Omoo: Adventures in the South Seas
Part 1 out of 6
Scanned and proofed by David Moynihan firstname.lastname@example.org
CHAPTER I. MY RECEPTION ABOARD
CHAPTER II. SOME ACCOUNT OF THE SHIP
CHAPTER III. FURTHER ACCOUNT OF THE JULIA
CHAPTER IV. A SCENE IN THE FORECASTLE
CHAPTER V. WHAT HAPPENED AT HYTYHOO
CHAPTER VI. WE TOUCH AT LA DOMINICA
CHAPTER VII. WHAT HAPPENED AT HANNAMANOO
CHAPTER VIII. THE TATTOOERS OF LA DOMINICA
CHAPTER IX. WE STEER TO THE WESTWARD--STATE OF AFFAIRS
CHAPTER X. A SEA-PARLOUR DESCRIBED, WITH SOME OF ITS TENANTS
CHAPTER XI. DOCTOR LONG GHOST A WAG--ONE OF HIS CAPERS
CHAPTER XII. DEATH AND BURIAL OF TWO OF THE CREW
CHAPTER XIII. OUR DESTINATION CHANGED
CHAPTER XIV. ROPE YARN
CHAPTER XV. CHIPS AND BUNGS
CHAPTER XVI. WE ENCOUNTEB A GALE
CHAPTER XVII. THE CORAL ISLANDS
CHAPTER XVIII. TAHITI
CHAPTER XIX. A SURPRISE--MORE ABOUT BEMBO
CHAPTER XX. THE ROUND ROBIN--VISITORS FROM SHORE
CHAPTER XXI. PROCEEDINGS OF THE CONSUL
CHAPTER XXII. THE CONSUL'S DEPARTURE
CHAPTER XXIII. THE SECOND NIGHT OFF PAPEETEE
CHAPTER XXIV. OUTBREAK OF THE CREW
CHAPTER XXV. JERMIN ENCOUNTERS AN OLD SHIPMATE
CHAPTER XXVI. WE ENTER THE HARBOUR--JIM THE PILOT
CHAPTER XXVII. A GLANCE AT PAPEETEE--WE ARE SENT ABOARD THE FRIGATE
CHAPTER XXVIII. RECEPTION FROM THE FRENCHMAN
CHAPTER XXIX. THE REINE BLANCHE
CHAPTER XXX. THEY TAKE US ASHORE--WHAT HAPPENED THERE
CHAPTER XXXI. THE CALABOOZA BERETANEE
CHAPTER XXXII. PROCEEDINGS OF THE FRENCH AT TAHITI
CHAPTER XXXIII. WE RECEIVE CALLS AT THE HOTEL DE CALABOOZA
CHAPTER XXXIV. LIFE AT THE CALABOOZA
CHAPTER XXXV. VISIT FROM AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE
CHAPTER XXXVI. WE ARE CARRIED BEFORE THE CONSUL AND CAPTAIN
CHAPTER XXXVII. THE FRENCH PRIESTS PAY THEIR RESPECTS
CHAPTER XXXVIII. LITTLE JULIA SAILS WITHOUT US
CHAPTER XXXIX. JERMIN SERVES US A GOOD TURN--FRIENDSHIPS IN POLYNESIA
CHAPTER XL. WE TAKE UNTO OURSELVES FRIENDS
CHAPTER XLI. WE LEVY CONTRIBUTIONS ON THE SHIPPING
CHAPTER XLII. MOTOO-OTOO A TAHITIAN CASUIST
CHAPTER XLIII. ONE IS JUDGED BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS
CHAPTER XLIV. CATHEDRAL OF PAPOAR--THE CHURCH OP THE COCOA-NUTS
CHAPTER XLV. MISSIONARY'S SERMON; WITH SOME REFLECTIONS
CHAPTER XLVI. SOMETHING ABOUT THE KANNAKIPPERS
CHAPTER XLVII. HOW THEY DRESS IN TAHITI
CHAPTER XLVIII. TAHITI AS IT IS
CHAPTER XLIX. SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED
CHAPTER L. SOMETHING HAPPENS TO LONG GHOST
CHAPTER LI. WILSON GIVES US THE CUT--DEPARTURE FOR IMEEO
CHAPTER LII. THE VALLEY OF MARTAIR
CHAPTER LIII. FARMING IN POLYNESIA
CHAPTER LIV. SOME ACCOUNT OF THE WILD CATTLE IN POLYNESIA
CHAPTER LV. A HUNTING RAMBLE WITH ZEKE
CHAPTER LVI. MOSQUITOES
CHAPTER LVII. THE SECOND HUNT IN THE MOUNTAINS
CHAPTER LVIII. THE HUNTING-FEAST; AND A VISIT TO AFREHITOO
CHAPTER LIX. THE MURPHIES
CHAPTER LX. WHAT THEY THOUGHT OF US IN MARTAIR
CHAPTER LXI. PREPARING FOR THE JOURNEY
CHAPTER LXII. TAMAI
CHAPTER LXIII. A DANCE IN THE VALLEY
CHAPTER LXIV. MYSTERIOUS
CHAPTER LXV. THE HEGIRA, OR FLIGHT
CHAPTER LXVI. HOW WE WERE TO GET TO TALOO
CHAPTER LXVII. THE JOURNEY ROUND THE BEACH
CHAPTER LXVIII. A DINNER-PARTY IN IMEEO
CHAPTER LXIX. THE COCOA-PALM
CHAPTER LXX. LIFE AT LOOHOOLOO
CHAPTER LXXI. WE START FOR TALOO
CHAPTER LXXII. A DEALER IN THE CONTRABAND
CHAPTER LXXIII. OUR RECEPTION IN PARTOOWYE
CHAPTER LXXIV. RETIRING FOR THE NIGHT--THE DOCTOR GROWS DEVOUT
CHAPTER LXXV. A RAMBLE THROUGH THE SETTLEMENT
CHAPTER LXXVI. AN ISLAND JILT--WE VISIT THE SHIP
CHAPTER LXXVII. A PARTY OF ROVERS--LITTLE LOO AND THE DOCTOR
CHAPTER LXXVIII. MRS. BELL
CHAPTER LXXIX. TALOO CHAPEL--HOLDING COURT IN POLYNESIA
CHAPTER LXXX. QUEEN POMAREE
CHAPTER LXXXI. WE VISIT THE COURT
CHAPTER LXXXII. WHICH ENDS THE BOOK
MY RECEPTION ABOARD
IT WAS the middle of a bright tropical afternoon that we made good our
escape from the bay. The vessel we sought lay with her main-topsail
aback about a league from the land, and was the only object that
broke the broad expanse of the ocean.
On approaching, she turned out to be a small, slatternly-looking
craft, her hull and spars a dingy black, rigging all slack and
bleached nearly white, and everything denoting an ill state of
affairs aboard. The four boats hanging from her sides proclaimed her
a whaler. Leaning carelessly over the bulwarks were the sailors,
wild, haggard-looking fellows in Scotch caps and faded blue frocks;
some of them with cheeks of a mottled bronze, to which sickness soon
changes the rich berry-brown of a seaman's complexion in the tropics.
On the quarter-deck was one whom I took for the chief mate. He wore a
broad-brimmed Panama hat, and his spy-glass was levelled as we
When we came alongside, a low cry ran fore and aft the deck, and
everybody gazed at us with inquiring eyes. And well they might. To
say nothing of the savage boat's crew, panting with excitement, all
gesture and vociferation, my own appearance was calculated to excite
curiosity. A robe of the native cloth was thrown over my shoulders,
my hair and beard were uncut, and I betrayed other evidences of my
recent adventure. Immediately on gaining the deck, they beset me on
all sides with questions, the half of which I could not answer, so
incessantly were they put.
As an instance of the curious coincidences which often befall the
sailor, I must here mention that two countenances before me were
familiar. One was that of an old man-of-war's-man, whose acquaintance
I had made in Rio de Janeiro, at which place touched the ship in
which I sailed from home. The other was a young man whom, four years
previous, I had frequently met in a sailor boarding-house in
Liverpool. I remembered parting with him at Prince's Dock Gates, in
the midst of a swarm of police-officers, trackmen, stevedores,
beggars, and the like. And here we were again:--years had rolled by,
many a league of ocean had been traversed, and we were thrown
together under circumstances which almost made me doubt my own
But a few moments passed ere I was sent for into the cabin by the
He was quite a young man, pale and slender, more like a sickly
counting-house clerk than a bluff sea-captain. Bidding me be seated,
he ordered the steward to hand me a glass of Pisco. In the state I
was, this stimulus almost made me delirious; so that of all I then
went on to relate concerning my residence on the island I can
scarcely remember a word. After this I was asked whether I desired to
"ship"; of course I said yes; that is, if he would allow me to enter
for one cruise, engaging to discharge me, if I so desired, at the
next port. In this way men are frequently shipped on board whalemen
in the South Seas. My stipulation was acceded to, and the ship's
articles handed me to sign.
The mate was now called below, and charged to make a "well man" of me;
not, let it be borne in mind, that the captain felt any great
compassion for me, he only desired to have the benefit of my services
as soon as possible.
Helping me on deck, the mate stretched me out on the windlass and
commenced examining my limb; and then doctoring it after a fashion
with something from the medicine-chest, rolled it up in a piece of an
old sail, making so big a bundle that, with my feet resting on the
windlass, I might have been taken for a sailor with the gout. While
this was going on, someone removing my tappa cloak slipped on a blue
frock in its place, and another, actuated by the same desire to make
a civilized mortal of me, flourished about my head a great pair lie
imminent jeopardy of both ears, and the certain destruction of hair
The day was now drawing to a close, and, as the land faded from my
sight, I was all alive to the change in my condition. But how far
short of our expectations is oftentimes the fulfilment of the most
ardent hopes. Safe aboard of a ship--so long my earnest prayer--with
home and friends once more in prospect, I nevertheless felt weighed
down by a melancholy that could not be shaken off. It was the thought
of never more seeing those who, notwithstanding their desire to
retain me a captive, had, upon the whole, treated me so kindly. I was
leaving them for ever.
So unforeseen and sudden had been my escape, so excited had I been
through it all, and so great the contrast between the luxurious
repose of the valley, and the wild noise and motion of a ship at sea,
that at times my recent adventures had all the strangeness of a
dream; and I could scarcely believe that the same sun now setting
over a waste of waters, had that very morning risen above the
mountains and peered in upon me as I lay on my mat in Typee.
Going below into the forecastle just after dark, I was inducted into a
wretched "bunk" or sleeping-box built over another. The rickety
bottoms of both were spread with several pieces of a blanket. A
battered tin can was then handed me, containing about half a pint of
"tea"--so called by courtesy, though whether the juice of such stalks
as one finds floating therein deserves that title, is a matter all
shipowners must settle with their consciences. A cube of salt beef,
on a hard round biscuit by way of platter, was also handed up; and
without more ado, I made a meal, the salt flavour of which, after the
Nebuchadnezzar fare of the valley, was positively delicious.
