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Charles Dickens > American Notes > Chapter II

American Notes

Chapter II


WE all dined together that day; and a rather formidable party we
were: no fewer than eighty-six strong. The vessel being pretty
deep in the water, with all her coals on board and so many
passengers, and the weather being calm and quiet, there was but
little motion; so that before the dinner was half over, even those
passengers who were most distrustful of themselves plucked up
amazingly; and those who in the morning had returned to the
universal question, 'Are you a good sailor?' a very decided
negative, now either parried the inquiry with the evasive reply,
'Oh! I suppose I'm no worse than anybody else;' or, reckless of all
moral obligations, answered boldly 'Yes:' and with some irritation
too, as though they would add, 'I should like to know what you see
in ME, sir, particularly, to justify suspicion!'

Notwithstanding this high tone of courage and confidence, I could
not but observe that very few remained long over their wine; and
that everybody had an unusual love of the open air; and that the
favourite and most coveted seats were invariably those nearest to
the door. The tea-table, too, was by no means as well attended as
the dinner-table; and there was less whist-playing than might have
been expected. Still, with the exception of one lady, who had
retired with some precipitation at dinner-time, immediately after
being assisted to the finest cut of a very yellow boiled leg of
mutton with very green capers, there were no invalids as yet; and
walking, and smoking, and drinking of brandy-and-water (but always
in the open air), went on with unabated spirit, until eleven
o'clock or thereabouts, when 'turning in' - no sailor of seven
hours' experience talks of going to bed - became the order of the
night. The perpetual tramp of boot-heels on the decks gave place
to a heavy silence, and the whole human freight was stowed away
below, excepting a very few stragglers, like myself, who were
probably, like me, afraid to go there.

To one unaccustomed to such scenes, this is a very striking time on
shipboard. Afterwards, and when its novelty had long worn off, it
never ceased to have a peculiar interest and charm for me. The
gloom through which the great black mass holds its direct and
certain course; the rushing water, plainly heard, but dimly seen;
the broad, white, glistening track, that follows in the vessel's
wake; the men on the look-out forward, who would be scarcely
visible against the dark sky, but for their blotting out some score
of glistening stars; the helmsman at the wheel, with the
illuminated card before him, shining, a speck of light amidst the
darkness, like something sentient and of Divine intelligence; the
melancholy sighing of the wind through block, and rope, and chain;
the gleaming forth of light from every crevice, nook, and tiny
piece of glass about the decks, as though the ship were filled with
fire in hiding, ready to burst through any outlet, wild with its
resistless power of death and ruin. At first, too, and even when
the hour, and all the objects it exalts, have come to be familiar,
it is difficult, alone and thoughtful, to hold them to their proper
shapes and forms. They change with the wandering fancy; assume the
semblance of things left far away; put on the well-remembered
aspect of favourite places dearly loved; and even people them with
shadows. Streets, houses, rooms; figures so like their usual
occupants, that they have startled me by their reality, which far
exceeded, as it seemed to me, all power of mine to conjure up the
absent; have, many and many a time, at such an hour, grown suddenly
out of objects with whose real look, and use, and purpose, I was as
well acquainted as with my own two hands.

My own two hands, and feet likewise, being very cold, however, on
this particular occasion, I crept below at midnight. It was not
exactly comfortable below. It was decidedly close; and it was
impossible to be unconscious of the presence of that extraordinary
compound of strange smells, which is to be found nowhere but on
board ship, and which is such a subtle perfume that it seems to
enter at every pore of the skin, and whisper of the hold. Two
passengers' wives (one of them my own) lay already in silent
agonies on the sofa; and one lady's maid (MY lady's) was a mere
bundle on the floor, execrating her destiny, and pounding her curl-
papers among the stray boxes. Everything sloped the wrong way:
which in itself was an aggravation scarcely to be borne. I had
left the door open, a moment before, in the bosom of a gentle
declivity, and, when I turned to shut it, it was on the summit of a
lofty eminence. Now every plank and timber creaked, as if the ship
were made of wicker-work; and now crackled, like an enormous fire
of the driest possible twigs. There was nothing for it but bed; so
I went to bed.

