Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - Gaslight and Daylight, by George Augustus Sala, 1859 - Chapter 29 - Cheerily, Cheerily

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IF I had not been in London within the last month, and seen the wondrous tide of emigration setting out from the docks there; it I had not read in certain journals of the Jeremy Diddler and its teeming cargo; if I had not passed. through the port of Southampton lately, and gazed upon the Hampshire folk singing loud emigratory poeaens, and departing by whole tribes for the Diggings, with cradle, mattock, and spade; if many weeks had passed since at Havre I saw the Grand Bassin crammed—choked, with Yankee liners, with emigrant-ships for the States, for California, and for Australia (some of which, I make bold to tell you, in confidence, were in my private opinion no better than tubs) ; if I did not know that Plymouth, and Bristol, and Cork, yea, and the American seaboard far away (wheels within wheels) had each their exodus; that in remote South Sea islands and Pacific inlets, painted savages were packing up their wardrobes, consisting, I suppose, of a tomahawk and a toothpick, neatly folded in a plantain-leaf; if I did not know that in swarming Canton and thieving Shanghae, and piratical little mud-and-thatch villages on the Yo-hang-ho and Yang-tse-Kiang, broad-hatted and long-tailed Chinamen were saving up pice and cash for passage-money and gold-digging tools; if I did not know that, from Indus to the Pole, blacks, whites, tawnies, and mulattos, were baking human heads, and polishing skulls, and carving concentric balls, and weaving gorgeous shawls, and curing reindeers’ tongues, and fermenting Champagne wine for the Australian market; that, wherever there were hearts to feel and tongues to express the fierce, raging lust for [-331-] gold, the cry was, ‘Off, off, and away!’—if I did not know this, I say, I should be tempted to think that from Liverpool alone the great army of voluntary exiles was setting forth; that there, and there alone, was the Red Sea and the host of Israel, with their gold, and silver, and precious stones; there, the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud; there, the prospect of wandering in a watery desert not forty, but one hundred days: for, verily, all Liverpool seems to be off.
        ‘A king stood on the rocky brow
     That looks o’er seaborn Salamis . . . '
But I, poor, penniless plebeian, with never a regal bend in my scutcheon, stand on the stones of mud-born Liverpool; every stone of whose docks, and every brick of whose ware­houses was wont to be cemented, according to Mr. George Frederick Cooke, ‘by the blood and sweat of the enslaved. and murdered African;’ and from the brows of Prince’s Dock, and Canning Dock, and Bramley Moore Dock—from the brows of that unequalled line of basins, reaching from the shore opposite Eastham to below Bootle and Waterloo—I gaze on the ‘ships by thousands,’ and the ‘men in nations,’ that lie below.
Oh, cheerily, cheerily! is the anchor-song, morning, noon, and night in the great docks where the vessels from the coast of Africa lie, which have come home laden with gold-dust, and palm-oil; and elephants’ teeth, and which are off again, ere many days, with huge packages of Birmingham hardware and Manchester goods, coral necklaces, and gimcrack ornaments for Mumbo Jumbo and Ashantee fetishes, slop rifles and. cutlasses for the King of Dahomey’s amazons. Bright blue or bright green, with brave streaks of white, are these vessels painted—hulls, masts, and yards; whether that the rays of the African sun fall less fiercely on them than on a black surface, or whether to dazzle and bewilder the simple savages with harlequin colours, deponent sayeth not. A strong, a very strong odour of palm-oil scents the breeze, pervades the decks, breaks out in a rich oleaginous dew on the apparel and faces of the bystanders. Here is a gruff mate, seated on a water-cask, teaching a parrot to swear, who is all oil—clogged and sticky with the luscious product. Talk of the Hull whalers! what are those train-oil-indued vessels to these greasy ships and greasier men? Gigantic tubs and casks of palm-oil, worth, they tell me, from thirty to forty [-332-] pounds each, are being hoisted on shore, rolled about the quays, gauged by the vicious-looking boring-tools of the Custom-house officers, and carted away in greasy vans.
