Omoo: Adventures in the South Seas
Part 2 out of 6
But jolly as they were in the main, two more discreet tipplers it
would be hard to find. No one ever saw them take anything, except
when the regular allowance was served out by the steward; and to make
them quite sober and sensible, you had only to ask them how they
contrived to keep otherwise. Some time after, however, their secret
The casks of Pisco were kept down the after-hatchway, which, for this
reason, was secured with bar and padlock. The cooper, nevertheless,
from time to time, effected a burglarious entry, by descending into
the fore-hold; and then, at the risk of being jammed to death,
crawling along over a thousand obstructions, to where the casks were
On the first expedition, the only one to be got at lay among others,
upon its bilge with the bung-hole well over. With a bit of iron hoop,
suitably bent, and a good deal of prying and punching, the bung was
forced in; and then the cooper's neck-handkerchief, attached to the
end of the hoop, was drawn in and out--the absorbed liquor being
deliberately squeezed into a small bucket.
Bungs was a man after a barkeeper's own heart. Drinking steadily,
until just manageably tipsy, he contrived to continue so; getting
neither more nor less inebriated, but, to use his own phrase,
remaining "just about right." When in this interesting state, he had
a free lurch in his gait, a queer way of hitching up his waistbands,
looked unnecessarily steady at you when speaking, and for the rest,
was in very tolerable spirits. At these times, moreover, he was
exceedingly patriotic; and in a most amusing way, frequently showed
his patriotism whenever he happened to encounter Dunk, a
good-natured, square-faced Dane, aboard.
It must be known here, by the bye, that the cooper had a true sailor
admiration for Lord Nelson. But he entertained a very erroneous idea
of the personal appearance of the hero. Not content with depriving
him of an eye and an arm, he stoutly maintained that he had also lost
a leg in one of his battles. Under this impression, he sometimes
hopped up to Dunk with one leg curiously locked behind him into his
right arm, at the same time closing an eye.
In this attitude he would call upon him to look up, and behold the man
who gave his countrymen such a thrashing at Copenhagen. "Look you,
Dunk," says he, staggering about, and winking hard with one eye to
keep the other shut, "Look you; one man--hang me, half a man--with
one leg, one arm, one eye--hang me, with only a piece of a carcase,
flogged your whole shabby nation. Do you deny it you lubber?"
The Dane was a mule of a man, and understanding but little English,
seldom made anything of a reply; so the cooper generally dropped his
leg, and marched off, with the air of a man who despised saying
WE ENCOUNTEB A GALE
THE mild blue weather we enjoyed after leaving the Marquesas gradually
changed as we ran farther south and approached Tahiti. In these
generally tranquil seas, the wind sometimes blows with great
violence; though, as every sailor knows, a spicy gale in the tropic
latitudes of the Pacific is far different from a tempest in the
howling North Atlantic. We soon found ourselves battling with the
waves, while the before mild Trades, like a woman roused, blew
fiercely, but still warmly, in our face.
For all this, the mate carried sail without stint; and as for brave
little Jule, she stood up to it well; and though once in a while
floored in the trough of a sea, sprang to her keel again and showed
play. Every old timber groaned--every spar buckled--every chafed cord
strained; and yet, spite of all, she plunged on her way like a racer.
Jermin, sea-jockey that he was, sometimes stood in the fore-chains,
with the spray every now and then dashing over him, and shouting out,
"Well done, Jule--dive into it, sweetheart. Hurrah!"
One afternoon there was a mighty queer noise aloft, which set the men
running in every direction. It was the main-t'-gallant-mast. Crash!
it broke off just above the cap, and held there by the rigging,
dashed with every roll from side to side, with all the hamper that
belonged to it. The yard hung by a hair, and at every pitch, thumped
against the cross-trees; while the sail streamed in ribbons, and the
loose ropes coiled, and thrashed the air, like whip-lashes. "Stand
from under!" and down came the rattling blocks, like so many shot.
The yard, with a snap and a plunge, went hissing into the sea,
disappeared, and shot its full length out again. The crest of a great
wave then broke over it--the ship rushed by--and we saw the stick no
While this lively breeze continued, Baltimore, our old black cook, was
in great tribulation.
Like most South Seamen, the Julia's "caboose," or cook-house, was
planted on the larboard side of the forecastle. Under such a press of
canvas, and with the heavy sea running the barque, diving her bows
under, now and then shipped green glassy waves, which, breaking over
the head-rails, fairly deluged that part of the ship, and washed
clean aft. The caboose-house--thought to be fairly lashed down to its
place--served as a sort of breakwater to the inundation.
About these times, Baltimore always wore what he called his "gale
suit," among other things comprising a Sou'-wester and a huge pair of
well-anointed sea-boots, reaching almost to his knees. Thus equipped
for a ducking or a drowning, as the case might be, our culinary
high-priest drew to the slides of his temple, and performed his sooty
rites in secret.
So afraid was the old man of being washed overboard that he actually
fastened one end of a small line to his waistbands, and coiling the
rest about him, made use of it as occasion required. When engaged
outside, he unwound the cord, and secured one end to a ringbolt in
the deck; so that if a chance sea washed him off his feet, it could
do nothing more.
One evening just as he was getting supper, the Julia reared up on her
stern like a vicious colt, and when she settled again forward, fairly
dished a tremendous sea. Nothing could withstand it. One side of the
rotten head-bulwarks came in with a crash; it smote the caboose, tore
it from its moorings, and after boxing it about, dashed it against
the windlass, where it stranded. The water then poured along the deck
like a flood rolling over and over, pots, pans, and kettles, and even
old Baltimore himself, who went breaching along like a porpoise.
Striking the taffrail, the wave subsided, and washing from side to
side, left the drowning cook high and dry on the after-hatch: his
extinguished pipe still between his teeth, and almost bitten in two.
The few men on deck having sprung into the main-rigging, sailor-like,
did nothing but roar at his calamity.
The same night, our flying-jib-boom snapped off like a pipe-stem, and
our spanker-gaff came down by the run.
By the following morning, the wind in a great measure had gone down;
the sea with it; and by noon we had repaired our damages as well as
we could, and were sailing along as pleasantly as ever.
But there was no help for the demolished bulwarks; we had nothing to
replace them; and so, whenever it breezed again, our dauntless craft
went along with her splintered prow dripping, but kicking up her
fleet heels just as high as before.
THE CORAL ISLANDS
HOW far we sailed to the westward after leaving the Marquesas, or what
might have been our latitude and longitude at any particular time, or
how many leagues we voyaged on our passage to Tahiti, are matters
about which, I am sorry to say, I cannot with any accuracy enlighten
the reader. Jermin, as navigator, kept our reckoning; and, as hinted
before, kept it all to himself. At noon, he brought out his quadrant,
a rusty old thing, so odd-looking that it might have belonged to an
Sometimes, when rather flustered from his potations, he went
staggering about deck, instrument to eye, looking all over for the
sun--a phenomenon which any sober observer might have seen right
overhead. How upon earth he contrived, on some occasions, to settle
his latitude, is more than I can tell. The longitude he must either
have obtained by the Rule of Three, or else by special revelation. Not
that the chronometer in the cabin was seldom to be relied on, or was
any ways fidgety; quite the contrary; it stood stock-still; and by
that means, no doubt, the true Greenwich time--at the period of
stopping, at least--was preserved to a second.
The mate, however, in addition to his "Dead Reckoning," pretended to
ascertain his meridian distance from Bow Bells by an occasional lunar
observation. This, I believe, consists in obtaining with the proper
instruments the angular distance between the moon and some one of the
stars. The operation generally requires two observers to take sights,
and at one and the same time.
Now, though the mate alone might have been thought well calculated for
this, inasmuch as he generally saw things double, the doctor was
usually called upon to play a sort of second quadrant to Jermin's
first; and what with the capers of both, they used to furnish a good
deal of diversion. The mate's tremulous attempts to level his
instrument at the star he was after, were comical enough. For my own
part, when he did catch sight of it, I hardly knew how he managed to
separate it from the astral host revolving in his own brain.
However, by hook or by crook, he piloted us along; and before many
days, a fellow sent aloft to darn a rent in the fore-top-sail, threw
his hat into the air, and bawled out "Land, ho!"
Land it was; but in what part of the South Seas, Jermin alone knew,
and some doubted whether even he did. But no sooner was the
announcement made, than he came running on deck, spy-glass in hand,
and clapping it to his eye, turned round with the air of a man
receiving indubitable assurance of something he was quite certain of
before. The land was precisely that for which he had been steering;
and, with a wind, in less than twenty-four hours we would sight
Tahiti. What he said was verified.
The island turned out to be one of the Pomotu or Low Group--sometimes
called the Coral Islands--perhaps the most remarkable and interesting
in the Pacific. Lying to the east of Tahiti, the nearest are within a
day's sail of that place.
They are very numerous; mostly small, low, and level; sometimes
wooded, but always covered with verdure. Many are crescent-shaped;
others resemble a horse-shoe in figure. These last are nothing more
than narrow circles of land surrounding a smooth lagoon, connected by
a single opening with the sea. Some of the lagoons, said to have
subterranean outlets, have no visible ones; the inclosing island, in
such cases, being a complete zone of emerald. Other lagoons still,
are girdled by numbers of small, green islets, very near to each
The origin of the entire group is generally ascribed to the coral
According to some naturalists, this wonderful little creature,
commencing its erections at the bottom of the sea, after the lapse of
centuries, carries them up to the surface, where its labours cease.
Here, the inequalities of the coral collect all floating bodies;
forming, after a time, a soil, in which the seeds carried thither by
birds germinate, and cover the whole with vegetation. Here and there,
all over this archipelago, numberless naked, detached coral
formations are seen, just emerging, as it were from the ocean. These
would appear to be islands in the very process of creation--at any
rate, one involuntarily concludes so, on beholding them.
As far as I know, there are but few bread-fruit trees in any part of
the Pomotu group. In many places the cocoa-nut even does not grow;
though, in others, it largely flourishes. Consequently, some of the
islands are altogether uninhabited; others support but a single
family; and in no place is the population very large. In some
respects the natives resemble the Tahitians: their language, too, is
very similar. The people of the southeasterly clusters--concerning
whom, however, but little is known--have a bad name as cannibals; and
for that reason their hospitality is seldom taxed by the mariner.
Within a few years past, missionaries from the Society group have
settled among the Leeward Islands, where the natives have treated
them kindly. Indeed, nominally, many of these people are now
Christians; and, through the political influence of their
instructors, no doubt, a short time since came tinder the allegiance
of Pomaree, the Queen of Tahiti; with which island they always
carried on considerable intercourse.
