Omoo: Adventures in the South Seas
CHAPTER I. MY RECEPTION ABOARD CHAPTER II. SOME ACCOUNT OF THE SHIP CHAPTER III. FURTHER ACCOUNT OF THE JULIA CHAPTER IV. A SCENE IN THE FORECASTLE CHAPTER V. WHAT HAPPENED AT HYTYHOO CHAPTER VI. WE TOUCH AT LA DOMINICA CHAPTER VII. WHAT HAPPENED AT HANNAMANOO CHAPTER VIII. THE TATTOOERS OF LA DOMINICA CHAPTER IX. WE STEER TO THE WESTWARD—STATE OF AFFAIRS CHAPTER X. A SEA-PARLOUR DESCRIBED, WITH SOME OF ITS TENANTS CHAPTER XI. DOCTOR LONG GHOST A WAG—ONE OF HIS CAPERS CHAPTER XII. DEATH AND BURIAL OF TWO OF THE CREW CHAPTER XIII. OUR DESTINATION CHANGED CHAPTER XIV. ROPE YARN CHAPTER XV. CHIPS AND BUNGS CHAPTER XVI. WE ENCOUNTER A GALE CHAPTER XVII. THE CORAL ISLANDS CHAPTER XVIII. TAHITI CHAPTER XIX. A SURPRISE—MORE ABOUT BEMBO CHAPTER XX. THE ROUND ROBIN—VISITORS FROM SHORE CHAPTER XXI. PROCEEDINGS OF THE CONSUL CHAPTER XXII. THE CONSUL'S DEPARTURE CHAPTER XXIII. THE SECOND NIGHT OFF PAPEETEE CHAPTER XXIV. OUTBREAK OF THE CREW CHAPTER XXV. JERMIN ENCOUNTERS AN OLD SHIPMATE CHAPTER XXVI. WE ENTER THE HARBOUR—JIM THE PILOT CHAPTER XXVII. A GLANCE AT PAPEETEE—WE ARE SENT ABOARD THE FRIGATE CHAPTER XXVIII. RECEPTION FROM THE FRENCHMAN CHAPTER XXIX. THE REINE BLANCHE CHAPTER XXX. THEY TAKE US ASHORE—WHAT HAPPENED THERE CHAPTER XXXI. THE CALABOOZA BERETANEE CHAPTER XXXII. PROCEEDINGS OF THE FRENCH AT TAHITI CHAPTER XXXIII. WE RECEIVE CALLS AT THE HOTEL DE CALABOOZA CHAPTER XXXIV. LIFE AT THE CALABOOZA CHAPTER XXXV. VISIT FROM AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE CHAPTER XXXVI. WE ARE CARRIED BEFORE THE CONSUL AND CAPTAIN CHAPTER XXXVII. THE FRENCH PRIESTS PAY THEIR RESPECTS CHAPTER XXXVIII. LITTLE JULIA SAILS WITHOUT US CHAPTER XXXIX. JERMIN SERVES US A GOOD TURN—FRIENDSHIPS IN POLYNESIA
CHAPTER XL. WE TAKE UNTO OURSELVES FRIENDS CHAPTER XLI. WE LEVY CONTRIBUTIONS ON THE SHIPPING CHAPTER XLII. MOTOO-OTOO A TAHITIAN CASUIST CHAPTER XLIII. ONE IS JUDGED BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS CHAPTER XLIV. CATHEDRAL OF PAPOAR—THE CHURCH OP THE COCOA-NUTS CHAPTER XLV. MISSIONARY'S SERMON; WITH SOME REFLECTIONS CHAPTER XLVI. SOMETHING ABOUT THE KANNAKIPPERS CHAPTER XLVII. HOW THEY DRESS IN TAHITI CHAPTER XLVIII. TAHITI AS IT IS CHAPTER XLIX. SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED CHAPTER L. SOMETHING HAPPENS TO LONG GHOST CHAPTER LI. WILSON GIVES US THE CUT—DEPARTURE FOR IMEEO CHAPTER LII. THE VALLEY OF MARTAIR CHAPTER LIII. FARMING IN POLYNESIA CHAPTER LIV. SOME ACCOUNT OF THE WILD CATTLE IN POLYNESIA CHAPTER LV. A HUNTING RAMBLE WITH ZEKE CHAPTER LVI. MOSQUITOES CHAPTER LVII. THE SECOND HUNT IN THE MOUNTAINS CHAPTER LVIII. THE HUNTING-FEAST; AND A VISIT TO AFREHITOO CHAPTER LIX. THE MURPHIES CHAPTER LX. WHAT THEY THOUGHT OF US IN MARTAIR CHAPTER LXI. PREPARING FOR THE JOURNEY CHAPTER LXII. TAMAI CHAPTER LXIII. A DANCE IN THE VALLEY CHAPTER LXIV. MYSTERIOUS CHAPTER LXV. THE HEGIRA, OR FLIGHT CHAPTER LXVI. HOW WE WERE TO GET TO TALOO CHAPTER LXVII. THE JOURNEY ROUND THE BEACH CHAPTER LXVIII. A DINNER-PARTY IN IMEEO CHAPTER LXIX. THE COCOA-PALM CHAPTER LXX. LIFE AT LOOHOOLOO CHAPTER LXXI. WE START FOR TALOO CHAPTER LXXII. A DEALER IN THE CONTRABAND CHAPTER LXXIII. OUR RECEPTION IN PARTOOWYE CHAPTER LXXIV. RETIRING FOR THE NIGHT—THE DOCTOR GROWS DEVOUT CHAPTER LXXV. A RAMBLE THROUGH THE SETTLEMENT CHAPTER LXXVI. AN ISLAND JILT—WE VISIT THE SHIP CHAPTER LXXVII. A PARTY OF ROVERS—LITTLE LOO AND THE DOCTOR CHAPTER LXXVIII. MRS. BELL CHAPTER LXXIX. TALOO CHAPEL—HOLDING COURT IN POLYNESIA CHAPTER LXXX. QUEEN POMAREE CHAPTER LXXXI. WE VISIT THE COURT CHAPTER LXXXII. WHICH ENDS THE BOOK
MY RECEPTION ABOARD
IT WAS the middle of a bright tropical afternoon that we made good our escape from the bay. The vessel we sought lay with her main-topsail aback about a league from the land, and was the only object that broke the broad expanse of the ocean.
On approaching, she turned out to be a small, slatternly-looking craft, her hull and spars a dingy black, rigging all slack and bleached nearly white, and everything denoting an ill state of affairs aboard. The four boats hanging from her sides proclaimed her a whaler. Leaning carelessly over the bulwarks were the sailors, wild, haggard-looking fellows in Scotch caps and faded blue frocks; some of them with cheeks of a mottled bronze, to which sickness soon changes the rich berry-brown of a seaman's complexion in the tropics.
On the quarter-deck was one whom I took for the chief mate. He wore a broad-brimmed Panama hat, and his spy-glass was levelled as we advanced.
When we came alongside, a low cry ran fore and aft the deck, and everybody gazed at us with inquiring eyes. And well they might. To say nothing of the savage boat's crew, panting with excitement, all gesture and vociferation, my own appearance was calculated to excite curiosity. A robe of the native cloth was thrown over my shoulders, my hair and beard were uncut, and I betrayed other evidences of my recent adventure. Immediately on gaining the deck, they beset me on all sides with questions, the half of which I could not answer, so incessantly were they put.
As an instance of the curious coincidences which often befall the sailor, I must here mention that two countenances before me were familiar. One was that of an old man-of-war's-man, whose acquaintance I had made in Rio de Janeiro, at which place touched the ship in which I sailed from home. The other was a young man whom, four years previous, I had frequently met in a sailor boarding-house in Liverpool. I remembered parting with him at Prince's Dock Gates, in the midst of a swarm of police-officers, trackmen, stevedores, beggars, and the like. And here we were again:—years had rolled by, many a league of ocean had been traversed, and we were thrown together under circumstances which almost made me doubt my own existence.
But a few moments passed ere I was sent for into the cabin by the captain.
He was quite a young man, pale and slender, more like a sickly counting-house clerk than a bluff sea-captain. Bidding me be seated, he ordered the steward to hand me a glass of Pisco. In the state I was, this stimulus almost made me delirious; so that of all I then went on to relate concerning my residence on the island I can scarcely remember a word. After this I was asked whether I desired to "ship"; of course I said yes; that is, if he would allow me to enter for one cruise, engaging to discharge me, if I so desired, at the next port. In this way men are frequently shipped on board whalemen in the South Seas. My stipulation was acceded to, and the ship's articles handed me to sign.
The mate was now called below, and charged to make a "well man" of me; not, let it be borne in mind, that the captain felt any great compassion for me, he only desired to have the benefit of my services as soon as possible.
