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A. G. PYM.

by Edgar Allan Poe


by Edgar Allan Poe

MY name is Arthur Gordon Pym. My father was a respectable trader

in sea-stores at Nantucket, where I was born. My maternal grandfather
was an attorney in good practice. He was fortunate in every thing,
and had speculated very successfully in stocks of the Edgarton New
Bank, as it was formerly called. By these and other means he had
managed to lay by a tolerable sum of money. He was more attached to
myself, I believe, than to any other person in the world, and I
expected to inherit the most of his property at his death. He sent
me, at six years of age, to the school of old Mr. Ricketts, a
gentleman with only one arm and of eccentric manners -- he is well
known to almost every person who has visited New Bedford. I stayed at
his school until I was sixteen, when I left him for Mr. E. Ronald's
academy on the hill. Here I became intimate with the son of Mr.
Barnard, a sea-captain, who generally sailed in the employ of Lloyd
and Vredenburgh -- Mr. Barnard is also very well known in New
Bedford, and has many relations, I am certain, in Edgarton. His son
was named Augustus, and he was nearly two years older than myself. He
had been on a whaling voyage with his father in the John Donaldson,
and was always talking to me of his adventures in the South Pacific
Ocean. I used frequently to go home with him, and remain all day, and
sometimes all night. We occupied the same bed, and he would be sure
to keep me awake until almost light, telling me stories of the
natives of the Island of Tinian, and other places he had visited in
his travels. At last I could not help being interested in what he
said, and by degrees I felt the greatest desire to go to sea. I owned
a sailboat called the Ariel, and worth about seventy-five dollars.
She had a half-deck or cuddy, and was rigged sloop-fashion -- I
forget her tonnage, but she would hold ten persons without much
crowding. In this boat we were in the habit of going on some of the
maddest freaks in the world; and, when I now think of them, it
appears to me a thousand wonders that I am alive to-day.

I will relate one of these adventures by way of introduction to a

longer and more momentous narrative. One night there was a party at
Mr. Barnard's, and both Augustus and myself were not a little
intoxicated toward the close of it. As usual, in such cases, I took
part of his bed in preference to going home. He went to sleep, as I
thought, very quietly (it being near one when the party broke up),
and without saying a word on his favorite topic. It might have been
half an hour from the time of our getting in bed, and I was just
about falling into a doze, when he suddenly started up, and swore
with a terrible oath that he would not go to sleep for any Arthur Pym
in Christendom, when there was so glorious a breeze from the
southwest. I never was so astonished in my life, not knowing what he
intended, and thinking that the wines and liquors he had drunk had
set him entirely beside himself. He proceeded to talk very coolly,
however, saying he knew that I supposed him intoxicated, but that he
was never more sober in his life. He was only tired, he added, of
lying in bed on such a fine night like a dog, and was determined to
get up and dress, and go out on a frolic with the boat. I can hardly
tell what possessed me, but the words were no sooner out of his mouth
than I felt a thrill of the greatest excitement and pleasure, and
thought his mad idea one of the most delightful and most reasonable
things in the world. It was blowing almost a gale, and the weather
was very cold -- it being late in October. I sprang out of bed,
nevertheless, in a kind of ecstasy, and told him I was quite as brave
as himself, and quite as tired as he was of lying in bed like a dog,
and quite as ready for any fun or frolic as any Augustus Barnard in

We lost no time in getting on our clothes and hurrying down to

the boat. She was lying at the old decayed wharf by the lumber-yard
of Pankey & Co., and almost thumping her side out against the rough
logs. Augustus got into her and bailed her, for she was nearly half
full of water. This being done, we hoisted jib and mainsail, kept
full, and started boldly out to sea.