The Coral Islands are principally visited by the pearl-shell
fishermen, who arrive in small schooners, carrying not more than five
or six men.
For a long while the business was engrossed by Merenhout, the French
Consul at Tahiti, but a Dutchman by birth, who, in one year, is said
to have sent to France fifty thousand dollars' worth of shells. The
oysters are found in the lagoons, and about the reefs; and, for
half-a-dozen nails a day, or a compensation still less, the natives
are hired to dive after them.
A great deal of cocoa-nut oil is also obtained in various places. Some
of the uninhabited islands are covered with dense groves; and the
ungathered nuts which have fallen year after year, lie upon the
ground in incredible quantities. Two or three men, provided with the
necessary apparatus for trying out the oil, will, in the course of a
week or two, obtain enough to load one of the large sea-canoes.
Cocoa-nut oil is now manufactured in different parts of the South
Seas, and forms no small part of the traffic carried on with trading
vessels. A considerable quantity is annually exported from the
Society Islands to Sydney. It is used in lamps and for machinery,
being much cheaper than the sperm, and, for both purposes, better
than the right-whale oil. They bottle it up in large bamboos, six or
eight feet long; and these form part of the circulating medium of
To return to the ship. The wind dying away, evening came on before we
drew near the island. But we had it in view during the whole
It was small and round, presenting one enamelled level, free from
trees, and did not seem four feet above the water. Beyond it was
another and larger island, about which a tropical sunset was throwing
its glories; flushing all that part of the heavens, and making it
flame like a vast dyed oriel illuminated.
The Trades scarce filled our swooning sails; the air was languid with
the aroma of a thousand strange, flowering shrubs. Upon inhaling it,
one of the sick, who had recently shown symptoms of scurvy, cried out
in pain, and was carried below. This is no unusual effect in such
On we glided, within less than a cable's length of the shore which was
margined with foam that sparkled all round. Within, nestled the
still, blue lagoon. No living thing was seen, and, for aught we
knew, we might have been the first mortals who had ever beheld the
spot. The thought was quickening to the fancy; nor could I help
dreaming of the endless grottoes and galleries, far below the reach of
the mariner's lead.
And what strange shapes were lurking there! Think of those arch
creatures, the mermaids, chasing each other in and out of the coral
cells, and catching their long hair in the coral twigs!
AT early dawn of the following morning we saw the Peaks of Tahiti. In
clear weather they may be seen at the distance of ninety miles.
"Hivarhoo!" shouted Wymontoo, overjoyed, and running out upon the
bowsprit when the land was first faintly descried in the distance.
But when the clouds floated away, and showed the three peaks standing
like obelisks against the sky; and the bold shore undulating along
the horizon, the tears gushed from his eyes. Poor fellow! It was not
Hivarhoo. Green Hivarhoo was many a long league off.
Tahiti is by far the most famous island in the South Seas; indeed, a
variety of causes has made it almost classic. Its natural features
alone distinguish it from the surrounding groups. Two round and lofty
promontories, whose mountains rise nine thousand feet above the level
of the ocean, are connected by a low, narrow isthmus; the whole being
some one hundred miles in circuit. From the great central peaks of
the larger peninsula--Orohena, Aorai, and Pirohitee--the land radiates
on all sides to the sea in sloping green ridges. Between these are
broad and shadowy valleys--in aspect, each a Tempe--watered with fine
streams, and thickly wooded. Unlike many of the other islands, there
extends nearly all round Tahiti a belt of low, alluvial soil, teeming
with the richest vegetation. Here, chiefly, the natives dwell.
Seen from the sea, the prospect is magnificent. It is one mass of
shaded tints of green, from beach to mountain top; endlessly
diversified with valleys, ridges, glens, and cascades. Over the
ridges, here and there, the loftier peaks fling their shadows, and
far down the valleys. At the head of these, the waterfalls flash out
into the sunlight, as if pouring through vertical bowers of verdure.
Such enchantment, too, breathes over the whole, that it seems a fairy
world, all fresh and blooming from the hand of the Creator.
Upon a near approach, the picture loses not its attractions. It is no
exaggeration to say that, to a European of any sensibility, who, for
the first time, wanders back into these valleys--away from the haunts
of the natives--the ineffable repose and beauty of the landscape is
such, that every object strikes him like something seen in a dream;
and for a time he almost refuses to believe that scenes like these
should have a commonplace existence. No wonder that the French
bestowed upon the island the appellation of the New Cytherea.
"Often," says De Bourgainville, "I thought I was walking in the
Garden of Eden."
Nor, when first discovered, did the inhabitants of this charming
country at all diminish the wonder and admiration of the voyager.
Their physical beauty and amiable dispositions harmonized completely
with the softness of their clime. In truth, everything about them was
calculated to awaken the liveliest interest. Glance at their civil
and religious institutions. To their king, divine rights were paid;
while for poetry, their mythology rivalled that of ancient Greece.
Of Tahiti, earlier and more full accounts were given, than of any
other island in Polynesia; and this is the reason why it still
retains so strong a hold on the sympathies of all readers of South
Sea voyages. The journals of its first visitors, containing, as they
did, such romantic descriptions of a country and people before
unheard of, produced a marked sensation throughout Europe; and when
the first Tahitiana were carried thither, Omai in London, and
Aotooroo in Paris, were caressed by nobles, scholars, and ladies.
In addition to all this, several eventful occurrences, more or less
connected with Tahiti, have tended to increase its celebrity. Over
two centuries ago, Quiros, the Spaniard, is supposed to have touched
at the island; and at intervals, Wallis, Byron, Cook, De
Bourgainville, Vancouver, Le Perouse, and other illustrious
navigators refitted their vessels in its harbours. Here the famous
Transit of Venus was observed, in 1769. Here the memorable mutiny of
the Bounty afterwards had its origin. It was to the pagans of Tahiti
that the first regularly constituted Protestant missionaries were
sent; and from their shores also, have sailed successive missions to
the neighbouring islands.
These, with other events which might be mentioned, have united in
keeping up the first interest which the place awakened; and the
recent proceedings of the French have more than ever called forth the
sympathies of the public.
A SURPRISE--MORE ABOUT BEMBO
THE sight of the island was right welcome. Going into harbour after a
cruise is always joyous enough, and the sailor is apt to indulge in
all sorts of pleasant anticipations. But to us, the occasion was
heightened by many things peculiar to our situation.
Since steering for the land, our prospects had been much talked over.
By many it was supposed that, should the captain leave the ship, the
crew were no longer bound by her articles. This was the opinion of
our forecastle Cokes; though, probably, it would not have been
sanctioned by the Marine Courts of Law. At any rate, such was the
state of both vessel and crew that, whatever might be the event, a
long stay, and many holidays in Tahiti, were confidently predicted.
Everybody was in high spirits. The sick, who had been improving day by
day since the change in our destination, were on deck, and leaning
over the bulwarks; some all animation, and others silently admiring
an object unrivalled for its stately beauty--Tahiti from the sea.
The quarter-deck, however, furnished a marked contrast to what was
going on at the other end of the ship. The Mowree was there, as
usual, scowling by himself; and Jermin walked to and fro in deep
thought, every now and then looking to windward, or darting into the
cabin and quickly returning.
With all our light sails wooingly spread, we held on our way, until,
with the doctor's glass, Papeetee, the village metropolis of Tahiti,
came into view. Several ships were descried lying in the harbour, and
among them, one which loomed up black and large; her two rows of
teeth proclaiming a frigate. This was the Reine Blanche, last from
the Marquesas, and carrying at the fore the flag of Rear-Admiral Du
Petit Thouars. Hardly had we made her out, when the booming of her
guns came over the water. She was firing a salute, which afterwards
turned out to be in honour of a treaty; or rather--as far as the
natives were concerned--a forced cession of Tahiti to the French,
that morning concluded.
The cannonading had hardly died away, when Jermin's voice was heard
giving an order so unexpected that everyone started. "Stand by to
haul back the main-yard!"
"What's that mean?" shouted the men, "are we not going into port?"
"Tumble after here, and no words!" cried the mate; and in a moment the
main-yard swung round, when, with her jib-boom pointing out to sea,
the Julia lay as quiet as a duck. We all looked blank--what was to
Presently the steward made his appearance, carrying a mattress, which
he spread out in the stern-sheets of the captain's boat; two or three
chests, and other things belonging to his master, were similarly
This was enough. A slight hint suffices for a sailor.
Still adhering to his resolution to keep the ship at sea in spite of
everything, the captain, doubtless, intended to set himself ashore,
leaving the vessel, under the mate, to resume her voyage at once; but
after a certain period agreed upon, to touch at the island, and take
him off. All this, of course, could easily be done without
approaching any nearer the land with the Julia than we now were.
Invalid whaling captains often adopt a plan like this; but, in the
present instance, it was wholly unwarranted; and, everything
considered, at war with the commonest principles of prudence and
humanity. And, although, on Guy's part, this resolution showed more
hardihood than he had ever been given credit for, it, at the same
time, argued an unaccountable simplicity, in supposing that such a
crew would, in any way, submit to the outrage.
It was soon made plain that we were right in our suspicions; and the
men became furious. The cooper and carpenter volunteered to head a
mutiny forthwith; and while Jermin was below, four or five rushed aft
to fasten down the cabin scuttle; others, throwing down the
main-braces, called out to the rest to lend a hand, and fill away for
the land. All this was done in an instant; and things were looking
critical, when Doctor Long Ghost and myself prevailed upon them to
wait a while, and do nothing hastily; there was plenty of time, and
the ship was completely in our power.
While the preparations were still going on in the cabin, we mustered
the men together, and went into counsel upon the forecastle.
It was with much difficulty that we could bring these rash spirits to
a calm consideration of the case. But the doctor's influence at last
began to tell; and, with a few exceptions, they agreed to be guided
by him; assured that, if they did so, the ship would eventually be
brought to her anchors without anyone getting into trouble. Still
they told us, up and down, that if peaceable means failed, they would
seize Little Jule, and carry her into Papeetee, if they all swung for
it; but, for the present, the captain should have his own way.
By this time everything was ready; the boat was lowered and brought to
the gangway; and the captain was helped on deck by the mate and
steward. It was the first time we had seen him in more than two
weeks, and he was greatly altered. As if anxious to elude every eye,
a broad-brimmed Payata hat was pulled down over his brow; so that his
face was only visible when the brim flapped aside. By a sling, rigged
from the main-yard, the cook and Bembo now assisted in lowering him
into the boat. As he went moaning over the side, he must have heard
the whispered maledictions of his crew.
