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Essays of Travel by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Transcribed from the 1905 Chatto & Windus edition by David Price,
email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk






I first encountered my fellow-passengers on the Broomielaw in
Glasgow. Thence we descended the Clyde in no familiar spirit, but
looking askance on each other as on possible enemies. A few
Scandinavians, who had already grown acquainted on the North Sea,
were friendly and voluble over their long pipes; but among English
speakers distance and suspicion reigned supreme. The sun was soon
overclouded, the wind freshened and grew sharp as we continued to
descend the widening estuary; and with the falling temperature the
gloom among the passengers increased. Two of the women wept. Any
one who had come aboard might have supposed we were all absconding
from the law. There was scarce a word interchanged, and no common
sentiment but that of cold united us, until at length, having
touched at Greenock, a pointing arm and a rush to the starboard now
announced that our ocean steamer was in sight. There she lay in
mid-river, at the Tail of the Bank, her sea-signal flying: a wall
of bulwark, a street of white deck-houses, an aspiring forest of
spars, larger than a church, and soon to be as populous as many an
incorporated town in the land to which she was to bear us.

I was not, in truth, a steerage passenger. Although anxious to see
the worst of emigrant life, I had some work to finish on the
voyage, and was advised to go by the second cabin, where at least I
should have a table at command. The advice was excellent; but to
understand the choice, and what I gained, some outline of the
internal disposition of the ship will first be necessary. In her
very nose is Steerage No. 1, down two pair of stairs. A little
abaft, another companion, labelled Steerage No. 2 and 3, gives
admission to three galleries, two running forward towards Steerage
No. 1, and the third aft towards the engines. The starboard
forward gallery is the second cabin. Away abaft the engines and
below the officers' cabins, to complete our survey of the vessel,
there is yet a third nest of steerages, labelled 4 and 5. The
second cabin, to return, is thus a modified oasis in the very heart
of the steerages. Through the thin partition you can hear the
steerage passengers being sick, the rattle of tin dishes as they
sit at meals, the varied accents in which they converse, the crying
of their children terrified by this new experience, or the clean
flat smack of the parental hand in chastisement.

There are, however, many advantages for the inhabitant of this
strip. He does not require to bring his own bedding or dishes, but
finds berths and a table completely if somewhat roughly furnished.
He enjoys a distinct superiority in diet; but this, strange to say,
differs not only on different ships, but on the same ship according
as her head is to the east or west. In my own experience, the
principal difference between our table and that of the true
steerage passenger was the table itself, and the crockery plates
from which we ate. But lest I should show myself ungrateful, let
me recapitulate every advantage. At breakfast we had a choice
between tea and coffee for beverage; a choice not easy to make, the
two were so surprisingly alike. I found that I could sleep after
the coffee and lay awake after the tea, which is proof conclusive
of some chemical disparity; and even by the palate I could
distinguish a smack of snuff in the former from a flavour of
boiling and dish-cloths in the second. As a matter of fact, I have
seen passengers, after many sips, still doubting which had been
supplied them. In the way of eatables at the same meal we were
gloriously favoured; for in addition to porridge, which was common
to all, we had Irish stew, sometimes a bit of fish, and sometimes
rissoles. The dinner of soup, roast fresh beef, boiled salt junk,
and potatoes, was, I believe, exactly common to the steerage and
the second cabin; only I have heard it rumoured that our potatoes
were of a superior brand; and twice a week, on pudding-days,
instead of duff, we had a saddle-bag filled with currants under the
name of a plum-pudding. At tea we were served with some broken
meat from the saloon; sometimes in the comparatively elegant form
of spare patties or rissoles; but as a general thing mere chicken-
bones and flakes of fish, neither hot nor cold. If these were not
the scrapings of plates their looks belied them sorely; yet we were
all too hungry to be proud, and fell to these leavings greedily.
These, the bread, which was excellent, and the soup and porridge
which were both good, formed my whole diet throughout the voyage;
so that except for the broken meat and the convenience of a table I
might as well have been in the steerage outright. Had they given
me porridge again in the evening, I should have been perfectly
contented with the fare. As it was, with a few biscuits and some
whisky and water before turning in, I kept my body going and my
spirits up to the mark.

The last particular in which the second cabin passenger remarkably
stands ahead of his brother of the steerage is one altogether of
sentiment. In the steerage there are males and females; in the
second cabin ladies and gentlemen. For some time after I came
aboard I thought I was only a male; but in the course of a voyage
of discovery between decks, I came on a brass plate, and learned
that I was still a gentleman. Nobody knew it, of course. I was
lost in the crowd of males and females, and rigorously confined to
the same quarter of the deck. Who could tell whether I housed on
the port or starboard side of steerage No. 2 and 3? And it was
only there that my superiority became practical; everywhere else I
was incognito, moving among my inferiors with simplicity, not so
much as a swagger to indicate that I was a gentleman after all, and
had broken meat to tea. Still, I was like one with a patent of
nobility in a drawer at home; and when I felt out of spirits I
could go down and refresh myself with a look of that brass plate.

For all these advantages I paid but two guineas. Six guineas is
the steerage fare; eight that by the second cabin; and when you
remember that the steerage passenger must supply bedding and
dishes, and, in five cases out of ten, either brings some dainties
with him, or privately pays the steward for extra rations, the
difference in price becomes almost nominal. Air comparatively fit
to breathe, food comparatively varied, and the satisfaction of
being still privately a gentleman, may thus be had almost for the
asking. Two of my fellow-passengers in the second cabin had
already made the passage by the cheaper fare, and declared it was
an experiment not to be repeated. As I go on to tell about my
steerage friends, the reader will perceive that they were not alone
in their opinion. Out of ten with whom I was more or less
intimate, I am sure not fewer than five vowed, if they returned, to
travel second cabin; and all who had left their wives behind them
assured me they would go without the comfort of their presence
until they could afford to bring them by saloon.

Our party in the second cabin was not perhaps the most interesting
on board. Perhaps even in the saloon there was as much good-will
and character. Yet it had some elements of curiosity. There was a
mixed group of Swedes, Danes, and Norsemen, one of whom, generally
known by the name of 'Johnny,' in spite of his own protests,
greatly diverted us by his clever, cross-country efforts to speak
English, and became on the strength of that an universal favourite-
-it takes so little in this world of shipboard to create a
popularity. There was, besides, a Scots mason, known from his
favourite dish as 'Irish Stew,' three or four nondescript Scots, a
fine young Irishman, O'Reilly, and a pair of young men who deserve
a special word of condemnation. One of them was Scots; the other
claimed to be American; admitted, after some fencing, that he was
born in England; and ultimately proved to be an Irishman born and
nurtured, but ashamed to own his country. He had a sister on
board, whom he faithfully neglected throughout the voyage, though
she was not only sick, but much his senior, and had nursed and
cared for him in childhood. In appearance he was like an imbecile
Henry the Third of France. The Scotsman, though perhaps as big an
ass, was not so dead of heart; and I have only bracketed them
together because they were fast friends, and disgraced themselves
equally by their conduct at the table.

Next, to turn to topics more agreeable, we had a newly-married
couple, devoted to each other, with a pleasant story of how they
had first seen each other years ago at a preparatory school, and
that very afternoon he had carried her books home for her. I do
not know if this story will be plain to southern readers; but to me
it recalls many a school idyll, with wrathful swains of eight and
nine confronting each other stride-legs, flushed with jealousy; for
to carry home a young lady's books was both a delicate attention
and a privilege.

Then there was an old lady, or indeed I am not sure that she was as
much old as antiquated and strangely out of place, who had left her
husband, and was travelling all the way to Kansas by herself. We
had to take her own word that she was married; for it was sorely
contradicted by the testimony of her appearance. Nature seemed to
have sanctified her for the single state; even the colour of her
hair was incompatible with matrimony, and her husband, I thought,
should be a man of saintly spirit and phantasmal bodily presence.
She was ill, poor thing; her soul turned from the viands; the dirty
tablecloth shocked her like an impropriety; and the whole strength
of her endeavour was bent upon keeping her watch true to Glasgow
time till she should reach New York. They had heard reports, her
husband and she, of some unwarrantable disparity of hours between
these two cities; and with a spirit commendably scientific, had
seized on this occasion to put them to the proof. It was a good
thing for the old lady; for she passed much leisure time in
studying the watch. Once, when prostrated by sickness, she let it
run down. It was inscribed on her harmless mind in letters of
adamant that the hands of a watch must never be turned backwards;
and so it behoved her to lie in wait for the exact moment ere she
started it again. When she imagined this was about due, she sought
out one of the young second-cabin Scotsmen, who was embarked on the
same experiment as herself and had hitherto been less neglectful.
She was in quest of two o'clock; and when she learned it was
already seven on the shores of Clyde, she lifted up her voice and
cried 'Gravy!' I had not heard this innocent expletive since I was
a young child; and I suppose it must have been the same with the
other Scotsmen present, for we all laughed our fill.

Last but not least, I come to my excellent friend Mr. Jones. It
would be difficult to say whether I was his right-hand man, or he
mine, during the voyage. Thus at table I carved, while he only
scooped gravy; but at our concerts, of which more anon, he was the
president who called up performers to sing, and I but his messenger
who ran his errands and pleaded privately with the over-modest. I
knew I liked Mr. Jones from the moment I saw him. I thought him by
his face to be Scottish; nor could his accent undeceive me. For as
there is a lingua franca of many tongues on the moles and in the
feluccas of the Mediterranean, so there is a free or common accent
among English-speaking men who follow the sea. They catch a twang
in a New England Port; from a cockney skipper, even a Scotsman
sometimes learns to drop an h; a word of a dialect is picked up
from another band in the forecastle; until often the result is
undecipherable, and you have to ask for the man's place of birth.
So it was with Mr. Jones. I thought him a Scotsman who had been
long to sea; and yet he was from Wales, and had been most of his
life a blacksmith at an inland forge; a few years in America and
half a score of ocean voyages having sufficed to modify his speech
into the common pattern. By his own account he was both strong and
skilful in his trade. A few years back, he had been married and
after a fashion a rich man; now the wife was dead and the money
gone. But his was the nature that looks forward, and goes on from
one year to another and through all the extremities of fortune
undismayed; and if the sky were to fall to-morrow, I should look to
see Jones, the day following, perched on a step-ladder and getting
things to rights. He was always hovering round inventions like a
bee over a flower, and lived in a dream of patents. He had with
him a patent medicine, for instance, the composition of which he
had bought years ago for five dollars from an American pedlar, and
sold the other day for a hundred pounds (I think it was) to an
English apothecary. It was called Golden Oil, cured all maladies
without exception; and I am bound to say that I partook of it
myself with good results. It is a character of the man that he was
not only perpetually dosing himself with Golden Oil, but wherever
there was a head aching or a finger cut, there would be Jones with
his bottle.

If he had one taste more strongly than another, it was to study
character. Many an hour have we two walked upon the deck
dissecting our neighbours in a spirit that was too purely
scientific to be called unkind; whenever a quaint or human trait
slipped out in conversation, you might have seen Jones and me
exchanging glances; and we could hardly go to bed in comfort till
we had exchanged notes and discussed the day's experience. We were
then like a couple of anglers comparing a day's kill. But the fish
we angled for were of a metaphysical species, and we angled as
often as not in one another's baskets. Once, in the midst of a
serious talk, each found there was a scrutinising eye upon himself;
I own I paused in embarrassment at this double detection; but
Jones, with a better civility, broke into a peal of unaffected
laughter, and declared, what was the truth, that there was a pair
of us indeed.


