Part 1 out of 7
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REDBURN. HIS FIRST VOYAGE
I. HOW WELLINGBOROUGH REDBURN'S TASTE FOR THE SEA WAS BORN AND
BRED IN HIM
II. REDBURN'S DEPARTURE FROM HOME
III. HE ARRIVES IN TOWN
IV. HOW HE DISPOSED OF HIS FOWLING-PIECE
V. HE PURCHASES HIS SEA-WARDROBE, AND ON A DISMAL RAINY DAY PICKS
UP HIS BOARD AND LODGING ALONG THE WHARVES
VI. HE IS INITIATED IN THE BUSINESS OF CLEANING OUT THE PIG-PEN,
AND SLUSHING DOWN THE TOP-MAST
VII. HE GETS TO SEA AND FEELS VERY BAD
VIII. HE IS PUT INTO THE LARBOARD WATCH; GETS SEA-SICK; AND RELATES
SOME OTHER OF HIS EXPERIENCES
IX. THE SAILORS BECOMING A LITTLE SOCIAL, REDBURN CONVERSES WITH
X. HE IS VERY MUCH FRIGHTENED; THE SAILORS ABUSE HIM; AND HE
BECOMES MISERABLE AND FORLORN
XI. HE HELPS WASH THE DECKS, AND THEN GOES TO BREAKFAST
XII. HE GIVES SOME ACCOUNT OF ONE OF HIS SHIPMATES CALLED JACKSON
XIII. HE HAS A FINE DAY AT SEA, BEGINS TO LIKE IT; BUT CHANGES HIS
XIV. HE CONTEMPLATES MAKING A SOCIAL CALL ON THE CAPTAIN IN HIS CABIN
XV. THE MELANCHOLY STATE OF HIS WARDROBE
XVI. AT DEAD OF NIGHT HE IS SENT UP TO LOOSE THE MAIN-SKYSAIL
XVII. THE COOK AND STEWARD
XVIII. HE ENDEAVORS TO IMPROVE HIS MIND; AND TELLS OF ONE BLUNT AND HIS
XIX. A NARROW ESCAPE
XX. IN A FOG HE IS SET TO WORK AS A BELL-TOLLER, AND BEHOLDS A HERD
XXI. A WHALEMAN AND A MAN-OF-WAR'S-MAN
XXII. THE HIGHLANDER PASSES A WRECK
XXIII. AN UNACCOUNTABLE CABIN-PASSENGER, AND A MYSTERIOUS YOUNG LADY
XXIV. HE BEGINS TO HOP ABOUT IN THE RIGGING LIKE A SAINT JAGO's MONKEY
XXV. QUARTER-DECK FURNITURE
XXVI. A SAILOR A JACK OF ALL TRADES
XXVII. HE GETS A PEEP AT IRELAND, AND AT LAST ARRIVES AT LIVERPOOL
XXVIII. HE GOES TO SUPPER AT THE SIGN OF THE BALTIMORE CLIPPER
XXIX. REDBURN DEFERENTIALLY DISCOURSES CONCERNING THE PROSPECTS OF
XXX. REDBURN GROWS INTOLERABLY FLAT AND STUPID OVER SOME OUTLANDISH
XXXI. WITH HIS PROSY OLD GUIDE-BOOK, HE TAKES A PROSY STROLL THROUGH
XXXII. THE DOCKS
XXXIII. THE SALT-DROGHERS, AND GERMAN EMIGRANT SHIPS
XXXIV. THE IRRAWADDY
XXXV. GALLIOTS, COAST-OF-GUINEA-MAN, AND FLOATING CHAPEL
XXXVI. THE OLD CHURCH OF ST. NICHOLAS, AND THE DEAD-HOUSE
XXXVII. WHAT REDBURN SAW IN LAUNCELOTT'S-HEY
XXXVIII. THE DOCK-WALL BEGGARS
XXXIX. THE BOOBLE-ALLEYS OF THE TOWN
XL. PLACARDS, BRASS-JEWELERS, TRUCK-HORSES, AND STEAMERS
XLI. REDBURN ROVES ABOUT HITHER AND THITHER
XLII. HIS ADVENTURE WITH THE CROSS OLD GENTLEMAN
XLIII. HE TAKES A DELIGHTFUL RAMBLE INTO THE COUNTRY; AND MAKES THE
ACQUAINTANCE OF THREE ADORABLE CHARMERS
XLIV. REDBURN INTRODUCES MASTER HARRY BOLTON TO THE FAVORABLE
CONSIDERATION OF THE READER
XLV. HARRY BOLTON KIDNAPS REDBURN, AND CARRIES HIM OFF TO LONDON
XLVI. A MYSTERIOUS NIGHT IN LONDON
XLVII. HOMEWARD BOUND
XLVIII. A LIVING CORPSE
L. HARRY BOLTON AT SEA
LI. THE EMIGRANTS
LII. THE EMIGRANTS' KITCHEN
LIII. THE HORATII AND CURIATII
LIV. SOME SUPERIOR OLD NAIL-ROD AND PIG-TAIL
LVI. UNDER THE LEE OF THE LONG-BOAT, REDBURN AND HARRY HOLD
LVII. ALMOST A FAMINE
LVIII. THOUGH THE HIGHLANDER PUTS INTO NO HARBOR AS YET; SHE HERE
AND THERE LEAVES MANY OF HER PASSENGERS BEHIND
LIX. THE LAST END OF JACKSON
LX. HOME AT LAST
LXI. REDBURN AND HABBY, ARM IN ARM, IN HARBOR
LXII. THE LAST THAT WAS EVER HEARD OF HARRY BOLTON
Being the Sailor Boy
Confessions and Reminiscences
Of the Son-Of-A-Gentleman
In the Merchant Navy
I. HOW WELLINGBOROUGH REDBURN'S TASTE FOR THE SEA WAS BORN AND BRED IN
"Wellingborough, as you are going to sea, suppose you take this
shooting-jacket of mine along; it's just the thing--take it, it will
save the expense of another. You see, it's quite warm; fine long skirts,
stout horn buttons, and plenty of pockets."
Out of the goodness and simplicity of his heart, thus spoke my elder
brother to me, upon the eve of my departure for the seaport.
"And, Wellingborough," he added, "since we are both short of money, and
you want an outfit, and I Have none to give, you may as well take my
fowling-piece along, and sell it in New York for what you can get.--Nay,
take it; it's of no use to me now; I can't find it in powder any more."
I was then but a boy. Some time previous my mother had removed from New
York to a pleasant village on the Hudson River, where we lived in a
small house, in a quiet way. Sad disappointments in several plans which
I had sketched for my future life; the necessity of doing something for
myself, united to a naturally roving disposition, had now conspired
within me, to send me to sea as a sailor.
For months previous I had been poring over old New York papers,
delightedly perusing the long columns of ship advertisements, all of
which possessed a strange, romantic charm to me. Over and over again I
devoured such announcements as the following:
"The coppered and copper-fastened brig Leda, having nearly completed her
cargo, will sail for the above port on Tuesday the twentieth of May.
For freight or passage apply on board at Coenties Slip."
To my young inland imagination every word in an advertisement like this,
suggested volumes of thought.
A brig! The very word summoned up the idea of a black, sea-worn craft,
with high, cozy bulwarks, and rakish masts and yards.
Coppered and copper-fastened! That fairly smelt of the salt water! How
different such vessels must be from the wooden, one-masted, green-and-
white-painted sloops, that glided up and down the river before our
house on the bank.
Nearly completed her cargo! How momentous the announcement; suggesting
ideas, too, of musty bales, and cases of silks and satins, and filling
me with contempt for the vile deck-loads of hay and lumber, with which
my river experience was familiar.
"Will sail on Tuesday the 20th of May"--and the newspaper bore date the
fifth of the month! Fifteen whole days beforehand; think of that; what
an important voyage it must be, that the time of sailing was fixed upon
so long beforehand; the river sloops were not used to make such
"For freight or passage apply on board!"
Think of going on board a coppered and copper-fastened brig, and taking
passage for Bremen! And who could be going to Bremen? No one but
foreigners, doubtless; men of dark complexions and jet-black whiskers,
who talked French.
Plenty more brigs and any quantity of ships must be lying there.
Coenties Slip must be somewhere near ranges of grim-looking warehouses,
with rusty iron doors and shutters, and tiled roofs; and old anchors and
chain-cable piled on the walk. Old-fashioned coffeehouses, also, much
abound in that neighborhood, with sunburnt sea-captains going in and
out, smoking cigars, and talking about Havanna, London, and Calcutta.
All these my imaginations were wonderfully assisted by certain shadowy
reminiscences of wharves, and warehouses, and shipping, with which a
residence in a seaport during early childhood had supplied me.
Particularly, I remembered standing with my father on the wharf when a
large ship was getting under way, and rounding the head of the pier. I
remembered the yo heave ho! of the sailors, as they just showed their
woolen caps above the high bulwarks. I remembered how I thought of their
crossing the great ocean; and that that very ship, and those very
sailors, so near to me then, would after a time be actually in Europe.
Added to these reminiscences my father, now dead, had several times
crossed the Atlantic on business affairs, for he had been an importer in
Broad-street. And of winter evenings in New York, by the well-remembered
sea-coal fire in old Greenwich-street, he used to tell my brother and me
of the monstrous waves at sea, mountain high; of the masts bending like
twigs; and all about Havre, and Liverpool, and about going up into the
ball of St. Paul's in London. Indeed, during my early life, most of my
thoughts of the sea were connected with the land; but with fine old
lands, full of mossy cathedrals and churches, and long, narrow, crooked
streets without sidewalks, and lined with strange houses. And especially
I tried hard to think how such places must look of rainy days and
Saturday afternoons; and whether indeed they did have rainy days and
Saturdays there, just as we did here; and whether the boys went to
school there, and studied geography, and wore their shirt collars turned
over, and tied with a black ribbon; and whether their papas allowed them
to wear boots, instead of shoes, which I so much disliked, for boots
looked so manly.
As I grew older my thoughts took a larger flight, and I frequently fell
into long reveries about distant voyages and travels, and thought how
fine it would be, to be able to talk about remote and barbarous
countries; with what reverence and wonder people would regard me, if I
had just returned from the coast of Africa or New Zealand; how dark and
romantic my sunburnt cheeks would look; how I would bring home with me
foreign clothes of a rich fabric and princely make, and wear them up and
down the streets, and how grocers' boys would turn back their heads to
look at me, as I went by. For I very well remembered staring at a man
myself, who was pointed out to me by my aunt one Sunday in Church, as
the person who had been in Stony Arabia, and passed through strange
adventures there, all of which with my own eyes I had read in the book
which he wrote, an arid-looking book in a pale yellow cover.
"See what big eyes he has," whispered my aunt, "they got so big, because
when he was almost dead with famishing in the desert, he all at once
caught sight of a date tree, with the ripe fruit hanging on it."
Upon this, I stared at him till I thought his eyes were really of an
uncommon size, and stuck out from his head like those of a lobster. I am
sure my own eyes must have magnified as I stared. When church was out, I
wanted my aunt to take me along and follow the traveler home. But she
said the constables would take us up, if we did; and so I never saw this
wonderful Arabian traveler again. But he long haunted me; and several
times I dreamt of him, and thought his great eyes were grown still
larger and rounder; and once I had a vision of the date tree.
