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The Cruise of the Cachalot

Part 4 out of 6

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As it happened, however, I lost no excitement by remaining on
board; for while all the boats were away a large bowhead rose
near the ship, evidently being harassed in some way by enemies,
which I could not at first see. He seemed quite unconscious of
his proximity to the ship, though, and at last came so near that
the whole performance was as visible as if it had been got up for
my benefit. Three "killers" were attacking him at once, like
wolves worrying a bull, except that his motions were far less
lively than those of any bull would have been.

The "killer," or ORCA GLADIATOR, is a true whale, but, like the
cachalot, has teeth. He differs from that great cetacean,
though, in a most important particular; i.e. by having a complete
set in both upper and lower jaws, like any other carnivore. For
a carnivore indeed is he, the very wolf of the ocean, and
enjoying, by reason of his extraordinary agility as well as
comparative worthlessness commercially, complete immunity from
attack by man. By some authorities he is thought to be identical
with the grampus, but whalers all consider the animals quite
distinct. Not having had very long acquaintance with them both,
I cannot speak emphatically upon this difference of opinion; so
far as personal observation goes, I agree with the whalers in
believing that there is much variation both of habits and shape
between them.

But to return to the fight. The first inkling I got of what was
really going on was the leaping of a killer high into the air by
the side of the whale, and descending upon the victim's broad,
smooth back with a resounding crash. I saw that the killer was
provided with a pair of huge fins--one on his back, the other on
his belly--which at first sight looked as if they were also
weapons of offence. A little observation convinced me that they
were fins only. Again and again the aggressor leaped into the
air, falling each time on the whale's back, as if to beat him
into submission.

The sea around foamed and boiled like a cauldron, so that it was
only occasional glimpses I was able to catch of the two killers,
until presently the worried whale lifted his head clear out of
the surrounding smother, revealing the two furies hanging--one on
either side-- to his lips, as if endeavouring to drag his mouth
open --which I afterwards saw was their principal object, as
whenever during the tumult I caught sight of them, they were
still in the same position. At last the tremendous and incessant
blows, dealt by the most active member of the trio, seemed
actually to have exhausted the immense vitality of the great
bowhead, for he lay supine upon the surface. Then the three
joined their forces, and succeeded in dragging open his cavernous
mouth, into which they freely entered, devouring his tongue.
This, then, had been their sole object, for as soon as they had
finished their barbarous feast they departed, leaving him
helpless and dying to fall an easy prey to our returning boats.

Thus, although the four whales captured by the boats had been but
small, the day's take, augmented by so great a find, was a large
one, and it was a long time before we got clear of the work it

From that time forward we saw no whales for six weeks, and, from
the reports we received from two whalers we "gammed," it appeared
that we might consider ourselves most fortunate in our catch,
since they, who had been longer on the ground than ourselves, had
only one whale apiece.

In consequence of this information, Captain Slocum decided to go
south again, and resume the sperm whaling in the North Pacific,
near the line--at least so the rumour ran; but as we never heard
anything definitely, we could not feel at all certain of our next

Ever since the fracas at the Bonins between Goliath and his
watch, the relations between Captain Slocum and the big negro had
been very strained. Even before the outbreak, as I have remarked
upon one occasion, it was noticeable that little love was lost
between them. Why this was so, without anything definite to guide
one's reasoning, was difficult to understand, for a better seaman
or a smarter whaleman than Mistah Jones did not live--of that
every one was quite sure. Still, there was no gainsaying the
fact that, churlish and morose as our skipper's normal temper
always was, he was never so much so as in his behaviour towards
his able fourth mate, who, being a man of fine, sensitive temper,
chafed under his unmerited treatment so much as to lose flesh,
becoming daily more silent, nervous, and depressed. Still, there
had never been an open rupture, nor did it appear as if there
would be, so great was the power Captain Slocum possessed over
the will of everybody on board.

One night, however, as we were nearing the Kuriles again, on our
way south, leaving the Sea of Okhotsk, I was sitting on the fore
side of the try-works alone, meditating upon what I would do when
once I got clear of this miserable business. Futile and foolish,
no doubt, my speculations were, but only in this way could I
forget for a while my surroundings, since the inestimable comfort
of reading was denied me. I had been sitting thus absorbed in
thought for nearly an hour, when Goliath came and seated himself
by my side. We had always been great friends, although, owing to
the strict discipline maintained on board, it was not often we
got a chance for a "wee bit crack," as the Scotch say. Besides,
I was not in his watch, and even now he should rightly have been
below. He sat for a minute or two silent; then, as if compelled
to speak, he began in low, fierce whispers to tell me of his
miserable state of mind. At last, after recapitulating many
slights and insults he had received silently from the captain, of
which I had previously known nothing, he became strangely calm.
In tones quite unlike his usual voice, he said that he was not an
American-born negro, but a pure African, who had been enslaved in
his infancy, with his mother, somewhere in the "Hinterland" of
Guinea. While still a child, his mother escaped with him into
Liberia, a where he had remained till her death, She was,
according to him, an Obeah woman of great power, venerated
exceedingly by her own people for her prophetic abilities.
Before her death, she had told him that he would die suddenly,
violently, in a struggle with a white man in a far-off country,
but that the white man would die too by his hand. She had also
told him that he would be a great traveller and hunter upon the
sea. As he went on, his speech became almost unintelligible,
being mingled with fragments of a language I had never heard
before; moreover, he spoke as a man who is only half awake. A
strange terror got hold of me, for I began to think he was going
mad, and perhaps about to run a-mok, as the Malays do when driven
frantic by the infliction of real or fancied wrongs.

But he gradually returned to his old self, to my great relief,
and I ventured somewhat timidly to remind him of the esteem in
which he was held by all hands; even the skipper, I ventured to
say, respected him, although, from some detestable form of ill-
humour, he had chosen to be so sneering and insulting towards
him. He shook his head sadly, and said, "My dear boy, youse de
only man aboard dis ship--wite man, dat is--dat don't hate an'
despise me becawse ob my colour, wich I cain't he'p; an' de God
you beliebe in bless you fer dat. As fer me, w'at I done tole
you's true,'n befo' bery little w'ile you see it COME true. 'N
w'en DAT happens w'at's gwine ter happen, I'se real glad to tink
it gwine ter be better fer you--gwine ter be better fer eberybody
'bord de CACH'LOT; but I doan keer nuffin 'bout anybody else. So
long." He held out his great black hand, and shook mine
heartily, while a big tear rolled down his face and fell on the
deck. And with that he left me a prey to a very whirlpool of
conflicting thoughts and fears.

The night was a long and weary one--longer and drearier perhaps
because of the absence of the darkness, which always made it
harder to sleep. An incessant day soon becomes, to those
accustomed to the relief of the night, a burden grievous to be
borne; and although use can reconcile us to most things, and does
make even the persistent light bearable, in times of mental
distress or great physical weariness one feels irresistibly moved
to cry earnestly, "Come, gentle night."

When I came on deck at eight bells, it was a stark calm. The
watch, under Mistah Jones' direction, were busy scrubbing decks
with the usual thoroughness, while the captain, bare-footed, with
trouser-legs and shirt-sleeves rolled up, his hands on his hips
and a portentous frown on his brow, was closely looking on. As
it was my spell at the crow's-nest, I made at once for the main-
rigging, and had got halfway to the top, when some unusual sounds
below arrested me.

All hands were gathered in the waist, a not unusual thing at the
changing of the watch. In the midst of them, as I looked down,
two men came together in a fierce struggle. They were Goliath
and the skipper. Captain Slocum's right hand went naturally to
his hip pocket, where he always carried a revolver; but before he
could draw it, the long, black arms of his adversary wrapped
around him, making him helpless as a babe. Then, with a rush
that sent every one flying out of his way, Goliath hurled himself
at the bulwarks, which were low, the top of the rail about
thirty-three inches from the deck. The two bodies struck the
rail with a heavy thud, instantly toppling overboard. That broke
the spell that bound everybody, so that there was an
instantaneous rush to the side. Only a hardly noticeable ripple
remained on the surface of the placid sea.

But, from my lofty perch, the whole of the ghastly struggle had
been visible to the least detail. The two men had struck the
water locked in closest embrace, which relaxed not even when far
below the surface. When the sea is perfectly smooth, objects are
visible from aloft at several feet depth, though apparently
diminished in size. The last thing I saw was Captain Slocum's
white face, with its starting black eyes looking their last upon
the huge, indefinite hull of the ship whose occupants he had
ruled so long and rigidly.

The whole tragedy occupied such a brief moment of time that it
was almost impossible to realize that it was actual. Reason,
however, soon regained her position among the officers, who
ordered the closest watch to be kept from aloft, in case of the
rising of either or both of the men. A couple of boats were
swung, ready to drop on the instant. But, as if to crown the
tragedy with completeness, a heavy squall, which had risen
unnoticed, suddenly burst upon the ship with great fury, the
lashing hail and rain utterly obscuring vision even for a few
yards. So unexpected was the onset of this squall that, for the
only time that voyage, we lost some canvas through not being able
to get it in quick enough. The topgallant halyards were let go;
but while the sails were being clewed up, the fierce wind
following the rain caught them from their confining gear, rending
them into a thousand shreds. For an hour the squall raged--a
tempest in brief--then swept away to the south-east on its
furious journey, leaving peace again. Needless perhaps to say,
that after such a squall it was hopeless to look for our missing
ones. The sudden storm had certainly driven us several miles
away front the spot where they disappeared, and, although we
carefully made what haste was possible back along the line we
were supposed to have come, not a vestige of hope was in any
one's mind that we should ever see them again.

Nor did we. Whether that madness, which I had feared was coming
upon Goliath during our previous night's conversation, suddenly
overpowered him and impelled him to commit the horrible deed,
what more had passed between him and the skipper to even faintly
justify so awful a retaliation--these things were now matters of
purest speculation. As if they had never been, the two men were
blotted out--gone before God in full-blown heat of murder and
revengeful fury.

On the same evening Mr. Count mustered all hands on the quarter-
deck, and addressed us thus: "Men, Captain Slocum is dead, and,
as a consequence, I command the ship. Behave yourself like men,
not presuming upon kindness or imagining that I am a weak,
vacillating old man with whom you can do as you like, and you
will find in me a skipper who will do his duty by you as far as
lies in his power, nor expect more from you than you ought to
render. If, however, you DO try any tricks, remember that I am
an old hand, equal to most of the games that men get up to. I do
want--if you will help me--to make this a comfortable as well as
a successful ship. I hope with all my heart we shall succeed."

In answer to this manly and affecting little speech, which
confirmed my previous estimate of Captain Count's character, were
he but free to follow the bent of his natural, kindly
inclinations, and which I have endeavoured to translate out of
his usual dialect, a hearty cheer was raised by all hands, the
first ebullition of general good feeling manifested throughout
the voyage. Hearts rose joyfully at the prospect of comfort to
be gained by thoughtfulness on the part of the commander; nor
from that time forward did any sign of weariness of the ship or
voyage show itself among us, either on deck or below.

The news soon spread among us that, in consequence of the various
losses of boats and gear, the captain deemed it necessary to make
for Honolulu, where fresh supplies could readily be obtained. We
had heard many glowing accounts from visitors, when "gamming," of
the delights of this well-known port of call for whalers, and
under our new commander we had little doubt that we should be
allowed considerable liberty during our stay. So we were quite
impatient to get along fretting considerably at the persistent
fogs which prevented our making much progress while in the
vicinity of the Kuriles. But we saw no more bowheads, for which
none of us forward were at all sorry. We had got very tired of
the stink of their blubber, and the never-ending worry connected
with the preservation of the baleen; besides, we had not yet
accumulated any fund of enthusiasm about getting a full ship,
except as a reason for shortening the voyage, and we quite
understood that what black oil we had got would be landed at
Hawaii, so that our visit to the Okhotsk Sea, with its resultant
store of oil, had not really brought our return home any nearer,
as we at first hoped it would.

