Rambling Idle Excursion
by Mark Twain
SOME RAMBLING NOTES OF AN IDLE EXCURSION
All the journeyings I had ever done had been purely in the way of
business. The pleasant May weather suggested a novelty namely, a trip
for pure recreation, the bread-and-butter element left out. The
Reverend said he would go, too; a good man, one of the best of men,
although a clergyman. By eleven at night we were in New Haven and on
board the New York boat. We bought our tickets, and then went
wandering around here and there, in the solid comfort of being free
and idle, and of putting distance between ourselves and the mails and
After a while I went to my stateroom and undressed, but the night
was too enticing for bed. We were moving down the bay now, and it was
pleasant to stand at the window and take the cool night breeze and
watch the gliding lights on shore. Presently, two elderly men sat
down under that window and began a conversation. Their talk was
properly no business of mine, yet I was feeling friendly toward the
world and willing to be entertained. I soon gathered that they were
brothers, that they were from a small Connecticut village, and that
the matter in hand concerned the cemetery. Said one:
"Now, John, we talked it all over amongst ourselves, and this is
what we've done. You see, everybody was a-movin' from the old
buryin'-ground, and our folks was 'most about left to theirselves, as
you may say. They was crowded, too, as you know; lot wa'n't big
enough in the first place; and last year, when Seth's wife died, we
couldn't hardly tuck her in. She sort o' overlaid Deacon Shorb's lot,
and he soured on her, so to speak, and on the rest of us, too. So we
talked it over, and I was for a lay out in the new simitery on the
hill. They wa'n't unwilling, if it was cheap. Well, the two best and
biggest plots was No. 8 and No. 9-- both of a size; nice comfortable
room for twenty-six--twenty-six full-growns, that is; but you reckon
in children and other shorts, and strike an everage, and I should say
you might lay in thirty, or maybe thirty-two or three, pretty
genteel--no crowdin' to signify."
"That's a plenty, William. Which one did you buy?"
"Well, I'm a-comin' to that, John. You see, No. 8 was thirteen
dollars, No. 9 fourteen--"
"I see. So's't you took No. 8."
"You wait. I took No. 9. And I'll tell you for why. In the first
place, Deacon Shorb wanted it. Well, after the way he'd gone on about
Seth's wife overlappin' his prem'ses, I'd 'a' beat him out of that No.
9 if I'd 'a' had to stand two dollars extra, let alone one. That's
the way I felt about it. Says I, what's a dollar, anyway? Life's
on'y a pilgrimage, says I; we ain't here for good, and we can't take
it with us, says I. So I just dumped it down, knowin' the Lord don't
suffer a good deed to go for nothin', and cal'latin' to take it out o'
somebody in the course o' trade. Then there was another reason, John.
No. 9's a long way the handiest lot in the simitery, and the
likeliest for situation. It lays right on top of a knoll in the dead
center of the buryin' ground; and you can see Millport from there, and
Tracy's, and Hopper Mount, and a raft o' farms, and so on. There
ain't no better outlook from a buryin'-plot in the state. Si Higgins
says so, and I reckon he ought to know. Well, and that ain't all.
'Course Shorb had to take No. 8; wa'n't no help for 't. Now, No. 8
jines onto No. 9, but it's on the slope of the hill, and every time it
rains it 'll soak right down onto the Shorbs. Si Higgins says 't when
the deacon's time comes, he better take out fire and marine insurance
both on his remains."
Here there was the sound of a low, placid, duplicate chuckle of
appreciation and satisfaction.
"Now, John, here's a little rough draft of the ground that I've
made on a piece of paper. Up here in the left-hand corner we've
bunched the departed; took them from the old graveyard and stowed them
one alongside o' t'other, on a first-come-first-served plan, no
partialities, with Gran'ther Jones for a starter, on'y because it
happened so, and windin' up indiscriminate with Seth's twins. A
little crowded towards the end of the lay-out, maybe, but we reckoned
'twa'n't best to scatter the twins. Well, next comes the livin'.
Here, where it's marked A, we're goin' to put Mariar and her family,
when they're called; B, that's for Brother Hosea and hisn; C, Calvin
and tribe. What's left is these two lots here--just the gem of the
whole patch for general style and outlook; they're for me and my
folks, and you and yourn. Which of them would you rather be buried
"I swan, you've took me mighty unexpected, William!, It sort of
started the shivers. Fact is, I was thinkin' so busy about makin'
things comfortable for the others, I hadn't thought about being buried
"Life's on'y a fleetin' show, John, as the sayin' is. We've all
got to go, sooner or later. To go with a clean record's the main
thing. Fact is, it's the on'y thing worth strivin' for, John."
"Yes, that's so, William, that's so; there ain't no getting around
it. Which of these lots would you recommend?"
"Well, it depends, John. Are you particular about outlook?"
"I don't say I am, William, I don't say I ain't. Reely, I don't
know. But mainly, I reckon, I'd set store by a south exposure."
"That's easy fixed, John. They're both south exposure. They take
the sun, and the Shorbs get the shade."
"How about site, William?"
"D's a sandy sile, E's mostly loom."
"You may gimme E, then; William; a sandy sile caves in, more or
less, and costs for repairs."
"All right, set your name down here, John, under E. Now, if you
don't mind payin' me your share of the fourteen dollars, John, while
we're on the business, everything's fixed."
After some Niggling and sharp bargaining the money was paid, and
John bade his brother good night and took his leave. There was
silence for some moments; then a soft chuckle welled up from the
lonely William, and he muttered: "I declare for 't, if I haven't made
a mistake! It's D that's mostly loom, not E. And John's booked for a
sandy site after all."
There was another soft chuckle, and William departed to his rest
The next day, in New York, was a hot one. Still we managed to get
more or less entertainment out of it. Toward the middle of the
afternoon we arrived on board the stanch steamship Bermuda, with bag
and baggage, and hunted for a shady place. It was blazing summer
weather, until we were half-way down the harbor. Then I buttoned my
coat closely; half an hour later I put on a spring overcoat and
buttoned that. As we passed the light-ship I added an ulster and tied
a handkerchief around the collar to hold it snug to my neck. So
rapidly had the summer gone and winter come again?
By nightfall we were far out at sea, with no land in sight. No
telegrams could come here, no letters, no news. This was an uplifting
thought. It was still more uplifting to reflect that the millions of
harassed people on shore behind us were suffering just as usual.
The next day brought us into the midst of the Atlantic
solitudes--out of smoke-colored sounding into fathomless deep blue; no
ships visible anywhere over the wide ocean; no company but Mother
Carey's chickens wheeling, darting, skimming the waves in the sun.
There were some seafaring men among the passengers, and conversation
drifted into matter concerning ships and sailors. One said that "true
as the needle to the pole" was a bad figure, since the needle seldom
pointed to the pole. He said a ship's compass was not faithful to any
particular point, but was the most fickle and treacherous of the
servants of man. It was forever changing. It changed every day in
the year; consequently the amount of the daily variation had to be
ciphered out and allowance made for it, else the mariner would go
utterly astray. Another said there was a vast fortune waiting for the
genius who should invent a compass that would not be affected by the
local influences of an iron ship. He said there was only one creature
more fickle than a wooden ship's compass, and that was the compass of
an iron ship. Then came reference to the well known fact that an
experienced mariner can look at the compass of a new iron vessel,
thousands of mile from her birthplace, and tell which way her head was
pointing when she was in process of building.
Now an ancient whale-ship master fell to talking about the sort of
crews they used to have in his early days. Said he:
"Sometimes we'd have a batch of college students Queer lot.
Ignorant? Why, they didn't know the catheads from the main brace.
But if you took them for fools you'd get bit, sure. They'd learn
more in a month than another man would in a year. We had one, once,
in the Mary Ann, that came aboard with gold spectacles on. And
besides, he was rigged out from main truck to keelson in the nobbiest
clothes that ever saw a fo'castle. He had a chestful, too: cloaks, and
broadcloth coats, and velvet vests; everything swell, you know; and
didn't the saltwater fix them out for him? I guess not! Well, going
to sea, the mate told him to go aloft and help shake out the
foreto'gallants'l. Up he shins to the foretop, with his spectacles
on, and in a minute down he comes again, looking insulted. Says the
mate, 'What did you come down for?' Says the chap, 'P'r'aps you didn't
notice that there ain't any ladders above there.' You see we hadn't
any shrouds above the foretop. The men bursted out in a laugh such as
I guess you never heard the like of. Next night, which was dark and
rainy, the mate ordered this chap to go aloft about something, and I'm
dummed if he didn't start up with an umbrella and a lantern! But no
matter; he made a mighty good sailor before the voyage was done, and
we had to hunt up something else to laugh at. Years afterwards, when
I had forgot all about him, I comes into Boston, mate of a ship, and
was loafing around town with the second mate, and it so happened that
we stepped into the Revere House, thinking maybe we would chance the
salt-horse in that big diningroom for a flyer, as the boys say. Some
fellows were talking just at our elbow, and one says, 'Yonder's the
new governor of Massachusetts--at that table over there with the
ladies.' We took a good look my mate and I, for we hadn't either of us
ever see a governor before. I looked and looked at that face and then
all of a sudden it popped on me! But didn't give any sign. Says I,
'Mate, I've a notion to go over and shake hands with him.' Says he 'I
think I see you doing it, Tom.' Says I, 'Mate I'm a-going to do it.'
Says he, 'Oh, yes, I guess so. Maybe you don't want to bet you will,
Tom?' Say I, 'I don't mind going a V on it, mate.' Says he 'Put it
up.' ' Up she goes,' says I, planking the cash. This surprised him.