In course of time, my thoughts became more and more prone to dwell upon
foreign things; and in a thousand ways I sought to gratify my tastes. We
had several pieces of furniture in the house, which had been brought
from Europe. These I examined again and again, wondering where the wood
grew; whether the workmen who made them still survived, and what they
could be doing with themselves now.
Then we had several oil-paintings and rare old engravings of my
father's, which he himself had bought in Paris, hanging up in the
Two of these were sea-pieces. One represented a fat-looking, smoky
fishing-boat, with three whiskerandoes in red caps, and their browsers
legs rolled up, hauling in a seine. There was high French-like land in
one corner, and a tumble-down gray lighthouse surmounting it. The waves
were toasted brown, and the whole picture looked mellow and old. I used
to think a piece of it might taste good.
The other represented three old-fashioned French men-of-war with high
castles, like pagodas, on the bow and stern, such as you see in
Froissart; and snug little turrets on top of the mast, full of little
men, with something undefinable in their hands. All three were sailing
through a bright-blue sea, blue as Sicily skies; and they were leaning
over on their sides at a fearful angle; and they must have been going
very fast, for the white spray was about the bows like a snow-storm.
Then, we had two large green French portfolios of colored prints, more
than I could lift at that age. Every Saturday my brothers and sisters
used to get them out of the corner where they were kept, and spreading
them on the floor, gaze at them with never-failing delight.
They were of all sorts. Some were pictures of Versailles, its
masquerades, its drawing-rooms, its fountains, and courts, and gardens,
with long lines of thick foliage cut into fantastic doors and windows,
and towers and pinnacles. Others were rural scenes, full of fine skies,
pensive cows standing up to the knees in water, and shepherd-boys and
cottages in the distance, half concealed in vineyards and vines.
And others were pictures of natural history, representing rhinoceroses
and elephants and spotted tigers; and above all there was a picture of a
great whale, as big as a ship, stuck full of harpoons, and three boats
sailing after it as fast as they could fly.
Then, too, we had a large library-case, that stood in the hall; an old
brown library-case, tall as a small house; it had a sort of basement,
with large doors, and a lock and key; and higher up, there were glass
doors, through which might be seen long rows of old books, that had been
printed in Paris, and London, and Leipsic. There was a fine library
edition of the Spectator, in six large volumes with gilded backs; and
many a time I gazed at the word "London" on the title-page. And there
was a copy of D'Alembert in French, and I wondered what a great man I
would be, if by foreign travel I should ever be able to read straight
along without stopping, out of that book, which now was a riddle to
every one in the house but my father, whom I so much liked to hear talk
French, as he sometimes did to a servant we had.
That servant, too, I used to gaze at with wonder; for in answer to my
incredulous cross-questions, he had over and over again assured me, that
he had really been born in Paris. But this I never entirely believed;
for it seemed so hard to comprehend, how a man who had been born in a
foreign country, could be dwelling with me in our house in America.
As years passed on, this continual dwelling upon foreign associations,
bred in me a vague prophetic thought, that I was fated, one day or
other, to be a great voyager; and that just as my father used to
entertain strange gentlemen over their wine after dinner, I would
hereafter be telling my own adventures to an eager auditory. And I have
no doubt that this presentiment had something to do with bringing about
my subsequent rovings.
But that which perhaps more than any thing else, converted my vague
dreamings and longings into a definite purpose of seeking my fortune on
the sea, was an old-fashioned glass ship, about eighteen inches long,
and of French manufacture, which my father, some thirty years before,
had brought home from Hamburg as a present to a great-uncle of mine:
Senator Wellingborough, who had died a member of Congress in the days of
the old Constitution, and after whom I had the honor of being named.
Upon the decease of the Senator, the ship was returned to the donor.
It was kept in a square glass case, which was regularly dusted by one of
my sisters every morning, and stood on a little claw-footed Dutch
tea-table in one corner of the sitting-room. This ship, after being the
admiration of my father's visitors in the capital, became the wonder and
delight of all the people of the village where we now resided, many of
whom used to call upon my mother, for no other purpose than to see the
ship. And well did it repay the long and curious examinations which they
were accustomed to give it.
In the first place, every bit of it was glass, and that was a great
wonder of itself; because the masts, yards, and ropes were made to
resemble exactly the corresponding parts of a real vessel that could go
to sea. She carried two tiers of black guns all along her two decks; and
often I used to try to peep in at the portholes, to see what else was
inside; but the holes were so small, and it looked so very dark indoors,
that I could discover little or nothing; though, when I was very little,
I made no doubt, that if I could but once pry open the hull, and break
the glass all to pieces, I would infallibly light upon something
wonderful, perhaps some gold guineas, of which I have always been in
want, ever since I could remember. And often I used to feel a sort of
insane desire to be the death of the glass ship, case, and all, in order
to come at the plunder; and one day, throwing out some hint of the kind
to my sisters, they ran to my mother in a great clamor; and after that,
the ship was placed on the mantel-piece for a time, beyond my reach, and
until I should recover my reason.
I do not know how to account for this temporary madness of mine, unless
it was, that I had been reading in a story-book about Captain Kidd's
ship, that lay somewhere at the bottom of the Hudson near the Highlands,
full of gold as it could be; and that a company of men were trying to
dive down and get the treasure out of the hold, which no one had ever
thought of doing before, though there she had lain for almost a hundred
Not to speak of the tall masts, and yards, and rigging of this famous
ship, among whose mazes of spun-glass I used to rove in imagination,
till I grew dizzy at the main-truck, I will only make mention of the
people on board of her. They, too, were all of glass, as beautiful
little glass sailors as any body ever saw, with hats and shoes on, just
like living men, and curious blue jackets with a sort of ruffle round
the bottom. Four or five of these sailors were very nimble little chaps,
and were mounting up the rigging with very long strides; but for all
that, they never gained a single inch in the year, as I can take my
Another sailor was sitting astride of the spanker-boom, with his arms
over his head, but I never could find out what that was for; a second
was in the fore-top, with a coil of glass rigging over his shoulder; the
cook, with a glass ax, was splitting wood near the fore-hatch; the
steward, in a glass apron, was hurrying toward the cabin with a plate of
glass pudding; and a glass dog, with a red mouth, was barking at him;
while the captain in a glass cap was smoking a glass cigar on the
quarterdeck. He was leaning against the bulwark, with one hand to his
head; perhaps he was unwell, for he looked very glassy out of the eyes.
The name of this curious ship was La Reine, or The Queen, which was
painted on her stern where any one might read it, among a crowd of glass
dolphins and sea-horses carved there in a sort of semicircle.
And this Queen rode undisputed mistress of a green glassy sea, some of
whose waves were breaking over her bow in a wild way, I can tell you,
and I used to be giving her up for lost and foundered every moment, till
I grew older, and perceived that she was not in the slightest danger in
A good deal of dust, and fuzzy stuff like down, had in the course of
many years worked through the joints of the case, in which the ship was
kept, so as to cover all the sea with a light dash of white, which if
any thing improved the general effect, for it looked like the foam and
froth raised by the terrible gale the good Queen was battling against.
So much for La Reine. We have her yet in the house, but many of her
glass spars and ropes are now sadly shattered and broken,--but I will not
have her mended; and her figurehead, a gallant warrior in a cocked-hat,
lies pitching headforemost down into the trough of a calamitous sea
under the bows--but I will not have him put on his legs again, till I get
on my own; for between him and me there is a secret sympathy; and my
sisters tell me, even yet, that he fell from his perch the very day I
left home to go to sea on this my first voyage.
II. REDBURN'S DEPARTURE FROM HOME
It was with a heavy heart and full eyes, that my poor mother parted with
me; perhaps she thought me an erring and a willful boy, and perhaps I
was; but if I was, it had been a hardhearted world, and hard times that
had made me so. I had learned to think much and bitterly before my time;
all my young mounting dreams of glory had left me; and at that early
age, I was as unambitious as a man of sixty.
Yes, I will go to sea; cut my kind uncles and aunts, and sympathizing
patrons, and leave no heavy hearts but those in my own home, and take
none along but the one which aches in my bosom. Cold, bitter cold as
December, and bleak as its blasts, seemed the world then to me; there is
no misanthrope like a boy disappointed; and such was I, with the warmth
of me flogged out by adversity. But these thoughts are bitter enough
even now, for they have not yet gone quite away; and they must be
uncongenial enough to the reader; so no more of that, and let me go on
with my story.
"Yes, I will write you, dear mother, as soon as I can," murmured I, as
she charged me for the hundredth time, not fail to inform her of my safe
arrival in New York.
"And now Mary, Martha, and Jane, kiss me all round, dear sisters, and
then I am off. I'll be back in four months--it will be autumn then, and
we'll go into the woods after nuts, an I'll tell you all about Europe.
So I broke loose from their arms, and not daring to look behind, ran
away as fast as I could, till I got to the corner where my brother was
waiting. He accompanied me part of the way to the place, where the
steamboat was to leave for New York; instilling into me much sage advice
above his age, for he was but eight years my senior, and warning me
again and again to take care of myself; and I solemnly promised I would;
for what cast-away will not promise to take of care himself, when he
sees that unless he himself does, no one else will.
We walked on in silence till I saw that his strength was giving out,--he
was in ill health then,--and with a mute grasp of the hand, and a loud
thump at the heart, we parted.
It was early on a raw, cold, damp morning toward the end of spring, and
the world was before me; stretching away a long muddy road, lined with
comfortable houses, whose inmates were taking their sunrise naps,
heedless of the wayfarer passing. The cold drops of drizzle trickled
down my leather cap, and mingled with a few hot tears on my cheeks.
I had the whole road to myself, for no one was yet stirring, and I
walked on, with a slouching, dogged gait. The gray shooting-jacket was
on my back, and from the end of my brother's rifle hung a small bundle
of my clothes. My fingers worked moodily at the stock and trigger, and I
thought that this indeed was the way to begin life, with a gun in your
Talk not of the bitterness of middle-age and after life; a boy can feel
all that, and much more, when upon his young soul the mildew has fallen;
and the fruit, which with others is only blasted after ripeness, with
him is nipped in the first blossom and bud. And never again can such
blights be made good; they strike in too deep, and leave such a scar
that the air of Paradise might not erase it. And it is a hard and cruel
thing thus in early youth to taste beforehand the pangs which should be
reserved for the stout time of manhood, when the gristle has become
bone, and we stand up and fight out our lives, as a thing tried before
and foreseen; for then we are veterans used to sieges and battles, and
not green recruits, recoiling at the first shock of the encounter.
At last gaining the boat we pushed off, and away we steamed down the
Hudson. There were few passengers on board, the day was so unpleasant;
and they were mostly congregated in the after cabin round the stoves.
After breakfast, some of them went to reading: others took a nap on the
settees; and others sat in silent circles, speculating, no doubt, as to
who each other might be.
They were certainly a cheerless set, and to me they all looked
stony-eyed and heartless. I could not help it, I almost hated them; and
to avoid them, went on deck, but a storm of sleet drove me below. At
last I bethought me, that I had not procured a ticket, and going to the
captain's office to pay my passage and get one, was horror-struck to
find, that the price of passage had been suddenly raised that day, owing
to the other boats not running; so that I had not enough money to pay
for my fare. I had supposed it would be but a dollar, and only a dollar
did I have, whereas it was two. What was to be done? The boat was off,
and there was no backing out; so I determined to say nothing to any
body, and grimly wait until called upon for my fare.
