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uncomfortably small; all which splendors had been procured to honor this most important occasion.
The ride to Providence was not so disagreeable as I had expected. To be
sure, there were two babies in the coach, whose anxious mothers would not allow a breath of fresh air to be admitted on any consideration, which motherly care caused me a violent head-ache ; but then they were good, quiet children; and if one of them did pound my back and shoulders, for a large portion of the way, with a piece of soft molasses ginger-bread, (alas ! for my new coat !) and if the other did make a table of my new hat (which I had thoughtlessly taken off to relieve my aching head, and deposited on my knees) for its large piece of melting candy, still I was a father myself, and I loved children too well to take offence at what their mothers called their pretty little ways. Still I must acknowledge that it was a tedious day, with the eternal drip, drip of the rain on the roof of the coach, and the damp, close air within. Even the pretty little ways' grew tiresome as their owners grew cross and sleepy; and when we arrived in Providence, and I contrasted the comfortless hospitality of an hotel with my own cheerful home, and tossed about during the weary hours of the night in vain seeking relief for my pain, I vowed never again to leave that home in search of health, or such very doubtful pleasure as my first day's journey had brought me.
I was awakened early the next morning by the pelting of the rain against my windows and the melancholy howling of the wind in the chimney. Truly, it was a pleasant July morning on which to set forth for my voyage, (as I called it.) But I kept a steadfast heart, and after breakfast drove down to the wharf, where the steam-boat lay tossing about like a cockle-shell. It was the original old Fulton. She was much smaller than the steam-boats of the present day; but she looked, to my ignorant eyes -oh! so monstrous, and so dangerous ! The steadfast heart failed as I saw the black smoke pouring from her chimneys, and heard the sharp hiss of the escaping steam; and, for a moment, I hesitated whether I should not order my trunk back, run on shore, and make the best of my way home. Like Launcelot Gobbo in the play, I stood and dubitated. ‘Budge, quoth cowardly fear at my elbow. "Budge not,' quoth the spice of bravery in my heart, to say nothing of the sense of shame at such an ignominious ending to my journey. But when at last, like Launcelot, I had decided to use my legs, take the start, and run away,
' the last bell had rung, the plank was lifted, the boat pushed off, and my fate as a hero was determined.
But not very heroic did I feel as I listened to a conversation which was going on between the captain of the boat and some of the passengers, as to the probability of the boat's being able to reach New-York, with a head-wind, and in such a storm.
'It does pipe pretty loud,' said the captain, 'but I guess she'll wear through ; at any rate, as soon as I think there is any real danger, I will turn back. This was cold comfort for a poor disheartened land-lubber like myself
, but I presently forgot all minor woes in the unutterable misery of sea sickness. As I was lying helpless in my berth, prostrated by this demon of the
I roused by a tremendous crash over-head. Thinkmy
last moment had come, I rushed upon deck, and found that a large wood pile had lost its balance and fallen over, thereby frightening
three hoises who were on board, so that they had broken loose from their fastenings, and were careering madly about the deck. As I appeared upon the scene to inquire the cause of the noise, I narrowly escaped being knocked down and trampled upon by one of the furious animals; so I quickly retreated, grimly smiling to myself at the thought that, of all the dangers I had pictured to myself as likely to occur during my journey, that of being run over by wild horses, on board a steam-boat, had not been on the list.
But now the storm increased in fury; the little boat pitched and tumbled and creaked and groaned ; and once more I ventured on deck, thinking that I would rather have a fair chance for my life in the open sea than be drowned, like a dog, in my berth. But there the scene was even more fearful, and I cursed my folly for ever leaving my peaceful home to trust my life in such a pandemonium as this. I found an old sea-captain from P- in anxious expostulation with the steam-boat's captain. *I do n't know much about your cooking-stove craft,' said he, but I do know that a vessel as is a vessel could not live five minutes longer against such a wind and with such a sea as this ; so put about, man, if not have the deaths of all these people to answer for. In great agony of mind I waited for the captain's answer. Just then the boat
gave a tremendous lurch, which seemed to strain every timber. 'I believe you are right,' he said, as I thought, absolutely turning pale, and directly after, I saw him talking with the man at the wheel. Presently we swung slowly round, and, with the speed of lightning, cut back through the water on our way to Newport. There we passed a dreary enough day; but toward evening the wind changed, the rain ceased, blue sky appeared, and soon we were again steaming merrily over the water in the light of a most gorgeous sun-set. “Now, then, I understand the delights of steamboat travelling,' I thought, as I sat on the upper deck watching the rosy light upon the sea, and the purple receding shore, as we sped along through the sparkling waves. And I own that it was with a slight touch of pride and self-satisfaction that I thought I knew its dangers too; and I pictured to myself the wonder and horror of my wife and children, when, returning a travelled man, I should describe to them the raging waves, and the groaning boat, and all the terrors of the furious storm through which I had passed. But the waves yet felt the effects of the storm, and I soon felt the effect of the waves; and before the red twilight had left the west, I once more descended to my berth, and soon fell into pleasant dreams of home. I think I could not have been asleep more than five minutes when I was awakened by the cry of 'Fire! fire!' Now, then, my end had surely come, for we were out of sight of land, and no vessel was near. When I reached the deck, I found the wood-work round the engine all on fire, and the men working with all their might to extinguish it. I joined the line, and in ten minutes the danger was over. Grateful for my deliverance from this most terrible of deaths, once more I threw myself faint and exhausted into my berth, now become any thing but a bed of roses to me. "What next?' I said, half laughing a kind of hysteric laugh; and the words were hardly out of my mouth, when 'bang, bang, bang, just under my head, sent me once more on deck, where I saw the light on Fisher's Island blazing just above us, and heard from the captain that we had struck upon a rock, owing to the carelessness or
sleepiness of the man at the helm. “But,' he added, there is not much damage done; she has strained her fore-foot a little, but has sprung no leak, and we shall reach New-York just as soon as before.' I asked no questions; I meekly went back to my berth. As to reaching New-York, I had no idea that such a thing was possible : indeed, I began to disbelieve in there being such a place at all, and quietly resigned myself to passing the rest of my days in this strange boat, amid all the excitements and horrors which a sea-life affords.
So I lay patiently waiting for the next accident, and pondering over the strange fact which the captain had propounded, of a steam-boat's having feet. Perhaps her hind-foot will strike next, I thought : I wonder what that will do. I remembered an old song of my father's about being ship-wrecked, and murdered, and sold for a slave. The first I had already experienced, and I supposed the other two would certainly arrive. And so musing, I fell once more asleep, and did not awaken again until we reached New-York.
This was a long time ago, Mr. EDITOR, and I am now an old man; but do
you wonder that I am glad to rest upon the laurels I gained then as a traveller, without again tempting the manifold dangers of the deep and that I am willing to take all the growing glories of New-York upon hearsay, and believe that I can make acquaintance with all that is best and brightest in the 'Empire City' through the pages of the KNICKERBOCKER!