Such was the commander, or captain, or skipper of this suspicious-looking schooner,—a man pre-eminently fitted for the accomplishment of much good, or the perpetration of great evil.
As soon as the anchor touched the ground, the captain ordered a small boat to be lowered, and, leaping into it with two men, one of whom was our friend John Bumpus, rowed toward the shore.
“Have you brought your kit with you, John?” inquired the captain, as the little boat shot over the smooth waters of the bay.
“Wot’s of it, sir,” replied our rugged seaman, holding up a small bundle tied in a red cotton handkerchief, “I s’pose our cruise ashore won’t be a long one.”
“It will be long for you, my man,—at least as far as the schooner is concerned, for I do not mean to take you aboard again.”
“Not take me aboard agin!” exclaimed the sailor, with a look of surprise which quickly degenerated into an angry frown and thereafter gradually relaxed into a broad grin as he continued: “Why, capting, wot do you mean to do with me then? for I’m a heavy piece of goods, d’ye see, and can’t be easily moved about without a small touch o’ my own consent, you know.”
Jo Bumpus, as he was fond of styling himself, said this with a serio-comic air of sarcasm, for he was an exception to the general rule of his fellows. He had little respect for, and no fear of, his commander. Indeed, to say truth (for truth must be told, even though the character of our rugged friend should suffer), Jo entertained a most profound belief in the immense advantage of muscular strength and vigor in general, and of his own prowess in particular.
Although not quite so gigantic a man as his captain, he was nearly so, and, being a bold, self-reliant fellow, he felt persuaded in his own mind that he could thrash him, if need were. In fact, Jo was convinced that there was no living creature under the sun, human or otherwise, that walked upon two legs, that he could not pommel to death, with more or less ease, by means of his fists alone. And in this conviction he was not far wrong. Yet it must not be supposed that Jo Bumpus was a boastful man or a bully. Far from it. He was so thoroughly persuaded of his invincibility that he felt there was no occasion to prove it. He therefore followed the natural bent of his inclinations, which led him at all times to exhibit a mild, amiable, and gentle aspect,—except, of course, when he was roused. As occasion for being roused was not wanting in the South Seas in those days, Jo’s amiability was frequently put to the test. He sojourned, while there, in a condition of alternate calm and storm; but riotous joviality ran, like a rich vein, through all his checkered life, and lit up its most somber phases like gleams of light on an April day.