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´╗┐Title: Fighting the Whales
Author: Ballantyne, R. M. (Robert Michael), 1825-1894
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fighting the Whales" ***

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[Illustration: Cover Art]

Blackie & Son Ltd.
London ---- Glasgow ---- Bombay





   Fighting the Whales . . . . . . _Cover Art_

   "Tom Lokins raised the harpoon"

   "Hurled it blazing into the sea"

   "In a moment I was overboard"




There are few things in this world that have filled me with so much
astonishment as the fact that man can kill a whale!  That a fish, more
than sixty feet long, and thirty feet round the body; with the bulk of
three hundred fat oxen rolled into one; with the strength of many
hundreds of horses; able to swim at a rate that would carry it right
round the world in twenty-three days; that can smash a boat to atoms
with one slap of its tail, and stave in the planks of a ship with one
blow of its thick skull;--that such a monster can be caught and killed
by man, is most wonderful to hear of, but I can tell from experience
that it is much more wonderful to see.

There is a wise saying which I have often thought much upon.  It is
this: "Knowledge is power".  Man is but a feeble creature, and if he
had to depend on his own bodily strength alone he could make no head
against even the ordinary brutes in this world.  But the knowledge
which has been given to him by his Maker has clothed man with great
power, so that he is more than a match for the fiercest beast in the
forest, or the largest fish in the sea. Yet, with all his knowledge,
with all his experience, and all his power, the killing of a great old
sperm whale costs man a long, tough battle, sometimes it even costs him
his life.

It is a long time now since I took to fighting the whales.  I have been
at it, man and boy, for nigh forty years, and many a wonderful sight
have I seen; many a desperate battle have I fought in the fisheries of
the North and South Seas.

Sometimes, when I sit in the chimney-corner of a winter evening,
smoking my pipe with my old messmate Tom Lokins, I stare into the fire
and think of the days gone by till I forget where I am, and go on
thinking so hard that the flames seem to turn into melting fires, and
the bars of the grate into dead fish, and the smoke into sails and
rigging, and I go to work cutting up the blubber and stirring the
oil-pots, or pulling the bow-oar and driving the harpoon at such a
rate that I can't help giving a shout, which causes Tom to start and

"Hallo!  Bob" (my name is Bob Ledbury, you see).  "Hallo!  Bob, wot's
the matter?"

To which I reply, "Tom, can it all be true?"

"Can _wot_ be true?" says he, with a stare of surprise--for Tom is
getting into his dotage now.

And then I chuckle and tell him I was only thinking of old times, and
so he falls to smoking again, and I to staring at the fire, and
thinking as hard as ever.

The way in which I was first led to go after the whales was curious.
This is how it happened.

About forty years ago, when I was a boy of nearly fifteen years of age,
I lived with my mother in one of the seaport towns of England. There
was great distress in the town at that time, and many of the hands were
out of work. My employer, a blacksmith, had just died, and for more
than six weeks I had not been able to get employment or to earn a
farthing.  This caused me great distress, for my father had died
without leaving a penny in the world, and my mother depended on me
entirely.  The money I had saved out of my wages was soon spent, and
one morning when I sat down to breakfast, my mother looked across the
table and said, in a thoughtful voice:

"Robert, dear, this meal has cost us our last halfpenny."

My mother was old and frail, and her voice very gentle; she was the
most trustful, uncomplaining woman I ever knew.

I looked up quickly into her face as she spoke.  "All the money gone,

"Aye, all.  It will be hard for you to go without your dinner, Robert,

"It will be harder for _you_, Mother," I cried, striking the table with
my fist; then a lump rose in my throat and almost choked me.  I could
not utter another word.

It was with difficulty I managed to eat the little food that was before
me.  After breakfast I rose hastily and rushed out of the house,
determined that I would get my mother her dinner, even if I should have
to beg for it.  But I must confess that a sick feeling came over me
when I thought of begging.

Hurrying along the crowded streets without knowing very well what I
meant to do, I at last came to an abrupt halt at the end of the pier.
Here I went up to several people and offered my services in a wild sort
of way.  They must have thought that I was drunk, for nearly all of
them said gruffly that they did not want me.

Dinner-time drew near, but no one had given me a job, and no wonder,
for the way in which I tried to get one was not likely to be
successful.  At last I resolved to beg.  Observing a fat, red-faced old
gentleman coming along the pier, I made up to him boldly.  He carried a
cane with a large gold knob on the top of it. That gave me hope, "for
of course," thought I, "he must be rich."  His nose, which was exactly
the colour and shape of the gold knob on his cane, was stuck in the
centre of a round, good-natured countenance, the mouth of which was
large and firm; the eyes bright and blue.  He frowned as I went forward
hat in hand; but I was not to be driven back; the thought of my
starving mother gave me power to crush down my rising shame.  Yet I had
no reason to be ashamed.  I was willing to work, if only I could have
got employment.

Stopping in front of the old gentleman, I was about to speak when I
observed him quietly button up his breeches pocket.  The blood rushed
to my face, and, turning quickly on my heel, I walked away without
uttering a word.

"Hallo!" shouted a gruff voice just as I was moving away.

I turned, and observed that the shout was uttered by a broad
rough-looking jack-tar, a man of about two or three and thirty, who had
been sitting all the forenoon on an old cask smoking his pipe and
basking in the sun.

"Hallo!" said he again.

"Well," said I.

"Wot d'ye mean, youngster, by goin' on in that there fashion all the
mornin', a-botherin' everybody, and makin' a fool o' yourself like
that? eh!"

"What's that to you?" said I savagely, for my heart was sore and heavy,
and I could not stand the interference of a stranger.

"Oh! it's nothin' to me of course," said the sailor, picking his pipe
quietly with his clasp-knife; "but come here, boy, I've somethin' to
say to ye."

"Well, what is it?" said I, going up to him somewhat sulkily.

The man looked at me gravely through the smoke of his pipe, and said,
"You're in a passion, my young buck, that's all; and, in case you
didn't know it, I thought I'd tell ye."

I burst into a fit of laughter.  "Well, I believe you're not far wrong;
but I'm better now."

"Ah! that's right," said the sailor, with an approving nod of his head;
"always confess when you're in the wrong.  Now, younker, let me give
you a bit of advice.  Never get into a passion if you can help it, and
if you can't help it get out of it as fast as possible, and if you
can't get out of it, just give a great roar to let off the steam and
turn about and run.  There's nothing like that.  Passion han't got
legs.  It can't hold on to a feller when he's runnin'.  If you keep it
up till you a'most split your timbers, passion has no chance.  It
_must_ go a-starn. Now, lad, I've been watchin' ye all the mornin', and
I see there's a screw loose somewhere.  If you'll tell me wot it is,
see if I don't help you!"

The kind frank way in which this was said quite won my heart, so I sat
down on the old cask, and told the sailor all my sorrows.

"Boy," said he, when I had finished, "I'll put you in the way o'
helpin' your mother.  I can get you a berth in my ship, if you're
willin' to take a trip to the whale fishery of the South Seas."

"And who will look after my mother when I'm away?" said I.

The sailor looked perplexed at the question.

"Ah! that's a puzzler," he replied, knocking the ashes out of his pipe.
"Will you take me to your mother's house, lad?"

"Willingly," said I, and, jumping up, I led the way.  As we turned to
go, I observed that the old gentleman with the gold-headed cane was
leaning over the rail of the pier at a short distance from us.  A
feeling of anger instantly rose within me, and I exclaimed, loud enough
for him to hear:

"I do believe that stingy old chap has been listening to every word
we've been saying!"

I thought I observed a frown on the sailor's brow as I said this, but
he made no remark, and in a few minutes we were walking rapidly through
the streets.  My companion stopped at one of those stores so common in
seaport towns, where one can buy almost anything, from a tallow candle
to a brass cannon.  Here he

[Transcriber's note: two pages missing from book]

I've got neither family nor friends, and I'm bound for the South Seas
in six days; so, if you'll take it, you're welcome to it, and if your
son Bob can manage to cast loose from you without leaving you to sink,
I'll take him aboard the ship that I sail in.  He'll always find me at
the Bull and Griffin, in the High Street, or at the end o' the pier."

While the sailor was speaking, I observed a figure standing in a dark
corner of the room near the door, and, on looking more closely, I found
that it was the old gentleman with the nose like his cane knob.  Seeing
that he was observed, he came forward and said:

"I trust that you will forgive my coming here without invitation; but I
happened to overhear part of the conversation between your son and this
seaman, and I am willing to help you over your little difficulty, if
you will allow me."

The old gentleman said this in a very quick, abrupt way, and looked as
if he were afraid his offer might be refused.  He was much heated, with
climbing our long stair no doubt, and as he stood in the middle of the
room, puffing and wiping his bald head with a handkerchief, my mother
rose hastily and offered him a chair.

"You are very kind, sir," she said; "do sit down, sir.  I'm sure I
don't know why you should take so much trouble.  But, dear me, you are
very warm; will you take a cup of tea to cool you?"

"Thank you, thank you.  With much pleasure, unless, indeed, your son
objects to a '_stingy old chap_' sitting beside him."

I blushed when he repeated my words, and attempted to make some
apology; but the old gentleman stopped me by commencing to explain his
intentions in short, rapid sentences.

To make a long story short, he offered to look after my mother while I
was away, and, to prove his sincerity, laid down five shillings, and
said he would call with that sum every week as long as I was absent.
My mother, after some trouble, agreed to let me go, and, before that
evening closed, everything was arranged, and the gentleman, leaving his
address, went away.

The sailor had been so much filled with surprise at the suddenness of
all this, that he could scarcely speak.  Immediately after the
departure of the old gentleman, he said, "Well, good-bye, mistress,
good-bye, Bob," and throwing on his hat in a careless way, left the

"Stop!" I shouted after him, when he had got about half-way down stair.

"Hallo! wot's wrong now?"

"Nothing; I only forgot to ask your name."

"Tom Lokins," he bellowed, in the hoarse voice of a regular boatswain,
"w'ich wos my father's name before me."

So saying, he departed, whistling "Rule, Britannia," with all his

Thus the matter was settled.  Six days afterwards, I rigged myself out
in a blue jacket, white ducks, and a straw hat, and went to sea.



My first few days on the ocean were so miserable that I oftentimes
repented of having left my native land.  I was, as my new friend Tom
Lokins said, as sick as a dog.  But in course of time I grew well, and
began to rejoice in the cool fresh breezes and the great rolling
billows of the sea.

Many and many a time I used to creep out to the end of the bowsprit,
when the weather was calm, and sit with my legs dangling over the deep
blue water, and my eyes fixed on the great masses of rolling clouds in
the sky, thinking of the new course of life I had just begun.  At such
times the thought of my mother was sure to come into my mind, and I
thought of her parting words, "Put your trust in the Lord, Robert, and
read His Word."  I resolved to try to obey her, but this I found was no
easy matter, for the sailors were a rough lot of fellows, who cared
little for the Bible.  But, I must say, they were a hearty,
good-natured set, and much better, upon the whole, than many a ship's
crew that I afterwards sailed with.

We were fortunate in having fair winds this voyage, and soon found
ourselves on the other side of the _line_, as we jack-tars call the

Of course the crew did not forget the old custom of shaving all the men
who had never crossed the line before.  Our captain was a jolly old
man, and uncommonly fond of "sky-larking".  He gave us leave to do what
we liked the day we crossed the line; so, as there were a number of
wild spirits among us, we broke through all the ordinary rules, or,
rather, we added on new rules to them.

The old hands had kept the matter quiet from us greenhorns, so that,
although we knew they were going to do some sort of mischief, we didn't
exactly understand what it was to be.

About noon of that day I was called on deck and told that old father
Neptune was coming aboard, and we were to be ready to receive him.  A
minute after I saw a tremendous monster come up over the side of the
ship and jump on the deck.  He was crowned with seaweed, and painted in
a wonderful fashion; his clothes were dripping wet, as if he had just
come from the bottom of the sea.  After him came another monster with a
petticoat made of sailcloth and a tippet of a bit of old tarpaulin.
This was Neptune's wife, and these two carried on the most remarkable
antics I ever saw.  I laughed heartily, and soon discovered, from the
tones of their voices, which of my shipmates Neptune and his wife were.
But my mirth was quickly stopped when I was suddenly seized by several
men, and my face was covered over with a horrible mixture of tar and

Six of us youngsters were treated in this way; then the lather was
scraped off with a piece of old hoop-iron, and, after being thus
shaved, buckets of cold water were thrown over us.

At last, after a prosperous voyage, we arrived at our fishing-ground in
the South Seas, and a feeling of excitement and expectation began to
show itself among the men, insomuch that our very eyes seemed brighter
than usual.

One night those of us who had just been relieved from watch on deck
were sitting on the lockers down below telling ghost stories.

