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Chapter 10

The following morning, eight of the names that stood first on the
prison-roll were called off, to know if the men would consent to work a
liberated Swedish brig to New York. I was one of the eight, as was Jack
Mallet and Barnet. Wilcox, one of those who had gone with us to Bermuda,
had died, and the rest were left on the island. I never fell in with
Leonard Lewis, Littlefield, or any of the rest of those chaps, after I
quitted the prison. Lewis, I think, could not have lived long; and as for
Littlefield, I heard of him, afterwards, as belonging to the
Washington 74.

The Swede, whose name was the Venus, was lying at the end of Marchinton's
wharf, a place that had been so familiar to me in boyhood. We all went on
board, and I was not sorry to find that we were to haul into the stream
immediately. I had an extraordinary aversion to Halifax, which my late
confinement had not diminished, and had no wish to see a living soul in
it. Jack Mallet, however, took on himself the office of paying my sister a
visit, and of telling her where I was to be found. This he did contrary to
my wishes, and without my knowledge; though I think he meant to do me a
favour. The very day we hauled into the stream, a boat came alongside us,
and I saw, at a glance, that Harriet was in it. I said a few words to her,
requesting her not to come on board, but promising to visit her that
evening, which I did.

I stayed several hours with my sister, whom I found living with her
husband. She did not mention my father's name to me, at all; and I learned
nothing of my other friends, if I ever had any, or of my family. Her
husband was a tailor, and they gave me a good outfit of clothes, and
treated me with great kindness. It struck me that the unaccountable
silence of my father about us children, had brought my sister down in the
world a little, but it was no affair of mine; and, as for myself, I cared
for no one. After passing the evening with the family, I went on board
again, without turning to the right or left to see a single soul more.
Even the Frasers were not visited, so strong was my dislike to have
anything to do with Halifax.

The Venus took on board several passengers, among whom were three or four
officers of the navy. Lieutenant Rapp, and a midshipman Randolph were
among them, and there were also several merchant-masters of the party. We
sailed two days after I joined the brig, and had a ten or twelve days'
passage. The moment the Venus was alongside the wharf, at New York, we all
left, and found ourselves free men once more. I had been a prisoner
nineteen months, and that was quite enough for me for the remainder of
my life.

We United States' men reported ourselves, the next day to Captain Evans,
the commandment of the Brooklyn Yard, and, after giving in our names, we
were advised to go on board the Epervier, which was then fitting out for
the Mediterranean, under the command of Captain Downes. To this we
objected, however, as we wanted a cruise ashore, before we took to the
water again. This was a lucky decision of ours, though scarcely to be
defended as to our views: the Epervier being lost, and all hands
perishing, a few months later, on her return passage from the Straits.

Captain Evans then directed us to report ourselves daily, which we did.
But the press of business at Washington prevented our cases from being
attended to; and being destitute of money, while wages were high, we
determined, with Captain Evans' approbation, to make a voyage, each, in
the merchant service, and to get our accounts settled on our return. Jack
Mallet, Barnet and I, shipped, therefore, in another brig called the
Venus, that was bound on a sealing voyage, as was thought, in some part of
the world where seals were said to be plenty. We were ignorant of the
work, or we might have discovered there was a deception intended, from the
outfit of the vessel. She had no salt even, while she had plenty of
cross-cut saws, iron dogs, chains, &c. The brig sailed, however, and stood
across the Atlantic, as if in good earnest. When near the Cape de Verds,
the captain called us aft, and told us he thought the season too far
advanced for sealing, and that, if we would consent, he would run down to
St. Domingo, and make an arrangement with some one there to cut mahogany
on shares, with fustick and lignum-vitŠ. The secret was now out; but what
could we poor salts do? The work we were asked to do turned out to be
extremely laborious; and I suppose we had been deceived on account of the
difficulty of getting men, just at that time, for such a voyage. There we
were, in the midst of the ocean, and we agreed to the proposal, pretty
much as a matter of course.