A great surprise was in store for me. I knew that Captain Count
was favourably inclined towards me, for he had himself told me
so, but nothing was further from my thoughts than promotion.
However, one Sunday afternoon, when we were all peacefully
enjoying the unusual rest (we had no Sundays in Captain Slocum's
time), the captain sent for me. He informed me that, after
mature consideration, he had chosen me to fill the vacancy made
by the death of Mistah Jones. Mr. Cruce was now mate; the
waspish little third had become second; Louis Silva, the
captain's favourite harpooner was third; and I was to be fourth.
Not feeling at all sure of how the other harpooners would take my
stepping over their heads, I respectfully demurred to the
compliment offered me, stating my reasons. But the captain said
he had fully made up his mind, after consultation with the other
officers, and that I need have no apprehension on the score of
the harpooners' jealousy; that they had been spoken to on the
subject, and they were all agreed that the captain's choice was
the best, especially as none of them knew anything of navigation,
or could write their own names.

In consequence of there being none of the crew fit to take a
harpooner's place, I was now really harpooner of the captain's
boat, which he would continue to work, when necessary, until we
were able to ship a harpooner, which he hoped to do at Hawaii.

The news of my promotion was received in grim silence by the
Portuguese forward, but the white men all seemed pleased. This
was highly gratifying to me, for I had tried my best to be
helpful to all, as far as my limited abilities would let me; nor
do I think I had an enemy in the ship. Behold me, then, a full-
blown "mister," with a definite substantial increase in my
prospects of pay of nearly one-third, in addition to many other
advantages, which, under the new captain, promised exceedingly

More than half the voyage lay behind us, looking like the fast-
settling bank of storm-clouds hovering above the tempest-tossed
sea so lately passed, while ahead the bright horizon was full of
promise of fine weather for the remainder of the journey.




Right glad were we all when, after much fumbling and box-hauling
about, we once more felt the long, familiar roll of the Pacific
swell, and saw the dim fastnesses of the smoky islands fading
into the lowering gloom astern. Most deep-water sailors are
familiar, by report if not by actual contact, with the beauties
of the Pacific islands, and I had often longed to visit them to
see for myself whether the half that had been told me was true.
Of course, to a great number of seafaring men, the loveliness of
those regions counts for nothing, their desirability being
founded upon the frequent opportunities of unlimited indulgence
in debauchery. To such men, a "missionary" island is a howling
wilderness, and the missionaries themselves the subjects of the
vilest abuse as well as the most boundless lying.

No one who has travelled with his eyes open would assert that all
missionaries were wise, prudent, or even godly men; while it is a
great deal to be regretted that so much is made of hardships
which in a large proportion of cases do not exist, the men who
are supposed to be enduring them being immensely better off and
more comfortable than they would ever have been at home.
Undoubtedly the pioneers of missionary enterprise had, almost
without exception, to face dangers and miseries past telling, but
that is the portion of pioneers in general. In these days,
however, the missionary's lot in Polynesia is not often a hard
one, and in many cases it is infinitely to be preferred to a life
among the very poor of our great cities.

But when all has been said that can be said against the
missionaries, the solid bastion of fact remains that, in
consequence of their labours, the whole vile character of the
populations of the Pacific has been changed, and where wickedness
runs riot to-day, it is due largely to the hindrances placed in
the way of the noble efforts of the missionaries by the
unmitigated scoundrels who vilify them. The task of spreading
Christianity would not, after all, be so difficult were it not
for the efforts of those apostles of the devil to keep the
islands as they would like them to be--places where lust runs
riot day and night, murder may be done with impunity, slavery
flourishes, and all evil may be indulged in free from law, order,
or restraint.

It speaks volumes for the inherent might of the Gospel that, in
spite of the object-lessons continually provided for the natives
by white men of the negation of all good, that it has stricken
its roots so deeply into the soil of the Pacific islands. Just
as the best proof of the reality of the Gospel here in England is
that it survives the incessant assaults upon it from within by
its professors, by those who are paid, and highly paid, to
propagate it, by the side of whose deadly doings the efforts of
so-called infidels are but as the battery of a summer breeze; so
in Polynesia, were not the principles of Christianity vital with
an immortal and divine life, missionary efforts might long ago
have ceased in utter despair at the fruitlessness of the field.

We were enjoying a most uneventful passage, free from any
serious changes either of wind or weather which quiet time was
utilised to the utmost in making many much-needed additions to
the running-gear, repairing rigging, etc. Any work involving the
use of new material had been put off from time to time during the
previous part of the voyage till the ship aloft was really in a
dangerous condition. This was due entirely to the peculiar
parsimony of our late skipper, who could scarcely bring himself
to broach a coil of rope, except for whaling purposes. The same
false economy had prevailed with regard to paint and varnish, so
that the vessel, while spotlessly clean, presented a worn-out
weather-beaten appearance. Now, while the condition of life on
board was totally different to what it had been, as regards
comfort and peace, discipline and order were maintained at the
same high level as always, though by a different method--in fact,
I believe that a great deal more work was actually done,
certainly much more that was useful and productive; for Captain
Count hated, as much as any foremast hand among us, the constant,
remorseless grind of iron-work polishing, paint-work scrubbing,
and holystoning, all of which, though necessary in a certain
degree, when kept up continually for the sole purpose of making
work--a sort of elaborated tread-mill, in fact--becomes the
refinement of cruelty to underfed, unpaid, and hopeless men.

So, while the CACHALOT could have fearlessly challenged
comparison with any ship afloat for cleanliness and neatness of
appearance, the hands no longer felt that they were continually
being "worked up" or "hazed" for the sole, diabolical
satisfaction of keeping them "at it." Of course, the incidence
of the work was divided, since so many of the crew were quite
unable to do any sailorizing, as we term work in sails and
rigging. Upon them, then, fell all the common labour, which can
be done by any unskilled man or woman afloat or ashore.

Of this work a sailor's duties are largely made up, but when good
people ashore wonder "whatever sailors do with their time," it
would be useful for them to remember that a ship is a huge and
complicated machine, needing constant repairs, which can only be
efficiently performed by skilled workmen. An "A.B." or able
seaman's duties are legally supposed to be defined by the three
expressions, "hand, reef, and steer." If he can do those three
things, which mean furling or making fast sails, reefing them,
and steering the ship, his wages cannot be reduced for
incompetency. Yet these things are the A B C of seamanship only.
A good SEAMAN is able to make all the various knots, splices, and
other arrangements in hempen or wire rope, without which a ship
cannot be rigged; he can make a sail, send up or down yards and
masts, and do many other things, the sum total of which need
several years of steady application to learn, although a good
seaman is ever learning.

Such seamen are fast becoming extinct. They are almost totally
unnecessary in steamships, except when the engines break down in
a gale of wind, and the crowd of navvies forming the crew stand
looking at one another when called upon to set sail or do any
other job aloft. THEN the want of seamen is rather severely felt.
But even in sailing ships--the great, overgrown tanks of two
thousand tons and upwards--mechanical genius has utilized iron to
such an extent in their rigging that sailor-work has become very
largely a matter of blacksmithing. I make no complaint of this,
not believing that the "old was better;" but, since the strongest
fabric of man's invention comes to grief sometimes in conflict
with the irresistible sea, some provision should be made for
having a sufficiency of seamen who could exercise their skill in
refitting a dismasted ship, or temporarily replacing broken
blacksmith work by old-fashioned rope and wood.

But, as the sailing ship is doomed inevitably to disappear before
steam, perhaps it does not matter much. The economic march of
the world's progress will never be stayed by sentimental
considerations, nor will all the romance and poetry in the world
save the seaman from extinction, if his place can be more
profitably filled by the engineer. From all appearances, it soon
will be, for even now marine superintendents of big lines are
sometimes engineers, and in their hands lie the duty of engaging
the officers. It would really seem as if the ship of the near
future would be governed by the chief engineer, under whose
direction a pilot or sailing-master would do the necessary
navigation, without power to interfere in any matter of the
ship's economy. Changes as great have taken place in other
professions; seafaring cannot hope to be the sole exception.

So, edging comfortably along, we gradually neared the Sandwich
Islands without having seen a single spout worth watching since
the tragedy. At last the lofty summits of the island mountains
hove in sight, and presently we came to an anchor in that
paradise of whalers, missionaries, and amateur statesmen--
Honolulu. As it is as well known to most reading people as our
own ports--better perhaps--I shall not attempt to describe it, or
pit myself against the able writers who have made it so familiar.
Yet to me it was a new world. All things were so strange, so
delightful, especially the lovable, lazy, fascinating Kanakas,
who could be so limply happy over a dish of poe, or a green
cocoa-nut, or even a lounge in the sun, that it seemed an outrage
to expect them to work. In their sports they could be energetic
enough. I do not know of any more delightful sight than to watch
them bathing in the tremendous surf, simply intoxicated with the
joy of living, as unconscious of danger as if swinging in a
hammock while riding triumphantly upon the foaming summit of an
incoming breaker twenty feet high, or plunging with a cataract
over the dizzy edge of its cliff, swallowed up in the hissing
vortex below, only to reappear with a scream of riotous laughter
in the quiet eddy beyond.

As far as I could judge, they were the happiest of people,
literally taking no thought for the morrow, and content with the
barest necessaries of life, so long as they were free and the sun
shone brightly. We had many opportunities of cultivating their
acquaintance, for the captain allowed us much liberty, quite one-
half of the crew and officers being ashore most of the time. Of
course, the majority spent all their spare time in the purlieus
of the town, which, like all such places anywhere, were foul and
filthy enough; but that was their own faults. I have often
wondered much to see men, who on board ship were the pink of
cleanliness and neatness, fastidious to a fault in all they did,
come ashore and huddle in the most horrible of kennels, among the
very dregs and greaves of the 'long-shore district. It certainly
wants a great deal of explanation; but I suppose the most potent
reason is, that sailors, as a class, never learn to enjoy
themselves rationally. They are also morbidly suspicions of
being taken in hand by anybody who would show them anything worth
seeing, preferring to be led by the human sharks that infest all
seaports into ways of strange nastiness, and so expensive withal
that one night of such wallowing often costs them more than a
month's sane recreation and good food would. All honour to the
devoted men and women who labour in our seaports for the moral
and material benefit of the sailor, passing their lives amidst
sights and sounds shocking and sickening to the last degree,
reviled, unthanked, unpaid. Few are the missionaries abroad
whose lot is so hard as theirs.

We spent ten happy days in Honolulu, marred only by one or two
drunken rows among the chaps forward, which, however, resulted in
their getting a severe dressing down in the forecastle, where
good order was now kept. There had been no need for interference
on the part of the officers, which I was glad to see, remembering
what would have happened under such circumstances not long ago.
Being short-handed, the captain engaged a number of friendly
islanders for a limited period, on the understanding that they
were to be discharged at their native place, Vau Vau. There were
ten of them, fine stalwart fellows, able bodied and willing as
possible. They were cleanly in their habits, and devout members
of the Wesleyan body, so that their behaviour was quite a
reproach to some of our half-civilized crew. Berths were found
for them in the forecastle, and they took their places among us
quite naturally, being fairly well used to a whale-ship.




