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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
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CHAPTER XVII. Will give a peep into a ship's forecastle, and some other places, which the gentle reader may never have had an opportunity of peeping into before, and therefore he is advised not to miss this opportunity of doing so.

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It may be thought that my prospects were not
very bright, and that I had no great cause for rejoicing;
but whether I had or not, I left the Two
Marys with a heart much lighter than when I went
on board of her. My mind was not occupied with
Captain Gunnell and his mate, but with the silver
mines of La Plata, and my proud cousin, and the all
lovely Georgiana De Lancey.

It is a blessed thing for the poor wretches who
are, by some means or other, defrauded of their
rightful portion of the good things which surround
them, that they can wander at will, and appropriate
to their own use the greenest spots that they can
find in the broad region of Hope. This was my
privilege, and I was by no means heedless of my

I hastened back to my boarding house, packed
up my clothes, paid Mrs. Riggs for my board, and
told her I should leave her in the morning. For
the first time, I wrote to my father, and informed

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him of my determination to go to sea, and hinted
that I should not come back until I could come
with a fortune. I said not a word to Mr. Worhoss
about my intentions, for I didn't consider him entitled
to any consideration. As soon as it was dark,
I strolled up to the establishment of Miss Smith,
with the hope of catching a glance of Miss De
Lancey, but without success; there was not a light
to be seen, nor a soul stirring about that respectable
school; so I gave a parting look to the brick
walls, which enclosed the form of the gentle Georgiana,
and turned my back upon them with a sigh,
without even daring to hope that I should ever behold
her again.

In the morning I went to the Notary's office,
and signed my name to the ship's papers; and
while I was reading the articles of agreement, and
the act of Congress which they contained, the notary's
clerk snatched them away from me, and
asked me if I wanted to eat them. I replied, that
I didn't like to sign my name to an agreement
without reading it; upon which he cursed both his
eyes most profanely, and wished he might be
knocked into the shape of a cocked hat, if such a
thing was ever heard of, as a sailor reading a
ship's articles.

A bluff looking sailor who was standing by, said

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he had got an old “articles” in his chest, and as
he was going in the Two Marys himself, he would
let me read them in my watch below, when we got
to sea. The notary asked me if I had got a protection,
and on hearing that I had not, he wanted
to know who was going to swear that I was an
American, as it was necessary for some body to do
so before I could get one. I expressed my fears
that I should not be able to get a protection, as I
knew of nobody who could swear to the fact of my
being a native born. As I said this, a greasy looking
man, in a bob tail green coat, said he would
sell me a protection that would exactly answer the
description of my person, if I had no objections to
changing my name to Smith.

“No, sir, I thank you,” I replied, “I don't like
the name of Smith.”

“You are a real fool,” exclaimed the Notary,
“Smith is as good a purser's name as a man need

“I think so too,” said the bob-tail-coated gentleman,
“it's a good name enough for a green
hand any how.”

“But why don't you swear for him, Pete?”
asked the notary.

“So I scall,” said the obliging Pete, “if he
scall give me two skillings?”

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“I would do so with pleasure,” I replied, “but
will it not be perjury?”

“Don't make a josey of yourself,” said the notary's
clerk, “if the man is willing to swear for
you, what do you care about his perjuring himself?”

“Well,” I replied, “I am willing.”

So the gentleman swore that to the best of his
belief, &c. that I was born, &c.; and some other
form having been observed, a protection was procured
for me from the custom house, and I received
a month's pay in advance, and was told to be
on board the ship with my duds by two o'clock.
The sailor who offered to lend me the “articles,”
asked me to take a horn with him, and as I was
anxious to offend no one, I followed him into a
grocery close by; he walked up to the counter, and
filled a tumbler half full of whiskey, nodded to me,
and said, “here's luck, shipmate,” and drank it off,
without adding a drop of water to it. But for my
part, I took a very little gin, and a good deal of
water, and nodded to Jack, and repeated his words,
but I could not for the life of me swallow a drop of
the gin and water, the scent of it was so nauseous.
Jack threw down a sixpence, but the bar-keeper returned
him a cent, saying he charged three cents
a glass at retail, but as Jack took his whiskey by

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the wholesale, he should only charge him two.
There were three or four dirty looking fellows, and
a couple of negroes, standing round the bar, and
they all laughed very loud at the bar-keeper's wit,
as though they had never heard the joke before.
Jack himself laughed, and the bar-keeper giggled,
and swore it was “too good;” the negroes said it
was “too sweet;” and they all swore with one
voice, that Jack was bound to treat the company;
so he told them to “take hold;” one of the negroes
beckoned in two more darkies, who were luxuriating
in the hot sun on a lazy bench at the door.
While these amiable gentlemen were filling their
glasses, I contrived to make my escape unperceived.

