Pencil Sketches; or, Outlines of Character and Manners, page 13
PENCILLINGS ON SHIP-BOARD.
"Yon sun that sets upon the sea We follow in his flight."--BYRON.
"And now, dear Caroline, tell us some particulars of your passage home,"said Mrs. Esdale to her sister, as they quitted the tea-table on theevening of Mr. and Mrs. Fenton's arrival from a visit to Europe.
"Our passage home," replied Mrs. Fenton, "was moderately short, andgenerally pleasant. We had a good ship, a good captain, splendidaccommodations, and an excellent table, and were not crowded with toomany passengers."
"Yet, let us hear something more circumstantial," said Mrs. Esdale.
"Dear Henrietta," replied her sister, "have I not often told you howdifficult it is to relate anything amusingly or interestingly when youare expressly called upon to do so; when you are expected to sit up inform, and furnish a regular narrative, with a beginning, a middle, andan end."
"But indeed," rejoined Mrs. Esdale, "we have anticipated much pleasurefrom hearing your account of the voyage. Come,--let us take our seats inthe front parlour, and leave your husband and mine to their discussionof the political prospects of both hemispheres. The girls and myselfwould much rather listen to your last impressions of life onship-board."
"Do, dear aunt," said both the daughters of Mrs. Esdale, two fine girlsof seventeen and fifteen--and taking their seats at the sofa-table, theyurged Mrs Fenton to commence.
"Well, then," said Mrs. Fenton, "to begin in the manner of the fairytales--once upon a time there lived in the city of New York, a merchantwhose name was Edward Fenton--and he had a wife named Caroline Fenton.And notwithstanding that they had a town-house and a country-house, anda coach to ride in, and fine clothes, and fine furniture, and plenty ofgood things to eat and to drink, they grew tired of staying at home andbeing comfortable. So they sailed away in a ship, and never stopped tillthey got to England. And there they saw the king and queen, with goldcrowns on their heads, and sceptres in their hands--(by-the-bye it waslucky that we arrived in time for the coronation)--and they heard theking cough, and the queen sneeze: and they saw lords with ribands andstars, and ladies with plumes and diamonds. They travelled andtravelled, and often came to great castles that looked like giants'houses: and they went all over England and Wales, and Ireland andScotland. Then they returned to London, and saw more sights; and thenthey were satisfied to come back to America, where they expect to livehappily all the rest of their lives."
"Now, aunt, you are laughing at us," said Juliet Esdale--"your lettersfrom Europe have somewhat taken off the edge of our curiosity as to youradventures there: and it is just now our especial desire to hearsomething of your voyage home."
"In truth," replied Mrs. Fenton, "I must explain, that on this, thefirst evening of my return, I feel too happy, and too much excited, totalk systematically on any subject whatever; much less to arrange myideas into the form of a history. To-morrow I shall be engaged all dayat my own house: for I must preside at the awakening of numerousarticles of furniture that have been indulged during our absence with along slumber; some being covered up in cases, and some shut up inclosets, or disrespectfully imprisoned in the attics. But I will comeover in the evening; and, if we are not interrupted by visiters, I willread you some memorandums that I made on the passage. I kept no regularjournal, but I wrote a little now and then, chiefly for my amusement,and to diversify my usual occupations of reading, sewing, and walkingthe deck. Therefore excuse me to-night, and let me have my humour, forI feel exactly in the vein to talk 'an infinite deal of nothing.'"
"Aunt Caroline," said Clara, "you know that, talk as you will, we alwayslike to hear you. But we shall long for to-morrow evening."
"Do not, however, expect a finished picture of a sea-voyage," said Mrs.Fenton, "I can only promise you a few slight outlines, filled up with ahalf tint, and without lights or shadows; like the things that theChinese sometimes paint on their tea-chests."
On the following evening, the gentlemen having gone to a public meeting,and measures being taken for the exclusion of visitors, Mrs. Esdale andher daughters seated themselves at the table with their work, and Mrs.Fenton produced her manuscript book, and read as follows: having firstreminded her auditors that her husband and herself, instead of embarkingat London, had gone by land to Portsmouth, and from thence crossed overto the Isle of Wight, where they took apartments at the principal hotelin the little town of Cowes, at which place the ship was to touch on herway down the British channel.
* * * * *
Having amply availed ourselves of the opportunity (afforded by a threedays' sojourn) of exploring the beauties of the Isle of Wight, we feltsome impatience to find ourselves fairly afloat, and actually on ourpassage "o'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea." On the fourthafternoon, we walked down to the beach, and strolled amid shells andsea-weed, along the level sands at the foot of a range of those chalkycliffs that characterize the southern coast of England. It was a lovelyday. A breeze from the west was ruffling the crests of the greentransparent waves, and wafting a few light clouds across the effulgenceof the declining sun, whose beams danced radiantly on the surface of thewater, gilding the black and red sails of the fishing-boats, and thenwithdrawing, at intervals, and leaving the sea in shade.
"Should this wind continue," said Mr. Fenton, "we may be detained here aweek, and have full leisure to clamber again among the ruins ofCarisbrook Castle, and to gaze at the cloven chalk-rocks of ShanklineChine, and the other wonders of this pleasant little island."
We then approached an old disabled sailor, who was smoking his pipe,seated on a dismantled cannon that lay prostrate on the sands, its ironmouth choked up with the sea-weed that the tide had washed into it; andon entering into conversation with him, we found that he was anout-pensioner of Greenwich hospital, and that for the last ten years hehad passed most of his time about Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.
"Have you ever known a ship come down from London with such a wind asthis?" inquired Mr. Fenton.
"No," replied the sailor.--"After she doubles Beachy Head, this windwould be right in her teeth."
"Then," said Mr. Fenton, turning to me--"till it changes, we may give upall hope of seeing our gallant vessel."
"What ship are you looking for?" asked the sailor.
