Last Voyage a the Vengeferth |
It begins: Aye, I'm Wil DeVoe. I sailed as first mate 'board the fair ship Vengeferth. There, amid her last trip, I was charged by the far known Captain Werthman, with someday puttin' ta the page a clear record a the events on our last voyage. Now I found the someday, an' these pages appear ready ta take on our voyage's clearest account this hand can pen. First, my apology ta ya men readers who put down tuppence for this tome. The apology's for leavin' out the hard language some might prefer left in. Aye, 'twas there, salty sprinkled through, as wherever seafarin' men be found. But I swear the tale can be well told without it. (Tis humor, swearin' not ta use the swearin' words.) I must leave out the hard language, or apologize ta the ladies on its account. Aye, an' I'll be leavin' out much a the more humdrum, tryin' stuff as well. Stuff tryin' a body's patience an' tryin' ta lower eyelids inta sleep. But rest assured the trip held far enough tribulations ta fill a hefty tome. I'll go ta the grave recallin' it frightfully clear. An' I swear I'm 'bout ta use this fine feather pen's blackest ink ta stow ya 'board, an' send ya smellin' salty breezes an' pickle brine on the Last Voyage a the Vengeferth. (I) 'Board the Vengeferth (1) The white 'Twas done 'fore the boy knew. 'Fore any knew. The beast charged straight up from the black bowels a hell an' swirled back down unseen. But the red broilin' water told the tale ta all with eyes. In three thrashin' seconds the brute come an' went. We stood stunned witless. The best good thing was the quickness. He never knew it happened. He'd done the smart thing like I told im the night before. The boy listened well when I told if he struggled they'd tie im ta the chair an' it could go worse. He sat right down on it, an' in the water stayed under a fair while 'fore climbin' up the line ta poke his head out gaspin'. But then the brute hit. The boy should a been okay. I swear I didn' mean ta lie ta im. There's no knowin' 'bout whites. Just no knowin'. We began ta haul up the chair, but the captain wouldn' have it. He cut the line, his angered face white as the mainsail. Had ta be angered at imself for givin' o'er ta such foolishness, an' maybe he already had a touch a fear. His mouth was a thin line, an' his eyes clenched 'til y'd a thought 'em closed. Cut loose, the chair took a notion ta float. Twenty feet out it hung in a pool a redness. It stayed still there an' we stared at it, seemed near an hour. Till, just as sudden, that chair tipped an' sunk, suckin' the line down like a last spaghetti noodle. We'd been given our time ta pray. But the prayin' was o'er an' the captain strode ta his cabin, eyes narrow ahead, sayin' nothing an' seein' nobody. We all stepped from his path more outa' fear than respect. There wasn' a lot a respect ta be found for im 'bout then. Two hours later he came 'round whilst we ate. We'd a gone silent if we hadn' already been so. The usual chat wasn' in us. The clickin' a spoons against plates'd been soundin' loud, till that too stopped when he showed his face. "Men, that boy wasn' meant ta die." He offered slow, his eyes down, a tremble under his voice as though speakin' with God, "He was a feisty sort, an' most certainly didn' deserve it. But too sadly, what's done's done. Much as I'd like, I can't bring im back." His o'ersized nose was red. Then he his voice began comin' up stronger, "The thing I can think ta do is seek out his revenge on the ugly brute that took im. When they get a good meal, they may not go hurryin' off. They're expected ta hang around a day or two hopin' for another morsel. Jack, ya sharpen the old harpoons tonight. 'Tis a fearful mean business an' mine alone. I'll order no man ta go with me in the morn', though a volunteer or two wouldn' be turned away. Cookie, ya pull the two toughest steaks from the larder.