James Fenimore Cooper.

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was obliged to let out line, his whale sounding to a prodigious depth.
Daggett did the same unwilling to cut as long as he could hold on to his

At the expiration of five minutes the large bull came up again for breath,
with both lines still fast to him; the one in the regular way, or attached
to the harpoon, and the other jammed in the jaws of the animal by means of
the harpoon and staff, which formed a sort of toggle at the angle of his
enormous mouth. In consequence of feeling this unusual tenant, the fish
compressed its jaws together, thus rendering the fastening so much the
more secure. As both boats had let run line freely while the whale was
sounding, they now found themselves near a quarter of a mile astern of
him, towing along, side by side, and not fifty feet asunder. If the spirit
of rivalry had been aroused among the crew of these two boats before, it
was now excited to a degree that menaced acts of hostility.

"You know, of course, Captain Daggett, that this is my whale," said
Gardiner. "I was fast to him regularly, and was only waiting for him to
become a little quiet to lance him, when your whale crossed his course,
fouled your line, and has got you fast in an unaccountable way, but not
according to whaling law."

"I don't know that. I fastened to a whale, Captain Gar'ner, and am fast
to a whale now. It must be _proved_ that I have no right to the crittur'
before I give him up."

Gardiner understood the sort of man with whom he had to deal too well to
waste words in idle remonstrances. Resolved to maintain his just rights at
every hazard, he ordered his men to haul in upon the line, the movement of
the whale becoming so slow as to admit of this measure. Daggett's crew did
the same, and a warm contest existed between the two boats, as to which
should now first close with the fish and kill it. This was not a moment
for prudence and caution. It was "haul in - haul in, boys," in both boats,
without any regard to the danger of approaching the whale. A very few
minutes sufficed to bring the parties quite in a line with the flukes,
Gardiner's boat coming up on the larboard or left-hand side of the animal,
where its iron was fast, and Daggett's on the opposite, its line leading
out of the jaws of the fish in that direction. The two masters stood erect
on their respective clumsy cleets, each poising his lance, waiting only to
get near enough to strike. The men were now at the oars, and without
pausing for any thing, both crews sprung to their ashen instruments, and
drove the boats headlong upon the fish. Daggett, perhaps, was the coolest
and most calculating at that moment, but Roswell was the most nervous, and
the boldest. The boat of the last actually hit the side of the whale, as
its young commander drove his lance through the blubber, into the vitals
of the fish. At the same instant Daggett threw his lance with consummate
skill, and went to the quick. It was now "stern all!" for life, each boat
backing off from the danger as fast as hands could urge. The sea was in a
foam, the fish going into his "flurry" almost as soon as struck, and both
crews were delighted to see the red of the blood mingling its deep hues
with the white of the troubled water. Once or twice the animal spouted,
but it was a fluid dyed in his gore. In ten minutes it turned up and was

Chapter XII.

"God save you, sir!"
"And you, sir! you are welcome."
"Travel you far on, or are you at the furthest?"
"Sir, at the furthest for a week or two."


Gardiner and Daggett met, face to face, on the carcase of the whale. Each
struck his lance into the blubber, steadying himself by its handle; and
each eyed the other in a way that betokened feelings awakened to a keen
desire to defend his rights. It is a fault of American character, - a fruit
of the institutions, beyond a doubt, - that renders men unusually
indisposed to give up. This stubbornness of temperament, that so many
mistake for a love of liberty and independence, is productive of much
good, when the parties happen to be right, and of quite as much evil, when
they happen to be wrong. It is ever the wisest, as, indeed, it is the
noblest course, to defer to that which is just, with a perfect reliance on
its being the course pointed out by the finger of infallible wisdom and
truth. He who does this, need feel no concern for his dignity, or for his
success; being certain that it is intended that right shall prevail in the
end, as prevail it will and does. But both our shipmasters were too much
excited to feel the force of these truths; and there they stood, sternly
regarding each other, as if it were their purpose to commence a new
struggle for the possession of the leviathan of the deep.

"Captain Daggett," said Roswell, sharply, "you are too old a whaler not to
know whaling law. My irons were first in this fish; I never have been
loose from it, since it was first struck, and my lance killed it. Under
such circumstances, sir, I am surprised that any man, who knows the usages
among whalers, should have stuck by the creature as you have done."

