Trunnell seemed to be thinking for several minutes. Then he spoke.
“There’s lots o’ bugs an’ things forrads, ain’t there?” said he.
“If by lots ye means millions, I reckon ye’re talkin’,” said the man.
“Well,” said Trunnell, “I’ll tell ye what I’ll do. You get a sail needle an’ a line to it about half a fathom long, see?”
“Well, then ye go about between decks, an’ in the alleyways, an’ behind the bunks, an’ around the galley, an’ earn yer own outfit with that needle, see? When ye have a string o’ bugs a-fillin’ the string like clear up to the needle’s eye, ye bring them aft to me, an’ I gives ye credit fer them in clothes or grog, each string bein’ worth a drink, an’ a hundred worth a shirt or pants. Do ye get on to the game?”
“I get on to it well enough,” said the fellow, “but what I wants to know is, whether ye’ll take me whurd o’ honner that I’ll catch a string o’ bugs afore night, an’ give me the rum now to stave off the chill.”
“I will,” said Trunnell.
The old man rose from the hatchway, and struggled hard to get into his shirt. The garment had shrunk so, however, that the sleeves reached but to his elbows and the tails to his waist band. He seized the open front in his hand and looked solemnly at the mate with his sad eyes.
“Lead me to it! Lead me to it! For the Lord’s sake, lead me to it!” he said quietly.
And Trunnell went into the forward cabin with the apparition following eagerly in his wake.
What a strange little giant he was, this mate! “Discipline is discipline,” he would say, and no man got anything for nothing aboard his ship.
We crossed the line in 24 west longitude, running close to the St. Paul’s Rocks. These strange peaks to the southward of the equator caused some interest aboard, rising as they do out of the middle of the ocean a mile or more in depth.
The air was hot and muggy the day we crossed into the northern hemisphere, and the light breeze died away again, leaving the ship with her courses clewed up, rolling and wallowing uneasily in the swell.
Jackwell, as I must always call him now, spruced himself up better than usual, and paid more attention to the ladies. He avoided me at every opportunity; but as neither Chips nor myself ever alluded to the story we had heard from Jim, his courage rose, and he became more familiar with the men.
Up to this time, we had not sighted a single sail since the Sovereign; but here on the line, where the fleets of the maritime world congregate to pick up the north or southeast trades, we sighted many ships bound both out and in.
One of these that happened near us was the Shark, whaling brig of three hundred tons, commanded by Captain Henry,—a man who had sailed in American ships engaged in the deep-water trade for years before he had taken to whaling. This vessel signalled us; and when we had answered and found out who our neighbor was, we were invited aboard.