Helping me on deck, the mate stretched me out on the windlass and commenced examining my limb; and then doctoring it after a fashion with something from the medicine-chest, rolled it up in a piece of an old sail, making so big a bundle that, with my feet resting on the windlass, I might have been taken for a sailor with the gout. While this was going on, someone removing my tappa cloak slipped on a blue frock in its place, and another, actuated by the same desire to make a civilized mortal of me, flourished about my head a great pair lie imminent jeopardy of both ears, and the certain destruction of hair and beard.
The day was now drawing to a close, and, as the land faded from my sight, I was all alive to the change in my condition. But how far short of our expectations is oftentimes the fulfilment of the most ardent hopes. Safe aboard of a ship—so long my earnest prayer—with home and friends once more in prospect, I nevertheless felt weighed down by a melancholy that could not be shaken off. It was the thought of never more seeing those who, notwithstanding their desire to retain me a captive, had, upon the whole, treated me so kindly. I was leaving them for ever.
So unforeseen and sudden had been my escape, so excited had I been through it all, and so great the contrast between the luxurious repose of the valley, and the wild noise and motion of a ship at sea, that at times my recent adventures had all the strangeness of a dream; and I could scarcely believe that the same sun now setting over a waste of waters, had that very morning risen above the mountains and peered in upon me as I lay on my mat in Typee.
Going below into the forecastle just after dark, I was inducted into a wretched "bunk" or sleeping-box built over another. The rickety bottoms of both were spread with several pieces of a blanket. A battered tin can was then handed me, containing about half a pint of "tea"—so called by courtesy, though whether the juice of such stalks as one finds floating therein deserves that title, is a matter all shipowners must settle with their consciences. A cube of salt beef, on a hard round biscuit by way of platter, was also handed up; and without more ado, I made a meal, the salt flavour of which, after the Nebuchadnezzar fare of the valley, was positively delicious.
While thus engaged, an old sailor on a chest just under me was puffing out volumes of tobacco smoke. My supper finished, he brushed the stem of his sooty pipe against the sleeve of his frock, and politely waved it toward me. The attention was sailor-like; as for the nicety of the thing, no man who has lived in forecastles is at all fastidious; and so, after a few vigorous whiffs to induce repose, I turned over and tried my best to forget myself. But in vain. My crib, instead of extending fore and aft, as it should have done, was placed athwart ships, that is, at right angles to the keel, and the vessel, going before the wind, rolled to such a degree, that-every time my heels went up and my head went down, I thought I was on the point of turning a somerset. Beside this, there were still more annoying causes of inquietude; and every once in a while a splash of water came down the open scuttle, and flung the spray in my face.
At last, after a sleepless night, broken twice by the merciless call of the watch, a peep of daylight struggled into view from above, and someone came below. It was my old friend with the pipe.
"Here, shipmate," said I, "help me out of this place, and let me go on deck."
"Halloa, who's that croaking?" was the rejoinder, as he peered into the obscurity where I lay. "Ay, Typee, my king of the cannibals, is it you I But I say, my lad, how's that spar of your'n? the mate says it's in a devil of a way; and last night set the steward to sharpening the handsaw: hope he won't have the carving of ye."
Long before daylight we arrived off the bay of Nukuheva, and making short tacks until morning, we then ran in and sent a boat ashore with the natives who had brought me to the ship. Upon its return, we made sail again, and stood off from the land. There was a fine breeze; and notwithstanding my bad night's rest, the cool, fresh air of a morning at sea was so bracing, mat, as soon as I breathed it, my spirits rose at once.
Seated upon the windlass the greater portion of the day, and chatting freely with the men, I learned the history of the voyage thus far, and everything respecting the ship and its present condition.
These matters I will now throw together in the next chapter.
SOME ACCOUNT OF THE SHIP
FIRST AND foremost, I must give some account of the Julia herself; or "Little Jule," as the sailors familiarly styled her.
She was a small barque of a beautiful model, something more than two hundred tons, Yankee-built and very old. Fitted for a privateer out of a New England port during the war of 1812, she had been captured at sea by a British cruiser, and, after seeing all sorts of service, was at last employed as a government packet in the Australian seas. Being condemned, however, about two years previous, she was purchased at auction by a house in Sydney, who, after some slight repairs, dispatched her on the present voyage.
Notwithstanding the repairs, she was still in a miserable plight. The lower masts were said to be unsound; the standing rigging was much worn; and, in some places, even the bulwarks were quite rotten. Still, she was tolerably tight, and but little more than the ordinary pumping of a morning served to keep her free.
But all this had nothing to do with her sailing; at that, brave Little Jule, plump Little Jule, was a witch. Blow high, or blow low, she was always ready for the breeze; and when she dashed the waves from her prow, and pranced, and pawed the sea, you never thought of her patched sails and blistered hull. How the fleet creature would fly before the wind! rolling, now and then, to be sure, but in very playfulness. Sailing to windward, no gale could bow her over: with spars erect, she looked right up into the wind's eye, and so she went.
But after all, Little Jule was not to be confided in. Lively enough, and playful she was, but on that very account the more to be distrusted. Who knew, but that like some vivacious old mortal all at once sinking into a decline, she might, some dark night, spring a leak and carry us all to the bottom. However, she played us no such ugly trick, and therefore, I wrong Little Jule in supposing it.
She had a free roving commission. According to her papers she might go whither she pleased—whaling, sealing, or anything else. Sperm whaling, however, was what she relied upon; though, as yet, only two fish had been brought alongside.
The day they sailed out of Sydney Heads, the ship's company, all told, numbered some thirty-two souls; now, they mustered about twenty; the rest had deserted. Even the three junior mates who had headed the whaleboats were gone: and of the four harpooners, only one was left, a wild New Zealander, or "Mowree" as his countrymen are more commonly called in the Pacific. But this was not all. More than half the seamen remaining were more or less unwell from a long sojourn in a dissipated port; some of them wholly unfit for duty, one or two dangerously ill, and the rest managing to stand their watch though they could do but little.
The captain was a young cockney, who, a few years before, had emigrated to Australia, and, by some favouritism or other, had procured the command of the vessel, though in no wise competent. He was essentially a landsman, and though a man of education, no more meant for the sea than a hairdresser. Hence everybody made fun of him. They called him "The Cabin Boy," "Paper Jack," and half a dozen other undignified names. In truth, the men made no secret of the derision in which they held him; and as for the slender gentleman himself, he knew it all very well, and bore himself with becoming meekness. Holding as little intercourse with them as possible, he left everything to the chief mate, who, as the story went, had been given his captain in charge. Yet, despite his apparent unobtrusiveness, the silent captain had more to do with the men than they thought. In short, although one of your sheepish-looking fellows, he had a sort of still, timid cunning, which no one would have suspected, and which, for that very reason, was all the more active. So the bluff mate, who always thought he did what he pleased, was occasionally made a fool of; and some obnoxious measures which he carried out, in spite of all growlings, were little thought to originate with the dapper little fellow in nankeen jacket and white canvas pumps. But, to all appearance, at least, the mate had everything his own way; indeed, in most things this was actually the case; and it was quite plain that the captain stood in awe of him.
So far as courage, seamanship, and a natural aptitude for keeping riotous spirits in subjection were concerned, no man was better qualified for his vocation than John Jermin. He was the very beau-ideal of the efficient race of short, thick-set men. His hair curled in little rings of iron gray all over his round bullet head. As for his countenance, it was strongly marked, deeply pitted with the small-pox. For the rest, there was a fierce little squint out of one eye; the nose had a rakish twist to one side; while his large mouth, and great white teeth, looked absolutely sharkish when he laughed. In a word, no one, after getting a fair look at him, would ever think of improving the shape of his nose, wanting in symmetry as it was. Notwithstanding his pugnacious looks, however, Jermin had a heart as big as a bullock's; that you saw at a glance.
Such was our mate; but he had one failing: he abhorred all weak infusions, and cleaved manfully to strong drink.. At all times he was more or less under the influence of it. Taken in moderate quantities, I believe, in my soul, it did a man like him good; brightened his eyes, swept the cobwebs out of his brain, and regulated his pulse. But the worst of it was, that sometimes he drank too much, and a more obstreperous fellow than Jermin in his cups, you seldom came across. He was always for having a fight; but the very men he flogged loved him as a brother, for he had such an irresistibly good-natured way of knocking them down, that no one could find it in his heart to bear malice against him. So much for stout little Jermin.
All English whalemen are bound by-law to carry a physician, who, of course, is rated a gentleman, and lives in the cabin, with nothing but his professional duties to attend to; but incidentally he drinks "flip" and plays cards with the captain. There was such a worthy aboard of the Julia; but, curious to tell, he lived in the forecastle with the men. And this was the way it happened.
