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Chapter 7

JULY 10. Spoke a brig from Rio, bound to Norfolk. Weather hazy,
with a light baffling wind from the eastward. To-day Hartman Rogers
died, having been attacked on the eighth with spasms after drinking a
glass of grog. This man was of the cook's party, and one upon whom
Peters placed his main reliance. He told Augustus that he believed
the mate had poisoned him, and that he expected, if he did not be on
the look-out, his own turn would come shortly. There were now only
himself, Jones, and the cook belonging to his own gang- on the other
side there were five. He had spoken to Jones about taking the command
from the mate; but the project having been coolly received, he had
been deterred from pressing the matter any further, or from saying
any thing to the cook. It was well, as it happened, that he was so
prudent, for in the afternoon the cook expressed his determination of
siding with the mate, and went over formally to that party; while
Jones took an opportunity of quarrelling with Peters, and hinted that
he would let the mate know of the plan in agitation. There was now,
evidently, no time to be lost, and Peters expressed his determination
of attempting to take the vessel at all hazards, provided Augustus
would lend him his aid. My friend at once assured him of his
willingness to enter into any plan for that purpose, and, thinking
the opportunity a favourable one, made known the fact of my being on
board. At this the hybrid was not more astonished than delighted, as
he had no reliance whatever upon Jones, whom he already considered as
belonging to the party of the mate. They went below immediately, when
Augustus called to me by name, and Peters and myself were soon made
acquainted. It was agreed that we should attempt to retake the vessel
upon the first good opportunity, leaving Jones altogether out of our
councils. In the event of success, we were to run the brig into the
first port that offered, and deliver her up. The desertion of his
party had frustrated Peters' design of going into the Pacific- an
adventure which could not be accomplished without a crew, and he
depended upon either getting acquitted upon trial, on the score of
insanity (which he solemnly avowed had actuated him in lending his
aid to the mutiny), or upon obtaining a pardon, if found guilty,
through the representations of Augustus and myself. Our deliberations
were interrupted for the present by the cry of, "All hands take in
sail," and Peters and Augustus ran up on deck.

As usual, the crew were nearly all drunk; and, before sail could
be properly taken in, a violent squall laid the brig on her
beam-ends. By keeping her away, however, she righted, having shipped
a good deal of water. Scarcely was everything secure, when another
squall took the vessel, and immediately afterward another- no damage
being done. There was every appearance of a gale of wind, which,
indeed, shortly came on, with great fury, from the northward and
westward. All was made as snug as possible, and we laid-to, as usual,
under a close-reefed foresail. As night drew on, the wind increased
in violence, with a remarkably heavy sea. Peters now came into the
forecastle with Augustus, and we resumed our deliberations.

We agreed that no opportunity could be more favourable than the
present for carrying our designs into effect, as an attempt at such a
moment would never be anticipated. As the brig was snugly laid-to,
there would be no necessity of manoeuvring her until good weather,
when, if we succeeded in our attempt, we might liberate one, or
perhaps two of the men, to aid us in taking her into port. The main
difficulty was the great disproportion in our forces. There were only
three of us, and in the cabin there were nine. All the arms on board,
too, were in their possession, with the exception of a pair of small
pistols which Peters had concealed about his person, and the large
seaman's knife which he always wore in the waistband of his
pantaloons. From certain indications, too- such, for example, as
there being no such thing as an axe or a handspike lying in their
customary places -- we began to fear that the mate had his
suspicions, at least in regard to Peters, and that he would let slip
no opportunity of getting rid of him. It was clear, indeed, that what
we should determine to do could not be done too soon. Still the odds
were too much against us to allow of our proceeding without the
greatest caution.

