Part 6 out of 7
nerves could not stand it; in the course of his courtly career, he had
drunk too much strong Mocha coffee and gunpowder tea, and had smoked
altogether too many Havannas.
At last, as I had repeatedly warned him, the mate singled him out one
morning, and commanded him to mount to the main-truck, and unreeve the
short signal halyards.
"Sir?" said Harry, aghast.
"Away you go!" said the mate, snatching a whip's end.
"Don't strike me!" screamed Harry, drawing himself up.
"Take that, and along with you," cried the mate, laying the rope once
across his back, but lightly.
"By heaven!" cried Harry, wincing--not with the blow, but the insult: and
then making a dash at the mate, who, holding out his long arm, kept him
lazily at bay, and laughed at him, till, had I not feared a broken head,
I should infallibly have pitched my boy's bulk into the officer.
"Captain Riga!" cried Harry.
"Don't call upon him" said the mate; "he's asleep, and won't wake up
till we strike Yankee soundings again. Up you go!" he added, flourishing
the rope's end.
Harry looked round among the grinning tars with a glance of terrible
indignation and agony; and then settling his eye on me, and seeing there
no hope, but even an admonition of obedience, as his only resource, he
made one bound into the rigging, and was up at the main-top in a trice.
I thought a few more springs would take him to the truck, and was a
little fearful that in his desperation he might then jump overboard; for
I had heard of delirious greenhorns doing such things at sea, and being
lost forever. But no; he stopped short, and looked down from the top.
Fatal glance! it unstrung his every fiber; and I saw him reel, and
clutch the shrouds, till the mate shouted out for him not to squeeze the
tar out of the ropes. "Up you go, sir." But Harry said nothing.
"You Max," cried the mate to the Dutch sailor, "spring after him, and
help him; you understand?"
Max went up the rigging hand over hand, and brought his red head with a
bump against the base of Harry's back. Needs must when the devil drives;
and higher and higher, with Max bumping him at every step, went my
unfortunate friend. At last he gained the royal yard, and the thin
signal halyards--, hardly bigger than common twine--were flying in the
wind. "Unreeve!" cried the mate.
I saw Harry's arm stretched out--his legs seemed shaking in the rigging,
even to us, down on deck; and at last, thank heaven! the deed was done.
He came down pale as death, with bloodshot eyes, and every limb
quivering. From that moment he never put foot in rattlin; never mounted
above the bulwarks; and for the residue of the voyage, at least, became
an altered person.
At the time, he went to the mate--since he could not get speech of the
captain--and conjured him to intercede with Riga, that his name might be
stricken off from the list of the ship's company, so that he might make
the voyage as a steerage passenger; for which privilege, he bound
himself to pay, as soon as he could dispose of some things of his in New
York, over and above the ordinary passage-money. But the mate gave him a
blunt denial; and a look of wonder at his effrontery. Once a sailor on
board a ship, and always a sailor for that voyage, at least; for within
so brief a period, no officer can bear to associate on terms of any
thing like equality with a person whom he has ordered about at his
Harry then told the mate solemnly, that he might do what he pleased, but
go aloft again he could not, and would not. He would do any thing else
This affair sealed Harry's fate on board of the Highlander; the crew now
reckoned him fair play for their worst jibes and jeers, and he led a
miserable life indeed.
Few landsmen can imagine the depressing and self-humiliating effects of
finding one's self, for the first time, at the beck of illiterate
sea-tyrants, with no opportunity of exhibiting any trait about you, but
your ignorance of every thing connected with the sea-life that you lead,
and the duties you are constantly called upon to perform. In such a
sphere, and under such circumstances, Isaac Newton and Lord Bacon would
be sea-clowns and bumpkins; and Napoleon Bonaparte be cuffed and kicked
without remorse. In more than one instance I have seen the truth of
this; and Harry, poor Harry, proved no exception. And from the
circumstances which exempted me from experiencing the bitterest of these
evils, I only the more felt for one who, from a strange constitutional
nervousness, before unknown even to himself, was become as a hunted hare
to the merciless crew.
But how was it that Harry Bolton, who spite of his effeminacy of
appearance, had evinced, in our London trip, such unmistakable flashes
of a spirit not easily tamed--how was it, that he could now yield himself
up to the almost passive reception of contumely and contempt? Perhaps
his spirit, for the time, had been broken. But I will not undertake to
explain; we are curious creatures, as every one knows; and there are
passages in the lives of all men, so out of keeping with the common
tenor of their ways, and so seemingly contradictory of themselves, that
only He who made us can expound them.
LI. THE EMIGRANTS
After the first miserable weather we experienced at sea, we had
intervals of foul and fair, mostly the former, however, attended with
head winds', till at last, after a three days' fog and rain, the sun
rose cheerily one morning, and showed us Cape Clear. Thank heaven, we
were out of the weather emphatically called "Channel weather," and the
last we should see of the eastern hemisphere was now in plain sight, and
all the rest was broad ocean.
Land ho! was cried, as the dark purple headland grew out of the north.
At the cry, the Irish emigrants came rushing up the hatchway, thinking
America itself was at hand.
"Where is it?" cried one of them, running out a little way on the
bowsprit. "Is that it?"
"Aye, it doesn't look much like ould Ireland, does it?" said Jackson.
"Not a bit, honey:--and how long before we get there? to-night?"
Nothing could exceed the disappointment and grief of the emigrants, when
they were at last informed, that the land to the north was their own
native island, which, after leaving three or four weeks previous in a
steamboat for Liverpool, was now close to them again; and that, after
newly voyaging so many days from the Mersey, the Highlander was only
bringing them in view of the original home whence they started.
They were the most simple people I had ever seen. They seemed to have no
adequate idea of distances; and to them, America must have seemed as a
place just over a river. Every morning some of them came on deck, to see
how much nearer we were: and one old man would stand for hours together,
looking straight off from the bows, as if he expected to see New York
city every minute, when, perhaps, we were yet two thousand miles
distant, and steering, moreover, against a head wind.
The only thing that ever diverted this poor old man from his earnest
search for land, was the occasional appearance of porpoises under the
bows; when he would cry out at the top of his voice--"Look, look, ye
divils! look at the great pigs of the sea!"
At last, the emigrants began to think, that the ship had played them
false; and that she was bound for the East Indies, or some other remote
place; and one night, Jackson set a report going among them, that Riga
purposed taking them to Barbary, and selling them all for slaves; but
though some of the old women almost believed it, and a great weeping
ensued among the children, yet the men knew better than to believe such
a ridiculous tale.
Of all the emigrants, my Italian boy Carlo, seemed most at his ease. He
would lie all day in a dreamy mood, sunning himself in the long boat,
and gazing out on the sea. At night, he would bring up his organ, and
play for several hours; much to the delight of his fellow voyagers, who
blessed him and his organ again and again; and paid him for his music by
furnishing him his meals. Sometimes, the steward would come forward,
when it happened to be very much of a moonlight, with a message from the
cabin, for Carlo to repair to the quarterdeck, and entertain the
gentlemen and ladies.
There was a fiddler on board, as will presently be seen; and sometimes,
by urgent entreaties, he was induced to unite his music with Carlo's,
for the benefit of the cabin occupants; but this was only twice or
thrice: for this fiddler deemed himself considerably elevated above the
other steerage-passengers; and did not much fancy the idea of fiddling
to strangers; and thus wear out his elbow, while persons, entirely
unknown to him, and in whose welfare he felt not the slightest interest,
were curveting about in famous high spirits. So for the most part, the
gentlemen and ladies were fain to dance as well as they could to my
little Italian's organ.
It was the most accommodating organ in the world; for it could play any
tune that was called for; Carlo pulling in and out the ivory knobs at
one side, and so manufacturing melody at pleasure.
True, some censorious gentlemen cabin-passengers protested, that such or
such an air, was not precisely according to Handel or Mozart; and some
ladles, whom I overheard talking about throwing their nosegays to
Malibran at Covent Garden, assured the attentive Captain Riga, that
Carlo's organ was a most wretched affair, and made a horrible din.
"Yes, ladies," said the captain, bowing, "by your leave, I think Carlo's
organ must have lost its mother, for it squeals like a pig running after
Harry was incensed at these criticisms; and yet these cabin-people were
all ready enough to dance to poor Carlo's music.
"Carlo"--said I, one night, as he was marching forward from the quarter-
deck, after one of these sea-quadrilles, which took place during my
watch on deck:--"Carlo"--said I, "what do the gentlemen and ladies give
you for playing?"
"Look!"--and he showed me three copper medals of Britannia and her
shield--three English pennies.
Now, whenever we discover a dislike in us, toward any one, we should
ever be a little suspicious of ourselves. It may be, therefore, that the
natural antipathy with which almost all seamen and steerage-passengers,
regard the inmates of the cabin, was one cause at least, of my not
feeling very charitably disposed toward them, myself.
Yes: that might have been; but nevertheless, I will let nature have her
own way for once; and here declare roundly, that, however it was, I
cherished a feeling toward these cabin-passengers, akin to contempt. Not
because they happened to be cabin-passengers: not at all: but only
because they seemed the most finical, miserly, mean men and women, that
ever stepped over the Atlantic.
One of them was an old fellow in a robust looking coat, with broad
skirts; he had a nose like a bottle of port-wine; and would stand for a
whole hour, with his legs straddling apart, and his hands deep down in
his breeches pockets, as if he had two mints at work there, coining
guineas. He was an abominable looking old fellow, with cold, fat,
jelly-like eyes; and avarice, heartlessness, and sensuality stamped all
over him. He seemed all the time going through some process of mental
arithmetic; doing sums with dollars and cents: his very mouth, wrinkled
and drawn up at the corners, looked like a purse. When he dies, his
skull ought to be turned into a savings box, with the till-hole between
Another of the cabin inmates, was a middle-aged Londoner, in a comical
Cockney-cut coat, with a pair of semicircular tails: so that he looked
as if he were sitting in a swing. He wore a spotted neckerchief; a
short, little, fiery-red vest; and striped pants, very thin in the calf,
but very full about the waist. There was nothing describable about him
but his dress; for he had such a meaningless face, I can not remember
it; though I have a vague impression, that it looked at the time, as if
its owner was laboring under the mumps.
Then there were two or three buckish looking young fellows, among the
rest; who were all the time playing at cards on the poop, under the lee
of the spanker; or smoking cigars on the taffrail; or sat quizzing the
emigrant women with opera-glasses, leveled through the windows of the
upper cabin. These sparks frequently called for the steward to help them
to brandy and water, and talked about going on to Washington, to see
There was also an old gentleman, who had brought with him three or four
heavy files of the London Times, and other papers; and he spent all his
hours in reading them, on the shady side of the deck, with one leg
crossed over the other; and without crossed legs, he never read at all.
That was indispensable to the proper understanding of what he studied.
He growled terribly, when disturbed by the sailors, who now and then
were obliged to move him to get at the ropes.
