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Chapter 4

THE brig put to sea, as I had supposed, in about an hour after he
had left the watch. This was on the twentieth of June. It will be
remembered that I had then been in the hold for three days; and,
during this period, there was so constant a bustle on board, and so
much running to and fro, especially in the cabin and staterooms, that
he had had no chance of visiting me without the risk of having the
secret of the trap discovered. When at length he did come, I had
assured him that I was doing as well as possible; and, therefore, for
the two next days be felt but little uneasiness on my account- still,
however, watching an opportunity of going down. It was not until the
fourth day that he found one. Several times during this interval he
had made up his mind to let his father know of the adventure, and
have me come up at once; but we were still within reaching distance
of Nantucket, and it was doubtful, from some expressions which had
escaped Captain Barnard, whether he would not immediately put back if
he discovered me to be on board. Besides, upon thinking the matter
over, Augustus, so he told me, could not imagine that I was in
immediate want, or that I would hesitate, in such case, to make
myself heard at the trap. When, therefore, he considered everything
he concluded to let me stay until he could meet with an opportunity
of visiting me unobserved. This, as I said before, did not occur
until the fourth day after his bringing me the watch, and the seventh
since I had first entered the hold. He then went down without taking
with him any water or provisions, intending in the first place merely
to call my attention, and get me to come from the box to the trap,-
when he would go up to the stateroom and thence hand me down a supply.
When he descended for this purpose he found that I was asleep,
for it seems that I was snoring very loudly. From all the
calculations I can make on the subject, this must have been the
slumber into which I fell just after my return from the trap with the
watch, and which, consequently, must have lasted for more than three
entire days and nights at the very least. Latterly, I have had reason
both from my own experience and the assurance of others, to be
acquainted with the strong soporific effects of the stench arising
from old fish-oil when closely confined; and when I think of the
condition of the hold in which I was imprisoned, and the long period
during which the brig had been used as a whaling vessel, I am more
inclined to wonder that I awoke at all, after once falling asleep,
than that I should have slept uninterruptedly for the period
specified above.

Augustus called to me at first in a low voice and without
closing the trap- but I made him no reply. He then shut the trap, and
spoke to me in a louder, and finally in a very loud tone- still I
continued to snore. He was now at a loss what to do. It would take
him some time to make his way through the lumber to my box, and in
the meanwhile his absence would be noticed by Captain Barnard, who
had occasion for his services every minute, in arranging and copying
papers connected with the business of the voyage. He determined,
therefore, upon reflection, to ascend, and await another opportunity
of visiting me. He was the more easily induced to this resolve, as my
slumber appeared to be of the most tranquil nature, and he could not
suppose that I had undergone any inconvenience from my incarceration.
He had just made up his mind on these points when his attention was
arrested by an unusual bustle, the sound of which proceeded
apparently from the cabin. He sprang through the trap as quickly as
possible, closed it, and threw open the door of his stateroom. No
sooner had he put his foot over the threshold than a pistol flashed
in his face, and he was knocked down, at the same moment, by a blow
from a handspike.

A strong hand held him on the cabin floor, with a tight grasp
upon his throat; still he was able to see what was going on around
him. His father was tied hand and foot, and lying along the steps of
the companion-way, with his head down, and a deep wound in the
forehead, from which the blood was flowing in a continued stream. He
spoke not a word, and was apparently dying. Over him stood the first
mate, eyeing him with an expression of fiendish derision, and
deliberately searching his pockets, from which he presently drew
forth a large wallet and a chronometer. Seven of the crew (among whom
was the cook, a negro) were rummaging the staterooms on the larboard
for arms, where they soon equipped themselves with muskets and
ammunition. Besides Augustus and Captain Barnard, there were nine men
altogether in the cabin, and these among the most ruffianly of the
brig's company. The villains now went upon deck, taking my friend
with them after having secured his arms behind his back. They
proceeded straight to the forecastle, which was fastened down- two of
the mutineers standing by it with axes- two also at the main hatch.
The mate called out in a loud voice: "Do you hear there below? tumble
up with you, one by one- now, mark that- and no grumbling!" It was
some minutes before any one appeared:- at last an Englishman, who had
shipped as a raw hand, came up, weeping piteously, and entreating the
mate, in the most humble manner, to spare his life. The only reply
was a blow on the forehead from an axe. The poor fellow fell to the
deck without a groan, and the black cook lifted him up in his arms as
he would a child, and tossed him deliberately into the sea. Hearing
the blow and the plunge of the body, the men below could now be
induced to venture on deck neither by threats nor promises, until a
proposition was made to smoke them out. A general rush then ensued,
and for a moment it seemed possible that the brig might be retaken.
The mutineers, however, succeeded at last in closing the forecastle
effectually before more than six of their opponents could get up.
These six, finding themselves so greatly outnumbered and without
arms, submitted after a brief struggle. The mate gave them fair
words- no doubt with a view of inducing those below to yield, for
they had no difficulty in hearing all that was said on deck. The
result proved his sagacity, no less than his diabolical villainy. All
in the forecastle presently signified their intention of submitting,
and, ascending one by one, were pinioned and then thrown on their
backs, together with the first six- there being in all, of the crew
who were not concerned in the mutiny, twenty-seven.