While thus engaged, an old sailor on a chest just under me was puffing
out volumes of tobacco smoke. My supper finished, he brushed the stem
of his sooty pipe against the sleeve of his frock, and politely waved
it toward me. The attention was sailor-like; as for the nicety of the
thing, no man who has lived in forecastles is at all fastidious; and
so, after a few vigorous whiffs to induce repose, I turned over and
tried my best to forget myself. But in vain. My crib, instead of
extending fore and aft, as it should have done, was placed athwart
ships, that is, at right angles to the keel, and the vessel, going
before the wind, rolled to such a degree, that-every time my heels
went up and my head went down, I thought I was on the point of
turning a somerset. Beside this, there were still more annoying
causes of inquietude; and every once in a while a splash of water
came down the open scuttle, and flung the spray in my face.
At last, after a sleepless night, broken twice by the merciless call
of the watch, a peep of daylight struggled into view from above, and
someone came below. It was my old friend with the pipe.
"Here, shipmate," said I, "help me out of this place, and let me go
"Halloa, who's that croaking?" was the rejoinder, as he peered into
the obscurity where I lay. "Ay, Typee, my king of the cannibals, is
it you I But I say, my lad, how's that spar of your'n? the mate says
it's in a devil of a way; and last night set the steward to
sharpening the handsaw: hope he won't have the carving of ye."
Long before daylight we arrived off the bay of Nukuheva, and making
short tacks until morning, we then ran in and sent a boat ashore with
the natives who had brought me to the ship. Upon its return, we made
sail again, and stood off from the land. There was a fine breeze; and
notwithstanding my bad night's rest, the cool, fresh air of a
morning at sea was so bracing, mat, as soon as I breathed it, my
spirits rose at once.
Seated upon the windlass the greater portion of the day, and chatting
freely with the men, I learned the history of the voyage thus far,
and everything respecting the ship and its present condition.
These matters I will now throw together in the next chapter.
SOME ACCOUNT OF THE SHIP
FIRST AND foremost, I must give some account of the Julia herself; or
"Little Jule," as the sailors familiarly styled her.
She was a small barque of a beautiful model, something more than two
hundred tons, Yankee-built and very old. Fitted for a privateer out
of a New England port during the war of 1812, she had been captured
at sea by a British cruiser, and, after seeing all sorts of service,
was at last employed as a government packet in the Australian seas.
Being condemned, however, about two years previous, she was purchased
at auction by a house in Sydney, who, after some slight repairs,
dispatched her on the present voyage.
Notwithstanding the repairs, she was still in a miserable plight. The
lower masts were said to be unsound; the standing rigging was much
worn; and, in some places, even the bulwarks were quite rotten.
Still, she was tolerably tight, and but little more than the ordinary
pumping of a morning served to keep her free.
But all this had nothing to do with her sailing; at that, brave Little
Jule, plump Little Jule, was a witch. Blow high, or blow low, she was
always ready for the breeze; and when she dashed the waves from her
prow, and pranced, and pawed the sea, you never thought of her
patched sails and blistered hull. How the fleet creature would fly
before the wind! rolling, now and then, to be sure, but in very
playfulness. Sailing to windward, no gale could bow her over: with
spars erect, she looked right up into the wind's eye, and so she went.
But after all, Little Jule was not to be confided in. Lively enough,
and playful she was, but on that very account the more to be
distrusted. Who knew, but that like some vivacious old mortal all at
once sinking into a decline, she might, some dark night, spring a
leak and carry us all to the bottom. However, she played us no such
ugly trick, and therefore, I wrong Little Jule in supposing it.
She had a free roving commission. According to her papers she might go
whither she pleased--whaling, sealing, or anything else. Sperm
whaling, however, was what she relied upon; though, as yet, only two
fish had been brought alongside.
The day they sailed out of Sydney Heads, the ship's company, all told,
numbered some thirty-two souls; now, they mustered about twenty; the
rest had deserted. Even the three junior mates who had headed the
whaleboats were gone: and of the four harpooners, only one was left,
a wild New Zealander, or "Mowree" as his countrymen are more commonly
called in the Pacific. But this was not all. More than half the
seamen remaining were more or less unwell from a long sojourn in a
dissipated port; some of them wholly unfit for duty, one or two
dangerously ill, and the rest managing to stand their watch though
they could do but little.
The captain was a young cockney, who, a few years before, had
emigrated to Australia, and, by some favouritism or other, had
procured the command of the vessel, though in no wise competent.
He was essentially a landsman, and though a man of education, no more
meant for the sea than a hairdresser. Hence everybody made fun of
him. They called him "The Cabin Boy," "Paper Jack," and half a dozen
other undignified names. In truth, the men made no secret of the
derision in which they held him; and as for the slender gentleman
himself, he knew it all very well, and bore himself with becoming
meekness. Holding as little intercourse with them as possible, he
left everything to the chief mate, who, as the story went, had been
given his captain in charge. Yet, despite his apparent
unobtrusiveness, the silent captain had more to do with the men than
they thought. In short, although one of your sheepish-looking
fellows, he had a sort of still, timid cunning, which no one would
have suspected, and which, for that very reason, was all the more
active. So the bluff mate, who always thought he did what he pleased,
was occasionally made a fool of; and some obnoxious measures which he
carried out, in spite of all growlings, were little thought to
originate with the dapper little fellow in nankeen jacket and white
canvas pumps. But, to all appearance, at least, the mate had
everything his own way; indeed, in most things this was actually the
case; and it was quite plain that the captain stood in awe of him.
So far as courage, seamanship, and a natural aptitude for keeping
riotous spirits in subjection were concerned, no man was better
qualified for his vocation than John Jermin. He was the very
beau-ideal of the efficient race of short, thick-set men. His hair
curled in little rings of iron gray all over his round bullet head. As
for his countenance, it was strongly marked, deeply pitted with the
small-pox. For the rest, there was a fierce little squint out of one
eye; the nose had a rakish twist to one side; while his large mouth,
and great white teeth, looked absolutely sharkish when he laughed. In
a word, no one, after getting a fair look at him, would ever think of
improving the shape of his nose, wanting in symmetry as it was.
Notwithstanding his pugnacious looks, however, Jermin had a heart as
big as a bullock's; that you saw at a glance.
Such was our mate; but he had one failing: he abhorred all weak
infusions, and cleaved manfully to strong drink.. At all times he was
more or less under the influence of it. Taken in moderate quantities,
I believe, in my soul, it did a man like him good; brightened his
eyes, swept the cobwebs out of his brain, and regulated his pulse.
But the worst of it was, that sometimes he drank too much, and a more
obstreperous fellow than Jermin in his cups, you seldom came across.
He was always for having a fight; but the very men he flogged loved
him as a brother, for he had such an irresistibly good-natured way of
knocking them down, that no one could find it in his heart to bear
malice against him. So much for stout little Jermin.
All English whalemen are bound by-law to carry a physician, who, of
course, is rated a gentleman, and lives in the cabin, with nothing
but his professional duties to attend to; but incidentally he drinks
"flip" and plays cards with the captain. There was such a worthy
aboard of the Julia; but, curious to tell, he lived in the forecastle
with the men. And this was the way it happened.
In the early part of the voyage the doctor and the captain lived
together as pleasantly as could be. To say nothing of many a can they
drank over the cabin transom, both of them had read books, and one of
them had travelled; so their stories never flagged. But once on a
time they got into a dispute about politics, and the doctor,
moreover, getting into a rage, drove home an argument with his fist,
and left the captain on the floor literally silenced. This was
carrying it with a high hand; so he was shut up in his state-room for
ten days, and left to meditate on bread and water, and the
impropriety of flying into a passion. Smarting under his disgrace, he
undertook, a short time after his liberation, to leave the vessel
clandestinely at one of the islands, but was brought back
ignominiously, and again shut up. Being set at large for the second
time, he vowed he would not live any longer with the captain, and
went forward with his chests among the sailors, where he was received
with open arms as a good fellow and an injured man.
I must give some further account of him, for he figures largely in the
narrative. His early history, like that of many other heroes, was
enveloped in the profoundest obscurity; though he threw out hints of
a patrimonial estate, a nabob uncle, and an unfortunate affair which
sent him a-roving. All that was known, however, was this. He had gone
out to Sydney as assistant-surgeon of an emigrant ship. On his
arrival there, he went back into the country, and after a few months'
wanderings, returned to Sydney penniless, and entered as doctor
aboard of the Julia.
His personal appearance was remarkable. He was over six feet high--a
tower of bones, with a complexion absolutely colourless, fair hair,
and a light unscrupulous gray eye, twinkling occasionally at the very
devil of mischief. Among the crew, he went by the name of the Long
Doctor, or more frequently still, Doctor Long Ghost. And from
whatever high estate Doctor Long Ghost might have fallen, he had
certainly at some time or other spent money, drunk Burgundy, and
associated with gentlemen.
As for his learning, he quoted Virgil, and talked of Hobbs of
Malmsbury, beside repeating poetry by the canto, especially Hudibras.
He was, moreover, a man who had seen the world. In the easiest way
imaginable, he could refer to an amour he had in Palermo, his
lion-hunting before breakfast among the Caffres, and the quality of
the coffee to be drunk in Muscat; and about these places, and a
hundred others, he had more anecdotes than I can tell of. Then such
mellow old songs as he sang, in a voice so round and racy, the real
juice of sound. How such notes came forth from his lank body was a
Upon the whole, Long Ghost was as entertaining a companion as one
could wish; and to me in the Julia, an absolute godsend.
FURTHER ACCOUNT OF THE JULIA
OWING to the absence of anything like regular discipline, the vessel
was in a state of the greatest uproar. The captain, having for some
time past been more or less confined to the cabin from sickness, was
seldom seen. The mate, however, was as hearty as a young lion, and
ran about the decks making himself heard at all hours. Bembo, the
New Zealand harpooner, held little intercourse with anybody but the
mate, who could talk to him freely in his own lingo. Part of his time
he spent out on the bowsprit, fishing for albicores with a bone hook;
and occasionally he waked all hands up of a dark night dancing some
cannibal fandango all by himself on the forecastle. But, upon the
whole, he was remarkably quiet, though something in his eye showed he
was far from being harmless.
Doctor Long Ghost, having sent in a written resignation as the ship's
doctor, gave himself out as a passenger for Sydney, and took the
world quite easy. As for the crew, those who were sick seemed
marvellously contented for men in their condition; and the rest, not
displeased with the general licence, gave themselves little thought
of the morrow.
The Julia's provisions were very poor. When opened, the barrels of
pork looked as if preserved in iron rust, and diffused an odour like
a stale ragout. The beef was worse yet; a mahogany-coloured fibrous
substance, so tough and tasteless, that I almost believed the cook's
story of a horse's hoof with the shoe on having been fished up out of
the pickle of one of the casks. Nor was the biscuit much better;
nearly all of it was broken into hard, little gunflints, honeycombed
through and through, as if the worms usually infesting this article
in long tropical voyages had, in boring after nutriment, come out at
the antipodes without finding anything.
