The reciter, upon finishing, drained his tankard and pitched it into the fireplace, whereupon his shipmates, forming up in single file, shuffled solemnly by the hearth and did likewise. The barkeep snapped his fingers and several stewards sprang forth into action to replenish them all with drink. The task done, the party commenced once again their singing, yet the somber mood lingered.
I hired me aboard of a whaling ship
Bound for the Arctic seas
Where the cold winds blow through the frost and the snow
And Jamaican rum would freeze.
And worst to bear I’d no hard weather gear
For I’d lost all my money ashore
‘Twas then that I wished that I was dead
And I’d gone to sea no more
Israel marveled at their behavior, it seeming exceedingly strange to him, and Duncan said it was the Jack-Tar Rite of Confession, more ancient, and at least no stranger than, the Eucharist.
“Generally, it is the case,” said he, “that the confession is not of him who spake it, but of a shipmate—and at that a dear friend—who was lost at sea, though it is not unheard of for to confess your own dark tale, for then, it is believed by some, that you have been given the gift of the second wind of Divine Providence, your slate having been washed clean by that sad sacrifice of your shipmate to the heaving of the Seven Seas. But more’s of the opinion it’s a curs-ed act what surely will hasten the blighting cozener who done it on his way to the Abyss. Of course, we being, by nature, a superstitious lot, are also born gamblers and ever an eye peeled for adventure. We pray to God and the Fates, faces uplifted, for mercy and safe passage, meantimes on bended knee casting dice against the foc’sle bulkhead.”