Empty casks there are also, and in plenty, which are to be conveyed back to Africa; then brought home full of oil again. How many voyages have these ill-coopered tubs made since they were hammered up by swarthy, black Kroomen, in some sweltering barracoon on the Guinea coast? What raging suns, what blustering hurricanes, what soaking deluges of rain, what legions of winged locusts and mosquitoes, must have shone, and blown, and battered against those crazy old staves, since they first held palm-oil! Coopered, too, by slaves; worked at to the music of cowhide-whips, or paid for in drains of rum, or lacquered buttons and scraps of red cloth. And yet, consoling thought! how many thousand pounds of candles and bars of soap have been made from the yellow grease these casks have held, and how little we reck, seeing them kicking about on this Liverpool quay, of what the Kroomen’s cooperage and the greasy sap of the African tree have done for civilization and for Christianity. As I muse, come a flying horde of ragged wretches to scrape with oyster- shells and long nails what portions of coagulated oil yet adhere to the insides of the casks. But a stern dock policeman falls upon them and smites them.
If you think to cross that bridge leading from one dock to the other, my friend in the bombazine dress, the black triangular bonnet, and the big, flat, chequered basket like a wicker draught-board, you will be disappointed, as I have been. For while I was lingering on the Palm-Oil Quay, underground machinery was at work, strange noises were heard, some cog-wheels moved, and the bridge, gravely parting in the middle, disappeared into the dock walls, like a trick in a pantomime. A bold baker made a flying leap on one half, just as the water-parted operation took place; and he gained the opposite side, somehow, but how I know not, and now stands there exulting, though confessing that it was a ‘close shave.’ A dreary gulf flows between him and me; but a big ship is coming out of dock, they tell me, and. I must make time best of it, and wait till she has passed, and the bridge is drawn to again.
A disappointment! No big ship is here, but a little leg-of-mutton-sailed, squat, grubby barge, full of—mercy on us chairs!—and tables. The ‘Saucy Sally’ of Lancaster, Flachey, [-333-] master. There are chests of drawers for’ard, and four-post bedsteads aft; and the captain (five feet of tarpaulin, with a yellow oilskin hat, in the midst of which his brown face glows like a gigantic blister) commands his crew from a Pembroke table. The ‘Saucy Sally’ is not too proud to remove goods in town and country, and to enact the part of a spring van on the salt seas. Some Hegira from Liverpool to Lancaster is she favouring now, though I cannot, in connection with the railway and this Pickford and Chaplin and Horne era, discover the advantage of the long sea for so short a period of transit. I am reminded of that dear but old-fashioned friend of mine who, to this day, insists on coming from Margate by the hoy! A hoy from Margate in 1859; shade of Charles Lamb!
The ‘Saucy Sally’ has dropped down into the river, the captain bearing, with phlegmatic composure, some jocose criticisms on his singular cargo. But now, following her, comes the big ship in good. earnest—the ‘Zephaniah, ‘W. Caucus,’ of New York, fifteen hundred tons, bound for Port Phillip. It may appear strange to you that an American vessel should carry British emigrants to a British colony, but stranger still will it seem, when I inform you (as I am informed by a politician with an umbrella and a shockingly bad tongue in the way of statistics, behind me) that British vessels can in no wise attempt the carrying trade in the American seaports, and would convey emigrants from New York to San Francisco at their peril. At which the statistical umbrella-carrier gets quite purple and inflamed with indignation against free-trade without reciprocity; so much so, that I move out of the way, being of the free-trade way of thinking.