It was a dead calm, and one of those intensely dark, hot nights, that
cause sailors to feel uneasy, they scarce know why.  I began to feel so
uncomfortable at last, listening to the horrible tales which Tom Lokins
was relating to the men, that I slipt away from them with the intention
of going on deck.  I moved so quietly that no one observed me; besides,
every eye was fixed earnestly on Tom, whose deep low voice was the only
sound that broke the stillness of all around.  As I was going very
cautiously up the ladder leading to the deck, Tom had reached that part
of his story where the ghost was just appearing in a dark churchyard,
dressed in white, and coming slowly forward, one step at a time,
towards the terrified man who saw it.  The men held their breath, and
one or two of their faces turned pale as Tom went on with his
description, lowering his voice to a hoarse whisper.  Just as I put my
head up the hatchway the sheet of one of the sails, which was hanging
loose in the still air, passed gently over my head and knocked my hat
off.  At any other time I would have thought nothing of this, but Tom's
story had thrown me into such an excited and nervous condition that I
gave a start, missed my footing, uttered a loud cry, and fell down the
ladder right in among the men with a tremendous crash, knocking over
two or three oil-cans and a tin bread-basket in my fall, and upsetting
the lantern, so that the place was instantly pitch-dark.

I never heard such a howl of terror as these men gave vent to when this
misfortune befell me.  They rushed upon deck with their hearts in their
mouths, tumbling, and peeling the skin off their shins and knuckles in
their haste; and it was not until they heard the laughter of the watch
on deck that they breathed freely, and, joining in the laugh, called
themselves fools for being frightened by a ghost story.  I noticed,
however, that, for all their pretended indifference, there was not one
man among them--not even Tom Lokins himself--who would go down below to
relight the lantern for at least a quarter of an hour afterwards!

Feeling none the worse for my fall, I went forward and leaned over the
bow of the ship, where I was much astonished by the appearance of the
sea.  It seemed as if the water was on fire.  Every time the ship's bow
rose and fell, the little belt of foam made in the water seemed like a
belt of blue flame with bright sparkles in it, like stars or diamonds.
I had seen this curious appearance before, but never so bright as it
was on that night.

"What is it, Tom?" said I, as my friend came forward and leaned over
the ship's bulwark beside me.

"It's blue fire, Bob," replied Tom, as he smoked his pipe calmly.

"Come, you know I can't swallow that," said I; "everybody knows that
fire, either blue or red, can't burn in the water."

"Maybe not," returned Tom; "but it's blue fire for all that.  Leastwise
if it's not, I don't know wot else it is."

Tom had often seen this light before, no doubt, but he had never given
himself the trouble to find out what it could be.  Fortunately the
captain came up just as I put the question, and he enlightened me on
the subject.

"It is caused by small animals," said he, leaning over the side.

"Small animals!" said I, in astonishment.

"Aye; many parts of the sea are full of creatures so small and so thin
and colourless, that you can hardly see them even in a clear glass
tumbler.  Many of them are larger than others, but the most of them are
very small."

"But how do they shine like that, sir?" I asked.

"That I do not know, boy.  God has given them the power to shine, just
as he has given us the power to walk or speak; and they do shine
brightly, as you see; but how they do it is more than I can tell.  I
think, myself, it must be anger that makes them shine, for they
generally do it when they are stirred up or knocked about by oars, or
ships' keels, or tumbling waves.  But I am not sure that that's the
reason either, because, you know, we often sail through them without
seeing the light, though of course they must be there."

"P'r'aps, sir," said Tom Lokins; "p'r'aps, sir, they're sleepy
sometimes, an' can't be bothered gettin' angry."

"Perhaps!" answered the captain, laughing.  "But then again, at other
times, I have seen them shining over the whole sea when it was quite
calm, making it like an ocean of milk; and nothing was disturbing them
at that time, d'ye see."

"I don' know _that_," objected Tom; "they might have bin a-fightin'
among theirselves."

"Or playing, maybe," said I.

The captain laughed, and, looking up at the sky, said: "I don't like
the look of the weather, Tom Lokins.  You're a sharp fellow, and have
been in these seas before; what say you?"

"We'll have a breeze," replied Tom, briefly.

"More than a breeze," muttered the captain, while a look of grave
anxiety overspread his countenance; "I'll go below and take a squint at
the glass."

"What does he mean by that, Tom?" said I, when the captain was gone; "I
never saw a calmer or a finer night.  Surely there is no chance of a
storm just now."

"Aye, that shows that you're a young feller, and han't got much
experience o' them seas," replied my companion.  "Why, boy, sometimes
the fiercest storm is brewin' behind the greatest calm.  An' the worst
o' the thing is that it comes so sudden at times, that the masts are
torn out o' the ship before you can say Jack Robinson."

"What! and without any warning?" said I.

"Aye, _almost_ without warnin'; but not _altogether_ without it.  You
heer'd the captain say he'd go an' take a squint at the glass?"

"Yes; what is the glass?"

"It's not a glass o' grog, you may be sure; nor yet a lookin'-glass.
It's the weather-glass, boy.  Shore-goin' chaps call it a barometer."

"And what's the meaning of barometer?" I enquired earnestly.

Tom Lokins stared at me in stupid amazement.  "Why, boy," said he,
"you're too inquisitive.  I once asked the doctor o' a ship that
question, and says he to me, 'Tom,' says he, 'a barometer is a glass
tube filled with quicksilver or mercury, which is a metal in a soft or
fluid state, like water, you know, and it's meant for tellin' the state
o' the weather.'

"'Yes, sir,' I answers, 'I know that well enough.'

"'Then why did you ask?' says he, gettin' into a passion.

"'I asked what was the meanin' o' the _word_ barometer, sir,' said I.

"The doctor he looked grave at that, and shook his head.  'Tom,' says
he, 'if I was to go for to explain that word, and all about the
instrument, in a scientific sort o' way, d'ye see, I'd have to sit here
an' speak to you right on end for six hours or more.'

"'Oh, sir,' says I, 'don't do it, then.  _Please_, don't do it.'

"'No more I will,' says he; 'but it'll serve your turn to know that a
barometer is a glass for measurin' the weight o' the air, and, _somehow
or other_, that lets ye know wot's a-coming.  If the mercury in the
glass rises high, all's right.  If it falls uncommon low very sudden,
look out for squalls; that's all.  No matter how smooth the sea may be,
or how sweetly all natur' may smile, don't you believe it; take in
every inch o' canvas at once.'"

"That was a queer explanation, Tom."

"Aye, but it was a true one, as you shall see before long."

As I looked out upon the calm sea, which lay like a sheet of glass,
without a ripple on its surface, I could scarcely believe what he had
said.  But before many minutes had passed I was convinced of my error.

While I was standing talking to my messmate, the captain rushed on
deck, and shouted:

"All hands tumble up!  Shorten sail!  Take in every rag!  Look alive,
boys, look alive."

I was quite stunned for a moment by this, and by the sudden tumult that
followed.  The men, who seemed never to take thought about anything,
and who had but one duty, namely, to _obey orders_, ran upon deck, and
leaped up the rigging like cats; the sheets of nearly all the principal
sails were clewed up, and, ere long, the canvas was made fast to the
yards.  A few of the smaller sails only were left exposed, and even
these were close-reefed.  Before long a loud roar was heard, and in
another minute the storm burst upon us with terrific violence.  The
ship at first lay over so much that the masts were almost in the water,
and it was as impossible for anyone to walk the deck as to walk along
the side of a wall.  At the same time, the sea was lashed into white
foam, and the blinding spray flew over us in bitter fury.

"Take in the topsails!" roared the captain.  But his voice was drowned
in the shriek of the gale.  The men were saved the risk of going out on
the yards, however, for in a few moments more all the sails, except the
storm-trysail, were burst and blown to ribbons.

We now tried to put the ship's head to the wind and "lay to", by which
landsmen will understand that we tried to face the storm, and remain
stationary.  But the gale was so fierce that this was impossible.  The
last rag of sail was blown away, and then there was nothing left for us
but to show our stern to the gale, and "scud under bare poles".

The great danger now was that we might be "pooped", which means that a
huge wave might curl over our stern, fall with terrible fury on our
deck, and sink us.

Many and many a good ship has gone down in this way; but we were
mercifully spared.  As our safety depended very much on good steering,
the captain himself took the wheel, and managed the ship so well, that
we weathered the gale without damage, further than the loss of a few
sails and light spars.  For two days the storm howled furiously, the
sky and sea were like ink, with sheets of rain and foam driving through
the air, and raging billows tossing our ship about like a cork.

During all this time my shipmates were quiet and grave, but active and
full of energy, so that every order was at once obeyed without noise or
confusion.  Every man watched the slightest motion of the captain.  We
all felt that everything depended on him.

As for me, I gave up all hope of being saved.  It seemed impossible to
me that anything that man could build could withstand so terrible a
storm.  I do not pretend to say that I was not afraid.  The near
prospect of a violent death caused my heart to sink more than once; but
my feelings did not unman me.  I did my duty quietly, but quickly, like
the rest; and when I had no work to do, I stood holding on to the
weather stanchions, looking at the raging sea, and thinking of my
mother, and of the words of kindness and counsel she had so often
bestowed upon me in vain.

The storm ceased almost as quickly as it began, and although the sea
did not all at once stop the heavings of its angry bosom, the wind fell
entirely in the course of a few hours, the dark clouds broke up into
great masses that were piled up high into the sky, and out of the midst
of these the glorious sun shone in bright rays down on the ocean, like
comfort from heaven, gladdening our hearts as we busily repaired the
damage that we had suffered from the storm.



I shall never forget the surprise I got the first time I saw a whale.

It was in the forenoon of a most splendid day, about a week after we
arrived at that part of the ocean where we might expect to find fish.
A light nor'-east breeze was blowing, but it scarcely ruffled the sea,
as we crept slowly through the water with every stitch of canvas set.

As we had been looking out for fish for some time past, everything was
in readiness for them.  The boats were hanging over the side ready to
lower, tubs for coiling away the ropes, harpoons, lances, &c., all were
ready to throw in, and start away at a moment's notice.  The man in the
"crow's-nest", as they call the cask fixed up at the masthead, was
looking anxiously out for whales, and the crew were idling about the
deck.  Tom Lokins was seated on the windlass smoking his pipe, and I
was sitting beside him on an empty cask, sharpening a blubber-knife.

"Tom," said I, "what like is a whale?"

"Why, it's like nothin' but itself," replied Tom, looking puzzled.
"Why, wot a queer feller you are to ax questions."

"I'm sure you've seen plenty of them.  You might be able to tell what a
whale is like."

"Wot it's like!  Well, it's like a tremendous big bolster with a head
and a tail to it."

"And how big is it?"

"They're of all sizes, lad.  I've seen one that was exactly equal to
three hundred fat bulls, and its rate of goin' would take it round the
whole world in twenty-three days."

"I don't believe you," said I, laughing.

"Don't you?" cried Tom; "it's a fact notwithstandin', for the captain
himself said so, and that's how I came to know it."

Just as Tom finished speaking, the man in the crow's-nest roared at the
top of his voice, "There she blows!"

That was the signal that a whale was in sight, and as it was the first
time we had heard it that season, every man in the ship was thrown into
a state of tremendous excitement.

"There she blows!" roared the man again.

"Where away?" shouted the captain.

"About two miles right ahead."

In another moment the utmost excitement prevailed on board.  Suddenly,
while I was looking over the side, straining my eyes to catch a sight
of the whale, which could not yet be seen by the men on deck, I saw a
brown object appear in the sea, not twenty yards from the side of the
ship; before I had time to ask what it was, a whale's head rose to the
surface, and shot up out of the water.  The part of the fish that was
visible above water could not have been less then thirty feet in
length.  It just looked as if our longboat had jumped out of the sea,
and he was so near that I could see his great mouth quite plainly.  I
could have tossed a biscuit on his back easily.  Sending two thick
spouts of frothy water out of his blow-holes forty feet into the air
with tremendous noise, he fell flat upon the sea with a clap like
thunder, tossed his flukes or tail high into the air, and disappeared.

I was so amazed at this sight that I could not speak.  I could only
stare at the place where the huge monster had gone down.

"Stand by to lower," shouted the captain.

"Aye, aye, sir," replied the men, leaping to their appointed stations;
for every man in a whale-ship has his post of duty appointed to him,
and knows what to do when an order is given.

"Lower away," cried the captain, whose face was now blazing with

In a moment more three boats were in the water; the tubs, harpoons,
&c., were thrown in, the men seized the oars, and away they went with a
cheer.  I was in such a state of flutter that I scarce knew what I did;
but I managed somehow or other to get into a boat, and as I was a
strong fellow, and a good rower, I was allowed to pull.

