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Chapter 11

I now stayed ashore two months. I had determined to study navigation, and
to try to get off the forecastle, in which wise course I was encouraged by
several discreet friends. I had fallen in with a young woman of
respectable character and agreeable person, and, to own the truth, was
completely in irons with her. I believe a mother is a good deal more on
the look-out than a father, in such matters; for I was overhauled by the
old woman, and questioned as to my intentions about Sarah, whereas the old
man was somewhat more moderate. I confessed my wish to marry her daughter;
but the old woman thought I was too wild, which was not Sarah's opinion, I
believe. Had we been left to ourselves, we should have got married; though
I was really desirous of going out once as an officer, before I took so
important a step. I have sometimes suspected that Sarah's parents had a
hand in getting me shipped, again, as they were intimate with the captain
who now proposed to take me with him as his second-mate. I consented to
go, with some reluctance; but, on the whole, thought it was the best thing
I could do. My reluctance proceeded from desire to remain with Sarah,
when the time came; though the berth was exactly the thing I wanted,
whenever I reasoned coolly on the subject.

I shipped, accordingly, in a vessel of the Costers', called the William
and Jane, bound to Holland and Canton, as her second-mate. My leave-taking
with Sarah was very tender; and I believe we both felt much grieved at the
necessity of parting. Nothing occurred on the passage out worth
mentioning. I got along with my duty well enough, for I had been broken-in
on, board the Sterling, and one or two other vessels. We went to the
Texel, but found some difficulty in procuring dollars, which caused us to
return to New York, after getting only twenty thousand. We had no other
return cargo, with the exception of a little gin. We were absent five
months; and I found Sarah as pretty, and as true, as ever. I did not quit
the vessel, however; but, finding my knowledge of the lunars too limited,
I was obliged to go backward a little--becoming third-mate. We were a
month in New York, and it was pretty hard work to keep from eloping with
Sarah; but I clawed off the breakers as well as I could. I gave her a
silver thimble, and told her to take it to a smith, and get our joint
names cut on it, which she did. The consequences of this act will be seen
in the end.

We had a little breeze on board the ship before we could get off; the
people refusing to sail with a new first-mate that had joined her. It
ended by getting another mate, when we went to sea. I believe that no
other vessel ever went out with such articles as our crew insisted on. The
men stipulated for three quarts of water a day, and the forenoon's watch
below. All this was put in black and white, and it gave us some trouble
before we got to our destination.

Our passage out was a very long one, lasting two hundred and ten days.
When we got into the trades, we stripped one mast after the other, to a
girt-line, overhauling everything, and actually getting new gangs of
rigging up over the lower-mast-heads. We were a long time about it, but
lost little or nothing in distance, as the ship was going before the wind
the whole time, with everything packed on the masts that were rigged.
Before overhauling the rigging, we fell in with an English ship, called
the General Blucher, and kept company with her for quite a fortnight.
While the two ships were together, we were chased by a strange brig, that
kept in sight three or four days, evidently watching us, and both vessels
suspected him of being a pirate. As we had six guns, and thirty-one souls,
and the Blucher was, at least, as strong, the two captains thought, by
standing by each other, they might beat the fellow off, should he attack
us. The brig frequently came near enough to get a good look at us, and
then dropped astern. He continued this game several days, until he
suddenly hauled his wind, and left us. Our ship would have been a famous
prize; having, it was said, no less than two hundred and fifty thousand
Spanish dollars on board.

We parted company with the Blucher, in a heavy gale; our ship bearing up
for Rio. After getting rid of some of our ballast, however, and changing
the cargo of pig-lead, our vessel was easier, and did not go in. Nothing
further occurred, worth mentioning, until we got off Van Diemen's Land.
Two days after seeing the land, a boy fell from the fore-top-gallant yard,
while reeving the studding-sail halyards. I had just turned in, after
eating my dinner, having the watch below, when I heard the cry of "a man
overboard!" Running on deck, as I was, I jumped into a quarter-boat,
followed by four men, and we were immediately lowered down. The ship was
rounded-to, and I heard the poor fellow calling out to me by name, to save
him. I saw him, astern, very plainly, while on the ship's quarter; but
lost sight of him, as soon as the boat was in the water. The sky-light-hood
had been thrown overboard, and was floating in the ship's wake. We steered
for that; but could neither see nor hear anything more of the poor fellow.
We got his hat, and we picked up the hood of the sky-light, but could not
find the boy. He had, unquestionably, gone down before we reached the spot
where he had been floating, as his hat must have pointed out the place. We
got the hat first; and then, seeing nothing of the lad, we pulled back to
take in the hood; which was quite large. While employed in taking it in, a
squall passed over the boat; which nearly blew it away from us. Being very
busy in securing the hood, no one had leisure to look about; but the duty
was no sooner done, than one of the men called out, that he could not see
the ship! Sure enough, the William and Jane had disappeared! and there we
were, left in the middle of the ocean, in a six-oared pinnace, without a
morsel of food, and I myself, without hat, shoes, jacket or trowsers. In a
word, I had nothing on me but my drawers and a flannel shirt. Fortunately,
the captain kept a breaker of fresh water in each boat, and we had a small
supply of this great requisite;--enough, perhaps, to last five men two or
three days.

All our boats had sails; but those of the pinnace had been spread on the
quarter-deck, to dry; and we had nothing but the ash to depend on. At
first, we pulled to leeward; but the weather was so thick, we could not
see a cable's-length; and our search for the vessel, in that direction,
proved useless. At the end of an hour or two, we ceased rowing, and held a
consultation. I proposed to pull in the direction of the land; which was
pulling to windward. If the ship should search for us, it would certainly
be in that quarter; and if we should miss her, altogether, our only chance
was in reaching the shore. There, we might find something to eat; of which
there was little hope, out on the ocean. The men did not relish the idea
of quitting the spot; but, after some talk, they came into my plan.

It remained thick weather all that afternoon, night, and succeeding day,
until about noon. We were without a compass, and steered by the direction
of the wind and sea. Occasionally it lightened up a little, so as to show
us a star or two, or during the day to permit us to see a few miles around
the boat; but we got no glimpse of the ship. It blew so heavily that we
made no great progress, in my judgment doing very little more than keeping
the boat head to sea. Could we have pulled four oars, this might not have
been the case, but we took it watch and watch, two men pulling, while two
tried to get a little rest, under the shelter of the hood. I steered as
long as I could, but was compelled to row part of the time to keep myself
warm. In this manner were passed about six-and-twenty of the most
unpleasant hours of my life, when some of us thought they heard the report
of a distant gun. I did not believe it; but, after listening attentively
some ten or fifteen minutes, another report was heard, beyond all dispute,
dead to leeward of us!

This signal produced a wonderful effect on us all. The four oars were
manned, and away we went before the wind and sea, as fast as we could
pull, I steering for the reports as they came heavily up to windward at
intervals of about a quarter of an hour. Three or four of these guns were
heard, each report sounding nearer than the other, to our great joy, until
I got a glimpse of the ship, about two miles distant from us. She was on
the starboard tack, close hauled, a proof she was in search of us, with
top-gallant-sails set over single-reefed topsails. She was drawing ahead
of us fast, however, and had we not seen her as we did, we should have
crossed her wake, and been lost without a hope, by running to leeward. We
altered our course the instant she was seen; but what could a boat do in
such a sea, pulling after a fast ship under such canvass? Perhaps we felt
more keen anxiety, after we saw the ship, than we did before, since we
beheld all the risk we ran. Never shall I forget the sensations with which
I saw her start her main-tack and haul up the sail! The foresail and
top-gallant-sail followed, and then the main-yard came round, and laid the
topsail aback! Everything seemed to fly on board her, and we knew we were
safe. In a few minutes we were alongside. The boat was at the davits, the
helm was up, and the old barky squared away for China.

We in the boat were all pretty well fagged out with hunger, toil, and
exposure. I was the worst off, having so little clothing in cool weather,
and I think another day would have destroyed us all, unless we had taken
refuge in the well-known dreadful alternative of seamen. The captain was
delighted to see us, as indeed were all hands. They had determined to turn
to windward, on short tacks, until they made the land, the best thing that
could have been done, and the course that actually saved us.

When we got into the latitude of Port Jackson, the crew was put on two
quarts of water a man, three quarts having been stipulated for in the
articles. This produced a mutiny, the men refusing duty. This was awkward
enough, in that distant sea. The captain took advantage of the men's going
below, however, to secure the scuttle and keep them there. He then
mustered us, who lived aft, six men and three boys, and laid the question
before us, _whether we would take the ship into Canton_, or go into Port
Jackson, and get some water. He admitted we were about seventy-five days
run from Cauton, but he himself leaned to the plan of continuing on our
course. We saw all the difficulties before us, and told him of them.

There were twenty men below, and to carry them eight or ten thousand miles
in that situation, would have been troublesome, to say the least, and
might have caused the death of some among them. We were armed, and had no
apprehensions of the people, but we did not like to work a ship of five
hundred tons with so few hands, one-third of whom were boys, so great a
distance. The crew, moreover, had a good deal of right on their side, the
articles stipulating that they should have the water, and this water was
to be had a short distance to windward.

The captain yielded to our reasoning, and we beat up to Port Jackson,
where we arrived in three or four days. The people were then sent to
prison, as mutineers, and we watered the ship. We were in port a
fortnight, thus occupied. All this time the men were in gaol. No men were
to be had, and then arose the question about trusting the old crew. There
was no choice, and, the ship being ready to sail, we received the people
on board again, and turned them all to duty. We had no further trouble
with them, however, the fellows behaving perfectly well, as men commonly
will, who have been once put down. No mutiny is dangerous when the
officers are apprized of its existence, and are fairly ready to meet it.
The king's name is a tower of strength.

We arrived at Canton in due time, and found our cargo ready for us. We
took it in, and sailed again, for the Texel, in three weeks. Our passage
to Europe was two hundred and eleven days, but we met with no accident. At
the Texel I found two letters from New York, one being from Sarah, and the
other from a female friend. Sarah was married to the very silversmith who
had engraven our names on the thimble! This man saw her for the first
time, when she carried that miserable thimble to him, fell in love with
her, and, being in good circumstances, her friends prevailed on her to
have him. Her letter to me admitted her error, and confessed her
unhappiness; but there was no remedy. I did not like the idea of returning
to New York, under the circumstances, and resolved to quit the ship. I
got my discharge, therefore, from the William and Jane, and left her,
never seeing the vessel afterwards.

There was a small Baltimore ship, called the Wabash, at the Texel, getting
ready for Canton, and I entered on board her, as a foremast Jack, again.
My plan was to quit her in China, and to remain beyond the Capes for ever.
The disappointment in my matrimonial plans had soured me, and I wanted to
get as far from America as I could. This was the turning point of my life,
and was to settle my position in my calling. I was now twenty-seven, and
when a man gets stern-way on him, at that age, he must sail a good craft
ever to work his way into his proper berth again.

The Wabash had a good passage out, without any unusual occurrence. On her
arrival at Canton, I told the captain my views, and he allowed me to go. I
was now adrift in the Imperial Empire, with a couple of hundred dollars in
my pocket, and a chest full of good clothes. So far all was well, and I
began to look about me for a berth. We had found an English country ship
lying at Whampao, smuggling opium, and I got on board of her, as
third-mate, a few days after I quitted the Wabash. This was the first and
only time I ever sailed under the English flag, for I do not call my other
passages in English vessels, sailing _under_ the flag, though it was
waving over my head. My new ship was the Hope, of Calcutta, commanded by
Captain Kid, or Kyd, I forget which. The vessel was built of teak, and had
been a frigate in the Portuguese service. She was so old no one knew
exactly when she was built, but sailed like a witch. Her crew consisted
principally of Lascars, with a few Europeans and negroes, as is usual in
those craft. My wages did not amount to much in dollars, but everything
was so cheap, they counted up in the long run. I had perquisites, too,
which amounted to something handsome. They kept a very good table.

The Hope had a good deal of opium, when I joined her, and it was all to be
smuggled before we sailed. As this trade has made a great deal of noise,
latterly, I will relate the manner in which we disposed of the drug. Of
the morality of this species of commerce, I have no more to say in its
defence, than I had of the tobacco voyage, unless it be to aver that were
I compelled, now, to embark in one of the two, it should be to give the
countrymen of my honest fisherman cheap tobacco, in preference to making
the Chinese drunk on opium.

Our opium was packed in wooden boxes of forty cylinders, weighing about
ten pounds each cylinder. Of course each box weighed about four hundred
pounds. The main cargo was cotton, and salt-petre, and ebony; but there
were four hundred boxes of this opium.

The sales of the article were made by the captain, up at the factory. They
seldom exceeded six or eight boxes at a time, and were oftener two or
three. The purchaser then brought, or sent, an order on board the ship,
for the delivery of the opium. He also provided bags. The custom-house
officers did not remain in the ship, as in other countries, but were on
board a large armed boat, hanging astern. These crafts are called Hoppoo
boats. This arrangement left us tolerably free to do as we pleased, on
board. If an officer happened to come on board, however, we had early
notice of it, of course. As third-mate, it was my duty to see the boxes
taken out of the hold, and the opium delivered. The box was opened, and
the cylinders counted off, and stowed in the bags, which were of sizes
convenient to handle. All this was done on the gun-deck, the purchaser
receiving possession of his opium, on board us. It was his loss, if
anything failed afterwards.

As soon as the buyer had his opium in the bags, he placed the latter near
two or three open ports, amidships, and hung out a signal to the shore.
This signal was soon answered, and then it was look out for the smuggling
boats! These smuggling boats are long, swift, craft, that have
double-banked paddles, frequently to the number of sixty men. They are
armed, and are swift as arrows. When all is ready, they appear suddenly on
the water, and dash alongside of the vessel for which they are bound, and
find the labourers of the purchaser standing at the ports, with the bags
of cylinders ready. These bags are thrown into the boat, the purchaser and
his men tumble after them, and away she paddles, like a racer. The whole
operation occupies but a minute or two.

As soon as the Hoppoo boat sees what is going on, it begins to blow
conches. This gives the alarm, and then follows a chase from an armed
custom-house boat, of which there are many constantly plying about. It
always appeared to me that the custom-house people were either afraid of
the smugglers, or that they were paid for not doing their duty. I never
saw any fight, or seizure, though I am told such sometimes happen. I
suppose it is in China, as it is in other parts of the world; that men
occasionally do their whole duty, but that they oftener do not. If the
connivance of custom-house officers will justify smuggling in China, it
will justify smuggling in London, and possibly in New York.

We not only smuggled cargo out, but we smuggled cargo in. The favourite
prohibited article was a species of metal, that came in plates, like tin,
or copper, of which we took in large quantities. It was brought to us by
the smuggling-boats, and thrown on board, very much as the opium was taken
out, and we stowed it away in the hold. All this was done in the day-time,
but I never heard of any one's following the article into the ship. Once
there, it appeared to be considered safe. Then we got sycee silver, which
was prohibited for exportation. All came on board in the same manner. For
every box of opium sold, the mate got a china dollar as a perquisite. Of
course my share on four hundred boxes came to one hundred and thirty-three
of these dollars, or about one hundred and sixteen of our own. I am
ashamed to say there was a great deal of cheating all round, each party
evidently regarding the other as rogues, and, instead of "doing as they
_would_ be done by," doing as they _thought_ they _were_ done by.

The Hope sailed as soon as the opium was sold, about a month, and had a
quick passage to Calcutta. I now began to pick up a little Bengalee, and,
before I left the trade, could work a ship very well in the language. The
Lascars were more like monkeys than men aloft, though they wanted
strength. A topsail, that six of our common men would furl, would employ
twenty of them. This was partly from habit, perhaps, though they actually
want physical force. They eat little besides rice, and are small in frame.
We had a curious mode of punishing them, when slack, aloft. Our standing
rigging was of grass, and wiry enough to cut even hands that were used to
it. The ratlines were not seized to the forward and after shrouds, by
means of eyes, as is done in our vessels, but were made fast by a round
turn, and stopping back the ends. We used to take down all the ratlines,
and make the darkies go up without them. In doing this, they took the
rigging between the great and second toe, and walked up, instead of
shinning it, like Christians. This soon gave them sore toes, and they
would beg hard to have the ratlines replaced. On the whole, they were
easily managed, and were respectful and obedient. We had near a hundred of
these fellows in the Hope, and kept them at work by means of a boatswain
and four mates, all countrymen of their own. In addition, we had about
thirty more souls, including the Europeans--Christians, as we were called!

At Calcutta we loaded with cotton, and returned to Canton, having another
short passage. We had no opium in the ship, this time, it being out of
season; but we smuggled cargo in, as before. We lay at Whampao a few
weeks, and returned to Calcutta. By this time the Hope was dying of old
age, and Captain Kyd began to think, if he did not bury her, she might
bury him. Her beams actually dropped, as we removed the cotton at Canton,
though she still remained tight. But it would have been dangerous to
encounter heavy weather in her.

A new ship, called the Hopping Castle, had been built by Captain Kyd's
father-in-law, expressly for him. She was a stout large vessel, and
promised to sail well. The officers wore all transferred to her; but most
of the old Lascars refused to ship, on account of a quarrel with the
boatswain. This compelled us to ship a new set of these men, most of whom
were strangers to us.

By a law of Calcutta, if anything happens to a vessel before she gets to
sea, the people retain the two months' advance it is customary to give
them. This rule brought us into difficulty. The Hopping Castle cleared for
Bombay, with a light cargo. We had dropped down the river, discharged the
pilot, and made sail on our course, when a fire suddenly broke up out of
the fore-hatch. A quantity of grass junk, and two or three cables of the
same material, were in that part of the ship, and they all burnt like
tinder. I went with the other officers and threw overboard the powder,
but it was useless to attempt extinguishing the flames. Luckily, there
were two pilot brigs still near us, and they came alongside and received
all hands. The Hopping Castle burnt to the water's edge, and we saw her
wreck go down. This was a short career for so fine a ship, and it gave us
all great pain; all but the rascals of Lascars. I lost everything I had in
the world in her, but a few clothes I saved in a small trunk. I had little
or no money, Calcutta being no place for economy. In a country in which it
is a distinction to be a white man, and _called_ a Christian, one must
maintain his dignity by a little extravagance.

Captain Kyd felt satisfied that the Lascars had set his ship on fire, and
he had us all landed on Tiger Island. Here the serang, or boatswain, took
the matter in hand, and attempted to find out the facts. I was present at
the proceeding, and witnessed it all. It was so remarkable as to deserve
being mentioned. The men were drawn up in rings, of twenty or thirty each,
and the boatswain stood in the centre. He then put a little white powder
into each man's hand, and ordered him to spit in it. The idea was that the
innocent men would spit without any difficulty, while the mouths of the
guilty would become too dry and husky to allow them to comply. At any
rate, the serang picked out ten men as guilty, and they were sent to
Calcutta to be tried. I was told, afterwards, that all these ten men
admitted their guilt, criminated two more, and that the whole twelve were
subsequently hanged in chains, near Castle William. Of the legal trial and
execution I know nothing, unless by report; but the trial by spittle, I
saw with my own eyes; and it was evident the Lascars looked upon it as a
very serious matter. I never saw criminals in court betray more
uneasiness, than these fellows, while the serang was busy with them.

I was now out of employment. Captain Kyd wished me to go on an indigo
plantation, offering me high wages. I never drank at sea, and had behaved
in a way to gain his confidence, I believe, so that he urged me a good
deal to accept his offers. I would not consent, however, being afraid of
death. There was a Philadelphia ship, called the Benjamin Rush, at
Calcutta, and I determined to join her. By this time, I felt less on the
subject of my disappointment, and had a desire to see home, again. I
shipped, accordingly, in the vessel mentioned, as a foremast hand. We
sailed soon after, and had a pleasant passage to the Capes of the
Delaware, which I now entered, again, for the first time since I had done
so on my return from my original voyage on the Sterling.

As soon as paid off, I proceeded to New York. I was short of cash; and, my
old landlord being dead, I had to look about me for a new ship. This time,
I went in a brig, called the Boxer, a clipper, belonging to John Jacob
Astor, bound to Canton. This proved to be a pleasant and successful
voyage, so far as the vessel was concerned, at least; the brig being back
at New York, again, eight months after we sailed. I went in her before
the mast.

My money was soon gone; and I was obliged to ship again. I now went as
second-mate, in the Trio; an old English prize-ship, belonging to David
Dunham. We were bound to Batavia, and sailed in January. After being a
short time at sea, we found all our water gone, with the exception of one
cask. The remainder had been lost by the bursting of the hoops, in
consequence of the water's having frozen. We went on a short allowance;
and suffered a good deal by the privation. Our supercargo, a young
gentleman of the name of Croes, came near dying. We went on, however,
intending to go into one of the Cape de Verdes. We got up our casks, and
repaired them, in the meanwhile. Off the Island of Fuego, we hove to, and
found we could get no water. We got a few goats, and a little fruit; but
were compelled to proceed. Luckily, it came on to rain very hard, and we
stopped all the scuppers, filling every cask we had, in this easy manner.
We began about eight at night, and were through before morning. Capital
water it proved; and it lasted us to Batavia. There, indeed, it would even
have brought a premium; being so much better than anything to be had in
that port. It changed; but sweetened itself very soon.

We first went into Batavia, and entered the ship; after which, we sailed
for a roadstead, called Terragall, to take in rice. The vessel was in
ballast, and had brought money to make her purchases with. We got our
cargo off in boats, and sailed for Batavia, to clear; all within a few
weeks. The second night out, the ship struck, in fair weather, and a
moderate sea, on a mud-bank; and brought up all standing. We first
endeavoured to force the vessel over the bank; but this did not succeed;
and, the tide leaving her, the ship fell over on her bilge; bringing her
gunwales under water. Luckily, she lay quiet; though a good deal strained.
The captain now took a boat, and four men, and pulled ashore, to get
prows, to lighten the vessel. We had but eight men before the mast, and
six aft. This, of course, left only nine souls on board. That night
nothing occurred; but, in the morning early, two piratical prows
approached, and showed a disposition to board us. Mr. Croes was the person
who saved the ship. He stuck up handspikes, and other objects, about deck;
putting hats and caps on them, so as to make us appear very strong-handed.
At the same time, we got a couple of sixes to bear on the prows; and
succeeded in keeping them at a safe distance. They hovered about until
sunset, when they left us; pulling ashore. Just as they were quitting us,
twenty-seven boats hove in sight; and we made a signal to them, which was
not answered. We set them down as enemies, too; but, as they came nearer,
we perceived our own boat among them, and felt certain it was the captain.

We discharged everything betwixt decks into the boats, that night, and got
the ship afloat before morning. We now hove clear of the bank, restowed
the cargo, and made sail for Batavia. The ship leaked badly, and kept us
hard at the pumps. As there were no means for repairing the vessel where
we were, it was resolved to take in extra hands, ship two box-pumps, and
carry the vessel to the Isle of France, in order to repair her. I did not
like the prospect of such a passage, and confess I played "old soldier" to
get rid of it. I contrived to get, on a sick ticket, into the hospital,
and the ship sailed without me. At the Isle of France, the Trio was
condemned; her hulk being, in truth, much worse than my own, docked
though I was.

James Fenimore Cooper

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