It was pretty much the same for the next two days, with a tolerably
fair wind and dry weather. I read in bed (but to this hour I don't
know what) a good deal; and reeled on deck a little; drank cold
brandy-and-water with an unspeakable disgust, and ate hard biscuit
perseveringly: not ill, but going to be.

It is the third morning. I am awakened out of my sleep by a dismal
shriek from my wife, who demands to know whether there's any
danger. I rouse myself, and look out of bed. The water-jug is
plunging and leaping like a lively dolphin; all the smaller
articles are afloat, except my shoes, which are stranded on a
carpet-bag, high and dry, like a couple of coal-barges. Suddenly I
see them spring into the air, and behold the looking-glass, which
is nailed to the wall, sticking fast upon the ceiling. At the same
time the door entirely disappears, and a new one is opened in the
floor. Then I begin to comprehend that the state-room is standing
on its head.

Before it is possible to make any arrangement at all compatible
with this novel state of things, the ship rights. Before one can
say 'Thank Heaven!' she wrongs again. Before one can cry she IS
wrong, she seems to have started forward, and to be a creature
actually running of its own accord, with broken knees and failing
legs, through every variety of hole and pitfall, and stumbling
constantly. Before one can so much as wonder, she takes a high
leap into the air. Before she has well done that, she takes a deep
dive into the water. Before she has gained the surface, she throws
a summerset. The instant she is on her legs, she rushes backward.
And so she goes on staggering, heaving, wrestling, leaping, diving,
jumping, pitching, throbbing, rolling, and rocking: and going
through all these movements, sometimes by turns, and sometimes
altogether: until one feels disposed to roar for mercy.

A steward passes. 'Steward!' 'Sir?' 'What IS the matter? what DO
you call this?' 'Rather a heavy sea on, sir, and a head-wind.'

A head-wind! Imagine a human face upon the vessel's prow, with
fifteen thousand Samsons in one bent upon driving her back, and
hitting her exactly between the eyes whenever she attempts to
advance an inch. Imagine the ship herself, with every pulse and
artery of her huge body swollen and bursting under this
maltreatment, sworn to go on or die. Imagine the wind howling, the
sea roaring, the rain beating: all in furious array against her.
Picture the sky both dark and wild, and the clouds, in fearful
sympathy with the waves, making another ocean in the air. Add to
all this, the clattering on deck and down below; the tread of
hurried feet; the loud hoarse shouts of seamen; the gurgling in and
out of water through the scuppers; with, every now and then, the
striking of a heavy sea upon the planks above, with the deep, dead,
heavy sound of thunder heard within a vault; - and there is the
head-wind of that January morning.

I say nothing of what may be called the domestic noises of the
ship: such as the breaking of glass and crockery, the tumbling
down of stewards, the gambols, overhead, of loose casks and truant
dozens of bottled porter, and the very remarkable and far from
exhilarating sounds raised in their various state-rooms by the
seventy passengers who were too ill to get up to breakfast. I say
nothing of them: for although I lay listening to this concert for
three or four days, I don't think I heard it for more than a
quarter of a minute, at the expiration of which term, I lay down
again, excessively sea-sick.

Not sea-sick, be it understood, in the ordinary acceptation of the
term: I wish I had been: but in a form which I have never seen or
heard described, though I have no doubt it is very common. I lay
there, all the day long, quite coolly and contentedly; with no
sense of weariness, with no desire to get up, or get better, or
take the air; with no curiosity, or care, or regret, of any sort or
degree, saving that I think I can remember, in this universal
indifference, having a kind of lazy joy - of fiendish delight, if
anything so lethargic can be dignified with the title - in the fact
of my wife being too ill to talk to me. If I may be allowed to
illustrate my state of mind by such an example, I should say that I
was exactly in the condition of the elder Mr. Willet, after the
incursion of the rioters into his bar at Chigwell. Nothing would
have surprised me. If, in the momentary illumination of any ray of
intelligence that may have come upon me in the way of thoughts of
Home, a goblin postman, with a scarlet coat and bell, had come into
that little kennel before me, broad awake in broad day, and,
apologising for being damp through walking in the sea, had handed
me a letter directed to myself, in familiar characters, I am
certain I should not have felt one atom of astonishment: I should
have been perfectly satisfied. If Neptune himself had walked in,
with a toasted shark on his trident, I should have looked upon the
event as one of the very commonest everyday occurrences.