Peters proposed that he should go up on deck, and enter into
conversation with the watch (Allen), when he would be able to throw
him into the sea without trouble, and without making any disturbance,
by seizing a good opportunity, that Augustus and myself should then
come up, and endeavour to provide ourselves with some kind of weapons
from the deck, and that we should then make a rush together, and
secure the companion-way before any opposition could be offered. I
objected to this, because I could not believe that the mate (who was
a cunning fellow in all matters which did not affect his
superstitious prejudices) would suffer himself to be so easily
entrapped. The very fact of there being a watch on deck at all was
sufficient proof that he was upon the alert,- it not being usual
except in vessels where discipline is most rigidly enforced, to
station a watch on deck when a vessel is lying-to in a gale of wind.
As I address myself principally, if not altogether, to persons who
have never been to sea, it may be as well to state the exact
condition of a vessel under such circumstances. Lying-to, or, in
sea-parlance, "laying-to," is a measure resorted to for various
purposes, and effected in various manners. In moderate weather it is
frequently done with a view of merely bringing the vessel to a
stand-still, to wait for another vessel or any similar object. If the
vessel which lies-to is under full sail, the manoeuvre is usually
accomplished by throwing round some portion of her sails, so as to
let the wind take them aback, when she becomes stationary. But we are
now speaking of lying-to in a gale of wind. This is done when the
wind is ahead, and too violent to admit of carrying sail without
danger of capsizing; and sometimes even when the wind is fair, but
the sea too heavy for the vessel to be put before it. If a vessel be
suffered to scud before the wind in a very heavy sea, much damage is
usually done her by the shipping of water over her stern, and
sometimes by the violent plunges she makes forward. This manoeuvre,
then, is seldom resorted to in such case, unless through necessity.
When the vessel is in a leaky condition she is often put before the
wind even in the heaviest seas; for, when lying-to, her seams are
sure to be greatly opened by her violent straining, and it is not so
much the case when scudding. Often, too, it becomes necessary to scud
a vessel, either when the blast is so exceedingly furious as to tear
in pieces the sail which is employed with a view of bringing her head
to the wind, or when, through the false modelling of the frame or
other causes, this main object cannot be effected.

Vessels in a gale of wind are laid-to in different manners,
according to their peculiar construction. Some lie-to best under a
foresail, and this, I believe, is the sail most usually employed.
Large square-rigged vessels have sails for the express purpose,
called storm-staysails. But the jib is occasionally employed by
itself, -- sometimes the jib and foresail, or a double-reefed
foresail, and not unfrequently the after-sails, are made use of.
Foretopsails are very often found to answer the purpose better than
any other species of sail. The Grampus was generally laid-to under a
close-reefed foresail.

When a vessel is to be laid-to, her head is brought up to the
wind just so nearly as to fill the sail under which she lies when
hauled flat aft, that is, when brought diagonally across the vessel.
This being done, the bows point within a few degrees of the direction
from which the wind issues, and the windward bow of course receives
the shock of the waves. In this situation a good vessel will ride out
a very heavy gale of wind without shipping a drop of water, and
without any further attention being requisite on the part of the
crew. The helm is usually lashed down, but this is altogether
unnecessary (except on account of the noise it makes when loose), for
the rudder has no effect upon the vessel when lying-to. Indeed, the
helm had far better be left loose than lashed very fast, for the
rudder is apt to be torn off by heavy seas if there be no room for
the helm to play. As long as the sail holds, a well modelled vessel
will maintain her situation, and ride every sea, as if instinct with
life and reason. If the violence of the wind, however, should tear
the sail into pieces (a feat which it requires a perfect hurricane to
accomplish under ordinary circumstances), there is then imminent
danger. The vessel falls off from the wind, and, coming broadside to
the sea, is completely at its mercy: the only resource in this case
is to put her quietly before the wind, letting her scud until some
other sail can be set. Some vessels will lie-to under no sail
whatever, but such are not to be trusted at sea.

But to return from this digression. It had never been customary
with the mate to have any watch on deck when lying-to in a gale of
wind, and the fact that he had now one, coupled with the circumstance
of the missing axes and handspikes, fully convinced us that the crew
were too well on the watch to be taken by surprise in the manner
Peters had suggested. Something, however, was to be done, and that
with as little delay as practicable, for there could be no doubt that
a suspicion having been once entertained against Peters, he would be
sacrificed upon the earliest occasion, and one would certainly be
either found or made upon the breaking of the gale.