The ‘Zepbaniah, W. Caucus,’ was a large cotton-ship once; but, no sooner did the exodus to Australia commence than she became suddenly, and without any prior training, one of the Blue Peter line of packet-ships, which, as the whole world knows, are all A. l’s at Lloyd’s, are all copper-bottomed and copper-fastened, all carry experienced surgeons, and all offer peculiar and unrivalled accommodation for cabin and steerage passengers. The three-quarter statuette of Z. W. Caucus— probably a great transatlantic shipowner, or lawgiver, or speculator in town lots, or orator, or wild-beast tamer, or something famous—stands proudly, in wood and whitewash, at the head of the ship, surveying the hawse-holes with the eye of a monarch, and defying time bowsprit as he would an [-334-] enemy. Looking at him I am fain to confess the very great family likeness between figure-heads generally. They all seem to have been chiselled from the same models, designed in the same train of thought. Caucus, now, with the addition of a cocked hat and epaulettes, and minus an eye or an arm, would be twin-brother to Admiral Nelson, bound to Singapore, close by; with a complete coat of gold-leaf, a fiercely-curled wig and a spiky crown, he would do excellently well for ‘King Odin,’ screw-steamer for Odessa; with an extra leer notched into his face, his whiskers shaved off, and in his hand a cornucopia resembling a horse’s nosebag, twisted and filled with turnips, he would pass muster for Peace or Plenty; while with a black face, a golden crown and. bust, and a trebly-gilt kitchen-poker or sceptre, he would be the very spit and fetch of Queen Cleopatra. Distressingly alike are they, these figure-heads, with the same perpetual unmeaning grin in their wooden faces, the same eyes, coats, hair, and noses in salient angles; the same presumptuous attitudes, as though the forecastle (save the mark !) were not good enough for them, and carrying, all, the same pervading expression of impertinent inanity—so much so, that I could almost find it in my heart to strike them. Among other departments of the Fine Arts as applied to practical uses, figure-heads stand specially in need of reformation; and some day or other, when Sir Edwin Landseer has taken that zoological abomination, the Royal Aunts, in hand; when Mr. Grant or Mr. Thorburn have turned their attention towards the pictorial amelioration of the Marquisses of Granby and Heroes of Waterloo in the possession of the Licensed Victuallers; the Government will, perhaps, commission Mr. Bailey or Mr. Lough to apply the long-neglected principles of ornamental statuary to the works of our nautical sculptors; and, rivalling that great benefactor who first reformed our tailors’ bills, reform our figure-heads.
But to the Z. W. Caucus. Her accommodation. Well; I grant the copper bottom and copper fastenings, the experienced surgeon and the unrivalled cabins, but the steerage, the commonalty’s cabins—humph! I look on the deck of the big ship, and I see it alive with fevered, dusty, uncomfortable emigration at sixteen pounds a head :—a desert of heads, and tossing, struggling legs and arms, with an oasis of poop, where the cabin passengers smile blandly from beneath their tegmine fagi, and peer with spy-glasses and lorgnettes at [-335-] the crowded fore-deck, as they would at a curious show­ Why don’t the steerage folk go down below instead of cumbering the decks? is a question you will very naturally ask, and which has been asked, too, several times within the last ten minutes by the captain and his mates, with sundry energetic references connected with comparative anatomy, and the invocation of strange deities. Why don’t they go below? Well, poor creatures! do you know what the below is they have to go to, and to live in, for four months? Erebus multiplied by Nox, divided by Limbo, multiplied again by a chaos of trunks, and casks, and. narrow berths, and bruised elbows—of pots, pans, kettles, and children’s heads, that seem to fulfil the office of the hempen fenders on board steamboats, and to be used to moderate the first sharp collision between two hard surfaces—a chaos of slipping, stumbling, swearing, groaning, overcrowding, and—no, not fighting. Let us be just to the poor people. There is more law, and justice, and kindly forbearance, and respect for age and feebleness in the steerage of an emigrant ship, than in the Great Hall of Pleas all the year round, with the great door wide open and all the judges ranged. Men find their level here, in these darksome wooden dungeons; but man’s level, gentlemen, is not necessarily brutality, and violence, and selfishness. I have seen kindness with never a shirt, and self-denial in rags; and down in noisome, sweltering steerages there is, I will make bold to aver, many a Dorcas ministering barefoot, and many a good Samaritan who has but what he stands upright in.
