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How that gentleman acted while hidden in the cloud of flour, I could not perceive, and immediately the closing of the folding doors shut out the scene.
For a few days after he appeared among us, there was some speculation with regard to this nameless stranger, whose taciturnity seemed his chief characteristic. One morning while we were looking at the gambols of a shoal of porpoises that were tumbling through the waves and sometimes leaping out of them, my husband made some remark on the clumsy antics of this unsightly fish, addressing himself, for the first time, to the unknown Englishman, who happened to be standing near him. That gentleman smiled affably, but made no reply. Mr. Fenton pursued the subject—and that gentleman smiled still more affably, and walked away.
Nevertheless, he was neither deaf nor dumb, nor melancholy, but had only “a great talent for silence," and as is usually the case with persons whose genius lies that way, he was soon left entirely to himself, no one thinking it worth while to take the trouble of extracting words from him. In truth, he was so impracticable, and at the same time so evidently insignificant, and so totally uninteresting, that his fellow-passengers tacitly conveyed him to Coventry; and in Coventry he seemed perfectly satisfied to dwell. Once or twice Captain Santlow was asked again if he recollected the name of that gentleman; but he always replied with a sort of smile, “I cannot say I do—not exactly, at least—but I'll look at my manifest and see”—and he never failed to turn the convers ion to something else.
The only person that persisted in occasionally talking to that gentleman, was old Mrs. Cummings; and she confided to him her perpetual alarms at “the perils of the sea,” considering him a good hearer, as he never made any reply, and was always disengaged, and sitting and standing about, apparently at leisure, while the other gentlemen were occupied in reading, writing, playing chess, walking the deck, &c.
Whenever the ship was struck by a heavy sea, and after quivering with the shock, remained motionless for a moment before she recovered herself and rolled the other
Mrs. Cummings supposed that we had run against a rock, and could not be convinced that rocks were not dispersed everywhere about the open ocean. And as that gentleman never attempted to undeceive her on this or any other subject, but merely listened with a placid smile, she believed that he always thought precisely as she did. She not unfrequently discussed
to him, in an under tone, the obstinacy and incivility of the captain, who, she averred, with truth, had never in any one instance, had the politeness to stop the ship, often as she had requested, nay, implored him to do so even when she was suffering with sea-sickness, and actually tossed out of her berth by the violence of the storm, though she was holding on with both hands ....
In less than a fortnight after we left the English Channel we were off the banks of Newfoundland; and, as is frequently the case in their vicinity, we met with cold foggy weather. It cleared a little about seven in the morning, and we then discovered no less than three icebergs to leeward. One of them, whose distance from us was perhaps a mile, appeared higher than the main-mast head, and as the top shot up into a tall column, it looked like a vast rock with a light-house on its pinnacle. As the cold and watery sunbeams gleamed fitfully upon it, it exhibited in some places the rainbow tints of a prism other parts were of a dazzling white, while its sharp angular projections seemed like masses of diamonds glittering upon
The fog soon became so dense that in looking over the ship we could not discern the sea. Fortunately, it was so calm that we scarcely moved, or the danger of driving on the icebergs would have been terrific. We had now no other means of ascertaining our distance from them, but by trying the temperature of the water with a thermometer.
In the afternoon the fog gathered still more thickly round us, and dripped from the rigging, so that the sailors were continually swabbing the deck. I had gone with Mr. Fenton to the round-house, and looked awhile from its windows on the com'fortless scene without. The only persons then on the maindeck were the captain and the first mate. They were wrapped in their watch-coats, their hair and whiskers dripping with the fog dew. Most of the passengers went to bed at an early hour, and soon all was awfully still; Mrs. Cumming being really too much frightened to talk, only that she sometimes wished herself in Shoreditch, and sometimes in IIoundsditch. It was a night of real danger. The captain remained on deck till morning, and several of the gentlemen bore him company being too anxious to stay below.
About day-break, a heavy shower of rain dispersed the fog« The conscious vessel waked as from a trance.” A breeze sprung up that carried us out of danger from the icebergs which were
soon diminished to three specks on the horizon, and the sun rose bright and cheerfully.
Toward noon, the ladies recollected that none of them had seen that gentleman during the last twenty-four hours, and some apprehension was expressed lest he should have walked overboard in the fog. No one could give any account of him, or remember his last appearance; and Miss Audley professed much regret that now in all probability we should never be able to ascertain his name, as, most likely he had “ died and made no sign.” To our shames be it spoken, not one of us could cry a tear at his possible fate. The captain had turned into his berth, and was reposing himself after the fatigue of last night; so we could make no inquiry of him on the subject of our missing fellow-passenger.
Mrs. Cummings called the steward, and asked him how long it was since he had seen anything of that gentleman. “I really can't tell, madam,” replied Hamilton—“I can't pretend to charge my memory with such things. But I conclude he must have been seen yesterday—at least I rather expect he was.
