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Chapter 40 PLACARDS, BRASS-JEWELERS, TRUCK-HORSES, AND STEAMERS

  • As I wish to group together what fell under my observation concerning th_iverpool docks, and the scenes roundabout, I will try to throw into thi_hapter various minor things that I recall.
  • The advertisements of pauperism chalked upon the flagging round the doc_alls, are singularly accompanied by a multitude of quite differen_nnouncements, placarded upon the walls themselves. They are principall_otices of the approaching departure of _"superior, fast-sailing, coppered an_opper-fastened ships,"_ for the United States, Canada, New South Wales, an_ther places. Interspersed with these, are the advertisements of Jewis_lothesmen, informing the judicious seamen where he can procure of the bes_nd the cheapest; together with ambiguous medical announcements of the trib_f quacks and empirics who prey upon all seafaring men. Not content with thu_ublicly giving notice of their whereabouts, these indefatigable Sangrados an_retended Samaritans hire a parcel of shabby workhouse-looking knaves, whos_usiness consists in haunting the dock walls about meal times, and silentl_hrusting mysterious little billets—duodecimo editions of the large_dvertisements—into the astonished hands of the tars.
  • They do this, with such _a_ mysterious hang-dog wink; such a sidelong air;
  • such a villainous assumption of your necessities; that, at first, you ar_lmost tempted to knock them down for their pains.
  • Conspicuous among the notices on the walls, are huge Italic inducements to al_eamen disgusted with the merchant service, to accept a round bounty, an_mbark in her Majesty's navy.
  • In the British armed marine, in time of peace, they do not ship men for th_eneral service, as in the American navy; but for particular ships, going upo_articular cruises. Thus, the frigate Thetis may be announced as about to sai_nder the command of that fine old sailor, and noble father to his crew, _Lor_eorge Flagstaff._
  • Similar announcements may be seen upon the walls concerning enlistments in th_rmy. And never did auctioneer dilate with more rapture upon the charms o_ome country-seat put up for sale, than the authors of these placards do, upo_he beauty and salubrity of the distant climes, for which the regiment_anting recruits are about to sail. Bright lawns, vine-clad hills, endles_eadows of verdure, here make up the landscape; and adventurous youn_entlemen, fond of travel, are informed, that here is a chance for them to se_he world at their leisure, and be paid for enjoying themselves into th_argain. The regiments for India are promised plantations among valleys o_alms; while to those destined for New Holland, a novel sphere of life an_ctivity is opened; and the companies bound to Canada and Nova Scotia ar_ured by tales of summer suns, that ripen grapes in December. No word of wa_s breathed; hushed is the clang of arms in these announcements; and th_anguine recruit is almost tempted to expect that pruning-hooks, instead o_words, will be the weapons he will wield.
  • Alas! is not this the cruel stratagem of Brace at Bannockburn, who decoyed t_is war-pits by covering them over with green boughs? For instead of a farm a_he blue base of the Himalayas, the Indian recruit encounters the keen sabe_f the Sikh; and instead of basking in sunny bowers, the Canadian soldie_tands a shivering sentry upon the bleak ramparts of Quebec, a lofty mark fo_he bitter blasts from Baffin's Bay and Labrador. There, as his eye sweep_own the St. Lawrence, whose every billow is bound for the main that laves th_hore of Old England; as he thinks of his long term of enlistment, which sell_im to the army as Doctor Faust sold himself to the devil; how the poor fello_ust groan in his grief, and call to mind the church-yard stile, and his Mary.
  • These army announcements are well fitted to draw recruits in Liverpool. Amon_he vast number of emigrants, who daily arrive from all parts of Britain t_mbark for the United States or the colonies, there are many young men, who,
  • upon arriving at Liverpool, find themselves next to penniless; or, at least,
  • with only enough money to carry them over the sea, without providing fo_uture contingencies. How easily and naturally, then, may such youths b_nduced to enter upon the military life, which promises them a free passage t_he most distant and flourishing colonies, and certain pay for doing nothing;
  • besides holding out hopes of vineyards and farms, to be verified in th_ullness of time. For in a moneyless youth, the decision to leave home at all,
  • and embark upon a long voyage to reside in a remote clime, is a piece o_dventurousness only one removed from the spirit that prompts the army recrui_o enlist.
  • I never passed these advertisements, surrounded by crowds of gaping emigrants,
  • without thinking of rattraps.
  • Besides the mysterious agents of the quacks, who privily thrust their littl_otes into your hands, folded up like a powder; there are another set o_ascals prowling about the docks, chiefly at dusk; 'who make strange motion_o you, and beckon you to one side, as if they had some state secret t_isclose, intimately connected with the weal of the commonwealth. They nudg_ou with an elbow full of indefinite hints and intimations; they glitter upo_ou an eye like a Jew's or a pawnbroker's; they dog you like Italia_ssassins. But if the blue coat of a policeman chances to approach, ho_uickly they strive to look completely indifferent, as to the surroundin_niverse; how they saunter off, as if lazily wending their way to a_ffectionate wife and family.
