VOYAGE OF THE LIBERDADE
Captain Joshua Slocum
Robinson & Stephenson Boston 1890
CHAPTER I: PAGE 1
The ship—The crew—A hurricane—Cape Verde Islands—Frio—A pampeiro.
CHAPTER II: PAGE 8
Montevideo—Beggars—Antonina for mate—Antonina to Buenos Aires—The bombelia.
CHAPTER III: PAGE 11
Salvage of a cargo of wine—Sailors happy—Cholera in the Argentine—Death in the land—Dutch Harry—Pete the Greek—Noted crimps—Boat lost—Sail for Ilha Grande—Expelled from the port—Serious hardships.
CHAPTER IV: PAGE 20
Ilha Grande decree—Return to Rosario—Waiting opening of the Brazilian ports—Scarcity of sailors—Buccaneers turned pilots—Sail down the river—Arrive at Ilha Grande the second time—Quarantined and fumigated—Admitted to pratique—Sail for Rio—Again challenged—Rio at last.
CHAPTER V: PAGE 27
At Rio—Sail for Antonina with mixed cargo—A pampeiro—Ship on beam-ends—Cargo still more mixed—Topgallant-masts carried away—Arrive safely at Antonina.
CHAPTER VI: PAGE 30
Mutiny—Attempt at robbery and murder—Four against one—Two go down before a rifle—Order restored.
CHAPTER VII: PAGE 37
Join the bark at Montevideo—A good crew—Small-pox breaks out—Bear up for Maldonado and Floras—No aid—Death of sailors—To Montevideo in distress—Quarantine.
CHAPTER VIII: PAGE 46
A new crew—Sail for Antonina—Load timber—Native canoes—Loss of the Aquidneck.
CHAPTER IX: PAGE 51
The building of the Liberdade.
CHAPTER X: PAGE 63
Across the bar—The run to Santos—Tow to Rio by the steamship—At Rio.
CHAPTER XI: PAGE 70
Sail from Rio—Anchor at Cape Frio—Encounter with a whale—Sunken treasure—The schoolmaster—The merchant—The good people at the village—A pleasant visit.
CHAPTER XII: PAGE 76
Sail from Frio—Round Cape St. Thorne—High seas and swift currents—In the "trades"—Dangerous reefs—Run into harbour unawares, on a dark and stormy night—At Garavellas—Fine weather—A gale—Port St. Paulo—Treacherous natives—Sail for Bahia.
CHAPTER XIII: PAGE 81
At Bahia—Meditations on the discoverers—The Caribbees.
CHAPTER XIV: PAGE 84
Bahia to Pernambuco—The meeting of the Finance at sea—At Pernambuco—Round Cape St. Roque—A gale—Breakers—The stretch to Barbadoes—Flying-fish alighting on deck—Dismasted—Arrive at Carlysle Bay.
CHAPTER XV: PAGE 95
At Barbadoes—Mayaguez—Crossing the Bahama Banks—The Gulf Stream—Arrival on the coast of South Carolina.
CHAPTER XVI: PAGE 107
Ocean Currents—Visit to South Santee—At the Typee River—Quarantined—South Port and Wilmington, N.C.—Inland sailing to Beaufort, Norfolk and Washington, D.C.—Voyage ended.
DISPOSAL OF THE LIBERDADE: PAGE 117
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Diagram of the Liberdade 52
The Liberdade 62
Course of the Liberdade from Paranagua to Barbadoes 69
This literary craft of mine, in its native model and rig, goes out laden with the facts of the strange happenings on a home afloat. Her constructor, a sailor for many years, could have put a whole cargo of salt, so to speak, in the little packet; but would not so wantonly intrude on this domain of longshore navigators. Could the author and constructor but box-haul, club-haul, tops'l-haul, and catharpin like the briny sailors of the strand, ah me!—and hope to be forgiven!
Be the current against us, what matters it? Be it in our favour, we are carried hence, to what place or for what purpose? Our plan of the whole voyage is so insignificant that it matters little, maybe, whither we go, for the "grace of a day" is the same! Is it not a recognition of this which makes the old sailor happy, though in the storm; and hopeful even on a plank in mid-ocean? Surely it is this! for the spiritual beauty of the sea, absorbing man's soul, permits of no infidels on its boundless expanse.
The ship—The crew—A hurricane—Cape Verde Islands—Frio—A pampeiro.
To get underweigh: It was on the 28th of February 1886, that the bark Aquidneck, laden with case-oil' sailed from New York for Montevideo, the capital o' Uruguay, the strip of land bounding the River Plate on the east, and called by the natives "Banda Oriental." The Aquidneck was a trim and tidy craft of 326 tons' register, hailing from Baltimore, the port noted for clippers, and being herself high famed above them all for swift sailing, she had won admiration on many seas.
Her crew mustered ten, all told; twelve had been the complement, when freights were good. There were, beside the crew with regular stations, a little lad, aged about six years, and his mamma (age immaterial), privileged above the rest, having "all nights in"—that is, not having to stand watch. The mate, Victor, who is to see many adventures before reaching New York again, was born and bred on shipboard. He was in perfect health, and as strong as a windlass. When he first saw the light and began to give orders, he was at San Francisco on the packet Constitution, the vessel lost in the tempest at Samoa, just before the great naval disaster at the same place in the year of 1889. Garfield, the little lad above mentioned, Victor's brother, in this family ship, was born in Hong Kong harbour, in the old bark Amethyst, a bona-fide American citizen, though first seeing the light in a foreign port, the Stars and Stripes standing sponsors for his nationality. This bark had braved the wind and waves for fifty-eight years, but had not, up to that date, so far as I know, experienced so lively a breeze as the one which sprung up about her old timbers on that eventful 3rd of March, 1880.
Our foremast hands on the Aquidneck, six in number, were from as many nations, strangers to me and strangers to each other; but the cook, a negro, was a native American—to the manner born. To have even so many Americans in one ship was considered exceptional.
Much or little as matters this family history and description of the crew: the day of our sailing was bitter-cold and stormy, boding no good for the coming voyage, which was to be, indeed, the most eventful of my life of more than five-and-thirty years at sea. Studying the morning weather report, before sailing, we saw predicted a gale from the nor'west, and one also approaching from the sou'west at the same time. "The prospect," said the New York papers, "is not encouraging." We were anxious, however, to commence the voyage, having a crew on board, and, being all ready, we boldly sailed, somewhat against our better judgment. The nor'wester blowing, at the time, at the rate of forty miles an hour, increased to eighty or ninety miles by March 2nd. This hurricane continued through March 3rd, and gave us serious concern for the ship and all on board.
At New York, on those days, the wind howled from the north, with the "storm centre somewhere on the Atlantic," so said the wise seamen of the weather bureau, to whom, by the way, the real old salt is indebted, at the present day, for information of approaching storms, sometimes days ahead. The prognostication was correct, as we can testify, for out on the Atlantic our bark could carry only a mere rag of a foresail, somewhat larger than a table-cloth, and with this storm-sail she went flying before the tempest, all those dark days, with a large "bone in her mouth," making great headway, even under the small sail. Mountains of seas swept clean over the bark in their mad race, filling her decks full to the top of the bulwarks, and shaking things generally.
Our men were lashed, each one to his station; and all spare spars not doubly lashed were washed away, along with other movables that were broken and torn from their fastenings by the wild storm.
The cook's galley came in for its share of the damage, the cook himself barely escaping serious injury from a sea that went thundering across the decks, taking with it doors, windows, galley stove, pots, kettles and all, together with the culinary artist; landing the whole wreck in the lee scuppers, but, most fortunately, with the professor on top. A misfortune like this is always—felt. It dampens one's feelings, so to speak. It means cold food for a time to come, if not even worse fare.
The day following our misfortune, however, was not so bad. In fact, the tremendous seas boarding the bark latterly were indications of the good change coming, for it meant that her speed had slackened through a lull of the gale, allowing the seas to reach her too full and heavy.
More sail was at once crowded on, and still more was set at every stage of the abatement of the gale, for the craft should not be lazy when big seas race after her. And so on we flew, like a scud, sheeting home sail after sail as required, till the 5th of March, when all of her white wings were spread, and she fairly "walked the waters like a thing of life." There was now wind enough for several days, but not too much, and our swift-sailing craft laughed at the seas trying to catch her.
Cheerily on we sailed for days and days, pressed by the favouring gale, meeting the sun each day a long span earlier, making daily four degrees of longitude. It was the time, on these bright days, to forearm with dry clothing against future stormy weather. Boxes and bags were brought on deck, and drying and patching went on by wholesale in the watch below, while the watch on deck bestirred themselves putting the ship in order. "Chips," the carpenter, mended the galley; the cook's broken shins were plastered up; and in a few days all was well again. And the sailors, moving cheerfully about once more in their patched garments of varied hues, reminded me of the spotted cape pigeons pecking for a living, the pigeons, I imagined, having a better life of the two. A panican of hot coffee or tea by sailors called "water bewitched," a sea-biscuit, and "bit of salt-horse," had regaled the crew and restored their voices. Then "Reuben Ranzo" was heard on the breeze, and the main tack was boarded to the tune of "Johnny Boker." Other wondrous songs through the night-watch could be heard in keeping with the happy time. Then what they would do and what they wouldn't do in the next port was talked of, when song and yarn ran out.
Hold fast, shipmate, hold fast and belay! or the crimps of Montevideo will wear the new jacket you promise yourself, while you will be off Cape Horn, singing "Haul out to leeward," with a wet stocking on your neck, and with the same old "lamby" on, that long since was "lamby" only in name, the woolly part having given way to a cloth worn much in "Far Cathay"; in short, you will dress in dungaree, the same as now, while the crimps and landsharks divide your scanty earnings, unless you "take in the slack" of your feelings, and "make all fast and steady all."
Ten days out, and we were in the northeast "trades"—porpoises were playing under the bows as only porpoises can play; dolphins were racing alongside, and flying-fish were all about. This was, indeed, a happy change, and like being transported to another world. Our hardships were now all forgotten, for "the sea washes off all the woes of men."
