« PreviousContinue »
without any word even from the shore, the mate was justly incensed; more especially, as he had taken great pains to keep perfectly sober against Wilson's arrival.
Two or three hours before sundown, a small schooner came out of the harbor, and headed over for the adjoining island of Imeeo, or Moreea, in plain sight, about fifteen miles distant. The wind failing, the current swept her down under our bows, where we had a fair glimpse of the natives on her decks.
There were a score of them, perhaps, lounging upon spread mats, and smoking their pipes. On floating so near, and hearing the maudlin cries of our crew, and beholding their antics, they must have taken us for a pirate; at any rate, they got out their sweeps, and pulled away as fast as they could; the sight of our two six-pounders, which, by way of a joke, were now run out of the side-ports, giving a fresh impetus to their efforts. But they had not gone far, when a white man, with a red sash about his waist, made his appearance on deck, the natives immediately desisting.
Hailing us loudly, he said he was coming aboard; and after some confusion on the schooner's decks, a small canoe was lanched overboard, and, in a minute or two, he was with us. He turned out to be an old shipmate of Jermin's, one Viner, long supposed dead, but now resident on the island.
The meeting of these men, under the circumstances, is one of a thousand occurrences appearing exaggerated in fiction; but, nevertheless, frequently realized in actual lives of adventure.
Some fifteen years previous, they had sailed together as officers of the bark Jane, of London, a South Seaman. Somewhere near the New Hebrides, they struck one night upon an unknown reef; and, in a few hours, the Jane went to pieces. The boats, however, were saved; some provisions also, a quadrant, and a few other articles. But several of the men were lost before they got clear of the wreck.
The three boats, commanded respectively by the captain, Jermin, and the third mate, then set sail for a small English settlement at the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. Of course they kept together as much as possible. After being at sea about a week, a Lascar in the captain's boat went crazy; and, it being dangerous to keep him, they tried to throw him overboard. In the confusion that ensued, the boat capsized from the sail's "jibing;" and a considerable sea running at the time, and the other boats being separated more than usual, only one man was picked up. The very next night it blew a heavy gale; and the remaining boats taking in all sail, made bundles of their oars, flung them overboard, and rode to them with plenty of line. When morning broke, Jermin and his men were alone upon the ocean; the third mate's boat, in all probability, having gone down.
After great hardships, the survivors caught sight of a brig, which took them on board, and eventually landed them in Sydney.
Ever since then our mate had sailed from that port, never once hearing of his lost shipmates, whom, by this time, of course, he had long given up. Judge, then, his feelings, when Viner, the lost third mate, the instant he touched the deck, rushed up and wrung him by the hand.
During the gale his line had parted; so that the boat, drifting fast to leeward, was out of sight by morning. Reduced, after this, to great extremities, the boat touched, for fruit, at an island of which they knew nothing. The natives, at first, received them kindly; but one of the men getting into a quarrel on account of a woman, and the rest taking his part, they were all massacred but Viner, who, at the time, was in an adjoining village. After staying on the island more than two years, he finally escaped in the boat of an American whaler, which landed him at Valparaiso. From this period he had continued to follow the seas, as a man before the mast, until about eighteen months previous, when he went ashore at Tahiti, where he now owned the schooner we saw, in which he traded among the neighboring islands.
The breeze springing up again just after nightfall, Viner left us, promising his old shipmate to see him again, three days hence, in Papeetee harbor.
WE ENTER THE HARBOR. JIM THE PILOT.
Exhausted by the day's wassail, most of the men went below at an early hour, leaving the deck to the steward and two of the men remaining on duty; the mate, with Baltimore and the Dane, engaging to relieve them at midnight. At that hour, the ship—now standing off shore, under short sail—was to be tacked.
It was not long after midnight, when we were wakened in the forecastle by the lion roar of Jermin's voice, ordering a pull at the jib-halyards; and soon afterward, a handspike struck the scuttle, and all hands were called to take the ship into port.
This was wholly unexpected; but we learned directly, that the mate, no longer relying upon the consul, and renouncing all thought of inducing the men to change their minds, had suddenly made up his own. He was going to beat up to the entrance of the harbor, so as to show a signal for a pilot before sunrise.
Notwithstanding this, the sailors absolutely refused to assist in working the ship under any circumstances whatever: to all mine and the doctor's entreaties lending a deaf ear. Sink or strike, they swore they would have nothing more to do with her. This perverseness was to be attributed, in a great measure, to the effects of their late debauch.
With a strong breeze, all sail set, and the ship in the hands of four or five men, exhausted by two nights' watching, our situation was bad enough; especially as the mate seemed more reckless than ever, and we were now to tack ship several times close under the land.
Well knowing that if any thing untoward happened to the vessel before morning, it would be imputed to the conduct of the crew, and so lead to serious results, should they ever be brought to trial; I called together those on deck, to witness my declaration :—that now that the Julia was destined for the harbor (the only object for which J, at least, had been struggling), I was willing to do what I could, toward carrying her in safely. In this step I was followed by the doctor.
The hours passed anxiously until morning; when, being well to windward of the mouth of the harbor, we bore up for it, with the union-jack at the fore. No sign, however, of boat or pilot was seen"; and after running close in several times, the ensign was set at the mizen-peak, union down in distress. But it was of no avail.
Attributing to Wilson this unaccountable remissness on the part of those ashore, Jermin, quite enraged, now determined to stand boldly in upon his own responsibility; trusting solely to what he remembered of the harbor on a visit there many years previous.
This resolution was characteristic. Even with a competent pilot, Papeetee Bay is considered a ticklish one to enter. Formed by a bold sweep of the shore, it is protected seaward by the coral reef, upon which the rollers break with great violence. After stretching across the bay, the barrier extends on toward Point Venus,* in the district of Matavai, eight or nine miles distant. Here there is an opening, by which ships enter, and glide down the smooth, deep canal, between the reef and the shore, to the harbor. But, by seamen generally,
* The most northerly point of the island; and so called from Cook's observatory being placed there during his first visit.