"It's in my natur', Gar'ner," was the answer. "I stuck by you when you
was dismasted under Hatteras, and I stick by everything that I undertake.
This is what I call Vineyard natur'; and I'm not about to discredit my
native country."

"This is idle talk," returned Roswell, casting a severe glance at the men
in the Vineyard boat, among whom a common smile arose, as if they highly
approved of the reply of their own officer. "You very well know that
Vineyard law cannot settle such a question, but American law. Were you man
enough to take this whale from me, as I trust you are not, on our return
home you could be and would be made to pay smartly for the act. Uncle Sam
has a long arm, with which he sometimes reaches round the whole earth.
Before you proceed any further in this matter, it may be well to remember

Daggett reflected; and it is probable that, as he cooled off from the
excitement created by his late exertions, he fully recognised the justice
of the other's remarks, and the injustice of his own claims. Still, it
seemed to him un-American, un-Vineyard, if the reader please, to "give
up;" and he clung to his error with as much pertinacity as if he had been

"If you are fast, I am fast, too. I'm not so certain of your law. When a
man puts an iron into a whale, commonly it is his fish, if he can get him,
and kill him. But there is a law above all whalers' law, and that is the
law of Divine Providence. Providence has fastened us to this crittur', as
if on purpose to give us a right in it; and I'm by no means so sure
States' law won't uphold that doctrine. Then, I lost my own whale by means
of this, and am entitled to some compensation for such a loss."

"You lost your own whale because he led round the head of mine, and not
only drew his own iron, but came nigh causing me to cut. If any one is
entitled to damage for such an act, it is I, who have been put to extra
trouble in getting my fish."

"I do believe it was my lance that did the job for the fellow! I darted,
and you struck; in that way I got the start of you, and may claim to have
made the crittur' spout the first blood. But, hearkee, Gar'ner - there's my
hand - we've been friends so far, and I want to hold out friends. I will
make you a proposal, therefore. Join stocks from this moment, and whale,
and seal, and do all things else in common. When we make a final stowage
for the return passage, we can make a final division, and each man take
his share of the common adventure."

To do Roswell justice, he saw through the artifice of this proposition,
the instant it was uttered. It had the effect, notwithstanding, a good
deal to mollify his feelings, since it induced him to believe that Daggett
was manoeuvring to get at his great secret, rather than to assail his

"You are part owner of your schooner, Captain Daggett," our hero answered,
"while I have no other interest in mine than my lay, as her master. You
may have authority to make such a bargain, but I have none. It is my duty
to fill the craft as fast and as full as I can, and carry her back safely
to Deacon Pratt; but, I dare say, your Vineyard people will let you cruise
about the earth at your pleasure, trusting to Providence for a profit. I
cannot accept your offer."

"This is answering like a man, Gar'ner, and I like you all the better for
it. Forty or fifty barrels of ile shan't break friendship between us. I
helped you into port at Beaufort, and gave up the salvage; and now I'll
help tow your whale alongside, and see you fairly through this business,
too. Perhaps I shall have all the better luck for being a little

There was prudence, as well as art, in this decision of Daggett's.
Notwithstanding his ingenious pretensions to a claim in the whale, he knew
perfectly well that no law would sustain it, and that, in addition to the
chances of being beaten on the spot, which were at least equal, he would
certainly be beaten in the courts at home, should he really attempt to
carry out his declared design. Then, he really deferred to the expectation
that his future good fortune might be influenced by his present
forbearance. Superstition forms a material part of a sailor's nature; if,
indeed, it do not that of every man engaged in hazardous and uncertain
adventures. How far his hopes were justified in this last respect, will
appear in the contents of a communication that Deacon Pratt received from
the master of his schooner, and to which we will now refer, as the
clearest and briefest mode of continuing the narrative.

The Sea Lion left Oyster Pond late in September. It was the third day of
March, in the succeeding year, that Mary was standing at a window, gazing
with melancholy interest at that point in the adjacent waters where last
she had seen, nearly six months before, the vessel of Roswell disappear
behind the woods of the island that bears his family name. There had been
a long easterly gale, but the weather had changed; the south wind blew
softly, and all the indications of an early spring were visible. For the
first time in three months, she had raised the sash of that window; and
the air that entered was bland, and savoured of the approaching season.