Once - once - I found myself on deck. I don't know how I got
there, or what possessed me to go there, but there I was; and
completely dressed too, with a huge pea-coat on, and a pair of
boots such as no weak man in his senses could ever have got into.
I found myself standing, when a gleam of consciousness came upon
me, holding on to something. I don't know what. I think it was
the boatswain: or it may have been the pump: or possibly the cow.
I can't say how long I had been there; whether a day or a minute.
I recollect trying to think about something (about anything in the
whole wide world, I was not particular) without the smallest
effect. I could not even make out which was the sea, and which the
sky, for the horizon seemed drunk, and was flying wildly about in
all directions. Even in that incapable state, however, I
recognised the lazy gentleman standing before me: nautically clad
in a suit of shaggy blue, with an oilskin hat. But I was too
imbecile, although I knew it to be he, to separate him from his
dress; and tried to call him, I remember, PILOT. After another
interval of total unconsciousness, I found he had gone, and
recognised another figure in its place. It seemed to wave and
fluctuate before me as though I saw it reflected in an unsteady
looking-glass; but I knew it for the captain; and such was the
cheerful influence of his face, that I tried to smile: yes, even
then I tried to smile. I saw by his gestures that he addressed me;
but it was a long time before I could make out that he remonstrated
against my standing up to my knees in water - as I was; of course I
don't know why. I tried to thank him, but couldn't. I could only
point to my boots - or wherever I supposed my boots to be - and say
in a plaintive voice, 'Cork soles:' at the same time endeavouring,
I am told, to sit down in the pool. Finding that I was quite
insensible, and for the time a maniac, he humanely conducted me

There I remained until I got better: suffering, whenever I was
recommended to eat anything, an amount of anguish only second to
that which is said to be endured by the apparently drowned, in the
process of restoration to life. One gentleman on board had a
letter of introduction to me from a mutual friend in London. He
sent it below with his card, on the morning of the head-wind; and I
was long troubled with the idea that he might be up, and well, and
a hundred times a day expecting me to call upon him in the saloon.
I imagined him one of those cast-iron images - I will not call them
men - who ask, with red faces, and lusty voices, what sea-sickness
means, and whether it really is as bad as it is represented to be.
This was very torturing indeed; and I don't think I ever felt such
perfect gratification and gratitude of heart, as I did when I heard
from the ship's doctor that he had been obliged to put a large
mustard poultice on this very gentleman's stomach. I date my
recovery from the receipt of that intelligence.

It was materially assisted though, I have no doubt, by a heavy gale
of wind, which came slowly up at sunset, when we were about ten
days out, and raged with gradually increasing fury until morning,
saving that it lulled for an hour a little before midnight. There
was something in the unnatural repose of that hour, and in the
after gathering of the storm, so inconceivably awful and
tremendous, that its bursting into full violence was almost a

The labouring of the ship in the troubled sea on this night I shall
never forget. 'Will it ever be worse than this?' was a question I
had often heard asked, when everything was sliding and bumping
about, and when it certainly did seem difficult to comprehend the
possibility of anything afloat being more disturbed, without
toppling over and going down. But what the agitation of a steam-
vessel is, on a bad winter's night in the wild Atlantic, it is
impossible for the most vivid imagination to conceive. To say that
she is flung down on her side in the waves, with her masts dipping
into them, and that, springing up again, she rolls over on the
other side, until a heavy sea strikes her with the noise of a
hundred great guns, and hurls her back - that she stops, and
staggers, and shivers, as though stunned, and then, with a violent
throbbing at her heart, darts onward like a monster goaded into
madness, to be beaten down, and battered, and crushed, and leaped
on by the angry sea - that thunder, lightning, hail, and rain, and
wind, are all in fierce contention for the mastery - that every
plank has its groan, every nail its shriek, and every drop of water
in the great ocean its howling voice - is nothing. To say that all
is grand, and all appalling and horrible in the last degree, is
nothing. Words cannot express it. Thoughts cannot convey it.
Only a dream can call it up again, in all its fury, rage, and

