Departure from Greenock in the Brig.
"Laurel".--Fitting-up of the Vessel.--Boy Passenger.--Sea Prospect.--Want of
Occupation and Amusement.--Captain's Goldfinch.
Brig. "Laurel", July 18, 1832
I RECEIVED your last kind letter, my dearest mother, only a few hours before
we set sail from Greenock. As you express a wish that I should give you a
minute detail of our voyage, I shall take up my subject from the time of our
embarkation, and write as inclination prompts me. Instead of having reason
to complain of short letters, you will, I fear, find mine only too prolix.
After many delays and disappointments, we
succeeded at last in obtaining a passage in a fast-sailing brig, the
"Laurel", of Greenock; and favourable winds are now rapidly carrying us
across the Atlantic.
The "Laurel" is not a regular passenger-ship,
which I consider an advantage, for what we lose in amusement and variety we
assuredly gain in comfort. The cabin is neatly fitted up, and I enjoy the
luxury (for such it is, compared with the narrow berths of the state cabin)
of a handsome sofa, with crimson draperies, in the great cabin. The state
cabin is also ours. We paid fifteen pounds each for our passage to Montreal.
This was high, but it includes every expense; and, in fact, we had no
choice. The only vessel in the river bound for Canada, was a passenger-ship,
literally swarming with emigrants, chiefly of the lower class of
The only passengers besides ourselves in the
"Laurel" are the captain's nephew, a pretty yellow-haired lad, about fifteen
years of age, who works his passage out, and a young gentleman who is going
out as clerk in a merchant's house in Quebec. He seems too much wrapped up
in his own affairs to be very communicative to others; he walks much, talks
little, and reads less, but often amuses himself by singing as he paces the
deck, "Home, sweet home," and that delightful song by Camoens, "Isle of
beauty." It is a sweet song, and I can easily imagine the charm it has for a
I was much pleased with the scenery of the
Clyde; the day we set sail was a lovely one, and I remained on deck till
nightfall. The morning light found our vessel dashing gallantly along, with
a favourable breeze, through the north channel; that day we saw the last of
the Hebrides, and before night lost sight of the north coast of Ireland. A
wide expanse of water and sky is now our only prospect, unvaried by any
object save the distant and scarcely to be traced outline of some vessel
just seen at the verge of the horizon, a speck in the immensity of space, or
sometimes a few sea-fowl. I love to watch these wanderers of the ocean, as
they rise and fal with the rocking billows, or flit about our vessel; and
often I wonder whence they came, to what distant shore they are bound, and
if they make the rude wave their home and resting-place during the long day
and dark night; and then I recall to mind the words of the American poet,
"He who from zone to zone
Guides through the boundless air their certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone
Wilt guide my steps aright."
Though we have been little more than a week on
board, I am getting weary of the voyage. I can only compare the monotony of
it to being weather-bound in some country inn. I have already made myself
acquainted with all the books worth reading in the ship's library;
unfortunately, it is chiefly made up with old novels and musty romances.
When the weather is fine I sit on a bench on
the deck, wrapped in my cloak, and sew, or pace the deck with my husband,
and talk over plans for the future, which in all probability will never be
realized. I really do pity men who are not actively employed: women have
always their needle as a resource against the overwhelming weariness of an
idle life; but where a man is confined to a small space, such as the deck
and cabin of a trading vessel, with nothing to see, nothing to hear, nothing
to do, and nothing to read, he is really a very pitiable creature.
There is one passenger on board that seems
perfectly happy, if one may judge from the liveliness of the songs with
which he greets us whenever we approach his cage. It is "Harry," the
captain's goldfinch--"the "captain's mate," as the sailors term him. This
pretty creature has made no fewer than twelve voyages in the "Laurel". "It
is all one to him whether his cage is at sea or on land, he is still at
home," said the captain, regarding his little favourite with an air of great
affection, and evidently gratified by the attention I bestowed on his bird.
I have already formed a friendship with the
little captive. He never fails to greet my approach with one of his sweetest
songs, and will take from my fingers a bit of biscuit, which he holds in his
claws till he has thanked me with a few of his clearest notes. This mark of
acknowledgment is termed by the steward, "saying-grace."
If the wind still continues to favour us, the
captain tells us we shall be on the banks of Newfoundland in another week.
Farewell for the present.