"There she blows!" cried the man in the crow's-nest, just as we shot
from the side of the ship.  There was no need to ask, "where away" this
time.  Another whale rose and spouted not more than three hundred yards
off, and before we could speak a third fish rose in another direction,
and we found ourselves in the middle of what is called a "school of

"Now, lads," said the captain, who steered the boat in which I rowed,
"bend your backs, my hearties; that fish right ahead of us is a
hundred-barrel whale for certain.  Give way, boys; we _must_ have that

There was no need to urge the men, for their backs were strained to the
utmost, their faces were flushed, and the big veins in their necks
swelled almost to bursting, with the tremendous exertion.

"Hold hard," said the captain in a low voice, for now that we were
getting near our prey we made as little noise as possible.

The men at once threw their oars "apeak", as they say; that is, raised
them straight, up in the air, and waited for further orders.  We
expected the whale would rise near to where we were, and thought it
best to rest and look out.

While we were waiting, Tom Lokins, who was harpooner of the boat, sat
just behind me with all his irons ready.  He took this opportunity to
explain to me that by a "hundred-barrel fish" is meant a fish that will
yield a hundred barrels of oil.  He further informed me that such a
fish was a big one, though he had seen a few in the North-West Seas
that had produced upwards of two hundred barrels.

I now observed that the other boats had separated, and each had gone
after a different whale.  In a few minutes the fish we were in chase of
rose a short distance off, and sent up two splendid water-spouts high
into the air, thus showing that he was what the whalers call a "right"
whale.  It is different from the sperm whale, which has only one
blowhole, and that a little one.

We rowed towards it with all our might, and as we drew near, the
captain ordered Tom Lokins to "stand up", so he at once laid in his
oar, and took up the harpoon.  The harpoon is an iron lance with a
barbed point.  A whale-line is attached to it, and this line is coiled
away in a tub.  When we were within a few yards of the fish, which was
going slowly through the water, all ignorant of the terrible foes who
were pursuing him, Tom Lokins raised the harpoon high above his head,
and darted it deep into its fat side just behind the left fin, and next
moment the boat ran aground on the whale's back.


"Stern all, for your lives!" roared the captain, who, before his order
was obeyed, managed to give the creature two deep wounds with his
lance.  The lance has no barbs to its point, and is used only for
wounding after the harpoon is fixed.

The boat was backed off at once, but it had scarcely got a few yards
away when the astonished fish whirled its huge body half out of the
water, and, coming down with a tremendous clap, made off like lightning.

The line was passed round a strong piece of wood called the
"logger-head", and, in running out, it began to smoke, and nearly set
the wood on fire.  Indeed, it would have done so, if a man had not kept
constantly pouring water upon it.  It was needful to be very cautious
in managing the line, for the duty is attended with great danger.  If
any hitch should take place, the line is apt to catch the boat and drag
it down bodily under the waves.  Sometimes a coil of it gets round a
leg or an arm of the man who attends to it, in which case his
destruction is almost certain.  Many a poor fellow has lost his life in
this way.

The order was now given to "hold on line".  This was done, and in a
moment our boat was cleaving the blue water like an arrow, while the
white foam curled from her bows.  I thought every moment we should be
dragged under; but whenever this seemed likely to happen, the line was
let run a bit, and the strain eased.  At last the fish grew tired of
dragging us, the line ceased to run out, and Tom hauled in the slack,
which another man coiled away in its tub.  Presently the fish rose to
the surface, a short distance off our weather bow.

"Give way, boys! spring your oars," cried the captain; "another touch
or two with the lance, and that fish is ours."

The boat shot ahead, and we were about to dart a second harpoon into
the whale's side, when it took to "sounding",--which means, that it
went straight down, head foremost, into the depths of the sea.  At that
moment Tom Lokins uttered a cry of mingled anger and disappointment.
We all turned round and saw our shipmate standing with the slack line
in his hand, and such an expression on his weather-beaten face, that I
could scarce help laughing.  The harpoon had not been well fixed; it
had lost its hold, and the fish was now free!

"Gone!" exclaimed the captain with a groan.

I remember even yet the feeling of awful disappointment that came over
me when I understood that we had lost the fish after all our trouble!
I could almost have wept with bitter vexation.  As for my comrades,
they sat staring at each other for some moments quite speechless.
Before we could recover from the state into which this misfortune had
thrown us, one of the men suddenly shouted, "Hallo! there's the mate's
boat in distress."

We turned at once, and, truly, there was no doubt of the truth of this,
for, about half a mile off, we beheld our first mate's boat tearing
over the sea like a small steamer.  It was fast to a fish, and two oars
were set up on end to attract our attention.

When a whale is struck, it sometimes happens that the whole of the line
in a boat is run out.  When this is about to occur, it becomes
necessary to hold on as much as can be done without running the boat
under the water, and an oar is set up on end to show that assistance is
required, either from the ship or from the other boats.  As the line
grows less and less, another and another oar is hoisted to show that
help must be sent quickly.  If no assistance can be sent, the only
thing that remains to be done is to cut the line and lose the fish; but
a whale-line, with its harpoon, is a very heavy loss, in addition to
that of the fish, so that whalers are tempted to hold on a little too
long sometimes.

When we saw the mate's boat dashing away in this style, we forgot our
grief at the loss of our whale in anxiety to render assistance to our
comrades, and we rowed towards them as fast as we could.  Fortunately
the whale changed its course and came straight towards us, so that we
ceased pulling, and waited till they came up.  As the boat came on I
saw the foam curling up on her bows as she leaped and flew over the
sea.  I could scarcely believe it possible that wood and iron could
bear such a strain.  In a few minutes they were almost abreast of us.

"You're holding too hard!" shouted the captain.

"Lines all out!" roared the mate.

They were past almost before these short sentences could be spoken.
But they had not gone twenty yards ahead of us when the water rushed in
over the bow, and before we could utter a word the boat and crew were
gone.  Not a trace of them remained!  The horror of the moment had not
been fully felt, however, when the boat rose to the surface keel up,
and, one after another, the heads of the men appeared.  The line had
fortunately broken, otherwise the boat would have been lost, and the
entire crew probably would have gone to the bottom with her.

We instantly pulled to the rescue, and were thankful to find that not a
man was killed, though some of them were a little hurt, and all had
received a terrible fright.  We next set to work to right the upset
boat, an operation which was not accomplished without much labour and

Now, while we were thus employed, our third boat, which was in charge
of the second mate, had gone after the whale that had caused us so much
trouble, and when we had got the boat righted and began to look about
us, we found that she was fast to the fish about a mile to leeward.

"Hurrah, lads!" cried the captain, "luck has not left us yet.  Give
way, my hearties, pull like Britons! we'll get that fish yet."

We were all dreadfully done up by this time, but the sight of a boat
fast to a whale restored us at once, and we pulled away as stoutly as
if we had only begun the day's work.  The whale was heading in the
direction of the ship, and when we came up to the scene of action the
second mate had just "touched the life"; in other words, he had driven
the lance deep down into the whale's vitals.  This was quickly known by
jets of blood being spouted up through the blowholes.  Soon after, our
victim went into its dying agonies, or, as whalemen say, "his flurry ".

This did not last long.  In a short time he rolled over dead.  We
fastened a line to his tail, the three boats took the carcass in tow,
and, singing a lively song, we rowed away to the ship.

Thus ended our first battle with the whales.



The scene that took place on board ship after we caught our first fish
was most wonderful.  We commenced the operation of what is called
"cutting in", that is, cutting up the whale, and getting the fat or
blubber hoisted in.  The next thing we did was to "try out" the oil, or
melt down the fat in large iron pots brought with us for this purpose;
and the change that took place in the appearance of the ship and the
men when this began was very remarkable.

When we left port our decks were clean, our sails white, our masts well
scraped; the brass-work about the quarter-deck was well polished, and
the men looked tidy and clean.  A few hours after our first whale had
been secured alongside all this was changed.  The cutting up of the
huge carcass covered the decks with oil and blood, making them so
slippery that they had to be covered with sand to enable the men to
walk about.  Then the smoke of the great fires under the melting pots
begrimed the masts, sails, and cordage with soot.  The faces and hands
of the men got so covered with oil and soot that it would have puzzled
anyone to say whether they were white or black.  Their clothes, too,
became so dirty that it was impossible to clean them.  But, indeed,
whalemen do not much mind this.  In fact, they take a pleasure in all
the dirt that surrounds them, because it is a sign of success in the
main object of their voyage.  The men in a _clean_ whale ship are never
happy.  When everything is filthy, and dirty, and greasy, and smoky,
and black--decks, rigging, clothes, and person--it is then that the
hearty laugh and jest and song are heard as the crew work busily, night
and day, at their rough but profitable labour.

The operations of "cutting in" and "trying out" were matters of great
interest to me the first time I saw them.

After having towed our whale to the ship, cutting in was immediately
begun.  First, the carcass was secured near the head and tail with
chains, and made fast to the ship; then the great blocks and ropes
fastened to the main and fore mast for hoisting in the blubber were
brought into play.  When all was ready, the captain and the two mates
with Tom Lokins got upon the whale's body, with long-handled sharp
spades or digging-knives.  With these they fell to work cutting off the

I was stationed at one of the hoisting ropes, and while we were waiting
for the signal to "hoist away", I peeped over the side, and for the
first time had a good look at the great fish.  When we killed it, so
much of its body was down in the water that I could not see it very
clearly, but now that it was lashed at full length alongside the ship,
and I could look right down upon it, I began to understand more clearly
what a large creature it was.  One thing surprised me much; the top of
its head, which was rough and knotty like the bark of an old tree, was
swarming with little crabs and barnacles, and other small creatures.
The whale's head seemed to be their regular home!  This fish was by no
means one of the largest kind, but being the first I had seen, I
fancied it must be the largest fish in the sea.

Its body was forty feet long, and twenty feet round at the thickest
part.  Its head, which seemed to me a great, blunt, shapeless thing,
like a clumsy old boat, was eight feet long from the tip to the
blowholes or nostrils; and these holes were situated on the back of the
head, which at that part was nearly four feet broad.  The entire head
measured about twenty-one feet round.  Its ears were two small holes,
so small that it was difficult to discover them, and the eyes were also
very small for so large a body, being about the same size as those of
an ox.  The mouth was very large, and the under jaw had great ugly
lips.  When it was dying, I saw these lips close in once or twice on
its fat cheeks, which it bulged out like the leather sides of a pair of
gigantic bellows.  It had two fins, one on each side, just behind the
head.  With these, and with its tail, the whale swims and fights.  Its
tail is its most deadly weapon.  The flukes of this one measured
thirteen feet across, and with one stroke of this it could have smashed
our largest boat in pieces.  Many a boat has been sent to the bottom in
this way.

I remember hearing our first mate tell of a wonderful escape a comrade
of his had in the Greenland Sea Fishery.  A whale had been struck, and,
after its first run, they hauled up to it again, and rowed so hard that
they ran the boat right against it.  The harpooner was standing on the
bow all ready, and sent his iron cleverly into the blubber.  In its
agony the whale reared its tail high out of the water, and the flukes
whirled for a moment like a great fan just above the harpooner's head.
One glance up was enough to show him that certain death was descending.
In an instant he dived over the side and disappeared.  Next moment the
flukes came down on the part of the boat he had just left, and cut it
clean off; the other part was driven into the waves, and the men were
left swimming in the water.  They were all picked up, however, by
another boat that was in company, and the harpooner was recovered with
the rest.  His quick dive had been the saving of his life.

I had not much time given me to study the appearance of this whale
before the order was given to "hoist away!" so we went to work with a
will.  The first part that came up was the huge lip, fastened to a
large iron hook, called the blubber hook.  It was lowered into the
blubber-room between decks, where a couple of men were stationed to
stow the blubber away.  Then came the fins, and after them the upper
jaw, with the whalebone attached to it.  The "right" whale has no teeth
like the sperm whale.  In place of teeth it has the well-known
substance called whalebone, which grows from the roof of its mouth in a
number of broad thin plates, extending from the back of the head to the
snout.  The lower edges of these plates of whalebone are split into
thousands of hairs like bristles, so that the inside roof of a whale's
mouth resembles an enormous blacking brush!  The object of this curious
arrangement is to enable the whale to catch the little shrimps and
small sea-blubbers, called "medusa;", on which it feeds.  I have spoken
before of these last as being the little creatures that gave out such a
beautiful pale-blue light at night.  The whale feeds on them.  When he
desires a meal he opens his great mouth and rushes into the midst of a
shoal of medusae; the little things get entangled in thousands among
the hairy ends of the whalebone, and when the monster has got a large
enough mouthful, he shuts his lower jaw and swallows what his net has

The wisdom as well as the necessity of this arrangement is very plain.
Of course, while dashing through the sea in this fashion, with his
mouth agape, the whale must keep his throat closed, else the water
would rush down it and choke him.  Shutting his throat then, as he
does, the water is obliged to flow out of his mouth as fast as it flows
in; it is also spouted up through his blowholes, and this with such
violence that many of the little creatures would be swept out along
with it but for the hairy-ended whalebone which lets the sea-water out,
but keeps the medusae in.

