There is generally current among seamen a notion that all masters of ships are bound by law to give their crews twenty-four hours' liberty and a portion of their wages to spend every three months, if they are in port. I have never heard any authority quoted for this, and do not know what foundation there is for such a belief, although the practice is usually adhered to in English ships. But American whale-ships apparently know no law, except the will of their commanders, whose convenience is always the first consideration. Thus, we had now been afloat for well over a year, during which time, except for our foraging excursions at the Cocos and Aldabra, we had certainly known no liberty for a whole day.

Our present port being one where it was impossible to desert without the certainty of prompt recapture, with subsequent suffering altogether disproportionate to the offence, we were told that one watch at a time would be allowed their liberty for a day. So we of the port watch made our simple preparations, received twenty-five cents each, and were turned adrift on the beach to enjoy ourselves. We had our liberty, but we didn't know what to do with it. There was a native town and a couple of low groggeries kept by Chinamen, where some of my shipmates promptly invested a portion of their wealth in some horrible liquor, the smell of which was enough to make an ordinary individual sick. There was no place apparently where one could get a meal, so that the prospect of our stay ashore lasting a day did not seem very great. I was fortunate enough, however, to foregather with a Scotchman who was a beach-comber, and consequently "knew the ropes." I dare say he was an unmitigated blackguard whenever he got the chance, but he was certainly on his best behaviour with me. He took me into the country a bit to see the sights, which were such as most of the Pacific islands afford. Wonderful indeed were the fantastic rocks, twisted into innumerable grotesque shapes, and, along the shores, hollowed out into caverns of all sizes, some large enough to shelter an army. He was quite familiar with the natives, understanding enough of their queer lingo to get along. By his friendly aid we got some food - yams, and fish cooked in native fashion, i.e. in heated holes in the ground, for which the friendly Kanakas would take no payment, although they looked murderous enough to be cannibals. It does not do to go by looks always.

Well, after a long ramble, the Scotchman and I laid our weary bodies down in the shade of a big rock, and had a grand sleep, waking up again a little before sunset. We hastened down to the beach off the town, where all my watchmates were sitting in a row, like lost sheep, waiting to be taken on board again. They had had enough of liberty; indeed, such liberty as that was hardly worth having. It seems hardly credible, but we were actually glad to get on board again, it was so miserable ashore, The natives were most unsociable at the port, and we could not make ourselves understood, so there was not much fun to be had. Even those who were inclined to drink had too little for a spree, which I was not sorry for, since doubtless a very unpleasant reception would have awaited them had they come on board drunk.

Next day the starboard watch west on liberty, while we who had received our share were told off to spend the day wooding and watering. In this most pleasant of occupations (when the weather is fine) I passed a much more satisfactory time than when wandering about with no objective, an empty pocket, and a hungry belly. No foremast hand has ever enjoyed his opportunities of making the acquaintance of his various visiting places more than I have; but the circumstances attendant upon one's leave must be a little favourable, or I would much rather stay aboard and fish. Our task was over for the day, a goodly store of wood and casks of water having been shipped. We were sitting down to supper, when, in answer to a hail from the beach, we were ordered to fetch the liberty men. When we got to them, there was a pretty how-d'ye-do. All of them were more or less drunk, some exceedingly quarrelsome. Now, Mistah Jones was steering our boat, looking as little like a man to take sauce from a drunken sailor as you could imagine. Most of the transformed crowd ya- hooing on the beach had felt the weight of his shoulder-of-mutton fist, yet so utterly had prudence forsaken them that, before we came near them, they were abusing him through all the varied gamut of filthy language they possessed. My democratic sentiments are deeply seated, but I do believe in authority, and respect for it being rigidly enforced, so this uncalled-for scene upset me, making me feel anxious that the gibbering fools might get a lesson. They got one.

