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Title: She Blows! And Sparm at That!
Author: Hopkins, William John
Language: English
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 She Blows! And Sparm at That!
 by William John Hopkins



[Illustration: LANCING A WHALE]



 SHE BLOWS!
 AND SPARM AT THAT!

 BY
 WILLIAM JOHN HOPKINS
 _Author of “The Clammer,” “Old Harbor,” “Burbury Stoke,” etc._

 WITH ILLUSTRATIONS FROM PAINTINGS BY
 CLIFFORD W. ASHLEY

 [Illustration]

 BOSTON AND NEW YORK
 HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
 The Riverside Press Cambridge



 COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY WILLIAM J. HOPKINS
 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


 SECOND IMPRESSION, MARCH, 1922


 The Riverside Press
 CAMBRIDGE · MASSACHUSETTS
 PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.



NOTE


I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to Mr. Clifford W. Ashley for
his kindness in reading the proof of this book and in making various
corrections and suggestions.

W. J. H.



ILLUSTRATIONS


LANCING A WHALE • _Frontispiece_

FITTING OUT • 12

CUTTING-IN • 74

BAILING CASE • 88

HARPOONING PORPOISE • 122

LOWERING BOATS • 194

THE MATE • 280

A NANTUCKET SLEIGH-RIDE • 310



{1}

SHE BLOWS!



CHAPTER I


I am nearing the evening of life. Many people think of me, I know,
as a man who has attained to as much as one can reasonably hope for
in this life—if they think of me at all. It is not so much, after
all. The things I have aimed for and missed seem, at times, much more
important than those I have had. But I put this thought by. Youth
expects a good deal; and when one is young—and for a long time after;
indeed, until a man is old—he finds hope at the bottom of the cup,
enough of it to drown the taste of the bitter draught he has taken. I
have evolved the theory that a man is old only when, the cup drained,
there is no hope left in it. Thank God, I have not yet reached that
point.

But I am inclined to reminiscence, and it scares me somewhat, for
proneness to reminiscence is a symptom of age. I know that well,
and garrulity is its sister. I am going to give my inclination to
reminiscence play in writing of an experience of my youth. It may
help to prevent me from boring my friends, and if you find this
narrative becoming tedious, nothing is easier than to put the book
down.

I was born in New Bedford, on Mill Street, in 1857. My father was
Timothy Taycox, a ship carpenter, and a good one; a great whacking
man, with a pleasant face and the neck of a bull. My mother was—well,
{2} she was my mother. I remember her always as kind and loving,
and, indeed, so was my father; but my mother—well, I cannot seem to
get beyond that—she was my mother. I must have tried her greatly and
often, but she never failed me, and I worshipped her, so far as it
is in a boy who is healthy and strong and a roamer by nature. I had
two brothers, one older and one younger than myself. I might make a
history of my relations with my brothers, especially the older, who
used to pick upon me shamefully as long as I was unable to hold my
own, but that is none of my purpose.

My first school was on North Street. My recollections of that school
are vivid, and interesting—to me; but I suppose the school was not
unlike other schools of its size and character. It was a small
school, with about twenty-five scholars. The afternoon session was
over at four o’clock, and then I set my face to the wharves, as
the needle to the pole, except in the shortest days of winter. It
was often warm for long periods during the winter. Two or three of
us, kindred spirits, went together, sometimes running all the way,
sometimes merely wandering, but always bringing up at about the same
place. That was generally at the foot of Hamilton Street. Hamilton
Street is a little street not much more than a hundred feet long,
offset from the foot of William Street. It leads down very steeply
from Water Street to a wharf, and its very name brings up before
my mind a picture of a pair of heavy horses breasting the hill
vigorously, dragging a low truck loaded with barrels of oil, and
stirring up with their feet the powdery black dust of the street.

These low trucks were very generally used in New Bedford. The body
was hung below the axles, and cleared the ground by perhaps eight
inches. They had no sides, and the barrels of oil were rolled up on
them and stood on end, and with the continual shaking and rattling
about they wore deep grooves into the flooring of the truck. It was
a new truck which was not grooved in rings fore and aft of the great
beam which served for an axle. {3}

The basements of the buildings on that steep hill were shipping
offices, or the offices of oil merchants, or the agents of ships.
Indeed, you could hardly go into an office from Water Street to the
water-front without seeing sea-chests stacked along the walls, with
the name of some ship painted on the front of each chest. Not all of
the offices of owners or agents of whalers were within this area, but
they were not far from it. Wing’s outfitting store, where I suppose
all the business connected with their ships was done, was on Union
Street, about a block above Water.

At that time and for some years after there was no railroad along
the water-front, and nothing to impede the long line of trucks and
small boys wending to and fro. About where the railroad is now there
was usually a row of oil barrels on their sides, looking fresh and
black and greasy. Gaugers were apt to be busy about them. And just
beyond, on the throat of the wharf, were two structures like pens,
enclosures fenced in with old ships’ sheathing which showed plainly
the nail holes, the white efflorescence and the greenish stain which
proclaimed the fact that they had sailed thousands of miles of salt
ocean with the copper next them. These pens were on either side of
the entrance to the wharf, and between them was a lane, deep in
powdery black dust, and just about wide enough for a truck. Over the
tops of the fences of sheathing could be seen seaweed bleached white
with age, and flourishing green land weeds, nodding and waving in the
wind. Under the seaweed, I was told, were barrels of oil which their
owner had packed away there some years before. He was waiting for a
rise in price. The barrels may be there yet, but if they are they
must be nearly empty. The oil will have leaked out.

I describe these things, naturally enough, as the picture of them
forms in my mind; and that is as they appeared in the summer. For I
just about lived along the {4} wharves and on the water during the
summers. I remember very clearly the five old hulks which lay in the
dock at the foot of Union Street. One of them was the bark Phenix. I
cannot now recall the names of the others. All of them were stripped
of everything down to their masts. Not a yard nor a topmast was
left, nor anything removable without breaking them up. As I recall
their condition, even the copper was gone from their sides, as far
as I could see. They looked battered but mighty, and they filled me
with sadness. I never ventured on board of them, but I examined them
minutely and repeatedly from the wharves on either side, and I knew
every patch and stain. I have sat by the hour atop of a pile to which
hawsers were made fast, and I have sailed in imagination through
storm and through sunny seas in those old ships, and have had all
kinds of hair-raising adventures.

It was a rare occasion when any one of the wharves—at any rate the
three or four wharves from Union Street north—had no ships lying
beside it. There were usually two or three beside each wharf,
and sometimes more; discharging or fitting or being repaired. My
father was always at work upon some ship, on a staging in the
dock alongside. I never tired of watching him at work, and would
sit for hours on the stringpiece just above him or on the wharf
opposite, while he removed from the side or the bottom of the vessel
“hove-down” ribs which had begun to rot, and put others in their
places; or renewed the planking on the bottom.

“Heaving down” for repairs was a common occurrence. A tackle was
fastened to the mast and to a special heaving-pile on the wharf.
There were several of these heaving-piles on each wharf, each firmly
anchored by great masses of rock. I have seen scores of ships hauled
down. The sails were always unbent—stripped—from the yards almost
the first thing after a ship came in, but the yards were often in
place on a vessel when she was {5} hove down. They were braced
well around, of course, or she could not have been hove over very
far before her main yard would touch the wharf. Then they heaved on
the tackle, and the vessel was heaved over upon her bilge, exposing
the bottom on one side. I have often seen a vessel’s keel entirely
exposed in this way. The exposed side of the bottom was as easily got
at in this position as if she had been in dry dock; perhaps rather
more easily. The carpenters worked from float stages alongside, and
the ship was let up little by little as they worked up from the keel.
First the copper was ripped off, then the sheathing, and then the
planking, and then the ribs taken out, if any of them needed to be
replaced. I have seen the bare bones of many a ship exposed in this
way, and it would be possible to rebuild a ship completely, first one
side and then the other, without taking her out of the water. I have
no doubt that it has been done.

As long as I was pretty small I was fairly well contented to sit on
the stringpiece, with the sun on my back, and watch my father; or
to sit on one of the low, smooth, round-butted mooring-piles—always
called “spiles” in New Bedford—and gaze out over the harbor. It was
a beautiful harbor. It is a beautiful harbor now; but there seems
to me to be something lacking, and less of that atmosphere of peace
and serenity which I loved. Although there are still a few of the
old square-riggers left there are many days and weeks together when
not one of them is at the wharves, and I have not seen a vessel hove
down in many years. It is no longer to be expected that, as one turns
into Hamilton Street, there will appear the once familiar tracery
of masts and yards hanging like a net before his eyes; not a forest
of masts, perhaps, but enough of them to warm his heart. Some of
the yards had sails hanging from them and flapping gently in the
breeze, and on some the sails were neatly furled, but most of them
were bare. A jobbing wagon {6} would be driven upon the wharf in a
whirl of the black dust, and would discharge its load of sailors,
many of them natives of one of the Western Islands, or of Brava, some
very black, as I recall them, with great hoops of thin gold in their
ears; and their dunnage, some of it in sea-chests, but much done up
in shapeless bundles in a gay colored cloth or in a sheet. They were
fine, upstanding men, talking and laughing among themselves, and the
familiar way in which they handled the lances and harpoons and the
other boat-gear excited my envy. They had come from the home of such
gentry in South Water Street, a part of the town known as Fayal.
Fayal—the South Water Street Fayal—had an unsavory reputation.

These men and the white sailors who came with them were bound for
the vessel with sails on her yards, for she was about ready to set
out on a voyage of two or three or four years. In those days voyages
averaged between three and four years in length. There was always
great confusion, as it seemed to me: piles of boxes and barrels and
casks, a mate or two shouting orders, sweating men getting the things
aboard, some lengths of chain cable, coils of new rope which creaked
as they were handled, and innumerable odds and ends. I watched and
wondered until, at last, the tug came alongside, lines were cast
off, and the vessel was taken out into the stream to anchor there
overnight. The crew were kept busy there, stowing things, but even
then there was apt to be a great litter on the decks when she was
finally taken in tow by the tug. The tug cast her off somewhere below
Sow and Pigs—somewhere between Sow and Pigs and Block Island—and,
with a farewell blast of her whistle, turned about and came home
again. But I did not witness that ceremony until I was fifteen.

When the ship had hauled out into the stream I would sit on my
favorite pile and gaze out at her and at the harbor. She usually
anchored in the channel near Palmer’s {7} Island, almost in line
with Fort Phœnix on the Fairhaven side. I sat on my pile and gazed
at her, looking trim and seaworthy—as she was in fact—and envied
the black boys with the thin gold hoops in their ears, and dreamed
dreams, as I suppose all boys do, even the most matter-of-fact
of them. Those dreams of mine were to come true. Instead of the
whitewashed walls of Fort Phœnix and the whitewashed lighthouse on
Palmer’s Island, I saw a heaving ocean under a sunny sky, and off
upon the surface of that ocean I saw feathery clouds of vapor slowly
rise, like the drooping white ostrich plume on Ann McKim’s hat; and
the feathery shafts of vapor drifted off and vanished, and from the
masthead floated down to me the melodious cry, “Bl-o-ows!” And I
roused with a start, and there was nothing before my eyes but the low
whitewashed brick wall of Fort Phœnix and the whitewashed lighthouse
on Palmer’s Island, and the smiling surface of the harbor, and the
ship waiting there.

I used to row about a good deal, when I had money enough to hire a
boat—good boats were ten cents an hour—or when I thought I could
depend upon the good nature of Al Soule, who had boats to let. I
could not swim a stroke. It is not unusual for men who have much to
do with the water to neglect to learn to swim. For a sailor, what
use is it?—they ask. He is apt to be weighed down with sea boots
and heavy clothes, and the weather is usually such when a man falls
overboard that it is impossible to pick him up anyway. Mind you,
these are not my own ideas I am giving. A whaleman needs to know how
to swim, if he would save his life, and not depend too nearly upon
others. It is a good thing for a boy to know, even if he is not going
whaling. I would have a boy learn as soon as he can walk—or a girl
either. It is the source of a great deal of pleasure.

It happened that the father of my best friend had a boat, a
thirty-five-foot sloop. Naturally enough I was {8} asked to go
sailing in it whenever Jimmy went. Jimmy Appleby was the boy’s name.
The sloop was rather old-fashioned, even for those days, and our
going out in her was not all play. John Appleby found us of some
help even when we were only ten, and we learned quickly to help in
hoisting sail, and to tend sheets, and to reef, and to steer, and to
do the other little odd jobs in connection with sailing a boat. I
have gone out on the footropes of the bowsprit many a time when I was
not turned twelve, and it had come on to blow, and she was plunging
into a head sea—she pitched fearfully, with her shallow body, and a
head sea just about stopped her—and I have been trying to stow the
jib—not to furl it, just to tie it down any way—and holding on for my
life, and have been plunged to my neck in one sea after another as
she dived into them. That sloop was the champion high diver. I do not
think that that experience ever imbued me with the desire to learn to
swim. I was concerned only with holding on and getting my job done as
soon as possible.

I have no clear recollection of my usual standing at school, except
that I have the impression that I was apt to be in hot water from one
cause or another. I must have done reasonably well in my studies, for
I graduated from the Grammar School before my fifteenth birthday, but
my active interests were not there. The memories that surge up and
clamor to be let loose are those of the water-front, the wharves, the
ships, the harbor, and the bay.

{9}



CHAPTER II


One morning toward the end of June in the year 1872 I was on the
wharf at the foot of Hamilton Street, where I was most apt to be. My
father and a gang of ship carpenters were busy at the bottom of a
ship that was hove down there, and they were working on float stages
along her side. I have forgotten the name of the ship. It was yet
early, for in those days carpenters went to work at seven and stopped
at six or thereabouts, and no man that I ever knew of the old class
of artisans would leave his hammer in the air, but he would work a
few minutes more, if that was necessary to finish what he was at, and
they were a contented, happy lot—superior men, as a rule.

The merry sound of the mauls was not merry to my ears, for I was
restless and discontented, I remember, although there was nothing
that should have made me so. But I was just through school, and
although my father and my mother had said nothing about my getting
to work, and my father had done nothing about it—fathers were apt to
do something about it in those days, getting their sons apprenticed
to whatever trade seemed good to them, without much regard to the
preference of the sons—although my father had done nothing about
it, I say, I knew that I was expected to get to work with no more
delay than was reasonable. Both my father and my mother were wise
people, and they wanted me to have time and opportunity to look about
me and decide for myself what I preferred to do, for my decision
would involve my whole life, very probably, and greatly affect my
happiness. When I had decided, I knew that I could depend upon my
father to help me to the best of his ability; and that would be
considerable, for my father {10} was a man of some influence in his
way, and especially in his trade. He had already helped my older
brother Tom, who had chosen my father’s trade, a choice which greatly
pleased my father at the time. Tom was at his ship carpentering then
on one of the stages with the men, and he had served three years of
his apprenticeship. My younger brother, Joshua, was already planning
to go into the same trade, but my father was rather lukewarm about
it. He did not say why, but I can guess now that he was beginning to
see that it was a trade that was doomed to extinction.

Joshua had two years more at school, and before the two years were
up he had changed his mind. He became a machinist, and went into
structural steel work, and then into building steel ships. In 1917
both of my brothers were busy: Tom, at sixty-three, turning out
wooden ships at Bath as fast as he could get the timber and men to
put them together, and Joshua, at fifty-seven, turning out steel
ships with a tremendous clatter in a sort of gigantic boiler-works.
I could not stand Josh’s shipyard, while I enjoyed being in Tom’s.
I enjoyed it better than Tom enjoyed having me there, for they were
very busy, but the men were all old men and they could not be driven
beyond a certain pace; but they came to the yard at four o’clock of a
summer morning.

On that morning in June, 1872, I was making my choice, although I was
not aware of it, but knew only that I felt discontented and uneasy
and rather wanted to fight somebody. If Jimmy Appleby had been there
I should probably have fought him—we fought often, without rancor,
and without a decision—and the whole course of my life would have
been changed. But Jimmy’s father had put him to work, and he was not
there, and there was nothing for me to do but to wander about the
wharf, watching the men swinging their mauls; and I could not see
much of that, except at the bow and the stern, for the {11} vessel
was hove down over the wharf, and her hull hid them. From the other
side of the dock I should have had a fine view, but I saw it so often
that I did not care much for it, and I suppose I did not think of it,
being taken up with my restless state of mind, which impelled me to
and fro. It sent me to the end of the wharf, where I stood upon the
stringpiece and looked down into the water just below. It was of an
unhealthy, greenish cast, not like the green of the sea. It looked
filthy, but I saw an immense school of little fish nosing around the
piles of the wharf.

A whaler was at one of the Fairhaven wharves, and a number of other
boats were scattered along the water-front, most of them small. I
was about to look farther down toward the ferry slip and railroad
station, but there lay a whaler in the stream, all ready to start;
probably waiting for some of her crew, or for her captain to get his
papers at the Custom House. I knew the vessel. It was the Clearchus.
She had been fitting for some time, at the wharf next above the one
I was on, and I had watched the caulkers, the carpenters and the
riggers busy at her, each in their turn. The desire must have been
conceived and born and got well grown without my being aware of it
until that minute, but I knew it then. I looked at her lying there
on the water that was ruffled under a southwest breeze, some great
pennant flying at her masthead—I suppose it had her name on it, or
the name of her owners, for I know it was white with a blue border
and some blue letters in the centre—and there was not wind enough
to keep it out straight enough for me to read the letters, but it
would roll up and fall nearly straight down, and then unroll lazily
and whip out to its length for just an instant, and drop and roll
up again before I could make out a single one. She must have been
waiting for her crew, for I saw only two men aboard of her, and
they were doing nothing, but leaned upon the rail, which was at the
height of their shoulders. {12}

I had among my most treasured possessions two little books, in
paper-covered boards, “The Eventful History of the Mutiny of the
Bounty” and “Lives and Voyages of Early Navigators, with a History
of the Bucaniers.” They could not be called new books even then,
in 1872, for they were published by the Harpers in 1832 and 1833.
They are beside me at this moment, the paper-covered boards torn and
stained, and the pages dirty and much thumbed. Some of that thumbing
had already been done, for I had found the tales of adventure in the
books absorbingly interesting. No doubt I was thinking, as I gazed
at the Clearchus over the smiling waters of the harbor, of that huge
black savage of the Patagones who came capering and singing down to
the shore to greet Magellan, his face painted red and yellow; or of
Otaheite and its middle-aged queen—if that is what she was—a chiefess
separated from her husband, and languishing for Wallis. Although
of course I knew better, I always thought of those coasts and seas
as they were in the times of Magellan and Wallis. I had an intense
desire to visit them. But I have no clear recollection of what I was
thinking of. I must have given a thought to Jimmy Appleby. I know
that I stayed there, wandering impatiently to and fro, or standing at
the stringpiece watching the Clearchus, waiting for twelve o’clock
and praying that her captain might have trouble in filling his crew
at the last minute.

[Illustration: FITTING OUT]

The Vineyard boat went curving out in a wide sweep, another came in;
a tugboat pursued its leisurely way across the harbor, and I held my
breath in fear lest it should be bound for the Clearchus—with her
crew of two; a lightship began to warp into the next dock above,
preparatory to heaving down for repairs; the Custom House boat
started out with an inspector to meet a ship that had been sighted
down the bay; two catboats started from Al Soule’s for the same
purpose; riggers and {13} stevedores were busy on a whaleship in
the dock next below, getting her spars up and bending on sails; the
leisurely activities of New Bedford Harbor of nearly fifty years ago
went on; the sun was warm and the wind light, and the smell of tar
and sperm oil was heavy on the air, but in the lee of the hill the
oil smell overpowered everything else. I liked that sickish smell
of crude sperm oil. I like it yet. With that smell in my nostrils
I have but to close my eyes and I see the warm, sunny harbor, some
whaler lying in the stream ready to sail, the fluorescent green of
the water in the dock—its peculiar color due to a mixture of oil and
sewage—some other whaler lying at the wharf with her sails hanging
limp from her yards, perhaps a vessel hove down at the other side of
the wharf, and I heard the sound of mallets and the laughter and the
talk of men on the still air.

Fifty years ago I was actually hearing these things, waiting
impatiently for twelve o’clock. But I waited, for I wanted to speak
to my father alone. At last I heard the bell in the Stone Church
tower sound noon, but the sound of the mauls did not stop at once,
but one after another; then a few strokes of a single beetle, and I
heard it laid down. The men had already begun to come up. My father
was the last, and I watched him with some pride, a big, brawny,
smiling man. I wished I were big and brawny and smiling, like him.
And he saw me standing there, and smiled more than ever, a personal
smile and tender in a way.

He put his hand on my shoulder. “Well, Timmie,” he said. “You here
yet? I thought you would have gone home long ago. Dinner ’ll be
waiting. What is it, boy? Walk along with me and tell me. I can see
it ’s something bothering you.”

My brother Tom had started walking with us, but we were too slow for
him, and he had run ahead. It was Big Tim and Little Tim. My father
was always known as Big Tim. {14}

I did not know how to begin, so I said nothing, but I struggled.

My father saw the struggle. He smiled again. “Out with it, Timmie,”
he said.

I raised my eyes slowly, and I am afraid that tears were in them.

“I want to go whaling, father,” I blurted out.

His smile faded swiftly. “Do you?” he said. “Do you? I hoped it
would n’t be that. It begins to look—or it has been looking for some
time as if the whaling business would die out. It won’t be a good
business for some time, if it does n’t go from bad to worse. Have you
thought of that, Timmie?”

I shook my head. “I want to go whaling,” I said again.

He laughed, and then he sighed. “It ’s a bad business for your
mother and me,” he said, “to have our boy starting out on a voyage
at fifteen for three or four years. But if you will you will, and
I ’d better see about getting you a berth.” He turned and looked at
the ship in the dock below. “There ’s a vessel the riggers should
be through with soon. She should sail in a couple o’ weeks or
thereabouts. I might get you in there. What do you say, Timmie?”

“Where is she going, father?”

“Well,” he answered slowly, “it ’s always hard to tell where
a whaler ’s going. Wherever whales promise. But we braced and
strengthened her for Ar’tic work. She ’s a good vessel now, Timmie,
and thoroughly braced. I think likely she ’ll round the Horn, and
make the Ar’tic next season. If she has luck in the South Seas she
may hang over there another winter, and not try the Ar’tic until the
next year. But the Ar’tic ’s where she ’s going sooner or later.”

“I don’t want to go to the Ar’tic, father. Where ’s the Clearchus
going?”

My father looked around in surprise. {15}

“The Clearchus!” he exclaimed. “Why she ’s in the stream. Her
crew ’ll be aboard in an hour or two. Cap’n Nelson expects to sail
to-day.”

“But where ’s she _going_?”

“Going sperm whaling, Hatteras, South Atlantic, Indian Ocean,
probably, and South Seas. I don’t know, and I don’t suppose Cap’n
Nelson knows. She is n’t going to the Ar’tic, that ’s sure.”

“If her crew is n’t aboard pretty soon,” I objected, “she can’t sail
to-day.”

“Well, no,” my father said, “probably won’t. Could of course, if he
wanted to, but ’t is n’t likely. Might go below and anchor, but what
are you up to, Timmie? Going on the Clearchus?” And my father smiled
as he asked the question, as though it were absurd.

“I ’d like to, father,” I said. “I want to go on a ship that ’s going
sperm whaling in the warm oceans; to the South Seas. I—I ’ve always
wanted to see the South Seas.”

My father smiled again. “ ‘Always’ is a long word, Timmie. How long
does it stand for? And as for seeing an ocean—why, one ocean ’s much
like another—except the Ar’tic. You might think you were out on the
bay with Jimmie. And a couple of hours’ notice is n’t much for your
mother and me, is it, now?—going off for three or four years?”

“No-o, I suppose not. But I did n’t know what I wanted until I saw
the Clearchus out there. I know now. And I ’ll come back, father. Of
course I hate to leave you and mother—”

My father laughed at that.

“Yes,” he said, “you seem to. But never mind, Timmie, I know how
you feel. Perhaps it ’s just as well. We shan’t have the month of
dreading it, and it ’ll be over before we know it. I ’ll do the best
I can for you, but I can’t promise. Nelson may be having trouble of
some {16} kind. I ’ll just drop in at the Custom House on the chance
of finding him there, and if he is n’t we ’ll run over to Wing’s to
see what they can tell us. But you must n’t fret if it can’t be done.”

I almost danced with joy, and I promised not to fret. I knew that I
should not fret at a thing that could not be done. I have never done
that. I do the most and the best that I can, and am quite cheerful
over the outcome. I was always the same; and what better can a man do
than his best, and accept the result with a cheerful heart? But if
we had made no attempt to find the captain I should have fretted at
having left something undone and possibly lost a chance that I might
have had.

We had been walking slowly up William Street as we talked, and it was
abreast of Eggers’s little gunshop—where I had been used to go for
my supply of fishlines and hooks—that my father virtually gave his
consent and told me not to fret. The steep, short slope of Johnnycake
Hill was just at our left—the Bourne Whaling Museum is now at the top
of it—and the Custom House was but a few steps away, on the upper
corner of the next street. I broke away and ran, looking back at my
father with an ecstatic smile.

My father laughed again. “Hold on, Timmie,” he called. “Where ’you
going?”

“Custom House,” I called back. “Cap’n Nelson might get away.”

So I ran, leaving my father laughing, and I waited impatiently for a
few seconds beside one of the huge Doric columns supporting the roof
of the portico of that ancient pile of granite. It always seemed to
me as old as the Pyramids. The Post-office then occupied the first
floor, but there was nobody passing either in or out at that time,
and my father joined me beside the Doric column. I remember that the
broad stone steps seemed not a whit too solid and strong for his
massive frame as he came up. {17}

He said nothing, but chuckled as he and I entered together that
empty, echoing room, and made for the stairs. It was—and is yet, I
suppose—a curved staircase of stone, and never failed to excite my
wonder that it stood and performed its function, for the granite
steps were without visible means of support at their outer ends. I
always mounted it with trepidation, half expecting that it would give
way beneath me and precipitate me into the echoing abyss below. The
stone steps were somewhat worn by the feet of many captains, and my
own feet had contributed.

We entered, and saw a long mahogany counter surmounted by a glass
fence, behind which a man was writing, standing at the counter. He
had a long, pointed beard, sprinkled with gray. He seemed to be alone
in that spacious room. He was the Deputy Collector.

We started along beside the counter, which seemed endless, and my
father was just opening the gate when suddenly we heard the sound of
voices, as if a door had been opened. The voices stopped, and a man
stumped toward us vigorously. I should say now that he was a youngish
man, but then I thought him very old. He was about forty, with a
close-clipped brown beard growing nearly up to his eyes, which were
gray and piercing, looking out from between half-closed lids. Those
eyes gave the impression of being at a great distance, and there
was a spark of light in them so that they always made me think of a
lighthouse with its cone of light. Even now I never see a lighthouse
at a distance of three or four miles that I do not think of Captain
Nelson’s eyes.

“Hello, Tim,” he said, with no apparent intention of stopping.

But my father blocked the gateway. He was a good head taller than
Captain Nelson.

“I ’d like to have a word with you, Cap’n, if you have time. I won’t
keep you long. Don’t you want a boy?” {18}

“A boy? One of your boys? This the one?” He took me by the arm and
made me face him. I was smiling nervously. “You want to go whaling?”

“Yes, sir,” I said as steadily as I could. “That is, I want to go if
you ’re going to the South Seas.”

Captain Nelson laughed. “No Ar’tic in yours, eh? What you want to
go to the South Seas for? We don’t lie ’round under palm trees and
eat breadfruit and watch the surf breaking on coral sands, like the
pictures in your geography books. What ’you been getting hold of?”

I squirmed and got very red, and stammered and said nothing.

Captain Nelson laughed again, and gave me a little shake and let me
go.

“Well, Tim, no need to ask about any of your boys. You recommend him,
I suppose?”

“I do, Cap’n. I ’m sorry he ’s taken with whaling, and that ’s the
truth; and it ’s rather sudden, for he ’s only told me within the
last half-hour, and his mother and I will hate to have him go off for
three or four years. But if that ’s what he wants I ’d better help
than try to hinder him.”

Captain Nelson nodded. “May be five years, Tim. No knowing.” He
turned suddenly to me. “What ’s your name?”

“Tim, sir.”

“Well, little Tim, I guess we can find room for you. May not get the
crew in time to sail to-night. Probably won’t. But you ’d better be
on hand and keep an eye out for us. Bright and early in the morning,
anyway.”

He nodded again, got his clearance papers, and stumped out. I stared
stupidly after him.

My father sighed. “Well, Timmie, that was soon done. We ’ll be late
for dinner. Come along.”

And I said nothing, but pegged along beside him down the echoing
stone stairs, my elation rapidly oozing out at {19} my finger-tips.
I was beginning to think of the other side of it—his side and my
mother’s—and to be more than half sorry for my haste; but what is
done is done. Boys—and girls too—are thoughtlessly cruel, fortunately
for them and the world.

I could not eat much dinner, but went off to my room to pack a few
things, among them my two precious books. It was not a large bundle
that I tied up. My father must have told my mother as soon as I had
gone, for she came up to my room as I was tying up my bundle. She had
been crying, and tears were yet in her eyes, but she smiled divinely
as she stood in my doorway.

“Well, Timmie, darling,” she said gently, “so you ’re going to leave
us. Four years is a long, long time to look forward to without you.
I had hope that you would choose something else. But if you had to
choose this it ’s better to have it soon over, and not to have a
month of dreading it. And I ’ll say nothing but God bless you and God
keep you, my precious!” She sat on the bed. “Come here, darling boy,
and let me have one hug and a kiss to remember.”

So I went, and I threw my arms around her neck, and I hid my face.
We stayed so for a long time, she rocking back and forth, hugging me
hard, and whispering to me.

{20}



CHAPTER III


The Clearchus did not get off that day, and at six o’clock my father
and I walked home together, my heart like lead. The evening passed
somehow. We all went up to bed at nine, as we always did, while the
bell on the Stone Church was ringing the curfew; but we might as
well have stayed up for two or three hours longer, for I could not
sleep, and I am sure that my mother could not. It had begun to rain,
a dreary drizzle, before I finally fell asleep.

I was awakened to find my mother standing in my doorway. She was
smiling, but she looked as if she had not slept well. It was already
after six. I jumped up, slid into my clothes hastily, and joined
the family at breakfast, but I could scarcely eat. I was glad when
my father pushed back his plate and got up. I said good-bye simply
enough to my brothers, and they said good-bye to me, but they did not
get up. They did not even stop eating. My mother came to the door
with us. Tears stood in her eyes, but she smiled as she gave me a
long, close hug. I returned her hug and her kiss, but I was very near
to tears and I could not speak, so I bolted out at the door into the
rain after my father, and I waved my hand to her. That was another
picture that I carried locked in my breast of my mother standing at
the open door, in the dreary drizzle, looking after me and smiling.
Mothers have a good deal to bear. I wonder that they stand it.

We did not get off until after ten o’clock. I was the first to
see it—I mean the job wagon with its load of men and bundles. It
was being driven on to the next wharf below—Central Wharf it was,
although I did not know the wharves infallibly by name then. I called
to {21} my father, took up my bundle, and walked, rather slowly, I
am afraid, around the head of the dock. The afternoon before I should
have run. My father caught up with me at the head of the wharf.

The wagon was unloading about halfway down the wharf when we got
there, and the men were taking out their bundles. Those bundles
were of all sizes and all colors, but all were shapeless, a few in
neat canvas bags, several in pillow-cases, and the others in gay
flame-colored cloths, red and orange and a peculiar blue, but the
predominating color was some shade of magenta. It is curious how
fond those Western Islanders are of magenta. The men were grouping
themselves, squatting on their bundles in the drizzle, or sitting
on the rounded tops of the mooring-piles or on the stringpiece, or
standing. I noticed only three of them: a great, gaunt, very black
man, with thin hoops of gold in his ears, who stood impassively,
his arms folded across his breast, and gazed at nothing and did not
speak; a smaller man, also intensely black and with similar gold
hoops in his ears, who sat atop of a pile and smiled and poured a
steady stream of talk that I could not understand up to the first,
and the gaunt man smiled now and then, showing a set of teeth that
were sharp and of a dazzling whiteness; and a very old man, who I
suppose was originally a white man, with fingers permanently bent,
like talons, and very wrinkled face that looked like leather in
texture and in color. He was sitting on the stringpiece, his neat
canvas bag between his knees, and looking up at the two black men;
and occasionally there would flit over his face a humorous smile,
leaving the look of humor there. On the whole it was a quiet crowd,
and merry enough, considering the weather. A man, who I found
afterwards was the second mate, moved slowly around among the groups
and finally stood still, holding converse with none and gazing out
over the harbor. {22}

The old man cast his humorous eye up at my father.

“Lovely morning,” he said.

My father laughed. “If you take it so,” he said, “it ’s better. After
all, what does the weather matter to an old sailorman like you?”

“Not a bit. I never let it make any difference to me. But the talk
of these lads,” he said, waving a weatherbeaten hand, with its
talon-fingers, at the two black men, “always makes me want to laugh.
It sounds like monkey talk.”

“Don’t you understand it?”

He shook his head. “Not me. I never learned Portagee. I should die
laughin’ if I tried. They had none in the navy in my day.”

My father was interested. “Have you been in the navy? I should have
said merchant vessels, but I did n’t think of the navy.”

The old man nodded. “Oh, aye,” he said. “It was the navy until the
war was over, and I was too old for that, and then the merchant
service for a couple o’ years, and then whalin’. Whalin’ ’s easier.
They don’t drive a vessel so. You were n’t goin’ on this ship?”

My father smiled, and laid his great arm across my shoulders.

“No, I ’m not going, but—”

“The boy?” the old man interrupted. “Is he so? Well, can I be sort of
lookin’ after him? I ’d take him under my wing with pleasure, perhaps
teach him a thing or two, and try to keep him out o’ trouble.”

My father was pleased, and accepted the old sailor’s offer; and he
told him of his own experience in the navy, and they swapped yarns
for half an hour. The old man had been a boatswain in the navy. He
was only fifty-eight, he said. I don’t wonder he put it that way. The
second mate had moved, and I looked up and saw the Helen Augusta,
our largest tugboat, just about to make a landing at the end of the
wharf. {23}

I seized my father’s arm in a panic.

He smiled. There was something infinitely protective in my father’s
smile.

“I ’m going down with you, Timmie, and come back in the tug. It ’s
too wet to work, luckily, so it won’t make any difference to me, and
I guess Cap’n Nelson ’ll let me go. Unless,” he added, looking at
me suddenly, “you ’d rather not have me. Perhaps you ’d rather say
good-bye here. If you would I ’d understand it.”

I shook my head, and clung fast to his arm. I could not have spoken
to save my life. The old sailor, my new friend, was rolling along
beside us, his canvas bag over his shoulder and sticking out a foot
or two fore and aft. He glanced at me and smiled, and we all trooped
aboard the tug on to her upper deck, and the men filed down the
ladder to a place where it was dry and warm.

We were about to follow them when we were hailed from the pilot
house. We obeyed the beckoning finger, and in the pilot house we
found Captain Nelson and the captain of the tugboat, a silent,
sour-faced man whose name I cannot now remember, although it was then
very familiar to me. Another man was leaning on the windowsill, his
head outside, and one hand grasping a spoke of the wheel. He shouted
some orders, pulled the bell, and we backed for a minute against
a stern hawser. Then he pulled the bell once, and the chug of the
engine stopped; before the water had stopped its swirling past the
side he pulled the bell again, the engine chugged once more, and
the bows turned faster toward the harbor. I was looking out at the
wharves through a glass covered with little fine drops of mist, and
I saw one of the men on the wharf lift the bight of heavy line over
the top of the mooring-pile and drop it into the water as we began to
go ahead. The man at the wheel pulled the jingle bell, and the engine
chugged faster, and I could hear little familiar noises from the
engine, as though it had settled down for a day’s work. {24}

I was still looking out through the misty glass at the rapidly
receding wharves, with the vessel that the riggers were not through
with, the other that my father was working on hauled down, the
stagings floating in the dock beside her; the lightship in the
process of being hove down; the pens of sheathing and the rows of
oil barrels; the tops of the wharves themselves, every foot of which
I knew intimately. I wondered when I should next set foot on those
familiar wharves; the picture blurred a little, and it was not the
rain. But I was not quite fifteen, and I was going away on a voyage
of four or five years. At fifteen, four or five years might as well
be four or five æons. Our turning had cut off my view of the wharves,
and we had straightened out for the Clearchus, and the rain was
coming dead ahead.

We were drawing alongside the Clearchus, and we made fast and the
crew went over the side stolidly, although some of them seemed merry
enough, and my old sailor took the whole thing as a joke. Then
Captain Nelson went, and my father and I. By the time I had got on
the deck of the ship the captain had gone aft and was talking with
the mate.

I had never happened to be on the Clearchus before, and neither had
I been on any whaler just starting on a voyage. Her deck was well
cluttered with all sorts of stuff, which there had been no time to
stow below, and no men to do it. Some of it was covered roughly with
tarpaulins to keep it from the wet, and it was shoved into corners
or littered the alleyways between the great brick try-works and the
bulwarks. The deck itself—where it showed at all—was covered with a
film of moisture, and seemed to have sweated just oil enough to make
it very slippery.

The deck of an old whaler is full of odd structures. On almost all
old whaleships there were two small deckhouses aft, one on either
side, with the wheel and the cabin {25} skylight between them;
and on many ships this space was roofed over, giving the steersman
protection in bad weather. This was the case on the Clearchus;
and there was another structure just forward of this after house.
This “gallows,” as it is called, was no more than a roof covering
the booby-hatch—which led to the steerage; where the boat-steerers
slept—supported on posts at the corners, the posts inclined sharply
inward at the angle of the standing rigging. On the top of this
roof were three spare whale-boats, bottom up. There was a third
structure—merely a roof—just aft of the foremast, over the try-works.
The galley was in the starboard side of the after house, which may
strike some as a very queer place for it, but it was always so on a
whaler. It was necessarily very small, taking up less than half of
that side. The cabin stairs, or companion, were in the port side of
the after house.

We took refuge under the gallows over the booby-hatch, from which
point we had as clear a view of the deck as it was possible to have
anywhere except from the scuppers. The deck was anything but clear,
and the man at the wheel saw the great butts of the masts, the
try-works, and other things of a more temporary nature, but little
of the deck, and of the sea before the ship and of the sky above
nothing at all. There was no need for him to see either. He had an
unobstructed view of the compass.

The tug took us about twenty-five miles, but it seemed an unbearably
short journey on that dull, rainy morning. The silence was broken
only by the soft noise of the sea, and of the ship going through it,
and by the creak and groan of the hawser on the bitts and of the
yards in the slings as she rose and fell gently; and by the sound of
the water dripping from the yards and rigging upon the deck, and now
and then a voice. Altogether it was a silent, gray, dismal journey.
Coils of rope hung from the belaying pins near me, and they swung
regularly with the {26} motion of the ship. I wished that they would
stop. They did not, of course, except for a moment, regularly; then
they began again.

The time was coming soon when the tug would cast off, and my father
must go back. We got beyond Devil’s Bridge, with the Vineyard looming
indistinctly, but scarcely visible, on our weather beam. The tug
whistled, and Captain Nelson came to us.

“Well, Tim,” he said, “I guess you ’ll have to get ready. It ’s too
rough for the tug to come alongside, but I ’ll send you over in a
boat. She ’s dropping us now.”

My father said he was sorry to be so much trouble; and Captain Nelson
said it was no matter, that it would be good practice for the crew.
Then he looked at me, and put his hand on my shoulder.

“Timmie,” he said gently, “you have n’t signed yet, and if you want
to go back with your father I ’ll send you.”

I shook my head furiously. “No, thank you, sir,” I said. “I ’ll sail
with you—if you want me—if you ’ll take me.”

How could I back out then? I should have been a laughing-stock for
years, and I should never have a better chance. But I did want to go
back with my father.

Captain Nelson smiled. “I ’ll take you, and you ’ll get over your
homesickness when we get a sight of the sun. It ’s a dismal day to
start off.”

They cast off the hawser, and backed the main topsail, and the vessel
lay there with the seas beating upon her while the tug came up abeam,
and lay rolling. And they came and cast loose the very boat we were
standing under, and the men tailed on to the falls, and the boat was
lowered until it was level with the rail; and two of the crew tumbled
in to look after the falls, and my father gave me one hug, and I
clung to him for a moment.

“Good-bye, Timmie,” he whispered. “I ’ll give your {27} love to your
mother. Be a good boy, and do a little more than is expected of you.
Be ready to do a man’s work when you are able, and let us be proud of
you when you come home.”

The men began to slack away on the falls. I watched the men slide
down the falls as the boat touched the water, my father among them;
and the falls were unhooked quickly, two men holding her off from the
side of the ship. Then they shoved off, the five long oars took the
water, and they rowed to the tug, the whaleboat rising to the seas as
lightly as a cork. And they drew alongside the tug, but did not stop,
and my father stepped out upon the broad rail of the tug and down
upon her deck, and turned to wave to me.

As the boat came back the tug started, with long blasts of her
whistle as a message of farewell to us. My father still stood in the
gangway, close to her house, and waved to me. I watched her as long
as I could see her; a mite—a speck tossing on the heaving sea.

{28}



CHAPTER IV


By the next morning the skies had cleared, and there was bright sun,
with a light breeze from the southwest. It had begun to clear soon
after midnight, and the stars had come out one by one, with drifts
of ragged scud flying over. I had not seen it, but I was sleeping
soundly, after some miserable hours, for I was a very homesick boy.
Mother and father—even brothers—and home never seemed so dear or so
far away, and I seemed to be cut off from them completely. I had no
pangs of seasickness, either then or later, for which I suppose I
should be thankful; but I did not give that matter a single thought,
as far as I can remember. I suppose my mind was too thoroughly taken
up with its own wretchedness to worry about a possible wretchedness
of body. And a full realization of my wretched and miserable state
came upon me the instant I was fully awake, with a distinct stab at
my heart. A few tears trickled from my eyes, and my heart was like
lead until I stepped out upon deck and saw the sun and a quiet sea,
misty about the horizon, and the bark making her way through it under
easy sail, rolling a very little, lazily, and the men, barefooted,
scrubbing the decks as clean as might be of their coating of oil with
the water standing upon it in little separate drops, like dew. I know
the deck had a queer, greasy, frosty look, and fairly large drops had
gathered and stood up, little smooth hills, about two or three inches
apart. The water from the hose and the men with their swabs made
these hills disappear like magic, together with the frosty look of
the deck. Tarpaulins in irregular heaps still covered piles of stuff
here and there on the deck, which the men avoided as well as they
could. {29}

One of the men swabbing the deck was my old friend the old navy man,
whose name I found was Peter Bottom. The two very black men with
gold hoops in their ears were there too, the tall one as silent and
dignified as ever, but working well, and the shorter one gay and
garrulous, but seldom evoking from the other as much as a smile. What
these men’s real names were I never knew, and it does not matter what
they were. The tall one always went by the name of Tony, and the
shorter one by the name of Man’el.

Peter Bottom looked up at me, and smiled and winked, and worked
nearer with his swab. There was a quarterdeck on the old Clearchus,
and a break in the deck with one low step up to the part covered by
the after house. I was standing on that step and leaning against the
house, for I did not want to get into the water that was flowing so
freely. When Peter had worked near enough, he told me in low tones
that if I would hunt him up later he would impart some information
that might be useful and the beginning of my education.

The men were busy nearly all day getting the decks reasonably
clear, and the stuff stowed below, and it was not until late in the
afternoon that I found Peter Bottom standing by the windlass, gazing
out to the eastward. The wind was light, as it had been all day, and
it looked very quiet and peaceful out there, with a grayish haze
all along the horizon. The water toward the west, on the weather
side, was too bright to look at with comfort. There was still a very
slight heave of the sea left from the night before. Many of the crew
were standing about, or sitting on the forecastle, but they were not
saying much.

Peter looked up as I approached. He had a sort of permanent smile on
his face, a pleasant, humorous expression of perpetual amusement.
This deepened to a personal smile when he saw me.

“Here you are, my lad,” he said. “I was just thinking {30} about
you, and that I ’d have to go after you if I could contrive a way.
Now to begin at the beginning, what might your name be?”

“Tim,” I answered; “Tim Taycox.”

“A good name,” he said. “I had a shipmate named Tim once, but he
did no credit to the name. My name ’s Peter Bottom.” That was how I
found out his name, although I have used it already. “A queer name,
Bottom, but it ’s none of my responsibility, my name. You ’ll call me
Peter, and so we ’ll get rid of it. Now, tell me what you know about
whaling, so I ’ll know where to begin. There ’s no sense in telling
you what you know a’ready. And then you might tell what you know of
ships and of sailing, for I s’pose you ’ve knocked about some in
small boats, living in New Bedford.”

Now, what I really knew about whaling was nothing at all, although I
had always heard it talked about, and had absorbed as much in that
way as a boy can who has seen nothing but the shore end of it. So I
told Peter just that, and I told him of my experiences in boats.

“What ’s your lay?” asked Peter Bottom suddenly.

“My lay?” I stammered. “I—I don’t know.”

“Don’t you know what I mean?” he pursued. “Every man on board has a
part o’ the voyage—the catch—instead o’ wages.”

I am afraid I interrupted him rather indignantly. Of course I knew
that, but I had not the least idea what the share of each man was. He
enlightened me. First he told me that the share of the boy was one
two-hundredth. That would give me, if our take of whales amounted
to fifty thousand dollars, the princely sum of two hundred and
fifty dollars for four years’ work. That did not seem very much,
but Peter comforted me by saying that Captain Nelson was a good
master, and had the reputation of making good voyages, and it was
likely that I would get more than that. He told me that the owners
took two {31} thirds of the take for their share, and furnished the
vessel and fitted her, and fed the crew throughout the voyage, and
made whatever advances were necessary. If the ship made a “broken
voyage,” as an unprofitable voyage was called, it might easily result
in considerable loss to the owners, while the crew at least could
not lose on it. Such unprofitable voyages were few, however. It was
everything to get a lucky master. Captain Nelson had the reputation
of being a very lucky master, and the Clearchus had always been a
fairly lucky ship. Peter had satisfied himself on those points before
signing, and he supposed that all the best men of the crew had been
equally particular. It was easy to get a good crew for a ship and a
captain known to be lucky, and often very hard to get any kind of a
crew for a captain without that reputation.

He told me further that Captain Nelson’s lay was one tenth, which is
the largest that was given to a captain; the mate’s one twentieth,
for our mate, Jehoram Baker, was also a good man. A first mate’s lay
ranges from one eighteenth to one twenty-fifth. Our second mate,
Alonzo Wallet, was “nothin’ to brag on,” as Peter whispered, but he
got the regular second mate’s lay of one thirty-fourth. The third
mate, John Brown, had a lay of one forty-fifth; the fourth and fifth
mates got a little less than that; and the five boatsteerers got from
one one-hundred-and-eighteenth to one one-hundred-and-fiftieth. Five
mates may seem an excessive number. I know it seemed so to me, but
the Clearchus was a five-boat ship, and needed five boatheaders. How
Peter found out the amount of the captain’s and the mates’ lays I
never knew; possibly it was only gossip. Then he gave me the lays of
the rest of the crew.

The cooper got one sixty-third; the steward one ninetieth; the cook
one one-hundred-and-twentieth and half the slush; what the slush was
I did not know at the time, although anybody of any intelligence
ought to have been {32} able to guess that it was the refuse from
the galley. I became familiar enough with slush before I got home
again, and a bucket of slush will come nearer to turning my stomach
than anything else. It consists chiefly of grease, often turned
rancid. Many a bucket of it have I carried to the masthead, and have
applied it generously and rapidly to the mast all the way down, for
I was always anxious to get that job done and to get rid of my slush
bucket as soon as possible.

But to come back to Peter Bottom and the lays. The lays of
foremast hands varied according to their ability from one
one-hundred-and-fiftieth to one two-hundredth, but Peter’s own lay
was one one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth. This was without doubt in
recognition of his skill as a seaman, and his record. He was a better
man than our second mate. He had sailed all the seas over and over,
could navigate a vessel, and could easily have got a post in the
cabin but that his long years as seaman had unfitted him for the
command of men, and he was too old to begin that now. But his ability
was recognized—owners were always very ready to recognize ability—and
he was greatly trusted by Captain Nelson and Mr. Baker, the mate.
The second mate was not a great friend of Peter’s. It is not to be
supposed that Peter himself told me all this while we stood there by
the windlass. He was a modest man, and he knew better than to brag
about himself even if he had been inclined to. I did not add up the
fractions—the lays—to see if they came out right. Probably they did
not.

Our crew consisted of twenty-five seamen, including the
boat-steerers, ranging in ability from Peter down to the green hands,
of whom there were eight at starting on that voyage; the captain and
five mates; and the cooper, the sailmaker, who could act on a pinch
as cooper and as carpenter, the steward, the cook, and the boy,
who was myself; thirty-six all told, enough to man the five {33}
boats and to leave six on the ship to work her if necessary. The
boat-steerers are included among the seamen, but their standing on
the ship was more that of petty officers.

All this time the ship was slowly forging ahead in the light air,
and rising and falling lazily, and the light of the late afternoon
sun was making the water to windward of a dazzling brightness, while
I looked off to leeward over a quiet sea to the hazy horizon. There
was not wind enough to keep the sails full, and now and then one fell
against the mast and made a curious scraping sound until a puff of
air drew it away again.

Peter was beginning on the sails of the ship. Now, what I knew about
a square-rigged vessel was even less than I had known about the
matter of lays, and I was feeling ashamed of my ignorance and rather
hopeless. But as I looked off at the water, I saw, about two or three
miles off, a little feathery puff of vapor rise, like the drooping
white ostrich plume on Ann McKim’s hat. The feathery shaft of vapor
rose lazily, and the sun shone on it and glorified it for a brief
moment, and it drifted off slowly and vanished. And I watched it
stupidly, and just as I came to and grasped Peter Bottom’s arm, there
floated down to us from aloft a melodious cry.

“Bl-o-o-ows! Bl-o-o-ows!”

It was most deliberately given, and was a quavering, musical cry,
running up and down the scale, much like a yodel. It was one of the
black men who gave it. These black men always gave the cry more
melodiously than a white man. They had had a man aloft all the
afternoon.

That cry was music to me, and all the men were interested, especially
the green hands, to whom it was as strange as it was to me.

Mr. Baker was waving his arms and beckoning, and the crews of the
first and second mate’s boats were running, Peter Bottom among the
best of them. The boats {34} were still lashed at the davits, but
it took only a few seconds to loose them and to begin to lower, two
or three of the men in each boat beginning to overhaul the harpoons
and lances and other gear. As soon as the boats struck the water, the
falls were unhooked, and they pushed off from the side of the ship
and lay there while the crew seemed to be busied with something on
the thwarts, I could not see what, and the ship was slowly leaving
them bobbing and drifting. I was just beginning to wonder about it
when I saw that it was the mast and sail they were busy with. The
second mate’s boat stepped her mast and spread the sail, but in Mr.
Baker’s boat they abandoned that intention, and began rowing, while
the ship kept off gradually on the same course as the boats.

By the time we had made our course Mr. Baker’s boat was well ahead
and going strong, the five long oars dipping slowly and with a fair
regularity, but with some splashing from the green hands. It occurs
to me to say something about a whaleboat for the benefit of those
who do not know the boats, and they must be many, for the whaleboat,
especially the boat fully equipped for chasing whales, has become a
very unfamiliar sight.

The whaleboat is sharp at both ends, and is built as lightly as is
consistent with great strength. Its length is thirty feet; beam, six
feet; depth at extreme ends, a trifle over three feet (thirty-seven
inches in the boats of the Clearchus); depth amidships, twenty-two
inches. It rides the seas like a cork, and the sense of buoyancy
is surprising to any one who is not used to the boat. It has a
centreboard, and is equipped with mast and sail, which can be set up
when wanted. For the purpose of stepping the mast quickly, it has a
sort of hinge to the thwart on the after side, and as it is raised,
the foot slides down to the step in a guide, or channel, until the
mast is erect, when the butt drops into the step. It is held in its
place {35} by stays, permanently fast to the mast near its head,
above the hoist of the sail, one on each side, which are then made
fast through eyes on the gunwales.

When the boat is going under sail it is steered by a rudder. This
rudder is always carried, when not in use, close under the gunwale at
the stern, outside the boat, of course. It is held in place by two
small lines permanently fast to it, one at the heel of the rudder,
the other up nearer its head, the inboard ends of the lines passing
through holes in the port gunwale to cleats on the little deck at
the stern. The rudder is always hung before the boat is lowered, as
it would be a difficult matter to hang it in a seaway, and might
consume much precious time. When fast to a whale, the mate hauls in
on the upper line, unshipping the rudder, and makes the line fast to
the starboard cleat; then he hauls in on the lower line, raising the
heel of the rudder to the gunwale, and makes fast to the port cleat.
This operation can be performed with a few turns of the hand, but
many mates preferred the steering oar, which is twenty-two feet long,
to the rudder, when at close quarters. A couple of sweeps with this
great oar will usually lay the boat around, but with the rudder it
is not easy. A whaleboat, because of its length and the comparative
flatness of its keel, and the slight purchase of the rudder, will not
come about easily under sail.

When going upon a whale, a boat always goes, if possible, under sail.
This is not for the purpose of saving the men trouble, although you
would think that a praiseworthy purpose. It is to avoid frightening
the whale, which hears the sound of oars at considerable distance,
the sound undoubtedly going through the water. When the sail cannot
be used, oars are used, or paddles. The paddles are used only when
it is necessary to go very quietly, and there is no wind. They are
usually stout and heavy, about four feet long; and when not in use
are {36} stuck along the sides, near the thwarts, and out of the way.

Oars are the normal method of propulsion. There are five long oars,
three to starboard and two to port. From bow to stern, they are
called harpooner’s (generally called “harpoonier” on a whaler), bow,
midship, tub, and after oar. The harpooner’s and the after oar are
fourteen feet long, and the midship oar eighteen feet. Those three
are the starboard oars. The port oars, the bow and the tub, are
sixteen feet each. Under the tub oar, by the way, seems to be the
favorite place for a whale to strike a boat. By this inequality in
length of the oars a pretty good balance is reached, whether the
harpooner is rowing or not. Each of these long, heavy oars is handled
by one man, who sits far over on the thwart on the opposite end from
the thole-pins or rowlocks. When thole-pins are used the oar works on
a mat laid up of small line, placed between the pins, to muffle the
sound; rowlocks are matted with marline or other small stuff.

The steering oar, as I have mentioned, is twenty-two feet long.
It passes out astern over the gunwale on the port side of the
stern-post, through a bight of rope covered with leather, which rests
on a bracket. One end of the rope forming this bight is taken inboard
through an eye, and belayed on a cleat on the deck at the stern.
There is a projecting handle on the upper side of the steering oar,
and the steersman stands up to his work. When the steering oar is not
in use, it is drawn in clear of the water, and on the boats of the
Clearchus, at any rate, the handle was held in an eye spliced into a
rope, which was worked in above the gunwale on the port side. This
just fitted the handle, and held the oar out of everybody’s way and
ready for instant use.

The boat is decked over for three feet at the bow, and four feet at
the stern. The deck at the bow is sunk six inches below the gunwale,
and is called the “box.” {37} Directly aft of the box is the cleat,
or “clumsy cleat.” This is a wide, heavy plank, on a level with the
gunwale, in which—on the port side, unless made especially for a
left-handed man—a roughly semicircular piece is cut out, into the
place of which will fit a man’s left thigh, or upper leg. The edges
of this hole are thickly matted with yarn or other soft stuff. Into
this opening the harpooner fits his left thigh to steady him when
he is about to dart the harpoon, or the mate fits his when he is
about to use the lance. Various sheaths are on the forward edge of
the cleat, for knives, and along its top runs a loose piece of heavy
line, its ends knotted underneath at opposite ends of the cleat. This
is the “kicking-strap,” under which the whale line passes. There is
a hatchet in a frame on the side of the boat below the cleat, where
the mate can reach it easily, to cut the line; and a whaling-gun lies
on a board under the cleat, at his right, fast to the boat by a line
through its stock.

The deck at the stern is used for the cleats which I have mentioned,
for the lines from the rudder and the steering oar, and under it
is the cuddy or locker in which are carried the breaker of water
and the lantern-keg and the compass and other small things with
which a whaleboat is usually equipped. The lantern-keg contains
biscuit—hardtack—candles, flint and steel, or matches, pipes and
tobacco; all the necessaries of life. The main purpose of this after
deck, however, is to provide a convenient place for the loggerhead.

The loggerhead is a miniature mooring-pile projecting from this deck
on the starboard side, and continued downward through the cuddy into
the keel. Its top is six inches in diameter, and it is eight inches
high. The whale line passes around it on its way out, and one or more
turns can be taken around it, so that the line can be snubbed as much
as is wished, or can be held there. It is a frequent occurrence for
the loggerhead to get so hot {38} from the friction of the line that
it smokes, and is only prevented from bursting into flame by throwing
water upon the line by the bucketful or the hatful.

Whale line is a beautiful silky rope, usually seven eighths of an
inch in diameter, although I have seen whale line that I thought
was larger than this, perhaps one-inch rope. Old line, however, may
change its diameter, becoming either larger or smaller than when
new. It is of long fibre manila, flexible and soft, the best rope
that can be made. In 1872 it may have been of hemp—I do not remember
distinctly. It is made in a rope-walk, not on machines, and its
length is therefore limited to the length of the walk in which it is
made. The line has a longer lay than machine-made rope, is not so
tightly laid up, which may make it less attractive in appearance to
one who does not know its qualities, but not to a whaleman. I have
a passion for whale line. There is an old piece somewhere among my
dunnage now—about three fathoms of it. I have had it for years. I
have no use for it, but I like to handle it—almost fondle it.

The whale line, without knots or splices, is kept in tubs, usually
one for a length, sometimes two, near the stern. The tub oar gets its
name from this. It is most carefully coiled, so that it shall run out
freely, without kinks. A second length of line, coiled in its tubs,
is carried by each whaleboat, and can be bent on to the first in case
of need.

From the tubs, then, the line passes around the loggerhead, where the
boatsteerer handles it, and snubs it as much as he wishes. It may
be running out so fast as to burn his hands; and a swiftly running
line not only burns the hands, but can take the very flesh off the
bones, as I know to my sorrow. To guard against this, hand-cloths
or “nippers” are provided, much like those worn by bricklayers, and
often forgotten. The “nipper” is a patch of canvas, eight inches
square, to be held in the {39} hand without fastening, as it might
take a man overboard if fast to him. From the loggerhead the line
passes forward along the length of the boat, in its middle line,
lying, when slack, on the looms of the oars. As each man sits well
over to one side of his thwart, the middle line of the boat is left
clear for it. It then passes under the kicking strap, and through a
groove—the “chocks”—in the head of the stem, in which it is held by
a small wooden peg or pin. This pin is purposely small and frail so
that if there is any obstruction, such as a kink in the line, the pin
will break instead of carrying the boat under. In the bottom of the
chocks there is a small metal roller which does not always work.

The whale line, after passing out of the boat through the chocks,
is taken in again, and a considerable length of it coiled up on the
box—the little sunken deck at the bow. This is called the “box line.”
The first harpoon is attached to the free end of the box line, the
second iron to an extra piece of line, the “short warp,” fast to the
box line a little way from its free end. These two harpoons rest
with their points projecting over the bow and their sapling hardwood
handles in the crotch. The crotch is a sort of double Y-shaped
contraption, which is set into a socket in the starboard gunwale, and
projects about sixteen inches above it.

The boatsteerer or harpooner rows the oar nearest the bow. When near
enough to the whale, at the command, “Stand up, Jack,” or “Stand
up, you!” from the mate or boatheader, he takes in and secures his
oar, turns around, stands up, takes the first harpoon, which is
immediately ready to his hand in the crotch, fits his leg firmly in
the opening in the cleat, and makes ready to dart. At the further
command from the boatheader, “Give it to him!” he darts the harpoon
with all the force left in him after rowing for miles, perhaps with
all his strength. The harpoon is heavy, and both hands are used {40}
in throwing it, the right hand around the upper part of the wooden
handle or haft, and giving it its forward impetus, and the left hand
supporting the haft toward its lower end. Then, as quickly as he can,
he grabs the second harpoon from its rest in the crotch, and darts
that. This is in the hope of getting two irons fast, but the second
harpoon must be thrown out of the boat in any case.

Lances and spare harpoons are stowed between the thwarts and the
gunwale, the iron shanks held in a little brass frame—at least, on
the boats of the Clearchus—with a sliding wire to lock them in,
and the wooden hafts held in marline. Lances are to starboard, and
harpoons to port; and on each, whether lance or harpoon, is a wooden
sheath covering the sharp edge. It is one of the duties of the bow
oar to remove the sheath, and to get out the lance. He has certain
other duties which are important, and which make the bow oar next in
line of promotion to the harpooner or boatsteerer.

When fast to the whale, the boatsteerer makes his way aft, and takes
the steering oar, changing places with the boatheader, who is usually
one of the mates, while the mate takes his position in the bow, a
lance in his hand, ready to lance the whale and finish the business.

A harpoon or a lance is a poor bedfellow in a seaway, for they are
kept very sharp. In fact, they are often a source of danger even when
out of the boat. The second harpoon has to be thrown out of the boat
in any case, whether there is a chance of getting it into the whale
or not, for it is fast to the whale line, and if it were not thrown
out there would be trouble. This second iron, when not in the whale,
where it belongs, goes jumping and skittering over the waves after
the fleeing whale, ahead of the boat or even abreast of it when the
boat is hauled up close, or afoul of it.

The placing of the loggerhead at the stem accomplishes three things:
it gives the boat-steerer easy control {41} of the line, which the
mate, in the bow, would have no time to attend to when they were at
close quarters; incidentally it avoids the possibility of pulling the
boat to pieces by a towing whale in which the harpoon is fast; but
the controlling reason for it is that the men can heave on the line
without leaving their places, which they must be able to do to get
the boat up to the whale, so that the mate can lance.

But to come back to the boats, which had been making progress
according to the natures of the men in charge of them. They were no
nearer than they had been at first, and we drifted on, Mr. Wallet’s
boat just abeam of us. The farther we went, the farther we were
behind the whales, which were wandering directly away from us. The
sun was near setting, and after an hour of a losing chase, signals
were made for the boats to come aboard again.

I cast another look about the horizon, and ran aft. There was nothing
to be seen of whales—from the deck, at any rate—only a beautiful
pearl-gray softness on the water. My dreams that night were a queer
mixture of whales and home, and of my father working on a staging
beside a whale in a dock, and removing several of his ribs.

{42}



CHAPTER V


We reached the Gulf Stream some time during that night. I remember
that I was awakened before dawn by the heeling of the ship so that I
was all but pitched out of my bunk. I sat up and held on, and heard
the rain, and the sound of feet on deck, and orders shouted, and
the hoarse singsong of the crew as they manned the sheets and the
halliards and the braces, and the noise of the yards swinging, and
the sails slatting. There was no singsong from the men aloft taking
in sail. The ship was pitching and rolling badly. The old Clearchus
was good at that. Then Captain Nelson went on deck, and I dressed
hastily, and went out too into the pitchy blackness of a stormy night
at sea.

The two men at the wheel were having a hard time of it. I took my
stand by the weather corner of the after house, hugging it close,
to keep out of the rain, and looked out at the wet deck, which
gleamed faintly now and then, and at the shadowy forms of the men who
happened to pass near me, and at the white tops of the seas rolling
past. The foam seemed to shine with a light of its own. Then the
ship gave a more violent plunge than ever, and I could tell by the
sound that she had shipped a sea over the bows, although I could see
nothing; but as she rose I heard it come rushing aft, and the next
moment the water was swirling in the near scupper, and slopped up
against the leeward wall of the house. I stood there for some time,
until long after they had sail reduced to reefed topsails, and my
feelings were a curious mixture of exultation in the wildness of
the night and—I may as well confess it now, although nothing could
have drawn such a confession from me then—a sneaking fear that the
ship {43} would not stand such buffeting. I thought of home, and
knew very well that my mother was lying awake and listening to the
wind and the rain, and thinking of me. And I knew that I was in my
father’s thoughts too, although those thoughts could not keep him
awake. He knew that I was taking but the ordinary risks that every
rightly constituted boy has to take, and goes to meet gladly. Indeed
the risk was not great. It did not seem possible that I had left home
less than two days before, and that it was such a few miles behind
me. My thoughts being in that direction, I decided to keep a journal
of some sort, and send it home when a chance offered. The chance may
be a brief one, merely a passing ship, when there is no time to write
letters.

I suppose I must have made up my mind that if I was to be drowned
I should be drowned, and I might as well be comfortable about it,
for as it was beginning to be gray in the east, with the melancholy
waste of wild waters just visible, and that sinking of the soul which
always comes at such a time, I went below and turned in again and
went to sleep immediately.

The next day there was a stiff breeze from the southwest, which
continued for several days. If the Clearchus had been at all fast, or
even an average sailer, she would have made the Hatteras grounds in
a couple of days; but that was a big “if,” as my father would have
said with his quiet smile. Captain Nelson, knowing her well, made no
attempt to crowd her, but went on under easy sail, so that we were a
long time in getting to Hatteras. We got there toward the latter part
of an afternoon. Cape Hatteras, of course, was not in sight, nor even
the lightship on Diamond Shoals; but there was one vessel in sight.
I tried to make myself believe that I knew it for the Desdemona or
the Palmetto, but Captain Nelson said that neither of those ships was
there. However, he announced his intention of going aboard of her,
and said he would take me if I wanted to go. {44}

I was delighted, and regarded it as a mark of special favor. It was.
Captain Nelson was continually showing me those marks of favor,
although if I had not behaved myself he would have stopped very soon.
But I cannot remember that it ever occurred to me to do otherwise,
and if I failed in any respect it was not by intention. Captain
Nelson was very easy on those of good intentions, if they were not
fools, and inclined to be indulgent toward harmless mischief, but
very hard on malice or slacking, and showed them no mercy. Like many
another man of action and results he had little patience with a fool.
I think he blamed himself for this, and regarded it as a weakness,
although he never said anything to me about it. I sympathize with
him. All my life I have never been able to abide a fool, and
there are many kinds; and I have been aware that it is a fault of
character, and that I should have patience with them, for they cannot
help their condition. But I have never been without faults, thank
God, although I suppose that I was a good boy, on the whole. And I
suppose that I should be ashamed of that, too, but I am not, and I
never was. I do not believe that I ever thought about it.

Captain Nelson was going over for a “gam.” Now a gam is nothing more
nor less than a gossip: each gives the other what news he has, the
gossip of home from the outbound captain, and from the inbound the
gossip of whales and their ways, and news of whalers and captains
that he has met, the number of barrels of oil that the George and
Susan has taken, the accident to the Addison, the men that the
Gosnold lost by a fighting whale on the Carroll grounds, and any
other items of interest that he can remember. The two captains,
before they get through, may be telling anecdotes of other whalemen
or of whales, or they may be talking of home or of Nantucket and
Old Ma’am Hackett’s garden. They may have something hot and glasses
between them, and the gam may last an hour {45} or three hours or
all day. It all depends upon the men. Two captains have been known to
spend all day gamming, and to turn up again in the morning for more
of it, but such an abuse of the practice is very rare. The gam has
its useful purpose as well as its pleasant one—although any pleasant
purpose is useful. The outbound captain gets the most out of it, the
news of ships and of men, but most of all, the news of whales, and
how they are running that season, and where they are to be met in
plenty; much more recent news than he had when he sailed. But any
really vital news likely to be of benefit to himself—a new whaling
ground discovered, for instance, hitherto unknown, in which whales
are plentiful—he carefully keeps to himself. The crew are not so
careful, although many of them are close-mouthed.

