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Of the steerage-passengers there were some forty to fifty, most of whom were disappointed and homesick English and Irish emigrants, returning from America, to love their native country better than they did before, and to be satisfied to lay their bones in it. There was one of these poor fellows, an Irishman, who attracted much attention, and excited no little interest in the ship, on account of the simple story he told of his motives in going to America, and of the result. It is too instructive to be omitted. He said he went to NewYork to dig for gold in Gold-street, where he had understood there was a great plenty. He declared that he went to the place, and tried a long time with his spade and pickaxe-but found no gold! So thoroughly, however, was he possessed of the impression, under the influence of which he had gone to America, that he got the notion in his head, after our ship had sailed, that he had made a mistake in the street, and had been digging in the wrong place!“ And will you go back again ?” he was asked. He was not sure whether he would ; but he thought he should advise his brothers to go! This, I think, may be set down for faith with a witness. He was perfectly grave, and seemed as honest as any other man that ever came from Ireland. Notwithstanding all the disappointments of our English, Irish, and Scotch friends, who have come to seek their fortunes among us, and notwith- .. standing all the discouraging reports that have gone back, the faith of the first impression seems to stick by them; and they will at least advise their brothers to go.
One of the most interesting features of present civilization is the secure and rapid transmission of letters by post over the same country, and more especially in passing the boundary between one nation and another, where, if we please to imagine so, no law exists, and where, it might moreover be supposed at first sight, improper meddling and depredation might be committed with impunity. But a secOnd consideration will suggest to us, that nations in amity, and having commercial intercourse, find urgent reasons of public and private interest to maintain a mutual and rigid international jurisdiction to protect the lines of a frontier and the highway of the seas. Every vessel that sails on the ocean is made responsible somewhere; and the letter-bag of a ship is ordinarily as secure in passing from continent to continent, as the mail from London to Liverpool, or from New-York to Philadelphia. I have been in England four years, have maintained a weekly correspondence with America, and yet I have never known a letter in which I was interested to fail of the most speedy arrival. I have conversed with many commercial and public men in regard to this point, whose foreign correspondence has been of long continuance, and very extensive, as well as important; but
I never heard of a disappointment from this cause. I once had a letter from Cincinnati, Ohio, addressed to me at No. 9 Amelia-place, London, which might almost as well have been directed to No. 9 Amelia-place among the stars; and yet it found me out the third day after its arrival in the me. tropoliş, having been sent by the twopenny post, as appeared by the marks thereon, to nearly every part and suburb of that immense city.
The master of every packet-ship between the ports of the United States and those of Great Britain, and I believe of every other vessel that floats upon the high seas, is in fact, or at least in the construction of law, a sworn postoffice agent of the nation to which he owes allegiance.* The American packets from New York to London and Liverpool, respectively, carry probably the largest mails of any ships in the world-nearly all the correspondence between the two countries passing through their letter-bags. In the ship George Washington, on my return to New York, the letters were counted, and the number exceeded 3000. The parcels, or small packets, are of great bulk, filling several large bags.
After our ship had been at sea some three or four days, the weather being pleasant, the captain opened the letterbags in the round-house, to discharge his duty as postmaster in sorting the letters and parcels for consignment on his arrival in port. He turned upon the floor about a cartload of parcels, and some bushels of letters—a striking index of the amount of correspondence between the United States and Great Britain, when it is considered that, besides all the merchant-ships, there is a Liverpool packet from and to New-York once a week, and one every two weeks between London and New-York-all and each sustaining their own proportionate share in this transportation.
Suppose, then, that while the captain is sorting the packages and letters, he allows it not improper to amuse the passengers sitting and standing round, by reading to them the remarkable superscriptions and directions as they happen to turn up; among which are to be found not a few genuine Irish bulls from the sons of the Emerald Isle in America to their friends at home, as well as many other comical things. By-and-by a letter turns up, the seal of which, impressed in wax, reads thus : “ Mizpah, Gen. xxxi. 49.”—“This is for you to expound,” said the captain, turning pleasantly to me. Not being able on the instant to recite the passage without book-by which, I suppose, I lost some credit—I ran below, and returning with the Bible open at the place, read, “ Mizpah : the Lord watch between
* No yessel of Great Britain is called a packet except it belongs to the king, or is especially chartered for the transportation of the mail. This name indicates its character in this particular as much as the royal mailcoach on the land.
me and thee, when we are absent one from another.”_" Beautiful!” said one. “Beautiful !” responded another. “A gem! a gem !” exclaimed a third. “A gem !” all responded. And surely, the brightest, most precious gem of all, was to find in such a place and circle these prompt and full-souled expressions of syinpathy on the announcement of this sentiment of religion and Christian piety. There were, indeed, powerful tendencies to such sympathy in the circumstances of us all. For who present, whether going to or from his home, did not feel himself separated from those he loved, and loved most dear? And who, with a wide and fitful ocean before him, tossing on its heaving bosom, would not feel his dependance, and, looking back or forward to home and friends, lift up his aspirations to that high Providence who sits enthroned in heaven, and rules the land and sea, and breathe to him the sweet and holy prayer-" The Lord watch between me and mine, while we are absent one from another?"