Smile away, gentlemen passengers on the poop. You have but to smile, for your passages are paid, and your prospects on arrival in the colony are bright. Smile away, for you will have fresh meat during a great portion of the passage, and preserved provisions during the remainder. For you are those crates of ducks and geese, those festoons of vegetables, those hundredweights of beef, and veal, and mutton, packed in ice. Smile away, for you have cosy, airy little state­rooms, with cheerful holes in the wall for beds, an elegant saloon, an obsequious steward, books, flutes, accordions, cards, dice, and book-learning. You can, if you have a mind, write your memoirs or a novel, during the voyage, compose an opera, study navigation, or learn the key-bugle. If you must be sea-sick, you can retire to your state-rooms and be ill there comfortably and elegantly. But, down in the steerage, how are the poor folk to wile away the weary time? Fancy [-336-] the honest creatures during the first three days after the Z. W. Caucus has sailed. Everybody ill, everybody groaning, all the women whimpering, all the children crying. Everything unpacked, but nothing ‘come-at-able.’ Heavy trunks, chests of drawers, and washhand-stands, breaking away, and becoming bulls of upholstery in ship-board china-shops. Knives and forks and plates running wild, and drinking-horns going clean out of their mind. ‘That’ll be it, sir,’ says a sailor, who has been ‘out foreign,’ to me; ‘but bless you, when they have been well shaken up for two or three days, they’ll settle down comfortably enough.’ Ah! when they have ‘settled down,’ and are bearing straight away across the great ocean, what dreary days and nights they will pass! How bitterly grandfather will regret that he is ‘no scollard,’ and that he didn’t ‘take to his laming kindly;’ and how little boy Ned, who has thriven at school, reading from a torn and yellow copy of the Weekly Blunderer (more prized there than the newest, dampest, third edition of the ‘Times’ on London breakfast tables), reading to a delighted gaping audience of graybeards and matrons, babes and sucklings, will become for that and many succeeding days a wonder and a prodigy! Then, on fine Sunday evenings, they will lean quietly over the bulwarks, and watch the rapid course of the good ship; or, shading their eyes from the sun’s rays, looking wistfully ahead, and speculate where land may be, far, far away beyond the waste of blue. There will be gay fellows aboard who will sing songs and crack jokes; there will be story­tellers as indefatigable as that prince of barbers who had the seven brothers; but, I am afraid also that there will be many score passengers in that narrow steerage who will be insufferably bored and wearied by the voyage: who will count the time from breakfast to dinner, and so to supper, and so to bed, wishing the good ship and her passengers, several times during the twenty-four hours, at Jericho.
Still glides the Z. W. Caucus out of dock, somewhat slowly, for she is heavily laden, and lies deep in the water. A portion of her crew are busy at the capstan-bars—sallow, Yankee fellows mostly, with elf-locks and red flannel shirts, and tarry trousers. As they pace, they spit; and in the intervals of spitting they sing, or rather moan in chorus a dismal ditty, that hath neither tune nor words, but which means something, I suppose. Anon the strains are wild and fitful, like the wailings of an AEolian harp; anon they rise to a loud and [-337-] vengeful crescendo, like a Highland coronach. Not all the crew, though, are joining in this mysterious chant; a very considerable portion of them are down below in their berths, sleeping off a surfeit of rum and tobacco; and not a few will be brought on board, while the Z. W. Caucus is in the river, also affected by rum and tobacco, and affectionately guarded by a boarding-master, or proprietor of a sailors’ lodging-house (whom I should be sorry to say was two-fourths crimp and the remainder extortioner), who has the greatest interest in bringing sailors aboard, seeing that he is paid so much a head for them in consideration of certain advances he has made, or is supposed to have made to them, and which are duly deducted from the pay of the unconscious mariner.
