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stoppage of the engine which had been clanking and blasting in our
ears incessantly for so many days, to watch the look of blank
astonishment expressed in every face: beginning with the officers,
tracing it through all the passengers, and descending to the very
stokers and furnacemen, who emerged from below, one by one, and
clustered together in a smoky group about the hatchway of the
engine-room, comparing notes in whispers. After throwing up a few
rockets and firing signal guns in the hope of being hailed from the
land, or at least of seeing a light - but without any other sight
or sound presenting itself - it was determined to send a boat on
shore. It was amusing to observe how very kind some of the
passengers were, in volunteering to go ashore in this same boat:
for the general good, of course: not by any means because they
thought the ship in an unsafe position, or contemplated the
possibility of her heeling over in case the tide were running out.
Nor was it less amusing to remark how desperately unpopular the
poor pilot became in one short minute. He had had his passage out
from Liverpool, and during the whole voyage had been quite a
notorious character, as a teller of anecdotes and cracker of jokes.
Yet here were the very men who had laughed the loudest at his
jests, now flourishing their fists in his face, loading him with
imprecations, and defying him to his teeth as a villain!
The boat soon shoved off, with a lantern and sundry blue lights on
board; and in less than an hour returned; the officer in command
bringing with him a tolerably tall young tree, which he had plucked
up by the roots, to satisfy certain distrustful passengers whose
minds misgave them that they were to be imposed upon and
shipwrecked, and who would on no other terms believe that he had
been ashore, or had done anything but fraudulently row a little way
into the mist, specially to deceive them and compass their deaths.
Our captain had foreseen from the first that we must be in a place
called the Eastern passage; and so we were. It was about the last
place in the world in which we had any business or reason to be,
but a sudden fog, and some error on the pilot's part, were the
cause. We were surrounded by banks, and rocks, and shoals of all
kinds, but had happily drifted, it seemed, upon the only safe speck
that was to be found thereabouts. Eased by this report, and by the
assurance that the tide was past the ebb, we turned in at three
o'clock in the morning.
I was dressing about half-past nine next day, when the noise above
hurried me on deck. When I had left it overnight, it was dark,
foggy, and damp, and there were bleak hills all round us. Now, we
were gliding down a smooth, broad stream, at the rate of eleven
miles an hour: our colours flying gaily; our crew rigged out in
their smartest clothes; our officers in uniform again; the sun
shining as on a brilliant April day in England; the land stretched
out on either side, streaked with light patches of snow; white
wooden houses; people at their doors; telegraphs working; flags
hoisted; wharfs appearing; ships; quays crowded with people;
distant noises; shouts; men and boys running down steep places
towards the pier: all more bright and gay and fresh to our unused
eyes than words can paint them. We came to a wharf, paved with
uplifted faces; got alongside, and were made fast, after some
shouting and straining of cables; darted, a score of us along the
gangway, almost as soon as it was thrust out to meet us, and before
it had reached the ship - and leaped upon the firm glad earth
I suppose this Halifax would have appeared an Elysium, though it
had been a curiosity of ugly dulness. But I carried away with me a
most pleasant impression of the town and its inhabitants, and have
preserved it to this hour. Nor was it without regret that I came
home, without having found an opportunity of returning thither, and
once more shaking hands with the friends I made that day.
It happened to be the opening of the Legislative Council and
General Assembly, at which ceremonial the forms observed on the
commencement of a new Session of Parliament in England were so
closely copied, and so gravely presented on a small scale, that it
was like looking at Westminster through the wrong end of a
telescope. The governor, as her Majesty's representative,
delivered what may be called the Speech from the Throne. He said
what he had to say manfully and well. The military band outside
the building struck up "God save the Queen" with great vigour
before his Excellency had quite finished; the people shouted; the
in's rubbed their hands; the out's shook their heads; the
Government party said there never was such a good speech; the
Opposition declared there never was such a bad one; the Speaker and
members of the House of Assembly withdrew from the bar to say a
great deal among themselves and do a little: and, in short,
everything went on, and promised to go on, just as it does at home
upon the like occasions.
The town is built on the side of a hill, the highest point being
commanded by a strong fortress, not yet quite finished. Several
streets of good breadth and appearance extend from its summit to
the water-side, and are intersected by cross streets running
parallel with the river. The houses are chiefly of wood. The
market is abundantly supplied; and provisions are exceedingly
cheap. The weather being unusually mild at that time for the
season of the year, there was no sleighing: but there were plenty
of those vehicles in yards and by-places, and some of them, from
the gorgeous quality of their decorations, might have 'gone on'
without alteration as triumphal cars in a melodrama at Astley's.