The wind, as I before said, blew freshly from the southwest. The

night was very clear and cold. Augustus had taken the helm, and I
stationed myself by the mast, on the deck of the cuddy. We flew along
at a great rate -- neither of us having said a word since casting
loose from the wharf. I now asked my companion what course he
intended to steer, and what time he thought it probable we should get
back. He whistled for a few minutes, and then said crustily: "I am
going to sea -- you may go home if you think proper." Turning my
eyes upon him, I perceived at once that, in spite of his assumed
nonchalance, he was greatly agitated. I could see him distinctly by
the light of the moon -- his face was paler than any marble, and his
hand shook so excessively that he could scarcely retain hold of the
tiller. I found that something had gone wrong, and became seriously
alarmed. At this period I knew little about the management of a boat,
and was now depending entirely upon the nautical skill of my friend.
The wind, too, had suddenly increased, as we were fast getting out of
the lee of the land -- still I was ashamed to betray any trepidation,
and for almost half an hour maintained a resolute silence. I could
stand it no longer, however, and spoke to Augustus about the
propriety of turning back. As before, it was nearly a minute before
he made answer, or took any notice of my suggestion. "By-and-by,"
said he at length -- "time enough -- home by-and-by." I had expected
a similar reply, but there was something in the tone of these words
which filled me with an indescribable feeling of dread. I again
looked at the speaker attentively. His lips were perfectly livid, and
his knees shook so violently together that he seemed scarcely able to
stand. "For God's sake, Augustus," I screamed, now heartily
frightened, "what ails you?- what is the matter?- what are you
going to do?" "Matter!" he stammered, in the greatest apparent
surprise, letting go the tiller at the same moment, and falling
forward into the bottom of the boat- "matter- why, nothing is the --
matter -- going home- d--d--don't you see?" The whole truth now
flashed upon me. I flew to him and raised him up. He was drunk --
beastly drunk -- he could no longer either stand, speak, or see. His
eyes were perfectly glazed; and as I let him go in the extremity of
my despair, he rolled like a mere log into the bilge-water, from
which I had lifted him. It was evident that, during the evening, he
had drunk far more than I suspected, and that his conduct in bed had
been the result of a highly-concentrated state of intoxication- a
state which, like madness, frequently enables the victim to imitate
the outward demeanour of one in perfect possession of his senses. The
coolness of the night air, however, had had its usual effect- the
mental energy began to yield before its influence- and the confused
perception which he no doubt then had of his perilous situation had
assisted in hastening the catastrophe. He was now thoroughly
insensible, and there was no probability that he would be otherwise
for many hours.

It is hardly possible to conceive the extremity of my terror. The

fumes of the wine lately taken had evaporated, leaving me doubly
timid and irresolute. I knew that I was altogether incapable of
managing the boat, and that a fierce wind and strong ebb tide were
hurrying us to destruction. A storm was evidently gathering behind
us; we had neither compass nor provisions; and it was clear that, if
we held our present course, we should be out of sight of land before
daybreak. These thoughts, with a crowd of others equally fearful,
flashed through my mind with a bewildering rapidity, and for some
moments paralyzed me beyond the possibility of making any exertion.
The boat was going through the water at a terrible rate- full before
the wind- no reef in either jib or mainsail- running her bows
completely under the foam. It was a thousand wonders she did not
broach to- Augustus having let go the tiller, as I said before, and I
being too much agitated to think of taking it myself. By good luck,
however, she kept steady, and gradually I recovered some degree of
presence of mind. Still the wind was increasing fearfully, and
whenever we rose from a plunge forward, the sea behind fell combing
over our counter, and deluged us with water. I was so utterly
benumbed, too, in every limb, as to be nearly unconscious of
sensation. At length I summoned up the resolution of despair, and
rushing to the mainsail let it go by the run. As might have been
expected, it flew over the bows, and, getting drenched with water,
carried away the mast short off by the board. This latter accident
alone saved me from instant destruction. Under the jib only, I now
boomed along before the wind, shipping heavy seas occasionally over
the counter, but relieved from the terror of immediate death. I took
the helm, and breathed with greater freedom as I found that there yet
remained to us a chance of ultimate escape. Augustus still lay
senseless in the bottom of the boat; and as there was imminent danger
of his drowning (the water being nearly a foot deep just where he
fell), I contrived to raise him partially up, and keep him in a
sitting position, by passing a rope round his waist, and lashing it
to a ringbolt in the deck of the cuddy. Having thus arranged every
thing as well as I could in my chilled and agitated condition, I
recommended myself to God, and made up my mind to bear whatever might
happen with all the fortitude in my power.