Of what sailors call "small stores," we had but little. "Tea,"
however, we had in abundance; though, I dare say, the Hong merchants
never had the shipping of it. Beside this, every other day we had
what English seamen call "shot soup"--great round peas, polishing
themselves like pebbles by rolling about in tepid water.
It was afterward told me, that all our provisions had been purchased
by the owners at an auction sale of condemned navy stores in Sydney.
But notwithstanding the wateriness of the first course of soup, and
the saline flavour of the beef and pork, a sailor might have made a
satisfactory meal aboard of the Julia had there been any side
dishes--a potato or two, a yam, or a plantain. But there was nothing
of the kind. Still, there was something else, which, in the estimation
of the men, made up for all deficiencies; and that was the regular
allowance of Pisco.
It may seem strange that in such a state of affairs the captain should
be willing to keep the sea with his ship. But the truth was, that by
lying in harbour, he ran the risk of losing the remainder of his men
by desertion; and as it was, he still feared that, in some outlandish
bay or other, he might one day find his anchor down, and no crew to
With judicious officers the most unruly seamen can at sea be kept in
some sort of subjection; but once get them within a cable's length of
the land, and it is hard restraining them. It is for this reason that
many South Sea whalemen do not come to anchor for eighteen or twenty
months on a stretch. When fresh provisions are needed, they run for
the nearest land--heave to eight or ten miles off, and send a boat
ashore to trade. The crews manning vessels like these are for the most
part villains of all nations and dyes; picked up in the lawless ports
of the Spanish Main, and among the savages of the islands. Like
galley-slaves, they are only to be governed by scourges and chains.
Their officers go among them with dirk and pistol--concealed, but
ready at a grasp.
Not a few of our own crew were men of this stamp; but, riotous at
times as they were, the bluff drunken energies of Jennin were just
the thing to hold them in some sort of noisy subjection. Upon an
emergency, he flew in among them, showering his kicks and cuffs right
and left, and "creating a sensation" in every direction. And as
hinted before, they bore this knock-down authority with great
good-humour. A sober, discreet, dignified officer could have done
nothing with them; such a set would have thrown him and his dignity
Matters being thus, there was nothing for the ship but to keep the
sea. Nor was the captain without hope that the invalid portion of his
crew, as well as himself, would soon recover; and then there was no
telling what luck in the fishery might yet be in store for us. At any
rate, at the time of my coming aboard, the report was, that Captain
Guy was resolved upon retrieving the past and filling the vessel with
oil in the shortest space possible.
With this intention, we were now shaping our course for Hytyhoo, a
village on the island of St. Christina--one of the Marquesas, and so
named by Mendanna--for the purpose of obtaining eight seamen, who,
some weeks before, had stepped ashore there from the Julia. It was
supposed that, by this time, they must have recreated themselves
sufficiently, and would be glad to return to their duty.
So to Hytyhoo, with all our canvas spread, and coquetting with the
warm, breezy Trades, we bowled along; gliding up and down the long,
slow swells, the bonettas and albicores frolicking round us.
A SCENE IN THE FORECASTLE
I HAD scarcely been aboard of the ship twenty-four hours, when a
circumstance occurred, which, although noways picturesque, is so
significant of the state of affairs that I cannot forbear relating
In the first place, however, it must be known, that among the crew was
a man so excessively ugly, that he went by the ironical appellation
of "Beauty." He was the ship's carpenter; and for that reason was
sometimes known by his nautical cognomen of "Chips." There was no
absolute deformity about the man; he was symmetrically ugly. But ill
favoured as he was in person, Beauty was none the less ugly in
temper; but no one could blame him; his countenance had soured his
heart. Now Jermin and Beauty were always at swords' points. The
truth was, the latter was the only man in the ship whom the mate had
never decidedly got the better of; and hence the grudge he bore him.
As for Beauty, he prided himself upon talking up to the mate, as we
shall soon see.
Toward evening there was something to be done on deck, and the
carpenter who belonged to the watch was missing. "Where's that skulk,
Chips?" shouted Jermin down the forecastle scuttle.
"Taking his ease, d'ye see, down here on a chest, if you want to
know," replied that worthy himself, quietly withdrawing his pipe from
his mouth. This insolence flung the fiery little mate into a mighty
rage; but Beauty said nothing, puffing away with all the tranquillity
imaginable. Here it must be remembered that, never mind what may be
the provocation, no prudent officer ever dreams of entering a ship's
forecastle on a hostile visit. If he wants to see anybody who happens
to be there, and refuses to come up, why he must wait patiently until
the sailor is willing. The reason is this. The place is very dark:
and nothing is easier than to knock one descending on the head,
before he knows where he is, and a very long while before he ever
finds out who did it.
Nobody knew this better than Jermin, and so he contented himself with
looking down the scuttle and storming. At last Beauty made some cool
observation which set him half wild.
"Tumble on deck," he then bellowed--"come, up with you, or I'll jump
down and make you." The carpenter begged him to go about it at once.
No sooner said than done: prudence forgotten, Jermin was there; and by
a sort of instinct, had his man by the throat before he could well
see him. One of the men now made a rush at him, but the rest dragged
him off, protesting that they should have fair play.
"Now come on deck," shouted the mate, struggling like a good fellow to
hold the carpenter fast.
"Take me there," was the dogged answer, and Beauty wriggled about in
the nervous grasp of the other like a couple of yards of
His assailant now undertook to make him up into a compact bundle, the
more easily to transport him. While thus occupied, Beauty got his
arms loose, and threw him over backward. But Jermin quickly recovered
himself, when for a time they had it every way, dragging each other
about, bumping their heads against the projecting beams, and
returning each other's blows the first favourable opportunity that
offered. Unfortunately, Jermin at last slipped and fell; his foe
seating himself on his chest, and keeping him down. Now this was one
of those situations in which the voice of counsel, or reproof, comes
with peculiar unction. Nor did Beauty let the opportunity slip. But
the mate said nothing in reply, only foaming at the mouth and
struggling to rise.
Just then a thin tremor of a voice was heard from above. It was the
captain; who, happening to ascend to the quarter-deck at the
commencement of the scuffle, would gladly have returned to the cabin,
but was prevented by the fear of ridicule. As the din increased, and
it became evident that his officer was in serious trouble, he thought
it would never do to stand leaning over the bulwarks, so he made his
appearance on the forecastle, resolved, as his best policy, to treat
the matter lightly.
"Why, why," he begun, speaking pettishly, and very fast, "what's all
this about?--Mr. Jermin, Mr. Jermin--carpenter, carpenter; what are
you doing down there? Come on deck; come on deck."
Whereupon Doctor Long Ghost cries out in a squeak, "Ah! Miss Guy, is
that you? Now, my dear, go right home, or you'll get hurt."
"Pooh, pooh! you, sir, whoever you are, I was not speaking to you;
none of your nonsense. Mr. Jermin, I was talking to you; have the
kindness to come on deck, sir; I want to see you."
"And how, in the devil's name, am I to get there?" cried the mate,
furiously. "Jump down here, Captain Guy, and show yourself a man. Let
me up, you Chips! unhand me, I say! Oh! I'll pay you for this, some
day! Come on, Captain Guy!"
At this appeal, the poor man was seized with a perfect spasm of
fidgets. "Pooh, pooh, carpenter; have done with your nonsense! Let
him up, sir; let him up! Do you hear? Let Mr. Jermm come on deck!"
"Go along with you, Paper Jack," replied Beauty; "this quarrel's
between the mate and me; so go aft, where you belong!"
As the captain once more dipped his head down the scuttle to make
answer, from an unseen hand he received, full in the face, the
contents of a tin can of soaked biscuit and tea-leaves. The doctor
was not far off just then. Without waiting for anything more, the
discomfited gentleman, with both hands to his streaming face,
retreated to the quarter-deck.
A few moments more, and Jermin, forced to a compromise, followed
after, in his torn frock and scarred face, looking for all the world
as if he had just disentangled himself from some intricate piece of
machinery. For about half an hour both remained in the cabin, where
the mate's rough tones were heard high above the low, smooth voice of
Of all his conflicts with the men, this was the first in which Jermin
had been worsted; and he was proportionably enraged. Upon going
below--as the steward afterward told us--he bluntly informed Guy
that, for the future, he might look out for his ship himself; for his
part, he had done with her, if that was the way he allowed his
officers to be treated. After many high words, the captain finally
assured him that, the first fitting opportunity, the carpenter should
be cordially flogged; though, as matters stood, the experiment would
be a hazardous one. Upon this Jermin reluctantly consented to drop
the matter for the present; and he soon drowned all thoughts of it in
a can of flip, which Guy had previously instructed the steward to
prepare, as a sop to allay his wrath.
Nothing more ever came of this.
WHAT HAPPENED AT HYTYHOO
LESS than forty-eight hours after leaving Nukuheva, the blue, looming
island of St. Christina greeted us from afar. Drawing near the
shore, the grim, black spars and waspish hull of a small man-of-war
craft crept into view; the masts and yards lined distinctly against
the sky. She was riding to her anchor in the bay, and proved to be a
This pleased our captain exceedingly, and, coming on deck, he examined
her from the mizzen rigging with his glass. His original intention
was not to let go an anchor; but, counting upon the assistance of the
corvette in case of any difficulty, he now changed his mind, and
anchored alongside of her. As soon as a boat could be lowered, he
then went off to pay his respects to the commander, and, moreover, as
we supposed, to concert measures for the apprehension of the
Returning in the course of twenty minutes, he brought along with him
two officers in undress and whiskers, and three or four drunken
obstreperous old chiefs; one with his legs thrust into the armholes
of a scarlet vest, another with a pair of spurs on his heels, and a
third in a cocked hat and feather. In addition to these articles,
they merely wore the ordinary costume of their race--a slip of native
cloth about the loins. Indecorous as their behaviour was, these
worthies turned out to be a deputation from the reverend the clergy
of the island; and the object of their visit was to put our ship
under a rigorous "Taboo," to prevent the disorderly scenes and
facilities for desertion which would ensue, were the natives--men and
women--allowed to come off to us freely.
There was little ceremony about the matter. The priests went aside for
a moment, laid their shaven old crowns together, and went over a
little mummery. Whereupon, their leader tore a long strip from his
girdle of white tappa, and handed it to one of the French officers,
who, after explaining what was to be done, gave it to Jermin. The
mate at once went out to the end of the flying jib boom, and fastened
there the mystic symbol of the ban. This put to flight a party of
girls who had been observed swimming toward us. Tossing their arms
about, and splashing the water like porpoises, with loud cries of
"taboo! taboo I" they turned about and made for the shore.
