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Chapter 4

Saturday, Nov. 16th
Sewed ever so much today. Mended my dress which the captain tore swinging me and made a white apron. We had our carpet taken out after the last storm, as it got all wet; and this morning the stewardess scrubbed our floor,. So I threw on a wrapper and stayed in my room all morning in "honor of the occasion." Our stateroom is a perfect show. I wish mother could see it. It is about half as large as the "little room" at home*, a berth in each end, five large trunks on the floor, one large plaything box of Harry's, one large tin case, two smaller ones, a chest of drawers, washstand, a large clothes basket the size of a barrel, besides several other smaller things, all on the floor. Then strung about the walls are about a dozen dresses, as many skirts, half a dozen hats, as many pair of shoes, two clothes bags, a rag bag, two bandboxes, half a dozen shawls, cloaks & any amount of Harry's clothes, one picture of Harry's sweetheart, five or six towels, my travelling basket, some small boxes and parcels, brushes, combs, etc. A clothes line over Mrs. Ballard's bed, which is used in this way: Mrs. B. takes about a pint and a half of water in the wash bowl, washes Harry in it; then washes herself; then washes out two or three handkerchiefs, two or three pair of stockings, Harry's pants, jacket & shirt and hangs them on the line to dry. That is the way we live.

This is Mr. Craven's birthday, and we have all been tormenting him. I have just escaped in a used up state. Mr. De Silver had been making a fool of himself as usual. He is the biggest dunce I ever saw. I am very sick of him. If I was on land, I'd soon get rid of him; but here I cannot do it without being at loggerheads with him; and I do not want that; for I know what he is. We are very much tied down in that way at sea.

10 weeks out today. 10 weeks since the tall spire of old Trinity Church went out of sight, and the shores of our native land looked like a blue line on the horizon. 14 weeks last evening since I said good-bye to old Buttonwood, and went away as fast as steam could take me without daring for a moment to think of what all I was leaving behind me. I rather think I've thought of it since though. I never expect to see any place I like as well as Buttonwood. I never think of home with regret, but only with pleasure -- 20 years of perfect happiness I've spent there and expect to spend some more; but even if I shouldn't -- why that's enough for a lifetime.

Mr. Kane used to preach a great many doctrines that I didn't believe and never will. But one of them anyhow I do believe, and that is this: we don't any of us have on hand always an extra amount of courage, pluck and such things; but they come as we need them. Now that's so. Since I left home, I have several times been placed in predicaments which were altogether unexpected and different from anything I had ever thought of before -- but I always got through just right and without any mistake. And people make a great fuss about the position I shall have to take in China, being such a hard one for a young girl like me to occupy. But I have no doubt that I shall fill it just right -- to perfection -- just as well and better than anybody else. I am not a bit uneasy about it. That's my faith -- but Mother might call it self conceit for which some of the Bradfords are famous. Be that as it may, it serves me; and one thing I know -- that is the Bradfords don't stick fast anywhere; and if they do happen to get into a scrape, always get out again first best. So I'm not afraid of anything on land or on the sea, in America or China. I intend to have as good a time as possible, take things as they come, and be content. But there goes four bells -- 6 o'clock -- and I will hardly have time to brush my hair before the tea bell rings.

*The "little room" at Buttonwood is probably the one measuring about 9 feet by 13 1/2 feet. If one enters the dining room from the kitchen, this little room is through a doorway to the left off the dining room. Ruth's father originally tried to use it for a study, but it proved inadequate. (May 4, 1994)

Sunday, Nov. 17th
Took a bath in the wash bowl. The idea of me, who never thought a bath worth taking unless I got in over head and ears, bathing in a pint and a half of water in the wash bowl, wearing a pair of white stockings a week, then taking them off, turning them wrong side out and wearing them another week. Thought I would put on a clean under waist today. So I got two out of my trunk and found to my dismay that neither of them would meet. I have got so fat. I shall have to take to pickles, I guess.

