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Chapter 2
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Chapter 2
Contributed by LWin14096766c1
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AFTER we had thus finally determined and put it out of our power to alter that decision, our minds were more at ease than before. There being no longer any doubt as to whether we should go to America, the suspense which had hitherto been so afflicting began in a great measure to subside. My husband resumed his wonted cheerfulness, and expressed his belief that the course we had ultimately adopted would prove the best in the end. We were now passengers, in the steerage, on the vessel "Home," bound for New Orleans. Our rea­sons for sailing to that port the most distant in North America, and not in a direct course to the Illinois, were on account of the ready transit we should make thence into the in­terior up the Mississippi; whereas, by land­ing at New York, Boston, or Philadelphia, we should have had to cross the Alleghany mountains, and travel a great distance by land, which would have been both very troublesome on account of our luggage, and very expensive.
The perplexed state of mind in which we were prior to embarking had prevented our

noticing or enjoying the fine sights which the port of Liverpool presents. I speak not of the magnitude of the town, nor of its archi­tectural decorations, but of the immense for­ests of ships, which on every hand strike the eye of the beholder as he sails out of the har­bour. Whatever might have been my ideas of the greatness and wealth of England be­fore, I am sure they were greatly enlarged when I beheld for the first time in my life those unwieldly instruments of commerce crowded like forest trees on the sea further than the eye could reach. As the wind was favourable we soon lost sight of the shore. Yet the eye with unwearied vigilance kept steadily fixed on the few eminences which remained visible, till they gradually waned into obscurity, and at last disappeared alto­gether. The reader may think me needlessly precise in naming this circumstance; but I assure him there were many on board, who, as well as myself, felt a gratification in gaz­ing at the naked rocks that projected from the land that had given us birth; and when it was finally announced that England was no longer visible, there was not a person in the ship who would not have heartily re­sponded amen to the prayer, 'God bless it.' For myself, I felt as if I was leaving all I had been wont to prize; and when I could no

longer see the shore, I shall never forget how enviously I looked upon the vessels that were approaching the shores I was leaving. I fol­lowed them with my eye, one by one, till quite weary with looking I descended into the cabin, and endeavoured to be reconciled to my situation by exercising myself in some necessary employment.
Although we were entire strangers to a sea-faring life, we found we had been judi­cious in the choice of our provisions: we were well supplied with oatmeal and flour, bacon, biscuits, tea and coffee, &c., and as we had to cook for ourselves at a fire which supplied all the steerage passengers, I found I should have something to do besides descrying dis­tant sails, and sighing a blessing to those bound for England.
At home I had always been fond of regu­larity with regard to the dinner hour, but I soon found if I continued my punctual habits on board I should often be liable to be laughed at for my pains, and lose my dinner in the bargain. Imagine to yourself, kind reader, a small fire surrounded by half-a-dozen sturdy rustics, as busy boiling, roasting, and frying, as if their lives depended upon a single meal, and I will hazard an opinion you would be very hungry before you would venture among them. I do not say they would eat


you; but either from the motion of the ship, or their uncouthness, your fortune would be better than mine if you got your meal pre­pared without being scalded. For the above reasons I soon forgot my punctuality, and through the remainder of the voyage our custom was to cook and eat when we could, for seasons are not unknown on ship-board when both must be dispensed with.
During the first few days the weather was calm: we had sailed down the Irish channel before the much dreaded sea-sickness began to annoy us. I had even begun to think, that like many other evils, its terrors had been overrated; but before we had been a week on board a heavy gale began to blow from the north-west, the sky became dark and unsettled, when I began to be exceed­ingly sick; a disorder in which nearly all the passengers participated. Painfully afflictive as this malady was, it soon became of little consideration on account of a more alarming misfortune which threatened to befall us. The sea was beginning to be unusually rough, its huge foaming waves came dashing against the sides of the vessel, as if they had been let loose to destroy it. Sometimes we appeared about to leave the waters, and become inhabitants of aerial regions; then again one might suppose the ship was instantaneously

descending into the caverns of the deep, overwhelmed by the mass of waters which on all sides encompassed it, and at times came sweeping over the deck with irre­sistible fury. A thousand times I thought the ship would be upset by the force of the tempest, which, roaring tremendously, car­ried all before it, and often laid our masts nearly level with the main; when suddenly regaining her upright position, she seemed to be contending with the blast, and by a move­ment I can scarcely account for, obtruding her briny sails against the forces of the storm. The crew were all in action; their shoutings were vociferous;—louder even than the voice of the wind. Terror and dis­may were on every hand. The captain alone preserved his serenity; his orders were de­livered in a loud but unfaultering tone; he might have been a divinity of the waters so dignified and majestic was his deportment on this occasion. Not so the passengers,— they were indeed mortals, and suppliants too. Impiety was banished from the ship. You might have seen those, who yesterday could not conclude a sentence without the usual flourish of an oath, now on their knees serious enough. The night came on,—the passengers were ordered below: such a night I never witnessed. The storm was incessant.