The vessel had been cutting in, as Captain Nelson could tell without
his glass, and as Peter Bottom and every other old hand could tell.
I could not see what they were doing, and I have no reason to think
that any of the green hands could. She was more than three miles
away, and there was a light bluish haze which made it difficult
to see clearly, but I got a pair of battered field glasses from
the rack, and managed to make out dimly the outline of some sort
of a flimsy structure on her side, the crew all crowded up by the
windlass, and something bulky being hoisted in over the gangway.
Captain Nelson had given me the use of those old field glasses, as
nobody else wanted them. I would have carried them about with me, for
I felt very proud and important at having glasses of my own; but it
would have taken a dray or an ice wagon at least to carry them.

A boat was lowered, Peter Bottom being in the crew of the boat, and
set off with the captain standing just in front of the steersman,
his head in constant danger from the handle of the long steering
oar, and his stomach from the shaft of the stern oar as it swung.
He had to stand, for {46} there was no seat for him. Whaleboats
are not designed for carrying passengers. But he kept his feet and
his dignity at the same time, and I felt a great admiration for
the way in which he did both. I was perched up in the bow, in the
harpooner’s place, and found the thigh-hole in the clumsy cleat a
great convenience in keeping my own balance and dignity. Then I gazed
ahead over the little sunken deck—the “box”—with its length of whale
line ready coiled upon it, and imagined myself striking a whale;
and I raised my arms in the attitude of a harpooner darting the
harpoon, and I hurled the imaginary weapon with tremendous force—all
imaginary, of course—and it sunk to the haft in the great body;
and I heard a snicker, and looked around, and there was one of the
mates—I think it must have been Mr. Wallet, although it was not his
boat—grinning at me from his place at the steering oar, and Captain
Nelson was smiling. I had already developed a cordial detestation of
Mr. Wallet. I remember to this day how red and uncomfortable I got,
even to the back of my neck. But I turned about at once, and stood as
stiff as a ramrod with the help of the thigh-hole, and I looked ahead
and I saw a great volume of black smoke rising from the try-works.
Astern of her there was something in the water, with an immense
flock of screaming gulls continually rising and settling again like
a fountain. It looked much like the sight I have often seen up to a
few years ago, off T wharf in Boston, the fishermen packed three deep
about the wharf and all the men busy either unloading and weighing
their fares of fish, or baiting trawls, and patches of scraps and
gurry on the water, and crowds of great gray or black-and-white
herring gulls screaming and dipping and elbowing for their share of
the vile stuff.

We were getting near enough for me to see things clearly. The
vessel’s starboard side was toward us, and there hung the
cutting-stage by the gangway. Strangely {47} enough, perhaps, I had
never before seen a cutting-stage. When a ship is in port they are
not in evidence, and we had had no occasion yet to rig ours. It is a
simple affair of three planks, the two shorter ones butted against
the side of the ship and resting on the wales. The two short planks
keep the outer plank, which is longer, at the proper distance from
the side. The planks are bolted together at the outer corners, and
are held up by ropes running from the outer corners to the main
rigging at one end, and at the other to a post rising above the rail
of the ship. Most of the work is done from the long outer plank,
which has bolted on its inner edge posts of iron supporting a light
railing. It is somewhat of a mystery why the men do not fall off of
those few inches of slippery, rocking plank, with nothing at their
backs but the wide ocean. They are supposed to have monkey-ropes
about their waists—usually forgotten—or a line at their backs along
the cutting-stage, and they have long, heavy spades in their hands,
which seem to anchor them. Sometimes they do fall off among the
sharks, but they rarely come to any harm. But at the time it looked
to me like a very insecure footing, and I was sure any house-painter
would have rejected it with scorn.

The ship turned out to be the Palm, of New Bedford, and the captain
was an old friend of Captain Nelson’s. The two stood apart, aft, for
some time, watching the busy men about the try-pots. The men were
stripped to the waist, most of them, and laughing and talking among
themselves like children. Some were passing pieces of blubber from
the hatch to the mincers; some were mincing the blubber on those
pieces with heavy knives much like a butcher’s cleaver with a handle
at each end; some were carrying the minced pieces to the try-pots;
and some were stirring the mess in the pots or feeding the fire, with
long, two-pronged iron forks in their hands. The black smoke billowed
up over their heads, and {48} copper gleamed red in the rays of the
low western sun, and the half-naked bodies wet with sweat gleamed
red, and there was a reddish tinge to the black smoke. It looked like
an orgy of devils about the pots, and when the men came out from
behind the try-works I almost expected to see their forked tails
hanging down, and cloven feet.

The two captains went into the cabin, and there was nothing for
the rest of us to do, for the crew of the Palm were too thoroughly
occupied to give us much of a welcome. Everything was covered with
oil and with huge pieces of what looked like butcher’s meat, besides
the blubber. Whale-meat is red, much the color of beef, only darker,
although it does not look like beef. We have recently been asked to
eat it, as if that were a new idea. And the newspapers have had their
short articles, or perhaps a column, carefully timed, telling us how
good it is, and that it is getting to be quite the fashion at New
York hotels, and that some firm in Oregon has been asked to put up a
million or two cans of it. I even saw some displayed in the window of
a fish market for two or three weeks; the same pieces, I judged, from
their continually ripening color. It did not seem to be in any great
demand. Whalemen have eaten whale-meat for a century or more. It is
the meat of the right whale that is eaten. Sperm whale meat is full
of oil and not edible. Once is usually enough for a man, a steak cut
from the small. Even right whale meat does not seem to be a favorite
article of diet, although porpoise steaks are good, and porpoises are
whales.

At the time I knew nothing of the palatability of whale-meat, and I
was interested only in the trying-out process. I stepped carelessly
nearer, and my foot slipped on the oily deck, and I should have
gone down if it had not been for a strong arm that caught me about
the body; and I found myself gazing into the smiling face of Peter
Bottom, and at an enormous raw and bloody jaw that was {49} just
behind him in the scuppers. It was more than fifteen feet long—the
jaw, not Peter’s face—and it was armed with backward curved teeth,
not close together, but spaced rather widely; several inches between
the teeth. They did not look so very formidable; not nearly so wicked
as a shark’s, and the whale’s upper jaw has no teeth. But whale’s
teeth were no new thing to me, although I had never seen a jaw
freshly cut off, with the ragged and bloody flesh on it.

“What are they going to do with it, Peter?” I asked, too much
interested in the jaw to thank him for catching me. “Will they try it
out? Is there oil in it?”

“Oil in what?” said Peter, looking about. “There ’s oil in near
everything around here. There ’d have been oil in your clothes and
in your hair if I had n’t been here to catch you. Oh, it ’s the jaw
you mean. There ’s no oil to speak of in it, but there ’s teeth. When
they get eased up on the oil, they ’ll pull the teeth with the help
of spades and a tackle. There ’s fine dentists among the crew, I ’m
thinking. And maybe they ’ll cut up the jawbone, for it ’s hard and
fine, and good for scrimshawing; anything that ’s too big for a tooth
to answer for. I ’ll show you, Timmie, when we get some whales of our
own.”

“What will you carve, Peter?”

“What will we carve? Anything you want, lad, from an ivory spoon or
a jagging-wheel, for your mother to mark pies with, to a model of
the Clearchus, exact in every line and rope, and all made of ivory
and silk. I brought me some silk thread for just that. Or we might
make a swift, to wind off the hanks of wool. One of the boatsteerers,
last voyage, made one. It was a strange thing, full of joints, and
could be pulled out large or pushed in small to fit, like a lazy
tongs. It seemed to work fine, but there was no real beauty in it,
just flat links and all; a very good machine, but no piece of work
for an artist to turn out. Still, it don’t need to be so plain. We
could carve {50} the links and the shaft and the pedestal with a
mermaid or two and some dolphins and old Nepchune and his car, and
tip off the links with a mermaid’s head at the top and her tail at
the bottom. Oh, yes, Timmie, it comes to me now that a real artist
might do something even with the reel. We ’ll make one if you like.
Or we might make you a cane to use when you get back from this voyage
a fine, big man, and go walking about the streets to turn the heads
of the girls. Oh, there ’s many a thing we can make, and—hello! Ahoy,
there!”

As Peter spoke I turned quickly toward the try-pots, for it was there
he was looking. The oil in one of the pots was being dipped out
into the copper cooling-tank, and the other pot was almost ready.
Something had happened to one of the men as he swung his dipper. The
dipper is practically a pail of copper held in an iron ring at the
end of an iron shaft about three feet long; and on the end of this
shaft is a long sapling handle. I did not know, at the time, what had
happened, but I found, afterwards, that the man had hit his elbow
and the contents of his dipper had been emptied into the second pot.
What I saw was a thin wreath of smoke rising from the pot, with a
tremendous bubbling and commotion in it, and instantly the oil burst
into flame, which licked the near-by woodwork and rigging, and sent
out a great volume of black smoke.

The orgy of devils about the pots became more of an orgy than ever,
although the devils no longer laughed. In the weird light and the
black smoke which, at times, rolled down and hid the whole thing from
me, the devils ran to and fro, and there was a confusion of shoutings
for perhaps a minute. Then I heard the mate’s voice bellowing orders,
and the other shouting grew less, but in place of it I heard the
grunting of men struggling with something heavy, or using every
muscle in pulling. The whole {51} thing seemed unreal to me, like
a sketch of Doré’s for a scene in Hell—although at that time I had
never heard of Doré—and I remember that I leaned back against the
bulwarks and laughed to myself. Peter had left me, and I had moved
clear of the jaw of the whale, but it never occurred to me to do
anything to help. No doubt I should only have been cursed by the mate
and by everybody else, for I should not have had the least idea what
to do, and I did not even know the names of things. But it is nothing
to my credit that I did not offer my blundering help, for I simply
did not think of it.

At last the flame died away and there was but little smoke and that
of a sickly grayish tinge, as if it were the ghost of what it had
hoped to be. I saw the two captains standing together, aft, watching
silently, and Peter joined me again, very black and dirty.

“A narrow squeak, Timmie,” he said. “I thought the ship would catch
afire in spite of us.”

“What was the matter, Peter?” I asked. “What did it?”

He turned to me with his humorous smile. Peter Bottom always had an
air of detachment in his way of looking at things which sometimes
concerned him very nearly.

“Does your mother never fry doughnuts,” he said, “in deep fat?”

I nodded—and I had a sudden lump in my throat. My mother did that,
and often; and her doughnuts were—but it was not of doughnuts I was
thinking.

“Well,” Peter went on, “your mother would not have asked me that
question. Does the fat never catch afire?”

I shook my head. “It never does when mother fries them. I tried it
once, and it did. Was that the reason?”

“Just that,” he said. And then our boat was ordered away, and Peter
ran.

The red sun was resting on the rim of the sea as we {52} started
back. From my place in the bow I watched it, and I lost myself. Our
course was directly in the golden track that led to the sun, and
whales and the black smoke of blubber and oily decks had no place in
my thoughts as I saw the sun sink into the sea.

{53}



CHAPTER VI


We stood away that night, going under very easy sail. We were in no
hurry, and did not want to get far away, but Captain Nelson had a
prejudice against whaling in too much company. I was out at daybreak,
eager and excited, and stayed out all day when my duties did not call
me below. Much of the time I spent in the maintop, which I attained
for the first time, my heart in my mouth as I crawled slowly and
carefully up and out on the futtock shrouds. Nothing would have
induced me to go through the lubber-hole. I had with me my battered
old glass—a load of junk, but it was better than nothing—and I
squatted there and watched for those drifting white plumes until my
eyes ached and watered. Peter laughed at me once when I came down,
but I went up again.

We sighted no whales that first day, although we expected to see
them, and kept a sharp lookout; but the next day, having laid a
course almost due south, and being then in about the latitude of
Frying Pan Shoals, we raised some. I was in the maintop again,
looking through my glass at the wrong place, of course. I should
have done better without the glass. At the mastheads we had two
Kanakas, one called the Admiral, I never could learn why. He had the
most wonderful way of crying “Bl-o-ows!” that I ever heard. The cry
began on a very high and piercing falsetto, sank a little in pitch,
quavered and trilled for a long time, then went up again like a
bugle, and ended as clear as a bell. I wonder that it did not scare
all the whales within four miles, but the whales seemed to like it.

As I sat with my eyes glued to the glass I heard the Admiral’s cry
begin. It startled me, for I had never {54} heard it before, and I
almost dropped the glass. I got it through my head what it was long
before the Admiral had finished.

“Oh, where?” I cried. “Where are they?”

The Admiral paid no attention to me, of course, and the other Kanaka
in his hoops took up the cry in the usual melodious fashion. Then
I saw the white plumes for which I had been looking for a day and
a half. They were directly to leeward, and about three miles off.
I found them with the glass, and I remember that I was perfectly
entranced with watching them. I could not see the bodies of the
whales at that distance, and not much more than the hump shows above
water, anyway, when the whales are undisturbed; but the spouts arose,
at intervals, in a leisurely sort of way, much like the occasional
spurt of steam from the stack of a locomotive at rest at a station.
The spout of the sperm whale does not go straight up, but forward
at an angle. And as the spouts rose, they went more slowly yet, and
they spread out and drifted slowly for a moment, perfect plumes, and
vanished.

It seemed to be a small pod of whales, I could not tell just how
many, for no sooner did one come to the surface and blow, than
another, having had his spoutings out, would up flukes and go down.
No one could miss seeing that, the great flukes high in air just
before the whale sounded, and the cry from the masthead of “There go
flukes!” seemed wholly unnecessary.

At that time I did not know very much about the habits of whales,
or about anything else, for that matter, connected with the life
I thought I had elected. Whales—sperm whales, for I always mean
sperm whales when I say simply whales—when undisturbed pursue their
regular round of activities in an extraordinarily orderly manner.
They go below the surface to feed. Nobody knows how deep they go,
but they go deep enough to {55} find the squid on which they feed.
Sounding whales frequently take half a mile of whale line almost
straight down, sometimes more; and they often come up straight at
the boat. There is no means of knowing whether they go habitually
deeper than that, but the pressure upon their huge bodies at that
depth is something enormous, and the changes of pressure in coming
up at the rate they sometimes—often—do come up are very rapid.
Deep-sea fish, pulled from that depth, are apt to be turned nearly
inside out, because of their inability to regulate the pressure in
their air-bladders quickly enough. I never knew what mechanism the
whale uses, if he has any, to guard against the consequences of such
rapid pressure changes, but he certainly does not use the air-bladder
method. It makes very little difference what method he uses, or
whether he has any other than his great strength, it works very well,
and in a way perfectly satisfactory to the whale.

Having sounded by the simple method of throwing his flukes in the
air, and pointing his body straight down, he stays down for a time
which is constant for the individual whale, so far as anybody has
been able to observe, and surprisingly uniform for whales in general,
taking into account age, size, and sex. The time is undoubtedly
determined by the reserves of oxygenated blood he has been able to
accumulate in some way or other—entirely obscure to me—to enable him
to close his spiracles and hold his breath for an hour or more. For a
full-grown bull whale will stay down for an hour or an hour and ten
minutes, and when he comes up he breathes perhaps seventy times at
intervals of about eleven seconds. When he has taken the usual number
of breaths, which is known as “having his spoutings out,” he ups
flukes and goes down again. A female will stay down from thirty to
forty minutes, and young whales perhaps twenty to thirty, depending
upon their age and strength. {56}

Whales are not always feeding, of course, and when not so engaged,
and when they are feeling lively, they may amuse themselves with
play, much as other animals do. The play of a sportive whale is not
of a kind that I ever cared to join in. They sometimes come up from
the depths at great speed, and throw their bodies clean out of the
water. This is called “breaching.” Breaching may not be the play of
a whale that is particularly sportive, but due to an effort to clear
the body of barnacles and crabs and such-like. And they sometimes
raise their flukes high in air, and bring them down on the surface
again, or “lobtail,” the blow upon the surface of the water making a
noise like a great gun that can be heard for a great distance.

They have other things which they do with their flukes, which seem
to be endowed with a special sense of touch, like the fingers of a
blind person. Indeed, as I think I have said, the sight of whales is
very poor. The eyes of a whale are so placed in his head that there
are considerable angles in front and behind throughout which he could
see nothing if he had the best of eyes; but it is more than that. His
eyes do not seem to be of the best.

I have never chanced to see any explanation of this which seemed
reasonable, but one occurred to me after I had learned to swim, which
I did a few years later. It is not possible for me to see outlines
clearly under water, and I suppose that the same thing is true of any
normal person. The reason is that the curvature of the surface of the
eye is adapted to use in air. Water is, of course, more dense than
air, optically as well as in other ways, and to see well in water the
eye surfaces would have to be much more curved. In other words, the
eye would have to be very near-sighted in air to have normal sight
under water. It is of some importance to the whale to have normal
sight under water, although there again is the difficulty of nearly
total absence of light {57} at great depths. But I should expect to
find the whale very near-sighted, and perhaps with an eye somewhat
similar to that of nocturnal animals. I do not know whether anybody
has ever observed that. I never have. It is somewhat difficult to
make such observations.

I have interrupted my narrative to say something about the habits of
whales, for I hope that has made it evident how hard it was for a
greenhorn like me to tell the number of whales in the pod from the
number of spouts that I could identify at any one time. In fact,
there were times when all had disappeared; but I stayed there,
crouched on my hunkers just forward of the lubber-hole, with my back
against the mast, and I watched those drifting plumes of vapor, and I
was much excited and quite happy.

The boats had been lowered, the harpooners overhauling their irons
as the boats were dropped into the water. I watched the four boats
tossing in the sea astern of us while their crews were stepping
the masts and setting the sails. Mr. Baker’s boat got her sail set
first, and stood away for the whales; then Mr. Brown, the third mate,
who seemed to have his crew well in hand. Mr. Brown was a silent,
uncommunicative man, but he knew his duties, and something more. Then
came Mr. Tilton’s boat, only a couple of seconds behind the third
mate. Mr. Tilton was fourth mate. Last of all came Mr. Wallet, fully
a minute behind the others. I am afraid I snickered at that, but it
was just what I had expected and hoped for. I hardly know why I had
taken such a dislike to Mr. Wallet so early in the voyage, for he had
not been unpleasant to me in any way. It must have been because I
thought him a poor stick.

It was a pretty sight. The weather was perfect, a moderate westerly
breeze, and bright sunshine sparkling on the water, with the four
boats driving ahead before the wind and spreading out fanwise as they
went, and the {58} occasional feathery spouts in the distance. The
boats looked like toy boats upon a painted ocean with tiny streaks of
cotton wool foam at their bows. I was not very high above them, but
the whole picture was spread out before my eyes. It would have been
much better at the masthead. I looked aloft as I thought of that,
with some vague idea of trying to get up there, and I saw the Admiral
busy with a flag. It was a sort of dirt-colored banner, and he seemed
to be trying experiments with it, hoisting it full up, then trying it
at half-mast, then stretching it out at one side or at the other, or
taking it in completely. He was signalling to the boats the position
of the whales, which he could see very well, while the men in the
boats could see them only occasionally or not at all. When the boats
got near enough the Admiral put his flag away.

Meanwhile the ship was keeping off after the boats. They had been
bracing the yards around slowly, for there were few men left on her
besides the idlers, of whom I was one. Nobody saw me—nobody thought
of me, very possibly—and I stayed crouched in the maintop and watched
the boats. It did not occur to me that my duty lay on deck. Captain
Nelson told me of it afterward. At the time the masthead man was the
only man who caught sight of me. I caught him grinning at me several
times, and wondered what he was grinning about.

The boats, by this time, had got very near the place where I had last
seen the spouts, but there were none to be seen now, and all boats
except Mr. Wallet’s had taken in their sails, and lay rocking and
waiting for the whales to come up. Mr. Wallet was still a long way
behind, for even the wind seemed to help all the others more than it
did him. I had my glass to my eyes, and I saw a gentle commotion in
the water beyond Mr. Brown’s boat, then another beyond Mr. Baker’s,
and almost instantly two spouts arose, very close to the boats, and
the men took to their oars with a will. As the whales had just come
up, {59} and had had no chance to breathe more than once or twice,
to say nothing of having their spoutings out, they could not go
down again, or if they did, they could stay down but a few minutes.
This was just the condition the men had been waiting for, and they
took full advantage of it. I could see Macy, the boatsteerer in Mr.
Baker’s boat,—the boatsteerer rows the bow oar,—take in his oar,
face about toward the bow, and stand up. He fitted his thigh into
the thigh-hole in the cleat, took the first harpoon from the crotch,
and poised it in his two hands, leaning far forward. The chance that
he was waiting for came in a few seconds, and he darted the harpoon
with all his strength; instantly seized the second harpoon from the
crotch, and threw that as the first one struck.

I had hardly been able to see the whale, as there was but little of
him out of water, and that little only an indistinguishable dark
mound; but immediately upon feeling the irons in him, he raised his
flukes high in air, and brought them down upon the surface with
a tremendous crash. They missed the boat, for the men had been
backing water with all their might, but the miss was by a small
margin, and the boat and the men in it were deluged with water.
Then the boatsteerer made his way aft, and took the steering oar,
and Mr. Baker went forward and selected his lance. He had no chance
to use it while they were in sight, however, for the whale set off
for the horizon at great speed, “head out,” the efforts of the
powerful flukes making his whole body undulate, so that his head
was alternately entirely buried in the sea, and almost completely
exposed, the narrow under-jaw serving as a cutwater. The last I
saw of that boat, Macy, the boatsteerer, stood at the steering
oar, keeping the boat straight behind the fleeing whale, while he
tried to snub the whale line completely by taking more turns around
the loggerhead. A thin wreath of blue smoke was rising from the
loggerhead, and one of the men was throwing {60} water by the hatful
upon it. The boat was throwing a sheet of water on each side of her
bow, almost like a stream from a fire hose.

All this hardly took longer than it takes to tell it. Meanwhile Mr.
Brown’s boat had pulled hard for the second whale, a longer pull
than Mr. Baker’s. They had got almost within darting distance when
Macy struck his whale, and every man in Mr. Brown’s boat heard the
thundering crash of the flukes on the water.

Wright, the boatsteerer, was already taking in his oar when Mr.
Brown gave him the word, for he knew what to expect. It is not
strange that I was in the dark as to the reasons for their actions,
but very naturally I thought it all right, although it did not seem
possible to dart the heavy harpoon that distance. Of course I could
not hear what Mr. Brown said, but Peter told me later, and explained
the actions of the whales according to his own notions—which may be
right enough. At all events, they are the notions generally held by
whalemen.

Wright took in his oar hurriedly—too hurriedly—scrambled to his place
in the bow, and grabbed a harpoon; but the whale had been losing no
time either, and the boat had gained but a few feet on him when he
started. He was going under without throwing his flukes into the air,
and he gathered speed very quickly. Wright threw the harpoon with
all the force left in him after his hard pull, but it was a good
twenty-five foot dart to the whale, which was going as fast as the
boat, and Wright had not the strength. The harpoon fell short and
nicked the whale’s flukes on an up stroke, serving only to increase
his speed instantly, and he disappeared.

I looked around, and could see no whales. There was Mr. Baker’s boat
well on its way to the Azores, with white water some distance ahead
of it, marking the action of their whale’s flukes as he ran. All the
others had vanished, and the boats lay still on the surface of the
{61} sea in attitudes of dejection, the men seeming to be looking
longingly after the fleeing whales. In a few minutes I heard a cry
from the masthead, and saw what the men were looking for. There,
miles away, was a lone spout, and then another, and a third; and they
seemed hurried. The whales had been swimming under water. We should
not get near those whales again, and the boats pulled slowly to the
ship.

What had happened, according to Peter, was this: Whales have some
mysterious way of communicating with each other, although there
may be miles of water between them. Peter did not undertake to say
what the means of communication was. It may have been the blow of
the flukes on the water when the whale was struck with the harpoon,
although whales lobtail frequently without causing alarm in their
companions. Whatever the means, old whalemen maintain that, when
a whale is struck, it communicates that fact, in some way, to the
others; and they become “gallied”—frightened—and make off at once. I
had seen them do so, and how could I doubt it? Of course Peter did
not tell me about it at that time. He and his boat, and all the men
in it, were out of sight.

I stirred myself when the boats were alongside, giving myself a
shake, I remember, and waking from the trance I had been in. I do not
know how I got down, but I must have thrown my legs over the edge of
the crosstrees and found the ratlines on the futtock shrouds with my
feet like any old hand, for I was concerned only with reaching the
deck as soon as possible.

Mr. Brown’s crew were just coming over the side as my feet struck the
deck. I rushed at Aziel Wright, the boatsteerer, and shot a fusillade
of questions at him, for I was worried about Mr. Baker’s boat and
Peter. The boat and her crew seemed to me to be as good as lost, well
out of sight beyond the rim of the sea, and going strong. Wright paid
no attention to me until the boat was up to the davits and the wooden
brackets swung out under her keel. {62}

When the boat was up and secure, Wright turned to me. He was a tall,
lanky man, and he could not have been over thirty, although he seemed
older. He had a little hacking cough, and seemed chronically tired;
but he was pleasant, and already a good friend of mine.

“What is it, Tim?” he asked. “Mr. Baker’s boat? Oh, they ’re all
right. We ’re running down after them now. We may sight them any time
now, or it may be dark before we find them.”

“But,” I objected, “the whale was going faster than the ship. He ’d
take them—”

Wright laughed. “True enough. There ’s no telling where he ’d take
them if he kept it up, for he was making a good ten knots, and the
ship is n’t making more ’n five or six. But he can’t keep it up a
great while—twenty mile or so. We ’ll sight them, it ’s likely, in a
few hours.”

“And will the whale fight when—”

“When he stops running?” Wright finished for me. “Can’t say, but
’t is n’t likely, for he ’ll be tired. But you never can tell what a
whale ’ll do.”

I was not wholly satisfied. “If we don’t see them before dark, how
will we find them?”

“Flares,” said Wright briefly. Then, seeing that I was mystified, he
proceeded to explain. I suppose he thought that he made the matter as
clear as daylight. “They ’ll burn flares now and then, and we ’ll see
one of ’em, maybe more, and we ’ll run down and pick her up.”

I nodded, and thanked him. There was nothing else that I knew enough
to ask him, although I was still unsatisfied, and I ran below to
get it all down in my journal. At the time I made mere notes, in a
fragmentary way, while my impressions were fresh. I wrote up the
notes later. I have that journal by me now. As I look over the
scrawled and stained pages, and read the disjointed sentences, the
whole thing comes back before me as if it had happened yesterday. I
sent the journal home from time to {63} time, as I had planned to
do, as long as I had opportunities, and managed to carry home the
part covering the last part of my cruise. My father and my mother
preserved my old journal as if it were a precious thing. I found it
nearly thirty years later with my father’s most valuable papers.

{64}



CHAPTER VII


It was past eight bells when the boats came aboard—eight bells being,
in this case, noon—and all hands had dinner. I hurried through my
work of helping the steward, and ran on deck. There was no sign of
Mr. Baker or of anything else on that limitless sea. The whale had
run to leeward, contrary to the custom of whales, which usually
run to windward when they can. The ship was rolling along in her
leisurely way, almost before the wind, and making a pleasant and
soothing noise under her forefoot and on either side as she rolled.
Ordinarily I should have enjoyed her leisurely progress, and should
have found some place which was out of sight from aft, perhaps on the
heel of the bowsprit, on the principle that out of sight was out of
mind. There I should have squatted, and gazed out ahead and fallen
to dreaming, probably, until recalled to myself by a shout of “Tim!
Where ’s that boy?” But I was getting anxious about Mr. Baker’s boat,
and I could not understand the indifferent attitude of everybody
on board. Nobody seemed to care whether he was ever found or not,
although I could not see, when I came to think it over, what more
could be done than was being done. The ship was going as fast as she
could—nearly as fast. They could have got a little more sail on her.
And the mastheads were manned.

I went up forward, and stood between the knightheads for a while,
but I was ashamed to ask anybody, and I gave it up, and went below
to work on my journal. I could not keep my mind on it, however, and
after half an hour or so I went on deck again. Mr. Wallet and Mr.
Brown were walking to and fro, and Captain Nelson was standing by the
starboard rail, not leaning, but swaying to the roll of the ship. I
went and stood beside him, saying nothing. {65}

He paid no attention to me for a long time, and I edged closer. He
glanced around then, with an expression of annoyance.

“Well,” he said, “what ’s the matter with you, Tim?”

“Nothing, sir,” I stammered hesitatingly. “I was wondering about Mr.
Baker.”

“Huh!” he said. “So was I. He ’s all right, I guess. We ’re edging
down that way now. Worried?”

“Well—no, sir, not if you ’re not.”

“Huh!” he said again, under his breath. “Always worried, more or
less, when a boat ’s lost. But Mr. Baker ’s pretty well able to take
care of himself. Nothing to worry about.”

“No, sir, I suppose not, but I thought we ’d sight him before this.
That whale must have taken him a long way.”

The captain only grunted in reply. I did not like to press the
matter, and I had turned away, when he called me back.

“Tim,” he said, “you can take your glass to the foremasthead, if you
want to, and see if you can see any sign of him.”

There was a little crinkle of amusement about his eyes as he spoke.
Evidently he thought that would be the last thing I wanted. It was.
As I turned and looked up, I saw that the foremasthead meant the
hoops. One man was already there, the tall, silent black man, that
we called Tony. I had but just got so that I could climb in and out
of the maintop without having my heart in my throat; but I was not
going to let anybody know how scared I was, if I could help it, and I
was not going to funk anything that the captain—the old man, as I had
come to call him to myself and to others of the crew—suggested for me
to do, even if he did not order it.

I turned back. “Yes, sir,” I said in a small voice; and I started.

I was an active boy, and fairly strong for my age; and {66} I did it
somehow. I think I held my breath for the last stretch, and I know
I was thoroughly scared until I got there, and Black Tony lent me a
hand into the hoops.

The ship was rolling more than I had thought. On deck the roll was
scarcely noticeable, but at the foremasthead it was a different
matter. I found that I was being carried through an arc of fifteen or
twenty feet, and at first I could do nothing but hold on to the hoop.
Tony did not laugh or speak. He did not even grin, but watched me and
waited, thereby earning my enduring gratitude. After a few minutes I
found that I did not mind the motion so much, and I put my arms over
the hoop, and took up my glass, but did not put it to my eyes.

It was beautiful weather, the sun shining brightly and pleasantly
warm, and a brisk breeze, under which the sea to leeward, as far as
I could see, was deep indigo, with white caps here and there which
flashed dazzlingly white in the sun. It seemed to me, I remember,
that I could see almost around the world, although there was a
curious saucer-like effect of the water near the ship. She seemed
to be moving in the centre of a slight depression, a mile or so in
diameter, and over that rim the sea curved away as it should. I was
so taken up with the beauty and the breadth of view that I forgot
what I had come there for, and I got to like the swing to and fro. It
was as soothing as a hammock, the gulls screamed about my head, and I
got to dreaming. I have never got over my liking for a wide prospect,
and with such a prospect unrolled before me, I am, even now, as apt
to get to dreaming as I ever was. I was too apt to do it then.

Something far off upon those bobbing waves must have attracted
the attention of my unseeing eyes, for I came out of my dreaming
abruptly; but the thing had gone. Again I thought I saw it, but it
was of the color of a sea in shadow. I put my glass to my eyes, and
searched the sea. It must have been six or seven miles off, or more,
{67} and I could not find it, but I saw only a panorama of curiously
bobbing waves going straight up and down. Then I happened upon it
again for an instant, as it crossed the field of my glass, what
looked like the bow of a boat just rising over a sea. I was still
searching for it when I felt a thump on the bottom of the ship, and
a strange shivering of the mast. It was over in a second, but I had
dropped my glass. If it had not been tied around my neck it would
have dropped to the deck below, and it might have killed a man. That
old glass was almost heavy enough to go through the deck, dropped
from the masthead. I found myself staring at Black Tony, while he
stared at me. Then he looked directly down into the sea below him.

What he saw there I did not know, but he gave a cry, and I felt
rather than heard a sort of scraping along the keel, and the
Clearchus almost stopped, and she began to careen. She careened more
and more, and up there at the masthead it seemed as if she must
capsize. I did not stop to think, but a panic seized me, and I slid
and scrambled down the starboard rigging until I was in the foretop.
There I stood and collected my scattered wits, and realized that, in
my panic, I had come down, without a thought, over rigging that I
had been very much afraid of. Although the topgallant shrouds have
ratlines on them on all whalers and most merchantmen, they are pretty
high up and seem none too secure to a boy on them for the first time.
If it had not been for my momentary scare I might be up there yet.

I was about to come down from the foretop with much dignity and a
swelling of the chest, when I saw that all hands, including the
officers, were looking intently into the water astern, and naturally
my gaze followed theirs. The ship had recovered her equilibrium by
this time, and was going serenely about her business; but, about
half a cable’s length in her wake, some huge, smooth body was slowly
rising to the surface. At first I thought it was a {68} whale which
we had run into and over; but as it continued to rise, I saw that
it was too big for a whale. It broke the surface, exposing a smooth
shape like a vessel’s bilge, dark-colored and covered with weed, and
continued to rise very slowly until the whole length was revealed,
and I could even catch glimpses of the keel. It remained on the
surface for half a minute, perhaps, then a sea heaved up the stem,
and the hulk began to sink as slowly and majestically as it had
risen. It was the hull of some vessel, waterlogged and water-soaked
so that it floated some feet below the surface of the sea, rising and
falling, or perhaps remaining stationary below the influence of the
waves. It must have been afloat for years to be so covered with weed.
I wondered where it had been when it met disaster; possibly on the
coast of Africa, or in the Bay of Biscay, or even in some more remote
seas; and how much longer would it be a plaything of ocean currents?

Captain Nelson was standing under the after house, still gazing
astern, when I went to report to him. Half a dozen men, including the
sailmaker who performed the duties of carpenter, and the cooper, had
been sent below to see whether the Clearchus had been damaged by the
collision, but the old man did not seem worried. I asked him about
it, no doubt a piece of impertinence on my part.

He shook his head. “Did n’t you see where we had run over her?
Did n’t even scrape off the whole of the weed. Glancing blow.”

“What sort of a vessel was it, sir? Do you think it was a whaler?”

He shook his head again. “Not a whaler. No copper on her bottom.”
Then he smiled suddenly, for he had seen the whole of my performance.
“See anything up there?”

I told him that I thought I had seen a boat, but I could not be sure,
there was so much mirage or something. {69}

“Looked like a boat, did it?”

“Yes, sir. Like the bow of a boat. I could n’t see it very well. It
was the color of the water, and it looked as if it was cut off, but I
don’t suppose it was. There was something that looked like a flag or
something.”

Captain Nelson smiled more broadly. “May have been a flag or
something. How far off?”

“Eight miles, perhaps. I don’t know.”

“Well, the lookout has n’t reported it, and I ’m afraid you did n’t
see anything. I did n’t know but you had seen a ghost, you came down
so fast.”

“No, sir—” I began. Then I felt myself growing red, my face and my
neck, even to my body and the roots of my hair, and I stammered and
stopped.

“Never mind. You got down quicker than you will again for a long
time, and I was afraid you might have trouble. There was some excuse
for you. I ’ve been scared, myself.”

“Then, Captain Nelson, may I go up again?”

“Now? What do you want to go up again now for? Nothing to see up
there. See if the steward does n’t want you.”

We stood on to leeward for the rest of the day without sighting the
boat. I was getting really worried about it. At sunset we shortened
sail, as we did always on cruising grounds. The light sails were
taken in, the topsail close-reefed, and the ship was brought close
to the wind, lying to during the night, so as to stay as nearly as
possible in one place. If we took any chances of overrunning the
boat, there was some danger that it might be lost in earnest, while,
if we kept to windward of it, there was little chance of that. I
stayed on deck after supper as long as I could keep my eyes open,
in the hope of seeing the flare which Wright had mentioned, but I
saw none. By two bells—nine o’clock—I was so sleepy that I fell
asleep halfway up the main rigging, and just caught myself as I was
{70} falling, my arm hooked around the shrouds. Men sometimes fall
sound asleep on a yard, toward the end of a long watch, hanging on
unconsciously by their shoulders and their legs, with an arm hooked
around a stay. No officer will arouse a man in this condition, for
there is great danger that he will fall overboard in his instinctive
start at a command. I did not know of this at the time, but I was a
little frightened at my narrow escape from a fall, and I went below
and turned in at once.

I fell asleep as soon as I touched my bunk, and slept until morning.
I remembered very vaguely that there was some unusual noise over
my head at some time during the night, and that afterward I heard
a noise in the cabin, but I did not rouse enough to wonder at it.
It was only in the morning that it seemed to have any significance,
and as soon as I was really awake I got into my clothes hurriedly
and went on deck. There was Mr. Baker’s boat on the davits, where
she belonged, and there was Peter Bottom smiling at me, and there,
alongside to starboard, was our first whale, floating on his side,
with his flukes toward the bow, the water about him filled with
sharks.

{71}



CHAPTER VIII


The water actually boiled with sharks, feasting and fighting. There
was a multitude of them, big fellows, from six to twelve feet long,
and they took bites about the size of a football right out of the
whale’s side. It was hard to see how they could do it, with their
projecting snouts, and I did not make it out very well with all my
watching. A shark would glide directly at the whale, about a foot
or two under the surface, there would be the flash of whitish belly
as he turned over, and he would glide on under, or turn without
stopping; but there was always the neat, round hole where he had
scooped out his mouthful. Two of the biggest sharks repeatedly threw
themselves up on the carcass, from which, of course, they slipped off
immediately; but they always left smooth, round holes behind them.

“And they take a good quart of oil at every mouthful,” said Peter’s
voice at my elbow. I had been so intent on the sharks that I had not
heard him come. “Those big fellows take more. Three of their bites
would make a gallon of oil.”

I seized the chance to get from Peter the story of the capture of the
whale. It was a short story in the telling, possibly because he saw
that I was as much interested in the sharks as I was in the story;
but I think Peter would have made no long story of it in any case.

“ ’T is soon told,” he said. “He ran for four or five hours, twelve
knots or more at first, then ten, and then less, but faster than
the ship sails. A nice kind of a sleigh-ride, Timmie. We had a good
deal of trouble heaving close to lance him, for he was cunning and
knowing, and managed to keep out of the way. He turned fin out about
{72} sunset, and we burned flares now and then while we pulled
to windward. Raised the ship about four bells, but the sea was so
high we had trouble getting the fluke-chain fast, and it was nearly
midnight before we had the boat on the davits. Look at that, now!
Would n’t it surprise you the life there is in a shark?”

He pointed to a shark whose bowels were protruding from a cut in its
belly. The shark was so intent on feasting while the feast was good
that he paid no attention to an injury which, one would think, was
disabling. The intestine gradually came out, and trailed in a long,
wriggling line as he swam. Other sharks attacked and tore at it.

For the sharks were not having it all their own way. The
cutting-stage had been rigged and lowered, and George Hall and
Miller, the boatsteerers for the second mate and the fifth mate, were
stationed on it with sharp spades, and were doing what damage to the
sharks they could. A shark has as many lives as a cat. An enormous
shark came at great speed, and threw himself fairly upon the carcass
of the whale.

“Pin him through the nose!” Peter shouted. “Pin him through the nose!”

I did not know what he was talking about, but Hall and Miller did. At
the same instant they threw their spades with all their force. The
aim was true, and while the shark was still wriggling on the whale
both spades struck him on the projecting snout, pierced it and went
through deep into the whale’s body, pinning him there. The projecting
snout of the shark is the one sensitive place in his whole body. The
struggles of this shark were terrific. He thrashed the water with his
tail, sending up sheets of spray which drenched Hall and Miller on
the cutting-stage; then the sea receded, and his tail thrashed the
bare blubber with noises like explosions. The crew quickly gathered
at the rail, laughing at Hall and Miller, {73} and at the struggles
of the shark. But his struggles were not fruitless, for they freed
the spades from the body of the whale, and the shark slipped back
into the sea. Here his struggles were more violent than ever, and the
spades quickly drew out of his nose, and he made off.

Both Hall and Miller had let go the handles of their spades in the
surprise of the drenching, but there were light lines attaching them
loosely to the railing of the cutting-stage. They now recovered them,
and were preparing to resume the slaughter, when they were called
in. Cutting-in was about to begin. Hall offered me his spade, and
suggested that I see if I could not get a shark or two. I was very
willing to try, as I would try anything. I did not make a success of
it. I might have improved if I had had time to practise, but I was
called in almost immediately. I did not become a really good shot
with a spade until I had my growth and strength.

Attached to the head of the mainmast—the top of the lower mast, where
I had sat in the crosstrees—were two great tackles, just alike. The
blocks in each of these “cutting-tackles,” which are used to strip
off and hoist in the blubber, are enormous and clumsy, reaching well
above a man’s knee as they rest on end on the deck. It is possible
that they use wire rope now, and iron blocks, which would be lighter
and less clumsy, but wire rope and iron blocks were not used, in my
time, for any such purpose. The gangway, from which two men were
taking out the removable section of bulwarks, is forward of the
mainmast. As all the blubber is hoisted in at the gangway, it is
desirable that the pull of the tackles shall be in line with the
gangway. Each of the falls, therefore, ran through a loop or eye in a
large cable running to the foremast; and by hauling in on this cable
the tackle could be pulled forward to a point over the line of the
gangway.

As I came inboard I met the men carrying these heavy, clumsy blocks
to the side, two men to each block, and {74} staggering at that; and
the artists who were to do the cutting were waiting for me to get
off the stage. These artists were the mates, four of the five. The
Clearchus was a five-boat ship, and had five mates to head her five
boats. The fifth mate was named Snow, a little man, but of tremendous
energy. Each of the four mates carried his spade, and as soon as they
had reached their places on the stage the cutting-in began.

The whaling-spade is perhaps the implement most used in whaling, and
for a surprising variety of purposes, but its primary purpose is
for cutting. Spades are made in many sizes and shapes, or the shape
of a spade may be changed by continual sharpening, or to suit the
individual taste of the user. The typical blade is usually about four
inches wide and a foot or so in length, with straight sides, and,
normally, a straight edge. It tapers in thickness from half an inch
or more at the top of the blade to about an eighth of an inch on the
line where grinding off for the edge begins; but in an old spade
which has been much ground, this line is not definite or distinct,
and such a spade is more like an old axe-head. Indeed, the spade is
much like an axe designed to do its cutting by being pushed or thrown
endwise instead of swung. Above the head of the spade is the socket
for the handle, and the socket and the head are connected by a shank
which may be several feet long, or may be reduced almost to nothing.

When spades are used for the purpose for which they are intended,
they must be kept very sharp, and the grindstone is always in service
on deck. A blow upon a bone destroys the edge of the spade, and mates
are usually careful to avoid the bones; but the cutting-in is often
done in a heaving sea, by a man on a single plank which may not heave
in time with the body of the whale, and the spade is heavy, with a
flexible sapling handle perhaps eighteen feet long, and he may not be
able to see what he is cutting, three or four feet within the body of
the {75} whale; when the head is being cut off, for instance, or
when cutting between the junk and the skull. Accidents will happen
to the best of us. Then he throws his spade inboard, and roars for a
sharp one.

[Illustration: CUTTING-IN]

Strangely enough, Mr. Wallet was the most skilful cutter we had, and
he put his heart into his work, and took great interest in doing it
well and quickly. He kept the others on the jump to keep up with
him, and nothing put him out more than to see that any other man did
not have to hurry. He was not at all of that temper in any other
work that he did. In fact, he was pretty nearly a flat failure as an
officer, and I often wondered whether it was not his great skill with
the spade that held his position.

The order of the different operations in cutting-in is always
necessarily about the same, but some slight variation in them is
found in different ships, in accordance with the ideas of the men who
do the cutting. It is usual to begin with cutting off the head at the
same time that the blanket strip of blubber is unrolled. Mr. Wallet
varied this practice by cutting out the tongue first, which, in the
sperm whale, is moderately large, thick, and soft; then he cut off
the jaw, and then severed the head from the body.

Before any cutting was done, the whale was hauled forward until his
eye was opposite the gangway. Then Mr. Wallet stepped proudly out
on the cutting-stage, and fastened his monkey-rope loosely to the
railing of the stage. The monkey-rope is about a man’s waist, the
other end fast to any convenient thing, or held by another man on the
ship. Its purpose is to prevent a man’s falling into the sea. After
Mr. Wallet came Mr. Brown, who disdained the use of the monkey-rope,
as did almost all of those for whose benefit it was intended. Mr.
Wallet and Mr. Brown were to be engaged in cutting the head, tongue
and jaw. Mr. Tilton and Mr. Snow, the fifth mate, {76} the little
man of prodigious energy, then went on. Mr. Baker did no cutting on
this whale, probably thinking that enough was enough.

The body of a dead whale, as I have said, floats on its side, with
one fin uppermost. Mr. Tilton and Mr. Snow went to work at once,
cutting a hole clear through the blubber, just above the fin; in
fact, this hole was so near the head that it was partly through
the “white horse,” which they call the extremely tough layer of
integuments surrounding the eye and most of the head. They worked
together, and the spades rose and fell in alternation, one driving
his spade down on one side, then the other driving down his spade on
the other side, as two axemen cut a scarf in a tree. Thus, at every
stroke, there was a V-shaped piece cut out. The heavy spade is almost
thrown at the place where the cut is to be made, with great accuracy,
and the scarf progresses with surprising speed.

Meanwhile Mr. Wallet and Mr. Brown were busy, cutting out the tongue.
Mr. Wallet found, for the first time in his career, I guessed, that
he had a working partner whom he was unable to hurry. Mr. Brown
matched stroke for stroke, however fast Mr. Wallet worked; and his
strokes were delivered with as great accuracy as Mr. Wallet’s, and
with greater force. Remember that this was the first chance there
had been on that voyage to match powers. I saw Mr. Wallet glance up
with annoyance, and put on more speed. Mr. Brown met the increase in
speed without turning a hair. Mr. Wallet nearly doubled his speed,
and Mr. Brown again met it, driving his spade in with greater force
than before. I had never, up to that time, seen a stamp mill, but
I saw one at the Centennial, after my return from that voyage, and
it reminded me so exactly of Mr. Wallet and Mr. Brown, cutting out
that tongue, that I stood before it, and laughed aloud, much to the
astonishment of the others who stood there. Both the men labored and
sweated, but Mr. Wallet sweated more, while there was the flicker of
a smile on Mr. Brown’s lips. {77}

“Too fast for you?” Mr. Wallet asked.

“Go as fast as you like,” said Mr. Brown.

It was a great waste of energy, and too much of a strain for Mr.
Wallet, who was then delivering strokes of his spade at the rate of
fifty or more a minute, while the greatest normal rate is twelve
to fifteen. Mr. Tilton and Mr. Snow were almost convulsed with
laughter, so that their blows fell to eight or less, and there was
no strength in them. I heard a snicker from one of the crew, and I
could not forbear a snicker of my own. Mr. Wallet may not have heard
the snickers; he affected not to, but he lowered his rate at once to
fifteen a minute.

They finished the cut on that side of the tongue before Mr. Tilton
and Mr. Snow had quite done cutting the hole; and, without a word,
Mr. Wallet transferred his attention to the uppermost hinge of the
lower jaw, probably relying on his superior knowledge of the anatomy
of the whale to enable him to get the better of Mr. Brown. Mr.
Wallet’s knowledge, in that respect—and in that respect alone, as far
as I was ever able to see—was very exact and complete. Mr. Brown’s,
however, if not quite equal to Mr. Wallet’s, was sufficient for the
occasion, and they finished their work like the artists they were,
before the fourth and fifth mates had done that allotted to them.

It was the duty of these men, when the hole was cut, to cut a
semicircular scarf, or deep groove, above it, and to continue this
scarf at each end of the semicircle, down past the hole, and past
the side fin, making this scarf not perpendicular to the axis of
the body, but slightly inclined to it, like the thread of a screw.
The rearmost scarf—that toward the whale’s flukes—which is the only
one which is continued after the carcass has made one revolution,
describes a spiral about the carcass, and the blubber unrolls in a
continuous strip, about three feet wide.

The neck of a sperm whale, if he can be said to have {78} a neck,
is about the thickest part of him. It may be eleven or twelve feet
through, or even more. It is here that his head is to be cut off, and
the junction of the vertebra with the head must be found far within
the mass of flesh; found very exactly, if the mate is to make a good
clean job of it. The foremost scarf, if the cutting has been done
as it should be done, marks the place where the mate must begin his
cut to sever the head. Mr. Wallet, having paused ostentatiously, for
the purpose of showing his righteous annoyance at the slowness of
Mr. Tilton and Mr. Snow—they did not seem put out by this show of
annoyance, but amused—Mr. Wallet, I say, having thrown out his chest
for a minute or two, took up the cutting of the foremost scarf, and
Mr. Brown joined him at it. The cutting was soon done as far down as
the men could get at it.

Azevedo, Mr. Tilton’s boatsteerer, was then lowered on one of the
blocks of the cutting-falls, and stepped off upon the carcass. He
had woolen socks upon his feet, I noticed. I noticed this, as he
was accustomed to go barefoot, as were the crew pretty generally. I
learned that woolen socks were supposed to give him a surer footing
than anything else. He had a monkey-rope also, although he would
have gone without it if the captain would let him; but if he slipped
in between the whale and the ship he would be a goner. He stood or
stepped about on the body with apparent carelessness, although he
did not let go his hold on the falls. My heart was in my mouth for
fear that he would slip off among the swarming sharks, but he paid
no attention to them, except to push aside with his foot one which
had come too close. He had had long experience, and told me afterward
that there was little to fear from the sharks as long as the whale
was there. The gulls, too, and other scavengers of the air, had
gathered, and there was a wheeling, screaming flock of them over my
head. We were not so very far offshore.

Attached to the lower end of the cutting-falls was a {79} gigantic
iron hook. This hook Azevedo fitted into the hole cut through the
blubber. The blubber of a whale is his skin, a peculiar cellular and
fibrous structure containing the oil, and it is from five to twelve
inches thick, varying with the size of the whale and the place on his
body that it comes from. The blubber of the right whale is thicker.
It is thickest on the back, less thick on the sides, and thinnest on
his belly. On the shoulder it is very tough. Although the sea was not
high, it was hard work getting the hook in place, and Azevedo grunted
and sweated as he squatted or kneeled on one knee on the carcass, and
the seas washed over his legs and wet him to the waist. But he got
the hook in place at last, with the help of a long knife. Then he
rose to his feet, holding to the falls with one hand, and gave the
word to heave.

This duty of the boatsteerer is unpleasant enough at best, but when
the sea is rough I have seen a man almost drowned by the water which
continually swept over him. Under such conditions the enormous hook
is jerked and swayed by the roll of the ship; and he has to be
constantly on the lookout that the heave of the ship and the heave
of the whale, which usually will not be in the same direction at any
instant, do not catch him between them.

Two men were at the gangway, to steer the sheet of blubber—called the
blanket piece—as it came up, and twenty men at the windlass. When
Azevedo gave the word, “Haul taut and heave away,” the whole twenty
of them pumped at the windlass, which clanked merrily at first, then
more slowly as the falls took the strain; then more slowly still,
with the men singing out, and puffing and grunting. The ship slowly
heeled over toward the whale. Then, suddenly, there was a ripping,
rending sound, the ship righted and rolled a little, and there was
the hook with the end of the blanket piece of blubber in the air,
clear of the carcass, which had turned part way over in the bight
of the fluke-chain. I may not have said {80} that the body is held
by a loop or bight of heavy chain at the “small,” just forward of
his flukes, so that it will turn freely. In addition to this there
is a chain about the lower jaw at first, but that, of course, does
not hold the carcass after the jaw is cut off, which is one of the
earliest operations.

Mr. Tilton and Mr. Snow continued cutting the rear scarf, Mr. Brown
kept at the forward scarf, or necklace, where the head was to be cut
off, and Mr. Wallet again attacked the tongue and the other hinge of
the jaw as the turning of the carcass gave him opportunity. The heavy
strip of blubber rose slowly as the crew pumped at the windlass, and
the spades of the mates rose and fell regularly. The tongue and the
jaw were hoisted in by the second cutting-falls. That jaw looked
enormous as it came in over the side. When the tackle was tight up,
block to block, it was not quite clear of the gangway, and they had
to swing the other end around, and heave it in. When it was on deck,
it was pushed over into the port scuppers, out of the way. They then
resumed work upon the blanket piece of blubber, the work of cutting
off the head being carried forward at the same time.

The blanket strip was soon high in the air, the falls block to block.
The steady clanking of the windlass stopped, and the men had a
breathing spell of a few minutes, as Mr. Baker called “Chock-a-block.
Board blanket piece.”

Mr. Tilton stood at the gangway with a boarding-knife in his hands,
and took the attitude of a man about to take part in a bayonet
charge. That was virtually what he did. The boarding-knife is a
sword-like blade, nearly straight, thirty inches long, and it
is fixed in the end of a stout wooden handle, about three feet
long. With this formidable weapon Mr. Tilton made violent lunges
and plunges at the strip of blubber just above the break of the
gangway, and soon had a hole through it. Through this hole {81}
an “eye-strop”—a loop of heavy rope, through one end of which the
blubber-hook passes—was passed, and its oak toggle pounded into place
on the other side and lashed, to make its hold on the blubber secure.

Meanwhile the fall of the first tackle had been secured and the
strain put on the second tackle. There are two drums on the windlass,
and one fall leads to each drum. The man with the boarding-knife
again attacked the strip of blubber, this time a little above the
hole, and by a series of stabs and slashes he cut it across, and the
upper piece swung in over the open hatch, and was lowered to the
blubber room, where it was stowed, the outside—“black skin,” as it
is called—down. This proceeding surprised me, for I had supposed,
without giving the matter any thought, that it would be dumped
upon the deck and cut up there. I did not know what a mountain of
blubber it would make, and the deck well cluttered up with the jaw
and the junk and the small, as you will see. One or two of the last
strips of blubber they did dump there. My surprise, I found, was
justified somewhat. No more blubber is put between decks than is
necessary to provide working space on deck. A big whale can be tried
out in thirty-six hours, and it would only mean hoisting out almost
immediately. But in this case there was a threat of rain, and rain
spoils blubber.

The cutting-in proceeded rapidly. Mr. Wallet and Mr. Brown were
engaged upon various dissections of the head at the same time that
the blanket piece was being stripped off, and from time to time there
were interruptions in the regular progress of the blanket pieces to
enable them to finish certain stages of the operation in the order
that has been found to be proper. It is necessary that the head
should be dissected into its parts and cut off before the stripping
of the blanket pieces has gone very far. This is the most important
operation in cutting-in, as the head of the sperm whale contains the
most valuable of his products.

{82}



CHAPTER IX


The head of the sperm whale, as seen from the side, is roughly
rectangular in outline, with an exaggerated upper jaw which seems out
of all manner of proportion to the lower. In large whales the height
of the square forehead or nose is eleven to thirteen feet, and the
width of it nine to eleven feet, while the lower jaw is slender and
pointed. This exaggeration of the upper part of the head does not
argue anything in regard to the size of the brain, as might naturally
be supposed. The brain is placed in a normal position in regard to
the eye, which is a little above and behind the angle of the mouth,
and appears to be set too low down in the head.

All of this huge upper part of the head is nothing but an
excrescence: a tough, fibrous or fatty matter, in which there can be
little feeling if there is any. Whales sometimes ram ships, striking
them with that upper part of the head or nose—and sink them, too—and
swim raging off, apparently little the worse for the encounter.
There are some well-authenticated cases which I cannot be expected
to remember, for they happened many years before I was born. I refer
especially to the cases of the Ann Alexander and the Essex, which
were sunk by whales, and there have been others. There is no doubt
about it, although the fact has been doubted by a good many people
who knew nothing about whales. You would never have found a whaleman
who doubted it. I know of one case, at least, which occurred well
within my recollection. The Kathleen was sunk by a whale in 1902,
several hundred miles from land, and the crew took to the boats,
cheerfully enough, I do not doubt, with the prospect before them of
a voyage of over a week at the very least, and possibly two or {83}
three. The master of the Kathleen lived within a block of me. His
wife was on that voyage, with her parrot, which lived to tell the
tale. These same Bolshevik whales can carry timbers, from the bows of
ships which they have sunk, embedded in their heads for years without
apparent inconvenience.

However, the primary purpose of that exaggeration of the upper jaw
is not to serve as a battering ram. In the upper part of that great
growth is a well of the purest oil extending very nearly the length
of the head. This is called the “case.” Just what its purpose is
nobody seems to know, although there have been many guesses. One of
these guesses is that the well of oil helps to float the heavy head;
but this guess can hardly be right, for the head, when severed,
immediately turns, with the spiracle, or blow-hole, down.

Between the case and the skull lies the “junk,” of still tougher
material than the case, but containing considerable oil, although it
is not contained in a single well. The cells of the junk are from
four to eight inches across, filled with faintly yellow oil, or oily
substance, which is translucent when warm. The walls of these cells
are composed of extremely tough, interlacing fibres, or ligaments,
called “white horse.” The separation of the junk from the case is on
a very nearly horizontal line running through the nose just above the
bump—or what looks like a bump. The contents of the case seem to be
liquid during the life of the whale, but after the body becomes cold,
they become partly solid. The solid part is spermaceti.

The skull, if separated from the excrescence, bears some resemblance
to the head of an alligator, and the eye seems to be set right
enough. This separation of the head into its parts was what Mr.
Wallet and Mr. Brown were proceeding to accomplish. While they were
cutting the case from the junk, Macy and George Hall, boat-steerers
for the first and second mates, rove ropes in each cheek {84} for
the chains which were to hold the case. When the separation was
complete, the case was passed astern, held by chains, nose down in
the water, until the cutting-in should be finished and the carcass
cut adrift. The junk was then cut away from the skull and hoisted
bodily on deck. During the operation of cutting the junk from the
skull, they cut alongside and close to the skull, and as they could
not see what they were cutting, but had to go by feeling, there were
several spades spoiled. The cutters passed these dulled spades in on
deck, and freshly sharpened spades were passed to them. I heard the
noise of the grindstone during the whole operation.

They were a long time in cutting the junk and the case, and there
was nothing to see except the swarming sharks, and I got tired of
seeing the spades rise and fall out of sight in that mass of flesh,
so I turned away. Unfortunately Mr. Baker chanced to see me, and
suggested, in unnecessarily vigorous language, that if I had nothing
else to do I had better turn the grindstone. I thought it best to
humor him, so I went over to that device of the devil, and found
Black Tony sharpening spades and Black Man’el turning for him.

Man’el looked up. “What you want, little Tim?” he asked, grinning.

“Mr. Baker told me to turn the grindstone,” I answered.

“Aw, you go ’way f’om here,” said Man’el, his grin widening. “I turn
for Tony. You could n’t turn well enough. Nice place over there,” he
went on, nodding his head sidewise toward the port rail. “Mr. Baker
won’t see you.”

He looked up at Tony, who nodded in confirmation, and I found an
inconspicuous place against the rail, on the side away from the
cutting. Here I stood, and looked out over a gentle sea. The sun
was high, and it was pleasantly warm, and the oily smell from the
cutting-in was not {85} disagreeable, although I was to leeward and
got it all. The sounds of the men pumping at the windlass, and the
mates on the cutting-stage, and the noise of an occasionally shouted
order, sounded more and more faintly in my ears until they ceased
to carry their message to my brain. I heard only the screams of the
seabirds wheeling above me, and I saw a glittering sea which danced
before my half-closed eyes.

How long I remained in this hypnotic state, between sleeping and
waking, I do not know; but I was suddenly aroused by a shout, and
turned, to see what seemed to be a blackfish come sliding across the
deck, straight at me. It was the small. The explanation is simple,
although I did not know it at the time. As they approach the small
in unrolling the blanket piece, it comes harder and harder, for the
forward end of the carcass has no support except the strip of blubber
to which the hook of the cutting-falls is fast, and the raw, red
shoulders hang low in the water, so that it is hard to turn them
over. When the small is reached, therefore, the carcass is cut clean
through, and the forward end sent adrift, accompanied by the shoal of
silent sharks and the swarming seabirds. The flukes are then cut off,
and the small hoisted bodily in upon deck.

My only thought, if I had a thought, was to get out of the way of
this slippery black monster. I jumped away from my place, which
seemed to be its destined resting-place, the next jump being as far
into the future as I had time to look. The deck was now a perilous
place to make your way about on, lumbered up as it was with the jaw
and the junk, and the last blanket piece of blubber, which lay pretty
well across it, beside the open hatch; and it was covered with oil,
as was the gangway and the rail near it. I had no time to consider or
to measure chances. I went skipping lightly from floe to floe, like
Eliza fleeing from the bloodhounds; and I stepped upon the piece of
blubber innocently lying there, meaning to spring across {86} the
hatch. It looked firm, and there was nowhere else to step without
running into something, and I was on my way and I could not stop.
It did not look so very slippery. But it was slippery, and it was
not firm; and my foot slipped, and the piece of blubber tipped just
enough to shoot me down the open hatch.

As I went down, I caught a glimpse of an astonished brown face, in
the comparative darkness of the blubber room, gazing with mouth
hanging open, and wide eyes. Then I landed, sitting down, on the
other pieces of blubber, which the owner of the brown face had been
stowing. I struggled about there in the half darkness for some time
before I could get upon my feet. I had no help from the Kanaka Tom.
I thought he would have a fit. He fairly shrieked with laughter
until he could not stand, to say nothing of helping me. The pieces
of blubber slipped about and threw me again and again, and when I
finally managed to get up, I seemed to have been swimming in oil. My
clothes were soaked with it. I had managed to keep my face and hair
out of it, but that was about all.

I heard great shouts of laughter from the deck, but I did not mind,
for it was funny. It would have been funnier for them if they could
all have seen me wrestling with the blubber. I found myself grinning
as soon as I had got over the immediate effects of my struggle. I
grinned at the helpless Tom. My clothes were not uncomfortable, but
they were hopelessly spoiled for any other use than an oily one.

When I got on deck again—I took good care to be aft of the hatch,
and stood under the gallows by the mainmast—they were shifting the
case forward, so that it should be near the gangway. A whip was
already rigged at the main yardarm, which was braced forward. Every
few seconds one of the crew caught sight of me standing there in
my oily clothes, and he whooped and shouted with laughter. I was
not sensitive about such things, and I {87} grinned in return. The
Admiral and Black Man’el were the most affected by the sight of me,
the Admiral letting out such a whoop as would have scared away all
the whales within ten miles. Even Black Tony, who rarely smiled and
never laughed, but was always dignified and as stiff and straight as
a poker, could not help smiling.

Black Tony should have been an officer of the high command in some
army. He looked the part, lean, straight, and tall, dignified always,
and silent and reserved, the only thing out of keeping being his
thin gold earrings, and perhaps his color. I think all the other men
looked up to him, even the mates, in a way; but he was not even a
boatsteerer. Certainly few attempts were made to play upon him any
of the rough jokes of sailors. I remember once, when we were on the
Western grounds, which are to the westward of the Azores, in the
middle of the Atlantic Ocean, some poor fool did try a practical joke
on him.

The case was now at the gangway, and there was no more chance for
shouts of merriment on the part of the crew, for they were again
at the windlass, swaying up on the cutting-tackles, which had been
hooked on to the case. They could do very little with it, however,
no matter how hard they pumped. The ship heeled over toward it, and
there it stuck, and there it was secured, the upper, open end about
on a level with the deck.

The case-bucket was then made fast to the line running through
the block at the yardarm. The case-bucket looks not unlike an
old-fashioned fire-bucket with a bulging bottom, except that old
fire-buckets were made of leather, and the case-bucket was of wood,
bound about with as many hoops as the old oaken bucket. Wright took
his place at the gangway, with a wooden pole in his hands nearly
twenty feet long. With this pole he pushed the bucket down, and a
bucketful of the mushy contents of the case, consisting of oil and
shreds of half-solidified spermaceti, plopped into it. It was then
drawn up by men {88} on the other end of the line, and emptied into
a butt. As many men as could get at the open end of the well of
oil were bailing with anything they could lay their hands to, the
long-handled copper dippers for dipping oil out of the try-pots,
buckets, tin pails without long handles. When the level of oil was
lowered, the dippers without long handles became useless, of course,
but the copper dippers could be used for some time. When these came
up nearly empty the case-bucket worked alone.

At last the long pole in Wright’s hands had been pushed down
for nearly its whole length, to the bottom of the well and the
case-bucket would bring up no more oil. There was still some at the
bottom of the well, however, and Black Man’el, stripped to a ragged
old pair of overalls, went down with the bucket. He disappeared in
the black cavern. We could see nothing of him, but the bucket made
more than one trip before it brought him up again. He was a sight to
see, dripping oil everywhere, his tightly curling hair full of it
and of soft, silky shreds of spermaceti. I laughed at him, saying
that it was my turn to laugh; but he only showed all his white
teeth, replying that he liked it, and that the oil kept him warm
and “soopled” him, and recommending it to me. I could understand
that it might be pleasant to bathe in oil, in case-oil, for it had
an agreeable smell, faintly like that of milk as it foams in the
buckets; but I could not have stood getting my hair full of it.

[Illustration: BAILING CASE]

As Man’el came up from his oil bath, I heard laughter behind me, and
other sounds of merriment and gaiety, and I turned to see the cause.
There was the small, from which the blubber had been stripped, lying
raw and ghastly. Some half-dozen men were gathered behind it, on the
side away from the gangway, and as I looked, they began to push. It
was like a game of push-ball, with the raw, red small of a whale for
the ball; too heavy to be {89} much like the real push-ball, of
which, of course, I had never heard at that time. Nobody had heard
of it in 1872. The ship was rolling gently, and while they had to
push uphill they made little or no progress, but when she rolled to
starboard, the small got to going pretty fast. The deck was slippery,
and each man was pushing as hard as he could for his chuckling,
hoping, I supposed, to swing it around so that it would not go out of
the gangway, for which it was aimed.

In that purpose they were successful. The small struck hard against
one of the stanchions at the corner of the opening, swung around, and
as the ship rolled back, it started for the port rail, knocking a
man down. Then the laughter bubbled forth, led by the blacks and the
Kanakas. I had some fear that the sliding small might break out the
rail on the port side; but the jaw was there, and the men collected
strength enough to stop the slide, although it carried very nearly
across the deck. The discipline was not strict, for it does no harm
to have a laughing crew; but the pushing rapidly developed into
horse-play. Then Mr. Brown stopped it with a curt word, and the men
fell to very industriously, but their faces were merry still, and
gushes of laughter bubbled out now and then. At the next roll of the
ship, the small shot from the gangway as from a catapult, and into
the water nearly a couple of fathoms from the side with a tremendous
splash, which wet the men at the gangway.

Of course it had to be Mr. Brown who stopped that horse-play, and I
felt an admiration for his way of doing it, with two or three words,
although I did not hear what he said. Mr. Baker would have stopped
it sooner and more violently. I think the men were all afraid of Mr.
Baker, which was, no doubt, the feeling which he wished to inspire.
As for Mr. Wallet, he could not have done it in a thousand years,
and it would never have occurred to him {90} to try; but Mr. Brown
stopped it at just the right point, and left the men feeling gay and
high-spirited. The whole thing, while unimportant in itself, showed
the feeling of the men toward our third mate, and his way of dealing
with them.

{91}



CHAPTER X


The cutting-in was over by the middle of the afternoon, for that
first whale of ours was not very large. If our windlass had been as
powerful as modern windlasses, we should have been able to get the
case—or even the whole head—bodily on deck, and to get at the oil
within it more quickly and completely. The holds of the cutting-falls
had been cut away, and the empty case had drifted astern, sinking
slowly as it went; the junk had been emptied of its oil, the
pure, sweet oil following the spades at every cut; and men were
already busy with squeezing out the shreds of spermaceti from the
case-matter, two men to a tub. These men seemed to be in no hurry,
and to find their task pleasant. I was naturally curious, as a boy
should be, and I plunged my hand into a tub of it. I found it to be
an exceedingly pleasant unguent, and the half-solidified spermaceti
infinitely soothing to hands that were cut and scraped, bruised and
chapped. I understood—or I thought I understood—the leisurely way
in which the men were working, although this work cannot be done in
a hurry and done well. If the spermaceti is not taken out pretty
completely, it chars in the try-pots, and darkens the oil, which
lessens its value. Head oil is the lightest in color, and the most
valuable, and it is always kept separate.