And yet, in the very midst of these terrors, I was placed in a
situation so exquisitely ridiculous, that even then I had as strong
a sense of its absurdity as I have now, and could no more help
laughing than I can at any other comical incident, happening under
circumstances the most favourable to its enjoyment. About midnight
we shipped a sea, which forced its way through the skylights, burst
open the doors above, and came raging and roaring down into the
ladies' cabin, to the unspeakable consternation of my wife and a
little Scotch lady - who, by the way, had previously sent a message
to the captain by the stewardess, requesting him, with her
compliments, to have a steel conductor immediately attached to the
top of every mast, and to the chimney, in order that the ship might
not be struck by lightning. They and the handmaid before
mentioned, being in such ecstasies of fear that I scarcely knew
what to do with them, I naturally bethought myself of some
restorative or comfortable cordial; and nothing better occurring to
me, at the moment, than hot brandy-and-water, I procured a tumbler
full without delay. It being impossible to stand or sit without
holding on, they were all heaped together in one corner of a long
sofa - a fixture extending entirely across the cabin - where they
clung to each other in momentary expectation of being drowned.
When I approached this place with my specific, and was about to
administer it with many consolatory expressions to the nearest
sufferer, what was my dismay to see them all roll slowly down to
the other end! And when I staggered to that end, and held out the
glass once more, how immensely baffled were my good intentions by
the ship giving another lurch, and their all rolling back again! I
suppose I dodged them up and down this sofa for at least a quarter
of an hour, without reaching them once; and by the time I did catch
them, the brandy-and-water was diminished, by constant spilling, to
a teaspoonful. To complete the group, it is necessary to recognise
in this disconcerted dodger, an individual very pale from sea-
sickness, who had shaved his beard and brushed his hair, last, at
Liverpool: and whose only article of dress (linen not included)
were a pair of dreadnought trousers; a blue jacket, formerly
admired upon the Thames at Richmond; no stockings; and one slipper.

Of the outrageous antics performed by that ship next morning; which
made bed a practical joke, and getting up, by any process short of
falling out, an impossibility; I say nothing. But anything like
the utter dreariness and desolation that met my eyes when I
literally 'tumbled up' on deck at noon, I never saw. Ocean and sky
were all of one dull, heavy, uniform, lead colour. There was no
extent of prospect even over the dreary waste that lay around us,
for the sea ran high, and the horizon encompassed us like a large
black hoop. Viewed from the air, or some tall bluff on shore, it
would have been imposing and stupendous, no doubt; but seen from
the wet and rolling decks, it only impressed one giddily and
painfully. In the gale of last night the life-boat had been
crushed by one blow of the sea like a walnut-shell; and there it
hung dangling in the air: a mere faggot of crazy boards. The
planking of the paddle-boxes had been torn sheer away. The wheels
were exposed and bare; and they whirled and dashed their spray
about the decks at random. Chimney, white with crusted salt;
topmasts struck; storm-sails set; rigging all knotted, tangled,
wet, and drooping: a gloomier picture it would be hard to look

I was now comfortably established by courtesy in the ladies' cabin,
where, besides ourselves, there were only four other passengers.
First, the little Scotch lady before mentioned, on her way to join
her husband at New York, who had settled there three years before.
Secondly and thirdly, an honest young Yorkshireman, connected with
some American house; domiciled in that same city, and carrying
thither his beautiful young wife to whom he had been married but a
fortnight, and who was the fairest specimen of a comely English
country girl I have ever seen. Fourthy, fifthly, and lastly,
another couple: newly married too, if one might judge from the
endearments they frequently interchanged: of whom I know no more
than that they were rather a mysterious, run-away kind of couple;
that the lady had great personal attractions also; and that the
gentleman carried more guns with him than Robinson Crusoe, wore a
shooting-coat, and had two great dogs on board. On further
consideration, I remember that he tried hot roast pig and bottled
ale as a cure for sea-sickness; and that he took these remedies
(usually in bed) day after day, with astonishing perseverance. I
may add, for the information of the curious, that they decidedly