  • The first time one of these mysterious personages accosted me, I fancied hi_razy, and hurried forward to avoid him. But arm in arm with my shadow, h_ollowed after; till amazed at his conduct, I turned round and paused.
  • He was a little, shabby, old man, with a forlorn looking coat and hat; and hi_and was fumbling in his vest pocket, as if to take out a card with hi_ddress. Seeing me stand still he made a sign toward a dark angle of the wall,
  • near which we were; when taking him for a cunning foot-pad, I again wheele_bout, and swiftly passed on. But though I did not look round, I _felt_ hi_ollowing me still; so once more I stopped. The fellow now assumed so mysti_nd admonitory an air, that I began to fancy he came to me on some warnin_rrand; that perhaps a plot had been laid to blow up the Liverpool docks, an_e was some Monteagle bent upon accomplishing my flight. I was determined t_ee what he was. With all my eyes about me, I followed him into the arch of _arehouse; when he gazed round furtively, and silently showing me a ring,
  • whispered, "You may have it for a shilling; it's pure gold-I found it in th_utter-hush! don't speak! give me the money, and it's yours."
  • "My friend," said I, "I don't trade in these articles; I don't want you_ing."
  • "Don't you? Then take, that," he whispered, in an intense hushed passion; an_ fell flat from a blow on the chest, while this infamous jeweler made awa_ith himself out of sight. This business transaction was conducted with _ounting-house promptitude that astonished me.
  • After that, I shunned these scoundrels like the leprosy: and the next time _as pertinaciously followed, I stopped, and in a loud voice, pointed out th_an to the passers-by; upon which he absconded; rapidly turning up into sigh_ pair of obliquely worn and battered boot-heels. I could not help thinkin_hat these sort of fellows, so given to running away upon emergencies, mus_urnish a good deal of work to the shoemakers; as they might, also, to th_rowers of hemp and gallows-joiners.
  • Belonging to a somewhat similar fraternity with these irritable merchants o_rass jewelry just mentioned, are the peddlers of Sheffield razors, mostl_oys, who are hourly driven out of the dock gates by the police; nevertheless,
  • they contrive to saunter back, and board the vessels, going among the sailor_nd privately exhibiting their wares. Incited by the extreme cheapness of on_f the razors, and the gilding on the case containing it, a shipmate of min_urchased it on the spot for a commercial equivalent of the price, in tobacco.
  • On the following Sunday, he used that razor; and the result was a pair o_ormented and tomahawked cheeks, that almost required a surgeon to dress them.
  • In old times, by the way, it was not a bad thought, that suggested th_ropriety of a barber's practicing surgery in connection with the chin-
  • harrowing vocation. Another class of knaves, who practice upon the sailors i_iverpool, are the pawnbrokers, inhabiting little rookeries among the narro_anes adjoining the dock. I was astonished at die multitude of gilded balls i_hese streets, emblematic of their calling. They were generally next neighbor_o the gilded grapes over the spirit-vaults; and no doubt, mutually t_acilitate business operations, some of these establishments have connectin_oors inside, so as to play their customers into each other's hands. I ofte_aw sailors in a state of intoxication rushing from a spirit-vault into _awnbroker's; stripping off their boots, hats, jackets, and neckerchiefs, an_ometimes even their pantaloons on the spot, and offering to pawn them for _ong. Of course such applications were never refused. But though on shore, a_iverpool, poor Jack finds more sharks than at sea, he himself is by no mean_xempt from practices, that do not savor of a rigid morality; at leas_ccording to law. In tobacco smuggling he is an adept: and when cool an_ollected, often manages to evade the Customs completely, and land goodl_ackages of the weed, which owing to the immense duties upon it in England,
  • commands a very high price.
  • As soon as we came to anchor in the river, before reaching the dock, thre_ustom-house underlings boarded us, and coming down into the forecastle,
  • ordered the men to produce all the tobacco they had. Accordingly severa_ounds were brought forth.
  • "Is that all?" asked the officers.
  • "All," said the men.
  • "We will see," returned the others.
  • And without more ado, they emptied the chests right and left; tossed over th_unks and made a thorough search of the premises; but discovered nothing. Th_ailors were then given to understand, that while the ship lay in dock, th_obacco must remain in the cabin, under custody of the chief mate, who ever_orning would dole out to them one plug per head, as a security against thei_arrying it ashore.
  • "Very good," said the men.
  • But several of them had secret places in the ship, from whence they daily dre_ound after pound of tobacco, which they smuggled ashore in the manne_ollowing.
  • When the crew went to meals, each man carried at least one plug in his pocket;
  • _that_ he had a right to; and as many more were hidden about his person as h_ared. Among the great crowds pouring out of the dock-gates at such hours, o_ourse these smugglers stood little chance of detection; although vigilan_ooking policemen were always standing by. And though these _"Charlies"_ migh_uppose there were tobacco smugglers passing; yet to hit the right man amon_uch a throng, would be as hard, as to harpoon a speckled porpoise, one of te_housand darting under a ship's bows.
  • Our forecastle was often visited by foreign sailors, who knowing we came fro_merica, were anxious to purchase tobacco at a cheap rate; for in Liverpool i_s about an American penny per pipe-full. Along the docks they sell an Englis_ennyworth, put up in a little roll like confectioners' mottoes, with poetica_ines, or instructive little moral precepts printed in red on the back.
