Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana

Part 5 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

as she must have some head sail on her, prepared to bend another
staysail. We got the new one out into the nettings; seized on the
tack, sheets, and halyards, and the hanks; manned the halyards,
cut adrift the frapping-lines, and hoisted away; but before it was
half-way up the stay it was blown all to pieces. When we belayed
the halyards, there was nothing left but the bolt-rope. Now large
eyes began to show themselves in the foresail, and, knowing that
it must soon go, the mate ordered us upon the yard to furl it.
Being unwilling to call up the watch who had been on deck all
night, he roused out the carpenter, sailmaker, cook, and steward,
and with their help we manned the fore yard, and, after nearly
half an hour's struggle, mastered the sail, and got it well furled
round the yard. The force of the wind had never been greater than
at this moment. In going up the rigging, it seemed absolutely to
pin us down to the shrouds; and, on the yard, there was no such
thing as turning a face to windward. Yet here was no driving
sleet, and darkness, and wet, and cold, as off Cape Horn; and
instead of stiff oil-cloth suits, southwester caps, and thick
boots, we had on hats, round jackets, duck trousers, light shoes,
and everything light and easy. These things make a great
difference to a sailor. When we got on deck, the man at the wheel
struck eight bells (four o'clock in the morning), and ``All
Starbowlines, ahoy!'' brought the other watch up, but there was no
going below for us. The gale was now at its height, ``blowing like
scissors and thumb-screws''; the captain was on deck; the ship,
which was light, rolling and pitching as though she would shake
the long sticks out of her, and the sails were gaping open and
splitting in every direction. The mizzen topsail, which was a
comparatively new sail, and close reefed, split from head to foot,
in the bunt; the fore topsail went, in one rent, from clew to
earing, and was blowing to tatters; one of the chain bobstays
parted; the spritsail yard sprung in the slings; the martingale
had slued away off to leeward; and, owing to the long dry weather,
the lee rigging hung in large bights at every lurch. One of the
main top-gallant shrouds had parted; and, to crown all, the galley
had got adrift, and gone over to leeward, and the anchor on the
lee bow had worked loose, and was thumping the side. Here was work
enough for all hands for half a day. Our gang laid out on the
mizzen topsail yard, and after more than half an hour's hard work,
furled the sail, though it bellied out over our heads, and again,
by a slat of the wind, blew in under the yard with a fearful jerk,
and almost threw us off from the foot-ropes.

Double gaskets were passed round the yards, rolling tackles and
other gear bowsed taut, and everything made as secure as it could
be. Coming down, we found the rest of the crew just coming down
the fore rigging, having furled the tattered topsail, or, rather,
swathed it round the yard, which looked like a broken limb,
bandaged. There was no sail now on the ship, but the spanker and
the close-reefed main topsail, which still held good. But this was
too much after sail, and order was given to furl the spanker. The
brails were hauled up, and all the light hands in the starboard
watch sent out on the gaff to pass the gaskets; but they could do
nothing with it. The second mate swore at them for a parcel of
``sogers,'' and sent up a couple of the best men; but they could
do no better, and the gaff was lowered down. All hands were now
employed in setting up the lee rigging, fishing the spritsail
yard, lashing the galley, and getting tackles upon the martingale,
to bowse it to windward. Being in the larboard watch, my duty was
forward, to assist in setting up the martingale. Three of us were
out on the martingale guys and back-ropes for more than half an
hour, carrying out, hooking and unhooking the tackles, several
times buried in the seas, until the mate ordered us in, from fear
of our being washed off. The anchors were then to be taken up on
the rail, which kept all hands on the forecastle for an hour,
though every now and then the seas broke over it, washing the
rigging off to leeward, filling the lee scuppers breast-high, and
washing chock aft to the taffrail.

Having got everything secure again, we were promising ourselves
some breakfast, for it was now nearly nine o'clock in the
forenoon, when the main topsail showed evident signs of giving
way. Some sail must be kept on the ship, and the captain ordered
the fore and main spencer gaffs to be lowered down, and the two
spencers (which were storm sails, bran-new, small, and made of the
strongest canvas) to be got up and bent; leaving the main topsail
to blow away, with a blessing on it, if it would only last until
we could set the spencers. These we bent on very carefully, with
strong robands and seizings, and, making tackles fast to the
clews, bowsed them down to the water-ways. By this time the main
topsail was among the things that have been, and we went aloft to
stow away the remnant of the last sail of all those which were on
the ship twenty-four hours before. The spencers were now the only
whole sails on the ship, and, being strong and small, and near the
deck, presenting but little surface to the wind above the rail,
promised to hold out well. Hove-to under these, and eased by
having no sail above the tops, the ship rose and fell, and drifted
off to leeward like a line-of-battle ship.

It was now eleven o'clock, and the watch was sent below to get
breakfast, and at eight bells (noon), as everything was snug,
although the gale had not in the least abated, the watch was set,
and the other watch and idlers sent below. For three days and
three nights the gale continued with unabated fury, and with
singular regularity. There were no lulls, and very little
variation in its fierceness. Our ship, being light, rolled so as
almost to send the fore yard-arm under water, and drifted off
bodily to leeward. All this time there was not a cloud to be seen
in the sky, day or night; no, not so large as a man's hand. Every
morning the sun rose cloudless from the sea, and set again at
night in the sea, in a flood of light. The stars, too, came out of
the blue one after another, night after night, unobscured, and
twinkled as clear as on a still, frosty night at home, until the
day came upon them. All this time the sea was rolling in immense
surges, white with foam, as far as the eye could reach, on every
side, for we were now leagues and leagues from shore.

The between-decks being empty, several of us slept there in
hammocks, which are the best things in the world to sleep in
during a storm; it not being true of them, as it is of another
kind of bed, ``when the wind blows the cradle will rock''; for it
is the ship that rocks, while they hang vertically from the beams.
During these seventy-two hours we had nothing to do but to turn in
and out, four hours on deck, and four below, eat, sleep, and keep
watch. The watches were only varied by taking the helm in turn,
and now and then by one of the sails, which were furled, blowing
out of the gaskets, and getting adrift, which sent us up on the
yards, and by getting tackles on different parts of the rigging,
which were slack. Once the wheel-rope parted, which might have
been fatal to us, had not the chief mate sprung instantly with a
relieving tackle to windward, and kept the tiller up, till a new
rope could be rove. On the morning of the twentieth, at daybreak,
the gale had evidently done its worst, and had somewhat abated; so
much so that all hands were called to bend new sails, although it
was still blowing as hard as two common gales. One at a time, and
with great difficulty and labor, the old sails were unbent and
sent down by the buntlines, and three new topsails, made for the
homeward passage round Cape Horn, which had never been bent, were
got up from the sail-room, and, under the care of the sailmaker,
were fitted for bending, and sent up by the halyards into the
tops, and, with stops and frapping-lines, were bent to the yards,
close-reefed, sheeted home, and hoisted. These were bent one at a
time, and with the greatest care and difficulty. Two spare courses
were then got up and bent in the same manner and furled, and a
storm-jib, with the bonnet off, bent and furled to the boom. It
was twelve o'clock before we got through, and five hours of more
exhausting labor I never experienced; and no one of that ship's
crew, I will venture to say, will ever desire again to unbend and
bend five large sails in the teeth of a tremendous northwester.
Towards night a few clouds appeared in the horizon, and, as the
gale moderated, the usual appearance of driving clouds relieved
the face of the sky. The fifth day after the commencement of the
storm, we shook a reef out of each topsail, and set the reefed
foresail, jib, and spanker, but it was not until after eight days
of reefed topsails that we had a whole sail on the ship, and then
it was quite soon enough, for the captain was anxious to make up
for leeway, the gale having blown us half the distance to the
Sandwich Islands.

Inch by inch, as fast as the gale would permit, we made sail on
the ship, for the wind still continued ahead, and we had many
days' sailing to get back to the longitude we were in when the
storm took us. For eight days more we beat to windward under a
stiff top-gallant breeze, when the wind shifted and became
variable. A light southeaster, to which we could carry a reefed
topmast studding-sail, did wonders for our dead reckoning.

Friday, December 4th. After a passage of twenty days, we arrived
at the mouth of the Bay of San Francisco.

[1] I have been told that this description of a whaleman has given
offence to the whale-trading people of Nantucket, New Bedford, and
the Vineyard. It is not exaggerated; and the appearance of such a
ship and crew might well impress a young man trained in the ways
of a ship of the style of the Alert. Long observation has
satisfied me that there are no better seamen, so far as handling a
ship is concerned, and none so venturous and skilful navigators,
as the masters and officers of our whalemen. But never, either on
this voyage, or in a subsequent visit to the Pacific and its
islands, was it my fortune to fall in with a whaleship whose
appearance, and the appearance of whose crew, gave signs of
strictness of discipline and seaman-like neatness. Probably these
things are impossibilities, from the nature of the business, and I
may have made too much of them.

[2] This visiting between the crews of ships at sea is called, among
whalemen, ``gamming.''


Our place of destination had been Monterey, but as we were to the
northward of it when the wind hauled ahead, we made a fair wind for
San Francisco. This large bay, which lies in latitude 37 58', was
discovered by Sir Francis Drake, and by him represented to be (as
indeed it is) a magnificent bay, containing several good harbors,
great depth of water, and surrounded by a fertile and finely wooded
country. About thirty miles from the mouth of the bay, and on the
southeast side, is a high point, upon which the Presidio is built.
Behind this point is the little harbor, or bight, called Yerba
Buena, in which trading-vessels anchor, and, near it, the Mission
of Dolores. There was no other habitation on this side of the Bay,
except a shanty of rough boards put up by a man named Richardson,
who was doing a little trading between the vessels and the
Indians.[1] Here, at anchor, and the only vessel, was a brig under
Russian colors, from Sitka, in Russian America, which had come down
to winter, and to take in a supply of tallow and grain, great
quantities of which latter article are raised in the Missions at
the head of the bay. The second day after our arrival we went on
board the brig, it being Sunday, as a matter of curiosity; and
there was enough there to gratify it. Though no larger than the
Pilgrim, she had five or six officers, and a crew of between twenty
and thirty; and such a stupid and greasy-looking set, I never saw
before. Although it was quite comfortable weather and we had nothing
on but straw hats, shirts, and duck trousers, and were barefooted,
they had, every man of them, doubled-soled boots, coming up to the
knees, and well greased; thick woollen trousers, frocks,
waistcoats, pea-jackets, woollen caps, and everything in true Nova
Zembla rig; and in the warmest days they made no change. The
clothing of one of these men would weigh nearly as much as that
of half our crew. They had brutish faces, looked like the antipodes
of sailors, and apparently dealt in nothing but grease. They lived
upon grease; eat it, drank it, slept in the midst of it, and their
clothes were covered with it. To a Russian, grease is the greatest
luxury. They looked with greedy eyes upon the tallow-bags as they
were taken into the vessel, and, no doubt, would have eaten one up
whole, had not the officer kept watch over it. The grease appeared
to fill their pores, and to come out in their hair and on their
faces. It seems as if it were this saturation which makes them
stand cold and rain so well. If they were to go into a warm climate,
they would melt and die of the scurvy.

The vessel was no better than the crew. Everything was in the
oldest and most inconvenient fashion possible: running trusses and
lifts on the yards, and large hawser cables, coiled all over the
decks, and served and parcelled in all directions. The topmasts,
top-gallant-masts, and studding-sail booms were nearly black for
want of scraping, and the decks would have turned the stomach of a
man-of-war's-man. The galley was down in the forecastle; and there
the crew lived, in the midst of the steam and grease of the
cooking, in a place as hot as an oven, and apparently never
cleaned out. Five minutes in the forecastle was enough for us, and
we were glad to get into the open air. We made some trade with
them, buying Indian curiosities, of which they had a great number;
such as bead-work, feathers of birds, fur moccasons, &c. I
purchased a large robe, made of the skins of some animal, dried
and sewed nicely together, and covered all over on the outside
with thick downy feathers, taken from the breasts of various
birds, and arranged with their different colors so as to make a
brilliant show.

