted young gurl like that wanting to see a man whanged.” And he went forward like a man in a dream.
Each time during the following days when the oaths flew thick and fast from poop or forecastle, Miss Carrie appeared upon the scene and cheered on the contestants. It was simply uncanny to see the fresh young girl telling the skipper or mates to “go ahead and cuss them out,” or “don’t mind me, boys, I’ll get used to it.” They could not go on while the young girl stood by. Once Enlis continued to use foul language before her, but two or three groans and hisses made his face flush for the very shame of it. He threatened to kill every man who uttered a sound, and seized a belaying-pin to carry out his design, but a laugh from the galley door drove him into a frenzy, and he sent the pin flying at the girl’s head. He was instantly reported to the skipper for his brutal conduct and had the satisfaction of being knocked down by that truculent commander, barely escaping forward with his life.
“He’s a real captain,” said Miss Carrie to the O’Haras, whenever she thought the skipper was in his state-room and could hear. She was a very pretty girl, and what she said was seldom lost entirely.
Day after day life grew quieter on board the Northern Light. There was no help for it. And while life grew quieter, so likewise did Jimmy Breeze, the skipper. He was just “losing his tone,” as Mr. McCloud expressed it. He sometimes burst forth at odd moments, but the presence of his stewardess usually ended the flare into deep mutterings.
One morning he came on the poop and joined his passengers.
“There’s no use denyin’ it,” he said, “cussin’s wrong, and that young gurl shan’t be exposed to it no more. She’s a-tryin’ not to mind the rough words; but, sink me, any one can tell how they effects her, young and innercent as she is. Things is goin’ much better this v’yage, and blast me if I allows any d--d swab to shoot off his bazoo in my hearing. No, sir; if there’s any cussin’ to be done, I’ll do it. Yes, sir, I’ll do it; and I’ll whang the lights out of any d--d junk-eating son of a sea-cook aboard here I catches,--an’ I don’t make no exceptions for passengers.”
Here he glared at Mr. O’Hara, but that gentleman appeared absorbed in the weather-leach of the main-top-sail.
“An’ I don’t make no exceptions for passengers,” repeated the skipper, still glaring at the small and inoffensive O’Hara, who stared vacantly aloft. Then the skipper went aft to the wheel and noted the ship’s course.
Within another week after this speech of Captain Breeze’s a change had come over the ship’s company almost equal to that which had physically come over Mr. Garnett, whose long, flowing jet-black mustaches had now given place to a natural growth of stubbly, grizzly beard and whiskers. But of course the change of ships’ morals did not cause as much comment after the skipper had repeated his remarks in regard to swearing to the mates. Mr. Garnett’s private affairs were always of a nature that caused inquisitive and evil-disposed persons much interest, whereas the ship’s company interested no one, unless it was the stewardess.
As there was war on the West Coast of South America between Chile and Peru, the Northern Light carried her specie in the captain’s safe, as drafts and exchanges were difficult to negotiate. Captain Breeze was a careful and determined skipper and he had the confidence of the owners. He was a bachelor, but he debauched in moderation,--that is, in moderation for a deep-water sailor. Therefore it was something over ten thousand dollars in negotiable form that he carried in the small steel safe lashed to the deck beside his capacious bunk.
On the days he opened his “slop-chest” to sell nigger-head tobacco which cost him seven cents a pound for ninety, and shoes which cost him thirty cents a pair for two dollars and a half, he took pride in opening the steel doors and displaying his wealth to the stupid gaze of the men. The men were not forced to pay the prices he asked for his stores, but it was a case of monopoly. They could go without tobacco or shoes for all he cared. When they had done so for a short time they usually accepted matters as they were and signed on for both at any price he had the hardihood to demand. Oil-skins and sou’westers usually took a whole month’s pay, but that was no affair of his. If the men wished to go wet they could do so. He had no fear that they would attempt to crack his safe or steal his stores, for behind the safe and within easy reach of his strong hand stood his Winchester rifle loaded full of cartridges.
Mr. McCloud and Mr. O’Hara often had the pleasure of viewing the ship’s wealth, for there were occasions when the skipper’s temper was sufficiently mellow to allow them in his room that they might marvel at his power. He seldom failed to impress them. When the Northern Light had crossed the line he had impressed them into such a state of high respect for himself, and had subdued their own spirits so far, that he actually began to make their acquaintance. He would now hold conversation with them, but always in a tone of immeasurable and hopeless superiority. During this period the moral tone of the crew had likewise risen accordingly.
Garnett marvelled greatly during his watch below, and at night when on deck he could be seen walking to and fro in the light of the tropic moon, mopping the dent in his bald head and sniffing hard at his little vial. The change was dreadful to the old sailor’s nerves.
Mr. Enlis went about his duties silently, muttering strange sounds when things went wrong. The skipper’s promise to “whang the lights out” of any one caught swearing had had its effect.
One warm morning, after breakfast, the skipper invited McCloud and O’Hara below to try some beer. This feeling of good fellowship, starting as it did under impressive surroundings, developed into one of real confidence within a very short time. Mr. O’Hara had pronounced the hot, flat beer the best he had ever tasted, and McCloud had affirmed without an oath that he told nothing but the truth.
“Th’ only wan av all th’ saints that cud come within a mile av it,” said O’Hara, “is that paragin av goodness and all the virtues, me own old woman, Molly. She kin make beer.”
“Ah, the blessings of a good lassie!” said McCloud, holding his mug at arm’s length. “Captain, ye have me pity, fra I weel ken ye need it, being as ye are a puir lonely sailor-man. I drink to ye, sir, with much feeling----”
“An’ hope as ye will not be always be sich,” interrupted O’Hara.
Jimmy Breeze sat silent and sullen upon his safe, glaring at his passengers over the rim of his mug each time he raised it to his lips. At the end of the sixth measure he dashed the mug upon the deck and swore loudly for nearly a minute, and his guests were wondering what had happened.
“I’ll not be any d--d sich any longer!” he roared. “I’ve stood it long enough, s’help me.”
O’Hara put down his mug and edged towards the cabin door, and McCloud was in the act of following his example when Breeze sprang forward and locked it, putting the key in his pocket.
“Sit down, you swabs, and give me your advice. You can’t leave here till you do; so take your time and lay me a straight course.”
“What’s--what’s the matter?” gasped O’Hara.
The skipper seated himself on top of his safe.
“It’s like this,” he said. “Here I’m bound for the West Coast in cargo and passengers, likely to be at sea four months or more, and here I am bound to get married even if I have to run the bleeding hooker clear back to Rio to have it done.”
“Whew!” said McCloud.
“Whew!” said O’Hara.
“What I wants is advice. Shall I lay a course back to the Brazils and cross the hawse of some shaved-headed priest, or put into the river Plate and have her own kind of sky-pilot do the job? She lays she won’t have no shave-head splice her, and it’s a good three weeks’ run to the river, to say nothing of the danger of the Pompero this time o’ year. Ain’t there any way to make her ’bout ship an’ head her on the right tack, or have I got to be slanting about this d--d ocean until I get to be an old man?”
“What wud ye loike us to do?” asked O’Hara.
“Do!” roared Breeze. “If I knew, do you suppose I’d ask you? I’d make you do it so infernal quick you----”
“Or whang yer lights out, ye insolent man,” said McCloud, turning upon him.
“Well, well, I’m no priest,” said the repentant O’Hara.
“No more ye ken, Mickey, me boy; na is it the likes o’ you as will be o’ service in this case. Now, ye know, Mickey, I knows law, and I always have told ye the skipper of a vessel is a law to himself. Ain’t that be the truth, sir?” he asked, turning to the captain.
Captain Breeze nodded.
“That being the case, I know a skipper can marry people, perform religious worship, and do all manner o’ things aboard ships off soundings, as the saying is.”
The skipper nodded encouragingly from the safe.
“That being the case,” says I, “there’s no reason or being or state as can keep him fra marrying this minute if--if he wants to.”
“I know that all right,” said Breeze; “but who’s to marry me?”
“I don’t happen to be able to guess the leddie’s name,” said McCloud.
“D--n the lady! Who’s to marry me? That’s what I want to know,” roared the skipper.
“Why, the leddie will marry you, and you will marry the leddie to yourself, I presume. We are both married, O’Hara and me.”
The skipper sat glaring at his passengers, while he repeatedly damned the lady, the priests, the passengers, and all else connected with the affair.
“You infernal cross-checkered sea-lawyer, how can I marry myself? How can I marry myself and the girl too? Answer me that, sir,” and he glared at McCloud.
“Sure, ’tis aisy enough, a little bit av a thing loike that, sur,” said O’Hara. “Mac is right, an’ he has the lure strong an’ fast in his books foreninst th’ state-room.”
“I’ll get the law and read it to ye so ye may ken it, ye hard-headed sailor-man,” said McCloud, somewhat ruffled, and he started for the door. The skipper unlocked it and let him out, holding O’Hara as hostage against his return.
In a few minutes McCloud came back with several leather-covered books, and, seating himself, opened one of them and began his search for authority.
“Here it is,” he said, at length, while the skipper sat and looked curiously at him. “Here’s law for ye, an’ good law at that. Just as binding as any law ever writ.”
O’Hara nodded at the skipper and smiled an “I told you so.”
Jimmy Breeze came over to his passenger and looked over his shoulder sheepishly. McCloud read, “And therefore be it enacted, that all such masters of vessels when upon the high seas on voyages lasting one month or more shall have authority to perform such services upon such members of the ship’s company as they may see fit; provided that notice of the consent of the contracting parties has been previously given, etc.”
“Wal, I swow!” said Breeze, after a short pause.
“Get married first,” suggested O’Hara, draining one of the mugs.
“Sink me if I don’t pull off the affair before eight bells, and if I find your infernal book is wrong, blast me if I don’t ram the insides of its law down your throat and whang your hide off with the leather cover,” said the skipper, hopefully.
“’Tis good, rale good lure,” muttered O’Hara, looking for more beer. “Who’s th’ leddy?”
Although no one had mentioned the name of the fair stewardess for fear of precipitating an outburst on the part of the skipper, no doubt was felt by the passengers that she was the object of the skipper’s affections. His contempt for the O’Haras in general precluded the possibility of a match with either of the young ladies of that prosperous family. Besides, they both had pug-noses and were exceedingly well freckled. The beauty of Miss Carrie had long been observed to have had its effect upon Captain Breeze; so his answer to O’Hara’s apparently hopeful question caused the latter little real disappointment, although he may have had secret ambitions.
“Seems to me ye might give the lassie some notion of your hurry, especially if it’s going to happen so soon. The puir child na kens your purpose, no doubt,” said McCloud.
“Faith, I think ye right, Mac. I gave th’ owld gal nigh six months tu git ready in----”
“Six thunder!” growled Breeze. “I mean to get married afore eight bells, at high noon, according to good English law, and if you fellows want to help you can get your wives and darters to bear a hand.” They went into the saloon, where they found Carrie fixing the table for dinner.
The skipper hitched up his trousers impressively while his passengers stood at either hand.
“Carrie,” said he, solemnly, “we’ll stand by to tack ship at seven bells,--an’--an’--and after that we’ll make the rest of the voyage in company. Hey? How does that strike you, my girl?”
“Mercy! What a man you are, Captain Breeze!” said Carrie, blushing crimson. “Sure it’s sort of sudden like.”
“You’ll have half an hour to get ready in,” said the skipper.
“Plenty of time,” chimed in McCloud.
“An’ an aisy toime iver afterwards as th’ capt’in’s leddy,” said O’Hara, with dignity.
“But who’s to marry us?” asked the maiden, shyly, glancing at the skipper.
“I’m to marry you,” said Jimmy Breeze. “It’s law and it’s all right. I’m master of this here hooker, and what I says goes aboard, or ashore either, for that matter. It’s put down in that yaller book, an’ it’s law.”
“Land sakes! I never could, Captain Breeze,--really, now, not before these people,--I never could in the world.” And Carrie blushed furiously.
“You passed your word last night, so I holds you in honor bound,” said Breeze, with great fervor. “You have half an hour, so I leaves you.” And he drew himself up and strode to the companion, and so up on the main-deck out of sight.
McCloud and O’Hara, seeing danger ahead, strove with all the power of their persuasive tongues to get the fair girl to listen to reason, or rather law. She was stubborn on the point, however, and the female portion of the O’Hara faction, together with Mrs. McCloud, was brought to bear. These ladies, after expressing their modest astonishment at the skipper’s unseemly haste, immediately, however, vied with each other to argue in his behalf. They were so persuasive in their appeals, and so adroit in painting the picture of Miss Carrie’s future happiness, that in less than a quarter of an hour that refractory young lady gave way in a flood of tears. After this she hastily prepared herself for the ordeal by reading over the marriage service with Miss O’Hara, and things looked propitious for the skipper.
At seven bells that truculent commander promptly put in an appearance, dressed in a tight-fitting coat and cap with gold braid. He was followed below by Mr. Enlis, who looked uncertain and sour. After a short preliminary speech the skipper called the blushing bride to his side as he stood at the head of the cabin table. The book lay open before him, and without further ado he plunged boldly into the marriage service, answering for himself in the most matter-of-fact manner possible. He placed a small gold ring upon the middle finger of his bride’s right hand, which she dexterously removed and transferred to her left, and after the ceremony was over he glared around at the assembled company as if inviting criticism.
No one had the hardihood to venture upon any. Then the paper which was to do duty as certificate was drawn up by the clerky McCloud and was duly signed by all present. It was afterwards transferred to the skipper’s safe. Whiskey and water was produced for the men and ale for the ladies, and before long even the sour mate was heard holding forth in full career by the envious Mr. Garnett, who was forced to stand watch while his superiors enjoyed themselves. It was a memorable affair for some and immemorable for others, for the next day O’Hara could remember nothing, and Mr. Enlis remembered that he had gotten exceedingly drunk. Much he related to Garnett during the dog-watch, and that worthy rubbed the top of his bald head and sniffed furiously at his vial, swearing softly that the “old man” had made a fool of himself, and that he was accordingly glad of it.
The cruise continued as a cruise should when a bride is aboard ship, and at the end of a fortnight the Northern Light was in the latitude of the river Plate. There had been never an oath uttered since the skipper’s marriage, and the mates had begun to chafe under the restraint. The bride was on deck nearly all the time, and was certain to make remarks and cheer on any attempt at a fracas.
One afternoon the carpenter sounded the well and was astonished to find a foot of water in the hold. The weather had been fine and the vessel steady, so he was at a loss to account for this phenomenon. He sounded again an hour later and found the water had gained six inches. Then he lost no time in reporting the condition of the ship to the captain.
With water gaining six inches an hour, the crew manned the pumps with set faces, appalled at the sudden danger in mid-ocean. Suddenly, however, the pumps “sucked.” An investigation showed the ship was rapidly becoming dry.
The water-tanks were examined and found to be empty, but no leaks in them could be discovered.
To be at sea without water to drink is most dreaded by deep-water sailors, so Jimmy Breeze started his condenser and headed his ship for Buenos Ayres, cursing the fates for the foul luck that would ruin his anticipated quick passage.
His wife consoled him as best she could and lamented her husband’s luck to the passengers. Whereat she received the sympathy of the O’Haras and Mrs. McCloud, and was looked upon as a very unfortunate woman.
“Ah, pore thing! to think av it happening on her honeymoon at that,” cried Mrs. O’Hara.
“The sweet child, trying all she can to help her husband to forget his lost chances for extra freight money. To think of it, and just married at that,” said Mrs. McCloud.
“Pore young sowl,” said Kate O’Hara.
“’Tis a good wife that sticks to her husband in disthress,” said O’Hara.
“Ye ken it’s a jewel he has to be na thinking of money losses,” said McCloud.
Finally the ship made port and anchored off the city to take in water and continue her voyage at the earliest opportunity.
Mrs. O’Hara and Mrs. McCloud insisted on being allowed ashore to see the sights. Captain Breeze would hear of no such thing, but finally, when his bride added her voice to the occasion, he relented, and the ladies went ashore together.
Mrs. Breeze pointed out many places of interest, as she admitted having been there before, and at one of the principal hotels she left the party. She told them not to wait for her, as she would stop and see a friend, but to go down to the landing, where the boat might wait for her after she was through her call.
The day passed gayly, but when the party assembled at the landing, Mrs. Breeze was not there. They never saw her again.
The next day Captain Breeze called Mr. Enlis aft and took him below. When he had him in the privacy of his state-room he pointed to his little safe, and asked him to look through it.
This operation took but a moment, for it was almost entirely empty, and when he was through he looked at the skipper.
“What would you do?” asked Jimmy Breeze, huskily.
“Me?” asked the mate, apparently amazed at the question.
“About what?” asked Enlis, trying to look utterly lost.
“About that gal and the money, blast you!”
“Oh!” exclaimed Mr. Enlis, as if a sudden light had flooded the dark recesses of his brain. He remained silent.
“Well, what?” asked the skipper, in real anger.
“I dunno,” said Mr. Enlis, after a long pause. “’Pears to me I wouldn’t let on nothing about it. Mum’s the word, says I.”
“But the money, you swab?” growled the skipper.
“To be sure,” said Enlis. “The money.”
“Well, you might ask the police about the money on the quiet like,” ventured the mate.
“Suppose you and Garnett go ashore and see about it without making any fuss. Garnett is a good one for such matters. It would hardly do for me, seeing as how I stand in the matter of husband.”
“Egg-zactly; we’ll do it right away;” and the mate hastened forward to take advantage of the opportunity.
Garnett and Enlis went ashore with what money they could get, and they entered a description of the missing stewardess with the police. “An old hag with side whiskers, having a wart under her left eye and all her teeth gone,” said Garnett, as he finished. “An’ I hopes you’ll soon find her,” he added, with a leer at the official. “Ye’ll know her by the way she swears.”
Several hours afterwards two exceedingly happy and drunken sailor-men staggered down the street towards the landing. A beggar accosted them, but after a search for coin, they protested they were cleaned out.
“Don’t make no difference. Give me clothes,” whined the mendicant.
“I’d give ye anything, me boy, for a weight is off my mind. Was ye ever married?” cried Garnett.
“Give the pore fellow clothes, Garnett, you swine!” roared Enlis.
Garnett staggered against a house and undid his belt. Then with much trouble he drew off his trousers and stood with his white legs glistening in the moonlight.
“Here, pore fellow. You are a long-shore swab, but I knows by your look ye are married. Take them, blast ye!” And he flung his trousers from him. “This bean-swillin’ mate is too mean to give ye anything.”
“Not I!” bawled Enlis, casting off his belt. “Here, you swivel-eyed land-crab;” and he drew off his trousers likewise and handed them to the beggar.
“Thanky,” hissed the creature, and ran away.
The men in the boat looked up the street towards where they heard singing, and they beheld two very drunken men in flowing jumpers staggering trouserless along, while their voices roared upon the quiet night,--
“A Bully sailed from Bristol town, Singing yo, ho, ho, oh, blow a man down; A Bully sailed, and made a tack, Hooray for the Yankee Jack, Waiting with his yard aback, Soo-aye! Hooray! Oh, knock a man down.”
_CAPTAIN CRAVEN’S COURAGE_
Every man develops during the period of his growth a certain amount of nerve-power. This energy or life in his system will usually last him, with ordinary care, twoscore or more years before it fails. Sometimes it is used prodigally, and the man suffers the consequence by becoming a debtor to nature. It is this that makes the ending of many overbold men out of keeping with their lives. Some religious enthusiasts would have it that they are repentant towards the end of their careers,--that is, if they have not led conventional lives,--and that accounts for their general break-down from the high courage shown during their prime. Among sailors, soldiers, hunters, and others who live hard lives of exposure, the strain is sometimes peculiarly apparent.
It is often the case that the man of hard life dies before his life-flame burns low, and then he is sometimes classed as a hero. For instance, the captain of the Penguin, who ran his ship ashore on the North Head of San Francisco Bay, was the most notorious desperado in the whole Cape Horn fleet. Many men who sailed with him never saw the land again. Their names appeared upon his log as “missing,” “lost overboard in heavy weather,” etc. Investigation of such matters resulted in nothing but expense to the courts and the development of the ruffian’s sinister character and reputation. Yet when he ran the Penguin ashore with the terrible southeast sea rolling behind her, he maintained his rigid discipline to the last and saved his passengers and part of his crew. He died as a brave man should, never flinching from his post until his life was crushed out.
