Of a sudden the roaring ceased, and I felt myself buffeting the water fiercely in my efforts to reach the surface. I know not how I got free, but I suppose the turn of the line must have slackened off somehow. All this happened within the space of a few brief moments; but oh! they seemed fearfully long to me. I do not think I could have held my breath a second longer.
When I came to the surface, and tried to look about me, I saw the boat not more than fifty yards off, and, being a good swimmer, I struck out for it, although I felt terribly exhausted. In a few minutes my comrades saw me, and, with a cheer, put out the oars and began to row towards me. I saw that the line was slack, and that they were hauling it in—a sign that the whale had ceased running and would soon come to the surface again. Before they had pulled half-a-dozen strokes I saw the water open close beside the boat, and the monstrous head of the whale shot up like a great rock rising out of the deep.
He was not more than three feet from the boat, and he came up with such force, that more than half his gigantic length came out of the water right over the boat. I heard the captain's loud cry—"Stern all!" But it was too late, the whole weight of the monster's body fell upon the boat; there was a crash and a terrible cry, as the whale and boat went down together.
For a few moments he continued to lash the sea in his fury, and the fragments of the boat floated all round him. I thought that every man, of course, had been killed; but one after another their heads appeared in the midst of blood and foam, and they struck out for oars and pieces of the wreck.
Providentially, the whale, in his tossings, had shot a little away from the spot, else every man must certainly have been killed.
A feeling of horror filled my heart, as I beheld all this, and thought upon my position. Fortunately, I had succeeded in reaching a broken plank; for my strength was now so much exhausted, that I could not have kept my head above water any longer without its assistance. Just then I heard a cheer, and the next time I rose on the swell, I looked quickly round and saw the mate's boat making for the scene of action as fast as a stout and willing crew could pull. In a few minutes more I was clutched by the arm and hauled into it. My comrades were next rescued, and we thanked God when we found that none were killed, although one of them had got a leg broken, and another an arm twisted out of joint. They all, however, seemed to think that my escape was much more wonderful than theirs; but I cannot say that I agreed with them in this.
We now turned our attention to the whale, which had dived again. As it was now loose, we did not know, of course, where it would come up: so we lay still awhile. Very soon up he came, not far from us, and as fierce as ever.
"Now, lads, we must get that whale," cried the mate; "give way with a will."
The order was obeyed. The boat almost leaped over the swell, and, before long, another harpoon was in the whale's back.
"Fast again, hurrah!" shouted the mate, "now for the lance."
He gave the monster two deep stabs while he spoke, and it vomited up great clots of blood, besides spouting the red stream of life as it rolled on the sea in its agony, obliging us to keep well out of its way.
I could not look upon the dying struggles of this enormous fish without feelings of regret and self-reproach for helping to destroy it. I felt almost as if I were a murderer, and that the Creator would call me to account for taking part in the destruction of one of His grandest living creatures. But the thought passed quickly from my mind as the whale became more violent and went into its flurry. It began to lash the sea with such astonishing violence, that all the previous struggles seemed as nothing. The water all round became white like milk, with great streaks of red blood running through it, and the sound of the quick blows of its tail and fins resembled that of dull hollow thunder. We gazed at this scene in deep silence and with beating hearts.
All at once the struggles ceased. The great carcass rolled over belly up, and lay extended on the sea in death. To me it seemed as if a dead calm had suddenly fallen around us, after a long and furious storm, so great was the change when that whale at length parted with its huge life. The silence was suddenly broken by three hearty cheers, and then, fastening a rope to our prize, we commenced towing it to the ship, which operation occupied us the greater part of the night, for we had no fewer than eight miles to pull.
DEATH ON THE SEA
The whale which we had taken, as I have related in the last chapter, was our largest fish of that season. It produced ninety barrels of oil, and was worth about 500 pounds, so that we did not grieve much over the loss of our boat.
But our next loss was of a kind that could not be made up for by oil or money, for it was the loss of a human life. In the whale-fishery men must, like soldiers, expect to risk their lives frequently, and they have too often, alas! to mourn over the loss of a shipmate or friend. Up to this time our voyage had gone prosperously. We had caught so many fish that nearly half our cargo was already completed, and if we should be as lucky the remainder of the voyage, we should be able to return home to Old England much sooner than we had expected.