The brig now bore up, and stood for St. Domingo. She first went in to the
city of St. Domingo, where the arrangements were made, and Spaniards were
got to help to cut the wood, when we sailed for a bay, of which I have
forgotten the name, and anchored near the shore. The trees were sawed
down, about ten miles up a river, and floated to its bar, across which
they had to be hauled by studding-sail halyards, through the surf; one man
hauling two logs at a time, made into a sort of raft. Sharks abounded, and
we had to keep a bright look-out, lest they got a leg while we were busy
with the logs. I had a narrow escape from two while we lay at St. Domingo.
A man fell overboard, and I went after him, succeeding in catching the
poor fellow. A boat was dropped astern to pick us up, and, as we hauled
the man in, two large sharks came up close alongside. This affair had set
us drinking, and I got a good deal of punch aboard. The idea of remaining
in the brig was unpleasant to me, and I had thought of quitting her for
some days. A small schooner bound to America, and short of hands, lay near
us; and I had told the captain I would come and join him that night. Jack
Mallet and the rest tried to persuade me not to go, but I had too much
punch and grog in me to listen to reason. When all hands aft were asleep,
therefore, I let myself down into the water, and swam quite a
cable's-length to the schooner. One of the men was looking out for me. He
heard me in the water, and stood ready to receive me. As I drew near the
schooner, this man threw me a rope, and helped me up the side, but, as
soon as I was on the deck, he told me to look behind me. I did so, and
there I saw an enormous shark swimming about, a fellow that was sixteen or
eighteen feet long. This shark, I was told, had kept company with me as
long as I had been in sight from the schooner. I cannot well describe the
effect that was produced on me by this discovery. When I entered the
water, I was under the influence of liquor, but this escape sobered me in
a minute; so much so, indeed, that I insisted on being put in a boat, and
sent back to the brig, which was done. I was a little influenced in this,
however, by some reluctance that was manifested to keep me on board the
schooner. I got on board the Venus without being discovered, and came to a
resolution to stick by the craft until the voyage was up.

We filled up with mahogany, and took in a heavy deck-load, in the course
of four months, which was a most laborious process. When ready, the brig
sailed for New York, We encountered a heavy gale, about a week out, which
swept away our deck-load, bulwarks, &c. At this time, the master,
supercargo, mate, cook, and three of the crew, were down with the fever;
leaving Mallet, Barnet and myself, to take care of the brig. We three
brought the vessel up as far as Barnegat, where we procured assistance,
and she arrived safe at the quarantine ground.

As soon as we got pratique, Mallet, Barnet and myself, went up to town to
look after our affairs, leaving the brig below. The owners gave us thirty
dollars each, to begin upon. We ascertained that our landlord had received
our wages from government, and held it ready for us, sailor fashion. I
also sold my share in the Venus' voyage for one hundred and twenty
dollars. This gave me, in all, about five hundred dollars, which money
lasted me between five and six weeks! How true is it, that "sailors make
their money like horses, and spend it like asses!" I cannot say this
prodigal waste of my means afforded me any substantial gratification. I
have experienced more real pleasure from one day passed in a way of which
my conscience could approve, than from all the loose and thoughtless
follies, in which I was then in the habit of indulging when ashore, of a
whole life. The manner in which this hard-earned gold was thrown away, may
serve to warn some brother tar of the dangers that beset me; and let the
reader understand the real wants of so large a body of his

On turning out in the morning, I felt an approach to that which seamen
call the "horrors," and continued in this state, until I had swallowed
several glasses of rum. I had no appetite for breakfast, and life was
sustained principally by drink. Half of the time I ate no dinner, and when
I did, it was almost drowned in grog. Occasionally I drove out in a coach,
or a gig, and generally had something extra to pay for damages. One of
these cruises cost me forty dollars, and I shall always think I was given
a horse that sailed crab-fashion, on purpose to do me out of the money. At
night, I generally went to the play, and felt bound to treat the landlord
and his family to tickets and refreshments. We always had a coach to go
in, and it was a reasonable night that cost me only ten dollars. At first
I was a sort of "king among beggars;" but as the money went, Ned's
importance went with it, until, one day, the virtuous landlord intimated
to me that it would be well, as I happened to be sober, to overhaul our

accounts. He then began to read from his books, ten dollars for this,
twenty dollars for that, and thirty for the other, until I was soon tired,
and wanted to know how much was left. I had still fifty dollars, even
according to his account of the matter; and as that might last a week,
with good management, I wanted to hear no more about the items.