Nearly out of dock, and the commander, Captain Paul W. Blatherwick, of Forty-second Street, New York, who is standing amidships, turns his quid complacently. The captain wears a white hat, with a very broad brim, and an obstinate and rebellious nap, refusing pertinaciously to be brushed or smoothed. He has a shirt of a wonderful and complicated pattern, more like a paperhanging than a Christian shirt, and with a collar which looms large, like the foresail of a yacht. He has a profusion of hair and beard, and very little eyes, and a liberal allowance of broad black ribbon and. spy-glass. Captain Blatherwick is part owner as well as commander, and has therefore a paternal interest in his emigrants; but he is rather pre-occupied just now, for two of his very best hands —A. B.’s, stalwart, trusty reefers and steerers—are absent; and although he has searched all the low lodging-houses and all the low taverns in the town, he has been unable to find them. Just, however, as he has made a virtue of necessity, and, giving them up for lost, has shaped a fresh plug of tobacco for his capacious cheek, there is a stir and bustle in the crowd; its waves heave to and fro, and parting them like a strong steamer, come two men. One has his hammock on his head, large gold ear-rings, and his ‘kit’ in his hand. He flies like the nimble stag celebrated in Mr. Handel’s Oratorio; but he is pursued by a Dalilah, a Circe, an enchantress, with a coral necklace, dishevelled hair, and a draggle-tailed dimity bedgown. She clings to his kit; she embraces his hammock; she passionately adjures him to leave her, were it only his ear-rings, as a souvenir. But he remembers that England (represented, for the moment, by his Yankee captain) expects every man to do his duty for fifty shillings a month and his [-338-] victuals; and, shutting his ears to the voice of the charmer, he leaps on board. I say leaps, for there are ten good solid feet of muddy water between the quay edge and the side of the Z. W. Caucus; yet you have scarcely time to shudder and think he will be drowned, ere he is scrambling among the shrouds, as a playful kitten would skip about, if kittens wore red shirts and ear-rings his companion is equally rapid. in his motions—more so, perhaps, for he is impeded by no luggage, and clung to by no Dalilah. He has little wherewith to lure Dalilah; for, of all the notable equipments with which be landed at George's Dock, fifteen days ago, he has now remaining—what think you? a blanket! As I stand here, nothing but a sorry, patched, tattered blanket,—nor shirt, nor shoe, nor rag else. He wraps it about him sternly though, as though it were a toga; and, with a hurrah of defiance, a yell from the crowd, and a cheer from his shipmates, vaults on hoard. Then he falls down a ladder, very drunk, and I see him no more. They will be skinned, they will be fleeced, these foolish Jacks. They won’t go to the admirable and palatial Sailors’ home. They will go down to Wapping, and Paradise Street, and fall among thieves. Who is to help them if they won’t help themselves?
Oh, cheerily, cheerily! The big ship is fairly out of dock. The ropes are cast off, and she stands down the river, towed along by a steamer; the poor emigrants crowding the decks, the tops, the yards even, to take their fill of England, home, and beauty, seems for the last time, he who knows all things knows alone if they, or their children, or their children’s children, will ever see the beloved land again.
The bridge will not be down for half an hour yet, for the ‘King Odin,’ Czernicheff master, screw-steamer for Odessa, is coining out laden with boiler-plates, and to come home again with wheat. She needs no ‘tug,’ but steams out stolidly on her own end, and with her own screw. There is another Yankee liner at anchor off Egremont, and just on the point of sailing. Shall we slip on board this grimy, uncouth, useful tug-steamer, and board her for a minute?
The ‘Elizabeth Scradgers,’ eight hundred tons, Captain Peleg J. Whittlestick, is a genuine ‘liner.’ She is bound for New York, with forty cabin passengers and two hundred steerage ditto. Sixteen guineas are demanded for the after-passage, the sum of two pounds ten is the ticket for the steerage multitude. And such a multitude! Three-fifths [-339-] Irish, one-fifth Germans, and a timid, irresolute scared, woe-begone fifth of English, who look as if they had gone to sleep in Liverpool and had been knocked up in the Tower of Babel. A confusion of tongues, a confusion of tubs, a confusion of boxes. A flux of barbarous words, a tangle of children settling on bulkheads and ladder-rounds like locusts. And an odour! ugh! let us go on deck, whither all the passengers follow us; for the muster-roll is being called, and as the authorities verify the name and passage-money receipt of each emigrant, the Government Emigration agent ascertains that there are no cases of infectious disease among the passengers; no lame, halt, and blind; no paralytics and no bed­ridden dotards. Andy O’Scullabogue of Ballyshandy, County Cork, is turned back for having a trifle of five children ill with a putrid fever. Judith Murphy can by no means be passed, for she is appallingly crippled. Florence M’Shane is sent on shore because he is blind, and Terence Rooney, because his mother has only one leg. These poor wretches have been scrambling and scraping their passage-money together for months. The two pounds ten have come, six- pence by sixpence—nay penny by penny, from the peelings of diseased potatoes; from the troughs of gaunt, greyhound-like pigs; down long ladders in hods of mortar, in London or in Dublin; out of damaged oranges in Saint Giles’s and Bethnal Green. They are the economies from relinquished gin glasses and eschewed tobacco; the savings of denied red herrings, and half rations of potatoes. Some of the emigrants have begged their passage-money; some are about to emigrate at the expense of the parish, and some have had their passage-money remitted to them from their friends in America.