Our mainyards were now aback, the mainsail furled, the topsails
reefed, and the ship made very little way, rolling slowly on a drift
to leeward. Some of the crew had cleaned out the try-works, taking
out the odds and ends and trash with which the pots were filled, and
had laid a fire under them. Wood was used for this first fire, but
after the first lot of blubber has been tried out, the {92} scraps
or “fritters”—blubber from which the oil has been tried, and which
are fried crisp—are used for feeding the fire. They burn well and
fiercely, with a huge volume of nauseous black smoke. The scraps
remaining from one trying-out are kept to start the fire on the next
occasion.

The trying-out started on the head-matter, in order to keep the oil
from contamination, and to preserve its light color. Meanwhile there
were two men in the blubber room with knife and spade to cut from the
blubber the pieces of flesh that had come off with it. They then cut
the blanket strips into smaller pieces, roughly rectangular. These
“horse-pieces,” as they are called, were cut all the way across the
blanket, and about six or eight inches wide; so that, in this case,
they were strips, about three feet long and eight inches wide. They
are sometimes not so long. In cutting the horse-pieces, the men
generally stood on the strip in their bare feet, and cut it with a
sharp spade held vertically. I knew how slippery those strips of
blubber could be, and I trembled for fear that, on that unstable
footing, the sharp spade might fall on the wrong spot and cut off a
few of those wriggling toes, or even a foot. It would be easy. The
spade was sharp and heavy, and a man might cut off his toes before he
knew it; but I saw no such accident, either then or later, although
I believe it was not uncommon. The men did not seem to be afraid of
accidents.

When the blubber had been cut this way, the “horse-pieces” were
tossed on deck and taken to the mincers. The mincers were men—usually
two—who wielded heavy, two-handled knives about two feet long, with
a handle at each end; the knives being a sort of a cross between
a butcher’s cleaver and a carpenter’s draw-knife, or more nearly,
perhaps, a cleaver with a handle at each end. The mincers work
against the end of a heavy block, or horse, at the height of their
belts—if they happen to have {93} belts—and chop and slice the flesh
side of the blubber, with a peculiar rolling motion of the heavy
knife. The mincer used both hands to hold his mincing-knife, while a
second man held the horse-piece on the block. The flesh side of the
blubber is cut in this way into thin strips, resembling strips of
bacon, leaving the outside, or black skin, intact. These are called
“bible-leaves,” and are ready for the try-pots.

There was a pair of try-pots set in brickwork just abaft the
foremast, with room to work for the men tending them. These men
stand forward of the try-works. As I have said before, there was
a roof, or house, over them, as is usually, but not always, the
case. The fire-space underneath was separated from the deck by a
low platform which projected some distance beyond the fire-doors,
and this platform had under it a tank, which was always filled with
water when the fire was burning, to protect the deck. The fire-doors
were in the forward side of the try-works. They were of iron, and
could be slid back or swung upward. Two—three, if there are three
try-pots—smokestacks of copper, and of rectangular section, projected
a little way above the roof.

I have given these details of the arrangements because I know that
there are now comparatively few people who are familiar with them;
in fact, there are none except whalemen and outfitters, and men and
boys who have been in the habit of running over the ships at will.
Even the boys of that last class, if there are still any such, are
probably not as familiar with the arrangements as they ought to be,
although they may think they are. I had seen whalers since I could
remember, and had rambled over them, and played on them and beside
them throughout my boyhood, but I had never given a thought to
the question whether the fire was fed from aft or from forward of
the try-works. I suppose I should have said that the doors opened
aft. Somehow, that seemed the natural way—for {94} the men to
face the bows as they work. It is not, as it happens. Just aft of
the try-works was the bench, with a vise and other “fixins,” where
repairs were made on the harpoons and lances and pretty nearly
everything else.

Remembering my mistakes—some of them—I am not inclined to be so
severe upon the men of Atlantic City as some whalemen are. A
whaleship went ashore upon those hospitable sands, and they took
her as she was, high and dry on the beach, and they repaired her,
and fitted her completely, as they supposed, and used her as one
more exhibition—one more attraction for the crowds which throng the
Boardwalk. I can imagine them; I can even see them coming in crowds,
at ten or fifteen cents a head, to go over the whaler—the “spouter,”
as I have no doubt they called her, although I rarely heard the term
used among whalemen. But, on one day of ill-fortune, there chanced
to be a whaleman in that crowd. He looked critically over the old
ship, saying nothing; and he found that they had made the try-works
face the wrong way, putting the fire-doors aft instead of in the
forward side. He smiled, I do not doubt, but still he said nothing—in
Atlantic City. When he got home, however, it was a different thing,
and the matter was spread abroad in New Bedford, and it got into the
papers, which had no end of fun with the poor, ignorant Atlantic
Citizens. Occasionally it crops out yet in the “Mercury” or the
“Standard.” They simply cannot resist giving the natives of New
Jersey a poke now and then.

I can hardly expect readers of this rambling narrative to be better
versed in such matters than those men of Atlantic City. In order that
they may not be in a state of chaotic ignorance in regard to them, I
have dwelt on the details to a degree which most whalemen would think
unnecessary and an insult to their intelligence. They would take all
these things for granted.

The mates and boatsteerers officiate at the try-pots, {95} and
handle the long-handled, long-shanked devil-forks, or the skimmers,
or the copper dippers. They began with the head-matter, for reasons
which I have given. When this was cooked enough, it was ladled out
of the try-pots with the long-handled copper dippers that I have
mentioned, and into the copper cooling-tank which stood beside the
try-pots. From the cooling-tank the oil overflows into a huge iron
pot. From this, in turn, it is again dipped, and put into casks, or
barrels, marked “Head” or “Case” or “Junk.”

I did not see this last operation at this time, however. My duties
lay mostly in the cabin and the steerage, with the officers and
boatsteerers, and I had to go when I was called, or before if I had
sense enough for it. I was expected to be on hand at meal times, or
a little before, and help the steward. It was now about supper-time,
and I was so interested in the process of trying-out that the steward
had to send for me, or come for me, which did not improve his temper.
I am afraid that I skimped my duties much of the time, but a boy
of fifteen has no great sense of responsibility. Captain Nelson
was indulgent to me up to a certain point, but he had to give me a
wigging more than once. I deserved the wigging, and I knew it well,
and was always respectful and very repentant. The captain usually
ended by laughing and bidding me mind my eye, which I was quite
willing to do, and I always promised faithfully that I would. And
then there would come the next time, which was generally due to my
great interest in something which I was seeing for the first time,
perhaps. I have no doubt that that fact was taken into account in
Captain Nelson’s distribution of justice. He was a just man.

It was dark when I got back on deck. Trying-out goes on steadily,
day and night, until it is done. A trying-out watch is trying in
more senses than one. Each watch consists of half the crew, who are
on duty for a longer time {96} on end than usual. It is hard labor,
and in a long siege of trying-out, the men get so tired and dazed
and sleepy that they move in a drowse, and they will fall asleep
anywhere. It is in this state that the man will nap standing at the
wheel, and the man on the royal yard also, the thin stay in the
hollow of his shoulders, and an arm hooked in the running rigging.

They had finished the head-matter, and had it already ladled into
casks lashed along the rail. There it would stay for a day or two
until it was cool enough to stow below. They had been working on the
blubber for some little time, and the smoke coming from the stacks
was thick and black, except when red flames belched from them, mixed
with the smoke. Sometimes, when oil got into the fire, perhaps
from the boiling over of the pots, the stacks sent broad sheets of
flame six or eight feet into the air. These cast a ruddy glare over
everything, throwing the illuminated portions of the masts and sails
and rigging into high relief, and making bloody reflections from the
glistening faces and bare arms of the men, and from the crests of
breaking seas. Altogether it was a scene of weirdness, but it was
evil-smelling, and the whole thing smacked of evil, the men looking
like devils feeding the fire to torture some poor lost soul.

The mates stood on the little platform in front of the try-pots,
watching their kettles of fat, stirring them now and then with their
long-handled, long-shanked devil-forks. Now and then they picked up a
piece of blubber on their forks, holding it for an instant clear of
the mess, to see if the oil was all tried out of it, and if it was
thoroughly done. At last one of the pots was ready, and the piece of
blubber, after dripping for a moment into the pot, was thrown on deck
instead of being dropped back. It was crisp, and the edges curled
like a piece of bacon; it sizzled as it lay there, and it would
crackle when it had cooled a little. Standing at some distance from
the {97} try-pots, as I was, it made my mouth water; but I am afraid
it would not have been as good as it looked. At any rate, I was not
to try it, for the fire-door was opened, and the piece of bacon
thrown in with an iron fork.

The boatsteerers now came crowding around, with shallow strainers, or
skimmers, about a foot across, with a perforated bottom and a long
handle, and took out the pieces of blubber, letting each drain out
its oil, and threw them on deck. They were the scraps, and would be
used almost immediately for feeding the fires. There was an extra
try-pot there, three feet across, with legs a few inches long cast on
it, standing on the deck near; in fact, there were two of them. It
was intended that the hot scraps should be thrown into one of these,
but it was easier to throw them on deck, so that was where most of
them went, although some of them got into the pot.

A piece of cold minced blubber—bible-leaves—was put into the second
pot to hold it back while the first was emptied. A great square
copper tank stood beside the try-works, the cooling-tank already
mentioned. Although I never measured our tank, I should think it was
about three feet wide by four feet long, and stood nearly five feet
high. With the long-handled copper dippers the hot oil was ladled
from the try-pot into this tank, which held a good deal of oil. Here
the oil cooled a little, and some of the stuff, which the skimmers
had not taken out, settled toward the bottom. From the side of the
tank, near the top, projected an overflow spout, with a fine strainer
back of it, and under the spout was kept one of those huge iron pots
on short legs. The try-pot which had been emptied was now recharged
with fresh minced blubber, and the operation was being repeated.

The contents of the second pot were soon ready, and were ladled into
the tank, and that try-pot recharged with fresh minced blubber. So
it went on: horse-pieces, mincers, try-pots and tank. I know well
that all the men {98} concerned in the process were tired enough of
it before they got through, if they thought about it at all. Perhaps
they did not think, and merely did it as part of the day’s work; or,
at best, took pride in their individual skill in the part of the
process assigned to each.

I got very simply tired of the monotony of it, and nauseated with the
smell of the burning scraps. It was impossible to get away from that
smell without jumping overboard, and I was not yet ready for that.
The thick, oily black smoke rose in a column from the two copper
stacks, and drifted off in the darkness to leeward; and the men under
the shadow of the roof were occasionally bathed in a ruddy light, as
they wielded their forks or their skimmers or their copper dippers. I
watched the smooth stream of oil run smoking from the overflow spout
with each dipperful that was ladled into the tank, while the level of
the oil in the huge iron pot got higher and higher. I had had enough
of watching it. We had caught one whale, had tried out less than a
third of the oil, and there was blubber everywhere, and I was tired
of it already. How many whales would it take to fill us up? Perhaps
forty. Perhaps fifty or more if we were able to send home any of our
oil. The thought of it staggered me, and I turned away.

They had already broken out some of our cargo. The cargo consisted
largely of casks, which were variously labelled with chalk or white
paint, and some of the new casks, light colored, with that black
paint which is used in putting the addresses on wooden boxes or
cases. Of the new casks some were labelled “Bread,” some “Flour,”
and so on through our list of food that would keep. The “bread” was
not the soft kind that I was familiar with in the form of light,
delicately brown loaves—my mother’s. It was hardbread, or hardtack,
and it looked much like dogbread, like a rock when freshly baked.
Good dogbread tastes better than old hardtack, but hardtack in good
{99} condition is pretty good. It is good for the teeth. Of course
there were no casks of green vegetables, or of eggs or of butter or
of milk, or of many other things which we think necessary to our
well-being ashore. There were some of salt beef, such as it was. The
casks which contained the bread and the flour and what-not, when they
had been emptied in the regular course of events, would be filled
with oil.

We had been out too short a time to empty many of these casks, and
others were being hoisted from the hold, with the legend “Heads and
hoops.” There were shooks of staves, too, the staves for each cask
hooped together tightly, and bearing some resemblance to fasces. If
I had known at that time what fasces were, I should have expected
to see the sharp head of a cutting-spade projecting from each
bundle. Such a bundle might be borne before a whaling captain as the
symbol of his authority. But I had never heard of fasces, and I was
interested only in the process of opening the casks and getting out
the heads and hoops. The bundles of staves would come later.

The cooper was in charge of this work, but a number of men were
helping him. There is always more or less cooper work being done on a
whaler, and there were half a dozen men in the crew who were pretty
skilful at it. There was an abundance of cooper’s tools on board,
especially of hammers and the little tools that are set against the
hoops, and struck or tapped with the hammer held in the right hand,
to drive the hoops up or down. I think these were called “tappers,”
but I am not sure at this moment. Names which were once familiar
to me have a curious habit of slipping from my mind and eluding
all my efforts to recover them. I suppose it is a symptom of age.
The old-fashioned name of a perforated skimmer about five or six
inches across, very slightly concave upwards, and with a flat iron
handle—somewhat {100} resembling the try-pot skimmers on a small
scale—has eluded me in that way for some years. I almost have it,
and it is gone. My mother or my grandmother could have told me in an
instant, but I suppose it is of no use to ask anybody now.

It did not take long to open the casks. That is perhaps the simplest
form of cooperage. They opened enough to give them the heads and
hoops that were needed. Then came the bundles of staves, which were
undone carefully, one bundle at a time, so as not to get the staves
mixed. These staves, being old and oil-soaked, were quickly set up,
and the casks rolled over to join the others already lashed by the
bulwarks, to be filled with hot oil. They were filled through a big
copper funnel—Peter called it a tunnel—with a fine wire strainer
fastened in it, and a nozzle that fitted in the bunghole of a barrel.
The mouth of this funnel was large and square, and there was a double
bend in its long nose, setting off the mouth from the bunghole by a
couple of feet.

They do these things differently now. There are large iron
cooling-tanks below decks, and the hot oil is poured into them
through a pipe which opens in the deck near the try-pots. I have no
experience with them, for they were unknown to me in 1872, so that I
cannot say whether the oil cools as quickly in the tanks as it did
in the casks. The tanks save a great deal of work, although we had
men enough to do the work except when we were very much crowded, with
two or three whales at once fast alongside, waiting to be cut-in and
tried out.

The casks that had been filled were beginning to show a slight ooze
of oil at their seams. I was watching them when Peter Bottom stopped
beside me.

He gave me a friendly smile. “This ’ll never do,” he said, “will it?
’Most all the casks leak at first. You ’ll hear a deal of setting
up hoops before we stow it—and after, too, or the barrels might be
empty, some of ’em, when we {101} got home. A lot of oil can leak
out in four years, if it ’s only a few drops a day.”

I made no answer, and Peter glanced at me. “What ’s the matter?
Little mite seasick?”

“Oh, Peter!” I said. “The smell!”

He smiled again. “Lor’ love you,” he said, “this is nothin’. It ’s
pretty bad sometimes, when we ’ve had the try-works going for three
or four days and nights. Then we ’re so tired we can hardly stand,
and there ’s so much oil and water over everything you can’t walk
the deck. Why, many a time, I ’ve sat down and slid across the deck
on the seat of my trousers. And the foul smoke chokes and strangles
you, and it feels as if it had got all through you, and you ’d like
to scrape your lungs with a knife, to get off the soot. Everything ’s
covered with oil, your clothes soaked with it, your skin full of it,
your feet, hands, and hair. Break a biscuit and it shines with oil,
and cut a piece o’ meat out o’ the kid and the knife leaves its trail
of oil. There ’s no gettin’ away from it, and you fair hate yourself.
But cheer up, Tim, it ’ll soon be over, and then you ’ll see such a
cleanin’ up as you never knew. Sperm oil washes off easy, praise the
pigs!”

I was not greatly comforted. I could not stand it any longer, and I
went to the stern and tried to get a breath of sweet air. There was
none. All the air over that great ocean seemed to be loaded with
poison from the burning scraps, and I gave it up, and turned in.

I lay for a long time in the darkness, listening to the breathing of
the men in the other bunks, and seeing, before the eye of the mind,
the ooze from those seams grow into light amber-colored drops. Then
I thought of the multitude of barrels that would make up our full
cargo—twenty-four hundred of them—and from each cask an ooze of oil
that grew imperceptibly into a drop. It was incredibly slow, that
growth. And then all the drops growing, even more slowly, until they
shivered a little, {102} ready to fall. I almost held my breath,
waiting for them to fall, and tried to multiply twenty-four hundred
by three hundred and sixty-five by four—see whether you can do it, in
your head, while you wait for all those drops to fall at once—mental
arithmetic, they called it in school. I remember that I wished I knew
how much oil there was in a drop, so that I should know how much oil
we should lose if, for each barrel, there was a leak amounting to a
drop a day. Before I had the problem more than begun, I fell asleep,
with the drops all trembling, on the very point of falling. I dreamt
about it, and woke early. The problem still bothered me, and I went
to get pencil and paper, or its equivalent, and figure out that
product. Then I would ask Captain Nelson how much oil there was in a
drop, and I should know.

{103}



CHAPTER XI


We were nearly a month on Hatteras grounds, with good weather, on
the whole. We spoke several merchant vessels, one of which was a big
five-masted schooner bound into Charleston from Batavia. None of the
men had seen such a big schooner-rigged vessel before, and they all
gazed at her with their mouths hanging open as long as she was in
sight. There was nothing beautiful about her with her stubby-looking
masts and big sails. She would have made five of us easily, and the
Clearchus was fairly big for a whaler. There was a smashing southwest
breeze that day, and the schooner roared by us, close-hauled, with
all lowers set and trimmed flat, carrying a big bone in her teeth,
and spray flying over her, forward, with every sea.

We were working well toward the southern edge of the grounds. Whales
were scarce and shy. One wise old bull succeeded in inducing Mr.
Baker and Mr. Tilton to keep after him for eight hours, gradually
making to windward in a heavy sea, until he finally left them, giving
a snort of derision as he went. I suppose he thought that, as it was
about bedtime, he would call it a day. The men came back utterly beat
out and disgusted.

When no whales had even been raised for a week the ship’s head was
again turned to the north for a last look before making to the
eastward. We had taken but one whale. The morning after the change
of course I heard Mr. Baker, who had that watch, come into the
cabin and knock on the captain’s door. In response to the captain’s
roar, he asked him to come on deck and see what we had with us. I
heard Captain Nelson getting up—he was never very quiet about it,
especially when he was in a {104} hurry—and I bolted out, and up
the stairs at Mr. Baker’s heels, expecting to see something quite
unusual, a whale of enormous size, perhaps, or a large shark at
least, or perhaps an enormous squid. I think I was inclined to the
squid, for I had always heard of it, but I had never come across
anybody who had seen one, and I was anxious to see a great squid with
my own eyes—and at a safe distance.

As soon as I reached the deck I looked all around and saw nothing
unusual—no squid, at any rate. The sun was not yet up, and the waters
were heaving in slow swells, although the surface was calm and there
was hardly enough wind for steerage way. Deep silence was upon the
sea, so that I heard it breathing—or it was as real as that. The
watch stood about, or paced to and fro without a sound. The whole
aspect was inexpressibly melancholy and desolate, and the silence
seemed filled with evil. All the while the breathing of the sea went
on, as each great roller caught up with us, and raised the ship to
the top of its gentle slope, passed on from under us, dropping her
into the valley. I sighed, in spite of myself, and I looked about
even more carefully. There was nothing to be seen on the water except
a topsail schooner quite near, and drifting along with us.

I looked up at Mr. Baker, forgetting, for the moment, the pressing
matter that had brought me on deck. I could think of nothing but that
gentle breathing, like the sigh of some huge, invisible monster.

“Can you hear it, Mr. Baker?” I asked.

Mr. Baker was an abrupt and rough-spoken man, though good-hearted and
kind at bottom. He looked at me with a lively interest.

“Hear it!” he said. “Hear what?”

“Can you hear the sea breathing? I can sir.”

He burst into a great roar of laughter, and I got as red as
whale-meat. Mr. Baker had no imagination and I {105} ought to have
known better than to ask him. I did, but I forgot.

His laughter stopped as abruptly as it had begun. “No, boy,” he said.
“Can’t say as I do. What does it sound like?”

“I thought that it might be something, sir, that you called the
captain to see—a big whale or a squid.”

“The great squid, eh?” he asked, smiling. “And breathing, too. How
big a squid did you hope to see? Big as a house?”

“Something like that, sir.”

“Big as a ship, with arms a hundred feet long, eh?” He burst into
another roar of laughter. “Been reading Melville? You have n’t, eh?
Well, there may be such squid, but I ’ve never seen any of ’em, and
I ’ve never seen anybody who had. All the squid I ’ve seen were
little fellows, a foot or two long, with arms not over nine or ten
feet, although Banks fishermen have got ’em up to thirty foot, they
say. No, I did n’t call the captain for anything of the sort. You see
that schooner over there, with yards at fore and main?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, that ’s it. She ’s the Annie Battles, and a very fast and able
boat she is. Hails from Nantucket, Coffin, master. Maybe you ’ll have
a chance to see her again before we get through, but just look at her
lines, and then look at the lines of the Clearchus.”

So I looked carefully at the lines of the Annie Battles. She was
long, almost as long as the Clearchus, I judged, but she gave the
impression of being quite a little smaller, because of her very
different model. She had an easy entrance, easy, swelling lines, a
full quarter and counter, but not too full. I could not see her beam,
of course, from where we were, but it was evidently of that generous
character which gives a vessel stability while not interfering with
her speed. Altogether, the Annie Battles would {106} have been
called at once powerful and able. That was the term that sprang at
once to a sailor’s lips—an able boat, a very able boat. I heard it
from many, and it was the first thing they said. I cannot think of
any form of praise that I would rather have had if I had been her
designer; it means so much, speed, seaworthiness, ability to carry
sail with safety. It must have given Coffin, master, a great deal
of sheer pleasure merely to contemplate his vessel, there was that
beauty in her.

She was rigged as a topsail schooner, with a topsail yard on each
mast, a rig that I have not happened to see in any other instance.
In fact, the Dobbin, a revenue cutter stationed at New Bedford a
few years later, and the Eva are the only other topsail schooners I
remember, and they had a topsail yard only on the foremast, according
to my recollection. It was a very pretty rig, but was never much in
fashion, and has gone out long ago.

I was still looking at the Battles when I heard Captain Nelson’s
step behind me. Mr. Baker and I were standing under the gallows just
forward of the mizzenmast. There is no whaleboat there, as a boat
would interfere with the use of the gangway. I was at the rail, but
Mr. Baker stood behind me, well in the shadow and the captain stopped
beside him.

“Well, I ’m damned!” he said in tones of utter disgust. Then he began
to laugh. “I am damned!” he said again. “How long’s he been there,
Mr. Baker?”

Mr. Baker shook his head. “He was there with the first streaks of
daylight. I did n’t see him come.”

Captain Nelson seemed to have got through with the Annie Battles.
He stood gazing absently at the great, smooth swells rolling up on
our starboard quarter, looked off at the horizon, as if he could see
beyond it, and sniffed the air like a dog. At last he turned to Mr.
Baker.

“I don’t like the look of these seas,” he said. “The glass has n’t
begun to fall yet, but it will. Make the course southeast, Mr. Baker.
We ’ll get out of this.” {107}

“As to these seas, Tim, here, says they breathe. He hears ’em.”

Captain Nelson glanced at me with a smile. “Does he? Well, so they
do, Tim. Could n’t Mr. Baker hear it?”

“I don’t know, sir. He did n’t seem to, and I was n’t very sure of
it, but it seemed as if I did.”

“Be sure of what you see and hear, Tim,” said the captain kindly.
“You ’re as likely to be right as another, as far as the evidence of
your senses goes. It ’s only in accounting for facts that a man of
knowledge and experience has the better of you.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Mr. Baker was giving orders that would bring the ship on her new
course, and she soon began to wear slowly, for the gentle breath of
air was from the southwest. We passed astern of the Annie Battles,
which had got pretty far ahead by that time, but I could see
that the men on her deck were surprised at our change of course.
Captain Nelson was watching her, and presently a man came up her
companionway, and stood on her deck looking at us. He was a large
man, much larger than Captain Nelson. I could see nothing more than
that and that he was active enough to be a young man. He raised his
hand, but I could not tell whether he was shaking his fist or merely
waving his hand in salutation. Captain Nelson chuckled and waved his
hand.

The Battles was jibing, and she was coming after us. Captain Nelson
did not wait, but after giving another long look around, he went
below. I followed, and pestered him, for I wanted to know what it was
that he expected, and why he expected it. Of course I had no business
to bother him about such matters at all, and he would have been
quite right to tell me shortly to shut up, and many masters would.
Captain Nelson never did that if he believed that I was thirsting for
information which it was quite proper for me to have. This occasion
was no {108} exception, and he went to considerable pains to explain
what he could, and what I could digest, about tropical hurricanes,
which are most common about that season, especially just about the
place where we were. It was all intensely interesting to me, and I
listened in complete absorption, managing to remember most of what he
told me.

At that time there was a less general understanding of the
fundamental principles of weather, even among good seamen, than
there is now. For my own part, it has always been difficult for me
to remember instructions when they had to be memorized; but when I
once have mastered principles my troubles are over. I do not have to
search the stores of memory for a formula which fits the occasion,
like a formula in chemistry, and I rarely go astray.

Captain Nelson had not got far into the subject when he interrupted
himself.

“Well, Tim,” he said, “that ’s enough for this time. Better be off
about your business, and we ’ll have another lesson before long. I
want you to learn to navigate a vessel.”

This was good news to me. I knew nothing whatever about navigation,
or perhaps I should not have been so pleased. When Captain Nelson had
given me some instruction, and I plunged into Bowditch by myself, I
found that I had plunged into deep water without knowing how to swim.
I was not satisfied to do things in a superficial way, according to
formula, without knowing what I was doing, or why, and at first I had
a heartbreaking struggle with mathematics beyond my preparation for
it. But I happened to discover, quite by accident, in the third mate,
Mr. Brown, a man who knew all that mysterious country—or those seas.
Mr. Brown piloted me through those strange seas with considerable
skill and great patience, so that I could attack my navigation with
some satisfaction. But I am getting ahead of my story. {109}

Flocks of petrels, or Mother Carey’s chickens, were about the ship
by noon, with their curious habit of flight, as if walking on the
water. By the middle of the afternoon the wind had come in from
the eastward, and by dark it was blowing fresh, the wind heavy and
wet and increasing. Sail was reduced to reefed topsails, and the
Clearchus was put as close to the wind as she would go, making a
course a little south of southeast. Sailing on a taut bowline was
not one of the strong points of the Clearchus. She labored a great
deal, the seas slapped up against her bluff bows, she made much fuss
and comparatively little headway, but considerable leeway. There was
nothing to do, however, but to make everything snug, and to trust
in Providence and the ship; and I turned in with no misgivings, and
slept soundly.

The weather got worse as the night wore on, and I suddenly found
myself sprawling on the floor. The ship was cutting up curious
antics. I crawled on my hands and knees back to my bunk, but I could
not go to sleep again, although I was sleepy. My bunk was on the
weather side, and first I would be standing nearly on my feet, then
nearly on my head, then perhaps she would quiver and go slowly over
almost on her beam ends, so that I barely escaped being rolled on to
the floor again. I heard the bell striking wildly—the tongue must
have got loose—until somebody went and tied it up again, lashed it
tight. It must have been two or three o’clock in the morning. She
seemed to ease a little, sliding down the side of each sea until I
thought she must be bound for the bottom of the ocean; then rising
slowly, and struggling up the side of the next, until at last she
reached the top. There she paused for what seemed to me, down there
in my bunk, as much as an hour, and rolled to leeward, and I held on
with all my might.

I must have dropped off to sleep again, for the next thing I knew
daylight was filtering in. The ship was {110} keeping up her wild
coasting down and slow struggles upward, and my muscles were sore and
lame with holding on through my sleep.

Captain Nelson was on deck when I got there. He must have been there
most of the night. Never in my life, before or since, have I seen
such seas. They were veritable mountains, with rugged sides, long
and high. When we were in a valley we on the deck were sheltered
from the worst of the wind, and the oncoming sea towered so above us
that I wondered whether the ship would ever be able to climb that
steep slope. She did somehow. The seas were so long that she rode
them easily enough; with unnatural ease, it seemed to me. At last
I discovered the explanation. They had put out oil bags during the
night, bags of canvas stuffed with oakum and filled with oil. Two
of these bags were fast, by lines long enough to let them trail in
the water, to the ends of the spritsail yard, or spreader on the
bowsprit, and one to each cathead. As they trailed in the water at
the ends of their lines, the oil oozed slowly from them and formed
a thin film over the water which prevented its breaking, so that
the ship sailed in a little calm area of her own. This eased her
wonderfully.

The best course she could make was too much to the south to please
Captain Nelson, and she was hardly doing more than lie to. Soon after
I came up the foretopsail, close-reefed as it was, split from top to
bottom, and in a very few minutes it was nothing but ribbons. The men
had great trouble in getting in the remnants of the sail, but at last
it was secured after a fashion, the strips wound about the yard like
a bandage, and lashed.

One storm is much like another, except in degree. This one reached
its height just before noon, and wore off considerably toward night,
although it still blew with gale force. The sea went down during the
next day, the wind drawing to the westward. It was a dry, puffy wind,
and {111} the men got out their wet clothes and hung them on lines
all about the ship, so that we must have looked like a laundry. We
had got more sail on the ship, and with a fair wind she made pretty
good speed for her. A pretty sight she must have been, rolling
along under courses and maintopsail with garments of all hues and
descriptions festooned about her.

I went in search of Peter, and found him gazing toward the
southeastern horizon. He paid me no attention until I spoke.

“Is it you, lad?” he said, giving me a smile. “I thought I saw
something heaving atop of a sea. Then the sea went on, and let it
down, and I lost it. There it is again, just atop of that big sea. It
has the look of a cask or a barrel. Better run aft, Tim, and see what
they make of it.”

I found Captain Nelson with his glass at his eye.

“A barrel,” he said to Mr. Baker, “and an oil barrel, and half full
of oil, I should guess. And there ’s other wreckage. Better run down
that way.”

We changed our course to southeast, and in ten minutes or so we
were running through all sorts of wreckage scattered over a mile or
more of ocean: barrels, many of them full, and fragments of boats,
and pieces of a deckhouse, and broken oars, and splinters of some
vessel’s rail, and other like evidence of destruction. They seemed
worth further investigation, and we backed our main, while a boat was
lowered. The boat came back without having been able to identify the
vessel. There was no name on any of the fragments, and nothing which
gave a clue; and although there were several barrels in sight, they
seemed to be full of oil, and they floated awash, so that the name,
if it was there, could not be seen without getting them out of the
water. Mr. Baker suggested that, and made the further suggestion that
they were full of oil anyway, and we would be killing two birds with
one stone. He hated to see that good oil bound for Davy Jones. {112}

Captain Nelson shook his head. It was near sunset, and the yards
were braced around, and we filled off on our course again. We sailed
through more scattered wreckage for half an hour, some fragment of
the good ship here and there, broken out of her light upper works. It
made us all silent, each man busy with his own thoughts. They might
have been, with a few minutes’ streak of bad luck, the fragments of
the Clearchus which were scattered over those miles of ocean. I was
thinking of this, and looking out ahead, when I saw what seemed to
be a spar with a broken end rise on a sea, then vanish again. It
glistened in the light of the setting sun, but I thought that I had
made out the broken end clearly.

I spoke of it, but the captain was already examining it through his
glass.

“I ’ve got it, Tim,” he said. He put the glass down. “Two spars
lashed together, and a man lashed to them. No sign of life in him,
but we ’ll pick him up and see.”

We ran down to him, pretty close. It was a crazy apology for a raft,
merely two spars lashed together loosely. The man had been sitting on
them with his legs, from the knees down, in the water. Now his body
had fallen backward, and his head rested on the spars. In his hand he
gripped a hatchet. What could he have wanted with a hatchet? I asked
the captain.

Captain Nelson was looking at the man, but he turned to me for an
instant. “Sharks, I ’m afraid, Tim,” he said.

Just then our boat got to him, and somebody cut the lashings, and
they lifted him into the boat. His legs were terribly bitten by
sharks, and one foot was gone. I turned away, sick and faint.

It was dusk when they brought him aboard, still gripping his hatchet.
He was breathing, but the life was almost out of him. He was carried
below, and they did what they could for him, and he was still alive
when I turned in after writing what I considered a very solemn
{113} and arresting passage in my journal. I do not reproduce that
passage. It seems like betraying the confidence of a well-meaning
boy who seldom felt deeply on such matters, and still more seldom
gave utterance to thoughts of the kind when he had them. To me it
would seem much on the same order as publishing love-letters—to be
ridiculed. But the passage in my journal is funny, while it brings
tears to my eyes as I remember my feelings as I wrote it.

When I got on deck in the morning I saw the four Kanakas gathered
about the sailmaker, who was just finishing the job of sewing up a
long bundle done up in a piece of old canvas. It was the body of
the man we had rescued the evening before. He had died in the night
without regaining consciousness. He was a Kanaka, but beyond that one
evident fact we never knew who he was, or what ship he came from, for
by the time we got back to New Bedford so many things had happened
that the incident had slipped from our minds. Many things slip from
the minds of sailors in that way, and are recalled only in the course
of recounting some yarn, as I am doing.

The four Kanakas were chanting an improvised song, the Admiral
singing each verse, which he seemed to be making up as he went
along, and the other three joining in the chorus. The singing was
soft and seemed weird to me, for I had never before heard Kanaka
singing. There were a great many verses, and the singing continued
long after the sailmaker had got through and gone. Then the captain
and other officers came, and the crew was mustered, and we all stood
with uncovered heads while the captain read a very short service—or
prayer, I don’t know which—from a prayer book. The service took about
a minute, and then they tipped up the plank and shot the body into
the sea just as the sun was coming up out of it. I was at the rail,
and I caught the red gleam of sunlight on the canvas as the bundle
fell, making a crimson streak {114} through the air; it struck the
water, throwing the spray high, and disappeared from our sight,
and it was as if that man had never been. The ceremony over, and
the body, shrouded in canvas, plunging downward through the depths
of ocean, the crew put on their hats or caps and went about their
business, promptly forgetting the whole matter. But I have reason
to believe that the sharks did not forget, and I doubt whether that
bundle ever reached bottom.

That afternoon we sighted a sail rising to the southeast. It had
the look of a ship or a brig, for all we could see at first was the
dim outline of square topsails; but presently the upper parts of
her lower sails had risen from the sea, and they were fore-and-aft
sails unmistakably. There could be but one vessel which answered that
description, and that was the Annie Battles. Captain Nelson showed
a curious mixture of relief and disappointment. He smiled and swore
softly, and I was tempted to run and find Peter Bottom, but I did
not. It was exactly what he had expected.

I remember there was a flock of petrels near the ship at the time,
and my attention was divided between watching them and watching the
Battles. She was running close-hauled, at which she was very good;
and she got abeam of us, and very near, before I noticed that she had
a brand-new foretopmast. Mr. Baker and the captain, of course, had
seen it long before. Mr. Baker now turned to the captain.

“We got out of it,” he said, “better than she did.”

Captain Nelson nodded. There was a big young fellow standing near the
wheel of the Battles, and looking hard at us. Mr. Baker said it was
Captain Coffin. I was surprised, for, except for his size, he looked
too young to be captain of anything. He was as big as my father, and
seemed much like him, pleasant and easy-going and competent. He waved
his hand to Captain Nelson. {115}

“Just wanted to make sure you were all right,” he shouted.

Captain Nelson grinned. “Much obliged,” he answered. “All shipshape.
Did n’t even lose a to’gallan’mast.”

Coffin laughed at that. “Nor a sail either, I suppose,” he retorted,
pointing at our topsail yard. Some of the crew were on it at that
moment, bending a new foretopsail.

Captain Nelson grinned again. “It was so old,” he said, “that I
thought I ’d better bend a new one.”

The Battles was shaking in the wind, and fell off on the other tack,
and rounded under our stern. She shaved our stern so close that I
could almost have reached out and grabbed the leach of her mainsail.
She kept off with us on our course, but she was sailing nearly two
feet to our one, and she drew ahead rapidly.

Before she had sailed our length Captain Coffin hailed again.

“Where ’you bound now?”

Captain Nelson waved his hand vaguely. “Oh, to the east’ard,” he
said, “to the east’ard.”

“Western grounds, I suppose. We ’ll be waiting for you.”

{116}



CHAPTER XII


The first observation that the captain was able to take showed us
to be in latitude 27° N., which was much farther south than he had
any idea of. I was present when he worked out our position; I was
supposed to be having a lesson in navigation, but I had no notion
what he was doing, nor why. I remember that he could not believe
it, and thought that he must have made a mistake, but a second
observation confirmed the first, and I marked our position on the
chart. I knew enough for that. That made our course northeast.
Captain Nelson went on deck to give the new course, and left me alone
with Bowditch. I struggled along for a few minutes, but I might
as well have been blind for all the good I got out of the book. I
thought I might as well be out in the sunshine, so I put the book
under my arm, and went on deck.

Mr. Brown happened upon me as I sat on a coil of rope with the open
book on my knee. It is not likely that I was even trying to read,
but I was probably gazing out over the ocean, which I could just see
at every roll of the ship, or up at the sky. He stooped and saw what
I was at, and he smiled, and asked me how I was getting along. When
I confessed that I was not getting along at all, he offered to help
me, and I accepted gratefully. He could not help me then, for he was
on duty; but later on he gave me my first idea of trigonometry. That
was the beginning of my studies with Mr. Brown. He was an excellent
teacher, and I was anxious to learn, which makes all the difference
in the world.

It was four or five days later that we ran into the edge of the
Sargasso Sea. We should have been clear of it by good rights, but the
edge of the weed had been shifted {117} into what should have been
clear ocean, possibly by the very storm that we had come through. I
knew, of course, that it must be the Sargasso Sea. I had read about
it in my geography without much interest, and the teacher had not
seemed much more interested than I, or to know much more about it.

The idea that I had formed was of a close-packed mass of seaweed,
through which a ship could no more force her way than she could
through an enormous haystack. The real thing is very different. I
have never been any closer to the middle than I was that day in the
Clearchus, and so I do not know, from the evidence of my own senses,
how closely packed the weed may be; but it is not like a stack of hay
at all. It consists of separate plants, or pieces of a plant, not
above a foot across, every plant floating by itself. A ship would
probably have no great trouble in going through what looked like
a solid mass of floating weed, each separate plant giving to her
passage with but little more resistance than the water.

Peter got a bucketful of water, with a plant bearing its strange
freight of life: crabs, sea-horses, pipe-fish, shrimp, and slugs.

“Aye, Timmie,” he said as he dropped the bucket over the side, “it ’s
sargasso, and that means seaweed in some outlandish lingo. Why they
can’t say seaweed when they mean seaweed is beyond me. I ’ve seen it
many a time.”

That bucket of water led to a fresh dislike of Mr. Wallet. I had
made a hasty examination of it while all hands gathered around me.
As soon as I could I grabbed up the bucket and ran aft with it, the
water slopping over my legs as I ran. I wanted to study those strange
beings at my leisure.

Suddenly remembering duties which, as was quite customary with me,
I had forgotten in my interest in other things, I left my precious
bucket at the head of the cabin steps, and dashed down to attend to
them before {118} anybody found out. The cabin stairs were very
steep and narrow, and I ran plump into Mr. Wallet—actually collided
with him, and bounced off, eliciting a grunt and a curse. I picked
myself up, and he paid no more attention to me, but went on up; and I
heard him stumble at the top, and curse again, violently. I chuckled,
and thought no more about it; but when I went for my bucket again, I
could not find it. Mr. Wallet, coming up, had stumbled over it, and
had been angry, and forthwith had emptied it over the side. I would
have done him an injury if I could, and I hoped he might run foul of
a fighting bull whale. That was the worst thing I could think of.

I was so provoked with Mr. Wallet about the loss of that bucket of
water that I pretended not to hear him when he spoke to me as I ran
to the forecastle to find Peter. He was most probably only going to
give me a reprimand—which I deserved—for leaving the bucket where
I did, and when I seemed not to hear him, he did not follow me up.
As I ran forward I looked over the expanse of water which glittered
in the sun under the brisk southerly breeze, but I saw no patches
of weed. As it turned out I did not get another bucket of weed with
its strange freight of life, for we had run clear of it. Never in my
life have I been able to get another head of sargasso-weed. That was
another grudge I bore Mr. Wallet, and still bear him. His feelings
toward me were none too friendly.

I plunged below to find Peter Bottom and pour out my grievances. I
found him busy, but he stopped his work—I did not even glance at
it—and covered it with his hand, and listened until I had emptied my
heart. When at last I had come to a hesitating stop he looked up with
a twinkle in his eyes.

“Now you ’ve got it all out, Timmie,” he said, “you feel better,
I ’ll warrant.”

I did feel better, and not so angry as I had been. But {119} that
means nothing. I have always been like that, with a hot heart that
cools rapidly, leaving hardly enough resentment for self-respect. I
knew it even then for a fault. I hold that anything that is worth
such hot anger as I felt demands the keeping of a cold resentment
long enough to do some good. A man of any stability would do that, or
he would not get so angry. Captain Nelson was a man of stability, and
I was already beginning to think Mr. Brown even more so. Mr. Baker
was an ignorant man, except in one line, and he was hot-tempered
and hard; Mr. Tilton was even more ignorant, although even-tempered
enough, quick in decision in matters which he knew about, and
vigorous in action; but both Mr. Baker and Mr. Tilton were men of
stability. Mr. Snow was regarded as a little busybody; but nowhere
was there a good word for Mr. Wallet. His ignorance was stupendous,
his talent for failure was great, no dependence could be placed on
him in any kind of a pinch, and he had not the courage of a sheep. It
was more or less of a mystery how he got his second mate’s berth, and
a still greater mystery how he held it.

“That second mate ’s not worth getting mad at,” Peter said, “and
he ’ll get his deserts sooner or later. They ’most always do. Now
look. I told you I had something to show you, and here it is.”

With that he lifted his hand from the small thing it covered, which
was of ivory, one of the larger teeth of our only whale. This thing
of Peter’s was already plainly a model of the hull of the Clearchus,
although there had not been time to do more than roughly shape it.
Even with the largest tooth used for it, the model was on a very
small scale, only about five and a half inches long.

I forgot entirely my grievance against the second mate, and could
only look at it longingly, as a dog eyes a bone, licking my chops.

Peter laughed to see me. “Do you know what it is to be, then?” {120}

“Anybody would know that. It will be beautiful, Peter. Do—do you
suppose I ’ll ever be able to do anything like that?”

“You ’re able to do something like that now. It ’s nothing now, but
you wait till I have it farther along. I have to shape it a bit more
to make it a true copy—and it ’s going to be a true copy, Timmie—and
then I ’ll cut the deck down to show the rail. Every plank, chain
plate, and bolt that shows on the outside of the ship is going to
show on this model. Then I have to build the deckhouses out of plates
of ivory scraped thin, and build the try-works, and step ivory masts,
and rig her with ivory spars and ivory sails scraped thin as paper.
And there ’s to be ivory blocks, and the rigging ’s to be silk
thread. It ’ll be quite proper, and scraped and polished till it
shines. I have it in my mind, and it grows as I get on. Aye, it ’ll
be quite proper.”

It was quite proper. As I raise my eyes to the mantel, there sits the
dainty model now. Much of the rigging of silk thread is rotten and
brittle, and breaks at a touch; but the rest of Peter’s handiwork
is of more enduring stuff, although yellow with age. It makes me
positively homesick to see the very decks that I trod, the wheel
under its roof and the rail at the stern upon which I had leaned so
many times, looking over the sluggish wake, the gangway with the
cutting-stage in place, the great blocks of the cutting-tackles, the
try-works with the bench against its after side; every detail of the
ship and its fittings reproduced, even to the boats lashed to their
stiff davits, the cranes swung out for them to rest upon, and little
harpoons and lances and spades in place. The paper-thin, translucent
ivory sails still hang from their ivory yards and belly with the
breeze. It makes me homesick, I say, and makes that time—it was a
happy time, on the whole—it makes that time even more real than does
my journal, which lies before me. At the time when I first {121} saw
that model, however, rough as it then was, I could only gape and
smile, and I said nothing coherent, I think.

The teeth that were used for scrimshawing—and for many other
purposes, for on some of the islands of the South Seas whales’ teeth
had a high value—the teeth were salvaged by the crew after the
cutting-in and trying-out were over. I have described the cutting off
of the lower jaw, and getting it on deck, where it was put at one
side, out of the way, until the more serious business of trying-out
the oil and getting it below decks was over. One jaw is much like
another; that is, unless it happens to be deformed, and deformed jaws
are more frequently seen than one would believe. We got two, and one
of them was so badly deformed that the tip of the jaw was curled
tightly around twice, making a tight spiral. It has always been a
mystery to me how a whale could get a living with a jaw like that,
but they seem to have no difficulty in doing so. Both of our whales
with freak jaws were in excellent condition. Deformation of the jaws
is supposed to be due to the whales’ fighting among themselves. I
know of no first-hand information on that point, but the bull whales
certainly fight viciously on occasion. A deformed jaw, however, is
usually cleaned and kept for museum purposes.

Extracting the teeth is generally an occasion for hilarity among the
crew. You will see the hinge of the great jaw at the yardarm, and a
giggling, shouting mob, armed with spades and saws, about its lower
end, which is on the deck. A whip tackle is also on the yard, its
lower end brought down to the deck. Then they fall to with their
spades, cutting the flesh away from the lower part of the tooth
and loosening it, and completing the extraction by main strength,
very much after the fashion of a dentist, but by means of the falls
instead of forceps. Often the loop slips off of the tooth suddenly,
letting down the men who are swaying away on the falls, {122} and
starting shouts of laughter. Or the whole strip of teeth may come
together, held together by the gums. When the teeth have all been
drawn the jaw is sawed into slabs for convenient use, for the jawbone
is very hard and close-grained.

I was to have a share of the teeth obtained in this way. Peter
must have known what I wanted, for he produced a slab sawed from a
tooth, and started me at once on an ivory spoon, on which I was busy
for several days, in my spare time, and in much time that was not
spare. Your whaleman gets so interested in his scrimshawing very
often, that he neglects his duties. I was no exception. The spoon
was intended for my mother. When that was done, I began an elaborate
pie-marker, a jagging-wheel, also intended for my mother, and changed
the destination of the spoon to my father. The pie-marker consisted
of a wheel, the edge of which was to be cut in very intricate
convolutions, turning in an ivory handle. I planned this handle in
the figure of a sperm whale holding the wheel between his jaws,
and I meant to carve him within an inch of his life. Peter did not
discourage me, probably thinking that my plan was as good as another
for giving me practice. I did carve him within an inch of his life,
or within rather less than that; but I was not satisfied with the
result, and tried to improve it, “improving” it several times, and
at last producing a very lean and skinny whale. I did not dare to
make further improvements, although the whale seemed very much out of
health. The carving of the wheel, too, left something to be desired,
and the convolutions were less intricate than I hoped for. Peter
comforted me somewhat with the observation that it would be easier to
clean, and that if I had made it as I had planned, it would have cut
out a great many little pieces of dough, which would infallibly have
got stuck in it, and which my mother would have had to pick out with
a sharp knife or a wire—or perhaps a hairpin. That was Peter’s little
joke, {123} not mine. My mother must have liked her pie-marker,
crude as it was, for she used it as long as she lived, and kept it
hanging from a hook in the edge of the kitchen shelf, within reach of
her hand. She never had to use a hair-pin on it.

[Illustration: HARPOONING PORPOISE]

We had unbroken good weather, with variable winds, mostly southerly
or easterly during the first part of the passage, and westerly and
northerly during the last part, but always of good strength. One
morning, I remember, there was a great school of porpoises playing
about the ship. They seemed even more antic than usual, leaping and
diving and playing tag, and otherwise showing their contempt for a
vessel which could not go any faster than the Clearchus.

Their cavortings were too much for Aziel Wright, George Hall, and
Miller, three of the boatsteerers. They easily got permission, and
Hall was first with a porpoise-iron, and was getting out on the
jibboom. Miller got down into the forechains, Wright staying on deck.
Hall and Miller got their porpoises, and then more, until there were
half a dozen thumping the deck. The whole crew had gathered, and the
men laid hold of the line when a porpoise was struck, and hauled him
on deck by main strength.

Then they killed them. It seemed to me a horrid job, but I watched
it, as boys will watch horrid jobs; in the same spirit which used to
prompt me to go occasionally to John Green’s slaughter-house, and
see steers felled with a sledge, and have their throats ripped up
with a sharp knife as you would rip up an old boot leg. They used to
kill sheep there in what seemed to me a particularly brutal manner,
and I have seen the men step up nonchalantly to a calf hung by its
bound hind legs, seize it by the nose, and cut its head off, without
a sound of remonstrance from the calf. These methods were quite usual
at the time. Boys are queer little savages. {124}

We had porpoise-steak for two or three days after that, and then
hash. Porpoise-steak tastes pretty good to a man who has been
nearly two months without fresh meat. A porpoise is really a small
whale, and is roughly about the size of a swordfish. There must be
comparatively few people who have not seen porpoises. The meat is
much like whale-meat, but more tender and better flavored.

A fine oil is extracted from the porpoise, the best coming from the
jaw. The porpoise jaw-oil is used for chronometers and watches. Mr.
Baker thought we might as well get everything the porpoises had to
give, and he had the blubber tried out, and the jaw-oil. There was a
small quantity of jaw-oil, to which we added later.

{125}



CHAPTER XIII


In 1872 the sperm whale had almost disappeared from the Atlantic
Ocean, and old whalemen thought that he was doomed to practical
extinction. For twenty years or more sperm-whaling voyages had been
lengthened to an average of nearly four years, and it had been
necessary to hunt him over all the tropic and temperate seas of the
world. I had reason to believe that Captain Nelson had not really
expected to find any whales on the Hatteras grounds, and I know that
he expected to find none on the Western grounds. Besides, it was late
in the season by the time we reached the Western grounds, and it was
likely that the whales would have disappeared, if they had been there
at all. The mastheads were kept manned, however, as they were pretty
generally.

We were rolling along easily in a light westerly breeze when
Alexander, a Kanaka from Mr. Tilton’s boat, sounded his falsetto cry
from the foremasthead. It was early in the forenoon, and I was busy
below; but I heard the quick patter of feet on deck, and I knew what
it meant. So I dropped everything just where I stood, and ran up.
I happened to see the spout at once, a beautiful, light, feathery
thing in the bright sunlight, more like the drooping ostrich plume
than ever. There was but the one spout, repeated lazily at intervals,
although the others of the pod, if there were others, might have
sounded, and be feeding. The volume of the spout and the force with
which it was expelled, as well as the interval between spouts,
indicated a full-grown bull.

The whale had been sighted off the port bow, and was now nearly abeam
of us, going slowly to the westward, and making a course which took
him nearer to the ship as {126} he went on. Mr. Brown was already
away, with the light westerly breeze abeam, to head him off. Mr.
Wallet, as usual, was some minutes longer in getting his sail up, and
in getting under way. He headed still more to the westward. We began
to wear ship, and to change our course to follow them.

The boats went on, getting nearer the course of the whale, which
continued to swim with great deliberation. He seemed to be bent upon
getting nowhere in particular, and likely to achieve his purpose. By
the time the ship had got on her new course Mr. Brown had already
taken in his sail and got his mast down, and the men were paddling
until the whale should discover them. Mr. Wallet should have done the
same thing. He was near enough; but he delayed, as he did invariably,
a little too long. Just after he had given the order, and while
his men were busy with the mast,—they had made a little more noise
than necessary, perhaps,—the whale saw them, no doubt imperfectly.
He hesitated for an instant, then raised his flukes and lobtailed,
the blow on the water making a noise which sounded, to us on the
ship, like the report of a big gun, and raised a cataract of spray
and green water. This drenched the men in Mr. Brown’s boat, who had
paddled up on him from behind and were trying to get into position
to sink their irons just behind the side fin. Wright was standing
in the bow, a harpoon in his hands, and the boat was just even with
the flukes. I saw the men suddenly give way hard—they had no time to
change to their oars; then the whale started for Mr. Wallet’s boat,
and Wright let go both his irons, getting both fast, but well back
toward the small instead of near the side fin, where he had hoped to
place them.

The sting of the irons only served to make him the more furious and
bent upon destruction, and he rushed full-tilt upon Mr. Wallet. Mr.
Brown dropped back, the men put aside their paddles, and I saw two or
three turns {127} taken about the loggerhead. Then Wright came aft;
and Mr. Brown took his place in the bow, with a lance in his hand.
A thin wreath of blue smoke rose from the loggerhead, although they
were throwing water upon the line. Wright took another turn, and the
boat plunged wildly through the sea after the whale.

The whale seemed to be annoyed by the drag of the boat all on one
side of him. I thought I saw him gnash his jaws, although they were
kicking up such a fuss that I could not be sure. The ship was less
than half a mile away, and the ship and the whale were slowly working
nearer each other. It must have been the drag of the boat which
caused the whale to miss Mr. Wallet’s boat, which he did by a very
narrow margin, coming up for the attack about an oar’s length from
the starboard side, and abeam. That seemed to put him beside himself
with fury, and he turned at once upon Mr. Brown, shaking his head
and gnashing his jaws. As he turned, George Hall saw his chance and
planted his irons deep in his other side. If Mr. Wallet had been of
the quality of Hall or of some others of his men, he would have done
uniformly better.

Hall’s irons served to confuse the whale a little, although not to
shake his purpose of destroying Mr. Brown’s boat. He hesitated for an
instant, but immediately went on, and disappeared a short distance
from the boat. He had not sounded, however, which could be told from
the way Mr. Wallet’s line was going out. Hall had changed places
with Mr. Wallet, and had three or four turns around the loggerhead,
although not enough to check the line entirely. I saw the men in Mr.
Brown’s boat back water as hard as they could, and the next instant
the whale’s huge head shot out of the water just ahead of the boat,
the jaws gnashing. The lower jaw seemed to be crumpled up at the tip.
He just missed the boat completely, but got the whale line between
his jaws, and chewed it, getting a tooth through it, as I found out
later, and fraying the line badly. {128}

He came up out of the water so far that his side fin showed, and the
ends of Hall’s harpoons, and Mr. Brown seized that moment to lance
him. He got in two thrusts with the lance, and when he withdrew
it, its shank was bent almost at right angles. He did not stop to
straighten it, but seized another, which, however, he had no chance
to use.

As the whale went on, Mr. Brown’s line slipped off his tooth. The
teeth of the sperm whale are roughly conical in shape, and curved
slightly backward, with a considerable space between them; and there
are no teeth in the upper jaw. This will account for the fact that
the line was not bitten in two at once. The lines were crossed, too,
for Wright’s harpoons were in the left side of the whale, while the
boat from which they had come was now on his right side; and Mr.
Wallet’s boat had been on his right side when Hall planted his irons,
but was now behind him and well to his left. Both lines had slipped
over his back. Mr. Brown’s men had been unable to take in the slack
of their line as fast as the whale had come, and by some mischance
the whale had got a turn around his jaw. By a further mischance, the
whale turned again in the same direction, twisting the lines over
his back, and going over Mr. Wallet’s line this time. He was pretty
well tangled in the lines, and Mr. Wallet’s was wrapped about his
body once. Mr. Brown’s men were heaving in on their line as fast as
they could, and when, in the whale’s frantic career, it suddenly came
taut, it gripped his jaw like an Indian halter. This seemed to throw
him into a frenzy. He stopped, lobtailed several times, as rapidly as
such a huge mechanism can, lashing the water into foam, and caught
sight of the ship, not a quarter of a mile away. Before either of the
boats could haul up on him, he had started for her at full speed. Mr.
Brown’s line parted at the frayed spot; and before the whale had gone
very far, Mr. Wallet reached down to the hatchet at his knees, raised
it above his head, and cut. {129}

What impelled Mr. Wallet to cut I do not know. Very probably he was
simply afraid—panic-struck; although cutting loose from a fighting
whale, vicious and frenzied, and bent upon the destruction of the
boats, is perhaps not uncommon. But this whale, although vicious and
frenzied, had done no harm to the boats, so far, and cutting did not
seem justified. It seemed even less justified to the officers and
men than it did to me. As Peter told me, in confidence, he thought
there must be something wrong with that whale’s sight or sense of
direction, for he had missed his aim every time; missed by a little,
but he had missed. It was not necessary for him to say what he
thought of our second mate for cutting. I knew well enough.

The whale’s very obvious intention was to ram us, and we knew what
the consequences might be. The wheel was thrown hard over, and two
of the officers ran below. I have said that the old Clearchus was
slow in minding her helm, but she never seemed so slow as she did
on that occasion. Mr. Tilton and Mr. Baker had taken the two bomb
guns, which the men had brought up from below, before the ship had
changed her course five degrees. She went a little faster after that,
but her course was not changed many degrees when the whale was upon
us. The two bomb lances were fired over the quarter when he was less
than half a dozen fathoms away. They must have made a tremendous
commotion in the interior of the whale, for I could see him shiver,
but he did not stop swimming immediately, although there was no power
in his movements. He came on, and struck the ship a glancing blow
on the quarter which shook her from keel to trucks, and I thought
the foretopgallantmast would come down. The Admiral, up there in the
hoops, was shaken about like a pea in a box.

After the blow, the whale stopped swimming, and rested quietly just
astern of the ship—except for his {130} shivering. It was then that
Peter remarked to me on his defective sight, and observed further
that if he had had a grain of sense, he would have taken the chance
of Mr. Wallet’s cutting to get clean away, which he might have done
perfectly well. Then Mr. Baker, thinking to put a quick end to him,
I suppose, fired another bomb lance into him. This had just the
opposite effect. The whale stirred—no doubt he would have roared if
that were customary with whales—and turned, and made for the boats.

He missed again, but passed between them with open jaws, so close to
Mr. Wallet’s boat that he gathered in and crushed to splinters both
oars on the port side, and almost swamped the boat with the wave he
made. Mr. Brown was a little astern of Mr. Wallet, and as the whale
passed him, he gave a deep thrust with the lance. He had no time to
withdraw it, although he tried to, and bent the shank of the lance in
his attempt.

That was not the end of misfortune. The frayed end of line from
Mr. Brown’s boat was not completely hauled in, and there were some
fathoms still hanging down from the bow. The whale caught this frayed
end between his jaws as he passed, and worried it as a terrier does
a string. The effect was the same as if it had still been fast to
the iron in his body. The line tautened instantly, and whirled
the bow around, and then, as no attention was being given to the
loggerhead end of a frayed line with a few fathoms over the bow, it
began to snake out of its tub. I do not know how it happened—nobody
knew—but Wright somehow got a kink in the line around his leg, and
was snaked the length of the boat, kicking three men in the head on
his meteoric course and out at the bow. Mr. Brown and Wright had been
in the habit of doing without the kicking-strap. I have explained
the kicking-strap. It is a piece of heavy line which extends loosely
along the top of the clumsy cleat, and has its ends knotted under.
{131} The whale line passes under it on its way to the groove in
the stem. There was nothing, therefore, to stop Wright except the
frail peg in the stem, and breaking the peg was nothing to him. He
disappeared overboard.

Everybody in the boat had given him up when, suddenly, the line went
slack, and Wright shot to the surface. He had somehow managed to whip
out his knife and cut the line. They got him aboard the boat at once.
It was very nearly the end of poor Wright. He was in great pain and
almost done, his hip dislocated, although no bones were broken.

That was about the end of the whale. He went on for a little way,
enveloped by the twisting lines. Then he stopped, shivered once
more, and went into his flurry, spouting thick, black blood. That
flurry, as I think of it now, could not have been pleasant to see,
but I do not remember that it aroused any disgust in me at the time.
It was not far from the ship, and I can only recollect a consuming
curiosity, on my part, to see him die, and how he did it. It could
not have differed very much, except in the size of the beast, from
the scenes at John Green’s slaughter-house.

When the whale was alongside, and the cutting-in was under way, we
found that one eye was sightless and almost gone. This may have been
due to fighting, as the twisted jaw was supposed to be due to that
cause. I examined the jaw carefully when it was on deck, as did most
of the crew. The tip of the jaw was bent sidewise, about two feet of
it. It was a mystery to me, and ever since has remained a mystery,
how the jawbone of a full-grown whale could be so bent. I could
understand how it might be broken, but to be bent as this was, or to
be curled around in a spiral, as was the case in our later specimen,
it seemed to me that it would have had to be done while the whale
was young, and the bone soft and cartilaginous. I could not imagine
whales of that tender age fighting {132} fiercely enough to bend a
jaw or put out an eye, and I should be convinced—as to the bending of
the jaw—only by actually seeing the jaw of a whale bent in a fight
with another whale. It might be sufficient if I heard of such an
occurrence from a man in whose powers of observation and in whose
veracity I had absolute confidence; but who would believe the yarn of
the average whaleman? Whalemen are notoriously inaccurate observers,
anyway.

This whale was an old one, rather old for a whale, although by no
means decrepit. What that means in years of life I do not know. The
natural life of a whale, barring accidents, would be expected to be
of the same order as the life of an elephant, which is popularly
believed to live to a great age, from one hundred to three hundred
years. I should think that a whale three hundred years old would
yield little oil; and this whale of ours made nearly sixty barrels.

Poor Wright! We had no surgeon, of course, better than the captain
and Mr. Wallet. Wallet was a whale-surgeon. Wright was in great pain
for over a week, until we got into Fayal, and his thigh swelled to
great size. I used to hear him groaning at night in a subdued fashion.

{133}



CHAPTER XIV


We sighted no more whales, and made for the Azores as fast as the old
Clearchus would go, which was not at a dizzying speed. Wright was in
such distress that the old man was anxious to get him ashore as soon
as possible. He intended to call at Fayal, anyway. In addition to
Wright’s necessities, there was some slight refitting to be attended
to, he wanted another spare whaleboat, some oars, provisions, and
other small matters. He expected to meet the tender there, too. The
tender of the whaling fleet was a schooner, not what would be called
fast, but faster than any whaler. She would take home the little oil
we had, would have letters written since we left, and would take
whatever letters we had to send. I wrote up my journal fully, and
wrote letters to my father and my mother. I did not seal these, but
left them to be added to at the last minute.

That whale led indirectly to an adventure of my own. I have spoken
of the practical joke which a green hand tried to play on Black
Tony, “The Prince,” as we all called him. The green hand was Lupo, a
Portuguese who pulled midship oar in Mr. Brown’s boat, in which the
Prince had the bow oar. I do not know the real cause of the attempt,
and it is not important, but probably jealousy was at the bottom of
it. There was real malice in it, although Lupo meant that it should
pass for a joke. It happened just at twilight. I did not see the
whole of it, only the Prince standing on the rail, the sharp spade
in his hand instinctively raised to strike, his head up, the most
utter contempt in his gaze, as he looked down at Lupo from under
half-closed eyelids. He reminded me of a tiger, and very probably
he reminded Lupo of one, too. {134} Lupo was paralyzed with fear.
The Prince smiled slowly and contemptuously, and slowly lowered the
spade, but said nothing, and Lupo moved. He passed near me—I was in
the shadow of the foremast—muttering curses and threats as he went.

After that I was on the watch for them both, and about an hour later
I saw them. The Prince seemed to have forgotten Lupo’s existence, but
I had not, and I kept in the shadow and watched him closely, as he
edged nearer and nearer to the place where the Prince was working. We
were trying-out, and everybody was busy. Lupo himself was supposed to
be busy. He kept one hand back by his hip—on a knife, as it turned
out—and in the other hand he carried either a mincing-knife or a
boarding-knife. The light was too poor and uncertain for me to be
sure which it was, but either was a formidable weapon. I remember
just the feeling I had at the roots of my hair, and the prickling
all over my body, and the way I smiled, for I found myself about to
leap on him. I did not make up my mind to do it, I simply found that
I was going to do it, and I was filled with an exaltation of joy at
the knowledge. Call it what you will and explain it how you may, it
was pure joy of a kind that I have known many times since, but never
equal to that first time.

Well—I leaped just as he was raising his weapon, whatever it was,
and as I leaped I gave a little nervous laugh of excitement. He had
not seen me, and he was startled, and dropped his weapon, which
clattered on the deck. I seized him about the body, pinning his
elbows to his sides; but he was larger and stronger than I was, and
partially freed them. I felt a warm sting in my hip, and knew that
he had used his knife. Then I got thoroughly mad. When I was in that
condition I felt nothing, blows, knife thrusts, or anything else. It
is a curious phenomenon, and I suppose not peculiar to myself, that
in such a situation, when my rage is once completely aroused—it {135}
never took much to rouse it—I seemed to lose all sense of pain,
all feeling. It was always so with me, even as a very small boy. I
attacked Lupo in a fury with hands and feet and teeth. What he did to
me I did not know.

The fight did not last long. Suddenly he went down; inexplicably to
me until my vision cleared, and I saw Lupo lying at full length on
the deck, and the Prince stooping over him, holding a mincing-knife
at his throat like the knife of a guillotine. I fully expected to see
him beheaded on the instant. I wanted to see his head roll away, and
blood spurting from his neck.

“You move,” whispered the Prince, “and—”

Lupo heard the whisper, and he did not move, for the edge of the
knife was in contact with his throat. Then others came, and the
Prince rose to his feet, laid down his mincing-knife quietly, and
came and stood by me, while Lupo was led away.

“You hurt, Tim?” asked the Prince. “He knife you?”

I laughed a little nervously. The sense of feeling had not come back
completely.

“I guess so,” I answered, “but I don’t feel it.”

“Le ’s see,” he said. He took up a lantern and looked me over. Lupo’s
knife had found only certain soft portions of my anatomy, and those
far from any vital part.

The Prince laughed. “I see. All right. No harm, but you not sit down
much for a while. Better go to the old man and get fixed up, though.
Good boy, Tim! Great boy! You make good fight. Tony won’t forget. He
won’t forget.”

All this time he was patting my shoulder. Then, as I did not move, he
led me aft, keeping his hand on my shoulder.

“Now go below,” he said, giving me a gentle push toward the cabin
stairs.

I found Captain Nelson there, sitting at the cabin table. The row on
deck had been noiseless, and he had not been disturbed. He fixed me
up with some simple remedy. {136}

“It ’ll bleed a few minutes,” he said. “Let it. Now tell me the whole
story. Been in a fight, have you?”

I told him the whole story, and he made no comment whatever, although
I was expecting something, whether praise or blame I did not know.
I never felt sure how he would take any of my exploits. But he said
nothing, and I bade him good-night, and went to turn in. I did not go
to sleep immediately. My wounds gave me no pain whatever, but I was
still in a condition of excitement.

In the morning, however, I was so sore and lame that I dressed
with difficulty. We were under way again, and Wright was no worse,
although he certainly was no better. He told me that they had Lupo in
irons, and that they would hand him over to the consul in Fayal, who
would want my story again. This piece of information elated me, while
filling me with apprehension and nervousness. I must be sure that I
had my story straight, and I wrote it out at once, while it was all
fresh in my mind.

Later in that day I was studying trigonometry, and found myself
beyond my depth, when Mr. Brown came along. I was immersed in
mathematics, and thinking of nothing but spherical angles. He stood
for a few minutes, watching me, and half smiling to himself.

“Tim,” he said at last.

I looked up, startled at his abruptness.

“Yes, sir?”

“I guess that you had no intention of getting in that fight, but
suddenly found yourself in it. Is n’t that so?”

“Well—yes, sir.” I did not like to tell him of my joy in it, or of my
blind fury, but he must have guessed that too.