"Oh! an American ship--ay, _she'll_ come down. _They_ can make their waywith any sort of wind."
[Footnote 81: This implied compliment to our vessels and seamen wasreally made by a British sailor, in a similar conversation with anAmerican gentleman.]
He had scarcely spoken, when the flag of our country appeared beyond thepoint, its bright stars half obscured by the ample folds of the whiteand crimson stripes that, blown backward by the adverse breeze, werewaving across them. In a moment the snowy sails of the Washington camefull into view, shaded with purple by the setting sun.
"There she is!" exclaimed my husband. "There she comes--is not anAmerican ship one of the most beautiful objects created by the hand ofman? Well, indeed, do they merit the admiration that is so franklyaccorded to them by every nation of the earth."
My husband, in his enthusiasm, shook the hand of the old sailor, andslipped some money into it. We remained on the beach looking at the shiptill
"----o'er her bow the rustling cable rung, The sails were furl'd; and anchoring round she swung."
A boat was then lowered from her stern, and the captain came off in it.He walked with us to the hotel, and informed us that he should leaveCowes early the following day. We soon completed the preparations forour final departure, and before eight o'clock next morning we had takenour last step on British ground, and were installed in our new abode onthe world of waters. Several of the passengers had come down in theship from London; others, like ourselves, had preferred commencing theirvoyage from the Isle of Wight; and some, as we understood, were to joinus at Plymouth.
We sailed immediately. The breeze freshened, and
On the third day, we were enabled to lay our course with a fair wind anda clear sky: the coast of Cornwall looking like a succession of lowwhite clouds ranged along the edge of the northern horizon. Towardsevening we passed the Lizard, to see land no more till we should descryit on the other side of the Atlantic. As Mr. Fenton and myself leanedover the taffrail, and saw the last point of England fade dimly from ourview, we thought with regret of the shore we were leaving behind us, andof much that we had seen, and known, and enjoyed in that country ofwhich all that remained to our lingering gaze was a dark spot so distantand so small as to be scarcely perceptible. Soon we could discern it nolonger: and nothing of Europe was now left to us but the indeliblerecollections that it has impressed upon our minds. We turned towardsthe region of the descending sun--
"To where his setting splendours burn Upon the western sea-maid's urn,"
and we vainly endeavoured to direct all our thoughts and feelingstowards our home beyond the ocean--our beloved American home.
On that night, as on many others, when our ship was careering throughthe sea, with her yards squared, and her sails all trimmed to a freshand favouring breeze, while we sat on a sofa in the lesser cabin, andlooked up through the open skylight at the stars that seemed flying overour heads, we talked of the land we had so recently quitted. We talkedof her people, who though differing from ours in a thousand minuteparticulars, are still essentially the same. Our laws, our institutions,our manners, and our customs are derived from theirs: we are benefitedby the same arts, we are enlightened by the same sciences. Their nobleand copious language is fortunately ours--their Shakspeare also belongsto us; and we rejoice that we can possess ourselves of his "thoughtsthat breathe, and words that burn," in all their original freshness andsplendour, unobscured by the mist of translation. Though the oceandivides our dwelling-places: though the sword and the cannon-shot havesundered the bonds that once united us to her dominion: though themisrepresentations of travelling adventurers have done much to fostermutual prejudices, and to embitter mutual jealousies, still we share thepride of our parent in the glorious beings she can number among thechildren of her island home, for
"Yet lives the blood of England in our veins."
On the fourth day of our departure from the Isle of Wight, we foundourselves several hundred miles from land, and consigned to thesolitudes of that ocean-desert, "dark-heaving-boundless--endless--andsublime"--whose travellers find no path before them, and leave no trackbehind. But the wind was favourable, the sky was bright, the passengershad recovered their health and spirits, and for the first time were allable to present themselves at the dinner-table; and there was reallywhat might be termed a "goodly company."
It is no longer the custom in American packet ships for ladies topersevere in what is called a sea-dress: that is, a sort of dishabilleprepared expressly for the voyage. Those who are not well enough todevote some little time and attention to their personal appearance,rarely come to the general table, but take their meals in their ownapartment. The gentlemen, also, pay as much respect to their toilet aswhen on shore.
The _coup d'oeil_ of the dinner-table very much resembles that of afashionable hotel. All the appurtenances of the repast are in handsomestyle. The eatables are many of them such as, even on shore, would beconsidered delicacies, and they are never deficient in abundance andvariety. Whatever may be the state of the weather, or the motion of theship, the steward and the cook are unfailing in their duty; constantlyfulfilling their arduous functions with the same care and regularity.The breakfast-table is always covered with a variety of relishes, andwarm cakes. At noon there is a luncheon of pickled oysters, cold ham,tongue, &c. The dinner consists of fowls, ducks, geese, turkeys, freshpork or mutton; for every ship is well supplied with live poultry, pigsand sheep. During the first week of the voyage there is generally freshbeef on the table, it being brought on board from the last place atwhich the vessel has touched: and it is kept on deck wrapped closely ina sail-cloth, and attached to one of the masts, the salt atmospherepreserving it. Every day at the dessert there are delicious pies andpuddings, followed by almonds, raisins, oranges, &c.; and the tea-tableis profusely set out with rich cakes and sweetmeats. For the sick thereis always an ample store of sago, arrow-root, pearl-barley, tamarinds,&c. Many persons have an opportunity, during their passage across theAtlantic, of living more luxuriously than they have ever done in theirlives, or perhaps ever will again. Our passengers were not too numerous.The lesser cabin was appropriated to three other ladies and myself. Itformed our drawing-room; the gentlemen being admitted only as visiters.One of the ladies was Mrs. Calcott, an amiable and intelligent woman,who was returning with her husband from a long residence in England.Another was Miss Harriet Audley, a very pretty and very lively younglady from Virginia, who had been visiting a married sister in London,and was now on her way home under the care of the captain, expecting tomeet her father in New York. We were much amused during the voyage withthe coquetry of our fair Virginian, as she aimed her arrows at nearlyall the single gentlemen in turn; and with her frankness in openlytalking of her designs, and animadverting on their good or ill success.The gentlemen, with the usual vanity of their sex, always believed MissAudley's attacks on their hearts to be made in earnest, and that she wasdeeply smitten with each of them in succession; notwithstanding that thesmile in her eye was far more frequent than the blush on her cheek; andnotwithstanding that rumour had asserted the existence of a certaincavalier in the neighbourhood of Richmond, whose constancy it wassupposed she would eventually reward with her hand, as he might beconsidered, in every sense of the term, an excellent match.