Hardly had I come to this resolution, when, suddenly, a loud and

long scream or yell, as if from the throats of a thousand demons,
seemed to pervade the whole atmosphere around and above the boat.
Never while I live shall I forget the intense agony of terror I
experienced at that moment. My hair stood erect on my head -- I felt
the blood congealing in my veins -- my heart ceased utterly to beat,
and without having once raised my eyes to learn the source of my
alarm, I tumbled headlong and insensible upon the body of my fallen

I found myself, upon reviving, in the cabin of a large

whaling-ship (the Penguin) bound to Nantucket. Several persons were
standing over me, and Augustus, paler than death, was busily occupied
in chafing my hands. Upon seeing me open my eyes, his exclamations of
gratitude and joy excited alternate laughter and tears from the
rough-looking personages who were present. The mystery of our being
in existence was now soon explained. We had been run down by the
whaling-ship, which was close-hauled, beating up to Nantucket with
every sail she could venture to set, and consequently running almost
at right angles to our own course. Several men were on the look-out
forward, but did not perceive our boat until it was an impossibility
to avoid coming in contact- their shouts of warning upon seeing us
were what so terribly alarmed me. The huge ship, I was told, rode
immediately over us with as much ease as our own little vessel would
have passed over a feather, and without the least perceptible
impediment to her progress. Not a scream arose from the deck of the
victim- there was a slight grating sound to be heard mingling with
the roar of wind and water, as the frail bark which was swallowed up
rubbed for a moment along the keel of her destroyer- but this was
all. Thinking our boat (which it will be remembered was dismasted)
some mere shell cut adrift as useless, the captain (Captain E. T. V.
Block, of New London) was for proceeding on his course without
troubling himself further about the matter. Luckily, there were two
of the look-out who swore positively to having seen some person at
our helm, and represented the possibility of yet saving him. A
discussion ensued, when Block grew angry, and, after a while, said
that "it was no business of his to be eternally watching for
egg-shells; that the ship should not put about for any such nonsense;
and if there was a man run down, it was nobody's fault but his own,
he might drown and be dammed" or some language to that effect. Henderson,
the first mate, now took the matter up, being justly indignant, as
well as the whole ship's crew, at a speech evincing so base a degree
of heartless atrocity. He spoke plainly, seeing himself upheld by the
men, told the captain he considered him a fit subject for the
gallows, and that he would disobey his orders if he were hanged for
it the moment he set his foot on shore. He strode aft, jostling Block
(who turned pale and made no answer) on one side, and seizing the
helm, gave the word, in a firm voice, Hard-a-lee! The men flew to
their posts, and the ship went cleverly about. All this had occupied
nearly five minutes, and it was supposed to be hardly within the
bounds of possibility that any individual could be saved- allowing
any to have been on board the boat. Yet, as the reader has seen, both
Augustus and myself were rescued; and our deliverance seemed to have
been brought about by two of those almost inconceivable pieces of
good fortune which are attributed by the wise and pious to the
special interference of Providence.

While the ship was yet in stays, the mate lowered the jolly-boat

and jumped into her with the very two men, I believe, who spoke up as
having seen me at the helm. They had just left the lee of the vessel
(the moon still shining brightly) when she made a long and heavy roll
to windward, and Henderson, at the same moment, starting up in his
seat bawled out to his crew to back water. He would say nothing else-
repeating his cry impatiently, back water! black water! The men put
back as speedily as possible, but by this time the ship had gone
round, and gotten fully under headway, although all hands on board
were making great exertions to take in sail. In despite of the danger
of the attempt, the mate clung to the main-chains as soon as they
came within his reach. Another huge lurch now brought the starboard
side of the vessel out of water nearly as far as her keel, when the
cause of his anxiety was rendered obvious enough. The body of a man
was seen to be affixed in the most singular manner to the smooth and
shining bottom (the Penguin was coppered and copper-fastened), and
beating violently against it with every movement of the hull. After
several ineffectual efforts, made during the lurches of the ship, and
at the imminent risk of swamping the boat I was finally disengaged
from my perilous situation and taken on board- for the body proved to
be my own. It appeared that one of the timber-bolts having started
and broken a passage through the copper, it had arrested my progress
as I passed under the ship, and fastened me in so extraordinary a
manner to her bottom. The head of the bolt had made its way through
the collar of the green baize jacket I had on, and through the back
part of my neck, forcing itself out between two sinews and just below
the right ear. I was immediately put to bed- although life seemed to
be totally extinct. There was no surgeon on board. The captain,
however, treated me with every attention- to make amends, I presume,
in the eyes of his crew, for his atrocious behaviour in the previous
portion of the adventure.

