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The Jug Afloat Post by :scooby001 Category :Short Stories Author :John S. Adams Date :October 2011 Read :2670

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The Jug Afloat

"WHAT I tell thee, captain, is sober truth. If thee wishes to prosper, thee must not allow thy sailors grog, lest, when at sea, they become tipsy, and thy ship, running upon hidden rocks, shall be lost; or else, when at the mast-head, giddiness come upon them, and, falling, thy crew shall number one less."

Thus spake a good old Quaker, a native of the city of Penn. Captain Marlin had been for many days and nights considering whether it were best to carry a complement of wine for himself and friends, and grog for his crew. He had that morning met Simon Prim, and asked his opinion, which he gave as above; yet Captain Marlin seemed undetermined. He felt it to be an important question, and he desired to come to a right conclusion.

They had been passing up Broadway; had reached the Trinity, crossing over towards Wall-street. Simon, with his usual gravity, raised his hand, and, pointing to the towering steeple of the splendid edifice, said:

"If thou, neighbor, desired to ascend yonder spire, thinkest thou thou wouldst first drink of thy wine, or thy grog?"

"Certainly not," replied Captain Marlin.

"Then," continued the Quaker, "do not take it to sea with thee; for thou or thy men mayest be called to a spot as high as yonder pinnacle, when thee little thinkest of it."

The two walked down Wall-street without a word from either, till, reaching a shipping-office, Captain Marlin remarked that he had business within. The Quaker very politely bowed, and bade him take heed to good counsel, and good-day.

The owner of the vessel was seated in an arm-chair, reading the shipping news in the Journal.

"Did you know," said he, as his captain entered, "that Parvalance & Co. have lost their ship, 'The Dey of Algiers,' and none were saved but the cabin-boy, and he half dead when found?"

"Indeed not; when-where-how happened it?" inquired Captain Marlin, in some haste.

"On a voyage from Canton, With a rich cargo of silks, satins, teas, &c. The boy says that the men had drank rather too much, and were stupidly drunk,--but fudge! Captain Marlin, you know enough to know that no man would drink too much at sea. He would be sure to keep at a good distance from a state of intoxication, being aware that much was intrusted to his care which he could not well manage whilst in such a state."

"Perhaps so," said Captain Marlin, doubtingly. "Mr. Granton, this touches a question I have been for days considering. It is, whether I shall allow my men grog."

"Of course, of course!" answered the ship-owner; "nothing so good for them round the Cape. You know the winds there, rather tough gales and heavy seas. Cold water there, Mr. Marlin! Why, rather give them hot coffee with ice crumbled in it, or, carry out a cask of ice-cream to refresh them! Man alive, do you think they could live on such vapor? You talk like one who never went to sea, unless to see a cattle-show."

Captain Marlin could not refrain from laughing at such reasoning, yet was more than half inclined to favor it. He was fond of his wine, and being, as such folks generally are, of a good disposition, he wished to see all men enjoy themselves, especially when at sea. He wished evil to no man, and had he thought that liquor might injure any of his crew, he would not that morning, in that office, have come to the conclusion to have it on board the "Tangus."



On a bright, clear morning, a deeply-freighted ship started from a New York slip; a fair wind bore it swiftly down the bay, and a few minutes' sail found it far from sight of the metropolis of the Union. Friends had taken the last glimpse of friends, the last interchange of kindly feelings had passed, and deep waters now separated them. It was the "Tangus," Robert Marlin captain, with a picked crew, and bound for the coast of Sumatra. Simon Prim shook his head, as he with others turned and walked home. "'T is a pity men will not see evil and flee from it," said he, and he pulled his straight coat-collar up, and thrust his hands more deeply than ever into his pockets. He was a little startled by a light tap upon the shoulder, and quite a happy voice exclaiming, "Why, Mr. Prim, how are you?"

"Verily, neighbor; thou didst move me; but I was thinking so deeply of Captain Marlin and his success, that no wonder thy light touch should do so."

"But what of him, Prim?"

"His ship, the Tangus, has just left, bound on a long voyage, and with a quantity of deadly poison on board, with which to refresh the crew. I tell thee, neighbor, I have fears for the result. The jug may possibly stand still when on land, but when it's afloat it's rather unsteady."

"Very true, but you seem to express unusual anxiety in regard to Captain Marlin and his good ship; thousands have been just as imprudent."

"But not in these days of light and knowledge, friend. There have been enough sad examples to warn men not to trifle on such subjects. Twenty years ago I drank. We had our whiskey at our funerals and our weddings. I have seen chief mourners staggering over the grave, and the bridegroom half drunk at the altar; but times are changed now, and thank God for the good that has been effected by this reformation!"

