Story from SCRIBNER’S MONTHLY
Volume XX, 1880
Shooting a Porpoise
Where are you bound?
Indian Beach, Grand Menan.
You can’t fetch it, in this wind and sea; better come aboard the schooner.
The hail came from an outward bound pilot-boat, running down the Bay of Fundy, close-reefed, in a strong, breeze, and was addressed to the writer and his Indian friend Sebatis, who were crossing the bay in a canoe bound to Indian Beach, Grand Menan, on a porpoise-shooting expedition
Sebatis, the men in the schooner want to take us aboard; they say that there is too much wind and sea to fetch Indian Beach with the canoe.
No danger; canoe best; we fetch ‘im Indian Beach all safe – s’pose we go on pilot-boat, sartin very sea-sick.
On hearing Sebatis’s remark, a hearty laugh and a cheer came from the crew of the pilot-boat, and thanking them for their kind intentions, we bore away for our destination.
To one unaccustomed to the sea-worthy qualities of a birch canoe properly handled, the situation would have seemed a perilous one, for the sea was running high, and the breeze stiffening.
Look out, Sebatis! I exclaimed, involuntarily, as the spray from a sea breaking almost aboard of us drenched me.
All right, no danger ‘tall, only little wet.
Picture of Sebatis in a perilous situation
“I’m afraid we’ll be swamped, Sebatis.”
“No chance swamp ‘im, I watch canoe so close, you see, water can’t come ‘board ‘tall.”
I began to think that our situation very much resembled that of the old Indian who, for a lack of a sail, put up a big bush in the bow of his canoe; – all went well with him until the wind increased to a gale and he could not get forward to reef his bush. So he sat like a statue, steering with his paddle, and repeating, in a mournful monotone:
“Too much bush, too much bush, for little canoe.” With this in my mind , I said to Sebatis: “Don’t you think that we are carrying too much sail? A heavy squall might upset us.”
“Well, you see,” he replied, “no chance reef ‘im now, wind so heavy, but I take care, I got sheet in my hand, s’pose squall, then I let go pretty quick.”
He had the sheet in his hand, as he said, and was steering with the paddle in the other, whale-boat fashion. So I took heart of grace and troubled myself no more about the matter. “You hear ‘im wolves?” Said Sebatis, pointing to a low-lying group of rocky islands that have crushed many a noble ship with their ugly fangs; “make good deal noise: (alluding to the surf); “wind shift now-fair all way Indian Beach.”
And away we bounded, the canoe riding the waves like a duck, and so buoyantly that at times six feet of her length were out of the water.
After another hours sailing:
“Only a little ways now,” said Sebatis. “Just ‘round big headland, then no wind, only sea pretty heavy.”
In a few moments we doubled that headland safely, and Sebatis unstepped the mast and stowed the sail in the bottom of the canoe, then resumed his paddle.
On viewing our prospect for landing, I must confess to more anxiety than I had hitherto experienced. True, we were out of the wind, but the night was shutting down apace, and a transient gleam from the storm-rent clouds disclosed the sea rolling in on the beach in such a manner as to make our landing, in the treacherous light of the departing day, an dangerous one.
“Now then, exclaimed Sebatis, “s’pose you jump overboard, and run right up the beach, when I give the word. I’ll beach the canoe all ‘lone myself.”
He was paddling with might and main, and we were successfully riding the waves within one hundred yards of the beach.
“Now then, jump quick, and run,” he cried, as a receding wave left us in a swashing undertow.
I was overboard in an instant and struggled out of the reach of the sea. After holding the canoe steadily while I jumped, Sabbaths followed, and, partly dragging and partly carrying the canoe, beached her high and dry.
We were now on Indian Beach, where the Indians camp for the summer and autumn porpoise-shooting. The beach extends for about half a miles, between two projecting headlands, and the camps, constructed of drift-wood, are placed just above high-water mark, and under the shelter of the overhanging cliffs.
Drenched with salt water, and as hungry as wolves, we unpacked the canoe and carried our “possibles” to Sabbaths’s camp.
