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Title: A Sack of Shakings
Author: Bullen, Frank Thomas
Language: English
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                         A Sack of Shakings



                       NEW AND RECENT FICTION

                           Crown 8vo, 6s.


                  WILLOWDENE WILL
                     By HALLIWELL SUTCLIFFE

                  CINDERS
                     By HELEN MATHERS

                  THE MASTER PASSION
                     By BESSIE HATTON

                  THE TAPU OF BANDERAH
                     By LOUIS BECKE and WALTER JEFFERY

                  A HONEYMOON IN SPACE
                     By GEORGE GRIFFITH

                  ’TWIXT DEVIL AND DEEP SEA
                     By Mrs. C. N. WILLIAMSON

                  THE STRANGE WOOING OF MARY BOWLER
                     By RICHARD MARSH

                  THE INVADERS
                     By LOUIS TRACY

                  SENTENCE OF THE COURT
                     By HEADON HILL

                  A VARSITY MAN
                     By INGLIS ALLEN

                  AMONG THE RED WOODS
                     By BRET HARTE

                  WITH THE BLACK FLAG
                     By WILLIAM WESTALL

                  A PATCHED-UP AFFAIR
                     By FLORENCE WARDEN


                  Second Edition

                  THE CONSCIENCE OF CORALIE
                     By F. FRANKFORT MOORE

                  JOAN BROTHERHOOD
                     By BERNARD CAPES

                  THE BRAND OF THE BROAD ARROW
                     By MAJOR ARTHUR GRIFFITHS

                  THE WHITE BATTALIONS
                     By F. M. WHITE

                  GOD’S LAD
                     By PAUL CUSHING


                  Fourth Edition

                  NELL GWYN
                     By F. FRANKFORT MOORE

                  THE PLUNDER SHIP
                     By HEADON HILL


                  Second Edition

                  THE WOMAN OF DEATH
                     By GUY BOOTHBY

                  THE SPELL OF THE SNOW
                     By G. GUISE MITFORD


                      C. ARTHUR PEARSON, LTD.



                         A Sack of Shakings


                                 By

                      Frank T. Bullen, F.R.G.S.

                              Author of
         “The Cruise of the Cachalot,” “With Christ at Sea,”
               “The Men of the Merchant Service,” etc.


                               London
                       C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd.
                          Henrietta Street
                                1901



                               Preface


Most of the Essays brought together in the present volume have been
published in the _Spectator_, and are here reproduced by the kind
permission of the proprietors of that journal, for which I offer them
my hearty thanks. It may perhaps not be out of place to mention, for
the benefit of any who may wish to know why these Articles have been
published in book form, that the action has been taken in deference
to the wishes of a very large number of friends who, having read the
sketches in the _Spectator_, desired to have them collected in a
permanent and handy shape.



                              Contents


                                                                 PAGE

    THE ORPHAN                                                      1

    A PORPOISE MYTH                                                21

    CATS ON BOARD SHIP                                             28

    THE OLD EAST INDIAMAN                                          38

    THE FLOOR OF THE SEA                                           45

    SHAKESPEARE AND THE SEA                                        52

    THE SKIPPER OF THE “AMULET”                                    60

    AMONG THE ENCHANTED ISLES                                      71

    SOCIABLE FISH                                                  79

    ALLIGATORS AND MAHOGANY                                       101

    COUNTRY LIFE ON BOARD SHIP                                    110

    “THE WAY OF A SHIP”                                           169

    SEA ETIQUETTE                                                 184

    WAVES                                                         191

    A BATTLESHIP OF TO-DAY                                        199

    NAT’S MONKEY                                                  206

    BIG GAME AT SEA                                               218

    A SEA CHANGE                                                  230

    LAST VOYAGE OF THE “SARAH JANE”                               242

    SEA-SUPERSTITIONS                                             254

    OCEAN WINDS                                                   260

    THE SEA IN THE NEW TESTAMENT                                  268

    THE POLITY OF A BATTLESHIP                                    276

    THE PRIVACY OF THE SEA                                        284

    THE VOICES OF THE SEA                                         292

    THE CALLING OF CAPTAIN RAMIREZ                                302

    MARATHON OF THE SEALS                                         313

    OCEAN CURRENTS                                                319

    THE UNDYING ROMANCE OF THE SEA                                327

    SAILORS’ PETS                                                 334

    THE SURVIVORS                                                 341

    BENEATH THE SURFACE                                           351

    BY WAY OF AMENDS                                              361

    THE MYSTERY OF THE “SOLANDER”                                 371

    OUR AMPHIBIOUS ARMY                                           381



                         A Sack of Shakings



                             THE ORPHAN


Shining serenely as some immeasurable mirror beneath the smiling
face of heaven, the solitary ocean lay in unrippled silence. It was
in those placid latitudes south of the line in the Pacific, where
weeks, aye months, often pass without the marginless blue level being
ruffled by any wandering keel. Here, in almost perfect security from
molestation by man, the innumerable denizens of the deep pursue their
never-ending warfare, doubtless enjoying to the full the brimming cup
of life, without a weary moment, and with no dreary anticipations of
an unwanted old age.

Now it fell on a day that the calm surface of that bright sea was
broken by the sudden upheaval of a compact troop of sperm whales from
the inscrutable depths wherein they had been roaming and recruiting
their gigantic energies upon the abundant molluscs, hideous of mien
and insatiable of maw, that, like creations of a diseased mind,
lurked far below the sunshine. The school consisted of seven cows and
one mighty bull, who was unique in appearance, for instead of being
in colour the unrelieved sepia common to his kind he was curiously
mottled with creamy white, making the immense oblong cube of his
head look like a weather-worn monolith of Siena marble. Easeful
as any Arabian khalif, he lolled supine upon the glittering folds
of his couch, the welcoming wavelets caressing his vast form with
gentlest touch, and murmuring softly as by their united efforts they
rocked him in rhythm with their melodic lullaby. Around him glided
his faithful harem--gentle timid creatures, no one of them a third
of their lord’s huge bulk, but still majestic in their proportions,
being each some forty-five feet in length by thirty in girth.
Unquestionably the monarch of the flood, their great chief accepted
in complacent dignity their unremitting attentions, nor did their
playful gambols stir him in the least from his attitude of complete
repose.

But while the busy seven were thus disporting themselves in happy
security there suddenly appeared among them a delightful companion
in the shape of a newly-born calf, elegantly dappled like his sire,
the first-born son of the youngest mother in the group. It is
not the habit of the cachalot to show that intense self-effacing
devotion to its young which is evinced by other mammals, especially
whales of the mysticetæ. Nevertheless, as the expectation of this
latest addition to the family had been the reason of their visit
to these quiet latitudes, his coming made a pleasant little ripple
of satisfaction vibrate throughout the group. Even the apparently
impenetrable stolidity of the head of the school was aroused into
some faint tokens of interest in the new-comer, who clung leech-like
to his mother’s side, vigorously draining the enormous convexity
of her bosom of its bounteous flood of milk. So well did he thrive,
that at the end of a week the youngster was able to hold his own
with the school in a race, and competent also to remain under water
quite as long as his mother. Then the stately leader signified to his
dependants that the time was now at hand when they must change their
pleasant quarters. Food was less plentiful than it had been, which
was but natural, remembering the ravages necessarily made by such a
company of monsters. Moreover, a life of continual ease and slothful
luxury such as of late had been theirs was not only favourable to the
growth of a hampering investiture of parasites--barnacles, limpets,
and weed--all over their bodies, but it completely unfitted them for
the stern struggle awaiting them, when in their periodical progress
round the world they should arrive on the borders of the fierce
Antarctic Zone. And besides all these, had they forgotten that they
were liable to meet with man! A sympathetic shudder ran through every
member of the school at that dreaded name, under the influence of
which they all drew closer around their chief, sweeping their broad
flukes restlessly from side to side and breathing inaudibly.

The outcome of the conference, decided, as human meetings of the kind
are apt to be, by the commanding influence of one master will, was
that on the next day they would depart for the south by easy stages
through the teeming “off-shore” waters of South America. All through
that quiet night the mighty creatures lay almost motionless on the
surface, each the opaque centre of a halo of dazzling emerald light,
an occasional drowsy spout from their capacious lungs sliding through
the primeval stillness like the sigh of some weary Titan. When at
last the steel-blue dome above, with its myriad diamond spangles,
began to throb and glow with tremulous waves of lovely vari-coloured
light flowing before the conquering squadrons of the sun, the
whole troop, in open order about their guide, turned their heads
steadfastly to the south-west, steering an absolutely undeviating
course for their destination by their innate sense of direction
alone. Up sprang the flaming sun, a vast globe of fervent fire that
even at the horizon’s edge seemed to glow with meridian strength. And
right in the centre of his blazing disc appeared three tiny lines,
recognisable even at that distance by the human eye as the masts of
a ship whose hull was as yet below the apparent meeting-place of sea
and sky. This apparition lay fairly in the path of the advancing
whales, who, unhappily for them, possessed but feeble vision, and
that only at its best straight behind them. So on they went in
leisurely fashion, occasionally pausing for a dignified descent in
search of food, followed by an equally stately reappearance and
resumption of their journey. Nearer and nearer they drew to the fatal
area wherein they would become visible to the keen-eyed watchers at
the mast-head of that lonely ship, still in perfect ignorance of any
possible danger being at hand. Suddenly that mysterious sense owned
by them, which is more than hearing, gave warning of approaching
peril. All lay still, though quivering through every sinew of their
huge bodies with the apprehension of unknown enemies, their heads
half raised from the sparkling sea-surface and their fins and flukes
testing the vibrations of the mobile element like the diaphragm of a
phonograph. Even the youngling clung to his mother’s side as if glued
thereto under the influence of a terror that, while it effectually
stilled his sportiveness, gave him no hint of what was coming. At the
instance of the Head all sank silently and stone-like without any
of those preliminary tail-flourishings and arching of the back that
always distinguish the unworried whale from one that has received
alarming news in the curious manner already spoken of. They remained
below so long and went to so great a depth, that all except the huge
leader were quite exhausted when they returned again to the necessary
air, not only from privation of breath, but from the incalculable
pressure of the superincumbent sea. So for a brief space they lay
almost motionless, the valves of their spiracles deeply depressed as
they drew in great volumes of revivifying breath, and their great
frames limply yielding to the heave of the gliding swell. They had
scarcely recovered their normal energy when into their midst rushed
the destroyers, bringing with them the realisation of all those
paralysing fears. First to be attacked was the noble bull, and
once the first bewildering shock and smart had passed he gallantly
maintained the reputation of his giant race. Every device that
sagacity could conceive or fearlessness execute was tried by him,
until the troubled ocean around the combatants was all a-boil, and
its so recently unsullied surface was littered with tangled wreaths
of blood-streaked foam. Whether from affection or for protection
is uncertain, but the rest of the family did not attempt to flee.
All seven of the cows kept close to their lord, often appearing as
if they would shield him with their own bodies from the invisible
death-darts that continually pierced him to the very seat of his vast
vitality. And this attachment proved their own destruction, for their
assailants, hovering around them with the easy mobility of birds,
slew them at their leisure, not even needing to hamper themselves
by harpooning another individual. Instead, they wielded their long
lances upon the unresisting females, leaving the ocean monarch to his
imminent death. So successful were these tactics that before an hour
had flown, while yet the violet tint of departing night lingered on
the western edge of the sea, the last one of those mighty mammals
had groaned out the dregs of her life. Flushed with conquest and
breathless from their great exertions, the victors lolled restfully
back in their boats, while all around them upon the incarnadined
waters the massy bodies of their prey lay gently swaying to the
slumberous roll of the silent swell.

Meanwhile, throughout that stark battle, what of the youngling’s
fate? By almost a miracle, he had passed without scathe. What manner
of dread convulsion of Nature was in progress he could not know--he
was blind and deaf and almost lifeless with terror. With all that
wide ocean around him he knew not whither to flee from this day of
wrath. Of all those who had been to him so brief a space ago the
living embodiment of invincible might, not one remained to help or
shield him, none but were involved in this cataclysm of blood. His
kindred were cut off from him, he was overlooked by his enemies, and
when he came to himself he was alone. A sudden frantic impulse seized
him, and under its influence he fled, fled as the bee flies, but
without the homing instinct to guide him, southward through the calm
blue silences of that sleeping ocean. On, on, he fled untiring, until
behind him the emerald sheen of his passage through the now starlit
waters broadened into a wide blaze of softest light. Before him lay
the dark, its profound depths just manifested by the occasional
transient gleam of a palpitating medusa or the swift flight of a
terrified shark. When compelled to break the glassy surface for
breath there was a sudden splash, and amid the deep sigh from his
labouring lungs came the musical fall of the sparkling spray. When
morning dawned again on his long objectless flight, unfailing
instinct warned him of his approach to shallower waters, and with
slackening speed he went on, through the tender diffused sunlight of
those dreamy depths, until he came to an enormous submarine forest,
where the trees were fantastic abutments of living coral, the leaves
and fronds of dull-hued fucus or algæ, the blossoms of orchid-like
sea-anemones or zoophytes, and the birds were darting, gliding fish,
whose myriad splendid tints blazed like illuminated jewels.

Here, surely, he might be at peace and find some solace for his
loneliness, some suitable food to replace that which he had hitherto
always found awaiting him, and now would find nevermore. Moving
gently through the interminably intricate avenues of this submarine
world of stillness and beauty, his small lower jaw hanging down as
usual, he found abundant store of sapid molluscs that glided down
his gaping gullet with a pleasant tickling, and were soon followed
by a soothing sense of hunger satisfied. When he rose to spout he
was in the midst of a weltering turmoil of broken water, where the
majestic swell fretted and roared in wrath around the hindering
peaks of a great reef--a group of islands in the making. Here, at
any rate, he was safe, for no land was in sight whence might come
a band of his hereditary foes, while into that network of jagged
rocks no vessel would ever dare to venture. After a few days of
placid enjoyment of this secure existence he began to feel courage
and independence, although still pining for the companionship
of his kind. Thus he might have gone on for long, but that an
adventure befell him which raised him at once to his rightful
position among the sea-folk. During his rambles through the mazes
and glades of this subaqueous paradise he had once or twice noticed
between two stupendous columns of coral a black space where the
water was apparently of fathomless depth. Curiosity, one of the
strongest influences actuating the animate creation, impelled him to
investigate this chasm, but something, he knew not what, probably
inherited caution, had hitherto held him back. At last, having met
with no creature nearly his own size, and grown bold by reason of
plenteous food, he became venturesome, and made for that gloomy
abyss, bent upon searching its recesses thoroughly. Boldly he swept
between the immense bastions that guarded it, and with a swift upward
thrust of his broad horizontal tail went headlong down, down, down.
Presently he saw amidst the outer darkness a web of palely gleaming
lines incessantly changing their patterns and extending over an area
of a thousand square yards. They centred upon a dull ghastly glare
that was motionless, formless, indescribable. In its midst there
was a blackness deeper, if possible, than that of the surrounding
pit. Suddenly all that writhing entanglement wrapped him round, each
clutching snare fastening upon him with innumerable gnawing mouths
as if to devour him all over at once. With a new and even pleasant
sensation thrilling along his spine the young leviathan hurled
himself forward at that midmost gap, his powerful jaws clashing and
his whole lithe frame upstrung with nervous energy. Right through the
glutinous musky mass of that unthinkable chimæra he hewed his way,
heeding not in the least the wrenching, sucking coils winding about
him, and covering every inch of his body. Absolute silence reigned
as the great fight went on. Its inequality was curiously abnormal.
For while the vast amorphous bulk of the mollusc completely dwarfed
the comparatively puny size of the young cachalot, there was on the
side of the latter all the innate superiority of the vertebrate
carnivorous mammal with warrior instincts transmitted unimpaired
through a thousand generations of ocean royalty. Gradually the
grip of those clinging tentacles relaxed as he felt the succulent
gelatinousness divide, and with a bound he ascended from that
befouled abysmal gloom into the light and loveliness of the upper
air. Behind him trailed sundry long fragments, _disjecta membra_ of
his late antagonist, and upon these, after filling his lungs again
and again with the keen pure air of heaven, he feasted grandly.

But in spite of the new inspiring sense of conscious might and
ability to do even as his forefathers had done, his loneliness
was heavy upon him. For, like all mammals, the cachalot loves the
fellowship of his kin during the days of his strength; and only when
advancing age renders him unable to hold his own against jealous
rivals, or makes him a laggard in the united chase, does he forsake
the school and wander solitary and morose about the infinite solitude
of his limitless abode. And so, surrounded by the abundant evidences
of his prowess, the young giant meditated, while a hungry host of
sharks, like jackals at the lion’s kill, came prowling up out of the
surrounding silence, and with shrill cries of delight the hovering
bird-folk gathered in myriads to take tithe of his enormous spoil.
Unheeding the accumulating multitudes, who gave _him_ ample room
and verge enough, and full of flesh, he lay almost motionless, when
suddenly that subtle sense which, attuned to the faintest vibrations
of the mobile sea, kept him warned, informed him that some more than
ordinary commotion was in progress not many miles away. Instantly
every sinew set taut, every nerve tingled with receptivity, while,
quivering like some fucus frond in a tide rip, his broad tail swayed
silently to and fro, but so easily as not to stir his body from
its attitude of intense expectation. A gannet swept over him close
down, startling him so that with one fierce lunge of his flukes he
sprang forward twenty yards; but recovering himself he paused again,
though the impetus still bore him noiselessly ahead, the soothing
wash of the waves eddying gently around his blunt bow. Shortly
after, to his unbounded joy, a noble company of his own folk hove
in sight, two score of them in goodliest array. They glided around
him in graceful curves, wonderingly saluting him by touching his
small body with fin, nose, and tail, and puzzled beyond measure as
to how so young a fellow-citizen came to be inhabiting these vast
wastes alone. His tale was soon told, for the whale-people waste no
interchange of ideas, and the company solemnly received him into
their midst as a comrade who had well earned the right to be one of
their band by providing for them so great a feast. Swiftly the spoil
of that gigantic mollusc was rescued from the marauding sharks,
and devoured; and thorough was the subsequent search among those
deep-lying darknesses for any other monsters of the same breed that
might lie brooding in their depths. None were to be found, although
for two days and nights the questing leviathans pursued their keen
investigations. When there remained no longer a cave unfathomed or
a maze unexplored, the leader of the school, a huge black bull of
unrivalled fame, gave the signal for departure, and away they went in
double columns, line ahead, due south, their splendid chief about
a cable’s length in advance. The happy youngster, no longer astray
from his kind, gambolled about the school in unrestrained delight
at the rising tide of life that surged tumultuously through his
vigorous frame. Ah; it was so good to be alive, glorious to speed,
with body bending bow-wise, and broad fan-like flukes spurning the
brilliant waves behind him, ecstasy to exert all the power he felt
in one mad upward rush until out into the sunlight high through the
warm air he sprang, a living embodiment of irresistible force, and
fell with a joyous crash back into the welcoming bosom of his native
deep. The sedate patriarch of the school looked on these youthful
freaks indulgently, until, fired by the sight of his young follower’s
energy, he too put forth all his incredible strength, launching his
hundred tons or so of solid weight clear of the embracing sea, and
returning to it again with a shock as of some Polyphemus-hurled
mountain.

Thus our orphan grew and waxed great. Together, without mishap of
any kind, these lords of the flood skirted the southern slopes of
the globe. In serene security they ranged the stormy seas from
Kerguelen to Cape Horn, from the Falklands to Table Bay. Up through
the scent-laden straits between Madagascar and Mozambique, loitering
along the burning shores of Zanzibar and Pemba, dallying with the
eddies around the lonely Seychelles and idling away the pleasant
north-east monsoon in the Arabian Sea. By the Bab-el-Mandeb they
entered the Red Sea, their majestic array scaring the nomad fishermen
at their lonely labour along the reef-besprinkled margins thereof,
remote from the straight-ruled track down its centre along which the
unwearied slaves of the West, the great steamships, steadily thrust
their undeviating way. Here, in richest abundance, they found their
favourite food, cuttlefish of many kinds, although none so large as
those haunting the middle depths of the outer ocean. And threading
the deep channels between the reefs great shoals of delicately
flavoured fish, beguiled by the pearly whitenesses of those gaping
throats, rushed fearlessly down them to oblivion. So quiet were
these haunts, so free from even the remotest chance of interference
by man, their only enemy, that they remained for many months, even
penetrating well up the Gulf of Akaba, that sea of sleep whose waters
even now retain the same primitive seclusion they enjoyed when their
shores were the cradle of mankind.

But now a time was fast approaching when our hero must needs meet
his compeers in battle, if haply he might justify his claim to be
a leader in his turn. For such is the custom of the cachalot. The
young bulls each seek to form a harem among the younger cows of the
school, and having done so, they break off from the main band and
pursue their own independent way. This crisis in the career of the
orphan had been imminent for some time, but now, in these untroubled
seas, it could no longer be delayed. Already several preliminary
skirmishes had taken place with no definite results, and at last,
one morning when the sea was like oil for smoothness, and blazing
like burnished gold under the fervent glare of the sun, two out
of the four young bulls attacked the orphan at once. All around
lay the expectant brides ready to welcome the conqueror, while in
solitary state the mighty leader held aloof, doubtless meditating on
the coming time when a mightier than he should arise and drive him
from his proud position into lifelong exile. Straight for our hero’s
massive head came his rivals, charging along the foaming surface like
bluff-bowed torpedo rams. But as they converged upon him he also
charged to meet them, settling slightly at the same time. Whether by
accident or design I know not, but certainly the consequence of this
move was that instead of their striking him they met one another over
his back, the shock of their impact throwing their great heads out
of the sea with a dull boom that might have been heard for a mile.
Swiftly and gracefully the orphan turned head over flukes, rising on
his back and clutching the nearest of his opponents by his pendulous
under-jaw. The fury of that assault was so great that the attacked
one’s jaw was wrenched sideways, until it remained at right angles
to his body, leaving him for the rest of his life sorely hampered
in even the getting of food, but utterly incapable of ever again
giving battle to one of his own species. Then rushing towards the
other aggressor the victorious warrior inverted his body in the sea,
and brandishing his lethal flukes smote so doughtily upon his foe
that the noise of those tremendous blows reverberated for leagues
over the calm sea, while around the combatants the troubled waters
were lashed into ridges and islets of snowy foam. Very soon was the
battle over. Disheartened, sick, and exhausted, the disabled rival
essayed to escape, settling stone-like until he lay like some sunken
wreck on the boulder-bestrewn sea-bed a hundred fathoms down. Slowly,
but full of triumph, the conqueror returned to the waiting school
and, selecting six of the submissive cows, led them away without any
attempt at hindrance on the part of the other two young bulls who had
not joined in the fray.

In stately march the new family travelled southward out of the Red
Sea, along the Somali Coast, past the frowning cliffs of Sokotra,
and crossing the Arabian Sea, skirted at their ease the pleasant
Malabar littoral. Unerring instinct guided them across the Indian
Ocean and through the Sunda Straits, until amid the intricacies of
Celebes they ended their journey for a season. Here, with richest
food in overflowing abundance, among undisturbed reef-beds swept by
constantly changing currents, where they might chafe their irritated
skins clean from the many parasites they had accumulated during
their long Red Sea sojourn, they remained for several seasons. Then,
suddenly, as calamities usually come, they were attacked by a whaler
as they were calmly coasting along Timor. But never till their dying
day did those whale-fishers forget that fight. True, they secured
two half-grown cows, but at what a cost to themselves! For the young
leader, now in the full flush of vigorous life, seemed not only to
have inherited the fighting instincts of his ancestors, but also to
possess a fund of wily ferocity that made him a truly terrible foe.
No sooner did he feel the first keen thrust of the harpoon than,
instead of expending his strength for naught by a series of aimless
flounderings, he rolled his huge bulk swiftly towards his aggressors,
who were busily engaged in clearing their boat of the hampering sail,
and perforce helpless for a time. Right down upon them came the
writhing mass of living flesh, overwhelming them as completely as
if they had suddenly fallen under Niagara. From out of that roaring
vortex only two of the six men forming the boat’s crew emerged alive,
poor fragments of humanity tossing like chips upon the tormented sea.
Then changing his tactics, the triumphant cachalot glided stealthily
about just beneath the surface, feeling with his sensitive flukes for
anything still remaining afloat upon which to wreak his newly aroused
thirst for vengeance. As often as he touched a floating portion of
the shattered boat, up flew his mighty flukes in a moment, and, with
a reflex blow that would have stove in the side of a ship, he smote
it into still smaller splinters. This attention to his first set of
enemies saved the other boats from destruction, for they, using all
expedition, managed to despatch the two cows they had harpooned,
and when they returned to the scene of disaster, the bull, unable
to find anything more to destroy, had departed with the remnant of
his family, and they saw him no more. Gloomily they traversed the
battle-field until they found the two exhausted survivors just feebly
clinging to a couple of oars, and with them mournfully regained their
ship.

Meanwhile the triumphant bull was slowly making his way eastward,
sorely irritated by the galling harpoon which was buried deep
in his shoulders, and wondering what the hundreds of fathoms of
trailing rope behind him could be. At last coming to a well-known
reef he managed to get the line entangled around some of its coral
pillars, and a strenuous effort on his part tore out the barbed
weapon, leaving in its place a ragged rent in his blubber four feet
long. Such a trifle as that, a mere superficial scratch, gave him
little trouble, and with the wonderful recuperative power possessed
by all the sea-folk the ugly tear was completely healed in a few
days. Henceforth he was to be reckoned among the most dangerous of
all enemies to any of mankind daring to attack him, for he knew his
power. This the whalemen found to their cost. Within the next few
years his fame had spread from Cape Cod to Chelyushkin, and wherever
two whaleships met for a spell of “gamming,” his prowess was sure to
be an absorbing topic of conversation. In fact, he became the terror
of the tortuous passages of Malaysia, and though often attacked
always managed to make good his escape, as well as to leave behind
him some direful testimony to his ferocious cunning. At last he
fell in with a ship off Palawan, whose crew were justly reputed to
be the smartest whale-fishers from “Down East.” Two of her boats
attacked him one lovely evening just before sunset, but the iron
drew. Immediately he felt the wound he dived perpendicularly, but
describing a complete vertical circle beneath the boat he rose again,
striking her almost amidships with the front of his head. This, of
course, hurled the crew everywhere, besides shattering the boat. But
reversing himself again on the instant, he brandished those awful
flukes in the air, bringing them down upon the helpless men and
crushing three of them into dead pieces. Apparently satisfied, he
disappeared in the gathering darkness.

When the extent of the disaster became known on board the ship, the
skipper was speechless with rage and grief, for the mate who had been
killed was his brother, and very dear to him. And he swore that if
it cost him a season’s work and the loss of his ship, he would slay
that man-killing whale. From that day he cruised about those narrow
seas offering large rewards to any of his men who should first sight
his enemy again. Several weeks went by, during which not a solitary
spout was seen, until one morning in Banda Strait the skipper himself
“raised” a whale close in to the western verge of the island.
Instantly all hands were alert, hoping against hope that this might
prove to be their long-sought foe at last. Soon the welcome news came
from aloft that it _was_ a sperm whale, and an hour later two boats
left the ship, the foremost of them commanded by the skipper. With
him he took four small barrels tightly bunged, and an extra supply of
bomb-lances, in the use of which he was an acknowledged expert. As
they drew near the unconscious leviathan they scarcely dared breathe,
and, their oars carefully peaked, they propelled the boats by paddles
as silently as the gliding approach of a shark. Hurrah! fast; first
iron. “Starn all, men! it’s him, d--n him, ’n I’ll slaughter him ’r
he shall me.” Backward flew the boat, not a second too soon, for
with that superhuman cunning expected of him, the terrible monster
had spun round and was rushing straight for them. The men pulled for
dear life, the steersman swinging the boat round as if she were on
a pivot, while the skipper pitched over the first of his barrels.
Out flashed the sinewy flukes, and before that tremendous blow the
buoyant barrico spun through the air like a football. The skipper’s
eyes flashed with delight at the success of his stratagem, and over
went another decoy. This seemed to puzzle the whale, but it did not
hinder him, and he seemed to keep instinctively heading towards the
boat, thus exposing only his invulnerable head. The skipper, however,
had no idea of rashly risking himself, so heaving over his remaining
barrel he kept well clear of the furious animal’s rushes, knowing
well that the waiting game was the best. All through that bright
day the great battle raged. Many were the hair-breadth escapes of
the men, but the skipper never lost his cool, calculating attitude.
Finally the now exhausted leviathan “sounded” in reality, remaining
down for half-an-hour. When he reappeared, he was so sluggish in
his movements that the exultant skipper shouted, “Naow, boys, in on
him! he’s our whale.” Forward darted the beautiful craft under the
practised sweep of the six oars, and as soon as she was within range
the skipper fired his first bomb. It reached the whale, but, buried
in the flesh, its explosion was not disabling. Still it did not spur
the huge creature into activity, for at last his strength had failed
him. Another rush in and another bomb, this time taking effect just
abaft the starboard fin. There was a momentary accession of energy
as the frightful wound caused by the bursting iron tube among the
monster’s viscera set all his masses of muscle a-quiver. But this
spurt was short-lived. And as a third bomb was fired a torrent of
blood foamed from the whale’s distended spiracle, a few fierce
convulsions distorted his enormous frame, and that puissant ocean
monarch passed peacefully into the passiveness of death.

When they got the great carcass alongside, they found embedded in the
blubber no fewer than fourteen harpoons, besides sundry fragments
of exploded bombs, each bearing mute but eloquent testimony to the
warlike career of the vanquished Titan who began his career as an
orphan.



                           A PORPOISE MYTH


Far away to the horizon on three sides of us stretched the sea, its
wavelets all sparkling in the sun-glade, and dancing under the touch
of the sedate trade-wind. Above hung a pale-blue dome quivering with
heat and light from the sun, that, halfway up his road to the zenith,
seemed to be in the act of breaking his globular limit and flooding
space with flame. Ah! it was indeed pleasant to lie on that little
patch of pure sand, firm and smooth as a boarded floor, with the
rocks fringed by greenery of many kinds overshadowing us, and the
ocean murmuring at our feet.

The place was a little promontory on the eastern shore of Hapai, in
the Friendly Islands, and my companion, who lay on the sand near
me, was by birth a chief, a splendid figure of a man, with a grave,
intellectual face, and deep, solemn voice that refused to allow the
mangled English in which he spoke to seem laughable. I knew him to
be the senior deacon of the local chapel, a devotionalist of the
most rigid kind, yet by common consent a righteous man, well-beloved
by all who knew him. He was my “flem” or friend, who, of his own
initiative, kept me supplied with all such luxuries as the village
afforded, and so great was my admiration for him as a man that it was
with no ordinary delight I succeeded in persuading him to accompany
me on a holiday ramble. He had led me through forest paths beset by a
thousand wonders of beauty in vegetation and insect life, showing me
as we went how the untilled ground produced on every hand abundance
of delicious food for man, up over hills from whence glimpses of
land and sea scape incessantly flashed upon the sight till my eyes
grew weary of enjoying, over skirting reefs just creaming with the
indolent wash of the sea, every square yard of which held matter for
a life’s study, but all beautiful beyond superlatives. And at last,
weary with wondering no less than with the journey, we had reached
this sheltered nook and laid down to rest, lulled into dreamy peace
by the murmurs of the Pacific rippling beneath us.

For some time we lay silent in great content. Every thought, every
feeling, as far as I was concerned, was just merged in complete
satisfaction of all the senses, although at times I glanced at my
grave companion, wondering dreamily if he too, though accustomed to
these delights all his life long, could feel that deep enjoyment
of them that I, a wanderer from the bleak and unsettled North,
was saturated with. But while this and kindred ideas lazily ebbed
and flowed through my satisfied brain, the bright expanse of sea
immediately beneath us suddenly started into life. A school of
porpoises, numbering several hundreds, broke the surface, new
risen from unknown depths, and began their merry gambols as if the
superabundant life animating them must find a vent. They formed into
three divisions, marched in undulating yet evenly spaced lines,
amalgamated, separated, reformed. At one moment all clustered in
one central mass, making the placid sea boil; the next, as if by a
pivotal explosion, they were rushing at headlong speed in radiating
lines towards a circumference. As if at preconcerted signal, they
reached it and disappeared. Perfect quiet ensued for perhaps two
minutes. Then, in solemn measure, solitary individuals, scattered
over a vast area, rose into the air ten, fifteen, twenty feet, turned
and fell, but, at our distance from them, in perfect silence. This
pretty play continued for some time, the leaps growing gradually less
vigorous until they ceased altogether, and we saw the whole company
massing themselves in close order far out to sea. A few minutes, for
breathing space I suppose, and then in one magnificent charge, every
individual leaping twenty feet at each bound, they came thundering
shoreward. It was an inspiring sight, that host of lithe black bodies
in maddest rush along the sea-surface, lashing it into dazzling foam,
and sending across to our ears a deep melodious roar like the voice
of many waters. Within a hundred yards of the shore they disappeared
abruptly, as if an invisible line had there been drawn, and presently
we saw them leisurely departing eastward, as though, playtime over,
they had now resumed the normal flow of everyday duties.

While I lay quietly wondering over the amazing display I had just
witnessed, I was almost startled to hear my companion speak, for he
seldom did so unless spoken to first. (I translate.) “The great game
of the sea-pigs that we have just seen brings back to my memory
an old story which is still told among our people, but one which
we are trying hard to forget with all the others, because they are
of the evil days, and stir up in our children those feelings that
we have fought so long to bury beyond resurrection. This story,
however, is harmless enough, although I should neither tell it to,
or listen to it from, one of mine own people. Long ago when we
worshipped the old cruel gods, and my ancestors were chief priests
of that worship, holding all the people under their rule in utter
terror and subjection, our chief, yes, our only, business besides
religion was war. Our women were slaves who were only born for our
service, and it is not easy now to understand what our feelings then
were toward the sex to whom we are now so tender. Our only talk was
of the service of the gods and of war, which indeed was generally
undertaken for some religious reason, more often than not to provide
human victims for sacrifice. In one of these constantly recurring
wars the men of Tonga-tabu--of course each group of these islands was
then independent of the others--made a grand raid upon Hapai. They
were helped by some strangers, who had been washed ashore from some
other islands to the northward, to build bigger and better war-canoes
than had ever before been seen, for our people were never famous for
canoe-building. They kept their plans so secret that when at daybreak
one morning the news ran round Hapai that a whole fleet of war-canoes
were nearing the shore, our people were like a school of flying-fish
into the midst of which some dolphin has suddenly burst. One of my
ancestors, called ‘The Bone-Breaker’ from his great strength and
courage, met the invaders with a mere handful of his followers and
delayed their landing for hours until he and all his warriors were
killed. By this time fresh bands were continually arriving, so that
the warriors from Tonga must needs fight every inch of their way
through the islands. And as they destroyed band after band their
war-hunger became greater, their rage rose, and they determined to
leave none of us living except such as they kept for sacrifice on
their altars at home. Day after day the slaughter went on, ever more
feeble grew the defence, until warriors who had never refused the
battle hid themselves like the pêca in holes of the rocks. Behind
us, about two miles inland, there is a high hill with a flat top
and steep sides. To this as a shelter fled all the unmarried girls
of our people, fearing to be carried away as slaves to Tonga, but
never dreaming of being slain if their hiding-place was found. Here
they remained unseen for seven days, until, ravenous with hunger,
they were forced to leave their hiding-place and come down. But they
hoped that, although no tidings had reached them from outside, their
enemies had departed. Four hundred of them reached the plain over
which we passed just now, weak with fasting, with no man to lead
them, trembling at every rustling branch in the forest around. All
appeared as it does to-day, the islands seemed slumbering in serene
peace, although they knew that every spot where their people had
lived was now defiled by the recent dead.

“While they paused, huddling together irresolutely, there suddenly
burst upon their ears a tempest of exultant yells, and from
both sides of the hill they had lately left the whole force of
Tongans rushed after them. They fled as flies the booby before
the frigate-bird, and with as little hope of escape. Before them
spread this same bright sea smiling up at them as if in welcome.
You know how our people love the sea, love to cradle ourselves on
its caressing waves from the day when, newly born, our mothers lay
us in its refreshing waters, until even its life-giving touch can
no longer reanimate our withered bodies. So who can wonder that the
maidens fled to it for refuge. Over this shining sand they rushed,
plunging in ranks from yonder reef-edge into the quiet blue beyond.
Hard behind them came the hunters, sure of their prey. They reached
the reef and stared with utter dread and amazement upon the pretty
play of a great school of porpoises that, in just such graceful
evolutions as we have now seen, manifested their full enjoyment of
life. Terror seized upon those blood-lusting Tongans, their muscles
shrank and their weapons fell. Had there been one hundred Hapaian
warriors left alive they might have destroyed the whole Tongan host,
for it was become as a band of lost and terrified children dreading
at every step to meet the vengeance of the gods. But there were none
to hinder them, so they fled in safety to their own shores, never to
invade Hapai again. And when, after many years, the few survivors
of that week of death had repeopled Hapai, the story of the four
hundred maidens befriended by the sea-gods in their time of need was
the most frequently told among us. And to this day is the porpoise
‘taboo,’ although we know now that this legend, as well as all the
others which have been so carefully preserved among us, is only the
imagination of our forefathers’ hearts. Yet I often wish that we knew
some of them were true.”



                         CATS ON BOARD SHIP


Many stories are current about the peculiar aptitude possessed by
sailors of taming all sorts of wild creatures that chance to come
under their care, most of them having a much firmer basis of fact
than sea-yarns are usually given credit for. But of all the pets
made by Jack none ever attains so intimate an acquaintance with him,
so firm a hold upon his affections, as the cat, about whom so many
libellous things are said ashore. All things considered, a ship’s
forecastle is about the last place in the world that one would
expect to find favoured by a cat for its permanent abiding place.
Subject as it is at all times to sudden invasion by an encroaching
wave, always at the extremes of stuffiness or draughtiness, never
by any chance cheered by the glow of a fire, or boasting even an
apology for a hearthrug,--warmth-loving, luxurious pussy cannot
hope to find any of those comforts that her long acquaintance with
civilisation has certainly given her an innate hankering after. No
cat’s-meat man purveying regular rations of savoury horse-flesh, so
much beloved by even the daintiest aristocrats of the cat family,
ever gladdens her ears with the dulcet cry of “Meeeet, cassmeet,”
nor, saddest lack of all, is there ever to be found a saucer of milk
for her delicate cleanly lapping. And yet, strange as it may appear,
despite the superior attractions offered by the friendly steward at
the after-end of the ship, irresponsive to the blandishments of the
captain and officers, I have many times been shipmate with cats who
remained steadily faithful to the fo’c’s’le throughout the length
of an East Indian or Colonial voyage. They could hardly be said
to have any preferences for individual members of the crew, being
content with the universal attention paid them by all, although as
a rule they found a snug berth in some man’s bunk which they came
to look upon as theirs by prescriptive right, their shelter in time
of storm, and their refuge, when in harbour the scanty floor place
of the fo’c’s’le afforded no safe promenade for anything bearing
a tail. Only once or twice in all my experience have I seen any
cruelty offered to a cat on board ship, and then the miscreant who
thus offended against the unwritten law had but a sorry time of it
thereafter.

Personally, I have been honoured by the enduring fellowship of many
cats whose attachment to me for myself alone (for I had nothing to
give them to eat but a little chewed biscuit) effectually settled for
me the question of what some people are pleased to call the natural
selfishness of cats. My first experience was on my second voyage when
I was nearly thirteen years old. On my first voyage we had no cat,
strange to say, in either of the three ships I belonged to before I
got back to England. But when I joined the _Brinkburn_ in London for
the West Indies as boy, I happened to be the first on board to take
up my quarters in the fo’c’s’le. I crept into my lonely bunk that
night feeling very small and forgotten, and huddled myself into my
ragged blanket trying to get warm and go to sleep. It was quite dark,
and the sudden apparition of two glaring green eyes over the edge of
my bunk sent a spasm of fear through me for a moment, until I felt
soft feet walking over me and heard the pretty little crooning sound
usually made by a complacent mother-cat over her kittens. I put up
my hands and felt the warm fur, quite a thrill of pleasure trickling
over me as pussy pleasantly responded with a loud satisfied purr. We
were quite glad of each other I know, for as I cuddled her closely
to me, the vibrations of her purring comforted me so that in a short
time I was sound asleep. Thenceforward puss and I were the firmest of
friends. In fact she was the only friend I had on board that hateful
ship. For the crew were a hard-hearted lot, whose treatment of me was
consistently barbarous, and even the other boy, being much bigger and
stronger than I was, used to treat me as badly as any of them. But
when night came and the faithful cat nestled in by my side during
my watch below, I would actually forget my misery for a short time
in the pleasant consciousness that _something_ was fond of me. It
was to my bunk she invariably fled for refuge from the ill-natured
little terrier who lived aft, and never missed an opportunity of
flying at her when he saw her on deck. Several times during the
passage she found flying-fish that dropped on deck at night, and,
by some instinct I do not pretend to explain, brought them to where
I crouched by the cabin-door. Then she would munch the sweet morsel
contentedly, looking up at me between mouthfuls as if to tell me
how much she was enjoying her unwonted meal, or actually leaving
it for a minute or two to rub herself against me and arch her back
under my fondling hand. Two days before we left Falmouth, Jamaica, on
the homeward passage, she had kittens, five tiny slug-like things,
that lived in my bunk in their mother’s old nest. The voyage ended
abruptly on the first day out of harbour by the vessel running upon
an outlying spur of coral only a few miles from the port. After a day
and night of great exertion and exposure the ship slid off the sharp
pinnacles of the reef into deep water, giving us scant time to escape
on board one of the small craft that clustered alongside salving the
cargo. The few rags I owned were hardly worth saving, but indeed I
did not think of them. All my care was for an old slouch hat in which
lay the five kittens snug and warm, while the anxious mother clung
to me so closely that I had no difficulty in taking her along too.
When we got ashore, although it cost me a bitter pang, I handed the
rescued family over to the hotel-keeper’s daughter, a comely mulatto
girl, who promised me that my old shipmate should from that time live
in luxury.

From that time forward I was never fortunate enough to have a cat for
my very own for a long time. Nearly every ship I was in had a cat, or
even two, but they were common property, and their attentions were
severely impartial. Then it came to pass that I joined a very large
and splendid ship in Adelaide as second mate. Going on board for the
first time, a tiny black kitten followed me persistently along the
wharf. It had evidently strayed a long way and would not be put off,
although I made several attempts to escape from it, feeling that
perhaps I might be taking it away from a better home than I could
possibly give it. It succeeded in following me on board, and when I
took possession of the handsome cabin provided for me in the after
end of the after deckhouse facing the saloon, it installed itself
therein, purring complete approval of its surroundings. Now, in spite
of the splendour of the ship and the natural pride I felt in being an
officer on board of her, it must be confessed that I was exceedingly
lonely. The chief officer was an elderly man of about fifty-five who
had long commanded ships, and he considered it beneath his dignity to
associate with such a mere lad as he considered me. Besides, he lived
in the grand cabin. I could not forgather with the saloon passengers,
who rarely came on the main-deck at all where I lived, and I was
forbidden to go forward and visit those in the second saloon.
Therefore during my watch below I was doomed to solitary state, cut
off from the companionship of my kind with the sole exception of the
urbane and gentlemanly chief steward, who did occasionally (about
once a week) spend a fraction of his scanty leisure in conversation
with me. Thus it came about that the company of “Pasht,” as I called
my little cat, was a perfect godsend. He slept on my pillow when I
was in my bunk, when I sat at my table writing or reading he sat
close to my hand. And if I wrote long, paying no attention to him,
he would reach out a velvety paw and touch the handle of my pen,
ever so gently, looking up at my face immediately to see if my
attention had been diverted. Often I took no notice but kept on with
my work, quietly putting back the intruding paw when it became too
troublesome. At last, as if unable to endure my neglect any longer,
he would get up and walk on to the paper, sitting down in the centre
of the sheet with a calm assurance that now I must notice him that
was very funny. Then we would sit looking into the depths of each
other’s eyes as if trying mutual mesmerism. It generally ended by
his climbing up on to my shoulder and settling into the hollow of
my neck, purring softly in my ear, while I wrote or read on until
I was quite stiff with the constrained position I kept for fear of
disturbing him. Whenever I went on deck at night to keep my watch he
invariably came with me, keeping me company throughout my four hours’
vigil on the poop. Always accustomed to going barefoot, from which
I was precluded during the day owing to my position, I invariably
enjoyed the absence of any covering for my feet in the night watches.
My little companion evidently thought my bare feet were specially
put on for his amusement, for after a few sedate turns fore and aft
by my side, he would hide behind the skylights and leap out upon
them as I passed, darting off instantly in high glee at the feat he
had performed. Occasionally I would turn the tables on him by going
a few feet up the rigging, when he would sit and cry, baby-like,
until I returned and comforted him. I believe he knew every stroke of
the bell as well as I did. One of the apprentices always struck the
small bell at the break of the poop every half-hour, being answered
by the look-out man on the big bell forward. “Pasht” never took the
slightest notice of any of the strokes until the four pairs announced
the close of the watch. Then I always missed him suddenly. But when,
after mustering the mate’s watch and handing over my charge to my
superior, I went to my berth, a little black head invariably peeped
over the edge of my bunk, as if saying, “Come along; I’m so sleepy!”
So our pleasant companionship went on until one day, when about the
Line in the Atlantic, I found my pretty pet lying on the grating in
my berth. He had been seized with a fit, and under its influence
had rushed into the fo’c’s’le, where some unspeakable wretch had
shamefully maltreated him under the plea that he was mad! I could not
bear to see him suffer--I cannot say what had been done to him--so
I got an old marline-spike, looped the lanyard about his neck, and
dropped him overboard. And an old lady among the passengers berated
me the next day for my “heartless brutality”!

As a bereaved parent often dreads the thought of having another
little one to lose, so, although many opportunities presented
themselves, I refused to own another cat, until I became an
unconsenting foster-parent again to a whole family. I joined a
brig in the St. Katharine Docks as mate, finding when I took up
my berth that there was both a cat and a dog on board, inmates
of the cabin. They occupied different quarters during the night,
but it was a never-waning pleasure to me to see them meet in the
morning. The dog, a large brown retriever, would stand perfectly
still, except for his heavy tail, which swayed sedately from side
to side, while “Jane” would walk round and round him, arching her
back and rubbing her sides against him, purring all the time a
gentle note of welcome. Presently their noses would meet, as if in
a kiss, and he would bestow a slavering lick or two upon her white
fur. This always ended the greeting, sending “Jane” off primly to
commence her morning toilet. But alas! a blighting shadow fell
upon this loving intercourse. One of the dock cats, a creature
of truculent appearance, her fur more like the nap of a door-mat
than anything else, blind of one eye, minus half her tail, with a
hare-lip (acquired, not hereditary), and her ears vandyked in curious
patterns, stalked on board one afternoon, and took up her abode in
the cabin without any preliminaries whatever. Both the original
tenants were much disturbed at this graceless intrusion, but neither
of them felt disposed to tackle the formidable task of turning her
out. So “Jane” departed to the galley, and “Jack,” with many a loud
and long sniff at the door of the berth wherein the visitor lay,
oscillated disconsolately between the galley and the cabin, his duty
and his inclination. The new-comer gave no trouble, always going
ashore for everything she required, and only once, the morning her
family arrived, deigning to accept a saucer of milk from me. As soon
as she dared she carried the new-comers ashore one by one, being
much vexed when I followed and brought them back again. However, her
patience was greater than mine, for she succeeded in getting them
all away except one which I hid away and she apparently forgot.
Then we saw her no more; she returned to her duty of rat-catching
in the warehouses, and never came near us again. Meanwhile “Jane”
would scarcely leave my side during the day, asking as plainly as
a cat could, why, oh why, didn’t I turn that shameless hussy out?
Couldn’t I see how things were? or was I like the rest of the men?
Her importunity was so great that I was heartily glad when the old
“docker” was gone, and I lost no time in reinstalling “Jane” in her
rightful realm. It was none too soon. For the next morning when I
turned out, a sight as strange as any I have ever seen greeted me.
There, in the corner of my room, lay “Jack” on his side, looking
with undisguised amazement and an occasional low whine of sympathy
at his friend, who, nestling close up to his curls in the space
between his fore and hind legs, was busily attending to the wants
of two new arrivals. The dog’s bewilderment and interest were so
great, that the scene would have been utterly ludicrous had it not
been so genuinely pathetic and pretty. How he managed to restrain
himself I do not know, but there he lay perfectly quiet until pussy
herself released him from his awkward position by getting up and
taking possession of a cosy box I prepared for her. Even then his
attentions were constant, for many times a day he would walk gravely
in and sniff at the kittens, bestow a lick on the mother, and depart
with an almost dejected air, as of a dog that had met with a problem
utterly beyond his wisdom to solve. A visitor claiming one of the
new kittens, I filled its place with the one I had kept belonging to
the old “docker,” and “Jane” accepted the stranger without demur.
While we were in dock I gave them plenty of such luxuries as milk and
cat’s-meat, so that the little family prospered apace. As the kittens
grew and waxed frolicsome, their attachment to me was great,--quite
embarrassing at times, for while standing on deck giving orders,
they would swarm up my legs and cling like bats to my coat, so that
I moved with difficulty for fear of shaking them off. “Jane” was
a perfect “ratter,” and I was curious to see whether her prowess
was hereditary in her offspring. A trap was set and a rat speedily
caught, for we were infested with them. Then “Jane” and her own
kitten were called, the latter being at the time barely two months
old. As soon as the kitten smelt the rat she growled, set up her
fur, and walked round the trap (a large wire cage) seeking a way in.
“Jane” sat down a little apart, an apparently uninterested spectator.
We opened the door of the trap, the kitten darted in, and there in
that confined space slew the rat, which was almost her equal in
size, with the greatest ease. She then dragged it out, growling like
a miniature tiger. Her mother came to have a look, but the kitten,
never loosing her bite, shot out one bristling paw and smote poor
“Jane” on the nose so felly that she retired shaking her head and
sneezing entire disapproval. The other kitten, a “tom,” could never
be induced to interfere with a rat at all. My space is gone, much to
my disappointment, for the subject is a fascinating one to me. But
I hope enough has been said to show what a large amount of interest
clusters around cats on board ship.



                        THE OLD EAST INDIAMAN


An enthusiastic crowd of workmen and seafarers gathered one day long
ago at Blackwall to witness the launching of the _Lion_. Every man
among them felt a personal interest in the majestic fabric that,
under the proud labours of those skilful shipwrights, had gradually
grown up out of the trim piles of oak, greenheart, and teak, and
taken on the splendid shape of an East Indiaman, in the days when
those grand vessels were queens of the wide sea. Green’s renowned
draughtsmen had lavished all their skill upon her design, every
device known to men whose calling was their pride, and to whom the
Blackwall Yard was the centre of the shipbuilding world, had been
employed to make the _Lion_ the finest of all the great fleet that
had been brought into being there. Decked with flags from stem to
stern, the sun glinting brightly on the rampant crimson lion that
towered proudly on high from her stem, she glided gracefully from the
ways amid the thunder of cannon and the deafening shouts of exultant
thousands. And when, two months later, she sailed for Madras with
eighty prime seamen forrard and a hundred passengers in her spacious
cuddy, who so proud as her stately commander? His eye flashed as
he watched the nimble evolutions of his bonny bluejackets leaping
from spar to spar, and he felt that, given fitting opportunity, he
would have no overwhelming task to tackle a French line-of-battle
ship, even though he _was_ but a peaceful merchantman. For ranged
on either side of her roomy decks were ten 18-pounders, under the
charge of a smart gunner, whose pride in his new post was a pleasant
thing to see. And besides these bulldogs there were many rifles
and boarding-pikes neatly stowed in a small armoury in the waist.
But above and beyond all these weapons were the men who would use
them,--sturdy, square-set British sea-dogs, such as you may now see
any day swarming upon the deck of a British man-o’-war, but may look
for almost in vain on board the swarming thousands of vessels that
compose our merchant fleet.

The _Lion_ soon justified all the high hopes of her builders and
owners. In spite of her (then) great size and the taut spread of her
spars, she was far handier than any “Billy-boy” that ever turned up
the Thames estuary against a head wind, and by at least a knot and
a half the fastest ship in the East India trade. Her fame grew and
waxed exceedingly great. There was as much intriguing to secure a
berth in the _Lion_ for the outward or homeward passage as there was
in those days for positions in the golden land she traded to. Almost
all the hierarchy of India spoke of her affectionately as one speaks
of the old home, and the newly-arrived in her knew no lack of topics
for conversation if they only mentioned her name in any company. For
had she not borne safely and pleasantly over the long, long sea-road
from home hundreds and hundreds of those pale-faced rulers of dusky
millions, bringing them in their callow boyhood to leap at a bound
to posts of trust and responsibility such as the proud old Romans
never dreamed of? She was so tenderly cared for, her every want so
immediately supplied, that this solicitude, added to the staunchness
and honesty of her build, seemed to render her insusceptible of
decay. Men whose work in India was done spoke of her in their
peaceful retirement on leafy English countrysides, and recalled with
cronies “our first passage out in the grand old _Lion_.” A new type
of ship, a new method of propulsion, was springing up all around her.
But whenever any of the most modern fliers forgathered with her upon
the ocean highway, their crews felt their spirits rise in passionate
admiration for the stately and beautiful old craft whose graceful
curves and perfect ease seemed to be of the sea _sui generis_,
moulded and caressed by the noble element into something of its own
mobility and tenacious power.

It appeared almost a loss of dignity when the Company took her off
the India route and held her on the Australian berth. But very soon
she had taken the place that always appeared to be hers of right,
and she was _the_ ship of all others wherein to sail for the new
world beneath us. And in due course the sturdy Empire-builders
scattered all over the vast new country were speaking of her as
the Anglo-Indians had done a generation ago, and the “new chum”
who had “come out in the _Lion_” found himself welcome in far-away
bush homes, from Adelaide to Brisbane, as one of the same family,
a protégé of the benevolent old ship. She held her own well, too,
in point of speed with the new steel and iron clippers, in spite
of what foolish youngsters sneeringly said about her extended
quarter-galleries, her far-reaching head, and immense many-windowed
stern. But gradually the fierce stress of modern competition told
upon her, and it needed no great stretch of the imagination to
suppose that the magnificent old craft felt her dignity outraged as
voyage after voyage saw her crew lists dwindle until instead of the
eighty able _seamen_ of her young days she carried but twenty-two.
The goodly company of officers, midshipmen, and artificers were
cut down also to a third of their old array, and as a necessary
consequence much of her ancient smartness of appearance went with
them. Then she should have closed her splendid career in some great
battle with the elements, and found a fitting glory of defeat without
disgrace before the all-conquering, enduring sea. That solace was
not to be hers, but as a final effort she made the round voyage from
Melbourne to London and back, including the handling of two cargoes,
in five months and twenty days, beating anything of the kind ever
recorded of a sailing-vessel.

Then, oh woeful fall! she was sold to the Norwegians, those thrifty
mariners who are ever on the look-out for bargains in the way of
ships who have seen their best days, and manage to succeed, in ways
undreamed of by more lavish nations, in making fortunes out of such
poor old battered phantoms of bygone prosperity. Tenacious as the
seaman’s memory is for the appearance of any ship in which he has
once sailed, it would have been no easy task for any of her former
shipmates to recognise the splendid old _Lion_ under her Scandinavian
name of the _Ganger Rolf_, metamorphosed as she was too by the
shortening of her tapering spars, the stripping of the yards from
the mizen-mast, and the rigging up of what British sailors call the
“Norwegian house-flag,” a windmill pump between the main and mizen
masts. Thus transformed she began her degraded existence under
new masters, crawling to and fro across the Atlantic to Quebec in
summer, Pensacola or Doboy in winter, uneasily and spiritless as some
gallant hunter dragging a timber waggon in his old age. Unpainted,
weather-bleached, and with sails so patched and clouted that they
looked like slum washing hung out to dry, she became, like the rest
of the “wood-scows,” a thing for the elements to scoff at, and, seen
creeping eastward with a deck-load of deals piled six feet high fore
and aft above her top-gallant rail, was as pathetic as a pauper
funeral. Eight seamen now were all that the thrift of her owners
allowed to navigate her, who with the captain, two mates, carpenter,
and cook, made up the whole of her crew, exactly the number of the
officers she used to carry in her palmy days.

One day when she was discharging in London there came alongside an
old seaman, weather-worn and hungry-looking. Something in the build
of the old ship caught his eye, and with quivering lips and twitching
hands he climbed on board. Round about the deck he quested until,
half hidden by a huge pile of lumber, he found the bell and read on
it, “Lion, London, 1842.” Then he sat down and covered his face with
his hands. Presently he arose and sought the grimy mate purposefully.
At an incredibly low wage he obtained the berth of cook,--it was
either that or starve, although now he had found his old ship, he
felt that he would go for nothing rather than miss another voyage in
her. Soon after they sailed for the “fall voyage” to Quebec, making
a successful run over, much to the delight of the ancient cook, who
was never weary of telling any one who would listen of the feats of
sailing performed by the _Lion_ when he was quartermaster of her
“way back in the fifties.” Urged by greed, for he was part-owner,
and under no fear of the law, the skipper piled upon her such a
deck-load of deals that she no longer resembled a ship, she was only
comparable to a vast timber stack with three masts. She was hardly
clear of Newfoundland on her homeward passage, when one of the most
terrible gales of all that terrible winter set in. Snow and sleet
and frost-fog, a blinding white whirl of withering cold, assailed
her, paralysing the hapless handful of men who vainly strove on
their lofty platform to do their duty, exposed fully to all the
wrath of that icy tempest. One after one the worn-out sails, like
autumn leaves, were stripped from yard and stay; day after day saw
the perishing mariners die. The sea froze upon her where it fell,
so that now she resembled an iceberg; and though the remnant of the
crew tried many times to get at the fastenings of the chains that
secured the deck-load so as to send it adrift, they could not. At
last only one man was left alive, and he, strangely enough, was the
old cook. And while still the gale was at its height, he suddenly
seemed to renew all his lost strength. Buckling tight his belt with
firm fingers, a new light gleaming in his eyes, he strode aft and
seized the long-disused wheel. Standing erect and alert he conned
her gravely, getting her well before the wind. Onward she fled, as
if knowing the touch of an old friend. Gradually the lean fingers
stiffened, the fire died out of the eyes, until, just as the last
feeble drops in that brave old heart froze solid, the _Lion_ dashed
into a mountainous berg and all her shattered timbers fell apart.
Lovely and pleasant had she been in her life, and in her death she
was no danger to her wandering sisters.



                        THE FLOOR OF THE SEA


Who is there among us that has ever seen a lake, a pond, or a
river-bed laid dry that has not felt an almost childish interest and
curiosity in the aspect of a portion of earth’s surface hitherto
concealed from our gaze? The feeling is probably universal, arising
from the natural desire to penetrate the unknown, and also from a
primitive anxiety to know what sort of an abode the inhabitants of
the water possess, since we almost always consider the water-folk
to live as do the birds, really on land with the water for an
atmosphere. But if this curiosity be so general with regard to the
petty depths mentioned above, how greatly is it increased in respect
of the recesses of the sea. For there is truly the great unknown, the
undiscoverable country of which, in spite of the constant efforts of
deep-sea expeditions, we know next to nothing. Here imagination may
(and does) run riot, attempting the impossible task of reproducing to
our minds the state of things in the lightless, silent depths where
life, according to our ideas of it, is impossible,--the true valley
of the shadow of death.