Our fourth female passenger was Mrs. Cummings, a plump, rosy-faced oldlady of remarkably limited ideas, who had literally passed her wholelife in the city of London. Having been recently left a widow, she hadbroken up housekeeping, and was now on her way to join a son establishedin New York, who had very kindly sent for her to come over and live withhim. The rest of the world was almost a sealed book to her, but shetalked a great deal of the Minories, the Poultry, the Old Jewry,Cheapside, Long Acre, Bishopsgate Within, and Bishopsgate Without, andother streets and places with, appellations equally expressive.
The majority of the male passengers were pleasant and companionable--andwe thought we had seen them all in the course of the first threedays--but on the fourth, we heard the captain say to one of the waiters,"Juba, ask that gentleman if I shall have the pleasure of taking winewith him." My eyes now involuntarily followed the direction of Juba'smovements, feeling some curiosity to know who "that gentleman" was, as Inow recollected having frequently heard the epithet within the last fewdays. For instance, when almost every one was confined by sea-sicknessto their state-rooms, I had seen the captain despatch a servant toinquire of that gentleman if he would have anything sent to him from thetable. Also, I had heard Hamilton, the steward, call out,--"There, boys,don't you hear that gentleman ring his bell--why don't you runspontaneously--jump, one of you, to number eleventeen." I was puzzledfor a moment to divine which state-room bore the designation ofeleventeen, but concluded it to be one of the many unmeaning terms thatcharacterize the phraseology of our coloured people. Once or twice Iwondered who that gentleman could be; but something else happenedimmediately to divert my attention.
Now, when I heard Captain Santlow propose taking wine with him, Iconcluded that, of course, that gentleman must be visible in _propriapersona_, and, casting my eyes towards the lower end of the table, Iperceived a genteel-looking man whom I had not seen before. He wasapparently of no particular age, and there was nothing in his face thatcould lead any one to guess at his country. He might have been English,Scotch, Irish, or American; but he had none of the characteristic marksof either nation. He filled his glass, and bowing his head to CaptainSantlow, who congratulated him on his rec
At the close of the dessert, we happened to know that he had quitted thetable and gone on deck, by one of the waiters coming down and requestingMr. Overslaugh (who was sitting a-tilt, while discussing his walnuts,with his chair balanced on one leg, and his head leaning against thewainscot) to let him pass for a moment, while he went into No.eleventeen for that gentleman's overcoat. I now found that the servantshad converted No. 13 into eleventeen. By-the-bye, that gentleman had astate-room all to himself, sometimes occupying the upper and sometimesthe under berth.
"Captain Santlow," said Mr. Fenton, "allow me to ask you the name ofthat gentleman."
"Oh! I don't know"--replied the captain, trying to suppress a smile--"atleast I have forgotten it--some English name; for he is anEnglishman--he came on board at Plymouth, and his indispositioncommenced immediately. Mrs. Cummings, shall I have the pleasure ofpeeling an orange for you?"
I now recollected a little incident which had set me laughing soon afterwe left Plymouth, and when we were beating down the coast of Devonshire.I had been trying to write at the table in the Ladies' Cabin, but it wasone of those days when
"Our paper, pen and ink, and we Roll up and down our ships at sea."
And all I could do was to take refuge in my berth, and endeavour toread, leaving the door open for more air. My attention, however, wascontinually withdrawn from my book by the sound of things that weredislodged from their places, sliding or falling, and frequentlysuffering destruction; though sometimes miraculously escaping unhurt.
While I was watching the progress of two pitchers that had been tossedout of the washing-stand, and after deluging the floor with water, hadmet in the Ladies' Cabin, and were rolling amicably side by side,without happening to break each other, I saw a barrel of flour startfrom the steward's pantry, and running across the dining-room, stop at agentleman that lay extended in a lower berth with his room door open,and pour out its contents upon him, completely enveloping him in a fogof meal. I heard the steward, who was busily engaged in mopping up thewater that had flowed from the pitchers, call out, "Run, boys, run, thatgentleman's smothering up in flour--go take the barrel off him--jump, Itell you!"
How that gentleman acted while hidden in the cloud of flour, I could notperceive, and immediately the closing of the folding doors shut out thescene.
For a few days after he appeared among us, there was some speculationwith regard to this nameless stranger, whose taciturnity seemed hischief characteristic. One morning while we were looking at the gambolsof a shoal of porpoises that were tumbling through the waves andsometimes leaping out of them, my husband made some remark on the clumsyantics of this unsightly fish, addressing himself, for the first time,to the unknown Englishman, who happened to be standing near him. Thatgentleman smiled affably, but made no reply. Mr. Fenton pursued thesubject--and that gentleman smiled still more affably, and walked away.
Nevertheless, he was neither deaf nor dumb, nor melancholy, but had only"a great talent for silence," and as is usually the case with personswhose genius lies that way, he was soon left entirely to himself, no onethinking it worth while to take the trouble of extracting words fromhim. In truth, he was so impracticable, and at the same time soevidently insignificant, and so totally uninteresting, that hisfellow-passengers tacitly conveyed him to Coventry; and in Coventry heseemed perfectly satisfied to dwell. Once or twice Captain Santlow wasasked again if he recollected the name of that gentleman; but he alwaysreplied with a sort of smile, "I cannot say I do--not exactly, atleast--but I'll look at my manifest and see"--and he never failed toturn the conversation to something else.