There were some who said he dared not come ashore, as he had overrun his distance through carelessness, and that without the backing of his ship’s owners he would have been stranded in a bad way upon the beach. But the majority were willing to forget his record in his gallant end, and he will be known in the future by the men who follow deep-water as a hero.
Craven, the pirate, was a much bolder and desperate man, yet his end was different. He hailed from the same port as the skipper of the Penguin, and sailed with the Cape Horn fleet in its early days.
He retired from the sea at the age of thirty-five and settled on the southern coast of California, taking to farming with that peculiar zeal shown by all deep-water sailors. He fell desperately in love, married, and the following year shot and killed a man who was less pious than polite in his behavior towards Craven’s wife.
After this affair he fled. Nothing was heard of him again for several years, but as he was an expert navigator it was supposed he took to the sea for safety.
One day an American trader was standing in the Hoogla River, China, when a junk appeared heading for her under all sail. Behind the junk, about a mile to windward, came a trading schooner. The Chinese on the junk made desperate efforts to overtake the American ship. When they came within hailing distance they begged to be allowed alongside.
The skipper of the Yankee warned them off with his guns, and ten minutes later the schooner had laid the junk aboard. There was some sharp firing for a few minutes, and then the Americans saw the men from the schooner swarm over the junk’s deck. After that Chinamen were dropped overboard in twos and threes, and before they had drawn out of sight ahead the schooner was standing away again, leaving the junk a burning wreck. When the ship made harbor they learned that Craven had appeared on the coast. He had been there the preceding year and had been recognized. Altogether it was said he had taken over five hundred junks and put their crews overboard. The captain of the American ship reported the incident he had just witnessed to the English gunboat Sovereign, but no action was taken in the matter. There was no treaty between the United States and China, and, as Craven was an American, it was a case for the Chinese to settle.
Craven had been on the coast several times. He had a rendezvous to the eastward somewhere among the numerous coral reefs, and from this den he would sally forth in his schooner, armed with six twelve-pounders, and swoop down upon some unsuspecting Chinese town. His boldness was remarkable.
Once he held a whole village in check single-handed while his men carried a boat-load of young maidens aboard the schooner, and then returned for the rest of their booty left upon the sand. It was said that had the emperor himself been within a day’s journey of the coast, Craven would have had him aboard his vessel to gratify his sinister humor.
His cruelty was phenomenal. A favorite amusement of his being to tie two Chinamen together by their pigtails and sling them across a spring-stay. Then he would offer freedom to the one who would demolish the other the quicker. It was seldom that he failed to produce a horrible spectacle.
On one occasion when he captured a prominent mandarin he asked an enormous ransom. Not getting it within the time specified, he had the unfortunate man skinned and stuffed. Then he was carried ashore and left standing for his friends to greet.
Craven’s crew numbered less than twenty-five men, and they were all white, except two or three who acted as servants to the rest, taking a hand in the fracases only when ordered to.
It might be supposed that the pirate wasted much time and energy for little gain taking junks. He dared not touch a white trader, and the junks were the easiest to handle. There was little left for him to prey upon, so he went along the Chinese coast like a ravenous shark, leaving a smoking wake behind, strewn with the blackened timbers of burned junks and dotted with the corpses of murdered men. Everything Chinese was game for his crew, and what he lost in quality of plunder he made up in quantity.
While the American ship lay in the Hoogla an accident occurred aboard which delayed her departure. During the time spent in making some of the necessary repairs Craven appeared at the mouth of the river, and was so bold that the English gunboat was at last prevailed upon to drive him away. The Sovereign met him some twenty miles off shore in the act of scuttling a captured junk. This was too much for the Englishman, and he fired a shot to drive him off. To his surprise Craven returned the fire. That settled the matter. The heavy Blakely rifle on the gunboat’s forecastle was trained upon the schooner, and it sent a shell that cut both masts out of her and left her helpless. Craven returned the fire with vigor, landing several telling shots. A heavy shell from the rifle was then fired at half a mile range, and struck the schooner in the stern above the water-line. It ranged forward, raking her whole length, and left her a burning wreck. She began settling rapidly by the head, and the gunboat, firing a parting broadside, which destroyed the schooner’s two boats, drew slowly away. The Englishman waited within sight until the schooner disappeared beneath the sea, and then, thinking it would be more merciful to let the crew remain in the water than to bring them ashore, steamed away for the river.
A few weeks after this a Spanish brig came in. She was a trader bound south, and the mate of the American ship made arrangements to take passage on her as far as Singapore to get some necessary supplies for his vessel.
The first person he met on rowing over to the brig to secure a passage was a small, peculiarly yellow man with a Spanish cast of features, who met him at the gangway and asked him his business before allowing him to come aboard. On telling his desire to secure a passage to the southward, he was peremptorily refused; but when he explained his business was urgent and that he had many necessary supplies to secure, the man at the gangway reconsidered the matter, and bade him wait alongside until he could consult his skipper, who was below suffering from an attack of gout in his leg.
In a little while he reappeared at the brig’s side and announced gruffly that he might bring his things aboard the following morning, as that was the time set for the brig’s sailing.
The next day the mate, Mr. Camp, came aboard the brig, and soon afterwards she was standing out to sea. There were two passengers besides himself aboard, Manila traders, who had come over from the Philippines and who wished to get to the southward.
When the brig had made an offing, Camp was surprised at the appearance of a most peculiar looking colored man, who limped up the companion-way to the poop. His skin was an orange-yellow, and appeared dry and dark in spots. His right leg was swathed in bloody rags, and he limped as if in some pain. He had an eye that glinted strangely as the mate came within its range of vision, and his face wore the determined look of a fighter who is making a desperate stand against heavy odds. In a quiet voice he addressed the man who had made the arrangement with the mate, Mr. Camp.
“Collins,” said he, “get me the glass. I believe I see a couple of birds making in along the beach for the harbor.” This he said in good English, with a slight Yankee accent, and Camp turned in astonishment to look at him more closely.
The man Collins, who was the mate of the brig, handed him the glass, and after a moment Craven laid it down with an oath.
“The two fellows we missed last week. They’ll loose off at having seen us, and that gunboat will be hard in our wake before night. You might send a few men aft to get to work on our passengers. They are poor whelps.”
Camp went towards him.
“I don’t understand what you mean by that last remark,” said he. “I am an American and wish a certain amount of civility aboard here.”
The skipper smiled grimly at him and sat upon the poop-rail.
“You’ll get the best the coast affords, my boy,” said he. “You’ll be a gentleman of leisure after you quit this hooker. This is the brig Cristobal, Captain Craven; and now you can make up your mind whether you will be a member of the ship’s company or try and float a twelve-pound shot. It’s piracy, says you? Well, it’s swim, then, says we, and good luck to you,” and he chuckled hoarsely, while several men came aft and stood by the mate for further orders.
Camp saw that it was death in a hideous form to disobey. Both he and the two Manila men were led below, where they swore allegiance to Craven and joined his crew. In a crisis of this nature a man even of strong mould is apt to think twice before accepting the inevitable. Time is valuable when one has but a few moments to live, and to gain it these three innocent men were glad to accept any terms. They were sent forward with the men and joined the crew, which now numbered fourteen hands. Here they learned how Craven and four men had clung to some of the wreck of his schooner for two days. Then the brig Cristobal picked them up in an exhausted state. Two days later Craven and his fellows quietly dropped the skipper overboard and announced to the crew their intention of taking charge of the brig. All who wished to could join. There were six unarmed men against five desperadoes armed to the teeth, and in a short time matters were settled satisfactorily. Craven was in command of a vessel and crew bound for China from the Philippines, and it was his humor to keep her on her course and have a look at things in the harbor. This he did to his satisfaction, and no opportunity offering for him to revenge himself upon the gunboat there, he took on some supplies and put to sea. When he met Camp at the break of the poop after the latter had joined, he became more communicative than usual.
“This color we have will soon wear off, my boy,” said he. “Collins there thought he knew something about medicine, and he broke open the medicine chest to get this iodine to paint us with. He’s a clown. The infernal stuff burned half the skin off, and that accounts for his looks. Where’s the skipper of this hooker, says you? Well, that depends somewhat on his morals. I don’t call to mind any island trader as will go to the heaven some old women pray for. A trader’s life is always a hard one, so I don’t think we did any harm in helping the fellow to something different, although he did struggle mighty hard to stay. Some religious people would call it bad to put yellow-skinned heathen overboard, but we don’t look at it that way. Most of these junk-men are no better than animals, and we do them a clean favor by ending their sufferings. Yes, sir, that’s the way to look at the matter, my son. There isn’t a man alive who can look back and see anything in his life worth living for and suffering for. It’s all in his mind’s eye that something will be better in the future. We know that’s all blamed nonsense, for that something better never comes, so in helping him to what’s coming to all of us we just do him a favor. Now, you are a likely chap, Camp, and I hope you’ll see the reason of things. Go below and tell one of the girls we got yesterday to give you your grog. Collins has the key. Then you want to bear a hand and get our little battery in working order. We’ll raise half a dozen junks before night and we’ve got a little business with the first one.”
In a short time all hands were hard at work getting the brig’s twelve-pounders in working order. In the late afternoon a lateen-sail showed above the horizon, and everything was ready for action. By night the junk ahead was still out of range, and the watch was set, and half the men went below to get some rest.
At two in the morning Camp was turned out, and the smudge on the lee bow showed that the brig would soon have the wind of the unsuspecting Chinaman. In half an hour Craven had him under his lee, and he paid off gradually until he brought him fair on his lee broadside, not two hundred feet distant. Then he swung up his ports and let go his battery, serving it with remarkable accuracy and rapidity.
The astonished Chinaman let go everything in the way of running gear, and the junk, which was running free, broached to and lay helpless, wallowing in the swell, with her deck crowded with screaming men. Craven then brought the Cristobal to, and taking the boat with four men, carried a line to the junk, and soon had her alongside.
The Chinamen were bound hand and foot after several who showed fight were killed. Then Craven had them transferred to the Cristobal, and with untiring energy went to work to transfer his ammunition and guns to the junk. It was noon before this was accomplished, and then he told the Chinaman who was the junk’s captain that he really owed him much for swapping such a fine Spanish brig for his worthless old hulk. In consideration of this debt he requested him to keep the brig on her course to the Peninsula, and crowd on all sail if he saw an English gunboat in his wake. If he failed, and showed such ingratitude as to disobey this request during the next twenty-four hours, he hinted in a mild way that he would overhaul him, and then fry him in whale-oil and serve him to his shipmates. As Craven was never known to make an idle threat, the conversation had its desired effect. The Cristobal stood away on her course with a Chinese crew, and Craven, bracing his lateen-sail sharp on the wind, headed slowly back again over the course he had just run.
About eight bells in the afternoon the Sovereign was sighted dead ahead. She was driving along full speed with a bone in her teeth. That is, with the bow wave roaring off on either side in a snowy-white smother, looking like a great white streak against her dark cut-water.
She passed within hailing distance, and Craven kept below the rail and rubbed his wounded leg while he smiled grimly.
“I’ve a notion to let go at her,” said he to Camp. “We could slap a couple of twelves into her before she knew what was up. I’d like to see her skipper with a couple of shot through his teakettle before he knew where he was at. Jim, suppose you lay the port guns on her.”
But Collins had sense enough not to get the guns trained in time. In ten minutes the gunboat was a speck on the horizon.
Craven knew she would overhaul the brig in a few hours, but hoped his merciful attack on the junk’s crew would lessen the heat of the chase. He might have sunk her and escaped, but his fancy took a different turn, and he played his game out.
Before sundown he was rapidly nearing the China coast and several junks were made out ahead. All hands, tired as they were, turned out and stood by for a fracas. It was not long in coming.
The nearest junk was laid close under Craven’s lee and the Chinamen could be seen crowding about her decks. He was so close a conversation could be carried on with the men on the junk, and the rush of the foam under her forefoot sounded loud upon Camp’s ears.
Craven let go his port broadside into her without warning. In five minutes he had her alongside. Several of her crew were dead, but he lost no time in transferring the living to his junk and making them lend a hand to shift his guns again. Then he sailed away with his battery transferred for the second time.
Craven fought his way up the coast, shifting his guns and ammunition from vessel to vessel at every available opportunity. Towns that had been warned of his approach in a junk, would see a peaceful trading schooner come quietly into the harbor at dusk. Nothing would be thought of this until in the early hours of the morning a heavy cannonade would arouse his victims, and those who survived would see the finest vessel there standing out to sea in tow of a schooner that fairly disappeared in the smoke of her own guns. The pirate had ammunition in plenty within three days’ sail of Hong-Kong, and he dodged everything sent after him for nearly a year. He kept the sea with remarkable cunning, and his absolute fearlessness won him many recruits.
Once he was heard from far down the Straits of Malacca, where he engaged a Malay pirate for several hours whose crew outnumbered his ten to one. He finally sank her with all hands.
A few months after this he again fell in with the gunboat Sovereign. He was sailing a huge junk at this time, and under this disguise came near escaping again. He was recognized, however, and captured with his entire crew. They were taken to Hong-Kong. Here he was confined for nearly a year, an object of curiosity, until they were ready to cut off his head.
He and his men were led out every day or two and held in line while the swordsman walked along them with upraised blade. When this grim executioner had chosen a man, which he did at random, he would bring the weapon down suddenly upon the back of his neck. This was trying on the nerves of those of the crew who had to look on. No one knew just when his turn would come.
Craven, however, stood it well for a month or two and was apparently indifferent to the sight of death, but the long strain of hunting his fellow-men and of being hunted in turn by them had done its work. His nervous energy had been pretty well used up. One day a trader came into the harbor and brought a woman to the English consul’s. She claimed to be Craven’s wife. It took some time before she could get to see her husband, but through the consul’s influence she finally did. Then came the break in the man’s nerve.
From that time on he trembled when the sword struck. At the end of a week he was hysterical, and they had to hold him when they brought him out. His sole idea now was to live to see the woman who had caused his ruin. This he struggled and cried for, and the idea of separating from her again caused him more agony than one can well conceive.
The Chinese are always particular that great criminals of theirs shall get great punishments. Craven’s sufferings were prolonged as much as possible. There were forty men of his crew taken with him, and he had seen the heads of nearly all cut off. When his turn came, and it was next the last, he screamed shrilly as the swordsman swung up the blade two or three times over the victim’s head before giving the final stroke. Craven was trembling all over. He cried and begged for a little delay. His horror of death was terrible, and he pleaded to see his wife once more. The idea of separating from her now forever was more than he could stand, and it caused the greatest possible amusement to the on-lookers. They laughed and drew their long pigtails upward, meaningly, in derision. When the sword fell, Craven had gone entirely to pieces and died the death of a most pitiable coward.
Camp, who was the only man left, finally managed to get the English consul to intercede in his behalf. He was afterwards released, but his sufferings had been so great during his imprisonment that he died soon afterwards.
_THE DEATH OF HUATICARA_
We were lying in the stream with the topsails hanging in the buntlines. Everything was stowed ready for getting under way. The night was very dark, as the sky was obscured by the lumpy clouds which had been banking in from the westward all day before the light sea-breeze. Now it was dead calm, and the water was smooth and streaky as it rippled past the anchor-chain and cut-water, making a low lapping sound in the gloom beneath us, which was intensified by the stillness of the quiet bay.
Gantline and I sat on the forecastle-rail, watching the lights of the city and small craft anchored closer in shore. On the port bow the black hull of the Blanco Encalada loomed like a monster in the gloom, her anchor-lights shining like eyes of fire. Her black funnel gave forth a light vapor which shone for an instant against the dark sky and vanished. Long tapering shadows cast in the dim light of her turret ports told plainly that she had her guns ready for emergencies. She lay there silent and grim in the darkness, and our clipper bark of a thousand tons appeared like a pilot-fish nestling under the protecting jaws of some monster shark, as we compared the two vessels in respect to size and strength.
It was quite late and our last boat had come aboard some time since, bringing our skipper, Zachary Green, his pretty daughter, and two passengers. At daylight we would clear with the ebb-tide and land-breeze of the early morning, and then, with good luck, we would make an offing and stand away for the States. We were sick of the war-ridden country, and even the town of Valparaiso itself offered no attraction for us. Our cargo hardly paid enough freight money to buy the vessel a suit of sails, and it was with a feeling of great relief that we steved in the last bale and closed the hatches.
While we sat on the rail we heard a slight rippling in the water ahead of the vessel. It sounded as if a large fish was making its way slowly across the bows. We listened in silence for some moments while the sounds came nearer. I looked aft and saw two figures in the light from the after companion-way, and I recognized Miss Green and the smaller of the two passengers standing close to the hatch. The sounds in the water interested me no longer, and I gazed rather hard at the figures aft. The two passengers, who were missionaries on their way home, had been aboard ship several times during the last week, but they had always been so pious and reserved in manner that I never once thought to see one of them talking to a young woman alone at such a late hour. But there are many things a sailor must learn not to see. Memory is not always a congenial friend of his.
Suddenly I heard a sound of some one breathing, followed by a smothered oath, coming from the direction of the rippling water which drew more and more beneath us.
“Ha! Voila, me gay sons, que voules vous--si padrone.--Hace bien tiempo, manana--hell-fire but the bloody lingo gets crossways of me gullet,” came a deep voice from the black water.
“Och! stow ye grandsons, ye blathering ijiot, an’ kape yer sinses. If them’s Dagoes on watch ’twill be all up with us. Whist, then! Ye men on the fo’c’stle!”
“What’s the matter?” asked Gantline and I in the same breath.
“Faith, an’ if yez have a drap av th’ milk av human pity in yer hearts, ye’ll give two poor divils a lift out av this haythen country. Say not er whurd, but let us come on deck quiet like. Ef ye don’t, th’ blood av two innocent men will be upon yer sowls fer ever an’ ever, amen. Spake aisy.”
“Now, Lord love ye, what kind of a man is this?” asked Gantline, as a naked man climbed slowly up the martingale-stays and crouched close to the starboard bow out of sight of the man-of-war.
“By th’ luck av Lyndon! Is this old Tom Gantline who talks? Gorry, man, we’ve just escaped from th’ prison on th’ beach. Don’t you remember me? I’m Mike McManus, own cousin to Reddy O’Toole who used to be mate with ye an’ owld man Crojack.”
“No, I don’t remember you,” answered Gantline; “but if you had said you were any one else you would have gone overboard again fast enough. No one but a chip of that devil’s limb, O’Toole, would have come out here in this tideway, right under the guns of that man-o’-war. Who’s with you?” and he peered over at the man who still clung to the bobstays as if uncertain whether to trust himself on board or again swim for it.
“That’s a man called Collins, a ’Frisco man, who got taken along with me, when we was smugglin’ in th’ rifles, up to th’ north’ard. Whist! below there; come up and make yerself known amongst friends. We’re safe.”
“I ain’t so almighty certain about that,” growled Gantline; “what am I to do with you but put you ashore? I can’t run the risk of having the vessel overhauled for such fellows as you. You may be some bloody cutthroats for all I know. What do you mean by smuggling rifles? Ain’t there enough on shore without bringing any more into this infernal country? I reckon a rifle won’t look as if it was worth so much when they stand you up against a wall and let you peep into the muzzle of a dozen or two.”
“Ah, shipmate, ye haven’t the heart to turn us over fer that, when all we’ve done was to try an’ land a few fer thim poor fellows, an’ this Dago with his ironclad overhauled us. Oh, me boy, ye haven’t seen th’ inside av one av thim black iron holes on th’ beach, to talk av puttin’ us ashore again. Gord! men, to sit ther fer six whole months behind them steel walls and never see th’ sun rise or set, an’ do nothing but kill lice and chintz-bugs all day long, an’ all night. No, ye may be in sympathy with Chilly, but ye have th’ look av a sailor-man for all that”
As he spoke he climbed to the catheads and drew himself gently onto the top of the top-gallant-forecastle. He was followed by the man Collins.
They crouched shivering behind the capstan, and I saw they were in a bad condition. They were wasted and gaunt, and their flesh had a soft, sickly look, as if they had spent a long time in close confinement. The hair of their heads was long and matted. How they swam so far in that tideway was strange, and told plainly of their desperate courage in attempting to escape from the terrors of the beach.