“I ’m afraid you like to fight.”

“Well—I did n’t know that I liked it, sir.”

“It ’s right that you should like it, in a good cause, but you ’ll
have to be on your guard. I like it—or I used to—and it let me in for
these.” {137}

With that he opened his shirt, and showed me three old scars almost
over his heart. I gaped at them.

“Just escaped with my life,” he added, smiling again. “My ribs
stopped it. And I have other scars. And the cause was n’t good. I
show you these only to let you know that I know what I am talking
about. Be on your guard, boy.”

I was still gaping up at him. “Where?” I asked.

“Batavia,” he answered shortly, “years ago. I had got down pretty
far. I don’t want you to. Now let ’s see what bothers you.”

So we took up that question of angles. I had forgotten it.

When we had finished our session, I went on deck. It was nearly five
o’clock, or two bells. The breeze had lightened, and the old ship
lumbered along lazily, pitching slowly in the swells, and now and
then throwing sheets of spray from her forefoot when a sea chanced
to break with it. I could not see it, but I could hear it. I stood
behind the steersman, and I forgot Batavia and Mr. Brown as I looked
out astern over our slowly seething wake in a golden ocean, with
crimson lights, and with shadows of dark green and blue in the seas
which chased us. The crew were finishing the cleaning up of the ship
with ashes from the try-works, and their noise sounded faintly behind
me. I lost myself once more.

There was no land in sight, and no vessel, nothing but that gently
heaving, golden ocean; but I imagined that the Elizabeth Islands
were concealed behind haze on the horizon, and that I was bound home
across the Bay. I wondered how my father would seem, and what he
was doing at that moment; and I saw in imagination my mother’s face
as she caught sight of me. I knew what she would be doing at that
moment. She would be cooking supper—perhaps it was half an hour too
early to be cooking supper, but soon she would be cooking supper;
{138} or frying doughnuts, although she was more apt to do that in
the morning; or making soda biscuit. I could just see the great pan
of them, and mother stooping before the open oven door. We had a
plenty of good, homely food, and mother’s soda biscuits were—well,
they were mother’s soda biscuits. There was nothing like them.

We got into Fayal in about a week. Wright was taken ashore the first
thing, and put into the hands of a surgeon. We left him there.
His hip was pretty bad, and he was really sick besides. He had
consumption, although he would not acknowledge it. He went back to
New Bedford on the tender, which left after we did, and I am afraid
we all forgot him quickly.

Lupo was delivered to our consul, and was also sent back on the
tender, according to the best recollection I have of the matter to
be tried in New Bedford—or in the Federal Court in that district. I
had to sign and swear to a deposition, which was merely a copy of my
journal of the fight. When that duty was over I felt much better, for
it had weighed on my mind for some days, although it turned out to be
nothing but a formality, and the consul was very kind and friendly,
as was everybody concerned except Lupo. I do not know what became of
him.

The tender was waiting for us. I finished up my journal, so far,
and my letters. The letters were not long, for all my narrative was
contained in my journal. There was a long letter from my mother,
filled with the news of home since I had left, and with the kind
of thing that mothers’ letters are always filled with. Boys treat
them carelessly sometimes, and affect not to value them, but they
always do value them, I think. My father had written a postscript
to my mother’s letter, not long, for my father never wrote long
letters, and was not given to that form of self-expression—to any
form of self-expression, for that matter. I wore that letter to
a rag, carrying it about with me, and reading it and re-reading
it. It brought {139} back my homesickness. I rather cherished my
homesickness, I think.

We had about a hundred barrels of oil to send home, and to be put
aboard the tender, supplies and provisions to get, and a whaleboat
if we could, and two men to recruit to take the places of Wright and
Lupo, and we were likely to stay there four or five days at least.

Some of us were given liberty ashore, and Peter, the Prince, Black
Man’el, and I undertook a tour into the interior. I cannot now
remember much about that trip. I know that we wandered about the town
for a half a day, and saw a little white and ancient-looking chapel,
which we were told that Columbus had visited on his return from
discovering America; and that we traveled on foot into the country.
Fayal is less mountainous than most of the other islands, but the
roads were not good. On the high ground back from the town we passed
farms, and many small, round, terraced areas, not much bigger than
a barn floor, with low walls of small boulders. They were floored
with a very hard sort of clay. I believe these areas were used as
threshing-floors. I remember best that I was pretty sore still.

Our oil was transferred, supplies and provisions on board, the new
men shipped, and Captain Nelson impatient to get away; but several of
the liberty men were not back, and although their liberty was not up
until the next day Mr. Tilton was sent ashore with two men to find
them. Mr. Tilton knew the places in Fayal where they would be likely
to be, and he came back in a little over an hour, bringing the men,
who were very drunk, and singing and shouting, or maudlin or sullen
and vicious, according to their natures. Azevedo soused them with
cold water, and we got under way at once.

Our course was a little east of south until we struck the northeast
trades in latitude 28° N., although there was a good easterly wind
all the way from Fayal, and the {140} Clearchus did pretty well
for her. We did not stop at Tenerife, which would have been several
hundred miles out of our way. With the trades on our quarter we did
better yet on a course a little west of south. This took us to the
Cape Verde grounds.

During all this time from Fayal up to getting on the Cape Verde
grounds, we hardly started a sheet, and the men had a good deal of
time to themselves. Most of them were occupied with scrimshawing. I
finished my pie marker, but did not begin anything else. A boy on
shipboard does not have nearly as much spare time as would naturally
be supposed by people who do not know; none of the crew have, either,
although the crew is much larger than necessary for working the
ship, and they do not care much for appearances, or for doing things
smartly or in shipshape fashion. A boy has none of the duties of the
men, except pulling and hauling when the boats are away, but he is
at the beck and call of all officers. I really do not know whether
all the officers have that right, but that was the way it worked out,
and I never questioned it. Then I had my studies, at which I was
really working. What spare time I had I preferred to spend on deck,
gazing at the sky and the sea, and what I could see in them, rather
than working with my eyes in my hat. There was little to be seen in
the air, but the sea sometimes seemed alive with porpoises, and one
day I saw a dolphin swimming just below the surface of the water
alongside the ship. As it passed, with no perceptible effort, under
the seas, with the sun shining upon it, it showed beautiful colors,
changing every instant from one delicate shade of blue or green to
another, like dissolving views. Then there came another and another,
and flying fish leaping from the water. Some of the flying fish came
aboard, or went clear across the deck in their flight, and I tried to
catch them in my cap as they passed. I did catch three.

In about 14° N. latitude we ran into the doldrums, {141} which
prevail over but two or three degrees at this point and at this
season. We were more than a week in getting out of them. It did not
rain so much as I had expected, although the clouds hardly broke, and
heavy showers were likely at almost any time.

In about latitude 9° N. we ran out of the doldrums and into a fresh
breeze from the southwest, which the captain said was the southwest
monsoon. I did not then know what a monsoon was. It sounded like
simoon and typhoon, and I knew that some of them were ferocious and
terrible things, but I was not at all sure which was the worst. It
was the strange and foreign sound, I have no doubt, that scared me.
If typhoons had been called simple hurricanes they would not have
seemed nearly so bad. I had studied about typhoons and simoons and
monsoons, and other winds, in my physical geography at school, but
they had meant nothing to me but names, largely because they were
nothing but names to my teacher. How could they be anything more?
When we ran into it we found that the monsoon—this one, at any
rate—was nothing to be afraid of. It is a sort of seasonal trade
wind, due to the nearness, in this case, of the continent of Africa.
We changed our course to southeast, and held it until we ran into the
southeast trades a few degrees farther south; then changed again,
running nearly west at first, to accommodate the ship to the wind,
which at first was nearly south. The wind got around more to the
eastward as we went on, and when we crossed the line we could lay a
southwest course.

We crossed the equator in about longitude 25° W. The actual crossing
occurred at night, but I think that fact had nothing to do with the
attitude of the men toward that important event. They took absolutely
no notice of it, and I do not believe that more than two or three of
them thought of it at all.

In the latitude of Cape St. Roque and Pernambuco, the usual tracks
for sailing ships from the United States {142} and Europe to Cape
Horn and the Cape of Good Hope converge because of the trade winds.
The tracks of vessels, either sail or steam, from Cape Horn and
the eastern ports of South America naturally pass through the same
somewhat narrow area; but although it seems narrow when you see it on
a chart, it covers six or seven degrees of longitude, which is about
four hundred miles in this latitude. The chance of meeting ships here
is, therefore, not so great as any one might suppose, but we did see
five ships in four days. We spoke none of them, although we did try
to speak one, a big ship which Captain Nelson thought was bound to
New York. He wanted to send letters, and we all hastily got together
what we had to send—there was no time to write more than a half dozen
words—and made up a packet.

The ship did not respond to our signal, however. She was nearly a
mile away, going like a race-horse, with everything she owned on her
yards, and the wind just abaft the beam. She may not have seen our
signal—she may not have looked for it, her master being unwilling to
go to the very considerable trouble involved in taking a packet of
letters from an old whaler. At any rate, she did not stop or give
any sign. She was a beautiful sight as she passed to windward under
her cloud of canvas, making a good sixteen knots, bowing slowly
and gracefully, and shouldering the seas out of her way, smothered
in foam to her knightheads. There is nothing so beautiful as a
full-rigged clipper ship with all her towering spread of sail, and
with as much wind as she can stagger under. I watched her as long as
I could see her, thinking that merely sailing in such a ship must be
sheer pleasure such as we in the Clearchus could not realize. I found
that I was smiling to myself. I wish that the day of the sailing ship
might come again. It really seems as if it might. There is a wide
field for the large, fast sailing ship. There is none for the small,
slow ship. After all, it is a {143} question of costs: crews and
wages against investment and depreciation and the price of coal or
oil.

We kept on down the coast of South America, but well out of sight
of land, for ten days. For the first half of the time we had the
southeast trades, which were very nearly east, and nothing happened
to break the pleasant monotony. I read the “Lives of the Navigators,”
for before long we should be off the coast of Patagonia, and I wished
to prepare for that experience. No information was to be despised,
and who knows how much the true Patagonians have changed in three
hundred years? I kept track of Peter’s scrimshawing too, although I
did none myself, and I devoted a good deal of time to my studies.

Mr. Brown spent a good deal of time in helping me, and from casual
remarks and allusions that he made from time to time I had pieced out
a fragmentary history of his career. I had a pretty good notion that
Brown was not his real name, but I had no evidence of it. His story,
as far as I had been able to get at it, with some guesses on my part,
was this.

He had come of good family, with some money; how much I could not
tell, but enough to send him to a good school and to college. At
school he was rather wild and uncontrollable, and at college he
was worse. In the middle of his college course came the Civil War,
and he left college and enlisted. What his history had been in the
war I could not guess, for he made but one allusion to being in it
at all. When the war was over, he went back to college; but in his
senior year he got into some drunken scrape, and was expelled. His
father seemed to have been a hard kind of man, or perhaps he had got
discouraged and tired of pulling him out of scrapes, and he turned
him adrift.

Mr. Brown, as I must call him, wandering down upon the Boston
wharves, rather desperate, shipped in a fisherman. He had always
been used to boats. It was a very short cruise, and upon his return
he shipped in a {144} merchantman for the East. On this voyage,
as I inferred, he had not abandoned his bad habits, and somehow or
other he found himself cast adrift for the second time, and “on the
beach” at Batavia. Here he got into some row—a fight, which almost
ended him—with his outcast companions, and barely escaped with his
life. That seemed to have sobered him. He pulled himself together,
and reformed; shipped as foremast hand on a whaler which had put into
Batavia short of men, and had followed whaling for the six years
since. Now he was thirty-two or thirty-three, quiet and kind and
efficient, and he had my unqualified admiration and affection. If I
were a second Conrad I would make a book of him.

In about latitude 17° S. the southeast trades left us, and the wind
came out from the northeast and north, which suited us just as well.
We continued on our course for another five days, and then stood in
to the westward for Rio.

{145}



CHAPTER XV


We had good weather to the River Plate. Our northeasterly wind
continued until we were two days out of Rio, then pulled around into
the southwest, and came stronger. There are not many days of calms
and variable winds in this part of the ocean, and gales at this
season are rare. We were making a course almost due south, and were
several hundred miles from the coast. When we arrived off the Plate,
early in November, we reduced sail, and cruised to and fro, keeping a
sharp lookout for whales.

We had seen no birds at all on the Western grounds, and but few on
our way down; but here I saw my first albatross, before we had got
any whales. The breeze was light, but there was quite a heavy swell
rolling from the southwest, and the ship, under easy sail, was barely
moving through the water. I happened to have—or to be taking—a brief
rest from my duties, as I was very apt to do. Probably I had been
sent on some errand, and, boylike, I was performing it by standing
at the rail near the windlass, looking out over the heaving sea, and
dreaming my dreams, when I saw, far ahead of us, a white speck on
the water. The white speck would rise slowly, as the great rollers
advanced, until it was on the top of one of them; then, with the
passage of the swell, it would fall as slowly, until it was hidden in
the valley. I had the old glass hung about my neck in case we should
raise a spout. All the officers used to laugh at me for carrying that
jangling load of junk, but I did not care for their laughter, and I
was glad that I had it then, for I could not have gone after it.

I looked through the glass, and after searching over a vast expanse
of sea and sky—it is no small trick to hold {146} a glass steady
on a vessel that is heaving as the Clearchus was, but I had got
the hang of letting my feet move with the ship and keeping my body
steady—after a long search, I say, I found my white speck, and saw
that it was some sort of a great white bird, sitting high in the
water, like a gull. It may have been sleeping, but it was not when
I caught sight of it through the glass. Its head was up, and it was
looking about alertly, and at last it caught sight of the ship. The
ship was not near to it, however, and it continued to stare right at
me for a long time, until I grew embarrassed, and put the glass down.
It sounds absurd enough, but you just try looking at a distant boat
or a duck or a gull, through a glass, and if you do not have the same
impulse I will eat it—if it is the right kind of a duck. When the
glass was down, my embarrassment vanished, and I put it to my eyes
again. The bird was still watching me, looking away now and then,
and getting more nervous; but it waited until I had a distinct view
of its shape and plumage, its bill, with a hook at the end, and its
staring eyes, before taking flight. Then, with a last glance toward
the ship, it spread long, narrow wings, held them out, seemed to rise
on its feet, and began a sort of run over the surface of the water.
When it had run a hundred feet or more in this way, and was going
at great speed, it managed to take the air. Albatrosses do not take
the air easily, and the men said that they are not able to rise from
calm water, but depend on the lift of the waves. As it rose it seemed
enormous, and I was reminded of the first great blue herons I ever
saw. I was on a visit to my grandmother, in Newburyport, and as we
were going over Chain Bridge we saw four of the great birds standing
in the edge of the marsh. They saw us too; and when we stopped to get
a better view, they rose. I remember they seemed as big as houses,
as they flew off across the river, trailing their long legs. That
albatross, seen through my glass, seemed as big as {147} a house.
Probably he had a spread of wing half as large again as that of a
great blue heron.

As I stood, with the glass at my eyes, watching the albatross rise
and sail away, the surface of the sea for a great distance was in the
field of the glass. My attention was caught by a commotion—a sort of
heaving of the surface—on the side of one of the rollers, three or
four miles away. At almost the same instant a glistening black body
shot out, rode high in the water for a moment, and then sank without
a splash until only two small islands were visible. I yelled at the
top of my lungs, and as if my yell had been a signal, a vigorous
spout arose from the whale’s spiracle, plumed off to leeward, and the
melodious cry of the Admiral came down to me.

The whale was undisturbed, and lay there like a huge log, taking his
time about having his spoutings out. He was off the lee bow, and we
kept on for perhaps ten minutes, to get more to windward of him.
Then we lowered two boats. The boats had not gone far when the whale
raised his flukes lazily, and went down again; and the boats went
on to the points which their officers thought advantageous for the
whale’s rising, took down their sails, unshipped their masts, and
waited.

They had been loafing there about a quarter of an hour when,
suddenly, without warning of any kind, the body of a whale shot clear
of the water, between the boats, and fell back with a tremendous
splash. This was too much for the nerves of one of the green hands,
who let loose a yell. The whale had no difficulty in hearing that
yell. We heard it on the ship. The whale, which was not the one they
had been waiting for, but another, lobtailed twice, and made off
between the boats, to windward, before the crews could get their oars
in the water. The whale was evidently “gallied,” and was swimming
head out. Although the boats took up the chase at once, and we
hastily lowered another boat to head him off, if {148} possible,
that boat was too late, and he passed a quarter of a mile ahead of
the ship. The first two boats, seeing that they were rowing a losing
race, returned to their stations, to wait until the first whale
rose; but the boat we had lowered, which was the fifth mate’s boat,
continued the chase for five miles. It got no nearer in the five
miles of hard rowing, and then gave it up, and returned.

Meanwhile the two boats were back again, watching the water for a
sign of the reappearance of the first whale. The hour was almost up,
and I glanced aloft at the Admiral’s station at the foremasthead. The
Admiral was not there, for he rowed bow oar in Mr. Snow’s boat—the
fifth mate’s—but another man was manipulating the signal flag. I had
learned a little of their system of signalling, and I saw that he was
telling them that their whale had risen far to leeward. I looked and
could just make out the spout, about a couple of miles to leeward of
the boats. The whale seemed to be reconnoitering. He swam slowly in a
circle, always keeping his distance from the boats and from the ship,
and working to windward.

“Clean gallied,” said a voice behind me. “Damn that man! They may as
well come aboard.”

That seemed to be Captain Nelson’s opinion, for the boats were soon
called back. It was a disgusted lot of men that came over the side.
I had no difficulty in spotting the man who had yelled, and thereby,
as they all maintained, had lost them a perfectly good whale. It was
Kane, in Mr. Brown’s boat. He looked sheepish and ashamed, and said
not a word. Kane afterward became one of our best men.

We were not always to have that kind of luck. A week later we raised
whales again. Mr. Baker and Mr. Brown lowered at once, and after
about half an hour, when more whales had come to the surface, Mr.
Tilton and Mr. Wallet. Mr. Baker struck almost immediately. His whale
was rather a small one which happened to rise just ahead {149} of
the boat, and Macy got both irons fast. The whale then started to
run under water, coming to the surface now and then to spout. He ran
so hard that it was impossible to pull up for lancing, and they were
unable even to hold all they had, and had to give him line. He was
heading for Montevideo, and passed out of sight with Mr. Baker in the
bow, holding a useless lance, and swearing volubly, I have no doubt;
and with Macy holding hard at the steering oar, and the boat throwing
a small cataract of spray from either side.

Meanwhile a second whale had risen some distance ahead of Mr. Brown.
They pulled hard for it, a much longer pull than Mr. Baker’s. When
Mr. Baker was well on his way to the coast of South America, and I
turned my glass on Mr. Brown’s boat, he had succeeded in getting
near the unsuspecting whale, approaching from behind. The whale
had just become aware of it—he had not seen it, but probably he
had heard it—and was preparing to see about having something done
about it. What that would have been I was never to find out, for the
boatsteerer was just taking in his oar. The boatsteerer was Starbuck,
an energetic Nantucketer from Mr. Tilton’s boat, who had been
given Wright’s place over the head of Black Tony—the Prince—to my
disappointment. I think most of the men would have been glad to see
the Prince get it. The officers would have been glad, too; but the
Prince was as black as the ace of spades. That fact stuck in their
crops. It always does, whatever may be said; and, although there was
no serious objection to a black boatsteerer, that would be the end of
promotion for him, while Starbuck was one of themselves, and would go
as high as his natural ability would take him.

Well, Starbuck was just taking in his oar. They were very close,
and he had no time to get his breath after his hard pull, but must
throw the harpoon at once; and it was his first whale, and he was
undoubtedly nervous. The {150} consequence was that he did not make
a good dart, and although the harpoon struck, it was not thrown
hard enough, and only the barb penetrated. His second iron missed
altogether.

Fortunately the whale did not seem greatly disturbed, but only a
little surprised. He appeared to change his mind about the boat,
and swam off at a leisurely gait. Mr. Tilton was nearly up by this
time, and Mr. Brown, fearing that the harpoon would pull out at any
moment, signalled him to get fast to the whale. Mr. Tilton did. His
boatsteerer, Azevedo, a stocky, heavily set Western Islander, sunk
both irons to the haft in the whale’s other side, just behind the
flipper. Whether the harpoons had touched a vital spot I do not know,
but the actions of the whale were peculiar. In fact, he did not act
at all, but lay like a vast log on the water, giving both Mr. Brown
and Mr. Tilton all the chance in the world to pull up and lance him.
This they did, both, one from each side. The whale lay so low in the
water that I could see nothing of him, but it turned me rather sick
to see them both pumping their lances up and down in him, seeking the
life, that being the great arterial reservoir I have mentioned. Mr.
Brown found it, and the whale began to spout thick blood. It seemed
to me a revolting business, mere butchery of a great beast that was
harmless and passive. Was this the career I had chosen? I put the
glass down, feeling a little sick at my stomach and rather faint, and
leaned against the mast and closed my eyes, missing the flurry, which
they told me afterwards was lively enough to make up for the whale’s
previous inaction.

By putting down the glass and closing my eyes I missed the first part
of an incident which would have given me some pleasure. The ship had
got pretty near the boats by that time, and I was roused by a shout
from the Admiral and from the crew on deck. Mr. Wallet was slow in
getting into action, as was quite usual with him. Two other {151}
whales had come up, and one of them, chancing to rise very near Mr.
Wallet’s boat just as he was taking in his sail and about to unstep
his mast, made for the boat without an instant’s hesitation. It was
this that had caused the men to shout. There was nothing harmless
and passive about that whale, and I could have killed him without
a qualm—if I had been in the boat and had had a chance. The men in
the boat evidently saw no chance to do anything but get out, for
the whale had gone under water a short distance from the boat, and
they knew what he would do next. He did it. He rose at some speed
directly under the boat, and tossed it into the air as if it had been
a straw, staving it completely, the men spilling out on each side.
Two of the men had jumped out before the whale struck them, and were
swimming away, and the others seemed to be swimming away from the
fragments of the boat as fast as they could, but I could not see, at
the time, whether they all got away or not. It was all white water
there. The whale was in a furious temper, and chewed the wreckage of
the boat and the oars to splinters, and then thrashed the mass with
his flukes. He missed the men, probably failing to see them; and,
having done all the damage he could, he made off slowly, pausing in
a truculent way as if he was in doubt whether he should attack Mr.
Brown and Mr. Tilton. I have had no doubt, since I have come to know
whales better than I did then, that he would have attacked them if he
had seen them clearly. They were over a quarter of a mile away. But
you never can tell what a whale will do.

Mr. Brown immediately cast loose from the dead whale, but he did not,
as I expected, go at once to the rescue of the men from Mr. Wallet’s
boat. These men were swimming about in the water. I could just see
their heads. They had begun to go back to the wreckage of the boat
and pick up pieces of oars and fragments of planks from the broken
boat to cling to. Mr. Brown, so far as I could {152} see, paid them
no attention, but made after the whale, which had abandoned its
leisurely gait, and was swimming in a business-like way, as though he
had just remembered an appointment. The chase was a short one, for
the boat did not gain at all with the men pulling their hearts out,
and Mr. Brown gave it up, and went back to pick up the men.

Mr. Tilton had also cast loose, having put a waif on the dead whale—a
waif is a little flag on a pole, which is stuck in a hole made with
a spade for that purpose—and he had gone in chase of other whales
which had come up. But the pod seemed to be thoroughly alarmed, and
the three whales in sight were making off at a pace too fast for the
boats. That made six whales in the pod, for I thought there were no
more.

Both Mr. Brown and Mr. Tilton appeared to be of my opinion, for they
were giving the dead whale all their attention. Both boats were
alongside of it for some time. I could not see just what they were
doing, but they were evidently getting ready to tow it—probably
making the lines fast—and presently the two boats straightened out
and began pulling toward the ship. It was hard work towing that
whale, and they got ahead so slowly that I could not mark their
progress, the whale nearly under water, and the seas washing gently
over his back. The ship was bearing down on them, and they stopped
rowing, and waited for her.

There were already sharks about the carcass, half a dozen or more,
attracted in some mysterious way. They had come in with it; had
appeared with the first blood. It took some little manœuvring to
get the carcass in proper position close along the starboard side,
where the cutting-stage is rigged, the flukes forward, and the head
about at the gangway. Then a line with a sinker attached was dropped
between the ship and the body of the whale. Beyond the sinker was
more line with a float on the end. {153} The sinker was dropped down
deep enough to carry the float down clear of the body, then pulled
up again, and the float came up beyond the whale. It always does. I
never saw it fail. The men in the boat got that line, and hauled in
on it, and pulled it all in, and a heavier line attached to its end,
and then a chain cable to which the heavy line was fast. They made
the chains fast, the fluke chain about the tail at the smallest part,
just before it begins to spread into the flukes, so that the carcass
would turn in it freely. The flukes sometimes measure, from point to
point, as much as twenty feet.

We began cutting-in at once. It was already well on into the
afternoon when we began, and within a couple of hours we sighted Mr.
Baker’s boat returning dejectedly, without their whale. The men soon
came aboard, rather crestfallen. Peter told me that the shank of one
iron twisted off, and the other pulled out. The whale was still going
too fast for the boat, and there was nothing to be done except to
come back.

“Best we could do, we could n’t heave in hard enough to get close,”
he said. “Then Mr. Baker tried pitchpoling.”

“How do you pitchpole, Peter?” I asked.

“Pitchpole?” said Peter. “Why, the shaft of a lance is light, of pine
or some light wood, and you take it under the end on your hand, with
the other hand to guide it. Then you toss it in the air blade first.
Of course you aim at the whale. You must ’a’ done the same thing with
a stick or an arrow many a time. The head being heavy and the shaft
light, the blade ’ll keep ahead. If you ain’t too far off, and if
you ’re any kind of a shot, it ’ll come down into the whale, but the
aim ain’t certain. It can’t be. You haul the lance back by the warp
that ’s fast to the shaft. Mr. Baker missed him clean the first time.
He must ’a’ been making twelve knots, right into the wind. The second
shot just tickled his flukes, and he gave such a powerful start that
the first iron twisted off as if it had {154} been made of cheese.
That first iron had been doing all the pulling, and when it went that
brought a sudden strain on the second iron, and it ripped out. So
there we were, and there was the whale leaving us at a mile a minute,
more or less. We came back.”

After supper I went on deck again, and saw Peter standing at the
starboard rail. I joined him, and we looked over at the whale lying
there. The cutting-in had been suspended for the night. It was dark,
and I could not see the carcass, but I saw in the water lambent
streams of phosphorescence moving slowly and lazily to and fro;
little streaks of bubbles which glowed for a brief second or two, and
then were gone. Now and then there was a burst of the tiny glowing
bubbles, as a fin moved powerfully. The streaks of uncanny, lambent
light seemed to interlace, but they all ended at the carcass of the
whale and outlined it, leaving it in black darkness.

“See, Peter!” I said. “What a lot of sharks! How many there must be
in the ocean!”

This whale was smaller than would have been thought from his actions,
and it had been possible to get the whole case on deck. It had been
reposing behind Peter and me while we discussed the matter of sharks.
It was emptied the next morning, after the blubber was all in and the
carcass cut adrift.

Bailing the case furnished sport for many of the crew. It was not
necessary to use the case-bucket, but every kind of a receptacle was
used, scoops and tin pails and old tin cans being in especial favor.
When the case was half empty, a man got inside. He looked perfectly
contented and happy, standing in the sloppy, slushy stuff up to his
waist, ladling it out with a scoop, and he seemed to revel in the
bath of oil and spermaceti. His getting in raised the level of the
stuff, so that tin pails and tin cans once more came into easy use.
I had never seen oil flowing so freely, slopping and spilling over
everything. {155}

When the trying-out was over, we found that we had made just over
forty-seven barrels from that whale; pretty near the average, taking
them as they come. The average is always called “five and forty.”

{156}



CHAPTER XVI


Nothing of note happened for very nearly a month. We had the usual
variations of weather, good and bad, but mostly good, and no gales.
We had no luck, however. Few whales were raised, and those that we
did see were shy and wild, and we got none of them. It was December
before we got another.

Early one morning I was out on deck. I had been sent on some errand
by Mr. Wallet. I was never very quick on Mr. Wallet’s errands, and
I stopped by the windlass, where I was out of sight from aft, and
looked out forward. It was a perfect morning, the sun just up,
making a path of gold over the tops of the seas, and the Clearchus
lazily rolling along that golden path. Of course I lost myself in
contemplation, half shut my eyes, and drank in the beauty of it.
Mr. Wallet and his errands were forgotten, the oily, grimy ship was
behind me, and the gentle breeze blew on my cheek. It was not strong
enough to keep the heavy sails filled out, and the jibs, over my
head, almost flapped with every roll of the ship. I imagined myself
Magellan, and ahead of me that unknown shore, on which a huge savage,
resplendent in yellow paint, danced and made gestures of invitation.
It was very real to me, and when there suddenly appeared a tiny, soft
feather in the savage’s hair—appeared, seemed to stand still for an
instant, a tiny, drooping ostrich plume, drifted, and disappeared—I
did not know it for what it was. It came again, the tiny, drooping
ostrich plume; and at the same moment the quavering cry from high
over my head—“Blo-o-ws!” The dancing savage vanished, and I ran.

There were between three and six whales in the pod; I could not tell
just how many, but I set those limits. I {157} waited until I was
sure Mr. Brown’s boat would go; then I went unobtrusively and stood
beside the captain, for I thought he might let me go in it. He took
no notice of me, and I walked away, my heart in my boots. All five
boats were away.

We had seen nothing of the Annie Battles since that day near
Hatteras, except a dissolving view of her topsails going south, just
as we went in to Fayal. Captain Coffin had not been waiting on the
Western grounds, in spite of his promise. I think that all of us,
including the officers, had completely forgotten her. I know that her
very existence had slipped from my mind, and our last meeting with
her was of the same order as our picking up the man with his foot
bitten off by sharks, but of less importance. Now, as I watched the
boats sailing slowly over that smooth sea, and spreading out fanwise
as they went, I caught sight of topmasts rising to the eastward. They
must have been in plain sight for some time before I saw them, with
their square topsails, for we were already raising her lower sails.
It was the Battles, there could be no doubt about it.

Where we were, the wind was nothing more than a light, variable air,
mostly from the southwest; but the Battles was bringing with her a
brisk breeze from the southeast. I ran below to get my glass—that
load of junk—and hung it about my neck. When I got on deck again the
Battles seemed to be hesitating, coming up slowly into the wind,
her topsails shaking and her booms evidently swinging. It was as if
she no longer felt the directing hand of any man; as if there was
nobody at the helm, or she had lost her rudder. I thought it queer
behavior, and so did Captain Nelson. He was gazing steadfastly at
her, muttering to himself, and wondering what Fred Coffin could be up
to. Then he saw me with the glass hanging about my neck.

“Here, Tim,” he said, “give me your glass, and run below and get
mine.” {158}

I gave it to him, and ran below without a word. I was gone but a
couple of minutes, but when I got back I saw that the Battles had
trimmed her sheets, and was paying off again.

“See anything, sir?” I asked eagerly.

He shook his head. “Her decks have n’t risen yet,” he said. “Seems to
be all right now. I did n’t know but she was in trouble, and we ’d
better run down to her; and we have n’t got much of a crew left
aboard.”

The breeze had not reached the boats yet—it had not reached the
whales—but the boats were very much nearer the pod of whales than the
Battles was, and our mates evidently thought that they would be fast
long before the Battles could lower a boat, and they held on under
sail. But the whales were wandering directly away from us, and the
Battles, her hesitation over, was now coming fast. I saw first one
boat and then another hurriedly take in sail, and the men taking to
their oars. I could see the Battles plainly through my glass, and I
almost caught the wave she was carrying under her bow. Now and then I
saw the top of it through the mirage, as she threw the spray high. It
seemed to me that she was almost on top of the whales. She was not,
of course. That phenomenon of loss of perspective in using a glass
has since become familiar to me.

Suddenly the Battles came up into the wind, throwing her topsails
aback. It stopped her short, all standing. Two of her boats were away
almost before she had stopped, and the men in them pulling as if in
a race, the boatheader throwing his weight, with his free hand, on
the after oar at each stroke. It was a race in fact, and the prize
was a thousand dollars or so. I forget what the price of oil was at
the time, but I have the impression that it was low. The Battles’ men
were fresh, ours were not, but I saw two of our boats, Mr. Baker’s
and Mr. Tilton’s, it turned out, although I could not distinguish
them at that {159} distance—both had been helping the pulling in the
same way that the boatheaders of the Battles had—come up on one side
of a whale just as one of the boats from the Battles came up on the
other side. All three harpooners seemed to dart at the same instant.

What happened then I could not see clearly. It was all pretty far
away, and all I saw was a confusion of boats and men, and the great
flukes of the whale rising instantly, and crashing down on the sea
near one of our boats, just missing it and apparently throwing a man
into the water. Then the whale started off, towing the three boats.
The details I had from Peter later.

Macy and Azevedo rarely missed a dart, and they had not missed this
time, in spite of their hard pull. Macy had both irons in to the
hafts, and Azevedo one. Azevedo was like a bull in strength, but he
was not so well placed as Macy—near the flukes—and his second iron
did not bite deep, not much above the barb. When the flukes crashed
down on the water Mr. Tilton’s boat was deluged, and Almeida, a green
hand, was so scared that he jumped overboard. They could not stop
then to pick him up, but he was picked up later, badly frightened,
but none the worse otherwise. It is doubtful whether any one in Mr.
Tilton’s boat gave him a thought, for the whale had started running.

Nobody in either Mr. Baker’s boat or in Mr. Tilton’s seemed to know
definitely who had struck first, although they all said, with more
or less emphasis, Macy or Azevedo. There was no agreement as to
which of the two it was, all in Mr. Baker’s boat saying Macy, and
all in Mr. Tilton’s saying Azevedo; and I really think there can
be no doubt that all three boats had struck at as nearly the same
instant as possible. Certainly the Battles’ men held up their end
of the argument a little later. The whale did not run fast nor far,
with three boats towing, and every man in every boat heaving on his
line for all he was worth. The {160} three mates were standing in
the bows with lances poised in their hands; and Mr. Baker, seeing a
chance, pitchpoled. At the same instant the mate of the Battles—if it
was the mate—also pitchpoled. Peter said it was a pretty sight to see
the two lances in the air at the same time, as if they were from two
guns fired with the same lanyard. The lances flew true, and pierced
the whale at the same moment. They were drawn back by the light warps
attached to the hafts, each man working frantically. Mr. Baker was a
trifle quicker in recovery. The boat was almost within reach of the
whale, but not quite, and he darted the lance with great force. The
Battles’ boat was a little nearer the whale, and its lance was held
for a second while the men heaved again. Then it was plunged into the
side of the whale.

Not one of the three boats took even the usual precautions, which
seem little enough, but what chance had the whale with three lances
being churned up and down in his in’ards? He just lay still and
quivered, spouting thick blood, and gave up the ghost. Then came a
ticklish time.

“For a quarter of an hour,” said Peter, who was telling me the story,
“I did n’t know whether there was going to be a fight or not, but I
rather thought there was. Mr. Baker and the mate of the Battles—he
was one of the mates, I s’pose—had it back and forth across the back
of the whale, and they both got pretty mad. Mr. Baker said they were
first up.

“ ‘You were not!’ said the Battles’ mate. ‘I was first up. But what
has that to do with it anyway? Our iron struck first.’

“ ‘Like hell,’ said Mr. Baker. ‘Macy’s iron struck first. Whale ’s
ours. I ’d swear to it.’

“ ‘No doubt,’ said the Battles’ mate; ‘but that don’t make it so.’

‘What d’ ye mean?’ said Mr. Baker. ‘Call me a liar, do you?’ {161}

“ ‘I ’ll call you anything you like!’ said the Battles’ mate. ‘I ’ll
call you thief if you take this whale. It ’s ours.’

“Mr. Baker gave him back as good as he sent, and they got madder and
madder. Just as I thought they were going to get in a fight over it,
Mr. Baker began to cool down, and the Battles’ mate began to cool
down too. We were two boats to his one, and if we chose to just take
the whale, he could n’t prevent us, and he knew it. Mr. Baker did n’t
want to do it that way, and he knew well enough what the old man
would think of it.

“ ‘Tell you what,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to fight about it. That
would n’t do you any good, nor me either, though we could do what we
pleased if it came to a fight. We ’ll see Cap’n Coffin and fix it up
with him.’

“ ‘Fix it up with me, here and now,’ said the Battles’ mate. ‘You
can’t see Cap’n Coffin. He ’s confined to his cabin.’

“ ‘Confined to his cabin!’ said Mr. Baker. ‘What ’s the matter with
him?’

“ ‘Nothing much,’ said the Battles’ mate. ‘Sticks in his cabin, and
won’t see anybody.’

“ ‘That ’s queer,’ said Mr. Baker. ‘How does he give his orders?’

“ ‘Instructions in writing to be left on the cabin table every
morning. No business of yours, but I don’t mind telling you.’

“ ‘Queer!’ said Mr. Baker. ‘Very queer.’

“It is mighty queer too, when you come to think of it,” said Peter.
“But I don’t know the rights of it.

“The Battles’ mate was impatient. ‘Well,’ he says, ‘what ’you got to
say?’

“Mr. Baker kind o’ smiled. ‘Fair division,’ he says; ‘we ’ll take the
blubber, and you take the carcass.’

“ ‘_What!_’ roars the Battles’ mate. ‘What the—’ Then his eye falls
on the whale, and travels over it, what you {162} can see of it,
and that ain’t much. He scratched his head, his eye travelling over
the whale from end to end. ‘ I ’ll take you,’ he says quietly. ‘The
carcass to be whole, and to be delivered at our side. Does the
carcass include the case?’

“ ‘The carcass does _not_ include the case,’ said Mr. Baker, very
sarcastic. He had been looking the whale over. ‘Don’t you think
you ’ve got enough?’

“ ‘I ’ll take a chance,’ said the Battles’ mate, smiling. ‘Delivered
at our side, remember.’

“ ‘I ’ll go halfway,’ said Mr. Baker. ‘Be ready to take it there.
I ’ll stand to my bargain, but I ’ve an idea that the joke ’s on me.’

“And the joke ’s on him, I ’m thinking, Tim, and on us. Come and take
a look.”

He led me to the side. The whale we had been talking about, with one
other, lay there below us.

“Now,” said Peter, “if you ’ll notice, that whale looks kind o’ thin
and withered-like for a whale of his size. It ’s not enough to see
unless you were taking special notice, but the Battles’ mate was;
and it ’s my idea that he ’ll not make more ’n thirty-five or forty
barrel, when he ought to make sixty. The Battles’ mate no doubt
expects to find ambergris in him, and Mr. Baker thinks he will, and I
think he will—unless we can find a way to get it out of him without
cutting him open. Mr. Baker gave his word not to cut the carcass.”

“How could they do that, Peter?”

“Well, Tim, I ’ve never seen it done, but we could try. Swing an
anchor, or some other heavy thing, say a hogshead o’ water, above
him, and let it drop a few times on his stomach or his insides so ’s
to stir ’em up well, and we might get a little. It ’d be worth
trying.”

When we had finished cutting-in, we did try just that. I suppose they
were afraid an anchor would tear the carcass, but a cask of sea-water
would not. We salvaged {163} a few scraps of ambergris, about a
thousand dollars’ worth, just enough to let the officers know what a
poor bargain Mr. Baker had made. I never knew how much of the stuff
the Battles got from this whale. Probably ten times as much.

Altogether that was one of our unlucky days. Mr. Wallet let the Annie
Battles herself get between him and his whale, and take it away from
him. He did not exert himself or his men to get it, it seemed to us,
and Captain Nelson’s displeasure was clear enough. I have no doubt it
was clear to Mr. Wallet, for I saw the captain talk forcibly to him
when he came aboard, although I do not know what he said. Mr. Snow
being on the end of the line farthest from the Battles, got his whale
without molestation.

Mr. Brown’s boat fared the worst. He was waiting for his whale to
rise, and the second boat from the Battles came up opposite him, and
waited also. When the whale rose, Starbuck struck him first. There
could be no doubt about it. I saw it all clearly through my glass.
Notwithstanding, the Battles’ boat pulled up at once, and sunk an
iron in him. At that third iron—Starbuck had two irons fast—the whale
started to run, and we had to give him line. While the line was
snaking out, rather slack, somehow or other, for the second time on
that voyage, it kinked and caught a man in the kink. It was Kane who
was caught, about his arm or shoulder. He had not far to go, for Mr.
Brown had put back his kicking-strap immediately after the accident
to poor Wright; but his going those few feet was rather sudden. The
kicking-strap stopped him. That might have been as unfortunate for
him as being taken overboard, but Mr. Brown, who had changed places
with Starbuck, saw it almost before it happened, and reached for the
hatchet and cut. His action was lightning-like in its quickness.
Although Kane brought up on the kicking-strap, he did not have to
start the heavy boat, {164} or quite possibly his arm might have
been torn out. As it was, he got off with a severe wrench to his
shoulder, and with a badly bruised arm. His arm turned black where
the kink had caught it, and showed the lay of the line plainly.

That was the end of that whale for us. The Battles’ boat got him.

{165}



CHAPTER XVII


Our officers were all highly indignant at the conduct of the Battles,
which was contrary to all the ethics of whaling, if not to the law of
the high seas. I overheard Captain Nelson talking with Mr. Baker, who
got very vehement about it, and wanted to take Starbuck’s whale away
from them by force.

Captain Nelson was quiet for a moment, stroking his beard, which had
got pretty ragged.

“Some excuse, perhaps,” he said at last. “Kind of a row with Fred
three or four weeks before we sailed. My house. Maybe I was a little
trifle hasty, but so was he. Both got mad, and I said more than I
meant to. Never thought he ’d—well, I ’ll go aboard of him in the
morning, and see if I can’t fix it up.”

So Lizzie Nelson was at the bottom of it all! At our house we always
spoke of her as “that Nelson girl,” a rather pretty girl in a buxom,
loud, Nelsonish sort of way; “pleasant-spoken” the best that people
said of her, and the worst much worse than that. I had the feeling
that I was warned against the wiles of Lizzie Nelson, although my
mother never actually said anything against her. You would think it
unnecessary to warn a boy of fifteen against the wiles of a girl
of twenty, but you did not know Lizzie Nelson, and my mother did.
However, I did not fancy her, nor any of her stripe. Ann McKim was
the idol of my boyhood, as she was the idol of my youth. I had no
room for fancy for the Lizzie Nelsons of the world, but there were
plenty of those who had.

We were not to know the results of Captain Nelson’s visit, for he
did not make it. The Annie Battles had finished cutting-in during
the night, and at dawn her {166} topsails were just dropping over
the horizon to the eastward. We followed. There was no chance of our
catching her, of course, unless she hove to to try out, and we could
creep up on her unbeknownst, like ’Zekiel. We soon lost her; and
although we kept on to the eastward for a couple of days, Captain
Nelson was not yet ready to leave those cruising grounds. He would
not be ready for that, with average luck, for weeks, and it was like
looking for a needle in a haystack, with the additional disadvantage
that, even if we found the needle, it would slip away at the first
sight of us. At the end of the second day we came about, and worked
back across the grounds.

While making a passage from one cruising ground to another the
distribution of duties is much the same as on a merchant vessel. When
whaling grounds have been reached, however, all this is changed.
Each boat’s crew constitutes a watch, and the night, from four bells
to four bells—from six in the evening to six in the morning—is
divided among them. The officer of the watch is the boatheader, or
mate. A watch, for a four-boat ship, is thus three hours long, and
for a five-boat ship, such as ours, two hours and forty minutes.
This easing up on the men is in order that they may be as fresh as
possible for the chase and taking of whales, which is their first and
most important business. For the same reason the crew has only the
most necessary duties during the day; and except for the necessary
change of sails morning and night, and washing down and scrubbing
the decks each morning, the day is passed in utter idleness, so far
as regular ship’s duties are concerned. The men are allowed to do
what they please: read—if they can read—play cards, mend clothes,
scrimshaw, sleep.

During the day the ship stands along under easy sail so that nothing
will be missed, usually going to windward slowly, tacking or beating;
picking up whales if they are seen and can be got. At sunset light
sails are {167} taken in, topsails close-reefed, and everything
done to insure the ship’s making as little progress as possible
during the night. They even wear ship occasionally, to keep in the
same place throughout the night. At six in the morning—four bells—or
perhaps earlier if they are in the more temperate latitudes, the crew
is called up, sail restored, decks washed and scrubbed, and she is
off again on her beating to windward. It made me think of the terns
fishing off Ricketson’s Point in Padanaram: tacking slowly, beating
to windward, the eyes above the coral-red bill, like a man at the
masthead, keeping a bright lookout for fish; then coming down swiftly
with the wind to the leeward side of their cruising ground to begin
once more their slow beating against the wind. In just this way, when
the ship has reached the windward edge of her cruising ground, she
wears around, and comes down before it, to repeat the process until
the old man has tired of it.

We had been doing this for three weeks, since the Annie Battles
parted from us, without taking any whales. We had seen but two
spouts, and lowered once without result. The other spout was sighted
about sunset, and we did not lower. I was standing, one morning, by
the rail, as I was always doing when I had a chance, and Macy was
walking the deck behind me. As he was passing I turned to him.

“No sign of the Battles,” I said. I had been thinking of her, and my
remark was only the continuation of my thought.

“No sign of the Battles,” he said cheerfully, stopping by me for a
moment. “I ’m glad of it. I thought we should surely see her again
before this, but we have n’t, and good riddance, I say.”

He began his pacing the deck again, and I strolled forward. I found
Peter sitting beside the windlass, working on his model. I never knew
Peter to be asleep. He did not seem to need sleep. I told him what
Macy had said. {168}

“Aye, Tim,” he said, “and I hope so too. The sea ’s a big place, but
it ’s a little place, too, and you ’re always running across some
vessel you don’t want to see, ’specially when she ’s on the same
business as yourself. One voyage I made to eastern ports, Canton,
Hong Kong, Shanghai, Manila, and the like, I was always meeting Tim
Fernand, who ’d been my shipmate in the navy. He ’d shipped on the
Mary Easton, and she followed us around from port to port, or beat us
to it. I was hard put to it to get rid of him, for he ’d fasten on me
like a leech, and he was a robber.”

“Like the Annie Battles.”

Peter looked up at me with a smile in his eyes, but said nothing, and
then there came down to us from the masthead the familiar, quavering
cry. Peter sighed, put down his model, and got up. It was a single
spout—from a lone whale, so far as he could judge—miles off to the
southeast. Peter turned back to me.

“Speak of the devil,” he said. “Do you see, Tim? Just there, well
beyond the whale? What do you make of it?”

I was a long time in seeing anything, but at last I made out dimly
the two slender topmasts with their yards, but no sails.

“Cutting-in, like as not,” said Peter. “If she was trying-out you ’d
see the smoke.”

We headed up toward the whale, and when we were near enough, Mr.
Wallet and Mr. Brown lowered. The whale led them a leisurely chase
directly toward the Battles, and we followed. Mr. Brown got fast,
but Mr. Wallet did not. He sailed on after the whale, which was
running away with Mr. Brown. The whale was going much faster than
Mr. Wallet’s boat was, and it was a losing chase from the moment
Mr. Brown struck. We wondered, and snickered, for it was so like
Wallet. As Peter said, it was like a drunken man chasing his hat,
{169} always hoping it would stop, and always keeping after it
with the one fixed idea. But Peter was wrong about the idea. If Mr.
Wallet had a fixed idea it was not what Peter—and all of us who
watched—thought it was, for he sailed straight up to the side of the
Battles. Although we had got within three miles of her, I could not
see clearly what was happening then, but Peter could. His eyes were
better than mine, in spite of his age.

“Now, what do you make of that?” he cried. “They ’re holding her
there, and the Battles’ crew ain’t making any sort of objection that
I c’n see. It ’s a queer vessel and a queer crew and queer doings,
and Cap’n Coffin ’s the queerest of the lot, if you believe what they
say of him—which I don’t. There goes Mr. Wallet over the side, and
that ’s queerer yet. Mebbe he thinks he can clear up the queerness,
but I miss my guess if that ’s what he thinks. If it was the old man
himself, now, or Mr. Baker, say, or Mr. Brown, I ’d say it would
be cleared up, but ’tween you and me, I doubt Mr. Wallet can if he
tries, and I doubt he tries.”

“What do you suppose, Peter,” I asked, “he means to—”

“I ain’t had time to s’pose anything, Tim,” said Peter. “There ’s
George Hall, now, wanting to go aboard, and they won’t let him. Tell
him to cast off and keep off. I c’n almost hear ’em say it. Quite
a crowd of ’em along by the gangway, and all motioning him off.
They were cutting-in, as I thought, and they ’ve let the carcass go
adrift. You can see it, I guess, going astern, just awash. Now some
of ’em take spades, and jab at the boathook, and they ’re getting
sail on her.”

Peter’s bulletins stopped, and we just stood there, gazing in silence.

“That Wallet,” he said at last, “ ’s got more sense than I gave
him credit for. You see, Tim, if it ’s desertion, which is more ’n
likely, and if we ever get hold of him {170} again, he ’ll say
that he was kidnapped by that crew of pickpockets. It ’d be hard to
prove ’t he was n’t, and it would n’t make much difference whether
anybody believed it or not. If we don’t get him—and I should think
that the old man ’d be glad to be rid of him—we ’ll never know the
rights of it, or what ’ll be done about his lay in our take so far. I
don’t know what course the—Aye, aye, sir.”

For Mr. Baker’s boat was called away, and Peter ran. Captain Nelson
himself took the boat, and the men pulled hard for the Battles; but
her mainsail was already up, and they got the foresail up and broke
out a jib, and she stood off on the wind before the boat had gone
half a mile. It was hopeless to chase her, and Captain Nelson came
back. He was very sober and stern as he came over the side, and we
watched the square topsails of the Battles gradually sinking to the
eastward, while we got ready to receive Mr. Brown and his whale.

As soon as the cutting-in and trying-out was finished we made
sail, and headed for Montevideo. It was within a couple of days of
Christmas, and the men hoped for some liberty ashore. Captain Nelson
was governed by other reasons in making for port; he wanted to send
letters, as it turned out, chiefly on account of the mysterious
behavior of the Battles, and the desertion of Wallet, I suppose,
although I never knew definitely. He let it be known that any letters
would be sent, and I wrote home, but by a piece of carelessness of my
own, my letter did not go.

We did not get into Montevideo by Christmas, as we had been more than
three hundred miles from the coast; and we had to be content with
the usual ship’s fare on that day, with the addition of plum duff
and a serving of rum. I did not take the rum, of course, but I took
the duff, which tasted good enough, although it was nothing more
than soggy dumpling, with molasses over it. I could {171} not help
thinking of my mother’s dumplings—food of a different species—and of
the turkey and cranberry sauce, and the pumpkin and apple pies, and
the apples and nuts and raisins to which my family were sitting down
on that day. No doubt they were thinking of me.

At Montevideo, which we reached in the afternoon of the twenty-sixth,
the captain sent his letters and tried to ship another man. This he
was unable to do, and he had to sail without him, a man short. The
men were disappointed in their hoped-for liberty, only one boat’s
crew getting two hours’ liberty. This crew was chosen with some care,
as the men must be those who could be relied upon to return at the
end of their two hours. We sailed at sunset, with some grumbling on
the part of the men.

Nothing was done about the second mate’s berth for more than a week,
and I did not happen to hear him mentioned, although I have an idea
that the captain talked the matter over with Mr. Baker. At last,
however, he acted, having concluded, as I supposed, that there was
little chance of getting Mr. Wallet back. There was some show of
letting the men choose, but it amounted to nothing. Macy was made
fifth mate, and the other mates moved up a peg, so that Mr. Brown was
second mate. That pleased me, and the appointment of Macy pleased
Peter, for he said that there was not a better man on the ship. I
agreed with him in that. Macy was one of the finest specimens of
man I have ever seen. He was over six feet tall, with a perfectly
proportioned figure, but his perfect proportions did not give an
adequate idea of his size unless he stood beside another man. He had
rather tightly curling flaxen hair—we called him “Towhead”—and deep
blue eyes, and a smile that won the heart of every one on whom it
shone. I felt that I should like to know him well, but it was not
easy to know him well. There was about him a certain atmosphere of
aloofness. No doubt this was due largely to a natural shyness; but,
knowing {172} less about such things then than I do now, I ascribed
it to a feeling of superiority on his part. That was his reputation
on the ship, a reputation which he did not deserve. He was a silent
giant, not given to useless motions, but you felt his power and his
alertness. It used to give me great pleasure merely to look at Macy.

Unfortunately, we were now one man short, and the vacancy was in Mr.
Brown’s boat, for Starbuck had been moved into Macy’s place in Mr.
Baker’s boat, again over the head of the man to whom the promotion
would naturally fall. This was Ezra Winslow, a good-natured young
fellow, but rather stupid, and not nearly as good a man as the
Prince. There were few men in the whole crew who were anywhere near
as good as the Prince, and there was another boatsteerer needed, and
he was it. I do not know whether it was the usual practice, in cases
of the promotion of mates, for the mates who were moved up to keep
the boats and crews they had had before, but they did in this case.
The Prince was therefore Mr. Brown’s boatsteerer. The vacancy in his
boat was not filled for some time, but it worked out very well for me.

{173}



CHAPTER XVIII


There was no unfavorable change in the weather, and we cruised
for three weeks without getting a whale, or even raising a spout.
One morning, however, after a rather thick haze had cleared away
somewhat, we found ourselves within half a mile of a pod of six or
seven, which were lying on the surface, spouting lazily. They did not
seem to be feeding, and I remember that I had heard a distant splash
while it was still too thick to see them, and Peter, to whom I had
turned inquiringly, had said that it was likely a whale breaching.
Almost everybody on board had heard it, and the lookouts were
doubled. They fully expected to sight whales, and they did sight them
from the masthead before we could see them from the deck. No cry was
given, but the men came down and reported.

There was hardly a breath of wind, and sound would carry easily in
that weather. Indeed, it was uncanny. There seemed to be streaks or
columns in the air which reflected the sound in the strangest ways,
or acted like a lens for sound, at one moment utterly cutting off
sounds that originated but a short distance away, and at the next
moment sending to us clearly faint noises made by the pod of whales
at a half-mile distance. Boats were lowered with the utmost care not
to make a noise, even being put into the water one end first, to
avoid any splash. The men were cautioned not to talk, and they sat
silent in their boats, cast off the falls quietly, and took to their
paddles as soon as the boats were in the water. It was of no use,
however. The whales were keeping tabs on us, and went down quietly
when a boat was within quarter of a mile of them, coming up half a
mile away. It was exasperating. There were whales almost at the side,
more than we had taken {174} in six months, and we could not get
near them; and after trying for hours, the boats were called back to
the ship.

I do not remember that I felt any disappointment, however. To tell
the truth, I was rather hoping for a pampero. It is not a fish, but
a wind. I had some vague recollection of the brief description in
Warren’s Physical Geography as a cold southwest wind which originates
in the Andes, and sweeps with great violence over the pampas of
Buenos Ayres, and is felt for some leagues at sea. My only comment
on this description is that I don’t believe it for a minute. We were
cruising just south of the latitude of Buenos Ayres, three or four
hundred miles from the coast. No wind whose origin is purely local,
in mountains even as high as the Andes, is at all likely to be of
the violence of the sample we had, after traversing the width of a
continent—narrow as it is at this latitude—and four hundred miles of
ocean. They must be fed from the pampas, be supplied with energy,
at least; and it seems much more reasonable to me to believe that
these winds originate over the pampas. They are of the nature of a
thunder-squall, and very probably of similar origin. But Warren can
hardly be considered a recent authority.

I had my wish gratified, and I shall never make another wish of that
kind. We were sailing along easily in a moderate northerly wind
about the middle of the afternoon when the Admiral’s cry came down
to us. There were two spouts to the eastward. I watched them rather
listlessly, for I had rather lost interest in spouts. An albatross or
a frigate bird would have roused much more interest. We were seeing
albatrosses occasionally, and one had followed the ship for two days,
picking up scraps from the galley, and finally following the carcass
of a whale when we cut it adrift. But the whole whale business had
become a matter of routine.

Three boats were called away, Mr. Baker’s, Mr. Brown’s, and Mr.
Macy’s. I had to move, for I was in the {175} way of one of
them; and I moved as little as possible, and gave them no further
attention. Then I heard Mr. Brown speaking to me.

“Here, Tim,” he said. “If you think you can pull one of these oars,
tumble in here, but be quick about it.”

Instantly I was all attention. I jumped for the boat, but stopped.

“The captain said,” I objected, “that I could n’t go until he—”

“Captain’s orders,” he interrupted sharply. “Go or not, but be quick
or the other boats ’ll get away first.”

I made no reply, but gave a little nervous laugh of delight, and
tumbled in. I did not know whether I could row one of the long, heavy
oars or not, but I could take two hands to it, and I had rowed all
my life in every kind of a boat, light and heavy. We took the water,
and cast off the falls, and shoved clear. Then we stepped the mast
and set the sail, and were off after my first whale. All the men were
kind and helpful, but the Prince took me especially under his wing,
and told me what my duties were in stepping the mast. When we were
under sail he gave me rapid instructions as to my duties in meeting
every emergency that ever arose in connection with the capture of a
whale. I could not remember a quarter of them. It was all I could do
to understand them.

Fortunately I did not have to remember. No emergency arose. We came
up with our whale without much pulling, the Prince planted both his
irons, and we backed off furiously. The whale stopped, astonished,
Mr. Baker came up on the other side, and Starbuck got an iron fast;
but not before the whale had recovered his power of motion, so that
Starbuck’s iron entered at the small, and not near the side fin,
where he had meant to place it. Mr. Baker’s boat was deluged with
water by a sweep of the flukes, and the whale was under way, head
out. Mr. Macy, I saw later, had struck the other whale, and was
having no trouble. {176}

Our whale had turned about to the eastward, and was running. We had
to give him line at first, and the whale line went twisting and
writhing out past me like a living snake, making a scraping, hissing
noise on my oar handle. I shrank away from it. Then, with another
turn around the loggerhead, it straightened and tautened, and did
not go so fast, but edged by me foot by foot; and the spray began to
rise in a miniature cascade on each side of the bow. Then another
turn around the loggerhead, and the progress of the line past me was
by inches, slower and slower, and I could hear it creaking. Then it
stopped, and we were fairly off on my first sleigh-ride behind a
whale. The Prince had gone aft and taken the steering oar, and Mr.
Brown had come forward.

The boats were going at a rate which seemed terrific, nine or ten
knots. Our boat rolled viciously in the cross-sea, and veered and
bucked. I could see the Prince putting all his strength and weight
on the long steering oar, first one way and then the other, to meet
her as she yawed, and keep her on a straight course. The cascades of
spray rose from her keel now, about a foot or two aft of the stem,
higher than the gunwale; and the northerly wind caught one of them,
and blew it inboard. I was drenched with it, and so was the man aft
of me. We seemed to leap from sea to sea. When I gathered courage
enough to look at Mr. Baker’s boat, I saw that that was a mistaken
impression; but I felt as if I were on a shingle swung skittering
along the top of the waves at the end of a pole.

Mr. Brown ordered us to heave in on the line. We strained our backs
to the last muscle, but could only gain a fraction of an inch. Mr.
Baker’s crew could do no better, and there was nothing for it but to
hang on and wait for the whale to tire and slacken speed. I looked
back—I continued to look back—and saw the Clearchus already hull
down. I could see no sign of Mr. Macy. I watched the ship until she
sank to her tops, then farther; {177} then I could no longer make
her out at all. And still that whale kept up his furious gait, head
out, as though he were bound to take us to the Cape of Good Hope or
to the Carroll grounds at least.

We must have been going on in that way for an hour and a half or
more before the whale showed any sign of weariness. It needed a man
of more experience than I had to tell the symptoms, or to perceive
that our speed was slackening. Mr. Baker’s boat was just about abeam
of ours, and a couple of oars’ lengths away. He had dropped back
a boat’s length or so to avoid fouling us, but the two boats were
within easy speaking distance, and Mr. Baker and Mr. Brown looked at
each other, and spoke at the same instant.

“Heave?”

Then they both nodded, and we got the order. We heaved, and gained a
couple of inches; heaved again, and six inches of line came in. Mr.
Brown was not a yelling mate. He spoke only loud enough for us to
hear.

Mr. Baker was an accomplished swearer, a linguist of parts. I did
not know there was such a variety of oaths in the language until I
heard him swearing at his crew, urging them to heave, and calling
them more vile names than you would think any men would be willing to
hear quietly. Swearing was very general on the Clearchus, and none
of Mr. Baker’s language was to be taken seriously, which, of course,
the men knew. I do not know what it is about the sea that prompts men
to swear, but there must be something. Most of them get so that they
cannot make the simplest remark without an oath. I was getting into
the habit myself, although I had never been accustomed to using such
language or to hearing it. Before I left home I had tried once or
twice saying “Damn!” with inward quakings, and half expecting to see
the heavens fall; now I said “Damn!” and other things quite fluently,
without quakings of any kind, and before I got home I {178} was a
confirmed swearer. It is a bad habit, and weakens what is said rather
than strengthening it. When I realized this I broke myself of the
habit. Mr. Brown was no swearer, nor was Mr. Macy, nor Peter Bottom,
nor the Prince, all of whom I admired, each according to his fashion.

With all Mr. Baker’s flow of language, his crew did not gain an inch
more than we did; but the heaving must have had its effect on the
whale. There was still a good deal of line out, perhaps fifteen or
twenty fathoms, when he seemed to stop suddenly. There was a general
cry of “Flukes!” and his flukes went into the air, and he sounded.

When Starbuck had struck, as I have said, he was a trifle late. He
succeeded in getting one iron fast—in the small—but had to heave the
other overboard. This second harpoon had been skittering over the
waves ever since, here and there, according to its whim. It had not
touched our line, although Mr. Brown had been afraid that it would;
and it might easily have touched our line, for a whale swims low in
the water, and there is seldom any part of him continually visible
aft of his hump, so that there is nothing in the way. But the harpoon
had touched Mr. Baker’s line several times—a good many times; each
touch lasting but an instant, like the bite of a shark. A harpoon is
even sharper than a shark’s tooth, and each touch had severed some
of the tough strands. It was a wonder that the line had survived the
heaving. It must have only just survived. When the whale sounded, Mr.
Baker did not give him line, but was holding until last second. This
may have been the proverbial last straw, or it may have been simply
that the time had come for the line to part. At any rate, it parted.
Mr. Baker cursed fluently in a really heartfelt way, and the line was
rapidly hauled in. The last fathom of it was a mere feather of manila.

This left us alone fast to the whale. He did not go {179} deep,
however, and Mr. Baker was waiting, near us, for him to come up,
which he did in about five minutes a few feet ahead of Mr. Baker’s
boat. He came up almost vertically, his head and body shooting out
of the water, and exposing his side fin. Then he fell over with a
tremendous splash; but Mr. Baker had shot his lance into him, and
quickly withdrawn it. The shank was bent, but Mr. Baker straightened
it by knocking on the gunwale, and let him have it again.

Meanwhile we had been taking in our slack line as fast as we could,
and when it tautened, heaving in on it to bring us up close enough
for Mr. Brown to use his lance. We had not been able to keep the
slack ahead of the whale, with all our haste, and he had got a turn
around his flukes, like a half hitch, so that we could not shake it
loose. It was impossible for us to haul in ahead of his flukes, and
lancing them would be no more than an annoyance to the whale, like
a mosquito bite. If he should take it into his head to slap that
mosquito, it might prove more than an annoyance for us. There was
nothing to be done but to slack off the line and try to row up to his
side fin, where Mr. Brown wanted to be. We could not have hoped to do
this if the whale’s attention had not been taken up with Mr. Baker’s
boat. He seemed to attribute all his troubles to that boat, and was
putting up a half-hearted sort of a fight; but even a half-hearted
fight by a fairly husky whale is not to be taken lightly. Mr. Baker
was having his hands full.

We pulled up to within a boat’s length, lay there for a few minutes
watching for an opening; then, putting all our strength into our
oars, we drove the boat in close to the side fin. Mr. Brown plunged
the lance in deep, and began churning it slowly up and down, feeling
for the heart or the great reservoir of arterial blood near it. The
whale had lobtailed once upon feeling the lance, without doing any
damage; but in a few strokes Mr. {180} Brown’s lance had found the
life. A tremor passed through the great body, a spout rose slowly
from his spiracle black with clotted blood, he bestirred himself, and
we backed off hastily. He was going into his flurry.

That flurry was not an elevating spectacle, but we all watched it. I
was fascinated, and so the others seemed to be, all in Mr. Baker’s
boat as well as in ours. Our attention for a long time had been so
entirely taken up by the whale that not a man of the twelve—counting
myself as a man—had looked about him, or been aware of anything but
the whale and the two boats, and what was happening there. Suddenly
Mr. Baker broke out in a perfect stream of curses. Mr. Brown smiled.

“Look!” he said. “Like a bad penny.”

We all looked where he pointed. There was the Annie Battles, not a
mile away, bearing down directly upon us. Not one of us said a word,
but two or three were grinning. It was beginning to seem funny.

Mr. Baker did not seem to think it funny. He had stopped his flow of
profanity, whether because he had exhausted his stock, or because his
choicest gems were inadequate, I could not guess; and now, standing
in his place in the bow like a gaunt statue of a man, silent and
motionless, he watched the Battles grow rapidly, and the foam under
her forefoot, and the men upon her deck. He held his lance loosely in
his hand, the shank resting on the gunwale. If she had shown any sign
of changing her course, I knew that he would have ordered his crew to
pull hard for her, in the hope of boarding her before she got away.
She did not; and there is no sense in hard pulling to meet a vessel
which is coming to meet you as straight and as fast as she can. And,
although Mr. Baker was holding his lance loosely, I knew that his
great fist would grip it hard at the slightest provocation.

At last the Battles put her helm down, slacked off her sheets, backed
one topsail, and hung there, almost near {181} enough for us to
heave a line aboard of her. No one on her hailed us, but some of her
men were standing at the rail like wooden images, watching us, while
others were going lazily aloft. By this time our whale had spouted
his last spout, and lay quiet in the sea, with our irons still in
him and our line fast to them. Mr. Baker’s men had their oars in the
water, and his boat seemed to be drifting toward the Battles. I saw
Mr. Wallet and another standing by the man at the wheel. I could see
even his feeble smile and his pale blue eyes and his tight curling
hair, almost like a negro’s but for the color. Mr. Wallet’s was
sandy, with a reddish tinge, like brown sandstone; some of our men
had called his hair his brownstone front. When he saw Mr. Baker’s
boat drifting toward them, he moved uneasily, his smile faded, and he
spoke to the man standing with him. He knew Mr. Baker of old.

Mr. Baker did not wait to get there. “If you try to steal _this_
whale,” he shouted, “why, damn your souls, there ’ll be blood
spilled.”

The man to whom Mr. Wallet had spoken was leaning on the rail. He
laughed. “There ’s been blood spilled already, ain’t there? Seems to
me I see it on your lance.”

“That ’s good clean blood of a whale!” retorted Mr. Baker. “There ’s
other blood waiting that ain’t so clean. I ’d hate to dirty a good
lance with it.”

“Cheap talk!” said the other contemptuously. “We don’t steal whales.”

The boat was now within an oar’s length of the side of the Battles.

“I ’m coming aboard,” said Mr. Baker, “to see Cap’n Coffin about
it—and about another matter.”

“You can’t see Cap’n Coffin,” replied the other, who seemed to be one
of the mates, and in command of the vessel at the moment, “and you
don’t come aboard of us. Sheer off there!”

A number of the men at the rail of the Battles showed {182}
themselves to have spades in their hands. They put the spades over
the side, and held them suspended there.

“Keep off!” said the mate of the Battles. “We ’ll smash it!”

