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The Plough Boy Journals

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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. LII, No. 5 (Nov 1880)
pp. 464-471.

464 Ballou's Monthly Magazine

. . . .



      There were fourteen of us from the schooner Vandal, hibernating at Hurd’s Island, which is a sort of ultima thule in the Indian Ocean, and at the time of which I write had been recently opened to the enterprise of ubiquitous Yankee whalemen. Lying some degrees southward and eastward from Kerguelen’s Land, out of the track of merchant vessels, and in a part of the ocean little frequented, this island had remained for ages unknown, and the sea-elephants had fattened and multiplied upon its shores, so that the Whalers who visited there saw what appeared to their eyes an inexhaustible mine of wealth spread out before them. But two or three seasons of indiscriminate slaughter had been sufficient to "work out" the lee side of the island; the animals had become shy and wary as well as greatly reduced in numbers, and we found it necessary to keep a patrol of one or more men on the lookout night and day to watch for single elephants, as they came up out of the sea. With infinite labor we were obliged to skin and collect the fat from three prizes at different points, distributed over many miles of rock and beach, so that our progress in making up a cargo was not as rapid and easy as would be desired.

      During the summer there had been several other beach-gangs from different vessels, working on shore, and the competition was lively, but on the approach of winter the vessels all left, either for home or for the safer harbors of Kerguelen, not daring to remain at the dangerous anchorage of Hurd’s Island. Only three gangs remained on shore for the winter, reducing the population of the island to forty-four souls. In addition to our own party there were twelve men from the schooner Hydra of Sag Harbor, and eighteen from a British brig called the Bellona, fitted out at Hobart Town. Each party, as might be supposed, had their

Murder will Out. 465

own house, and we were all well supplied with provisions and other necessaries for the winter, which in that latitude is perhaps not more severe than in our New-England climate, though the weather is very boisterous, and high winds are the rule.

      These, forty-four men were about an average of seamen as they run, and on the whole the different gangs faternized[sic] very well, although there was now and then a conflict of interest. The two American chiefs, or beach-headers, Preston and Comstock, had been shipmates on a former voyage, and were sworn friends, although working in different employs. The crew included men of various nationalities and varieties of character, and of course it was not easy to preserve the same exact discipline as on ship-board, yet both the young leaders carried matters with a very steady hand, and were generally obeyed and respected by their subordinates.

      But matters did not run so smoothly at the English headquarters. Warwick, the officer in charge of the Bellona's party, was hardly a suitable man to be placed in a position of command, as he had little control either of his crew or indeed of himself. There was too much liquor among the Englishman’s winter stores, and at times it was used too indiscriminately. Atkins, the lieutenant or second in command, was drunk no small portion of the time, and Warwick himself was not always sober. We need not have troubled ourselves about all this, as such a state of things would only operate against their own interest, and make them less formidable competitors in the fishery. But it soon became evident that Warwick was quite devoid of moral principle, and was not to be controlled by the laws of honor as established and understood among seamen. To make up for the lack of industry and efficiency in his own party he would not hesitate to resort to what we considered piracy.

      The invariable custom among the hunters was for the man who had killed a sea-elephant to cut the mark of his party in the animal’s hide with the sharp knife which every one who stirs abroad always carries in a sheath at his waist. Having thus marked his prize, the hunter passes on, feeling sure that no one will touch it until the skinning party from his own vessel comes along, though it may be for some days afterward. The mark may be a simple cross or star, or an initial letter, or otherwise; but the mark of each party is soon known and recognized by all on the beach, and so sacred is it held that, as a rule, an elephant would be suffered to rot where he lies if his proper owner does not appropriate him. To steal another’s property in disregard of his knife-mark is justly regarded as the most detestable meaness, and is held as a flagrant crime, according to the hunter’s code of honor. David Preston, our leader, was in the highest sense of the word an honest man. square and upright in all his dealings, though with no pretensions about it. A man so imbued with the sense of honor and right that he would as soon have cut off his own hand as steal the prize which another had earned. His indignation may hardly be imagined when the evidence of dishonesty practiced by the Englishman was brought home to him so that he could no longer doubt it. We had marked each elephant that we killed with the letter "P." as the initial of his own name, and we were satisfied that in several instances this had been altered by an additional cut, so as to represent a "B.," which was the distinctive mark of the Bellona. Nothing can be easier than to make such an alteration. Yet Preston at first was slow to believe it, having never known such an instance in all his former experience. But the proofs accumulated until he could no longer doubt, and he rose up in his righteous ire to seek an interview with Warwick, which might have been a stormy one, especially had he found the Englishman half intoxicated, as was likely to be the case at that time on Saturday evening.

