The Strange History and Legend of the Moran Moor
Extract Four. Old World to New
Julien Lasalle-Bargossa, aboard the merchantman Londonderry, arrived in Halifax harbor on the 18th June 1821 just after the third bell of the forenoon. The main channel, to the west of Mcnabs Island, presented Julien his first view of the new world and much to his disappointment the port had much the same look and smell as every other seaport in his experience. Indeed, compared to the awe-inspiring stone walls and docks of Dubrovnik, or even the efficient naval wharfs of Gibraltar, Halifax had a degree of dinginess that made the young sailor strangely uneasy. Having simply signed on for the outward voyage and not wanting to return eastward immediately Julien soon found himself aboard a cutter bound for the streets of Halifax’s least fashionable maritime quarter.
Each morning Julien would join the many other seaman who gathered in the local ale houses to hear the lists of vessels seeking crew for forthcoming voyages. Competition for the most lucrative positions was frenetic and would quite frequently lead to disagreements and even fisticuffs. The doors of the ale houses were normally guarded by the stoutest of doormen, generally armed with wickedly weighted cudgels, always quick to step in and settle any disagreement with an arbitrary swing of their weapon. Julien’s ability to comprehend most every language spoken in these melees kept him safe from the worst of the punishment handed out and also put him on good stead with the many cliques than circulated there. Mute he might have been but with his sharp ears and ability to make himself understood by gesture and sign marked him out for certain future employment.
A purely chance meeting within one of Halifax’s more disreputable ale houses would result in Julien’s marine career taking a dramatic turn. Finding himself one morning in no particular hurry to do much at all he decided to participate in the playing of what at first sight appeared an uncommonly complicated dice game known as wŏltĕstōmkwŏn. As with all games of chance and skill large amounts of coin would often change hands upon the results and without having any particular proof to back himself up Julien soon began to suspect that the run of play was going against him in a way that suggested more than just simple bad luck. Not being in the slightest shy and having the physical presence to back up his supposition Julien called out the individual who appeared to be masterminding his downfall. Unsurprisingly most of the other players surrounding the table turned against him and Julien’s standing seemed very delicate indeed. Thankfully his immediate neighbor in the room a very tall and well-muscled Micmac armed quite conspicuously with war axe and wicked looking hunting knife sided with him in a most vocal manner. This native’s intervention seemed to take the wind from all the opposition’s sails and Julien was grudgingly refunded his purloined funds and allowed to depart the venue unharmed. His new friend, called Aqantie’wit in the Micmac language, followed Julien from the establishment and taking him by the elbow directed his steps by gesture and gentle coxing to a small eating house close by. This Aqantie’wit, meaning ‘observer of Sunday services’, proved himself very rapidly to be a man of fiercely honest character and a true and loyal friend proceeded in broken French and English to persuade Julien that his future lay in the extremely profitable business of whaling. Aqantie’wit was a boatsteerer of some great prowess and reputation amongst the ever-growing whale fleets and was particularly on the lookout for suitable shipmates to oar his individual chase boat. Julien was not inclined to give an offer of steady employ and exceptionally high pay a pass and so within the day found himself a signed and accredited seaman and profit sharer on the next voyage of the ‘Glenmore’ under master Henry Todd, a man of dour appearance with a good deal of skill but an exceeding empty chest of luck.
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