We steamed out of the Clyde on Thursday night, and early on the
Friday forenoon we took in our last batch of emigrants at Lough
Foyle, in Ireland, and said farewell to Europe. The company was
now complete, and began to draw together, by inscrutable
magnetisms, upon the decks. There were Scots and Irish in plenty,
a few English, a few Americans, a good handful of Scandinavians, a
German or two, and one Russian; all now belonging for ten days to
one small iron country on the deep.

As I walked the deck and looked round upon my fellow-passengers,
thus curiously assorted from all northern Europe, I began for the
first time to understand the nature of emigration. Day by day
throughout the passage, and thenceforward across all the States,
and on to the shores of the Pacific, this knowledge grew more clear
and melancholy. Emigration, from a word of the most cheerful
import, came to sound most dismally in my ear. There is nothing
more agreeable to picture and nothing more pathetic to behold. The
abstract idea, as conceived at home, is hopeful and adventurous. A
young man, you fancy, scorning restraints and helpers, issues forth
into life, that great battle, to fight for his own hand. The most
pleasant stories of ambition, of difficulties overcome, and of
ultimate success, are but as episodes to this great epic of self-
help. The epic is composed of individual heroisms; it stands to
them as the victorious war which subdued an empire stands to the
personal act of bravery which spiked a single cannon and was
adequately rewarded with a medal. For in emigration the young men
enter direct and by the shipload on their heritage of work; empty
continents swarm, as at the bo's'un's whistle, with industrious
hands, and whole new empires are domesticated to the service of

This is the closet picture, and is found, on trial, to consist
mostly of embellishments. The more I saw of my fellow-passengers,
the less I was tempted to the lyric note. Comparatively few of the
men were below thirty; many were married, and encumbered with
families; not a few were already up in years; and this itself was
out of tune with my imaginations, for the ideal emigrant should
certainly be young. Again, I thought he should offer to the eye
some bold type of humanity, with bluff or hawk-like features, and
the stamp of an eager and pushing disposition. Now those around me
were for the most part quiet, orderly, obedient citizens, family
men broken by adversity, elderly youths who had failed to place
themselves in life, and people who had seen better days. Mildness
was the prevailing character; mild mirth and mild endurance. In a
word, I was not taking part in an impetuous and conquering sally,
such as swept over Mexico or Siberia, but found myself, like
Marmion, 'in the lost battle, borne down by the flying.'

Labouring mankind had in the last years, and throughout Great
Britain, sustained a prolonged and crushing series of defeats. I
had heard vaguely of these reverses; of whole streets of houses
standing deserted by the Tyne, the cellar-doors broken and removed
for firewood; of homeless men loitering at the street-corners of
Glasgow with their chests beside them; of closed factories, useless
strikes, and starving girls. But I had never taken them home to me
or represented these distresses livingly to my imagination.

A turn of the market may be a calamity as disastrous as the French
retreat from Moscow; but it hardly lends itself to lively
treatment, and makes a trifling figure in the morning papers. We
may struggle as we please, we are not born economists. The
individual is more affecting than the mass. It is by the scenic
accidents, and the appeal to the carnal eye, that for the most part
we grasp the significance of tragedies. Thus it was only now, when
I found myself involved in the rout, that I began to appreciate how
sharp had been the battle. We were a company of the rejected; the
drunken, the incompetent, the weak, the prodigal, all who had been
unable to prevail against circumstances in the one land, were now
fleeing pitifully to another; and though one or two might still
succeed, all had already failed. We were a shipful of failures,
the broken men of England. Yet it must not be supposed that these
people exhibited depression. The scene, on the contrary, was
cheerful. Not a tear was shed on board the vessel. All were full
of hope for the future, and showed an inclination to innocent
gaiety. Some were heard to sing, and all began to scrape
acquaintance with small jests and ready laughter.

The children found each other out like dogs, and ran about the
decks scraping acquaintance after their fashion also. 'What do you
call your mither?' I heard one ask. 'Mawmaw,' was the reply,
indicating, I fancy, a shade of difference in the social scale.
When people pass each other on the high seas of life at so early an
age, the contact is but slight, and the relation more like what we
may imagine to be the friendship of flies than that of men; it is
so quickly joined, so easily dissolved, so open in its
communications and so devoid of deeper human qualities. The
children, I observed, were all in a band, and as thick as thieves
at a fair, while their elders were still ceremoniously manoeuvring
on the outskirts of acquaintance. The sea, the ship, and the
seamen were soon as familiar as home to these half-conscious little
ones. It was odd to hear them, throughout the voyage, employ shore
words to designate portions of the vessel. 'Go 'way doon to yon
dyke,' I heard one say, probably meaning the bulwark. I often had
my heart in my mouth, watching them climb into the shrouds or on
the rails, while the ship went swinging through the waves; and I
admired and envied the courage of their mothers, who sat by in the
sun and looked on with composure at these perilous feats. 'He'll
maybe be a sailor,' I heard one remark; 'now's the time to learn.'
I had been on the point of running forward to interfere, but stood
back at that, reproved. Very few in the more delicate classes have
the nerve to look upon the peril of one dear to them; but the life
of poorer folk, where necessity is so much more immediate and
imperious, braces even a mother to this extreme of endurance. And
perhaps, after all, it is better that the lad should break his neck
than that you should break his spirit.

And since I am here on the chapter of the children, I must mention
one little fellow, whose family belonged to Steerage No. 4 and 5,
and who, wherever he went, was like a strain of music round the
ship. He was an ugly, merry, unbreeched child of three, his lint-
white hair in a tangle, his face smeared with suet and treacle; but
he ran to and fro with so natural a step, and fell and picked
himself up again with such grace and good-humour, that he might
fairly be called beautiful when he was in motion. To meet him,
crowing with laughter and beating an accompaniment to his own mirth
with a tin spoon upon a tin cup, was to meet a little triumph of
the human species. Even when his mother and the rest of his family
lay sick and prostrate around him, he sat upright in their midst
and sang aloud in the pleasant heartlessness of infancy.

Throughout the Friday, intimacy among us men made but a few
advances. We discussed the probable duration of the voyage, we
exchanged pieces of information, naming our trades, what we hoped
to find in the new world, or what we were fleeing from in the old;
and, above all, we condoled together over the food and the vileness
of the steerage. One or two had been so near famine that you may
say they had run into the ship with the devil at their heels; and
to these all seemed for the best in the best of possible steamers.
But the majority were hugely contented. Coming as they did from a
country in so low a state as Great Britain, many of them from
Glasgow, which commercially speaking was as good as dead, and many
having long been out of work, I was surprised to find them so
dainty in their notions. I myself lived almost exclusively on
bread, porridge, and soup, precisely as it was supplied to them,
and found it, if not luxurious, at least sufficient. But these
working men were loud in their outcries. It was not 'food for
human beings,' it was 'only fit for pigs,' it was 'a disgrace.'
Many of them lived almost entirely upon biscuit, others on their
own private supplies, and some paid extra for better rations from
the ship. This marvellously changed my notion of the degree of
luxury habitual to the artisan. I was prepared to hear him
grumble, for grumbling is the traveller's pastime; but I was not
prepared to find him turn away from a diet which was palatable to
myself. Words I should have disregarded, or taken with a liberal
allowance; but when a man prefers dry biscuit there can be no
question of the sincerity of his disgust.

With one of their complaints I could most heartily sympathise. A
single night of the steerage had filled them with horror. I had
myself suffered, even in my decent-second-cabin berth, from the
lack of air; and as the night promised to be fine and quiet, I
determined to sleep on deck, and advised all who complained of
their quarters to follow my example. I dare say a dozen of others
agreed to do so, and I thought we should have been quite a party.
Yet, when I brought up my rug about seven bells, there was no one
to be seen but the watch. That chimerical terror of good night-
air, which makes men close their windows, list their doors, and
seal themselves up with their own poisonous exhalations, had sent
all these healthy workmen down below. One would think we had been
brought up in a fever country; yet in England the most malarious
districts are in the bedchambers.

I felt saddened at this defection, and yet half-pleased to have the
night so quietly to myself. The wind had hauled a little ahead on
the starboard bow, and was dry but chilly. I found a shelter near
the fire-hole, and made myself snug for the night.

The ship moved over the uneven sea with a gentle and cradling
movement. The ponderous, organic labours of the engine in her
bowels occupied the mind, and prepared it for slumber. From time
to time a heavier lurch would disturb me as I lay, and recall me to
the obscure borders of consciousness; or I heard, as it were
through a veil, the clear note of the clapper on the brass and the
beautiful sea-cry, 'All's well!' I know nothing, whether for
poetry or music, that can surpass the effect of these two syllables
in the darkness of a night at sea.

The day dawned fairly enough, and during the early part we had some
pleasant hours to improve acquaintance in the open air; but towards
nightfall the wind freshened, the rain began to fall, and the sea
rose so high that it was difficult to keep ones footing on the
deck. I have spoken of our concerts. We were indeed a musical
ship's company, and cheered our way into exile with the fiddle, the
accordion, and the songs of all nations. Good, bad, or
indifferent--Scottish, English, Irish, Russian, German or Norse,--
the songs were received with generous applause. Once or twice, a
recitation, very spiritedly rendered in a powerful Scottish accent,
varied the proceedings; and once we sought in vain to dance a
quadrille, eight men of us together, to the music of the violin.
The performers were all humorous, frisky fellows, who loved to cut
capers in private life; but as soon as they were arranged for the
dance, they conducted themselves like so many mutes at a funeral.
I have never seen decorum pushed so far; and as this was not
expected, the quadrille was soon whistled down, and the dancers
departed under a cloud. Eight Frenchmen, even eight Englishmen
from another rank of society, would have dared to make some fun for
themselves and the spectators; but the working man, when sober,
takes an extreme and even melancholy view of personal deportment.
A fifth-form schoolboy is not more careful of dignity. He dares
not be comical; his fun must escape from him unprepared, and above
all, it must be unaccompanied by any physical demonstration. I
like his society under most circumstances, but let me never again
join with him in public gambols.

But the impulse to sing was strong, and triumphed over modesty and
even the inclemencies of sea and sky. On this rough Saturday
night, we got together by the main deck-house, in a place sheltered
from the wind and rain. Some clinging to a ladder which led to the
hurricane deck, and the rest knitting arms or taking hands, we made
a ring to support the women in the violent lurching of the ship;
and when we were thus disposed, sang to our hearts' content. Some
of the songs were appropriate to the scene; others strikingly the
reverse. Bastard doggrel of the music-hall, such as, 'Around her
splendid form, I weaved the magic circle,' sounded bald, bleak, and
pitifully silly. 'We don't want to fight, but, by Jingo, if we
do,' was in some measure saved by the vigour and unanimity with
which the chorus was thrown forth into the night. I observed a
Platt-Deutsch mason, entirely innocent of English, adding heartily
to the general effect. And perhaps the German mason is but a fair
example of the sincerity with which the song was rendered; for
nearly all with whom I conversed upon the subject were bitterly
opposed to war, and attributed their own misfortunes, and
frequently their own taste for whisky, to the campaigns in Zululand
and Afghanistan.