In the early part of the voyage the doctor and the captain lived together as pleasantly as could be. To say nothing of many a can they drank over the cabin transom, both of them had read books, and one of them had travelled; so their stories never flagged. But once on a time they got into a dispute about politics, and the doctor, moreover, getting into a rage, drove home an argument with his fist, and left the captain on the floor literally silenced. This was carrying it with a high hand; so he was shut up in his state-room for ten days, and left to meditate on bread and water, and the impropriety of flying into a passion. Smarting under his disgrace, he undertook, a short time after his liberation, to leave the vessel clandestinely at one of the islands, but was brought back ignominiously, and again shut up. Being set at large for the second time, he vowed he would not live any longer with the captain, and went forward with his chests among the sailors, where he was received with open arms as a good fellow and an injured man.
I must give some further account of him, for he figures largely in the narrative. His early history, like that of many other heroes, was enveloped in the profoundest obscurity; though he threw out hints of a patrimonial estate, a nabob uncle, and an unfortunate affair which sent him a-roving. All that was known, however, was this. He had gone out to Sydney as assistant-surgeon of an emigrant ship. On his arrival there, he went back into the country, and after a few months' wanderings, returned to Sydney penniless, and entered as doctor aboard of the Julia.
His personal appearance was remarkable. He was over six feet high—a tower of bones, with a complexion absolutely colourless, fair hair, and a light unscrupulous gray eye, twinkling occasionally at the very devil of mischief. Among the crew, he went by the name of the Long Doctor, or more frequently still, Doctor Long Ghost. And from whatever high estate Doctor Long Ghost might have fallen, he had certainly at some time or other spent money, drunk Burgundy, and associated with gentlemen.
As for his learning, he quoted Virgil, and talked of Hobbs of Malmsbury, beside repeating poetry by the canto, especially Hudibras. He was, moreover, a man who had seen the world. In the easiest way imaginable, he could refer to an amour he had in Palermo, his lion-hunting before breakfast among the Caffres, and the quality of the coffee to be drunk in Muscat; and about these places, and a hundred others, he had more anecdotes than I can tell of. Then such mellow old songs as he sang, in a voice so round and racy, the real juice of sound. How such notes came forth from his lank body was a constant marvel.
Upon the whole, Long Ghost was as entertaining a companion as one could wish; and to me in the Julia, an absolute godsend.
FURTHER ACCOUNT OF THE JULIA
OWING to the absence of anything like regular discipline, the vessel was in a state of the greatest uproar. The captain, having for some time past been more or less confined to the cabin from sickness, was seldom seen. The mate, however, was as hearty as a young lion, and ran about the decks making himself heard at all hours. Bembo, the New Zealand harpooner, held little intercourse with anybody but the mate, who could talk to him freely in his own lingo. Part of his time he spent out on the bowsprit, fishing for albicores with a bone hook; and occasionally he waked all hands up of a dark night dancing some cannibal fandango all by himself on the forecastle. But, upon the whole, he was remarkably quiet, though something in his eye showed he was far from being harmless.
Doctor Long Ghost, having sent in a written resignation as the ship's doctor, gave himself out as a passenger for Sydney, and took the world quite easy. As for the crew, those who were sick seemed marvellously contented for men in their condition; and the rest, not displeased with the general licence, gave themselves little thought of the morrow.
The Julia's provisions were very poor. When opened, the barrels of pork looked as if preserved in iron rust, and diffused an odour like a stale ragout. The beef was worse yet; a mahogany-coloured fibrous substance, so tough and tasteless, that I almost believed the cook's story of a horse's hoof with the shoe on having been fished up out of the pickle of one of the casks. Nor was the biscuit much better; nearly all of it was broken into hard, little gunflints, honeycombed through and through, as if the worms usually infesting this article in long tropical voyages had, in boring after nutriment, come out at the antipodes without finding anything.
Of what sailors call "small stores," we had but little. "Tea," however, we had in abundance; though, I dare say, the Hong merchants never had the shipping of it. Beside this, every other day we had what English seamen call "shot soup"—great round peas, polishing themselves like pebbles by rolling about in tepid water.
It was afterward told me, that all our provisions had been purchased by the owners at an auction sale of condemned navy stores in Sydney.
But notwithstanding the wateriness of the first course of soup, and the saline flavour of the beef and pork, a sailor might have made a satisfactory meal aboard of the Julia had there been any side dishes—a potato or two, a yam, or a plantain. But there was nothing of the kind. Still, there was something else, which, in the estimation of the men, made up for all deficiencies; and that was the regular allowance of Pisco.
It may seem strange that in such a state of affairs the captain should be willing to keep the sea with his ship. But the truth was, that by lying in harbour, he ran the risk of losing the remainder of his men by desertion; and as it was, he still feared that, in some outlandish bay or other, he might one day find his anchor down, and no crew to weigh it.
With judicious officers the most unruly seamen can at sea be kept in some sort of subjection; but once get them within a cable's length of the land, and it is hard restraining them. It is for this reason that many South Sea whalemen do not come to anchor for eighteen or twenty months on a stretch. When fresh provisions are needed, they run for the nearest land—heave to eight or ten miles off, and send a boat ashore to trade. The crews manning vessels like these are for the most part villains of all nations and dyes; picked up in the lawless ports of the Spanish Main, and among the savages of the islands. Like galley-slaves, they are only to be governed by scourges and chains. Their officers go among them with dirk and pistol—concealed, but ready at a grasp.
Not a few of our own crew were men of this stamp; but, riotous at times as they were, the bluff drunken energies of Jennin were just the thing to hold them in some sort of noisy subjection. Upon an emergency, he flew in among them, showering his kicks and cuffs right and left, and "creating a sensation" in every direction. And as hinted before, they bore this knock-down authority with great good-humour. A sober, discreet, dignified officer could have done nothing with them; such a set would have thrown him and his dignity overboard.
Matters being thus, there was nothing for the ship but to keep the sea. Nor was the captain without hope that the invalid portion of his crew, as well as himself, would soon recover; and then there was no telling what luck in the fishery might yet be in store for us. At any rate, at the time of my coming aboard, the report was, that Captain Guy was resolved upon retrieving the past and filling the vessel with oil in the shortest space possible.
With this intention, we were now shaping our course for Hytyhoo, a village on the island of St. Christina—one of the Marquesas, and so named by Mendanna—for the purpose of obtaining eight seamen, who, some weeks before, had stepped ashore there from the Julia. It was supposed that, by this time, they must have recreated themselves sufficiently, and would be glad to return to their duty.
So to Hytyhoo, with all our canvas spread, and coquetting with the warm, breezy Trades, we bowled along; gliding up and down the long, slow swells, the bonettas and albicores frolicking round us.
A SCENE IN THE FORECASTLE
I HAD scarcely been aboard of the ship twenty-four hours, when a circumstance occurred, which, although noways picturesque, is so significant of the state of affairs that I cannot forbear relating it.
In the first place, however, it must be known, that among the crew was a man so excessively ugly, that he went by the ironical appellation of "Beauty." He was the ship's carpenter; and for that reason was sometimes known by his nautical cognomen of "Chips." There was no absolute deformity about the man; he was symmetrically ugly. But ill favoured as he was in person, Beauty was none the less ugly in temper; but no one could blame him; his countenance had soured his heart. Now Jermin and Beauty were always at swords' points. The truth was, the latter was the only man in the ship whom the mate had never decidedly got the better of; and hence the grudge he bore him. As for Beauty, he prided himself upon talking up to the mate, as we shall soon see.
Toward evening there was something to be done on deck, and the carpenter who belonged to the watch was missing. "Where's that skulk, Chips?" shouted Jermin down the forecastle scuttle.
"Taking his ease, d'ye see, down here on a chest, if you want to know," replied that worthy himself, quietly withdrawing his pipe from his mouth. This insolence flung the fiery little mate into a mighty rage; but Beauty said nothing, puffing away with all the tranquillity imaginable. Here it must be remembered that, never mind what may be the provocation, no prudent officer ever dreams of entering a ship's forecastle on a hostile visit. If he wants to see anybody who happens to be there, and refuses to come up, why he must wait patiently until the sailor is willing. The reason is this. The place is very dark: and nothing is easier than to knock one descending on the head, before he knows where he is, and a very long while before he ever finds out who did it.
Nobody knew this better than Jermin, and so he contented himself with looking down the scuttle and storming. At last Beauty made some cool observation which set him half wild.
"Tumble on deck," he then bellowed—"come, up with you, or I'll jump down and make you." The carpenter begged him to go about it at once.
No sooner said than done: prudence forgotten, Jermin was there; and by a sort of instinct, had his man by the throat before he could well see him. One of the men now made a rush at him, but the rest dragged him off, protesting that they should have fair play.
"Now come on deck," shouted the mate, struggling like a good fellow to hold the carpenter fast.