As for the ladies, I have nothing to say concerning them; for ladies are
like creeds; if you can not speak well of them, say nothing.
LII. THE EMIGRANTS' KITCHEN
I have made some mention of the "galley," or great stove for the
steerage passengers, which was planted over the main hatches.
During the outward-bound passage, there were so few occupants of the
steerage, that they had abundant room to do their cooking at this
galley. But it was otherwise now; for we had four or five hundred in the
steerage; and all their cooking was to be done by one fire; a pretty
large one, to be sure, but, nevertheless, small enough, considering the
number to be accommodated, and the fact that the fire was only to be
kindled at certain hours.
For the emigrants in these ships are under a sort of martial-law; and in
all their affairs are regulated by the despotic ordinances of the
captain. And though it is evident, that to a certain extent this is
necessary, and even indispensable; yet, as at sea no appeal lies beyond
the captain, he too often makes unscrupulous use of his power. And as
for going to law with him at the end of the voyage, you might as well go
to law with the Czar of Russia.
At making the fire, the emigrants take turns; as it is often very
disagreeable work, owing to the pitching of the ship, and the heaving of
the spray over the uncovered "galley." Whenever I had the morning watch,
from four to eight, I was sure to see some poor fellow crawling up from
below about daybreak, and go to groping over the deck after bits of
rope-yarn, or tarred canvas, for kindling-stuff. And no sooner would the
fire be fairly made, than up came the old women, and men, and children;
each armed with an iron pot or saucepan; and invariably a great tumult
ensued, as to whose turn to cook came next; sometimes the more
quarrelsome would fight, and upset each other's pots and pans.
Once, an English lad came up with a little coffee-pot, which he managed
to crowd in between two pans. This done, he went below. Soon after a
great strapping Irishman, in knee-breeches and bare calves, made his
appearance; and eying the row of things on the fire, asked whose
coffee-pot that was; upon being told, he removed it, and put his own in
its place; saying something about that individual place belonging to
him; and with that, he turned aside.
Not long after, the boy came along again; and seeing his pot removed,
made a violent exclamation, and replaced it; which the Irishman no
sooner perceived, than he rushed at him, with his fists doubled. The boy
snatched up the boiling coffee, and spirted its contents all about the
fellow's bare legs; which incontinently began to dance involuntary
hornpipes and fandangoes, as a preliminary to giving chase to the boy,
who by this time, however, had decamped.
Many similar scenes occurred every day; nor did a single day pass, but
scores of the poor people got no chance whatever to do their cooking.
This was bad enough; but it was a still more miserable thing, to see
these poor emigrants wrangling and fighting together for the want of the
most ordinary accommodations. But thus it is, that the very hardships to
which such beings are subjected, instead of uniting them, only tends, by
imbittering their tempers, to set them against each other; and thus they
themselves drive the strongest rivet into the chain, by which their
social superiors hold them subject.
It was with a most reluctant hand, that every evening in the second
dog-watch, at the mate's command, I would march up to the fire, and
giving notice to the assembled crowd, that the time was come to
extinguish it, would dash it out with my bucket of salt water; though
many, who had long waited for a chance to cook, had now to go away
The staple food of the Irish emigrants was oatmeal and water, boiled
into what is sometimes called mush; by the Dutch is known as supaan; by
sailors burgoo; by the New Englanders hasty-pudding; in which
hasty-pudding, by the way, the poet Barlow found the materials for a
sort of epic.
Some of the steerage passengers, however, were provided with
sea-biscuit, and other perennial food, that was eatable all the year
round, fire or no fire.
There were several, moreover, who seemed better to do in the world than
the rest; who were well furnished with hams, cheese, Bologna sausages,
Dutch herrings, alewives, and other delicacies adapted to the
contingencies of a voyager in the steerage.
There was a little old Englishman on board, who had been a grocer
ashore, whose greasy trunks seemed all pantries; and he was constantly
using himself for a cupboard, by transferring their contents into his
own interior. He was a little light of head, I always thought. He
particularly doated on his long strings of sausages; and would sometimes
take them out, and play with them, wreathing them round him, like an
Indian juggler with charmed snakes. What with this diversion, and eating
his cheese, and helping himself from an inexhaustible junk bottle, and
smoking his pipe, and meditating, this crack-pated grocer made time jog
along with him at a tolerably easy pace.
But by far the most considerable man in the steerage, in point of
pecuniary circumstances at least, was a slender little pale-faced
English tailor, who it seemed had engaged a passage for himself and wife
in some imaginary section of the ship, called the second cabin, which
was feigned to combine the comforts of the first cabin with the
cheapness of the steerage. But it turned out that this second cabin was
comprised in the after part of the steerage itself, with nothing
intervening but a name. So to his no small disgust, he found himself
herding with the rabble; and his complaints to the captain were
This luckless tailor was tormented the whole voyage by his wife, who was
young and handsome; just such a beauty as farmers'-boys fall in love
with; she had bright eyes, and red cheeks, and looked plump and happy.
She was a sad coquette; and did not turn away, as she was bound to do,
from the dandy glances of the cabin bucks, who ogled her through their
double-barreled opera glasses. This enraged the tailor past telling; he
would remonstrate with his wife, and scold her; and lay his matrimonial
commands upon her, to go below instantly, out of sight. But the lady was
not to be tyrannized over; and so she told him. Meantime, the bucks
would be still framing her in their lenses, mightily enjoying the fun.
The last resources of the poor tailor would be, to start up, and make a
dash at the rogues, with clenched fists; but upon getting as far as the
mainmast, the mate would accost him from over the rope that divided
them, and beg leave to communicate the fact, that he could come no
further. This unfortunate tailor was also a fiddler; and when fairly
baited into desperation, would rush for his instrument, and try to get
rid of his wrath by playing the most savage, remorseless airs he could
While thus employed, perhaps his wife would accost him--
"Billy, my dear;" and lay her soft hand on his shoulder.
But Billy, he only fiddled harder.
"Billy, my love!"
The bow went faster and faster.
"Come, now, Billy, my dear little fellow, let's make it all up;" and she
bent over his knees, looking bewitchingly up at him, with her
Down went fiddle and bow; and the couple would sit together for an hour
or two, as pleasant and affectionate as possible.
But the next day, the chances were, that the old feud would be renewed,
which was certain to be the case at the first glimpse of an opera-glass
from the cabin.
LIII. THE HORATII AND CURIATII
With a slight alteration, I might begin this chapter after the manner of
Livy, in the 24th section of his first book:--"It happened, that in each
family were three twin brothers, between whom there was little disparity
in point of age or of strength."
Among the steerage passengers of the Highlander, were two women from
Armagh, in Ireland, widows and sisters, who had each three twin sons,
born, as they said, on the same day.
They were ten years old. Each three of these six cousins were as like
as the mutually reflected figures in a kaleidoscope; and like the forms
seen in a kaleidoscope, together, as well as separately, they seemed to
form a complete figure. But, though besides this fraternal likeness, all
six boys bore a strong cousin-german resemblance to each other; yet, the
O'Briens were in disposition quite the reverse of the O'Regans. The
former were a timid, silent trio, who used to revolve around their
mother's waist, and seldom quit the maternal orbit; whereas, the
O'Regans were "broths of boys," full of mischief and fun, and given to
all manner of devilment, like the tails of the comets.
Early every morning, Mrs. O'Regan emerged from the steerage, driving her
spirited twins before her, like a riotous herd of young steers; and made
her way to the capacious deck-tub, full of salt water, pumped up from
the sea, for the purpose of washing down the ship. Three splashes, and
the three boys were ducking and diving together in the brine; their
mother engaged in shampooing them, though it was haphazard sort of work
enough; a rub here, and a scrub there, as she could manage to fasten on
a stray limb.
"Pat, ye divil, hould still while I wash ye. Ah! but it's you, Teddy,
you rogue. Arrah, now, Mike, ye spalpeen, don't be mixing your legs up
The little rascals, leaping and scrambling with delight, enjoyed the
sport mightily; while this indefatigable, but merry matron, manipulated
them all over, as if it were a matter of conscience.
Meanwhile, Mrs. O'Brien would be standing on the boatswain's locker--or
rope and tar-pot pantry in the vessel's bows--with a large old quarto
Bible, black with age, laid before her between the knight-heads, and
reading aloud to her three meek little lambs.
The sailors took much pleasure in the deck-tub performances of the
O'Regans, and greatly admired them always for their archness and
activity; but the tranquil O'Briens they did not fancy so much. More
especially they disliked the grave matron herself; hooded in rusty
black; and they had a bitter grudge against her book. To that, and the
incantations muttered over it, they ascribed the head winds that haunted
us; and Blunt, our Irish cockney, really believed that Mrs. O'Brien
purposely came on deck every morning, in order to secure a foul wind for
the next ensuing twenty-four hours.
At last, upon her coming forward one morning, Max the Dutchman accosted
her, saying he was sorry for it, but if she went between the
knight-heads again with her book, the crew would throw it overboard for
Now, although contrasted in character, there existed a great warmth of
affection between the two families of twins, which upon this occasion
was curiously manifested.
Notwithstanding the rebuke and threat of the sailor, the widow silently
occupied her old place; and with her children clustering round her,
began her low, muttered reading, standing right in the extreme bows of
the ship, and slightly leaning over them, as if addressing the
multitudinous waves from a floating pulpit. Presently Max came behind
her, snatched the book from her hands, and threw it overboard. The widow
gave a wail, and her boys set up a cry. Their cousins, then ducking in
the water close by, at once saw the cause of the cry; and springing from
the tub, like so many dogs, seized Max by the legs, biting and striking
at him: which, the before timid little O'Briens no sooner perceived,
than they, too, threw themselves on the enemy, and the amazed seaman
found himself baited like a bull by all six boys.
And here it gives me joy to record one good thing on the part of the
mate. He saw the fray, and its beginning; and rushing forward, told Max
that he would harm the boys at his peril; while he cheered them on, as
if rejoiced at their giving the fellow such a tussle. At last Max,
sorely scratched, bit, pinched, and every way aggravated, though of
course without a serious bruise, cried out "enough!" and the assailants
were ordered to quit him; but though the three O'Briens obeyed, the
three O'Regans hung on to him like leeches, and had to be dragged off.
"There now, you rascal," cried the mate, "throw overboard another Bible,
and I'll send you after it without a bowline."
This event gave additional celebrity to the twins throughout the vessel.
That morning all six were invited to the quarter-deck, and reviewed by
the cabin-passengers, the ladies manifesting particular interest in
them, as they always do concerning twins, which some of them show in
public parks and gardens, by stopping to look at them, and questioning
"And were you all born at one time?" asked an old lady, letting her eye
run in wonder along the even file of white heads.
"Indeed, an' we were," said Teddy; "wasn't we, mother?"
Many more questions were asked and answered, when a collection was taken
up for their benefit among these magnanimous cabin-passengers, which
resulted in starting all six boys in the world with a penny apiece.
