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.

I also connected with our arrival here another circumstance which more nearly concerns myself; viz., my first act of what the sailors will allow to be seamanship,—­ sending down a royal-yard.  I had seen it done once or twice at sea; and an old sailor, whose favor I had taken some pains to gain, had taught me carefully everything which was necessary to be done, and in its proper order, and advised me to take the first opportunity when we were in port, and try it.  I told the second mate, with whom I had been pretty thick when he was before the mast, that I could do it, and got him to ask the mate to send me up the first time the royal-yards were struck.  Accordingly, I was called upon, and went aloft, repeating the operations over in my mind, taking care to get each thing in its order, for the slightest mistake spoils the whole.  Fortunately, I got through without any word from the officer, and heard the ``well done’’ of the mate, when the yard reached the deck, with as much satisfaction as I ever felt at Cambridge on seeing a ``bene’’ at the foot of a Latin exercise.


The next day being Sunday, which is the liberty-day among merchantmen, when it is usual to let a part of the crew go ashore, the sailors had depended upon a holiday, and were already disputing who should ask to go, when, upon being called in the morning, we were turned-to upon the rigging, and found that the top-mast, which had been sprung, was to come down, and a new one to go up, with top-gallant and royal masts, and the rigging to be set.  This was too bad.  If there is anything that irritates sailors, and makes them feel hardly used, it is being deprived of their Sunday.  Not that they would always, or indeed generally, spend it improvingly, but it is their only day of rest.  Then, too, they are so often necessarily deprived of it by storms, and unavoidable duties of all kinds, that to take it from them when lying quietly and safely in port, without any urgent reason, bears the more hardly.  The only reason in this case was, that the captain had determined to have the custom-house officers on board on Monday, and wished to have his brig in order.  Jack is a slave aboard ship; but still he has many opportunities of thwarting and balking his master.  When there is danger or necessity, or when he is well used, no one can work faster than he; but the instant he feels that he is kept at work for nothing, or, as the nautical phrase is, ``humbugged,’’ no sloth could make less headway.  He must not refuse his duty, or be in any way disobedient, but all the work that an officer gets out of him, he may be welcome to.  Every man who has been three months at sea knows how to ``work Tom Cox’s traverse’’—­ ``three turns round the long-boat, and a pull at the scuttled butt.’’ This morning everything went in this way. ``Sogering’’ was the order of the day.  Send a man below to get a block, and he would capsize everything before finding it,

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