Well, let us return to our "cutting in".  After the upper jaw came the
lower jaw and throat, with the tongue.  This last was an enormous mass
of fat, about as large as an ox, and it weighed fifteen hundred or two
thousand pounds.  After this was got in, the rest of the work was
simple.  The blubber of the body was peeled off in great strips,
beginning at the neck and being cut spirally towards the tail.  It was
hoisted on board by the blocks, the captain and mates cutting, and the
men at the windlass hoisting, and the carcass slowly turning round
until we got an unbroken piece of blubber, reaching from the water to
nearly as high as the mainyard-arm.  This mass was nearly a foot thick,
and it looked like fat pork.  It was cut off close to the deck, and
lowered into the blubber-room, where the two men stationed there
attacked it with knives, cut it into smaller pieces, and stowed it
away.  Then another piece was hoisted on board in the same fashion, and
so on we went till every bit of blubber was cut off; and I heard the
captain remark to the mate when the work was done, that the fish was a
good fat one, and he wouldn't wonder if it turned out to be worth 300

Now, when this process was going on, a new point of interest arose
which I had not thought of before, although my messmate, Tom Lokins,
had often spoken of it on the voyage out.  This was the arrival of
great numbers of sea-birds.

Tom had often told me of the birds that always keep company with
whalers; but I had forgotten all about it until I saw an enormous
albatross come sailing majestically through the air towards us.  This
was the largest bird I ever saw, and no wonder, for it is the largest
bird that flies.  Soon after that, another arrived, and although we
were more than a thousand miles from any shore, we were speedily
scented out and surrounded by hosts of gonies, stinkards, haglets,
gulls, pigeons, petrels, and other sea-birds, which commenced to feed
on pieces of the whale's carcass with the most savage gluttony.  These
birds were dreadfully greedy.  They had stuffed themselves so full in
the course of a short time, that they flew heavily and with great
difficulty.  No doubt they would have to take three or four days to
digest that meal!

Sharks, too, came to get their share of what was going.  But these
savage monsters did not content themselves with what was thrown away;
they were so bold as to come before our faces and take bites out of the
whale's body.  Some of these sharks were eight and nine feet long, and
when I saw them open their horrid jaws, armed with three rows of
glistening white sharp teeth, I could well understand how easily they
could bite off the leg of a man, as they often do when they get the
chance.  Sometimes they would come right up on the whale's body with a
wave, bite out great pieces of the flesh, turn over on their bellies,
and roll off.

While I was looking over the side during the early part of that day, I
saw a very large shark come rolling up in this way close to Tom
Lokins's legs.  Tom made a cut at him with his blubber-spade, but the
shark rolled off in time to escape the blow.  And after all it would
not have done him much damage, for it is not easy to frighten or take
the life out of a shark.

"Hand me an iron and line, Bob," said Tom, looking up at me.  "I've got
a spite agin that feller.  He's been up twice already.  Ah! hand it
down here, and two or three of ye stand by to hold on by the line.
There he comes, the big villain!"

The shark came close to the side of the whale at that moment, and Tom
sent the harpoon right down his throat.

"Hold on hard," shouted Tom.

"Aye, aye," replied several of the men as they held on to the line,
their arms jerking violently as the savage fish tried to free itself.
We quickly reeved a line through a block at the fore yard-arm, and
hauled it on deck with much difficulty.  The scene that followed was
very horrible, for there was no killing the brute.  It threshed the
deck with its tail, and snapped so fiercely with its tremendous jaws,
that we had to keep a sharp look-out lest it should catch hold of a
leg.  At last its tail was cut off, the body cut open, and all the
entrails' taken out, yet even after this it continued to flap and
thresh about the deck for some time, and the heart continued to
contract for twenty minutes after it was taken out and pierced with a

I would not have believed this had I not seen it with my own eyes.  In
case some of my readers may doubt its truth, I would remind them how
difficult it is to kill some of those creatures with which we are all
familiar.  The common worm, for instance, may be cut into a number of
small pieces, and yet each piece remains alive for some time after.

The skin of the shark is valued by the whalemen, because, when cleaned
and dry, it is as good as sand-paper, and is much used in polishing the
various things they make out of whales' bones and teeth.

When the last piece of blubber had been cut off our whale, the great
chain that held it to the ship's side was cast off, and the now useless
carcass sank like a stone, much to the sorrow of some of the smaller
birds, which, having been driven away by their bigger comrades, had not
fed so heartily as they wished perhaps!  But what was loss to the gulls
was gain to the sharks, which could follow the carcass down into the
deep and devour it at their leisure.

"Now, lads," cried the mate, when the remains had vanished, "rouse up
the fires, look alive, my hearties!"

"Aye, aye, sir," was the ready reply, cheerfully given, as every man
sprang to his appointed duty.

And so, having "cut in" our whale, we next proceeded to "try out" the



The scenes in a whaleman's life are varied and very stirring.
Sometimes he is floating on the calm ocean, idling about the deck and
whistling for a breeze, when all of a sudden the loud cry is heard,
"There she blows!" and in a moment the boats are in the water, and he
is engaged in all the toils of an exciting chase.  Then comes the
battle with the great leviathan of the deep, with all its risks and
dangers.  Sometimes he is unfortunate, the decks are clean, he has
nothing to do.  At other times he is lucky, "cutting in" and "trying
out" engage all his energies and attention.  Frequently storms toss him
on the angry deep, and show him, if he will but learn the lesson, how
helpless a creature he is, and how thoroughly dependent at all times
for life, safety, and success, upon the arm of God.

"Trying out" the oil, although not so thrilling a scene as many a one
in his career, is, nevertheless, extremely interesting, especially at
night, when the glare of the fires in the try-works casts a deep-red
glow on the faces of the men, on the masts and sails, and even out upon
the sea.

The try-works consisted of two huge melting-pots fixed upon brick-work
fireplaces between the fore and main masts.  While some of the men were
down in the blubber-room cutting the "blanket-pieces", as the largest
masses are called, others were pitching the smaller pieces on deck,
where they were seized by two men who stood near a block of wood,
called a "horse", with a mincing knife, to slash the junks so as to
make them melt easily.  These were then thrown into the melting-pots by
one of the mates, who kept feeding the fires with such "scraps" of
blubber as remain after the oil is taken out.  Once the fires were
fairly set agoing no other kind of fuel was required than "scraps" of
blubber.  As the boiling oil rose it was baled into copper
cooling-tanks.  It was the duty of two other men to dip it out of these
tanks into casks, which were then headed up by our cooper, and stowed
away in the hold.

As the night advanced the fires became redder and brighter by contrast,
the light shone and glittered on the bloody decks, and, as we plied our
dirty work, I could not help thinking, "what would my mother say, if
she could get a peep at me now?"

The ship's crew worked and slept by watches, for the fires were not
allowed to go out all night.  About midnight I sat down on the windlass
to take a short rest, and began talking to one of the men, Fred Borders
by name.  He was one of the quietest and most active men in the ship,
and, being quite a young man, not more than nineteen, he and I drew to
one another, and became very intimate.

"I think we're goin' to have a breeze, Bob," said he, as a sharp puff
of wind crossed the deck, driving the black smoke to leeward, and
making the fire flare up in the try-works.

"I hope it won't be a storm, then," said I, "for it will oblige us to
put out the fires."

Just then Tom Lokins came up, ordered Fred to go and attend to the
fires, sat down opposite to me on the windlass, and began to "lay down
the law" in regard to storms.

"You see, Bob Ledbury," said he, beginning to fill his pipe, "young
fellers like you don't know nothin' about the weather--'cause why?
you've got no experience.  Now, I'll put you up to a dodge consarning
this very thing."

I never found out what was the dodge that Tom, in his wisdom, was to
have put me up to, for at that moment the captain came on deck, and
gave orders to furl the top-gallant sails.

Three or four of us ran up the rigging like monkeys, and in a few
minutes the sails were lashed to the yards.

The wind now began to blow steadily from the nor'-west; but not so hard
as to stop our tryworks for more than an hour.  After that it blew
stiff enough to raise a heavy sea, and we were compelled to slack the
fires.  This was all the harm it did to us, however, for although the
breeze was stiffish, it was nothing like a gale.

As the captain and the first mate walked the quarter-deck together, I
heard the former say to the latter, "I think we had as well take in a
reef in the topsails.  All hereabouts the fishing-ground is good, we
don't need to carry on."

The order was given to reduce sail, and the men lay out on the topsail
yards.  I noticed that my friend Fred Borders was the first man to
spring up the shrouds and lay out on the main-topsail yard.  It was so
dark that I could scarcely see the masts.  While I was gazing up, I
thought I observed a dark object drop from the yard; at the same moment
there was a loud shriek, followed by a plunge in the sea.  This was
succeeded by the sudden cry, "man overboard!" and instantly the whole
ship was in an uproar.

No one who has not heard that cry can understand the dreadful feelings
that are raised in the human breast by it.  My heart at first seemed to
leap into my mouth and almost choke me.  Then a terrible fear, which I
cannot describe, shot through me, when I thought it might be my comrade
Fred Borders.  But these thoughts and feelings passed like
lightning--in a far shorter time than it takes to write them down.  The
shriek was still ringing in my ears when the captain roared--

"Down your helm! stand by to lower away the boats."

At the same moment he seized a light hen-coop and tossed it overboard,
and the mate did the same with an oar in the twinkling of an eye.
Almost without knowing what I did, or why I did it, I seized a great
mass of oakum and rubbish that lay on the deck saturated with oil, I
thrust it into the embers of the fire in the try-works, and hurled it
blazing into the sea.


The ship's head was thrown into the wind, and we were brought to as
quickly as possible.  A gleam of hope arose within me on observing that
the mass I had thrown overboard continued still to burn; but when I saw
how quickly it went astern, notwithstanding our vigorous efforts to
stop the ship, my heart began to sink, and when, a few moments after,
the light suddenly disappeared, despair seized upon me, and I gave my
friend up for lost.

At that moment, strange to say, thoughts of my mother came into my
mind, I remembered her words, "Call upon the Lord, my dear boy, when
you are in trouble."  Although I had given but little heed to prayer,
or to my Maker, up to that time, I did pray, then and there, most
earnestly that my messmate might be saved.  I cannot say that I had
much hope that my prayer would be answered--indeed I think I had
none,--still, the mere act of crying in my distress to the Almighty
afforded me a little relief, and it was with a good deal of energy that
I threw myself into the first boat that was lowered, and pulled at the
oar as if my own life depended on it.

A lantern had been fastened to the end of an oar and set up in the
boat, and by its faint light I could see that the men looked very
grave.  Tom Lokins was steering, and I sat near him, pulling the aft

"Do you think we've any chance, Tom?" said I.

A shake of the head was his only reply.

"It must have been here away," said the mate, who stood up in the bow
with a coil of rope at his feet, and a boat-hook in his hand.  "Hold
on, lads, did anyone hear a cry?"

No one answered.  We all ceased pulling, and listened intently; but the
noise of the waves and the whistling of the winds were all the sounds
we heard.

"What's that floating on the water?" said one of the men, suddenly.

"Where away?" cried everyone eagerly.

"Right off the lee-bow--there, don't you see it?"

At that moment a faint cry came floating over the black water, and died
away in the breeze.

The single word "Hurrah!" burst from our throats with all the power of
our lungs, and we bent to our oars till we wellnigh tore the rollicks
out of the boat.

"Hold hard! stern all!" roared the mate, as we went flying down to
leeward, and almost ran over the hen-coop, to which a human form was
seen to be clinging with the tenacity of a drowning man.  We had swept
down so quickly, that we shot past it.  In an agony of fear lest my
friend should be again lost in the darkness, I leaped up and sprang
into the sea.  Tom Lokins, however, had noticed what I was about; he
seized me by the collar of my jacket just as I reached the water, and
held me with a grip like a vice till one of the men came to his
assistance, and dragged me back into the boat.  In a few moments more
we reached the hen-coop, and Fred was saved!

He was half dead with cold and exhaustion, poor fellow, but in a few
minutes he began to recover, and before we reached the ship he could
speak.  His first words were to thank God for his deliverance.  Then he

"And, thanks to the man that flung that light overboard.  I should have
gone down but for that.  It showed me where the hen-coop was."

I cannot describe the feeling of joy that filled my heart when he said

"Aye, who wos it that throw'd that fire overboard?" enquired one of the

"Don't know," replied another, "I think it wos the cap'n."

"You'll find that out when we get aboard," cried the mate; "pull away,

In five minutes Fred Borders was passed up the side and taken down
below.  In two minutes more we had him stripped naked, rubbed dry,
wrapped in hot blankets, and set down on one of the lockers, with a hot
brick at his feet, and a stiff can of hot rum and water in his hand.



