Page images

of the bow-post with incomparable swiftness, and it presently began to smoke, and then to blaze, with the rapidity of the friction. Seth now took the bow with

his lance, exchanging places with the harpooner, and quietly poured water upon the smoking groove, until it was cooled. The oars were again peaked, and the handles inserted in brackets fixed on the ceiling of the boat beneath the thwarts-the blades projecting over the water like wings; and the men, immoveable, rested from their long but successful pull; and much need did they have of the relief-for a more arduous or better contested chase they had never experienced.

The line in the tub was now wellnigh run out; and the boat-steerer, with a thick buckskin mitten, or nipper, as it is called, for the protection of his hand, seized hold of the line, and, in a twinkling, caught a turn around the loggerhead, to enable the man at the tub-oar to bend on another line.

The rapidity of the animal's flight the while was inconceivable. The boat now ploughed deeply and laboriously, leaving banks of water on each side, as she parted the wave, that overtopped the men's heads, and effectually obscured the sight of every object on the surface. The swell of the closing water came after them in a heavy and angry rush. The second line was now allowed to run slowly from the loggerhead; and a drag, or plank about eighteen inches square, with a line proceeding from each corner, and meeting at a point like a pyramid, was fastened to it, and thrown over to deaden the speed of the whale. Another and another drag was added, until the animal, feeling the strong backward pull; began to relax his efforts; and presently he suddenly descended, though not to the full extent of the slackened line.

It now became necessary to haul in the slack of the line, and to coil it away in the tub carefully; while the men pulled with their oars, to come up with the whale

when he should rise to the surface. All things were soon ready again for the deadly attack.

The ripple of the whale, as he ascended, was carefully marked; and when he again saw the light of day, a deep wound, close to the barbed harpoon, was instantly inflicted by the sharp lance of Seth. It was the deathblow.

"Starn all !" was the cry once more, and the boat was again quickly backed off by the oarsmen.

The infuriated animal roared in agony, and lashed the ocean into foam with his tail. The blood gushed from his spout-holes, falling in torrents upon the men in the boat, and colouring the sea. The whale, in his last agony, is a fearful creature. He rose perpendicularly in the water, head downwards, and again writhed and lashed the sea, with such force that the people in the retreating boats, though many miles distant, heard the thunder of the sound distinctly. The exertion was too violent to last long: it was the signal of his dissolution. His life-blood ceased to flow, and he turned his belly to the sun! The waif of the Grampus floated triumphantly above the body of the slaughtered Leviathan of the deep, and the peril of the hardy crew was over.



"Here lies the body of John Gardner, who was born in the year 1624, and died A. D. 1706, aged 82."

THE above is the substance of a simple inscription, on the only headstone-in fact the only memorial of any kind-which points out the spot that once served for the burial-place of the ancient inhabitants of Nantucket. It stands on the road, or slight wheel-path, leading from the present town of Nantucket to Mattekat harbour, at the western end of the island-around whose waters the first Anglo-American inhabitants erected their settlement of houses. But no vestige now remains of the old town of Sherburne, as the place was called, from which the early inhabitants sallied forth on the broad Atlantic, in their first rude and imperfect essays to entrap the whale. The harbour was found too much exposed, and far less convenient for shipping, than that which is at the present day known as Nantucket harbour; and by degrees the new town of Sherburne (now Nantucket) was built and peopled, while the ancient site was deserted. Many of its houses-hauled overland upon rollers and skids, and placed upon their new foundations on the northern side of the island-were made to follow the current of population, while others were suffered to go to decay.

The ancient burying-ground naturally shared in the neglect of the settlement to which it appertained; and places more contiguous to the new town were selected to deposite the dead. The headstones of the first fathers, rudely sculptured, but venerable for their antiquity, became moss-grown and ruinous. The inscriptions, how

ever, were obliterated as much by desecration as by the crumbling touch of time. The fences and little graveenclosures were carried off piecemeal, and served for firewood or kindling stuff for the poor, in seasons of rigour or scarcity. The gravestones, in time, one by one disappeared, from the wanton mutilation of unthinking boys, or were upturned by browsing cattle, or by the effects of the severe frosts of the high northern latitude, which loosened and finally ejected them from the bosom of the earth. A few sad memorials only remained at the commencement of the Revolution, tottering to decay, and clustering around the sole monument of other times which at this day [1834] remains, deep-bedded in the ground,-standing alone, like the last warrior at the Pass of Thermopylæ, after all his fellows had been hacked down to the earth. It was the only one whose inscription was legible when the following scene occurred; and, though more than half a century has since passed, it still bears the name of “John Gardner" distinctly carved upon it. It owes its preservation to the induration and unyielding nature of its material, which is of a dark silicious texture, and to the depth of its setting in the ground. This stone seems to have given the name to that ancient receptacle of the dead. It was then, and is still, called the "Gardner-burying Ground." It has had many a pilgrimage to its shrine, made alike by all ages and classes, who, escaping from the labour of the day, or rapt in their own reflections, were desirous of strolling in loneliness upon the heath. It was the only spot on a long route over the treeless and uncultivated plain calculated to attract the attention of the passenger; in fact it formed the end of a long walk in that direction, which having been attained, the stroller turned upon his steps.

Towards this secluded spot Imbert and Grimshaw took their way on a Sabbath afternoon, when the month of October was in its wane, and while the inhabitants of the town were at their several places of worship.

Unlike as these gallants were in their temperament -the one mercurial, and the other cold, sedate, and calculating-yet there was a fellow-feeling between them a sympathy inexplicable in its nature-which bound them to each other. They were young men "pursuing fortune's slippery ba',"-looking to the future, which appeared all smiling to their view but the one recklessly trusted to the adventitious development of that future, without prudence in the management of the present; while the other cautiously and selfishly laid his plans, and laboured incessantly to influence the attainment of his fond desires. Few words passed between them, until they arrived in sight of the place where the ashes of Gardner reposed. Imbert had lost his usual buoyancy; and Grimshaw, naturally taciturn, forbore to interrupt the silence.

The sight of the gravestones seemed to recall Imbert to his speech. He had evidently been revolving in his mind some unpleasant subject. He bit his nails with impatience; his gestures were sudden and inexplicable, while, now and then, he would utter some hasty exclamation, that appeared to have no connection with any subject.

"You are in a queer humour to-day," said Grimshaw. "What's in the wind now? Upon my soul, you are all at once a most dramatic and agreeable companion."

"I am about to leave you," said Imbert; "and that little cluster of quaint-looking headstones reminds me of the cause. I must in reality part from you in a few days and I fear you will say I am bound on a Tom Fool's errand !"

"You are, as usual, playing upon my credulity," said Grimshaw: "you will not, surely, leave me to plod on alone, uncheered by your presence, on this 'sand bar?"

[ocr errors]

"You mistake, my friend; I was never more serious," replied Imbert: "I shall shortly be a dweller

« PreviousContinue »