Voyaging Southward from the Strait of Magellan

Voyaging Southward from the Strait of Magellan

Voyaging Southward from the Strait of Magellan

Voyaging Southward from the Strait of Magellan

Excerpt

Here is a story that treats of a great many bad characters--that is, of those blood-and-thunder fellows who, it is supposed, under pressure of misfortune at home, or natural lawlessness, have fled to the frontier and over, as to the only refuge that would tolerate them. And, as the scene of the story is the worst frontier in the world, its characters are, presumably, the very dregs of humankind, the froth of wickedness. Among them are cannibals, poachers, soldiers, brawlers, missionaries, a governor, a murderer or two, a minister's son, and a Holy-jumper.

Of his own character the author has found it difficult, impossible in fact, to write with honesty. The assumption of incorruptible virtue, by authors of books of travel, has become a fixed tradition, that one who would hold the attention of the virtuous reader would not do well to violate.

And yet, one sensitive to truthfulness may well shrink from such bold-faced effrontery. Therefore have I chosen to cry out my confession in the market place; yet discreetly, in the remote and unfrequented market of the introduction: here, where perchance no curious passer-by will pause to listen, I beat my breast, and, in the best Russian manner, cry out, "Hear ye! hear ye! The 'I' of 'Voyaging,' who through twenty-four chapters parades his virtue, is a myth, a humbug. He is a sinful man."

And in proof of it (for, as a boast of virtue is evidence of wickedness, and of wickedness the contrary, proof is needed), I mind the reader of a discrepancy in Chapter II of the book. There, while our poverty is laid bare, and the hand of others' generosity is displayed as fitting out my mate and me with many things, it is not told how and where we got our food supplies for a voyage of many months. Where we procured them, since the story of that would involve several persons of high position, will not be told: but how, is my confession. We stole them.

We stole them in three separate raids.

On the first raid we netted two hundred pounds of sugar (the owner of this, José Curtze, who later became a close friend of mine, will open his eyes and, I trust, not close his heart at this confession), four hundred pounds of flour, twenty pounds of coffee, ten pounds of tea, twenty-five pounds of beans, six bottles of ketchup, a case of milk, and as much again of things that I've forgotten. The get-away was made in broad daylight.

The second raid was on a dark midnight. We had discovered a cache of stolen table luxuries that some thief had secreted, waiting an opportunity to remove it. "The miserable thief!" we cried; and it gave me some satisfaction to reflect that in this case two wrongs made one unquestionable right. Not stopping to look over our find, we conveyed it in sacks out over the harbor to our boat. What was our pleasure, on . . .

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