Monday, Nov. 18th
A high head wind and heavy sea. The cook is sick, laid up with chills and fever. It is very cold today, which makes an improvement in the water, if nothing else. All hands in good spirits excepting Mr. De Silver, who is engaged in eating "pout pie." All hands in the cabin all day as we are constantly shipping seas, and it is too cold to enjoy a ducking.

Tuesday, Nov. 19th
Cook is still sick, and such cooking I guess no civilized set of beings ever were doomed to eat before. Mrs. Ballard, Mr. Craven and doctor tied me with a rope this morning. They said they wanted a little sleep; precious little they got though. Mr. De Silver still sulky. Looks as if he had lost his last friend. He didn't begin right with me; that is for his own good. What fools some fellows are. He cannot bear to see me speak to one of the other gentlemen, and of course I would do it if it was for nothing but the fun of seeing him act the fool. Wind increases. How we do roll.

Wednesday, Nov. 20th
Thought I would take a promenade on the main deck, but it was destined to be a short one, for a big wave came over the side and ducked me, and I had to come in.

Thursday, Nov. 21st
High wind and very heavy sea; going at the rate of 7 1/2 knots, roll around at great rate and have great need of our "sea legs." We are evidently going to have a blow. I must stop writing and secure all the breakables in the room as things are beginning to fly around. Everything almost that can be is lashed down securely, but sometimes the motion of the ship is so violent as to break loose the strongest fastenings. I have had several things broken and still carry on my arm the marks of the first night out. Captain, Uncle John and the cook are all sick. The stewardess cooks. She is the most untidy, filthy creature I ever saw. We all ought, on leaving this ship, to be furnished with a written certificate saying that we had eaten not only one peck of dirt, but a bushel, and were entitled to clean living all the rest of our life. I was not brought up in a band box, goodness knows; but some things we have to put up with here are really almost too much for flesh and blood to stand. But we can certainly do many things at sea which we could not do on land.

Friday, Nov. 22nd
Feel today like slapping everybody in the face. Going along at a fast rate. Nobody can venture out of doors as we ship seas all the time. While we were at dinner, the fore top gallant sail parted with a crack (which made the captain and several others spring to their feet) and flew all to ribbons. Stood on the quarter deck awhile this morning and watched the waves. Sea and sky both the same dark color, except that the waves are just now lashed into white foam. Saw a great many birds, boobies & fish hawks, searching for fish. Wondered where they stay nights and where they have their nests. We never see a single bird. There is always a pair of them.
I just heard the second mate on deck saying that we were in for a heavy storm. I did not need to be told so; for I feel the waves striking the vessel, making everything clatter. The old ship creaks and groans as if she was hurt. We will no doubt have a very rough night.

Saturday, Nov. 23rd
A heavy storm raged all night. I slept until about 3 o'clock in the morning, when I was awakened by a volley of the most terrible, blood-curdling oaths, which made my very hair rise so that it almost lifted my night cap off my head. The captain was cursing some of the men on deck in the mist of the storm, the ship ploughing along under close reefs with her jibboons and lee sail completely under water. I never heard profane language until I came to sea. Captain Cooper is the wickedest man I ever saw. Such dreadful, heaven-defying oaths I never dreamed it possible for any human being to utter. I sprang out on the floor. Mrs. B. was awake, wringing her hands. Nobody on the ship excepting me had slept any all night, and I didn't sleep after that. The ship was rolling and pitching at a great rate. The storm increased and roared awfully. I went to the dead light and looked out, and really, it was a most magnificent sight -- nothing to be seen in the darkness but the white light flashing here and there. I subsided into bed again but did not stay there long before I was pitched clear across the stateroom and back again. Just then a heavy sea passed clear over the ship, and the water poured into the cabin and staterooms, sending the gentlemen flying around in all directions in their dishabille. All the chairs and stools in the cabin were adrift and banging about. The dishes in the pantry were crashing, the men shouting and swearing on deck, and the storm roaring. Such a noise. Pretty soon I dropped asleep for a minute -- dreamed I went home, ran all over the house to find Mother, saw her at last in the dining room and made a bolt to reach her when my dream was cut short by the crashing of china just beside me. Jumped up and found that the water pitcher had broken loose and gone to pieces, the water pouring all over the room, deluging shoes, stockings, and everything else.