The night of our arrival, the mate and the Mowree were to stand "watch
and watch," relieving each other every four hours; the crew, as is
sometimes customary when lying at an anchor, being allowed to remain
all night below. A distrust of the men, however, was, in the present
instance, the principal reason for this proceeding. Indeed, it was
all but certain, that some kind of attempt would be made at
desertion; and therefore, when Jermin's first watch came on at eight
bells (midnight)--by which time all was quiet--he mounted to the deck
with a flask of spirits in one hand, and the other in readiness to
assail the first countenance that showed itself above the forecastle
Thus prepared, he doubtless meant to stay awake; but for all that, he
before long fell asleep; and slept with such hearty good-will too,
that the men who left us that night might have been waked up by his
snoring. Certain it was, the mate snored most strangely; and no
wonder, with that crooked bugle of his. When he came to himself it
was just dawn, but quite light enough to show two boats gone from the
side. In an instant he knew what had happened.
Dragging the Mowree out of an old sail where he was napping, he
ordered him to clear away another boat, and then darted into the
cabin to tell the captain the news. Springing on deck again, he
drove down into the forecastle for a couple of oarsmen, but hardly
got there before there was a cry, and a loud splash heard over the
side. It was the Mowree and the boat--into which he had just leaped
to get ready for lowering--rolling over and over in the water.
The boat having at nightfall been hoisted up to its place over the
starboard quarter, someone had so cut the tackles which held it
there, that a moderate strain would at once part them. Bembo's weight
had answered the purpose, showing that the deserters must have
ascertained his specific gravity to a fibre of hemp. There was
another boat remaining; but it was as well to examine it before
attempting to lower. And it was well they did; for there was a hole
in the bottom large enough to drop a barrel through: she had been
scuttled most ruthlessly.
Jermin was frantic. Dashing his hat upon deck, he was about to plunge
overboard and swim to the corvette for a cutter, when Captain Guy
made his appearance and begged him to stay where he was. By this time
the officer of the deck aboard the Frenchman had noticed our
movements, and hailed to know what had happened. Guy informed him
through his trumpet, and men to go in pursuit were instantly
promised. There was a whistling of a boatswain's pipe, an order or
two, and then a large cutter pulled out from the man-of-war's stern,
and in half a dozen strokes was alongside. The mate leaped into her,
and they pulled rapidly ashore.
Another cutter, carrying an armed crew, soon followed.
In an hour's time the first returned, towing the two whale-boats,
which had been found turned up like tortoises on the beach.
Noon came, and nothing more was heard from the deserters. Meanwhile
Doctor Long Ghost and myself lounged about, cultivating an
acquaintance, and gazing upon the shore scenery. The bay was as calm
as death; the sun high and hot; and occasionally a still gliding
canoe stole out from behind the headlands, and shot across the water.
And all the morning long our sick men limped about the deck, casting
wistful glances inland, where the palm-trees waved and beckoned them
into their reviving shades. Poor invalid rascals! How conducive to
the restoration of their shattered health would have been those
delicious groves! But hard-hearted Jermin assured them, with an oath,
that foot of theirs should never touch the beach.
Toward sunset a crowd was seen coming down to the water. In advance of
all were the fugitives--bareheaded--their frocks and trousers hanging
in tatters, every face covered with blood and dust, and their arms
pinioned behind them with green thongs. Following them up, was a
shouting rabble of islanders, pricking them with the points of their
long spears, the party from the corvette menacing them in flank with
their naked cutlasses.
The bonus of a musket to the King of the Bay, and the promise of a
tumblerful of powder for every man caught, had set the whole
population on their track; and so successful was the hunt, that not
only were that morning's deserters brought back, but five of those
left behind on a former visit. The natives, however, were the mere
hounds of the chase, raising the game in their coverts, but leaving
the securing of it to the Frenchmen. Here, as elsewhere, the
islanders have no idea of taking part in such a scuffle as ensues
upon the capture of a party of desperate seamen.
The runaways were at once brought aboard, and, though they looked
rather sulky, soon came round, and treated the whole affair as a
WE TOUCH AT LA DOMINICA
FEARFUL of spending another night at Hytyhoo, Captain Guy caused the
ship to be got under way shortly after dark.
The next morning, when all supposed that we were fairly embarked for a
long cruise, our course was suddenly altered for La Dominica, or
Hivarhoo, an island just north of the one we had quitted. The object
of this, as we learned, was to procure, if possible, several English
sailors, who, according to the commander of the corvette, had
recently gone ashore there from an American whaler, and were desirous
of shipping aboard one of their own country vessels.
We made the land in the afternoon, coming abreast of a shady glen
opening from a deep bay, and winding by green denies far out of
sight. "Hands by the weather-main-brace!" roared the mate, jumping up
on the bulwarks; and in a moment the prancing Julia, suddenly
arrested in her course, bridled her head like a steed reined in,
while the foam flaked under her bows.
This was the place where we expected to obtain the men; so a boat was
at once got in readiness to go ashore. Now it was necessary to
provide a picked crew--men the least likely to abscond. After
considerable deliberation on the part of the captain and mate, four
of the seamen were pitched upon as the most trustworthy; or rather
they were selected from a choice assortment of suspicious characters
as being of an inferior order of rascality.
Armed with cutlasses all round--the natives were said to be an ugly
set--they were followed over the side by the invalid captain, who, on
this occasion, it seems, was determined to signalize himself.
Accordingly, in addition to his cutlass, he wore an old boarding
belt, in which was thrust a brace of pistols. They at once shoved
My friend Long Ghost had, among other things which looked somewhat
strange in a ship's forecastle, a capital spy-glass, and on the
present occasion we had it in use.
When the boat neared the head of the inlet, though invisible to the
naked eye, it was plainly revealed by the glass; looking no bigger
than an egg-shell, and the men diminished to pigmies.
At last, borne on what seemed a long flake of foam, the tiny craft
shot up the beach amid a shower of sparkles. Not a soul was there.
Leaving one of their number by the water, the rest of the pigmies
stepped ashore, looking about them very circumspectly, pausing now
and then hand to ear, and peering under a dense grove which swept
down within a few paces of the sea. No one came, and to all
appearances everything was as still as the grave. Presently he with
the pistols, followed by the rest flourishing their bodkins, entered
the wood and were soon lost to view. They did not stay long; probably
anticipating some inhospitable ambush were they to stray any distance
up the glen.
In a few moments they embarked again, and were soon riding pertly over
the waves of the bay. All of a sudden the captain started to his
feet--the boat spun round, and again made for the shore. Some twenty
or thirty natives armed with spears which through the glass looked
like reeds, had just come out of the grove, and were apparently
shouting to the strangers not to be in such a hurry, but return and
be sociable. But they were somewhat distrusted, for the boat paused
about its length from the beach, when the captain standing up in its
head delivered an address in pantomime, the object of which seemed to
be, that the islanders should draw near. One of them stepped forward
and made answer, seemingly again urging the strangers not to be
diffident, but beach their boat. The captain declined, tossing his
arms about in another pantomime. In the end he said something which
made them shake their spears; whereupon he fired a pistol among them,
which set the whole party running; while one poor little fellow,
dropping his spear and clapping his hand behind him, limped away in a
manner which almost made me itch to get a shot at his assailant.
Wanton acts of cruelty like this are not unusual on the part of sea
captains landing at islands comparatively unknown. Even at the Pomotu
group, but a day's sail from Tahiti, the islanders coming down to the
shore have several times been fired at by trading schooners passing
through their narrow channels; and this too as a mere amusement on
the part of the ruffians.
Indeed, it is almost incredible, the light in which many sailors
regard these naked heathens. They hardly consider them human. But it
is a curious fact, that the more ignorant and degraded men are, the
more contemptuously they look upon those whom they deem their
All powers of persuasion being thus lost upon these foolish savages,
and no hope left of holding further intercourse, the boat returned to
WHAT HAPPENED AT HANNAMANOO
ON the other side of the island was the large and populous bay of
Hannamanoo, where the men sought might yet be found. But as the sun
was setting by the time the boat came alongside, we got our offshore
tacks aboard and stood away for an offing. About daybreak we wore,
and ran in, and by the time the sun was well up, entered the long,
narrow channel dividing the islands of La Dominica and St. Christina.
On one hand was a range of steep green bluffs hundreds of feet high,
the white huts of the natives here and there nestling like birds'
nests in deep clefts gushing with verdure. Across the water, the
land rolled away in bright hillsides, so warm and undulating that
they seemed almost to palpitate in the sun. On we swept, past bluff
and grove, wooded glen and valley, and dark ravines lighted up far
inland with wild falls of water. A fresh land-breeze filled our
sails, the embayed waters were gentle as a lake, and every wave broke
with a tinkle against our coppered prow.
On gaining the end of the channel we rounded a point, and came full
upon the bay of Hannamanoo. This is the only harbour of any note
about the island, though as far as a safe anchorage is concerned it
hardly deserves the title.
Before we held any communication with the shore, an incident occurred
which may convey some further idea of the character of our crew.
Having approached as near the land as we could prudently, our headway
was stopped, and we awaited the arrival of a canoe which was coming
out of the bay. All at once we got into a strong current, which swept
us rapidly toward a rocky promontory forming one side of the harbour.
The wind had died away; so two boats were at once lowered for the
purpose of pulling the ship's head round. Before this could be done,
the eddies were whirling upon all sides, and the rock so near that it
seemed as if one might leap upon it from the masthead. Notwithstanding
the speechless fright of the captain, and the hoarse shouts of the
unappalled Jennin, the men handled the ropes as deliberately as
possible, some of them chuckling at the prospect of going ashore, and
others so eager for the vessel to strike, that they could hardly
contain themselves. Unexpectedly a countercurrent befriended us, and
assisted by the boats we were soon out of danger.
What a disappointment for our crew! All their little plans for
swimming ashore from the wreck, and having a fine time of it for the
rest of their days, thus cruelly nipped in the bud.
Soon after, the canoe came alongside. In it were eight or ten natives,
comely, vivacious-looking youths, all gesture and exclamation; the
red feathers in their head-bands perpetually nodding. With them also
came a stranger, a renegade from Christendom and humanity--a white
man, in the South Sea girdle, and tattooed in the face. A broad blue
band stretched across his face from ear to ear, and on his forehead
was the taper figure of a blue shark, nothing but fins from head to
Some of us gazed upon this man with a feeling akin to horror, no ways
abated when informed that he had voluntarily submitted to this
embellishment of his countenance. What an impress! Far worse than
Cain's--his was perhaps a wrinkle, or a freckle, which some of our
modern cosmetics might have effaced; but the blue shark was a mark
indelible, which all the waters of Abana and Pharpar, rivers of
Damascus, could never wash out. He was an Englishman, Lem Hardy he
called himself, who had deserted from a trading brig touching at the
island for wood and water some ten years previous. He had gone ashore
as a sovereign power armed with a musket and a bag of ammunition, and
ready if need were, to prosecute war on his own account. The country
was divided by the hostile kings of several large valleys. With one
of them, from whom he first received overtures, he formed an
alliance, and became what he now was, the military leader of the
tribe, and war-god of the entire island.
