Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 82

WHAT REMAINS OF A MAN-OF-WAR'S-MAN AFTER HIS BURIAL AT SEA.


Upon examining Shenly's bag, a will was found, scratched in
pencil, upon a blank leaf in the middle of his Bible; or, to use
the phrase of one of the seamen, in the midships, atween the
Bible and Testament, where the Pothecary (Apocrypha) uses to be.

The will was comprised in one solitary sentence, exclusive of
the dates and signatures: "In case I die on the voyage, the
Purser will please pay over my wages to my wife, who lives in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
."

Besides the testator's, there were two signatures of witnesses.

This last will and testament being shown to the Purser, who, it
seems, had been a notary, or surrogate, or some sort of cosy
chamber practitioner in his time, he declared that it must be
"proved." So the witnesses were called, and after recognising
their hands to the paper; for the purpose of additionally testing
their honesty, they were interrogated concerning the day on which
they had signed--whether it was _Banyan Day_, or _Duff Day_, or
_Swampseed Day_; for among the sailors on board a man-of-war, the
land terms, _Monday_, _Tuesday_, _Wednesday_, are almost unknown.
In place of these they substitute nautical names, some of which
are significant of the daily bill of fare at dinner for the week.

The two witnesses were somewhat puzzled by the attorney-like
questions of the Purser, till a third party came along, one of
the ship's barbers, and declared, of his own knowledge, that
Shenly executed the instrument on a _Shaving Day_; for the
deceased seaman had informed him of the circumstance, when he
came to have his beard reaped on the morning of the event.

In the Purser's opinion, this settled the question; and it is to
be hoped that the widow duly received her husband's death-earned
wages.

Shenly was dead and gone; and what was Shenly's epitaph?


--"D. D."--

opposite his name in the Purser's books, in "Black's best Writing
Fluid
"--funereal name and funereal hue--meaning "Discharged, Dead."


Herman Melville