Every now and again, however, some song that touched the pathos of
our situation was given forth; and you could hear by the voices
that took up the burden how the sentiment came home to each, 'The
Anchor's Weighed' was true for us. We were indeed 'Rocked on the
bosom of the stormy deep.' How many of us could say with the
singer, 'I'm lonely to-night, love, without you,' or, 'Go, some
one, and tell them from me, to write me a letter from home'! And
when was there a more appropriate moment for 'Auld Lang Syne' than
now, when the land, the friends, and the affections of that mingled
but beloved time were fading and fleeing behind us in the vessel's
wake? It pointed forward to the hour when these labours should be
overpast, to the return voyage, and to many a meeting in the sanded
inn, when those who had parted in the spring of youth should again
drink a cup of kindness in their age. Had not Burns contemplated
emigration, I scarce believe he would have found that note.

All Sunday the weather remained wild and cloudy; many were
prostrated by sickness; only five sat down to tea in the second
cabin, and two of these departed abruptly ere the meal was at an
end. The Sabbath was observed strictly by the majority of the
emigrants. I heard an old woman express her surprise that 'the
ship didna gae doon,' as she saw some one pass her with a chess-
board on the holy day. Some sang Scottish psalms. Many went to
service, and in true Scottish fashion came back ill pleased with
their divine. 'I didna think he was an experienced preacher,' said
one girl to me.

Is was a bleak, uncomfortable day; but at night, by six bells,
although the wind had not yet moderated, the clouds were all
wrecked and blown away behind the rim of the horizon, and the stars
came out thickly overhead. I saw Venus burning as steadily and
sweetly across this hurly-burly of the winds and waters as ever at
home upon the summer woods. The engine pounded, the screw tossed
out of the water with a roar, and shook the ship from end to end;
the bows battled with loud reports against the billows: and as I
stood in the lee-scuppers and looked up to where the funnel leaned
out, over my head, vomiting smoke, and the black and monstrous top-
sails blotted, at each lurch, a different crop of stars, it seemed
as if all this trouble were a thing of small account, and that just
above the mast reigned peace unbroken and eternal.


Our companion (Steerage No. 2 and 3) was a favourite resort. Down
one flight of stairs there was a comparatively large open space,
the centre occupied by a hatchway, which made a convenient seat for
about twenty persons, while barrels, coils of rope, and the
carpenter's bench afforded perches for perhaps as many more. The
canteen, or steerage bar, was on one side of the stair; on the
other, a no less attractive spot, the cabin of the indefatigable

I have seen people packed into this space like herrings in a
barrel, and many merry evenings prolonged there until five bells,
when the lights were ruthlessly extinguished and all must go to

It had been rumoured since Friday that there was a fiddler aboard,
who lay sick and unmelodious in Steerage No. 1; and on the Monday
forenoon, as I came down the companion, I was saluted by something
in Strathspey time. A white-faced Orpheus was cheerily playing to
an audience of white-faced women. It was as much as he could do to
play, and some of his hearers were scarce able to sit; yet they had
crawled from their bunks at the first experimental flourish, and
found better than medicine in the music. Some of the heaviest
heads began to nod in time, and a degree of animation looked from
some of the palest eyes. Humanly speaking, it is a more important
matter to play the fiddle, even badly, than to write huge works
upon recondite subjects. What could Mr. Darwin have done for these
sick women? But this fellow scraped away; and the world was
positively a better place for all who heard him. We have yet to
understand the economical value of these mere accomplishments. I
told the fiddler he was a happy man, carrying happiness about with
him in his fiddle-case, and he seemed alive to the fact.

'It is a privilege,' I said. He thought a while upon the word,
turning it over in his Scots head, and then answered with
conviction, 'Yes, a privilege.'

That night I was summoned by 'Merrily danced the Quake's wife' into
the companion of Steerage No. 4 and 5. This was, properly
speaking, but a strip across a deck-house, lit by a sickly lantern
which swung to and fro with the motion of the ship. Through the
open slide-door we had a glimpse of a grey night sea, with patches
of phosphorescent foam flying, swift as birds, into the wake, and
the horizon rising and falling as the vessel rolled to the wind.
In the centre the companion ladder plunged down sheerly like an
open pit. Below, on the first landing, and lighted by another
lamp, lads and lasses danced, not more than three at a time for
lack of space, in jigs and reels and hornpipes. Above, on either
side, there was a recess railed with iron, perhaps two feet wide
and four long, which stood for orchestra and seats of honour. In
the one balcony, five slatternly Irish lasses sat woven in a comely
group. In the other was posted Orpheus, his body, which was
convulsively in motion, forming an odd contrast to his somnolent,
imperturbable Scots face. His brother, a dark man with a vehement,
interested countenance, who made a god of the fiddler, sat by with
open mouth, drinking in the general admiration and throwing out
remarks to kindle it.

'That's a bonny hornpipe now,' he would say, 'it's a great
favourite with performers; they dance the sand dance to it.' And
he expounded the sand dance. Then suddenly, it would be a long,
'Hush!' with uplifted finger and glowing, supplicating eyes, 'he's
going to play "Auld Robin Gray" on one string!' And throughout
this excruciating movement,--'On one string, that's on one string!'
he kept crying. I would have given something myself that it had
been on none; but the hearers were much awed. I called for a tune
or two, and thus introduced myself to the notice of the brother,
who directed his talk to me for some little while, keeping, I need
hardly mention, true to his topic, like the seamen to the star.
'He's grand of it,' he said confidentially. 'His master was a
music-hall man.' Indeed the music-hall man had left his mark, for
our fiddler was ignorant of many of our best old airs; 'Logie o'
Buchan,' for instance, he only knew as a quick, jigging figure in a
set of quadrilles, and had never heard it called by name. Perhaps,
after all, the brother was the more interesting performer of the
two. I have spoken with him afterwards repeatedly, and found him
always the same quick, fiery bit of a man, not without brains; but
he never showed to such advantage as when he was thus squiring the
fiddler into public note. There is nothing more becoming than a
genuine admiration; and it shares this with love, that it does not
become contemptible although misplaced.

The dancing was but feebly carried on. The space was almost
impracticably small; and the Irish wenches combined the extreme of
bashfulness about this innocent display with a surprising impudence
and roughness of address. Most often, either the fiddle lifted up
its voice unheeded, or only a couple of lads would be footing it
and snapping fingers on the landing. And such was the eagerness of
the brother to display all the acquirements of his idol, and such
the sleepy indifference of the performer, that the tune would as
often as not be changed, and the hornpipe expire into a ballad
before the dancers had cut half a dozen shuffles.

In the meantime, however, the audience had been growing more and
more numerous every moment; there was hardly standing-room round
the top of the companion; and the strange instinct of the race
moved some of the newcomers to close both the doors, so that the
atmosphere grew insupportable. It was a good place, as the saying
is, to leave.

The wind hauled ahead with a head sea. By ten at night heavy
sprays were flying and drumming over the forecastle; the companion
of Steerage No. 1 had to be closed, and the door of communication
through the second cabin thrown open. Either from the convenience
of the opportunity, or because we had already a number of
acquaintances in that part of the ship, Mr. Jones and I paid it a
late visit. Steerage No. 1 is shaped like an isosceles triangle,
the sides opposite the equal angles bulging outward with the
contour of the ship. It is lined with eight pens of sixteen bunks
apiece, four bunks below and four above on either side. At night
the place is lit with two lanterns, one to each table. As the
steamer beat on her way among the rough billows, the light passed
through violent phases of change, and was thrown to and fro and up
and down with startling swiftness. You were tempted to wonder, as
you looked, how so thin a glimmer could control and disperse such
solid blackness. When Jones and I entered we found a little
company of our acquaintances seated together at the triangular
foremost table. A more forlorn party, in more dismal
circumstances, it would be hard to imagine. The motion here in the
ship's nose was very violent; the uproar of the sea often
overpoweringly loud. The yellow flicker of the lantern spun round
and round and tossed the shadows in masses. The air was hot, but
it struck a chill from its foetor.

From all round in the dark bunks, the scarcely human noises of the
sick joined into a kind of farmyard chorus. In the midst, these
five friends of mine were keeping up what heart they could in
company. Singing was their refuge from discomfortable thoughts and
sensations. One piped, in feeble tones, 'Oh why left I my hame?'
which seemed a pertinent question in the circumstances. Another,
from the invisible horrors of a pen where he lay dog-sick upon the
upper-shelf, found courage, in a blink of his sufferings, to give
us several verses of the 'Death of Nelson'; and it was odd and
eerie to hear the chorus breathe feebly from all sorts of dark
corners, and 'this day has done his dooty' rise and fall and be
taken up again in this dim inferno, to an accompaniment of
plunging, hollow-sounding bows and the rattling spray-showers

All seemed unfit for conversation; a certain dizziness had
interrupted the activity of their minds; and except to sing they
were tongue-tied. There was present, however, one tall, powerful
fellow of doubtful nationality, being neither quite Scotsman nor
altogether Irish, but of surprising clearness of conviction on the
highest problems. He had gone nearly beside himself on the Sunday,
because of a general backwardness to indorse his definition of mind
as 'a living, thinking substance which cannot be felt, heard, or
seen'--nor, I presume, although he failed to mention it, smelt.
Now he came forward in a pause with another contribution to our

'Just by way of change,' said he, 'I'll ask you a Scripture riddle.
There's profit in them too,' he added ungrammatically.

This was the riddle-

C and P
Did agree
To cut down C;
But C and P
Could not agree
Without the leave of G;
All the people cried to see
The crueltie
Of C and P.

Harsh are the words of Mercury after the songs of Apollo! We were
a long while over the problem, shaking our heads and gloomily
wondering how a man could be such a fool; but at length he put us
out of suspense and divulged the fact that C and P stood for
Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate.

I think it must have been the riddle that settled us; but the
motion and the close air likewise hurried our departure. We had
not been gone long, we heard next morning, ere two or even three
out of the five fell sick. We thought it little wonder on the
whole, for the sea kept contrary all night. I now made my bed upon
the second cabin floor, where, although I ran the risk of being
stepped upon, I had a free current of air, more or less vitiated
indeed, and running only from steerage to steerage, but at least
not stagnant; and from this couch, as well as the usual sounds of a
rough night at sea, the hateful coughing and retching of the sick
and the sobs of children, I heard a man run wild with terror
beseeching his friend for encouragement. 'The ship 's going down!'
he cried with a thrill of agony. 'The ship's going down!' he
repeated, now in a blank whisper, now with his voice rising towards
a sob; and his friend might reassure him, reason with him, joke at
him--all was in vain, and the old cry came back, 'The ship's going
down!' There was something panicky and catching in the emotion of
his tones; and I saw in a clear flash what an involved and hideous
tragedy was a disaster to an emigrant ship. If this whole
parishful of people came no more to land, into how many houses
would the newspaper carry woe, and what a great part of the web of
our corporate human life would be rent across for ever!

The next morning when I came on deck I found a new world indeed.
The wind was fair; the sun mounted into a cloudless heaven; through
great dark blue seas the ship cut a swath of curded foam. The
horizon was dotted all day with companionable sails, and the sun
shone pleasantly on the long, heaving deck.