Porpoise-shooting affords the Indians of the Passamaquoddy tribe their principal means of support. It is practiced at all seasons of the year, but the fish killed in the winter are the fattest and give the largest quantities of oil. The largest0sized porpoises measure about seven feet in length, about the girth five feet, weight three hundred points and upward, and yield from six to seven gallons of oil. The blubber is about one and one-half inches thick in summer, and two inches thick in winter, at which time the creature is in its best condition. The blubber from a large porpoise weighs about one hundred points. The Indians try our the oil in a very primitive manner, and with very rude but picturesque appliances. The blubber is stripped off, then cut into small pieces, which are placed in huge iron pots and melted over a fire. All along the beach were placed, at intervals, curious structures, consisting of two upright pieces of wood surmounted by a cross-piece, from which the pots were hung by chains. Under this cross-piece large stones were piled in a semicircle, inside of which a fire was made that was allowed to burn fiercely until the stones were at a white heat. The fire was then scattered, and the pots containing the blubber were placed over the stones and just enough fire kept under them to insure the melting of the blubber. When melted, the oil was skimmed off into other receptacles, then poured into tin cans of about five gallons capacity , and then the process was complete. If the oil is pure, it readily brings ninety center per gallon, but if adulterated with seal, or any other inferior oil, its value reduced to sixty-five cents per gallon. A very superior oils is obtained from the jaw of the porpoise. The jaws are hung up in the sun, and the oil, as it drips, is caught in cans places for that purpose. The quantity of oil thus procured is small, being only about half of a pint from each jaw, but a large price is paid for it by watch-makers and others requiring a very fine lubricator. The oil from the blubber gives a very good light, and was for a long time used in all the light-houses on the coast. It is also a capital oil for lubricating machine, never gets sticky and is unaffected by cold weather. When pure, there is no offensive smell, and I know of no oil equal to it for those who are compelled to use their eyes at night. The light is very soft, and, used in a German students’s lamp, one can work almost as comfortably as by daylight, and the dreaded glare of gas and other artificial lights is completely avoided.
If industrious, and favored with ordinary success, an Indian can kill from one hundred and fifty to two hundred porpoises in a year, and they will probably average three gallons of oil each. But, unfortunately, the poor Indians are not industrious, or only so by fits and starts, or as necessity compels them. Their way is usually to accumulate some fifteen or twenty gallons of oil, then go off to Eastport, Maine, with it, for a market. Thus, much time is lost in loitering about the towns, and in going to and returning from the hunting-grounds. Moreover, there are always two Indians to each canoe, and the proceeds of the hunt have to be divided. There is quite a good demand for the oil, and, if systematically followed, porpoise shooting would furnish the Indians with a comfortable support. The flesh of the porpoise, when cooked, is not unlike fresh pork, and at one time was much used. The Indians still use it, and it is also in request by the fisherman on the coast, who readily exchange fresh fish for “porpus” meat with the Indians.
Almost known to the outside world, here is an industry followed by these poor Indians, year after year, calling in its pursuit for more bravery, skill and endurance than perhaps any other occupation. I could not help feeling a melancholy interest in them and their pursuits as I sat on the beach at sunrise, watching them embark on their perilous work. For these poor creatures, “porpusin’” possessed and all-absorbing interest, and the chances of success, state of weather and price obtainable for the oil were matters of every-day discussion.
In the morning, all the women and children turned out to see the canoes go off, and if during the day a storm came up, or the canoes were unusually late in returning, many anxious eyes would be turned seaward. They were always pleasant anc good-natured with one another, and in general returned from the hunt about three o’clock in the afternoon. After dinner, one would have though that, tired out with their exertions, they would have sought repose; but they did not seem to need it, and the rest of the day until sundown would be spent in friendly games upon the beach.