His campaigns beat Napoleon's. In one night attack, his invincible
musket, backed by the light infantry of spears and javelins,
vanquished two clans, and the next morning brought all the others to
the feet of his royal ally.
Nor was the rise of his domestic fortunes at all behind the
Corsican's: three days after landing, the exquisitely tattooed hand
of a princess was his; receiving along with the damsel as her
portion, one thousand fathoms of fine tappa, fifty double-braided
mats of split grass, four hundred hogs, ten houses in different parts
of her native valley, and the sacred protection of an express edict
of the Taboo, declaring his person inviolable for ever.
Now, this man was settled for life, perfectly satisfied with his
circumstances, and feeling no desire to return to his friends.
"Friends," indeed, he had none. He told me his history. Thrown upon
the world a foundling, his paternal origin was as much a mystery to
him as the genealogy of Odin; and, scorned by everybody, he fled the
parish workhouse when a boy, and launched upon the sea. He had
followed it for several years, a dog before the mast, and now he had
thrown it up for ever.
And for the most part, it is just this sort of men--so many of whom
are found among sailors--uncared for by a single soul, without ties,
reckless, and impatient of the restraints of civilization, who are
occasionally found quite at home upon the savage islands of the
Pacific. And, glancing at their hard lot in their own country, what
marvel at their choice?
According to the renegado, there was no other white man on the island;
and as the captain could have no reason to suppose that Hardy
intended to deceive us, he concluded that the Frenchmen were in some
way or other mistaken in what they had told us. However, when our
errand was made known to the rest of our visitors, one of them, a
fine, stalwart fellow, his face all eyes and expression, volunteered
for a cruise. All the wages he asked was a red shirt, a pair of
trousers, and a hat, which were to be put on there and then; besides
a plug of tobacco and a pipe. The bargain was struck directly; but
Wymontoo afterward came in with a codicil, to the effect that a
friend of his, who had come along with him, should be given ten whole
sea-biscuits, without crack or flaw, twenty perfectly new and
symmetrically straight nails, and one jack-knife. This being agreed
to, the articles were at once handed over; the native receiving them
with great avidity, and in the absence of clothing, using his mouth as
a pocket to put the nails in. Two of them, however, were first made
to take the place of a pair of ear-ornaments, curiously fashioned out
of bits of whitened wood.
It now began breezing strongly from seaward, and no time was to be
lost in getting away from the land; so after an affecting rubbing of
noses between our new shipmate and his countrymen, we sailed away
To our surprise, the farewell shouts from the canoe, as we dashed
along under bellied royals, were heard unmoved by our islander; but
it was not long thus. That very evening, when the dark blue of his
native hills sunk in the horizon, the poor savage leaned over the
bulwarks, dropped his head upon his chest, and gave way to
irrepressible emotions. The ship was plunging hard, and Wymontoo, sad
to tell, in addition to his other pangs, was terribly sea-sick.
THE TATTOOERS OF LA DOMINICA
FOR a while leaving Little Jule to sail away by herself, I will here
put down some curious information obtained from Hardy.
The renegado had lived so long on the island that its customs were
quite familiar; and I much lamented that, from the shortness of our
stay, he could not tell us more than he did.
From the little intelligence gathered, however, I learned to my
surprise that, in some things, the people of Hivarhoo, though of the
same group of islands, differed considerably from my tropical friends
in the valley of Typee.
As his tattooing attracted so much remark, Hardy had a good deal to
say concerning the manner in which that art was practised upon the
Throughout the entire cluster the tattooers of Hivarhoo enjoyed no
small reputation. They had carried their art to the highest
perfection, and the profession was esteemed most honourable. No
wonder, then, that like genteel tailors, they rated their services
very high; so much so that none but those belonging to the higher
classes could afford to employ them. So true was this, that the
elegance of one's tattooing was in most cases a sure indication of
birth and riches.
Professors in large practice lived in spacious houses, divided by
screens of tappa into numerous little apartments, where subjects were
waited upon in private. The arrangement chiefly grew out of a
singular ordinance of the Taboo, which enjoined the strictest privacy
upon all men, high and low, while under the hands of a tattooer. For
the time, the slightest intercourse with others is prohibited, and the
small portion of food allowed is pushed under the curtain by an
unseen hand. The restriction with regard to food, is intended to
reduce the blood, so as to diminish the inflammation consequent upon
puncturing the skin. As it is, this comes on very soon, and takes
some time to heal; so that the period of seclusion generally embraces
many days, sometimes several weeks.
All traces of soreness vanished, the subject goes abroad; but only
again to return; for, on account of the pain, only a small surface
can be operated upon at once; and as the whole body is to be more or
less embellished by a process so slow, the studios alluded to are
constantly filled. Indeed, with a vanity elsewhere unheard of, many
spend no small portion of their days thus sitting to an artist.
To begin the work, the period of adolescence is esteemed the most
suitable. After casting about for some eminent tattooer, the friends
of the youth take him to his house to have the outlines of the
general plan laid out. It behoves the professor to have a nice eye,
for a suit to be worn for life should be well cut.
Some tattooers, yearning after perfection, employ, at large wages, one
or two men of the commonest order--vile fellows, utterly regardless
of appearances, upon whom they first try their patterns and practise
generally. Their backs remorselessly scrawled over, and no more
canvas remaining, they are dismissed and ever after go about, the
scorn of their countrymen.
Hapless wights! thus martyred in the cause of the Fine Arts.
Beside the regular practitioners, there are a parcel of shabby,
itinerant tattooers, who, by virtue of their calling, stroll
unmolested from one hostile bay to another, doing their work
dog-cheap for the multitude. They always repair to the various
religious festivals, which gather great crowds. When these are
concluded, and the places where they are held vacated even by the
tattooers, scores of little tents of coarse tappa are left standing,
each with a solitary inmate, who, forbidden to talk to his unseen
neighbours, is obliged to stay there till completely healed. The
itinerants are a reproach to their profession, mere cobblers, dealing
in nothing but jagged lines and clumsy patches, and utterly incapable
of soaring to those heights of fancy attained by the gentlemen of the
All professors of the arts love to fraternize; and so, in Hannamanoo,
the tattooers came together in the chapters of their worshipful
order. In this society, duly organized, and conferring degrees,
Hardy, from his influence as a white, was a sort of honorary Grand
Master. The blue shark, and a sort of Urim and Thummim engraven upon
his chest, were the seal of his initiation. All over Hivarhoo are
established these orders of tattooers. The way in which the renegado's
came to be founded is this. A year or two after his landing there
happened to be a season of scarcity, owing to the partial failure of
the breadfruit harvest for several consecutive seasons. This brought
about such a falling off in the number of subjects for tattooing that
the profession became quite needy. The royal ally of Hardy, however,
hit upon a benevolent expedient to provide for their wants, at the
same time conferring a boon upon many of his subjects.
By sound of conch-shell it was proclaimed before the palace, on the
beach, and at the head of the valley, that Noomai, King of
Hannamanoo, and friend of Hardee-Hardee, the white, kept open heart
and table for all tattooers whatsoever; but to entitle themselves to
this hospitality, they were commanded to practise without fee upon
the meanest native soliciting their services.
Numbers at once flocked to the royal abode, both artists and sitters.
It was a famous time; and the buildings of the palace being "taboo"
to all but the tattooers and chiefs, the sitters bivouacked on the
common, and formed an extensive encampment.
The "Lora Tattoo," or the Time of Tattooing, will be long remembered.
An enthusiastic sitter celebrated the event in verse. Several lines
were repeated to us by Hardy, some of which, in a sort of colloquial
chant he translated nearly thus:
"Where is that sound?
And wherefore that sound?
The sound of a hundred hammers,
Tapping, tapping, tapping
The shark teeth."
"Where is that light?
Round about the king's house,
And the small laughter?
The small, merry laughter it is
Of the sons and daughters of the tattooed."
WE STEER TO THE WESTWARD--STATE OF AFFAIRS
THE night we left Hannamanoo was bright and starry, and so warm that,
when the watches were relieved, most of the men, instead of going
below, flung themselves around the foremast.
Toward morning, finding the heat of the forecastle unpleasant, I
ascended to the deck where everything was noiseless. The Trades were
blowing with a mild, steady strain upon the canvas, and the ship
heading right out into the immense blank of the Western Pacific. The
watch were asleep. With one foot resting on the rudder, even the man
at the helm nodded, and the mate himself, with arms folded, was
leaning against the capstan.
On such a night, and all alone, reverie was inevitable. I leaned over
the side, and could not help thinking of the strange objects we might
be sailing over.
But my meditations were soon interrupted by a gray, spectral shadow
cast over the heaving billows. It was the dawn, soon followed by the
first rays of the morning. They flashed into view at one end of the
arched night, like--to compare great things with small--the gleamings
of Guy Fawkes's lantern in the vaults of the Parliament House.
Before long, what seemed a live ember rested for a moment on the rim
of the ocean, and at last the blood-red sun stood full and round in
the level East, and the long sea-day began.
Breakfast over, the first thing attended to was the formal baptism of
Wymontoo, who, after thinking over his affairs during the night,
looked dismal enough.
There were various opinions as to a suitable appellation. Some
maintained that we ought to call him "Sunday," that being the day we
caught him; others, "Eighteen Forty-two," the then year of our Lord;
while Doctor Long Ghost remarked that he ought, by all means, to
retain his original name,--Wymontoo-Hee, meaning (as he maintained),
in the figurative language of the island, something analogous to one
who had got himself into a scrape. The mate put an end to the
discussion by sousing the poor fellow with a bucket of salt water,
and bestowing upon him the nautical appellation of "Luff."
Though a certain mirthfulness succeeded his first pangs at leaving
home, Wymontoo--we will call him thus--gradually relapsed into his
former mood, and became very melancholy. Often I noticed him
crouching apart in the forecastle, his strange eyes gleaming
restlessly, and watching the slightest movement of the men. Many a
time he must have been thinking of his bamboo hut, when they were
talking of Sydney and its dance-houses.
We were now fairly at sea, though to what particular cruising-ground
we were going, no one knew; and, to all appearances, few cared. The
men, after a fashion of their own, began to settle down into the
routine of sea-life, as if everything was going on prosperously.
Blown along over a smooth sea, there was nothing to do but steer the
ship, and relieve the "look-outs" at the mast-heads. As for the sick,
they had two or three more added to their number--the air of the
island having disagreed with the constitutions of several of the
runaways. To crown all, the captain again relapsed, and became quite
The men fit for duty were divided into two small watches, headed
respectively by the mate and the Mowree; the latter by virtue of his
being a harpooner, succeeding to the place of the second mate, who
In this state of things whaling was out of the question; but in the
face of everything, Jermin maintained that the invalids would soon be
well. However that might be, with the same pale Hue sky overhead, we
kept running steadily to the westward. Forever advancing, we seemed
always in the same place, and every day was the former lived over
again. We saw no ships, expected to see none. No sign of life was
perceptible but the porpoises and other fish sporting under the bows
like pups ashore. But, at intervals, the gray albatross, peculiar to
these seas, came flapping his immense wings over us, and then skimmed
away silently as if from a plague-ship. Or flights of the tropic
bird, known among seamen as the "boatswain," wheeled round and round
us, whistling shrilly as they flew.