Suppose that it were possible for some convulsion of Nature to
lay bare, let us say, the entire bed of the North Atlantic Ocean.
With one bound the fancy leaps at the prospect of a rediscovery of
the lost continent, the fabled Atlantis whose wonders have had so
powerful an effect upon the imaginations of mankind. Should we be
able to roam through those stupendous halls, climb those towering
temple heights reared by the giants of an elder world, or gaze with
stupefied wonder upon the majestic ruins of cities to which Babylon
or Palmyra with all their mountainous edifices were but as a suburban
townlet! Who knows? Yet maybe the natural wonders apparent in the
foundations of such soaring masses as the Azores, the Cape Verde
Islands, or the Canaries; or, greater still, the altitude of such
remote and lonely pinnacles as those of the St. Paul’s Rocks, would
strike us as more marvellous yet. To thread the cool intricacies
of the “still vext Bermoothes” at their basements and seek out the
caves where the sea-monsters dwell who never saw the light of day,
to wander at will among the windings of that strange maze of reefs
that cramp up the outpouring of the beneficent Gulf Stream and make
it issue from its source with that turbulent energy that carries it,
laden with blessings, to our shores; what a pilgrimage that would
be! Imagine the vision of that great chain of islands which we call
the West Indies soaring up from the vast plain 6000 feet below, with
all the diversity of form and colour belonging to the lovely homes
of the coral insects, who build ceaselessly for themselves, yet all
unconsciously rear stable abodes for mankind.

It would be an awful country to view, this suddenly exposed floor
of the sea. A barren land of weird outline, of almost unimaginable
complexity of contour, but without any beauty such as is bestowed
upon the dry earth by the kindly sun. For its beauty depends upon
the sea, whose prolific waters are peopled with life so abundantly
that even the teeming earth is barren as compared with the ocean.
But at its greatest depths all the researches that man has been able
to prosecute go to prove that there is little life. The most that
goes on there is a steady accumulation of the dead husks of once
living organisms settling slowly down to form who knows what new
granites, marbles, porphyries, against the time when another race on
a reorganised earth shall need them. Here there is nothing fanciful,
for if we know anything at all of prehistoric times, it is that what
is now high land, not to say merely dry land, was once lying cold
and dormant at the bottom of the sea being prepared throughout who
can say what unrealisable periods of time for the use and enjoyment
of its present lords. Not until we leave the rayless gloom, the
incalculable pressures and universal cold of those tremendous
depths, do we find the sea-floor beginning to abound with life. It
may even be doubted whether anything of man’s handiwork, such as
there is about a ship foundering in mid-ocean, would ever reach in
a recognisable form the bottom of the sea at a depth of more than
2000 fathoms. There is an idea, popularly current among seafarers,
that sunken ships in the deep sea only go down a certain distance, no
matter what their build or how ponderous their cargo. Having reached
a certain stratum, they then drift about, slowly disintegrating,
derelicts of the depths, swarming with strange denizens, the shadowy
fleets of the lost and loved and mourned. In time, of course, as
the great solvent gets in its work they disappear, becoming part of
their surroundings, but not for hundreds of years, during which they
pass and repass at the will of the under-currents that everywhere
keep the whole body of water in the ocean from becoming stagnant and
death-dealing to adjacent shores. A weird fancy truly, but surely not
more strange than the silent depths about which it is formulated.

In his marvellously penetrative way, Kipling has touched this theme
while singing the “Song of the English”:--

  “The wrecks dissolve above us; their dust drops down from afar--
  Down to the dark, the utter dark, where the blind white sea-snakes
      are.
  There is no sound, no echo of sound, in the deserts of the deep,
  On the great grey level plains of ooze where the shell-burred cables
      creep.

  Here in the womb of the world--here on the tie-ribs of earth,
  Words, and the words of men, flicker and flutter and beat--
  Warning, sorrow and gain, salutation and mirth--
  For a Power troubles the Still that has neither voice nor feet.”

Surely the imagination must be dead indeed that does not throb
responsive to the thought of that latter-day workmanship of wire
and rubber descending at the will of man into the vast void, and
running its direct course over mountain ranges, across sudden abysses
of lower depth, through the turbulence of up-bursting submarine
torrents where long-pent-up rivers compel the superincumbent ocean
to admit their saltless waters; until from continent to continent
the connection is made, and man holds converse with man at his
ease as though distance were not. Recent investigations go to prove
that chief among the causes that make for destruction of those
communicating cables are the upheavals of lost rivers. In spite
of the protection that scientific invention has provided for the
central core of conducting wire, these irresistible outbursts of
undersea torrents rend and destroy it, causing endless labour of
replacement by the never-resting cable-ships. But this is only one
of the many deeply interesting features of oceanography, a science
of comparatively recent growth, but full of gigantic possibilities
for the future knowledge of this planet. The researches of the
_Challenger_ expedition, embodied in fifty portly volumes, afford
a vast mass of material for discussion, and yet it is evident that
what they reveal is but the merest tentative dipping into the great
mysterious land that lies hidden far below the level surface of the
inscrutable sea.

That veteran man of science, Sir John Murray, has in a recent paper
(_Royal Geographical Society’s Journal_, October 1899) published
his presidential address to the geographical section of the British
Association at Dover, and even to the ordinary non-scientific reader
his wonderful _résumé_ of what has been done in the way of exploring
the ocean’s depths must be as entrancing as a fairy tale. The mere
mention of such a chasm as that existing in the South Pacific
between the Kermadecs and the Friendly Islands, where a depth of
5155 fathoms, or 530 feet more than five geographical miles, has
been found, strikes the lay mind with awe. Mount Everest, that
stupendous Himalayan peak whose summit soars far above the utmost
efforts of even the most devoted mountaineers, a virgin fastness
mocking man’s soaring ambition, if sunk in the ocean at the spot
just mentioned would disappear until its highest point was 2000 feet
below the surface. Yet out of that abyss rises the volcanic mass of
Sunday Island in the Kermadecs, whose crater is probably 2000 feet
above the sea-level. But in no less than forty-three areas visited by
the _Challenger_, depths of over 3000 fathoms have been found, and
their total area is estimated at 7,152,000 square miles, or about
7 per cent. of the total water-surface of the globe. Within these
deeps are found many lower deeps, strangely enough generally in
comparatively close proximity to land, such as the Tuscarora Deep,
near Japan, one in the Banda Sea, that is to say, in the heart of the
East India Archipelago, &c. Down, down into these mysterious waters
the ingenious sounding-machine runs, taking out its four miles and
upwards of pianoforte wire until the sudden stoppage of the swift
descent marks the dial on deck with the exact number of fathoms
reached. And yet so vast is the ocean bed that none can say with any
certainty that far greater depths may not yet be found than any that
have hitherto been recorded, amazing as they are.

The character of the ocean floor at all these vast depths as
revealed by the sounding-tube bringing specimens to the surface
is identical--red clay--which strikes the fancy queerly as being
according to most ancient legends the substance out of which our
first ancestor was builded, and from whence he derived his name.
Mingled with this primordial ooze is found the débris of once living
forms, many of them of extinct species, or species at any rate that
have never come under modern man’s observation except as fossils.
The whole story, however, demands far more space than can here be
allowed, but one more instance must be given of the wonders of the
sea-bed in conclusion. Let a violent storm displace any considerable
body of warm surface water, and lo! to take its place up rises an
equal volume of cold under layers that have been resting far below
the influence of the sun. Like a pestilential miasma these chill
waves seize upon the myriads of the sea-folk and they die. The tale
of death is incalculable, but one example is mentioned by Sir John
Murray of a case of this kind off the eastern coast of North America
in the spring of 1882, when a layer of dead fish and other marine
animals six feet in thickness was believed to cover the ocean floor
for many miles.



                       SHAKESPEARE AND THE SEA


Quite recently it was suggested by the writer of an article in the
_Spectator_ that Shakespeare was now but little read,--that while
his works were quoted from as much as ever, the quotations were
obtained at second hand, and that it would be hard to find to-day
any reader who had waded through all that wonderful collection of
plays and poems. This is surely not a carefully made statement. If
there were any amount of truth in it, we might well regard such a
state of things as only one degree less deplorable than that people
should have ceased to read the Bible. For next to the Bible there
can be no such collection of writings available wherein may be
found food for every mind. Even the sailor, critical as he always
is of allusions to the technicalities of his calling that appear in
literature, is arrested by the truth of Shakespeare’s references
to the sea and seafaring, while he cannot but wonder at their
copiousness in the work of a thorough landsman. Of course, in this
respect it is necessary to remember that Elizabethan England spoke a
language which was far more frequently studded with sea-terms than
that which we speak ashore to-day. With all our vast commerce and our
utter dependence upon the sea for our very life; its romance, its
expressions take little hold of the immense majority of the people.
Therein we differ widely from Americans. In every walk of life, from
Maine to Mexico, from Philadelphia to San Francisco, the American
people salt their speech with terms borrowed from the sailor, as they
do also with other terms used by Shakespeare, and often considered
by Shakespeare’s countrymen of the present day, quite wrongly, to be
slang.

In what is perhaps the most splendidly picturesque effort of
Shakespeare’s genius, “The Tempest,” he hurls us at the outset into
the hurly-burly of a storm at sea with all the terror-striking
details attendant upon the embaying of a ship in such weather. She is
a passenger ship, too, and the passengers behave as landsmen might
be expected to do in such a situation. The Master (not Captain be
it noted, for there are no Captains in the merchant-service) calls
the boatswain. Here arises a difficulty for a modern sailor. Where
was the mate? We cannot say that the office was not known, although
Shakespeare nowhere alludes to such an officer; but this much is
certain, that for one person who would understand who was meant
by the mate ten would appreciate the mention of the boatswain’s
name, and that alone would justify its use in poetry. In this short
colloquy between the Master and boatswain we have the very spirit of
sea service. An immediate reply to the Master’s hail, and an inquiry
in a phrase now only used by the vulgar, bring the assurance “Good”;
but it is at once followed by “Speak to the mariners, fall to’t
yarely, or we run ourselves aground; bestir, bestir.” Having given
his orders the Master goes--he has other matters to attend to--and
the boatswain heartens up his crew in true nautical fashion, his
language being almost identical with that used to-day. His “aside”
is true sailor,--“Blow till thou burst thy wind, if [we have] room
enough.” This essentially nautical feeling, that given a good ship
and plenty of sea-room there is nothing to fear, is alluded to again
and again in Shakespeare. He has the very spirit of it. Then come
the meddlesome passengers, hampering the hard-pressed officer with
their questioning and advice!--until, exasperated beyond courtesy, he
bursts out: “You mar our labour. Keep your cabins. You do assist the
storm.” Bidden to remember whom he has on board, he gives them more
of his mind, winding up by again addressing his crew with “cheerly
good hearts,” and as a parting shot to his hinderers, “Out of our
way, I say.”

But the weather grows worse; they must needs strike the topmast and
heave-to under the main-course (mainsail), a manœuvre which, usual
enough with Elizabethan ships, would never be attempted now. Under
the same circumstances the lower main-topsail would be used, the
mainsail having been furled long before because of its unwieldy
size. Still the passengers annoy, now with abuse, which is answered
by an appeal to their reason and an invitation to them to take hold
and work. For the need presses. She is on a lee shore, and in spite
of the fury of the gale sail must be made. “Set her two courses
[mainsail and foresail], off to sea again, lay her off.” And now the
sailors despair and speak of prayer, their cries met scornfully by
the valiant boatswain with “What, must our mouths be cold?” Then
follows that wonderful sea-picture beginning Scene 2, which remains
unapproachable for vigour and truth. A little further on comes the
old sea-superstition of the rats quitting a foredoomed ship, and in
Ariel’s report a spirited account of what must have been suggested
to Shakespeare by stories of the appearance of “corposants” or St.
Elmo’s fire, usually accompanying a storm of this kind. And in
answer to Prospero’s question, “Who was so firm?” &c., Ariel bears
incidental tribute to the mariners,--“All, but mariners, plunged in
the foaming brine and quit the vessel,” those same mariners who are
afterwards found, their vessel safely anchored, asleep under hatches,
their dangerous toil at an end.

In the “Twelfth Night” there are many salt-water allusions no less
happy, beginning with the bright picture of Antonio presented by the
Captain (of a war-ship?) breasting the sea upon a floating mast.
Again in Act I., Scene 6, Viola answers Malvolio’s uncalled-for
rudeness, “Will you hoist sail, sir?” with the ready idiom, “No, good
_swabber_, I am to hull [to heave-to] here a little longer.” In Act
V., Scene 1, the Duke speaks of Antonio as Captain of a “bawbling
vessel--for shallow draught, and bulk, unprizable”; in modern terms,
a small privateer that played such havoc with the enemy’s fleet that
“very envy and the tongue of loss cried fame and honour on him.”
Surely Shakespeare must have had Drake in his mind when he wrote this.

Who does not remember Shylock’s contemptuous summing-up of Antonio’s
means and their probable loss?--“Ships are but boards, sailors but
men, there be land rats and water rats, water thieves and land
thieves--I mean, pirates; and then there is the peril of waters,
winds, and rocks” (Act I., Scene 3). In this same play, too, we
have those terrible quicksands, the Goodwins, sketched for us in
half-a-dozen lines: “Where the carcases of many a tall ship lie
buried” (Act III., Scene 1); and in the last scene of the last act
Antonio says his “ships are safely come to _road_,” an expression
briny as the sea itself.

In the “Comedy of Errors,” Act I., Scene 1, we have a phrase that
should have been coined by an ancient Greek sailor-poet: “The
always-wind-obeying deep”; and a little lower down the page a touch
of sea-lore that would of itself suffice to stamp the writer as a man
of intimate knowledge of nautical ways: “A small spare mast, such as
seafaring men provide for storms.” Who told Shakespeare of the custom
of sailors to carry spare spars for jury-masts?

In “Macbeth,” the first witch sings of the winds and the compass
card, and promises that her enemy’s husband shall suffer all the
torments of the tempest-tossed sailor without actual shipwreck. She
also shows a pilot’s thumb “wrack’d, as homeward he did come.” Who in
these days of universal reading needs reminding of the allusion to
the ship-boy’s sleep in Act III., Scene 1, of “Henry IV.,” a contrast
of the most powerful and convincing kind, powerful alike in its
poetry and its truth to the facts of Nature? Especially noticeable
is the line where Shakespeare speaks of the spindrift: “And in the
visitation of the winds who take the ruffian billows by the top,
curling their monstrous heads, and hanging them with deaf’ning
clamours in the slippery clouds.”

“King Henry VI.,” Act V., Scene 1, has this line full of knowledge
of sea usage: “Than bear so low a sail, to strike to thee.” Here
is a plain allusion to the ancient custom whereby all ships of any
other nation, as well as all merchant ships, were compelled to lower
their sails in courtesy to British ships of war. The picture given in
“Richard III.,” Act I., Scene 4, of the sea-bed does not call for so
much wonder, for the condition of that secret place of the sea must
have had peculiar fascination for such a mind as Shakespeare’s. Set
in those few lines he has given us a vision of the deeps of the sea
that is final.

A wonderful passage is to be found in “Cymbeline,” Act III., Scene 1,
that seems to have been strangely neglected, where the Queen tells
Cymbeline to remember--

        “The natural bravery of your isle; which stands
         As Neptune’s park, ribbed and palèd in
         With rocks unscaleable and roaring waters;
         With sands that will not bear your enemies’ boats,
         But suck them up to the top-mast.”

And again, in the same scene, Cloten speaks of the Romans finding us
in our “salt-water girdle.”

But no play of Shakespeare’s, except “The Tempest,” smacks so smartly
of the brine as “Pericles,” the story of that much enduring Prince
of Tyre whose nautical mishaps are made to have such a miraculously
happy ending. In Act II., Scene 1, enter Pericles, wet, invoking
Heaven that the sea having manifested its sovereignty over man,
may grant him one last boon,--a peaceful death. To him appear three
fishermen characteristically engaged in handling their nets, bullying
one another, and discussing the latest wreck. And here we get a bit
of sea-lore that all sailors deeply appreciate. “_3rd Fish._ Nay,
master, said not I as much, when I saw the porpus how he bounced and
tumbled? they say, they are half fish, half flesh; a plague on them!
they ne’er come but I look to be wash’d.” Few indeed are the sailors
even in these steamship days who have not heard that the excited
leaping of porpoises presages a storm. The whole scene well deserves
quotation, especially the true description of the whale (rorqual)
“driving the poor fry before him and at last devours them all at
a mouthful.” Space presses, however, and it will be much better
for those interested to read for themselves. Act III., Scene 1,
brings before us a companion picture to that in the opening of “The
Tempest,” perhaps even more vivid; where the terrible travail of the
elements is agonisingly contrasted with the birth-wail of an infant,
and the passing of the hapless Princess. Beautiful indeed is the
rough but honest heartening offered by the labouring sailors, broken
off by the sea-command to--

  “_1st Sailor._ Slack the bolins there; thou wilt not, wilt thou?
                   Blow and split thyself.

   _2nd Sailor._ But sea-room, an’ the brine and cloudy billow kiss
                   the moon, I care not.”

Bolins, modern “bowlines,” were anciently used much more than now.
At present they are slight ropes which lead from forward to keep
the weather edges (leaches) of the courses rigid in light winds
when steering full and bye. But in olden days even topgallant sails
had their bolins, and they were among the most important ropes in
the ship. Then we have the sea-superstition creating the deepest
prejudice against carrying a corpse. And, sympathetic as the mariners
are, the dead woman must “overboard straight.” Reluctantly we must
leave this all too brief sketch of Shakespeare’s true British
sea-sympathies, in the hope that it may lead to a deeper appreciation
of the sea-lore of our mightiest poet.



                     THE SKIPPER OF THE “AMULET”


It has been my lot, in the course of a fairly comprehensive
experience of sea-life in most capacities between lamp-trimmer and
chief officer, to serve under some queer commanders, but of all
that I ever endured, the worthy of whom I am about to tell was,
without doubt, the most amazing specimen. I have been told, on good
authority, that the tag about fact being stranger than fiction is all
bosh, but for once I am going to disregard that statement. No fiction
that I have ever read has told me anything half so strange, in my
poor judgment, as the career of Captain Jones during the time that I
was unfortunate enough to be his mate, and therefore I shall stick
to fact, at least as much of it as I can tell that will be fit for
publication.

In order to launch my story fairly it is necessary to go back a
little. On my return to London from my last voyage, with a pay-day
of some £20, I had done two important things, though with the easy
confidence of youth, and especially seafaring youth, their gravity
had not impressed me. I got married and “passed” for chief mate.
Neither my wife nor myself had a friend in the world, any certain
employment or a stick of “plenishing.” And after a honeymoon of
a day or two the tiny group of sovereigns nestling at the bottom
of my right-hand trousers pocket dwindled so that I could hardly
jingle them. There were plenty of ships in London at the time, but
although I walked the soles fairly off my boots around the dreary
docks never a one could I find where a second mate even was wanted.
I found a good many where the officers were foreigners; Germans
or Scandinavians; still more “where they didn’t keep the officers
by the ship in dock,” and one day I was offered a _chance_ to go
first mate of a 1500 ton tramp to the Baltic at £5 a month! In
spite of the shameful inadequacy of the salary I rushed off to the
Surrey Commercial Docks after the berth, and arrived on board of
her breathless, only to find that another man had got to windward
of me, having earlier information. Sadly I trudged back again
and recommenced my search, my funds all but gone and no credit
obtainable. But now I couldn’t even get a ship before the mast! Gangs
of ruffianly dock-wallopers fought like tigers at the “chain-locker,”
whenever a skipper seeking a hand or two poked his head out of
one of the doors, flourishing their discharges (?) in the air as
they surged around the half-scared man. Anxious and indeed almost
despairing as I was, I could not compete with that crowd, and I don’t
believe I should ever have got a ship, but that one day a stalwart,
pleasant-faced man opened the door. When the gang began to mob him
he roared, “I don’ want navvies--I want a sailor-man: git t’ hell
out o’ that, and let one o’ them behind ye come here.” Instantly I
flung myself into the crowd and thrust my way up to him. He took my
proffered discharge, but handed it back at once saying, “I don’t
want no steamboat sailors.” He didn’t understand the thing, being a
Nova Scotiaman. I screamed back the truth at him, and pushed my way
past him into the office, my heart fairly thumping with excitement
at the prospect of £3 a month to go to Nova Scotia in the middle
of winter. I winced a little when I found that she was only a
brigantine, but the advance note for £3 was such a godsend that I
could only be thankful.

Of the passage across in the _Wanderer_ I need say nothing here
except that the sea kindliness of the little craft (the smallest I
had ever sailed in) amazed me, while, except for a disaster in the
shape of a cook, the general conditions of life on board were most
comfortable. After twenty days we arrived at Sydney, Cape Breton,
and upon entering the harbour noticed a vessel lying disconsolately
apart from the little fleet at anchor there. She was a brig belonging
to Workington, exactly like an exaggerated barge as to her hull,
and bearing all over unmistakable evidences of utter neglect. In
fact her general appearance suggested nothing so much to me as the
nondescript craft common on the Indian coast, and called by sailors
“country-wallahs.” She provided us with plenty of material for our
evening chat, but in the morning other matters claimed our attention
and we soon forgot all about her. As we had come over in ballast
our stay was to be short, and on the second day after our arrival
news came that we were to proceed to Lingan, a small port down the
coast, in the morning, and there load soft coal for St. John, New
Brunswick. But, much to my surprise, just after supper, as I was
leaning over the rail enjoying my pipe, the mate approached me
mysteriously and beckoned me aft. As soon as we were out of hearing
of the other men, he told me that if I liked to put my dunnage over
into the boat, he would pull me ashore, the skipper having intimated
his willingness to let me go, although unable to discharge me in the
regular way. He had heard that there was a vessel in the harbour in
want of a mate, and hoped that thus I might be able to better myself.
Being quite accustomed to all vicissitudes of fortune I at once
closed with the offer, and presently found myself on the beach of
this strange place without one cent in my pocket, in utter darkness
and a loneliness like that of some desert island.

I sat quite still for some little time, trying to sum up the
situation, but the night being very cold, I had to move or get
benumbed. Leaving my bag and bed where it was I groped my way into
the town, and after about a quarter of an hour’s stumbling along
what I afterwards found was the main street, I saw a feeble light.
Making for it at once I discovered a man standing at the door of a
lowly shanty smoking, the light I had seen proceeding from a tallow
candle flickering in the interior. Receiving my salutation with gruff
heartiness the man bade me welcome to such shelter as he had, so
I lugged my dunnage up and entered. He showed me an ancient squab
whereon I might lie, and closing the street door bade me good night,
disappearing into some mysterious recess in a far corner. I composed
myself for sleep, but the place was simply alive with fleas, which,
tasting fresh stranger, gave me a lively time. Before morning I was
bitterly envious of the other occupant of the room, who lay on the
bare floor in a drunken stupor, impervious to either cold or vermin.
At the first gleam of dawn I left, taking a brisk walk until somebody
was astir in the place, when I soon got quarters in a boarding-house.
Then as early as possible I made for the shipping office, finding to
my surprise that the vessel in want of a mate was the ancient relic
that had so much amused us as we entered the harbour. After a good
deal of searching, the commander of her was found--a bluff, red-faced
man with a watery, wandering eye, whose first words betrayed him
for a Welshman. He was as anxious to get a mate as I was to get a
ship, so we were not long coming to terms--£6 per month. Her name I
found was the _Amulet_, last from Santos, and now awaiting a cargo
of coal for St. John, New Brunswick. No sooner had I signed articles
than the skipper invited me to drink with him, and instantly became
confidential. But as he had already been drinking pretty freely,
and even his sober English was no great things, I was not much the
wiser for our conference. However, bidding him good day, I went on
board and took charge, finding the old rattletrap in a most miserable
condition, the second mate in a state of mutiny, and the crew doing
just whatever they pleased. I had not been on board an hour before I
was in possession of the history of their adventures since leaving
England eighteen months before. I found too that I was the fourth
mate that voyage, and judging from appearances I thought it unlikely
that I should be the last. As soon as he had finished unburdening
himself to me, the second mate, who seemed a decent fellow enough,
started to pack up, swearing in both Welsh and English that he was
finished with her. Of course I had no means of preventing him from
going even if I had wished to do so, and away he went. Then I turned
my attention to the ship, finding the small crew (seven all told)
desperately sullen, but still willing to obey my orders. Oh, but
she was a wreck, and so dirty that I hardly knew whether it was
worth while attempting to cleanse her. There was abundance of good
fresh food though, and one of the men helped the grimy muttering
Welsh lad who was supposed to be the cook, so that the meals were
at least eatable. According to my orders I was to report progress
to the skipper every morning at his hotel, and next morning I paid
him a visit. I found him in bed, although it was eleven o’clock,
with a bottle of brandy sticking out from under his pillow and
quite comfortably drunk. He received my remarks with great gravity,
graciously approving of what I had done, and assuring me that he
was very ill indeed. I left him so, thinking deeply over my queer
position, and returned on board to find the second mate back again
in a furious rage at not being able to get at the “old man,” but
resigned to going with us to St. John as a passenger. Well, as time
went on I managed to get her in some sort of trim, received the cargo
on board, bent the sails, and made all ready for sea, the second mate
lolling at his ease all day long or in his bunk asleep. Every morning
I saw the skipper, always in bed and always drunk. Thus three weeks
passed away. When the vessel had been a week ready for sea, during
most of which time a steady fair wind for our departure had been
blowing, I had a visitor. After a few civil questions he told me he
was the agent, and proposed giving the captain one day longer in
which to clear out, failing which he would on his own responsibility
send the vessel to sea without him. I of course raised no objection,
but seized the opportunity to get a few pounds advance of wages
which I at once despatched home to my wife. The agent’s threat was
effectual, for at noon the next day my commander came on board
accompanied by a tugboat which towed us out to sea, although a fair
wind was blowing. No sooner had the pilot left us to our own devices
than Captain Jones retired to his bunk, and there he remained,
his cabin no bad representation of a miniature Malebolge. Details
impossible.

Unfortunately I had so severely injured my left hand that I could
not use it at all, and the second mate, though perfectly friendly
with me, would do nothing but just keep a look-out while I got some
sleep; he wouldn’t even trim sail. The first day out I took sights
for longitude by the chronometer, which I had kept regularly wound
since I had been on board, but I found to my horror that it had been
tampered with, and was utterly useless. It was now the latter end of
November, fogs and gales were of everyday occurrence, the currents
were very strong and variable, and I was on an utterly strange coast
in command for the first time in my life. When I saw the sun, which
was seldom, I thought myself lucky to get the latitude, and Sable
Island under my lee with its diabolical death-traps haunted me
waking and sleeping. My only hope of escaping disaster was in the
cod-schooners, which, as much at home in those gloomy, stormy waters
as a cabman in London streets, could always be relied on to give one
a fairly accurate position. Then the rotten gear aloft kept giving
out, and there was nothing to repair it with, while the half-frozen
men could hardly be kept out of their little dog-hole at all. Only
one man in the ship was having a good time, and that was the skipper.
Hugging a huge jar of “chain lightning” brandy he never wanted
anything else, and no one ever went near him except the poor little
scalawag of a cook, who used to rate him in Welsh until the discord
was almost deafening. But if I were to tell fairly the story of that
trip round Nova Scotia it would take a hundred pages. So I must hurry
on to say that we _did_ reach St. John by God’s especial mercy, and
laid her alongside the wharf.

I am afraid I shall hardly be believed when I say that Captain Jones
reappeared on deck at once and went ashore, promising to return by
six o’clock. Now the tide rises and falls in St. John’s over thirty
feet, so when night came the _Amulet_ was resting on the mud, and
the edge of the wharf was very nearly level with our main-top. I had
prepared a secure gangway with a bright lantern for my superior’s
return, but about eleven o’clock that night he strolled down and
walked calmly over the edge of the wharf where the gangway was not.
All hands were aroused by his frantic cries of “Misser Bewlon,
Misser Bewlon, for Gaw’ sake safe my lyve!” After much search we
found him and hoisted him on board out of the mud in which he was
embedded to the armpits. No bones were broken, and next day he was
well enough to climb ashore and get into a conveyance which took
him up town to another “hotel.” A repetition of the tactics of
Sydney now set in, except that I did not visit him so frequently.
The second mate and one of the men got their discharge out of him
and left us, in great glee at their escape. Then I think some one
must have remonstrated with him whose words were not to be made
light of, for one day he came on board and tried to get all hands
to sign a paper that he had got drawn up, certifying that he was a
strictly sober man! He was _so_ hurt at their refusal. Finally he
re-embarked, bringing a tugboat and pilot with him as before, and the
startling news that we were to tow right across the Bay of Fundy and
up the Basin of Minas to Parrsboro’, but no sooner were we abreast
of Partridge Island than again my commander disappeared below. All
through the night the panting tug toiled onward with us, the pilot
remaining at his post till dawn. Fortunately for my peace of mind
I knew little about the perilous navigation of this great bay, the
home of the fiercest tides in the world. But when, drawing near Cape
Blomidon, I saw the rate at which we were being hurled along by the
fury of the inrushing flood, I felt profoundly thankful that the
responsibility for our safety was not upon me. However, we arrived
intact that afternoon and proceeded up the river, which was as
crooked as a ram’s horn, and only began to have any water in its bed
when it was half flood outside. As we neared the village the pilot
asked me to what wharf we were going, as we could not lay in the dry
river bed. I knew no more than he did, and neither of us could shake
any sense into the unconscious skipper. So we tied her up to the
first jetty we came to, and pilot and tugboat took their departure.
There was a fine to-do when the wharfinger heard of our arrival, and
I had to go up to the village and ask all round for information as
to where we were to lie. I got instructions at last, and shifted to
a berth where we were allowed to remain. Next day the old man went
ashore again, saying nothing to me, and I remained in ignorance of
his whereabouts for ten days. Meanwhile lumber began to arrive for
us, and a scoundrelly stevedore came on board with the skipper’s
authority to stow the cargo. He and I quickly came to loggerheads,
for I did not at all fancy the way he was “blowing her up,” and the
dread of our winter passage to Europe lay heavy upon me. But I found
that all power to interfere with him was taken out of my hands, and I
just had to stand by and see potential murder being done.

At last one day at dinner-time the old man paid us a visit,
characteristically announcing himself by falling between the
vessel and the wharf into the ice-laden water. Of course he wasn’t
hurt--didn’t even get a chill, but he was taken back to his “hotel,”
and came no more to see us. With the completion of our deck-load my
patience was exhausted, and as soon as she was ready for sea, I
hunted him up and demanded my discharge. I felt prepared to take all
reasonable risks, but to cross the Atlantic in December with a vessel
like a top-heavy bladder under me, and myself the sole officer, was
hardly good enough. Of course he wouldn’t release me, and the upshot
was, to cut my yarn short, that I remained ashore penniless, while he
towed back to St. John, engaged another unfortunate mate, and after
a week’s final spree, sailed for home. As I had expected, she got no
farther than the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. There her old bones were
finally broken up in a howling snowstorm, in which several of the
crew were frozen to death, but he escaped to worry better men again.

Two years after in the Court of Queen’s Bench we met again, when I
arose, the one essential witness to his misdoings, and made him feel
as if my turn had come at last.



                      AMONG THE ENCHANTED ISLES


Enchained by the innumerable complexities of modern city existence,
how strangely, how sweetly, do the dreams of roaming amid isles of
perpetual summer come to the pale slave of civilisation. Leaning
back in his office chair, the pen drops idly from his relaxed
fingers, while the remorseless hum from the human hive without loses
its distinctive note and becomes by some strange transmutation the
slumberous murmur of snowy surf upon far-off coral shores. The dim
ceiling, that so often has seemed to press upon his brain like the
load of Atlas, melts upward into a celestial canopy of a blue so deep
and pure that it is the last expression of the Infinite.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the wings of fancy, swifter and more easeful than those of the
albatross, he is wafted to those fairy shores where Nature smiles
in changeless youth and winterless glow. Through every weary sinew
thrills the bright message of life, the unconscious outcome of
perfect health absorbed from perfect surroundings. He is back again
in the days of the world’s infancy, feeling his mid-millennial
vigour bounding in every pulse, flooding every artery. In
cunningly-fashioned canoe, with grass-woven sails, he floats upon the
radiant sea, so like to the heaven above that his gliding shallop
seems to swing through the boundless ether, a sprite, a fay of the
fruitful brain.

Then as the flood-tide of living bubbles over the brim of restraint
he lifts a mighty voice, a full-throated cry of joy wherein is no
speech nor language, only exultant music welling up from deeps of
fathomless satisfaction. He springs erect, with flashing eyes, and
rolling muscles heaving under his shining skin, such a figure as,
made in His own glorious image, the Master gazed upon--and, behold,
it was very good. Far below him swim the gorgeous sea-folk, each
ablaze with colour, living jewels enhanced by their setting. In mazy
evolutions full of grace they woo him to join in their play, to
explore with them the splendours of the coral groves, to wreath about
his majestic form the tender festoons of sea-flowers and deck himself
with glowing shells.

Like a dolphin he dives, deeper and deeper as with grasping hands
he overcomes the resisting waters. Deeper and deeper yet until the
fervent sunshine is suffused into a milder, tenderer light, and
everything around is enwrapped in a beauty-mist, a glamorous illusion
that melts all angles into curves of loveliness. He enters into the
palaces of the deep, and all the skill of Titanic builders on earth
becomes to his mind a thing of naught. Interminable rows of columns,
all symmetrical, each perfect in beauty, yet none alike, are arrayed
before him; massy architraves, domes light-springing from their
piers as bubbles, yet in circumference so vast that their limits
are lost in shadow, slender spires of pearl, soaring upward like
vapour-wreaths: and all interwoven with the wondrous design a fairy
tracery of stone, appearing light and luminous as sea foam. The happy
living things troop forth to meet him and sweep in many a delicate
whirl around until, recalled by the need of upper air, he waves them
farewell and ascends.

Oh! the fierce delight of that swift upward rush, the culminating
ecstasy as he bounds into the palpitating air above and lies, so
softly cradled, upon the limpid wave! There for a season he floats,
drinking deep of the brine-laden air, every touch of the sea a
caress, every heart-beat a well-spring of pleasure. Then with a
shout he hurls himself forward as if he too were a free citizen of
the ocean, emulating with almost equal grace the sinuous spring of
the porpoise and the marvellous succession of curves presented by
the overwhelming whale. He claims kindred with them all, embraces
them; clinging lovingly to their smooth sides he frolics with them,
rejoicing in the plenitude of their untainted strength.

Before him rise the islands, mounds of emerald cresting bases
of silver sand. Willowy palm-trees dip their roots in the warm
wavelets and rear their tufted coronets on high. Darker-leaved, the
orange-trees droop their branches shot with golden gleams where
the fruit hangs heavily, filling the gentle air with fragrance.
Bright-plumaged birds flash amongst the verdure; along the
glittering shores rest placidly the sea-fowl returned from their
harvesting and comforting their fluffy broods. With huge steps
he strides shorewards, and springing lightly from the sand, he
reaches in a dozen bounds the crown of the loftiest palm, whose
thickly-clustering fruit bids him drink and drink again.

The island folk dread him not; fear has not yet visited those sunny
shores. And as he was with the sea-people so is he with their
compeers on land, a trusted playfellow, a creature perfect in glory
and beauty, able to vie with them in their superb activities, their
amazing play of vigour, their abounding joy in the plentiful gifts of
Nature.

After those sunny gambols, how sweet the rest on yielding couch of
leaves, fanned by sweet zephyrs laden with the subtle scents of
luxuriant flowers, and lulled by the slumber-song of the friendly
sea. Around him, with drooping wing, nestle the birds; the bejewelled
insects hush their busy songs into tenderest murmurs, the green
leaves hang in unrustling shade, noiselessly waving over him a cool
breath. There is peace and sleep.

“Awake, O laggard!” cry the birds; “awake and live! Joy comes anew.
Love and life and strength are calling us, and every sense answers
triumphantly. Sweet is the dawn when the splendid sun springs skyward
and the quiet night steals away; sweet is the strength of noonday,
when downward he sends his shafts of life-giving flame, and we lie
in the shade renewing from his exhaustless stores of energy our
well-spent strength. But sweetest of all the time when, his majestic
ascension accomplished, our sun sweeps westward to his ocean-bed,
and all his children hasten to revel in his tempered beams until he
hides his glorious face for a season, and night brings her solemn
pleasures.”

Swift upspringing the man answers gladly to the call. And forth
to meet him come a joyous band of his fellows, their dancing feet
scarce touching the earth. Not a weakling among them. Men and women
and children alike clean-limbed and strong, with sparkling eyes and
perfect gestures. Their nude shapes shine like burnished bronze with
natural unguents, their white and well-set teeth glitter as they
laugh whole-heartedly, their black, abundant hair is entwined with
scarlet hibiscus, and their voices ring musical and full. They do not
walk--they bound, they spring, and toss their arms in wildest glee.

Surrounding him, they bear him away to where a crystal river rushes
headlong down through a valley of velvet green to cast itself
tumultuously over a cliff-lip forty feet into the sea. As it
approaches its leap the translucent waters whirl faster and faster
in rising wreaths and ridges of dazzling white, until in one snowy
mass, crowned with a pearly mist, it hurls itself into the smooth
blue depths below. With one accord the wildly gambolling band hurl
themselves into those limpid waters some hundreds of yards above
the fall. As on softest couch they glide swiftly along, their peals
of laughter echoing multitudinously from the green bosoms of the
adjacent hills.

Faster and faster still they are borne onward until, singly and in
groups, they flash out into the sunshine and plunge into the awaiting
ocean. So swiftly do they pass that it seems but a breathing space
since, far inland, they sprang from the banks into the river, and
they now lie in blissful content upon the quiet sea, every nerve
tingling from that frantic, headlong flight. Then, like the care-free
children of Nature that they are, they abandon themselves to their
wild sea-sports, outdoing the fabled Nereids. Around them gather in
sympathy the gorgeous dolphins, the leisurely sharks, the fun-loving
porpoises, while over their heads dart incessantly in arrowy flight
glittering squadrons of flying-fish.

So they frolic untiringly until, by one impulse moved, they all dash
off to where, outside the enormous headland of black rock which
shelters the little bay, the vast and solemn ocean swell comes
rolling shoreward, towering higher as it comes, until, meeting the
bright beach, it raises itself superbly in one magnificent curve of
white, and dashes against the firm-set earth with a deep note as of
far-off thunder.

The merry players range themselves in line and swim seaward to meet
the next wave as it comes. Diving beneath it they reappear upon its
creaming shoulders, and by sheer skill balance there, elated almost
beyond bearing by the pace of their mighty steed. Higher and higher
they rise, clothed by the hissing foam, until from its summit they
spring to land and race to the woods.

Only a breathing space passes, and again they come rushing shoreward
to where a mimic fleet of light canoes lies covered with boughs to
shield them from the sun. As if time were all important, they fling
the leaves aside and rush the frail craft into the water, springing
in as they glide afloat. Two by two they sail away, an occasional
persuasive touch of the paddles sufficing to guide and propel them
whithersoever they will.

The sun is nearing the western edge of their world, and his slanting
beams are spreading lavishly over the silken waters broad bands of
rich and swiftly changing colour. A hush that is holy is stealing
over all things, a stillness so profound that the light splash of
a flying-fish tinkles clear as a tiny bell. The happy people float
along in a delicious languor, feasting their eyes upon the doubled
beauty of the landscape near the shore, where the line dividing the
reality from its reflection cannot be discerned.

Beneath them are constantly changing pictures no less lovely, the
marvellous surfaces of the living coral with all its wealth of tinted
anemones and brilliantly-decked fish of all shapes and all hues.
Carried by the imperceptible current, they pass swiftly, silently,
from scene to scene, over depths so profound that the waters are
almost blue-black, and as suddenly coming upon a submarine grove of
rigid coral trees, whose topmost branches nearly break through the
placid surface.

Presently the sun is gone, and the tender veil of night comes
creeping up from the East. Already the Evening Star, like a
minute moon, is sending a long thread of silver over the purpling
sea. Beneath the waters the sea-folk have begun their nightly
illumination, and overhead are peeping out, one by one, the vedettes
of the night. Bird and beast and fish have ceased their play, and a
gentle wind arises. The canoes glide shoreward noiselessly, and the
voyagers seek through scented pathways their leafy homes.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Poor fellow, you look a bit stale and overworked! You ought to run
down to the seaside for a week!”

And the suddenly-awakened clerk starts up, muttering a
half-intelligible apology to his employer, who stands regarding him
with a look of pity. But for a few fleeting moments he has been
perfectly happy.



                            SOCIABLE FISH


In one of the most charming chapters of that truly charming book,
Gilbert White’s “Natural History of Selborne,” the gentle author
tells of some strange instances of sociability among the denizens of
the farmyard, a craving for companionship that brought into intimate
acquaintanceship such widely differing animals as a horse and a
hen, a doe and some cattle. This, as a proof that loneliness is an
abnormal condition of life even among the lesser intelligences of
creation, “gives to think,” as our neighbours say; but probably few
people would imagine that the same desire for society obtains even
among the inhabitants of the deep and wide sea.

I do not now speak of such gregarious fish as compose the great
shoals that beneficently visit the shallower waters washing populous
countries, from whose innumerable multitudes whole nations may be
fed without making any appreciable diminution in their apparently
infinite numbers; but of those more varied and widely scattered
species that are to be found near the sea-surface all over the ocean.
In the ordinary routine of modern passenger traffic no observation
of these truly deep-sea fish is possible, for, in the first place,
the breathless panting of the propeller fills them with dread of
the swiftly-gliding monster whose approach it heralds; and in the
next, the would-be observer has no time to catch even a glimpse of
the inhabitants of that teeming world beneath him with, perhaps, the
exception of a rapidly-passing school of porpoises or the hurried
vision of a sea-shouldering whale.

No, for the deliberate observation necessary in order to know
something of the sea-people a sailing-ship must be chosen, the
slower the better, one wherein may be felt to its fullest extent
by the mindless, sightless passenger the “intolerable tedium of a
long voyage.” In such a ship as this the student of marine natural
history, provided he be not responsible to stern owners for the
length of his passage, will welcome with great delight the solemn
hush of the calm, when the windless dome above him is filled with
perfect peace, and the shining circle upon which he floats is like
the pupil of God’s eye. Then, leaning over the taffrail, looking
earnestly down into the crystalline blue, you may see the bottom of
the ship without visible support as if poised in a sky of deeper
blue and more limpid atmosphere. The parasitic life that has already
attached itself to the vessel is all busy living. Barnacles with
their long, glutinous feet-stalks waving in imperceptible motion, are
expanding from between their shells delicate fringes of brown, that,
all eyes to see and hands to hold, allow nothing that can feed them
to pass them by. And as they flex themselves inward with the supplies
they have drawn from the apparently barren water, you can fancy that
the pearly whiteness of the shells gleams with a brighter lustre as
of satisfaction. The dull-hued limpets, like pustules breaking out
upon the ship’s sheathing, may also be discerned, but less easily,
because they have such a neutral tint, and love to nestle amongst a
tangle of dank, deep-green sea-moss, that, except where the light
from above breaks obliquely down upon it, looks almost black.

But a little patient watching will reveal a set of tiny arms
forth-darting from the irregular opening in the apex of each
limpet-cone. They, too, are busy continually, arresting every morsel,
invisible to feeble human sight, that comes within their reach, and
passing it within for the up-keep of the compact, self-contained
residence. And there, can it be possible, at all this distance from
land? It is not only possible but undeniable that there is a _crab_,
an impudent, inquisitive little tangle of prying claws surrounding
a disc about the size of a shilling. He strolls about in leisurely
fashion, but making a track at all sorts of angles, among the living
fixtures, skirting each barnacle or limpet with a ludicrous air of
contempt, as it seems. You can almost imagine him saying: “I never
saw such a lot of dead-an’-alive ornaments in my life. Say! how
d’you like stoppin’ in the same old spot for ever an’ ever?” But,
impervious to his rudeness, the busy creatures never cease their one
set of movements, utterly ignoring his very existence. You cannot
help but wonder what becomes of that little crab when the ship begins
to move, for you know that he can’t possibly hold on against the
tremendous brushing past of the water. He isn’t built for that.

The other parasites, whether animal or vegetable, have, you notice,
been busy for who shall say how long adapting themselves to every
condition of their dependent life, so that now, whatever motion
be made by the ship, they present to the onrush of the water just
the right angle of surface that will allow it to slip over them
easily, while at the same time they are always in a position to
levy contributions. There is a puzzling lead-coloured streak along
the copper near the keel to which your eye returns again and again,
for although it will persist in looking like a place whence a strip
of sheathing has been torn, there is yet a suggestion of quivering
life about it which is certainly not the tremulous outline given to
every inanimate object under water. Suddenly your doubts are set at
rest--the mystery is solved. The steward has cast over the side some
fragments of food that settle slowly downwards, turning over and
over as they sink and catching the diffused light at every point,
so that they sparkle like gems. As they pass the almost motionless
keel the leaden-looking streak suddenly detaches itself, and, almost
startlingly revealed as a graceful fish, intercepts and swallows
those morsels one after the other. You fetch a few more fragments,
and, dropping them one by one, entice your new acquaintance nearer
the surface, so that you may admire the easy grace of every movement,
and study at your leisure the result of this creature’s development
along certain lines of inventiveness.

It is a _Remora_, or “sucker,” a species of shark that never exceed
a dozen pounds in weight. Having all the shark’s usual qualities
of slothfulness, voracity, and timorousness, it is prevented from
becoming ferocious also by its limitations of size and the feebleness
of its teeth. And as it would be hopeless for it to attempt to prey
upon other fish while they are alive, from its lack of the requisite
speed as well as from the scarcity of fish of sufficiently small size
in the deep waters which are its abiding-place, it has developed a
parasitic habit, which saves it a whole world of trouble by insuring
its protection, economising exertion, and keeping it in the midst
of a plentiful food-supply. All these objects are attained in the
simplest manner possible, aided by an unfailing instinct guiding the
creature in its selection of an involuntary host.

On the top of its head, which is perfectly flat, it has developed
an arrangement which has, perhaps, the most artificial appearance
of anything found in animated Nature. It is in plan an oblong oval,
with a line running along its middle, to which other diagonal lines,
perfectly parallel to each other, extend from the outer edge. The
whole thing is curiously like the non-slipping tread moulded upon the
soles of many lawn-tennis shoes. This strangely patterned contrivance
is really an adhesive attachment of such strength that, when by its
means the fish is holding on to any plane surface, it is impossible
to drag the body away, except by almost tearing the fish in half. Yet
by the flexing of some simple muscles the fish can release its body
instantly, or as instantly re-attach itself. Of course, it always
adheres to its host with its head pointing in the same direction as
the host usually travels, because in that manner the pressure of
the water assists the grip of the sucker and keeps the whole body
lying flatly close to whatever is carrying it along. In this position
it can perform all the natural functions. Its wide mouth gapes;
its eyes, set one on either side of its flattened head, take in a
most comprehensive view of the prospect, so that nothing having the
appearance of edibility can pass that way without being seen and,
if the speed of its host admits, immediately investigated. Thus its
sociability is obviously of the most selfish kind. It sticketh closer
than a brother, but affection for its protecting companion forms no
part of its programme. Its number is, emphatically, One.

I have used the word “host” intentionally, because the remora does
not by any means limit its company to ships. It is exceedingly fond
of attaching itself to the body of a whale, and also to some of the
larger sharks. Indeed, it goes a step further than mere outward
attachment in the latter case, because well-authenticated instances
are recorded where several suckers have been found clinging to a
huge shark’s palate. This is another stage on the way to perfect
parasitism, because under such circumstances these daring lodgers
needed not to detach themselves any more. They had only to intercept
sufficient food for their wants on its way from the front door to
the interior departments. I have also seen them clinging to the jaw
of a sperm whale, but that jaw was not in working order. It was bent
outwards at right angles to the body, and afforded harbourage to a
most comprehensive collection of parasites, barnacles especially,
giving the front elevation of that whale an appearance utterly unlike
anything with life.

But John Chinaman has outwitted the superlatively lazy remora. By
what one must regard as a triumph of ingenuity he has succeeded
in converting the very means whereby this born-tired fish usually
escapes all necessity for energy into an instrument for obtaining
gain for other people. The mode is as follows: First catch your
remora. No difficulty here. A hook and line of the simplest, a bait
of almost anything that looks eatable lowered by the side of a ship,
and if there be a sucker hidden there he will be after the lure
instantly. The only skill necessary is to haul him up swiftly when he
bites, because if he be allowed to get hold of the ship again you may
pull the hook out of his jaws, but you will not succeed in detaching
him. Having caught a remora, the fisherman fastens a brass ring
closely round its body, just at its smallest part before the spread
of the tail. To this he attaches a long, fine, and strong line. He
then departs for the turtle grounds with his prisoner. Arriving there
he confines himself to keeping the remora away from the bottom of his
boat by means of a bamboo. Of course the captive gets very tired, and
no turtle can pass within range of him without his hanging on to that
turtle for a rest. The moment he does so the turtle’s fate is sealed.
Struggle how he may, he cannot shake loose the tenacious grip of the
sucker, and the stolid yellow man in the sampan has only to haul in
upon the line to bring that unwilling turtle within range of his
hands and lift him into the boat. And this ingenious utilisation of
the sucker’s well-known peculiarity has also commended itself to the
semi-barbarous fishermen of the East African littoral, who are not
otherwise notable for either ingenuity or enterprise.

Before we dismiss the remora to his beloved rest again it is worthy
of notice that he himself gives unwilling hospitality to another
sociable creature. It is a little crustacean, rather like an
exaggerated woodlouse, but without the same power of curling itself
into a ball. It is of a pearly white colour, very sluggish in its
movements, but with tenacious hooks upon its many legs it holds on
securely to the inside of the sucker’s mouth near the gill-slits,
being there provided with all the needs of its existence, without
the slightest effort of its own. Its chief interest to naturalists
lies in its strange likeness to the fossil trilobites so plentifully
scattered among various geological strata.

But while you have been watching the remora a visitor from the vast
openness around has arrived, as if glad of the society afforded by
the ship. Yet in this case the idea seems a fond conceit, because
the new-comer is only a “jelly-fish,” or “Medusa.” It is really an
abuse of language to use the word “fish” in connection with such an
almost impalpable entity as the Medusa, because while a fish is an
animal high up the scale of the vertebrata, a Medusa is almost at
the bottom of the list of created things. When floating in the sea
it is an exceedingly pretty object, with its clear, mushroom-shaped
disc uppermost, and long fringe of feathery filaments, sometimes
delicately coloured, waving gracefully beneath with each pulsation of
the whole mass. It has no power of independent locomotion, no--but,
there, it is not easy to say what it _has_ got, since if you haul one
up in a bucket and lay it on deck in the sun, it will melt entirely
away, leaving not a trace behind except two or three tiny morsels of
foreign matter which did not belong to its organism at all. Yet if
one of these masses of jelly comes into contact with your bare skin
it stings like a nettle, for it secretes, in some mysterious way,
an acrid fluid that serves it instead of many organs possessed by
further advanced creatures. As the present subject passes beneath
your gaze you notice quite a little cluster of tiny fish smaller even
than full-grown tittlebats, perhaps a dozen or so, who look strangely
forlorn in the middle of the ocean. It may be that this sense of
loneliness leads them to seek the shelter of something larger than
themselves, something which will be a sort of rallying-point in such
a wide world of waters.

Perhaps the lovely streamers dangling have aroused their curiosity,
but, whatever the motive, you see the little group, huddled round the
Medusa, popping in and out from the edge of the disc, through which
you can plainly see them as they pass beneath. It is quite pretty to
watch those innocent games of the sportive little fish, but presently
you notice that one of them doesn’t play any more. He is entangled
among those elegant fringes and hangs like a little silver streak,
brightening and fading as it is turned by the pulsatory movement of
the Medusa. And if you could watch it long enough you would see it
gradually disappear, absorbed into the jelly-like substance by the
solvent secreted by the Medusa for that purpose. Still unconscious of
their companion’s fate, the other little victims continue to play in
that treacherous neighbourhood, voluntarily supplying the needs of
an organism immeasurably beneath them in the sum-total of all those
details that go to make up conscious life.

Closely gathered about the rudder and stern-post is another group
of larger fish, the several individuals being from 4 in. to 8 in.
long, and most elegant in shape and colour. They evidently seek the
ship for protection, for they scarcely ever leave her vicinity for
more than 2 ft. or 3 ft. If one of them does dart away that distance
after some, to you, imperceptible morsel of food, it is back again
in a flash, sidling up to her sheathing closer than ever, as if
dreadfully alarmed at its own temerity. A small hook baited with a
fragment of meat will enable you to catch one if only you can get
it to fall close enough to the rudder--no easy matter, because of
the great overhang of the stern. In the old-fashioned ships, where
the rudder-head moved in a huge cavity called the rudder-trunk, I
have often caught them by dropping my hook down there, and very
sweet-eating little fish they were. Sailors call them “rudder-fish,”
a trivial name derived from their well-known habit, but they are
really a species of “caranx,” and akin to the mackerel tribe, which
has so many representatives among deep-water fish. They are, perhaps,
the most sociable of all the fish that visit a ship far out at sea;
but they present the same problem that the crab did a little while
ago: What becomes of them when a breeze springs up and the vessel
puts on speed?

I have often watched them at the beginning of a breeze, swimming
steadily along by the side of the stern-post, so as to be clear of
the eddies raised by the rudder; but it was always evident that a
rate of over three knots would leave them astern very soon. Not less
curious is the speculation as to whence they come so opportunely.
There seems to be very few of them, yet an hour or two’s calm nearly
always shows a little company of them cowering in their accustomed
place. As you watch them wonderingly, a broad blaze of reflected
light draws your attention to the splendid shape of a dolphin gliding
past and exposing the silver shield of his side to the sun’s rays,
which radiate from it with an almost unbearable glare. At that
instant every one of the little fish beneath you gather into one
compact bunch, so close to the stern-post that they look as if part
of it. When they can no longer keep up with the ship’s protecting
bulk how do they escape the jaws of such beautiful ravenous monsters
as that which has just passed? The swift flying-fish cannot do so,
even with the swallow-like speed that he possesses and the power
of skimming through the air for a thousand yards at a flight. What
chance, then, can our shrinking little companions possibly have,
or how do they survive amidst so many enemies? It is an unsolvable
mystery.

What is this cold grey shadow stealing along through the bright
blue water by the keel? A shark, and a big one too. No one doubts
the reason for _his_ sociability; in fact, he (or she) is credited
by most sailors with a most uncanny knowledge of what is going on
aboard any ship he chooses to honour with his company. We need not be
so foolish as to believe any of these childish stories, especially
when the obvious explanation lies so closely on the surface. Heredity
accounts for a great many things that have long been credited with
supernatural origins, and the shark’s attachment to the society of
ships is so plainly hereditary that the slightest thought upon the
subject will convince any unbiased person of the reasonableness of
the explanation. For many generations the shark, born scavenger that
he is, has learned to associate the huge shadow cast by a ship with
food, not perhaps in such mountainous abundance as that provided by
the carcass of a dead whale, but still scattering savoury morsels at
fairly regular intervals. From its earliest days--when, darting in
and out of its mother’s capacious jaws, it has shared in the spoil
descending from passing ships--to the end of what is often a very
long life, ships and food are inseparably associated in whatever
answers to its mind in the shark. Man, alive or dead, always makes
a welcome change of diet to a fish that, by reason of his build, is
unable to prey upon other fish as do the rest of his neighbours.

As I have said elsewhere, the shark eats man because man is easy to
catch, not because he likes man’s flesh better than any other form
of food, as many landsmen and even sailors believe. But the shark
is only able to gratify his sociable instincts in calms or very
light airs. He is far too slothful, too constitutionally averse to
exertion, to expend his energies in the endeavour to keep up with
a ship going at even a moderate rate of speed. Let the wind drop,
however, and in few parts of the sea will you be without a visit from
a shark for many hours. In one vessel that I sailed in the skipper
had such a delicate nose that he could not bear the stench of the
water in which the day’s allowance of salt meat had been steeped to
get some of the pickle out of it. So he ordered a strong net to be
made of small rope, and into this the meat was put, the net secured
to a stout line, and hung over the stern just low enough to dip every
time the vessel curtsied. The plan answered admirably for some time,
until one night the wind fell to a calm, and presently the man at the
wheel heard a great splash behind him. He rushed to the taffrail and
looked over, just in time to see the darkness beneath all aglow with
phosphorescence, showing that some unusual agitation had recently
taken place. He ran to the net-lanyard, and, taking a good pull, fell
backward on deck, for there was nothing fast to it. Net and meat were
gone. The skipper was much vexed, of course, that the net hadn’t
been hauled up a little higher when it fell calm, for, as he told
the mate, anybody ought to know that 30 lbs. of salt pork dangling
overboard in a calm was enough to call a shark up from a hundred
miles away.

As this particular shark, now sliding stealthily along the keel
towards the stern, becomes more clearly visible, you notice what
looks at first like a bright blue patch on top of his head. But,
strange to say, it is not fixed; it shifts from side to side,
backwards and forwards, until, as the big fish rises higher, you make
it out to be the pretty little caranx that shares with the crocodile
and buffalo birds the reputation of being the closest possible
companion and chum of so strangely diverse an animal to himself. And
now we are on debatable ground, for this question of the sociability
of the pilot-fish with the shark has been most hotly argued. And
perhaps, like the cognate question of the flight of flying-fish, it
is too much to hope that any amount of first-hand testimony will
avail to settle it now. Still, if a man will but honestly state
what he has _seen_, not once, but many times repeated, his evidence
ought to have some weight in the settlement of even the most vexed
questions. Does the pilot-fish love the shark? Does it even know
that the shark _is_ a shark, a slow, short-sighted, undiscriminating
creature whose chief characteristic is that of never-satisfied
hunger? In short, does the pilot-fish attach itself to the shark as
a pilot, with a definite object in view, or is the attachment merely
the result of accident? Let us see.

Here is a big shark-hook, upon which we stick a mass of fat pork two
or three pounds in weight. Fastening a stout rope to it, we drop it
over the stern with a splash. The eddies have no sooner smoothed away
than we see the brilliant little blue and gold pilot-fish coming
towards our bait at such speed that we can hardly detect the lateral
vibrations of his tail. Round and round the bait he goes, evidently
in a high state of excitement, and next moment he has darted off
again as rapidly as he came. He reaches the shark, touches him with
his head on the nose, and comes whizzing back again to the bait,
followed sedately by the dull-coloured monster. As if impatient of
his huge companion’s slowness he keeps oscillating between him and
the bait until the shark has reached it and, without hesitation,
has turned upon his back to seize it, if such a verb can be used to
denote the deliberate way in which that gaping crescent of a mouth
enfolds the lump of pork. Nothing, you think, can increase the
excitement of the little attendant now. He seems ubiquitous, flashing
all round the shark’s jaws as if there were twenty of him at least.
But when half-a-dozen men, “tailing on” to the rope, drag the shark
slowly upward out of the sea, the faithful little pilot seems to go
frantic with--what shall we call it?--dread of losing his protector,
affection, anger, who can tell?

The fact remains that during the whole time occupied in hauling the
huge writhing carcass of the shark up out of the water the pilot-fish
never ceases its distracted upward leaping against the body of its
departing companion. And after the shark has been hauled quite clear
of the water the bereaved pilot darts disconsolately to and fro about
the rudder as if in utter bewilderment at its great loss. For as
long as the calm continues, or until another shark makes his or her
appearance, that faithful little fish will still hover around, every
splash made in the water bringing it at top speed to the spot as if
it thought that its friend had just returned.

No doubt there is a mutual benefit in the undoubted alliance between
pilot-fish and shark, for I have seen a pilot-fish take refuge, along
with a female shark’s tiny brood, within the parent’s mouth at the
approach of a school of predatory fish, while it is only reasonable
to suppose, what has often been proved to be the fact, that in
guiding the shark to food the pilot also has its modest share of the
feast. It is quite true that the pilot-fish will for a time attach
itself to a boat when its companion has been killed. Again and again
I have noticed this on a whaling voyage, where more sharks are killed
in one day while cutting in a whale than many sailors see during
their whole lives.