To make a successful porpoise-hunter requires five or six years of constant practice. Boys, ten or twelve years of age, are taken out in the canoes by the men, and thus early trained in the pursuit of that which is to form their main support in after years. Porpoise-shooting is followed at all seasons and in all kinds of weather – in the summer sea, in the boisterous autumn gales, and in the dreadful icy seas of midwinter. IN a calm summer day, the porpoise can be heard blowing for a long distance. The Indians, guided by the sound long before they can see the game, paddle rapidly in the direction from which the sound comes, and rarely fail to secure the fish. They use long smooth-bored guns, loaded with a handful of powder, and a heavy charge of double B shot. As soon as the porpoise is shot, they paddle rapidly up to him and kill him with a spear, to prevent his flopping about, and upsetting the canoe after they have taken him aboard. The manner of taking the porpoise aboard is to insert two fingers of the right hand into the blow-hole, take hold of the pectoral fin with the left hand, and lift the fish up until at least one-half of his length is above the gunwale of the canoe, and then drag him aboard.
This comparatively easy to accomplish in smooth water, but when the feat is performed in an heavy sea, one can realize the skill and daring required. In rough weather, with a high sea running, the Indian is compelled to stand up in his canoe when he fired, otherwise he would not see his game. IN such work as this, one would suppose that upsets would be almost unavoidable, but strange to say they seldom happen, – and o9nly under circumstances where the Indian’s skill or foresight are unavailing. When an Indian stands up in his canoe, in rough water, he suits himself to every motion of his frail craft and is ever ready to sway his body and keep her on an even keel. In this he is able seconded by his comrade who manages the paddle, and with marvelous dexterity urges the canoe forward, checks her, backs her, whirls her completely around, or holds her steady as a rock, as the emergency may require.
Although an old and experienced canoeist, in the matter of shooting porpoises from a canoe in a heavy sea, and taking them aboard, I often feel inclined to side with my friend Colonel W_, who once arranged a porpoise-shooting expedition on shares with an Indian named Paul. It was the Colonel’s first, and I may add, last experience in the skinned of shooting, for the Indian, having shot a very large porpoise, paddled rapidly up to him, speared him, and was in the act of hauling him aboard, when the Colonel recovered his power of speech, and excitedly exclaimed:
“Hold on, Paul, hold on; how much is that porpoise worth?”
“How much worth? Maybe five dollars.”
“Well, Paul, I’ll pay you half, and we wont take the porpoise in.”
“No, ” replied Paul, “I’ll pay you half; sartin, we take in ‘im porpus.”
The Colonel’s appeal was of no avail, as they were surrounded by other canoes similarly occupied, and it was a point of honor with Paul to take the porpoise aboard, otherwise he might have been suspected of cowardice.
Not frequently, as the Indian hastily paddles up to dispatch a wounded porpoise with his spear, he sees the terrible dorsal-fin of a shark spear, cutting the water, as the monster, attracted by the scent of blood, rushes to dispute possession of the prey.
Although there are well authenticate cases of a shark’s having actually cut the porpoise in half just as the Indian was hauling it aboard of his canoe, I have never heard of any harm resulting to the Indians from attacks of this nature; nor do they in the least fear the sharks, bur, on the contrary, boldly attack and drive them off with their long spears.
One evening, after I had passed several days on the Indian Beach, sketching and making studies, Sabbaths returned from visiting one of the camps and said:
“S’pose you like to try ‘ im porpusin’, I find very good hand go with us.”
“Who is he, Sabbaths?’
“You never seem ‘im ‘tall, his name’s Pieltoma.”
“When do we start?”
“May be about daylight, s’pose no fog.”