We had many fine-weather diversions to beguile the time. There was
a single chess-board and a single pack of cards. Sometimes as many
as twenty of us would be playing dominoes for love. Feats of
dexterity, puzzles for the intelligence, some arithmetical, some of
the same order as the old problem of the fox and goose and cabbage,
were always welcome; and the latter, I observed, more popular as
well as more conspicuously well done than the former. We had a
regular daily competition to guess the vessel's progress; and
twelve o'clock, when the result was published in the wheel-house,
came to be a moment of considerable interest. But the interest was
unmixed. Not a bet was laid upon our guesses. From the Clyde to
Sandy Hook I never heard a wager offered or taken. We had,
besides, romps in plenty. Puss in the Corner, which we had
rebaptized, in more manly style, Devil and four Corners, was my own
favourite game; but there were many who preferred another, the
humour of which was to box a person's ears until he found out who
had cuffed him.

This Tuesday morning we were all delighted with the change of
weather, and in the highest possible spirits. We got in a cluster
like bees, sitting between each other's feet under lee of the deck-
houses. Stories and laughter went around. The children climbed
about the shrouds. White faces appeared for the first time, and
began to take on colour from the wind. I was kept hard at work
making cigarettes for one amateur after another, and my less than
moderate skill was heartily admired. Lastly, down sat the fiddler
in our midst and began to discourse his reels, and jigs, and
ballads, with now and then a voice or two to take up the air and
throw in the interest of human speech.

Through this merry and good-hearted scene there came three cabin
passengers, a gentleman and two young ladies, picking their way
with little gracious titters of indulgence, and a Lady-Bountiful
air about nothing, which galled me to the quick. I have little of
the radical in social questions, and have always nourished an idea
that one person was as good as another. But I began to be troubled
by this episode. It was astonishing what insults these people
managed to convey by their presence. They seemed to throw their
clothes in our faces. Their eyes searched us all over for tatters
and incongruities. A laugh was ready at their lips; but they were
too well-mannered to indulge it in our hearing. Wait a bit, till
they were all back in the saloon, and then hear how wittily they
would depict the manners of the steerage. We were in truth very
innocently, cheerfully, and sensibly engaged, and there was no
shadow of excuse for the swaying elegant superiority with which
these damsels passed among us, or for the stiff and waggish glances
of their squire. Not a word was said; only when they were gone
Mackay sullenly damned their impudence under his breath; but we
were all conscious of an icy influence and a dead break in the
course of our enjoyment.


We had a fellow on board, an Irish-American, for all the world like
a beggar in a print by Callot; one-eyed, with great, splay crow's-
feet round the sockets; a knotty squab nose coming down over his
moustache; a miraculous hat; a shirt that had been white, ay, ages
long ago; an alpaca coat in its last sleeves; and, without
hyperbole, no buttons to his trousers. Even in these rags and
tatters, the man twinkled all over with impudence like a piece of
sham jewellery; and I have heard him offer a situation to one of
his fellow-passengers with the air of a lord. Nothing could
overlie such a fellow; a kind of base success was written on his
brow. He was then in his ill days; but I can imagine him in
Congress with his mouth full of bombast and sawder. As we moved in
the same circle, I was brought necessarily into his society. I do
not think I ever heard him say anything that was true, kind, or
interesting; but there was entertainment in the man's demeanour.
You might call him a half-educated Irish Tigg.

Our Russian made a remarkable contrast to this impossible fellow.
Rumours and legends were current in the steerages about his
antecedents. Some said he was a Nihilist escaping; others set him
down for a harmless spendthrift, who had squandered fifty thousand
roubles, and whose father had now despatched him to America by way
of penance. Either tale might flourish in security; there was no
contradiction to be feared, for the hero spoke not one word of
English. I got on with him lumberingly enough in broken German,
and learned from his own lips that he had been an apothecary. He
carried the photograph of his betrothed in a pocket-book, and
remarked that it did not do her justice. The cut of his head stood
out from among the passengers with an air of startling strangeness.
The first natural instinct was to take him for a desperado; but
although the features, to our Western eyes, had a barbaric and
unhomely cast, the eye both reassured and touched. It was large
and very dark and soft, with an expression of dumb endurance, as if
it had often looked on desperate circumstances and never looked on
them without resolution.

He cried out when I used the word. 'No, no,' he said, 'not

'The resolution to endure,' I explained.

And then he shrugged his shoulders, and said, 'Ach, ja,' with
gusto, like a man who has been flattered in his favourite
pretensions. Indeed, he was always hinting at some secret sorrow;
and his life, he said, had been one of unusual trouble and anxiety;
so the legends of the steerage may have represented at least some
shadow of the truth. Once, and once only, he sang a song at our
concerts; standing forth without embarrassment, his great stature
somewhat humped, his long arms frequently extended, his Kalmuck
head thrown backward. It was a suitable piece of music, as deep as
a cow's bellow and wild like the White Sea. He was struck and
charmed by the freedom and sociality of our manners. At home, he
said, no one on a journey would speak to him, but those with whom
he would not care to speak; thus unconsciously involving himself in
the condemnation of his countrymen. But Russia was soon to be
changed; the ice of the Neva was softening under the sun of
civilisation; the new ideas, 'wie eine feine Violine,' were audible
among the big empty drum notes of Imperial diplomacy; and he looked
to see a great revival, though with a somewhat indistinct and
childish hope.

We had a father and son who made a pair of Jacks-of-all-trades. It
was the son who sang the 'Death of Nelson' under such contrarious
circumstances. He was by trade a shearer of ship plates; but he
could touch the organ, and led two choirs, and played the flute and
piccolo in a professional string band. His repertory of songs was,
besides, inexhaustible, and ranged impartially from the very best
to the very worst within his reach. Nor did he seem to make the
least distinction between these extremes, but would cheerily follow
up 'Tom Bowling' with 'Around her splendid form.'

The father, an old, cheery, small piece of man-hood, could do
everything connected with tinwork from one end of the process to
the other, use almost every carpenter's tool, and make picture
frames to boot. 'I sat down with silver plate every Sunday,' said
he, 'and pictures on the wall. I have made enough money to be
rolling in my carriage. But, sir,' looking at me unsteadily with
his bright rheumy eyes, 'I was troubled with a drunken wife.' He
took a hostile view of matrimony in consequence. 'It's an old
saying,' he remarked: 'God made 'em, and the devil he mixed 'em.'

I think he was justified by his experience. It was a dreary story.
He would bring home three pounds on Saturday, and on Monday all the
clothes would be in pawn. Sick of the useless struggle, he gave up
a paying contract, and contented himself with small and ill-paid
jobs. 'A bad job was as good as a good job for me,' he said; 'it
all went the same way.' Once the wife showed signs of amendment;
she kept steady for weeks on end; it was again worth while to
labour and to do one's best. The husband found a good situation
some distance from home, and, to make a little upon every hand,
started the wife in a cook-shop; the children were here and there,
busy as mice; savings began to grow together in the bank, and the
golden age of hope had returned again to that unhappy family. But
one week my old acquaintance, getting earlier through with his
work, came home on the Friday instead of the Saturday, and there
was his wife to receive him reeling drunk. He 'took and gave her a
pair o' black eyes,' for which I pardon him, nailed up the cook-
shop door, gave up his situation, and resigned himself to a life of
poverty, with the workhouse at the end. As the children came to
their full age they fled the house, and established themselves in
other countries; some did well, some not so well; but the father
remained at home alone with his drunken wife, all his sound-hearted
pluck and varied accomplishments depressed and negatived.

Was she dead now? or, after all these years, had he broken the
chain, and run from home like a schoolboy? I could not discover
which; but here at least he was out on the adventure, and still one
of the bravest and most youthful men on board.

'Now, I suppose, I must put my old bones to work again,' said he;
'but I can do a turn yet.'

And the son to whom he was going, I asked, was he not able to
support him?

'Oh yes,' he replied. 'But I'm never happy without a job on hand.
And I'm stout; I can eat a'most anything. You see no craze about

This tale of a drunken wife was paralleled on board by another of a
drunken father. He was a capable man, with a good chance in life;
but he had drunk up two thriving businesses like a bottle of
sherry, and involved his sons along with him in ruin. Now they
were on board with us, fleeing his disastrous neighbourhood.

Total abstinence, like all ascetical conclusions, is unfriendly to
the most generous, cheerful, and human parts of man; but it could
have adduced many instances and arguments from among our ship's
company. I was, one day conversing with a kind and happy Scotsman,
running to fat and perspiration in the physical, but with a taste
for poetry and a genial sense of fun. I had asked him his hopes in
emigrating. They were like those of so many others, vague and
unfounded; times were bad at home; they were said to have a turn
for the better in the States; a man could get on anywhere, he
thought. That was precisely the weak point of his position; for if
he could get on in America, why could he not do the same in
Scotland? But I never had the courage to use that argument, though
it was often on the tip of my tongue, and instead I agreed with him
heartily adding, with reckless originality, 'If the man stuck to
his work, and kept away from drink.'

'Ah!' said he slowly, 'the drink! You see, that's just my

He spoke with a simplicity that was touching, looking at me at the
same time with something strange and timid in his eye, half-
ashamed, half-sorry, like a good child who knows he should be
beaten. You would have said he recognised a destiny to which he
was born, and accepted the consequences mildly. Like the merchant
Abudah, he was at the same time fleeing from his destiny and
carrying it along with him, the whole at an expense of six guineas.

As far as I saw, drink, idleness, and incompetency were the three
great causes of emigration, and for all of them, and drink first
and foremost, this trick of getting transported overseas appears to
me the silliest means of cure. You cannot run away from a
weakness; you must some time fight it out or perish; and if that be
so, why not now, and where you stand? Coelum non animam. Change
Glenlivet for Bourbon, and it is still whisky, only not so good. A
sea-voyage will not give a man the nerve to put aside cheap
pleasure; emigration has to be done before we climb the vessel; an
aim in life is the only fortune worth the finding; and it is not to
be found in foreign lands, but in the heart itself.

Speaking generally, there is no vice of this kind more contemptible
than another; for each is but a result and outward sign of a soul
tragically ship-wrecked. In the majority of cases, cheap pleasure
is resorted to by way of anodyne. The pleasure-seeker sets forth
upon life with high and difficult ambitions; he meant to be nobly
good and nobly happy, though at as little pains as possible to
himself; and it is because all has failed in his celestial
enterprise that you now behold him rolling in the garbage. Hence
the comparative success of the teetotal pledge; because to a man
who had nothing it sets at least a negative aim in life. Somewhat
as prisoners beguile their days by taming a spider, the reformed
drunkard makes an interest out of abstaining from intoxicating
drinks, and may live for that negation. There is something, at
least, NOT TO BE DONE each day; and a cold triumph awaits him every

We had one on board with us, whom I have already referred to under
the name Mackay, who seemed to me not only a good instance of this
failure in life of which we have been speaking, but a good type of
the intelligence which here surrounded me. Physically he was a
small Scotsman, standing a little back as though he were already
carrying the elements of a corporation, and his looks somewhat
marred by the smallness of his eyes. Mentally, he was endowed
above the average. There were but few subjects on which he could
not converse with understanding and a dash of wit; delivering
himself slowly and with gusto like a man who enjoyed his own
sententiousness. He was a dry, quick, pertinent debater, speaking
with a small voice, and swinging on his heels to launch and
emphasise an argument. When he began a discussion, he could not
bear to leave it off, but would pick the subject to the bone,
without once relinquishing a point. An engineer by trade, Mackay
believed in the unlimited perfectibility of all machines except the
human machine. The latter he gave up with ridicule for a compound
of carrion and perverse gases. He had an appetite for disconnected
facts which I can only compare to the savage taste for beads. What
is called information was indeed a passion with the man, and he not
only delighted to receive it, but could pay you back in kind.