And whose was the hand that fixed this stamp of piety on this winged messenger of love of love that grows more ardent and more holy, as it is distant and long away from its object? The first postmark was Quebec, and directed to a quarterinaster of the army in London. Was it, then, from a wife to a husband ? or from a sister to a brother? or what was the relation? The chirographic style made this question dubious, and it remained unsettled; and of course left more scope for the play of imagination, and the agreeable waste of much conjecture. But the incident itself, and the conversation exhausted upon it, furnished all the colloquists of the occasion with a text of frequent reference, and I hope imprinted on their hearts more indelibly a very practical and an ennobling sentiment of piety.
“ Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark untathomed caves of ocean bear;
This flower diffused its fragrance far and wide;
As swift on wings of love it passes by. On Sunday, August 14th, while sitting at breakfast in the morning, a gentleman much esteemed, and of prominent influence in the cabin, addressed himself to another gentleman, a clergyman, at table, and said, “Sir, we have been several days aboard, and this is the Sabbath, and a pleasant day. I have consulted our fellow-passengers, and I believe I express their common sentiment in requesting from you to-day the favour of a serion, if agreeable to yourself;" at the same time turning to the captain and to the company
for an expression of their assent, which was immediately and unanimously rendered. The service was therefore instantly concluded on, notice published through the ship, and the bell rung at half past ten o'clock. The place of assembly was the round-house, with its windows and doors thrown open, so that those who could not get in could hear from without. The number of souls on board, including cabin-passengers, steerage-passengers, and crew, was about 'seventy. It was gratifying to observe how easy such a service can be arranged, and with what decorum it can be sustained, even on board a packet-ship. It was still more interesting to see the feeling manifested in view of religious truths, in such circumstances.
As the preacher of this day hung over the stern of the ship towards the going down of the sun, and was meditating alone on that grand object, now about to plunge in the ocean, and observing also that ever-attractive scene, the wake of the ship, as she dashes onward through the foaming deep, leaving a momentary trace of bubbling and whirling eddies, breaking the mountain-wave, and seeming to rebuke its march and to enforce a pause in its career-as if to express astonishment at the temerity of such an intruder, and at the violence done to the rights of the sea. In this thoughtful mood, one of the cabin-passengers, a young man, approached him, begging pardon for interrupting his meditations, and began to say, “that he owed an apology in his own behalf, and that he was suffering an injustice in the preacher's estimation.”
“I pray you, sir,” said the preacher," explain yourself."
He still went on, regardless of this demand, and added, much to the surprise of the clergyman, “I bought those books at an auction-room. They were struck off to me in one parcel the night before I left New-York. I was igno. rant of what they were.”
" What books ?" interrupted the clergyman.
“I intend to destroy them,” continued the young gentle. man ; " and I should suffer injustice if I allowed you to suppose that I had not been better educated, or that I can relish such vile trash.”
It turned out, after the parties in this colloquy had come to a more perfect understanding, that the books in question were of an infidel and otherwise base character. On the second or third day of the voyage, while overhauling and sorting his luggage in presence of the clergyman, the young gentleman had civilly offered him the use of any of his books that might please him-of which he had availed himself. As it happened, however, the Clergyman's hand had not lighted on the bad books. To explain this dialogue, it had also happened that the clergyman, in his sermon of that day, had taken occasion to make some remarks on the
absurdities of infidelity, and the necessarily vicious state of the moral affections that could relish it. The young man felt mortified-abased-supposing himself to be directly aimed at in these remarks; and took the opportunity, as above, to vindicate himself. “ Conscience needs no accuser.” It was, however, a mutually pleasant interview. The clergyman permitted the young gentleman to remain under the conviction he had so deeply felt, that the lecture was intended expressly for him: first, because it seemed to operate so well; next, because the young man would not have believed him, if he had disclosed all the truth; or, if he had believed, being of a lively turn, he would have laughed outright, and probably failed to profit by it.
As we came up from dinner on Sabbath, the 14th, “ Look at the sun!”—“ Look at the sun !" was the instantaneous exclamation of numerous voices, every one lifting up hands with amazement and turning pale with apprehension. The day had been perfectly clear; not a cloud in the heavens! nor was there one at this moment. Neither had there been, nor was there now, any fog; no mist; no floating shadow of any of the suspended vapours; but all the region above, even down to the horizon, was entirely vacant of these ordinary phenomena. And yet there was a darkness! Nature herself-all nature was eclipsed! The sun presented his dark purple disk to our eye-so darkened as almost to unveil the stars. All looked alternately at the sun, and then at each other, with a wondering, inquisitive, and fearstricken gaze, seeming to say, “What! what doth this portend?” It was impossible not to feel that Nature was out of her healthful condition—diseased-in distress-in pain and agony. So deep was the obscurity over the face of the sun, that the eye could gaze upon it steadily without blinking. The dark spots which have often been observed upon his disk were distinctly visible to the naked eye; and one dark, gloomy, evil-boding shade mantled the entire vault above and around, as if the day of final doom were about to break upon creation !
We, who had been unused to the sea, asked the captain if these appearances were common. He answered, with evident seriousness, that he had never seen the like. It was strange to the oldest sailor-to every one on board. It was now about five o'clock. P. M., as near as I recollect. The cabin-passengers had all been below for two or three hours. The mate on duty informed us that these unusual symptoms began to appear some two hours before, and had been gradually increasing. The face of every one looked serious, as if about to be summoned to his last account.
The wind carried us pleasantly onward, as the sun de. elined and disappeared under the same general appearances;