Imágenes de páginas

in the bitterness of self-reproach, uninterested by the scene around me. The conversation of the other passengers, their occasional jests and bursts of laughter, annoyed me; I was anxious for the future, and ashamed of the past. My uneasiness was heightened, on going to the captain's office to pay our fare of three dollars, on finding that he intended to make the unusual charge of a dollar and a half for our baggage. I ventured to remonstrate; but was met by the reply, that if "I didn't like it I might go by another boat." I had now but half a dollar left; all my calculations were disappointed; while in the chance of not finding work at the end of our journey my courage had well nigh failed


Many times on that, to us, melancholy morning, had I heard the cry "Go ahead" from the men at the gangway to the engineer, after stopping to land passengers. At this moment the energetic phrase was again repeated, and it struck my attention so forcibly, that I could not help applying it to myself. It gave a new direction to my thoughts, leading them from vain regrets to the resources that lay before me: the flame of hope began, though feebly, to revive; and from this time my uneasiness sensibly abated.

[ocr errors]

The swift vessel entered the highlands, whose beauties have been well preserved in the writings of the author of Rip van Winkle;'-the scene of Arnold's treachery and Andre's suffering. On a high rock we saw the fort of West Point, and near it the Military Academy. Many of the cadets were lying on the crags, under the shade of the trees, watching the vessels as they passed up and down this magnificent portion of the river. And soon after the cry of "Poughkeepsie baggage" warned us to make preparations for landing. Our chests and boxes were hauled to the gangway; the usual unceremonious halt was made, so short that the vessel was some feet from the wharf as I leaped on shore with our last parcel. She dashed on, and left us standing there with all our hopes and fears crowding fast upon


We were immediately surrounded by a number of Irish labourers, all clamorous for the job of carrying our luggage to "the village," and with difficulty restrained from seizing and running off with it in every direction. I succeeded at last in piling it all snugly at one side of the wooden platform: my wife and the two little boys seated themselves on the top as sentinels, while I walked up the hill to the town, a mile distant, to seek for a new home and the means of living in it. I hurried up the brick-paved road and

through the streets until the sign "Cabinetmaker" over a door met my eye. I entered, and in a painful state of suspense inquired for the boss, who "guessed he didn't want a hand." The same unsatisfactory reply awaited me at two other places. There now remained but the last of the boss cabinetmakers in the town; if unsuccessful this time, what a hopeless prospect presented itself, without the means of travelling farther, or of paying for a single night's lodging! I hesitated some minutes at the door of the shop, afraid to ask the question on which so much depended, when "Go ahead,” shouted by one teamster to another on the opposite side of the street, again attracted my notice, and I entered. To my inquiry for work the boss, a pleasant talkative little man, replied favourably, though not without circumlocution. He began by saying, without giving me time to speak, "Guess you're from the old country, aint you? Did you hang out in New York? What do you think of our country? Is King Billy as smart a man as General Jackson? Your Thames aint a circumstance by the side of our North River, eh? Well, I guess we're considerable busy, so you may come to work to-morrow."

Glad and grateful, I left the shop I had entered but a few minutes before with so much dread, and, relieved of my most pressing anxiety, walked cheerfully through the streets in search of a lodging. None, however, was to be found-not a single vacant room could I hear of; and unwilling as I was to incur the expense of a temporary residence at a boarding-house, it was the only alternative. Having secured this, as the sun was sinking behind the Shawangunk mountains, far away on the other side of the river, I descended the hill up which I had walked four hours before, and gladdened my wife with the news of my success. Our little boys had amused themselves for some time, until, becoming tired and hungry, they cried themselves to sleep; from which they were soon awakened, and the services of a carman being engaged, were speedily removed with our other effects to the boarding-house: the charge for the operation took away half of our solitary half dollar.

The next morning I was early at the workshop; courage and hope nerved my arm, and I determined to struggle through every obstacle. In the afternoon of this day a cruel and absurd custom compelled me to part with my last coin to pay "footing." Strange that the goodwill of shopmates cannot be extended to the stranger without this initiatory process! How often does it happen that a distressed mechanic has sacrificed

what would buy a meal for his family, to gratify the depraved appetites of those who will be friends or enemies in proportion to the strength and quantity of the liquor they swallow! This bad custom does not prevail to so great an extent in America as in our own country; and it is to be hoped that, with many other vicious drinking habits, it will soon become altogether obsolete.

At times a book afforded recreation; or a quiet stroll in the cool moonlight, under trees made vocal with the chirp of the katydids, reinvigorated us after the exhaustion of a scorching day, while it lent another pleasure to our country life, which seemed all the happier when compared with the confinement of a city.