While the ceremony of ‘passing’ has been going on on deck, the crew of the vessel have been below, searching for stowaways—unfortunate creatures too poor to pay the necessary sum, who have concealed themselves in out-of-the-way holes and corners, thinking to escape detection in the general confusion, and to be conveyed across the Atlantic free of expense. But they are mistaken. You must get up very early in the morning if you would essay to get on the blind side of an American sailor; and not many minutes have elapsed before two ragged women are discovered in some hideous crevice, and a wretched dwarf, clutching a fiddle under his shrunken arm, is detected in a cask, his heels upwards, and coiled up into a perfect Gordian knot of de-[-340-]formitv. I do not exaggerate, and I libel no one when I say, that after they have been well hustled and bonnetted on the deck, these forlorn beings are kicked over the side by the chief mate, a gigantic mariner in a tail-coat, raised in Connecticut, and with a huge brown fist, so hard, so horny, so corrugated. with knotted veins, that it looks like the fist of that slave-dealer alluded to by the authoress of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin ‘—as if it ‘had grown hard in knocking down niggers.’ ‘For,’ says the mate, jerking a jet of tobacco juice and an explanation to me across his shoulder, ‘you must jest ketch ‘em up sharp, you must, these Irishers, and that’s a fact. It’s a word and a blow here, and no flies.’ And this latter axiom the chief officer religiously carries out in all his dealings with the steerage passengers, anathematizing the eyes of any refractory emigrant for the first offence, and knocking him down like an ox for the second.
I stumble aft, as well as I can for luggage, human and inanimate, and take a peep into the saloon, where there is a negro steward in a white jacket, and where there are soft carpets, softer couches, gaily-decorated panels, comfortable state-rooms, silken hangings, and a regiment of spittoons carved and gilt in the Louis Quatorze style, and quite gorgeous to behold. A passenger I find below seems so delighted with his bed, that he is continually lying down on it, then jumping up, failing back half a dozen paces on the bright Brussels carpet, and regarding the trim couch with rapt ecstasy—rubbing his hands meanwhile with the anticipation of quite a surfeit of luxuries for his sixteen guineas. But a little bird which has accompanied me whispers that the Elizabeth Scradgers will be no sooner out of the river than the bright carpets will be rolled up, and the painted panels unscrewed, and that the silken hangings, and mahogany fittings, and soft couches will disappear, to be replaced by bare boards, and scrubby horsehair, and hard beds—the luxuries being reserved for the next departure from port. What else the little bird would tell me I know not, for at this moment comes Captain Peleg J. Whittlestick from his cabin, with loud and nasal injunction for all strangers to ‘clear!’ He is as like in voice, person, and dress to the captain of the Z. W. Caucus as two cherries are like each other. The Government Emigration agent, the surgeon, the broker, the captain’s friends, and I write, step on board the tug. ‘Cheerily, cheerily, oh!’ begins that dismal windlass chorus as the anchor is being [-341-] hove up; the emigrants give a sickly cheer, and another ship­load of humanity is off.
The mysterious agency which whilom removed the dock bridge from beneath my feet, has slowly ground it (with a rusty grumble as of iron chains in torture) into its place again, and I cross over to the other side.