"You speak true, Simon; and I wonder Captain Marlin could, if he considered the evils brought about by intoxicating drink, carry it to sea with him."

"I told him all as I tell it to thee, friend Jones. He asked my opinion, and I gave it him, yet it seems he thought little of it. Good-day, neighbor; I have business with a friend at the 'Croton,' good-day;" and, saying this, Mr. Prim walked up a bye street.

Jones walked on, and thought considerable of the Quaker's last words. His mind that day continually ran upon the subject. Indeed, he seemed unable to think of anything else but of a jug afloat, and at night spoke of it to his wife.

The wife of Captain Marlin had that day called upon Mrs. Jones, and, although her husband had scarcely got out of sight, looked with pleasure to the day of his return, and already anticipated the joyous occasion. There is as much pleasure in anticipation as in realization, it is often said, and there is much truth in the saying. We enjoy the thought of the near approach of some wished for day, but when it arrives we seem to have enjoyed it all before it came.

Mrs. Jones was far from thinking it wrong in Captain Marlin that he carried liquor with him on his voyage, and gave it as her opinion that the vessel was as safe as it could possibly be without it.

"Remember what I say, that is a doomed ship," said Mr. Jones, after some conversation on the subject.

"You are no prophet, my dear," said his wife, "neither am I a prophetess; but I will predict a pleasant voyage and safe return to the Tangus." With such opposite sentiments expressed, they retired.



Insensible to all that is beautiful in nature, and grand and majestic in the works of creation, must the heart of that man be who can see no beauty, grandeur, or majesty, in the mighty abyss of waters, rolling on in their strength-now towering like some vast mountain, and piling wave upon wave, till, like pyramids dancing on pyramids, their tops seem to reach the sky; then sinking as deep as it had before risen, and again mounting up to heaven. There's beauty in such a scene, and no less when, calm and unruffled, the setting sun sinks beneath the horizon, and for miles and miles leaves its long, glistening track upon the unmoved waters.

'T was so when the crew of the "Tangus" were assembled upon the deck of that noble ship. The day previous had been one of hard labor; the vessel had bravely withstood the storm, and seemed now to be resting after the contest. Not a ripple was to be seen. Far as the eye could reach, was seen the same beautiful stillness. So with the crew; they were resting, though not in drowsy slumberings.

"I say what, Bill," remarked one, "'An honest man's the noblest work of God,' somebody says, and that's our captain, every inch, from stem to stern, as honest as Quaker Prim, of Gotham."

"Ay, ay, Jack," said another; "and did you hear how that same Prim tried to induce Captain Marlin to deprive us of our right?"

"Grog, you mean?"

"Ay, ay."

"No; but how was it?"

"Arrah, the dirty spalpeen he was, if he was afther a trying for to do that-the divil-"

"Will Mr. McFusee wait? By the way, Jack, he, Prim, got him by the button, and began to pour into his ears a long tirade against a man's enjoying himself, and, by the aid of thee, thy, and thou, half convinced the old fellow that he must give up all, and live on ice-water and ship-bread."


"Ay, ay, you know Captain Marlin. He always looks at both sides, then balances both, as it were, on the point of a needle, and decides, as Squire Saltfish used to say, 'cording to law and evidence."

"By the powers, he's a man, ivery inch, from the crown of his hat to the soles of his shoes, he is."

"Mr. McFusee, will you keep still?" said Mr. Boyden, the narrator. Mr. McFusee signified that he would.

"Well, he balanced this question, and the evidence against flew up as 't were a feather; but down went the evidence for, and he concluded to deal every man his grog in due season."

"That's the captain, all over," remarked Jack.

As we before said, their labors the day previous were great, and, as a dead calm had set in, and the vessel did not even float lazily along, but remained almost motionless,--not like a thing of life, but like a thing lifeless,--the captain ordered the crew each a can of liquor, and now they sat, each with his measure of grog, relating stories of the past, and surmises of the future.

"I tell you what," said Jack Paragon, "these temperance folks are the most foolish set of reformers myself in particular, and the United States, Texas, and the Gulf of Mexico, in general, ever saw."

"Even so," remarked Mr. Boyden, "but they do some good. 'Give the devil his due,' is an old saw, but none the less true for that. There's Peter Porper, once a regular soaker, always said his 'plaints were roomatic,--rum-attic, I reckon, however, for he used to live up twelve pairs of stairs,--he and the man in the moon were next-door neighbors; they used to smoke together, and the jolly times they passed were never recorded, for there were no newspapers in those dark ages, and the people were as ignorant as crows. Well, one of these temperance folks got hold of him, and the next I saw of him he was the pet of the nation; loved by the men, caressed by the women-silver pitchers given him by the former, and broadcloth cloaks by the latter."