      "Perhaps," I suggested, "Warwick himself may not be responsible for this piracy. We know that the marks have been altered in several instances, but we don’t know who has done it."

      "That’s true," he replied. "You know that some of Warwick's men may have acted as pirates on their own account, without the knowledge of the skipper. That is not very likely, but it is possible, and is worth considering. Of course, if that was the case; I shall have to settle the matter with Warwick, as it is no use talking with irresponsible fellows, and then I doubt if he has control enough over them to set matters right, if he were even so honest himself. If he’s knowing to it, he is certainly the meanest pirate that I’ve ever met with." And he reached for his monkey-jacket preparatory to starting off for the English shanty on his errand of explanation.

      As a boatsteerer, or petty officer of the Vandal, I was Preston’s right-hand man and confidential friend, and I ventured another suggestion.

      "I don’t think it would be a very good time to talk this matter with Warwick tonight," I said. "Why not sue him in the cool of the morning? ’

      "You think, I suppose, that he may be half drunk now," answered Preston. "Well, I shouldn’t wonder if he is, and perhaps it isn’t wise to beard the lion in his den, though I don’t fear him, and all his crew of lime-juicers, if I get my blood up. Still, I

466 Ballou's Monthly Magazine.

would rather, on second thoughts, not have any row with a blackguard, such as I take him to be. I have another idea which will avoid a row, and also show whether he is really a thief or an honest man. We can alter our mark, seeing that the letters 'P.' and 'B.' are too near alike."

      "That‘s a happy thought," said I, "and I wonder it had not occurred to us before."

      "It has occurred to me that the letters were nearly alike, but then I never thought that there was any man mean enough to steal another one’s elephant. Let me see, our Sag-Harbor friend’s mark is an 'H.' for Hydra; but there is no fear of them, for Ben Comstock is the soul of honesty, and would be very severe on any act of theft done by one of his men. We can mark with a 'V.' for Vandal, and maybe that will prevent a row, or at least postpone it. Pass the word that from tomorrow morning hereafter our mark is a 'V.,' and let every one understand it thoroughly before they go on the beach if I am not here to see them all in self."

      So the new mark went into effect at once, though Comstock took the liberty to scold Preston for what he called deserting his colors.

      "A mark," said he, in his most logical manner, "is something sacred, something to fight for, and to live and die by. I'm sorry you've allowed anybody, much less a lime-juicer, to make you back down. Now, stick to your new mark, and fight for it if need be, and I'll back you up, even as far as breaking heads."

      Thus matters went on quietly for a few days, but before another Saturday came round we heard that the Bellona's men had been ordered to give up the "B.," and ornament their elephants with a broad "W." as the initial of Warwick, their beach-header. He had an undoubted right of course to order this change of mark, but there could be no reason but a rascall one for doing it at that particular time. Preston was full of the subject when he returned from his daily work, but did not say much about it in the hearing of his men. We had a small room at one corner of the house partitioned off from, the rest, and in this he and I lived and lodged.

      "Now," said he to me, as we retired to this little cabin, "there is no longer any doubt that the fellow is a thief. Of course two little cuts will turn a 'V.' into a 'W.,' and there can be no honest reason for this dropping the 'B.' now, to take up a new mark. But if any evidence of theft comes to us now it shall be war to the knife, for I swear I won't change my mark again. Perhaps I was wrong or a fool to do so in the first place. At any rate Comstock thinks I was." While we were at our supper the boatsteerer from the Hydra, who was a favorite with all of us, looked in at the door, on his way from the Point.

      "How are you, Green?" sung out Preston, in his most cheery manner. "Won't you come in and take a bite with us?"

      "No, I won't stay for that," was the answer, "but I will come in for a minute, because I've something to tell you that I think you ought to know at once. You heard, I suppose, that the lime-juicer has changed his mark."


      Green had entered the little room with us, and now closed the door between us and the rest of our men.