As I had no farewells to take, all my little arrangements
for the voyage were soon completed,
and at the appointed hour, I was on board the
Two Marys, with my chest, which contained a
couple of calico shirts, a pair of duck trowsers, a
monkey jacket, a black silk handkerchief, Blunt's
Navigator, and a jack knife. As soon as I got on
board, Mr. Ruffin, the mate, told me I must take
my long-tail coat off; I told him I would as soon
as I had put my chest away, and found a convenient
place to undress myself in.

I had got my chest half way down the cabin

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stairs, when Mr. Ruffin called out in his gruff

“Hollo! youngster, if you want to get into the
after part of the ship, you musn't crawl in at the
cabin windows, but come aft as I did, by degrees,
through the hawse holes, and through every ringbolt
in the ship's deck.”

I have generally found it a safe way, when any
body addressed any conversation to me which I
could not understand, to make no reply, and as I
didn't comprehend a word of what Mr. Ruffin said,
I made no answer, but continued to take my chest
down into the cabin.

“Do you hear me, youngster?” growled Mr.

“Yes, sir,” I replied, looking up, “I hear you,
but I don't understand you.”

“Don't understand me!” exclaimed Mr. Ruffin,
with an oath, “can't you understand English?
Take your traps forward into the forecastle. Do
you understand that?”

I did not exactly understand it, but the steward
came to my assistance, and showed me where the
forecastle was, and helped me to put my chest into
it. I could not help thinking that so much violence
was entirely uncalled for on the part of Mr.

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Ruffin, as I would have obeyed the most gentle signification
of his will with the greatest alacrity.

The forecastle was a dark and dirty looking
hole, without a particle of paint, and destitute of
every kind of convenience, for either dressing or
eating. If I had seen it before I signed the ship's
articles, I doubt whether I should have had courage
to have ventured on going to sea. It was not,
however, in my nature, to repine long at any thing,
so I hauled off my coat, and went upon deck, and
bustled about and made myself as busy as possible,
trusting that I should do right, but I doubt whether
I was of much service. The decks were full
of ropes and sailor's chests, and all manner of articles,
not one of which could I call by its right

The crew being all on board, the pilot took
charge of the ship, the lines were cast loose, and
we drifted off into the river, Captain Gunnell standing
on the end of the wharf, hallooing and cursing
until we were out of the sound of his voice. When
the ship reached the middle of the river, the anchor
was let go, the riggers were sent ashore, and the
cook, whom Mr. Ruffin called the “Doctor,” was
ordered to give the crew their suppers. It was an
order I was very glad to hear given, for I was very
hungry; but I looked in vain for the preparations

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for eating, which I expected to see. My heart sank
within me, when on going into the forecastle, I
discovered that our supper consisted of a tub of
salt beef, some hard biscuits, and an iron kettle
filled with black tea, sweetened with molasses.

The sailors were the roughest looking set
of men I had ever seen in my life; they were
seated in a half circle on their chests, with each a
tin pot of smoking hot tea, and a long sheath
knife in his hand; they grumbled and damned,
and found fault with every thing before them, for
which I did not think they were much to blame.
They called the tea “water bewitched,” and one
of them swore it was the regular “Yawpan,” which
he had seen sold for sixpence the bushel in Macao.
Another said the beef was part of an old horse, and
swore he found a horse's hoof, with the shoe on it,
in the cook's coppers. As for the bread, they said
they should be obliged to carry a ten penny nail
in their pockets, whenever they went to their
meals, to nail the biscuit down to the deck, to keep
the worms from running away with it.

“I suppose, Bob,” said one, “we shall have
small stores all the voyage?”

“You may swear to that,” replied another,
“Philadelfy small stores, a tar pot and a scraper.”