For Mr. Baker had taken the boathook, and had hooked on to their
chains. He was drawing the boat up close, when a spade smashed down
on the boathook just back of the iron, and cut it off clean.

Perhaps it was too serious a matter for mere cursing. At any rate,
Mr. Baker said nothing at all for some seconds, to our great surprise.

“Very well,” he said then, quietly, “if you ’d rather have it that
way, so be it. I ’ll report it—fully. Now I make demand upon you for
Alonzo Wallet, formerly second mate of the Clearchus, a deserter from
his ship.”

The mate of the Battles smiled, and beckoned Mr. Wallet. He came,
with his weak smile again upon his face.

“What ’s wanted of me?” he asked.

“Cap’n Nelson wants you,” Mr. Baker replied, “strange as it may seem;
for you ’re the most good-for-nothing officer that ever I shipped
with.”

With those spades between him and Mr. Baker, Wallet’s courage had
revived, but he no longer smiled. He leaned over the rail as far as
he could, and shook a feeble finger at Mr. Baker.

“Tell the old man to go to hell,” he said; “and go to hell yourself,
will you, Jehoram? You ’re bound there now if you don’t look sharp.”

He pointed to the southwest. The sun had disappeared behind a heavy
mass of black cloud, in which there appeared, as we looked at it,
the glare of lightning. I had thought that it seemed early for it to
be getting dark, but it had not occurred to me to look. The mass of
clouds was but just above our horizon. A few men in the two boats had
observed it. Mr. Brown and Mr. Baker had seen it for {183} fifteen
or twenty minutes past. It may have accounted for Mr. Baker’s
readiness to cut short his controversy with the Battles.

“I ’ve known about that for some time, Wallet,” said Mr. Baker; “and
let me tell you that you ’re in much more danger of going to hell in
the next hour than I am. A whaleboat ’s the safest thing that rides
the sea. Maybe you did n’t know it. And you ’d better shorten sail
some more,” he added, “if you hope to ride it out.”

For the only answer to this the mate—if he was the mate—and Mr.
Wallet both turned and looked up at the sails. The men who had gone
aloft had been engaged in reefing the topsails in a very leisurely
manner. Now they had to put in another reef in response to orders
yelled by the mate, and they worked faster. Mr. Baker came back to
the whale, and the Battles slowly drifted to the southward, taking in
her great mainsail and her foresail and two of her jibs, leaving her
under staysail and double-reefed topsails. By the time that was done,
she had got well away from us, and the black cloud covered half the
heavens. Mr. Baker had rowed up to the whale, and had deliberately
planted another iron deep in the small, near his first one. I asked
no questions, but Mr. Brown must have read them in my face.

“Getting ready to ride it out, Tim,” he said, smiling kindly. We had
nothing to do, having fifteen or twenty fathoms of line out, and he
was leaning against the cleat, watching. “A whale ’s a ready made
sea-anchor, if he only stays afloat; and I guess he will. And we
shall be in his lee, where the seas won’t be quite so high—although
there ’s not much of the carcass showing.”

I turned and looked at the whale doubtfully.

“I should think, sir,” I ventured, “that Mr. Baker might foul us, or
we him, if he has about the same length of line that we have.”

“No,” Mr. Brown replied, smiling again. “A drifting {184} body
always drifts broadside to the wind—to the resistance. I could prove
that to you by mathematics if we had the chance, and if I had n’t
forgotten the proof. But experience proves the proof to be correct,
which is much more convincing than mere mathematics. You notice.”

I nodded. “Yes, sir, I will, if—”

Mr. Brown laughed. “If we get out of this, eh? We shall. Make your
mind easy.”

The carcass of the whale was lying nearly east and west under the
northerly wind. As the squall—pampero or whatever it was—advanced,
the wind dropped, until we were heaving on an oily swell in a flat
calm. The men in Mr. Baker’s boat took that chance of backing water,
and of working the body of the whale slowly around until it lay
very nearly north and south, while the squall was coming from the
southwest. Then there was nothing to do but to watch the clouds, and
to wait for the wind to strike.

The edge of the cloud seemed to be directly over us, writhing and
twisting, and it was almost as dark as night.

“There she comes,” said Mr. Brown quietly; and I saw what seemed a
blank wall of mist, with the black cloud above. We could see it some
miles away, and it was coming fast.

“Fog, sir?” I asked, puzzled.

“Rain, and hail, probably, and wind,” said Mr. Brown.

As it came on I could see the line of rain and hail, as sharp as
the cut side of a cheese; and there was a queer foaming commotion
in the water at the foot of the advancing wall. It had got almost
to the carcass of the whale before we felt the first cold puffs of
air. Those first cold puffs were from every direction, some straight
up; and the foaming commotion in the water resolved itself into an
infinite series of small geysers, from one to two feet high, like
columns of water sent up by explosions of shells, such as I have seen
many times in the last few years when the Fort has been at target
practice. At a distance of six {185} or seven miles, even through a
powerful glass, they look no higher than these did.

The edge of the wall reached the carcass, and there was a curious
effect of bombardment with small white rubber balls—I should have
thought at once of tennis balls if I had then ever seen a tennis
ball—the balls bounding high from the elastic surface of the carcass.
I knew it then for hail. The wall was past the whale, and completely
hid it from sight, less than a hundred feet off, and the wind struck
us like a blow from a chunk of ice. Then the hail struck us, hail
mixed with rain.

We hardly knew what to do to protect our heads. It was like being
pelted with rocks—rocks which there was no escaping. They were
everywhere. I instinctively put up my hands over my head, and had to
take them down again, for the bones of my hands were being bruised,
and I was really afraid they might be broken. None of us had a stiff
hat, but all wore soft hats or caps or were bareheaded. I did not
mind the wind—I was not conscious of it—and I did not see what the
others did; but I found myself crawling in the bottom of the boat,
partly under a thwart, and pulling out a corner of the sail to
protect my head. When I had time to think of anything but the safety
of my own head, I saw that the others had done the same thing.

I looked out from my protecting canvas, and saw the water absolutely
filled with those miniature geysers. The hail had beaten down the
sea, in spite of the furious wind, until the surface was almost as
smooth as a pond, with the rollers running under it as if the water
were covered with silk. After a while—perhaps half an hour, perhaps
a quarter—the hail stopped, and left only the rain and the wind, and
the rapidly growing seas. We were sitting in a deep slush of water
and hailstones, and the hailstones weighed heavily on my legs. They
were beautiful, round, white stones, many as large as robins’ eggs,
but most of {186} them the size of marbles. The boat was deep with
them, and rolled sluggishly. We had to get them out at once, which we
did with a couple of buckets, our hats and our hands, shoveling them
over the side.

I have never in my life known it to blow harder than it did in the
next few hours. We rode it out, safe in the lee of our sea anchor,
drenched to the skin, all of us, and very cold. Although the sea
rose very quickly as soon as the hail stopped, and ran very high,
the carcass of the whale seemed to smooth the seas out, and none
broke around us; but the boats stood almost on end. My heart was in
my mouth most of the time, but I do not think my apprehensions were
evident to the others. Heaven knows I tried hard enough, for I was
even more afraid of showing fear than I was of the wind and the sea.
I think the fact that we were in a small boat, and near the water,
was a help. I was more used to that, and, somehow, I never feel so
helpless in a small boat as I do in a ship. I have not got over that
feeling to this day. I suppose I should have felt better still if
I had been alone or with no one but Jimmy Appleby. A man seems to
have more of a chance in a small boat, and is not subject to the
orders—and the mistakes—of somebody. That somebody might be like Mr.
Wallet. If there is a mistake, it is his own.

Night fell while it was blowing viciously and raining. In a few hours
the rain stopped, but the wind did not. It seemed to blow harder, and
it gradually shifted to the southeast; and after a while the stars
came out. I do not know how long it was, for I had lost all sense of
time. I had got over the worst of my scare, and I was too tired to
think. I crouched down in the boat, and I fell asleep, soaked and
cold as I was.

It was gray dawn when I awoke, stiff and cramped. I saw Mr. Brown
in his place, gazing out at the eastern sky. He had been awake all
night, ready to cut if the carcass of the whale showed signs of
sinking; but it was still {187} afloat, and no lower in the water
than it had been the night before. Mr. Baker’s boat was so near that
we could almost have touched oars.

I made some noise in crawling out. Mr. Brown turned his head
and smiled at me, but said nothing. I took that as a sort of an
invitation. I got up and stood beside him, and we looked out together
over that desolate waste of heaving gray water, with the white tops
of breaking seas, and a faint touch of light here and there, and gray
clouds driving over, but no color yet. I was oppressed with that
feeling of melancholy and loneliness—and littleness—which always
seized me at such a time. I think Mr. Brown felt it too. I looked
around me, and saw two men evidently just awake, and the Prince
standing like a statue, silent and dignified, gazing at the east.
I could not help wondering afresh what he was in his own country,
and what was his own country. Whatever country it was, he ought to
have been a chief in it—_princeps_—instead of being no more than a
boatsteerer on a whaler, and the associate of men few of whom were
his equals. If it had been the fashion to be black, instead of white,
even the officers, excepting Mr. Brown and Mr. Macy, would have been
his acknowledged inferiors.

There was no sign of the Battles or of the Clearchus—nothing within
our horizon but the wide ocean, deep indigo in the distance, with
great seas rolling and tumbling, dark green near the boat, their tops
a ghastly white. After an hour or two my heart began to sink. How
could it be expected that anybody would find us, a speck in that vast
and dreary expanse of ocean? Mr. Brown seemed confident enough, but
my heart had sunk down into my soaked boots when, in the middle of
the forenoon, he spoke to me. No doubt he guessed my feelings. They
may have been evident enough.

“See there, Tim; almost abeam of us.”

We were streaming out to the northwest behind the {188} whale. I
looked, but I could see nothing but the tops of distant seas rising
and falling. I shook my head.

“Can’t you make it out? Three stubby topmasts, almost in line, and
the to’gallan’yards? If you knew them as well as I do—”

“The Clearchus?”

He nodded. “I think so. I ’m pretty sure.”

He was right, as he was apt to be. Mr. Baker had seen it too. The
Clearchus picked us up before noon, got the whale alongside, and
began to cut-in at once, rough and blowing as it was. She had been
caught by the blow with Mr. Macy’s whale alongside. They saw the blow
coming, and tried to save the case, but they did not succeed, and the
whale broke adrift, taking some of our tackle with it. They had to
cut and run for it. We never saw that whale again.

It moderated toward the middle of the afternoon, and by the time we
were ready to try out, we had a clear sky and a gentle breeze.

{189}



CHAPTER XIX


That was our last whale on these grounds, and we turned our nose
again to the southwest, for the grounds off Patagonia. Nourishing
the secret hope that we might land there, I carried the “Navigators”
around in my pocket, and read over again and again the account of
Magellan’s visit—all to no purpose, as it turned out. We saw nothing
of the Battles; but she had a nasty habit of turning up when we
thought we had lost her for good and least expected to see her. She
had become as a thorn in the flesh to Captain Nelson and Mr. Baker,
especially to Mr. Baker. I really think that at this time it would
have given him pleasure, as exquisite as he was capable of feeling,
actually to see her, with his own eyes, go down in deep water or
batter to pieces on a rocky shore. I know that he had reported to
Captain Nelson his controversy with her, his unsuccessful effort to
see Captain Coffin, and Wallet’s message. Captain Nelson was angry
for an instant, and his eyes darkened; then the whole thing seemed to
strike his sense of humor, which he had in plenty.

“Just as well,” he said, “you did n’t see Fred Coffin. I ’m going to
see Fred sooner or later—the first chance I get. And that settles
Wallet.”

We had good weather to the Patagonia grounds, mostly westerly and
northerly winds, and pretty strong, but nothing in the way of weather
could scare me now, after the Hatteras hurricane—of which we had
nothing more than a flirt from the skirt—and my taste of pampero. The
old ship made good time, as time goes for a whaler of her type, and
we arrived on the grounds to the north of the Falklands in about a
week. I was disappointed that we did not go even within sight of the
mainland of Patagonia. {190}

Albatrosses were a fairly common sight, however, and made up to me
somewhat for the lack of painted savages. In these latitudes there
was almost always at least one of these great birds in sight, and
although they were not always near the ship, they never failed to be
on hand when the cook emptied his pail of scraps over the side. I
never tired of watching their powerful, soaring flight. It seemed as
if they played with the ship, like porpoises. They would keep along
with us for a while, then suddenly shoot ahead or off to one side
until they were almost out of sight, without a motion of the wings,
so far as I could see. There must have been some slight motion of the
wings to adjust themselves to the wind or to the vertical angle at
which they were flying, but I could not detect it.

There have been various explanations, none of which is quite
satisfactory. One is that they make a long glide downward to get up
speed; and, having speed enough, they change their angle, and gain
height. How they can do this indefinitely without an occasional
flap, I never could see. Their slight rolling motion may do the
trick, first on one wing and then on the other. I do not pretend to
knowledge of the matter, but I am content to let a beautiful mystery
remain a mystery.

Whales were not plenty here. We took one in two weeks, and then
we gave it up, and bore away for the Falklands, for Port Stanley.
Here the captain went ashore, and we stood off shore and on for
some hours. At this point and this season the current sets to the
northeast about fifteen or twenty miles a day, and we made a rough
allowance for that by standing off shore for thirty minutes, and on
shore for thirty-five, until Captain Nelson came back.

We had strong westerly winds for days, and the crew had much time
to themselves. They used this time in mending their clothes or
in scrimshawing. Peter was getting on with his model, which was
beginning to look like a glorified Clearchus, a tiny ghost of the
ship. The masts were in {191} place, and most of the yards, and he
had finished one of the wee whaleboats, which he had hung at the
davits. It was completely equipped, even to the harpoons, lances, and
the bomb gun lying under the cleat, to which it was attached by a
thread through the stock.

Although my duties were not affected by the lightening of the duties
of the crew, I could almost always find time for doing the things
which I ought not to do, if I watched my chance. I studied rather
harder in periods of a letting up of work, for at such times Mr.
Brown could give me more attention. He seemed to like to do it;
and I had reached a pitch of admiration for him which was almost
worship, so that I did willingly and gladly anything which I thought
would please him. He was pleased, I think, and satisfied. At any
rate, he knew that I was doing my best, and he rewarded me with a
greater intimacy than I had ever known with a man as much older
than myself, not excepting even my father. True intimacy involves
an equal footing, and that was what I never felt in the case of my
father—never could feel, from the nature of the relationship.

There was always plenty of work for the carpenter and sailmaker
and cooper, and I used to watch the boatsteerers overhauling the
boat gear, and the consequent sharpening of harpoons and lances
and spades. The sound of the grindstone was almost continuous. I
had talks with Peter Bottom, of course, and some with the Prince.
It was always hard to talk with him, for he had very little to say
except with respect to the use of his especial tools and the chasing
of whales. He would deliver long discourses upon this subject, and
I might have profited greatly if it had been easier to understand
him. I should have preferred to have him talk about his own country,
which I was firmly convinced was a savage country, in which all
the inhabitants wore nothing but straw skirts and nose rings and
skewers through their lips; and where {192} they stood around in
groups, holding long spears and oval shields, like the pictures in my
geography.

They got out the remains of our stoven boat, and set it up near the
carpenter’s bench. When I got there the sailmaker and Peter Bottom
were looking over the broken bones of the boat, feeling them, testing
a rib or a plank here and there. They seemed to know what they were
about, although they said nothing. It was just the way my father or
one of his men would have gone about such a job. The very movements
of the sailmaker, as he went to the pile of new cedar planking, and
turned it over, and of Peter, as he picked out a piece of oak that
suited him, reminded me of my father’s men.

I stuck around for some time, watching their skilful, leisurely
movements. I knew good ship carpentry when I saw it, for I had been
observing it all my short life, and I had absorbed a good deal of the
methods. My father’s men worked rather faster, but not so very much.
There is more actually accomplished by making your work count, and
not wasting a stroke, than in merely keeping very busy. Peter was a
better workman than the sailmaker, and there was no object whatever
in working fast, for they had plenty of time.

The boat was done, as good as new, in ten days, and then painted, and
lashed, bottom up, on top of the after house. One result of Peter’s
work upon this boat was that thereafter he was a sort of unofficial
ship’s carpenter.

{193}



CHAPTER XX


We had the usual variations in weather, some good, some bad, but
none very bad, to the Carroll grounds. For two thirds of the way the
wind was mostly pretty strong from the west or southwest, giving
the Clearchus what she liked best; for the last third of the way
it drew in from the southeast, although we were not at any time in
the region of the steady southeast trades, merely touching upon the
border of that region toward the very last of the run. We ran into
no gales, and made a passage of about five weeks, arriving on the
Carroll grounds the last week in March. We then shortened sail,
and began to cruise. It was the captain’s intention to quarter the
ground thoroughly once, making slowly to the southeast, which was the
windward side, and then to beat up for the Cape.

For a week we beat back and forth in fine weather without a sign of a
whale. I had almost ceased to think of them, and spent my spare time
in surreptitious games with Peter or with the group of men who were
usually gathered about him; or I stood by the windlass or sat between
the knightheads—anywhere where I could not be spied from aft—and
looked out ahead over the white-capped seas, feeling the brisk wind
on my cheeks, and listening to the noise of the water under the bows,
and to the gentle creaking of the spars and rigging. To me those are
inexpressibly soothing sounds; they have always been so, and are to
this day. The noises of the life of the ship—not very loud at their
worst, in such a case—are far behind you, and they come faintly to
your ears, as if from another world. They do not seem real, as do the
bubbling of the water under the bow, and the wash of it as it passes
{194} astern, and the faint noise of breaking seas, and the soft
sound of the wind on the sails.

That pleasant mode of life was not to last forever. One afternoon I
was lying on my back on the heel of the bowsprit. I had just finished
my chores after dinner, and had lain down to gaze up at the sails,
full and straining, and at the sky above them. My gaze travelled up
the foremast, past the topsails, which were braced well around, for
we were sailing with the wind forward of the beam. The fore truck
described slow ellipses against the sky, and I was fascinated in
watching them. Now and then I caught a glimpse, past the bellying
topsail, of the masthead man. He seemed very far up. He was leaning
wearily against the hoops, as if he might have been asleep. Suddenly
he straightened alertly. I knew what to expect then, and I sat up as
the cry floated down to me; then I jumped to my feet, and ran to Mr.
Brown’s boat.

There were two spouts, about three miles to leeward, and the whales
seemed to be travelling at about the same rate as the ship, and
pretty near together. The spouts rose as regularly as the exhaust of
a tugboat, although nowhere near as fast; there were ten or twelve
seconds between them. The ship was laid around on a course nearly
parallel with that of the whales, and we waited to see if they would
not go down to feed. There was no sign of their doing so, however,
and after waiting over twenty minutes, we lowered three boats. Our
boat—that means Mr. Brown’s—was one of the three. I took my place in
it without asking leave, but as Mr. Brown looked right at me, and
made no objection, and as the Prince even smiled at me, I thought it
was probably what was expected.

[Illustration: LOWERING BOATS]

By hard pulling we got right in the course of the whales, Mr. Baker
and ourselves taking the farther one, and Mr. Macy the nearer. Our
whale was a little in advance of the other. Then we waited, our oars
in our hands, to be ready for any change of course of the whales.
Approaching a {195} whale head on is one of the favorite ways,
for a whale cannot see anything directly ahead of him, strange and
inconvenient as that may seem. The whales came on in a business-like
way, rising to spout, then pitching under, until they were perhaps
within fifty or sixty feet of the boats. The Prince was all set to
strike, and the four oarsmen gripping their oars hard, I, at least,
with my nerves on edge. Then the whales brought up suddenly; stopped
as completely as if they had run into a wall. Something had excited
their suspicion, although the men in the boats were as still as
death. Our whale—I should not have called him ours so soon—raised his
head from the water, as if listening, and Mr. Baker and Mr. Brown
signalled the men to pull up. It was only a little way, and the two
boats almost leaped from the water. I could see nothing of the whale,
pulling, as I was, with my back to him, and my eyes glued to the oar
of the man in front of me, but I could imagine that whale pricking up
his ears, if he had had any. Mr. Baker’s boat was just abeam of us,
to take him on his other side. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the
men in her laying to it, and the spray flying from her bow.

It is utterly useless to dart the harpoon at the front of a sperm
whale. The weapon almost always bounds back as if it were a mass of
rubber it had struck against. We had to get as far as his eye before
a chance would be offered. I saw his great cliff-like head shoot
by. Then, as we came within range of his vision, within ten feet of
him, he suddenly sank away from the boat and out of sight like a
lump of lead, without a motion of his fins, or his flukes either, so
far as I could judge by hearing. The Prince had darted, and so had
Starbuck—and had missed by inches, at ten feet. It was comical to see
the consternation and amazement of Starbuck, and I have no doubt the
Prince’s surprise was nearly as great, although he would not show it
so plainly. I did hear a grunt from him, however, and an exclamation.
The harpoons had clashed under {196} water. When they were hauled
in, the Prince found the shank of his bent, and a gouge, fresh and
bright, deep in the shank at the point of bending; and the edge of
Starbuck’s was dulled and turned.

Mr. Macy’s boat, with George Hall the boat-steerer, had an exactly
similar experience. Mr. Macy had not headed that boat long enough
to overcome entirely the effect of Wallet’s slackness and generally
slipshod way of doing things, and his crew did not respond quite so
quickly or so well. Consequently his whale had just enough warning to
begin to move, but not enough time to get under way, or to find out
definitely what was up. His only escape was to sink from the head of
the boat as quickly as a marlinspike that has been dropped overboard,
or an anchor. Hall, however, had no chance to dart, and he had had
experience enough to know it. We did not see those whales again
except at a distance which was perfectly safe, and then they were
swimming head out, making ten or twelve knots.

Later in the day I came upon a sort of a consolation gathering.
Starbuck and the Prince and George Hall were the central figures,
and there were the other two boatsteerers, Azevedo and Miller, and
all the green hands standing on the fringe of the circle, with two
or three older men. Starbuck was much mortified at his failure,
and offered what excuse he could. The Prince may have been as much
mortified as Starbuck, but he offered no excuse and said little.
Hall was giving comfort, saying that it was not uncommon for
whales to settle in that way, and escape, when they had no time to
round out flukes and sound, although he did not see how they did
it. No harpooner was to be blamed for missing a whale under those
circumstances.

Then there was a babel of voices, each man who had seen it happen and
thought about it at all—a man could hardly help thinking about it if
he had once seen {197} it—giving his own theory of how it was done.
They seemed to run to the idea of interior ballast tanks. Hall smiled.

“It does not seem quite quick enough,” he said. “The whale would have
to take in water ballast pretty sudden to sink as quick as he does.
Besides, water won’t sink in water. If he could take in lead or old
junk into his tanks, it would be different. I know that gannets have
something like that, cells under the skin that they can fill or empty
of air through their lungs; and man-o’-war birds have something of
the kind, I believe, and so have other birds. I ’ve seen ’em and
you ’ve all seen ’em. They seem to contract when they want to get
down pretty quick. But I don’t pretend to know how a whale does it.”

There was more talk which I could not follow. After a while Azevedo
asked Hall about what he called the “slick” or “glip,” and how he
thought that communication was kept up. I did not know what they were
talking about, of course. Hall shook his head, and said he had never
seen any evidence of communication, although he had heard of it, but
he would not commit himself on the subject, and he asked Peter. Peter
said that he did not know anything about it.

“What is that, Peter?” I asked in an undertone. “What ’s glip?” I
knew what a slick was.

“I don’t rightly know, Tim,” he answered. “Whales always leave a
slick—a smooth place, oily-like—on the water when they round out and
sound quietly. It must be something like the oil bags we had over our
bows in that gale off Hatteras. But they say that there ’s a sort of
a telegraph between the whale and his slick—as far as I can make out,
that there ’s a way the whole school has of knowing if a boat so much
as crosses the line between a whale and his slick. So, if a boat gets
into the slick, or crosses that line, the whole school goes tearing
to windward. It may be so,” he added, shaking his head. “I don’t say
it ain’t, for you hear of many curious things at {198} sea that turn
out to be true, but it seems a trifle too much like magic to me. So I
say that I don’t know anything about it, and that ’s true enough. I
don’t.”

I laughed. To me it seemed like a fairy tale; but, as Peter had said,
you hear of many curious things at sea which turn out to be true, and
this might be one of them. If it is true I can think of no possible
explanation. I do not know the truth of the matter to this day.

A few days later we sighted another spout. Mr. Brown and Mr. Baker
lowered for him, for they said that the Prince and Starbuck ought to
have another chance. This was a lone whale, which very obligingly
waited for us to come up with him, and both boats got fast. He put up
no fight at all, and in a quarter of an hour he lay fin out. This was
the sort of thing that disgusted me with whaling, and made it seem
nothing more than a bloody, dirty business, which tended to brutalize
the men who took part in it. A whale should be willing—determined—to
fight for his life, if it was worth anything to him. A fight made
it all worth while, and the better the fight the more worth while
it seemed, to me, at any rate. The prospect of a good fight always
did fill me with elation, in spite of myself. I confess that it does
even now, in spite of my age and experience, which has been acquired
uniformly in the avoidance of fights; but any kind of a fight seems
good to me, in my heart of hearts. It is a reprehensible instinct,
but it is just as surely an instinct as it is reprehensible according
to our modern code.

This whale may not have regarded his life as of sufficient value
to be worth fighting for. At any rate, his actions and appearance
aroused suspicions, and when he was cut-in the suspicions were
apparently confirmed, for the blubber was light and dry. Accordingly,
instead of cutting the carcass adrift, they cut into it, and
proceeded to investigate his internal economy with spades and knives.
I hung over the rail and watched the operation with much {199}
interest. It reminded me of the occasion, five or six years before,
when Jimmy Appleby and I had dissected two rats, with rather dull
knives, on the top of his high back fence. We got thoroughly smeared
with blood and gurry, but found nothing of value, and did not add to
our information on the subject of rats. The whale was much the same,
so far as I could see. The men got very thoroughly smeared, but they
found nothing of value.

While we were in the midst of this bloody business, and most of the
men who were not engaged in it were hanging over the rail, as I was,
I felt a tap upon my shoulder. I turned and saw Peter, who took me to
the port side.

“Look there, Timmie,” he said, pointing.

I had no trouble in seeing what he was pointing at. It was the Annie
Battles, only three or four miles off, and headed directly for us.
There was a brisk breeze, which she had just forward of the beam,
very nearly her best point of sailing. She was coming fast, and was a
pretty sight, I thought. Peter had the same thought. We watched her
in silence for some minutes, and then he sighed and shook his head.

“A pretty sight,” he said, “and an able boat. There ’s none better,
and it ’s a pity.”

“A pity that there ’s none better?” I asked.

“A pity that it should mean trouble every time she heaves in sight. I
don’t know what kind of mischief she ’s up to this time, but look at
our officers, lad. They don’t know either, but they expect trouble of
some kind. Would n’t you think so yourself?”

Captain Nelson, with Mr. Baker, Mr. Brown and Mr. Macy, was standing
just forward of the after house, his glass at his eye. None of
the four were saying anything, but all were gazing soberly at the
Battles, which held her course as if she meant to run us down. The
captain said something in a low tone to Mr. Baker, who nodded and
started leisurely forward. {200}

“I wish,” said Peter, “that she ’d leave us alone, and get about her
business. It ’s over two months since we ’ve seen her, and I hoped
that was the last. But she seems to be keeping tabs on us, and to
know just where to find us. She ’ll keep turning up, like enough, all
through our voyage, just when we ’ve begun to forget her. I ’d give
something to know what they ’re up to. What does she want, anyway?
What is she doing it for?”

It is very likely, even in the light of our later knowledge of the
Annie Battles, that they were not up to anything in particular, and
did not want anything except to plague us, and exasperate us, and
set us all to wondering just as they were doing. At sea, on a long
voyage, with a faster vessel, and the certainty of being able to
sail around us in any weather, that exasperation could be carried to
a high pitch. We had no means of knowing what was going on in the
Battles; but, all this granted, I could not guess their motive. It
was possible that they were after our whales, but Captain Coffin was
an able whaling master, and if that was the explanation—I put the
question to Peter.

“Oh, no, lad,” he replied quickly. “If that was the reason, they ’d
just stay with us—dog us about. They don’t do that, but—Aye, aye,
sir.”

For Mr. Baker had come up to us, and was telling Peter to go to his
boat, but not to hurry. They did not want any stir on the decks. Then
he passed on to tell others of his crew the same thing. Mr. Macy
was strolling about the deck on a similar errand. One by one the
men drifted down to their boats, cast off the lashings, and stood
with the falls in their hands, ready to lower. The Battles was still
coming on, headed directly for us. She was a mile away, and the
men stood like statues by their boats; the distance diminished to
a half-mile and then to a quarter. There was a deep silence on the
ship, while the noise of the surgeons at the operating-table rose to
us over the starboard rail. They knew nothing of the Battles. When
the schooner {201} was a cable’s length away she was still heading
directly for us, and seemed likely to strike us amidships.

It was too much for Mr. Baker. “Ahoy, there!” he roared. “Damn you,
do you want to run us down?”

“Are you there?” cried a jeering voice from the Battles. “Why don’t
you lower?”

As the sound of the voice reached us, however, the Battles kept off
a little, so that she would just clear our stern. Captain Nelson
nodded, and Mr. Macy lowered instantly, cast off, and the men pulled
hard to intercept her. They did not quite succeed in doing that, and
the Battles swept by with her main chains about six inches beyond
the utmost reach of Hall’s boathook. Hall made an instant decision.
Throwing down the boathook, he grabbed a harpoon, to which the whale
line was already bent, and darted with all his force at the chains
of the Battles. The harpoon stuck in the hull and quivered there for
a moment, between the chains; then, as strain came on it, it pulled
out, having nothing to hold it, the barb caught on the chains, and
there they were towing as comfortably as ever they did behind a whale.

From the deck of the Battles there came a roar for a sharp spade,
while Mr. Macy was exhorting his men to heave and heave hearty. There
were only a few feet to gain, for the whaleboat was almost lapping
the hull of the schooner. What they would have done when they had
gained a place under her quarter I could not imagine. I wondered. Mr.
Macy might have been in the same predicament, but it was not likely.
He was not the man to go ahead without plan, and he was working as
if for a definite end. What that plan was we were not to know, for
the spades succeeded in severing the line before the hulls lapped,
and the frayed end dropped into the water. It was fortunate, perhaps.
What chance would six men have had against twenty or more?

In the brief struggle the Battles had gone on farther {202} than she
meant to, and was now some distance astern of us; but as soon as she
had succeeded in dropping Mr. Macy she stood up along our starboard
beam, a short distance away. Meanwhile, Mr. Baker’s boat had been
lowered, taking the captain, and had pulled out a few boat’s lengths,
and lay there, waiting for the Battles. The men who had been working
on the carcass of the whale had stopped work, and stood watching to
see what would happen.

The Battles came on until she was nearly abeam of us, then she
slacked off her sheets, spilling the wind from her sails. Her crew
seemed interested in the surgical operation on the whale.

“Did you find any?” hailed the man who seemed to be in command.

Captain Nelson paid no attention to this question, but his men pulled
toward the schooner.

“What do you want?” the man demanded sharply. “Keep off! Stay where
you are, and let’s settle it.”

“I ’m coming aboard of you,” Captain Nelson said. “I ’m coming to see
Cap’n Coffin. There are some matters to be settled between us.”

The Battles was shooting ahead, losing way slowly, and the men in the
captain’s boat again began pulling.

“You can’t see Cap’n Coffin,” the man began impatiently. “You ’ve
been told that often enough. Damn it,” he added, almost changing
his mind, “if I should let you come aboard and see Cap’n Coffin,
I ’d warrant you ’d have all the time you wanted to settle any
matters that ’re on your mind. It ’d serve you right, and if the
consequences ’d be all on your own head, I ’d do it. But they
would n’t and I won’t. I never will. Understand?”

We heard the conversation plainly, and I was curious to know what
he meant by his remark about consequences. It did not seem to give
Captain Nelson any concern. He made no reply, and the boat continued
to pull toward the {203} schooner. Mr. Macy had been coming up
quietly while the Battles was busy with Captain Nelson, and he was
not far astern, his men pulling strongly and easily. We heard the
order to trim in the sheets, and at the same time several men took
their places at the side, holding spades in their hands. It was their
old trick. The captain’s boat was only a few strokes off.

“Keep off!” was the warning.

For answer Starbuck grabbed for the chains with the boathook. A spade
smashed down upon it and knocked it out of his hand. The sheets of
the Battles had been trimmed in, she heeled to the breeze, began to
gather speed, and was slowly passing the bow of the boat. Starbuck
leaped, landed on her wales, and had one leg over the rail before the
men on the Battles knew what he was after. Before he could get the
other leg over, three men seized him; I saw them struggle with him
for an instant, break his hold on the rail, and throw him into the
sea.

The Battles was now well under way, the boat was fast dropping
astern, and Starbuck was in the water. Mr. Macy was not quite up,
and it was a hopeless chase from the start, but both boats tried to
make a race of it for a quarter of a mile. When they gave it up, and
stopped rowing, I saw Wallet come out from behind the quarter boat,
where he had been standing, hidden from us, and take his place at
the topsail. It was too far to see clearly without a glass what he
was doing there, but he seemed to put his thumb to his nose at Mr.
Baker and the captain. That was too much for me, and I laughed until
I nearly had hysterics, it was so like him.

The boats lay there for some time, the men all watching the Battles
fast disappearing in the distance. Then they pulled slowly back
to the ship. Starbuck had swum to the ship, and stood dripping
beside me, watching the Battles with sober eyes. When I laughed so
immoderately, he turned his eyes upon me with disapproval, but he
{204} took the contagion, and, much against his will, he was forced
to smile.

“But it ’s no laughing matter, Tim,” he said. “I ’d like to know
what ’s wrong on that vessel. There ’s something wrong. I know Fred
Coffin well. We live only a few doors apart—only two houses between
us, and we were at school together. He is n’t so much older than me;
three years, about. I hope nothing ’s happened to him.”

“Why,” I said, “what could happen to him—on his own vessel?”

“Anything,” Starbuck answered. “Anything at all. Ever hear the story
of the ship Junior and Cap’n Arch Mellen? It happened in fifty-eight,
or fifty-seven, but it ’s all true, and it might happen now—any time,
unless men’s hearts are changed.”

“Tell me,” I said eagerly. “I never heard of it; I never even heard
of the ship Junior.”

He smiled down at me; after all, not so much down, for I was nearly
as tall as he.

“There ’s a good many ships you never heard of, I guess. I ’ll tell
you the story of the ship Junior, the first chance I get. The boats
are coming back now, and I want to get into dry clothes.”

By the time the boats were on the davits the Battles was more than
hull down to the southward, and was fast sinking her topsails.

{205}



CHAPTER XXI


We cleared up our whale as soon as we could. He made only
thirty-three barrels, and we laid our course for the Cape with a
total of three hundred and thirty-five barrels of oil in the hold.
That seemed very little to show for nine months’ work, but Peter
comforted me somewhat. He did not seem to mind. It was all in the
day’s work to him.

“I know, Timmie, lad,” he said. “Whales have got scarce as hen’s
teeth in the Atlantic Ocean. But the whaling fleet ’s not what it was
fifteen years ago when there were over three hundred vessels hailing
from New Bedford. Give the whales thirty years or so, and they ’ll
be back there. We ’ll find plenty on the New Zealand grounds or off
Japan, or some other nice quiet place. We ’ll have a full ship yet,
but it may take us three years more.”

The fact that we had little oil to show did not bother me very much.
I would have kept on with a contented spirit if we had not had any
oil. It was not for a few barrels of oil that I had embarked on this
cruise.

We followed the course of the Battles, not because it was her course,
but because it was the quickest way to get to the Cape. The wind
held for some days in the southeast, so that we headed a little west
of south; then it hauled to the westward, and into the northwest,
blowing hard. That was just what we wanted, and we laid our course
straight for Cape Town. The northwest wind did not stay with us long,
but we had made enough southing to be able to hold our course when
the wind changed to the southeast again, which it did very soon.
There are few gales in this part of the ocean at this season, and we
were lucky enough not to get any; but for two days we drifted about
in calms and light, variable airs, and there was a {206} current or
ocean drift to the northward, which set us back about a mile an hour
while we held our southerly course.

Starbuck told us the story of the ship Junior while we were on that
southerly course. Our crew was much impressed by the story, old as
it was. Some of them—most of the white men in the crew—had heard it
before, but many had not. One by one they drifted into the circle
about Starbuck, drawn by the lure of a yarn being spun. They did not
interrupt him, and their faces were serious as they listened. Peter
was one of those who had not heard the story.

“Mutiny never pays,” he said when Starbuck had finished, “does it,
mates?”

There were some muttered objections.

“No,” said Peter again. “It never pays. If a mutiny is successful
it only means that the men never dare show themselves in civilized
parts again. If it is unsuccessful—well, who wants to die in prison?
And, for my part, I ’d rather be shot than hanged. ’T would be
interesting, now, to know what became of the men who were n’t taken.
They may have made some island in the South Seas, and have lived
in some bodily comfort for two or three years. But ’t is much more
likely that they found themselves on the beach at one port after
another, and could n’t ship in anything, even if they got the chance,
without fear in their hearts. Probably they died in jail, after all,
or had their throats cut by Chinese or Malay pirates. You don’t
happen to know, Starbuck?”

Starbuck shook his head.

“If a man is unlucky enough to find himself in a ship where there ’s
hard usage,” Peter went on, “the best thing he can do is to put up
with it until he gets ashore again. Then he can make a call on the
American consul. Even life in a South Sea island gets tedious after
a while. A sailorman gets tired of lying on a mat and having his
breadfruit and yams and chickens and coconuts brought {207} to him.
If he ’s got the spirit of the sailor he can’t stand that very long,
even if they don’t make their kings cut their throats in public every
twelve years, which used to be the vile custom in Malabar. There was
a shipmate of mine, thirty years back, that deserted somewhere in the
South Seas, and got to one o’ these islands, and got to be king of
it. He was glad to get away after two years of it—had to sneak out.”

There was clamor for the yarn. Just as Peter had cleared his throat,
and was about to begin it, his watch was called.

“Aye, aye, sir,” he said. Then he turned to the others with a twinkle
in his eye. “You see. Hard usage, I call it, to give a man no chance
to spin a good yarn. Downright oppression, that ’s what it is.”

I never heard that yarn of Peter’s.

{208}



CHAPTER XXII


The day before we got into Cape Town I wrote a short letter home, and
enclosed my journal. We came to in Table Bay the next morning, with
the mass of Table Mountain looming to the eastward, and Devil’s Peak
and the Lion’s Head and Signal Hill enclosing the town. The crew had
liberty ashore, in relays, and the first boatload of liberty men were
off within an hour. I do not know how the men spent their precious
liberty.

We laid in a stock of fresh provisions, and got off our mail, and
found some mail for the ship, but there was nothing for me. The
captain attended to some other business, but I do not know what. He
did not ship a man to take the vacant place, and we had two vacant
places when we left in the afternoon of the second day, for a green
hand, a Portuguese named Silvia from Mr. Macy’s boat, turned up
missing. Mr. Tilton made a brief search for him, but did not find
him, and we could not wait. Most of the other men were rounded up
drunk, or just recovering from that happy state, and really not
responsible.

Mr. Snow, our fourth mate since the promotions after Mr. Wallet’s
defection, a nervous, irascible little man, became very much
enraged at one of the men from his own boat. The man’s name was
Silver—perhaps unfortunately resembling Silvia, the name of the man
who was missing. He was a green hand too, if a man is still green
after eight months at sea. Mr. Snow addressed a sarcastic remark to
Silver—or Silva—bearing upon that resemblance of names, and Silver,
as might have been expected, answered him in a surly manner, calling
him a fussy little busybody, or less agreeable words to the same
effect. Of {209} course it was no fault of Silver’s that his name
was like Silvia’s, or that Silvia was not to be found, but he would
not have answered Mr. Snow as he did if he had been feeling like
himself, or if he had been to sea long enough to know the unwisdom of
it.

Mr. Snow hesitated and sputtered and got red in the face, but said
nothing after all, and fumed off aft. The rest of the men rather
expected that Silver might be put in irons, but nothing came of the
matter then, except that Silver had the permanent ill-will of his
boatheader. That is not a state of affairs generally cultivated.

We stood around the Cape, keeping well out to sea to avoid the
current which sets to the southwest and west along the shore of the
African continent and for about a hundred and fifty miles from it,
more or less. The surface currents all through the Indian Ocean
are strong and tricky. Off Durban or Port Natal the current runs
southwesterly at very nearly three or four knots at this season, and
it was worth while not to get into it, especially for a ship like the
Clearchus, which could not be depended upon to sail faster than five
or six knots. By keeping a couple of hundred miles to the southward
we got into the easterly drift and the west wind, and we held that
course to about 35° east longitude, gradually turning to the north
for the Mozambique Channel.

The mastheads were kept manned all this time, but it was hardly
expected that we would sight any whales, and I suspect that there was
little desire to see any. The wind held generally strong from the
westward until we were on our way north. We sighted the southwest
coast of Madagascar, but it got no nearer than a low-lying purple
line, and we swung away to the northwest until we sunk it.

Madagascar is nearly a thousand miles long, and from three to five
hundred miles from the coast of Africa, the narrowest part of the
Mozambique Channel, opposite Mozambique, being about two hundred and
sixty miles broad. {210} We were therefore well out of sight of
land almost all the time that we cruised in those waters. Although
the wind was southerly—the southeast trades—and by all the rules we
should have run directly through the Channel and beat slowly back
again, we did not do so, but steered a zigzag course, wearing ship as
we approached either side of the Channel. The captain was so certain
of seeing whales there that he did not want to miss the first chance,
and that chance was as likely to come one way as another.

The chance came when we had been in the Channel four days and were
on the second leg of our zigzag. I was busy in the cabin, but I
heard the faint musical cry, “Ah—bl-o-ows!” I dropped everything,
and ran on deck. It was early, breakfast being just over. There they
were to the east of us, three beautiful plumes rising together,
shining in the sun, drifting for a moment, and dissolving gradually
into nothing. We manœuvred for position—if it is proper to speak of
anything as clumsy as the Clearchus as manœuvring—and waited for the
whales to sound. They took their time about it, at which I did not
wonder. It was very pleasant at the surface in the sun, and they lay
lazily at their length, spouting now and then. We got to windward of
them, and as near as the captain thought was safe—a gallied whale is
hard to get. Still they did not go down, and we lowered four boats;
all but Mr. Macy’s. The boats were put into the water carefully, so
as not to make a splash that the whales would hear, they cast off in
silence, and the men took to their paddles. I counted as a man, for I
was at what was getting to be my usual place in Mr. Brown’s boat.

We were next to Mr. Snow in the circle in which the boats were
spreading, and a little ahead of him. I did not look at Mr. Snow,
for my eyes were otherwise occupied. I was aware of him, however,
and knew that he was alternately looking briefly at the whales and
glaring {211} malevolently at the back of Silver, who rowed tub
oar. Silver, although he wielded his paddle industriously, was aware
of it too, and it made him nervous, so that he became awkward.
Mr. Snow had put in his time since leaving Cape Town largely in
gazing malevolently at Silver. He was a little thunder-cloud,
threatening always, but doing no damage, except to haze Silver—haze
meaning to punish by hard work, unnecessary usually, and as hard as
possible—whenever he had the chance. This attitude had resulted in
his becoming overbearing to the rest of his crew, and he was fast
getting to be the most unpopular officer on the ship. Silver was not
a little frightened, for he did not know what he might have said or
done to Mr. Snow. He had been in a condition of irresponsibility at
the time, and he could not remember. I had overheard him asking one
man after another what it was, but they were in no better case for
remembering, and could give him no comfort.

Silver now became so awkward with his paddle that he missed the water
altogether—caught a crab—and fell forward on his knees, striking the
oars and making a tremendous rattling and rumbling. We were not far
from the whales, and no respectable whale could avoid hearing that
noise of wood on wood, like beating a great tom-tom. They cocked up
their ears for an instant, but the oars were still rolling about,
Silver frantically grabbing at them, and the whales simultaneously
raised their flukes high, and went down. Mr. Baker, on the other side
of Mr. Snow, launched a string of curses at Mr. Snow’s boat for his
carelessness, for he had been on the point of signalling Starbuck to
stand up, he was so near his whale. Mr. Snow, in turn, cursed Silver
up and down. It was rather startling to hear such a flow of language
from such a man. Mr. Snow, just to see him in his usual state, made
you think of a Sunday-School teacher.

Mr. Brown looked up wearily. I knew him well enough to be sure that
he was thinking that cursing would not {212} get them anywhere. Mr.
Snow appeared to be of the same opinion, for he stopped his cursing
abruptly. We lay on our oars, which we had taken as soon as Silver
caught his crab, and waited for the whales.

We were near the middle of the arc, which was not very wide, not
above an eighth of a mile for the four boats, for the whales had been
bunched. We lay still, but the outer boats pulled hard to make the
arc wider. In about twenty minutes the whales came up, just beyond
the outermost boat to the westward. That happened to be Mr. Tilton’s.
Then came our own, then Mr. Snow’s, and Mr. Baker on the eastward
end. Mr. Tilton was an experienced whaleman, and he felt sure enough
that we should not get any of those whales, for he saw that they were
gallied just enough to be very wary, and not to lose track of the
boats for a second. There was a chance, however, and he took it, as
he was in duty bound to do. He could not get near enough to dart,
and the whales went under again, not deep, but swimming under water.
They came up at the opposite end of the line, and Mr. Baker thought
that he had a chance, but he did not have any better success than Mr.
Tilton. Then the whales rose again between us and Mr. Snow. We pulled
hard for them, but they easily got through to windward, lay there and
waited for us.

Those three whales seemed to enjoy the sport. They had us where they
wanted us, to leeward of them, and they gave us the hardest kind of
work for four hours. We were in the region of the southeast trades,
which drew in from the southward, and there was a combing sea, hard
to pull against. We all knew that the whales had all the best of it,
but they would bring to just out of reach, tantalizing us, egging us
on with the thought that this time we had them; but before any boat
had got near enough to dart, they would up flukes or settle out of
reach, only to come up again just near enough to tempt us afresh. I
have no doubt it was fun for the whales, but it was no {213} fun
for the men. My muscles and my hands were sore and aching when we
were signalled from the ship to give it up and come aboard. Mr. Baker
did not want to give it up even then. He was fighting mad—it did not
take very much to make Mr. Baker fighting mad, and the thought that
three common, ordinary whales could have fun with him was almost too
much. I think that he would have liked to make mince-meat of them.
Fortunately, the ship was well to leeward, and we sailed back. Those
three whales followed us back almost to the ship. They seemed to feel
hurt because we would not play any longer. I had, and I still have, a
great admiration for those whales. There was no malice in them, and
they had only been indulging in a game of tag. I was glad to think
that we had left them unhurt in their element, instead of drifting
carcasses to be stripped bare by birds and sharks.

We saw several whales on our way up the Channel, but they were wild,
and we got none of them. We did not even get fast, but had a good
many hours of heartbreaking pulling. Opposite Mozambique, about a
hundred miles offshore, more or less, the Prince got an iron into
one, but it drew, and the whale got away. I overheard Captain Nelson
talking to Mr. Baker, one day, about the wildness of the whales. He
seemed to think it evidence that they had been chased a good deal,
and to be inclined to abandon the Channel at once, and keep right
on to the northward to the Seychelles. Mr. Baker did not combat the
captain’s opinion openly, but he was so obviously disappointed and
so confident that we should do better on the return trip through
the Channel that the captain did not insist upon it. We had seen no
whalers.

I had been having my lessons—my hours with Mr. Brown—pretty
regularly, right along. When we had to chase, or had a whale
alongside, of course we had to give it up, but we had not been
interrupted by cutting-in and trying-out for about two months. I
had added the study {214} of geography to the curriculum. I wanted
to know more about the regions which we visited, and although there
was usually nothing to be seen but a vast expanse of ocean, I knew
that there was some land near, and the fact was a stimulus to the
acquisition of knowledge about it, whatever it was. There was not a
geography on the ship, but it was no loss worth mentioning. I got
what I could from the maps and charts we had, and Mr. Brown supplied
the rest, for he highly approved the broadening of the curriculum,
although it gave him more work. Already I could almost put my finger
on some islands which I had never heard of at school, and Mauritius
and Réunion were as definite as Nashawena and Cuttyhunk. I had seen
Bazaruta from a distance, although my geography authority at school—a
gentle, modest girl, who probably had very little more definite
ideas on the subject than I had—had never heard of such an island.
Almost every whaling captain knew it pretty well, for it was a place
to get wood. It was a different thing actually to see the low-lying
coast of Africa, south of Mozambique, or the bold shores north of
it, with a glimpse of the high table-land behind, from what it was
to read vaguely about them all, quietly seated at my desk in North
Street. I knew the general shape of Madagascar, and thought of it as
a good enough island of moderate size, with the Mozambique Channel
perhaps thirty miles wide. It came to me with somewhat of a shock to
find that the Channel was five times as wide as from New Bedford to
Nantucket, and that Madagascar was about as long as from New Bedford
to Chicago. Chicago was less important in 1872 than it is now, and it
was less than a year since Mrs. Kelly’s cow had kicked over the lamp,
the beacon that led to greatness.

On our beat south through the Channel, we had better luck. We had
many unsuccessful chases, but we got three whales ranging from sixty
to seventy barrels each. There {215} was no excitement in it; about
as much as there would have been in slaughtering three mild-eyed
cows. That was just what it was, simple slaughter. But we had our
excitement before we got out of the Channel.

It was as we were getting to the southern mouth of the Channel. I
remember that we were not far from Bazaruta Island, for Peter had
just been pointing out to me the place where it was. He said that he
could see it, but I could not. He looked away for a moment, and was
giving me some further information, when he saw the spout. At the
instant the cry came down from the masthead. It was a lone spout, the
spout of a lone whale, so far as we could see.

We lowered two boats for him, Mr. Brown’s and Mr. Macy’s. Largely
by good luck Mr. Macy got to the whale first, and Hall sunk his two
irons in him. It was a good strike, and the irons were sunk to the
hafts. The whale showed ugly right away. He went down a little, and
ran under water, taking out nearly two tubs of line. They had just
managed to snub the line somewhat, and were beginning their ride
after him, with the line still smoking around the loggerhead, when
suddenly he stopped, turned quickly, and came back at them. He came
at full speed, head out, his jaw hanging down at nearly a right
angle, meaning mischief with it. Mr. Macy saw it, of course, and so
did Hall. Hall tried to lay the boat around with the steering oar,
out of the course of the whale, but the great length of line hanging
over the bow was almost like an anchor. The men were heaving it in as
fast as they could. Macy ordered them to their oars, and with oars
and steering oar together Hall just managed to get them partly out
of the way of the whale. He turned half over, and struck the boat
a glancing blow with his jaw, however, stove a couple of planks,
and rolled her over. We saw her rise—she did not really leave the
water—and come down bottom side up. While she was coming down we
heard the crash of the splintering planks. {216}

Most of the men had jumped out just before the whale struck them, and
one or two had been thrown out, but we could not be sure, from where
we were, whether all were accounted for or not. We pulled hard for
them, and when we had come up Mr. Brown counted heads.

“Where ’s Macy?” he asked sharply.

Before anybody could answer Mr. Macy’s head popped up, beside the
overturned boat. The boat had come down over him, and he had dived
out. The men were grabbing oars and pieces of plank—anything that
would keep them afloat—and were swimming away from the wreck as fast
as they could. Mr. Brown saw that they all had something to hang on
to, and that another boat had been lowered from the ship, and was
coming up fast.

“You ’re all right,” he said. “Hold on, and I ’ll try to coax him
away.”

Macy laughed. “You ’re welcome to it,” he said.

The whale had been lying a short distance away, thrashing his flukes
about truculently, and moving from side to side. In the course of
his movements he caught sight of the wrecked boat, and it seemed
to excite his rage afresh. He at once came down for it, his jaw
down, and struck at it with his jaw; but he did but little damage,
only smashing another plank, as the boat rolled away. The men were
swimming away as fast as they could. The whale came to a short
distance from the wreck, turned, and again came down viciously.

He had not seen our boat, although it was in plain sight; at any
rate, he had taken no notice of it. Perhaps his mind was so occupied
with the immediate object of his wrath that it had no room for
anything else. Before he reached the wrecked boat, we struck, the
Prince darting both irons, one after the other, with great rapidity,
and with all his strength. They almost disappeared in his body, just
behind his side fin. This distracted his attention from the wreck
completely. He was clearly {217} astonished, and striking the water
two tremendous blows with his flukes, and drenching everybody in the
boat, he put away to windward at a great pace.

He went so fast, and made so much play with his flukes, that we could
not haul alongside. He seemed to be rolling a little as he swam, and
the play of the flukes covered the course the boat would have to
take. There was nothing to do but the best we could. We hauled up
with great difficulty just astern of the great flukes, and Mr. Brown
tried pitch-poling the boat spade into his small, to cut the fluke
tendons. This was a difficult matter, in a rolling, jumping boat,
and in three trials Mr. Brown succeeded only in wounding the flukes,
which served to increase the speed. We simply had to haul up close,
and we did it somehow, the Prince keeping us clear of the flukes by
great exertion at the steering oar. I do not see how he did it, and
I did not see at the time, for my back was toward him, and I was
putting my whole heart into heaving, to gain a few inches at a time.
I very nearly put the flesh of my hands into it, too. By the time
the flukes were astern of us, I felt as if all my fingers had been
stripped to the bone; as if they were in the same condition they were
in the day Jimmy and I got John Appleby’s boat aground on Fort Phœnix
shoal.

The line now broke the pin in the chocks, I suppose at a leap of the
boat and a heave on the steering oar, and jumped out of the chocks.
It brought up on the kicking-strap, pulling over the port bow at a
slight angle with the boat, which kept clear automatically. A few
inches of clear water showed between the boat and the body of the
running whale, whose speed had not slackened in the least. I remember
that the wave from the boat and that from the whale, meeting at such
close quarters, resulted in a nearly vertical sheet of water, which
came steadily over the side, making a nearly continuous cataract down
my back until I moved over. {218}

Mr. Brown looked around apprehensively; but seeing that the boat
was all right, and that the arrangement would give him an excellent
chance to lance, he ordered Kane to take the line and heave a little.
That would put him where he wanted to be. Kane, the bow oar, took the
line all right, but was unable to heave us any farther forward, and I
took hold. Together, we heaved the boat up before any of the others
could get hold. Once there, my only idea was to hold us there, close
to that whale. Before the Prince had a chance to take in the slack
of the line and hold around the loggerhead, out of the depths of my
ignorance and thoughtlessness, I did it. I might have known better
if I had stopped to think, but I might not, and there was no time to
stop and think. I took a couple of turns with the slack around the
thwart, and pulled the bight of the line through. It was a slipknot,
and could be released by a yank upon the line held in my hand.

We were now holding our position close to the irons—naturally
enough—and Mr. Brown seemed to be pleased. He was unaware of my
device. He lanced the whale again and again, but was unable to reach
the life. The whale was spouting thin blood, but did not seem to be
much distressed; not as much as we were, for the boat was taking
over the side a plentiful spray, and the bloody vapor of his spout
enveloped us. It was like an acid.

Suddenly he turned—so quickly that the boat ran plump into him,
and a little way upon his body, so close to the irons that I could
have reached them by leaning out a little. Mr. Brown seized his
opportunity, and drove his lance twice into the life.

“Slack your line, quick,” he said, “and stern all!”

Then he looked around, and saw my knot, of which I had been so proud.
I was yanking desperately at the line to release the knot, but it
would not come. I was not strong enough, it seemed.

Mr. Brown’s face expressed the most utter disgust. He said nothing,
but seized the hatchet to cut. {219}

It was not necessary, for Kane had seen my trouble, had sprung and
grabbed the line with me. We yanked together, and the knot came loose
with a noise like an explosion. Never in my life have I felt more
relief than I felt at that sound. We backed off instantly, and the
flukes came down on the water, just missing the boat. I did not mind
it, and was really not aware of it. I did not mind anything now that
that confounded knot was loose.

The whale was going into his flurry, but we got well clear of him. In
ten or fifteen minutes more he lay fin out. The ship was hull down to
leeward.

That evening, after we had towed the whale to the ship, and had
made it fast alongside, Mr. Brown found me and gave me a serious
overhauling. It was not long, and it was kindly, but I never forgot
it. The gist of it was that a whale line should NEVER _be made fast_.

{220}



CHAPTER XXIII


When we had the trying-out finished—the whale made about sixty-three
barrels—we were not far from Bazaruta Island, and the captain thought
it a good chance to lay in some wood. Two boats were sent ashore, the
men taking axes, while the Clearchus lay near, and the rest of the
crew were busy with their cleaning and scrubbing. I was sent ashore
with the boats. The island, or at any rate the part of it which we
saw, was uninhabited, and was covered with a dense jungle of woods
and vines and creepers. There was an abundance of wood, but it was
rather hard to get, and we were there for two days, the boats taking
off the wood as fast as we got it cut. The second day I got lost in
the jungle, and I might be there yet if it had not been for Peter.

There were a good many snakes in the jungle, the cobra among them. I
did not know much about snakes, did not recognize the cobra, and did
not appreciate its quality. I had become separated from the others in
my pursuit of trees which I could tackle alone, and which would be of
any value as fuel. When at last I looked up, I realized that I was
lost. I had stepped so thoroughly around the tree that my trail in
had become obliterated, and I could not tell which way to go. I tried
several ways, but they all ended in a tangle of vegetation, and I
began to get really scared, but I did not like to yell. I stopped and
looked about me, and I saw a snake crawling sluggishly away.

My only experience with snakes had been with these little green or
mottled-brown grass snakes, about two feet long or less, or with
adders, and a couple of big blacksnakes. The blacksnakes I let alone,
but I was accustomed {221} to catch the grass snakes and treat them
as pets. I had a box in our back yard, covered with wire netting, in
which I put them, and kept them until my mother made too strenuous
objection to the practice. Then, although I could not understand
why she should object so strongly, I bowed to the inevitable. They
were pretty things, and quite harmless; even useful, but she neither
knew nor cared about that. So, when I saw that snake in the jungle,
instead of letting him go peaceably, as anybody else would have done,
and glad that he was going, I leaped after him. It was not so very
big, perhaps three or four feet long.

The snake hurried when I jumped, but I kept on, and it stopped and
faced me, rearing its head erect, some distance from the ground. Its
hood puffed out, and its head waved slowly from side to side. I began
to be scared then, and backed away. There was a slight movement in
the vines and bushes back of the snake, they parted silently, and I
saw Peter looking at me. I did not speak, but pointed at the snake.
Peter did not delay. His axe fell upon the snake, and cut it cleanly
in two parts.

“Come, lad,” said Peter. “We missed you, and nobody knew which way
you ’d gone. They ’re about done.”

I remonstrated. “But, Peter, my tree.” And I pointed at the fallen
monarch of the forest, which was about six inches through at the
butt, and twenty-five feet long.

Peter smiled. “Aye, lad, I heard it fall. It was by that I found you.
Maybe we ’ll get it, and maybe not. I think they ’re ready to put off
to the ship and are waiting for us.”

So I followed him, leaving my precious tree, and leaving the pieces
of the snake still writhing about on the ground. According to all my
lore, they would continue to writhe until sunset, which was not far
off. I determined to add to my curriculum a brief course upon snakes.
I felt sure that the course would meet Mr. Brown’s approval, and that
he was qualified to give it. {222}

We made sail on the Clearchus, and stood for the southern end of
Madagascar; rounded it, and stood northerly. There was rather
a strong current against us, but the wind held strong from the
east and southeast, and we made nearly four knots in spite of the
current. Peter was occupied with the stove boat. He had little help,
but he did not want any. There was a fascination in watching his
deliberate movements, every one of which was to the certain end; the
same kind of fascination which I used to feel in watching Oman, a
cabinet-maker, at work. Oman seemed slow, and his manner of working
would not have been approved by a modern efficiency expert, but he
knew his trade from top to bottom, and was a master workman. He loved
his work, as any master workman must. Not one of his deliberate
movements was wasted, and the beautiful end was reached with
surprising ease and quickness; and what an end it was! Peter was no
cabinet-maker, but his method of working was the same.

When we had made about half the length of Madagascar without even
raising a spout, we fell in with another New Bedford whaler, the
Apollo, and Captain Nelson went aboard of her for a gam with Captain
Hendrickson. I did not go. They gammed from early morning to late
in the afternoon, and then I saw Captain Nelson’s boat coming back.
The mate of the Apollo, who had been visiting us, hurried away with
his men. As far as I could gather from what I overheard, the master
of the Apollo had not communicated anything of value. She was a full
ship, however, on her way home, and the old man—Captain Nelson—felt
sure that she had found some new cruising ground, either in the
Indian Ocean or in the Pacific, he thought more likely the Indian
Ocean. He had spent the day in detective work, trying to find some
clue to its location, but without result. Whaling captains, when
they have happened upon a new field, guard the secret as carefully
as they can, but it leaks out in a year or two. {223} No doubt
Captain Hendrickson was laughing at him at that moment. He said this,
standing on deck, looking back at the Apollo sinking into the sea
behind us. She was hull down already, enveloped in a purple haze,
for the sun was near its setting. The captain stood for some time
silently gazing, until the old-fashioned square topsails of the
Apollo were lost in the haze. Then he turned, smiling, to go below.

“I ’ll find it, by Godfrey,” he muttered to himself, “if I have to
comb these seas with a fine-toothed comb.”

Two days later we raised a spout nearly in sight of Tamatave.
Tamatave is on the east coast of Madagascar, in about 18° south
latitude. It was a calm morning, and the whale was about three miles
off. He was lying lazily on the surface, and we watched him for an
hour and a half, waiting for him to go down. At last he decided to
go. His flukes went straight up into the air, and he went down in a
very leisurely manner, as if it was almost too much trouble to eat.
It was as if he sighed and said, “Well, here goes. I suppose I must
get to work.” That was the way I felt on that morning, and I had no
doubt the whale felt much the same. Why should n’t whales feel so?

We lowered two boats, and pulled to the spot. There was a gentle
little breeze, and both boats put up their sails and sailed to and
fro, waiting for him to come up. I was enjoying myself thoroughly,
and did not care if he never came up. Indeed, we began to think he
never would. It got to be an hour since he had gone down, and there
was no sign of him. Then an hour and five minutes, and we lowered the
sail and unstepped the mast. This was hardly done when he appeared
silently, an eighth of a mile away, heading toward us. We were in an
excellent situation, for as he was coming on, and could not see us,
there was nothing for us to do but wait for him.

He continued to forge ahead slowly, Mr. Baker’s boat, half a mile or
more astern of him, pulling up as hard as the {224} men could pull.
The whale was to windward of us, and we could hear his spout plainly,
loud and hoarse and deep-toned. It sounded like the exhaust of the
Monohanset, the boat that ran between New Bedford and the Vineyard.
We waited, our oars out, and still he came on blindly, steering a
somewhat zigzag course, to enlarge his field of vision, and stopping
now and then, with his head out of water, to listen.

He was pretty near us now, and the Prince was getting excited and
impatient. He signalled Mr. Brown with his lips moving silently, to
have the men pull a few strokes to lay us on, but Mr. Brown shook
his head. Again the whale heaved his head out, almost within darting
distance.

“Now, pull! A good stroke!”

We pulled with all our might. It was only about thirty feet that we
had to go. We ranged alongside of his head, and he was very plainly
trying to make out what the noise was, and where it came from. The
moment we came within his field of sight he began to settle. There
was no other possible escape; but he was not quick enough, and the
Prince planted one iron deep in his shoulder, just above his fin. The
whale had settled too deep for the second iron, which did not bite at
all. By the time both irons had been let go we were backing off.

That whale immediately lost all signs of leisureliness and laziness,
and went down so fast that it was all we could do to keep the line
whipping clear out of the tub. The end of that tub was approaching
rapidly, and the other tub was bent on as fast as a man could work.
Still there was no sign of slackening in the speed of sounding, and
the end of the second tub, too, was not far off.

“The drug!” was the cry. “Drug, there! Hurry!”

The drug, or drag, was hastily passed. Our drags were of two pieces
of plank, crossed, and bolted securely together, with a loop of whale
line through the centre. On the opposite side from the loop a strong,
stubby staff {225} projected about a foot. It was meant that a piece
of canvas should be fastened to the staff. The canvas might survive
dragging through the water, and would make the drag more conspicuous
on the surface; but there was none on our drags that day. There
seldom was any.

The end of the line in a tub is always exposed for just such
occasions, and our second tub of line was hastily bent on to the
loop of the drag, and the drag held clear, ready to go overboard.
This was scarcely done when the last coil of line snapped out of the
tub, and the drug made a bee line for the bottom of the sea. We lay
there helpless, without a foot of whale line in the boat, and our
whale—nobody knew where he was exactly, but somewhere under us, from
one to two hundred fathoms deep. A line will follow all the windings
of its course under water, very nearly, and the whale might have
turned at some depth, and the line still go straight down.

That must have been just what this whale did, as it turned out, for
he rose soon after, about a quarter of a mile away, and made off just
a little faster than the boats could go, although we tried hard. The
drug appeared some minutes after the whale had shown himself, and
went skittering off after him, jumping from sea to sea, or from one
side to the other, tantalizingly near. Both boats followed it. It
did not go very much faster than we did, pulling our hearts out for
an hour dead to windward; but it gained on us very slowly, and we
gave it up at last, and lay on our oars, while we watched that drug
flash in the sun, farther and farther away. It flashed its last,
and we turned and pulled back to the ship, leaving the whale in
possession of two good harpoons, almost two hundred fathoms of nearly
new whale line, and a perfectly good drug, a work of art. I hoped he
would enjoy their use. We never heard anything more of any of them.
Possibly, even now, there is a whale, fairly old, swimming the seas
somewhere, with an old rusty harpoon {226} encysted in his shoulder,
the remains of a frayed old line trailing from it, fringed with
green or brown trailing weed along its whole length, encrusted with
barnacles, and alive with little crabs and sea-horses. I am confident
that he has never been taken.

After our exploit with that whale we cruised to the eastward to the
north of Mauritius, but did not raise a spout. Captain Nelson seemed
to have made up his mind that there were no more whales to be found
in those waters, for he stood away to the northwest, for the northern
end of Madagascar. We passed within sight of it, but did not stop.

There was a good deal of speculation among the crew as to where we
were going, for although the mastheads were kept manned, the routine
of cruising grounds was abandoned, and the Clearchus was under a
press of sail for a whaler. The men insisted that she was bound
for some definite port on the east coast, and when we had passed
Madagascar, and the course was changed by a point or so, many of them
said that it was Zanzibar. In the forecastle they had long disputes
upon the matter, and I listened, but took no part in them. I was
often there.

My own position on the ship was somewhat unusual. I was still cabin
boy, but I was one of Mr. Brown’s crew too, and had been for some
months. I had grown nearly a foot in the past year, was a great,
overgrown sixteen-year-old boy, with more muscle than I knew how to
manage. I must have been a raw, red, awkward chap, but fortunately
for me I did not know it. In virtue of my place in the boat I had
acknowledged right in the forecastle, and I availed myself of it as
often as I could. I loved to be there, sitting on the deck, perhaps,
under the flaring tin lamp, or on a sea-chest which stood in a dark
corner, and listening to the talk of the men. That talk, I suppose,
was not edifying, but I did not join in it, and I heard there many
yarns of whales and whaling, to which {227} I listened with open
ears and open mouth—and open nose. The smells of that forecastle!

I found out where we were probably bound by the simple expedient of
looking on the chart. I had been rather neglecting my privileges in
that respect. The course which was being pricked there led straight
to Zanzibar or very near it, although there was no certainty that
the course might not be changed. There was no other port of any
consequence but Zanzibar. There was elation among most of the old
sailors when I told them of it, but Peter shook his head doubtfully.

