"She formerly showed the name Flying Sprite on her starn moldin'," sai_aptain Trumbull Cram, "but I had thet gouged out and planed off, and Juda_scariot in gilt sot thar instid."
"That was an extraordinary name," said I.
"'Strornary craft," replied the captain, as he absorbed another inch and _alf of niggerhead. "I'm neither a profane man or an irreverend; but sink m_ig if I don't believe the sperrit of Judas possessed thet schooner. Hey,
The young man addressed as Ammi was seated upon a mackerel barrel. H_eliberately removed from his lips a black brierwood and shook his head wit_reat gravity.
"The cap'n," said Ammi, "is neither a profane or an irreverend. What he say_e mostly knows; but when he sinks his jig he's allers to be depended on."
Fortified with this neighborly estimate of character, Captain Cram proceeded.
"You larf at the idea of a schooner's soul? Perhaps you hey sailed 'em forty-
odd year up and down this here coast, an' 'quainted yourself with thei_ispositions an' habits of mind. Hey, Ammi?"
"The cap'n," explained the gentleman on the mackerel keg, "hez coasted an' he_ished for forty-six year. He's lumbered and he's iced. When the cap'n see_it for to talk about schooners he understands the subjeck."
"My friend," said the captain, "a schooner has a soul like a hu man being, bu_onsiderably broader of beam, whether for good or for evil. I ain't a goin' t_eny thet I prayed for the Judas in Tuesday 'n' Thursday evenin' meetin', wee_rter week an' month arter month. I ain't a goin' to deny thet I intereste_eacon Plympton in the 'rastle for her redemption. It was no use, my friend;
even the deacon's powerful p'titions were clear waste."
I ventured to inquire in what manner this vessel had manifested its depravity.
The narrative which I heard was the story of a demon of treachery with thre_asts and a jib boom.
The Flying Sprite was the first three-master ever built at Newaggen, and th_ast. People shook their heads over the experiment. "No good can come of sec_ critter," they said. "It's contrairy to natur. Two masts is masts enough."
The Flying Sprite began its career of base improbity at the very moment of it_irth. Instead of launching decently into the element for which it wa_esigned, the three-masted schooner slumped through the ways into the mud an_tuck there for three weeks, causing great expense to the owners, of who_aptain Trumbull Cram was one to the extent of an undivided third. The oracle_f Newaggen were confirmed in their forebodings. "Two masts is masts enough t_ail the sea," they said; "the third is the Devil's hitchin' post."
On the first voyage of the Flying Sprite, Captain Cram started her fo_hiladelphia, loaded with ice belonging to himself and Lawyer Swanton; carg_ninsured. Ice was worth six dollars a ton in Philadelphia; this particula_ce had cost Captain Cram and Lawyer Swanton eighty-five cents a ton shipped,
including sawdust. They were happy over the prospect. The Flying Sprit_leared the port in beautiful shape, and then suddenly and silently went t_he bottom in Fiddler's Reach, in eleven feet of salt water. It required onl_ix days to float her and pump her out, but owing to a certain incompatibilit_etween ice and salt water, the salvage consisted exclusively of sawdust.
On her next trip the schooner carried a deckload of lumber from the St. Croi_iver. It was in some sense a consecrated cargo, for the lumber was intende_or a new Baptist meetinghouse in southern New Jersey. If the prayerful hope_f the navigators, combined with the prayerful expectations of the consignee_ad availed, this voyage, at least, would have been successfully made. Bu_bout sixty miles southeast of Nantucket the Flying Sprite encountered a mil_eptember gale. She ought to have weathered it with perfect ease, but sh_ehaved so abominably that the church timber was scattered over the surface o_he Atlantic Ocean from about latitude 40° 15' to about latitude 43° 50'. _onth or two later she contrived to go on her beam ends under a gentle lan_reeze, dumping a lot of expensively carved granite from the Fox Islan_uarries into a deep hole in Long Island Sound. On the very next trip sh_urned deliberately out of her course in order to smash into the starboard bo_f a Norwegian brig, and was consequently libeled for heavy damages.
It was after a few experiences of this sort that Captain Cram erased the ol_ame from the schooner's stern and from her quarter, and substituted that o_udas Iscariot. He could discover no designation that expressed so well hi_ontemptuous opinion of her moral qualities. She seemed animate with th_pirit of purposeless malice, of malignant perfidy. She was a floating tub o_ussedness.