Judging by my experience during the few days that I had been on the island, Sabbaths’s proviso about the fog seemed likely to indefinitely postponed our expedition. Whence the fog came, or whither it went, seemed one of those things that no person could find out. At times, when the sun was shining brightly, the distant cliffs would have suddenly become obscured as if a veil had been dropped over them, then nearer objects would become indistinct, and while one was wondering at the rapid change, everything animate and inanimate would vanish as if by magic. Fore a time, silence reigned supreme, then a din as of the infernal regions began. First, a big steam-whistle on the land half a mile away sent out its melancholy boo-oo-oo in warning to passing mariners, then from the sea came the answering whistle of some passing steamer, then the fisherman at anchor in the bay blew their tin fog-horns, and their conch-shell fog horns, until at last one became thoroughly convinced that every conceivable and inconceivable form of “American devil,” as the English term our steam-whistle, was faithfully represented in uproar. Now and then, during an interlude, a sound that might have uttered by a mountain gnome echoed through the void – this was the dismal “kong, kong” of the raven, seated away upon some projecting crag. Here the raven is a regal bird and attains his greatest size and most majestic form. The transformation came as quickly, and almost in a twinkling the veil would be lifted from the hills, and the sun would shine out again, bright and warm. Some of the effects of light and shade produced by these sudden transitions are grand beyond all power of description.
Captian Sam and his boy
Just about daylight next morning, Sebatis, aroused me. There was no fog and it was quite calm on the water, and, as Sebatis remarked:
“A very good day for porpusin’.”
Trying out Blubber
Pieltoma, a fine-looking young Indian, joined us at breakfast, and, that over, we embarked in Sebatis’s canoe and paddled off in quest of porpoises.
“How far out are you going, Sebatis?”
“Can’t tell yet; you see, by and by, may be we hear ‘im porpus blowin’ somewheres.”
“I hear ‘im porpus blowing’ just now,” said Pieltoma.
“Sartin, Pieltoma got pretty good ears; I don’t hear ‘im nothing’ tall.”
“I hear ‘im, sartin,” reiterated Pieltoma.
“Which way?’ asked Sebatis.
“Away up on rips, this side Eel Brook. Hark! You hear ‘im now?” He continued.
“Sartin,” said Sebatis. “We go now pretty quick.”
Simultaneously their paddles struck the water, and away we went with redoubled speed. I was listening intently, but so far my uneducated ears failed to detect the sound.
“There goes the porpus,” said Sebatis, dropping his paddle and taking up his gun.
Just then a deafening roar came from the stern where Pieltoma sat, and the canoe tilted slight over.
“By tunders!” cried Sabatis, in a chiding tone. “You miss ‘im porpus sartin, and most upset canoe beside: some time you bust ‘im gun, s’pose, you put in so much powder.”
This habit of overloading their guns frequently results in serious accidents to the Indians, and I know two Indians, one with a broken jaw and one with a broken shoulder, the result of this infatuation. IN this, however, they are not singular, as the fishermen of Newfoundland, who use old muskets for duck and seal shooting, overload in the same way, and broken should and broken noses are said to be quite common among them.
Poor Pieltoma seemed quite disconsolate at this misadventure, and without remark of any kind resumed his paddle, and we continued on our way.
“What do the porpoises feed on, Sebatis?”
“He eat ‘im mackerel, herrin’s and most all kinds of small little fishes – by-em-by we come on feedin’-grounds, then see ‘im more porpusis.”
“I hear ‘im porous again,” remarked Pieltoma.
Instantly, Sebatis was on his feet, gun in hand, and I just caught a glimpse of a dark body rolling over in the water some fifty yards away, when Sebatis fired, then dropped his gun and picked up the long spear which lay ready to his hand in the bow of the canoe.
Pieltoma paddled quickly up to the porpoise, and Sebatis stabbed the dying fish repeatedly; and then dragged him aboard of the canoe. He was a medium-sized fish, and weighed about two hundred pounds.
“Now then, fill my pipe first, then we go hunt ‘im somewhere else, may be find ‘im more porpusis,” said Sabbaths.
“It will be Pieltoma’s turn to shoot the next porpoise..”
“No; Pieltoma best paddle canoe. I shoot ‘im porpusis.”
It afterward transpired that Pieltoma was not an expert in porpoise-shooting. I had though that al Indians were good porpoise-hunters, but it seems that there are several grades of excellence, and that some of the Indians never attain the requisite skill. Poor Pieltoma was one of the latter class, and in future would have to stick to the paddle, in the management of which he excelled.