We weighed at last, one morning, with a beautiful breeze, and,
bidding a long farewell to the lovely isles and their amiable
inhabitants, stood at sea, bound for the "line" or equatorial
grounds on our legitimate business of sperm whaling. It was now
a long while since we had been in contact with a cachalot, the
last one having been killed by us on the Coast of Japan some six
months before. But we all looked forward to the coming campaign
with considerable joy, for we were now a happy family, interested
in the work, and, best of all, even if the time was still
distant, we were, in a sense, homeward bound. At any rate, we
all chose so to think, from the circumstance that we were now
working to the southward, towards Cape Horn, the rounding of
which dreaded point would mark the final stage of our globe-
encircling voyage.

We had, during our stay at Honolulu, obtained a couple of grand
boats in addition to our stock, and were now in a position to man
and lower five at once, if occasion should arise, still leaving
sufficient crew on board to work the vessel. The captain had
also engaged an elderly seaman of his acquaintance--out of pure
philanthropy, as we all thought, since he was in a state of semi-
starvation ashore--to act as a kind of sailing-master, so as to
relieve the captain of ship duty at whaling time, allowing him
still to head his boat. This was not altogether welcome news to
me, for, much as I liked the old man and admired his pluck, I
could not help dreading his utter recklessness when on a whale,
which had so often led to a smash-up that might have been easily
avoided. Moreover, I reasoned that if he had been foolhardy
before, he was likely to be much more so now, having no superior
to look black or use language when a disaster occurred. For now
I was his harpooner, bound to take as many risks as be chose to
incur, and anxious also to earn a reputation among the more
seasoned whalemen for smartness sufficient to justify my

The Kanakas shipped at Honolulu were distributed among the boats,
two to each, being already trained whalemen, and a fine lot of
fellows they were. My two--Samuela and Polly--were not very big
men, but sturdy, nimble as cats, as much at home in the water as
on deck, and simply bubbling over with fun and good-humour, From
my earliest sea-going, I have always had a strong liking for
natives of tropical countries, finding them affectionate and
amenable to kindness. Why, I think, white men do not get on with
darkies well, as a rule, is, that they seldom make an appeal to
the MAN, in them. It is very degrading to find one's self looked
down upon as a sort of animal without reason or feelings; and if
you degrade a man, you deprive him of any incentive to make
himself useful, except the brute one you may feel bound to apply
yourself. My experience has been limited to Africans (of sorts),
Kanakas, natives of Hindostan, Malagasy, and Chinese; but with
all these I have found a little COMARADERIE answer excellently.
True, they are lazy; but what inducement have they to work? The
complicated needs of our civilized existence compel US to work,
or be run over by the unresting machine; but I take leave to
doubt whether any of us with a primitive environment would not be
as lazy as any Kanaka that ever dozed under a banana tree through
daylight hours. Why, then, make an exalted virtue of the
necessity which drives us, and objurgate the poor black man
because he prefers present ease to a doubtful prospective
retirement on a competency? Australian blackfellows and Malays
are said to be impervious to kind treatment by a great number of
witnesses, the former appearing incapable of gratitude, and the
latter unable to resist the frequent temptation to kill somebody.
Not knowing anything personally of either of these races, I can
say nothing for or against them.

All the coloured individuals that I have had to do with have
amply repaid any little kindness shown them with fidelity and
affection, but especially has this been the case with Kanakas,
The soft and melodious language spoken by them is easy to
acquire, and is so pleasant to speak that it is well worth
learning, to say nothing of the convenience to yourself, although
the Kanaka speedily picks up the mutilated jargon which does duty
for English on board ship.

What I specially longed for now was a harpooner, or even two, so
that I might have my boat to myself, the captain taking his own
boat with a settled harpooner. Samuela, the biggest of my two
Kanakas, very earnestly informed me that he was no end of a
"number one" whale slaughterer; but I judged it best to see how
things went before asking to have him promoted. My chance, and
his, came very promptly; so nicely arranged, too, that I could
not have wished for anything better. The skipper had got a fine,
healthy boil on one knee-cap, and another on his wrist, so that
he was, as you may say, HORS DE COMBAT. While he was impatiently
waiting to get about once more, sperm whales were raised.
Although nearly frantic with annoyance, he was compelled to leave
the direction of things to Mr. Cruce, who was quite puffed up
with the importance of his opportunity.

Such a nice little school of cow-whales, a lovely breeze, clear
sky, warm weather--I felt as gay as a lark at the prospect. As
we were reaching to windward, with all boats ready for lowering,
the skipper called me aft and said, "Naow, Mr. Bullen, I cain't
lower, because of this condemned leg'n arm of mine; but how'r yew
goin' ter manage 'thout a harpooneer?" I suggested that if he
would allow me to try Samuela, who was suffering for a chance to
distinguish himself, we would "come out on top." "All right," he
said; "but let the other boats get fast first, 'n doan be in too
much of a hurry to tie yerself up till ya see what's doin'. If
everythin's goin' bizness-fashion', 'n yew git a chance, sail
right in; yew got ter begin some time. But ef thet Kanaka looks
skeered goin' on, take the iron frum him ter onct." I promised,
and the interview ended.

When I told Samuela, of his chance, he was beside himself with
joy. As to his being scared, the idea was manifestly absurd. He
was as pleased with the prospect as it was possible for a man to
be, and hardly able to contain himself for impatience to be off.
I almost envied him his exuberant delight, for a sense of
responsibility began to weigh upon me with somewhat depressing

We gained a good weather-gage, rounded to, and lowered four
boats. Getting away in good style, we had barely got the sails
up, when something gallied the school. We saw or heard nothing
to account for it, but undoubtedly the "fish" were off at top
speed dead to windward, so that our sails were of no use. We had
them in with as little delay as possible, and lay to our oars for
all we were worth, being fresh and strong, as well as anxious to
get amongst them. But I fancy all our efforts would have availed
us little had it not been for the experience of Mr. Cruce, whose
eager eye detected the fact that the fish were running on a great
curve, and shaped our course to cut them off along a chord of the

Two and a half hours of energetic work was required of us before
we got on terms with the fleeing monsters; but at last, to our
great joy, they broke water from sounding right among us. It was
a considerable surprise, but we were all ready, and before they
had spouted twice, three boats were fast, only myself keeping
out, in accordance with my instructions. Samuela was almost
distraught with rage and grief at the condition of things. I
quite pitied him, although I was anything but pleased myself.
However, when I ranged up alongside the mate's fish, to render
what assistance was needed, he shouted to me, "We's all right;
go'n git fas', if yew kin." That was enough, and away we flew
after a retreating spout to leeward. Before we got there,
though, there was an upheaval in the water just ahead, and up
came a back like a keelless ship bottom up. Out came the head
belonging to it, and a spout like an explosion burst forth,
denoting the presence of an enormous bull-cachalot. Close by his
side was a cow of about one-third his size, the favoured sultana
of his harem, I suppose. Prudence whispered, "Go for the cow;"
ambition hissed, "All or none--the bull, the bull." Fortunately
emergencies of this kind leave one but a second or two to decide,
as a rule; in this case, as it happened, I was spared even that
mental conflict, for as we ran up between the two vast creatures,
Samuela, never even looking at the cow, hurled his harpoon, with
all the energy that he had been bursting with so long, at the
mighty bull. I watched its flight--saw it enter the black mass
and disappear to the shaft, and almost immediately came the
second iron, within a foot of the first, burying itself in the
same solid fashion.

"Starn--starn all!" I shouted; and we backed slowly away,
considerably hampered by the persistent attentions of the cow,
who hung round us closely. The temptation to lance her was
certainly great, but I remembered the fate that had overtaken the
skipper on the first occasion we struck whales, and did not
meddle with her ladyship. Our prey was not apparently disposed
to kick up much fuss at first, so, anxious to settle matters, I
changed ends with Samuela, and pulled in on the whale. A good,
steady lance-thrust--the first I had ever delivered--was
obtained, sending a thrill of triumph through my whole body. The
recipient, thoroughly roused by this, started off at a great
lick, accompanied, somewhat to my surprise, by the cow.
Thenceforward for another hour, in spite of all our efforts, we
could not get within striking distance, mainly because of the
close attention of the cow, which stuck to her lord like a calf
to its mother. I was getting so impatient of this hindrance,
that it was all I could do to restrain myself from lancing the
cow, though I felt convinced that, if I did, I should spoil a
good job. Suddenly I caught sight of the ship right ahead. We
were still flying along, so that in a short time we were
comparatively close to her. My heart beat high and I burned to
distinguish myself under the friendly and appreciative eye of the

None of the other boats were in sight, from our level at least,
so that I had a reasonable hope of being able to finish my game,
with all the glory thereunto attaching, unshared by any other of
my fellow-officers. As we ran quite closely past the ship,
calling on the crew to haul up for all they were worth, we
managed actually to squeeze past the cow, and I got in a really
deadly blow. The point of the lance entered just between the fin
and the eye, but higher up, missing the broad plate of the
shoulder-blade, and sinking its whole four feet over the hitches
right down into the animal's vitals. Then, for the first time,
he threw up his flukes, thrashing them from side to side almost
round to his head, and raising such a turmoil that we were half
full of water in a moment. But Samuela was so quick at the
steer-oar, so lithe and forceful, and withal appeared so to
anticipate every move of mine, that there seemed hardly any

After a few moments of this tremendous exertion, our victim
settled down, leaving the water deeply stained with his gushing
blood. With him disappeared his constant companion, the faithful
cow, who had never left his side a minute since we first got
fast. Down, down they went, until my line began to look very low,
and I was compelled to make signals to the ship for more. We had
hardly elevated the oars, when down dropped the last boat with
four men in her, arriving by my side in a few minutes with two
fresh tubs of tow-line. We took them on board, and the boat
returned again. By the time the slack came we had about four
hundred and fifty fathoms out--a goodly heap to pile up loose in
our stern-sheets. I felt sure, however, that we should have but
little more trouble with our fish; in fact, I was half afraid
that he would die before getting to the surface, in which case he
might sink and be lost. We hauled steadily away, the line not
coming in very easily, until I judged there was only about
another hundred fathoms out. Our amazement may be imagined, when
suddenly we were compelled to sleek away again, the sudden weight
on the line suggesting that the fish was again sounding. If ever
a young hand was perplexed, it was I. Never before had I heard
of such unseemly behaviour, nor was my anxiety lessened when I
saw, a short distance away, the huge body of my prize at the
surface spouting blood. At the same time, I was paying out line
at a good rate, as if I had a fast fish on which was sounding

The skipper had been watching me very closely from his seat on
the taffrail, and had kept the ship within easy distance. Now,
suspecting something out of the common, he sent the boat again to
my assistance, in charge of the cooper. When that worthy
arrived, he said, "Th' ol' man reckens yew've got snarled erp'ith
thet ar' loose keow, 'n y'r irons hev draw'd from th' other. I'm
gwine ter wait on him,'n get him 'longside 'soon's he's out'er
his flurry. Ole man sez yew'd best wait on what's fast t' yer
an' nev' mine th' other." Away he went, reaching my prize just
as the last feeble spout exhaled, leaving the dregs of that great
flood of life trickling lazily down from the widely expanded
spiracle. To drive a harpoon into the carcass, and run the line
on board, was the simplest of jobs, for, as the captain had
foreseen, my irons were drawn clean. I had no leisure to take
any notice of them now, though, for whatever was on my line was
coming up hand-over-fist.

With a bound it reached the surface--the identical cow so long
attendant upon the dead whale. Having been so long below for
such a small whale, she was quite exhausted, and before she had
recovered we had got alongside of her and lanced her, so
thoroughly that she died without a struggle. The ship was so
close that we had her alongside in a wonderfully short time, and
with scarcely any trouble.