The only person that persisted in occasionally talking to thatgentleman, was old Mrs. Cummings; and she confided to him her perpetualalarms at "the perils of the sea," considering him a good hearer, as henever made any reply, and was always disengaged, and sitting andstanding about, apparently at leisure while the other gentlemen wereoccupied in reading, writing, playing chess, walking the deck, &c.
Whenever the ship was struck by a heavy sea, and after quivering withthe shock, remained motionless for a moment before she recovered herselfand rolled the other way, poor Mrs. Cummings supposed that we had runagainst a rock, and could not be convinced that rocks were not dispersedevery where about the open ocean. And as that gentleman never attemptedto undeceive her on this or any other subject, but merely listened witha placid smile, she believed that he always thought precisely as shedid. She not unfrequently discussed to him, in an under tone, theobstinacy and incivility of the captain, who she averred, with truth,had never in any one instance had the politeness to stop the ship, oftenas she had requested, nay implored him to do so even when she wassuffering with sea-sickness, and actually tossed out of her berth by theviolence of the storm, though she was holding on with both hands.
One day, while we were all three sitting in the round-house (that verypleasant little saloon on the upper deck, at the head of thecabin-staircase), my attention was diverted from my book by hearing Mrs.Cummings say to that gentleman, "Pray, sir, can you tell me what is thematter with that poor man's head? I mean the man that has to standalways at the wheel there, holding it fast and turning it. I hear thecaptain call out to him every now and then (and in a very rough voicetoo, sometimes), 'How is your head?' and 'How is your head now?' Icannot understand what the man says in answer, so I suppose he speaksAmerican; but the captain often tells him 'to keep it steady.' And onceI heard the captain call out 'Port--port,' which I was very glad of,concluding that the poor fellow had nearly given out, and he wasordering a glass of port wine to revive him. Do you think, sir, that thepoor man at the wheel has a constant headache like my friend Mrs.Dawlish of Leadenhall street, or that he has hurt his head somehow, byfalling out of the sails, or tumbling down the ropeladders--(therenow--we've struck a rock!--mercy on us--what a life we lead! I wish Iwas on Ludgate Hill.) Talking of hurts, I have not escaped them myself,for I've had my falls; and yet the captain is so rude as to turn a deafear, and keeps sailing on all the same, even when the breath is nearlyknocked out of me, and though I've offered several times to pay him forstopping, but he only laughs at me. By-the-bye, when I go back again todear old England, and I'm sorry enough that I ever left it (as Mr.Stackhouse, the great corn-chandler in Whitechapel, told me I certainlyshould be), I'll see and take my passage with a captain that has morefeeling for the ladies. As for this one, he never lets the ship rest aminute, but he keeps forcing her on day and night. I doubt whethershe'll last the voyage out, with all this wear and tear--and then if she_should_ give in, what's to become of us all? If he would only let herstand still while we are at table, that we might eat our dinners inpeace!--though it's seldom I'm well enough to eat anything to speakof--I often make my whole dinner of the leg and wing of a goose, and aslice or two of plum-pudding; but there's no comfort in eating, when weare one minute thrown forward with our heads bowing down to the verytable-cloth, and the next minute flung back with them knocking againstthe wall."
"There was the other day at breakfast you know, we had all the cabinwindows shut up at eight o'clock in the morning, which they calledputting in the dead-lights--(I cannot see why shutters should be calledlights)--and they put the lid on the skylight, and made it so dark thatwe had to breakfast with lamps. There must have been some strangemismanagement, or we need not have been put to all that inconvenience;and then when the ship almost fell over, they let a great flood of seacome pouring down among us, sweeping the plates off the table, andwashing the very cups out of our hands, and filling our mouths with saltwater, and ruining our dresses. I wonder what my friend Mrs. Danks, ofCrutched Friars, would say if she had all this to go through--she thatis so afraid of the water, she won't go over London Bridge for fear itshould break down with her, and therefore visits nobody that lives inthe Borough--there now--a rock again! I wish I was in St. Paul's Chu
"Upon my word I can't tell," said that gentleman, as he rose and walkedout on deck.
I then endeavoured to set the old lady right, by explaining to her thatthe business of the man at the wheel was to steer the vessel, and thathe was not always the same person, the helmsman being changed at regularperiods. I also made her understand that the captain only meant to askin what direction was the head of the ship--and that "port--port,"signified that he should put up the helm to the larboard or left side.
I could not forbear repeating to Captain Santlow the ludicrous mistakeof Mrs. Cummings, and her unfounded sympathy for the man at the wheel.He laughed, and said it reminded him of a story he had heard concerningan old Irish woman, a steerage passenger, that early in the morningafter a stormy night, was found by the mate, cautiously creeping alongthe deck and looking round at every step, with a bottle of whiskeyhalf-concealed under her apron. On the mate asking her what she wasgoing to do with the whiskey, she replied, "I'm looking for that craturBill Lay, that ye were all calling upon the whole night long, and notgiving him a minute to rest himself. I lay in my bed and I heard yetramping and shouting over head!--'twas nothing but Bill Lay here,and Bill Lay there, and Bill Lay this, and Bill Lay that--and a wearytime he's had of it--for it was yourselves that could do nothing withouthim, great shame to ye. And I thought I'd try and find him out, thesowl, and bring him a drop of comfort, for it's himself that nades it."
[Footnote 82: Belay--a sea-term, signifying to secure or make fast arope.]