The weather continuing obstinately and almost unprecedentedly bad,
we usually straggled into this cabin, more or less faint and
miserable, about an hour before noon, and lay down on the sofas to
recover; during which interval, the captain would look in to
communicate the state of the wind, the moral certainty of its
changing to-morrow (the weather is always going to improve to-
morrow, at sea), the vessel's rate of sailing, and so forth.
Observations there were none to tell us of, for there was no sun to
take them by. But a description of one day will serve for all the
rest. Here it is.

The captain being gone, we compose ourselves to read, if the place
be light enough; and if not, we doze and talk alternately. At one,
a bell rings, and the stewardess comes down with a steaming dish of
baked potatoes, and another of roasted apples; and plates of pig's
face, cold ham, salt beef; or perhaps a smoking mess of rare hot
collops. We fall to upon these dainties; eat as much as we can (we
have great appetites now); and are as long as possible about it.
If the fire will burn (it WILL sometimes) we are pretty cheerful.
If it won't, we all remark to each other that it's very cold, rub
our hands, cover ourselves with coats and cloaks, and lie down
again to doze, talk, and read (provided as aforesaid), until
dinner-time. At five, another bell rings, and the stewardess
reappears with another dish of potatoes - boiled this time - and
store of hot meat of various kinds: not forgetting the roast pig,
to be taken medicinally. We sit down at table again (rather more
cheerfully than before); prolong the meal with a rather mouldy
dessert of apples, grapes, and oranges; and drink our wine and
brandy-and-water. The bottles and glasses are still upon the
table, and the oranges and so forth are rolling about according to
their fancy and the ship's way, when the doctor comes down, by
special nightly invitation, to join our evening rubber:
immediately on whose arrival we make a party at whist, and as it is
a rough night and the cards will not lie on the cloth, we put the
tricks in our pockets as we take them. At whist we remain with
exemplary gravity (deducting a short time for tea and toast) until
eleven o'clock, or thereabouts; when the captain comes down again,
in a sou'-wester hat tied under his chin, and a pilot-coat: making
the ground wet where he stands. By this time the card-playing is
over, and the bottles and glasses are again upon the table; and
after an hour's pleasant conversation about the ship, the
passengers, and things in general, the captain (who never goes to
bed, and is never out of humour) turns up his coat collar for the
deck again; shakes hands all round; and goes laughing out into the
weather as merrily as to a birthday party.

As to daily news, there is no dearth of that commodity. This
passenger is reported to have lost fourteen pounds at Vingt-et-un
in the saloon yesterday; and that passenger drinks his bottle of
champagne every day, and how he does it (being only a clerk),
nobody knows. The head engineer has distinctly said that there
never was such times - meaning weather - and four good hands are
ill, and have given in, dead beat. Several berths are full of
water, and all the cabins are leaky. The ship's cook, secretly
swigging damaged whiskey, has been found drunk; and has been played
upon by the fire-engine until quite sober. All the stewards have
fallen down-stairs at various dinner-times, and go about with
plasters in various places. The baker is ill, and so is the
pastry-cook. A new man, horribly indisposed, has been required to
fill the place of the latter officer; and has been propped and
jammed up with empty casks in a little house upon deck, and
commanded to roll out pie-crust, which he protests (being highly
bilious) it is death to him to look at. News! A dozen murders on
shore would lack the interest of these slight incidents at sea.

Divided between our rubber and such topics as these, we were
running (as we thought) into Halifax Harbour, on the fifteenth
night, with little wind and a bright moon - indeed, we had made the
Light at its outer entrance, and put the pilot in charge - when
suddenly the ship struck upon a bank of mud. An immediate rush on
deck took place of course; the sides were crowded in an instant;
and for a few minutes we were in as lively a state of confusion as
the greatest lover of disorder would desire to see. The
passengers, and guns, and water-casks, and other heavy matters,
being all huddled together aft, however, to lighten her in the
head, she was soon got off; and after some driving on towards an
uncomfortable line of objects (whose vicinity had been announced
very early in the disaster by a loud cry of 'Breakers a-head!') and
much backing of paddles, and heaving of the lead into a constantly
decreasing depth of water, we dropped anchor in a strange
outlandish-looking nook which nobody on board could recognise,
although there was land all about us, and so close that we could
plainly see the waving branches of the trees.