But he covered it, and say. pretty sarcastic, 'Hadn't you better take
your grub with the governor and the ladies, Tom?' Says I 'Upon second
thoughts, I will.' Says he, 'Well Tom, you aye a dum fool.' Says I,
'Maybe I am maybe I ain't; but the main question is, do you wan to
risk two and a half that I won't do it?' 'Make it a V,' says he.
'Done,' says I. I started, him a giggling and slapping his hand on
his thigh, he felt so good. I went over there and leaned my knuckle:
on the table a minute and looked the governor in the face, and says I,
'Mr. Gardner, don't you know me? He stared, and I stared, and he
stared. Then all of a sudden he sings out, 'Tom Bowling, by the holy
poker! Ladies, it's old Tom Bowling, that you've heard me talk
about--shipmate of mine in the Mary Ann.' He rose up and shook hands
with me ever so hearty--I sort of glanced around and took a realizing
sense of my mate's saucer eyes--and then says the governor, 'Plant
yourself, Tom, plant yourself; you can't cat your anchor again till
you've had a feed with me and the ladies!' I planted myself alongside
the governor, and canted my eye around toward my mate. Well, sir, his
dead-lights were bugged out like tompions; and his mouth stood that
wide open that you could have laid a ham in it without him noticing
There was great applause at the conclusion of the old captain's
story; then, after a moment's silence, a grave, pale young man said:
"Had you ever met the governor before?"
The old captain looked steadily at this inquirer awhile, and then
got up and walked aft without making any reply. One passenger after
another stole a furtive glance at the inquirer; but failed to make him
out, and so gave him up. It took some little work to get the
talk-machinery to running smoothly again after this derangement; but
at length a conversation sprang up about that important and jealously
guarded instrument, a ship's timekeeper, its exceeding delicate
accuracy, and the wreck and destruction that have sometimes resulted
from its varying a few seemingly trifling moments from the true time;
then, in due course, my comrade, the Reverend, got off on a yarn, with
a fair wind and everything drawing. It was a true story, too--about
Captain Rounceville's shipwreck --true in every detail. It was to
Captain Rounceville's vessel was lost in mid-Atlantic, and likewise
his wife and his two little children. Captain Rounceville and seven
seamen escaped with life, but with little else. A small, rudely
constructed raft was to be their home for eight days. They had
neither provisions nor water. They had scarcely any clothing; no one
had a coat but the captain. This coat was changing hands all the
time, for the weather was very cold. Whenever a man became exhausted
with the cold, they put the coat on him and laid him down between two
shipmates until the garment and their bodies had warmed life into him
again. Among the sailors was a Portuguese who knew no English. He
seemed to have no thought of his own calamity, but was concerned only
about the captain's bitter loss of wife and children. By day he would
look his dumb compassion in the captain's face; and by night, in the
darkness and the driving spray and rain, he would seek out the captain
and try to comfort him with caressing pats on the shoulder. One day,
when hunger and thirst were making their sure inroad; upon the men's
strength and spirits, a floating barrel was seen at a distance. It
seemed a great find, for doubtless it contained food of some sort. A
brave fellow swam to it, and after long and exhausting effort got it
to the raft. It was eagerly opened. It was a barrel of magnesia! On
the fifth day an onion was spied. A sailor swam off and got it.
Although perishing with hunger, he brought it in its integrity and
put it into the captain's hand. The history of the sea teaches that
among starving, shipwrecked men selfishness is rare, and a wonder-
compelling magnanimity the rule. The onion was equally divided into
eight parts, and eaten with deep thanksgivings. On the eighth day a
distant ship was sighted. Attempts were made to hoist an oar, with
Captain Rounceville's coat on it for a signal. There were many
failures, for the men were but skeletons now, and strengthless. At
last success was achieved, but the signal brought no help. The ship
faded out of sight and left despair behind her. By and by another
ship appeared, and passed so near that the castaways, every eye
eloquent with gratitude, made ready to welcome the boat that would be
sent to save them. But this ship also drove on, and left these men
staring their unutterable surprise and dismay into each other's ashen
faces. Late in the day, still another ship came up out of the
distance, but the men noted with a pang that her course was one which
would not bring her nearer. Their remnant of life was nearly spent;
their lips and tongues were swollen, parched, cracked with eight days'
thirst; their bodies starved; and here was their last chance gliding
relentlessly from them; they would not be alive when the next sun
rose. For a day or two past the men had lost their voices, but now
Captain Rounceville whispered, "Let us pray." The Portuguese patted
him on the shoulder in sign of deep approval. All knelt at the base
of the oar that was waving the signal-coat aloft, and bowed their
heads. The sea was tossing; the sun rested, a red, rayless disk, on
the sea-line in the west. When the men presently raised their heads
they would have roared a hallelujah if they had had a voice--the
ship's sails lay wrinkled and flapping against her masts--she was
going about! Here was rescue at last, and in the very last instant of
time that was left for it. No, not rescue yet--only the imminent
prospect of it. The red disk sank under the sea, and darkness blotted
out the ship. By and by came a pleasant sound-oars moving in a boat's
rowlocks. Nearer it came, and nearer-within thirty steps, but nothing
visible. Then a deep voice: "Hol-lo!" The castaways could not
answer; their swollen tongues refused voice. The boat skirted round
and round the raft, started away--the agony of it!--returned, rested
the oars, close at hand, listening, no doubt. The deep voice again:
"Hol-lo! Where are ye, shipmates?" Captain Rounceville whispered to
his men, saying: "Whisper your best, boys! now-all at once!" So they
sent out an eightfold whisper in hoarse concert: "Here!", There was
life in it if it succeeded; death if it failed. After that supreme
moment Captain Rounceville was conscious of nothing until he came to
himself on board the saving ship. Said the Reverend, concluding:
"There was one little moment of time in which that raft could be
visible from that ship, and only one. If that one little fleeting
moment had passed unfruitful, those men's doom was sealed. As close
as that does God shave events foreordained from the beginning of the
world. When the sun reached the water's edge that day, the captain of
that ship was sitting on deck reading his prayer-book. The book fell;
he stooped to pick it up, and happened to glance at the sun. In that
instant that far- off raft appeared for a second against the red disk,
its needlelike oar and diminutive signal cut sharp and black against
the bright surface, and in the next instant was thrust away into the
dusk again. But that ship, that captain, and that pregnant instant
had had their work appointed for them in the dawn of time and could
not fail of the performance. The chronometer of God never errs!"
There was deep, thoughtful silence for some moments. Then the
grave, pale young man said:
"What is the chronometer of God?"
At dinner, six o'clock, the same people assembled whom we had
talked with on deck and seen at luncheon and breakfast this second day
out, and at dinner the evening before. That is to say, three
journeying ship- masters, a Boston merchant, and a returning Bermudian
who had been absent from his Bermuda thirteen years; these sat on the
starboard side. On the port side sat the Reverend in the seat of
honor; the pale young man next to him; I next; next to me an aged
Bermudian, returning to his sunny islands after an absence of
twenty-seven years. Of course, our captain was at the head of the
table, the purser at the foot of it. A small company, but small
companies are pleasantest.
No racks upon the table; the sky cloudless, the sun brilliant, the
blue sea scarcely ruffled; then what had become of the four married
couples, the three bachelors, and the active and obliging doctor from
the rural districts of Pennsylvania?--for all these were on deck when
we sailed down New York harbor. This is the explanation. I quote
from my note- book:
Thursday, 3.30 P.M. Under way, passing the Battery. The large
party, of four married couples, three bachelors, and a cheery,
exhilarating doctor from the wilds of Pennsylvania, are evidently
traveling together. All but the doctor grouped in camp-chairs on
Passing principal fort. The doctor is one of those people who has
an infallible preventive of seasickness; is flitting from friend to
friend administering it and saying, "Don't you be afraid; I know
this medicine; absolutely infallible; prepared under my own
supervision." Takes a dose himself, intrepidly.
4.15 P.M. Two of those ladies have struck their colors,
notwithstanding the "infallible." They have gone below. The other
two begin to show distress.
5 P.M. Exit one husband and one bachelor. These still had their
infallible in cargo when they started, but arrived at the
companionway without it.
5.10. Lady No. 3, two bachelors, and one married man have gone
below with their own opinion of the infallible.
5.20. Passing Quarantine Hulk. The infallible has done the
business for all the party except the Scotchman's wife and the
author of that formidable remedy.
Nearing the Light-Ship. Exit the Scotchman's wife, head drooped on
Entering the open sea. Exit doctor!
The rout seems permanent; hence the smallness of the company at
table since the voyage began. Our captain is a grave, handsome
Hercules of thirty-five, with a brown hand of such majestic size that
one cannot eat for admiring it and wondering if a single kid or calf
could furnish material for gloving it.
Conversation not general; drones along between couples. One
catches a sentence here and there. Like this, from Bermudian of
thirteen years' absence: "It is the nature of women to ask trivial,
irrelevant, and pursuing questions--questions that pursue you from a
beginning in nothing to a run-to-cover in nowhere." Reply of
Bermudian of twenty-seven years' absence: "Yes; and to think they
have logical, analytical minds and argumentative ability. You see 'em
begin to whet up whenever they smell argument in the air." Plainly
these be philosophers.
Twice since we left port our engines have stopped for a couple of
minutes at a time. Now they stop again. Says the pale young man,
meditatively, "There!--that engineer is sitting down to rest again."