      "Well," he said, "I want to give you a little positive evidence to work from. Warwick is not only responsible for his men's stealing your elephants, but is quite mean enough, to do the dirty work with his own hands. I was at work skinning some elephants this afternoon over toward the southwest beach, and I saw you kill a fine young bull that had just been hauled out of the breakers. I saw you mark him and pass on up toward the head of the pond."

      "So I did," said Preston, "but I did not notice you at all."

      "Quite likely, as I was a little way up beyond the rise of the beach, and was stooping down."

      He then went on to relate how a few minutes afterward he saw and recognized the English beach-header coming up the beach, an saw him stop and examine the newly slain elephant, then, as Green, like the rest of us, had his suspicions of wrong doing, he had kept out of sight behind a tussock knoll, where he could observe operations without being himself discovered; how he had seen Warwick straighten himself up, and look, as if carelessly, both down and up the beach, then draw his knife and stoop down for a moment over the elephant, then rise and walk quickly away, indeed almost at a run. He had remained crouched down until Warwick had passed quite out of view, and then going to examine the elephant found him marked with a broad W., the two parts of which had evidently been cut with different knives.

      The expression on Preston's face as the story was finished was blacker than a thunder-cloud. He, however, thanked Tom Green in taking leave of him, and seemed not to care to talk much on the subject. He finished his supper, and took his smoke as usual, then, putting on his jacket, he shouldered his gun, and prepare to start for the beach.

      "I reckon the evidence is strong enough and clear enough now," he said. "Tom Green is a man of truth, and, beside, he is a level-headed, intelligent man, and knows what he's talking about. This business

Murder will Out. 467

      must be settled tomorrow, once and forever."

      Darkness had now set in; and Preston went out, taking the path westward, leading round the head of the pond toward the south-west beach, but in a minute returned and came in again, saying he had found only two or three bullets in his pocket, and came back for a further supply. He went to his closet, and took out a handful of bullets, saying as he passed out through the main room of the house, –

      "I hope to kill at least eight or ten elephants between now and midnight." When he added with a kind of bitter laughter, "If I should meet that English pirate on the beach, I don't know but I should be tempted to put a bullet through him."

      He stepped out and disappeared in the darkness, but the last words had been spoken in the hearing of all our party, together with three or four of Comstock's men, who were visiting us. They were not thought much of by those who had not heard Tom Green's new piece of evidence, and even I, who knew the whole, attached no special significance to them at the moment. It was just such a remark as any of us, rough seamen that we were, might have made.

      It was nearly daylight before Preston came in, remarking that he had killed twelve elephants during the night, and had kept on tramping, as he expressed it, "to work the mad out of him." As he rolled into his bunk, I turned out myself, and taking only my lance, went out to try my own luck and get up an appetite for my breakfast. I did not care for the gun, as I was never much skilled in the use of one, and we had only one in the party, which was seldom used by any other than Preston himself.

      The morning air was sharp and bracing, but still not intensely cold, for the real winter had hardly yet begun, and I made the whole circuit of the Point, down one beach, and up the other to a point nearly opposite the starting-place, before it was yet full daylight. I had passed a goodly number of slain elephants, some with our "V." upon them, and others with a "W."or an "H.," and had encountered Comstock, and afterward the English boatsteerer, Atkins, on my travels. The latter inquired of me if I had met Warwick, saying that he went out in the evening, and had not returned up to an hour before daylight. He was not uneasy about him, however, and he thought it quite likely he might have strolled away up the west side of the island toward Robinson's Harbor.

      I had in walking all this round of the Point killed only two elephants, and I thought that, instead of returning home by the usual short cut, I would myself go further up on the west side, and ascend the slope of the glacier. This glacier at Hurd's Island runs through the middle of the island like a back-bone sending out spurs to the coast, east and west, while a low, sandy point runs out southeasterly from the main body of the island. The place called Robinson's Harbor was a small bay, lying beyond the spur on the west coast, and not easily accessible, either by land or with boats, as this is the weather side of the island. I had no idea of going over to the Harbor, but as the weather was inviting I kept on, up the gradual slope, walking near the verge of the sea-face, until feeling a little fatigued I paused, looking back over the low land of the Point, spread out like a panorama, and then seaward upon the great Southern Ocean, rolling in toward me, and breaking in thunder upon the shore. So absorbed was I that I had not noticed the approach of Tom Green until he was within a few feet of me, and hailing.