The uncertainty hanging over our destination at this time, and the
fact that we were abroad upon waters comparatively little traversed,
lent an interest to this portion of the cruise which I shall never
From obvious prudential considerations the Pacific has been
principally sailed over in known tracts, and this is the reason why
new islands are still occasionally discovered by exploring ships and
adventurous whalers notwithstanding the great number of vessels of
all kinds of late navigating this vast ocean. Indeed, considerable
portions still remain wholly unexplored; and there is doubt as to the
actual existence of certain shoals, and reefs, and small clusters of
islands vaguely laid down in the charts. The mere circumstance,
therefore, of a ship like ours penetrating into these regions, was
sufficient to cause any reflecting mind to feel at least a little
uneasy. For my own part, the many stories I had heard of ships
striking at midnight upon unknown rocks, with all sail set, and a
slumbering crew, often recurred to me, especially, as from the
absence of discipline, and our being so shorthanded, the watches at
night were careless in the extreme.
But no thoughts like these were entertained by my reckless shipmates;
and along we went, the sun every evening setting right ahead of our
For what reason the mate was so reserved with regard to our precise
destination was never made known. The stories he told us, I, for one,
did not believe; deeming them all a mere device to lull the crew.
He said we were bound to a fine cruising ground, scarcely known to
other whalemen, which he had himself discovered when commanding a
small brig upon a former voyage. Here, the sea was alive with large
whales, so tame that all you had to do was to go up and kill them:
they were too frightened to resist. A little to leeward of this was a
small cluster of islands, where we were going to refit, abounding with
delicious fruits, and peopled by a race almost wholly unsophisticated
by intercourse with strangers.
In order, perhaps, to guard against the possibility of anyone finding
out the precise latitude and longitude of the spot we were going to,
Jermin never revealed to us the ship's place at noon, though such is
the custom aboard of most vessels.
Meanwhile, he was very assiduous in his attention to the invalids.
Doctor Long Ghost having given up the keys of the medicine-chest,
they were handed over to him; and, as physician, he discharged his
duties to the satisfaction of all. Pills and powders, in most cases,
were thrown to the fish, and in place thereof, the contents of a
mysterious little quarter cask were produced, diluted with water from
the "butt." His draughts were mixed on the capstan, in cocoa-nut
shells marked with the patients' names. Like shore doctors, he did
not eschew his own medicines, for his professional calls in the
forecastle were sometimes made when he was comfortably tipsy: nor did
he omit keeping his invalids in good-humour, spinning his yarns to
them, by the hour, whenever he went to see them.
Owing to my lameness, from which I soon began to recover, I did no
active duty, except standing an occasional "trick" at the helm. It
was in the forecastle chiefly, that I spent my time, in company with
the Long Doctor, who was at great pains to make himself agreeable.
His books, though sadly torn and tattered, were an invaluable
resource. I read them through again and again, including a learned
treatise on the yellow fever. In addition to these, he had an old
file of Sydney papers, and I soon became intimately acquainted with
the localities of all the advertising tradesmen there. In particular,
the rhetorical flourishes of Stubbs, the real-estate auctioneer,
diverted me exceedingly, and I set him down as no other than a pupil
of Robins the Londoner.
Aside from the pleasure of his society, my intimacy with Long Ghost
was of great service to me in other respects. His disgrace in the
cabin only confirmed the good-will of the democracy in the
forecastle; and they not only treated him in the most friendly
manner, but looked up to him with the utmost deference, besides
laughing heartily at all his jokes. As his chosen associate, this
feeling for him extended to me, and gradually we came to be regarded
in the light of distinguished guests. At meal-times we were always
first served, and otherwise were treated with much respect.
Among other devices to kill time, during the frequent calms, Long
Ghost hit upon the game of chess. With a jack-knife, we carved the
pieces quite tastefully out of bits of wood, and our board was the
middle of a chest-lid, chalked into squares, which, in playing, we
straddled at either end. Having no other suitable way of
distinguishing the sets, I marked mine by tying round them little
scarfs of black silk, torn from an old neck-handkerchief. Putting
them in mourning this way, the doctor said, was quite appropriate,
seeing that they had reason to feel sad three games out of four. Of
chess, the men never could make head nor tail; indeed, their wonder
rose to such a pitch that they at last regarded the mysterious
movements of the game with something more than perplexity; and after
puzzling over them through several long engagements, they came to the
conclusion that we must be a couple of necromancers.
A SEA-PARLOUR DESCRIBED, WITH SOME OF ITS TENANTS
I MIGHT as well give some idea of the place in which the doctor and I
lived together so sociably.
Most persons know that a ship's forecastle embraces the forward part
of the deck about the bowsprit: the same term, however, is generally
bestowed upon the sailors' sleeping-quarters, which occupy a space
immediately beneath, and are partitioned off by a bulkhead.
Planted right in the bows, or, as sailors say, in the very eyes of the
ship, this delightful apartment is of a triangular shape, and is
generally fitted with two tiers of rude bunks. Those of the Julia
were in a most deplorable condition, mere wrecks, some having been
torn down altogether to patch up others; and on one side there were
but two standing. But with most of the men it made little difference
whether they had a bunk or not, since, having no bedding, they had
nothing to put in it but themselves.
Upon the boards of my own crib I spread all the old canvas and old
clothes I could pick up. For a pillow, I wrapped an old jacket round
a log. This helped a little the wear and tear of one's bones when the
Rude hammocks made out of old sails were in many cases used as
substitutes for the demolished bunks; but the space they swung in was
so confined that they were far from being agreeable.
The general aspect of the forecastle was dungeon-like and dingy in the
extreme. In the first place, it was not five feet from deck to deck
and even this space was encroached upon by two outlandish
cross-timbers bracing the vessel, and by the sailors' chests, over
which you must needs crawl in getting about. At meal-times, and
especially when we indulged in after-dinner chat, we sat about the
chests like a parcel of tailors.
In the middle of all were two square, wooden columns, denominated in
marine architecture "Bowsprit Bitts." They were about a foot apart,
and between them, by a rusty chain, swung the forecastle lamp,
burning day and night, and forever casting two long black shadows.
Lower down, between the bitts, was a locker, or sailors' pantry, kept
in abominable disorder, and sometimes requiring a vigorous cleaning
All over, the ship was in a most dilapidated condition; but in the
forecastle it looked like the hollow of an old tree going to decay.
In every direction the wood was damp and discoloured, and here and
there soft and porous. Moreover, it was hacked and hewed without
mercy, the cook frequently helping himself to splinters for
kindling-wood from the bitts and beams. Overhead, every carline was
sooty, and here and there deep holes were burned in them, a freak of
some drunken sailors on a voyage long previous.
From above, you entered by a plank, with two elects, slanting down
from the scuttle, which was a mere hole in the deck. There being no
slide to draw over in case of emergency, the tarpaulin temporarily
placed there was little protection from the spray heaved over the
bows; so that in anything of a breeze the place was miserably wet.
In a squall, the water fairly poured down in sheets like a cascade,
swashing about, and afterward spirting up between the chests like the
jets of a fountain.
Such were our accommodations aboard of the Julia; but bad as they
were, we had not the undisputed possession of them. Myriads of
cockroaches, and regiments of rats disputed the place with us. A
greater calamity than this can scarcely befall a vessel in the South
So warm is the climate that it is almost impossible to get rid of
them. You may seal up every hatchway, and fumigate the hull till the
smoke forces itself out at the seams, and enough will survive to
repeople the ship in an incredibly short period. In some vessels, the
crews of which after a hard fight have given themselves up, as it
were, for lost, the vermin seem to take actual possession, the
sailors being mere tenants by sufferance. With Sperm Whalemen,
hanging about the Line, as many of them do for a couple of years on a
stretch, it is infinitely worse than with other vessels.
As for the Julia, these creatures never had such free and easy times
as they did in her crazy old hull; every chink and cranny swarmed
with them; they did not live among you, but you among them. So true
was this, that the business of eating and drinking was better done in
the dark than in the light of day.
Concerning the cockroaches, there was an extraordinary phenomenon, for
which none of us could ever account.
Every night they had a jubilee. The first symptom was an unusual
clustering and humming among the swarms lining the beams overhead,
and the inside of the sleeping-places. This was succeeded by a
prodigious coming and going on the part of those living out of sight
Presently they all came forth; the larger sort racing over the chests
and planks; winged monsters darting to and fro in the air; and the
small fry buzzing in heaps almost in a state of fusion.
On the first alarm, all who were able darted on deck; while some of
the sick who were too feeble, lay perfectly quiet--the distracted
vermin running over them at pleasure. The performance lasted some
ten minutes, during which no hive ever hummed louder. Often it was
lamented by us that the time of the visitation could never be
predicted; it was liable to come upon us at any hour of the night, and
what a relief it was, when it happened to fall in the early part of
Nor must I forget the rats: they did not forget me. Tame as Trenck's
mouse, they stood in their holes peering at you like old grandfathers
in a doorway. Often they darted in upon us at meal-times, and nibbled
our food. The first time they approached Wymontoo, he was actually
frightened; but becoming accustomed to it, he soon got along with
them much better than the rest. With curious dexterity he seized the
animals by their legs, and flung them up the scuttle to find a watery
But I have a story of my own to tell about these rats. One day the
cabin steward made me a present of some molasses, which I was so
choice of that I kept it hid away in a tin can in the farthest corner
of my bunk.. Faring as we did, this molasses dropped upon a biscuit
was a positive luxury, which I shared with none but the doctor, and
then only in private. And sweet as the treacle was, how could bread
thus prepared and eaten in secret be otherwise than pleasant?
One night our precious can ran low, and in canting it over in the
dark, something beside the molasses slipped out. How long it had been
there, kind Providence never revealed; nor were we over anxious to
know; for we hushed up the bare thought as quickly as possible. The
creature certainly died a luscious death, quite equal to Clarence's
in the butt of Malmsey.
DOCTOR LONG GHOST A WAG--ONE OF HIS CAPERS
GRAVE though he was at times, Doctor Long Ghost was a decided wag.
Everyone knows what lovers of fun sailors are ashore--afloat, they are
absolutely mad after it. So his pranks were duly appreciated.
The poor old black cook! Unlashing his hammock for the night, and
finding a wet log fast asleep in it; and then waking in the morning
with his woolly head tarred. Opening his coppers, and finding an old
boot boiling away as saucy as could be, and sometimes cakes of pitch
candying in his oven.
Baltimore's tribulations were indeed sore; there was no peace for him
day nor night. Poor fellow! he was altogether too good-natured. Say
what they will about easy-tempered people, it is far better, on some
accounts, to have the temper of a wolf. Whoever thought of taking
liberties with gruff Black Dan?
