Round Cape Horn :
voyage of the passenger-ship James W. Paige, from Maine to California in the year 1852;
BY J. LAMSON.
PRESS OF O. F. & W. H. KNOWLES.
I HAVE said nothing of the character and appearance of the inhabitants of this town. There are about three thousand of them. On our first landing I saw standing round the shops, groups of ragged, dirty, copper colored fellows, with a "poncho" over their shoulders, and a conical hat without a brim on their heads. Some were employed in rolling large square bundles of wool from a warehouse to the landing. A few were driving loaded mules and asses, and others were variously employed; but the greater part of them were leaning against the buildings, or walking, idly about, as worthless looking a set of vagabonds as could very well be imagined. A very small number of well dressed men, were to be seen; but these were mostly foreigners, and the majority of them from the United States. Several women and girls were seated in front of the shops selling apples and cakes. As I passed into the cross streets I saw a great many women seated or standing at their doors, or walking in the streets. Many of them were very filthy, though some were neatly dressed, and were rather pretty. They had dark complexions, fresh, florid checks, bright, black eyes, and black, glossy hair hanging down their backs in two braids. They wore nothing on their heads, and I did not see a bonnet in Talcahuana. They had a smile and a word for all strangers, but their smiles were those of the siren. They were all sunk in the lowest depths of moral degradation and pollution. Such is the general character of the people of this, town. There are exceptions, and it is said that the married women are remarkably faithful to their marriage vows.
I took a walk up a hill in the rear of the village in company with several of my fellow-passengers. Saw several men employed in plowing their fields and harrowing in wheat, this being their season for sowing grain, though I saw several fields in which the seed had sprouted and grown up three or four inches. The extreme rudeness of their farming implements surprised me. Their plow was of the most primitive description, being formed of two pieces of wood, the beam being long enough to reach to the yoke to which it was attached, and the other piece forming the handle and point. A pair of small oxen drew it. Their yoke was a straight stick laid across their necks, and fastened to their horns. The man held the single handle of the plow in his right hand and a whip in his left. He broke up the surface of the ground not more than two or three inches deep, and harrowed the seed in with the same plow instead of a harrow. The soil is exceedingly rich, or such cultivation would never produce a crop. The English and Americans have brought. their best plows and other agricultural implements here, but they cannot persuade the Chilians to use them.
On going up a steep hill, we saw a Chilian on horseback accompanied by half a dozen dogs in full pursuit of an ox. They passed near us. I saw the rider take his lasso, twirl it several times over his head, and throw it. I witnessed the performance with great interest; but the result disappointed me, and I regretted that in the first instance I had seen of the throwing of the lasso, it missed its aim. The Chilian gathered up his lasso, threw it a second time, and caught the ox by the horns. The Chilians are fine horsemen, and they seldom ride without a lasso, which they are very expert in using.
I have spoken of the poncho. This is a very important article of dress with the Chilians, and I believe with all the Spanish population of America. It consists simply of a shawl either square or oblong, with a slit in the center, through which the head is thrust, and the poncho hangs loosely over the shoulders. They are made of a great variety of materials and patterns, some plain, and others richly striped, checked, or figured.
On our return to the village we saw a large covered wagon drawn by one horse. This would not have attracted our attention had we not observed that the driver, instead of taking his seat in the carriage, rode another horse, and guided the wagon horse, by means of a long bridle. This wagon was run daily to the city of Concepcion and back, and was the only carriage I saw here. It must depend on foreigners for patronage, for I doubt if a Chilian could be persuaded to take a seat in it while he had a horse to ride.
At the door of the Tremont House I saw a man with several strings of a pretty species of little wild doves, about the size of the little ground dove described by Audubon. Our landlord bought them.
No man can visit Chili without encountering an earthquake. At least I never heard of one who did. We had one of them in the night, but unfortunately I was asleep in my berth in the bark, and neither felt nor heard it. In the town the inhabitants left their houses in great haste and fled to the square. The shock was not very heavy, and no damage was done. This town, and indeed the whole western coast of South America, and North America as far as California, are subject to frequent earthquakes, some of which have caused immense destruction of lives and property. Talcahuana was destroyed by one of these convulsions in 1835, every building but two having been thrown down. The city of Concepcion, nine miles distant, was also greatly injured.
July 9. I had intended to take a ride to Concepcion, of which Talcahuana is the port, but being told that the roads were very muddy, the country flat and uninteresting and the city dull and but little superior to Talcahuana in point of elegance, I gave up the visit; and therefore having little to do to-day, I obtained permission of the captain of the port to go gunning. He cautioned me not to discharge my gun in the town, or even to load it here. On leaving the town I passed up a gorge between two steep hills, at the foot of which were a dozen huts filled with Chilians and dogs. A little brook ran through the valley, and several women and girls were employed in washing clothes in it. There was no room for a road, nor any need of one, and the little foot path was all they required in their communication with the village. I climbed the hill, and looked down the gorge. The scene was very pretty, and if I could have fancied a dozen neat cottages in place of these thatched mud huts, it would have been beautifully picturesque.
I passed over several steep hills, and down their sides through thickets of bushes and vines, all new to me; but without procuring any birds but a hawk. I saw several small birds that were strangers to me; but none that pleased me so much as the sight of one of our American robins. It gave a fresh impulse to my thoughts, and sent them at once, to my far distant home. I was half disposed to think that I had seen this identical robin in some of my rambles in the fields and woods at home, and that it had flown this long distance, bearing a message of love from my dear child.