      "How far are you bound on this tack if the wind stands? Going over the iceberg to make new discoveries?"

      "No, not so bad as that," I answered. "I suppose I am like yourself, tempted a little out of our regular beat for the time being. Was Preston stirring before you left the village?"

      "Oh, yes," said Green, "and he and Comstock have got their heads together about the piracy. There'll be a calling up this evening in the presence of all hands, and perhaps a general row on a grand scale, but I guess twenty-six of us will be more than a match for eighteen Englishmen, if they should all be willing to back up their leader in his piracy, which I don't think they will. Ah! there's an old bull coming ashore. See his snout there in the breakers. Keep quiet now, and let him land high and dry, and mind you he's my elephant, because I raised him first."

      He had stepped between me and the edge of the cliff, standing at the very verge. All at once a change came over his features. and he uttered a sort of cry of horror, at the same moment pulling my sleeve. I took a single step to his side, and looked downward upon the body of a man lying at the base of the cliff, which we both recognized, at the same instant, as that of the Englishman, Warwick. He lay on his back, upon the stony ground, with his face upturned to the sky. We stood looking for a minute; but as the body remained perfectly motionless, we started on with a single impulse, down the slope by which we had come.

      At the point where we had stood, the seawall or cliff was about thirty feet high and very nearly perpendicular. As we could not jump down, we were obliged to retrace our steps, and make a considerable detour

468 Ballou's Monthly Magazine.

to reach the beach, where we arrived quite out of breath with the haste we had made. Our first touch upon the body satisfied us that Warwick was quite dead, and had been so for several hours. There were no traces of blood, no signs of any struggle, nothing to indicate that the body had moved after its fall.

      "Walked too near the verge in the dark, and fell over," said I. "See his neck is broken."

      "Worse than that," answered Green. He had lifted the head into his hands. "His neck was no doubt broken by the fall, but he was dead before he fell. See."

      With a thrill of horror I observed what he pointed out, – a bullet-hole in the back part of the head near the base of the skull. There was no hemorrhage, but everything appeared to have congealed as it was, at the moment of the death blow.

      Warwick's gun lay within a few feet of his body, lying carelessly and naturally across the stones, as it might have fallen with him. I took it up and tried the rammer in the barrel. The gun was loaded, Capped, and the hammer down.

      "There are not many guns on the island," said Tom in a tone an manner as if the words had slipped from his tongue involuntarily. Evidently the same dreadful supposition was in both our minds, and the last words spoken by Preston the night before came up anew in my memory.

      But no: it was not possible that my tried and trusty friend could have played the part of an assassin.

      "It's plain enough what we are both thinking upon, Tom," said I. "But if David Preston did this deed, it was done either accidentally or in self defence.

      "Yes, self-defence is the word," said Green. "That's the explanation. They must have met, quarreled, and drawn a bead on each other, and Preston got ahead of him, or more likely Warwick missed fire."

      I raised the hammer, but the gap was perfect, unbroken. I showed it to my companion, but neither of us ventured to say more, whatever may have been our thoughts.

      There was a dark mystery about the affair that we could not clear up, but meanwhile our duty was sufficiently plain before us.

      We took the shortest cut inland toward the village, if it may be so called, but found only the cooks at home, the men for the most part being far away at their work. But a party of half a dozen, who were rolling up casks along the banks of the pond, were soon made to notice our frantic signals, and, with fresh re-enforcements, we retraced our steps to the west beach, with a couple of poles and a piece of canvas. A stretcher had been hastily improvised, and the body of the unfortunate Warwick was tenderly borne by stout arms to his own shanty, and laid upon the floor.

      Meanwhile the sad news had spread to others down on the Point, an old flag which Comstock had brought on shore with him had been hoisted upon the staff at half-mast, this being understood as an urgent signal of recall, indicating some great emergency. It was not long before eagerly excited men were to be seen coming toward home from various points, and before noon the whole population, forty-four in number, had congregated in and about the house of death, and were ready to inaugurate a kind of rude court of inquiry. Each had studied intently the face of his neighbor, but few words had been exchanged upon the subject. Of course our own men recalled the words spoken by their officer, as he went out the night before with the loaded gun on his shoulder, but none of us wished to believe him guilty of a foul murder. Preston himself was one of the last to arrive, having traveled several miles, but was cool and collected, though rather out of breath from his hurry. When I told him the cause of the excitement, looking him square in the eye, I could detect no sign of guilt.

