Two Years Before the Mast
Richard Henry Dana

Part 3 out of 8

Loriotte. The captain now gave out his orders rapidly and
fiercely, sheeting home the topsails, and backing and filling the
sails, in hope of starting or clearing the anchors; but it was all
in vain, and he sat down on the rail, taking it very leisurely,
and calling out to Captain Nye that he was coming to pay him a
visit. We drifted fairly into the Loriotte, her larboard bow into
our starboard quarter, carrying away a part of our starboard
quarter railing, and breaking off her larboard bumpkin, and one or
two stanchions above the deck. We saw our handsome sailor,
Jackson, on the forecastle, with the Sandwich-Islanders, working
away to get us clear. After paying out chain, we swung clear, but
our anchors were, no doubt, afoul of hers. We manned the windlass,
and hove, and hove away, but to no purpose. Sometimes we got a
little upon the cable, but a good surge would take it all back
again. We now began to drift down toward the Ayacucho; when her
boat put off, and brought her commander, Captain Wilson, on board.
He was a short, active, well-built man, about fifty years of age;
and being some twenty years older than our captain, and a thorough
seaman, he did not hesitate to give his advice, and, from giving
advice, he gradually came to taking the command; ordering us when
to heave and when to pawl, and backing and filling the topsails,
setting and taking in jib and trysail, whenever he thought best.
Our captain gave a few orders, but as Wilson generally
countermanded them, saying, in an easy, fatherly kind of way, ``O
no! Captain Thompson, you don't want the jib on her,'' or ``It
isn't time yet to heave!'' he soon gave it up. We had no
objections to this state of things, for Wilson was a kind man, and
had an encouraging and pleasant way of speaking to us, which made
everything go easily. After two or three hours of constant labor
at the windlass, heaving and yo-ho-ing with all our might, we
brought up an anchor, with the Loriotte's small bower fast to it.
Having cleared this, and let it go, and cleared our hawse, we got
our other anchor, which had dragged half over the harbor. ``Now,''
said Wilson, ``I'll find you a good berth''; and, setting both the
topsails, he carried us down, and brought us to anchor, in
handsome style, directly abreast of the hide-house which we were
to use. Having done this, he took his leave, while we furled the
sails, and got our breakfast, which was welcome to us, for we had
worked hard, and eaten nothing since yesterday afternoon, and it
was nearly twelve o'clock. After breakfast, and until night, we
were employed in getting out the boats and mooring ship.

After supper, two of us took the captain on board the Lagoda. As
he came alongside, he gave his name, and the mate, in the gangway,
called out to Captain Bradshaw, down the companion-way, ``Captain
Thompson has come aboard, sir!'' ``Has he brought his brig with
him?'' asked the rough old fellow, in a tone which made itself
heard fore and aft. This mortified our captain not a little, and
it became a standing joke among us, and, indeed, over the coast,
for the rest of the voyage. The captain went down into the cabin,
and we walked forward and put our heads down the forecastle, where
we found the men at supper. ``Come down, shipmates![2] come down!''
said they, as soon as they saw us; and we went down, and found a
large, high forecastle, well lighted, and a crew of twelve or
fourteen men eating out of their kids and pans, and drinking their
tea, and talking and laughing, all as independent and easy as so
many ``woodsawyer's clerks.'' This looked like comfort and
enjoyment, compared with the dark little forecastle, and scanty,
discontented crew of the brig. It was Saturday night; they had got
through their work for the week, and, being snugly moored, had
nothing to do until Monday again. After two years' hard service,
they had seen the worst, and all, of California; had got their
cargo nearly stowed, and expected to sail, in a week or two, for

We spent an hour or more with them, talking over California
matters, until the word was passed,-- ``Pilgrims, away!'' and we
went back to our brig. The Lagodas were a hardy, intelligent set,
a little roughened, and their clothes patched and old, from
California wear; all able seamen, and between the ages of twenty
and thirty-five or forty. They inquired about our vessel, the
usage on board, &c., and were not a little surprised at the story
of the flogging. They said there were often difficulties in
vessels on the coast, and sometimes knock-downs and fightings, but
they had never heard before of a regular seizing-up and flogging.
``Spread eagles'' were a new kind of bird in California.

Sunday, they said, was always given in San Diego, both at the
hide-houses and on board the vessels, a large number usually going
up to the town, on liberty. We learned a good deal from them about
the curing and stowing of hides, &c., and they were desirous to
have the latest news (seven months old) from Boston. One of their
first inquiries was for Father Taylor, the seamen's preacher in
Boston. Then followed the usual strain of conversation, inquiries,
stories, and jokes, which one must always hear in a ship's
forecastle, but which are, perhaps, after all, no worse, though
more gross and coarse, than those one may chance to hear from some
well dressed gentlemen around their tables.

[1] Owing to the change of vessels that afterwards took place,
Captain Thompson arrived in Boston nearly a year before the
Pilgrim, and was off on another voyage, and beyond the reach of
these men. Soon after the publication of the first edition of this
book, in 1841, I received a letter from Stimson, dated at Detroit,
Michigan, where he had reentered mercantile life, from which I
make this extract: ``As to your account of the flogging scene, I
think you have given a fair history of it, and, if anything, been
too lenient towards Captain Thompson for his brutal, cowardly
treatment of those men. As I was in the hold at the time the
affray commenced, I will give you a short history of it as near as
I can recollect. We were breaking out goods in the fore hold, and,
in order to get at them, we had to shift our hides from forward to
aft. After having removed part of them, we came to the boxes, and
attempted to get them out without moving any more of the hides.
While doing so, Sam accidentally hurt his hand, and, as usual,
began swearing about it, and was not sparing of his oaths,
although I think he was not aware that Captain Thompson was so
near him at the time. Captain Thompson asked him, in no moderate
way, what was the matter with him. Sam, on account of the
impediment in his speech, could not answer immediately, although
he endeavored to, but as soon as possible answered in a manner
that almost any one would, under the like circumstances, yet, I
believe, not with the intention of giving a short answer; but
being provoked, and suffering pain from the injured hand, he
perhaps answered rather short, or sullenly. Thus commenced the
scene you have so vividly described, and which seems to me exactly
the history of the whole affair without any exaggeration.''

[2] ``Shipmate'' is the term by which sailors address one another
when not acquainted.


The next day being Sunday, after washing and clearing decks, and
getting breakfast, the mate came forward with leave for one watch
to go ashore, on liberty. We drew lots, and it fell to the
larboard, which I was in. Instantly all was preparation. Buckets
of fresh water (which we were allowed in port), and soap, were put
in use; go-ashore jackets and trousers got out and brushed; pumps,
neckerchiefs, and hats overhauled, one lending to another; so that
among the whole each got a good fit-out. A boat was called to pull
the ``liberty-men'' ashore, and we sat down in the stern sheets,
``as big as pay-passengers,'' and, jumping ashore, set out on our
walk for the town, which was nearly three miles off.

It is a pity that some other arrangement is not made in merchant
vessels with regard to the liberty-day. When in port, the crews
are kept at work all the week, and the only day they are allowed
for rest or pleasure is Sunday; and unless they go ashore on that
day, they cannot go at all. I have heard of a religious captain
who gave his crew liberty on Saturdays, after twelve o'clock. This
would be a good plan, if shipmasters would bring themselves to
give their crews so much time. For young sailors especially, many
of whom have been brought up with a regard for the sacredness of
the day, this strong temptation to break it is exceedingly
injurious. As it is, it can hardly be expected that a crew, on a
long and hard voyage, will refuse a few hours of freedom from toil
and the restraints of a vessel, and an opportunity to tread the
ground and see the sights of society and humanity, because it is a
Sunday. They feel no objection to being drawn out of a pit on the
Sabbath day.

I shall never forget the delightful sensation of being in the open
air, with the birds singing around me, and escaped from the
confinement, labor, and strict rule of a vessel,-- of being once
more in my life, though only for a day, my own master. A sailor's
liberty is but for a day; yet while it lasts it is entire. He is
under no one's eye, and can do whatever, and go wherever, he
pleases. This day, for the first time, I may truly say, in my
whole life, I felt the meaning of a term which I had often heard,--
the sweets of liberty. Stimson was with me, and, turning our
backs upon the vessels, we walked slowly along, talking of the
pleasure of being our own masters, of the times past, when we were
free and in the midst of friends, in America, and of the prospect
of our return; and planning where we would go, and what we would
do, when we reached home. It was wonderful how the prospect
brightened, and how short and tolerable the voyage appeared, when
viewed in this new light. Things looked differently from what they
did when we talked them over in the little dark forecastle, the
night after the flogging, at San Pedro. It is not the least of the
advantages of allowing sailors occasionally a day of liberty, that
it gives them a spring, and makes them feel cheerful and
independent, and leads them insensibly to look on the bright side
of everything for some time after.

Stimson and I determined to keep as much together as possible,
though we knew that it would not do to cut our shipmates; for,
knowing our birth and education, they were a little suspicious
that we would try to put on the gentleman when we got ashore, and
would be ashamed of their company; and this won't do with Jack.
When the voyage is at an end, you do as you please; but so long as
you belong to the same vessel, you must be a shipmate to him on
shore, or he will not be a shipmate to you on board. Being
forewarned of this before I went to sea, I took no ``long togs''
with me; and being dressed like the rest, in white duck trousers,
blue jacket, and straw hat, which would prevent my going into
better company, and showing no disposition to avoid them, I set
all suspicion at rest. Our crew fell in with some who belonged to
the other vessels, and, sailor-like, steered for the first
grog-shop. This was a small adobe building, of only one room, in
which were liquors, ``dry-goods,'' West India goods, shoes, bread,
fruits, and everything which is vendible in California. It was
kept by a Yankee, a one-eyed man, who belonged formerly to Fall
River, came out to the Pacific in a whale-ship, left her at the
Sandwich Islands, and came to California and set up a pulpería.
Stimson and I followed in our shipmates' wake, knowing that to
refuse to drink with them would be the highest affront, but
determining to slip away at the first opportunity. It is the
universal custom with sailors for each one, in his turn, to treat
the whole, calling for a glass all round, and obliging every one
who is present, even to the keeper of the shop, to take a glass
with him. When we first came in, there was some dispute between
our crew and the others, whether the newcomers or the old
California rangers should treat first; but it being settled in
favor of the latter, each of the crews of the other vessels
treated all round in their turn, and as there were a good many
present (including some ``loafers'' who had dropped in, knowing
what was going on, to take advantage of Jack's hospitality), and
the liquor was a real (12 1/2 cents) a glass, it made somewhat of a
hole in their lockers. It was now our ship's turn, and Stimson and
I, desirous to get away, stepped up to call for glasses; but we
soon found that we must go in order,-- the oldest first, for the
old sailors did not choose to be preceded by a couple of
youngsters; and bon gré, mal gré, we had to wait our turn, with
the twofold apprehension of being too late for our horses, and of
getting too much; for drink you must, every time; and if you drink
with one, and not with another, it is always taken as an insult.

Having at length gone through our turns and acquitted ourselves of
all obligations, we slipped out, and went about among the houses,
endeavoring to find horses for the day, so that we might ride
round and see the country. At first we had but little success, all
that we could get out of the lazy fellows, in reply to our
questions, being the eternal drawling Quien sabe? (``Who knows?'')
which is an answer to all questions. After several efforts, we at
length fell in with a little Sandwich Island boy, who belonged to
Captain Wilson, of the Ayacucho, and was well acquainted in the
place; and he, knowing where to go, soon procured us two horses,
ready saddled and bridled, each with a lasso coiled over the
pommel. These we were to have all day, with the privilege of
riding them down to the beach at night, for a dollar, which we had
to pay in advance. Horses are the cheapest thing in California;
very fair ones not being worth more than ten dollars apiece, and
the poorer being often sold for three and four. In taking a day's
ride, you pay for the use of the saddle, and for the labor and
trouble of catching the horses. If you bring the saddle back safe,
they care but little what becomes of the horse. Mounted on our
horses, which were spirited beasts (and which, by the way, in this
country, are always steered in the cavalry fashion, by pressing
the contrary rein against the neck, and not by pulling on the
bit), we started off on a fine run over the country. The first
place we went to was the old ruinous presidio, which stands on a
rising ground near the village, which it overlooks. It is built in
the form of an open square, like all the other presidios, and was
in a most ruinous state, with the exception of one side, in which
the commandant lived, with his family. There were only two guns,
one of which was spiked, and the other had no carriage. Twelve
half-clothed and half-starved looking fellows composed the
garrison; and they, it was said, had not a musket apiece. The
small settlement lay directly below the fort, composed of about
forty dark brown looking huts, or houses, and three or four larger
ones, whitewashed, which belonged to the ``gente de razon.'' This
town is not more than half as large as Monterey, or Santa Barbara,
and has little or no business. From the presidio, we rode off in
the direction of the Mission, which we were told was three miles
distant. The country was rather sandy, and there was nothing for
miles which could be called a tree, but the grass grew green and
rank, there were many bushes and thickets, and the soil is said to
be good. After a pleasant ride of a couple of miles, we saw the
white walls of the Mission, and, fording a small stream, we came
directly before it. The Mission is built of adobe and plastered.
There was something decidedly striking in its appearance: a number
of irregular buildings, connected with one another, and, disposed
in the form of a hollow square, with a church at one end, rising
above the rest, with a tower containing five belfries, in each of
which hung a large bell, and with very large rusty iron crosses at
the tops. Just outside of the buildings, and under the walls,
stood twenty or thirty small huts, built of straw and of the
branches of trees, grouped together, in which a few Indians lived,
under the protection and in the service of the Mission.