"Take me there," was the dogged answer, and Beauty wriggled about in the nervous grasp of the other like a couple of yards of boa-constrictor.
His assailant now undertook to make him up into a compact bundle, the more easily to transport him. While thus occupied, Beauty got his arms loose, and threw him over backward. But Jermin quickly recovered himself, when for a time they had it every way, dragging each other about, bumping their heads against the projecting beams, and returning each other's blows the first favourable opportunity that offered. Unfortunately, Jermin at last slipped and fell; his foe seating himself on his chest, and keeping him down. Now this was one of those situations in which the voice of counsel, or reproof, comes with peculiar unction. Nor did Beauty let the opportunity slip. But the mate said nothing in reply, only foaming at the mouth and struggling to rise.
Just then a thin tremor of a voice was heard from above. It was the captain; who, happening to ascend to the quarter-deck at the commencement of the scuffle, would gladly have returned to the cabin, but was prevented by the fear of ridicule. As the din increased, and it became evident that his officer was in serious trouble, he thought it would never do to stand leaning over the bulwarks, so he made his appearance on the forecastle, resolved, as his best policy, to treat the matter lightly.
"Why, why," he begun, speaking pettishly, and very fast, "what's all this about?—Mr. Jermin, Mr. Jermin—carpenter, carpenter; what are you doing down there? Come on deck; come on deck."
Whereupon Doctor Long Ghost cries out in a squeak, "Ah! Miss Guy, is that you? Now, my dear, go right home, or you'll get hurt."
"Pooh, pooh! you, sir, whoever you are, I was not speaking to you; none of your nonsense. Mr. Jermin, I was talking to you; have the kindness to come on deck, sir; I want to see you."
"And how, in the devil's name, am I to get there?" cried the mate, furiously. "Jump down here, Captain Guy, and show yourself a man. Let me up, you Chips! unhand me, I say! Oh! I'll pay you for this, some day! Come on, Captain Guy!"
At this appeal, the poor man was seized with a perfect spasm of fidgets. "Pooh, pooh, carpenter; have done with your nonsense! Let him up, sir; let him up! Do you hear? Let Mr. Jermm come on deck!"
"Go along with you, Paper Jack," replied Beauty; "this quarrel's between the mate and me; so go aft, where you belong!"
As the captain once more dipped his head down the scuttle to make answer, from an unseen hand he received, full in the face, the contents of a tin can of soaked biscuit and tea-leaves. The doctor was not far off just then. Without waiting for anything more, the discomfited gentleman, with both hands to his streaming face, retreated to the quarter-deck.
A few moments more, and Jermin, forced to a compromise, followed after, in his torn frock and scarred face, looking for all the world as if he had just disentangled himself from some intricate piece of machinery. For about half an hour both remained in the cabin, where the mate's rough tones were heard high above the low, smooth voice of the captain.
Of all his conflicts with the men, this was the first in which Jermin had been worsted; and he was proportionably enraged. Upon going below—as the steward afterward told us—he bluntly informed Guy that, for the future, he might look out for his ship himself; for his part, he had done with her, if that was the way he allowed his officers to be treated. After many high words, the captain finally assured him that, the first fitting opportunity, the carpenter should be cordially flogged; though, as matters stood, the experiment would be a hazardous one. Upon this Jermin reluctantly consented to drop the matter for the present; and he soon drowned all thoughts of it in a can of flip, which Guy had previously instructed the steward to prepare, as a sop to allay his wrath.
Nothing more ever came of this.
WHAT HAPPENED AT HYTYHOO
LESS than forty-eight hours after leaving Nukuheva, the blue, looming island of St. Christina greeted us from afar. Drawing near the shore, the grim, black spars and waspish hull of a small man-of-war craft crept into view; the masts and yards lined distinctly against the sky. She was riding to her anchor in the bay, and proved to be a French corvette.
This pleased our captain exceedingly, and, coming on deck, he examined her from the mizzen rigging with his glass. His original intention was not to let go an anchor; but, counting upon the assistance of the corvette in case of any difficulty, he now changed his mind, and anchored alongside of her. As soon as a boat could be lowered, he then went off to pay his respects to the commander, and, moreover, as we supposed, to concert measures for the apprehension of the runaways.
Returning in the course of twenty minutes, he brought along with him two officers in undress and whiskers, and three or four drunken obstreperous old chiefs; one with his legs thrust into the armholes of a scarlet vest, another with a pair of spurs on his heels, and a third in a cocked hat and feather. In addition to these articles, they merely wore the ordinary costume of their race—a slip of native cloth about the loins. Indecorous as their behaviour was, these worthies turned out to be a deputation from the reverend the clergy of the island; and the object of their visit was to put our ship under a rigorous "Taboo," to prevent the disorderly scenes and facilities for desertion which would ensue, were the natives—men and women—allowed to come off to us freely.
There was little ceremony about the matter. The priests went aside for a moment, laid their shaven old crowns together, and went over a little mummery. Whereupon, their leader tore a long strip from his girdle of white tappa, and handed it to one of the French officers, who, after explaining what was to be done, gave it to Jermin. The mate at once went out to the end of the flying jib boom, and fastened there the mystic symbol of the ban. This put to flight a party of girls who had been observed swimming toward us. Tossing their arms about, and splashing the water like porpoises, with loud cries of "taboo! taboo!" they turned about and made for the shore.
The night of our arrival, the mate and the Mowree were to stand "watch and watch," relieving each other every four hours; the crew, as is sometimes customary when lying at an anchor, being allowed to remain all night below. A distrust of the men, however, was, in the present instance, the principal reason for this proceeding. Indeed, it was all but certain, that some kind of attempt would be made at desertion; and therefore, when Jermin's first watch came on at eight bells (midnight)—by which time all was quiet—he mounted to the deck with a flask of spirits in one hand, and the other in readiness to assail the first countenance that showed itself above the forecastle scuttle.
Thus prepared, he doubtless meant to stay awake; but for all that, he before long fell asleep; and slept with such hearty good-will too, that the men who left us that night might have been waked up by his snoring. Certain it was, the mate snored most strangely; and no wonder, with that crooked bugle of his. When he came to himself it was just dawn, but quite light enough to show two boats gone from the side. In an instant he knew what had happened.
Dragging the Mowree out of an old sail where he was napping, he ordered him to clear away another boat, and then darted into the cabin to tell the captain the news. Springing on deck again, he drove down into the forecastle for a couple of oarsmen, but hardly got there before there was a cry, and a loud splash heard over the side. It was the Mowree and the boat—into which he had just leaped to get ready for lowering—rolling over and over in the water.
The boat having at nightfall been hoisted up to its place over the starboard quarter, someone had so cut the tackles which held it there, that a moderate strain would at once part them. Bembo's weight had answered the purpose, showing that the deserters must have ascertained his specific gravity to a fibre of hemp. There was another boat remaining; but it was as well to examine it before attempting to lower. And it was well they did; for there was a hole in the bottom large enough to drop a barrel through: she had been scuttled most ruthlessly.
Jermin was frantic. Dashing his hat upon deck, he was about to plunge overboard and swim to the corvette for a cutter, when Captain Guy made his appearance and begged him to stay where he was. By this time the officer of the deck aboard the Frenchman had noticed our movements, and hailed to know what had happened. Guy informed him through his trumpet, and men to go in pursuit were instantly promised. There was a whistling of a boatswain's pipe, an order or two, and then a large cutter pulled out from the man-of-war's stern, and in half a dozen strokes was alongside. The mate leaped into her, and they pulled rapidly ashore.
Another cutter, carrying an armed crew, soon followed.
In an hour's time the first returned, towing the two whale-boats, which had been found turned up like tortoises on the beach.
Noon came, and nothing more was heard from the deserters. Meanwhile Doctor Long Ghost and myself lounged about, cultivating an acquaintance, and gazing upon the shore scenery. The bay was as calm as death; the sun high and hot; and occasionally a still gliding canoe stole out from behind the headlands, and shot across the water.
And all the morning long our sick men limped about the deck, casting wistful glances inland, where the palm-trees waved and beckoned them into their reviving shades. Poor invalid rascals! How conducive to the restoration of their shattered health would have been those delicious groves! But hard-hearted Jermin assured them, with an oath, that foot of theirs should never touch the beach.
Toward sunset a crowd was seen coming down to the water. In advance of all were the fugitives—bareheaded—their frocks and trousers hanging in tatters, every face covered with blood and dust, and their arms pinioned behind them with green thongs. Following them up, was a shouting rabble of islanders, pricking them with the points of their long spears, the party from the corvette menacing them in flank with their naked cutlasses.