It was strange enough, in the silence of midnight, and the dead
stillness that seemed to be created by the sudden and unexpected
stoppage of the engine which had been clanking and blasting in our
ears incessantly for so many days, to watch the look of blank
astonishment expressed in every face: beginning with the officers,
tracing it through all the passengers, and descending to the very
stokers and furnacemen, who emerged from below, one by one, and
clustered together in a smoky group about the hatchway of the
engine-room, comparing notes in whispers. After throwing up a few
rockets and firing signal guns in the hope of being hailed from the
land, or at least of seeing a light - but without any other sight
or sound presenting itself - it was determined to send a boat on
shore. It was amusing to observe how very kind some of the
passengers were, in volunteering to go ashore in this same boat:
for the general good, of course: not by any means because they
thought the ship in an unsafe position, or contemplated the
possibility of her heeling over in case the tide were running out.
Nor was it less amusing to remark how desperately unpopular the
poor pilot became in one short minute. He had had his passage out
from Liverpool, and during the whole voyage had been quite a
notorious character, as a teller of anecdotes and cracker of jokes.
Yet here were the very men who had laughed the loudest at his
jests, now flourishing their fists in his face, loading him with
imprecations, and defying him to his teeth as a villain!

The boat soon shoved off, with a lantern and sundry blue lights on
board; and in less than an hour returned; the officer in command
bringing with him a tolerably tall young tree, which he had plucked
up by the roots, to satisfy certain distrustful passengers whose
minds misgave them that they were to be imposed upon and
shipwrecked, and who would on no other terms believe that he had
been ashore, or had done anything but fraudulently row a little way
into the mist, specially to deceive them and compass their deaths.
Our captain had foreseen from the first that we must be in a place
called the Eastern passage; and so we were. It was about the last
place in the world in which we had any business or reason to be,
but a sudden fog, and some error on the pilot's part, were the
cause. We were surrounded by banks, and rocks, and shoals of all
kinds, but had happily drifted, it seemed, upon the only safe speck
that was to be found thereabouts. Eased by this report, and by the
assurance that the tide was past the ebb, we turned in at three
o'clock in the morning.

I was dressing about half-past nine next day, when the noise above
hurried me on deck. When I had left it overnight, it was dark,
foggy, and damp, and there were bleak hills all round us. Now, we
were gliding down a smooth, broad stream, at the rate of eleven
miles an hour: our colours flying gaily; our crew rigged out in
their smartest clothes; our officers in uniform again; the sun
shining as on a brilliant April day in England; the land stretched
out on either side, streaked with light patches of snow; white
wooden houses; people at their doors; telegraphs working; flags
hoisted; wharfs appearing; ships; quays crowded with people;
distant noises; shouts; men and boys running down steep places
towards the pier: all more bright and gay and fresh to our unused
eyes than words can paint them. We came to a wharf, paved with
uplifted faces; got alongside, and were made fast, after some
shouting and straining of cables; darted, a score of us along the
gangway, almost as soon as it was thrust out to meet us, and before
it had reached the ship - and leaped upon the firm glad earth

I suppose this Halifax would have appeared an Elysium, though it
had been a curiosity of ugly dulness. But I carried away with me a
most pleasant impression of the town and its inhabitants, and have
preserved it to this hour. Nor was it without regret that I came
home, without having found an opportunity of returning thither, and
once more shaking hands with the friends I made that day.