As the reader may, perhaps, have been asking a few questions about the
whale in his own mind, I shall try to answer them, by telling a few
things concerning that creature which, I think, are worth knowing.

In the first place, the whale is not a fish!  I have applied that name
to it, no doubt, because it is the custom to do so; but there are great
differences between the whales and the fishes.  The mere fact that the
whale lives in water is not sufficient to prove it to be a fish.  The
frog lives very much in water--he is born in the water, and, when very
young, he lives in it altogether--would die, in fact, if he were taken
out of it; yet a frog is not a fish.

The following are some of the differences existing between a whale and
a fish:--The whale is a warm-blooded animal; the fish is cold-blooded.
The whale brings forth its young alive; while most fishes lay eggs or
spawn.  Moreover, the fish lives entirely under water, but the whale
cannot do so.  He breathes air through enormous lungs, not gills.  If
you were to hold a whale's head under water for much longer than an
hour, it would certainly be drowned; and this is the reason why it
comes so frequently to the surface of the sea to take breath.  Whales
seldom stay more than an hour under water, and when they come up to
breathe, they discharge the last breath they took through their
nostrils or blowholes, mixed with large quantities of water which they
have taken in while feeding.  But the most remarkable point of
difference between the whale and fishes of all kinds is, that it
suckles its young.

The calf of one kind of whale is about fourteen feet long when it is
born, and it weighs about a ton.  The cow-whale usually brings forth
only one calf at a time, and the manner in which she behaves to her
gigantic baby shows that she is affected by feelings of anxiety and
affection such as are never seen in fishes, which heartless creatures
forsake their eggs when they are laid, and I am pretty sure they would
not know their own children if they happened to meet with them.

The whale, on the contrary, takes care of her little one, gives it
suck, and sports playfully with it in the waves; its enormous heart
throbbing all the while, no doubt, with satisfaction.

I have heard of a whale which was once driven into shoal water with its
calf and nearly stranded.  The huge dam seemed to become anxious for
the safety of her child, for she was seen to swim eagerly round it,
embrace it with her fins, and roll it over in the waves, trying to make
it follow her into deep water.  But the calf was obstinate; it would
not go, and the result was that the boat of a whaler pulled up and
harpooned it.  The poor little whale darted away like lightning on
receiving the terrible iron, and ran out a hundred fathoms of line; but
it was soon overhauled and killed.  All this time the dam kept close to
the side of its calf, and not until a harpoon was plunged into her own
side would she move away.  Two boats were after her.  With a single rap
of her tail she cut one of the boats in two, and then darted off.  But
in a short time she turned and came back.  Her feelings of anxiety had
returned, no doubt, after the first sting of pain was over, and she
died at last close to the side of her young one.

There are various kinds of whales, but the two sorts that are most
sought after are the common whale of the Greenland Seas, which is
called the "right whale", and the sperm whale of the South Sea.  Both
kinds are found in the south; but the sperm whale never goes to the
North Seas.  Both kinds grow to an enormous size--sometimes to seventy
feet in length, but there is considerable difference in their
appearance, especially about the head.  In a former chapter I have
partly described the head of a _right_ whale, which has whalebone
instead of teeth, with its blowholes on the back of the head.  The
sperm whale has large white teeth in its lower jaw and none at all in
the upper.  It has only one blowhole, and that a little one, much
farther forward on its head, so that sailors can tell, at a great
distance, what kind of whales they see simply by their manner of

The most remarkable feature about the sperm whale is the bluntness of
its clumsy head, which looks somewhat like a big log with the end sawn
square off, and this head is about one-third of its entire body.

The sperm whale feeds differently from the right whale.  He seizes his
prey with his powerful teeth, and lives, to a great extent, on large
cuttle-fish.  Some of them have been seen to vomit lumps of these
cuttle-fish as long as a whale-boat.  He is much fiercer, too, than the
right whale, which almost always takes to flight when struck, but the
sperm whale will sometimes turn on its foes and smash their boat with a
blow of his blunt head or tail.

Fighting-whales, as they are called, are not uncommon.  These are
generally old bulls, which have become wise from experience, and give
the whalers great trouble--sometimes carrying away several harpoons and
lines.  The lower jaw of one old bull of this kind was found to be
sixteen feet long, and it had forty-eight teeth, some of them a foot
long.  A number of scars about his head showed that this fellow had
been in the wars.  When two bull-whales take to fighting, their great
effort is to catch each other by the lower jaw, and, when locked
together, they struggle with a degree of fury that cannot be described.

It is not often that the sperm whale actually attacks a ship; but there
are a few cases of this kind which cannot be doubted.  The following
story is certainly true; and while it shows how powerful a creature the
whale is, it also shows what terrible risk and sufferings the whaleman
has frequently to encounter.

In the month of August, 1819, the American whaleship _Essex_ sailed
from Nantucket for the Pacific Ocean.  She was commanded by Captain
Pollard.  Late in the autumn of the same year, when in latitude 40
degrees of the South Pacific, a shoal, or "school", of sperm whales was
discovered, and three boats were immediately lowered and sent in
pursuit.  The mate's boat was struck by one of the fish during the
chase, and it was found necessary to return to the ship to repair

While the men were employed at this, an enormous whale suddenly rose
quite close to the ship.  He was going at nearly the same rate with the
ship--about three miles an hour; and the men, who were good judges of
the size of whales, thought that it could not have been less than
eighty-five feet long.  All at once he ran against the ship, striking
her bows, and causing her to tremble like a leaf.  The whale
immediately dived and passed under the ship, and grazed her keel in
doing so.  This evidently hurt his back, for he suddenly rose to the
surface about fifty yards off, and commenced lashing the sea with his
tail and fins as if suffering great agony.  It was truly an awful sight
to behold that great monster lashing the sea into foam at so short a

In a short time he seemed to recover, and started off at great speed to
windward.  Meanwhile the men discovered that the blow received by the
ship had done her so much damage, that she began to fill and settle
down at the bows; so they rigged the pumps as quickly as possible.
While working them one of the men cried out:

"God have mercy! he comes again!"

This was too true.  The whale had turned, and was now bearing down on
them at full speed, leaving a white track of foam behind him.  Rushing
at the ship like a battering-ram, he hit her fair on the weather bow
and stove it in, after which he dived and disappeared.  The horrified
men took to their boats at once, and in _ten minutes_ the ship went

The condition of the men thus left in three open boats far out upon the
sea, without provisions or shelter, was terrible indeed.  Some of them
perished, and the rest, after suffering the severest hardships, reached
a low island called Ducies on the 20th of December.  It was a mere
sand-bank, which supplied them only with water and sea-fowl.  Still
even this was a mercy, for which they had reason to thank God; for in
cases of this kind one of the evils that seamen have most cause to
dread is the want of water.

Three of the men resolved to remain on this sand-bank, for dreary and
uninhabited though it was, they preferred to take their chance of being
picked up by a passing ship rather than run the risks of crossing the
wide ocean in open boats, so their companions bade them a sorrowful
farewell, and left them.  But this island is far out of the usual track
of ships.  The poor fellows have never since been heard of.

It was the 27th of December when the three boats left the sand-bank
with the remainder of the men, and began a voyage of two thousand
miles, towards the island of Juan Fernandez.  The mate's boat was
picked up, about three months after, by the ship _Indian_ of London,
with only three living men in it.  About the same time the captain's
boat was discovered, by the _Dauphin_ of Nantucket, with only two men
living; and these unhappy beings had only sustained life by feeding on
the flesh of their dead comrades.  The third boat must have been lost,
for it was never heard of; and out of the whole crew of twenty men,
only five returned home to tell their eventful story.

Before resuming the thread of my narrative, I must not omit to mention,
that in the head of the sperm whale there is a large cavity or hole
called the "case", which contains pure oil that does not require to be
melted, but can be baled at once into casks and stowed away.  This is
the valuable spermaceti from which the finest candles are made.  One
whale will sometimes yield fifteen barrels of spermaceti oil from the
"case" of its head.  A large fish will produce from eighty to a hundred
barrels of oil altogether, sometimes much more; and when whalemen
converse with each other about the size of whales, they speak of
"eighty-barrel fish", and so on.

Although I have written much about the fighting powers of the sperm
whale, it must not be supposed that whales are by nature fond of
fighting.  On the contrary, the "right" whale is a timid creature, and
never shows fight except in defence of its young.  And the sperm whale
generally takes to flight when pursued.  In fact, most of the accidents
that happen to whalemen occur when the wounded monster is lashing the
water in blind terror and agony.

The whale has three bitter enemies, much smaller, but much bolder than
himself, and of these he is terribly afraid.  They are: the swordfish,
the thrasher, and the killer.  The first of these, the sword-fish, has
a strong straight horn or sword projecting from his snout, with which
he boldly attacks and pierces the whale.  The thrasher is a strong
fish, twenty feet long, and of great weight.  Its method of attack is
to leap out of the water on the whale's back, and deal it a tremendous
blow with its powerful tail.

The sword-fish and thrasher sometimes act together in the attack; the
first stabbing him below, and the second belabouring him above, while
the whale, unable, or too frightened to fight, rushes through the
water, and even leaps its whole gigantic length into the air in its
endeavours to escape.  When a whale thus leaps his whole length out of
the water, the sailors say he "breaches", and breaching is a common
practice.  They seem to do it often for amusement as well as from

But the most deadly of the three enemies is the killer.  This is itself
a kind of small whale, but it is wonderfully strong, swift, and bold.
When one of the killers gets into the middle of a school of whales, the
frightened creatures are seen flying in all directions.  His mode of
attack is to seize his big enemy by the jaw, and hold on until he is
exhausted and dies.



One day I was standing beside the windlass, listening to the
conversation of five or six of the men, who were busy sharpening
harpoons and cutting-knives, or making all kinds of toys and things out
of whales' bones.  We had just finished cutting in and trying out our
third whale, and as it was not long since we reached the
fishing-ground, we were in high hopes of making a good thing of it that
season; so that everyone was in good spirits, from the captain down to
the youngest man in the ship.

Tom Lokins was smoking his pipe, and Tom's pipe was an uncommonly black
one, for he smoked it very often.  Moreover, Tom's pipe was uncommonly
short, so short that I always wondered how he escaped burning the end
of his nose.  Indeed, some of the men said that the redness of the end
of Tom's nose was owing to its being baked like a brick by the heat of
his pipe.  Tom took this pipe from his mouth, and while he was pushing
down the tobacco with the end of his little finger, he said:

"D'ye know, lads, I've been thinkin'----"

"No, have ye?" cried one of the men, interrupting him with a look of
pretended surprise.  "Well now, I do think, messmates, that we should
ax the mate to make a note o' that in the log, for it's not often that
Tom Lokins takes to thinkin'."

There was a laugh at this, but Tom, turning with a look of contempt to
the man who interrupted him, replied:

"I'll tell you wot it is, Bill Blunt, if all the thoughts that _you_
think, and especially the jokes that you utter, wos put down in the
log, they'd be so heavy that I do believe they would sink the ship!"

"Well, well," cried Bill, joining in the laugh against himself, "if
they did, _your_ jokes would be so light and triflin' that I do believe
they'd float her again.  But what have you been a-thinkin' of, Tom?"

"I've been thinkin'," said Tom slowly, "that if a whale makes his
breakfast entirely off them little things that you can hardly see when
you get 'em into a tumbler--I forget how the captain calls 'em--wot a
_tree-mendous_ heap of 'em he must eat in the course of a year!"

"Thousands of 'em, I suppose," said one of the men.

"Thousands!" cried Tom, "I should rather say billions of them."

"How much is billions, mate?" enquired Bill.

"I don't know," answered Tom.  "Never could find out.  You see it's
heaps upon heaps of thousands, for the thousands come first and the
billions afterwards; but when I've thought uncommon hard, for a long
spell at a time, I always get confused, because millions comes in
between, d'ye see, and that's puzzlin'."

"I think I could give you some notion about these things," said Fred
Borders, who had been quietly listening all the time, but never putting
in a word, for, as I have said, Fred was a modest bashful man and
seldom spoke much.  But we had all come to notice that when Fred spoke,
he had always something to say worth hearing; and when he did speak he
spoke out boldly enough.  We had come to have feelings of respect for
our young shipmate, for he was a kind-hearted lad, and we saw by his
conversation that he had been better educated than the most of us, so
all our tongues stopped as the eyes of the party turned on him.

"Come, Fred, let's hear it then," said Tom.