One week more of pleasant sailing, all going orderly on board, and Cape Verde Islands came in sight. A grand and glorious sight they were! All hail, terra firma! It is good to look at you once again! By noon the islands were abeam, and the fresh trade-wind in the evening bore us out of sight of them before dark.
Most delightful sailing is this large, swinging motion of our bark bounding over the waves, with the gale abaft the beam, driving her forward till she fairly leaps from billow to billow, as if trying to rival her companions, the very flying-fish. Thwarted now by a sea, she strikes it with her handsome bows, sending into the light countless thousand sprays, that shine like a nimbus of glory. The tread on her deck-plank is lighter now, and the little world afloat is gladsome fore and aft.
Cape Frio (cold cape) was the next landfall. Upon reaching that point, we had crossed the Atlantic twice. The course toward Cape Verde Islands had been taken to avail ourselves of a leading wind through the south-east trades, the course from the islands to Frio being southwesterly. This latter stretch was spanned on an easy bow-line; with nothing eventful to record. Thence our course was through variable winds to the River Plate, where a pampeiro was experienced that blew "great guns," and whistled a hornpipe through the rigging.
These pampeiros (winds from the pampas) usually blow with great fury, but give ample warning of their approach: the first sign being a spell of unsurpassed fine weather, with small, fleecy clouds floating so gently in the sky that one scarcely perceives their movements, yet they do move, like an immense herd of sheep grazing undisturbed on the great azure field. All this we witnessed, and took into account. Then gradually, and without any apparent cause, the clouds began to huddle together in large groups; a sign had been given which the elements recognized. Next came a flash of fire from behind the accumulating masses, then a distant rumbling noise. It was a note of warning, and one that no vessel should let pass unheeded. "Clew up, and furl!" was the order. To hand all sail when these fierce visitors are out on a frolic over the seas, and entertain them under bare poles, is the safest plan, unless, indeed, the best storm sails are bent; even then it is safest to goose-wing the tops'ls before the gale comes on. Not till the fury of the blast is spent does the ship require sail, for it is not till then that the sea begins to rise, necessitating sail to steady her.
The first onslaught of the storm, levelling all before it, and sending the would-be waves flying across in sheets—sailor sheets, so to speak—lends a wild and fearful aspect; but there is no dread of a lee-shore in the sailor's heart at these times, for the gale is from off the land, as indicated by the name it bears.
After the gale was a calm; following which came desirable winds, that carried us at last to the port we sought—Montevideo; where we cast anchor on the 5th of May, and made preparations, after the customs' visit, for discharging the cargo, which was finally taken into lighters from alongside to the piers, and thence to the warehouses, where ends the ship's responsibility to the owner of the goods. But not till then ceases the ship's liability, or the captain's care of the merchandise placed in his trust. Clearly the captain has cares on sea and on land.
 The white foam at the bows produced by fast sailing is, by sailors, called "a bone in her mouth."
Montevideo—Beggars—Antonina for mate—Antonina to Buenos Aires—The bombelia.
Montevideo, sister city to Buenos Aires, is the fairer of the two to look upon from the sea, having a loftier situation, and, like Buenos Aires, boasts of many fine mansions, comely women, liberal schools, and a cemetery of great splendour.
It is at Montevideo that the "beggar a-horse-back" becomes a verity (horses are cheap); galloping up to you the whining beggar will implore you, saying: "For the love of Christ, friend, give me a coin to buy bread with."
From "the Mont" we went to Antonina, in Brazil, for a cargo of mate, a sort of tea, which, prepared as a drink, is wholesome and refreshing. It is partaken of by the natives in a highly sociable manner, through a tube which is thrust into the steaming beverage in a silver urn or a calabash, whichever may happen to be at hand when "drouthy neebors neebors meet"; then all sip and sip in bliss from the same tube, which is passed from mouth to mouth. No matter how many mouths there may be, the bombelia, as it is called, must reach them all. It may have to be replenished to make the drink go around, and several times, too, when the company is large. This is done with but little loss of time. By thrusting into the urn or gourd a spoonful of the herb, and two spoonfuls of sugar to a pint of water, which is poured, boiling, over it, the drink is made. But to give it some fancied extra flavour, a live coal (carbo vegetable) is plunged into the potion to the bottom. Then it is again passed around, beginning where it left off. Happy is he, if a stranger, who gets the first sip at the tube, but the initiated have no prejudices. While in that country I frequently joined in the social rounds at mate, and finally rejoiced in a bombelia of my own.
The people at Antonina (in fact all the people we saw in Brazil) were kind, extremely hospitable, and polite; living in thrift generally, their wants were but few beyond their resources. The mountain scenery, viewed from the harbour of Antonina, is something to gloat over; I have seen no place in the world more truly grand and pleasing. The climate, too, is perfect and healthy. The only doctor of the place, when we were there, wore a coat out at the elbows, for lack of patronage. A desirable port is Antonina.
We had musical entertainments on board, at this place. To see the display of beautiful white teeth by these Brazilian sweet singers was good to the soul of a sea-tossed mariner. One nymph sang for the writer's benefit a song at which they all laughed very much. Being in native dialect, I did not understand it, but of course laughed with the rest, at which they were convulsed; from this, I supposed it to be at my expense. I enjoyed that, too, as much, or more, than I would have relished areytos in my favour.
With mate we came to Buenos Aires, where the process of discharging the cargo was the same as at Montevideo—into lighters. But at Buenos Aires, we lay four times the distance from the shore, about four miles.
The herb, or herva mate, is packed into barrels, boxes, and into bullock-hide sacks, which are sewed up with stout hide thongs. The contents, pressed in tightly when the hide is green and elastic, becomes as hard as a cannon-ball by the contraction which follows when it dries. The first load of the soroes, so-called, that came off to the bark at the port of loading, was espied on the way by little Garfield. Piled in the boat, high above the gunwales, the hairy side out, they did look odd. "Oh, papa," said he, "here comes a load of cows! Stand by, all hands, and take them in."
Salvage of a cargo of wine—Sailors happy—Cholera in the Argentine—Death in the land—Dutch Harry—Pete the Greek—Noted crimps—Boat lost—Sail for Ilha Grande—Expelled from the port—Serious hardships.
From Buenos Aires, we proceeded up the River Plate, near the confluence of the Parana and Paraguay, to salve a cargo of wine from the stranded brig Neovo San Pascual, from Marseilles.
The current of the great river at that point runs constantly seaward, becoming almost a sea of itself, and a dangerous one to navigate; hence the loss of the San Pascual, and many others before her.
If, like the "Ancient Mariner," we had, any of us, cried, "water, water all around, and not a drop to drink," we forgot it now, in this bountiful stream. Wine, too, we had without stint. The insurance agent, to leave no excuse for tampering with the cargo, rolled out a cask of the best, and, like a true Hans Breitmann, "knocked out der bung." Then, too, cases were broken in the handling, the contents of which drenched their clothes from top to toe, as the sailors carried them away on their heads.
The diversity of a sailor's life—ah me! The experience of Dana and his shipmates, for instance, on a sun-burnt coast, carrying dry hides on their heads, if not a worse one, may be in store for us, we cried, now fairly swimming in luxuries—water and wine alike free. Although our present good luck may be followed by times less cheerful, we preferred to count this, we said, as compensation for past misfortunes, marking well that "it never rains but it pours."
The cargo of wine in due course was landed at Rosario with but small loss, the crew, except in one case, remaining sober enough to help navigate even the difficult Parana. But one old sinner, the case I speak of, an old Labrador fisherman, became a useless, drunken swab, in spite of all we could do. I say "we" for most of the crew were on my side, in favour of a fair deal and "regular supplies."
The hold was barred and locked, and every place we could think of, for a time, was searched; still Dan kept terribly drunk. At last his mattress was turned out, and from it rolled a dozen or more bottles of the best liquor. Then there was a row, but all on the part of Dan, who swore blue vengeance on the man, if he could but find him out, who had stowed that grog in his bunk, "trying to get" him "into trouble"; some of those "young fellows would rue it yet!"
The cargo of wine being discharged, I chartered to load alfalfa, packed in bales, for Rio. Many deaths had occurred about this time, with appalling suddenness; we soon learned that cholera was staring us all in the face, and that it was fast spreading through the country, filling towns and cities with sickness and death.
Approaching more frightfully near, it carried our pilot over the bar; his wife was a widow the day after he brought our bark to the loading berth. And the young man who commenced to deliver us the cargo was himself measured the day after. His ship had come in!
Many stout men, and many, many women and children succumbed to the scourge; yet it was our high privilege to come through the dark cloud without losing a loved one, while thousands were cast down with bereavements and grief. At one time it appeared that we were in the centre of the cloud which zig-zagged its ugly body, serpent-like, through districts, poisoning all that it touched, and leaving death in its wake. This was indeed cholera in its most terrible form!
One poor fellow sat at the Widow Lacinas' hotel, bewildered. "Forty-eight hours ago," said he, "I sat at my own hearth, with wife and three children by my side. Now I am alone in the world! Even my poor house, such as it was, is pulled down." This man, I say, had troubles; surely was his "house pulled down!"
There was no escaping the poison or keeping it off, except by disinfectants, and by keeping the system regular, for it soon spread over all the land and the air was full of it. Remedies sold so high that many must have perished without the test of medicinal aid to cure their disease. A cry went up against unprincipled druggists who were over-charging for their drugs, but nothing more was done to check their greed. Camphor sold as high as four dollars a pound, and the druggist with a few hundred drops of laudanum and as much chlorodyne could travel through Europe afterward on the profits of his sales.
It was at Rosario, and at this time, that we buried our young friend, Captain Speck, well loved of young and old. His friends did not ask whether it was cholera or not that he died of, but performed the last act of friendship as became men of heart and feeling. The minister could not come that day, but Captain Speck's little friend, Garfield, said: "The flags were set for the angels to come and take the Captain to Heaven!" Need more be said?