"No selfish motives in keeping temperate!" said Jack Rowlin, ironically.

"Can't say; but liquor never did me harm. When I find it does, I will leave off."

"That's the doctrine of Father Neptune-drink and enjoy life."

"Every man to his post!" shouted the captain, as he approached from the quarterdeck. Quick to obey, they were where they were commanded in an instant, each with his tin can half filled with liquor. Captain Marlin, seeing this, ordered them to drink their grog or throw it overboard; they chose the former mode of disposing of it, and threw their empty cans at the cook.

In the distance a small black speck was decried.



The sun had set in clouds. The heavens were hung in darkness. Ever and anon a peal of thunder echoed above, a flash of vivid lightning illumed the waters, and far as eye could see the waters tossed high their whitened crests. The winds blew stormy, and now heavy drops of rain fell upon the deck of the "Tangus." "Every man to his duty!" shouted the captain; but the captain's voice was not obeyed.

Objects at two feet distance could not be seen. Louder that voice was heard. "Every man to his duty,--save the ship!"

"Captain, what is my duty?" inquired the cook.

"I appoint you under officer. Search for the men, and, if they are not all washed over, tell them I order them to work. If they do not know it, tell them the ship's in danger, and they must work."

The storm was fast increasing, till, at length, instead of blackness, one sheet of livid flame clothed the heavens above. Now all could be seen, and the captain busied himself. But two of the crew were to be seen, and they lay as senseless as logs. They heeded not the rage of the storm. The terrific peals of thunder awoke them not-they were dead drunk!

By the time the storm commenced, the liquor they had drank began to have its effect. Four of the crew, who were usually wide awake-that is, uncommonly lively-when intoxicated, had unfortunately fell overboard, and were lost.

The captain had now food for reflection, but the time and place were not for such musings.

He endeavored to arouse them, but in vain; so, with the aid of the only sober man aboard besides himself, he conveyed them to a place of safety. In the mean time the ship strained in every joint, and he momentarily expected to find himself standing on its wreck.

The waves washed the deck, and everything movable, cook-house and all, went by the board. The only hope of safety was in cutting away the masts, and to this task they diligently applied themselves. All night the captain and cook worked hard, and when morning came they found the storm abating. Soon the sun shone in its brightness; but what a scene did its light reveal! The once stately ship dismasted; four men, including the mate of the vessel, lost, and two lying insensible in the cabin.

It was not strange that the question came home to the mind of Captain Marlin, with force, "Is it right to carry liquor for a ship's crew?" He need ask the opinion of no one; he could find an answer in the scene around him.



"Then thy ship has put in for repairs?" said Simon Prim, as he entered Granton & Co.'s office, on Wall-street.

"What?" exclaimed Mr. Granton, who had heard nothing of the matter. Simon, pulling a paper from his pocket, read:

"LOSS OF LIFE AT SEA.--By a passenger in the 'Sultan,' from--, we are informed that the ship 'Tangus,' from this port, bound to Sumatra, and owned by Messrs. Granton & Co., of this city, put in at that place in a dismasted condition.

"The 'Tangus' had been three weeks out, when, in a gale, four men were washed overboard. The remainder of her crew being insensible, and the whole duty falling upon the captain and cook, they with great difficulty managed the ship. It is rumored that all were intoxicated. This is the seventh case of loss at sea, caused by intemperance, within four months. When will men become wise, and awake to their own interests on this topic?"

The ship-owner rapidly paced his office. "Can it be?" said he to himself. "Can it be?"

"Give thyself no trouble, friend," said Prim; "what is done is done, and can't be undone. Thy ship is not lost, and things are not so bad as they might be. Look to the future, and mourn not over the past; and remember that it is very dangerous to have a jug afloat."

These few words somewhat quieted him, yet not wholly, At this moment the wife of Captain Marlin entered. Having heard of the news, she came to learn all that was known respecting it.

"Madam," said he, after relating all he knew, "my mind is changed on the question we some time since discussed. Yes, madam, my mind is changed, and from this hour I will do all I can to exterminate the practice of carrying grog to sea for the crew. And I tell thee what," he continued, turning to friend Prim, who stood near by, "I tell thee what, thee was right in thy predictions; and, though it has been a dear lesson to me, I have learned from it that it is poor policy that puts a jug afloat."

(The end)
John S. Adams's short story: Jug Afloat

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