Ten or eleven o'clock found us coming down to breakfast one morning in
Cadiz. They told us the ship had been lying at anchor in the harbor two
or three hours. It was time for us to bestir ourselves. The ship could
wait only a little while because of the quarantine. We were soon on
board, and within the hour the white city and the pleasant shores of
Spain sank down behind the waves and passed out of sight. We had seen no
land fade from view so regretfully.
It had long ago been decided in a noisy public meeting in the main cabin
that we could not go to Lisbon, because we must surely be quarantined
there. We did every thing by mass-meeting, in the good old national way,
from swapping off one empire for another on the programme of the voyage
down to complaining of the cookery and the scarcity of napkins. I am
reminded, now, of one of these complaints of the cookery made by a
passenger. The coffee had been steadily growing more and more execrable
for the space of three weeks, till at last it had ceased to be coffee
altogether and had assumed the nature of mere discolored water--so this
person said. He said it was so weak that it was transparent an inch in
depth around the edge of the cup. As he approached the table one morning
he saw the transparent edge--by means of his extraordinary vision long
before he got to his seat. He went back and complained in a high-handed
way to Capt. Duncan. He said the coffee was disgraceful. The Captain
showed his. It seemed tolerably good. The incipient mutineer was more
outraged than ever, then, at what he denounced as the partiality shown
the captain's table over the other tables in the ship. He flourished
back and got his cup and set it down triumphantly, and said:
"Just try that mixture once, Captain Duncan."
He smelt it--tasted it--smiled benignantly--then said:
"It is inferior--for coffee--but it is pretty fair tea."
The humbled mutineer smelt it, tasted it, and returned to his seat. He
had made an egregious ass of himself before the whole ship. He did it no
more. After that he took things as they came. That was me.
The old-fashioned ship-life had returned, now that we were no longer in
sight of land. For days and days it continued just the same, one day
being exactly like another, and, to me, every one of them pleasant. At
last we anchored in the open roadstead of Funchal, in the beautiful
islands we call the Madeiras.
The mountains looked surpassingly lovely, clad as they were in living,
green; ribbed with lava ridges; flecked with white cottages; riven by
deep chasms purple with shade; the great slopes dashed with sunshine and
mottled with shadows flung from the drifting squadrons of the sky, and
the superb picture fitly crowned by towering peaks whose fronts were
swept by the trailing fringes of the clouds.
But we could not land. We staid all day and looked, we abused the man
who invented quarantine, we held half a dozen mass-meetings and crammed
them full of interrupted speeches, motions that fell still-born,
amendments that came to nought and resolutions that died from sheer
exhaustion in trying to get before the house. At night we set sail.
We averaged four mass-meetings a week for the voyage--we seemed always in
labor in this way, and yet so often fallaciously that whenever at long
intervals we were safely delivered of a resolution, it was cause for
public rejoicing, and we hoisted the flag and fired a salute.
Days passed--and nights; and then the beautiful Bermudas rose out of the
sea, we entered the tortuous channel, steamed hither and thither among
the bright summer islands, and rested at last under the flag of England
and were welcome. We were not a nightmare here, where were civilization
and intelligence in place of Spanish and Italian superstition, dirt and
dread of cholera. A few days among the breezy groves, the flower
gardens, the coral caves, and the lovely vistas of blue water that went
curving in and out, disappearing and anon again appearing through jungle
walls of brilliant foliage, restored the energies dulled by long drowsing
on the ocean, and fitted us for our final cruise--our little run of a
thousand miles to New York--America--HOME.
We bade good-bye to "our friends the Bermudians," as our programme hath
it--the majority of those we were most intimate with were negroes--and
courted the great deep again. I said the majority. We knew more negroes
than white people, because we had a deal of washing to be done, but we
made some most excellent friends among the whites, whom it will be a
pleasant duty to hold long in grateful remembrance.
We sailed, and from that hour all idling ceased. Such another system of
overhauling, general littering of cabins and packing of trunks we had not
seen since we let go the anchor in the harbor of Beirout. Every body was
busy. Lists of all purchases had to be made out, and values attached, to
facilitate matters at the custom-house. Purchases bought by bulk in
partnership had to be equitably divided, outstanding debts canceled,
accounts compared, and trunks, boxes and packages labeled. All day long
the bustle and confusion continued.
And now came our first accident. A passenger was running through a
gangway, between decks, one stormy night, when he caught his foot in the
iron staple of a door that had been heedlessly left off a hatchway, and
the bones of his leg broke at the ancle. It was our first serious
misfortune. We had traveled much more than twenty thousand miles, by
land and sea, in many trying climates, without a single hurt, without a
serious case of sickness and without a death among five and sixty
passengers. Our good fortune had been wonderful. A sailor had jumped
overboard at Constantinople one night, and was seen no more, but it was
suspected that his object was to desert, and there was a slim chance, at
least, that he reached the shore. But the passenger list was complete.
There was no name missing from the register.
At last, one pleasant morning, we steamed up the harbor of New York, all
on deck, all dressed in Christian garb--by special order, for there was a
latent disposition in some quarters to come out as Turks--and amid a
waving of handkerchiefs from welcoming friends, the glad pilgrims noted
the shiver of the decks that told that ship and pier had joined hands
again and the long, strange cruise was over. Amen.