And the flags blew out all day.
Then it became us to erect a memorial slab, and, hardest of all, to write to the widow and orphans. This was done in a homely way, but with sympathetic, aching hearts away off there in Santa Fe.
Our time at Rosario, after this, was spent in gloomy days that dragged into weeks and months, and our thoughts often wandered from there to a happy past. We preferred to dwell away from there and in other climes, if only in thought. There was, however, one happy soul among us—the child whose face was a sunbeam in all kinds of weather and at all times, happy in his ignorance of the evils that fall to the lot of man.
Our sailing-day from Rosario finally came; and, with a feeling as of casting off fetters, the lines were let go, and the bark hauled out into the stream, with a full cargo on board; but, instead of sailing for Rio, as per charter, she was ordered by the Brazilian consul to Ilha Grande (Great Island), the quarantine station of Brazil, some sixty-two miles west of Rio, there to be disinfected and to discharge her cargo in quarantine.
A new crew was shipped and put aboard, but while I was getting my papers, about noon, they stole one of the ship's boats and scurried off down the river as fast, no doubt, as they could go. I have not seen them or my boat since. They all deserted,—every mother's son of them! taking, beside the boat, a month's advance pay from a Mr. Dutch Harry, a sailor boarding-master, who had stolen my inward crew that he might, as he boasted afterward, "ship new hands in their places." In view of the fact that this vilest of crimps was the loser of the money, I could almost forgive the "galoots" for the theft of my boat. (The ship is usually responsible for advance wages twenty-four hours after she has sailed, providing, too, that the sailors proceed to sea in her.) Seeing, moreover, that they were of that stripe, unworthy the name of sailor, my vessel was the better without them, by at least what it cost to be rid of them, namely, the price of my boat.
However, I will take back what I said about Dutch Harry being the "vilest crimp." There came one to Rosario worse than he, one "Pete the Greek," who cut off the ears of a rival boarding-master at the Boca, threw them into the river, then, making his escape to Rosario, some 180 miles away, established himself in the business in opposition to the Dutchman, whom he "shanghaied" soon after, then "reigned peacefully in his stead."
A captain who, like myself, had suffered from the depredations of this noted gentry, told me, in great glee, that he saw Harry on a bone-laden Italian bark outward bound,—"even then nearly out of the river." The last seen of him by my friend, the captain, was "among the branches," with a rope around his neck—they hanged him, maybe—I don't know what else the rope was for, or who deserved more to be hanged. The captain screamed with delight:—"he'll get bone soup, at least, for a while, instead of Santa Fe good mutton-chops at our expense."
My second crew was furnished by Mr. Pete, before referred to, and on the seventeenth of December we set sail from that country of revolutions. Things soon dropped into working order, and I found reason to be pleased with the change of crew. We glided smoothly along down the river, thence wishing never again to see Rosario under the distressing circumstances through which she had just passed.
On the following day, while slipping along before a light, rippling breeze, a dog was espied out in the current, struggling in the whirlpools, which were rather strong, apparently unable to extricate himself, and was greatly exhausted. Coming up with him our main-tops'l was laid to the mast, and as we ranged by the poor thing, a sailor, plunging over the side in a bow-line, bent a rope on to doggy, another one hauled him carefully on board, and the rescue was made. He proved to be a fine young retriever, and his intelligent signs of thankfulness for his escape from drowning were scarcely less eloquent of gratitude than human spoken language.
This pleasant incident happening on a Friday, suggested, of course, the name we should give him. His new master, to be sure, was Garfield, who at once said, "I guess they won't know me when I get home, with my new suit—and a dog!" The two romped the decks thenceforth, early and late. It was good to see them romp, while "Friday" "barkit wi' joy."
Our pets were becoming numerous now, and all seemed happy till a stowaway cat one day killed poor little "Pete," our canary. For ten years or more we had listened to the notes of this wee bird, in many countries and climes. Sweetest of sweet singers, it was buried in the great Atlantic at last. A strange cat, a careless steward, and its tiny life was ended—and the tragedy told. This was indeed a great loss to us all, and was mourned over,—almost as the loss of a child.
A book that has been read at sea has a near claim on our friendship, and is a thing one is loth to part with, or change, even for a better book. But the well-tried friend of many voyages is oh! so hard to part with at sea. A resting-place in the solemn sea of sameness—in the trackless ocean, marked only by imaginary lines and circles—is a cheerless spot to look to; yet how many have treasures there!
Returning to the voyage and journal: Our pilot proved incompetent, and we narrowly escaped shipwreck in consequence at Martin Garcia Bar, a bad spot in the River Plate. A small schooner captain, observing that we needlessly followed in his track, and being anything but a sailor in principle, wantonly meditated mischief to us. While I was confidently trusting to my pilot, and he (the pilot) trusting to the schooner, one that could go over banks where we would strike, what did the scamp do but shave close to a dangerous spot, my pilot following faithfully in his wake. Then, jumping upon the taffrail of his craft, as we came abreast the shoal, he yelled, like a Comanche, to my pilot to: "Port the helm!" and what does my mutton-headed jackass do but port hard over! The bark, of course, brought up immediately on the ground, as the other had planned, seeing which his whole pirate crew—they could have been little less than pirates—joined in roars of laughter, but sailed on, doing us no other harm.
By our utmost exertions the bark was gotten off, not a moment too soon, however, for by the time we kedged her into deep water a pampeiro was upon us. She rode out the gale safe at anchor, thanks to an active crew. Our water tanks and casks were then refilled, having been emptied to lighten the bark from her perilous position.
Next evening the storm went down, and by mutual consent our mud-pilot left, taking passage in a passing river-craft, with his pay and our best advice, which was to ship in a dredging-machine, where his capabilities would be appreciated.
Then, "paddling our own canoe," without further accident we reached the light-ship, passing it on Christmas Day. Clearing thence, before night, English Bank and all other dangers of the land, we set our course for Ilha Grande, the wind being fair. Then a sigh of relief was breathed by all on board. If ever "old briny" was welcomed, it was on that Christmas Day.
Nothing further of interest occurred on the voyage to Brazil, except the death of the little bird already spoken of, which loss deeply affected us all.
We arrived at Ilha Grande, our destination, on the 7th day of January, 1887, and came to anchor in nine fathoms of water, at about noon, within musket-range of the guard-ship, and within speaking distance of several vessels riding quarantine, with more or less communication going on among them all, through flags. Several ships, chafing under the restraint of quarantine, were "firing signals" at the guard-ship. One Scandinavian, I remember, asked if he might be permitted to communicate by cable with his owners in Christiana. The guard gave him, as the Irishman said, "an evasive answer," so the cablegram, I suppose, laid over. Another wanted police assistance; a third wished to know if he could get fresh provisions—ten milreis' ($5) worth (he was a German)—naming a dozen or more articles that he wished for, "and the balance in onions!" Altogether, the young fellows on the guard-ship were having, one might say, a signal practice.
On the next day, January 8th, the officers of the port came alongside in a steam-launch, and ordered us to leave, saying the port had been closed that morning. "But we have made the voyage," I said. "No matter," said the guard, "leave at once you must, or the guard-ship will fire into you." This, I submit, was harsh and arbitrary treatment. A thunderbolt from a clear sky could not have surprised us more or worked us much greater harm—to be ruined in business or struck by lightning, being equally bad!
Then pointing something like a gun, Dom Pedro said, said he, "Vaya Homem" (hence, begone), "Or you'll give us cholera." So back we had to go, all the way to Rosario, with that load of hay—and trouble. But on our arrival there we found things better than they were when we sailed. The cholera had ceased—it was on the wane when we sailed from Rosario, and there was hardly a case of the dread disease in the whole country east of Cordova when we returned. That was, indeed, a comfort, but it left our hardship the same, and led, consequently, to the total loss of the vessel after dragging us through harrowing trials and losses, as will be seen by subsequent events.
Ilha Grande decree—Return to Rosario—Waiting opening of the Brazilian ports—Scarcity of sailors—Buccaneers turned pilots—Sail down the river—Arrive at Ilha Grande the second time—Quarantined and fumigated—Admitted to pratique—Sail for Rio—Again challenged—Rio at last.
This Ilha Grande decree, really a political movement, brought great hardships on us, notwithstanding that it was merely intended by the Brazilians as retaliation for past offences by their Argentine neighbours; not only for quarantines against Rio fevers, but for a discriminating duty as well on sugar from the empire; a combination of hardships on commerce—more than the sensitive Brazilians could stand—so chafing them that a retaliation fever sprung up reaching more than the heat of febre marello, and they decided to teach their republican cousins a wholesome lesson. However, their wish was to retaliate without causing war, and it was done. In fact, closing ports as they did at the beginning of Argentine's most valuable season of exports to Brazil, and with the plausible excuse, namely fear of pain in the stomach, so filled the Argentines with admiration of their equals in strategy that they on the earliest opportunity proclaimed two public holidays in honour of bright Brazil. So the matter of difference ended, to the delight of all—in fire-crackers and champagne!
To the delight of all except the owner and crew of the Aquidneck. For our bark there was no way but to return where the cargo came from, at a ruinous loss, too, of time and money. We called at the first open port and wired to the owner of the cargo, but got no answer. Thence we sailed to Buenos Aires, where I telegraphed again for instructions. The officers of the guard-ship, upon receiving my report from Brazil, were convulsed with laughter, while I——I confess it—could not see the joke. After waiting two days, this diplomatic reply came from the owner of the cargo: "Act as the case may require." Upon this matter I had several opinions. One person suggested that the case required me to pitch the whole cargo into the sea! This friend, I may mention, was from Boston.
