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to make the strait between them and the table so narrow that there was barely room for me to squeeze my portly person through. An irregular sort of breakfast was on the table; round it were seated the greater number of the cabin passengers; all, evidently, between the mouthfuls of toast and butter, examining each other with great attention, and setting down in their minds the result of their scrutiny, in prejudices for and against their neighbours.
There was a tall, thin, good-looking clergyman, who, having been ordained in England, was going to enter on his duties in Canada; and a very shrewdfaced Irish attorney, for Newfoundland, where we were to touch on the way: this part of the cargo was, however, neutralised by an honest, openhearted merchant and his good-humoured wife, from the same country, and with the same destination. Two gentlemen for Quebec; for Montreal, a Jew, whose face was like the reflection of a handsome countenance in a convex mirror; a thoughtful-looking, well-bred captain; a rattling, mischievous youth, his lieutenant; a quiet, handsome young ensign; and a Scotch doctor, belonging to the detachment of soldiers; these, with a middleaged widow and her only child, a sickly boy of ten or twelve years of age, both in deepest mourning, formed the remainder of the party. The story of this family was a sad one. The lady was a Canadian who had married a civil officer in her own country: after some years, he was unfortunately promoted to a valuable appointment in China; set out immediately for the place of his new employment, and, on his arrival, wrote for his wife and child. They sailed, full of hope and happiness, thinking nothing of their voyage half round the world, for the sake of the fond and anxious one who awaited them at its end. Nearly six months passed before their arrival. The march of the deadly pestilence was not so slow: they found but a new-made grave where they had expected a happy home; so the widow and orphan turned wearily to seek again the land of their birth, thousands of miles away.
This pale boy was all in all to her. Hers was a love of faith and hope; she never doubted that in fulness of time he would grow to be great and good, and pay her back the debt of tenderness and care. She was the only person who did not see that the shadow of death was upon him.
I speedily became acquainted with every body on board. Perhaps it was owing to my sleek and comfortable appearance that they concluded I was the fittest person to undertake the caterer's department for the cabin; it turned out that I had one qualification for the duty in which all the rest were deficient—that of being weak enough to undertake it. Every one knows the weight of obloquy that falls upon the man in office, when there is no fat on the sirloin, or the legs of the fowl have the flavour and consistency of guitar strings. It is impossible to divest people of the idea that, by some inexplicable ingenuity, and for some inscrutable object of his own, he has purposely caused these imperfections.
My prime minister was a black cook; my kingdom, animal and vegetable; my subjects three or four gaunt sheep in the launch, and, under the forecastle, a couple of pigs, whose appearance and habits of living justified our Israelitish friend's anxiety that there should be more solidity than usual in the side dishes when a chine of pork was at the head of the table.
On the poop were several rows of coops, a sort of charitable institution for superannuated geese and ducks; and, in the list of sea stock furnished by the eminent outfitter at the west-end, was the item, six dozen chickens. These were represented by a grave assemblage of patriarchal cocks and venerable hens; among the former I speedily recognized, by his voice, the bird whose morning note, like fire to a train, had set going the din so fatal to my slumbers. I promptly ordered his execution; he, however, amply revenged himself on those who tried to eat him the next day.
While I was thus entering on my official duties, the crew were not neglectful of their part of the business. The sails were shaken out, the anchor weighed, and the voyage commenced by running foul of a merchant ship moored a little ahead of us. On this occasion I made a philological observation, which subsequent experience has only tended to strengthen—that the language used by sailors, under difficulties, is more remarkable for terseness and vigour than for elegance or propriety.
With a fair and gentle breeze we floated lazily down the river; our principal objects of interest being the splendid ships of war, now lying dismasted and harmless, but ready, when the Lords of the Admiralty play their Frankenstein and breathe on them the breath of life, for any mission of destruction.
We pass Sheerness, roll in the Downs, enter the Channel, think and say every thing that people usually think and say on leaving England, and go to bed.
The description of one day in the voyage suits for all. At seven o'clock breakfast opened the proceedings; at eight, a very small trumpeter sounded for the soldiers' parade: a couple of hours' vigorous walking on the deck preceded luncheon; then, as twelve approached, we all assembled on the poop, while the master took his observations; then, great coats and cloaks turned the coops into sofas, and reading and sunshine kept us quiet till three, when dinner—the hour of my trial, and the delight of grumblers—interrupted our literary pursuits. We established a community of books; and, before the voyage was half over, Robinson Crusoe and Paul and Virginia were as much thumbed as if they had been fashionable novels in a circulating library.
The next re-union was of a select few on the forecastle, with cigars and pipes; a chat with the sailors, and a sharp look out for porpoise, whale, or strange ship, or any other monster of the deep. In the latter character, our friend, the noisy lieutenant, used always to appear at this period of the day. He had a strong nautical inclination, and indulged it by arraying himself in a suit of sailor's garments, which would have been invaluable to