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Noah’s Ark
by [?]

Sam Rogers told me the story that follows, as we sat in the coils of the foremain and topsail braces–easy chairs aboard ship–and, sheltered from the blast of wind and spume by the high-weather rail, killed time in the night-watch by yarn-spinning.

For neither of us had a wheel or lookout that night; and as he and I were the only Americans in the forward end of the ship, we naturally sought each other for communion and counsel–he, a tall, straight, and slim man of fifty, an ex-man-of-war’s man; I, a boy, beginning the battle of life.

Sam was an inveterate reader; and, while his diction embraced a choice stock of profanity, which he used when aroused, it also expressed itself in the choicest of English, his sentences full of commas, semicolons, and periods. He reeled off his stories as though reading from a book.

I had mentioned my boyish terror of bears, wolves, and other bugaboos of childhood, and Sam responded with his yarn. Here it is, just as he told it:

“She was a menagerie ship–Noah’s Arks, as we called them. One of these craft that sail out to the Orient in ballast; and, stopping at Anjer Point for monkeys; Calcutta, Bombay, and Rangoon for elephants, tigers, lions, and cobras; Cape Town for orang-utans and African snakes, and over at Montevideo and Rio for wild hogs, pythons, boa-constrictors, porcupines, and other South American jungle denizens.

“I don’t know just where this craft had been to get the assorted cargo that I saw when I shipped for the run from Rio to New York; but I found a mess of trouble in that hold that made me think a lot, and a limited skipper and mates that made me worry a lot. For they had stowed a mad elephant under the fore-hatch; and this gentleman kept all hands awake when he liked, snorting and trumpeting, with no regard for eight bells or the watch below.

“There were Hindoo keepers aboard, but these fellows are useless in cold weather; they shrivel up and move slowly, paralyzed by the cold. We got the cold up in the north latitudes, just above the trades; and it was about this time that the trouble began.

“We had the ordinary mixed crew of a Yankee ship–only, this craft was a bark; and we had the usual bull-headed and ignorant Yankee skipper and mates; men with no understanding of human or brute nature; men who would rather hit you than listen to your proposition of peace. They hit us all, and got us into a condition of mind that discounted that of the elephant under the hatch.

“Besides that elephant there were stowed in that hold cages containing wolves, hyenas, wild hogs, wild asses, monkeys, porcupines, and zebras. There were three or four cages full of poisonous snakes, one variety of which I recognized, the curse of India–the hooded cobra. Then there was a big python, picked up at Rio, and a boa-constrictor, taken aboard at one of the Pacific islands.

“There was a huge Nubian lion; a big, striped Bengal tiger; a hippopotamus, and a rhinoceros, to complete the list. I tell you, it made me creepy to go down among them, as we had to on occasions, to wash down.

“The elephant was moored to a stanchion by a short length of chain shackled around his hind leg, but it gave him a radius of action equal to his length and that of his hind leg and trunk. This precluded our using the fore-hatch to reach the hold, so we used the main-hatch; and, as there was daily use of it, this hatch was fitted with steps, and always kept open, even in bad weather.

“The immediate cause of the trouble was the carrying away of the foretop-gallant-yard, due to rotten halyards, and braces and lifts, when we were scudding before a gale off Hatteras. The yard came down on the whirl, but when it hit the deck it hit like a pile-driver–a straight, perpendicular blow–directly over the partners that held the upper end of the stanchion to which that crazy elephant was moored.