Dock upon dock, quays after quays, ‘quay berths,’ loading and unloading sheds, long lines of bonding warehouses, barrels, bales, boxes, pitch, tar, ropes, preserved provisions, water-casks, and exodus everywhere! Whole tribes of north-country people, and west-country people, and all sorts of country people, darting off to the Antipodes with an eager, straining rush. As for New York, or Boston, or Philadelphia, those seaports are only considered as being ‘over the way,’ easy trips across the water, to be accomplished with a carpet-bag and a hat-box, and with as little fuss and ceremony as a ride in one of the little ferry steamers that ply between Liverpool and Birkenhead, or Seacombe and Tranmere. Gentlemen go coolly off to Melbourne and Port Phillip in alpaca coats and wide-awakes; ladies, to Adelaide and Geelong with blue pokes to their bonnets, and lapsful of crochet work as though they were going picnicking. Sunburnt captains, bound for the other side of the world, set off in their shirt-sleeves, and tell their smiling cheerful spouses just to mind the baby, and have dinner ready at four o’clock in about eight months time or so. Oh, cheerily, cheerily! Cheerily, oh! A thousand hammers coopering water-casks take up the cry; a thousand shovels shovelling potatoes into the hold for stock re-echo it. Stand out of the way there! Here is a waggon-load of preserved provisions: mock-turtle soup and stowed mushrooms in tin cases hermetically sealed; green peas and fresh mint, to be eaten under the line. Make way there for the live stock for the emigrant ship, ‘Gold Nugget’—sheep, poultry, and a milch cow. Mind yourself! a bullock has broken loose from the ‘Jack Robinson,’ for Sydney. He is a patriotic beast: England, with all its faults, he loves it still; and if he is to he made steaks of, he prefers being eaten on this side the equinoctial line. Stand from under! a giant crane is hoisting blocks of Wenham Lake ice on board the Melbourne packet ‘Bushranger.’ They are all pressed for time, they are all going, cheerily, cheerily; they are all, if you will pardon me the expression, in such a devil of a hurry.
But the trunks, my dear sir, the trunks! Can you, sensible, [-342-] cautious, discreet, as I am sure you are, forbear, when you gaze on these trunks, forbear holding your head with your hands, or leaping into the air with a short howl, in sheer frenzy. The trunks! Roods, perches, acres of land covered with great sea-chests, trunks, bonnet-boxes, chaise-boxes, portmanteaus, valises, trunks of piebald leather, calf-skin, marble paper, morocco, Russia leather, oak, mahogany, and plain deal. Avalanches of trunks, with surely sufficient literature pasted inside to set up the schoolmaster abroad in Australia for years to come. As for such small articles as carpet-bags, desks, hat-boxes, writing-cases, and railway rugs, they are as plentiful as ratafia cakes, twenty a penny. Children of tender years stagger by with trunks; stalwart porters carry piles of them, as waiters at eating-houses carry the tin dishes and covers. Grim spectres hover about, moaning weird complaints of phantom boxes lest or mislaid, and point with skinny fingers to invisible crockery-ware packed in straw. I come upon the lone female in the bombazine dress and the triangular bonnet. She sits forlorn, ‘remote, un­friended, melancholy, slow,’ inexpressible misery on her wan face, stranded high and dry on a band-box. Her ‘things’ have departed from her; an oak chest has been shipped bodily for Montevideo, and. three mattresses and a palliasse went out to time best of her belief in the ‘King Odin.’ She is going to Celebes. Now what can this good woman be going to do at Celebes? I puzzle myself mightily with this question, staring like one distraught at this lone woman, sitting under the dock shed like a Banshee on a band-box, till the edge of a hard-hearted oaken chest coming violently on my toes sufficiently admonishes me to mind my own concerns.
