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The tub, containing about half of a whale line, was placed at the feet of Barnstable, who had been preparing an oar to steer with, in place of the rudder, which was unshipped, in order that, if necessary, the boat might be whirled round, when not advancing.
* Their approach was utterly unnoticed by the monster of the deep, who continued to amuse himself with throwing the water, in two circular spouts, high in the air, occasionally flourishing the broad flukes of his tail with a graceful but terrific force, until the hardy seamen were within a few hundred feet of him, when he suddenly cast his head downward, and, without an apparent effort, reared his immense body for many feet above the water, waving his tail violently, and producing a whizzing noise, that sounded like the rushing of winds.
The cockswain stood erect, poising his harpoon, ready for the blow; but when he beheld the creature assume this formidable attitude, he waved his hand to his commander, who instantly signed to his men to cease rowing. In this situation the sportsmen rested a few moments, while the whale struck several blows on the water, in rapid succession, the noise of which re-echoed along the cliffs, like the hollow reports of so many cannon. After this wanton exhibition of his terrible strength, the monster sunk again into his native element, and slowly disappeared from the eyes of his pursuers.
«“Which way did he head, Tom?" cried Barnstable, the moment the whale was out of sight.
6 “Pretty much up and down, sir," returned the cockswain, whose eye was gradually brightening with the excitement of the sport; "he 'll run his nose against the bottom, if he stands long on that course, and will be glad to get another snuff of pure air; send her a few fathoms to starboard, sir, and promise we shall not be out of his track.”
* The conjecture of the experienced old seaman proved true, for, in a few minutes, the water broke near them, and another spout was cast into the air, when the huge animal rushed, for hali his length, in the same direction, and fell on the sea, with a turbulence and foam equal to that which is produced by the launching of a vessel, for the first time, into its proper element. After this evolution, the whale rolled heavily, and seemed to rest from further efforts.
His slightest movements were closely watched by Barnstable and his cockswain, and when he was in a state of comparative rest, the former gave a signal to his crew, to ply their oars once more. A few long and vigorous strokes sent the boat directly up to the broadside of the whale, with its bows pointing towards one of the fins, which was, at times, as the animal yielded sluggishly to the action of the waves, exposed to view. The cockswain poised his harpoon, with much precision, and then darted it from him with a violence that buried the iron in the blubber of their foe. The instant the blow was made, long Tom shouted, with singular earnestness
66 Starn all !”
<<Stern all !" echoed Barnstable; when the obedient seamen, by united efforts, forced the boat in a backward direction, beyond the reach of any blow from their formidable antagonist. The alarmed animal, however, meditated no such resistance; ignorant of his own power, and of the insignificance of his enemies, he sought refuge in flight. One moment of stupid surprise succeeded the entrance of the iron, when he cast his huge tail into the air, with a violence that threw the sea around him into increased commotion, and then disappeared, with the quickness of lightoing, amid a cloud of foam.
66 Snub him!” shouted Barnstable ; “ hold on, Tom ; he rises already.”
(“Ay, ay, sir," replied the composed cockswain, seizing the line, which was running out of the boat with a velocity that rendered such a manæuvre rather hazardous, and causing it to yield more gradually round the large loggerhead that was placed in the bows of the boat for that purpose. Presently the line stretched forward, and, rising to the surface, with tremulous vibrations, it indicated the direction in which the animal might be expected to reappear. Barnstable had cast the bows of the boat towards that point, before the terrified and wounded victim rose once more to the surface, whose time was, however, no longer wasted in his sports, but who cast the waters aside, as he forced his way, with prodigious velocity, along their surface. The boat was dragged violently in his wake, and cut through the billows with a terrific rapidity, that, at moments, appeared to bury the slight fabric in the ocean.
When long Tom beheld his victim throwing his spouts on high again, he pointed with exultation to the jetting fluid, which was streaked with the deep red of blood, and cried
“Ay! I've touched the fellow's life! it must be more than two feet of blubber that stops my iron from reaching the life of any whale that ever sculled the ocean !”
““I believe you have saved yourself the trouble of using the bayonet you have rigged for a lance,” said his commander, who entered into the sport with all the ardour of one whose youth had been chiefly passed in such pursuits; “feel your line, Master Coffin; can we haul alongside of our enemy? I like not the course he is steering, as he tows us from the schooner.”
«« 'Tis the creater's way, sir,” said the cockswain ; " you know they need the air in their nostrils, when they run, the same as a man ; but lay hold, boys, and let us haul up to him."
“The seamen now seized the whale-line, and slowly drew their boat to within few feet of the tail of the fish, whose progress became sensibly less rapid, as he grew weak with the loss of blood. In a few minutes be stopped running, and appeared to roll uneasily on the water, as if suffering the agony of death.
<“Shall we pull in, and finish him, Tom ?” cried Barnstable ; “ a few sets from your bayonet would do it."
* The cockswain stood examining his game, with cool discretion, and replied to this interrogatory
(“No, sir, no—he's going into his furry; there 's no occasion for disgracing ourselves by using a soldier's weapon in taking a whale. Starn off, sir, starn off! the creater's in his flurry !"