The day was uncommonly fine; the air bracing and healthful; the
whole aspect of the town cheerful, thriving, and industrious.
We lay there seven hours, to deliver and exchange the mails. At
length, having collected all our bags and all our passengers
(including two or three choice spirits, who, having indulged too
freely in oysters and champagne, were found lying insensible on
their backs in unfrequented streets), the engines were again put in
motion, and we stood off for Boston.
Encountering squally weather again in the Bay of Fundy, we tumbled
and rolled about as usual all that night and all next day. On the
next afternoon, that is to say, on Saturday, the twenty-second of
January, an American pilot-boat came alongside, and soon afterwards
the Britannia steam-packet, from Liverpool, eighteen days out, was
telegraphed at Boston.
The indescribable interest with which I strained my eyes, as the
first patches of American soil peeped like molehills from the green
sea, and followed them, as they swelled, by slow and almost
imperceptible degrees, into a continuous line of coast, can hardly
be exaggerated. A sharp keen wind blew dead against us; a hard
frost prevailed on shore; and the cold was most severe. Yet the
air was so intensely clear, and dry, and bright, that the
temperature was not only endurable, but delicious.
How I remained on deck, staring about me, until we came alongside
the dock, and how, though I had had as many eyes as Argus, I should
have had them all wide open, and all employed on new objects - are
topics which I will not prolong this chapter to discuss. Neither
will I more than hint at my foreigner-like mistake in supposing
that a party of most active persons, who scrambled on board at the
peril of their lives as we approached the wharf, were newsmen,
answering to that industrious class at home; whereas, despite the
leathern wallets of news slung about the necks of some, and the
broad sheets in the hands of all, they were Editors, who boarded
ships in person (as one gentleman in a worsted comforter informed
me), 'because they liked the excitement of it.' Suffice it in this
place to say, that one of these invaders, with a ready courtesy for
which I thank him here most gratefully, went on before to order
rooms at the hotel; and that when I followed, as I soon did, I
found myself rolling through the long passages with an involuntary
imitation of the gait of Mr. T. P. Cooke, in a new nautical
'Dinner, if you please,' said I to the waiter.
'When?' said the waiter.
'As quick as possible,' said I.
'Right away?' said the waiter.
After a moment's hesitation, I answered 'No,' at hazard.
'NOT right away?' cried the waiter, with an amount of surprise that
made me start.
I looked at him doubtfully, and returned, 'No; I would rather have
it in this private room. I like it very much.'
At this, I really thought the waiter must have gone out of his
mind: as I believe he would have done, but for the interposition
of another man, who whispered in his ear, 'Directly.'
'Well! and that's a fact!' said the waiter, looking helplessly at
me: 'Right away.'
I saw now that 'Right away' and 'Directly' were one and the same
thing. So I reversed my previous answer, and sat down to dinner in
ten minutes afterwards; and a capital dinner it was.
The hotel (a very excellent one) is called the Tremont House. It
has more galleries, colonnades, piazzas, and passages than I can
remember, or the reader would believe.
CHAPTER III - BOSTON
IN all the public establishments of America, the utmost courtesy
prevails. Most of our Departments are susceptible of considerable
improvement in this respect, but the Custom-house above all others
would do well to take example from the United States and render
itself somewhat less odious and offensive to foreigners. The
servile rapacity of the French officials is sufficiently
contemptible; but there is a surly boorish incivility about our
men, alike disgusting to all persons who fall into their hands, and
discreditable to the nation that keeps such ill-conditioned curs
snarling about its gates.
When I landed in America, I could not help being strongly impressed
with the contrast their Custom-house presented, and the attention,
politeness and good humour with which its officers discharged their
As we did not land at Boston, in consequence of some detention at
the wharf, until after dark, I received my first impressions of the
city in walking down to the Custom-house on the morning after our
arrival, which was Sunday. I am afraid to say, by the way, how
many offers of pews and seats in church for that morning were made
to us, by formal note of invitation, before we had half finished
our first dinner in America, but if I may be allowed to make a
moderate guess, without going into nicer calculation, I should say
that at least as many sittings were proffered us, as would have
accommodated a score or two of grown-up families. The number of