This child was mad. Mrs. B & I both rose at once. But before we could say "Jack Robinson" both of us were pitched together half way under her berth; and at the same time three trunks got adrift and came bang up against us, wedging us in so that we could not move but had to wait until the vessel rolled the other way when the trunks flew back to the other end of the room. Mrs. B rolled into her berth half crying with pain and fright together. Before I could reach my berth, I was thrown the length of the room two or three times. I must have had about forty extra bumps on my head. But I got to laughing and laughed until morning, much to Mrs. B's disgust.

About 5 o'clock I sent for a cup of tea, which was brought. I sat on my berth, took the cup in my hand, spilled some on me and burnt myself, lost my center of gravity and flew, tea and all, to the other end of the room, the trunks all following suite. Mrs. B screamed; and I, after rolling around among the trunks for some time, picked up my cup in one corner, spoon in another and myself I hardly knew where. Then I thought I would dress. After much labor and groaning and many sumersets, I succeeded in doing so and sat down on my berth to recover. Mrs. B. then attempted it and seized a moment when all the trunks had drifted to my end to step out; but no sooner had her feet touched the floor than they all rushed back to her again, knocking her feet from under her; and she tumbled back into her berth again. I tried to secure the trunks a little, and at last she got dressed. Just then to my dismay I heard Harry, who had been dressed and sent out, relating to a group of gentlemen in his childish way the particulars of my morning's performances amid much laughter. When I came out, I received many congratulations upon my escape from a violent death and was quizzed a good deal about my ride on the trunks. But I had my revenge on them. When breakfast was ready, all took their seats but Uncle John, who is almost helpless with the rheumatism, and me, who did not feel hungry. Uncle John was braced on the sofa, and I stepped out on the quarter deck to have a look at the sea. Presently the vessel rolled clear over on her side. I heard an awful crash in the cabin and confusion of sounds. I sprang down the companionway and such a scene! The breakfast table had broken away and with all its contents drifted to leeward, upsetting and passing over the heads of all at the lower side of it; and all at the upper side following head foremost, everything in a heap; Harry crying at the top of his voice; Captain and Mr. Foster supporting Mr. De Silver, who had been struck by a corner of the table and pretty badly hurt; Mrs. B drenched with the contents of two or three tea & coffee cups and the spittoon; some of the gentlemen with a knife and fork in each hand and their plate on top of them; bread, butter, meat, potatoes, cakes, cups, saucers, plates, knives, forks, stools, men, women & children all piled up together. Some laughing, some crying, and all hurt and angry. Uncle John was on the floor declaring that his arm was broken and the sea had no respect for his age and rheumatism. Such a time as we had. Oh, we have had some grand and lofty tumbling here this morning, but nobody is sea sick but Mrs. Cooper. Almost all have subsided to bed, and I must go too as it will take half a day's sleep to make up for the last night and this morning.

Sunday, Nov. 24
It has cleared off and is pleasant. I went out on deck and lay in the sun until I got so sleepy that I had to come in and go to bed, where I slept until the dinner bell woke me. We are making 7 knots. Mr. De Silver gave me half a pocket full of sugar plums as a peace offering, having been on very cool terms for nearly a week. Now we'll be friends again for a week or so, by which time I'll be tired of him again and tell him so, when of course he will be mad. So it goes. It seems quite like Sunday, in as much as all have their Bibles and there is no card playing.