Hitherto we have only considered those inhabitants of the deep sea
that forgather with a ship during a calm. Not that the enumeration
of them is exhausted, by any means, for during long-persisting
calms, as I have often recorded elsewhere, many queer denizens of
the middle depths of ocean are tempted by the general stagnation
to come gradually to the surface and visit the unfamiliar light.
Considerations of space preclude my dealing with many of these
infrequent visitors to the upper strata of the sea, but I cannot
refrain from mention of one or two that have come under my notice at
different times. One especially I tried for two days to inveigle by
various means, for I thought (and still think) that a stranger fish
was never bottled in any museum than he was. He was sociable enough,
too. I dare say his peculiar appearance was dead against his scraping
an acquaintance with any ordinary-looking fish, who, in spite of
their well-known curiosity, might well be excused from chumming up
with any such “sport” as he undoubtedly was. He was about 18 in.
long, with a head much like a gurnard and a tapering body resembling
closely in its contour that of a cod. So that as far as his shape
went there was nothing particularly _outré_ in his appearance. But he
was bright green in colour--at least, the ground of his colour-scheme
was bright green. He was dotted profusely with glaring crimson spots
about the size of a sixpence. And from the centre of each of these
spots sprang a brilliant blue tassel upon a yellow stalk about an
inch long. All his fins--and he had certainly double the usual
allowance--were also fringed extensively with blue filaments, which
kept fluttering and waving continually, even when he lay perfectly
motionless, as if they were all nerves. His tail was a wonderful
organ more than twice as large as his size warranted, and fringed, of
course, as all his other fins were, only more so. His eyes were very
large and inexpressive, dead-looking in fact, reminding me of eyes
that had been boiled. But over each of them protruded a sort of horn
of bright yellow colour for about two inches, at the end of which
dangled a copious tassel of blue that seemed to obscure the uncanny
creature’s vision completely.

To crown all, a dorsal ridge of crimson rose quite two inches, the
whole length of his back being finished off by a long spike that
stuck out over his nose like a jibboom, and had the largest tassel
of all depending from it. So curiously decorated a fish surely
never greeted man’s eye before, and when he moved, which he did
with dignified slowness, the effect of all those waving fringes and
tassels was dazzling beyond expression. I think he must have been
some distant relation of the angler-fish that frequents certain tidal
rivers, but he had utilised his leisure for personal decoration upon
original lines. This was in the Indian Ocean, near the Line; but some
years after, in hauling up a mass of Gulf weed in the North Atlantic,
I caught, quite by accident, a tiny fish, not two inches long, that
strongly reminded me of my tasselled friend, and may have been one of
the same species. I tried to preserve the little fellow in a bottle,
but had no spirit, and he didn’t keep in salt water.

By far the most numerous class of sociable deep-sea fish, however,
are those that delight to accompany a ship that is making good way
through the water. They do not like a steamer--the propeller with
its tremendous churning scares them effectually away--but the silent
gliding motion of the sailing-ship seems just to their taste. As
soon as the wind falls and the vessel stops they keep at a distance,
only occasionally passing discontentedly, as if they wondered why
their big companion was thus idling away the bright day. Foremost
among these, both in numbers and the closeness with which they
accompany a ship, is the “bonito,” a species of mackerel so named by
the Spaniards from their beautiful appearance. They are a “chubby”
fish, much more bulky in body in proportion to their length than our
mackerel, for one 18 in. long will often tip the scale at 30 lbs.
Their vigour is tremendous; there is no other word for it. A school
of them numbering several hundreds will attach themselves to a ship
travelling at the rate of six to eight knots an hour, and keep her
company for a couple of days, swimming steadily with her, either
alongside, ahead, or astern; but during the daytime continually
making short excursions away after flying-fish or leaping-squid
scared up or “flushed” by the approach of the ship. Not only so,
but as if to work off their surplus energy they will occasionally
take vertical leaps into the air to a height that, considering their
stumpy proportions, is amazing.

The probable reason for their sociability is, I think, that they
know how the passing of the ship’s deep keel through the silence
immediately underlying the sea-surface startles upward their natural
prey, the flying-fish and loligo (small cuttle-fish), and affords
them ample opportunities for dashing among them unobserved. In any
case, to the hungry sailor, this neighbourly habit of theirs is
quite providential. For by such simple means as a piece of white rag
attached to a hook, and let down from the jibboom end to flutter
over the dancing wavelets like a flying-fish, a fine bonito is
easily secured, although holding a twenty-pounder just out of the
water in one’s arms is calculated to give the captor a profound
respect for the energy of his prize. Unlike most other fish, they
are warm-blooded. Their flesh is dark and coarse, but if it were ten
times darker and coarser than it is it would be welcome as a change
from the everlasting salt beef and pork.

The dolphin, about which so much confusion arises from the difference
in nomenclature between the naturalist and the seaman, has long been
celebrated by poetic writers for its dazzling beauty. But between the
sailor’s dolphin, _Coryphœna Hippuris_ (forgive me for the jargon),
which is a fish, and the naturalist’s dolphin, _Delphinus deductor_,
which is a mammal, there is far more difference than there is between
a greyhound and a pig. Sailors call the latter a porpoise, and won’t
recognise any distinction between the _Delphinus_ and any other
small sea mammal (except a seal), calling them all porpoises. But
no sailor ever meant anything else by “dolphin” than the beautiful
fish of which I must say a few words in the small remaining space at
my disposal. For some reason best known to themselves the dolphin
do not care to accompany a ship so closely as the bonito. They are
by no means so constant in their attention, for when the ship is
going at a moderate speed they cannot curb their impatience and
swim soberly along with her, and when she goes faster they seem to
dislike the noise she makes, and soon leave her. But, although they
do not stick closely to a ship, they like her company, and in light
winds will hang about her all day, showing off their glories to the
best advantage, and often contributing a welcome mess to the short
commons of the fo’c’s’le. Their average weight is about 15 lbs., but
from their elegant shape they are a far more imposing fish than the
bonito. They are deepest at the head, which has a rounded forehead
with a sharp front, and they taper gradually to the tail, which is of
great size. A splendid dorsal fin runs the whole length of the back,
which, when it is erected, adds greatly to their appearance of size.

No pen could possibly do justice to the magnificence of their
colouring, for, like “shot” silk or the glowing tints of the
humming-bird, it changes with every turn. And when the fish is
disporting under a blazing sun its glories are almost too brilliant
for the unshaded eye; one feels the need of smoked glass through
which to view them. These wonderful tints begin to fade as soon
as the fish is caught; and although there is a series of waves of
colour that ebb and flow about the dying creature, the beauty of the
living body is never even remotely approached again, in spite of what
numberless writers have said to the contrary. To see the dolphin in
full chase after a flying-fish, leaping like a glorious arrow forty
feet at each lateral bound through the sunshine, is a vision worth
remembering. I know of nothing more gorgeous under heaven.

The giant albacore, biggest mackerel of them all, reaching a weight
of a quarter of a ton, does seek the society of a ship sometimes,
but not nearly so often as bonito and dolphin. And although I have
caught these monsters in the West Indies from boats, I never saw
one hauled on board ship. It would not be treating the monarch of
the finny tribe respectfully to attempt a description of him at
the bare end of my article, so I must leave him, as well as the
“skipjack,” yellow-tail, and barracouta, for some other occasion.
Perhaps enough has now been said to show that sociability is not by
any means confined to land animals, although the great subject of the
sociability of sea-mammals has not even been touched upon.



                       ALLIGATORS AND MAHOGANY


Merchant seamen as a rule have very little acquaintance with the
appalling alligator, whose unappeasable ferocity and diabolical
cunning make him so terrible a neighbour. Had the alligator been a
seafarer, it is in my mind that mankind would have heard little of
the savagery of the shark, who, to tell the truth fairly, is a much
maligned monster; incapable of seven-tenths of the crimes attributed
to him, innocent of another two-tenths, and in the small balance of
iniquity left, a criminal rather from accident than from design.
But all the atrocities attributed by ignorance to the shark may
truthfully be predicated of the alligator, and many more also, seeing
that the great lizard is equally at home on land or in the water.

I speak feelingly, having had painful experience of the ways of the
terrible saurian during my visits to one of the few places where
sailors are brought into contact with him. Tonala River, which
empties itself into the Gulf of Mexico, has a sinister notoriety,
owing to the number of alligators with which it is infested; and
through the proverbial carelessness of seamen and their ignorance
of the language spoken by the people ashore, many an unrecorded
tragedy has occurred there to members of the crews of vessels
loading mahogany in the river. Like all the streams which debouch
into that Western Mediterranean, Tonala River has a bar across its
mouth, but, unlike most of them, there is occasionally water upon
the bar deep enough to permit vessels of twelve or thirteen feet
draught to enter with safety. And as the embarkation of mahogany in
the open roadstead is a series of hair-breadth escapes from death
on the part of the crew and attended by much damage to the ship, it
is easy to understand why the navigability of Tonala Bar is highly
valued by shipmasters fortunate enough to be chartered thither,
since it permits them to take in a goodly portion of their cargo in
comparative comfort. Against this benefit, however, is to be set off
a long list of disadvantages, not the least of which are the swarms
of winged vermin that joyfully pass the short space between ship and
river-bank, scenting fresh blood. The idea of there being any danger
in the river itself, however, rarely occurs to a seaman until he
sees, some day, as he listlessly gazes overside at the turbid current
silently sweeping seaward, a dead log floating deep, just awash in
fact. And as he watches it with unspeculating eyes, one end of it
will slowly be upreared just a little and the hideous head of an
alligator, with its cold, dead-looking eyes, sleepily half unclosed,
is revealed. Just a ripple and the thing has gone, sunk stone-like,
but with every faculty alert, that rugged ironclad exterior giving no
hint to the uninitiated of the potentialities for mischief, swift and
supple, therein contained.

In spite of having read much about these creatures and their habits,
I confess to having been very sceptical as to their agility until I
was enlightened in such a startling manner that the memory of that
scene is branded upon my mind. I was strolling along the smooth sandy
bank of the river opposite the straggling rows of huts we called
the town one lovely Sunday morning, all eyes and ears for anything
interesting. After about an hour’s walk my legs, unaccustomed to such
exercise, begged off for a little, and seeing a stranded tree-trunk
lying on the beach some little distance ahead, I made towards it for
a seat. As I neared it a young bullock came leisurely down towards
the water from the bush, between me and the log. I, of course, took
no notice of him, but held on my way until within, I should say,
fifty yards of the log. Suddenly that dead tree sprang into life and
spun round with a movement like the sweep of a scythe. It struck
the bullock from his feet, throwing him upon his side in the water.
What ensued was so rapid that the eye could not follow it, or make
out anything definitely except a stirring up of the sand and a few
ripples in the water. The big animal was carried off as noiselessly
and easily as if he had been a lamb, nor, although I watched long,
did I ever catch sight of him again. Notwithstanding the heat of
the sun I felt a cold chill as I thought how easily the fate of the
bullock might have been mine. And from thenceforth, until familiarity
with the hateful reptiles bred a sort of contempt for their powers,
I kept a very sharp look-out in every direction for stranded
tree-trunks. This care on my part nearly proved fatal, because I
forgot that the alligators might possibly be lying hid in the jungly
vegetation that flourished thickly just above high-water mark. So
that it happened when I neared the spot where I was to hail the boat,
as I nervously scanned the beach for any sign of a scaly log, I heard
a rustling of dry leaves on my right, and down towards me glided one
of the infernal things with a motion almost like that of a launching
ship. I turned and tried to run--I suppose I did run--but to my
fancy it seemed as if I had a 56-lb. weight upon each foot. Hardly
necessary to say, perhaps, that I escaped, but my walk had lost all
its charms for me, and I vowed never to come ashore again there alone.

But as if the performances of these ugly beasts were to be fully
manifested before our eyes, on the very next day, a Greek trader came
off to the ship accompanied by his son, a boy of about ten years old.
Leaving the youngster in the canoe, the father came on board and
tried to sell some fruit he had brought. We had a raft of mahogany
alongside, about twenty huge logs, upon which a half-breed Spaniard
was standing, ready to sling such as were pointed out to him by the
stevedores. The boy must needs get out of the canoe and amuse himself
by stepping from log to log, delighted hugely by the way they bobbed
and tumbled about beneath him. Presently a yell from the slingsman
brought all hands to the rail on the jump, and there, about fifty
yards from the raft, was to be seen the white arm of the boy limply
waving to and fro, while a greasy ripple beneath it showed only too
plainly what horror had overtaken him. The distracted father sprang
into his canoe, four men from our ship manned our own boat, and
away they went in chase, hopelessly enough to be sure. Yet, strange
to say, the monster did not attempt to go down with his prey. He
kept steadily breasting the strong current, easily keeping ahead of
his pursuers, that pitiful arm still waving as if beckoning them
onward to the rescue of its owner. Boat after boat from ships and
shore joined in the pursuit, every man toiling as if possessed by
an overmastering energy and impervious to broiling sun or deadening
fatigue. For five miles the chase continued; one by one the boats and
canoes gave up as their occupants lost their last ounce of energy,
until only one canoe still held on, one man still plied his paddle
with an arm that rose and fell like the piston-rod of a steam-engine.
It was the bereaved father. At last the encouraging arm disappeared,
as the alligator, having reached his lair, disappeared beneath the
surface, leaving the river face unruffled above him. Quick as a wild
duck the solitary pursuer swerved and made for the bank, where a
score of his acquaintances met him tendering gourds of aguadiente,
cigaritos, and such comfort as they could put into words. He took
the nearest gourd and drank deeply of the fiery spirit, accepted a
cigarette and lit it mechanically, but never spoke a word. All the
while his eyes were roving restlessly around in search of something.
At last they lit upon a coil of line hanging upon a low branch to
dry. He rushed toward it, snatched it from its place, and taking his
cuchillo from his belt felt its edge. Then roughly brushing aside
all who attempted to hinder him, he boarded his canoe again, taking
no notice of one of his friends who got in after him. Under the
pressure of the two paddles they rapidly neared the spot where the
beast had sunk. As soon as they reached the place the silent avenger
laid aside his paddle, took one end of the coil in his hand and
flinging the other to his companion, slipped overside and vanished.
In about two minutes he returned to the surface, ghastly, his eyes
glaring, and taking a long, long breath disappeared again. This time
he did not return. When the watcher above felt that all hope was gone
he hauled upon the line as much as he dared, but could not move what
it was secured to. Soon, however, boats came to his assistance, and
presently extra help raised to the surface the huge armoured body of
the man-eater, the line being fast round his hind legs. The bereaved
father was clinging to the monster’s throat, one arm thrust between
his horrid jaws and the other hand still clutching the haft of the
bowie-knife, whose blade was buried deep in the leathery folds of the
great neck. With bared heads and solemn faces the helpers towed the
group ashore, and reverently removing the poor remains of father and
son, buried them deep under a wide-spreading tree.

In the intervals (frequently occurring) between the shipment of
one consignment of logs and the arrival of another, it was part of
our duties to hunt along the river banks for ownerless log-ends
or even logs of mahogany or cedar which we might saw and split up
into convenient pieces for broken stowage or filling up the many
interstices between the logs in the hold. Naturally this led us into
some queer places and not a few scrapes, but incidentally we were
able to do some good service to the inhabitants by destroying many
hundreds of embryo alligators. For wherever, in the course of our
journeyings, we came across a swelling in the sand along the river
bank, there we would delve, and we never failed of finding a deposit
of ball-like stony-shelled eggs, which each contained a little devil
of an alligator almost ready to begin his career of crime. Needless
perhaps to say that none of those found by us in this manner ever
did any harm. But while busy on one occasion destroying a clutch of
these eggs, a huge specimen some sixteen feet long appeared from no
one knew where, and actually succeeded in reaching with the horny tip
of his tail, as it swept round, the legs of a West countryman, one
of our finest seamen. Fortunately for him the bo’sun was carrying a
loaded Snider rifle, and without stopping to think whether anybody
else might be in the way he banged her “aloose.” The alligator was
at the moment in a half circle, swinging himself round to reach
the fallen man with his awful jaws wide spread and displaying all
their jagged yellow fangs. The heavy bullet plunged right down that
stinking throat and ploughed its way out through the creature’s
belly into the sand. With a writhe like a snake the monster recoiled
upon himself, snapping his jaws horribly and loading the air with a
faint, sickening smell of musk. After two or three twists and turns
he managed to slip into the water, but not before the bo’sun had
fired twice more at him and missed him by yards. Poor Harry, the
man knocked down, was so badly scared that he sat on a log end and
vomited, looking livid as a corpse and shaking like a man of ninety.
We could do nothing for him, but watched him sympathetically, hoping
for his recovery, when suddenly with a wild yell he sprang to his
feet and began to tear his clothes off as if he were mad. Lord, how
he did swear too! We were all scared, thinking the fright had turned
his brain, but when he presently danced before us in his bare buff,
picking frantically at his skin, our dismay was changed into shrieks
of laughter. A colony of red ants, each about half an inch long,
had been concealed in that log. They had walked up his trouser legs
quietly enough and fastened upon his body, their nippers meeting
through the soft skin. Hence his endeavours to get disrobed in haste.
He said it was nothing to laugh at, but I don’t believe the man was
yet born that could have seen him and not laughed. Happily it cured
him of his fright.

Whether by good luck or good management I don’t presume to say, but
in all our explorations we met with no accident either from snake or
saurian, while the crew of a Norwegian brig lying close by us lost
one of their number the second day after their arrival. They had been
very short of water, and in consequence sent a boat up the river to
one of the creeks for a supply. Four hands went on this errand, and,
tempted by the refreshing coolness of the water, one of them waded
out into the river until the water was up to his waist, and stood
there baling it up with the dipper he carried and pouring it over
his head. The others were in the boat laughing at his antics, when
suddenly, as they described it, a dark sickle-like shadow swept round
him, and with one marrow-freezing shriek he fell. All the signs of
a fearful struggle beneath the water were evident, but never again
did they see their shipmate, nor was it until some time afterwards
that they learned what the manner of his going really was. And when
they did find out, nothing would tempt any of them to leave the ship
again while she lay there. One of them told me that his shipmate’s
last cry would be with him, reverberating through his mind, until his
dying day. I am not naturally cruel, but I confess that when one day
I caught one of these monsters with a hook and line while fishing
for something else, I felt a real pleasure in taking the awful thing
alongside, hoisting it on board, and ripping it lengthways from end
to end. From its stomach we took quite a bushel basket-full of eggs,
nearly all of them with shells, ready for laying, and we felt truly
thankful that so vile a brood had been caught before they had begun
their life of evil.



                     COUNTRY LIFE ON BOARD SHIP


                                  I

At first sight, any two things more difficult to bring into
intimate relations than bucolic and nautical life would appear
impossible to find. Those unfortunate people who, having followed
the calm, well-ordered round of pastoral progress through the
steadily-succeeding seasons of many years, suddenly find themselves,
by some freakish twist of fortune’s wheel, transferred to the
unstable bosom of the mutable deep, become terribly conscious of
their helplessness in the face of conditions so utterly at variance
with all their previous experience of settled, orderly life. The old
order has changed with a vengeance, giving place to a bewildering
seasonal disarrangement which seems to their shaken senses like a
foretaste of some topsy-turvy world. Like sorrowful strangers in a
strange land are they, wherein there is no sure foothold, and where,
in place of the old familiar landmarks known and cherished so long,
is a new element constant to nothing but change and--upon which
they seem to be precariously poised--the centre of a marginless
circle of invariable variability. This subversion of all precedent
is of course no less disconcerting to the humbler denizens of the
farmyard and meadow than it is to those who are ordinarily the
august arbiters of their destinies. And a sudden change from the
placid environment of the homestead, with all its large liberty
and peaceful delights, to the cramped, comfortless quarters which,
as a rule, are all that shipboard arrangements allow them, at once
brings them to a state of disconsolate wretchedness wherein all their
self-assertive individuality is reduced to a meek, voiceless protest
against their hard and unmerited fate. Sea-sickness, too, that truly
democratic leveller, does not spare animals, but inserts another set
of totally new and unpleasant sensations into the already complicated
disorganisation of their unfortunate position.

In spite of these admittedly difficult factors, I have the temerity
to attempt the setting forth of certain phases of nautical life
experienced by myself which have always appeared to me to bring into
close contact two such widely differing spheres of existence as
country life and sea life, principally in the management of farmyard
animals at sea. Sailors are proverbially handy at most things, if
their methods _are_ unconventional, and I venture to hope that
country readers will at least be amused by Jack’s antics when dealing
with the familiar creatures of the countryside.

With that wonderful adaptability to circumstances which, while
pre-eminently characteristic of mankind, is also a notable quality
of domesticated animals, they soon recover from their stupor and
malaise, arrange their locomotive powers to suit the mutations
of their unsteady home, and learn (perhaps soonest of all) to
distinguish the very number of strokes upon the ship’s bell which
announces the arrival of feeding-time. No doubt the attentions of
the sailors have much to do with the rapidity of acclimatisation
(if the term may be so employed) manifested by most of the animals,
since sailors have justly earned a high reputation for taming and
educating creatures of even the most ferocious and intractable
dispositions. Nevertheless, this result is attained by some of the
queerest and most ludicrous means (to a countryman) imaginable. But
what does that matter, since the conditions of their existence then
become, for the seaworthy animals, not only pleasant but undoubtedly
profitable to their owners. And where they are presently allowed the
run of the ship much fun ensues, fun, moreover, that has no parallel
in country life as ordinarily understood. Perhaps my experiences
have been more favourably enlarged than falls to the lot of most
seafarers, for I have been in several ships where the live-stock were
allowed free warren; and although the system had many inconveniences
and entailed a great deal of extra labour upon the crew, there were
also many compensations. But, like all things pertaining to the
sea, the practice of carrying live-stock has been replaced by more
modern methods. The custom of carrying fresh meat in refrigerators is
rapidly gaining ground, and, in consequence, latter-day seamen find
fewer and fewer opportunities for educating in seafaring behaviour
the usual farmyard animals that supply us with food. By few seamen
will this be regarded as a misfortune, since they find their labour
quite sufficiently onerous without the inevitable and disagreeable
concomitants of carrying live-stock.

By far the largest portion of my experience of farmyard operations
on board ship has been connected with pigs. These profitable animals
have always been noted for their adaptability to sea life, and I
fully believe, what I have often heard asserted, that no pork is so
delicious as that which has been reared on board ship. Be that as it
may, pigs of every nation under heaven where swine are to be found
have been shipmates with me, and a complete study of all their varied
characteristics and their behaviour under all sea circumstances
would occupy a far greater number of pages than I am ever likely
to be able or willing to give. Already I have endeavoured to set
forth, in a former article, a sketch of the brilliant, if erratic,
career of one piggy shipmate whose life was full of interest and
his death a blaze of lurid glory. But he was in nowise the most
important member of our large and assorted collection of grunters
in that ship. Our Scotch skipper was an enthusiastic farmer during
the brief periods he spent at Cellardyke between his voyages to the
East Indies, and consequently it was not strange that he should
devote a portion of his ample leisure to pig-breeding when at sea.
For some reason, probably economical, we carried no fowls or other
animals destined for our meat, with the exception of the pigs, two
large retriever dogs and two cats making up the total of our animal
passengers, unless a large and active colony of rats that inhabited
the recesses of the hold be taken into account. The day before
sailing from Liverpool a handsome young pair of porkers, boar and
sow, were borne on board in one sack by the seller, making the welkin
ring with their shrill protests. We already possessed a middle-aged
black sow of Madras origin, whose temper was perfectly savage and
unappeasable; in fact, she was the only animal I ever saw on board
ship that could not be tamed. The first few days of our passage
being stormy, the two young pigs suffered greatly from sea-sickness,
and in their helpless, enfeebled state endured many things from the
wrathful, long-snouted old Madrassee, who seemed to regard them
both with peculiar aversion. She ate all their grub as well as her
own, although, like the lean kine of Scripture, she was nothing
benefited thereby. But the sailors, finding the youngsters amicably
disposed, began to pet them, and in all possible ways to protect
them from ill-usage not only by the savage Indian but by the black
retriever Sailor, who had taken up his quarters in the fo’c’s’le
and became furiously jealous of any attention shown to the pigs by
his many masters. It should be noted that, contrary to the usual
practice, those pigs had no settled abiding-place. At night they
slept in some darksome corner beneath the top-gallant forecastle,
wherever they could find a dry spot, but by day they roamed the deck
whithersoever they listed, often getting as far aft as the sacred
precincts of the quarter-deck, until Neptune, the brown retriever
that guarded the after-end of the ship, espied them, and, leaping
upon them, towed them forrard at full gallop by the ears, amid a
hurly-burly of eldritch shrieks and rattling hoofs. I am not at all
sure that the frolicsome young things did not enjoy these squally
interludes in their otherwise peaceful lives. Certainly they often
seemed to court rather than to avoid the dog’s onslaught, and would
dodge him round the after-hatch for all the world like London Arabs
guying a policeman. The only bitter drop in their brimming cup of
delights came with distressing regularity each morning. As soon as
the wash-deck tub was hauled forrard and the fore part of the ship
was invaded by the barefooted scrubbers and water-slingers, two
hands would grope beneath the fo’c’s’le, where, squeezed into the
smallest imaginable space, Denis and Jenny were, or pretended to be,
sleeping the dreamless slumbers of youthful innocence. Ruthlessly
they were seized and hauled on deck, their frantic lamentations
lacerating the bright air, and evoking fragments of the commination
service from the disturbed watch below. While one man held each of
them down, others scrubbed them vigorously, pouring a whole flood
of sparkling brine over them meanwhile, until they were as rosy and
sweet as any cherub of the nursery after its bath. This treatment,
so mournfully and regularly resented by them, was doubtless one
reason why they throve so amazingly, although the liberal rations
of sea-biscuit and peasoup supplied to them probably suited them as
well as any highly-advertised and costly provender would have done.
Their tameness was wonderful and withal somewhat embarrassing, for it
was no uncommon thing for them to slip into the men’s house unseen
during the absence of the crew, and, climbing into a lower bunk,
nestle cosily down into the unfortunate owner’s blankets and snore
peacefully until forcibly ejected by the wrathful lessee.

Our passage was long, very long, so that the old black sow littered
off the Cape of Good Hope, choosing, with her usual saturnine
perversity, a night when a howling gale was blowing, and destroying
all her hapless offspring but one in her furious resentment at the
whole thing. Jenny, like the amiable creature she always was, delayed
_her_ offering until we were lying peaceably in Bombay Harbour. There
she placidly produced thirteen chubby little sucklings and reared
every one of them. They were a never-failing source of amusement to
the men, who, in the dog-watches, would sit for hours with pipes
aglow sedately enjoying the screamingly-funny antics of the merry
band. There is much controversy as to which of all tame animals are
the most genuinely frolicsome in their youth, kittens, lambs, calves,
pups, and colts all having their adherents; but I unhesitatingly give
my vote for piglings, especially when they are systematically petted
and encouraged in all their antics as were that happy family of ours.
Generally, the fat and lazy parents passed the time of these evening
gambols in poking about among the men, begging for stray midshipmen’s
nuts (broken biscuit), or asking in well-understood pig-talk to
be scratched behind their ears or along their bristly spines, but
occasionally, as if unable to restrain themselves any longer, they
would suddenly join their gyrating family, their elephantine gambols
among the frisky youngsters causing roars of laughter. Usually they
wound up the revels by a grand _galop furieux_ aft of the whole troop
squealing and grunting fortissimo, and returning accompanied by the
two dogs in a hideous uproar of barks, growls, and squeals.

Our stay on the coast was sufficiently prolonged to admit of another
litter being produced in Bimlia-patam, twelve more piglets being
added to our already sizeable herd of seventeen. So far, these
farming matters had met with the unqualified approval of all hands
except the unfortunate boys who had to do the scavenging, but upon
quitting the Coromandel coast for the homeward passage, the exceeding
cheapness of live-stock tempted our prudent skipper to invest in a
large number of fowls and ducks. Besides these, he bought a couple
of milch goats, with some wild idea of milking them, while various
members of the crew had gotten monkeys, musk-deer, and parrots. It
needed no special gift of prescience to foresee serious trouble
presently, for there was not a single coop or house of any kind on
board for any of the motley crowd. As each crate of cackling birds
was lowered on deck it was turned out, and by the time the last of
the new-comers were free, never did a ship’s decks look more like a
“barton” than ours. Forty or fifty cockfights were proceeding in as
many corners, aided and abetted, I grieve to say, by the sailors,
who did all they could to encourage the pugnacity of the fowls,
although they were already as quarrelsome a lot as you would easily
get together. The goats were right at home at once; in fact goats
are, I believe, the single exception to the general rule of the
discomfort of animals when first they are brought on shipboard. The
newcomers quietly browsed around, sampling everything they could
get a purchase on with their teeth, and apparently finding all good
alike. Especially did they favour the ends of the running gear.
Now if there is one thing more than another that is sharply looked
after at sea, it is the “whipping” or securing of ropes-ends to
prevent them fraying out. But it was suddenly discovered that our
ropes-ends needed continual attention, some of them being always
found with disreputable tassels hanging to them. And when the mates
realised that the goats apparently preferred a bit of tarry rope
before anything else, their wrath was too great for words, and
they meditated a terrible revenge. Another peculiarity of these
strange-eyed animals was that they liked tobacco, and would eat a
great deal of it, especially in the form of used-up quids. This
peculiar taste in feeding had unexpected results. As before said, the
_raison d’être_ of the goats was milk, and after sundry ineffectual
struggles the steward managed to extract a cupful from the unworthy
pair. It was placed upon the cabin table with an air of triumph,
and the eyes of the captain’s wife positively beamed when she saw
it. Solemnly it was handed round, and poured into the coffee as
if it had been a libation to a tutelary deity, but somebody soon
raised a complaint that the coffee was not up to concert pitch by a
considerable majority. A process of exhaustive reasoning led to the
milk being tasted by the captain, who immediately spat it out with
much violence, ejaculating, “Why, the dam’ stuff’s pwushioned!” The
steward, all pale and agitated, looked on dumbly, until in answer to
the old man’s furious questions he falteringly denied all knowledge
of any felonious addition to the milk. The storm that was raised by
the affair was a serious one, and for a while things looked really
awkward for the steward. Fortunately the mate had the common-sense
to suggest that the malignant goat should be tapped once more, and
the immediate result tasted. This was done, and the poor steward
triumphantly vindicated. Then it was unanimously admitted that tarry
hemp, painted canvas, and plug tobacco were not calculated to produce
milk of a flavour that would be fancied by ordinary people.


                                 II

For the first time that voyage an attempt was made to confine a
portion of our farm-stock within a pen, instead of allowing them to
roam at their own sweet will about the decks. For the skipper still
cherished the idea that milk for tea and coffee might be obtained
from the two goats that would be palatable, if only their habit of
promiscuous grazing could be stopped. So the carpenter rigged up a
tiny corral beneath the fo’c’s’le deck, and there, in penitential
gloom, the goats were confined and fed, like all the rest of the
animals, on last voyage’s biscuit and weevily pease. Under these
depressing conditions there was, of course, only one thing left for
self-respecting goats to do--refuse to secrete any more milk. They
promptly did so; so promptly, in fact, that on the second morning the
utmost energies of the steward only sufficed to squeeze out from the
sardonic pair about half-a-dozen teaspoonfuls of doubtful-looking
fluid. This sealed their fate, for we had far too much stock on board
to waste any portion of our provender upon non-producers, and the
fiat went forth--the drones must die. Some suggestion was made by
a member of the after guard as to the possibility of the crew not
objecting to goat as a change of diet; but with all the skipper’s
boldness, he did not venture to make the attempt. The goats were
slain, their hides were saved for chafing gear, sheaths for knives,
&c., but, with the exception of a portion that was boiled down with
much disgust by the cook and given to the fowls, most of the flesh
was flung overboard. Then general complaints arose that while musk
was a pleasant perfume taken in moderation, a little of it went a
very long way, and that two musk deer might be relied upon to provide
as much scent in one day as would suffice all hands for a year. I
do not know how it was done, but two days after the demise of the
goats the deer also vanished. Still we could not be said to enjoy
much room to move about on deck yet. We had 200 fowls and forty ducks
roaming at large, and although many of the former idiotic birds tried
their wings, with the result of finding the outside of the ship a
brief and uncertain abiding-place, the state of the ship’s decks
was still utterly abominable. A week of uninterrupted fine weather
under the blazing sun of the Bay of Bengal had made every one but the
skipper heartily sick of sea-farming, and consequently it was with
many pleasurable anticipations that we noted the first increase in
the wind that necessitated a reduction of sail. It made the fellows
quite gay to think of the clearance that would presently take place.
The breeze freshened steadily all night, and in the morning it was
blowing a moderate gale, with an ugly cross sea, which, with the
_Belle’s_ well-known clumsiness, she was allowing to break aboard in
all directions. By four bells there were many gaps in our company
of fowls. Such a state of affairs robbed them of the tiny modicum
of gumption they had ever possessed, and every little breaking sea
that lolloped inboard drove some of them, with strident outcry, to
seek refuge overboard. Presently came what we had been expecting
all the morning--one huge mass of water extending from the break
of the poop to the forecastle, which filled the decks rail high,
fore and aft. Proceedings were exceedingly animated for a time. The
ducks took very kindly to the new arrangement at first, sailing
joyously about, and tasting the bitter brine as if they rather liked
the flavour. But they were vastly puzzled by the incomprehensible
motions of the whole mass of water under them; it was a phenomenon
transcending all their previous aquatic experiences. The fowls gave
the whole thing up, floating languidly about like worn-out feather
brooms upon the seething flood of water, and hardly retaining enough
energy to struggle when the men, splashing about like a crack team
in a water-polo match, snatched at them and conveyed them in heaps
to a place of security under the forecastle. That day’s breeze got
rid of quite two-thirds of our feathered friends for us, what
with the number that had flown or been washed overboard and those
unfortunates who had died in wet heaps under the forecastle. The old
man was much annoyed, and could by no means understand the unwonted
cheerfulness of everybody else. But, economical to the last, he
ordered the steward to slay as many of the survivors each day as
would give every man one body apiece for dinner, in lieu of the usual
rations of salt beef or pork. This royal command gave all hands
great satisfaction, for it is a superstition on board ship that to
feed upon chicken is the height of epicurean luxury. Dinner-time,
therefore, was awaited with considerable impatience; in fact, a
good deal of sleep was lost by the watch below over the prospect
of such an unusual luxury. I went to the galley as usual, my mouth
watering like the rest, but when I saw the dirty little Maltese cook
harpooning the carcasses out of the coppers, my appetite began to
fail me. He carefully counted into my kid one corpse to each man, and
I silently bore them into the forecastle to the midst of the gaping
crowd. Ah me! how was their joy turned into sorrow, their sorrow
into rage, by the rapidest of transitions. She was a hungry ship at
the best of times, but when things had been at their worst they had
never quite reached the present sad level. It is hardly possible to
imagine what that feast looked like. An East Indian jungle fowl is by
no means a fleshy bird when at its best, but these poor wretches had
been living upon what little flesh they wore when they came on board
for about ten days, the scanty ration of paddy and broken biscuit
having been insufficient to keep them alive. And then they had been
scalded wholesale, the feathers roughly wiped off them, and plunged
into a copper of furiously bubbling seawater, where they had remained
until the wooden-headed Maltese judged it time to fish them out and
send them to be eaten. They were just like ladies’ bustles covered
with old parchment, and I have serious doubts whether more than half
of them were drawn. I dare not attempt to reproduce the comments of
my starving shipmates, unless I gave a row of dashes which would be
suggestive but not enlightening. Old Nat the Yankee, who was the
doyen of the forecastle, was the first to recover sufficiently from
the shock to formulate a definite plan of action. “In my ’pinion,” he
said, “thishyer’s ’bout reached th’ bottom notch. I kin stan’ bein’
starved; in these yer limejuicers a feller’s got ter stan’ that, but
I be ’tarnally dod-gasted ef I kin see bein’ starved ’n’ insulted
at the same time by the notion ov bein’ bloated with lugsury. I’m
goin’ ter take thishyer kid full o’ bramley-kites aft an’ ask th’
ole man ef he don’t think it’s ’bout time somethin’ wuz said _an’_
done by th’ croo ov this hooker.” There was no dissentient voice
heard, and solemnly as a funeral procession, Nat leading the way
with the corpuses delicti, the whole watch tramped aft. I need not
dwell upon the interview. Sufficient that there was a good deal of
animated conversation, and much jeering on the skipper’s part at
the well-known cussedness of sailors, who, as everybody knows (or
think they know), will growl if fed on all the delicacies of the
season served up on 18-carat plate. But we got no more poultry,
thank Heaven. And I do not think the officers regretted the fact
that before we got clear of the bay the last of that sad crowd of
feathered bipeds had ceased to worry any of us, but had wisely given
up the attempt to struggle against such a combination of trying
circumstances.

The herd of swine, however, throve apace. To the manner born, nothing
came amiss to them, and I believe they even enjoyed the many quaint
tricks played upon them by the monkeys, and the ceaseless antagonism
of the dogs. But the father of the family was a sore trial to our
energetic carpenter. Chips had a sneaking regard for pigs, and knew
more than anybody on board about them; but that big boar, he said,
made him commit more sin with his tongue in one day than all the
other trying details of his life put together. For Denis’s tusks
grew amazingly, and his chief amusement consisted in rooting about
until he found a splinter in the decks underneath which he could
insert a tusk. Then he would lie down or crouch on his knees, and
fidget away at that sliver of pine until he had succeeded in ripping
a long streak up; and if left undisturbed for a few minutes, he
would gouge quite a large hollow out of the deck. No ship’s decks
that ever I saw were so full of patches as ours were, and despite
all our watchfulness they were continually increasing. It became a
regular part of the carpenter’s duties to capture Denis periodically
by lassoing him, lash him up to the pin-rail by his snout, and with
a huge pair of pincers snap off those fast-growing tusks as close
down to the jaw as possible. In spite of this heroic treatment, Denis
always seemed to find enough of tusk left to rip up a sliver of deck
if ever he could find a quiet corner; and the carpenter was often
heard to declare that the cunning beast was a lineal descendant of a
survivor of the demon-possessed herd of Gadara.

In the case of the pigs, though, there were compensations. By the
time we arrived off Mauritius, a rumour went round that on Friday
a pig was to be killed, and great was the excitement. The steward
swelled with importance as, armed with the cabin carving-knife, he
strode forward and selected _two_ of the first litter of piglets,
the Bombay born, for sacrifice. He had plenty of voluntary helpers
from the watch below, who had no fears for the quality of this
meat, and only trembled at the thought that perchance the old man
might bear malice in the matter of the fowls and refuse to send any
pork in our direction. Great was the uproar as the chosen ones were
seized by violent hands, their legs tied with spun-yarn, and their
throats exposed to the stern purpose of the steward. Unaware that
the critical eye of Chips was upon him, he made a huge gash across
the victim’s throat, and then plunged the knife in diagonally until
the whole length of the blade disappeared. “Man alive,” said Chips,
“ye’re sewerly daft. Thon’s nay wye to stick a pig. If ye haena
shouldert the puir beastie A’am a hog mysel’.” “You mind your own
business, Carpenter,” replied the steward, with dignity; “I don’t
want anybody to show me how to do _my_ work.” “Gie _me_ nane o’ yer
impidence, ye feckless loon,” shouted Chips. “A’am tellin’ ye thon’s
spilin’ guide meat for want o’ juist a wee bit o’ knowin’ how. Hae!
lat me show ye if ye’re thick heid’s able to tak’ onythin’ in ava.”
And so speaking, he brushed the indignant steward aside, at the same
time drawing his pocket-knife. The second pig was laid out, and
Chips, as delicately as if performing tracheotomy, slit his weasand.
The black puddings were not forgotten, but I got such a distaste for
that particular delicacy from learning how they were made (I hadn’t
the slightest idea before) that I have never been able to touch one
since.

Chips now took upon himself the whole direction of affairs, and truly
he was a past-master in the art and mystery of the pork-butcher. He
knew just the temperature of the water, the happy medium between
scalding the hair on and not scalding it off; knew, too, how to
manipulate chitterlings and truss the carcass up till it looked just
as if hanging in a first-class pork shop. But the steward was sore
displeased. For it is a prime canon of sea etiquette not to interfere
with another man’s work, and in the known incapacity of the cook,
whose duty the pigkilling should ordinarily have been, the steward
came next by prescriptive right. However, Chips, having undertaken
the job, was not the man to give it up until it was finished, and by
universal consent he had a right to be proud of his handiwork. That
Sunday’s dinner was a landmark, a date to reckon from, although the
smell from the galley at suppertime on Saturday and breakfast-time
on Sunday made us all quite faint and weak from desire, as well as
fiercely resentful of the chaffy biscuit and filthy fragments of beef
that were a miserable substitute for a meal with us.

But thenceforward the joy of good living was ours every Sunday until
we reached home. Ten golden epochs, to be looked forward to with
feverish longing over the six hungry days between each. And when
off the Western Islands, Chips tackled the wicked old Madrassee sow
single-handed, in the pride of his prowess allowing no one to help
him although she was nearly as large as himself--ah! that was the
culminating point. Such a feast was never known to any of us before,
for in spite of her age she was succulent and sapid, and, as the
Irish say, there was “lashins and lavins.” When we arrived in the
East India Docks, we still had, besides the two progenitors of our
stock, eight fine young porkers, such a company as would have been
considered a most liberal allowance on leaving home for any ship I
have ever sailed in before or since. As for Denis and Jenny, I am
afraid to estimate their giant proportions. They were not grossly
fat, but enormously large--quite the largest pigs I have ever
seen--and when they were lifted ashore by the hydraulic crane, and
landed in the railway truck for conveyance to Cellardyke, to taste
the joys of country life on Captain Smith’s farm, there was a rush
of spectators from all parts of the dock to gaze open-mouthed upon
these splendid specimens of ship-bred swine. But few could be got
to believe that, eleven months before, the pair of them had been
carried on board in one sack by an undersized man, and that their
sole sustenance had been “hard-tack” and pea-soup.


                                 III

Such an extensive collection of farm-stock as we carried in the
_Belle_ was, like the method of dealing with it, probably unique.
Certainly so in my experience, and in that of all the shipmates with
whom I have ever discussed the matter. For this reason, a _dirty_
ship upon the high seas is an anomaly, something not to be imagined;
that is, in the sense of loose dirt, of course, because sailors will
call a ship dirty whose paint and varnish have been scrubbed or
weathered off, and, through poverty or meanness, left unrenewed. The
_Belle_ would no doubt have looked clean to the average landsman,
but to a sailor she was offensively filthy, and the language used at
night when handling the running gear (_i.e._ the ropes which regulate
the sails, &c., aloft, and are, when disused, coiled on pins or on
deck) was very wicked and plentiful. In fact, as Old Nat remarked
casually one Sunday afternoon, when the watch had been roused to tack
ship, and all the inhabitants of the farmery, disturbed from their
roosting places or lairs, were unmusically seeking fresh quarters,
“Ef thishyer---- old mud-scow’s out much longer we sh’ll hev’ ’nother
cargo aboard when we du arrive. People ’ll think we cum fr’m the
Chinchees with gooanner.”

But, as I have said, the _Belle_ was certainly an exception. I joined
a magnificent steel clipper called the _Harbinger_ in Adelaide as
second mate, and, on taking my first walk round her, discovered that
she too was well provided in the matter of farm-stock, besides, to
my amazement, for I had thought the day for such things long past,
carrying a cow. But all the arrangements for the housing, feeding,
and general comfort of the live-stock on board were on a most
elaborate scale, as, indeed, was the ship’s equipment generally.
The cow-house, for instance, was a massive erection of solid teak
with brass fittings and fastenings, large enough to take two cows
comfortably, and varnished outside till it looked like a huge
cabinet. Its place when at sea was on the main hatch, where it was
nearly two feet off the deck, and by means of ring-bolts was lashed
so firmly that only a perfectly disastrous sea breaking on board
could possibly move it. Its solidly-built doors opened in halves, of
which the lower half only was kept fastened by day, so that Poley
stood at her window gazing meditatively out at the blue expanse of
the sea with a mild, abstracted air, which immediately vanished if
any one inadvertently came too near her premises. She had a way
of suddenly dabbing her big soapy muzzle into the back of one’s
neck while the victim’s attention was taken up elsewhere that was
disconcerting. And one night, in the middle watch, she created a
veritable sensation by walking into the forecastle unseen by anybody
on deck. The watch below were all sound asleep, of course, but the
unusual footsteps, and long inquisitive breaths, like escaping steam,
emitted by the visitor, soon roused them by their unfamiliarity.
Voice called unto voice across the darkness (and a ship’s forecastle
at night is a shade or so darker than a coal-cellar), “What is it?
Light the lamp, somebody”; but with that vast mysterious monster
floundering around, no one dared venture out of the present security
of his bunk. It was really most alarming--waking up to such an
invisible horror as that, and, as one of the fellows said to me
afterwards, “All the creepy yarns I’d ever read in books come
inter me head at once, until I was almost dotty with ’fraid.” This
situation was relieved by one of the other watch, who, coming in to
get something out of a chum’s chest, struck a match, and by its pale
glimmer revealed the huge bulk of poor Poley, who, scared almost to
drying up her milk, was endeavouring to bore her way through the
bows in order to get out. The butcher was hurriedly roused from his
quarters farther aft, and, muttering maledictions upon ships and all
sailors, the sea and all cattle, slouched to the spot. His voice
immediately reassured the wanderer, who turned round at its first
angry words and deliberately marched out of the forecastle, leaving a
lavish contribution in her wake as a memento of her visit.

Between the butcher and Poley a charming affection existed. She loved
him most fondly, and the Cardigan jacket he wore was a proof thereof.
For while engaged in grooming her, which he did most conscientiously
every morning, she would reach round whenever possible and lick him
wherever she could touch him. In consequence of this affectionate
habit of hers his Cardigan was an object of derision to all on board
until upon our arrival in Cape Town one of our departing passengers
divided a case of extra special Scotch whisky among the crew. The
butcher being of an absorbent turn, shifted a goodly quantity of
the seductive fluid, and presently, feeling very tired, left the
revellers and disappeared. Next morning he was nowhere to be found. A
prolonged search was made, and at last the missing man was discovered
peacefully slumbering by the side of the cow, all unconscious of the
fact that she had licked away at him until nothing remained of his
Cardigan but the sleeves, and in addition a great deal of his shirt
was missing. It is only fair to suppose that, given time enough,
she would have removed all his clothing. It was a depraved appetite
certainly, but as I have before noticed, _that_ is not uncommon
among animals at sea. It was her only lapse, however, from virtue
in that direction. Truly her opportunities were small, being such
a close prisoner, but the marvel to me was how, in the absence of
what I should say was proper food, she kept up her supply of milk
for practically the whole voyage. She never once set foot on shore
from the time the vessel left London until she returned, and as green
food was most difficult to obtain in Adelaide, she got a taste of it
only about four times during our stay. Australian hay, too, is not
what a dainty English cow would be likely to hanker after; yet with
all these drawbacks it was not until we had crossed the Line on the
homeward passage that her milk began to dwindle seriously in amount.
Thenceforward it decreased, until in the Channel the butcher handed
in to the steward one morning a contribution of about a gill, saying,
“If you want any more, sir, you’ll have to put the suction hose on
to her. I sh’d say her milkin’ days was done.” But for long previous
to this the ingenious butcher had been raiding the cargo (of wheat)
for his pet, and each day would present her with two bucketfuls of
boiled wheat, which she seemed to relish amazingly. Partly because
of this splendid feeding, and partly owing to the regular washing
and groomings she received, I imagine she was such a picture of an
animal when she stepped out of the ship in London as I have only seen
at cattle shows or on advertisement cards. You could not see a bone;
her sides were like a wall of meat, and her skin had a sheen on it
like satin. As she was led away, I said to the butcher, who had been
assisting at her debarkation, “I suppose you’ll have her again next
voyage, won’t you, butcher?” “No fear,” he answered sagely. “She’s
gone to be butchered. She’ll be prime beef in a day or two.” I looked
at him with something like consternation. He seemed to think it was a
grand idea, although even now the mournful call of his old favourite
was ringing in his ears. At last I said, “I wonder you can bear to
part with her; you’ve been such chums all the voyage.” “I don’t know
what you mean, sir,” he replied. “I looked after her ’cause it’s my
bisness, but I’d jest as leave slaughter her myself as not.” With
that he left me to resume his duty.

But in the fervour of my recollections of Poley, I have quite
neglected another most important branch of the _Harbinger’s_ family
of animals, the sheep. Being such a large ship, she had an immense
house on deck between the main hatch and the fore mast, in which
were a donkey-engine and condenser, a second cabin to accommodate
thirty passengers, petty officers’ quarters, carpenters’ shop, and
galley. And still there was room between the fore end and the fore
mast to admit of two massive pens, built of teak, with galvanised
bars in front, being secured there one on top of the other. When I
joined the ship these were empty, and their interiors scrubbed as
clean as a kitchen table. That morning, looking up the quay, I saw a
curious procession. First a tall man, with an air of quiet want of
interest about him; by his side sedately marched a ram, a splendid
fellow, who looked fully conscious that he was called upon to play
an important part in the scheme of things. Behind this solemn pair
came a small flock of some thirty sheep, and a wise old dog, keeping
a good distance astern of the mob, fittingly brought up the rear.
They were expected, for I saw some of the men, under the bo’sun’s
directions, carefully laying a series of gangways for them. And,
without noise, haste, or fuss, the man marched on board closely
followed by the ram. He led the way to where a long plank was laid
from the deck to the wide-open door of the upper pen. Then, stepping
to the side of it, without a word or even a gesture, he stood quite
still while the stately ram walked calmly up that narrow way,
followed by the sheep in single file. The leader walked into the pen
and right round it, reaching the door just as the fifteenth sheep
had entered. The others had been restrained from following as soon
as fifteen had passed. Outside he stepped upon the plank with the
same grave air of importance, and the moment he had done so the door
was slid to in the face of the others who were still following his
lead. Then the other pen was filled in the same easy manner, the ram
quitting the second pen with the bearing of one whose sublime height
of perfection is far above such paltry considerations as praise or
blame, while the dog stood aloof somewhat dejectedly, as if conscious
that his shining abilities were for the time completely overshadowed
by the performances of a mere woolly thing, one of the creatures he
had always regarded as being utterly destitute of a single gleam
of reasonableness. The ram received a carrot from his master’s
pocket with a gracious air, as of one who confers a favour, and
together the trio left the ship. The embarkation had been effected
in the quietest, most humane manner possible, and to my mind was an
object-lesson in ingenuity.

We had no swine, but on top of this same house there was a fine range
of teak-built coops of spacious capacity, and these were presently
filled with quite a respectable company of fowls, ducks, and geese,
all, of course, under the charge of the butcher. Happy are the
animals who have no history on board ship, whose lives move steadily
on in one well-fed procession unto their ordained end. Here in this
grand ship, had it not been for the geese, no one would have realised
the presence of poultry at all, so little were they in evidence until
they graced the glittering table in the saloon at 6 P.M. But the
geese, as if bent upon anticipating the fate that was in store for
them, waited with sardonic humour until deepest silence fell upon
the night-watches. Then, as if by preconcerted signal, they raised
their unmelodious voices, awaking sleepers fore and aft from deepest
slumbers, and evoking the fiercest maledictions upon their raucous
throats. Occasionally the shadowy form of some member of the crew,
exasperated beyond endurance, would be dimly seen clambering up
the end of the house, his heart filled with thoughts of vengeance.
Armed with a wooden belaying-pin, he would poke and rattle among the
noisy creatures, with much the same result as one finds who, having
a slightly aching tooth, fiddles about with it until its anguish is
really maddening. These angry men never succeeded in doing anything
but augmenting the row tenfold, and they found their only solace in
gloating over the last struggles of one of their enemies when the
butcher was doing his part towards verifying the statement on the
menu for the forthcoming dinner of “roast goose.”

But the chief interest of our farmyard, after all, lay in the sheep.
How it came about that such a wasteful thing was done I do not know,
but it very soon became manifest that some at least of our sheep
were in an interesting condition, and one morning, at wash-deck
time, when I was prowling around forrard to see that everything was
as it should be, I was considerably amused to see one of the sheep
occupying a corner of the pen with a fine young lamb by her side.
While I watched the pretty creature, the butcher came along to begin
his day’s work. When he caught sight of the new-comer he looked
silly. It appeared that he alone had been sufficiently unobservant of
his charges to be unprepared for this _dénouement_, and it was some
time before his sluggish wits worked up to the occasion. Suddenly
he roused himself and made for the pen. “What are you going to do,
butcher?” I asked. “Goin’ to do! W’y I’m agoin’ ter chuck that there
thing overboard, a’course, afore any of them haristocrats aft gets
wind of it. They won’t touch a bit o’ the mutton if they hear tell
o’ this. I never see such a thing aboard ship afore.” But he got no
further with his fell intent, for some of the sailors intervened on
behalf of the lamb, vowing all sorts of vengeance upon the butcher
if he dared to touch a lock of its wool; so he was obliged to beat
a retreat, grumblingly, to await the chief steward’s appearance and
lay the case before him. When that gentleman appeared, he was by no
means unwilling to add a little to his popularity by effecting a
compromise. It was agreed that the sailors should keep the new-comer
as a pet, but all subsequent arrivals were to be dealt with by the
butcher instanter, without any interference on their part. This, the
steward explained, was not only fair, but merciful, as in the absence
of green food there could only be a day or two’s milk forthcoming,
and the poor little things would be starved. Of course, he couldn’t
spare any of Poley’s precious yield for nursing lambs, besides
wishing to avoid the natural repugnance the passengers would have
to eating mutton in such a condition. So the matter was amicably
arranged.

Thereafter, whenever a lamb was dropped, and every one of those
thirty ewes presented one or two, the butcher laid violent hands upon
it, and dropped it overboard as soon as it was discovered. Owing
to the promise of sundry tots of grog from the sailors, he always
informed them of the fact, and pointed out the bereaved mother. Then
she would be pounced upon, lifted out of the coop, and while one
fellow held her another brought the favoured lamb. After the first
time or two, that pampered young rascal needed no showing. As soon as
he saw the sheep being held he would make a rush, and in a minute or
two would completely drain her udder. Sometimes there were as many as
three at a time for him to operate upon, but there never seemed to be
too many for his voracious appetite. What wonder that like Jeshurun
he waxed fat and kicked. He grew apace, and he profited amazingly by
the tuition of his many masters. Anything less sheep-like, much less
lamb-like, than his behaviour could hardly be imagined. A regimental
goat might have matched him in iniquity, but I am strongly inclined
to doubt it. One of the most successful tricks taught this pampered
animal was on the lines of his natural tendency to butt at anything
and everything. It was a joyful experience to see him engaged in
mimic conflict with a burly sailor, who, pitted against this immature
ram, usually came to grief at an unexpected roll of the ship; for
Billy, as our lamb was named by general consent, very early in his
career gat unto himself sea-legs of a stability unattainable by any
two-legged creature. I often laughed myself sore at these encounters,
the funniest exhibitions I had seen for many a long day, until one
night in my watch on deck, during a gale of wind, I descended from
the poop on to the main deck to hunt for a flying-fish that I heard
come on board. I was stooping down, the water on deck over my ankles,
to feel under the spare spars lashed alongside the scuppers, when
I heard a slight noise behind me. Before I had time to straighten
myself, a concussion like a well-aimed, hearty kick smote me behind,
and I fell flat in the water like a plaice. When I had scrambled to
my feet, black rage in my heart against things in general, I heard
a fiendish cackle of laughter which was suddenly suppressed; and
there, with head lowered in readiness for another charge, stood
Billy, only too anxious to renew his attentions as soon as he could
see an opening. For one brief moment I contemplated a wild revenge,
but I suddenly remembered that my place was on the poop, and I
went that way, not perhaps with the dignified step of an officer,
because that demoniacal sheep (no, lamb) was behind me manœuvring for
another assault. I lost all interest in him after that. A lamb is all
very well, but when he grows up he is apt to become an unmitigated
calamity, especially if sailors have any hand in his education. So
that it was with a chastened regret that I heard the order go forth
for his conversion into dinner. We were able to regale the pilot
with roast lamb and mint sauce (made from the dried article), and the
memory of my wrongs added quite a piquant flavour to my portion.


                                 IV

It has always been a matter of profound thankfulness with me that
my evil genius never led me on board a cattle-boat. For I do think
that to a man who has any feeling for the lower animals these vessels
present scenes of suffering enough to turn his brain. And it does not
in the least matter what provision is made for the safe conveyance
of cattle in such numbers across the ocean. As long as the weather
is fairly reasonable, the boxed-up animals have only to endure ten
days or so of close confinement, with inability to lie down, and
the nausea that attacks animals as well as human beings. The better
the ship and the greater care bestowed upon the cattle-fittings the
less will be the sufferings of the poor beasts; but the irreducible
minimum is soon reached, and that means much more cruelty to animals
than any merciful man would like to witness. But when a gale is
encountered and the huge steamer wallows heavily in the mountainous
irregularities of the Atlantic, flooding herself fore and aft at
every roll, and making the cattlemen’s task of attending to their
miserable charges one surcharged with peril to life or limbs, then
the condition of a cattle-ship is such as to require the coinage of
special adjectives for its description. Of course it will be said
that human beings used to be carried across the ocean for sale in
much the same way, and men calling themselves humane were not ashamed
to grow rich on the receipts from such traffic; but surely that will
never be advanced as an excuse for, or a palliative of, the horrors
of the live cattle trade. I have passed through an area of sea
bestrewn with the bodies of cattle that have been washed overboard
in a gale--hurled out of the pens wherein they have been battered
to death--when the return of fine weather has made it possible, and
I have wished with all my heart that it could be made an offence
against the laws to carry live cattle across the ocean at all.

No, the nearest approach that ever I had to being shipmates with a
cargo of live stock was on one never-to-be-forgotten occasion, when,
after bringing a 24-ton schooner from a little village up the Bay
of Fundy to Antigua in the West Indies, I found myself, as you may
say, stranded in St. John, the principal port in that island. The
dry rot which seems to have unfortunately overtaken our West Indian
possessions was even then very marked in Antigua, for there was no
vessel there larger than a 100-ton schooner, and only two or three
of them, all Yankees with one exception, a Barbadian craft with the
queerest name imaginable, the _Migumoo-weesoo_. The shipping officer,
seeing that I was a certificated mate, very kindly interested himself
in me, going so far as to say that if I would take his advice and
assistance I would immediately leave St. John in the _Migum_, as he
called her, for that the skipper, being a friend of his, would gladly
give me a passage to Barbadoes. I hope good advice was never wasted
on me. At any rate this wasn’t, for I immediately went down to the
beach, jumped into a boat, and ordered the darky in charge to put me
on board the _Migum_. When we got alongside I was mightily interested
to see quite a little mob of horses calmly floating alongside with
their heads just sticking out of the water. The first thing that
suggested itself to me was that if those horses got on board with
their full complement of legs it would be little less than a miracle,
the harbour being notoriously infested with sharks. But presently I
reflected that there was really no danger, the darkies who were busy
with preparations for the embarkation of the poor beasts kicking up
such a deafening row that no shark would have dared venture within a
cable’s length of the spot. Everybody engaged in the business seemed
to be excited beyond measure, shouting, screeching with laughter, and
yelling orders at the top of their voices, so that I could not see
how anything was going to be done at all. The skipper was confined to
his cabin with an attack of dysentery, and lay fretting himself into
a fever at the riot going on overhead for want of his supervision.
As soon as I introduced myself he begged me to go and take charge,
but, although I humoured him to the extent of seeming to comply with
his request, I knew enough of the insubordinate ’Badian darkies to
make me very careful how I interfered with them. But going forward, I
found to my delight that they had made a start at last, and that two
of the trembling horses were already on deck. Four or five darkies
were in the water alongside, diving beneath the horses with slings
which were very carefully placed round their bodies, then hooked to
a tackle, by means of which they were hoisted on board, so subdued
by fear that they suffered themselves to be pushed and hauled about
the decks with the quiet submissiveness of sheep. There were twenty
of them altogether, and when they had all been landed on deck there
was not very much room left for working the schooner. However, as our
passage lay through the heart of the trade winds, and nothing was
less probable than bad weather, nobody minded that, not even when the
remaining deck space was lumbered up with some very queer-looking
forage.