Grave stare from the captain, whose mighty jaws cease to work, and
whose harpooned potato stops in midair on its way to his open,
paralyzed mouth. Presently he says in measured tones, "Is it your idea
that the engineer of this ship propels her by a crank turned by his
The pale young man studies over this a moment, then lifts up his
guileless eyes, and says, "Don't he?"
Thus gently falls the death-blow to further conversation, and the
dinner drags to its close in a reflective silence, disturbed by no
sounds but the murmurous wash of the sea and the subdued clash of
After a smoke and a promenade on deck, where is no motion to
discompose our steps, we think of a game of whist. We ask the brisk
and capable stewardess from Ireland if there are any cards in the
"Bless your soul, dear, indeed there is. Not a whole pack, true
for ye, but not enough missing to signify.
However, I happened by accident to bethink me of a new pack in a
morocco case, in my trunk, which I had placed there by mistake,
thinking it to be a flask of something. So a party of us conquered
the tedium of the evening with a few games and were ready for bed at
six bells, mariner's time, the signal for putting out the lights.
There was much chat in the smoking-cabin on the upper deck after
luncheon to-day, mostly whaler yarns from those old sea-captains.
Captain Tom Bowling was garrulous. He had that garrulous attention
to minor detail which is born of secluded farm life or life at sea on
long voyages, where there is little to do and time no object. He
would sail along till he was right in the most exciting part of a
yarn, and then say, "Well, as I was saying, the rudder was fouled,
ship driving before the gale, head-on, straight for the iceberg, all
hands holding their breath, turned to stone, top-hamper giving 'way,
sails blown to ribbons, first one stick going, then another, boom!
smash! crash! duck your head and stand from under! when up comes
Johnny Rogers, capstan-bar in hand, eyes a-blazing, hair a-flying . .
. no, 'twa'n't Johnny Rogers. . . lemme see . . . seems to me
Johnny Rogers wa'n't along that voyage; he was along one voyage, I
know that mighty well, but somehow it seems to me that he signed the
articles for this voyage, but--but--whether he come along or not, or
got left, or something happened--"
And so on and so on till the excitement all cooled down and nobody
cared whether the ship struck the iceberg or not.
In the course of his talk he rambled into a criticism upon New
England degrees of merit in ship building. Said he, "You get a vessel
built away down Maine-way; Bath, for instance; what's the result?
First thing you do, you want to heave her down for repairs--that's
the result! Well, sir, she hain't been hove down a week till you can
heave a dog through her seams. You send that vessel to sea, and
what's the result? She wets her oakum the first trip! Leave it to
any man if 'tain't so. Well, you let our folks build you a
vessel--down New Bedford-way. What's the result? Well, sir, you
might take that ship and heave her down, and keep her hove down six
months, and she'll never shed a tear!"
Everybody, landsmen and all, recognized the descriptive neatness of
that figure, and applauded, which greatly pleased the old man. A
moment later, the meek eyes of the pale young fellow heretofore
mentioned came up slowly, rested upon the old man's face a moment, and
the meek mouth began to open.
"Shet your head!" shouted the old mariner.
It was a rather startling surprise to everybody, but it was
effective in the matter of its purpose. So the conversation flowed on
instead of perishing.
There was some talk about the perils of the sea, and a landsman
delivered himself of the customary nonsense about the poor mariner
wandering in far oceans, tempest-tossed, pursued by dangers, every
storm-blast and thunderbolt in the home skies moving the friends by
snug firesides to compassion for that poor mariner, and prayers for
his succor. Captain Bowling put up with this for a while, and then
burst out with a new view of the matter.
"Come, belay there! I have read this kind of rot all my life in
poetry and tales and such-like rubbage. Pity for the poor mariner!
sympathy for the poor mariner! All right enough, but not in the way
the poetry puts it. Pity for the mariner's wife! all right again, but
not in the way the poetry puts it. Look-a here! whose life's the
safest in the whole world The poor mariner's. You look at the
statistics, you'll see. So don't you fool away any sympathy on the
poor mariner's dangers and privations and sufferings. Leave that to
the poetry muffs. Now you look at the other side a minute. Here is
Captain Brace, forty years old, been at sea thirty. On his way now to
take command of his ship and sail south from Bermuda. Next week he'll
be under way; easy times; comfortable quarters; passengers, sociable
company; just enough to do to keep his mind healthy and not tire him;
king over his ship, boss of everything and everybody; thirty years'
safety to learn him that his profession ain't a dangerous one. Now
you look back at his home. His wife's a feeble woman; she's a
stranger in New York; shut up in blazing hot or freezing cold
lodgings, according to the season; don't know anybody hardly; no
company but her lonesomeness and her thoughts; husband gone six months
at a time. She has borne eight children; five of them she has buried
without her husband ever setting eyes on them. She watches them all
the long nights till they died--he comfortable on the sea; she
followed them to the grave she heard the clods fall that broke her
heart he comfortable on the sea; she mourned at home, weeks and weeks,
missing them every day and every hour-- he cheerful at sea, knowing
nothing about it. Now look at it a minute --turn it over in your mind
and size it: five children born, she among strangers, and him not by
to hearten her; buried, and him not by to comfort her; think of that!
Sympathy for the poor mariner's perils is rot; give it to his wife's
hard lines, where it belongs! Poetry makes out that all the wife
worries about is the dangers her husband's running. She's got
substantialer things to worry over, I tell you. Poetry's always
pitying the poor mariner on account of his perils at sea; better a
blamed sight pity him for the nights he can't sleep for thinking of
how he had to leave his wife in her very birth pains, lonesome and
friendless, in the thick of disease and trouble and death. If there's
one thing that can make me madder than another, it's this sappy,
damned maritime poetry!"
Captain Brace was a patient, gentle, seldom speaking man, with a
pathetic something in his bronzed face that had been a mystery up to
this time, but stood interpreted now since we had heard his story. He
had voyaged eighteen times to the Mediterranean, seven times to India,
once to the arctic pole in a discovery-ship, and "between times" had
visited all the remote seas and ocean corners of the globe. But he
said that twelve years ago, on account of his family, he "settled
down," and ever since then had ceased to roam. And what do you
suppose was this simple- hearted, lifelong wanderer's idea of settling
down and ceasing to roam? Why, the making of two five-month voyages a
year between Surinam and Boston for sugar and molasses!
Among other talk to-day, it came out that whale-ships carry no
doctor. The captain adds the doctorship to his own duties. He not
only gives medicines, but sets broken limbs after notions of his own,
or saws them off and sears the stump when amputation seems best. The
captain is provided with a medicine-chest, with the medicines numbered
instead of named. A book of directions goes with this. It describes
diseases and symptoms, and says, "Give a teaspoonful of No. 9 once an
hour," or "Give ten grains of No. 12 every half-hour," etc. One of
our sea-captains came across a skipper in the North Pacific who was in
a state of great surprise and perplexity. Said he:
"There's something rotten about this medicine-chest business. One
of my men was sick--nothing much the matter. I looked in the book: it
said give him a teaspoonful of No. 15. I went to the medicine-chest,
and I see I was out of No. 15. I judged I'd got to get up a
combination somehow that would fill the bill; so I hove into the
fellow half a teaspoonful of No. 8 and half a teaspoonful of No. 7,
and I'll be hanged if it didn't kill him in fifteen minutes! There's
something about this medicine-chest system that's too many for me!"
There was a good deal of pleasant gossip about old Captain
"Hurricane" Jones, of the Pacific Ocean--peace to his ashes! Two or
three of us present had known him; I particularly well, for I had made
four sea- voyages with him. He was a very remarkable man. He was
born in a ship; he picked up what little education he had among his
shipmates; he began life in the forecastle, and climbed grade by grade
to the captaincy. More than fifty years of his sixty-five were spent
at sea. He had sailed all oceans, seen all lands, and borrowed a tint
from all climates. When a man has been fifty years at sea he
necessarily knows nothing of men, nothing of the world but its
surface, nothing of the world's thought, nothing of the world's
learning but it's a B C, and that blurred and distorted by the
unfocused lenses of an untrained mind. Such a man is only a gray and
bearded child. That is what old Hurricane Jones was-- simply an
innocent, lovable old infant. When his spirit was in repose he was as
sweet and gentle as a girl; when his wrath was up he was a hurricane
that made his nickname seem tamely descriptive. He was formidable in
a fight, for he was of powerful build and dauntless courage. He was
frescoed from head to heel with pictures and mottoes tattooed in red
and blue India ink. I was with him one voyage when he got his last
vacant space tattooed; this vacant space was around his left ankle.
During three days he stumped about the ship with his ankle bare and
swollen, and this legend gleaming red and angry out from a clouding of
India ink: "Virtue is its own R'd." (There was a lack of room.) He
was deeply and sincerely pious, and swore like a fishwoman. He
considered swearing blameless, because sailors would not understand an
order unillumined by it. He was a profound biblical scholar--that is,
he thought he was. He believed everything in the Bible, but he had
his own methods of arriving at his beliefs. He was of the "advanced"
school of thinkers, and applied natural laws to the interpretation of
all miracles, somewhat on the plan of the people who make the six days
of creation six geological epochs, and so forth. Without being aware
of it, he was a rather severe satire on modern scientific
religionists. Such a man as I have been describing is rabidly fond of
disquisition and argument; one knows that without being told it.
One trip the captain had a clergyman on board, but did not know he
was a clergyman, since the passenger-list did not betray the fact. He
took a great liking to this Reverend Mr. Peters, and talked with him a
great deal; told him yarns, gave him toothsome scraps of personal
history, and wove a glittering streak of profanity through his
garrulous fabric that was refreshing to a spirit weary of the dull
neutralities of undecorated speech. One day the captain said,
"Peters, do you ever read the Bible?"