Still cheerily, cheerily to all parts of the deep waters whither ships go, till I stroll down to a remote quay to change the scene, and see the Irish packets come in. Yet even here ‘tis but the old song to a somewhat fresher tune, for the mobs of poor Irish who are landed, pell-mell, from the Dublin, and Belfast, and Cork steamers, are off again for America to­morrow or the next day. Tumbling ashore they come— ragged, dirty, draggle-tailed, and (to trust their looks) half-starved. Gaunt reapers and bogtrotters in those traditional blue body-coats, leathern smalls, and bell-crowned hats, that seem to be manufactured nowhere save in Ireland; grizzled old women, bent double with age and infirmity; children who seem to have sprung up like some crass fungus of decomposi­[-343-]tion rather than to have been born; and slatternly girls with shawls huddled over their heads. Some of the men have thick shoes, passably holey; but three-fourths of the females and all the children have neither shoes nor stockings. Some of the women carry heaps of what, at first sight, you might take for foul rags, but which, moving and crying suddenly, you discover to be babies. Their luggage is on their backs, or in despairingly small and dirty bundles slung on sticks. They have a plurality of nothing save children. They may have money, some of these miserable objects—the bare price of their passage to America—sewn up in tattered petticoats and sleeve linings; but, whether they have or not, they have no sooner set foot on the quay than they fall a-begging, tendering the hand for charity mechanically, as a snuff- taker’s finger and thumb would seek his nose. They sit stolidly on posts, or crouch on the bare ground, staring around with vacant listless eyes, as though they had landed in the Moon and didn’t know the way to the mountains in it. And, poor souls! for aught they know of the land they have now set their weary feet upon, they might just as well be in the Moon, I trow. Presently come to them some of their own countrymen in darned coats and patched smalls, keepers of styes called lodging-houses and dens called taverns. To these are they consigned and carried away; and if they have any­thing to be robbed of, and are robbed, they have, at least, the satisfaction of being robbed by their compatriots.
These woeful travellers have been gently pushed and hustled on shore by hundreds, and when the last bell-crowned hats have passed the gangway I am about departing, when I am informed that there is yet more live stock to be landed. More! What more can remain after all this misery and all these rags, and all these walking typhus fever and small-pox hospitals?
As I have asked the question, I must answer it. There is a great deal more on the deck of the steamer yet. Pigs more. Cattle more. Sheep more. Stand on the extreme verge of the quay and peep over on the deck of the steamer. Do not turn sick and rush away in horror, but look. Look at this Smithfield* [*Fuit]  in miniature; Smithfield, but infinitely more crowded in proportion; Smithfield, but ten times dirtier; Smithfield, with more cruelty, and wanton neglect, and shameful filth than [-344-] you would find any Monday or Friday morning between Cock Lane on the one side and Barbican on the other. Are you a Common Councilman? If so, snuff up the balmy, piggy, beefy, muttony gale with a relish. Are you a slavery abolitionist? Look on these beasts so scientifically and geometrically packed for economy of space, that every sheep’s leg fits into its fellow’s eye, and every bullock has a sheep between its horns, and you will have a very apt idea of how herrings are packed in a barrel, and how negroes are stowed for the Middle Passage. Are you a statist? Speculate on the exact amount of suffering, the nice quota of torture, the justly-balanced ratio of maddening thirst these miserable animals undergo during a twelve, a fifteen, or a twenty hours’ passage. Are you a plain man with a plain English tongue? Lift it up, and with a will, against the shameful cruelties of the cattle transit system; against that monstrous inconsistency which can make governments and municipalities Argus-eyed to petty nuisances, and stone blind to these abominations; which can make mayors, and corporations, and police authorities, strain at the gnat of an orange-woman or a halfpenny candle sold on a Sunday, and swallow this enormous camel. To look at these dumb creatures panting with agony, their tongues hanging out, their eyes dilated, their every muscle throbbing; staggering on their legs, wallowing in filth, too stupified with agony to low, or bleat, or squeak, too sick to move, too cowed to struggle: is enough to rouse a man of adamant. Some of the animals are so wedged and packed together that they are suffocated, and not able even to lie down and die, die standing. Here is a wretched bullock—luckier than its fellows, for it has some two inches space on either side of it—lying desolate by the funnel, with its eyes piteously turned up, and seeming to entreat slaughter. Nor will slaughter be long in coming; for the deputed slaughterer, nice in such matters, and knowing to a hair the power of endurance in the beast, kills it just before it would otherwise die. The dead carcase would be unsale­able, or at best would have to be surreptitiously disposed of; but slaughtered alive, it is genuine imported meat, and fetches its price.
Cheerily oh, cheerily!