In the meantime, Henderson had again put off from the ship,

although the wind was now blowing almost a hurricane. He had not been
gone many minutes when he fell in with some fragments of our boat,
and shortly afterward one of the men with him asserted that he could
distinguish a cry for help at intervals amid the roaring of the
tempest. This induced the hardy seamen to persevere in their search
for more than half an hour, although repeated signals to return were
made them by Captain Block, and although every moment on the water in
so frail a boat was fraught to them with the most imminent and deadly
peril. Indeed, it is nearly impossible to conceive how the small
jolly they were in could have escaped destruction for a single
instant. She was built, however, for the whaling service, and was
fitted, as I have since had reason to believe, with air-boxes, in the
manner of some life-boats used on the coast of Wales.

After searching in vain for about the period of time just

mentioned, it was determined to get back to the ship. They had
scarcely made this resolve when a feeble cry arose from a dark object
that floated rapidly by. They pursued and soon overtook it. It proved
to be the entire deck of the Ariel's cuddy. Augustus was struggling
near it, apparently in the last agonies. Upon getting hold of him it
was found that he was attached by a rope to the floating timber. This
rope, it will be remembered, I had myself tied around his waist, and
made fast to a ringbolt, for the purpose of keeping him in an upright
position, and my so doing, it appeared, had been ultimately the means
of preserving his life. The Ariel was slightly put together, and in
going down her frame naturally went to pieces; the deck of the cuddy,
as might have been expected, was lifted, by the force of the water
rushing in, entirely from the main timbers, and floated (with other
fragments, no doubt) to the surface- Augustus was buoyed up with it,
and thus escaped a terrible death.

It was more than an hour after being taken on board the Penguin

before he could give any account of himself, or be made to comprehend
the nature of the accident which had befallen our boat. At length he
became thoroughly aroused, and spoke much of his sensations while in
the water. Upon his first attaining any degree of consciousness, he
found himself beneath the surface, whirling round and round with
inconceivable rapidity, and with a rope wrapped in three or four
folds tightly about his neck. In an instant afterward he felt himself
going rapidly upward, when, his head striking violently against a
hard substance, he again relapsed into insensibility. Upon once more
reviving he was in fuller possession of his reason- this was still,
however, in the greatest degree clouded and confused. He now knew
that some accident had occurred, and that he was in the water,
although his mouth was above the surface, and he could breathe with
some freedom. Possibly, at this period the deck was drifting rapidly
before the wind, and drawing him after it, as he floated upon his
back. Of course, as long as he could have retained this position, it
would have been nearly impossible that he should be drowned.
Presently a surge threw him directly athwart the deck, and this post
he endeavored to maintain, screaming at intervals for help. Just
before he was discovered by Mr. Henderson, he had been obliged to
relax his hold through exhaustion, and, falling into the sea, had
given himself up for lost. During the whole period of his struggles
he had not the faintest recollection of the Ariel, nor of the matters
in connexion with the source of his disaster. A vague feeling of
terror and despair had taken entire possession of his faculties. When
he was finally picked up, every power of his mind had failed him;
and, as before said, it was nearly an hour after getting on board the
Penguin before he became fully aware of his condition. In regard to
myself- I was resuscitated from a state bordering very nearly upon
death (and after every other means had been tried in vain for three
hours and a half) by vigorous friction with flannels bathed in hot
oil- a proceeding suggested by Augustus. The wound in my neck,
although of an ugly appearance, proved of little real consequence,
and I soon recovered from its effects.

The Penguin got into port about nine o'clock in the morning,

after encountering one of the severest gales ever experienced off
Nantucket. Both Augustus and myself managed to appear at Mr.
Barnard's in time for breakfast- which, luckily, was somewhat late,
owing to the party over night. I suppose all at the table were too
much fatigued themselves to notice our jaded appearance- of course,
it would not have borne a very rigid scrutiny. Schoolboys, however,
can accomplish wonders in the way of deception, and I verily believe
not one of our friends in Nantucket had the slightest suspicion that
the terrible story told by some sailors in town of their having run
down a vessel at sea and drowned some thirty or forty poor devils,
had reference either to the Ariel, my companion, or myself. We two
have since very frequently talked the matter over- but never without
a shudder. In one of our conversations Augustus frankly confessed to
me, that in his whole life he had at no time experienced so
excruciating a sense of dismay, as when on board our little boat he
first discovered the extent of his intoxication, and felt himself
sinking beneath its influence.

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