After the last voyage which I gave you an account of I accepted an offer made me by my late employers, and became superintendent of a business under their management in New York. Unfortunately, at the close of the war, this business was temporarily suspended and my contract was annulled. I then tried two or three different things on my own account, and finally settled as agent for a paper-mill; and all things were going on fairly well until in an unguarded moment I read an advertisement in the New York Herald. It ran as follows: "A gentleman with experience requires a partner with capital, in a safe business, with no risks." The bait took, and I had an interview with "the gentleman," and saw the persons to whom he referred me, and we joined, with the result that in less than seven months we had changed places. I had the experience and he had the capital, as well as the stock, and had vanished to where the woodbine twineth. His friends told me that this was his usual way of doing business. This was pretty cool. In a short time the same gentleman was seeking another victim in Chicago. My advice to sailors is to "stick to the ship."
Well, sir, the next thing I thought of was to get a ship before the landsharks took all I had from me; and, with the assistance of Mr. Paul Forbes, I was soon in command of the ship "Royal Saxon," owned jointly by R. W. Cameron, of New York, and R. Towns, of Sydney. We sailed from New York for Melbourne, and arrived there safely, though in running down our easting about 42° south latitude we had continuous fogs.
Now, sir, to the point. The above firm despatched from New York each alternate week one vessel for Melbourne and one for Sydney. The week before I left, the ship "Eastward Ho," Captain Byrne, was despatched for Sydney, and apparently all went well until she got into latitude 37° or 38° south, and a little to the eastward of the Cape of Good Hope, when suddenly one night, when running before a strong gale, she came crushing into ice. The shock was so severe that her fore and main topmasts and mizzen-topgallant masts went by the board, and the foremast-head sprung. The hull was considerably shattered, and the main covering-board split up from forward as far aft as the main gangway.
After this, the captain thought he had better try to reach Simon's Bay or the Cape. For some days they were working through field-ice, getting a little to the north. Patching the vessel with canvas, and rigging jury-masts and sails, finally they got clear of ice, and with fine weather it was decided to stand to the eastward, with the hope of being overtaken by some other vessel (which never came). After many vicissitudes,--taking to the boats, then returning to the ship twice,--it was decided that the ship was the safest place, and she ultimately reached Sydney.
In passing through Bass's Straits, the "Eastward Ho" had been passed at a short distance by a steamer from New Zealand, and reported in Melbourne, but could give no name. This gave great offence to the people of Melbourne for passing a vessel in such a state and not finding her name or her wants, if any.
The "Eastward Ho" was repaired and loaded coals in Sydney for Hongkong, and misfortune again overtook her. In coming through the Eastern seas, her crew mutinied, and the vessel narrowly escaped wreck on one of the islands. Then, later, she got into a typhoon, and was very badly strained, but escaped for what might have been a worse fate--fire. Her cargo of coals caught fire, and after some days of hard work, the fire was extinguished; but when the vessel reached Hongkong and her cargo was discharged, it was found that the hull was a mere shell. Her frames and planking in many places were burnt nearly through.
The vessel was condemned, the crew were paid off, and the captain left Hongkong for New York and Syracuse, where was his home. When he had nearly reached his house he met an old friend who conveyed to him the sad news of his wife's death and of the funeral from which he was just returning. A sailor's life is not always a happy one. Is there a fatality attaching to certain men or things?