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Edgar Allan Poe.

The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Comprising the details of a mutiny and atrocious butchery on board the American brig Grampus, on her way to the South seas ... With an account of the recapture of the vessel by the survivors; their shipwreck and subsequent horrible sufferings from fam online

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Online LibraryEdgar Allan PoeThe narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Comprising the details of a mutiny and atrocious butchery on board the American brig Grampus, on her way to the South seas ... With an account of the recapture of the vessel by the survivors; their shipwreck and subsequent horrible sufferings from fam → online text (page 2 of 17)
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fully aware of his condition. In regard to myself - I was resuscitated
from a state bordering very nearly upon death (and after every other
means had been tried in vain for three hours and a half) by vigorous
friction with flannels bathed in hot oil - a proceeding suggested by
Augustus. The wound in my neck, although of an ugly appearance, proved
of little real consequence, and I soon recovered from its effects.

The Penguin got into port about nine o'clock in the morning, after
encountering one of the severest gales ever experienced off Nantucket.
Both Augustus and myself managed to appear at Mr. Barnard's in time for
breakfast - which, luckily, was somewhat late, owing to the party over
night. I suppose all at the table were too much fatigued themselves to
notice our jaded appearance - of course, it would not have borne a very
rigid scrutiny. Schoolboys, however, can accomplish wonders in the way
of deception, and I verily believe not one of our friends in Nantucket
had the slightest suspicion that the terrible story told by some
sailors in town of their having run down a vessel at sea and drowned
some thirty or forty poor devils, had reference either to the Ariel, my
companion, or myself. We two have since very frequently talked the
matter over - but never without a shudder. In one of our conversations
Augustus frankly confessed to me, that in his whole life he had at no
time experienced so excruciating a sense of dismay, as when on board
our little boat he first discovered the extent of his intoxication, and
felt himself sinking beneath its influence.




CHAPTER II.


In no affairs of mere prejudice, pro or con, do we deduce inferences
with entire certainty even from the most simple data. It might be
supposed that a catastrophe such as I have just related would have
effectually cooled my incipient passion for the sea. On the contrary, I
never experienced a more ardent longing for the wild adventures
incident to the life of a navigator than within a week after our
miraculous deliverance. This short period proved amply long enough to
erase from my memory the shadows, and bring out in vivid light all the
pleasurably exciting points of colour, all the picturesqueness of the
late perilous accident. My conversations with Augustus grew daily more
frequent and more intensely full of interest. He had a manner of
relating his stories of the ocean (more than one half of which I now
suspect to have been sheer fabrications) well adapted to have weight
with one of my enthusiastic temperament, and somewhat gloomy, although
glowing imagination. It is strange, too, that he most strongly enlisted
my feelings in behalf of the life of a seaman, when he depicted his
more terrible moments of suffering and despair. For the bright side of
the painting I had a limited sympathy. My visions were of shipwreck and
famine; of death or captivity among barbarian hordes; of a lifetime
dragged out in sorrow and tears, upon some gray and desolate rock, in
an ocean unapproachable and unknown. Such visions or desires - for they
amounted to desires - are common, I have since been assured, to the
whole numerous race of the melancholy among men - at the time of which I
speak I regarded them only as prophetic glimpses of a destiny which I
felt myself in a measure bound to fulfil. Augustus thoroughly entered
into my state of mind. It is probable, indeed, that our intimate
communion had resulted in a partial interchange of character.

About eighteen months after the period of the Ariel's disaster, the
firm of Lloyd and Vredenburgh (a house connected in some manner with
the Messieurs Enderby, I believe, of Liverpool) were engaged in
repairing and fitting out the brig Grampus for a whaling voyage. She
was an old hulk, and scarcely seaworthy when all was done to her that
could be done. I hardly know why she was chosen in preference to other
good vessels belonging to the same owners - but so it was. Mr. Barnard
was appointed to command her, and Augustus was going with him. While
the brig was getting ready, he frequently urged upon me the excellency
of the opportunity now offered for indulging my desire of travel. He
found me by no means an unwilling listener - yet the matter could not be
so easily arranged. My father made no direct opposition; but my mother
went into hysterics at the bare mention of the design; and, more than
all, my grandfather, from whom I expected much, vowed to cut me off
with a shilling if I should ever broach the subject to him again. These
difficulties, however, so far from abating my desire, only added fuel
to the flame. I determined to go at all hazards; and, having made known
my intention to Augustus, we set about arranging a plan by which it
might be accomplished. In the meantime I forbore speaking to any of my
relations in regard to the voyage, and, as I busied myself ostensibly
with my usual studies, it was supposed that I had abandoned the design.
I have since frequently examined my conduct on this occasion with
sentiments of displeasure as well as of surprise. The intense hypocrisy
I made use of for the furtherance of my project - an hypocrisy pervading
every word and action of my life for so long a period of time - could
only have been rendered tolerable to myself by the wild and burning
expectation with which I looked forward to the fulfilment of my
long-cherished visions of travel.