Mrs. Cummings's compassion for the helmsman was changed into a somewhatdifferent feeling a few days after. The captain and Mr. Fenton weresitting near the wheel earnestly engaged in a game of chess. The windhad been directly ahead for the last twenty-four hours, and several ofthe passengers were pacing the deck, and looking alternately at thesails and the dog-vane--suddenly there was an exclamation from one ofthem, of "Captain--captain--the wind has changed--it has just goneabout!" Captain Santlow started up, and perceived that the little flagwas apparently blowing in another direction; but on looking at thecompass, he discovered the truth--it was now found that the steersman,who happened to understand chess, was so interested with the game whichwas playing immediately before him, that he had for a moment forgottenhis duty, and inadvertently allowed the head of the ship to fall offhalf a dozen points from the wind. The error was immediately rectified;and Captain Santlow (who never on any occasion lost his temper) saidcoolly to the helmsman, "For this, sir, your grog shall be stopped."
This little incident afforded an additional excitement to the ever-readyfears of Mrs. Cummings, who now took it into her head that if (as shephrased it) the wheel was turned the wrong way, it would overset theship. Upon finding that the delinquent was an American, she opined thatthere could be no safety in a vessel where the sailors understood chess.And whenever we had a fresh breeze (such as she always persisted incalling a violent storm) she was very importunate with the captain notto allow the chess-man to take the wheel.
"Ah!" said Mrs. Cummings, "I am sure there is no such thing in hismajesty's ships, as sailors knowing chess or any of those hard thingsthat are enough to set one crazy to think of. In my own dear country,people are saving of their wits; but you Americans always know more ofeverything than you ought to. I don't wonder so few of you look plumpand ruddy. You all wear yourselves out with head-work. Your eyes are nothalf so big as ours, for they are fairly sunk in your heads withthinking and contriving. To be sure, at our house in the Minories wealways kept a pack of cards in the parlour closet. But we never playedany but very easy games, for it was not our way to make a toil ofpleasure. Mercy on me!--what a rock!--I wish I was at the Back of St.Clements--How I have seen the Potheridge family in Throgmorton street,ponder and study over a game of whist as if their lives depended onevery card. I had to play whist whenever I drank tea there, for theywere never satisfied unless they were at it every night; and I hated it,because I always happened to get old Miss Nancy for a partner, and shewas so sharp and so cross, and was continually finding fault with me forsomething she called reneaging. Whenever I gave out that I was one byhonours, she always said it was no such thing; and she downrightscolded, when after she had played an ace I played a king; or when shehad trumped first and I made all sure by trumping too. Now what I say isthis--a trick can't be too well taken. But I'm not for whist--give me agood easy game where you can't go wrong, such as I've been used to allmy life; though, no doubt when I get to America, I shall find my sonJacky playing chess and whist and despising Beggar my neighbour."
In less than a fortnight after we left the British Channel, we were offthe Banks of Newfoundland; and, as is frequently the case in theirvicinity, we met with cold foggy weather. It cleared a little aboutseven in the morning, and we then discovered no less than threeice-bergs to leeward. One of them, whose distance from us was perhaps amile, appeared higher than the mainmast head, and as the top shot upinto a tall column, it looked like a vast rock with a light-house on itspinnacle. As the cold and watery sunbeams gleamed fitfully upon it, itexhibited in some places the rainbow tints of a prism--other parts wereof a dazzling white, while its sharp angular projections seemed likemasses of diamonds glittering upon snow.
The fog soon became so dense, that in looking over the side of the shipwe could not discern the sea. Fortunately, it was so calm that wescarcely moved, or the danger of driving on the ice-bergs would havebeen terrific. We had now no other means of ascertaining our distancefrom them, but by trying the temperature of the water with athermometer.
In the afternoon, the fog gathered still more thickly round us, anddripped from the rigging, so that the sailors were continually swabbingthe deck. I had gone with Mr. Fenton to the round-house, and looked awhile from its windows on the comfortless scene without. The onlypersons then on the main-deck were the captain and the first mate. Theywere wrapped in their watch-coats, their hair and whiskers dripping withthe fog-dew. Most of the passengers went to bed at an early hour, andsoon all was awfully still; Mrs. Cummings being really too muchfrightened to talk, only that she sometimes wished herself inShoreditch, and sometimes in Houndsditch. It was a night of real danger.The captain remained on deck till morning, and several of the gentlemenbore him company, being too anxious to stay below.
About day-break, a heavy shower of rain dispersed the fog--"theconscious vessel waked as from a trance"--a breeze sprung up thatcarried us out of danger from the ice-bergs, which were soon diminishedto three specks on the horizon, and the sun rose bright and cheerfully.
Towards noon, the ladies recollected that none of them had seen thatgentleman during the last twenty-four hours, and some apprehension wasexpressed lest he should have walked overboard in the fog. No one couldgive any account of him, or remember his last appearance; and MissAudley professed much regret that now, in all probability, we shouldnever be able to ascertain his name, as, most likely, he had "died andmade no sign." To our shames be it spoken, not one of us could cry atear at his possible fate. The captain had turned into his berth, andwas reposing himself after the fatigue of last night; so we could makeno inquiry of him on the subject of our missing fellow-passenger.
Mrs. Cummings called the steward, and asked him how long it was since hehad seen anything of that gentleman. "I really can't tell, madam,"replied Hamilton; "I can't pretend to charge my memory with such things.But I conclude he must have been seen yesterday--at least I ratherexpect he was."
The waiter Juba was now appealed to: "I believe, madam," said Juba--"Iremember something of handing that gentleman the bread-basket yesterdayat dinner--but I would not be qualified as to whether the thing tookplace or not, my mind being a good deal engaged at the time."
Solomon, the third waiter, disclaimed all positive knowledge of this orany other fact, but sagely remarked, "that it was very likely thatgentleman had been about all yesterday, as usual; yet still it was justas likely he might not; and there was only one thing certain, whichwas, that if he was not nowher
"I have a misgiving," said Mrs. Cummings, "that he will never be foundagain."