With all these capabilities, here was Mackay, already no longer
young, on his way to a new country, with no prospects, no money,
and but little hope. He was almost tedious in the cynical
disclosures of his despair. 'The ship may go down for me,' he
would say, 'now or to-morrow. I have nothing to lose and nothing
to hope.' And again: 'I am sick of the whole damned performance.'
He was, like the kind little man, already quoted, another so-called
victim of the bottle. But Mackay was miles from publishing his
weakness to the world; laid the blame of his failure on corrupt
masters and a corrupt State policy; and after he had been one night
overtaken and had played the buffoon in his cups, sternly, though
not without tact, suppressed all reference to his escapade. It was
a treat to see him manage this: the various jesters withered under
his gaze, and you were forced to recognise in him a certain steely
force, and a gift of command which might have ruled a senate.

In truth it was not whisky that had ruined him; he was ruined long
before for all good human purposes but conversation. His eyes were
sealed by a cheap, school-book materialism. He could see nothing
in the world but money and steam-engines. He did not know what you
meant by the word happiness. He had forgotten the simple emotions
of childhood, and perhaps never encountered the delights of youth.
He believed in production, that useful figment of economy, as if it
had been real like laughter; and production, without prejudice to
liquor, was his god and guide. One day he took me to task--novel
cry to me--upon the over-payment of literature. Literary men, he
said, were more highly paid than artisans; yet the artisan made
threshing-machines and butter-churns, and the man of letters,
except in the way of a few useful handbooks, made nothing worth the
while. He produced a mere fancy article. Mackay's notion of a
book was Hoppus's Measurer. Now in my time I have possessed and
even studied that work; but if I were to be left to-morrow on Juan
Fernandez, Hoppus's is not the book that I should choose for my
companion volume.

I tried to fight the point with Mackay. I made him own that he had
taken pleasure in reading books otherwise, to his view,
insignificant; but he was too wary to advance a step beyond the
admission. It was in vain for me to argue that here was pleasure
ready-made and running from the spring, whereas his ploughs and
butter-churns were but means and mechanisms to give men the
necessary food and leisure before they start upon the search for
pleasure; he jibbed and ran away from such conclusions. The thing
was different, he declared, and nothing was serviceable but what
had to do with food. 'Eat, eat, eat!' he cried; 'that's the bottom
and the top.' By an odd irony of circumstance, he grew so much
interested in this discussion that he let the hour slip by
unnoticed and had to go without his tea. He had enough sense and
humour, indeed he had no lack of either, to have chuckled over this
himself in private; and even to me he referred to it with the
shadow of a smile.

Mackay was a hot bigot. He would not hear of religion. I have
seen him waste hours of time in argument with all sorts of poor
human creatures who understood neither him nor themselves, and he
had had the boyishness to dissect and criticise even so small a
matter as the riddler's definition of mind. He snorted aloud with
zealotry and the lust for intellectual battle. Anything, whatever
it was, that seemed to him likely to discourage the continued
passionate production of corn and steam-engines he resented like a
conspiracy against the people. Thus, when I put in the plea for
literature, that it was only in good books, or in the society of
the good, that a man could get help in his conduct, he declared I
was in a different world from him. 'Damn my conduct!' said he. 'I
have given it up for a bad job. My question is, "Can I drive a
nail?"' And he plainly looked upon me as one who was insidiously
seeking to reduce the people's annual bellyful of corn and steam-

It may be argued that these opinions spring from the defect of
culture; that a narrow and pinching way of life not only
exaggerates to a man the importance of material conditions, but
indirectly, by denying him the necessary books and leisure, keeps
his mind ignorant of larger thoughts; and that hence springs this
overwhelming concern about diet, and hence the bald view of
existence professed by Mackay. Had this been an English peasant
the conclusion would be tenable. But Mackay had most of the
elements of a liberal education. He had skirted metaphysical and
mathematical studies. He had a thoughtful hold of what he knew,
which would be exceptional among bankers. He had been brought up
in the midst of hot-house piety, and told, with incongruous pride,
the story of his own brother's deathbed ecstasies. Yet he had
somehow failed to fulfil himself, and was adrift like a dead thing
among external circumstances, without hope or lively preference or
shaping aim. And further, there seemed a tendency among many of
his fellows to fall into the same blank and unlovely opinions. One
thing, indeed, is not to be learned in Scotland, and that is the
way to be happy. Yet that is the whole of culture, and perhaps
two-thirds of morality. Can it be that the Puritan school, by
divorcing a man from nature, by thinning out his instincts, and
setting a stamp of its disapproval on whole fields of human
activity and interest, leads at last directly to material greed?

Nature is a good guide through life, and the love of simple
pleasures next, if not superior, to virtue; and we had on board an
Irishman who based his claim to the widest and most affectionate
popularity precisely upon these two qualities, that he was natural
and happy. He boasted a fresh colour, a tight little figure,
unquenchable gaiety, and indefatigable goodwill. His clothes
puzzled the diagnostic mind, until you heard he had been once a
private coachman, when they became eloquent and seemed a part of
his biography. His face contained the rest, and, I fear, a
prophecy of the future; the hawk's nose above accorded so ill with
the pink baby's mouth below. His spirit and his pride belonged,
you might say, to the nose; while it was the general shiftlessness
expressed by the other that had thrown him from situation to
situation, and at length on board the emigrant ship. Barney ate,
so to speak, nothing from the galley; his own tea, butter, and eggs
supported him throughout the voyage; and about mealtime you might
often find him up to the elbows in amateur cookery. His was the
first voice heard singing among all the passengers; he was the
first who fell to dancing. From Loch Foyle to Sandy Hook, there
was not a piece of fun undertaken but there was Barney in the

You ought to have seen him when he stood up to sing at our
concerts--his tight little figure stepping to and fro, and his feet
shuffling to the air, his eyes seeking and bestowing encouragement-
-and to have enjoyed the bow, so nicely calculated between jest and
earnest, between grace and clumsiness, with which he brought each
song to a conclusion. He was not only a great favourite among
ourselves, but his songs attracted the lords of the saloon, who
often leaned to hear him over the rails of the hurricane-deck. He
was somewhat pleased, but not at all abashed, by this attention;
and one night, in the midst of his famous performance of 'Billy
Keogh,' I saw him spin half round in a pirouette and throw an
audacious wink to an old gentleman above.

This was the more characteristic, as, for all his daffing, he was a
modest and very polite little fellow among ourselves.

He would not have hurt the feelings of a fly, nor throughout the
passage did he give a shadow of offence; yet he was always, by his
innocent freedoms and love of fun, brought upon that narrow margin
where politeness must be natural to walk without a fall. He was
once seriously angry, and that in a grave, quiet manner, because
they supplied no fish on Friday; for Barney was a conscientious
Catholic. He had likewise strict notions of refinement; and when,
late one evening, after the women had retired, a young Scotsman
struck up an indecent song, Barney's drab clothes were immediately
missing from the group. His taste was for the society of
gentlemen, of whom, with the reader's permission, there was no lack
in our five steerages and second cabin; and he avoided the rough
and positive with a girlish shrinking. Mackay, partly from his
superior powers of mind, which rendered him incomprehensible,
partly from his extreme opinions, was especially distasteful to the
Irishman. I have seen him slink off with backward looks of terror
and offended delicacy, while the other, in his witty, ugly way, had
been professing hostility to God, and an extreme theatrical
readiness to be shipwrecked on the spot. These utterances hurt the
little coachman's modesty like a bad word.


One night Jones, the young O'Reilly, and myself were walking arm-
in-arm and briskly up and down the deck. Six bells had rung; a
head-wind blew chill and fitful, the fog was closing in with a
sprinkle of rain, and the fog-whistle had been turned on, and now
divided time with its unwelcome outcries, loud like a bull,
thrilling and intense like a mosquito. Even the watch lay
somewhere snugly out of sight.

For some time we observed something lying black and huddled in the
scuppers, which at last heaved a little and moaned aloud. We ran
to the rails. An elderly man, but whether passenger or seaman it
was impossible in the darkness to determine, lay grovelling on his
belly in the wet scuppers, and kicking feebly with his outspread
toes. We asked him what was amiss, and he replied incoherently,
with a strange accent and in a voice unmanned by terror, that he
had cramp in the stomach, that he had been ailing all day, had seen
the doctor twice, and had walked the deck against fatigue till he
was overmastered and had fallen where we found him.

Jones remained by his side, while O'Reilly and I hurried off to
seek the doctor. We knocked in vain at the doctor's cabin; there
came no reply; nor could we find any one to guide us. It was no
time for delicacy; so we ran once more forward; and I, whipping up
a ladder and touching my hat to the officer of the watch, addressed
him as politely as I could -

'I beg your pardon, sir; but there is a man lying bad with cramp in
the lee scuppers; and I can't find the doctor.'

He looked at me peeringly in the darkness; and then, somewhat
harshly, 'Well, _I_ can't leave the bridge, my man,' said he.

'No, sir; but you can tell me what to do,' I returned.

'Is it one of the crew?' he asked.

'I believe him to be a fireman,' I replied.

I dare say officers are much annoyed by complaints and alarmist
information from their freight of human creatures; but certainly,
whether it was the idea that the sick man was one of the crew, or
from something conciliatory in my address, the officer in question
was immediately relieved and mollified; and speaking in a voice
much freer from constraint, advised me to find a steward and
despatch him in quest of the doctor, who would now be in the
smoking-room over his pipe.

One of the stewards was often enough to be found about this hour
down our companion, Steerage No. 2 and 3; that was his smoking-room
of a night. Let me call him Blackwood. O'Reilly and I rattled
down the companion, breathing hurry; and in his shirt-sleeves and
perched across the carpenters bench upon one thigh, found
Blackwood; a neat, bright, dapper, Glasgow-looking man, with a bead
of an eye and a rank twang in his speech. I forget who was with
him, but the pair were enjoying a deliberate talk over their pipes.
I dare say he was tired with his day's work, and eminently
comfortable at that moment; and the truth is, I did not stop to
consider his feelings, but told my story in a breath.

'Steward,' said I, 'there's a man lying bad with cramp, and I can't
find the doctor.'

He turned upon me as pert as a sparrow, but with a black look that
is the prerogative of man; and taking his pipe out of his mouth -

'That's none of my business,' said he. 'I don't care.'

I could have strangled the little ruffian where he sat. The
thought of his cabin civility and cabin tips filled me with
indignation. I glanced at O'Reilly; he was pale and quivering, and
looked like assault and battery, every inch of him. But we had a
better card than violence.

'You will have to make it your business,' said I, 'for I am sent to
you by the officer on the bridge.'

