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nibble is perceptible. The mackerel, which but a moment ago were fairly rushing on board, have in that moment disappeared so completely that not a sign of one is left. The vessel next under our lee holds them a little longer than we, but they finally also disappear from her side. And so on all around us.
And now we have time to look around us —to compare notes on each other's successes— to straighten our back bones, nearly broken, and aching horribly with the constant reaching over; to examine our fingers, cut to pieces and grown sensationless with the perpetual dragging of small lines across them—to— "There, the skippers got a bite!—here they are again, boys, and big fellows too!" Every body rushes once more to the rail, and business commences again, but not at so fast a rate as before. By-and-by there is another cessation, and we hoist our jib and run off a little way into a new berth.
While running across, I take the first good look at the state of affairs in general. We lie, as before said, nearly in the centre of the whole fleet, which from originally covering an area of fifteen miles each way, has "knotted up" into a little space not above two miles square. In many places, although the sea is tolerably rough, the vessels lie so closely together that one could almost jump from one to the other. The greatest skill and care are necessary on such occasions to keep them apart, and prevent the inevitable consequences of a collision, a general smash-up of masts, booms, bulwarks, etc. Yet a great fish day like this rarely passes off without some vessels sustaining serious damage. We thread our way among the vessels with as much work and as daintily as a man would walk over ground covered with eggs, and finally get into a berth under lee of a vessel which seems to hold the fish pretty well. And here we fish away by spells, for they have got " spirty," that is, they ara capricious, and appear and disappear suddenly like a flash.
Meanwhile the rain continues pouring out of the leaden sky, which looks as though about to fall on us, and overwhelm us in a second deluge. The wind is getting high (old Boreas, singularly enough, always gets high on these occasions, when fresh water is plentiest), and the old hands arc debating among themselves as to the most judicious port to be made to-night. At ten we get breakfast, consisting of coffee, hot cakes, bread and butter, fish, beef, sweet cakes, and apple sauce. The morning's exercise has given us all a ravenous appetite, and the celerity with which the various comestibles spread out for us by the cook are made to disappear, would astonish the members of " our best society."
After breakfast we begin to clear up decks a little, preparatory to experiencing some part of the rough weather which is brewing. Oil cloths are in great demand, but the rain somehow contrives to soak through them, and they form but little protection. We secure our mackerel barrels to the bulwarks, lash up the various loose objects about decks, and put on tha hatches, etc. The
fish still bite, but more moderately and by "spirts," and in the half liquid state in which we all find ourselves, we mechanically hold our lines over the rail and haul in fish with as little motion to our bodies as possible, for the skin in such weather gets marvelously tender, and is apt to come off on very slight provocation.
At one o'clock "Scat ye, one half," from ths stentorian lungs of the cook, proclaims dinner on the tabie, and "one half" accordingly go down to "finish their breakfast," as a facetious shipmate remarks. The cabin of a fisherman be it known is too confined to accommodate an entire fishing crew with seats around the table, and accordingly it is customary for the oldest hands to eat first, leaving the young men and boys to follow at second table.
After dinner we makapreparations for dressing our fish Gib-tubs, split-knives, barrels, wash-barrels, buckets, mittens, and sea-boots, are hunted up, and water begins to flow about decks more plentifully than ever. Mackerel are "dressed" by splitting them down the back, taking out their entrails (called in fisherman's parlance "gibs"), letting the blood soak out of them by immersion in clear salt water, and then salting them down in layers, in the barrels prepared for that purpose. Two persons compose a "gang" for dressing. One of them splits the fish and throws them to the other, who, by a dexterous twist of his thumbs and the fingers of his right band, extracts the entrails, and throws the cleaned fish into a barrel of salt water at hand. "Dressing" fish is disagreeable work in itself, but generally passes off lively enough, as it is the concluding scene in what fishermen call "a day's work,'' and one now learns how much he has in reality caught, and miser-like plunges up to the armpits in the riches he has that day won. Then too, dressing is enlivened by many a jest, and aneedote, and song, every body feeling joyful at the events of the day, and hopeful for the success of the voyage. And while the operation of catching fish is followed with an intensity and ardor which does not admit of the slightest flagging of attention, dressing is the very reverse, and may be made as lively as possible without detriment to the work.