It happened to be the opening of the Legislative Council and
General Assembly, at which ceremonial the forms observed on the
commencement of a new Session of Parliament in England were so
closely copied, and so gravely presented on a small scale, that it
was like looking at Westminster through the wrong end of a
telescope. The governor, as her Majesty's representative,
delivered what may be called the Speech from the Throne. He said
what he had to say manfully and well. The military band outside
the building struck up "God save the Queen" with great vigour
before his Excellency had quite finished; the people shouted; the
in's rubbed their hands; the out's shook their heads; the
Government party said there never was such a good speech; the
Opposition declared there never was such a bad one; the Speaker and
members of the House of Assembly withdrew from the bar to say a
great deal among themselves and do a little: and, in short,
everything went on, and promised to go on, just as it does at home
upon the like occasions.

The town is built on the side of a hill, the highest point being
commanded by a strong fortress, not yet quite finished. Several
streets of good breadth and appearance extend from its summit to
the water-side, and are intersected by cross streets running
parallel with the river. The houses are chiefly of wood. The
market is abundantly supplied; and provisions are exceedingly
cheap. The weather being unusually mild at that time for the
season of the year, there was no sleighing: but there were plenty
of those vehicles in yards and by-places, and some of them, from
the gorgeous quality of their decorations, might have 'gone on'
without alteration as triumphal cars in a melodrama at Astley's.
The day was uncommonly fine; the air bracing and healthful; the
whole aspect of the town cheerful, thriving, and industrious.

We lay there seven hours, to deliver and exchange the mails. At
length, having collected all our bags and all our passengers
(including two or three choice spirits, who, having indulged too
freely in oysters and champagne, were found lying insensible on
their backs in unfrequented streets), the engines were again put in
motion, and we stood off for Boston.

Encountering squally weather again in the Bay of Fundy, we tumbled
and rolled about as usual all that night and all next day. On the
next afternoon, that is to say, on Saturday, the twenty-second of
January, an American pilot-boat came alongside, and soon afterwards
the Britannia steam-packet, from Liverpool, eighteen days out, was
telegraphed at Boston.

The indescribable interest with which I strained my eyes, as the
first patches of American soil peeped like molehills from the green
sea, and followed them, as they swelled, by slow and almost
imperceptible degrees, into a continuous line of coast, can hardly
be exaggerated. A sharp keen wind blew dead against us; a hard
frost prevailed on shore; and the cold was most severe. Yet the
air was so intensely clear, and dry, and bright, that the
temperature was not only endurable, but delicious.

How I remained on deck, staring about me, until we came alongside
the dock, and how, though I had had as many eyes as Argus, I should
have had them all wide open, and all employed on new objects - are
topics which I will not prolong this chapter to discuss. Neither
will I more than hint at my foreigner-like mistake in supposing
that a party of most active persons, who scrambled on board at the
peril of their lives as we approached the wharf, were newsmen,
answering to that industrious class at home; whereas, despite the
leathern wallets of news slung about the necks of some, and the
broad sheets in the hands of all, they were Editors, who boarded
ships in person (as one gentleman in a worsted comforter informed
me), 'because they liked the excitement of it.' Suffice it in this
place to say, that one of these invaders, with a ready courtesy for
which I thank him here most gratefully, went on before to order
rooms at the hotel; and that when I followed, as I soon did, I
found myself rolling through the long passages with an involuntary
imitation of the gait of Mr. T. P. Cooke, in a new nautical

'Dinner, if you please,' said I to the waiter.

'When?' said the waiter.

'As quick as possible,' said I.

'Right away?' said the waiter.

After a moment's hesitation, I answered 'No,' at hazard.

'NOT right away?' cried the waiter, with an amount of surprise that
made me start.

I looked at him doubtfully, and returned, 'No; I would rather have
it in this private room. I like it very much.'

At this, I really thought the waiter must have gone out of his
mind: as I believe he would have done, but for the interposition
of another man, who whispered in his ear, 'Directly.'

'Well! and that's a fact!' said the waiter, looking helplessly at
me: 'Right away.'

I saw now that 'Right away' and 'Directly' were one and the same
thing. So I reversed my previous answer, and sat down to dinner in
ten minutes afterwards; and a capital dinner it was.

The hotel (a very excellent one) is called the Tremont House. It
has more galleries, colonnades, piazzas, and passages than I can
remember, or the reader would believe.

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