The Adventures Of A Haunted Whaling Man

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The next month seemed the busiest of all. Whale boats were out almost every day, the try works, or rendering furnaces, on deck blazed away during the night, and barrel upon barrel was stowed below. As the month ended, preparations were at last under way for the passage home. But first the Clara Bell made port, at St. Augustine Bay, which is situated on the southwest coast of Madagascar.

[February] 2nd Tuesday

…found ourselves in company with three French brigs—two of which are slavers—had to turn to immediately and break out paint &c. Our decks are swarming with natives. This morning set up the bobstays and painted ship outside—rafted 14 casks for water—and now we only await order s from the Prince before we dare to go ashore for anything.…

4th Thursday

… hoisted the water on deck and rolled it forward—in order to bury the ships head & lift the stern to get at [a] leak—Chips [the ship’s carpenter] has been up to his armpits in the water working at the leak all the morning. A sail in sight coming in—Went ashore with the captain to get a bullock —and a time we had too. Two tribes of the natives were fighting, popping away at one another with their shooting things. When they had popped off about a keg of powder one party retreated to the hills leaving one dead man upon the field.

The Clara Bell weighed anchor and began her voyage home around the Cape of Good Hope on February 8. The crewmen grumbled now when the wind either turned against them or died down completely, and complained when the captain hove to in order to track down yet another school of whales. By March 11, however, the ship had reached St. Helena, and nine days later the final leg of the journey was begun. As the prospect of returning to his family grew closer to reality, Weir once again became anxious. He was determined now to try to make amends for his behavior at home.

[April] 9th Friday

… Had a long gaze at the North Star last night the sky being clear in that quarter; and what vivid recollections of by gone days it brought before me; how often have I looked upon that star while Grafting the noble Hudson between West Point and Cold Spring, or while any where about home and at night, Can I look at that star from that loved place again. I trust it may be so, but I can’t anticipate. …

18th Sunday

… Dreaming of home by night & thinking and talking of home by day—and so it is with all the crew.

But will they—can they ever love me as formerly? If not—no one is to blame but my most willful self—deeds, not words must hereafter mark my life—how shall I face my honored & good father—to obtain his forgiveness is all I shall seek—and my future life must show my gratitude.…

19th Monday

… how I should like to walk to Church this afternoon with Em—I wonder if they will think of me this day— well! there is some satisfaction in imagining they will—flattering thought—.…

21st Wednesday

Still steering NW—have not made any more sail yet—3 sails in sight—3 P.M., a schooner running across our bows—we hauled aback, and lowered a boat for news—proved to be the “Charm” from Phila. 10 days out—they tossed us a package of papers, which proved a grand treat—and serves to make us realize that we are actually drawing near home—.…

22nd Thursday

Steering NW with light SEly breeze— Under top gallant sails—Oh! dear! how can the Old Man [ the captain ] keep us reduced to this short sail with so light a wind.…

24th Saturday

Steering NNW. With a Villanous 3 knot breeze. Sailors muttering & growling. Painted the Larboard side of the ship … touched up scientifically here & there on the inside of the bulwarks. … Scraped & varnished the lash rail & spanker boom—scraped all the masts—Clara begins to look new indeed. Barstow the owner will congratulate himself on having left his petted craft in the hands of such a skipper.…

27th Tuesday