I never could look at these little fellows without an inexplicable
feeling coming over me; and though there was nothing so very remarkable
or unprecedented about them, except the singular coincidence of two
sisters simultaneously making the world such a generous present; yet,
the mere fact of there being twins always seemed curious; in fact, to me
at least, all twins are prodigies; and still I hardly know why this
should be; for all of us in our own persons furnish numerous examples of
the same phenomenon. Are not our thumbs twins? A regular Castor and
Pollux? And all of our fingers? Are not our arms, hands, legs, feet,
eyes, ears, all twins; born at one birth, and as much alike as they
possibly can be?
Can it be, that the Greek grammarians invented their dual number for the
particular benefit of twins?
LIV. SOME SUPERIOR OLD NAIL-ROD AND PIG-TAIL
It has been mentioned how advantageously my shipmates disposed of their
tobacco in Liverpool; but it is to be related how those nefarious
commercial speculations of theirs reduced them to sad extremities in the
True to their improvident character, and seduced by the high prices paid
for the weed in England, they had there sold off by far the greater
portion of what tobacco they had; even inducing the mate to surrender
the portion he had secured under lock and key by command of the
Custom-house officers. So that when the crew were about two weeks out,
on the homeward-bound passage, it became sorrowfully evident that
tobacco was at a premium.
Now, one of the favorite pursuits of sailors during a dogwatch below at
sea is cards; and though they do not understand whist, cribbage, and
games of that kidney, yet they are adepts at what is called "High-low-
Jack-and-the-game," which name, indeed, has a Jackish and nautical
flavor. Their stakes are generally so many plugs of tobacco, which,
like rouleaux of guineas, are piled on their chests when they play.
Judge, then, the wicked zest with which the Highlander's crew now
shuffled and dealt the pack; and how the interest curiously and
invertedly increased, as the stakes necessarily became less and less;
and finally resolved themselves into "chaws."
So absorbed, at last, did they become at this business, that some of
them, after being hard at work during a nightwatch on deck, would rob
themselves of rest below, in order to have a brush at the cards. And as
it is very difficult sleeping in the presence of gamblers; especially if
they chance to be sailors, whose conversation at all times is apt to be
boisterous; these fellows would often be driven out of the forecastle by
those who desired to rest. They were obliged to repair on deck, and make
a card-table of it; and invariably, in such cases, there was a great
deal of contention, a great many ungentlemanly charges of nigging and
cheating; and, now and then, a few parenthetical blows were exchanged.
But this was not so much to be wondered at, seeing they could see but
very little, being provided with no light but that of a midnight sky;
and the cards, from long wear and rough usage, having become exceedingly
torn and tarry, so much so, that several members of the four suits might
have seceded from their respective clans, and formed into a fifth tribe,
under the name of "Tar-spots."
Every day the tobacco grew scarcer and scarcer; till at last it became
necessary to adopt the greatest possible economy in its use. The modicum
constituting an ordinary "chaw," was made to last a whole day; and at
night, permission being had from the cook, this self-same "chaw" was
placed in the oven of the stove, and there dried; so as to do duty in a
In the end not a plug was to be had; and deprived of a solace and a
stimulus, on which sailors so much rely while at sea, the crew became
absent, moody, and sadly tormented with the hypos. They were something
like opium-smokers, suddenly cut off from their drug. They would sit on
their chests, forlorn and moping; with a steadfast sadness, eying the
forecastle lamp, at which they had lighted so many a pleasant pipe. With
touching eloquence they recalled those happier evenings--the time of
smoke and vapor; when, after a whole day's delectable "chawing," they
beguiled themselves with their genial, and most companionable puffs.
One night, when they seemed more than usually cast down and
disconsolate, Blunt, the Irish cockney, started up suddenly with an idea
in his head--"Boys, let's search under the bunks!" Bless you, Blunt! what
a happy conceit! Forthwith, the chests were dragged out; the dark places
explored; and two sticks of nail-rod tobacco, and several old "chaws,"
thrown aside by sailors on some previous voyage, were their cheering
reward. They were impartially divided by Jackson, who, upon this
occasion, acquitted himself to the satisfaction of all.
Their mode of dividing this tobacco was the rather curious one generally
adopted by sailors, when the highest possible degree of impartiality is
desirable. I will describe it, recommending its earnest consideration to
all heirs, who may hereafter divide an inheritance; for if they adopted
this nautical method, that universally slanderous aphorism of Lavater
would be forever rendered nugatory--"Expert not to understand any man
till you have divided with him an inheritance."
The nail-rods they cut as evenly as possible into as many parts as there
were men to be supplied; and this operation having been performed in the
presence of all, Jackson, placing the tobacco before him, his face to
the wall, and back to the company, struck one of the bits of weed with
his knife, crying out, "Whose is this?" Whereupon a respondent,
previously pitched upon, replied, at a venture, from the opposite corner
of the forecastle, "Blunt's;" and to Blunt it went; and so on, in like
manner, till all were served.
I put it to you, lawyers--shade of Blackstone, I invoke you--if a more
impartial procedure could be imagined than this?
But the nail-rods and last-voyage "chaws" were soon gone, and then,
after a short interval of comparative gayety, the men again drooped, and
relapsed into gloom.
They soon hit upon an ingenious device, however--but not altogether new
among seamen--to allay the severity of the depression under which they
languished. Ropes were unstranded, and the yarns picked apart; and, cut
up into small bits, were used as a substitute for the weed. Old ropes
were preferred; especially those which had long lain in the hold, and
had contracted an epicurean dampness, making still richer their ancient,
In the middle of most large ropes, there is a straight, central part,
round which the exterior strands are twisted. When in picking oakum,
upon various occasions, I have chanced, among the old junk used at such
times, to light upon a fragment of this species of rope, I have ever
taken, I know not what kind of strange, nutty delight in untwisting it
slowly, and gradually coming upon its deftly hidden and aromatic
"heart;" for so this central piece is denominated.
It is generally of a rich, tawny, Indian hue, somewhat inclined to
luster; is exceedingly agreeable to the touch; diffuses a pungent odor,
as of an old dusty bottle of Port, newly opened above ground; and,
altogether, is an object which no man, who enjoys his dinners, could
refrain from hanging over, and caressing.
Nor is this delectable morsel of old junk wanting in many interesting,
mournful, and tragic suggestions. Who can say in what gales it may have
been; in what remote seas it may have sailed? How many stout masts of
seventy-fours and frigates it may have staid in the tempest? How deep it
may have lain, as a hawser, at the bottom of strange harbors? What
outlandish fish may have nibbled at it in the water, and what
un-catalogued sea-fowl may have pecked at it, when forming part of a
lofty stay or a shroud?
Now, this particular part of the rope, this nice little "cut" it was,
that among the sailors was the most eagerly sought after. And getting
hold of a foot or two of old cable, they would cut into it lovingly, to
see whether it had any "tenderloin."
For my own part, nevertheless, I can not say that this tit-bit was at
all an agreeable one in the mouth; however pleasant to the sight of an
antiquary, or to the nose of an epicure in nautical fragrancies. Indeed,
though possibly I might have been mistaken, I thought it had rather an
astringent, acrid taste; probably induced by the tar, with which the
flavor of all ropes is more or less vitiated. But the sailors seemed to
like it, and at any rate nibbled at it with great gusto. They converted
one pocket of their trowsers into a junk-shop, and when solicited by a
shipmate for a "chaw," would produce a small coil of rope.
Another device adopted to alleviate their hardships, was the
substitution of dried tea-leaves, in place of tobacco, for their pipes.
No one has ever supped in a forecastle at sea, without having been
struck by the prodigious residuum of tea-leaves, or cabbage stalks, in
his tin-pot of bohea. There was no lack of material to supply every
pipe-bowl among us.
I had almost forgotten to relate the most noteworthy thing in this
matter; namely, that notwithstanding the general scarcity of the genuine
weed, Jackson was provided with a supply; nor did it give out, until
very shortly previous to our arrival in port.
In the lowest depths of despair at the loss of their precious solace,
when the sailors would be seated inconsolable as the Babylonish
captives, Jackson would sit cross-legged in his bunk, which was an upper
one, and enveloped in a cloud of tobacco smoke, would look down upon the
mourners below, with a sardonic grin at their forlornness.
He recalled to mind their folly in selling for filthy lucre, their
supplies of the weed; he painted their stupidity; he enlarged upon the
sufferings they had brought upon themselves; he exaggerated those
sufferings, and every way derided, reproached, twitted, and hooted at
them. No one dared to return his scurrilous animadversions, nor did any
presume to ask him to relieve their necessities out of his fullness. On
the contrary, as has been just related, they divided with him the
nail-rods they found.
The extraordinary dominion of this one miserable Jackson, over twelve or
fourteen strong, healthy tars, is a riddle, whose solution must be left
to the philosophers.
LV. DRAWING NIGH TO THE LAST SCENE IN JACKSON'S CAREER
The closing allusion to Jackson in the chapter preceding, reminds me of
a circumstance--which, perhaps, should have been mentioned before--that
after we had been at sea about ten days, he pronounced himself too
unwell to do duty, and accordingly went below to his bunk. And here,
with the exception of a few brief intervals of sunning himself in fine
weather, he remained on his back, or seated cross-legged, during the
remainder of the homeward-bound passage.
Brooding there, in his infernal gloom, though nothing but a castaway
sailor in canvas trowsers, this man was still a picture, worthy to be
painted by the dark, moody hand of Salvator. In any of that master's
lowering sea-pieces, representing the desolate crags of Calabria, with a
midnight shipwreck in the distance, this Jackson's would have been the
face to paint for the doomed vessel's figurehead, seamed and blasted by
Though the more sneaking and cowardly of my shipmates whispered among
themselves, that Jackson, sure of his wages, whether on duty or off, was
only feigning indisposition, nevertheless it was plain that, from his
excesses in Liverpool, the malady which had long fastened its fangs in
his flesh, was now gnawing into his vitals.
His cheek became thinner and yellower, and the bones projected like
those of a skull. His snaky eyes rolled in red sockets; nor could he
lift his hand without a violent tremor; while his racking cough many a
time startled us from sleep. Yet still in his tremulous grasp he swayed
his scepter, and ruled us all like a tyrant to the last.
The weaker and weaker he grew, the more outrageous became his treatment
of the crew. The prospect of the speedy and unshunable death now before
him, seemed to exasperate his misanthropic soul into madness; and as if
he had indeed sold it to Satan, he seemed determined to die with a curse
between his teeth.