I have ever since regretted, however, that I did not take his advice. There seemed to be no protection for the vessel; the law that a ship must be allowed to live was unheeded; in fact this law was reversed and there were sharpers and beach-combers at every turn ready to take advantage of one's misfortunes or even drive one to despair. I concluded, finally, to shake the lot of them, and proceeding up the Parana, moored again at the berth where, a few weeks before, we had taken in the cargo. Spans and tackle were rigged, and all was made ready to discharge. It was now, "Come on, McCarthy, or McCarthy, come on!" I didn't care which, I had one right on my side, and I kept that always in view; namely, the right to discharge the cargo where I had first received it; but where the money to buy ballast and pay other charges was to come from I could not discover.
My merchant met me in great concern at my "misfortunes," but "carramba!" (zounds) said he, "my own losses are great." It required very little reasoning to show me that the least expensive course was the safest one for me to adopt, and my merchant offering enough to pay the marketing, I found it wisest not to disturb the cargo, but to lay up instead with it in the vessel and await the reopening of the Brazilian ports. This I did.
My merchant, Don Manuel, is said to be worth millions of pesos. The foundation of his wealth was laid by peddling charcoal, carrying it at first, to his credit be it said, on his back, and he was then a good fellow. Many a hard bargain has he waged since, and is now a "Don," living in a $90,000 house. The Don doesn't peddle charcoal any more.
Moored at Rosario, waiting, waiting; but all of us well in body, and myself finally less agitated in mind. My old friend, Don Manuel, seems better also; he "may yet purge and live clean like a gentleman."
I found upon our return to Rosario that some of the old hands were missing; laid low by the scourge, to make room for others, and some were spared who would have been less lamented. Among all the ship-brokers that I knew at Rosario, and I knew a great many, not one was taken away. They all escaped, being, it was thought, epidemic-proof. There was my broker, Don Christo Christiano—called by Don Manuel "El Sweaga" (the Swede)—whom nothing could strike with penetrative force, except a commission.
At last, April 9th, 1887, news came that the Brazilian ports were open. Cholera had long since disappeared in Santa Fe and Buenos Aires. The Brazilians had established their own beef-drying factories, and could now afford to open their ports to competition. This made a great stir among the ships. Crews were picked up here and there, out of the few brothels that had not been pulled down during the cholera, and out of the streets or from the fields. Some, too, came in from the bush. Mixed among them were many that had been let out of the prisons all over the country, so that the scourge should not be increased by over-crowded jails. Of six who shipped with me, four had been so released from prison, where they had been serving for murder or highway robbery; all this I learned when it was too late. I shall have occasion before long to speak of these again!
Well, we unmoored and dropped down the river a few miles the first day; with this crew, the hardest looking set that ever put foot on a ship of mine, and with a swarthy Greek pilot that would be taken for a pirate in any part of the world. The second mate, who shipped also at Rosario, was not less ill-visaged, and had, in addition to his natural ugly features, a deep scar across his face, suggestive of a heavy sabre stroke; a mark which, I thought upon further acquaintance, he had probably merited. I could not make myself easy upon the first acquaintance of my new and decidedly ill-featured crew. So, early the first evening I brought the bark to anchor, and made all snug before dark for prudent reasons. Next morning, the Greek, instead of getting the bark underweigh, as I expected him to do, came to me demanding more pay for his services and thinking, maybe, that I could not do without him, demanded, unless I chose to pay considerably in excess of his regular dues, to be put on shore. I took the fellow at his first bounce. He and his grip-sack were landed on the bank there and then, with but little "palaver" over it. It was then said, so I learned after, that "old S——" would drop into the wake of some ship, and save his pilotage; in fact, they didn't know "what else he could do," as the pilots were then all engaged for other vessels.
The money was taken care of all right, and so was the Aquidneck! By daylight of the following morning she was underweigh, and under full sail at the head of a fleet of piloted vessels, and, being the swiftest sailer, easily kept the lead, and was one of the vessels that did not "rompe el banco," as was predicted by all the pilots, while they hunched their shoulders above their ears, exclaiming, "No practico, no possebla!" This was my second trip down the Parana, it is true, and I had been on other rivers as wonderful as this one, and had, moreover, read Mark Twain's "Life on the Mississippi," which gives no end of information on river currents, wind-reefs, sand-reefs, alligator-water, and all that is useful to know about rivers, so that I was confident of my ability; all that had been required was the stirring-up that I got from the impertinent pilot, or buccaneer, whichever is proper to call him—one thing certain, he was no true sailor!
A strong, fair wind on the river, together with the current, in our favour, carried us flying down the channel, while we kept the lead, with the Stars and Stripes waving where they ought always to be seen; namely, on the ship in the van! So the duffers followed us, instead of our following them, and on we came, all clear, with the good wishes of the officers and the crews. But the pilots, drawing their shoulders up and repeating the refrain, "No practico, no possebla!" cursed us bitterly, and were in a vile mood, I was told, cursing more than usual, and that is saying a great deal, for all will agree who have heard them that the average "Dago" pilot is the most foul-mouthed thing afloat.
Down the river and past the light-ship we came once more, this time with no halt to make, no backing sails to let a pilot off, nothing at all to stop us; we spread all sail to a favourable breeze, and reached Ilha Grande eight days afterward, beating the whole fleet by two days. Garfield kept strict account of this. He was on deck when we made the land, a dark and foggy night it was! nothing could be seen but the dimmest outline of a headland through the haze. I knew the place, I thought, and Garfield said he could smell land, fog or coal-tar. This, it will be admitted, was reassuring. A school of merry porpoises that gambolled under the bows while we stood confidently in for the land, diving and crossing the bark's course in every direction, also guarded her from danger. I knew that so long as deep-sea porpoises kept with us we had nothing to fear of the ground. When the lookout cried, "Porpoises gone," we turned the bark's head off-shore, backed the main-tops'l, and sent out the "pigeon" (lead). A few grains of sand and one soft, delicate white shell were brought up out of fourteen fathoms of water. We had but to heed these warnings and guides, and our course would be tolerably clear, dense and all as the fog and darkness was.
The lead was kept constantly going as we sailed along in the intense darkness, till the headland of our port was visible through the haze of grey morning. What Garfield had smelled, I may mention, turned out to be coal-tar, a pot of which had been capsized on deck by the leadsman, in the night.
By daylight in the morning, April 29, we had found the inner entrance to Ilha Grande, and sailed into the harbour for the second time with this cargo of hay. It was still very foggy, and all day heavy gusts of wind came down through the gulches in the mountains, laden with fog and rain.
Two days later, the weather cleared up, and our friends began to come in. They found us there all right, anchored close under the highest mountain.
Eight days of sullen gloom and rain at this place; then brimstone, smoke, and fire turned on to us, and we were counted healthy enough to be admitted to pratique in Rio, where we arrived May 11th, putting one more day between ourselves and our friendly competitors, who finally arrived safe, all except one, the British bark Dublin. She was destroyed by fire between the two ports. The crew was rescued by Captain Lunt, and brought safe into Rio next day.
At the fort entrance to the harbour of Rio we were again challenged and brought to, all standing, on the bar; the tide running like a mill race at the time brought the bark aback on her cables with a force, nearly cutting her down.
The Aquidneck it would seem had outsailed the telegram which should have preceded her; it was, nevertheless, my imperative duty to obey the orders of the port authorities which, however, should have been tempered with reason. It was easy for them in the fort to say, "Come to, or we'll sink you," but we in the bark, between two evils, came near being sunk by obeying the order.
Formerly, when a vessel was challenged at this fort, one, two or three shots, if necessary to bring her to, were fired, at a cost to the ship, if she were not American, of fifteen shillings for the first shot, thirty for the second, and sixty for the third; but, for American ships, the sixty shilling shot was fired first—Americans would always have the best!
After all the difficulties were cleared away, the tardy telegram received, and being again identified by the officers, we weighed anchor for the last time on this voyage, and went into our destined port, the spacious and charming harbour of Rio.
At Rio—Sail for Antonina with mixed cargo—A pampeiro—Ship on beam-ends—Cargo still more mixed—Topgallant-masts carried away—Arrive safely at Antonina.
The cargo was at last delivered, and no one made ill over it. A change of rats also was made; at Rio those we brought in gave place to others from the Dom Pedro Docks where we moored. Fleas, too, skipped about in the hay as happy as larks, and nearly as big; and all the other live stock that we brought from Rosario, goodness knows of what kind and kith, arrived well and sound from over the water, notwithstanding the fumigations and fuss made at the quarantine.
Had the little microbes been with us indeed, the Brazilians would not have turned us away as they did, from the doors of an hospital! for they are neither a cruel nor cowardly people. To turn sickness away would be cruel and stupid, to say the least! What we were expelled for I have already explained.
After being so long in gloomy circumstances we felt like making the most of pleasant Rio! Therefore on the first fine day after being docked, we sallied out in quest of city adventure, and brought up first in Ouvidor—the Broadway of Rio, where my wife bought a tall hat, which I saw nights looming up like a dreadful stack of hay, the innocent cause of much trouble to me, and I declared, by all the great islands—in my dreams—that go back with it I would not, but would pitch it, first, into the sea.
I get nervous on the question of quarantines. I visit the famous Botanical Gardens with my family, and I tremble with fear lest we are fumigated at some station on the way. However, our time at Rio is pleasantly spent in the main, and on the first day of June, we set sail once more for Paranagua and Antonina of pleasant recollections; partly laden with flour, kerosene, pitch, tar, rosin and wine, three pianos, I remember, and one steam engine and boiler, all as ballast; "freight free," so the bill of lading read, and further, that the ship should "not be responsible for leakage, breakage, or rust." This clause was well for the ship, as one of those wild pampeiros overtook her, on the voyage, throwing her violently on her beam-ends, and shaking the motley cargo into a confused and mixed-up mess. The vessel remaining tight, however, no very serious damage was done, and she righted herself after a while, but without her lofty topgallant-masts, which went with a crash at the first blast of the tempest.
This incident made a profound impression on Garfield. He happened to be on deck when the masts were carried away, but managed to scamper off without getting hurt. Whenever a vessel hove in sight after that having a broken spar or a torn sail, it was "a pampeiroed ship."
