Imágenes de páginas

"Champion" toward the north and stood out for Behring Sea. But, while we lay at the mouth of the Yukon River, up in Alaska, getting ready for a sally into the realm of water above the Straits, a whaler, bound for San Francisco and home, dropped anchor near us, the homesickness struck in on me, andnever mind the details now-your Uncle John came home without any whales, and was mighty glad to get on the extra list of the old road.

The story I want to tell, however, is another man's story, and it was while lying in the Yukon that I heard it. I was deeply impressed with it at the time, and meant to give it to the world as soon as I got home, for I set it all down plain then, but I lost my diary, and half forgot the story who wouldn't forget a story when he had to make two hundred and ten miles a day on a locomotive and had five children at home? But now, after twenty years, my wife turns up that old diary in the garret this spring while house-cleaning. Fred had it and an old Fourth-of-July cannon put away in an ancient valise, as a boy will treasure up useless things.

Under the head of October 12th, I find this entry:

"At anchor in Yukon River, weather fair, recent heavy rains; set out packing and filed main-rod brasses of both engines. Settled with Enoch to go home on first ship bound south. Demented white man brought on board by Indians, put in my cabin."

[blocks in formation]

On the evening of the 12th, I went on deck to smoke and think of home, after a hard day's work getting the engines in shape for a siege. The ship was very quiet, half the crew being ashore, and some of the rest having gone in the boat with Captain Enoch to the "Enchantress," homeward bound and lying about half a mile below us. I am glad to say that Enoch's principal business aboard the "Enchantress" is to get me passage to San Francisco. I despise this kind of dreariness-rather be in State prison near the folks.

I sat on the rail, just abaft the stack, watching some natives handle their big canoes, when a smaller one came alongside. I noticed that one of the occupants lay at full length in the frail craft, but paid little attention until the canoe touched our side. Then the bundle of skins and Indian clothes bounded up, almost screamed, "At last!" made a spring at the stays, missed them, and fell with a loud splash into the water.

The Indians rescued him at once, and in a In the next day's record there appears the few seconds he lay like one dead on the

"The Indians rescued him at once."

deck. I saw at a glance that the stranger in Indian clothes was a white man and an Americar.

A pretty stiff dram of liquor brought him to slightly. He opened his eyes, looked up at the rigging, and, closing his eyes, he murmured: "Thank God!-'Frisco-Polaria!"

I had him undressed and put him into my berth. He was shaking as with an ague, and when his clothes were off we plainly saw the reason he was a skeleton, starving. I went on deck at once to make some inquiry of the Indians about our strange visitor, but their boat was just disappearing in the twilight.

[ocr errors]

The man gained strength, as we gave him new continent, a new people, a new lannourishment in small, frequent doses, and guage, a new civilization, and riches beyond talked in a disjointed way of everything the dreams of a Solomonunder the sun. I sat with him all night. Toward morning he seemed to sleep longer at a time, and in the afternoon of yesterday fell into a deep slumber, from which he did not waken for nearly twenty hours.

When he did waken, he took nourishment in larger quantities, and then went off into another long sleep. The look of pain on his face lessened, a healthy glow appeared on his cheek, and he slept so soundly that I turned in on the floor.

I was awake along in the small hours of the morning, and heard my patient stirring, so I got up and drew the little curtain over the bulls-eye port -it was already daylight. I gave him a drink and a biscuit, and told him I would go to the cook's galley and get him some broth, but he begged to wait until breakfast time said he

He shut his eyes for a minute, and then continued: "But beyond Purgatory, through Death, and the other side of Hell

Just here Enoch came in to inquire after his health, and sat down for a minute's chat. Enoch is first, last, and all the time captain of a whaler; he knows about whales and whale-hunters just as an engineer on the road knows every speck of scenery along the line, every man, and every engine. Enoch

Leaving him with his arms around his 'sacred' package "

felt refreshed, and would just nibble a sea biscuit. Then he ate a dozen in as many min


"Did you take care of my pack?" he said eagerly, throwing his legs out of the berth, and looking wildly at me.

"Yes, it's all right; lie down and rest," said I; for I thought that to cross him would set him off his head again.

"Do you know that dirty old pack contains more treasures than the mines of Africa?" "It don't look it," I answered, and laughed to get him in a pleasant frame of mind-for I hadn't seen nor heard of his pack.

"Not for the little gold and other valuable things, but the proofs of a discovery as great as Columbus made, the discovery of a

couldn't talk ten minutes without being "reminded " of an incident in his whaling life couldn't meet a whaleman without "yarning" about the whale business. He lit his pipe and asked: "Been whaling, hunting the North Pole?"



[blocks in formation]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]



As I was going out, a sailor came to the door with a flat package, perhaps six inches thick and twelve or fourteen square, covered with a dirty piece of skin made from the intestines of a whale, which is used by the natives of this clime because it is light and waterproof.

"We found this in a coil of rope, sir; it must belong to him. It must be mostly lead."

It was heavy, and I set it inside the door, remarking that here was his precious pack.