"It's not much I have to tell," began Fred, "but it may help to make
your minds clearer on this subject.  On my first voyage to the whale
fishery (you know, lads, this is my second voyage) I went to the
Greenland Seas.  We had a young doctor aboard with us--quite a youth;
indeed he had not finished his studies at college, but he was cleverer,
for all that, than many an older man that had gone through his whole
course.  I do believe that the reason of his being so clever was, that
he was for ever observing things, and studying them, and making notes,
and trying to find out reasons.  He was never satisfied with knowing a
thing; he must always find out _why_ it was.  One day I heard him ask
the captain what it was that made the sea so green in some parts of
those seas.  Our captain was an awfully stupid man.  So long as he got
plenty oil he didn't care two straws for the reason of anything.  The
young doctor had been bothering him that morning with a good many
questions, so when he asked him what made the sea green, he answered
sharply, 'I suppose it makes itself green, young man,' and then he
turned from him with a fling.

"The doctor laughed, and came forward among the men, and began to tell
us stories and ask questions.  Ah! he was a real hearty fellow; he
would tell you all kinds of queer things, and would pump you dry of all
you knew in no time.  Well, but the thing I was going to tell you was
this.  One of the men said to him he had heard that the greenness of
the Greenland Sea was caused by the little things like small bits of
jelly on which the whales feed.  As soon as he heard this he got a
bucket and hauled some sea-water aboard, and for the next ten days he
was never done working away with the sea-water; pouring it into
tumblers and glasses; looking through it by daylight and by lamplight;
tasting it, and boiling it, and examining it with a microscope."

"What's a microscope?" enquired one of the men.

"Don't you know?" said Tom Lokins, "why, it's a glass that makes little
things seem big, when ye look through it.  I've heerd that say beasts
that are so uncommon small you that can't see them at all are made to
come into sight and look quite big by means o' this glass.  But I can't
myself say that it's true."

"But I can," said Fred, "for I have seen it with my own eyes.  Well,
after a good while, I made bold to ask the young doctor what he had
found out.

"'I've found,' said he, 'that the greenness of these seas is in truth
caused by uncountable numbers of medusae----'"

"Ha! that's the word," shouted Tom Lokins, "Medoosy, that's wot the
captain calls 'em.  Heave ahead, Fred."

"Well then," continued Fred, "the young doctor went on to tell me that
he had been counting the matter to himself very carefully, and he found
that in every square mile of sea-water there were living about eleven
quadrillions, nine hundred and ninety-nine trillions of these little

"Oh! hallo! come now!" we all cried, opening our eyes very wide indeed.

"But, I say, how much is that?" enquired Tom Lokins.

"Ah! that's just what I said to the young doctor, and he said to me,
'I'll tell you what, Fred Borders, no man alive understands how much
that is, and what's more, no man ever will; but I'll give you _some
notion_ of what it means'; and so he told me how long it would take
forty thousand men to count that number of eleven quadrillions, nine
hundred and ninety-nine trillions, each man of the forty thousand
beginning 'one ', 'two', 'three', and going on till the sum of the
whole added together would make it up.  Now, how long d'ye think it
would take them?--guess."

Fred Borders smiled as he said this, and looked round the circle of men.

"I know," cried one; "it would take the whole forty thousand _a week_
to do it."

"Oh! nonsense, they could do it easy in two days," said another.

"That shows how little you know about big numbers," observed Tom
Lokins, knocking the ashes out of his pipe.  "I'm pretty sure it
couldn't be done in much less than six months; workin' hard all day,
and makin' allowance for only one hour off for dinner."

"You're all wrong, shipmates," said Fred Borders.  "That young doctor
told me that if they'd begun work at the day of creation they would
only have just finished the job last year!"

"Oh! gammon, you're jokin'," cried Bill Blunt.

"No, I'm not," said Fred, "for I was told afterwards by an old
clergyman that the young doctor was quite right, and that anyone who
was good at 'rithmetic could work the thing out for himself in less
than half an hour."

Just as Fred said this there came a loud cry from the mast-head that
made us all spring to our feet like lightning.

"There she blows!  There she breaches!"

The captain was on deck in a moment.

"Where away?" he cried.

"On the lee beam, sir.  Sperm whale, about two miles off.  There she

Every man was at his station in a moment; for, after being some months
out, we became so used to the work, that we acted together like a piece
of machinery.  But our excitement never abated in the least.

"Sing out when the ship heads for her."

"Aye, aye, sir."

"Keep her away!" said the captain to the man at the helm.  "Bob
Ledbury, hand me the spy-glass."

"Steady," from the mast-head.

"Steady it is," answered the man at the helm.

While we were all looking eagerly out ahead we heard a thundering snore
behind us, followed by a heavy splash.  Turning quickly round, we saw
the flukes of an enormous whale sweeping through the air not more than
six hundred yards astern of us.

"Down your helm," roared the captain; "haul up the mainsail, and square
the yards.  Call all hands."

"All hands, ahoy!" roared Bill Blunt, in a voice of thunder, and in
another moment every man in the ship was on deck.

"Hoist and swing the boats," cried the captain.  "Lower away."

Down went the boats into the water; the men were into their places
almost before you could wink, and we pulled away from the ship just as
the whale rose the second time, about half a mile away to leeward.

From the appearance of this whale we felt certain that it was one of
the largest we had yet seen, so we pulled after it with right good
will.  I occupied my usual place in the captain's boat, next the bow
oar, just beside Tom Lokins, who was ready with his harpoons in the
bow.  Young Borders pulled the oar directly in front of me.  The
captain himself steered, and, as our crew was a picked one, we soon
left the other two boats behind us.

Presently a small whale rose close beside us, and, sending a shower of
spray over the boat, went down in a pool of foam.  Before we had time
to speak, another whale rose on the opposite side of the boat, and then
another on our starboard bow.  We had got into the middle of a shoal of
whales, which commenced leaping and spouting all round us, little aware
of the dangerous enemy that was so near.

In a few minutes more up comes the big one again that we had first
seen.  He seemed very active and wild.  After blowing on the surface
once or twice, about a quarter of a mile off, he peaked his flukes, and
pitched down head foremost.

"Now then, lads, he's down for a long dive," said the captain; "spring
your oars like men, we'll get that fish for certain, if you'll only

The captain was mistaken; the whale had only gone down deep in order to
come up and breach, or spring out of the water, for the next minute he
came up not a hundred yards from us, and leaped his whole length into
the air.

A shout of surprise broke from the men, and no wonder, for this was the
largest fish I ever saw or heard of, and he came up so clear of the
water that we could see him from head to tail as he turned over in the
air, exposing his white belly to view, and came down on his great side
with a crash like thunder, that might have been heard six miles off.  A
splendid mass of pure white spray burst from the spot where he fell,
and in another moment he was gone.

"I do believe it's _New Zealand Tom_," cried Bill Blunt, referring to
an old bull whale that had become famous among the men who frequented
these seas for its immense size and fierceness, and for the great
trouble it had given them, smashing some of their boats, and carrying
away many of their harpoons.

"I don't know whether it's New Zealand Tom or not," said the captain,
"but it's pretty clear that he's an old sperm bull.  Give way, lads, we
must get that whale whatever it should cost us."

We did not need a second bidding; the size of the fish was so great
that we felt more excited than we had yet been during the voyage, so we
bent our oars till we almost pulled the boat out of the water.  The
other boats had got separated, chasing the little whales, so we had
this one all to ourselves.

"There she blows!" said Tom Lokins, in a low voice, as the fish came up
a short distance astern of us.

We had overshot our mark, so, turning about, we made for the whale,
which kept for a considerable time near the top of the water, spouting
now and then, and going slowly to windward.  We at last got within a
few feet of the monster, and the captain suddenly gave the word, "Stand

This was to our harpooner, Tom Lokins, who jumped up on the instant,
and buried two harpoons deep in the blubber.

"Stern all!" was the next word, and we backed off with all our might.
It was just in time, for, in his agony, the whale tossed his tail right
over our heads, the flukes were so big that they could have completely
covered the boat, and he brought them down flat on the sea with a clap
that made our ears tingle, while a shower of spray drenched us to the
skin.  For one moment I thought it was all over with us, but we were
soon out of immediate danger, and lay on our oars watching the
writhings of the wounded monster as he lashed the ocean into foam.  The
water all round us soon became white like milk, and the foam near the
whale was red with blood.

Suddenly this ceased, and, before we could pull up to lance him, he
went down, taking the line out at such a rate that the boat spun round,
and sparks of fire flew from the loggerhead from the chafing of the

"Hold on!" cried the captain, and next moment we were tearing over the
sea at a fearful rate, with a bank of white foam rolling before us,
high above our bows, and away on each side of us like the track of a
steamer, so that we expected it every moment to rush inboard and swamp
us.  I had never seen anything like this before.  From the first I had
a kind of feeling that some evil would befall us.

While we were tearing over the water in this way, we saw the other
whales coming up every now and then and blowing quite near to us, and
presently we passed close enough to the first mate's boat to see that
he was fast to a fish, and unable, therefore, to render us help if we
should need it.

In a short time the line began to slack, so we hauled it in hand over
hand, and Tom Lokins coiled it away in the tub in the stern of the
boat, while the captain took his place in the bow to be ready with the
lance.  The whale soon came up, and we pulled with all our might
towards him.  Instead of making off again, however, he turned round and
made straight at the boat.  I now thought that destruction was certain,
for, when I saw his great blunt forehead coming down on us like a
steamboat, I felt that we could not escape.  I was mistaken.  The
captain received him on the point of his lance, and the whale has such
a dislike to pain, that even a small prick will sometimes turn him.

For some time we kept dodging round this fellow; but he was so old and
wise, that he always turned his head to us, and prevented us from
getting a chance to lance him.  At last he turned a little to one side,
and the captain plunged the lance deep into his vitals.

"Ha! that's touched his life," cried Tom, as a stream of blood flew up
from his blowholes, a sure sign that he was mortally wounded.  But he
was not yet conquered.  After receiving the cruel stab with the lance,
he pitched right down, head foremost, and once more the line began to
fly out over the bow.  We tried to hold on, but he was going so
straight down that the boat was almost swamped, and we had to slack off
to prevent our being pulled under water.

Before many yards of the line had run out, one of the coils in the tub
became entangled.

"Look out, lads!" cried Tom, and at once throwing the turn off the
logger-head, he made an attempt to clear it.  The captain, in trying to
do the same thing, slipped and fell.  Seeing this, I sprang up, and,
grasping the coil as it flew past, tried to clear it.  Before I could
think, a turn whipped round my left wrist.  I felt a wrench as if my
arm had been torn out of the socket, and in a moment I was overboard,
going down with almost lightning speed into the depths of the sea.
Strange to say, I did not lose my presence of mind.  I knew exactly
what had happened.  I felt myself rushing down, down, down with
terrific speed; a stream of fire seemed to be whizzing past my eyes;
there was a dreadful pressure on my brain, and a roaring as if of
thunder in my ears.  Yet, even in that dread moment, thoughts of
eternity, of my sins, and of meeting with my God, flashed into my mind,
for thought is quicker than the lightning flash.


Of a sudden the roaring ceased, and I felt myself buffeting the water
fiercely in my efforts to reach the surface.  I know not how I got
free, but I suppose the turn of the line must have slackened off
somehow.  All this happened within the space of a few brief moments;
but oh! they seemed fearfully long to me.  I do not think I could have
held my breath a second longer.

When I came to the surface, and tried to look about me, I saw the boat
not more than fifty yards off, and, being a good swimmer, I struck out
for it, although I felt terribly exhausted.  In a few minutes my
comrades saw me, and, with a cheer, put out the oars and began to row
towards me.  I saw that the line was slack, and that they were hauling
it in--a sign that the whale had ceased running and would soon come to
the surface again.  Before they had pulled half-a-dozen strokes I saw
the water open close beside the boat, and the monstrous head of the
whale shot up like a great rock rising out of the deep.

He was not more than three feet from the boat, and he came up with such
force, that more than half his gigantic length came out of the water
right over the boat.  I heard the captain's loud cry--"_Stern all!_"
But it was too late, the whole weight of the monster's body fell upon
the boat; there was a crash and a terrible cry, as the whale and boat
went down together.

For a few moments he continued to lash the sea in his fury, and the
fragments of the boat floated all round him.  I thought that every man,
of course, had been killed; but one after another their heads appeared
in the midst of blood and foam, and they struck out for oars and pieces
of the wreck.

Providentially, the whale, in his tossings, had shot a little away from
the spot, else every man must certainly have been killed.

A feeling of horror filled my heart, as I beheld all this, and thought
upon my position.  Fortunately, I had succeeded in reaching a broken
plank; for my strength was now so much exhausted, that I could not have
kept my head above water any longer without its assistance.  Just then
I heard a cheer, and the next time I rose on the swell, I looked
quickly round and saw the mate's boat making for the scene of action as
fast as a stout and willing crew could pull.  In a few minutes more I
was clutched by the arm and hauled into it.  My comrades were next
rescued, and we thanked God when we found that none were killed,
although one of them had got a leg broken, and another an arm twisted
out of joint.  They all, however, seemed to think that my escape was
much more wonderful than theirs; but I cannot say that I agreed with
them in this.