Blackwood was fairly tripped. He made no answer, but put out his
pipe, gave me one murderous look, and set off upon his errand
strolling. From that day forward, I should say, he improved to me
in courtesy, as though he had repented his evil speech and were
anxious to leave a better impression.

When we got on deck again, Jones was still beside the sick man; and
two or three late stragglers had gathered round, and were offering
suggestions. One proposed to give the patient water, which was
promptly negatived. Another bade us hold him up; he himself prayed
to be let lie; but as it was at least as well to keep him off the
streaming decks, O'Reilly and I supported him between us. It was
only by main force that we did so, and neither an easy nor an
agreeable duty; for he fought in his paroxysms like a frightened
child, and moaned miserably when he resigned himself to our

'O let me lie!' he pleaded. 'I'll no' get better anyway.' And
then, with a moan that went to my heart, 'O why did I come upon
this miserable journey?'

I was reminded of the song which I had heard a little while before
in the close, tossing steerage: 'O why left I my hame?'

Meantime Jones, relieved of his immediate charge, had gone off to
the galley, where we could see a light. There he found a belated
cook scouring pans by the radiance of two lanterns, and one of
these he sought to borrow. The scullion was backward. 'Was it one
of the crew?' he asked. And when Jones, smitten with my theory,
had assured him that it was a fireman, he reluctantly left his
scouring and came towards us at an easy pace, with one of the
lanterns swinging from his finger. The light, as it reached the
spot, showed us an elderly man, thick-set, and grizzled with years;
but the shifting and coarse shadows concealed from us the
expression and even the design of his face.

So soon as the cook set eyes on him he gave a sort of whistle.

'IT'S ONLY A PASSENGER!' said he; and turning about, made, lantern
and all, for the galley.

'He's a man anyway,' cried Jones in indignation.

'Nobody said he was a woman,' said a gruff voice, which I
recognised for that of the bo's'un.

All this while there was no word of Blackwood or the doctor; and
now the officer came to our side of the ship and asked, over the
hurricane-deck rails, if the doctor were not yet come. We told him

'No?' he repeated with a breathing of anger; and we saw him hurry
aft in person.

Ten minutes after the doctor made his appearance deliberately
enough and examined our patient with the lantern. He made little
of the case, had the man brought aft to the dispensary, dosed him,
and sent him forward to his bunk. Two of his neighbours in the
steerage had now come to our assistance, expressing loud sorrow
that such 'a fine cheery body' should be sick; and these, claiming
a sort of possession, took him entirely under their own care. The
drug had probably relieved him, for he struggled no more, and was
led along plaintive and patient, but protesting. His heart
recoiled at the thought of the steerage. 'O let me lie down upon
the bieldy side,' he cried; 'O dinna take me down!' And again: 'O
why did ever I come upon this miserable voyage?' And yet once
more, with a gasp and a wailing prolongation of the fourth word:
'I had no CALL to come.' But there he was; and by the doctor's
orders and the kind force of his two shipmates disappeared down the
companion of Steerage No.1 into the den allotted him.

At the foot of our own companion, just where I found Blackwood,
Jones and the bo's'un were now engaged in talk. This last was a
gruff, cruel-looking seaman, who must have passed near half a
century upon the seas; square-headed, goat-bearded, with heavy
blond eyebrows, and an eye without radiance, but inflexibly steady
and hard. I had not forgotten his rough speech; but I remembered
also that he had helped us about the lantern; and now seeing him in
conversation with Jones, and being choked with indignation, I
proceeded to blow off my steam.

'Well,' said I, 'I make you my compliments upon your steward,' and
furiously narrated what had happened.

'I've nothing to do with him,' replied the bo's'un. 'They're all
alike. They wouldn't mind if they saw you all lying dead one upon
the top of another.'

This was enough. A very little humanity went a long way with me
after the experience of the evening. A sympathy grew up at once
between the bo's'un and myself; and that night, and during the next
few days, I learned to appreciate him better. He was a remarkable
type, and not at all the kind of man you find in books. He had
been at Sebastopol under English colours; and again in a States
ship, 'after the Alabama, and praying God we shouldn't find her.'
He was a high Tory and a high Englishman. No manufacturer could
have held opinions more hostile to the working man and his strikes.
'The workmen,' he said, 'think nothing of their country. They
think of nothing but themselves. They're damned greedy, selfish
fellows.' He would not hear of the decadence of England. 'They
say they send us beef from America,' he argued; 'but who pays for
it? All the money in the world's in England.' The Royal Navy was
the best of possible services, according to him. 'Anyway the
officers are gentlemen,' said he; 'and you can't get hazed to death
by a damned non-commissioned--as you can in the army.' Among
nations, England was the first; then came France. He respected the
French navy and liked the French people; and if he were forced to
make a new choice in life, 'by God, he would try Frenchmen!' For
all his looks and rough, cold manners, I observed that children
were never frightened by him; they divined him at once to be a
friend; and one night when he had chalked his hand and clothes, it
was incongruous to hear this formidable old salt chuckling over his
boyish monkey trick.

In the morning, my first thought was of the sick man. I was afraid
I should not recognise him, baffling had been the light of the
lantern; and found myself unable to decide if he were Scots,
English, or Irish. He had certainly employed north-country words
and elisions; but the accent and the pronunciation seemed
unfamiliar and incongruous in my ear.

To descend on an empty stomach into Steerage No. 1, was an
adventure that required some nerve. The stench was atrocious; each
respiration tasted in the throat like some horrible kind of cheese;
and the squalid aspect of the place was aggravated by so many
people worming themselves into their clothes in twilight of the
bunks. You may guess if I was pleased, not only for him, but for
myself also, when I heard that the sick man was better and had gone
on deck.

The morning was raw and foggy, though the sun suffused the fog with
pink and amber; the fog-horn still blew, stertorous and
intermittent; and to add to the discomfort, the seamen were just
beginning to wash down the decks. But for a sick man this was
heaven compared to the steerage. I found him standing on the hot-
water pipe, just forward of the saloon deck house. He was smaller
than I had fancied, and plain-looking; but his face was
distinguished by strange and fascinating eyes, limpid grey from a
distance, but, when looked into, full of changing colours and
grains of gold. His manners were mild and uncompromisingly plain;
and I soon saw that, when once started, he delighted to talk. His
accent and language had been formed in the most natural way, since
he was born in Ireland, had lived a quarter of a century on the
banks of Tyne, and was married to a Scots wife. A fisherman in the
season, he had fished the east coast from Fisherrow to Whitby.
When the season was over, and the great boats, which required extra
hands, were once drawn up on shore till the next spring, he worked
as a labourer about chemical furnaces, or along the wharves
unloading vessels. In this comparatively humble way of life he had
gathered a competence, and could speak of his comfortable house,
his hayfield, and his garden. On this ship, where so many
accomplished artisans were fleeing from starvation, he was present
on a pleasure trip to visit a brother in New York.

Ere he started, he informed me, he had been warned against the
steerage and the steerage fare, and recommended to bring with him a
ham and tea and a spice loaf. But he laughed to scorn such
counsels. 'I'm not afraid,' he had told his adviser; 'I'll get on
for ten days. I've not been a fisherman for nothing.' For it is
no light matter, as he reminded me, to be in an open boat, perhaps
waist-deep with herrings, day breaking with a scowl, and for miles
on every hand lee-shores, unbroken, iron-bound, surf-beat, with
only here and there an anchorage where you dare not lie, or a
harbour impossible to enter with the wind that blows. The life of
a North Sea fisher is one long chapter of exposure and hard work
and insufficient fare; and even if he makes land at some bleak
fisher port, perhaps the season is bad or his boat has been unlucky
and after fifty hours' unsleeping vigilance and toil, not a shop
will give him credit for a loaf of bread. Yet the steerage of the
emigrant ship had been too vile for the endurance of a man thus
rudely trained. He had scarce eaten since he came on board, until
the day before, when his appetite was tempted by some excellent
pea-soup. We were all much of the same mind on board, and
beginning with myself, had dined upon pea-soup not wisely but too
well; only with him the excess had been punished, perhaps because
he was weakened by former abstinence, and his first meal had
resulted in a cramp. He had determined to live henceforth on
biscuit; and when, two months later, he should return to England,
to make the passage by saloon. The second cabin, after due
inquiry, he scouted as another edition of the steerage.

He spoke apologetically of his emotion when ill. 'Ye see, I had no
call to be here,' said he; 'and I thought it was by with me last
night. I've a good house at home, and plenty to nurse me, and I
had no real call to leave them.' Speaking of the attentions he had
received from his shipmates generally, 'they were all so kind,' he
said, 'that there's none to mention.' And except in so far as I
might share in this, he troubled me with no reference to my

But what affected me in the most lively manner was the wealth of
this day-labourer, paying a two months' pleasure visit to the
States, and preparing to return in the saloon, and the new
testimony rendered by his story, not so much to the horrors of the
steerage as to the habitual comfort of the working classes. One
foggy, frosty December evening, I encountered on Liberton Hill,
near Edinburgh, an Irish labourer trudging homeward from the
fields. Our roads lay together, and it was natural that we should
fall into talk. He was covered with mud; an inoffensive, ignorant
creature, who thought the Atlantic Cable was a secret contrivance
of the masters the better to oppress labouring mankind; and I
confess I was astonished to learn that he had nearly three hundred
pounds in the bank. But this man had travelled over most of the
world, and enjoyed wonderful opportunities on some American
railroad, with two dollars a shift and double pay on Sunday and at
night; whereas my fellow-passenger had never quitted Tyneside, and
had made all that he possessed in that same accursed, down-falling
England, whence skilled mechanics, engineers, millwrights, and
carpenters were fleeing as from the native country of starvation.

Fitly enough, we slid off on the subject of strikes and wages and
hard times. Being from the Tyne, and a man who had gained and lost
in his own pocket by these fluctuations, he had much to say, and
held strong opinions on the subject. He spoke sharply of the
masters, and, when I led him on, of the men also. The masters had
been selfish and obstructive, the men selfish, silly, and light-
headed. He rehearsed to me the course of a meeting at which he had
been present, and the somewhat long discourse which he had there
pronounced, calling into question the wisdom and even the good
faith of the Union delegates; and although he had escaped himself
through flush times and starvation times with a handsomely provided
purse, he had so little faith in either man or master, and so
profound a terror for the unerring Nemesis of mercantile affairs,
that he could think of no hope for our country outside of a sudden
and complete political subversion. Down must go Lords and Church
and Army; and capital, by some happy direction, must change hands
from worse to better, or England stood condemned. Such principles,
he said, were growing 'like a seed.'

From this mild, soft, domestic man, these words sounded unusually
ominous and grave. I had heard enough revolutionary talk among my
workmen fellow-passengers; but most of it was hot and turgid, and
fell discredited from the lips of unsuccessful men. This man was
calm; he had attained prosperity and ease; he disapproved the
policy which had been pursued by labour in the past; and yet this
was his panacea,--to rend the old country from end to end, and from
top to bottom, and in clamour and civil discord remodel it with the
hand of violence.