Entering a gateway, we drove into the open square, in which the
stillness of death reigned. On one side was the church; on
another, a range of high buildings with grated windows; a third
was a range of smaller buildings, or offices, and the fourth
seemed to be little more than a high connecting wall. Not a living
creature could we see. We rode twice round the square, in the hope
of waking up some one; and in one circuit saw a tall monk, with
shaven head, sandals, and the dress of the Gray Friars, pass
rapidly through a gallery, but he disappeared without noticing us.
After two circuits, we stopped our horses, and at last a man
showed himself in front of one of the small buildings. We rode up
to him, and found him dressed in the common dress of the country,
with a silver chain round his neck, supporting a large bunch of
keys. From this, we took him to be the steward of the Mission,
and, addressing him as ``Mayor-domo,'' received a low bow and an
invitation to walk into his room. Making our horses fast, we went
in. It was a plain room, containing a table, three or four chairs,
a small picture or two of some saint, or miracle, or martyrdom,
and a few dishes and glasses. ``Hay alguna cosa de comer?'' said
I, from my grammar. ``Si, Señor!'' said he. ``Que gusta usted?''
Mentioning fríjoles, which I knew they must have if they had
nothing else, and beef and bread, with a hint for wine, if they
had any, he went off to another building across the court, and
returned in a few minutes with a couple of Indian boys bearing
dishes and a decanter of wine. The dishes contained baked meats,
fríjoles stewed with peppers and onions, boiled eggs, and
California flour baked into a kind of macaroni. These, together
with the wine, made the most sumptuous meal we had eaten since we
left Boston; and, compared with the fare we had lived upon for
seven months, it was a regal banquet. After despatching it, we
took out some money and asked him how much we were to pay. He
shook his head, and crossed himself, saying that it was charity,--
that the Lord gave it to us. Knowing the amount of this to be that
he did not sell, but was willing to receive a present, we gave him
ten or twelve reals, which he pocketed with admirable nonchalance,
saying, ``Dios se lo pague.'' Taking leave of him, we rode out to
the Indians' huts. The little children were running about among
the huts, stark naked, and the men were not much more; but the
women had generally coarse gowns of a sort of tow cloth. The men
are employed, most of the time, in tending the cattle of the
Mission, and in working in the garden, which is a very large one,
including several acres, and filled, it is said, with the best
fruits of the climate. The language of these people, which is
spoken by all the Indians of California, is the most brutish,
without any exception, that I ever heard, or that could well be
conceived of. It is a complete slabber. The words fall off of the
ends of their tongues, and a continual slabbering sound is made in
the cheeks, outside of the teeth. It cannot have been the language
of Montezuma and the independent Mexicans.

Here, among the huts, we saw the oldest man that I had ever met
with; and, indeed, I never supposed that a person could retain
life and exhibit such marks of age. He was sitting out in the sun,
leaning against the side of a hut; and his legs and arms, which
were bare, were of a dark red color, the skin withered and shrunk
up like burnt leather, and the limbs not larger round than those
of a boy of five years. He had a few gray hairs, which were tied
together at the back of his head, and he was so feeble that, when
we came up to him, he raised his hands slowly to his face, and,
taking hold of his lids with his fingers, lifted them up to look
at us; and, being satisfied, let them drop again. All command over
the lids seemed to have gone. I asked his age, but could get no
answer but ``Quien sabe?'' and they probably did not know it.

Leaving the Mission, we returned to the village, going nearly all
the way on a full run. The California horses have no medium gait,
which is pleasant, between walking and running; for as there are
no streets and parades, they have no need of the genteel trot, and
their riders usually keep them at the top of their speed until
they are tired, and then let them rest themselves by walking. The
fine air of the afternoon, the rapid gait of the animals, who
seemed almost to fly over the ground, and the excitement and
novelty of the motion to us, who had been so long confined on
shipboard, were exhilarating beyond expression, and we felt
willing to ride all day long. Coming into the village, we found
things looking very lively. The Indians, who always have a holiday
on Sunday, were engaged at playing a kind of running game of ball,
on a level piece of ground, near the houses. The old ones sat down
in a ring, looking on, while the young ones-- men, boys, and girls--
were chasing the ball, and throwing it with all their might.
Some of the girls ran like greyhounds. At every accident, or
remarkable feat, the old people set up a deafening screaming and
clapping of hands. Several blue jackets were reeling about among
the houses, which showed that the pulperías had been well
patronized. One or two of the sailors had got on horseback, but
being rather indifferent horsemen, and the Mexicans having given
them vicious beasts, they were soon thrown, much to the amusement
of the people. A half-dozen Sandwich-Islanders, from the
hide-houses and the two brigs, bold riders, were dashing about on
the full gallop, hallooing and laughing like so many wild men.

It was now nearly sundown, and Stimson and I went into a house and
sat quietly down to rest ourselves before going to the beach.
Several people soon collected to see ``los marineros ingleses,''
and one of them, a young woman, took a great fancy to my
pocket-handkerchief, which was a large silk one that I had before
going to sea, and a handsomer one than they had been in the habit
of seeing. Of course, I gave it to her, which brought me into high
favor; and we had a present of some pears and other fruits, which
we took down to the beach with us. When we came to leave the
house, we found that our horses, which we had tied at the door,
were both gone. We had paid for them to ride down to the beach,
but they were not to be found. We went to the man of whom we hired
them, but he only shrugged his shoulders, and to our question,
``Where are the horses?'' only answered, ``Quien sabe?'' but as he
was very easy, and made no inquiries for the saddles, we saw that
he knew very well where they were. After a little trouble,
determined not to walk to the beach,-- a distance of three miles,--
we procured two, at four reals more apiece, with two Indian boys
to run behind and bring them back. Determined to have ``the go''
out of the horses, for our trouble, we went down at full speed,
and were on the beach in a few minutes. Wishing to make our
liberty last as long as possible, we rode up and down among the
hide-houses, amusing ourselves with seeing the men as they arrived
(it was now dusk), some on horseback and others on foot. The
Sandwich-Islanders rode down, and were in ``high snuff.'' We
inquired for our shipmates, and were told that two of them had
started on horseback, and been thrown, or had fallen off, and were
seen heading for the beach, but steering pretty wild, and, by the
looks of things, would not be down much before midnight.

The Indian boys having arrived, we gave them our horses, and,
having seen them safely off, hailed for a boat, and went aboard.
Thus ended our first liberty-day on shore. We were well tired, but
had had a good time, and were more willing to go back to our old
duties. About midnight we were waked up by our two watch-mates,
who had come aboard in high dispute. It seems they had started to
come down on the same horse, double-backed; and each was accusing
the other of being the cause of his fall. They soon, however,
turned-in and fell asleep, and probably forgot all about it, for
the next morning the dispute was not renewed.


The next sound that we heard was ``All hands ahoy!'' and, looking
up the scuttle, saw that it was just daylight. Our liberty had now
truly taken flight, and with it we laid away our pumps, stockings,
blue jackets, neckerchiefs, and other go-ashore paraphernalia, and
putting on old duck trousers, red shirts, and Scotch caps, began
taking out and landing our hides. For three days we were hard at
work in this duty, from the gray of the morning until starlight,
with the exception of a short time allowed for meals. For landing
and taking on board hides, San Diego is decidedly the best place
in California. The harbor is small and land-locked; there is no
surf; the vessels lie within a cable's length of the beach, and
the beach itself is smooth, hard sand, without rocks or stones.
For these reasons, it is used by all the vessels in the trade as a
depot; and, indeed, it would be impossible, when loading with the
cured hides for the passage home, to take them on board at any of
the open ports, without getting them wet in the surf, which would
spoil them. We took possession of one of the hide-houses, which
belonged to our firm, and had been used by the California. It was
built to hold forty thousand hides, and we had the pleasing
prospect of filling it before we could leave the coast; and toward
this our thirty-five hundred, which we brought down with us, would
do but little. There was scarce a man on board who did not go
often into the house, looking round, reflecting, and making some
calculation of the time it would require.

The hides, as they come rough and uncured from the vessels, are
piled up outside of the houses, whence they are taken and carried
through a regular process of pickling, drying, and cleaning, and
stowed away in the house, ready to be put on board. This process
is necessary in order that they may keep during a long voyage and
in warm latitudes. For the purpose of curing and taking care of
them, an officer and a part of the crew of each vessel are usually
left ashore; and it was for this business, we found, that our new
officer had joined us. As soon as the hides were landed, he took
charge of the house, and the captain intended to leave two or
three of us with him, hiring Sandwich-Islanders in our places on
board; but he could not get any Sandwich-Islanders to go, although
he offered them fifteen dollars a month; for the report of the
flogging had got among them, and he was called ``aole maikai'' (no
good); and that was an end of the business. They were, however,
willing to work on shore, and four of them were hired and put with
Mr. Russell to cure the hides.

After landing our hides, we next sent ashore our spare spars and
rigging, all the stores which we did not need in the course of one
trip to windward, and, in fact, everything which we could spare,
so as to make room on board for hides; among other things, the
pigsty, and with it ``old Bess.'' This was an old sow that we had
brought from Boston, and who lived to get round Cape Horn, where
all the other pigs died from cold and wet. Report said that she
had been a Canton voyage before. She had been the pet of the cook
during the whole passage, and he had fed her with the best of
everything, and taught her to know his voice, and to do a number
of strange tricks for his amusement. Tom Cringle says that no one
can fathom a negro's affection for a pig; and I believe he is
right, for it almost broke our poor darky's heart when he heard
that Bess was to be taken ashore, and that he was to have the care
of her no more. He had depended upon her as a solace, during the
long trips up and down the coast. ``Obey orders, if you break
owners!'' said he,-- ``break hearts,'' he might have said,-- and
lent a hand to get her over the side, trying to make it as easy
for her as possible. We got a whip on the main-yard, and, hooking
it to a strap round her body, swayed away, and, giving a wink to
one another, ran her chock up to the yard-arm. ``'Vast there!
'vast!'' said the mate; ``none of your skylarking! Lower away!''
But he evidently enjoyed the joke. The pig squealed like the
``crack of doom,'' and tears stood in the poor darky's eyes; and
he muttered something about having no pity on a dumb beast. ``Dumb
beast!'' said Jack, ``if she's what you call a dumb beast, then my
eyes a'n't mates.'' This produced a laugh from all but the cook.
He was too intent upon seeing her safe in the boat. He watched her
all the way ashore, where, upon her landing, she was received by a
whole troop of her kind, who had been set ashore from the other
vessels, and had multiplied and formed a large commonwealth. From
the door of his galley the cook used to watch them in their
manoeuvres, setting up a shout and clapping his hands whenever
Bess came off victorious in the struggles for pieces of raw hide
and half-picked bones which were lying about the beach. During the
day, he saved all the nice things, and made a bucket of swill, and
asked us to take it ashore in the gig, and looked quite
disconcerted when the mate told him that he would pitch the swill
overboard, and him after it, if he saw any of it go into the
boats. We told him that he thought more about the pig than he did
about his wife, who lived down in Robinson's Alley; and, indeed,
he could hardly have been more attentive, for he actually, on
several nights, after dark, when he thought he would not be seen,
sculled himself ashore in a boat, with a bucket of nice swill, and
returned like Leander from crossing the Hellespont.