Goliath stood like a tower, his eyes alone betraying the fierce anger boiling within. When we touched the beach, his voice was mild end gentle as a child's, his movements calm and deliberate. As soon as we had beached the boat he stepped ashore, and in two strides was in the middle of the snarling group. Further parley ceased at once. Snatching the loudest of them by the breast of his shirt with his right hand, another one by the collar with his left, he flung himself backwards towards the boat, knocking the interveners right and left. But a protruding fragment of rock caught his heel, bringing him with his captives to the ground in a writhing mass. The rest, maddened beyond restraint of fear, flung themselves upon the prostrate man, the glimmer of more than one knife-blade appearing. Two of us from the boat - one with the tiller, the other brandishing a paddle - rushed to the rescue; but before we arrived the giant had heaved off his assailants, and, with no other weapons than his bare hands, was doing terrific execution among them. Not knowing, I suppose, whether we were friendly to him or not, he shouted to us to keep away, nor dare to interfere. There was no need. Disregarding such trifles as a few superficial cuts - not feeling them perhaps - he so unmercifully mauled that crowd that they howled again for mercy. The battle was brief and bloody. Before hostilities had lasted five minutes, six of the aggressors were stretched insensible; the rest, comprising as many more, were pleading for mercy, completely sober. Such prowess on the part of one man against twelve seems hardly credible; but it must be remembered that Goliath fought, with all the moral force of the ship's officers behind him, against a disorganized crowd without backbone, who would never have dared to face him but for the temporary mania induced by the stuff they had drunk. It was a conflict between a lion and a troop of jackals, whereof the issue was never in doubt as long as lethal weapons were wanting.

Standing erect among the cowering creatures, the great negro looked every inch a mediaeval hero. In a stern voice he bade his subjugated enemies to get into the boat, assisting those to do so who were too badly hurt to rise. Then we shoved off for the ship - a sorrowful gang indeed.

As I bent to my oar, I felt very sorry for what had happened. Here were half the crew guilty of an act of violence upon an officer, which, according to the severe code under which we lived, merited punishment as painful as could be inflicted, and lasting for the rest of the voyage. Whatever form that punishment might take, those of us who were innocent would be almost equal sufferers with the others, because discrimination in the treatment between watch and watch is always difficult, and in our case it was certain that it would not be attempted. Except as regarded physical violence, we might all expect to share alike. Undoubtedly things looked very unpleasant. My gloomy cogitations were abruptly terminated by the order to "unrow" - we were alongside. Somehow or other all hands managed to scramble on board, and assist in hoisting the boat up.

As soon as she was secured we slunk away forward, but we had hardly got below before a tremendous summons from Goliath brought us all aft again at the double quick. Most of the fracas had been witnessed from the ship, so that but a minute or two was needed to explain how or why it begun. Directly that explanation had been supplied by Mistah Jones, the order was issued for the culprits to appear.

I have before noticed how little love was lost between the skipper and his officers, Goliath having even once gone so far as to give me a very emphatic opinion of his about the "old man" of a most unflattering nature. And had such a state of things existed on board an English ship, the crew would simply have taken charge, for they would have seen the junior officers flouted, snubbed, and jeered at; and, of course, what they saw the captain do, they would not be slow to improve on. Many a promising young officer's career has been blighted in this way by the feminine spite of a foolish man unable to see that if the captain shows no respect to his officers, neither will the crew, nor obedience either.

But in an American ship, so long as an officer remains an officer, he must be treated as such by every man, under pain of prompt punishment. Yankee skippers have far too much NOUS to allow their hands to grow saucy in consequence of division among the after-guard. So now a sort of court-martial was held upon the unfortunates who had dared to attack Goliath, at which that sable hero might have been the apple of Captain Slocum's eye, so solicitous was he of Mistah Jones' honour and the reparation to be made.

This sort of thing was right in his line. Naturally cruel, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself in the prospect of making human beings twist and writhe in pain. Nor would he be baulked of a jot of his pleasure.

