The Sandwich Islands now far astern, HMS Baci set a course for her next destination, that being north to the Aleutian Islands. Cold weather dogged them, along with gales and squalls. Gnarly Dan assured Sir Edmund that multitudinous Sea Maidens should be in the offering, it being the season for (of course) their ‘northing’, as he put it.
“And they will be all-healthy-like’ and rotund?” the naturalist teased. Gnarly Dan missed the humor, he now lost in the vision of soft Sea Maidens. He signed and closed his eyes. “Me second wife; the lass in India; she’d be soft as yer puppy,” he informed the totally disinterested naturalist. “When she lays back onna bed, a gob can be sire he’s gonna roll right to ‘er; inna dark even!” Sir Edmund closed his eyes in an attempt to block the encroaching vision of Gnarly Dan and a substantial bride. No sooner did he accomplish that when a score of rotund children sailed into view clamoring for their father, The naturalist retreated to his cabin.
At last “Land ho!” and they were amongst the Aleutians, their sparse, scrubby, rocky coasts as uninviting as any the naturalist had encountered. Unalaska Island lay before them, and near Cape Aiak the Baci anchored and on Christmas Day sent the captain’s launch in with a small party to explore the area and hopefully sight a Sea Maiden or two. It was a treacherous stretch of coast near Cape Izigan that the naturalist not only saw hundreds of sea lions, but also scores of sea otters. As they watched and Gnarly Dan provided a running commentary on sea otter fur, a Sea Maiden pulled herself onto a rocky outcrop nearby and turned to face an unusual burst of sunlight. She was substantial, pleasing Gnarly Dan to the point of breathlessness. “Lord help a poor gob,” he gasped, “ain’t she uncommon beautiful!”
Sir Edmund Agreed politely. “Yes my friend Mr. Dan, she is uncommon beautiful’; and it appears life has denied her a few opportunities to feast.” Gnarly Dan ran his thick tongue over his chapped lips and then raised the arm of his sea coat and wiped away the moisture. “I knows you’d be a true gent,” he began, “but ya got ta know, yer honor, a man ain’t truly know’d a woman till he lays into yer softer sort. Nary a bone ta scape against an’ it’ be all “thank ya sir’ from beginning’ ta the end of the voyage.”
Sir Edmund knew the old salt was unstoppable, but still he tried. “Yes, yes, I’ve heard it all before.” But, of course, it was to no avail.
“Ya see, sir, yer bigger woman (or Sea Maiden fer that matter) is all comfeble-like, so’s ever one’s happy. She ain’t gonna get all squashed er jammed by a bloke like a skinny women does. A gob ain’t gonna hear no ‘Ow!” er, ‘Careful there!’ No, she’ll jest lie back an’ savor the trip, if ya catches my drift.” At this point Gnarly Dan realized the naturalist had lowered himself and was now crawling off toward the Sea Maiden, attempting to keep his profile as low as possible. “So you’d be sneakin’ up on her, would ya?” the old salt called out through cupped hands. Sir Edmund glared over his shoulder at gnarly Dan, whereupon the sailor strode right up to and then by the naturalist, climbing over boulders as he did, making absolutely no attempt to conceal his presence. The Sea Maiden turned, saw the old salt and smiled coyly.
Sir Edmund sat upright and watched, his mouth agape. Gnarly Dan at last gained the same rock as the Sea Maiden and then walked to her and sat, as boldly as ‘kiss my hand’! They seemed to chat for some time, although the old salt would explain what was communicated or how it was accomplished, allowing Sir Edmund only the simple statement, “I believes I’ll be seein’ her later.”
In point of fact Gnarly Dan chose to spend the night on the island, the Christmas celebration on the Baci notwithstanding. “Spect I’ll have a small party a me own,” he informed the naturalist as he once again wet his lips. He produced a bright trinket from his pocket and admired it briefly. “Ain’t a woman alive what don’ ‘preciate a gift!” he added and turned and walked from the group, he humming as he departed. When the old salt returned to the Baci the following morning his face fairly glowed.
“You must have frozen last night!” Sir Edmund exclaimed as Gnarly Dan stepped onto the deck. The old salt smiled warmly. “Squire, ya ain’t been warm till ya lies in the arms a yer bigger women. They loves an’ they loves, and they true enough knows how ta please a man.”” He thought a moment, smiling dreamily and added, “An’ most ‘portant, they wants ta please they man. That’d be the best gift ever!”
The naturalist journal reads:
Sighted our 35th Sea Maiden on the island of Unilaska. She was quite unafraid as my companion strode to her side and appeared to converse with her, though that would of course have been impossible.
Remarkably beautiful. Full figured. Long dark hair.
December 25, 1834 (Merry Christmas, indeed!)