Gantline stood irresolute a moment, looking at their shivering forms. Then he glanced sharply at the man on watch, who walked in the port gangway. It was too dark to see him distinctly, so trusting that he in turn had seen nothing of what had occurred forward, he started aft. The two figures I had noticed a few minutes before had now disappeared.
“Keep quiet,” I said to the naked men, whose teeth chattered in the cool night air. “Lie flat on deck until he comes back and perhaps we can do something. Haste! Not a word!”
The man Mike was about to make some reply, but at that moment the fellow on watch came close to the edge of the forecastle. I stepped quickly in front of the man, and in doing so trod on a projecting foot which cracked horribly, and, twisting, brought me down in a heap upon them. A deep groan told of the damage done, but I instantly regained myself and began to hum a song in a low bass voice.
The man on the main-deck stopped a moment and looked hard at me, but it was so dark he could see but little and my singing reassured him, so he turned again and went off.
In a short time Gantline returned with a bundle.
“Now, bear a hand there, you men, and put these clothes on in a quarter less no time,” he whispered. “Come, hurry up,” and he passed a shirt and a pair of dungaree trousers to each.
“Och! he has broken me toe clane off,” groaned Mike, slipping on the garments. His companion dressed rapidly in silence.
“Now then, up you go, both of you, into the foretop, and lie out of sight till we get to sea, and if I see a hair of your heads inside the next twenty-four hours I’ll turn you both over on the beach. Here, take a nip apiece before you go,” and he passed a small bottle to the man Collins.
The poor fellow’s eyes sparkled as he thrust the neck of it into his thick beard and tilted his head back in order to let the liquor have free way down his throat. Gantline suddenly jerked it out of his hand and passed it to the Irishman, who put it to his lips, gave a grunt of disgust, and threw the empty bottle over the side.
“Now wait till you see me go aft with the watch, and then aloft with you,” said Gantline, as he left us.
When he reached the man he started off with him to the quarter-deck, and as they disappeared together over the break of the poop the men crawled for the rigging. They were so weak from their exertions that it seemed as if they would never get over the futtock-shrouds, but finally the man Collins gained the top, and dragged his companion after him. Then I went into the forward cabin and took what salt-junk was left and carried it aloft before Gantline returned. By the time I reached the deck he had started forward again and joined me on the forecastle. His seamed and lined face wore an anxious look as he took his place beside me and acted as if nothing had happened to seriously interrupt our former conversation. We sat a few moments discussing our stowaways and then went aft to get a little sleep before clearing.
I turned in and lay awake thinking of the men in the foretop, hoping nothing would occur to make it necessary for more than one man to go aloft there. The sails were all loosed except the foreroyal, and this I would go aloft for myself.
It was past midnight before I lost consciousness, and it seemed almost instantly afterwards Gantline poked his head in my doorway and announced, “Eight bells, sir.” I turned out and found it was still dark, but a faint light in the east told of the approaching day. The men were getting their coffee from the galley, and the steward was on his way to the cabin with three large steaming cups for the skipper and passengers. A light air was ruffling the water and the tide was setting seaward, so if nothing unusual happened we would soon be standing out. The dark outlines of the Blanco Encalada began to take more definite shape, but all was quiet on board of her.
By the time the men finished their coffee Zachary Green came on deck, and then he gave the order to “heave short.”
In a few moments all was noise and bustle on the forecastle-head. The clanking of the windlass mingling with the hoarse cries of “Ho! the roarin’ river!” and “Heave down, Bullies,” broke the stillness of the quiet harbor.
“Anchor’s short, sir!” roared Gantline’s stentorian voice from the starboard cathead. This was followed by an order to sheet home the topsails. In a few minutes we broke clear and swung off to starboard with the fore-and main-yards aback. Then we came around and stood out with the ebb-tide, the light breeze sending us along with good steering way.
In a short time we hauled our wind around the point, and, with everything drawing fore and aft to the puffs that came over the highlands, we started to make our offing, leaving the Blanco Encalada with her brass-work shining in the first rays of the rising sun. We had gone clear without mishap, but although we were making six knots an hour off the land, we knew the breeze would not hold after the sun rose. As we expected, it fell before the men had finished breakfast, and we lay becalmed a few miles off shore on a sea of oily smoothness.
The passengers came on deck to take a last look at the harbor astern, and their voices sounded pleasant to the ear as they held forth on the beauties of a morning in the South Pacific.
These passengers were both clerical-looking men, and were fair types of the missionaries who live on the islands of the South Sea. They had engaged passage to the States more than a week before we sailed, and since then were almost inseparable. Their clothes were of some dark material, much alike in cut, but their faces and head-gear were in marked contrast.
The younger one had a smooth, sallow face, without a sign of beard, and wore a low black hat with a broad rim. The other looked to be ten years older, apparently a little over fifty. His face was as brown as a sailor’s and an enormous beard covered it almost to the eyes, which sparkled merrily from under an old slouch hat. His hair was also long, and his figure was of gigantic build.
“I was speaking to those poor fellows in the prison there only yesterday,” the younger one was saying, as I came aft, “and I did my best to cheer them, but they were both much set against spiritual consolation; and the one, McManus, stole my pocket-knife with its saw blade, which I used to carry to cut cocoanuts.”
“How do you know it was he who took it? Might not you have lost it?” asked the big man, with a smile.
“Do you suppose I would bear false witness against any man?” replied the younger, in a tone of reproach. “I noticed he came close to me while I was praying for him, and felt his hand touch me, but did not know my loss until after I left the prison. It will do him little good, however, as he and his companion in crime are to be shot this morning. It is probably just as well, for I know that those sailor men are a wicked lot and much given to wine, women, and desperate deeds.”
“Ah!” said the big man in a deep voice, “it is probably true; but you are rather severe on sailor-men, for all that. These sailors are an intelligent lot for the most part. And think you, dear friend, that there is probably not one who would not rather marry a sweet, good woman and live a pleasant and pious life, even as we ourselves do. We do this because we have money to maintain our positions; but the sailor has our feelings and longings without the means to gratify them, and, as he is intelligent enough to see that his life is hopeless, he gets as much pleasure out of it as possible and hesitates not at a desperate deed for gain.”
“Charity is very good and noble, but it gives me great pain to hear you express such unsound views as that. If it were not for the many noble deeds you have done for the islanders, I should be tempted to shun you as a recreant I trust you only jest, but it is even ill to jest on such subjects,” answered the younger, with a flushed face and a voice vibrating with suppressed feeling.
The big man made no answer to this, but suddenly called his companion’s attention to several large “alberco” which had followed the ship until she lay becalmed, and then plunged and jumped like so many porpoises in the wake. We drifted slowly all the morning, and about noon the sea-breeze set in from the southward and sent us along at a comfortable rate. Nothing occurred to make it necessary for a man to go aloft in the foretop, and those who had gone up the main and mizzen in the early morning had noticed nothing unusual. The platform in the top was as large as that in a full-rigged ship, so the men who were hiding were not visible from the deck as long as they lay flat on their backs or faces.
Gantline had decided to tell the skipper the whole affair of the night before, but the old man was in such a bad humor that the mate delayed telling him until the prospect of a serious burst of anger was less apparent.
The day wore on and the bark held steadily on to the westward, making from eight to ten knots an hour. After supper the skipper came on deck with his passengers and they were soon joined by Miss Green. They sat aft around the taffrail and chatted, the men smoking and very much at their ease.
Miss Green was of an extremely religious disposition, but it was easy to see that it was not entirely the devoutness of the younger passenger that attracted her to him. There was a mysterious power about the man that was apparent to any one after being an hour in his company. Something in his deep, vibrating voice, when he was talking, appeared to hold the attention, and I, more than once, looked at him as he sat next to the skipper’s daughter, holding forth on matters of the church.
Zachary Green was still in a bad humor because of his low freight money, and it was evident that he would ease his pent-up feelings on some one. He had listened to the talk of the missionaries with ill-concealed contempt, whenever they fell to discussing their ecclesiastical affairs, and now he asked the younger abruptly when he was to return.
“Ah,” replied he, “I shall return as soon as possible, for my flock will get along poorly without me. I have converted many chiefs, who wrangle among themselves, as has also my friend here.”
The skipper turned with a look of disdain at the big-bearded man who appeared to understand the implied interrogation and hastened to answer. “It is true, I have converted many to the Christian faith,” he said, in a low voice, “but I shall not return to the islands of the Pacific, for I think there is a better field nearer home. Not that I believe my labors wasted, for the converted natives never stole anything but ammunition and utensils, while the others stole everything from me they could lay hand to. Not that the effort was entirely vain, I say, but that better work can be done among our own people, such as sailors, for instance.”
“Eh! What’s that?” growled Zachary Green, as he listened to the last part of this sentence. “What do you mean by sailors?” and his eyes flashed ominously.
“Why, go among them, and see that they get the proper books in the libraries sent out on vessels for them to read, for instance.”
“Now, by Gorry! you are talking some sense. Instead of whining around among a lot of good-for-nothing niggers, like your friend here, you’ll really do something if you follow that up. Yes, sir, if you’ll only put something in these libraries besides ‘Two Years before the Mast,’ Bible dictionaries, and the like, and get some police reports nicely bound, along with some yarns like ‘Davy Crockett,’ you’ll be a blessing to sailors, and skippers, too, for that matter. No, sir, don’t play fool with those islanders any further. They were all right before they ever saw a Christian, and they’ve been all wrong ever since. Hang it, you talk like a man of sense, after all, and I hope what I’ve said won’t be lost on you.” And as he finished his peroration he stood up and looked astern.
Before the astonished missionaries could say a word the skipper started for his glasses, and, seizing them, he looked steadily at a faint trail of smoke which rose above the horizon directly in the vessel’s wake.
“Now, by Gorry! That’s strange,” he muttered. “There’s no steamer bound out to-day, and yet that fellow seems to be standing right after us.”
“Mr. Gantline!” he called, as he turned towards where the mate stood. “Go aloft with the glass and see if you can make out that fellow astern of us.”
“Aye, aye, sir!” answered Gantline. And he took the skipper’s glass and made his way leisurely up the main-ratlines.
From the lower top he could see nothing but a black funnel and masts without yards, so he went higher. On reaching the cross-trees he looked forward, and there, lying prone on their stomachs, were the two hiding men. Their eyes were straining at the vessel astern, and even if Gantline had not already made out who she was, one look at those faces would have told him. He came on deck and returned the skipper’s glasses without a word, and then started forward, but Zachary Green stopped him.
“Could you make her out?” he asked.
“Well, there isn’t much of her rising yet, but I suppose she’s the Blanco Encalada,” he answered.
“Seems to me it is hardly time for her to put to sea,” growled the skipper, “and she’s heading almost the same course as we are. It is generally the way with you, though, after you get ashore on the beach, and it will take a week to soak the liquor out of you so you can see enough to know a downhaul from a clew-line.” And the old man turned back to his passengers.
Before two bells in the first watch that evening it was blowing half a gale to the southward out of a clear sky, and the old bark flew along on her course with everything drawing below and aloft.
There was no sea running, so she heaved over and drove along at a rate that bade fair to keep the Blanco below the horizon for several hours. As it grew late the air became quite chilly, and the skipper went below with his passengers.
The moon rose and shone with great brilliancy, so that our towering main-skysail must have been visible a long distance, while the foam flaked and surged from the vessel’s black hull as white as a mass of liquid silver. All night we drove along with nothing visible astern, and at daylight the hull of the steamer was still below the horizon. At seven bells Zachary Green came on deck.
“Name o’ thunder! What’s he after?” he growled, as he gazed astern. “By Gorry! It is the Blanco, after all, Gantline; but what makes him hold on like this? We are going to the westward of Juan Fernandez, and that is more than a hundred miles out of his course.”
The mate made no answer, but went on with his work overseeing the washing down of the quarter-deck. “It’s just like those Dagoes to go running all over the Southern Ocean for no other purpose than to wear out their gear and burn coal,” continued the skipper. “If this wind keeps slacking up, he ought to be abreast of us before noon, though I never knew this old hooker to send the suds behind her at the rate she’s been doing all night. Breakfast! did you say? Well, steward, just give those sky-pilots a chance to shake off the odor of sanctity they’ve slept in and put on their natural one of hypocrisy and gin-and-bitters. Pshaw! there’s lots lazier men than missionaries in the world, though I can’t call to mind exactly where I’ve seen them. Mr. Gantline, you may let her head a point more to the north’ard.” Saying this, the skipper took a last look at the approaching steamer and then disappeared down the companion-way.
Although the vessel still raced along at a rate that sent the foam flying from her sharp clipper bows, she was no longer doing her utmost, and the Blanco rose rapidly in her wake with the black smoke pouring from her funnel.
Suddenly, while Gantline was watching her, she appeared to be enveloped in a white cloud of steam. Then there was a sharp, shrieking rush as something tore its way through the air close to the main-top-gallant-yard, and struck the smooth sea almost half a mile ahead, followed by the sullen boom of a heavy rifled gun.
The rush of the shot brought Captain Green on deck, closely followed by his passengers.
“Gorry! what’s the matter?” he bawled, as he rushed to the taffrail, while the younger passenger, who had followed close at his heels, smiled grimly.
The Blanco came driving heavily along a couple of miles astern. She was rapidly drawing up.
“Wants us to heave to, I suppose,” growled Gantline, and he eyed the skipper suspiciously.
“Man alive!” roared Green, “why in the name of thunder don’t you do it, then, before he cuts the spars out of us? Fore-and main-royals, there, quick! Let go by the run. Main-clew-garnets--all hands!” And the skipper bounded onto the poop and cast off everything he could lay hands on.
The bark was soon luffed and her main-yards backed. Then the Blanco came abreast, and all hands had a chance to look into the muzzles of her ten-inch rifles, which were trained towards us. A swarm of men crowded the deck of the ironclad while a boat shot out from her side and approached us rapidly, with a short, thick-set man in uniform sitting in the stern-sheets.
Zachary Green stood at the break of the poop, scowling at him as he swung himself lightly into the mizzen-channels and leaped onto the quarter-deck, followed by six men. Hardly had he done so when the younger of our two passengers drew a heavy revolver from somewhere about his back and fired point-blank at this officer.
The Chilian was in the act of drawing his sword and the hilt was across his breast at that instant. The bullet intended for him struck the hilt and flattened on the brass. The next instant there was a rapid fusillade, the six Chilians firing together, and the passenger with a six-shooting revolver in each hand, backing away behind a cloud of smoke.
It was all over in half a minute. Three of the blue-jackets were dead and their officer badly hurt when the firing ceased. The passenger tossed his empty pistols over the side and staggered aft, and not one of the survivors dared follow him. He gained the after companion-way, and as he did so the figure of the captain’s daughter appeared on deck. I could see her face pale as she caught the look in the passenger’s eyes, but she said no word. He went to her, kissed her lightly, and passed on to the starboard taffrail. The Chilians now recovered themselves and rushed for him. He climbed over with difficulty, but did not hesitate. Then he plunged headlong into the sea before any one could seize him; and as we rushed to the side we could see his body sink slowly down into the green depths until it finally vanished.
The skipper, Gantline, and the big missionary stood looking on in amazement, and then the wounded officer turned towards them.
“That was Señor José Huaticara; of course you did not know.” And he nodded to the skipper. Then the dead were placed in the boat, while a tourniquet was passed around the officer’s leg to stop the flow of blood until he could reach his ship. In a few moments he and his men were on their way back to the Blanco.
Zachary Green stood staring after them without a word. The name of the dead desperado was too well known to him to protest against the manner he was treated while on an American ship, but he desired some explanation.
The Blanco dipped her colors, and he came to his senses. “Hard up the wheel, there!” he bawled. “Stand by the lee-brace!” and the bark paid off again on her course.
The ironclad headed away to the northward and in a few minutes was a couple of miles away on the starboard quarter.
“I met him only a week ago,” explained the big missionary, in answer to the skipper’s look, “and I thought, of course, he was what he claimed to be.”
Zachary Green give a grunt of disgust and went aft.
“Mr. Gantline,” said he, as he met the mate, “are there any more missionaries aboard this ship, for if there are we will put them ashore on Mas-á-Fuera.”
“There are two more,” answered Gantline, looking the skipper in the eyes.
“Show them to me,” said the skipper.
Gantline went forward and looked aloft.
“Come down from there!” he bawled, and two lean figures stood in the foretop and then painfully descended the ratlines before the astonished gaze of the crew.
When they gained the deck they followed the mate aft to Zachary Green, who stared at them in amazement.
“We are off soundings and that fellow has no right to board me,” he said, “but if you belong to that José gang, I’ll signal for him to come back for you.”
“Faith, an’ if we did, Captain Green, it isn’t such a crowd av cutthroats as ye seem to belave,” said McManus. “The fact is we’re just broke away from bein’ shot fer no more than th’ carryin’ av a few Remingtons. I see ye remember me, so for th’ sake av auld times ye better give us a passage to th’ States an’ not make Crusoes av us on the Fernandez.”
Zachary Green looked at Gantline.
“It’s the truth,” said the mate.
“Truth be hanged! Who says it’s the truth? I’ll----”
At that moment a slight figure appeared at the companion-way, and the next instant Miss Green seized her father’s arm. He turned roughly, but there was something in the poor girl’s face that made him look to her. She led him below, and the escaped men stood staring after her.
“You fellows can turn to with the men forward,” said Gantline. And they went.
A little later Zachary Green came on deck again and stood looking silently over the bright Pacific. He stood there by the taffrail looking long at the eastern horizon. No one approached or spoke to him, for all knew Captain Green when his mind was full of unpleasant memories.
About three o’clock in the morning Garnett slid back the hatch-slide and bawled, “Cape Horn, sir!”
Captain Green was asleep, but the news brought him to his feet in an instant, and stopping just long enough to complete his toilet, which consisted of gulping down four fingers of stiff grog, he sprang up the companion-way and was on deck.
It was broad daylight, although the wind had shifted to the northward and brought with it a thick haze which partly obscured the light of the rising sun. Some miles away on the weather-beam rose a rocky hump, showing dimly through the mist; but its peculiar shape, not unlike that of a camel lying down with its head to the westward, told plainly that it was the dreaded Cape. Beyond it lay Tierra del Fuego, now almost invisible, and past it swept the high-rolling seas of the Antarctic Drift.
Captain Green stood blinking and winking in the crisp air of the early morning as Garnett walked up. It was January and daylight twenty hours out of twenty-four, but it was cold and the morning watch was a cheerless one. The old mate came up and pointed to the northward.
“It’s the Cape, I make it, though it don’t show up mighty high. We’ve been holding on like this most of my watch, but it’s been getting a dirty look to the west’ard,” and as he spoke he leaned over the weather-rail and spat into the foam, which drifted past at the rate of six knots an hour.
“It’s the Cape, right enough,” said Zack Green; “and if we can hold on a few hours longer we ought to weather the Ramirez and get clear. How’s she heading now?”
“Sou’west b’ sought,” answered the man at the wheel.
“Well,” said Green, “there’s almost four points easterly variation here, so that brings her head a little to the s’uth’ard of west b’ south. Let her go up all she will, Mr. Garnett, and call me when we make the Ramirez. I don’t believe much in that drift; it’s all in that big easterly variation. Watch the maint’gallant-sail if it begins to come down sharp from the north’ard,” and as he finished speaking the skipper disappeared down the companion-way.
Garnett sniffed the air hungrily as the odor of stiff grog disappeared also.
“’Tis a pius drink, s’help me, ’tis a pius drink,” he muttered. “Yes, a truly moral beverage, as they would say in the islands; but there’s no use thinking a dog of a mate will get any pleasure in these days of thieving ship-masters.” He walked fore and aft in no pleasant frame of mind, glancing at each turn at the distant loom of the land on the weather-beam.
“How d’ye head?” he bawled to the man at the wheel, in total disregard for the skipper and sleeping passengers.
“Sought b’ west a quarter west, sir,” answered the helmsman.
“Well, what in the name of the great eternal Davy Jones are you running the ship off like that for?”
“She’s touchin’ now, sir, an’ goin’ off all the time.”
“Going to----” but before he could finish the maintop-gallant-sail came aback against the mast.
“For’ard there! clew down the maint’gallant-sail!” he roared, ad he looked sharply to windward, where the giant Cape Horn sea came rolling down through the deepening haze.
“Maint’gallant-sail!” echoed the cry forward, as the men sang out and jumped for the halyards, while some of the watch sprang into the ratlines and made their way aloft.