I can never think of him, even now, reclining in his bunk, and with
short breaths panting out his maledictions, but I am reminded of that
misanthrope upon the throne of the world--the diabolical Tiberius at
Caprese; who even in his self-exile, imbittered by bodily pangs, and
unspeakable mental terrors only known to the damned on earth, yet did
not give over his blasphemies but endeavored to drag down with him to
his own perdition, all who came within the evil spell of his power. And
though Tiberius came in the succession of the Caesars, and though
unmatchable Tacitus has embalmed his carrion, yet do I account this
Yankee Jackson full as dignified a personage as he, and as well meriting
his lofty gallows in history; even though he was a nameless vagabond
without an epitaph, and none, but I, narrate what he was. For there is
no dignity in wickedness, whether in purple or rags; and hell is a
democracy of devils, where all are equals. There, Nero howls side by
side with his own malefactors. If Napoleon were truly but a martial
murderer, I pay him no more homage than I would a felon. Though Milton's
Satan dilutes our abhorrence with admiration, it is only because he is
not a genuine being, but something altered from a genuine original. We
gather not from the four gospels alone, any high-raised fancies
concerning this Satan; we only know him from thence as the
personification of the essence of evil, which, who but pickpockets and
burglars will admire? But this takes not from the merit of our
high-priest of poetry; it only enhances it, that with such unmitigated
evil for his material, he should build up his most goodly structure. But
in historically canonizing on earth the condemned below, and lifting up
and lauding the illustrious damned, we do but make examples of
wickedness; and call upon ambition to do some great iniquity, and be
sure of fame.
LVI. UNDER THE LEE OF THE LONG-BOAT, REDBURN AND HARRY HOLD CONFIDENTIAL
A sweet thing is a song; and though the Hebrew captives hung their harps
on the willows, that they could not sing the melodies of Palestine
before the haughty beards of the Babylonians; yet, to themselves, those
melodies of other times and a distant land were as sweet as the June dew
And poor Harry was as the Hebrews. He, too, had been carried away
captive, though his chief captor and foe was himself; and he, too, many
a night, was called upon to sing for those who through the day had
insulted and derided him.
His voice was just the voice to proceed from a small, silken person like
his; it was gentle and liquid, and meandered and tinkled through the
words of a song, like a musical brook that winds and wantons by pied and
"I can't sing to-night"--sadly said Harry to the Dutchman, who with his
watchmates requested him to while away the middle watch with his
melody--"I can't sing to-night. But, Wellingborough," he whispered,--and I
stooped my ear,--"come you with me under the lee of the long-boat, and
there I'll hum you an air."
It was "The Banks of the Blue Moselle."
Poor, poor Harry! and a thousand times friendless and forlorn! To be
singing that thing, which was only meant to be warbled by falling
fountains in gardens, or in elegant alcoves in drawing-rooms,--to be
singing it here--here, as I live, under the tarry lee of our long-boat.
But he sang, and sang, as I watched the waves, and peopled them all with
sprites, and cried "chassez!" "hands across!" to the multitudinous
quadrilles, all danced on the moonlit, musical floor.
But though it went so hard with my friend to sing his songs to this
ruffian crew, whom he hated, even in his dreams, till the foam flew from
his mouth while he slept; yet at last I prevailed upon him to master his
feelings, and make them subservient to his interests. For so delighted,
even with the rudest minstrelsy, are sailors, that I well knew Harry
possessed a spell over them, which, for the time at least, they could
not resist; and it might induce them to treat with more deference the
being who was capable of yielding them such delight. Carlo's organ they
did not so much care for; but the voice of my Bury blade was an
accordion in their ears.
So one night, on the windlass, he sat and sang; and from the ribald
jests so common to sailors, the men slid into silence at every verse.
Hushed, and more hushed they grew, till at last Harry sat among them
like Orpheus among the charmed leopards and tigers. Harmless now the
fangs with which they were wont to tear my zebra, and backward curled in
velvet paws; and fixed their once glaring eyes in fascinated and
fascinating brilliancy. Ay, still and hissingly all, for a time, they
relinquished their prey.
Now, during the voyage, the treatment of the crew threw Harry more and
more upon myself for companionship; and few can keep constant company
with another, without revealing some, at least, of their secrets; for
all of us yearn for sympathy, even if we do not for love; and to be
intellectually alone is a thing only tolerable to genius, whose
cherisher and inspirer is solitude.
But though my friend became more communicative concerning his past
career than ever he had been before, yet he did not make plain many
things in his hitherto but partly divulged history, which I was very
curious to know; and especially he never made the remotest allusion to
aught connected with our trip to London; while the oath of secrecy by
which he had bound me held my curiosity on that point a captive.
However, as it was, Harry made many very interesting disclosures; and if
he did not gratify me more in that respect, he atoned for it in a
measure, by dwelling upon the future, and the prospects, such as they
were, which the future held out to him.
He confessed that he had no money but a few shillings left from the
expenses of our return from London; that only by selling some more of
his clothing, could he pay for his first week's board in New York; and
that he was altogether without any regular profession or business, upon
which, by his own exertions, he could securely rely for support. And
yet, he told me that he was determined never again to return to England;
and that somewhere in America he must work out his temporal felicity.
"I have forgotten England," he said, "and never more mean to think of
it; so tell me, Wellingborough, what am I to do in America?"
It was a puzzling question, and full of grief to me, who, young though I
was, had been well rubbed, curried, and ground down to fine powder in
the hopper of an evil fortune, and who therefore could sympathize with
one in similar circumstances. For though we may look grave and behave
kindly and considerately to a friend in calamity; yet, if we have never
actually experienced something like the woe that weighs him down, we can
not with the best grace proffer our sympathy. And perhaps there is no
true sympathy but between equals; and it may be, that we should distrust
that man's sincerity, who stoops to condole with us.
So Harry and I, two friendless wanderers, beguiled many a long watch by
talking over our common affairs. But inefficient, as a benefactor, as I
certainly was; still, being an American, and returning to my home; even
as he was a stranger, and hurrying from his; therefore, I stood toward
him in the attitude of the prospective doer of the honors of my country;
I accounted him the nation's guest. Hence, I esteemed it more befitting,
that I should rather talk with him, than he with me: that his prospects
and plans should engage our attention, in preference to my own.
Now, seeing that Harry was so brave a songster, and could sing such
bewitching airs: I suggested whether his musical talents could not be
turned to account. The thought struck him most favorably--"Gad, my boy,
you have hit it, you have," and then he went on to mention, that in some
places in England, it was customary for two or three young men of highly
respectable families, of undoubted antiquity, but unfortunately in
lamentably decayed circumstances, and thread-bare coats--it was
customary for two or three young gentlemen, so situated, to obtain their
livelihood by their voices: coining their silvery songs into silvery
They wandered from door to door, and rang the bell--Are the ladies and
gentlemen in? Seeing them at least gentlemanly looking, if not
sumptuously appareled, the servant generally admitted them at once; and
when the people entered to greet them, their spokesman would rise with a
gentle bow, and a smile, and say, We come, ladies and gentlemen, to sing
you a song: we are singers, at your service. And so, without waiting
reply, forth they burst into song; and having most mellifluous voices,
enchanted and transported all auditors; so much so, that at the
conclusion of the entertainment, they very seldom failed to be well
recompensed, and departed with an invitation to return again, and make
the occupants of that dwelling once more delighted and happy.
"Could not something of this kind now, be done in New York?" said Harry,
"or are there no parlors with ladies in them, there?" he anxiously
Again I assured him, as I had often done before, that New York was a
civilized and enlightened town; with a large population, fine streets,
fine houses, nay, plenty of omnibuses; and that for the most part, he
would almost think himself in England; so similar to England, in
essentials, was this outlandish America that haunted him.
I could not but be struck--and had I not been, from my birth, as it were,
a cosmopolite--I had been amazed at his skepticism with regard to the
civilization of my native land. A greater patriot than myself might have
resented his insinuations. He seemed to think that we Yankees lived in
wigwams, and wore bear-skins. After all, Harry was a spice of a Cockney,
and had shut up his Christendom in London.
Having then assured him, that I could see no reason, why he should not
play the troubadour in New York, as well as elsewhere; he suddenly
popped upon me the question, whether I would not join him in the
enterprise; as it would be quite out of the question to go alone on such
Said I, "My dear Bury, I have no more voice for a ditty, than a dumb man
has for an oration. Sing? Such Macadamized lungs have I, that I think
myself well off, that I can talk; let alone nightingaling."
So that plan was quashed; and by-and-by Harry began to give up the idea
of singing himself into a livelihood.
"No, I won't sing for my mutton," said he--"what would Lady Georgiana
"If I could see her ladyship once, I might tell you, Harry," returned I,
who did not exactly doubt him, but felt ill at ease for my bosom
friend's conscience, when he alluded to his various noble and right
honorable friends and relations.
"But surely, Bury, my friend, you must write a clerkly hand, among your
other accomplishments; and that at least, will be sure to help you."
"I do write a hand," he gladly rejoined--"there, look at the
implement!--do you not think, that such a hand as that might dot an i, or
cross a t, with a touching grace and tenderness?"
Indeed, but it did betoken a most excellent penmanship. It was small;
and the fingers were long and thin; the knuckles softly rounded; the
nails hemispherical at the base; and the smooth palm furnishing few
characters for an Egyptian fortune-teller to read. It was not as the
sturdy farmer's hand of Cincinnatus, who followed the plough and guided
the state; but it was as the perfumed hand of Petronius Arbiter, that
elegant young buck of a Roman, who once cut great Seneca dead in the
His hand alone, would have entitled my Bury blade to the suffrages of
that Eastern potentate, who complimented Lord Byron upon his feline
fingers, declaring that they furnished indubitable evidence of his noble
birth. And so it did: for Lord Byron was as all the rest of us--the son
of a man. And so are the dainty-handed, and wee-footed half-cast paupers
in Lima; who, if their hands and feet were entitled to consideration,
would constitute the oligarchy of all Peru.
Folly and foolishness! to think that a gentleman is known by his
finger-nails, like Nebuchadnezzar, when his grew long in the pasture: or
that the badge of nobility is to be found in the smallness of the foot,
when even a fish has no foot at all!
Dandies! amputate yourselves, if you will; but know, and be assured, oh,
democrats, that, like a pyramid, a great man stands on a broad base. It
is only the brittle porcelain pagoda, that tottles on a toe.
But though Harry's hand was lady-like looking, and had once been white
as the queen's cambric handkerchief, and free from a stain as the
reputation of Diana; yet, his late pulling and hauling of halyards and
clew-lines, and his occasional dabbling in tar-pots and slush-shoes, had
somewhat subtracted from its original daintiness.
Often he ruefully eyed it.
Oh! hand! thought Harry, ah, hand! what have you come to? Is it seemly,
that you should be polluted with pitch, when you once handed countesses
to their coaches? Is this the hand I kissed to the divine Georgiana?
with which I pledged Lady Blessington, and ratified my bond to Lord
Lovely? This the hand that Georgiana clasped to her bosom, when she
vowed she was mine?--Out of sight, recreant and apostate!--deep
down--disappear in this foul monkey-jacket pocket where I thrust you!
After many long conversations, it was at last pretty well decided, that
upon our arrival at New York, some means should be taken among my few
friends there, to get Harry a place in a mercantile house, where he
might flourish his pen, and gently exercise his delicate digits, by
traversing some soft foolscap; in the same way that slim, pallid ladies
are gently drawn through a park for an airing.