In pursuance of my scheme of deception, I was necessarily obliged to
leave much to the management of Augustus, who was employed for the
greater part of every day on board the Grampus, attending to some
arrangements for his father in the cabin and cabin hold. At night,
however, we were sure to have a conference, and talk over our hopes.
After nearly a month passed in this manner, without our hitting upon
any plan we thought likely to succeed, he told me at last that he had
determined upon everything necessary. I had a relation living in New
Bedford, a Mr. Ross, at whose house I was in the habit of spending
occasionally two or three weeks at a time. The brig was to sail about
the middle of June (June, 1827), and it was agreed that, a day or two
before her putting to sea, my father was to receive a note, as usual,
from Mr. Ross, asking me to come over and spend a fortnight with Robert
and Emmet (his sons). Augustus charged himself with the enditing of
this note and getting it delivered. Having set out, as supposed, for
New Bedford, I was then to report myself to my companion, who would
contrive a hiding-place for me in the Grampus. This hiding-place, he
assured me, would be rendered sufficiently comfortable for a residence
of many days, during which I was not to make my appearance. When the
brig had proceeded so far on her course as to make any turning back a
matter out of question, I should then, he said, be formally installed
in all the comforts of the cabin; and as to his father, he would only
laugh heartily at the joke. Vessels enough would be met with by which a
letter might be sent home explaining the adventure to my parents.

The middle of June at length arrived, and everything had been matured.
The note was written and delivered, and on a Monday morning I left the
house for the New Bedford packet, as supposed. I went, however,
straight to Augustus, who was waiting for me at the corner of a street.
It had been our original plan that I should keep out of the way until
dark, and then slip on board the brig; but, as there was now a thick
fog in our favour, it was agreed to lose no time in secreting me.
Augustus led the way to the wharf, and I followed at a little distance,
enveloped in a thick seaman's cloak, which he had brought with him, so
that my person might not be easily recognised. Just as we turned the
second corner, after passing Mr. Edmund's well, who should appear,
standing right in front of me, and looking me full in the face, but old
Mr. Peterson, my grandfather. "Why, bless my soul, Gordon," said he,
after a long pause, "why, why - _whose_ dirty cloak is that you have
on?" "Sir!" I replied, assuming, as well as I could, in the exigency of
the moment, an air of offended surprise, and talking in the gruffest of
all imaginable tones - "sir! you are a sum'mat mistaken - my name, in the
first place, bee'nt nothing at all like Goddin, and I'd want you for to
know better, you blackguard, than to call my new obercoat a darty one!"
For my life I could hardly refrain from screaming with laughter at the
odd manner in which the old gentleman received this handsome rebuke. He
started back two or three steps, turned first pale and then excessively
red, threw up his spectacles, then, putting them down, ran full tilt at
me, with his umbrella uplifted. He stopped short, however, in his
career, as if struck with a sudden recollection; and presently, turning
round, hobbled off down the street, shaking all the while with rage,
and muttering between his teeth, "Won't do - new glasses - thought it was
Gordon - d - - d good-for-nothing salt water Long Tom."