A scene of the most horrible butchery ensued. The bound seamen
were dragged to the gangway. Here the cook stood with an axe,
striking each victim on the head as he was forced over the side of
the vessel by the other mutineers. In this manner twenty-two
perished, and Augustus had given himself up for lost, expecting every
moment his own turn to come next. But it seemed that the villains
were now either weary, or in some measure disgusted with their bloody
labour; for the four remaining prisoners, together with my friend,
who had been thrown on the deck with the rest, were respited while
the mate sent below for rum, and the whole murderous party held a
drunken carouse, which lasted until sunset. They now fell to
disputing in regard to the fate of the survivors, who lay not more
than four paces off, and could distinguish every word said. Upon some
of the mutineers the liquor appeared to have a softening effect, for
several voices were heard in favor of releasing the captives
altogether, on condition of joining the mutiny and sharing the
profits. The black cook, however (who in all respects was a perfect
demon, and who seemed to exert as much influence, if not more, than
the mate himself), would listen to no proposition of the kind, and
rose repeatedly for the purpose of resuming his work at the gangway.
Fortunately he was so far overcome by intoxication as to be easily
restrained by the less bloodthirsty of the party, among whom was a
line-manager, who went by the name of Dirk Peters. This man was the
son of an Indian squaw of the tribe of Upsarokas, who live among the
fastnesses of the Black Hills, near the source of the Missouri. His
father was a fur-trader, I believe, or at least connected in some
manner with the Indian trading-posts on Lewis river. Peter himself
was one of the most ferocious-looking men I ever beheld. He was short
in stature, not more than four feet eight inches high, but his limbs
were of Herculean mould. His hands, especially, were so enormously
thick and broad as hardly to retain a human shape. His arms, as well
as legs, were bowed in the most singular manner, and appeared to
possess no flexibility whatever. His head was equally deformed, being
of immense size, with an indentation on the crown (like that on the
head of most negroes), and entirely bald. To conceal this latter
deficiency, which did not proceed from old age, he usually wore a wig
formed of any hair-like material which presented itself- occasionally
the skin of a Spanish dog or American grizzly bear. At the time
spoken of, he had on a portion of one of these bearskins; and it
added no little to the natural ferocity of his countenance, which
betook of the Upsaroka character. The mouth extended nearly from ear
to ear, the lips were thin, and seemed, like some other portions of
his frame, to be devoid of natural pliancy, so that the ruling
expression never varied under the influence of any emotion whatever.
This ruling expression may be conceived when it is considered that
the teeth were exceedingly long and protruding, and never even
partially covered, in any instance, by the lips. To pass this man
with a casual glance, one might imagine him to be convulsed with
laughter, but a second look would induce a shuddering acknowledgment,
that if such an expression were indicative of merriment, the
merriment must be that of a demon. Of this singular being many
anecdotes were prevalent among the seafaring men of Nantucket. These
anecdotes went to prove his prodigious strength when under
excitement, and some of them had given rise to a doubt of his sanity.
But on board the Grampus, it seems, he was regarded, at the time of
the mutiny, with feelings more of derision than of anything else. I
have been thus particular in speaking of Dirk Peters, because,
ferocious as he appeared, he proved the main instrument in preserving
the life of Augustus, and because I shall have frequent occasion to
mention him hereafter in the course of my narrative- a narrative, let
me here say, which, in its latter portions, will be found to include
incidents of a nature so entirely out of the range of human
experience, and for this reason so far beyond the limits of human
credulity, that I proceed in utter hopelessness of obtaining credence
for all that I shall tell, yet confidently trusting in time and
progressing science to verify some of the most important and most
improbable of my statements.