The next Sunday the other half of our crew went ashore on liberty,
and left us on board, to enjoy the first quiet Sunday we had had
upon the coast. Here were no hides to come off, and no
southeasters to fear. We washed and mended our clothes in the
morning, and spent the rest of the day in reading and writing.
Several of us wrote letters to send home by the Lagoda. At twelve
o'clock, the Ayacucho dropped her fore topsail, which was a signal
for her sailing. She unmoored and warped down into the bight, from
which she got under way. During this operation her crew were a
long time heaving at the windlass, and I listened to the musical
notes of a Sandwich-Islander named Mahanna, who ``sang out'' for
them. Sailors, when heaving at a windlass, in order that they may
heave together, always have one to sing out, which is done in high
and long-drawn notes, varying with the motion of the windlass.
This requires a clear voice, strong lungs, and much practice, to
be done well. This fellow had a very peculiar, wild sort of note,
breaking occasionally into a falsetto. The sailors thought that it
was too high, and not enough of the boatswain hoarseness about it;
but to me it had a great charm. The harbor was perfectly still,
and his voice rang among the hills as though it could have been
heard for miles. Toward sundown, a good breeze having sprung up,
the Ayacucho got under way, and with her long, sharp head cutting
elegantly through the water on a taut bowline, she stood directly
out of the harbor, and bore away to the southward. She was bound
to Callao, and thence to the Sandwich Islands, and expected to be
on the coast again in eight or ten months.

At the close of the week we were ready to sail, but were delayed a
day or two by the running away of Foster, the man who had been our
second mate and was turned forward. From the time that he was
``broken,'' he had had a dog's berth on board the vessel, and
determined to run away at the first opportunity. Having shipped
for an officer when he was not half a seaman, he found little pity
with the crew, and was not man enough to hold his ground among
them. The captain called him a ``soger,''[1] and promised to ``ride
him down as he would the main tack''; and when officers are once
determined to ``ride a man down,'' it is a gone case with him. He
had had several difficulties with the captain, and asked leave to
go home in the Lagoda; but this was refused him. One night he was
insolent to an officer on the beach, and refused to come aboard in
the boat. He was reported to the captain; and, as he came aboard,--
it being past the proper hour-- he was called aft, and told that
he was to have a flogging. Immediately he fell down on deck,
calling out, ``Don't flog me, Captain Thompson, don't flog me!''
and the captain, angry and disgusted with him, gave him a few
blows over the back with a rope's end, and sent him forward. He
was not much hurt, but a good deal frightened, and made up his
mind to run away that night. This was managed better than anything
he ever did in his life, and seemed really to show some spirit and
forethought. He gave his bedding and mattress to one of the
Lagoda's crew, who promised to keep it for him, and took it aboard
his ship as something which he had bought. He then unpacked his
chest, putting all his valuable clothes into a large canvas bag,
and told one of us who had the watch to call him at midnight.
Coming on deck at midnight, and finding no officer on deck, and
all still aft, he lowered his bag into a boat, got softly down
into it, cast off the painter, and let it drop down silently with
the tide until he was out of hearing, when he sculled ashore.

The next morning, when all hands were mustered, there was a great
stir to find Foster. Of course, we would tell nothing, and all
they could discover was that he had left an empty chest behind
him, and that he went off in a boat; for they saw the boat lying
high and dry on the beach. After breakfast, the captain went up to
the town, and offered a reward of twenty dollars for him; and for
a couple of days the soldiers, Indians, and all others who had
nothing to do, were scouring the country for him, on horseback,
but without effect; for he was safely concealed, all the time,
within fifty rods of the hide-houses. As soon as he had landed, he
went directly to the Lagoda's hide-house, and a part of her crew,
who were living there on shore, promised to conceal him and his
traps until the Pilgrim should sail, and then to intercede with
Captain Bradshaw to take him on board his ship. Just behind the
hide-houses, among the thickets and underwood, was a small cave,
the entrance to which was known only to two men on the beach, and
which was so well concealed that though, when I afterwards came to
live on shore, it was shown to me two or three times, I was never
able to find it alone. To this cave he was carried before daybreak
in the morning, and supplied with bread and water, and there
remained until he saw us under way and well round the point.

Friday, March 27th. The captain having given up all hope of
finding Foster, and being unwilling to delay any longer, gave
orders for unmooring ship, and we made sail, dropping slowly down
with the tide and light wind. We left letters with Captain
Bradshaw to take to Boston, and were made miserable by hearing him
say that he should be back again before we left the coast. The
wind, which was very light, died away soon after we doubled the
point, and we lay becalmed for two days, not moving three miles
the whole time, and a part of the second day were almost within
sight of the vessels. On the third day, about noon, a cool
sea-breeze came rippling and darkening the surface of the water,
and by sundown we were off San Juan, which is about forty miles
from San Diego, and is called half-way to San Pedro, where we were
bound. Our crew was now considerably weakened. One man we had lost
overboard, another had been taken aft as clerk, and a third had
run away; so that, beside Stimson and myself, there were only
three able seamen and one boy of twelve years of age. With this
diminished and discontented crew, and in a small vessel, we were
now to battle the watch through a couple of years of hard service;
yet there was not one who was not glad that Foster had escaped;
for, shiftless and good for nothing as he was, no one could wish
to see him dragging on a miserable life, cowed down and
disheartened; and we were all rejoiced to hear, upon our return to
San Diego, about two months afterwards, that he had been
immediately taken aboard the Lagoda, and had gone home in her, on
regular seaman's wages.

After a slow passage of five days, we arrived on Wednesday, the
first of April, at our old anchoring-ground at San Pedro. The bay
was as deserted and looked as dreary as before, and formed no
pleasing contrast with the security and snugness of San Diego, and
the activity and interest which the loading and unloading of four
vessels gave to that scene. In a few days the hides began to come
slowly down, and we got into the old business of rolling goods up
the hill, pitching hides down, and pulling our long league off and
on. Nothing of note occurred while we were lying here, except that
an attempt was made to repair the small Mexican brig which had
been cast away in a southeaster, and which now lay up, high and
dry, over one reef of rocks and two sand-banks. Our carpenter
surveyed her, and pronounced her capable of being refitted, and in
a few days the owners came down from the Pueblo, and having waited
for the high spring tides, with the help of our cables, kedges,
and crew, hauled her off after several trials. The three men at
the house on shore, who had formerly been a part of her crew, now
joined her, and seemed glad enough at the prospect of getting off
the coast.

On board our own vessel, things went on in the common monotonous
way. The excitement which immediately followed the flogging scene
had passed off, but the effect of it upon the crew, and especially
upon the two men themselves, remained. The different manner in
which these men were affected, corresponding to their different
characters, was not a little remarkable. John was a foreigner and
high-tempered, and though mortified, as any one would be at having
had the worst of an encounter, yet his chief feeling seemed to be
anger; and he talked much of satisfaction and revenge, if he ever
got back to Boston. But with the other it was very different. He
was an American, and had had some education; and this thing coming
upon him seemed completely to break him down. He had a feeling of
the degradation that had been inflicted upon him, which the other
man was incapable of. Before that, he had a good deal of fun in
him, and amused us often with queer negro stories (he was from a
Slave State); but afterwards he seldom smiled, seemed to lose all
life and elasticity, and appeared to have but one wish, and that
was for the voyage to be at an end. I have often known him to draw
a long sigh when he was alone, and he took but little part or
interest in John's plans of satisfaction and retaliation.

After a stay of about a fortnight, during which we slipped for one
southeaster, and were at sea two days, we got under way for Santa
Barbara. It was now the middle of April, the southeaster season
was nearly over, and the light, regular winds, which blow down the
coast, began to set steadily in, during the latter part of each
day. Against these we beat slowly up to Santa Barbara-- a distance
of about ninety miles-- in three days. There we found, lying at
anchor, the large Genoese ship which we saw in the same place on
the first day of our coming upon the coast. She had been up to San
Francisco, or, as it is called, ``chock up to windward,'' had
stopped at Monterey on her way down, and was shortly to proceed to
San Pedro and San Diego, and thence, taking in her cargo, to sail
for Valparaiso and Cadiz. She was a large, clumsy ship, and, with
her topmasts stayed forward, and high poop-deck, looked like an
old woman with a crippled back. It was now the close of Lent, and
on Good Friday she had all her yards a'-cock-bill, which is
customary among Catholic vessels. Some also have an effigy of
Judas, which the crew amuse themselves with keel-hauling and
hanging by the neck from the yard-arms.

[1] Soger (soldier) is the worst term of reproach that can be
applied to a sailor. It signifies a skulk, a shirk,-- one who is
always trying to get clear of work, and is out of the way, or
hanging back, when duty is to be done. ``Marine'' is the term
applied more particularly to a man who is ignorant and clumsy
about seaman's work,-- a greenhorn, a land-lubber. To make a
sailor shoulder a handspike, and walk fore and aft the deck, like
a sentry, is as ignominious a punishment as can be put upon him.
Such a punishment inflicted upon an able seaman in a vessel of war
might break down his spirit more than a flogging.


The next Sunday was Easter, and as there had been no liberty at
San Pedro, it was our turn to go ashore and misspend another
Sunday. Soon after breakfast, a large boat, filled with men in
blue jackets, scarlet caps, and various-colored under-clothes,
bound ashore on liberty, left the Italian ship, and passed under
our stern, the men singing beautiful Italian boat-songs all the
way, in fine, full chorus. Among the songs I recognized the
favorite, ``O Pescator dell' onda.'' It brought back to my mind
piano-fortes, drawing-rooms, young ladies singing, and a thousand
other things which as little befitted me, in my situation, to be
thinking upon. Supposing that the whole day would be too long a
time to spend ashore, as there was no place to which we could take
a ride, we remained quietly on board until after dinner. We were
then pulled ashore in the stern of the boat,-- for it is a point
with liberty-men to be pulled off and back as passengers by their
shipmates,-- and, with orders to be on the beach at sundown, we
took our way for the town. There, everything wore the appearance
of a holiday. The people were dressed in their best; the men
riding about among the houses, and the women sitting on carpets
before the doors. Under the piazza of a pulpería two men were
seated, decked out with knots of ribbons and bouquets, and playing
the violin and the Spanish guitar. These are the only instruments,
with the exception of the drums and trumpets at Monterey, that I
ever heard in California; and I suspect they play upon no others,
for at a great fandango at which I was afterwards present, and
where they mustered all the music they could find, there were
three violins and two guitars, and no other instruments. As it was
now too near the middle of the day to see any dancing, and hearing
that a bull was expected down from the country, to be baited in
the presidio square, in the course of an hour or two, we took a
stroll among the houses. Inquiring for an American who, we had
been told, had married in the place, and kept a shop, we were
directed to a long, low building, at the end of which was a door,
with a sign over it, in Spanish. Entering the shop, we found no
one in it, and the whole had an empty, deserted air. In a few
minutes the man made his appearance, and apologized for having
nothing to entertain us with, saying that he had had a fandango at
his house the night before, and the people had eaten and drunk up

``O yes!'' said I, ``Easter holidays!''