The bonus of a musket to the King of the Bay, and the promise of a tumblerful of powder for every man caught, had set the whole population on their track; and so successful was the hunt, that not only were that morning's deserters brought back, but five of those left behind on a former visit. The natives, however, were the mere hounds of the chase, raising the game in their coverts, but leaving the securing of it to the Frenchmen. Here, as elsewhere, the islanders have no idea of taking part in such a scuffle as ensues upon the capture of a party of desperate seamen.
The runaways were at once brought aboard, and, though they looked rather sulky, soon came round, and treated the whole affair as a frolicsome adventure.
WE TOUCH AT LA DOMINICA
FEARFUL of spending another night at Hytyhoo, Captain Guy caused the ship to be got under way shortly after dark.
The next morning, when all supposed that we were fairly embarked for a long cruise, our course was suddenly altered for La Dominica, or Hivarhoo, an island just north of the one we had quitted. The object of this, as we learned, was to procure, if possible, several English sailors, who, according to the commander of the corvette, had recently gone ashore there from an American whaler, and were desirous of shipping aboard one of their own country vessels.
We made the land in the afternoon, coming abreast of a shady glen opening from a deep bay, and winding by green denies far out of sight. "Hands by the weather-main-brace!" roared the mate, jumping up on the bulwarks; and in a moment the prancing Julia, suddenly arrested in her course, bridled her head like a steed reined in, while the foam flaked under her bows.
This was the place where we expected to obtain the men; so a boat was at once got in readiness to go ashore. Now it was necessary to provide a picked crew—men the least likely to abscond. After considerable deliberation on the part of the captain and mate, four of the seamen were pitched upon as the most trustworthy; or rather they were selected from a choice assortment of suspicious characters as being of an inferior order of rascality.
Armed with cutlasses all round—the natives were said to be an ugly set—they were followed over the side by the invalid captain, who, on this occasion, it seems, was determined to signalize himself. Accordingly, in addition to his cutlass, he wore an old boarding belt, in which was thrust a brace of pistols. They at once shoved off.
My friend Long Ghost had, among other things which looked somewhat strange in a ship's forecastle, a capital spy-glass, and on the present occasion we had it in use.
When the boat neared the head of the inlet, though invisible to the naked eye, it was plainly revealed by the glass; looking no bigger than an egg-shell, and the men diminished to pigmies.
At last, borne on what seemed a long flake of foam, the tiny craft shot up the beach amid a shower of sparkles. Not a soul was there. Leaving one of their number by the water, the rest of the pigmies stepped ashore, looking about them very circumspectly, pausing now and then hand to ear, and peering under a dense grove which swept down within a few paces of the sea. No one came, and to all appearances everything was as still as the grave. Presently he with the pistols, followed by the rest flourishing their bodkins, entered the wood and were soon lost to view. They did not stay long; probably anticipating some inhospitable ambush were they to stray any distance up the glen.
In a few moments they embarked again, and were soon riding pertly over the waves of the bay. All of a sudden the captain started to his feet—the boat spun round, and again made for the shore. Some twenty or thirty natives armed with spears which through the glass looked like reeds, had just come out of the grove, and were apparently shouting to the strangers not to be in such a hurry, but return and be sociable. But they were somewhat distrusted, for the boat paused about its length from the beach, when the captain standing up in its head delivered an address in pantomime, the object of which seemed to be, that the islanders should draw near. One of them stepped forward and made answer, seemingly again urging the strangers not to be diffident, but beach their boat. The captain declined, tossing his arms about in another pantomime. In the end he said something which made them shake their spears; whereupon he fired a pistol among them, which set the whole party running; while one poor little fellow, dropping his spear and clapping his hand behind him, limped away in a manner which almost made me itch to get a shot at his assailant.
Wanton acts of cruelty like this are not unusual on the part of sea captains landing at islands comparatively unknown. Even at the Pomotu group, but a day's sail from Tahiti, the islanders coming down to the shore have several times been fired at by trading schooners passing through their narrow channels; and this too as a mere amusement on the part of the ruffians.
Indeed, it is almost incredible, the light in which many sailors regard these naked heathens. They hardly consider them human. But it is a curious fact, that the more ignorant and degraded men are, the more contemptuously they look upon those whom they deem their inferiors.
All powers of persuasion being thus lost upon these foolish savages, and no hope left of holding further intercourse, the boat returned to the ship.
WHAT HAPPENED AT HANNAMANOO
ON the other side of the island was the large and populous bay of Hannamanoo, where the men sought might yet be found. But as the sun was setting by the time the boat came alongside, we got our offshore tacks aboard and stood away for an offing. About daybreak we wore, and ran in, and by the time the sun was well up, entered the long, narrow channel dividing the islands of La Dominica and St. Christina.
On one hand was a range of steep green bluffs hundreds of feet high, the white huts of the natives here and there nestling like birds' nests in deep clefts gushing with verdure. Across the water, the land rolled away in bright hillsides, so warm and undulating that they seemed almost to palpitate in the sun. On we swept, past bluff and grove, wooded glen and valley, and dark ravines lighted up far inland with wild falls of water. A fresh land-breeze filled our sails, the embayed waters were gentle as a lake, and every wave broke with a tinkle against our coppered prow.
On gaining the end of the channel we rounded a point, and came full upon the bay of Hannamanoo. This is the only harbour of any note about the island, though as far as a safe anchorage is concerned it hardly deserves the title.
Before we held any communication with the shore, an incident occurred which may convey some further idea of the character of our crew.
Having approached as near the land as we could prudently, our headway was stopped, and we awaited the arrival of a canoe which was coming out of the bay. All at once we got into a strong current, which swept us rapidly toward a rocky promontory forming one side of the harbour. The wind had died away; so two boats were at once lowered for the purpose of pulling the ship's head round. Before this could be done, the eddies were whirling upon all sides, and the rock so near that it seemed as if one might leap upon it from the masthead. Notwithstanding the speechless fright of the captain, and the hoarse shouts of the unappalled Jennin, the men handled the ropes as deliberately as possible, some of them chuckling at the prospect of going ashore, and others so eager for the vessel to strike, that they could hardly contain themselves. Unexpectedly a countercurrent befriended us, and assisted by the boats we were soon out of danger.
What a disappointment for our crew! All their little plans for swimming ashore from the wreck, and having a fine time of it for the rest of their days, thus cruelly nipped in the bud.
Soon after, the canoe came alongside. In it were eight or ten natives, comely, vivacious-looking youths, all gesture and exclamation; the red feathers in their head-bands perpetually nodding. With them also came a stranger, a renegade from Christendom and humanity—a white man, in the South Sea girdle, and tattooed in the face. A broad blue band stretched across his face from ear to ear, and on his forehead was the taper figure of a blue shark, nothing but fins from head to tail.
Some of us gazed upon this man with a feeling akin to horror, no ways abated when informed that he had voluntarily submitted to this embellishment of his countenance. What an impress! Far worse than Cain's—his was perhaps a wrinkle, or a freckle, which some of our modern cosmetics might have effaced; but the blue shark was a mark indelible, which all the waters of Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, could never wash out. He was an Englishman, Lem Hardy he called himself, who had deserted from a trading brig touching at the island for wood and water some ten years previous. He had gone ashore as a sovereign power armed with a musket and a bag of ammunition, and ready if need were, to prosecute war on his own account. The country was divided by the hostile kings of several large valleys. With one of them, from whom he first received overtures, he formed an alliance, and became what he now was, the military leader of the tribe, and war-god of the entire island.
His campaigns beat Napoleon's. In one night attack, his invincible musket, backed by the light infantry of spears and javelins, vanquished two clans, and the next morning brought all the others to the feet of his royal ally.
Nor was the rise of his domestic fortunes at all behind the Corsican's: three days after landing, the exquisitely tattooed hand of a princess was his; receiving along with the damsel as her portion, one thousand fathoms of fine tappa, fifty double-braided mats of split grass, four hundred hogs, ten houses in different parts of her native valley, and the sacred protection of an express edict of the Taboo, declaring his person inviolable for ever.
Now, this man was settled for life, perfectly satisfied with his circumstances, and feeling no desire to return to his friends.
"Friends," indeed, he had none. He told me his history. Thrown upon the world a foundling, his paternal origin was as much a mystery to him as the genealogy of Odin; and, scorned by everybody, he fled the parish workhouse when a boy, and launched upon the sea. He had followed it for several years, a dog before the mast, and now he had thrown it up for ever.
And for the most part, it is just this sort of men—so many of whom are found among sailors—uncared for by a single soul, without ties, reckless, and impatient of the restraints of civilization, who are occasionally found quite at home upon the savage islands of the Pacific. And, glancing at their hard lot in their own country, what marvel at their choice?