Of course, during all this time we had met with some disappointments, for I am not describing everything that happened on that voyage. It would require a much thicker volume than this to tell the half of our adventures. We lost five or six fish by their sinking before we could get them made fast to the ship, and one or two bolted so fast that they broke loose and carried away a number of harpoons and many a fathom of line. But such misfortunes were what we had to look for. Every whaler meets with similar changes of luck, and we did not expect to fare differently from our neighbours. These things did not cause us much regret beyond the time of their occurrence. But it was far otherwise with the loss that now befell us.
It happened on a Sunday forenoon. I was standing close to the starboard gangway early that morning, looking over the side into the calm water, for there was not a breath of wind, and talking to the first mate, who was a gruff, surly man, but a good officer, and kind enough in his way when everything went smooth with him. But things don't go very smooth generally in whaling life, so the mate was oftener gruff than sweet.
"Bob Ledbury," said he, "have you got your cutting-in gear in order? I've got a notion that we'll 'raise the oil' this day."
"All right, sir," said I; "you might shave yourself with the blubber-spades. That was a good fish we got last, sir, wasn't it?"
"Pretty good, though I've seen bigger."
"He gave us a deal of trouble too," said I.
"Not so much as I've seen others give," said he. "When I was fishing in the Greenland Seas we made fast to a whale that cost us I don't know how many hundred dollars." (You must know the first mate was a Yankee, and he reckoned everything in dollars.)
"How was that, sir?" asked I.
"Well, it was something in this fashion. We were floating about in the North Atlantic one calm, hot day, just something like this, only it was the afternoon, not the morning. We were doing nothing, and whistling for a breeze, when, all of a sudden, up comes five or six whales all round the ship, as if they had spied her from the bottom of the sea, and had come up to have a squint at her. Of course the boats were manned at once, and in less than no time we were tearing after them like all alive. But them whales were pretty wildish, I guess. They kept us pullin' the best part of five hours before we got a chance at them. My boat was out of sight of the ship before we made fast to a regular snorer, a hundred-barreller at the least. The moment he felt the iron, away he went like the shot out of a gun; but he didn't keep it up long, for soon after another of our boats came up and made fast. Well, for some two or three hours we held fast, but could not haul on to him to use the lance, for the moment we came close up alongside of his tail he peaked flukes and dived, then up again, and away as fast as ever. It was about noon before we touched him again; but by that time two more harpoons were made fast, and two other boats cast tow-lines aboard of us, and were hauled along. That was four boats, and more than sixteen hundred fathoms of line, besides four harpoons that was fast to that whale, and yet, for all that, he went ahead as fast as we could have rowed, takin' us along with him quite easy.
"A breeze having sprung up, our ship overhauled us in the course of the afternoon, and towards evening we sent a line on board, to see if that would stop the big fish, and the topsails were lowered, so as to throw some of the ship's weight on him, but the irons drew out with the strain. However, we determined to try it again. Another line was sent aboard about eight o'clock, and the topsails were lowered, but the line snapped immediately. Well, we held on to that whale the whole of that night, and at four o'clock next morning, just thirty-six hours after he was first struck, two fast lines were taken aboard the ship. The breeze was fresh, and against us, so the top-gallant sails were taken in, the courses hauled up, and the topsails clewed down, yet, I assure you, that whale towed the ship dead against the wind for an hour and a half at the rate of two miles an hour, and all the while beating the water with his fins and tail, so that the sea was in a continual foam. We did not kill that fish till after forty hours of the hardest work I ever went through."
Some of my shipmates seemed to doubt the truth of this story; but, for my part, I believed it, because the mate was a grave, truthful man, though he was gruff, and never told lies, as far as I knew. Moreover, a case of the same kind happened some years afterwards, to a messmate of mine, while he was serving aboard the Royal Bounty, on the 28th of May, 1817.
I know that some of the stories which I now tell must seem very wild and unlikely to landsmen; but those who have been to the whale-fishery will admit that I tell nothing but the truth, and if there are any of my readers who are still doubtful, I would say, go and read the works of Captain Scoresby. It is well known that this whaling captain was a truly religious man, who gave up the fishing, though it turned him in plenty of money, and became a minister of the gospel with a small income, so it is not likely that he would have told what was untrue. Well, in his works we find stories that are quite as remarkable as the one I have just told, some of them more so.
For instance, he tells us of one whale, in the Greenland Seas, which was not killed till it had drawn out ten thousand four hundred and forty yards, or about six miles of line, fastened to fifteen harpoons, besides taking one of the boats entirely under water, which boat was never seen again.
The mate told us two or three more stories, and a lot of us were gathered round him, listening eagerly, for there is nothing Jack likes so much as a good yarn, when all of a sudden, the man at the mast-head sang out that a large sperm whale was spouting away two points off the lee-bow. Of course we were at our posts in a moment.
