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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 trouble we had already begun to anticipate.  The captain had several times found fault with the mate, in presence of the crew; and hints had been dropped that all was not right between them.  When this is the case, and the captain suspects that his chief officer is too easy and familiar with the crew, he begins to interfere in all the duties, and to draw the reins more taut, and the crew have to suffer.

CHAPTER X

This night, after sundown, it looked black at the southward and eastward, and we were told to keep a bright lookout.  Expecting to be called, we turned in early.  Waking up about midnight, I found a man who had just come down from his watch striking a light.  He said that it was beginning to puff from the southeast, that the sea was rolling in, and he had called the captain; and as he threw himself down on his chest with all his clothes on, I knew that he expected to be called.  I felt the vessel pitching at her anchor, and the chain surging and snapping, and lay awake, prepared for an instant summons.  In a few minutes it came,—­ three knocks on the scuttle, and ``All hands ahoy! bear-a-hand[1] up and make sail.’’ We sprang for our clothes, and were about half dressed, when the mate called out, down the scuttle, ``Tumble up here, men! tumble up! before she drags her anchor.’’ We were on deck in an instant. ``Lay aloft and loose the topsails!’’ shouted the captain, as soon as the first man showed himself.  Springing into the rigging, I saw that the Ayacucho’s topsails were loosed, and heard her crew singing out at the sheets as they were hauling them home.  This had probably started our captain; as ``Old Wilson’’ (the captain of the Ayacucho) had been many years on the coast, and knew the signs of the weather.  We soon had the topsails loosed; and one hand remaining, as usual, in each top, to overhaul the rigging and light the sail out, the rest of us came down to man the sheets.  While sheeting home, we saw the Ayacucho standing athwart our hawse, sharp upon the wind, cutting through the head seas like a knife, with her raking masts, and her sharp bows running up like the head of a greyhound.  It was a beautiful sight.  She was like a bird which had been frightened and had spread her wings in flight.  After our topsails had been sheeted home, the head yards braced aback, the fore-topmast staysail hoisted, and the buoys streamed, and all ready forward for slipping, we went aft and manned the slip-rope which came through the stern port with a turn round the timberheads. ``All ready forward?’’ asked the captain. ``Aye, aye, sir; all ready,’’ answered the mate. ``Let go!’’ ``All gone, sir’’; and the chain cable grated over the windlass and through the hawse-hole, and the little vessel’s head swinging off from the wind under the force of her backed head sails brought the strain upon the slip-rope. ``Let go aft!’’ Instantly all was gone, and we were under way.  As soon as she was well off from the wind, we filled away the head yards, braced all up sharp, set the foresail and trysail, and left our anchorage well astern, giving the point a good berth. ``Nye’s off too,’’ said the captain to the mate; and, looking astern, we could just see the little hermaphrodite brig under sail, standing after us.

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