The storm, though short, was excessively severe, and swept over Paranagua and Antonina with unusual violence. The owner of the pianos, I was told, prayed for us, and regretted that his goods were not insured. But when they were landed, not much the worse for their tossing about, old Strichine, the owner (that was his name or near that, strychnine the boys called him, because his singing was worse than "rough on rats," they said, a bit of juvenile wit that the artist very sensibly let pass unheeded), declared that the ship was a good one, and that her captain was a good pilot; and as neither freight nor insurance had been paid, he and his wife would feast us on music; having learned that I especially was fond of it. They had screeched operas for a lifetime in Italy, but I didn't care for that. As arranged, therefore, I was on deck at the appointed time and place, to stay at all hazards.
The pianos, as I had fully expected, were fearfully out of tune—suffering, I should say, from the effects of seasickness!
So much so that I shall always believe this opportunity was seized upon by the artist to avenge the damage to his instruments, which, indeed, I could not avert, in the storm that we passed through. The good Strichine and his charming wife were astonished at the number of opera airs I could name. And they tried to persuade me to sing Il Trovatore; but concluding that damage enough had already been done, I refrained, that is, I refracted my song.
Mutiny—Attempt at robbery and murder—Four against one—Two go down before a rifle—Order restored.
July 23rd, 1887, brings me to a sudden and shocking point in the history of the voyage that I fain would forget, but that will not be possible. Between the hours of 11 and 12 p.m. of this day I was called instantly to defend my life and all that is dear to a man.
The bark, anchored alone in the harbour of Antonina, was hid from the town in the darkness of a night that might well have covered the blackest of tragedies. My pirates thought their opportunity had surely come to capture the Aquidneck, and this they undertook to do. The ringleader of the gang was a burly scoundrel, whose boast was that he had "licked" both the mate and second mate of the last vessel he had sailed in, and had "busted the captain in the jaw" when they landed in Rio, where the vessel was bound, and where, of course, the captain had discharged him. It was there the villain shipped with me, in lieu of one of the Rosario gang who had been kindly taken in charge by the guard at Ilha Grande and brought to Rio to be tried before the American Consul for insubordination. Said he, one day when I urged him to make haste and help save the topsails in a squall, "Oh, I'm no soft-horn to be hurried!" It was the time the bark lost her topgallant-mast and was cast on her beam-ends on the voyage to Antonina, already told; it was, in fact, no time for loafing, and this braggart at a decisive word hurried aloft with the rest to do his duty. What I said to him was meant for earnest, and it cowed him. It is only natural to think that he held a grudge against me forever after, and waited only for his opportunity; knowing, too, that I was the owner of the bark, and supposed to have money. He was heard to say in a rum-mill a day or two before the attack that he would find the —— money and his life, too. His chum and bosom friend had come pretty straight from Palermo penitentiary at Buenos Aires when he shipped with me at Rosario.
It was no secret on board the bark that he had served two years for robbing, and cutting a ranchman's throat from ear to ear. These records, which each seemed to glory in, were verified in both cases.
I met the captain afterwards who had been "busted in the jaw"—Captain Roberts, of Baltimore, a quiet gentleman, with no evil in his heart for any one, and a man, like myself, well along in years.
Two of the gang, old Rosario hands, had served for the lesser offence of robbery alone—they brought up in the rear! The other two of my foremast hands—one a very respectable Hollander, the other a little Japanese sailor, a bright, young chap—had been robbed and beaten by the four ruffians, and then threatened so that they deserted to the forest instead of bringing a complaint of the matter to me, for fear, as the Jap expressed it afterwards, when there was no longer any danger,—for fear the "la-la-long mans (thieves) would makee killo mi!"
The ringleader bully had made unusual efforts to create a row when I came on board early in the evening; however, as he had evidently been drinking, I passed it off as best I could for the natural consequence of rum, and ordered him forward; instead of doing as he was bid, when I turned to hand my wife to the cabin he followed me threateningly to the break of the poop. What struck me most, however, was the conduct of his chum, who was sober, but in a very unusual, high, gleeful mood. It was knock-off time when I came along to where he was seizing off the mizzen topgallant backstay, the last of the work of refitting the late pampeiro damage; and the mate being elsewhere engaged, I gave the usual order to quit work. "Knock off," I said to the man, "and put away your tools. The bark's rigging looks well," I added, "and if to-morrow turns out fine, all will be finished"; whereupon the fellow laughed impertinently in my face, repeating my words, "All will be finished!" under his breath, adding, "before to-morrow!" This was the first insult offered by the "Bloodthirsty Tommy," who had committed murder only a short time before; but I had been watched by the fellow, with a cat-like eye at every turn.
The full significance of his words on this occasion came up to me only next morning, when I saw him lying on the deck with a murderous weapon in his hand! I was not expecting a cowardly, night attack, nevertheless I kept my gun loaded. I went to sleep this night as usual, forgetting the unpleasant episode as soon as my head touched the pillow; but my wife, with finer instincts, kept awake. It was well for us all that she did so. Near midnight, my wife, who had heard the first footstep on the poop-deck, quietly wakened me, saying, "We must get up, and look out for ourselves! Something is going wrong on deck; the boat tackle has been let go with a great deal of noise, and—O! don't go that way on deck. I heard some one on the cabin steps, and heard whispering in the forward entry."
"You must have been dreaming," I said.
"No, indeed!" said she; "I have not been asleep yet; don't go on deck by the forward companionway; they are waiting there, I am sure, for I heard the creaking of the loose step in the entry."
If my wife has not been dreaming, thought I, there can be no possible doubt of a plot.
Nothing justifies a visit on the poop-deck after working-hours, except a call to relieve sickness, or for some other emergency, and then secrecy or stealth is non-permissible.
It may be here explained to persons not familiar with ships, that the sailors' quarters are in the forward part of the ship where they (the sailors) are supposed to be found after working-hours, in port, coming never abaft the mainmast; hence the term "before the mast."
My first impulse was to step on deck in the usual way, but the earnest entreaties of my wife awoke me to a danger that should be investigated with caution. Arming myself, therefore, with a stout carbine repeater, with eight ball cartridges in the magazine, I stepped on deck abaft instead of forward, where evidently I had been expected. I stood rubbing my eyes for a moment, inuring them to the intense darkness, when a coarse voice roared down the forward companionway to me to come on deck. "Why don't ye come on deck like a man, and order yer men forid?" was the salute that I got, and was the first that I heard with my own ears, and it was enough. To tell the whole story in a word, I knew that I had to face a mutiny.
I could do no less than say: "Go forward there!"
"Yer there, are ye?" said the spokesman, as with an oath, he bounded toward me, cursing as he came.
Again I ordered him forward, saying, "I am armed,—if you come here I will shoot!" But I forbore to do so instantly, thinking to club him to the deck instead, for my carbine was a heavy one. I dealt him a blow as he came near, sufficient I thought, to fell an ox; but it had, apparently, no effect, and instantly he was inside of my guard. Then grasping me by the throat, he tried to force me over the taffrail, and cried, exultingly, as he felt me give way under his brute strength, "Now, you damn fool, shoot!" at the same time drawing his knife to strike.
I could not speak, or even breathe, but my carbine spoke for me, and the ruffian fell with the knife in his hand which had been raised against me! Resolution had proved more than a match for brute force, for I then knew that not only my own life but also the lives of others depended on me at this moment. Nothing daunted, the rest came on, like hungry wolves. Again I cried, "Go forward!" But thinking, maybe, that my rifle was a single shooter, or that I could not load it so quickly, the order was disregarded.
"What if I don't go forward?" was "Bloody Tommy's" threatening question, adding, as he sprang toward me, "I've got this for you!" but fell instantly as he raised his hand; and there on the deck was ended his misadventure! and like the other he fell with the deadly knife in his hand. I was now all right. The dread of cold steel had left me when I freed myself from the first would-be assassin, and I only wondered how many more would persist in trying to take my life. But recollecting there were only two mutineers left, and that I had still six shots in the magazine of my rifle, and one already in the chamber, I stood ready with the hammer raised, and my finger on the trigger, confident that I would not be put down.
There was no further need of extreme measures, however, for order was now restored, though two of the assailants had skulked away in the dark.
How it was that I regained my advantage, after once losing it, I hardly know; but this I am certain of, that being down I was not to be spared. Then desperation took the place of fear, and I felt more than a match for all that could come against me. I had no other than serene feelings, however, and had no wish to pursue the two pirates that fled.
Immediately after the second shot was fired, and I found myself once more master of my bark, the remaining two came aft again, at my bidding this time, and in an orderly manner, it may be believed.
It is idle to say what I would or would not have given to have the calamity averted, or, in other words, to have had a crew of sailors, instead of a gang of cut-throats.
However, when the climax came, I had but one course to pursue; this I resolutely followed. A man will defend himself and his family to the last, for life is sweet, after all.
It was significant, the court thought afterwards, that while my son had not had time to dress, they all had on their boots except the one who fell last, and he was in his socks, with no boots on. It was he who had waited for me as I have already said, on the cabin steps that I usually passed up and down on, but this time avoided. Circumstantial evidence came up in abundance to make the case perfectly clear to the authorities. There are few who will care to hear more about a subject so abhorrent to all, and I care less to write about it. I would not have said this much, but for the enterprise of a rising department clerk, who, seeing the importance of telling to the world what he knew, and seeing also some small emolument in the matter, was I believe prompted to augment the consular dispatches, thus obliging me to fight the battle over. However, not to be severe on the poor clerk, I will only add that, no indignities were offered me by the authorities through all the strict investigation that followed the tragedy.
The trial being for justice and not for my money the case was soon finished.
I sincerely hope that I may never again encounter such as those who came from the jails to bring harm and sorrow in their wake.
The work of loading was finished soon after the calamity to my bark, and a Spanish sailing-master was engaged to take her to Montevideo; my son Victor going as flag captain.