When I reached the deck, the skipper called me, and said several
things that made me feel about six inches taller. He was, as may
be thought, exceedingly pleased, saying that only once in his
long career had he seen a similar case; for I forgot to mention
that the line was entangled around the cow's down-hanging jaw, as
if she had actually tried to bite in two the rope that held her
consort, and only succeeded in sharing his fate. I would not
like to say that whales do not try to thus sever a line, but,
their teeth being several inches apart, conical, and fitting into
sockets in the upper jaw instead of meeting the opposed surfaces
of other teeth, the accomplishment of such a feat must, I think,
be impossible.

The ship being now as good as anchored by the vast mass of flesh
hanging to her, there was a tremendous task awaiting us to get
the other fish alongside. Of course they were all to windward;
they nearly always are, unless the ship is persistently "turned
to windward" while the fishing is going on. Whalers believe that
they always work up into the wind while fast, and, when dead, it
is certain that they drift at a pretty good rate right in the
"wind's eye." This is accounted for by the play of the body,
which naturally lies head to wind; and the wash of the flukes,
which, acting somewhat like the "sculling" of an oar at the stern
of a boat, propel the carcass in the direction it is pointing,
Consequently we had a cruel amount of towing to do before we got
the three cows alongside. Many a time we blessed ourselves that
they were no bigger, for of all the clumsy things to tow with
boats, a sperm whale is about the worst. Offing to the great
square mass of the heed, they can hardly be towed head-on at all,
the practice being to cut off the tips of the flukes, and tow
them tail first. But even then it is slavery. To dip your oar
about three times in the same hole from whence you withdrew it,
to tug at it with all your might, apparently making as much
progress as though you were fast to a dock-wall, and to continue
this fun for four or five hours at a stretch, is to wonder indeed
whether you have not mistaken your vocation.

However, "it's dogged as does it," so by dint of sheer sticking
to the oar, we eventually succeeded in getting all our prizes
alongside before eight bells that evening, securing them around
us by hawsers to the cows, but giving the big bull the post of
honour alongside on the best fluke-chain.

We were a busy company for a fortnight thence, until the last of
the oil was run below--two hundred and fifty barrels, or twenty-
five tuns, of the valuable fluid having rewarded our exertions.
During these operations we had drifted night and day, apparently
without anybody taking the slightest account of the direction we
were taking; when, therefore, on the day after clearing up the
last traces of our fishing, the cry of "Land ho!" came ringing
down from the crow's-nest, no one was surprised, although the
part of the Pacific in which we were cruising has but few patches
of TERRA FIRMA scattered about over its immense area when
compared with the crowded archipelagoes lying farther south and

We could not see the reported land from the deck for two hours
after it was first seen from aloft, although the odd spectacle of
a scattered group of cocoa-nut trees apparently growing out of
the sea was for some time presented to us before the island
itself came into view. It was Christmas Island, where the
indefatigable Captain Cook landed on December 24, 1777, for the
purpose of making accurate observations of an eclipse of the sun.
He it was who gave to this lonely atoll the name it has ever
since borne, with characteristic modesty giving his own great
name to a tiny patch of coral which almost blocks the entrance to
the central lagoon. Here we lay "off and on" for a couple of
days, while foraging parties went ashore, returning at intervals
with abundance of turtle and sea-fowls' eggs. But any detailed
account of their proceedings must be ruthlessly curtailed, owing
to the scanty limits of space remaining.




The line whaling grounds embrace an exceedingly extensive area,
over the whole of which sperm whales may be found, generally of
medium size. No means of estimating the probable plenty or
scarcity of them in any given part of the grounds exist, so that
falling in with them is purely a matter of coincidence. To me it
seems a conclusive proof of the enormous numbers of sperm whales
frequenting certain large breadths of ocean, that they should be
so often fallen in with, remembering what a little spot is
represented by a day's cruise, and that the signs which denote
almost infallibly the vicinity of right whales are entirely
absent in the case of the cachalot. In the narrow waters of the
Greenland seas, with quite a small number of vessels seeking, it
is hardly possible for a whale of any size to escape being seen;
but in the open ocean a goodly fleet may cruise over a space of a
hundred thousand square miles without meeting any of the whales
that may yet be there in large numbers. So that when one hears
talk of the extinction of the cachalot, it is well to bear in
mind that such a thing would take a long series of years to
effect, even were the whaling business waxing instead of waning,
While, however, South Sea whaling is conducted on such old-world
methods as still obtain; while steam, with all the power it gives
of rapidly dealing with a catch, is not made use of, the art and
mystery of the whale-fisher must continually decrease. No such
valuable lubricant has ever been found as sperm oil; but the cost
of its production, added to the precarious nature of the supply,
so handicaps it in the competition with substitutes that it has
been practically eliminated from the English markets, except in
such greatly adulterated forms as to render it a lie to speak of
the mixture as sperm oil at all.

Except to a few whose minds to them are kingdoms, and others who
can hardly be said to have any minds at all, the long monotony of
unsuccessful seeking for whales is very wearying. The ceaseless
motion of the vessel rocking at the centre of a circular space of
blue, with a perfectly symmetrical dome of azure enclosing her
above, unflecked by a single cloud, becomes at last almost
unbearable from its changeless sameness of environment. Were it
not for the trivial round and common task of everyday ship duty,
some of the crew must become idiotic, or, in sheer rage at the
want of interest in their lives, commit mutiny.

Such a weary time was ours for full four weeks after sighting
Christmas Island. The fine haul we had obtained just previous to
that day seemed to have exhausted our luck for the time being,
for never a spout did we see. And it was with no ordinary delight
that we hailed the advent of an immense school of black-fish, the
first we had run across for a long time. Determined to have a
big catch, if possible, we lowered all five boats, as it was a
beautifully calm day, and the ship might almost safely have been
left to look after herself. After what we had recently been
accustomed to, the game seemed trifling to get up much excitement
over; but still, for a good day's sport, commend me to a few
lively black-fish.

In less than ten minutes we were in the thick of the crowd, with
harpoons flying right and left. Such a scene of wild confusion
and uproarious merriment ensued as I never saw before in my life.
The skipper, true to his traditions, got fast to four, all
running different ways at once, and making the calm sea boil
again with their frantic gyrations. Each of the other boats got
hold of three; but, the mate getting too near me, our fish got so
inextricably tangled up that it was hopeless to try and
distinguish between each other's prizes. However, when we got
the lances to work among them, the hubbub calmed down greatly,
and the big bodies one by one ceased their gambols, floating

So far, all had been gay; but the unlucky second mate must needs
go and do a thing that spoiled a day's fun entirely. The line
runs through a deep groove in the boat's stem, over a brass
roller so fitted that when the line is running out it remains
fixed, but when hauling in it revolves freely, assisting the work
a great deal. The second mate had three fish fast, like the rest
of us--the first one on the end of the main line, the other two
on "short warps," or pieces of whale-line some eight or ten
fathoms long fastened to harpoons, with the other ends running on
the main line by means of bowlines round it. By some mistake or
other he had allowed the two lines to be hauled together through
the groove in his boat's stem, and before the error was noticed
two fish spurted off in opposite directions, ripping the boat in
two halves lengthways, like a Dutchman splitting a salt herring.

Away went the fish with the whole of the line, nobody being able
to get at it to cut; and, but for the presence of mind shown by
the crew in striking out and away from the tangle, a most ghastly
misfortune, involving the loss of several lives, must have
occurred. As it was, the loss was considerable, almost
outweighing the gain on the day's fishing, besides the
inconvenience of having a boat useless on a whaling grounds.

The accident was the fruit of gross carelessness, and should
never have occurred; but then, strange to say, disasters to
whale-boats are nearly always due to want of care, the percentage
of unavoidable casualties being very small as compared with those
like the one just related. When the highly dangerous nature of
the work is remembered, this statement may seem somewhat
overdrawn; but it has been so frequently corroborated by others,
whose experience far outweighs my own, that I do not hesitate to
make it with the fullest confidence in its truth.

Happily no lives were lost on this occasion, for it would have
indeed been grievous to have seen our shipmates sacrificed to the
MANES of a mere black-fish, after successfully encountering so
many mighty whales. The episode gave us a great deal of
unnecessary work getting the two halves of the boat saved, in
addition to securing our fish, so that by the time we got the
twelve remaining carcasses hove on deck we were all quite fagged
out. But under the new regime we were sure of a good rest, so
that did not trouble us; it rather made the lounge on deck in the
balmy evening air and the well-filled pipe of peace doubly sweet.

Our next day's work completed the skinning of the haul we had
made, the last of the carcasses going overboard with a thunderous
splash at four in the afternoon. The assemblage of sharks round
the ship on this occasion was incredible for its number and the
great size of the creatures. Certainly no mariners see so many
or such huge sharks as whalemen; but, in spite of all our
previous experience, this day touched high-water mark. Many of
these fish were of a size undreamed of by the ordinary seafarer,
some of them full thirty feet in length, more like whales than
sharks. Most of them were striped diagonally with bands of
yellow, contrasting curiously with the dingy grey of their normal
colour. From this marking is derived their popular name--"tiger
sharks," not, as might be supposed, from their ferocity. That
attribute cannot properly be applied to the SQUALUS at all, which
is one of the most timid fish afloat, and whose ill name, as far
as regards blood-thirstiness, is quite undeserved. Rapacious the
shark certainly is; but what sea-fish is not? He is not at all
particular as to his diet; but what sea-fish is? With such a
great bulk of body, such enormous vitality and vigour to support,
he must needs be ever eating; and since he is not constructed on
swift enough lines to enable him to prey upon living fish, like
most of his neighbours, he is perforce compelled to play the
humble but useful part of a sea-scavenger.

He eats man, as he eats anything else eatable because in the
water man is easily caught, and not from natural depravity or an
acquired taste begetting a decided preference for human flesh.
All natives of shores infested by sharks despise him and his
alleged man-eating propensities, knowing that a very feeble
splashing will suffice to frighten him away even if ever so
hungry. Demerara River literally swarms with sharks, yet I have
often seen a negro, clad only in a beaming smile, slip into its
muddy waters, and, after a few sharp blows with his open hand
upon the surface, calmly swim down to the bottom, clear a ship's
anchor, or do whatever job was required, coming up again as
leisurely as if in a swimming-bath. A similar disregard of the
dangerous attributes awarded by popular consent to the shark may
be witnessed everywhere among the people who know him best. The
cruelties perpetrated upon sharks by seamen generally are the
result of ignorance and superstition combined, the most infernal
forces known to humanity. What would be said at home of such an
act, if it could be witnessed among us, as the disembowelling of
a tiger, say, and then letting him run in that horrible condition
somewhere remote from the possibility of retaliating upon his
torturers? Yet that is hardly comparable with a similar atrocity
performed upon a shark, because he will live hours to the tiger's
minutes in such a condition.

I once caught a shark nine feet long, which we hauled on board
and killed by cutting off its head and tail. It died very
speedily--for a shark--all muscular motion ceasing in less than
fifteen minutes. It was my intention to prepare that useless and
unornamental article so dear to sailors--a walking-stick made of
a shark's backbone. But when I came to cut out the vertebra, I
noticed a large scar, extending from one side to the other, right
across the centre of the back. Beneath it the backbone was
thickened to treble its normal size, and perfectly rigid; in
fact, it had become a mass of solid bone. At some time or other
this shark had been harpooned so severely that, in wrenching
himself free, he must have nearly torn his body in two halves,
severing the spinal column completely. Yet such a wound as that
had been healed by natural process, the bone knit together again
with many times the strength it had before--minus, of course, its
flexibility--and I can testify from the experience of securing
him that he could not possibly have been more vigorous than he

A favourite practice used to be--I trust it is so no longer--to
catch a shark, and, after driving a sharpened stake down through
his upper jaw and out underneath the lower one, so that its upper
portion pointed diagonally forward, to let him go again. The
consequence of this cruelty would be that the fish was unable to
open his mouth, or go in any direction without immediately coming
to the surface. How long he might linger in such torture, one
can only guess; but unless his fellows, finding him thus
helpless, came along and kindly devoured him, no doubt he would
exist in extreme agony for a very long time.