On the Sunday, among a party of men who were talking in our
companion, Steerage No. 2 and 3, we remarked a new figure. He wore
tweed clothes, well enough made if not very fresh, and a plain
smoking-cap. His face was pale, with pale eyes, and spiritedly
enough designed; but though not yet thirty, a sort of blackguardly
degeneration had already overtaken his features. The fine nose had
grown fleshy towards the point, the pale eyes were sunk in fat.
His hands were strong and elegant; his experience of life evidently
varied; his speech full of pith and verve; his manners forward, but
perfectly presentable. The lad who helped in the second cabin told
me, in answer to a question, that he did not know who he was, but
thought, 'by his way of speaking, and because he was so polite,
that he was some one from the saloon.'

I was not so sure, for to me there was something equivocal in his
air and bearing. He might have been, I thought, the son of some
good family who had fallen early into dissipation and run from
home. But, making every allowance, how admirable was his talk! I
wish you could have heard hin, tell his own stories. They were so
swingingly set forth, in such dramatic language, and illustrated
here and there by such luminous bits of acting, that they could
only lose in any reproduction. There were tales of the P. and O.
Company, where he had been an officer; of the East Indies, where in
former years he had lived lavishly; of the Royal Engineers, where
he had served for a period; and of a dozen other sides of life,
each introducing some vigorous thumb-nail portrait. He had the
talk to himself that night, we were all so glad to listen. The
best talkers usually address themselves to some particular society;
there they are kings, elsewhere camp-followers, as a man may know
Russian and yet be ignorant of Spanish; but this fellow had a
frank, headlong power of style, and a broad, human choice of
subject, that would have turned any circle in the world into a
circle of hearers. He was a Homeric talker, plain, strong, and
cheerful; and the things and the people of which he spoke became
readily and clearly present to the minds of those who heard him.
This, with a certain added colouring of rhetoric and rodomontade,
must have been the style of Burns, who equally charmed the ears of
duchesses and hostlers.

Yet freely and personally as he spoke, many points remained obscure
in his narration. The Engineers, for instance, was a service which
he praised highly; it is true there would be trouble with the
sergeants; but then the officers were gentlemen, and his own, in
particular, one among ten thousand. It sounded so far exactly like
an episode in the rakish, topsy-turvy life of such an one as I had
imagined. But then there came incidents more doubtful, which
showed an almost impudent greed after gratuities, and a truly
impudent disregard for truth. And then there was the tale of his
departure. He had wearied, it seems, of Woolwich, and one fine
day, with a companion, slipped up to London for a spree. I have a
suspicion that spree was meant to be a long one; but God disposes
all things; and one morning, near Westminster Bridge, whom should
he come across but the very sergeant who had recruited him at
first! What followed? He himself indicated cavalierly that he had
then resigned. Let us put it so. But these resignations are
sometimes very trying.

At length, after having delighted us for hours, he took himself
away from the companion; and I could ask Mackay who and what he
was. 'That?' said Mackay. 'Why, that's one of the stowaways.'

'No man,' said the same authority, 'who has had anything to do with
the sea, would ever think of paying for a passage.' I give the
statement as Mackay's, without endorsement; yet I am tempted to
believe that it contains a grain of truth; and if you add that the
man shall be impudent and thievish, or else dead-broke, it may even
pass for a fair representation of the facts. We gentlemen of
England who live at home at ease have, I suspect, very insufficient
ideas on the subject. All the world over, people are stowing away
in coal-holes and dark corners, and when ships are once out to sea,
appearing again, begrimed and bashful, upon deck. The career of
these sea-tramps partakes largely of the adventurous. They may be
poisoned by coal-gas, or die by starvation in their place of
concealment; or when found they may be clapped at once and
ignominiously into irons, thus to be carried to their promised
land, the port of destination, and alas! brought back in the same
way to that from which they started, and there delivered over to
the magistrates and the seclusion of a county jail. Since I
crossed the Atlantic, one miserable stowaway was found in a dying
state among the fuel, uttered but a word or two, and departed for a
farther country than America.

When the stowaway appears on deck, he has but one thing to pray
for: that he be set to work, which is the price and sign of his
forgiveness. After half an hour with a swab or a bucket, he feels
himself as secure as if he had paid for his passage. It is not
altogether a bad thing for the company, who get more or less
efficient hands for nothing but a few plates of junk and duff; and
every now and again find themselves better paid than by a whole
family of cabin passengers. Not long ago, for instance, a packet
was saved from nearly certain loss by the skill and courage of a
stowaway engineer. As was no more than just, a handsome
subscription rewarded him for his success: but even without such
exceptional good fortune, as things stand in England and America,
the stowaway will often make a good profit out of his adventure.
Four engineers stowed away last summer on the same ship, the
Circassia; and before two days after their arrival each of the four
had found a comfortable berth. This was the most hopeful tale of
emigration that I heard from first to last; and as you see, the
luck was for stowaways.

My curiosity was much inflamed by what I heard; and the next
morning, as I was making the round of the ship, I was delighted to
find the ex-Royal Engineer engaged in washing down the white paint
of a deck house. There was another fellow at work beside him, a
lad not more than twenty, in the most miraculous tatters, his
handsome face sown with grains of beauty and lighted up by
expressive eyes. Four stowaways had been found aboard our ship
before she left the Clyde, but these two had alone escaped the
ignominy of being put ashore. Alick, my acquaintance of last
night, was Scots by birth, and by trade a practical engineer; the
other was from Devonshire, and had been to sea before the mast.
Two people more unlike by training, character, and habits it would
be hard to imagine; yet here they were together, scrubbing paint.

Alick had held all sorts of good situations, and wasted many
opportunities in life. I have heard him end a story with these
words: 'That was in my golden days, when I used finger-glasses.'
Situation after situation failed him; then followed the depression
of trade, and for months he had hung round with other idlers,
playing marbles all day in the West Park, and going home at night
to tell his landlady how he had been seeking for a job. I believe
this kind of existence was not unpleasant to Alick himself, and he
might have long continued to enjoy idleness and a life on tick; but
he had a comrade, let us call him Brown, who grew restive. This
fellow was continually threatening to slip his cable for the
States, and at last, one Wednesday, Glasgow was left widowed of her
Brown. Some months afterwards, Alick met another old chum in
Sauchiehall Street.

'By the bye, Alick,' said he, 'I met a gentleman in New York who
was asking for you.'

'Who was that?' asked Alick.

'The new second engineer on board the So-and-so,' was the reply.

'Well, and who is he?'

'Brown, to be sure.'

For Brown had been one of the fortunate quartette aboard the
Circassia. If that was the way of it in the States, Alick thought
it was high time to follow Brown's example. He spent his last day,
as he put it, 'reviewing the yeomanry,' and the next morning says
he to his landlady, 'Mrs. X., I'll not take porridge to-day,
please; I'll take some eggs.'

'Why, have you found a job?' she asked, delighted.

'Well, yes,' returned the perfidious Alick; 'I think I'll start to-

And so, well lined with eggs, start he did, but for America. I am
afraid that landlady has seen the last of him.

It was easy enough to get on board in the confusion that attends a
vessel's departure; and in one of the dark corners of Steerage No.
1, flat in a bunk and with an empty stomach, Alick made the voyage
from the Broomielaw to Greenock. That night, the ship's yeoman
pulled him out by the heels and had him before the mate. Two other
stowaways had already been found and sent ashore; but by this time
darkness had fallen, they were out in the middle of the estuary,
and the last steamer had left them till the morning.

'Take him to the forecastle and give him a meal,' said the mate,
'and see and pack him off the first thing to-morrow.'

In the forecastle he had supper, a good night's rest, and
breakfast; and was sitting placidly with a pipe, fancying all was
over and the game up for good with that ship, when one of the
sailors grumbled out an oath at him, with a 'What are you doing
there?' and 'Do you call that hiding, anyway?' There was need of
no more; Alick was in another bunk before the day was older.
Shortly before the passengers arrived, the ship was cursorily
inspected. He heard the round come down the companion and look
into one pen after another, until they came within two of the one
in which he lay concealed. Into these last two they did not enter,
but merely glanced from without; and Alick had no doubt that he was
personally favoured in this escape. It was the character of the
man to attribute nothing to luck and but little to kindness;
whatever happened to him he had earned in his own right amply;
favours came to him from his singular attraction and adroitness,
and misfortunes he had always accepted with his eyes open. Half an
hour after the searchers had departed, the steerage began to fill
with legitimate passengers, and the worst of Alick's troubles was
at an end. He was soon making himself popular, smoking other
people's tobacco, and politely sharing their private stock
delicacies, and when night came he retired to his bunk beside the
others with composure.

Next day by afternoon, Lough Foyle being already far behind, and
only the rough north-western hills of Ireland within view, Alick
appeared on deck to court inquiry and decide his fate. As a matter
of fact, he was known to several on board, and even intimate with
one of the engineers; but it was plainly not the etiquette of such
occasions for the authorities to avow their information. Every one
professed surprise and anger on his appearance, and he was led
prison before the captain.

'What have you got to say for yourself?' inquired the captain.

'Not much,' said Alick; 'but when a man has been a long time out of
a job, he will do things he would not under other circumstances.'

'Are you willing to work?'

Alick swore he was burning to be useful.

'And what can you do?' asked the captain.

He replied composedly that he was a brass-fitter by trade.

'I think you will be better at engineering?' suggested the officer,
with a shrewd look.

'No, sir,' says Alick simply.--'There's few can beat me at a lie,'
was his engaging commentary to me as he recounted the affair.

'Have you been to sea?' again asked the captain.

'I've had a trip on a Clyde steamboat, sir, but no more,' replied
the unabashed Alick.

'Well, we must try and find some work for you,' concluded the

And hence we behold Alick, clear of the hot engine-room, lazily
scraping paint and now and then taking a pull upon a sheet. 'You
leave me alone,' was his deduction. 'When I get talking to a man,
I can get round him.'

The other stowaway, whom I will call the Devonian--it was
noticeable that neither of them told his name--had both been
brought up and seen the world in a much smaller way. His father, a
confectioner, died and was closely followed by his mother. His
sisters had taken, I think, to dressmaking. He himself had
returned from sea about a year ago and gone to live with his
brother, who kept the 'George Hotel'--'it was not quite a real
hotel,' added the candid fellow--'and had a hired man to mind the
horses.' At first the Devonian was very welcome; but as time went
on his brother not unnaturally grew cool towards him, and he began
to find himself one too many at the 'George Hotel.' 'I don't think
brothers care much for you,' he said, as a general reflection upon
life. Hurt at this change, nearly penniless, and too proud to ask
for more, he set off on foot and walked eighty miles to Weymouth,
living on the journey as he could. He would have enlisted, but he
was too small for the army and too old for the navy; and thought
himself fortunate at last to find a berth on board a trading dandy.
Somewhere in the Bristol Channel the dandy sprung a leak and went
down; and though the crew were picked up and brought ashore by
fishermen, they found themselves with nothing but the clothes upon
their back. His next engagement was scarcely better starred; for
the ship proved so leaky, and frightened them all so heartily
during a short passage through the Irish Sea, that the entire crew
deserted and remained behind upon the quays of Belfast.