“Zanzibar,” he said thoughtfully. “I know it well enough. It ’s full
of wickedness, and that of no white man’s sort. Sodom and Gomorrah
were nothing to it.”

Three days later we dropped our anchor in the harbor of Zanzibar.

{228}



CHAPTER XXIV


I stood at the rail, gazing at the harbor and the town. My eyes were
half closed, my chin rested on my hands, which clasped the rail, and
I was lost in a dream of the East. Small boats plied the near waters,
the boatmen crying out shrilly now and then, but my ears were deaf
to their cries. The spacious harbor lay before me, with many vessels
of all kinds and nationalities lying at anchor, from large steamers
flying the British flag to Arab dhows. Life was there. I did not see
the filth washing to and fro along the shore, I saw only the boats
lying thickly there enveloped in golden light, their sails of all
colors swinging lazily. I did not see the narrow, dirty streets,
swarming with the life of all Asia and Africa; I saw only the mass
of light and shadow, the white walls of houses showing pink in the
light of the setting sun, the mosques, the forts, the palace of the
Sultan; and, to the left of it as I stood, what appeared to be a
ship, standing out clearly.

Peter’s voice broke in upon my dream. He had come up silently, and
was at my shoulder.

“It ’s a pretty town, lad,” he said, “from this distance. It looks
nice—but it ain’t.”

I said nothing for a little while. “What do they do here, Peter?” I
asked then.

“Do? In Zanzibar? Most everything that they do in such a port.
They ’ll stick you in the back if you don’t keep your eyes open. But
they run to cloves, mostly.”

“Cloves!”

“Aye, lad, cloves. They may not do so much as they did in that
line, for they had a hurricane here last year, and lost most of the
trees—or bushes, or whatever they are that bear ’em. It was a terror,
that hurricane. I ’ve just {229} heard of it. But you can smell
cloves if you take a good sniff. When we go ashore to-morrow we can
see some of their storehouses, mebbe, if you want to. For myself,
I ’m not much interested in cloves.”

I was not greatly interested in cloves, either. When the boat took us
ashore the next morning, Peter and me, and a crowd of liberty men, I
saw the filth at the harbor’s edge, and the crooked, dirty streets,
hardly wide enough to be called alleys; and crowds of Hindus, Malays,
Chinamen, negroes, and half-castes, with an Arab or a white man here
and there—very few whites. I lost what little interest I had felt in
cloves.

The other men went up one of the streets arm in arm, as many abreast
as the street would hold, with a second rank behind. Peter stood
looking after them until they had disappeared around a corner.

“I wonder,” he said reflectively, “how they ’ll come back.” Then he
turned to me. “Well, lad, up anchor.”

We wandered about the town all day; toward the palace, to get a
nearer view of the stone ship, which is a water-tank, or tanks,
curiously carved; then back again through the narrow streets to the
bazaars. I wondered at the heavy and massive wooden doors, almost
black and all carved more or less, conspicuous in the white walls of
the houses. We got hungry, and managed to find something to eat: a
concoction of rice and various other things—I don’t know what there
was in it, but Peter seemed to know it, and spiced it rather highly.
Then we loafed from shop to shop, looking in at the things for sale,
but buying nothing, although I was tempted two or three times. Peter
restrained me. The shops had open fronts, and the proprietor was
usually to be seen sitting fatly among the shadows. At last we came
to a place where the street widened a little. Peter was hot and
perspiring. So was I. The climate of Zanzibar is not all that could
be desired. Peter proposed that we find a shady place {230} where
they sold something harmless to drink. He found it, and we sat in a
shady corner, screened from the street, and sipped our drinks slowly.
Mine, I remember, was coffee, but I should not have known it for the
drink that went by that name on the ship, or even at home, although I
was rarely allowed coffee at home. My mother had an idea that it was
stunting.

A man came sauntering down the street from the direction of the
palace. I noticed him particularly, for there was something queer
about him; the silent, furtive way of walking, perhaps. I thought
him a Hindu or a Malay, and Peter said that he was from the hills
of India. There were many hillmen at the palace. The man seemed to
be talking or muttering to himself, and he stopped in the middle of
the open place, or square, and the sun beat down upon his head as he
looked about him with fierce and melancholy eyes. They looked as if
he had been a long time in hell, and saw no chance of getting out.

Our proprietor had settled himself on some cushions, and was dozing
quietly, his hands clasped across his fat stomach. Something made him
open his eyes, and he found the melancholy, desperate eyes of the man
fixed upon his. He cried out in terror, and started up, but he was
not quick enough. The man’s eyes flamed, he drew from his girdle a
wicked-looking knife, made two bounds, and plunged the knife into the
fat stomach.

Instantly all was confusion among the shops. Men, women, and children
scuttled like hares. By the time the man had turned around, the
square was utterly deserted except for a shopkeeper on the other
side, who was hastily putting up his shutters, and for a little boy
who was pounding desperately on a massive, carved black door, begging
those behind it to let him in. I had just seen the door close quietly
on the keeper of one of the bazaars and two women. The man had not
noticed Peter and me sitting behind our screen in the darkness. {231}


The man leaped across the square, and settled the shopkeeper who had
been putting up the shutters. He was relieved of that duty forever.
The little boy was still pounding on the door, and the man turned
toward him. The boy began to scream.

“Here!” Peter growled. “This won’t do.” He got up hastily, upsetting
the stand, with cups and glasses. They made a great crashing and
ringing. Peter snatched away the screen. “Hey you! Ahoy!” he yelled.
“ ’Vast there!”

The man’s head had turned at the crash. He abandoned his pursuit of
the little boy, and with a smile of frightfulness he launched himself
at Peter. Peter had reached in his belt for his knife, but it was no
match at all for the knife coming for him. I knew it, and I freed
myself and sprang out. I should have done so before, but my mind
seemed paralyzed, and I incapable of movement. It was like a dream in
its effect, and in its quickness. The whole thing had not taken half
a minute; hardly a quarter.

The man was almost upon Peter—I had not reached him—when there was
a hiss at my ear, a flash in the sun, a streak of light shot past
me, and for an instant I saw the handle of a knife quivering at his
throat. It was just above the breast bone—a fair bulls-eye—and the
blade was buried. To this day I remember exactly how it looked,
quivering rapidly for an instant with the force of the blow; an ivory
handle, stained and polished with much grasping, one point of its
curved surface reflecting the sunlight in a fierce flicker, which
hurt my eyes. Then the man made a lunge at Peter, missed, and fell
sprawling.

Peter and I stood still, staring at him. He squirmed a little.

“It was well thrown,” said Peter thoughtfully; “a’most too well.”

“Did for him,” said a voice right behind us. “May as well take my
knife.” {232}

The owner of the voice stepped forward, bent, and coolly drew the
knife from the throat. It was followed by a gush of blood. He moved
his foot quickly, so that it should not be stained by the blood; then
wiped the blade deliberately and carefully on the gaudy sash around
the body on the ground. Then he stood straight again, slipping the
knife into its sheath on his hip.

“Better fade away, mates,” he said. “Follow me. I know the town.”

The massive black door was opening cautiously. The boy lay upon the
ground, overcome with fright. The knife-thrower moved away silently
and swiftly, and Peter and I followed him. With twistings and
turnings and doublings that would have done credit to the craftiest
old fox, we came, at last, to the water-front, and to the boat
landing. We saw the boat just putting off from the ship. I turned
to our companion, for I had had no chance to see what he was like,
and we had been too busy to observe anyway; but his back was not
prepossessing, as he threaded those narrow lanes with swiftness
and certainty. I saw Peter looking him over too, with his air of
detachment, and a half smile of amusement on his face.

The man was a crafty old fox. That was sure. He showed no particular
age, but might have been anywhere from thirty to fifty. He was of
medium height, spare and lean and thin, with the leanness of an
animal forced to forage for a scanty living—a pariah dog, and with
the furtive air of such an animal. His face was seamed and crossed
with lines, probably due to his manner of life rather than marking
his age in any way. His eyes were a light china blue—they looked like
pieces of china set into his head. There was absolutely no depth to
them, and they were as hard as stones. The man might have been blind.
He made me think of a cat I had known; a large striped yellow cat
with one blue eye and one yellow one; a very still, calculating cat,
contemplating the world {233} calmly out of its cruel, painted eyes;
a cat absolutely without affection, ready to take any action which
promised success; a cat without remorse and without shame. It may be
inferred that I do not like cats. In general, perhaps, I do not; I
did not take to this man either.

It is not unlikely that the man felt what was passing in my mind,
much as a dog feels such things. With a dog there is no need for
acts, or even for a change of the expression of your face. He feels
what is passing in your mind; smells it, perhaps. This knife-thrower,
who threw a knife almost too well to suit Peter’s fastidious temper,
had been looking me over, much as I had been appraising him, each of
us after his manner. Now he smiled faintly and disdainfully—perhaps
he had had many such experiences—and looked away at our boat.

“Much obliged,” said Peter.

The man seemed surprised. “For what?” he asked.

“The knife,” Peter replied.

“Oh, that,” the man said carelessly. “He would have come at me next.
I was behind you, and no place to slip away to. I do not like to run
from a thing like that, so I stopped him.”

“You throw a knife well,” said Peter.

“I do,” said the man with cool and impersonal candor, as though he
was telling the simple truth—which he undoubtedly was. “Practice,
you know, makes perfect. But the man was running amok. Anybody could
have killed him and been thanked for it. I have seen several of them,
Malays mostly. It seemed wiser to slip away. He was from the palace.”

Neither Peter nor I made any reply.

“Your ship ’s a whaler, I take it,” the man resumed presently. “I
spotted you for whalemen. Sperm?”

Peter nodded.

“To Australia, Sunda Strait, China Sea, Japan, and New Zealand?”
{234}

“I s’pose so,” said Peter, “but I can’t say for certain.”

“I wonder,” said the man slowly, “if your vessel needs another hand?
Are you a boatsteerer?” he asked, looking at Peter.

Peter smiled and shook his head.

“You ought to be,” the man said, “or one of the mates. Been to sea
all your life, have n’t you?”

“Forty years, and over.”

“I thought so. Know a ship from truck to keelson. More real
seamanship than the rest of the crew put together. Old navy man and
merchant service, too, eh?”

“Yes,” said Peter, modestly. “How did you know?”

“I know the signs.”

“Well,” said Peter, “you might speak to the mate. That ’s Mr. Baker
in charge of that boat—chief mate.”

How Peter could have told so certainly was beyond my comprehension;
but he had good eyes. We stood silently until the boat came in. Then
the man spoke to Mr. Baker, who received his application well enough.
He looked the man over.

“What have you sailed in?”

“Almost everything, sir, from dhows to whalers, for the last ten
years.”

“Whalers? What vessels?”

“Only one, the Apollo.”

“Apollo, eh? How long were you in the Apollo? And when?”

“The last year, sir.”

Mr. Baker grunted. “Deserted, eh? We left her near Mauritius about a
week ago, bound home.”

The man hesitated. “Well, no, sir. She sailed without me.”

“Drunk, eh? Going to let it go at that?”

He hesitated again. “Well, the truth is, sir, I was n’t sorry. I ’m
not ready to go home yet.”

“Think you ’ll be ready to go home in a couple of years? Where do you
hail from?” {235}

“Near Boston.”

Mr. Baker grunted again, and was silent for a little. Then he
directed a piercing look at the man.

“Where has the Apollo been in the last year?”

“Over New Zealand way, Samoa and Kingsmill—South Seas.”

“Know those waters?”

“Very well, sir.”

Mr. Baker had been standing beside the boat. Now he turned away.

“All right. Wait here for me. I ’ll be back in half an hour. I ’ll
take you aboard, and I have no doubt the captain will sign you. Any
dunnage?”

“No, sir. It ’s all on the Apollo but what I stand in.”

Mr. Baker looked at Peter. “You want to go aboard, Peter?”

“The sooner the better, sir. We ’ve seen all we want of the town.”

“Liberty is n’t up, you know. Muss, eh? Better get in the boat if
anybody comes.”

Mr. Baker was back in half an hour, followed by porters with baskets
of fresh provisions. Three or four more of our men had drifted down.
When we were halfway to the ship Mr. Baker spoke.

“You—what ’s your name?”

“John Brown, sir,” answered the knife-thrower, with half a second’s
hesitation.

“John Brown, eh? We ’ve got one John Brown on the ship. Would n’t
John Smith do you just as well?”

The man smiled. “If you prefer it, sir, I ’ll make it do.”

Mr. Brown was on deck when we came aboard, I just ahead of the man
who was to call himself John Smith. Mr. Brown looked kindly at me;
then I saw a curious expression pass across his face, and his eyes
hardened. It passed in an instant, like a cat’s-paw over water, but
I {236} could not help noting it. There was surprise in it, and no
gratification. I remember that I was disappointed, for I had thought
Mr. Brown above those sudden dislikes.

Mr. Baker went into the cabin, and pretty soon Smith was sent for.
In a quarter of an hour he came out again and went forward to the
forecastle. There was no fault to be found with him, but I had an
uneasy feeling that all was not right, and I went below to find
Captain Nelson and to tell him of our adventure. I thought he ought
to know it.

I found Mr. Baker still with him. They paid no attention to me, but
talked in low tones, and I could not help hearing scraps of their
talk, although I stood well back. The cabin was not very large.

“Seems an educated beggar,” Mr. Baker was remarking. “Knocked about
. . . my guess . . . beach-comber . . . can’t tell what . . . may be
good seaman.”

Captain Nelson sat silent for nearly a minute. “Hendrickson spoke of
him,” he said at last. “Glad to get rid of him. Trouble-maker. Don’t
much like his cut, but that Apollo business settled it. He may know
something about it. If he does, no reason why he should n’t tell.” He
turned to me. “What is it, Tim?”

I told him my story, a matter of ten minutes, perhaps.

“H’m!” the captain grunted. “H’m! You see, Mr. Baker. Peter ’s right
enough. Throws a knife too well. Lucky he does, though, or where ’d
Peter be—and you, too, Tim? Can’t have him carrying a knife like that
here, though. Gently, now, if you can, but get that knife off him.”

To my great surprise, and to Mr. Baker’s surprise, Smith made no
objection whatever to depositing his knife, upon the captain’s
conditions. It was the same knife. I was ready to swear to it when
Captain Nelson showed it to me for identification. Mr. Baker, I know,
distrusted his readiness, and thought he must have another, probably
the mate of it, but we never saw it. {237}

That evening I was standing by the rail, in the dark, looking at the
occasional lights which marked the town, and listening to sounds
which came faintly across the water. My chin was on the back of my
two hands resting on the rail, and I was dreaming. When you are at
anchor in harbor, and the darkness makes outlines dim, it is not
difficult to imagine that Zanzibar is New Bedford—or that any place
is any other place, as long as it has a harbor and a water front;
especially if that other place shines like a star in your memory.
I have got much pleasure, all my life, from giving my imagination
free rein. It is a harmless diversion. I was doing so then, standing
without motion by the main rigging, and I must have been but one of
the shadows of rigging, and coils of rope hanging from belaying pins,
and davits.

Another man was not far from me, not as still as I, but moving softly
and slowly to and fro. I thought it was one of the officers. If it
was, it must be Mr. Brown, and I watched him covertly.

Presently a voice came out of the darkness, a voice speaking low,
cultivated and courteous, as one gentleman to another.

“Does this remind you of Batavia, Mr. Brown?” It was a casual
question, pleasantly put, and I saw no harm in it. It was the new
man, Smith, who asked it. Why had he hit upon Batavia?

Judging by his reception of it, Mr. Brown saw nothing pleasant in the
question, or in the seemingly harmless manner of the questioner. He
turned sharply, and his voice was like ice.

“Batavia? No. Why should it?”

“I thought,” Smith replied, his voice showing that he was smiling,
“that perhaps you might remember a pleasant evening—something like
this one—that you spent there some years ago.”

Mr. Brown turned completely around toward Smith. He did not reply for
an instant, but when he did― {238}

“My man,” he said, “I do not know you. But you may as well understand
me clearly. I am the second mate of this ship, and I shall do
whatever seems to me necessary to maintain my position and enforce my
authority. Remember that; anything whatever. Go forward.”

“Yes, sir,” said Smith. He was actually laughing, but silently. I
could tell by his voice, and so could Mr. Brown, of course; but the
man’s manner was perfectly respectful. “Of course you will. In your
place I would do the same. You would be a fool not to, and I should
say that you were never a fool.”

“Go forward,” Mr. Brown repeated curtly, “and go now.”

He went without further words. I could hear him chuckling as he went.
Mr. Brown stood looking after him; then he moved slowly aft, while I
mused upon what I had heard. It did not take long for me to put two
and two together. Smith, or whatever his name was, must have been
with Mr. Brown in Batavia on that night when he got those scars I
had seen; it was not so very unlikely that he was the man who had
inflicted them. They had recognized each other, but Mr. Brown chose
not to admit it. If I was right, there was the basis for a pretty
quarrel, but such quarrels are not pretty when they are on your own
ship. I did not like to think of it and of what might come of it.

{239}



CHAPTER XXV


Our liberty men appeared in various stages of dejection from their
Oriental haunts of infamy, but none were missing, and we sailed
for the eastward, to cruise about the Seychelles. Smith had been
assigned to Mr. Brown’s boat, to take my oar, for I was nothing but a
substitute. I was chagrined, but there was nothing to be done about
it. Mr. Brown was sorry, but again there was nothing to be done about
it. He could not object unless he wanted to open the matter which he
had resolutely kept closed—to everybody but me, as I believed—and
Smith was a thorough seaman, as far as there had been opportunity
to tell. He started out, in fact, as a model, his only fault being
that he was a little too much of a gentleman for the forecastle. The
men were suspicious of him, and held off at first. Mr. Baker was
suspicious of him too. He said it was too good to be true; that a man
with his history behind him for the past ten years—he was convinced
of the truth of his inferences in that matter—would be as good as
that only if he was up to some trick. Smith was a man to watch, and
he proposed to keep his eye on him.

I tried to sound Mr. Brown on the subject of Smith, but met with no
success. He turned his quiet smile upon me. “He ’s a pretty good shot
with a knife,” he said, “is n’t he, Tim? It must have taken a great
deal of practice. And he seems to be a quiet sort of man, and a good
sailor. We have n’t lowered yet, but I ’ve no’ doubt that he ’ll
prove as good in the boat.”

He did. We got no whales on the Seychelles grounds, but we saw
several, and Mr. Brown’s boat was down nearly every time. Smith
pulled an oar in perfect form, and he pulled a strong oar, rather to
everybody’s surprise, {240} for he was very thin, and did not seem
muscular. I suppose he was wiry, and I knew that he was not burdened
with any kind of tissue that he did not need. He was pleasant to
everybody, respectful to the officers, and he did not seem surly and
disgruntled at having to pull for hours after a whale which finally
got away. He soon won the confidence of the men. The confidence of
the officers was not so easy. Mr. Brown could feel no confidence, I
was sure, and I was almost equally sure of Mr. Baker. Mr. Snow was
surly and irritable, and getting worse. He was on bad terms with his
crew, and seemed determined to haze Silver, who had been subjected to
that process ever since leaving Cape Town.

I was sorry for Silver, but I could do nothing. None of the men could
do anything for him. Captain Nelson could have stopped it, but he
did not, for some reason or other. Silver was getting more and more
desperate and morose, and was looking for a chance to get away. The
Seychelles might have offered him a chance, but we did not enter a
port there, nor send a boat ashore. Even if his boat had gone ashore
his chance of escaping would have been slim, for Mr. Snow was aware
that Silver would desert if he got a chance, and would have kept
an eye on him. For that matter, none of Mr. Snow’s crew were to be
trusted now, with the exception of Miller, the boatsteerer. All the
officers and all the men knew that, and Mr. Snow’s boat would have
been the last one chosen to go ashore.

We were often within sight of land, about eight or ten miles from it.
One day, after a morning of light and variable airs, and an afternoon
of flat calm, the ship had drifted in until darkness found us not
more than four miles from shore. I think the officers were a little
worried about it. An anchor was got ready, and chain overhauled, but
the anchor was not put over. It was a hot night, the only really
hot night we had in that neighborhood; moonless, {241} with light
clouds overspreading the sky. Practically the whole crew were on
deck throughout the evening. They made rather a crowd about the fore
part of the ship, from knightheads to try-works. I was aware of a
subtle stir among them, and I drifted forward to see what it meant,
or whether it meant anything. Mr. Macy passed me, probably on the
same errand; but he could find nothing, and after a turn about the
windlass, he passed me again, on his way back. I sat down by the
windlass, and pretty soon I heard a hoarse whisper.

“ ’D he get away clear?”

“Ye’,” another voice replied in a low growl, “all clear. Hope the
sharks don’t get him. Water ’s swarmin’ with ’em. Tried to persuade
him to wait, but he would n’t. Said they might ’s well ’s that fourth
mate. He ’s to light a fire if he gets ashore—matches sealed up with
grease in a tin. We ’re to watch for it.”

“How soon?”

“Dunno. How long ’ll it take to swim four miles? Two hours or better,
I should think—if he makes it at all.”

The whispering drifted away. Within half an hour we saw lightning at
a great distance to the northwest. It came nearer, and a little air
puffed in our faces; increased to a gentle breeze. The thunder-storm
did not strike us, but the breeze continued long enough for us to get
away from the immediate neighborhood of the land. By the time the
two hours were up, we were too far away to see a fire kindled on the
beach, and I never knew whether poor Silver got safely to shore or
not. I never saw him or heard of him again.

There was not the slightest effort made to get Silver back. Indeed,
there was no chance unless the ship had been delayed for some days,
for that was our last sight of the Seychelles. We stood away to the
northward for the Arabian Sea, to cruise around there for some weeks,
mostly in the northern part. One thing that Silver’s desertion {242}
did for me was to restore me to Mr. Brown’s boat. Smith was given
Silver’s oar in Mr. Snow’s boat, whether at Mr. Brown’s request or
not I did not know, but I thought not. It was not like Mr. Brown to
make such a request, although he must have been glad of the change,
even if Smith did pull a better oar than I. The vacancy in Mr. Macy’s
boat ever since Silvia’s desertion at Cape Town had been filled by
the sailmaker, who continued to fill it without much grumbling.

It was hot up there in the Arabian Sea, with the wind mostly from
the northward—from the land—and many days of calm weather. There
was no bad weather to speak of. We sighted spouts some half-dozen
times, chased without result every time but two, hard pulling in a
temperature that made the sweat pour off the men in rivers—except
Smith. He seemed to be immune to any temperature that could be
raised, and laughed at the men for sweating so. Mr. Snow’s opinion of
him could only be guessed, but he seemed to have a great and growing
respect for him, and he did not so much as bat an eyelid at him. This
may have been due in part to his reputation as a thrower of a knife;
a reputation which clung to him and which could not be ignored.
You thought of it at once whenever you thought of Smith; could not
dissociate the man from his reputation.

He rapidly became a favorite, and there was no reason why he should
not. He was a superlatively good man in a boat, especially in that
climate; he was always respectful, and while he was no boot-licker,
he never forgot the deference which Snow liked. Snow was a little
man, little in nature as in stature; and I have found little men to
be generally more rigidly insistent upon the outward observance of
forms than bigger men. There seems to be something in mere size which
tends to a greater serenity, and to a scorn for such forms. So Snow
was quite satisfied with outward observance. {243}

We got three whales there, of moderate size. There was nothing
remarkable about their capture, and they were put fin out with no
more trouble than shooting a steer in a stall at Brighton. Two of
them were alongside at one time, and sharks were so plentiful and so
voracious—they are always that—that it was all we could do to save
any of the blubber from the second whale. They had it almost stripped
before we could get at it, in spite of our best efforts.

Our third whale was the cause of an incident which greatly amused
everybody on board. We were in about latitude 12° N., longitude 60°
E., nearly in the track of steamers to Bombay from the east coast
of Africa. Our try-works was going full blast, sending up a huge
column of black and oily smoke, which rose to a great height in the
still air. It was very hot and quite calm, and the men, clad in
nothing but shirts and old trousers—many of them had dispensed with
the shirt—were sweating, cursing, and grumbling at the foul, sticky
smoke, which choked them and made them look like coal-heavers or
worse. Suddenly there was a cry of “Sail ho!” All, without stopping
their work, followed the direction of the lookout, and gazed off to
the southward. Pretty soon the smoke of a steamer appeared; then her
stack, and then her upper works rose out of the sea. She was heading
straight for us, and the belching smoke from her stack showed that
she was crowding her furnaces. She continued to come on, straight for
us, until she was perhaps four miles away, and we could see that she
was no tramp, but a regular passenger steamer which ran to Bombay
and ports farther east. At that distance she could see us clearly,
without the possibility of making a mistake as to our character. She
seemed to be seized with sudden disgust, made as quick a turn as she
could, and stood off on her course to the northeast.

Many of the crew guffawed. “Thought we were afire,” {244} one man
said, “and found that we were nothing but a damned whaler. Could n’t
be any worse,” he added, “if we were afire. That ’s the way I feel
now.”

Peter was sorry. “Too bad that she made that mistake,” he said to
me later. “Whalers do get afire sometimes, Timmie, and the smoke
would n’t be very different. Other ships, too, as I know well, though
the smoke of it ’s apt to be different. When her officers see a good
deal of smoke again, they ’ll probably say it ’s only another damned
whaler, and hold their course. There was a ship I sailed in once,
carrying grain. It got afire somehow and smouldered for weeks.”

He seemed to have finished. I was impatient.

“What did you do, Peter?”

“Do, lad?” he asked, with his quiet smile. “We did n’t do anything
but batten down the hatches tighter ’n ever, and try to smother
it. We made our port, but the decks were too hot to stand on with
comfort.”

“Why did n’t you put any water on the fire? That would have put it
out, would n’t it?”

He smiled again. “Aye, I s’pose it would. But wet down grain?
’T would have split her wide open.”

We left the Arabian Sea with seven hundred and fifty barrels of
oil in our hold, and stood to the eastward, as far as the Maldive
Islands. Fifteen months out, and seven hundred and fifty barrels, and
it would take nearly twenty-four hundred barrels to fill us up. If we
did no better than that, on the average, it meant three years more of
it before we could be sailing into Buzzards Bay, a full ship. But I
did not know that I cared greatly.

We had good weather, on the whole, to the Maldives. There were a
good many days of calm or light airs, and we ran into one gale that
continued for a little more than a day, and blew itself out. It did
not seem so very bad, although it kept the men busy and wet. For the
greater part of the time it was very pleasant sailing, with the {245}
wind dead astern or on the port quarter, and not too hot if I could
lie on my back in the shadow of a sail, and look up at the sky and
the foretruck describing a slow ellipse against it. The heel of the
bowsprit was my favorite place, but on our present point of sailing
that was fairly in the sun until the afternoon was half gone, even
with the staysails out to starboard; and nobody—no white man—could
bear the sun beating down upon him long with any comfort. I could
stand the smell of the ship, which blew over me as I lay there.
Indeed, I liked the smell of the ship. It was chiefly of oil and tar
and rope and general hotness, and it brought back vividly to my mind
the wharves of New Bedford on a summer noon.

When I had any time in the mornings I used to stand just abaft the
foremast on the port side. It was wiser, of course, not to be caught
loafing, although the officers would usually fail to see me when I
was in plain sight. Standing so, I gazed off at the dimpling sea—on
two occasions I saw a smudge of smoke on the horizon, and once I saw
a sail—or, looking down, I watched the little wave, continuously
breaking, which our bows pushed aside. We often had schools of flying
fish about us, and sometimes I could see great numbers of albacore
about the ship, a fish not unlike our horse-mackerel. The albacore
chased the flying fish—not into the air, although they would often
leap clear of the water—and caught them, too, by being on hand when
they struck the water again. The albacore had their enemies. One
morning I noticed that the albacore were huddled close to the ship,
swimming in close ranks. Suddenly they disappeared—they had gone to
the other side of the hull, I found—and I saw a swift shadow pass
where they had been. It looked much like a shark swimming fast, at a
considerable depth. Then the albacore were back again, and the shadow
returned. The albacore scattered and fled, and the pursuer, a great
swordfish, was among them, slashing with his {246} sword, killing
three or four. When they were gone, the swordfish returned from the
pursuit, I suppose, and ate those he had killed. I did not see that
part of it. We saw swordfish more than once, big fellows, twelve feet
long or more, apparently basking on the surface. The men called them
sail-fish. They have an enormous back fin, folded down on the back
when they swim fast, but often erect above the water when they lie at
the surface. It acts like a sail, and carries them along at a very
fair speed.

We were to see another phase of the activities of the swordfish. We
had got nearly to the Maldives, about 72° east longitude, when the
hail came down from aloft: “There she breaches! And white waters!”

Everybody looked. It was a lone whale, rather a small one as far as
we could judge at that distance, about three miles off on the weather
bow. It was kicking up extraordinary antics, sounding briefly, then
coming up on a half breach; lobtailing; running for a short distance,
when it would give it up, and begin all over again.

The officers watched the whale while we stood toward it. At last Mr.
Baker was satisfied.

“Swordfish,” he said.

The whale remained nearly in the same spot while we came up. His
attention was so completely taken up by the swordfish that we did not
lower until the ship was considerably less than a quarter of a mile
away. Then we put down two boats, Mr. Baker’s and Mr. Brown’s, which
ran down under both sail and oars. We did not think it necessary to
avoid making a noise, for the whale could not get away if he wanted
to. By the time we had got nearly within darting distance, he had
almost ceased struggling, and seemed about ready to give up the
ghost. The Prince was just standing up and reaching for his iron,
and Mr. Baker’s boat was approaching from the other side. Out of the
corner of my eye I could see Starbuck taking his harpoon from the
crotch. {247}

Suddenly the Prince gave a yell: “Swordfish! Look out!”

Mr. Brown heaved mightily on the steering oar, to lay the boat
around, but it was too late. There was a sharp crack, we felt the
boat rise under us, and Kane cried out in surprise and pain. I turned
my head around quickly—I had no business to do so, and I knew it as
soon as I had time to think. I saw the point of the sword sticking
up beside Kane’s thigh. Kane had dropped his oar, grabbed the sword
point with both hands, and was yelling for the iron. The sword had
gone through the thin planking—the garboard strake—and through the
thwart, and had given Kane a flesh wound in the thigh. It was a
narrow escape for Kane, but he was not thinking of that. His whole
mind was upon holding the sword without cutting his hands too badly.
The swordfish was thrashing about viciously, shaking the boat, and
threatening to break out the bottom planking. It all happened more
quickly than I can tell it. The Prince was alert, and he reached
over, and jabbed the harpoon clear through the fish. Then he seized
a lance, and churned it up and down through the heart of the fish,
turning it as he churned. He could not reach the gills, where
swordfish are usually lanced. The violent struggles of the swordfish
ceased, he quivered once, and lay still; but his sword remained
sticking through the thwart even after Kane had let go of it, and
Kane’s thigh was bleeding freely.

“Badly hurt, Kane?” Mr. Brown asked.

“No, sir,” said Kane, hammering on the end of the sword with his
paddle, which he had taken from its place for the purpose. “If I can
only get this bloody sword out—but it ’s stuck tight.”

“All the better,” said Mr. Brown. “Heave on the line, boys, and break
it off.”

At the second heave a heavy strain came on the line, and at the third
there was another sharp crack, and the {248} sword broke off at the
nose. The broken sword remained sticking through the planking and the
thwart, and the body of the fish came up alongside the boat. It was a
big fish, two thirds the length of the boat.

While we were having it out with the swordfish, Mr. Baker had
fastened to the whale, which was already dead, and we lay there and
waited for the ship. There had been at least four swordfish attacking
the whale, and nobody knew how many more. The whale, a small bull
of thirty-seven barrels as he afterward tried out, stood no chance
at all against half a dozen big swordfish, which were of a kind
fairly common in the Indian Ocean, about twice as long as those
I was familiar with. We got our prize on deck, and ate it within
the next few days. The flesh was a little coarser than that of the
smaller ones, but very good. We got others from time to time, as
chances offered, as long as we were in their waters, and dolphins and
porpoises occasionally.

Attacks by swordfish upon boats are not uncommon. It seems likely
enough that they mistake the hull of the boat for the body of a
whale. Attacks on the hull of a ship, however, seem to me to be due
to accident. The fish which are the common prey of the swordfish
often huddle close to the hull of a vessel, and the swordfish, in its
attack upon them, may run its sword into the hull, although there
have been instances where several swordfish have made a concerted
attack upon the hull. We had a sword penetrate the planking of the
Clearchus later on, before we had got out of the Indian Ocean, which
I was convinced was due to accident. The sword went cleanly through
the copper, the sheathing, a three-inch oak plank, and an oak rib,
and stuck four inches into the hold; then it broke off. I saw, many
years ago, in New Bedford, the Morning Star, a whaler, with a sword
which had been driven clear through her keel, eighteen inches of
solid oak, and the point of the sword still sticking a good eight
inches beyond it.

{249}



CHAPTER XXVI


From the point where the swordfish killed the whale we laid a course
southwesterly to the westward of Réunion. We had the southeast trades
all the way, and did not touch a brace until we were between Réunion
and Madagascar. There the trades left us, and we laid a southerly
course, with shifting winds. We were getting into the “horse
latitudes,” and the wind was generally strong, at first from the east
and northeast; still farther south it held usually from the westward,
stronger yet, and gales were frequent.

I had taken an unreasoning dislike to Smith. I could not account for
it, and I do not remember that I tried to. It was much like that of
a dog, and may have been due to the same cause. His outward behavior
was unexceptionable. He was always pleasant, properly deferential to
the officers, with due regard to each man’s taste in degree and kind
of deference. He was a diplomat. Even to Mr. Brown his manner was
perfect: silent, brief when words were needed, quite respectful and
pleasant. I think that Mr. Brown was wondering whether he had done
Smith entire justice. But the men were less alive and willing. Nobody
could help seeing it, although few would have ascribed the change to
Smith.

One day, when we were off the southern end of Madagascar, Peter spoke
to me of it.

“It ’s that Smith,” he said. “It ’s his doing.”

“Why don’t you report it to the old man?” I asked. “Or tell one of
the officers—Mr. Brown, if you like.”

“What ’d I report?” he said. “Smith has n’t said anything or done
anything. They ’d ask me what, and I ’d say he laughed at the men,
and they ’d laugh at me—and I ’d fall off the topsail yardarm, with a
knife in my back, as {250} like as not, in one o’ these gales we ’ll
be running into. And what good ’d that do to anybody?”

“Does Smith carry a knife?” I asked quickly.

“I ’ve never seen it; and he ’s one of the pleasantest-spoken men I
ever saw—always at my elbow when I ’m at my scrimshawing, admiring.
But he ’s a trouble-maker. He ’ll have the men ready for mutiny,
the first thing you know, with his laughing at them, and making fun
of them, and despising them for doing what they have to do. There
ain’t anything else will do it so quick or so sure. And there ain’t
anything he says or does ’t you can put your finger on. I ’ve been to
sea a good many years, and I know a beach-comber when I see one—full
of all kinds of hard drink that would burn out the insides of a
better man, and filled with disease and evil. Smith must have been a
good man to stand it so long—and come out no worse.”

At that moment Smith passed us, and Peter began to talk of something
else.

When we reached the latitude of the Crozets we began the regular
cruising programme at once. We were far enough south to see ice
occasionally, although it was a little late in the season for that;
but the water was very cold, and the wind, almost without exception
while we were in those waters, was very strong from the westward,
blowing a gale about half the time. We had a good deal of fog. I did
get sight of the Crozets once, distant, dark mountain peaks, cold and
forbidding. We had about us, most of the time, an albatross or two,
and gannets, boobies, petrels, and Cape pigeons in plenty. I suppose
they must nest on the islands.

Sperm whales are not to be found in these latitudes, although right
whales are.

We got no whales here; indeed, our actions led me to think that the
captain did not expect any, or want any. He took no great pains, at
any rate, and we quartered the grounds only once. Then we wore ship,
and ran down {251} to leeward. When we had reached the easterly
limit of our cruising ground, we did not come about and beat up, as I
expected, but continued to run to the eastward before a gale of wind,
with alternations of fog and rain, three hundred miles farther, more
or less. It was very disagreeable weather.

At last we found ourselves, one morning, in the midst of great
numbers of birds, some in the air, and many others in the water:
teals, giant petrels, gulls, terns, cormorants, Cape pigeons, and
albatrosses; and an abundance of penguins. The cormorants and
penguins were new to me. We knew, of course, that we must be very
near to some land, but the weather was so thick that we could not see
above half a mile. Sail was reduced, and we ran cautiously. We could
feel the nearness of land. Even I could do that. About the middle of
the day the fog lifted somewhat, and became a thick mist. Through it
we saw the mass of Kerguelen, or Desolation Island, its peaks lost in
the rolling clouds of fog. A little later we rounded a promontory,
and entered a bay with many little islands dotted over it. Of course
I compared the bay with Buzzard’s Bay, for that was my standard of
comparison always, especially the part from New Bedford to Cuttyhunk.
This bay seemed not very different in size, but the shores were as
different from the shores of Buzzard’s Bay as they well could be. The
land was steep and high and rugged, making the bay more like my idea
of a Norwegian fiord, although I know the fiords of Norway only as my
imagination pictures them. On that first day the land seemed to run
right up without limit beyond the clouds, which hung low. There were
days, later, when we saw the fields of perpetual snow on the summits
of the mountains, and caught glimpses of the glaciers running down
the valleys.

There was fresh water here in plenty, and some days were spent in
filling our casks and in giving the men a {252} run ashore. There
was no danger of desertion, and absolutely no chance of harm of the
sort usually connected with shore liberty. Indeed, it was funny to
see how afraid the men were that the ship would sail without them.
They went about in clumps, and Smith attached himself closely to
Peter and me. It was good to feel solid earth under our feet once
more.

We saw here some fur seals in the water, and a very few
sea-elephants, which had been left behind by the herd in its
southward migration a short time before, much as an occasional
robin is left in the north, into November or even December. The
sea-elephant is a strange beast. It has a snout somewhat prolonged,
and as flexible as an elephant’s, but this snout or trunk is short,
about the length of a tapir’s, I should guess. I never measured a
sea-elephant, but I should think they were from ten to twenty feet
long, and that they weighed from one to three tons, the bulls being
larger than the cows. They look much like huge leather water-bottles,
filled to bursting with water, and dumped on the ground by tired
porters.

As we saw them there, they were lying on the grass-covered slopes,
between the rocks. When we came too near, the beast would raise its
head, wrinkle its nose, contract its proboscis until it lay flat
on its face, and open its disgusting mouth, emitting what probably
passed, among sea-elephants, for a growl or a hiss. As I remember
them, the lower lip was very full and split, and they had a way of
thrusting it forward, as if pouting. I may be wrong, for it is a long
time to remember such details, and I was not engaged in a scientific
investigation. I am sure only that the expression of their faces was
very disgusting and expressed the most utter disgust. No doubt it
represented rage or alarm, perhaps both. When we advanced cautiously
nearer still, the beast would bestir itself, rise up on its flippers,
and go lumbering off with astonishing speed. {253}

After one of these excursions, as Peter and Smith and I were
approaching the shore where our boat lay, we saw a party of our men
coming out of a ravine loaded to the gunwales with some sort of a
plant.

“What ’s that they ’ve got?” asked Smith.

“It ’s likely to be Kerguelen cabbage,” Peter answered.

“I ’ve heard of it,” said Smith. “Sort of medicine, is n’t it?”

Peter shook his head. “I ’ve never eaten any. You ’re like to find
out. It seems early in the season to pick cabbages.”

Smith laughed, and started running to meet the men with the cabbages.
He was just the build for a runner, tall and lean, and he ran well
and easily. To tell the truth, I admired the man, while I disliked
him heartily; admired his physical qualities, which seemed unimpaired
by his mode of life, while I disliked his attitude toward everything,
and the kind of thoughts which seemed to occupy his mind—his mental
attributes, or rather the attributes of the heart, as we are apt to
put it.

The captain was glad to get the cabbages, immature as they must have
been, and they were fed to the crew in the next few days. There was a
sort of oily essence in them, and they had a peculiar taste; but it
was not unpleasant, once you were used to it, and the men had been
without green vegetables for so long that they would have welcomed
anything. The effect upon their health was marked. Whenever we landed
upon Desolation we laid in a supply of cabbages, and as long as we
were in that neighborhood the crew were in the best of condition.

We sailed before sunrise the next morning, and began our long beat to
the westward. The weather was still bad, with half a gale of wind,
and fog, mist, or rain. In fact, the weather in the neighborhood of
Kerguelen is uniformly bad, as far as my experience goes. We did not
have a dozen days of clear sunshine in all the time we were there.
{254}

Not long after this Captain Nelson got into a towering rage against
Smith for insubordination, and against Mr. Snow for permitting it.
Smith’s insubordination was, in itself, a small matter. He had
failed to carry out some order of Mr. Snow’s, but had done something
else instead. What he had done was just as good as what he had been
ordered to do—it may have been better—but on a ship orders are
orders, and must be obeyed. Mr. Snow, instead of insisting that
his orders be obeyed, had first stormed and blustered, and then
weakly pleaded with Smith. As far as I could gather, Smith had paid
no attention to his storming, had smiled at his blustering, and
disregarded his pleading, but had gone on with whatever he was doing.
He had done it very well, and in a smart and seamanlike manner. There
was no fault to be found with him on that count, but no shipmaster
can pass over such rank and obvious disobedience.

I had never seen Captain Nelson in a towering rage before, and I
witnessed it but once again. Twice is once too many. When he was in
such a rage he was quiet—ominously quiet, although he was always a
quiet man; his mouth became a straight, thin line half hidden by
his beard, and his eyes were cold and hard. He summoned Smith to
the cabin and asked him what he had to say for himself. I was not
present, but the quarters on a whaleship are not large, and the
partitions are not sound-proof. I could imagine, easily enough, the
captain’s eyes boring through Smith, and Smith’s opaque, china-blue
eyes gazing innocently at the captain; for Smith, in such an
encounter, was Captain Nelson’s equal. In education and breeding he
was superior, and I had no doubt that his experience of clashes of
the kind was far greater than the captain’s; but Captain Nelson’s
mental processes were not devious, as Smith’s were. He knew where he
was going, and went by the most direct path. If he found anything in
his way he smashed it. His intentions were good, and he {255} had
the authority, and he meant to maintain it; this above all things.

At first Smith pretended not to know what the captain was talking
about, but the captain cut him short. Then he proceeded to explain
why what he had done—I did not know just what it was—was better than
what he had been ordered to do; that it was dark, and they were in
some hurry, and it saved time. Smith was a thorough seaman—he would
have been good at anything he undertook—and the seamanship shown in
his explanation impressed Captain Nelson, and somewhat softened the
rebuke which came. But it came. Smith was dismissed with the warning
that his first duty was to obey orders, and never to let it happen
again. I had no difficulty in picturing his respectful, pleasant
smile, and his bow, as he withdrew with a “Thank you, sir.”

Mr. Snow’s interview was different. I did not hear him say anything.
Captain Nelson’s low voice said various cutting things very briefly.
I could not hear all of it, but the gist of the captain’s remarks
was that one of the first duties of an officer was to maintain his
authority; that he owed it to the ship, to his superiors, and to
the owners, and that any officer who was unable to do so would be
broken—deprived of his rank. Then I heard the murmur of Mr. Snow’s
voice as he asked a question. Captain Nelson’s answer came like a
bomb, with a blow of his fist upon the table.

“Shoot him, sir! Shoot him! I ’d do it in a second.”

Then Mr. Snow faded out of the cabin.

In the course of time we turned once more to leeward, and ran for
Desolation. This time we did not land in the great bay to which
we had first gone, but in a comparatively small harbor farther to
the westward. Nobody knew why we had come—at least, nobody but the
captain and perhaps some of the officers, and they said nothing. I
ventured to ask Captain Nelson. {256}

He smiled at my question. “May be something worth while, Tim,” he
said rather gruffly. “Never can tell.”

I said nothing more. There seemed to be nothing there that we wanted,
and we got up our anchor, ran along the coast a little way, and
poked our nose into the next harbor. There are a great many of these
natural harbors along the coast of Kerguelen, deep, with mountainous
sides, except on the western end. The prevailing winds are westerly,
and in the course of ages the sea has eaten into the shore of the
windward end, and smoothed it out.

We called at a number of these fiords. In one or two of them we
anchored, and the men were given a chance to stretch their legs,
only the officer in charge knowing his errand; into others we merely
sailed, and then sailed out again. At last we struck one that seemed
to be to the captain’s liking, and a large party went ashore, headed
by the captain.

The captain carried a Spencer carbine, and so did Mr. Brown.
Mr. Baker preferred a lance. There were but two of the Spencers
available, and we had no ammunition to waste, although there was
enough for ordinary occasions on a long voyage. The Spencer was a
short, repeating rifle, rather heavy, but an extremely handy gun. Its
magazine carried seven cartridges, with a lead projectile half an
inch in diameter, or thereabouts, and the rifle was sighted for half
a mile, to the best of my recollection. It was a gun which had done
good work in the Civil War, and there were a good many of them in New
Bedford.

When we had got away from the beach I was so glad to feel the springy
turf under my feet that I ran ahead at the top of my speed, which was
good enough to distance everybody, although several of the men were
running clumsily. That is, I distanced everybody but Smith. He could
outrun me easily, and kept ahead, flinging back over his shoulder
good-natured taunts. Somewhat stung by his taunts, I went after him,
and he led me off to one {257} side, up a slope covered thickly
with huge boulders, or perhaps outcroppings of rock. He ran up the
steep sides of these rocks—as I thought, to show off—and I followed,
struggling up where he had leaped, and jumping from the tops, as he
had done. At last we came to a rock steeper and higher than any other
that we had been over. Smith leaped lightly up its side, and jumped
from its top. My breath was gone, and I was tired, but I managed to
get up; my foot slipped as I was about to jump, and I fell instead,
striking my head.

When I came to myself Smith was on the top of the great rock from
which I had fallen, bending over, his hands busy with a big round
stone which rested on the rock, very near the edge. Even in my dazed
condition I knew enough to spring out of the way, for the stone would
have fallen upon me in a few seconds more.

“What are you doing?” I cried angrily.

Smith smiled pleasantly, and kept on tugging at the stone. “Only
trying to move this stone. I was afraid it would fall on you.”

My head was clearing—and aching. I was sure the stone had not been
there when I fell. And why, if his object was to save me, had Smith
not dragged me out of its way? It would have been easier, and
simpler, and the natural thing to do. Was he trying to kill me, and
in a way which would make my death seem a regrettable accident? It
was not to be borne. A great rage filled my heart as the question
seemed to answer itself.

Upon landing, I had provided myself with a club, as a boy will
naturally pick up any handy stick. That club lay where I had fallen;
but I staggered to my feet, and got it. In that moment I became as
mad as any Berserker. Nothing could hurt me, nothing could stop me.
I would kill Smith. I was no longer small, but fairly grown, and I
was strong. I heaved up my club, and I suppose I glared at Smith. He
stood there, on top of the {258} rock, and laughed; and I walked
around the rock, looking for a place to mount, where it would be less
like storming a citadel. Smith laughed as if he would split; and
there came a call for me, and Peter and Mr. Brown hove in sight.

I did not kill Smith. As I stood there, breathing hard, my rage left
me suddenly, as my rages always did. Smith jumped down off the rock,
and came to me, smiling, as though to say something, but I turned
away. In my heart I was sure of him now. He went to Mr. Brown, and
said something about my fall, and about its having put me out of my
head for a time. Mr. Brown listened, but made no reply.

After spending nearly the whole day in tramping over hills, we went
back to the ship empty-handed. I did not know what we had been
looking for.

It was February, 1874, before we left Desolation behind us, and
headed northerly for warmer seas. There was not a man aboard who was
not glad to see the last of this home of gales and wet and cold.

{259}



CHAPTER XXVII


For five days the wind held from the westward, and we held a course
a little east of north. I saw the chart every day, and sometimes
pricked the position of the ship on it. I took an occasional
observation, and worked out that position, checking up my observation
and the position worked out from it by the captain’s. I really think
that I knew more of the mathematics of the matter than he did. In
another respect Captain Nelson had an immense advantage. That was in
dead reckoning, which was very important where we had clear skies,
either by day or by night, only about half the time or less.

The prickings on the chart pointed straight for Amsterdam Island,
with St. Paul possibly rising above the horizon to leeward. Then we
ran into head winds and a gale, which lasted for two days. That gale
lost me completely. I tried dead reckoning, and I was so mortified
about it that I did not mention it to anybody. I spent all my spare
time, for the first day after we ran out of the bad weather, in
trying to reconcile my reckoning with the captain’s.

It was nearly sunset when I gave it up finally, and went on deck,
feeling rather low in my mind, for the observation on that day had
shown the official reckoning to be only a few miles out. I stood at
the rail, under the stern of the waist boat, and gazed out moodily
over the water, cursing myself; for I had got into the way of the
ship long before, and could curse fluently, although I was no expert
at it, as Mr. Baker was.

I must have been muttering my curses aloud, for I heard a voice at my
shoulder. It was Peter. {260}

“What ’s gone wrong, lad?” he asked, half laughing. “Cussing won’t
mend it.”

I turned to him. “I don’t know about that, Peter,” I said. “It
relieves my mind. I feel better already.”

He laughed. “Do you so? Well, mebbe. But, Timmie, I ’ll have
something for you to-morrow.”

“Got your model done, Peter?” I asked eagerly. I had been but little
in the forecastle for months. I did not want to have to speak to
Smith, or even to see him.

“Mebbe I have,” he answered, smiling. “Mebbe I have. I could be
tinkering at it longer, but I don’t believe ’t would better it. I ’ll
give it to you to-morrow.”

“Can’t you give it to me now, Peter? You might as well. You won’t do
anything more to it.”

“Well,” said Peter, almost coyly. “Well, I might get it now. But come
up for’ard, or into the fo’c’s’le. I ought not to be standing here,
gamming.”

I hesitated. I was reluctant to go into the forecastle. “I don’t like
to, Peter. I—you see—Smith—”

“Aye,” said Peter soberly, “I know. Smith—well he ’ll get the lance
the first thing he knows. He ’s worse and worse, as independent as a
clerk; fair reckless. The old man gave him another dressing-down a
few days ago, a stiff one. Did you know it?”

I nodded. I knew it, although I did not hear it.

“And he bragged of it,” Peter went on; “came back to us, and bragged
of it, and laughed at the old man and the officers. Said he ’d been
threatened, and he ’d show the old man yet. Mr. Snow ’s afraid of
him, to speak plainly, and he ’s got the idea that the others are
too, at heart. And he ’s got the men discontented and grumbling.
It ’s my idea that he thinks they ’ll be ready soon for anything he
proposes. I don’t know why the old man don’t do something about it.
He must know.”

I checked the reply which was on my lips, for Smith was approaching
at that moment. He always contrived to {261} pass when Peter and I
were talking. He was suspicious, very likely, but did not show it. He
gave us a smile and a pleasant word.

“Come on, then,” said Peter, turning to go forward, “and I ’ll get
it.”

I followed, and waited by the foremast while Peter dived below. He
emerged in a minute, holding the model in his hand.

“I hope you ’ll like it, lad,” he said, “and it may give you some
pleasure to look at it now and again, and remind you of the years you
spent in the old ship.”

“Oh, Peter!” I said. “Oh, Peter! Like it!” It was a fairy thing, with
its ivory sails so thin that you could almost see through them, and
the tiny boats complete down to the smallest thing in them, every
oar, lance, harpoon, and keg in its proper place. There were even
ivory knives on the cleats. And the model of the ship itself had
every rope and block, and every ring-bolt in the deck; and the deck
showed each plank, even to the worn places in the actual deck.

I had not seen the model for some time, and had not expected that it
would be so faithful; but I should have known Peter better.

He was smiling with gratification. “It ’s not likely that it ’ll give
you the pleasure it has me,” he said. “I ’ve been slow at it, but
I ’ve been doing a thing or two along with it, and what ’s a little
time? Take it along, Timmie. I ’ll make you a case for it, so ’s you
can pack it in your chest.”

“Thank you, Peter,” I began. “I ’ll keep it always.” So I have kept
it. The ivory is now much yellowed by time, but it is the same
delicate, fairy-like thing, and as perfect as ever. I should have
said more, and was smiling and hesitating, not knowing what to say,
when the watch was sent aloft to shorten sail.

“What ’s that for, Peter?” I asked in surprise. We {262} were not
cruising, and normally we should not have shortened sail.

“I don’t know, lad. It ’s breezing up a bit, and it ’s like enough
the old man ’s afraid he ’ll overrun whatever he ’s aiming for. He
did n’t say anything to me about it. You might ask him what he means
by it.”

I laughed. Captain Nelson was on deck, standing just forward of the
after house, where he had a clear view of all that went on aloft. In
view of what happened, I think he had a definite purpose in being
there.

When the men were sent aloft to handle sail it was the established
custom for the boatsteerers to take the yardarms. The other men would
lay out along the yard in accordance with their speed and activity,
the fattest and the laziest getting the bunt of the sail; but however
good a man might be, it was his duty to give way to the boatsteerers.
The yardarms were the places of honor, as the duties there called for
the greatest skill and quickness. Joe Miller was good, but he was
neither as skilful nor as quick as Smith. Smith knew it, as we all
did. He may have craved the chance to show off before the men, or it
may have been only a part of his scheme to exalt Smith and to bring
into disrepute all in authority; but he reached the crosstrees two
jumps ahead of Miller, and was on the footropes before him.

Miller stopped for a moment and ordered Smith to come in and let
him pass. Smith paid no attention to the order. Miller repeated
it, but Smith was already at the lee yardarm, and he looked back
at Miller and snarled silently—like a cat—fixing him with those
opaque china-blue eyes of his. A fight on a yard with Smith was
not to Miller’s liking, and he looked down on deck, where Mr. Snow
stood. Mr. Snow bravely bellowed out the order once more, but Smith
paid no attention, affecting not to hear. Mr. Snow had turned away
immediately, and after a moment’s hesitation, Miller went to work
next {263} to Smith. The other men on the yard had hard work to
suppress their snickers.

Captain Nelson had observed it, as he observed almost everything. He
told Mr. Snow to send Smith aft.

The Clearchus was an old ship, and had single topsails—not divided
into upper and lower topsails, as they were on all of the later
vessels. It made an enormous sail, clumsy and hard to handle. When
they had the foretopsail reefed and the men had come down, Smith came
aft. Captain Nelson was waiting for him.

“My man,” he said very sternly and quietly, “you have disobeyed
orders again. I warn you for the third time—and the last time. The
next time I shall act, and suddenly. You ’ll do well not to let the
next time happen. Not a word from you!” he added, for Smith was about
to speak. “Go forward!”

Smith turned—smiling, I guessed, when his back was turned to the
captain—and went forward. My heart was in my throat for a few
minutes. Anything might have happened. I had dim forebodings as
I turned in that night, picturing to myself a repetition of what
happened on the Junior, and I lay awake for some time. I do not know
that I was frightened; rather, I think, it was the elation with which
I anticipated a fight, and it was excitement which kept me awake. I
had my mind made up to stay awake all night, but it takes a good deal
to keep a healthy boy awake all night when he is in the open air all
day, with the wind from thousands of miles of ocean blowing upon him,
and when I awoke with a start it was daylight.

Everything was serene when I got on deck. The wind was high from the
southwest, with an occasional screeching gust; but the sky was clear,
the sun showed bright, and the Clearchus slogged along, pitching and
rolling. I had my model with me, for I was as anxious to show it and
have it admired as a child with a new toy. Indeed, that was exactly
what I was. {264}

In these various exhibitions two hours passed. At the end of that
time I found myself with Starbuck and the Prince standing by the
starboard rail, just forward of the gangway. They saw Peter, called
to him, and he joined us. Starbuck had the model in his hand, turning
it from side to side, and gazing at it soberly.

“ ’T would have more beauty,” Peter observed, “if ’t was a model of
the Annie Battles. I should like to carve one of the Battles.”

“It has beauty enough,” said Starbuck thoughtfully. “How long is it
since we ’ve seen the Battles?”

“Nigh on to a year,” Peter replied, counting up the months. “We ’d
almost forgotten her. Most of the crew ’s clean forgotten.”

“I have n’t,” said Starbuck. “I ’ve always wondered what happened
on the Battles—what happened to Fred Coffin. I ’m sure enough that
something did.”

Peter agreed with him, and the Prince grunted. I, for a wonder, said
nothing. At that instant the cry came down from the masthead, “Land,
ho!” It took a sailor to understand that cry; to others it would have
been as unintelligible as a brakeman’s cry of the name of a station.

Landfall must have been expected, for Captain Nelson was on deck with
his glass. He did not even ask the usual question, “Where away?” but
went at once up the main rigging and searched the horizon on the lee
bow. Presently he came down and spoke to the officer of the watch.

“Well as she goes.”

“Well as she goes,” the officer repeated; and repeated the order to
the man at the wheel, who was within easy hearing of the captain.

“Well as she goes,” said the man at the wheel, and kept her on her
course.

“What is it, Peter?” I asked. “Amsterdam?”

Peter nodded. “Yes, lad.” We had passed St. Paul early in the night
before. It would have been well out of sight, anyway. {265}

Amsterdam soon rose within sight from the deck, and I went down and
got my glass and left my precious model. I found a secluded spot
where I should not be likely to be seen, and watched the island as
we drew nearer. I saw steep slopes, densely wooded, rising from the
sea to a great height, but nothing else was to be distinguished, even
when we were pretty near. At last we had the island abeam, not over
three miles away. I had the glass at my eyes, and was slowly sweeping
over the surface, up and down, and to and fro. Nothing appeared but
the green of the tops of trees or bushes, I could not tell which, but
they looked like trees. As I moved the glass systematically, so that
I could see the whole of the island and lose nothing, suddenly I came
again to the sea; but there had seemed to be something like a little
spot of color, and it fluttered. It had shown on the silhouette of
the island, against the sky, and I could not be sure of the color. I
had passed it by, and lost it, before it had impressed itself on my
attention; but I hunted for it again, and I found it at last.

The ship had advanced enough to show the green of tree-tops beyond
the fluttering thing by the time I had found it again. I looked a
long time before I could make out what it was, but I finally made it
out. About halfway up the long slope a tree had been stripped of its
upper branches, so that it made a tolerable pole. To this pole had
been fastened a sailor’s common red woolen undershirt; that was what
it was—what it had been. It had been there for a long time, for it
showed but a faint trace of its color, and it had whipped to a rag in
the winds. The instant I knew it for what it was, my heart jumped up
into my throat, and I jumped up and raced aft.

Captain Nelson listened to the brief tale which I poured out
hurriedly, the words tumbling over each other in my eagerness.

He nodded. “All right, Tim,” he said. “We ’re going in there, and
we ’ll see what it means.” {266}

Amsterdam Island is an ancient volcano. On the northeast, or leeward
side of the island, the old crater walls have crumbled somewhat,
making a harbor of a sort, and it was there we were bound. Soon after
I spoke to the captain the yards were braced around, and we changed
our course to the eastward. Then the men were sent aloft to take
in sail. It happened once more that it was Smith’s watch, and the
captain watched him narrowly. He sprang up the fore rigging—again
ahead of Miller—and took his station at the foretopsail yardarm—the
lee yardarm.

Mr. Snow was not on deck. I found afterward that he had been
suspended from duty.

Captain Nelson was in the second of his cold rages,—the last I ever
saw. He said nothing to Smith, however, but he turned to me.

“Tim,” he said distinctly, “go below and get my Spencer and a clip of
cartridges, and bring them to me. Hurry.”

I remember very clearly how mixed my feelings were as I dived into
the cabin and got down the captain’s Spencer. I did not dream that
Smith would not obey orders when the captain had his rifle in his
hands—if he knew the captain. It did not occur to me that perhaps he
did not know the captain.

I put the loaded rifle in Captain Nelson’s hands, and stood to one
side.

“Foretopsail yard, there!” he hailed. “You Smith!”

Smith looked up.

“Lay in off that yard!”

Smith insolently put his hand behind his ear, as if he had not heard.
His hearing was particularly good, and the captain knew it.

“Lay in off that yard!” the captain roared. There could be no excuse
for not understanding that.

I do not know whether Smith was simply crazy, or whether he thought
no captain would dare to shoot a man. I did not really believe it
would come to that, but when I {267} saw Smith deliberately put his
thumb to his nose, and wiggle his fingers at the captain, I knew that
it was the end of him. And the captain raised his rifle, and shot
Smith through the head. What else could he do? It was a flagrant case
of mutiny. All pretense of discipline, all authority would have been
at an end if he had not. To many it may seem like murder. I never
knew the rights of the matter, but nothing was ever done about it.

The crew had stopped work for the moment, to see how the contest was
coming out. When the shot rang out—Spencers did not ring out; it
was more like a blow of a sledge—and through the smoke I saw Smith
throw up his hands, I gasped. As the body fell like lead into the
sea, a gasp went up from the men; then I heard a sort of murmuring
from them. They were thrown into consternation. Some went to work
again with shaking hands, others stopped work entirely. Those on deck
stirred and moved about uncertainly. I was reminded of the ripples
which cross and recross when a stone is thrown into a corner of a
dock.

Captain Nelson called to them sharply. “To your duty, men! In with
that topsail!” He tapped his rifle as he spoke.

“Are n’t you going to lower a boat for him?” The question came from
the group of men about the foremast.

“No. He ’s a dead man, and a mutineer. I lower no boat for him.”

The men on the yard were at their work again, and the murmurings
quickly died out. In five minutes more they were all as busy as
though nothing had happened. Captain Nelson surprised everybody by
ordering a boat lowered. Mr. Baker gave the captain a curious look,
but said nothing, and proceeded to lower.

“Poor devil!” said the captain, whose burst of anger had exhausted
itself. “I had to do it. Follow us in to anchorage, Mr. Baker, and if
you find the body we ’ll attend to it.” {268}

On my wall above the model, as I sit here now, hangs Smith’s
knife: the one to which Peter owed his life. I got possession of
it—honestly—later, and I kept it for—well, because I wanted to keep
it. There are associations connected with that knife. The idea of
getting possession of it seized me as Mr. Baker lowered and dropped
astern to search for Smith’s body.

We left him quartering the water carefully in the search, and drifted
down to our anchorage less than a half-mile from a little beach.
Three scarecrows stood upon that beach, and watched us come to
anchor. They were clad in rags, and had ragged, bushy beards. I was
looking at them through my glass, but I did not know them, and did
not expect to. They stood quite still on the beach waiting for our
boat, which had been dropped as soon as we rounded to, and before the
anchor was let go.

Captain Nelson stood by the after house, looking after the boat, and
waiting for it to come back. It came at last, and the three men came
easily over the side. The first was a big man, as big as my father,
with a smile like his. He advanced toward the captain, with his hand
out, and the captain went to meet him.

“Glad to see you, Cap’n,” he said in a big, gentle voice.

“How are you, Fred?” said Captain Nelson, with a hearty grip of his
hand. “Kind o’ thought I might find you somewhere about.”

It was Captain Coffin of the Annie Battles.

{269}



CHAPTER XXVIII


Mr. Baker came back to the ship about a couple of hours after the
marooned men had come aboard. He had spent more than an hour in going
to and fro, looking for Smith’s body, but had seen no sign of it, and
had concluded that it had sunk at once. That seemed strange, for the
lungs must have been full of air, but nobody gave it a second thought
unless some of the most disaffected of the crew did; none of them,
in all probability, gave so much as a first thought to the fact.
I do not really doubt that Smith was dead, and that his body was
swaying about in the ooze at the bottom of the sea, unless the sharks
got it first. But I remember that soon after I got home, I saw an
account—merely an item of a few lines in a shipping paper—of a man’s
having been taken off Amsterdam Island, and the description of the
man might have been the description of Smith. He had forgotten who
he was and how he got there, and he had been badly hurt, but he had
managed to live alone for two years on the island. However, whether
that was Smith or not, he passed out of our lives when he dropped
from the yard.

Captain Coffin was in the cabin with Captain Nelson when Mr. Baker’s
boat’s crew came over the side. Mr. Baker showed no surprise when he
heard of it, but Starbuck did. He immediately sought out the two men
who had come aboard with Captain Coffin, and I suppose he got their
story. I was not free, as I was wanted to wait upon the two captains;
but that was no disadvantage, for I got the story as Captain Coffin
told it to Captain Nelson. They sat at the cabin table, leaning back
in their chairs at their ease, with a pitcher of hot rum and water
between them. I remember the pitcher exactly. It was a rather {270}
small white crockery pitcher, with a bluish tinge, such as they used
to serve water in at country hotels, only smaller. They sat there
quietly, and the hot rum and water steamed gently between them; and
Captain Coffin had his fingers clasped loosely about his glass, but
he drank little, and that in little sips. Between times he either
gazed contentedly out of the cabin window, saying nothing, or he
spoke briefly of his experiences in the Battles or on Amsterdam. His
utterances were never long at any one time, but always punctuated by
a sip and a long look out of the window. Captain Nelson said nothing
at all. I stuck around rather more closely than was necessary.

It was the old story of mutiny, but in this case for no reason
whatever except that the mutineers saw a good chance of taking
the vessel. The ringleaders must have laid their plans before the
Battles sailed, Captain Coffin thought, and have enlisted some of
the crew in the scheme. Possibly Wallet knew about it also. They met
the Clearchus at every opportunity, until Wallet went aboard of the
Battles, where he was at the time when Captain Coffin told the story,
so far as he knew; but he had turned out to be such a pusillanimous
cuss that he had not been able to maintain himself in the position
first given him. The bothering of the Clearchus was but incidental;
but the crew got so much fun out of their sport with us—or Drew did,
which was more to the point—that they could not resist the temptation
to try it whenever they had the chance.

Sam Drew was the leader in the mutiny. At the name Captain Nelson
grunted, and said that he knew Sam Drew, and had never known any
good of him. Captain Coffin nodded, and went on with the story. It
had all happened before they got to Fayal. Drew was a boatsteerer.
One morning, as Captain Coffin came on deck, six men fell upon him
at once, pinioning his hands, his arms and his legs, and throttling
him. They must have rehearsed their {271} parts pretty thoroughly,
for each man seized some particular member, and clung to it; he was
seized around the knees, as in a tackle at football—football had
hardly developed the tackle at that time—and thrown to the deck,
while the sixth man choked him. Captain Coffin is a tough customer
to attack, and the men knew it. With two men on each arm, and choked
by another, while the man who had tackled him took a turn about his
ankles with the slack of the main sheet, he still put up a stiff
fight, and almost got the two men on his right arm overboard. The
odds were too great, however. He was soon bound hand and foot, tied
to a stanchion, gasping for breath.

He had been aware of a struggle going on forward. He now saw Mr.
Mayhew, his first mate, beheaded by a single stroke of a spade, and
Jim Carter, the second mate, badly wounded by a lance. The third
mate was not to be seen, but he was soon brought up from below. Then
Drew called a council of a few of his cronies—a Council of State,
perhaps—and spoke briefly to them. Captain Coffin could not hear what
he said to them, but he heard plainly what he said afterward.

“Over with him, men,” he said, indicating the body of poor Mayhew.

The body was unceremoniously pitched into the sea, and the head after
it. Then the men hesitated.

“Over with him!” said Drew impatiently. “You know what happens to the
man who refuses to obey orders.”

The men laid hold of the wounded Carter and began dragging him to
the rail. He was too badly wounded to resist, but Captain Coffin
struggled and roared at them. The men hesitated again, but Drew
smiled.

“Never mind him,” he said. “He can’t do anything. I ’m in command of
this vessel now. Over with him!”

They got Carter up on the rail, and pitched him into the sea. Then
Drew turned to the third mate. He, poor fellow, was not wounded. He
saw that his fate was to be left {272} swimming in the middle of the
Atlantic, and he tried to meet that fate like a man. It was too much.
He could not; and when Drew offered him the choice of joining them or
of going over the side, he joined. It is hard to blame him for his
choice.