Monday, Nov. 25th
Going at 9 knots. Stayed all morning in Ollie's stateroom helping make a canvass cap, his own having gone overboard. No less than eleven hats and caps have gone overboard since we came out. Ollie thought he could do it better than I; so he made the most of it; and I watched him, amusing myself and him meantime by teasing Mr. Craven, who was sitting reading with his back within an arm's length of our door. At last I rolled up a piece of paper and poked it in his ear, which made him jump clear across the cabin with ever so many big pieces of white canvass suspended to the buttons on his coat behind and his back and head covered with ravellings. Of course everybody laughed, and he went to bed vowing vengeance as soon as Pa went out of the cabin. We are 76 days out.

Tuesday, Nov. 26th
Good wind still continues. We are enveloped in a Sohoth (?) mist. Everything is saturated with it. I have not been dry for a week. Our heads are all wet, and we put on our clothes mornings as wet as they can be. Such things would kill us on land, but here they do not hurt us any more than that they make us rather uncomfortable. We can put up with anything as long as we keep a good wind.

Wednesday, Nov. 27th
Had a most disgraceful scene last night between the captain and some of the passengers. He ordered the gentlemen to bed, and they wouldn't go. Then he ordered the mate to put out the cabin lamp. He did so, but the gentlemen lit another. Then the captain came in and cursed and swore, stood up in that cabin and defied God Almighty until I was positively ashamed to get down on my knees and say my prayers. He threatened to put the gentlemen in irons, shook his fist under their noses, and made a fool of himself generally and accomplished nothing.

This morning he sneaked out and very humbly apologized to Mr. Craven, but he coolly told him that he would accept of no such apology. He might come in the cabin and make his acknowledgments in the presence of all who heard him last night, or else he would call him to account as soon as we got to Hong Kong.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28th
Fell suddenly in the night from a 9 knot breeze to a dead calm. It is too aggravating. We are 120 miles from Tristan da Cuna. It is a beautiful day. Everything is turned out on deck to dry. I have been sunning myself for some time. Our Thanksgiving dinner was not much to brag of. Last Thanksgiving day I dined off roast turkey, fresh vegetables with peaches and cream for dessert. When Hal came down, I took Morgan, and we rode to Cherry Hill, met Dart and Carson, who went back and so spent a gay evening. But thinking of all this does not make me at all miserable or diminish my appetite for our poor fare; whereas Mrs. Ballard, that Yankee, could hardly eat any breakfast and cried for half an hour at the thought of all the good things the folks at home are having. Ridiculous! But I ought not to be too hard on Mrs. Ballard. She has a good deal to undergo here. She is all alone, by herself; and her boy is generally hated, which afflicts her greatly as he is her idol.

I wonder what the folks at home are about today and whether the American people generally observe this day as a fast or a feast. Oh, for a newspaper and poor Dart. I wonder where he is, whether he is dead or alive, and what the rest of our crowd are about. But what is the use of wishing?

Had a grand farce last evening in one corner of the deck in which Doctor and I were principal actors. How Bell would have laughed had she been within hearing or seeing distance. I wonder what is the reason that young gentlemen who have nothing else to do will make fools of themselves and stand up and take all manner of extravagant vows and oaths which mean just exactly nothing and have no effect except to make us and the man in the moon laugh at them. But anything in the world to pass the time on ship board, as long as it is not wicked and does nobody any harm.

There are a great many birds around the ship today, cape pigeons and albatross. We tried to catch some but couldn't. I feed them sometimes; they are pretty creatures. I am getting quite industrious and sew a good deal but cannot learn to like it.

Friday, Nov. 29th
Moving a little today. 80 days out. Beautiful weather. They have the main hatch open, getting something out. All hands on the lookout for land and wishing for a wind.

Saturday, Nov. 30th
Going at 6 knots. Three whales around the ship and hundreds of birds. Wrote a short letter home to leave at the island if we ever get there. Mrs. Ballard is sick. Had to leave the dinner table. I sent her to bed, ordered her a cup of tea and some toast, doctored her up, and she is better. Read "Childe Harold" this morning. Think it is splendid.