"I'll tell you what I can do, madam," exclaimed the steward, looking asif suddenly struck with a bright thought--"I can examine into No.eleventeen, and see if I can perceive him there." And softly opening thedoor of the state-room in question, he stepped back, and said with atriumphant flourish of his hand--"There he is, ladies, there he is inthe upper berth, fast asleep in his double-cashmere dressing-gown. Iopinionate that he was one of the gentlemen that stayed on deck allnight, because they were afraid to go to sleep on account of theicebergers.--Of course, nobody noticed him--but there he is _now_, safeenough."
Instantly we proceeded _en masse_ towards No. eleventeen, to convinceourselves: and there indeed we saw that gentleman lying asleep in hisdouble cashmere dressing-gown. He opened his eyes, and seemed surprised,as well he might, at seeing all the ladies and all the servants rangedbefore the door of his room, and gazing in at him: and then we all stoleoff, looking foolish enough.
"Well," said Mrs. Cummings, "he is not dead, however,--so we have yet achance of knowing his name from himself, if we choose to ask him. ButI'm determined I'll make the captain tell it me, as soon as he gets up.It's all nonsense, this making a secret of a man's name."
"I suspect," said Mr. Fenton, who had just then entered the cabin, "weshall find it
----'a name unpronouncea_ble_, Which nobody can speak and nobody can spell.'"
"I never," observed Mrs. Cummings, "knew but one name that could neitherbe spoke nor spelt--and that was the great general's, that was so oftenin the papers at the time people were talking about the Poles."
"Sczrynecki?" said Mr. Fenton.
"Oh! I don't know how _you_ call him," replied Mrs. Cummings; "but Mr.Upshaw of Great Knight Rider street, said it was 'Screw him sky high.'And Dr. Mangleman of Cateaton street (who was always to me a verydisagreeable person, because he always talked of disagreeable things),said it was 'Squeeze neck and eyes out.' A very unpleasant person wasDr. Mangleman. His talk was enough to make well people sick, and sickpeople sicker--I'm glad he's not on board o' ship with us. He told usone day at Mrs. Winceby's dinner-table, when some of us were eatingcalf's head, and some roast pig, about his dissecting a man that washanged, and how he took his knife and--"
"I really believe," said I, wishing to be spared the story, "that wehave actually struck a rock this time."
"There now," exclaimed Mrs. Cummings, "you see I am right, after all. Ifit is not a rock, it is one of those great hills of ice that has turnedabout and is coming right after us--Mercy on us! I wish I was in MiddleRow, Holborn! Let us go on deck, and see."
We went on deck, and saw a whale, which was spouting at a distance.While looking at it, we were joined by Captain Santlow, and theconversation turning entirely on whales, that gentleman and his namewere again forgotten.
Among the numerous steerage passengers was a young man whose professionwas that of a methodist preacher. Having succeeded in making somereligious impressions on the majority of his companions, he one Sundayobtained their consent to his performing divine service that evening inthe steerage: and respectfully intimated that he would be highlygratified by the attendance of any of the cabin passengers that wouldcondescend to honour him so far. Accordingly, after tea, we alldescended to the steerage at early candle-light, and found everythingprepared for the occasion. A barrel, its head covered with a piece ofsail-cloth, served as a desk, lighted by two yellowish dip candlesplaced in empty porter bottles. But as there was considerable motion, itwas found that the bottles would not rest in their stations; therefore,they were held by two boys. The chests and boxes nearest to the desk,were the seats allotted to the ladies and gentlemen: and the steeragepeople ranged themselves behind.
A hymn was sung to a popular tune. The prayer and sermon were deliveredin simple but impressive language; for the preacher, though a poor andilliterate man, was not deficient either in sense or feeling, and wasevidently imbued with the sincerest piety. There was something solemnand affecting in the aspect of the whole scene, with all its rudearrangement; and also in the idea of the lonely and insulated situationof our little community, with "one wide water all around us." And whenthe preacher, in his homely but fervent language, returned thanks forour hitherto prosperous voyage, and prayed for our speedy and safearrival at our destined port, tears stood in the eyes of many of hisauditors. I thought, when it was over, how frequently such scenes musthave occurred between the decks of the May-flower, during the long andtempestuous passage of that pilgrim band who finally
"moored their bark On the wild New England shore,"
and how often
"Amid the storm they sung, And the stars heard, and the sea--"
when the wise and pious Brewster lifted his voice in exhortation andprayer, and the virtuous Carver, and the gallant Standish, bowed theirheads in devotion before him.
Another of the steerage passengers was a lieutenant in the British army,a man about forty years old, of excellent education, polished manners,and a fine military deportment. He was accompanied by his family, andthey excited much sympathy among the ladies and gentlemen of the cabin.He had a wife, a handsome, modest, and intelligent looking woman, andfive very pretty children, three boys and two girls. Being reduced tohalf-pay, seeing no chance of promotion, and weary of living on "hopedeferred that maketh the heart sick," Lieutenant Lynford had resolved toemigrate, and settle on a grant of land accorded to him in Canada inconsequence of his having been in service there during our last war. Hebelieved that the new world would offer better prospects to hischildren, and that he could there support his family at less expensethan in Europe. Unable to afford the cost of their passage in the cabin,he was under the painful necessity of bringing them over in thesteerage, amidst all its unimaginable and revolting inconveniences.
It was impossible to regard this unfortunate and misplaced familywithout emotions of deep interest and sincere commiseration; they wereso evidently out of their proper sphere, and it must have been sopainful to the feelings of a gentleman and lady to live in almostimmediate contact with the coarse and vulgar tenants of that crowded andcomfortless part of the vessel.
Mr. Fenton, and others of the gentlemen, took great pleasure inconversing with Lieutenant Lynford; though, according to rule, the poorofficer was not permitted, as a steerage passenger, to come aft themainmast. Therefore, their conversations had to take place at theextreme limits of the boundary line, which the lieutenant was scrupulousin never overstepping.