``No!'' said he, with a singular expression on his face; ``I had a
little daughter die the other day, and that's the custom of the

At this I felt somewhat awkwardly, not knowing what to say, and
whether to offer consolation or not, and was beginning to retire,
when he opened a side-door and told us to walk in. Here I was no
less astonished; for I found a large room, filled with young
girls, from three or four years of age up to fifteen and sixteen,
dressed all in white, with wreaths of flowers on their heads, and
bouquets in their hands. Following our conductor among these
girls, who were playing about in high spirits, we came to a table,
at the end of the room, covered with a white cloth, on which lay a
coffin, about three feet long, with the body of his child. The
coffin was covered with white cloth, and lined with white satin,
and was strewn with flowers. Through an open door, we saw, in
another room, a few elderly people in common dresses; while the
benches and tables thrown up in a corner, and the stained walls,
gave evident signs of the last night's ``high go.'' Feeling, like
Garrick, between Tragedy and Comedy, an uncertainty of purpose, I
asked the man when the funeral would take place, and being told
that it would move toward the Mission in about an hour, took my

To pass away the time, we hired horses and rode to the beach, and
there saw three or four Italian sailors, mounted, and riding up
and down on the hard sand at a furious rate. We joined them, and
found it fine sport. The beach gave us a stretch of a mile or
more, and the horses flew over the smooth, hard sand, apparently
invigorated and excited by the salt sea-breeze, and by the
continual roar and dashing of the breakers. From the beach we
returned to the town, and, finding that the funeral procession had
moved, rode on and overtook it, about half-way to the Mission.
Here was as peculiar a sight as we had seen before in the house,
the one looking as much like a funeral procession as the other did
like a house of mourning. The little coffin was borne by eight
girls, who were continually relieved by others running forward
from the procession and taking their places. Behind it came a
straggling company of girls, dressed, as before, in white and
flowers, and including, I should suppose by their numbers, nearly
all the girls between five and fifteen in the place. They played
along on the way, frequently stopping and running all together to
talk to some one, or to pick up a flower, and then running on
again to overtake the coffin. There were a few elderly women in
common colors; and a herd of young men and boys, some on foot and
others mounted, followed them, or walked or rode by their side,
frequently interrupting them by jokes and questions. But the most
singular thing of all was, that two men walked, one on each side
of the coffin, carrying muskets in their hands, which they
continually loaded, and fired into the air. Whether this was to
keep off the evil spirits or not, I do not know. It was the only
interpretation that I could put upon it.

As we drew near the Mission, we saw the great gate thrown open,
and the padre standing on the steps, with a crucifix in his hand.
The Mission is a large and deserted-looking place, the
out-buildings going to ruin, and everything giving one the
impression of decayed grandeur. A large stone fountain threw out
pure water, from four mouths, into a basin, before the church
door; and we were on the point of riding up to let our horses
drink, when it occurred to us that it might be consecrated, and we
forebore. Just at this moment, the bells set up their harsh,
discordant clangor, and the procession moved into the court. I
wished to follow, and see the ceremony, but the horse of one of my
companions had become frightened, and was tearing off toward the
town; and, having thrown his rider, and got one of his hoofs
caught in the tackling of the saddle, which had slipped, was fast
dragging and ripping it to pieces. Knowing that my shipmate could
not speak a word of Spanish, and fearing that he would get into
difficulty, I was obliged to leave the ceremony and ride after
him. I soon overtook him, trudging along, swearing at the horse,
and carrying the remains of the saddle, which he had picked up on
the road. Going to the owner of the horse, we made a settlement
with him, and found him surprisingly liberal. All parts of the
saddle were brought back, and, being capable of repair, he was
satisfied with six reals. We thought it would have been a few
dollars. We pointed to the horse, which was now half-way up one of
the mountains; but he shook his head, saying, ``No importa!'' and
giving us to understand that he had plenty more.

Having returned to the town, we saw a crowd collected in the
square before the principal pulpería, and, riding up, found that
all these people-- men, women, and children-- had been drawn
together by a couple of bantam cocks. The cocks were in full tilt,
springing into one another, and the people were as eager, laughing
and shouting, as though the combatants had been men. There had
been a disappointment about the bull; he had broken his bail, and
taken himself off, and it was too late to get another, so the
people were obliged to put up with a cock-fight. One of the
bantams having been knocked in the head, and having an eye put
out, gave in, and two monstrous prize-cocks were brought on. These
were the object of the whole affair; the bantams having been
merely served up as a first course, to collect the people
together. Two fellows came into the ring holding the cocks in
their arms, and stroking them, and running about on all-fours,
encouraging and setting them on. Bets ran high, and, like most
other contests, it remained for some time undecided. Both cocks
showed great pluck, and fought probably better and longer than
their masters would have done. Whether, in the end, it was the
white or the red that beat, I do not recollect, but whichever it
was, he strutted off with the true veni-vidi-vici look, leaving
the other lying panting on his beam-ends.

This matter having been settled, we heard some talk about
``caballos'' and ``carrera,'' and seeing the people streaming off
in one direction, we followed, and came upon a level piece of
ground, just out of the town, which was used as a race-course.
Here the crowd soon became thick again, the ground was marked off,
the judges stationed, and the horses led up to one end. Two
fine-looking old gentlemen-- Don Carlos and Don Domingo, so called--
held the stakes, and all was now ready. We waited some time,
during which we could just see the horses twisting round and
turning, until, at length, there was a shout along the lines, and
on they came, heads stretched out and eyes starting,-- working all
over, both man and beast. The steeds came by us like a couple of
chain shot,-- neck and neck; and now we could see nothing but
their backs and their hind hoofs flying in the air. As fast as the
horses passed, the crowd broke up behind them, and ran to the
goal. When we got there, we found the horses returning on a slow
walk, having run far beyond the mark, and heard that the long,
bony one had come in head and shoulders before the other. The
riders were light-built men, had handkerchiefs tied round their
heads, and were bare-armed and bare-legged. The horses were
noble-looking beasts, not so sleek and combed as our Boston stable
horses, but with fine limbs and spirited eyes. After this had been
settled, and fully talked over, the crowd scattered again, and
flocked back to the town.

Returning to the large pulpería, we heard the violin and guitar
screaming and twanging away under the piazza, where they had been
all day. As it was now sundown, there began to be some dancing.
The Italian sailors danced, and one of our crew exhibited himself
in a sort of West India shuffle, much to the amusement of the
bystanders, who cried out, ``Bravo!'' ``Otra vez!'' and ``Vivan
los marineros!'' but the dancing did not become general, as the
women and the ``gente de razon'' had not yet made their
appearance. We wished very much to stay and see the style of
dancing; but, although we had had our own way during the day, yet
we were, after all, but 'fore-mast Jacks; and, having been ordered
to be on the beach by sunset, did not venture to be more than an
hour behind the time, so we took our way down. We found the boat
just pulling ashore through the breakers, which were running high,
there having been a heavy fog outside, which, from some cause or
other, always brings on, or precedes, a heavy sea. Liberty-men are
privileged from the time they leave the vessel until they step on
board again; so we took our places in the stern sheets, and were
congratulating ourselves upon getting off dry, when a great comber
broke fore and aft the boat, and wet us through and through,
filling the boat half full of water. Having lost her buoyancy by
the weight of the water, she dropped heavily into every sea that
struck her, and by the time we had pulled out of the surf into
deep water, she was but just afloat, and we were up to our knees.
By the help of a small bucket and our hats, we bailed her out, got
on board, hoisted the boats, eat our supper, changed our clothes,
gave (as is usual) the whole history of our day's adventures to
those who had stayed on board, and, having taken a night-smoke,
turned in. Thus ended our second day's liberty on shore.

On Monday morning, as an offset to our day's sport, we were all
set to work ``tarring down'' the rigging. Some got girt-lines up
for riding down the stays and back-stays, and others tarred the
shrouds, lifts, &c., laying out on the yards, and coming down the
rigging. We overhauled our bags, and took out our old tarry
trousers and frocks, which we had used when we tarred down before,
and were all at work in the rigging by sunrise. After breakfast,
we had the satisfaction of seeing the Italian ship's boat go
ashore, filled with men, gayly dressed, as on the day before, and
singing their barcarollas. The Easter holidays are kept up on
shore for three days; and, being a Catholic vessel, her crew had
the advantage of them. For two successive days, while perched up
in the rigging, covered with tar and engaged in our disagreeable
work, we saw these fellows going ashore in the morning, and coming
off again at night, in high spirits. So much for being
Protestants. There's no danger of Catholicism's spreading in New
England, unless the Church cuts down her holidays; Yankees can't
afford the time. American shipmasters get nearly three weeks' more
labor out of their crews, in the course of a year, than the
masters of vessels from Catholic countries. As Yankees don't
usually keep Christmas, and shipmasters at sea never know when
Thanksgiving comes, Jack has no festival at all.

About noon, a man aloft called out ``Sail ho!'' and, looking off,
we saw the head sails of a vessel coming round the point. As she
drew round, she showed the broadside of a full-rigged brig, with
the Yankee ensign at her peak. We ran up our stars and stripes,
and, knowing that there was no American brig on the coast but
ours, expected to have news from home. She rounded-to and let go
her anchor; but the dark faces on her yards, when they furled the
sails, and the Babel on deck, soon made known that she was from
the Islands. Immediately afterwards, a boat's crew came aboard,
bringing her skipper, and from them we learned that she was from
Oahu, and was engaged in the same trade with the Ayacucho and
Loriotte, between the coast, the Sandwich Islands, and the leeward
coast of Peru and Chili. Her captain and officers were Americans,
and also a part of her crew; the rest were Islanders. She was
called the Catalina, and, like the vessels in that trade, except
the Ayacucho, her papers and colors were from Uncle Sam. They, of
course, brought us no news, and we were doubly disappointed, for
we had thought, at first, it might be the ship which we were
expecting from Boston.

After lying here about a fortnight, and collecting all the hides
the place afforded, we set sail again for San Pedro. There we
found the brig which we had assisted in getting off lying at
anchor, with a mixed crew of Americans, English,
Sandwich-Islanders, Spaniards, and Spanish Indians; and though
much smaller than we, yet she had three times the number of men;
and she needed them, for her officers were Californians. No
vessels in the world go so sparingly manned as American and
English; and none do so well. A Yankee brig of that size would
have had a crew of four men, and would have worked round and round
her. The Italian ship had a crew of thirty men, nearly three times
as many as the Alert, which was afterwards on the coast, and was
of the same size; yet the Alert would get under way and come-to in
half the time, and get two anchors, while they were all talking at
once,-- jabbering like a parcel of ``Yahoos,'' and running about
decks to find their cat-block.

There was only one point in which they had the advantage over us,
and that was in lightening their labors in the boats by their
songs. The Americans are a time and money saving people, but have
not yet, as a nation, learned that music may be ``turned to
account.'' We pulled the long distances to and from the shore,
with our loaded boats, without a word spoken, and with
discontented looks, while they not only lightened the labor of
rowing, but actually made it pleasant and cheerful, by their
music. So true is it, that:--

``For the tired slave, song lifts the languid oar,
And bids it aptly fall, with chime
That beautifies the fairest shore,
And mitigates the harshest clime.''

After lying about a week in San Pedro, we got under way for San
Diego, intending to stop at San Juan, as the southeaster season
was nearly over, and there was little or no danger.

This being the spring season, San Pedro, as well as all the other
open ports upon the coast, was filled with whales, that had come
in to make their annual visit upon soundings. For the first few
days that we were here and at Santa Barbara, we watched them with
great interest, calling out ``There she blows!'' every time we saw
the spout of one breaking the surface of the water; but they soon
became so common that we took little notice of them. They often
``broke'' very near us, and one thick, foggy night, during a dead
calm, while I was standing anchor-watch, one of them rose so near
that he struck our cable, and made all surge again. He did not
seem to like the encounter much himself, for he sheered off, and
spouted at a good distance. We once came very near running one
down in the gig, and should probably have been knocked to pieces
or thrown sky-high. We had been on board the little Spanish brig,
and were returning, stretching out well at our oars, the little
boat going like a swallow; our faces were turned aft (as is always
the case in pulling), and the captain, who was steering, was not
looking out when, all at once, we heard the spout of a whale
directly ahead. ``Back water! back water, for your lives!''
shouted the captain; and we backed our blades in the water, and
brought the boat to in a smother of foam. Turning our heads, we
saw a great, rough, hump-backed whale slowly crossing our fore
foot, within three or four yards of the boat's stem. Had we not
backed water just as we did, we should inevitably have gone smash
upon him, striking him with our stem just about amidships. He took
no notice of us, but passed slowly on, and dived a few yards
beyond us, throwing his tail high in the air. He was so near that
we had a perfect view of him, and, as may be supposed, had no
desire to see him nearer. He was a disgusting creature, with a
skin rough, hairy, and of an iron-gray color. This kind differs
much from the sperm, in color and skin, and is said to be fiercer.
We saw a few sperm whales; but most of the whales that come upon
the coast are fin-backs and hump-backs, which are more difficult
to take, and are said not to give oil enough to pay for the
trouble. For this reason, whale-ships do not come upon the coast
after them. Our captain, together with Captain Nye of the
Loriotte, who had been in a whale-ship, thought of making an
attempt upon one of them with two boats' crews; but as we had only
two harpoons, and no proper lines, they gave it up.