“Come, bear a hand there! Get that sail rolled up and lay aft to the mizzen-top-sail.”
The vessel was driving along at a comfortable rate in spite of the heavy sea, and it looked as though she might give the grim Cape the slip and go scudding away on the other side of the world. A few hours running to the westward with the wind holding and she would go clear. But the giant sea began rolling down from the northwest, growing heavier, so by the time the maintop-gallant-sail was rolled up and eight bells struck it had the true Cape Horn heave to it.
Mr. Gantline came on deck to relieve the mate, and he soon had the ship dressed down to her lower topsails. It was not blowing more than an ordinary gale, but the tremendous sea made it dangerous to force the vessel ahead, so she drifted and sagged off to leeward. The “sea-calmer” was rigged forward, and soon the water to windward had an oily look, while the wind, catching up the tops of the combers, hurled a spray down upon the ship that made shroud and backstay, downhaul, and clew-line smell strong of fish-oil, as they cut the wind like bow-strings and hummed in unison until the volume of sound swelled into a deep booming roar.
“Let her come up all she will!” bawled Garnett into Gantline’s ear, as he started to go below. “If she sags off any more you better call the old man, for it looks bad. By the way, Gantline, where’s that bottle of alcohol the old man gave you for varnishing the wheel? I’ve got one of his porous plasters on my chest, and the blooming thing has glued itself to every hair on my body, and I can’t get it adrift.”
“It’s in the right-hand corner of the boson’s locker,” said the mate, with a grin. “But go easy, Garnett. The old man put a spoonful of tartar-emetic into the stuff, ‘for,’ says he, ‘tartar-emetic makes the varnish have a more enduring effect against the weather.’”
“Sink him for a scoundrel!” growled Garnett, his little eyes flashing and beard bristling with rage. “It’s always something he’s doing to make bad feeling aboard ship. Why should he suspect a man of drinking raw spirit, hey?”
“Why, indeed,” said Gantline.
And Garnett went below muttering a string of fierce oaths.
At six o’clock the gale had increased, and the noise of the bawling men struggling with the fore-and mizzentop-sails awakened the skipper, who, fearing all was not well, hastily made his toilet again and appeared at the head of the companion-way.
“How is it now?” he asked of Gantline, who stood near the wheel.
“Gone off two points, and there’s an almighty sea running. I’m shortening her down fast. Whew!”
As he spoke a great hill of water full forty feet high rolled down on the weather-beam. The ship headed it a couple of points and sank slowly into the slanting trough. Then she began to rise to it. The combing crest struck her forward of the main-rigging, and with a roar like Niagara crashed over the top-gallant-rail. It hove her down on her bearings and filled the main-deck waist-deep, while the shock made the skipper and Gantline clutch for support. The next instant Green sprang on to the poop.
“All hands there!” he bawled. “Get that fore-top-sail on the yard!”
Garnett came struggling on deck, muttering something about being afloat in a diving-bell, and was almost washed off his feet by the roaring flood in the waist. In a few moments he was on the foreyard bellowing out orders to the men stowing the topsail.
The uproar and cries of the men startled the two passengers, Dr. Davis and his wife, who had undertaken the passage at a physician’s advice. The physician, knowing nothing at all about the sea, had unhesitatingly recommended a sea-voyage for the Reverend Dr. Davis as a certain cure for the nervous ailment from which that gentleman suffered. The strain at being face to face with death so often was doing wonders for the minister, and he in turn was doing what he could for the crew. All except Mr. Garnett had profited much by his presence on board, but the mate stubbornly held out against any form of religion.
“Keep the main on her as long as it will hold!” bawled Green. “It looks as if we will catch it sure.” Then, catching a glimpse of Dr. Davis’s face at the companion-way, he added, “I’ll be hanged if I ever overload a ship again and run such risk.”
The minister stepped out on deck.
“Good-morning, doctor; we are having a touch of the Cape this morning,” cried the skipper.
“So it seems; is the Cape in sight?”
“No; but I guess you’ll see it again before we get clear.”
“Mr. Garnett said he thought we would make some northing to-day. He does not believe in so much easterly variation, but says it is the drift that makes it appear so. It seems to me an easy thing to decide.”
“Garnett be hanged!” snorted Green in disgust “He will get into trouble some day with his fool’s ideas. Hello! there goes the steward with the hash,” and the skipper dived below, where he was followed by his passenger.
Garnett appeared at the table, but Mrs. Davis kept her bunk, as the plunging ship made it difficult to eat with comfort. No one spoke during the meal, as the crashing noise from the straining bulkheads drowned all sounds save the roar of the elements on deck.
Garnett stopped in the alley-way to light his pipe and get a few whiffs before relieving Gantline. Then he made his way to the poop and stood close to the mizzen, trying to get shelter from the wind and spray, while Gantline went below.
Dr. Davis came on deck and found the second officer trying to smoke, so he joined him.
“It’s harder to be mate with a man like Green than anything I’ve tackled,” said he. “I’ve been to a few places and seen a few men in my day, but most of them would reason things out. There’s no reason in him.”
“What’s the matter?” asked Dr. Davis.
“It’s all about variation now. He’s always trying to work off new-fangled notions on me. When I first began coming around this way the drift was good enough to figure by.”
“But hasn’t it been proved?”
“Proved nothing. How’s a man going to prove he’s steering north when he’s heading nor’west in a three-knot drift with nothing to get a bearing on? I’ll allow there’s some variation in a compass, but nothing like that. Besides, he does other unreasonable things. There’s no reason in him.”
“Well, I suppose it is hard to get along with unreasonable people,” said the minister; “but there are some things we know are true without being able to reason about them. For instance----”
“No, sir,” interrupted Garnett. “There ain’t anything we know about anything unless we can reason it out. You have your ideas and I have mine; that’s all there is to it.”
“Fore-staysail!” bawled the skipper from the wheel, and that piece of canvas was run up, quickly followed by the trysail on the spanker-boom. Dr. Davis, left alone, started aft. He went safely along until he reached the middle of the poop, when a heavy sea struck the vessel and made her heel quickly to leeward. The minister tried to seize the rail, but missed it, and the next instant fell headlong into the seething water alongside.
Garnett was not ten feet distant working at the trysail, and without a moment’s hesitation he seized a downhaul and plunged overboard with the line about him.
The passenger arose with a look of peaceful resignation on his face which contrasted strongly with the old mate’s fierce expression of determination. As the vessel was making no headway against the sea it was less difficult than it appeared to seize the drowning man and give the signal to haul away.
In another minute Garnett was on deck again with Dr. Davis, neither of them much the worse for their bath. The cold, however, made it necessary for them to change their clothes.
The gale held on all day, but nothing unusual occurred. At eight bells that evening Dr. Davis had recovered sufficiently to again venture on deck. It was Gantline’s dog-watch, but as there was as much light as there had been during the day, Dr. Davis kept him company.
“Mr. Garnett is a very hard man to convince when he has once set his mind against a thing,” said the minister. “There’s no way of showing him he is wrong when he has made a mistake.”
“That’s true enough, especially if you try to rough him. He’s mad to-day because the skipper found fault with his swearing at the men.”
“He does swear most horribly,” said Dr. Davis.
“It’s nothing to what he used to. He don’t realize he does it at all now.”
“How do you mean?”
“Why, he used to be a most blasphemous old cuss. One day he went ashore at Tinian, and the missionary there asked him to dinner. When he asked Garnett what he would have he sung out, ‘Gimme a bowl of blood, ye tough old ram of the Lord,’ just to shock the good man. The missionary rose and ordered him out of the house, but Garnett wouldn’t go, so he struck him over the head with a dish of fried plantains, he was that mad. Garnett was two days getting over the stroke, for he had been stove down before by a handspike in the hands of a drunken sailor. He always thought the good man had called a curse down upon him, and since then he’s been slow at figures.”
“I see,” said Dr. Davis.
“Yes, it’s a fact, you’ve got to show a thing pretty plain to Garnett before he believes it. As to that missionary, he wasn’t overbright at converting savages.”
“What do you mean? That he wasn’t strong enough physically?”
“No, no, love ye, no; that missionary could take care of himself and not half try. What I mean is downright religious and Christian argument. There was one chief he never could convert. The fellow had an idol, the most uncanny thing I ever saw; sort of half bird, half beast, part fish, and having a strain of dragon. He used to pray to the thing, although he could speak English well enough and had seen plenty of white men. The missionary told him it was wrong to worship anything in an image of things in the heavens above, the earth beneath, or waters under the earth, and the chief took it all kindly. The good man finally gave him up, but the chief never could tell why. Once he offered to bet the missionary two wives against a bottle of rum that there wasn’t anything in the heavens above or earth beneath that resembled the strange thing in any way; and as the good man couldn’t prove it, the matter ended.”
The gale increased as the night wore on, and the vessel lay to on the port tack and drifted off with her head pointing northwest by north, but she was to the westward of the Ramirez. It was Garnett’s watch and the skipper was below. The ship was driving off to leeward, and the skipper determined to wear ship and stand to the southward again if she was headed off any farther. Garnett had orders to report any change which might take place.
The old mate had a chart in his room with the variation marked on it above the fiftieth parallel, some ten degrees less than where he now was. But even this variation appeared excessive to him, and, as the skipper told him to report if the vessel’s head fell off to the eastward of north, he held on. Figuring on a two-knot drift, he would not be in the vicinity of the rocks during his watch even if she headed as far as north by west, for at noon she had made a good westing.
The ship’s head was to the eastward at four bells, but, as there was really over twenty degrees’ variation, Garnett held on and made sail whenever he could. Long before his watch was out the vessel had been making little leeway and reaching heavily along under lower topsails. At seven bells the wind hauled again to the southward and came harder than ever, carrying the foretop-sail out of the bolt-ropes.
The noise of bawling men brought the skipper on deck, and he had the mizzentop-sail rolled up and the fore-staysail ready for waring ship. While he stood on the poop he looked to leeward. The mist seemed to break into rifts in the dull light of the early morning, and through one he saw an object that made him catch his breath. In an instant the flying spume closed in again and all was blank.
Garnett came aft, and, although it was cold, he took off his sou’wester and mopped the top of his bald head as he glanced at the skipper. The old man stood petrified gazing into the blank to leeward. Then he turned on the mate with a savage glare in his eye. “Get all hands on that fore-staysail, quick!” he roared, and Garnett went plunging forward, the skipper’s voice following him and rising almost to a shriek,--“Loose the jib and foresail!” Then turning, he dashed for the wheel and rolled it hard up. Back again on the poop he roared to Gantline, who came plunging out on the main-deck to loose the foretop-sail.
The men started to obey orders and sprang to the halyards and braces, looking over their shoulders to leeward at each roll of the ship to find out the cause of the excitement.
Suddenly the flying spume broke again, and there, dead under the lee, lay the outer rocks of the Ramirez not a mile distant. Then some of the crew became panic-stricken, and it was all the mates could do to keep them in hand.
“There’s no land there!” roared Garnett “H’ist away the fore-staysail.”
Then the ship’s head paid off, while the staysail tore to ribbons under the pressure. The topsail was loosened, and it thundered away to bits, almost taking the topmast with it. The jib followed suit, but together they lasted long enough to get her head off before the wind. Then Garnett, casting off the weather-clew of the reefed foresail, hauled it down far enough to keep the wind under it, and away they went. In a few moments her head swung to on the starboard tack, and as they hauled the wind a deep thunderous sound rose above the gale. The trusty maintop-sail was trimmed hard on the backstays, and all hands waited with eyes straining to leeward.
“Will she go clear?” asked Dr. Davis, calmly, as he stood by the skipper’s side on the poop. But Green’s teeth were shut tight, and the muscles of his straining face were as taut as the clews of the storm-topsail. Nearer and nearer sounded that dull, booming thunder, and now, right under her lee, they could see the great white rush of those high-rolling seas that tore over the ledges and crashed into a world of smother that hid everything beyond in a thick haze.
“She’ll go clear,” said Garnett, and he took out his handkerchief and mopped the dent in his bald head.
“But it’s a d--d close shave,” answered Gantline.
As he spoke a great rolling sea rose on the weather-quarter, lifting full forty feet from trough to crest as it began its shoreward rush. On and on it rolled in majestic grandeur, a gigantic, white-topped mass, until it vanished into the thick haze of flying spray, but still bearing more and more to the northward. They went clear.
Dr. Davis was not present at a little conversation held between Mr. Garnett and the skipper some minutes later, but during the mate’s next watch on deck he found a chance to speak to him. He saw him standing under the mizzen watching the main-top-sail, and he crowded close into the mast, wiping his spectacles.
“Well, what do you think of it now?” he asked.
“Nothing,” growled Garnett, “except I made a mistake; and if I’d held on ten minutes there’d have been thirty more men gone to a lower latitude, that’s all.”
“But think of the responsibility. How would you have felt with the lives of thirty men on your conscience? Don’t you see, we have to accept some truths without stopping to reason them out. There may be no reason for that variation, but you see it exists, after all. It is the same way in regard to the duty we owe our Maker, and I am afraid you will acknowledge it only after you have ‘held on too long,’ as you admit in this case. As for a man going to a lower latitude, as you call it, there is no such place. A man’s hell is his own conscience.”
Garnett remained silent for some minutes watching the clews of the maintop-sail, and appeared to be absorbed in deep thought.
“Maybe you’re right about there not being any hell below, and maybe you’re not,” he finally said. “I hope you are right; but I’ve had some experience in my day, and had all kinds of luck, both good and bad. It don’t seem probable I’d strike it as rich as that. No, sir, it ain’t probable; though, of course, it’s possible.”
And Dr. Davis left him standing there with a strange, hopeful gleam in his eyes.
_TO CLIPPERTON REEF_
This rather singular expedition left San Francisco under the direct charge of Professor Frisbow, of the West Coast Museum. While an entirely private affair, its object was to secure specimens of several of the almost extinct species of pelagic fish.
The vessel used for the purpose was a small sealing schooner of about seventy-five tons, and the crew, including the captain and mate, consisted of five able-bodied men. The rest of the party were the professor and myself.
As we were both good sailors, the size of our vessel did not inconvenience us, so that, after fitting up two state-rooms in the cabin, we found, although a little crowded, we were as snug “as weevils in a biscuit”
The wind was blowing almost a gale when we towed out between the heads of the bay, and as it came from the northwest, a stout pea-coat was far from uncomfortable while walking the narrow limits of the quarter-deck.
The setting sun shone red on the rolling hill-side of North Head, where herds of cattle cropped the short grass of the highlands. In the clear atmosphere small objects were visible with strange distinctness. To the southward the jets of spray shooting skyward told plainly of the heavy sea that fell upon the Seal Rocks. Our skipper shook out the double reef he had in the mainsail and determined to drive his vessel off shore as far as possible while the fair wind held.
It was nearly dark before the tug gave a short whistle for the men forward to cast off the tow-line, and as the last light on the western horizon faded into shadow the head-sheets were flattened and we stood away to the southwest.
Clipperton Isle or Reef lies 10° 17´ north latitude and 109° 10´ west longitude. The distance on a straight course being but little over fifteen hundred miles from our starting-point, but as the northeast trade is very light and unsteady along the coast of the continent, we deemed it wiser to take the regular sailing route to the southward and make our easting afterwards.
The first twenty-four hours out were uncomfortable enough, as the heavy sea caught us fair on the starboard beam and made the stanch little vessel roll horribly. Gradually, however, the wind hauled more to the northward and we made better weather of it. Our Bliss log registered two hundred and fifty-four miles for the first day’s run, and on the fourth day out we picked up the trade in 26° north latitude and headed away due south.
Our reason for selecting this almost unknown spot for our field of operations was owing, principally, to the reports of the captains of two whaling ships who had been consulted in regard to our object, and also, I fear, to the keen desire of my companion, the professor, to explore this curious island.
Fish of several varieties which we desired to procure abounded along the southern coast of California, and the California Gulf swarmed with almost every species of shark except the one we wished for. We had finally decided, however, to stick to deep water, and had procured the schooner for a small amount and the services of Captain Brown, an old whaleman, who had been in the vicinity of the island on several voyages.
During the first week out we had an opportunity to get acquainted with our skipper, who with his mate occupied the starboard side of the after-cabin.
Old Captain Brown was a typical whaling skipper and as crusty an old sailor as one could wish to sail with. He had acquired the true sailor habit of finding fault with everything, and divided his time between making sarcastic personal remarks to the mate and cursing the men.
As for Garnett, the mate, I had sailed before in his company and knew him thoroughly. He had been nearly everything that was bad, and had been in every part of the world. He was fifty-five and over, but he was one of the roughest and toughest specimens of humanity, both morally and physically, I had ever seen. His hairy chest bore a mark where a bullet had passed through, the calf of his right leg was twisted where a bayonet had penetrated, for he had been a soldier, and the index-finger of his left hand was missing. Besides these trifles he had a large dent, nearly half an inch deep, on the top of his bald head, where a sailor had “stove him down” with a handspike. This was the only injury he had received that had ever given him much trouble, and sometimes the pain in his head affected his eyesight.
In spite of his ugly record and many drawbacks I knew him to be the best sailor that ever handled canvas and worth a whole ship’s company in an emergency. Therefore we let the skipper rate him, and while he confined himself to sarcasm and insolence I believed Garnett would not turn rusty.
It was not long before Captain Brown found out the mate’s defect in vision, and at about the same time he was convinced that he was also the greatest liar afloat. After this he used to amuse us by calling out “Ship ahoy!” and gazing steadfastly at a part of the blank horizon. Then, if Garnett was near, he would discuss the ship in detail, and the mate would swear positively, with great emphasis, “My God! but that’s the old Moose,” or some other vessel he had sailed in; and then the skipper would suddenly break off and begin to walk fore and aft with rapid and excited strides. When he would reach the vicinity of Garnett he would look up at the main-top-sail and wish to know, in a loud voice, why in the name of Ananias all the liars were not struck dead. Then he would storm and swear at all people who ever told the truth, and thank heaven he never told the truth when he could possibly help it; all of which noise had about as much effect on Garnett as if he had been pouring water gently into the dent in his oily bald head.
“Aren’t you afraid to curse and call on the Lord so often?” I asked, during one of his fits.
“’Fraid o’ nothin’. Do you suppose the Lord minds my cursing at such a fellow as Garnett? What difference does it make, anyhow? The Lord never yet answered either prayer or curse of mine.”
“Yes,” I replied, “but Garnett might, and then----”
“He might, might he? Now, by all thunder, I guess not. He might as well git it through his head that if there’s any swearing to be done I’ll do it. Yes, sir, I’ll do it, s’help me----” And here he broke off into a string of such expressive profanity, relating to gods, devils, and men, that Frisbow came up from below to listen.
On the morning of the tenth day out we crossed the twelfth parallel, and at noon we hauled our wind and headed straight for the island as located by Sir Edward Belcher.
On the fifteenth day the wind left us in 10° 43´ north latitude and about 113° west longitude, or nearly two hundred and fifty miles westward of the reef. Here we encountered the most trying part of the whole voyage out. For two days the log registered less than a ten-mile run, and the four following less than twenty.
Finally, after ten days of drifting, we sighted the island, one bright morning, almost directly over our knight-heads. As the wind was light, our skipper feared to approach within less than a mile of the shore, as there was danger of drifting into the breakers. There were hundreds of fathoms of water close in near the beach, and it was useless to think of anchoring, so we hove the vessel to about a mile to leeward.
After setting the shark line the boat was put overboard, and the mate and one man proceeded to pull us to the shore.
On arriving close to the island the surf was found to be too heavy to make a safe landing, and we were compelled to pull around to the entrance of the lagoon on the south side. We landed with little difficulty inside the entrance, and, securing the boat, proceeded to explore the reef.
Lying low in the water, it presented a peculiar and, at the same time, beautiful appearance. No part of it was over ten feet above the sea, and it lay shaped into a most perfect oval. On the outside of the circle the beach was of snow-white coral, which, as it sloped away seaward on the north side, reflected various shades of green and blue through the clear water.
On the south side the sea had just the faintest milky color, showing that there was a slight set to the southward.
We devoted the whole day to exploring the reef, and only returned on board when darkness made the schooner almost invisible.