LVII. ALMOST A FAMINE
"Mammy! mammy! come and see the sailors eating out of little troughs,
just like our pigs at home." Thus exclaimed one of the steerage
children, who at dinner-time was peeping down into the forecastle, where
the crew were assembled, helping themselves from the "kids," which,
indeed, resemble hog-troughs not a little.
"Pigs, is it?" coughed Jackson, from his bunk, where he sat presiding
over the banquet, but not partaking, like a devil who had lost his
appetite by chewing sulphur.--"Pigs, is it?--and the day is close by, ye
spalpeens, when you'll want to be after taking a sup at our troughs!"
This malicious prophecy proved true.
As day followed day without glimpse of shore or reef, and head winds
drove the ship back, as hounds a deer; the improvidence and
shortsightedness of the passengers in the steerage, with regard to their
outfits for the voyage, began to be followed by the inevitable results.
Many of them at last went aft to the mate, saying that they had nothing
to eat, their provisions were expended, and they must be supplied from
the ship's stores, or starve.
This was told to the captain, who was obliged to issue a ukase from the
cabin, that every steerage passenger, whose destitution was
demonstrable, should be given one sea-biscuit and two potatoes a day; a
sort of substitute for a muffin and a brace of poached eggs.
But this scanty ration was quite insufficient to satisfy their hunger:
hardly enough to satisfy the necessities of a healthy adult. The
consequence was, that all day long, and all through the night, scores of
the emigrants went about the decks, seeking what they might devour. They
plundered the chicken-coop; and disguising the fowls, cooked them at the
public galley. They made inroads upon the pig-pen in the boat, and
carried off a promising young shoat: him they devoured raw, not
venturing to make an incognito of his carcass; they prowled about the
cook's caboose, till he threatened them with a ladle of scalding water;
they waylaid the steward on his regular excursions from the cook to the
cabin; they hung round the forecastle, to rob the bread-barge; they
beset the sailors, like beggars in the streets, craving a mouthful in
the name of the Church.
At length, to such excesses were they driven, that the Grand Russian,
Captain Riga, issued another ukase, and to this effect: Whatsoever
emigrant is found guilty of stealing, the same shall be tied into the
rigging and flogged.
Upon this, there were secret movements in the steerage, which almost
alarmed me for the safety of the ship; but nothing serious took place,
after all; and they even acquiesced in, or did not resent, a singular
punishment which the captain caused to be inflicted upon a culprit of
their clan, as a substitute for a flogging. For no doubt he thought that
such rigorous discipline as that might exasperate five hundred emigrants
into an insurrection.
A head was fitted to one of the large deck-tubs--the half of a cask; and
into this head a hole was cut; also, two smaller holes in the bottom of
the tub. The head--divided in the middle, across the diameter of the
orifice--was now fitted round the culprit's neck; and he was forthwith
coopered up into the tub, which rested on his shoulders, while his legs
protruded through the holes in the bottom.
It was a burden to carry; but the man could walk with it; and so
ridiculous was his appearance, that spite of the indignity, he himself
laughed with the rest at the figure he cut.
"Now, Pat, my boy," said the mate, "fill that big wooden belly of yours,
if you can."
Compassionating his situation, our old "doctor" used to give him alms of
food, placing it upon the cask-head before him; till at last, when the
time for deliverance came, Pat protested against mercy, and would fain
have continued playing Diogenes in the tub for the rest of this starving
LVIII. THOUGH THE HIGHLANDER PUTS INTO NO HARBOR AS YET; SHE HERE AND
THERE LEAVES MANY OF HER PASSENGERS BEHIND
Although fast-sailing ships, blest with prosperous breezes, have
frequently made the run across the Atlantic in eighteen days; yet, it is
not uncommon for other vessels to be forty, or fifty, and even sixty,
seventy, eighty, and ninety days, in making the same passage. Though in
the latter cases, some signal calamity or incapacity must occasion so
great a detention. It is also true, that generally the passage out from
America is shorter than the return; which is to be ascribed to the
prevalence of westerly winds.
We had been outside of Cape Clear upward of twenty days, still harassed
by head-winds, though with pleasant weather upon the whole, when we were
visited by a succession of rain storms, which lasted the greater part of
During the interval, the emigrants were obliged to remain below; but
this was nothing strange to some of them; who, not recovering, while at
sea, from their first attack of seasickness, seldom or never made their
appearance on deck, during the entire passage.
During the week, now in question, fire was only once made in the public
galley. This occasioned a good deal of domestic work to be done in the
steerage, which otherwise would have been done in the open air. When the
lulls of the rain-storms would intervene, some unusually cleanly
emigrant would climb to the deck, with a bucket of slops, to toss into
the sea. No experience seemed sufficient to instruct some of these
ignorant people in the simplest, and most elemental principles of
ocean-life. Spite of all lectures on the subject, several would continue
to shun the leeward side of the vessel, with their slops. One morning,
when it was blowing very fresh, a simple fellow pitched over a gallon or
two of something to windward. Instantly it flew back in his face; and
also, in the face of the chief mate, who happened to be standing by at
the time. The offender was collared, and shaken on the spot; and
ironically commanded, never, for the future, to throw any thing to
windward at sea, but fine ashes and scalding hot water.
During the frequent hard blows we experienced, the hatchways on the
steerage were, at intervals, hermetically closed; sealing down in their
noisome den, those scores of human beings. It was something to be
marveled at, that the shocking fate, which, but a short time ago,
overtook the poor passengers in a Liverpool steamer in the Channel,
during similar stormy weather, and under similar treatment, did not
overtake some of the emigrants of the Highlander.
Nevertheless, it was, beyond question, this noisome confinement in so
close, unventilated, and crowded a den: joined to the deprivation of
sufficient food, from which many were suffering; which, helped by their
personal uncleanliness, brought on a malignant fever.
The first report was, that two persons were affected. No sooner was it
known, than the mate promptly repaired to the medicine-chest in the
cabin: and with the remedies deemed suitable, descended into the
steerage. But the medicines proved of no avail; the invalids rapidly
grew worse; and two more of the emigrants became infected.
Upon this, the captain himself went to see them; and returning, sought
out a certain alleged physician among the cabin-passengers; begging him
to wait upon the sufferers; hinting that, thereby, he might prevent the
disease from extending into the cabin itself. But this person denied
being a physician; and from fear of contagion--though he did not confess
that to be the motive--refused even to enter the steerage. The cases
increased: the utmost alarm spread through the ship: and scenes ensued,
over which, for the most part, a veil must be drawn; for such is the
fastidiousness of some readers, that, many times, they must lose the
most striking incidents in a narrative like mine.
Many of the panic-stricken emigrants would fain now have domiciled on
deck; but being so scantily clothed, the wretched weather--wet, cold, and
tempestuous--drove the best part of them again below. Yet any other human
beings, perhaps, would rather have faced the most outrageous storm, than
continued to breathe the pestilent air of the steerage. But some of
these poor people must have been so used to the most abasing calamities,
that the atmosphere of a lazar-house almost seemed their natural air.
The first four cases happened to be in adjoining bunks; and the
emigrants who slept in the farther part of the steerage, threw up a
barricade in front of those bunks; so as to cut off communication. But
this was no sooner reported to the captain, than he ordered it to be
thrown down; since it could be of no possible benefit; but would only
make still worse, what was already direful enough.
It was not till after a good deal of mingled threatening and coaxing,
that the mate succeeded in getting the sailors below, to accomplish the
The sight that greeted us, upon entering, was wretched indeed. It was
like entering a crowded jail. From the rows of rude bunks, hundreds of
meager, begrimed faces were turned upon us; while seated upon the
chests, were scores of unshaven men, smoking tea-leaves, and creating a
suffocating vapor. But this vapor was better than the native air of the
place, which from almost unbelievable causes, was fetid in the extreme.
In every corner, the females were huddled together, weeping and
lamenting; children were asking bread from their mothers, who had none
to give; and old men, seated upon the floor, were leaning back against
the heads of the water-casks, with closed eyes and fetching their breath
with a gasp.
At one end of the place was seen the barricade, hiding the invalids;
while--notwithstanding the crowd--in front of it was a clear area, which
the fear of contagion had left open.
"That bulkhead must come down," cried the mate, in a voice that rose
above the din. "Take hold of it, boys."
But hardly had we touched the chests composing it, when a crowd of
pale-faced, infuriated men rushed up; and with terrific howls, swore
they would slay us, if we did not desist.
"Haul it down!" roared the mate.
But the sailors fell back, murmuring something about merchant seamen
having no pensions in case of being maimed, and they had not shipped to
fight fifty to one. Further efforts were made by the mate, who at last
had recourse to entreaty; but it would not do; and we were obliged to
depart, without achieving our object.
About four o'clock that morning, the first four died. They were all men;
and the scenes which ensued were frantic in the extreme. Certainly, the
bottomless profound of the sea, over which we were sailing, concealed
nothing more frightful.
Orders were at once passed to bury the dead. But this was unnecessary.
By their own countrymen, they were torn from the clasp of their wives,
rolled in their own bedding, with ballast-stones, and with hurried
rites, were dropped into the ocean.
At this time, ten more men had caught the disease; and with a degree of
devotion worthy all praise, the mate attended them with his medicines;
but the captain did not again go down to them.
It was all-important now that the steerage should be purified; and had
it not been for the rains and squalls, which would have made it madness
to turn such a number of women and children upon the wet and unsheltered
decks, the steerage passengers would have been ordered above, and their
den have been given a thorough cleansing. But, for the present, this was
out of the question. The sailors peremptorily refused to go among the
defilements to remove them; and so besotted were the greater part of the
emigrants themselves, that though the necessity of the case was forcibly
painted to them, they would not lift a hand to assist in what seemed
their own salvation.
The panic in the cabin was now very great; and for fear of contagion to
themselves, the cabin passengers would fain have made a prisoner of the
captain, to prevent him from going forward beyond the mainmast. Their
clamors at last induced him to tell the two mates, that for the present
they must sleep and take their meals elsewhere than in their old
quarters, which communicated with the cabin.
On land, a pestilence is fearful enough; but there, many can flee from
an infected city; whereas, in a ship, you are locked and bolted in the
very hospital itself. Nor is there any possibility of escape from it;
and in so small and crowded a place, no precaution can effectually guard
Horrible as the sights of the steerage now were, the cabin, perhaps,
presented a scene equally despairing. Many, who had seldom prayed
before, now implored the merciful heavens, night and day, for fair winds
and fine weather. Trunks were opened for Bibles; and at last, even
prayer-meetings were held over the very table across which the loud jest
had been so often heard.
Strange, though almost universal, that the seemingly nearer prospect of
that death which any body at any time may die, should produce these
spasmodic devotions, when an everlasting Asiatic Cholera is forever
thinning our ranks; and die by death we all must at last.
