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opens her soft eyes and says—" We have had a nice quiet passage to Ostend."
Such a passage, little innocent, may thine be over all the waves of this troublesome world! But that may not be; we must brave the storm ere we enjoy the calm.
Now we are off; steaming our slow way through boats and barges, and stately merchantmen bringing goods from afar. Now the deck is thronged with cloaked, bearded, tobacco-breathing men; muffled, weary, anxious-looking women. I could fancy myself anywhere but on an English steamer, if it were not for the perplexed looks of the Steward, who, even in these days of universal communication, has not acquired the art of making himself universally understood, nor of understanding, perhaps, as many tongues as were heard originally among the workmen of Babel. Certainly in that art the English of his class are not preeminent. Who that remembers a poor French Gareon when his country was first invaded by the English after the peace, will not admit the fact?
The Stewardess is evidently his point of support; she tells me she speaks French; she looks lively and confident, and walks round saying to each non-speaking passenger—"Tea—tay? coffee—eof-fey?" and then, to ascertain the number she is to prepare for, she puts out one ringer and says "Oon;" two fingers, and says, "Doo." And the passengers, in their own several tongues, answer her precisely in a similar way,—saying the number, and telegraphing it in fingers.
Stewardess is triumphant; but, with a woman's wit, having opened the way for one of the superior tribe, she leaves him to indulge his pride in pursuing it; only giving a word of parting advice in her native speech as she resigns office; "We means yes, and yau means yes," she says, "and when they say 'We' or 'Yau,' do you bring them something to eat or drink; they will always keep eating or drinking if you keep giving it to them; I know their ways, I do."
Our passengers are coming from the Great Exhibition; they say they choose this passage down the Thames, because there is so much trouble about luggage on the English railways; and then they ask if you have ever gone by Dover, and if it is much dearer. Foreigners are so afraid of appearing to save in England; at home they would tell you the plain reason for taking one way or the other.
Scarcely two of these people speak the same language as natives; but, somehow, I hear the same subject always discussed—money; the representative terms for which appear intelligible in every tongue. Francs, guilder, guilden, florin, rix-dollar, or pound sterling, with many other subdivisions of the generic term, are heard on every side. The enormous number of these coins taken from them by the Londoners is the theme of discussion, not of complaint; no one complains of expenditure in England. Everything is dear in England; they have gone there with that notion, and brought it away with them. It is a mistake which the English who choose to spend their money in foreign lands, or in foreign purchases, willingly perpetuate. The fact no longer exists; England, taken altogether, is as cheap a land to live in as any other. Luxuries, still, are rather expensive, and beyond a doubt, to enjoy life thoroughly, one can live better elsewhere; but the enjoyments of the poorer classes in other countries do not consist in the acquisition of what the English consider luxuries; the English who live abroad do not know how to enjoy life as the good folks among whom they choose to reside like to do: in some respects they have no national liking for it; in others they consider it sinful. They choose to live in Germany, or Italy, or France, and sometimes to talk and to write against what goes on there. Why do not these people come home? if such be their feeling they may do good at home, they can do none abroad. In truth, the only reason that can be given—that is given by foreigners, for the English living abroad as they do, when business or duty does not call them to do so, is the easy acquisition of luxuries they are too poor to procure at home, and too self-indulgent to do without. Therefore do I think that a poor foreigner—a Frenchman above all—condemned to live in England, is to be pitied; but the poorer English who reside abroad, unless when they do it to gain a living, are to be blamed.
I am alone! writing on the upper deck, while all the world are on the fore-deck. What can be the matter? There is a Belgian Baron, with an embroidered cap bike a tobacco-pouch, on his head, and a frightful braided, tasselled, and hooded pelisse, sitting now on a heap of hay at one side of a horse-stall, while his son mounts guard in the same fashion at the other side; their knees are drawn up to their chins, and their faces are awfully composed; they are resolved to do their duty, cost what it will. There is a knowing-looking English groom—any one would say he is an English groom, and nothing more, and nothing less—that is, a stable-man, or ostler—in grey fustian jacket, red waistcoat, drab leggings and shorts; he is leaning over the side of the packet, and engaged in cutting a very delicate point to a small stick. That point ought to have been made before now; but every few minutes a keen glance is cast from the stick he works at, to the horse-stall and its guardians; the eye returns to his work with a curious sort of twinkle, which seems to steal out below the half-drooping lid.
But the Baron is on his legs; the whole flock of foreign birds have migrated from the quarterdeck to group around him. The babble that surrounded me has ceased. Now there is one speaker and many hearers; the Baron is on his legs ; the groom cuts away at his stick; and the eye glances and twinkles a little oftener. The Baron is expounding the matter; the groom understands the exposition, though he does not know a word of the language spoken. The Baron's declamation contains a free translation of two English words; he has been "sjockied " by a London "sjockee;" and as the words are uttered over and over again,