"The warning of the prudent cockswain was promptly obeyed, and the boat cautiously drew off to a distance, leaving to the animal a clear space, while under its dying agonies. From a state of perfect rest, the terrible monster threw its tail on high, as when in sport, but its blows were trebled in rapidity and violence, till all was hid from view by a pyramid of foam, that was deeply dyed with blood. The roarings of the fish were like the bellowings of a herd of bulls, and to one who was ignorant of the fact, it would have appeared as if a thousand monsters were engaged in deadly combat, behind the bloody mist that obstructed the view. Gradually, these effects subsided, and when the discolored water again settled down to the long and regular swell of the ocean, the fish was seen, exhausted, and yielding passively to its fate. As life departed, the enormous black mass rolled to one side, and when the white and glistening skin of the belly became apparent, the seamen well knew that their victory was achieved.' Vol. I. pp. 231—235.
We are not afraid that our readers will be tired with the repetition of this passage, although they may have read it more than once before. We will not say we do not know how a better description could have been given, since, but for the author, we should not have known how it could have been given so well.
The whale being vanquished, a more formidable foe appears. The lean and spiteful Christopher Dillon, having learned the situation of the whale boat, had hastened to give intelligence to the captain of one of the king's cutters, at anchor in a neighboring port, and he went on board himself, in order to point out to the captain the place where the American boat might be found. The whale was no sooner despatched, than the royal cutter appeared in sight bearing down before the wind, with all her sails set, as she rounded a headland, but a short half league to the windward of the boat. The escape of the boat is well described, and the circumstance that the report of the gun of the cutter, firing at the boat, induced Mr Merry to get the Ariel under weigh, soon enough to meet the boat and rescue the crew, is happily conceived. The manœuvering of the two vessels in preparation for a battle, and the battle itself, are in fine style.
We cannot but remind our readers of long Tom Coffin's preparation for the approaching contest.
• When the drum beat to quarters, he threw aside his jacket, vest and shirt, with all the discretion of a man who had engaged in an undertaking that required the free use of his utmost powers.' 'He was standing at the breech of his long gun, with his brawny arms folded on a breast that had been turned to the color of blood by long exposure, his grizzled locks fluttering in the breeze, and his tail form towering above the heads of all near him.' "“ Speak to him, Tom," said Barnstable," and let us see if he will answer.” “Ay, ay, sir,” cried the cockswain, sinking his body in such a manner as to let his head fall on a level with the cannon that he controlled, when, after divers orders, and sundry movements to govern the direction of the piece, he applied a match with a rapid motion to the priming.' • Barnstable sprang lightly on a gun and watched the instant when the ball would strike, wbile long Tom threw himself aside from the line of the smoke with a similar intention.' 666
66. There go the chips,” cried Barnstable. “Bravo! Master Coffin, you never planted iron with more judgment; let him have another piece of it." “Ay, ay, sir,” returned the cockswain.' Vol. I. pp. 243 --245.
We should have been more pleased, had not the appearance of long Tom, with his iron visage, climbing up by the channels of the cutter, with his grizzled locks drenched in salt water, and bearing his harpoon, reminded the author of Neptune and his trident; which we think a disparagement of long Tom. But the allusion, whether well or ill, is of small importance.
The cutter being captured, long Tom is sent on shore, in company with Dillon, to propose an exchange of prisoners. But Dillon, whom the author does not spare, for he means to drown him, breaks his parole of honor, and instead of effecting the proposed exchange, causes long Tom to be made prisoner. Boroughcliffe visits long Tom in his place of confinement, and the cockswain takes this opportunity to seize
upon the captain, and leave him bound, and gagged with the hilt of his own sword. He then makes prisoner of Dillon, ties his hands, and fastens the cord to his own belt, and carries his captive again on board of the Ariel.
The gloom in which the Ariel lay, under the shadows of the hills, and the sudden illumination of the scene by the blaze of the cannon from a neighboring battery; the management of the schooner in escaping from a situation exposed to the enemy's guns; the signs of a gale from the northeast ; the sea tumbling in, with the tide setting upon a lee shore, are all admirably well given. We can hardly name the author, who would not have reason to be proud to have described the wreck of the Ariel, with the incidents attending it. The characters of Barnstable and Merry are sustained with great success through the whole of this scene, and, together with long Tom and Dillon, are so grouped and contrasted, as to exhibit each in admirable relief, and the whole passage of great harmony and power. Without any elaborate attempt at pathos, there are some effectual touches, and it is very excusable in the reader not to go through some parts of this scene unmoved.
The forebodings of Tom, and the allusion to his superstitions, and those of the seamen, are suitable preludes to the event. The men began to look to the leeward oftener than Barnstable would have them. Merry was sitting upon a gun “singing as if he were a chorister in his father's church. The cockswain requested that
Captain Barnstable would please to call Mr Merry from the gun; for I know, from having followed the seas my natural life, that singing, in a gale, is sure to bring the wind down upon a vessel the heavier; for He, who rules the tempests, is displeased that man's voice should be heard, when He chooses to send His own breath upon the waters.
• Barnstable watched the appearance of the weather, as the light slowly opened upon them, with that intensity of anxiety, which denoted, that the presentiments of the cockswain were no longer deemed idle. On looking to windward, he beheld the green masses of water that were rolling in towards the land, with a violence that seemed irresistible, crowned with ridges of foam; and there were moments when the air appeared filled with sparkling gems, as the rays of the rising sun fell upon the spray that was swept from wave to wave. Towards the land, the view was still more appalling.