      "I hope you know nothing about this dreadful business," I said suggestively.

      "Not I," he answered. "Good God! you can't think there's any man on the beach wicked enough to have murdered him intentionally? It must have been an accident of some kind."

      "But you may remember," said I, in a low tone, "that you used a sort of half threat in relation to Warwick, as you were leaving the shanty last night, and that many present overheard it."

      He glanced at the faces of his own men who were grouped together. It was evident they remembered it, and it was now brought more forcibly to his own mind.

      Atkins, now the commander of the Bellona's party, was on this occasion quite sober. He now called the assembly to order, and proceeded to state the case in general terms, then called upon me and Tom Green to give our testimony. We told all the circumstances of the finding of the body, confirming each other in every particular.

      "You can all see, boys, how Warwick came to his death. His neck is broken, and also one of his legs, but the fall of course did that after he was dead. The bullet-hole in the back of his head is quite enough to kill any man instantly. Of course the bullet came from a gun. Now, how many guns have we among us on the island?"

      It appeared on inquiry that there were only three, so far as known, and also that the gun of the Hydra's party was out of or-

Murder will Out. 469

der, and was unrigged for repairs. It could not possibly have been used the night before. This narrowed the matter down to two guns, one of which was that carried by Warwick himself.

      "Now, here is our gun," continued Atkins, "just as it was found lying on the stones, all loaded and capped. Now, who used the other gun last night, – the only gun on the island?"

      "I did," answered Dave Preston, quietly yet boldly. "It never went out of my hand from dusk of the evening until I turned in this morning, one hour before daylight. And I shot twelve elephants with it, but I can only say that I was never, at any time during the hight, any where near the spot where Warwick was found, and that I know no more than you do about the manner of his death. All this I can swear to upon oath."

      "But whether you can prove it or not is another matter," returned Atkins in a cold, dry tone. "Here is the case, boys, in a nutshell," he continued, not looking at Preston. "There were only two guns on the island last night in condition to be used. Here is one of 'em just as it fell with the murdered man to the beach. And the other was in the hands of Preston last night by his own statement. It seems to me the verdict is pretty plain."

      A murmur of approbation was heard from the crowd, more especially from the English party, and it was readily seen that the evidence was conclusive.

      "Hold on a bit," put in Ben Comstock, whom I had noticed examining the gun, and feeling all over it, but who had not spoken until now. "It looks dark enough, as you say, but I have wintered and summered Dave Preston, and I'll stake my life that what he says and swears to is the truth chock up to the handle. Now this gun fell thirty feet upon a stony ground, and there isn't a mark or a brack upon it. If it fell where you say it did, it would almost certainly be broken in some part, but at the best it must have been marred and bruised in the wood-work."

      "So it would," assented several voices. "That's so."

      "But don't you see," urged Atkins, "that if Warwick was in the death agony when he fell, he clutched the gun tightly, and it did not leave his hand until the shock of his striking the ground. In that case the gun would not be marred or broken, and how can any of us know whether the gun fell with him, in his grasp, or fell separately?"

      "Just so," said several voices again. "You can't find out much on that tack."

      And it was evident that Atkins had the best of the argument.

      "What you say is possible," said Comstock, after seeming to think deeply for a minute, "and so we won't argue the point any further. But don't be in a hurry to condemn anybody yet. We must have further evidence, and I hope to be able to show who didn't murder the man, although I might not be able to find out who did."

      Atkins gave a sort of sneering laugh. "But I don't see yet, Comstock, what you can be driving at. We all know there are but two guns to choose from. Do you mean to say that Warwick was killed with his own gun?"

      I can't quite say it yet, but I think so," returned Ben.

      "That he was killed with his own gun, which was afterward carefully loaded again, and laid along side of him."

      A sensation was perceptible throughout the crowd, and men looked eagerly and suspiciously in each others' faces. This was a theory which had scarcely been thought of by others, but the drift of Comstock's proceedings began to flash upon their minds. He still kept hold of the Bellona's gun, and glancing sharply around him he seemed to tower above them all like a giant created for the occasion.