The most curious of the doctor's jokes, was hoisting the men aloft by
the foot or shoulder, when they fell asleep on deck during the
Ascending from the forecastle on one occasion, he found every soul
napping, and forthwith went about his capers. Fastening a rope's end
to each sleeper, he rove the lines through a number of blocks, and
conducted them all to the windlass; then, by heaving round cheerily,
in spite of cries and struggles, he soon had them dangling aloft in
all directions by arms and legs. Waked by the uproar, we rushed up
from below, and found the poor fellows swinging in the moonlight from
the tops and lower yard-arms, like a parcel of pirates gibbeted at
sea by a cruiser.
Connected with this sort of diversion was another prank of his. During
the night some of those on deck would come below to light a pipe, or
take a mouthful of beef and biscuit. Sometimes they fell asleep; and
being missed directly that anything was to be done, their shipmates
often amused themselves by running them aloft with a pulley dropped
down the scuttle from the fore-top.
One night, when all was perfectly still, I lay awake in the
forecastle; the lamp was burning low and thick, and swinging from its
blackened beam; and with the uniform motion of the ship, the men in
the bunks rolled slowly from side to side; the hammocks swaying in
Presently I heard a foot upon the ladder, and looking up, saw a wide
trousers' leg. Immediately, Navy Bob, a stout old Triton, stealthily
descended, and at once went to groping in the locker after something
Supper ended, he proceeded to load his pipe. Now, for a good
comfortable smoke at sea, there never was a better place than the
Julia's forecastle at midnight. To enjoy the luxury, one wants to
fall into a kind of dreamy reverie, only known to the children of the
weed. And the very atmosphere of the place, laden as it was with the
snores of the sleepers, was inducive of this. No wonder, then, that
after a while Bob's head sunk upon his breast; presently his hat fell
off, the extinguished pipe dropped from his mouth, and the next
moment he lay out on the chest as tranquil as an infant.
Suddenly an order was heard on deck, followed by the trampling of feet
and the hauling of rigging. The yards were being braced, and soon
after the sleeper was missed: for there was a whispered conference
over the scuttle.
Directly a shadow glided across the forecastle and noiselessly
approached the unsuspecting Bob. It was one of the watch with the end
of a rope leading out of sight up the scuttle. Pausing an instant,
the sailor pressed softly the chest of his victim, sounding his
slumbers; and then hitching the cord to his ankle, returned to the
Hardly was his back turned, when a long limb was thrust from a hammock
opposite, and Doctor Long Ghost, leaping forth warily, whipped the
rope from Bob's ankle, and fastened it like lightning to a great
lumbering chest, the property of the man. who had just disappeared.
Scarcely was the thing done, when lo! with a thundering bound, the
clumsy box was torn from its fastenings, and banging from side to
side, flew toward the scuttle. Here it jammed; and thinking that Bob,
who was as strong as a windlass, was grappling a beam and trying to
cut the line, the jokers on deck strained away furiously. On a
sudden, the chest went aloft, and striking against the mast, flew
open, raining down on the heads of a party the merciless shower of
things too numerous to mention.
Of course the uproar roused all hands, and when we hurried on deck,
there was the owner of the box, looking aghast at its scattered
contents, and with one wandering hand taking the altitude of a bump
on his head.
DEATH AND BURIAL OF TWO OF THE CREW
THE mirthfulness which at times reigned among us was in strange and
shocking contrast with the situation of some of the invalids. Thus at
least did it seem to me, though not to others.
But an event occurred about this period, which, in removing by far the
most pitiable cases of suffering, tended to make less grating to my
feelings the subsequent conduct of the crew.
We had been at sea about twenty days, when two of the sick who had
rapidly grown worse, died one night within an hour of each other.
One occupied a bunk right next to mine, and for several days had not
risen from it. During this period he was often delirious, starting
up and glaring around him, and sometimes wildly tossing his arms.
On the night of his decease, I retired shortly after the middle watch
began, and waking from a vague dream of horrors, felt something
clammy resting on me. It was the sick man's hand. Two or three times
during the evening previous, he had thrust it into my bunk, and I had
quietly removed it; but now I started and flung it from me. The arm
fell stark and stiff, and I knew that he was dead.
Waking the men, the corpse was immediately rolled up in the strips of
blanketing upon which it lay, and carried on deck. The mate was then
called, and preparations made for an instantaneous' burial. Laying
the body out on the forehatch, it was stitched up in one of the
hammocks, some "kentledge" being placed at the feet instead of shot.
This done, it was borne to the gangway, and placed on a plank laid
across the bulwarks. Two men supported the inside end. By way of
solemnity, the ship's headway was then stopped by hauling aback the
The mate, who was far from being sober, then staggered up, and holding
on to a shroud, gave the word. As the plank tipped, the body slid off
slowly, and fell with a splash into the sea. A bubble or two, and
nothing more was seen.
"Brace forward!" The main-yard swung round to its place, and the ship
glided on, whilst the corpse, perhaps, was still sinking.
We had tossed a shipmate to the sharks, but no one would have thought
it, to have gone among the crew immediately after. The dead man had
been a churlish, unsocial fellow, while alive, and no favourite; and
now that he was no more, little thought was bestowed upon him. All
that was said was concerning the disposal of his chest, which, having
been always kept locked, was supposed to contain money. Someone
volunteered to break it open, and distribute its contents, clothing
and all, before the captain should demand it.
While myself and others were endeavouring to dissuade them from this,
all started at a cry from the forecastle. There could be no one there
but two of the sick, unable to crawl on deck. We went below, and
found one of them dying on a chest. He had fallen out of his hammock
in a fit, and was insensible. The eyes were open and fixed, and his
breath coming and going convulsively. The men shrunk from him; but
the doctor, taking his hand, held it a few moments in his, and
suddenly letting it fall, exclaimed, "He's gone!" The body was
instantly borne up the ladder.
Another hammock was soon prepared, and the dead sailor stitched up as
before. Some additional ceremony, however, was now insisted upon,
and a Bible was called for. But none was to be had, not even a Prayer
Book. When this was made known, Antone, a Portuguese, from the
Cape-de-Verd Islands, stepped up, muttering something over the corpse
of his countryman, and, with his finger, described upon the back of
the hammock the figure of a large cross; whereupon it received the
These two men both perished from the proverbial indiscretions of
seamen, heightened by circumstances apparent; but had either of them
been ashore under proper treatment, he would, in all human
probability, have recovered.
Behold here the fate of a sailor! They give him the last toss, and no
one asks whose child he was.
For the rest of that night there was no more sleep. Many stayed on
deck until broad morning, relating to each other those marvellous
tales of the sea which the occasion was calculated to call forth.
Little as I believed in such things, I could not listen to some of
these stories unaffected. Above all was I struck by one of the
On a voyage to India, they had a fever aboard, which carried off
nearly half the crew in the space of a few days. After this the men
never went aloft in the night-time, except in couples. When topsails
were to be reefed, phantoms were seen at the yard-arm ends; and in
tacking ship, voices called aloud from the tops. The carpenter
himself, going with another man to furl the main-top-gallant-sail in a
squall, was nearly pushed from the rigging by an unseen hand; and his
shipmate swore that a wet hammock was flirted in his face.
Stories like these were related as gospel truths, by those who
declared themselves eye-witnesses.
It is a circumstance not generally known, perhaps, that among ignorant
seamen, Philanders, or Finns, as they are more commonly called, are
regarded with peculiar superstition. For some reason or other, which
I never could get at, they are supposed to possess the gift of second
sight, and the power to wreak supernatural vengeance upon those who
offend them. On this account they have great influence among sailors,
and two or three with whom I have sailed at different times were
persons well calculated to produce this sort of impression, at least
upon minds disposed to believe in such things.
Now, we had one of these sea-prophets aboard; an old, yellow-haired
fellow, who always wore a rude seal-skin cap of his own make, and
carried his tobacco in a large pouch made of the same stuff. Van, as
we called him, was a quiet, inoffensive man, to look at, and, among
such a set, his occasional peculiarities had hitherto passed for
nothing. At this time, however, he came out with a prediction, which
was none the less remarkable from its absolute fulfilment, though not
exactly in the spirit in which it was given out.
The night of the burial he laid his hand on the old horseshoe nailed
as a charm to the foremast, and solemnly told us that, in less than
three weeks, not one quarter of our number would remain aboard the
ship--by that time they would have left her for ever.
Some laughed; Flash Jack called him an old fool; but among the men
generally it produced a marked effect. For several days a degree of
quiet reigned among us, and allusions of such a kind were made to
recent events, as could be attributed to no other cause than the
For my own part, what had lately come to pass was not without its
influence. It forcibly brought to mind our really critical condition.
Doctor Long Ghost, too, frequently revealed his apprehensions, and
once assured me that he would give much to be safely landed upon any
island around us.
Where we were, exactly, no one but the mate seemed to know, nor
whither we were going. The captain--a mere cipher--was an invalid in
his cabin; to say nothing more of so many of his men languishing in
Our keeping the sea under these circumstances, a matter strange enough
at first, now seemed wholly unwarranted; and added to all was the
thought that our fate was absolutely in the hand of the reckless
Jermin. Were anything to happen to him, we would be left without a
navigator, for, according to Jermin himself, he had, from the
commencement of the voyage, always kept the ship's reckoning, the
captain's nautical knowledge being insufficient.
But considerations like these, strange as it may seem, seldom or never
occurred to the crew. They were alive only to superstitious fears;
and when, in apparent contradiction to the Finn's prophecy, the sick
men rallied a little, they began to recover their former spirits, and
the recollection of what had occurred insensibly faded from their
minds. In a week's time, the unworthiness of Little Jule as a sea
vessel, always a subject of jest, now became more so than ever. In the
forecastle, Flash Jack, with his knife, often dug into the dank,
rotten planks ribbed between us and death, and flung away the
splinters with some sea joke.
As to the remaining invalids, they were hardly ill enough to occasion
any serious apprehension, at least for the present, in the breasts of
such thoughtless beings as themselves. And even those who suffered
the most, studiously refrained from any expression of pain.
The truth is, that among sailors as a class, sickness at sea is so
heartily detested, and the sick so little cared for, that the
greatest invalid generally strives to mask his sufferings. He has
given no sympathy to others, and he expects none in return. Their
conduct, in this respect, so opposed to their generous-hearted
behaviour ashore, painfully affects the landsman on his first
intercourse with them as a sailor.
Sometimes, but seldom, our invalids inveighed against their being kept
at sea, where they could be of no service, when they ought to be
ashore and in the way of recovery. But--"Oh! cheer up--cheer up, my
hearties!"--the mate would say. And after this fashion he put a stop
to their murmurings.
But there was one circumstance, to which heretofore I have but barely
alluded, that tended more than anything else to reconcile many to
their situation. This was the receiving regularly, twice every day, a
certain portion of Pisco, which was served out at the capstan, by the
steward, in little tin measures called "tots."