After paddling along for some time in silence, he said:
“Sabbaths, s’pose we try ‘im farther out, porous may be chase ‘im mackerel somewheres. I see ‘im plenty gulls outside.”
“Satin, that’s a very good plan,” replied Sabbaths. “We’ll go about two miles out.”
“Storm coming, Sabbaths; wind and sea both rising.”
“No, not any storm, only little breezy, that’s all. BY-em-by you see ‘im plenty porpusis. Always when breezy then porpusis kind playin’, you see-jump ‘round everywheres.”
“Do the porpoises go in large schools?”
“Always good many together, sometimes I see ‘im forty or fifty porpusis all jumpin’ ‘ round at the same time.”
“There goes three porpusis!” said Pieltoma.
“Which way?” asked Sabbaths.
“There they are, Sabbaths,” I said, as several black objects appeared, rolling over in the waves.
“I see ‘im now. ‘Most too far off shoot ‘im. Paddle little ways closer, Pieltoma.”
Presently, bang goes his gun, and we are paddled rapidly up to the fish, which is blowing and thrashing the water into foam.
“Pretty big porous; go over three hundred,” said Sabbaths, as he savagely speared the porpoise.
“‘Most too big take ‘im in, Sabbaths,” said Pieltoma.
“No, not too big; s’pose you come help me lift ‘im up.”
Pieltoma came forward, and I passed aft and took the paddle to steady the canoe. As they struggled to get the fish aboard over the gunwale, my knees began to shake-there was quite a swell on, and I feared that we might go over. However, they got it safely aboard at last.
“By tunders, that’s pretty good luck getting’ so big porous; about six gallons oil, satin!” exclaimed Sabbaths, exultingly.
“Almost upset the canoe that time, Sabbaths.”
“Oh, no; no danger to handle a porous when two men in the canoe. S’pose only one man, then pretty risky. About a year ago, I got upset myself, takin’ a big porous all ‘lone.
“Fisherman see me, and send small boat take me off, and tow canoe alongside schooner. Not so bad, you see; save porous, canoe, paddle, and spear – lose my gun, that’s all.”
“You had a very narrow escape that time.”
“Well, you see, almost don’t ‘scape ‘tall, wind and sea so heavy. By tunders, when I get ashore, and tell all about it, good many Ingings come and listen.”
“Well, s’pose I got to tell ‘im anyhow, best land somewheres, and put ‘im out porpusis, and get dinner first, then I tell ‘im story, – too hungry now.”
“Indian Beach only little ways, that’s best chance, and I see ‘im old Captain Sam’s schooner fishing off beach this mornin’; maybe get fresh fish diner,” said Pieltoma.’
“Satin, that’s best chance,” said Sabbaths; “Captain Sam very good old man.”
“That is a curious name, Sabbaths; hasn’t he got any other?”
“Well, everybody call ‘im Captain Sam; maybe he got some other name besides. I never hear ‘im. He comes here with his boy every summer, fishing.”
“Hadn’t we better paddle alongside and get some fresh fish for dinner?”
“Satin; there’s schooner, you see, just little ways ahead.”
“Good mornin,’ Captain Sam,” said Sabbaths, as we ranged alongside of the schooner.
“Mornin’, Injuns. Mornin’, neighbor,” answered a cheery voice from the schooner’s deck.
Captain Sam was a tall, wiry, well set-up man, with a kindly, weather-beaten face, iron gray hair and beard, and a sly twinkle in his keen gray eyes, hinted that he was not destitute of humor. In age he was somewhere in the fifties. His “boy” was a strapping fellow, with a bright open face, and arms like a Vulcan. They were cleaning and curing their morning’s catch, consisting of codfish, hake and haddock. After subjecting me to a critical examination with one eye, the other being tightly closed, Captain Sam asked:
“Be you a doctor, neighbor?”
“You been’t one of the ‘missioners as sot on the fish over to Halifax t’other day, be you?”
“You’ll excuse me, neighbor, but -“
“Captain Sam, s’pose you give us mess of fresh fish, then by an by I bring you porous steak,” interrupted Sabbaths.