Augustus now suggested that if Peters could contrive to remove,
under any pretext, the piece of chain-cable which lay over the trap
in the stateroom, we might possibly be able to come upon them
unawares by means of the hold; but a little reflection convinced us
that the vessel rolled and pitched too violently for any attempt of
that nature.

By good fortune I at length hit upon the idea of working upon the
superstitious terrors and guilty conscience of the mate. It will be
remembered that one of the crew, Hartman Rogers, had died during the
morning, having been attacked two days before with spasms after
drinking some spirits and water. Peters had expressed to us his
opinion that this man had been poisoned by the mate, and for this
belief he had reasons, so he said, which were incontrovertible, but
which he could not be prevailed upon to explain to us- this wayward
refusal being only in keeping with other points of his singular
character. But whether or not he had any better grounds for
suspecting the mate than we had ourselves, we were easily led to fall
in with his suspicion, and determined to act accordingly.

Rogers had died about eleven in the forenoon, in violent
convulsions; and the corpse presented in a few minutes after death
one of the most horrid and loathsome spectacles I ever remember to
have seen. The stomach was swollen immensely, like that of a man who
has been drowned and lain under water for many weeks. The hands were
in the same condition, while the face was shrunken, shrivelled, and
of a chalky whiteness, except where relieved by two or three glaring
red blotches like those occasioned by the erysipelas: one of these
blotches extended diagonally across the face, completely covering up
an eye as if with a band of red velvet. In this disgusting condition
the body had been brought up from the cabin at noon to be thrown
overboard, when the mate getting a glimpse of it (for he now saw it
for the first time), and being either touched with remorse for his
crime or struck with terror at so horrible a sight, ordered the men
to sew the body up in its hammock, and allow it the usual rites of
sea-burial. Having given these directions, he went below, as if to
avoid any further sight of his victim. While preparations were making
to obey his orders, the gale came on with great fury, and the design
was abandoned for the present. The corpse, left to itself, was washed
into the larboard scuppers, where it still lay at the time of which I
speak, floundering about with the furious lurches of the brig.

Having arranged our plan, we set about putting it in execution as
speedily as possible. Peters went upon deck, and, as he had
anticipated, was immediately accosted by Allen, who appeared to be
stationed more as a watch upon the forecastle than for any other
purpose. The fate of this villain, however, was speedily and silently
decided; for Peters, approaching him in a careless manner, as if
about to address him, seized him by the throat, and, before he could
utter a single cry, tossed him over the bulwarks. He then called to
us, and we came up. Our first precaution was to look about for
something with which to arm ourselves, and in doing this we had to
proceed with great care, for it was impossible to stand on deck an
instant without holding fast, and violent seas broke over the vessel
at every plunge forward. It was indispensable, too, that we should be
quick in our operations, for every minute we expected the mate to be
up to set the pumps going, as it was evident the brig must be taking
in water very fast. After searching about for some time, we could
find nothing more fit for our purpose than the two pump-handles, one
of which Augustus took, and I the other. Having secured these, we
stripped off the shirt of the corpse and dropped the body overboard.
Peters and myself then went below, leaving Augustus to watch upon
deck, where he took his station just where Allen had been placed, and
with his back to the cabin companionway, so that, if any of the mates
gang should come up, he might suppose it was the watch.

As soon as I got below I commenced disguising myself so as to
represent the corpse of Rogers. The shirt which we had taken from the
body aided us very much, for it was of singular form and character,
and easily recognizable- a kind of smock, which the deceased wore
over his other clothing. It was a blue stockinett, with large white
stripes running across. Having put this on, I proceeded to equip
myself with a false stomach, in imitation of the horrible deformity
of the swollen corpse. This was soon effected by means of stuffing
with some bedclothes. I then gave the same appearance to my hands by
drawing on a pair of white woollen mittens, and filling them in with
any kind of rags that offered themselves. Peters then arranged my
face, first rubbing it well over with white chalk, and afterward
blotching it with blood, which he took from a cut in his finger. The
streak across the eye was not forgotten and presented a most shocking
appearance.

Edgar Allan Poe

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