Harper's Young People, March 16, 1880 An Illustrated Weekly

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Excerpt THE FURNACE-ROOM. Had Frank lain awake he would have seen a curious sight; for there are few more picturesque scenes than the "forecastle interior" of an ocean steamer at night, lit by the fitful gleam of its swinging lamp. This grim-looking man, fumbling in his breast as if for the ever-ready knife or pistol, must be dreaming of some desperate struggle by his set teeth and hard breathing. That huge scar on the face of the gaunt, sallow figure beside him, whose soiled red shirt and matted beard would just suit the foreground of a Nevada gully, might tell a strange tale. That handsome, statuesque countenance yonder, again, faultless but for the sinister gleam of its restless eyes—what can it be doing among these coarse, uncultivated men, not one of whom can tell why they should all shrink from it as they do? What a study for a pirate any artist might make out of this shaggy, black-haired giant, whose lion-like head is hanging over the side of his bunk! His weather-beaten face looks hard as a pine knot; but a child would run to him at once, recognizing, with its own unerring instinct, the tender heart hidden beneath that rough outside. Next to him lies a trim, slender lad, who looks as if he knew more of Latin and Greek than of reefing and splicing, and whose curly brown head some fond mother has doubtless caressed many a time; yet here he is, an unknown sailor before the mast, with all his gifts wasted, and doomed perhaps to sink lower still. But these are the exceptions; the majority are sailors of the ordinary type, careless, light-hearted, improvident, never looking beyond the present moment—content to accept the first job that "turns up," and quite satisfied with a day's food and a shirt to their backs. Some are coiled up on lockers and spare sails, others sleeping off their last night's "spree" on the bare planks, and rolling over and over with every plunge of the vessel. Whew! what a stream of cold air comes rushing down the hatchway, as it opens to let in the deck watch, glad enough to get below again out of the cold and wet! Their shouts, as they dash the brine from their beards and jackets, and chaff the comrades who are unwillingly turning out to relieve them, arouse Frank, who for a moment can hardly make out where he is. Then it all flashes upon him, and he "tumbles up," and goes on deck. Certainly, if any one ever could feel dismal at sea, it would be during the hour before dawn, the most cheerless and uncomfortable of the whole twenty-four. After spending the night in a lively game of cup and ball, with yourself for the ball, and an amazingly hard wooden bunk for the cup, you crawl on deck, bruised and aching from top to toe. While gazing upon the inspiring landscape of gray fog and slaty blue sea, you suddenly feel a stream of cold water splashing into your boots, while an unfeeling sailor gruffly asks "why in thunder you can't git out o' the way?" Springing hastily aside, you break your shins over a spar which seems to have been put there on purpose, and get up only to be instantly thrown down again by a lee lurch of the ship, amid the derisive laughter of the deck watch....
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