“Give you a mess of fish? Surely you know my maxim is, ‘Cast your bread on the waters, an’ somethin’s sure to come of it.’ Give you a mess of fish, surely,” and the jolly old captain tossed half a dozen fresh rock-haddocks into the canoe.
“Won’t you give us a call this afternoon, Captain?”
“Surely, Tommy an’ me’ll scrub ourselves up a bit, an’ look you up, when we sets those fish to rights.”
After dinner, Sabbaths lighted his pipe, and sat puffing away, absorbed in a brown study.
“What are we to do this afternoon?”
“Well, s’pose not too tired, we take provisions with us and go porpusin’ again good way off, and camp. Captain Sam and his boy are comin’. You see ‘im?”
“Yes, here they are.”
“Afternoon neighbor. Well, Sabbaths, how did the haddocks go?”
“Go first rate, Captain Sam; I never taste ‘im better fish.”
“You never spoke a truer word nor that, Sabbaths; for, fresh or smoked, and rock-haddock’s hard to beat.”
“Captain, will you and your son join me in a bottle of ale?”
“Well neighbor, Tommy an’ me, we don’t go much on liquor; we takes it, or we lets it alone, but I don’t know as a drop of ale will hurt a body, an’ fishin’s a dryish sort of work the best of times.”
“Sebatis, bring a couple of bottles of ale.”
What sort of ale be this, neighbor? They do tell me that most of the liquor now days’s no better nor pizen.”
“Help yourself, Captain, that ale wont hurt you.”
“Here’s to your good health, neighbor, Injuns, Tommy, all han’s,” said Captain Sam as the bottom of a tin pint covered the largest portion of his face.
“Your son doesn’t seem to care for his ale, Captain.”
“Come, Tommy, my boy, drink up your ale,” said the captain, replenishing his pint.
“And, Tommy, don’t you never forget what I’m always a tellin’ you. “Cast your bread in the waters,’” he added, after a good pull at the ale.
“Time to go,” said Sabbaths, sententiously.
“Goin’ porpusin,’ neighbor, be you? Well Sabbaths, take good care of him and don’t you never-.”
The last we saw of the good old captain, he was still sitting at our improvised table at the camp door, pledging his boy, with pint held to pint, and no doubt quaintly repeating his favorite maxim.
I fear that the ale was too much for one of his abstemious habits.
Pieltoma had washed out and dried the canoe, and once more we set out in pursuit of the porpoises.
“Where are we going now, Sabbaths?”
“Goin’ away long eddy, off northern head.”
“Is that a good place for porpoises?”
“Satin; always on rips very good place: you see, plenty mackerels, herrin’s, and all kinds fishes in eddies and rips; very good feedin’- ground for porpusis, you see.”
The eddies or rips alluded to by Sabbaths were caused by the obstruction offered by projecting headlands to the ebb and flow of the tide, which on this coast rises some forty feet.
“Pretty late when we get back, s’pose we go all way to long rips, ” said Pieltoma.
“Well,” replied Sabbaths, “s’pose dark, then we’ll camp somewhere all night-I fetch ‘im provisions and cooking tools; satin, canoe and sail make very good camp.”
Talking did not interfere with their paddling, and we were going at a rapid rate for the place where they hoped to find the porpoises. Presently we entered rough water, wish much such a sea as is caused by wind against tide, and the canoe began to jump about in a very lively manner.
“There goes porous, Sabbaths,” said Pieltoma.
“I see ‘im,” said Sabbaths, standing up in the canoe, gun in hand. Just then we got into some very rough water, and it was a study to see the admirable way in which Sabbaths poised himself for a shot.
Pieltoma was holding the canoe well in hand when quite a large wave smashed over the bow of the canoe, and some water came aboard.
“Best sit down, Sabbaths, take ‘im paddle, may be upset,” said Pieltoma.
Sabbaths turned a withering glance upon him, and then, as we mounted a wave, fired at some object that I did not see.