Goliath approached him, and muttered a few words, meant, I felt sure, to appease him by letting him know how much they had suffered at his strong hands; but he turned upon the negro with a savage curse, bidding him be silent. Then every one of the culprits was stripped, and secured to the lash-rail by the wrists; scourges were made of cotton fish-line, knotted at intervals, and secured to a stout handle; the harpooners were told off as executioners, and the flogging began. Perhaps it was necessary for the maintenance of discipline - certainly it was trivial compared with the practice, till recently, in our own army and navy; but I am glad to say that, compelled to witness it, I felt quite sick - physically sick - trembling so in every limb that my legs would not support me. It was not fear, for I had nothing to fear had I been ever such a coward. Whatever it was, I am not sorry either to have felt it or to own it, even while I fully admit that for some forms of wickedness nothing but the lash seems adequate punishment.

Some of the victims fainted, not being in the best condition at the outset for undergoing so severe a trial; but all were treated alike, buckets of salt water being flung over them. This drastic reviver, while adding to their pain, brought them all into a state of sufficient activity to get forward when they were released. Smarting and degraded, all their temporary bravado effectually banished, they were indeed pitiable objects, their deplorable state all the harder to bear from its contrast to our recent pleasure when we entertained the visiting crews.

Having completed our quantum of wood, water, and fresh provisions for the officers, we got under way again for the fishing grounds. I did not see how we could hope for a successful season, knowing the utterly despondent state of the crew, which even affected the officers, who, not so callous or cruel as the skipper, seemed to be getting rather tired of the constant drive and kick, now the normal condition of affairs. But the skipper's vigilance was great. Whether he noted any sign of slackness or indifference on the part of his coadjutors or not, of course I cannot say, but he certainly seemed to put more vigour into his attentions than had been his wont, and so kept everybody up to the mark.

Hitherto we had always had our fishing to ourselves; we were now to see something of the ways of other men employed in the same manner. For though the general idea or plan of campaign against the whales is the same in all American whalers, every ship has some individual peculiarity of tactics, which, needless to say, are always far superior to those of any other ship. When we commenced our cruise on this new ground, there were seven whalers in sight, all quite as keen on the chase as ourselves, so that I anticipated considerable sport of the liveliest kind should we "raise" whales with such a fleet close at hand.

But for a whole week we saw nothing but a grampus or so, a few loitering finbacks, and an occasional lean humpback bull certainly not worth chasing. On the seventh afternoon, however, I was in the main crow's-nest with the chief, when I noticed a ship to windward of us alter her course, keeping away three or four points on an angle that would presently bring her across our bows a good way ahead. I was getting pretty well versed in the tricks of the trade now, so I kept mum, but strained my eyes in the direction for which the other ship was steering. The chief was looking astern at some finbacks, the look-out men forward were both staring to leeward, thus for a minute or so I had a small arc of the horizon to myself. The time was short, but it sufficed, and for the first time that voyage I had the privilege of "raising" a sperm whale. My voice quivered with excitement as I uttered the war-whoop, "Ah blo-o-o-o-w!" Round spun the mate on his heel, while the hands clustered like bees roused from their hive. "Where away - where?" gasped the mate. And I pointed to a spot about half a point on the lee bow, at the same time calling his attention to the fact that the stranger to windward was keeping away. In answer to the skipper's hurried queries from below Mr. Count gave him the general outline of affairs, to which he replied by crowding every stitch of canvas on the vessel that was available.

The spout I had seen was a good ten miles off, and, for the present, seemed to belong to a "lone" whale, as it was the only one visible. There was a good breeze blowing, as much, in fact, as we could carry all sail to, the old barky making a tremendous commotion as she blundered along under the unusual press of canvas. In the excitement of the race all our woes were forgotten; we only thought of the possibility of the ship getting there first. We drew gradually nearer to the stranger, who, like us, was carrying all the sail he had got, but, being able to go a point or two free, was outsailing us.