Soon after commencing to dress, the whole fleet gets under way, and steers toward the land, which is faintly visible under our lee, the wind being from the northeast. Going square before it, we soon near the land, and as we do so, both wind and sea increase. We have a grand chance to try the sailing qualities of our little boat—a chance which a mackerel man never neglects; for next to getting a good share of fish, a man is considered most fortunate if he has a smart sailing vessel. We overhaul a good many, and are badly beaten by a few of the vessels, as might be expected in so large a fleet. And as we come into competition with some new vessel, our crew tell at once her name, if she is known to them, or if entirely unknown, at any rate her hailing place.
After dressing, we salt our catch. This is sorry work for sore fingers, hands, and anns, of which, after a day's work like the present, there is always a plentiful supply, mackereling being, under any circumstances, a business in which sores of all kinds on hands and fect are singularly plenty and hard to get rid of. But salting does not last forever, and the few preparations necessary for going into harbor being already completed, wo gather together, as dusk comes on, in little knots about the deck, discuss the day's work, point out familiar vessels, and argue on their various sailing qualities, and onco in a while slily peep down the "companion-way " into the snug little cabin, where the "ram-cat" (the sailors name for a cabin stove) glows so brightly, and every thing looks so comfortable, and in particular so dry, that our hearts yearn for a place by the fire. Landsmen, poor fellows, have no idea how great an amount of real, genuine, unmistakable comfort may be contained in a little box ten feet by fifteen, with a table in the middle, seats and berths at the sides, a stove and hatchway at one end, a row of shelves and a box-compass at the other, and a skylight over head, the whole smelling villainously of decayed fish and bilge-water. Happily for mankind all happiness is comparative, else would not the dirty confined cabin of a fisherman ever bo considered a very Elysium of comfort, and a seat by its fire be regarded as a luxury, than which the conqueror of the world could wish for nothing better.
We are fast nearing our haven. And glad enough we all are of it, for the wind has risen, until it already blows half a gale, and the great waves roll after us savagely, trying to overtake us, and looking as though if they did, they would inevitably smother our little craft. And then, too, as the excitement of the day dies out, and we stand inactively about, the rain seems colder, and our wet clothes adhere clammily to our bodies, and make moving about a misery. Yonder is East Point Light shining brightly on our beam. The headmost of our companions have already shot around the point, and are running up to their anchorage.
"Min your sheets, now, boys, and stand by to trim aft!" sings out our skipper. And as we string along the ropes the helm goes down. She comes into the wind, shaking like a dog just come oat of the water, and at the same time the sails are trim:nei flat, and we gayly round the point, iu\i in less than fifteen minutes are in smooth water.
Two tacks take us nearly up to Ten Pound Island Light, and, as we stand over once more,
"H ml down the foresail!" shouts the captain .' Stand by your main and jib halyards! see your anchor all clear!"
"There's a good berth, skipper," says one of the old hands, right alongside of that Chatham smack." (It is so dark tint, do my best, I can not make out even the rig of the vessel to which my old friend so readily gives a " local habitation and a name."
"Here we are—down jib!" and down it rattles without any trouble, as her head swings
into the wind. As her headway is deadened, "let go the anchor!" is the word, and a plash, and the rattle of a few fathoms of cable tell us that we are fast for the night.
"Pay out cable, boys; a good scope, and let her ride easy!" and the rest of us go aft and haul down the enormous mainsail, the wet canvas of which feels as though made of stout wire. It is soon furled up, and a lantern fastened in the rigging, and then we make a general rush for the cabin. Here wet clothes and boots are flung off and thrown pell-mell on deck, dry suits donned, and then "one-half" crawl into their bunks, while the balance cat their suppers.
Meanwhile we hear an incessant rattling of sails, and plashing of anchors on every side of us, while the wind whistles wildly through our rigging, and the rain dashes fiercely against the skylight and deck overhead, increasing our comfort by reminding us of the sufferings we have escaped.