We now turned our attention to the whale, which had dived again.  As it
was now loose, we did not know, of course, where it would come up: so
we lay still awhile.  Very soon up he came, not far from us, and as
fierce as ever.

"Now, lads, we _must_ get that whale," cried the mate; "give way with a

The order was obeyed.  The boat almost leaped over the swell, and,
before long, another harpoon was in the whale's back.

"Fast again, hurrah!" shouted the mate, "now for the lance."

He gave the monster two deep stabs while he spoke, and it vomited up
great clots of blood, besides spouting the red stream of life as it
rolled on the sea in its agony, obliging us to keep well out of its way.

I could not look upon the dying struggles of this enormous fish without
feelings of regret and self-reproach for helping to destroy it.  I felt
almost as if I were a murderer, and that the Creator would call me to
account for taking part in the destruction of one of His grandest
living creatures.  But the thought passed quickly from my mind as the
whale became more violent and went into its flurry.  It began to lash
the sea with such astonishing violence, that all the previous struggles
seemed as nothing.  The water all round became white like milk, with
great streaks of red blood running through it, and the sound of the
quick blows of its tail and fins resembled that of dull hollow thunder.
We gazed at this scene in deep silence and with beating hearts.

All at once the struggles ceased.  The great carcass rolled over belly
up, and lay extended on the sea in death.  To me it seemed as if a dead
calm had suddenly fallen around us, after a long and furious storm, so
great was the change when that whale at length parted with its huge
life.  The silence was suddenly broken by three hearty cheers, and
then, fastening a rope to our prize, we commenced towing it to the
ship, which operation occupied us the greater part of the night, for we
had no fewer than eight miles to pull.



The whale which we had taken, as I have related in the last chapter,
was our largest fish of that season.  It produced ninety barrels of
oil, and was worth about 500 pounds, so that we did not grieve much
over the loss of our boat.

But our next loss was of a kind that could not be made up for by oil or
money, for it was the loss of a human life.  In the whale-fishery men
must, like soldiers, expect to risk their lives frequently, and they
have too often, alas! to mourn over the loss of a shipmate or friend.
Up to this time our voyage had gone prosperously.  We had caught so
many fish that nearly half our cargo was already completed, and if we
should be as lucky the remainder of the voyage, we should be able to
return home to Old England much sooner than we had expected.

Of course, during all this time we had met with some disappointments,
for I am not describing everything that happened on that voyage.  It
would require a much thicker volume than this to tell the half of our
adventures.  We lost five or six fish by their sinking before we could
get them made fast to the ship, and one or two bolted so fast that they
broke loose and carried away a number of harpoons and many a fathom of
line.  But such misfortunes were what we had to look for.  Every whaler
meets with similar changes of luck, and we did not expect to fare
differently from our neighbours.  These things did not cause us much
regret beyond the time of their occurrence.  But it was far otherwise
with the loss that now befell us.

It happened on a Sunday forenoon.  I was standing close to the
starboard gangway early that morning, looking over the side into the
calm water, for there was not a breath of wind, and talking to the
first mate, who was a gruff, surly man, but a good officer, and kind
enough in his way when everything went smooth with him.  But things
don't go very smooth generally in whaling life, so the mate was oftener
gruff than sweet.

"Bob Ledbury," said he, "have you got your cutting-in gear in order?
I've got a notion that we'll 'raise the oil' this day."

"All right, sir," said I; "you might shave yourself with the
blubber-spades.  That was a good fish we got last, sir, wasn't it?"

"Pretty good, though I've seen bigger."

"He gave us a deal of trouble too," said I.

"Not so much as I've seen others give," said he.  "When I was fishing
in the Greenland Seas we made fast to a whale that cost us I don't know
how many hundred dollars."  (You must know the first mate was a Yankee,
and he reckoned everything in dollars.)

"How was that, sir?" asked I.

"Well, it was something in this fashion.  We were floating about in the
North Atlantic one calm, hot day, just something like this, only it was
the afternoon, not the morning.  We were doing nothing, and whistling
for a breeze, when, all of a sudden, up comes five or six whales all
round the ship, as if they had spied her from the bottom of the sea,
and had come up to have a squint at her.  Of course the boats were
manned at once, and in less than no time we were tearing after them
like all alive.  But them whales were pretty wildish, I guess.  They
kept us pullin' the best part of five hours before we got a chance at
them.  My boat was out of sight of the ship before we made fast to a
regular snorer, a hundred-barreller at the least.  The moment he felt
the iron, away he went like the shot out of a gun; but he didn't keep
it up long, for soon after another of our boats came up and made fast.
Well, for some two or three hours we held fast, but could not haul on
to him to use the lance, for the moment we came close up alongside of
his tail he peaked flukes and dived, then up again, and away as fast as
ever.  It was about noon before we touched him again; but by that time
two more harpoons were made fast, and two other boats cast tow-lines
aboard of us, and were hauled along.  That was four boats, and more
than sixteen hundred fathoms of line, besides four harpoons that was
fast to that whale, and yet, for all that, he went ahead as fast as we
could have rowed, takin' us along with him quite easy.

"A breeze having sprung up, our ship overhauled us in the course of the
afternoon, and towards evening we sent a line on board, to see if that
would stop the big fish, and the topsails were lowered, so as to throw
some of the ship's weight on him, but the irons drew out with the
strain.  However, we determined to try it again.  Another line was sent
aboard about eight o'clock, and the topsails were lowered, but the line
snapped immediately.  Well, we held on to that whale the whole of that
night, and at four o'clock next morning, just thirty-six hours after he
was first struck, two fast lines were taken aboard the ship.  The
breeze was fresh, and against us, so the top-gallant sails were taken
in, the courses hauled up, and the topsails clewed down, yet, I assure
you, that whale towed the ship dead against the wind for an hour and a
half at the rate of two miles an hour, and all the while beating the
water with his fins and tail, so that the sea was in a continual foam.
We did not kill that fish till after forty hours of the hardest work I
ever went through."

Some of my shipmates seemed to doubt the truth of this story; but, for
my part, I believed it, because the mate was a grave, truthful man,
though he was gruff, and never told lies, as far as I knew.  Moreover,
a case of the same kind happened some years afterwards, to a messmate
of mine, while he was serving aboard the _Royal Bounty_, on the 28th of
May, 1817.

I know that some of the stories which I now tell must seem very wild
and unlikely to landsmen; but those who have been to the whale-fishery
will admit that I tell nothing but the truth, and if there are any of
my readers who are still doubtful, I would say, go and read the works
of Captain Scoresby.  It is well known that this whaling captain was a
truly religious man, who gave up the fishing, though it turned him in
plenty of money, and became a minister of the gospel with a small
income, so it is not likely that he would have told what was untrue.
Well, in his works we find stories that are quite as remarkable as the
one I have just told, some of them more so.

For instance, he tells us of one whale, in the Greenland Seas, which
was not killed till it had drawn out ten thousand four hundred and
forty yards, or about _six miles_ of line, fastened to fifteen
harpoons, besides taking one of the boats entirely under water, which
boat was never seen again.

The mate told us two or three more stories, and a lot of us were
gathered round him, listening eagerly, for there is nothing Jack likes
so much as a _good yarn_, when all of a sudden, the man at the
mast-head sang out that a large sperm whale was spouting away two
points off the lee-bow.  Of course we were at our posts in a moment.

"There she blows! there she breaches!" sung the look-out.

"Lower away!" roared the captain.

The boats were in the water, and the men on their seats in a moment.

The whale we were after was a very large one, we could see that, for
after two hours' hard pulling we got near enough to throw a harpoon,
and after it was fixed he jumped clean out of the water.  Then there
was the usual battle.  It was fierce and long; so long that I began to
fear we would have to return empty-handed to the ship.  We put ten
harpoons into him, one after another, and had a stiff run between the
fixing of each.

It is astonishing the difference between the fish.  One will give you
no trouble at all.  I have often seen a good big fellow killed in half
an hour.  Another will take you half a day, and perhaps you may lose
him after all.  The whale we were now after at last took to showing
fight.  He made two or three runs at the boat, but the mate, who was in
command, pricked him off with the lance cleverly.  At last we gave him
a severe wound, and immediately he dived.

"That was into his life," remarked Tom Lokins, as we sat waiting for
him to come up again.  The captain's boat was close to ours, about ten
yards off.  We had not to wait long.  The sudden stoppage and slacking
off of all the lines showed that the whale was coming up.  All at once
I saw a dark object rising directly under the captain's boat.  Before I
could make out what it was, almost before I could think, the boat flew
up into the air, as if a powder magazine had exploded beneath it.  The
whale had come up, and hit it with his head right on the keel, so that
it was knocked into pieces, and the men, oars, harpoons, lances, and
tackle shot up in confusion into the air.

Immediately after that the whale went into his flurry, but we paid no
attention to him, in our anxiety to pick up our companions.  They all
came to the surface quickly enough, but while some made for the boats
vigorously, others swam slowly and with pain, showing that they were
hurt, while one or two floated, as if dead, upon the water.

Most of the men had escaped with only a few cuts and bruises, but one
poor fellow was hauled out of the water with a leg broken, and another
was so badly knocked about the head that it was a long time before he
was again fit for duty.  The worst case, however, was that of poor Fred
Borders.  He had a leg broken, and a severe wound in the side from a
harpoon which had been forced into the flesh over the barbs, so that we
could hardly get it drawn out.  We laid him in the stern of the boat,
where he lay for some time insensible; but in a short time he revived,
and spoke to us in a faint voice.  His first words were:

"I'm dying, messmates.  It is into my life, too."

"Don't say that, Fred," said I, while my heart sank within me.  "Cheer
up, my boy, you'll live to be the death of many a whale yet.  See, put
your lips to this can--it will do you good."

He shook his head gently, being too weak to reply.

We had killed a big fish that day, and we knew that when he was "tried
in" we should have completed our cargo; but there was no cheer given
when the monster turned over on his side, and the pull to the ship that
evening seemed to us the longest and heaviest we ever had, for our
hearts were very sad.

Next day Fred was worse, and we all saw that his words would come
true--he was dying; and before the sun had again set poor Fred had left
us for ever.

We buried our shipmate in the usual sailor fashion.  We wrapped him in
his hammock, with a cannon-ball at his feet to sink him.  The captain
read the burial-service at the gangway, and then, in deep silence, we
committed his corpse to the deep.



Shoregoing people have but little notion of the ease with which the
heart of a jack-tar is made to rejoice when he is out on a long voyage.
His pleasures and amusements are so few that he is thankful to make the
most of whatever is thrown in his way.  In the whale-fisheries, no
doubt, he has more than enough of excitement, but after a time he gets
used to this, and begins to long for a little variety--and of all the
pleasures that fall to his lot, that which delights him most is to have
a GAM with another ship.

Now, a gam is the meeting of two or more whale-ships, their keeping
company for a time, and the exchanging of visits by the crews.  It is
neither more nor less than a jollification on the sea--the inviting of
your friends to feast and make merry in your floating house.  There is
this difference, however, between a gam at sea and a party on land,
that your _friends_ on the ocean are men whom you perhaps never saw
before, and whom you will likely never meet again.  There is also
another difference--there are no ladies at a gam.  This is a great
want, for man is but a rugged creature when away from the refining
influence of woman; but, in the circumstances, of course, it can't be

We had a gam one day, on this voyage, with a Yankee whale-ship, and a
first-rate gam it was, for, as the Yankee had gammed three days before
with another English ship, we got a lot of news second-hand; and, as we
had not seen a new face for many months, we felt towards those Yankees
like brothers, and swallowed all they had to tell us like men starving
for news.

It was on a fine calm morning, just after breakfast, that we fell in
with this ship.  We had seen no whales for a day or two, but we did not
mind that, for our hold was almost full of oil-barrels.  Tom Lokins and
I were leaning over the starboard bulwarks, watching the small fish
that every now and then darted through the clear-blue water like
arrows, and smoking our pipes in silence.  Tom looked uncommonly grave,
and I knew that he was having some deep and knowing thoughts of his own
which would leak out in time.  All at once he took his pipe from his
mouth and stared earnestly at the horizon.

"Bob," said he, speaking very slowly, "if there ain't a ship right off
the starboard beam, I'm a Dutchman."

"You don't mean it!" said I, starting with a feeling of excitement.

Before another word could be uttered, the cry of "Sail ho!" came
ringing down from the mast-head.  Instantly the quiet of the morning
was broken; sleepers sprang up and rubbed their eyes, the men below
rushed wildly up the hatchway, the cook came tearing out of his own
private den, flourishing a soup-ladle in one hand and his tormentors in
the other, the steward came tumbling up with a lump of dough in his
fist that he had forgot to throw down in his haste, and the captain
bolted up from the cabin without his hat.

"Where away?" cried he, with more than his usual energy.