Captain Coffin then saw the men start for him; but it was only to
carry him below and to throw him on his bunk, bound as he was. He lay
there until the next morning.

Drew came to him about the middle of the forenoon, at just about four
bells, and sat down beside him and said he wanted to have a talk. He
said that, unfortunately, the third mate had fallen overboard during
the night. This may have been true, or he may have been distrusted
and have been thrown overboard, or his conscience may have tortured
him so that he jumped overboard. Captain Coffin never knew which
was the truth, but the fact was that he was no longer there, and
the vessel was without a navigator excepting the captain. Drew,
therefore, had a proposition to make, and the captain could take it
or leave it. It was this: that the captain should navigate, under
guard in his cabin, coming out only at night for observations. If he
would not consent to that he would follow his three mates.

That was rather a hard choice; but Captain Coffin could see no gain
to anybody by his being thrown overboard, while, if he accepted,
there might be a chance of getting his vessel back. He did not see
how, and he had no plans, but there would be time enough to make
them. So he accepted Drew’s offer, on condition that he was to be
free in his cabin, and that he was not to be compelled to speak to
any of them. Drew smilingly agreed to those conditions; and it had
been strictly true that he was “confined to his cabin,” and that
he left written instructions on the cabin table every morning.
Thereafter, he saw nothing except the view obtained from his
stateroom port, and a brief nightly view of the starlit heavens and a
wide, dark sea. {273} Drew himself told him where they wanted to go,
and he did the rest.

This state of affairs continued until he had navigated, according
to instructions, to Amsterdam Island, and had come to anchor there.
He knew nothing of what had taken place on the schooner since the
mutiny, as he was at all times closely guarded. Then he was told
briefly to come along, and was taken ashore with the two other
men—both foremast hands—and left there, with nothing but what they
had on their persons. Why they did not simply throw all three of them
overboard he could not imagine, unless they had had enough of murder;
and why he had been permitted to navigate so long, when they had a
competent navigator in Wallet, he did not see. But so it was. No
doubt Wallet had been navigator since; the nine months that they had
been on Amsterdam. His plans—he had made many—had come to nothing,
but what could he have done, and why was the situation not better as
it was than it would have been if he had allowed himself to be thrown
overboard? Tell him that.

To that Captain Nelson growled assent. “Where ’d you get your flag?”
he asked.

Captain Coffin straightened in his chair, and brought his fist down
on the table. “Gorry!” he cried. “I forgot that flag. I ’ll have to
go ashore and take it down. It ’s my undershirt.”

“Only one you had?”

“ ’Course. ’D you think I wore two?”

“Cold?”

“Sometimes. But that ’s nothing, and it ’s over and done with.”

The two captains sat silent for a while, Captain Coffin gazing out of
the cabin window.

“I aimed,” he said at last, “to wreck her, if nothing better turned
up, when we got where there were some people, and my chance would
be as good as the next man’s. {274} I guess Drew knew it, and
thought he ’d better get rid of me. I had the Keelings in mind, or
Sunda Strait”—he called it Sunday—“or some parts thereabouts, if
the weather turned favorable for wrecking. Pretty bad gales at the
Keelings in the season. Well—that ’s all, I guess. I ’d like to come
across the Battles again. Maybe I ’ll be able to get some fast little
schooner, and some kind of a crew, at Batavia, and go after her. I ’d
spend my last cent on it.”

Captain Nelson grunted again. “I ’d give you a berth here if I had
one. Better make up your mind to stay on this ship, Fred, and we ’ll
see what turns up. I ’ll ship your two men. We ’re two men short.”
Then he told about Smith.

“Good!” cried Captain Coffin. “Good! Just right, and just like you,
Cap’n. I ’d have given something to have the chance on the Battles,
but there was never a suspicion. Drew was too smart. He ’s a damned
smart man.”

“H’m!” Captain Nelson was noncommittal. “Now that we ’re here, we may
as well lay in some wood. I ’ll have the men take down that shirt of
yours.”

Then he turned to me, and told me that I might as well go on deck,
for they would not need my services right away. I took the hint, and
went. After all, stories of mutinies are much alike; they differ only
in details. But the two captains sat there a couple of hours longer,
with the fresh pitcher of hot rum and water which I had brought just
before I came up.

Something turned up sooner than they could have expected. We were
only a day at Amsterdam laying in wood, for we did not really need
wood. Our anchor was up the next afternoon and we sailed to the
northeast, bound either to Sunda Strait, or for a cruise along the
south coast of Java, as circumstances might determine. We had been
out about a week, and were getting into more comfortable weather,
when I was awakened, very early one morning, {275} by a rumpus on
deck. There were shouts, a tramping of feet, and a heavy report,
like that of a Spencer gun. My heart jumped up into my throat, I
was completely awake, there was that prickling sensation at the
roots of my hair, my breath came short and hard, and I found that
I was smiling. It was no use, I was always taken that way when any
kind of a fight promised. I could no more help it than I could help
breathing; not so easily. I scrambled into some clothes and ran up
the ladder.

I came out into the gray, melancholy half-light of early dawn. I was
conscious of it and of the whispering sea about us. If I had ever
contemplated suicide, I am sure it would have been at just that time
of day, for that is the time when a man’s fortitude is at the lowest
ebb, everything looks black, and the future holds no promise. The
darkest night is not nearly so bad. That gray loneliness of early
dawn is an equally fitting time to choose for going insane, and Mr.
Snow seemed to have chosen it for that purpose. He was standing in
the same spot that Captain Nelson occupied when he dropped Smith from
the yard, and was living over that experience, with himself in the
captain’s place. A Spencer was in his right hand, the barrel in the
hollow of his left arm, and a long, sharp lance leaned against the
after house. Now and then he bellowed an order at an imaginary man
on the yard, and that was apparently what he had shot at. Spencer
bullets, however, are not imaginary, and nothing was to be seen of
the men of the watch. They had run forward and taken refuge behind
the foremast, the try-works, and anything that offered shelter. I
caught a glimpse of one poor fellow who had taken refuge behind the
mainmast, almost directly in front of Mr. Snow, and who was trying
his level best to make himself small. Mr. Snow did not notice him;
did not see him. All his attention was directed to that foretopsail
yard.

Less than half a minute had gone since the report of {276} the
Spencer had startled me into full wakefulness. I had my trousers
on, but I had not stopped to button them, trusting to one suspender
to hold them in place. I had come up the booby-hatch, a very few
feet behind Mr. Snow, and although I was barefoot, I must have
made considerable noise; but he was so taken up with his bellowing
and flourishing that he did not hear me. I think I might have come
through the deck at his very feet and run into him without his being
aware of it. I heard quiet stirrings on the cabin ladder and down the
booby-hatch, and I knew that the mates and boatsteerers would be on
hand in a few seconds; and noises in the cabin told me that Captain
Nelson would not be far behind. Mr. Snow’s attention had at last been
attracted by a movement behind the mainmast—the man there was so
scared that he could not keep still—and he raised his rifle. It was
like shooting point-blank at the side of a barn. He might easily hit
the man, who had not sense enough to keep behind the mast, but kept
popping out. I was upon him in one jump, had him about the body from
behind, and was grabbing for the rifle.

I was much taller and stronger than when I had tackled Lupo, and Mr.
Snow was not the man that Lupo was. Still, I was not prepared for
the strength that he showed. Although I succeeded in deflecting the
rifle, he managed to discharge it, catching the flesh of my thumb
partly under the hammer, making a wound that bothered me for weeks.
The bullet ploughed up the deck. Then another pair of arms enveloped
him. It was Mr. Macy, and in his arms Mr. Snow was helpless. Then
the boatsteerers and the other mates appeared, with the captain just
behind them, and I let go my hold and fell back.

Mr. Snow was violently insane, there was no doubt about that. He
struggled, shouted, and foamed at the mouth. They took him below,
and he was kept locked in his cabin for two days, but he made such
a row there that nobody could get much sleep. On the second day
he {277} succeeded in setting fire to his mattress, which made a
great smoke and almost smothered him. The fire was put out and he
was resuscitated; but Captain Nelson was forced, for the safety of
the ship, to put him in irons and remove him from the cabin. I used
to hear his cries and shouts for days, issuing from the bowels of
the Clearchus somewhere. Finally they stopped, and I was afraid
that he had died; but the steward told me that he was only sulking,
and would not say a word, or take any notice of him when he carried
food to him. I did not blame Mr. Snow for that, and thought it might
be a symptom of returning sanity. The steward was a thoroughly
obnoxious little pest and had a special animosity toward Mr. Snow for
continuing to live and adding to his work. Poor fellow! I refer to
Mr. Snow, and not to the steward. What an unhappy time he must have
had ever since we left Cape Town!

We were standing to the northeast, for the Keeling Islands, hoping
to find some homeward-bound whaler there to which we could transfer
our crazy man. Imagine having such a passenger foisted upon you; but
nobody seemed to have any doubt that any whaler going home would
take him. It seemed to be his only chance—and ours. It was wearing
upon the nerves of every one in the ship to hear the noises that
he made, and then to have the noises stop. I used to listen for
them, and Peter said that the men used to; and the men were highly
superstitious, as ignorant sailors are apt to be. I have no shame in
acknowledging that I was superstitious myself. The men maintained
that nothing but bad luck would come from it, and I found myself
of their opinion, although I knew well enough that it was foolish
and had no sense or reason in it, unless the very belief of the
men should bring on the thing they feared. Nevertheless, I was in
suspense—waiting for it.

The bad luck came soon enough. We had got about halfway to the
Keelings, and had not seen a single spout. That {278} did not bother
Captain Nelson, for I have no reason to think he was expecting to see
any; but one afternoon we raised a solitary spout to leeward. We had
struck the southeast trades two days before, and were then bowling
along merrily, the ship making a great fuss, but not so much headway
as anybody would be led to think who did not know her ways. The wind
was strong from a little south of east, which made it as nearly
close-hauled as was comfortable for the Clearchus, and it was typical
trade-wind weather. The whale was about three or four miles off the
lee bow when we first saw his spout.

We did not lower at once; indeed, there was doubt whether we should
lower at all. I saw Captain Nelson gazing at the spout for a long
time, evidently in doubt what to do. Obviously, he hated to lose
the time, for he was anxious to get Mr. Snow started home as soon
as possible, and any delay might mean that he would miss the ship
which otherwise he would catch. I could almost see the arguments
which passed through his mind. Captain Nelson was a tender-hearted
man under his crust, and I believe his anxiety was entirely for Mr.
Snow, and that he was thinking of getting him started home as soon as
possible rather than contemplating the relief it would be to get rid
of him. But obviously, too, he was out for whales, and there was one
within easy reach; “she blows and she breaches, and sparm at that,”
to quote the immortal classic of Captain Simmons. “Ile is sceerce,
and ile is money.” That settled it. Captain Nelson began to move
slowly to and fro, and I knew that we should lower as soon as we got
into a favorable position.

Soon after Mr. Snow’s collapse Captain Coffin had been offered the
fourth mate’s berth until there should be something better. He took
it at once, like the good sport he was. The two men who came with him
relieved the sailmaker and me, so that I was now nothing but cabin
boy. I did not {279} like being unceremoniously pushed out of my
boat in that way, but there was nothing to do or say about it, so I
held my peace, and tried to be contented.

Mr. Baker and Captain Coffin lowered—I suppose I should not speak of
him as Captain Coffin now, as he was temporarily fourth mate, and
plain Mr. Coffin. The whale was travelling about as fast as the ship,
and had not sounded since we had sighted him. There was something
a little odd about the way he travelled, but it was nothing very
extraordinary, and it was only after we had been watching him for a
good while that it was forced upon our attention. It turned out that
the whale was blind. Mr. Tilton was the first man to say what was the
matter, and it dawned upon him only when he saw how the whale acted
while the boats were pulling up to strike.

They approached from the rear, where the whale could not have seen
them in any case. Mr. Baker was to starboard of him, and about a
boat’s length ahead of Mr. Coffin, who was to port. The wash of the
seas under the strong trade wind was enough to nearly drown the
noise of the oars, and the men were pulling hard. Mr. Baker was
just drawing past the flukes, when the whale seemed to feel that
everything was not as it should be. The slow, steady, pumping motion
of the flukes ceased, and the great flukes moved from side to side,
feeling, as delicately and gently as the antennæ of an insect,
for whatever they might find. Mr. Baker pulled ahead, and avoided
them. Mr. Coffin tried to avoid them, but could not, for they were
just abeam of him, and the men felt the gentle touch upon the keel
amidships. At that moment Starbuck planted his first iron near the
side fin, and at that touch upon the keel, Miller, knowing instantly
that something would happen, hastily seized a harpoon, and darted.
The harpoon struck just under the hump. There was no chance for a
second iron, for the flukes lifted convulsively, staving in {280}
two planks, and rolling the boat over; then came down in a smashing
blow upon the water, and the whale started to run.

The men of Captain Coffin’s boat were swimming about the wreck. I
was watching through my old glass, and counted heads. There was one
missing, although I could not tell, at that distance, who it was.
Mr. Baker was fast disappearing, to the eastward, in the foaming
wake of the whale. Still watching, I thought I saw a head suddenly
bob up in the sea behind the whale. I lost it, and, after a long
search, I found it again. The man, whoever he was, seemed to be
having difficulty in swimming. I dropped the glass to the end of its
lanyard, where it swung and bumped against my chest at every jump,
while I ran to tell Captain Nelson. Mr. Brown lowered at once, and
went after him.

Mr. Brown was soon back with Captain Coffin, who had torn a tendon in
his ankle. He had been caught under his boat when it rolled over, and
a tub of line had been emptied over him, entangling him completely.
The coils of line were wound about his body, arms, and legs, and
the whale was running. He fought desperately to get clear of the
line, and thought he was clear, when a bight of the line tightened
about his ankle. He was jerked under water when the line came taut,
but managed to get hold of the line, pull himself forward, and cut.
Captain Coffin was a powerful man, never lost his head, and was
resourceful; but most whalemen who survive—and many who do not—are
that. He was helped into the cabin, and spent most of the next three
weeks with his bandaged ankle up on the lounge there, fretting
because he could not return to his duty.

[Illustration: THE MATE]

Mr. Brown had made another trip, and brought back the stove boat and
its crew. That was a job for Peter. Mr. Baker had gone off dead to
windward. It was almost hopeless to stand after him in the Clearchus,
but we did so, making short tacks so that he might not lose us. He
{281} came back about dark, rather crestfallen, without his whale.
After running ten or twelve miles, the whale had sounded out all his
line. He waited more than an hour for the whale to come up, in the
hope that he could, at least, get hold of the line again; but nothing
had been seen of the whale. He must have run for miles under water.

{282}



CHAPTER XXIX


We reached the Keelings late in April, having taken no whales since
leaving Desolation. Captain Nelson found that the Bartholomew Gosnold
had left a few hours before we arrived. This was unfortunate. I have
no doubt that the fact made the captain regret more than ever that he
had stopped to lower for the blind whale. He had had a boat stove,
Captain Coffin had been laid up, he had missed the Gosnold, and he
did not get the whale. Still, probably he would do the same thing
again under the same circumstances, and probably he ought to. I was
especially sorry that we had missed the Gosnold, for she was going
directly home and would have taken letters. It was some months since
I had written home, and I had a large instalment of my journal ready
to send; but I could send it from Batavia.

For the few days that we were at the Keelings we had exceptionally
good weather, and we visited North Keeling Island, which is not often
possible. The island is uninhabited except by birds and some other
things, among which is a monstrous land crab which climbs trees and
feeds on coconuts. Between the coconut palms and ironwood trees there
is a dense forest covering the island, which is only about a mile
long. We saw literally myriads of frigate-birds, boobies, terns, and
other sea-birds, all of which nest there. I was especially interested
in the frigate-birds and their nests. The birds would rise from their
nests and sail in spirals to great heights, apparently very angry,
inflating the red pouches on their necks as they rose. I was for
seeing whether I could not find a few good eggs for my collection,
but Peter dissuaded me. He thought that the birds would not take it
well. As for my collection of eggs, {283} I had not begun it yet,
but I thought that frigate-birds’ eggs would be a good thing to begin
with.

I still think so, and regret my failure to get an egg or two. No
doubt, if I had got them, they would now be adorning the loft of my
barn, where various collections of my son’s ornament the walls, in
various stages of desiccation or decay. There are a collection of
eggs, some of them rare; a collection of seaweeds and mosses, dried
and mounted on cards, and lettered very beautifully; shells of crabs,
likewise mounted on cards, among which are two or three shells of
young horseshoe crabs about an inch or two long, very delicate and
perfect; a collection of wild-flowers, dried, pressed, and mounted; a
collection of lichens; and collections of various other kinds, which
I forget at this moment. These collections represent different phases
in my son’s development which he very promptly forgot as soon as they
were past, but each of which was absorbing while it lasted. I do not
look at them often, but I would not have them touched, and neither
would Ann McKim.

I should have been glad to stay longer, but the voyage was neither
for my health, which was disgustingly rugged, nor for my pleasure,
and Captain Nelson sailed for Sunda Strait without consulting me. It
is not a long stretch from the Keelings to the Strait, but we were
delayed and turned aside by whales, of which we saved two, both of
which lay fin out within an hour from lowering. They were fairly
large, and made more than one hundred and fifty barrels, and raised
our stock of sperm oil on board to about twelve hundred barrels.

We finished our trying-out late one afternoon, and kept off for Sunda
Strait, making a beginning at our scrubbing of the ship. We were
directly in the track of sailing vessels bound through the Strait to
China and Japan, and very nearly in the track of steamers both ways.
Sunda Strait is the narrow throat of the highway between the Indian
Ocean and all the seas and ports to the east, and it is almost busy
enough to need a traffic policeman. {284}

That night was a very dark night; pitch-black, moonless and clouded
over, so that there was not even the little light from the stars. The
blackness of the night seemed thick, oppressive. I could not catch
even a gleam from the water, and it is very rarely the case that you
cannot see the water now and then, even on a dark night. It seems
much lighter at sea than it does on shore. Everybody aft had turned
in, and there was no light showing from the stern ports, for I looked
over the stern to see. I could not bring myself to turn in, for I was
half afraid, to tell the whole truth, although I do not know what I
was afraid of. The thick blackness of the night seemed ominous.

I stood at the stern, looking out over the wake—which glowed dully
with swirling phosphorescence—for a long time. Then I wandered
forward, and stood under the fore rigging, on the weather side.
The wind was fresh, and I heard the noise the Clearchus made going
through the water, with an occasional muffled cluck of a block, the
regular slatting of some slack rope against a sail, or perhaps the
reef points. I looked along the deck, or where the deck ought to be,
and I could see nothing. I felt as I used to feel on the infrequent
occasions when my mother had shut me in a closet, except that there
was no paroxysm of temper to make me forget the darkness, and that
there was a feeling of utter loneliness, as though I were perched
on nothing, all alone in the midst of a sea of blackness. I became
almost afraid to move my feet for fear that there would be nothing
under them. When Peter and the Prince spoke to me gently, at my
shoulder, I very nearly cried out.

If I had not heard the Prince I should not have known he was there.
I could see no sign of him. Peter’s face was but a dim blur, and
nothing of his body was visible. Your true whaleman does not go about
his business clad in a natty white duck suit, like a navy sailorman,
and with a teacup of a white hat perched upon his head; but he {285}
wears old civilian clothes, which look—by daylight—as though they
had been boiled in oil, and then, while still wet with it, had been
dragged through all the dust of the wharves. Such clothes make him
practically invisible on an ordinarily dark night.

In a very low voice that was scarcely more than a whisper,
Peter remarked that it was a black night. I agreed with him
enthusiastically, and the Prince grunted his assent. We stood there
by the fore rigging for some time in silence. None of us seemed to
feel like talking, or to know what to say.

“You can hardly see the fo’c’s’le lamp,” Peter observed at last. “It
looks as if it was in a thick cloud of smoke. It won’t burn bright,
whatever we do to it, and there ’s some that say there ’s a sort of
halo around the flame, like the halos they put around the heads of
their saints—like a sort of sun-dog. It may be so, though I did n’t
see it. Something ’s going to happen, I ’m thinking. I never saw a
darker night.”

I tried to reply lightly, but I could not, and did not reply at all.
The Prince said nothing, and in a few minutes they had faded away
into the darkness. I went back to the stern, and stood there for a
long time, peering out, but seeing nothing. The silent man at the
wheel was some comfort, and once in a while Mr. Tilton, who had that
watch, looked in. There was the faint bubbling of the wake, and the
same noises as before, but largely cut off by the roof of the house.
I had glanced at the compass, which was swung just inside the cabin
skylight instead of in a binnacle, and had seen that we were heading
due north. That was not sailing very close, but the Clearchus really
made more if she was not held too close to the wind. I was getting
drowsy in spite of my uneasiness, and was just making up my mind to
turn in. In fact I had taken my elbows from the taffrail, on which I
had been leaning, and raised my eyes. {286}

Suddenly, without my being conscious of it, there broke from my
throat a yell that would have waked the dead; and there loomed out
of the blackness, just at our stern, the flying jibboom of a ship.
It was high over my head, and I could just dimly make out jibs
rising from it which seemed to reach to the heavens. I had no time
to think, but I know I had the impression that our stern was sure
to be cut off, and I yelled again. If I had taken time to think I
should have realized that that other ship was bound for the Strait,
as we were, but sailing a couple of points closer; and that, even
if she was going three knots to our one, our chances of escape were
good. Hindsight is easy; and when I saw the end of the spritsail yard
and some stays within reach of my hand I grabbed them—probably the
flying-jib guys—and hauled myself up and landed in her nettings. I
was still there when the two vessels came together. The yards of the
ship I was on were braced well around, or the damage would have been
greater. As it was, the Clearchus had her spanker carried away, and a
spare boat brushed off the roof of her after house, and she was given
a gentle push on her course. Then she vanished quickly into the night.

The strange ship had apparently put her helm down as soon as it was
known that there was danger of a collision, but was just beginning
to feel it. A big ship—this ship turned out to be about twice the
size of the Clearchus—a big ship like that does not mind her helm
instantly, and she had come up perhaps half a point or less when the
moment had passed, and the helm was put up again, bringing her back
to her course. I do not believe she would have come up much more in
any case, for a moment later showed me that she had everything set,
even to studding-sails on the weather side; and having all those
sails taken suddenly aback in the breeze that was blowing might have
resulted in greater damage—to her, at least—than an actual collision.
{287}

I say that a moment later I saw that she had everything set. I was
just getting to my feet to feel my way aft, when there was a blinding
glare of lightning which illuminated the sea for miles around. It was
brighter than day; and the picture of the Clearchus, pegging along on
our lee quarter, as though nothing had happened, and of the cloud of
sail carried by the ship which carried me, was etched upon my mind
with a precision and permanence which permitted examination at my
leisure. I found that the Clearchus was unhurt; men at work taking in
her spanker, and brailing it, the gaff broken. A spare boat gone, and
some splintered woodwork on the starboard corner of the after house
were the only evidences.

No burst of rain followed that single flash of lightning, but a crash
of thunder, and the giants seemed to be bowling over my head. Then,
after a little, threads of lightning began to chase each other over
the sky, and soon the sky was covered with an interlacing network,
the lines moving incessantly, accompanied by a continuous crackling,
like the cracklings in a gigantic frying-pan. The wind had dropped
almost instantly, and we lay there, rolling gently in the swell, and
flapping that enormous spread of canvas in a flat calm.

It was light enough to see easily where I was going, and I made my
way inboard, where I was met by the lookout. He sent me aft to see
the officer of the watch, who questioned me briefly. I wanted him to
send me aboard the Clearchus at once, but he refused, saying that the
breeze might start up again at any moment, and that, with all that
spread of sail, they would inevitably leave their boat behind; and
that he would not call all hands to reduce sail for anybody. He said
that I had come on his ship of my own accord, and if I did not like
it I could leave. He would not keep me from going; or a boat could be
sent for me from my own ship without much trouble. That was true. I
wondered why they did not send for me, for I {288} thought that the
man at the wheel had seen me go; but I found out afterward that the
man at the wheel had been so completely taken up with other things
that he had not noticed my departure, and they had not yet found that
I was missing.

While I stood talking with the officer the breeze began to come in
again from the same quarter as before. The sails filled gradually,
and the ship heeled a little, and began to forge ahead. He would not
bother with me any longer, and sent me to the steerage, where there
was a spare bunk. By the time I had turned in the breeze had become
strong again, the lightning had withdrawn below the eastern horizon,
the clouds were breaking, and the ship was doing a good fourteen
knots and something to spare.

The ship was the Virginia of London, Marshall, master, last from
Mauritius, bound for Hongkong and Canton. I saw Marshall, master,
in the morning. Captain Marshall was a man between thirty-five and
forty, clean-shaven when that was less the fashion than it is now;
and a man who would take the trouble to shave himself every morning,
at sea, would take a great deal more trouble about more important
matters. He was a well-set man of above the medium height, with brown
hair just beginning to turn gray. I noticed him particularly because
he looked enough like Smith to be his brother, except that his eyes
were not of that opaque china-blue, but a gray that was alive, and
hinted at kindness beneath his crust of silence and sternness. I
wondered whether, by any strange chance, he was Smith’s brother, and
whether he would care to know that we had left his brother sinking
into the ooze off Amsterdam.

I did not tell him. He was not a man who invited confidences, but a
wonderful master of a ship, if I was any judge. He seemed to know
all about me, and about the Clearchus, but that, I suppose, was only
inference and good guessing. He told me that I might consider myself
a {289} passenger on his ship for two or three days, as he had a
full crew; and he told me very particularly what a passenger might do
and what he might not. He would land me at Anjer or at Batavia, as
I preferred; and he would see my captain, if the Clearchus arrived
before he left, and pay for any damage she had suffered. If he did
not see Captain Nelson, I was to tell him that the owners of the
Virginia would be happy to pay for his repairs if he would send them
a bill. Then I was dismissed courteously. I had not said a word
during the interview.

I spent the whole of that day on deck, taking a very simple but an
exquisite pleasure in just watching the ship sail. She did it so
beautifully! There was a smashing breeze from the southeast, but the
Virginia had everything set that she could stand up under,—a cloud
of white canvas reaching up and up, apparently without end; she was
heeled to her channels, and she _sailed_. It was a revelation to me;
the speed, the discipline, which was like that on a war vessel, the
continuous attention to little things like trimming in a sheet six
inches, the haul on bowlines, until each sail drew without a tremor,
pulling and hauling or slacking off a brace by inches, to make the
angle exactly what the officer of the deck thought it should be.
In the minute attention given to details it was like a continuous
yacht race of to-day, but of ten or twelve thousand miles instead of
thirty. The men were alive every minute of the time; they jumped at
an order, and were satisfied and willing and proud of their ship.
Anybody could see that, but who would not be? I had no doubt that
there had been many and many a heartbreaking day of setting up and
tarring down rigging, slushing masts, reeving ropes, and bending
sails,—there must have been, on a ship driven as the Virginia was
driven,—but I saw none of it that day. She was almost into port, and
it was all done until the next time. The discipline was strict, but
sailormen do not object to that. I think that, in their hearts, they
like it. {290} They had a man of iron for master, but they had good
quarters, good food, and good treatment. There would be no desertions
at the next port. And the officers were all proud of the ship and
put their best into her. As for Marshall, master, he loved the ship;
loved her so well that he could not bear to see her not looking her
best and doing her best.

Until late that afternoon I hung over the weather rail, in the space
to which passengers were limited, to use Captain Marshall’s words,
in a condition of unalloyed bliss. I revelled in the breeze, in the
sight of the marching, sunny sea, in the way the ship cut cleanly
through the seas, keeping her bows wet with spray, in the crisp
commands and the way the men responded to them, in the noises of a
ship and the sound of the water, and in the silence. Now and then I
lifted my eyes to the towering pyramid of canvas, and I could not
help echoing the thought of the sailor quoted by Dana: “How quietly
they do their work!”

Captain Marshall was on deck nearly all day, pacing the deck by the
weather rail, but I did not hear him give an order. He scarcely
spoke. I think that he was in much the same condition as I. He
watched the sea and the sky and the sails, and occasionally he smiled
as if he was half ashamed of doing so, but could not help it. On one
of these occasions I spoke to him impulsively.

“Captain Marshall,” I said, “I must thank you for giving me this day.
It has been as happy a day as I ever spent.”

He was puzzled at this outburst, and he hardened. “Just what,” he
began coldly, “do you—”

“The ship,” I interrupted; “she sails so beautifully! I never
expected to have such an experience—never knew there was such to be
had.”

He smiled again at that. “Oh, yes,” he said, “the ship. She ’s a
sweet sailer—a sweet sailer.” He turned on his heel, still murmuring
“sweet sailer.” {291}

I looked out over the water again, and saw Java Head just rising
above the horizon.

Late that night we came to anchor before Anjer, the fourth bay on the
right as you go through the Strait from the Indian Ocean. The captain
went ashore in the morning, but I did not go with him. I would go on
to Batavia. It was just around the corner.

{292}



CHAPTER XXX


At Batavia I stayed on board of the Virginia as long as I could. I
had not a cent of money in my pockets, and I did not like to ask
help of any kind, even of the American consul. The Virginia had some
freight to be unloaded, and I watched the men breaking out that
part of the cargo while Captain Marshall went ashore. The captain
apparently did not see me that morning, which I suppose was his way
of being indulgent. There was a good deal of freight to be taken off,
and when it was out of the way there was as much more to be taken
in and stowed: great quantities of sugar and coffee and spices for
England, and some things for Hongkong and Canton, I could not tell
what. I wondered idly why they took aboard the cargo for England on
the way east, but I never found out. The officers of the Virginia
were not the kind of men one asked idle questions.

The cargo was not all stowed before noon of the next day, and there
was no sign of the Clearchus. I was getting very uneasy, and had
actually made a move to speak to the captain, when he turned to me.

“Here ’s your ship,” he said.

I looked down the bay, and saw her upper masts and dirty, slovenly
looking sails, appearing indistinctly above the islands. It was a
great contrast to the white canvas and shining spars of the Virginia,
and I felt a strange mixture of relief and disappointment.

We had to wait for the Clearchus, for the wind was light, and I
thought that she never would get in. Captain Marshall did not wait
for her to put her anchor over, but was pulled out and met her,
leaving the Virginia with her anchor hove short, her sails loosed
and hanging in the {293} clewlines, and the crew standing by to
make sail. He went over the side of the Clearchus much more easily
and gracefully than I did, and immediately went below with Captain
Nelson. To my astonishment, I was hailed as one raised from the dead.
It seems that nobody had seen me at the moment of my departure, and
I had not been missed until some hours after the collision. Then the
man who had been at the wheel recalled my yells, and they concluded
that I had been knocked overboard. Of course it was then too late to
look for me, as nobody could swim for four or five hours at the rate
the Clearchus was going, small as that rate was. I laughed when I
heard this explanation, but I made no comment. If they did not know,
or had forgotten, that I could not swim at all, I would not bring
up a painful subject. Peter and the Prince said nothing, but I was
afraid that Peter’s smile would crack his leather cheeks.

I was relieved from this embarrassing situation by the return to
the deck of Captain Marshall, accompanied by Captain Nelson. Both
captains looked pleased, especially Captain Nelson. They stopped for
a moment to glance at the damage done, which was trifling, except
for the loss of the boat. As this thought crossed my mind I looked
up at the roof of the after house. There was no boat missing. They
must have picked it up. I asked Peter, and he nodded, saying that
it was unhurt. At that moment Peter and the Prince were called to
their duty, and our anchor was let go. I sidled aft, to be within
plain sight of Captain Marshall when he left. That was all I could
do. He took no notice of me, but disappeared over the side. I was
disappointed, and felt a sinking of the heart; but I had no reason
to expect anything better. To him I was but one of the crew of the
Clearchus, and a whaleman. Smart masters of smart ships have a
profound contempt for whalemen as a class, because of their general
slackness, I suppose, although those of them who really know feel
{294} an equally profound respect for their venturesome spirit.
Captain Marshall was the master of the smartest ship I have ever
come across, and the condition of his vessel reflected the character
of the master, as it always does. The impression I got of Captain
Marshall, and the one I always retained, was that of a kind man—if
you once got under his stiff crust of reserve and custom. I think
that, at heart, he was sentimental, and was afraid that the crust
might break and show his real nature. So he never forgot, but took
every opportunity to harden and stiffen the crust; and he lavished a
wealth of sentiment on his ship in secret.

I found Captain Coffin standing just forward of the house, nursing
his bandaged ankle and gazing at the Virginia. I took my stand beside
him, and we watched while the Virginia got her anchor up smartly, and
got under way smartly, without the smallest mistake or mishap. Her
canvas fell into place swiftly and with the precision of a machine,
and she was soon well on her way to sea under a veritable cloud of
snowy canvas, and going like a race-horse. There was no sound from
Captain Coffin until the Virginia was almost out of sight. Then he
heaved a long sigh, and turned to me, almost with tears in his eyes.

“Well, Tim,” he said, with a smile, “she ’s a great vessel—a great
ship, and as sweet a sailer as I ever saw.”

I grinned in return, from ear to ear. “That ’s what Captain Marshall
says, sir, and he ’s just right. I spent one whole day just watching
her sail.”

“I ’d give a leg,” he said, “to command a vessel like that. But
there ’s the Annie Battles sailing these seas somewhere. She ’s
almost as good, and she ’s mine. Help me below, Tim.”

So I lent him my shoulder until he was deposited on the cabin sofa. A
glance showed me the same blue-white pitcher on the cabin table, with
three empty glasses, and three empty chairs. The pitcher was empty
too, and cold, but it had been neither empty nor cold. I knew. {295}

At Batavia we left poor Mr. Snow in hospital, under the charge of the
American consul. Although we were sorry for him, there was no one
in the ship who was not glad to have him out of it. Soon after we
left, a homeward-bound whaler called whose master was willing to take
him. He was already better, and recovered pretty well before they
reached New Bedford, but he never went to sea again. I remember that
I saw him, more than ten years later. I said a few words to him, but
found that he did not know me, and I had no wish to recall myself to
him. He was night watchman for one or two of the banks then on Water
Street, and was a little “queer,” but not queer enough to prevent his
being a good enough night watchman.

We were in Batavia about a week, although I could see no reason for
our staying more than a couple of days. The two men that we had
picked up at Amsterdam Island with Captain Coffin left us there, and
none were shipped in their places, as the old man did not like the
looks of any of the candidates. This rejoiced me in particular, for
I was practically put back in my boat. It was no cause of rejoicing
to the sailmaker, however, for it put him back in his boat too; but
Captain Nelson, I believe, expected to pick up a man or two later on.
We sailed at last, expecting to look around the Java Sea a bit, and
if there were no whales there, which Captain Nelson hardly expected,
we would stand up the China Sea, past the Philippines, to the Japan
grounds. The captain hoped to do well on the Japan grounds.

In Java Sea we did better than was expected. We saw several small
schools, got fast four times, and saved two whales, one of them a
big bull. This bull was the cause of an adventure which might have
resulted seriously for me. We had got fast to him, and he had run for
a while. Then he sounded. He had taken out quite a little line, when
the strain on the line eased, although the line did {296} not slack
entirely. That was an indication that he had doubled on his course
under water, and Mr. Brown kept a sharp lookout for him over the bow,
for he might be coming to attack the boat. I could not help giving
an occasional glance over the side. I confess that I was nervous.
Mr. Brown did not see me, having his back toward me, but the Prince
did, and held up his hand in warning, although he said nothing. That
was not enough to stop me, and I glanced over again. One glance was
enough. There was the whale coming up like a rocket, belly up and
jaws open. I dropped my oar, and reached past Kane for the boat
spade. As I reached, Mr. Brown gave a yell to stern all. Of course I
could not, having no hold on my oar, but it was too late, anyway.

At that instant the lower jaw shot into the air past my head. I had
never thought the teeth of a sperm whale looked very dangerous until
I saw those teeth, looking like a row of gravestones, flashing by
my eyes to twice my height. I did not stop to philosophize on the
matter of whales’ teeth, however, but I jammed the boat spade down
instantly, with all my strength and all my weight behind it. By pure
good luck I hit the jaw muscles on one side, and cut them nearly
through. Probably I saved the life of the tub-oarsman, who would have
been caught between the jaws; or quite possibly I saved my own life,
for I might have been the one to be caught by those jaws. It seemed,
at the time, to be an opening for two young men.

The jaws closed partially, but there was no strength in the bite,
and, although the planks on one side were stove in, between me
and the tub oar, the boat was not bitten in two, which would have
happened if the whale had had the full use of his jaw muscles. He
made no further attack, but sank again into the sea, leaving us with
the water pouring in through the broken planks. In a few minutes we
were completely waterlogged, and the men sat in their places with
the water up to their waists, and the seas {297} breaking into the
boat. Mr. Tilton pulled up and took our line, and killed the whale.
All the fight seemed to have been taken out of him. He cut in over
eighty-five barrels.

By the time we had that whale and our other one—a thirty-barrel cow,
which made no fight—we were about off Macassar, and we held northward
through the Strait of Macassar instead of going back and through the
China Sea. We had head winds until we had got to the east of the
Philippines, but we were in no hurry, and the head winds did not
bother us. It was here that we saw a strange and interesting sight.

We had raised a small school of whales and had lowered four boats.
The whales proved to be cows, most of them with calves accompanying
them closely. I knew too little about whales then—I know no more
now—to be able to tell the age of a whale calf by its appearance;
these calves were not newly born, but yet they were so young that
they had to come up to blow every three or four minutes. Mr. Baker
struck a calf, probably thinking by that manœuvre he would find the
capture of the mother easier.

I know that I was rather shocked at his doing so at the time. There
was nothing sporting about it. It was like murdering a baby. But
there was nothing sporting about whaling—none of the sporting spirit,
and my feeling was only momentary. It did seem short-sighted, at the
least, to destroy an animal that could be of no possible use to us,
and one which might grow up to be of considerable value to somebody.
There should be some sort of international agreement not to kill
calves or any cow under forty barrels or so. It would be in the
interest of the whale fishery as an industry, and would very likely
result, eventually, in making it easier to fill up a ship; like the
restrictions on the seal fishery, or good game laws on land. Nobody
supposes that the game laws exist from sympathy with the game; but
where there is a good buck law, deer are abundant enough. {298}

To come back to Mr. Baker; he knew whales very well, and ought to
have known what would happen. The whole school of a dozen or fifteen
cows brought to at once, and gathered around the wounded calf and Mr.
Baker’s boat. They crowded so closely about the boat that Mr. Baker
did not dare to use his lance, and had all he could do to keep his
boat from being stove by the loose cows. The three other boats were
at some distance when he struck. We pulled up as fast as we could,
but could do nothing to help him. On the way over I heard Mr. Macy
call to Mr. Tilton to look. I could see nothing, of course, having my
back to whatever it was that he was calling attention to, but on our
arrival on the outskirts of the school I saw what it was.

There were a great many more than fifteen whales there, and more
were arriving every minute. In self-defense, Mr. Baker had lanced
two of the nearest, and he could have reached two or three more from
the boat. The whales seemed to have lost their wits, but were none
the less dangerous on that account, they were so tightly packed.
The small school which we had attacked had been, apparently, but an
offshoot of a much larger school, all cows and calves. Their spouts
covered the sea for some distance. No doubt they seemed more numerous
than they were; but we found our boat gradually getting enclosed, and
we backed out, after lancing two without putting an iron into either.
So did Mr. Tilton and Mr. Macy, leaving Mr. Baker closely surrounded
by crazy whales; probably only gallied and not knowing what to do.
There was nothing for Mr. Baker to do but to do nothing, and he
did it. His men took in their oars, and there they sat waiting for
something to turn up, their boat not so very unlike one of the bodies
that surrounded it.

Presently Mr. Baker’s patience was rewarded. The poor little calf
which he had struck turned on its side, fin out, and the whales
scattered very soon, the whole school gradually resuming its orderly
progress. {299}

Just before we backed out of the mess, the whales of the main school
had come so close to our boat that I had only to look over the side
to see the small calves swimming close alongside their mothers,
almost concealed from view. One of the calves I saw must have
been born a very little time before, for its flukes were scarcely
unfolded. I have no means of knowing how long it takes for that
process, but the calf could not have been more than a few days old.
The mother seemed very anxious and solicitous for its safety. I saw
her turn partly on her side, and put her side fin over it, holding it
close against her, as you would take a small child under your arm.
She had it so when we backed away, and lost sight of the pair.

The school left us in such semblance of order that we could not have
struck again without risking a repetition of Mr. Baker’s experience;
and we had about as many whales as we could take care of at one time.
Each boat had got one or two. They were all small, none over thirty
barrels, and some much smaller.

When the trying-out was over we made for the Japan grounds as
straight as we could with the northeast trades directly ahead. Peter
was still engaged in repairing the boat stove in the Java Sea. It was
stove rather badly, every plank on the port side from the gunwale
nearly to the garboard strake having to be replaced, and two broken
ribs. Although Peter’s workmanship left a repaired boat almost as
good as new—it would be better in some cases, but our boats had been
made by Beetle, and were good boats—in spite of Peter’s workmanship,
we had a good many cripples. If the rate of damage to boats
increased, it seemed to me that we might find ourselves short. One
fighting whale will sometimes reduce two or three boats to matchwood,
quite beyond Peter’s skill. We were going where there was no source
of supply, for what whale boats were scattered among the islands of
the Pacific were mostly old boats, patched and painted over to hide
the {300} patches; boats that the whalemen, who traded them to the
natives, had no further use for. Still, I do not remember that I
worried about it at the time. It is only since I got home—since I
became middle-aged and timid, I suppose whalemen would say—that it
has seemed to me short-sighted.

We stood in fairly close to Formosa, and in that neighborhood we got
one whale, a lone bull, which made no fight to speak of, although it
was not like slaughtering a steer at Green’s or Pike’s. A pot of hot
oil from him may have saved us; or, at any rate, it may have saved us
a nasty fight. While we were trying-out, a small junk appeared from
the direction of Formosa or the Chinese coast beyond. Nobody gave it
a thought until it was close aboard, when it suddenly occurred to
Captain Nelson, who happened to be on deck, that its actions were
suspicious. I saw nothing suspicious about it except that it was
almost near enough to throw a biscuit aboard—if anybody had wanted
to waste a biscuit. The old junk was going along after the manner of
junks, with six or seven men loafing on deck. We were hove to, and a
great volume of black smoke was pouring from our try-works. As far as
working the ship was concerned, we were helpless. If they wanted to
board us, they could do it a dozen times over before we could get the
Clearchus going.

Captain Nelson watched the junk for a minute, then he spoke to Mr.
Baker, who went at once among the men. The men left their work, and
armed themselves with lances, harpoons, spades, and boarding-knives,
but did not range themselves along the rail, for the captain was not
sure, and he did not want to make himself a laughing-stock among
other captains. I was watching the men, feeling little pricklings all
over and my hair rising. Captain Nelson turned to me.

“What ’you grinning about, Tim?” I had not been aware that I was
grinning, but I was, from ear to ear. “Get the guns and revolvers
from the cabin.” {301}

“All of them, sir?” I asked, my voice shaking with excitement.

“All you can carry.”

I jumped for the cabin stairs, and clanked up again, making a noise
like an arsenal. The captain could not help laughing to see me. I had
the Spencers, of course, three of the heavy bomb guns, two revolvers,
and some ammunition. I distributed my arsenal among the officers.

“Here she comes,” said Mr. Baker—with satisfaction, I thought.

The junk had gone by us, until she was almost directly to windward,
had turned, and was coming down before the wind, her men, who had
been hidden below, swarming out upon deck. They were armed mostly
with long knives.

I looked at our own men. They were taking their places at the rail
according to their nature; some slowly, some quickly. I saw Peter go
with business-like rapidity, and take his place by the fore rigging.
He had a boarding-knife. The Prince, with a harpoon in his hand, and
two more leaning against the rail at his side, leaped upon the rail
beside Peter. I ran to Peter’s other side, seizing a boarding-knife
as I ran, and there we were, the three of us together, the Prince,
Peter, and I. Peter took it all quietly, as if it were a regular part
of his duty to meet a junk-load of Chinese pirates; I was a little
afraid, I think, but at the same time I was pleased, and I was wildly
excited; and the Prince stood on the rail, looking down with the
utmost contempt upon the Chinese. He was stripped to the waist—most
of our men were half-stripped—and looked like an ebony statue, the
gold hoops in his ears shining out against his shining black skin.

The junk was very near now, and one of their men crawled up with a
great bronze hook on the end of a cable. He was going to try to hook
fast to us, but he never did make the trial. He had to rise, for a
moment, and expose himself. That moment was enough for the Prince,
who {302} was directly opposite him, and only a few feet away. The
Prince raised his harpoon, and darted quickly. The sharp weapon
struck the man full in the chest, went clean through him as if his
body had been made of paper, and the barbs stuck a good three inches
behind his back.

The Prince smiled at that. “Ha!” he cried. “You want come aboard?
Come on, then.”

He jerked the body over the rail of the junk, and it fell with a thud
against our side. Then, still standing erect, he hauled it over our
rail, and dumped it on the deck at my very feet. It turned me sick
and faint for an instant.

I was roused out of my faintness by a shout from Kane, who had
been standing not far from me. He threw down his spade, ran to the
try-works, seized one of the long-handled copper dippers, and dipped
it into one of the kettles of oil. The oil was unusually hot, and
the drops that fell from the dipper, as he ran back with it, smoked
fiercely, and threatened to start fires.

“Look out, boys!” he shouted, swinging his dipper of hot oil. “I ’ll
give them a drink.”

We drew away from the swing of the dipper. With a last swing at the
full length of the long handle he let them have it.

“Have a doughnut,” he roared, “you dhirty chinks!”

He had thrown with all his strength, and with considerable skill,
so that the contents of the dipper were dashed upon a good many of
the men, and scattered into drops. The drops fell upon the bare
bodies like a rain of fire, and every drop sizzled where it struck,
literally frying the Chinese in spots. There was a yell from our men
at Kane’s success, and frenzied yells of pain came from the junk.
Kane had turned at once, and ran back to fill his dipper again. Many
men followed him, to grab whatever they could lay hands upon which
would hold oil.

I was among the first to turn and run, thrusting my boarding-knife
into Peter’s hands, and bidding him hold it. {303} The decks, of
course, were almost swimming in oil and greasy dirt, as we had been
in the middle of trying-out. As I ran I heard a shout from Peter to
duck. At the same instant I fell flat upon my face on the deck, and
a long knife whistled over my head, striking against the bricks of
the try-works. It was a piece of good luck, with no effort of mine
contributing. I had merely stepped in a puddle of oil, and my foot
had slipped.

By the time I had got to my feet again, there was nothing left to
dip the oil with, and I went back to my post beside Peter. Kane
had thrown a second dipperful of oil, with as great success as the
first, and there was now a continuous shower of hot oil crossing the
widening gulf between the vessels. The junk had given up the attempt
to board us, and was only anxious to get away, her men pushing with
long poles, while exposing their bodies as little as possible. The
junk slowly dropped astern, helped by much pushing and some drifting.
As she had come down upon us from the windward, she could not get off
directly; but the Clearchus was forging ahead a little.

Hot oil was showered upon the junk while she was within range of the
men, but the officers, their guns held ready, withheld their fire,
and at last she cleared us. As she cleared our stern, and her sails
filled and she stood to leeward, her men were still shouting in
agony, some of the worst burned clawing at their bodies. Presently a
man jumped overboard. He sank from sight, and I did not see him come
up again. Then another jumped, and another; and then two together.
All four came up again, but the junk made no attempt to pick them up,
and the men made no attempt to swim, so far as I could see. They just
lay there, bobbing on the surface or under it, now in plain sight,
now out of sight, until they disappeared.

We had made no move to pick them up, which worried me somewhat, and
finally I spoke to Mr. Baker, who passed near. Two of the Chinese
were still afloat. {304}

“Are n’t we going to pick up those men, Mr. Baker?”

“What men?” he asked. “Any of our men overboard? Don’t seem so. If
any of those yellow pirates are overboard, the junk can pick ’em up
if she wants to. What we do is the Cap’n’s business, not yours or
mine, Tim.”

I looked at Captain Nelson. He was standing under the after house,
gazing forward absently, as if nothing had happened. _He_ did not see
any men overboard, nor did Mr. Baker, nor any other of the officers.
At that moment Captain Nelson called me, and I went to him.

“Take the guns below,” he said.

When I came up there was nothing to be seen except a junk, a quarter
of a mile to leeward, going before the wind.

{305}



CHAPTER XXXI


We reached the Japan grounds in May of 1874, and cruised thereabouts
until August. Then we stood to the southward, loafing past the
Volcano Islands, the Ladrones, Carolines, Solomon and Fiji Islands,
always on the lookout for whales, and taking a number of them. We
were on the New Zealand grounds early in November. We had only
average success on the Japan grounds and our cruise to the southward;
pulled in many a fruitless chase, and most of the whales we did get
made no fight worth mentioning, for which the men were thankful. Two
of the whales, however, did seem to think their lives worth fighting
for, and one of the two fights was successful from the whale’s point
of view.

The first of these fights occurred about the middle of the northern
summer. We were off the coast of Japan a hundred miles or so, and it
was blowing hard from the southwest, when we raised this lone spout
to windward. I was standing by the weather fore rigging, having
escaped work in the cabin—the officers were rather lenient as to my
duties in the cabin in view of my work in the boat, but I tried not
to be conspicuous when I was loafing—I stood by the fore rigging,
with arms folded upon the rail. So far as I can recollect, I was
thinking of nothing at all, but letting the wind blow on my face, and
enjoying myself. Suddenly there came a spout about a mile off, and
just before my eyes, a perfect plume. I had not seen the whale rise,
and even after the spout I saw nothing of his body. The cry came down
from the masthead immediately, and I moved, expecting that my boat
might be called upon.

The call did not come, however. We were to leeward of the whale, and
the ship was manœuvred for half an hour, {306} trying to get to
windward of him, and waiting for him to sound. We did not succeed in
getting a windward berth, for he was moving slowly to windward, and
kept his advantage. He did go down when he got good and ready, his
flukes going into the air until he seemed to be standing on his head,
half submerged, and he disappeared, apparently going straight down.

Mr. Brown and Mr. Tilton then lowered, but they did not hurry about
it, for the whale had gone down less than a mile from the ship, and
it was likely that he would stay down for an hour. We pulled to the
spot we had chosen as the most likely, and waited, occasionally
pulling a few strokes to hold our position. Mr. Tilton was a quarter
of a mile away. While we waited, the ship worked up past us, and got
about a quarter of a mile directly to windward of us. Mr. Tilton
guessed nearer than Mr. Brown. The whale rose beyond Mr. Tilton’s
boat, coming up on a half-breach. We heard the tremendous splash of
it, and saw Mr. Tilton’s men begin to pull; then we began to pull,
and I saw no more of what was going on except the oars and the backs
of the men directly before my eyes, and Mr. Brown’s unexpressive
face, as he stood at the steering oar.

We chased that whale for nearly two hours before Azevedo had a chance
to strike. Then I saw Mr. Brown’s face light up.

“White water!” he said. “He ’s fast.”

I, for one, was glad. It is no play to pull a whaleboat into the
teeth of such a sea and wind as there was then.

“She spouts thin blood,” he added, a moment later. “Sounded.”

We took it easy after that, and soon came up with Mr. Tilton. The
whale had sounded out all his line before we got there, and the ship
was hull down to leeward, but coming as fast as she could.

There was nothing to do but to wait. The whale must have gone down
at a terrific rate, and he had gone straight {307} down, for he
came up in fifteen or twenty minutes, and a short distance ahead of
us. We pulled frantically. Just as I saw the huge body beginning to
show at the corner of my eye, half awash, the Prince darted with
all his strength, both irons, with great rapidity. At the same
moment Mr. Brown hove mightily upon the steering oar, to lay the
boat around, crying out to the Prince to take the lance to him. The
boat responded, and for a brief interval we ran with the whale, the
starboard oars against the gunwale, and I trying my best to get in
the slack of the line before we began to fall astern, while Kane held
my oar for me. The Prince had seized a lance almost before Mr. Brown
had got the words out of his mouth, and had plunged it twice into the
whale. Mr. Brown had given another twist to the steering oar, and we
sheered off just as the flukes struck the water with a noise like
a big gun and the effect of a cataract. I had let go the line and
grabbed my oar again, and we just did get out of the way as the whale
sounded, with a side cut of flukes.

He did not go deep enough to take out all our line, although he came
near it; but we held him there, with the bow of the boat pulled down
within a foot of the water, the stern raised a little, and every
other sea breaking into the boat, which kept Kane and me bailing.
Mr. Tilton came up, and he and Mr. Brown thought the whale done for;
virtually dead. The whale did not rise, and at last Mr. Tilton pulled
for the ship, which was coming up pretty fast, to get a new line.

Still we waited. The whale did not move. Mr. Tilton had boarded the
ship, got his line, and shoved off again. We began to wonder if it
was a dead whale that we had at the end of that line, and we all
relaxed. The whale had been down an hour, and Mr. Tilton was not
halfway to us, when the bow was suddenly released, and the stern fell
back gently, with a little splash. The strain on the line had eased,
and he was coming up. How fast he was coming, and {308} where he
would rise were questions of some interest, but no more than that. He
was a dead whale, or as good as dead.

I was aroused to something more than interest by the rasp of the
whale’s teeth against the boat, and his jaw shot into the air, it
seemed to me for fifty feet. As it passed me, I saw the tip of the
jaw was curled around into a tight spiral. That spiral jaw fascinated
me. I could not keep my eyes off it, and I did not think of the boat
spade. There was no time to use it, anyway, even if I had thought of
it. The whale had the boat fairly in his mouth, between the tub and
the after oar, and he lost no time in closing, biting it cleanly in
two. The water rushed in upon me, still sitting at my oar. I saw the
stern sheets fall square with the whale’s snout, and Mr. Brown step
off upon it and dive. Then the water closed over me for an instant;
but I had not let go my oar, and I came to the surface, sputtering,
and hugging the oar close. I do not remember that I was frightened,
but my whole attention was occupied, and I did not know what was
happening to the others, nor to myself, until I found myself on the
bottom of the forward half of the boat. I have often wondered just
how I got there.

As soon as I was in a condition to observe anything, I saw the whale
feebly butting the stern of the boat from side to side, about fifteen
feet away, while Black Man’el and Mr. Brown were swimming, Man’el as
if he were hurt. I saw Mr. Brown help Man’el to the steering oar,
which still swung there, and then the whale turned to our half of the
boat. His butts were so feeble—no more than gentle pushes—that we had
no difficulty in holding on; and, after pushing us about for two or
three minutes, he very simply rolled over upon his side, fin out.

Mr. Tilton’s crew had seen our predicament, and had been pulling
hard for us, and Mr. Macy had lowered from the ship. Mr. Tilton took
us off. Black Man’el was the only {309} one hurt. He had an ugly
wound in his arm, which the whale’s teeth had caught and ripped from
shoulder to elbow, but no bones were broken. I thought the boat
was hopelessly stove, and of no further use to anybody, except for
firewood; but Captain Nelson had Mr. Macy pick up the pieces, and
Peter afterward made another boat of them.

The whale made seventy-three barrels. His deformed jaw was saved
and cleaned, and when the Clearchus got home, it was added to the
collection of such curiosities. It is now in the Whaling Museum.

The outcome of the other fight was different. The officers were at
breakfast when we heard the cry from the masthead, and we all ran on
deck at once. There were many spouts, quite a large school, four or
five miles to leeward. We ran down for them, getting the boats and
their gear ready as we went; and at a distance of about a mile we
lowered four boats, all but Captain Coffin’s. His ankle was still
giving him some trouble, although he used it. I have no doubt that
that was just the reason it troubled him, for he had used it too soon
and too much, and he was a great heavy man.

The whales in the school were, most of them, rather small cows; but
there were two bulls of good size, about eighty or ninety barrels,
Mr. Brown guessed. The boats devoted their attention to them. There
was sea enough to make it easy to approach the whales, and they were
to leeward, which made it easier still. Mr. Baker and Mr. Macy took
one, while Mr. Tilton and Mr. Brown took the other. Mr. Baker struck
his whale first, and Mr. Macy did not get fast to him at all, for he
immediately ran to windward, not very fast, towing Mr. Baker, with
Mr. Macy in pursuit. I did not see much of it, naturally; but Mr.
Macy failed to catch him, and when he had taken Mr. Baker five miles
to windward of the ship, the whale increased his speed, and the line
parted. Starbuck had not been able to {310} get both irons into him,
and the second harpoon, skittering along on the top of the water, had
cut and frayed the line. I could imagine Mr. Baker’s flow of language
at that accident, which is one of the regular risks of the business.
There was nothing for the two boats to do but to get back and try to
find the rest of the school, but the school had gone. So had we.

Meanwhile we had struck our whale. We approached him from behind.
I heard the hoarse bellow of his spout getting nearer—he was the
loudest spouter I ever heard; we passed his flukes, which worked
slowly and lazily, for he had not seen us, and the sea made too much
noise for him to hear us; then we passed his small and his hump. Then
Mr. Brown nodded to the Prince, and he stood up, I suppose, although
I saw nothing of him. Then Mr. Brown laid the boat around, and we
ran spang into the whale’s body just aft of his fin, and the Prince
darted both of his irons as Mr. Brown yelled to us, “Stern all!” The
whale gave one convulsive leap ahead, his flukes went into the air,
and came down again, drenching everybody in the boat, and he sounded
instantly and rapidly. He took out line very fast, one tub and half
of the other; then he turned, and came up again as fast as he went
down. The line went out very nearly as fast when he was coming up as
when he went down, but it was held on the loggerhead, so that it did
not all go out. He breached a short distance from the boat, almost
his whole length out, falling back with a great noise and a splash
which filled us half full of water.

[Illustration: A NANTUCKET SLEIGH-RIDE]

Mr. Tilton, meanwhile, had been coming up as fast as he could, but
he was not yet up with us. The whale obligingly lay still, looking
about him with a malevolent eye, while we heaved in the slack of our
line. We had it almost in when he caught sight of Mr. Tilton’s boat,
and made for it instantly. Mr. Tilton withdrew a little, and the
whale changed his mind and sounded again, but not deep. {311} The
cows of the school had come up, and were hovering near, but not near
enough for Mr. Tilton to get any of them easily, and he had his eye
on our bull. The cows seemed to have lost their wits. They reminded
me of a flock of hens crossing the road, and they were as hard to
get. Our bull came up, and we managed to give Mr. Brown one chance
with the lance. The thrust had not reached any vital spot, and that
was all we could do, for the whale made up his mind to run.

He ran to leeward, but he ran under water, and we went off on our
sleigh-ride, accompanied by the whole school of cows. Now and then
he came up to spout, but we were slowly distancing Mr. Tilton. We
made several unavailing attempts, to pull up and lance, but the
only effect was to increase the speed of the whale. The ship was
hull down, and Mr. Tilton soon out of sight. That was early in the
forenoon. That whale ran until late in the afternoon before we were
able to pull up. As soon as he felt Mr. Brown’s lance, the whale
sounded, head first, his flukes grazing the bottom of the boat as he
went, and setting her to rolling, but not rolling her over. When he
felt her, he turned like a flash, and came up again, obliquely at us,
mouth open and belly up, thrusting and striking with his jaw. Most
fortunately he did not stove the boat, but rolled it over, merely
chipping the gunwale with his teeth.

Then he seemed to think that he had done damage enough—in which
matter I agreed with him—probably settled us; and he lay about fifty
feet away, snapping his spout hole and snapping his jaws, giving
every evidence of extreme irritation, but not attacking. We should
have been helpless if he had, and should have had to take to the
water, and scatter. He was spouting thin blood, and probably in no
great distress. I remember that several of the men, clinging to the
bottom of the overturned boat, coolly discussed the color of the
spout, and concluded that the whale was not seriously hurt, even with
two harpoons in him, and two thrusts of the lance. {312}

We slowly drifted nearer, until we rose and fell side by side, the
boat occasionally rubbing against him, but he gave us no attention.
The cows had disappeared. He lay there for over an hour, until we saw
Mr. Tilton coming up under sail. When the whale caught sight of Mr.
Tilton’s boat, he made for it at once, snapping his jaws. Mr. Tilton
then had his sail down, and he backed away, evading the rush of the
whale, and putting an iron into him. Upon feeling the iron, the whale
ran again. He had not gone far, however,—not above a quarter of a
mile,—when the line went slack, showing that the iron had drawn. We
did not see that whale again, nor our two harpoons and tub of line.
It was long after dark when we got aboard the ship, pretty well worn
out.

The experience with that whale rankled in my mind for a long time. To
think that any whale could do about as he pleased with two boats and
twelve men, keep the men working hard for about ten hours, and then
get away with harpoons and line, was almost too much. It exasperated
me. Even when we were off the Solomon Islands, well on our way to New
Zealand, I was thinking of it, and complained of it to Peter, for
about the hundredth time.

He laughed comfortably. “Still thinking o’ that, lad?” he asked.
“You ’d best forget it. It ’s all in the day’s work. The others
have forgot it long ago. Whales ’d be poor sort o’ critters if they
did n’t get the better of us some o’ the time. When you come to think
of it, it ’s a wonder we ever get a whale. Why, they ought to kill us
all, and they would if they had any brains in that monstrous head of
theirs.”

{313}



CHAPTER XXXII


For some time Captain Coffin was excited and restless; even more
restless than usual, and he was always a restless and active man.
Although he would sometimes sit still for long periods, he left
you with the impression of activity, of tension, as though he was
prepared instantly for anything. At such times his eyes were very
bright, and from time to time his head turned alertly. I had no doubt
that he was hatching possible plans for the recapture of the Battles,
or, at any rate, that his brain was seething with ideas, probably
chaotic, which he was trying to reduce to something like order. We
were in the seas for which he was certain that she was bound, the one
refuge of every mutinous or piratical crew.

All of us had been thinking more or less of the Battles. My own
thoughts, I remember, were about equally divided between her and
cannibalism. Cannibalism always has a peculiar fascination for the
minds of young and old, although we older people pretend that it
is the scientific side, the history of the race, and the origin of
the practice that fascinates us. For a boy it is the gruesomeness
that fascinates, and I made no pretense about it. We had passed the
Solomons, about which I had heard various horrible tales, and were
passing the Fijis. We did not even see the Fijis, although I stood at
the rail for about two hours, straining my eyes to the eastward for a
possible sight of them, while the brisk trade wind blew in my face. I
got something out of it: dreams of coral islands, and of breadfruit
and coconuts, and the soothing of that great, steady wind upon my
spirit. I do not know what Captain Coffin got out of it. I saw him
standing at the main rigging, doing the same thing. {314}

When we got to the New Zealand grounds we began at once the regular
routine of cruising, but saw no whales for three days. We did see two
whalers, one of them from home, having sailed a week or two after we
did, and come around the Horn. This was the Henry, Captain Jefferson.
We lay to for the whole of that day, while we had a good gam, Captain
Nelson going aboard her for the forenoon, and their first mate coming
aboard of us. In the afternoon the two captains adjourned to the
Clearchus, and the Henry’s mate went back, followed by Mr. Baker in
his boat. The Henry had no mail for us—none for me, at least—and I
did not send any of my journal by her, only a brief letter to my
mother, for the chances were that we should get home as soon as she.
Each captain had whaling news of value to the other, and possibly
the rum on the Clearchus was different from the Henry’s, and they
wanted to compare them. Captain Jefferson put off about sunset, and
Mr. Baker came back. Much to the disappointment of Captain Nelson,
Captain Jefferson knew nothing about any new cruising ground, the
place where the Apollo had filled up.

A couple of days later we raised the spouts of a small pod of fairly
large whales, and got one of fifty barrels, which Mr. Macy killed.
The other boats chased for three hours in a heavy combing sea, but
the whales got away. After that we had the usual luck, nothing
extraordinary. We chased a good many times with no result, and got
three whales which gave up their lives quietly. The whales on the New
Zealand grounds were rather big fellows, for the most part, sixty
barrels and upward; and some have been taken there which ran well
over one hundred barrels—one of one hundred and thirty-seven barrels,
I believe, although we took none over eighty. Several of these large
whales gave us trouble.

The first of these was met when we had been there about three weeks.
The weather was boisterous, as it was {315} apt to be while we were
on those grounds. We raised a lone spout, very full and powerful, on
the lee bow. The whale was not feeding, but was coming to windward,
and we lowered three boats at once, Mr. Brown’s, Mr. Macy’s, and
Captain Coffin’s. Captain Coffin was hardly in condition yet to be
of the most service, but he was so eager to go that Captain Nelson
let him. All three boats pulled out ahead of the whale to cut him
off, and waited. When we first sighted the spout it was above three
miles distant, the whale swimming in a business-like way and making
five or six knots. We had plenty of time, therefore, to get into good
positions, and we drifted down before the wind directly upon his
course.

As he was approaching us head on, and as we were drifting without the
use of sail or oars—although the men had their oars in their hands
and held them in place, ready to use—there was nothing to give the
whale warning of our presence, and he came on quite unalarmed. When
he was a short distance away, he changed his course slightly, and it
looked, for some seconds, as though he would hit the boat, head on,
but Mr. Brown laid the boat around a bit, and we pulled a couple of
strokes. The next moment his old head, like a cliff of black granite,
weather-seamed and scarred, rose just beyond the bow oar. He spouted
and pitched under like a flash; but the Prince drove one iron into
him just above the fin. There was no chance for the second. The boat
whirled around quickly, and we were off, with the thrashing flukes
almost abeam. The next spout was thin blood.

The Prince and Mr. Brown changed places, and Mr. Brown called to
us to pull him up close so that he could put in another iron. No
sooner had we dropped our oars and laid hold of the line to pull,
than the whale milled short around, brought his nose accurately to
the stem of the boat without giving Mr. Brown a chance, and pushed
us fast astern. It was a delicate job for the Prince to hold {316}
us straight with the steering oar, and not to let the boat swing
around broadside, but for a boat length he did it. Mr. Brown, during
that time, was pushing with all his strength on the harpoon, the
sharp point against the whale’s rubber-like snout, but the barb
did not enter. We heard and saw the whale’s jaw snap up twice, but
of course it did not reach the boat. He spouted, sending the acrid
vapor, thinly mixed with blood, over us, setting us all to choking,
and almost turning me inside out. Then he withdrew a little, and
lay there wallowing in the seas, snapping his jaw, and snapping his
spout-hole with loud cracks. Sperm whales can snap the spout-hole,
which is shaped much like the _f_-hole of a violin, with tremendous
force. Meanwhile he was eyeing us with a malevolent eye, and no
wonder.

The other boats were coming up; they were nearly there. Mr. Brown
thought he saw a chance, and ordered us to pull up close. We did,
and the whale still lay there wallowing. We grounded on his back,
and Mr. Brown pumped his lance up and down twice. There was no time
for more, for the whale went down suddenly, with a flourish of his
flukes, barely missing us. He did not go deep, however, for while we
were watching the line and the sea, he floated up under us, belly up,
with his jaw almost at right angles with his body. There was no time
to escape. That jaw came down with a quick snap, cutting the boat
cleanly in two between the tub-and the after-oar, spilling the men
into the sea, and getting a tubful of line entangled in his teeth. I
saw him spout thick blood just as I went over, clinging to my oar.

When I had come to the surface, and had cleared the water out of my
eyes, the whale was trying to get rid of that tub of whale line. I
could hardly help laughing, although my situation was not one for
laughter, the whale reminded me so strongly of a person who had got
a mouthful of hair, or of the bristles from an old toothbrush. He
{317} seemed to feel almost the same disgust. The two other boats,
coming up, were almost at his flukes, and the ship had come very
near. The whale caught sight of her, and instantly made for her with
a vigor unexpected in a whale that spouts thick blood. The ship was
broadside on, and her sails were already aback, so that she could do
nothing. The whale struck her with his head amidships. If he had been
merely angry, and not hurt, that butting might very well have been
a catastrophe for us. But the vigor with which he had started had
ebbed rapidly away, and his butt was feeble, although I saw the upper
masts quiver, and the masthead man was rattled about like a die in a
box. Then he drew off and rammed again. That second attempt was more
feeble yet. He could do no more than rub against the hull; and he
passed under her, and floated to the surface on the other side, fin
out, with no flurry, unless his feeble buttings had been his flurry.

