Abbildungen der Seite

tensive prospect of tempting viands, and of ladies and gentlemen zealously engaged in the discussion of them.

When the long labor was ended, I returned to the deck. The sun was just sinking beneath the horizon; a crimson glow overspread the western sky, and was reflected from the placid surface of the water; Never-sink was yet visible, and continued so till sky and sea were obscured by the dusky shades of evening. As the last light of day and the dim outline of the shore simultaneously disappeared, I mentally bade "my native land-Good Night," and soon after was snugly ensconced in my berth.

Next morning, the broad Atlantic, as far as our vision extended, was still calm and unruffled as a summer lake; but towards noon the restless element began to appear more in character. False and treacherous as ever, Old Ocean, as if conscious that he had us now completely in his power, speedily exchanged his smiles and blandishments for ghastly wrinkles and portentous frowns; and, in consequence, not a few bright eyes and sunny faces that had shone in full brilliancy the previous evening, were in dim and disastrous eclipse. Many of the sterner sex, too, were fain to withdraw from the public gaze-albeit not anticipating any great charms in solitude; and I grieve to say, that my own recollections of the course of events, during the next three days, are somewhat shadowy and indistinct-visions of locomotive pitchers, cups and saucers, and stewards running about with tumblers of brandy and water, even now flitting before my eyes at the bare recollection. I incline, therefore, to "draw over the dismal scene soft pity's veil :" but whoever desires a minute description of the intense, yet ludicrous, miseries of sea-sickness, may find every wish gratified in that chapter of the "American Notes," in which, with evident gusto, and with a brilliancy and fidelity quite unknown to the

[ocr errors]

rest of his book, the illustrious "Boz" discusses the whole subject ad nauseam.

On the third or fourth day, most of the absentees emerged from their solitary retreats; and, resuming their posts at the dinner-table, gave most indubitable signs of a disposition to make up for lost time. The usual monotony of life at sea was, with us, enhanced by the fact that, whether the wind was favorable or adverse, our noble ship, propelled by steam, steadily held on her course, at a rate varying from 200 to 280 miles in twenty-four hours-a substantial good, to which something of romance might well be sacrificed. The voyage was, indeed, signally barren of incidents, such as tourists delight to chronicle: neither whales nor waterspouts once crossed our path; we saw no mountain waves ; nor was it our lot, either fortunately or unfortunately, to descry any tall iceberg, with turrets and pinnacles glittering in the moonlight-such as are sometimes wafted from those polar seas, where

"Pale suns at distance pass unfelt away,

And on the impassive ice the lightnings play :"

but these things, be it remembered, are somewhat more ornamental in description than desirable in contact.

As we advanced into higher latitudes, the greatly increased length of the days, the evening twilight extending to ten o'clock, was a striking novelty to those who were crossing the Atlantic for the first time. It was pleasant to linger late at night on the deserted promenade deck, and gaze on sky and ocean. Sometimes, while marking the variation of the magnetic needle, as demonstrated by the position of the north star, I found myself carried back in imagination to the times of Columbus, contrasting his mode of crossing the Atlantic with ours, and musing on the changes which the world has seen since his day. When the cool night-wind

rendered star-gazing uncomfortable, the saloon on deck was an agreeable resort, where a piano-forte, under the hands of more than one accomplished performer, discoursed most excellent music. Below this was the main saloon, where a larger company of ladies and gentlemen, seated at the tables, were beguiling the time with books, newspapers, conver sation, and various games, with scarcely any thing, so equable was the motion of the ship, to remind one that he was not on terra firma. The Great Western is justly a favorite with the gentler sex, and doubtless it was in no small measure to be attributed to the humanizing and cheering influence of their presence, that mutual courtesy and good feeling were so conspicuous in the demeanor of the passengers. All seemed willing to be pleased, and disposed to communicate pleasure. Indeed, so sedulously had our comfort been studied and our wishes anticipated, that, if there were on board any of the tribe of confirmed grumblers, they must have been cruelly disappointed-finding absolutely nothing to grumble at.

A sea voyage, where a multitude of heterogeneous characters are brought for the time into close contact, with nothing in particular to do, affords fine scope for the exercise of the critical faculty. It is amusing to see how uniformly those who, in such circumstances, wish to pass for more than their true worth, defeat their own purposes. A young Swiss gentleman, my right-hand man at table, thus condensed the result of his quiet observations on the consequential demeanor of one of our neighbours; "He talk great deal always bout himself-some great ting he have done but I do not see he have great soul."

I occupied a state-room jointly with no less a personage than a Roman Catholic Bishop from one of the Western States. Our mutual attempts at proselytism, however, were

chiefly confined to a rivalry in friendly offices-not a bad method of asserting the excellence of a religious creed, where each was sure of finding in the other a pretty untractable antagonist on the arena of polemics.

On the eleventh day out, the steward opened our stateroom door a little before midnight, in great glee, crying out that we had made land. The light at Cape Clear was visible. Next morning the coast of Ireland was in full view on our left. As we proceeded up the channel, the wind increased, but it was a favoring gale, and the steamer, with a single sail to steady her, moved majestically over the waves in a style very unlike the pitching and tossing of several vessels now sailing in company.

This being our last day on board, it was needful, in the estimation of those who directed the supplies, that it should be signalized by a memorable dinner. We had fared sumptuously throughout the passage-no unimportant matter where the animal so predominates over the intellectual nature; breakfast at nine, lunch at twelve, dinner at four, tea at half-past seven, and supper (for those who called for it) at ten, had daily tasked the energies of the more seasoned passengers, and borne witness to the ample resources and untiring zeal of the steward. Still this distinguished official seemed morbidly sensitive to the possibility of, after all, sending some empty away. Accordingly, he resolved in the recesses of a mind capacious of such things," that this last should make all previous dinners hide their diminished heads. The main phalanx (whose usual muster-roll was a bill of fare of formidable length) with which he had hitherto kept the powers of hunger at bay, was now flanked by numerous well-appointed auxiliaries. All previous assaults were but light skirmishings compared with the vigor of this final onslaught. The havoc was tremendous. At length,


"the force of appetite could no further go," the field was cleared, and salvos of vocal artillery followed, in honor of Victoria, the President of the United States, the ladies, the Great Western, and her gentlemanly captain.

But while all went thus merrily in the saloon, on deck appearances were not altogether so favorable. As if to teach forgetful hearts how dependent is man on the protection of the Almighty, the heavens gathered blackness, the wind whistled, the waves roared; and as night set in, sea and sky wore so threatening an aspect, that more than one pale face showed that the possibility of never seeing land was present to the thoughts of some. A severe fall disabled the chief mate, so that his duties were superadded to those of Lieut. Hoskin. Before midnight, however, the gale abated.

Waking from a sound sleep at earliest dawn, I perceived that the vessel was in smooth water. On reaching the deck, the first object that met my view was characteristic of England. It was a hill side covered with a richer and deeper verdure than I had ever before seen. On the opposite shore of the broad estuary was Liverpool.

As we neared the landing, the massive and time-worn buildings, to which the lowering sky gave additional gloom, looked quite unlike the slightly-built and gaily painted structures of our northern cities. I remarked the solid masonry that lined the docks-a term not indicating, as in America, mere spaces between wharves, but vast reservoirs or basins for the reception of shipping, extending for miles, an imposing demonstration of commercial greatness. I could not help noticing also the coarse dress and degraded look of the few laborers in motion at that early hour.

What, and how poetical, were my sensations on first touching the soil of England, I will not undertake to say. One very prosaic idea, however, I remember as quite promi

« ZurückWeiter »