"I dare say, uncle" - the deacon was writing near a very low wood-fire,
which was scarcely more than embers - "I dare say, uncle," said the sweet
voice of Mary, which was a little tremulous with feeling, "that the ocean
is calm enough to-day. It is very silly in us to tremble, when there is a
storm, for those who must now be so many, many thousand miles away. What
is the distance between the Antarctic Seas and Oyster Pond, I wonder?"

"You ought to be able to calculate that yourself, gal, or what is the use
to pay for your schooling?"

"I should not know how to set about it, uncle," returned the gentle Mary,
"though I should be very glad to know."

"How many miles are there in a degree of latitude child? You know that, I

"More than sixty-nine, sir."

"Well, in what latitude is Oyster Pond?"

"I have heard Roswell say that we were a little higher, as he calls it,
than forty-one."

"Well, 41 times 69" - figuring as he spoke - "make 2829; say we are 3000
miles from the equator, the nearest way we can get there. Then, the
antarctic circle commences in 23° 30' south, which, deducted from 90
degrees, leave just 66° 30' between the equator and the nearest spot
within the sea you have mentioned. Now, 66° 30' give about 4589 statute
miles more, in a straight line, allowing only 69 to a degree. The two
sums, added together, make 7589 miles, or rather more. But the road is not
straight, by any means, as shipmasters tell me; and I suppose Gar'ner
must have gone, at the very least, 8000 miles to reach his latitude, to
say nothing of a considerable distance of longitude to travel over, to the
southward of Cape Horn."

"It is a terrible distance to have a friend from us!" ejaculated Mary,
though in a low, dejected tone.

"It is a terrible distance for a man to trust his property away from him,
gal; and I do not sleep a-nights for thinking of it, when I remember where
my own schooner may be all this time!"

"Ah, here is Baiting Joe, and with a letter in his hand, uncle, I do

It might be a secret hope that impelled Mary, for away she bounded, like a
young fawn, running to meet the old fisherman at the door. No sooner did
her eyes fall on the superscription, than the large package was pressed to
her heart, and she seemed, for an instant, lost in thanksgiving. That no
one might unnecessarily be a witness of what passed between her uncle and
herself, Joe was directed to the kitchen, where a good meal, a glass of
rum and water, and the quarter of a dollar that Mary gave him as she
showed the way, satisfied him with the results of his trouble.

"Here it is, uncle," cried the nearly breathless girl, reentering the
'keeping-room,' and unconsciously holding the letter still pressed to her
heart, - "A letter - a letter from Roswell, in his own precious hand."

A flood of tears gave some relief to feelings that had so long been pent,
and eased a heart that had been compressed nearly to breaking. At any
other time, and at this unequivocal evidence of the hold the young man had
on the affections of his niece, Deacon Pratt would have remonstrated with
her on the folly of refusing to become "Roswell Gar'ner's" wife; but the
sight of the letter drove all other thoughts from his head, concentrating
his whole being in the fate of the schooner.

"Look, and see if it has the Antarctic post-mark on it, Mary," said the
deacon, in a tremulous voice.

This request was not made so much in ignorance as in trepidation. The
deacon very well knew that the islands the Sea Lion was to visit were
uninhabited, and were destitute of post-offices; but his ideas were
confused, and apprehension rendered him silly.

"Uncle!" exclaimed the niece, wiping the tears from a face that was now
rosy with blushes at her own weakness, "surely, Roswell can find no
post-office where he is!"

"But the letter must have some post-mark, child. Baiting Joe has not
brought it himself into the country."

"It is post-marked 'New York,' sir, and nothing else - Yes, here is
'Forwarded by Cane, Spriggs, and Button, Rio de Janeiro.' It must have
been put into a post-office there."

"Rio! - Here is more salvage, gal - more salvage coming to afflict me!"

"But you had no salvage to pay, uncle, on the other occasion; perhaps
there will be none to pay on this. Had I not better open the letter at
once, and see what has happened?"

"Yes, open it, child," answered the deacon, in a voice so feeble as to be
scarcely audible - "open it at once, as you say, and let me know my fate.
Anything is better than this torment!"