The timbers creaked alarmingly; and the sailors, hurrying to and fro on the deck, rilled us with renewed consternation. Every mo­ment we expected the waters to rush in upon us. I shall never forget the horrors of that night, increased as they were by the heart­rending meanings of my despairing compan­ions. It was not the time for reflection: rea­son had little control over our actions; as our fears directed, so we conducted ourselves. Nature's bonds, however, were not entirely dissevered, for then even I found myself in a corner of the cabin, my husband at my right hand, which he often clasped in his, and our dear little children huddled around us, giving us their little hands to fondle over and caress. Art thou a mother, gentle reader, thou may-est in part conceive what my feelings were; but there are sensations which no description can embody; there are emotions which noth­ing but experience can explain: of this kind were mine.
At length the morning began to dawn; we were all anxiety to see the day, and ascertain our real situation. Of all the emotions of which the human bosom is susceptible, sus­pense is the most intolerable. We desired to know the worst; but our orders were to keep within, and we feared to disobey. The little light we obtained from the semipellucid glass

at the top of our cabin, was of no avail. Our ears had caused us to think the storm was abating; but this only increased our anxiety, as we were afraid to hope, lest we should be deceived, when to our surprise the cabin door sprung open; it was the captain himself who had opened it. His appearance was like one of those celestial visitors, which the sacred pages have pourtrayed on errands of mercy. We hurried to meet him; but he desired us to be at ease, assuring us the danger was past. His expressive words "the danger is past," were repeated again and again through all the cabin; and now the scene was changed. In the place of lamentations and the voice of despair, were immediately heard jocularity and the tumult of mirth. His words had metamorphosed the room. Forgotten or dis­regarded were all the pious vows which had been made the preceding night. "They ate and they drank and they rose up to play;" but few could be seen in the attitude of praise. The storm had indeed abated; and, such is human nature, religion had vanished at the same time. The following day I learnt we had been driven considerably out of our course into the Bay of Biscay; but no further injury was sustained except a little to the cordage, which the sailors shortly put right, and before evening the sails were again

unfurled, and our ship in good repair, majes­tically making head-way across the Atlantic. This was the only storm we encountered dur­ing our passage; it was a severe one; even the sailors spoke of it with concern, and seemed aware our danger had been great.
A long sea-voyage is generally allowed to be a tedious time, and there is some founda­tion for the remark, when it is considered how little variety is there observable. The ship, your companions, the sky above you and the 'dark blue ocean' below, with occa­sionally a solitary sail gliding quietly along at a distance, constitute the principal ob­jects that come under the notice of ordinary travellers. There is nothing of that everlast­ing newness and beauty,—that pleasing va­riety of hill and dale, of trees whose foliage is varied by a thousand hues, meandering streams, village towers and spires that every­where meet the eye in an English landscape. Nor is the ear more favoured than the eye. The creaking of the cables and the mast, the coarse discordant notes of the seamen and the monotonous dashing of the waves against the vessel, are the most common and almost the entire sounds that a sea-breeze can boast. The melodious warbling of the grove are there unknown; and when the night-dews are falling, the mellow flute notes of

the swain breathing innocence and love, never once remind the passenger on the deep that the labours of the day are ended, and the star of evening appears.
The sea, nevertheless, has its beauties and grandeur; but these are rather perceptible to the reflecting mind than the external sense. One evening I well remember when we were about half-way across the Atlantic, I was alone on the deck, pensively considering the peculiarity of my situation, and impatiently desirous to know what my future condition should be, when casting my eyes towards the east I beheld a most magnificent spec­tacle: the large full moon was just clearing the watery horizon. I always love to see the moon beginning her nocturnal rambles; her beams are the light in which meditation ap­pears the most lovely; but when on that de­lightful evening, in the midst of the great Atlantic, I beheld the same kind planet, beneath whose balmy light I had gamboled in my childhood and conversed on subjects the most endearing in maturer age, my whole soul was overpowered with ecstacy. Bear with me, kind reader, bear with a woman's weakness, if I tell thee I looked upon her as an old companion, and addressed her as a bosom friend, so forcibly did she remind me of the many delightful and happy hours I


