« НазадПродовжити »
and I saw her going up the little alley at the head of the stairs, with her black bonnet bobbing up and down-she was sobbing so. A sort of poke bonnet, like a Quaker's, the Methodists used to wear in those days. And that's the last I ever saw of poor dear mother.
Though uncle meant me to rough it, he was a man of his word, and didn't turn me loose amongst the men without any one to look after me. He gave me a kind of dog-hole in the cabin to put my chest in and sleep in, and then set me to work swabbing up down below.
When the anchor was up, and we were dropping down the river, I should have liked to be on deck to have a look at the old place, and Deptford, and the College, and the men-of-war off Woolwich Dockyard, and such-like; but if uncle found me peeping out, he pretty soon bundled me below. He didn't swear, because he was a religious man, but his jawings didn't sound the softer because there were no oaths in them, and he could rope's-end just as if he wasn't religious.
When we were out of the river, I was free to come on deck; but I was soon precious glad to creep down into my bunk again. For days I was as sick as a dog. I can't rightly say whether anybody gave me anything to eat and drink. I suppose they must; but I don't remember it. Oh yes, I do remember Dr Graham giving me a bit of biscuit and a sup of cold grog. I remember our bringing up in Yarmouth
Roads, too, and seeing a lot of craft all round, most with some of their spars carried away, when I looked over the side. And, except that I went on being sick every now and then, and when I wasn't sick was forced to get up and swab, or do something, till I was sick again, that's about all I do recollect until we were off Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands. I went whaling voyages after that, and so I know those parts up in the northern seas; but it was all new to me then, of course.
I was getting my sea-legs, and could tuck into junk and biscuit. Uncle was the only one aboard that was always grumpy with me. The rest used to order me about, and knock me about too, but they meant no malice. If a boy goes to sea my fashion, he must expect to be ordered about and knocked about-it's in the nature of things. The young doctor, too, when the skipper wasn't by, would give me a cheery word at times. So I began to think being aboard a whaler wasn't so bad, after all.
Your book is intended, my friend tells me, to do you young gentlemen good as well as make you laugh, and, indeed, I should say it wasn't much good if it wasn't. Therefore, young gentlemen, as I've been asked to write for you, I hope you 'll excuse the liberty if now and then I write down what I think it's right you should know. I'm an old man, and have knocked about the world. So here I 'll write down, firstly, It's wonderful what a
lot of all sorts you can bear, when you know you've got to bear it, and keep your pecker up.
The doctor would have taken me ashore with him shooting wild ducks, if the skipper would have let him, but he wouldn't. I had to stay aboard whilst the crew set up the rigging, and what with the crock of the pitch-pot and the tar out of it, I looked uncommon like a piebald young nigger by the time they'd finished. If I wasn't smart, too, in bringing them anything they wanted, they'd give me a tap on the head or across the knuckles with a marline-spike, and that was worse than the ruler my old Rotherhithe schoolmaster used to rap my knuckles with—though I'm ashamed to say that it wasn't often that I'd go to school...
Let me write down, secondly, young gentlemen, that I've found out that I could have done better in the world if I'd been sensibler and got more schooling when I had the chance.
When uncle had hired the Shetlanders, we had fifty-two men on board. Third week in April we signalled for a pilot, and when he'd come aboard, weighed anchor and sailed west with a fair wind through Yell Sound. Next day the pilot went ashore, and we saw the last of our native land, though the Shetland Islands can't rightly be called the native land of a man that was born in Redriff parish. But the Shetlanders weren't bad fellows.
For about a month, I should say, we sailed on, getting lines and so on ready, but not much else to
speak of. It was in May we saw our first ice--two big bergs. They weren't straggling about or forging ahead, sulky like, as I've seen them since, looking about the dreariest, deadliest thing you can fancy, when they're to windward of ye, under a dirty sky that seems coming down on the dirty sea, with only just light enough to let you see the ice. These weren't moving, and the sun was sparkling on them beautiful.
The very next day we saw two whales, called all hands, and lowered away the boats, but they lost the fish. The day after, the same kind of thing, and so we went on, reaching among straggling ice, and plying along the pack edge.
At last one of our Shetlanders struck a fish. She ran eight lines out, took to the pack, and the harpoons drew, and we lost her too, and had to haul in the lines over the ice for nothing. That isn't “ Cheerily, man, high-ho!” kind of work.
But here, young gentlemen, I will again write down-Keep your pecker up. When things seem worst, they are often apt to mend, though not always, of course, just the moment you want them to.
The very next day we got fast to another whale. There were other ships about then, and we wanted to look spry, but the beast ran out the lines, and went down, and died at the bottom. There she hung by the lines all night. Next day we got lines out over the ice, and made fast to the others,
all night ottom. Thes, and
and heaved away at the capstan, but it was not until the day after that we got the beast alongside, and all the time there were other fish in sight, which was provoking. But we did get her, and flinched her, and a nice mess the decks were in. That was the first whale I ever saw flinched. For two or three days after this, all hands that weren't out in such boats as we could spare after the fish we sighted, were making off blubber, whilst the Priscilla dodged about amongst the ice. There was another mess to clear up, and I had my share of it to do, I can assure you, young gentlemen.
The night before we finished making off the blubber one of the Shetlanders died. He was ailing when he came aboard. The night he died I'd taken him something the doctor had made up for him, and he began talking about his mother, poor chap. It seems she was sure that she'd never see him again, and that made me begin to wonder whether I should ever see my poor mother again. Next day, when we'd finished making off blubber, -two score and three casks I remember there were, though it is so long ago-uncle read a bit of the service, and we hove the poor Shetlander overboard. You can't keep a corpse long aboard ship. I've seen many a man buried at sea since then, but that was my first, and I can see him going down into the sea with a bit of chain at his feet to sink him, as plain as if it was yesterday.
So we went on, plying and ranging and dodging