As soon as the horses were on board we weighed, and stood out of
harbour with a gentle, leading wind that, freshening as we got
farther off the land, coaxed the smart craft along at a fairly good
rate. This lasted until midnight, when, to the darkies’ dismay,
the wind suddenly failed us, leaving us lazily rocking to the
gently-gliding swell upon the wine-dark bosom of the glassy sea.
Overhead, the sky, being moonless, was hardly distinguishable from
the sea, and as every brilliant star was faithfully duplicated
beneath, it needed no great stretch of imagination to fancy that we
were suspended in the centre of a vast globe utterly cut off from the
rest of the world. But the poor skipper, enfeebled by his sad ailment
and anxious about his freight, had no transcendental fancies. Vainly
I tried to comfort him with the assurance that we should certainly
find a breeze at daybreak, and it would as certainly be fair for us.
He refused consolation, insisting that we were in for a long spell
of calm, and against his long experience of those waters I felt I
could not argue. So I ceased my efforts and went on deck to enjoy the
solemn beauty of the night once more, and listen to the quaint gabble
of the three darkies forming the watch on deck.

Sure enough the skipper was right. Calms and baffling airs,
persisting for three days, kept us almost motionless until every
morsel of horse provender was eaten, and--what was still more
serious--very little water was left. All of us wore long faces now,
and the first return of steady wind was hailed by us with extravagant
delight. Continuing on our original course was out of the question
under the circumstances, so we headed directly for the nearest port,
which happened to be Prince Rupert, in the beautiful island of
Dominica. A few hours’ sail brought us into the picturesque harbour,
with its ruined fortresses, once grimly guarding the entrance, now
overgrown with dense tropical vegetation, huge trees growing out of
yawning gaps in the masonry, and cable-like vines enwreathing the
crumbling walls. Within the harbour there was a profound silence; the
lake-like expanse was unburdened by a single vessel, and although
the roofs of a few scattered houses could be seen embosomed among
the verdure, there was no other sign of human occupation. We lowered
the little boat hanging astern and hastened ashore. Hurrying toward
the houses, we found ourselves in a wide street which from lack of
traffic was all overgrown with weeds. Here we found a few listless
negroes, none of whom could speak a word of English, a barbarous
French patois being their only medium of communication. But by
signs we made them comprehend our needs--fodder for the horses, and
water. After some little palaver we found that for a few shillings
we might go into the nearest thicket of neglected sugar-cane and
cut down as many of the feathery blades that crowned the canes as
we wanted, but none of those sleepy-looking darkies volunteered
their assistance--they seemed to be utterly independent of work. Our
energy amazed them, and I don’t think I ever saw such utter contempt
as was expressed by our lively crew--true ’Badians born--towards
those lotus-eating Dominicans. We had a heavy morning’s work before
us, but by dint of vigorous pushing we managed to collect a couple
of boatloads of cane-tops, carry them on board, and return for two
casks of water which we had left one of our number ashore to fill.
Some deliberate fishermen were hauling a seine as we were about to
depart, and we lingered awhile until they had finished their unusual
industry, being rewarded by about a bushel of “bill-fish,” a sort
of garfish, but with the beak an extension of the lower jaw instead
of the upper. I offered to buy a few of the fish, but the fishermen
seemed mightily careless whether they sold any or not. After much
expenditure of energy in sign language, I managed to purchase three
dozen (about the size of herrings) for the equivalent of twopence,
and, very well satisfied, pushed off for the schooner, leaving the
fishermen standing on the beach contemplating their newly-acquired
wealth, as if quite unable to decide what to do with it.

It was worth all the labour we had expended to see the delight with
which those patient horses munched the juicy green tops of the cane,
and drank, plunging their muzzles deep into the buckets, of the clear
water we had brought. And I felt quite pleased when, upon our arrival
in Barbadoes two days after, I watched the twenty of them walk
sedately up a broad gangway of planks on to the wharf, and indulge in
a playful prance and shake when they found their hoofs firmly planted
upon the unrocking earth once more.

I hope I shall not be suspected of drawing a _longue beau_ when
I say that I was once in a big ship whose skipper was an ardent
agriculturist. On my first visit to the poop I saw with much surprise
a couple of cucumber frames lashed in secure positions, one on either
side of the rail at the break of the poop. When I fancied myself
unobserved, I lifted the top of one, and looked within, seeing that
they contained a full allowance of rich black mould. And presently,
peeping down the saloon skylight, I saw that carefully arranged along
its sides, on brackets, were many large pots of flowering plants, all
in first-rate condition and bloom. It was quite a novel experience
for me, but withal a most pleasant one, for although it did appear
somewhat strange and incongruous to find plant-life flourishing
upon the sea, it gave more of a familiar domestic atmosphere to
’board-ship life than anything I have ever known; much the same
feeling that strikes one when looking upon the round sterns of
the Dutch galliots, with their square windows embellished by snowy
beribboned muslin curtains. When we got to sea, and well clear of the
land, so that the skipper’s undivided attention could be given to his
beloved hobby, there were great developments of it. For not content
with growing lettuces, radishes, endive, and such “garden-sass,”
as the Yankees term it, in his cucumber frames, he enlarged his
borders and tried experiments in raising all sorts of queer seeds of
tropical fruits and vegetables. His garden took up so much room on
the poop that the officers fretted a good deal at the circumscribed
area of their domain, besides being considerably annoyed at having
to cover up the frames, boxes, &c., when bad weather caused salt
spray to break over them. But this was ungrateful of them, because
there never was a skipper who interfered less with his officers, or a
more peaceable, good-natured man. Nor was the frequent mess of salad
that graced the table in the saloon to be despised. In that humid
atmosphere and equable temperature everything grew apace; so that for
a couple of months at a time green crisp leaves were scarcely absent
from the table for a day. Mustard and cress were, of course, his main
crop, but lettuce, radishes, and spring onions did remarkably well.
That was on the utilitarian side. On the experimental side he raised
date-palms, coco-palms, banana-palms, mango trees, and orange trees,
dwarfing them after a fashion he had learned in China, so that in
the saloon he had quite a conservatory. But there were many others
of which none of us knew the names. And all around in the skylight,
beneath the brackets whereon the pots of geranium, fuchsia, &c.,
stood, hung orchids collected by the skipper on previous voyages,
and most carefully tended, so that some lovely spikes of bloom were
always to be seen. That saloon was a perfect bower of beauty, and
although the ship herself was somewhat dwarfed by comparison with the
magnificent clippers we forgathered with in Calcutta, few vessels
had so many visitors. Her fame spread far, and nearly every day
the delighted skipper would be busy showing a string of wondering
shorefolk over his pleasaunce.

We went thence to Hong-Kong, and there, as if in emulation of the
“old man’s” hobby for flowers, all hands went in for birds, mostly
canaries, which can be obtained in China more cheaply, I believe,
than in any part of the world. Sampans, loaded with cages so that
nothing can be seen of the hull, and making the whole harbour
melodious with the singing of their pretty freight, are always in
evidence. For the equivalent of 3s., if the purchaser be smart of
eye, he can always buy a fine cock canary in full song, although
the wily Chinee never fails to attempt the substitution of a hen,
no matter what price is paid. There arose a perfect mania on board
of us for canaries, and when we departed for New Zealand there were
at least 400 of the songsters on board. Truly for us the time of
singing of birds had come. All day long that chorus went on, almost
deafeningly, until we got used to it, for of course if one bird piped
up after a short spell of quiet all hands joined in at the full
pitch of their wonderful little lungs; so that, what with birds
and flowers and good feeling, life on board the _Lady Clare_ was as
nearly idyllic as any seafaring I have ever heard of.


                                  V

It might readily be supposed that in such leisurely ships as
the Southern-going whalers, calling, as they did, at so many
out-of-the-way islands in the South Pacific, there would have been
more inducement than usual to cultivate the bucolics, if only from
sheer desire for something to break the long monotony of the voyage.
And so, indeed, there was, but not to anything like the extent that
I should have expected. On board the _Cachalot_ we were handicapped
considerably in this direction by reason of several of the officers
having an unconquerable dislike to fresh pork, which was the more
remarkable because they never manifested the same aversion to the
rancid, foul-smelling article supplied to us every other day out of
the ship’s salt-meat stores. Whence, by the by, is ship salt pork
obtained? Under what conditions do they rear the animals that produce
those massy blocks of “scrunchy” fat, just tinged at one side with
a pale pink substance that was once undoubtedly flesh, but when it
reaches the sailor bears no resemblance to anything eatable? And how
does it acquire that peculiarly vile flavour all its own, which is
unlike the taste of any other provision known to caterers? I give
it up; I have long ago done so, in fact. Men do eat it, although I
never could, except by chopping it up fine with broken biscuit and
mixing it with pea-soup, so that I could swallow it without tasting
it. But the only other creatures able to do so are pigs and sharks.
Sailors have all kinds of theories respecting its origin, of which I
am restricted to saying that they are nearly all unprintable. But I
do wish most fervently that those who supply it for human food, both
dealers and ship-owners, were, as their victims are, compelled to eat
it three times a week or starve. Just for a month or two. Methinks it
would do them much good. But this is a digression.

Most of us had our suspicions that our officers’ dislike was not
so much to fresh pork as to live pigs, and truly, with our limited
deck space, the objection was most reasonable. Moreover, the South
Sea Island pig is a questionable-looking beast at the best, not by
any means tempting to look at, and of uncertain dietary. They affect
startling colours, such as tortoise-shell and tabby, are woolly of
coat, lengthy of snout, and almost as speedy as dogs. When fed, which
is seldom, ripe cocoa-nut is given them, as it is to all live stock
in the islands. But they make many a hearty meal of fish as they
wander around the beaches and reef-borders, and this gives a flavour
to their produce which is, to say the least of it, unexpected. But
as if to make up for our lack of pigs we had the most elaborate
fowlery fitted up that I ever was shipmates with. Its dimensions were
about 8 ft. long, 6 ft. wide, and 5 ft. high. It was built of wood
entirely, and exactly on the principle of an oblong canary-cage that
is unenclosed on any side. Plenty of roosts and nests, plenty of
pounded coral and cocoa-nut, and--as the result--plenty of eggs. But
such queer eggs. The yolk was hardly distinguishable from the white,
and they had scarcely any taste at all. Occasionally we got a brood
hatched, but for some reason I don’t pretend to understand our fowls
didn’t “go much on feathers,” as the skipper said. Not to put too
fine a point on it, they never missed an opportunity of plucking one
another’s feathers out and eating them with much relish. So that they
all stalked about in native majesty unclad, doubtless rejoicing in
the coolth, and occasionally scanning their own bodies solicitously
for any sign of a sprouting feather, of which they themselves might
have the first taste. This operated queerly among the young broods,
who never got any chance of being fledged, and whose mothers were
always fighting about them; but I believe as much that they (the
mothers) might eat all the feathers themselves as to protect them
from any fancied danger. These naked birds certainly looked funny;
but the cook, who was an ingenious South Carolina negro, used to gaze
at them earnestly and say, “Foh de good Lawd, sah; ef I aint agwine
ter bring hout er plan ter raise chicken ’thout fedders altogedder.
W’y, jess look at it. All de strenf dat goes ter fedders ’ll go ter
meat--an’ aigs--kase dem chickens ez fatter den ever I see ’bord ship
befo’; an den only tink ob de weary trubble save in pluckin’ ob ’em.
Golly, sah, et’s a great skeem, ’n I’se right on de top ob it.” And,
really, there did seem to be something in it.

Fowls were plentiful in Vau-Vau--fairly good ones, too; but it was
entirely a mystery to me how any individual property in them was at
all possible. For no native had any enclosure for them, or seemed to
take any care of them. They just ran wild in the jungly vegetation
around the villages and roosted on the trees; but as a result, I
suppose, of the persistence through their many generations of their
original fellowship with mankind, they never strayed far away from
the houses. Our friends brought them on board at our first arrival
in such numbers that no man was without a pair of fowls, and in sore
straits where to keep them. The difficulty was soon solved by the
skipper, who said that in his opinion it would soon be inconvenient
for the fore-mast hands to see any difference between their fowls and
his. Yes, and it was even possible that having eaten their own fowls
they might forget that trifling fact, and absent-mindedly mistake
some of the skipper’s poultry for their own. In order to prevent such
mistakes he issued an edict that no more fowls were to be entertained
by the crew or cooked for them by the “Doctor.” And although this
was undoubtedly the wisest solution of our puzzle, there was thereat
great discontent for a time, until the ingenious Kanakas took to
cooking the fowls for us ashore, and bringing them on board ready for
eating. Being plentiful, as I said, poultry was cheap, the standard
price being a fathom of calico of the value of 6d. for two, for
ship’s stock, while our private friends furnished them to us for
nothing. And there are also in the South Pacific many small islands
unpeopled upon which that most sensible and practical of navigators,
James Cook, had left both fowls and pigs to breed at their own sweet
will. These islets have always many cocoa-nut trees, the fruit from
which affords plentiful food for the pigs, who show great ingenuity
in getting at the contents of the fallen nuts, while the fowls
apparently find no difficulty in picking up a comfortable livelihood.
By tacit agreement these lonely ocean store-houses of good food are
allowed to remain undisturbed by both the natives of adjacent islands
and passing ships, except in cases of necessity. We once broke this
unwritten law, for although we had not long left Fiji, we landed upon
one of these oases in the blue waste, and had a day’s frolic there.
It was a veritable paradise, although not more than three acres in
area. Its only need seemed to be fresh water, for as it had grown to
be an island by the deposit of sand upon the summit of a coral reef,
there were of course no springs. And yet it was completely clothed
with vegetation, the cocoa-palms especially growing right down to
the edge of the sea, so that at high water the wavelets washed one
side of their spreading roots quite bare. Being no botanist, I cannot
describe the various kinds of plants that luxuriated there, having,
I suppose, become accustomed to the privation of fresh water, as the
fowls and pigs had also done. But I did notice that the undergrowth
seemed to consist principally of spreading bushes, rising to a height
of about 5 feet, and bearing, in the greatest abundance, those
tiny crimson and green cones known to most people as bird’s-eye
chillies. We all had cause to remember this, for thrusting our way
through these bushes under the burning rays of the sun, we got in
some mysterious way some of their pungent juices upon our faces and
arms. And the effect was much the same as the application of a strong
mustard plaster would have been.

We did not commit any great depredations. The second mate shot (with
a bomb-gun) a couple of pigs, and we managed to catch half-a-dozen
fowls, but they were so wild and cunning here, that except at night
it was by no means easy to lay hands upon them. As so often happened
to us, we found our best catch upon the beach, where just after
sunset we waylaid two splendid turtle that had just crawled ashore to
deposit their eggs. The advantage of such a catch as this was in the
fact that turtle may be kept alive on board ship for several weeks,
if necessary, by putting them in a cask of sea-water, and though
unfed, they do not seem to be perceptibly impoverished. We also
collected a goodly store of fresh unripe cocoa-nuts, which are one of
the most delicious and refreshing of all tropical fruits. I do not
suppose it would be possible to bring them to England without their
essential freshness being entirely dissipated, for in order to enjoy
them thoroughly they should be eaten new from the tree. They would be
a revelation to people whose acquaintance with cocoa-nut is limited
to the fully ripe and desperately indigestible article beloved of
the Bank Holiday caterer, and disposed of at the favourite game of
“three shies a penny.” In that form no native of cocoa-nut-producing
countries ever dreams of eating them. For they are really only fit
for “copra,” the universal term applied throughout the tropics to
cocoa-nut prepared for conversion into oil. When the nuts are fully
ripe, a native will seat himself by a heap of them, a small block
of wood before him with a hollow in its centre, and an old axe in
his hand. Placing a nut on the block, unhusked, of course, he splits
it open by one blow of the axe and lays the two halves in the sun.
By the time he has split open the last of the heap, he may begin at
the first opened nuts and shake their contents into bags, for they
will be dried sufficiently for the meat to fall readily from the
shells. That is “copra.” But before the husk has hardened into fibre,
even before the shells have become brittle, when it is possible
to slice off the top of the nut as easily as you would that of a
turnip, the contents almost wholly consist of a bland liquor, not
cloyingly sweet, cool even under the most fervent blaze of the sun,
and refreshing to the last degree. Around the sides of the immature
shell there is, varying in thickness according to the age of the nut,
a jelly-like deposit, almost tasteless, but wonderfully sustaining. I
have heard it vaunted as a cure for all diseases of malnutrition, and
I should really be inclined to believe that there was some basis for
the claim. The juice or milk, if allowed to ferment, makes excellent
vinegar.

A long spell of cruising without touching at any land having
exhausted all our stock of fowls, to say nothing of fruit and
vegetables, of which we had almost forgotten the taste, it was with
no ordinary delight that we sighted the Kermadec group of islands
right ahead one morning, and guessed, by the course remaining
unaltered, that our skipper was inclined to have a close look at
them, if not to land. As we drew nearer and nearer our hopes rose,
until, at the welcome order to “back the mainyard,” we were like a
school full of youngsters about to break up. Few preparations were
needed, for a whaler’s crew are always ready to leave the ship at any
hour of the day or night for an indefinite period. And in ten minutes
from the time of giving the first orders, two boats were pulling in
for the small semi-circular bay with general instructions to forage
for anything eatable. A less promising place at first sight for a
successful raid could hardly be imagined, for the whole island seemed
composed of one stupendous mountain whose precipitous sides rose
sheer from the sea excepting just before us. And even there the level
land only appeared like a ledge jutting out from the mountain-side,
and of very small extent. As we drew nearer, however, we saw that
even to our well-accustomed vision the distance had proved deceitful,
and that the threshold of the mountain was of far greater area
than we had supposed, being, indeed, of sufficient extent to have
afforded shelter and sustenance to quite a respectable village of
colonists had any chosen to set up their homes in such a lonely spot.
But to the instructed eye the steep beach, wholly composed of lava
fragments, gave a sufficient reason why such a sheltered nook might
be a far from secure abiding-place, even had not a steadfast stain
of dusty cloud poised above the island in the midst of the clear
blue sky added its witness to the volcanic conditions still ready
to burst forth. But these considerations did not trouble us. With
boisterous mirth we dodged the incoming rollers, and, leaping out
of the boats as their keels grated on the shore, we ran them rapidly
up out of the reach of the eager surf, delighted with the drenching
because of its coolness. Dividing into parties of three, we plunged
gaily into the jungly undergrowth, chasing, as boys do butterflies,
the brown birds, like overgrown partridges, that darted away before
us in all directions. We succeeded in catching a few, finding them to
be what we afterwards knew in New Zealand as “Maori hens,” something
between a domestic fowl and a partridge, but a dismal failure in the
eatable way, being tough and flavourless as any fowl that had died
of old age. Of swine, the great object of our quest, we saw not a
hoof-print; in fact, we assured ourselves that whatever number of
these useful animals the family that once resided in this desolate
spot had reared, they had left no descendants. It was a grievous
disappointment, for it threw us back upon the goats, and goat as
food is anathema to all sailors. But it was a fine day; we had come
out to kill something, and, as no other game appeared available,
we started after the goats. It was a big contract. We were all
barefooted, and, although on board the ship we had grown accustomed
to regard the soles of our feet as quite impervious to feeling as any
leather, we soon found that shore travelling over lava and through
the many tormenting plants of a tropical scrub was quite another
pair of shoes. We did capture a couple of goats, one a patriarch of
unguessable longevity with a beard as long as my arm, and the other
a Nanny heavy with kid. These we safely conveyed on board with us
at the close of the day. But _the_ result of our day’s foraging,
overshadowing even the boat-load of magnificent fish we caught out in
the little bay, was the discovery of a plant known in New Zealand as
“Maori cabbage.” It looks something like a lettuce run to seed, and
has a flavour like turnip-tops. I do not suppose any one on shore can
realise what those vegetables meant to us, that is, the white portion
of the crew. For it was well-nigh two years since we had tasted a bit
of anything resembling cabbage, and our craving for green vegetables
and potatoes was really terrible. It is one of the most serious
hardships the sailor has to endure, the more serious because quite
avoidable. Potatoes and Swede turnips are not dear food, and, if
taken up with plenty of mould adhering to them and left so, will keep
for six months in all climates. They make all the difference between
a good and a bad ship. I am sure no banquet that I have ever sat
down to since could possibly have given me a tithe of the epicurean
delight I felt over a plentiful plate of this nameless vegetable and
a bit of hard salt beef that evening.

Although the addition to our stock of provisions, excepting the fish,
was but small, we had an ideal day’s enjoyment, and the fun we got
out of Ancient William, the patriarch, was great. We had him tame
in two days, and trying butting matches with the Kanakas; in spite
of his age I don’t know what we didn’t teach him that a goat could
learn. Nanny presented us with a charming little pet in the shape
of a kid two days after her arrival on board, but to the grief of
all hands her milk dried up almost immediately afterwards, so that
to save the little creature from starvation, as there was not even a
drop of condensed milk on board, we were compelled to kill it. The
Kanakas ate it, and pronounced it very good. Then William the Ripe,
in charging a Kanaka, who dodged him by leaping over the fo’c’s’le
scuttle, hurled himself headlong below, breaking both his fore legs.
We could have mended him up all right, but he seemed to resent
getting better, refused tobacco and all such little luxuries that we
tried to tempt him with, and died. _I_ think he was broken-hearted
at the idea that a mountaineer like himself, who for goodness knows
how many generations had scaled in safety the precipitous cliffs of
Sunday Island, should fall down a stuffy hole on board ship, only
about eight feet deep, and break himself all up.


                                 VI

Some delightfully interesting articles on the ancient sport of
“hawking,” or falconry, whichever is the correct term to use, in
_Country Life_ have vividly recalled to me a quaint and unusual
experience in that line, which fell to my lot while the vessel of
whose crew I was a very minor portion was slowly making her way
homewards from a port at the extreme western limit of the Gulf of
Mexico. We were absolutely without live stock of any kind on board
the _Investigator_, unless such small deer as rats and cockroaches
might be classed under that head. And, as so often happens at sea
when that is the case, the men were very discontented at the absence
of any dumb animals to make pets of, and often lamented what they
considered to be the lonely condition of a ship without even a cat.
But we had not been out of port many days when, to our delight as
well as amazement, we saw one sunny morning hopping contentedly about
the fo’c’s’le a sweet little blue and yellow bird about the bigness
(or littleness) of a robin. Being well out of sight of land, no one
could imagine whence he came, neither did anybody see him arrive. He
just materialised as it were in our midst, and made himself at home
forthwith, as though he had been born and bred among men and fear of
them was unknown to him. We had hardly got over the feeling of almost
childish delight this pretty, fearless wanderer gave us when another
appeared, much the same size, but totally different in colour. It
was quite as tame as the first arrival, and did not quarrel with
the first-comer. Together they explored most amicably the recesses
of the fo’c’s’le, apparently much delighted with the cockroaches,
which swarmed everywhere. And before long many others came and joined
them, all much about the same size, but of all the hues imaginable.
They were all alike in their tameness, and it really was one of the
most pleasant sights I ever witnessed to see those tiny, brilliant
birds fluttering about our dingy fo’c’s’le, or, tired out, roosting
on such queer perches as the edge of the bread-barge or the shelves
in our bunks. Their presence had a most elevating influence upon
the roughest of us--we went softly and spoke gently, for fear of
startling these delicate little visitors who were so unafraid of
the giants among whom they had voluntarily taken up their abode. At
meal-times they hopped about the fo’c’s’le deck picking up crumbs
and behaving generally as if they were in the beautiful glades and
aromatic forests whence they had undoubtedly come. For it is hardly
necessary to say that they were all land birds; and when during a
calm one day one of them, stooping too near the sea, got wet, and
was unable to rise again, August McManus, as tough a citizen as ever
painted the Highway red, leapt overboard after it, and, with a touch
as gentle as the enwrapping of lint, rescued it from its imminent
peril.

This strange development of sea-life went on for a week, the weather
being exceedingly fine, with light winds and calms. And then we
became suddenly aware that some large birds had arrived and taken
up positions upon the upper yards, where they sat motionless,
occasionally giving vent to a shrill cry. What they were none of
us knew, until shortly after we had first noticed them one of our
little messmates flew out from the ship’s side into the sunshine.
There was a sudden swish of wings, like the lash of a cane through
the air, and downward like a brown shadow came one of the watchers
from aloft, snatching in a pair of cruel-looking talons the tiny
truant from our midst. Then the dullest of us realised that in some
mysterious way these rapacious birds, a species of falcon, had become
aware that around our ship might be found some of their natural food.
Now we were not less than 200 miles from the coast at the time, and
to my mind it was one of the strangest things conceivable how those
hawks should have known that around a solitary ship far out at sea
would be found a number of little birds suitable to their needs.
The presence of the small birds might easily be explained by their
having been blown off the land, as high winds had prevailed for some
little time previous to their appearance, but as the hawks did not
come till a week afterwards, during the whole of which time we had
never experienced even a four-knot breeze, I am convinced that the
same theory would not account for their arrival. It may have been a
coincidence, but if so it was a very remarkable one; and in any case
what were these essentially land birds of powerful flight doing of
their own free will so far from land? Unless, of course, they were a
little band migrating, and even then the coincidence of their meeting
our ship was a most strange one.

We, however, troubled ourselves but little with these speculations.
The one thing patent to us was that our little pets were exposed to
the most deadly peril, that these ravenous birds were carrying them
off one by one, and we were apparently powerless to protect them. We
could not cage them, although the absence of cages would have been no
obstacle, as we should soon have manufactured efficient substitutes;
but they were so happy in their freedom that we felt we could not
deprive them of it. But we organised a raid among those bloodthirsty
pirates, as we called them, forgetting that they were merely obeying
the law of their being, and the first dark hour saw us silently
creeping aloft to where they had taken their roost. Two were caught,
but in both cases the captors had something to remember their
encounter by. Grasping at the shadowy birds in the darkness with
only one free hand, they were unable to prevent the fierce creatures
defending themselves with beak and talons, and one man came down
with his prize’s claws driven so far into his hand that the wounds
took many days to heal. When we had secured them we couldn’t bring
ourselves to kill them, they were such handsome, graceful birds,
but had they been given a choice in the matter I make no doubt they
would have preferred a speedy death rather than the lingering pain
of starvation which befell them. For they refused all food, and sat
moping on their perches, only rousing when any one came near, and
glaring unsubdued with their bold, fierce eyes, bright and fearless
until they glazed in death. We were never able to catch any more of
them, although they remained with us until our captain managed to
allow the vessel to run ashore upon one of the enormous coral reefs
that crop up here and there in the Gulf of Mexico. The tiny spot
of dry land that appeared at the summit of this great mountain of
coral was barren of all vegetation except a little creeping plant, a
kind of _arenaria_, so that it would have afforded no satisfactory
abiding-place for our little shipmates, even if any of them could
escape the watchful eyes of their enemies aloft. So that I suppose
after we abandoned the ship they remained on board until she broke
up altogether, and then fell an easy prey to the falcons.

This was the only occasion upon which I have known a vessel at sea to
be visited by so varied a collection of small birds, and certainly
the only case I have ever heard of where land birds have flown on
board and made themselves at home. When I say at sea, of course I do
not mean in a narrow strait like the Channel, where passing vessels
must often be visited by migrants crossing to or from the Continent.
But when well out in the North Atlantic, certainly to the westward
of the Azores, and out of sight of them, I have several times known
a number of swallows to fly on board and cling almost like bats to
whatever projections they first happened to reach. Exhausted with
their long battle against the overmastering winds, faint with hunger
and thirst, they had at last reached a resting-place, only to find
it so unsuited to all their needs that nothing remained for them to
do but die. Earnest attempts were made to induce them to live, but
unsuccessfully; and as they never regained strength sufficient to
resume their weary journey, they provided a sumptuous meal for the
ship’s cat. Even had they been able to make a fresh start, it is hard
to imagine that the sense of direction which guides them in their
long flight from or to their winter haunts would have enabled them
to shape a course from such an utterly unknown base as a ship at sea
must necessarily be to them.

While making a passage up the China Sea vessels are often boarded
by strange bird visitors, and some of them may be induced to live
upon such scanty fare as can be found for them on shipboard. I once
witnessed with intense interest a gallant attempt made by a crane to
find a rest for her weary wings on board of an old barque in which
I was an able seaman. We were two days out from Hong-Kong, bound to
Manila, through a strong south-west monsoon. The direction of the
wind almost enabled us to lay our course, and therefore the “old
man” was cracking on, all the sail being set that she would stagger
under close-hauled. Being in ballast, she lay over at an angle that
would have alarmed anybody but a yachtsman; but she was a staunch,
weatherly old ship, and hung well to windward. It was my wheel from
six to eight in the evening, and as I wrestled with it in the attempt
to keep the old barky up to her work, I suddenly caught sight of the
gaunt form of a crane flapping her heavy wings in dogged fashion
to come up with us from to leeward, we making at the time about
eight knots an hour. After a long fight the brave bird succeeded
in reaching us, and coasted along the lee side, turning her long
neck anxiously from side to side as if searching for a favourable
spot whereon to alight. Just as she seemed to have made up her mind
to come inboard abaft the foresail, a gust of back-draught caught
her wide pinions and whirled her away to leeward, about a hundred
fathoms at one sweep, while it was evident that she had the utmost
difficulty in maintaining her balance. Another long struggle ensued
as the gloom of the coming night deepened, and the steady, strenuous
wind pressed us onward through the turbulent sea. The weary pilgrim
at last succeeded in fetching up to us again, and with a feeling
of the keenest satisfaction I saw her work her way to windward, as
if instinct warned her that in that way alone she would succeed in
reaching a place of rest. Backward and forward along our weather
side she sailed twice, searching with anxious eye the whole of our
decks, but fearing to trust herself thereon, where so many men were
apparently awaiting to entrap her. No, she would not venture, and
quite a pang of disappointment and sympathy shot through me as I
saw her drift away astern and renew her hopeless efforts to board
us on the lee side. At last she came up so closely that I could see
the laboured heaving of her breast muscles, and I declare that the
expression in her full, dark eyes was almost human in its pathos of
despair. She poised herself almost above the rail, the vessel gave
a great lee lurch, and down the slopes of the mizen came pouring an
eddy of baffled wind. It caught the doomed bird, whirled her over and
over as she fought vainly to regain her balance, and at last bore her
down so closely to the seething tumult beneath her that a breaking
wave lapped her up and she disappeared. All hands had witnessed her
brave battle with fate, and quite a buzz of sympathy went up for her
in her sad defeat.

That same evening one of the lads found a strange bird nestling
under one of the boats. None of us knew what it was, for none of us
ever remembered seeing so queer a creature before. Nor will this
be wondered at when I say that it was a goat-sucker, as I learned
long afterwards by seeing a plate of one in a Natural History I was
reading. But the curious speculations that its appearance gave rise
to in the fo’c’s’le were most amusing. The wide gape of its mouth,
so unexpected when it was shut, was a source of the greatest wonder,
while the downy fluff of its feathers made one man say it reminded
him of a “nowl” that a skipper of a ship he was in once caught and
kept alive for a long time as a pet.

Of the few visitors that board a ship in mid-ocean none are more
difficult to account for than butterflies. I have seen the common
white butterfly fluttering about a ship in the North Atlantic when
she was certainly over 500 miles from the nearest land. And in
various parts of the world butterflies and moths will suddenly appear
as if out of space, although the nearest land be several hundreds
of miles distant. I have heard the theory advanced that their
chrysalides must have been on board the ship, and they have just
been hatched out when seen. It may be so, although I think unlikely;
but yet it is hard to imagine that so fragile a creature, associated
only in the mind with sunny gardens or scented hillsides, could brave
successfully the stern rigour of a flight extending over several
hundred miles of sea. All that is certain about the matter is that
they _do_ visit the ships at such distances from land, and disappear
as if disheartened at the unsuitability of their environment. Lying
in Sant’ Ana, Mexico, once, loading mahogany, I witnessed the labours
of an unbidden guest that made me incline somewhat to the chrysalis
theory about the butterflies. Our anchorage was some three miles off
shore in the open roadstead, where the rafts of great mahogany logs
tossed and tumbled about ceaselessly alongside. They had all been a
long time in the water before they reached us, and were consequently
well coated with slime, which made them an exceedingly precarious
footing for the unfortunate slingsman, who was as often in the water
as he was on the raft. One evening as I lay in my bunk reading by
the light of a smuggled candle, I was much worried by a persistent
buzz that sounded very near, and far too loud to be the voice of
any mosquito that I had ever been unfortunate enough to be attended
by. Several times I looked for this noisy insect without success,
and at last gave up the task and went on deck, feeling sure there
wasn’t room in the bunk for the possessor of that voice and myself.
Next day after dinner I was again lying in my bunk, resting during
the remainder of the dinner hour, when to my amazement I saw what I
took to be an overgrown wasp or hornet suddenly alight upon a beam
overhead, walk into a corner, and begin the music that had so worried
me overnight. I watched him keenly, but could hardly make out his
little game, until he suddenly flew away. Then getting a light, for
the corner was rather dark, I discovered a row of snug apartments
much like acorn-cups, only deeper, all neatly cemented together, and
as smooth inside as a thimble. Presently along came Mr. Wasp, or
Hornet, or whatever he was, again, and set to work, while I watched
him as closely as I dared without giving him offence, noticing that
he carried his material in a little blob on his chest between his
fore legs. It looked like mud; but where could he get mud from? I
could swear there was none on board under that fierce sun, and I
couldn’t imagine him going six miles in five minutes, which he must
needs have done had he gone ashore for it. So I watched his flight as
well as I could, but it was two days before I discovered my gentleman
on one of the logs alongside, scraping up a supply of slime, and
skipping nimbly into the air each time the sea washed over his
alighting-place. That mystery was solved at any rate. I kept careful
watch over that row of dwellings thereafter, determined to suppress
the whole block at the first sign of a brood of wasps making their
appearance. None ever did, and at last I took down the cells with
the greatest care, finding them perfectly empty. So I came to the
conclusion that my ingenious and industrious guest had been building
for the love of the thing, or for amusement, or to keep his hand in,
or perhaps something warned him in time that the site he had selected
for his eligible row of residences was liable to sudden serious
vicissitudes of climate. At any rate, he abandoned them, much to my
comfort.



                         “THE WAY OF A SHIP”


Solomon had, among the many mighty qualities of mind which have
secured his high eminence as the wisest man of the world, an
attribute which does not always accompany abundant knowledge. He was
prompt to admit his limitations, as far as he knew them, frankly
and fully. And among them he confesses an inability to understand
“the way of a ship in the midst of the sea.” It may be urged that
there was little to wonder at in this, since the exigencies of his
position must have precluded his gaining more than the slightest
actual experience of seafaring. Yet it is marvellous that he should
have mentioned this thing, seemingly simple to a shore-dweller,
which is to all mariners a mystery past finding out. No matter how
long a sailor may have sailed the seas in one ship, or how deeply
he may have studied the ways of that ship under apparently all
combinations of wind and sea, he will never be found to assert
thoughtfully that he _knows_ her altogether. Much more, then, are
the myriad idiosyncrasies of all ships unknowable. Kipling has done
more, perhaps, than any other living writer to point out how certain
fabrics of man’s construction become invested with individuality of
an unmistakable kind, and of course so acute an observer could not
fail to notice how pre-eminently is this the case with ships.

Now, in what follows I seek as best I may to show, by a niggardly
handful of instances in my own experience, how the “personality” of
ships expresses itself, and how incomprehensible these manifestations
are to the men whose business it is to study them. Even before the
ship has quitted the place of her birth, yea, while she is yet
a-building, something of this may be noted. One man will study
deepest mathematical problems, will perfectly apply his formulæ,
and see them accurately embodied in steel or timber, so that by all
ordinary laws of cause and effect the resultant vessel should be a
marvel of speed, stability, and strength. And yet she is a failure.
She has all the vices that the sailor knows and dreads: crank, slow,
leewardly, hanging in stays, impossible to steer satisfactorily.
Every man who ever sails in her carries in his tenacious sea-memory,
to the day of his death, vengeful recollections of her perversities,
and often in the dog-watch holds forth to his shipmates in eloquent
denunciation of her manifold iniquities long after one would have
thought her very name would be forgotten. Another shipbuilder,
innocent of a scintilla of mathematics, impatient of diagrams, will
begin apparently without preparation, adding timber to timber, and
breast-hook to stem, until out of the dumb cavern of his mind a ship
is evolved, his inexpressible idea manifested in graceful yet massive
shape. And that ship will be all that the other is not. As if the
spirit of her builder had somehow been wrought into her frame, she
behaves with intelligence, and becomes the delight, the pride, of
those fortunate enough to sail in her.

Such a vessel it was once my good fortune to join in London for a
winter passage across to Nova Scotia. Up to that time my experience
had been confined to large vessels and long voyages, and it was
not without the stern compulsion of want that I shipped in the
_Wanderer_. She was a brigantine of two hundred and forty tons
register, built in some little out-of-the-way harbour in Nova Scotia
by one of the amphibious sailor-farmers of that ungenerous coast, in
just such a rule-of-thumb manner as I have spoken of. When I got on
board I pitied myself greatly. I felt cramped for room; I dreaded
the colossal waves of the Atlantic at that stormy winter season, in
what I considered to be a weakly built craft fit only for creeping
closely along-shore. We worked down the river, also a new departure
to me, always accustomed hitherto to be towed down to Beachy Head
by a strenuous tug. The delicate way in which she responded to all
the calls we made on her astonished our pilot, who was loud in his
praises of her “handiness,” one of the most praiseworthy qualities
a ship can have in a seaman’s eyes. Nevertheless, I still looked
anxiously forward to our meeting with the Atlantic, although day by
day, as we zigzagged down Channel, I felt more and more amazed at
the sympathy she showed with her crew. At last we emerged upon the
wide, open ocean, clear of even the idea of shelter from any land;
and as if to show conclusively how groundless were my fears, it blew
a bitter north-west gale. Never have I known such keen delight in
watching a vessel’s behaviour as I knew then. As if she were one of
the sea-people, such as the foam-like gulls or wheeling petrels,
next of kin to the waves themselves, she sported with the tumultuous
elements, her motion as easy as the sway of the seaweed and as light
as a bubble. And even when the strength of the storm-wind forbade
us to show more than the tiniest square of canvas, she answered the
touch of her helm, as sensitive to its gentle suasion as Hiawatha’s
Cheemaun to the voice of her master. Never a wave broke on deck,
although she had so little free-board that a bucket of water could
almost be dipped without the aid of a lanyard. That gale taught me a
lesson I have never been able to forget. It was, never to judge of
the seaworthy qualities of a ship by her appearance at anchor, but to
wait until she had an opportunity of telling me in her own language
what she could do.

Then came a spell of favourable weather--for the season, that
is--when we could carry plenty of sail and make good use of our time.
Another characteristic now revealed itself in her--her steerability.
Once steady on her course under all canvas, one turn of a spoke, or
at most of two spokes, of the wheel was sufficient to keep her so;
and for an hour I have walked back and forth before the wheel, with
both hands in my pockets, while she sped along at ten knots an hour,
as straight as an arrow in its flight. But when any sail was taken
off her, no matter which, she would no longer steer herself, as if
the just and perfect balance of her sail area had been disturbed;
but she was easier to steer then than any vessel I have ever known.
Lastly, a strong gale tested her powers of running before it, the
last touch of excellence in any ship being that she shall run safely
dead before a gale. During its height we _passed_ the Anchor liner
_California_, a huge steamship some twenty times our bulk. From end
to end of that mighty ship the frolicsome waves leaped and tumbled;
from every scupper and swinging-port spouted a briny flood. Every
sea, meeting her mass in its way, just climbed on board and spread
itself, so that she looked, as sailors say, like a half-tide rock.
From her towering hurricane-deck our little craft must have appeared
a forlorn little object--just a waif of the sea, existing only by a
succession of miracles. Yet even her muffled-up passengers, gazing
down upon the white dryness of our decks, looked as if they could
dimly understand that the comfort which was unmistakably absent from
their own wallowing monster was cosily present with us.

Another vessel, built on the same coast, but three times the size
of the _Wanderer_, was the _Sea Gem_, in which I had an extended
experience. Under an old sea-dog of a captain who commanded her the
first part of the voyage, she played more pranks than a jibbing
mule with a new driver. None of the ordinary manœuvres necessary to
a sailing-ship would she perform without the strangest antics and
refusals. She seemed possessed of a stubborn demon of contrariness.
Sometimes at night, when, at the change of the watch, all hands
were kept on deck to tack ship, more than an hour would be wasted
in futile attempts to get her about in a seamanlike way. She would
prance up into the wind gaily enough, as if about to turn in her own
length, and then at the crucial moment fall off again against the
hard-down helm, while all hands cursed her vigorously for the most
obstinate, clumsy vessel ever calked. Or she would come up far enough
for the order of “mainsail haul,” and there she would stick, like
a wall-eyed sow in a muddy lane, hard and fast in irons. With her
mainyards braced a-port and her foreyards a-starboard, she reminded
all hands of nothing so much as the old sea-yarn of the Yankee
schooner-skipper who for the first time found himself in command of a
bark. Quite scared of those big square sails, he lay in port until,
by some lucky chance, he got hold of a mate who had long sailed in
square-rigged vessels. Then he boldly put to sea. But by some evil
hap the poor mate fell overboard and was drowned when they had been
several days out; and one morning a homeward-bounder spied a bark
in irons making rapid signals of distress, although the weather was
fine, and the vessel appeared staunch and seaworthy enough. Rounding
to under the sufferer’s stern, the homeward-bound skipper hailed,
“What’s the matter?” “Oh!” roared the almost frantic Yankee, “for
God’s sake send somebody aboard that knows somethin’ about this kind
er ship. I’ve lost my square-rigged mate overboard, an’ I cain’t git
a move on her nohow!” He’d been trying to sail her “winged out,”
schooner fashion. So disgusted was our skipper with the _Sea Gem_
that he left her in Mobile, saying that he was going to retire from
the sea altogether. But we all believed he was scared to death that
she would run away with him some fine day. Another skipper took
command, a Yankee Welshman by the name of Jones. The first day out I
heard the second mate say to him deferentially, “She’s rather ugly
in stays, sir.” “_Is_ she?” queried the old man, with an astonished
air. “Wall, I should hev surmised she was ez nimble ez a kitten. Yew
don’t say!” Shortly after it became necessary to tack, and, to our
utter amazement, the _Sea Gem_ came about in almost her own length,
with never a suggestion that she had ever been otherwise than as
handy as a St. Ives smack. Nor did she ever after betray any signs of
unwillingness to behave with the same cheerful alacrity. Had her trim
been different we could have understood it, because some ships handy
in ballast are veritable cows when loaded, and _vice versâ_. But that
reasoning had here no weight, since her draft was essentially the
same.

Not without a groan do I recall a passage in one of the handsomest
composite barks I ever saw. Her name I shall not give, as she was
owned in London, and may be running still, for all I know. My eye
lingered lovingly over her graceful lines as she lay in dock, and
I thought gleefully that a passage to New Zealand in her would be
like a yachting-trip. An additional satisfaction was some patent
steering-gear which I had always longed to handle, having been told
that it was a dream of delight to take a trick with it. I admit
that she was right down to her Plimsoll, and I will put it to her
credit that she was only some dozen miles to leeward of the ill-fated
_Eurydice_ when that terrible disaster occurred that extinguished
so many bright young lives. But the water was smooth, and we had no
long row of lower-deck ports open for the sea to rush in when the
vessel heeled to a sudden squall. It is only her Majesty’s ships
that are exposed to such dangers as that. In fact, for the first
fortnight out she was on her extra-special behaviour, although none
of us fellows for’ard liked a dirty habit she had of lifting heavy
sprays over fore and aft in a whole-sail breeze. Presently along came
a snifter from the south-west, and every man of us awoke to the fact
that we were aboard of a hooker saturated with every vicious habit
known to ships. There was no dryness in her. You never knew where or
when she would bow down to a harmless-looking sea and allow it to
lollop on board, or else, with a perversity almost incredible, fall
up against it so clumsily that it would send a blinding sheet of
spray as high as the clues of the upper topsails. Words fail me to
tell of the patent atrocity with which we were condemned to steer.
Men would stand at the wheel for their two hours’ trick, and imagine
tortures for the inventor thereof, coming for’ard at four or eight
bells, speechlessly congested with the volume of their imprecations
upon him. Yet I have no doubt he, poor man, considered himself a
benefactor to the genus seafarer. In any weather you could spin the
wheel round from hard up to hard down without feeling the slightest
pressure of the sea against the rudder. And as, to gain power, speed
must be lost, two turns of the wheel were equal to only one with the
old-fashioned gear. The result of these differences was to a sailor
simply maddening. For all seamen steer as much by the _feel_ of the
wheel as by anything else (I speak of sailing-ships throughout),
a gentle increase of pressure warning you when she wants a little
bit to meet her in her sidelong swing. Not only so, but there is a
subtle sympathy (to a good helmsman) conveyed in those alterations
of pressure which, while utterly unexplainable in words, make all
the difference between good and bad steering. Then, none of us could
get used to the doubling of the amount of helm necessary. We were
always giving her too much or too little. As she was by no means an
easy-steering ship, even had her gear been all right, the consequence
of this diabolical impediment to her guidance was that the man who
kept her within two points and a half, in anything like a breeze,
felt that he deserved high praise.

Still, with all these unpleasantnesses, we worried along in fairly
comfortable style, for we had a fresh mess and railway-duff (a plum
at every station) every Sunday. Every upper bunk in the fo’c’s’le
was leaky, and always remained so; but we rigged up water-sheds that
kept us fairly dry during our slumbers. So we fared southward through
the fine weather, forgetting, with the lax memory of the sailor
for miserable weather, the sloppy days that had passed, and giving
no thought to the coming struggle. Gradually we stole out of the
trade area, until the paling blue of the sky and the accumulation
of torn and feathery cloud-fields warned us of our approach to that
stern region where the wild western wind reigns supreme. The trades
wavered, fell, and died away. Out from the west, with a rush and a
roar, came the cloud-compeller, and eastward we fled before it. An
end now to all comfort fore and aft. For she wallowed and grovelled,
allowing every sea, however kindly disposed, to leap on board, until
the incessant roar of the water from port to starboard dominated our
senses even in sleep. A massive breakwater of two-inch kauri planks
was fitted across the deck in front of the saloon for the protection
of the afterguard, who dwelt behind it as in a stockaded fort. As the
weather grew worse, and the sea got into its gigantic stride, our
condition became deplorable; for it was a task of great danger to
get from the fo’c’s’le to the wheel, impossible to perform without
a drenching, and always invested with the risk of being dashed to
pieces. We “carried on” recklessly in order to keep her at least
ahead of the sea; but at night, when no stars were to be seen, and
the compass swung madly through all its thirty-two points, steering
was mental and physical torture. In fact, it was only possible to
steer at all by the feel of the wind at one’s back, and even then the
best helmsman among us could not keep her within two points on each
side of her course. We lived in hourly expectation of a catastrophe,
and for weeks none of us forward ever left off oilskins and sea-boots
even to sleep in. At last, on Easter Sunday, three seas swept on
board simultaneously. One launched itself like a Niagara over the
stern, and one rose on each side in the waist, until the two black
hills of water towered above us for fully twenty feet. Then they
leaned toward each other and fell, their enormous weight threatening
to crush our decks in as if they had been paper. Nothing could be
seen of the hull for a smother of white, except the forecastle-head.
When, after what seemed an age, she slowly lifted out of that
boiling, yeasty whirl, the breakwater was gone, and so was all the
planking of the bulwarks on both sides from poop to forecastle break.
Nothing was left but to heave to, and I, for one, firmly believed
that we should never get her up into the wind. However, we were bound
to try; and watching the smooth (between two sets of seas), the helm
was put hard down and the mizen hauled out. Round she came swiftly
enough, but just as she presented her broadside to the sea, up rose
a monstrous wave. Over, over she went--over until the third ratline
of the lee rigging was under water; that is to say, the lee rail
was full six feet under the sea. One hideous tumult prevailed, one
dazzling glare of foaming water surrounded us; but I doubt whether
any of us thought of anything but how long we could hold our breath.
Had she been less deeply loaded she must have capsized. As it was,
she righted again, and came up into the wind still afloat. But never
before or since have I seen a vessel behave like that hove to. We
were black and blue with being banged about, our arms strained almost
to uselessness by holding on. Beast as she was, the strength of her
hull was amazing, or she would have been racked to splinters: for in
that awful sea she rolled clean to windward until she filled herself,
then canted back again until she lay nearly on her beam-ends; and
this she did continually for three days and nights. At the first
of the trouble the cabin had been gutted so that neither officers
nor passengers had a dry thread, and of course all cooking was
impossible. I saw the skipper chasing his sextant (in its box) around
the saloon-table, which was just level with the water which was
making havoc with everything. And not a man of us for’ard but had
some pity to spare for the one woman passenger (going out with her
little boy to join her husband), who, we knew, was crouching in the
corner of an upper bunk in her cabin, hugging her child to her bosom,
and watching with fascinated eyes the sullen wash of the dark water
that plunged back and forth across the sodden strip of carpet.

In spite of all these defects in the ship, she reached Lyttelton in
safety at last; and I, with more thankfulness than I knew how to
express, was released from her, and took my place as an officer on
board a grand old ship three times her size. Unfortunately for me,
my sea experience of her extended only over one short passage to
Adelaide, where she was laid up for sale; and of my next ship I have
spoken at length elsewhere, so I may not enlarge upon her behaviour
here. After that I had the good fortune to get a berth as second
mate of the _Harbinger_, to my mind one of the noblest specimens of
modern shipbuilding that ever floated. She was lofty--210 feet from
water-line to skysail truck--and with all her white wings spread,
thirty-one mighty sails, she looked like a mountain of snow. She was
built of steel, and in every detail was as perfect as any sailor
could wish. For all her huge bulk she was as easy to handle as any
ten-ton yacht--far easier than some--and in any kind of weather her
docility was amazing. No love-sick youth was ever more enamoured of
his sweetheart than I of that splendid ship. For hours of my watch
below I have sat perched upon the martingale guys under the jib-boom,
watching with all a lover’s complacency the stately sheer of her stem
through the sparkling sea, and dreamily noting the delicate play of
rainbow tints through and through the long feather of spray that ran
unceasingly up the stem, and, curling outward, fell in a diamond
shower upon the blue surface below. She was so clean in the entrance
that you never saw a foaming spread of broken water ahead, driven in
front by the vast onset of the hull. She parted the waves before her
pleasantly, as an arrow the air; graciously, as if loath to disturb
their widespread solitude.

But it needed a tempest to show her “way” in its perfection. Like
the _Wanderer_, but in a grand and gracious fashion, she seemed to
claim affinity with the waves, and they in their wildest tumult met
her as if they too knew and loved her. She was the only ship I ever
knew or heard of that would “stay” under storm-staysails, reefed
topsails, and a reefed foresail in a gale of wind. In fact, I never
saw anything that she would not do that a ship should do. She was so
truly a child of the ocean that even a bungler could hardly mishandle
her; she _would_ work well in spite of him. And, lastly, she would
_steer_ when you could hardly detect an air out of the heavens, with
a sea like a mirror, and the sails hanging apparently motionless.
The men used to say she would go a knot with only the quartermaster
whistling at the wheel for a wind.

Then for my sins I shipped before the mast in an equally large iron
ship bound for Calcutta. She was everything that the _Harbinger_
was not--an ugly abortion that the sea hated. When I first saw her
(after I had shipped), I asked the cook whether she wasn’t a razeed
steamboat--I had almost said an adapted loco-boiler. When he told
me that this was only her second voyage I had to get proof before
I could believe him. And as her hull was, so were her sails. They
looked like a job lot scared up at ship-chandlers’ sales, and hung
upon the yards like rags drying. Our contempt for her was too great
for words. Of course she was under water while there was any wind
to speak of, and her motions were as strange as those of a seasick
pig. A dredger would have beaten her at sailing; a Medway barge, with
her Plimsoll mark in the main-rigging, would have been ten times as
comfortable. Somehow we buttocked her out in 190 days with 2500 tons
of salt in her hold, and again my fortunate star intervened to get me
out of her and into a better ship as second mate.

Of steamers I have no authority to speak, although they, too, have
their ways, quite as non-understandable as sailing-ships, and
complicated, too, by the additional entity of the engines within.
But everything that floats and is built by man, from the three-log
catamaran of the Malabar coast, or the balsa of Brazil, up to the
latest leviathan, has a way of its own, and that way is certainly, in
all its variations, past finding out.



                            SEA ETIQUETTE


Nothing is more loudly regretted by the praisers of old times than
the gradual disappearance of etiquette under the stress and burden
of these bustling days, and nowhere is the decay of etiquette more
pronounced than at sea. Romance persists because until machinery
can run itself humanity must do so, and where men and women live
romance cannot die. But were it not for the Royal Navy, with its
perfect discipline and unbroken traditions, etiquette at sea must
without doubt perish entirely, and that soon. Such fragments of it as
still survive in the Merchant Service are confined to sailing-ships,
those beautiful visions that are slowly disappearing one by one
from off the face of the deep. Take, for instance, the grand old
custom so full of meaning of “saluting the deck.” The poop or raised
after-deck of a ship over which floated the national flag was
considered to be always pervaded by the presence of the Sovereign,
and, as the worshipper of whatever rank removes his hat upon entering
a church, so from the Admiral to the powder-monkey every member
of the ship’s company as he set foot upon the poop “saluted the
deck”--the invisible presence. As the division between men-of-war
and merchantmen widened so the practice weakened in the latter, and
only now survives in the rigidly enforced practice of every person
below the rank of Captain or mate coming up on to the poop by the lee
side. And among the officers the practice is also observed according
to rank, for with the Captain on deck the chief mate takes the lee
side. But since in steamers there is often no lee side, the custom in
them has completely died out. To etiquette also belongs the strict
observance of the rule in all vessels of tacking “Sir” on to every
reply to an officer, or the accepted synonym for his position to a
tradesman who is a petty officer, as “Boss” for boatswain, “Chips”
for carpenter, “Sails” for sailmaker, and “Doctor” for cook. A
woeful breach of etiquette is committed by the Captain who, coming
on deck while one of his mates is carrying out some manœuvre, takes
upon himself to give orders direct to the men. It is seldom resented
by junior officers for obvious reasons, but the chief mate would
probably retire to another part of the vessel at once with the remark
that it was “only one man’s work.”

In many cases etiquette and discipline are so closely interwoven that
it is hard to know where one leaves off and the other begins, but
in all such cases observance is strictly enforced as being one of
the few remaining means whereby even a simulacrum of discipline is
maintained in undermanned and oversparred sailing-ships--such as the
repetition of every order given by the hearer, the careful avoidance
of any interference by one man with another’s work in the presence of
an officer, and the preservation of each officer’s rightful attitude
toward those under his charge and his superiors. Thus during the
secular work of the day, work, that is, apart from handling the ship,
the mate gives his orders to the boatswain, who sees them carried
out. Serious friction always arises when during any operation the
mate comes between the boatswain and his gang, unless, as sometimes
happens, the boatswain be hopelessly incompetent.

In the private life of the ship every officer’s berth is his house,
sacred, inviolable, wherein none may enter without his invitation.
And in a case of serious dereliction of duty or disqualification it
becomes his prison. “Go to your room, sir,” is a sentence generally
equivalent to professional ruin, since a young officer’s future lies
in the hollow of his Commander’s hand. The saloon is free to officers
only at meal-times, not a common parlour wherein they may meet for
chat and recreation, except in port with the Captain ashore. And
as it is “aft” so in its degree is it “forrard.” In some ships the
carpenter has a berth to himself and a workshop besides, into which
none may enter under pain of instant wrath--and “Chips” is not a man
to be lightly offended. But in most cases all the petty officers
berth together in an apartment called by courtesy the “half-deck,”
although it seldom resembles in a remote degree the dingy, fœtid
hole that originally bore that name. Very dignified are the petty
officers, gravely conscious of their dignity, and sternly set upon
the due maintenance of their rightful status as the backbone of
the ship’s company. Such a grave breach of etiquette as an “A.B.”
entering their quarters, with or without invitation, is seldom heard
of, and quite as infrequent are the occasions when an officer does
so. In large ships, where six or seven apprentices are carried, an
apartment in a house on deck is set apart for their sole occupation,
and the general characteristic of such an abode is chaos--unless,
indeed, there should be a senior apprentice of sufficient stability
to preserve order, which there seldom is. These “boys’ houses” are
bad places for a youngster fresh from school, unless a conscientious
Captain or chief mate should happen to be at the head of affairs and
make it his business to give an eye to the youngsters’ proceedings
when off duty. Of course etiquette may be looked for in vain here,
unless it be the etiquette of “fagging” in its worst sense.

The men’s quarters, always called the forecastle, even when a more
humane shipowner than usual has relegated the forecastle proper to
its rightful use as lockers for non-perishable stores and housed
his men in a building on deck, is always divided longitudinally in
half. The port or mate’s watch live on the port side, the starboard
or second mate’s watch on the starboard side. To this rule there is
no exception. And here we have etiquette _in excelsis_. Although
the barrier between the two sides is usually of the flimsiest and
often quite imaginary in effect, it is a wall of separation with
gates guarded and barred. The visitor from one side to the other,
whatever his excuse, approaches humbly, feeling ill at ease until
made welcome. And from dock to dock it is an unheard-of thing for any
officer save the Captain to so much as _look_ into the forecastle.
Of course, exceptional circumstances do arise, such as a general
outbreak of recalcitrancy, but the occasion must be abnormal for
such a breach of etiquette to be made. Some Captains very wisely
make it their duty to go the round of the ship each morning, seeing
that everything is as it should be, and these enter the forecastle
as a part of their examination. But this is quite the exception
to the general rule, and is always felt to be more or less of an
infringement of immemorial right.