As we passed through the entrance we made soundings, and found a depth of five or six fathoms nearly all the way across, or enough water for quite a large vessel to pass through. On getting aboard we found that the skipper had caught several desirable specimens for our collection and had sighted a small sperm-whale about a half a mile to windward just before dark. This had stirred his blood, and he had been cursing his luck heartily at our staying ashore in the boat when we might be after big game, for we had several irons and a few tubs of line on board and also a bomb-gun.
After supper we were so worked up by listening to Captain Brown’s whaling yarns that we decided to have a try at the first whale sighted. At daylight the next morning Garnett sung out to the skipper that there was something off the weather-beam. We turned out and found the sea just ruffled by a light air and the sun shining fiercely out of a cloudless sky. On searching the horizon we found nothing visible except the reef, which lay some three miles to the northward.
All of a sudden we noticed a blur of white to the westward, and Frisbow immediately went below for the glasses. Garnett sung out again from forward and pointed at the blur, then, thinking we could not see anything, he came aft to where we stood.
By this time both the skipper and Frisbow had their glasses, and were just in the act of focussing them upon the object when it suddenly vanished.
Captain Brown began to mutter something about people who saw so many strange things, and Garnett removed his cap to wipe the perspiration from the dent in his head.
“What kind of vessel can it be?” asked Frisbow.
“I’ll be hanged if I know,” I answered.
“Might be the Flying Dutchman,” suggested Garnett, with his usual gravity.
This was too much for the skipper, and he warned Garnett that such jokes were out of place among intelligent men and liable to be followed by disastrous consequences, and then added that “Most people knew a whale when they saw it.” Suddenly the blur appeared again. This time it lasted for over a minute. It was not a “blow,” and I was just about to ask the skipper what he made it out to be when he quickly shoved his glass into my hand and told me to “look quick.”
I did so, and saw that the blur was a great cloud of spray and foam thrown up from the sea. Instantly a large gray object rose from the churned water, then fell again in the thick of it, and I recognized the form of a huge thresher-shark. He appeared to land heavily upon the whale, for that animal, after lashing the sea furiously, sounded, and presently the disturbance subsided.
After breakfast we saw a blow half a mile to windward, and the skipper said it was the same whale we had noticed in the early morning.
We didn’t stop to argue the question, but hauled the whale-boat, that was towing astern, alongside and made haste to get the gear into her.
Leaving the schooner in charge of the three men, all of whom were picked sailors, the rest of us manned the boat and started out. Captain Brown took his place in the bow as harpooner and boat-steerer, while Garnett and the professor pulled bow and stroke oars respectively, leaving me to handle the steering oar.
The sea was almost like glass, and under the skipper’s direction we rapidly approached our game. My heart beat so with excitement that it seemed to choke me as we silently drew head on to the monster, the skipper motioning with his hand which way he wanted me to steer. Then we shipped the oars carefully and took out the paddles for a close throw. All of a sudden he raised the iron and hurled it at the black mass ahead. Garnett and Frisbow backed water as hard as they could, and in an instant there was a tremendous splash as the animal fluked and sounded. The skipper stood by the line, while the professor took up the bomb-gun, determined to have the honor of shooting the beast.
The whale didn’t go down far or stay long below the surface, but when he did come up he came with a rush that took him clear of the water and almost aboard of us. The surging splash he made as he fell alongside nearly swamped us with the sea and sent Frisbow over the thwart into the bottom of the boat, while the lance came near lodging in Garnett’s neck as the gun exploded in the air.
Old Captain Brown stormed and swore, and, calling Garnett to tend the line, he picked up the gun and began loading it himself as I passed him a charge, while Frisbow scrambled to his feet and asked if he had “killed him.”
A hoarse chuckle from Garnett warned him of his mistake, but before any one could answer the skipper passed him the gun again and sprang forward to the line. I looked over the side, and suddenly noticed a dark spot in the clear depths directly beneath us growing rapidly larger. Putting forth all my strength, I swung on the steering oar to slue the boat to one side, and it was just by good luck I managed to do so in time. I heard an exclamation from the skipper, and saw Frisbow standing with the gun ready, when, without an instant’s warning, the great bulk of the whale rose alongside close enough to touch. The professor fired with the muzzle not two feet from the animal’s body, which, as it fell alongside, half filled the boat with water.
Instead of sounding again the whale swam slowly away, towing us after it. Captain Brown started to load the gun, and had just put in the powder charge when the whale slowed up and began blowing rapid jets of crimson spray.
“We’ve got him now,” he said, and laid down the gun to wait for the end.
In about ten minutes the animal was motionless upon the water, and after waiting a little longer we hauled alongside. He was a small sperm-whale, not over thirty feet in length, with about enough blubber to make a “twenty-barrel,” as he was termed by the skipper. We made a line fast to him and then sat and waited for the schooner, that was creeping slowly up from leeward with the light breeze. The heat was terrific as we sat there in the open boat, and it was long past noon before the schooner picked us up.
After dinner Frisbow, myself, and two men manned the boat to tow the whale ashore. We worked the schooner in as close as possible to the entrance of the lagoon, and then we had to work into the lagoon in the small boat with a white-ash breeze. We finally landed our prize inside the entrance, and Frisbow turned to work at once to get off the skin. This appeared to be a useless object, but as he was bent upon it there was nothing else to do.
During the whole of the following week he was ashore nearly all the time with one or two men, and sometimes, when the wind was light and we drifted well off, it was nearly midnight before he would get aboard. It was while this work was progressing that the incident occurred which caused all our troubles.
Frisbow and Garnett had both tried to persuade Captain Brown that it was the best and safest place for the schooner inside the lagoon, as there was plenty of water and quite smooth anchorage. The skipper, like a true deep-water sailor, dreaded the proximity of the beach even worse than he did fresh water on his skin, and he was several times made furious at the idea of putting his vessel inside the lagoon.
One day after Garnett and Frisbow had gone ashore, where they had been hard at work at the whale, I told the skipper that I would look out for the vessel, and he went below and turned in.
The two men left on board were idling about the galley. One of them, the one who acted as cook, sat in the doorway and worked a pan of “duff” which he held between his knees.
The schooner had her mainsail set and hauled flat aft, while her jib was drawn to windward, thus heaving her to in the light air that barely ruffled the surface of the ocean. There was not a cloud in the sky, and only a dull haze tempered the fierce heat of the sun.
I had the wheel lashed hard down and lay at full length on the quarter, trying to keep in the shadow of the mainsail. I smoked a cigar and gazed at the eddies that drifted from the vessel’s side to windward.
After about an hour, when I had smoked my cigar down to a stump, I was aware that the wind had died out entirely and that it was oppressively hot on deck. I lounged aft and leaned over the rail and tried to see if I could distinguish anything moving on the island, but could not, and the distant hum of the surf was the only sound that broke the painful stillness.
Suddenly the hum of the surf seemed to grow louder. I turned to look to the westward, and in an instant saw the ocean whipped to foam along the horizon.
“All hands!” I yelled, and sprang to the peak halyards.
I let them go by the run, and had just cast off the throat when with a rush the white squall struck us just forward of the weather-beam. One of the men let go the jib halyard and tugged at the downhaul and managed to get the sail half down before the full weight of the wind struck us. The mainsail, hanging half way down the mast, thundered away at a great rate until it split from head to leach, while the little schooner lay on her beam ends, letting the water pour in a torrent down the open companion-way.
In less than five minutes it was all over. The wind slacked up as suddenly as it began, and the vessel slowly righted. Captain Brown clambered on deck half drowned from the flooded cabin and helped to get in what was left of the mainsail. We got all the canvas in, but the sea was as calm as before, except for the swell stirred up, and there was not enough wind to fill a topsail.
“White squall, eh?” inquired the skipper as soon as we had the sails secured.
“It was some kind of a squall,” I said; “but there was no warning whatever of its coming.”
“There never is,” he answered, with a sickly grin. “I wonder how much water we’ve got into us. If it had held on five minutes longer we’d have passed in our papers, sure; and, as it was, I am all but drowned. It seemed as if the whole ocean poured into my bunk and held me down.”
We found the cabin half full of water, and it took us all day to get things straightened out below, while the men unbent the split mainsail and began to repair it.
When Garnett and the professor came on board that night they were astonished at the damage done, for there had been no sign of wind on the reef.
In the schooner’s hold we found everything in a mess, and all our fishing-gear and lines piled up on the port side in one big tangle. Garnett managed to pick out the bomb-gun and some irons from the pile, and Frisbow, after wiping the gun, had the cook fill it with beef tallow to keep out the rust.
That night we held a council, and, as there were three to one for going inside the reef, the skipper’s objections were finally overruled, and it was decided that we should remain in there until work on the whale was finished. The next morning at sunrise we headed in through the entrance, and by noon were moored snugly enough on the inside.
The work of skinning the whale was soon accomplished, and the skin was staked out, with one or two of the sharks we had captured, and left to the care of the professor.
I did not fancy the work of getting out the animal’s skeleton, as the stench from the body was now unbearable, so I spent my time in procuring specimens of a more attractive sort from the clear waters of the reef.
I had been thus engaged for several days, and was returning to the schooner one evening, when I heard a deep booming sound that seemed to fill the air about me. The ground under me trembled violently and it was with difficulty I kept my feet I hurried towards the schooner, and met Frisbow on the beach opposite where she was moored. His face expressed great anxiety, and he asked me if I had felt the earthquake. I replied that I had, and wondered what would happen next. He didn’t answer, but I could see that he was more excited than I had ever seen him before.
When we reached the schooner Garnett was being rated by Captain Brown for having suggested bringing the vessel into such a hole. The skipper had felt the shock, and swore that we would have the accompanying tidal wave in about half an hour, adding that if it caught us in there we were as good as dead men.
It was not quite dark, so without a moment’s delay we made sail and stood for the entrance. There was no wind to speak of, and the skipper, fearing that we might drift into the breakers, had Garnett and the three sailors man the whale-boat and tow us to keep up good headway.
I took the wheel and Captain Brown went forward to direct our movements. We went straight for the middle of the cut, while the sun dipped below the western horizon and the sudden tropic night fell upon the ocean. The moon was a few degrees high in the east, and we knew that there would be plenty of light, anyhow, to steer by, as we kept slowly on.
In a little while we neared the entrance, and it looked as if we would be on the open ocean within half an hour, when all of a sudden I heard a harsh, grinding sound, and the schooner, with a slight jar, became motionless. The skipper came rushing aft and peered over the taffrail, muttering a string of oaths through his set teeth.
“What is it?” I asked, as I left the wheel and rushed to the rail.
He said nothing, but dived below for a lead-line. In a moment he was forward again and flung the lead overboard, but I noticed that the line failed to run out.
“What is it?” I asked again.
He turned his face towards me, and I saw its ghastly expression in the moonlight.
“God knows,” he growled, “but we are hard and fast on the reef, and there isn’t half a fathom of water anywhere ahead of us.” He bawled for Garnett to come on board, and I heard the startled exclamations from the men in the boat as they hauled in the tow-line and came alongside.
In a moment the skipper jumped into the boat with the hand-lead and started off through the entrance.
I could see him making soundings for nearly a quarter of a mile ahead as they glided over the calm moonlit water, and then the boat was put about suddenly, and she came for the schooner. Frisbow and I went to the side.
“We’re in for it now,” said the skipper, with an oath, as he clambered on deck. “The whole bottom seems to have raised up, and there isn’t enough water to float a junk-barrel across the whole cut.”
“Come, bear a hand!” he yelled to Garnett. “Get a line out aft and we’ll see if we can kedge her off; we can’t lay here all night.”
Frisbow looked at me and I at him, but we said nothing. We were caught like a rat in a hole, and the only thing to do was to get the schooner afloat and wait for daylight, when things might not be as bad as they appeared.
There was no time to speculate until we got the schooner off the ledge, so we lent a hand and got the kedge into the boat, and Garnett bent on the tow-line and dropped astern.
In a few minutes he came on board, and all hands tailed onto the line to haul her off. We hauled and tugged, but it was no use, we couldn’t start her. Finally we passed the line forward to the windlass, and after half an hour’s heaving we had the satisfaction of feeling the little vessel slide off into deep water again. There was nothing to do but to go back to our moorings, so, sending the boat ahead again, we towed back and made fast at our old berth, all hands quite worn out with our exertions.
There was no thought of rest, however, for any of us; our case was too bad for that. We were in no immediate danger, but we were cut off from the world as suddenly and as effectually as if we were confined on the moon. Our provisions would last six months with care, but even in that time the chances were against our sighting a vessel in that locality.
As soon as the schooner was safely moored we went ashore and explored the reef, but there was no apparent change in any part above water. The skipper was beside himself with rage at being caught, and blamed Garnett for the whole affair. Garnett said little and mopped his head frequently with his handkerchief, but I fancied I saw a peculiar gleam in his eye when the captain became more than usually violent.
After spending the whole night trying to work out some solution of our difficulty, we came to the conclusion that the only way was to strip the vessel, heel her over on her bilge, and force her through the entrance.
We discussed every possible method of lightening her, and the skipper finally thought that by taking everything out of her except her masts we might get across the reef with what little current there would be to favor us.
As soon as it was daylight we started for the entrance to examine it carefully and find the deepest water. The air was hot and still, and the water of the lagoon had a greasy look.
The first thing that attracted our attention was a large, dark object that rose on the reef where yesterday there had been nearly fifty feet of water. All eyes were directed to it as it lay there like a huge mass of coral weed with great festoons hanging from its sides.
Suddenly the skipper sprang to his feet “My God, it’s a ship!” he cried.
All hands stopped rowing and turned in their seats, when Garnett, who was steering, bawled out to “Give way together!” and we headed straight for it.
As we approached, we saw that it was the hull of a large ship lying on its bilge, but so covered with marine growths that its outline could hardly be traced in the great mass. It lay well out, and the wash of the surf broke against the stern; this is the reason we didn’t notice it during the night. There were three or four feet of water around it, so we forced the boat through the floating weed until we were alongside.
Garnett clambered to the deck amidships closely followed by Frisbow and myself. We made our way aft aloft along the slippery incline by clinging to the weed that covered everything, and reached a large hole that had evidently been the entrance to the cabin. The whole design of the ship was strange and different from any modern vessel I had ever seen. We peered down the opening, but could see nothing inside except various-colored marine growths.
The professor was for going below instantly, but Garnett held back and contented himself with examining the steering-gear, where he was joined by the skipper.
Frisbow let himself down the opening and I, feeling ashamed to let him go alone, let myself down after him.
The cabin was dark inside, for the windows were covered with weed, but I could make out the form of the professor as he groped his way along the slippery floor into the darkness forward.
After going a short distance into what appeared to be a large saloon the grass seemed to grow thinner and I stood up and looked about me. As I did so my head came in sharp contact with a curious brass lamp which hung suspended from one of the deck-beams. My exclamation caused Frisbow to join me, and together we examined the strange fittings about us.
A table and some chairs, which were fastened to the floor, still held their shapes although covered with grass and slime, and from the strange carving on their legs, which was still visible in places, the professor pronounced them to be Spanish.
A little farther on we came to a bulkhead with two doors, which were open and led into an inky black space beyond. The professor struck a match, and we saw that both doors had short companion-ways leading to a cabin on the berth-deck and that the ladders were sound although covered with slime. The match went out, but Frisbow instantly struck another and started down. We reached the floor of a small cabin, which had two doors on each side and which was quite free from the heavy sea-growth we had encountered above. There was a table in the centre and the frames of several heavy chairs, while from above hung a large brass lamp covered with verdigris and similar in pattern to the one I had encountered with my head.
Striking another match, we entered the first door to the right. There was nothing in it but a large wooden chest, which lay open and contained a pulpy and slimy mass. In a bunk was the same material, while on the bulkheads were green brass rods which had evidently held some sort of drapery that had long ago succumbed to the action of sea-water. In the other rooms we found several old matchlock guns almost entirely rust and also half a dozen long straight swords. On a shelf was a tinder-box of brass with the flint as good as new, but the steel was a brown lump. There were a number of rusty knives and several brass frames, together with a lot of glassware and crockery. Some of this rubbish crunched sharply underfoot in the ooze, but everything else not of wood or iron had decayed beyond recognition.
The professor was down to his last match when we came across a small chest in the last room. It was of iron but not heavy, so I took it under my arm as we made for the companion-way.
It gave me a nervous feeling to be down in the black, slimy hold of that lost ship, and I was rather glad to start for the deck again. Before we reached the ladder the professor’s last match was out, and we groped our way aft as best we could, encumbered with all the spoils we could carry.
The silence and darkness made me hasten my steps, when just before I reached the ladder a terrific yell echoed through the blackness, causing me to drop everything and start with a sudden terror. Then in a moment the skipper’s hoarse voice bawled down to us from the door above, wanting to know if we intended to remain aboard all the morning. The old sword I had was too rusty to be of any use, otherwise I think I should have run him through the body; so, cursing him loudly for his impatience, to the professor’s great amusement, I picked up my things and mounted the ladder.
On reaching the deck we found Garnett had discovered a brass gun lying on the port side of the ship, and he was busy spinning a yarn to the men in the boat, when the skipper bawled out for them to lend a hand to get our stuff aboard. We placed the iron box in the stern and, jumping in, started to examine the cut for a channel to get to sea.
We had only been on the wreck a few minutes, but we had no desire to remain any longer until we found a way out of the lagoon.
After sounding all the morning we found the depth pretty much the same all the way across, and we now noticed that the whole reef appeared much higher on the south side than before. The part above high-water also showed many seams and fissures that we had not seen there when we first examined it.
About noon we headed for the schooner, feeling anxious and depressed. Frisbow was more sanguine than the rest of us about lighting the schooner and forcing her across the barrier, but I knew it would be a desperate undertaking when we struck the breakers, that now rolled clear across the entrance.
When we reached the schooner we pried off the lid of the iron box and found a mass of discolored pulp, at the bottom of which was a brass plate with the word Isabella cut upon it in large characters.
We were so tired out with our exertions that as soon as we had something to eat all hands turned in for a short rest before beginning to unload everything on the beach. This appeared to be the only way out of the difficulty, and the skipper’s anxiety increased at every delay.
In the afternoon we began to get the gear out of the hold, and soon had the deck covered with stuff of all kinds to be sent ashore. As we had to break out some of our provisions, we closed the hatchway that evening on account of the heavy dew that fell at night.
After supper we started to load the boat, but as the men were tired they worked slowly. Garnett was growing ugly under the continual nagging by the skipper, and once Frisbow started to remonstrate with the captain for directing his abuse against the mate. This only had the effect of precipitating matters, and Garnett, who was passing some of the gear into the boat alongside, threw down the coil of rope he had in his hand and swore a great oath that he would not do another stroke of work until the skipper “mended his jaw tackle.”
This drove the old man into a frenzy, and before we could stop him he grabbed a harpoon and poised it to hurl at the mate.
“You mutinous scoundrel,” he yelled, “I’ll show you who’s captain of this craft!” Quick as thought he threw the iron, and I believed Garnett’s end had come.
Quicker still did the old sailor spring to one side, and, grabbing the bomb-gun, let drive at the skipper’s head, while the harpoon drove clear through the port bulwarks and hung there. The recoil of the gun sent Garnett staggering backward, while the captain, throwing up his hands, fell like a log across the hatchway. Frisbow and I stood horror-stricken for an instant and then we rushed to the captain’s side. I expected to find half of his head torn off by the shell, but, although his face was black with powder and the blood oozed from his mouth, he appeared to have no wound whatever.
We carried him aft and laid him out in his bunk, Garnett lending a hand as if nothing had happened between them. Then the professor went for the medicine-chest.
After washing blood, grease, and powder from the old man’s bruised face and applying a little spirits between his swelling lips, he suddenly opened his eyes and saw Garnett standing close by. He made a quick movement as though to rise, but Frisbow held him down. Then seeing we had mistaken the motive, he smiled a ghastly smile and held out his hand in the direction of the mate.
Garnett stepped forward and took it and their eyes met.
“You’ve killed me fair and square and I don’t bear you any malice,” said the captain with great difficulty.
“Killed nothing,” growled Garnett, with half a smile; “I only blowed a gallon or two of tallow into your whiskers; you were so almighty quick, you know.”
Here the skipper muttered an oath and tried to get up again, but Frisbow and I both held him quiet.
“You lie quiet to-night,” said the professor; “there’s no tremendous hurry about this business, and to-morrow this dizziness will be out of your head.”