"I judge it ain't often, by the way you say it. Now, you tackle it
in dead earnest once, and you'll find it 'll pay. Don't you get
discouraged, but hang right on. First, you won't understand it; but
by and by things will begin to clear up, and then you wouldn't lay it
down to eat."
"Yes, I have heard that said."
"And it's so, too. There ain't a book that begins with it. It
lays over 'm all, Peters. There's some pretty tough things in
it--there ain't any getting around that--but you stick to them and
think them out, and when once you get on the inside everything's plain
"The miracles, too, captain?"
"Yes, sir! the miracles, too. Every one of them. Now, there's
that business with the prophets of Baal; like enough that stumped
"Well, I don't know but--"
"Own up now; it stumped you. Well, I don't wonder. You hadn't had
any experience in raveling such things out, and naturally it was too
many for you. Would you like to have me explain that thing to you,
and show you how to get at the meat of these matters?"
"Indeed, I would, captain, if you don't mind."
Then the captain proceeded as follows: "I'll do it with pleasure.
First, you see, I read and read, and thought and thought, till I got
to understand what sort of people they were in the old Bible times,
and then after that it was all clear and easy. Now this was the way I
put it up, concerning Isaac--[This is the captain's own mistake]--and
the prophets of Baal. There was some mighty sharp men among the
public characters of that old ancient day, and Isaac was one of them.
Isaac had his failings --plenty of them, too; it ain't for me to
apologize for Isaac; he played it on the prophets of Baal, and like
enough he was justifiable, considering the odds that was against him.
No, all I say is, 'twa'n't any miracle, and that I'll show you so's't
you can see it yourself.
"Well, times had been getting rougher and rougher for
prophets--that is, prophets of Isaac's denomination. There was four
hundred and fifty prophets of Baal in the community, and only one
Presbyterian; that is, if Isaac was a Presbyterian, which I reckon he
was, but it don't say. Naturally, the prophets of Baal took all the
trade. Isaac was pretty low-spirited, I reckon, but he was a good
deal of a man, and no doubt he went a-prophesying around, letting on
to be doing a land-office business, but 'twa'n't any use; he couldn't
run any opposition to amount to anything. By and by things got
desperate with him; he sets his head to work and thinks it all out,
and then what does he do? Why, he begins to throw out hints that the
other parties are this and that and t'other- nothing very definite,
maybe, but just kind of undermining their reputation in a quiet way.
This made talk, of course, and finally got to the king. The king
asked Isaac what he meant by his talk. Says Isaac, 'Oh, nothing
particular; only, can they pray-down fire from heaven on an altar? It
ain't much, maybe, your majesty, only can they do it? That's the
idea.' So the king was a good deal disturbed, and he went to the
prophets of Baal, and they said, pretty airy, that if he had an altar
ready, they were ready; and they intimated he better get it insured,
"So next morning all the children of Israel and their parents and
the other people gathered themselves together. Well, here was that
great crowd of prophets of Baal packed together on one side, and Isaac
walking up and down all alone on the other, putting up his job. When
time was called, Isaac let on to be comfortable and indifferent; told
the other team to take the first innings. So they went at it, the
whole four hundred and fifty, praying around the altar, very hopeful,
and doing their level best. They prayed an hour--two hours--three
hours--and so on, plumb till noon. It wa'n't any use; they hadn't
took a trick. Of course they felt kind of ashamed before all those
people, and well they might. Now, what would a magnanimous man do?
Keep still, wouldn't he? Of course. What did Isaac do? He graveled
the prophets of Baal every way he could think of. Says he, 'You don't
speak up loud enough; your god's asleep, like enough, or maybe he's
taking a walk; you want to holler, you know'--or words to that effect;
I don't recollect the exact language. Mind, I don't apologize for
Isaac; he had his faults.
"Well, the prophets of Baal prayed along the best they knew how all
the afternoon, and never raised, a spark. At last, about sundown,
they were all tuckered out, and they owned up and quit.
"What does Isaac do now? He steps up and says to some friends of
his there, 'Pour four barrels of water on the altar!' Everybody was
astonished; for the other side had prayed at it dry, you know, and got
whitewashed. They poured it on. Says he, 'Heave on four more
barrels.' Then he says, 'Heave on four more.' Twelve barrels, you
see, altogether. The water ran all over the altar, and all down the
sides, and filled up a trench around it that would hold a couple of
hogsheads-'measures,' it says; I reckon it means about a hogshead.
Some of the people were going to put on their things and go, for they
allowed he was crazy. They didn't know Isaac. Isaac knelt down and
began to pray; he strung along, and strung along, about the heathen in
distant lands, and about the sister churches, and about the state and
the country at large, and about those that's in authority in the
government, and all the usual program, you know, till everybody had
got tired and gone to thinking about something else, and then, all of
a sudden, when nobody was noticing, he outs with a match and rakes it
on the under side of his leg, and pff! up the whole thing blazes like
a house afire! Twelve barrels of water? Petroleum, sir, PETROLEUM!
that's what it was!"
"Yes, sir, the country was full of it. Isaac knew all about that.
You read the Bible. Don't you worry about the tough places. They
ain't tough when you come to think them out and throw light on them.
There ain't a thing in the Bible but what is true; all you want is to
go prayerfully to work and cipher out how 'twas done."
At eight o'clock on the third morning out from New York, land was
sighted. Away across the sunny waves one saw a faint dark stripe
stretched along under the horizon-or pretended to see it, for the
credit of his eyesight. Even the Reverend said he saw it, a thing
which was manifestly not so. But I never have seen any one who was
morally strong enough to confess that he could not see land when
others claimed that they could.
By and by the Bermuda Islands were easily visible. The principal
one lay upon the water in the distance, a long, dull-colored body;
scalloped with slight hills and valleys. We could not go straight at
it, but had to travel all the way around it, sixteen miles from shore,
because it is fenced with an invisible coral reef. At last we sighted
buoys, bobbing here and there, and then we glided into a narrow
channel among them, "raised the reef," and came upon shoaling blue
water that soon further shoaled into pale green, with a surface
scarcely rippled. Now came the resurrection hour; the berths gave up
their dead. Who are these pale specters in plug-hats and silken
flounces that file up the companionway in melancholy procession and
step upon the deck? These are they which took the infallible
preventive of seasickness in New York harbor and then disappeared and
were forgotten. Also there came two or three faces not seen before
until this moment. One's impulse is to ask, "Where did you come
We followed the narrow channel a long time, with land on both
sides-low hills that might have been green and grassy, but had a faded
look instead. However, the land-locked water was lovely, at any rate,
with its glittering belts of blue and green where moderate soundings
were, and its broad splotches of rich brown where the rocks lay near
the surface. Everybody was feeling so well that even the grave, pale
young man (who, by a sort of kindly common consent, had come latterly
to be referred to as "The Ass") received frequent and friendly
notice--which was right enough, for there was no harm in him.
At last we steamed between two island points whose rocky jaws
allowed only just enough room for the vessel's body, and now before us
loomed Hamilton on her clustered hillsides and summits, the whitest
mass of terraced architecture that exists in the world, perhaps.
It was Sunday afternoon, and on the pier were gathered one or two
hundred Bermudians, half of them black, half of them white, and all of
them nobbily dressed, as the poet says.
Several boats came off to the ship, bringing citizens. One of
these citizens was a faded, diminutive old gentleman, who approached
our most ancient passenger with a childlike joy in his twinkling eyes,
halted before him, folded his arms, and said, smiling with all his
might and with all the simple delight that was in him, "You don't know
me, John! Come, out with it now; you know you don't!"
The ancient passenger scanned him perplexedly, scanned the napless,
threadbare costume of venerable fashion that had done Sunday service
no man knows how many years, contemplated the marvelous stovepipe hat
of still more ancient and venerable pattern, with its poor, pathetic
old stiff brim canted up "gallusly" in the wrong places, and said,
with a hesitation that indicated strong internal effort to "place" the
gentle old apparition, "Why . . . let me see . . . plague on it
. . . there's something about you that . . . er . . . er . .
. but I've been gone from Bermuda for twenty-seven years, and . .
. hum, hum . . . I don't seem to get at it, somehow, but there's
something about you that is just as familiar to me as--"
"Likely it might be his hat," murmured the Ass, with innocent,
So the Reverend and I had at last arrived at Hamilton, the
principal town in the Bermuda Islands. A wonderfully white town;
white as snow itself. White as marble; white as flour. Yet looking
like none of these, exactly. Never mind, we said; we shall hit upon a
figure by and by that will describe this peculiar white.
It was a town that was compacted together upon the sides and tops
of a cluster of small hills. Its outlying borders fringed off and
thinned away among the cedar forests, and there was no woody distance
of curving coast or leafy islet sleeping upon the dimpled, painted
sea, but was flecked with shining white points--half-concealed houses
peeping out of the foliage. The architecture of the town was mainly
Spanish, inherited from the colonists of two hundred and fifty years
ago. Some ragged- topped cocoa-palms, glimpsed here and there, gave
the land a tropical aspect.