On the second day, seven died, one of whom was the little tailor; on the
third, four; on the fourth, six, of whom one was the Greenland sailor,
and another, a woman in the cabin, whose death, however, was afterward
supposed to have been purely induced by her fears. These last deaths
brought the panic to its height; and sailors, officers,
cabin-passengers, and emigrants--all looked upon each other like lepers.
All but the only true leper among us--the mariner Jackson, who seemed
elated with the thought, that for him--already in the deadly clutches of
another disease--no danger was to be apprehended from a fever which only
swept off the comparatively healthy. Thus, in the midst of the despair
of the healthful, this incurable invalid was not cast down; not, at
least, by the same considerations that appalled the rest.
And still, beneath a gray, gloomy sky, the doomed craft beat on; now on
this tack, now on that; battling against hostile blasts, and drenched in
rain and spray; scarcely making an inch of progress toward her port.
On the sixth morning, the weather merged into a gale, to which we
stripped our ship to a storm-stay-sail. In ten hours' time, the waves
ran in mountains; and the Highlander rose and fell like some vast buoy
on the water. Shrieks and lamentations were driven to leeward, and
drowned in the roar of the wind among the cordage; while we gave to the
gale the blackened bodies of five more of the dead.
But as the dying departed, the places of two of them were filled in the
rolls of humanity, by the birth of two infants, whom the plague, panic,
and gale had hurried into the world before their time. The first cry of
one of these infants, was almost simultaneous with the splash of its
father's body in the sea. Thus we come and we go. But, surrounded by
death, both mothers and babes survived.
At midnight, the wind went down; leaving a long, rolling sea; and, for
the first time in a week, a clear, starry sky.
In the first morning-watch, I sat with Harry on the windlass, watching
the billows; which, seen in the night, seemed real hills, upon which
fortresses might have been built; and real valleys, in which villages,
and groves, and gardens, might have nestled. It was like a landscape in
Switzerland; for down into those dark, purple glens, often tumbled the
white foam of the wave-crests, like avalanches; while the seething and
boiling that ensued, seemed the swallowing up of human beings.
By the afternoon of the next day this heavy sea subsided; and we bore
down on the waves, with all our canvas set; stun'-sails alow and aloft;
and our best steersman at the helm; the captain himself at his
elbow;--bowling along, with a fair, cheering breeze over the taffrail.
The decks were cleared, and swabbed bone-dry; and then, all the
emigrants who were not invalids, poured themselves out on deck, snuffing
the delightful air, spreading their damp bedding in the sun, and
regaling themselves with the generous charity of the captain, who of
late had seen fit to increase their allowance of food. A detachment of
them now joined a band of the crew, who proceeding into the steerage,
with buckets and brooms, gave it a thorough cleansing, sending on deck,
I know not how many bucketsful of defilements. It was more like cleaning
out a stable, than a retreat for men and women. This day we buried
three; the next day one, and then the pestilence left us, with seven
convalescent; who, placed near the opening of the hatchway, soon rallied
under the skillful treatment, and even tender care of the mate.
But even under this favorable turn of affairs, much apprehension was
still entertained, lest in crossing the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the
fogs, so generally encountered there, might bring on a return of the
fever. But, to the joy of all hands, our fair wind still held on; and we
made a rapid run across these dreaded shoals, and southward steered for
Our days were now fair and mild, and though the wind abated, yet we
still ran our course over a pleasant sea. The steerage-passengers--at
least by far the greater number--wore a still, subdued aspect, though a
little cheered by the genial air, and the hopeful thought of soon
reaching their port. But those who had lost fathers, husbands, wives, or
children, needed no crape, to reveal to others, who they were. Hard and
bitter indeed was their lot; for with the poor and desolate, grief is no
indulgence of mere sentiment, however sincere, but a gnawing reality,
that eats into their vital beings; they have no kind condolers, and
bland physicians, and troops of sympathizing friends; and they must
toil, though to-morrow be the burial, and their pallbearers throw down
the hammer to lift up the coffin.
How, then, with these emigrants, who, three thousand miles from home,
suddenly found themselves deprived of brothers and husbands, with but a
few pounds, or perhaps but a few shillings, to buy food in a strange
As for the passengers in the cabin, who now so jocund as they? drawing
nigh, with their long purses and goodly portmanteaus to the promised
land, without fear of fate. One and all were generous and gay, the
jelly-eyed old gentleman, before spoken of, gave a shilling to the
The lady who had died, was an elderly person, an American, returning
from a visit to an only brother in London. She had no friend or relative
on board, hence, as there is little mourning for a stranger dying among
strangers, her memory had been buried with her body.
But the thing most worthy of note among these now light-hearted people
in feathers, was the gay way in which some of them bantered others, upon
the panic into which nearly all had been thrown.
And since, if the extremest fear of a crowd in a panic of peril, proves
grounded on causes sufficient, they must then indeed come to
perish;--therefore it is, that at such times they must make up their
minds either to die, or else survive to be taunted by their fellow-men
with their fear. For except in extraordinary instances of exposure,
there are few living men, who, at bottom, are not very slow to admit
that any other living men have ever been very much nearer death than
themselves. Accordingly, craven is the phrase too often applied to any
one who, with however good reason, has been appalled at the prospect of
sudden death, and yet lived to escape it. Though, should he have
perished in conformity with his fears, not a syllable of craven would
you hear. This is the language of one, who more than once has beheld the
scenes, whence these principles have been deduced. The subject invites
much subtle speculation; for in every being's ideas of death, and his
behavior when it suddenly menaces him, lies the best index to his life
and his faith. Though the Christian era had not then begun, Socrates
died the death of the Christian; and though Hume was not a Christian in
theory, yet he, too, died the death of the Christian,--humble, composed,
without bravado; and though the most skeptical of philosophical
skeptics, yet full of that firm, creedless faith, that embraces the
spheres. Seneca died dictating to posterity; Petronius lightly
discoursing of essences and love-songs; and Addison, calling upon
Christendom to behold how calmly a Christian could die; but not even the
last of these three, perhaps, died the best death of the Christian.
The cabin passenger who had used to read prayers while the rest kneeled
against the transoms and settees, was one of the merry young sparks, who
had occasioned such agonies of jealousy to the poor tailor, now no more.
In his rakish vest, and dangling watch-chain, this same youth, with all
the awfulness of fear, had led the earnest petitions of his companions;
supplicating mercy, where before he had never solicited the slightest
favor. More than once had he been seen thus engaged by the observant
steersman at the helm: who looked through the little glass in the cabin
But this youth was an April man; the storm had departed; and now he
shone in the sun, none braver than he.
One of his jovial companions ironically advised him to enter into holy
orders upon his arrival in New York.
"Why so?" said the other, "have I such an orotund voice?"
"No;" profanely returned his friend--"but you are a coward--just the man
to be a parson, and pray."
However this narrative of the circumstances attending the fever among
the emigrants on the Highland may appear; and though these things
happened so long ago; yet just such events, nevertheless, are perhaps
taking place to-day. But the only account you obtain of such events, is
generally contained in a newspaper paragraph, under the shipping-head.
There is the obituary of the destitute dead, who die on the sea. They
die, like the billows that break on the shore, and no more are heard or
seen. But in the events, thus merely initialized in the catalogue of
passing occurrences, and but glanced at by the readers of news, who are
more taken up with paragraphs of fuller flavor; what a world of Me and
death, what a world of humanity and its woes, lies shrunk into a
You see no plague-ship driving through a stormy sea; you hear no groans
of despair; you see no corpses thrown over the bulwarks; you mark not
the wringing hands and torn hair of widows and orphans:--all is a blank.
And one of these blanks I have but filled up, in recounting the details
of the Highlander's calamity.
Besides that natural tendency, which hurries into oblivion the last woes
of the poor; other causes combine to suppress the detailed circumstances
of disasters like these. Such things, if widely known, operate
unfavorably to the ship, and make her a bad name; and to avoid detention
at quarantine, a captain will state the case in the most palliating
light, and strive to hush it up, as much as he can.
In no better place than this, perhaps, can a few words be said,
concerning emigrant ships in general.
Let us waive that agitated national topic, as to whether such multitudes
of foreign poor should be landed on our American shores; let us waive
it, with the one only thought, that if they can get here, they have
God's right to come; though they bring all Ireland and her miseries with
them. For the whole world is the patrimony of the whole world; there is
no telling who does not own a stone in the Great Wall of China. But we
waive all this; and will only consider, how best the emigrants can come
hither, since come they do, and come they must and will.
Of late, a law has been passed in Congress, restricting ships to a
certain number of emigrants, according to a certain rate. If this law
were enforced, much good might be done; and so also might much good be
done, were the English law likewise enforced, concerning the fixed
supply of food for every emigrant embarking from Liverpool. But it is
hardly to be believed, that either of these laws is observed.
But in all respects, no legislation, even nominally, reaches the hard
lot of the emigrant. What ordinance makes it obligatory upon the captain
of a ship, to supply the steerage-passengers with decent lodgings, and
give them light and air in that foul den, where they are immured, during
a long voyage across the Atlantic? What ordinance necessitates him to
place the galley, or steerage-passengers' stove, in a dry place of
shelter, where the emigrants can do their cooking during a storm, or wet
weather? What ordinance obliges him to give them more room on deck, and
let them have an occasional run fore and aft?--There is no law concerning
these things. And if there was, who but some Howard in office would see
it enforced? and how seldom is there a Howard in office!
We talk of the Turks, and abhor the cannibals; but may not some of them,
go to heaven, before some of us? We may have civilized bodies and yet
barbarous souls. We are blind to the real sights of this world; deaf to
its voice; and dead to its death. And not till we know, that one grief
outweighs ten thousand joys, will we become what Christianity is
striving to make us.
LIX. THE LAST END OF JACKSON
"Off Cape Cod!" said the steward, coming forward from the quarter-deck,
where the captain had just been taking his noon observation; sweeping
the vast horizon with his quadrant, like a dandy circumnavigating the
dress-circle of an amphitheater with his glass.
"Off Cape Cod!"
and in the shore-bloom that came to us--even from that desert of
sand-hillocks--methought I could almost distinguish the fragrance of the
rose-bush my sisters and I had planted, in our far inland garden at
home. Delicious odors are those of our mother Earth; which like a
flower-pot set with a thousand shrubs, greets the eager voyager from
The breeze was stiff, and so drove us along that we turned over two
broad, blue furrows from our bows, as we plowed the watery prairie. By
night it was a reef-topsail-breeze; but so impatient was the captain to
make his port before a shift of wind overtook us, that even yet we
carried a main-topgallant-sail, though the light mast sprung like a
In the second dog-watch, however, the breeze became such, that at last
the order was given to douse the top-gallant-sail, and clap a reef into
all three top-sails.
While the men were settling away the halyards on deck, and before they
had begun to haul out the reef-tackles, to the surprise of several,
Jackson came up from the forecastle, and, for the first time in four
weeks or more, took hold of a rope.