Mr. Macy and Captain Coffin were picking us up. The tub-oarsman was
found floating amid the wreckage, his arm over his oar, unconscious.
He did not recover consciousness for an hour, but then seemed to be
all right. He must have been hit on the head by something, nobody
could guess what. They would have thought it the teeth of the whale,
except that the lower jaw, which contains all the teeth, is too
narrow to reach both the tub-and the after-oarsman; and Black Man’el
was again severely mauled by the teeth of the whale, on the same
side that was so recently healed. This time it was not his arm, but
his back. On that ebony surface there were three or four bloody
wipes, where the teeth had ripped it in the process of closing. Black
Man’el, however, did not miss a day’s duty on account of it, taking
his regular place in the boat when it was called away, although his
back must have been lame and sore for days.

That whale made eighty-five barrels. As I was watching the mates
cutting off the head, Peter stopped for a moment beside me. {318}

“He’s a scarred old lad,” he said, “is n’t he, Timmie? Do you see the
marks of teeth he ’s carried around for many a year?”

I did see them; old scars of the teeth of some other bull, running
up diagonally from his mouth. That other bull must have bitten deep,
for each tooth-mark was separate, and still formed a little hollow,
like the little weathered hollows in a rock, where water gathers, or
the regular marks of a drill. There were other scars, too, of wounds
where the teeth seemed to have ripped and torn their way viciously.

“How do they get those scars, Peter? Fighting, I suppose; but how do
they fight?”

“I ’ve never seen them fighting, lad. But those who have seen it tell
me that they draw off from each other a little way, and go at each
other full tilt. They turn on their side, like, to give their jaws
play, and bite and wrench and tear. Sometimes they ’ll use their jaws
like fencing foils, without drawing off; but however they do it, they
must be savage at it. If they fence, they don’t wear masks.”

“Shall we see fighting whales, Peter?”

He smiled. “We may see ’most anything, lad. It ’s hard to tell. I ’ve
never seen ’em, but perhaps my turn is due for that this voyage.”

I wished fervently that we might see it. I watched for it with new
interest, and whenever we raised a pod I hoped that they might take
it into their heads to fight—fight among themselves, not us. I told
Peter of my hope one day.

“Bless your heart, lad,” he said, unsmiling, which was good of him,
“they won’t fight. They ’re in the same school. Wait until you see a
schoolmaster take on a fellow of about the same size that ’s trying
to get his job. Then you may see it.”

I knew nothing about schoolmasters, but I was ashamed {319} to ask,
and I said nothing. We were trying-out at the time, and the air was
filled with the acrid black smoke of scrap, and the deck covered with
oil mixed with soot. Only the day before we had raised a pod of large
whales, and I had had great hopes, for they were of a size to make a
good fight if they took a notion to. But nothing seemed farther from
their intention than to fight among themselves. They led us a very
pretty chase—from their point of view. We were pulling hard after
them from sunrise until noon. Mr. Macy had the only chance. George
Hall got an iron well into one, but it twisted off near the head, and
all got away.

We had scarcely got the boats on the davits when a whale rose and
spouted, not a hundred yards from the ship. Mr. Baker bellowed out
for a crew on the instant, and I ran to his boat, the first one
there. The Prince, Peter, Kane, and the Admiral were the others. We
had the boat in the water, tumbled in, and were pulling for the whale
in less than a minute. The Prince struck with both irons, and the
whale sounded at once, with a grand flourish of flukes. He sounded
out very nearly all our line; so nearly all of it that we bent on a
drug, while Mr. Baker hailed the ship for more. Mr. Tilton’s boat was
already in the water, beginning to pull toward us, but we held the
whale at that depth, with but two flakes of line left in the tub.

Although that whale had not nearly had his spoutings out, he stayed
down over an hour. Mr. Tilton stood by, his line bent to the end of
ours, but Mr. Baker would not give up the whale until he had to. When
the whale rose at last, he did not come up with a rush, on a breach,
or half-breach, but he floated up, and came to the surface like an
old waterlogged timber, plainly exhausted. There was nothing for Mr.
Baker to do but to pull up and lance him at his leisure. Within ten
minutes the whale was in his flurry, and in a short time after he was
fast alongside the {320} ship. Mr. Baker estimated him at eighty
barrels, but by hard work we had him cut-in and on board by dark, and
the carcass cut adrift.

It was now past the middle of the season, and we put into Wellington
to fill our water-casks, to give the men a run ashore, and to get our
mail. There was no mail for me, but I sent home another instalment
of my journal, and I saw the town, which had little interest for me.
There was only one town which I cared about seeing, and that was more
than a year away, almost exactly on the other side of the world. I
had a great desire to see at least one of the Marquesas Islands, but
Wellington is not the Marquesas.

When we got back to our cruising grounds, whales were getting scarce
and wild and difficult of approach. The big whales seemed to have
gone. We did get one forty-barrel bull, one of a small school that
was running to leeward from another ship. We saw the ship in the
distance, and we saw her boats; but the whales were running faster
than the boats could go. Our one bull we intercepted, but the rest
ran away from us, straight to leeward, head out. It was useless to
chase them. The strange boats did not get nearer to us than a mile
and a half; then they gave it up, and went back to their ship, which
bore away to the southward without an attempt to speak us.

Captain Nelson must have made up his mind very suddenly to get out of
those waters. As soon as the trying-out of the forty-barrel bull was
finished we stood away to the northward, for the Ellices, Gilberts,
and Kingsmill; but most of all, I thought, to find those mysterious
grounds where the Apollo had filled up. Just after we had filled
away, Peter found me, and pointed in silence to the horizon. There
was a faint haze, but I made out a pair of topmasts, with yards on
them.

“A brig?” I asked, with but faint interest.

“A schooner,” Peter answered. “I saw her from aloft.” {321}

It dawned upon me then; it was the Battles, going the same way we
were. I watched her draw away from us. Then I saw Captain Coffin
watching, too.

{322}



CHAPTER XXXIII


As we ran to the northward, we had the wind on the beam or aft of
that, most of the time, usually brisk to strong, as fair a wind
as we could have wished for. The hurricane season was about to
begin. Hurricanes are most frequent in March and April, although
occasionally there is a severe one toward the last of February;
and their tracks most commonly cross the Fiji or Samoan Islands
in a general southerly direction, then curving more and more to
the eastward. We stood well to the west of Fiji, and were past the
Ellices before the end of the southern summer, so that we escaped
them entirely—if there were any—and were usually running about as
fast as the old Clearchus was able, under the southeast trades, and
under a regular trade-wind sky.

It was seldom necessary to touch a brace or a halliard, and our
crew had very little to do. The mastheads were kept manned, but I
soon came to the conclusion that that was done merely as a matter
of form, or from habit, and not for any practical purpose, for we
raised spouts on two occasions on our way up without lowering or even
changing the course. Each time Captain Nelson came on deck, looked at
the spoutings for a couple of minutes, and turned away without saying
anything. And each time Mr. Baker asked him, “Lower, sir?” rather
wistfully, and the old man shook his head, and went below again. I
did not know what to make of it, and Mr. Baker did not seem to know
either. He appeared to be dumbfounded—completely flabbergasted—and he
looked after the captain, and, on the second occasion, I heard him
mutter that he ’d be eternally damned to hell-fire, or words to that
effect—with sundry embellishments—if he knew what the captain was up
to. I made up my mind that the idea of finding the {323} mythical
Apollo island obsessed him. We had over two thousand barrels on
board, and needed only three or four hundred to fill us up. Think of
the disappointment of finding a gold mine, with nowhere to put the
gold! Easy money, for the mere picking up, and no way of carrying it
off.

I had always been in the habit of standing by the bulwarks, when I
had the chance, or sitting curled up in some favorable spot with an
unobstructed view, and watching the water and the sky. There was
more chance now than usually, and I would stand by the main rigging,
or lie in a coil of rope by the heel of the bowsprit, for an hour
at a time, and watch the Southern Ocean slip by. I generally had
the “Navigators” in my hand, held open by my thumb, but I read very
little. It is fine print, and it was much more interesting to watch
the trade wind clouds, or to glance at the swaying masthead men, or
at the birds which accompanied us. There was usually a frigate-bird
or two, or a tropic-bird, although these birds were rare; gannets
and boobies and terns and many others. It was my delight to see a
frigate-bird rise majestically in great circles, higher and higher,
without a motion of his wings or his body that I could detect, until
he was a mere speck in the blue. At sight of flying fish rising in
flight, perhaps before albacore, or of a gannet or a booby that had
been successful in fishing, he begins to drop, at first in circles;
when still at a considerable height, he closes his wings, makes his
body miraculously small, falls like a stone or a bullet, and comes
up before the poor gannet, threatening, the robber that he is! The
gannet instantly drops the fish, the frigate dives through the air,
and, getting it before it has fallen far, rises to eat. He did not
always get his fish by robbery, but caught flying fish at the height
of their flight in the air. I never saw one dive into the sea, and
the men said they were unable to rise from the water, but must keep
on the wing, waking or sleeping, from land to land. {324} I never
saw one rob a tropic-bird either, but they used sometimes to threaten
the masthead men.

One morning I was standing by the rail, Captain Coffin pacing the
deck behind me, although it was not his watch. I should not speak of
him as Captain, for he was not captain on the Clearchus, although I
suppose still captain of the Battles. We had run out of the trades,
and we were trying to make an easterly course, but we were not making
out very well. We had frequent showers, some of which were almost of
the proportions of deluges; and calms and light airs from any point
of the compass about a quarter of the time. When the wind did come,
it was mostly ahead, and we made little progress. On the night before
this morning, I remember, there was a great deal of phosphorescence
in the water. The ship was scarcely moving, but the little ripples
at her bow glowed brightly; her wake was a luminous road, stretching
out far astern, every whirl and eddy a vortex of living light. I saw
a shark clearly outlined in greenish light, and a sudden burst of
fireworks at a little distance showed where a school of flying fish
had been disturbed and driven from the water like the balls of a
roman candle.

I was thinking of those flying fish as I stood by the rail that
morning, and I had brought my old battered glass along. It was a
calm morning, hot and sticky, the sea fairly quiet. Suddenly I saw
what I thought must be a school of flying fish break the water about
a quarter of a mile away and take their flight. They looked too big
for flying fish, their flight in the air too short, and I brought my
glass to bear. I soon caught them again, and they certainly did not
look like fish, but I was not ready to believe they were what they
looked like. I turned to Captain Coffin, and asked him.

He stopped by my side, waving the glass away when I offered it to
him. The creatures soon appeared again, coming out of the water in a
spurt or gust. {325}

“Oh,” he said, “flying squid.”

“But,” I asked, “do squid fly?”

He laughed. “No,” he said, “no more than flying fish fly—nor so much.
As you see. There must be something chasing them.”

At this moment the musical, quavering cry of the Admiral came down to
us: “Bl-o-o-ows!”

The spout was dead to windward, about five or six miles off. I, at
any rate, could not see it from the deck, even with my glass, there
was such a quiver of heated air at the horizon. Captain Nelson came
on deck, went up to the main crosstrees, and stayed there for some
time, watching. When he came down Captain Coffin asked him what he
made of it.

“Can’t make out,” he answered. “Something queer going on. May be
swordfish, or perhaps those big sharks; or killers, except for the
latitude. We ’ll stand up that way as fast as we can.”

“Lower, sir?” Mr. Baker asked, knowing well what the answer was
likely to be.

Captain Nelson shook his head. “Not yet.”

It took us a long time to get up anywhere near, but the spout
remained very nearly stationary, and there was considerable white
water raised about it. The light breeze, nearly dead ahead, died out,
and we wallowed there for a quarter of an hour, in a flat calm. But
we were near enough to see what was going on, and I watched through
my glass. There were two whales instead of one, very different
in size. The smaller of the two seemed to be the centre of the
commotion, and I caught several glimpses of bodies, gleaming brightly
as they broke the surface for an instant. There must have been five
or six of them, but I could not tell certainly whether they were
sharks or swordfish or what. I had never seen a killer. The larger
whale was making short, savage dashes at the attacking fish, but
without any marked result, so far as I could see. {326}

I handed the glass to Captain Coffin. “Won’t you look, sir, and tell
me what they are?”

“I don’t really need the glass, boy,” he said, “to tell me that
they ’re sharks.” But he took it, and held it to his eyes. “Sharks;
big devils, twenty-five or thirty feet long. That whale ’s a small
cow, and she must have a small calf under her fin. That ’s what the
sharks are after, and they ’ll get it, too, if we don’t get a breeze
pretty quick.”

Small difference it could make to the whale what got it! They were
still keeping up the fight vigorously when a cooler breath came out
of the southeast. It was only a puff, but soon there was another,
which lasted longer; and before many minutes the breath of cooler air
was steady, and growing stronger. We were just on the northern edge
of the southeast trades, and had edged into them, or they had passed
us, which amounted to the same thing. Captain Nelson had been edging
to the southward for some days, with just that in view.

We gathered way again, and when we had got near enough, Captain
Nelson ordered Mr. Baker and Mr. Brown to lower. The order he gave,
however, reduced Mr. Baker to a stupefied silence.

“I don’t want you should hurt the whales,” he said quietly, as if
it were the most natural thing in the world for a whaler not to
want to hurt whales. “Drive off those sharks, and kill them if you
can. I ’m going to try to keep those spouts in sight,” he went on,
probably thinking that some explanation was necessary, or his mates
might think he was losing his mind. “I ’m going to keep those spouts
in sight, and see if they don’t lead us to something worth while.”
And he turned away, muttering that it should be hereabouts if it was
anywhere.

We lowered, and pulled hard for the scene of combat. It was full
time, for the cow was bitten and torn in many places, and could
not have kept up the fight much longer. The larger whale—a bull, I
thought—seemed {327} about ready to give it up, and take himself
off. There were six of the big sharks, but one of them was so badly
hurt by one of the whales that he could barely drag himself off, and
all of them had been marked. The insensibility of sharks to pain
or injury is an extraordinary thing. This one had been cut nearly
in two, but he had kept up the fight, his viscera trailing behind
him in a long festoon, until one of the others had relieved him of
them. The other sharks did not molest him further, being too intent
on getting the more delicate morsel, which we could see by the side
of its mother. Nearly the whole of one side of its flukes had been
bitten off, and it was somewhat torn in several places, although not
seriously injured.

We put the sharks to flight, killing three, after one of them, in his
thrashings, had got his tail into the boat, and wiped me across the
cheek. It was like a wipe with a rasp, or coarse sandpaper, and took
the outer skin completely off my right cheek. It was a long time in
healing, and I had to be at my duties for nearly a month, with half
my head tied up as if I had the toothache.

The whales were going, swimming slowly, probably because of the
injuries to the cow, and to the reduced speed of the calf, owing to
the loss of one fluke. The bull was at some distance, but he seemed
to regulate his speed by that of the cow. We got back to the ship,
one side of my face a mass of blood, and blood which had dripped into
my shirt. I must have been a frightful-looking object. Such a hurt
makes a great show, and always looks much worse than it is. I do not
remember that I felt anything more than the inconvenience of it, and
of having my head tied up for so long. Nobody thought it necessary to
put anything on it—iodine or alcohol, or anything of the kind. I drew
a bucket of sea-water, and washed most of the blood off, but that was
all.

We stood off at once after the whales. Fortunately, they did not
swim directly to windward, and the ship was able {328} to make the
course, and to keep up with them. They seemed to be making for some
definite place, and at nightfall we were not far behind them. Even
Mr. Baker appeared to think that the old man knew what he was about.
We reduced sail for the night, although it could have been no better
than a guess on Captain Nelson’s part how far he should reduce speed.
With the first gleam of light—a little before six o’clock, or four
bells, for we were not many degrees south of the equator—our best
men were sent to the mastheads. Our best lookout was the Admiral, a
Kanaka. There were no spouts to be seen. We had lost the whales. Sail
was crowded on, and the Clearchus was soon making good speed under
the steady trades, which had grown much stronger since the day before.

We held on the course on which we had been sailing for nearly three
hours. Then the Admiral’s quavering cry came down to us, for he was
the first to see it.

“Ah bl-o-o-ows!”

It was a musical cry, but given with indifference. He had seen
too many spouts to become excited over two and a half; for he had
detected the little spout of the calf, close alongside its mother.
There was no doubt that there was our quarry, although still miles
away. We kept on after them, and continued to gain slowly, for
another hour, the officers keeping an eye on the spouts, which we
could now see from the deck, and occasionally glancing up at the
Admiral. We had had breakfast, and I was doing the same thing as the
officers, from my perch on the heel of the bowsprit. Suddenly I saw
the Admiral straighten up. He looked far out ahead as if he could not
believe his eyes. Then he gave an excited cry.

“Bl-o-ws! Ah bl-o-ws!” It was not as musical as we were used to hear
from the Admiral. “Blows! Big school! Hunnud whale! All over!” And he
waved his arm to include a wide arc.

I could not see the new spouts, of course, from my place {329} on
deck, and I sprang into the fore rigging, clasping my old glass,
which I had brought up with me after breakfast. Many others of the
men swarmed up, but I was first, and I went rapidly up as far as I
could get, and put the glass to my eyes.

I did not see them at first, for it was about four bells—ten o’clock
in the forenoon—I was looking to the eastward, directly into the
glare, and I was expecting to see them nearer than they were; but at
last I saw them. There were many spouts in the air at once over a
wide arc of the sea; and the sun shining on them all, and glorifying
them into tiny ostrich plumes, each on Ann McKim’s hat.

Every time that I saw a sperm whale’s spout with the sun shining
upon it, I thought of that hat of Ann McKim. Ann McKim was a few
months older than I—she is yet, although that fact is not generally
published—and when I left home she had just got her first plumed hat.
It was a big, broad-brimmed hat of dark blue satin—or velvet, I do
not know which—with a generous white ostrich plume sticking up from
the brim at just the angle of a sperm whale’s spout. I know she had
bought it with her own money, and had trimmed it herself, for she
told me so. No doubt such a hat was absurd, especially on a girl of
fifteen, but it did not seem absurd to her, nor to me when I saw her
with it on, the Sunday before I came away. But Ann McKim was sweet
and lovely, and she would have lent beauty to any hat she chose to
wear.

The large school of whales did not seem to be going anywhere in
particular as a body, although the individuals of the school
continually moved about, or sounded, or came up again. They may have
been feeding. The bull and the wounded cow and calf which we had been
chasing were evidently meaning to join the school, and we followed
them, getting all the boats ready for lowering as we went. We were
now getting the full sweep of the trades, steady and strong, and we
gained on the three whales, so {330} that we were in a position to
see well what happened when they neared the school.

A big bull swam out from the school to inspect the newcomers. He was
not old and scarred, as most of the lone whales were, but as big as
any of them, and in his prime. Although we were not far off, that
means perhaps half a mile; and as but little of the whales was out
of water, I could not see with any certainty what went on. The big
bull at once joined the cow, and swam beside her for some distance,
apparently trying to persuade her to leave her lord and come with
him; an unnecessary proceeding, as that was just what she was doing.
He seemed to pay no attention to the calf. It was no concern of his.
The cow swam on, and took no notice of him, so far as I could see,
but the other bull did not like it. He was not so very much smaller
than the big one, and before I realized that there was anything on
the programme, here he was, coming for the big bull, fire in his eye,
I could imagine, and jaw dropped. When he was a hundred feet away,
he turned over, nearly on his back, apparently, for I saw his jaw
projecting above the surface of the water.

The big bull was aware of the other just in time to slip out of the
way, but not in time to escape entirely. The jaw closed on his small,
and I saw the wounds made by the teeth, which tore out great pieces
of blubber and flesh. By what seemed agreement, the two big whales
turned about as soon as they could and went at each other full tilt.
Their jaws locked, and they wrestled there for a minute, each seeming
to try to break the jaw of the other, and tearing and thrashing the
water into boiling fountains of spray. As we found out later, great
gobs of flesh were torn from the sides of their heads. After a while
they broke their hold, I could not see how, and they backed off and
went at it again.

This time the fight was fiercer than before, and it was impossible to
see what was happening, or to see anything {331} but white water.
This round was a little longer than the first. The performance was
repeated two or three times, and then I saw the boiling white water
gradually become quiet. The two great bodies lay there for a few
seconds, head to head; then the smaller of the whales moved off
slowly away from the school. He seemed to have lost all interest in
the cow, and the bigger one, satisfied that the other had definitely
given up the fight, let him go in peace. Both whales seemed to be in
distress. I saw the big one, as he swam to join the school, raise his
head completely out of water two or three times, and his jaw seemed
to be slewed around so that it would not close properly. He had
difficulty in moving it at all.

Up to this point it had not seemed to be a propitious time for
lowering, but when the fight was over, Mr. Tilton lowered at once,
and went after the vanquished bull. He was still moving slowly, and
the boat easily overtook him, and got fast. He made no fight at all,
but lay fin out in fifteen minutes. His jaw was hanging down queerly,
and when we got him alongside and began to cut-in, we found that it
had been broken short off, and was hanging by the flesh. Many of his
teeth were stove out, and he had terrible wounds in the head.

Meanwhile the ship had kept off after the school, which began to show
signs of moving along. We got pretty near it, however, and lowered
three more boats, but we did not succeed in getting whales of any
size. The school consisted principally of rather small cows, under
the charge of two or three bulls as schoolmasters. We could not find
the bull which had been fighting, and did not look for the others,
for schoolmasters are always pugnacious devils. They have to be.
We managed to get three small cows of about twenty barrels apiece
before the school was well under way and left us. One of these cows
was lost during the night, stripped by sharks and broken adrift, and
much of another fell a prey to the sharks. Four whales at once {332}
alongside is almost too much to take care of. We got the blubber all
hove in by sunset of the next day, and the carcasses cut adrift. They
made only a hundred and twelve barrels altogether, only about as much
as we might have expected to get from one really big whale in those
waters.

{333}



CHAPTER XXXIV


As soon as the trying-out was finished, we stood off to the
southeast, or a little southerly of that. The trades here were
blowing strong from the east, and that was as close as the Clearchus
would sail. After a day of this, we came about on the other tack. We
could none of us understand why, unless some of the officers did,
but the large school of whales had disappeared almost directly to
windward, and Captain Nelson may have been trying to see where they
had gone. There was a fairly rapid drift of the surface water, also
from the east, as would be expected. Although I knew practically
nothing about it, I had formed the theory that whales generally
travelled against the warmer ocean currents. I had not carried my
theory so far as to account for their doing so, but I supposed it had
to do with the food supply. That seems reasonable now, for it is at
the bottom of all migrations; not comfort, nor pleasure, but food,
and the ease of getting it.

We did not see that school again, but early in the morning of the
second day, being then in longitude 162° W., latitude 8° S., by the
captain’s—and my own—observations, we came upon three islands. They
were very small islands, roughly about a mile long and half a mile
wide, each a sort of crescent, and forming, as I now think, parts of
the rim of a crater but recently elevated above the surface. They
were not shown on any of our charts, and could not have been exposed
to the sun and winds and waves for many years, for they were almost
utterly bare; perhaps a hundred feet high at the highest point, and
showing nothing but rock and dried mud and ooze from the bed of the
sea. We did not land on them, but at only one place could I make
out with my glass a spot of {334} green, and that was only about a
couple of feet square. Possibly some bird had dropped a seed there,
or a coconut had drifted ashore, or the seeds of beach grass in a
mass of drifting seaweed. Beaches had begun to form, especially on
the windward side.

The captain having satisfied himself about the waters, we began
cruising for whales in earnest, for we had seen a couple of pods
earlier in the day. We had almost sunk the islands below the horizon
before we raised another spout. While we were in this neighborhood
a day rarely passed without our seeing any. There were two spouts
this time. We worked the ship to windward of them, and lowered three
boats, leaving Mr. Tilton and Captain Coffin aboard the ship. Before
we reached them, the whales sounded, without having seen us, and we
waited, tossing on the seas, for them to rise.

When we had waited for nearly an hour, they suddenly spouted near Mr.
Baker and Mr. Macy, at the other end of the line from us. We had not
seen them rise. All three boats started for them. We had a long way
to go, and it was hard pulling, for the sea was heavy. The ship was
well to windward, and the whales had spread out. None of us could see
what was going on ahead of us, but we were putting our last ounce of
strength into pulling—at least, I was—when Mr. Brown told us to take
it easy, for they had sounded again. I was glad that they had shown
so much sense.

Those whales kept up that sort of thing for five risings, always
working to windward slowly, and the ship working to windward ahead of
us. It got to be nearly sunset, and the ship showed a little white
flag at her peak, recalling us. We did not know it, however, as we
were keeping head to the sea, and the ship was behind our backs. Mr.
Brown knew it. At that moment one of the whales rounded out directly
astern, and head on. As it was a good chance, Mr. Brown ignored the
signal, heaving on the steering oar, and laying the boat around.
{335}

“Now,” he said, “a dozen good strokes, boys.”

We gave him a dozen, and then a dozen more. He nodded to the Prince,
who took in his oar swiftly and silently, and stood up. The black
head of the whale shot by, and Mr. Brown threw all his weight on the
oar, bringing the boat’s head around.

“Give it to him!” he cried. “Stern all!”

The Prince had darted; he threw his second iron just as we bumped
terrifically into the body of the whale. Then we backed off as the
flukes went into the air, came down on the surface thunderously, and
swept from side to side. Again his flukes went up, and the whale
sounded. He sounded at great speed and the line whistled out of the
tub. I confess that I was afraid of it as the coils writhed past my
hands and pounded a tattoo on my oar. One tub was out. There had been
no time for Mr. Brown and the Prince to change places, and a “drug”
was being bent on to the end of the line in the second tub, as fast
as the men could work. It was no sooner fast than it was whisked out
of their hands and overboard.

Mr. Brown smiled slowly. “Well,” he said, “that was soon settled.
Looks as if the joke was on us. Guess we ’d better have let him
alone.”

The whale had gone off with two irons, two tubs of line, and a drug.
The chance was that we should never see any of them again, for it
was almost too dark to see anything, and it would be pitch-black in
half an hour. We turned and pulled easily toward the ship, which was
showing a light, two miles to windward. The boat lanterns were set
before we had gone far.

We had made perhaps half the distance to the ship when we heard, out
of the darkness ahead, shouts and commands and a commotion in the
water that was more than the wash of the sea. Mr. Brown peered ahead.

He could not make out much. “Stand up, Tony,” he said, “and see what
you make it. By the sounds it ’s Mr. Baker, and he ’s fast.” {336}

The Prince stood up. Those black men have a strange faculty of seeing
in the dark. He reported that it was Mr. Baker fast to a whale, and
he thought it was our whale.

By this time we were almost up with the commotion. Mr. Brown headed
us over that way, and we pulled harder. As soon as we were within
hail he called out, asking if the whale had irons in him. I could not
see what the state of affairs was, for I had to keep my eyes astern;
but I judged from the sounds that Mr. Baker was close alongside, and
was lancing, or just about to. The answer was that the whale had
irons in him.

“Those irons are mine,” Mr. Brown shouted, “and I want to kill him!”

I was surprised, for I did not see then, and I do not see now, why it
should be any pleasure to a man like Mr. Brown to pump a lance up and
down in the in’ards of a whale. If it had been Mr. Baker I could have
understood it.

Between grunts and curses Mr. Baker replied that it was too late, for
he had just attended to that matter, and we had better go astern a
little, as the whale was going into his flurry.

Mr. Brown said nothing—there was nothing to say—and the whale
proceeded to turn fin out without any flurry at all.

Mr. Baker then set his lights to signal the ship, and she bore down
upon us. It was a long, hard job getting that whale alongside in
the pitch darkness and the heavy sea, and it was not done and the
men on board until very late in the evening. Even then it was not
done, we found. Lying hove to, as we were, the ship forging ahead a
little, with a very heavy sea running, she would bring up, at every
roll, with a tremendous jerk on the fluke chain. At last the chain
parted—shackle pin snapped—and the carcass began to drift away. It
was Mr. Macy’s watch, and he sprang quickly into the quarter boat,
bent the line {337} to an iron, and struck as the body drifted
beneath him. He checked it with the line, and managed to get another
iron in, fast to a second line, before it had drifted out of reach.
Then the lines were paid out to their whole length, and the spring of
the lines held the carcass until sunrise. In the morning we had all
our work to do over again, but we got the blubber hove aboard before
sunset. The whale made sixty-five barrels.

While we were trying-out that whale we raised another pod or small
school. It was early in the afternoon. The wind had gone down
somewhat, but was still strong, and the whales were basking lazily
on the surface, laying flukes and fins. That sounds as if they were
a flock of hens, curiously occupied. They were pretty near, although
not close aboard, and it was too much for the captain, for these
were large whales. Captain Nelson was getting more excited as the
ship got more nearly filled up, and as he saw the abundance of large
whales. It seemed to give him a physical pain to realize that here
was a fortune at his hand, and he could not take it away. He could be
depended upon to come to the same place the next voyage, but somebody
else might get there first. In this case he called away every man
that could be spared, and lowered two boats.

We got none of those whales. We took every precaution to avoid
scaring them, even to the prohibition of talking as we ran down
under sail. There was plenty of sea to drown any noise that we might
have made, but we were a silent company. In spite of all our care,
however, we could not get nearer than a quarter of a mile. At about
that distance the nearest rounded out flukes, and went under; and
the others followed slowly and solemnly, without fuss, merely going
under the surface and swimming. We rounded to, not knowing whether
they had gone deep, or where they might come up again; but there they
were, almost immediately, spouting lazily, half a mile away, {338}
basking on the surface, and keeping exact run of the boats. We kept
up that game of hide-and-seek all the afternoon. We could not get
near them, whatever we did, although they did not run away. Toward
sunset we pulled back to the ship, rather crestfallen, and left that
pod of seventy-barrel whales to go to bed in peace or to indulge in
dissipation, as they pleased. There were enough whales there to fill
us up entirely and one or two over. Five or six such whales would
have filled us up, and more.

We finished our trying-out without seeing any more whales, but
before the cleaning-up was more than begun, we raised a lone spout.
We lowered three boats for him, but mine was not among them, and I
watched the proceedings through my glass. They caught up with him
about a mile from the ship. Perhaps it is more exact to say that he
caught them there, for he attacked the first boat as soon as he got
a sight of it, driving at it at once with his mouth open. It was Mr.
Baker’s boat, and Starbuck had no chance to do anything, for the
whale went a little under, a short distance from the boat, came up
under it, belly up, and like lightning, and caught it fairly forward
of amidships. He came up so hard that he carried it into the air, bow
first, and the men all fell out. Then he gave it a little shake, as a
terrier shakes a rat, but he did not close hard, although he sprung
all the planks. The boat then slipped out of his jaws and into the
water, where it lay for a few moments, leaking like a sieve.

The whale nosed about among the debris, butting the boat from side
to side, cutting with his flukes at every floating thing that
touched them, mast, sail, oars, tubs, and water-kegs. Mr. Tilton
came up while he was so engaged, and Azevedo put two irons into him;
whereupon he turned upon Mr. Tilton’s boat, and before they could do
anything toward making their escape, he served it as he had served
Mr. Baker’s, but stove it completely.

There were now two boats’ crews swimming about in {339} the sea,
and making away, as fast as they could, from the neighborhood of the
stove boats. I tried to count heads, and although I could not be
certain, because of their continual bobbing out of sight behind seas,
I thought that they were all there. The truculent whale was having
a good time, cutting about amid the floating wreckage, knocking
the parts of the boats out of the way with his head, and instantly
slamming anything that he felt with his flukes. In this process he
succeeded in getting himself thoroughly entangled in the line, so
that he appeared almost as if he were enclosed in a net. Mr. Brown’s
boat was then called away to help, and I could not follow the fight
closely, but was to get into it instead.

Meanwhile Mr. Macy had been trying to get into it. It was inviting
disaster to go in and put an iron into the whale, but Mr. Macy would
have done it if he could. He simply could not do it, the whale
thrashed about so. At last, in his ragings, the whale saw Mr. Macy’s
boat just beyond the circle of wreckage, and made for it. By skilful
use of the steering oar Mr. Macy avoided his rush, and Hall, the
boatsteerer, seizing the whaling gun, fired a bomb into him as he
passed just beyond darting distance. That was twice repeated before
we came up, without noticeable effect upon the whale, and Mr. Macy
had all he could do to keep the boat out of those jaws, for the whale
had taken the offensive, and was doing well. I had this part of the
story from George Hall, himself, after we got back to the ship.

We had been taking down an empty cask, with one of our canvas flags,
such as we used on our drugs, stuck in the bung-hole. When we got as
near as we could, we left this cask floating, and retired a little,
putting the cask between us and the whale. The light cask, as large
as a hogshead, floating high, soon drew the attention of the whale,
which left Mr. Macy, and went for it. The antics of the cask under
the repeated buttings of the whale were {340} comical. It was
nearly as light, in comparison with the strength of the whale, as a
football. When he struck it with his nose it gave out a resounding
_Ping-g!_ and leaped into the air. This exasperated him further. He
could see nothing, think of nothing, but that resounding cask. He
chased it, and butted it again. Again the loud, deep _Ping-g!_ He
butted it again and again; chased it and knocked it from side to
side, made frantic by its elastic resistance. Our whole crew went
into spasms of laughter, regardless of the fact that we had something
else to do than to laugh at the antics of a crazy whale, and that, at
any instant, he might transfer his attention to us. The loaded boat
would not act as the cask did.

We edged cautiously toward the whale, Mr. Brown keeping out of
his range of vision, and Mr. Macy creeping up on his other side.
Mr. Macy fired another bomb into him before the Prince could dart
or lance. He was prepared to do either, but at the report of Mr.
Macy’s gun, Mr. Brown told him to use our gun. The whale had given
a little convulsive shiver on receiving the bomb, but there was no
other result, although the bomb must have exploded in his in’ards
somewhere, as must the other three that Hall had sent into him. The
Prince fired twice, and Mr. Macy once more, which exhausted his stock
of bombs; but the whale did not relax his attentions to the cask,
which seemed to exert a peculiar fascination. All this time he was
butting it, and it was responding with a _Ping-g!_ and a leap into
the air.

Suddenly he caught sight of the ship, which had borne down upon us,
and was pretty near. He left the cask, headed for her, and went
under. We could do nothing but watch. After butting the ship, the
whale must have come up on the other side of her, for the men on deck
ran over to that side. A few seconds later I heard the reports of
whaling guns—they are not to be mistaken—and then more, and Mr. Brown
and Mr. Macy proceeded quietly to {341} gathering in the swimming
crews, who had been in the water about an hour. We did not take the
stove boats and their gear on that trip, but pulled at once to the
ship.

On getting to her we found the whale dead alongside, right in
position, and the men getting the fluke chain ready. He had had
eleven bombs exploded in him; but what finished him was the thorough
lancing by Captain Coffin, who had got out on the wales, held on by
the main chains, leaned out and pumped his lance up and down in his
life. The bombs must have done their work after a fashion, for before
he was lanced the whale had vomited up a great number of pieces of
cuttle fish. Among the pieces of squid were the remnants of a shark
of good size. All the fragments had not disappeared when we got there.

Poor Peter, wet as he was, and the sailmaker had to go at once into
the hold to see what damage had been done. They were down there three
hours, but could find no damage, and the ship was not leaking more
than she did before, which was but a few strokes a day, and just
enough to keep her sweet—if a whaler can be called sweet. The whale
must have struck square upon the keel, not with full force. Meanwhile
we pulled back again, got the stove boats and their gear, and pulled
to the ship. More work for Peter. But that whale tried out over
ninety barrels.

That was the last fighting whale that we met. We were very nearly
filled up, but Captain Nelson could not seem to let well enough
alone. We kept on taking whales, easily taken and of a good size,
until the ship would not have held another bucket of oil anywhere.
Even the try-pots were full, and the cooling-tank, and the spare pots
on deck, and every receptacle that he could think of. He went so far
as to get some of our water-casks on deck, empty out the water, and
fill them with oil, saying that there were plenty of places where we
could get water on the way home. He was going home by Cape Horn. I
only wonder {342} that he did not fill the copper dippers and the
tin cans with oil. No doubt he would have done so if they had held
enough to make any appreciable difference. We had over twenty-six
hundred barrels of oil on board, and twenty-four hundred was all we
were supposed to hold.

He went back to take a last look at the islands, and make more
careful observations. It did not take long, only a few hours, for
it happened that they were in sight at our last trying-out. In all
our cruising in that neighborhood we had never been far from them,
often within thirty miles or so, their barren heights in plain sight
on a fairly dear day. I never saw a figure of greater dejection and
melancholy than Captain Nelson when we came in sight of the leeward
side. There was a school of large whales, perhaps twenty-five or
thirty of them basking on the surface. They were very tame, so tame
that we nearly ran into two of them before they would move out of the
course of the ship. They seemed to know that we were a full ship,
and that we could not take any more if we wanted to. Captain Nelson
almost groaned aloud.

We bore away to the southward, intending to make Tahiti, to get more
water-casks, and a fresh supply of water. Tahiti lies about southeast
from our point of departure, but we were obliged to start to the
south to take advantage of the trades. Peter was busy in making new
boats out of the remains of the two which had been stove two or three
weeks before. He did not hurry at his work, for he was pretty tired,
as we all were. The rest of us did nothing to speak of, merely such
patching of rigging as was necessary.

{343}



CHAPTER XXXV


There was no incident until we got within sight of Tahiti. I was
leaning against the bench, watching Peter’s leisurely progress with
the boat. This boat was the one which had been cut in two by the
whale. The other one was finished, painted, and bottom up on the
after house. Captain Nelson meant to trade all his spare boats,
which had been stove, among the islands. Not that those boats were
not good and seaworthy—Peter’s workmanship could not be other than
that; but the captain seemed to think that they were more desirable
for trading purposes than for chasing whales. I did not know about
that, but there was no more chasing whales to be done on that voyage.
Whaleboats were much in demand in all the islands, and would bring
a good price in trade. So these boats, glistening in their coats of
fresh paint, were put on the after house, and covered with an old
sail to keep them from blistering in the hot sun.

Peter had been saying nothing, but pottering pleasantly about his
pleasant work, a half-smile on his leathery face. There was a
fascination for me in watching Peter, and I had said nothing either.
There is always a fascination in watching a thoroughgoing workman,
but especially a boatbuilder or a shipbuilder or a blacksmith; a
real smith, not merely a shoer of horses. It is so with me, at
least, although there is almost as much in watching a really skilful
cabinet-maker like Oman. I suppose the cabinet-maker’s work should
possess more fascination, as such a man has progressed several grades
beyond the others. Perhaps it is a little beyond me, or it may be
because of my contempt for glue. A cabinet-maker uses a deal of glue.

Peter looked up at last, and glanced ahead. When he {344} looked
down at his work again his half-smile had broadened into a grin.

“There ’s Tahiti, lad,” he said.

I nodded. “Yes, I know. There ’s nothing to see yet.”

Peter was bending over his work, and he gave a queer chuckle.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “You never can tell what you may see
until you look. You might see an old friend, Timmie. A real sailor
always knows what shows above the horizon, and sometimes what ’s
beyond, if it ain’t too far.”

This speech of Peter’s nettled me a little, for I thought I was a
real sailor by this time. I looked around carefully. It was pretty
clear, with occasional heavy clouds, and deep shadows under them.
There was one such cloud away down to the northward, and I thought
that I saw a vessel in its shadow. The clouds were moving briskly,
and as I watched, the sun suddenly shone there, and illumined the
topsail yards of a schooner and the upper half of her lower sails. It
was like a spotlight in a theatre, suddenly shoving the vessel into
plain view against the shadows which surrounded her. There was but
one such rig in all the seven seas. It was the Annie Battles. She
had left Papeete within an hour, probably, and was standing to the
northward.

I sighed. “Just our luck,” I said. “If she had only been a few hours
later!”

“Would you call it good luck, or bad, Timmie?”

“I should call it hard luck, Peter. Would n’t you?”

“Well,” he answered slowly, “she ain’t mine, and I don’t believe in
looking for trouble. I suppose Cap’n Coffin calls it hard luck. You
can see for yourself.” And he jerked his head in the direction of the
after house.

There stood Captain Coffin, a glass glued to his eye. He said
nothing, but he had no need to. Anybody could tell from his face what
his thoughts were. {345}

At Papeete we got our water, and our extra casks, although some of
them had to be lashed on deck, as the hold was full. It took several
days to get this done, for extra casks were not plentiful, and the
men could not be denied some liberty ashore. The pleasures that
Papeete offered to our shore-famished men were alluring, and it was
hard to get them back. I could understand this, for I went ashore
too. I managed to resist the allurements of the place, thanks more
to Peter than to any tendency on my own part to asceticism, and I
had a thoroughly good time. When I got back to the ship I found
that Captain Coffin had been making inquiries, and had found that
the Annie Battles, under the name of the Seafoam, had sailed on a
trading trip among the islands to the eastward, the Paumotus and the
Marquesas. He was as excited as a boy, and full of eagerness and glee.

We got our men back at last, and sailed to the northward. I was
surprised at this, for we were bound home, and for the most rapid
passage around the Horn we should have started out to the southward;
but I thought it likely that Captain Coffin had persuaded Captain
Nelson to have a last try at the Battles. If she stopped at the
islands, as she would, making frequent stops, we should be close on
her heels, and might reasonably hope to catch her. At one of the
Marquesas Islands, too, there was a well-known spring of very good
water, emptying on the beach. Whalers often touched there for water,
and it might have been in Captain Nelson’s mind to fill up his casks
there for the long run around the Horn.

The days passed, and nothing happened. Whatever eagerness I had
felt oozed away; but Captain Coffin’s did not, I judged. He was
silent, restless, tense with it, especially as we began to raise the
Paumotus, one after another. These are atolls, with the usual coral
reefs, sea-beach, and lagoon, none of them more than a few feet
above sea level. The topmasts of the Battles would be {346} easily
seen above them, unless some unusually tall coconut trees were in
the way. We did not go far into the archipelago, for it is dangerous
navigation there for a vessel as large as the Clearchus, and one no
more easily manageable. The passages are filled with hidden dangers,
and the currents swift and treacherous.

We had been searching, in a superficial way, for a week or more,
when, one morning, dawn showed us a small atoll, a few miles long.
We heard the dull boom of the surf, and with the growing light
we saw a long white beach, crowned with green vegetation. A few
stunted coco-palms showed their green tufts, and beyond the palms
the familiar topsail yards of the Battles. There was no sign of
habitation, and we found out later that this atoll was uninhabited,
and visited only occasionally by canoe parties from some other atoll,
in search of eggs, or fish, or adventure. At the time it seemed
strange to me that somebody from the crew of the Battles had not seen
us. The Clearchus must have been as familiar to them as the Battles
was to us. Then I concluded that they had not seen us because they
were close under the palms, and had had no lookout to seaward, and
perhaps had been asleep. I was right in one thing: they had been
asleep. They were not asleep now, for, as we worked around to find
the opening into the lagoon, we heard faint noises, as if they were
shouting to one another.

When we reached a point from which we could see into the lagoon, we
saw that the schooner was plainly aground; there were a number of
large canoes drawn up on the shore; and there on the beach was the
crew of the Battles, surrounded by natives, and fighting for their
lives. I heard no guns, and supposed that they must have been lured
ashore by the prospect of trade, and then attacked.

Captain Nelson did nothing immediately, but turned to Captain Coffin.
I chanced to be near them at the time.

“What do you think, Fred?” he asked. “Shall we try {347} to help
your crew there? They ’re no better than pirates, and I ’ve no doubt
the Kanakas have the right of it.” Some particularly villainous
example of thievery on the part of the Battles was probably at the
bottom of the quarrel. “But I suppose we ’ve got to.”

Captain Coffin nodded. “I want to settle their hash myself.”

I was on tiptoe with that laughing exhilaration that always came upon
me before a fight of any kind, and I found that I had been afraid
that Captain Nelson would stay out of it.

I dived below, where I gathered all the arms from the cabin; and,
the steward helping me, I got them on deck. I found three boats
down. They were Mr. Macy’s, Captain Coffin’s, and mine, in which the
captain was going in place of Mr. Brown. There was some danger to
the ship in leaving her so lightly manned, for the islanders might
take it into their heads to attack her; but he took the chance. I
had an oak wagon-spoke in addition to a spade. I had found it among
the firewood taken on at New Bedford. A wagon-spoke is an excellent
weapon, and that was not the only time I used one.

It took us some time to find the opening in the reef. There were
several false leads, and we found the break narrow when we hit upon
it. I wondered that the Battles had been able to get through.

The fighting was going on at the head of the lagoon, a little over
half a mile from the point where we entered, too far off to see
what had been happening. All we could see from that distance was a
confused mass of men, and all we heard was a confused shouting. After
we had straightened out on the course to the beach, I saw nothing but
the backs and the oars of the men before me, Captain Nelson at the
steering oar, and the other boats out of the tail of my eye. We were
a little in advance.

The shouting grew in volume as we approached the {348} shore, but
I heard no white man’s shout. They had no breath to waste. We were
perhaps an eighth of a mile from shore when Captain Nelson spoke
quietly, saying that some twenty of the islanders were swimming out
to meet us.

“Be ready with your knives and spades, boys,” he said. “Don’t let
them get hold of your oars.”

The men were not supposed to have knives—at least, not with sharp
points, but two or three of the Portuguese produced them, and took
them between their teeth; and there were two knives in each boat, and
the hatchet.

However, we pulled away from them and grounded on the beach. The
shock of it very nearly sent me on my back in the bottom of the boat.
I saw Captain Nelson covering our landing with his Spencer, and I
saw him raise it to his shoulder and fire once. Then we tumbled
out, I with my spade and my wagon-spoke. A spear whistled over my
shoulder, making a flesh wound, and I gave a roar, and rushed upon
the irregular line of islanders. As I ran, I remember vaguely that I
laughed and shouted.

I have no clear recollection of what happened, but I do know that
I had no fear of anything, I had an utter insensibility to pain,
and a fierce joy in mere fighting. My wagon-spoke was a more handy
weapon than the spade, which I used to ward off blows aimed at me,
while I wielded the wagon-spoke as a club. It was a very good club,
well-balanced and heavy, with sharp corners on the hub end. I was
pretty strong then, and could swing it to some purpose. The natives—I
do not like to call them savages—had been armed with spears of hard
wood, as dangerous as steel-pointed spears, and with a war-club of
peculiar shape, made of ironwood. Most of them had cast their spears
by this time, and fought with their clubs, much as I did.

I do not know just how many islanders there were, but there must
have been well over a hundred altogether. {349} There were eighteen
of us, and about twenty in the crew of the Battles; but many of the
Battles’ men had been killed or disabled before we got there. There
could not have been more than a half a dozen left on their feet. I
saw Mr. Wallet transfixed by a spear within six feet of me, the spear
in the hands of a gigantic islander. I cannot remember that I felt a
pang of pity when I saw Mr. Wallet go down. I do not think that I had
any feeling whatever, or that I should have had whoever it had been.

The man next to Mr. Wallet was evidently of a different calibre. He
was bleeding from many wounds, and fighting like a fiend. The man
with the spear wrenched it free from Wallet’s body, and lunged at
this man. He leaped forward, tore the spear from the other’s grasp,
and like lightning he plunged it into his body. It went clear through
and came out at the back. It could not be got out again, as there
were deep cuts upon it, making a series of saw-teeth on the edge
of the long blade, and these teeth stuck on the ribs. He left it
sticking there, looked quickly around, and caught sight of Captain
Coffin. Apparently he had not seen him before.

I found out a little later that the man was Drew, but I guessed
as much then. He stood still for a moment, and I saw the changing
expressions chase each other across his face. There was despair—for
an instant—and then a hardening, and the fierce light came back to
his eyes, and a scornful smile curled his lips, but hope was gone.
Here was Coffin. That meant that he would be carried back and hanged
if he survived this fight. He had to die, anyway, and he preferred to
die fighting; but there were two or three of us that he meant to take
with him. His first move was against Captain Coffin, who was engaged
in a hand-to-hand fight with two natives. These natives, I think,
were not much given to hand-to-hand work. They preferred to stand off
at a safe distance from their enemies and call names. In this case
they had depended upon their {350} numbers, and had been drawn into
the close work and could not get out; but they were brave, although
they preferred the method of ambush and massacre.

Up to this time I had been in a condition of exaltation with the
pure love of fighting. Man is a fighting animal. If he were not he
would never have got so far. Whether right or wrong, it seems to me
hopeless to try to crush out that instinct—but that is by the way.
The events just described had made their impression on my eye, but at
the time they made none on my brain. Now I roused from my daze, my
brain resumed its activity with a rush, and I yelled a warning.

Captain Coffin either did not hear me or did not dare to turn his
head. Drew had grabbed up a war-club lying beside a dead savage, and
was trying to get at him, but his way was not clear. I leaped for him
and yelled again. Other islanders were coming to the help of those
engaged with Captain Coffin, and he was becoming the centre of the
fighting. He was much the biggest white man there. Macy was nearly
as tall, but did not give the impression of bigness and power that
Captain Coffin did. I caught a glimpse of Mr. Macy coming up on the
other side of Captain Coffin, and remember wondering what had become
of the Prince. It was the kind of a fight that I had imagined he
would love. At the risk of my life I glanced about, and saw him just
behind me, as if he was following to see that no harm came to me.
There was the gleam of battle in his eye, his face was set, his lips
drawn back in a tiger-snarl, showing his white teeth. They shone in
his ebony face like a light at sea on a dark night.

Captain Coffin might have heard my warning yells, but he gave no
sign. It would have been death for him to look back. Drew was slowly
making his way toward him, striking at the natives who got in his
way. A big native disputed the way, and I got almost within reach.
The islander gave before Drew’s ferocious assault. Drew let {351}
him go, and pressed on toward Captain Coffin. I leaped again, and
got within reach as he was in the act of bringing his club down on
Captain Coffin’s head. I struck with all my might, and the blow went
true. Drew’s wrist was broken, his head was laid open in a long
line, and he tottered. At that instant I heard the dull report of a
Spencer. Drew’s body whirled about, and crumpled in a heap. Captain
Nelson had done it, and the bullet had gone through Drew’s body,
striking down one of the natives.

Relieved of the anxiety of the moment, I dropped my hands, and
drew a long breath. That was no time for dropping my hands, and I
was brought quickly back to the present by the prick of a spear. I
squirmed away, and looked up to see a club descending. There was
no time to use my club, or to raise my spade, which hung in my
left hand. There was a rush beside me, and the Prince, apparently
empty-handed, launched himself at my assailant. My head was saved,
and both went down, just out of my reach. The Prince had broken his
lance, but had saved the blade, which he plunged into the throat of
the islander. At the same instant an ironwood war-club crashed down
on his head.

At that sight my fury returned. I have no knowledge of what followed
in the next half-hour. I knew that not one of the Battles’ crew was
left on his feet, and I knew dimly that Kane was on one side of
me, fighting with a wild joy, and that on the other Mr. Macy was
fighting with equal fury. I have no doubt that he saved my life many
times, for I knew no caution, and my only thought was to avenge the
Prince. Mr. Macy’s fury was of the cold kind—a cool head and a hot
heart—which does so much more damage than a mere blind rage like
mine. At last I realized that the islanders were trying to get at our
boats.

There were five or six times as many of them as of us, but Captain
Nelson managed to keep his force between {352} them and our boats.
None of his men was killed except the Prince, but nearly all were
wounded more or less seriously, and all were weary. I know that, at
last, with returning sanity, I found myself hardly able to lift my
club, and utterly unable to strike again with my reddened spade. We
were being forced back to the boats. It looked like a day for the
islanders, and if they would have let us we would have withdrawn. I
heard nothing but a tumult of sound, and I could not see well.

Suddenly there was a great shout from behind the natives, and I saw
a considerable body of men break through the sparse vegetation which
crowned the beach. It happened before my eyes; a crowd of men—white
men, twenty-five or thirty of them—armed with lances, spades, and
knives, issuing from that tangle to seaward, and rushing down on the
rear of the islanders. They, poor chaps, gave one glance, then broke
and ran. Some of them ran to their canoes, others ran directly into
the water, and swam away, full tilt. The canoes followed, and we let
them go.

I knew we ought to put after them and see that they did no harm to
the ship, but I could not have pulled a pound. Neither could most of
the others. I could only stand there, my hands hanging limp at my
sides, and gaze after the canoes. I watched them out of sight through
the passage to the sea. I was dimly conscious of a young chap who
walked around me, looking me over, but I paid him no attention. At
last he stood still before me, grinning. He poked me in the ribs. I
squirmed, for my ribs were sore.

“Hello, Tim,” he said.

I looked at him then; looked at him long and hard, while he stood and
grinned. It was Jimmy Appleby.

{353}



CHAPTER XXXVI


Of that meeting with Jimmy Appleby the less said the better. I
believe that, in my wearied and weakened state, I broke down and
cried, but I have no clear recollection. The first thing that I
remember clearly is being well down the lagoon, a passenger in my own
boat. Our new shipmates were doing the pulling, although those of the
regular crew who were able sat on the thwarts beside the fresh men,
and bent their backs with them. Two of our men, severely wounded, lay
on the bottom of the boat, half under the thwarts, and there, too,
was the body of the Prince, covered with the sail. Captain Nelson
stood at the steering oar, his face grave and set, looking out ahead.
I crawled up to my place on the midship thwart beside a stranger, and
got my hands on my oar; and the stranger turned his head and gave me
a smile.

We got safely out of the lagoon to sea, and on board the ship. The
canoes were far down to leeward. They had given the ship a wide
berth, but might come back again, after we had gone, to pick up their
dead. I did not know what customs they practised in that respect. I
know I was surprised to find that it was not yet noon. It seemed to
me that almost a lifetime had passed since we had left the ship that
morning. The wounded were cared for at once. Then the body of the
Prince was passed up, and laid on the hatch cover. I drew near to it,
and found Peter beside me. I had forgotten Jimmy Appleby.

Peter said nothing, but he laid his arm across my shoulders, and we
saw the sailmaker come with a piece of old canvas, and his palm, and
stitch the Prince up carefully, a few links of old chain cable at his
feet. I saw the crew gathering with bared heads, and Captain Nelson
standing {354} with a little book, but I did not hear what he read.
The man in that long white bundle—it shone dazzlingly in the hot
sunshine—would not have been there except for me. I hid my face in my
arm against the rigging, hot tears burned my eyes, and my shoulders
shook; there was a gentle noise of canvas slipping on wood, a splash,
and I raised my head to see Captain Nelson clapping his book shut,
and the men as they turned away.

Peter patted my shoulder. “Don’t ye grieve, lad,” he said. “He ’d
have liked this way of it better. He was a good shipmate, if his skin
was black. Come now, you ’re wanted. A bite of dinner ’ll do you a
world of good.”

At that I am afraid I laughed. It was hysterical, but I was quieted
somewhat, and I went below.

I had not yet had a chance to hear Jimmy’s story. It had to wait
still longer, for the boats were sent ashore again in the afternoon,
with all the new men, and some of ours. They buried the men of the
Battles as well as they could. It was almost impossible to dig in
that beach, for it was all coral below the very surface. Then they
carried their boats across from the ocean side to the lagoon, not
more than three or four hundred feet, but the low summit thickly
grown up with coconut-palms and low bushes and vines. It must have
reminded Captain Coffin of the “haulover” at Nantucket, except for
the growth. The “haulover” is nothing but bare sand, and I believe
the sea had not broken through at that time. These boats which I
speak of were those in which our new friends had come. I should not
speak of them as our new friends, for many of them were old friends.

Captain Coffin, with a boat’s crew, stayed on the Battles that
night, looking her over. Jimmy did not, and I got his story. He was
bursting with it. His ship was the John and Alice. After I left New
Bedford his desire for the same sort of life, always strong, had
become intense. He gave his parents no peace for nearly two years,
finally {355} threatening to run away if they would not let him go.
They gave in at that, and in the summer of 1874 he shipped before
the mast on the John and Alice. They had been out just about a year,
had cruised off the River Plate, doubled the Horn, and covered the
On Shore and Off Shore grounds. They were making their leisurely way
toward Japan when the John and Alice was sunk by a whale in 145° W.,
7° S., carrying their five hundred barrels of oil down with her.
The crew took to the boats. There had been time to stow plenty of
provisions and water in the boats, and they were making for Tahiti,
which they would have reached safely, without doubt. But they sighted
some of these low-lying islands, and went in among them. They had
been sailing through the passages of the archipelago for two days.
At daylight on that morning they saw the topmasts of the Clearchus
showing dimly in the distance, and the topmasts of the Battles and
the coco-palms soon rose. They were making for the ship, passing just
outside the line of surf which fringed the island, when they heard
our tumult, and landed the best way they could. They managed it,
but lost one of their boats in the surf, capsized and pretty badly
stove. The surf had not been heavy, or they would have lost more, and
possibly some men. Captain Nelson had the stove boat brought aboard
for Peter’s surgery.

Of course Jimmy’s narrative was not so briefly told as I have given
it. He was discursive and conversational, and given to embellishment.
I kept him up until late that night, telling me all he knew of
my mother, my father, my brothers, Tom and Josh; and I asked him
about all my friends, ending up with Ann McKim. About Ann he was
enthusiastic, speaking of her in the slang of the day. I forget what
expression he used, but it corresponded to “perfect peach.” I could
well believe it.

Captain Coffin had found the Annie Battles pretty firmly aground, and
the coral had punched a hole in her. {356} It was not a hopeless
hole, although enough to justify any master in abandoning his vessel.
Captain Coffin was not that kind. All the stuff was taken out of her,
and spread on the beach. Then she was hastily patched on the inside,
and pumped out. That was very nearly enough to float her, but not
quite, for the rise of the tide at this point is small. Still there
was that little peak of hard, sharp coral, which they were afraid
would tear out more of her planking when eight boats were fast, with
forty oars pulling at her. Our Kanakas had to go down and cut away
the coral. Then she was beached, and hove down by our cutting-tackles
from her mastheads to coconut-trunks. Her cutting-tackles had
disappeared—probably thrown overboard.

We all helped in this work, and I found that I had more bruises and
unimportant wounds than I had believed possible; but the condition
was common to all who had been in the fight, and I was interested in
the work, which was familiar. We simply had to dispose of the corpses
within a couple of days of beginning the work. That was an unpleasant
job. We took them far down to leeward, and buried them hastily in a
cavern we found in the coral, but that did not entirely get rid of
the stench at the beach. It was probably from the bodies of the white
men buried there—in very shallow graves.

It took two weeks to get the Battles beached and repaired. Then we
got her afloat again, the topmasts and yards sent up, sails bent and
everything shipshape. With all her cargo—mostly trading stuff—piled
on deck, we towed her out through the pass in the reef, and she
was at sea again, where she belonged. She tied up alongside the
Clearchus, and there began a wholesale transfer of cargo.

The Battles first stowed eight hundred barrels of our oil, greatly
relieving us. Most of her cargo of trading stuff had been taken
on the Clearchus, indicating that we were likely to stop at the
Marquesas, and possibly at {357} some other islands. I was gratified
at that, for I wanted to see the Marquesas. The division of water and
provisions was unequal, the Battles being given enough to carry her
home, while the Clearchus would be obliged to fill her water-casks,
at least. At last she was ready to go. She cast off, for the sea,
which had been unusually quiet all through the transfer, began to
roughen. She did not go far, however, but lay hove to, not far from
us. Captain Coffin was in the cabin with Captain Nelson, and I was
sent for.

I had watched the transfer of cargo and the selection of a crew
for the Battles, with a mind at ease. I had taken it for granted
that she would take the new men, and most of their boats. Jimmy was
going, I knew, and I accepted the fact with small regret, for I found
that a separation of three years had severed many of the ties which
had bound us together. I went into the cabin with no small wonder
what they could want of me; probably nothing more than the same old
bluish-white pitcher, with something hot in it.

That was not what they wanted. I was hardly in the cabin when Captain
Coffin asked me whether I wanted to go with him. He added that he was
going aboard the Battles within a few minutes, and if I wished, he
would take me along. I was too dumbfounded to answer immediately, and
Captain Nelson, taking my answer for granted, sent me out again at
once, saying that I had only time to get my things together, and to
hurry, at that. So I found myself outside the cabin door, stumbling
up the stairs, without having uttered a word. I hurried and got my
belongings into my chest, carried the chest out, and went to bid a
hasty good-bye to Peter, without having come to a decision. There was
a certain reluctance in my actions. I wanted more time; yes, more
time, at least. But still I went. I said half a dozen words to Peter,
and half a dozen words to Mr. Brown, whom I met on my way aft.

If I had known the truth—and been willing to tell it, {358} which
is quite a different matter—and if it had been a question merely
of choosing between Mr. Brown and Jimmy, I should have chosen Mr.
Brown. Of course I was glad to see Jimmy, but he was only a boy, with
a boy’s interest in things, and that did not satisfy me, possibly
because I had been so long without companions of my own age. Mr.
Brown seemed much more of a real companion, with interests which had
come to be my own. I never saw him again.

It is a curious thing how people go out of your life. Here was Mr.
Brown, who, alone of the officers, had admitted me to intimacy. I
had become very fond of him; and he dropped out as suddenly and as
completely as if he had fallen overboard. I do not like it. It is not
right, I cannot reconcile myself to it, and I have never been able to
understand it. For years I kept expecting to see him, but it is not
likely now, for he would be nearly eighty, and probably he is dead
long ago. He left the ship at once upon her arrival in New Bedford,
and vanished. Why? I wish I knew. I found, upon inquiry, that his
share of the voyage—his lay—was sent to an address in New York. I
wrote, but nothing was known of him, and that ended the chapter.

Peter I did see again. He became a frequent and welcome visitor at my
father’s house, and later at my own. Ann McKim liked him, and she,
my father, my mother, and Peter spent many an evening in going over
the events of the voyage, a chart spread out, and all four heads bent
over it. I sat back in the shadows and watched them. But I am getting
ahead of my story. There is not much more to tell, so have a little
patience, and it will be over.

I was still in a sort of daze when I got aboard of the Battles, and
she began to drop the Clearchus. I watched the old ship, with all
sail set, sink below the horizon. When I could no longer make out
even her topgallant yards, I turned, and went slowly below. I was
to bunk in the cabin, I found, as Assistant Navigator, a totally
{359} unnecessary berth. Captain Coffin had two of the mates of the
John and Alice, both good navigators, and he was a good navigator,
of course; but there was room in the cabin for four, and he, in the
kindness of his heart, gave the fourth berth to me. Before we got
home I was made third mate, which was simply ridiculous. Probably
Captain Coffin wished to make it easy for me to get a third mate’s
berth on another voyage, which was kind and thoughtful. The Annie
Battles was much overmanned, with a total of twenty-eight men,
leaving forty-two on the Clearchus. With so many men there was not
much for any one to do, although we managed to keep the men busy
enough.

The run home was without incident worthy of remark. We reached Cape
Horn in January, the middle of the southern summer, and had no great
difficulty and no more bad weather than is always met there. In the
cabin, as I was, although not yet a mate, I could not chum with
Jimmy, who was before the mast, and I found it rather a lonesome
berth. There was nothing for me to do but attend to my duties, which
were light, and watch the schooner sail. She was a very fast and easy
vessel, and very wet in a sea; but she was not in the same class as
the Virginia, Marshall, master. If I had not had that experience I
should have enjoyed the Battles more. But I missed the discipline,
the trimness, the everlasting rightness of the Virginia. Having seen
that, nothing less would ever satisfy me completely.

It was when we crossed the line that I was made third mate. Not
long after, in the latitude of about 15° N., we ran into a gale,
which started the seams of the patch on the bottom. No doubt Cape
Horn weather had something to do with it, but we had had no proper
planking to mend it with, and it was rather weak. That started a
leak which increased from day to day. With our extra men, Captain
Coffin hoped that we could pump her home; but by the time we were
off Hatteras it had increased so much that {360} the men were kept
steadily at the pumps, and we put into Norfolk.

I left the Battles at Norfolk. I was anxious to get home, and could
not even wait for the boat, which would have been cheaper. I went by
train, and got in at the old wooden station on Pearl Street—“deepo’ ”
we called it, early Egyptian architecture—with less than a dollar in
my pocket. It was only a few blocks from my home, however, and what
use had I for money? I ran all the way.

As I turned the last corner, I stopped with a gasp. I had barely
escaped running into a girl—and such a girl! I knew her at once,
although she had blossomed since I went away, and she was wearing no
ostrich plume in her hat. Jimmy had not exaggerated.

She had stopped, too. She had to, for I brought to directly in front
of her.

“Oh,” she said, with a little smile, “I beg your pardon.”

“Ann!” I said breathlessly. “Ann McKim, don’t you know me?”

I put out my hand, and her hand came slowly forward to meet it, while
she looked up at me doubtfully. I watched the changing expression of
her eyes. Recognition came into them suddenly, and she clasped my
hand warmly.

“Goody gracious!” she cried. “It ’s Tim, I do believe! It ’s not
strange that I did n’t know you! How you ’ve grown and broadened! I
might have taken you for your father. You ’re as big as he is.”

“Am I?” I grinned, holding to her hand as if it were my mooring. “Am
I, Ann?”

“And you ’re the color of new copper,” she added. “Have you been home
yet?”

I shook my head. “I was just going there when I nearly ran you down.”

“Well, go along, Timmie, for mercy’s sake, and let your mother get a
sight of you.” She freed her hand {361} gently, and gave me a little
push. “Do they expect you?”

“No, I came by train. It ’ll be a surprise.”

“Why did n’t you let them know?”

“Did n’t think of it. We—but I ’ll tell you all about it—”

“To-night. I ’ll come in pretty late—nearly nine o’clock. Good-bye.”

She was gone around the corner before I could say a word. I gaped at
the corner, then ran on again. Our house was only a little way up the
street. Nobody locked their doors in those days, and dashing up the
steps without stopping, I threw open the front door. I stood for a
moment, with my hand on the doorknob, listening for a sound to let
me know where anybody was. How often I had done just that! My mother
might be in the kitchen, or upstairs in her room, sewing. I heard
nothing but a faint humming.

“Mother!” I called.

The humming continued. “Who ’s that?” my mother answered, as if she
was busy. “Tom or Josh? I never can tell you apart by your voices.
What are you home for now? Is anything the matter?”

I snickered nervously. “It ’s me, mother. It ’s Tim.”

The humming stopped suddenly. “What! It ’s who?”

I snickered again. I knew so well just how she looked, stopping her
sewing, her foot on the treadle, and her head up, listening.

“It ’s Tim. I ’m coming up.”

There was a shriek, and the sound of a chair falling. I bounded up
the stairs, and met her. At sight of me she stopped for an instant.

“Mercy!” she cried. “Is that my little Tim?”

Then her arms were around me, and she was laughing and crying on my
shoulder.


THE END



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE:

Original spelling and grammar have been generally retained, with
some exceptions noted below. Original printed page numbers are shown
like this {52} in the text edition, and are hidden in the html,
epub, and mobi editions. Original small caps are now uppercase.
Italics look _like this_. Illustrations have been moved from within
paragraphs to nearby locations between paragraphs. The transcriber
produced the cover image and hereby assigns it to the public domain.
Original page images are available from archive.org—search for
“sheblowssparmatt00hopk”.


Page 103. A full stop was added after _beat out and disgusted_.

Page 123. A full stop was added after _faster than the Clearchus_.

Page 214. Changed _Reunion_ to _Réunion_.

Page 250. Changed _and we quartered the gounds_ to _and we quartered
the grounds_.

Page 310. Changed _lasily_ to _lazily_.

Page 360. Changed ‘“deepo  ” we called it’ to ‘“deepo’ ” we called it’.





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