According to the renegado, there was no other white man on the island; and as the captain could have no reason to suppose that Hardy intended to deceive us, he concluded that the Frenchmen were in some way or other mistaken in what they had told us. However, when our errand was made known to the rest of our visitors, one of them, a fine, stalwart fellow, his face all eyes and expression, volunteered for a cruise. All the wages he asked was a red shirt, a pair of trousers, and a hat, which were to be put on there and then; besides a plug of tobacco and a pipe. The bargain was struck directly; but Wymontoo afterward came in with a codicil, to the effect that a friend of his, who had come along with him, should be given ten whole sea-biscuits, without crack or flaw, twenty perfectly new and symmetrically straight nails, and one jack-knife. This being agreed to, the articles were at once handed over; the native receiving them with great avidity, and in the absence of clothing, using his mouth as a pocket to put the nails in. Two of them, however, were first made to take the place of a pair of ear-ornaments, curiously fashioned out of bits of whitened wood.
It now began breezing strongly from seaward, and no time was to be lost in getting away from the land; so after an affecting rubbing of noses between our new shipmate and his countrymen, we sailed away with him.
To our surprise, the farewell shouts from the canoe, as we dashed along under bellied royals, were heard unmoved by our islander; but it was not long thus. That very evening, when the dark blue of his native hills sunk in the horizon, the poor savage leaned over the bulwarks, dropped his head upon his chest, and gave way to irrepressible emotions. The ship was plunging hard, and Wymontoo, sad to tell, in addition to his other pangs, was terribly sea-sick.
THE TATTOOERS OF LA DOMINICA
FOR a while leaving Little Jule to sail away by herself, I will here put down some curious information obtained from Hardy.
The renegado had lived so long on the island that its customs were quite familiar; and I much lamented that, from the shortness of our stay, he could not tell us more than he did.
From the little intelligence gathered, however, I learned to my surprise that, in some things, the people of Hivarhoo, though of the same group of islands, differed considerably from my tropical friends in the valley of Typee.
As his tattooing attracted so much remark, Hardy had a good deal to say concerning the manner in which that art was practised upon the island.
Throughout the entire cluster the tattooers of Hivarhoo enjoyed no small reputation. They had carried their art to the highest perfection, and the profession was esteemed most honourable. No wonder, then, that like genteel tailors, they rated their services very high; so much so that none but those belonging to the higher classes could afford to employ them. So true was this, that the elegance of one's tattooing was in most cases a sure indication of birth and riches.
Professors in large practice lived in spacious houses, divided by screens of tappa into numerous little apartments, where subjects were waited upon in private. The arrangement chiefly grew out of a singular ordinance of the Taboo, which enjoined the strictest privacy upon all men, high and low, while under the hands of a tattooer. For the time, the slightest intercourse with others is prohibited, and the small portion of food allowed is pushed under the curtain by an unseen hand. The restriction with regard to food, is intended to reduce the blood, so as to diminish the inflammation consequent upon puncturing the skin. As it is, this comes on very soon, and takes some time to heal; so that the period of seclusion generally embraces many days, sometimes several weeks.
All traces of soreness vanished, the subject goes abroad; but only again to return; for, on account of the pain, only a small surface can be operated upon at once; and as the whole body is to be more or less embellished by a process so slow, the studios alluded to are constantly filled. Indeed, with a vanity elsewhere unheard of, many spend no small portion of their days thus sitting to an artist.
To begin the work, the period of adolescence is esteemed the most suitable. After casting about for some eminent tattooer, the friends of the youth take him to his house to have the outlines of the general plan laid out. It behoves the professor to have a nice eye, for a suit to be worn for life should be well cut.
Some tattooers, yearning after perfection, employ, at large wages, one or two men of the commonest order—vile fellows, utterly regardless of appearances, upon whom they first try their patterns and practise generally. Their backs remorselessly scrawled over, and no more canvas remaining, they are dismissed and ever after go about, the scorn of their countrymen.
Hapless wights! thus martyred in the cause of the Fine Arts.
Beside the regular practitioners, there are a parcel of shabby, itinerant tattooers, who, by virtue of their calling, stroll unmolested from one hostile bay to another, doing their work dog-cheap for the multitude. They always repair to the various religious festivals, which gather great crowds. When these are concluded, and the places where they are held vacated even by the tattooers, scores of little tents of coarse tappa are left standing, each with a solitary inmate, who, forbidden to talk to his unseen neighbours, is obliged to stay there till completely healed. The itinerants are a reproach to their profession, mere cobblers, dealing in nothing but jagged lines and clumsy patches, and utterly incapable of soaring to those heights of fancy attained by the gentlemen of the faculty.
All professors of the arts love to fraternize; and so, in Hannamanoo, the tattooers came together in the chapters of their worshipful order. In this society, duly organized, and conferring degrees, Hardy, from his influence as a white, was a sort of honorary Grand Master. The blue shark, and a sort of Urim and Thummim engraven upon his chest, were the seal of his initiation. All over Hivarhoo are established these orders of tattooers. The way in which the renegado's came to be founded is this. A year or two after his landing there happened to be a season of scarcity, owing to the partial failure of the breadfruit harvest for several consecutive seasons. This brought about such a falling off in the number of subjects for tattooing that the profession became quite needy. The royal ally of Hardy, however, hit upon a benevolent expedient to provide for their wants, at the same time conferring a boon upon many of his subjects.
By sound of conch-shell it was proclaimed before the palace, on the beach, and at the head of the valley, that Noomai, King of Hannamanoo, and friend of Hardee-Hardee, the white, kept open heart and table for all tattooers whatsoever; but to entitle themselves to this hospitality, they were commanded to practise without fee upon the meanest native soliciting their services.
Numbers at once flocked to the royal abode, both artists and sitters. It was a famous time; and the buildings of the palace being "taboo" to all but the tattooers and chiefs, the sitters bivouacked on the common, and formed an extensive encampment.
The "Lora Tattoo," or the Time of Tattooing, will be long remembered. An enthusiastic sitter celebrated the event in verse. Several lines were repeated to us by Hardy, some of which, in a sort of colloquial chant he translated nearly thus:
"Where is that sound? In Hannamanoo. And wherefore that sound? The sound of a hundred hammers, Tapping, tapping, tapping The shark teeth."
"Where is that light? Round about the king's house, And the small laughter? The small, merry laughter it is Of the sons and daughters of the tattooed."
WE STEER TO THE WESTWARD—STATE OF AFFAIRS
THE night we left Hannamanoo was bright and starry, and so warm that, when the watches were relieved, most of the men, instead of going below, flung themselves around the foremast.
Toward morning, finding the heat of the forecastle unpleasant, I ascended to the deck where everything was noiseless. The Trades were blowing with a mild, steady strain upon the canvas, and the ship heading right out into the immense blank of the Western Pacific. The watch were asleep. With one foot resting on the rudder, even the man at the helm nodded, and the mate himself, with arms folded, was leaning against the capstan.
On such a night, and all alone, reverie was inevitable. I leaned over the side, and could not help thinking of the strange objects we might be sailing over.
But my meditations were soon interrupted by a gray, spectral shadow cast over the heaving billows. It was the dawn, soon followed by the first rays of the morning. They flashed into view at one end of the arched night, like—to compare great things with small—the gleamings of Guy Fawkes's lantern in the vaults of the Parliament House. Before long, what seemed a live ember rested for a moment on the rim of the ocean, and at last the blood-red sun stood full and round in the level East, and the long sea-day began.
Breakfast over, the first thing attended to was the formal baptism of Wymontoo, who, after thinking over his affairs during the night, looked dismal enough.
There were various opinions as to a suitable appellation. Some maintained that we ought to call him "Sunday," that being the day we caught him; others, "Eighteen Forty-two," the then year of our Lord; while Doctor Long Ghost remarked that he ought, by all means, to retain his original name,—Wymontoo-Hee, meaning (as he maintained), in the figurative language of the island, something analogous to one who had got himself into a scrape. The mate put an end to the discussion by sousing the poor fellow with a bucket of salt water, and bestowing upon him the nautical appellation of "Luff."
Though a certain mirthfulness succeeded his first pangs at leaving home, Wymontoo—we will call him thus—gradually relapsed into his former mood, and became very melancholy. Often I noticed him crouching apart in the forecastle, his strange eyes gleaming restlessly, and watching the slightest movement of the men. Many a time he must have been thinking of his bamboo hut, when they were talking of Sydney and its dance-houses.
We were now fairly at sea, though to what particular cruising-ground we were going, no one knew; and, to all appearances, few cared. The men, after a fashion of their own, began to settle down into the routine of sea-life, as if everything was going on prosperously. Blown along over a smooth sea, there was nothing to do but steer the ship, and relieve the "look-outs" at the mast-heads. As for the sick, they had two or three more added to their number—the air of the island having disagreed with the constitutions of several of the runaways. To crown all, the captain again relapsed, and became quite ill.
The men fit for duty were divided into two small watches, headed respectively by the mate and the Mowree; the latter by virtue of his being a harpooner, succeeding to the place of the second mate, who had absconded.