His wife, a lady both in appearance and manner, was seldom seen on deck,except when her husband prevailed on her to come up with him to look atsomething that made a spectacle, or an event, in the monotony of ourusual sea-view. We understood that they had surrounded the narrow spaceallotted to their beds with a sort of partition, made by suspending ascreen of quilts and blankets, so as to interpose a slight barrierbetween themselves and the disgusting scenes, and frequently disgustingpeople with whom it was their hard fate to be associated during thevoyage; and whose jealousy and ill-will would have been immediatelyexcited by any attempt on the part of the captain or the cabinpassengers, to alleviate the discomforts to which the unfortunateLynfords were subjected.
The regulation that no light shall be allowed in the steerage, except onsome extraordinary occasion (and which originates in the danger of theship being carelessly set on fire), must have been an almost intolerablegrievance to Lieutenant Lynford, and his wife and children. I oftenthought of them while we were spending our evenings so agreeably invarious amusements and occupations round the cabin tables, brightlyilluminated by the elegant lamps that were suspended from the ceiling. Ifelt how long and how dismally _their_ evenings must have passed,capable as they were in mind, in taste, and in education, of the sameenjoyments as ourselves; and therefore feeling with double intensity thesevere pressure of their hard and unmerited condition.
After crossing the Banks we
On the edge of the Gulf Stream, we had a day of entire calm, when "therewas not a breath the blue wave to curl." A thin veil of hazinesssomewhat softened the fires of the American sun (as it was now called bythe European passengers), and we passed the whole day on deck, in adelightful state of idle enjoyment; gazing on the inhabitants of thedeep, that, like ourselves, seemed to be taking a holiday. Dolphins,horse-mackerel, and porpoises were sporting round the vessel, and theflying-fish, "with brine still dropping from its wings," was darting upinto the sun-light; while flocks of petrels, their black plumage tingedwith flame-colour, seemed to rest on the surface of the water; and thenautilus, "the native pilot of his little bark," glided gayly along thedimpling mirror that reflected his tiny oars and gauzy sail. We fishedup large clusters of sea-weed, among which were some beautiful specimensof a delicate purple colour, which, when viewed through a microscope,glittered like silver, and were covered with little shell-fish so minuteas to be invisible to the naked eye.
It was a lovely day. The lieutenant and his family were all on deck, andlooked happy. That gentleman looked as usual. Towards evening, a breezesprung up directly fair, and filled the sails, which all day had beenclinging idly to the masts; and before midnight we were wafted along atthe rate of nine knots an hour, "while round the waves phosphoricbrightness broke," the ship seeming, as she cleaved the foam, to drawafter her in her wake a long train of stars.
Next day, we continued to proceed rapidly, with a fair wind, which weknew would soon bring us to the end of our voyage. The ladies' cabin wasnow littered with trunks and boxes, brought from the baggage-room thatwe might select from them such articles as we thought we should requirewhen we went on shore.
But we were soon attracted to the deck, to see the always interestingexperiment of sounding with the deep-sea lead. To our great joy, it cameup (though from almost immeasurable depth) with a little sand adheringto the cake of tallow at the bottom of the plummet. The breeze wasincreasing, and Mr. Overslaugh, whose pretensions to nautical knowledgewere considered very shallow by his fellow amateurs, remarked to myhusband: "If this wind holds, I should not wonder if we are aground inless than two hour."
Before Mr. Fenton could reply, Mrs. Cummings exclaimed: "Aground, didyou say!"--And she scuttled away with greater alacrity than we had everseen her evince on any former occasion. Some time after, on entering theladies' cabin, I found that the old dame, with her usual misconstructionof sea-phrases, had rejoicingly dressed herself in a very showy suitprepared for her first landing in America, and was now in the act ofbuttoning at the ankles a pair of frilled leggings to "go aground in,"as she informed me.
I explained to her her mistake, at which she was wofully disappointed,and proportionately alarmed, ejaculating--"Oh! if I was only backagain--anywhere at all--even in the very out-scouts of London--ratherthan stay another night in this dreadful ship!--To think, that after allmy sufferings at sea, I may be blown headforemost ashore, and drowned ondry land at last!"
However, I succeeded in calming her terrors; and seeing her engaged intaking off her finery to resume the black silk she had worn during thevoyage, I left Mrs. Cummings, and returned to my husband. The wind,though still fair, had decreased towards the close of the day, and wasnow mild and balmy. When I saw the white wings of a flight of curlewsglancing against the bright crimson glories of the sunset sky, I couldnot help saying, "those birds will reach their nests at twilight, andtheir nests are in America."
We remained on deck the whole evening, believing it probably the last weshould spend together; and the close companionship of four weeks in thevery circumscribed limits of a ship, had made us seem like one family.
We talked of the morrow, and I forgot that that gentleman was among us,till I saw him leave the deck to retire for the night. The thought thenstruck me, that another day, and we should cease perhaps to remember hisexistence.
I laid my head on my pillow with the understanding that land would bediscovered before morning, and I found it impossible to sleep. Mr.Fenton went on deck about midnight, and remained there till dawn. WhatAmerican, when returning to his native country, and almost in view ofits shores, is not reminded of that night, when Columbus stood on theprow of the Santa Maria, and watched in breathless silence with hisimpatient companions, for the first glimpse of the long wished-forland--that memorable night, which gave a new impulse to the worldalready known, and to that which was about to be discovered!
Near one o'clock, I heard a voice announcing the light on the highlandsof Neversink, and in a short time all the gentlemen were on deck. Atday-break Mr. Fenton came to ask me if I would rise, and see the morningdawn upon our own country. We had taken a pilot on board at two o'clock,had a fine fair breeze to carry us into the bay of New York, and therewas every probability of our being on shore in a few hours. When Ireached the deck, tears came into my eyes as I leaned on my husband'sarm, and saw the light of Sandy Hook shining brilliantly in the dimnessof the closing night, and emulating the morning star as it sparkledabove the rosy streak that was brightening in the eastern horizon. Wegazed till the rising sun sent up his first rays from behind thekindling and empurpled ocean, and our native shore lay clear anddistinct before us.