A few days after our arrival the rainy season set in, and for
three weeks it rained almost every hour, without cessation. This
was bad for our trade, for the collecting of hides is managed
differently in this port from what it is in any other on the
coast. The Mission of Dolores, near the anchorage, has no trade at
all; but those of San Jos, Santa Clara, and others situated on
the large creeks or rivers which run into the bay, and distant
between fifteen and forty miles from the anchorage, do a greater
business in hides than any in California. Large boats, or
launches, manned by Indians, and capable of carrying from five to
six hundred hides apiece, are attached to the Missions, and sent
down to the vessels with hides, to bring away goods in return.
Some of the crews of the vessels are obliged to go and come in the
boats, to look out for the hides and goods. These are favorite
expeditions with the sailors in fine weather; but now, to be gone
three or four days, in open boats, in constant rain, without any
shelter, and with cold food, was hard service. Two of our men went
up to Santa Clara in one of these boats, and were gone three days,
during all which time they had a constant rain, and did not sleep
a wink, but passed three long nights walking fore and aft the
boat, in the open air. When they got on board they were completely
exhausted, and took a watch below of twelve hours. All the hides,
too, that came down in the boats were soaked with water, and unfit
to put below, so that we were obliged to trice them up to dry, in
the intervals of sunshine or wind, upon all parts of the vessel.
We got up tricing-lines from the jib-boom-end to each arm of the
fore yard, and thence to the main and cross-jack yard-arms.
Between the tops, too, and the mast-heads, from the fore to the
main swifters, and thence to the mizzen rigging, and in all
directions athwartships, tricing-lines were run, and strung with
hides. The head stays and guys, and the spritsail yard were lined,
and, having still more, we got out the swinging-booms, and strung
them and the forward and after guys with hides. The rail, fore and
aft, the windlass, capstan, the sides of the ship, and every
vacant place on deck, were covered with wet hides, on the least
sign of an interval for drying. Our ship was nothing but a mass of
hides, from the cat-harpins to the water's edge, and from the
jib-boom-end to the taffrail.

One cold, rainy evening, about eight o'clock, I received orders to
get ready to start for San Jos at four the next morning, in one
of these Indian boats, with four days' provisions. I got my
oil-cloth clothes, southwester, and thick boots ready, and turned
into my hammock early, determined to get some sleep in advance, as
the boat was to be alongside before daybreak. I slept on till all
hands were called in the morning; for, fortunately for me, the
Indians, intentionally, or from mistaking their orders, had gone
off alone in the night, and were far out of sight. Thus I escaped
three or four days of very uncomfortable service.

Four of our men, a few days afterwards, went up in one of the
quarter-boats to Santa Clara, to carry the agent, and remained out
all night in a drenching rain, in the small boat, in which there
was not room for them to turn round; the agent having gone up to
the Mission and left the men to their fate, making no provision
for their accommodation, and not even sending them anything to
eat. After this they had to pull thirty miles, and when they got
on board were so stiff that they could not come up the gangway
ladder. This filled up the measure of the agent's unpopularity,
and never after this could he get anything done for him by the
crew; and many a delay and vexation, and many a good ducking in
the surf, did he get to pay up old scores, or ``square the yards
with the bloody quill-driver.''

Having collected nearly all the hides that were to be procured, we
began our preparations for taking in a supply of wood and water,
for both of which San Francisco is the best place on the coast. A
small island, about two leagues from the anchorage, called by us
``Wood Island,'' and by the Mexicans ``Isla de los Angeles,'' was
covered with trees to the water's edge; and to this two of our
crew, who were Kennebec men, and could handle an axe like a
plaything, were sent every morning to cut wood, with two boys to
pile it up for them. In about a week they had cut enough to last
us a year, and the third mate, with myself and three others, were
sent over in a large, schooner-rigged, open launch, which we had
hired of the Mission, to take in the wood, and bring it to the
ship. We left the ship about noon, but owing to a strong head
wind, and a tide which here runs four or five knots, did not get
into the harbor, formed by two points of the island, where the
boats lie, until sundown. No sooner had we come-to, than a strong
southeaster, which had been threatening us all day, set in, with
heavy rain and a chilly air. We were in rather a bad situation: an
open boat, a heavy rain, and a long night; for in winter, in this
latitude, it was dark nearly fifteen hours. Taking a small skiff
which we had brought with us, we went ashore, but discovered no
shelter, for everything was open to the rain; and, collecting a
little wood, which we found by lifting up the leaves and brush,
and a few mussels, we put aboard again, and made the best
preparations in our power for passing the night. We unbent the
mainsail, and formed an awning with it over the after part of the
boat, made a bed of wet logs of wood, and, with our jackets on,
lay down, about six o'clock, to sleep. Finding the rain running
down upon us, and our jackets getting wet through, and the rough,
knotty logs rather indifferent couches, we turned out; and, taking
an iron pan which we brought with us, we wiped it out dry, put
some stones around it, cut the wet bark from some sticks, and,
striking a light, made a small fire in the pan. Keeping some
sticks near to dry, and covering the whole over with a roof of
boards, we kept up a small fire, by which we cooked our mussels,
and ate them, rather for an occupation than from hunger. Still it
was not ten o'clock, and the night was long before us, when one of
the party produced an old pack of Spanish cards from his
monkey-jacket pocket, which we hailed as a great windfall; and,
keeping a dim, flickering light by our fagots, we played game
after game, till one or two o'clock, when, becoming really tired,
we went to our logs again, one sitting up at a time, in turn, to
keep watch over the fire. Toward morning the rain ceased, and the
air became sensibly colder, so that we found sleep impossible, and
sat up, watching for daybreak. No sooner was it light than we went
ashore, and began our preparations for loading our vessel. We were
not mistaken in the coldness of the weather, for a white frost was
on the ground, and-- a thing we had never seen before in
California-- one or two little puddles of fresh water were skimmed
over with a thin coat of ice. In this state of the weather, and
before sunrise, in the gray of the morning, we had to wade off,
nearly up to our hips in water, to load the skiff with the wood by
armfuls. The third mate remained on board the launch, two more men
stayed in the skiff to load and manage it, and all the water-work,
as usual, fell upon the two youngest of us; and there we were with
frost on the ground, wading forward and back, from the beach to
the boat, with armfuls of wood, barefooted, and our trousers
rolled up. When the skiff went off with her load, we could only
keep our feet from freezing by racing up and down the beach on the
hard sand, as fast as we could go. We were all day at this work,
and toward sundown, having loaded the vessel as deep as she would
bear, we hove up our anchor and made sail, beating out of the bay.
No sooner had we got into the large bay than we found a strong
tide setting us out to seaward, a thick fog which prevented our
seeing the ship, and a breeze too light to set us against the
tide, for we were as deep as a sand-barge. By the utmost
exertions, we saved ourselves from being carried out to sea, and
were glad to reach the leewardmost point of the island, where we
came-to, and prepared to pass another night more uncomfortable
than the first, for we were loaded up to the gunwale, and had only
a choice among logs and sticks for a resting-place. The next
morning we made sail at slack water, with a fair wind, and got on
board by eleven o'clock, when all hands were turned-to to unload
and stow away the wood, which took till night.

Having now taken in all our wood, the next morning a water-party
was ordered off with all the casks. From this we escaped, having
had a pretty good siege with the wooding. The water-party were
gone three days, during which time they narrowly escaped being
carried out to sea, and passed one day on an island, where one of
them shot a deer, great numbers of which overrun the islands and
hills of San Francisco Bay.

While not off on these wood and water parties, or up the rivers to
the Missions, we had easy times on board the ship. We were moored,
stem and stern, within a cable's length of the shore, safe from
southeasters, and with little boating to do; and, as it rained
nearly all the time, awnings were put over the hatchways, and all
hands sent down between decks, where we were at work, day after
day, picking oakum, until we got enough to calk the ship all over,
and to last the whole voyage. Then we made a whole suit of gaskets
for the voyage home, a pair of wheel-ropes from strips of green
hide, great quantities of spun-yarn, and everything else that
could be made between decks. It being now midwinter and in high
latitude, the nights were very long, so that we were not turned-to
until seven in the morning, and were obliged to knock off at five
in the evening, when we got supper; which gave us nearly three
hours before eight bells, at which time the watch was set.

As we had now been about a year on the coast, it was time to think
of the voyage home; and, knowing that the last two or three months
of our stay would be very busy ones, and that we should never have
so good an opportunity to work for ourselves as the present, we
all employed our evenings in making clothes for the passage home,
and more especially for Cape Horn. As soon as supper was over and
the kids cleared away, and each man had taken his smoke, we seated
ourselves on our chests round the lamp, which swung from a beam,
and went to work each in his own way, some making hats, others
trousers, others jackets, &c., &c., and no one was idle. The boys
who could not sew well enough to make their own clothes laid up
grass into sinnet for the men, who sewed for them in return.
Several of us clubbed together and bought a large piece of twilled
cotton, which we made into trousers and jackets, and, giving them
several coats of linseed oil, laid them by for Cape Horn. I also
sewed and covered a tarpaulin hat, thick and strong enough to sit
upon, and made myself a complete suit of flannel underclothing for
bad weather. Those who had no southwester caps made them; and
several of the crew got up for themselves tarpaulin jackets and
trousers, lined on the inside with flannel. Industry was the order
of the day, and every one did something for himself; for we knew
that as the season advanced, and we went further south, we should
have no evenings to work in.

Friday, December 25th. This day was Christmas; and, as it rained
all day long, and there were no hides to take in, and nothing
especial to do, the captain gave us a holiday (the first we had
had, except Sundays, since leaving Boston), and plum-duff for
dinner. The Russian brig, following the Old Style, had celebrated
their Christmas eleven days before, when they had a grand blow-out,
and (as our men said) drank, in the forecastle, a barrel of gin,
ate up a bag of tallow, and made a soup of the skin.

Sunday, December 27th. We had now finished all our business at
this port, and, it being Sunday, we unmoored ship and got under
way, firing a salute to the Russian brig, and another to the
presidio, which were both answered. The commandante of the
presidio, Don Guadalupe Vallejo, a young man, and the most
popular, among the Americans and English, of any man in
California, was on board when we got under way. He spoke English
very well, and was suspected of being favorably inclined to

We sailed down this magnificent bay with a light wind, the tide,
which was running out, carrying us at the rate of four or five
knots. It was a fine day; the first of entire sunshine we had had
for more than a month. We passed directly under the high cliff on
which the presidio is built, and stood into the middle of the bay,
from whence we could see small bays making up into the interior,
large and beautifully wooded islands, and the mouths of several
small rivers. If California ever becomes a prosperous country,
this bay will be the centre of its prosperity. The abundance of
wood and water; the extreme fertility of its shores; the
excellence of its climate, which is as near to being perfect as
any in the world; and its facilities for navigation, affording the
best anchoring-grounds in the whole western coast of America,--
all fit it for a place of great importance.

The tide leaving us, we came to anchor near the mouth of the bay,
under a high and beautifully sloping hill, upon which herds of
hundreds and hundreds of red deer, and the stag, with his high
branching antlers, were bounding about, looking at us for a
moment, and then starting off, affrighted at the noises which we
made for the purpose of seeing the variety of their beautiful
attitudes and motions.

At midnight, the tide having turned, we hove up our anchor and
stood out of the bay, with a fine starry heaven above us,-- the
first we had seen for many weeks. Before the light northerly
winds, which blow here with the regularity of trades, we worked
slowly along, and made Point Ao Nuevo, the northerly point of the
Bay of Monterey, on Monday afternoon. We spoke, going in, the brig
Diana, of the Sandwich Islands, from the Northwest Coast, last
from Sitka. She was off the point at the same time with us, but
did not get in to the anchoring-ground until an hour or two after
us. It was ten o'clock on Tuesday morning when we came to anchor.
Monterey looked just as it did when I saw it last, which was
eleven months before, in the brig Pilgrim. The pretty lawn on
which it stands, as green as sun and rain could make it; the pine
wood on the south; the small river on the north side; the adobe
houses, with their white walls and red-tiled roofs, dotted about
on the green; the low, white presidio, with its soiled tri-colored
flag flying, and the discordant din of drums and trumpets of the
noon parade,-- all brought up the scene we had witnessed here with
so much pleasure nearly a year before, when coming from a long
voyage, and from our unprepossessing reception at Santa Barbara.
It seemed almost like coming to a home.

