“An’t you a sailor?” asked Marco.
“Yes,” replied his companion.
“I shouldn’t think that a man that had been used to the sea, would be afraid of upsetting in a coach.”
“I’m not a man” said the sailor.
“What are you?” said Marco.
“I’m a boy. I’m only nineteen years old; though I’m going to be rated seaman next voyage.”
“Have you just got back from a voyage?” asked Marco.
“Yes,” said the sailor. “I’ve been round the Horn in a whaler, from old Nantuck. And now I’m going home to see my mother.”
“How long since you’ve seen her?” asked Marco.
“O, it’s four years since I ran away.”
Here the sailor began to speak in rather a lower tone than he had done before, so that Marco only could hear. This was not difficult, as the other passengers were at this time engaged in conversation.
“I ran away,” continued the sailor, “and went to sea about four years ago.”
“What made you run away?” asked Marco.
“O, I didn’t want to stay at home and be abused. My father used to abuse me; but my mother took my part, and now I want to go and see her.”
“And to see your father too,” said Marco.
“No,” said the sailor. “I don’t care for him. I hope he’s gone off somewhere. But I want to see my mother. I have got a shawl for her in my chest.”
Marco was shocked to hear a young man speak in such a manner of his father. Still there was something in the frankness and openness of the sailor’s manner, which pleased him very much. He liked to hear his odd and sailor-like language too, and he accordingly entered into a long conversation with him. The sailor gave him an account of his adventures on the voyage; how he was drawn off from the ship one day, several miles, by a whale which they had harpooned;—how they caught a shark, and hauled him in on deck by means of a pulley at the end of the yard-arm;—and how, on the voyage home, the ship was driven before an awful gale of wind for five days, under bare poles, with terrific seas roaring after them all the way. These descriptions took a strong hold of Marco’s imagination. His eye brightened up, and he became restless on his seat, and thought that he would give the world for a chance to stand up in the bow of a boat, and put a harpoon into the neck of a whale.
In the mean time, the day wore away, and the road led into a more and more mountainous country. The hills were longer and steeper, and the tracts of forest more frequent and solitary. The number of passengers increased too, until the coach was pretty heavily loaded; and sometimes all but the female passengers would get out and walk up the hills. On these occasions Forester and Marco would generally walk together, talking about the incidents of their journey, or the occupations and amusements which they expected to engage in when they arrived at Forester’s home. About the middle of the afternoon the coach stopped at the foot of a long winding ascent, steep and stony, and several of the passengers got out. Forester, however, remained in, as he was tired of walking, and so Marco and the sailor walked together. The sailor, finding how much Marco was interested in his stories, liked his company, and at length he asked Marco where he was going. Marco told him.