"There she blows! there she breaches!" sung the look-out.
"Lower away!" roared the captain.
The boats were in the water, and the men on their seats in a moment.
The whale we were after was a very large one, we could see that, for after two hours' hard pulling we got near enough to throw a harpoon, and after it was fixed he jumped clean out of the water. Then there was the usual battle. It was fierce and long; so long that I began to fear we would have to return empty-handed to the ship. We put ten harpoons into him, one after another, and had a stiff run between the fixing of each.
It is astonishing the difference between the fish. One will give you no trouble at all. I have often seen a good big fellow killed in half an hour. Another will take you half a day, and perhaps you may lose him after all. The whale we were now after at last took to showing fight. He made two or three runs at the boat, but the mate, who was in command, pricked him off with the lance cleverly. At last we gave him a severe wound, and immediately he dived.
"That was into his life," remarked Tom Lokins, as we sat waiting for him to come up again. The captain's boat was close to ours, about ten yards off. We had not to wait long. The sudden stoppage and slacking off of all the lines showed that the whale was coming up. All at once I saw a dark object rising directly under the captain's boat. Before I could make out what it was, almost before I could think, the boat flew up into the air, as if a powder magazine had exploded beneath it. The whale had come up, and hit it with his head right on the keel, so that it was knocked into pieces, and the men, oars, harpoons, lances, and tackle shot up in confusion into the air.
Immediately after that the whale went into his flurry, but we paid no attention to him, in our anxiety to pick up our companions. They all came to the surface quickly enough, but while some made for the boats vigorously, others swam slowly and with pain, showing that they were hurt, while one or two floated, as if dead, upon the water.
Most of the men had escaped with only a few cuts and bruises, but one poor fellow was hauled out of the water with a leg broken, and another was so badly knocked about the head that it was a long time before he was again fit for duty. The worst case, however, was that of poor Fred Borders. He had a leg broken, and a severe wound in the side from a harpoon which had been forced into the flesh over the barbs, so that we could hardly get it drawn out. We laid him in the stern of the boat, where he lay for some time insensible; but in a short time he revived, and spoke to us in a faint voice. His first words were:
"I'm dying, messmates. It is into my life, too."
"Don't say that, Fred," said I, while my heart sank within me. "Cheer up, my boy, you'll live to be the death of many a whale yet. See, put your lips to this can—it will do you good."
He shook his head gently, being too weak to reply.
We had killed a big fish that day, and we knew that when he was "tried in" we should have completed our cargo; but there was no cheer given when the monster turned over on his side, and the pull to the ship that evening seemed to us the longest and heaviest we ever had, for our hearts were very sad.
Next day Fred was worse, and we all saw that his words would come true—he was dying; and before the sun had again set poor Fred had left us for ever.
We buried our shipmate in the usual sailor fashion. We wrapped him in his hammock, with a cannon-ball at his feet to sink him. The captain read the burial-service at the gangway, and then, in deep silence, we committed his corpse to the deep.
NEWS FROM HOME—A GAM
Shoregoing people have but little notion of the ease with which the heart of a jack-tar is made to rejoice when he is out on a long voyage. His pleasures and amusements are so few that he is thankful to make the most of whatever is thrown in his way. In the whale-fisheries, no doubt, he has more than enough of excitement, but after a time he gets used to this, and begins to long for a little variety—and of all the pleasures that fall to his lot, that which delights him most is to have a GAM with another ship.
Now, a gam is the meeting of two or more whale-ships, their keeping company for a time, and the exchanging of visits by the crews. It is neither more nor less than a jollification on the sea—the inviting of your friends to feast and make merry in your floating house. There is this difference, however, between a gam at sea and a party on land, that your friends on the ocean are men whom you perhaps never saw before, and whom you will likely never meet again. There is also another difference—there are no ladies at a gam. This is a great want, for man is but a rugged creature when away from the refining influence of woman; but, in the circumstances, of course, it can't be helped.
We had a gam one day, on this voyage, with a Yankee whale-ship, and a first-rate gam it was, for, as the Yankee had gammed three days before with another English ship, we got a lot of news second-hand; and, as we had not seen a new face for many months, we felt towards those Yankees like brothers, and swallowed all they had to tell us like men starving for news.