[1] The next year Richardson built a one-story adobe house on the
same spot, which was long afterwards known as the oldest house in
the great city of San Francisco.


The only other vessel in the port was a Russian government bark
from Sitka, mounting eight guns (four of which we found to be
quakers), and having on board the ex-governor, who was going in
her to Mazatlan, and thence overland to Vera Cruz. He offered to
take letters, and deliver them to the American consul at Vera
Cruz, whence they could be easily forwarded to the United States.
We accordingly made up a packet of letters, almost every one
writing, and dating them ``January 1st, 1836.'' The governor was
true to his promise, and they all reached Boston before the middle
of March; the shortest communication ever yet made across the

The brig Pilgrim had been lying in Monterey through the latter
part of November, according to orders, waiting for us. Day after
day Captain Faucon went up to the hill to look out for us, and at
last gave us up, thinking we must have gone down in the gale which
we experienced off Point Conception, and which had blown with
great fury over the whole coast, driving ashore several vessels in
the snuggest ports. An English brig, which had put into San
Francisco, lost both her anchors, the Rosa was driven upon a mud
bank in San Diego, and the Pilgrim, with great difficulty, rode
out the gale in Monterey, with three anchors ahead. She sailed
early in December for San Diego and intermedios.

As we were to be here over Sunday, and Monterey was the best place
to go ashore on the whole coast, and we had had no liberty-day for
nearly three months, every one was for going ashore. On Sunday
morning as soon as the decks were washed, and we were through
breakfast, those who had obtained liberty began to clean
themselves, as it is called, to go ashore. Buckets of fresh water,
cakes of soap, large coarse towels, and we went to work scrubbing
one another, on the forecastle. Having gone through this, the next
thing was to step into the head,-- one on each side,-- with a
bucket apiece, and duck one another, by drawing up water and
heaving over each other, while we were stripped to a pair of
trousers. Then came the rigging up. The usual outfit of pumps,
white stockings, loose white duck trousers, blue jackets, clean
checked shirts, black kerchiefs, hats well varnished, with a
fathom of black ribbon over the left eye, a silk handkerchief
flying from the outside jacket pocket, and four or five dollars
tied up in the back of the neckerchief, and we were ``all right.''
One of the quarter-boats pulled us ashore, and we streamed up to
the town. I tried to find the church, in order to see the worship,
but was told that there was no service, except a mass early in the
morning; so we went about the town, visiting the Americans and
English, and the Mexicans whom we had known when we were here
before. Toward noon we procured horses, and rode out to the Carmel
Mission, which is about a league from the town, where we got
something in the way of a dinner-- beef, eggs, frjoles,
tortillas, and some middling wine-- from the mayor-domo, who, of
course, refused to make any charge, as it was the Lord's gift, yet
received our present, as a gratuity, with a low bow, a touch of
the hat, and ``Dios se lo pague!''

After this repast we had a fine run, scouring the country on our
fleet horses, and came into town soon after sundown. Here we found
our companions, who had refused to go to ride with us, thinking
that a sailor has no more business with a horse than a fish has
with a balloon. They were moored, stem and stern, in a grog-shop,
making a great noise, with a crowd of Indians and hungry
half-breeds about them, and with a fair prospect of being stripped
and dirked, or left to pass the night in the calabozo. With a
great deal of trouble we managed to get them down to the boats,
though not without many angry looks and interferences from the
Mexicans, who had marked them out for their prey. The Diana's crew--
a set of worthless outcasts who had been picked up at the
islands from the refuse of whale-ships-- were all as drunk as
beasts, and had a set-to on the beach with their captain, who was
in no better state than themselves. They swore they would not go
aboard, and went back to the town, were robbed and beaten, and
lodged in the calabozo, until the next day, when the captain
brought them out. Our forecastle, as usual after a liberty-day,
was a scene of tumult all night long, from the drunken ones. They
had just got to sleep toward morning, when they were turned-up
with the rest, and kept at work all day in the water, carrying
hides, their heads aching so that they could hardly stand. This is
sailor's pleasure.

Nothing worthy of remark happened while we were here, except a
little boxing-match on board our own ship, which gave us something
to talk about. Our broad-backed, big-headed Cape Cod boy, about
sixteen years old, had been playing the bully, for the whole
voyage, over a slender, delicate-looking boy from one of the
Boston schools, and over whom he had much the advantage in
strength, age, and experience in the ship's duty, for this was the
first time the Boston boy had been on salt water. The latter,
however, had ``picked up his crumbs,'' was learning his duty, and
getting strength and confidence daily, and began to assert his
rights against his oppressor. Still, the other was his master,
and, by his superior strength, always tackled with him and threw
him down. One afternoon, before we were turned-to, these boys got
into a violent squabble in the between-decks, when George (the
Boston boy) said he would fight Nat if he could have fair play.
The chief mate heard the noise, dove down the hatchway, hauled
them both up on deck, and told them to shake hands and have no
more trouble for the voyage, or else they should fight till one
gave in for beaten. Finding neither willing to make an offer of
reconciliation, he called all hands up (for the captain was
ashore, and he could do as he chose aboard), ranged the crew in
the waist, marked a line on the deck, brought the two boys up to
it, making them ``toe the mark''; then made the bight of a rope
fast to a belaying-pin, and stretched it across the deck, bringing
it just above their waists. ``No striking below the rope!'' And
there they stood, one on each side of it, face to face, and went
at it like two game-cocks. The Cape Cod boy, Nat, put in his
double-fisters, starting the blood, and bringing the
black-and-blue spots all over the face and arms of the other, whom
we expected to see give in every moment; but, the more he was
hurt, the better he fought. Again and again he was knocked nearly
down, but up he came again and faced the mark, as bold as a lion,
again to take the heavy blows, which sounded so as to make one's
heart turn with pity for him. At length he came up to the mark the
last time, his shirt torn from his body, his face covered with
blood and bruises, and his eyes flashing fire, and swore he would
stand there until one or the other was killed, and set-to like a
young fury. ``Hurrah in the bow!'' said the men, cheering him on.
``Never say die, while there's a shot in the locker!'' Nat tried
to close with him, knowing his advantage, but the mate stopped
that, saying there should be fair play, and no fingering. Nat then
came up to the mark, but looked white about the mouth, and his
blows were not given with half the spirit of his first. Something
was the matter. I was not sure whether he was cowed, or, being
good-natured, he did not care to beat the boy any more. At all
events he faltered. He had always been master, and had nothing to
gain and everything to lose; while the other fought for honor and
freedom, and under a sense of wrong. It was soon over. Nat gave
in,-- apparently not much hurt,-- and never afterwards tried to
act the bully over the boy. We took George forward, washed him in
the deck-tub, complimented his pluck, and from this time he became
somebody on board, having fought himself into notice. Mr. Brown's
plan had a good effect, for there was no more quarrelling among
the boys for the rest of the voyage.

Wednesday, January 6th, 1836. Set sail from Monterey, with a
number of Mexicans as passengers, and shaped our course for Santa
Barbara. The Diana went out of the bay in company with us, but
parted from us off Point Pinos, being bound to the Sandwich
Islands. We had a smacking breeze for several hours, and went
along at a great rate until night, when it died away, as usual,
and the land-breeze set in, which brought us upon a taut bowline.
Among our passengers was a young man who was a good representation
of a decayed gentleman. He reminded me much of some of the
characters in Gil Blas. He was of the aristocracy of the country,
his family being of pure Spanish blood, and once of considerable
importance in Mexico. His father had been governor of the
province, and, having amassed a large property, settled at San
Diego, where he built a large house with a court-yard in front,
kept a retinue of Indians, and set up for the grandee of that part
of the country. His son was sent to Mexico, where he received an
education, and went into the first society of the capital.
Misfortune, extravagance, and the want of any manner of getting
interest on money, soon ate the estate up, and Don Juan Bandini
returned from Mexico accomplished, poor, and proud, and without
any office or occupation, to lead the life of most young men of
the better families,-- dissipated and extravagant when the means
are at hand; ambitious at heart, and impotent in act; often
pinched for bread; keeping up an appearance of style, when their
poverty is known to each half-naked Indian boy in the street, and
standing in dread of every small trader and shopkeeper in the
place. He had a slight and elegant figure, moved gracefully,
danced and waltzed beautifully, spoke good Castilian, with a
pleasant and refined voice and accent, and had, throughout, the
bearing of a man of birth and figure. Yet here he was, with his
passage given him (as I afterwards learned), for he had not the
means of paying for it, and living upon the charity of our agent.
He was polite to every one, spoke to the sailors, and gave four
reals-- I dare say the last he had in his pocket-- to the steward,
who waited upon him. I could not but feel a pity for him,
especially when I saw him by the side of his fellow-passenger and
townsman, a fat, coarse, vulgar, pretentious fellow of a Yankee
trader, who had made money in San Diego, and was eating out the
vitals of the Bandinis, fattening upon their extravagance,
grinding them in their poverty; having mortgages on their lands,
forestalling their cattle, and already making an inroad upon their
jewels, which were their last hope.

Don Juan had with him a retainer, who was as much like many of the
characters in Gil Blas as his master. He called himself a private
secretary, though there was no writing for him to do, and he lived
in the steerage with the carpenter and sailmaker. He was certainly
a character; could read and write well; spoke good Spanish; had
been over the greater part of Spanish America, and lived in every
possible situation, and served in every conceivable capacity,
though generally in that of confidential servant to some man of
figure. I cultivated this man's acquaintance, and during the five
weeks that he was with us,-- for he remained on board until we
arrived at San Diego,-- I gained a greater knowledge of the state
of political parties in Mexico, and the habits and affairs of the
different classes of society, than I could have learned from
almost any one else. He took great pains in correcting my Spanish,
and supplying me with colloquial phrases, and common terms and
exclamations, in speaking. He lent me a file of late newspapers
from the city of Mexico, which were full of the triumphal
reception of Santa Ana, who had just returned from Tampico after a
victory, and with the preparations for his expedition against the
Texans. ``Viva Santa Ana!'' was the byword everywhere, and it had
even reached California, though there were still many here, among
whom was Don Juan Bandini, who were opposed to his government, and
intriguing to bring in Bustamente. Santa Ana, they said, was for
breaking down the Missions; or, as they termed it, ``Santa Ana no
quiere religion.'' Yet I had no doubt that the office of
administrador of San Diego would reconcile Don Juan to any
dynasty, and any state of the church. In these papers, too, I
found scraps of American and English news; but which was so
unconnected, and I was so ignorant of everything preceding them
for eighteen months past, that they only awakened a curiosity
which they could not satisfy. One article spoke of Taney as
Justicia Mayor de los Estados Unidos, (what had become of
Marshall? was he dead, or banished?) and another made known, by
news received from Vera Cruz, that ``El Vizconde Melbourne'' had
returned to the office of ``primer ministro,'' in place of Sir
Roberto Peel. (Sir Robert Peel had been minister, then? and where
were Earl Grey and the Duke of Wellington?) Here were the outlines
of grand political overturns, the filling up of which I was left
to imagine at my leisure.

The second morning after leaving Monterey, we were off Point
Conception. It was a bright, sunny day, and the wind, though
strong, was fair; and everything was in striking contrast with our
experience in the same place two months before, when we were
drifting off from a northwester under a fore and main spencer.
``Sail ho!'' cried a man who was rigging out a top-gallant
studding-sail boom.-- ``Where away?''-- ``Weather beam, sir!'' and
in a few minutes a full-rigged brig was seen standing out from
under Point Conception. The studding-sail halyards were let go,
and the yards boom-ended, the after yards braced aback, and we
waited her coming down. She rounded to, backed her main topsail,
and showed her decks full of men, four guns on a side, hammock
nettings, and everything man-of-war fashion, except that there was
no boatswain's whistle, and no uniforms on the quarter-deck. A
short, square-built man, in a rough gray jacket, with a
speaking-trumpet in hand, stood in the weather hammock nettings.
``Ship ahoy!''-- ``Hallo!''-- ``What ship is that, pray?''--
``Alert.''-- ``Where are you from, pray?'' &c., &c. She proved to
be the brig Convoy, from the Sandwich Islands, engaged in
otter-hunting among the islands which lie along the coast. Her
armament was because of her being a contrabandista. The otter are
very numerous among these islands, and, being of great value, the
government require a heavy sum for a license to hunt them, and lay
a high duty upon every one shot or carried out of the country.
This vessel had no license, and paid no duty, besides being
engaged in smuggling goods on board other vessels trading on the
coast, and belonging to the same owners in Oahu. Our captain told
him to look out for the Mexicans, but he said that they had not an
armed vessel of his size in the whole Pacific. This was without
doubt the same vessel that showed herself off Santa Barbara a few
months before. These vessels frequently remain on the coast for
years, without making port, except at the islands for wood and
water, and an occasional visit to Oahu for a new outfit.