He poured out a stiff glass of spirits, which the captain gulped down, and, after bandaging up the lower part of the bruised face with wet towels, we left him and went on deck.
Garnett kept chuckling to himself during the evening as we loaded the boat, and when the moon came up he and two men started to carry the load to the beach.
While they were absent Frisbow and I sat on the rail and discussed our chances of getting to sea again in a few days. I did not like to tell him how small our chances were, for he appeared to have perfect confidence in our ability to float the vessel overland on a heavy dew if it became necessary.
The boat had been gone about an hour and the moon was now high in the cloudless heavens, and I was getting sleepy, so I lit my pipe and smoked hard to keep awake. The water shone like a polished mirror of silver, and the dark outline of the reef loomed distinctly through the night on all sides. We could hear Garnett and the men talking on the beach as they unloaded the boat, but besides this there was not a sound on that desolate spot save the deep hum of the surf outside the barrier.
My thoughts turned to the wreck, which shone like a black speck in the white wash of the sea, and we talked of how she had probably run on the ledge in the night, years ago, and then slid off into deep water. Her crew, even if they were rescued, must have died over a century ago, and there was little chance of our ever finding any record of her loss. That she was a Spanish ship and her name Isabella I felt quite certain; but even that fact conveyed little knowledge to any of us.
While we sat on the rail and talked a deep booming like thunder suddenly broke the stillness about us, and the little vessel trembled violently. We started to our feet and listened as the great volume of sound filled the air around us, dying away gradually in pulsations. We heard the cries of the men on the beach, followed by a few moments of silence; then the booming began again and lasted a few seconds, dying out as before.
“I suppose we’re about as safe here as anywhere,” muttered the professor; “but I must say that is the most terrific sound I’ve ever heard.”
We waited ten or fifteen minutes in silence, when the stillness was broken by the wash of oars as Garnett started to come aboard. We could not see the boat against the dark outline of the shore, but we could hear the clank of the rowlocks, and I leaned over the side, knowing it would be in sight in a few moments.
As I watched the water I was suddenly aware of a strong current setting past the vessel towards the entrance, and at the same instant Frisbow uttered a startled exclamation. In an instant the boat showed clear in the moonlight and Garnett’s voice bawled out for to throw him a line.
Seizing the main-sheet, I threw it to him as the men were bending to the oars as if rowing through a rapid. The man forward caught it and hauled alongside, all hands wasting no time in clambering to the schooner’s deck.
“It’s a tidal wave, sure,” grunted Garnett, out of breath. “Look out for the hatches.”
In less than a minute we had everything lashed down forward, and then all hands came aft to the companion-way of the cabin. As we stood there we heard a deep murmur from the northward and westward, which gradually increased as the seconds flew by.
“How are the anchors?” asked the professor of Garnett.
“Every fathom of the best Norway iron tailing to each one,” answered the mate; “but they’ll never hold if the sea comes over the reef.”
Suddenly the deep murmur swelled into a thundering roar. The schooner strained at her cables as the water flashed past, and then above the reef we saw a hill rise white in the moonlight with its crest ragged and broken against the night sky. The very air shook with the jar of that foaming crest as it fell with a mighty crash on the reef and went over it.
“Get below!” roared Garnett, and we tumbled down the companion into the cabin, the mate pulling the hatch-slide after him and fastening it.
The skipper had sprung from his bunk when the roar had awakened him, and stood looking at us in dismay as we tumbled below. In an instant I felt the schooner rise as, with a deafening, smothering crash, the surge struck and passed over her. She seemed to mount into the air and fly through space for nearly a minute. I found myself lying on the port side with my feet against the deck-beams and my hands stretched out against the cabin floor. The next instant she righted with a jerk and I found myself lying on top of Garnett in the middle of the cabin. The water poured through the crack of the hatchway and down the skylight, so for an instant I supposed we were at the bottom of the sea. Garnett, however, flung me aside and started for the deck.
The schooner made a few sharp rolls and then partly steadied herself on an even keel as the mate slid back the hatch-slide. Instead of tons of water pouring down upon us, as we looked up we caught a glimpse of the full moon in a clear sky, and I don’t remember anything that looked half so beautiful as it did to me at that moment.
We scrambled on deck and looked about us. There, a quarter of a mile away to the northward, lay Clipperton Reef, quiet and peaceful on the bosom of the calm Pacific Ocean. Not a thing was left, save a few streaks in the moonlit water which looked like tide-rips, to show that any disturbance had taken place.
As for the schooner, our bowsprit and foretop-mast were missing, and the main-boom was broken at the saddle, but our lower masts were all right. The bits forward were torn completely out of her with the surge on the anchors, and her decks were swept perfectly clean, but when we sounded the well and found only two feet of water in the hold we knew we were safe. She had gone over the reef on the crest of the tidal wave and had not even touched it. Whether we went through the cut or not it was impossible to tell.
The boat was gone, so we could not go ashore again even if we wanted to, but the professor was the only one who showed the slightest inclination in this respect, and after we assured him of the loss of his specimens he showed even less than the rest of us.
The skipper stayed on deck during the remainder of the night while we worked the schooner away from the breakers. As there was no wind we had to do this by means of a drag, which one man carried forward and dropped overboard, while the rest of us tailed on to the rope which led through a block on her quarter. By midnight we were out of all danger, and, after putting the foresail on her, we divided into our regular watches again.
The next morning we went to work to repair damages, and by noon we had all the lower sails set. A light air drifted us slowly to the westward, and before night we saw the reef for the last time.
We had nearly a hundred valuable specimens in the hold, and, considering our bad luck, we were not entirely unsuccessful. Frisbow fretted a good deal about his whale, but when we struck the trade-wind his spirits rose so high at the prospect of being home again in a few weeks that even this loss was forgotten.
The skipper and Garnett got along together splendidly, and there was less swearing done on board during the run home than probably ever before among five sailors afloat. The only great inconvenience was the loss of our galley, which caused us to have to cook in the cabin and eat with the forecastle mess things.
On the sixty-first day out we sighted the Farralone Islands, and that night we were ashore in San Francisco.
After being ashore about a month I was astonished one day to find Professor Frisbow’s card at my lodgings asking me to call at once on him at the Museum. I did so and found him greatly excited. Without giving me a chance to ask questions he immediately began to tell me about the wreck we saw on the reef.
“She was the Spanish ship Isabella,” he said, “and I want your confidence in the matter I’m going to arrange.”
I promised secrecy, and then he told me that upon looking up old records he had found there was a ship by that name lost with all hands somewhere in the Pacific, and that she was fairly loaded with silver bullion.
I did not place much faith in the matter, but told him I would try and get a vessel to take him back there if he wanted to go.
He was much disappointed at my reception of his scheme, but he accompanied me to Garnett’s boarding-place, where we discussed the matter with that sailor at the risk of losing everything.
After a little talk the mate finally convinced Frisbow that the wreck was either washed off into deep water or torn to pieces by the sea that carried us over the reef, so that in either case it would be useless to hunt for the treasure.
This ended the matter so far as the professor and I were concerned, but I heard afterwards how Garnett had bribed the skipper of the next ship he sailed on to put in there and examine the place.
No one ever knew if he found anything, for the captain and he were the only ones who went ashore during three weeks spent there, but it was his last voyage, for he afterwards bought a little farm up the valley and lived quietly with a very young and pretty girl for a wife.
_THE TRANSMIGRATION OF AMOS JONES_
After supper Zack Green came on deck, and, seating himself on the bitt coverings near the port quarter-rail, lit a villanous looking cigar and began to smoke.
We had run into the southeast trade and were reaching along to the southward under skysails. It was just seven bells and O’Toole, the first mate, had half an hour more of his watch on deck. The evening was clear, and the lumpy little trade-clouds flew merrily away to the northwest. Not even a skysail halyard had been touched for a week, so O’Toole lounged carelessly fore and aft on the quarter-deck, stopping at every turn when he reached the skipper to see if he had anything to say.
In good weather Captain Green’s discipline was not too strict, and he would often talk to the officer on watch. “I was thinking,” said he, without taking his eyes from the horizon-line, “about this transportation or emigration of souls you hear so much about nowadays. You know what I mean,--one person’s soul getting the weather-gauge of another’s; and do you know, by Gorry, I believe there’s some truth in it”
“Sure! No fear, ’pon me whurd; I know it’s a fact,” said O’Toole.
“There’s no doubt of it.”
“I was just thinking av a case in hand, an’, ’pon me whurd, ’twas typical av th’ machination. D’ye remember owld man Crojack? But ye must, fer he was one av th’ owld shell-back wind-jammers av yer time, an’ a man to decorate a quarter-deck.
“Ye remember th’ time he took Mr. Jones to Chaney? That’s th’ case in hand. ’Twas transmigration av sowl fer sowl, sure.
“He was a contumacious rask’l, this Jones, an’ ’twas by this token I came to like him.
“His governor offered Crojack one thousand dollars if he would take him to sea an’ bring him back again minus th’ unaccountable thirst he had fer iced wines an’ owld liquors. An’ th’ owld man did it.
“There was money enough in th’ Jones family. But that is where th’ trouble came in. Th’ young divil must have had nigh onto a ton av stuff sent outside th’ bar to meet us th’ day we sailed. Bottles av all kinds came over th’ rail whin th’ owld man lay th’ topsail to th’ mast an’ waited to see what th’ small boat ahead av us wanted. Crojack didn’t object, fer he reckoned to lock th’ stuff in th’ lazarette an’ sell it at a fair figure in Hong-Kong. I remember th’ outfly th’ youngster made over th’ grub. We were living better than any ship in th’ Chaney trade, an’ more like a man-o’-war than any trader afloat, but nothing would do him.
“Wan morning he came to th’ owld man an’ said there was a bug in his bunk. ‘Likely as not,’ said Crojack; ‘’pon me sowl, there’s wan in mine.’
“If it hadn’t been fer me th’ owld man would have made out av th’ wines, but when he had th’ stuff locked fast th’ young man came to me, so sorrowful like, I didn’t have th’ heart to refuse him th’ loan av a capstan-bar. Thin we went halves, an’ as fast as we’d drink th’ stuff he would fill th’ bottles with good salt water an’ put them back again.
“‘Faith, ye have th’ makin’ av an uncommon nose on ye,’ said th’ owld man one day to th’ young Jones. He was suspicious av th’ color. “’Tis a good rule not to belave anything ye see an’ nothing ye hear,’ said that Amos, cocking his eye at me. An’ th’ owld man never thought to examine his lazarette till we made Singapore. Thin we came near having a mutiny aboard.
“After this we grew mighty quiet, fer our grog was cut off intirely, an’ we began to nose around fer something to scratch. Jones drank all th’ Worcestershire sauce from th’ cabin mess, an’ wound up on th’ alcohol av th’ varnish tins in th’ carpenter’s room.
“I was feeling blue, an’ by th’ time we struck into th’ hot calms av th’ Chaney Sea I was seeing queer things. Wan stifling, foggy morning I could stand it no longer, fer I’d had a nightmare that set me shaking. I went aft to th’ owld man an’ said, all tremblin’ like, ‘Captain, there’s something wrong on this here ship, an’ I had a bad night last night.’
“‘Anything wrong for’ard?’ said he. ‘I thought ye were man enough to manage a lot av fellers like these.’
“’‘Tain’t that,’ I said. ‘Nothin’ th’ matter there.’
“‘Well, what in blazes is it?’ he roared. ‘Out with it. What’s th’ matter with ye?’
“I must have looked pretty rough, fer he kept his eyes on me, staring like, but I was a little nervous about telling my suffering. Finally I had to let it come.
“‘It’s like this,’ said I. ‘Last night I lay out on the main-hatch durin’ my watch below. I was draming av Billy Malone’s wake,--Bill, yer know, that used to be mate with Cutwater,--an’ I could see it all so plain, even Bill’s pet goat. Th’ goat had a pigtail as long as yer arrum hanging right under his chin, an’ his eyes were bad looking. I gives th’ baste a kick, an’ Malone that’s dead sat right up an’ grinned horrible. Thin he called fer water, an’ it seemed like th’ new taste was too much fer him. He drank an’ drank an’ swelled an’ swelled till he got as big as th’ mainsail, an’ all th’ time I heard th’ splash, splash, splash av th’ liquid washing down his innerds. Thin he seemed to overshadow me an’ thin draw slowly away, beck’ning me to follow. An’ I tried to follow an’ woke up. ’Pon me whurd, fer a fact, may th’ saints belave me, there he was drifting off th’ port beam, an’ I could hear th’ splash, splash, splash fer a minute afterwards.’
“‘Is that all?’ said th’ owld man.
“‘No, sir; ever since we struck this calm, three days ago, I’ve been feeling quare like, an’ I ain’t slept overmuch--an’, an’--well, if ye have a drap av th’ craythur it would do me good.’
“‘Go for’ard an’ send th’ carpenter aft, an’ then come here.’
“So I did, an’ whin I got there th’ owld man give me an uncommon long grog.
“‘Now,’ said he, ‘clear away th’ after battery an’ get out th’ muskets. Ye air a fine dramist, Mr. O’Toole.’ So I lent a hand an’ got th’ two six-pounders we carried on th’ poop clear fer firing. Thin I looks out th’ muskets. Amos Jones came on deck an’ saw th’ manœuvres.
“‘What t’ell!’ said he. ‘Be ye going to engage in an engagement? Where’s th’ inimy?’ For th’ wasn’t a rag above th’ sea-line.
“‘Pirits,’ said Chips, ramming a bag av powder into wan av th’ guns.
“‘Ye don’t tell!’ said Amos.
“‘Fact,’ said Chips; ‘an’ now if you’ll pass me a ball I’ll finish this roarer.’
“But there wasn’t wan aboard. No, sir; powder there was in plenty, but divil a ball aboard th’ ship.
“Th’ owld man swore, an’ we hunted all tween-decks, but ’t wasn’t any use, so we dealt out th’ muskets an’ waited for night.
“Pretty soon Amos Jones came on deck again.
“‘I have it,’ said he. ‘Here’s th’ thing,’ an’ he held up a bottle filled full av bullets an’ nails. ‘Stave me, but this is good ammunition; ’twill fit to a T.’ An’ sure enough it did. It fitted th’ bore av th’ little guns exactly. A most uncommon bad thing to have hove at ye close up.
“Th’ fog held an’ at night it was blacker than th’ inside av th’ galley stove-pipe. We had begun to laugh at th’ skipper, but he said nothing, except that we’d see something before morning or else he’d put me in irons fer the biggest liar afloat. I was tired that night, but I kept awake an’ was leaning on th’ port rail about midnight. Suddenly I heard a rippling in th’ calm ocean off th’ port beam. I passed th’ whurd an’ we lay waiting, Amos standing at th’ lanyard av th’ port gun.
“All av a suddin we saw thim. Two junks right alongside jammed to th’ rail with pigtails.
“‘Turn her loose!’ bawled th’ owld man, an’ Amos let her go slap into thim. That bottle burst close aboard, fer ye never heard sich yelling. Thin they ranged alongside an’ was fast to us, an’ they swarmed over th’ rail like so many rats.
“Well, there was bloody murder aboard us fer half an hour. ’Twas a nasty fight an’ things looked bad at wan time. But Amos trained a culverin down th’ main-deck an’ gave thim ground glass, bullets, an’ lug-bolts to th’ quane’s taste.
“Thin we cleared up th’ mess an’ they let go. But Amos had got it bad.
“A big pigtail had hit him a chip in th’ thick av his leg, an’ he was bleeding fer further orders.
“There we were, two days’ sail from Hong-Kong, an’ no doctur aboard.
“We tied him up th’ best we could an’ drew th’ hooker with th’ quarter-boats ranged ahead. Finally th’ air come an’ we went along.
“Whin we made th’ harbor we had th’ doctur, an’ he said,--
“‘Lost too much blood.’
“‘Well,’ says Crojack, ‘there’s plenty av it in Chaney.’
“‘Fact,’ said th’ doctur, an’ he brought th’ first loafer he found aboard.
“‘Now,’ says he, ‘I’ll have sum av yer juice, me boy, an’ pay ye tin dollars fer it.’
“Th’ Chaneyman was scared at first, but th’ doctur said he would have him skinned alive if he wouldn’t trade, so he finally did.
“He guv him some spirits an’ hitched th’ yeller boy’s artery to Amos Jones’s. Thin th’ natur av th’ proceedings did th’ rest.
“We shut off grog on th’ voyage home an’ Amos acted like he was trying to become a dacent member av his father’s church. Whin he landed an’ said good-by, Crojack was making his reckoning fer that thousand dollars.
“He went to th’ office wan day an’ there he met Amos Jones senior, an’ he reminded th’ gent av his debt. ‘What?’ bawled Jones. ‘Cured him, do ye say? Well, he was bad enough before, drinking like a gentleman, but ye’ve ruined him intirely. Here he is getting biled rice cooked fer every meal an’ getting drunk on Chaney saki every night. No, sir, not a cent from me, sir.’ An’ they say he cried like th’ good owld father he was.”
O’Toole stopped here and went to the break of the poop. When he returned, Zack Green was thinking. “It may be so,” said the skipper; “but did you ever hear what become of the Chinaman?”
“That I did,” said O’Toole.
“What?” asked Zack Green.
“Well, Amos Jones was a frind av mine, so, if ye’ll excuse me, I’ll not say. ’Pon me whurd, I won’t.”
_MURPHY OF THE CONEMAUGH_
All deep-water ships carry mascots. As the mascot must be some kind of living creature, a cat will often supply the necessary medium for carrying on pleasant intercourse with the fickle goddess of fortune. But men on deep-water ships must be fed, especially those who live in the after-cabin or who help to form what is called the after-guard. Therefore it is not an uncommon sight to see a ship’s deck looking like a small farmyard afloat.
The clipper ship Conemaugh was noted for her long voyages. She was a product of the old school of wind-jammers and her skipper was a Yankee of Calvinistic views, who
“Proved his religion orthodox By apostolic blows and knocks.”
He met little Murphy, the ship’s pig, the morning the youngster was brought aboard. The little fellow was in the arms of his sponsor, James Murphy, able seaman, and the way he kicked and squealed made the black moke of a cook poke his head out of the galley door and grin.
“Take good care of that fellow,” said the skipper. “Them white hogs air wuth two black ones on the West Coast, so if we don’t have to eat him I kin swap him off easy enough.”
So Murphy was put in a pen under the top-gallant-forecastle, and Jim was detailed to scrub him and otherwise attend to his wants. With all this care it would seem that he could hardly help becoming a good pig. But he was like many youngsters who have the best of care lavished upon them; that is, he was thrown with mixed company. It is very hard, however, to separate the sheep from the goats, and as luck would have it Murphy’s lot was thrown with Jim, the sailor who had the worst reputation among the mates of any man aboard the ship.
The day the vessel put to sea the skipper mustered the men according to his custom, and made them an address.
“The master,” said he, “air greater than the servant, and the servant ain’t above the master.” Here he looked straight at Jim. “So saith the holy gospel,--an’ whatsoever saith the gospel is er fact,--an’ is truth. If it ain’t, I’ll make it so if I have to take the hide off every burgoo-eating son of a sea-cook aboard the ship.”
There were many men aboard there who had heard little of the Scriptures, but even if they had heard much they would doubtless not have cared to discuss them or any other matter with the skipper. His voice rose to the deep, roaring tone of the hurricane on all occasions, and when it failed to convince the listener of the owner’s logic, a sudden clap from his heavy hand generally ended verbal matters about as effectively as a stroke of lightning. Most of the men on board were used to kicks and curses, for the skipper reckoned he could handle any class of men that ever trod a deck. He had a fair sprinkling of all on this cruise. As the mates followed the skipper’s example in matters of discipline, the ship was as near to being a floating hell as anything above water could be.
Jim Murphy resented even the curses of the captain and mates, so he was rated among the after-guard as the worst man on board. His friendship for the pig was against him in the forecastle, and soon even the men of the starboard watch began to hold off from him.
“What d’ye want to fool with that porker fer? Yell never get er taste of him, hide or hair,” growled old Dan.
“He ain’t the only pig aboard this here ship,” answered Jim, “an’ I like him better than most.”
“Kind goes with kind,” observed the second mate, whenever he saw them together.