After this narrow escape we proceeded with greater caution, and arrived
at our point of destination in safety. There were only one or two of
the hands on board, and these were busy forward, doing something to the
forecastle combings. Captain Barnard, we knew very well, was engaged at
Lloyd and Vredenburgh's, and would remain there until late in the
evening, so we had little to apprehend on his account. Augustus went
first up the vessel's side, and in a short while I followed him,
without being noticed by the men at work. We proceeded at once into the
cabin, and found no person there. It was fitted up in the most
comfortable style - a thing somewhat unusual in a whaling-vessel. There
were four very excellent staterooms, with wide and convenient berths.
There was also a large stove, I took notice, and a remarkably thick and
valuable carpet covering the floor of both the cabin and staterooms.
The ceiling was full seven feet high, and, in short, everything
appeared of a more roomy and agreeable nature than I had anticipated.
Augustus, however, would allow me but little time for observation,
insisting upon the necessity of my concealing myself as soon as
possible. He led the way into his own stateroom, which was on the
starboard side of the brig, and next to the bulkheads. Upon entering,
he closed the door and bolted it. I thought I had never seen a nicer
little room than the one in which I now found myself. It was about ten
feet long, and had only one berth, which, as I said before, was wide
and convenient. In that portion of the closet nearest the bulkheads
there was a space of four feet square, containing a table, a chair, and
a set of hanging shelves full of books, chiefly books of voyages and
travels. There were many other little comforts in the room, among which
I ought not to forget a kind of safe or refrigerator, in which Augustus
pointed out to me a host of delicacies, both in the eating and drinking
department.

He now pressed with his knuckles upon a certain spot of the carpet in
one corner of the space just mentioned, letting me know that a portion
of the flooring, about sixteen inches square, had been neatly cut out
and again adjusted. As he pressed, this portion rose up at one end
sufficiently to allow the passage of his finger beneath. In this manner
he raised the mouth of the trap (to which the carpet was still fastened
by tacks), and I found that it led into the after hold. He next lit a
small taper by means of a phosphorus match, and, placing the light in a
dark lantern, descended with it through the opening, bidding me follow.
I did so, and he then pulled the cover upon the hole, by means of a
nail driven into the under side - the carpet, of course, resuming its
original position on the floor of the stateroom, and all traces of the
aperture being concealed.

The taper gave out so feeble a ray, that it was with the greatest
difficulty I could grope my way through the confused mass of lumber
among which I now found myself. By degrees, however, my eyes became
accustomed to the gloom, and I proceeded with less trouble, holding on
to the skirts of my friend's coat. He brought me, at length, after
creeping and winding through innumerable narrow passages, to an
iron-bound box, such as is used sometimes for packing fine earthenware.
It was nearly four feet high, and full six long, but very narrow. Two
large empty oil-casks lay on the top of it, and above these, again, a
vast quantity of straw matting, piled up as high as the floor of the
cabin. In every other direction around was wedged as closely as
possible, even up to the ceiling, a complete chaos of almost every
species of ship-furniture, together with a heterogeneous medley of
crates, hampers, barrels, and bales, so that it seemed a matter no less
than miraculous that we had discovered any passage at all to the box. I
afterward found that Augustus had purposely arranged the stowage in
this hold with a view to affording me a thorough concealment, having
had only one assistant in the labour, a man not going out in the brig.

My companion now showed me that one of the ends of the box could be
removed at pleasure. He slipped it aside and displayed the interior, at
which I was excessively amused. A mattress from one of the cabin berths
covered the whole of its bottom, and it contained almost every article
of mere comfort which could be crowded into so small a space, allowing
me, at the same time, sufficient room for my accommodation, either in a
sitting position or lying at full length. Among other things, there
were some books, pen, ink, and paper, three blankets, a large jug full
of water, a keg of sea-biscuit, three or four immense Bologna sausages,
an enormous ham, a cold leg of roast mutton, and half a dozen bottles
of cordials and liqueurs. I proceeded immediately to take possession of
my little apartment, and this with feelings of higher satisfaction, I
am sure, than any monarch ever experienced upon entering a new palace.
Augustus now pointed out to me the method of fastening the open end of
the box, and then, holding the taper close to the deck, showed me a
piece of dark whipcord lying along it. This, he said, extended from my
hiding-place throughout all the necessary windings among the lumber, to
a nail which was driven into the deck of the hold, immediately beneath
the trapdoor leading into his stateroom. By means of this cord I should
be enabled readily to trace my way out without his guidance, provided
any unlooked-for accident should render such a step necessary. He now
took his departure, leaving with me the lantern, together with a
copious supply of tapers and phosphorus, and promising to pay me a
visit as often as he could contrive to do so without observation. This
was on the seventeenth of June.

