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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOmoo - PART I - Chapter III. FURTHER ACCOUNT OF THE JULIA
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Omoo - PART I - Chapter III. FURTHER ACCOUNT OF THE JULIA Post by :webstuff2u03 Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :2285

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Omoo - PART I - Chapter III. FURTHER ACCOUNT OF THE JULIA

OWING to the absence of anything like regular discipline, the vessel
was in a state of the greatest uproar. The captain, having for some
time past been more or less confined to the cabin from sickness, was
seldom seen. The mate, however, was as hearty as a young lion, and
ran about the decks making himself heard at all hours. Bembo, the
New Zealand harpooner, held little intercourse with anybody but the
mate, who could talk to him freely in his own lingo. Part of his time
he spent out on the bowsprit, fishing for albicores with a bone hook;
and occasionally he waked all hands up of a dark night dancing some
cannibal fandango all by himself on the forecastle. But, upon the
whole, he was remarkably quiet, though something in his eye showed he
was far from being harmless.

Doctor Long Ghost, having sent in a written resignation as the ship's
doctor, gave himself out as a passenger for Sydney, and took the
world quite easy. As for the crew, those who were sick seemed
marvellously contented for men in their condition; and the rest, not
displeased with the general licence, gave themselves little thought
of the morrow.

The Julia's provisions were very poor. When opened, the barrels of
pork looked as if preserved in iron rust, and diffused an odour like
a stale ragout. The beef was worse yet; a mahogany-coloured fibrous
substance, so tough and tasteless, that I almost believed the cook's
story of a horse's hoof with the shoe on having been fished up out of
the pickle of one of the casks. Nor was the biscuit much better;
nearly all of it was broken into hard, little gunflints, honeycombed
through and through, as if the worms usually infesting this article
in long tropical voyages had, in boring after nutriment, come out at
the antipodes without finding anything.

Of what sailors call "small stores," we had but little. "Tea,"
however, we had in abundance; though, I dare say, the Hong merchants
never had the shipping of it. Beside this, every other day we had
what English seamen call "shot soup"--great round peas, polishing
themselves like pebbles by rolling about in tepid water.

It was afterward told me, that all our provisions had been purchased
by the owners at an auction sale of condemned navy stores in Sydney.

But notwithstanding the wateriness of the first course of soup, and
the saline flavour of the beef and pork, a sailor might have made a
satisfactory meal aboard of the Julia had there been any side
dishes--a potato or two, a yam, or a plantain. But there was nothing
of the kind. Still, there was something else, which, in the estimation
of the men, made up for all deficiencies; and that was the regular
allowance of Pisco.

It may seem strange that in such a state of affairs the captain should
be willing to keep the sea with his ship. But the truth was, that by
lying in harbour, he ran the risk of losing the remainder of his men
by desertion; and as it was, he still feared that, in some outlandish
bay or other, he might one day find his anchor down, and no crew to
weigh it.

With judicious officers the most unruly seamen can at sea be kept in
some sort of subjection; but once get them within a cable's length of
the land, and it is hard restraining them. It is for this reason that
many South Sea whalemen do not come to anchor for eighteen or twenty
months on a stretch. When fresh provisions are needed, they run for
the nearest land--heave to eight or ten miles off, and send a boat
ashore to trade. The crews manning vessels like these are for the most
part villains of all nations and dyes; picked up in the lawless ports
of the Spanish Main, and among the savages of the islands. Like
galley-slaves, they are only to be governed by scourges and chains.
Their officers go among them with dirk and pistol--concealed, but
ready at a grasp.

Not a few of our own crew were men of this stamp; but, riotous at
times as they were, the bluff drunken energies of Jennin were just
the thing to hold them in some sort of noisy subjection. Upon an
emergency, he flew in among them, showering his kicks and cuffs right
and left, and "creating a sensation" in every direction. And as
hinted before, they bore this knock-down authority with great
good-humour. A sober, discreet, dignified officer could have done
nothing with them; such a set would have thrown him and his dignity
overboard.

Matters being thus, there was nothing for the ship but to keep the
sea. Nor was the captain without hope that the invalid portion of his
crew, as well as himself, would soon recover; and then there was no
telling what luck in the fishery might yet be in store for us. At any
rate, at the time of my coming aboard, the report was, that Captain
Guy was resolved upon retrieving the past and filling the vessel with
oil in the shortest space possible.

With this intention, we were now shaping our course for Hytyhoo, a
village on the island of St. Christina--one of the Marquesas, and so
named by Mendanna--for the purpose of obtaining eight seamen, who,
some weeks before, had stepped ashore there from the Julia. It was
supposed that, by this time, they must have recreated themselves
sufficiently, and would be glad to return to their duty.

So to Hytyhoo, with all our canvas spread, and coquetting with the
warm, breezy Trades, we bowled along; gliding up and down the long,
slow swells, the bonettas and albicores frolicking round us.

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FIRST AND foremost, I must give some account of the Julia herself; or"Little Jule," as the sailors familiarly styled her.She was a small barque of a beautiful model, something more than twohundred tons, Yankee-built and very old. Fitted for a privateer outof a New England port during the war of 1812, she had been capturedat sea by a British cruiser, and, after seeing all sorts of service,was at last employed as a government packet in the Australian seas.Being condemned, however, about two years previous, she was purchasedat auction by a house in Sydney, who, after some slight repairs,dispatched her on the
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