There was an ample pier of heavy masonry; upon this, under shelter,
were some thousands of barrels containing that product which has
carried the fame of Bermuda to many lands, the potato. With here and
there an onion. That last sentence is facetious; for they grow at
least two onions in Bermuda to one potato. The onion is the pride and
joy of Bermuda. It is her jewel, her gem of gems. In her
conversation, her pulpit, her literature, it is her most frequent and
eloquent figure. In Bermuda metaphor it stands for
The Bermudian weeping over the departed exhausts praise when he
says, "He was an onion!" The Bermudian extolling the living hero
bankrupts applause when he says, "He is an onion!" The Bermudian
setting his son upon the stage of life to dare and do for himself
climaxes all counsel, supplication, admonition, comprehends all
ambition, when he says, "Be an onion!"
When parallel with the pier, and ten or fifteen steps outside it,
we anchored. It was Sunday, bright and sunny. The groups upon the
pier- men, youths, and boys-were whites and blacks in about equal
proportion. All were well and neatly dressed; many of them nattily, a
few of them very stylishly. One would have to travel far before he
would find another town of twelve thousand inhabitants that could
represent itself so respectably, in the matter of clothes, on a
freight-pier, without premeditation or effort. The women and young
girls, black and white, who occasionally passed by, were nicely clad,
and many were elegantly and fashionably so. The men did not affect
summer clothing much, but the girls and women did, and their white
garments were good to look at, after so many months of familiarity
with somber colors.
Around one isolated potato-barrel stood four young gentlemen, two
black, two white, becomingly dressed, each with the head of a slender
cane pressed against his teeth, and each with a foot propped up on the
barrel. Another young gentleman came up, looked longingly at the
barrel, but saw no rest for his foot there, and turned pensively away
to seek another barrel. He wandered here and there, but without
result. Nobody sat upon a barrel, as is the custom of the idle in
other lands, yet all the isolated barrels were humanly occupied.
Whosoever had a foot to spare put it on a barrel, if all the places
on it were not already taken. The habits of all peoples are
determined by their circumstances. The Bermudians lean upon barrels
because of the scarcity of lamp-posts.
Many citizens came on board and spoke eagerly to the
officers--inquiring about the Turco-Russian war news, I supposed.
However, by listening judiciously I found that this was not so. They
said, "What is the price of onions?" or, "How's onions?" Naturally
enough this was their first interest; but they dropped into the war
the moment it was satisfied.
We went ashore and found a novelty of a pleasant nature: there were
no hackmen, hacks, or omnibuses on the pier or about it anywhere, and
nobody offered his services to us, or molested us in any way. I said
it was like being in heaven. The Reverend rebukingly and rather
pointedly advised me to make the most of it, then. We knew of a
boarding-house, and what we needed now was somebody to pilot us to it.
Presently a little barefooted colored boy came along, whose
raggedness was conspicuously not Bermudian. His rear was so
marvelously bepatched with colored squares and triangles that one was
half persuaded he had got it out of an atlas. When the sun struck him
right, he was as good to follow as a lightning-bug. We hired him and
dropped into his wake. He piloted us through one picturesque street
after another, and in due course deposited us where we belonged. He
charged nothing for his map, and but a trifle for his services: so the
Reverend doubled it. The little chap received the money with a
beaming applause in his eye which plainly said, "This man's an onion!"
We had brought no letters of introduction; our names had been
misspelled in the passenger-list; nobody knew whether we were honest
folk or otherwise. So we were expecting to have a good private time
in case there was nothing in our general aspect to close
boarding-house doors against us. We had no trouble. Bermuda has had
but little experience of rascals, and is not suspicious. We got
large, cool, well-lighted rooms on a second floor, overlooking a
bloomy display of flowers and flowering shrubscalia and annunciation
lilies, lantanas, heliotrope, jasmine, roses, pinks, double geraniums,
oleanders, pomegranates, blue morning- glories of a great size, and
many plants that were unknown to me.
We took a long afternoon walk, and soon found out that that
exceedingly white town was built of blocks of white coral. Bermuda is
a coral island, With a six-inch crust of soil on top of it, and every
man has a quarry on his own premises. Everywhere you go you see
square recesses gut into the hillsides, with perpendicular walls
unmarred by crack or crevice, and perhaps you fancy that a house grew
out of the ground there, and has been removed in a single piece from
the mold. If you do, you err. But the material for a house has been
quarried there. They cut right down through the coral, to any depth
that is convenient--ten to twenty feet--and take it out in great
square blocks. This cutting is done with a chisel that has a handle
twelve or fifteen feet long, and is used as one uses a crowbar when he
is drilling a hole, or a dasher when he is churning. Thus soft is
this stone. Then with a common handsaw they saw the great blocks into
handsome, huge bricks that are two feet long, a foot wide, and about
six inches thick. These stand loosely piled during a month to harden;
then the work of building begins.
The house is built of these blocks; it is roofed with broad coral
slabs an inch thick, whose edges lap upon each other, so that the roof
looks like a succession of shallow steps or terraces; the chimneys are
built of the coral blocks, and sawed into graceful and picturesque
patterns; the ground-floor veranda is paved with coral blocks; also
the walk to the gate; the fence is built of coral blocks--built in
massive panels, with broad capstones and heavy gate-posts, and the
whole trimmed into easy lines and comely shape with the saw. Then
they put a hard coat of whitewash, as thick as your thumb-nail, on the
fence and all over the house, roof, chimneys, and all; the sun comes
out and shines on this spectacle, and it is time for you to shut your
unaccustomed eyes, lest they be put out. It is the whitest white you
can conceive of, and the blindingest. A Bermuda house does not look
like marble; it is a much intenser white than that; and, besides,
there is a dainty, indefinable something else about its look that is
not marble-like. We put in a great deal of solid talk and reflection
over this matter of trying to find a figure that would describe the
unique white of a Bermuda house, and we contrived to hit upon it at
last. It is exactly the white of the icing of a cake, and has the
same unemphasized and scarcely perceptible polish. The white of marble
is modest and retiring compared with it.
After the house is cased in its hard scale of whitewash, not a
crack, or sign of a seam, or joining of the blocks is detectable, from
base-stone to chimney-top; the building looks as if it had been carved
from a single block of stone, and the doors and windows sawed out
afterward. A white marble house has a cold, tomb-like, unsociable
look, and takes the conversation out of a body and depresses him. Not
so with a Bermuda house. There is something exhilarating, even
hilarious, about its vivid whiteness when the sun plays upon it. If
it be of picturesque shape and graceful contour--and many of the
Bermudian dwellings are--it will so fascinate you that you will keep
your eyes on it until they ache. One of those clean-cut, fanciful
chimneys--too pure and white for this world-- with one side glowing in
the sun and the other touched with a soft shadow, is an object that
will charm one's gaze by the hour. I know of no other country that
has chimneys worthy to be gazed at and gloated over. One of those
snowy houses, half concealed and half glimpsed through green foliage,
is a pretty thing to see; and if it takes one by surprise and
suddenly, as he turns a sharp corner of a country road, it will wring
an exclamation from him, sure.
Wherever you go, in town or country, you find those snowy houses,
and always with masses of bright-colored flowers about them, but with
no vines climbing their walls; vines cannot take hold of the smooth,
hard whitewash. Wherever you go, in the town or along the country
roads, among little potato farms and patches or expensive
country-seats, these stainless white dwellings, gleaming out from
flowers and foliage, meet you at every turn. The least little bit of
a cottage is as white and blemishless as the stateliest mansion.
Nowhere is there dirt or stench, puddle or hog-wallow, neglect,
disorder, or lack of trimness and neatness. The roads, the streets,
the dwellings, the people, the clothes--this neatness extends to
everything that falls under the eye. It is the tidiest country in the
world. And very much the tidiest, too.
Considering these things, the question came up, Where do the poor
live? No answer was arrived at. Therefore, we agreed to leave this
conundrum for future statesmen to wrangle over.
What a bright and startling spectacle one of those blazing white
country palaces, with its brown-tinted window-caps and ledges, and
green shutters, and its wealth of caressing flowers and foliage, would
be in black London! And what a gleaming surprise it would be in
nearly any American city one could mention, too!
Bermuda roads are made by cutting down a few inches into the solid
white coral--or a good many feet, where a hill intrudes itself--and
smoothing off the surface of the road-bed. It is a simple and easy
process. The grain of the coral is coarse and porous; the road-bed
has the look of being made of coarse white sugar. Its excessive
cleanness and whiteness are a trouble in one way: the sun is reflected
into your eyes with such energy as you walk along that you want to
sneeze all the time. Old Captain Tom Bowling found another
difficulty. He joined us in our walk, but kept wandering unrestfully
to the roadside. Finally he explained. Said he, "Well, I chew, you
know, and the road's so plagued clean."
We walked several miles that afternoon in the bewildering glare of
the sun, the white roads, and the white buildings. Our eyes got to
paining us a good deal. By and by a soothing, blessed twilight spread
its cool balm around. We looked up in pleased surprise and saw that
it proceeded from an intensely black negro who was going by. We
answered his military salute in the grateful gloom of his near
presence, and then passed on into the pitiless white glare again.
The colored women whom we met usually bowed and spoke; so did the
children. The colored men commonly gave the military salute. They
borrow this fashion from the soldiers, no doubt; England has kept a
garrison here for generations. The younger men's custom of carrying
small canes is also borrowed from the soldiers, I suppose, who always
carry a cane, in Bermuda as everywhere else in Britain's broad
The country roads curve and wind hither and thither in the
delightfulest way, unfolding pretty surprises at every turn: billowy
masses of oleander that seem to float out from behind distant
projections like, the pink cloud-banks of sunset; sudden plunges among
cottages and gardens, life and activity, followed by as sudden plunges
into the somber twilight and stillness of the woods; flitting visions
of white fortresses and beacon towers pictured against the sky on
remote hilltops; glimpses of shining green sea caught for a moment
through opening headlands, then lost again; more woods and solitude;
and by and by another turn lays bare, without warning, the full sweep
of the inland ocean, enriched with its bars of soft color and graced
with its wandering sails.