At the end of five months, when the days grew shorter and the evenings dark, I found myself the possessor of sixty dollars-the result of diligence and economy. Work, however, began to slacken; the boss threw out hints of dismissal; one "hand' discharged, then another, and at last it came to my turn, softened, however, by the promise of being "taken on again at Christmas." This was a sudden check to the tide of prosperity, and a new source of disquietude, the more felt as all the other em

Two weeks passed away, and I found myself in possession of a few dollars beyond my weekly expenses. A lodging was found at last, and joyfully taken possession of: it was but one room, somewhat dingy and flystained withal; but half a peck of lime, and the occupation of a few over-hours, soon gave the apartment a clean and cheerful aspect. A few bundles of straw, brought home on returning from work, filled the bed, which was laid in one corner of the floor, and with the old sea-chest in the middle for a table,ployers in the town were pursuing the same we began the world anew, under circumstances very similar to those of our beginning two years before.

The next week we were able to purchase a table and bedstead, to which I added a stray chair from the workshop, that no one would claim; the crockery on the shelves was efficiently increased; the chests were removed to one side, the boxes put out of sight under the bed, so that the room began to assume a more comfortable appearance; and not least in our sources of contentment was the improvement in the health of my wife and children from breathing the pure air of the country.

Never had I got through so much work in an ordinary day as now. Determined to recover my losses, not a minute was suffered to pass unimproved. I rose very early, and leaving my family asleep took my food in a basket to the workshop, from which I did not return until the evening. This was the hour of repose and relaxation; the refreshing tea was always ready, accompanied with stewed fruit, or savoury johnny cakes. Then there were the events of the day to talk about; the travels of the boys into the neighbouring fields furnished an exhaustless subject of conversation; one had fallen into the narrow creek, and got nicely wetted before he could scramble out again; the other had chased grasshoppers till he was so hot, and red, and tired, that he would rather go to bed than sit at the table. One day a tree had been climbed; the next, a means of getting over a fence which had long baffled them, was discovered; and the tempting blackberries schemed down within reach of the young adventurers; the boys grew and thrived to the great joy of their parents.

course, and consequently narrowing the resources. The lateness of the season, too, rendered additional expense necessary for fuel and other protection against the coming winter.

At this time a letter came from the relative to whom my savings had been lent, professing ability to perform his engagements under circumstances that rendered it necessary I should go to receive the amount in person. This involved a journey of some two hundred miles, which, after some consideration, I determined on, and starting by one of the night boats for Albany, reached my destination, a small village on the banks of the Mohawk, the next day.

Here, to my vexation, I learned that my friend had gone on a journey from which he would not return for several days; the delay, though unexpected, was not all loss. I made acquaintance with some students of the village grammar school, was admitted to hear their examinations and recitations, and in the company of one of them made many excursions up the hills behind the settlement, and away into the solitude of the forests; or starting on the banks of the creek that dashed down the declivity, we followed all its windings and explored all its noisy rapids to the source. I went also on a short trip by the railway to the flourishing and handsome city of Utica.

At length, after three weeks, my friend returned, but, unfortunately for me, quite unable to fulfil his promises; the recovery of the money appeared to be hopeless. I took a hasty farewell of the young man whose society had enabled me to pass the time usefully and agreeably, and returned to Poughkeepsie, only one day before a sudden

change of wind completely closed the navigation of the upper course of the Hudson. The resource of reading now proved of infinite service; the weather forbade out-ofdoor exercise, and I gained instruction while waiting for the opportunity to bring that instruction into practical use.

The boss still held out hopes of work, and as a drowning man will clutch at weeds, so did I cling to this as a compensation to come when the evil days should be over; but the evil days took no ending, and in spite of my efforts to the contrary, I became depressed. Gloomy feelings came over me as I thought upon the long bitter months to come; the sixty dollars, too, which had been greatly diminished by my fruitless journey to the west, were fast disappearing. I tried every means to obtain employment, and offered to work in exchange for food, but in vain ; and to crown all, Christmas came, but the promised work came not with it.

This was the climax; I counted the contents of our scanty purse, and small indeed was the sum that remained. My resolution was taken; I bought a load of firewood, sawed, splitted, and then piled it in one corner of our room, to avoid the inconvenience of fetching it from out of doors in the snow or biting wind, and carefully stopped all the chinks and openings in the walls and floor to exclude the cold. I then laid in a small store of salt pork and potatoes, and with a wallet on my shoulder, and one dollar in my pocket, started before daylight on the morning of Christmas Day, after a sorrowful leave-taking, to walk eighty miles over the hills to New York, where I doubted not of meeting with some sort of occupation that would enable me to support my family until the return of the genial season should bring its attendant plenty and prosperity.