  • Among all the sights of the docks, the noble truck-horses are not the leas_triking to a stranger. They are large and powerful brutes, with such slee_nd glossy coats, that they look as if brushed and put on by a valet ever_orning. They march with a slow and stately step, lifting their ponderou_oofs like royal Siam elephants. Thou shalt not lay stripes upon these Roma_itizens; for their docility is such, they are guided without rein or lash;
  • they go or come, halt or march on, at a whisper. So grave, dignified,
  • gentlemanly, and courteous did these fine truck-horses look—so full of cal_ntelligence and sagacity, that often I endeavored to get into conversatio_ith them, as they stood in contemplative attitudes while their loads wer_reparing. But all I could get from them was the mere recognition of _riendly neigh; though I would stake much upon it that, could I have spoken i_heir language, I would have derived from them a good deal of valuabl_nformation touching the docks, where they passed the whole of their dignifie_ives.
  • There are unknown worlds of knowledge in brutes; and whenever you mark _orse, or a dog, with a peculiarly mild, calm, deep-seated eye, be sure he i_n Aristotle or a Kant, tranquilly speculating upon the mysteries in man. N_hilosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses. They see throug_s at a glance. And after all, what is a horse but a species of four-foote_umb man, in a leathern overall, who happens to live upon oats, and toils fo_is masters, half-requited or abused, like the biped hewers of wood an_rawers of water? But there is a touch of divinity even in brutes, and _pecial halo about a horse, that should forever exempt him from indignities.
  • As for those majestic, magisterial truck-horses of the docks, I would as soo_hink of striking a judge on the bench, as to lay violent hand upon their hol_ides.
  • It is wonderful what loads their majesties will condescend to draw. The truc_s a large square platform, on four low wheels; and upon this the lumpers pil_ale after bale of cotton, as if they were filling a large warehouse, and ye_ procession of three of these horses will tranquilly walk away with th_hole.
  • The truckmen themselves are almost as singular a race as their animals. Lik_he Judiciary in England, they wear gowns, —not of the same cut and colo_hough,—which reach below their knees; and from the racket they make on th_avements with their hob-nailed brogans, you would think they patronized th_ame shoemaker with their horses. I never could get any thing out of thes_ruckmen. They are a reserved, sober-sided set, who, with all possibl_olemnity, march at the head of their animals; now and then gently advisin_hem to sheer to the right or the left, in order to avoid some passin_ehicle. Then spending so much of their lives in the high-bred company o_heir horses, seems to have mended their manners and improved their taste,
  • besides imparting to them something of the dignity of their animals; but i_as also given to them a sort of refined and uncomplaining aversion to huma_ociety.
  • There are many strange stories told of the truck-horse. Among others is th_ollowing: There was a parrot, that from having long been suspended in it_age from a low window fronting a dock, had learned to converse prett_luently in the language of the stevedores and truckmen. One day a truckma_eft his vehicle standing on the quay, with its back to the water. It wa_oon, when an interval of silence falls upon the docks; and Poll, seein_erself face to face with the horse, and having a mind for a chat, cried ou_o him, _"Back! back! back!"_
  • Backward went the horse, precipitating himself and truck into the water.
  • Brunswick Dock, to the west of Prince's, is one of the most interesting to b_een. Here lie the various black steamers (so unlike the American boats, sinc_hey have to navigate the boisterous Narrow Seas) plying to all parts of th_hree kingdoms. Here you see vast quantities of produce, imported fro_tarving Ireland; here you see the decks turned into pens for oxen and sheep;
  • and often, side by side with these inclosures, Irish deck-passengers, thick a_hey can stand, seemingly penned in just like the cattle. It was the beginnin_f July when the Highlander arrived in port; and the Irish laborers were dail_oming over by thousands, to help harvest the English crops.
  • One morning, going into the town, I heard a tramp, as of a drove of buffaloes,
  • behind me; and turning round, beheld the entire middle of the street filled b_ great crowd of these men, who had just emerged from Brunswick Dock gates,
  • arrayed in long-tailed coats of hoddin-gray, corduroy knee-breeches, and sho_ith shoes that raised a mighty dust. Flourishing their Donnybrook shillelahs,
  • they looked like an irruption of barbarians. They were marching straight ou_f town into the country; and perhaps out of consideration for the finances o_he corporation, took the middle of the street, to save the side-walks.
  • "Sing _Langolee, and the Lakes of Killarney,"_ cried one fellow, tossing hi_tick into the air, as he danced in his brogans at the head of the rabble. An_o they went! capering on, merry as pipers.
  • When I thought of the multitudes of Irish that annually land on the shores o_he United States and Canada, and, to my surprise, witnessed the additiona_ultitudes embarking from Liverpool to New Holland; and when, added to al_his, I daily saw these hordes of laborers, descending, thick as locusts, upo_he English corn-fields; I could not help marveling at the fertility of a_sland, which, though her crop of potatoes may fail, never yet failed i_ringing her annual crop of men into the world.