During the months of March, April, and May, these whales appear in
great numbers in the open ports of Santa Barbara, San Pedro, &c.,
and hover off the coast, while a few find their way into the close
harbors of San Diego and Monterey. They are all off again before
midsummer, and make their appearance on the ``off-shore ground.''
We saw some fine ``schools'' of sperm whales, which are easily
distinguished by their spout, blowing away, a few miles to
windward, on our passage to San Juan.

Coasting along on the quiet shore of the Pacific, we came to
anchor in twenty fathoms' water, almost out at sea, as it were,
and directly abreast of a steep hill which overhung the water, and
was twice as high as our royal-mast-head. We had heard much of
this place from the Lagoda's crew, who said it was the worst place
in California. The shore is rocky, and directly exposed to the
southeast, so that vessels are obliged to slip and run for their
lives on the first sign of a gale; and late as it was in the
season, we got up our slip-rope and gear, though we meant to stay
only twenty-four hours. We pulled the agent ashore, and were
ordered to wait for him, while he took a circuitous way round the
hill to the Mission, which was hidden behind it. We were glad of
the opportunity to examine this singular place, and hauling the
boat up, and making her well fast, took different directions up
and down the beach, to explore it.

San Juan is the only romantic spot on the coast. The country here
for several miles is high table-land, running boldly to the shore,
and breaking off in a steep cliff, at the foot of which the waters
of the Pacific are constantly dashing. For several miles the water
washes the very base of the hill, or breaks upon ledges and
fragments of rocks which run out into the sea. Just where we
landed was a small cove, or bight, which gave us, at high tide, a
few square feet of sand-beach between the sea and the bottom of
the hill. This was the only landing-place. Directly before us rose
the perpendicular height of four or five hundred feet. How we were
to get hides down, or goods up, upon the table-land on which the
Mission was situated, was more than we could tell. The agent had
taken a long circuit, and yet had frequently to jump over breaks,
and climb steep places, in the ascent. No animal but a man or a
monkey could get up it. However, that was not our lookout; and,
knowing that the agent would be gone an hour or more, we strolled
about, picking up shells, and following the sea where it tumbled
in, roaring and spouting, among the crevices of the great rocks.
What a sight, thought I, must this be in a southeaster! The rocks
were as large as those of Nahant or Newport, but, to my eye, more
grand and broken. Beside, there was a grandeur in everything
around, which gave a solemnity to the scene, a silence and
solitariness which affected every part! Not a human being but
ourselves for miles, and no sound heard but the pulsations of the
great Pacific! and the great steep hill rising like a wall, and
cutting us off from all the world, but the ``world of waters'' !
I separated myself from the rest, and sat down on a rock, just
where the sea ran in and formed a fine spouting horn. Compared
with the plain, dull sand-beach of the rest of the coast, this
grandeur was as refreshing as a great rock in a weary land. It was
almost the first time that I had been positively alone-- free from
the sense that human beings were at my elbow, if not talking with
me-- since I had left home. My better nature returned strong upon
me. Everything was in accordance with my state of feeling, and I
experienced a glow of pleasure at finding that what of poetry and
romance I ever had in me had not been entirely deadened by the
laborious life, with its paltry, vulgar associations, which I had
been leading. Nearly an hour did I sit, almost lost in the luxury
of this entire new scene of the play in which I had been so long
acting, when I was aroused by the distant shouts of my companions,
and saw that they were collecting together, as the agent had made
his appearance, on his way back to our boat.

We pulled aboard, and found the long-boat hoisted out, and nearly
laden with goods; and, after dinner, we all went on shore in the
quarter-boat, with the long-boat in tow. As we drew in, we
descried an ox-cart and a couple of men standing directly on the
brow of the hill; and having landed, the captain took his way
round the hill, ordering me and one other to follow him. We
followed, picking our way out, and jumping and scrambling up,
walking over briers and prickly pears, until we came to the top.
Here the country stretched out for miles, as far as the eye could
reach, on a level, table surface, and the only habitation in sight
was the small white mission of San Juan Capistrano, with a few
Indian huts about it, standing in a small hollow, about a mile
from where we were. Reaching the brow of the hill, where the cart
stood, we found several piles of hides, and Indians sitting round
them. One or two other carts were coming slowly on from the
Mission, and the captain told us to begin and throw the hides
down. This, then, was the way they were to be got down,-- thrown
down, one at a time, a distance of four hundred feet! This was
doing the business on a great scale. Standing on the edge of the
hill, and looking down the perpendicular height, the sailors

``That walked upon the beach
Appeared like mice; and our tall anchoring bark
Diminished to her cock; her cock a buoy
Almost too small for sight.''

Down this height we pitched the hides, throwing them as far out
into the air as we could; and as they were all large, stiff, and
doubled, like the cover of a book, the wind took them, and they
swayed and eddied about, plunging and rising in the air, like a
kite when it has broken its string. As it was now low tide, there
was no danger of their falling into the water; and, as fast as
they came to ground, the men below picked them up, and, taking
them on their heads, walked off with them to the boat. It was
really a picturesque sight: the great height, the scaling of the
hides, and the continual walking to and fro of the men, who looked
like mites, on the beach. This was the romance of hide droghing!

Some of the hides lodged in cavities under the bank and out of our
sight, being directly under us; but by pitching other hides in the
same direction, we succeeded in dislodging them. Had they remained
there, the captain said he should have sent on board for a couple
of pairs of long halyards, and got some one to go down for them.
It was said that one of the crew of an English brig went down in
the same way, a few years before. We looked over, and thought it
would not be a welcome task, especially for a few paltry hides;
but no one knows what he will do until he is called upon; for, six
months afterwards, I descended the same place by a pair of
top-gallant studding-sail halyards, to save half a dozen hides
which had lodged there.

Having thrown them all over, we took our way back again, and found
the boat loaded and ready to start. We pulled off, took the hides
all aboard, hoisted in the boats, hove up our anchor, made sail,
and before sundown were on our way to San Diego.

Friday, May 8th, 1835. Arrived at San Diego. We found the little
harbor deserted. The Lagoda, Ayacucho, Loriotte, all had sailed
from the coast, and we were left alone. All the hide-houses on the
beach but ours were shut up, and the Sandwich-Islanders, a dozen
or twenty in number, who had worked for the other vessels, and
been paid off when they sailed, were living on the beach, keeping
up a grand carnival. There was a large oven on the beach, which,
it seems, had been built by a Russian discovery-ship, that had
been on the coast a few years ago, for baking her bread. This the
Sandwich-Islanders took possession of, and had kept ever since,
undisturbed. It was big enough to hold eight or ten men, and had a
door at the side, and a vent-hole at top. They covered the floor
with Oahu mats for a carpet, stopped up the vent-hole in bad
weather, and made it their head-quarters. It was now inhabited by
as many as a dozen or twenty men, crowded together, who lived
there in complete idleness,-- drinking, playing cards, and
carousing in every way. They bought a bullock once a week, which
kept them in meat, and one of them went up to the town every day
to get fruit, liquor, and provisions. Besides this, they had
bought a cask of ship-bread, and a barrel of flour from the
Lagoda, before she sailed. There they lived, having a grand time,
and caring for nobody. Captain Thompson wished to get three or
four of them to come on board the Pilgrim, as we were so much
diminished in numbers, and went up to the oven, and spent an hour
or two trying to negotiate with them. One of them,-- a finely
built, active, strong, and intelligent fellow,-- who was a sort of
king among them, acted as spokesman. He was called Mannini,-- or
rather, out of compliment to his known importance and influence,
Mr. Mannini,-- and was known all over California. Through him, the
captain offered them fifteen dollars a month, and one month's pay
in advance; but it was like throwing pearls before swine, or,
rather, carrying coals to Newcastle. So long as they had money,
they would not work for fifty dollars a month, and when their
money was gone, they would work for ten.

``What do you do here, Mr. Mannini?''[1] said the captain.

``Oh! we play cards, get drunk, smoke,-- do anything we're a mind

``Don't you want to come aboard and work?''

``Aole! aole make make makou i ka hana. Now, got plenty money; no
good, work. Mamule, money pau-- all gone. Ah! very good, work!--
maikai, hana hana nui!''

``But you'll spend all your money in this way,'' said the captain.

``Aye! me know that. By-'em-by money pau-- all gone; then Kanaka
work plenty.''

This was a hopeless case, and the captain left them, to wait
patiently until their money was gone.

We discharged our hides and tallow, and in about a week were ready
to set sail again for the windward. We unmoored, and got
everything ready, when the captain made another attempt upon the
oven. This time he had more regard to the ``mollia tempora
fandi,'' and succeeded very well. He won over Mr. Mannini to his
interest, and as the shot was getting low in the locker at the
oven, prevailed upon him and three others to come on board with
their chests and baggage, and sent a hasty summons to me and the
boy to come ashore with our things, and join the gang at the
hide-house. This was unexpected to me; but anything in the way of
variety I liked; so we made ready, and were pulled ashore. I stood
on the beach while the brig got under way, and watched her until
she rounded the point, and then went to the hide-house to take up
my quarters for a few months.

[1] The vowels in the Sandwich Island language have the sound of
those in the languages of Continental Europe.


Here was a change in my life as complete as it had been sudden. In
the twinkling of an eye I was transformed from a sailor into a
``beach-comber'' and a hide-curer; yet the novelty and the
comparative independence of the life were not unpleasant. Our
hide-house was a large building, made of rough boards, and
intended to hold forty thousand hides. In one corner of it a small
room was parted off, in which four berths were made, where we were
to live, with mother earth for our floor. It contained a table, a
small locker for pots, spoons, plates, &c., and a small hole cut
to let in the light. Here we put our chests, threw our bedding
into the berths, and took up our quarters. Over our heads was
another small room, in which Mr. Russell lived, who had charge of
the hide-house, the same man who was for a time an officer of the
Pilgrim. There he lived in solitary grandeur, eating and sleeping
alone (and these were his principal occupations), and communing
with his own dignity. The boy, a Marblehead hopeful, whose name
was Sam, was to act as cook; while I, a giant of a Frenchman named
Nicholas, and four Sandwich-Islanders were to cure the hides. Sam,
Nicholas, and I lived together in the room, and the four
Sandwich-Islanders worked and ate with us, but generally slept at
the oven. My new messmate, Nicholas, was the most immense man that
I had ever seen. He came on the coast in a vessel which was
afterwards wrecked, and now let himself out to the different
houses to cure hides. He was considerably over six feet, and of a
frame so large that he might have been shown for a curiosity. But
the most remarkable thing about him was his feet. They were so
large that he could not find a pair of shoes in California to fit
him, and was obliged to send to Oahu for a pair; and when he got
them, he was compelled to wear them down at the heel. He told me
once that he was wrecked in an American brig on the Goodwin Sands,
and was sent up to London, to the charge of the American consul,
with scant clothing to his back and no shoes to his feet, and was
obliged to go about London streets in his stocking-feet three or
four days, in the month of January, until the consul could have a
pair of shoes made for him. His strength was in proportion to his
size, and his ignorance to his strength,-- ``strong as an ox, and
ignorant as strong.'' He knew how neither to read nor to write. He
had been to sea from a boy, had seen all kinds of service, and
been in all sorts of vessels,-- merchantmen, men-of-war,
privateers, and slavers; and from what I could gather from his
accounts of himself, and from what he once told me, in confidence,
after we had become better acquainted, he had been in even worse
business than slave-trading. He was once tried for his life in
Charleston, South Carolina, and, though acquitted, was so
frightened that he never would show himself in the United States
again. I was not able to persuade him that he could not be tried a
second time for the same offence. He said he had got safe off from
the breakers, and was too good a sailor to risk his timbers again.

Though I knew what his life had been, yet I never had the
slightest fear of him. We always got along very well together,
and, though so much older, stronger, and larger than I, he showed
a marked respect for me, on account of my education, and of what
he had heard of my situation before coming to sea, such as may be
expected from a European of the humble class. ``I'll be good
friends with you,'' he used to say, ``for by and by you'll come
out here captain, and then you'll haze me well!'' By holding
together, we kept the officer in good order, for he was evidently
afraid of Nicholas, and never interfered with us, except when
employed upon the hides. My other companions, the
Sandwich-Islanders, deserve particular notice.