The waiter Juba was now appealed to. "I believe, madam," said Juba, “I remember something of handing that gentleman the bread-basket yesterday at dinner—but I would not be qualified as to whether the thing took place or not, my mind being a good deal engaged at the time.”
“Solomon, the third waiter, disclaimed all positive knowledge of this or any other fact, but sagely remarked, “that it was very likely that gentleman had been about all yesterday as usual: yet still it was just as likely he might not; and there was only one thing certain, which was, that if he was not nowhere, he must, of course, be somewhere."
“I have a misgiving,” said Mrs. Cummings, “ that he will never be found again.”
“I'll tell you what I can do, madam,” exclaimed the steward, looking as if suddenly struck with a bright thought—"I can examine into No. eleventeen, and see if I can perceive him there.” And softly opening the door of the state-room in question, he stepped back and said with a triumphant flourish of his hand—“There he is, ladies, there he is, in the upper berth fast asleep in his double cashmere dressing gown. I opinionato that he was one of the gentlemen that stayed on deck all night, because they were afraid to go to sleep on account of the icebergers—of course nobody noticed him—but there he is now, safe enough."
Well,” said Mrs. Cummings, “he is not dead, however, so we have yet a chance of knowing his name from himself
, if we choose to ask him. But I'm determined I'll make the captain tell it me, as soon as he gets up. It's all nonsense, this making a secret of a man's name.”.....
Among the numerous steerage passengers was a young man, whose profession was that of a methodist preacher. Having succeeded in making some religious impressions on the majority of his companions, he one Sunday obtained their consent to his performing divine service that evening in the steerage; and respectfully intimated that he would be highly gratified by the attendance of any of the cabin passengers that would condescend to honor him so far. Accordingly, after tea, we all descended to the steerage at early candle-light, and found everything prepared for the occasion. A barrel, its head covered with a piece of sailcloth, served as a desk, lighted by two yellowish dip-candles placed in empty porter bottles. But as there was considerable motion, it was found that the bottles would not rest in their stations; therefore they were held by two boys. The chests and boxes nearest to the desk were the seats allotted to the ladies and gentlemen: and the steerage people ranged themselves behind. A hymn was sung to a popular tune. The
prayer mon were delivered in simple but impressive language; for the preacher, though a poor and illiterate man, was not deficient either in sense or feeling, and was evidently imbued
with the sincerest piety. There was something solemn and affecting in the aspect of the whole scene, with all its rude arrangement; and also in the idea of the lonely and insulated situation of our little community “one wide water all around us.” And when the preacher, in his homely but fervent language, returned thanks for our hitherto prosperous voyage, and prayed for our speedy and safe arrival at our destined port, tears stood in the eyes of many of his auditors. I thought, when it was over, how frequently such scenes must have occurred between the decks of the Mayflower, during the long and tempestuous passage of that pilgrim band who finally
" Moored their bark
Amid the storm they sung,
And the stars heard, and the sea
when the wise and pious Brewster lifted his voice in exhortation and prayer, and the virtuous Carver, and the gallant Standish, bowed their heads in devotion before him...
After crossing the Banks we seemed to feel ourselves on American ground, or rather on American sea. As our interest increased on approaching the land of our destination, that gentleman was proportionally overlooked and forgotten. He “kept the even tenor of his way,” and we had become scarcely conscious that he was still among us: till one day when there was rather a hard gale, and the waves were running high, we were startled, as we surrounded the luncheon table, by a tremendous noise on the cabín staircase, and the sudden bursting open of the door at its foot. We all looked up, and saw that gentleman falling down stairs, with both arms extended, as he held in one hand a tall cane stool, and in the other the captain's barometer, which had hung just within the upper door; he having involuntarily caught hold of both these articles, with a view of saving himself. “While his head, as he tumbled, went nicketty nock,” his countenance, for once, assumed a new expression, and the change from its usual unvarying sameness was so striking, that combined with his ludicrous attitude, it set us all to laughing. The waters ran forward and assisted him to rise; and it was then found that the stool and the barometer had been the greatest sufferers; one having lost a leg, and the other being so shattered that the stair-carpet was covered with globules of quicksilver. However, he retired to his state-room, and whether or not he was seen again before next morning, I cannot positively undertake to say.
On the edge of the Gulf Stream we had a day of entire calm, when “there was not a breath the blue wave to curl.” A thin veil of haziness somewhat softened the fires of the American sun, (as it was now called by the European passengers,) and we passed the whole day on deck, in a delightful state of idle enjoyment; gazing on the inhabitants of the deep, that like ourselves scemed to be taking a holiday. Dolphins, horse-mackérel, and porpoises were sporting round the vessel, and the flying-fish with brine still dropping from its wings," was darting up into the sun-light; while flocks of petrels, their black plumage tinged with flame-color, seemed to rest on the surface of the water; and the nautilus, “the native pilot of his little bark,” glided gaily along the dimpling mirror that reflected his tiny oars and gauzy sail. We fished up large clusters of seaweed, among which were some beautiful specimens of a delicate