A board of nautical experts sat upon the Judas Iscariot, but could fin_othing the matter with her, physically. The lines of her hull were all right,
she was properly planked and ceiled and calked, her spars were of good Orego_ine, she was rigged taut and trustworthy, and her canvas had been cut an_titched by a God-fearing sailmaker. According to all theory, she ought t_ave been perfectly responsible as to her keel. In practice, she wa_rightfully cranky. Sailing the Judas Iscariot was like driving a horse wit_ore vices than hairs in his tail. She always did the unexpected thing, excep_hen bad behavior was expected of her on general principles. If the idea wa_o luff, she would invariably fall off; if to jibe, she would come round dea_n the wind and hang there like Mohammed's coffin. Sending a man to haul th_ib sheet to windward was sending a man on a forlorn hope: the jib habituall_icked up the venturesome navigator, and, after shaking him viciously in th_ir for a second or two, tossed him overboard. A boom never crossed the dec_ithout breaking somebody's head. Start on whatever course she might, th_chooner was certain to run before long into one of three things, namely, som_ther vessel, a fog bank, or the bottom. From the day on which she wa_aunched her scent for a good, sticky mud bottom was unerring. In the cleares_eather fog fob lowed and enveloped her as misfortune follows wickedness. He_resence on the Banks was enough to drive every codfish to the coast o_reland. The mackerel and porgies were always where the Judas Iscariot wa_ot. It was impossible to circumvent the schooner's fixed purposes to rui_verybody who chartered her. If chartered to carry a deckload, she spilled it;
if loaded between decks, she dived and spoiled the cargo. She was like one o_he trick mules which, if they cannot otherwise dislodge the rider, get dow_nd roll over and over. In short, the Judas Iscariot was known from Marblehea_o the Bay of Chaleur as the consummate schooneration of malevolence,
turpitude, and treachery.
After commanding the Judas Iscariot for five or six years, Captain Cram looke_ully twenty years older. It was in vain that he had attempted to sell her a_ sacrifice. No man on the coast of Maine, Massachusetts, or the Britis_rovinces would have taken the schooner as a gift. The belief in her demonia_bsession was as firm as it was universal.
Nearly at the end of a season, when the wretched craft had been even mor_nprofitable than usual a conference of the owners was held in th_ongregational vestry one evening after the monthly missionary meeting. N_utsider knows exactly what happened, but it is rumored that in the two hour_uring which these capitalists were closeted certain arithmetical computation_ere effected which led to significant results and to a singular decision.
On the forenoon of the next Friday there was a general suspension of busines_t Newaggen. The Judas Iscariot, with her deck scoured and her spars scrape_ill they shone in the sun like yellow amber, lay at the wharf by Captai_ram's fish house. Since Monday the captain and his three boys and Andre_ackson's son Tobias from Mackerel Cove had been busy loading the schoone_eep. This time her cargo was an extraordinary one. It consisted of nearly _uarter of a mile of stone wall from the boundaries of the captain's shor_asture. "I calklet," remarked the commander of the Judas Iscariot, as he sa_he last boulder disappearing down the main hatch, "thar's nigh two hundud'_ifty ton of stone fence aboard thet schoon'r."
Conjecture was wasted over this unnecessary amount of ballast. The owners o_he Judas Iscariot stood up well under the consolidated wit of the village;
they returned witticism for witticism, and kept their secret. "Ef you mus_now, I'll tell ye," said the captain. "I hear thar's a stone-wall famine ove_achias way. I'm goin' to take mine over'n peddle it out by the yard." On thi_ine sunshiny Friday morning, while the luckless schooner lay on one side o_he wharf, looking as bright and trim and prosperous as if she were the best-
paying maritime investment in the world, the tug Pug of Portland lay under th_ther side, with steam up. She had come down the night before in response to _elegram from the owners of the Judas Iscariot. A good land breeze wa_lowing, with the promise of freshening as the day grew older.
At half past seven o'clock the schooner put off from the landing, carrying no_nly the captain's pasture wall, but also a large number of his neighbors an_riends, including some of the solidest citizens of Newaggen. Curiosity wa_tronger than fear. "You know what the critter," the captain had said, i_eply to numerous applications for passage. "Ef you're a mind to resk he_ntics, come along, an' welcome." Captain Cram put on a white shirt and _oliday suit for the occasion. As he stood at the wheel shouting directions t_is boys and Andrew Jackson's son Tobias at the halyards, his guests gathere_round him—a fair representation of the respectability, the busines_nterprise, and the piety of Newaggen Harbor. Never had the Judas Iscario_arried such a load. She seemed suddenly struck with a sense of decency an_esponsibility, for she came around into the wind without balking, dived he_ose playfully into the brine, and skipped off on the short hitch to clea_umbler Island, all in the properest fashion. The Pug steamed after her.
The crowd on the wharf and the boys in the small boats cheered thi_nexpectedly orthodox behavior, and they now saw for the first time tha_aptain Cram had painted on the side of the vessel in conspicuous whit_etters, each three or four feet long, the following legend:
THIS IS THE SCHOONER JUDAS ISCARIOT
N.B.—GIVE HER A WIDE BERTH!!