Sunday, January 10th. Arrived at Santa Barbara, and on the
following Wednesday slipped our cable and went to sea, on account
of a southeaster. Returned to our anchorage the next day. We were
the only vessel in the port. The Pilgrim had passed through the
Canal and hove-to off the town, nearly six weeks before, on her
passage down from Monterey, and was now at the leeward. She heard
here of our safe arrival at San Francisco.

Great preparations were making on shore for the marriage of our
agent, who was to marry Doa Anita de la Guerra de Noriego y
Corillo, youngest daughter of Don Antonio Noriego, the grandee of
the place, and the head of the first family in California. Our
steward was ashore three days, making pastry and cake, and some of
the best of our stores were sent off with him. On the day
appointed for the wedding, we took the captain ashore in the gig,
and had orders to come for him at night, with leave to go up to
the house and see the fandango. Returning on board, we found
preparations making for a salute. Our guns were loaded and run
out, men appointed to each, cartridges served out, matches
lighted, and all the flags ready to be run up. I took my place at
the starboard after gun, and we all waited for the signal from on
shore. At ten o'clock the bride went up with her sister to the
confessional, dressed in deep black. Nearly an hour intervened,
when the great doors of the Mission church opened, the bells rang
out a loud, discordant peal, the private signal for us was run up
by the captain ashore, the bride, dressed in complete white, came
out of the church with the bridegroom, followed by a long
procession. Just as she stepped from the church door, a small
white cloud issued from the bows of our ship, which was full in
sight, the loud report echoed among the surrounding hills and over
the bay, and instantly the ship was dressed in flags and pennants
from stem to stern. Twenty-three guns followed in regular
succession, with an interval of fifteen seconds between each, when
the cloud blew off, and our ship lay dressed in her colors all
day. At sundown another salute of the same number of guns was
fired, and all the flags run down. This we thought was pretty well--
a gun every fifteen seconds-- for a merchantman with only four
guns and a dozen or twenty men.

After supper, the gig's crew were called, and we rowed ashore,
dressed in our uniform, beached the boat, and went up to the
fandango. The bride's father's house was the principal one in the
place, with a large court in front, upon which a tent was built,
capable of containing several hundred people. As we drew near, we
heard the accustomed sound of violins and guitars, and saw a great
motion of the people within. Going in, we found nearly all the
people of the town-- men, women, and children-- collected and
crowded together, leaving barely room for the dancers; for on
these occasions no invitations are given, but every one is
expected to come, though there is always a private entertainment
within the house for particular friends. The old women sat down in
rows, clapping their hands to the music, and applauding the young
ones. The music was lively, and among the tunes we recognized
several of our popular airs, which we, without doubt, have taken
from the Spanish. In the dancing I was much disappointed. The
women stood upright, with their hands down by their sides, their
eyes fixed upon the ground before them, and slided about without
any perceptible means of motion; for their feet were invisible,
the hem of their dresses forming a circle about them, reaching to
the ground. They looked as grave as though they were going through
some religious ceremony, their faces as little excited as their
limbs; and on the whole, instead of the spirited, fascinating
Spanish dances which I had expected, I found the Californian
fandango, on the part of the women at least, a lifeless affair.
The men did better. They danced with grace and spirit, moving in
circles round their nearly stationary partners, and showing their
figures to advantage.

A great deal was said about our friend Don Juan Bandini, and when
he did appear, which was toward the close of the evening, he
certainly gave us the most graceful dancing that I had ever seen.
He was dressed in white pantaloons, neatly made, a short jacket of
dark silk, gayly figured, white stockings and thin morocco
slippers upon his very small feet. His slight and graceful figure
was well adapted to dancing, and he moved about with the grace and
daintiness of a young fawn. An occasional touch of the toe to the
ground seemed all that was necessary to give him a long interval
of motion in the air. At the same time he was not fantastic or
flourishing, but appeared to be rather repressing a strong
tendency to motion. He was loudly applauded, and danced frequently
toward the close of the evening. After the supper, the waltzing
began, which was confined to a very few of the ``gente de razon,''
and was considered a high accomplishment, and a mark of
aristocracy. Here, too, Don Juan figured greatly, waltzing with
the sister of the bride (Doa Angustias, a handsome woman and a
general favorite) in a variety of beautiful figures, which lasted
as much as half an hour, no one else taking the floor. They were
repeatedly and loudly applauded, the old men and women jumping out
of their seats in admiration, and the young people waving their
hats and handkerchiefs. The great amusement of the evening-- owing
to its being the Carnival-- was the breaking of eggs filled with
cologne, or other essences, upon the heads of the company. The
women bring a great number of these secretly about them, and the
amusement is to break one upon the head of a gentleman when his
back is turned. He is bound in gallantry to find out the lady and
return the compliment, though it must not be done if the person
sees you. A tall, stately Don, with immense gray whiskers, and a
look of great importance, was standing before me, when I felt a
light hand on my shoulder, and, turning round, saw Doa Angustias
(whom we all knew, as she had been up to Monterey, and down again,
in the Alert), with her finger upon her lip, motioning me gently
aside. I stepped back a little, when she went up behind the Don,
and with one hand knocked off his huge sombrero, and at the same
instant, with the other, broke the egg upon his head, and,
springing behind me, was out of sight in a moment. The Don turned
slowly round, the cologne running down his face and over his
clothes, and a loud laugh breaking out from every quarter. He
looked round in vain for some time, until the direction of so many
laughing eyes showed him the fair offender. She was his niece, and
a great favorite with him, so old Don Domingo had to join in the
laugh. A great many such tricks were played, and many a war of
sharp manoeuvring was carried on between couples of the younger
people, and at every successful exploit a general laugh was

Another of their games I was for some time at a loss about. A
pretty young girl was dancing, named-- after what would appear to
us an almost sacrilegious custom of the country-- Espritu Santo,
when a young man went behind her and placed his hat directly upon
her head, letting it fall down over her eyes, and sprang back
among the crowd. She danced for some time with the hat on, when
she threw it off, which called forth a general shout, and the
young man was obliged to go out upon the floor and pick it up.
Some of the ladies, upon whose heads hats had been placed, threw
them off at once, and a few kept them on throughout the dance, and
took them off at the end, and held them out in their hands, when
the owner stepped out, bowed, and took it from them. I soon began
to suspect the meaning of the thing, and was afterwards told that
it was a compliment, and an offer to become the lady's gallant for
the rest of the evening, and to wait upon her home. If the hat was
thrown off, the offer was refused, and the gentleman was obliged
to pick up his hat amid a general laugh. Much amusement was caused
sometimes by gentlemen putting hats on the ladies' heads, without
permitting them to see whom it was done by. This obliged them to
throw them off, or keep them on at a venture, and when they came
to discover the owner the laugh was turned upon one or the other.

The captain sent for us about ten o'clock, and we went aboard in
high spirits, having enjoyed the new scene much, and were of great
importance among the crew, from having so much to tell, and from
the prospect of going every night until it was over; for these
fandangos generally last three days. The next day, two of us were
sent up to the town, and took care to come back by way of Seor
Noriego's, and take a look into the booth. The musicians were
again there, upon their platform, scraping and twanging away, and
a few people, apparently of the lower classes, were dancing. The
dancing is kept up, at intervals, throughout the day, but the
crowd, the spirit, and the lite come in at night. The next night,
which was the last, we went ashore in the same manner, until we
got almost tired of the monotonous twang of the instruments, the
drawling sounds which the women kept up, as an accompaniment, and
the slapping of the hands in time with the music, in place of
castanets. We found ourselves as great objects of attention as any
persons or anything at the place. Our sailor dresses-- and we took
great pains to have them neat and ship-shape-- were much admired,
and we were invited, from every quarter, to give them an American
dance; but after the ridiculous figure some of our countrymen cut
in dancing after the Mexicans, we thought it best to leave it to
their imaginations. Our agent, with a tight, black, swallow-tailed
coat just imported from Boston, a high stiff cravat, looking as if
he had been pinned and skewered, with only his feet and hands left
free, took the floor just after Bandini, and we thought they had
had enough of Yankee grace.

The last night they kept it up in great style, and were getting
into a high-go, when the captain called us off to go aboard, for,
it being southeaster season, he was afraid to remain on shore
long; and it was well he did not, for that night we slipped our
cables, as a crowner to our fun ashore, and stood off before a
southeaster, which lasted twelve hours, and returned to our
anchorage the next day.


Monday, February, 1st. After having been in port twenty-one days,
we sailed for San Pedro, where we arrived on the following day,
having gone ``all fluking,'' with the weather clew of the mainsail
hauled up, the yards braced in a little, and the lower
studding-sail just drawing; the wind hardly shifting a point
during the passage. Here we found the Ayacucho and the Pilgrim,
which last we had not seen since the 11th of September,-- nearly
five months; and I really felt something like an affection for the
old brig which had been my first home, and in which I had spent
nearly a year, and got the first rough and tumble of a sea life.
She, too, was associated in my mind with Boston, the wharf from
which we sailed, anchorage in the stream, leave-taking, and all
such matters, which were now to me like small links connecting me
with another world, which I had once been in, and which, please
God, I might yet see again. I went on board the first night, after
supper; found the old cook in the galley, playing upon the fife
which I had given him as a parting present; had a hearty shake of
the hand from him; and dove down into the forecastle, where were
my old shipmates, the same as ever, glad to see me; for they had
nearly given us up as lost, especially when they did not find us
in Santa Barbara. They had been at San Diego last, had been lying
at San Pedro nearly a month, and had received three thousand hides
from the pueblo. But--

``Sic vos non vobis''

these we took from her the next day, which filled us up, and we
both got under way on the 4th, she bound to San Francisco again,
and we to San Diego, where we arrived on the 6th.

We were always glad to see San Diego; it being the depot, and a
snug little place, and seeming quite like home, especially to me,
who had spent a summer there. There was no vessel in port, the
Rosa having sailed for Valparaiso and Cadiz, and the Catalina for
Callao, nearly a month before. We discharged our hides, and in
four days were ready to sail again for the windward; and, to our
great joy-- for the last time! Over thirty thousand hides had been
already collected, cured, and stowed away in the house, which,
together with what we should collect, and the Pilgrim would bring
down from San Francisco, would make out our cargo. The thought
that we were actually going up for the last time, and that the
next time we went round San Diego point it would be ``homeward
bound,'' brought things so near a close that we felt as though we
were just there, though it must still be the greater part of a
year before we could see Boston.