It is not until after supper that we begin to think of the damages sustained in our persons during the past day's work. And now rags, salve, and liniment, and all the various preparations for ameliorating the condition of sore fingers, sore wrists, sore arms, sore feet, sore ankles, and sore shins, are brought into requisition; the cook is flattered and cajoled out of modicums of hot fresh water, and stockings are taken off, sleeves rolled up, bandages unrolled, and groans and growls resound from every corner of the cabin.
The operation which is now commenced is considered among old fishermen as one of the "peculiar" comforts incident to their calling. "Comfort indeed!" incredulously observes the landsman reader. "Yes, sir, comfort," say I. For, sir, allow me to say you have not yet the most remote idea of the real signification of the word comfort. Nor will you ever be fully enlightened on the subject until you have been fishing a season. In fact, my dear sir, until you domiciliate yourself on board a Cape schooner for a couple of trigs, you will not have even a proper idea of what a real sore is; how in the world then do you expect to know what comfort (among other matter) is to be taken out of such things?
As sores are part and parcel of the business of catching mackerel, I will here relato my slight experience of them for the benefit of the uninitiated. When preparing to go on board the vessel at H I was counseled to provide myself
with a supply of salve and bandages for the sore fingers, ete., with which I would be pestered on my trip. "For," said my friends, "fishermen always have sores." But I laughed to myself, and boastfully thought, "I am not a fisherman." But the old lady at whose house I stayed during the time I was on shore, knew much more about the matter than I, and accordingly when I got on board I found, on an examination into my effects, that she had put at least half-adozen yards of old muslin and linen in my clotheshag. And well it was that she did so. I had not been three whole days on board before I experienced premonitory symptoms of what are commonly called "boils," coming, one on my right foot, one on the ankle of the same, and one on my arm (the left one). I was surprised, as I had never in my life had such things on me, and had always prided myself on a purity of system which bore me clear of such torments. It was quite natural that I should express my surprise, and quite as natural that my shipmates should express none, they looking upon such things as matters of course. I did not, therefore, obtain any sympathy among them.
Well, I nursed my torments, and, like every thing else that is nursed, they grew apace, and before a week were called "fine large boils." I said I nursed them; is it necessary to add that I cursed them? At least, as far as my conscience permitted me to do so. I was regularly lamed —and yet here was I on board a confounded fishing vessel, with all available assistance required to help in getting things in order for the fishground. My boils are no excuse, and I am therefore expected to do as others do, to pump, to run, to be smart, to climb, if necessary, to pull on ropes, and to—in short—do every thing that wants doing. If I groan, I am shown veteran old sores, to' which mine are, in fishing language, only "darling little pets." When I venture to utter a hope of soon being better, my friend, to whose kind offices I am indebted for an introduction to this infernal business, smilingly assures me that "this is nothing—a mere trifle: when we once get among mackerel, then will be the time for sores." As though this was not the grand jubilee of every thing of the kind!;
But every body on board has sores—sores of all descriptions, and some that are indescribable —cuts, chafes, line-sores, pickle-sores, boils, pimples, felons, festers, agnails, bruises, and every other species of torment that poor mortal can by any possibility have on his hands and feet, our little community are infested with. And it is with our sores somewhat as with the Paddy's pig, which "enjoyed miserable bad health, and was getting no better very fast." Thus it happened, that on the evening in question, after supper was dispatched, every one commenced patching up his sores, laughing meanwhile at every body else, making odd grimaces while attending to their little matters.
Before retiring to rest I take a peep on deck. The gale is roaring fiercely through the bare rigging, and a blinding storm of hail and sleet, a blast of which salutes my face as I put it out of the companion-way, adds to the inclemency of the night. The dark storm-clouds scud wildly across the sky, and the wind fairly shrieks at times, as though glorying in the strength to bear down every thing coming in its path. It is truly a wild night, and as I descend again to my comfortable place by the fire, I think anxiously of the poor souls who are tossed about in such weather—cold, wet, and suffering at tho mercy of the winds and waters. I am not alone in my thoughts, for as I shake the sleet off my rough
I cap, I hear our gray-headed old skipper mutter softly to himself, "God pity poor sailors who are caught in Boston Bay in this storm."
