“The stairs are very narrow, sir,” said Alfred Raybrock to Captain Jorgan.
“Like my cabin-stairs,” returned the captain, “on many a voyage.”
“And they are rather inconvenient for the head.”
“If my head can’t take care of itself by this time, after all the knocking about the world it has had,” replied the captain, as unconcernedly as if he had no connection with it, “it’s not worth looking after.”
Thus they came into the young fisherman’s bedroom, which was as perfectly neat and clean as the shop and parlour below; though it was but a little place, with a sliding window, and a phrenological ceiling expressive of all the peculiarities of the house-roof. Here the captain sat down on the foot of the bed, and glancing at a dreadful libel on Kitty which ornamented the wall,—the production of some wandering limner, whom the captain secretly admired as having studied portraiture from the figure-heads of ships,—motioned to the young man to take the rush-chair on the other side of the small round table. That done, the captain put his hand in the deep breast-pocket of his long-skirted blue coat, and took out of it a strong square case-bottle,—not a large bottle, but such as may be seen in any ordinary ship’s medicine-chest. Setting this bottle on the table without removing his hand from it, Captain Jorgan then spake as follows:—
“In my last voyage homeward-bound,” said the captain, “and that’s the voyage off of which I now come straight, I encountered such weather off the Horn as is not very often met with, even there. I have rounded that stormy Cape pretty often, and I believe I first beat about there in the identical storms that blew the Devil’s horns and tail off, and led to the horns being worked up into tooth-picks for the plantation overseers in my country, who may be seen (if you travel down South, or away West, fur enough) picking their teeth with ’em, while the whips, made of the tail, flog hard. In this last voyage, homeward-bound for Liverpool from South America, I say to you, my young friend, it blew. Whole measures! No half measures, nor making believe to blow; it blew! Now I warn’t blown clean out of the water into the sky,—though I expected to be even that,—but I was blown clean out of my course; and when at last it fell calm, it fell dead calm, and a strong current set one way, day and night, night and day, and I drifted—drifted—drifted—out of all the ordinary tracks and courses of ships, and drifted yet, and yet drifted. It behooves a man who takes charge of fellow-critturs’ lives, never to rest from making himself master of his calling. I never did rest, and consequently I knew pretty well (’specially looking over the side in the dead calm of that strong current) what dangers to expect, and what precautions to take against ’em. In short, we were driving head on to an island.