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Past and Present
Scene in a Ferry-Boat


It was a raw, cold morning in the latter part of November, after spending nearly a week on a large island, in the River St. Lawrence, peopled with lumbermen and “squatters,” which constituted one of the Wesleyan Missions, at a Quarterly Meeting, whose services had been protracted for several days, that I had the good fortune to ascertain a ferry .boat would start at an early hour for the city opposite. I had been for some days most painfully afflicted with an illness, the result of cold and hardship; for which in that inhospitable region, I could obtain no remedy, and which was becoming worse and worse every day. I had refused to cross on Sabbath, from conscientious motives; and every day since it had been so stormy and rough that no craft of the size of the ferry-boat could possibly live in the swell that set in from Lake Ontario. But the wind falling on the morning referred to, the horn at the ferry-house was blown, and there was a general rush of the weather-bound, and of those who were anxious to cross over to market once more before the river was shut up with ice. A more motley group than that which was huddled together in the little, dirty apology for a cabin, surely was never assembled. It was such a group of “characters” as the pencil of a Hogarth would have delighted to portray; and would have furnished ample materials for one of the “Pick-Wick Papers'’ of a Boz. There were several of the agriculturists and business men of the island, a squad of market-women, young and old—a Romish priest, who looked thread bare and squalid—and the dramatis personas who figure in the following colloquy. The first was a burly, dissipated, audacious-looking Scotchman, a wandering stone-cutter, in a round-skirted drab coat, rather shabby. The second was a poor squalid emaciated-looking old Irish Roman Catholic, in an old flapped hat and fear-naught pea-jacket, worn through at the elbows. The third was a broad-spoken North-of-Ireland man, a professed Protestant, but very ignorant, whose garments bespoke his half-farmer, half-butcher occupation.

We had no sooner pushed out from the wharf than the pedantic Scotchman began to enlighten the company on his anti-emperance, and anti-christian, or infidel principles. After a few ineffectual efforts to reason with this impracticable man I gave place to the old Roman Catholic in the fear-naught jacket. As the infidel boasted a great deal of his knowledge of “Aljaybra,” the old Irishman took him up on certain mathematical questions (I confess, beyond my depth) on which, to use an Americanism, he “ used him up” in about “ five York minutes.” The wily Scot finding himself worsted in this particular, transferred the debate to religion and objected to the truth of the doctrines and institutions of Christianity. Here the Roman Catholic was not equally at home. He urged the authority of the Church. The infidel called for proof of its authority. The old Irishman was non-plussed, At this juncture the greasy butcher came to the rescue, and talked of using striking arguments, saying he could “ bate a dozen” of the Scotchman, and that he would “knock his two eyes into one.” Scotchman.— “You’r a butcher, are you?” Butcher.—“Yes,” Scotchman.—“Then I don’t want to have any thing to say to you, or any man that takes the life of living creatures.” Butcher.— “Don’t you ate mate?” Scotchman.—“I eat nothing but fish.” Butcher.—“But don’t the Scripture say, "That except these days be shortened, there can be no flesh saved?’” Scotchman,—“What?” Butcher.—“That if these days are not shortened, there can be no flesh saved.” Scotchman.— “I confess that that beats me—you are beyond my depth altogether!” At this an uproarious laugh burst from all the listeners, who had sufficient intelligence and discernment to perceive the absurd ludicrous character of the whole affair; and the rest joined in the laugh from sympathy. The boat having neared the quay the most unique scene I ever witnessed was ended. It served to divert my mind from pain and sea-sickness during the three hours across a Strait of as many miles, which was occasioned by our frequent tackings to gain headway against the wind.

The kind and skilful treatment of my city friends soon restored me to my wonted health. Aijd another thirty-six hours found me at home with my little family and a brother preacher, •recounting the Jerry-boat scene, at the breakfast table, after an absence of four weeks.


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