Like most seamen, who during the greater part of a voyage, have been off
duty from sickness, he was, perhaps, desirous, just previous to entering
port, of reminding the captain of his existence, and also that he
expected his wages; but, alas! his wages proved the wages of sin.
At no time could he better signalize his disposition to work, than upon
an occasion like the present; which generally attracts every soul on
deck, from the captain to the child in the steerage.
His aspect was damp and death-like; the blue hollows of his eyes were
like vaults full of snakes; and issuing so unexpectedly from his dark
tomb in the forecastle, he looked like a man raised from the dead.
Before the sailors had made fast the reef-tackle, Jackson was tottering
up the rigging; thus getting the start of them, and securing his place
at the extreme weather-end of the topsail-yard--which in reefing is
accounted the post of honor. For it was one of the characteristics of
this man, that though when on duty he would shy away from mere dull work
in a calm, yet in tempest-time he always claimed the van, and would
yield it to none; and this, perhaps, was one cause of his unbounded
dominion over the men.
Soon, we were all strung along the main-topsail-yard; the ship rearing
and plunging under us, like a runaway steed; each man gripping his
reef-point, and sideways leaning, dragging the sail over toward Jackson,
whose business it was to confine the reef corner to the yard.
His hat and shoes were off; and he rode the yard-arm end, leaning
backward to the gale, and pulling at the earing-rope, like a bridle. At
all times, this is a moment of frantic exertion with sailors, whose
spirits seem then to partake of the commotion of the elements, as they
hang in the gale, between heaven and earth; and then it is, too, that
they are the most profane.
"Haul out to windward!" coughed Jackson, with a blasphemous cry, and he
threw himself back with a violent strain upon the bridle in his hand.
But the wild words were hardly out of his mouth, when his hands dropped
to his side, and the bellying sail was spattered with a torrent of blood
from his lungs.
As the man next him stretched out his arm to save, Jackson fell headlong
from the yard, and with a long seethe, plunged like a diver into the
It was when the ship had rolled to windward, which, with the long
projection of the yard-arm over the side, made him strike far out upon
the water. His fall was seen by the whole upward-gazing crowd on deck,
some of whom were spotted with the blood that trickled from the sail,
while they raised a spontaneous cry, so shrill and wild, that a blind
man might have known something deadly had happened.
Clutching our reef-points, we hung over the stick, and gazed down to the
one white, bubbling spot, which had closed over the head of our
shipmate; but the next minute it was brewed into the common yeast of the
waves, and Jackson never arose. We waited a few minutes, expecting an
order to descend, haul back the fore-yard, and man the boat; but instead
of that, the next sound that greeted us was, "Bear a hand, and reef
away, men!" from the mate.
Indeed, upon reflection, it would have been idle to attempt to save
Jackson; for besides that he must have been dead, ere he struck the
sea--and if he had not been dead then, the first immersion must have
driven his soul from his lacerated lungs--our jolly-boat would have
taken full fifteen minutes to launch into the waves.
And here it should be said, that the thoughtless security in which too
many sea-captains indulge, would, in case of some sudden disaster
befalling the Highlander, have let us all drop into our graves.
Like most merchant ships, we had but two boats: the longboat and the
jolly-boat. The long boat, by far the largest and stoutest of the two,
was permanently bolted down to the deck, by iron bars attached to its
sides. It was almost as much of a fixture as the vessel's keel. It was
filled with pigs, fowls, firewood, and coals. Over this the jolly-boat
was capsized without a thole-pin in the gunwales; its bottom bleaching
and cracking in the sun.
Judge, then, what promise of salvation for us, had we shipwrecked; yet
in this state, one merchant ship out of three, keeps its boats. To be
sure, no vessel full of emigrants, by any possible precautions, could in
case of a fatal disaster at sea, hope to save the tenth part of the
souls on board; yet provision should certainly be made for a handful of
survivors, to carry home the tidings of her loss; for even in the worst
of the calamities that befell patient Job, some one at least of his
servants escaped to report it.
In a way that I never could fully account for, the sailors, in my
hearing at least, and Harry's, never made the slightest allusion to the
departed Jackson. One and all they seemed tacitly to unite in hushing up
his memory among them. Whether it was, that the severity of the bondage
under which this man held every one of them, did really corrode in their
secret hearts, that they thought to repress the recollection of a thing
so degrading, I can not determine; but certain it was, that his death
was their deliverance; which they celebrated by an elevation of spirits,
unknown before. Doubtless, this was to be in part imputed, however, to
their now drawing near to their port.
LX. HOME AT LAST
Next day was Sunday; and the mid-day sun shone upon a glassy sea.
After the uproar of the breeze and the gale, this profound, pervading
calm seemed suited to the tranquil spirit of a day, which, in godly
towns, makes quiet vistas of the most tumultuous thoroughfares.
The ship lay gently rolling in the soft, subdued ocean swell; while all
around were faint white spots; and nearer to, broad, milky patches,
betokening the vicinity of scores of ships, all bound to one common
port, and tranced in one common calm. Here the long, devious wakes from
Europe, Africa, India, and Peru converged to a line, which braided them
all in one.
Full before us quivered and danced, in the noon-day heat and mid-air,
the green heights of New Jersey; and by an optical delusion, the blue
sea seemed to flow under them.
The sailors whistled and whistled for a wind; the impatient cabin-
passengers were arrayed in their best; and the emigrants clustered
around the bows, with eyes intent upon the long-sought land.
But leaning over, in a reverie, against the side, my Carlo gazed down
into the calm, violet sea, as if it were an eye that answered his own;
and turning to Harry, said, "This America's skies must be down in the
sea; for, looking down in this water, I behold what, in Italy, we also
behold overhead. Ah! after all, I find my Italy somewhere, wherever I
go. I even found it in rainy Liverpool."
Presently, up came a dainty breeze, wafting to us a white wing from the
shore--the pilot-boat! Soon a monkey-jacket mounted the side, and was
beset by the captain and cabin people for news. And out of bottomless
pockets came bundles of newspapers, which were eagerly caught by the
The captain now abdicated in the pilot's favor, who proved to be a tiger
of a fellow, keeping us hard at work, pulling and hauling the braces,
and trimming the ship, to catch the least cat's-paw of wind.
When, among sea-worn people, a strange man from shore suddenly stands
among them, with the smell of the land in his beard, it conveys a
realization of the vicinity of the green grass, that not even the
distant sight of the shore itself can transcend.
The steerage was now as a bedlam; trunks and chests were locked and tied
round with ropes; and a general washing and rinsing of faces and hands
was beheld. While this was going on, forth came an order from the
quarter-deck, for every bed, blanket, bolster, and bundle of straw in
the steerage to be committed to the deep.--A command that was received by
the emigrants with dismay, and then with wrath. But they were assured,
that this was indispensable to the getting rid of an otherwise long
detention of some weeks at the quarantine. They therefore reluctantly
complied; and overboard went pallet and pillow. Following them, went old
pots and pans, bottles and baskets. So, all around, the sea was strewn
with stuffed bed-ticks, that limberly floated on the waves--couches for
all mermaids who were not fastidious. Numberless things of this sort,
tossed overboard from emigrant ships nearing the harbor of New York,
drift in through the Narrows, and are deposited on the shores of Staten
Island; along whose eastern beach I have often walked, and speculated
upon the broken jugs, torn pillows, and dilapidated baskets at my feet.
A second order was now passed for the emigrants to muster their forces,
and give the steerage a final, thorough cleaning with sand and water.
And to this they were incited by the same warning which had induced them
to make an offering to Neptune of their bedding. The place was then
fumigated, and dried with pans of coals from the galley; so that by
evening, no stranger would have imagined, from her appearance, that the
Highlander had made otherwise than a tidy and prosperous voyage. Thus,
some sea-captains take good heed that benevolent citizens shall not get
a glimpse of the true condition of the steerage while at sea.
That night it again fell calm; but next morning, though the wind was
somewhat against us, we set sail for the Narrows; and making short
tacks, at last ran through, almost bringing our jib-boom over one of the
An early shower had refreshed the woods and fields, that glowed with a
glorious green; and to our salted lungs, the land breeze was spiced with
aromas. The steerage passengers almost neighed with delight, like horses
brought back to spring pastures; and every eye and ear in the Highlander
was full of the glad sights and sounds of the shore.
No more did we think of the gale and the plague; nor turn our eyes
upward to the stains of blood, still visible on the topsail, whence
Jackson had fallen; but we fixed our gaze on the orchards and meads, and
like thirsty men, drank in all their dew.
On the Staten Island side, a white staff displayed a pale yellow flag,
denoting the habitation of the quarantine officer; for as if to
symbolize the yellow fever itself, and strike a panic and premonition of
the black vomit into every beholder, all quarantines all over the world,
taint the air with the streamings of their f ever-flag.
But though the long rows of white-washed hospitals on the hill side were
now in plain sight, and though scores of ships were here lying at
anchor, yet no boat came off to us; and to our surprise and delight, on
we sailed, past a spot which every one had dreaded. How it was that they
thus let us pass without boarding us, we never could learn.
Now rose the city from out the bay, and one by one, her spires pierced
the blue; while thick and more thick, ships, brigs, schooners, and sail
boats, thronged around. We saw the Hartz Forest of masts and black
rigging stretching along the East River; and northward, up the stately
old Hudson, covered with white sloop-sails like fleets of swans, we
caught a far glimpse of the purple Palisades.
Oh! he who has never been afar, let him once go from home, to know what
home is. For as you draw nigh again to your old native river, he seems
to pour through you with all his tides, and in your enthusiasm, you
swear to build altars like mile-stones, along both his sacred banks.
Like the Czar of all the Russias, and Siberia to boot, Captain Riga,
telescope in hand, stood on the poop, pointing out to the passengers,
Governor's Island, Castle Garden, and the Battery.
"And that" said he, pointing out a vast black hull which, like a shark,
showed tiers of teeth, "that, ladies, is a line-of-battle-ship, the
"Oh, dear!"--and "Oh my!"--ejaculated the ladies, and--"Lord, save us,"
responded an old gentleman, who was a member of the Peace Society.
Hurra! hurra! and ten thousand times hurra! down goes our old anchor,
fathoms down into the free and independent Yankee mud, one handful of
which was now worth a broad manor in England.
The Whitehall boats were around us, and soon, our cabin passengers were
all off, gay as crickets, and bound for a late dinner at the Astor
House; where, no doubt, they fired off a salute of champagne corks in
honor of their own arrival. Only a very few of the steerage passengers,
however, could afford to pay the high price the watermen demanded for
carrying them ashore; so most of them remained with us till morning. But
nothing could restrain our Italian boy, Carlo, who, promising the
watermen to pay them with his music, was triumphantly rowed ashore,
seated in the stern of the boat, his organ before him, and something
like "Hail Columbia!" his tune. We gave him three rapturous cheers, and
we never saw Carlo again.