Take any road you please, you may depend upon it you will not stay
in it half a mile. Your road is everything that a road ought to be: it
is bordered with trees, and with strange plants and flowers; it is
shady and pleasant, or sunny and still pleasant; it carries you by the
prettiest and peacefulest and most homelike of homes, and through
stretches of forest that lie in a deep hush sometimes, and sometimes
are alive with the music of birds; it curves always, which is a
continual promise, whereas straight roads reveal everything at a
glance and kill interest. Your road is all this, and yet you will not
stay in it half a mile, for the reason that little seductive,
mysterious roads are always branching out from it on either hand, and
as these curve sharply also and hide what is beyond, you cannot resist
the temptation to desert your own chosen road and explore them. You
are usually paid for your trouble; consequently, your walk inland
always turns out to be one of the most crooked, involved, purposeless,
and interesting experiences a body can imagine. There is enough of
variety. Sometimes you are in the level open, with marshes thick
grown with flag-lances that are ten feet high on the one hand, and
potato and onion orchards on the other; next, you are on a hilltop,
with the ocean and the islands spread around you; presently the road
winds through a deep cut, shut in by perpendicular walls thirty or
forty feet high, marked with the oddest and abruptest stratum lines,
suggestive of sudden and eccentric old upheavals, and garnished with
here and there a clinging adventurous flower, and here and there a
dangling vine; and by and by your way is along the sea edge, and you
may look down a fathom or two through the transparent water and watch
the diamond-like flash and play of the light upon the rocks and sands
on the bottom until you are tired of it--if you are so constituted as
to be able to get tired of it.
You may march the country roads in maiden meditation, fancy free,
by field and farm, for no dog will plunge out at you from unsuspected
gate, with breath-taking surprise of ferocious bark, notwithstanding
it is a Christian land and a civilized. We saw upward of a million
cats in Bermuda, but the people are very abstemious in the matter of
dogs. Two or three nights we prowled the country far and wide, and
never once were accosted by a dog. It is a great privilege to visit
such a land. The cats were no offense when properly distributed, but
when piled they obstructed travel.
As we entered the edge of the town that Sunday afternoon, we
stopped at a cottage to get a drink of water. The proprietor, a
middle-aged man with a good face, asked us to sit down and rest. His
dame brought chairs, and we grouped ourselves in the shade of the
trees by the door. Mr. Smith-- that was not his name, but it will
answer--questioned us about ourselves and our country, and we answered
him truthfully, as a general thing, and questioned him in return. It
was all very simple and pleasant and sociable. Rural, too; for there
was a pig and a small donkey and a hen anchored out, close at hand, by
cords to their legs, on a spot that purported to be grassy.
Presently, a woman passed along, and although she coldly said nothing
she changed the drift of our talk. Said Smith:
"She didn't look this way, you noticed? Well, she is our next
neighbor on one side, and there's another family that's our next
neighbors on the other side; but there's a general coolness all around
now, and we don't speak. Yet these three families, one generation and
another, have lived here side by side and been as friendly as weavers
for a hundred and fifty years, till about a year ago."
"Why, what calamity could have been powerful enough to break up so
old a friendship?"
"Well, it was too bad, but it couldn't be helped. It happened like
this: About a year or more ago, the rats got to pestering my place a
good deal, and I set up a steel trap in my back yard. Both of these
neighbors run considerable to cats, and so I warned them about the
trap, because their cats were pretty sociable around here nights, and
they might get into trouble without my intending it. Well, they shut
up their cats for a while, but you know how it is with people; they
got careless, and sure enough one night the trap took Mrs. Jones's
principal tomcat into camp and finished him up. In the morning Mrs.
Jones comes here with the corpse in her arms, and cries and takes on
the same as if it was a child. It was a cat by the name of
Yelverton--Hector G. Yelverton--a troublesome old rip, with no more
principle than an Injun, though you couldn't make her believe it. I
said all a man could to comfort her, but no, nothing would do but I
must pay for him. Finally, I said I warn't investing in cats now as
much as I was, and with that she walked off in a huff, carrying the
remains with her. That closed our intercourse with the Joneses. Mrs.
Jones joined another church and took her tribe with her. She said she
would not hold fellowship with assassins. Well, by and by comes Mrs.
Brown's turn--she that went by here a minute ago. She had a
disgraceful old yellow cat that she thought as much of as if he was
twins, and one night he tried that trap on his neck, and it fitted him
so, and was so sort of satisfactory, that he laid down and curled up
and stayed with it. Such was the end of Sir John Baldwin."
"Was that the name of the cat?"
"The same. There's cats around here with names that would surprise
you. "Maria" (to his wife), "what was that cat's name that eat a keg
of ratsbane by mistake over at Hooper's, and started home and got
struck by lightning and took the blind staggers and fell in the well
and was 'most drowned. before they could fish him out?"
"That was that colored Deacon Jackson's cat. I only remember the
last end of its name, which was Hold-The-Fort-For-I-Am-Coming
"Sho! that ain't the one. That's the one that eat up an entire box
of Seidlitz powders, and then hadn't any more judgment than to go and
take a drink. He was considered to be a great loss, but I never could
see it. Well, no matter about the names. Mrs. Brown wanted to be
reasonable, but Mrs. Jones wouldn't let her. She put her up to going
to law for damages. So to law she went, and had the face to claim
seven shillings and sixpence. It made a great stir. All the
neighbors went to court. Everybody took sides. It got hotter and
hotter, and broke up all the friendships for three hundred yards
around friendships that had lasted for generations and generations.
"Well, I proved by eleven witnesses that the cat was of a low
character and very ornery, and warn't worth a canceled postage-stamp,
anyway, taking the average of cats here; but I lost the case. What
could I expect? The system is all wrong here, and is bound to make
revolution and bloodshed some day. You see, they give the magistrate
a poor little starvation salary, and then turn him loose on the public
to gouge for fees and costs to live on. What is the natural result?
Why, he never looks into the justice of a case--never once. All he
looks at is which client has got the money. So this one piled the
fees and costs and everything on to me. I could pay specie, don't you
see? and he knew mighty well that if he put the verdict on to Mrs.
Brown, where it belonged, he'd have to take his swag in currency."
"Currency? Why, has Bermuda a currency?"
"Yes-onions. And they were forty per cent. discount, too, then,
because the season had been over as much as three months. So I lost
my case. I had to pay for that cat. But the general trouble the case
made was the worst thing about it. Broke up so much good feeling.
The neighbors don't speak to each other now. Mrs. Brown had named a
child after me. But she changed its name right away. She is a
Baptist. Well, in the course of baptizing it over again it got
drowned. I was hoping we might get to be friendly again some time or
other, but of course this drowning the child knocked that all out of
the question. It would have saved a world of heartbreak and ill blood
if she had named it dry."
I knew by the sigh that this was honest. All this trouble and all
this destruction of confidence in the purity of the bench on account
of a seven-shilling lawsuit about a cat! Somehow, it seemed to "size"
At this point we observed that an English flag had just been placed
at half-mast on a building a hundred yards away. I and my friends
were busy in an instant trying to imagine whose death, among the
island dignitaries, could command such a mark of respect as this.
Then a shudder shook them and me at the same moment, and I knew that
we had jumped to one and the same conclusion: "The governor has gone
to England; it is for the British admiral!"
At this moment Mr. Smith noticed the flag. He said with emotion:
"That's on a boarding-house. I judge there's a boarder dead."
A dozen other flags within view went to half-mast.
"It's a boarder, sure," said Smith.
"But would they half-mast the flags here for a boarder, Mr. Smith?"
"Why, certainly they would, if he was dead."
That seemed to size the country again.
The early twilight of a Sunday evening in Hamilton, Bermuda, is an
alluring time. There is just enough of whispering breeze, fragrance
of flowers, and sense of repose to raise one's thoughts heavenward;
and just enough amateur piano music to keep him, reminded of the other
place. There are many venerable pianos in Hamilton, and they all play
at twilight. Age enlarges and enriches the powers of some musical
instruments--notably those of the violin--but it seems to set a
piano's teeth on edge. Most of the music in vogue there is the same
that those pianos prattled in their innocent infancy; and there is
something very pathetic about it when they go over it now, in their
asthmatic second childhood, dropping a note here and there where a
tooth is gone.
We attended evening service at the stately Episcopal church on the
hill, where five or six hundred people, half of them white and the
other half black, according to the usual Bermudian proportions; and
all well dressed--a thing which is also usual in Bermuda and to be
confidently expected. There was good music, which we heard, and
doubtless--a good sermon, but there was a wonderful deal of coughing,
and so only the high parts of the argument carried over it. As we
came out, after service, I overheard one young girl say to another:
"Why, you don't mean to say you pay duty on gloves and laces! I
only pay postage; have them done up and sent in the Boston
There are; those that believe that the most difficult thing to
create is a woman who can comprehend that it is wrong to smuggle; and
that an impossible thing to create is a woman who will not smuggle,
whether or no, when she gets a chance. But these may be errors.
We went wandering off toward the country, and were soon far down in
the lonely black depths of a road that was roofed over with the dense
foliage of a double rank of great cedars. There was no sound of any
kind there; it was perfectly still. And it was so dark that one could
detect nothing but somber outlines. We strode farther and farther
down this tunnel, cheering the way with chat.
