It is unknown whether Herrick Johnstone was a real person, or this a pseudonym.
Dime Novels. Nos. 76, 335, 362, 600
American Library (London). Nos. 59, 62
American Tales. Nos. 10, 19
Library of Choice Fiction. No. 6
Stair's American Novels. Nos. 154, 197
Banner Weekly. No. 286
Pocket Novels. No. 254
Half-Dime Library. No. 1020
Boy's Library (octavo). No. 272
SPECIMEN OF HERRICK JOHNSTONE'S STYLE
"Bamey Blake, the Boy Privateer; or, The Cruise of the "Queer Fish." Banner Weekly No. 286, chap. i.
"Yer see," said Old Bluefish, lighting his pipe, "it all happened on board the Big Thunder. She was a splendid East Indiaman, and I was captain onto her."
"Captain?" You captain?" exclaimed Snollygoster. "Come now, Massa Bluefish, dat won't do, you know. Dat am de—"
"Hold yer tongue, yer red-mouthed savage, and let me spin my †yarn without a break in the thread! Yer see," continued Bluefish, "it all happened on board the Big Thunder. I went to bed feelin' fu'st-rate. It was kinder calm, with a prospect of being more so 'an ever. When I wakes up in the mornin' I was somewhat taken aback at seein' that a new post had sprung up in the cabin durin' the night. It ran straight up through the center of the cabin and was as yaller as a chaw of cavendish, when it's pretty well chawed.
"Well, while I lay there, wondering at the cussed affair, the first lieutenant, he comes roarin' down the companionway, thumpin' at my door like mad:
"'Come in!' " I sings out.
"He dropped in, accordin' to orders, lookin' like the very Old Scratch and inspectin' the new post of the cabin with curious eyes. "'What's up?' says I.
"'Captain, does yer see this 'ere yaller post?' says he solemnly. " 'I does,'" I replies.
"'Captain,' says he, 'this 'ere yaller post takes its root somewhere at the keel and grows up higher than the peak of the mainmast. An' what's more,' says he, 'it growed up in one night.'
"'Ye'r' talkin' like a ravin', incomprehensible, idiotic fool,' says I.
"'It may seem so,' says the lieutenant, 'but come an' see for yourself."
"This wasn't no more'n fair. So I gits into my duds, and goes on deck. Thar, sure as yer live, this 'ere yaller post run straight up between the mizzenmast and the tiller, reachin' about forty feet higher than the tallest mast on board. All the crew were standin' round, gaping, and nudging each other, and lookin' kinder skeered, when I begins to take observations from a philosophic point of view."
"From a what?" interrupted Tony Trybrace. "Takin' observations, from a phil—phil—philly—what?"
"Avast, you lubber, and let me spin my yarn! If yer ain't got no edication, is it my fault? If you was brought up outside o' college, am I to blame? Avast, I tell yer.
"Well, as I was a-sayin', I begins to look at the thing kinder sharp. So I takes a cutlass down from the mast, and begins to cut little chips off the yaller mast. What do yer think came out o' that 'ere yaller mast?"
"Pitch," suggested one.
"Turpentine," said another.
"Old Jamaica," suggested Old Nick.
"Not a bit of it," resumed the narrator. "Nothin' longer, nor shorter, nor hotter, nor reddern'n BLOOD. That 'ere's what came out o' that 'ere yaller mast. Blood, and nothin' else!
"Well, all of 'em were sort o' dumb-foundered when they see'd the blood flowin', and some on 'em was more skeery'n ever. But I turns to 'em, an' says I:
"'Does yer notice how slow the ship is goin'?"
"And they says:
"'Yes, we does. She isn't makin' much o' any headway, though the breeze are a fair capful.'
"'Well,' says I, 'and doesn't yer know the reason why?'
"'Not a bit on it,' says they.
"'It's because yer towin a sword-fish under yer keelson,' says I. 'He's pierced the craft in the night, an' this 'ere yaller mast ain't nothin' short of his cussed nose.'
"Well, they were all taken aback at this, yer see, an' now began to crowd up an' examine the thing. It was perfectly round, about two feet through, an' the end of it was as taperin' an' sharp as a needle. Sure as yer live, it was all true. Well, it was a question what to do with the thing. Most on 'em was in favor of goin' down inter the hold, and cuttin' off the snout, in order to let the think float; for, as it was, if we should come anywhar whar the water was less'n fifteen fathoms, we should be stranded by the cussed critter afoul of us.
"'Not at all,' says I. 'We don't git a good tough mast for nothin' every day in the week, and I'm in favor of cuttin' clear of the fish on the outside.'
"They were all kinder astonished at this 'ere, but I didn't give 'em breathin'-time, but says again:
"'Now which one on yer'll volunteer to dive under the keel with a handsaw and cut loose from the varmit on the outside?'
"Would yer believe it, not one on 'em wanted to go. So I says:
"'If ye'r' all so pesky skeered, why I'll go myself. Carpenter, bring me yer handsaw, an' jist sharpen her up while I'm disrobin' my graceful form.'
"So the carpenter brings his handsaw, with a piece of bacon-fat to grease her with, and when I gits on-dressed, overboard I goes with the saw between my teeth. I dove right under the keel in a jiffy, and thar, sure enough, lays the sword-fish, with his nose hard up ag'in' the timbers, and his body danglin' down through the brine about seventy-five feet.
"'What are you goin' ter do?' says he."
"Says who?" broke in Tony.
"Yas, Massa Bluefish, who was it says dat?" demanded Snollygoster, with an incredulous look on his ebony face.
"Why, the sword-fish, yer ignorant lubbers! Doesn't yer know that they talk like lawyers when they git inter a scrape? I knowed a fellow what heerd one of 'em sing the Star Spangled Banner fit to kill.
"Well, as I was a-sayin', says he ter me, 'What air you goin' ter do?'
"'Ter saw yer loose from the ship,' I corresponded.
"'All right,' says he, 'only I'm afeared it'll hurt some.'
"'I shouldn't wonder if it do,' says I; and with that I grabs his nozzle an' begins to saw like sixty.
"The way that poor devil hollered and snorted and flopped was a caution to seafarin' men. The men above water swore it sounded like ninety-three earthquakes piled on to a bu'stin' big volcano, an' I reckon it did, But I kept on sawin' and sawin', till at last the varmit dropped off, while the sea for 'bout ten miles round the ship became perfectly crimson with his blood. He made a big bite at me, but I ducked about like a porpoise, and succeeded in reachin' the deck without a scratch.
"The varmit was bent on vengeance, and made his appearance with his mouth wide open—big enough to have swallered a seventy-four, without so much as a toothache. But we fired a broadside of shrapnel and red-hot shot down his throat, an' he went off, waggin' his tail as if he didn't like it.
"Well, yer see, the blood all ran out of the yaller mast, and left it hard and dry. So I jist had a set of spars and sails rigged on to the thing, an' we arrove into Southampton with four masts."
Bluefish knocked the ashes out of his pipe, from which we judged that his yarn was brought to a close.
"Am dat all true, Massa Bluefish?" asked the innocent giant of a snollygoster.
"Every word on it," was the solemn rejoinder. "It was a thing as occurred in my actual experience."
Singular to relate, some of us had our doubts on this subject.
† Correction made as per Volume 3.