Had spent under her auspicious beams in my native land. Independent of these interest­ing associations, her appearance at such a time and in such a place was highly impos­ing, and calculated in a remarkable degree to remind me of the insignificance of man and his noblest performances. Impressed in this manner I gazed upon her broad disk, and O how magnificently splendid! I next surveyed the deep, gilded on one side by her rays and on the other terminating the view by a dark half-visible horizon; and what a world of water seemed to surround me. I then considered the ship,—poor feeble bark, thought I, how insecure thou art! a single wave could undo thee. Lastly I looked at my­self: the contrast was sickening; human pride could not bear it; I cast my eyes once more upon the moon, and returned into the cabin. To proceed,—by the time we had well got half-way across the water, our impatience to see land daily increased; the hours began to pass more tardily along than before. Those that kept their minds most engaged were the most happy; a piece of philosophy this which will generally hold true. I am not going to describe my fellow-passengers as philoso­phers, the few traits I have already given prove they were not; but to do them justice, many of them were expert hands at dispelling

melancholy. This they did sometimes by cracking jokes at each other, sometimes by relating portions of their histories, or cele­brating the matchless heroism or strength of their kindred. Thus by degrees having sev­erally acquired an epitome of each other's lives, a sort of community was formed and neighbourhoods established, less regulated indeed by locality than peculiar likings. When first we set out each must cook for himself, or at most for his own family; now you might have seen three or four messing together, having previously agreed to throw their respective provisions into one common store. By this means there were fewer dishes to prepare, and consequently better accom­modation. We were too strict economists to adopt the joining system; and our solici­tude respecting our journey caused us rather to avoid intimacy with our companions than to court it. Yes, many a time when mirth and noise have been the prevailing order on deck, have I sought retirement to muse upon the past, and pry into the future. I own such conduct was unwise; I should have been happier if I could have mingled in the diver­sions of my companions: but, reader, know-est thou not when the heart is sick the very means which should be beneficial are often the most repulsive?

It was impossible, from the nature of things, that I could be happy, while as yet we were travelling we scarcely knew whither. On one occasion while thus alone on the deck, near the cook's cabin, I perceived an unusual quantity of smoke issuing from the door and chimney, and on looking down I perceived a person named Jack, who by the by had stolen on board at Liverpool and was working his passage, involved in a cloud of smoke and flame from a pan of pitch, which by accident he had spilled into the fire. I gave the alarm, and all hands were immedi­ately on the spot. The wood was beginning to ignite, and if it had not been attended to with the utmost promptitude our situation would soon have been awful. A mattress, which happened to be near, was instantly put upon the chimney to prevent the draught, and buckets of water were plentifully thrown in at the door, so that in a very short time the fire was extinguished. Poor Jack fared the worst: his right arm was almost roasted, which caused him to be, as an invalid, ex­empt from duty to the end of the voyage. His misfortune excited the compassion of many on board, some of whom presented him with wearing apparel, &c., of which he was in great need. For myself by being in the centre of the crowd, I became entangled

in a rope near the mouth of the cabin, which subjected me to the stench and steam thence arising. I was however soon released from my accidental fetters, and laden with the grateful acknowledgments of all around.
Another time while pacing upon the deck, I was almost struck dumb to see my son, the boy before alluded to, a fine youth, but un­commonly daring,1 fast asleep on the bow­sprit. The least accidental movement and he would have lost his equilibrium, and been pre­cipitated into the water. Alarmed as I was, I did all that a mother could do in such a situa­tion to preserve the life of one so dear. My husband was just at hand. I made no noise, but all in agitation pointed out the cause of my distress. He soon understood me,—and, with all the concern of an affectionate father, hastened softly towards the lad, and rescued him from that imminent peril into which his daring spirit had unwittingly led him.
The recital of these incidents brings me, through the order in which they occurred, towards the West Indies; and to another oc­currence which for a short time caused a greater alarm than any thing we met with during the voyage. The circumstances are
1The venturesome character of John Burlend, the child here alluded to, is still a matter of family tradi­tion. Information supplied by Jess M. Thompson.