Presently the chat took this shape: "How insensibly the character
of the people and of a government makes its impress upon a stranger,
and gives him a sense of security or of insecurity without his taking
deliberate thought upon the matter or asking anybody a question! We
have been in this land half a day; we have seen none but honest faces;
we have noted the British flag flying, which means efficient
government and good order; so without inquiry we plunge unarmed and
with perfect confidence into this dismal place, which in almost any
other country would swarm with thugs and garroters--"
'Sh! What was that? Stealthy footsteps! Low voices! We gasp, we
close up together, and wait. A vague shape glides out of the dusk and
confronts us. A voice speaks--demands money!
"A shilling, gentlemen, if you please, to help build the new
Blessed sound! Holy sound! We contribute with thankful avidity to
the new Methodist church, and are happy to think how lucky it was that
those little colored Sunday-school scholars did not seize upon
everything we had with violence, before we recovered from our
momentary helpless condition. By the light of cigars we write down
the names of weightier philanthropists than ourselves on the
contribution cards, and then pass on into the farther darkness,
saying, What sort of a government do they call this, where they allow
little black pious children, with contribution cards, to plunge out
upon peaceable strangers in the dark and scare them to death?
We prowled on several hours, sometimes by the seaside, sometimes
inland, and finally managed to get lost, which is a feat that requires
talent in Bermuda. I had on new shoes. They were No. 7's when I
started, but were not more than 5's now, and still diminishing. I
walked two hours in those shoes after that, before we reached home.
Doubtless I could have the reader's sympathy for the asking. Many
people have never had the headache or the toothache, and I am one of
those myself; but every body has worn tight shoes for two or three
hours, and known the luxury of taking them off in a retired place and
seeing his feet swell up and obscure the firmament. Once when I was a
callow, bashful cub, I took a plain, unsentimental country girl to a
comedy one night. I had known her a day; she seemed divine; I wore my
new boots. At the end of the first half-hour she said, "Why do you
fidget so with your feet?" I said, "Did I?" Then I put my attention
there and kept still. At the end of another half-hour she said, "Why
do you say, 'Yes, oh yes!' and 'Ha, ha, oh, certainly! very true!' to
everything I say, when half the time those are entirely irrelevant
answers?" I blushed, and explained that I had been a little
absent-minded. At the end of another half-hour she said, "Please, why
do you grin so steadfastly at vacancy, and yet look so sad?" I
explained that I always did that when I was reflecting. An hour
passed, and then she turned and contemplated me with her earnest eyes
and said, "Why do you cry all the time?" I explained that very funny
comedies always made me cry. At last human nature surrendered, and I
secretly slipped my boots off. This was a mistake. I was not able to
get them on any more. It was a rainy night; there were no omnibuses
going our way; and as I walked home, burning up with shame, with the
girl on one arm and my boots under the other, I was an object worthy
of some compassion--especially in those moments of martyrdom when I
had to pass through the glare that fell upon the pavement from
street-lamps. Finally, this child of the forest said, "Where are your
boots?" and being taken unprepared, I put a fitting finish to the
follies of the evening with the stupid remark, "The higher classes do
not wear them to the theater."
The Reverend had been an army chaplain during the war, and while we
were hunting for a road that would lead to Hamilton he told a story
about two dying soldiers which interested me in spite of my feet. He
said that in the Potomac hospitals rough pine coffins were furnished
by government, but that it was not always possible to keep up with the
demand; so, when a man died, if there was no coffin at hand he was
buried without one. One night, late, two soldiers lay dying in a ward.
A man came in with a coffin on his shoulder, and stood trying to make
up his mind which of these two poor fellows would be likely to need it
first. Both of them begged for it with their fading eyes--they were
past talking. Then one of them protruded a wasted hand from his
blankets and made a feeble beckoning sign with the fingers, to
signify, "Be a good fellow; put it under my bed, please." The man did
it, and left. The lucky soldier painfully turned himself in his bed
until he faced the other warrior, raised himself partly on his elbow,
and began to work up a mysterious expression of some kind in his face.
Gradually, irksomely, but surely and steadily, it developed, and at
last it took definite form as a pretty successful wink. The sufferer
fell back exhausted with his labor, but bathed in glory. Now entered
a personal friend of No. 2, the despoiled soldier. No. 2 pleaded with
him with eloquent eyes, till presently he understood, and removed the
coffin from under No. 1's bed and put it under No. 2's. No. 2
indicated his joy, and made some more signs; the friend understood
again, and put his arm under No. 2's shoulders and lifted him partly
up. Then the dying hero turned the dim exultation of his eye upon No.
1, and began a slow and labored work with his hands; gradually he
lifted one hand up toward his face; it grew weak and dropped back
again; once more he made the effort, but failed again. He took a
rest; he gathered all the remnant of his strength, and this time he
slowly but surely carried his thumb to the side of his nose, spread
the gaunt fingers wide in triumph, and dropped back dead. That
picture sticks by me yet. The "situation" is unique.
The next morning, at what seemed a very early hour, the little
white table-waiter appeared suddenly in my room and shot a single word
out of himself "Breakfast!"
This was a remarkable boy in many ways. He was about eleven years
old; he had alert, intent black eyes; he was quick of movement; there
was no hesitation, no uncertainty about him anywhere; there was a
military decision in his lip, his manner, his speech, that was an
astonishing thing to see in a little chap like him; he wasted no
words; his answers always came so quick and brief that they seemed to
be part of the question that had been asked instead of a reply to it.
When he stood at table with his fly-brush, rigid, erect, his face set
in a cast-iron gravity, he was a statue till he detected a dawning
want in somebody's eye; then he pounced down, supplied it, and was
instantly a statue again. When he was sent to the kitchen for
anything, he marched upright till he got to the door; he turned
hand-springs the rest of the way.
I thought I would make one more effort to get some conversation out
of this being.
"Have you called the Reverend, or are--"
"Is it early, or is--"
"Do you have to do all the 'chores,' or is there somebody to give
"Is there only one parish in this island, or are there--"
"Is the big church on the hill a parish church, or is it--"
"Is taxation here classified into poll, parish, town, and--"
Before I could cudgel another question out of my head, he was
below, hand-springing across the back yard. He had slid down the
balusters, headfirst. I gave up trying to provoke a discussion with
him. The essential element of discussion had been left out of him;
his answers were so final and exact that they did not leave a doubt to
hang conversation on. I suspect that there is the making of a mighty
man or a mighty rascal in this boy--according to circumstances--but
they are going to apprentice him to a carpenter. It is the way the
world uses its opportunities.
During this day and the next we took carriage drives about the
island and over to the town of St. George's, fifteen or twenty miles
away. Such hard, excellent roads to drive over are not to be found
elsewhere out of Europe. An intelligent young colored man drove us,
and acted as guide- book. In the edge of the town we saw five or six
mountain-cabbage palms (atrocious name!) standing in a straight row,
and equidistant from each other. These were not the largest or the
tallest trees I have ever seen, but they were the stateliest, the most
majestic. That row of them must be the nearest that nature has ever
come to counterfeiting a colonnade. These trees are all the same
height, say sixty feet; the trunks as gray as granite, with a very
gradual and perfect taper; without sign of branch or knot or flaw; the
surface not looking like bark, but like granite that has been dressed
and not polished. Thus all the way up the diminishing shaft for fifty
feet; then it begins to take the appearance of being closely wrapped,
spool-fashion, with gray cord, or of having been turned in a lathe.
Above this point there is an outward swell, and thence upward for six
feet or more the cylinder is a bright, fresh green, and is formed of
wrappings like those of an ear of green Indian corn. Then comes the
great, spraying palm plume, also green. Other palm trees always lean
out of the perpendicular, or have a curve in them. But the plumb-line
could not detect a deflection in any individual of this stately row;
they stand as straight as the colonnade of Baalbec; they have its
great height, they have its gracefulness, they have its dignity; in
moonlight or twilight, and shorn of their plumes, they would duplicate
The birds we came across in the country were singularly tame; even
that wild creature, the quail, would pick around in the grass at ease
while we inspected it and talked about it at leisure. A small bird of
the canary species had to be stirred up with the butt-end of the whip
before it would move, and then it moved only a couple of feet. It is
said that even the suspicious flea is tame and sociable in Bermuda,
and will allow himself to be caught and caressed without misgivings.
This should be taken with allowance, for doubtless there is more or
less brag about it. In San Francisco they used to claim that their
native flea could kick a child over, as if it were a merit in a flea
to be able to do that; as if the knowledge of it trumpeted abroad
ought to entice immigration. Such a thing in nine cases out of ten
would be almost sure to deter a thinking man from coming.
We saw no bugs or reptiles to speak of, and so I was thinking of
saying in print, in a general way, that there were none at all; but
one night after I had gone to bed, the Reverend came into my room
carrying something, and asked, "Is this your boot?" I said it was,
and he said he had met a spider going off with it. Next morning he
stated that just at dawn the same spider raised his window and was
coming in to get a shirt, but saw him and fled.
I inquired, "Did he get the shirt?"
"How did you know it was a shirt he was after?"
"I could see it in his eye."
We inquired around, but could hear of no Bermudian spider capable
of doing these things. Citizens said that their largest spiders could
not more than spread their legs over an ordinary saucer, and that they
had always been considered honest. Here was testimony of a clergyman
against the testimony of mere worldlings--interested ones, too. On
the whole, I judged it best to lock up my things.