The long weary day wore on till afternoon; one incessant storm raged
on deck; but after dinner the few passengers, waked up with their
roast-beef and mutton, became a little more sociable. Not with me, for
the scent and savor of poverty was upon me, and they all cast toward me
their evil eyes and cold suspicious glances, as I sat apart, though
among them. I felt that desperation and recklessness of poverty which
only a pauper knows. There was a mighty patch upon one leg of my
trowsers, neatly sewed on, for it had been executed by my mother, but
still very obvious and incontrovertible to the eye. This patch I had
hitherto studiously endeavored to hide with the ample skirts of my
shooting-jacket; but now I stretched out my leg boldly, and thrust the
patch under their noses, and looked at them so, that they soon looked
away, boy though I was. Perhaps the gun that I clenched frightened them
into respect; or there might have been something ugly in my eye; or my
teeth were white, and my jaws were set. For several hours, I sat gazing
at a jovial party seated round a mahogany table, with some crackers and
cheese, and wine and cigars. Their faces were flushed with the good
dinner they had eaten; and mine felt pale and wan with a long fast. If I
had presumed to offer to make one of their party; if I had told them of
my circumstances, and solicited something to refresh me, I very well
knew from the peculiar hollow ring of their laughter, they would have
had the waiters put me out of the cabin, for a beggar, who had no
business to be warming himself at their stove. And for that insult,
though only a conceit, I sat and gazed at them, putting up no petitions
for their prosperity. My whole soul was soured within me, and when at
last the captain's clerk, a slender young man, dressed in the height of
fashion, with a gold watch chain and broach, came round collecting the
tickets, I buttoned up my coat to the throat, clutched my gun, put on my
leather cap, and pulling it well down, stood up like a sentry before
him. He held out his hand, deeming any remark superfluous, as his object
in pausing before me must be obvious. But I stood motionless and silent,
and in a moment he saw how it was with me. I ought to have spoken and
told him the case, in plain, civil terms, and offered my dollar, and
then waited the event. But I felt too wicked for that. He did not wait a
great while, but spoke first himself; and in a gruff voice, very unlike
his urbane accents when accosting the wine and cigar party, demanded my
ticket. I replied that I had none. He then demanded the money; and upon
my answering that I had not enough, in a loud angry voice that attracted
all eyes, he ordered me out of the cabin into the storm. The devil in me
then mounted up from my soul, and spread over my frame, till it tingled
at my finger ends; and I muttered out my resolution to stay where I was,
in such a manner, that the ticket man faltered back. "There's a dollar
for you," I added, offering it.
"I want two," said he.
"Take that or nothing," I answered; "it is all I have."
I thought he would strike me. But, accepting the money, he contented
himself with saying something about sportsmen going on shooting
expeditions, without having money to pay their expenses; and hinted that
such chaps might better lay aside their fowling-pieces, and assume the
buck and saw. He then passed on, and left every eye fastened upon me.
I stood their gazing some time, but at last could stand it no more. I
pushed my seat right up before the most insolent gazer, a short fat man,
with a plethora of cravat round his neck, and fixing my gaze on his,
gave him more gazes than he sent. This somewhat embarrassed him, and he
looked round for some one to take hold of me; but no one coming, he
pretended to be very busy counting the gilded wooden beams overhead. I
then turned to the next gazer, and clicking my gun-lock, deliberately
presented the piece at him.
Upon this, he overset his seat in his eagerness to get beyond my range,
for I had him point blank, full in the left eye; and several persons
starting to their feet, exclaimed that I must be crazy. So I was at that
time; for otherwise I know not how to account for my demoniac feelings,
of which I was afterward heartily ashamed, as I ought to have been,
indeed; and much more than that.
I then turned on my heel, and shouldering my fowling-piece and bundle,
marched on deck, and walked there through the dreary storm, till I was
wet through, and the boat touched the wharf at New York.
Such is boyhood.
III. HE ARRIVES IN TOWN
From the boat's bow, I jumped ashore, before she was secured, and
following my brother's directions, proceeded across the town toward St.
John's Park, to the house of a college friend of his, for whom I had a
It was a long walk; and I stepped in at a sort of grocery to get a drink
of water, where some six or eight rough looking fellows were playing
dominoes upon the counter, seated upon cheese boxes. They winked, and
asked what sort of sport I had had gunning on such a rainy day, but I
only gulped down my water and stalked off.
Dripping like a seal, I at last grounded arms at the doorway of my
brother's friend, rang the bell and inquired for him.
"What do you want?" said the servant, eying me as if I were a
"I want to see your lord and master; show me into the parlor."
Upon this my host himself happened to make his appearance, and seeing
who I was, opened his hand and heart to me at once, and drew me to his
fireside; he had received a letter from my brother, and had expected me
The family were at tea; the fragrant herb filled the room with its
aroma; the brown toast was odoriferous; and everything pleasant and
charming. After a temporary warming, I was shown to a room, where I
changed my wet dress, an returning to the table, found that the interval
had been we improved by my hostess; a meal for a traveler was spread and
I laid into it sturdily. Every mouthful pushed the devil that had been
tormenting me all day farther and farther out of me, till at last I
entirely ejected him with three successive bowls of Bohea.
Magic of kind words, and kind deeds, and good tea! That night I went to
bed thinking the world pretty tolerable, after all; and I could hardly
believe that I had really acted that morning as I had, for I was
naturally of an easy and forbearing disposition; though when such a
disposition is temporarily roused, it is perhaps worse than a
Next day, my brother's friend, whom I choose to call Mr. Jones,
accompanied me down to the docks among the shipping, in order to get
me a place. After a good deal of searching we lighted upon a ship for
Liverpool, and found the captain in the cabin; which was a very handsome
one, lined with mahogany and maple; and the steward, an elegant looking
mulatto in a gorgeous turban, was setting out on a sort of sideboard
some dinner service which looked like silver, but it was only Britannia
ware highly polished.
As soon as I clapped my eye on the captain, I thought myself he was
just the captain to suit me. He was a fine looking man, about forty,
splendidly dressed, with very black whiskers, and very white teeth, and
what I took to be a free, frank look out of a large hazel eye. I liked
him amazingly. He was promenading up and down the cabin, humming some
brisk air to himself when we entered.
"Good morning, sir," said my friend.
"Good morning, good morning, sir," said the captain. "Steward, chairs
for the gentlemen."
"Oh! never mind, sir," said Mr. Jones, rather taken aback by his extreme
civility. "I merely called to see whether you want a fine young lad to
go to sea with you. Here he is; he has long wanted to be a sailor; and
his friends have at last concluded to let him go for one voyage, and see
how he likes it."
"Ah! indeed!" said the captain, blandly, and looking where I stood.
"He's a fine fellow; I like him. So you want to be a sailor, my boy, do
you?" added he, affectionately patting my head. "It's a hard We, though;
a hard life."
But when I looked round at his comfortable, and almost luxurious cabin,
and then at his handsome care-free face, I thought he was only trying to
frighten me, and I answered, "Well, sir, I am ready to try it."
"I hope he's a country lad, sir," said the captain to my friend, "these
city boys are sometimes hard cases."
"Oh! yes, he's from the country," was the reply, "and of a highly
respectable family; his great-uncle died a Senator."
"But his great-uncle don't want to go to sea too?" said the captain,
"Oh! no, oh, no!--Ha! ha!"
"Ha! ha!" echoed the captain.
A fine funny gentleman, thought I, not much fancying, however, his
levity concerning my great-uncle, he'll be cracking his jokes the whole
voyage; and so I afterward said to one of the riggers on board; but he
bade me look out, that he did not crack my head.
"Well, my lad," said the captain, "I suppose you know we haven't any
pastures and cows on board; you can't get any milk at sea, you know."
"Oh! I know all about that, sir; my father has crossed the ocean, if I
"Yes," cried my friend, "his father, a gentleman of one of the first
families in America, crossed the Atlantic several times on important
"Embassador extraordinary?" said the captain, looking funny again.
"Oh! no, he was a wealthy merchant."
"Ah! indeed;" said the captain, looking grave and bland again, "then
this fine lad is the son of a gentleman?"
"Certainly," said my friend, "and he's only going to sea for the humor
of it; they want to send him on his travels with a tutor, but he will go
to sea as a sailor."
The fact was, that my young friend (for he was only about twenty-five)
was not a very wise man; and this was a huge fib, which out of the
kindness of his heart, he told in my behalf, for the purpose of creating
a profound respect for me in the eyes of my future lord.
Upon being apprized, that I had willfully forborne taking the grand tour
with a tutor, in order to put my hand in a tar-bucket, the handsome
captain looked ten times more funny than ever; and said that he himself
would be my tutor, and take me on my travels, and pay for the privilege.
"Ah!" said my friend, "that reminds me of business. Pray, captain, how
much do you generally pay a handsome young fellow like this?"
"Well," said the captain, looking grave and profound, "we are not so
particular about beauty, and we never give more than three dollars to a
green lad like Wellingborough here, that's your name, my boy?
Wellingborough Redburn!--Upon my soul, a fine sounding name."
"Why, captain," said Mr. Jones, quickly interrupting him, "that won't
pay for his clothing."
"But you know his highly respectable and wealthy relations will
doubtless see to all that," replied the captain, with his funny look
"Oh! yes, I forgot that," said Mr. Jones, looking rather foolish. "His
friends will of course see to that."
"Of course," said the captain smiling.
"Of course," repeated Mr. Jones, looking ruefully at the patch on my
pantaloons, which just then I endeavored to hide with the skirt of my
"You are quite a sportsman I see," said the captain, eying the great
buttons on my coat, upon each of which was a carved fox.
Upon this my benevolent friend thought that here was a grand opportunity
to befriend me.
"Yes, he's quite a sportsman," said he, "he's got a very valuable
fowling-piece at home, perhaps you would like to purchase it, captain,
to shoot gulls with at sea? It's cheap."
"Oh! no, he had better leave it with his relations," said the captain,
"so that he can go hunting again when he returns from England."
"Yes, perhaps that would be better, after all," said my friend,
pretending to fall into a profound musing, involving all sides of the
matter in hand. "Well, then, captain, you can only give the boy three
dollars a month, you say?"
"Only three dollars a month," said the captain.
"And I believe," said my friend, "that you generally give something in
advance, do you not?"
"Yes, that is sometimes the custom at the shipping offices," said the
captain, with a bow, "but in this case, as the boy has rich relations,
there will be no need of that, you know."
And thus, by his ill-advised, but well-meaning hints concerning the
respectability of my paternity, and the immense wealth of my relations,
did this really honest-hearted but foolish friend of mine, prevent me
from getting three dollars in advance, which I greatly needed. However,
I said nothing, though I thought the more; and particularly, how that it
would have been much better for me, to have gone on board alone,
accosted the captain on my own account, and told him the plain truth.
Poor people make a very poor business of it when they try to seem rich.
The arrangement being concluded, we bade the captain good morning; and
as we were about leaving the cabin, he smiled again, and said, "Well,
Redburn, my boy, you won't get home-sick before you sail, because that
will make you very sea-sick when you get to sea."
And with that he smiled very pleasantly, and bowed two or three times,
and told the steward to open the cabin-door, which the steward did with
a peculiar sort of grin on his face, and a slanting glance at my
shooting-jacket. And so we left.