I piloted the Aquidneck out of the harbour, and left her clear of the buoy, looking as neat and trim as sailor could wish to see. All the damage done by the late pampeiro had been repaired, new topgallant-masts rigged, and all made ataunto. I saw my handsome bark well clear of the dangers of the harbour limits, then in sorrow I left her and paddled back to the town, for I was on parole to appear, as I have said, for trial! That was the word; I can find no other name for it—let it stand!
Join the bark at Montevideo—A good crew—Small-pox breaks out—Bear up for Maldonado and Flores—No aid—Death of sailors—To Montevideo in distress—Quarantine.
As soon as the case was over I posted on for Montevideo by steamer, where the bark had arrived only a few days ahead of me. I found her already stripped to a gantline though, preparatory to a long stay in port. I had given Victor strict orders to interfere in no way with the Spaniard, but to let him have full charge in nearly everything. I could have trusted the lad with full command, young as he was; but there was a strange crew of foreigners which might, as often happens, require maturer judgment to manage than to sail the vessel. As it proved, however, even the cook was in many ways a better man than the sailing-master.
Victor met me with a long face, and the sailors wore a quizzical look as I came over the vessel's side. One of them, in particular, whom I shall always remember, gave me a good-humoured greeting, along with his shake of the head, that told volumes; and next day was aloft, crossing yards, cheerfully enough. I found my Brazilian crew to be excellent sailors, and things on board the Aquidneck immediately began to assume a brighter appearance, aloft and alow.
Cargo was soon discharged, other cargo taken in, and the bark made ready for sea. My crew, I say, was a good one; but, poor fellows, they were doomed to trials—the worst within human experience, many of them giving up to grim death before the voyage was ended. Too often one bit of bad luck follows another. This rule brought us in contact with one of these small officials at Montevideo, better adapted to home life; one of those knowing, perhaps, more than need a cowboy, but not enough for consul. This official, managing to get word to my crew that a change of master dissolved their contract, induced them to come on shore and claim pay for the whole voyage and passage home on a steamer besides, the same as though the bark had been sold.
What overwhelming troubles may come of having incompetent officials in places of trust, the sequel will show. This unwise, even stupid interference, was the indirect cause of the sufferings and deaths among the crew which followed.
I was able to show the consul and his clerk that sailors are always engaged for the ship, and never for the master, and that a change of master did not in any way affect their contract. However, I paid the crew off, and then left it to their option to re-ship or not, for they were all right, they had been led to do what they did, and I knew that they wanted to get home, and it was there that the bark was going, direct.
All signed the articles again, except one, a long-haired Andalusian, whom I would not have longer at any price. The wages remained the same as before, and all hands returned to their duty cheerful and contented—but pending the consul's decision (which, by the way, I decided for him), they had slept in a contagioned house, where, alas, they contracted small-pox of the worst type.
We were now homeward bound. All the "runaway rum" that could be held out by the most subtle crimps of Montevideo could not induce these sober Brazilian sailors to desert their ship.
These "crimps" are land-sharks who get the sailors drunk when they can, and then rob them of their advance money. The sailors are all paid in advance; sometimes they receive in this way most of their wages for the voyage, which they make after the money is spent, or wasted, or stolen.
We all know what working for dead horse means—sailors know too well its significance.
As sailing day drew near, a half-day liberty to each watch was asked for by the men, who wanted to make purchases for their friends and relatives at Paranagua. Permission to go on shore was readily granted, and I was rewarded by seeing every one return to his ship at the time promised, and every one sober. On the morrow, which was sailing day, every man was at his post and all sang "Cheerily, ho!" and were happy; all except one, who complained of slight chills and a fever, but said that he had been subject to this, and that with a dose of quinine he would soon be all right again.
It appeared a small matter. Two days later though, his chills turned to something which I knew less about. The next day, three more men went down with rigor in the spine, and at the base of the brain. I knew by this that small-pox was among us!
We bore up at once for Maldonado, which was the nearest port, the place spoken of in "Gulliver's Travels," though Gulliver, I think, is mistaken as to its identity and location, arriving there before a gathering storm that blew wet and cold from the east. Our signals of distress, asking for immediate medical aid were set and flew thirty-six hours before any one came to us; then a scared Yahoo (the country was still inhabited by Yahoos) in a boat rowed by two other animals, came aboard, and said, "Yes, your men have got small-pox." "Vechega" he called it, but I understand the lingo of the Yahoo very well, I could even speak a few words of it and comprehend the meanings. "Vechega!" he bellowed to his mates alongside, and, turning to me, he said, in Yahoo: "You must leave the port at once," then jumping into his boat he hurried away, along with his scared companions.
To leave a port in our condition was hard lines, but my perishing crew could get no succour at Maldonado, so we could do nothing but leave, if at all able to do so. We were indeed short-handed, but desperation lending a hand, the anchor was weighed and sufficient sail set on the bark to clear the inhospitable port. The wind blowing fair out of the harbour carried us away from the port toward Flores Island, for which we now headed in sore distress. A gale, long to be remembered, sprang suddenly up, stripping off our sails like autumn leaves, before the bark was three leagues from the place. We hadn't strength to clew up, so her sails were blown away, and she went flying before the mad tempest under bare poles. A snow-white sea-bird came for shelter from the storm, and poised on the deck to rest. The incident filled my sailors with awe; to them it was a portentous omen, and in distress they dragged themselves together and, prostrate before the bird, prayed the Holy Virgin to ask God to keep them from harm. The rain beat on us in torrents, as the bark tossed and reeled ahead, and day turned black as night. The gale was from E.S.E., and our course lay W.N.W. nearly, or nearly before it. I stood at the wheel with my shore clothes on, I remember, for I hadn't yet had time to change them for waterproofs; this of itself was small matter, but it reminds me now that I was busy with other concerns. I was always a good helmsman, and I took in hand now the steering of the bark in the storm—and I gave directions to Victor and the carpenter how to mix disinfectants for themselves, and medicines for the sick men. The medicine chest was fairly supplied.
Flores, when seen, was but a few ship's lengths away. Flashes of lightning revealed the low cliffs, amazingly near to us, and as the bark swept by with great speed, the roar of the breakers on the shore, heard above the din of the storm, told us of a danger to beware. The helm was then put down, and she came to under the lee of the island like a true, obedient thing.
Both anchors were let go, and all the chain paid out to both, to the bitter end, for the gale was now a hurricane. She walked away with her anchors for all that we could do, till, hooking a marine cable, one was carried away, and the other brought her head to the wind, and held her there trembling in the storm.
Anxious fear lest the second cable should break was on our minds through the night; but a greater danger was within the ship, that filled us all with alarm.
Two barks not far from us that night, with pilots on board, were lost, in trying to come through where the Aquidneck, without a pilot and with but three hands on deck to work her, came in. Their crews, with great difficulty, were rescued and then carried to Montevideo. When all had been done that we three could do, a light was put in the rigging, that flickered in the gale and went out. Then wet, and lame, and weary, we fell down in our drenched clothes, to rest as we might—to sleep, or to listen to groans of our dying shipmates.
When daylight came (after this, the most dismal of all my nights at sea), our signals went up telling of the sad condition of the crew, and begging for medical assistance. Toward night the gale went down; but, as no boat came off, a gloom darker than midnight settled over the crew of the pest-ridden bark, and in dismay they again prayed to be spared to meet the loved ones awaiting them at home.
Our repeated signals, next day, brought the reply, "Stand in." Carramba! Why, we could hardly stand at all; much less could we get the bark underway, and beat in against wind and current. No one knew this better than they on the island, for my signals had told the whole story, and as we were only a mile and a half from the shore, the flags were distinctly made out. There was no doubt in our minds about that!
Late in the day, however, a barge came out to us, ill-manned and ill-managed by as scared a set of "galoots" as ever capsized a boat, or trembled at a shadow! The coxswain had more to say than the doctor, and the Yahoo—I forgot to mention that we were still in Yahoodom, but one would see that without this explanation—the Yahoo in the bow said more than both; and they all took a stiff pull from a bottle of cachazza, the doctor having had the start, I should say, of at least one or two pulls before leaving the shore, insomuch as he appeared braver than the rest of the crew.
The doctor, having taken an extra horn or two, with Dutch courage came on board, and brought with him a pound of sulphur, a pint of carbolic acid, and some barley—enough to feed a robin a few times, for all of which we were thankful indeed, our disinfectants being by this time nearly exhausted; then, glancing at the prostrate men, he hurried away, as the other had done at Maldonado. I asked what I should do with the dead through the night—bury them where we lay? "Oh, no, no!" cried the Yahoo in the bow; but the doctor pointed significantly to the water alongside! I knew what he meant!
That night we buried Jose, the sailor whose honest smile had welcomed me to my bark at Montevideo. I had ordered stones brought on deck, before dark, ostensibly to ballast the boat. I knew they would soon be wanted! About midnight, the cook called me in sore distress, saying that Jose was dying without confession!
So poor Jose was buried that night in the great River Plate! I listened to the solemn splash that told of one life ended, and its work done; but gloomy, and sad, and melancholy as the case was, I had to smile when the cook, not having well-secured the ballast, threw it over after his friend, exclaiming, "Good-bye, Jose, good-bye!" I added, "Good-bye, good shipmate, good-bye! I doubt not that you rest well!"
Next day, the signal from the shore was the same as the day before, "Stand in," in answer to my repeated call for help. By this time my men were demoralized and panic-stricken, and the poor fellows begged me, if the doctor would not try to cure them, to get a priest to confess them all. I saw a padre pacing the beach, and set flags asking him to come on board. No notice was taken of the signal, and we were now left entirely to ourselves.
After burying one more of the crew, we decided to remain no longer at this terrible place. An English telegraph tender passing, outward-bound, caught up our signals at that point, and kindly reported to her consul at Maldonado, who wired it to Montevideo.