All this time, I was separated from my old shipmates, being left
comparatively among strangers. Jack Mallet had gone to join his friends in
Philadelphia, and Barnet went south, whither I cannot say. I never fell in
with either of them again, it being the fate of seamen to encounter the
greatest risks and hardships in company, and then to cut adrift from each
other, with little ceremony, never to meet again. I was still young, being
scarcely two-and-twenty, and might, even then, have hauled in my oars, and
come to be an officer and a man.

As I knew I must go to sea, as soon as the accounts were balanced, I began
to think a little seriously of my prospects. Dissipation had wearied me,
and I wanted to go a voyage of a length that would prevent my falling soon
into the same course of folly and vice. I had often bitter thoughts as to
my conduct, nor was I entirely free from reflection on the subject of my
peculiar situation. I might be said to be without a friend, or relative,
in the world. "When my hat was on, my house was thatched." Of my father, I
knew nothing; I have since ascertained he must then have been dead. My
sister was little to me, and I never expected to see her again. The
separation from all my old lakers, too, gave me some trouble, for I never
met with one of them after parting from Barnet and Mallet, with the
exception of Tom Goldsmith and Jack Reilly. Tom and I fell in with each
other, on my return from St. Domingo, in the streets of New York, and had
a yarn of two hours, about old times. This was all I ever saw of Tom. He
had suffered a good deal with the English, who kept him in Kingston, Upper
Canada, until the peace, when they let him go with the rest. As for
Reilly, we have been in harbour together, in our old age, and I may speak
of him again.

Under the feelings I have mentioned, as soon as the looks of my landlord
let me know that there were no more shot in the locker, I shipped in a
South Sea whaler, named the Edward, that was expected to be absent
between two and three years. She was a small vessel, and carried only
three boats. I got a pretty good outfit from my landlord, though most of
the articles were second-hand. We parted good friends, however, and I came
back to him, and played the same silly game more than once. He was not a
bad _landlord_, as landlords then went, and I make no doubt he took better
care of my money than I should have done myself. On the whole, this class
of men are not as bad as they seem, though there are precious rascals
among them. The respectable sailor landlord is quite as good, in his way,
as one could expect, all things considered.

The voyage I made in the Edward was one of very little interest, the ship
being exceedingly successful. The usage and living were good, and the
whaling must have been good too, or we never should have been back again,
as soon as we were. We went round the Horn, and took our first whale
between the coast of South America and that of New Holland. I must have
been present at the striking of thirty fish, but never met with any
accident. I pulled a mid-ship oar, being a new hand at the business, and
had little else to do, but keep clear of the line, and look out for my
paddle. The voyage is now so common, and the mode of taking whales is so
well known, that I shall say little about either. We went off the coast of
Japan, as it is called, though a long bit from the land, and we made New
Holland, though without touching. The return passage was by the Cape of
Good Hope and St. Helena. We let go our anchor but once the whole voyage,
and that was at Puna, at the mouth of the Guayaquil river, on the coast of
Chili. We lay there a week, but, with this exception, the Edward was
actually under her canvass the whole voyage, or eighteen months. We did
intend to anchor at St. Helena, but were forbidden on account of
Bonaparte, who was then a prisoner on the Island. As we stood in, we were
met by a man-of-war brig, that kept close to us until we had sunk the
heights, on our passage off again. We were not permitted even to send a
boat in, for fresh grub.