Two more small cows were all that rewarded our search during the
next fortnight, and we began to feel serious doubts as to the
success of our season upon the line grounds, after all. Still,
on the whole, our voyage up to the present had not been what
might fairly be called unsuccessful, for we were not yet two
years away from New Bedford, while we had considerably more than
two thousand barrels of oil on board--more, in fact, than two-
thirds of a full cargo. But if a whale were caught every other
day for six months, and then a month elapsed without any being
seen, grumbling would be loud and frequent, all the previous
success being forgotten in the present stagnation. Perhaps it is
not so different in other professions nearer home?

Christmas Day drew near, beloved of Englishmen all the world
over, though thought little of by Americans. The two previous
ones spent on board the CACHALOT have been passed over without
mention, absolutely no notice being taken of the season by any
one on board, to all appearance. In English ships some attempt
is always made to give the day somewhat of a festive character,
and to maintain the national tradition of good-cheer and goodwill
in whatever part of the world you may happen to be. For some
reason or other, perhaps because of the great increase in
comfort; we had all experienced lately, I felt the approach of
the great Christian anniversary very strongly; although, had I
been in London, I should probably have spent it in lonely gloom,
having no relatives or friends whom I might visit. But what of
that? Christmas is Christmas; and, if we have no home, we think
of the place where our home should be; and whether, as cynics
sneer, Dickens invented the English Christmas or not, its
observance has taken deep root among us. May its shadow never be

On Christmas morning I mounted to the crow's-nest at daybreak,
and stood looking with never-failing awe at the daily marvel of
the sunrise. Often and often have I felt choking for words to
express the tumult of thoughts aroused by this sublime spectacle.
Hanging there in cloudland, the tiny microcosm at one's feet
forgotten, the grandeur of the celestial outlook is overwhelming.
Many and many a time I have bowed my head and wept in pure
reverence at the majesty manifested around me while the glory of
the dawn increased and brightened, till with one exultant bound
the sun appeared.

For some time I stood gazing straight ahead of me with eyes that
saw not, filled with wonder and admiration. I must have been
looking directly at the same spot for quite a quarter of an hour,
when suddenly, as if I had but just opened my eyes, I saw the
well-known bushy spout of a sperm whale. I raised the usual
yell, which rang through the stillness discordantly, startling
all hands out of their lethargy like bees out of a hive. After
the usual preliminaries, we were all afloat with sails set,
gliding slowly over the sleeping sea towards the unconscious
objects of our attention. The captain did not lower this time,
as there only appeared to be three fish, none of them seeming
large. Though at any distance it is extremely difficult to
assess the size of whales, the spout being very misleading.
Sometimes a full-sized whale will show a small spout, while a
twenty-barrel cow will exhale a volume of vapour extensive enough
for two or three at once.

Now although, according to etiquette, I kept my position in the
rear of my superior officers, I had fully determined in my own
mind, being puffed up with previous success, to play second
fiddle to no one, if I could help it, this time. Samuela was
decidedly of the same opinion; indeed, I believe he would have
been delighted to tackle a whole school single-handed, while my
crew were all willing and eager for the fight. We had a long,
tedious journey before we came up with them, the wind being so
light that even with the occasional assistance of the paddles our
progress was wretchedly slow. When at last we did get into their
water, and the mate's harpooner stood up to dart, his foot
slipped, and down he came with a clatter enough to scare a
cachalot twenty miles away. It gallied our friends effectually,
sending them flying in different directions at the top of their
speed. But being some distance astern of the other boats, one of
the fish, in his headlong retreat, rose for a final blow some six
or seven fathoms away, passing us in the opposite direction. His
appearance was only momentary, yet in that moment Samuela hurled
his harpoon into the air, where it described a beautiful
parabola, coming down upon the disappearing monster's back just
as the sea was closing over it. Oh, it was a splendid dart,
worthy of the finest harpooner that ever lived! There was no
time for congratulations, however, for we spun round as on a
pivot, and away we went in the wake of that fellow at a great
rate. I cast one look astern to see whether the others had
struck, but could see nothing of them; we seemed to have sprung
out of their ken in an instant.

The speed of our friend was marvellous, but I comforted myself
with the knowledge that these animals usually run in circles
--sometimes, it is true, of enormous diameter, but seldom getting
far away from their starting-point. But as the time went on, and
we seemed to fly over the waves at undiminished speed, I began to
think this whale might be the exception necessary to prove the
rule, so I got out the compass and watched his course. Due east,
not a degree to north or south of it, straight as a bee to its
hive. The ship was now far out of sight astern, but I knew that
keen eyes had been watching our movements from the masthead, and
that every effort possible would be made to keep the run of us.
The speed of our whale was not only great, but unflagging. He
was more like a machine than an animal capable of tiring; and
though we did our level best, at the faintest symptom of
slackening, to get up closer and lance him, it was for some time
impossible. After, at a rough estimate, running in a direct
easterly course for over two hours, he suddenly sounded, without
having given us the ghost of a chance to "land him one where he
lived." Judging from his previous exertions, though, it was
hardly possible he would be able to stay down long, or get very
deep, as the strain upon these vast creatures at any depth is
astonishingly exhausting. After a longer stay below than usual,
when they have gone extra deep, they often arrive at the surface
manifestly "done up" for a time. Then, if the whaleman be active
and daring, a few well-directed strokes may be got in which will
promptly settle the business out of hand.

Now, when my whale sounded he was to all appearance as frightened
a beast as one could wish--one who had run himself out
endeavouring to get away from his enemies, and as a last resource
had dived into the quietness below in the vain hope to get away.
So I regarded him, making up my mind to wait on him with
diligence upon his arrival, and not allow him to get breath
before I had settled him. But when he did return, there was a
mighty difference in him. He seemed as if he had been getting
some tips on the subject from some school below where whales are
trained to hunt men; for his first move was to come straight for
me with a furious rush, carrying the war into the enemy's country
with a vengeance. It must be remembered that I was but young,
and a comparatively new hand at this sort of thing; so when I
confess that I felt more than a little scared at this sudden
change in the tactics of my opponent, I hope I shall be excused.
Remembering, however, that all our lives depended on keeping
cool, I told myself that even if I was frightened I must not go
all to pieces, but compel myself to think and act calmly, since I
was responsible for others. If the animal had not been in so
blind a fury, I am afraid my task would have been much harder;
but he was mad, and his savage rushes were, though disquieting,
unsystematic and clumsy. It was essential, however, that he
should not be allowed to persist too long in his evil courses;
for a whale learns with amazing rapidity, developing such cunning
in an hour or two that all a man's smartness may be unable to
cope with his newly acquired experience. Happily, Samuela was
perfectly unmoved. Like a machine, he obeyed every gesture,
every look even, swinging the boat "off" or "on" the whale with
such sweeping strokes of his mighty oar that she revolved as if
on a pivot, and encouraging the other chaps with his cheerful
cries and odd grimaces, so that the danger was hardly felt.
During a momentary lull in the storm, I took the opportunity to
load my bomb-gun, much as I disliked handling the thing, keeping
my eye all the time on the water around where I expected to see
mine enemy popping up murderously at any minute. Just as I had
expected, when he rose, it was very close, and on his back, with
his jaw in the first biting position, looking ugly as a vision of
death. Finding us a little out of reach, he rolled right over
towards us, presenting as he did so the great rotundity of his
belly. We were not twenty feet away, and I snatched up the gun,
levelled it, and fired the bomb point-blank into his bowels.
Then all was blank. I do not even remember the next moment. A
rush of roaring waters, a fighting with fearful, desperate energy
for air and life, all in a hurried, flurried phantasmagoria about
which there was nothing clear except the primitive desire for
life, life, life! Nor do I know how long this struggle lasted,
except that, in the nature of things, it could not have been very

When I returned to a consciousness of external things, I was for
some time perfectly still, looking at the sky, totally unable to
realize what had happened or where I was. Presently the smiling,
pleasant face of Samuel bent over me. Meeting my gratified look
of recognition, he set up a perfect yell of delight. "So glad,
so glad you blonga life! No go Davy Jonesy dis time, hay?" I
put my hand out to help myself to a sitting posture, and touched
blubber. That startled me so that I sprung up as if shot. Then
I took in the situation at a glance. There were all my poor
fellows with me, stranded upon the top of our late antagonist,
but no sign of the boat to be seen. Bewildered at the state of
affairs, I looked appealingly from one to the other for an
explanation. I got it from Abner, who said, laconically, "When
yew fired thet ole gun, I guess it mus' have bin loaded fer bear,
fer ye jest tumbled clar head over heels backwards outen the
boat. Et that very same moment I suspicion the bomb busted in his
belly, fer he went clean rampageous loony. He rolled right over
an' over to'rds us, n' befo' we c'd rightly see wat wuz comin',
we cu'dnt see anythin' 'tall; we wuz all grabbin' at nothin',
some'rs underneath the whale. When I come to the top, I lit eout
fer the fust thing I c'd see to lay holt of, which wuz old
squarhead himself, deader 'n pork. I guess thet ar bomb o' yourn
kinder upset his commissary department. Anyway, I climed up onto
him, 'n bime-by the rest ov us histed themselves alongside ov me.
Sam Weller here; he cum last, towin' you 'long with him. I
don'no whar he foun' ye, but ye was very near a goner, 'n's full
o' pickle as ye c'd hold." I turned a grateful eye upon my dusky
harpooner, who had saved my life, but was now apparently
blissfully unconscious of having done anything meritorious.

Behold us, then, a half-drowned row of scarecrows perched, like
some new species of dilapidated birds, upon the side of our late
foe. The sun was not so furiously hot as usual, for masses of
rain-laden NIMBI were filling the sky, so that we were
comparatively free from the awful roasting we might have
expected: nor was our position as precarious for a while as
would be thought. True, we had only one harpoon, with its still
fast line, to hold on by; but the side of the whale was somehow
hollowed, so that, in spite of the incessant movement imparted to
the carcass by the swell, we sat fairly safe, with our feet in
the said hollow. We discussed the situation in all its bearings,
unable to extract more than the faintest gleam of hope from any
aspect of the case. The only reasonable chance we had was, that
the skipper had almost certainly taken our bearings, and would,
we were sure, be anxiously seeking us on the course thus
indicated. Meanwhile, we were ravenously hungry and thirsty.
Samuela and Polly set to work with their sheath-knives, and soon
excavated a space in the blubber to enable them to reach the
meat. Then they cut off some good-sized junks, and divided it
up. It was not half bad; and as we chewed on the tough black
fibre, I could hardly help smiling as I thought how queer a
Christmas dinner we were having. But eating soon heightened our
thirst, and our real sufferings then began. We could eat very
little once the want of drink made itself felt. Hardly two hours
had elapsed, though, before one of the big-bellied clouds which
bad been keeping the sun off us most considerately emptied out
upon us a perfect torrent of rain. It filled the cavity in the
whale's side in a twinkling; and though the water was greasy,
stained with blood, and vilely flavoured, it was as welcome a
drink as I have ever tasted. Thus fed, and with our thirst
slaked, we were able to take a more hopeful view of things while
the prospect of our being found seemed much more probable than it
had done before the rain fell.