Harry and I passed the greater part of the night walking the deck, and
gazing at the thousand lights of the city.
At sunrise, we warped into a berth at the foot of Wall-street, and
knotted our old ship, stem and stern, to the pier. But that knotting of
her, was the unknotting of the bonds of the sailors, among whom, it is a
maxim, that the ship once fast to the wharf, they are free. So with a
rush and a shout, they bounded ashore, followed by the tumultuous crowd
of emigrants, whose friends, day-laborers and housemaids, stood ready to
But in silent gratitude at the end of a voyage, almost equally
uncongenial to both of us, and so bitter to one, Harry and I sat on a
chest in the forecastle. And now, the ship that we had loathed, grew
lovely in our eyes, which lingered over every familiar old timber; for
the scene of suffering is a scene of joy when the suffering is past; and
the silent reminiscence of hardships departed, is sweeter than the
presence of delight.
LXI. REDBURN AND HABBY, ARM IN ARM, IN HARBOR
There we sat in that tarry old den, the only inhabitants of the deserted
old ship, but the mate and the rats.
At last, Harry went to his chest, and drawing out a few shillings,
proposed that we should go ashore, and return with a supper, to eat in
the forecastle. Little else that was eatable being for sale in the
paltry shops along the wharves, we bought several pies, some doughnuts,
and a bottle of ginger-pop, and thus supplied we made merry. For to us,
whose very mouths were become pickled and puckered, with the continual
flavor of briny beef, those pies and doughnuts were most delicious. And
as for the ginger-pop, why, that ginger-pop was divine! I have
reverenced ginger-pop ever since.
We kept late hours that night; for, delightful certainty! placed beyond
all doubt--like royal landsmen, we were masters of the watches of the
night, and no starb-o-leens ahoy! would annoy us again.
"All night in! think of that, Harry, my friend!"
"Ay, Wellingborough, it's enough to keep me awake forever, to think I
may now sleep as long as I please."
We turned out bright and early, and then prepared for the shore, first
stripping to the waist, for a toilet.
"I shall never get these confounded tar-stains out of my fingers," cried
Harry, rubbing them hard with a bit of oakum, steeped in strong suds.
"No! they will not come out, and I'm ruined for life. Look at my hand
It was indeed a sad sight. Every finger nail, like mine, was dyed of a
rich, russet hue; looking something like bits of fine tortoise shell.
"Never mind, Harry," said I--"You know the ladies of the east steep the
tips of their fingers in some golden dye."
"And by Plutus," cried Harry--"I'd steep mine up to the armpits in gold;
since you talk about that. But never mind, I'll swear I'm just from
Persia, my boy."
We now arrayed ourselves in our best, and sallied ashore; and, at once,
I piloted Harry to the sign of a Turkey Cock in Fulton-street, kept by
one Sweeny, a place famous for cheap Souchong, and capital buckwheat
"Well, gentlemen, what will you have?"--said a waiter, as we seated
ourselves at a table.
"Gentlemen!" whispered Harry to me--"gentlemen!--hear him!--I say now,
Redburn, they didn't talk to us that way on board the old Highlander. By
heaven, I begin to feel my straps again:--Coffee and hot rolls," he added
aloud, crossing his legs like a lord, "and fellow--come back--bring us a
"Haven't got it, gentlemen."
"Ham and eggs," suggested I, whose mouth was watering at the
recollection of that particular dish, which I had tasted at the sign of
the Turkey Cock before. So ham and eggs it was; and royal coffee, and
But the butter!
"Harry, did you ever taste such butter as this before?"
"Don't say a word,"--said Harry, spreading his tenth slice of toast "I'm
going to turn dairyman, and keep within the blessed savor of butter, so
long as I live."
We made a breakfast, never to be forgotten; paid our bill with a
flourish, and sallied into the street, like two goodly galleons of gold,
bound from Acapulco to Old Spain.
"Now," said Harry, "lead on; and let's see something of these United
States of yours. I'm ready to pace from Maine to Florida; ford the Great
Lakes; and jump the River Ohio, if it comes in the way. Here, take my
Such was the miraculous change, that had now come over him. It reminded
me of his manner, when we had started for London, from the sign of the
Golden Anchor, in Liverpool.
He was, indeed, in most wonderful spirits; at which I could not help
marveling; considering the cavity in his pockets; and that he was a
stranger in the land.
By noon he had selected his boarding-house, a private establishment,
where they did not charge much for their board, and where the landlady's
butcher's bill was not very large.
Here, at last, I left him to get his chest from the ship; while I turned
up town to see my old friend Mr. Jones, and learn what had happened
during my absence.
With one hand, Mr. Jones shook mine most cordially; and with the other,
gave me some letters, which I eagerly devoured. Their purport compelled
my departure homeward; and I at once sought out Harry to inform him.
Strange, but even the few hours' absence which had intervened; during
which, Harry had been left to himself, to stare at strange streets, and
strange faces, had wrought a marked change in his countenance. He was a
creature of the suddenest impulses. Left to himself, the strange streets
seemed now to have reminded him of his friendless condition; and I found
him with a very sad eye; and his right hand groping in his pocket.
"Where am I going to dine, this day week?"--he slowly said. "What's to be
And when I told him that the next afternoon I must leave him; he looked
downhearted enough. But I cheered him as well as I could; though needing
a little cheering myself; even though I had got home again. But no more
Now, there was a young man of my acquaintance in the city, much my
senior, by the name of Goodwell; and a good natured fellow he was; who
had of late been engaged as a clerk in a large forwarding house in
South-street; and it occurred to me, that he was just the man to
befriend Harry, and procure him a place. So I mentioned the thing to my
comrade; and we called upon Goodwell.
I saw that he was impressed by the handsome exterior of my friend; and
in private, making known the case, he faithfully promised to do his best
for him; though the times, he said, were quite dull.
That evening, Goodwell, Harry, and I, perambulated the streets, three
abreast:--Goodwell spending his money freely at the oyster-saloons; Harry
full of allusions to the London Clubhouses: and myself contributing a
small quota to the general entertainment.
Next morning, we proceeded to business.
Now, I did not expect to draw much of a salary from the ship; so as to
retire for life on the profits of my first voyage; but nevertheless, I
thought that a dollar or two might be coming. For dollars are valuable
things; and should not be overlooked, when they are owing. Therefore, as
the second morning after our arrival, had been set apart for paying off
the crew, Harry and I made our appearance on ship-board, with the rest.
We were told to enter the cabin; and once again I found myself, after an
interval of four months, and more, surrounded by its mahogany and maple.
Seated in a sumptuous arm-chair, behind a lustrous, inlaid desk, sat
Captain Riga, arrayed in his City Hotel suit, looking magisterial as the
Lord High Admiral of England. Hat in hand, the sailors stood
deferentially in a semicircle before him, while the captain held the
ship-papers in his hand, and one by one called their names; and in
mellow bank notes--beautiful sight!--paid them their wages.
Most of them had less than ten, a few twenty, and two, thirty dollars
coming to them; while the old cook, whose piety proved profitable in
restraining him from the expensive excesses of most seafaring men, and
who had taken no pay in advance, had the goodly round sum of seventy
dollars as his due.
Seven ten dollar bills! each of which, as I calculated at the time, was
worth precisely one hundred dimes, which were equal to one thousand
cents, which were again subdivisible into fractions. So that he now
stepped into a fortune of seventy thousand American "mitts." Only
seventy dollars, after all; but then, it has always seemed to me, that
stating amounts in sounding fractional sums, conveys a much fuller
notion of their magnitude, than by disguising their immensity in such
aggregations of value, as doubloons, sovereigns, and dollars. Who would
not rather be worth 125,000 francs in Paris, than only L5000 in London,
though the intrinsic value of the two sums, in round numbers, is pretty
much the same.
With a scrape of the foot, and such a bow as only a negro can make, the
old cook marched off with his fortune; and I have no doubt at once
invested it in a grand, underground oyster-cellar.
The other sailors, after counting their cash very carefully, and seeing
all was right, and not a bank-note was dog-eared, in which case they
would have demanded another: for they are not to be taken in and
cheated, your sailors, and they know their rights, too; at least, when
they are at liberty, after the voyage is concluded:--the sailors also
salaamed, and withdrew, leaving Harry and me face to face with the
Paymaster-general of the Forces.
We stood awhile, looking as polite as possible, and expecting every
moment to hear our names called, but not a word did we hear; while the
captain, throwing aside his accounts, lighted a very fragrant cigar,
took up the morning paper--I think it was the Herald--threw his leg over
one arm of the chair, and plunged into the latest intelligence from all
parts of the world.
I looked at Harry, and he looked at me; and then we both looked at this
At last Harry hemmed, and I scraped my foot to increase the disturbance.
The Paymaster-general looked up.
"Well, where do you come from? Who are you, pray? and what do you want?
Steward, show these young gentlemen out."
"I want my money," said Harry.
"My wages are due," said I.
The captain laughed. Oh! he was exceedingly merry; and taking a long
inspiration of smoke, removed his cigar, and sat sideways looking at us,
letting the vapor slowly wriggle and spiralize out of his mouth.
"Upon my soul, young gentlemen, you astonish me. Are your names down in
the City Directory? have you any letters of introduction, young
"Captain Riga!" cried Harry, enraged at his impudence--"I tell you what
it is, Captain Riga; this won't do--where's the rhino?"
"Captain Riga," added I, "do you not remember, that about four months
ago, my friend Mr. Jones and myself had an interview with you in this
very cabin; when it was agreed that I was to go out in your ship, and
receive three dollars per month for my services? Well, Captain Riga, I
have gone out with you, and returned; and now, sir, I'll thank you for
"Ah, yes, I remember," said the captain. "Mr. Jones! Ha! ha! I remember
Mr. Jones: a very gentlemanly gentleman; and stop--you, too, are the son
of a wealthy French importer; and--let me think--was not your great-uncle
"No!" thundered I.
"Well, well, young gentleman, really I beg your pardon. Steward, chairs
for the young gentlemen--be seated, young gentlemen. And now, let me
see," turning over his accounts--"Hum, hum!--yes, here it is:
Wellingborough Redburn, at three dollars a month. Say four months,
that's twelve dollars; less three dollars advanced in Liverpool--that
makes it nine dollars; less three hammers and two scrapers lost
overboard--that brings it to four dollars and a quarter. I owe you four
dollars and a quarter, I believe, young gentleman?"
"So it seems, sir," said I, with staring eyes.
"And now let me see what you owe me, and then well be able to square the
yards, Monsieur Redburn."
Owe him! thought I--what do I owe him but a grudge, but I concealed my
resentment; and presently he said, "By running away from the ship in
Liverpool, you forfeited your wages, which amount to twelve dollars; and
as there has been advanced to you, in money, hammers, and scrapers,
seven dollars and seventy-five cents, you are therefore indebted to me
in precisely that sum. Now, young gentleman, I'll thank you for the