It was anybody's race as yet, though, when we heard the skipper's hail, "'Way down from aloft!" as he came up to take our place, The whale had sounded, apparently heading to leeward, so that the weather-gage held by our rival was not much advantage to him now. We ran on for another two miles, then shortened sail, and stood by to lower away the moment he should re-appear, Meanwhile another ship was working up from to leeward, having evidently noted our movements, or else, like the albatross, "smelt whale," no great distance to windward of him. Waiting for that whale to rise was one of the most exciting experiences we had gone through as yet, with two other ships so near. Everybody's nerves seemed strung up to concert pitch, and it was quite a relief when from half a dozen throats at once burst the cry, "There she white- waters! Ah blo-o-o-o-w!" Not a mile away, dead to leeward of us, quietly beating the water with the flat of his flukes, as if there was no such thing in the watery world as a whale-ship. Splash! almost simultaneously went the four boats. Out we shot from the ship, all on our mettle; for was not the skipper's eye upon us from his lofty eerie, as well as the crew of the other ship, now not more than a mile away! We seemed a terrible time getting the sails up, but the officers dared not risk our willingness to pull while they could be independent of us.

By the time we were fairly off, the other ship's boats were coming like the wind, so that eight boats were now converging upon the unconscious monster, We fairly flew over the short, choppy sea, getting drenched with the flying spray, but looking out far more keenly at the other boats than at the whale. Up we came to him, Mr. Count's boat to the left, the other mate's boat to the right. Almost at the same moment the irons flew from the hands of the rival harpooners; but while ours was buried to the hitches in the whale's side, the other man's just ploughed up the skin on the animal's back, as it passed over him and pierced our boat close behind the harpooner's leg. Not seeing what had happened to his iron, or knowing that we were fast, the other harpooner promptly hurled his second iron, which struck solidly. It was a very pretty tangle, but our position was rather bad. The whale between us was tearing the bowels of the deep up in his rage and fear; we were struggling frantically to get our sail down; and at any moment that wretched iron through our upper strake might tear a plank out of us. Our chief, foaming at the mouth with rage and excitement, was screeching inarticulate blasphemy at the other mate, who, not knowing what was the matter, was yelling back all his copious vocabulary of abuse. I felt very glad the whale was between us, or there would surely have been murder done. At last, out drops the iron, leaving a jagged hole you could put your arm through. Wasn't Mr. Count mad? I really thought he would split with rage, for it was impossible for us to go on with that hole in our bilge. The second mate came alongside and took our line as the whale was just commencing to sound, thus setting us free. We made at once for the other ship's "fast" boat, and the compliments that had gone before were just casual conversation to what filled the air with dislocated language now. Presently both the champions cooled down a bit from want of breath, and we got our case stated. It was received with a yell of derision from the other side as a splendid effort of lying on our part; because the first ship fast claims the whale, and such a prize as this one we were quarrelling about was not to be tamely yielded.

However, as reason asserted her sway over Mr. Count, he quieted down, knowing full well that the state of the line belonging to his rival would reveal the truth when the whale rose again. Therefore we returned to the ship, leaving our three boats busy waiting the whale's pleasure to rise again. When the skipper heard what had happened, he had his own boat manned, proceeding himself to the battle-field in expectation of complications presently. By the time he arrived upon the scene there were two more boats lying by, which had come up from the third ship, mentioned as working up from to leeward. "Pretty fine ground this's got ter be!" growled the old man. "Caint strike whale 'thout bein' crowded eout uv yer own propputty by a gang bunco steerers like this. Shall hev ter quit it, en keep a pawnshop."

And still the whale kept going steadily down, down, down. Already he was on the second boat's lines, and taking them out faster than ever. Had we been alone, this persistence on his part, though annoying, would not have mattered much; but, with so many others in company, the possibilities of complication, should we need to slip our end, were numerous. The ship kept near, and Mr. Count, seeing how matters were going, had hastily patched his boat, returning at once with another tub of line. He was but just in time to bend on, when to our great delight we saw the end slip from our rival's boat. This in no wise terminated his lien on the whale, supposing he could prove that he struck first, but it got him out of the way for the time.