The wind blowing away from the shore, as may it always blow when friend of mine nears that coast, we determined to weigh anchor or slip cable without further loss of time, feeling assured that by the telegraph reports some one would be on the look-out for us, and that the Aquidneck would be towed into port if the worst should happen—if the rest of her crew went down. Three of us weighed one anchor, with its ninety fathoms of chain, the other had parted on the windlass in the gale. The bark's prow was now turned toward Montevideo, the place we had so recently sailed from, full of hope and pleasant anticipation; and here we were, dejected and filled with misery, some of our number already gone on that voyage which somehow seems so far away.
At Montevideo, things were better. They did take my remaining sick men out of the vessel, after two days' delay; my agent procuring a tug, which towed them in the ship's boat three hundred fathoms astern. In this way they were taken to Flores Island, where, days and days before, they had been refused admittance! They were accompanied this time by an order from the governor of Montevideo, and at last were taken in. Two of the cases were, by this time, in the favourable change. But the poor old cook, who stood faithfully by me, and would not desert his old shipmates, going with them to the Island to care for them to the last, took the dread disease, died of it, and was there buried, not far from where he himself had buried his friend Jose, a short time before. The death of this faithful man occurred on the day that the bark finally sailed seaward, by the Island. She was in sight from the hospital window when his phantom ship, that put out, carried him over the bar! His widow, at Paranagua, I was told, on learning the fate of her husband, died of grief.
The work of disinfecting the vessel, at Montevideo, after the sick were removed, was a source of speculation that was most elaborately carried on. Demijohns of carbolic acid were put on board, by the dozen, at $3.00 per demijohn, all diluted ready for use; and a guardo was put on board to use it up, which he did religiously over his own precious self, in my after-cabin, as far from the end of the ship where the danger was as he could get. Some one else disinfected el proa, not he! Abundant as the stuff was, I had to look sharp for enough to wash out forward while aft it was knee-deep almost, at three dollars a jar! The harpy that alighted on deck at Maldonado sent in his bill for one hundred dollars—I paid eighty.
The cost to me of all this trouble in money paid out, irrelevantly to mention, was over a thousand dollars. What it cost me in health and mental anxiety cannot be estimated by such value. Still, I was not the greatest sufferer. My hardest task was to come, you will believe, at the gathering up of the trinkets and other purchases which the crew had made, thoughtful of wife and child at home. All had to be burned, or spoiled with carbolic acid! A hat for the little boy here, a pair of boots for his mamma there, and many things for the familia all around—all had to be destroyed!
 In our discourse, Yahoo was spoken, but I write it in English because many of my readers would not understand the original. The signals that we used were made by universal code symbols. For example, two flags hoisted representing "P" "D" signified "want (or wants) immediate medical assistance." And so on, by hoists of two, three or four flags representing the consonants, our wants and wishes could be made known, each possessing the key to the code.
Our commercial code of signals is so invented and arranged that no matter what tongues may meet, perhaps those utterly incomprehensible by word of mouth, yet by these signs communications may be carried on with great facility. The whole system is so beautifully simple that a child of ordinary intelligence can understand it. Even the Yahoos were made to comprehend—when not colour-blind. And, lest they should forget their lesson, a gunboat is sent out every year or two, to fire it into them with cannon.
 This cachazza is said to be death to microbes, or even to larger worms; it will kill anything, in fact, except a Yahoo!
A new crew—Sail for Antonina—Load timber—Native canoes—Loss of the Aquidneck.
After all this sad trouble was over, a new crew was shipped, and the Aquidneck's prow again turned seaward. Passing out by Flores, soon after, we observed the coast-guard searching, I learned, for a supposed sunken bark, which had appeared between squalls in the late gale with signals of distress set. I was satisfied from the account that it was our bark which they had seen in the gale, and the supposed flags were our tattered sails, what there was left of them, streaming in the storm. But we did not discourage the search, as it could do no harm, and I thought that they might perhaps find something else worth knowing about. This was the day, as I have said, on which my faithful cook died, while the bark was in sight from the window of his sick ward. It was a bright, fine day to us. We cannot say that it was otherwise than bright to him.
Breathing once more the fresh air of the sea, we set all sail for Paranagua, passing the lights on the coast to leave them flickering on the horizon, then soon out of sight. Fine weather prevailed, but with much head wind; still we progressed, and rarely a day passed but something of the distance toward our port was gained. One day, however, coming to an island, one that was inhabited only by birds, we came to a stand, as if it were impossible to go farther on the voyage; a spell seemed to hang over us. I recognized the place as one that I knew well; a very dear friend had stood by me on deck, looking at this island, some years before. It was the last land that my friend ever saw. I would fain have sailed around it now, but a puff of fair wind coming sent us on our course for the time some leagues beyond. At sunset, though, this wind went down, and with the current we drifted back so much that by the next day we were farther off on the other side. However, fair wind coming again, we passed up inside, making thus the circuit of the island at last.
More or less favourable winds thenceforth filled our sails, till at last our destined port was gained.
The little town of Antonina, where my wife and Garfield had remained over during this voyage, twelve miles up the bay from Paranagua, soon after our arrival, was made alive with the noise of children marching to children's own music, my "Yawcob" heading the band with a brand-new ninety-cent organ, the most envied fellow of the whole crowd. Sorrows of the past took flight, or were locked in the closet at home, the fittest place for past misfortunes.
A truly hard voyage for us all was that to Montevideo! The survivors reached home after a while. Their features were terribly marked and disfigured; so much so that I did not know them till they accosted me when we met.
I look back with pleasure to the good character of my Brazilian sailors, regretting the more their hard luck and sad fate! We may meet again! Quien sabe!
Getting over all this sad business as best we could, we entered on the next venture, which was to purchase and load a cargo of the famous Brazilian wood. The Aquidneck was shifted to an arm of the bay, where she was moored under the lee of a virgin forest, twenty minutes' canoe ride from the village of Guarakasava, where she soon began to load.
The timber of this country, generally very heavy, is nevertheless hauled by hand to the water, where, lashed to canoes, it is floated to the ship.
These canoes, formed sometimes from mammoth trees, skilfully shaped and dug out with care, are at once the carriage and cariole of the family to the citio, or the rice to mill. Roads are hardly known where the canoe is available; men, women, and children are consequently alike, skilled in the art of canoeing to perfection, almost. There are no carriages to speak of in such places, even a saddle horse about the waterfront is a rara avis. There was, indeed, one horse at Guarakasava—the owner of it was very conspicuous.
The family canoe just spoken of, has the capacity, often, of several tons, is handsomely decorated with carvings along the topsides, and is painted, as the "Geordie" would say, "in none o' your gaudy colours, but in good plain red or blue"—sometimes, however, they are painted green.
The cost of these handsome canoes are, say, from $250 down in price and size, from the grand turnout to the one-man craft which may be purchased for five milreis ($2.50).
From the greatest to the smallest they are cared for with almost an affectionate care, and are made to last many years.
One thing else which even the poorest Brazilian thinks much of is his affectionate wife who literally and figuratively is often in the same boat with her husband, pulling against the stream. Family ties are strong in Brazil and the sweet flower of friendship thrives in its sunny clime. The system of land and sea breezes prevail on the coast from Cape Frio to Saint Catherine with great regularity most of the year; the sail is therefore used to good advantage by the almost amphibious inhabitants along the coast who love the water and take to it like ducks and natural born sailors.
The wind falling light they propel their canoes by paddle or long pole with equal facility. The occupants standing, in the smaller ones, force them along at a great speed. The larger ones, when the wind does not serve, are pulled by banks of oars which are fastened to stout pegs in the gunwail with grummits, that fit loosely over the oars so as to allow them free play in the hand of the waterman.
Curling the water with fine, shapely prows as they dart over the smooth waters of the bays and rivers, these canoes present a picture of unrivalled skill and grace.
I find the following entry in my diary made near the close of transactions at Guarakasava which in the truthful word of an historian I am bound to record, if only to show my prevailing high opinion of the natives while I was among them:—
GUARAKASAVA, Dec. 20th.
Heretofore I have doted on native Brazilian honesty as well as national seamanship and skill in canoes but my dream of a perfect paradise is now unsettled forever. I find, alas! that even here the fall of Adam is felt: Taking in some long poles to-day the negro tallyman persisted in counting twice the same pole. When the first end entered the port it was "umo" (one); when the last end disappeared into the ship he would sing out "does" (two).
I had no serious difficulty over the matter, but left Guarakasava with that hurt feeling which comes of being over persuaded that one and one make four.
We spent Christmas of 1887 at Guarakasava. The bark was loaded soon after, and when proceeding across the bay, where currents and wind caught her foul near a dangerous sand bar, she misstayed and went on the strand. The anchor was let go to club her. It wouldn't hold in the treacherous sands; so she dragged and stranded broadside on, where, open to the sea, a strong swell came in that raked her fore and aft for three days, the waves dashing over her groaning hull the while till at last her back was broke and—why not add heart as well! for she lay now undone. After twenty-five years of good service the Aquidneck here ended her days!
I had myself carried load on load, but alas! I could not carry a mountain; and was now at the end where my best skill and energy could not avail. What was to be done? What could be done? We had indeed the appearance of shipwrecked people, away, too, from home.
This was no time to weep, for the lives of all the crew were saved; neither was it a time to laugh, for our loss was great.
But the sea calmed down, and I sold the wreck, which floated off at the end of the storm. And after paying the crew their wages out of the proceeds had a moiety left for myself and family—a small sum.
Then I began to look about for the future, and for means of escape from exile. The crew (foreign) found shipping for Montevideo, where they had joined the Aquidneck, in lieu of the stricken Brazilian sailors. But for myself and family this outlet was hardly available, even if we had cared to go farther from home,—which was the least of our thoughts; and there were no vessels coming our way.
The building of the Liberdade.
Away, away, no cloud is lowering o'er us Freely now we stem the wave; Hoist, hoist all sail, before us Hope's beacon shines to cheer the brave. —Masaniello.