We go to sleep early—get up late next morning—get breakfast—(the storm still raging)— head up, and strike down the mackerel caught the preceding day; clear up decks, and then go ashore, or visit some of the other vessels. To do either of the latter, we do not require the assistance of boats, for the fleet has so crowded the harbor, that one can without difficulty walk from one side of the harbor to the other, a distance of three-fourths of a mile, on vessels.
Toward evening the wind hauls to the northward , and the weather clears up, and great snowwhite clouds, looking like gigantic puffs of steam from some engine in the other world, roll grandly across the sky, sure signs of good weather. We "turn in" early, and arc called out at three o'clock A.m. to get under way. We find every body around us in motion, some heaving up their anchors, others hoisting their sails, some with boats ahead, being towed out of the crowd, so as to enable them to shape a course, and a few already steering out of the harbor. We follow suit with all haste, and daylight finds us in Boston Bay, with the fleet around us, and the bills of Cape Ann blue in the distance.
Such is a fish-day, with its accompaniments. Of a series of such is composed the trip of a mackerel catcher, for the fish rarely bite well except just before a storm. When full of fish, which is generally, in from three to five weeks, the vessel goes back home and lands her cargo. There the fish are assorted, weighed, and repacked by an inspector regularly appointed for that purpose. By him the barrels are finally branded, to show that they are "200 lbs. of mackerel," No. 1, 2, or 3, as the case may be, and then they are ready for sale or shipment.
Fishermen make from $160 to $350 and $400 during the eight months in which they labor, viz., from the last of March to the first of December. During the winter they in general remain at home, compensating for the toils of the working season by a life of total inactivity and idleness, spending a great part of the earnings of the past year in harmless dissipation, and looking to nothing higher than " an early start in the spring for the Banks." Such is life in the fishing villages of Cape Cod—to use a rather homely and perhaps coarse, but trite sailor's simile, "Like a Portuguese devil, when it is good it is too good, and when it is bad it is worthless."
THE ORIENTAL MERCHANT.
¥HEN Haj Hamed borrowed a hundred dinars of the merchant Kodadad, he swore by the faith of the Prophet to return the sum within six months from that time, and fixed the hour and day. Ho was a young man, full of hope and confidence, and Kodadad was old and wary. "My son," said the latter, "this is perhaps a rash promise. Say one year." But Haj Hamed would not accept a further delay. He was going from Tarsus to Damascus on a commercial journey, and had accurately caleulated the time. One month to go; one month to come back; three months to sell his goods; a whole month to spare. But the accidents of the load—sickness, robbers, unforeseen delays! He relied upon the mercy of God; and with many asseverations said that at the appointed time he would present himself at the kiosque of the merchant Kodadad, on the banks of the river, and lay before him a hundred golden dinars. The money was lent without interest, and payment was a sacred obligation.
The caravan set out, flags flying, and drums beating, from the rendezvous on the opposite side of the river, and soon entered the gorges of the mountains. After proceeding a little way, a halt was agreed upon; for many of the merchants had staid behind, saying their last adieus to their families, or making additions to their merchandise. Haj Hamed, who possessed several camelloads, and had been among the first to be ready at the placo of meeting, repined greatly at this delay.
He had earned his title of Haj, or Pilgrim, when a boy, by going in company with his father to the shrine of the Prophet; but this was the first journey he had undertaken since. His impatience, therefore, may be excused. He had started with the idea of making a fortune; and was impatient to be doing. Besides, there was his promise to Kodadad. If he forfeited that, his credit was gone forever. Accordingly, he spent the first part of the day that followed the halt, sitting by the roadside, counting the stragglers that came in, and jeering them for their tardiness. "This young man," said some, "believes that time was made only for him. What matters a day more or less? At the end of life we shall have to regret our impatience. There are evils by every wayside. Why should we be eager to come up with theca?"
