8. Letter VIII



Schooner Go-Ahead, August 16th, 1846.

You will see by the date, dear Bennie, that more than two weeks have passed since I last wrote to you. In the mean time your poor cousin Pidgie has been lying on his straw-bed, sick with a fever. It has been rather gloomy, to be sure; but now that I am better I can think of nothing but the kindness of the sailors. It must be the salt water which keeps their hearts so good and warm, for when any one is in real trouble they are as tender as little children. There were two or three of them, whom I had not even thought worth mentioning, that spent every moment, when they were not busy, in trying to amuse me. One had been to China, and you don't know how many curious things he had seen there. He tells me that there is a Chinese museum in Boston, and when I go back there I shall visit it, and I will try and remember every thing worthy of notice to tell you on my return. How many pleasant evenings we shall spend together, in the old school-room at Bellisle, with all the girls sitting by the long window, or near us out on the porch!

I love the sea, and yet I long to take a stroll down the lawn before your door on the sweet green grass. It is a blessed thing that travelling of any kind has so much to interest, or else how would any one ever be able to make up his mind to leave home?

Since I have heard poor Dick's story I don't much wish to go to a public school; but Clarendon says that's a silly prejudice, for it was the same disposition which made him unhappy at home, that prevented the school from being of service to him. Yet I am afraid that I have not principle enough to go among so many boys and do what is right. It is harder to be laughed at by those of our own age than by older people. I have learned this lately, for I find that I don't feel half as much ashamed when brother makes fun of what he calls my Methodistical habits, as I do of David's ridicule. He has a way of putting aside all the reasons I give him for doing right, as if they were so utterly unworthy of a boy's consideration, that I hardly dare to try and argue with him.

A few nights since, one of the old sailors took out a pack of greasy cards, and, calling to one of his companions, said that he would teach David and I to play a two-handed game, which we should find very amusing. David was all eagerness to learn; but I told him that I had rather not touch them.

"Nonsense, man!" said David; "I thought that you had too much sense to be afraid of little pieces of pasteboard, with red and black spots on them. They are not going to poison you."

"But I have promised my mother that I would never play cards," I replied; "and, besides, it would give me no pleasure, for I have heard of so much evil from the use of them that I cannot see them without pain."

The old sailor, who had only wished to please me, was very angry at what I said, and began swearing dreadfully. David tried to pacify him, and proposed that they should take a game together, and he'd be bound that I would want to play before they had done with it.

"Would you wish," I asked, "that I should be tempted to break a promise to a widowed mother, who never in my life denied me any thing that was reasonable?"

"No!" said David, after a moment's thought; "give me your hand! You are perfectly right, and I honor you for it."

Before he had time to say any more, Brown Tom came in to look for a gun, which had been brought on board; for the water was covered with ducks, and he was anxious to have a shot at them. I should like to try my hand in the same way; for when fish and birds are used for food, my conscience don't hurt me about killing them. That's the reason that I like mackerel-fishing, though I have no fondness for mackerels themselves, for they are cannibals. We use a piece of one for bait for the rest, and don't have lines more than three or four yards long. This is a very different thing from catching cod, where they pull them up through many fathoms of water. Clary says that next year he means to go out to the Banks for cod, if he can get some of his friends to make up a party for the purpose. You never saw any one so changed as he is.

Last week there came up a storm, when we were near the land, and they hauled into port. Clarendon walked off on shore in his fishing-clothes, without appearing in the least ashamed of them, and went to make a call on a gentleman in the place, whom he had seen in Virginia a year or two since. I wish I had been well enough to have gone with him, for he saw a great many things which were new to him, and he says that British America is as different from the United States as if it were not a part of the same continent. None of the crew minded walking about on shore in the rain, and while they were gone I was alone, excepting Dick, and he was on deck writing a letter to his sister, to send across the country and prepare her for his return; for you know she thinks that he is dead.

When David came back, though, I had fun enough; for he gave me the most amusing description of every thing he had seen.

"Hurrah for New England!" he exclaimed, as soon as he got on board. "John Bull don't beat Brother Jonathan yet. Let them talk of their lords and their ladies; there is not a gentleman in Boston that is not quite as noble-looking as the one that I saw, and a great deal more knowing, I can tell you. We saw a splendid carriage and four, with a troop of soldiers in red tramping after it, and a passably pretty flag flying over them. I asked a little boy whom we met what they were about, and he replied, that they were escorting a great British general, who had just come over to the Provinces. I ran forward to get a peep at the wonder, and had a good stare at the old fellow; and such another fright you never saw. I wished I had a temperance tract to give him, for his face was redder than the sun last night, when it went down in a cloud, and his eyes looked like stoppers to a whiskey-bottle, which had got soaked through. He'd better not have much to do with fire-arms, for he'd blow up to a certainty. They say he lies in bed till twelve o'clock every day, and then does nothing but just drink and eat, and drink and smoke, till midnight. I am glad that our government has no such loafers to maintain."

"But did not the place itself look flourishing?" I asked, amused at his warmth.

"No, indeed!" he replied; "every body had a constrained air, as if they were in bondage, and it made my blood boil to see two fine-appearing men waiting so obsequiously on a good-for-nothing young scamp, just because he had a title to his name. I hope that I shall never live to see the day when there is any such nonsense tagging to my label as they string on to theirs. How much better George Washington sounds than the Honorable Alexis Fiddle Faddle, &c."

"That's a nobleman I never heard of," said old Jack, laughing at David's vexation; "but Nelson is a very fine-sounding name, for all it's an English one."

"And the Duke of Wellington, too," said I, "is not an ugly title, and I would give a great deal to see the man who bears it."

"Ah! ah!" said David, shaking his head; "you Virginians will never get over some of those Tory notions you got from the old Cavaliers, that had to clear out of England when Cromwell made it too hot for them."

"And you Yankees," I replied, with equal warmth, "will always have the blind obstinacy of the Barebones Parliament, and think that there is no morality or religion in the world but your own, and that calling a man an ugly name will make him a better Christian."

We might have gone on disputing thus till we had made each other very angry, had not Old Jack stopped us by saying,--"Come, come, boys, be done quarrelling! Don't you both belong to the same country? When you have sailed round the world as I have, Old Virginny and Boston Bay will seem all the same thing, and you will love every inch of ground over which the stripes and the stars wave. I love all Yankees, from Maine to Texas; and if we would only keep tight together, we could whip all the world."

"That's sound sense," said Clarendon, who had just come in. "We Yankees should stick to our motto,--'United we stand, divided we fall.' In our days, we think too much of our being 'pluribus,' and too little that we are 'in unum.'"

Don't Clarendon deserve three cheers for that speech? To think of his calling himself a Yankee! Why! I have seen the time when he would have knocked any one down who had dared to say the same thing of him. And when Jack, sung out, in a tremendous voice,--

"Hail Columbia, happy land!"

Clary joined in with all his might, and so did the rest of the sailors, and such a singing of Yankee songs as they kept up for a full hour, you never heard. If brother practises that kind of music, he'll find hard work in fetching his guitar to match it.

Captain Cobb has just told us, that, when we have caught a few barrels more of mackerel, the schooner can carry no more, and then right about for Boston Harbour. O, how my heart jumps with delight! Home, home, sweet home! Your happy cousin,