Remarks like this made by the second officer caused great amusement to the men of the starboard watch. But those who applauded the most were old Dan and his chum Bull Davis. These two worthies gave Mr. Tautline to understand that he was the wittiest second mate afloat, in the hope that he would “pet” them. When they found this was useless, the united curses of the whole crew were weak in expression as compared to the audible reflections of this worthy pair.
When the ship reached the latitude of the River Plate, old Dan came out openly for mutiny. He told with grim coolness and great detail of how he had taken part in an affair of this kind before. How he had crawled along the projecting sheer-strake outside the bulwarks towards the quarter-deck, while a companion had done likewise on the side opposite. How they had made the sudden rush aft and had engaged with their sheath-knives against the revolvers of the after-guard. A little more nerve in a few men who hung back and the ship would have been taken.
He had served part of a ten-years’ sentence for this, had escaped, and had been continuously afloat ever since.
Bull Davis was an escaped convict from Australia, and he seconded the old villain’s project in every detail.
One day, off the Horn, Dan was careless in modulating his voice when the second mate gave an order. The next instant he was sprawling in the lee-scuppers and the second mate was addressing him coolly.
“Don’t make no remarks about the weather in my watch. It’s a square wind, so up you go on that yard now a little quicker’n greased lightning.”
The devil was peeping from the old villain’s eyes as he gained the ratlines, but he said nothing.
When the ship ran into the southeast trade-wind, Murphy, the pig, was turned out on the deck to root at the seams. He would start down the gangways suddenly, without apparent reason, and go rushing along the water-ways at full speed, punctuating his squeals with deep “houghs” that would have done credit to a bear. On these occasions Jim, the sailor, was perfectly happy. He would call the little fellow to him and the pig would follow him like a dog.
“He is a cute little baste, an’ he makes me homesick,” Jim would say, and the mates and men would rail and curse at him for it. The only living thing on board the ship that was in sympathy with them was the blasphemous green parrot belonging to the carpenter. This bird would pray and curse in the same breath, and whenever Jim came near the galley would call out “pig,” “pig,” in a high key. Then it would curse him and pray for his soul.
One night Jim noticed that old Dan sat up late, sharpening his knife on a piece of holy-stone. Just before his watch turned out at midnight he awoke, and found that neither Dan nor Bull Davis were in the forecastle. He went on deck and walked aft, waiting for the bells to strike.
In a moment Davis appeared, coming out of the cabin with Mr. Tautline.
“There’s something wrong with the port backstay in the fore-riggin’,” said the sailor to the mate.
“What’s that?” asked Tautline.
“The lug-bolt in the lee fore-riggin’ is busted. You had better take a look at it afore away goes the backstay,” said Davis.
“All right. Wait here till I get a pipe o’ tobacco, and we’ll look at it.”
Jim hurried forward. He looked over the rail and peered into the blackness alongside. The phosphorus flared in a ghostly manner as the water rolled lazily from the vessel’s side, but everything appeared all right.
Suddenly a gleaming bit of something shot upward. He started back quickly, and a hand holding a knife struck savagely at his chest. The blade ripped his shirt from neck to waist, but did not wound him. The next instant old Dan arose from the channels and climbed over the rail to the deck.
“The wrong man, ye murtherin’ villain,” growled Jim.
“So it was, messmate,” said Dan, coolly.
“What’s the row?” asked Tautline, coming up to where the men stood. He saw something was wrong, but had not seen Dan come over the side.
“That busted dead-eye,” answered Dan. “I was just lookin’ at it.”
“Well, get out before I put a couple of dead-eyes in your ugly figgerhead. Slant away!” And Dan slunk around the corner of the deck-house.
As the good weather held, the galley cat came out of hiding and sunned herself in the lee of the galley during the warm part of the day.
Jim saw her and tried to make friends.
“Keetie, keetie,--nice leetle keetie,” said he, trying to stroke the brute on the head. But long confinement had told on Maria’s liver, and she reached out and drew several long, bloody lines on the sailor’s hand.
“Ye infernal shnake!” cried Jim; and he aimed a blow at the animal that would have knocked it clear across the equator had it not jumped nimbly to one side. His hand brought up against the galley with a loud bang.
“Let that cat alone. What d’ ye mean by trying to spoil a dumb brute’s temper?” roared the voice of Tautline, and his form came lurching down the weather gangway.
“Don’t strike me!” cried Jim, as they closed.
The belaying-pin in Tautline’s hand came down with a sickening crack on the sailor’s skull.
“Stop!” he cried again.
But Tautline was carried away by his passion and they went to the deck together.
It was all over in a moment. Tautline lay gasping in a red pool and Jim sat up, sheath-knife in hand, staring about him in a dazed manner. Then the captain and mate rushed up.
“Handcuff him! Put him in double irons!” cried the skipper, stretching Jim with a heavy blow.
The next day little Murphy ran up and down the deck. The ports over the water-ways had been knocked out as the ship was very deep; they had not been nailed in again. Murphy came to where Jim was lying in irons under the top-gallant-forecastle. He sniffed his bloody clothes and ran away with a squeal. The sailor called after him, but he did not stop until he reached the open port in the waist. Then he sniffed at the ominous stain on the bright deck planks and poked his head through the open port.
“Blood! Blood! Blood!” screamed the parrot in the galley.
Murphy started, slipped, and was gone. The cook rushed to the side, bawling out something that sounded like “man overboard,” and the noise brought the starboard watch on deck with a rush.
“That bloomin’ old pig,” growled Dan, looking over the rail.
There he was, sure enough, swimming wildly and striking himself under the jowl with every stroke.
The captain watched his pig drifting slowly astern for a moment. Then he turned to the mate. “All hands wear ship!” he bawled, and the men rushed to the braces.
“Mr. Enlis,” said the skipper, “you go aloft and keep the critter in sight. Take my glass with you.”
The ship was heavy, so before she could be wore around the little pig was lost in the blue waste of sparkling waters.
The mate came down from the ratlines with the glass and a smile which peculiarly emphasized the singleness of a solitary tooth. He did not like pork.
The skipper walked the quarter-deck and mused with his chin in his hand.
“That’s too bad. Too bad. Too bad,” said he. “I paid two dollars for that pig.” And his voice was as mournful as the sound of the sea washing through the ribs of a lost ship.
“Poor little pig,” muttered Jim, and he tried to look astern from his place under the top-gallant-forecastle. “Poor little pig!” And the tears ran down his dirty, sun-bronzed face.
“Wonder!” cried Dan, coming forward; “there’s a murderer for you. Crying over an old pig he won’t get a taste of, hide nor hair.”
“It’s all that young devil’s fault,” mused the skipper. “The master is above the servant an’ the servant ain’t the master’s equal. So says the Holy Scriptures. When a man takes up with them what is below him, he is gone wrong. That’s Jim with the pig. Yes, sir, the Scriptures say them very words somewhere,--I can’t call to mind exactly where,--but they are so. If they ain’t I’ll make them so, and I’ll hang that Irish dog when I get him to ’Frisco.” And he did.
We were sitting in old Professor Frisbow’s room in the West Coast Museum, and our host had been listening to accounts of wonderful adventures on deep-water. Each had spoken, and it was Frisbow’s turn. We settled ourselves comfortably, and he began:
“Few people remember the old town of St. Augustine as it was before the war, with its old coquina houses and flat, unpaved streets, that abounded with sand-fleas in dry weather and turned into swamps of mud and sand when it rained. Those who can look so far back through life’s vista will remember its peculiar inhabitants.
“The Southern negro, sleeping in the hot sunshine on the plaza, or loafing about the sea-wall talking to the white ‘cracker,’ was, of course, the most numerous; but there were also the Spaniards and Minorcans, who married and intermarried among themselves, that made up a large part of the population.
“St. Augustine was not a thriving town. Its business could be seen almost any morning quite early, when a few long, narrow, dugout canoes, with a swarthy Minorcan rowing on one side, and a companion sitting aft paddling on the other, would come around the ‘Devil’s Elbow’ in the Matanzas River, and glide swiftly and silently up to a break in the sea-wall and deposit their loads of mullet or whiting. Then the canoes would disappear with their owners, after a little haggling had been indulged in between the latter and the purchasers of the fish, and the quiet of the long, hot day would begin.
“It is astonishing how lazy one may become under the influence of that blue, semi-tropical sky, with the warm, gentle breeze from the southern ocean rippling the clear, green waters of the bay. Life seems a bright dream, and any unwonted exertion causes a jar to the nerves such as one feels when rudely awakened from a sound, pleasant sleep. During the daytime in summer no one but the negro and a few long-haired Minorcans would tempt the torrid sunshine; and even I, with my passion for sport, would seldom show my pith helmet to the sun during July and August.
“The inlets and rivers along the coast of Florida abound with all kinds of fish, from the little mullet to the mighty tarpon; and many a day’s sport have I had with them in either canoe or surf along that sandy coast.
“For a guide I often had an old Spaniard called ‘Alvarez.’ This old man lived alone in a coquina house of rather large size, and affected the airs and manners of a grandee. He associated with no one, and no one seemed to know anything about him, except that he came there on a schooner from the West Indies years ago, being then an old man. He had bought this house, and had continued to live there without any visible means of support other than the fish he caught. He always went to the store opposite the plaza, at the end of every month, and paid cash in Spanish or American gold and silver for his frugal supplies.
“I had been out ’gator-shooting, and was returning home after two days’ sport with a few good skins, when, on turning the last bend in South River about twenty miles from St. Augustine, I came suddenly upon an old man in a dugout canoe fishing. He had just hooked a large bass, and I started the sheet of my sharpie to stop its headway, and waited until he landed him. I then sailed up alongside of the canoe, intending to buy the fish and take it home with me, thinking, of course, that the old man would be glad to sell it. What was my surprise when he informed me politely that he did not care to sell it, though he had a score or two in the bottom of his canoe. This from an old long-haired Spaniard who seemed in the depths of poverty excited my curiosity, and I endeavored to start a conversation with him about the different fishing ‘drops’ in the locality. He eyed me suspiciously at first, and finally answered my questions with an ease that puzzled me greatly.
“There was one particular place, or ‘drop,’ for catching drum-fish down the South River of which I had often heard but could never find, so I ventured upon this subject to the stranger. To my great surprise he offered to accompany me to it any time that I should find it convenient, telling me at the same time that he lived in St. Augustine, and that I would probably find him there the next day. I thanked him, and, letting go, squared away before the southeast breeze and soon left him out of sight.
“The next day I was walking along the sea-wall smoking my pipe and thinking of this peculiar old fisherman with his mahogany-colored face and bright eye, wondering if I could get him to pilot me on an expedition to the southward. I had a rambling idea of spending several weeks in fishing down the Indian River, and I wanted some one to pilot me who knew the way through the inland passages. While I was trying to form some plan of this intended trip I saw a canoe come around the bend in the Matanzas, and, on its approaching nearer, I recognized the old man whom I had met the day before. I went up to him as he landed at the break in the sea-wall and asked him what luck he had had fishing. For a reply he showed me as fine a catch of red bass as I had ever seen, at the same time offering me a couple as a present. I took them; and after he had tied his boat to a ring in the wall, he joined me and walked part of the way home with me.
“On our way I asked him if he had ever been through the passages to the Indian River, and he smiled as he answered ‘yes.’ I then asked him if he would guide me through on a trip that I intended to make. He was silent for some moments, and finally said he would, provided there was no party going along with me. I then left him; and after going home with my fish I went around to see my friend the sheriff, to find out more about him. I was told that he was a peaceable old fellow, and as he fished a great deal he probably knew all the best places for miles around, that his name was Alvarez, and that he was a reliable man as far as any one knew.
“About a week after this we started out one fine day bound south. Although Alvarez was an absent-minded old fellow, and in spite of his peculiar manner, so different from the common class of dirty, poverty-stricken Spaniards, we got along together splendidly. I was never a great talker, especially when hunting or fishing, and the dearth of conversation on this trip was one of the most enjoyable features of it. Old Alvarez and I became quite good friends after this expedition, and I often used to question him about himself and his affairs. As long as the conversation related to his life in the town he would talk readily enough, but anything regarding his birth or former life he always avoided, merely saying that he ran away to sea when quite young, and that was all that could be drawn from him.
“My fancy often pictured him a pirate or ‘beach-comber,’ and, in fact, there was a rumor to that effect in the town. People said that he had treasures buried along the shore somewhere on Anastasia Island; and that if he chose to talk, more than one vessel that had cleared Cuban ports and had never been heard from could be accounted for. This was mere idle gossip and amounted to nothing, but once somebody had seen his canoe at midnight hauled up on the sand on a narrow part of the island some ten miles below the town.
“Sailing by, they had seen Alvarez walking up and down the beach with his head bowed forward as if looking for something. It was not the season for turtles’ eggs, so it was hard to imagine what he was looking for in the soft yellow sand. People, however, did not like to inquire too closely into his affairs, for when he was annoyed his face assumed such a sinister expression that it boded no good for those who were inclined to chaff him.
“One night a negro ruffian and a Minorcan forced an entrance into his house with the evident intention of securing his imagined treasure. The next morning Alvarez came out and told the sheriff that there were two dead men in his house that he would like to have removed. The sheriff, who was a Spaniard, came around, and there, sure enough, lay both; one shot through the neck and the other through the head, while two immense old-fashioned pistols lay empty on a table in his room. There were no signs of a struggle except a long smear of blood from his room to the hall where the body of the negro lay. He was easily acquitted, and afterwards became more stoical than ever, but he was never disturbed again.
“Although these things happened long before I knew him, I did not hear of them until some time afterwards, and I’ve often wondered since what made the old fellow take such a fancy to me.
“Alvarez and I used to shoot pelicans together. We would go down the river to a narrow part of the island and then cross over to the front beach. I had always remembered this place on account of a bunch of tall palmettoes that grew on the outside of the island and towered above the low bunches of scrub-oak. A more lonely spot it would be hard to find even in that wild country. Here we would make a blind for the night, and shoot the birds as they came in on the beach to roost among the sand-dunes. By the light of a full moon fair sport could be had in this way, and often we would secure a fine bird with long pencilled feathers.
“One night after shooting several birds we turned in on the sand, intending to spend the rest of the night there, as there was no wind. I awoke during the night, and, looking around, found that Alvarez had disappeared. I looked across the sand-spit and saw the boat all right, so I wondered where he could have gone. I arose, and, shaking the sand from my clothes, followed his tracks, which were plainly visible down the beach towards the clump of palmettoes that stood out sharply against the moonlit sky. On nearing them I saw a figure sitting on the sand under the largest tree, and on getting closer I saw that it was Alvarez with his head bowed forward on his arms, which rested on his knees. He started up suddenly on hearing me approach, and asked, sharply,--
“‘How long have you been here?’
“His voice sounded so different from what I had been accustomed to that I was quite startled, and stood looking at him for some moments wondering if he had gone mad. He returned my gaze steadily and gave me a most searching look. I finally answered that I had come to look for him; at the same time I wondered what he meant and tried to curb my rising temper. His fixed look relaxed and he turned his head slightly. I followed his glance, and saw that he was looking at the ground near the foot of one of the palmettoes. The sand about the roots was much disturbed, as if he had been digging for something.
“‘Alvarez,’ said I, ‘what have you been hunting for, and what do you mean by asking how long I’ve been watching you?’
“He remained silent for some moments, then rising, he placed his hand on my shoulder: ‘That’s all right, Mr. Frisbow,’ he said. ‘I have these nightmare fits on me once in a while.’
“‘Well,’ I answered. ‘It’s a strange sort of nightmare that makes one go rooting around in the sand like a hog.’
“He looked at me again with that curious expression, and then said, slowly,--
“‘I was a young man when I first came onto the Florida reef, and there’s many things happened about here and Barrataria before you was born. Some day I’ll talk with you about old times, but not to-night. It’s late. We go to sleep.’
“‘No,’ said I, ‘tell me what you mean. There’s plenty of time for sleep, and, besides, it’s too hot, anyhow.’
“‘Well,’ said he, ‘there’s just one thing I think about every time I come to this spot, and that is the fight which took place a couple of miles off shore, abreast this clump of palmettoes.’
“‘What kind of fight?’ I asked. ‘I never heard of any fight taking place off here.’
“He looked at me sharply, and I fancied the hard lines in his weather-beaten face relaxed into the faintest suspicion of a smile.
“‘Quite likely not,’ he answered, ‘but there was one off here a long time ago. It isn’t likely many people remember much about it, for the men who took part in it probably died years ago. It was between two schooners.
“‘There was one that carried fruit from Havana, and she started down the coast one night from St. Augustine, homeward bound, but without any lights. This was probably an oversight, or, perhaps, a desire on the part of her skipper to save oil.
“‘There was another schooner coming up the coast that evening, and she didn’t have any lights because she was all the way from the Guinea Coast loaded with ebony.’
“‘I don’t see why a vessel carrying ebony shouldn’t carry lights,’ I interrupted.
“Old Alvarez’s face showed a net-work of lines and wrinkles and the stumps of his yellow teeth shone bright in the moonlight.
“‘There isn’t any real reason why they shouldn’t,’ said he; ‘but there used to be a prejudice against the trade. As for me, I don’t see why people considered it in such a bad light, for shipping the article not only paid the owners but improved the ebony--after they got it ashore.’
“‘I see,’ I answered; ‘the ebony was alive, then, and in the form of men and women.’
“‘Most likely,’ he replied, ‘though they do say that life in a ship’s hold is not uncoupled with death, especially when a vessel gets caught in the hot calms outside the Guinea Gulf. Anyhow, the vessel had no lights and was crowding along with every rag on her.
“‘The first thing anybody on board knew of the whereabouts of the fruit schooner was the crash of her bowsprit poking into the fore-rigging and knocking the foremast out of the Guinea trader. Then she ranged alongside, all fast, with her head-gear tangled in the wreck.
“‘There were a great many men on the vessel carrying the ebony, and in a few minutes they swarmed on deck with muskets and cutlasses. As soon as they found the fellow was a fruit schooner they started to cut her adrift, cursing the captain and crew for the damage.
“‘Everything might have gone well and the vessels separated but for the fact that the passengers on board were two officers and their families bound for Havana. These two men came on deck in uniform, and in less than a minute the men saw them. To let them go meant certain death to all hands on the ebony schooner, so they started over the rail after them.’
“Here Alvarez became suddenly silent for a few moments, and his eyes wandered towards the trees, as if expecting to see some one. Then, facing me again, he continued:
“‘They made a terrible fight, they say, cutting down half a dozen men as they crowded aft. The captain and crew of the schooner were soon tied up, and the men rushed onto the quarter-deck to take the officers at any cost. It was all over in a minute, and the two wives and a beautiful girl were carried on board the ebony schooner. The men were so worked up that a plank was rigged from the weather-rail and the lashings cast off from the feet of the prisoners. One by one they walked to their death along that narrow strip of wood with their eyes bandaged and elbows lashed fast behind them--and that was all.’
“He remained silent for some moments after this, and again looked sharply at the clump of palmettoes.
“‘But, Alvarez,’ I said, ‘what became of the two women and the beautiful young girl?’
“‘I never heard,’ he answered, dryly, and started to walk slowly back to the blind.
“‘Did they ever catch the ebony schooner?’ I ventured again.
“‘I don’t know,’ he replied, shortly, and, as I saw he would talk no more, I kept silent.
“After walking up and down the beach trying to get cool, we finally laid down under the trees and slept until daybreak. Then we started home. On the way back we were becalmed, and having drunk up all the water, we drifted along under a scorching sun with our mouths too dry to open. As I lay on my back in the bottom of the boat, I could not help thinking of the stories about this old man, and it suddenly flashed upon me that he had been seen near those same palmettoes before.
“I vaguely wondered if he had been a pirate and had buried his ill-gotten money under those trees on that lonely shore. There he sat in the stern-sheets, his grizzled hair shining in the bright sunlight under his old slouch hat, and his small gray eyes looking seaward for the first cat’s-paw of the coming morning breeze. His skin, tanned to leather from long exposure to the weather, made him as impervious to the sun’s rays as a negro. But in spite of this his features were as clearly cut and as strongly marked as those of a Don of bluest blood. Altogether he was not a bad looking old man, even with his slightly hooked nose and too firm mouth.
“I soon fell asleep and dreamed of rich galleons fighting huge canoes full of grizzled pirates, armed to the teeth, who squinted carefully along their old muskets and fired with loud yells. I suddenly awoke to find Alvarez calling to me to sit to windward, as we were heeling over and rushing along through the water before the sea-breeze only a few miles from town.