"Right off the starboard beam, sir."

"Square the yards!  Look alive, my hearties," was the next order; for
although the calm sea was like a sheet of glass, a light air, just
sufficient to fill our top-gallant sails, enabled us to creep through
the water.

"Hurrah!" shouted the men as we sprang to obey.

"What does she look like?" roared the captain.

"A big ship, sir, I think," replied the lookout: "but I can only just
make out the top of her main t-gallan' s'l."--(Sailors scorn to speak
of _top-gallant sails_.)

Gradually, one by one, the white sails of the stranger rose up like
cloudlets out of the sea, and our hearts beat high with hope and
expectation as we beheld the towering canvas of a full-rigged ship rise
slowly into view.

"Show our colours," said the captain.

In a moment the Union Jack of Old England was waving at the mast-head
in the gentle breeze, and we watched anxiously for a reply.  The
stranger was polite; his colours flew up a moment after, and displayed
the Stripes and Stars of America.

"A Yankee!" exclaimed some of the men in a tone of slight

I may remark, that our disappointment arose simply from the fact that
there was no chance, as we supposed, of getting news from "home" out of
a ship that must have sailed last from America.  For the rest, we cared
not whether they were Yankees or Britons--they were men who could speak
the English tongue, that was enough for us.

"Never mind, boys," cried one, "we'll have a jolly gam; that's a fact."

"So we will," said another, "and I'll get news of my mad Irish cousin,
Terrence O'Flannagan, who went out to seek his fortin in Ameriky with
two shillin's and a broken knife in his pocket, and it's been said he's
got into a government situation o' some sort connected with the
jails--whether as captain or leftenant o' police, or turnkey, I'm not
rightly sure."

"More likely as a life-tenant of one of the cells," observed Bill
Blunt, laughing.

"Don't speak ill of a better man than yerself behind his back,"
retorted the owner of the Irish cousin.

"Stand by to lower the jolly-boat," cried the captain.

"Aye, aye, sir."

"Lower away!"

In a few minutes we were leaping over the calm sea in the direction of
the strange ship, for the breeze had died down, and we were too eager
to meet with new faces, and to hear the sound of new voices, to wait
for the wind.

To our joy we found that the Yankee had had a gam (as I have already
said) with an English ship a few days before, so we returned to our
vessel loaded with old newspapers from England, having invited the
captain and crew of the Yankee to come aboard of us and spend the day.

While preparation was being made for the reception of our friends, we
got hold of two of the old newspapers, and Tom Lokins seized one, while
Bill Blunt got the other, and both men sat down on the windlass to
retail the news to a crowd of eager men who tried hard to listen to
both at once, and so could make nothing out of either.

"Hold hard, Tom Lokins," cried one.  "What's that you say about the
Emperor, Bill?"

"The Emperor of Roosia," said Bill Blunt, reading slowly, and with
difficulty, "is--stop a bit, messmates, wot can this word be?--the
Emperor of Roosia is----"

"Blowed up with gunpowder, and shattered to a thousand pieces," said
Tom Lokins, raising his voice with excitement, as he read from _his_
paper an account of the blowing up of a mountain fortress in India.

"Oh! come, I say, one at a time, if you please," cried a harpooner; "a
feller can't git a word of sense out of sich a jumble."

"Come, messmates," cried two or three voices, as Tom stopped suddenly,
and looked hard at the paper, "go ahead! wot have ye got there that
makes ye look as wise as an owl?  Has war been and broke out with the

"I do believe he's readin' the births, marriages, and deaths," said one
of the men, peeping over Tom's shoulder.

"Read 'em out, then, can't ye?" cried another.

"I say, Bill Blunt, I think this consarns _you_," cried Tom: "isn't
your sweetheart's name Susan Croft?"

"That's a fact," said Bill, looking up from his paper, "and who has got
a word to say agin the prettiest lass in all Liverpool?"

"Nobody's got a word to say against her," replied Tom; "but she's
married, that's all."

Bill Blunt leaped up as if he had been shot, and the blood rushed to
his face, as he seized the paper, and tried to find the place.

"Where is it, Tom? let me see it with my own two eyes.  Oh, here it is!"

The poor man's face grew paler and paler as he read the following

"Married at Liverpool, on the 5th inst., by the Rev. Charles Manson,
Edward Gordon, Esq., to Susan, youngest daughter of Admiral Croft----"

A perfect roar of laughter drowned the remainder of the sentence.

"Well done, Bill Blunt--Mister Blunt, we'll have to call him
hereafter," said Tom, with a grim smile; "I had no notion you thought
so much o' yourself as to aim at an admiral's daughter."

"All right, my hearties, chaff away!" said Bill, fetching a deep sigh
of relief, while a broad grin played on his weather-beaten visage.
"There's _two_ Susan Crofts, that's all; but I wouldn't give _my_ Susan
for all the admirals' daughters that ever walked in shoe-leather."

"Hallo! here come the Yankees," cried the captain, coming on deck at
that moment.

Our newspapers were thrown down at once, and we prepared to receive our
guests, who, we could see, had just put off from their ship in two
boats.  But before they had come within a mile of us, their attention,
as well as ours, was riveted on a most extraordinary sight.

Not more than a hundred yards ahead of our ship, a whale came suddenly
to the surface of the water, seeming, by its wild motions, to be in a
state of terror.  It continued for some time to struggle, and lash the
whole sea around it into a white foam.

At once the boats were lowered from both ships, and we went after this
fish, but his motions were so violent, that we found it utterly
impossible to get near enough to throw a harpoon.  When we had
approached somewhat closely, we discovered that it had been attacked by
a killer fish, which was fully twenty feet long, and stuck to it like a
leech.  The monster's struggles were made in trying to shake itself
free of this tremendous enemy, but it could not accomplish this.  The
killer held him by the under jaw, and hung on there, while the whale
threw himself out of the water in his agony, with his great mouth open
like a huge cavern, and the blood flowing so fast from the wound that
the sea was dyed for a long distance round.  This killer fought like a
bulldog.  It held on until the whale was exhausted, but they passed
away from us in such a confused struggle, that a harpoon could not be
fixed for an hour after we first saw them.  On this being done, the
killer let go, and the whale, being already half dead, was soon killed.

The Yankee boats were the first to come up with this fish, so the prize
belonged to them.  We were well pleased at this, as we could afford to
let them have it, seeing that we could scarcely have found room to stow
away the oil in our hold.  It was the Yankee's first fish, too, so they
were in great spirits about it, and towed it to their ship, singing
"Yankee-doodle" with all their might.

As they passed our boat the captain hailed them.

"I wish you joy of your first fish, sir," said he to the Yankee captain.

"Thank you, stranger.  I guess we're in luck, though it ain't a big
one.  I say, what sort o' brute was that that had hold of him?  Never
seed sich a crittur in all my life."

"He's a killer," said our captain.

"A killer!  Guess he just is, and no mistake: if we hadn't helped him,
he'd have done the job for himself!  What does he kill him for?"

"To eat him, but I'm told he only eats the tongue.  You'll not forget
that you've promised to gam with us to-night," cried our captain, as
they were about to commence pulling again.

"All right, stranger, one half will come to-night, before sundown;
t'other half to-morrow, if the calm holds.  Good day.  Give way, lads."

The men dipped their oars, and resumed their song, while we pulled back
to our ship.  We did not offer to help them, because the fish was a
small one, and the distance they had to go not great.

It was near sunset when, according to promise, the Yankees came on
board, and spent a long evening with us.  They were a free,
open-hearted, boastful, conceited, good-humoured set of fellows, and a
jolly night we had of it in the forecastle, while the mates and
captains were enjoying themselves and spinning their yarns in the cabin.

Of course, we began with demands for home-news, and, when we had pumped
out of them every drop they had, we began to songs and spinning yarns.
And it was now that my friend Tom Lokins came out strong, and went on
at such a rate, that he quite won the hearts of our guests.  Tom was
not noisy, and he was slow in his talk, but he had the knack of telling
a good story; he never used a wrong word, or a word too many, and,
having a great deal of humour, men could not help listening when he
began to talk.

After this we had a dance, and here I became useful, being able to play
Scotch reels and Irish jigs on the fiddle.  Then we had songs and yarns
again.  Some could tell of furious fights with whales that made our
blood boil; others could talk of the green fields at home, until we
almost fancied we were boys again; and some could not tell stories at
all.  They had little to say, and that little they said ill; and I
noticed that many of those who were perfect bores would cry loudest to
be heard, though none of us wanted to hear them.  We used to quench
such fellows by calling loudly for a song with a rousing chorus.

It was not till the night was far spent, and the silver moon was
sailing through the starry sky, that the Yankees left us, and rowed
away with a parting cheer.



Six months after our "gam" with the Yankees Tom Lokins and I found
ourselves seated once more in the little garret beside my dear old

"Deary me, Robert, how changed ye are!"

"Changed, Mother!  I should think so!  If you'd gone through all that
I've done and seen since we last sat together in this room, you'd be
changed too."

"And have ye really seen the whales, my boy?" continued my mother,
stroking my face with her old hand.

"Seen them? aye, and killed them too--many of them."

"You've been in danger, my son," said my mother earnestly, "but the
Lord has preserved you safe through it all."

"Aye, Mother, He has preserved my life in the midst of many dangers,"
said I, "for which I am most thankful."

There was a short silence after this, during which my mother and I
gazed earnestly at each other, and Tom Lokins smoked his pipe and
stared at the fire.

"Robert, how big is a whale?" enquired my mother suddenly.

"How big? why, it's as big as a small ship, only it's longer, and not
quite so fat."

"Robert," replied my mother gravely, "ye didn't use to tell untruths;
ye must be jokin'."

"Joking, Mother, I was never more in earnest in my life.  Why, I tell
you that I've seen, aye, and helped to cut up, whales that were more
than sixty feet long, with heads so big that their mouths could have
taken in a boat.  Why, Mother, I declare to you that you could put this
room into a whale's mouth, and you and Tom and I could sit round this
table and take our tea upon his tongue quite comfortable.  Isn't that
true, Tom?"

My mother looked at Tom, who removed his pipe, puffed a cloud of smoke,
and nodded his head twice very decidedly.

"Moreover," said I, "a whale is so big and strong, that it can knock a
boat right up into the air, and break in the sides of a ship.  One day
a whale fell right on top of one of our boats and smashed it all to
bits.  Now that's a real truth!"

Again my mother looked at Tom Lokins, and again that worthy man puffed
an immense cloud of smoke, and nodded his head more decidedly than
before.  Being anxious to put to flight all her doubts at once, he said
solemnly, "Old ooman, that's a fact!"

"Robert," said my mother, "tell me something about the whales."

Just as she said this the door opened, and in came the good old
gentleman with the nose like his cane-knob, and with as kind a heart as
ever beat in a human breast.  My mother had already told me that he
came to see her regularly once a week, ever since I went to sea, except
in summer, when he was away in the country, and that he had never
allowed her to want for anything.

I need scarcely say that there was a hearty meeting between us three,
and that we had much to say to each other.  But in the midst of it all
my mother turned to the old gentleman and said:

"Robert was just going to tell me something about his adventures with
the whales."

"That's capital!" cried the old gentleman, rubbing his hands.  "Come,
Bob, my boy, let's hear about 'em."

Being thus invited, I consented to spin them a yarn.  The old gentleman
settled himself in his chair, my mother smoothed her apron, folded her
hands, and looked meekly into my face.  Tom Lokins filled his pipe,
stretched out his foot to poke the fire with the toe of his shoe, and
began to smoke like a steam-engine; then I cleared my throat and began
my tale, and before I had done talking that night, I had told them all
that I have told in this little book to you, good reader, almost word
for word.

Thus ended my first voyage to the South Seas.  Many and many a trip
have I made since then, and many a wonderful sight have I seen, both in
the south and in the north.  But if I were to write an account of all
my adventures, my little book would grow into a big one; I must
therefore come to a close.

The profits of this voyage were so great, that I was enabled to place
my mother in a position of comfort for the rest of her life, which,
alas! was very short.  She died about six months after my return.  I
nursed her to the end, and closed her eyes.  The last word she uttered
was her Saviour's name.  She died, as she had lived, trusting in the
Lord; and when I laid her dear head in the grave my heart seemed to die
within me.

I'm getting to be an old man now, but, through the blessing of God, I
am comfortable and happy.  As I have more than enough of this world's
goods, and no family to care for, my chief occupation is to look after
the poor, and particularly the old women who live in my neighbourhood.
After the work of the day is done, I generally go and spend the evening
with Tom Lokins, who lives near by, and is stout and hearty still; or
he comes and spends it with me, and, while we smoke our pipes together,
we often fall to talking about those stirring days when, in the
strength and hope of youth, we sailed together to the South Seas, and
took to--_Fighting the Whales_.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fighting the Whales" ***

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