It was on a fine calm morning, just after breakfast, that we fell in with this ship. We had seen no whales for a day or two, but we did not mind that, for our hold was almost full of oil-barrels. Tom Lokins and I were leaning over the starboard bulwarks, watching the small fish that every now and then darted through the clear-blue water like arrows, and smoking our pipes in silence. Tom looked uncommonly grave, and I knew that he was having some deep and knowing thoughts of his own which would leak out in time. All at once he took his pipe from his mouth and stared earnestly at the horizon.
"Bob," said he, speaking very slowly, "if there ain't a ship right off the starboard beam, I'm a Dutchman."
"You don't mean it!" said I, starting with a feeling of excitement.
Before another word could be uttered, the cry of "Sail ho!" came ringing down from the mast-head. Instantly the quiet of the morning was broken; sleepers sprang up and rubbed their eyes, the men below rushed wildly up the hatchway, the cook came tearing out of his own private den, flourishing a soup-ladle in one hand and his tormentors in the other, the steward came tumbling up with a lump of dough in his fist that he had forgot to throw down in his haste, and the captain bolted up from the cabin without his hat.
"Where away?" cried he, with more than his usual energy.
"Right off the starboard beam, sir."
"Square the yards! Look alive, my hearties," was the next order; for although the calm sea was like a sheet of glass, a light air, just sufficient to fill our top-gallant sails, enabled us to creep through the water.
"Hurrah!" shouted the men as we sprang to obey.
"What does she look like?" roared the captain.
"A big ship, sir, I think," replied the lookout: "but I can only just make out the top of her main t-gallan' s'l."—(Sailors scorn to speak of top-gallant sails.)
Gradually, one by one, the white sails of the stranger rose up like cloudlets out of the sea, and our hearts beat high with hope and expectation as we beheld the towering canvas of a full-rigged ship rise slowly into view.
"Show our colours," said the captain.
In a moment the Union Jack of Old England was waving at the mast-head in the gentle breeze, and we watched anxiously for a reply. The stranger was polite; his colours flew up a moment after, and displayed the Stripes and Stars of America.
"A Yankee!" exclaimed some of the men in a tone of slight disappointment.
I may remark, that our disappointment arose simply from the fact that there was no chance, as we supposed, of getting news from "home" out of a ship that must have sailed last from America. For the rest, we cared not whether they were Yankees or Britons—they were men who could speak the English tongue, that was enough for us.
"Never mind, boys," cried one, "we'll have a jolly gam; that's a fact."
"So we will," said another, "and I'll get news of my mad Irish cousin, Terrence O'Flannagan, who went out to seek his fortin in Ameriky with two shillin's and a broken knife in his pocket, and it's been said he's got into a government situation o' some sort connected with the jails—whether as captain or leftenant o' police, or turnkey, I'm not rightly sure."
"More likely as a life-tenant of one of the cells," observed Bill Blunt, laughing.
"Don't speak ill of a better man than yerself behind his back," retorted the owner of the Irish cousin.
"Stand by to lower the jolly-boat," cried the captain.
"Aye, aye, sir."
In a few minutes we were leaping over the calm sea in the direction of the strange ship, for the breeze had died down, and we were too eager to meet with new faces, and to hear the sound of new voices, to wait for the wind.
To our joy we found that the Yankee had had a gam (as I have already said) with an English ship a few days before, so we returned to our vessel loaded with old newspapers from England, having invited the captain and crew of the Yankee to come aboard of us and spend the day.
While preparation was being made for the reception of our friends, we got hold of two of the old newspapers, and Tom Lokins seized one, while Bill Blunt got the other, and both men sat down on the windlass to retail the news to a crowd of eager men who tried hard to listen to both at once, and so could make nothing out of either.
"Hold hard, Tom Lokins," cried one. "What's that you say about the Emperor, Bill?"
"The Emperor of Roosia," said Bill Blunt, reading slowly, and with difficulty, "is—stop a bit, messmates, wot can this word be?—the Emperor of Roosia is——"
"Blowed up with gunpowder, and shattered to a thousand pieces," said Tom Lokins, raising his voice with excitement, as he read from his paper an account of the blowing up of a mountain fortress in India.
"Oh! come, I say, one at a time, if you please," cried a harpooner; "a feller can't git a word of sense out of sich a jumble."
"Come, messmates," cried two or three voices, as Tom stopped suddenly, and looked hard at the paper, "go ahead! wot have ye got there that makes ye look as wise as an owl? Has war been and broke out with the French?"
"I do believe he's readin' the births, marriages, and deaths," said one of the men, peeping over Tom's shoulder.
"Read 'em out, then, can't ye?" cried another.