Still, we had to endure our pillory for a long while yet. The
sharks and birds began to worry us, especially the former, who in
their eagerness to get a portion of the blubber, fought, writhed
and tore at the carcass with tireless energy. Once, one of the
smaller ones actually came sliding up right into our hollow; but
Samuela and Polly promptly dispatched him with a cut throat,
sending him back to encourage the others. The present relieved
us of most of their attentions for a short time at least, as they
eagerly divided the remains of their late comrade among them.

To while away the time we spun yarns--without much point, I am
afraid; and sung songs, albeit we did not feel much like singing
--till after a while our poor attempts at gaiety fizzled out like
a damp match, leaving us silent and depressed. The sun, which
had been hidden for some time, now came out again, his slanting
beams revealing to us ominously the flight of time and the near
approach of night. Should darkness overtake us in our present
position, we all felt that saving us would need the performance
of a miracle; for in addition to the chances of the accumulated
gases within the carcass bursting it asunder, the unceasing
assault of the sharks made it highly doubtful whether they would
not in a few hours more have devoured it piecemeal. Already they
had scooped out some deep furrows in the solid blubber, making it
easier to get hold and tear off more, and their numbers were
increasing so fast that the surrounding sea was fairly alive with
them. Lower and lower sank the sun, deeper and darker grew the
gloom upon our faces, till suddenly Samuela leaped to his feet in
our midst, and emitted a yell so ear-piercing as to nearly deafen
us. He saw the ship! Before two minutes had passed we all saw
her--God bless her!--coming down upon us like some angelic
messenger. There were no fears among us that we should be
overlooked. We knew full well how anxiously and keenly many
pairs of eyes had been peering over the sea in search of us, and
we felt perfectly sure they had sighted us long ago. On she
came, gilded by the evening glow, till she seemed glorified,
moving in a halo of celestial light, all her homeliness and
clumsy build forgotten in what she then represented to us.

Never before or since has a ship looked like that, to me, nor can
I ever forget the thankfulness, the delight, the reverence, with
which I once more saw her approaching. Straight down upon us she
bore, rounding to within a cable's length, and dropping a boat
simultaneously with her windward sweep. They had no whale--well
for us they had not. In five minutes we were on board, while our
late resting-place was being hauled alongside with great glee.

The captain shook hands with me cordially, pooh-poohing the loss
of the boat as an unavoidable incident of the trade, but
expressing his heart-felt delight at getting us all back safe.
The whale we had killed was ample compensation for the loss of
several boats, though such was the vigour with which the sharks
were going for him, that it was deemed advisable to cut in at
once, working all night. We who had been rescued, however, were
summarily ordered below by the skipper, and forbidden, on pain of
his severe displeasure, to reappear until the following morning.
This great privilege we gladly availed ourselves of, awaking at
daylight quite well and fit, not a bit the worse for our queer
experience of the previous day.

The whale proved a great acquisition, for although not nearly so
large as many we had caught, he was so amazingly rich in blubber
that he actually yielded twelve and a half tuns of oil, in spite
of the heavy toll taken of him by the hungry multitudes of
sharks. In addition to the oil, we were fortunate enough to
secure a lump of ambergris, dislodged perhaps by the explosion of
my bomb in the animal's bowels. It was nearly black, wax-like to
the touch, and weighed seven pounds and a half. At the current
price, it would be worth about L200, so that,
taken altogether, the whale very nearly approached in value the
largest one we had yet caught. I had almost omitted to state
that incorporated with the substance of the ambergris were
several of the horny cuttle-fish beaks, which, incapable of being
digested, had become in some manner part of this peculiar




Another three weeks' cruising brought us to the end of the season
on the line, which had certainly not answered all our
expectations, although we had perceptibly increased the old
barky's draught during our stay. Whether from love of change or
belief in the possibilities of a good haul, I can hardly say, but
Captain Count decided to make the best of his way south, to the
middle group of the "Friendly" Archipelago, known as Vau Vau, the
other portions being called Hapai and Tongataboo respectively,
for a season's "humpbacking." From all I could gather, we were
likely to have a good time there, so I looked forward to the
visit with a great deal of pleasurable anticipation.

We were bound to make a call at Vau Vau, in any case, to
discharge our Kanakas shipped at Honolulu, although I fervently
hoped to be able to keep my brave harpooner Samuela. So when I
heard of our destination, I sounded him cautiously as to his
wishes in the matter, finding that, while he was both pleased
with and proud of his position on board, he was longing greatly
for his own orange grove and the embraces of a certain tender
"fafine" that he averred was there awaiting him. With such
excellent reasons for his leaving us, I could but forbear to
persuade him, sympathizing with him too deeply to wish him away
from such joys as he described to me.

So we bade farewell to the line grounds, and commenced another
stretch to the south, another milestone, as it were, on the long
road home. Prosaic and uneventful to the last degree was our
passage, the only incident worth recording being our "gamming" of
the PASSAMAQUODDY, of Martha's Vineyard, South Sea whaler;
eighteen months out, with one thousand barrels of sperm oil on
board. We felt quite veterans alongside of her crew, and our
yarns laid over theirs to such an extent that they were quite
disgusted at their lack of experience. Some of them had known
our late skipper, but none of them had a good word for him, the
old maxim, "Speak nothing but good of the dead," being most
flagrantly set at nought. One of her crew was a Whitechapelian,
who had been roving about the world for a good many years.

Amongst other experiences, he had, after "jumping the bounty" two
or three times, found himself a sergeant in the Federal Army
before Gettysburg. During that most bloody battle, he informed
me that a "Reb" drew a bead on him at about a dozen yards'
distance, and fired, He said he felt just as if somebody had
punched him in the chest, and knocked him flat on his back on top
of a sharp stone--no pain at all, nor any further recollection of
what had happened, until he found himself at the base, in
hospital. When the surgeons came to examine him for the bullet,
they found that it had struck the broad brass plate of his cross-
belt fairly in the middle, penetrating it and shattering his
breast bone. But after torturing him vilely with the probe, they
were about to give up the search in despair, when he told them he
felt a pain in his back. Examining the spot indicated by him,
they found a bullet just beneath the skin, which a touch with the
knife allowed to tumble out. Further examination revealed the
strange fact that the bullet, after striking his breast-bone, had
glanced aside and travelled round his body just beneath the skin,
without doing him any further harm. In proof of his story, he
showed me the two scars and the perforated buckle-plate.

At another time, being in charge of a picket of Germans, he and
his command were captured by a party of Confederates, who haled
him before their colonel, a southern gentleman of the old school.
In the course of his interrogation by the southern officer, he
was asked where he bailed from. He replied, "London, England."
"Then," said the colonel, "how is it you find yourself fighting
for these accursed Yankees?" The cockney faltered out some
feeble excuse or another, which his captor cut short by saying,
"I've a great respect for the English, and consequently I'll let
you go this time. But if ever I catch you again, you're gone up.
As for those d-----d Dutchmen, they'll be strung up inside of
five minutes." And they were.

So with yarn, song, and dance, the evening passed pleasantly
away; while the two old hookers jogged amicably along side by
side, like two market-horses whose drivers are having a friendly
crack. Along about midnight we exchanged crews again, and parted
with many expressions of good-will--we to the southward, she to
the eastward, for some particular preserve believed in by her

In process of time we made the land of Vau Vau, a picturesque,
densely wooded, and in many places precipitous, group of islands,
the approach being singularly free from dangers in the shape of
partly hidden reefs. Long and intricate were the passages we
threaded, until we finally came to anchor in a lovely little bay
perfectly sheltered from all winds. We moored, within a mile of
a dazzling white beach, in twelve fathoms. A few native houses
embowered in orange and cocoa-nut trees showed here and there,
while the two horns of the bay were steep-to, and covered with
verdure almost down to the water's edge. The anchor was hardly
down before a perfect fleet of canoes flocked around us, all
carrying the familiar balancing outrigger, without which those
narrow dugouts cannot possibly keep upright. Their occupants
swarmed on board, laughing and playing like so many children, and
with all sorts of winning gestures and tones besought our
friendship. "You my flem?" was the one question which all asked;
but what its import might be we could not guess for some time.
By-and-by it appeared that when once you had agreed to accept a
native for your "flem," or friend, he from henceforward felt in
duty bound to attend to all your wants which it lay within his
power to supply. This important preliminary settled, fruit and
provisions of various kinds appeared as if by magic. Huge
baskets of luscious oranges, massive bunches of gold and green
bananas, clusters of green cocoa-nuts, conch-shells full of
chillies, fowls loudly protesting against their hard fate, gourds
full of eggs, and a few vociferous swine--all came tumbling on
board in richest profusion, and, strangest thing of all, not a
copper was asked in return. I might have as truly said nothing
was asked, since money must have been useless here. Many women
came alongside, but none climbed on board. Surprised at this, I
asked Samuela the reason, as soon as I could disengage him for a
few moments from the caresses of his friends. He informed me
that the ladies' reluctance to favour us with their society was
owing to their being in native dress, which it is punishable to
appear in among white men, the punishment consisting of a rather
heavy fine. Even the men and boys, I noticed, before they
ventured to climb on board, stayed a while to put on trousers, or
what did duty for those useful articles of dress. At any rate,
they were all clothed, not merely enwrapped with a fold or two of
"tapa," the native bark-cloth, but made awkward and ugly by
dilapidated shirts and pants.

She was a busy ship for the rest of that day. The anchor down,
sails furled and decks swept, the rest of the time was our own,
and high jinks were the result. The islanders were amiability
personified, merry as children, nor did I see or hear one
quarrelsome individual among them. While we were greedily
devouring the delicious fruit, which was piled on deck in
mountainous quantities, they encouraged us, telling us that the
trees ashore were breaking down under their loads, and what a
pity it was that there were so few to eat such bountiful

We were, it appeared, the first whale-ship that had anchored
there that year, and, in that particular bay where we lay, no
vessel had moored for over two years. An occasional schooner
from Sydney called at the "town" about ten miles away, where the
viceroy's house was, and at the present time of speaking one of
Godeffroi's Hamburg ships was at anchor there, taking in an
accumulation of copra from her agent's store. But the natives
all spoke of her with a shrug--"No like Tashman. Tashman no
good." Why, I could not ascertain.

Our Kanakas had promised to remain with us till our departure for
the south, so, hard as it seemed to them, they were not allowed
to go ashore, in case they might not come back, and leave us
short-handed. But as their relatives and friends could visit
them whenever they felt inclined, the restriction did not hurt
them much. The next day, being Sunday, all hands were allowed
liberty to go ashore by turns (except the Kanakas), with strict
injunctions to molest no one, but to behave as if in a big town
guarded by policemen. As no money could be spent, none was
given, and, best of all, it was impossible to procure any
intoxicating liquor.