These philosophical remarks found no favor with Haj Hamed, who, instead of imitating his companions, and reclining lazily, under the shadow of trees on the green grass, listening to the songs of the birds and the gurgling of the stream, began at length to roam uneasily about. He saw that another sun would set, and perhaps another, and behold them still in the lap of the same valley. He climbed the mountains, endeavoring to distract his thoughts, and whenever he obtained a glimpse of the encampment below, he gazed at it, endeavoring to discern signs of a forward movement. But the tents remained unstruck; the people reclined in groups; the camels and horses were dispersed here and there; and the lazy tinkling of their bells showed that they, at any rate, were enjoying themselves. The young merchant at length turned away and plunged into the deep recesses of the forest. Nature had no charms for him. As he went, he counted in his memory the number of pieces of cloth his bales contained, compared the cost-price with the probable market-price, and reveled in the anticipation of gigantic profits to be realized in the paradise of his imagination—some dusty bazaar in the far-off city of Damascus.
Vol. IX.—No. 53 — Xx
While he was meditating on these sordid matters, he was suddenly recalled to himself by a surprising accident. A huge mantle was thrown over his head; and before he had time to struggle, he was cast on the ground, and rolled up, like a bale of his own goods, in complete darkness. At first, he thought that instant death was to be his fate; and he murmured, "May Heaven pay my debt to the merchant Kodadad!" Soon, however, it appeared that he was only a prisoner; and he felt himself raised and carried along, while smothered laughter came to his ears. If this were a joke, it was a practical one. He tried to speak; but no answer was returned, except renewed laughter. Presently, those who carried him set him down; the bonds that confined him were loosened, the mantle was whisked away, and, to his surprise, he found himself in a beautiful garden, surrounded by a bevy of maidens, who clapped their hands, and enjoyed his amazed appearance.
Haj Hamed was too thoroughly an Oriental not to understand his position, after a few moments' thought. He had evidently been watched during his progress through the forest by the inmates of some harem, unenemmbered by male attendants, who in a spirit of fun had made him prisoner. The incident is not an uncommon one, if we may believe narrators; but it generally leads to disagreeable results. Our merchant felt uncomfortable. These merry girls were quite capable, he thought, after having made a butt of him, of throwing him down a well or into a pond. He looked around for the chief among them rather anxiously, and soon recognized her in a very young maiden, who, after having laughed with the rest, had flung herself carelessly on a pile of cushions under a tree, and was gazing at him with interest.
"Lady," said he, assuming a humble attitude, "this is not wise nor well. I am a merchant traveling with my goods that require care and watchfulness, and beg to be released."
She seemed annoyed that her beauty, which was great, did not amaze him; and replied:
"Fear nothing. There is no danger. This it my father's kiosque. He has given it to me; and I live here with my maidens unmolested. There is a guard of slaves at the gate; but they only appear at a signal of danger—when I sound this shell."
She raised a conch to her lips, and a shrill sound filled the air. The slave-girls, scarcely understanding her motive, again cast the mantle over Hamed, and bade him be silent and motionless. Several men came hurriedly; but were dismissed with jeers and mockeries. In a few moments the merchant, more dead than alive, was uncovered again, and told to be of good cheer, for he had permission to depart.
By this time, however, beauty had begun te exert its influence; and Haj Hamed, instead of rising, remained gazing in admiration at the lady of the place. She met his glance, at first, with a disdainful expression; but according to the Oriental idea, two such souls have secret sysapathics, from the influence of which neither can escape. No sooner did their eyes meet in a full gaze, than both felt faint at heart. The lady turned very pale, and leaned her head upon the cushion; the maidens, raising the trembling Hamsd, led him to her side. They talked for hours: not of themselves, but of love; and expatiated eloquently on the happiness of meeting, while the attendants played on their lutes, or sang songs illustrative of their situation. The shadows of night were coming on, when a peculiar sound at the outer gate announced that the father of the maiden, whose name was Leilah, had come to visit her. So Haj Hamed was thrust unceremoniously forth; and was awakened from his dream of happiness amidst the deepening gloom of the forest. He returned bowed down and heavy-hearted to the encampment.