In what must be called the social life of the forecastle, although
it is commonly marked by an utter absence of social observances,
there are several well-defined rules of etiquette which persist in
spite of all other changes. One must not lock his chest at sea. As
soon as the last landsman has left the ship, unlock the “donkey,”
throw the key ostentatiously into the till, and, letting the lid
fall, seat yourself upon it, and light your pipe. It is a Masonic
sign of good-fellowship, known and read of all men, that you are
a “Sou’ Spainer” indeed, at home again. The first time that the
newly assembled crew sit down gipsy fashion to a meal (for tables
are seldom supplied), there may be one, usually a boy, who fails
to remove his cap. Then does the nearest man’s hand seek the
“bread-barge” for a whole biscuit, generally of tile-like texture
and consistency. Grasping it by spreading his fingers all over its
circumference, the mentor brings it down crushingly upon the covered
head of the offender, who is thus initiated, as it were, to the fact
that he must “show respect to his grub,” as the term goes. But often
when the commons have been exceptionally short or bad an old seaman
will deliberately put on his cap again with the remark “’Tain’t wuth
it.” If a man wants to smoke while a meal is in progress let him
go outside, unless he desires deliberately to raise a storm. And
when on the first day of serving out stores a man has been induced
to undertake the onerous duty of dividing to each one his weekly
portion--“whacking out”--gross indeed must be his carelessness or
unfairness before any sufferer will raise a protest. It used to be
the practice to load the boys or ordinary seamen (a grade between
“A.B.” and boy) with all the menial service of the forecastle, such
as food-fetching, washing up utensils, scrubbing, &c. But a juster
and wiser plan has been borrowed from the Navy, whereby each man
takes in rotation a week as “cook of the mess.” He cooks nothing, the
“Doctor” will take care of that, but he is the servant of his house
for that week, responsible for its due order and cleanliness. The
boys are usually kept out of the forecastle altogether, and berthed
with the petty officers, a plan which has with some advantages grave
drawbacks. One curious old custom deserves passing notice. Upon a
vessel’s arrival in ports where it is necessary to anchor, it is
usual to set what is called an “anchor-watch” the first night. All
hands take part in this for one hour each, or should do so, but that
sometimes there are too few and sometimes too many. As soon as the
order is given to “pick for anchor-watch” an old hand draws a rude
circle on the deck, which he subdivides into as many sections as
there are men. Then one man retires while all the rest come forward
and make each man his private mark in a section. When all have
contributed, the excluded one (whose mark has been made for him by
deputy) is called in and solemnly rubs out mark after mark, the first
to be rubbed out giving its owner the first hour’s watch, and so on.

Nothing has been said about etiquette in the Royal Navy, because
there it is hardly ever to be distinguished from disciplinary rule.
Nor has allusion been more than casually made to steamships, whose
routine excludes etiquette, having no more room for it than it has
for seamanship, except upon rare occasions.



                                WAVES


Beloved of the poet and the painter, appealing by the inimitable
grace of their curves and marvel of their motion to all mankind, the
waves of the sea take easily their high place with the stars and
the mountains as some of the chief glories attendant upon the round
world. Only an artist, perhaps, could do justice to the multiplicity
of lovely lines into which the ruffled surface of the ocean
enwreathes itself under the pressure of the storm. Yet any one with
an eye for the beautiful will find it hard to leave a sight so fair,
will watch unweariedly for hours the gliding, curling masses as they
rise, apparently in defiance of law, subside and rise again and yet
again.

Sailors often speak of an “ugly” sea, but the adjective has quite
another meaning to that usually attached to it. They do not mean
that it is ugly in appearance, for they well know that the beauty
of a wave is as much a part of it as is the water--it cannot be
otherwise than beautiful, as it cannot cease to be wet. What they
mean is a dangerous sea. And by “sea” they always mean wave. A sailor
never speaks of a “high wave,” “cross waves,” “heavy waves”; in
fact, on board ship, except when passengers are getting information
from officers, you will not hear the word “wave” mentioned at all.
It is necessary to mention this purely nautical detail to save
constant explanation and digression. To return, then, to the sailor’s
“ugly” sea. Its ugliness may be due to many different causes, but
in the result the waves do not run truly with the wind; they rise
unexpectedly and confusedly, changing the natural motion of the
ship into a bewildered stagger, such as one will sometimes see in
a horse when a brutal, foolish driver is beating him over the head
and wrenching first at one rein and then the other without knowing
himself what he wants the poor brute to do. It is very pitiful,
too, to watch a gallant ship being pressed through an ugly, untrue
sea--such, for instance, as may be met with in the North Atlantic
with a south-west gale blowing, and the vessel in the midst of the
Gulf Stream. The conflict between wind and current, all the more
terrible for its invisibility, is deep-reaching, so deep that every
excuse must be found for those who have spoken of seas running
mountains high. As the steady, implacable thrust of the storm booms
forth, the black breadths of water rise rebellious; they would fain
flow in the face of the wind, but that cannot be. So they rise,
sullenly rise, peak-like, against their persecutor, until his might
compels them forward against the mighty stream beneath, and their
shattered crags and pinnacles tumble in ruinous heaps around.

Even this, however, is less dangerous than that time--to be spoken
of by those who have seen it, and live, with bated breath--when,
rotating like some wheel of the gods, the tropical cyclone whirls
across the Indian seas. Round and round blow the incredibly furious
winds, having a centrifugal direction withal, and yet the whole
mighty system progresses in some given direction, until towards its
centre there is a Maelstrom indeed--a space where the wind hath left,
as it were, a funnel of calm in the world-tumult. And there the waves
hold high revel. Heap upon heap the waters rise, without direction,
without shape, save that of fortuitous blocks hurled skyward and
falling again in ruin. The fountains of the great deep appear to be
broken up, and woe to man’s handiwork found straying there in that
black hour.

All those who have ever “run the Easting down” will remember, but
not all pleasurably, the great true sea of the roaring “forties” or
“fifties.” How, unhindered in its world-encircling sweep, the premier
wind of all comes joyously, unwaveringly, for many a day without a
pause, while the good ship flies before it with every wing bearing
its utmost strain. In keeping with the wind, the wave--the long, true
wave of the Southern Seas, spreading to infinity on either hand, a
gorgeous concave of blue, with its direction as straightly at right
angles to the ship’s track as if laid by line, and its ridge all
glistening like a wreath of new-fallen snow under silver moon or
golden sun. It pursues, it overtakes, rises astern with majestic
sound as of all the war-chariots of Neptune; then, easily passing
beneath the buoyant keel, it is gone on ahead, has joined its fellows
in their stately progress to the East. Adown its far-spreading
shoulders stream pennons of white; in the broad valley between
it and the next wave the same bright foam creams and hisses until
wherever the eye can rest is no longer blue but white--a wilderness
of curdling snow just bepatched with azure.

The strong, exultant ship may rejoice in such a scene as this, but it
is far otherwise with the weakling. Caught up in this irresistible
march of wind and wave, she feels that her place is otherwhere; it
is not hers to strive with giants, but to abide by the stuff. Then
do the hapless mariners in charge watch carefully for a time when
they may lay her to, watch the waves’ sequence, knowing that every
third wave is greater, and leaves a broader valley of smooth behind
it than its fellows; while some say that with the third sequence of
three--the ninth wave--these differences are at their maximum. Why?
Who knows? Certain it is that some waves are heavier than others, and
equally certain it is that in the case of a truly running sea these
heavier seas appear at regularly recurrent intervals of three. And
that is all sailors know. Sufficient too, perhaps, as with their weak
and overladen ship they watch the smooth, to swing her up between two
rolling ranges of water, and without shipping more than thirty or
forty tons or so, heave her to, her head just quartering the oncoming
waves, and all danger of being overwhelmed by them removed.

Curious indeed are the waves to be found over uneven bottoms with
strong undercurrents--as, for instance, on the coast of Nova
Scotia--and known as “overfalls.” Sufficiently annoying to vessels
of large size that get among them, they are most dangerous to small
craft. The water rises in masses perpendicularly, and falls a dead
weight without apparent forward motion--a puzzling, deadly sea to
meet when a howling gale is driving your small vessel across those
angry waters. But the overfall character is common to nearly all
waves raised in shallow seas and tidal streams. It adds to the
dangers of navigation immensely, and although the eye must be charmed
when from the lofty cliff we see the green-bosomed, hoary-shouldered
wave come thundering shoreward, we need not expect those to greet him
lovingly who must do so in weakness and undefended.

What of the tidal wave; that mysterious indispensable swelling of the
waters that, following the “pull” of the moon, rolls round this globe
of ours twice in each twenty-four hours, stemming the outflow of
mighty rivers, penetrating far inland wherever access is available,
and doing within its short lease of life an amount of beneficent
work freely that would beggar the wealthiest Monarchy of the world
to undertake if it must needs be paid for? Mysterious it may well be
called, since, though its passage from zone to zone be so swift, it
is, like all other waves, but an undulatory movement of that portion
of the sea momentarily influenced by the suasion of the planet--not,
as is vulgarly supposed, the same mass of water vehemently carried
onward for thousands of miles. No; just as a tightly stretched
sheet of calico shows an undulation if the point of a stick be
passed along beneath its surface and pressed upward against it, an
undulation which leaves every fibre where it was originally, so does
the whole surface remain in its place while the long, long wave rolls
round the world carrying up to their moorings the homeward-bound
ships, sweetening mud-befouled tidal harbours, and giving to forlorn
breadths of deserted shallows all the glory and vitality of the
youthful sea.

To meet a tidal wave at sea is in some parts of the watery world a
grim and unforgettable experience. Floating upon the shining blue
plain, with an indolent swelling of the surface just giving a cosy
roll to your ship now and then, you suddenly see in the distance a
ridge, a knoll of water that advances vast, silent, menacing. Nearer
and nearer it comes, rearing its apparently endless curve higher and
higher. There is no place to flee from before its face. Neither is
there much suspense. For its pace is swift, although it appears so
deliberate, from the illimitable grandeur of its extent. It is upon
the ship. She behaves in accordance with the way she has been caught
and her innate peculiarities. In any case, whatever her bulk, she is
hurled forward, upward, backward, downward, as if never again could
she regain an even keel, while her crew cling desperately to whatever
holding-place they may have reached, lest they should be dashed into
dead pieces.

Some will have it that these marvellous upliftings of the sea-bosom
are not tidal waves at all--that they do not belong to that normal
ebb and flow of the ocean that owns the sway of the moon. If so,
they would be met with more frequently than they are at sea, and far
more disasters would be placed to their account. This contention
seems reasonable, because it is well known that lonely islets such as
St. Helena, Tristan d’Acunha, and Ascension are visited at irregular
intervals by a succession of appalling waves (rollers) that deal
havoc among the smaller shipping, and look as if they would overwhelm
the land. The suggestion is that these stupendous waves are due to
cosmic disturbance, to submarine earthquakes upheaving the ocean-bed
and causing so vast a displacement of the ocean that its undulations
extend for several thousands of miles.

As to the speed of waves, judging from all experience, they would
seem never to exceed sixteen to eighteen knots an hour in their
hugest forms. And yet it is well known that they will often outstrip
the gale that gave them birth, let it rage never so furiously. Lying
peacefully rolling upon the smoothest of summer seas, you shall
presently find, without any alteration in the weather, the vessel’s
motion change from its soothing roll to a sharp, irritable, and
irritating movement. And, looking overside, there may be seen the
forerunners of the storm that is raging hundreds of miles away, the
hurrying waves that it has driven in its path. So likewise, long
hours after a gale is over, the waves it has raised roll on, still
reluctant to resume their levelled peace, and should a new gale arise
in some contrary direction, the “old” sea, as the sailor calls it,
will persist, making the striving ship’s progress full of weariness
and unease to those on board. Of the energy of waves, of the lessons
they teach, their immutable mutability, and other things concerning
them that leap to the mind, no word can now be spoken, for space is
spent.



                       A BATTLESHIP OF TO-DAY


Last year it was my pleasant privilege to lay before the readers of
the _Spectator_ a few details upon the polity of a battleship, and
from the amount of interest shown in that subject, it would seem
acceptable to supplement it by a few more details upon the mechanical
side. First, then, as to the ship herself. Complaints are often heard
of the loss of beauty and ship-like appearance consequent upon the
gain of combative strength in these floating monsters. And it cannot
be denied that up till a few years ago in our own Navy, and at the
present date among the _cuirassés_ of France, the appearance of the
vessels made such a complaint well founded--such ships as the _Hoche_
and _Charlemagne_, for instance, from which it may truly be said that
all likeness to a ship has been removed. But in our own Navy there
has been witnessed of late years a decided return to the handsome
contour of vessels built, not for war, but for the peaceful pursuits
of the merchant service. And this has so far been attended by the
happiest results. These mighty ships of the _Majestic_ class, on
board of one of which I am now writing, have won the unstinted praise
of all connected with them. This means a great deal, for there are
no more severe critics of the efforts of naval architects than naval
officers, as would be naturally expected. In these ships the eye is
arrested at once by their beautiful lines, and the absence of any
appearance of top-heaviness so painfully evident in ships like the
_Thunderer_, the _Dreadnought_, and the _Admirals_. Their spacious
freeboard, or height from the water-line to the edge of the upper
deck, catches a seaman’s eye at once, for a good freeboard means
not only a fairly dry ship, but also plenty of fresh air below, as
well as a sense of security in heavy weather. It is not, however,
until their testing time comes, in a heavy gale of wind on the wide
Atlantic, that their other virtues appear. Then one is never weary
of wondering at their splendid stability and freedom from rolling,
which makes them unique fighting platforms under the worst weather
conditions. They steer perfectly, a range of over three and a half
degrees on either side of their course being sufficient to bring
down heavy censure upon the quartermaster. They have not Belleville
boilers, and so enjoy almost complete immunity from breakdowns,
maintaining their speed in a manner that is not approached by any
other men-of-war afloat. In addition to great economy of coal usage
they have, for a ship of war, very large coal bunkerage. In fact, in
this respect their qualifications are so high that there is danger of
being disbelieved in giving the plain facts. On a coal consumption of
50 tons per day for _all_ purposes a speed of eight knots per hour
can be maintained for forty days. Of course, with each extra knot of
speed the coal consumption increases enormously, reaching a maximum
of 220 tons a day for a speed of fifteen knots with forced draught.
It is necessary to italicise _all_ purposes, for it must always be
remembered that there is quite a host of auxiliary engines always at
work in these ships for the supply of electric light, ventilation,
steering, distilling, &c. And this brings me to a most important
detail of the economy of modern ships of war--their utter dependence
for efficient working upon modern inventions, all highly complicated,
and liable to get out of order. As, for instance, the lighting. It
is quite true that the work of the ship can be carried on without
electric light, but when one considers the bewildering ramifications
of utterly dark passages in the bowels of these huge ships, and
remembers how accustomed the workers become to the flood of light
given by a host of electric lamps, it needs no active exercise of
the imagination to picture the condition of things when that great
illumination is replaced by the feeble glimmer of candles or colomb
lights. Truly they only punctuate the darkness, they do not dispel
it, and work is carried on at great risk because of its necessary
haste. Then there is the steering. Under ordinary circumstances one
man stands at a baby wheel upon a lofty bridge, whence he has a view
from beam to beam of all that is going on, of the surrounding sea.
At a touch of his hand the obedient monster of 150 horse-power, far
down in the tiller-room aft, responds by exerting its great force
upon the rudder, and the ship is handled with ridiculous ease. Use
accustoms one to the marvel, and no wonder is ever evinced at the
way in which one man can keep that giant of 15,000 tons so steady
on her course. But of late we have had an object-lesson upon the
difference there is between steering by hand without the intervention
of machinery and steering with its aid. In the next water-tight
compartment forward of the tiller-room, there are four wheels, each
5 feet in diameter, and of great strength of construction. Some
distance in front of these there is an indicator--a brass pointer
moving along a horizontal scale marked in degrees. Forward of this
again, but about 2 feet to port of it, there is a compass, and
how any compass, however buttressed by compensators, can keep its
polarity in the midst of such an immense assemblage of iron and
steel furniture is almost miraculous. By the side of the compass is
a voice-tube communicating with the pilot-bridge forward. To each of
the wheels four men are allotted, sixteen in all. A quartermaster
watches, with eyes that never remove their gaze, the indicator,
which, actuated from the pilot-bridge 300 feet away, tells him
how many degrees of helm are needed, and he immediately gives his
orders accordingly. One man watches the compass, another attends the
voice-tube, listening intently for orders that may come in that way
from the officer responsible for the handling of the ship. Two men
also watch in the tiller-room for possible complications arising
there. Total, twenty-one men for the purpose of steering the ship
alone, or a crew equal to that of a sailing-ship of 2000 tons, or
the deck hands of a steamship of 6000 tons. Yet this steering crew
is only for one watch. Of course, this steering by hand is a last
resource. The engines which move the rudder are in duplicate, and
there are seven other stations from which they can be worked--viz.,
one on the upper bridge, one in each of the conning-towers, one
at each steering-engine, and two others on different decks in the
lower fore-part of the ship. It is certainly true that some of these
wheels actuate the same connection, so that one break may disable
two, or even three, wheels; but even granting that, there still
remains a considerable margin of chances against the possibility
of ever being compelled to use the hand steering-gear. Those awful
weapons of war, the barbette guns, may also be handled by manual
labour, but it is instructive to compare the swift ease with which
they, their containing barbettes (each weighing complete 250 tons),
their huge cartridges of cordite and 850 lb. shells, are handled
by hydraulic power, and the same processes carried out by hand.
And so with all other serious operations, such as weighing anchor,
hoisting steamboats, &c. The masses of weight to be dealt with are
so great that the veriest novice may see at one glance that to be
compelled to use hand labour for their manipulation in actual warfare
would be equivalent to leaving the ship helpless, at the mercy of
another ship of any enemy’s not so situated. Yes, these ships are
good, so good that it is a pity they are not better. In the opinion
of those best qualified to know, they have still a great deal too
much useless top-hamper--nay, worse than useless, because in action
its destruction by shell-fire and consequent mass of débris would
not only mean the needless loss of many lives, but would pile up a
mountain of obstacles in the way of the ship’s efficient working.
Also, the amount of unnecessary woodwork with which these vessels
are cumbered is very great, constituting a danger so serious that
on going into action it would be imperative to put a tremendous
strain upon the crew in tearing it from its positions and flinging
it overboard. Upper works of course there must be, but they should
be reduced to their simplest and most easily removable expression,
and on no account should there be, as there now is, any battery
that in action would be unworkable, and consequently only so much
lumber in the way. Remembering the enormous cost of the flotilla of
boats carried by these ships, three of them being steamers of high
speed, it comes as somewhat of a shock to learn that upon going into
action one of the first things necessary would be to launch them
all overboard and let them go secured together so that they might
possibly be picked up again, although not easily by the ship to which
they belonged. It is only another lurid glimpse of the prospective
horror of modern naval warfare. There will be no means of escape
in case of defeat and sinking, for nothing will be left to float.
Finally, after all criticisms have been made it remains to be said
that it is much to be regretted that we have not double the number
of these splendid battleships furnished with boilers that can be
relied upon as the present boilers can. Other ships of their stamp
are being built, but with Belleville boilers, of which the best that
can be said is that our most dangerous prospective foe is using them
exclusively also. But she, again, is rushing blindly upon certain
disaster in the direction of accumulating enormous superstructures
which are certain to be destroyed early in any engagement, and being
destroyed will leave the ship a helpless wreck. We have shown our
wisdom by reducing these dreadfully disabling erections, and shall
yet reduce them more. Why not go a step farther, and refuse longer to
load our engineers with the horrible incubus of boilers that have not
a single workable virtue but that of raising steam quickly, and have
every vice that a vehicle for generating steam can possibly possess?



                            NAT’S MONKEY


When Nathaniel D. Troop (of Jersey City, U.S.A.), presently A.B. on
board the British ship _Belle_, solemnly announced his intention of
investing in a monkey the next time old Daddy the Bumboatman came
alongside, there was a breathless hush, something like consternation,
amongst his shipmates. It was in Bombay and eventide, and all we of
the foremast hands were quietly engaged upon our supper (tea is the
name for the corresponding meal ashore), with great content resting
upon us, for bananas, rooties, duck-eggs and similar bumboat-bought
luxuries abounded among us. So that the chunk of indurated buffalo
that had resisted all assaults upon it at dinner-time lay unmolested
at the bottom of the beef-kid, no one feeling sufficiently interested
to bestow a swear on it.

For some time after Nat’s pronouncement nobody spoke. The cool breeze
whispered under the fo’c’s’le awning, the Bramley-kites wheeled
around whistling hungrily and casting their envious watchful eyes
upon our plates, and somewhere in the distance a dinghy-wallah
intoned an interminable legend to his fellow-sufferers that sounded
like the high-pitched drone of bees on a sultry afternoon among the
flowers. Then up and spake John de Baptiss: “Waffor, Nat? Wah we ben
dween t’yo. Foh de Lawd sake, sah, ef yew gwain bring Macaque ’bord
dis sheep you’se stockin trubble’ nough ter fill er mighty long
hole.” “’Sides,” argued Cockney Jem, “’taint ’sif we ain’t got a
monkey. ’Few wornt any monkey tricks played on us wot price th’ kid
’ere,” and he pointed to _me_.

“Naow jess yew hole on half a minnit,” drawled Nat, “’relse yew’ll
lose your place. Djer ever know me ter make trubble sense I ben abord
thishyer limejuice dog-basket? Naw, I’ve a learnt manners, _I_ hev,
’n don’t never go stickin’ my gibbie in another man’s hash I don’t.
But in kase this kermunity sh’d feel anyways hurt at my perposal,
lemme ’splain. I s’pose I ain’t singler in bein’ ruther tired er
these blame hogs forrad here. Hogs is all right, ez hogs, but they
don’t make parler pets wuth a cent. N’wen I finds one biggern a
porpuss a wallerin’ round in my bunk ’n rootin’ ’mong the clean straw
my bed’s stuffed with, its kiender bore in erpon me that fresh pork
fer dinner’s wut I ben pinin’ fer a long time. Naow I know thet I kin
teach a monkey in about tew days ’nough ter make him scare the very
chidlins er them hogs inter sossidge meat if they kum investigatin’
where he’s on dooty. ’N so I calkerlate to be a sorter bennyfactor
ter my shipmates, though it seems ’sif yew ain’t overnabove grateful.”

By this time the faces of Nat’s audience had lost the look of
apprehension they had worn at first. Everybody had an account to
settle with those pigs, which swarmed homelessly about the fore
part of the deck, and never missed an opportunity of entering our
domicile during our absence, doing such acts and deeds there as pigs
are wont to perform. As they were a particular hobby of the skipper’s
we were loth to deal with them after their iniquities, the more so
as she was a particularly comfortable ship. And if Nat’s idea should
turn out to be a good one we should all be gainers. Consequently
when Daddy appeared in the morning Nat greeted him at once with the
question, “Yew got monkey?” Promptly came the stereotyped answer,
“No, Sahib. Eberyting got. Monkey no got. Melican war make monkey
bery dear.” However, as soon as Daddy was persuaded that a monkey
really was desired he undertook to supply one, and sure enough next
morning he brought one with him, a sinister-looking beast about as
large as a fox-terrier. He was secured by a leathern collar and a
dog-chain to the fife-rail of the foremast for the time, and one or
two of the men amused themselves by teasing him until he was almost
frantic. Presently I came round where he was lurking, forgetting for
the time all about his presence. Seeing his opportunity, he sprang
on to my shoulder and bit me so severely that I carry his marks now.
Smarting with the pain I picked up a small piece of coal and flung
it at him with all the strength I could muster. Unfortunately for me
it hit him on the head and made it bleed, for which crime I got well
rope’s-ended by Nat. And besides that I made an enemy of that monkey
for the rest of his time on board--many months--an enemy who never
lost a chance of doing me an ill turn.

He took to his master at once, and was also on nodding terms with
one or two of the other men, but with the majority he was at open
war. Nat kept him chained up near his bunk, only taking him out for
an airing at intervals, and at once commenced to train him to go for
the pigs. But one day Nat laid in a stock of eggs and fruit, stowing
them as usual on the shelf in his bunk. We were very busy all the
morning on deck, so that I believe hardly a chance was obtained by
any one of getting below for a smoke. When dinner-time came Nat went
straight to his bunk to greet his pet, but he was nowhere to be seen.
The state of that bed though was something to remember. Jocko had
been amusing himself by trying to make an omelette, and the débris of
two dozen eggs was strewn and plastered over the bunk, intermingled
with crushed bananas, torn up books, feathers out of Nat’s swell
pillow, and several other things. While Nat was ransacking his memory
for some language appropriate to the occasion, a yell arose from the
other side of the forecastle where Paddy Finn, a Liverpool Irishman
of parts, had just discovered his week’s whack of sugar _and_ the
contents of a slush-pot pervading all the contents of his chest.
Other voices soon joined in the chorus as further atrocities were
discovered, until the fo’c’s’le was like Bedlam broken loose.

“Pigs is it ye’d be afther complainin’ of, ye blatherin’ ould
omadhaun. The divil a pig that iver lived ud be afther makin’ sich a
hell’s delight ov a man’s dunnage as this. Not a blashted skirrick
have oi left to cover me nakidness wid troo yure blood relashin.
Only let me clap hands on him me jule, thet’s all, ye dhirty ould
orgin-grinder you.”

High above all the riot rose the wail of Paddy Finn as above, until
the din grew so great that I fled dismayed, in mortal terror lest I
should be brought into the quarrel somehow. It was well that I did
so, for presently there was what sailors call a regular “plug-mush,”
a free fight wherein the guiding principle is “wherever you see a
head, hit it.” The battle was brief if fierce, and its results were
so far good that uproarious laughter soon took the place of the
pandemonium that had so recently reigned. Happily I had not brought
the dinner in when the riot began, so that still there was some
comfort left. Making haste I supplied the food, and soon they were
all busy with it, their dinner hour being nearly gone. The punishment
of the miscreant was unavoidably deferred for want of time to look
for him, for he had vanished like a dream. But while we ate a sudden
storm of bad language rose on deck. Hurrying out to see what fresh
calamity had befallen we found the nigger cook flinging himself about
in a frenzy of rage, while half-way up the main-stay, well out of
everybody’s reach, sat Jocko with a fowl that he had snatched out of
the galley while the cook’s back was turned, and was now carefully
tearing into fragments. Rushing to the stay, the men shook it till
the whole mainmast vibrated, but the motion didn’t appear to trouble
the monkey. Holding the fowl tightly in one hand he bounded up into
the main-top and thence to the mizen-topmast stay, where for the time
he had to be left in peace.

As soon as knock-off time came a hunt was organised. It was a very
exciting affair while it lasted, but not only were the men tired,
but that monkey could spring across open spaces like a bird, and
catching him was an impossible task. The attempt was soon given
up, therefore, and the rest of the evening after supper devoted to
repairing damages. For the next three days she was a lively ship.
That imp of darkness was like the devil, he was everywhere. Like
a streak of grey lightning he would slide down a stay, snatch up
something just laid down, and away aloft again before the robbed one
had realised what had happened. All sorts of traps were laid for
him, but he was far too wise to be taken in any trap that ever was
devised. I went in terror of him night and day, for I feared that now
he was free he would certainly not omit to repay me for his broken
pate. And yet it was I who caught him. For the moment I had forgotten
all about him, when coming from aloft and dropping lightly with my
bare feet upon the bottom of one of the upturned boats on the roof of
our house, I saw something stirring in the folds of the main-topmast
staysail that was lying there loosely huddled together. Leaping
upon the heap of canvas I screamed for help, bringing half-a-dozen
men to the spot in a twinkling. Not without some severe bites, the
rascal was secured, and by means of a stout belt round his waist
effectually prevented from getting adrift again. I looked to see him
summarily put to death, but no one seemed to think his atrocious
behaviour merited any worse punishment than a sound thrashing except
the cook and steward, and they being our natural enemies were of
course unheeded. The fact is Jocko had, after his first performance,
confined his attentions to the cabin and galley, where he had done
desperate damage and made the two darkies lead a most miserable
life. This conduct of his I believe saved his life, as those two
functionaries were cordially detested by the men for many reasons.
At any rate he was spared, and for some time led a melancholy life
chained up on the forecastle head during the day, and underneath
it at night. Meantime we had sailed from Bombay and arrived at
Conconada, where the second mate bought a monkey, a pretty tame
little fellow that hadn’t a bit of vice in him. He was so docile that
when we got to sea again he was allowed to have the run of the ship.
Petted by everybody, he never got into any mischief, but often used
to come forward and sit at a safe distance from Jocko, making queer
grimaces and chatterings at him, but always mighty careful not to get
too near. Jocko never responded, but sat stolidly like a monkey of
wood until the little fellow strolled away, when he would spring up
and tear at his chain, making a guttural noise that sounded as much
like an Arab cursing as anything ever I heard. So little Tip went on
his pleasant way, only meeting with one small mishap for a long time.
He was sitting on deck one sunny afternoon with his back against
the coamings of the after-hatch, his little round head just visible
above its edge. One of the long-legged raw-boned roosters we had got
in Conconada was prowling near on the never-ending quest for grub.
Stalking over the hatch he suddenly caught sight of this queer little
grey knob sticking up. He stiffened himself, craned his neck forward,
and then drawing well back dealt it a peck like a miniature pick-axe
falling. Well, that little monkey was more astonished than ever I saw
an animal in my life. He fairly screamed with rage while the rooster
stood as if petrified with astonishment at the strange result of his
investigations.

Owing to the close watch kept upon Jocko he led a blameless life for
months. Apparently reconciled to his captivity he gradually came to
be regarded as a changed animal who had repented and forsaken his
evil ways for life. But my opinion of him never changed. It was never
asked and I knew better than to offer it, but there was a lurking
devil in his sleepy eyes that assured me if ever he got loose again
his previous achievements would pale into insignificance before
the feats of diabolical ingenuity he would then perform. Still the
days and weeks rolled by uneventfully until we were well into the
fine weather to the north’ard of the Line in the Atlantic. We had
been exceptionally favoured by the absence of rain, and owing to
the exertions of the second mate, who was an enthusiast over his
paint-work, her bulwarks within and her houses were a perfectly
dazzling white, with a satiny sheen like enamel. In fact I heard him
remark with pardonable pride that he’d never seen the paint look so
well in all his seven voyages as second of the _Belle_. Tenderly, as
if it were his wife’s face, he would go over that paint-work even in
his watch below, with bits of soft rag and some clean fresh water,
wiping off every spot of defilement as soon as it appeared. Tarring
down was accomplished without a spot or a smear upon the paint, and
the decks having been holystoned and varnished, the second mate now
began to breathe freely. No more dirty work remained to be done, and
he would have a lot more time to devote to his beloved white paint.
We had been slipping along pretty fast to the north’ard, and one
afternoon the old man had all hands up to bend our winter suit of
sails. Every mother’s son of them were aloft except me, and I was
busy about the mainmast standing by to attend to the running gear, as
I was ordered from above. As they had hoisted all the sails up before
they had started aloft, they were there a long time, as busy as
bees trying to get the job finished. At last all was ready and down
they came. One of them went forrard for something, and immediately
raised an outcry that brought all hands rushing to the spot, thinking
that the ship was on fire or something. The sight they saw was a
paralysing one to a sailor. On both sides of the bulwarks and the
lower panels of the house were great smears and splashes of Stockholm
tar, while all along the nice blue covering-board the mess was
indescribable. With one accord everybody shouted “That---- monkey.”
Yes, as they spoke there was a dull thud and down from aloft fell
a huge oakum wad saturated with tar. They looked up and there he
sat, an infernal object, hardly distinguishable for a monkey, being
smothered from head to tail-end with the thick glutinous stuff. But
his white teeth gleamed and his wicked eye twinkled merrily as he
thought of the heavenly time he’d been having, a recompense for what
must have seemed years of waiting. Too late, the men now remembered
that the tar barrel, its head completely out, had been left up-ended
by the windlass where it had been placed for convenience during
tarring down. It was there still, but leading from it in all
directions were streams of tar where Jocko had dragged away the
dripping wads he had fished out of its black depths. I was never
revengeful, but if I had been I should have felt sorry for the second
mate, my old tyrant, now. He drooped and withered like a scarlet
runner under the first sharp frost. Not a word did he say, but he
looked as if all the curses in every tongue that ever were spoken
were pouring over his brain in a flood. Pursuit of the monkey was
out of the question. Clambering over the newly tarred rigging was
bad enough when done with all care, but in a chase, especially over
places where it had been freshly anointed by the fugitive, we should
have had all hands captured like flies on a gummed string. They all
stood and glared at the mess like men not knowing how to adjust their
minds to this new condition of things, nor, when the skipper and
mate came forrard to see what was the matter, did they contribute
any words good, bad, or indifferent. Apparently they would have
remained there till they dropped, fascinated by the horrible sight,
but suddenly piercing screams aft startled everybody. Jocko had
crept down the mizen rigging and pounced upon poor little Tip, who
was delicately combing himself (he was as daintily clean as a cat)
on the after hatch. And now Jocko was perched on the cro’jack yard
vigorously wiping his tar-drenched fur with Tip as if he had been a
dry wad. The second mate started from his lethargy and sprang aloft
to the rescue of his screaming pet with an agility scarcely inferior
to that of Jocko. Rage seemed to give him energy, for presently he
pressed Jocko so hard (he let poor little Tip go as soon as he saw
his pursuer) that he ran out along the mizen topsail brace, and,
balancing himself for a moment, covered his eyes with his hands and
sprang into the sea. Bobbing up like a cork, he struck out away from
the ship which was only just moving, but in less than five minutes
he repented his rashness and swam back. A line was flung to him, he
promptly seized it and was at once a captive again. The men were so
impressed by his prowess that they refused to allow the second mate
to touch him, nor did any of them even beat him lest they should have
bad luck. But they replaced the chafed-through ring he had broken
by a massive connecting-link, and when Jamrach’s man came aboard in
London Jocko was sold to him for five shillings. Tip went to the
Crystal Palace and met a worse fate.



                           BIG GAME AT SEA


Sportsmen of ample means and unlimited leisure often deplore the
shrinkage which goes on at an ever-accelerating rate of such free
hunting-grounds as still remain. Owing to the wonderful facilities
for travel allied to increased wealth, they foresee, not, perhaps,
the extinction of the great wild animals which alone they consider
worthy of their high prowess, but such close preservation of them
in the near future that the free delight of the hunter will surely
disappear. Therefore it may be considered opportune to point out
from the vantage ground of personal experience some aspects of
sport at sea which will certainly not suffer by comparison with any
hunting on land, no matter from what point we regard it. It will
readily be conceded that one of the chief drawbacks to the full
enjoyment of sport in wild lands is the large amount of personal
suffering entailed upon the hunters by evil climates and transport
difficulties. It is all very well to say that these things are part
of the programme, and that taking the rough with the smooth is of the
very essence of true sportsmanship. That need not be disputed while
denying that there is anything attractive in the idea of becoming
a permanent invalid from malaria or being harassed to the verge of
madness by the unceasing oversight of a gang of wily children of
nature saturated with the idea that the white maniac is delivered
over to them as a prey by “the gods of things as they are.” The
fascination of sport consists in the dangers of the chase, the
successful use of “shikar,” the elation of conscious superiority over
the lords of the brute creation, and not, as some dull souls would
assert, in the gratification of primitive instincts of blood-lust,
or the exercise of cruelty to animals for its own sake. Neither does
it consist in wading across fetid swamps, groping through steaming
forests, or toiling with leathern tongue and aching bones over
glowing sands, a prey to all the plagues of Egypt augmented by nearly
every other ill that flesh is heir to. No; few of us need persuading
that any of these horrors are the unavoidable necessary concomitants
of sport, they are endured because to all appearance any hunting
worthy the name is not to be obtained apart from them.

From all such miseries sport at sea is free. A well-appointed yacht,
built not for speed but for comfort, need not be luxurious to afford
as satisfactory a “hunting-box” as any sportsman could reasonably
desire. And for the question of cost--it may be high enough to
satisfy the craving for squandering felt by the most wealthy
spendthrift, or so low as to become far cheaper than a hunting
expedition to Africa or the Rockies. For a successful sporting voyage
a sailing vessel, or at most an auxiliary screw-steamer of low power,
is best, for the great game of the ocean is full of alarms, and
must needs be approached with the utmost silence and circumspection.
As for the question of equipment, it seems hardly necessary to say
that everything should be of the very best, but not by any means
of the most expensive quality procurable. All such abominations as
harpoon-guns, bombs, &c., should be strictly barred, the object being
sport, not slaughter. Given sufficient outlay, with the resources
of science now at the purchaser’s disposal, it is quite possible to
reduce whaling, for instance, to as tame an affair as a hand-fed
pheasant battue or tame-rabbit coursing, neither of which can surely
by any stretch of courtesy be called sport. The old-fashioned hand
harpoons, the long, slender lances that, except for excellence
of workmanship and material, are essentially the same as used by
the first followers of the vast sea-mammals, these should be the
sportsman’s weapons still if he would taste in its integrity the
primitive delight of the noblest of created beings in the assertion
of his birthright, “Dominion over the fish of the sea and over the
fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth.”

The best type of vessel for a sporting cruise at sea is what is known
to seamen as a “barquentine,” a vessel, that is to say, of some 250
tons register, with three masts, square-rigged at the fore--after the
style of the well-known _Sunbeam_. In her davits she should carry
three whaleboats, such as the Americans of New Bedford or Rhode
Island know so well how to build, the handsomest and most sea-worthy
of all boats ever built. The whaleboats built in Scotland, though
strong and serviceable, are less elegant and handy, being more fitted
for rough handling among ice-floes, into which rough neighbourhoods
the sea-sportsman need never go--should not go, in fact, for the best
display of his powers. The whale-line, made in the old whaling ports
of New England--tow-line as it is locally termed--cannot be beaten.
It possesses all the virtues. Light, silky, and of amazing strength,
it is a perfect example of what rope should be, and is as much
superior to the unkind, harsh hemp-line of our own islands as could
well be imagined. From the same place should be obtained the services
of a few whaling experts, accustomed, as no other seafarers are, to
the chase of the sperm-whale, the noblest of all sea-monsters. Advice
as to fishing-tackle would be out of place, except the general remark
that, as in the deep seas the angler will meet with the doughtiest
opponent of his skill the ocean contains, he must needs lay in a
stock of tackle of the very strongest and best. Tarpon fishing is a
fairly good test of the trustworthiness of gear, but whoso meets the
giant albacore in mid-ocean, and overcomes him, will have vanquished
a fish to which the tarpon is but as a seven-pound trout to a lordly
salmon. All the appliances known to naturalists for the capture
and preservation of the smaller habitants of the deep sea ought to
be carried, for, although not strictly sport, this work is deeply
interesting and useful, besides affording a pleasant variety of
occupation.

But, passing on to the actual conditions of conflict, let us suppose
the sportsman cruising in the North Atlantic between the Cape Verde
Islands and the West Indies--a wide range, truly, but no part of
it barren of the highest possibilities for pleasure. A school of
sperm whales is sighted, the vessel is carefully manœuvred for the
weather-gage of them, and this being obtained, the boats are softly
lowered, sail is set, and, with the fresh trade-wind, away they go
leaping to leeward. The utmost precaution against noise must be
taken, because the natural susceptibility of the whale to sound
is as delicate as the receiver of a telephone. No amount of oral
instruction would here be of any avail without long experience,
which, since it can be hired, there is no need to waste time and
patience in acquiring. Assuming, therefore, that the preliminary
difficulty of approach to the sensitive monsters has been overcome,
and there remains but a few fathoms of rapidly lessening distance
between the boat and the unconscious whale, who could satisfactorily
describe the sensations crowded into those few remaining moments
of absolute quiet, the tension of expectation, the uncertainty of
the result of the approaching conflict? The object of attack is the
mightiest of living animals, he is in his own element, to which the
assailant is but a visitor on sufferance, and he may retaliate in so
fierce and tremendous a fashion that no amount of skill, courage,
or energy shall suffice to protect the aggressor from his fury. But
there is no thought of drawing back, the swift-gliding boat rushes
high up on to the broad bank of flesh, and with a long-pent-up yell
the harpoon is hurled. It enters the black mass noiselessly, the
weight of its pole bends the soft iron shaft over as the attached
line stretches out, and as the boat slowly, so slowly, backs away,
the leviathan, amazed and infuriated, thrashes the quiet sea into
masses of hissing foam, while the thunder of his blows resounds like
the uproar of a distant cannonade. At this time certain necessary
rearrangements, such as furling and stowing sail, make it impossible,
even if it were wise, to approach the indignant whale, and as a
general thing by the time these preparations are complete he has
sought the shelter of the depths beneath, taking out flake after
flake of the neatly coiled line. With ordinary care, especially
where only one boat is engaged, it would seldom happen that all the
line would run out, and the game be lost. Usually, after an interval
of about twenty minutes, during which the line is slacked away as
slowly and grudgingly as possible, it is felt to give, and the slack
must be hauled in with the utmost smartness, a sharp look-out being
kept meanwhile upon the surrounding surface for a sudden white glare
beneath--the cavity of the whale’s throat, as he comes bounding to
the surface with his vast jaws gaping wider than a barn-door. It is
at this time that the true excitement, the joy of battle, begins.
For in most cases the huge animal has come to fight, and being in
his turn the aggressor, his enemies must exert all their skill in
boatsmanship, preserve all their coolness and watchfulness, since a
mistake in tactics or loss of presence of mind may mean the instant
destruction of the boat, if not the sudden and violent death of
some of her crew. As a general rule, however, after a few savage
rushes avoided by wary manœuvring on the part of the hunters, the
whale starts off to windward at his best speed (from twelve to
fourteen knots an hour), towing the boat or boats after him with
the greatest ease. This is a most exhilarating experience. For the
mighty steed, ploughing his strenuous way through the waves, seems
the living embodiment of force, and yet he is, as it were, harnessed
to his exulting foes, compelled to take them with him in spite of
his evident desire to shake himself free. While he goes at his best
speed a near approach to him is manifestly impossible; but, vast as
his energies are, the enormous mass of his own body carried along
so rapidly soon tires him, and he slows down to five or six knots.
Then all hands, except the one in charge and the helmsman, “tail
on” to the line, and do their best to haul up alongside the whale.
The steersman sheers the boat clear of his labouring flukes as she
comes close to him, and then allows her to point inward towards his
broad flank, while the lance-wielder seeks a vulnerable spot wherein
to plunge his long, slender weapon. It is of little use to dart the
lance as the harpoon is flung; such an action is far more likely
to goad the whale into a new exhibition of energy than to do him
any disabling injury. Being at such close quarters, it is far more
sportsmanlike, as well as effectual, to thrust the lance calmly and
steadily into the huge mass of flesh so near at hand. If the aim has
been well taken--say, just abaft and below the pectoral fin--more
than one home-thrust will hardly be needed, even in a whale of the
largest size, and a careful watch must be kept upon the spout-hole
for the first sign of blood discolouring the monster’s breath. For
that is evidence unmistakable of the beginning of the end. It shows
that some vital part has been pierced, and although the whale-fishers
always continue their “pumping” with the lance up to the very verge
of disaster, once the whale has begun to spout blood it is quite
unnecessary to continue the assault. Still, at this stage of the
proceedings the primitive instincts are usually fully aroused, and
nothing seems to satisfy them but persistent fury of attack, until
the actual commencement of the tremendous death-agony or “flurry” of
the noble beast gives even the most excited hunter warning that it
is time to draw off and endeavour to keep clear of the last Titanic
convulsions of the expiring monster. No other created being ever
furnishes such a display of energy. Involuntarily one compares it
with the awful manifestations of the earthquake, the volcano, or the
cyclone. And when at last the great creature yields up the dregs of
his once amazing vitality, no one possessing a spark of imagination
can fail to be conscious of an under-current of compunction mingling
with the swelling triumph of such a victory.

But the seeker after big sea-game should attack the rorqual if he
would see sport indeed. For this agile monster has such a reputation
for almost supernatural cunning that even if he were as valuable
as he really is valueless commercially, it is highly doubtful if
he would ever be molested. As it is, all the tribe are chartered
libertines, since no whaleman is likely to risk the loss of a boat’s
gear for the barren honour of conquest. And not only so, but the
rorquals, whether “fin-back,” “sulphur-bottom,” or “blue-back,” as
well as the “hump-back” and grampus, make it a point of honour to
sink when dead, unlike the “cachalot” or “Bowhead,” who float awash
at first, but ever more buoyantly as the progress of decay within
the immense abdominal cavity generates an accumulating volume of
gas. Any old whaleman would evolve in the interests of sport no end
of dodges for dealing with the wily rorqual, such as a collection of
strongly attached bladders affixed to the line to stay his downward
rush, short but broad-barbed harpoons, to get a better hold upon the
thin coating of blubber, &c. In this kind of whaling there is quite
sufficient danger to make the sport exciting in the highest degree.
Not, however, from the attack of the animal hunted, but because his
evolutions in the effort to escape are so marvellously vivacious
that only the most expert and cool-headed boatsmanship can prevent a
sudden severance of the nexus between boat and crew. A splendid day’s
sport can be obtained with a school of blackfish. Although seldom
exceeding a ton and a half in weight, these small whales are quite
vigorous enough to make the chase of them as lively an episode as the
most enthusiastic hunter could wish, especially if two or even three
are harpooned one after the other on a single line, as the whalers’
custom is. The sensation of being harnessed as it were to a trio of
monsters, each about 25 feet long, and 8 feet in girth, every one
anxious to flee in a different direction at the highest speed he can
muster, and in their united gambols making the sea boil like a pot,
is one that, once experienced, is never likely to be forgotten. The
mere memory of that mad frolic over the heaving bosom of the bright
sea makes the blood leap to the face, makes the nerves twitch, and
the heart long to be away from the placid round of everyday life upon
the bright free wave again. Even a school of porpoises, in default
of nobler game, can furnish a lively hour or two, especially if
they be of a fair size, say up to three or four hundredweight each.
But of a truth there need be no fear of a lack of game. The swift
passage from port to port made by passenger vessels is apt to leave
the voyager with the impression that the sea is a barren waste, but
such an idea is wholly false. Even the sailing-ships, bound though
they may be to make the shortest possible time between ports, are
compelled by failure of wind to see enough of the everyday life of
the sea-population to know better than that, and whoso gives himself
up to the glamour of sea-study, making no haste to rush from place to
place, but leisurely loitering along the wide plains of ocean, shall
find each day a new world unfolding itself before his astonished
eyes, a world of marvels, infinitely small, as well as wondrous
great--from the thousand and one miracles that go to make up the
“Plankton” to the antediluvian whale.

Fishing in its more heroic phases is obtainable in deep-sea
cruising as nowhere else. The hungry sailor, perched upon the flying
jib-boom end, drops his line, baited with a fluttering fragment of
white rag, and watches it with eager eyes as it skips from crest to
crest of the foam-tipped wavelets, brushed aside by the advancing
hull of his ship. And although his ideas are wholly centred upon
dinner--something savoury, to replace the incessant round of salt
beef and rancid pork--he cannot help but feel the zest of sport when
upward to his clumsy lure come rushing eagerly dolphin, bonito, or
skipjack. But if--putting all lesser fish to flight--the mighty
albacore leaps majestically at his bait, prudence compels him to
withdraw from the unequal contest; he knows that he stands not the
remotest chance of hauling such a huge trophy up to his lofty perch,
or of holding him there, should he be able to get a grip of him. To
the scientific angler, however, equipped with the latest resources
of fishing-tackle experts, and able to devote all the manipulation
of his vessel to the capture of such a trophy, the fishing of the
albacore would be the acme of all angling experiences. Good sport can
be got out of a school of large dolphin or bonito, their vigorous
full-blooded strife being a revelation to those who only know the
lordly salmon or skittish trout, but the albacore is the supreme test
of the angler’s ability. Shark-fishing is very tame after it. For
the shark, though powerful, has none of the dash and energy which
characterise the albacore, and would soon be an object of scorn to a
fisherman who had succeeded in catching the monarch of the mackerel
tribe. But if the fisherman, cruising near the confines of the
Caribbean Sea, should come across one of those nightmares known as
alligator-guards or devil-fish, a species of ray often one hundred
and twenty feet in area, he would find a new sensation in its chase
and capture, besides being the possessor of such a marine specimen as
is at present lacking to any museum in the world.

And this brings the reflection, which may fittingly draw this
article to a close, that not the least of the delights which such a
cruise must bring to one fortunate enough to enjoy it would be the
incalculable service rendered to marine natural history. This branch
of science offers an almost illimitable field to the student. It is
nearly a new world awaiting its Columbus, and it is not difficult to
foresee that before very long it will have found its votaries among
men of wealth, leisure, and energy, delighted to enter into the joy
of a happy hunting-ground of boundless extent and inexhaustible
fecundity.



                            A SEA CHANGE


Night was unfolding her wings over the quiet sea. Purple, dark and
smooth, the circling expanse of glassy stillness met the sky rim
all round in an unbroken line, like the edge of some cloud-towering
plateau, inaccessible to all the rest of the world. A few lingering
streaks of fading glory laced the western verge, reflecting splashes
of subdued colour half-way across the circle, and occasionally
catching with splendid but momentary effect the rounded shoulder
of an almost imperceptible swell. Their departure was being noted
with wistful eyes by a little company of men and one woman, who,
without haste and a hushed solemnity as of mourners at the burial
of a dear one, were leaving their vessel and bestowing themselves
in a small boat which lay almost motionless alongside. There was
no need for haste, for the situation had been long developing.
The brig was an old one, whose owner was poor and unable to spare
sufficient from her scanty earnings for her proper upkeep. So she
had been gradually going from bad to worse, not having been strongly
built of hard wood at first, but pinned together hastily by some
farmer-shipbuilder-fisherman up the Bay of Fundy, mortgaged strake by
strake, like a suburban villa, and finally sold by auction for the
price of the timber in her. Still, being a smart model and newly
painted, she looked rather attractive when Captain South first saw
her lying in lonely dignity at an otherwise deserted quay in the St.
Katharine’s Docks. Poor man, the command of her meant so much to him.
Long out of employment, friendless and poor, he had invested a tiny
legacy, just fallen to his wife, in the vessel as the only means
whereby he could obtain command of even such a poor specimen of a
vessel as the _Dorothea_. And the shrewd old man who owned her drove
a hard bargain. For the small privilege of the skipper carrying his
wife with him 50s. per month was deducted from the scanty wage at
first agreed upon. But in spite of these drawbacks the anxious master
felt a pleasant glow of satisfaction thrill him as he thought that
soon he would be once more afloat, the monarch of his tiny realm, and
free for several peaceful months from the harassing uncertainties of
shore-life.

In order to avoid expense he lived on board while in dock, and made
himself happily busy rigging up all sorts of cunning additions to
the little cuddy, with an eye to the comfort of his wife. While
thus engaged came a thunderclap, the first piece of bad news. The
_Dorothea_ was chartered to carry a cargo of railway iron and
machinery to Buenos Ayres. Had he been going alone the thing would
have annoyed him, but he would have got over that with a good
old-fashioned British growl or so. But with Mary on board--the
thought was paralysing. For there is only one cargo that tries a ship
more than railway metal, copper ore badly stowed. Its effect upon a
staunch steel-built ship is to make her motion abominable--to take
all the sea-kindness out of her. A wooden vessel, even of the best
build, burdened with those rigid lengths of solid metal, is like a
living creature on the rack, in spite of the most careful stowage.
Every timber in her complains, every bend and strake is wrenched and
strained, so that, be her record for “tightness” never so good, one
ordinary gale will make frequent exercise at the pump an established
institution. And Captain South already knew that the _Dorothea_
was far from being staunch and well-built, although, happily for
his small remaining peace of mind, he did not know how walty and
unseaworthy she really was. A few minutes’ bitter meditation,
over this latest crook in his lot, and the man in him rose to the
occasion, determined to make the best of it and hope steadily for
a fine run into the trades. He superintended her stowing himself,
much to the disgust of the stevedores, who are never over particular
unless closely watched, although so much depends upon the way their
work is done. At any rate, he had the satisfaction of knowing that
the ugly stuff was as handsomely bestowed as experience could
suggest, and, with a sigh of relief, he saw the main hatches put on
and battened down for a full due.

In the selection of his crew he had been unusually careful. Five
A.B.’s were all that he was allowed, the vessel being only 500 tons
burden, two officers besides himself, and one man for the double
function of cook and steward. Therefore, he sought to secure the best
possible according to his judgment, and really succeeded in getting
together a sturdy little band. His chief comfort, however, was in his
second mate, who was a Finn--one of that phlegmatic race from the
eastern shore of the Baltic who seem to inherit not only a natural
aptitude for a sea life, but also the ability to build ships, make
sails and rigging, do blacksmithing, &c.--all, in fact, that there is
to a ship, as our cousins say. Slow, but reliable to the core, and a
perfect godsend in a small ship. In Olaf Svensen, then, the skipper
felt he had a tower of strength. The mate was a young Londoner, smart
and trustworthy--not too independent to thrust his arms into the
tarpot when necessary, and amiable withal. The other six members of
the crew--two Englishmen and three Scandinavians--were good seamen,
all sailors--there wasn’t a steamboat man among them--and, from the
first day when in the dock they all arrived sober and ready for work,
matters went smoothly and salt-water fashion.

It was late in October when they sailed, and they had no sooner
been cast adrift by the grimy little “jackal” that towed them down
to the Nore than they were greeted by a bitter nor’-wester that
gave them a sorry time of it getting round the Foreland. The short,
vicious Channel sea made the loosely-knit frame of the brig sing a
mournful song as she jumped at it, braced sharp up, and many were
the ominous remarks exchanged in the close, wedge-shaped fo’c’s’le
on her behaviour in these comparatively smooth waters, coupled with
gloomy speculations as to what sort of a fist she would make of the
Western Ocean waves presently. Clinkety-clank, bang, bang went the
pumps for fifteen minutes out of every two hours, the water rising
clear, as though drawn from overside, and a deeper shade settled on
the skipper’s brow. For a merry fourteen days they fought their way
inch by inch down Channel, getting their first slant between Ushant
and Scilly in the shape of a hard nor’-easter, that drove them clear
of the land and 300 miles out into the Atlantic. Then it fell a calm,
with a golden haze all round the horizon by day, and a sweet, balmy
feel in the air--a touch of Indian summer on the sea. Three days it
lasted--days that brought no comfort to the skipper, who could hardly
hold his patience when his wife blessed the lovely weather, in her
happy ignorance of what might be expected as the price presently
to be paid for it. Then one evening there began to rise in the
west the familiar sign so dear to homeward-bounders, so dreaded by
outward-going ships--the dense dome of cloud uplifted to receive the
setting sun. The skipper watched its growth as if fascinated by the
sight, watched it until at midnight it had risen to be a vast convex
screen, hiding one-half of the deep blue sky. At the changing of
the watch he had her shortened down to the two lower topsails and
fore-topmast staysail, and having thus snugged her, went below to
snatch, fully dressed, a few minutes’ sleep. The first moaning breath
of the coming gale roused him almost as soon as it reached the ship,
and as the watchful Svensen gave his first order, “Lee fore brace!”
the skipper appeared at the companion hatch, peering anxiously to
windward, where the centre of that gloomy veil seemed to be worn
thin. The only light left was just a little segment of blue low down
on the eastern horizon, to which, in spite of themselves, the eyes
of the travailing watch turned wistfully. But whatever shape the
surging thoughts may take in the minds of seamen, the exertion of the
moment effectually prevents any development of them into despair in
the case of our own countrymen. So, in obedience to the hoarse cries
of Mr. Svensen, they strove to get the _Dorothea_ into that position
where she would be best able to stem the rising sea, and fore-reach
over the hissing sullenness of the long, creaming rollers, that as
they came surging past swept her, a mile at a blow, sideways to
leeward, leaving a whirling, broadside wake of curling eddies. Silent
and anxious, Captain South hung with one elbow over the edge of the
companion, his keen hearing taking note of every complaint made
by the trembling timbers beneath his feet, whose querulous voices
permeated the deeper note of the storm.

All that his long experience could suggest for the safety of his
vessel was put into practice. One by one the scanty show of sail
was taken in and secured with extra gasket turns, lest any of them
should, showing a loose corner, be ripped adrift by the snarling
tempest. By eight bells (4 A.M.) the brig showed nothing to the
bleak darkness above but the two gaunt masts, with their ten bare
yards tightly braced up against the lee backstays, and the long
peaked forefinger of the jibboom reaching out over the pale foam. A
tiny weather-cloth of canvas only a yard square was stopped in the
weather main rigging, its small area amply sufficing to keep the
brig’s head up in the wind except when, momentarily becalmed by a
hill of black water rearing its head to windward, it relaxed its
steadfast thrust and suffered the vessel to fall off helplessly into
the trough between two huge waves. Now commenced the long unequal
struggle between a weakly-constructed hull, unfairly handicapped by
the wrench of a dead mass of iron within that met every natural scend
of her frame with unyielding brutality of resistance, and the wise
old sea, kindly indeed to ships whose construction and cargo enable
them to meet its masses with the easy grace of its own inhabitants,
but pitiless destroyer of all vessels that do not greet its curving
assault with yielding grace, its mighty stride with sinuous deference
of retreat. The useless wheel, held almost hard down, thumped slowly
under the hands of the listless helmsman with the regularity of a
nearly worn-out clock, while the oakum began to bulge upward from the
deck seams. As if weary even unto death, the brig cowered before the
untiring onslaught of the waves, allowing them to rise high above the
weather rail, and break apart with terrible uproar, filling the decks
rail-high from poop to forecastle. Pumping was incessant, yet Svensen
found each time he dropped the slender sounding-rod down the tube a
longer wetness upon it, until its two feet became insufficient, and
the mark of doom crept up the line. And besides the ever-increasing
inlet of the sea, men stayed by the pumps only at imminent risk
of being dashed to pieces, for they were, as always, situated in
the middle of the main deck, where the heaviest seas usually break
aboard. There was little said, and but few looks exchanged. The
skipper had, indeed, to meet the wan face of his wife, but she dared
not put her fear into words, or he bring himself to tell her that
except for a miracle their case was hopeless. He seldom left the
deck, as if the wide grey hopelessness around had an irresistible
fascination for him, and he watched with unspeculative eyes the
pretty gambols of those tiny elves of the sea, the Mother Carey’s
chickens, as they fluttered incessantly to and fro across the wake of
his groaning vessel.

So passed a night and a day of such length that the ceaseless tumult
of wind and wave had become normal, and slighter sounds could be
easily distinguished because the ear had become attuned to the
elemental din. Unobtrusively the impassive Svensen had been preparing
their only serviceable boat by stocking her with food, water, &c.
The skipper had watched him with a dull eye, as if his proceedings
were devoid of interest, but felt a glimmer of satisfaction at the
evidence of his second mate’s forethought. For all hope of the
_Dorothea’s_ weathering the gale was now completely gone. Even the
blue patches breaking through the heavy cloud-pall to leeward could
not revive it. For she was now only wallowing, with a muffled roar
of turbid water within as it sullenly swept from side to side with
the sinking vessel’s heavy roll. The gale died away peacefully, the
sea smoothed its wrinkled plain, and the grave stars peered out one
by one, as if to reassure the anxious watchers. Midnight brought a
calm, as deep as if wind had not yet been made, but the old swell
still came marching on, making the doomed brig heave clumsily as it
passed her. The day broke in perfect splendour, cloudless and pure,
the wide heavens bared their solemn emptiness, and the glowing sun in
lonely glory showered such radiance on the sea that it blazed with a
myriad dazzling hues. But into that solitary circle, whereof the brig
was the pathetic centre, came no friendly glint of sails, no welcome
stain of trailing smoke across the clear blue. But the benevolent
calm gave opportunity for a careful launching of the boat, and as
she lay quietly alongside the few finishing touches were given to
her equipment. As the sun went down the vessel’s motion ceased--she
was now nearly level with the smooth surface of the ocean, which
impassively awaited her farewell to the light. Hardly a word was
spoken as the little company left her side and entered the boat. When
all were safely bestowed the skipper said, “Cut that painter forrard
there,” and his voice sounded hollowly across the burdening silence.
A few faint splashes were heard as the oars rose and fell, and the
boat glided away. At a cable’s length they ceased pulling, and with
every eye turned upon the brig they waited. In a painful, strained
hush, they saw her bow as if in stately adieu, and as if with an
embrace the placid sea enfolded her. Silently she disappeared, the
dim outlines of her spars lingering, as if loth to leave, against the
deepening violet of the night.

