Balch Online Resources

CHAP. II.

The Emigrant Ship.

During the first day of the voyage, our emigrants felt quite well; the fresh sea breeze agreed with them, and the sea was very smooth.  They lost sight of the coast of their native Germany before evening.  The rocky shore of the isle of Heligoland, lying in the North sea, appeared lighted tip by the golden beams of the setting sun.

After supper, they now went to bed.  As our emigrants belonged to the less wealthy class of passengers, they were obliged to sleep in a cabin between decks.  Our little Fred did not much relish the hard bed, to which he was quite unaccustomed.  He would much rather have been in the state cabin.  Nor were the surrounding objects more pleasing, as these consisted of chests, trunks, and bales of goods.

During the night, the wind shifted, the sea grew rough, and the trunks and chests began knocking each other about, while the hammocks swung to and fro, and the first symptoms of seasickness, an indescribable lassitude and heaviness in the head, were only the prelude to downright vomiting.  One passenger was taken after another.  Five-and-twenty slept between decks, and the reader may therefore judge of the cries and groans that echoed on all sides, and of the revolting nature of the scene.  Fred kept rolling about on his soiled bed, but his lamentations remained unheeded, for his parents were more severely stricken than himself, and he now for the first time felt a yearning towards the home he had left.  When he felt somewhat better, he washed himself, and arranged the bedclothes, and then went upon deck.  Though he was still weak, and his head felt heavy, the sight of the ocean cheered him.  He could see nothing but sky and water nor hear who anything but the roaring of the billows, and the screams of the plungeons and seamews that were flocking round the ship.  His parents were still so unwell as to be obliged to remain below.  They now again came in sight of land--namely the English and French coasts, but our Fred was not much the wiser.

Thus passed away a whole day.  The sea had become smoother, and the wind more favorable, so Fred slept better that night than the one before.  But the parents showed symptoms of an intermittent fever.  Nobody now troubled themselves about the boy, for each of the passengers had his own concerns to mind, and the sailors had their work to do.  He had his food given him, and that was all!  There were all sorts of different German races on board, such as Saxons, Prussians, Hessians, Swabians, and especially a number of natives of Holstein, who were less badly off than the rest, from being accustomed to a sea-faring life, and to the coarse food the ship afforded.  The latter had children with them, amongst whom was a little Swabian, about eight years old, a complete blockhead as he was indeed nicknamed on board, who was at once dirty, sickly, lickerish, and greedy.  One of the passengers had brought on board some raisins, and as they were lying about near his berth, little tickle-tooth made free with them, and Freddy had a great mind to help himself likewise, when the sailor who was on duty between decks, happened to perceive the theft, and seizing the little Swabian in the fact, laid him across his knee, and gave him ten stripes with a rope's end.  The little thief bellowed aloud, but the punishment afforded our Fred a most wholesome lesson--and he grew wise at another's expense.

CHAP. III.

Events during the Voyage.

The dirty, greedy little blockhead was an unlucky fellow, for he brought the seeds of sickness with him on board, and when such exist, they generally give rise to a complication of ailments.  He caught the measles, and gave them to Freddy.  There was an infirmary on board, and thither the two sick children were removed, and lay and suffered side by side.  The Swabian died on the third day of an inflammation of the throat, beside of Fred.  The body was tied to a plank, and after a prayer had been said over it, was lowered into the sea.  Fred was not allowed to leave his bed for a whole week, nor even to speak, as he likewise showed symptoms of inflammation of the throat.  His parents had recovered, but even at this stage of their voyage, they already repented having left their native country.

Meantime the ship, being favored by a N. E. wind, was approaching the southern zones; and as all the sailors had done their duty, she had sailed through the seas that skirt the western coasts of France, Spain and Portugal, and was now on the other side of the straits of Gibralter [sic].  The African coast was now in sight.  The air was hot and sultry, the water grew stale, the meat began to be uneatable, and the encreasing [sic] heat rendered the atmosphere unbearable between decks.

The first time Fred came up on deck again, he could breathe more freely, but he saw nothing but sky and water.  Huge dolphins (large thick-headed fishes) were swimming about in the sea, and the frightful shark, who devours human beings, might likewise be seen close to the ship.  The sailors hunted down this sea-monster, which has been aptly named the hyaena of the ocean, by flinging books fastened to ropes at the shark, which they were fortunate enough to capture.

Fred was vastly astonished, when he came to took nearer at the fish, and saw what a quantity of teeth he had in his jaws, which were quite large enough to swallow a man.  The shark was now hauled on board, and cut up; the fat was taken out, the liver was eatable, and in his stomach were found a quantity of fishes, mostly large ones, still fit for human food, that the cook, to whom Fred was obliged to lend a hand, drest very savourily with a sauce piquante.

When it was found out that Fred was handy, and that he could make nets, some work was given him, in return for which he obtained better board and better treatment, being thenceforth fed from the captain's kitchen.

You may believe me, children, industry and skill are sure to meet with their reward.

His mother likewise made herself useful as under-cook and charwoman, but his father who had always preferred his pot of beer to his work, would not turn his hand to anything, and had therefore to put up with the coarse ship fare.  In a few days more, they beheld the Peak of Teneriffe looming from an island in the sea.

The ship anchored at this island, and took in water, fresh meat, and some very fine wine, a glass of which Fred had the honor of receiving from the Captain, who had grown to like the lively boy.  When the vessel once more heaved anchor, and put out to sea, they saw a whole shoal of flying gold fishes, which delighted Fred amazingly.  Soon after, having heard that Fred could read, the Captain gave him a book on natural history, adorned with prints, which proved a source of great delight to our little emigrant, who was very eager to acquire knowledge--and what knowledge is more fascinating to children than natural history?  I am sure all my young readers will be of the same opinion.

Hitherto the voyage had been a most prosperous one, the crew had not suffered from scurvy or other diseases, they had not been distressed by tempests nor foul weather, nor been detained by a calm, all of which rejoiced the Captain so much, that he ordered divine service to be performed on board, to testify his gratitude to the Almighty.  Amongst the passengers, was a schoolmaster from Schleswig, who had been dismissed from his office, and to whom the Captain had granted a free passage, on condition of his discharging the functions of purser to the ship.  He was now called upon to deliver a discourse, after which, as the greater number of the passengers were lutherans and protestants, who bad brought their bibles and psalters with them, a christian hymn was sung, out of the Hamburg psalter.

The verses selected on this occasion, ran as follows:

    How happy be who puts his trust

    With childlike faith, in God alone:

    All earthly cares then weigh as dust,

    Beneath the shadow of His throne.

    And though in life I've oft been tried

    By all the ills that flesh attendó

    Yet God His help has ne'er denied,

    But shown Himself man's truest friend.

Everybody was edified, little Fred amongst the rest, and his clear, treble voice had joined most fervently in the hymn.  Just as the blessing was about to be given, the sailor, who was keeping a look out on the topmast, gave a signal of distress, and they all looked into the sea--and oh! what a sight they beheld!"

Previous Page

EMIGRATION U.S.A. - Table of Contents

PlainLine

This Internet publication has been supported by a grant from The Equitable Foundation.