IV. HOW HE DISPOSED OF HIS FOWLING-PIECE
Next day I went alone to the shipping office to sign the articles, and
there I met a great crowd of sailors, who as soon as they found what I
was after, began to tip the wink all round, and I overheard a fellow in
a great flapping sou'wester cap say to another old tar in a shaggy
monkey-jacket, "Twig his coat, d'ye see the buttons, that chap ain't
going to sea in a merchantman, he's going to shoot whales. I say,
maty--look here--how d'ye sell them big buttons by the pound?"
"Give us one for a saucer, will ye?" said another.
"Let the youngster alone," said a third. "Come here, my little boy, has
your ma put up some sweetmeats for ye to take to sea?"
They are all witty dogs, thought I to myself, trying to make the best of
the matter, for I saw it would not do to resent what they said; they
can't mean any harm, though they are certainly very impudent; so I tried
to laugh off their banter, but as soon as ever I could, I put down my
name and beat a retreat.
On the morrow, the ship was advertised to sail. So the rest of that day
I spent in preparations. After in vain trying to sell my fowling-piece
for a fair price to chance customers, I was walking up Chatham-street
with it, when a curly-headed little man with a dark oily face, and a
hooked nose, like the pictures of Judas Iscariot, called to me from a
strange-looking shop, with three gilded balk hanging over it.
With a peculiar accent, as if he had been over-eating himself with
Indian-pudding or some other plushy compound, this curly-headed little
man very civilly invited me into his shop; and making a polite bow, and
bidding me many unnecessary good mornings, and remarking upon the fine
weather, begged t me to let him look at my fowling-piece. I handed it to
him in an instant, glad of the chance of disposing of it, and told him
that was just what I wanted.
"Ah!" said he, with his Indian-pudding accent again, which I will not
try to mimic, and abating his look of eagerness, "I thought it was a
better article, it's very old."
"Not," said I, starting in surprise, "it's not been used more than three
times; what will you give for it?"
"We don't buy any thing here," said he, suddenly looking very
indifferent, "this is a place where people pawn things." Pawn being a
word I had never heard before, I asked him what it meant; when he
replied, that when people wanted any money, they came to him with their
fowling-pieces, and got one third its value, and then left the
fowling-piece there, until they were able to pay back the money.
What a benevolent little old man, this must be, thought I, and how very
"And pray," said I, "how much will you let me have for my gun, by way of
"Well, I suppose it's worth six dollars, and seeing you're a boy, I'll
let you have three dollars upon it"
"No," exclaimed I, seizing the fowling-piece, "it's worth five times
that, I'll go somewhere else."
"Good morning, then," said he, "I hope you'll do better," and he bowed
me out as if he expected to see me again pretty soon.
I had not gone very far when I came across three more balls hanging over
a shop. In I went, and saw a long counter, with a sort of picket-fence,
running all along from end to end, and three little holes, with three
little old men standing inside of them, like prisoners looking out of a
jail. Back of the counter were all sorts of things, piled up and
labeled. Hats, and caps, and coats, and guns, and swords, and canes, and
chests, and planes, and books, and writing-desks, and every thing else.
And in a glass case were lots of watches, and seals, chains, and rings,
and breastpins, and all kinds of trinkets. At one of the little holes,
earnestly talking with one of the hook-nosed men, was a thin woman in a
faded silk gown and shawl, holding a pale little girl by the hand. As I
drew near, she spoke lower in a whisper; and the man shook his head, and
looked cross and rude; and then some more words were exchanged over a
miniature, and some money was passed through the hole, and the woman and
child shrank out of the door.
I won't sell my gun to that man, thought I; and I passed on to the next
hole; and while waiting there to be served, an elderly man in a
high-waisted surtout, thrust a silver snuff-box through; and a young man
in a calico shirt and a shiny coat with a velvet collar presented a
silver watch; and a sheepish boy in a cloak took out a frying-pan; and
another little boy had a Bible; and all these things were thrust through
to the hook-nosed man, who seemed ready to hook any thing that came
along; so I had no doubt he would gladly hook my gun, for the long
picketed counter seemed like a great seine, that caught every variety of
At last I saw a chance, and crowded in for the hole; and in order to be
beforehand with a big man who just then came in, I pushed my gun
violently through the hole; upon which the hook-nosed man cried out,
thinking I was going to shoot him. But at last he took the gun, turned
it end for end, clicked the trigger three times, and then said, "one
"What about one dollar?" said I.
"That's all I'll give," he replied.
"Well, what do you want?" and he turned to the next person. This was a
young man in a seedy red cravat and a pimply face, that looked as if it
was going to seed likewise, who, with a mysterious tapping of his
vest-pocket and other hints, made a great show of having something
confidential to communicate.
But the hook-nosed man spoke out very loud, and said, "None of that;
take it out. Got a stolen watch? We don't deal in them things here."
Upon this the young man flushed all over, and looked round to see who
had heard the pawnbroker; then he took something very small out of his
pocket, and keeping it hidden under his palm, pushed it into the hole.
"Where did you get this ring?" said the pawnbroker.
"I want to pawn it," whispered the other, blushing all over again.
"What's your name?" said the pawnbroker, speaking very loud.
"How much will you give?" whispered the other in reply, leaning over,
and looking as if he wanted to hush up the pawnbroker.
At last the sum was agreed upon, when the man behind the counter took a
little ticket, and tying the ring to it began to write on the ticket;
all at once he asked the young man where he lived, a question which
embarrassed him very much; but at last he stammered out a certain number
"That's the City Hotel: you don't live there," said the man, cruelly
glancing at the shabby coat before him.
"Oh! well," stammered the other blushing scarlet, "I thought this was
only a sort of form to go through; I don't like to tell where I do live,
for I ain't in the habit of going to pawnbrokers."
"You stole that ring, you know you did," roared out the hook-nosed man,
incensed at this slur upon his calling, and now seemingly bent on
damaging the young man's character for life. "I'm a good mind to call a.
constable; we don't take stolen goods here, I tell you."
All eyes were now fixed suspiciously upon this martyrized young man; who
looked ready to drop into the earth; and a poor woman in a night-cap,
with some baby-clothes in her hand, looked fearfully at the
pawnbroker, as if dreading to encounter such a terrible pattern of
integrity. At last the young man sunk off with his money, and looking
out of the window, I saw him go round the corner so sharply that he
knocked his elbow against the wall.
I waited a little longer, and saw several more served; and having
remarked that the hook-nosed men invariably fixed their own price upon
every thing, and if that was refused told the person to be off with
himself; I concluded that it would be of no use to try and get more from
them than they had offered; especially when I saw that they had a great
many fowling-pieces hanging up, and did not have particular occasion for
mine; and more than that, they must be very well off and rich, to treat
people so cavalierly.
My best plan then seemed to be to go right back to the curly-headed
pawnbroker, and take up with my first offer. But when I went back, the
curly-headed man was very busy about something else, and kept me
waiting a long time; at last I got a chance and told him I would take
the three dollars he had offered.
"Ought to have taken it when you could get it," he replied. "I won't
give but two dollars and a half for it now."
In vain I expostulated; he was not to be moved, so I pocketed the money
V. HE PURCHASES HIS SEA-WARDROBE, AND ON A DISMAL RAINY DAY PICKS UP HIS
BOARD AND LODGING ALONG THE WHARVES
The first thing I now did was to buy a little stationery, and keep my
promise to my mother, by writing her; and I also wrote to my brother
informing him of the voyage I purposed making, and indulging in some
romantic and misanthropic views of life, such as many boys in my
circumstances, are accustomed to do.
The rest of the two dollars and a half I laid out that very morning in
buying a red woolen shirt near Catharine Market, a tarpaulin hat, which
I got at an out-door stand near Peck Slip, a belt and jackknife, and two
or three trifles. After these purchases, I had only one penny left, so I
walked out to the end of the pier, and threw the penny into the water.
The reason why I did this, was because I somehow felt almost desperate
again, and didn't care what became of me. But if the penny had been a
dollar, I would have kept it.
I went home to dinner at Mr. Jones', and they welcomed me very kindly,
and Mrs. Jones kept my plate full all the time during dinner, so that I
had no chance to empty it. She seemed to see that I felt bad, and
thought plenty of pudding might help me. At any rate, I never felt so
bad yet but I could eat a good dinner. And once, years afterward, when I
expected to be killed every day, I remember my appetite was very keen,
and I said to myself, "Eat away, Wellingborough, while you can, for this
may be the last supper you will have."
After dinner I went into my room, locked the door carefully, and hung a
towel over the knob, so that no one could peep through the keyhole, and
then went to trying on my red woolen shirt before the glass, to see what
sort of a looking sailor I was going to make. As soon as I got into the
shirt I began to feel sort of warm and red about the face, which I found
was owing to the reflection of the dyed wool upon my skin. After that, I
took a pair of scissors and went to cutting my hair, which was very
long. I thought every little would help, in making me a light hand to
Next morning I bade my kind host and hostess good-by, and left the house
with my bundle, feeling somewhat misanthropical and desperate again.
Before I reached the ship, it began to rain hard; and as soon as I
arrived at the wharf, it was plain that there would be no getting to sea
This was a great disappointment to me, for I did not want to return to
Mr. Jones' again after bidding them good-by; it would be so awkward. So
I concluded to go on board ship for the present.
When I reached the deck, I saw no one but a large man in a large
dripping pea-jacket, who was calking down the main-hatches.
"What do you want, Pillgarlic?" said he.
"I've shipped to sail in this ship," I replied, assuming a little
dignity, to chastise his familiarity.
"What for? a tailor?" said he, looking at my shooting jacket.
I answered that I was going as a "boy;" for so I was technically put
down on the articles.
"Well," said he, "have you got your traps aboard?"
I told him I didn't know there were any rats in the ship, and hadn't
brought any "trap."
At this he laughed out with a great guffaw, and said there must be
hay-seed in my hair.
This made me mad; but thinking he must be one of the sailors who was
going in the ship, I thought it wouldn't be wise to make an enemy of
him, so only asked him where the men slept in the vessel, for I wanted
to put my clothes away.
"Where's your clothes?" said he.
"Here in my bundle," said I, holding it up.
"Well if that's all you've got," he cried, "you'd better chuck it
overboard. But go forward, go forward to the forecastle; that's the
place you'll live in aboard here."
And with that he directed me to a sort of hole in the deck in the bow of
the ship; but looking down, and seeing how dark it was, I asked him for
"Strike your eyes together and make one," said he, "we don't have any
lights here." So I groped my way down into the forecastle, which smelt
so bad of old ropes and tar, that it almost made me sick. After waiting
patiently, I began to see a little; and looking round, at last perceived
I was in a smoky looking place, with twelve wooden boxes stuck round the
sides. In some of these boxes were large chests, which I at once
supposed to belong to the sailors, who must have taken that method of
appropriating their "Trunks," as I afterward found these boxes were
called. And so it turned out.
After examining them for a while, I selected an empty one, and put my
bundle right in the middle of it, so that there might be no mistake
about my claim to the place, particularly as the bundle was so small.