While the steward was busy adjusting matters in the boat, the mate,
after a private interview with the Mowree, turned round abruptly, and
told us that he was going ashore with the captain, to return as soon
as possible. In his absence, Bembo, as next in rank, would command;
there being nothing to do but keep the ship at a safe distance from
the land. He then sprang into the boat, and, with only the cook and
steward as oarsmen, steered for the shore.
Guy's thus leaving the ship in the men's hands, contrary to the mate's
advice, was another evidence of his simplicity; for at this
particular juncture, had neither the doctor nor myself been aboard,
there is no telling what they might have done.
For the nonce, Bembo was captain; and, so far as mere seamanship was
concerned, he was as competent to command as anyone. In truth, a
better seaman never swore. This accomplishment, by the bye, together
with a surprising familiarity with most nautical names and phrases,
comprised about all the English he knew.
Being a harpooner, and, as such, having access to the cabin, this man,
though not yet civilized, was, according to sea usages, which know no
exceptions, held superior to the sailors; and therefore nothing was
said against his being left in charge of the ship; nor did it
occasion any surprise.
Some additional account must be given of Bembo. In the first place, he
was far from being liked. A dark, moody savage, everybody but the
mate more or less distrusted or feared him. Nor were these feelings
unreciprocated. Unless duty called, he seldom went among the crew.
Hard stories too were told about him; something, in particular,
concerning an hereditary propensity to kill men and eat them. True, he
came from a race of cannibals; but that was all that was known to a
Whatever unpleasant ideas were connected with the Mowree, his
personal appearance no way lessened them. Unlike most of his
countrymen, he was, if anything, below the ordinary height; but then,
he was all compact, and under his swart, tattooed skin, the muscles
worked like steel rods. Hair, crisp and coal-black, curled over
shaggy brows, and ambushed small, intense eyes, always on the glare.
In short, he was none of your effeminate barbarians.
Previous to this, he had been two or three voyages in Sydney whalemen;
always, however, as in the present instance, shipping at the Bay of
Islands, and receiving his discharge there on the homeward-bound
passage. In this way, his countrymen frequently enter on board the
colonial whaling vessels.
There was a man among us who had sailed with the Mowree on his first
voyage, and he told me that he had not changed a particle since then.
Some queer things this fellow told me. The following is one of his
stories. I give it for what it is worth; premising, however, that
from what I know of Bembo, and the foolhardy, dare-devil feats
sometimes performed in the sperm-whale fishery, I believe in its
As may be believed, Bembo was a wild one after a fish; indeed, all New
Zealanders engaged in this business are; it seems to harmonize
sweetly with their blood-thirsty propensities. At sea, the best
English they speak is the South Seaman's slogan in lowering away, "A
dead whale, or a stove boat!" Game to the marrow, these fellows are
generally selected for harpooners; a post in which a nervous, timid
man would be rather out of his element.
In darting, the harpooner, of course, stands erect in the head of the
boat, one knee braced against a support. But Bembo disdained this;
and was always pulled up to his fish, balancing himself right on the
But to my story. One morning, at daybreak, they brought him up to a
large, long whale. He darted his harpoon, and missed; and the fish
sounded. After a while, the monster rose again, about a mile off, and
they made after him. But he was frightened, or "gallied," as they
call it; and noon came, and the boat was still chasing him. In
whaling, as long as the fish is in sight, and no matter what may have
been previously undergone, there is no giving up, except when night
comes; and nowadays, when whales are so hard to be got, frequently
not even then. At last, Bembo's whale was alongside for the second
time. He darted both harpoons; but, as sometimes happens to the best
men, by some unaccountable chance, once more missed. Though it is
well known that such failures will happen at times, they,
nevertheless, occasion the bitterest disappointment to a boat's crew,
generally expressed in curses both loud and deep. And no wonder. Let
any man pull with might and main for hours and hours together, under
a burning sun; and if it do not make him a little peevish, he is no
The taunts of the seamen may have maddened the Mowree; however it was,
no sooner was he brought up again, than, harpoon in hand, he bounded
upon the whale's back, and for one dizzy second was seen there. The
next, all was foam and fury, and both were out of sight. The men
sheered off, flinging overboard the line as fast as they could; while
ahead, nothing was seen but a red whirlpool of blood and brine.
Presently, a dark object swam out; the line began to straighten; then
smoked round the loggerhead, and, quick as thought, the boat sped
like an arrow through the water. They were "fast," and the whale was
Where was the Mowree? His brown hand was on the boat's gunwale; and he
was hauled aboard in the very midst of the mad bubbles that burst
under the bows.
Such a man, or devil, if you will, was Bembo.
THE ROUND ROBIN--VISITORS FROM SHORE
AFTER the captain left, the land-breeze died away; and, as is usual
about these islands, toward noon it fell a dead calm. There was
nothing to do but haul up the courses, run down the jib, and lay and
roll upon the swells. The repose of the elements seemed to
communicate itself to the men; and for a time there was a lull.
Early in the afternoon, the mate, having left the captain at Papeetee,
returned to the ship. According to the steward, they were to go
ashore again right after dinner with the remainder of Guy's effects.
On gaining the deck, Jermin purposely avoided us and went below
without saying a word. Meanwhile, Long Ghost and I laboured hard to
diffuse the right spirit among the crew; impressing upon them that a
little patience and management would, in the end, accomplish all that
their violence could; and that, too, without making a serious matter
For my own part, I felt that I was under a foreign flag; that an
English consul was close at hand, and that sailors seldom obtain
justice. It was best to be prudent. Still, so much did I sympathize
with the men, so far, at least, as their real grievances were
concerned; and so convinced was I of the cruelty and injustice of what
Captain Guy seemed bent upon, that if need were, I stood ready to
raise a hand.
In spite of all we could do, some of them again became most
refractory, breathing nothing but downright mutiny. When we went
below to dinner these fellows stirred up such a prodigious tumult
that the old hull fairly echoed. Many, and fierce too, were the
speeches delivered, and uproarious the comments of the sailors. Among
others Long Jim, or--as the doctor afterwards called
him--Lacedaemonian Jim, rose in his place, and addressed the
forecastle parliament in the following strain:
"Look ye, Britons! if after what's happened, this here craft goes to
sea with us, we are no men; and that's the way to say it. Speak the
word, my livelies, and I'll pilot her in. I've been to Tahiti before
and I can do it." Whereupon, he sat down amid a universal pounding of
chest-lids, and cymbaling of tin pans; the few invalids, who, as yet,
had not been actively engaged with the rest, now taking part in the
applause, creaking their bunk-boards and swinging their hammocks.
Cries also were heard, of "Handspikes and a shindy!" "Out
Several now ran on deck, and, for the moment, I thought it was all
over with us; but we finally succeeded in restoring some degree of
At last, by way of diverting their thoughts, I proposed that a "Round
Robin" should be prepared and sent ashore to the consul by Baltimore,
the cook. The idea took mightily, and I was told to set about it at
once. On turning to the doctor for the requisite materials, he told
me he had none; there was not a fly-leaf, even in any of his books.
So, after great search, a damp, musty volume, entitled "A History of
the most Atrocious and Bloody Piracies," was produced, and its two
remaining blank leaves being torn out, were by help of a little pitch
lengthened into one sheet. For ink, some of the soot over the lamp
was then mixed with water, by a fellow of a literary turn; and an
immense quill, plucked from a distended albatross' wing, which,
nailed against the bowsprit bitts, had long formed an ornament of the
forecastle, supplied a pen.
Making use of the stationery thus provided, I indited, upon a
chest-lid, a concise statement of our grievances; concluding with the
earnest hope that the consul would at once come off, and see how
matters stood for himself. Eight beneath the note was described the
circle about which the names were to be written; the great object of
a Round Robin being to arrange the signatures in such a way that,
although they are all found in a ring, no man can be picked out as
the leader of it.
Few among them had any regular names; many answering to some familiar
title, expressive of a personal trait; or oftener still, to the name
of the place from which they hailed; and in one or two cases were
known by a handy syllable or two, significant of nothing in
particular but the men who bore them. Some, to be sure, had, for the
sake of formality, shipped under a feigned cognomen, or "Purser's
name"; these, however, were almost forgotten by themselves; and so,
to give the document an air of genuineness, it was decided that every
man's name should be put down as it went among the crew.
It is due to the doctor to say that the circumscribed device was his.
Folded, and sealed with a drop of tar, the Round Robin was directed to
"The English Consul, Tahiti"; and, handed to the cook, was by him
delivered into that gentleman's hands as soon as the mate went
On the return of the boat, sometime after dark, we learned a good deal
from old Baltimore, who, having been allowed to run about as much as
he pleased, had spent his time gossiping.
Owing to the proceedings of the French, everything in Tahiti was in an
uproar. Pritchard, the missionary consul, was absent in England; but
his place was temporarily filled by one Wilson, an educated white
man, born on the island, and the son of an old missionary of that
name still living.
With natives and foreigners alike, Wilson the younger was exceedingly
unpopular, being held an unprincipled and dissipated man, a character
verified by his subsequent conduct. Pritchard's selecting a man like
this to attend to the duties of his office, had occasioned general
Though never in Europe or America, the acting consul had been several
voyages to Sydney in a schooner belonging to the mission; and
therefore our surprise was lessened, when Baltimore told us, that he
and Captain Guy were as sociable as could be--old acquaintances, in
fact; and that the latter had taken up his quarters at Wilson's
house. For us this boded ill.
The mate was now assailed by a hundred questions as to what was going
to be done with us. His only reply was, that in the morning the
consul would pay us a visit, and settle everything.
After holding our ground off the harbour during the night, in the
morning a shore boat, manned by natives, was seen coming off. In it
were Wilson and another white man, who proved to be a Doctor Johnson,
an Englishman, and a resident physician of Papeetee.
Stopping our headway as they approached, Jermin advanced to the
gangway to receive them. No sooner did the consul touch the deck,
than he gave us a specimen of what he was.
"Mr. Jermin," he cried loftily, and not deigning to notice the
respectful salutation of the person addressed, "Mr. Jermin, tack
ship, and stand off from the land."
Upon this, the men looked hard at him, anxious to see what sort of a
looking "cove" he was. Upon inspection, he turned out to be an
exceedingly minute "cove," with a viciously pugged nose, and a
decidedly thin pair of legs. There was nothing else noticeable about
him. Jermin, with ill-assumed suavity, at once obeyed the order, and
the ship's head soon pointed out to sea.
