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Chapter 52 THE EMIGRANTS' KITCHEN

  • I have made some mention of the "galley," or great stove for the steerag_assengers, which was planted over the main hatches.
  • During the outward-bound passage, there were so few occupants of the steerage,
  • that they had abundant room to do their cooking at this galley. But it wa_therwise now; for we had four or five hundred in the steerage; and all thei_ooking was to be done by one fire; a pretty large one, to be sure, but,
  • nevertheless, small enough, considering the number to be accommodated, and th_act that the fire was only to be kindled at certain hours.
  • For the emigrants in these ships are under a sort of martial-law; and in al_heir affairs are regulated by the despotic ordinances of the captain. An_hough it is evident, that to a certain extent this is necessary, and eve_ndispensable; yet, as at sea no appeal lies beyond the captain, he too ofte_akes unscrupulous use of his power. And as for going to law with him at th_nd of the voyage, you might as well go to law with the Czar of Russia.
  • At making the fire, the emigrants take turns; as it is often very disagreeabl_ork, owing to the pitching of the ship, and the heaving of the spray over th_ncovered "galley." Whenever I had the morning watch, from four to eight, _as sure to see some poor fellow crawling up from below about daybreak, and g_o groping over the deck after bits of rope-yarn, or tarred canvas, fo_indling-stuff. And no sooner would the fire be fairly made, than up came th_ld women, and men, and children; each armed with an iron pot or saucepan; an_nvariably a great tumult ensued, as to whose turn to cook came next;
  • sometimes the more quarrelsome would fight, and upset each other's pots an_ans.
  • Once, an English lad came up with a little coffee-pot, which he managed t_rowd in between two pans. This done, he went below. Soon after a grea_trapping Irishman, in knee-breeches and bare calves, made his appearance; an_ying the row of things on the fire, asked whose coffee-pot that was; upo_eing told, he removed it, and put his own in its place; saying somethin_bout that individual place belonging to him; and with that, he turned aside.
  • Not long after, the boy came along again; and seeing his pot removed, made _iolent exclamation, and replaced it; which the Irishman no sooner perceived,
  • than he rushed at him, with his fists doubled. The boy snatched up the boilin_offee, and spirted its contents all about the fellow's bare legs; whic_ncontinently began to dance involuntary hornpipes and fandangoes, as _reliminary to giving chase to the boy, who by this time, however, ha_ecamped.
  • Many similar scenes occurred every day; nor did a single day pass, but score_f the poor people got no chance whatever to do their cooking.
  • This was bad enough; but it was a still more miserable thing, to see thes_oor emigrants wrangling and fighting together for the want of the mos_rdinary accommodations. But thus it is, that the very hardships to which suc_eings are subjected, instead of uniting them, only tends, by imbitterin_heir tempers, to set them against each other; and thus they themselves driv_he strongest rivet into the chain, by which their social superiors hold the_ubject.
  • It was with a most reluctant hand, that every evening in the second dog-watch,
  • at the mate's command, I would march up to the fire, and giving notice to th_ssembled crowd, that the time was come to extinguish it, would dash it ou_ith my bucket of salt water; though many, who had long waited for a chance t_ook, had now to go away disappointed.
  • The staple food of the Irish emigrants was oatmeal and water, boiled into wha_s sometimes called _mush;_ by the Dutch is known as _supaan;_ by sailor_burgoo;_ by the New Englanders _hasty-pudding;_ in which hasty-pudding, b_he way, the poet Barlow found the materials for a sort of epic.
  • Some of the steerage passengers, however, were provided with sea-biscuit, an_ther perennial food, that was eatable all the year round, fire or no fire.
  • There were several, moreover, who seemed better to do in the world than th_est; who were well furnished with hams, cheese, Bologna sausages, Dutc_errings, alewives, and other delicacies adapted to the contingencies of _oyager in the steerage.
  • There was a little old Englishman on board, who had been a grocer ashore,
  • whose greasy trunks seemed all pantries; and he was constantly using himsel_or a cupboard, by transferring their contents into his own interior. He was _ittle light of head, I always thought. He particularly doated on his lon_trings of sausages; and would sometimes take them out, and play with them,
  • wreathing them round him, like an Indian juggler with charmed snakes. Wha_ith this diversion, and eating his cheese, and helping himself from a_nexhaustible junk bottle, and smoking his pipe, and meditating, this crack-
  • pated grocer made time jog along with him at a tolerably easy pace.
  • But by far the most considerable man in the steerage, in point of pecuniar_ircumstances at least, was a slender little pale-faced English tailor, who i_eemed had engaged a passage for himself and wife in some imaginary section o_he ship, called the _second cabin,_ which was feigned to combine the comfort_f the first cabin with the cheapness of the steerage. But it turned out tha_his second cabin was comprised in the after part of the steerage itself, wit_othing intervening but a name. So to his no small disgust, he found himsel_erding with the rabble; and his complaints to the captain were unheeded.
  • This luckless tailor was tormented the whole voyage by his wife, who was youn_nd handsome; just such a beauty as farmers'-boys fall in love with; she ha_right eyes, and red cheeks, and looked plump and happy.
  • She was a sad coquette; and did not turn away, as she was bound to do, fro_he dandy glances of the cabin bucks, who ogled her through their double-
  • barreled opera glasses. This enraged the tailor past telling; he woul_emonstrate with his wife, and scold her; and lay his matrimonial command_pon her, to go below instantly, out of sight. But the lady was not to b_yrannized over; and so she told him. Meantime, the bucks would be stil_raming her in their lenses, mightily enjoying the fun. The last resources o_he poor tailor would be, to start up, and make a dash at the rogues, wit_lenched fists; but upon getting as far as the mainmast, the mate would accos_im from over the rope that divided them, and beg leave to communicate th_act, that he could come no further. This unfortunate tailor was also _iddler; and when fairly baited into desperation, would rush for hi_nstrument, and try to get rid of his wrath by playing the most savage,
  • remorseless airs he could think of.
  • While thus employed, perhaps his wife would accost him—
  • "Billy, my dear;" and lay her soft hand on his shoulder.
  • But Billy, he only fiddled harder.
  • "Billy, my love!"
  • The bow went faster and faster.
  • "Come, now, Billy, my dear little fellow, let's make it all up;" and she ben_ver his knees, looking bewitchingly up at him, with her irresistible eyes.
  • Down went fiddle and bow; and the couple would sit together for an hour o_wo, as pleasant and affectionate as possible.
  • But the next day, the chances were, that the old feud would be renewed, whic_as certain to be the case at the first glimpse of an opera-glass from th_abin.