This done, I was glad to get on deck; and learning to a certainty that
the ship would not sail till the next day, I resolved to go ashore, and
walk about till dark, and then return and sleep out the night in the
forecastle. So I walked about all over, till I was weary, and went into
a mean liquor shop to rest; for having my tarpaulin on, and not looking
very gentlemanly, I was afraid to go into any better place, for fear of
being driven out. Here I sat till I began to feel very hungry; and
seeing some doughnuts on the counter, I began to think what a fool I had
been, to throw away my last penny; for the doughnuts were but a penny
apiece, and they looked very plump, and fat, and round. I never saw
doughnuts look so enticing before; especially when a negro came in, and
ate one before my eyes. At last I thought I would fill up a little by
drinking a glass of water; having read somewhere that this was a good
plan to follow in a case like the present. I did not feel thirsty, but
only hungry; so had much ado to get down the water; for it tasted warm;
and the tumbler had an ugly flavor; the negro had been drinking some
spirits out of it just before.
I marched off again, every once in a while stopping to take in some more
water, and being very careful not to step into the same shop twice, till
night came on, and I found myself soaked through, for it had been
raining more or less all day. As I went to the ship, I could not help
thinking how lonesome it would be, to spend the whole night in that damp
and dark forecastle, without light or fire, and nothing to lie on but
the bare boards of my bunk. However, to drown all such thoughts, I
gulped down another glass of water, though I was wet enough outside and
in by this time; and trying to put on a bold look, as if I had just been
eating a hearty meal, I stepped aboard the ship.
The man in the big pea-jacket was not to be seen; but on going forward I
unexpectedly found a young lad there, about my own age; and as soon as
he opened his mouth I knew he was not an American. He talked such a
curious language though, half English and half gibberish, that I knew
not what to make of him; and was a little astonished, when he told me he
was an English boy, from Lancashire.
It seemed, he had come over from Liverpool in this very ship on her last
voyage, as a steerage passenger; but finding that he would have to work
very hard to get along in America, and getting home-sick into the
bargain, he had arranged with the captain to' work his passage back.
I was glad to have some company, and tried to get him conversing; but
found he was the most stupid and ignorant boy I had ever met with. I
asked him something about the river Thames; when he said that he hadn't
traveled any in America and didn't know any thing about the rivers here.
And when I told him the river Thames was in England, he showed no
surprise or shame at his ignorance, but only looked ten times more
stupid than before.
At last we went below into the forecastle, and both getting into the
same bunk, stretched ourselves out on the planks, and I tried my best to
get asleep. But though my companion soon began to snore very loud, for
me, I could not forget myself, owing to the horrid smell of the place,
my being so wet, cold, and hungry, and besides all that, I felt damp and
clammy about the heart. I lay turning over and over, listening to the
Lancashire boy's snoring, till at last I felt so, that I had to go on
deck; and there I walked till morning, which I thought would never come.
As soon as I thought the groceries on the wharf would be open I left the
ship and went to make my breakfast of another glass of water. But this
made me very qualmish; and soon I felt sick as death; my head was dizzy;
and I went staggering along the walk, almost blind. At last I dropt on a
heap of chain-cable, and shutting my eyes hard, did my best to rally
myself, in which I succeeded, at last, enough to get up and walk off.
Then I thought that I had done wrong in not returning to my friend's
house the day before; and would have walked there now, as it was, only
it was at least three miles up town; too far for me to walk in such a
state, and I had no sixpence to ride in an omnibus.
VI. HE IS INITIATED IN THE BUSINESS OF CLEANING OUT THE PIG-PEN, AND
SLUSHING DOWN THE TOP-MAST
By the time I got back to the ship, every thing was in an uproar. The
pea-jacket man was there, ordering about a good many men in the rigging,
and people were bringing off chickens, and pigs, and beef, and
vegetables from the shore. Soon after, another man, in a striped calico
shirt, a short blue jacket and beaver hat, made his appearance, and went
to ordering about the man in the big pea-jacket; and at last the captain
came up the side, and began to order about both of them.
These two men turned out to be the first and second mates of the ship.
Thinking to make friends with the second mate, I took out an old
tortoise-shell snuff-box of my father's, in which I had put a piece of
Cavendish tobacco, to look sailor-like, and offered the box to him very
politely. He stared at me a moment, and then exclaimed, "Do you think we
take snuff aboard here, youngster? no, no, no time for snuff-taking at
sea; don't let the 'old man' see that snuff-box; take my advice and
pitch it overboard as quick as you can."
I told him it was not snuff, but tobacco; when he said, he had plenty of
tobacco of his own, and never carried any such nonsense about him as a
tobacco-box. With that, he went off about his business, and left me
feeling foolish enough. But I had reason to be glad he had acted thus,
for if he had not, I think I should have offered my box to the chief
mate, who in that case, from what I afterward learned of him, would have
knocked me down, or done something else equally uncivil.
As I was standing looking round me, the chief mate approached in a great
hurry about something, and seeing me in his way, cried out, "Ashore with
you, you young loafer! There's no stealings here; sail away, I tell you,
with that shooting-jacket!"
Upon this I retreated, saying that I was going out in the ship as a
"A sailor!" he cried, "a barber's clerk, you mean; you going out in the
ship? what, in that jacket? Hang me, I hope the old man hasn't been
shipping any more greenhorns like you--he'll make a shipwreck of it if he
has. But this is the way nowadays; to save a few dollars in seamen's
wages, they think nothing of shipping a parcel of farmers and
clodhoppers and baby-boys. What's your name, Pillgarlic?"
"Redburn," said I.
"A pretty handle to a man, that; scorch you to take hold of it; haven't
you got any other?"
"Wellingborough," said I.
"Worse yet. Who had the baptizing of ye? Why didn't they call you Jack,
or Jill, or something short and handy. But I'll baptize you over again.
D'ye hear, sir, henceforth your name is Buttons. And now do you go,
Buttons, and clean out that pig-pen in the long-boat; it has not been
cleaned out since last voyage. And bear a hand about it, d'ye hear;
there's them pigs there waiting to be put in; come, be off about it,
Was this then the beginning of my sea-career? set to cleaning out a
pig-pen, the very first thing?
But I thought it best to say nothing; I had bound myself to obey orders,
and it was too late to retreat. So I only asked for a shovel, or spade,
or something else to work with.
"We don't dig gardens here," was the reply; "dig it out with your
After looking round, I found a stick and went to scraping out the pen,
which was awkward work enough, for another boat called the "jolly-boat,"
was capsized right over the longboat, which brought them almost close
together. These two boats were in the middle of the deck. I managed to
crawl inside of the long-boat; and after barking my shins against the
seats, and bumping my head a good many times, I got along to the stern,
where the pig-pen was.
While I was hard at work a drunken sailor peeped in, and cried out to
his comrades, "Look here, my lads, what sort of a pig do you call this?
Hallo! inside there! what are you 'bout there? trying to stow yourself
away to steal a passage to Liverpool? Out of that! out of that, I say."
But just then the mate came along and ordered this drunken rascal
The pig-pen being cleaned out, I was set to work picking up some
shavings, which lay about the deck; for there had been carpenters at
work on board. The mate ordered me to throw these shavings into the
long-boat at a particular place between two of the seats. But as I found
it hard work to push the shavings through in that place, and as it
looked wet there, I thought it would be better for the shavings as well
as myself, to thrust them where there was a larger opening and a dry
spot. While I was thus employed, the mate observing me, exclaimed with
an oath, "Didn't I tell you to put those shavings somewhere else? Do
what I tell you, now, Buttons, or mind your eye!"
Stifling my indignation at his rudeness, which by this time I found was
my only plan, I replied that that was not so good a place for the
shavings as that which I myself had selected, and asked him to tell me
why he wanted me to put them in the place he designated. Upon this, he
flew into a terrible rage, and without explanation reiterated his order
like a clap of thunder.
This was my first lesson in the discipline of the sea, and I never
forgot it. From that time I learned that sea-officers never gave reasons
for any thing they order to be done. It is enough that they command it,
so that the motto is, "Obey orders, though you break owners."
I now began to feel very faint and sick again, and longed for the ship
to be leaving the dock; for then I made no doubt we would soon be having
something to eat. But as yet, I saw none of the sailors on board, and as
for the men at work in the rigging, I found out that they were
"riggers," that is, men living ashore, who worked by the day in getting
ships ready for sea; and this I found out to my cost, for yielding to
the kind blandishment of one of these riggers, I had swapped away my
jackknife with him for a much poorer one of his own, thinking to secure
a sailor friend for the voyage. At last I watched my chance, and while
people's backs were turned, I seized a carrot from several bunches lying
on deck, and clapping it under the skirts of my shooting-jacket, went
forward to eat it; for I had often eaten raw carrots, which taste
something like chestnuts. This carrot refreshed me a good deal, though
at the expense of a little pain in my stomach. Hardly had I disposed of
it, when I heard the chief mate's voice crying out for "Buttons." I ran
after him, and received an order to go aloft and "slush down the
This was all Greek to me, and after receiving the order, I stood staring
about me, wondering what it was that was to be done. But the mate had
turned on his heel, and made no explanations. At length I followed after
him, and asked what I must do.
"Didn't I tell you to slush down the main-top mast?" he shouted.
"You did," said I, "but I don't know what that means."
"Green as grass! a regular cabbage-head!" he exclaimed to himself. "A
fine time I'll have with such a greenhorn aboard. Look you, youngster.
Look up to that long pole there--d'ye see it? that piece of a tree there,
you timber-head--well--take this bucket here, and go up the rigging--that
rope-ladder there--do you understand?--and dab this slush all over the
mast, and look out for your head if one drop falls on deck. Be off now,
The eventful hour had arrived; for the first time in my life I was to
ascend a ship's mast. Had I been well and hearty, perhaps I should have
felt a little shaky at the thought; but as I was then, weak and faint,
the bare thought appalled me.
But there was no hanging back; it would look like cowardice, and I could
not bring myself to confess that I was suffering for want of food; so
rallying again, I took up the bucket.
It was a heavy bucket, with strong iron hoops, and might have held
perhaps two gallons. But it was only half full now of a sort of thick
lobbered gravy, which I afterward learned was boiled out of the salt
beef used by the sailors. Upon getting into the rigging, I found it was
no easy job to carry this heavy bucket up with me. The rope handle of it
was so slippery with grease, that although I twisted it several times
about my wrist, it would be still twirling round and round, and slipping
off. Spite of this, however, I managed to mount as far as the "top," the
clumsy bucket half the time straddling and swinging about between my
legs, and in momentary danger of capsizing. Arrived at the "top," I came
to a dead halt, and looked up. How to surmount that overhanging
impediment completely posed me for the time. But at last, with much
straining, I contrived to place my bucket in the "top;" and then,
trusting to Providence, swung myself up after it. The rest of the road
was comparatively easy; though whenever I incautiously looked down
toward the deck, my head spun round so from weakness, that I was obliged
to shut my eyes to recover myself. I do not remember much more. I only
recollect my safe return to the deck.
In a short time the bustle of the ship increased; the trunks of cabin
passengers arrived, and the chests and boxes of the steerage passengers,
besides baskets of wine and fruit for the captain.
At last we cast loose, and swinging out into the stream, came to anchor,
and hoisted the signal for sailing. Every thing, it seemed, was on board
but the crew; who in a few hours after, came off, one by one, in
Whitehall boats, their chests in the bow, and themselves lying back in
the stem like lords; and showing very plainly the complacency they felt
in keeping the whole ship waiting for their lordships.