With one arm around his wife, the skipper sat at the tiller, a small
compass before him, by the aid of which he kept her head toward
Madeira, but, anxious to husband energy, he warned his men not to
pull too strenuously. Very peacefully passed the night, no sound
invading the stillness except the regular plash of the oars and an
occasional querulous cry from a belated sea-bird aroused from its
sleep by the passage of the boat. At dawn rowing ceased for a time,
and those who were awake watched in a perfect silence, such as no
other situation upon this planet can afford, the entry of the new
day. Not one of them but felt like men strangely separated from
mundane things, and face to face with the inexpressible mysteries of
the timeless state. But it was Svensen who broke that sacred quiet by
a sonorous shout of “Sail-ho!” With a transition like a wrench from
death to life, all started into eager questioning; and all presently
saw, with the vigilant Finn, the unmistakable outlines of a vessel
branded upon the broad, bright semi-circle of the half-risen sun.
No order was given or needed. Double-banked, the oars gripped the
water, and with a steady rush the boat sped eastward towards that
beatific vision of salvation. Even the skipper’s face lost its dull
shade of hopelessness, in spite of his loss, as he saw the haggard
lines relax from Mary’s face. Quite a cheerful buzz of chat arose.
Unweariedly, hour after hour, the boat sped onward over the bright
smoothness, though the sun poured down his stores of heat and the
sweat ran in steady streams down the brick-red faces of the toiling
rowers. After four hours of unremitting labour they were near enough
to their goal to see that she was a steamer lying still, with no
trace of smoke from her funnel. As they drew nearer they saw that
she had a heavy list to port, and presently came the suggestion that
she was deserted. Hopes began to rise, visions of recompense for all
their labour beyond anything they could have ever dreamed possible.
The skipper’s nostrils dilated, and a faint blush rose to his cheeks.
Weariness was forgotten, and the oars rose and fell as if driven
by steam, until, panting and breathless, they rounded to under the
stern of a schooner-rigged steamer of about 2000 tons burden, without
a boat in her davits, and her lee rail nearly at the water’s edge.
Running alongside, a rope trailing overboard was caught, and the boat
made fast. In two minutes every man but the skipper was on board, and
a purchase was being rigged for the shipment of Mrs. South. No sooner
was she also in safety than investigation commenced. The discovery
was soon made that, although the decks had been swept and the cargo
evidently shifted, there was nothing wrong with the engines or
boilers except that there was a good deal of water in the stokehold.
She was evidently Italian by her name, without the addition of Genoa,
the _Luigi C._, being painted on the harness casks and buckets, and
her crew must have deserted her in a sudden panic.

Like men intoxicated, they toiled to get things shipshape on board
their prize, hardly pausing for sleep or food. And when they found
the engines throbbing beneath their feet they were almost delirious
with joy. Opening the hatches, they found that the cargo of grain
had shifted, but not beyond their ability to trim, so they went at
it with the same savage vigour they had manifested ever since they
first flung themselves on board. And when, after five days of almost
incessant labour, they took the pilot off Dungeness, and steamed up
the Thames to London again, not one of them gave a second thought to
the hapless _Dorothea_. Twelve thousand pounds were divided among
them by the Judge’s orders, and Captain South found himself able to
command a magnificent cargo steamer of more than 3000 tons register
before he was a month older.



                 THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE “SARAH JANE”


There was no gainsaying the fact that the _Sarah Jane_ was a very
fine barge. Old Cheesy Morgan, whose _Prairie Flower_ she had
outreached in the annual barge regatta by half a mile, owned up
frankly that the _Sarah Jane_, if she _had_ been built out of the
wreckage of a sunken steamboat looted by the miserly old mudlark who
owned her, could lay over any of his fleet, and when _he_ gave in as
far as that you might look upon the discussion as closed. Her skipper
and mate, Trabby Goodjer and Skee Goss, were always ready (when in
company) to punch any single man’s head who said a word against her,
and many sore bones had been carried away from the “Long Reach House”
in consequence. Not that these two worthies were ever sparing of
their extensive vocabulary of abuse of their command when working
up or down the Thames, especially when she missed stays and hooked
herself up on a mudbank about the first of the ebb, making them lose
a whole day.

Ever since her launching she had been regularly employed in the
Margate trade from London with general merchandise and returning
empty. Even this double expense for single freight paid the Margate
shopkeepers better than submission to the extortionate railway
charges, while their enterprise was a golden streak of luck for the
owner of the _Sarah Jane_, and her consorts. When she commenced
the memorable voyage of which this is the veracious log, she had
for crew, besides the two mariners already named, a youngster of
some fifteen years of age as near as he could guess, but so stunted
in growth from early hardships that he did not look more than
twelve. He answered to any name generally that sounded abusive or
threatening, from long habit, but his usual title was the generic
one for boys in north-country ships--Peedee. He had already seen a
couple of years’ service in deep-water vessels, getting far more than
his rightful share of adventurous mishaps, besides having done a
fairly comprehensive amount of vagabondage in the streets of London
and Liverpool. But being so diminutive for his years he found it
difficult to get a berth in a decent-sized ship, and in consequence
it was often no easy matter for him to fill even his small belly, for
all his precocious wits. Fate, supplemented by his own fears, had
hitherto been kind enough to keep him out of a Geordie collier or a
North Sea trawler, but on the day he met Trabby Goodjer outside the
“King’s Arms” in Thames Street, and asked him if he wanted a boy,
his evil genius must have been in the ascendant. He hadn’t tasted
food for two days with the exception of a fistful of gritty currants
he had raked out of a corner on Fresh Wharf, and as the keen spring
wind shrieking round the greasy bacon-reeking warehouses searched
his small body to the marrow he grew desperate. Thus it was that
he became the crew of the _Sarah Jane_. Properly, she should have
carried another man, but following the example of their betters in
the Mercantile Marine the skipper and mate trusted to luck, and found
under-manning pay. The owner lived at Rochester, and rarely saw his
vessel except through a pair of glasses at long intervals as she
passed the entrance to the Medway. So the payment of the crew was in
the skipper’s hands entirely, left to him by the London agent who
“managed” her. By sailing her a man short, and giving a boy 10s. a
month instead of a pound, Captain Goodjer and chief officer Goss were
able to enjoy many cheap drunks, and have thrown in, as it were, the
additional enjoyment of ill-using something that was quite unable to
turn the tables unpleasantly.

Between this delightful pair therefore, whose luck in getting
backwards and forwards to Margate and London was phenomenal, Peedee
had a lively time. Especially so when, from some unforeseen delay or
extra thirst, the supply of liquor in the big stone jar kept at the
head of the skipper’s bunk ran short and they were perforce compelled
to exchange their usual swinish condition of uncertain good-humour
for an irritable restlessness that sought relief by exercising
ingenious forms of cruelty upon their hapless crew. Occasionally they
had a rough-and-tumble between themselves, once indeed they both
rolled over the side in a cat-like scrimmage, but there was nothing
like the solace to be got out of that amusement that there was in
beating Peedee. But he, preternaturally wise, was only biding his
time. The score against his persecutors was growing very long, but a
revenge that should be at once pleasant, enduring, and final, slowly
shaped itself in his mind. Accident rather than design matured his
plans prematurely, but still he showed real genius by rising to the
occasion that thus presented itself and utilising it in a truly
remarkable manner.

One Friday evening in the middle of October the _Sarah Jane_ was
loosed from the wharf where she had received her miscellaneous
freight, and with the usual amount of river compliments and
collisions with the motley crowd of craft all in an apparently
hopeless tangle in the crowded Pool, began her voyage on the first
of the ebb. The skipper and the mate were both more than ordinarily
muzzy, but intuitively they succeeded in getting her away from the
ruck without receiving more than her fair share of hard knocks. Once
in the fairway the big sprit-sail and jib were hove up to what little
wind there was, and away she went at a fairly good pace. Peedee did
most of the steering as he did of everything else that was possible
to him, receiving as his due many pretty bargee-compliments from his
superiors as they sprawled at their ease by the bogie funnel. They
reached Greenhithe at slack water, where, the wind veering ahead,
they anchored for the night at no great distance from the reformatory
ship _Cornwall_. The sails were furled after a fashion, and with
many a blood-curdling threat to Peedee should he fail to keep a
good look-out, Trabby and his mate went below into their stuffy den
to sleep. Somewhere about midnight the shivering boy awoke with a
start, that nearly tumbled him off his perch on the windlass, to see
two white figures clambering on board out of the river. Wide awake
on the instant he saw they were boys like himself, and whispered,
“All right, mates, here y’are.” Noiselessly he showed them the
fo’c’s’le scuttle, where they might get below and hide. When they
had disappeared he crept to the side of the darksome hole and held
a whispered conversation with the visitors, finding that they were
runaways from the _Cornwall_, and immediately his active brain saw
splendid possibilities in this accession of strength if only he
could conceal their presence from his enemies aft. For the present,
however, there was nothing to be done but lie quietly and wait
events. Daring the risk of awakening the “officers” he made a raid
upon the grub-locker aft, securing half a loaf and a lump of Dutch
cheese, which he carried forward to the shivering stowaways. His
own wardrobe being on his back he could not lend them any clothes,
but they comforted themselves with the thought that they would
soon be dry. And assisted by Peedee they made a snug lair in the
gritty convolutions of a worn-out mainsail that was stowed in their
hiding-place, finding warmth and speedy oblivion in spite of their
terrors.

The slack arrived some little time before the pale, cheerless dawn,
and with it a small breeze fair for their passage down. Unwillingly
enough Peedee aroused his masters from their fetid hole, getting
by way of reward for his vigilant obedience of orders a perfectly
tropical squall of curses. Nevertheless they were soon on deck,
having turned in like horses, “all standing.” Without speaking a word
to each other, they proceeded to get the anchor, but so out of humour
were they that Peedee had much more than his usual allowance of fresh
cuts and bruises before the barge was fairly aweigh. Gradually the
wind freshened as if assisted by the oncoming light, so that before
the red disc of the sun peeped over the edge of London’s great gloom
behind them, the _Sarah Jane_ was making grand progress. Again Peedee
took the wheel, while the skipper and mate retired to the cabin
for a drink. Suddenly sounds of woe arose therefrom. The agonising
discovery had been made that the precious jar was empty. It had been
capsized during the night, and the bung, being but loosely inserted,
had fallen out. Its contents now lay in a sticky pool behind the
stove, mixed with the accumulated filth of two or three days. It was
a sight too harrowing for ordinary speech. They glared at one another
for a few seconds in silence, until Trabby with a vicious set of his
ugly mouth growled, “Thet---- young mudlawk.” “Ar,” said the mate,
with an air of having found what he wanted, “I’ll---- well skin ’im
w’en I goo on deck.” But though the thought was pleasant and some
relief to their feelings, they remembered, being sober, that if they
were not a little less demonstrative in their attentions to the boy
they would certainly have to do his work themselves. That gave them
pause, and they discussed with much gravity how they might deal with
him without inconvenience to themselves, until breakfast time. When
they had in hoggish fashion satisfied their hunger (their thirst no
amount of coffee could quench) they lit their pipes and lay back
to get such solace as tobacco could afford, and ruminate also upon
the possibility of replenishing the stone jar. Peedee steered on
steadily, breakfastless, and likely to remain so. Swiftly the barge
sped down the reaches in company with a whole fleet of her fellows
“cluttering up the river,” as an angry Geordie skipper, who had just
shaved close by one of them, remarked, “like a school o’ fat swine
in a tatty field.” So they fared for the whole forenoon without
incident, until with a savage curse and a blow Trabby took the wheel
from the hungry lad, bidding him go and get their dinner ready.
While he was thus engaged a thick mist gradually closed in upon the
crowded river, reducing its vivid panorama to an unreal expanse of
white cloudiness through which phantom shapes slowly glided to an
accompaniment of unearthly sounds. Suddenly to Peedee’s amazement
the big sail overhead began to flap, the jib-sheet rattled on the
“traveller,” and Skee Goss, striding forward, let go the anchor. Then
the two men brailed in the mainsail, allowed the jib to run down, and
without saying a word to the wondering boy, shoved the boat over the
side, jumped into her, and were swallowed up in the fog. The instant
they disappeared Peedee stood motionless, his ears acutely strained
for the measured play of the oars as the skipper and mate pulled
lustily shorewards. When at last he could hear them no longer, he
rushed to the scuttle forward, and dropping on his knees by its side,
called down, “Below there! ’r y’ sleep? On deck with ye ’s quick ’s
the devil’ll let ye.” Up they came, looking scared to death. Without
wasting a word, under Peedee’s direction the three hove the anchor
up, although Peedee was artful enough to lift the solitary pawl so
that it could make no noise. By the time they got the anchor they
were all three streaming with sweat, but without a moment’s pause
Peedee dropped the pawl, and taking a turn with the chain round the
windlass end in case of accidents, cast off the brails, letting the
great brown sail belly out to the fresh breeze. Having got the sheet
aft with a tremendous struggle, he took the wheel, saying, “Now you
two fellers, git forrard ’n histe thet jib up, ’n look lively too
’less you want ter be dam well murdered.” In utter bewilderment as
to what was happening the two lads blundered forward, and guided by
the energetic directions of their self-appointed commander, soon got
the sail set. Fully under control at last, the _Sarah Jane_ sped away
seaward before a breeze that, freshening every minute, bade fair to
be blowing a gale before night.

But Peedee, transformed into a man by his sudden resolve and its
successful execution, called his crew to him, and while he skilfully
guided the barge down the strangely quiet river, endeavoured to
explain to them what he had done and why; together with his plans
for the future. He was utterly contemptuous of their seafaring
abilities, telling them that “he’d teach ’em more in two days than
they’d learn aboard that ugly old hulk in a year,” and although they
were each quite a head and shoulders taller than himself, he treated
them as if they were mere infants and he was an old salt. And there
was a light in his eye, an elasticity in his movements that impressed
them more than all his words. Woe betide them had they dared to
cross him! For in that small body was bubbling and fermenting the
sweet must of satisfied revenge, strengthened by conscious power
and utterly unadulterated by any sense of future difficulty or
responsibility. Higher rose the wind, driving the mist before it and
revealing the broad mouth of the river all white with foam as the
conflicting forces of storm and tide battled over the labyrinth of
banks. Obviously the first thing to do was the instruction of his
crew in steering, for as soon as he found time to think of it he felt
faint with hunger. Fortunately one of the runaways had been coxswain
of a boat, and very little sufficed to show him the difference
between a tiller and a wheel. And all untroubled by the rising sea,
the deeply-laden barge ploughed on far steadier than many a vessel
ten times her size would have done. Relieved from the wheel, Peedee
hastened to the caboose and found some of the dinner he had been
preparing still eatable. Supplementing it by such provisions as he
could easily lay hands on in the cabin, the trio made a hearty meal,
winding up with a smoke all round in genuine sailor fashion.

With hunger appeased and perfect freedom lapping them around, who
shall say that they were not happy? Occasionally a queer little
tremor, a premonition of a price by-and-by to be paid for their
present adventure, thrilled up the spine of each of the two runaways,
but when they stole a glance at the calm features of their commander
they were comforted. So onward they sailed, through the tortuous
channels of the Thames’ estuary, scudding before a stress of wind
under whole canvas at a rate that made Peedee rejoice exceedingly,
although every few minutes a green comber of a sea swept diagonally
across the whole of the low deck, but never invaded the cabin top.
Night fell, the side-lights were exhibited, and like any thousand-ton
ship the _Sarah Jane_ stood boldly out into mid-channel, Peedee
shaping a course which would carry them down well clear of all the
banks. Morning saw them off the Varne shoal, the objects of eager
curiosity to the gaping crew of a huge four-masted barque that
passed them within a cable’s length. And as the sun rose the weather
cleared, the sky smiled down upon them, the keen wind and bright sea
gave them a delicious sense of freedom, while the grand speed of
their ship stirred them to almost delirious delight. This ecstatic
condition lasted for two days until, no definite land being in sight,
and passing vessels becoming fewer, the two new hands began to feel
that dread of the unknown that might have been expected of them.
Timidly they appealed to Peedee to tell them what he was going to
do. But with bitter scorn of their fears, all the fiercer because
he didn’t in the least know what was going to happen, he railed upon
them for a pair of cowardly milksops, and suggested hauling up for
some West-country port and dumping them on the beach. Truth to tell
he was becoming somewhat anxious himself as to his whereabouts, for
the stock of water was getting very low, although there was enough
food in the hold to have lasted them round the world. Fate, however,
served them better than design. When night fell a heavy bank of
clouds which had been lowering in the west all day suddenly began to
rise, and soon after dark, in a sudden squall, the wind shifted to
that quarter with mist and rain. Under these new conditions Peedee
lost his bearings and allowed his command to run away with him into
the darkness to leeward. At about four o’clock in the morning he
heard a dreadful sound, well known to him from experience, the hungry
growl of breakers. But before he had time to get too frightened
there was a sudden turmoil of foaming sea around them in place of
the dark hollows and white summits of the deep water, and with a
tipsy lurch or so the _Sarah Jane_ came to a standstill. She lay
so quietly that Peedee actually called his crew to brail up the
mainsail and haul down the jib in sailor fashion. Daylight revealed
the fact that she was high and dry, having run in past all sorts
of dangers until she grounded under the lee of a beetling mass of
rock and there remained unscathed. While they were having a last
meal they were startled by seeing some uncouth-looking men coming at
top speed over the rugged shore. But they lowered themselves down
over the side and ran to meet them, finding them foreigners indeed.
Before long the whole scanty population was down and busy with the
spoil thus providentially provided, while the three boys were hailed
as benefactors to their species, and made welcome to the best that
the village contained. And two tides after the _Sarah Jane_ was as
though she had never been, while the wanderers, well provided with
necessaries, were off for an autumn tour on foot through Southern
Brittany.



                          SEA-SUPERSTITIONS


Not the least of the mighty changes wrought by the advent of steam
as a motive-power at sea is the alteration it has made in the
superstitious notions current among seamen from the earliest days
of sea-faring. In the hurry and stress of the steamboat-man’s life
there is little scope for the indulgence of any fancies whatever,
and the old sea-traditions have mostly died out for lack of suitable
environment. Indeed, a new genus of seafarers have arisen to whom the
name of sailors hardly applies; they themselves scornfully accept the
designation of “sea-navvies”; and many instances are on record where,
it having become necessary to make sail in heavy weather to aid the
lumbering tramp in her struggle to claw off a lee-shore, or keep
ahead of a following sea, the master has found to his dismay that he
had not a man in his crew capable of tackling such a job.

Perhaps the first old belief to go was that sailing on a Friday was
to court certain disaster. All old sailors dwell with unholy gusto
upon the legend of the ship that was commenced on a Friday, finished
on a Friday, named the _Friday_, commanded by Captain Friday, sailed
on a Friday, and--foundered on the same luckless day with all hands,
as a warning to all reckless shipowners and skippers never again
to run counter to the eternal decrees ordaining that the day upon
which the Saviour of the world was crucified should be henceforth
accursed or kept holy, according to the bent of the considering mind.
But steam has changed all that. When a steamer’s time for loading or
discharging began to be reckoned not in days but in hours, the notion
of detaining her in port for a whole day in deference to an idea
became too ridiculous for entertainment, and it almost immediately
died a natural death. This, of course, had its effect upon the less
hastily worked sailing vessels, although there are still to be
found in British sailing ships masters who would use a good deal of
artifice to avoid sailing on that day. Among the Spanish, Italian,
Austrian, and Greek sailing vessels, however, Friday is still held in
most superstitious awe. And on Good Friday there is always a regular
carnival held on board these vessels, the yards being allowed to
hang at all sorts of angles, the gear flung dishevelled and loose,
while an effigy of Judas is subjected to all the abuse and indignity
that the lively imaginations of the seamen can devise. Finally, the
effigy is besmeared with tar, a rope attached to it which is then
rove through a block at the main yard-arm, it is set alight, and amid
the frantic yells and execrations of the seamen it is slowly swung
aloft to dangle and blaze, while the excited mariners use up their
remaining energies in a wild dance.

Another superstition that still survives in sailing vessels
everywhere is, strangely enough, connected with the recalcitrant
prophet Jonah. It is, however, confined to his bringing misfortune
upon the ship in which he sailed, and seldom is any allusion made
to his miraculous engulphing by the specially prepared great fish.
It does not take a long series of misfortunes overtaking a ship to
convince her crew that a lineal descendant of Jonah and an inheritor
of his disagreeable disqualifications is a passenger. So deeply
rooted is this idea that when once it has been aroused with respect
to any member of a ship’s company, that person is in evil case, and,
given fitting opportunity, would actually be in danger of his life.
This tinge of religious fanaticism, cropping up among a class of men
who, to put it mildly, are not remarkable for their knowledge of
Scripture, also shows itself in connection with the paper upon which
“good words” are printed. It is an unheard-of misdemeanour on board
ship to destroy or put to common use such paper. The man guilty of
such an action would be looked upon with horror by his shipmates,
although their current speech is usually vile and blasphemous beyond
belief. And herein is to be found a curious distinction between
seamen of Teutonic and Latin race, excluding Frenchmen. Despite the
superstitious reverence the former pay to the written word, none of
them would in time of peril dream of rushing to the opposite extreme,
and after madly abusing their Bibles, throw them overboard. But the
excitable Latins, after beseeching their patron saint to aid them in
the most agonising tones, repeating with frenzied haste such prayers
as they can remember, and promising the most costly gifts in the
event of their safely reaching port again, often turn furiously
upon all they have previously been worshipping, and with the most
horrid blasphemies, vent their rage upon the whilom objects of their
adoration. Nothing is too sacred for insult, no name too reverend for
abuse, and should there be, as there often is, an image of a saint on
board, it will probably be cast into the sea.

But one of the most incomprehensible forms of sea-superstition is
that which has for its object that most prosaic of all sea-going
people, the Finns. Russian Finns, seamen always call them, although
there is far more of the Swede than the Russian about them, and their
tongue is Swedish also. They are perhaps the most perfect specimens
of the ideal seafarer in the world, although the Canadian runs them
closely. All things that appertain to a ship seem to come easily to
their doing, from the time of first laying the vessel’s keel until,
with every spar, sail, and item of running gear in its place, she
trips her “kellick” and leaves the harbour behind her for the other
side of the world. And even then the Finn will be found to yield
to none in his knowledge of navigation. Although his hands may be
gnarled and split with toil, and his square, expressionless face look
as if “unskilled labourer” were imprinted upon it, much difficulty
would be found in the search for a keener or more correct hand at
trigonometrical problems, or a better keeper of that most useful
document, a ship’s log-book.

Yet to these men, by common consent, a supernatural status has been
assigned. Whether among the Latins the same idea holds is somewhat
doubtful, but certainly in British, American, and Scandinavian
vessels Finns are always credited with characteristics which a
century ago would have involved them in many unpleasantnesses.
Chiefly harmless, no doubt, these weird powers, yet when your stolid
shipmate is firmly believed to control the winds so masterfully as to
supply his favoured friends with a quartering breeze while all the
rest of the surrounding vessels have a “dead muzzler,” any affection
you may have had for him is seriously liable to degenerate into fear.
It is perhaps hardly necessary to say that from whatever the original
idea of Finnish necromancy originally arose, a whole host of legends
have grown up, many of them too trivial for print, some delightfully
quaint, others not less original than lewd, but all evidently grafts
of fancy upon some parent stock. Thus, while there is a rat in the
ship no Finn was ever known to lose anything, because it is well
known that any rat in the full possession of his faculties would be
only too glad to wait upon the humblest Finn. And the reason why
Finns are always fat is because they have only to go and stick their
knives in the foremast to effect a total change in their meat to
whatever they fancy most keenly at the time. It is well that they are
mostly temperate men, since everybody knows that they can draw any
liquor they like from the water-breaker by turning their cap round,
and they never write letters home because the birds that hover round
the ship are proud to bear their messages whithersoever they list.
The catalogue of their privileges might be greatly extended were
it needful, but one thing always strikes an unbiassed observer--the
Finn is, almost without exception, one of the humblest, quietest of
seafarers, whose sole aim is to do what he is told as well as he
can, to give as little trouble as possible, and where any post of
responsibility is given him to show his appreciation of it by doing
two men’s work, filling up his leisure by devising schemes whereby he
can do more.

Of the minor superstitions there is little to be said. Few indeed
are the old sailors now afloat who would cuff a youngster’s ears for
whistling, fearing that his merry note would raise a storm. Whistling
for wind, however, still persists, as much a habit as the hissing of
a groom while rubbing down a horse, but a very sceptical laugh would
meet any one who inquired whether the whistler believed that his
_sifflement_ would make any difference to the force or direction of
the wind. Fewer still are those who would now raise any objections to
the presence of a clergyman on board. But the belief that a death,
whether of a man or an animal, _must_ be followed by a gale of wind
is perhaps more firmly held than any other, unless it be the notion
that sharks follow any ship wherein is an ailing man or woman, with
horrible anticipation.



                             OCEAN WINDS


Whatever of beauty the sea possesses it owes primarily to the
winds--to the free breath of heaven which sweeps joyously over those
vast lonely breadths, ruffling them with tiniest ripples by its
zephyrs, and hurling them in headlong fury for thousands of miles by
its hurricanes. It may be said that the term “ocean” cannot rightly
be applied to winds at all, since they are common to the whole globe,
and are not, like waves and currents, confined to the sea. But a
little consideration will surely convince that it is just and right
to speak of distinctive ocean winds which by contact with the great,
pure plains of the sea acquire a character which a land wind never
has or can have. In fact, it may be said with perfect truth that but
for the health-bearing winds from the sea, landward folk would soon
sicken and die, for our land winds are laden with disease germs, or,
as in the mistral, the puña, the sirocco, and the simoom, to mention
only a few of these terrible enemies to life, are still more deadly
in their blasting effect upon mankind. From all these evil qualities
ocean winds are free, and he who lives remote from the land, inhaling
only their pure breath, knows truly what health is, feels the blood
dance joyously through his arteries, aerated indeed.

As a factor in sea traffic ocean winds are popularly supposed to
have become negligible. Indeed, the remark is often heard (on shore)
that the steamship has made man independent of wind and tide. It
is just the kind of statement that would emanate from some of our
pseudo-authorities upon marine matters, and akin to the oft-quoted
opinion that the advent of the steamship has driven romance from
the sea. In the first place, seamen know how tremendously the wind
affects even the highest-powered steamship, and although some sailors
will talk about an ocean liner ploughing her way through the teeth
of an opposing gale at full speed, it is only from their love of the
marvellous and desire to make the landsman stare. They know that such
a statement is ridiculously untrue. Leaving the steamship out of the
question, however, there are still very large numbers of vessels at
sea which are entirely dependent upon the winds for their propulsion,
their transit between port and port. They grow fewer and fewer every
year, of course, as they are lost or broken up, because they are not
replaced, yet in certain trades they are so useful and economical
that it is difficult to see why they should be allowed to disappear.
Masters of such ships are considered to be smart or the reverse in
proportion to their knowledge of ocean winds, where to steer in
order to get the full benefit of their incidence, what latitudes to
avoid because there winds rarely blow, and how best to manœuvre
their huge-winged craft in the truly infernal whirl of an advancing
or receding cyclone. For such purposes ocean winds may roughly be
divided into two classes--the settled and the adventitious: those
winds that may fairly be depended upon for regularity both as to
force and direction, and those whose coming and going is so aptly
used in Scripture allegory. Taking as the former class the Trade
winds of the globe, it is found that they are also subject to much
mutability, especially those to the northward of the Equator known as
the “North-East Trades.” Old seamen speak of them as do farmers of
the weather ashore--complain that neither in steadiness of direction
nor in constancy of force are they to be depended upon as of old. Of
course they vary somewhat with the seasons, but that is not what is
complained of by the mariner; it is their capricious variation from
year to year, whereby you shall actually find a strong wind well to
the southward of east in what should be the heart of the North-East
Trades, or at another time fall upon a stark calm prevailing where
you had every right to expect a fresh favouring breeze.

Still, with all their failure to maintain the reputation of former
times in the estimation of sailors (as distinguished from steamship
crews), even the much maligned North-East Trade winds are fairly
dependable. The South-East Trades, again, are almost as sure in their
operation as is the recurrence of day and night. The homeward-bound
sailing ship, once having been swept round the Cape of Good Hope in
spite of adverse winds by the irresistible Agulhas current, usually
finds awaiting her a southerly wind. Sailors refuse to call it the
first of the Trades, considering that any wind blowing without the
Tropics has no claim to be called a “Trade.” This fancy matters
little. The great thing is that these helpful breezes await the
homeward-bounder close down to the southern limit of his passage,
await him with arms outspread in welcome, and coincidently with the
pleasant turning of his ship’s head homeward, permit the yards to be
squared, and the course to be set as desired. And the ship--like a
docile horse who, after a long day’s journey, finds his head pointing
stablewards and settles steadily down to a clinking pace--gathers way
in stately fashion and glides northward at a uniform rate without
any further need of interference from her crew. Throughout the long
bright days, with the sea wearing one vast many-dimpled smile, and
the stainless blue above quivering in light uninterrupted by the
passage of a single cloud, the white-winged ship sweeps serenely on.
All around in the paling blue of the sky near the horizon float the
sleepy, fleecy cumuli peculiar to the “Trades,” without perceptible
motion or change of form. When day steps abruptly into night, and
the myriad glories of the sunless hours reveal themselves shyly to
an unheeding ocean, the silent ship still passes ghost-like upon her
placid way, the steadfast wind rounding her canvas into the softest
of curves, without a wrinkle or a shake. Before her stealthy approach
the glittering waters part, making no sound save a cool rippling
as of a fern-shadowed brooklet hurrying through some rocky dell in
Devon. The sweet night’s cool splendours reign supreme. The watch,
with the exception of the officer, the helmsman, and the look-out
man, coil themselves in corners and sleep, for they are not needed,
and during the day much work is adoing in making their ship smart for
home. And thus they will go without a break of any kind for over two
thousand miles.

Next to the Trades in dependability, and fairly entitled to be
called sub-permanent, are the west winds of the regions north and
south of the Tropics, or about the parallels of 40° north or south.
Without the steadiness of these winds in the great Southern Sea,
the passage of sailing ships to Australasia or India would indeed
be a tedious business. But they can be reckoned upon so certainly
that in many cases the duration of passages of ships outward and
homeward can be predicted within a week, which speaks volumes for the
wonderful average steadiness of the great wind-currents. Although
these winds bear no resemblance to the beautiful Trades. Turbulent,
boisterous, and cruel, they try human endurance to its utmost limits,
and on board of a weak ship, fleeing for many days before their
furious onslaught, anxiety rises to a most painful pitch with the
never-ceasing strain upon the mind. They have also a way of winding
themselves up anew, as it were, at intervals. They grow stronger
and fiercer by successive blasts until the culminating blow compels
even the strongest ships to reduce canvas greatly unless they would
have it carried away like autumn leaves. Then the wind will begin to
shift round by the south gradually and with decreasing force until,
as if impatient, it will jump a couple of points at a time. Then, in
the “old” sea, the baffled, tormented ship staggers blindly, making
misery for her crew and testing severely her sturdy frame. Farther
and farther round swings the wind, necessitating much labour aloft
for the shipmen, until in the space of, say, twenty-four hours from
its first giving way, it has described a complete circle and is back
again in its old quarter, blowing fiercely as ever. Not that this
peculiar evolution is always made. There are times when to sailors’
chagrin the brave west wind fails them in its proper latitudes,
being succeeded by baffling easterlies, dirty weather of all kinds,
and a general feeling of instability, since to expect fine weather
in the sense of light wind and blue sky for any length of time in
those stern regions is to reveal ignorance of their character. Yet
it is only in such occasional lapses from force and course of the
west wind of the south that the hapless seaman seeking to double Cape
Horn from the east can hope to slip round. So that while his fellows
farther east are fleeing to their goal at highest speed, he is being
remorselessly battered by the same gale, driven farther and farther
south, and ill-used generally, and only by taking advantage of the
brief respite can he effect his purpose.

The monsoon winds of the Indian seas are most important and unique
in their seasonal changing. For six months of the year the wind in
the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea will be north-easterly and the
weather fine. Over the land, however, this fine wind is bearing no
moisture, and its longer persistence than usual means famine with
all its attendant horrors. “Fine weather” grows to be a term of
awful dread, and men’s eyes turn ever imploringly to the south-west,
hoping, with an intensity of eagerness that is only felt where life
is at stake, for the darkening of those skies of steely blue, until
one day a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand arises from the sharply
defined horizon. Swiftly it expands into ominous-looking masses, but
the omens are of blessing, of relief from drought and death. The
howling wind hurls before it those leaden water-bearers until, one
by one, they burst over the iron-bound earth, and from station to
station throughout the length and breadth of Hindostan is flashed
the glad message, “The monsoon has burst.” Out at sea the great
steamships emerging from the Gulf of Aden are met by the turbulent
south-wester, and have need of all their power to stem its force,
force which is quite equal to that of a severe Atlantic gale at
times. And all sailors dread the season, bringing as it does to their
sorely tried bodies the maximum of physical discomfort possible at
sea in warm climates.

Of the varying forces of winds, from the zephyr to the hurricane, it
would be easy to write another page, but this subject is not strictly
within the scope of the present article, and must therefore be left
untouched.



                    THE SEA IN THE NEW TESTAMENT


Remembering gratefully, as all students should do, the immense
literary value of the Bible, it is not without a pang of regret that
we are obliged to confess that its pages are so meagre of allusions
to the grandest of all the Almighty’s works--the encircling sea. Of
course we cannot be surprised at this, seeing how scanty was the
acquaintance with the sea enjoyed by ancient civilised peoples, to
whom that exaggerated lake, the Mediterranean, was the “Great Sea,”
and for whom the River Oceanus was the margin of a boundless outer
darkness. Yet in spite of this drawback, Old Testament allusions
to the sea then known, few as they are, remain unsurpassable in
literature, needing not to withdraw their claims to pre-eminence
before such gems as “Ocean’s many-dimpled smile” or the “Wine-dark
main” of the pagan poets. In number, too, though sparsely sprinkled,
they far surpass those of the New Testament, which, were it not for
one splendid exception, might almost be neglected as non-existent.

Our Lord’s connection with the sea and its toilers was confined to
those petty Syrian lakes which to-day excite the traveller’s wonder
as he recalls the historical accounts of hundreds of Roman galleys
floating thereupon; and all his childish dreams of the great sea
upon which the Lord was sailing and sleeping when that memorable
storm arose which He stilled with a word suffer much by being brought
face to face with the realities of little lake and tiny boat. St.
John and St. James show by their almost terror-stricken words about
the sea what they felt, and from want of a due consideration of
proportion their allusions have been much misunderstood. No man who
knew the sea could have written as one of the blissful conditions of
the renewed heaven and earth that there should “be no more sea,” any
more than he could have spoken of the limpid ocean wave as casting up
“mire and dirt.”

But by one incomparable piece of writing Paul, the Apostle born out
of due time, has rescued the New Testament from this reproach of
neglect, and at the same time has placed himself easily in the front
rank of those who have essayed to depict the awful majesty of wind
and wave as well as the feebleness, allied to almost presumptuous
daring, of those who do business in great waters. Wonder and
admiration must also be greatly heightened if we do but remember the
circumstances under which this description was written. The writer
had, by the sheer force of his eloquence, by his daring to await
the precise moment in which to assert his citizenship, escaped what
might at any moment have become martyrdom. Weary with a terrible
journey, faint from many privations, he was hurried on board a ship
of Adramyttium bound to the coast of Asia (places not specified).
What sort of accommodation and treatment awaited him there under
even the most favourable circumstances we know very well. For on the
East African coast even to this day we find precisely the same kind
of vessels, the same primitive ideas of navigation, the same absence
of even the most elementary notions of comfort, the same touching
faith in its being always fine weather as evinced by the absence of
any precautions against a storm.

Such a vessel as this carried one huge sail bent to a yard resembling
a gigantic fishing-rod whose butt when the sail was set came nearly
down to the deck, while the tapering end soared many feet above
the masthead. As it was the work of all hands to hoist it, and the
operation took a long time, when once it was hoisted it was kept so
if possible, and the nimble sailors with their almost prehensile toes
climbed up the scanty rigging, and clinging to the yard gave the
sail a bungling furl. The hull was just that of an exaggerated boat,
sometimes undecked altogether, and sometimes covered in with loose
planks, excepting a hut-like erection aft which was of a little more
permanent character. Large oars were used in weather that admitted of
this mode of propulsion, and the anchors were usually made of heavy
forked pieces of wood, whereto big stones were lashed. There was a
rudder, but no compass, so that the crossing of even so narrow a
piece of water as separated Syria from Cyprus was quite a hazardous
voyage. Tacking was unknown or almost so, and once the mariners got
hold of the land they were so reluctant to lose sight of it that
they heeded not how much time the voyage took or what distances they
travelled.

The nameless ship of Adramyttium then at last ventured from Sidon and
fetched Cyprus, sailing under its lee. How salt that word tastes,
and what visions it opens up of these infant navigators creeping
cautiously from point to point along that rugged coast, heeding not
at all the unnecessary distance so long as they were sheltered from
the stormy autumn weather. Another perilous voyage across “the sea
which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia” (another purely maritime term)
and the harbour of Myra was gained. Great were the rejoicings of
the voyagers, but premature, for every day that passed brought them
nearer to the time of tempest, and consequently of utmost danger. In
fact the memorable voyage of St. Paul may be said to begin here. The
crossing of the Great Sea had been accomplished without incident,
although doubtless occupying so many days that the landsmen were by
this time somewhat accustomed to the misery of life at sea in those
days, when in coarse weather sea-sickness was one of the least of
their woes.

The shipment by the centurion of his prisoners on board of the
Alexandrian wheat-ship marked the commencement of a series of
troubles. In the first place, for such a ship and such a voyage the
number of people on board was far too great, even if we accept the
lower estimate--seventy-six--which is placed on her complement by
some ancient authorities. If she carried two hundred and seventy-six
she must have been like an Arab dhow running a full cargo of slaves,
and it is difficult to see how, even taking into consideration the
way in which both mariners and passengers were inured to hardship,
she could have carried them all through the wild weather and weary
days following without some deaths. “And when we had sailed slowly
many days” (what a world of suffering can be read into those few
pathetic words), they fetched under the lee of Crete with all
the thankfulness that might be expected from men who had been so
pitilessly exposed to the fury of the open sea. With difficulty
they crept along the coast until they got into the Fair Havens and
refreshed their weary hearts.

No wonder they were reluctant to put again to sea, even though they
knew that every day brought wilder weather, and their chance of
wintering in their present harbour safely was poor, from its exposed
position. And now we find St. Paul taking the risky step of advising
seafarers as to the proper conduct of their own business--risky
because while no man likes to be interfered with at his work by
one whom he considers an outsider, sailors are perhaps more touchy
upon this matter than most people. True, the science of navigation
and seamanship was in its infancy, and no such gulf of knowledge
separated landsmen from seamen in those days as existed afterwards,
but one can easily picture the indignation of the commander of the
ship (curiously enough here called the owner, the very same slang
title given to the Captain of a man-of-war by his officers and crew
to-day) when he heard this presumptuous passenger-prisoner thus
daring to give his unasked advice. Besides, Paul’s motive for
wishing to remain in port was one easily misconstrued.

Therefore the centurion’s refusal to listen to Paul’s suggestion was
quite natural; nay, it was inevitable. Still, there was evidently no
intention of persevering with the voyage upon getting under way, only
of entering the nearest harbour that might afford sufficient shelter
against the fury of the winter gales. With a gentle southerly breeze
they left Fair Havens, and moved along the shore. But presently
down from the Cretan mountains Euraquilo came rushing, the furious
Levanter, which is not surpassed in the world for ferocity, hurling
their helpless cockle-shell off shore. Their fear of the storm was
far greater than their fear of the land, for unlike the sailors of
to-day, to whom the vicinity of land in a gale is far more dreaded
than the gale itself, they hugged the small island, Clauda, and
succeeded in their favourite manœuvre, that of getting under the lee
of the land once more. It was high time. The buffeting of the ship
had weakened her to such an extent that she must have threatened to
fall asunder, since they were driven actually to “frap” her together,
that is, bind their cable round and round her and heave it taut--a
parlous state of things, but one to which sailors have often been
brought with a crazy ship in a heavy gale.

In this dangerous state they feared the proximity of hungry rocks,
but instead of reducing sail and endeavouring to get along in
some definite direction, they lowered down the big yard and let
the ship drive whithersoever she would. The storm continued, the
poor, bandaged hull was leaking at every seam, a portion of the
cargo, called by St. Paul by its true nautical name “freight,” was
jettisoned. But that did not satisfy them, and they proceeded to the
desperate extremity of casting overboard the “tackling,” the great
sail and yard, and all movable gear from the upper works except the
anchors.

Then in misery, with death yawning before them, already half drowned,
foodless, and hopeless, they drifted for many days into the unknown
void under that heavy-laden sky before the insatiable gale. In the
midst of all this horror of great darkness, the dauntless prisoner
comforted them, even while unable to forbear reminding them that had
they listened to him, this misery would have been spared them. His
personality never shone brighter than on this occasion; the little
ascetic figure must have appeared Godlike to those poor, ignorant
sufferers.

At the expiration of a fortnight, the sailors surmised that land was
near, although it was midnight. How characteristic is that flash of
insight into the sea-faring instinct, and how true! They sounded and
got twenty fathoms, and in a little while found the water had shoaled
to fifteen. Then they performed a piece of seamanship which may be
continually seen in execution on the East African coast to-day--they
let the anchors down to their full scope of cable and prayed for
daylight. The Arabs do it in fair weather or foul--lower the sail,
slack down the anchor, and go to sleep. She will bring up before she
hits anything.

Unfortunately, space will not admit of further dealing with this
great story of the sea, so familiar and yet so little understood. The
sailors’ cowardly attempt at escape, the discipline of the soldiers
foiling it, the arrangements for beaching her by the aid of what is
here called a foresail, but was probably only a rag of sail rigged up
temporarily to get the ship before the wind, and the escape of all as
foretold by St. Paul, need much more space for dealing with than can
be spared.

But the one thing which makes this story go to the heart of every
seaman is its absolute fidelity to the facts of sea-life; its
log-like accuracy of detail; its correct use of all nautical terms.
In fact, some old seamen go so far as to aver that St. Paul, having
kept an accurate record of the facts, got the captain of the ship to
edit them for him, as in no other way could a landsman such as Paul
was have obtained so seaman-like a grip of the story, both in detail
and language.

  _Note._--It will of course be noted that while the general opinion
  is in favour of assigning to Luke the authorship of the narrative
  commented upon above, I have credited Paul with it. I have my
  reasons, but because of controversy I refrain from stating them.



                     THE POLITY OF A BATTLESHIP


Among the many interesting features of life at sea, few afford
studies more fruitful in valuable thought than the internal economy
of that latest development of human ingenuity--a modern battleship.
It is not by any means easy for a visitor from the shore, upon coming
alongside one of these gigantic vessels, to realise its bulk; the
first effect is one of disappointment. Everything on board is upon
a scale so massive, while the limpid space whereon she floats is so
capacious that the mind refuses to take in her majestic proportions.
And a hurried scamper around the various points of chief interest
on board leaves the mind like a palimpsest where one impression is
superimposed upon another so swiftly that the general effect is but
a blur and no detail is clear. Besides, in such a flying visit the
guide naturally makes the most of those wonders with which he himself
is associated in his official capacity, and thus the visitor is apt
to get a very one-sided view of things. Again, in the course of a
hurried visit in harbour the mind gets so clogged with wonders of
machinery and design, that the human side, always apt to keep itself
in the background, receives no portion of that attention which is
its due. From all of which causes it naturally follows that the only
way in which to obtain anything like a comprehensive notion of the
polity of a battleship is to spend at least a month on board, both
at sea and in harbour, and waste no opportunity of observation of
every part of the ship’s daily life that may be presented. Such
opportunities, naturally, fall to the lot of but few outside the
Service, and from the well-known modesty of sailors, it is next
to hopeless to expect them to enlighten the public upon the most
interesting details of their daily lives.

The mere statement of the figures which belong to a modern battleship
like the _Mars_, for instance, is apt to have a benumbing effect
upon the mind. She displaces 14,900 tons at load draught, is 391
ft. long, 75 ft. wide, and nearly 50 ft. deep from the upper deck
to the bottom. She is divided into 232 compartments by means of
water-tight bulkheads, is protected by 1802 tons of armour, is lit by
900 electric lights, steams 16½ knots, carries 82 independent sets
of engines, mounts 54 different cannon and 5 torpedo tubes, and is
manned by 759 men.

Now it is only fair to say that such a hurried recapitulation of
statistics like these gives no real hint as to the magnitude of
the ship as she reveals herself to one after a few days’ intimate
acquaintance. And that being so, what is to be said of the men, the
population of this floating cosmos, the 759 British entities ruled
over by the Captain with a completeness of knowledge and a freedom
from difficulty that an Emperor might well envy? As in a town, we
have here men of all sorts and professions, we find all manner of
human interests cropping up here in times of leisure, and yet the
whole company have one feeling, one interest in common--their ship,
and through her their Navy.

First of all, of course, comes the Captain, who, in spite of the
dignity and grandeur of his position, must at times feel very lonely.
He lives in awful state, a sentry (of Marines) continually guarding
his door, and although he does unbend at stated times as far as
inviting a few officers to dine with him, or accepting the officers’
invitation to dine in the ward-room, this relaxation must not come
too often. The Commander, who is the chief executive officer, is
in a far better position as regards comfort. He comes between the
Captain and the actual direction of affairs, he has a spacious cabin
to himself, but he takes his meals at the ward-room table among all
the officers above the rank of Sub-Lieutenant, and shares their
merriment; the only subtle distinction made between him and everybody
else at such times being in the little word “Sir,” which is dropped
adroitly in when he is being addressed. For the rest, naval _nous_ is
so keen that amidst the wildest fun when off duty no officer can feel
that his dignity is tampered with, and they pass from sociability to
cast-iron discipline and back again with an ease that is amazing to a
landsman. The ward-room of a battleship is a pleasant place. It is a
spacious apartment, taking in the whole width of the ship, handsomely
decorated, and lit by electricity. There is usually a piano, a good
library, and some handsome plate for the table. It is available
not only for meals, but as a drawing-room, a common meeting-ground
for Lieutenants, Marine officers, surgeons, chaplain, and senior
engineers, where they may unbend and exchange views, as well as enjoy
one another’s society free from the grip of the collar. A little
lower down in the scale of authority, as well as actually in the hull
of the ship, comes the gun-room, the affix being a survival, and
having no actual significance now. In this respect both ward-room and
gun-room have the advantage over the Captain’s cabin, in which there
are a couple of quick-firing guns, causing those sacred precincts
to be invaded by a small host of men at “general quarters,” who
manipulate those guns as if they were on deck. The gun-room is the
ward-room over again, only more so--that is, more wildly hilarious,
more given to outbursts of melody and rough play. Here meet the
Sub-Lieutenants, the assistant-engineers and other junior officers,
_and_ the midshipmen. With these latter Admirals in embryo we find a
state of things existing that is of the highest service to them in
after life. Taking their meals as gentlemen, with a senior at the
head of the table, meeting round that same table at other times for
social enjoyment, once they are outside of the gun-room door they
have no more privacy than the humblest bluejacket. They sleep and
dress and bathe--live, in fact--_coram publico_, which is one of the
healthiest things, when you come to think of it, for a youngster of
any class. Although they are now officers in H.M. Navy, they are
still schoolboys, and their education goes steadily on at stated
hours in a well-appointed schoolroom, keeping pace with that sterner
training they are receiving on deck. The most grizzled old seaman on
board must “Sir” them, but there are plenty of correctives all around
to hinder the growth in them of any false pride.

On the same deck is to be found the common room of the warrant
officers, such as bo’sun, carpenter, gunner; those sages who have
worked their difficult way up from the bottom of the sailor’s ladder
through all the grades, and are, with the petty officers, the
mainstay of the service. Each of them has a cabin of his own, as is
only fitting; but _here_ they meet as do their superiors overhead,
and air their opinions freely. But, like the ward-room officers, they
mostly talk “shop,” for they have only one great object in life,
the efficiency of their charge, and it leaves them little room for
any other topics. Around this, the after part of the ship, cluster
also another little body of men and lads, the domestics, as they are
termed, who do their duty of attendance upon officers and waiting
at table under all circumstances with that neatness and celerity
that is inseparable from all work performed in a ship-of-war.
Body-servants of officers are usually Marines, but the domestics
are a class apart, strictly non-combatant, yet under naval law and
discipline. Going “forrard,” the chief petty officers will be found
to make some attempt at shutting themselves apart from the general,
by arrangements of curtains, &c., all liable and ready to be flung
into oblivion at the first note of a bugle. For the rest, their
lives are absolutely public. No one has a corner that he may call
his own, unless perhaps it is his “ditty box,” that little case
of needles, thread, and etceteras that he needs so often, and is
therefore allowed to keep on a shelf near the spot where he eats.
Each man’s clothes are kept in a bag, which has its allotted place
in a rack, far away from the spot where his hammock and bed are
spirited off to every morning at 5 A.M., to lie concealed until the
pipe “down hammocks” at night. And yet by the arrangement of “messes”
each man has, in common with a few others, a settled spot where they
meet at a common table, even though it be not shut in, and is liable
to sudden disappearance during an evolution. So that a man’s mess
becomes his rallying-point; it is there that the young bluejacket or
Marine learns worldly wisdom, and many other things. The practice
of keeping all bedding on the move as it were, having no permanent
sleeping-places, requires getting used to, but it is a most healthy
one, and even if it were not it is difficult to see how, within the
limited space of a warship, any other arrangement would be possible.
Order among belongings is kept by a carefully graduated system of
fines payable in soap--any article found astray by the ever-watchful
naval police being immediately impounded and held to ransom. And as
every man’s kit is subject to a periodical overhaul by officers any
deficiency cannot escape notice.

Every man’s time is at the disposal of the Service whenever it is
wanted, but in practice much leisure is allowed for rest, recreation,
and mental improvement. Physical development is fully looked after
by the rules of the Service, but all are encouraged to make the best
of themselves, and no efforts on the part of any man to better his
position are made in vain. Nowhere, perhaps, is vice punished or
virtue rewarded with greater promptitude, and since all punishments
and rewards are fully public, the lessons they convey are never lost.
But apart from the Service routine, the civil life of this little
world is a curious and most interesting study. The industrious man
who, having bought a sewing-machine, earns substantial addition to
his pay by making every item of his less energetic messmates’ clothes
(except boots) for a consideration, the far-seeing man who makes his
leisure fit him for the time when he shall have left the Navy, the
active temperance man who seeks to bring one after the other of his
shipmates into line with the ever-growing body of teetotalers that
are fast altering completely the moral condition of our sailors, the
religious man who gets permission to hold his prayer-meeting in some
torpedo-flat or casemate surrounded by lethal weapons--all these go
to make up the multifarious life of a big battleship.

And not the least strange to an outsider is the way in which all
these various private pursuits and varied industries are carried on
in complete independence of each other, often in complete ignorance
of what is going on in other parts of the ship. News flies quickly,
of course, but since every man has his part in the ship’s economy
allotted to him, it naturally follows that he declines to bother his
head about what the other fellows are doing. Sufficient for him that
his particular item is to hand when required, and that he does it as
well and as swiftly as he is able. If he be slack or uninterested in
what concerns himself many influences are brought to bear upon him.
First his messmates, then his petty officer, and so on right up to
the Captain. And through all he is made to feel that his _laches_
affects first the smartness of his ship, then the reputation of the
great British Navy. So the naval spirit is fostered, so the glorious
traditions are kept up, and it continues to be the fact that the
slackest mobilised ship we can send to sea is able to show any
foreign vessel-of-war a lesson in smartness that they none of them
are able to learn. And in the naval battle of the future it will be
the few minutes quicker that will win.



                       THE PRIVACY OF THE SEA


Whether expressed or implied, there is certainly a deep-rooted idea
in the minds of shore-dwellers that the vast fenceless fields of
ocean are in these latter days well, not to say thickly, populated
by ships; that, sail or steam whither you will, you cannot get away
from the white glint of a sailing ship or the black smear along the
clean sky of a steamship’s smoke. There is every excuse for such an
attitude of mind on the part of landward folk. Having no standard of
comparison against which to range the vast lonely breadths of water
which make up the universal highway, and being mightily impressed
by the statistics of shipping owned by maritime nations, they can
hardly be blamed for supposing that the privacy of the sea is a
thing of the past. One voyage in a sailing ship to the Australasian
Colonies or to India, if the opportunities it afforded were rightly
used, would do far more to convince them of the utterly wrong notion
possessing them than any quantity of writing upon the subject could
effect. But unhappily, few people to-day have the leisure or the
inclination to spend voluntarily three months upon a sea passage that
can be performed in little more than one. Even those, who by reason
of poverty or for their health’s sake do take such passages, almost
invariably show signs of utter weariness and boredom. As day after
day passes, and the beautiful fabric in which they live glides gently
and leisurely forward, their impatience grows until in some it almost
amounts to a disease. This condition of mind is not favourable, to
say the least, to a calm study of the characteristic features of
ocean itself. Few indeed are the passengers, and fewer still are the
sailors who will for the delight of the thing spend hour after hour
perched upon some commanding point in wide-eyed, sight-strengthening
gaze out upon the face of the sea.

Upon those who do there grows steadily a sense of the most complete
privacy, a solemn aloofness belonging to the seas. The infrequent
vessel, gentle though her progress may be through the calm waters of
the tropics, still strikes them as an intruder upon this realm of
silence and loneliness. The voices of the crew grate harshly upon the
ear as with a sense of desecration such as one feels upon hearing
loud conversation in the sacred peace of some huge cathedral. And
when a vessel heaves in sight, a tiny mark against the skyline, she
but punctuates the loneliness, as it were--affords a point from which
the eye can faintly calculate the immensity of her surroundings.

Quite differently, yet with its own distinctive privacy, do the
stormy regions of the ocean impress the beholder. In the fine zones
the wind’s presence is suggested rather than felt, so quiet and
placid are its manifestations. Its majestic voice is hushed into a
murmur undistinguishable from the musical rippling of the wavelets
into which it ruffles the shining sea-surface. But when beyond those
regions of perpetual summer the great giant Boreas asserts himself
and challenges his ancient colleague and competitor to a renewal of
the eternal conflict for supremacy, there is an overwhelming sense
of duality which is entirely absent in calmer seas. As the furious
tempest rages unappeasable, and the solemn ocean wakes in mighty
wrath, men must feel that to be present at such a quarrel is to be
like some puny mortal eavesdropping in full Sanhedrim of the High
Gods. Apart altogether from the imminent danger of annihilation,
there is that sense of intrusion which is almost sacrilege, of daring
thus to witness what should surely be hidden from the profane eyes
of the sons of men. All thoughtful minds are thus impressed by the
combat of gale and sea, although their impressions are for the most
part so elusive and shadowy that any definite fixing thereof is
hopeless. Especially is this form of the solemn privacy of the sea
noticeable in the Southern Ocean. Along the line, untraced by mortal
hand except upon a Mercator’s Chart, favoured by the swift sailing
ships between South America and Australasia, the vastest stretch of
ocean known is dotted only at enormous intervals by the fleets of
civilisation. Day succeeds day, lengthening into weeks, during which
the brave intruder is hurled upon her headlong way at the rate of
eight or nine degrees of longitude in the twenty-four hours without
a companion, with no visible environment but sea and sky. And do what
the intelligent novice will, he cannot divest himself of the notion,
when drawing near the confines of New Zealand, seeing how minute that
beautiful cluster of islands appears upon the chart, that it would be
so easy to miss them altogether, to rush past them under compulsion
of the mighty west wind, and waste long painful days struggling
against its power to get back again to the overrun port.

Once in the writer’s own experience an incident occurred that seemed
almost to justify such a fear. Only sixty days had elapsed since
leaving Plymouth with four hundred emigrants on board, and during the
last fortnight the west wind had blown with terrific violence (to
a landsman). But the master, in calmest satisfaction, with fullest
confidence in the power of his ship, had steadfastly refused to
shorten sail. He seldom left the deck, the spectacle of his beautiful
command in her maddened rush to the east being to him apparently
sufficient recompense for loss of rest. At last we flew past the
Snares, those grim outliers of the Britain of the South, and it
became necessary to “haul up” for Port Lyttelton. To do this we must
needs bring that great wind full upon our broadside, and that, with
the canvas we were carrying, would have meant instant destruction. So
all hands were called, and the work of shortening her down commenced.
Several of the lighter sails, at the first slackening from their
previously rigid tension, gave one despairing flap and vanished to
join the clouds. But furious toil and careful skill through long
hours of that dense night succeeded in reducing the previously
great sail area down to three lower-topsails, reefed fore-sail, and
fore-topmast staysail. Then after much careful watching of the waves
that came fatefully thundering on astern until a lull momentarily
intervened, the helm was suddenly put down, and the gallant vessel
swung up into the wind. Nobly done, but as she wheeled there arose
out of the blackness ahead a mountainous shape with a voice that
made itself heard above the gale. Higher and higher it soared until
smiting the bluff of the bow it broke on board, a wave hundreds of
tons in solid weight. The stout steel ship trembled to her keelson,
but she rose a conqueror, while the avalanche of white-topped
water rushed aft dismantling the decks, and leaving them, when it
had subsided, in forlorn ruin. But she was safe. Justifying the
faithfulness and skill of her builders, she had survived where a
weaker ship would have disappeared, beaten out of the upper air
like a paper boat under a stone flung from the bank. Slowly and
laboriously we fore-reached to the northward, until under the lee of
the land the wind changed, and we entered port in triumph.

This sense of solitude induced by contemplation of the ocean is
exceedingly marked even on the best frequented routes and the most
crowded (?) waters. To enter into it fully, however, it is necessary
to sail either in a cable ship, a whaler, or an old slow-going
merchant sailor that gets drifted out of the track of vessels.
Even in the English Channel one cannot but feel how much room there
is. In spite of our knowledge of the numbers of ships that pass and
repass without ceasing along what may truthfully be termed the most
frequented highway in the watery world, there is an undoubtedly
reasonable sense induced by its contemplation that however much
the dry land may become overcrowded the sea will always be equal
to whatever demands may be made upon it for space. There are many
harbours in the world, at any rate landlocked bays that may rightly
be called harbours, wherein the fleets of all the nations might lie
in comfort. And their disappearance from the open sea would leave no
sense of loss. So wide is Old Ocean’s bosom. Perhaps this is even
now more strongly marked than it was fifty years ago. The wonderful
exactitude with which the steam fleets of the world keep to certain
well-defined tracks leaves the intermediate breadths unvisited from
year to year. They are private places whither he who should desire
to hide himself from the eyes of men might hie and be certain that
but for the host of heaven, the viewless wind, and the silent myriads
beneath, he would indeed be alone. They are of the secret places of
the Almighty.

Occasionally the great steamships that lay for us the connecting
nerves of civilisation penetrate these arcana, for their path must be
made on the shortest line between two continents, heedless of surface
tracks. And the wise men who handle these wonderful handmaids of
science know how private are the realms through which they steadily
steam, leaving behind them the thin black line along which shall
presently flash at lightning speed the thought-essence of mankind.
The whaler, alas! is gone; the old leisurely South Seaman to whom
time was a thing of no moment. Her ruler knew that his best prospect
of finding the prey he sought was where no keel disturbed the
sensitive natural vibrations of the wave. So these vessels saw more
of sea solitude than any others. Saw those weird spaces unvisited
even by wind, great areas of silky surface into whose peaceful glades
hardly rolled a gently undulating swell bearing silent evidence
of storms raging half a world away. So too upon occasion did, and
does, a belated sailing-ship, such as one we met in the Southern
Seas bound from the United Kingdom to Auckland, that had been then
nine months on her passage. Into what dread sea-solitudes she had
intruded. How many, many days had elapsed during which she was the
solitary point rising from the shining plain into the upper air. Her
crew had a wistful look upon their faces, as of men whose contact
with the world they dimly remembered had been effectually cut off.
And truly to many, news of her safety came in the nature of a message
of resurrection. Books of account concerning her had to be reopened,
mourning garments laid aside. She had returned from the silences, had
rejoined the world of men.