A considerable trade has been carried on for several years between
California and the Sandwich Islands, and most of the vessels are
manned with Islanders, who, as they for the most part sign no
articles, leave whenever they chose, and let themselves out to
cure hides at San Diego, and to supply the places of the men left
ashore from the American vessels while on the coast. In this way a
little colony of them had become settled at San Diego, as their
head-quarters. Some of these had recently gone off in the Ayacucho
and Loriotte, and the Pilgrim had taken Mr. Mannini and three
others, so that there were not more than twenty left. Of these,
four were on pay at the Ayacucho's house, four more working with
us, and the rest were living at the oven in a quiet way; for their
money was nearly gone, and they must make it last until some other
vessel came down to employ them.

During the four months that I lived here, I got well acquainted
with all of them, and took the greatest pains to become familiar
with their language, habits, and characters. Their language I
could only learn orally, for they had not any books among them,
though many of them had been taught to read and write by the
missionaries at home. They spoke a little English, and, by a sort
of compromise, a mixed language was used on the beach, which could
be understood by all. The long name of Sandwich-Islanders is
dropped, and they are called by the whites, all over the Pacific
Ocean, ``Kanakas,'' from a word in their own language,--
signifying, I believe, man, human being,-- which they apply to
themselves, and to all South-Sea-Islanders, in distinction from
whites, whom they call ``Haole.'' This name, ``Kanaka,'' they
answer to, both collectively and individually. Their proper names
in their own language being difficult to pronounce and remember,
they are called by any names which the captains or crews may
choose to give them. Some are called after the vessel they are in;
others by our proper names, as Jack, Tom, Bill; and some have
fancy names, as Ban-yan, Fore-top, Rope-yarn, Pelican, &c., &c. Of
the four who worked at our house, one was named ``Mr. Bingham,''
after the missionary at Oahu; another, Hope, after a vessel that
he had been in; a third, Tom Davis, the name of his first captain;
and the fourth, Pelican, from his fancied resemblance to that
bird. Then there was Lagoda-Jack, California-Bill, &c., &c. But by
whatever names they might be called, they were the most
interesting, intelligent, and kind-hearted people that I ever fell
in with. I felt a positive attachment for almost all of them; and
many of them I have, to this day, a feeling for, which would lead
me to go a great way for the pleasure of seeing them, and which
will always make me feel a strong interest in the mere name of a

Tom Davis knew how to read, write, and cipher in common
arithmetic; had been to the United States, and spoke English quite
well. His education was as good as that of three quarters of the
Yankees in California, and his manners and principles a good deal
better; and he was so quick of apprehension that he might have
been taught navigation, and the elements of many of the sciences,
with ease. Old ``Mr. Bingham'' spoke very little English,-- almost
none, and could neither read nor write; but he was the
best-hearted old fellow in the world. He must have been over fifty
years of age. He had two of his front teeth knocked out, which was
done by his parents as a sign of grief at the death of Kamehameha,
the great king of the Sandwich Islands. We used to tell him that
he ate Captain Cook, and lost his teeth in that way. That was the
only thing that ever made him angry. He would always be quite
excited at that, and say: ``Aole!'' (No.) ``Me no eatee Cap'nee
Cook! Me pickaninny-- small-- so high-- no more! My fader see
Cap'nee Cook! Me-- no!'' None of them liked to have anything said
about Captain Cook, for the sailors all believe that he was eaten,
and that they cannot endure to be taunted with. ``New Zealand
Kanaka eatee white man; Sandwich Island Kanaka,-- no. Sandwich
Island Kanaka ua like pu na haole,-- all 'e same a' you!''

Mr. Bingham was a sort of patriarch among them, and was treated
with great respect, though he had not the education and energy
which gave Mr. Mannini his power over them. I have spent hours in
talking with this old fellow about Kamehameha, the Charlemagne of
the Sandwich Islands; his son and successor, Riho Riho, who died
in England, and was brought to Oahu in the frigate Blonde, Captain
Lord Byron, and whose funeral he remembered perfectly; and also
about the customs of his boyhood, and the changes which had been
made by the missionaries. He never would allow that human beings
had been eaten there; and, indeed, it always seemed an insult to
tell so affectionate, intelligent, and civilized a class of men
that such barbarities had been practised in their own country
within the recollection of many of them. Certainly, the history of
no people on the globe can show anything like so rapid an advance
from barbarism. I would have trusted my life and all I had in the
hands of any one of these people; and certainly, had I wished for
a favor or act of sacrifice, I would have gone to them all, in
turn, before I should have applied to one of my own countrymen on
the coast, and should have expected to see it done, before my own
countrymen had got half through counting the cost. Their customs,
and manner of treating one another, show a simple, primitive
generosity which is truly delightful, and which is often a
reproach to our own people. Whatever one has they all have. Money,
food, clothes, they share with one another, even to the last piece
of tobacco to put in their pipes. I once heard old Mr. Bingham
say, with the highest indignation, to a Yankee trader who was
trying to persuade him to keep his money to himself, ``No! we no
all 'e same a' you!-- Suppose one got money, all got money. You,--
suppose one got money-- lock him up in chest.-- No good!''--
``Kanaka all 'e same a' one!'' This principle they carry so far
that none of them will eat anything in sight of others without
offering it all round. I have seen one of them break a biscuit,
which had been given him, into five parts, at a time when I knew
he was on a very short allowance, as there was but little to eat
on the beach.

My favorite among all of them, and one who was liked by both
officers and men, and by whomever he had anything to do with, was
Hope. He was an intelligent, kind-hearted little fellow, and I
never saw him angry, though I knew him for more than a year, and
have seen him imposed upon by white people, and abused by insolent
mates of vessels. He was always civil, and always ready, and never
forgot a benefit. I once took care of him when he was ill, getting
medicines from the ship's chests, when no captain or officer would
do anything for him, and he never forgot it. Every Kanaka has one
particular friend, whom he considers himself bound to do
everything for, and with whom he has a sort of contract,-- an
alliance offensive and defensive,-- and for whom he will often
make the greatest sacrifices. This friend they call aikane; and
for such did Hope adopt me. I do not believe I could have wanted
anything which he had, that he would not have given me. In return
for this, I was his friend among the Americans, and used to teach
him letters and numbers; for he left home before he had learned
how to read. He was very curious respecting Boston (as they called
the United States), asking many questions about the houses, the
people, &c., and always wished to have the pictures in books
explained to him. They were all astonishingly quick in catching at
explanations, and many things which I had thought it utterly
impossible to make them understand they often seized in an
instant, and asked questions which showed that they knew enough to
make them wish to go farther. The pictures of steamboats and
railroad cars, in the columns of some newspapers which I had, gave
me great difficulty to explain. The grading of the road, the
rails, the construction of the carriages, they could easily
understand, but the motion produced by steam was a little too
refined for them. I attempted to show it to them once by an
experiment upon the cook's coppers, but failed,-- probably as much
from my own ignorance as from their want of apprehension, and, I
have no doubt, left them with about as clear an idea of the
principle as I had myself. This difficulty, of course, existed in
the same force with respect to the steamboats; and all I could do
was to give them some account of the results, in the shape of
speed; for, failing in the reason, I had to fall back upon the
fact. In my account of the speed, I was supported by Tom, who had
been to Nantucket, and seen a little steamboat which ran over to
New Bedford. And, by the way, it was strange to hear Tom speak of
America, when the poor fellow had been all the way round Cape Horn
and back, and had seen nothing but Nantucket.

A map of the world, which I once showed them, kept their attention
for hours; those who knew how to read pointing out the places and
referring to me for the distances. I remember being much amused
with a question which Hope asked me. Pointing to the large,
irregular place which is always left blank round the poles, to
denote that it is undiscovered, he looked up and asked, ``Pau?''
(Done? ended?)

The system of naming the streets and numbering the houses they
easily understood, and the utility of it. They had a great desire
to see America, but were afraid of doubling Cape Horn, for they
suffer much in cold weather, and had heard dreadful accounts of
the Cape from those of their number who had been round it.

They smoke a great deal, though not much at a time, using pipes
with large bowls, and very short stems, or no stems at all. These
they light, and, putting them to their mouths, take a long
draught, getting their mouths as full as they can hold of smoke,
and their cheeks distended, and then let it slowly out through
their mouths and nostrils. The pipe is then passed to others, who
draw in the same manner,-- one pipe-full serving for half a dozen.
They never take short, continuous draughts, like Europeans, but
one of these ``Oahu puffs,'' as the sailors call them, serves for
an hour or two, until some one else lights his pipe, and it is
passed round in the same manner. Each Kanaka on the beach had a
pipe, flint, steel, tinder, a hand of tobacco, and a jack-knife,
which he always carried about with him.[1]

That which strikes a stranger most peculiarly is their style of
singing. They run on, in a low, guttural, monotonous sort of
chant, their lips and tongues seeming hardly to move, and the
sounds apparently modulated solely in the throat. There is very
little tune to it, and the words, so far as I could learn, are
extempore. They sing about persons and things which are around
them, and adopt this method when they do not wish to be understood
by any but themselves; and it is very effectual, for with the most
careful attention I never could detect a word that I knew. I have
often heard Mr. Mannini, who was the most noted improvisatore
among them, sing for an hour together, when at work in the midst
of Americans and Englishmen; and, by the occasional shouts and
laughter of the Kanakas, who were at a distance, it was evident
that he was singing about the different men that he was at work
with. They have great powers of ridicule, and are excellent
mimics, many of them discovering and imitating the peculiarities
of our own people before we had observed them ourselves.

These were the people with whom I was to spend a few months, and
who, with the exception of the officer, Nicholas, the Frenchman,
and the boy, made the whole population of the beach. I ought,
perhaps, to except the dogs, for they were an important part of
our settlement. Some of the first vessels brought dogs out with
them, who, for convenience, were left ashore, and there
multiplied, until they came to be a great people. While I was on
the beach, the average number was about forty, and probably an
equal, or greater, number are drowned, or killed in some other
way, every year. They are very useful in guarding the beach, the
Indians being afraid to come down at night; for it was impossible
for any one to get within half a mile of the hide-houses without a
general alarm. The father of the colony, old Sachem, so called
from the ship in which he was brought out, died while I was there,
full of years, and was honorably buried. Hogs and a few chickens
were the rest of the animal tribe, and formed, like the dogs, a
common company, though they were all known, and usually fed at the
houses to which they belonged.

I had been but a few hours on the beach, and the Pilgrim was
hardly out of sight, when the cry of ``Sail ho!'' was raised, and
a small hermaphrodite brig rounded the point, bore up into the
harbor, and came to anchor. It was the Mexican brig Fazio, which
we had left at San Pedro, and which had come down to land her
tallow, try it all over, and make new bags, and then take it in
and leave the coast. They moored ship, erected their try-works on
shore, put up a small tent, in which they all lived, and commenced
operations. This addition gave a change and variety to our
society, and we spent many evenings in their tent, where, amid the
Babel of English, Spanish, French, Indian, and Kanaka, we found
some words that we could understand in common.

The morning after my landing, I began the duties of hide-curing.
In order to understand these, it will be necessary to give the
whole history of a hide, from the time it is taken from a bullock
until it is put on board the vessel to be carried to Boston. When
the hide is taken from the bullock, holes are cut round it, near
the edge, by which it is staked out to dry. In this manner it
dries without shrinking. After the hides are thus dried in the
sun, and doubled with the skin out, they are received by the
vessels at the different ports on the coast, and brought down to
the depot at San Diego. The vessels land them, and leave them in
large piles near the houses. Then begins the hide-curer's duty.

The first thing is to put them in soak. This is done by carrying
them down at low tide, and making them fast, in small piles, by
ropes, and letting the tide come up and cover them. Every day we
put in soak twenty-five for each man, which, with us, made a
hundred and fifty. There they lie forty-eight hours, when they are
taken out, and rolled up, in wheelbarrows, and thrown into the
vats. These vats contain brine, made very strong,-- being
sea-water, with great quantities of salt thrown in. This pickles
the hides, and in this they lie forty-eight hours; the use of the
sea-water, into which they are first put, being merely to soften
and clean them. From these vats they are taken, and lie on a
platform for twenty-four hours, and then are spread upon the
ground, and carefully stretched and staked out, with the skin up,
that they may dry smooth. After they had been staked, and while
yet wet and soft, we used to go upon them with our knives, and
carefully cut off all the bad parts,-- the pieces of meat and fat,
which would corrupt and infect the whole if stowed away in a
vessel for many months, the large flippers, the ears, and all
other parts which would prevent close stowage. This was the most
difficult part of our duty, as it required much skill to take off
everything that ought to come off, and not to cut or injure the
hide. It was also a long process, as six of us had to clean a
hundred and fifty, most of which required a great deal to be done
to them, as the Spaniards are very careless in skinning their
cattle. Then, too, as we cleaned them while they were staked out,
we were obliged to kneel down upon them, which always gives
beginners the back-ache. The first day I was so slow and awkward
that I cleaned only eight; at the end of a few days I doubled my
number; and, in a fortnight or three weeks, could keep up with the
others, and clean my twenty-five.