"Ay, ay," muttered the chief mate, as they rolled out of then-boats and
swaggered on deck, "it's your turn now, but it will be mine before long.
Yaw about while you may, my hearties, I'll do the yawing after the
Several of the sailors were very drunk, and one of them was lifted on
board insensible by his landlord, who carried him down below and dumped
him into a bunk. And two other sailors, as soon as they made their
appearance, immediately went below to sleep off the fumes of their
At last, all the crew being on board, word was passed to go to dinner
fore and aft, an order that made my heart jump with delight, for now my
long fast would be broken. But though the sailors, surfeited with eating
and drinking ashore, did not then touch the salt beef and potatoes which
the black cook handed down into the forecastle; and though this left the
whole allowance to me; to my surprise, I found that I could eat little
or nothing; for now I only felt deadly faint, but not hungry.
VII. HE GETS TO SEA AND FEELS VERY BAD
Every thing at last being in readiness, the pilot came on board, and all
hands were called to up anchor. While I worked at my bar, I could not
help observing how haggard the men looked, and how much they suffered
from this violent exercise, after the terrific dissipation in which they
had been indulging ashore. But I soon learnt that sailors breathe
nothing about such things, but strive their best to appear all alive and
hearty, though it comes very hard for many of them.
The anchor being secured, a steam tug-boat with a strong name, the
Hercules, took hold of us; and away we went past the long line of
shipping, and wharves, and warehouses; and rounded the green south point
of the island where the Battery is, and passed Governor's Island, and
pointed right out for the Narrows.
My heart was like lead, and I felt bad enough, Heaven knows; but then,
there was plenty of work to be done, which kept my thoughts from
becoming too much for me.
And I tried to think all the time, that I was going to England, and
that, before many months, I should have actually been there and home
again, telling my adventures to my brothers and sisters; and with what
delight they would listen, and how they would look up to me then, and
reverence my sayings; and how that even my elder brother would be forced
to treat me with great consideration, as having crossed the Atlantic
Ocean, which he had never done, and there was no probability he ever
With such thoughts as these I endeavored to shake off my heavy-
heartedness; but it would not do at all; for this was only the first day
of the voyage, and many weeks, nay, several whole months must elapse
before the voyage was ended; and who could tell what might happen to
me; for when I looked up at the high, giddy masts, and thought how
often I must be going up and down them, I thought sure enough that some
luckless day or other, I would certainly fall overboard and be drowned.
And then, I thought of lying down at the bottom of the sea, stark alone,
with the great waves rolling over me, and no one in the wide world
knowing that I was there. And I thought how much better and sweeter it
must be, to be buried under the pleasant hedge that bounded the sunny
south side of our village grave-yard, where every Sunday I had used to
walk after church in the afternoon; and I almost wished I was there now;
yes, dead and buried in that churchyard. All the time my eyes were
filled with tears, and I kept holding my breath, to choke down the sobs,
for indeed I could not help feeling as I did, and no doubt any boy in
the world would have felt just as I did then.
As the steamer carried us further and further down the bay, and we
passed ships lying at anchor, with men gazing at us and waving their
hats; and small boats with ladies in them waving their handkerchiefs;
and passed the green shore of Staten Island, and caught sight of so many
beautiful cottages all overrun with vines, and planted on the beautiful
fresh mossy hill-sides; oh! then I would have given any thing if instead
of sailing out of the bay, we were only coming into it; if we had
crossed the ocean and returned, gone over and come back; and my heart
leaped up in me like something alive when I thought of really entering
that bay at the end of the voyage. But that was so far distant, that it
seemed it could never be. No, never, never more would I see New York
And what shocked me more than any thing else, was to hear some of the
sailors, while they were at work coiling away the hawsers, talking about
the boarding-houses they were going to, when they came back; and how
that some friends of theirs had promised to be on the wharf when the
ship returned, to take them and their chests right up to Franklin-square
where they lived; and how that they would have a good dinner ready, and
plenty of cigars and spirits out on the balcony. I say this land of
talking shocked me, for they did not seem to consider, as I did, that
before any thing like that could happen, we must cross the great
Atlantic Ocean, cross over from America to Europe and back again, many
thousand miles of foaming ocean.
At that time I did not know what to make of these sailors; but this much
I thought, that when they were boys, they could never have gone to the
Sunday School; for they swore so, it made my ears tingle, and used words
that I never could hear without a dreadful loathing.
And are these the men, I thought to myself, that I must live with so
long? these the men I am to eat with, and sleep with all the time? And
besides, I now began to see, that they were not going to be very kind to
me; but I will tell all about that when the proper time comes.
Now you must not think, that because all these things were passing
through my mind, that I had nothing to do but sit still and think; no,
no, I was hard at work: for as long as the steamer had hold of us, we
were very busy coiling away ropes and cables, and putting the decks in
order; which were littered all over with odds and ends of things that
had to be put away.
At last we got as far as the Narrows, which every body knows is the
entrance to New York Harbor from sea; and it may well be called the
Narrows, for when you go in or out, it seems like going in or out of a
doorway; and when you go out of these Narrows on a long voyage like this
of mine, it seems like going out into the broad highway, where not a
soul is to be seen. For far away and away, stretches the great Atlantic
Ocean; and all you can see beyond it where the sky comes down to the
water. It looks lonely and desolate enough, and I could hardly believe,
as I gazed around me, that there could be any land beyond, or any place
like Europe or England or Liverpool in the great wide world. It seemed
too strange, and wonderful, and altogether incredible, that there could
really be cities and towns and villages and green fields and hedges and
farm-yards and orchards, away over that wide blank of sea, and away
beyond the place where the sky came down to the water. And to think of
steering right out among those waves, and leaving the bright land
behind, and the dark night coming on, too, seemed wild and foolhardy;
and I looked with a sort of fear at the sailors standing by me, who
could be so thoughtless at such a time. But then I remembered, how many
times my own father had said he had crossed the ocean; and I had never
dreamed of such a thing as doubting him; for I always thought him a
marvelous being, infinitely purer and greater than I was, who could not
by any possibility do wrong, or say an untruth. Yet now, how could I
credit it, that he, my own father, whom I so well remembered; had ever
sailed out of these Narrows, and sailed right through the sky and water
line, and gone to England, and France, Liverpool, and Marseilles. It was
too wonderful to believe.
Now, on the right hand side of the Narrows as you go out, the land is
quite high; and on the top of a fine cliff is a great castle or fort,
all in ruins, and with the trees growing round it. It was built by
Governor Tompkins in the time of the last war with England, but was
never used, I believe, and so they left it to decay. I had visited the
place once when we lived in New York, as long ago almost as I could
remember, with my father, and an uncle of mine, an old sea-captain, with
white hair, who used to sail to a place called Archangel in Russia, and
who used to tell me that he was with Captain Langsdorff, when Captain
Langsdorff crossed over by land from the sea of Okotsk in Asia to St.
Petersburgh, drawn by large dogs in a sled. I mention this of my uncle,
because he was the very first sea-captain I had ever seen, and his white
hair and fine handsome florid face made so strong an impression upon me,
that I have never forgotten him, though I only saw him during this one
visit of his to New York, for he was lost in the White Sea some years
But I meant to speak about the fort. It was a beautiful place, as I
remembered it, and very wonderful and romantic, too, as it appeared to
me, when I went there with my uncle. On the side away from the water was
a green grove of trees, very thick and shady; and through this grove, in
a sort of twilight you came to an arch in the wall of the fort, dark as
night; and going in, you groped about in long vaults, twisting and
turning on every side, till at last you caught a peep of green grass and
sunlight, and all at once came out in an open space in the middle of the
castle. And there you would see cows quietly grazing, or ruminating
under the shade of young trees, and perhaps a calf frisking about, and
trying to catch its own tail; and sheep clambering among the mossy
ruins, and cropping the little tufts of grass sprouting out of the sides
of the embrasures for cannon. And once I saw a black goat with a long
beard, and crumpled horns, standing with his forefeet lifted high up on
the topmost parapet, and looking to sea, as if he were watching for a
ship that was bringing over his cousin. I can see him even now, and
though I have changed since then, the black goat looks just the same as
ever; and so I suppose he would, if I live to be as old as Methusaleh,
and have as great a memory as he must have had. Yes, the fort was a
beautiful, quiet, charming spot. I should like to build a little cottage
in the middle of it, and live there all my life. It was noon-day when I
was there, in the month of June, and there was little wind to stir the
trees, and every thing looked as if it was waiting for something, and
the sky overhead was blue as my mother's eye, and I was so glad and
happy then. But I must not think of those delightful days, before my
father became a bankrupt, and died, and we removed from the city; for
when I think of those days, something rises up in my throat and almost
Now, as we sailed through the Narrows, I caught sight of that beautiful
fort on the cliff, and could not help contrasting my situation now, with
what it was when with my father and uncle I went there so long ago. Then
I never thought of working for my living, and never knew that there were
hard hearts in the world; and knew so little of money, that when I
bought a stick of candy, and laid down a sixpence, I thought the
confectioner returned five cents, only that I might have money to buy
something else, and not because the pennies were my change, and
therefore mine by good rights. How different my idea of money now!
Then I was a schoolboy, and thought of going to college in time; and had
vague thoughts of becoming a great orator like Patrick Henry, whose
speeches I used to speak on the stage; but now, I was a poor friendless
boy, far away from my home, and voluntarily in the way of becoming a
miserable sailor for life. And what made it more bitter to me, was to
think of how well off were my cousins, who were happy and rich, and
lived at home with my uncles and aunts, with no thought of going to sea
for a living. I tried to think that it was all a dream, that I was not
where I was, not on board of a ship, but that I was at home again in the
city, with my father alive, and my mother bright and happy as she used
to be. But it would not do. I was indeed where I was, and here was the
ship, and there was the fort. So, after casting a last look at some boys
who were standing on the parapet, gazing off to sea, I turned away
heavily, and resolved not to look at the land any more.
About sunset we got fairly "outside," and well may it so be called; for
I felt thrust out of the world. Then the breeze began to blow, and the
sails were loosed, and hoisted; and after a while, the steamboat left
us, and for the first time I felt the ship roll, a strange feeling
enough, as if it were a great barrel in the water. Shortly after, I
observed a swift little schooner running across our bows, and
re-crossing again and again; and while I was wondering what she could
be, she suddenly lowered her sails, and two men took hold of a little
boat on her deck, and launched it overboard as if it had been a chip.
Then I noticed that our pilot, a red-faced man in a rough blue coat, who
to my astonishment had all this time been giving orders instead of the
captain, began to button up his coat to the throat, like a prudent
person about leaving a house at night in a lonely square, to go home;
and he left the giving orders to the chief mate, and stood apart talking
with the captain, and put his hand into his pocket, and gave him some
And in a few minutes, when we had stopped our headway, and allowed the
little boat to come alongside, he shook hands with the captain and
officers and bade them good-by, without saying a syllable of farewell to
me and the sailors; and so he went laughing over the side, and got into
the boat, and they pulled him off to the schooner, and then the schooner
made sail and glided under our stern, her men standing up and waving
their hats, and cheering; and that was the last we saw of America.
VIII. HE IS PUT INTO THE LARBOARD WATCH; GETS SEA-SICK; AND RELATES SOME
OTHER OF HIS EXPERIENCES
It was now getting dark, when all at once the sailors were ordered on
the quarter-deck, and of course I went along with them.