All the tracks along which ships travel are but threads traversing
these private waters, just little spaces like a trail across an
illimitable desert. And even there the simile fails because the track
across the ocean plain is imaginary. It is traced by the passing keel
and immediately it is gone. And the tiny portion of the sea-surface
thus furrowed is but the minutest fraction of the immeasurable spaces
wherein is enthroned the privacy of the sea.



                        THE VOICES OF THE SEA


Not the least of the many charms exercised by the deep and wide sea
upon its bond-servants are the varied voices by which it makes known
its ever-changing moods. They are not for all ears to hear. Many a
sailor spends the greater part of a long life in closest intercourse
with the ocean, yet to its myriad beauties he is blind; no realised
sense of his intimacy with the immensity of the Universe ever makes
the hair of his flesh stand up, and to the majestic music of the
unresting deep his ears of appreciation are closely sealed. Not that
unto any one of the sons of men is it ever given to be conversant
with all the countless phases of delight belonging to the sea. For
some cannot endure the call of deep answering unto deep, the terrible
thundering of the untrammelled ocean in harmony with the uttermost
diapason of the storm-wind. All their finer perceptions are benumbed
by fear. And other some, who are yet unable to rejoice in the sombre
glory of the tempest-tones, are intolerant of the lightsome glee
born of zephyrs and sunlight when the sweet murmur of the radiant
breaths is like the contented cooing of care-free infancy, and every
dancing wavelet wears a many-dimpled smile. For them there must be
a breeze of strength with a strident, swaggering sea through which
the well-found ship ploughs her steady way at utmost speed with
every rounded sail distent like a cherub’s cheek, and every rope and
stay humming a merry tune. Least of all in number are those who can
enjoy a perfect calm. Indeed, in these bustling, strenuous days of
ours opportunities of so doing are daily becoming fewer. The panting
steamship tears up the silken veil of the slumbering sea like some
envious monster in a garden of sleep making havoc of its beauty.
She makes her own wind by her swift thrust through the restful
atmosphere, although there be in reality none astir even sufficient
to ruffle the shining surface before her.

Still, the fact must not be overlooked that many sea-farers do
verily enjoy to the full all sea-sights and sea-sounds, but of their
pleasures they cannot speak. Deep silent content is theirs, a perfect
complacency of delight that length of acquaintanceship only makes
richer and more satisfying, until, as the very structure of the
Stradivarius is saturated with music, so the mariner’s whole being
absorbs, and becomes imbued with, the magic of wind and wave. This
incommunicable joy a monarch might well envy its possessor, for it is
independent of environment, so that although the seafarer may grow
old and feeble, be far away from his well-beloved sea, even blind
and deaf, yet within his soul will still vibrate those resounding
harmonies, and with inward eyes he can feast a farther-reaching
vision than ever over those glorious fenceless fields.

The voices of the sea are many, but their speech is one. Naturally,
perhaps, the thought turns first to the tremendous chorus uplifted
in the hurricane, that swells and swells until even the tropical
thunder’s deafening cannonade is unheard, drowned deep beneath the
exultant flood of song poured forth by the rejoicing sea. Many
epithets have been chosen to characterise the storm-song of the
ocean. None of them can ever hope to satisfy completely, for all must
bear some definite reflex of the minds of their utterers, according
as they have been impressed by their experiences or imaginings. But
to my mind most of the terms used are out of place and misleading.
They generally endeavour to describe the tempestuous sea as a
ravenous monster, a howling destroyer of unthinking ferocity, and
the like. Alas, it is very natural so to do. For when this feeble
frame must needs confront the resounding main in the plenitude of
its power, our mortal part must perforce feel and acknowledge its
insignificance, must dwindle and shake with fear, although that part
of us which is akin to the Infinite may vainly desire to rejoice with
all seas and floods that praise Him and magnify Him for ever. Not
in the presence of ocean shouting his hymn of praise may we satisfy
our desire to join in the triumphant lay, although we know how full
of benefits to our race are the forces made vocal in that majestic
Lobgesang. As the all-conquering flood of sound, with a volume as
if God were smiting the sapphire globe of the universe, rolls on,
we may hear the cry, “Life and strength and joy do I bring. Before
my resistless march darkness, disease, and death must flee. When
beneath my reverberating chariot-wheels man is overwhelmed, not mine
the blame. I do but fulfil mine appointed way, scattering health,
refreshment, and well-being over every living thing.”

But when as yet the sky is serene above and the surface of the
slumbering depths is just ruffled by a gentle air, there may often
be heard another voice, as if some gigantic orchestra in another
star was preparing for the signal to burst forth into such music
as belongs not to our little planet. Fitful wailing notes in many
keys, long sustained and all minor, encompass the voyager without
and within. Now high, now low, but ever tending to deepen and
become more massive in tone, this unearthly symphony is full of
warning. It bids the watchful seaman make ready against the advent
of the fast approaching storm, that, still some hundreds of leagues
distant, is sending its pursuivants before its face. Nor are these
spirit-stirring chords due to the harp-like obstruction offered by
the web of rigging spread about the masts of a ship to the rising
wind. It may be heard even more definitely in an open boat far from
any ship or shore, although there, perhaps because of the great
loneliness of the situation, it always seems to take a tone of
deeper melancholy, as if in sympathy with the helplessness of the
human creatures thus isolated from their fellows. It belongs, almost
exclusively, to the extra-tropical regions where storms are many. And
within a certain compass, its intimates find little variation of its
scale. Always beginning in the treble clef and by regular melodic
waves gradually descending until with the incidence of the storm it
blends into the grand triumphal march spoken of before. But when it
is heard within the tropics let the mariner beware. None can ever
mistake its weird lament, sharpening every little while into a shrill
scream as if impatient that its warning should be heeded without
delay. It searches the very marrow of the bones, and beasts as well
as men look up and are much afraid. For it is the precursor of the
hurricane, before which the bravest seaman blanches, when sea and sky
seem to meet and mingle, the waters that are above the firmament with
the waters that are under the firmament, as in the days before God
said “Let there be light.”

Far different again is the cheerful voice of the Trade wind over the
laughing happy sea of those pleasant latitudes. No note of sadness
or melancholy is to be detected there. Brisk and bright, confident
and gay, it bids the sailor be glad in his life. Bids him mark anew
how beautiful is the bright blue sea, how snowy are the billowy
clouds piled peacefully around the horizon, while between them and
the glittering edge of the vast circle shows a tender band of greyish
green of a lucent clearness that lets the rising stars peep through
as soon as they are above the horizon. Overhead through all the
infinite fleckless dome eddy the friendly tones. Yet so diffused are
they, so vast in their area that if one listen for them he cannot
hear aright--they must be felt rather than heard. Well may their
song be of content and good cheer. For they course about their
ordained orbits as the healthful life tides through the human body,
keeping sweet all adjacent shores and preventing by their beneficent
agitation a baleful stagnation of the sea. By day the golden sun
soars on his splendid road from horizon to zenith until he casts no
shadow, and all the air quivers with living light, then in stately
grandeur sinks through the pure serenity of that perfect scene, the
guardian cumuli clustering round his goal melting apart so that,
visible to the last of his blazing verge, he may go as he came,
unshadowed by haze or cloud. Then, as the radiant train of lovely
rays fade reluctantly from the blue concave above, all the untellable
splendours of the night come forth in their changeless order, their
scintillating lustre undimmed by the filmiest veil of haze. One
incandescent constellation after another is revealed until, as the
last faint sheen of the departing day disappears from the western
horizon, the double girdle of the galaxy is flung across the darkling
dome in all its wondrous beauty. And unceasingly through all the
succeeding beauties of the day and night that flood of happy harmony
rolls on.

How shall I speak of the voice of the calm? How describe that sound
which mortal ear cannot hear? The pen of the inspired writers alone
might successfully undertake such a task, so closely in touch as they
were with the Master Mind. “When the morning stars sang together, and
all the Sons of God shouted for joy.” Something akin to this sublime
daring of language is needed to convey a just idea of what floods
the soul when alone upon the face of the deep in a perfect calm. The
scale of that heavenly harmony is out of our range. We can only by
some subtle alchemy of the brain distil from that celestial silence
the voices of angels and archangels and all the glorious company of
heaven. Between us and them is but a step, but it is the threshold
of the timeless dimension. Again and again I have seen men, racked
through and through with a very agony of delight, dash aside the
thralls that held them, sometimes with passionate tears, more often
with raging words that grated harshly upon the velvet stillness. They
felt the burden of the flesh grievous, since it shut them out from
what they dimly felt must be bliss unutterable, not to be contained
in any earthen vessel. On land a thousand things, even in a desert,
distract the attention, loose the mind’s tension even when utterly
alone. But at sea, the centre of one vast glassy circle, shut in on
every hand by a perfect demi-globe as flawless as the mirror whereon
you float, with even the softest undulation imperceptible, and no
more motion of the atmosphere than there is in a perfect vacuum,
there is absolutely nothing to come between the Soul of Man and the
Infinite Silences of Creation. There and there only is it possible
to realise what underlies that mighty line, “There was silence in
Heaven for the space of half-an-hour.” Few indeed are the men,
however rough and unthinking, that are not quieted and impressed by
the marvel of a perfect calm. But the tension is too great to be
borne long with patience. Men feel that this majestic environment is
too redolent of the coming paradise to be supportable by flesh and
blood. They long with intense desire for a breeze, for motion, for a
change of any sort. So much so that long-continued calm is dreaded
by seamen more than any other phase of sea-experience. And yet it is
for a time lovely beyond description, soothing the jarring nerves and
solemnising every faculty as if one were to be shut in before the
Shekinah in the Holy of Holies. It is like the Peace of God.

Thus far I have feebly attempted to deal with some of the sea-voices
untinctured by any contact with the land. But although the
interposition of rock and beach, cliff and sand-bank introduces
fresh changes with every variation of weather, new combinations of
sound that do not belong solely to the sea, any description of the
sea-music that should take no account of them would be manifestly
one-sided and incomplete. And yet the mutabilities are so many, the
gamut is so extended that it is impossible to do more than just take
a passing note of a few characteristic impressions. For every lonely
reef, every steep-to shore has an infinite variety of responses that
it gives back to the besieging waves. Some of them are terrible
beyond the power of words to convey. When the sailor in a crippled
craft, his reckoning unreliable, and his vigour almost gone by a
long-sustained struggle with the storm, hears to leeward the crashing
impact of mountainous waves against the towering buttresses of
granite protecting a sea-beset land, it is to him a veritable knell
of doom. Or when through the close-drawn curtains of fog comes the
hissing tumult of breaking seas over an invisible bank, interpolated
with the hoarse bellowing of the advancing flood checked in its free
onward sweep, bold and high indeed must be the courage that does not
fail. The lonely lighthouse-keeper on the Bishop Rock during the
utmost stress of an Atlantic gale notes with quickening pulse the
change of tone as the oncoming sea, rolling in from freedom, first
feels beneath it the outlying skirts of the solitary mountain. Nearer
and deeper and fiercer it roars until, with a shock that makes the
deep-rooted foundations of the rocks tremble, and the marvellous
fabric of dovetailed stone sway like a giant tree, it breaks, hurling
its crest high through the flying spindrift over the very finial of
the faithful tower.

But on the other hand, on some golden afternoon among the sunny
islands of summer seas, hear the soft soothing murmur of the gliding
swell upon the slumbering shore. It fills the mind with rest. Sweeter
than lowest lullaby, it comforts and composes, and even in dreams it
laps the sleeper in Elysium. The charm of that music is chief among
all the influences that bind the memory to those Enchanted Isles. It
returns again and again under sterner skies, filling the heart with
almost passionate longing to hear it, to feel it in all its mystery
once again. Still when all has been said, every dweller on the
sea-shore knows the voice of his own coast best. For him it has its
special charm, whether it shriek around ice-laden rocks, roar against
iron-bound cliffs, thunder over jagged reefs, or babble among fairy
islets. And yet all these many voices are but one.



                   THE CALLING OF CAPTAIN RAMIREZ


When two whale-ships meet during a cruise, if there are no signs
of whales near, an exchange of visits always takes place. The two
captains foregather on board one ship, the two chief mates on board
the other. While the officers are thus enjoying themselves, it is
usual for the boats’ crews to go forrard and while away the time as
best they can, such visitors being always welcome. This practice
is called “gamming,” and is fruitful of some of the queerest yarns
imaginable, as these sea-wanderers ransack their memories for tales
wherewith to make the time pass pleasantly.

On the occasion of which I am writing, our ship had met the _Coral_
of Martha’s Vineyard off Nieuwe, and gamming had set in immediately.
One of the group among whom I sat was a sturdy little native of Guam,
in the Ladrone Islands, the picture of good-humour, but as ugly as
a Joss. Being called upon for a song, he laughingly excused himself
on the ground that his songs were calculated to give a white man
collywobbles; but if we didn’t mind he would spin a “cuffer” (yarn)
instead. Carried unanimously--and we lit fresh pipes as we composed
ourselves to hear of “The Calling of Captain Ramirez.” I reproduce
the story in a slightly more intelligible form than I heard it,
the mixture of Spanish, Kanaka, &c., being a gibberish not to be
understood by any but those who have lived among the polyglot crowd
in a whaler.

“About fifteen years ago now, as near as I can reckon (for we don’t
keep much account of time except we’re on monthly wage), I was
cruising the Kingsmills in the old _Salem_, Captain Ramirez. They
told me her name meant ‘Peace,’ and that may be; but if so, all I can
say is that never was a ship worse named. Why, there wasn’t ever any
peace aboard of her. Quiet there was, when the old man was asleep,
for nobody wanted him wakened; but peace--well, I tell ye, boys, she
was jest hell afloat. I’ve been fishing now a good many years in
Yankee spouters, and there’s some blood-boats among ’em, but never
was I so unlucky as when I first set foot aboard the _Salem_. Skipper
was a Portugee from Flores, come over to the States as a nipper and
brung up in Rhode Island. Don’t know and don’t care how he got to be
skipper, but I guess Jemmy Squarefoot was his schoolmaster, for some
of his tricks wouldn’t, couldn’t, have been thought of anywheres else
but down below. I ain’t a-goin’ to make ye all miserable by telling
you how he hazed us round and starved us and tortured us, but you
can let your imagination loose if you want to, and then you won’t
overhaul the facts of his daily amusements.

“Well, I’d been with him about a year when, as I said at first, we
was cruising the Kingsmills, never going too close in, because at
that time the natives were very savage, always fighting with each
other, but very glad of the chance to go for a ship and kill and eat
all hands. Then again we had some Kanakas aboard, and the skipper
knew that if they got half a chance they would be overboard and off
to the shore.

“Sperm whales were very plentiful, in fact they had been so all
the cruise, which was another proof to all of us who the skipper
was in co. with, for in nearly every ship we gammed the crowd were
heart-broken at their bad luck. However, we’d only been a few days on
the ground when one morning we lowered for a thundering big school
of middling-size whales. We sailed in full butt, and all boats got
fast. But no sooner was a strain put on the lines than they all
parted like as if they was burnt. Nobody there ever seen or heard of
such a thing before. It fairly scared us all, for we thought it was
witchcraft, and some of ’em said the skipper’s time was up and his
boss was rounding on him. Well, we bent on again, second irons, as
the whales were all running anyhow, not trying to get away, and we
all got fast again. ’Twas no good at all; all parted just the same
as before. Well, we was about the worst gallied lot of men you ever
see. We was that close to the ship that we knew the old man could see
with his glasses everything that was going on. Every one of us knew
just about how he was bearing it, but what could we do? Well, boys,
we didn’t have much time to serlilerquise, for before you could say
‘knife’ here he comes, jumping, howling mad. Right in among us he
busted, and oh! he did look like his old father Satan on the rampage.
He was in the bow of his boat, and he let drive at the first whale
he ran up against. Down went the fish and pop went the line same as
before. Well, I’ve seen folks get mad more’n a little, but never in
all my fishing did ever I see anything like he showed us then. I
thought he’d a sploded all into little pieces. He snatched off his
hat and tore it into ribbons with his teeth; the rattle of Portugee
blasphemion was like our old mincing-machine going full kelter, and
the foam flew from between his teeth like soapsuds.

“Suddenly he cooled down, all in a minute like, and said very quiet,
‘All aboard.’ We were all pretty well prepared for the worst by this
time, but I do think we liked him less now than we did when he was
ramping around--he looked a sight more dangerous. However, we obeyed
orders smart, as usual, but he was aboard first. My! how that boat of
his just flew. ’Twas like a race for life.

“We were no sooner on board than we hoisted boats and made them fast.
Then the skipper yelled, ‘All hands lay aft.’ Aft we come prompt,
and ranged ourselves across the quarter-deck in front of where he
was prowling back and forth like a breeding tigress. As soon as we
were all aft he stopped, facing us, and spoke. ‘Somebody aboard this
ship’s been trying to work a jolt off on me by pisonin’ my lines. Now
I want that man, so’s I can kill him, slow; ’n I’m going to have him
too ’thout waiting too long. Now _I_ think this ship’s been too easy
a berth for all of you, but from this out until I have my rights on
the man I want she’s agoing to be a patent hell. Make up yer mines
quick, fer I tell yer no ship’s crew ever suffered what you’re agoin’
to suffer till I get that man under my hands. Now go.’

“When we got forrard we found the fo’c’s’le scuttle screwed up so’s
we couldn’t get below. There was no shelter on deck from the blazing
sun, the hatches was battened so we couldn’t get into the fore-hold,
so we had to just bear it. One man went aft to the scuttle butt for
a drink of water, and found the spigot gone. The skipper saw him,
and says to him, ‘You’ll fine plenty to drink in the bar’l forrard,’
and you know the sort of liquor _that’s_ full of. Some of us flung
ourselves down on deck, being dog tired as well as hungry and
thirsty, but he was forrard in a minute with both his shooting-irons
cocked. ‘Up, ye spawn, ’n git some exercise; ye’r gettin’ too fat ’n
lazy,’ says he. So we trudged about praying that he might drop dead,
but none of us willing as yet to face certain death by defying him.
The blessed night came at last, and we were able to get a little
rest, he having gone below, and the officers, though willing enough
to keep in with him at our expense, not being bad enough to drive
us all night unless he was around to see it done. Along about eight
bells came the steward, with a biscuit apiece for us and a bucket of
water--about half a pint each. We were so starved and thirsty that
the bite and sup was a godsend. What made things worse for us was
the suspicion we had one of the other. As I said, we was, as usual, a
mixed crowd and ready to sell one another for a trifle. He knew that,
curse him, and reckoned with considerable certainty on getting hold
of the victim he wanted. Well, the night passed somehow, and when
morning came he was around again making us work, scouring iron-work
bright, holy-stoning decks, scrubbing overside, as if our very lives
depended on the jobs being done full pelt.

“We was drawing in pretty close to a small group of islands, closer
than we had been yet in those waters, and we all wondered what was in
the wind. Suddenly he gave orders to back the mainyard and have the
dinghy lowered. She was a tiny tub of a craft, such as I never saw
carried in a whaler before, only about big enough for three. A little
Scotchman and myself was ordered into her, then to our amazement the
old man got in, shoved off, and headed her for the opening through
the reef surrounding the biggest island of the group. It was fairly
well wooded with cocoa-nut trees and low bushes, while, unlike any
of the other islets, there were several big rocks showing up through
the vegetation in the middle of it. We weren’t long getting to the
beach, where we jumped out and ran her up a piece so’s he could step
out dry. We waited for a minute or two while he sat thinking, and
looking straight ahead of him at nothing. Presently he jumped out
and said to me, ‘Come,’ and to Sandy, ‘Stay here.’ Off he went up
the beach and straight into the little wood, just as if somebody
was calling him and he had to go. Apparently there wasn’t a living
soul on the whole island except just us three. We had only got a
few yards into the bush when we came to a little dip in the ground:
a sort of valley. Just as we got to the bottom, we suddenly found
ourselves in the grip of two Kanakas, the one that had hold of the
skipper being the biggest man I ever saw. I made one wriggle, but my
man, who was holding my two arms behind my back, gave them a twist
that nearly wrenched them out of their sockets and quieted me good.
As for the skipper, he was trying to call or speak, but although his
mouth worked no sound came, and he looked like death. The giant that
had him flung him on his face and lashed his wrists behind him with
a bit of native fish-line, then served his ankles the same. I was
tied next, but not so cruel as the skipper, indeed they didn’t seem
to want to hurt me. The two Kanakas now had a sort of a consultation
by signs, neither of them speaking a word. While they was at it I
noticed the big one was horribly scarred all over his back and loins
(they was both naked except for a bit of a grass belt) as well as
crippled in his gait. Presently they ceased their dumb motions and
came over to me. The big one opened his mouth and pointed to where
his tongue had been, also to his right eye-socket, which was empty.
Then he touched the big white scars on his body, and finally pointed
to the skipper. Whole books couldn’t have explained his meaning
better than I understood it then. But what was coming? I declare I
didn’t feel glad a bit at the thought that Captain Ramirez was going
to get his deserts at last.

“Suddenly the giant histed the skipper on his shoulder as if he had
been a baby, and strode off across the valley towards the massive
heap of rocks, followed by his comrade and myself. We turned sharply
round a sort of gate, composed of three or four huge coral blocks
balanced upon each other, and entered a grotto or cave with a
descending floor. Over the pieces of rock with which the ground was
strewed we stumbled onward in the dim light until we entered water
and splashed on through it for some distance. Then, our eyes being
by this time used to the darkness, the general features of the place
could be made out. Communication with the sea was evident, for the
signs of high-water mark could be seen on the walls of the cave just
above our heads. For a minute or so we remained perfectly still in
the midst of that dead silence, so deep that I fancied I could hear
the shell-fish crawling on the bottom. Then I was brought a few paces
nearer the Captain, as he hung upon the great Kanaka’s shoulder.
Taking my eyes from his death-like face I cast them down, and there,
almost at my feet, was one of those enormous clams such as you see
the shells of thrown up on all these beaches, big as a child’s
bath. Hardly had the horrible truth dawned on me of what was going
to happen than it took place. Lifting the skipper into an upright
position, the giant dropped him feet first between the gaping shells
of the big clam, which, the moment it felt the touch, shut them with
a smash that must have broken the skipper’s legs. An awful wail burst
from him, the first sound he had yet made. I have said he was brave,
and he was, too, although such a cruel villain, but now he broke down
and begged hard for life. It may have been that the Kanakas were deaf
as well as dumb; at any rate, for all sign of hearing they showed,
they were. He appealed to me, but I was as helpless as he, and my
turn was apparently now to come. But evidently the Kanakas were only
carrying out what they considered to be payment of a due debt, for
after looking at him fixedly for awhile, during which I felt the
water rising round my knees, they turned their backs on him and led
me away. I was glad to go, for his shrieks and prayers were awful to
hear, and I couldn’t do anything.

“They led me to where they had first caught us, made me fast to a
tree, and left me. Overcome with fatigue and hunger I must have
fainted, for when I come to I found myself loose, lying on the sand,
and two or three of my shipmates attending to me. As soon as I was
able to speak they asked me what had become of the skipper. Then it
all rushed back on me at once, and I told them the dreadful story.
They heard me in utter silence, the mate saying at last, ‘Wall,
sonny, it’s a good job fer yew the Kanakers made ye fast, or yew’d
have had a job ter clear yersef of murder.’ And so I thought now.
However, as soon as I was a bit rested and had something to eat, I
led them to the cave, keeping a bright look-out meanwhile for a
possible attack by the Kanakas. None appeared though, and the tide
having fallen again we had no difficulty in finding the skipper. All
that was left of him, that is, for the sea-scavengers had been busy
with him, so that he was a sight to remember with a crawling at your
stomach till your dying day. He was still fast in the grip of the
clam, so it was decided to leave him there and get on board again at
once.

“We did so unmolested, getting sail on the ship as soon as we reached
her, so as to lose sight of that infernal spot. But it’s no use
denying the fact that we all felt glad the skipper was dead; some
rejoiced at the manner of his death, although none could understand
who called him ashore or why he obeyed. Those who had whispered the
theory of the finish of his contract with Jemmy Squarefoot chuckled
at their prescience, as fully justified by the sequel, declaring that
the big Kanaka whom I had seen was none other than Satan himself come
for his bargain.

“Matters went on now in quite a different fashion. The relief was so
great that we hardly knew ourselves for the same men, and it affected
all hands alike, fore and aft. The secret of the breaking line was
discovered when Mr. Peck, the mate, took the skipper’s berth over.
In a locker beneath the bunk he found the pieces of a big bottle,
what they call a ‘carboy,’ I think, and in hunting up the why of
this a leakage through the deck was found into the store-room where
the cordage was kept. Only two other coils were affected by the
stuff that had run down, and of course they were useless, but the
rest of the stock was all right. Now, I don’t know what it was, nor
how it came there, nor any more about it, and if you ain’t tired of
listening I’m mighty tired of talking. Pass that ‘switchel’[1] this
way.”


[1] A drink of molasses, vinegar, and water.



                        MARATHON OF THE SEALS


Far beyond the roaring track of the homeward-bound merchantman,
lie in the South Pacific the grim clusters of salt-whitened isles
marked on the chart as the South Shetlands. Many years have come
and gone since their hungry shores were busy with the labours of
the sealers, that, disdainful of the terrors of snow-laden gale and
spindrift-burdened air, toiled amid the Antarctic weather to fill
their holds with the garments of the sea-folk. Then, after perils
incredible, the adventurers would return to port, and waste in a week
of debauch the fruit of their toil, utterly forgetful of crashing
floe or hissing sea, frozen limbs or wrenching hunger pains. When all
was spent they would return, resolutely forgetting their folly and
wreaking upon the innocent seal all the rage of regret that _would_
rise within them. They spared none--bull, cow, and calf alike were
slain, as if in pure lust of slaughter, until the helplessness of
utter fatigue compelled them to desist and snatch an interval of
death-like sleep, oblivious of all the grinding bitterness of their
surroundings. Life was held cheap among them, a consequence, not to
be wondered at, of its hardness and the want of all those things that
make life desirable. And yet the stern existence had its own strong
fascination for those who had become inured to it. Few of them
ever gave it up voluntarily, ending their stormy life-struggle in
some sudden ghastly fashion and being almost immediately forgotten.
Occasionally some sorely-maimed man would survive the horrors of
his disablement, lying in the fetid forecastle in sullen endurance
until the vessel reached a port whence he could be transferred to
civilisation. But these unhappy men fretted grievously for the
vast openness of the Antarctic, the gnashing of the ice-fangs upon
the black rocks, the unsatisfied roar of the western gale, and the
ceaseless combat with the relentless sea.

Many years came and went while the Southern sealer plied his trade,
until at last none of the reckless skippers could longer disguise
from themselves the fact that their harvest fields were rapidly
becoming completely barren. Few and far between were the islets
frequented by the seals, the majority of the old grounds being
quite abandoned. One by one the dejected fishermen gave up the
attempt, until in due time those gaunt fastnesses resumed their
primitive loneliness. The long, long tempest roared questioningly
over the deserted islands, as if calling for its vanished children,
and refusing to be comforted because they were not. Years passed
in solitude, but for the busy sea-fowl, who, because they had no
commercial value, were left unmolested to eat their fill of the
sea’s rich harvest, and rear among the bleak rock-crannies their
fluffy broods. At last, out of the midst of a blinding smother of
snow, there appeared one day off the most southerly outlier of the
South Shetlands a little group of round velvety heads staring with
wide, humid eyes at the surf-lashed fortresses of the shore. Long
and warily they reconnoitred, for although many generations had
passed since their kind had been driven from those seas, the memory
of those pitiless days had been so steadily transmitted through the
race that it had become a part of themselves, an instinct infallible
as any other they possessed. No enemy appearing, they gradually drew
nearer and nearer, until their leader, a fine bull seal of four
seasons, took his courage in both flippers and mounted the most
promising slope, emerging from the foaming breakers majestically, and
immediately becoming a hirpling heap of clumsiness that apparently
bore no likeness to the graceful, agile creature of a few moments
before. Obediently his flock followed him until they reached a
little patch of hard smooth sand sheltered by a semi-circle of great
wave-worn boulders, and admirably suited to their purpose. Here, with
sleepless vigilance of sentinels, they rested, rather brokenly at
first, as every incursion of the indignant sea-fowl startled them,
but presently subsiding into ungainly attitudes of slumber.

Whence they had come was as great a mystery as all the deep-water
ways of the sea-people must ever be to man, or how many
halting-places they must have visited and rejected at the bidding
of their unerring instinct warning them that the arch-destroyers’
visits were to be feared. However, they soon made themselves at home,
fattening marvellously upon the innumerable multitudes of fish that
swarmed around the bases of those barren islands, and between whiles
basking in the transient sun-gleams that occasionally touched the
desolate land with streaks of palest gold. And as time went on, being
unmolested in their domestic arrangements, the coming generation
tumbled about the rugged shore in those pretty gambols that all young
things love, learning steadily withal to take their appointed places
in the adult ranks as soon as they had proved their capability so
to do. Thus uneventfully and happily passed the seasons until the
little party of colonists had grown to be a goodly herd, with leaders
of mighty prowess, qualified to hold their own against any of their
kind, and inured to combat by their constantly recurring battles with
each other, their love affairs, in which they fought with a fury
astonishing to witness.

But one bright spring morning, when after a full meal the females
were all dozing peacefully among the boulders, and the pups were
gleefully waddling and tumbling among them, there came a message from
the sea to the fighting males, who instantly suspended their family
battles to attend to the urgent call. How the news came they alone
knew, its exact significance was hidden even from them, but a sense
of imminent danger was upon them all. The females called up their
young and retreated farther inland among the labyrinth of rocky peaks
that made the place almost impossible for human travel. The males,
about forty of them, ranged uneasily along the shore, their wide
nostrils dilated and their whiskers bristling with apprehension.
Ever and anon they would pause in their watchful patrol and couch
silently as if carved in marble, staring seaward with unwinking eyes
at the turbulent expanse of broken sea. Presently, within a cable’s
length of the shore, up rose an awful head--the enemy had arrived.
Another and another appeared until a whole herd of several scores
of sea-elephants were massed along the land edge and beginning to
climb ponderously over the jagged pinnacles shoreward. Not only did
they outnumber the seals by about four to one, but each of them was
equal in bulk to half-a-dozen of the largest of the defenders. Huge
as the great land mammal from whom they take their trivial name,
ferocious in their aspect, as they inflated their short trunks and
bared their big gleaming teeth, they hardly deigned to notice the
gallant band of warriors who faced them. Straight upward they came as
if the outlying rocks had suddenly been endowed with life and were
shapelessly invading the dry land. But never an inch did the little
company of defenders give back. With every head turned to the foe
and every sinew tense with expectation they waited, waited until at
last the two forces met. Such was the shock of their impact that one
would have thought the solid earth trembled beneath them, and for
a while in that writhing, groaning, roaring mass nothing could be
clearly distinguished. Presently, however, it could be seen that the
lighter, warier seals were fighting upon a definite plan, and that
they carefully avoided the danger of being overwhelmed under the
unwieldy masses of their enemies. While the huge elephants hampered
each other sorely, and often set their terrible jaws into a comrade’s
neck, shearing through blubber and sinew and bone, the nimbler seals
hung on the outskirts of the heavy leviathans and wasted no bite.
But the odds were tremendous. One after another of the desperately
fighting seals fell crushed beneath a mammoth many times his size;
again and again a fiercely struggling defender, jammed between two
gigantic assailants, found his head between the jaws of one of them,
who would instantly crush it into pulp. Still they fought on wearily
but unflinchingly until only six remained alive. Then, as suddenly as
if by some instant agreement, hostilities ceased. The remnant of the
invaders crawled heavily seaward, leaving the rugged battle-ground
piled mountainously with their dead. The survivors sank exhausted
where they had fought such a memorable fight, and slept securely,
knowing well that their home was safe, the enemy would return no
more. And the rejoicing, ravenous birds came in their countless hosts
to feast upon the slain.



                           OCEAN CURRENTS


So mysterious are all the physical phenomena of the sea that it is,
perhaps, hardly possible to say of any particular one that it is
more wonderful than the rest. And yet one is sorely tempted thus
to distinguish when meditating upon the movements of the almost
inconceivable mass of water which goes to make up that major portion
of the external superficies of our planet which we call “the sea.”
In spite of all the labours of investigators, notwithstanding all
the care and patience which science has bestowed upon oceanography,
it is nevertheless true that, except in a few broad instances, the
direction, the rate, and the dependability of ocean currents still
remain a profound mystery. Nor should this excite any wonder. If we
remember how great is the influence over the sea possessed by the
winds, how slight an alteration in the specific gravity of water is
sufficient to disturb its equilibrium and cause masses hundreds of
square miles in area to exchange levels with the surrounding ocean,
we shall at once admit that, except in those few instances hinted
at which may be referred to constant causes, ocean currents must
of necessity be still among the phenomena whose operations cannot
be reckoned upon with any certainty, but must be watched for and
guarded against with the most jealous care by those who do business
in great waters.

Perhaps one of the commonest of the many errors made in speaking of
marine things is that of confounding current with tide. Now tide,
though a variable feature of the circulation of the waters near land,
is fairly dependable. That is to say, the navigator may calculate by
means of the moon’s age and the latitude of the place not only the
time of high water, but knowing the mean height at full and change
of the moon, he may and does ascertain to what height the water will
rise, or how low it will fall at a certain place on a given date.
True, a heavy gale of wind blowing steadily in or against the same
direction of the ebbing or flowing tide will accelerate or retard,
raise or depress, that tide at the time; but these aberrations,
though most unpleasant oftentimes to riparian householders, are
rarely of much hindrance or danger to navigation. This cannot be said
of the currents of the sea. The tides have their limits assigned
to them both inland and off-shore, although in the latter case it
is almost impossible to tell exactly where their influence becomes
merged in the vaster sway of the ocean currents, with all their
unforeseen developments. The limits of tidal waters in rivers, on the
other hand, being well under observation at all times, may be and are
determined with the greatest exactitude.

With regard to the few instances of dependability among ocean
currents, the first place will undoubtedly by common consent be given
to the Gulf Stream. Owing its existence primarily to the revolution
of the earth upon its axis, its outflow through the tortuous channel
connecting the Gulf of Florida with the North Atlantic is more
constant and steady in direction than any ebbing or flowing tide
in the world, inasmuch as its “set” is invariably upon one course.
Its rate is not so uniform, varying somewhat with the season, but
in the narrowest part of the channel remaining fairly constant at
about four knots an hour. Yet sail but a few score leagues into the
Florida Gulf whence this great river in the sea takes its apparent
rise, and its influence disappears! The mariner may seek there in
vain for that swift, silent flow which in the Straits of Florida
sweeps him north-eastward irresistibly in the teeth of the strongest
gale. What has happened? Does the mighty stream drain westward
into that great land-locked sea by hundreds of channels from the
Equatorial regions, but far below the surface, and, obeying some
all-compelling impulse, rise to the light upon reaching the Bahama
Banks, pouring out its beneficent flood as it comes at the rate of
a hundred miles per day? It sweeps into the broad Atlantic, and
immediately spreads out into a breadth to which the Amazon is but a
brooklet, losing its velocity meanwhile, until, having skirted the
North American coast as far as the Grand Banks, it rolls in sublime
grandeur eastward towards these “fortunate isles.” As it does so
the mystery attendant upon it deepens. Its balmy presence cannot be
mistaken, for the air on either side of it may be piercing in its
keenness, while immediately above it there is summer. A gale blowing
at right angles to its course will raise that terrible combination
of waves which gives alike to the “Western Ocean” and the “pitch of
the Cape” their evil reputation as the most dangerous in the world;
and yet who among navigators has ever been able to determine what,
if any, rate of speed it has in mid-Atlantic? Look through hundreds
of log-books kept on board ships that are, perhaps, more carefully
navigated than any others, the North Atlantic liners, and you shall
not find a trace of the Gulf Stream “set” mentioned. In order to make
this clear, it should be said that in all properly navigated ships
the course steered and the speed made are carefully noted throughout
the twenty-four hours; and this course, with distance run, calculated
from the position accurately fixed by observation of the celestial
bodies at the previous noon, gives the ship’s position by “dead
reckoning.” The ship’s position being also found by the celestial
bodies at the same time, the difference between the latter and the
“dead reckoning” position should give the “set” and direction of
the current for the twenty-four hours. And in vessels so carefully
steered, and whose speed is so accurately known, as the great liners
are, such current data are as trustworthy as any nautical data can
be. But according to the records kept by these able navigators, there
is no current setting eastward across the North Atlantic. Perhaps the
explanation is that it is so very sluggish as to be unnoticeable, for
those dreadful monuments of misfortune to themselves and others, the
derelict ships, have been known to drift completely backwards and
forwards across the Atlantic, finding not only a current to carry
them eastward, but its counter-current to carry them back again.

But who among us with the slightest smattering of physiography is
there that is not assured that but for the genial warmth of this
mighty silent sea-river our islands would revert to their condition
at the glacial epoch; who is there but feels a shiver of dread pass
over his scalp when he contemplates the possibility of any diversion
of its life-giving waters from our shores? The bare suggestion of
such a calamity is most terrifying.

As steady and reliable in its operations is the great Equatorial
current which, sweeping along the Line from east to westward, is
doubtless the fountain and origin of the Gulf Stream, although its
operations among that ring of islands guarding the entrance to the
Mexican Gulf are involved in such obscurity that none may trace
them out. And going farther south, we find the Agulhas current,
beloved of homeward-bound sailing-ships round the Cape of Good Hope,
pursuing its even, resistless course around the Southern Horn of
Africa changelessly throughout the years. How its stubborn flow
frets the stormy Southern Sea! No wonder that the early navigators
doubling the Cape outward-bound, and fearing to go south, believed
that some unthinkable demon held sway over those wild waves. The
passage of Cape Horn from east to west holds the bad eminence to-day
among seafarers of being the most difficult in the world, but what
the outward passage around the Cape of Storms must have been before
men learned that it was possible to avoid the stream of the Agulhas
current by going a few degrees south we of these later days can only
imagine. What becomes of the Agulhas current when once it has poured
its volume of Indian Ocean waters into the Atlantic? Does it sink
below the surface some hundreds of fathoms, and silently, smoothly,
glide south to the confines of the Antarctic ice barrier, or does it
wander northward into warmer regions? In any case, it fulfils the
one grand function of all currents, whether of air or water--the
avoidance of stagnation, the circulation of health among the nations
of the earth.

Coming northward in the Pacific, let us note the counterpart of
the Gulf Stream, the Kuro Siwo, or Black River of Japan, with the
multitudinous isles of the East Indian Archipelago for its Caribbean
Sea, and Nippon for its British Isles. It is, however, but a poor
competitor in benevolence with our own Gulf Stream, as all those who
know their Japan in winter can testify. Others there are that might
be noted and classified if this aimed at being a scientific article,
but these will suffice. These are surely wide fields enough for the
imagination to rove in, wonderful depths of energy in plenty wherein
the reverent and thoughtful mind may find all-sufficient food for
its workings. Remembering that the known is but the fringe of the
unknown, and that the secrets of the ocean are so well kept that
man’s hand shall never fully tear aside the veil, we may patiently
ponder and wonder. That great sea of the ancients beyond whose
portals, according to their wisdom, lay Cimmerian darkness--what
keeps its almost tideless waters sweet? Unseen currents enter and
leave by the Pillars of Hercules at differing levels, and could we
but penetrate those dim regions we should doubtless find the ingress
and egress of that incalculable mass of water proceeding continually,
the one above the other, renewing from the exhaustless stores of the
Atlantic the staleness of the great midland lake, itself apparently
remaining in unchanging level.

But when all these great well-known movements of the ocean have
been considered, there still remain an infinite number of minor
divagations influenced by who knows what hidden causes. The
submarine upheavals of central heat, when from out of her glowing
entrails the old earth casts incandescent stores of lava, raising
the superincumbent mass of water for many square miles almost to
boiling-point--who can estimate the effect that these throes have
upon the trend of great areas of ocean? The almost infernal energy
of those gyrating meteors of the tropics as they rage across the
seas--how can any mind, however acute, assess the drag upon the whole
body of surface water that is manifested thereby? To say nothing of
the displacement caused by the less violent but far more frequent
stress laid upon the much-enduring sea by extra-tropical gales,
whereby the baffled mariner’s calculations are all overset, and his
ship that should be careering safely in the wide offing is suddenly
dashed in ruins upon the iron-bound shore!

Great efforts have been made to lay down for the benefit of seafarers
a comprehensive scheme of ocean currents all over the watery surface
of the globe, but in the great majority of cases the guidance
is delusive, the advice untrustworthy, through no fault of the
compilers. They have done their best, but mean results can never
help particular needs. And so the wary mariner, as far as may be,
trusts to the old-fashioned three “L’s,”--lead, log, and look-out;
knowing full well how little reliance is to be placed in the majority
of cases upon any advice soever concerning the mystery of ocean
currents.



                   THE UNDYING ROMANCE OF THE SEA


Some of the greatest among men have spoken and written regarding the
material progress of mankind as if every new invention for shortening
distance, for economising time or labour, and increasing production
were but another step in the direction of eliminating romance from
the weary world.

Especially has this been said of sea traffic. We are asked to believe
that in the tiny vessels of Magalhaens, the pestilential hulls
of Anson’s squadron, or the cumbrous wooden walls of Trafalgar,
there dwelt a romance which is now non-existent at sea--that the
introduction of the steam-driven ship has been fatal to a quality
which in truth belongs not at all to material things, but holds
its splendid court in the minds of men. Do they, these mourners
over departed romance, hold, then, that misery is essential to
romance? Is it essential to romantic interest at sea that because
of the smallness of the ships, their lack of healthful food, their
clumsiness of build and snail-like progress, men should suffer
horribly and die miserably? Truly, if these things are necessary in
order that romance shall flourish, we may find them still amongst us
both at sea and on land, though happily in ever lessening proportion
to an improved order of things.

But sober consideration will surely convince us that as far as true
romance is concerned the modern ironclad warship, for instance,
need abate no jot of her claim to the three-decker of last century
or the _Great Harry_ of our infant Navy. The sight of a 15,000-ton
battleship cleared for action and silently dividing the ancient sea
in her swift rush to meet the foe, not a man visible anywhere about
her, but all grim, adamantine, and awe-inspiring--in what is she
less romantic than the _Victory_ under all canvas breaking the line
at Trafalgar? As an incentive to the exercise of the imagination,
the ironclad certainly claims first place. Like some fire-breathing
dragon of ancient fable she comes, apparently by her own volition,
armed with powers of destruction overtopping all the efforts of
ancient story-tellers. Yet to the initiated she is more wonderful,
more terror-striking, than to the unknowing observer. For the former
pierce with the eye of knowledge her black walls of steel, and see
within them hundreds of quiet, self-possessed men standing calmly by
gun-breech, ammunition-hoist, fire-hose, and hospital. Deep under
the water-line are scores of fiercely toiling slaves to the gigantic
force that actuates the whole mass. Hardly recognisable as human,
sealed up in stokeholes under abnormal air pressure, the clang of
their weapons never ceases as they feed the long row of caverns
glowing white with fervent heat. All around them and beneath them
and above, clearly to be discerned through all the diabolical clamour
of engines and roaring of furnaces, is that sense of invisible
forces subdued by the hand of man, yet ferociously striving against
restraint, a sense that makes the head of the new-comer throb and
beat in sympathy until it seems as if the brain must burst its
containing bone.

Just abaft these chambers of accumulating energy are the giants
being fed thereby. Unhappy the man who can see no romance in the
engine-room! Nothing exalting, soul-stirring, in the rhythmical race
of weariless pistons, no storm-song in their magnificent voices as
they dash round the shaft at ninety revolutions per minute. Standing
amid these modern genii, to which those of “The Thousand and One
Nights” are but puny weaklings, the sight, the senses are held
captive, fascinated by so splendid a manifestation of the combination
of skill and strength. And when unwillingly the gazer turns away,
there are the men; the grimy, greasy, sweat-stained men. Watchful,
patient, cat-like. Ready at the first hint, either from the racing
Titans themselves or from the soaring bridge away up yonder in the
night, to manipulate lever, throttle-valve, and auxiliaries as
swiftly, deftly, and certainly as the great surgeon handles his tools
in contact with the silent, living form under his hands.

What a lesson on faith is here. Faith in the workmanship of the
complicated monsters they control, faith in one another to do
the right thing at the right moment when a mistake would mean
annihilation, faith in the watcher above who is guiding the whole
enormous mass amidst dangers seen and unseen. This, too, is no
blind faith, no mere credulity. It is born of knowledge, and the
consequences of its being misplaced must be constantly in mind in
order to insure effective service in time of disaster. It would
surely be a good thing if more poetry were written on the lines of
“McAndrew’s Hymn,” always supposing the poets could be found; greater
efforts made to acquaint us who lead comfortable lives ashore with
the everyday heroism of, the continual burnt-offering rendered by,
the engineer, fireman, and trimmer. Perhaps we might then begin to
discern dimly and faintly that so far from the romance of the sea
being destroyed by the marine engine, it has been strengthened and
added to until it is deeper and truer than ever.

And as with the men in the bowels of the ship so with those above.
Commanding such a weapon of war as hinted at in the preceding
lines, see the central figure in his tower of steel, surrounded by
telephones, electric bells, and voice-tubes. Every portion of the
ship, with its groups of faithful, waiting men, is within reach of
his whisper. Behind him stands a man like a statue but for the brown
hands grasping the spokes of the tiny wheel which operates the 150
horse-power engines far away in the run, which in their turn heave
the mighty steel rudder this way or that, and so guide the whole
fabric. This man in command wields a power that makes the mind reel
to consider. A scarcely perceptible touch upon a button at his side
and away speeds a torpedo; another touch, and two guns hurl 850 lbs.
of steel shell filled with high explosive to a distance of ten miles
if necessary. Obedience instant, perfect, yet intelligent is yielded
to his lightest touch, his faintest whisper. So too his subordinates,
each in their turn commanding as well as being commanded, and each
saturated with the idea that not merely obedience, but obedience
so swift as to be almost coincident with the order, is essential.
Yet above and beyond all this harmony of discipline is the man who
controls in the same perfect way the working, not only of one ship,
but of a whole fleet. He speaks, and immediately flags flutter if
by day, or electric lights scintillate if by night. Each obedient
monster replies by fulfilling his will, and the sea foams as they
swoop round each other in complicated evolutions, or scatter beyond
the horizon’s rim to seek the common enemy. It is the triumph of
discipline, organisation, and power under command.

As it is in the Navy so it is in the Mercantile Marine. Here is a
vessel of a capacity greater than that costly experiment born out
of due time, the _Great Eastern_. Her lines are altogether lovely,
curves of beauty unexcelled by any yacht afloat. With such perfect
grace does she sit upon the sea that the mere mention of her size
conveys of it no conviction. Her decks are crowded with landward
folk, for whose benefit naval architects and engineers have been
busy devising ways and means of bridging the Atlantic. Every comfort
and convenience for the poor, every luxury for the rich, is there.
Majestically, at the stroke of the hour, she moves, commences her
journey. Amid all the hubbub of parting friends, the agony of
breaking up home bonds, the placid conductors of this floating city
attend to their work. Theirs it is to convey on scheduled time from
port to port across the trackless, unheeding ocean all this multitude
of units, each a volume of history in himself or herself of most
poignant interest could it be unfolded. And oh, the sinuous grace,
the persistent speed, the co-partnership of affinity held between
man’s newest and God’s oldest work. Its romance is beyond all power
of speech to describe. Silent, speechless marvel only can be tendered
unto it. The very regularity and order which prevails, the way in
which arrivals may be counted on, these are offences in the eyes of
some would-be defenders of romance. They are not apparently offended
at the unerring regularity of natural phenomena. How is it that
the same quality manifested by man’s handiwork in relation to the
mutable sea gives occasion of stumbling? A hard question. Not that
the mere regularity alone is worthy of admiration, but the triumph
of mind over matter, manifested as much in the grimiest little tug
crouching behind a storm-beaten headland watching, spider-like, for a
homeward-bound sailing-ship, or in the under-engined, swag-bellied
tramp creeping stolidly homeward, bearing her quota of provision for
a heedless people who would starve without her, is everywhere to be
held in admiration as fragrant with true romance, the undying romance
of the sea.



                            SAILORS’ PETS


Whether there be anything in their surroundings at sea that makes
animals more amenable to the taming process is, perhaps, not a
question to be easily answered. But one thing is certain: that
nowhere do animals become tame with greater rapidity than they do
on board ship. It does not seem to make a great deal of difference
what the animal is, whether bird or beast, carnivore or herbivore,
Jack takes it in hand with the most surprising results, evident in so
short a time that it is often difficult to believe that the subject
is not merely simulating tameness in order to exercise his powers
upon his master or masters in an unguarded moment.

Of course, on board merchant ships the range of variety among pets
is somewhat restricted. Cats, dogs, monkeys, pigs, sheep, goats,
musk-deer, and birds (of sorts) almost exhaust the list; except among
the whale-ships, where the lack of ordinary subjects for taming lead
men to try their hand upon such queer pets as walruses, white bears,
and even seal-pups, with the usual success. Few pets on board ship
ever presented a more ungainly appearance than the walrus. Accustomed
to disport its massive bulk in the helpful wave, and only for very
brief intervals hooking itself up on to a passing ice-floe as if to
convince itself that it really is one of the amphibia, the change in
its environment to the smooth deck-planks of a ship is truly radical.
And yet it has often been known not only to survive such a change,
but to appear contented and happy therein. Its uncouth gambols with
the sailors are not to be described; but they are so funny that no
one could witness them without laughter, especially when the sage,
hoary appearance of even the most youthful walrus is remembered--and,
of course, only very young specimens could possibly be obtained
alive. But, after all, the morse has its limitations as a pet. Tamed
as it often has been, and affectionate as it undoubtedly becomes,
it never survives for a great while its privation of sea-bathing,
and to the grief of its friends generally abandons the attempt to
become permanently domesticated before the end of the season. The
white bear, on the other hand, when caught sufficiently young is
a great success as a pet, and develops a fund of quaint humour as
well as intelligence that one would certainly never suspect from the
appearance of the animal’s head. Bears are notably the humorists of
the animal kingdom, as any one may verify for himself who chooses to
watch them for a few days at the Zoological Gardens, but among them
all for pure fun commend us to _Ursa Polaris_. Perhaps to appreciate
the play of a pet white bear it is necessary to be a rough and tough
whaleman, since with the very best intentions his bearship is apt to
be a little heavy-pawed. And as when his claws grow a very slight
mistake on his part is apt to result in the permanent disfigurement
of his playmate, his days of pethood are always cut suddenly short
as he approaches full growth. Seal-pups have no such drawbacks. They
are pretty, affectionate, and domestic, while an occasional douche
of salt water from the wash-deck tub will suffice to keep them in
good health and spirits for a long time. Such favourites do they
become that it is hard to understand how the same men, who will
spend much of their scanty leisure playing with the gentle, amiable
creatures, can at a moment’s notice resume the crude barbarity of
seal-slaughtering with all its attendant horrors of detail. Apart
from his cumbrous movements on deck, the seal seems specially adapted
for a ship’s pet. He is so intelligent, so fully in touch with his
human playmates, that after a short acquaintance one ceases to be
surprised at his teachability; it is taken as a matter of course.

Ordinary merchant ships are, as before noted, confined to a limited
range of pets. Chief among them is the harmless necessary cat, about
which the present writer has written at considerable length in a
recent number of the _Spectator_. But the cat’s quiet domesticity
never seems to take such a firm hold upon seamen’s affections as does
the livelier friendship of the dog. A dog on board ship is truly a
favoured animal. So much so that dogs will give themselves almost
as many airs and graces as the one unmarried young lady usually
does in the midst of a number of male passengers, and with much
the same results. Once, indeed, the presence of two dogs on board
of a large ship on an East Indian voyage nearly led to a mutiny.
They were both retrievers, the property of the master. But almost
from the commencement of the voyage one of them, a fine black dog,
“Sailor,” deliberately cast in his lot with the men “forrard,” where
he was petted and spoiled, if a dog can be spoiled by petting. The
other dog, a brown, dignified animal called “Neptune,” kept to the
officers’ quarters. And presently the two pets by some sort of
tacit understanding divided the deck between them, the main hatch
constituting a sort of neutral ground beyond which neither might
pass without a fight. Now, there were also some pets on board of a
totally different kind, to wit, three fine pigs, who, contrary to
the usual custom, were allowed to roam unpenned about the decks.
A fellow-feeling, perhaps, led “Sailor,” the forecastle dog, to
fraternise with the genial swine, and the antics of these queerly
assorted playmates gave many an hour’s uproarious amusement. But the
pigs loved to stray aft, far beyond their assigned limits. Whenever
they did so, but a short time would elapse before “Neptune” would
bound off the poop, and seizing the nearest offender by the ear,
gallop him “forrard” in the midst of a perfect tornado of squeals and
clatter of sliding hoofs. This summary ejectment of his friends was
deeply resented by “Sailor,” who, with rigid back and gleaming eyes,
looked on as if ready to interfere if “Neptune” should overstep the
boundaries of his domain. One day the foreseen happened. In the fury
of his gallop “forrard” Neptune reached the galley door before he
released the pig he had been dragging, then suddenly recollecting
himself, was trotting back with deprecatory demeanour, when he met
“Sailor” coming round the after end of the house. The two heroes eyed
one another for a moment, but only a moment. “Sailor” felt doubtless
that this sort of thing had gone far enough, and with a snarl full
of fury they joined battle. The skipper was “forrard” promptly,
armed with a belaying-pin, and seizing “Sailor” by the neck, began
to belabour him heavily. It was too much for the men, who by this
time had all gathered around. They rushed to the rescue of their
favourite, forgetting discipline, rights of ownership, everything but
the unfairness of the proceeding. The belaying-pin was wrested from
the captain’s grasp, the dogs torn apart, and with scowling faces
the men stood confronting the raging skipper, who for some moments
was hardly able to speak. When he was, he said many things, amongst
others that he would shoot “Sailor” on sight; but it is perfectly
certain that had he carried out his threat he would have had a
complete mutiny on his hands. The matter blew over, but it was a long
time before things had quite resumed their normal calm. A keen watch
was kept over “Sailor” by the men for the rest of the voyage, lest
evil should befall him.

Monkeys are, as might be expected, popular as pets. Unfortunately,
they disturb the harmony of a ship more than any other animal that
could be obtained. For their weird powers of mischief come to
perfection where there are so many past masters in the art of animal
training, and nothing affords greater amusement to everybody but the
sufferer when “Jacko” takes it into his impish head to get loose
and ravage the contents of some fellow’s bunk or chest. So much is
this the case that many captains will not allow a monkey on board
their ship at all, feeling sure that, however peaceable a lot of
men he may have found his crew to be before, one monkey passenger
is almost sure to be the fountain and origin of many fights after
his advent. The things that monkeys will do on board ship are almost
beyond belief. One instance may be noted where a monkey in a ship
named the _Dartmouth_ gave signal proof of his reasoning powers. He
was a little black fellow from Sumatra, and from the time of his
coming on board had seemed homesick, playing but few tricks, and only
submitting passively to the petting he received. Passing through
Sunda Straits he sat upon the forecastle head looking wistfully at
the distant land with quite a dejected pose of body. As we drew near
the town of Anjer (it was before the awful convulsion of Krakatoa)
he suddenly seemed to make up his mind, and springing up he covered
his face with his hands and leapt shoreward. We were only going about
two knots an hour, happily for him. He struck out vigorously for the
shore, but suddenly realised the magnitude of his task apparently,
for he turned sharply round and swam back. One of the officers threw
him the end of the main-topsail brace, which he grasped and nimbly
climbed on board, a wiser monkey. Thenceforward his behaviour was
quite cheerful and tricky, until his lamented demise from a chill
caught off the Cape. Goats, again, are great favourites on board
ship, when they have been taught to let the running gear alone.
But their inveterate habit of gnawing everything largely discounts
their amiability. The pretty little mongoose, too, until he begins
to fraternise with his natural enemies, the rats, is a most pleasant
companion, full of play, and cleanly of habit. So is the musk-deer,
but it is so delicate that few indeed of them reach home that are
bought by sailors among the islands of the East Indian Archipelago.
The same fate overtakes most of the birds, except canaries, that
sailors buy abroad, and teach on the passage home no end of tricks.
Yet deeply as these exotic pets are loved by forecastle Jack, and
great as is the pleasure he undoubtedly derives from them, the
majority of them fall into the hands of Jamrach and Cross, or other
keen dealers in foreign birds and beasts, when the ship reaches home.
For it is seldom poor Jack has a home whereto he may bring his pets.



                            THE SURVIVORS


Evening was just closing in, heralded by that indescribable feeling
of refreshment in the torrid air always experienced at sea near the
Equator when the sun is about to disappear. The men in the “crow’s
nests” were anxiously watching the declining orb, whose disappearance
would be the signal for their release from their tedious watch. But
to the chagrin of every foremast hand, before the sun had quite
reached the horizon, the officer up at the mainmast head, taking a
final comprehensive sweep with his glasses all around, raised the
thrilling cry of “Blo--o--o--o--w.” And despite the lateness of the
hour, in less than ten minutes four boats were being strenuously
driven in the direction of the just-sighted whale. Forgetting for
awhile their discontent at the prospect before them, the crews toiled
vigorously to reach their objective, although not a man of them but
would have rejoiced to lose sight of him. It was not so to be. At
another time he would probably have been startled by the clang of
the oars as they turned in the rowlocks, but now he seemed to have
lost his powers of apprehension, allowing us to come up with him
and harpoon him with comparative ease. The moment that he felt the
prick of the keen iron, all his slothfulness seemed to vanish, and
without giving one of the other boats a chance to get fast also,
he milled round to windward, and exerting all his vast strength,
rushed off into the night that came up to meet us like the opening
of some dim portal into the unknown. Some little time was consumed
in our preparations for the next stage of our proceedings, during
which the darkness came down upon us and shut us in with our prey,
blotting out our ship and the other boats from the stinted horizon
left to us, as if they had never been. By some oversight no compass
was in our boat, and, a rare occurrence in those latitudes, the sky
was overcast so that we could not see the stars. Also there was but
little wind, our swift transit at the will of the whale alone being
responsible for the breeze we felt. On, on we went in silence except
for the roar of the parted waters on either hand, and unable to see
anything but the spectral gleam ahead whenever the great mammal
broke water to spout. Presently the headlong rush through the gloom
began to tell upon everybody’s nerves, and we hoped, almost prayed
for a slackening of the relentless speed kept up by the monster we
had fastened ourselves to. The only man who appeared unmoved was the
second mate, who was in charge. He stood in the bows as if carved
in stone, one hand grasping his long lance and the other resting on
his hip, a stern figure whose only sign of life was his unconscious
balancing to the lively motion of the boat. Always a mystery to us
of the crew, he seemed much more so now, his inscrutable figure
dimly blotched against the gloom ahead, and all our lives in his
hand. For a year we had been in daily intercourse with him, yet we
felt that we knew no more of the man himself than on the first day
of our meeting. A strong, silent man, who never cursed us as the
others did, because his lightest word carried more weight than their
torrents of blasphemy, and withal a man who came as near the seaman’s
ideal of courage, resourcefulness, and tenacity as we could conceive
possible. Again and again, as we sped onwards through the dark, each
of us after his own fashion analysed that man’s character in a weary
purposeless round of confused thought, through the haze of which shot
with dread persistence the lurid phrase, “a lost boat.” How long we
had thus been driving blindly on none of us could tell--no doubt the
time appeared enormously prolonged--but when at last the ease-up came
we were all stiff with our long constraint of position. All, that
is, but Mr. Neville our chief, who, as if in broad day within a mile
of the ship, gave all the necessary orders for the attack. Again we
were baffled, for in spite of his unprecedented run the whale began
to sound. Down, down he went in hasteless determined fashion, never
pausing for an instant, though we kept all the strain on the line
that was possible, until the last flake of our 300 fathoms left the
tub, slithered through the harpooner’s fingers round the loggerhead,
and disappeared. Up flew the boat’s head with a shock that sent us
all flying in different directions, then all was silent. Only for
a minute. The calm grave tones of Mr. Neville broke the spell by
saying, “Make yourselves as comfortable as you can, lads, we can do
nothing till daylight but watch for the ship.” We made an almost
whispered response, and began our watch. But it was like trying
to peer through the walls of an unlit cellar, so closely did the
darkness hem us in. Presently down came the rain, followed by much
wind, until, notwithstanding the latitude, our teeth chattered with
cold. Of course we were in no danger from the sea, for except in the
rare hurricanes there is seldom any wind in those regions rising
to the force of a gale. But the night was very long. Nor did our
miserable anticipations tend to make our hard lot any easier.