At the first sight of the beef, I thought I could

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not prevail upon my stomach to become a receptacle
for a mouthful of it; but, by degrees, my hunger
got the better of my scruples, and I borrowed
a knife from one of the sailors, and commenced
cutting myself a slice; forks there were none, but
I found that good carving was an accomplishment,
indispensable even in a ship's forecastle, for as my
knife diverged a little from a strait line, to include
a morsel of fat in the vicinity, one of my shipmates
growled out in no very pleasant tones, “cut square,
matey;” “none of your Philadelfy slices,” exclaimed
another, and without further notice, I received
a rap across the knuckles, from the knife
handle of the last growler.

“Who did that?” I exclaimed, starting upon
my feet.

“Who did it? you Johnny raw, I did it,”
replied a sailor; at the sight of whom all my valor
melted away. A stouter person than myself might
have pocketed an insult from him, without suffering
an imputation of cowardice; his huge fists and
broad shoulders inspired me with a feeling of respect
rather than fear. But I felt that I had been
insulted, and a feeling of shame made me shrink
from the notice of my companions, and I crept into
one of the berths, from whence I could look down

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and take a leisurely survey of all that was going on.
As I gazed upon the rough faces, and listened to
the profane conversation of the sailors, I felt a misgiving
that there were evil days in store for me,
and I could not but wish that I had never left my
quiet home, to seek my fortune in the turbulent
world; but thoughts of home were always accompanied
with recollections of the cause of my leaving
it; and I dismissed all fears, and thought only
of the sneering prophecy of my cousin.

A smoky lamp, suspended from the ceiling of
the forecastle, gave but just light enough to show
the hard faces of the men who sat immediately
under it; and to reveal but dimly the prominent
features of those who were farther removed, leaving
a part of their persons completely wrapped in
obscurity; so that they appeared like half formed
beings, emerging out of chaos. They were all either
drunk, or in that surly and brutish state, which
succeeds to a drunken revel. When their supper
was over, they kicked the tub of beef into a corner,
and threw their tin pots on one side, and all signs
of a meal were gone: clearing away the supper
things was a short ceremony. Notwithstanding
their apparent surliness and ill humor, one of them
volunteered a song, and in a voice like a

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northwester, was proceeding with great solemnity to

“It was a ship and a ship of fame,
Launched off the stocks, and bound for the Main,”
when he was suddenly interrupted by a voice on
deck, exclaiming, “hallo there below! stand from
under!” And down jumped a young sailor, with
a little blue keg under his arm. “Who knows
me?” exclaimed the new comer; “here I am, Jeremiah

Whether it was because of the light hearted and
merry tones of the young sailor's voice, or his neat
and good-looking person, or the sight of the little
blue keg which he brought with him, I cannot say,
but his presence seemed to give universal satisfaction;
and the sailors all gave him a hearty welcome,
although none of them recognized him for
an old acquaintance, which gave Mr. Bowhorn
some surprise, for he said he thought he knew
every body. After he had satisfied sundry inquiries
about the names of his landlord, his sweet-hearts,
and his last ship, he sat down and called for
a tort, upon which, one of the sailors took a little
horn drinking cup out of the till of his chest, and
Jeremiah filled it with gin, out of his little cask,
which he called his “bull,” and passed it in turn
to each of the sailors. As he filled the last tort,

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he caught sight of my head, as I stretched it
out over the side of the berth, to see what was going
on, and he swore he would have me out of my
hiding place in a trice, if I didn't jump out and
take a horn. “Come, come, shipmate,” he said,
“it is too early to go to prayers yet, so haul yourself
out, and take a tort of the real stuff.” So I
jumped out of my birth, for my heart yearned towards
the new comer the moment I heard his
voice; and in a valiant attempt to swallow a horn
of new whiskey, I came near being strangled. My
imminent danger, instead of exciting sympathy,
caused the most boisterous merriment among my
shipmates; and to show me what a green horn I
was, each of them drank another tort of the newly
distilled poison without winking. A song appears
to be always the natural effect of drinking. The
singer, who had been interrupted by the sudden
dropping in of Jeremiah Bowhorn, again commenced
his solemn ditty, which was patiently listened
to by all hands until the close. But I will only transcribe
this one verse, for the benefit of my readers:

“It was a ship and a ship of fame,
Launched off the stocks, and bound for the Main,
With a hundred and fifty bold young men,
They were picked and chosen every one.”

It may, however, be considered ungenerous to

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give but one verse, and as the next one seems to
be necessary to complete the sense of the first, I
will transcribe that too:

“Benjamin Jones was her captain's name,
He was a fine and a brisk young man,
And as brave a sailor as ever went to sea,
And we were bound for the coast of Africa.”