I spent one evening, as had been my custom, at the oven with the
Sandwich-Islanders; but it was far from being the usual noisy,
laughing time. It has been said that the greatest curse to each of
the South Sea Islands was the first man who discovered it; and
every one who knows anything of the history of our commerce in
those parts knows how much truth there is in this; and that the
white men, with their vices, have brought in diseases before
unknown to the islanders, which are now sweeping off the native
population of the Sandwich Islands at the rate of one fortieth of
the entire population annually. They seem to be a doomed people.
The curse of a people calling themselves Christians seems to
follow them everywhere; and even here, in this obscure place, lay
two young islanders, whom I had left strong, active young men, in
the vigor of health, wasting away under a disease which they would
never have known but for their intercourse with people from
Christian America and Europe. One of them was not so ill, and was
moving about, smoking his pipe, and talking, and trying to keep up
his spirits; but the other, who was my friend and aikane, Hope,
was the most dreadful object I had ever seen in my life,-- his
eyes sunken and dead, his cheeks fallen in against his teeth, his
hands looking like claws; a dreadful cough, which seemed to rack
his whole shattered system, a hollow, whispering voice, and an
entire inability to move himself. There he lay, upon a mat, on the
ground, which was the only floor of the oven, with no medicine, no
comforts, and no one to care for or help him but a few Kanakas,
who were willing enough, but could do nothing. The sight of him
made me sick and faint. Poor fellow! During the four months that I
lived upon the beach, we were continually together, in work, and
in our excursions in the woods and upon the water. I felt a strong
affection for him, and preferred him to any of my own countrymen
there; and I believe there was nothing which he would not have
done for me. When I came into the oven he looked at me, held out
his hand, and said, in a low voice, but with a delightful smile,
``Aloha, Aikane! Aloha nui!'' I comforted him as well as I could,
and promised to ask the captain to help him from the
medicine-chest, and told him I had no doubt the captain would do
what he could for him, as he had worked in our employ for several
years, both on shore and aboard our vessels on the coast. I went
aboard and turned into my hammock, but I could not sleep.

Thinking, from my education, that I must have some knowledge of
medicine, the Kanakas had insisted upon my examining him
carefully; and it was not a sight to be forgotten. One of our
crew, an old man-of-war's-man of twenty years' standing, who had
seen sin and suffering in every shape, and whom I afterwards took
to see Hope, said it was dreadfully worse than anything he had
ever seen, or even dreamed of. He was horror-struck, as his
countenance showed; yet he had been among the worst cases in our
naval hospitals. I could not get the thought of the poor fellow
out of my head all night,-- his dreadful suffering, and his
apparently inevitable horrible end.

The next day I told Captain Thompson of Hope's state, and asked
him if he would be so kind as to go and see him.

``What? a d---d Kanaka?''

``Yes, sir,'' said I; ``but he has worked four years for our
vessels, and has been in the employ of our owners, both on shore
and aboard.''

``Oh! he be d---d!'' said the captain, and walked off.

This man died afterwards of a fever on the deadly coast of
Sumatra; and God grant he had better care taken of him in his
sufferings than he ever gave to any one else.

Finding nothing was to be got from the captain, I consulted an old
shipmate, who had much experience in these matters, and got a
recipe from him, which he kept by him. With this I went to the
mate, and told him the case. Mr. Brown had been intrusted with the
general care of the medicine-chest, and although a driving fellow,
and a taut hand in a watch, he had good feelings, and was inclined
to be kind to the sick. He said that Hope was not strictly one of
the crew, but, as he was in our employ when taken sick, he should
have the medicines; and he got them and gave them to me, with
leave to go ashore at night. Nothing could exceed the delight of
the Kanakas, when I came, bringing the medicines. All their terms
of affection and gratitude were spent upon me, and in a sense
wasted (for I could not understand half of them), yet they made
all known by their manner. Poor Hope was so much revived at the
bare thought of anything being done for him that he seemed already
stronger and better. I knew he must die as he was, and he could
but die under the medicines, and any chance was worth running. An
oven exposed to every wind and change of weather is no place to
take calomel; but nothing else would do, and strong remedies must
be used, or he was gone. The applications, internal and external,
were powerful, and I gave him strict directions to keep warm and
sheltered, telling him it was his only chance for life. Twice
after this, I visited him, having only time to run up, while
waiting in the boat. He promised to take his medicines regularly
while we were up the coast, until we returned, and insisted upon
it that he was doing better.

We got under way on the 10th, bound up to San Pedro, and had three
days of calm and head winds, making but little progress. On the
fourth, we took a stiff southeaster, which obliged us to reef our
topsails. While on the yard, we saw a sail on the weather bow, and
in about half an hour passed the Ayacucho, under double-reefed
topsails, beating down to San Diego. Arrived at San Pedro on the
fourth day, and came-to in the old place, a league from shore,
with no other vessel in port, and the prospect of three weeks or
more of dull life, rolling goods up a slippery hill, carrying
hides on our heads over sharp stones, and, perhaps, slipping for a

There was but one man in the only house here, and him I shall
always remember as a good specimen of a California ranger. He had
been a tailor in Philadelphia, and, getting intemperate and in
debt, joined a trapping party, and went to the Columbia River, and
thence down to Monterey, where he spent everything, left his
party, and came to the Pueblo de los Angeles to work at his trade.
Here he went dead to leeward among the pulperas, gambling-rooms,
&c., and came down to San Pedro to be moral by being out of
temptation. He had been in the house several weeks, working hard
at his trade, upon orders which he had brought with him, and
talked much of his resolution, and opened his heart to us about
his past life. After we had been here some time, he started off
one morning, in fine spirits, well dressed, to carry the clothes
which he had been making to the pueblo, and saying that he would
bring back his money and some fresh orders the next day. The next
day came, and a week passed, and nearly a fortnight, when one day,
going ashore, we saw a tall man, who looked like our friend the
tailor, getting out of the back of an Indian's cart, which had
just come down from the pueblo. He stood for the house, but we
bore up after him; when, finding that we were overhauling him, he
hove-to and spoke us. Such a sight! Barefooted, with an old pair
of trousers tied round his waist by a piece of green hide, a
soiled cotton shirt, and a torn Indian hat; ``cleaned out'' to the
last real, and completely ``used up.'' He confessed the whole
matter; acknowledged that he was on his back; and now he had a
prospect of a fit of the horrors for a week, and of being worse
than useless for months. This is a specimen of the life of half of
the Americans and English who are adrift along the coasts of the
Pacific and its islands,-- commonly called ``beach-combers.'' One
of the same stamp was Russell, who was master of the hide-house at
San Diego while I was there, but had been afterwards dismissed for
his misconduct. He spent his own money, and nearly all the stores
among the half-bloods upon the beach, and went up to the presidio,
where he lived the life of a desperate ``loafer,'' until some
rascally deed sent him off ``between two days,'' with men on
horseback, dogs, and Indians in full cry after him, among the
hills. One night he burst into our room at the hide-house,
breathless, pale as a ghost, covered with mud, and torn by thorns
and briers, nearly naked, and begged for a crust of bread, saying
he had neither eaten nor slept for three days. Here was the great
Mr. Russell, who a month before was ``Don Tomas,'' ``Capitan de la
playa,'' ``Maestro de la casa,'' &c., &c., begging food and
shelter of Kanakas and sailors. He stayed with us till he had
given himself up, and was dragged off to the calabozo.

Another, and a more amusing, specimen was one whom we saw at San
Francisco. He had been a lad on board the ship California, in one
of her first voyages, and ran away and commenced Ranchero,
gambling, stealing horses, &c. He worked along up to San
Francisco, and was living on a rancho near there while we were in
port. One morning, when we went ashore in the boat, we found him
at the landing-place, dressed in California style,-- a wide hat,
faded velveteen trousers, and a blanket thrown over his shoulders,--
and wishing to go off in the boat, saying he was going to pasear
with our captain a little. We had many doubts of the reception he
would meet with; but he seemed to think himself company for any
one. We took him aboard, landed him at the gangway, and went about
our work, keeping an eye upon the quarter-deck, where the captain
was walking. The lad went up to him with complete assurance, and,
raising his hat, wished him a good afternoon. Captain Thompson
turned round, looked at him from head to foot, and, saying coolly,
``Hallo! who the hell are you?'' kept on his walk. This was a
rebuff not to be mistaken, and the joke passed about among the
crew by winks and signs at different parts of the ship. Finding
himself disappointed at head-quarters, he edged along forward to
the mate, who was overseeing some work upon the forecastle, and
tried to begin a yarn; but it would not do. The mate had seen the
reception he had met with aft, and would have no cast-off company.
The second mate was aloft, and the third mate and myself were
painting the quarter-boat, which hung by the davits, so he betook
himself to us; but we looked at each other, and the officer was
too busy to say a word. From us, he went to one and another of the
crew, but the joke had got before him, and he found everybody busy
and silent. Looking over the rail a few moments afterward, we saw
him at the galley-door talking with the cook. This was indeed a
come-down, from the highest seat in the synagogue to a seat in the
galley with the black cook. At night, too, when supper was called,
he stood in the waist for some time, hoping to be asked down with
the officers, but they went below, one after another, and left
him. His next chance was with the carpenter and sailmaker, and he
lounged round the after hatchway until the last had gone down. We
had now had fun enough out of him, and, taking pity on him,
offered him a pot of tea, and a cut at the kid, with the rest, in
the forecastle. He was hungry, and it was growing dark, and he
began to see that there was no use in playing the caballero any
longer, and came down into the forecastle, put into the ``grub''
in sailor's style, threw off all his airs, and enjoyed the joke as
much as any one; for a man must take a joke among sailors. He gave
us an account of his adventures in the country,-- roguery and all,--
and was very entertaining. He was a smart, unprincipled fellow,
was in many of the rascally doings of the country, and gave us a
great deal of interesting information as to the ways of the world
we were in.

Saturday, February 13th. Were called up at midnight to slip for a
violent northeaster; for this miserable hole of San Pedro is
thought unsafe in almost every wind. We went off with a flowing
sheet, and hove-to under the lee of Catalina Island, where we lay
three days, and then returned to our anchorage.

Tuesday, February 23d. This afternoon a signal was made from the
shore, and we went off in the gig, and found the agent's clerk,
who had been up to the pueblo, waiting at the landing-place, with
a package under his arm, covered with brown paper and tied
carefully with twine. No sooner had we shoved off than he told us
there was good news from Santa Barbara. ``What's that?'' said one
of the crew; ``has the bloody agent slipped off the hooks? Has the
old bundle of bones got him at last?''-- ``No; better than that.
The California has arrived.'' Letters, papers, news, and, perhaps,--
friends, on board! Our hearts were all up in our mouths, and we
pulled away like good fellows, for the precious packet could not
be opened except by the captain. As we pulled under the stern, the
clerk held up the package, and called out to the mate, who was
leaning over the taffrail; that the California had arrived.

``Hurrah!'' said the mate, so as to be heard fore and aft;
``California come, and news from Boston!''

Instantly there was a confusion on board which no one would
understand who had not been in the same situation. All discipline
seemed for a moment relaxed.

``What's that, Mr. Brown?'' said the cook, putting his head out of
the galley; ``California come?''

``Aye, aye! you angel of darkness, and there's a letter for you
from Bullknop 'treet, number two-two-five,-- green door and brass

The packet was sent down into the cabin, and every one waited to
hear of the result. As nothing came up, the officers began to feel
that they were acting rather a child's part, and turned the crew
to again; and the same strict discipline was restored, which
prohibits speech between man and man while at work on deck; so
that, when the steward came forward with letters for the crew,
each man took his letters, carried them below to his chest, and
came up again immediately, and not a letter was read until we had
cleared up decks for the night.

An overstrained sense of manliness is the characteristic of
sea-faring men. This often gives an appearance of want of feeling,
and even of cruelty. From this, if a man comes within an ace of
breaking his neck and escapes, it is made a joke of; and no notice
must be taken of a bruise or a cut; and any expression of pity, or
any show of attention, would look sisterly, and unbecoming a man
who has to face the rough and tumble of such a life. From this
cause, too, the sick are neglected at sea, and, whatever sailors
may be ashore, a sick man finds little sympathy or attention,
forward or aft. A man, too, can have nothing peculiar or sacred on
board ship; for all the nicer feelings they take pride in
disregarding, both in themselves and others. A thin-skinned man
could hardly live on shipboard. One would be torn raw unless he
had the hide of an ox. A moment of natural feeling for home and
friends, and then the frigid routine of sea life returned. Jokes
were made upon those who showed any interest in the expected news,
and everything near and dear was made common stock for rude jokes
and unfeeling coarseness, to which no exception could be taken by
any one.

Supper, too, must be eaten before the letters were read; and when,
at last, they were brought out, they all got round any one who had
a letter, and expected to hear it read aloud, and have it all in
common. If any one went by himself to read, it was-- ``Fair play,
there, and no skulking!'' I took mine and went into the
sailmaker's berth where I could read it without interruption. It
was dated August, just a year from the time I had sailed from
home, and every one was well, and no great change had taken place.
Thus, for one year, my mind was set at ease, yet it was already
six months from the date of the letter, and what another year
would bring to pass who could tell? Every one away from home
thinks that some great thing must have happened, while to those at
home there seems to be a continued monotony and lack of incident.

