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At the risk of being considered weak and childish even, I must confess that I perused this letter with tearful eyes. I read and reread it many times, and then, replacing it carefully in the till of my chest, fell back in my bunk, overpowered by the combined effect of home-sickness and physical weakness.
But I will not bore the reader with a description of my painful initiation to an ocean life; it is sufficient to say that for the twentyfour hours following, I suffered more real misery than a landsman can well conceive of.
On the morning of the third day out, however, I turned out at "seven bells," with a good appetite for breakfast, and after partaking of a hearty meal of salt junk and hard biscuit, accompanied with the usual allowance of "hot, wet and dirty," (a sailor's name for coffee), I began to feel that "Richard was himself again."
Up to this time we had been beating out to sea under double-reefed top-sails, but shortly after breakfast the wind suddenly veered to a more favorable quarter, and the order was immediately given to "brace in the yards!" The reefs were then shaken out of the top-sails, the top-gallant-sails loosed and sheeted home,
and the main and mizzen courses brought down to their places. The jibs and stay-sails were hoisted, and, by four bells of the forenoon watch, the Condor was careening over the billows, at the rate of ten knots an hour, with the wind on her quarter, and every stitch of her canvas distended to the breeze.
The operation of making sail had scarcely been completed, when the thrilling cry of "A man overboard!" resounded along the decks.
A scene of great confusion immediately ensued; a portion of the crew crowded to the rail to catch a glimpse of their missing shipmate; others sprang to the boats, and others. yet hastened to the braces, in obedience to the proper commands for bringing the ship to the wind.
The main top-sail was promptly laid back, and as soon as the ship became stationary, the quarter-boat was manned and lowered into the water. The missing man proved to be a green hand by the name of Knights, who had fallen from the lee-main-chains while attempting to reef the main-sheet. He could not swim, but, for some minutes, succeeded in keeping his head above water. Before the boat had been lower
ed, however, he had sunk twice, and would probably have drowned before assistance could have reached him, had not a man by the name of Hathaway leaped overboard and swam to his rescue.
He succeeded in reaching the drowning man just as he was upon the point of sinking for the third and last time. With some difficulty he kept the head of his unfortunate shipmate above water until the arrival of the boat, when both were taken on board, amid the joyful shouts of the boat's crew, and the responsive cheers of their shipmates on board the Condor.
The boat immediately returned to the ship, where the proper means were used to restore young Knights to animation. In a few minutes he began to show signs of life, and, by the time the ship had been filled upon her course again, was able to return to his duty.
For several days following, no incident of importance occurred to relieve the monotony of sea life. We pursued our onward way for the Azores or Western Islands, whither we had shaped our course from the commencement of the passage, and by the morning of the fifth day out, had crossed the Gulf Stream.
During the first watch on this morning, the
crew were suddenly startled by a succession of groans and shrill cries of distress which evidently proceeded from some human being in mortal agony. It was soon ascertained that the sounds proceeded from the lower hold, and, a lantern having been procured, several men hastily descended the main hatchway, where a ghastly and heart-rending spectacle awaited them.
Guided by the cries of distress which still continued, and aided by the faint rays of the lantern, they soon discovered the body of Mr. Galon, the cooper of the ship, who lay upon the barrels which formed the ground tier of the hold, weltering in his own blood, and evidently in the agonies of death.
It appeared that while laboring under the influence of that terrible species of insanity known as delirium tremens, he had procured a razor from his chest, and, descending to the hold, had there committed suicide, by cutting his throat from ear to ear. When found, he was beyond the reach of human aid, and his earthly existence ferminated in less than an hour after the performance of the rash and terrible act.
The captain immediately ordered that the body of the unfortunate man should be sewed
in a canvas shroud, with a few cannon balls to give it weight, which, being accomplished, he directed that it should be thrown overboard without farther delay. This mournful duty was performed without form or ceremony, accompanied only with the remark on the part of the captain, that, "In this case, you see the result of dissipation!"
A long period of favorable wind and weather followed, during which nothing transpired of particular interest to the reader. On the 20th of September we arrived off the Flores, having seen nothing of the whale species as yet, but a few black fish, none of which, however, we had succeeded in capturing.
Having procured a quantity of potatoes and a supply of water at the Flores, we again stood out to sea, shaping our course for Fayal, where we arrived in due season. We lay off and on the island for a few hours, and a boat was sent ashore with letters for the United States. I gladly improved this opportunity to send a letter to my father, informing him that I was in good health and spirits, and briefly relating my experience of sea life up to that time.
Upon the return of the boat it was discovered that one of her crew had deserted.