"I say, Bill Blunt, I think this consarns you," cried Tom: "isn't your sweetheart's name Susan Croft?"
"That's a fact," said Bill, looking up from his paper, "and who has got a word to say agin the prettiest lass in all Liverpool?"
"Nobody's got a word to say against her," replied Tom; "but she's married, that's all."
Bill Blunt leaped up as if he had been shot, and the blood rushed to his face, as he seized the paper, and tried to find the place.
"Where is it, Tom? let me see it with my own two eyes. Oh, here it is!"
The poor man's face grew paler and paler as he read the following words:—
"Married at Liverpool, on the 5th inst., by the Rev. Charles Manson, Edward Gordon, Esq., to Susan, youngest daughter of Admiral Croft——"
A perfect roar of laughter drowned the remainder of the sentence.
"Well done, Bill Blunt—Mister Blunt, we'll have to call him hereafter," said Tom, with a grim smile; "I had no notion you thought so much o' yourself as to aim at an admiral's daughter."
"All right, my hearties, chaff away!" said Bill, fetching a deep sigh of relief, while a broad grin played on his weather-beaten visage. "There's two Susan Crofts, that's all; but I wouldn't give my Susan for all the admirals' daughters that ever walked in shoe-leather."
"Hallo! here come the Yankees," cried the captain, coming on deck at that moment.
Our newspapers were thrown down at once, and we prepared to receive our guests, who, we could see, had just put off from their ship in two boats. But before they had come within a mile of us, their attention, as well as ours, was riveted on a most extraordinary sight.
Not more than a hundred yards ahead of our ship, a whale came suddenly to the surface of the water, seeming, by its wild motions, to be in a state of terror. It continued for some time to struggle, and lash the whole sea around it into a white foam.
At once the boats were lowered from both ships, and we went after this fish, but his motions were so violent, that we found it utterly impossible to get near enough to throw a harpoon. When we had approached somewhat closely, we discovered that it had been attacked by a killer fish, which was fully twenty feet long, and stuck to it like a leech. The monster's struggles were made in trying to shake itself free of this tremendous enemy, but it could not accomplish this. The killer held him by the under jaw, and hung on there, while the whale threw himself out of the water in his agony, with his great mouth open like a huge cavern, and the blood flowing so fast from the wound that the sea was dyed for a long distance round. This killer fought like a bulldog. It held on until the whale was exhausted, but they passed away from us in such a confused struggle, that a harpoon could not be fixed for an hour after we first saw them. On this being done, the killer let go, and the whale, being already half dead, was soon killed.
The Yankee boats were the first to come up with this fish, so the prize belonged to them. We were well pleased at this, as we could afford to let them have it, seeing that we could scarcely have found room to stow away the oil in our hold. It was the Yankee's first fish, too, so they were in great spirits about it, and towed it to their ship, singing "Yankee-doodle" with all their might.
As they passed our boat the captain hailed them.
"I wish you joy of your first fish, sir," said he to the Yankee captain.
"Thank you, stranger. I guess we're in luck, though it ain't a big one. I say, what sort o' brute was that that had hold of him? Never seed sich a crittur in all my life."
"He's a killer," said our captain.
"A killer! Guess he just is, and no mistake: if we hadn't helped him, he'd have done the job for himself! What does he kill him for?"
"To eat him, but I'm told he only eats the tongue. You'll not forget that you've promised to gam with us to-night," cried our captain, as they were about to commence pulling again.
"All right, stranger, one half will come to-night, before sundown; t'other half to-morrow, if the calm holds. Good day. Give way, lads."
The men dipped their oars, and resumed their song, while we pulled back to our ship. We did not offer to help them, because the fish was a small one, and the distance they had to go not great.
It was near sunset when, according to promise, the Yankees came on board, and spent a long evening with us. They were a free, open-hearted, boastful, conceited, good-humoured set of fellows, and a jolly night we had of it in the forecastle, while the mates and captains were enjoying themselves and spinning their yarns in the cabin.
Of course, we began with demands for home-news, and, when we had pumped out of them every drop they had, we began to songs and spinning yarns. And it was now that my friend Tom Lokins came out strong, and went on at such a rate, that he quite won the hearts of our guests. Tom was not noisy, and he was slow in his talk, but he had the knack of telling a good story; he never used a wrong word, or a word too many, and, having a great deal of humour, men could not help listening when he began to talk.