“Was that a porpoise, Sabbaths?”
“Satin. Four, five porpusis all rollin’ over together.”
“Did you kill him?”
“No; miss ‘im clean; all gone down. You see, Pieltoma scared so bad make me miss ‘im porous,” he replied, ironically.
Retaining his upright position in the canoe, he reloaded his gun, and stood ready for another shot.
“Quick, Sabbaths! Very big porous on this side canoe,” said Pieltoma, whirling the canoe around so as to afford Sabbaths a chance for a shot. The next moment we were in the trough of the sea, and I saw a flash of silver on an approaching wave; a belch of fire and a roar from Sabbaths’s gun instantly followed, and Pieltoma paddled as if for life, while Sabbaths dropped his gun and picked up his long spear. In the excitement, his usually calm face looked savage, and he plunged his cruel spear relentlessly again and again into a huge fish that we had now come alongside of.
I certainly thought that we should be upset this time, for the canoe was jumping and rocking in a manner to try the steadiest nerves, and the Indians were acting like two demons, and were tugging at the huge fish, in vain efforts to get him aboard. On my hands and knees I crept aft, so as to give them more room. The canoe was drifting aimlessly, now on top of a wave and the next moment in the trough, and I feared that some of the heavier seas would board us and end the whole matter. At last, their joint efforts succeeded in getting the fish high enough to pull him over the gunwale.
“How you like ‘im porpusin’- pretty good fun? Said Sabbaths, as he grasped his paddle and regained control of his canoe.
“If you call this fun, I hope that you will put me ashore before you begin in earnest,” I replied.
Presently I heard from seaward the distant booming of guns, as of some ship of war at practice.
“What guns are those, Sabbaths?”
“Guns? Oh, that’s Injuns shootin’ porpusis. Make good deal noise on salt water.”
“I see ‘im five canoes,” said Pieltoma, as we rode on the crest of a wave.
“Satin, must be big school porpusis in rips to-day-look quick you see ‘im canoe?” said Sabbaths.
“No, I don’t see any canoe.”
“You watch ‘im, by-em-by you see ‘im.”
As we glided into the trough again, I saw a canoe riding a wave, with an Indian standing up in the bow, and another sitting in the stern paddling. Then in a short time, we seemed to be surrounded by canoes, and they were constantly popping up, now on one side, then on the other, and at short intervals their guns flashed in the approaching darkness.
“Hadn’t we better get ashore somewhere, Sabbaths?”
“Yes, we go pretty soon; kill ‘im one more porous first.”
“I don’t see where you can put him; that one you killed last was an immense one.”
“Satin, that very big porous, but plenty room one more, s’pose we find ‘im.”
Just then there were a flash and a road, and a canoe passed rapidly to leeward to secure their prey.
“My turn next,” said Sabbaths, standing up in his canoe again.
“Look out, Sabbaths, look out, big wave comin’,” cried Pieltoma.
I thought that our time had come, but canoe dexterously handled by the Indians, rode the wave like an ocean bird.
“If we have many seas like this, Sabbaths, we may come to grief one of them.”
“No danger ‘t all, only got to be careful, that’s all. You see, tide just turned now, and we got too far in eddy; move out little way, then good deal smoother.”
“Dark comin’ now pretty quick, Sabbaths; by-em-by pretty hard chance landin’,” said Pieltoma.
Bang, goes Sabbaths’s gun in answer.
“What was that, Sabbaths?”
“Only a small little porpus, – too small count ‘im, most.”
In a few moments they had the porpoise aboard and paddled rapidly for out proposed landing-place at Eel Brook, where we were to camp for the night. The Indians carried the canoe over the beach to the foot of a hill, where some tall fir-trees gave us shelter. Then they turned the canoe partly on its side and propped it up with pieces of wood, then spread the sail on poles placed across the canoe, and our habitation was complete.
Sound, indeed, was our slumber that night,-
“While from its rocky caverns the deep-voiced neighboring ocean Speaks, and, in accents disconsolate, answers the wail of the forest.”