Our party got ashore about 9.30, but not a soul was visible
either on the beach or in the sun-lit paths which led through the
forest inland. Here and there a house, with doors wide open,
stood in its little cleared space, silent and deserted. It was
like a country without inhabitants. Presently, however, a burst
of melody arrested us, and borne upon the scented breeze came oh,
so sweetly!--the well-remembered notes of "Hollingside."
Hurriedly getting behind a tree, I let myself go, and had a
perfectly lovely, soul-refreshing cry. Reads funny, doesn't it?
Sign of weakness perhaps. But when childish memories come back
upon one torrent-like in the swell of a hymn or the scent of the
hawthorn, it seems to me that the flood-gates open without you
having anything to do with it. When I was a little chap in the
Lock Chapel choir, before the evil days came, that tune was my
favourite; and when I heard it suddenly come welling up out of
the depths of the forest, my heart just stood still for a moment,
and then the tears came. Queer idea, perhaps, to some people;
but I do not know when I enjoyed myself so much as I did just
then, except when a boy of sixteen home from a voyage, and
strolling along the Knightsbridge Road, I "happened" into the
Albert Hall. I did not in the least know what was coming; the
notices on the bills did not mean anything to me; but I paid my
shilling, and went up into the gallery. I had hardly edged
myself into a corner by the refreshment-stall, when a great
breaker of sound caught me, hurled me out of time, thought, and
sense in one intolerable ecstasy--"For unto us a Child is born;
unto us a Son is given"--again and again--billows and billows of
glory. I gasped for breath, shook like one in an ague fit; the
tears ran down in a continuous stream; while people stared amazed
at me, thinking, I suppose, that I was another drunken sailor.
Well, I was drunk, helplessly intoxicated, but not with drink,
with something Divine, untellable, which, coming upon me
unprepared, simply swept me away with it into a heaven of
delight, to which only tears could testify.

But I am in the bush, whimpering over the tones of "Hollingside."
As soon as I had pulled myself together a bit, we went on again
in the direction of the sound, Presently we came to a large
clearing, in the middle of which stood a neat wooden, pandanus-
thatched church. There were no doors or windows to it, just a
roof supported upon posts, but a wide verandah ran all round,
upon the edge of which we seated ourselves; for the place was
full--full to suffocation, every soul within miles, I should
think, being there. No white men was present, but the service,
which was a sort of prayer-meeting, went with a swing and go that
was wonderful to see. There was no perfunctory worship here; no
one languidly enduring it because it was "the right sort of thing
to show up at, you know;" but all were in earnest, terribly in
earnest. When they sang, it behoved us to get away to a little
distance, for the vigour of the voices, unless mellowed by
distance, made the music decidedly harsh. Every one was dressed
in European clothing--the women in neat calico gowns; but the
men, nearly all of them, in woollen shirts, pilot-coats, and
trousers to match, and sea-boots! Whew! it nearly stifled me to
look at them. The temperature was about ninety degrees in the
shade, with hardly a breath of air stirring, yet those poor
people, from some mistaken notion of propriety, were sweating in
torrents under that Arctic rig. However they could worship, I do
not know! At last the meeting broke up. The men rushed out,
tore off their coats, trousers, and shirts, and flung themselves
panting upon the grass, mother-naked, except for a chaplet of
cocoanut leaves, formed by threading them on a vine-tendril, and
hanging round the waist.

Squatting by the side of my "flem," whom I had recognized, I
asked him why ever he outraged all reason by putting on such
clothes in this boiling weather. He looked at me pityingly for a
moment before he replied, "You go chapella Belitani? No put bes'
close on top?" "Yes," I said; "but in hot weather put on thin
clothes; cold weather, put on thick ones." "S'pose no got more?"
he said, meaning, I presumed, more than the one suit. "Well," I
said, "more better stop 'way than look like big fool, boil all
away, same like duff in pot. You savvy duff?" He smiled a wide
comprehensive smile, but looked very solemn again, saying
directly, "You no go chapella; you no mishnally. No mishnally
[missionary=godly]; very bad. Me no close; no go chapella; vely
bad. Evelly tangata, evelly fafine, got close all same papalang
[every man and woman has clothes like a white man]; go chapella
all day Sunday." That this was no figure of speech I proved
fully that day, for I declare that the recess between any of the
services never lasted more than an hour. Meanwhile the
worshippers did not return to their homes, for in many cases they
had journeyed twenty or thirty miles, but lay about in the
verdure, refreshing themselves with fruit, principally the
delightful green cocoa-nuts, which furnish meat and drink both
--cool and refreshing in the extreme, as well as nourishing.

We were all heartily welcome to whatever was going, but there was
a general air of restraint, a fear of breaking the Sabbath, which
prevented us from trespassing too much upon the hospitality of
these devout children of the sun. So we contented ourselves with
strolling through the beautiful glades and woods, lying down,
whenever we felt weary, under the shade of some spreading orange
tree loaded with golden fruit, and eating our fill, or rather
eating until the smarting of our lips warned us to desist. Here
was a land where, apparently, all people were honest, for we saw
a great many houses whose owners were absent, not one of which
was closed, although many had a goodly store of such things as a
native might be supposed to covet. At last, not being able to rid
ourselves of the feeling that we were doing something wrong, the
solemn silence and Sundayfied air of the whole region seeming to
forbid any levity even in the most innocent manner, we returned
on board again, wonderfully impressed with what we had seen, but
wondering what would have happened if some of the ruffianly
crowds composing the crews of many ships had been let loose upon
this fair island.

In the evening we lowered a stage over the bows to the water's
edge, and had a swimming-match, the water being perfectly
delightful, after the great heat of the day, in its delicious
freshness; and so to bunk, well pleased indeed with our first
Sunday in Vau Vau.

I have no doubt whatever that some of the gentry who swear at
large about the evils of missionaries would have been loud in
their disgust at the entire absence of drink and debauchery, and
the prevalence of what they would doubtless characterize as
adjective hypocrisy on the part of the natives; but no decent man
could help rejoicing at the peace, the security, and friendliness
manifested on every hand, nor help awarding unstinted praise to
whoever had been the means of bringing about so desirable a state
of things. I felt that their Sabbatarianism was carried to
excess; that they would have been better, not worse, for a little
less church, and a little more innocent fun; but ten thousand
times better thus than such scenes of lust let loose and
abandoned animalism as we witnessed at Honolulu. What pleased me
mightily was the absence of the white man with his air of
superiority and sleek overlordship. All the worship, all the
management of affairs, was entirely in the hands of the natives
themselves, and excellently well did they manage everything.

I shall never forget once going ashore in a somewhat similar
place, but very far distant, one Sunday morning, to visit the
mission station. It was a Church mission, and a very handsome
building the church was. By the side of it stood the parsonage,
a beautiful bungalow, nestling in a perfect paradise of tropical
flowers. The somewhat intricate service was conducted, and the
sermon preached, entirely by natives--very creditably too. After
service I strolled into the parsonage to see the reverend
gentleman in charge, whom I found supporting his burden in a long
chair, with a tall glass of brandy and soda within easy reach, a
fine cigar between his lips, and a late volume of Ouida's in his
hand. All very pleasant and harmless, no doubt, but hardly
reconcilable with the ideal held up in missionary magazines. Yet
I have no doubt whatever that this gentleman would have been
heartily commended by the very men who can hardly find words
harsh enough to express their opinion of missionaries of the
stamp of Paton, Williams, Moffat, and Mackenzie.

Well, it is highly probable--nay, almost certain, that I shall be
accused of drawing an idyllic picture of native life from first
impressions, which, if I had only had sufficient subsequent
experience among the people, I should have entirely altered. All
I can say is, that although I did not live among them ashore, we
had a number of them on board; we lay in the island harbour five
months, during which I was ashore nearly every day, and from
habit I observed them very closely; yet I cannot conscientiously
alter one syllable of what I have written concerning them. Bad
men and women there were, of course, to be found--as where not?
--but the badness, in whatever form, was not allowed to flaunt
itself, and was so sternly discountenanced by public (entirely
native) opinion, that it required a good deal of interested
seeking to find.

But after all this chatter about my amiable friends, I find
myself in danger of forgetting the purpose of our visit. We lost
no time in preparation, since whaling of whatever sort is
conducted in these ships on precisely similar lines, but on
Monday morning, at daybreak, after a hurried breakfast, lowered
all boats and commenced the campaign. We were provided with
boxes-- one for each boat-containing a light luncheon, but no
ordered meal, because it was not considered advisable to in any
way hamper the boat's freedom to chase. Still, in consideration
of its being promptly dumped overboard on attacking a whale, a
goodly quantity of fruit was permitted in the boats.

In the calm beauty of the pearly dawn, with a gentle hush over
all nature, the lofty, tree-clad hills reflected with startling
fidelity in the glassy, many-coloured waters, the only sound
audible the occasional cra-a-ake of the advance-guard of a flight
of fruit-bats (PECA) homeward from their nocturnal depredations,
we shipped our oars and started, pulling to a certain position
whence we could see over an immense area. Immediately upon
rounding the horn of our sheltered bay, the fresh breeze of the
south-east trades met us right on end with a vigour that made a
ten-mile steady pull against it somewhat of a breather. Arriving
at the station indicated by the chief, we set sail, and,
separating as far as possible without losing sight of each other,
settled down for the day's steady cruise. Anything more
delightful than that excursion to those who love seashore scenery
combined with boat-sailing would be difficult to name. Every
variety of landscape, every shape of strait, bay, or estuary,
reefs awash, reefs over which we could sail, ablaze with
loveliness inexpressible; a steady, gentle, caressing breeze, and
overhead one unvarying canopy of deepest blue. Sometimes, when
skirting the base of some tremendous cliffs, great caution was
necessary, for at one moment there would obtain a calm, death-
like in its stillness; the next, down through a canyon cleaving
the mountain to the water's edge would come rushing with a shrill
howl, a blast fierce enough to almost lift us out of the water.
Away we would scud with flying sheets dead before it, in a
smother of spray, but would hardly get full way on her before it
was gone, leaving us in the same hush as before, only a dark
patch on the water far to leeward marking its swift rush. These
little diversions gave us no uneasiness, for it was an unknown
thing to make a sheet fast in one of our boats, so that a puff of
wind never caught us unprepared.

On that first day we seemed to explore such a variety of
stretches of water that one would hardly have expected there
could be any more discoveries to make in that direction.
Nevertheless, each day's cruise subsequently revealed to us some
new nook or other, some quiet haven or pretty passage between
islands that, until closely approached, looked like one. When, at
sunset, we returned to the ship, not having seen anything like a
spout, I felt like one who had been in a dream, the day's cruise
having surpassed all my previous experience. Yet it was but the
precursor of many such. Oftentimes I think of those halcyon
days, with a sigh of regret that they can never more be renewed
to me; but I rejoice to think that nothing can rob me of the
memory of them.

Much to the discomfort of the skipper, it was four days before a
solitary spout was seen, and then it was so nearly dark that
before the fish could be reached it was impossible to distinguish
her whereabouts. A careful bearing was taken of the spot, in the
hope that she might be lingering in the vicinity next morning,
and we hastened on board.

Before it was fairly light we lowered, and paddled as swiftly as
possible to the bay where we had last seen the spout overnight.
When near the spot we rested on our paddles a while, all hands
looking out with intense eagerness for the first sign of the
whale's appearance. There was a strange feeling among us of
unlawfulness and stealth, as of ambushed pirates waiting to
attack some unwary merchantman, or highwaymen waylaying a fat
alderman on a country road. We spoke in whispers, for the
morning was so still that a voice raised but ordinarily would
have reverberated among the rocks which almost overhung us,
multiplied indefinitely. A turtle rose ghost-like to the surface
at my side, lifting his queer head, and, surveying us with stony
gaze, vanished as silently as he came.