After this we had a dance, and here I became useful, being able to play Scotch reels and Irish jigs on the fiddle. Then we had songs and yarns again. Some could tell of furious fights with whales that made our blood boil; others could talk of the green fields at home, until we almost fancied we were boys again; and some could not tell stories at all. They had little to say, and that little they said ill; and I noticed that many of those who were perfect bores would cry loudest to be heard, though none of us wanted to hear them. We used to quench such fellows by calling loudly for a song with a rousing chorus.
It was not till the night was far spent, and the silver moon was sailing through the starry sky, that the Yankees left us, and rowed away with a parting cheer.
Six months after our "gam" with the Yankees Tom Lokins and I found ourselves seated once more in the little garret beside my dear old mother.
"Deary me, Robert, how changed ye are!"
"Changed, Mother! I should think so! If you'd gone through all that I've done and seen since we last sat together in this room, you'd be changed too."
"And have ye really seen the whales, my boy?" continued my mother, stroking my face with her old hand.
"Seen them? aye, and killed them too—many of them."
"You've been in danger, my son," said my mother earnestly, "but the Lord has preserved you safe through it all."
"Aye, Mother, He has preserved my life in the midst of many dangers," said I, "for which I am most thankful."
There was a short silence after this, during which my mother and I gazed earnestly at each other, and Tom Lokins smoked his pipe and stared at the fire.
"Robert, how big is a whale?" enquired my mother suddenly.
"How big? why, it's as big as a small ship, only it's longer, and not quite so fat."
"Robert," replied my mother gravely, "ye didn't use to tell untruths; ye must be jokin'."
"Joking, Mother, I was never more in earnest in my life. Why, I tell you that I've seen, aye, and helped to cut up, whales that were more than sixty feet long, with heads so big that their mouths could have taken in a boat. Why, Mother, I declare to you that you could put this room into a whale's mouth, and you and Tom and I could sit round this table and take our tea upon his tongue quite comfortable. Isn't that true, Tom?"
My mother looked at Tom, who removed his pipe, puffed a cloud of smoke, and nodded his head twice very decidedly.
"Moreover," said I, "a whale is so big and strong, that it can knock a boat right up into the air, and break in the sides of a ship. One day a whale fell right on top of one of our boats and smashed it all to bits. Now that's a real truth!"
Again my mother looked at Tom Lokins, and again that worthy man puffed an immense cloud of smoke, and nodded his head more decidedly than before. Being anxious to put to flight all her doubts at once, he said solemnly, "Old ooman, that's a fact!"
"Robert," said my mother, "tell me something about the whales."
Just as she said this the door opened, and in came the good old gentleman with the nose like his cane-knob, and with as kind a heart as ever beat in a human breast. My mother had already told me that he came to see her regularly once a week, ever since I went to sea, except in summer, when he was away in the country, and that he had never allowed her to want for anything.
I need scarcely say that there was a hearty meeting between us three, and that we had much to say to each other. But in the midst of it all my mother turned to the old gentleman and said:
"Robert was just going to tell me something about his adventures with the whales."
"That's capital!" cried the old gentleman, rubbing his hands. "Come, Bob, my boy, let's hear about 'em."
Being thus invited, I consented to spin them a yarn. The old gentleman settled himself in his chair, my mother smoothed her apron, folded her hands, and looked meekly into my face. Tom Lokins filled his pipe, stretched out his foot to poke the fire with the toe of his shoe, and began to smoke like a steam-engine; then I cleared my throat and began my tale, and before I had done talking that night, I had told them all that I have told in this little book to you, good reader, almost word for word.
Thus ended my first voyage to the South Seas. Many and many a trip have I made since then, and many a wonderful sight have I seen, both in the south and in the north. But if I were to write an account of all my adventures, my little book would grow into a big one; I must therefore come to a close.
The profits of this voyage were so great, that I was enabled to place my mother in a position of comfort for the rest of her life, which, alas! was very short. She died about six months after my return. I nursed her to the end, and closed her eyes. The last word she uttered was her Saviour's name. She died, as she had lived, trusting in the Lord; and when I laid her dear head in the grave my heart seemed to die within me.
I'm getting to be an old man now, but, through the blessing of God, I am comfortable and happy. As I have more than enough of this world's goods, and no family to care for, my chief occupation is to look after the poor, and particularly the old women who live in my neighbourhood. After the work of the day is done, I generally go and spend the evening with Tom Lokins, who lives near by, and is stout and hearty still; or he comes and spends it with me, and, while we smoke our pipes together, we often fall to talking about those stirring days when, in the strength and hope of youth, we sailed together to the South Seas, and took to—Fighting the Whales.