I sold my voyage in the Edward for two hundred and fifty dollars, and went
back to my landlord, in Water street. Of course, everybody was glad to see
me, a sailor's importance in such places being estimated by the length of
his voyage. In Wall street they used to call a man "a hundred thousand
dollar man," and in Water, "an eighteen months, or a two years' voyage
man." As none but whalers, Indiamen, and Statesmen could hold out so long,
we were all A. No. 1, for a fortnight or three weeks. The man-of-war's-man
is generally most esteemed, his cruise lasting three years; the _lucky_
whaler comes next, and the Canton-man third. The Edward had been a lucky
ship, and, insomuch, I had been a lucky fellow. I behaved far better this
time, however, than I had done on my return from St. Domingo. I kept sober
more, did not spend my money as foolishly or as fast, and did not wait to
be kicked out of doors, before I thought of getting some more. When I
shipped anew, I actually left a hundred dollars behind me in my landlord's
hands; a very extraordinary thing for Jack, and what is equally worthy of
notice, I got it all again, on my next return from sea.

My steadiness was owing, in a great measure, to the following
circumstances. I fell in with two old acquaintances, who had been in
prison with me, of the names of Tibbets and Wilson. This Tibbets was not
the man who had been sent to Bermuda with me, but another of the same
name. These men had belonged to the Gov. Tompkins privateer, and had
received a considerable sum in prize-money, on returning home. They had
used their money discreetly, having purchased an English prize-brig, at a
low price, and fitted her out. On board the Tompkins, both had been
foremost hands, and in prison they had messed in our bay, so that we had
been hail-fellows-well-met; on Melville Island. After getting this brig
ready, they had been to the West Indies in her, and were now about to sail
for Ireland. They wished me to go with them, and gave me so much good
advice, on the subject of taking care of my money, that it produced the
effect I have just mentioned.

The name of the prize-brig was the Susan, though I forget from what small
eastern port she hailed. She was of about two hundred tons burthen, but
must have-been old and rotten. Tibbets was master, and Wilson was
chief-mate. I shipped as a sort of second-mate, keeping a watch, though I
lived forward at my own request. We must have sailed about January, 1818,
bound to Belfast. There were fourteen of us, altogether, on board, most of
us down-easters. Our run off the coast was with a strong north-west gale,
which compelled us to heave-to, the sea being too high for scudding.
Finding that the vessel laboured very much, however, and leaked badly, we
kept off again, and scudded for the rest of the blow. On the whole, we got
out of this difficulty pretty well. We got but two observations the whole
passage, but in the afternoon of the twenty-third day out, we made the
coast of Ireland, close aboard, in thick weather; the wind directly on
shore, blowing a gale. The brig was under close-reefed topsails, running
free, at the time, and we found it necessary to haul up. We now discovered
the defects of old canvass and old rigging, splitting the fore-topsail,
foresail, and fore-topmast-staysail, besides carrying away sheets, &c. We
succeeded in hauling up the foresail, however, and I went upon the yard
and mended it, after a fashion. It was now nearly night, and it blew in a
way "to need two men to hold one man's hair on his head." I cannot say I
thought much of our situation, my principal concern being to get below,
with some warm, dry clothes on. We saw nothing of the land after the first
half-hour, but at midnight we wore ship, and came up on the larboard tack.
The brig had hardly got round before the fore-tack went, and the foresail
split into ribands. We let the sail blow from the yard. By this time,
things began to look very serious, though, for some reason, I felt no
great alarm. The case was different with Tibbets and Wilson, who were
uneasy about Cape Clear. I had had a bit of a spat with them about waring,
believing, myself, that we should have gone clear of the Cape, on the
starboard tack. This prevented them saying much to me, and we had little
communication with each other that night. To own the truth, I was sorry I
had shipped in such a craft. Her owners were too poor to give a sea-going
vessel a proper outfit, and they were too near my own level to
create respect.

The fore-topsail had been mended as well as the foresail, and was set
anew. The sheets went, however, about two in the morning, and the sail
flew from the reef-band like a bit of muslin torn by a shop-boy. The brig
now had nothing set but a close-reefed main-topsail, and this I expected,
every minute, would follow the other canvass. It rained, blew
tremendously, and the sea was making constant breaches over us. Most of
the men were fagged out, some going below, while others, who remained on
deck, did, or _could_ do, nothing. At the same time, it was so dark that
we could not see the length of the vessel.

I now went aft to speak to Tibbets, telling him I thought it was all over
with us. He had still some hope, as the bay was deep, and he thought light
might return before we got to the bottom of it. I was of a different
opinion, believing the brig then to be within the influence of the
ground-swell, though not absolutely within the breakers. All this time the
people were quiet, and there was no drinking. Indeed, I hardly saw any one
moving about. It was an hour after the conversation with Tibbets, that I
was standing, holding on by the weather-main-clew-garnet, when I got a
glimpse of breakers directly under our lee. I sung out, "there's breakers,
and everybody must shift for himself." At the next instant, the brig rose
on a sea, settled in the trough, and struck. The blow threw me off my
feet, though I held on to the clew-garnet. Then I heard the crash of the
foremast as it went down to leeward. The brig rolled over on her
beam-ends, but righted at the next sea, drove in some distance, and down
she came again, with a force that threatened to break her up. I bethought
me of the main-mast, and managed to get forward as far as the bitts, in
order to be out of its way. It was well I did, as I felt a movement as if
her upper works were parting from the bottom. I was near no one, and the
last person I saw, or spoke to on board, was Tibbets, who was then
standing in the companion-way. This was an hour before the brig struck.

There might have been an interval of half a minute between the time I
reached the windlass, and that in which I saw a tremendous white foaming
sea rolling down upon the vessel. At this ominous sight, I instinctively
seized the bitts for protection. I can remember the rushing of the water
down upon me, and have some faint impressions of passing through a mass of
rigging, but this is all. When I came to my senses, it was in an Irish
mud-cabin, with an old woman and her daughter taking care of me. My head
was bandaged, and most of the hair had been cut off in front I was stiff
and sore all over me. Fortunately, none of my bones were broken.

The account given me of what had passed, was this. I was found by the old
man, who lived in the hut, a fisherman and the husband of my nurse, with
some other persons, lying on my face, between two shelves of rock. There
was nothing very near me, not even a bit of wood, or a rope. Two lads that
belonged to the brig were found not far from me, both alive, though both
badly hurt, one of them having had his thigh broken. Of the rest of the
fourteen souls on board the Susan, there were no traces. I never heard
that even their bodies were found. Tibbets and Wilson had gone with their
old prize, and anything but a prize did she prove to me. I lost a good
outfit, and, after belonging to her about three weeks, here was I left
naked on the shores of Ireland, I am sorry to say, my feelings were those
of repining, rather than of gratitude. Of religion I had hardly a notion,
and I am afraid that all which had been driven into me in childhood, was
already lost. In this state of mind, I naturally felt more of the
hardships I had endured, than of the mercy that had been shown me. I look
back with shame at the hardness of heart which rendered me insensible to
the many mercies I had received, in escaping so often from the perils of
my calling.

It was three days after the wreck, before I left my bed. Nothing could
have been kinder than the treatment I received from those poor Irish
people. Certainly no reward was before them, but that which Heaven gives
the merciful; and yet I could not have been more cared for, had I been
their own son. They fed me, nursed me, and warmed me, without receiving
any other return from me than my thanks. I staid with them three weeks,
doing nothing on account of the bruises I had received. The Susan's had
been a thorough wreck. Not enough of her could be found, of which to build
a launch. Her cargo was as effectually destroyed as her hull, and, to say
the truth, it took but little to break her up. As for the two lads, I
could not get as far as the cabin in which they had been put. It was two
or three miles along the coast, and, having no shoes, I could not walk
that distance over the sharp stones. Several messages passed between us,
but I never saw a single soul that belonged to the brig, after the last
look I had of Tibbets in the companion-way.

A coaster passing near the cabin, and it falling calm, the fisherman went
off to her, told my story, and got a passage for me to Liverpool. I now
took my leave of these honest people, giving them all I had--my sincere
thanks--and went on board the sloop. Here I was well treated, nor did any
one expect me to work. We reached Liverpool the second day, and I went and
hunted up Molly Hutson, the landlady with whom the crew of the Sterling
had lodged, when Captain B---- had her. The old woman helped me to some
clothes, received me well, and seemed sorry for my misfortunes. As it
would not do to remain idle, however, I shipped on board the Robert Burns,
and sailed for New York within the week. I got no wages, but met with
excellent treatment, and had a very short winter passage. In less than
three months after I left him, I was back again with my old landlord, who
gave me my hundred dollars without any difficulty. I had sailed with him
in the Sterling, and he always seemed to think of me a little differently
from what landlords generally think of Jack.

A good deal was said among my associates, now, about the advantages of
making a voyage to the coast of Ireland for the purpose of smuggling
tobacco, and I determined to try my hand at one. Of the morality of
smuggling I have nothing to say. I would not make such a voyage now, if I
know myself; but poor sailors are not taught to make just distinctions in
such things, and the merchants must take their share of the shame. I fear
there are few merchants, and fewer seamen, man-of-war officers excepted,
who will not smuggle.[13]

I laid out most of my hundred dollars, in getting a new outfit, and then
shipped in a small pilot-boat-built schooner, called the M'Donough, bound
to Ireland, to supply such honest fellows as my old fisherman with good
tobacco, cheap. Our cargo was in small bales, being the raw material,
intended to be passed by hand. We had seventeen hands before the mast, but
carried no armament, pistols, &c., excepted. The schooner sailed like a
witch, carrying only two gaff-topsails. We made the land in fourteen days
after we left the Hook, our port being Tory Island, off the north-west
coast of Ireland. We arrived in the day-time, and showed a signal, which
was answered in the course of the day, by a smoke on some rocks. A large
boat then came off to us, and we filled her with tobacco the same evening.
In the course of the night, we had despatched four or five more boats,
loaded with the same cargo; but, as day approached, we hauled our wind,
and stood off the land. Next night we went in, again, and met more boats,
and the succeeding morning we hauled off, as before. When we saw a boat,
we hailed and asked "if they were outward bound." If the answer was
satisfactory, we brailed the foresail and permitted the boat to come
alongside. In this manner we continued shoving cargo ashore, for quite a
week, sometimes falling in with only one boat of a night, and, at others,
with three or four; just as it might happen. We had got about two-thirds
of the tobacco out, and a boat had just left us, on the morning of the
sixth or seventh day, when we saw a man-of-war brig coming round Tory
Island, in chase. At this sight, we hauled up close on a wind, it blowing
very fresh. As the English never employed any but the fastest cruisers for
this station, we had a scratching time of it. The brig sailed very fast,
and out-carried us; but our little schooner held on well. For two days and
one night we had it, tack and tack, with her. The brig certainly gained on
us, our craft carrying a balanced reefed-mainsail, bonnet off the foresail
and one reef in, and bonnet off the jib. The flying-jib was inboard. At
sunset, on the second night, the brig was so near us, we could see her
people, and it was blowing fresher than ever. This was just her play,
while ours was in more moderate weather. Our skipper got uneasy, now, and
determined to try a trick. It set in dark and rainy; and, as soon as we
lost sight of the brig, we tacked, stood on a short distance, lowered
everything, and extinguished all our lights. We lay in this situation
three hours, when we stuck the craft down again for Tory Island, as
straight as we could go. I never knew what became of the brig, which may
be chasing us yet, for aught I know for I saw no more of her. Next day we
had the signal flying again, and the smoke came up from the same rock, as
before. It took us three days longer to get all the tobacco ashore, in
consequence of some trouble on the island; but it all went in the end, and
went clear, as I was told, one or two boat-loads excepted. The cargo was
no sooner out, than we made sail for New York, where we arrived in another
short passage. We were absent but little more than two months, and my
wages and presents came to near one hundred dollars. I never tried the
tobacco trade again.

James Fenimore Cooper

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