Soon after sunrise we were visited by a news-boat, when there was anexchange of papers, and much to inquire and much to tell.
We were going rapidly through the Narrows, when the bell rung forbreakfast, which Captain Santlow had ordered at an early hour, as we hadall been up before daylight. Chancing to look towards his accustomedseat, I missed that gentleman, and inquired after him of thecaptain.--"Oh!" he replied, "that gentleman went on shore in thenews-boat; did you not see him depart? He bowed all round, before hewent down the side."
"No," was the general reply; "we did not see him go." In truth, we hadall been too much interested in hearing, reading, and talking of thenews brought by the boat.
"Then he is gone for ever," exclaimed Mrs. Cummings--"and we shall neverknow his name."
"Come, Captain Santlow," said Mr. Fenton, "try to recollect it.--'Let itnot,' as Grumio says, 'die in oblivion, while we return to our gravesinexperienced in it.'"
Captain Santlow smiled, and remained silent. "Now, captain," said MissAudley, "I will not quit the ship till you tell me that gentleman'sname.--I cannot hold out a greater threat to you, as I know you have hada weary time of it since I have been under your charge. Come, I set notmy foot on shore till I know the name of that gentleman, and also whyyou cannot refrain from smiling whenever you are asked about it."
"Well, then," replied Captain Santlow, "though his name is a very prettyone when you get it said, there is a little awkwardness in speaking it.So I thought I would save myself and my passenger
"A baronet!" cried Miss Audley; "I wish I had known that before, Ishould certainly have made a dead set at him. A baronet would have beenfar better worth the trouble of a flirtation, than you, Mr. Williams, oryou, Mr. Sutton, or you, Mr. Belfield, or any of the other gentlementhat I have been amusing myself with during the voyage."
"A baronet!" exclaimed Mrs. Cummings; "well, really--and have I beenfour weeks in the same ship with a baronet--and sitting at the sametable with him,--and often talking to him face to face?--I wonder whatMrs. Thimbleby of Threadneedle street would say if she knew that I amnow acquainted with a baronet!"
"But what is his name, captain?" said Mr. Fenton; "still you do not tellus."
"His name," answered the captain, "is Sir St. John St. Leger."
"Sir St. John St. Leger!" was repeated by each of the company.
"Yes," resumed Captain Santlow--"and you see how difficult it is to sayit smoothly. There is more sibilation in it than in any name Iknow.--Was I not right in keeping it from you till the voyage was over,and thus sparing you the trouble of articulating it, and myself theannoyance of hearing it? See, here it is in writing."
The captain took his manifest out of his pocket-book, and showed us thewords, "Sir St. John St. Leger, of Sevenoaks, Kent."
"Pho!" said Mrs. Cummings. "Where's the trouble in speaking that name,if you only knew the right way--I have heard it a hundred times--andeven seen it in the newspapers. This must be the very gentleman that mycousin George's wife is always talking about. She has a brother thatlives near his estate, a topping apothecary. Why, 'tis easy enough tosay his name, if you say it as we do in England."
"And how is that?" asked the captain; "what can you make of Sir St. JohnSt. Leger?"
"Why, Sir Singeon Sillinger, to be sure," replied Mrs. Cummings; "I amconfident he would have answered to that name. Sir Singeon Sillinger ofSunnock--cousin George's wife's brother lives close by Sunnock in ayellow house with a red door."
"And have I," said the captain, laughing, "so carefully kept his name tomyself, during the whole passage, for fear we should have had to callhim Sir St. John St. Leger, when all the while we might have said SirSingeon Sillinger?"
"To be sure you might," replied Mrs. Cummings, looking proud of theopportunity of displaying her superior knowledge of something. "With allyour striving after sense you Americans are a very ignorant people,particularly of the right way of speaking English. Since I have been onboard, I have heard you all say the oddest things--though I thoughtthere would be no use in trying to set you right. The other day therewas Mr. Williams talking of the church of St. Mary le bon--instead ofsaying Marrow bone. Then Mr. Belfield says, Lord Cholmondeley, insteadof Lord Chumley, and Col. Sinclair, instead of Col. Sinkler; and Mr.Sutton says Lady Beauchamp, instead of Lady Beachum; and you all sayBirmingham, instead of Brummagem. The truth is, you know nothing aboutEnglish names. Now that name, Trollope, that you all sneer at so much,and think so very low, why Trollope is quite genteel in England, and sois Hussey. The Trollopes and Husseys belong to great families. But Ihave no doubt of finding many things that are very elegant in England,counted quite vulgar in America, owing to the ignorance of your people.For my part, I was particularly brought up to despise all manner ofignorance."
In a short time a steamboat came alongside into which we removedourselves, accompanied by the captain and the letter bags; and weproceeded up to the city, where Mr. Fenton and myself were met on thewharf, I need not tell how, and by whom.
Captain Santlow informed us during our little trip in the boat, thatsoon after breakfast, the steward had brought him a letter which he hadjust found on the pillow in that gentleman's birth. It was directed toLieutenant Lynford. The captain immediately went forward and presentedit to him, and the poor officer was so overcome after opening it, thathe could not forbear making known to Captain Santlow that it contained adraft for five hundred dollars on a house in New York, and a few linessigned St. John St. Leger, requesting Lieutenant Lynford to oblige thewriter by making use of that sum to assist in settling his family inCanada.
We were now all warm in our praise of that gentleman's generosity. AndMrs. Cummings recollected that she had heard from her cousin George'swife that her brother of Sunnock often said that, though he never spokeif he could help it, nobody did kinder things in his own quiet way thanSir Singeon Sillinger.