I remained three days and nights (as nearly as I could guess) in my
hiding-place without getting out of it at all, except twice for the
purpose of stretching my limbs by standing erect between two crates
just opposite the opening. During the whole period I saw nothing of
Augustus; but this occasioned me little uneasiness, as I knew the brig
was expected to put to sea every hour, and in the bustle he would not
easily find opportunities of coming down to me. At length I heard the
trap open and shut, and presently he called in a low voice, asking if
all was well, and if there was anything I wanted. "Nothing," I replied;
"I am as comfortable as can be; when will the brig sail?" "She will be
under weigh in less than half an hour," he answered. "I came to let you
know, and for fear you should be uneasy at my absence. I shall not have
a chance of coming down again for some time - perhaps for three or four
days more. All is going on right aboveboard. After I go up and close
the trap, do you creep along by the whipcord to where the nail is
driven in. You will find my watch there - it may be useful to you, as
you have no daylight to keep time by. I suppose you can't tell how long
you have been buried - only three days - this is the twentieth. I would
bring the watch to your box, but am afraid of being missed." With this
he went up.

In about an hour after he had gone I distinctly felt the brig in
motion, and congratulated myself upon having at length fairly commenced
a voyage. Satisfied with this idea, I determined to make my mind as
easy as possible, and await the course of events until I should be
permitted to exchange the box for the more roomy, although hardly more
comfortable, accommodations of the cabin. My first care was to get the
watch. Leaving the taper burning, I groped along in the dark, following
the cord through windings innumerable, in some of which I discovered
that, after toiling a long distance, I was brought back within a foot
or two of a former position. At length I reached the nail, and,
securing the object of my journey, returned with it in safety. I now
looked over the books which had been so thoughtfully provided, and
selected the expedition of Lewis and Clarke to the mouth of the
Columbia. With this I amused myself for some time, when, growing
sleepy, I extinguished the light with great care, and soon fell into a
sound slumber.

Upon awaking I felt strangely confused in mind, and some time elapsed
before I could bring to recollection all the various circumstances of
my situation. By degrees, however, I remembered all. Striking a light,
I looked at the watch; but it was run down, and there were,
consequently, no means of determining how long I had slept. My limbs
were greatly cramped, and I was forced to relieve them by standing
between the crates. Presently, feeling an almost ravenous appetite, I
bethought myself of the cold mutton, some of which I had eaten just
before going to sleep, and found excellent. What was my astonishment at
discovering it to be in a state of absolute putrefaction! This
circumstance occasioned me great disquietude; for, connecting it with
the disorder of mind I experienced upon awaking, I began to suppose
that I must have slept for an inordinately long period of time. The
close atmosphere of the hold might have had something to do with this,
and might, in the end, be productive of the most serious results. My
head ached excessively; I fancied that I drew every breath with
difficulty; and, in short, I was oppressed with a multitude of gloomy
feelings. Still I could not venture to make any disturbance by opening
the trap or otherwise, and, having wound up the watch, contented myself
as well as possible.