What is to come now, thought I; but I soon found out. It seemed we were
going to be divided into watches. The chief mate began by selecting a
stout good-looking sailor for his watch; and then the second mate's turn
came to choose, and he also chose a stout good-looking sailor. But it
was not me;--no; and I noticed, as they went on choosing, one after the
other in regular rotation, that both of the mates never so much as
looked at me, but kept going round among the rest, peering into their
faces, for it was dusk, and telling them not to hide themselves away so
in their jackets. But the sailors, especially the stout good-looking
ones, seemed to make a point of lounging as much out of the way as
possible, and slouching their hats over their eyes; and although it may
only be a fancy of mine, I certainly thought that they affected a sort
of lordly indifference as to whose watch they were going to be in; and
did not think it worth while to look any way anxious about the matter.
And the very men who, a few minutes before, had showed the most alacrity
and promptitude in jumping into the rigging and running aloft at the
word of command, now lounged against the bulwarks and most lazily; as if
they were quite sure, that by this time the officers must know who the
best men were, and they valued themselves well enough to be willing to
put the officers to the trouble of searching them out; for if they were
worth having, they were worth seeking.
At last they were all chosen but me; and it was the chief mate's next
turn to choose; though there could be little choosing in my case, since
I was a thirteener, and must, whether or no, go over to the next column,
like the odd figure you carry along when you do a sum in addition.
"Well, Buttons," said the chief mate, "I thought I'd got rid of you. And
as it is, Mr. Rigs," he added, speaking to the second mate, "I guess you
had better take him into your watch;--there, I'll let you have him, and
then you'll be one stronger than me."
"No, I thank you," said Mr. Rigs.
"You had better," said the chief mate--"see, he's not a bad looking
chap--he's a little green, to be sure, but you were so once yourself, you
"No, I thank you," said the second mate again. "Take him yourself--he's
yours by good rights--I don't want him." And so they put me in the chief
mate's division, that is the larboard watch.
While this scene was going on, I felt shabby enough; there I stood, just
like a silly sheep, over whom two butchers are bargaining. Nothing that
had yet happened so forcibly reminded me of where I was, and what I had
come to. I was very glad when they sent us forward again.
As we were going forward, the second mate called one of the sailors by
name:-"You, Bill?" and Bill answered, "Sir?" just as if the second mate
was a born gentleman. It surprised me not a little, to see a man in such
a shabby, shaggy old jacket addressed so respectfully; but I had been
quite as much surprised when I heard the chief mate call him Mr. Rigs
during the scene on the quarter-deck; as if this Mr. Rigs was a great
merchant living in a marble house in Lafayette Place. But I was not very
long in finding out, that at sea all officers are Misters, and would
take it for an insult if any seaman presumed to omit calling them so.
And it is also one of their rights and privileges to be called sir when
addressed--Yes, sir; No, sir; Ay, ay, sir; and they are as particular
about being sirred as so many knights and baronets; though their titles
are not hereditary, as is the case with the Sir Johns and Sir Joshuas in
England. But so far as the second mate is concerned, his tides are the
only dignities he enjoys; for, upon the whole, he leads a puppyish We
indeed. He is not deemed company at any time for the captain, though the
chief mate occasionally is, at least deck-company, though not in the
cabin; and besides this, the second mate has to breakfast, lunch, dine,
and sup off the leavings of the cabin table, and even the steward, who
is accountable to nobody but the captain, sometimes treats him
cavalierly; and he has to run aloft when topsails are reefed; and put
his hand a good way down into the tar-bucket; and keep the key of the
boatswain's locker, and fetch and carry balls of marline and
seizing-stuff for the sailors when at work in the rigging; besides doing
many other things, which a true-born baronet of any spirit would rather
die and give up his title than stand.
Having been divided into watches we were sent to supper; but I could not
eat any thing except a little biscuit, though I should have liked to
have some good tea; but as I had no pot to get it in, and was rather
nervous about asking the rough sailors to let me drink out of theirs; I
was obliged to go without a sip. I thought of going to the black cook
and begging a tin cup; but he looked so cross and ugly then, that the
sight of him almost frightened the idea out of me.
When supper was over, for they never talk about going to tea aboard of a
ship, the watch to which I belonged was called on deck; and we were told
it was for us to stand the first night watch, that is, from eight
o'clock till midnight.
I now began to feel unsettled and ill at ease about the stomach, as if
matters were all topsy-turvy there; and felt strange and giddy about the
head; and so I made no doubt that this was the beginning of that
dreadful thing, the sea-sickness. Feeling worse and worse, I told one of
the sailors how it was with me, and begged him to make my excuses very
civilly to the chief mate, for I thought I would go below and spend the
night in my bunk. But he only laughed at me, and said something about my
mother not being aware of my being out; which enraged me not a little,
that a man whom I had heard swear so terribly, should dare to take such
a holy name into his mouth. It seemed a sort of blasphemy, and it seemed
like dragging out the best and most cherished secrets of my soul, for at
that time the name of mother was the center of all my heart's finest
feelings, which ere that, I had learned to keep secret, deep down in my
But I did not outwardly resent the sailor's words, for that would have
only made the matter worse.
Now this man was a Greenlander by birth, with a very white skin where
the sun had not burnt it, and handsome blue eyes placed wide apart in
his head, and a broad good-humored face, and plenty of curly flaxen
hair. He was not very tall, but exceedingly stout-built, though active;
and his back was as broad as a shield, and it was a great way between
his shoulders. He seemed to be a sort of lady's sailor, for in his
broken English he was always talking about the nice ladies of his
acquaintance in Stockholm and Copenhagen and a place he called the Hook,
which at first I fancied must be the place where lived the hook-nosed
men that caught fowling-pieces and every other article that came along.
He was dressed very tastefully, too, as if he knew he was a good-looking
fellow. He had on a new blue woolen Havre frock, with a new silk
handkerchief round his neck, passed through one of the vertebral bones
of a shark, highly polished and carved. His trowsers were of clear white
duck, and he sported a handsome pair of pumps, and a tarpaulin hat
bright as a looking-glass, with a long black ribbon streaming behind,
and getting entangled every now and then in the rigging; and he had gold
anchors in his ears, and a silver ring on one of his fingers, which was
very much worn and bent from pulling ropes and other work on board ship.
I thought he might better have left his jewelry at home.
It was a long time before I could believe that this man was really from
Greenland, though he looked strange enough to me, then, to have come
from the moon; and he was full of stories about that distant country;
how they passed the winters there; and how bitter cold it was; and how
he used to go to bed and sleep twelve hours, and get up again and run
about, and go to bed again, and get up again--there was no telling how
many times, and all in one night; for in the winter time in his country,
he said, the nights were so many weeks long, that a Greenland baby was
sometimes three months old, before it could properly be said to be a day
I had seen mention made of such things before, in books of voyages; but
that was only reading about them, just as you read the Arabian Nights,
which no one ever believes; for somehow, when I read about these
wonderful countries, I never used really to believe what I read, but
only thought it very strange, and a good deal too strange to be
altogether true; though I never thought the men who wrote the book meant
to tell lies. But I don't know exactly how to explain what I mean; but
this much I will say, that I never believed in Greenland till I saw this
Greenlander. And at first, hearing him talk about Greenland, only made
me still more incredulous. For what business had a man from Greenland to
be in my company? Why was he not at home among the icebergs, and how
could he stand a warm summer's sun, and not be melted away? Besides,
instead of icicles, there were ear-rings hanging from his ears; and he
did not wear bear-skins, and keep his hands in a huge muff; things,
which I could not help connecting with Greenland and all Greenlanders.
But I was telling about my being sea-sick and wanting to retire for the
night. This Greenlander seeing I was ill, volunteered to turn doctor and
cure me; so going down into the forecastle, he came back with a brown
jug, like a molasses jug, and a little tin cannikin, and as soon as the
brown jug got near my nose, I needed no telling what was in it, for it
smelt like a still-house, and sure enough proved to be full of Jamaica
"Now, Buttons," said he, "one little dose of this will be better for you
than a whole night's sleep; there, take that now, and then eat seven or
eight biscuits, and you'll feel as strong as the mainmast."
But I felt very little like doing as I was bid, for I had some scruples
about drinking spirits; and to tell the plain truth, for I am not
ashamed of it, I was a member of a society in the village where my
mother lived, called the Juvenile Total Abstinence Association, of which
my friend, Tom Legare, was president, secretary, and treasurer, and kept
the funds in a little purse that his cousin knit for him. There was
three and sixpence on hand, I believe, the last time he brought in his
accounts, on a May day, when we had a meeting in a grove on the
river-bank. Tom was a very honest treasurer, and never spent the
Society's money for peanuts; and besides all, was a fine, generous boy,
whom I much loved. But I must not talk about Tom now.
When the Greenlander came to me with his jug of medicine, I thanked him
as well as I could; for just then I was leaning with my mouth over the
side, feeling ready to die; but I managed to tell him I was under a
solemn obligation never to drink spirits upon any consideration
whatever; though, as I had a sort of presentiment that the spirits would
now, for once in my life, do me good, I began to feel sorry, that when I
signed the pledge of abstinence, I had not taken care to insert a little
clause, allowing me to drink spirits in case of sea-sickness. And I
would advise temperance people to attend to this matter in future; and
then if they come to go to sea, there will be no need of breaking their
pledges, which I am truly sorry to say was the case with me. And a hard
thing it was, too, thus to break a vow before unbroken; especially as
the Jamaica tasted any thing but agreeable, and indeed burnt my mouth
so, that I did not relish my meals for some time after. Even when I had
become quite well and strong again, I wondered how the sailors could
really like such stuff; but many of them had a jug of it, besides the
Greenlander, which they brought along to sea with them, to taper off
with, as they called it. But this tapering off did not last very long,
for the Jamaica was all gone on the second day, and the jugs were tossed
overboard. I wonder where they are now?
But to tell the truth, I found, in spite of its sharp taste, the spirits
I drank was just the thing I needed; but I suppose, if I could have had
a cup of nice hot coffee, it would have done quite as well, and perhaps
much better. But that was not to be had at that time of night, or,
indeed, at any other time; for the thing they called coffee, which was
given to us every morning at breakfast, was the most curious tasting
drink I ever drank, and tasted as little like coffee, as it did like
lemonade; though, to be sure, it was generally as cold as lemonade, and
I used to think the cook had an icehouse, and dropt ice into his coffee.
But what was more curious still, was the different quality and taste of
it on different mornings. Sometimes it tasted fishy, as if it was a
decoction of Dutch herrings; and then it would taste very salty, as if
some old horse, or sea-beef, had been boiled in it; and then again it
would taste a sort of cheesy, as if the captain had sent his
cheese-parings forward to make our coffee of; and yet another time it
would have such a very bad flavor, that I was almost ready to think some
old stocking-heels had been boiled in it. What under heaven it was made
of, that it had so many different bad flavors, always remained a
mystery; for when at work at his vocation, our old cook used to keep
himself close shut-up in his caboose, a little cook-house, and never
told any of his secrets.
