Sunday afternoon we was given to make and mend and Apple the carpenter told a yarn that was of much amusement to us all, so I shall relate it to you. Apple wears about his neck a charm of whalebone in the shape of a fishhook. I had heard him tell before that it come from the south sea islands, but on this day one of the fellows asked how he come by it and he related this tale.
Years before he was in the south sea islands, I misremember if he said he was with Cook, Furnu, Clerk or some other, but they had come to an island for wood, water and provisions. The Captain had taken a group ashore to parley with the King of the island and several Indians of the island had come about in canoes looking to trade. Apple said that this trading was always a tricky business as the Indians of some islands would trade fair, others was knavish thieves and still others was either fair traders or thieves depending on the day of the week or direction of the wind. The way it was done was an Indian would hold up what he had for trade and a Tar would do the same, they would barter back and forth with hand signs until a deal was struck then they would pitch each other the goods, as Indians were not allowed on the ship in the Captain’s absence. They was trading mostly nails for coconuts and breadfruits when Apple brings out a piece of Otahiti cloth he had got previous. All the Indians seemed desirous of the cloth, he said he later learned the art of making cloth was not much developed among these particular Indians.
So all the Indians is harranging him to trade for the cloth when a big one brings his canoe right along side and makes signs he wants to see it closer. Apple tosses him one end, it was two fathoms long, and the fellow is carefully examining the other end- when all at once he yanks the cloth out of Apples hands and at the same time shoves off the ship’s side hard with his foot and his mate in the stern starts paddleing them away. The big Indian reels in the cloth and holds it up, smiling a and gabbing. Apple thinks he’s either taunting him or bragging to his friends or both.
Well, there was a fishing line set with several big mackerel hooks close at hand, and it had a lead on it so a fellow could get a good heave. Real quick Apple grabs it and heaves it over the fellow’s canoe. He then gives it a good yank and as luck would have it he sets a hook right in the big fellow’s buttock. Apple said maybe the fellow though he had been shot or speared cause he gives a yelp and jumps over the side and starts to swim. Apple then puts the fishline a couple of turns around a pin, so the fellow is making no headway. Then a couple of Tars join in and they start to haul the fellow back to the ship. At this the fellow becomes more inspired and swims so hard that the line breaks. So he gets away with both the cloth and the mackerel hook, so to speak. Apple said he swum so hard the beat his mate in the canoe back to the beach.
When the Captain returns it seems he has got along well with the King of the Island, because they are to go into a cover to clean the ship’s foul bottom, as well as wood and water.
Two days later as Apple is with a wood detail they are approached by a group of Indians. The big Indian what stole the cloth is among them. He hobbles up to Apple and lays the stold cloth and a warclub on the ground before him making signs for him to take them both. Apple takes them both then draws the mackerel hook in the dirt, for to say “where’s my hook?” At that all the Indians, even the big one, laugh and he turns his rump to Apple to show him the hook is still buried in his arse cheek, all the way up the shank.
So Apple is never one to hold a grudge after a fellow has tried to set things straight, so he gets permission to take the fellow to the surgeon. The hook was a barbed one, and the Indians had worried it considerable trying to remove it. The surgeon has some difficulty but finally resolves to push it all the way out through the skin, cut off the barb and then with draw it. The Indians bore the procedure manly, but when he seen that they was going to file off the barb he becomes upset like he knows it will ruin the hook. He will not have it but they pull the whole hook out by the barb, which I am sure caused him more pain that what the surgeon would have done. He bears it manly, and as soon as the surgeon has the hook out the big fellow takes it from him and hands it back to Apple with a grin.
Apple is touched, so he gives the hook back to the fellow, and after that they is best friends for while they is there. His name was Pemutoo, which was also the source of a joke among them, as Apple learned that Pemutoo was their name for a small kind of fish and whenever the Indians seen them together they would laugh and gab and slap him on the back and he supposed they were congratulating him on catching the biggest Pemutoo ever. He even ended up giving him the Otahiti cloth back again. It was Pemutoo what give Apple the hook charm.
Before they left they even traded names, which among them is a sign of everlasting brotherhood and affection. Yes boys- says Apple- somewhere in the south sea is an Indian who goes by James Apple, and if I ever return there I shall be Pemutoo again.
Our Reverend Griswall was listen through the whole tale and when Apple finishes he speaks up and says – Mister Apple I applaud your Christian endeavors- at which none of us, but most especially Apple- knows what to say. And the Reverend says -Our Lord admonishes us to be fishers of men, and you, Sir are one of the few men I know to have truly done so. He said it all serious like, but we knew he ment it for a joke, which shows that all fellows from Indians to a starched collared Parson, can poke fun at a fellow on occasion.
Exerpt from a letter from Robert Watson, aboard H.M.S. Acasta, to his wife. June 1810