In this state of things whaling was out of the question; but in the face of everything, Jermin maintained that the invalids would soon be well. However that might be, with the same pale Hue sky overhead, we kept running steadily to the westward. Forever advancing, we seemed always in the same place, and every day was the former lived over again. We saw no ships, expected to see none. No sign of life was perceptible but the porpoises and other fish sporting under the bows like pups ashore. But, at intervals, the gray albatross, peculiar to these seas, came flapping his immense wings over us, and then skimmed away silently as if from a plague-ship. Or flights of the tropic bird, known among seamen as the "boatswain," wheeled round and round us, whistling shrilly as they flew.
The uncertainty hanging over our destination at this time, and the fact that we were abroad upon waters comparatively little traversed, lent an interest to this portion of the cruise which I shall never forget.
From obvious prudential considerations the Pacific has been principally sailed over in known tracts, and this is the reason why new islands are still occasionally discovered by exploring ships and adventurous whalers notwithstanding the great number of vessels of all kinds of late navigating this vast ocean. Indeed, considerable portions still remain wholly unexplored; and there is doubt as to the actual existence of certain shoals, and reefs, and small clusters of islands vaguely laid down in the charts. The mere circumstance, therefore, of a ship like ours penetrating into these regions, was sufficient to cause any reflecting mind to feel at least a little uneasy. For my own part, the many stories I had heard of ships striking at midnight upon unknown rocks, with all sail set, and a slumbering crew, often recurred to me, especially, as from the absence of discipline, and our being so shorthanded, the watches at night were careless in the extreme.
But no thoughts like these were entertained by my reckless shipmates; and along we went, the sun every evening setting right ahead of our jib boom.
For what reason the mate was so reserved with regard to our precise destination was never made known. The stories he told us, I, for one, did not believe; deeming them all a mere device to lull the crew.
He said we were bound to a fine cruising ground, scarcely known to other whalemen, which he had himself discovered when commanding a small brig upon a former voyage. Here, the sea was alive with large whales, so tame that all you had to do was to go up and kill them: they were too frightened to resist. A little to leeward of this was a small cluster of islands, where we were going to refit, abounding with delicious fruits, and peopled by a race almost wholly unsophisticated by intercourse with strangers.
In order, perhaps, to guard against the possibility of anyone finding out the precise latitude and longitude of the spot we were going to, Jermin never revealed to us the ship's place at noon, though such is the custom aboard of most vessels.
Meanwhile, he was very assiduous in his attention to the invalids. Doctor Long Ghost having given up the keys of the medicine-chest, they were handed over to him; and, as physician, he discharged his duties to the satisfaction of all. Pills and powders, in most cases, were thrown to the fish, and in place thereof, the contents of a mysterious little quarter cask were produced, diluted with water from the "butt." His draughts were mixed on the capstan, in cocoa-nut shells marked with the patients' names. Like shore doctors, he did not eschew his own medicines, for his professional calls in the forecastle were sometimes made when he was comfortably tipsy: nor did he omit keeping his invalids in good-humour, spinning his yarns to them, by the hour, whenever he went to see them.
Owing to my lameness, from which I soon began to recover, I did no active duty, except standing an occasional "trick" at the helm. It was in the forecastle chiefly, that I spent my time, in company with the Long Doctor, who was at great pains to make himself agreeable. His books, though sadly torn and tattered, were an invaluable resource. I read them through again and again, including a learned treatise on the yellow fever. In addition to these, he had an old file of Sydney papers, and I soon became intimately acquainted with the localities of all the advertising tradesmen there. In particular, the rhetorical flourishes of Stubbs, the real-estate auctioneer, diverted me exceedingly, and I set him down as no other than a pupil of Robins the Londoner.
Aside from the pleasure of his society, my intimacy with Long Ghost was of great service to me in other respects. His disgrace in the cabin only confirmed the good-will of the democracy in the forecastle; and they not only treated him in the most friendly manner, but looked up to him with the utmost deference, besides laughing heartily at all his jokes. As his chosen associate, this feeling for him extended to me, and gradually we came to be regarded in the light of distinguished guests. At meal-times we were always first served, and otherwise were treated with much respect.
Among other devices to kill time, during the frequent calms, Long Ghost hit upon the game of chess. With a jack-knife, we carved the pieces quite tastefully out of bits of wood, and our board was the middle of a chest-lid, chalked into squares, which, in playing, we straddled at either end. Having no other suitable way of distinguishing the sets, I marked mine by tying round them little scarfs of black silk, torn from an old neck-handkerchief. Putting them in mourning this way, the doctor said, was quite appropriate, seeing that they had reason to feel sad three games out of four. Of chess, the men never could make head nor tail; indeed, their wonder rose to such a pitch that they at last regarded the mysterious movements of the game with something more than perplexity; and after puzzling over them through several long engagements, they came to the conclusion that we must be a couple of necromancers.
A SEA-PARLOUR DESCRIBED, WITH SOME OF ITS TENANTS
I MIGHT as well give some idea of the place in which the doctor and I lived together so sociably.
Most persons know that a ship's forecastle embraces the forward part of the deck about the bowsprit: the same term, however, is generally bestowed upon the sailors' sleeping-quarters, which occupy a space immediately beneath, and are partitioned off by a bulkhead.
Planted right in the bows, or, as sailors say, in the very eyes of the ship, this delightful apartment is of a triangular shape, and is generally fitted with two tiers of rude bunks. Those of the Julia were in a most deplorable condition, mere wrecks, some having been torn down altogether to patch up others; and on one side there were but two standing. But with most of the men it made little difference whether they had a bunk or not, since, having no bedding, they had nothing to put in it but themselves.
Upon the boards of my own crib I spread all the old canvas and old clothes I could pick up. For a pillow, I wrapped an old jacket round a log. This helped a little the wear and tear of one's bones when the ship rolled.
Rude hammocks made out of old sails were in many cases used as substitutes for the demolished bunks; but the space they swung in was so confined that they were far from being agreeable.
The general aspect of the forecastle was dungeon-like and dingy in the extreme. In the first place, it was not five feet from deck to deck and even this space was encroached upon by two outlandish cross-timbers bracing the vessel, and by the sailors' chests, over which you must needs crawl in getting about. At meal-times, and especially when we indulged in after-dinner chat, we sat about the chests like a parcel of tailors.
In the middle of all were two square, wooden columns, denominated in marine architecture "Bowsprit Bitts." They were about a foot apart, and between them, by a rusty chain, swung the forecastle lamp, burning day and night, and forever casting two long black shadows. Lower down, between the bitts, was a locker, or sailors' pantry, kept in abominable disorder, and sometimes requiring a vigorous cleaning and fumigation.
All over, the ship was in a most dilapidated condition; but in the forecastle it looked like the hollow of an old tree going to decay. In every direction the wood was damp and discoloured, and here and there soft and porous. Moreover, it was hacked and hewed without mercy, the cook frequently helping himself to splinters for kindling-wood from the bitts and beams. Overhead, every carline was sooty, and here and there deep holes were burned in them, a freak of some drunken sailors on a voyage long previous.
From above, you entered by a plank, with two elects, slanting down from the scuttle, which was a mere hole in the deck. There being no slide to draw over in case of emergency, the tarpaulin temporarily placed there was little protection from the spray heaved over the bows; so that in anything of a breeze the place was miserably wet. In a squall, the water fairly poured down in sheets like a cascade, swashing about, and afterward spirting up between the chests like the jets of a fountain.
Such were our accommodations aboard of the Julia; but bad as they were, we had not the undisputed possession of them. Myriads of cockroaches, and regiments of rats disputed the place with us. A greater calamity than this can scarcely befall a vessel in the South Seas.
So warm is the climate that it is almost impossible to get rid of them. You may seal up every hatchway, and fumigate the hull till the smoke forces itself out at the seams, and enough will survive to repeople the ship in an incredibly short period. In some vessels, the crews of which after a hard fight have given themselves up, as it were, for lost, the vermin seem to take actual possession, the sailors being mere tenants by sufferance. With Sperm Whalemen, hanging about the Line, as many of them do for a couple of years on a stretch, it is infinitely worse than with other vessels.
As for the Julia, these creatures never had such free and easy times as they did in her crazy old hull; every chink and cranny swarmed with them; they did not live among you, but you among them. So true was this, that the business of eating and drinking was better done in the dark than in the light of day.
Concerning the cockroaches, there was an extraordinary phenomenon, for which none of us could ever account.
Every night they had a jubilee. The first symptom was an unusual clustering and humming among the swarms lining the beams overhead, and the inside of the sleeping-places. This was succeeded by a prodigious coming and going on the part of those living out of sight Presently they all came forth; the larger sort racing over the chests and planks; winged monsters darting to and fro in the air; and the small fry buzzing in heaps almost in a state of fusion.