As I closed the outer door of the house, I seemed to lose half of the courage that had hitherto animated me. The morning was dark and starless; heavy clouds obscured the sky; the sullen roar of the ice drifted up and down by the tide in the distant river was wafted drearily to my ears; everything seemed to be in accordance with the depression of my feelings; and after walking about an hour my reflections became so painful that I turned round to retrace my steps. The feeling, however, was but temporary; "Go a-head" came to my mind; I fancied, like Curran, that my little boys were pulling in the other direction, and I once more turned my face to the south. To add to my discomfort, with the appearance of daylight it began to rain, at first slightly, then heavier, and at last settled into


"downright pour;" in these circumstances I did not find climbing and descending the hills quite so pleasant a pastime as the admiring them from the deck of the steamer had been in the previous month of June.

I toiled on; the driver of the New York stage, which I met creeping along at a snail's pace, informed me that a few miles farther on the road was completely flooded. After walking thirty miles I felt so jaded from the constant soaking and bad condition of the roads that I stopped at a tavern by the road side just at night-fall. Here I found a welcome seat by the side of the barroom stove; and much to my satisfaction learned that, the river being still navigable below the highlands, a steamer would start the next day for New York from a village at their southern extremity.

Morning came, but brought with it no cessation of the rain, which was pouring down as furiously as ever. Delay was out of the question; the tavern charge for bed and board had absorbed half of my dollar; I was still fifty miles from the city; and if I missed the steam-boat there was the prospect of becoming penniless before I could walk to the end of my journey. I set out, and at the foot of the first hill found the water dashing and roaring across the road with the fury of a cataract: here was a stop. I looked in vain for a passage; wading was not to be thought of; the great depth of the water, to say nothing of its impetuosity, presented an insurmountable obstacle, while the sides of the road falling away with a sudden declivity, rendered going round equally impracticable. Go a-head appeared now to be ineffective, when at last I discovered a portion of a dyke or stone fence occasionally visible above the surface of the torrent. Cautiously climbing upon this, I stood for a minute calculating my chances; the stream hissing through the interstices caused the stones to tremble at the passage of every wave, and on the other side plunged suddenly down a descent of fifty feet; a false step might be fatal. I carefully felt my way, and accomplished the passage in safety; then pushing on, I encountered another torrent in the next hol low; this, however, not so formidable, was passed by wading, and I reached the river at last; and just as the steamer was leaving the landing, stepped on board.

Dripping with wet, I took my seat by the cabin fire, from which I did not rise until the arrival of the vessel at New York the same evening. The payment of my fare left me but six cents in my pocket, and with

this sum, in the midst of a snow-storm, I walked on shore. I went at once to the lodging of my former French shopmate, and on a corner of his floor passed the night. The next day was devoted to looking for work, the next, and the next, but in vain. I offered to do any kind of work that would leave me a trifle beyond my bare expenses; the invariable reply was, "there will be no work till spring."

I pass over the dreary thoughts that troubled me. On the evening of the third day I met with a friend, who invited me to his house, and whose kindness enabled me to send a five-dollar note, with a few words of hope and encouragement, to my lonely and expectant wife. My friend was one of the few who, with the acquisition of the means, retain the disposition to do good. He gave me temporary work, and I eventually obtained a profitable situation in his service, which I retained during the remainder of my stay in America.

Spring came; the ice disappeared from the river, and with feelings far different from those with which I had come to the city four months before, I went back to Poughkeepsie and returned with my family, now increased by the addition of a little girl, who to our great grief was taken from us in the following summer. As the months went by our prospects brightened; I resumed my nightly labours, and in a short time our apartments were furnished to our hearts' content. My new situation afforded me the valuable privilege of enrolling myself a member of the Mercantile Library Association,' a flourishing institution, where an annual payment of two dollars secured access to a library of 20,000 volumes, and to a course of lectures by some of the most scientific men of the country.

I had seen the great fire in the winter of 1835-6, but was now to witness a more alarming convulsion in the commercial panic of 1837. All business was at a stand; bankruptcy followed bankruptcy with bewildering rapidity; the banks suspended specie payments, and hard coin became as scarce as diamonds. It was next to useless going to market with a five-dollar note-no one could or would give change. Many tradesmen issued notes for sums as low as six cents, in order to be able to meet the daily necessities of retail business; and this illegal paper, under the name of "shin plasters," was for a long time current in the eity. All these disasters were the consequence of the inordinate haste to be rich of the preceding years.

During this and the following year the

letters we received from England conveyed urgent and apparently favourable inducements for our return. After mature deliberation we resolved on accepting the proposals, and on the 20th May, 1839, nearly five years from the time of our arrival, we embarked on board the Gladiator, one of the "liners," with a fair wind, and ere sunset of the same day the land in which we had lived so long with varied fortune, where we found friends in adversity and hopes in prosperity, had disappeared from our view below the western horizon.