This cleaning must be got through with before noon, for by that
time the hides get too dry. After the sun has been upon them a few
hours, they are carefully gone over with scrapers, to get off all
the grease which the sun brings out. This being done, the stakes
are pulled up, and the hides carefully doubled, with the hair side
out, and left to dry. About the middle of the afternoon they are
turned over, for the other side to dry, and at sundown piled up
and covered over. The next day they are spread out and opened
again, and at night, if fully dry, are thrown upon a long,
horizontal pole, five at a time, and beaten with flails. This
takes all the dust from them. Then, having been salted, scraped,
cleaned, dried, and beaten, they are stowed away in the house.
Here ends their history, except that they are taken out again when
the vessel is ready to go home, beaten, stowed away on board,
carried to Boston, tanned, made into shoes and other articles for
which leather is used, and many of them, very probably, in the
end, brought back again to California in the shape of shoes, and
worn out in pursuit of other bullocks, or in the curing of other

By putting a hundred and fifty in soak every day, we had the same
number at each stage of curing on each day; so that we had, every
day, the same work to do upon the same number,-- a hundred and
fifty to put in soak, a hundred and fifty to wash out and put in
the vat, the same number to haul from the vat and put on the
platform to drain, the same number to spread, and stake out, and
clean, and the same number to beat and stow away in the house. I
ought to except Sunday; for, by a prescription which no captain or
agent has yet ventured to break in upon, Sunday has been a day of
leisure on the beach for years. On Saturday night, the hides, in
every stage of progress, are carefully covered up, and not
uncovered until Monday morning. On Sundays we had absolutely no
work to do, unless it might be to kill a bullock, which was sent
down for our use about once a week, and sometimes came on Sunday.
Another advantage of the hide-curing life was, that we had just so
much work to do, and when that was through, the time was our own.
Knowing this, we worked hard, and needed no driving. We ``turned
out'' every morning with the first signs of daylight, and allowing
a short time, at about eight o'clock, for breakfast, generally got
through our labor between one and two o'clock, when we dined, and
had the rest of the time to ourselves, until just before sundown,
when we beat the dry hides and put them in the house, and covered
over all the others. By this means we had about three hours to
ourselves every afternoon, and at sundown we had our supper, and
our work was done for the day. There was no watch to stand, and no
topsails to reef. The evenings we generally spent at one another's
houses, and I often went up and spent an hour or so at the oven,
which was called the ``Kanaka Hotel,'' and the ``Oahu
Coffeehouse.'' Immediately after dinner we usually took a short
siesta, to make up for our early rising, and spent the rest of the
afternoon according to our own fancies. I generally read, wrote,
and made or mended clothes; for necessity, the mother of
invention, had taught me these two latter arts. The Kanakas went
up to the oven, and spent the time in sleeping, talking, and
smoking, and my messmate, Nicholas, who neither knew how to read
nor write, passed away the time by a long siesta, two or three
smokes with his pipe, and a paseo to the other houses. This
leisure time is never interfered with, for the captains know that
the men earn it by working hard and fast, and that, if they
interfered with it, the men could easily make their twenty-five
hides apiece last through the day. We were pretty independent,
too, for the master of the house-- ``capitan de la casa''-- had
nothing to say to us, except when we were at work on the hides;
and although we could not go up to the town without his
permission, this was seldom or never refused.

The great weight of the wet hides, which we were obliged to roll
about in wheelbarrows; the continual stooping upon those which
were pegged out to be cleaned; and the smell of the nasty vats,
into which we were often obliged to wade, knee-deep, to press down
the hides,-- all made the work disagreeable and fatiguing; but we
soon became hardened to it, and the comparative independence of
our life reconciled us to it, for there was nobody to haze us and
find fault; and when we were through for the day, we had only to
wash and change our clothes, and our time was our own. There was,
however, one exception to the time's being our own, which was,
that on two afternoons of every week we were obliged to go off for
wood for the cook to use in the galley. Wood is very scarce in the
vicinity of San Diego, there being no trees of any size for miles.
In the town, the inhabitants burn the small wood which grows in
thickets, and for which they send out Indians, in large numbers,
every few days. Fortunately, the climate is so fine that they have
no need of a fire in their houses, and only use it for cooking.
With us, the getting of wood was a great trouble; for all that in
the vicinity of the houses had been cut down, and we were obliged
to go off a mile or two, and to carry it some distance on our
backs, as we could not get the hand-cart up the hills and over the
uneven places. Two afternoons in the week, generally Monday and
Thursday, as soon as we were through dinner, we started off for
the bush, each of us furnished with a hatchet and a long piece of
rope, and dragging the hand-cart behind us, and followed by the
whole colony of dogs, who were always ready for the bush, and were
half mad whenever they saw our preparations. We went with the
hand-cart as far as we could conveniently drag it, and, leaving it
in an open, conspicuous place, separated ourselves, each taking
his own course, and looking about for some good place to begin
upon. Frequently, we had to go nearly a mile from the hand-cart
before we could find any fit place. Having lighted upon a good
thicket, the next thing was to clear away the underbrush, and have
fair play at the trees. These trees are seldom more than five or
six feet high, and the highest that I ever saw in these
expeditions could not have been more than twelve, so that, with
lopping off the branches and clearing away the underwood, we had a
good deal of cutting to do for a very little wood. Having cut
enough for a ``back-load,'' the next thing was to make it well
fast with the rope, and heaving the bundle upon our backs, and
taking the hatchet in hand, to walk off, up hill and down dale, to
the hand-cart. Two good back-loads apiece filled the hand-cart,
and that was each one's proportion. When each had brought down his
second load, we filled the hand-cart, and took our way again
slowly back to the beach. It was generally sundown when we got
back; and unloading, covering the hides for the night, and,
getting our supper, finished the day's work.

These wooding excursions had always a mixture of something rather
pleasant in them. Roaming about in the woods with hatchet in hand,
like a backwoodsman, followed by a troop of dogs, starting up
birds, snakes, hares, and foxes, and examining the various kinds
of trees, flowers, and birds'-nests, was, at least, a change from
the monotonous drag and pull on shipboard. Frequently, too, we had
some amusement and adventure. The coyotes, of which I have before
spoken,-- a sort of mixture of the fox and wolf breeds,-- fierce
little animals, with bushy tails and large heads, and a quick,
sharp bark, abound here, as in all other parts of California.
These the dogs were very watchful for, and, whenever they saw
them, started off in full run after them. We had many fine chases;
yet, although our dogs ran fast, the rascals generally escaped.
They are a match for the dog,-- one to one,-- but as the dogs
generally went in squads, there was seldom a fair fight. A smaller
dog, belonging to us, once attacked a coyote single, and was
considerably worsted, and might, perhaps, have been killed, had we
not come to his assistance. We had, however, one dog which gave
them a good deal of trouble and many hard runs. He was a fine,
tall fellow, and united strength and agility better than any dog
that I have ever seen. He was born at the Islands, his father
being an English mastiff and his mother a greyhound. He had the
high head, long legs, narrow body, and springing gait of the
latter, and the heavy jaw, thick jowls, and strong fore-quarters
of the mastiff. When he was brought to San Diego, an English
sailor said that he looked, about the face, like the Duke of
Wellington, whom he had once seen at the Tower; and, indeed, there
was something about him which resembled the portraits of the Duke.
From this time he was christened ``Welly,'' and became the
favorite and bully of the beach. He always led the dogs by several
yards in the chase, and had killed two coyotes at different times
in single combats. We often had fine sport with these fellows. A
quick, sharp bark from a coyote, and in an instant every dog was
at the height of his speed. A few minutes made up for an unfair
start, and gave each dog his right place. Welly, at the head,
seemed almost to skim over the bushes, and after him came Fanny,
Feliciana, Childers, and the other fleet ones,-- the spaniels and
terriers; and then, behind, followed the heavy corps,-- bull-dogs,
&c., for we had every breed. Pursuit by us was in vain, and in
about half an hour the dogs would begin to come panting and
straggling back.

Beside the coyotes, the dogs sometimes made prizes of rabbits and
hares, which are plentiful here, and numbers of which we often
shot for our dinners. Among the other animals there was a reptile
I was not so much disposed to find amusement from, the
rattlesnake. These snakes are very abundant here, especially
during the spring of the year. The latter part of the time that I
was on shore, I did not meet with so many, but for the first two
months we seldom went into ``the bush'' without one of our number
starting some of them. I remember perfectly well the first one
that I ever saw. I had left my companions, and was beginning to
clear away a fine clump of trees, when, just in the midst of the
thicket, but a few yards from me, one of these fellows set up his
hiss. It is a sharp, continuous sound, and resembles very much the
letting off of the steam from the small pipe of a steamboat,
except that it is on a smaller scale. I knew, by the sound of an
axe, that one of my companions was near, and called out to him, to
let him know what I had fallen upon. He took it very lightly, and
as he seemed inclined to laugh at me for being afraid, I
determined to keep my place. I knew that so long as I could hear
the rattle I was safe, for these snakes never make a noise when
they are in motion. Accordingly I continued my work, and the noise
which I made with cutting and breaking the trees kept him in
alarm; so that I had the rattle to show me his whereabouts. Once
or twice the noise stopped for a short time, which gave me a
little uneasiness, and, retreating a few steps, I threw something
into the bush, at which he would set his rattle agoing, and,
finding that he had not moved from his first place, I was easy
again. In this way I continued at my work until I had cut a full
load, never suffering him to be quiet for a moment. Having cut my
load, I strapped it together, and got everything ready for
starting. I felt that I could now call the others without the
imputation of being afraid, and went in search of them. In a few
minutes we were all collected, and began an attack upon the bush.
The big Frenchman, who was the one that I had called to at first,
I found as little inclined to approach the snake as I had been.
The dogs, too, seemed afraid of the rattle, and kept up a barking
at a safe distance; but the Kanakas showed no fear, and, getting
long sticks, went into the bush, and, keeping a bright lookout,
stood within a few feet of him. One or two blows struck near him,
and a few stones thrown started him, and we lost his track, and
had the pleasant consciousness that he might be directly under our
feet. By throwing stones and chips in different directions, we
made him spring his rattle again, and began another attack. This
time we drove him into the clear ground, and saw him gliding off,
with head and tail erect, when a stone, well aimed, knocked him
over the bank, down a declivity of fifteen or twenty feet, and
stretched him at his length. Having made sure of him by a few more
stones, we went down, and one of the Kanakas cut off his rattle.
These rattles vary in number, it is said, according to the age of
the snake; though the Indians think they indicate the number of
creatures they have killed. We always preserved them as trophies,
and at the end of the summer had a considerable collection. None
of our people were bitten by them, but one of our dogs died of a
bite, and another was supposed to have been bitten, but recovered.
We had no remedy for the bite, though it was said that the Indians
of the country had, and the Kanakas professed to have an herb
which would cure it, but it was fortunately never brought to the

Hares and rabbits, as I said before, were abundant, and, during
the winter months, the waters are covered with wild ducks and
geese. Crows, too, abounded, and frequently alighted in great
numbers upon our hides, picking at the pieces of dried meat and
fat. Bears and wolves are numerous in the upper parts of the
coast, and in the interior (and, indeed, a man was killed by a
bear within a few miles of San Pedro, while we were there), but
there were none in our immediate neighborhood. The only other
animals were horses. More than a dozen of these were owned by men
on the beach, and were allowed to run loose among the hills, with
a long lasso attached to them, to pick up feed wherever they could
find it. We were sure of seeing them once a day, for there was no
water among the hills, and they were obliged to come down to the
well which had been dug upon the beach. These horses were bought
at from two to six and eight dollars apiece, and were held very
much as common property. We generally kept one fast to one of the
houses, so that we could mount him and catch any of the others.
Some of them were really fine animals, and gave us many good runs
up to the presidio and over the country.