Meanwhile we were running line faster than ever. There was an enormous length attached to the animal now - some twelve thousand feet - the weight of which was very great, to say nothing of the many "drogues" or "stopwaters" attached to it at intervals. Judge, then, of my surprise when a shout of "Blo-o-o-w!" called my attention to the whale himself just breaking water about half a mile away. It was an awkward predicament; for if we let go our end, the others would be on the whale immediately; if we held on, we should certainly be dragged below in a twinkling; and our disengaged boats could do nothing, for they had no line. But the difficulty soon settled itself. Out ran our end, leaving us bare of line as pleasure skiffs. The newcomer, who had been prowling near, keeping a close watch upon us, saw our boat jump up when released from the weight. Off he flew like an arrow to the labouring leviathan, now a "free fish," except for such claims as the two first-comers had upon it, which claims are legally assessed, where no dispute arises. In its disabled condition, dragging so enormous a weight of line, it was but a few minutes before the fresh boat was fast, while we looked on helplessly, boiling with impotent rage. All that we could now hope for was the salvage of some of our line, a mile and a half of which, inextricably mixed up with about the same length of our rival's, was towing astern of the fast-expiring cachalot.

So great had been the strain upon that hardly-used animal that he did not go into his usual "flurry," but calmly expired without the faintest struggle. In the mean time two of our boats had been sent on board again to work the ship, while the skipper proceeded to try his luck in the recovery of his gear. On arriving at the dead whale, however, we found that he had rolled over and over beneath the water so many times that the line was fairly frapped round him, and the present possessors were in no mood to allow us the privilege of unrolling it.

During the conversation we had drawn very near the carcass, so near, in fact, that one hand was holding the boat alongside the whale's "small" by a bight of the line. I suppose the skipper's eagle eye must have caught sight of the trailing part of the line streaming beneath,for suddenly he plunged overboard, reappearing almost immediately with the line in his hand. He scrambled into the boat with it, cutting it from the whale at once, and starting his boat's crew hauling in.

Then there was a hubbub again. The captain of the NARRAGANSETT, our first rival, protested vigorously against our monopoly of the line; but in grim silence our skipper kept on, taking no notice of him, while we steadily hauled. Unless he of the NARRAGANSETT choose to fight for what he considered his rights, there was no help for him. And there was something in our old man's appearance eminently calculated to discourage aggression of any kind.

At last, disgusted apparently with the hopeless turn affairs had taken, the NARRAGANSETT's boats drew off, and returned on board their ship. Two of our boats had by this time accumulated a mountainous coil of line each, with which we returned to our own vessel, leaving the skipper to visit the present holder of the whale, the skipper of the JOHN HAMPDEN.

What arrangements they made, or how they settled the NARRAGANSETT's claim between them, I never knew, but I dare say there was a costly law-suit about it in New Bedford years after.

This was not very encouraging for a start, nor did the next meek see us do any better. Several times we saw other ships with whales alongside, but we got no show at all. Now, I had hoped a great deal from our cruise on these grounds, because I had heard whispers of a visit to the icy Sea of Okhotsk, and the prospect was to me a horrible one. I never did take any stock in Arctic work. But if we made a good season on the Japan grounds, we should not go north, but gradually work down the Pacific again, on the other side, cruising as we went.

Day after day went by without any fresh capture or even sight of fish, until I began to believe that the stories I had heard of the wonderful fecundity of the Coast of Japan waters were fables without foundation, in fact. Had I known what sort of fishing our next bout would be, I should not have been so eager to sight whales again. If this be not a platitude of the worst kind, I don't know the meaning of the word; but, after all, platitudes have their uses, especially when you want to state a fact baldly.