We had left behind us the people whose activity and enterprise are indefatigable; whose prudence inclines to the side of profit; whose morality succumbs to their acquisitiveness; whose benevolence exceeds their conscientiousness; whose anticipations of the future are as great as they may be glorious, with the recognition of the unchanging principles of human right, human dignity, and moral truth.

The fair wind continued: our vessel proved herself worthy of the swift-sailing line to which she belonged; and in nineteen days from the time we passed Sandy Hook, at noon on a pleasant Sunday, we saw the high cliffs of England, the Bill of Portland being the first point visible, and at nightfall on the same day we passed inside the Needles and dropped our anchor at the Motherbank.

The next morning we were all up early to look upon the green woods and fields of our native land. A boat from the shore was steering towards us; when alongside an officer rose in the stern and inquired of our captain the name of his vessel, her port o. departure and destination, and the number of his crew. To this latter question he replied "thirty," while the actual number was but eighteen.

As we were passing Ryde, one of the sailors, an American, remarked that "it was a very pretty settlement," and was well laughed at for applying a backwoods' designation to a town of the old world. Nearly all our cabin passengers landed at Portsmouth, from whence we sailed pleasantly along the coast, and in the afternoon of the following day disembarked at St. Katherine's Dock, where we experienced equal civility, with less examination of our baggage than on our landing in New York.

The hopes which had led us once more across the Atlantic were not realised: the disappointment was great, but it has been subsequently compensated by a situation whose duties are as genial as they promise to be permanent.


II.—A VISIT TO THE LEGISLATURE, WITH GLIMPSES OF INDIVIDUALS. We are sauntering leisurely towards the Houses of Parliament; and if the day happens to be the one on which the session is opened, and the Royal Speech has been delivered scarcely an hour before, we cannot but remark the change. The crowd has disappeared from the streets. A slight air of bustle is perceptible, but there is nothing calculated to attract the attention of a stranger who is ignorant of his locality. Drawing nearer to the Houses, we begin to be aware of the peculiar interest of the site. Stragglers walk up and down, or fall into line, on the edge of the pavement, to witness the arrival of members of the legislature. These are passing onwards, some on foot, some on horseback, some in carriages. If the occasion be an exciting one, and political changes are desired or impending, favourites of the crowd are cheered, and (though more rarely) supposed antagonists of popular rights are groaned or hissed. But on tranquil occasions there is no expression of feeling, unless the now aged Duke of Wellington is passing down, on horseback, followed by his groom; and then every man, whether he wear sound broad-cloth, or be but clothed in rags, seems, almost instinctively, to lift his hat, which is acknowledged by repeated military salutes on the part of the "illustrious duke."

Entering the House of Lords, we are amazed at the greatness of the change. A little while ago the throne was occupied by the QUEEN; the peers were in their robes; the foreign ambassadors wore their varied uniforms; the narrow chamber, from every point, reflected dazzling rays; beauty and fashion filled the scene. Now all is quiet, still, and even tame. The peers are all in plain clothes; nobody is in official costume except the Lord Chancellor and the clerks at the table. But stay, here is an occurrence. A new peer is about to be introduced: he has either succeeded, by inheritance, to his title, or else has been raised from the lower dignity of a baron to that of earl, marquess, or duke. Enters the hereditary Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk; next, the Garter King-at-Arms; after him the Usher of the Black Rod with his deputy; and these precede the new peer, who is accompanied by two other peers, his introducers. If it be a creation, the patent is produced, and read by the clerk at the table; the oaths are administered; and the new peer takes his seat on the particular bench which usage and prescription assign to his rank in the peerage.

The Lord Chancellor sits on the woolsack, in front of the throne, though the seat is not considered as being "within" the House. Although, in modern times, he is invariably a peer, it is not constitutionally essential that he should be so; and, therefore, when, as a peer, he takes part in a debate, he rises from the woolsack, and walks to his proper place, "at the top of the dukes' bench on the left of the throne." Though he presides over the debates he has no such authority as is accorded to the SPEAKER of the House of Commons, and consequently has no such restraint laid upon him. He is not personally addressed; each peer, on rising, or during his speech, says, "My Lords," talking to the House in its collective capacity; whereas, in the House of Commons, every member is supposed to commence with "Mr. SPEAKER," using the phraseology of "Sir," and being invariably supposed to address himself not to the House but the Chair. The only exception to this occurs when some new member, more used to popular than legislative meetings, forgets himself, and uses the [KNIGHT'S PENNY MAGAZINE.]

No. 8.


« AnteriorContinuar »