When all had been saved from the wreck that was worth saving, or that could be saved, we found ourselves still in the possession of some goods soon to become of great value to us, especially my compass and charts which, though much damaged, were yet serviceable and suggested practical usefulness; and the chronometer being found intact, my course was no longer undecided, my wife and sons agreeing with what I thought best.
The plan, in a word, was this: We could not beg our way, neither would we sit idle among the natives. We found that it would require more courage to remain in the far-off country than to return home in a boat, which then we concluded to build and for that purpose.
My son Victor, with much pride and sympathy, entered heartily into the plan, which promised a speedy return home. He bent his energies in a practical direction, working on the boat like an old builder.
Before entering on the project, however, all responsibilities were considered. Swift ocean currents around capes and coral reefs were taken into account; and above all else to be called dangerous we knew would be the fierce tropical storms which surely we would encounter.
But a boat should be built stout and strong, we all said, one in which we should not be afraid to trust our lives even in the storm.
And with the advantage of experience in ships and boats of various sizes and in many seas, I turned to the work of constructing, according to my judgment and means, a craft which would be best adapted to all weathers and all circumstances. My family with sympathetic strength pulling hard in the same direction.
Seaworthiness was to be the first and most prominent feature in our microscopic ship; next to this good quality she should sail well; at least before free winds. We counted on favourable winds; and so they were experienced the greater part of the voyage that soon followed.
Long exposures and many and severe disappointments by this time, I found, had told on health and nerve, through long quarantines, expensive fumigations, and ruinous doctors' visits, which had swept my dollars into hands other than mine. However, with still a "shot in the locker," and with some feelings of our own in the matter of how we should get home, I say, we set to work with tools saved from the wreck—a meagre kit—and soon found ourselves in command of another ship, which I will describe the building of, also the dimensions and the model and rig, first naming the tools with which it was made.
To begin with, we had an axe, an adze, and two saws, one 1/2inch auger, one 6/8 and one 3/8 auger-bit; two large sail-needles, which we converted into nailing bits; one roper, that answered for a punch; and, most precious of all, a file that we found in an old sail-bag washed up on the beach. A square we readily made. Two splints of bamboo wood served as compasses. Charcoal, pounded as fine as flour and mixed in water, took the place of chalk for the line; the latter we had on hand. In cases where holes larger than the 6/8 bit were required, a piece of small jack-stay iron was heated, and with this we could burn a hole to any size required. So we had, after all, quite a kit to go on with. Clamps, such as are used by boat builders, we had not, but made substitutes from the crooked guava tree and from massaranduba wood.
Trees from the neighbouring forest were felled when the timber from the wrecked cargo would not answer. Some of these woods that we sought for special purposes had queer sounding names, such as arregebah, guanandee, batetenandinglastampai, etc. This latter we did not use the saw upon at all, it being very hard, but hewed it with the axe, bearing in mind that we had but one file, whereas for the edged tools we had but to go down to a brook hard by to find stones in abundance suitable to sharpen them on.
The many hindrances encountered in the building of the boat will not be recounted here. Among the least was a jungle fever, from which we suffered considerably. But all that and all other obstacles vanished at last, or became less, before a new energy which grew apace with the boat, and the building of the craft went rapidly forward. There was no short day system, but we rested on the Sabbath, or surveyed what we had done through the week, and made calculations of what and how to strike on the coming week.
The unskilled part of the labour, such as sawing the cedar planks, of which she was mostly made, was done by the natives, who saw in a rough fashion, always leaving much planing and straightening to be done, in order to adjust the timber to a suitable shape. The planks for the bottom were of ironwood, 11/4 X 10 inches. For the sides and top red cedar was used, each plank, with the exception of two, reaching the whole length of the boat. This arrangement of exceedingly heavy wood in the bottom, and the light on top, contributed much to the stability of the craft.
The ironwood was heavy as stone, while the cedar, being light and elastic, lent buoyancy and suppleness, all that we could wish for.
The fastenings we gathered up in various places, some from the bulwarks of the wreck, some from the hinges of doors and skylights, and some were made from the ship's metal sheathing, which the natives melted and cast into nails. Pure copper nails, also, were procured from the natives, some ten kilos, for which I paid in copper coins, at the rate of two kilos of coin for one kilo of nails. The same kind of coins, called dumps, cut into diamond-shaped pieces, with holes punched through them, entered into the fastenings as burrs for the nails. A number of small eyebolts from the spanker-boom of the wreck were turned to account for lashing bolts in the deck of the new vessel. The nails, when too long, were cut to the required length, taking care that the ends which were cut off should not be wasted, but remelted, along with the metal sheathing, into other nails.
Some carriage bolts, with nuts, which I found in the country, came in very handy; these I adjusted to the required length, when too long, by slipping on blocks of wood of the required thickness to take up the surplus length, putting the block, of course, on the inside, and counter-sinking the nut flush with the planks on the outside; then screwing from the inside outward, they were drawn together, and there held as in a vice, the planks being put together "lap-streak" fashion, which without doubt is the strongest way to build a boat.
These screw-bolts, seventy in number, as well as the copper nails, cost us dearly, but wooden pegs, with which also she was fastened, cost only the labour of being made. The lashings, too, that we used here and there about the frame of the cabin, cost next to nothing, being made from the fibrous bark of trees, which could be had in abundance by the stripping of it off. So, taking it by and large, our materials were not expensive, the principal item being the timber, which cost about three cents per superficial foot, sawed or hewed. Rosewood, ironwood, cedar or mahogany, were all about the same price and very little in advance of common wood; so of course we selected always the best, the labour of shaping being least, sometimes, where the best materials were used.
These various timbers and fastenings, put together as best we could shape and join them, made a craft sufficiently strong and seaworthy to withstand all the bufferings on the main upon which, in due course, she was launched.
The hull being completed, by various other contrivances and makeshifts in which, sometimes, the "wooden blacksmith" was called in to assist, and the mother of invention also lending a hand, fixtures were made which served as well on the voyage as though made in a dockyard and at great cost.
My builders baulked at nothing, and on the 13th day of May, the day on which the slaves of Brazil were set free, our craft was launched, and was named Liberdade (Liberty).
Her dimensions being—35 feet in length over all, 71/2 feet breadth of beam, and 3 feet depth of hold. Who shall say that she was not large enough?
Her model I got from my recollections of Cape Ann dories and from a photo of a very elegant Japanese sampan which I had before me on the spot, so, as it might be expected, when finished she resembled both types of vessel in some degree.
Her rig was the Chinese sampan style, which is, I consider, the most convenient boat rig in the whole world.
This was the boat, or canoe I prefer to call it, in which we purposed to sail for North America and home. Each one had been busy during the construction and past misfortunes had all been forgotten. Madam had made the sails—and very good sails they were, too!
Victor, the carpenter, ropemaker, and general roustabout had performed his part. Our little man, Garfield, too, had found employment in holding the hammer to clinch the nails and giving much advice on the coming voyage. All were busy, I say, and no one had given a thought of what we were about to encounter from the port officials farther up the coast; it was pretended by them that a passport could not be granted to so small a craft to go on so long a voyage as the contemplated one to North America.
Then fever returned to the writer and the constructor of the little craft, and I was forced to go to bed, remaining there three days. Finally, it came to my mind that in part of a medicine chest, which had been saved from the wreck, was stored some arsenicum, I think it is called. Of this I took several doses (small ones at first, you may be sure), and the good effect of the deadly poison on the malaria in my system was soon felt trickling through my veins. Increasing the doses somewhat, I could perceive the beneficial effect hour by hour, and in a few days I had quite recovered from the malady. Absurd as it was to have the judgment of sailors set on by pollywog navigators, we had still to submit, the pollywogs being numerous.
About this time—as the astrologers say—a messenger came down from the Alfandega (Custom House), asking me to repair thither at midday on the morrow. This filled me with alarm. True, the messenger has delivered his message in the politest possible manner, but that signified nothing, since Brazilians are always polite. This thing, small as it seems now, came near sending me back to the fever.
What had I done?
I went up next day, after having nightmare badly all night, prepared to say that I wouldn't do it again! The kind administrator I found, upon presenting myself at his office, had no fault to charge me with; but had a good word, instead. "The little Liberdade," he observed, had attracted the notice of his people and his own curiosity, as being "a handsome and well-built craft." This and many other flattering expressions were vented, at which I affected surprise, but secretly said, "I think you are right, sir, and you have good taste, too, if you are a customs officer."
The drift of this flattery, to make a long story short, was to have me build a boat for the Alfandega, or, his government not allowing money to build new—pointing to one which certainly would require new keel, planks, ribs, stem, and stern-post—"could I not repair one?"
To this proposition I begged time to consider. Flattering as the officer's words were, and backed by the offer of liberal pay, so long as the boat could be "repaired," I still had no mind to remain in the hot country, and risk getting the fever again. But there was the old hitch to be gotten over; namely, the passport, on which, we thought, depended our sailing.
However, to expedite matters, a fishing licence was hit upon, and I wondered why I had not thought of that before, having been, once upon a time, a fisherman myself. Heading thence on a new diplomatic course, I commenced to fit ostensibly for a fishing voyage. To this end, a fishing net was made, which would be a good thing to have, anyway. Then hooks and lines were rigged and a cable made. This cable, or rope, was formed from vines that grow very long on the sand-banks just above tide water, several of which twisted together make a very serviceable rope, then being light and elastic, it is especially adapted for a boat anchor rope, or for the storm drag. Ninety fathoms of this rope was made for us by the natives, for the sum of ten milreis ($5.00).
The anchor came of itself almost. I had made a wooden one from heavy sinking timber, but a stalwart ranchman coming along, one day, brought a boat anchor with him which, he said, had been used by his slaves as a pot-hook. "But now that they are free and away," said he, "I have no further use for the crooked thing." A sewing-machine, which had served to stitch the sails together, was coveted by him, and was of no further use to us; in exchange for this the prized anchor was readily secured, the owner of it leaving us some boot into the bargain. Things working thus in our favour, the wooden anchor was stowed away to be kept as a spare bower.