Hour after hour the schooner bounded along before the northwest wind, holdin_o her course as straight as an arrow. The weather continued fine. Every tim_he captain threw the log he looked more perplexed. Eight, nine, nine and _alf knots! He shook his head as he whispered to Deacon Plympton: "She'_editatin' mischief o' some natur or other." But the Judas led the Pug _onderful chase, and by half past two in the afternoon, before the demijoh_hich Andrew Jackson's son Tobias had smuggled on board was three quarter_mpty, and before Lawyer Swanton had more than three quarters finished hi_elebrated story about Governor Purington's cork leg, the schooner and the tu_ere between fifty and sixty miles from land.
Suddenly Captain Cram gave a grunt of intelligence. He pointed ahead, where _lue line just above the horizon marked a distant fog bank. "She smelt it an'
she run for it," he remarked, sententiously. "Time for business."
Then ensued a singular ceremony. First Captain Cram brought the schooner to,
and transferred all his passengers to the tug. The wind had shifted to th_outheast, and the fog was rapidly approaching. The sails of the Juda_scariot flapped as she lay head to the wind; her bows rose and fell gentl_nder the influence of the long swell. The Pug bobbed up and down half _awser's length away.
Having put his guests and crew aboard the tug, Captain Cram proceeded to mak_verything shipshape on the decks of the schooner. He neatly coiled a loos_nd of rope that had been left in a snarl. He even picked up and thre_verboard the stopper of Andrew Jackson's son Tobias' demijohn. His face wor_n expression of unusual solemnity. The people on the tug watched hi_ovements eagerly, but silently. Next he tied one end of a short rope to th_heel and attached the other end loosely by means of a running bowline to _leat upon the rail. Then he was seen to take up an ax, and to disappear dow_he companionway. Those on the tug distinctly heard several crashing blows. I_ moment the captain reappeared on deck, walked deliberately to the wheel,
brought the schooner around so that her sails filled, pulled the runnin_owline taut, and fastened the rope with several half hitches around th_leat, thus lashing the helm, jumped into a dory, and sculled over to the tug.
Left entirely to herself, the schooner rolled once or twice, tossed a fe_ucketfuls of water over her dancing bows, and started off toward the Sout_tlantic. But Captain Trumbull Cram, standing in the bow of the tugboat,
raised his hand to command silence and pronounced the following farewel_peech, being sentence, death warrant, and funeral oration, all in one:
"I ain't advancin' no theory to 'count for her cussedness. You all know th_udas. Mebbe thar was too much fore an' aff to her. Mebbe the inickerty of _essel's in the fore an' aff, and the vartue in the squar' riggin'. Mebbe tw_asts was masts enough. Let that go; bygones is bygones. Yonder she goes,
carryin' all sail on top, two hundred'n-odd ton o' stone fence in her holt,
an' a hole good two foot acrost stove in her belly. The way of th_ransgressor is hard. Don't you see her settlin'? It should be a lesson, m_riends, for us to profit by; there's an end to the long-sufferin'est mercy,
and unless—Oh, yer makin' straight for the fog, are ye? Well, it's your las_og bank. The bottom of the sea's the fust port you'll fetch, you critter,
you! Git, and be d—d to ye!"
This, the only occasion on which Captain Cram was ever known to say such _ord, was afterward considered by a committee of discipline of th_ongregational Church at Newaggen; and the committee, after pondering all th_ircumstances under which the word was uttered, voted unanimously to take n_ction.
Meanwhile, the fog had shut in around the tug, and the Judas Iscariot was los_o view. The tug was put about and headed for home. The damp wind chille_verybody through and through. Little was said. The contents of the demijoh_ad long been exhausted. From a distance to the south was heard at interval_he hoarse whistling of an ocean steamer.
"I hope that feller's well underwrit," said the captain grimly, "for th_udas'll never go down afore she's sarched him out'n sunk him."
"And was the abandoned schooner ever heard of?" I asked, when my informant ha_eached this point in the narrative.
The captain took me by the arm and led me out of the grocery store down to th_ocks. Across the mouth of the small cove back of his house, blocking th_ntrance to his wharf and fishhouse, was stretched a skeleton wreck.
"Thar she lays," he said, pointing to the blackened ribs. "That's the Judas.
Did yer suppose she'd sink in deep water, where she could do no more damage?
No, sir, not if all the rocks on the coast of Maine was piled onto her, an_er hull bottom knocked clean out. She come home to roost. She come sixty mil_n the teeth of the wind. When the tug got back next mornin' thar lay th_udas Iscariot acrost my cove, with her jib boom stuck through my kitche_inder. I say schooners has souls."