After much indecision and two or three violent quarrels, it was
determined at last that all the prisoners (with the exception of
Augustus, whom Peters insisted in a jocular manner upon keeping as
his clerk) should be set adrift in one of the smallest whaleboats.
The mate went down into the cabin to see if Captain Barnard was still
living- for, it will be remembered, he was left below when the
mutineers came up. Presently the two made their appearance, the
captain pale as death, but somewhat recovered from the effects of his
wound. He spoke to the men in a voice hardly articulate, entreated
them not to set him adrift, but to return to their duty, and
promising to land them wherever they chose, and to take no steps for
bringing them to justice. He might as well have spoken to the winds.
Two of the ruffians seized him by the arms and hurled him over the
brig's side into the boat, which had been lowered while the mate went
below. The four men who were lying on the deck were then untied and
ordered to follow, which they did without attempting any resistance-
Augustus being still left in his painful position, although he
struggled and prayed only for the poor satisfaction of being
permitted to bid his father farewell. A handful of sea-biscuit and a
jug of water were now handed down; but neither mast, sail, oar, nor
compass. The boat was towed astern for a few minutes, during which
the mutineers held another consultation- it was then finally cut
adrift. By this time night had come on- there were neither moon nor
stars visible- and a short and ugly sea was running, although there
was no great deal of wind. The boat was instantly out of sight, and
little hope could be entertained for the unfortunate sufferers who
were in it. This event happened, however, in latitude 35 degrees 30'
north, longitude 61 degrees 20' west, and consequently at no very
great distance from the Bermuda Islands. Augustus therefore
endeavored to console himself with the idea that the boat might
either succeed in reaching the land, or come sufficiently near to be
fallen in with by vessels off the coast.

All sail was now put upon the brig, and she continued her
original course to the southwest- the mutineers being bent upon some
piratical expedition, in which, from all that could be understood, a
ship was to be intercepted on her way from the Cape Verd Islands to
Porto Rico. No attention was paid to Augustus, who was untied and
suffered to go about anywhere forward of the cabin companion-way.
Dirk Peters treated him with some degree of kindness, and on one
occasion saved him from the brutality of the cook. His situation was
still one of the most precarious, as the men were continually
intoxicated, and there was no relying upon their continued good-humor
or carelessness in regard to himself. His anxiety on my account be
represented, however, as the most distressing result of his
condition; and, indeed, I had never reason to doubt the sincerity of
his friendship. More than once he had resolved to acquaint the
mutineers with the secret of my being on board, but was restrained
from so doing, partly through recollection of the atrocities he had
already beheld, and partly through a hope of being able soon to bring
me relief. For the latter purpose he was constantly on the watch;
but, in spite of the most constant vigilance, three days elapsed
after the boat was cut adrift before any chance occurred. At length,
on the night of the third day, there came on a heavy blow from the
eastward, and all hands were called up to take in sail. During the
confusion which ensued, he made his way below unobserved, and into
the stateroom. What was his grief and horror in discovering that the
latter had been rendered a place of deposit for a variety of
sea-stores and ship-furniture, and that several fathoms of old
chain-cable, which had been stowed away beneath the companion-ladder,
had been dragged thence to make room for a chest, and were now lying
immediately upon the trap! To remove it without discovery was
impossible, and he returned on deck as quickly as he could. As be
came up, the mate seized him by the throat, and demanding what he had
been doing in the cabin, was about flinging him over the larboard
bulwark, when his life was again preserved through the interference
of Dirk Peters. Augustus was now put in handcuffs (of which there
were several pairs on board), and his feet lashed tightly together.
He was then taken into the steerage, and thrown into a lower berth
next to the forecastle bulkheads, with the assurance that he should
never put his foot on deck again "until the brig was no longer a
brig." This was the expression of the cook, who threw him into the
berth- it is hardly possible to say what precise meaning intended by
the phrase. The whole affair, however, proved the ultimate means of
my relief, as will presently appear.

Edgar Allan Poe

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