as fresh in my mind as if they had transpired only yesterday. I had been observing with interest and pity a number of flying fishes occasionally rise out of the water to avoid their pursuers, when several of the passen­gers came to the side on which I was stand­ing to behold a fine-looking vessel which had recently made its appearance. Various were the conjectures as to whither she was bound and to what country she belonged. It was every one's opinion she approached us, and no little pleasure was experienced at the idea of having a vessel so near us, after having been several days without one. The captain seemed alarmed, and kept continually look­ing at her with his glass, and shortly after­wards the sailors were seen all busy cleaning out the guns, and preparing them for action. By and by it became whispered on board that the vessel was a pirate, and the busy manner in which the seamen were employed at their guns tended to confirm the conjec­ture. The captain caused all to come on deck. His motives were immediately made out; meanwhile the vessel, which was a good sailer, kept growing nearer, and every thing betokened hostility. We were all in agita­tion; even the captain and the sailors turned pale with excitement. Every eye was intent on the vessel, and every muscle betokened

alarm. She was now within the range of our guns, which were ready for action. At length she hoisted a colour, and immediately a large spreading flag was unfurled on our ship. A breathless silence succeeded; that moment was indescribable. The flags then flying were symbols of peace. Three cheers, spon­taneously given, immediately succeeded. A thrill of transport moved the ship, and not a few wept for joy. Our captain, with a trum­pet, asked their intentions; he was answered in English from the other ship that they were sailing to the West Indies, and having en­countered a storm, they had injured their time-keeper, and could not ascertain their longitude. We gave them all the information they required, and parted with cheerings which were responded to by the other ship, which we soon afterwards lost sight of.1
The following day a sailor on the mast announced the appearance of land, a declara­tion which was eagerly received; during the
1The author's recital serves vividly to remind the present-day reader of the fact that barely one hundred years ago the perils of piracy were braved by all who went down to the sea in ships. At least one famous pirate of the gulf region valiantly aided General Andrew Jackson in the defense of New Orleans against British attack in 1814, and for a decade thereafter piracy continued to flourish in the waters adjoining our eastern and southern seaboard.

remainder of the day the passengers were constantly on the look-out, and before night we had the unspeakable pleasure of knowing for ourselves that land was visible. The next day we passed several small islands clad in all the beauty of summer; we were suffi­ciently near some of them to discover ne­groes at work besides their little huts, cocoa-nut trees and many other kinds, the names of which I cannot give, being not very near them, and but imperfectly conversant with the productions of tropical regions. The weather was here excessively hot: but a large sail-cloth being put up to shade us from the sun, we almost invariably remained on deck, feasting our eyes with the luxuriant and beautiful appearance of the numerous little islands we were continually passing. I am not aware that the West Indian islands sur­pass others in beauty, but on account of the length of time we had been without seeing land, we were incessant in our encomiums upon them. Never, thought I, had I seen anything so lovely; I could have wished this the situation of our future abode, this the America so long in anticipation. The two following days no land was visible, a circum­stance attended with considerable uneasi­ness, as we had begun to consider our voy­age at an end. On the morning of the third,

however, land was again visible, and this was America. A sort of melancholy came creeping over me as I gazed upon it; porten­tous, perhaps, of the many hardships I was destined there to endure. We were now in the mouth of the Mississippi; that night a large lantern was suspended on the mast, as a signal for the pilot to come on board and take charge of the ship. Early the next morning, while it was yet dark, my husband, who had been on deck most of the night, came to invite me thither. I followed him shortly afterwards, and beheld a fine large city lighted in a most splendid manner: its appearance was really brilliant, and gave me more exalted ideas of the country to which we were hastening. That morning, by break of day, a small boat came cutting the water almost with the speed of the wind; it was rowed along by four black sailors on each side; a dignified person was seated in the midst of them; it was the pilot; he came alongside the ship, and was taken on board with his boat and men. After respectful compliments had passed between him and the captain, he undertook the management of the ship, his own sailors obeying his com­mands, while ours were relieved from duty to enjoy themselves in chaunting their na­tive melodies, which they did most heartily,

almost to the annoyance of the pilot and his men. This was Sunday morning, the first in November; we had been on board two months and a few days—a period on which I never look back without emotion, as it re­minds me of the anxieties I then endured, and of the consequences which that voyage involved.

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Submitted: 02/03/08 (Edited 02/03/08)

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