As much as my feelings were taken up by my own news from home, I
could not but be amused by a scene in the steerage. The carpenter
had been married just before leaving Boston, and during the voyage
had talked much about his wife, and had to bear and forbear, as
every man, known to be married, must, aboard ship; yet the
certainty of hearing from his wife by the first ship seemed to
keep up his spirits. The California came, the packet was brought
on board, no one was in higher spirits than he; but when the
letters came forward, there was none for him. The captain looked
again, but there was no mistake. Poor ``Chips'' could eat no
supper. He was completely down in the mouth. ``Sails'' (the
sailmaker) tried to comfort him, and told him he was a bloody fool
to give up his grub for any woman's daughter, and reminded him
that he had told him a dozen times that he'd never see or hear
from his wife again.

``Ah!'' said Chips, ``you don't know what it is to have a wife,
and-- ''

``Don't I?'' said Sails; and then came, for the hundredth time,
the story of his coming ashore at New York, from the Constellation
frigate, after a cruise of four years round the Horn,-- being paid
off with over five hundred dollars,-- marrying, and taking a
couple of rooms in a four-story house,-- furnishing the rooms
(with a particular account of the furniture, including a dozen
flag-bottomed chairs, which he always dilated upon whenever the
subject of furniture was alluded to),-- going off to sea again,
leaving his wife half-pay like a fool,-- coming home and finding
her ``off, like Bob's horse, with nobody to pay the reckoning'';
furniture gone, flag-bottomed chairs and all,-- and with it his
``long togs,'' the half-pay, his beaver hat, and white linen
shirts. His wife he never saw or heard of from that day to this,
and never wished to. Then followed a sweeping assertion, not much
to the credit of the sex, in which he has Pope to back him.
``Come, Chips, cheer up like a man, and take some hot grub! Don't
be made a fool of by anything in petticoats! As for your wife,
you'll never see her again; she was `up keeleg and off' before you
were outside of Cape Cod. You've hove your money away like a fool;
but every man must learn once, just as I did; so you'd better
square the yards with her, and make the best of it.''

This was the best consolation ``Sails'' had to offer, but it did
not seem to be just the thing the carpenter wanted; for, during
several days, he was very much dejected, and bore with difficulty
the jokes of the sailors, and with still more difficulty their
attempts at advice and consolation, of most of which the sailmaker's
was a good specimen.

Thursday, February 25th. Set sail for Santa Barbara, where we
arrived on Sunday, the 28th. We just missed seeing the California,
for she had sailed three days before, bound to Monterey, to enter
her cargo and procure her license, and thence to San Francisco,
&c. Captain Arthur left files of Boston papers for Captain
Thompson, which, after they had been read and talked over in the
cabin, I procured from my friend the third mate. One file was of
all the Boston Transcripts for the month of August, 1835, and the
rest were about a dozen Daily Advertisers and Couriers of
different dates. After all, there is nothing in a strange land
like a newspaper from home. Even a letter, in many respects, is
nothing in comparison with it. It carries you back to the spot
better than anything else. It is almost equal to clairvoyance. The
names of the streets, with the things advertised, are almost as
good as seeing the signs; and while reading ``Boy lost!'' one can
almost hear the bell and well-known voice of ``Old Wilson,''
crying the boy as ``strayed, stolen, or mislaid!'' Then there was
the Commencement at Cambridge, and the full account of the
exercises at the graduating of my own class. A list of all those
familiar names (beginning as usual with Abbot, and ending with W),
which, as I read them over, one by one, brought up their faces and
characters as I had known them in the various scenes of college
life. Then I imagined them upon the stage, speaking their
orations, dissertations, colloquies, &c., with the familiar
gestures and tones of each, and tried to fancy the manner in which
each would handle his subject. ----, handsome, showy, and
superficial; ----, with his strong head, clear brain, cool
self-possession; ----, modest, sensitive, and underrated; ----, the
mouth-piece of the debating clubs, noisy, vaporous, and
democratic; and, so, following. Then I could see them receiving
their A.B.'s from the dignified, feudal-looking President, with
his ``auctoritate mihi commiss,'' and walking off the stage with
their diplomas in their hands; while upon the same day their
classmate was walking up and down California beach with a hide
upon his head.

Every watch below, for a week, I pored over these papers, until I
was sure there could be nothing in them that had escaped my
attention, and was ashamed to keep them any longer.

Saturday, March 5th. This was an important day in our almanac, for
it was on this day that we were first assured that our voyage was
really drawing to a close. The captain gave orders to have the
ship ready for getting under way; and observed that there was a
good breeze to take us down to San Pedro. Then we were not going
up to windward. Thus much was certain, and was soon known fore and
aft; and when we went in the gig to take him off, he shook hands
with the people on the beach, and said that he did not expect to
see Santa Barbara again. This settled the matter, and sent a
thrill of pleasure through the heart of every one in the boat. We
pulled off with a will, saying to ourselves (I can speak for
myself at least), ``Good by, Santa Barbara! This is the last pull
here! No more duckings in your breakers, and slipping from your
cursed southeasters!'' The news was soon known aboard, and put
life into everything when we were getting under way. Each one was
taking his last look at the Mission, the town, the breakers on the
beach, and swearing that no money would make him ship to see them
again; and when all hands tallied on to the cat-fall, the chorus
of ``Time for us to go!'' was raised for the first time, and
joined in, with full swing, by everybody. One would have thought
we were on our voyage home, so near did it seem to us, though
there were yet three months for us on the coast.

We left here the young Englishman, George Marsh, of whom I have
before spoken, who was wrecked upon the Pelew Islands. He left us
to take the berth of second mate on board the Ayacucho, which was
lying in port. He was well qualified for this post, and his
education would enable him to rise to any situation on board ship.
I felt really sorry to part from him. There was something about
him which excited my curiosity; for I could not, for a moment,
doubt that he was well born, and, in early life, well bred. There
was the latent gentleman about him, and the sense of honor, and no
little of the pride, of a young man of good family. The situation
was offered him only a few hours before we sailed; and though he
must give up returning to America, yet I have no doubt that the
change from a dog's berth to an officer's was too agreeable to his
feelings to be declined. We pulled him on board the Ayacucho, and
when he left the boat he gave each of its crew a piece of money
except myself, and shook hands with me, nodding his head, as much
as to say ``We understand each other,'' and sprang on board. Had I
known, an hour sooner, that he was to leave us, I would have made
an effort to get from him the true history of his birth and early
life. He knew that I had no faith in the story which he told the
crew about them, and perhaps, in the moment of parting from me,
probably forever, he would have given me the true account. Whether
I shall ever meet him again, or whether his manuscript narrative
of his adventures in the Pelew Islands, which would be creditable
to him and interesting to the world, will ever see the light, I
cannot tell. His is one of those cases which are more numerous
than those suppose who have never lived anywhere but in their own
homes, and never walked but in one line from their cradles to
their graves. We must come down from our heights, and leave our
straight paths for the by-ways and low places of life, if we would
learn truths by strong contrasts; and in hovels, in forecastles,
and among our own outcasts in foreign lands, see what has been
wrought among our fellow-creatures by accident, hardship, or vice.

Two days brought us to San Pedro, and two days more (to our no
small joy) gave us our last view of that place, which was
universally called the hell of California, and seemed designed in
every way for the wear and tear of sailors. Not even the last view
could bring out one feeling of regret. No thanks, thought I, as we
left the hated shores in the distance, for the hours I have walked
over your stones barefooted, with hides on my head,-- for the
burdens I have carried up your steep, muddy hill,-- for the
duckings in your surf; and for the long days and longer nights
passed on your desolate hill, watching piles of hides, hearing the
sharp bark of your eternal coyotes, and the dismal hooting of your

As I bade good by to each successive place, I felt as though one
link after another were struck from the chain of my servitude.
Having kept close in shore for the land-breeze, we passed the
Mission of San Juan Capistrano the same night, and saw distinctly,
by the bright moonlight, the cliff which I had gone down by a pair
of halyards in search of a few paltry hides.

``Forsan et haec olim,''

thought I, and took my last look of that place too. And on the
next morning we were under the high point of San Diego. The flood
tide took us swiftly in, and we came-to opposite our hide-house,
and prepared to get everything in trim for a long stay. This was
our last port. Here we were to discharge everything from the ship,
clean her out, smoke her, take in our hides, wood, and water, and
set sail for Boston. While all this was doing, we were to lie
still in one place, the port a safe one, and no fear of
southeasters. Accordingly, having picked out a good berth in the
stream, with a smooth beach opposite for a landing-place, and
within two cables' length of our hide-house, we moored ship,
unbent the sails, sent down the top-gallant-yards and the
studding-sail booms, and housed the top-gallant-masts. The boats
were then hove out and all the sails, the spare spars, the stores,
the rigging not rove, and, in fact, everything which was not in
daily use, sent ashore, and stowed away in the house. Then went
our hides and horns, and we left hardly anything in the ship but
her ballast, and this we made preparations to heave out the next
day. At night, after we had knocked off, and were sitting round in
the forecastle, smoking and talking, and taking sailor's pleasure,
we congratulated ourselves upon being in that situation in which
we had wished ourselves every time we had come into San Diego.
``If we were only here for the last time,'' we had often said,
``with our top-gallant-masts housed and our sails unbent!''-- and
now we had our wish. Six weeks, or two months, of the hardest work
we had yet seen, but not the most disagreeable or trying, was
before us, and then-- ``Good by to California!''


We turned-in early, knowing that we might expect an early call;
and sure enough, before the stars had quite faded, ``All hands
ahoy!'' and we were turned-to, heaving out ballast. A regulation
of the port forbids any ballast to be thrown overboard;
accordingly, our long-boat was lined inside with rough boards and
brought alongside the gangway, but where one tubful went into the
boat twenty went overboard. This is done by every vessel, as it
saves more than a week of labor, which would be spent in loading
the boats, rowing them to the point, and unloading them. When any
people from the presidio were on board, the boat was hauled up and
the ballast thrown in; but when the coast was clear, she was
dropped astern again, and the ballast fell overboard. This is one
of those petty frauds which many vessels practise in ports of
inferior foreign nations, and which are lost sight of among the
deeds of greater weight which are hardly less common. Fortunately,
a sailor, not being a free agent in work aboard ship, is not
accountable; yet the fact of being constantly employed, without
thought, in such things, begets an indifference to the rights of

Friday, and a part of Saturday, we were engaged in this work,
until we had thrown out all but what we wanted under our cargo on
the passage home; when, as the next day was Sunday, and a good day
for smoking ship, we cleared everything out of the cabin and
forecastle, made a slow fire of charcoal, birch bark, brimstone,
and other matters, on the ballast in the bottom of the hold,
calked up the hatches and every open seam, and pasted over the
cracks of the windows, and the slides of the scuttles and
companion-way. Wherever smoke was seen coming out, we calked and
pasted and, so far as we could, made the ship smoke tight. The
captain and officers slept under the awning which was spread over
the quarter-deck; and we stowed ourselves away under an old
studding-sail, which we drew over one side of the forecastle. The
next day, from fear that something might happen in the way of
fire, orders were given for no one to leave the ship, and, as the
decks were lumbered up, we could not wash them down, so we had
nothing to do all day long. Unfortunately, our books were where we
could not get at them, and we were turning about for something to
do, when one man recollected a book he had left in the galley. He
went after it, and it proved to be Woodstock. This was a great
windfall, and as all could not read it at once, I, being the
scholar of the company, was appointed reader. I got a knot of six
or eight about me, and no one could have had a more attentive
audience. Some laughed at the ``scholars,'' and went over the
other side of the forecastle to work and spin their yarns; but I
carried the day, and had the cream of the crew for my hearers.
Many of the reflections, and the political parts, I omitted, but
all the narrative they were delighted with; especially the
descriptions of the Puritans, and the sermons and harangues of the
Round-head soldiers. The gallantry of Charles, Dr. Radcliffe's
plots, the knavery of ``trusty Tompkins,''-- in fact, every part
seemed to chain their attention. Many things which, while I was
reading, I had a misgiving about, thinking them above their
tastes, I was surprised to find them enter into completely.