Here and there on the country roads we found lemon, papaw, orange,
lime, and fig trees; also several sorts of palms, among them the
cocoa, the date, and the palmetto. We saw some bamboos forty feet
high, with stems as thick as a man's arm. Jungles of the mangrove
tree stood up out of swamps; propped on their interlacing roots as
upon a tangle of stilts. In drier places the noble tamarind sent down
its grateful cloud of shade. Here and there the blossomy tamarisk
adorned the roadside. There was a curious gnarled and twisted black
tree, without a single leaf on, it. It might have passed itself off
for a dead apple tree but for the fact that it had a a star-like,
red-hot flower sprinkled sparsely over its person. It had the
scattery red glow that a constellation might have when glimpsed
through smoked glass, It is possible that our constellations have been
so constructed as to be invisible through smoked glass; if this is so
it is a great mistake.
We saw a tree that bears grapes, and just as calmly and
unostentatiously as a vine would do it. We saw an India-rubber tree,
but out of season, possibly, so there were no shoes on it, nor
suspenders, nor anything that a person would properly expect to find
there. This gave it an impressively fraudulent look. There was
exactly one mahogany tree on the island. I know this to be reliable,
because I saw a man who said he had counted it many a time and could
not be mistaken. He was a man with a harelip and a pure heart, and
everybody said he was as true as steel. Such men are all too few.
One's eye caught near and far the pink cloud of the oleander and
the red blaze of the pomegranate blossom. In one piece of wild wood
the morning- glory vines had wrapped the trees to their very tops, and
decorated them all over with couples and clusters of great bluebells-a
fine and striking spectacle, at a little distance. But the dull cedar
is everywhere, and is the prevailing foliage. One does not appreciate
how dull it is until the varnished, bright green attire of the
infrequent lemon tree pleasantly intrudes its contrast. In one thing
Bermuda is eminently tropical--was in May, at least--the unbrilliant,
slightly faded, unrejoicing look of the landscape. For forests
arrayed in a blemishless magnificence of glowing green foliage that
seems to exult in its own existence and can move the beholder to an
enthusiasm that will make him either shout or cry, one must go to
countries that have malignant winters.
We saw scores of colored farmers digging their crops of potatoes
and onions, their wives and children helping--entirely contented and
comfortable, if looks go for anything. We never met a man, or woman,
or child anywhere in this sunny island who seemed to be unprosperous,
or discontented, or sorry about anything. This sort of monotony
became very tiresome presently, and even something worse. The
spectacle of an entire nation groveling in contentment is an
infuriating thing. We felt the lack of something in this community--a
vague, an indefinable, an elusive something, and yet a lack. But
after considerable thought we made out what it was--tramps. Let them
go there, right now, in a body. It is utterly virgin soil. Passage
is cheap. Every true patriot in America will help buy tickets. Whole
armies of these excellent beings can be spared from our midst and our
polls; they will find a delicious climate and a green, kind-hearted
people. There are potatoes and onions for all, and a generous welcome
for the first batch that arrives, and elegant graves for the second.
It was the Early Rose potato the people were digging. Later in the
year they have another crop, which they call the Garnet. We buy their
potatoes (retail) at fifteen dollars a barrel; and those colored
farmers buy ours for a song, and live on them. Havana might exchange
cigars with Connecticut in the same advantageous way, if she thought
We passed a roadside grocery with a sign up, "Potatoes Wanted." An
ignorant stranger, doubtless. He could not have gone thirty steps
from his place without finding plenty of them.
In several fields the arrowroot crop was already sprouting.
Bermuda used to make a vast annual profit out of this staple before
firearms came into such general use.
The island is not large. Somewhere in the interior a man ahead of
us had a very slow horse. I suggested that we had better go by him;
but the driver said the man had but a little way to go. I waited to
see, wondering how he could know. Presently the man did turn down
another road. I asked, "How did you know he would?"
"Because I knew the man, and where he lived."
I asked him, satirically, if he knew everybody in the island; he
answered, very simply, that he did. This gives a body's mind a good
substantial grip on the dimensions of the place.
At the principal hotel at St. George's, a young girl, with a sweet,
serious face, said we could not be furnished with dinner, because we
had not been expected, and no preparation had been made. Yet it was
still an hour before dinner-time. We argued, she yielded not; we
supplicated, she was serene. The hotel had not been expecting an
inundation of two people, and so it seemed that we should have to go
home dinnerless. I said we were not very hungry a fish would do. My
little maid answered, it was not the market-day for fish. Things
began to look serious; but presently the boarder who sustained the
hotel came in, and when the case was laid before him he was cheerfully
willing to divide. So we had much pleasant chat at table about St.
George's chief industry, the repairing of damaged ships; and in
between we had a soup that had something in it that seemed to taste
like the hereafter, but it proved to be only pepper of a particularly
vivacious kind. And we had an iron-clad chicken that was deliciously
cooked, but not in the right way. Baking was not the thing to
convince this sort. He ought to have been put through a quartz- mill
until the "tuck" was taken out of him, and then boiled till we came
again. We got a good deal of sport out of him, but not enough
sustenance to leave the victory on our side. No matter; we had
potatoes and a pie and a sociable good time. Then a ramble through
the town, which is a quaint one, with interesting, crooked streets,
and narrow, crooked lanes, with here and there a grain of dust. Here,
as in Hamilton, the dwellings had Venetian blinds of a very sensible
pattern. They were not double shutters, hinged at the sides, but a
single broad shutter, hinged at the top; you push it outward, from the
bottom, and fasten it at any angle required by the sun or desired by
All about the island one sees great white scars on the hill-slopes.
These are dished spaces where the soil has been scraped off and the
coral exposed and glazed with hard whitewash. Some of these are a
quarter-acre in size. They catch and carry the rainfall to
reservoirs; for the wells are few and poor, and there are no natural
springs and no brooks.
They say that the Bermuda climate is mild and equable, with never
any snow or ice, and that one may be very comfortable in spring
clothing the year round, there. We had delightful and decided summer
weather in May, with a flaming sun that permitted the thinnest of
raiment, and yet there was a constant breeze; consequently we were
never discomforted by heat. At four or five in the afternoon the
mercury began to go down, and then it became necessary to change to
thick garments. I went to St. George's in the morning clothed in the
thinnest of linen, and reached home at five in the afternoon with two
overcoats on. The nights are said to be always cool and bracing. We
had mosquito-nets, and the Reverend said the mosquitoes persecuted him
a good deal. I often heard him slapping and banging at these
imaginary creatures with as much zeal as if they had been real. There
are no mosquitoes in the Bermudas in May.
The poet Thomas Moore spent several months in Bermuda more than
seventy years ago. He was sent out to be registrar of the admiralty.
I am not quite clear as to the function of a registrar of the
admiralty of Bermuda, but I think it is his duty to keep a record of
all the admirals born there. I will inquire into this. There was not
much doing in admirals, and Moore got tired and went away. A
reverently preserved souvenir of him is still one of the treasures of
the islands: I gathered the idea, vaguely, that it was a jug, but was
persistently thwarted in the twenty-two efforts I made to visit it.
However, it was no matter, for I found out afterward that it was only
There are several "sights" in the Bermudas, of course, but they are
easily avoided. This is a great advantage--one cannot have it in
Europe. Bermuda is the right country for a jaded man to "loaf " in.
There are no harassments; the deep peace and quiet of the country
sink into one's body and bones and give his conscience a rest, and
chloroform the legion of invisible small devils that are always trying
to whitewash his hair. A good many Americans go there about the first
of March and remain until the early spring weeks have finished their
villainies at home.
The Bermudians are hoping soon to have telegraphic communication
with the world. But even after they shall have acquired this curse it
will still be a good country to go to for a vacation, for there are
charming little islets scattered about the inclosed sea where one
could live secure from interruption. The telegraph-boy would have to
come in a boat, and one could easily kill him while he was making his
We had spent four days in Bermuda--three bright ones out of doors
and one rainy one in the house, we being disappointed about getting a
yacht for a sail; and now our furlough was ended, and we entered into
the ship again and sailed homeward.
We made the run home to New York quarantine in three days and five
hours, and could have gone right along up to the city if we had had a
health permit. But health permits are not granted after seven in the
evening, partly because a ship cannot be inspected and overhauled with
exhaustive, thoroughness except in daylight, and partly because
health-officers are liable to catch cold if they expose themselves to
the night air. Still, you can buy a permit after hours for five
dollars extra, and the officer will do the inspecting next week. Our
ship and passengers lay under expense and in humiliating captivity all
night, under the very nose of the little official reptile who is
supposed to protect New York from pestilence by his vigilant
"inspections." This imposing rigor gave everybody a solemn and awful
idea of the beneficent watchfulness of our government, and there were
some who wondered if anything finer could be found in other countries.
In the morning we were all a-tiptoe to witness the intricate
ceremony of inspecting the ship. But it was a disappointing thing.
The health- officer's tug ranged alongside for a moment, our purser
handed the lawful three-dollar permit fee to the health-officer's
bootblack, who passed us a folded paper in a forked stick, and away we
went. The entire "inspection" did not occupy thirteen seconds.
The health-officer's place is worth a hundred thousand dollars a
year to him. His system of inspection is perfect, and therefore
cannot be improved on; but it seems to me that his system of
collecting his fees might be amended. For a great ship to lie idle
all night is a most costly loss of time; for her passengers to have to
do the same thing works to them the same damage, with the addition of
an amount of exasperation and bitterness of soul that the spectacle of
that health- officer's ashes on a shovel could hardly sweeten. Now
why would it not be better and simpler to let the ships pass in
unmolested, and the fees and permits be exchanged once a year by post.