Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

As nothing can be more uninteresting to unprofessional readers, than a recapitulation of all the various changes of weather, the heavy squalls and gales, the more tedious long rolling calms, the dense fogs and dangerous icebergs (on the banks of Newfoundland), the passing sails, and, in short, the usual contents of a ship’s log; I shall only briefly take notice of a few incidents connected with the voyage. After a detention of three days at Liverpool, owing to contrary winds with rough and boisterous weather, the packet ship, in which I had engaged a passage, hauled out of Prince's dock at daylight on the morn

B

ing of the 23d of April, and stood down channel; but it was not until the fifth day from that time that we were clear of the southernmost cape of Ireland: a foul wind possessed, however, one redeeming quality, by successively displaying the fine bold coast of the Emerald Isle, and the picturesque mountains of Wales.

I had selected the Philadelphia in preference to the New York line of packets, and made some small sacrifice to accommodation and society, from a supposition that but few emigrants would be bound so far to the southward; knowing full well, from previous experience, the great inconvenience of a crowded steerage. I was therefore much surprised to find that although a vessel of only 370 tons, she was carrying out 146 passengers in that part of the ship. I had, however, no cause to regret the choice I had made, as I found myself in an excellent seaboat with an active and experienced commander, who had already crossed the Atlantic seventy-six times; no trifling recommendation to a pleasure-seeking passenger. The weather, for the season of the year, was unusually boisterous, and the wind variable; blowing scarcely for twenty-four hours in succession from any one point of the compass: but having a good stock of provisions and pleasant society on board, it mattered little to the cabin passengers (who were, with one exception, old sailors) which way the ship's head was; but to the emigrants, an increasing gale was a source of great tribulation and alarm; the deck resounding with their groans and prayers until it moderated. The captain and myself were walking upon deck one squally day, when seeing several of the steerage passengers sitting on the fore hatchway, exposed to every sea which came aboard, yet at the same time apparently regardless of it, we had the curiosity to ask them, what

[ocr errors]

they were doing there, and why not below in their berths ?
“Why sure now, Captain,” said the spokesman, an Irish-
man, " and isn't it that we are waiting here, so that we
will be ready to get into the boats, if the ship goes down;
for we know you wouldn't wait to call us.” The weather
itself was not more variable than their conduct: in a calm,
the Welch and Irish kept the whole vessel in an uproar
with their broils and fighting, which ever arose from na-
tional reflections; and each man having brought a store of
liquor on board with him, as part of his sea-stock, the
combatants were generally more than half intoxicated;
while in rough weather, the self-same parties would be
leagued together singing psalms, in which they were as-
sisted by the English and Scotch, who kept aloof during
the storm of words and war of fists. Amongst the emi-
grants, however, were many respectable farmers, who,
with their families, were about to seek their fortunes in
the New World; but the majority were artificers, and
some few were men, who, if they could not make their
fortunes, judging from outward appearances, could scarcely
mar them. They were well equipped for the early com-
mencement of operations in America, being burthened
with no such heavy baggage as bedding, trunks, wives,
children, or even a change of apparel; and it was a matter
of conjecture to many of us, how they could have pro-
cured sufficient money for the payment of their passage.
A man obtained a free one in the following, by no means
uncommon manner :-The crew in overhauling the stores
in the sail-room, á few days after we had put to sea, dis-
covered him snugly stowed away within the coil of a

able, and bringing him upon deck, he proved to be a
great, broad-shouldered, ruddy-faced son of Erin,“ a poor

orphan,” as he described himself, who having taken a drop too much of the cratur, had found his way into the sail-room by accident, and fallen asleep, when the ship lay alongside the quay, and that his provisions were in his coat-pocket, which, upon due examination, proved to contain only a solitary copper, and a dry crust of mouldy bread. Our worthy skipper put him in great bodily fear, by threatening to tie him up to the gangway, and after giving him a round dozen, to put him on board the first fishing-smack we met off the coast of Wales; but it was merely a threat in terrorem, as the following day he was duly initiated into all the rites and mysteries of Jemmy Ducks; and after being invested with full power and command over that very requisite department, he became a most important and useful personage. Some scoundrel, however, relieved him of part of his charge, by administering a quantity of oxalic acid, which carried off all our stock of grunters at “one fell swoop.” A woman, also, with the tact of her own sex, avoided detection until we had been a month at sea, and was only then discovered through the impeachment of one of her fellow-passengers. She had gone quite on the opposite tack to the “poor orphan :” so far from courting concealment, she had ever been observed to be cooking or loitering about the cabose, was the most noisy of all the females on board, and had once or twice even ventured upon the sacred limits of the quarter-deck. So proud a bearing blinded every person on board ; nor could any one have imagined, even when challenged with the fraud, but that she had paid her passage, so menacing and formidable an appearance she assumed, with her arms a-kimbo, and a contemptuous toss of the head. Although the captain keeps a sharp

look out (there being a fine imposed upon ships carrying a greater number of passengers than the law admits, according to the tonnage), yet few vessels, sail from Liverpool without carrying more than their complement. Sometimes an affectionate wife introduces her lord and master, on board in the guise of a trunk filled with old clothes, or in a crate, as her stock of crockery, in which he is half smothered, and tossed about most unceremoniously, during the confusion attendant upon weighing anchor.

Having anticipated a three weeks' passage, the few books I had brought on board were exhausted by the time we were half-way across the Atlantic; and as a last resource, almost amounting to a fit of desperation, I obtained the loan of Dr. Emmons's “ Fredoniad; or, Independence Preserved,” from a fellow-passenger, and toiled in a most persevering manner through at least ten of the almost interminable number of cantos (forty, I believe) which compose the work; but a series of gross libels upon the English nation, did not even possess sufficient interest to make amends for the rest of such a dry, prosing composition; and after a few days I flung it down in despair, preferring to pass my time in watching the fleeting clouds by day, and the moon by night, to volunteering again upon such a forlorn hope. If the work was equally unprofitable to the author in a pecuniary line, as it was to me, in point of information, he must have derived very little satisfaction from his lucubrations. I never had the good fortune to meet with any of his countrymen who had thoroughly perused the work, so could not ascertain their opinion of its full value as an historical one. Of its impartiality, any one may judge from the following extract (one out of a hundred), descriptive of an interview

« PředchozíPokračovat »