Bibliographic Information

The Plough Boy Journals

The Journals and Associated Documents

The Plough Boy Anthology

19th Century American Whaling

Bonin Islands

Pitcairn's Island

Dictionaries & Glossaries

Ashley's Glossary of
Whaling Terms

Dana's Dictionary of
Sea Terms


W. H. Macy

Ballou's Monthly Magazine
Vol. XLV, No. 5 (May 1877)
pp. 470-471

470 Ballou's Monthly Magazine.



      Captain Barnard of the Euphrates, and Captain Sisson of the Vesper, were old cronies, and had been shipmates in their young days, when both were "before the mast." Their respective ships now lay moored, side by side, in the Bay of Talcahuana, Chili, and the captains met on the wharf the next morning after the Vesper's arrival.

      "Well, Sisson, what luck this cruise?" asked Captain Barnard, with a hearty shake of the hand.

      "I've done pretty well – took five hundred barrels since I left here in the spring – but, look here, Barnard, have you got a spare cutting-fall that you want to sell? I parted one of mine in cutting my last whale, and I find it is too rotten to be trustworthy. I must have a new one at any price."

      "No, I'm sorry to say I've got none to spare, and I doubt whether you'll be able to get one at all in this port."

      "Well, there may be some other ships in before I leave for sea, and perhaps I may be able to get one."

      The two skippers chatted of other matters for a few minutes, and then separated. Barnard at once made a straight course for the store of Bigelow, the principal ship-chandler of the port. He knew there was a coil of the desired size in the store for he had seen it.

      "Bigelow," said he, entering in a hurry, "what do you ask for that cutting-fall? By the way – have you got another coil on hand?"

      "No, that's the only one I have. I ask eighty dollars for it."

      "Well, I must have it, right away too. I wish you would send it right down to the pier, and my boat will take it off to the Euphrates. Put it in my bill with the other stores I have had."

      "All right," said Bigelow, glad to have made so good a trade. And in half an hour, the cutting-fail was hoisted on board Barnard's ship, somewhat to the surprise of his mate, who did not see the necessity of buying one.

      Captain Sisson entered Bigelow's store the same afternoon, and inquired for a coil of rope suitable for a cutting-fall. There was none to be found.

      "It's a little remarkable," said the ship-chandler. "that I have had one on hand here for some time with no call for it, and this morning I sold it to Captain Barnard of the Euphrates."

      Sisson said nothing, but he began to "smell a mice." His shipmate, Barnard, always was sharp on a trade.

      "Barnard," said he, as soon as they met again. "what did you buy that fall for? You don't need it, do you?"

      "Well – no – I don't know as I do. Come, I'll sell it to you, Sisson."

      "What do you want for it?"

      "A hundred and fifty dollars."

      "Well, I must, have it, and that you know. That's piling it on pretty steep; but I know your maxim, that's all fair in trade, so it's no use to argue the matter. Send it aboard the Vesper – or I'll send my boat and get it; but look here, Barnard, if I had known that you or any other brother whaler was in need of that fall, I should have been just fool enough to tell you that I had seen one up here at Bigelow's, and let you get it as cheap as you could."

      "O, all's fair you know in trade," said Captain Barnard, with a laugh, for he was mightily pleased with the prospect of so easily making a profit of seventy dollars, which he meant to put into his own pocket.

      Captain Sisson, though he really lost nothing himself, was careful of the interests of his owners, and was much vexed at what he, with his frank open-hearted ways and seafaring education, looked upon as a trick, though he could not deny that it would have been called among business men a legitimate transaction. He brooded over the subject, and often referred to it in conversation with his mate after the ship was at sea.

      "Barnard was pretty sharp that time," said he. "Indeed, he always was; but I hope some time to square the yards with him."

      Both ships went cruising on the Chili right-whaling ground after leaving Talca-

Getting Even with Him. 471

huana, and it was some two months afterwards that the Vesper's lookouts at the mastheads reported a ship in sight to leeward "manoeuvering," indicating by this term that she had whales in sight, and probably boats down. Up went the helm, and the ship was steered off free to close with the strange vessel, which on a nearer approach proved to be the Euphrates, with urgent signals flying as if anxious to communicate. Captain Barnard was on the taffrail with his speaking-trumpet and hailed, informing Sisson that he had struck two right whales, which had led his boats a hard dance; that one boat was stoven and quite disabled; they have been obliged to cut from one of the whales, and it was getting late in the afternoon. He was afraid he should not be able to save either of them, though the wounded whale was still in sight with the irons in him. All this state of things was of course plain enough to those on board the Vesper; but no whaler has the right to interfere with the work of another ship in such a case without being requested to do so. Had Sisson captured the loose whale while the Euphrates was in sight, Barnard would have claimed the prize in right of his harpoons, as "marked craft" is always positive evidence in settling cases of disputed ownership. But Barnard was now in a tight place.

      "Lower away your boats, Sisson," he said, "and help us. We'll throw chances together, and share all we get out of it."

      "All right!' answered his old shipmate.

      The Vesper rounded to, and dropped all her boats into the water and sent them to the rescue. This reinforcement of fresh men made a material change in the fortunes of the day, and before dark both the whales had been secured and hauled alongside the Vesper, she being then nearest to the scene of action. The ships kept company while the whales were cut and the oil boiled out, both in the mean time taking other whales, but each acting for herself. When the two captains met on board the Vesper to divide the proceeds of the joint day's work, Captain Sisson reported that the two whales had yielded a hundred and forty barrels of oil.

      "Pretty well," said Barnard. "That's seventy barrels apiece."

      "Not quite," returned the other, with a twinkle in his eye. "That's eighty barrels for my ship, and sixty for yours."

      "How so?" demanded Captain Barnard. "How do you figure that out?"

      "Because the Vesper is a four boat ship, while the Euphrates mans only three. Consequently we are entitled to take four-sevenths of the joint profits – because we had more capital invested." •

      "That's pretty sharp practice," Sisson. "I don't think that's equity in this case, when you consider all the circumstances."

      "Neither do I think it's equity – but it's business, and it's whalemen's law. All's fair in trade, provided one is law-honest, eh, Barnard? How about the cutting-fall in Talcahuana? Besides, in that case, you could put the whole profit in your own pocket, while in this, I am only doing what I legally ought to do for my owners and my crew, as well as for myself."

      It was vain to protest. Sisson had both law and practice on his side, though the natural impulse of his free-and-easy nature would have been to take half and call it square. But he could not lose so good an opportunity of "squaring the yards," as he expressed it, with his avaricious crony, or in other words, getting even with him.


Author: Macy, William Hussey
Title: Getting Even with Him.
Publication: Ballou's Monthly Magazine.
Vol/No/Date: Vol 45, No. 5 (May 1877)
Pages: 470-471