      "Tom Green," he said in a sharp tone of command, "run over to the Vandal's shanty, and bring the gun that was used last night. Dave Preston, keep quiet until I tell you to speak. It seems you are in a certain way on trial for your life, and you must let me manage your defence. I know well enough that you are no assassin, and I know, too, that if you had shot the man accidentally or in self-defence, you would just say so like the honest man that you always were. Here comes that gun of yours. Come, bear a hand, Tom Green."

      He took the guns, one in each hand, and laid their muzzles together, while every eye in the assembly followed the direction of his, and a pin might have been heard to drop in any part of the house.

      His scrutiny apparently gave an encouraging result, to judge from the expression on his face.

      "Now, boys, I must have that bullet."

      "What bullet?" queried Atkins.

      "The bullet that is lodged in Warwick's brain. I must have it."

      "Would you have us split the man's head open to get the ball ?"

      "Yes, I'll split it open myself if necessary, but I must have the bullet. Don't talk of respecting the dead, when there's a living man, and a good one, too, resting under a foul suspicion. What say you, lads? shall I have the bullet?"

      "Yes, yes," burst from the throats of all the Americans of the vessels. There was a momentary attempt at resistance by Atkins and a portion of the Hobart-Town crew,

470 Ballou's Monthly Magazine

but they were brushed aside without much ceremony.

      It is unnecessary to describe the rude surgery, which, however, quickly answered the purpose. The ball was soon found, and eagerly handed over to Comstock.

      He placed it upon the muzzle of the Vandal's gun. It would not enter the bore.

      "See, boys!" he cried, holding it up. "Are you all satisfied?"

      An answering shout indicated the state of feeling that prevailed among those justice loving seamen. Even the English beach-header was converted to the new faith, and began to look elsewhere for the murderer, feeling certain that Dave Preston had not done the deed. Meanwhile Preston himself, conscious of his own innocence, and feeling his case safe enough in the hands of his trusty friend, had been studying intently the conduct and facial expression of others during all these proceedings, with the view of finding a clew[sic] to the identity of the real murderer. I stood close at his side, and although neither of us spoke to the other, I was quite sure, even from the moment that Comstock sent Tom to bring the other gun, that I knew the man who was the object of my friend's suspicion. A short, dark, evil-looking fellow, – a Portuguese evidently, – one of Warwick's own men, whom I had met now and then when I worked with others on the beach; but that was all I knew of him. I now observed that this man had gradually moved nearer to Comstock, till he stood close behind his right shoulder. He wore a growth of beard, so that little or no expression was apparent on his countenance, but my attention had been mostly given to the movements of Comstock himself. The Portuguese even took care to join in the shout at the discovery that Warwick must have been killed with the gun of the larger calibre, though such a discovery must have been a terrible scare to him. But he did not realize the full imminence of his peril, or feel the glance of the keen eye which had been steadily covering him for some minutes. but the slightest movement of his features or his body had been noted. Preston told us afterward that he could observe a slight, nervous twitching of the fingers, and once the hands moved as if involuntarily toward the gun in Comstock's grasp. From that moment he was more than ever confident that he had found his man.

      "Now, lads," said Comstock, "we all are satisfied on one point, but that does not tell us who did commit the crime, although it is plain enough who didn't. I don't know that anything we can do at this moment will clear up the rest of this mystery, but murder will out sooner or later, and time will bring the guilty man to justice. It may be of no great consequence, but as the Bellona's gun is still loaded, I am going to draw the charge in the presence of all hands. I should say by the feeling that there is a paper wad over the ball, but we shall soon see."

      The worm presently took a good hold, and the wad began to rise slowly from the gun-barrel. The little, heavy-bearded man crept closer up to Ben Comstock, and I could hear the beating of my friend's heart at my side. The little mass of paper was brought to the light of day; but, as it was drawn forth, it dropped from the worm, and fell to the floor. A dark, grimy hand reached eagerly to pick it up, but Dave Preston was quick as a flash, and a blow between the eyes of the stooping man knocked him backward before he could straighten himself erect. The paper wad was already within his lips, but a heavy hand clutched his throat, and he was compelled to disgorge. In the excitement the wad was again put into the hands of Comstock, who carefully pulled it open, and flattened out the piece of paper.