Mary did not wait for a second permission, but instantly broke the seal.
It might have been the result of education, or there may be such a thing
as female instinct in these matters; but, certain it is, that the girl
turned towards the window, as she tore the paper asunder, and slipped the
letter that bore her own name into a fold of her dress, so dexterously,
that one far more keen-sighted than her uncle would not have detected the
act. No sooner was her own letter thus secured, than the niece offered the
principal epistle to her uncle.

"Read it yourself, Mary," said the last, in his querulous tones. "My eyes
are so dim, that I could not see to read it."

"Rio di Janeiro, Province of Brazil, South America, Nov. 14th, 1819,"
commenced the niece.

"Rio di Janeiro!" interrupted the uncle. "Why that is round Cape Horn,
isn't it, Mary?"

"Certainly not, sir. Brazil is on the east side of the Andes, and Rio di
Janeiro is its capital. The king of Portugal lives there now and has lived
there as long as I can remember."

"Yes, yes; I had forgotten. The Brazil Banks, where our whalers go, are
in the Atlantic. But what can have taken Gar'ner into Rio, unless it be to
spend more money!"

"By reading the letter, sir, we shall soon know. I see there is something
about spermaceti oil here."

"Ile? And spalm ile, do you say!" exclaimed the deacon, brightening up at
once - "Read on, Mary, my good gal - read the letter as fast as you
can - read it at a trot."

"Deacon Israel Pratt - Dear sir," continued Mary, in obedience to this
command, "the two schooners sailed from Beaufort, North Carolina, as
stated already per mail, in a letter written at that port, and which has
doubtless come to hand. We had fine weather and a tolerable run of it,
until we reached the calm latitudes, where we were detained by the usual
changes for about a week. On the 18th Oct. the pleasant cry of 'there she
spouts' was heard aboard here, and we found ourselves in the neighbourhood
of whales. Both schooners lowered their boats, and I was soon fast to a
fine bull, who gave us a long tow before the lance was put into him, and
he was made to spout blood. Captain Daggett set up some claims to this
fish, in consequence of his line's getting foul of the creature's jaws,
but he changed his mind in good season, and clapped on to help tow the
whale down to the vessel. His irons drew from a young bull, and a good
deal of dissatisfaction existed among the other crew, until, fortunately,
the school of young bulls came round quite near us, when Captain Daggett
and his people succeeded in securing no less than three of the fish, and
Mr. Hazard got a very fine one for us.

"I am happy to say that we had very pleasant weather to cut in, and
secured every gallon of the oil of both our whales, as did Captain Daggett
all of his. Our largest bull made one hundred and nineteen barrels, of
which forty-three barrels was head-matter. I never saw better case and
junk in a whale in my life. The smallest bull turned out well too, making
fifty-eight barrels, of which twenty-one was head. Daggett got one hundred
and thirty-three barrels from his three fish, a very fair proportion of
head, though not as large as our own. Having this oil on board, we came in
here after a pleasant run; and I have shipped, as per invoice enclosed,
one hundred and seventy-seven barrels of spermaceti oil, viz., sixty-four
barrels of head, and rest in body-oil, to your order, care of Fish &
Grinnell, New York, by the brig Jason, Captain Williams, who will sail for
home about the 20th proximo, and to whom I trust this letter" -

"Stop, Mary, my dear - this news is overpowering - it is almost too good to
be true," interrupted the deacon, nearly as much unmanned by this
intelligence of his good fortune as he had previously been by his
apprehensions. "Yes, it does seem too good to be true; read it again,
child; yes, read every syllable of it again!"

Mary complied, delighted enough to hear all she could of Roswell's

"Why, uncle," said the deeply-interested girl, "all this oil is
spermaceti! It is worth a great deal more than so much of that which comes
of the right whale."

"More! Ay, nearly as three for one. Hunt me up the last Spectator,
girl - hunt me up the last Spectator, and let me see at once at what they
quote spalm."

Mary soon found the journal, and handed it to her uncle.

"Yes, here it is, and quoted $1.12-1/2 per gallon, as I live! That's nine
shillings a gallon, Mary - just calculate on that bit of paper - thirty
times one hundred and seventy-seven, Mary; how much is that, child?"

"I make it 5310, uncle - yes, that is right. But what are the 30 times for,

"Gallons, gal, gallons. Each barrel has 30 gallons in it, if not more.
There ought to be 32 by rights, but this is a cheating age. Now, multiply
5310 by 9, and see what that comes to."

"Just 47,790, sir, as near as I can get it."