Many thoughts kept him awake for many hours; it was not until the sky that stretched between the mountain tops overhead had begun to whiten, that at length, overcome by fatigue, he fell asleep. Pleasant visions spake beneath his eyelids. When he awoke, the tents were struck, the camels were laden, and the people were filing off. "Why this hurry?" he cried. "Was not this a pleasant place to tarry in? Time is eternal. There is no need to hasten from the present, which is joyful, to the future which is full of danger." Several merchants thought he was jeering them for their philosophy of the previous day, and hastened to complete their arrangements, and follow the caravan. Hamed's camels had been laden by his servants, and were ready to proceed. He hesitated a moment; but remembering his debt to Kodadad, cried, "March!" and went away with his heart full of new recollections.
The journey was prosperous, but tedious. When (he caravan reached Damascus, the market was found to be encumbered with merchandise, and sales were with difficulty effected. Month after month passed away; most of Hamed's bales still remained on his hands. The fifth month from the time of his departure had arrived, and he was beginning to despair of being able to perform his engagements. At length, however, a merchant about to proceed to Bagdad, made him an advantageous offer for the whole of his stock, and he was enabled to depart, after having realized a good profit. Several accidents and delays occurred on the journey; but the caravans reached the valley, one march from Tarsus, on the eve of the day when Hamed had promised payment to Kodadad. Most of the merchants immediately rode forward to glad their families and friends; but our young merchant, feeling his love for Leilah revive with intensity, determined to spend that day in endeavoring to obtain an interview with her. He wandered into the mountains, endeavoring to follow the same track as before; but although ho several times imagined he recognized the trees and the rocks, his search was unsuccessful. All was wild and seemingly uninhabited. He called aloud "Leilah!" but the echoes only answered, "la! la !"—no, no; and when night came, he knew not which way to
turn. So he sat down beneath a huge sycamore to wait patiently until the morning.
When light came, he remembered his promise to Kodadad. He was to pay the hundred dinars at noon. He determined to hasten to Tarsus on foot over the mountains, for he knew the general direction in which it lay. Many hours of travel were before him; but he was light of foot, and at length beheld in the distance the minarets of the city, and the winding course of the river. Suddenly the landscape darkened. Clouds seemed to come out of every valley, and to inundate the plain. The rain fell; the wind blew. He hastened onward, clutching the leather purse in which he carried his wealth, and invoking the assistance of the Prophet. When he reached the banks of the river, he heard, through the mist, a muezzin proclaiming the hour of noon from the distant mosque. The waters were turbulent. No ferry boat was in sight. It was impossible to cross. Haj Hamed prayed; and an idea came to his mind. He plucked a large reed, and hollowed it, and placed therein a hundred pieces of gold, and tied other reeds to it, and floated this raft upon the stream, and confided in the mercy of God.
Now it happened that Kodadad, remembering Haj Hamed's promise, had gone to his kiosque that day to wait for his money. The wind blew; the rain fell. The debtor did not appear. "We must allow him an hour's grace, for the storm is violent," said Kodadad. The muezzin chanted the hour of noon. The merchant called to his slave to bring another pipe. Presently, a bundle of reeds came floating along the misty waters; a black boy stooping forward seized them as they passed. He was about to cast them away again, when the unusual weight prevented him. "Master," said he, "this is a reed of lead." The merchant, who wished to pass the time, told him to break the reeds. He did so, and lo! a hundred glittering pieces of gold fell suddenly upon the pavement of the kiosque!
This story, which is told in many different ways, illustrates the Oriental idea of mercantile probity. Turkish merchants, in their dealings among themselves, are famous for keeping their engagements with scrupulous exactitude; and the example of Haj Hamed is often cited as a model. Of course it is understood that the debt—all in good golden dinars—came to its destination in some miraculous way: the Prophet being always deeply interested in the good deeds of his servants. The young merchant was not without his reward. His credit was, in future, unlimited. But not only so; Kodabad insisted on giving him his daughter in marriage. And it will surprise none but very matter-of-fact people—to whom we do not address this legend—that this daughter turned out to be the same very imprudent Leilah, whose fascination had nearly caused Haj Hamed to dishonor his verbal promissory note. We learn, moreover, that she settled down into a most prudent and exemplary wife—which relieves our mind—for, except under extremely Oriental circumstances, we should not recommend her conduct for imitation.