So low did we feel that when at last the day dawned we could not
fully appreciate the significance of that heavenly sight. As the
darkness fled, however, hope revived, and eager eyes searched every
portion of the gradually lightening ring of blue of which we were
the tiny centre. Slowly, fatefully, the fact was driven home to
our hearts that what we had feared was come to pass; the ship was
nowhere to be seen. More than that, we all knew that in that most
unfrequented stretch of ocean months might pass without signs of
vessel of any kind. There were six pounds of biscuits in one keg and
three gallons of water in another, sufficient perhaps at utmost need
to keep the six of us alive for a week. We looked in one another’s
faces and saw the fear of death plainly inscribed; we looked at Mr.
Neville’s face and were strengthened. Speaking in his usual tones,
but with a curiously deeper inflexion in them, he gave orders for
the sail to be set, and making an approximate course by the sun,
we steered to the N.W. Even the consolation of movement was soon
denied us, for as the sun rose the wind sank, the sky overhead
cleared and the sea glazed. A biscuit each and half-a-pint of
water was served out to us and we made our first meal, not without
secretly endeavouring to calculate how many more still remained to
us. At Mr. Neville’s suggestion we sheltered ourselves as much as
possible from the fierce glare of the sun, and to keep off thirst
poured sea-water over one another at frequent intervals. Our worst
trial for the present was inaction, for a feverish desire to be
doing--something--no matter what, kept our nerves twitching and
tingling so that it was all we could do to keep still.

After an hour or two of almost unbroken silence Mr. Neville spoke,
huskily at first, but as he went on his voice rang mellow and
vibrant. “My lads,” he said, “such a position as ours has been
occupied many times in the history of the sea, as you all well
know. Of the scenes that have taken place when men are brought by
circumstances like these down from their high position in the scale
of Creation to the level of unreasoning animals, we need not speak;
unhappily such tragedies are too clearly present in the thoughts
of every one of us. But in the course of my life I have many times
considered the possibilities of some day being thus situated, and
have earnestly endeavoured to prepare myself for whatever it had in
store for me. We are all alike here, for the artificial differences
that obtain in the ordinary affairs of life have dropped away from
us, leaving us on the original plane of fellow-men. And my one hope
is, that although we be of different nationalities, and still more
widely different temperaments, we may all remember that so long as we
wrestle manfully with the beast that is crouching in every one of us,
we may go, if we must go, without shame before our God. For consider
how many of those who are safe on shore this day are groaning under a
burden of life too heavy to be borne, how many are seeking a refuge
from themselves by the most painful byways to death. I am persuaded,
and so are all of you, if you give it a thought, that death itself
is no evil; the anticipation of pain accompanying death is a malady
of the mind harder to bear by many degrees than physical torture.
What I dread is not the fact of having to die, although I love the
warm light, the glorious beauty of this world as much as a man may,
but that I may forget what I am, and disgrace my manhood by letting
myself slip back into the slough from which it has taken so many ages
to raise me. Don’t let us lose hope, although we need not expect a
miracle, but let each of us help the other to be a man. The fight
will be fierce but not long, and when it is won, although we may all
live many days after we shall not suffer. Another thing, perhaps
some of you don’t believe in any God, others believe mistily in
they know not what. For my part I believe in a Father-God from whom
we came and to whom we go. And I so think of Him that I am sure He
will do even for an atom like me that which is not only best for me
but best for the whole race of mankind as represented in me. He will
neither be cruel nor forget. Only I must endeavour to use the powers
of mind and body He has given me to the best advantage now that their
testing-time has come.”

With eyes that never left that calm strong face we all hung upon
his words as if we were absorbing in some mysterious way from them
courage to endure. Of the five of us, two were Scandinavians, a
Swede and a Dane, one, the harpooner, was an American negro, one was
a Scotchman, and myself, an Englishman. Mr. Neville himself was an
American of old Puritan stock. When he left speaking there was utter
silence, so that each could almost hear the beating of the other’s
heart. But in that silence every man of us felt the armour of a high
resolve encasing him, an exalting courage uplifting him, and making
his face to shine.

Again the voice of our friend broke the stillness, this time in a
stately song that none of us had ever heard before, “O rest in the
Lord!” From thenceforward he sang almost continually, even when his
lips grew parched with drought, although each of us tendered him
some of our scanty measure of water so that he might still cheer us.
Insensibly we leant upon him as the time dragged on, for we felt that
he was a very tower of strength to us. Five days and nights crept
away without any sign of change. Patience had become a habit with
us, and the scanty allowance of food and drink had so reduced our
vitality that we scarcely felt any pain. Indeed the first two days
were the worst. And now the doles became crumbs and drops, yet still
no anger, or peevishness even, showed itself. We could still smile
sanely and look upon each other kindly. Then a heavy downpour of
rain filled our water-breaker for us, giving us in the meantime some
copious draughts, which, although they were exquisitely refreshing
at the time, racked us with excruciating pains afterwards. The last
crumb went, and did not worry us by its going, for we had arrived by
easy stages at a physical and mental condition of acquiescence in the
steady approach of death that almost amounted to indifference. With a
strange exception; hearing and sight were most acute, and thought was
busy about a multitude of things, some of them the pettiest and most
trivial that could be imagined, and others of the most tremendous
import. Speech was difficult, impossible to some, but on the whole
we must have felt somewhat akin to the Hindu devotees who withdraw
themselves from mankind and endeavour to reduce the gross hamperings
of the flesh until they can enter into the conception of the unseen
verities that are about us on every side. What the mental wrestlings
of the others may have been they only knew; but to outward seeming we
had all been gently gliding down into peace.

The end drew near. Nothing occurred to stay its approach. No bird
or fish came near enough to be caught until we were all past making
an effort had one been needed. We had lost count of time, so that
I cannot say how long our solitude had lasted, when one brilliant
night as I lay in a state of semi-consciousness, looking up into the
glittering dome above, I felt a hand touch me. Slowly I turned my
head, and saw the face of the negro-harpooner, who lay by my side.
I dragged my heavy head close to his and heard him whisper, “I’m a
goin’ an I’m glad. What he said wuz true. It’s as easy as goin’ ter
sleep. So long.” And he went. What passed thereafter I do not know,
for as peacefully as a tired man settles himself down into the cosy
embrace of a comfortable bed, heaving a sigh of utter content as
the embracing rest relaxes the tension of muscles and brain, I too
slipped down into dreamless slumber.

I awoke in bitter pain, gnawing aches that left no inch of my body
unwrung. And my first taste of life’s return gave me a fierce feeling
of resentment that it would all have to be gone through again.
I felt no gratitude for life spared. That very night of my last
consciousness the whaler that rescued us must have been within a few
miles, for when we were sighted from her crow’s-nest at daybreak we
were so near that they could distinguish the bodies without glasses.
There were only three of us still alive, the fortunate ones who
had gone to their rest being Mr. Neville, the harpooner, and the
Swede. The rescuers said that except for the emaciated condition
of our bodies we all looked like sleepers. There were no signs of
pain or struggle. It was nearly two months before we who had thus
been brought back to a life of care and toil were able to resume
it, owing to our long cramped position as much as to our lack of
strength. I believe, too, that we were very slow in regaining that
natural will-to-live which is part of the animal equipment, and so
necessary to keep off the constant advances of death. And, like me,
my companions both felt that they could not be grateful for being
dragged back to life again.



                         BENEATH THE SURFACE


While the whaler to which I belonged was lying at Honolulu I one
day went ashore for a long ramble out of sight and hearing of the
numerous questionable amusements of the town, and late in the
afternoon found myself several miles to the southward of it. Emerging
from the tangled pathway through which I had been struggling with the
luxuriant greenery, I struck the sand of a lovely little bight that
commanded an uninterrupted view to seaward. Less than a mile out a
reef of black rocks occasionally bared their ugly fangs for a brief
space amidst the sleek waters, until the sleepily advancing swell,
finding its progress thus hindered, rose high over their grim summits
in a league-long fleece of dazzling foam, whose spray glittered like
jewels in the diagonal rays of the declining sun.

Upon a little knoll left by the receding tide sat a man staring
stolidly out to sea. As I drew near, my approach making no noise
upon the yielding sand, I saw that he was white. By his rig--a
shirt and trousers, big grass hat, and bare feet--I took him
for a beach-comber. These characters are not often desirable
companions--human weeds cast ashore in such places, and getting a
precarious living in dark and devious ways without work. But I felt
inclined for company and a rest after my long tramp, so I made for
him direct. He raised his head at my nearing him, showing a grizzled
beard framing a weather-beaten face as of a man some sixty years old.
There was a peculiar, _boiled_ look about his face, too, as if he had
once been drowned, by no means pleasant to see.

He gave me “Good evening!” cheerfully enough as I sat down beside
him and offered my plug of tobacco. Cutting himself a liberal quid,
he returned it with the query, “B’long ter wun er the spouters, I
persoom?” “Yes,” I replied; “boat-header in the _Cachalot_.” “Ah,”
he replied instantly, “but yew’re no Yank, neow, air ye?” “No, I’m a
Cockney--little as you may think _that_ likely,” said I; “but it’s a
fact.” “Wall, I don’no,” he drawled, “I’ve a-met Cockneys good’s I
want ter know; ’n’ why not?”

The conversation then drifted desultorily from topic to topic in
an aimless, time-killing fashion, till at last, feeling better
acquainted, I ventured to ask him what had given him that glazy,
soaked appearance, so strange and ghastly to see. “Look a-heah,
young feller,” said he abruptly, “heouw old je reckon I mout be?”
Without the slightest hesitation I replied, “Sixty, or thereabouts.”
He gave a quiet chuckle, and then said slowly, “Wall, I doan’ blame
ye, nuther; ’n’ as to feelin’--wall, sumtimes I feel ’s if I’d ben
a-livin’ right on frum the beginnin’ ov things. My age, which ’s
about the one solid fact I kin freeze onter now’days, is thutty-two.
Yew won’t b’lieve it, of course; but thet’s nothin’ ter what ye
_will_ hear, ef yew wait awhile.

“What I’m goin’ ter tell ye happened--lemme see--wall, I
doan’no--mebbe two, mebbe four er five year sence. I wuz mate of a
pearlin’ schooner b’longin’ ter Levuka, lyin’ daouwn to Rotumah.
Ware we’d ben workin’ the reef wuz middlin’ deep--deep ’nuf ter make
eour b’ys fall on deck when they come up with a load, ’n’ lie there
like dead uns fer ’bout ten minnits befo’ they k’d move ag’in. ’Twuz
slaughterin’ divin’; but the shell wuz thick, ’n’ no mistake; ’n’
eour ole man wuz a hustler--s’long’s he got shell he didn’t vally
a few dern Kanakers peggin’ eout neow ’n’ then. We’d alost three
with sharks, ’n’ ef ’twan’t thet th’ b’ys wuz more skeered of old
Hardhead than they wuz of anythin’ else I doan reckon we sh’d a-got
any more stuff thet trip ’t all. But ’z he warn’t the kind er blossom
to play any games on, they kep’ at it, ’n’ we ’uz fillin’ up fast.
The land was ’bout ten mile off, ’n’ they wuz ’bout fifty, er mebbe
sixty fathom water b’tween the reef we wuz fishin’ on ’n’ the neares’
p’int. Wall, long ’bout eight bells in the afternoon I uz a-stannin’
by the galley door watchin’ a Kanaker crawlin’ inboard very slow,
bein’ ’most done up. Five er six ov ’em uz hangin’ roun’ ’bout ter
start below agen, ’n’ th’ ole man uz a-blarsfemion gashly at ’em
fer bein’ so slow. Right in the middle of his sermont I seed ’im go
green in the face, ’n’ make a step back from the rail, with both
hans helt up in front ov ’im ’s if he uz skeered ’most ter de’th.
’N’ he wuz, too. There cum lickin’ inboard after him a long grey
slitherin’ thing like a snake ’ith no head but a lot uv saucers stuck
onto it bottom up. ’N’ befo’ I’d time ter move, bein’ ’most sort er
paralised, several more ov the dern things uz a-sneakin’ around all
over the deck. The fust one got the skipper good ’n’ tight ’ith a
round turn above his arms, ’n’ I saw him a-slidin’ away. The schooner
wuz a-rollin’ ’s if in a big swell--which there warn’t a sign of, ’s
I c’d see. But them snaky grey things went quicker ’n’ thinkin’ all
over her, ’n’ befo’ yew c’d say ‘knife’ every galoot, includin’ me,
wuz agoin’ ’long with ’em back to where they’d come from.

“Say, d’yew ever wake up all alive, ’cep’ yew couldn’ move ner speak,
only know all wuts goin’ on, ’n’ do the pow’flest thinkin’ ’bout
things yew ever did in yer life? Yes, ’n’ that’s haow I wuz then.
When thet cold gristly sarpint cum cuddlin’ roun’ me, ’n’ the saucers
got onto me ’s if they’d suck out me very bow’ls, I’d a gi’n Mount
Morgan ter died; but I couldn’t ev’n go mad. I saw the head ov the
Thing them arms b’long’d ter, ’n’ ’twuz wuss ’n the horrors, ’cause
I wuz sane ’n’ cool ’n’ collected. The eyes wuz black, ’n’ a foot or
more across, ’n’ when I looked into ’em I see meself a-comin’.”

He was silent for a minute, but shaking as if with palsy. I laid my
hand on his arm, not knowing what to say, and he looked up wistfully,
saying, “Thenks, shipmate; thet’s good.” Then he went on again.

“The whole thing went back’ards, takin’ us along; ’n I remember
thinkin’ ez we went of the other Kanakers below thet hedn’t come
back. I he’rd the bubbles ’s each of us left the sunshine, but never
a cry, never another soun’. The las’ thing I remember seein’ ’bove
me wuz th’ end of the schooner’s mainboom, which wuz guyed out to
larberd some, ’n’ looked like a big arm struck stiff an’ helpless,
though wishful to save. Down I went, that clingin’ snaky coil round
me tighter ’n my skin. But wut wuz strangest ter me wuz the fact
that not only I didn’t drown, but I felt no sort er disconvenience
frum bein’ below the water. ’N’ at last when I reached the coral,
though I dessay I looked corpse enough, ’twuz only my looks, fur I
felt, lackin’ my not bein’ able ter move, breathe, er speak, ez peart
’n’ fresh ez I dew naow. The clutch thet hed ben squeezin’ me so
all-fired tight begun to slack, ’n’ I felt more comf’ble; ’n’ ef ’t
’adn’t ben fer the reck’lection uv them eyes ’n’ thet berryin’-groun’
ov a mouth, I doan’no but wut I might ha’ been a’most happy. But
I lay thar, with the rest uv my late shipmates, sort er ready fer
consumpshun, like the flies in the corner of a spider’s web; ’n’ thet
guv me a pow’ful heap ov a bad time.

“After a while the quiet of the place begun ter breed strange noshuns
in my hed--jest like ’s if I wuz dreamin’, though wide awake ’s ever
I wuz in all my life. I jest ’peared to be ’way back at the beginnin’
uv things, befo’ they wuz anythin’ else but water, ’n’ wut life there
wuz in them early days hed ter dew ’ithout air er sun er light. I’d
read the Bible some--not ter say frequent, ’n’, bein’ but a poor
skollar, Jennersez wuz ’bout ’s fur ’s I got. But onct a Blue-nose
I uz shipmates with wuz pow’ful fond uv one er the Bible yarns he
called the Book of Jobe, ’n’ he use’ ter read thet off ter me ’twell
I nearly got it through my he’d solid. Anyway, much ov it kem back
ter me neow--bits ’beout the foundayshons ov the world, ’n’ the
boun’s ov the sea, ’n’ suchlike.

“’N’ all the time overright me in the mouth ov a gret cave, with them
res’less thutty-foot feelers ever a-twistin’ ’n’ wrigglin’ aroun’,
wuz the Thing itself, them awful eyes jest a-showin’, like moons made
ov polished jet, in the dimness. Some ov my shipmates wuz gone, the
skipper among ’em; but some, like me, wuz layin’ quiet ’n’ straight;
while all about us the fish, ov every shape ’n’ size, wuz a-gliden’
slow ’n’ stealthy, like as if ever on the watch ’gainst some enemy er
anuther.

“It seemed so long I laid thar thet I felt able to remember every
bush ’n’ bough ov coral, every boulder, that in queerest shapes yew
ever see lay scattered aroun’. At last, never havin’ quite los’ sight
of thet horrible ungodly Thing in the cave yander, I see It kem eout.
I never knowed thar wuz a God till then. Sence thet time, whenever I
hear some mouthy critter _provin’_ ez he calls it, poor child! thet
ther ain’t, ’n’ cain’t be, any God, I feel thet sorry fer him I c’d
jest sail right in ’n’ lam the foggy blether out’n his fool-skull.
But ez I wuz a-sayin, eout kem the Thing till I see the hull gret
carcass ov It, bigger ’n the bigges’ sparm whale I ever see, jest a
haulin’ ’n’ a warpin’ along by them wanderin’ arms over the hills ’n’
hallers ov the reef t’ords me. It floated between me ’n’ wut light
ther wuz, which wuz suthin’ ter be thankful fer, fer I’d a gi’n my
life ter be able to shet my eyes from it ’n’ wut wuz comin’. It hung
right over me, ’n’ I felt the clingin’ suckers closin’ all aroun’
me, when all of a sudden they left me ag’in. The gret black shadder
moved ter one side ’n’ daown through that clear water cum a sparm
whale, graceful ’n’ easy’s an albacore. I never thought much of old
squar’head’s looks before, but I’m tellin’ ye, _then_ he looked like
a shore-nough angel ’longside thet frightful crawlin’ clammy bundle
of sea sarpients.

“But I hedn’t much time ter reflec’, fer thet whale had come on
bizness, ’n’ ther wa’n’t any percrastinatin’ ’bout him. When he
got putty cluss up to the Thing that wuz backin’ oneasily away, he
sorter rounded to like a boat comin’ ’longside, only ’sted ov comin’
roun’ he come over, clar he’d over flukes. His jaw wuz hangin’ daown
baout twenty foot with all the big teeth a shinin’, ’n’ next I
knew he’d got thet gol-durned Thing in his mouth with a grip right
behin’ them awful Eyes. Roun’ come the tangle of arms like the sails
of a windmill lacin’, clutchin’, tearin’ at the whale’s head. But
they might so well hev hugged the Solander Rock. It made no sorter
diffrunce ter him, ’n’ his jaw kep’ on workin’ fer all it wuz worth
a-sawin’ off the tremenjus he’d of the Thing. Then the light went
eout. My gosh! thet water wuz jest turned inter ink, ’n’ though yew
c’d feel the sway ’n’ swirl ov thet gret struggle like the screw race
ov some big liner ther wa’n’t nothin’ ter be seen. So I reckon the
Thing I’d been puzzlin’ ter fine a name fer wuz jest the Gret Mogul
ov all the cuttle-fish, ’n’ bein’ kinder hard prest wuz a-sheddin’
the hull contents ov his ink-tank.

“Wall, I wuz sorter int’rested in this mush ’n’ very much wanted ter
see it through, but thet satisfacshun wuz denied me. All the churnin’
’n’ thrashin’ went on jest above me in pitch-dark ’n’ grave-quiet.
Bimeby the water ceased to bile aroun’ ’n’ got clearer, till after
a while I c’d see gret shadders above movin’ swiffly. The sea took
on anuther colour quite femiliar ter me, sorter yaller, a mixin’ ov
red ’n’ blue. Funniest thing wuz the carm way I wuz a takin’ ov it
all, jest like a man lookin’ out’n a b’loon at a big fight, er a
spectayter in a g’lanty show hevin’ no pusnal concern in the matter
’t all. Presently sneakin along comes a white streak cluss ter me.
Long befo’ it touched me I knew it fer wut it wuz, ’n’ then I wuz in
de’dly fear less the hope uv life after all sh’d rouse me eout uv
thish yer trance or whatever it wuz. ’Twuz a whale-line frum some
whaleship’s boat a-fishin’ overhe’d. It kem right to me. It teched
me ’n’ I felt ’s’if I must come to ’n’ die right there ’n’ then. But
it swep’ right under me, ’n’ then settled daown coil after coil till
I wuz fair snarled erp in it. By this time the water’d got so soupy
thet I could’n’ see nothin’, but ’twa’n’t long befo’ I felt myself
a-risin’--eout uv the belly uv Hell ez Jonah sez.

“Up I kem at a good lick till all uv a sudden I sees God’s light,
smells His air, ’n’ hears voices uv men. Gosh, but wa’n’t they
gallied when they see me. Blame ef I did’n’ half think they’d lemme
go ag’in. The fust one ter git his brains ter work wuz the bow
oarsman, a nigger, who leaned over the gunnel, his face greeny-grey
with fright, ’n’ grabbed me by the hair. Thet roused the rest, ’n’ I
wuz hauled in like a whiz. Then their tongues got ter waggin’, ’n’
yew never heard so many fool things said in five minutes outside er
Congress.

“It didn’ seem ter strike any ov ’em thet I moutn’t be so very
dead after all, though fortnitly fer me they conclooded ter take
me aboard with ’em. So I laid thar in the bottom ov the boat while
they finished haulin’ line. Ther wuz a clumsy feller among ’em thet
made a slip, hittin’ me an ugly welt on the nose as he wuz fallin’.
Nobody took any notice till presently one ov ’em hollers, ‘Why dog my
cats ef thet corpse ain’t got a nosebleed.’ This startled ’em all,
fer I never met a galoot so loony ez ter think a de’d man c’d bleed.
Hows’ever they jest lit eout fer the ship like sixty ’n’ h’isted me
aboard. ’Twuz er long time befo’ they got my works a-tickin’ ag’in,
but they done it at last, ’n’ once more I wuz a livin’ man amon’
livin’ men.

“Naow ov course yew doan’ b’lieve my yarn--yew cain’t, tain’t in
nacher, but, young feller, thar’s an all-fired heap o’ things in the
world that cain’t be beleft in till yew’ve ’speriunced ’em yerself
thet ’s trew’s gospel fer all thet.”

I politely deprecated his assumption of my disbelief in his yarn, but
my face belied me, I know; so, bidding him “S’long” with a parting
present of my plug of tobacco (it was all I had to give), I left him
and by the failing light made all speed I could back to my ship.



                          BY WAY OF AMENDS


Hans Neilsen was a big Dane, with a great wave of blond beard
blowing from just below his pale blue eyes, and a leonine head
covered with a straw-coloured mane. Although he was a giant in
stature he was not what you would call a fine figure of a man, for
he was round-shouldered and loosely jointed. And besides these
things he had a shambling, undecided gait and a furtive side-long
glance, ever apparently searching for a potential foe. Yet with all
his peculiarities I loved him, I never knew why. Perhaps it was
the unfailing instinct of a child--I was scarcely more--for people
whose hearts are kind. He was an A.B. on board of a lumbering old
American-built ship owned in Liverpool and presently bound thence
to Batavia. I was “the boy”--that is to say, any job that a man
could possibly growl himself out of or shirk in any way rapidly
filtered down to me, mine by sea-right. And in my leisure I had the
doubtful privilege of being body servant to eighteen men of mixed
nationalities and a never-satisfied budget of wants. Of course she
wasn’t as bad as a Geordie collier, the old _Tucson_. I didn’t
get booted about the head for every little thing, nor was I ever
aroused out of a dead sleep to hand a fellow a drink of water who
was sitting on the breaker. Nevertheless, being nobody’s especial
fancy and fully conscious of my inability to take my own part, I was
certainly no pampered menial.

They were a queer lot, those fellows. Nothing strange in that, of
course, so far, remembering how ships’ crews are made up nowadays,
but these were queer beyond the average. In the first place no two
of them were countrymen. There were representatives of countries
I had till then been ignorant of. The “boss” of the fo’c’s’le was
a huge Montenegrin, who looked to my excited fancy like a bandit
chief, and used to talk in the worst-sounding lingo I ever heard
with Giuseppe from Trieste and Antone from Patras. Louis Didelot,
a nimble black-avised little _matelot_ from Nantes, was worst
off for communication with his shipmates, not one of whom could
speak French, but somehow he managed to rub along with a barbarous
compound of French, Spanish, and English. Neilsen chummed, as far
as an occasional chat went, with a swarthy little Norwegian from
Hammerfest (I believe he was a Lapp), whose language did not seem to
differ much from Danish. The rest of the crew were made up of negroes
from various far-sundered lands, South American hybrids including
one pure-blooded Mexican with a skin like copper, a Russian and
two Malays. That fo’c’s’le was Babel over again, although in some
strange manner all seemed to find some sufficient medium for making
themselves understood. On deck of course English (?) was spoken,
but such English as would puzzle the acutest linguist that ever
lived if he wasn’t a sailor-man too. Nothing could have borne more
conclusive testimony to the flexibility of our noble tongue than the
way in which the business of that ship was carried on without any
hitch by those British officers and their polyglot crew. And another
thing--there were no rows. I have said that Sam the Montenegrin
(Heaven only knows what his name really was) was the boss of the
fo’c’s’le, but he certainly took no advantage of his tacitly accorded
position, and except for the maddening mixture of languages our
quarters were as quiet as any well-regulated household.

But as long as I live I shall always believe that most, if not all,
of our fellows were fugitives from justice, criminals of every stamp,
and owing to the accident of their being thus thrown together in an
easy-going English ship they were just enjoying a little off-season
of rest prior to resuming operations in their respective departments
when the voyage was over. I may be doing them an injustice, but as
I picked up fragments of the various languages I heard many strange
things, which, when I averaged them up, drove me to the conclusion I
have stated. From none of them, however, did I get anything definite
in the way of information about their past except Neilsen. He spoke
excellent English, or American, with hardly a trace of Scandinavian
accent, and often, when sitting alone in the dusk of the second
dog-watch on the spars lashed along by the bulwarks, I used to hear
him muttering to himself in that tongue, every now and then giving
vent to a short barking laugh of scorn. I was long getting into his
confidence, for he shrank from all society, preferring to squat with
his chin supported on both hands staring at vacancy and keeping up an
incessant muttering. But at last the many little attentions I managed
to show him thawed his attitude of reserve towards me a little, and
he permitted me to sit by his side and prattle to him of my Arab life
in London, and of my queer experiences in the various ways of getting
something to eat before I went to sea. Even then he would often scare
me just as I was in the middle of a yarn by throwing up his head and
uttering his bark of disdain, following it up immediately by leaving
me. Still I couldn’t be frightened of him, although I felt certain
he was a little mad, and I persevered, taking no notice of his
eccentricities. At last we became great friends, and he would talk
to me sanely by the hour, when during the stillness of the shining
night-watches all our shipmates, except the helmsman and look-out
man, were curled up in various corners asleep.

So matters progressed until we were half-way up the Indian Ocean
from St. Paul’s. One night in the middle watch I happened to say
(in what connection I don’t know), “It’s my birthday to-day. I’m
thirteen.” “Why, what day is it den?” he said listlessly. “The 25th
of June,” I replied. “My God! my God!” he murmured softly, burying
his face in his hands and trembling violently. I was so badly scared
I could say nothing for a few minutes, but sat wondering whether the
moon, which was literally blazing down upon us out of the intense
clearness above, had affected his weak brain. Presently he seemed to
get steadier, and I ventured to touch his arm and say, “Ain’t you
well, Neilsen? Can I get you anythin’?” There was silence for another
short spell. Then he suddenly lifted his head, and said, not looking
at me, but straight before him, “Yes, I vill tell him. I must tell
him.” Then, still without looking at me, he went on--“Boy, I’m goin’
t’ tell ye a yarn about myself, somethin’ happened to me long time
ago. Me an’ my chum, a little Scotch chap, was ’fore de mast aboard
of a Yank we’d shipped in in Liverpool. She wuz a reg’lar blood-boat.
You’ve herd o’ de kind, I ’spose, no watch an’ watch all day,
everythin’ polished ’n painted till you c’d see y’r face in it ’low
and aloft. Ole man ’n three mates alwas pradin’ roun’ ’ith one han’
on their pistol pockets ’n never a ’norder give widout a ‘Gaw-dam-ye’
to ram it down like. I tell ye wot ’tis; sailors offen tawk ’bout
hell erflote, but der ain’t menny off ’em knows wot it means, leest
not nowdays. I’ve sailed in de packets, the Westerun oshun boats I
mean, under some toughs, ’fore steam run ’em off, an’ I ’low dey wuz
hard--forrard’s well’s aft--but, boy, dey wuz church, dey wuz dat,
’longside the ’_Zekiel B. Peck_. W’y! dey tort nuttin’, nuttin ’tall,
ov scurfin’ ye way frum de wheel, you a doin’ yer damdest too, ter
pint her troo d’ eye ov a needle, ’n lammin’ th’ very Gawdfergotten
soul out ov yer jest ter keep der ’and in like. I wuz a dam site
biggern dose days den I am now, fur I wuz straight ez a spruce tree
’n limber too, I wuz; but I got my ’lowance reglar ’n took it lyin’
down too like de rest. ’N so I s’pose ’twoud a gone on till we got
to ’Frisco an’ de blood-money men come and kicked us out ov her as
ushal. Only suthin’ happend. Seems ter me suthin’s alwus a happenin’
wot ye ain’t recknd on, but sum things happen like ’s if de devil
jammed a crowbar inter ye somewheres ’n hove de bes’ part of ye inter
hell wile de rest ov ye goes a grubbin’ along everlastingly lookin’
fer wot ye lost an’ never findin’ it. Well,’twuz like dis; we wuz
a creepin’ along up de coast ov Lower California, de weadder bein’
beastly, nuttin’ but one heavy squall on top of anoder, ’n de wind
a flyin’ all round de compass. It wuz all han’s, all han’s night’n
day, wid boot ’n blayin’ pin ter cheer us up, till we wuz more like a
crowd o’ frightend long-shoremen dan a crew o’ good sailor-men. One
forenoon,’bout seven bells, we’d ben a shortenin’ down at de main ’n
wuz all a comin’ down helter-skelter, de mate n’ tird mate standin’
by in the skuppers as ushal to belt each man as he touched de deck
fer not bein’ smarter. I come slidin’ down de topmast backstays ’n
dropped on to de deck jest be’ind de mate as Scotty, my chum, landed
in front ov him. De mate jest let out and fetched Scotty in the ear.
Pore ole chap, he flung up his arms, ’n spoutin’ blood like a whale,
dropped all ov a heap in his tracks. I don’t rightly know how ’twuz,
but next ting I’d got de mate (’n he wuz nearly as big as Sam) by de
two ankles, a swingin’ him roun’ my head ’sif he wuz a capsan-bar. He
hit sometin’, I spose it wuz de topsl-halliard block, ’n it sounded
like a bag ov eggs. De rest ov de purceedins wuz all foggy like to
me, ’cept dat I was feelin’ ’bout as big ’n strong as twenty men
rolled inter one ’n I seemed ter be a smashin’ all creation into
bloody pieces. I herd de poppin’ ov revolver shots in hunderds, but
I didn’t feel none ov ’em. Presently it all quieted down ’n dere
wuz me a settin’ on de deck in de wash ov de lee scuppers a nursin’
Scotty like a baby ’n him a lookin’ up at me silly-like. The ship
was all aback an de rags ov most ov the canvas wuz slattin’ ’n
treshin’ like bullock whips, while long pennants of canvas clung to
de riggin’ all over her. I put Scotty down ’n gets up on my feet to
hev a look roun’. De deck was like a Saladero, dead bodies a lyin’
about in all directions. Seein’ Scotty standin’ up holdin’ on ter de
pin-rail I sez to him, ‘Scotty, what in hell’s de matter, hev we ben
struck by lightnin’?’ He jest waggled his head ’sif he wuz drunk ’n
sez, ‘Yes, chum, I guess we hev. Ennyhow I’m glad ter see it’s hit
de right ones.’ ’N den he laughed. ‘Sounded like breakin’ dishes it
did.’ Well, I begun to git scared ’cause I couldn’t sort it out at
all, until some ov de other fellers come from somewhere, ’n we sot
down along de spars while dey told me, all de while keepin’ deir
eyes on me, ’n lookin’ ’s if dey wuz ready to git up and scoot if I
moved. It ’peared I’d simply sailed in ’sif I’d ben made of iron,
’n slaughtered dem officers right an’ left with nottin’ but me bare
hands ’n takin’ no more notice of deir six-shooters dan if dey’d
ben pea-guns. I wonderd wot made me feel so stiff an’ sore here and
dere, seems I’d got two or tree bullets plugged inter me while we
wuz playin’ de game. ’N right in de dick of it, down comes a reglar
hurrikin squall ketchin’ her flat aback ’n rippin de kites offn her
’sif dey wuz paper. Most o’ de fellers, seein’ de hand I had, chipped
in, ’n two ov em laid quiet ’longside ov de der corpses. It wuz a
reglar clean sweep. All tree mates, carpenter, and stooard, _an’_ de
ole man, blast him, wuz dead, ’n dey said I’d killed em all. Well, I
cou’dn’t conterdickt em, but somehow I didn’t feel s’if ’twas true,
I didn’t feel bothered a bit about it, ’n as ter feelin’ sorry--why
I wuz just as contented as a hog in a corn-bin. But sometin’ had ter
be done fer we none of us tought de late officers ov de ’_Zekiel B.
Peck_ wort hangin’ fur, so we made shift to run her in fur de land,
due East. When we got widin twenty mile ov it we pervisioned a couple
ov boats an’ set fire to her, waitin’ till she got well a goin’,
’n den lowerin ’n pullin’ fur de beach. We didn’t take nuttin’ but
some grub, dere warnt a pirut among us, an we ’ranged ter separate
soon’s we got ashore, after we’d smashed de boats up. It come off
all right, ’n me and Scotty wandered up country till we got steady
work on a ranch (sort o’ farm) an’ we ’lowed we wouldn’t never go to
sea no more. We wuz very happy for ’bout a year until Scotty begun
ter weaken on me. He’d picked up wid some gal at a place a few mile
off ’n I wuz out of it. He useter leave me alone night after night,
knowin’ he wuz all de world ter me, knowin’ too det I’d gin a good
many men’s blood fer his’n. Last we fell out, ’n after a many words
’d been slung between us, he upn and call me a bloody murderer. ’Twuz
all over in a second, ’n I wuz nussin’ him in my arms agen like I did
once before, but his head hung over limp, his neck wuz broke. ’N I
ben talkin’ to him ever sence ’n tellin’ him how I’d gin forty lives
ef I had’m ter see him chummy wit me agen, but I never get no answer.”

He stopped, and almost immediately “eight bells” struck. I went below
and slept my allotted time, waking at the hoarse row of “Now then you
sleepers, seven bells,” to get the breakfast in. The morning passed
in humdrum fashion, the wind having dropped to almost a dead calm.
After dinner I was looking over the side at the lovely cool depths
smiling beneath, and the fancy suddenly seized me to have a dip, as
I had often done before, although never in that ship. I could swim,
but very little, so I made a bowline in the end of a rope, and making
it fast so that about a couple of fathoms would trail in the water, I
stripped in the chains, slipped the bowline over my head and under my
arms, and slid down into the sea. It was just heavenly. But I found
the ship was slipping along through the water just a little. So much
the better. Putting my left arm out like an oar I sheered away from
the side until the rope that held me was out straight, and there was
a wide gap of blue between me and the black hull of the ship. I was
enjoying myself in perfect fashion when suddenly I saw a huge black
shadow stealing upward from under the ship’s bottom towards me, and
immediately, my bowels boiling with fear, I lost all my strength,
my arms flew up and I slipped out of the loop. I heard a splash,
and close beside me an awful struggle began while I lay in full
possession of all my senses, just floating without motion. Neilsen
had sprung into the sea and seized the shark by the tail, being all
unarmed. Suddenly I felt the coils of a rope fall upon me, and with a
sense of returning life I clutched them, and was presently hauled on
board. I must have fainted, for when I again realised my surroundings
Neilsen was lying on deck near me, a wide red stream creeping slowly
down from him to the scuppers. Opening his eyes as I staggered to my
feet, he said feebly, “Dis’ll pay, won’t it, boy?” and died.



                    THE MYSTERY OF THE “SOLANDER”


Towering in lonely majesty for two thousand feet above the blue
waters of Foveaux Strait, the mighty mass of the Solander Rock seems
to dominate that stormy region like some eternal sentinel set to hail
the coming of the flying fleets of the northern hemisphere to the
brave new world of New Zealand. To all appearance it is perfectly
inaccessible, its bare weather-stained sides, buffeted by the
tempests of ages, rising sheer from a depth of hundreds of fathoms
without apparently a ledge or a crevice wherein even a goat could
find precarious foothold. Not that landing would be practicable even
were there any jutting shelves near the water’s edge; for exposed as
the rock is to the full range of the Southern Ocean, it must perforce
meet continually with the effects of all the storms that are raging
right round the southern slopes of this planet of ours, since there
is absolutely nothing to hinder their world-engirdling sweep in those
latitudes. Even when, as happens at rare intervals, the unwearying
west wind stays for a brief space its imperial march to meet the
rising sun, and the truce of storm and sea broods over the deep in
a hush like the peace of God, the glassy bosom of the ocean still
undulates as if with the throbbing of earth’s heart, a pulse only
to be timed by the horology of Creation. That almost imperceptible
upheaval of the sea-surface, meeting in its gliding sweep with the
Solander Rock, rises in wrathful protest, the thunders of its voice
being audible for many miles; while torn into a thousand whirling
eddies, its foaming crests chafe and grind around the steadfast
base of the solitary mountain, in a series of overfalls that would
immediately destroy any vessel of man’s building that became involved
therein. And this in a stark calm. But in a gale, especially one
that is howling from Antarctica to Kerguelen--from Tristan d’Acunha
to the Snares--over the most tremendous waste of waters this earth
can show, then is the time to see the Solander. Like a never-ending
succession of mountain ranges with snowy summits and gloomy
declivities streaked with white, the storm waves of the Southern Sea
come rushing on. Wide opens the funnel of Foveaux Strait before them,
fifty miles from shore to shore at its mouth, and in its centre,
confronting them alone, stands the great Rock. They hurl themselves
at its mass, their impact striking a deeper note than that of the
storm; as if the foundations of the earth were jarred and sent upward
through all her strata a reply to the impetuous ocean. Baffled,
dashed into a myriad hissing fragments, the sea recoils until the
very root-hold of the rock is revealed to the day, and its strange
inhabitants blink glassily at the bright glare of the sun. Then are
the broken masses of the beaten wave hurled aloft by the scourging
wind until the topmost crag streams with the salt spray and all
down the deeply-scored sides flows the foaming brine. So fierce and
continuous is the assault that the Rock is often invisible, despite
its huge mass, for hours together, or only dimly discernible through
the spindrift like a sombre spectre, the gigantic spirit of the
storm. Only the western face of the Solander is thus assaulted. For
to the eastward the Straits narrow rapidly until at their outlet
there is but two or three miles of open water. Therefore that side
of the Rock is always comparatively peaceful above high-water mark.
During the fiercest storm, the wind, meeting this solid obstruction,
recoils from itself, making an invisible cushion of air all around
the mountain, within the limits of which it is calm except on the
side remote from the wind, where a gentle return breeze may be felt.
But down below a different state of things prevails. The retreat of
the mighty waves before that immovable bastion drags after them all
the waters behind it, so that there is created a whirlpool that need
fear no comparison with the Maelström. Its indraught may be felt at a
great distance, and pieces of wreckage are collected by it until the
tormented waters are bestrewn with débris twirling in one mad dance
about those polished cliffs.

It is therefore easy to understand why the Solander Rock is left
lonely. Passing merchantmen give it a wide berth, wisely judging the
vicinity none too safe. Fishermen in this region there are none.
Only the whalers, who knew the western end of Foveaux Straits as one
of the most favourite haunts of the sperm whale, cruised about and
about it for weeks and months at a stretch, like shadowy squadrons of
a bygone day irresistibly held in a certain orbit by the attraction
of the great Rock and doomed to weave sea-patterns around it for
ever. One by one they have disappeared until now there are none left,
and the Solander alone keeps the gate.

Now at a certain period of a long voyage I once made as a seaman
on board a South Sea “Spouter,” it befell that we descended from
the balmy latitudes near the Line, where we had been cruising for
many months with little success, to see whether better luck might
await us on the stormy Solander “ground.” From the first day of our
arrival there the old grey mountain seemed to exercise a strange
fascination upon the usually prosaic mind of our elderly skipper. Of
romance or poetic instinct he did not seem to possess a shade, yet
for many an hour he would lean motionless over the weather rail, his
keen eyes steadily fixed upon the sphinx-like mass around which we
slowly cruised. He was usually silent as if dumb, but one morning
when we were about ten miles to the westward of the Rock, I happened
to be at the wheel as the sun was rising. The skipper was lolling
over the quarter, pipe in mouth, his chin supported upon his left
hand, apparently lost in thought. Suddenly the dark outlines of the
Rock became illuminated, the abrupt angles of its crags took on a
shimmering haze of tenderest glow, while from the jagged summits a
lovely coronal of radiant colour shot forth delicate streamers into
the clear morning sky. Towards us from the Rock’s black base crept
a mighty sombre shadow whose edges were so dazzling in brilliance
as to be painful to look upon. As this marvellous picture caught my
dull eyes I held my breath, while a strange tightening of the skin
over my head bore witness to the awe I felt. Then the skipper spoke,
unconscious I believe that he was uttering his thoughts aloud--“Great
God! haouw merv’llous air Thy works. The hull airth an’ the sea also
ez full o’ Thy glory.” There was utter silence again while the glow
deepened into blazing gold, crimson lances radiated from the central
dark into the deep blue around until they mellowed off into emerald
and violet, and then--the culminating point of the vision--the
vast fervent disc of the sun crowned the mountain with a blaze of
ineffable splendour.

Meanwhile we were steadily nearing the Rock, and as the wind freed
a point or two we headed straight for its centre, the vessel being
close-hauled on the starboard tack. The bright day came full circle,
the ordinary everyday duties of the ship began, but still the skipper
moved not, still I steered directly for the mountain’s broad base. I
noted several curious glances cast by the two busy officers, first
at the Rock and then at the motionless skipper, but they offered no
remarks. Nearer and nearer we drew until a great black space opened
up in the centre of the huge cliffs, looking like some enormous cave
extending far into the heart of the mountain as we rapidly lessened
our distance from it, and what was at first only a supposition
became a certainty--that enormous mass of rock was hollow. At last
when we were within a mile of it the skipper ordered me to keep her
away a couple of points, and had the yards checked in a little.
Then, binocular in hand, he mounted to the main-top and gazed long
and earnestly into the gloom of that tremendous cavern, whose floor
was at least fifty feet above high-water mark. In and out of it
flew a busy company of sea-birds, their snow-white wings gleaming
brightly against the dark background. We were so close now that we
could hear the sullen murmur of the restless waters about the base of
those wall-like cliffs, and even with the unassisted eye could see
a considerable distance within. Much anxiety began to be manifested
by all except the skipper, for everybody knew well how strong an
inset is always experienced in such positions. And as we got dead to
leeward of the rock we lost the wind--it was shut off from us by that
immense barrier. All hands were now on deck, and as “eight bells” was
struck the crisp notes came back to us with startling distinctness
from the innermost recesses of the great cavern. It was undoubtedly
a trying moment for us all, for we did not know what was going to
happen. But the old man descended leisurely, saying to the mate as
his foot touched the deck, “I’d give five hundred dollars to be able
to look round that ther hole. Ef thar ain’t suthin’ on-common to it
I’m a hoss.” “Wall, Cap’n,” answered Mr. Peck, “I guess one o’ these
yer Kanakas ’d hev’n all-fired hard dig at it fur a darn sight less
’n that. But doan’ ye think we mout so well be gittin’ a bit ov’n
offin’? I’m er soshibul man m’self, ’n thet’s a fack, but I’ll be
gol durned ef I wouldn’t jest ’s lieve be a few mile further away ’s
not.” As he spoke the reflex eddy of the wind round the other side
of the rock filled our head sails and we paid off to leeward smartly
enough. A sensation of relief rippled through all hands as the
good old tub churned up the water again and slipped away from that
terribly dangerous vicinity.

The old man’s words having been plainly heard by several of us,
there was much animated discussion of them during that forenoon
watch below to the exclusion of every other topic. As many different
surmises were set afloat as to what the mystery of that gloomy abyss
might be as there were men in our watch, but finally we all agreed
that whatever it was the old man would find a way to unravel it if
it was within the range of human possibility. A week passed away,
during which the weather remained wonderfully fine, a most unusual
occurrence in that place. A big whale was caught, and the subsequent
proceedings effectually banished all thoughts of the mystery from
our minds for the time; but when the ship had regained her normal
neatness and the last traces of our greasy occupation had been
cleared away, back with a swing came the enthralling interest in that
cave. Again we headed up for the rock with a failing air of wind
that finally left us when we were a scant two miles from it. Then
two sturdy little Kanakas, who had lately been holding interminable
consultations with each other, crept aft and somehow made the old
man understand that they were willing to attempt the scaling of that
grim ocean fortress. Their plan of campaign was simple. A boat was
to take them in as close as was prudent, carrying three whale lines,
or over 5000 feet. Each of them would have a “Black fish poke” or
bladder which is about as big as a four-gallon cask, and when fully
inflated is capable of floating three men easily. They would also
take with them a big coil of stout fishing-line which when they took
the water they would pay out behind them, one end being secured to
the boat. Thus equipped, they felt confident of being able to effect
a landing. Without hesitation, such was his burning desire to know
more about that strange place, he accepted the brave little men’s
offer. No time was lost. In less than a quarter of an hour all was
ready, and away went the boat, manned by five of our best men and
steered by the skipper himself. She was soon on the very margin
of safety, and without a moment’s hesitation away went the daring
darkies. Like seals they dodged the roaring eddies, as if amphibious,
they slacked off their bladders and dived beneath the ugly combers
that now and then threatened to hurl them against the frowning face
of the rock. Suddenly one of them disappeared entirely. We thought
he had been dashed to pieces and had sunk, but almost immediately
the other one vanished also. Hardly a breath was drawn among us, our
hearts stood still. The skipper’s face was a study in mental agony.
Silently he signed to us to pull a stroke or two although already we
were in a highly dangerous position. What we felt none of us could
describe when, sending all the blood rushing to our heads, we heard
an eldritch yell multiplied indefinitely by a whole series of echoes.
And there high above our heads on the brink of the cave stood the two
gallant fellows apparently frantic with delight. A big tear wandered
reluctantly down each of the skipper’s rugged cheeks as he muttered
“Starn all,” and in obedience to his order the boat shot seaward a
few lengths into safety. Thus we waited for fully an hour, while the
two Kanakas were invisible, apparently busy with their explorations.
At last they appeared again, holding up their hands as if to show
us something. Then they shouted some indistinct words which by the
gestures that accompanied them we took to mean that they would now
return. Again they disappeared, but in less than five minutes we saw
them battling with the seething surf once more. Now we could help
them, and by hauling steadily on the fishing-lines we soon had them
in the boat and were patting their smooth brown backs. They said that
they had found a sort of vertical tunnel whose opening was beneath
the water, which they had entered by diving. It led right up into the
cave, which was of tremendous extent, so large, in fact, that they
had not explored a tenth of it. But not far from its entrance they
had found the bones of a man! By his side lay a sheath-knife and a
brass belt buckle. Nothing more. And the mystery of the Solander was
deeper than ever. We never again attempted its solution.



                         OUR AMPHIBIOUS ARMY


Once more the logic of events is compelling the attention of all
and sundry to the fact, hardly realised by the great majority
of people, that in the personnel of the Navy we have a force of
warriors that on land as well as at sea have not their equals in the
world. The overwhelming preponderance of our naval power deprives
these magnificent men of the opportunity to show an astounded world
what they are capable of on their own element; how they can handle
the terrible engines of war with which modern engineering science
has equipped them; but in spite of the fact that as a nation we
know little of the doings of our new Navy upon the sea, there is
undoubtedly a solid simple faith in its absolute pre-eminence. Like
the deeds of all true heroes, the work of our sailors is done out
of sight; there are no applauding crowds to witness the incessant
striving after perfection that goes on in our ships of war. We rarely
see a company of bluejackets ashore unless we have the good fortune
to live at some of the ports favoured by men-o’-war. There, if we
feel interested, we may occasionally get a glimpse of a drill-party
landed, and watch the way in which Jack handles himself and his
weapons freed from the hampering environment of his ship’s decks.
And to those who enjoy the spectacle of a body of men at the highest
pitch of physical development, clothed in garments that permit the
utmost freedom of limb, and actuated every one by an intelligent
desire after perfection, the sight is worth any trouble to obtain.
Really, it is “heady” as strong wine. To the dash and enthusiasm of
public-school boys the men unite an intense pride in their profession
and an intellectual obedience that is amazing to the beholder.

Yet it should be remembered that shore-drill is for them only a
small interlude, an occasional break in the constant stream of
duties that claims every unit on board of a man-o’-war throughout
each working day. There is so very much to do in the keeping up to
perfect fitness of the vast complication of a modern ship of war that
only the most careful organisation and apportionment of duties makes
the performance possible. But sandwiched in between such routine
work comes so great a variety of marine evolutions that the mind is
staggered to contemplate them. It would be well for all landsmen
reading of the doings of a Naval Brigade ashore to remember this--to
bear in mind that if Jack excels as a soldier, preparation for which
duty is made in the merest fag-ends and scraps of his time, he is
superexcellent in the performance of his main business, which he does
in the privacy of the sea, with only the approval of his superior
officers--and his pride in the British Navy--to encourage him. How
would it be possible to convey to the lay mind the significance of
even one of these complicated evolutions that are sprung upon Jack
at all sorts of times without a moment’s warning? How reveal the
significance of such a manifestation of readiness for all emergencies
as is shown by, say, the bugle-call “Prepare for action”? The ship
is in a state of normal peace. Every member of the crew is engaged
either upon such private matters as making or mending clothes,
school-room duties, or other domestic relaxations peculiar to a watch
below; or on the never-ending work of cleaning steel and brass, &c.,
that must be done whatever goes undone. At the first note of alarm
every one springs to attention, before half the tune has vibrated
they are swarming like bees round an overturned hive, and by the
time that any ordinary individual would have realised the import of
the command the whole interior of the ship is transformed. Great
masses of iron that look immovable as if built into the hull have
disappeared, every aperture whereby water could gain access below
is hermetically sealed, each subdivision of the ship is isolated by
water-tight doors, and from hidden depths with ponderous clangour
is rising the food for the shining monsters above. The racks are
stripped of revolvers and cutlasses, the mess-traps and tables
have disappeared from the lower deck, and, showing all her teeth,
the mighty weapon of war is ready for the foe. If the watchful
head of affairs has noted with satisfaction the number of minutes
absorbed in this general upheaval of things, his word or two of
approval circulates with electric swiftness from fighting-top to
torpedo-flat; should he frown darkly upon a few seconds’ delay, there
is gloom on all faces and frantic searching of heart among those who
may be held responsible therefor.

For be it noted that the perfunctory leisurely performance of
any duty is unthinkable in the Navy. The Scriptural injunction,
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might,” is
fully acted upon there, not only by command, but with the gleeful
co-operation of those commanded. And hence it is that whenever a
Naval Brigade is called upon for service ashore, their behaviour is
such as to call for wonder and admiration even from those who know
least about the difficulties they overcome. Their high spirits,
the frolicsome way in which they attack the most tremendous tasks,
compel even their bitterest enemies to bear witness in their favour,
while hardships that would disable or dishearten landsmen only seem
to heighten their enjoyment. It has often been said that during one
of our West African campaigns the conduct of the Naval Brigade in
one peculiar direction was unique. Orders had been given that in
consequence of the danger of lying on the ground every man should
collect a sufficient pile of brushwood upon which to raise his body
while he slept. To the rank-and-file of the Army this duty, coming at
the end of a fatiguing day’s march, was a terrible one, although it
was practically their only safeguard against disease. They wandered
wearily about in the darkness seeking sticks for their couch, and
trying all kinds of dodges to evade the salutary regulation. But
Johnny Haul-taut thought it fine fun. Not only was his pile of
sticks collected in double-quick time, but he was noways backward in
lending a helping hand to his less adaptable march-mates of the Army,
and after that he had still so much superfluous energy to spare that
he must needs dance a great deal before retiring to rest, flinging
himself about in uproarious merriment while tired soldiers were still
seeking material for their couches.

Amid all the revenges that time affords the sons of men, could there
be anything more dramatic than that exemplified by the relative
positions of soldier and sailor to-day? Recall the infant days of
the Navy, when the sailor was looked upon as a base mechanic, one
degree perhaps better than the galley-slave who, chained to the oar,
enacted the part of machinery whereby the warship was brought into
action, and lived or died as it might happen without ever having
a say in the matter or an opportunity for self-defence. Picture
the proud mail-clad warriors striding on board the ships, hardly
deigning to notice the mariners who trimmed the sails and handled
the vessels--mere rope-haulers, coarse and uncouth, destitute of any
military virtues, and only fit, indeed, to be the humble attendants
upon the behests of warlike men. Think of the general taking command
of a fleet, fresh from leaguers and pitched battles ashore, and
giving his orders to the ships as to a troop of horse. And then
remember the great change in the relations of soldier and sailor
now. Not only is the sailor a man of war from his youth up, but all
his training tends to bring out resourcefulness, individuality, and
self-reliance, not only in the officer but in the humblest seaman.
Without in the least intending the very slightest disparagement
to our gallant and able Army officers--men who have proved their
ability as well as their courage on so many battlefields--it may be
permissible to quote the recent words of a first-class petty officer,
a bos’un’s mate on board of one of her Majesty’s ships, who said:
“There ain’t a General livin’ as can handle a fleet, but I’ll back
e’er a one of our Admirals to handle an army agenst the smartest
General we’ve got.” He probably meant an army of sailors, for the
behaviour of even the finest troops would hardly satisfy the ideas
of smartness held by an Admiral. He has been taught to expect his
men to combine the characteristics of cats, monkeys, game-cocks,
and bulldogs, with a high order of human intelligence to leaven the
whole. Remembering all this, it would be interesting to know, if the
knowledge were to be had, the history of the struggle that resulted
in the sailor throwing off the rule of the soldier at sea. That it
was long and bitter, admits of no doubt, for it has left its traces
even now, traces that it would, perhaps, be invidious to point
out. Foreign critics sneer at most things English, and institute
unfavourable comparisons, but it is gratifying to note that such
comparisons are never made between the British naval officer and any
other warriors soever. The task would, indeed, be an ungrateful one
for any critic attempting it in the hope of proving shortcomings on
the part of these splendid sailors--well, perhaps the word “sailors”
will hardly fit them now. The handling of ships still forms an
important part of their manifold duties, but when one realises what
their scientific attainments must be in order to discharge all those
duties, it becomes quite a mental problem how ever the naval officer
of to-day manages to know so much at such an age as he usually is
when he becomes a Lieutenant. That he does manage it we all know,
and not only so, but, instead of shrivelling up into a sapless,
spectacled student, he retains a sparkling boyishness of demeanour, a
readiness for fun and frolic of all kinds that is contagious, making
the most morbid visitor admitted to intimate acquaintanceship with
the life of a warship feel as if the weight of years had suddenly
been lifted from him.

With that keen insight which always characterises him, Mr. Kipling
has noted in marvellous language what he terms the almost “infernal
mobility” of a battleship’s crew--how at a given signal there
suddenly bursts from her grim sides a fleet of boats, warships
in miniature, each self-contained and full of possibilities of
destruction. The sight of “Man and arm boats” simultaneously carried
out in less than a dozen minutes by every ship in a squadron, the
sudden mobilisation of an army numbering between two and three
thousand perfectly equipped sinewy men in whose vocabulary the word
“impossible” has no place, is one that should be witnessed by every
thoughtful citizen who would understand the composition of our
first line of defence. Better still, perhaps, that he should see
the operation performed of transhipping guns, such guns as those
landed by the tars of the _Powerful_ and used with such effect at
Ladysmith. One would like to know for certain whether it is true,
as reported, that her 6-inch rifles were landed as well as the 4.7
guns. The latter were a handful, no doubt, but the former! They are
twenty feet long, they weigh seven tons, and have a range of 11,000
yards;--penetration at 1000 yards, 11.6 inch of iron. Yet it is
reported that some of these pretty playthings were landed by the
bluejackets, mounted on carriages designed by one of their officers
and built by the ship’s artificers, and taken up country into action.
Truly a feat worthy of Titans.

Is it any wonder that Jack is proud of his shore-fighting record?
Wherever and whenever he has been permitted to join in the work
of the Army he has made his mark so deeply that he has come to be
looked upon as indispensable, invincible. His effervescent humour
never seems to desert him, as the following anecdote, told the
writer recently, fairly well illustrates. It was at Gingihlovo, and
the Naval Brigade was face to face with an apparently overwhelming
force of Zulus, numbers of whom were armed with rifles. The sailors
were reserving their fire, only sending an occasional volley when a
favourable opportunity presented itself. Forth from the Zulu host
stepped a warrior laden with an ancient firearm, which he calmly
mounted upon a tripod in the open, while the sailors looked on
admiring his pluck, but wondering much what he was proposing to do.
At last one jovial tar suggested that their photographs were going to
be taken, and, by common consent, no shots were sent at the supposed
photographer. Having loaded his piece with great deliberation, the
Zulu primed it, sighted, and, leaning hard against its breech, he
fired. The recoil--for the thing was much overloaded--knocked him
head over heels backward, while a great roar of laughter went up from
the delighted sailors. He sat up looking hurt and dazed, and then,
the amusement over, he, along with a suddenly charging _impi_ of his
countrymen, were annihilated by a volley from the steadily aimed
pieces of the little cheerful band of bluejackets.


                               THE END


                 Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
                         Edinburgh & London



                     NEW 6/- NOVELS, SPRING 1901


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                         Transcriber’s Notes

  Inconsistencies in hyphenation and spelling such as
  “sea-worthy/seaworthy” and “Maelström/Maelstrom,” have been
  maintained.

  Obsolete spellings such as “bolin” for “bowline” have been
  maintained.

  Page 64: Changed “first words bewrayed” to “first words betrayed”.

  Page 101: Changed “very little acqaintance” to “very little
  acquaintance”.

  Page 131: Changed “Next mornind” to “Next morning”.

  Page 164: Changed “able seamen” to “able seaman”.

  Page 177: Changed “fo’c’sle” to “fo’c’s’le”.

  Page 178: Changed “fo’c’sle” to “fo’c’s’le”.

  Page 186: Deleted duplicate “a” in “resembles in a a remote”.

  Page 334: Changed “dissport” to “disport”.





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