Two Years Before the Mast eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 502 pages of information about Two Years Before the Mast.
and it was soon evident that she was walking away from us.  Our captain then hailed, and said that he should keep off to his course; adding, ``She isn’t the Alert now.  If I had her in your trim she would have been out of sight by this time.’’ This was good-naturedly answered from the California, and she braced sharp up, and stood close upon the wind up the coast; while we squared away our yards, and stood before the wind to the south-southwest.  The California’s crew manned her weather rigging, waved their hats in the air, and gave us three hearty cheers, which we answered as heartily, and the customary single cheer came back to us from over the water.  She stood on her way, doomed to eighteen months’ or two years’ hard service upon that hated coast, while we were making our way to our home, to which every hour and every mile was bringing us nearer.

As soon as we parted company with the California, all hands were sent aloft to set the studding-sails.  Booms were rigged out, tacks and halyards rove, sail after sail packed upon her, until every available inch of canvas was spread, that we might not lose a breath of the fair wind.  We could now see how much she was cramped and deadened by her cargo; for with a good breeze on her quarter, and every stitch of canvas spread, we could not get more than six knots out of her.  She had no more life in her than if she were water-logged.  The log was hove several times; but she was doing her best.  We had hardly patience with her, but the older sailors said, ``Stand by! you’ll see her work herself loose in a week or two, and then she’ll walk up to Cape Horn like a race-horse.’’

When all sail had been set, and the decks cleared up, the California was a speck in the horizon, and the coast lay like a low cloud along the northeast.  At sunset they were both out of sight, and we were once more upon the ocean, where sky and water meet.

[1] This word, when used to signify a pulley or purchase formed by blocks and a rope, is always by seamen pronounced ta-kl.

[2] When our crew were paid off in Boston, the owners answered the orders of Stimson and me, but refused to deduct the amount from the pay-roll, saying that the exchanges were made under compulsion.

[3] We had also a small quantity of gold dust, which Mexicans or Indians had brought down to us from the interior.  It was not uncommon for our ships to bring a little, as I have since learned from the owners.  I heard rumors of gold discoveries, but they attracted little or no attention, and were not followed up.

[4] This is a common expletive among sailors, and suits any purpose.

CHAPTER XXX

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Two Years Before the Mast from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.