The lively affection seamen have for strong drink is well known; but
in the South Seas, where it is so seldom to be had, a thoroughbred
sailor deems scarcely any price too dear which will purchase his
darling "tot." Nowadays, American whalemen in the Pacific never think
of carrying spirits as a ration; and aboard of most of them, it is
never served out even in times of the greatest hardships. All Sydney
whalemen, however, still cling to the old custom, and carry it as a
part of the regular supplies for the voyage.
In port, the allowance of Pisco was suspended; with a view,
undoubtedly, of heightening the attractions of being out of sight of
Now, owing to the absence of proper discipline, our sick, in addition
to what they took medicinally, often came in for their respective
"tots" convivially; and, added to all this, the evening of the last
day of the week was always celebrated by what is styled on board of
English vessels "The Saturday-night bottles." Two of these were sent
down into the forecastle, just after dark; one for the starboard
watch, and the other for the larboard.
By prescription, the oldest seaman in each claims the treat as his,
and, accordingly, pours out the good cheer and passes it round like a
lord doing the honours of his table. But the Saturday-night bottles
were not all. The carpenter and cooper, in sea parlance, Chips and
Bungs, who were the "Cods," or leaders of the forecastle, in some way
or other, managed to obtain an extra supply, which perpetually kept
them in fine after-dinner spirits, and, moreover, disposed them to
look favourably upon a state of affairs like the present.
But where were the sperm whales all this time? In good sooth, it made
little matter where they were, since we were in no condition to
capture them. About this time, indeed, the men came down from the
mast-heads, where, until now, they had kept up the form of relieving
each other every two hours. They swore they would go there no more.
Upon this, the mate carelessly observed that they would soon be where
look-outs were entirely unnecessary, the whales he had in his eye
(though Flash Jack said they were all in his) being so tame that they
made a practice of coming round ships, and scratching their backs
Thus went the world of waters with us, some four weeks or more after
OUR DESTINATION CHANGED
IT was not long after the death of the two men, that Captain Guy was
reported as fast declining, and in a day or two more, as dying. The
doctor, who previously had refused to enter the cabin upon any
consideration, now relented, and paid his old enemy a professional
He prescribed a warm bath, which was thus prepared. The skylight being
removed, a cask was lowered down into the cabin, and then filled with
buckets of water from the ship's coppers. The cries of the patient,
when dipped into his rude bath, were most painful to hear. They at
last laid him on the transom, more dead than alive.
That evening, the mate was perfectly sober, and coming forward to the
windlass, where we were lounging, summoned aft the doctor, myself,
and two or three others of his favourites; when, in the presence of
Bembo the Mowree, he spoke to us thus:
"I have something to say to ye, men. There's none but Bembo here as
belongs aft, so I've picked ye out as the best men for'ard to take
counsel with, d'ye see, consarning the ship. The captain's anchor is
pretty nigh atrip; I shouldn't wonder if he croaked afore morning. So
what's to be done? If we have to sew him up, some of those pirates
there for'ard may take it into their heads to run off with the ship,
because there's no one at the tiller. Now, I've detarmined what's
best to be done; but I don't want to do it unless I've good men to
back me, and make things all fair and square if ever we get home
We all asked what his plan was.
"I'll tell ye what it is, men. If the skipper dies, all agree to obey
my orders, and in less than three weeks I'll engage to have five
hundred barrels of sperm oil under hatches: enough to give every
mother's son of ye a handful of dollars when we get to Sydney. If ye
don't agree to this, ye won't have a farthing coming to ye."
Doctor Long Ghost at once broke in. He said that such a thing was not
to be dreamt of; that if the captain died, the mate was in duty bound
to navigate the ship to the nearest civilized port, and deliver her
up into an English consul's hands; when, in all probability, after a
run ashore, the crew would be sent home. Everything forbade the
mate's plan. "Still," said he, assuming an air of indifference, "if
the men say stick it out, stick it out say I; but in that case, the
sooner we get to those islands of yours the better."
Something more he went on to say; and from the manner in which the
rest regarded him, it was plain that our fate was in his hands. It
was finally resolved upon, that if Captain Guy was no better in
twenty-four hours, the ship's head should be pointed for the island
This announcement produced a strong sensation--the sick rallied--and
the rest speculated as to what was next to befall us; while the
doctor, without alluding to Guy, congratulated me upon the prospect
of soon beholding a place so famous as the island in question.
The night after the holding of the council, I happened to go on deck
in the middle watch, and found the yards braced sharp up on the
larboard tack, with the South East Trades strong on our bow. The
captain was no better; and we were off for Tahiti.
WHILE gliding along on our way, I cannot well omit some account of a
poor devil we had among us, who went by the name of Rope Yarn, or
He was a nondescript who had joined the ship as a landsman. Being so
excessively timid and awkward, it was thought useless to try and make
a sailor of him; so he was translated into the cabin as steward; the
man previously filling that post, a good seaman, going among the crew
and taking his place. But poor Ropey proved quite as clumsy among the
crockery as in the rigging; and one day when the ship was pitching,
having stumbled into the cabin with a wooden tureen of soup, he
scalded the officers so that they didn't get over it in a week. Upon
which, he was dismissed, and returned to the forecastle.
Now, nobody is so heartily despised as a pusillanimous, lazy,
good-for-nothing land-lubber; a sailor has no bowels of compassion
for him. Yet, useless as such a character may be in many respects, a
ship's company is by no means disposed to let him reap any benefit
from his deficiencies. Regarded in the light of a mechanical power,
whenever there is any plain, hard work to be done, he is put to it
like a lever; everyone giving him a pry.
Then, again, he is set about all the vilest work. Is there a heavy job
at tarring to be done, he is pitched neck and shoulders into a
tar-barrel, and set to work at it. Moreover, he is made to fetch and
carry like a dog. Like as not, if the mate sends him after his
quadrant, on the way he is met by the captain, who orders him to pick
some oakum; and while he is hunting up a bit of rope, a sailor comes
along and wants to know what the deuce he's after, and bids him be
off to the forecastle.
"Obey the last order," is a precept inviolable at sea. So the
land-lubber, afraid to refuse to do anything, rushes about
distracted, and does nothing: in the end receiving a shower of kicks
and cuffs from all quarters.
Added to his other hardships, he is seldom permitted to open his mouth
unless spoken to; and then, he might better keep silent. Alas for
him! if he should happen to be anything of a droll; for in an evil
hour should he perpetrate a joke, he would never know the last of it.
The witticisms of others, however, upon himself, must be received in
the greatest good-humour.
Woe be unto him, if at meal-times he so much as look sideways at the
beef-kid before the rest are helped.
Then he is obliged to plead guilty to every piece of mischief which
the real perpetrator refuses to acknowledge; thus taking the place of
that sneaking rascal nobody, ashore. In short, there is no end to his
The land-lubber's spirits often sink, and the first result of his
being moody and miserable is naturally enough an utter neglect of his
The sailors perhaps ought to make allowances; but heartless as they
are, they do not. No sooner is his cleanliness questioned than they
rise upon him like a mob of the Middle Ages upon a Jew; drag him into
the lee-scuppers, and strip him to the buff. In vain he bawls for
mercy; in vain calls upon the captain to save him.
Alas! I say again, for the land-lubber at sea. He is the veriest
wretch the watery world over. And such was Bope Tarn; of all
landlubbers, the most lubberly and most miserable. A forlorn,
stunted, hook-visaged mortal he was too; one of those whom you know
at a glance to have been tried hard and long in the furnace of
affliction. His face was an absolute puzzle; though sharp and sallow,
it had neither the wrinkles of age nor the smoothness of youth; so
that for the soul of me, I could hardly tell whether he was
twenty-five or fifty.
But to his history. In his better days, it seems he had been a
journeyman baker in London, somewhere about Holborn; and on Sundays
wore a Hue coat and metal buttons, and spent his afternoons in a
tavern, smoking his pipe and drinking his ale like a free and easy
journeyman baker that he was. But this did not last long; for an
intermeddling old fool was the ruin of him. He was told that London
might do very well for elderly gentlemen and invalids; but for a lad
of spirit, Australia was the Land of Promise. In a dark day Ropey
wound up his affairs and embarked.
Arriving in Sydney with a small capital, and after a while waxing snug
and comfortable by dint of hard kneading, he took unto himself a
wife; and so far as she was concerned, might then have gone into the
country and retired; for she effectually did his business. In short,
the lady worked him woe in heart and pocket; and in the end, ran off
with his till and his foreman. Ropey went to the sign of the Pipe and
Tankard; got fuddled; and over his fifth pot meditated suicide--an
intention carried out; for the next day he shipped as landsman aboard
the Julia, South Seaman.
The ex-baker would have fared far better, had it not been for his
heart, which was soft and underdone. A kind word made a fool of him;
and hence most of the scrapes he got into. Two or three wags, aware
of his infirmity, used to "draw him out" in conversation whenever the
most crabbed and choleric old seamen were present.
To give an instance. The watch below, just waked from their sleep, are
all at breakfast; and Ropey, in one corner, is disconsolately
partaking of its delicacies. "Now, sailors newly waked are no
cherubs; and therefore not a word is spoken, everybody munching his
biscuit, grim and unshaven. At this juncture an affable-looking
scamp--Flash Jack--crosses the forecastle, tin can in hand, and seats
himself beside the land-lubber.
"Hard fare this, Ropey," he begins; "hard enough, too, for them that's
known better and lived in Lun'nun. I say now, Ropey, s'poaing you
were back to Holborn this morning, what would you have for breakfast,
"Have for breakfast!" cried Ropey in a rapture. "Don't speak of it!"
"What ails that fellow?" here growled an old sea-bear, turning round
"Oh, nothing, nothing," said Jack; and then, leaning over to Rope
Yarn, he bade him go on, but speak lower.
"Well, then," said he, in a smuggled tone, his eyes lighting up like
two lanterns, "well, then, I'd go to Mother Moll's that makes the
great muffins: I'd go there, you know, and cock my foot on the 'ob,
and call for a noggin o' somethink to begin with."
"What then, Ropey?"
"Why then, Flashy," continued the poor victim, unconsciously warming
with his theme: "why then, I'd draw my chair up and call for Betty,
the gal wot tends to customers. Betty, my dear, says I, you looks
charmin' this mornin'; give me a nice rasher of bacon and h'eggs,
Betty my love; and I wants a pint of h'ale, and three nice h'ot
muffins and butter--and a slice of Cheshire; and Betty, I wants--"
"A shark-steak, and be hanged to you!" roared Black Dan, with an oath.
Whereupon, dragged over the chests, the ill-starred fellow is
pummelled on deck.
I always made a point of befriending poor Ropey when I could; and, for
this reason, was a great favourite of his.
CHIPS AND BUNGS
BOUND into port, Chips and Bungs increased their devotion to the
bottle; and, to the unspeakable envy of the rest, these jolly
companions--or "the Partners," as the men called them--rolled about
deck, day after day, in the merriest mood imaginable.
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