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Mabel Borton Beebe

The Young Sailor

At that time the trip across the Atlantic could not be made as quickly as now. There were no steamships, and the sailing vessels had, of course, to depend upon the wind to carry them to their destination. It was several months before the Friendship  anchored at the mouth of the Rappahannock River.

Farther inland, on this river, was the town of Fredericksburg. John Paul's eldest brother, William, lived there. He had left his Scottish home many years before, and had come with his wife to Virginia. Here he was now living on his own plantation, where he raised tobacco for the English market.

While the Friendship  was in port being loaded for its return voyage, John Paul went to Fredericksburg to stay with his brother. While there he spent the most of his time in hard study. Although he was still young, he had found that he could not succeed as he wished with so little education.

It was during these months in America that he formed the habit of study. All through the remainder of his life his leisure time was given to the reading of books.

After he returned to Scotland he spent six years in the employ of Mr. Younger. During that time he learned a great deal about good seamanship.

When John Paul was nineteen years of age, the loss of money compelled Mr. Younger to give up his business.

John Paul was soon afterward made mate on a slaver called the Two Friends. This was a vessel whose sole business was the carrying of slaves from Africa to America and other countries.

People at that time did not think there was any wrong in slave-trading. It was a very profitable business. Even the sailors made more money than did those on vessels engaged in any other business.

The Two Friends  carried a cargo of slaves to Jamaica, an English possession in the West Indies. As soon as port was reached, John Paul left the vessel. He said that he would never again sail on a slave-trading voyage. He could not endure to see men and women treated so cruelly, and bought and sold like cattle.

He sailed for home as a passenger on board a small trading vessel. On the voyage both the captain and the mate died of fever, and the ship with all its passengers was in mid-ocean with no one to command.

John Paul took the captain's place, for no one else knew so much about seamanship. This was a daring thing for one so young, as he was not yet twenty years old.

When he brought the vessel safely into port, the owners were so grateful to him that they made him the captain.

Soon afterward he sailed for the West Indies. The carpenter on board was, one day, very disrespectful to the young captain. He was punished by a flogging, and was discharged. Not long after this he died of a fever.

The enemies of John Paul, who were jealous of him, thought this was their chance to do him harm. They said that the flogging had killed the carpenter.

Many people believed this, and when John Paul again returned to Scotland, he found that his friends had lost their faith in him.

During the next two years he made several voyages, but all the while he remembered the injustice done to him. He finally succeeded, however, in proving to his friends that he was worthy of their confidence.