Throughout the whole of the next tedious twenty-four hours no person
came to my relief, and I could not help accusing Augustus of the
grossest inattention. What alarmed me chiefly was, that the water in my
jug was reduced to about half a pint, and I was suffering much from
thirst, having eaten freely of the Bologna sausages after the loss of
my mutton. I became very uneasy, and could no longer take any interest
in my books. I was overpowered, too, with a desire to sleep, yet
trembled at the thought of indulging it, lest there might exist some
pernicious influence, like that of burning charcoal, in the confined
air of the hold. In the mean time the roll of the brig told me that we
were far in the main ocean, and a dull humming sound, which reached my
ears as if from an immense distance, convinced me no ordinary gale was
blowing. I could not imagine a reason for the absence of Augustus. We
were surely far enough advanced on our voyage to allow of my going up.
Some accident might have happened to him - but I could think of none
which would account for his suffering me to remain so long a prisoner,
except, indeed, his having suddenly died or fallen overboard, and upon
this idea I could not dwell with any degree of patience. It was
possible that we had been baffled by head winds, and were still in the
near vicinity of Nantucket. This notion, however, I was forced to
abandon; for, such being the case, the brig must have frequently gone
about; and I was entirely satisfied, from her continual inclination to
the larboard, that she had been sailing all along with a steady breeze
on her starboard quarter. Besides, granting that we were still in the
neighbourhood of the island, why should not Augustus have visited me
and informed me of the circumstance? Pondering in this manner upon the
difficulties of my solitary and cheerless condition, I resolved to wait
yet another twenty-four hours, when, if no relief were obtained, I
would make my way to the trap, and endeavour either to hold a parley
with my friend, or get at least a little fresh air through the opening,
and a further supply of water from his stateroom. While occupied with
this thought, however, I fell, in spite of every exertion to the
contrary, into a state of profound sleep, or rather stupor. My dreams
were of the most terrific description. Every species of calamity and
horror befell me. Among other miseries, I was smothered to death
between huge pillows, by demons of the most ghastly and ferocious
aspect. Immense serpents held me in their embrace, and looked earnestly
in my face with their fearfully shining eyes. Then deserts, limitless,
and of the most forlorn and awe-inspiring character, spread themselves
out before me. Immensely tall trunks of trees, gray and leafless, rose
up in endless succession as far as the eye could reach. Their roots
were concealed in wide-spreading morasses, whose dreary water lay
intensely black, still, and altogether terrible, beneath. And the
strange trees seemed endowed with a human vitality, and, waving to and
fro their skeleton arms, were crying to the silent waters for mercy, in
the shrill and piercing accents of the most acute agony and despair.
The scene changed; and I stood, naked and alone, amid the burning
sand-plains of Zahara. At my feet lay crouched a fierce lion of the
tropics. Suddenly his wild eyes opened and fell upon me. With a
convulsive bound he sprang to his feet, and laid bare his horrible
teeth. In another instant there burst from his red throat a roar like
the thunder of the firmament, and I fell impetuously to the earth.
Stifling in a paroxysm of terror, I at last found myself partially
awake. My dream, then, was not all a dream. Now, at least, I was in
possession of my senses. The paws of some huge and real monster were
pressing heavily upon my bosom - his hot breath was in my ear - and his
white and ghastly fangs were gleaming upon me through the gloom.

Had a thousand lives hung upon the movement of a limb or the utterance
of a syllable, I could have neither stirred nor spoken. The beast,
whatever it was, retained his position without attempting any immediate
violence, while I lay in an utterly helpless, and, I fancied, a dying
condition beneath him. I felt that my powers of body and mind were fast
leaving me - in a word, that I was perishing, and perishing of sheer
fright. My brain swam - I grew deadly sick - my vision failed - even the
glaring eyeballs above me grew dim. Making a last strong effort, I at
length breathed a faint ejaculation to God, and resigned myself to die.
The sound of my voice seemed to arouse all the latent fury of the
animal. He precipitated himself at full length upon my body; but what
was my astonishment, when, with a long and low whine, he commenced
licking my face and hands with the greatest eagerness, and with the
most extravagant demonstrations of affection and joy! I was bewildered,
utterly lost in amazement - but I could not forget the peculiar whine of
my Newfoundland dog Tiger, and the odd manner of his caresses I well
knew. It was he. I experienced a sudden rush of blood to my temples - a
giddy and overpowering sense of deliverance and reanimation. I rose
hurriedly from the mattress upon which I had been lying, and, throwing
myself upon the neck of my faithful follower and friend, relieved the
long oppression of my bosom in a flood of the most passionate tears.

As upon a former occasion, my conceptions were in a state of the
greatest indistinctness and confusion after leaving the mattress. For a
long time I found it nearly impossible to connect any ideas - but, by
very slow degrees, my thinking faculties returned, and I again called
to memory the several incidents of my condition. For the presence of
Tiger I tried in vain to account; and after busying myself with a
thousand different conjectures respecting him, was forced to content
myself with rejoicing that he was with me to share my dreary solitude,
and render me comfort by his caresses. Most people love their dogs - but
for Tiger I had an affection far more ardent than common; and never,
certainly, did any creature more truly deserve it. For seven years he
had been my inseparable companion, and in a multitude of instances had


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Online LibraryEdgar Allan PoeThe narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Comprising the details of a mutiny and atrocious butchery on board the American brig Grampus, on her way to the South seas ... With an account of the recapture of the vessel by the survivors; their shipwreck and subsequent horrible sufferings from fam → online text (page 2 of 17)