I read nearly all day, until sundown; when, as soon as supper was
over, as I had nearly finished, they got a light from the galley;
and, by skipping what was less interesting, I carried them through
to the marriage of Everard, and the restoration of Charles the
Second, before eight o'clock.

The next morning, we took the battens from the hatches, and opened
the ship. A few stifled rats were found; and what bugs,
cockroaches, fleas, and other vermin there might have been on
board must have unrove their life-lines before the hatches were
opened. The ship being now ready, we covered the bottom of the
hold over, fore and aft, with dried brush for dunnage, and, having
levelled everything away, we were ready to take in our cargo. All
the hides that had been collected since the California left the
coast (a little more than two years), amounting to about forty
thousand, had been cured, dried, and stowed away in the house,
waiting for our good ship to take them to Boston.

Now began the operation of taking in our cargo, which kept us hard
at work, from the gray of the morning till starlight, for six
weeks, with the exception of Sundays, and of just time to swallow
our meals. To carry the work on quicker, a division of labor was
made. Two men threw the hides down from the piles in the house,
two more picked them up and put them on a long horizontal pole,
raised a few feet from the ground, where they were beaten by two
more with flails, somewhat like those used in threshing wheat.
When beaten, they were taken from this pole by two more, and
placed upon a platform of boards; and ten or a dozen men, with
their trousers rolled up, and hides upon their heads, were
constantly going back and forth from the platform to the boat,
which was kept off where she would just float. The throwing the
hides upon the pole was the most difficult work, and required a
sleight of hand which was only to be got by long practice. As I
was known for a hide-curer, this post was assigned to me, and I
continued at it for six or eight days, tossing, in that time, from
eight to ten thousand hides, until my wrists became so lame that I
gave in, and was transferred to the gang that was employed in
filling the boats, where I remained for the rest of the time. As
we were obliged to carry the hides on our heads from fear of their
getting wet, we each had a piece of sheepskin sewed into the
inside of our hats, with the wool next our heads, and thus were
able to bear the weight, day after day, which might otherwise have
worn off our hair, and borne hard upon our skulls. Upon the whole
ours was the best berth, for though the water was nipping cold,
early in the morning and late at night, and being so continually
wet was rather an exposure, yet we got rid of the constant dust
and dirt from the beating of the hides, and, being all of us young
and hearty, did not mind the exposure. The older men of the crew,
whom it would have been imprudent to keep in the water, remained
on board with the mate, to stow the hides away, as fast as they
were brought off by the boats.

We continued at work in this manner until the lower hold was
filled to within four feet of the beams, when all hands were
called aboard to begin steeving. As this is a peculiar operation,
it will require a minute description.

Before stowing the hides, as I have said, the ballast is levelled
off, just above the keelson, and then loose dunnage is placed upon
it, on which the hides rest. The greatest care is used in stowing,
to make the ship hold as many hides as possible. It is no mean
art, and a man skilled in it is an important character in
California. Many a dispute have I heard raging high between
professed ``beach-combers,'' as to whether the hides should be
stowed ``shingling,'' or ``back-to-back and flipper-to-flipper'';
upon which point there was an entire and bitter division of
sentiment among the savans. We adopted each method at different
periods of the stowing, and parties ran high in the forecastle,
some siding with ``old Bill'' in favor of the former, and others
scouting him and relying upon ``English Bob'' of the Ayacucho, who
had been eight years in California, and was willing to risk his
life and limb for the latter method. At length a compromise was
effected, and a middle course of shifting the ends and backs at
every lay was adopted, which worked well, and which each party
granted was better than that of the other, though inferior to its

Having filled the ship up, in this way, to within four feet of her
beams, the process of steeving began, by which a hundred hides are
got into a place where scarce one could be forced by hand, and
which presses the hides to the utmost, sometimes starting the
beams of the ship,-- resembling in its effects the jack-screws
which are used in stowing cotton. Each morning we went ashore, and
beat and brought off as many hides as we could steeve in a day,
and, after breakfast, went down into the hold, where we remained
at work until night, except a short spell for dinner. The length
of the hold, from stem to stern, was floored off level; and we
began with raising a pile in the after part, hard against the
bulkhead of the run, and filling it up to the beams, crowding in
as many as we could by hand and pushing in with oars, when a large
``book'' was made of from twenty-five to fifty hides, doubled at
the backs, and placed one within another, so as to leave but one
outside hide for the book. An opening was then made between two
hides in the pile, and the back of the outside hide of the book
inserted. Above and below this book were placed smooth strips of
wood, well greased, called ``ways,'' to facilitate the sliding in
of the book. Two long, heavy spars, called steeves, made of the
strongest wood, and sharpened off like a wedge at one end, were
placed with their wedge ends into the inside of the hide which was
the centre of the book, and to the other end of each straps were
fitted, into which large tackles[1] were hooked, composed each of
two huge purchase blocks, one hooked to the strap on the end of
the steeve, and the other into a dog, fastened into one of the
beams, as far aft as it could be got. When this was arranged, and
the ways greased upon which the book was to slide, the falls of
the tackles were stretched forward, and all hands tallied on, and
bowsed away upon them until the book was well entered, when these
tackles were nippered, straps and toggles clapped upon the falls,
and two more luff tackles hooked on, with dogs, in the same
manner; and thus, by luff upon luff, the power was multiplied,
until into a pile in which one hide more could not be crowded by
hand a hundred or a hundred and fifty were often driven by this
complication of purchases. When the last luff was hooked on, all
hands were called to the rope,-- cook, steward, and all,-- and
ranging ourselves at the falls, one behind the other, sitting down
on the hides, with our heads just even with the beams, we set taut
upon the tackles, and striking up a song, and all lying back at
the chorus, we bowsed the tackles home, and drove the large books
chock in out of sight.

The sailors' songs for capstans and falls are of a peculiar kind,
having a chorus at the end of each line. The burden is usually
sung by one alone, and, at the chorus, all hands join in,-- and,
the louder the noise, the better. With us, the chorus seemed
almost to raise the decks of the ship, and might be heard at a
great distance ashore. A song is as necessary to sailors as the
drum and fife to a soldier. They must pull together as soldiers
must step in time, and they can't pull in time, or pull with a
will, without it. Many a time, when a thing goes heavy, with one
fellow yo-ho-ing, a lively song, like ``Heave, to the girls!''
``Nancy O!'' ``Jack Crosstree,'' ``Cheerly, men,'' &c., has put
life and strength into every arm. We found a great difference in
the effect of the various songs in driving in the hides. Two or
three songs would be tried, one after the other, with no effect,--
not an inch could be got upon the tackles; when a new song, struck
up, seemed to hit the humor of the moment, and drove the tackles
``two blocks'' at once. ``Heave round hearty!'' ``Captain gone
ashore!'' ``Dandy ship and a dandy crew,'' and the like, might do
for common pulls, but on an emergency, when we wanted a heavy,
``raise-the-dead pull,'' which should start the beams of the ship,
there was nothing like ``Time for us to go!'' ``Round the
corner,'' ``Tally high ho! you know,'' or ``Hurrah! hurrah! my
hearty bullies!''

This was the most lively part of our work. A little boating and
beach work in the morning; then twenty or thirty men down in a
close hold, where we were obliged to sit down and slide about,
passing hides, and rowsing about the great steeves, tackles, and
dogs, singing out at the falls, and seeing the ship filling up
every day. The work was as hard as it could well be. There was not
a moment's cessation from Monday morning till Saturday night, when
we were generally beaten out, and glad to have a full night's
rest, a wash and shift of clothes, and a quiet Sunday. During all
this time-- which would have startled Dr. Graham-- we lived upon
almost nothing but fresh beef; fried beefsteaks, three times a
day,-- morning, noon, and night. At morning and night we had a
quart of tea to each man, and an allowance of about a pound of
hard bread a day; but our chief article of food was beef. A mess,
consisting of six men, had a large wooden kid piled up with
beefsteaks, cut thick, and fried in fat, with the grease poured
over them. Round this we sat, attacking it with our jack-knives
and teeth, and with the appetite of young lions, and sent back an
empty kid to the galley. This was done three times a day. How many
pounds each man ate in a day I will not attempt to compute. A
whole bullock (we ate liver and all) lasted us but four days. Such
devouring of flesh, I will venture to say, is not often seen. What
one man ate in a day, over a hearty man's allowance, would make an
English peasant's heart leap into his mouth. Indeed, during all
the time we were upon the coast, our principal food was fresh
beef, and every man had perfect health; but this was a time of
especial devouring, and what we should have done without meat I
cannot tell. Once or twice, when our bullocks failed, and we were
obliged to make a meal upon dry bread and water, it seemed like
feeding upon shavings. Light and dry, feeling unsatisfied, and, at
the same time, full, we were glad to see four quarters of a
bullock, just killed, swinging from the fore-top. Whatever
theories may be started by sedentary men, certainly no men could
have gone through more hard work and exposure for sixteen months
in more perfect health, and without ailings and failings, than our
ship's crew, let them have lived upon Hygeia's own baking and

Friday, April 15th. Arrived, brig Pilgrim, from the windward. It
was a sad sight for her crew to see us getting ready to go off the
coast, while they, who had been longer on the coast than the
Alert, were condemned to another year's hard service. I spent an
evening on board, and found them making the best of the matter,
and determined to rough it out as they might. But Stimson, after
considerable negotiating and working, had succeeded in persuading
my English friend, Tom Harris,-- my companion in the anchor watch,--
for thirty dollars, some clothes, and an intimation from Captain
Faucon that he should want a second mate before the voyage was
over, to take his place in the brig as soon as she was ready to go
up to windward.

The first opportunity I could get to speak to Captain Faucon, I
asked him to step up to the oven and look at Hope, whom he knew
well, having had him on board his vessel. He went to see him at
once, and said that he was doing pretty well, but there was so
little medicine on board the brig, and she would be so long on the
coast, that he could spare none for him, but that Captain Arthur
would take care of him when he came down in the California, which
would be in a week or more. I had been to see Hope the first night
after we got into San Diego this last time, and had frequently
since spent the early part of a night in the oven. I hardly
expected, when I left him to go to windward, to find him alive
upon my return. He was certainly as low as he could well be when I
left him, and what would be the effect of the medicines that I
gave him I hardly then dared to conjecture. Yet I knew that he
must die without them. I was not a little rejoiced, therefore, and
relieved, upon our return, to see him decidedly better. The
medicines were strong, and took hold and gave a check to the
disorder which was destroying him; and, more than that, they had
begun the work of exterminating it. I shall never forget the
gratitude that he expressed. All the Kanakas attributed his escape
solely to my knowledge, and would not be persuaded that I had not
all the secrets of the physical system open to me and under my
control. My medicines, however, were gone, and no more could be
got from the ship, so that his life was left to hang upon the
arrival of the California.

Sunday, April 24th. We had now been nearly seven weeks in San
Diego, and had taken in the greater part of our cargo, and were
looking out every day for the arrival of the California, which had
our agent on board; when, this afternoon, some Kanakas, who had
been over the hill for rabbits and to fight rattlesnakes, came
running down the path, singing out ``Kail ho!'' with all their
might. Mr. Hatch, our third mate, was ashore, and, asking them
particularly about the size of the sail, &c., and learning that it
was ``Moku-- Nui Moku,'' hailed our ship, and said that the
California was on the other side of the point. Instantly, all
hands were turned up, the bow guns run out and loaded, the ensign
and broad pennant set, the yards squared by lifts and braces, and
everything got ready to make a fair appearance. The instant she
showed her nose round the point we began our salute. She came in
under top-gallant-sails, clewed up and furled her sails in good
order, and came-to within swinging distance of us. It being
Sunday, and nothing to do, all hands were on the forecastle,
criticising the new comer. She was a good, substantial ship, not
quite so long as the Alert, wall-sided and kettle-bottomed, after
the latest fashion of south-shore cotton and sugar wagons; strong,
too, and tight, and a good average sailer, but with no pretensions
to beauty, and nothing in the style of a ``crack ship.'' Upon the
whole, we were perfectly satisfied that the Alert might hold up
her head with a ship twice as smart as she.