[1] Matches had not come into use then. I think there were none on
board any vessel on the coast. We used the tinder box in our


After we had been a few weeks on shore, and had begun to feel
broken into the regularity of our life, its monotony was
interrupted by the arrival of two vessels from the windward. We
were sitting at dinner in our little room, when we heard the cry
of ``Sail ho!'' This, we had learned, did not always signify a
vessel, but was raised whenever a woman was seen coming down from
the town, or an ox-cart, or anything unusual, hove in sight upon
the road; so we took no notice of it. But it soon became so loud
and general from all parts of the beach that we were led to go to
the door; and there, sure enough, were two sails coming round the
point, and leaning over from the strong northwest wind, which
blows down the coast every afternoon. The headmost was a ship, and
the other a brig. Everybody was alive on the beach, and all manner
of conjectures were abroad. Some said it was the Pilgrim, with the
Boston ship, which we were expecting; but we soon saw that the
brig was not the Pilgrim, and the ship, with her stump
top-gallant-masts and rusty sides, could not be a dandy Boston
Indiaman. As they drew nearer, we discovered the high poop, and
top-gallant forecastle, and other marks of the Italian ship Rosa,
and the brig proved to be the Catalina, which we saw at Santa
Barbara, just arrived from Valparaiso. They came to anchor, moored
ship, and began discharging hides and tallow. The Rosa had
purchased the house occupied by the Lagoda, and the Catalina took
the other spare one between ours and the Ayacucho's, so that now
each house was occupied, and the beach, for several days, was all
animation. The Catalina had several Kanakas on board, who were
immediately laid hold of by the others, and carried up to the
oven, where they had a long pow-wow and a smoke. Two Frenchmen,
who belonged to the Rosa's crew, came in every evening to see
Nicholas; and from them we learned that the Pilgrim was at San
Pedro, and was the only vessel from the United States now on the
coast. Several of the Italians slept on shore at their hide-house;
and there, and at the tent in which the Fazio's crew lived, we had
some singing almost every evening. The Italians sang a variety of
songs,-- barcarollas, provincial airs, &c.; in several of which I
recognized parts of our favorite operas and sentimental songs.
They often joined in a song, taking the different parts, which
produced a fine effect, as many of them had good voices, and all
sang with spirit. One young man, in particular, had a falsetto as
clear as a clarionet.

The greater part of the crews of the vessels came ashore every
evening, and we passed the time in going about from one house to
another, and listening to all manner of languages. The Spanish was
the common ground upon which we all met; for every one knew more
or less of that. We had now, out of forty or fifty,
representatives from almost every nation under the sun,-- two
Englishmen, three Yankees, two Scotchmen, two Welshmen, one
Irishman, three Frenchmen (two of whom were Normans, and the third
from Gascony), one Dutchman, one Austrian, two or three Spaniards
(from old Spain), half a dozen Spanish-Americans and half-breeds,
two native Indians from Chili and the Island of Chiloe, one negro,
one mulatto, about twenty Italians, from all parts of Italy, as
many more Sandwich-Islanders, one Tahitian, and one Kanaka from
the Marquesas Islands.

The night before the vessels were ready to sail, all the Europeans
united and had an entertainment at the Rosa's hide-house, and we
had songs of every nation and tongue. A German gave us ``Ach! mein
lieber Augustin!'' the three Frenchmen roared through the
Marseilles Hymn; the English and Scotchmen gave us ``Rule
Britannia,'' and ``Wha'll be King but Charlie?'' the Italians and
Spaniards screamed through some national affairs, for which I was
none the wiser; and we three Yankees made an attempt at the
``Star-spangled Banner.'' After these national tributes had been
paid, the Austrian gave us a pretty little love-song, and the
Frenchmen sang a spirited thing,-- ``Sentinelle! O prenez garde à
vous!''-- and then followed the mélange which might have been
expected. When I left them, the aguardiente and annisou were
pretty well in their heads, they were all singing and talking at
once, and their peculiar national oaths were getting as plenty as

The next day, the two vessels got under way for the windward, and
left us in quiet possession of the beach. Our numbers were
somewhat enlarged by the opening of the new houses, and the
society of the beach was a little changed. In charge of the
Catalina's house was an old Scotchman, Robert, who, like most of
his countrymen, had some education, and, like many of them, was
rather pragmatical, and had a ludicrously solemn conceit of
himself. He employed his time in taking care of his pigs,
chickens, turkeys, dogs, &c., and in smoking his long pipe.
Everything was as neat as a pin in the house, and he was as
regular in his hours as a chronometer, but, as he kept very much
by himself, was not a great addition to our society. He hardly
spent a cent all the time he was on the beach, and the others said
he was no shipmate. He had been a petty officer on board the
British frigate Dublin, Captain Lord James Townshend, and had
great ideas of his own importance. The man in charge of the Rosa's
house, Schmidt, was an Austrian, but spoke, read, and wrote four
languages with ease and correctness. German was his native tongue,
but being born near the borders of Italy, and having sailed out of
Genoa, the Italian was almost as familiar to him as his own
language. He was six years on board of an English man-of-war,
where he learned to speak our language easily, and also to read
and write it. He had been several years in Spanish vessels, and
had acquired that language so well that he could read books in it.
He was between forty and fifty years of age, and was a singular
mixture of the man-of-war's-man and Puritan. He talked a great
deal about propriety and steadiness, and gave good advice to the
youngsters and Kanakas, but seldom went up to the town without
coming down ``three sheets in the wind.'' One holiday, he and old
Robert (the Scotchman from the Catalina) went up to the town, and
got so cosey, talking over old stories and giving each other good
advice, that they came down, double-backed, on a horse, and both
rolled off into the sand as soon as the horse stopped. This put an
end to their pretensions, and they never heard the last of it from
the rest of the men. On the night of the entertainment at the
Rosa's house, I saw old Schmidt (that was the Austrian's name)
standing up by a hogshead, holding on by both hands, and calling
out to himself: ``Hold on, Schmidt! hold on, my good fellow, or
you'll be on your back!'' Still, he was an intelligent,
good-natured old fellow, and had a chest full of books, which he
willingly lent me to read. In the same house with him were a
Frenchman and an Englishman, the latter a regular-built
``man-o'-war Jack,'' a thorough seaman, a hearty, generous fellow,
and, at the same time, a drunken, dissolute dog. He made it a
point to get drunk every time he went to the presidio, when he
always managed to sleep on the road, and have his money stolen
from him. These, with a Chilian and half a dozen Kanakas, formed
the addition to our company.

In about six weeks from the time when the Pilgrim sailed, we had
all the hides which she left us cured and stowed away; and having
cleared up the ground and emptied the vats, and set everything in
order, had nothing more to do, until she should come down again,
but to supply ourselves with wood. Instead of going twice a week
for this purpose, we determined to give one whole week to getting
wood, and then we should have enough to last us half through the
summer. Accordingly we started off every morning, after an early
breakfast, with our hatchets in hand, and cut wood until the sun
was over the point,-- which was our mark for noon, as there was
not a watch on the beach,-- and then came back to dinner, and
after dinner started off again with our hand-cart and ropes, and
carted and ``backed'' it down until sunset. This we kept up for a
week, until we had collected several cords,-- enough to last us
for six or eight weeks,-- when we ``knocked off'' altogether, much
to my joy; for, though I liked straying in the woods, and cutting,
very well, yet the backing the wood for so great a distance, over
an uneven country, was, without exception, the hardest work I had
ever done. I usually had to kneel down, and contrive to heave the
load, which was well strapped together, upon my back, and then
rise up and start off with it, up the hills and down the vales,
sometimes through thickets,-- the rough points sticking into the
skin and tearing the clothes, so that, at the end of the week I
had hardly a whole shirt to my back.

We were now through all our work, and had nothing more to do until
the Pilgrim should come down again. We had nearly got through our
provisions too, as well as our work; for our officer had been very
wasteful of them, and the tea, flour, sugar, and molasses were all
gone. We suspected him of sending them up to the town; and he
always treated the squaws with molasses when they came down to the
beach. Finding wheat-coffee and dry bread rather poor living, we
clubbed together, and I went to the town on horseback, with a
great salt-bag behind the saddle, and a few reals in my pocket,
and brought back the bag full of onions, beans, pears,
watermelons, and other fruits; for the young woman who tended the
garden, finding that I belonged to the American ship, and that we
were short of provisions, put in a larger portion. With these we
lived like fighting-cocks for a week or two, and had, besides,
what the sailors call a ``blow-out on sleep,'' not turning out in
the morning until breakfast was ready. I employed several days in
overhauling my chest, and mending up all my old clothes, until I
had put everything in order,-- ``patch upon patch, like a
sand-barge's mainsail.'' Then I took hold of Bowditch's Navigator,
which I had always with me. I had been through the greater part of
it, and now went carefully over it from beginning to end, working
out most of the examples. That done, and there being no signs of
the Pilgrim, I made a descent upon old Schmidt, and borrowed and
read all the books there were upon the beach. Such a dearth was
there of these latter articles, that anything, even a little
child's story-book, or the half of a shipping calendar, seemed a
treasure. I actually read a jest-book through, from beginning to
end, in one day, as I should a novel, and enjoyed it much. At
last, when I thought that there were no more to be had, I found at
the bottom of old Schmidt's chest, ``Mandeville, a Romance, by
Godwin, in five volumes.'' This I had never read, but Godwin's
name was enough, and, after the wretched trash I had devoured,
anything bearing the name of an intellectual man was a prize
indeed. I bore it off, and for two days I was up early and late,
reading with all my might, and actually drinking in delight. It is
no extravagance to say that it was like a spring in a desert land.

From the sublime to the ridiculous-- so, with me, from Mandeville
to hide-curing-- was but a step; for--

Wednesday, July 18th, brought us the brig Pilgrim from the
windward. As she came in, we found that she was a good deal
altered in her appearance. Her short top-gallant-masts were up,
her bowlines all unrove (except to the courses), the quarter
boom-irons off her lower yards, her jack-cross-trees sent down,
several blocks got rid of, running rigging rove in new places, and
numberless other changes of the same character. Then, too, there
was a new voice giving orders, and a new face on the quarter-deck,--
a short, dark-complexioned man, in a green jacket and a high
leather cap. These changes, of course, set the whole beach on the
qui-vive, and we were all waiting for the boat to come ashore,
that we might have things explained. At length, after the sails
were furled and the anchor carried out, her boat pulled ashore,
and the news soon flew that the expected ship had arrived at Santa
Barbara, and that Captain Thompson had taken command of her, and
her captain, Faucon, had taken the Pilgrim, and was the
green-jacketed man on the quarter-deck. The boat put directly off
again, without giving us time to ask any more questions, and we
were obliged to wait till night, when we took a little skiff, that
lay on the beach, and paddled off. When I stepped aboard, the
second mate called me aft, and gave me a large bundle, directed to
me, and marked ``Ship Alert.'' This was what I had longed for, yet
I refrained from opening it until I went ashore. Diving down into
the forecastle, I found the same old crew, and was really glad to
see them again. Numerous inquiries passed as to the new ship, the
latest news from Boston, &c., &c. Stimson had received letters
from home, and nothing remarkable had happened. The Alert was
agreed on all hands to be a fine ship, and a large one: ``Larger
than the Rosa,''-- ``Big enough to carry off all the hides in
California,''-- ``Rail as high as a man's head,''-- ``A crack
ship,''-- ``A regular dandy,'' &c., &c. Captain Thompson took
command of her, and she went directly up to Monterey; thence she
was to go to San Francisco, and probably would not be in San Diego
under two or three months. Some of the Pilgrim's crew found old
shipmates aboard of her, and spent an hour or two in her
forecastle the evening before she sailed. They said her decks were
as white as snow,-- holystoned every morning, like a man-of-war's;
everything on board ``ship-shape and Bristol fashion''; a fine
crew, three mates, a sailmaker and carpenter, and all complete.
``They've got a man for mate of that ship, and not a bloody sheep
about decks!''-- ``A mate that knows his duty, and makes everybody
do theirs, and won't be imposed upon by either captain or crew.''
After collecting all the information we could get on this point,
we asked something about their new captain. He had hardly been on
board long enough for them to know much about him, but he had
taken hold strong, as soon as he took command,-- shifting the
top-gallant-masts, and unreeving all the studding-sail gear and


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