Now, contempt is as frequently produced at first sight as love; and
thus was it with respect to Wilson. No one could look at him without
conceiving a strong dislike, or a cordial desire to entertain such a
feeling the first favourable opportunity. There was such an
intolerable air of conceit about this man that it was almost as much
as one could do to refrain from running up and affronting him.
"So the counsellor is come," exclaimed Navy Bob, who, like all the
rest, invariably styled him thus, much to mine and the doctor's
diversion. "Ay," said another, "and for no good, I'll be bound."
Such were some of the observations made, as Wilson and the mate went
But no one exceeded the cooper in the violence with which he inveighed
against the ship and everything connected with her. Swearing like a
trooper, he called the main-mast to witness that, if he (Bungs) ever
again went out of sight of land in the Julia, he prayed Heaven that a
fate might be his--altogether too remarkable to be here related.
Much had he to say also concerning the vileness of what we had to
eat--not fit for a dog; besides enlarging upon the imprudence of
intrusting the vessel longer to a man of the mate's intemperate
habits. With so many sick, too, what could we expect to do in the
fishery? It was no use talking; come what come might, the ship must
let go her anchor.
Now, as Bungs, besides being an able seaman, a "Cod" in the
forecastle, and about the oldest man in it, was, moreover, thus
deeply imbued with feelings so warmly responded to by the rest, he
was all at once selected to officiate as spokesman, as soon as the
consul should see fit to address us. The selection was made contrary
to mine and the doctor's advice; however, all assured us they would
keep quiet, and hear everything Wilson had to say, before doing
We were not kept long in suspense; for very soon he was seen standing
in the cabin gangway, with the tarnished tin case containing the
ship's papers; and Jennin at once sung out for the ship's company to
muster on the quarter-deck.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE CONSUL
THE order was instantly obeyed, and the sailors ranged themselves,
facing the consul.
They were a wild company; men of many climes--not at all precise in
their toilet arrangements, but picturesque in their very tatters. My
friend, the Long Doctor, was there too; and with a view, perhaps, of
enlisting the sympathies of the consul for a gentleman in distress,
had taken more than ordinary pains with his appearance. But among the
sailors, he looked like a land-crane blown off to sea, and consorting
The forlorn Rope Yarn, however, was by far the most remarkable figure.
Land-lubber that he was, his outfit of sea-clothing had long since
been confiscated; and he was now fain to go about in whatever he
could pick up. His upper garment--an unsailor-like article of dress
which he persisted in wearing, though torn from his back twenty times
in the day--was an old "claw-hammer jacket," or swallow-tail coat,
formerly belonging to Captain Guy, and which had formed one of his
perquisites when steward.
By the side of Wilson was the mate, bareheaded, his gray locks lying
in rings upon his bronzed brow, and his keen eye scanning the crowd
as if he knew their every thought. His frock hung loosely, exposing
his round throat, mossy chest, and short and nervous arm embossed
with pugilistic bruises, and quaint with many a device in India ink.
In the midst of a portentous silence, the consul unrolled his papers,
evidently intending to produce an effect by the exceeding bigness of
"Mr. Jermin, call off their names;" and he handed him a list of the
All answered but the deserters and the two mariners at the bottom of
It was now supposed that the Round Robin would be produced, and
something said about it. But not so. Among the consul's papers that
unique document was thought to be perceived; but, if there, it was
too much despised to be made a subject of comment. Some present, very
justly regarding it as an uncommon literary production, had been
anticipating all sorts of miracles therefrom; and were, therefore,
much touched at this neglect.
"Well, men," began Wilson again after a short pause, "although you all
look hearty enough, I'm told there are some sick among you. Now then,
Mr. Jermin, call off the names on that sick-list of yours, and let
them go over to the other side of the deck--I should like to see who
"So, then," said he, after we had all passed over, "you are the sick
fellows, are you? Very good: I shall have you seen to. You will go
down into the cabin one by one, to Doctor Johnson, who will report
your respective cases to me. Such as he pronounces in a dying state I
shall have sent ashore; the rest will be provided with everything
needful, and remain aboard."
At this announcement, we gazed strangely at each other, anxious to see
who it was that looked like dying, and pretty nearly deciding to stay
aboard and get well, rather than go ashore and be buried. There were
some, nevertheless, who saw very plainly what Wilson was at, and they
acted accordingly. For my own part, I resolved to assume as dying an
expression as possible; hoping that, on the strength of it, I might
be sent ashore, and so get rid of the ship without any further
With this intention, I determined to take no part in anything that
might happen until my case was decided upon. As for the doctor, he
had all along pretended to be more or less unwell; and by a
significant look now given me, it was plain that he was becoming
The invalids disposed of for the present, and one of them having gone
below to be examined, the consul turned round to the rest, and
addressed them as follows:--
"Men, I'm going to ask you two or three questions--let one of you
answer yes or no, and the rest keep silent. Now then: Have you
anything to say against your mate, Mr. Jermin?" And he looked
sharply among the sailors, and, at last, right into the eye of the
cooper, whom everybody was eyeing.
"Well, sir," faltered Bungs, "we can't say anything against Mr.
Jermin's seamanship, but--"
"I want no buts," cried the consul, breaking in: "answer me yes or
no--have you anything to say against Mr. Jermin?"
"I was going on to say, sir; Mr. Jermin's a very good man; but then--"
Here the mate looked marlinespikes at Bungs; and Bungs, after
stammering out something, looked straight down to a seam in the deck,
and stopped short.
A rather assuming fellow heretofore, the cooper had sported many
feathers in his cap; he was now showing the white one.
"So much then for that part of the business," exclaimed Wilson,
smartly; "you have nothing to say against him, I see."
Upon this, several seemed to be on the point of saying a good deal;
but disconcerted by the cooper's conduct, checked themselves, and the
"Have you enough to eat, aboard? answer me, you man who spoke
"Well, I don't know as to that," said the cooper, looking excessively
uneasy, and trying to edge back, but pushed forward again. "Some of
that salt horse ain't as sweet as it might be."
"That's not what I asked you," shouted the consul, growing brave quite
fast; "answer my questions as I put them, or I'll find a way to make
This was going a little too far. The ferment, into which the cooper's
poltroonery had thrown the sailors, now brooked no restraint; and one
of them--a young American who went by the name of Salem--dashed out
from among the rest, and fetching the cooper a blow that sent him
humming over toward the consul, flourished a naked sheath-knife in
the air, and burst forth with "I'm the little fellow that can answer
your questions; just put them to me once, counsellor." But the
"counsellor" had no more questions to ask just then; for at the
alarming apparition of Salem's knife, and the extraordinary effect
produced upon Bungs, he had popped his head down the companion-way,
and was holding it there.
Upon the mate's assuring him, however, that it was all over, he looked
up, quite flustered, if not frightened, but evidently determined to
put as fierce a face on the matter as practicable. Speaking sharply,
he warned all present to "look out"; and then repeated the question,
whether there was enough to eat aboard. Everyone now turned
spokesman; and he was assailed by a perfect hurricane of yells, in
which the oaths fell like hailstones.
"How's this! what d'ye mean?" he cried, upon the first lull; "who told
you all to speak at once? Here, you man with the knife, you'll be
putting someone's eyes out yet; d'ye hear, you sir? You seem to have
a good deal to say, who are you, pray; where did you ship?"
"I'm nothing more nor a bloody beach-comber," retorted Salem, stepping
forward piratically and eyeing him; "and if you want to know, I
shipped at the Islands about four months ago."
"Only four months ago? And here you have more to say than men who have
been aboard the whole voyage;" and the consul made a dash at looking
furious, but failed. "Let me hear no more from you, sir. Where's
that respectable, gray-headed man, the cooper? he's the one to answer
"There's no 'spectable, gray-headed men aboard," returned Salem;
"we're all a parcel of mutineers and pirates!"
All this time, the mate was holding his peace; and Wilson, now
completely abashed, and at a loss what to do, took him by the arm,
and walked across the deck. Returning to the cabin-scuttle, after a
close conversation, he abruptly addressed the sailors, without taking
any further notice of what had just happened.
"For reasons you all know, men, this ship has been placed in my hands.
As Captain Guy will remain ashore for the present, your mate, Mr.
Jermin, will command until his recovery. According to my judgment,
there is no reason why the voyage should not be at once resumed;
especially, as I shall see that you have two more harpooners, and
enough good men to man three boats. As for the sick, neither you nor I
have anything to do with them; they will be attended to by Doctor
Johnson; but I've explained that matter before. As soon as things can
be arranged--in a day or two, at farthest--you will go to sea for a
three months' cruise, touching here, at the end of it, for your
captain. Let me hear a good report of you, now, when you come back.
At present, you will continue lying off and on the harbour. I will
send you fresh provisions as soon as I can get them. There: I've
nothing more to say; go forward to your stations."
And, without another word, he wheeled round to descend into the cabin.
But hardly had he concluded before the incensed men were dancing
about him on every side, and calling upon him to lend an ear. Each
one for himself denied the legality of what he proposed to do;
insisted upon the necessity for taking the ship in; and finally gave
him to understand, roughly and roundly, that go to sea in her they
In the midst of this mutinous uproar, the alarmed consul stood fast by
the scuttle. His tactics had been decided upon beforehand; indeed,
they must have been concerted ashore, between him and the captain;
for all he said, as he now hurried below, was, "Go forward, men; I'm
through with you: you should have mentioned these matters before: my
arrangements are concluded: go forward, I say; I've nothing more to
say to you." And, drawing over the slide of the scuttle, he
disappeared. Upon the very point of following him down, the attention
of the exasperated seamen was called off to a party who had just then
taken the recreant Bungs in hand. Amid a shower of kicks and cuffs,
the traitor was borne along to the forecastle, where--I forbear to
relate what followed.
THE CONSUL'S DEPARTURE
DURING THE scenes just described, Doctor Johnson was engaged in
examining the sick, of whom, as it turned out, all but two were to
remain in the ship. He had evidently received his cue from Wilson.
One of the last called below into the cabin, just as the quarter-deck
gathering dispersed, I came on deck quite incensed. My lameness,
which, to tell the truth, was now much better, was put down as, in a
great measure, affected; and my name was on the list of those who
would be fit for any duty in a day or two. This was enough. As for
Doctor Long Ghost, the shore physician, instead of extending to him
any professional sympathy, had treated him very cavalierly. To a
certain extent, therefore, we were now both bent on making common
cause with the sailors.
I must explain myself here. All we wanted was to have the ship snugly
anchored in Papeetee Bay; entertaining no doubt that, could this be
done, it would in some way or other peaceably lead to our
emancipation. Without a downright mutiny, there was but one way to
accomplish this: to induce the men to refuse all further duty, unless
it were to work the vessel in. The only difficulty lay in restraining
them within proper bounds. Nor was it without certain misgivings,
that I found myself so situated, that I must necessarily link myself,
however guardedly, with such a desperate company; and in an
enterprise, too, of which it was hard to conjecture what might be the
result. But anything like neutrality was out of the question; and
unconditional submission was equally so.
On going forward, we found them ten times more tumultuous than ever.
After again restoring some degree of tranquillity, we once more urged
our plan of quietly refusing duty, and awaiting the result. At first,
few would hear of it; but in the end, a good number were convinced by
our representations. Others held out. Nor were those who thought with
us in all things to be controlled.
Upon Wilson's coming on deck to enter his boat, he was beset on all
sides; and, for a moment, I thought the ship would be seized before
his very eyes.
"Nothing more to say to you, men: my arrangements are made. Go
forward, where you belong. I'll take no insolence;" and, in a tremor,
Wilson hurried over the side in the midst of a volley of execrations.
Shortly after his departure, the mate ordered the cook and steward
into his boat; and saying that he was going to see how the captain
did, left us, as before, under the charge of Bembo.
At this time we were lying becalmed, pretty close in with the land
(having gone about again), our main-topsail flapping against the mast
with every roll.
The departure of the consul and Jermin was followed by a scene
absolutely indescribable. The sailors ran about deck like madmen;
Bembo, all the while leaning against the taff-rail by himself,
smoking his heathenish stone pipe, and never interfering.
The cooper, who that morning had got himself into a fluid of an
exceedingly high temperature, now did his best to regain the favour
of the crew. "Without distinction of party," he called upon all hands
to step up, and partake of the contents of his bucket.
But it was quite plain that, before offering to intoxicate others, he
had taken the wise precaution of getting well tipsy himself. He was
now once more happy in the affection of his shipmates, who, one and
all, pronounced him sound to the kelson.
The Pisco soon told; and, with great difficulty, we restrained a party
in the very act of breaking into the after-hold in pursuit of more.
All manner of pranks were now played.
"Mast-head, there! what d'ye see?" bawled Beauty, hailing the
main-truck through an enormous copper funnel. "Stand by for stays,"
roared Flash Jack, bawling off with the cook's axe, at the fastening
of the main-stay. "Looky out for 'quails!" shrieked the Portuguese,
Antone, darting a handspike through the cabin skylight. And "Heave
round cheerly, men," sung out Navy Bob, dancing a hornpipe on the
THE SECOND NIGHT OFF PAPEETEE
TOWARD sunset, the mate came off, singing merrily, in the stern of his
boat; and in attempting to climb up the side, succeeded in going
plump into the water. He was rescued by the steward, and carried
across the deck with many moving expressions of love for his bearer.
Tumbled into the quarter-boat, he soon fell asleep, and waking about
midnight, somewhat sobered, went forward among the men. Here, to
prepare for what follows, we must leave him for a moment.
It was now plain enough that Jermin was by no means unwilling to take
the Julia to sea; indeed, there was nothing he so much desired;
though what his reasons were, seeing our situation, we could only
conjecture. Nevertheless, so it was; and having counted much upon his
rough popularity with the men to reconcile them to a short cruise
under him, he had consequently been disappointed in their behaviour.
Still, thinking that they would take a different view of the matter,
when they came to know what fine times he had in store for them, he
resolved upon trying a little persuasion.
So on going forward, he put his head down the forecastle scuttle, and
hailed us quite cordially, inviting us down into the cabin; where, he
said, he had something to make merry withal. Nothing loth, we went;
and throwing ourselves along the transom, waited for the steward to
As the can circulated, Jermin, leaning on the table and occupying the
captain's arm-chair secured to the deck, opened his mind as bluntly
and freely as ever. He was by no means yet sober.
He told us we were acting very foolishly; that if we only stuck to the
ship, he would lead us all a jovial life of it; enumerating the casks
still remaining untapped in the Julia's wooden cellar. It was even
hinted vaguely that such a thing might happen as our not coming back
for the captain; whom he spoke of but lightly; asserting, what he had
often said before, that he was no sailor.
Moreover, and perhaps with special reference to Doctor Long Ghost and
myself, he assured us generally that, if there were any among us
studiously inclined, he would take great pleasure in teaching such
the whole art and mystery of navigation, including the gratuitous use
of his quadrant.
I should have mentioned that, previous to this, he had taken the
doctor aside, and said something about reinstating him in the cabin
with augmented dignity; beside throwing out a hint that I myself was
in some way or other to be promoted. But it was all to no purpose;
bent the men were upon going ashore, and there was no moving them.
At last he flew into a rage--much increased by the frequency of his
potations--and with many imprecations, concluded by driving everybody
out of the cabin. We tumbled up the gangway in high good-humour.
Upon deck everything looked so quiet that some of the most pugnacious
spirits actually lamented that there was so little prospect of an
exhilarating disturbance before morning. It was not five minutes,
however, ere these fellows were gratified.
Sydney Ben--said to be a runaway Ticket-of-Leave-Man, and for reasons
of his own, one of the few who still remained on duty--had, for the
sake of the fun, gone down with the rest into the cabin; where Bembo,
who meanwhile was left in charge of the deck, had frequently called
out for him. At first, Ben pretended not to hear; but on being sung
out for again and again, bluntly refused; at the same time, casting
some illiberal reflections on the Mowree's maternal origin, which the
latter had been long enough among the sailors to understand as in the
highest degree offensive. So just after the men came up from below,
Bembo singled him out, and gave him such a cursing in his broken
lingo that it was enough to frighten one. The convict was the worse
for liquor; indeed the Mowree had been tippling also, and before we
knew it, a blow was struck by Ben, and the two men came together like
The Ticket-of-Leave-Man was a practised bruiser; but the savage knew
nothing of the art pugilistic: and so they were even. It was clear
hugging and wrenching till both came to the deck. Here they rolled
over and over in the middle of a ring which seemed to form of itself.
At last the white man's head fell back, and his face grew purple.
Bembo's teeth were at his throat. Rushing in all round, they hauled
the savage off, but not until repeatedly struck on the head would he
His rage was now absolutely demoniac; he lay glaring and writhing on
the deck, without attempting to rise. Cowed, as they supposed he was,
from his attitude, the men, rejoiced at seeing him thus humbled, left
him; after rating him, in sailor style, for a cannibal and a coward.
Ben was attended to, and led below.
Soon after this, the rest also, with but few exceptions, retired into
the forecastle; and having been up nearly all the previous night,
they quickly dropped about the chests and rolled into the hammocks.
In an hour's time, not a sound could be heard in that part of the
Before Bembo was dragged away, the mate had in vain endeavoured to
separate the combatants, repeatedly striking the Mowree; but the
seamen interposing, at last kept him off.
And intoxicated as he was, when they dispersed, he knew enough to
charge the steward--a steady seaman be it remembered--with the
present safety of the ship; and then went below, when he fell
directly into another drunken sleep.
Having remained upon deck with the doctor some time after the rest had
gone below, I was just on the point of following him down, when I saw
the Mowree rise, draw a bucket of water, and holding it high above
his head, pour its contents right over him. This he repeated several
times. There was nothing very peculiar in the act, but something else
about him struck me. However, I thought no more of it, but descended
After a restless nap, I found the atmosphere of the forecastle so
close, from nearly all the men being down at the same time, that I
hunted up an old pea-jacket and went on deck; intending to sleep it
out there till morning. Here I found the cook and steward, Wymontoo,
Hope Yarn, and the Dane; who, being all quiet, manageable fellows,
and holding aloof from the rest since the captain's departure, had
been ordered by the mate not to go below until sunrise. They were
lying under the lee of the bulwarks; two or three fast asleep, and
the others smoking their pipes, and conversing.
To my surprise, Bembo was at the helm; but there being so few to stand
there now, they told me, he had offered to take his turn with the
rest, at the same time heading the watch; and to this, of course,
they made no objection.
It was a fine, bright night; all moon and stars, and white crests of
waves. The breeze was light, but freshening; and close-hauled, poor
little Jule, as if nothing had happened, was heading in for the land,
which rose high and hazy in the distance.
After the day's uproar, the tranquillity of the scene was soothing,
and I leaned over the side to enjoy it.
More than ever did I now lament my situation--but it was useless to
repine, and I could not upbraid myself. So at last, becoming drowsy,
I made a bed with my jacket under the windlass, and tried to forget
How long I lay there, I cannot tell; but as I rose, the first object
that met my eye was Bembo at the helm; his dark figure slowly rising
and falling with the ship's motion against the spangled heavens
behind. He seemed all impatience and expectation; standing at arm's
length from the spokes, with one foot advanced, and his bare head
thrust forward. Where I was, the watch were out of sight; and no one
else was stirring; the deserted decks and broad white sails were
gleaming in the moonlight.
Presently, a swelling, dashing sound came upon my ear, and I had a
sort of vague consciousness that I had been hearing it before. The
next instant I was broad awake and on my feet. Eight ahead, and so
near that my heart stood still, was a long line of breakers, heaving
and frothing. It was the coral reef girdling the island. Behind it,
and almost casting their shadows upon the deck, were the sleeping
mountains, about whose hazy peaks the gray dawn was just breaking.
The breeze had freshened, and with a steady, gliding motion, we were
running straight for the reef.
All was taken in at a glance; the fell purpose of Bembo was obvious,
and with a frenzied shout to wake the watch, I rushed aft. They
sprang to their feet bewildered; and after a short, but desperate
scuffle, we tore him from the helm. In wrestling with him, the wheel
--left for a moment unguarded--flew to leeward, thus, fortunately,
bringing the ship's head to the wind, and so retarding her progress.
Previous to this, she had been kept three or four points free, so as
to close with the breakers. Her headway now shortened, I steadied the
helm, keeping the sails just lifting, while we glided obliquely
toward the land. To have run off before the wind--an easy
thing--would have been almost instant destruction, owing to a curve of
the reef in that direction. At this time, the Dane and the steward
were still struggling with the furious Mowree, and the others were
running about irresolute and shouting.
But darting forward the instant I had the helm, the old cook thundered
on the forecastle with a handspike, "Breakers! breakers close
aboard!--'bout ship! 'bout ship!"
Up came the sailors, staring about them in stupid horror.
"Haul back the head-yards!" "Let go the lee fore-brace!" "Beady about!
about!" were now shouted on all sides; while distracted by a thousand
orders, they ran hither and thither, fairly panic-stricken.
It seemed all over with us; and I was just upon the point of throwing
the ship full into the wind (a step, which, saving us for the
instant, would have sealed our fate in the end), when a sharp cry
shot by my ear like the flight of an arrow.
It was Salem: "All ready for'ard; hard down!"
Round and round went the spokes--the Julia, with her short keel,
spinning to windward like a top. Soon, the jib-sheets lashed the
stays, and the men, more self-possessed, flew to the braces.
"Main-sail haul!" was now heard, as the fresh breeze streamed fore and
aft the deck; and directly the after-yards were whirled round.
In a half-a-minute more, we were sailing away from the land on the
other tack, with every sail distended.
Turning on her heel within little more than a biscuit's toss of the
reef, no earthly power could have saved us, were it not that, up to
the very brink of the coral rampart, there are no soundings.
OUTBREAK OF THE CREW
THE purpose of Bembo had been made known to the men generally by the
watch; and now that our salvation was certain, by an instinctive
impulse they raised a cry, and rushed toward him.
Just before liberated by Dunk and the steward, he was standing
doggedly by the mizzen-mast; and, as the infuriated sailors came on,
his bloodshot eye rolled, and his sheath-knife glittered over his
"Down with him!" "Strike him down!" "Hang him at the main-yard!" such
were the shouts now raised. But he stood unmoved, and, for a single
instant, they absolutely faltered.
"Cowards!" cried Salem, and he flung himself upon him. The steel
descended like a ray of light; but did no harm; for the sailor's
heart was beating against the Mowree's before he was aware.
They both fell to the deck, when the knife was instantly seized, and
"For'ard! for'ard with him!" was again the cry; "give him a sea-toss!"
"Overboard with him!" and he was dragged along the deck, struggling
and fighting with tooth and nail.
All this uproar immediately over the mate's head at last roused him
from his drunken nap, and he came staggering on deck.
"What's this?" he shouted, running right in among them.
"It's the Mowree, zur; they are going to murder him, zur," here sobbed
poor Rope Yarn, crawling close up to him.
"Avast! avast!" roared Jermin, making a spring toward Bembo, and
dashing two or three of the sailors aside. At this moment the wretch
was partly flung over the bulwarks, which shook with his frantic
struggles. In vain the doctor and others tried to save him: the men
listened to nothing.
"Murder and mutiny, by the salt sea!" shouted the mate; and dashing
his arms right and left, he planted his iron hand upon the Mowree's
"There are two of us now; and as you serve him, you serve me," he
cried, turning fiercely round.
"Over with them together, then," exclaimed the carpenter, springing
forward; but the rest fell back before the courageous front of
Jermin, and, with the speed of thought, Bembo, unharmed, stood upon
"Aft with ye!" cried his deliverer; and he pushed him right among the
men, taking care to follow him up close. Giving the sailors no time
to recover, he pushed the Mowree before him, till they came to the
cabin scuttle, when he drew the slide over him, and stood still.
Throughout, Bembo never spoke one word.
"Now for'ard where ye belong!" cried the mate, addressing the seamen,
who by this time, rallying again, had no idea of losing their victim.
"The Mowree! the Mowree!" they shouted.
Here the doctor, in answer to the mate's repeated questions, stepped
forward, and related what Bembo had been doing; a matter which the
mate but dimly understood from the violent threatenings he had been
For a moment he seemed to waver; but at last, turning the key of the
padlock of the slide, he breathed through his set teeth--"Ye can't
have him; I'll hand him over to the consul; so for'ard with ye, I
say: when there's any drowning to be done, I'll pass the word; so
away with ye, ye blood-thirsty pirates."
It was to no purpose that they begged or threatened: Jermin, although
by no means sober, stood his ground manfully, and before long they
dispersed, soon to forget everything that had happened.
Though we had no opportunity to hear him confess it, Bembo's intention
to destroy us was beyond all question. His only motive could have
been a desire to revenge the contumely heaped upon him the night
previous, operating upon a heart irreclaimably savage, and at no time
fraternally disposed toward the crew.
During the whole of this scene the doctor did his best to save him.
But well knowing that all I could do would have been equally useless,
I maintained my place at the wheel. Indeed, no one but Jermin could
have prevented this murder.
JERMIN ENCOUNTERS AN OLD SHIPMATE
DURING the morning of the day which dawned upon the events just
recounted, we remained a little to leeward of the harbour, waiting
the appearance of the consul, who had promised the mate to come off
in a shore boat for the purpose of seeing him.
By this time the men had forced his secret from the cooper, and the
consequence was that they kept him continually coming and going from
the after-hold. The mate must have known this; but he said nothing,
notwithstanding all the dancing and singing, and occasional fighting
which announced the flow of the Pisco.
The peaceable influence which the doctor and myself had heretofore
been exerting, was now very nearly at an end.
Confident, from the aspect of matters, that the ship, after all, would
be obliged to go in; and learning, moreover, that the mate had said
so, the sailors, for the present, seemed in no hurry about it;
especially as the bucket of Bungs gave such generous cheer.
As for Bembo, we were told that, after putting him in double irons,
the mate had locked him up in the captain's state-room, taking the
additional precaution of keeping the cabin scuttle secured. From this
time forward we never saw the Mowree again, a circumstance which will
explain itself as the narrative proceeds.
Noon came, and no consul; and as the afternoon advanced without any
word even from the shore, the mate was justly incensed; more
especially as he had taken great pains to keep perfectly sober
against Wilson's arrival.
Two or three hours before sundown, a small schooner came out of the
harbour, and headed over for the adjoining island of Imeeo, or
Moreea, in plain sight, about fifteen miles distant. The wind
failing, the current swept her down under our bows, where we had a
fair glimpse of the natives on her decks.
There were a score of them, perhaps, lounging upon spread mats, and
smoking their pipes. On floating so near, and hearing the maudlin
cries of our crew, and beholding their antics, they must have taken
us for a pirate; at any rate, they got out their sweeps, and pulled
away as fast as they could; the sight of our two six-pounders, which,
by way of a joke, were now run out of the side-ports, giving a fresh
impetus to their efforts. But they had not gone far, when a white
man, with a red sash about his waist, made his appearance on deck,
the natives immediately desisting.
Hailing us loudly, he said he was coming aboard; and after some
confusion on the schooner's decks, a small canoe was launched
over-hoard, and, in a minute or two, he was with us. He turned out to
be an old shipmate of Jermin's, one Viner, long supposed dead, but
now resident on the island.
The meeting of these men, under the circumstances, is one of a
thousand occurrences appearing exaggerated in fiction; but,
nevertheless, frequently realized in actual lives of adventure.
Some fifteen years previous, they had sailed together as officers of
the barque Jane, of London, a South Seaman. Somewhere near the New
Hebrides, they struck one night upon an unknown reef; and, in a few
hours, the Jane went to pieces. The boats, however, were saved; some
provisions also, a quadrant, and a few other articles. But several of
the men were lost before they got clear of the wreck.
The three boats, commanded respectively by the captain, Jermin, and
the third mate, then set sail for a small English settlement at the
Bay of Islands in New Zealand. Of course they kept together as much
as possible. After being at sea about a week, a Lascar in the
captain's boat went crazy; and, it being dangerous to keep him, they
tried to throw him overboard. In the confusion that ensued the boat
capsized from the sail's "jibing"; and a considerable sea running at
the time, and the other boats being separated more than usual, only
one man was picked up. The very next night it blew a heavy gale; and
the remaining boats taking in all sail, made bundles of their oars,
flung them overboard, and rode to them with plenty of line. When
morning broke, Jermin and his men were alone upon the ocean: the
third mate's boat, in all probability, having gone down.
After great hardships, the survivors caught sight of a brig, which
took them on board, and eventually landed them at Sydney.
Ever since then our mate had sailed from that port, never once hearing
of his lost shipmates, whom, by this time, of course, he had long
given up. Judge, then, his feelings when Viner, the lost third mate,
the instant he touched the deck, rushed up and wrung him by the hand.
During the gale his line had parted; so that the boat, drifting fast
to leeward, was out of sight by morning. Reduced, after this, to
great extremities, the boat touched, for fruit, at an island of which
they knew nothing. The natives, at first, received them kindly; but
one of the men getting into a quarrel on account of a woman, and the
rest taking his part, they were all massacred but Viner, who, at the
time, was in an adjoining village. After staying on the island more
than two years, he finally escaped in the boat of an American whaler,
which landed him at Valparaiso. From this period he had continued to
follow the seas, as a man before the mast, until about eighteen
months previous, when he went ashore at Tahiti, where he now owned the
schooner we saw, in which he traded among the neighbouring islands.
The breeze springing up again just after nightfall, Viner left us,
promising his old shipmate to see him again, three days hence, in
WE ENTER THE HARBOUR--JIM THE PILOT
EXHAUSTED by the day's wassail, most of the men went below at an early
hour, leaving the deck to the steward and two of the men remaining on
duty; the mate, with Baltimore and the Dane, engaging to relieve them
at midnight. At that hour, the ship--now standing off shore, under
short sail--was to be tacked.
It was not long after midnight, when we were wakened in the forecastle
by the lion roar of Jermin's voice, ordering a pull at the
jib-halyards; and soon afterwards, a handspike struck the scuttle,
and all hands were called to take the ship into port.
This was wholly unexpected; but we learned directly that the mate, no
longer relying upon the consul, and renouncing all thought of
inducing the men to change their minds, had suddenly made up his own.
He was going to beat up to the entrance of the harbour, so as to show
a signal for a pilot before sunrise.
Notwithstanding this, the sailors absolutely refused to assist in
working the ship under any circumstances whatever: to all mine and
the doctor's entreaties lending a deaf ear. Sink or strike, they
swore they would have nothing more to do with her. This perverse-ness
was to be attributed, in a great measure, to the effects of their
With a strong breeze, all sail set, and the ship in the hands of four
or five men, exhausted by two nights' watching, our situation was bad
enough; especially as the mate seemed more reckless than ever, and we
were now to tack ship several times close under the land.
Well knowing that if anything untoward happened to the vessel before
morning, it would be imputed to the conduct of the crew, and so lead
to serious results, should they ever be brought to trial; I called
together those on deck to witness my declaration;--that now that the
Julia was destined for the harbour (the only object for which I, at
least, had been struggling), I was willing to do what I could toward
carrying her in safely. In this step I was followed by the doctor.
The hours passed anxiously until morning; when, being well to windward
of the mouth of the harbour, we bore up for it, with the union-jack
at the fore. No sign, however, of boat or pilot was seen; and after
running close in several times, the ensign was set at the
mizzen-peak, union down in distress. But it was of no avail.
Attributing to Wilson this unaccountable remissness on the part of
those ashore, Jermin, quite enraged, now determined to stand boldly
in upon his own responsibility; trusting solely to what he remembered
of the harbour on a visit there many years previous.
This resolution was characteristic. Even with a competent pilot,
Papeetee Bay, is considered a ticklish, one to enter. Formed by a
bold sweep of the shore, it is protected seaward by the coral reef,
upon which the rollers break with great violence. After stretching
across the bay, the barrier extends on toward Point Venus, in the
district of Matavia, eight or nine miles distant. Here there is an
opening, by which ships enter, and glide down the smooth, deep canal,
between the reef and the shore, to the harbour. But, by seamen
generally, the leeward entrance is preferred, as the wind is
extremely variable inside the reef. This latter entrance is a break in
the barrier directly facing the bay and village of Papeetee. It is
very narrow; and from the baffling winds, currents, and sunken rocks,
ships now and then grate their keels against the coral.
But the mate was not to be daunted; so, stationing what men he had at
the braces, he sprang upon the bulwarks, and, bidding everybody keep
wide awake, ordered the helm up. In a few moments, we were running
in. Being toward noon, the wind was fast leaving us, and, by the time
the breakers were roaring on either hand, little more than
steerage-way was left. But on we glided--smoothly and deftly; avoiding
the green, darkling objects here and there strewn in our path; Jermin
occasionally looking down in the water, and then about him, with the
utmost calmness, and not a word spoken. Just fanned along thus, it
was not many minutes ere we were past all danger, and floated into
the placid basin within. This was the cleverest specimen of his
seamanship that he ever gave us.
As we held on toward the frigate and shipping, a canoe, coming out
from among them, approached. In it were a boy and an old man--both
islanders; the former nearly naked, and the latter dressed in an old
naval frock-coat. Both were paddling with might and main; the old
man, once in a while, tearing his paddle out of the water; and, after
rapping his companion over the head, both fell to with fresh vigour.
As they came within hail, the old fellow, springing to his feet and
flourishing his paddle, cut some of the queerest capers; all the
while jabbering something which at first we could not understand.
Presently we made out the following:--"Ah! you pemi, ah!--you
come!--What for you come?--You be fine for come no pilot.--I say, you
hear?--I say, you ita maitui (no good).--You hear?--You no
pilot.--Yes, you d----me, you no pilot 't all; I d---- you; you
This tirade, which showed plainly that, whatever the profane old
rascal was at, he was in right good earnest, produced peals of
laughter from the ship. Upon which, he seemed to get beside himself;
and the boy, who, with suspended paddle, was staring about him,
received a sound box over the head, which set him to work in a
twinkling, and brought the canoe quite near. The orator now opening
afresh, it turned out that his vehement rhetoric was all addressed to
the mate, still standing conspicuously on the bulwarks.
But Jermin was in no humour for nonsense; so, with a sailor's
blessing, he ordered him off. The old fellow then flew into a regular
frenzy, cursing and swearing worse than any civilized being I ever
"You sabbee me?" he shouted. "You know me, ah? Well; me Jim, me
pilot--been pilot now long time."
"Ay," cried Jermin, quite surprised, as indeed we all were, "you are
the pilot, then, you old pagan. Why didn't you come off before this?"
"Ah! me scibbee,--me know--you piratee (pirate)--see you long time,
but no me come--I sabbee you--you ita maitai nuee (superlatively
"Paddle away with ye," roared Jermin, in a rage; "be off! or I'll dart
a harpoon at ye!"
But, instead of obeying the order, Jim, seizing his paddle, darted the
canoe right up to the gangway, and, in two bounds, stood on deck.
Pulling a greasy silk handkerchief still lower over his brow, and
improving the sit of his frock-coat with a vigorous jerk, he then
strode up to the mate; and, in a more flowery style than ever, gave
him to understand that the redoubtable "Jim," himself, was before
him; that the ship was his until the anchor was down; and he should
like to hear what anyone had to say to it.
As there now seemed little doubt that he was all he claimed to be, the
Julia was at last surrendered.
Our gentleman now proceeded to bring us to an anchor, jumping up
between the knight-heads, and bawling out "Luff! luff! keepy off!
leeepy off!" and insisting upon each time being respectfully
responded to by the man at the helm. At this time our steerage-way
was almost gone; and yet, in giving his orders, the passionate old
man made as much fuss as a white squall aboard the Flying Dutchman.
Jim turned out to be the regular pilot of the harbour; a post, be it
known, of no small profit; and, in his eyes, at least, invested with
immense importance. Our unceremonious entrance, therefore, was
regarded as highly insulting, and tending to depreciate both the
dignity and lucrativeness of his office.
The old man is something of a wizard. Having an understanding with the
elements, certain phenomena of theirs are exhibited for his
particular benefit. Unusually clear weather, with a fine steady
breeze, is a certain sign that a merchantman is at hand; whale-spouts
seen from the harbour are tokens of a whaling vessel's approach; and
thunder and lightning, happening so seldom as they do, are proof
positive that a man-of-war is drawing near.
In short, Jim, the pilot, is quite a character in his way; and no one
visits Tahiti without hearing some curious story about him.
A GLANCE AT PAPEETEE--WE ARE SENT ABOARD THE FRIGATE
THE village of Papeetee struck us all very pleasantly. Lying in a
semicircle round the bay, the tasteful mansions of the chiefs and
foreign residents impart an air of tropical elegance, heightened by
the palm-trees waving here and there, and the deep-green groves of
the Bread-Fruit in the background. The squalid huts of the common
people are out of sight, and there is nothing to mar the prospect.
All round the water extends a wide, smooth beach of mixed pebbles and
fragments of coral. This forms the thoroughfare of the village; the
handsomest houses all facing it--the fluctuation of the tides being
so inconsiderable that they cause no inconvenience.
The Pritchard residence--a fine large building--occupies a site on one
side of the bay: a green lawn slopes off to the sea: and in front
waves the English flag. Across the water, the tricolour also, and the
stars and stripes, distinguish the residences of the other consuls.
What greatly added to the picturesqueness of the bay at this time was
the condemned hull of a large ship, which, at the farther end of the
harbour, lay bilged upon the beach, its stern settled low in the
water, and the other end high and dry. From where we lay, the trees
behind seemed to lock their leafy boughs over its bowsprit; which,
from its position, looked nearly upright.
She was an American whaler, a very old craft. Having sprung a leak at
sea, she had made all sail for the island, to heave down for repairs.
Found utterly unseaworthy, however, her oil was taken out and sent
home in another vessel; the hull was then stripped and sold for a
Before leaving Tahiti, I had the curiosity to go over this poor old
ship, thus stranded on a strange shore. What were my emotions, when I
saw upon her stern the name of a small town on the river Hudson! She
was from the noble stream on whose banks I was born; in whose waters
I had a hundred times bathed. In an instant, palm-trees and
elms--canoes and skiffs--church spires and bamboos--all mingled in one
vision of the present and the past.
But we must not leave little Jule.
At last the wishes of many were gratified; and like an aeronaut's
grapnel, her rusty little anchor was caught in the coral groves at
the bottom of Papeetee Bay. This must have been more than forty days
after leaving the Marquesas.
The sails were yet unfurled, when a boat came alongside with our
esteemed friend Wilson, the consul.
"How's this, how's this, Mr. Jermin?" he began, looking very savage as
he touched the deck. "What brings you in without orders?"
"You did not come off to us, as you promised, sir; and there was no
hanging on longer with nobody to work the ship," was the blunt reply.
"So the infernal scoundrels held out--did they? Very good; I'll make
them sweat for it," and he eyed the scowling men with unwonted
intrepidity. The truth was, he felt safer now, than when outside the
"Muster the mutineers on the quarter-deck," he continued. "Drive them
aft, sir, sick and well: I have a word to say to them."
"Now, men," said he, "you think it's all well with you, I suppose. You
wished the ship in, and here she is. Captain Guy's ashore, and you
think you must go too: but we'll see about that--I'll miserably
disappoint you." (These last were his very words.) "Mr. Jermin, call
off the names of those who did not refuse duty, and let them go over
to the starboard side."
This done, a list was made out of the "mutineers," as he was pleased
to call the rest. Among these, the doctor and myself were included;
though the former stepped forward, and boldly pleaded the office held
by him when the vessel left Sydney. The mate also--who had always
been friendly--stated the service rendered by myself two nights
previous, as well as my conduct when he announced his intention to
enter the harbour. For myself, I stoutly maintained that, according
to the tenor of the agreement made with Captain Guy, my time aboard
the ship had expired--the cruise being virtually at an end, however
it had been brought about--and I claimed my discharge.
But Wilson would hear nothing. Marking something in my manner,
nevertheless, he asked my name and country; and then observed with a
sneer, "Ah, you are the lad, I see, that wrote the Round Robin; I'll
take good care of you, my fine fellow--step back, sir."
As for poor Long Ghost, he denounced him as a "Sydney Flash-Gorger";
though what under heaven he meant by that euphonious title is more
than I can tell. Upon this, the doctor gave him such a piece of his
mind that the consul furiously commanded him to hold his peace, or he
would instantly have him seized into the rigging and flogged. There
was no help for either of us--we were judged by the company we kept.
All were now sent forward; not a word being said as to what he
intended doing with us.
After a talk with the mate, the consul withdrew, going aboard the
French frigate, which lay within a cable's length. We now suspected
his object; and since matters had come to this pass, were rejoiced at
it. In a day or two the Frenchman was to sail for Valparaiso, the
usual place of rendezvous for the English squadron in the Pacific;
and doubtless, Wilson meant to put us on board, and send us thither to
be delivered up. Should our conjecture prove correct, all we had to
expect, according to our most experienced shipmates, was the fag end
of a cruise in one of her majesty's ships, and a discharge before
long at Portsmouth.
We now proceeded to put on all the clothes we could--frock over frock,
and trousers over trousers--so as to be in readiness for removal at a
moment's warning. Armed ships allow nothing superfluous to litter up
the deck; and therefore, should we go aboard the frigate, our chests
and their contents would have to be left behind.
In an hour's time, the first cutter of the Reine Blanche came
alongside, manned by eighteen or twenty sailors, armed with cutlasses
and boarding pistols--the officers, of course, wearing their
side-arms, and the consul in an official cocked hat borrowed for the
occasion. The boat was painted a "pirate black," its crew were a
dark, grim-looking set, and the officers uncommonly fierce-looking
little Frenchmen. On the whole they were calculated to
intimidate--the consul's object, doubtless, in bringing them.
Summoned aft again, everyone's name was called separately; and being
solemnly reminded that it was his last chance to escape punishment,
was asked if he still refused duty. The response was instantaneous:
"Ay, sir, I do." In some cases followed up by divers explanatory
observations, cut short by Wilson's ordering the delinquent to the
cutter. As a general thing, the order was promptly obeyed--some
taking a sequence of hops, skips, and jumps, by way of showing not
only their unimpaired activity of body, but their alacrity in
complying with all reasonable requests.
Having avowed their resolution not to pull another rope of the
Julia's--even if at once restored to perfect health--all the
invalids, with the exception of the two to be set ashore, accompanied
us into the cutter: They were in high spirits; so much so that
something was insinuated about their not having been quite as ill as
The cooper's name was the last called; we did not hear what he
answered, but he stayed behind. Nothing was done about the Mowree.
Shoving clear from the ship, three loud cheers were raised; Flash Jack
and others receiving a sharp reprimand for it from the consul.
"Good-bye, Little Jule," cried Navy Bob, as we swept under the bows.
"Don't fall overboard, Ropey," said another to the poor landlubber,
who, with Wymontoo, the Dane, and others left behind, was looking
over at us from the forecastle.
"Give her three more!" cried Salem, springing to his feet and whirling
his hat round. "You sacre dam raakeel," shouted the lieutenant of
the party, bringing the flat of his sabre across his shoulders, "you
now keepy steel."
The doctor and myself, more discreet, sat quietly in the bow of the
cutter; and for my own part, though I did not repent what I had done,
my reflections were far from being enviable.
RECEPTION FROM THE FRENCHMAN
IN a few moments, we were paraded in the frigate's gangway; the first
lieutenant--an elderly yellow-faced officer, in an ill-cut coat and
tarnished gold lace--coming up, and frowning upon us.
This gentleman's head was a mere bald spot; his legs, sticks; in
short, his whole physical vigour seemed exhausted in the production
of one enormous moustache. Old Gamboge, as he was forthwith
christened, now received a paper from the consul; and, opening it,
proceeded to compare the goods delivered with the invoice.
After being thoroughly counted, a meek little midshipman was called,
and we were soon after given in custody to half-a-dozen
sailor-soldiers--fellows with tarpaulins and muskets. Preceded by a
pompous functionary (whom we took for one of the ship's corporals,
from his ratan and the gold lace on his sleeve), we were now escorted
down the ladders to the berth-deck.
Here we were politely handcuffed, all round; the man with the bamboo
evincing the utmost solicitude in giving us a good fit from a large
basket of the articles of assorted sizes.
Taken by surprise at such an uncivil reception, a few of the party
demurred; but all coyness was, at last, overcome; and finally our
feet were inserted into heavy anklets of iron, running along a great
bar bolted down to the deck. After this, we considered ourselves
permanently established in our new quarters.
"The deuce take their old iron!" exclaimed the doctor; "if I'd known
this, I'd stayed behind."
"Ha, ha!" cried Flash Jack, "you're in for it, Doctor Long Ghost."
"My hands and feet are, any way," was the reply.
They placed a sentry over us; a great lubber of a fellow, who marched
up and down with a dilapidated old cutlass of most extraordinary
dimensions. From its length, we had some idea that it was expressly
intended to keep a crowd in order--reaching over the heads of
half-a-dozen, say, so as to get a cut at somebody behind.
"Mercy!" ejaculated the doctor with a shudder, "what a sensation it
must be to be killed by such a tool."
We fasted till night, when one of the boys came along with a couple of
"kids" containing a thin, saffron-coloured fluid, with oily particles
floating on top. The young wag told us this was soup: it turned out
to be nothing more than oleaginous warm water. Such as it was,
nevertheless, we were fain to make a meal of it, our sentry being
attentive enough to undo our bracelets. The "kids" passed from mouth
to mouth, and were soon emptied.
The next morning, when the sentry's back was turned, someone, whom we
took for an English sailor, tossed over a few oranges, the rinds of
which we afterward used for cups.
On the second day nothing happened worthy of record. On the third, we
were amused by the following scene.
A man, whom we supposed a boatswain's mate, from the silver whistle
hanging from his neck, came below, driving before him a couple of
blubbering boys, and followed by a whole troop of youngsters in
tears. The pair, it seemed, were sent down to be punished by command
of an officer; the rest had accompanied them out of sympathy.
The boatswain's mate went to work without delay, seizing the poor
little culprits by their loose frocks, and using a ratan without
mercy. The other boys wept, clasped their hands, and fell on their
knees; but in vain; the boatswain's mate only hit out at them; once
in a while making them yell ten times louder than ever.
In the midst of the tumult, down comes a midshipman, who, with a great
air, orders the man on deck, and running in among the bows, sets them
to scampering in all directions.
The whole of this proceeding was regarded with infinite scorn by Navy
Bob, who, years before, had been captain of the foretop on board a
line-of-battle ship. In his estimation, it was a lubberly piece of
business throughout: they did things differently in the English navy.
THE REINE BLANCHE
I CANNOT forbear a brief reflection upon the scene ending the last
The ratanning of the young culprits, although significant of the
imperfect discipline of a French man-of-war, may also be considered
as in some measure characteristic of the nation.
In an American or English ship, a boy when flogged is either lashed to
the breech of a gun, or brought right up to the gratings, the same
way the men are. But as a general rule, he is never punished beyond
his strength. You seldom or never draw a cry from the young rogue. He
bites his tongue and stands up to it like a hero. If practicable
(which is not always the case), he makes a point of smiling under the
operation. And so far from his companions taking any compassion on
him, they always make merry over his misfortunes. Should he turn baby
and cry, they are pretty sure to give him afterward a sly pounding in
some dark corner.
This tough training produces its legitimate results. The boy becomes,
in time, a thoroughbred tar, equally ready to strip and take a dozen
on board his own ship, or, cutlass in hand, dash pell-mell on board
the enemy's. Whereas the young Frenchman, as all the world knows,
makes but an indifferent seaman; and though, for the most part, he
fights well enough, somehow or other he seldom fights well enough to
How few sea-battles have the French ever won! But more: how few ships
have they ever carried by the board--that true criterion of naval
courage! But not a word against French bravery--there is plenty of
it; but not of the right sort. A Yankee's, or an Englishman's, is the
downright Waterloo "game." The French fight better on land; and not
being essentially a maritime people, they ought to stay there. The
best of shipwrights, they are no sailors.
And this carries me back to the Reine Blanche, as noble a specimen of
what wood and iron can make as ever floated.
She was a new ship: the present her maiden cruise. The greatest pains
having been taken in her construction, she was accounted the "crack"
craft in the French navy. She is one of the heavy sixty-gun frigates
now in vogue all over the world, and which we Yankees were the first
to introduce. In action these are the most murderous vessels ever
The model of the Reine Blanche has all that warlike comeliness only to
be seen in a fine fighting ship. Still, there is a good deal of
French flummery about her--brass plates and other gewgaws stuck on
all over, like baubles on a handsome woman.
Among other things, she carries a stern gallery resting on the
uplifted hands of two Caryatides, larger than life. You step out upon
this from the commodore's cabin. To behold the rich hangings, and
mirrors, and mahogany within, one is almost prepared to see a bevy of
ladies trip forth on the balcony for an airing.
But come to tread the gun-deck, and all thoughts like these are put to
flight. Such batteries of thunderbolt hurlers! with a
sixty-eight-pounder or two thrown in as make-weights. On the
spar-deck, also, are carronades of enormous calibre.
Recently built, this vessel, of course, had the benefit of the latest
improvements. I was quite amazed to see on what high principles of
art some exceedingly simple things were done. But your Gaul is
scientific about everything; what other people accomplish by a few
hard knocks, he delights in achieving by a complex arrangement of the
pulley, lever, and screw.
What demi-semi-quavers in a French air! In exchanging naval
courtesies, I have known a French band play "Yankee Doodle" with such
a string of variations that no one but a "pretty 'cute" Yankee could
tell what they were at.
In the French navy they have no marines; their men, taking turns at
carrying the musket, are sailors one moment, and soldiers the next; a
fellow running aloft in his line frock to-day, to-morrow stands
sentry at the admiral's cabin door. This is fatal to anything like
proper sailor pride. To make a man a seaman, he should be put to no
other duty. Indeed, a thorough tar is unfit for anything else; and
what is more, this fact is the best evidence of his being a true
On board the Reine Blanche, they did not have enough to eat; and what
they did have was not of the right sort. Instead of letting the
sailors file their teeth against the rim of a hard sea-biscuit, they
baked their bread daily in pitiful little rolls. Then they had no
"grog"; as a substitute, they drugged the poor fellows with a thin,
sour wine--the juice of a few grapes, perhaps, to a pint of the juice
of water-faucets. Moreover, the sailors asked for meat, and they
gave them soup; a rascally substitute, as they well knew.
Ever since leaving home, they had been on "short allowance." At the
present time, those belonging to the boats--and thus getting an
occasional opportunity to run ashore--frequently sold their rations
of bread to some less fortunate shipmate for sixfold its real value.
Another thing tending to promote dissatisfaction among the crew was
their having such a devil of a fellow for a captain. He was one of
those horrid naval bores--a great disciplinarian. In port, he kept
them constantly exercising yards and sails, and maneuvering with the
boats; and at sea, they were forever at quarters; running in and out
the enormous guns, as if their arms were made for nothing else. Then
there was the admiral aboard, also; and, no doubt, he too had a
paternal eye over them.
In the ordinary routine of duty, we could not but be struck with the
listless, slovenly behaviour of these men; there was nothing of the
national vivacity in their movements; nothing of the quick precision
perceptible on the deck of a thoroughly-disciplined armed vessel.
All this, however, when we came to know the reason, was no matter of
surprise; three-fourths of them were pressed men. Some old merchant
sailors had been seized the very day they landed from distant
voyages; while the landsmen, of whom there were many, had been driven
down from the country in herds, and so sent to sea.
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