At night some of us got a boat and went on board, and found a
large, roomy forecastle (for she was squarer forward than the
Alert), and a crew of a dozen or fifteen men and boys sitting
around on their chests, smoking and talking, and ready to give a
welcome to any of our ship's company. It was just seven months
since they left Boston, which seemed but yesterday to us.
Accordingly, we had much to ask; for though we had seen the
newspapers which she had brought, yet these were the very men who
had been in Boston, and seen everything with their own eyes. One
of the green hands was a Boston boy, from one of the public
schools, and, of course, knew many things which we wished to ask
about, and, on inquiring the names of our two Boston boys, found
that they had been school-mates of his. Our men had hundreds of
questions to ask about Ann Street, the boarding-houses, the ships
in port, the rate of wages, and other matters.

Among her crew were two English man-of-war's-men, so that, of
course, we soon had music. They sang in the true sailor's style,
and the rest of the crew, which was a remarkably musical one,
joined in the choruses. They had many of the latest sailor songs,
which had not yet got about among our merchantmen, and which they
were very choice of. They began soon after we came on board, and
kept it up until after two bells, when the second mate came
forward and called ``the Alerts away!'' Battle-songs,
drinking-songs, boat-songs, love-songs, and everything else, they
seemed to have a complete assortment of, and I was glad to find
that ``All in the Downs,'' ``Poor Tom Bowline,'' ``The Bay of
Biscay,'' ``List, ye Landsmen!'' and other classical songs of the
sea, still held their places. In addition to these, they had
picked up at the theatres and other places a few songs of a little
more genteel cast, which they were very proud of; and I shall
never forget hearing an old salt, who had broken his voice by hard
drinking on shore, and bellowing from the mast-head in a hundred
northwesters, singing-- with all manner of ungovernable trills and
quavers, in the high notes breaking into a rough falsetto, and in
the low ones growling along like the dying away of the boatswain's
``All hands ahoy!'' down the hatchway-- ``O no, we never mention

``Perhaps, like me, he struggles with
Each feeling of regret;
But if he's loved as I have loved,
He never can forget!''

The last line he roared out at the top of his voice, breaking each
word into half a dozen syllables. This was very popular, and Jack
was called upon every night to give them his ``sentimental song.''
No one called for it more loudly than I, for the complete
absurdity of the execution, and the sailors' perfect satisfaction
in it, were ludicrous beyond measure.

The next day the California began unloading her cargo; and her
boats' crews, in coming and going, sang their boat-songs, keeping
time with their oars. This they did all day long for several days,
until their hides were all discharged, when a gang of them were
sent on board the Alert to help us steeve our hides. This was a
windfall for us, for they had a set of new songs for the capstan
and fall, and ours had got nearly worn out by six weeks' constant
use. I have no doubt that this timely re-enforcement of songs
hastened our work several days.

Our cargo was now nearly all taken in, and my old friend, the
Pilgrim, having completed her discharge, unmoored, to set sail the
next morning on another long trip to windward. I was just thinking
of her hard lot, and congratulating myself upon my escape from
her, when I received a summons into the cabin. I went aft, and
there found, seated round the cabin table, my own captain, Captain
Faucon of the Pilgrim, and Mr. Robinson, the agent. Captain
Thompson turned to me and asked abruptly,--

``Dana, do you want to go home in the ship?''

``Certainly, sir,'' said I; ``I expect to go home in the ship.''

``Then,'' said he, ``you must get some one to go in your place on
board the Pilgrim.''

I was so completely ``taken aback'' by this sudden intimation that
for a moment I could make no reply. I thought it would be hopeless
to attempt to prevail upon any of the ship's crew to take twelve
months more upon California in the brig. I knew, too, that Captain
Thompson had received orders to bring me home in the Alert, and he
had told me, when I was at the hide-house, that I was to go home
in her; and even if this had not been so, it was cruel to give me
no notice of the step they were going to take, until a few hours
before the brig would sail. As soon as I had got my wits about me,
I put on a bold front, and told him plainly that I had a letter in
my chest informing me that he had been written to by the owners in
Boston to bring me home in the ship; and, moreover, that he had
told me that he had such instructions, and that I was to return in
the ship.

To have this told him, and to be opposed in such a manner, was
more than my lord paramount had been used to. He turned fiercely
upon me, and tried to look me down, and face me out of my
statement; but finding that that wouldn't do, and that I was
entering upon my defence in such a way as would show to the other
two that he was in the wrong, he changed his ground, and pointed
to the shipping-papers of the Pilgrim, from which my name had
never been erased, and said that there was my name,-- that I
belonged to her,-- that he had an absolute discretionary power,--
and, in short, that I must be on board the Pilgrim by the next
morning with my chest and hammock, or have some one ready to go in
my place, and that he would not hear another word from me. No
court of star chamber could proceed more summarily with a poor
devil than this trio was about to do with me; condemning me to a
punishment worse than a Botany Bay exile, and to a fate which
might alter the whole current of my future life; for two years
more in California might have made me a sailor for the rest of my
days. I felt all this, and saw the necessity of being determined.
I repeated what I had said, and insisted upon my right to return
in the ship.

``I raised my arm, and tauld my crack,
Before them a'.''

But it would have all availed me nothing had I been ``some poor
body'' before this absolute, domineering tribunal. But they saw
that I would not go, unless ``vi et armis,'' and they knew that I
had friends and interest enough at home to make them suffer for
any injustice they might do me. It was probably this that turned
the scale; for the captain changed his tone entirely, and asked me
if, in case any one went in my place, I would give him the same
sum that Stimson gave Harris to exchange with him. I told them
that if any one was sent on board the brig I should pity him, and
be willing to help him to that, or almost any amount; but would
not speak of it as an exchange.

``Very well,'' said he. ``Go forward about your business, and send
English Ben here to me!''

I went forward with a light heart, but feeling as much anger and
contempt as I could well contain between my teeth. English Ben was
sent aft, and in a few moments came forward, looking as though he
had received his sentence to be hanged. The captain had told him
to get his things ready to go on board the brig next morning; and
that I would give him thirty dollars and a suit of clothes. The
hands had ``knocked off'' for dinner, and were standing about the
forecastle, when Ben came forward and told his story. I could see
plainly that it made a great excitement, and that, unless I
explained the matter to them, the feeling would be turned against
me. Ben was a poor English boy, a stranger in Boston, and without
friends or money; and, being an active, willing lad, and a good
sailor for his years, was a general favorite. ``O yes!'' said the
crew; ``the captain has let you off because you are a gentleman's
son, and taken Ben because he is poor, and has got nobody to say a
word for him.'' I knew that this was too true to be answered, but
I excused myself from any blame, and told them that I had a right
to go home, at all events. This pacified them a little, but Jack
had got a notion that a poor lad was to be imposed upon, and did
not distinguish very clearly; and though I knew that I was in no
fault, and, in fact, had barely escaped the grossest injustice,
yet I felt that my berth was getting to be a disagreeable one. The
notion that I was not ``one of them,'' which, by a participation
in all their labor and hardships, and having no favor shown me,
and never asserting myself among them, had been laid asleep, was
beginning to revive. But far stronger than any feeling for myself
was the pity I felt for the poor lad. He had depended upon going
home in the ship; and from Boston was going immediately to
Liverpool, to see his friends. Besides this, having begun the
voyage with very few clothes, he had taken up the greater part of
his wages in the slop-chest, and it was every day a losing concern
to him; and, like all the rest of the crew, he had a hearty hatred
of California, and the prospect of eighteen months or two years
more of hide droghing seemed completely to break down his spirit.
I had determined not to go myself, happen what would, and I knew
that the captain would not dare to attempt to force me. I knew,
too, that the two captains had agreed together to get some one,
and that unless I could prevail upon somebody to go voluntarily,
there would be no help for Ben. From this consideration, though I
had said that I would have nothing to do with an exchange, I did
my best to get some one to go voluntarily. I offered to give an
order upon the owners in Boston for six months' wages, and also
all the clothes, books, and other matters which I should not want
upon the voyage home. When this offer was published in the ship,
and the case of poor Ben set forth in strong colors, several, who
would not dream of going themselves, were busy in talking it up to
others, who, they thought, might be tempted to accept it; and, at
length, a Boston boy, a harum-scarum lad, a great favorite, Harry
May, whom we called Harry Bluff, and who did not care what country
or ship he was in, if he had clothes enough and money enough,--
partly from pity for Ben, and partly from the thought he should
have ``cruising money'' for the rest of his stay,-- came forward,
and offered to go and ``sling his hammock in the bloody hooker.''
Lest his purpose should cool, I signed an order for the sum upon
the owners in Boston, gave him all the clothes I could spare, and
sent him aft to the captain, to let him know what had been done.
The skipper accepted the exchange, and was, doubtless, glad to
have it pass off so easily. At the same time he cashed the order,
which was indorsed to him,[2] and the next morning the lad went
aboard the brig, apparently in good spirits, having shaken hands
with each of us and wished us a pleasant passage home, jingling
the money in his pockets, and calling out ``Never say die, while
there's a shot in the locker.'' The same boat carried off Harris,
my old watchmate, who had previously made an exchange with my
friend Stimson.

I was sorry to part with Harris. Nearly two hundred hours (as we
had calculated it) had we walked the ship's deck together, at
anchor watch, when all hands were below, and talked over and over
every subject which came within the ken of either of us. He gave
me a strong gripe with his hand; and I told him, if he came to
Boston, not to fail to find me out, and let me see my old
watchmate. The same boat brought on board Stimson, who had begun
the voyage with me from Boston, and, like me, was going back to
his family and to the society in which he had been born and
brought up. We congratulated each other upon finding what we had
long talked over and wished for thus brought about; and none on
board the ship were more glad than ourselves to see the old brig
standing round the point, under full sail. As she passed abreast
of us, we all collected in the waist, and gave her three loud,
hearty cheers, waving our hats in the air. Her crew sprang into
the rigging and chains, and answered us with three as loud, to
which we, after the nautical custom, gave one in return. I took my
last look of their familiar faces as they passed over the rail,
and saw the old black cook put his head out of the galley, and
wave his cap over his head. Her crew flew aloft to loose the
top-gallant-sails and royals; the two captains waved their hands
to each other; and, in ten minutes, we saw the last inch of her
white canvas, as she rounded the point.

Relieved as I was to see her well off (and I felt like one who had
just sprung from an iron trap which was closing upon him), I had
yet a feeling of regret at taking the last look at the old craft
in which I had spent a year, and the first year, of my sailor's
life, which had been my first home in the new world into which I
had entered, and with which I had associated so many events,-- my
first leaving home, my first crossing the equator, Cape Horn, Juan
Fernandez, death at sea, and other things, serious and common.
Yet, with all this, and the sentiment I had for my old shipmates
condemned to another term of California life, the thought that we
were done with it, and that one week more would see us on our way
to Boston, was a cure for everything.

Friday, May 6th, completed the getting in of our cargo, and was a
memorable day in our calendar. The time when we were to take in
our last hide we had looked forward to, for sixteen months, as the
first bright spot. When the last hide was stowed away, the hatches
calked down, the tarpaulins battened on to them, the long-boat
hoisted in and secured, and the decks swept down for the night,--
the chief mate sprang upon the top of the long-boat, called all
hands into the waist, and, giving us a signal by swinging his cap
over his head, we gave three long, loud cheers, which came from
the bottom of our hearts, and made the hills and valleys ring
again. In a moment we heard three in answer from the California's
crew, who had seen us taking in our long-boat; ``the cry they
heard,-- its meaning knew.''

The last week we had been occupied in taking in a supply of wood
and water for the passage home, and in bringing on board the spare
spars, sails, &c. I was sent off with a party of Indians to fill
the water-casks, at a spring about three miles from the shipping
and near the town, and was absent three days, living at the town,
and spending the daytime in filling the casks and transporting
them on ox-carts to the landing-place, whence they were taken on
board by the crew with boats. This being all done with, we gave

Book of the day: