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Chapter 81

HOW THEY BURY A MAN-OF-WAR'S-MAN AT SEA.


Quarters over in the morning, the boatswain and his four mates
stood round the main hatchway, and after giving the usual
whistle, made the customary announcement--"_All hands bury the
dead, ahoy!_"

In a man-of-war, every thing, even to a man's funeral and burial,
proceeds with the unrelenting promptitude of the martial code.
And whether it is _all hands bury the dead!_ or _all hands splice
the main-brace_, the order is given in the same hoarse tones.

Both officers and men assembled in the lee waist, and through
that bareheaded crowd the mess-mates of Shenly brought his body
to the same gangway where it had thrice winced under the scourge.
But there is something in death that ennobles even a pauper's
corpse; and the Captain himself stood bareheaded before the
remains of a man whom, with his hat on, he had sentenced to the
ignominious gratings when alive.

"_I am the resurrection and the life!_" solemnly began the
Chaplain, in full canonicals, the prayer-book in his hand.

"Damn you! off those booms!" roared a boatswain's mate to a crowd
of top-men, who had elevated themselves to gain a better view of
the scene.

"_We commit this body to the deep!_" At the word, Shenly's mess-
mates tilted the board, and the dead sailor sank in the sea.

"Look aloft," whispered Jack Chase. "See that bird! it is the
spirit of Shenly."

Gazing upward, all beheld a snow-white, solitary fowl, which--
whence coming no one could tell--had been hovering over the
main-mast during the service, and was now sailing far up into the
depths of the sky.

Herman Melville