What a sigh! One looked at the other inquiringly, but the
repetition of that long expiration satisfied us all that it was
the placid breathing of the whale we sought somewhere close at
hand, The light grew rapidly better, and we strained our eyes in
every direction to discover the whereabouts of our friend, but,
for some minutes without result. There was a ripple just
audible, and away glided the mate's boat right for the near
shore. Following him with our eyes, we almost immediately beheld
a pale, shadowy column of white, shimmering against the dark mass
of the cliff not a quarter of a mile away. Dipping our paddles
with the utmost care, we made after the chief, almost holding our
breath. His harpooner rose, darted once, twice, then gave a yell
of triumph that ran re-echoing all around in a thousand eerie
vibrations, startling the drowsy PECA in myriads from where they
hung in inverted clusters on the trees above. But, for all the
notice taken by the whale, she might never have been touched.
Close nestled to her side was a youngling of not more, certainly,
than five days old, which sent up its baby-spout every now and
then about two feet into the air. One long, wing-like fin
embraced its small body, holding it close to the massive breast
of the tender mother, whose only care seemed to be to protect her
young, utterly regardless of her own pain and danger. If
sentiment were ever permitted to interfere with such operations
as ours, it might well have done so now; for while the calf
continually sought to escape from the enfolding fin, making all
sorts of puny struggles in the attempt, the mother scarcely moved
from her position, although streaming with blood from a score of
wounds. Once, indeed, as a deep-searching thrust entered her
very vitals, she raised her massy flukes high in air with an
apparently involuntary movement of agony; but even in that dire
throe she remembered the possible danger to her young one, and
laid the tremendous weapon as softly down upon the water as if it
were a feather fan.

So in the most perfect quiet, with scarcely a writhe, nor any
sign of flurry, she died, holding the calf to her side until her
last vital spark had fled, and left it to a swift despatch with a
single lance-thrust. No slaughter of a lamb ever looked more
like murder. Nor, when the vast bulk and strength of the animal
was considered, could a mightier example have been given of the
force and quality of maternal love.

The whole business was completed in half an hour from the first
sight of her, and by the mate's hand alone, none of the other
boats needing to use their gear. As soon as she was dead, a hole
was bored through the lips, into which a tow-line was secured,
the two long fins were lashed close into the sides of the animal
by an encircling line, the tips of the flukes were cut off, and
away we started for the ship. We had an eight-mile tow in the
blazing sun, which we accomplished in a little over eight, hours,
arriving at the vessel just before two p.m. News of our coming
had preceded us, and the whole native population appeared to be
afloat to make us welcome. The air rang again with their shouts
of rejoicing, for our catch represented to them a gorgeous feast,
such as they had not indulged in for many a day. The flesh of
the humpbacked whale is not at all bad, being but little inferior
to that of the porpoise; so that, as these people do not despise
even the coarse rank flesh of the cachalot, their enthusiasm was
natural. Their offers of help were rather embarrassing to us, as
we could find little room for any of them in the boats, and the
canoes only got in our way. Unable to assist us, they vented
their superfluous energies on the whale in the most astounding
aquatic antics imaginable--diving under it; climbing on to it;
pushing and rolling each other headlong over its broad back;
shrieking all the while with the frantic, uncontrollable laughter
of happy children freed from all restraint. Men, women, and
children all mixed in this wild, watery spree; and as to any of
them getting drowned, the idea was utterly absurd.

When we got it alongside, and prepared to cut in, all the chaps
were able to have a rest, there were so many eager volunteers to
man the windlass, not only willing but, under the able direction
of their compatriots belonging to our crew, quite equal to the
work of heaving in blubber. All their habitual indolence was
cast aside. Toiling like Trojans, they made the old windlass
rattle again as they spun the brakes up and down, every blanket-
piece being hailed with a fresh volley of eldritch shrieks,
enough to alarm a deaf and dumb asylum.

With such ample aid, it was, as may be supposed a brief task to
skin our prize, although the strange arrangement of the belly
blubber caused us to lift some disappointing lengths. This whale
has the blubber underneath the body lying in longitudinal
corrugations, which, when hauled off the carcass at right angles
to their direction, stretch out flat to four or five times their
normal area. Thus, when the cutting-blocks had reached their
highest limit, and the piece was severed from the body, the folds
flew together again leaving dangling aloft but a miserable square
of some four or five feet, instead of a fine "blanket" of blubber
twenty by five. Along the edges of these RUGAE, as also upon the
rim of the lower jaw, abundance of limpets and barnacles had
attached themselves, some of the former large as a horse's hoof,
and causing prodigious annoyance to the toiling carpenter, whose
duty it was to keep the spades ground. It was no unusual thing
for a spade to be handed in with two or three gaps in its edge
half an inch deep, where they had accidentally come across one of
those big pieces of flinty shell, undistinguishable from the grey
substance of the belly blubber.

But, in spite of these drawbacks, in less than ninety minutes the
last cut was reached, the vertebra severed, and away went the
great mass of meat, in tow of countless canoes, to an adjacent
point, where, in eager anticipation, fires were already blazing
for the coming cookery. An enormous number of natives had
gathered from far end near, late arrivals continually dropping in
from all points of the compass with breathless haste. No danger
of going short need have troubled them, for, large as were their
numbers, the supply was evidently fully equal to all demands.
All night long the feast proceeded, and, even when morning
dawned, busy figures were still discernible coming and going
between the reduced carcass and the fires, as if determined to
make an end of it before their operations ceased.




It will probably be inferred from the foregoing paragraph that we
were little troubled with visits from the natives next day; but
it would be doing them an injustice if I omitted to state that
our various "flems" put in an appearance as usual with their
daily offerings of fruit, vegetables, etc. They all presented a
somewhat jaded and haggard look, as of men who had dined not
wisely but too well, nor did the odour of stale whale-meat that
clung to them add to their attractions. repentance for excesses
or gluttony did not seem to trouble them, for they evidently
considered it would have been a sin not to take with both hands
the gifts the gods had so bountifully provided. Still, they did
not stay long, feeling, no doubt, sore need of a prolonged rest
after their late arduous exertions; so, after affectionate
farewells, they left us again to our greasy task of trying-out.

The cow proved exceedingly fat, making us, though by no means a
large specimen, fully fifty barrels of oil. The whalebone
(baleen) was so short as to be not worth the trouble of curing,
so, with the exception of such pieces as were useful to the
"scrimshoners" for ornamenting their nicknacks, it was not
preserved. On the evening of the third day the work was so far
finished that we were able to go ashore for clothes-washing,
which necessary process was accompanied with a good deal of fun
and hilarity. In the morning cruising was resumed again.

For a couple of days we met with no success, although we had a
very aggravating chase after some smart bulls we fell in with, to
our mutual astonishment, just as we rounded a point of the
outermost island. They were lazily sunning themselves close under
the lee of the cliffs, which at that point were steep-to, having
a depth of about twenty fathoms close alongside. A fresh breeze
was blowing, so we came round the point at a great pace, being
almost among them before they had time to escape. They went away
gaily along the land, not attempting to get seaward, we straining
every nerve to get alongside of them. Whether they were
tantalizing us or not, I cannot say, but certainly it looked like
it. In spite of their well-known speed, we were several times so
close in their wake that the harpooners loosed the tacks of the
jibs to get a clear shot; but as they did so the nimble monsters
shot ahead a length or two, leaving us just out of reach. It was
a fine chase while it lasted, though annoying; yet one could
hardly help feeling amused at the way they wallowed along--just
like a school of exaggerated porpoises. At last, after nearly
two hours of the fun, they seemed to have had enough of it, and
with one accord headed seaward at a greatly accelerated pace, as
who should say, "Well, s' long, boys; company's very pleasant and
all that, but we've got important business over at Fiji, and
can't stay fooling around here any longer." In a quarter of an
hour they were out of sight, leaving us disgusted and outclassed
pursuers sneaking back again to shelter, feeling very small. Not
that we could have had much hope of success under the
circumstances, knowing the peculiar habits of the humpback and
the almost impossibility of competing with him in the open sea;
but they had lured us on to forget all these things in the ardour
of the chase, and then exposed our folly.

Then ensued a week or two of uneventful cruising, broken only by
the capture of a couple of cows--one just after the fruitless
chase mentioned above, and one several days later. These events,
though interesting enough to us, were marked by no such deviation
from the ordinary course as to make them worthy of special
attention; nor do I think that the cold-blooded killing of a cow-
whale, who dies patiently endeavouring to protect her young, is a
subject that lends itself to eulogium.

However, just when the delightful days were beginning to pall
upon us, a real adventure befell us, which, had we been attending
strictly to business, we should not have encountered. For a
week previous we had been cruising constantly without ever seeing
a spout, except those belonging to whales out at sea, whither we
knew it was folly to follow them. We tried all sorts of games to
while away the time, which certainly did hang heavy, the most
popular of which was for the whole crew of the boat to strip,
and, getting overboard, be towed along at the ends of short
warps, while I sailed her. It was quite mythological--a sort of
rude reproduction of Neptune and his attendant Tritons. At last,
one afternoon as we were listlessly lolling (half asleep, except
the look-out man) across the thwarts, we suddenly came upon a
gorge between two cliffs that we must have passed before several
times unnoticed. At a certain angle it opened, disclosing a wide
sheet of water, extending a long distance ahead. I put the helm
up, and we ran through the passage, finding it about a boat's
length in width and several fathoms deep, though overhead the
cliffs nearly came together in places. Within, the scene was
very beautiful, but not more so than many similar ones we had
previously witnessed. Still, as the place was new to us, our
languor was temporarily dispelled, and we paddled along, taking
in every feature of the shores with keen eyes that let nothing
escape. After we had gone on in this placid manner for maybe an
hour, we suddenly came to a stupendous cliff--that is, for those
parts--rising almost sheer from the water for about a thousand
feet. Of itself it would not have arrested our attention, but at
its base was a semicircular opening, like the mouth of a small
tunnel. This looked alluring, so I headed the boat for it,
passing through a deep channel between two reefs which led
straight to the opening. There was ample room for us to enter,
as we had lowered the mast; but just as we were passing through,
a heave of the unnoticed swell lifted us unpleasantly near the
crown of this natural arch. Beneath us, at a great depth, the
bottom could be dimly discerned, the water being of the richest
blue conceivable, which the sun, striking down through, resolved
into some most marvellous colour-schemes in the path of its rays.
A delicious sense of coolness, after the fierce heat outside,
saluted us as we entered a vast hall, whose roof rose to a
minimum height of forty feet, but in places could not be seen at
all. A sort of diffused light, weak, but sufficient to reveal
the general contour of the place, existed, let in, I supposed,
through some unseen crevices in the roof or walls. At first, of
course, to our eyes fresh from the fierce glare outside, the
place seemed wrapped in impenetrable gloom, and we dared not stir
lest we should run into some hidden danger. Before many minutes,
however, the gloom lightened as our pupils enlarged, so that,
although the light was faint, we could find our way about with
ease. We spoke in low tones, for the echoes were so numerous and
resonant that even a whisper gave back from those massy walls in
a series of recurring hisses, as if a colony of snakes had been

We paddled on into the interior of this vast cave, finding
everywhere the walls rising sheer from the silent, dark waters,
not a ledge or a crevice where one might gain foothold. Indeed,
in some places there was a considerable overhang from above, as
if a great dome whose top was invisible sprang from some level
below the water. We pushed ahead until the tiny semicircle of
light through which we had entered was only faintly visible; and
then, finding there was nothing to be seen except what we were
already witnessing, unless we cared to go on into the thick
darkness, which extended apparently into the bowels of the
mountain, we turned and started to go back. Do what we would, we
could not venture to break the solemn hush that surrounded us as
if we were shut within the dome of some vast cathedral in the
twilight, So we paddled noiselessly along for the exit, till
suddenly an awful, inexplicable roar set all our hearts thumping
fit to break our bosoms. Really, the sensation was most painful,
especially as we had not the faintest idea whence the noise came
or what had produced it. Again it filled that immense cave with
its thunderous reverberations; but this time all the sting was
taken out of it, as we caught sight of its author. A goodly

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