« ForrigeFortsæt »
You miss his form, and the sound of his voice, for habit had made them almost necessary to you, and each of your senses feels the loss.
All these things make such a death peculiarly solemn, and the effect of it remains upon the crew for some time. There is more kindness shown by the officers to the crew, and by the crew to one another. There is more quietness and seriousness. The oath and the loud laugh are gone. The officers are more watchful, and the crew go more carefully aloft. The lost man is seldom mentioned, or is dismissed with a sailor's rude eulogy,—"Well, poor George is gone! His cruise is up soon! He knew his work, and did his duty, and was a good shipmate." Then usually follows some allusion to another world, for sailors are almost all believers, in their way; though their notions and opinions are unfixed and at loose ends. They say, "God won't be hard upon the poor fellow," and seldom get beyond the common phrase which seems to imply that their sufferings and hard treatment here will be passed to their credit in the books of the Great Captain hereafter,—“To work hard, live hard, die hard, and go to hell after all, would be hard indeed!” Our cook, a simple-hearted old African, who had been through a good deal in his day, and was rather seriously inclined, always going to church twice a day when on shore, and reading his Bible on a Sunday in the galley, talked to the crew about spending the Lord's Days badly, and told them that they might go as suddenly as George had, and be as little prepared.
Yet a sailor's life is at best but a mixture of a little good with much evil, and a little pleasure with much pain. The beautiful is linked with the revolting, the sublime with the commonplace, and the solemn with the ludicrous.
Not long after we had returned on board with our sad report, an auction was held of the poor man's effects. The captain had first, however, called all hands aft and asked them if they were satisfied that everything had been done to save the man, and if they thought there was any use in remaining there longer. The crew all said that it was in vain, for the man did not know how to swim, and was very heavily dressed. So we then filled away and kept the brig off to her course.
The laws regulating navigation make the captain answerable for the effects of a sailor who dies during the voyage, and it is either a law or a custom, established for convenience, that the captain should soon hold an auction of his things, in which they are bid off by the sailors, and the sums which they give are deducted from their wages at the end of the voyage.
In this way the trouble and risk of keeping his things through the voyage are avoided, and the clothes are usually sold for more than they would be worth on shore. Accordingly, we had no sooner got the ship before the wind, than his chest was brought up upon the forecastle, and the sale began. The jackets and trousers in which we had seen him dressed so lately were exposed and bid off while the life was hardly out of his body, and his chest was taken aft and used as a store-chest, so that there was nothing left which could be called his. Sailors have an unwillingness to wear a dead man's clothes during the same voyage, and they seldom do so, unless they are in absolute want.
As is usual after a death, many stories were told about George. Some had heard him say that he repented never having learned to swim, and that he knew that he should meet his death by drowning. Another said that
he never knew any good to come of a voyage made against the will, and the deceased man shipped and spent his advance, and was afterwards very unwilling to go, but, not being able to refund, was obliged to sail with us. A boy, too, who had become quite attached to him, said that George talked to him, during most of the watch on the night before, about his mother and family at home, and this was the first time that he had mentioned the subject during the voyage.
THE PHANTOM SHIP
[From "Legends and Superstitions of the Sea," BY FLETCHER S. BASSETT, U. S. N.)
"Tis the Phantom ship, that, in darkness and wrath,
Ayres.—Legend of Montauk.
THE legend of the Flying Dutchman is the most
picturesque and romantic of the many tales
current among sailors half-a-century ago. It is also, perhaps, the best-known nautical legend. Novelists have used it as their theme; poets have embellished the tale with their verse; dramatists have familiarized the public with it, and it has been the subject of modern opera. The tale is told with variations in nearly every maritime country, and folklore tales of wonderful spectral and phantom ships are abundant.
The usually accepted version of the story is thus given by M. Jal: 1“An unbelieving Dutch captain had vainly tried to round Cape Horn against a head-gale. He swore he would do it, and, when the gale increased, laughed at the fears of his crew, smoked his pipe and drank his beer. He threw overboard some of them who
1 Scénes de la Vie Maritime, Vol. II, p. 89.
tried to make him put into port. The Holy Ghost descended on the vessel, but he fired his pistol at it, and pierced his own hand and paralyzed his arm. He cursed God, and was then condemned by the apparition to navigate always without putting into port, only having gall to drink and red-hot iron to eat, and eternally to watch. He was to be the evil genius of the sea, to torment and punish sailors, the sight of his storm-tossed bark to carry presage of ill fortune to the luckless beholder. He sends white squalls, all disasters, and tempests. Should he visit a ship, wine sours, and all food becomes beans the sailors' bête noir. Should he bring or send letters, none must touch them, or they are lost. He changes his mien at will, and is seldom seen twice under the same circumstances. His crew are all old sinners of the sea, sailor thieves, cowards, murderers, and such. They eternally toil and suffer, and have little to eat or drink. His ship is the true purgatory of the faithless and idle mariner."
This is the Phantom Ship, of which Scott sings: 1
"Or of that Phantom Ship, whose form
As the hero is a Dutchman, we should properly refer to Holland for the true version of the tale.
1 Rokeby, Canto II, v. 2.