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Graham's Magazine Vol XXXII. No. 3. March 1848   By:

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In which the reader is introduced to several of the dramatis personæ.

On the evening of the 25th of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty nine, the ship Gentile, of Boston, lay at anchor in the harbor of Valetta.

It is quite proper, gentle reader, that, as it is with this ship and her crew that you will chiefly have to do in the following yarn, they should be severally and particularly introduced to your notice.

To begin, then. Imagine yourself standing on the parapet of St. Elmo, about thirty minutes past five o'clock on the evening above mentioned; the Gentile lies but little more than a cable's length from the shore, so that you can almost look down upon her decks. You perceive that she is a handsome craft of some six or seven hundred tons burthen, standing high out of water, in ballast trim, with a black hull, bright waist, and wales painted white. Her bows flare very much, and are sharp and symmetrical; the cut water stretches, with a graceful curve, far out beyond them toward the long sweeping martingal, and is surmounted by a gilt scroll, or, as the sailors call it, a fiddle head. The black stern is ornamented by a group of white figures in bas relief, which give a lively air to the otherwise sombre and vacant expression, and beneath the cabin windows is painted the name of the ship, and her port of register. The lower masts of this vessel are short and stout, the top masts are of great height, the extreme points of the fore and mizzen royal poles, are adorned with gilt balls, and over all, at the truck of the main sky sail pole, floats a handsome red burgee, upon which a large G is visible. There are no yards across but the lower and topsail yards, which are very long and heavy, precisely squared, and to which the sails are furled in an exceeding neat and seaman like manner. The rigging is universally taut and trim; and it is easy to perceive that the officers of the Gentile understand their business. The swinging boom is rigged out, and fastened thereto, by their painters, a pair of boats, a yawl and gig, float lovingly side by side; and instead of the usual ladder at the side, a handy flight of accommodation steps lead from the water line to the gangway.

Now, dear reader, leaving the battlements of St. Elmo, you alight upon the deck of our ship, which you find to be white and clean, and, as seamen say, sheer that is to say, without break, poop, or hurricane house forming on each side of the line of masts a smooth, unencumbered plane the entire length of the deck, inclining with a gentle curve from the bow and stern toward the waist. The bulwarks are high, and are surmounted by a paneled monkey rail; the belaying pins in the plank shear are of lignum vitæ and mahogany, and upon them the rigging is laid up in accurate and graceful coils. The balustrade around the cabin companion way and sky light is made of polished brass, the wheel is inlaid with brass, and the capstan head, the gangway stanchions, and bucket hoops are of the same glittering metal. Forward of the main hatchway the long boat stands in its chocks, covered over with a roof, and a good natured looking cow, whose stable is thus contrived, protrudes her head from a window, chews her cud with as much composure as if standing under the lee of a Yankee barn yard wall, and watches, apparently, a group of sailors, who, seated in the forward waist around their kids and pans, are enjoying their coarse but plentiful and wholesome evening meal. A huge Newfoundland dog sits upon his haunches near this circle, his eyes eagerly watching for a morsel to be thrown him, the which, when happening, his jaws close with a sudden snap, and are instantly agape for more. A green and gold parrot also wanders about this knot of men, sometimes nibbling the crumbs offered it, and anon breaking forth into expressions which, from their tone, evince no great respect for some of the commandments in the Decalogue... Continue reading book >>

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