      Yes, two pieces of paper exactly overlying each other. Two leaves of a book torn out at a single pull. There were but two guns on the island; there was but one Missal, or prayer book, in the Portuguese language, and this was in the inside pocket of Domingo's monkey-jacket with two leaves missing, and a ragged edge left on the remnant, exactly matching the fragments of the gun-wad.

      His own shipmate's, now that the real murderer was known, could understand the motive, and the terrified wretch confessed all. It appeared that soon after the Bellona left Hobart Town on her outward voyage, Domingo had been flogged for theft from a shipmate, and that Warwick, the beach-header, had been very active in detecting his dishonesty, and instigating the heavy punishment he had received from the captain. The Portuguese had nursed his wrath and kept it warm until the right opportunity for sweet revenge should arrive, which was not until the night in question. He was out on the beach with his lance, and had strayed out of his usual beat, some distance up the gradual ascent toward the glacier, when he recognized Warwick coming, and the devil, as he expressed it, took full possession of him, for now, if ever, was his chance. It was dark, and there was probably no other person within a mile of them, so he concealed himself, and waited for Warwick to come up. He knew that if he attacked the beach-header with a lance or a sheath-knife, he must work quickly, and make his first blow a sure one, or he might lose his own life, for the fear of a loaded gun was before his eyes. Nevertheless, he could not forego an opportunity such as might never again

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be thrown in his way, and had about made up his mind to rush up and strike when, as he again said, the devil helped him, and in the most unexpected manner. Warwick, on arriving abreast the spot where his enemy was crouching, stopped to rest, and leaving his gun against a hillock, sauntered away from it a few paces to the verge of the bluff where he stood gazing out upon the ocean. The temptation was not be resisted; with a single leap Domingo had the gun in his grasp, and took deliberate aim at the head of the figure, standing out motionless against the dark sky. He called out that his victim might know who was near, but before he had half turned his head the shot was fired, as was evident from the position of the wound. But to have sent, him into eternity in ignorance of the source whence death came would have been a drawback to the fullness of Domingo's revenge.

      After Warwick fell to the beach below, the Portugese[sic] listened a moment on the cliff; but hearing no sound, he descended to the beach, and finding that the work of death had been effectual, he proceeded to cover the tracks of his crime, and to throw suspicion elsewhere, by reloading the gun, He knew that Warwick was in the habit of carrying paper for wadding, preferring it to oakum. He found bullets and caps, but did not find wadding in the same pocket, and did not search the others, for here he said the devil deserted him, and he became flustered. Any paper would do, and he hastily desecrated the sacred missal, this fact afterward appearing to strike him with rather more remorse than the thought of the murder itself. He rammed home the wad, and laid the gun carelessly across the stony ground near the body, to appear as if it had fallen with him. It had not occurred to his mind that there were so few guns on the island, or that the guns might happen to be all of different size in the bore. He then retraced his steps down the point, but did not return home until midnight. He had borne himself bravely during the inquest, and had not winced until the discovery of the difference in the calibre of the guns. It then became an object to get possession of that little wad, or else to fire off the gun in the ordinary way, blowing it away into space, but as Ben Comstock had firm possession of it all the time, he was baffled. Being an ignorant devotée, of a religious turn of mind, he had not dared to destroy or make way with the prayer-book, and now thought that his detection was the direct vengeance of the church upon him for his sacrilege in having mutilated it. He believed that if he could have succeeded in swallowing the little wad, it would somehow have acted as a charm for his deliverance.

      The miserable wretch was placed in irons for security, but we could not undertake to punish him for his crime, as there was a crooked question of jurisdiction. The murder was not committed on the high seas, nor under any particular flag, but on a sterile island, which no nation claimed as it territory; and there was no one among us sufficiently learned in the law to set us right, but as he belonged to an English ship's crew, and his victim the same, we Americans might well wash our hands of the whole judicial part of the business.

      On the return of the Bellona in the spring, the criminal was taken on board, and kept in confinement, but I afterward learned that he settled the legal question himself, or rather left it unsettled, by jumping overboard with his irons on, before the vessel reached the home port.


Author: Macy, William Hussey
Title: Murder Will Out.
Publication: Ballou's Monthly Magazine.
Vol/No/Date: Vol. 52, No. 5 (Nov 1880)
Pages: 464-471