On the first alarm, all who were able darted on deck; while some of the sick who were too feeble, lay perfectly quiet—the distracted vermin running over them at pleasure. The performance lasted some ten minutes, during which no hive ever hummed louder. Often it was lamented by us that the time of the visitation could never be predicted; it was liable to come upon us at any hour of the night, and what a relief it was, when it happened to fall in the early part of the evening.
Nor must I forget the rats: they did not forget me. Tame as Trenck's mouse, they stood in their holes peering at you like old grandfathers in a doorway. Often they darted in upon us at meal-times, and nibbled our food. The first time they approached Wymontoo, he was actually frightened; but becoming accustomed to it, he soon got along with them much better than the rest. With curious dexterity he seized the animals by their legs, and flung them up the scuttle to find a watery grave.
But I have a story of my own to tell about these rats. One day the cabin steward made me a present of some molasses, which I was so choice of that I kept it hid away in a tin can in the farthest corner of my bunk.. Faring as we did, this molasses dropped upon a biscuit was a positive luxury, which I shared with none but the doctor, and then only in private. And sweet as the treacle was, how could bread thus prepared and eaten in secret be otherwise than pleasant?
One night our precious can ran low, and in canting it over in the dark, something beside the molasses slipped out. How long it had been there, kind Providence never revealed; nor were we over anxious to know; for we hushed up the bare thought as quickly as possible. The creature certainly died a luscious death, quite equal to Clarence's in the butt of Malmsey.
DOCTOR LONG GHOST A WAG—ONE OF HIS CAPERS
GRAVE though he was at times, Doctor Long Ghost was a decided wag.
Everyone knows what lovers of fun sailors are ashore—afloat, they are absolutely mad after it. So his pranks were duly appreciated.
The poor old black cook! Unlashing his hammock for the night, and finding a wet log fast asleep in it; and then waking in the morning with his woolly head tarred. Opening his coppers, and finding an old boot boiling away as saucy as could be, and sometimes cakes of pitch candying in his oven.
Baltimore's tribulations were indeed sore; there was no peace for him day nor night. Poor fellow! he was altogether too good-natured. Say what they will about easy-tempered people, it is far better, on some accounts, to have the temper of a wolf. Whoever thought of taking liberties with gruff Black Dan?
The most curious of the doctor's jokes, was hoisting the men aloft by the foot or shoulder, when they fell asleep on deck during the night-watches.
Ascending from the forecastle on one occasion, he found every soul napping, and forthwith went about his capers. Fastening a rope's end to each sleeper, he rove the lines through a number of blocks, and conducted them all to the windlass; then, by heaving round cheerily, in spite of cries and struggles, he soon had them dangling aloft in all directions by arms and legs. Waked by the uproar, we rushed up from below, and found the poor fellows swinging in the moonlight from the tops and lower yard-arms, like a parcel of pirates gibbeted at sea by a cruiser.
Connected with this sort of diversion was another prank of his. During the night some of those on deck would come below to light a pipe, or take a mouthful of beef and biscuit. Sometimes they fell asleep; and being missed directly that anything was to be done, their shipmates often amused themselves by running them aloft with a pulley dropped down the scuttle from the fore-top.
One night, when all was perfectly still, I lay awake in the forecastle; the lamp was burning low and thick, and swinging from its blackened beam; and with the uniform motion of the ship, the men in the bunks rolled slowly from side to side; the hammocks swaying in unison.
Presently I heard a foot upon the ladder, and looking up, saw a wide trousers' leg. Immediately, Navy Bob, a stout old Triton, stealthily descended, and at once went to groping in the locker after something to eat.
Supper ended, he proceeded to load his pipe. Now, for a good comfortable smoke at sea, there never was a better place than the Julia's forecastle at midnight. To enjoy the luxury, one wants to fall into a kind of dreamy reverie, only known to the children of the weed. And the very atmosphere of the place, laden as it was with the snores of the sleepers, was inducive of this. No wonder, then, that after a while Bob's head sunk upon his breast; presently his hat fell off, the extinguished pipe dropped from his mouth, and the next moment he lay out on the chest as tranquil as an infant.
Suddenly an order was heard on deck, followed by the trampling of feet and the hauling of rigging. The yards were being braced, and soon after the sleeper was missed: for there was a whispered conference over the scuttle.
Directly a shadow glided across the forecastle and noiselessly approached the unsuspecting Bob. It was one of the watch with the end of a rope leading out of sight up the scuttle. Pausing an instant, the sailor pressed softly the chest of his victim, sounding his slumbers; and then hitching the cord to his ankle, returned to the deck.
Hardly was his back turned, when a long limb was thrust from a hammock opposite, and Doctor Long Ghost, leaping forth warily, whipped the rope from Bob's ankle, and fastened it like lightning to a great lumbering chest, the property of the man who had just disappeared.
Scarcely was the thing done, when lo! with a thundering bound, the clumsy box was torn from its fastenings, and banging from side to side, flew toward the scuttle. Here it jammed; and thinking that Bob, who was as strong as a windlass, was grappling a beam and trying to cut the line, the jokers on deck strained away furiously. On a sudden, the chest went aloft, and striking against the mast, flew open, raining down on the heads of a party the merciless shower of things too numerous to mention.
Of course the uproar roused all hands, and when we hurried on deck, there was the owner of the box, looking aghast at its scattered contents, and with one wandering hand taking the altitude of a bump on his head.
DEATH AND BURIAL OF TWO OF THE CREW
THE mirthfulness which at times reigned among us was in strange and shocking contrast with the situation of some of the invalids. Thus at least did it seem to me, though not to others.
But an event occurred about this period, which, in removing by far the most pitiable cases of suffering, tended to make less grating to my feelings the subsequent conduct of the crew.
We had been at sea about twenty days, when two of the sick who had rapidly grown worse, died one night within an hour of each other.
One occupied a bunk right next to mine, and for several days had not risen from it. During this period he was often delirious, starting up and glaring around him, and sometimes wildly tossing his arms.
On the night of his decease, I retired shortly after the middle watch began, and waking from a vague dream of horrors, felt something clammy resting on me. It was the sick man's hand. Two or three times during the evening previous, he had thrust it into my bunk, and I had quietly removed it; but now I started and flung it from me. The arm fell stark and stiff, and I knew that he was dead.
Waking the men, the corpse was immediately rolled up in the strips of blanketing upon which it lay, and carried on deck. The mate was then called, and preparations made for an instantaneous' burial. Laying the body out on the forehatch, it was stitched up in one of the hammocks, some "kentledge" being placed at the feet instead of shot. This done, it was borne to the gangway, and placed on a plank laid across the bulwarks. Two men supported the inside end. By way of solemnity, the ship's headway was then stopped by hauling aback the main-top-sail.
The mate, who was far from being sober, then staggered up, and holding on to a shroud, gave the word. As the plank tipped, the body slid off slowly, and fell with a splash into the sea. A bubble or two, and nothing more was seen.
"Brace forward!" The main-yard swung round to its place, and the ship glided on, whilst the corpse, perhaps, was still sinking.
We had tossed a shipmate to the sharks, but no one would have thought it, to have gone among the crew immediately after. The dead man had been a churlish, unsocial fellow, while alive, and no favourite; and now that he was no more, little thought was bestowed upon him. All that was said was concerning the disposal of his chest, which, having been always kept locked, was supposed to contain money. Someone volunteered to break it open, and distribute its contents, clothing and all, before the captain should demand it.
While myself and others were endeavouring to dissuade them from this, all started at a cry from the forecastle. There could be no one there but two of the sick, unable to crawl on deck. We went below, and found one of them dying on a chest. He had fallen out of his hammock in a fit, and was insensible. The eyes were open and fixed, and his breath coming and going convulsively. The men shrunk from him; but the doctor, taking his hand, held it a few moments in his, and suddenly letting it fall, exclaimed, "He's gone!" The body was instantly borne up the ladder.
Another hammock was soon prepared, and the dead sailor stitched up as before. Some additional ceremony, however, was now insisted upon, and a Bible was called for. But none was to be had, not even a Prayer Book. When this was made known, Antone, a Portuguese, from the Cape-de-Verd Islands, stepped up, muttering something over the corpse of his countryman, and, with his finger, described upon the back of the hammock the figure of a large cross; whereupon it received the death-launch.
These two men both perished from the proverbial indiscretions of seamen, heightened by circumstances apparent; but had either of them been ashore under proper treatment, he would, in all human probability, have recovered.
Behold here the fate of a sailor! They give him the last toss, and no one asks whose child he was.
For the rest of that night there was no more sleep. Many stayed on deck until broad morning, relating to each other those marvellous tales of the sea which the occasion was calculated to call forth. Little as I believed in such things, I could not listen to some of these stories unaffected. Above all was I struck by one of the carpenter's.