After this song, there was more whiskey drank,
and another song was sung, “'T was down in Cupid's
garden,” and then another and another. All
the songs had choruses, in which I joined with all
my might, and a terrible uproar we made. The
fish in the river, as they swam past our ship's
bows, must have been frightened at the noise.
For my own part, I began to think myself fortunate
in falling into the society of such a fine set
of fellows, and my unfavorable impressions were
fast wearing away. Even the man who had rapped
me over the knuckles with his knife handle,
no longer looked as forbidding as at first sight he
appeared; his black shaggy eyebrows, it is true,
cast a dark shadow over his face, but the eyes
which looked out from beneath them were as blue
and as mild as an infant's; and then his broad,
manly chest, and bull like neck, to which his curly
black hair clung like the tendrils of a vine to the

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trunk of an oak, gave an assurance of strength
which it was comfortable to know I could depend
upon in time of need.

The tort was passed around so freely, that at
last my pleasant companions began to lose their
relish for music, and commenced making sounds
which were any thing but indicative of harmonious
feelings. In the place of singing, they all
evinced a decided inclination for fighting, and
more than one boasted of his individual prowess.
Fearing that I might get into a broil, and distrusting
my ability to defend myself with credit, I
again retreated to my berth, that I might be out
of harm's way; but it was no easy matter to get
into it, for it appeared to be flying round and
round, and I was obliged to stand still some time
before it got steady.

The stout sailor with the shaggy eye brows,
whose name I found was Jack Snaggs, had remained
remarkably quiet for some time, sitting
with his lips tightly compressed together, apparently
waiting for one of his shipmates to begin
a quarrel with him. But stout men are generally
the last ones that quarrelsome individuals
choose to interfere with, and Jack Snaggs would
probably have had to forego the pleasure of a
fight, if he had not provoked one himself. He

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sat for some minutes looking steadily at Jerry
Bowhorn, who, nothing daunted by his frowns,
shot fiery glances at him from his keen hazel

“I say, shipmate,” at last said Jack Snaggs to
Jeremiah Bowhorn, “what are you looking at
me for?”

“Because you were looking at me,” replied

“Well, how do you like the looks o'me?”
said Jack.

“I don't like the looks of you at all,” replied
Jerry, with an oath.

“How are you going to help yourself, shipmate?”
growled Jack.

To this interrogatory, Jerry made no other reply
than to untie his black silk neckhandkerchief
and throw it upon the floor.

“I say, shipmate,” said Jack, “warn't you
once in Jib-boom alley?”

“I disremember,” replied Jerry, “whether I was
or not; 'spose I was?”

“I know blasted well you was,” replied Jack,
getting more excited, “and you are the highbinder
which took away my young woman, the boy
Jack, one night at old mother Dooqueen's, when
I was swipy.”

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“Did I?” said Jerry, tauntingly.

“Yes, you are the very highbinder which did
that thing,” replied Jack.

“Do you call me a highbinder, you drunken
swab,” exclaimed Jerry, starting upon his feet,
and at the same time pulling off his shirt, and
flourishing his fists in the air.

Jack Snaggs no sooner witnessed this feat,
than he imitated it without the least possible delay,
and made a pass at Jerry with one of his
huge fists. But the other sailors interfered, and
said if there was going to be a fight, it should be
done in ship-shape fashion or not at all. They
then pulled a chest into the middle of the floor,
and having placed the two combatants astride of
it, with their faces to each other, at a proper distance
apart, they fixed them in their places
by driving a couple of nails through the seats of
their trowsers to prevent them from rising and
closing in.

Jerry squared his arms, and looked with an undaunted
eye upon his antagonist; but I trembled
with fright when I contrasted his slight and delicate
form with that of Jack Snaggs, who, now
that he had divested himself of his shirt,
display-a broad chest covered with crispy hair, and an
arm with prodigious muscular developments; my

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heart was in my mouth, and I felt that the only
hope for Jerry was, that liquor might have rendered
that arm powerless.