It's a beautiful day and all are in good humor. Dreamed last night that I went home and Mother boxed my ears soundly, whereupon I was so provoked that I packed up and went away again.
Have just been up on deck to look at three or four big whales. They were about 40 feet long and spouted the water way up in the air.

Sunday, Dec. 1st
We are just off Tristan Da Cuna, a great high mountain, and oh but the grass is green. A boat came off with 7 men and they are all aboard now. Saw some green leaves in the boat and made one of the men give them to me. Peter Green says they have roses there blooming all the year round and says he will bring me some off. The land breeze smells so good I could just jump overboard and swim ashore. We hope to get ashore tomorrow. I can't wait.
(No entry for three days.)

Thursday, December 5th, 1861
Last evening about dark we returned from the island. (Tristan da Cuna) All excepting Pa and Mrs. Ballard and her boy Harry and the captain went ashore on Monday evening. We rowed 11 miles from the ship to the shore over a rough sea and landed on the top of a big breaker, which carried us up high and dry. Expected to return in two hours in a whaleboat belonging to the islanders, but it became foggy, and they would not put off. So our two boats left towing the water casks, which had been filled on the island; and we were all left behind in our glory; and a taller time I guess a set of mortals never had.

Of course we were all perfectly wild at getting on land again. Some of the gentlemen got down on all fours and almost ate grass. We went up to Peter Green's, the largest house, which was to be our hotel, and called for dinner. Peter went out for a sheep, had it killed & dressed in a twinkling. They gave us fresh mutton, fresh bread and butter, the richest of milk, and half a dozen different kinds of wine. Such eating I never saw in my life. Had a gay evening, found an old fiddle with three strings and a great big fellow named Sam who undertook to play it. So we marshalled him, cleared the middle of the cabin; and if we didn't dance then, I wouldn't say so! When we got tired, or rather Sam ran out of anything to play, we sang, whistled, romped and cut up in general to the great wonder and amusement of Peter and all the folks on the island who had assembled in his cabin to see the strangers and who were ranged around the wall and peeping in at every door with big eyes. At a very late hour Mrs. Cooper and I went to bed, and the gentlemen strewed themselves around the drawing room floor. In the morning we were all invited out to the brook to make our toilettes, were supplied with a patent hair brush, and Peter offered to lend us a tooth brush.

We were there two days and nights. The fog thickened. We could not see the ship. Mrs. Cooper went into hysterics, and the rest of us enjoyed ourselves. We lived well anyhow after 3 months on ship board. We had new potatoes, fresh pumpkin pies, and all sorts of things. We caught a penguin. It is half bird, half fish, and has the most curious hopping movement I ever beheld. When it was first brought up to Peter Green's where we all were and set hopping, we all laughed straight on for at least three quarters of an hour. I never saw such uproarious mirth as it occasioned. Mrs. Cooper did not share much in the general jollification. She was so worried about the ship and the captain that she stayed in bed and cried most of the time, which we all thought was very foolish in her. But it amused me much as I know so well what she is, and I owe her an old grudge not only for teasing me about ship but for keeping me awake all the night before because she couldn't sleep, and she declared I shouldn't. So I teased her and amused the rest. I would go in once in a while, pull a long face, talk very dispairingly about our condition, the danger the ship must be in from the rocks and fog, the misery of the captain and Pa until she would be half frantic, crying and wringing her hands. Then I would cut up, laugh, talk foolish, make fun and cut capers until she would be in convulsions of laughter with tears running down her cheeks -- just for the fun of seeing her in hysterics, then I would leave her, advising her to go to sleep, to which she would respond with one of the deepest groans I ever heard. Then I would go out to the "drawing room," find the gentlemen, who had heard all, almost bursting with smothered laughter; but of course they would scold me in very grave tones. The doctor would call in all kinds of wild, crazy wishes, declare Mrs. Cooper must not be excited as her case was alarming, and send me back again to her with a composing draught from Peter's medicine chest. At last yesterday afternoon, just as we had given up all hopes of Mrs. Cooper surviving much longer, the fog cleared away and the ship hove in sight. A boat put off from her, which we watched with the spy glass until it came ashore. Then the islanders rigged their boat. We gathered up our treasures and amid the highest excitement took our leave of Tristan da Cuna. Arrived at the ship. We found they had suffered a great deal of anxiety. The boats on Monday night had not got on board until 12 o'clock. There were not men enough left on the ship to manage her; and being surrounded by a dense fog, they came within an ace of being dashed on the rocks.