"Yes, that's the shillings. Now, divide 47,790 by 8, my dear. Be actyve,
Mary, be actyve."

"It leaves 5973, with a remainder of 6, sir. I believe I'm right."

"I dare say you are, child; yes, I dare say you are. This is the dollars.
A body may call them $6000, as the barrels will a little overrun the 30
gallons. My share of this will be two-thirds, and that will nett the
handsome sum of, say $4000!"

The deacon rubbed his hands with delight, and having found his voice
again, his niece was astonished at hearing him utter what he had to say,
with a sort of glee that sounded in her ears as very unnatural, coming
from him. So it was, however, and she dutifully endeavoured not to think
of it.

"Four thousand dollars, Mary, will quite cover the first cost of the
schooner; that is without including outfit and spare-rigging, of which her
master took about twice as much as was necessary. He's a capital fellow,
is that young Gar'ner, and will make an excellent husband, as I've always
told you, child. A little wasteful, perhaps, but an excellent youth at the
bottom. I dare say he lost his spars off Cape Hatteras in trying to
outsail that Daggett; but I overlook all that now. He's a capital youth to
work upon a whale or a sea-elephant! There isn't his equal, as I'll
engage, in all Ameriky, if you'll only let him know where to find the
creatur's. I knew his character before I engaged him; for no man but a
real skinner shall ever command a craft of mine."

"Roswell _is_ a good fellow," answered Mary, with emphasis, the tears
filling her eyes as she listened to these eulogiums of her uncle on the
youth she loved with all of a woman's tenderness, at the very moment she
scrupled to place her happiness on one whose 'God was not her God.' "No
one knows him better than I, uncle, and no one respects him more. But, had
I not better read the rest of his letter? - there is a good deal more of

"Go on, child, go on - but, read the part over again where he speaks of the
quantity of the ile he has shipped to Fish & Grinnell."

Mary did as requested, when she proceeded to read aloud the rest of the

"I have been much at a loss how to act in regard to Captain Daggett," said
Roswell, in his letter. "He stood by me so manfully and generously off
Cape Hatteras, that I did not like to part company in the night, or in a
squall, which would have seemed ungrateful, as well as wearing a sort of
runaway look. I am afraid he has some knowledge of the existence of our
islands, though I doubt whether he has their latitude and longitude
exactly. Something there is of this nature on board the other schooner,
her people often dropping hints to my officers and men, when they have
been gamming. I have sometimes fancied Daggett sticks so close to us, that
he may get the advantage of our reckoning to help him to what he wants to
find. He is no great navigator anywhere, running more by signs and
currents, in my judgment, than by the use of his instruments. Still, he
could find his way to any part of the world."

"Stop there, Mary; stop a little, and let me have time to consider. Isn't
it awful, child?"

The niece changed colour, and seemed really frightened, so catching was
the deacon's distress, though she scarce knew what was the matter.

"What is awful, uncle?" at length she asked, anxious to know the worst.

"This covetousness in them Vineyarders! I consider it both awful and
wicked. I must get the Rev. Mr. Whittle to preach against the sin of
covetousness; it does gain so much ground in Ameriky! The whole church
should lift its voice against it, or it will shortly lift its voice
against the church. To think of them Daggetts' fitting out a schooner to
follow my craft about the 'arth in this unheard-of manner; just as if she
was a pilot-boat, and young Gar'ner a pilot! I do hope the fellows will
make a wrack of it, among the ice of the antarctic seas! That would be a
fit punishment for their impudence and covetousness."

"I suppose, sir, they think that they have the same right to sail on the
ocean that others have. Seals and whales are the gifts of God, and one
person has no more right to them than another."

"You forget, Mary, that one man may have a secret that another doesn't
know. In that case he ought not to go prying about like an old woman in a
village neighbourhood. Read on, child, read on, and let me know the worst
at once."

"I shall sail to-morrow, having finished all my business here, and hope to
be off Cape Horn in twenty days, if not sooner. In what manner I am to get
rid of Daggett, I do not yet know. He outsails me a little on all tacks,
unless it be in very heavy weather, when I have a trifling advantage over
him. It will be in my power to quit him any dark night; but if I let him
go ahead, and he should really have any right notions about the position

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Sea Lions The Lost Sealers → online text (page 15 of 39)