Evil days were now coming thick on the Devonian. He could find no
berth in Belfast, and had to work a passage to Glasgow on a
steamer. She reached the Broomielaw on a Wednesday: the Devonian
had a bellyful that morning, laying in breakfast manfully to
provide against the future, and set off along the quays to seek
employment. But he was now not only penniless, his clothes had
begun to fall in tatters; he had begun to have the look of a street
Arab; and captains will have nothing to say to a ragamuffin; for in
that trade, as in all others, it is the coat that depicts the man.
You may hand, reef, and steer like an angel, but if you have a hole
in your trousers, it is like a millstone round your neck. The
Devonian lost heart at so many refusals. He had not the impudence
to beg; although, as he said, 'when I had money of my own, I always
gave it.' It was only on Saturday morning, after three whole days
of starvation, that he asked a scone from a milkwoman, who added of
her own accord a glass of milk. He had now made up his mind to
stow away, not from any desire to see America, but merely to obtain
the comfort of a place in the forecastle and a supply of familiar
sea-fare. He lived by begging, always from milkwomen, and always
scones and milk, and was not once refused. It was vile wet
weather, and he could never have been dry. By night he walked the
streets, and by day slept upon Glasgow Green, and heard, in the
intervals of his dozing, the famous theologians of the spot clear
up intricate points of doctrine and appraise the merits of the
clergy. He had not much instruction; he could 'read bills on the
street,' but was 'main bad at writing'; yet these theologians seem
to have impressed him with a genuine sense of amusement. Why he
did not go to the Sailors' House I know not; I presume there is in
Glasgow one of these institutions, which are by far the happiest
and the wisest effort of contemporaneous charity; but I must stand
to my author, as they say in old books, and relate the story as I
heard it. In the meantime, he had tried four times to stow away in
different vessels, and four times had been discovered and handed
back to starvation. The fifth time was lucky; and you may judge if
he were pleased to be aboard ship again, at his old work, and with
duff twice a week. He was, said Alick, 'a devil for the duff.' Or
if devil was not the word, it was one if anything stronger.

The difference in the conduct of the two was remarkable. The
Devonian was as willing as any paid hand, swarmed aloft among the
first, pulled his natural weight and firmly upon a rope, and found
work for himself when there was none to show him. Alick, on the
other hand, was not only a skulker in the brain, but took a
humorous and fine gentlemanly view of the transaction. He would
speak to me by the hour in ostentatious idleness; and only if the
bo's'un or a mate came by, fell-to languidly for just the necessary
time till they were out of sight. 'I'm not breaking my heart with
it,' he remarked.

Once there was a hatch to be opened near where he was stationed; he
watched the preparations for a second or so suspiciously, and then,
'Hullo,' said he, 'here's some real work coming--I'm off,' and he
was gone that moment. Again, calculating the six guinea passage-
money, and the probable duration of the passage, he remarked
pleasantly that he was getting six shillings a day for this job,
'and it's pretty dear to the company at that.' 'They are making
nothing by me,' was another of his observations; 'they're making
something by that fellow.' And he pointed to the Devonian, who was
just then busy to the eyes.

The more you saw of Alick, the more, it must be owned, you learned
to despise him. His natural talents were of no use either to
himself or others; for his character had degenerated like his face,
and become pulpy and pretentious. Even his power of persuasion,
which was certainly very surprising, stood in some danger of being
lost or neutralised by over-confidence. He lied in an aggressive,
brazen manner, like a pert criminal in the dock; and he was so vain
of his own cleverness that he could not refrain from boasting, ten
minutes after, of the very trick by which he had deceived you.
'Why, now I have more money than when I came on board,' he said one
night, exhibiting a sixpence, 'and yet I stood myself a bottle of
beer before I went to bed yesterday. And as for tobacco, I have
fifteen sticks of it.' That was fairly successful indeed; yet a
man of his superiority, and with a less obtrusive policy, might,
who knows? have got the length of half a crown. A man who prides
himself upon persuasion should learn the persuasive faculty of
silence, above all as to his own misdeeds. It is only in the farce
and for dramatic purposes that Scapin enlarges on his peculiar
talents to the world at large.

Scapin is perhaps a good name for this clever, unfortunate Alick;
for at the bottom of all his misconduct there was a guiding sense
of humour that moved you to forgive him. It was more than half a
jest that he conducted his existence. 'Oh, man,' he said to me
once with unusual emotion, like a man thinking of his mistress, 'I
would give up anything for a lark.'

It was in relation to his fellow-stowaway that Alick showed the
best, or perhaps I should say the only good, points of his nature.
'Mind you,' he said suddenly, changing his tone, 'mind you that's a
good boy. He wouldn't tell you a lie. A lot of them think he is a
scamp because his clothes are ragged, but he isn't; he's as good as
gold.' To hear him, you become aware that Alick himself had a
taste for virtue. He thought his own idleness and the other's
industry equally becoming. He was no more anxious to insure his
own reputation as a liar than to uphold the truthfulness of his
companion; and he seemed unaware of what was incongruous in his
attitude, and was plainly sincere in both characters.

It was not surprising that he should take an interest in the
Devonian, for the lad worshipped and served him in love and wonder.
Busy as he was, he would find time to warn Alick of an approaching
officer, or even to tell him that the coast was clear, and he might
slip off and smoke a pipe in safety. 'Tom,' he once said to him,
for that was the name which Alick ordered him to use, 'if you don't
like going to the galley, I'll go for you. You ain't used to this
kind of thing, you ain't. But I'm a sailor; and I can understand
the feelings of any fellow, I can.' Again, he was hard up, and
casting about for some tobacco, for he was not so liberally used in
this respect as others perhaps less worthy, when Alick offered him
the half of one of his fifteen sticks. I think, for my part, he
might have increased the offer to a whole one, or perhaps a pair of
them, and not lived to regret his liberality. But the Devonian
refused. 'No,' he said, 'you're a stowaway like me; I won't take
it from you, I'll take it from some one who's not down on his

It was notable in this generous lad that he was strongly under the
influence of sex. If a woman passed near where he was working, his
eyes lit up, his hand paused, and his mind wandered instantly to
other thoughts. It was natural that he should exercise a
fascination proportionally strong upon women. He begged, you will
remember, from women only, and was never refused. Without wishing
to explain away the charity of those who helped him, I cannot but
fancy he may have owed a little to his handsome face, and to that
quick, responsive nature, formed for love, which speaks eloquently
through all disguises, and can stamp an impression in ten minutes'
talk or an exchange of glances. He was the more dangerous in that
he was far from bold, but seemed to woo in spite of himself, and
with a soft and pleading eye. Ragged as he was, and many a
scarecrow is in that respect more comfortably furnished, even on
board he was not without some curious admirers.

There was a girl among the passengers, a tall, blonde, handsome,
strapping Irishwoman, with a wild, accommodating eye, whom Alick
had dubbed Tommy, with that transcendental appropriateness that
defies analysis. One day the Devonian was lying for warmth in the
upper stoke-hole, which stands open on the deck, when Irish Tommy
came past, very neatly attired, as was her custom.

'Poor fellow,' she said, stopping, 'you haven't a vest.'

'No,' he said; 'I wish I 'ad.'

Then she stood and gazed on him in silence, until, in his
embarrassment, for he knew not how to look under this scrutiny, he
pulled out his pipe and began to fill it with tobacco.

'Do you want a match?' she asked. And before he had time to reply,
she ran off and presently returned with more than one.

That was the beginning and the end, as far as our passage is
concerned, of what I will make bold to call this love-affair.
There are many relations which go on to marriage and last during a
lifetime, in which less human feeling is engaged than in this scene
of five minutes at the stoke-hole.

Rigidly speaking, this would end the chapter of the stowaways; but
in a larger sense of the word I have yet more to add. Jones had
discovered and pointed out to me a young woman who was remarkable
among her fellows for a pleasing and interesting air. She was
poorly clad, to the verge, if not over the line, of
disrespectability, with a ragged old jacket and a bit of a sealskin
cap no bigger than your fist; but her eyes, her whole expression,
and her manner, even in ordinary moments, told of a true womanly
nature, capable of love, anger, and devotion. She had a look, too,
of refinement, like one who might have been a better lady than
most, had she been allowed the opportunity. When alone she seemed
preoccupied and sad; but she was not often alone; there was usually
by her side a heavy, dull, gross man in rough clothes, chary of
speech and gesture--not from caution, but poverty of disposition; a
man like a ditcher, unlovely and uninteresting; whom she petted and
tended and waited on with her eyes as if he had been Amadis of
Gaul. It was strange to see this hulking fellow dog-sick, and this
delicate, sad woman caring for him. He seemed, from first to last,
insensible of her caresses and attentions, and she seemed
unconscious of his insensibility. The Irish husband, who sang his
wife to sleep, and this Scottish girl serving her Orson, were the
two bits of human nature that most appealed to me throughout the

On the Thursday before we arrived, the tickets were collected; and
soon a rumour began to go round the vessel; and this girl, with her
bit of sealskin cap, became the centre of whispering and pointed
fingers. She also, it was said, was a stowaway of a sort; for she
was on board with neither ticket nor money; and the man with whom
she travelled was the father of a family, who had left wife and
children to be hers. The ship's officers discouraged the story,
which may therefore have been a story and no more; but it was
believed in the steerage, and the poor girl had to encounter many
curious eyes from that day forth.


Travel is of two kinds; and this voyage of mine across the ocean
combined both. 'Out of my country and myself I go,' sings the old
poet: and I was not only travelling out of my country in latitude
and longitude, but out of myself in diet, associates, and
consideration. Part of the interest and a great deal of the
amusement flowed, at least to me, from this novel situation in the

I found that I had what they call fallen in life with absolute
success and verisimilitude. I was taken for a steerage passenger;
no one seemed surprised that I should be so; and there was nothing
but the brass plate between decks to remind me that I had once been
a gentleman. In a former book, describing a former journey, I
expressed some wonder that I could be readily and naturally taken
for a pedlar, and explained the accident by the difference of
language and manners between England and France. I must now take a
humbler view; for here I was among my own countrymen, somewhat
roughly clad to be sure, but with every advantage of speech and
manner; and I am bound to confess that I passed for nearly anything
you please except an educated gentleman. The sailors called me
'mate,' the officers addressed me as 'my man,' my comrades accepted
me without hesitation for a person of their own character and
experience, but with some curious information. One, a mason
himself, believed I was a mason; several, and among these at least
one of the seaman, judged me to be a petty officer in the American
navy; and I was so often set down for a practical engineer that at
last I had not the heart to deny it. From all these guesses I drew
one conclusion, which told against the insight of my companions.
They might be close observers in their own way, and read the
manners in the face; but it was plain that they did not extend
their observation to the hands.

To the saloon passengers also I sustained my part without a hitch.
It is true I came little in their way; but when we did encounter,
there was no recognition in their eye, although I confess I
sometimes courted it in silence. All these, my inferiors and
equals, took me, like the transformed monarch in the story, for a
mere common, human man. They gave me a hard, dead look, with the
flesh about the eye kept unrelaxed.

With the women this surprised me less, as I had already
experimented on the sex by going abroad through a suburban part of
London simply attired in a sleeve-waistcoat. The result was
curious. I then learned for the first time, and by the exhaustive
process, how much attention ladies are accustomed to bestow on all
male creatures of their own station; for, in my humble rig, each
one who went by me caused me a certain shock of surprise and a
sense of something wanting. In my normal circumstances, it
appeared every young lady must have paid me some tribute of a
glance; and though I had often not detected it when it was given, I
was well aware of its absence when it was withheld. My height
seemed to decrease with every woman who passed me, for she passed

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