"Precious! aye, aye, sir; precious don't describe it. Sacred, that's the word. That package will cause more excitement in the world than the discovery of gold in California. This is the first time it's been out of my sight or feeling for months and months; put it in the bunk here, please."

I went away, leaving him with his arms around his "sacred" package.

After breakfast, Enoch and I went to the little cabin to hear the stranger's story, and I, for one, confess to a great deal of curiosity. Our visitor was swallowing his last bowl of coffee as we went in. "So you knew Captain Burrows and the Duncan McDonald,'" said he. "Let me see, what is your name?"

"Alexander, captain of the Champion,' at your service, sir."

"Alexander; you're not the first mate, Enoch Alexander, who sat on a dead whale all night, holding on to a lance staff, after losing your boat and crew?"


"The same."


Why, I've heard Captain Burrows

speak of you a thousand times."

"But you were going to tell us about the Duncan McDonald.' Tell us the whole cruise from stem to stern." "Let's see, where shall I begin?" At the very beginning," I put in. "Well, perhaps you've noticed, and perhaps you have not, but I'm not a sailor by inclination or experience. I accidentally went out on the Duncan McDonald.' How old would you take me to be?"

"Fifty or fifty-five," said Enoch. "Thanks, Captain, I know I must look all of that; but, let me see, forty-five, fifty-five, sixty-five, seventy-seventy-what year is this?"



Seventy-three. Well, I'm only twentyeight now.'


Impossible! Why, man, you're as gray as I am, and I'm twice that."

"I was born in forty-five, just the same. My father was a sea captain in the old clipper days, and a long time after. He was in the West India trade when the war broke out, and as he had been educated in the navy, enlisted at once. It was on one of the gun-boats before Vicksburg that he was killed. My mother came of a well-to-do family of merchants, the Clarks of Boston, and to make a long story short died in sixty-six, leaving me considerable money.

"An itching to travel, plenty of money, my majority, and no ties at home, sent me away from college to roam, and so one spring morning in sixty-seven found me sitting lazily in the stern of a little pleasure boat off Fort Point in the Golden Gate, listlessly watching a steam whaler come in from the Pacific. My boatman called my attention to her, remarking that she was spickand-span new, and the biggest one he ever saw, but I took very little notice of the ship until, in tacking across her wake, I noticed her name in gold letters across the stern'Duncan McDonald.' Now that is my own name, and was my father's; and try as I would, I could not account for this name as a coincidence, common as the name might

be in the highlands of the home of my ancestors; and before the staunch little steamer had gotten a mile away, I ordered the boat to follow her. I intended to go aboard and learn, if possible, something of how her name originated.

"As she swung at anchor, off Goat Island, I ran my little boat alongside of her and asked for a rope. 'Rope?' inquired a Yankee sailor, sticking his nose and a clay pipe overboard; might you be wantin' to come aboard?'


"Yes, I want to see the captain!'


'Well, the cap'en's jest gone ashore; his gig is yonder now, enemost to the landin'. You come out this evenin'. The cap'en's particular about strangers, but he's always to home of an evenin'.'

"Who's this boat named after?'

"The Lord knows, stranger; I don't. But I reckon the cap'en ken tell; he built her.'

"I left word that I would call in the evening, and at eight o'clock was alongside again. This time I was assisted on board and shown to the door of the captain's cabin; the sailor knocked and went away. It was a full minute I stood there before the knock was answered, and then from the inside, in a voice like the roar of a bull, came the call: Well, come in!'

"I opened the door on a scene I shall never forget. A bright light swung from

[graphic][merged small]
[graphic][merged small]

the beams above, and under it sat a giant of the sea-Captain Burrows. He had the index finger of his right hand resting near the North Pole of an immense globe; there were many books about, rolls of charts, firearms, instruments, clothing, and apparent disorder everywhere. The cabin was large, well-furnished, and had something striking about it. I looked around in wonder, without saying a word. Captain Burrows was the finest-looking man I ever saw six feet three, straight, muscular, with a pleasant face; but the keenest, steadiest blue eye you ever saw. His hair was white, but his long flowing beard had much of the original yellow. He must have been sixty. But for all the pleasant face and kindly eye, you would notice through his beard the broad, square chin that proclaimed the decision and staying qualities of the man."

"That's George Burrows, stranger, to the queen's taste just as good as a photograph," broke in Enoch.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]


No, he wa'n't; but he was the best man I ever knew who wa'n't a whaler. He was a navy sailor, he was, and a whole tenpound battery by hisself. Why, you jest ort. to see him waltz his old tin-clad gun-boat up agin one of them reb forts-jest naturally skeered 'em half to death before he commenced shooting at all.'

"Wasn't he killed at the attack on Vicksburg?'

"Yes, yes; you knowed him, didn't you? He was a


"He was my father.'

"What? Your father?' yelled Captain Burrows, jumping up and grasping both my hands. 'Of course he was; darn my lubberly wit that I couldn't see that before!' Then he hugged me as if I was a ten-yearold girl, and danced around me like a maniac.

"By all the gods at once, if this don't seem like Providence--yes, sir, old man Providence himself! What are you a-doin'?

« AnteriorContinuar »