The mate, who commanded the boats, got too much whiskey, became frightened, cut adrift the water casks which he was towing and lost them. Pa and the captain had been nearly crazy, thinking that we would return in the boats and fearing they were lost. So they were all very glad to see us back. We all agreed that we had never had such a gay time in our lives before. I'm sure I had just as good a time as ever any girl had in the world, even if it was on an extinct volcano away down in the middle of the ocean. The only girl among eight young gentlemen and my "chaperone" in bed with the blues. None of the gentlemen like Mrs. Cooper very much, and they did not grieve themselves all to death if she did stay in the house, and of course I didn't either. They were all very attentive and clever for me, always doing some thing for me or waiting on me in some way, and whatever else we may all forget. I think we will always remember the fun we had at Tristan Da Cuna.

Friday, Dec. 6th
We have at last got clear of the island and are making 9 or 10 knots. We have on board about a dozen geese, a cow, some sheep, and ever so many pigs. We lost our sea legs on land and go tumbling about like we did at first. Mrs. Cooper has quite recovered, and all are beginning to settle down again, but we are never at a loss for something to talk about and will not soon forget our fun on shore.

Yesterday when the whale boat went off the last time, we sent presents back to the folks on the island. The gentlemen sent various things. Mrs. B sent a hoop skirt. I sent pins, needles, thread, buttons, some collars, a little bottle of cologne, some trimming and other things and a book with my name in and the name of the daughter of Peter Green to whom I presented it. Good-bye to them. They treated us kindly.

Saturday, Dec. 7th
Fair wind; went like a streak all night. Pa had a bottle of cherry bounce broken in his trunk, staining a good many of his clothes, chiefly drawers and night shirts. Everybody is taking "sailor's comfort" today, raking out their trunks in search of moths. It is a beautiful day. We have not seen the sun for a week. Caught a kingbird this morning; dozens of them roost nights on the stunssil boom. Our penguin has gone overboard. He jumped out at one of the port holes and away he went. Helped Pa dry his books, sewed a little, slept a good deal, romped with Mr. Foster and got my hand hurt.

Tomorrow will be Sunday, I suppose, if it doesn't rain. The week has been very short. Mrs. B is in a bad humor. I talk to her nearly all the time, which makes her very mad as she doesn't want to answer me and I make her. Somehow or other I feel kind of -- sort of -- as if I were sent for and couldn't come -- the effects of recent dissipation, I suppose.

Sunday, Dec. 8th
A beautiful day. A large albatross came on board with a piece of muslin tied around its neck upon which was written "S. S.; Western" with the date, latitude & longitude. We put another label around his neck with the name of our ship and let him go.

Monday, Dec. 9th
Have been writing letters home all day. We are going to put into Cape Town, where we can mail them. Everybody is excited and getting out and brushing up their shore clothes as we expect to dress up and make a stiff into Cape Town. We expect to get there in the course of ten days if we keep a good wind.

Tuesday, Dec. 10th
Have been in a bad humor and stayed in my stateroom all day.

Wednesday, Dec. 11th
Gradually subsiding into a calm, of course. It is only our luck. Captain is having the ship painted and polished up so that we can cut a stiff going into port. Mr. Craven is sick with fever and ague. Saw hundreds of porpoises this afternoon. All hands were assembled on the gallant forecastle. Captain stood down in the chains with a harpoon and tried to strike one but did not succeed. It is going to be a fine evening.