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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter LIV. Some of Blowhard's Nautical Experiences

page 226

Chapter LIV. Some of Blowhard's Nautical Experiences.

"Now, Jessie," said Mr. Munroe, "I propose that, as the Doctor must be a little tired, and as the whisky bottle is low, that we let him off the remainder of the story until to-morrow evening."

"Two bad of you dad, when we were just coming to the climax," answered Jessie.

"Douglas, of course you must help us at the dinner to-morrow," continued Mr. Munroe. "Tell Snell I want you to dine here."

Doctor Gill and I took our departure shortly after, and as we were enjoying a smoke on the way home, my companion remarked meditatively:—

"I wonder what Zada thought of my story. She appeared to be greatly interested, though the occurrences were not at all flattering to her people. However, things have altered very much since then, and mark my words for it, that these troubulous times through which we are now passing is but the prelude to a future of peace and prosperity, when New Zealand will shine as one of the brightest ornaments in an already bright empire; the page 227focus to which the commerce and trade of the Southern Hemisphere will be attracted; and Macaulay's prediction of the Maori gazing down on the ruins of London may yet be an established fact. But here we are at my gate! Well, good night, Douglas! See you to-morrow!"

The genial doctor left me in a profound reverie, from which I did not recover until I had reached my quarters.

Next day while the men were at their dinner, I had occasion to visit them, when I found Blowhard (Thomas Shotter on the books) grumbling at his beef being tough. One of the men remarked—

"I suppose you have had worse meat than that before you Blowhard, in your time. Perhaps you have had to eat some of your mates on board ship, eh, old man?"

"Well, no, not exactly as bad as that; but jolly near it once."

"Tell us about it Blowhard," asked several of the men.

"Right you are my hearties, as I've finished my dinner I don't mind spinning the yarn. Well, before I began sogerin', I went to the South Seas in the Saucy Polly, as tight a little craft as ever went whalin'. All went well for a long time, and when we got to our cruisin' ground, we soon got any amount of blubber in our hold. We was thinkin' of makin' for home, when the durndest storm I ever seed came on us. If I was to tell you all about it, some of you land lubbers would not understand me. Well, the Saucy Polly went down, and I thought my time had come. I was on the deck when she sank, and the suck of the ship was so great that I was a long time comin' on top. I got hold of a hen coop with some drowned fowls in it, and kept page 228myself afloat as well as I could, but as it was a dark night I could do nothin' but hold on, an' that was a job too. Daylight came at last and I had the good fortune to see a boat driftin' near me. I managed to get on board of her, and got the dead fowls out of the coop. After lookin' round a bit, I picked up five of my mates that was clinging to some spars; but there was no signs of the skipper or the others—they were gone to Davy Jones' sure enough. We lived three days on the fowls, and caught enough rain water to keep us goin' after the beaker was dry. Things then began to get from had to worser, until one of the men died. A chap called Spanish Jim wanted to cut him up, but we would not let him. Another died next day ravin' mad, and I dropped him over the side before my mates could interfere. Two more days went by, and Spanish Jim persuaded us to cast lots, as one would have to die for the sake of the others. For my part I had made up my mind not to join in wish them when feedin' time came. The lots were cast and poor Joe Strapper drew the death ticket. Spanish Jim took out his long sheath knife and moved over to Joe. 'Hold hard mates', said Joe, 'give me a few minutes, and Spanish Jim, you go to the other end of the boat until the time comes; you seem rather too anxious to act the butcher.' In a few minutes Jim calls out: 'Time's up!' 'Wait a moment Jim,' said Joe, 'I have just found a loaded pistol under the seat, and as it's all the same to you, I would sooner blow my brains out than to feel your knife.' Joe then put the pistol to his forehead, but before he could pull the trigger, Spanish Jim called out:—'Don't let him do that, I like brains.' 'Hold hard Joe,' I said, slippin' to his side quickly and getting hold of the pistol, I pointed it at Spanish Jim, at the same time saying:—'You appear to have eaten men's brains before now, so don't come near this end of the boat. I propose mates that we leave Joe alone until this time to-morrow, and perhaps by that time we might get rescued by a passing ship. page 229I will stand here and will shoot anyone that lays a hand on him.' The other men nodded their heads, seein' as how they were too weak to speak, but Jim made a rush at me. In his rage he tripped over something and fell overboard. That was the last we saw of him, and you may be sure none of of us wanted him back. About an hour after I found a fishhook in one of the lockers of the boat, and managed to catch four large fish with a bit of red rag. The next day a vessel picked us up and our troubles were ended."

A dead silence followed Blowhard's yarn. Some of the men looked rather incredulously at one another, and Blowhard seeing that his story was received with some doubt, observed lacoaically:—

"Fact, mates. It was the narrowest escape I ever had from being a cannibal."