“The next day we started out bass-fishing in the surf on the outer beach. A rod and reel would have been considered strange instruments in those days down there. We used to take our hand-lines, which were very long, and, coiling them carefully, would wade out to our armpits. Then swinging the heavy sinkers about our heads until they acquired sufficient velocity, we would send them flying out beyond the first line of breakers, and paying out line, would wade back to the beach. Sharks abounded, and often we lost our gear when they took a fancy to our baits. We never feared their attacking us, as the waters abounded with fish, and in such places they seldom if ever attack a man.
“One day after some good sport Alvarez seemed tired, and instead of holding the end of his line in his hand he tied it around his waist. I noticed this and was about to call his attention to the danger of it, when I hooked a huge bass and was kept busy playing it for some time. The lines we used were about the size of the cod-lines used in the North, and capable of holding a strain of nearly two hundred pounds, while the hooks were like the drum hooks now used. While I was playing my fish my line, which was old, parted near the end, and I hauled it in to fit a new hook and sinker. During the time I was thus engaged Alvarez had waded out up to his shoulders in the surf and had cast his line into deep water. He then started to wade slowly back towards the shore. Before he had made a dozen steps I saw him suddenly reach for his line.
“Three heavy breakers had just rolled in, followed by a comparatively smooth spell that lasted for a few moments. I stopped working at my line and watched him, for I knew he must have had a good bite. Suddenly I saw him throw his whole weight on the line, but in spite of this go slowly forward. He was now in water so deep that he had to jump up every time the swell came to keep his head out of the foam. In a moment I turned, and as I caught the expression of his face I knew what had happened. That face I’ve often seen since in my dreams, and I will never forget the expression of sudden fear that filled it.
“He had gone out so far that he could not get a good foothold; a shark had seized his bait and was making slowly out to sea. He called my name and beckoned me to come and help him. With trembling fingers I finished knotting the sinker to my line and rushed headlong with it down the beach. Water is a yielding fluid, but all who have tried know what tremendous exertion is required to make speed through it when in above the knees. When I was close enough I swung my sinker over my head and sent it whizzing straight and true towards the old man, who was now out to the first line of breakers, and swimming, though steadily moving outward.
“I flung the lead towards him, and he would have caught the line, but at that instant a huge sea broke right over him and he disappeared in the smothering foam. When he reappeared he was beyond reach and going steadily seaward. With a sickening feeling I hauled in the line and plunged into the surf to swim out to him. I made good headway until I reached the first line of curling water, when a heavy breaker fell over me and swept me back a hundred feet from where I started. Standing there in the surf, with the bright sun shining, I saw old Alvarez passing slowly out to sea to disappear forever. I tried to think what to do. He evidently could not break the line. It was impossible to untie it with the strain on it, and he being only half dressed had left his knife ashore.
“I thought of our boat which was on the lee side of the island, and knew that it would take a couple of hours to get around the point. However, it seemed the only thing to do, so I made my way ashore and started across the island as fast as possible. Just before entering the woods I looked seaward, and there on the breast of a long swell, a quarter of a mile off, was Alvarez, swimming steadily with his face turned towards the beach.
“In about a quarter of an hour I reached the boat, hoisted the sail, and shoved off. There was hardly any wind on the lee side of the island, so I put out an oar and sculled until the perspiration poured down my face and my heart seemed as though it would burst. In spite of this I made but little headway, and finally had to give it up exhausted. It was about two in the afternoon when I started, and it was after three before I cleared the point and got wind enough to get to sea. I came around on the sea side of the island and close enough in to see our coats on the beach, but of Alvarez there was not a trace.
“I headed out to sea in the direction that he was going when I saw him last, and searched about until dark, when I gave it up as hopeless. It was late when I arrived in the town that night, so I waited until morning before I reported the accident.
“The sheriff searched the house in which the old man lived, but nothing was found except an old sea-chest filled with clothes, some of which appeared to be Spanish uniforms, but very dilapidated. No money was found in the house except a few Spanish gold coins, and these were in the room that he occupied as a bedroom.
“For months afterwards I kept thinking of Alvarez and his tragic end. Although I felt very sorry for him, I could not help wondering if he did have money concealed in the neighborhood. I often felt heartily ashamed of myself, after discussing with some friend the probability of his having concealed wealth, but, nevertheless, the fancy that he had took a strong hold of me.
“I tried to imagine where on earth he could have hidden anything, and always my thoughts centred on that clump of palmettoes on that low sandy island. This feeling finally took such hold of me that one night I started out pelican-shooting with a shovel in the bottom of my boat.
“I felt something like a robber, but knowing that the old fellow had no relations, or friends even, for that matter, I tried to convince myself that I was right. It was about eight o’clock when I started with a good sailing breeze off the land, so it could not have been more than ten when I ran my boat’s bow on the sand and lowered the sail on the west side of the island.
“As I took up my gun and shovel a feeling of excitement came over me, and I felt as though I had already found a mass of untold wealth. When I started to walk across the island this feeling increased, and soon I was plunging and ploughing through the deep dry sand at a great rate.
“I could see the bunch of trees standing out clearly against the sky, and also the white surf beyond, for, although the moon was only in its first quarter, the night was clear and bright. I halted on the crest of a circular sand-dune to get my breath, and a feeling of lonesomeness crept over me as I looked towards the dark grove and down the lonely beach where everything was lifeless. The stillness seemed intensified by the deep booming of the surf, and I felt as if something or somebody was watching me. I had just turned towards the trees and was starting down the side of the dune when, with a sudden rush and flapping of wings, a huge gray pelican started up within ten feet of me and made off like a great gray ghost to seaward. A sudden chill shot up my spine. Dropping the shovel, I grabbed my gun in both hands and fired instantly at the retreating shadow. The shot was an easy one, but I missed; so, swearing at myself audibly for my nervousness, I picked up the shovel and went on.
“I halted under the largest tree, and, resting my gun against the trunk, tried to form some plan of action. Although the trees were some thirty feet above high-water, there were no tracks or anything else to indicate that any one had ever been there before. I might dig the whole grove up, for all that I had to guide me, before striking the right spot. However, I went to work at the front of the big tree and started to dig to the eastward.
“I toiled for an hour and was getting pretty warm. Thus far I had struck nothing but the roots of a tree, so I began to despair. I knew that I might keep on digging holes clear through to China, and, with nothing to guide me, pass within a foot of what I searched for. I took off my shirt, and the cool breeze blowing on my warm body invigorated me; so, taking up the shovel again, I started to lengthen the hole to the eastward. I dug steadily for another half-hour, when my shovel suddenly struck something solid. This made my heart almost leap into my mouth, and with quickening breath I dug fiercely on.
“Like a miner on making his first find of gold, I trembled all over, and the perspiration poured down my naked breast and shoulders as I threw clouds of sand on all sides. I was as drunk as if I had swallowed a pint of liquor, and I remember nothing except that I felt like shouting with delight. I finally cleared a box of the sand over it and then tried to lift it. To my intense surprise it moved easily. But my excitement gave way to the deepest disappointment, for I well knew that if a box about six feet long, two wide, and two deep contained coin it would take more than one man of my size to move it.
“I lost no time thinking these thoughts, but started to pry off the lid. The wood, which was extremely well preserved, resisted the edge of my shovel so well that it broke the iron. I was losing patience, so, whirling the shovel above my head, I brought it down with crushing force upon the lid. After a few blows it gave way, and I eagerly tore off the splintered fragments. As I did so I leaned over and peered into the face of a corpse.
“I leaped back and gazed at it in a stupefied way for some moments, my head in a whirl, then partially recovering myself, I went forward to examine it. It looked like the body of a man in the uniform of an officer; at least so I judged by some buttons on the coat; but everything had passed through the last stages of decomposition. There was nothing left on the head at all, and the teeth grinned horribly in the moonlight.
“As I stood and gazed I thought of Alvarez. So this was his secret! How came a man to be buried in such a lonely spot? Was it a friend or victim of his former days, brought ashore from some vessel in the offing that dare not land at St. Augustine?
“I did not molest the body, but after recovering myself I put the fragments of the lid back as well as I could and piled the sand over it. I then dressed, and, taking my gun, started for the boat. After sailing several hours with hardly any wind, I arrived at the town just as the rising sun came up out of the ocean. I said nothing of my trip to any one, and soon after left St. Augustine to return no more for years.
“The town is a queer old place, but it has changed greatly to one who remembers it as it was years ago. Its quaint old fort and coquina walls doubtless contain many secrets of their former owners. As for old Alvarez, he carried his to sea with him that bright afternoon with a shark for a pilot.”
_THE CURSE OF WOMAN_
“Some skippers are good and some are bad,” said Gantline, joining in the talk on the main-hatch. He was second mate, so we listened. He expectorated with great accuracy into a coil of rope and continued:
“Likewise so are owners. The same holds good to most kinds of people. Some owners don’t want good skippers. They’re apt to be expensive on long runs, for they won’t cheat a poor devil of a sailor out of his lime-juice and other luxuries they have nowadays. At best a sailor gets less pay and works harder than any man alive, leave out the danger and discomfort on a long voyage on an overloaded ship. It’s only fair to treat him as well as possible. This idea that feeding a man well and not cursing him at every order will make him lazy is wrong, and ought to be kept among the class of skippers who take their ‘lunars’ with a hand-lead.
“There are some ships always unlucky. But the luck is mostly the fault of the skipper.
“Take, for instance, the loss of the Golden Arrow or the big clipper Pharos, that was found adrift in the doldrums without a man aboard her. Everything was in its place and not a boat was lowered. Even the dishes lay upon the table with the food rotten in them, but there wasn’t a soul to tell how she came to be unmanned. She was an unlucky ship, for on her next voyage out she stayed. No one has seen plank or spar of her for twelve years. But the skipper and mate who left her adrift outside of the Guinea current were well known to deep-water men.
“I’m no sky-pilot, and I don’t mean to say a skipper who prefers a pretty stewardess to an ugly one--or none at all--is always a bad man, but I do say that a skipper who cuts off a man’s lime-juice, gives him weevils for bread, and two-year-old junk for beef, has got enough devilry in him for anything, and is apt to have things comfortable in the after-cabin.
“It was nothing but scurvy that killed young Jim Douglas, so they said; but what about Hollender, the skipper, who brought him in along with nineteen others?
“I went to see Jim in the hospital, and he was an awful sight. His eyes rolled horribly, but he took my hand and held it a long time; then he tried to talk. His mind wasn’t steady and he often lost his bearings, but there was something besides delirium behind his tale.
“‘Her curse is on us, Gantline,’ he kept whispering. I held him, but he lay mumbling. ‘Dan died, too, an’ we sewed him up in canvas like a ham, an’ over he went; but it wouldn’t have helped, for the water was as rotten as it lays in the deadwood bilge. ’Twas the ghost of the skipper’s wife holding us back--her curse did the business, an’ I knew it.’ Then he calmed down and talked more natural.
“‘She came aboard with the child, an’ Hollender’s stewardess wouldn’t wait on her. Black-eyed she-devil that woman. An’ the skipper grinned, an’ the poor thing cried an’ cried. “Don’t treat me so; have mercy!” But he just grinned. “You can go forward an’ live with the mate if you don’t like it,” he said. She just cried an’ cried. One night she came on deck an’ rushed to the rail. She had her baby with her an’ she hesitated.
“’“Shall we go aft?” I said to Dan. “It’s mutiny an’ death,” says he.
“‘Then she cursed us all--an’ went over the side----’ Jim lay quiet after this for a minute, then he began:
“‘Slower, slower, slower. No wind, two hundred days out, an’ the water as rotten as it is in the deadwood bilge. The cat--I mean the mate--went up on the forecastle, an’ he never came back. We ate him, an’ tied his paws around our necks for luck. No wind, an’ the sails slatted to and fro on the yards. Midnight, an’ bright moonlight when it struck us, an’ tore our masts out an’ drove us far out of the path of ships, an’ we lay there with the boats gone, water-logged till we rigged enough gear to drift home by---- Help! Gantline, help! The curse of the woman was on the ship, for there wasn’t a man aboard----’
“He struggled and rose up in the cot. His eyes were staring at the blank wall. I held him hard for an instant and he suddenly relaxed. Then he fell back dead.
“Then, you see, there was the Albatross that sailed----”
“But hold on a bit. Stop a minute!” said Mr. Enlis. “If you keep on like that, Gantline, you’ll ruin the passenger trade as far as wimmen are concerned. As for stewardesses, there won’t be one afloat if you keep croaking. You seem to think wimmen do nothing but harm afloat, whereas I know plenty who have done good. I don’t see what wimmen have to do with wittles, anyhow?”
“Who in the name of Davy Jones said they had?” growled Gantline, angrily. “I’m no sky-pilot, and I----”
“Right you are, mate, you say true there, for if I was to go to you to get my last heading I’d fetch up on a lee shore where there’d be few strange faces.”
Gantline gave a grunt of disgust. “That’s just the way with you every time any one starts a line of argument to prove a thing’s so; you always sheer off, or bring in something that’s got nothing to do with the case and don’t signify. Here I’ve been showing that bad luck to ships is caused by something wrong with the skippers, and here you are trying to bring wimmen into the case, just as if your thoughts ran on nothing else. But, pshaw! everybody knows what kind of a fellow you are when you’re on the beach.” And he jerked his pipe into his pocket and walked aft.
“Never mind him,” said Mr. Enlis. “He’s an old croaker, and it’s just such growling that makes trouble for skippers. But whenever you see a man talk like that there’s always something behind it. Yes, sir, every time.”
“How do you mean?” asked Chips.
“Well, when a man’s soured on wimmen there is always a cause for it, and I happen to know something about Gantline’s past. It’s the old story, but who wants to know how Jim or Jack’s wife fell in love with him? Neither does any one care about how she comes to leave him, though nearly all story books are written about such things, and that’s the reason I never read them. There ain’t much novelty in that line.
“Lord, love is all alike, just the same in the poor man as in the rich; but what I was about to say is this: Gantline, here, gives the idea that wimmen are dangerous afloat and leaves off telling anything good about them. That ain’t exactly fair. It’s true most wimmen who follow the sea are not exactly to be considered fighting craft, and are mighty apt to strike their colors do you but let it be known you’re out for prizes. Still, I know of cases where they’ve done a power of good. There was ‘Short Moll,’ who was stewardess with old man Fane, and she made him.
“The old man, you see, had been getting lonely, and had taken to carrying large invoices of grog, which is bound to break a man in the long run.
“One day at the dock Moll came along and inquired for the skipper. The old man saw her coming, and bawled out, ‘For Heaven’s sake, Mr. Enlis, don’t let her come aboard!’ and dived below.
“I ran to the gang-plank as she started over and said, ‘Captain’s gone up-town, and there ain’t no visitors allowed.’
“‘Oh, there ain’t?’ she said sort of sweetly, and she screwed up her little slits of eyes. ‘If that’s the case, you may consider me one of the crew, for I’ve got a notion they want a stewardess aboard.’
“‘There ain’t no passengers, so get back on the dock and obey orders!’ And I planted myself athwart the plank.
“Well, sir, if you ever seen a change come over a woman in three shakes of a sheet-rope you ought to seen her.
“‘What!’ she yelled. ‘You stop me from coming aboard a ship in this free an’ easy country of America? Git out o’ the way, you slab-sided, herring-gutted son of a wind-jammer, or I’ll run ye down an’ cut ye in two.’ And she bore down on me under full sail.
“She carried a full cargo, and I stepped down on the main-deck, for, after all, that gang-plank was too narrow a subject for such broad-minded folk as Moll and me to discuss on the spur of the moment.
“She never gave me a look, but steered straight for the cabin and disappeared.
“There was a most uncommon noise, and I saw the skipper’s head pop up the hatchway. But in a moment he was drawn slowly downward, and as he turned his face he looked like a drowning man sinking for the last time.
“Well, the first day off soundings there was another fracas, and Moll came forward with a can of condensed milk in one hand and a bunch of keys in the other. She gave me a leer and waved the can of milk, and I knew we were to live high that voyage. I hadn’t tasted the stuff for nigh two years.
“One day there was another scuffle below, and a bottle of liquor sailed up the companion-way and smashed against the binnacle. There were all kinds of noises after that, but I finally made out Moll’s voice bawling, ‘Not another drap, sir! Not another drap!’
“He was a sober man for two years until she left, and after Fane heard of her death he wasn’t the same man. She really did more good than many a better brought-up woman on the beach, and if he called her an angel it’s nothing to laugh at, though her wings may have looked more like the little winged animals that fly o’ night among the mosquitoes in the harbor than like doves.
“So you see there’s no use going against the wimmen, for there’s lots of good in them, only it takes strange circumstances at times to bring it out.
“After all, I don’t blame Gantline. And between us I’ll tell you why.”
Here Mr. Enlis looked sharply fore and aft to see if anybody might interrupt us, and then spoke in a low voice.
“He married a girl years ago, and one day he came home and found her missing. She had run off with a fellow named Jones, who was once mate with Crojack.
“He followed that fellow all over the world. That hole in his cheek is where Jones’s bullet went through when they met once on the streets in Calcutta. Jones got several bad cuts before they were separated. A year or two after this they met again, and Gantline has had that list in his walk ever since. You see, virtue and right don’t always come out winners on deep-water, unless the virtue lies in the heft of your hand. That mate Jones was a big man, and they used to say he was a powerful hand for putting a crew through a course of study to find out who’s who and what’s what. According to report they generally found Bill Jones was something of both, and I heard that one voyage there wasn’t enough belaying-pins left aboard to clew down the topsails on, so they left them flying and put over the side for it as soon as the hook took the ground.
“But what I am coming to is this: Gantline was second mate with that same fellow Hollender the voyage one of his men sent his black soul to hell. The mate was killed and Gantline was left in command.
“To the eastward of Juan Fernandez he picked up a boat adrift with one man in it. He was alive and that was all. Gantline stood by while they lifted the fellow on deck, and as he caught sight of his sun-blackened face with the dry lips cracking over the black gums he gave a start and swore horribly. Then he walked fore and aft on the poop, and they say he chewed up nigh two pounds of tobacco during the rest of the day. When the fellow’s mouth was wet enough to speak with, he raved and cried, ‘Saved at last! Saved at last!’ until they had to lash him in his bunk. Sometimes he would call out a girl’s name, and Gantline would rush forward onto the forecastle-head and storm at the men working on deck.
“It didn’t last long. The fellow was strong and began to recover, and then Gantline had his say. He walked into the room one morning carrying two glasses full of grog, and he put them both on the sea-chest.
“Jones looked up and recognized him--for he was clear in his mind now--and he started for him. But he was too weak, and Gantline bore him back into the bunk and poked a revolver into his face, telling him to keep quiet.
“‘You are in my hands now, and I’ll give you a fair chance, but God knows you don’t deserve it,’ he said. ‘I could tip you over the side as well as not, but I won’t unless it’s your fate.’
“The fellow saw he was caught and started up again, but Gantline drew the barrel of his pistol level with his eyes, so he kept quiet.
“‘Now,’ he went on, ‘you are too weak to fight with any chance, but I’ve followed you too long to let you go unless it’s the will of Providence. In one of those glasses of grog is a poison that will put one man out of misery without any mess. I know which glass holds it, but you don’t; so I’ll give you first chance. If it comes to me I’ll drink it, but if it comes to you, you’ll drink it or I’ll put a hole in your face. Now let her go.’
“The fellow Jones lay silent a moment and looked Gantline steadily in the eyes. Then a smile broke slowly over his face. He picked up a glass and drank off the liquor, and Gantline did the same. Then Gantline hurried on deck.
“He walked fore and aft a few moments and then dived below for the medicine-chest.”
“What!” cried Chips, “did he get the poison?”
“Sure,” said Mr. Enlis; “but you see Gantline isn’t such a fool as he looks. He had done some thinking during those moments on deck, and it seemed to clear his mind. It don’t do to lay down the law to Providence. No, sir, it don’t do. You never can tell just what Providence will do. Gantline measured a tremendous emetic and gulped it down. Likewise, in a moment, up it came, and the poison with it.
“After all, he did the right thing by Jones. He put him ashore, and as luck would have it, the war was on then, and he was shot just outside Valparaiso by the Chilian soldiers, who took him for a deserter. That’s the reason Gantline never says anything good about wimmen--and I don’t blame him much!”