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Chapter 27 THE LAST CRUISE OF THE JUDAS ISCARIOT

  • "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,
  • Ammi?"
  • 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."