They made several ineffectual passes at each
other, and at last Jerry succeeded in giving his
antagonist a blow in his left eye, which immediately
began to swell and turn black. Jack, however,
didn't appear to notice it, but sparred away,
and presently Jerry got a blow in his chest which
staggered him for a moment, and then, as if he
had received new vigor from the effects of it, he
plied his fists so well, and parried his antagonist's
blows with such dexterity, that he soon planted
another blow on his right eye, which evidenly discomposed
him, so much so, that it was plain to
perceive he threw about his fists at random, and
although he had a decided advantage in the
length of his arms, yet Jerry, from the quickness
of his motions, soon succeeded in gaining complete
mastery over him, when the sailors interfered,
and declared Jerry the victor. Poor Jack
was dreadfully disfigured; the blood was streaming
from his mouth and nostrils, and his eyes
were frightfully swollen; he acknowledged that
Jerry had flogged him fairly, and threw his arms
around his neck, and wept like a child. I could
not refrain from weeping myself to see him, apparently
without a particle of animosity, take the

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young sailor in his arms, who had so beaten and
bruised him, and hug him to his shaggy breast,
while tears, mingled with blood, ran down his
rough face.

One of the sailors took a bottle of brandy out
of his chest, and washed the faces and hands of
both the combatants, and it was discovered that
they were neither of them as badly hurt as they
appeared to be. As soon as Jack could speak,
he declared it was the first time he had been licked
since his name was Snaggs.

“Your name aint Snaggs?” said Jerry.

“But it is though,” replied Jack.

“What, Jack Snaggs,” exclaimed Jerry.

“Ay, Jack Snaggs,” replied the other.

“Wasn't you in the Vandilly?” inquired Jerry.

“I was quarter-gunner of that barkey,” replied

“Well, I wish I may be turned ashore on a
grating, with a pig for a coxswain, if I wouldn't
sooner have struck my old mother than you.
Don't you remember your old chummy, Bill
Bowlin, the side boy, who was put into the mizen

“Remember you, yes,” said Jack, trying to
pull open his swollen eye lids, “but you said your
name was Bowhorn.”

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“'Tother was only a purser's name,” said Jerry,
“but my real name is Jeremiah Bowhorn.”

This discovery, of course, caused a good deal
of talk and wonder, and more drinking, and more
singing had to follow. While we were in the middle
of a roaring chorus, Mr. Ruffin, the mate,
came to the forecastle scuttle, and called out,
“hallo, there below!”

“Hull high, and you wont break your shins,”
answered Jerry.

“Do you know who you are talking to?” said
Mr. Ruffin, gruftly.

“Yes, I know who you are,” replied Jerry,
“you were picked up along shore, the other day,
with an eye out.”

“What is that you say?” called out Mr. Ruffin
in great anger.

“Our Sal says she seed you in the museum for
a show,” replied another of the sailors, mimicking
the voice of an old woman.

“Come up on deck, and keep watch, you rascal,”
said Mr. Ruffin.

“Hadn't you better keep it yourself, as you
are up there,” said Jerry.

“Come up at once,” said Mr. Ruffin, “or I'll
be down among you in less time than a cat can
lick her ear.”

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“Come along,” growled Jack Snaggs, “and
I'll straiten that ere crooked eye of yourn.”

Nothing will rouse a man's temper like an allusion
to his personal blemishes; and he will fight
in defence of his deformities when his character
might be assailed with impunity. The reply of
Jack Snaggs brought Mr. Ruffin into the forecastle
at a bound, as soon as the words were uttered.
The stairs which led into the forecastle had been
removed to make more room, and it showed no
small degree of courage in Mr. Ruffin, to intrude
himself among us, as there was no way for him to
retreat. He had no sooner landed on the floor,
than somebody put out the light, and with one
accord they all fell afoul of him and beat him until
he cried murder. Feeling certain that I should
have abundant cause to wish for an opportunity to
do so, before the voyage should be ended, I could
not restrain an inclination to give him two or three
smart kicks myself. At last he begged for mercy,
and the sailors took him up and helped him on
deck; and glad enough, no doubt, he was to escape
with the breath in his body.

They struck a light again as soon as they had
disposed of Mr. Ruffin, and to their utter dismay,
discovered that in the scuffle the keg of whiskey
had been overturned, and all the liquor spilled.

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It was immediately determined that Jack Snaggs
should go on deck and ask permission of the
mate to go ashore and get a fresh supply of
grog, and if he should refuse, as it was presumed
he would, all hands were to rush up and
seize the mate, tie him to the fife-rail, and then
take the boat and go ashore.

It will be seen in the next chapter with what
success this plan was carried into execution.

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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
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