Though a very serious character, as I shall hereafter show, he was for
all that, and perhaps for that identical reason, a very suspicious
looking sort of a cook, that I don't believe would ever succeed in
getting the cooking at Delmonico's in New York. It was well for him that
he was a black cook, for I have no doubt his color kept us from seeing
his dirty face! I never saw him wash but once, and that was at one of
his own soup pots one dark night when he thought no one saw him. What
induced him to be washing his face then, I never could find out; but I
suppose he must have suddenly waked up, after dreaming about some real
estate on his cheeks. As for his coffee, notwithstanding the
disagreeableness of its flavor, I always used to have a strange
curiosity every morning, to see what new taste it was going to have; and
though, sure enough, I never missed making a new discovery, and adding
another taste to my palate, I never found that there was any change in
the badness of the beverage, which always seemed the same in that
respect as before.
It may well be believed, then, that now when I was seasick, a cup of
such coffee as our old cook made would have done me no good, if indeed
it would not have come near making an end of me. And bad as it was, and
since it was not to be had at that time of night, as I said before, I
think I was excusable in taking something else in place of it, as I did;
and under the circumstances, it would be unhandsome of them, if my
fellow-members of the Temperance Society should reproach me for breaking
my bond, which I would not have done except in case of necessity. But
the evil effect of breaking one's bond upon any occasion whatever, was
witnessed in the present case; for it insidiously opened the way to
subsequent breaches of it, which though very slight, yet carried no
apology with them.
IX. THE SAILORS BECOMING A LITTLE SOCIAL, REDBURN CONVERSES WITH THEM
The latter part of this first long watch that we stood was very
pleasant, so far as the weather was concerned. From being rather cloudy,
it became a soft moonlight; and the stars peeped out, plain enough to
count one by one; and there was a fine steady breeze; and it was not
very cold; and we were going through the water almost as smooth as a
sled sliding down hill. And what was still better, the wind held so
steady, that there was little running aloft, little pulling ropes, and
scarcely any thing disagreeable of that kind.
The chief mate kept walking up and down the quarter-deck, with a lighted
long-nine cigar in his mouth by way of a torch; and spoke but few words
to us the whole watch. He must have had a good deal of thinking to
attend to, which hi truth is the case with most seamen the first night
out of port, especially when they have thrown away their money in
foolish dissipation, and got very sick into the bargain. For when
ashore, many of these sea-officers are as wild and reckless in their
way, as the sailors they command.
While I stood watching the red cigar-end promenading up and down, the
mate suddenly stopped and gave an order, and the men sprang to obey it.
It was not much, only something about hoisting one of the sails a little
higher up on the mast. The men took hold of the rope, and began pulling
upon it; the foremost man of all setting up a song with no words to it,
only a strange musical rise and fall of notes. In the dark night, and
far out upon the lonely sea, it sounded wild enough, and made me feel as
I had sometimes felt, when in a twilight room a cousin of mine, with
black eyes, used to play some old German airs on the piano. I almost
looked round for goblins, and felt just a little bit afraid. But I soon
got used to this singing; for the sailors never touched a rope without
it. Sometimes, when no one happened to strike up, and the pulling,
whatever it might be, did not seem to be getting forward very well, the
mate would always say, "Come, men, can't any of you sing? Sing now, and
raise the dead." And then some one of them would begin, and if every
man's arms were as much relieved as mine by the song, and he could pull
as much better as I did, with such a cheering accompaniment, I am sure
the song was well worth the breath expended on it. It is a great thing
in a sailor to know how to sing well, for he gets a great name by it
from the officers, and a good deal of popularity among his shipmates.
Some sea-captains, before shipping a man, always ask him whether he can
sing out at a rope.
During the greater part of the watch, the sailors sat on the windlass
and told long stories of their adventures by sea and land, and talked
about Gibraltar, and Canton, and Valparaiso, and Bombay, just as you and
I would about Peck Slip and the Bowery. Every man of them almost was a
volume of Voyages and Travels round the World. And what most struck me
was that like books of voyages they often contradicted each other, and
would fall into long and violent disputes about who was keeping the Foul
Anchor tavern in Portsmouth at such a time; or whether the King of
Canton lived or did not live in Persia; or whether the bar-maid of a
particular house in Hamburg had black eyes or blue eyes; with many other
mooted points of that sort.
At last one of them went below and brought up a box of cigars from his
chest, for some sailors always provide little delicacies of that kind,
to break off the first shock of the salt water after laying idle ashore;
and also by way of tapering off, as I mentioned a little while ago. But
I wondered that they never carried any pies and tarts to sea with them,
instead of spirits and cigars.
Ned, for that was the man's name, split open the box with a blow of his
fist, and then handed it round along the windlass, just like a waiter at
a party, every one helping himself. But I was a member of an
Anti-Smoking Society that had been organized in our village by the
Principal of the Sunday School there, in conjunction with the Temperance
Association. So I did not smoke any then, though I did afterward upon
the voyage, I am sorry to say. Notwithstanding I declined; with a good
deal of unnecessary swearing, Ned assured me that the cigars were real
genuine Havannas; for he had been in Havanna, he said, and had them made
there under his own eye. According to his account, he was very
particular about his cigars and other things, and never made any
importations, for they were unsafe; but always made a voyage himself
direct to the place where any foreign thing was to be had that he
wanted. He went to Havre for his woolen shirts, to Panama for his hats,
to China for his silk handkerchiefs, and direct to Calcutta for his
cheroots; and as a great joker in the watch used to say, no doubt he
would at last have occasion to go to Russia for his halter; the wit of
which saying was presumed to be in the fact, that the Russian hemp is
the best; though that is not wit which needs explaining.
By dint of the spirits which, besides stimulating my fainting strength,
united with the cool air of the sea to give me an appetite for our hard
biscuit; and also by dint of walking briskly up and down the deck before
the windlass, I had now recovered in good part from my sickness, and
finding the sailors all very pleasant and sociable, at least among
themselves, and seated smoking together like old cronies, and nothing on
earth to do but sit the watch out, I began to think that they were a
pretty good set of fellows after all, barring their swearing and another
ugly way of talking they had; and I thought I had misconceived their
true characters; for at the outset I had deemed them such a parcel of
wicked hard-hearted rascals that it would be a severe affliction to
associate with them.
Yes, I now began to look on them with a sort of incipient love; but more
with an eye of pity and compassion, as men of naturally gentle and kind
dispositions, whom only hardships, and neglect, and ill-usage had made
outcasts from good society; and not as villains who loved wickedness for
the sake of it, and would persist in wickedness, even in Paradise, if
they ever got there. And I called to mind a sermon I had once heard in a
church in behalf of sailors, when the preacher called them strayed lambs
from the fold, and compared them to poor lost children, babes in the
wood, orphans without fathers or mothers.
And I remembered reading in a magazine, called the Sailors' Magazine,
with a sea-blue cover, and a ship painted on the back, about pious
seamen who never swore, and paid over all their wages to the poor
heathen in India; and how that when they were too old to go to sea,
these pious old sailors found a delightful home for life in the
Hospital, where they had nothing to do, but prepare themselves for their
latter end. And I wondered whether there were any such good sailors
among my ship-mates; and observing that one of them laid on deck apart
from the rest, I thought to be sure he must be one of them: so I did not
disturb his devotions: but I was afterward shocked at discovering that
he was only fast asleep, with one of the brown jugs by his side.
I forgot to mention by the way, that every once in a while, the men went
into one corner, where the chief mate could not see them, to take a
"swig at the halyards," as they called it; and this swigging at the
halyards it was, that enabled them "to taper off" handsomely, and no
doubt it was this, too, that had something to do with making them so
pleasant and sociable that night, for they were seldom so pleasant and
sociable afterward, and never treated me so kindly as they did then. Yet
this might have been owing to my being something of a stranger to them,
then; and our being just out of port. But that very night they turned
about, and taught me a bitter lesson; but all in good time.
I have said, that seeing how agreeable they were getting, and how
friendly their manner was, I began to feel a sort of compassion for
them, grounded on their sad conditions as amiable outcasts; and feeling
so warm an interest in them, and being full of pity, and being truly
desirous of benefiting them to the best of my poor powers, for I knew
they were but poor indeed, I made bold to ask one of them, whether he
was ever in the habit of going to church, when he was ashore, or
dropping in at the Floating Chapel I had seen lying off the dock in the
East River at New York; and whether he would think it too much of a
liberty, if I asked him, if he had any good books in his chest. He
stared a little at first, but marking what good language I used, seeing
my civil bearing toward him, he seemed for a moment to be filled with a
certain involuntary respect for me, and answered, that he had been to
church once, some ten or twelve years before, in London, and on a
week-day had helped to move the Floating Chapel round the Battery, from
the North River; and that was the only time he had seen it. For his
books, he said he did not know what I meant by good books; but if I
wanted the Newgate Calendar, and Pirate's Own, he could lend them to me.
When I heard this poor sailor talk in this manner, showing so plainly
his ignorance and absence of proper views of religion, I pitied him more
and more, and contrasting my own situation with his, I was grateful that
I was different from him; and I thought how pleasant it was, to feel
wiser and better than he could feel; though I was willing to confess to
myself, that it was not altogether my own good endeavors, so much as my
education, which I had received from others, that had made me the
upright and sensible boy I at that time thought myself to be. And it was
now, that I began to feel a good degree of complacency and satisfaction
in surveying my own character; for, before this, I had previously
associated with persons of a very discreet life, so that there was
little opportunity to magnify myself, by comparing myself with my
Thinking that my superiority to him in a moral way might sit uneasily
upon this sailor, I thought it would soften the matter down by giving
him a chance to show his own superiority to me, in a minor thing; for I
was far from being vain and conceited.
Having observed that at certain intervals a little bell was rung on the
quarter-deck by the man at the wheel; and that as soon as it was heard,
some one of the sailors forward struck a large bell which hung on the
forecastle; and having observed that how many times soever the man
astern rang his bell, the man forward struck his--tit for tat,--I inquired
of this Floating Chapel sailor, what all this ringing meant; and
whether, as the big bell hung right over the scuttle that went down to
the place where the watch below were sleeping, such a ringing every
little while would not tend to disturb them and beget unpleasant dreams;
and in asking these questions I was particular to address him in a civil
and condescending way, so as to show him very plainly that I did not
deem myself one whit better than he was, that is, taking all things
together, and not going into particulars. But to my great surprise and
mortification, he in the rudest land of manner laughed aloud in my face,
and called me a "Jimmy Dux," though that was not my real name, and he
must have known it; and also the "son of a farmer," though as I have
previously related, my father was a great merchant and French importer
in Broad-street in New York. And then he began to laugh and joke about
me, with the other sailors, till they all got round me, and if I had not
felt so terribly angry, I should certainly have felt very much Eke a
fool. But my being so angry prevented me from feeling foolish, which is
very lucky for people in a passion.
X. HE IS VERY MUCH FRIGHTENED; THE SAILORS ABUSE HIM; AND HE BECOMES
MISERABLE AND FORLORN
While the scene last described was going on, we were all startled by a
horrid groaning noise down in the forecastle; and all at once some one
came rushing up the scuttle in his shirt, clutching something in his
hand, and trembling and shrieking in the most frightful manner, so that
I thought one of the sailors must be murdered below.
But it all passed in a moment; and while we stood aghast at the sight,
and almost before we knew what it was, the shrieking man jumped over
the bows into the sea, and we saw him no more. Then there was a great
uproar; the sailors came running up on deck; and the chief mate ran
forward, and learning what had happened, began to yell out his orders