After crossing several hills, I came at last to one, whose almost perpendicular sides overlooked an extensive marsh, which was bounded on one side by a bay, whose waters rolled up a broad beach of dark brown sand. Immense numbers of sea birds were hovering over this beach, but I could not approach them within gunshot. I passed a considerable number of huts at the foot of the hill. There were seldom less than two or three dogs around them, and sometimes more, besides women and children enough to fill them. The dogs seemed rather vicious, and often attacked me; but I easily drove them off except in one instance, when I was surrounded by three or four larger, and particularly ferocious ones, and had to swing my gun round pretty smartly, and was on the point of discharging it at them, when the women of the house came out and called them off.
I observed many beds of shells scattered over the marsh and beach, and collected several very pretty specimens, but found them too much decayed to be worth bringing away. There was also an abundance of these shells imbedded in the sides of the hills, and from the state of preservation in which they are found, there can be no doubt the convulsion which upheaved these hills must have been of a comparatively recent date.
I returned to the village in season to dine, which I did at the Tremont House. Upwards of twenty of our ship's company sat at the table. We had an excellent bill of fare, and I made a rich meal from a pie made of the little doves I had seen the day before.
After dinner I went to the warehouse of a rich old Scotchman to buy some wine to use as a substitute for tea and coffee during the residue of our voyage. This is a weak wine manufactured by himself, and is, as he says, the pure juice of the grape. A connoisseur in wines would not value it very highly, and indeed, it is not much better than old cider; but mixed with water and sugar, I find it rather a pleasant beverage. I bought several gallons at forty cents per gallon. This Scotchman had a peculiar sense of his own dignity, which would not permit him to wait on his customers; and I was amused to see him walk about the room with a very consequential air, while I filled my bottles from his cask. He received my account of the quantity I had drawn without inquiry as to its correctness, and with the greatest indifference.
A part of our company returned to the ship at night, but many of them tarried on shore in the enjoyment of such delights as the town readily supplied. Unfortunately two of the gentlemen having imbibed a larger quantity of aguardiente than prudence would seem to have dictated, and oblivious of the distance that separated them from the "land of the free and the home of the brave," indulged in a larger liberty than the regulations of the place permitted, and were rather ignominiously accommodated with lodgings in a calaboose, for which they were charged two dollars each on being liberated in the morning.
One of our men, an Irishman, while fishing from the side of the bark, hooked up rather a queer fish--nothing less than a Chilian musket. It was in a tolerable state of preservation, though rather rusty. He scoured it up, and made a very respectable piece of it.
An affecting incident occurred on shore during our stay here. Stephen Pierce, one of our passengers, had a brother somewhere in the Pacific Ocean for many years; and four years had elapsed since he had heard from him. He was than at Juan Fernandez. It was in part a slight hope of finding his brother, that induced Mr. Pierce to undertake this voyage. On his arrival at Talcahuana he began to make inquiries for him; and strangely enough the first man to whom he spoke on the subject, was an acquaintance of his brother's, and informed him that his brother had died fourteen months before in this village, and that his widow, who was a Chilian and a native of Talcahuana, whom he had found and married at Juan Fernandez, still lived here. He accompanied Mr. Pierce to the dwelling of the widow, introduced them, and acted as interpreter between them; for she had learned nothing of the English language. She was a very pretty woman of only eighteen years. The meeting was exceedingly affecting. But little time was necessary to satisfy the young widow of the identity of Mr. Pierce as the brother of her deceased husband, when she threw herself upon his neck, and the tears of the bereaved wife and brother were mingled in sorrow and sympathy at this renewed remembrance of their lost relative. She wept long and bitterly. After a long interview, Mr. Pierce took leave. But he repeated his visit to-day, and the widow accompanied him to the grave of his brother. She was deeply moved, for she had loved her husband with a. strong affection. Her mother and other relatives manifested the kindest and most affectionate regard for Mr. Pierce, and this last interview, as well as the former, was one of intense interest. After having prolonged his stay to the last moment, he bade adieu to these new found relatives, never in all probability to meet again on earth.
July 10. We were much disappointed in the fruit market in Talcahuana. There was nothing to be obtained but some apples of an inferior quality, tasteless and thick-skinned, and walnuts. I laid in a stock of walnuts, which I found very useful. Had we arrived two months earlier, we would have found a lot of pears, peaches, grapes, &C.
Captain J. having completed taking in his stores, consisting of fresh beef, potatoes, flour, beans, oil, wood and water, weighed anchor at noon, and stood out of the harbor with a light, but fair wind. We were all ready to go, and no one betrayed any impatience at the shortness of our stay or any wish to prolong the visit. We had seen enough of Talcahuana, and animated with a hope of a speedy and prosperous termination of our voyage, we left the coast of Chili merrily singing:
"Hi-o, and away we go,
Digging up gold in Francisco."
We had a pleasant sail for several days, and nothing of importance occurred to mar our pleasures until the fourteenth of July, when Mr. Johnson met the passengers in the main cabin for the purpose of explaining his conduct in his quarrels with Julia S. He was heard very attentively in an address, in which he attempted to justify his conduct in every instance. Miss S. replied to him, contradicting some of his statements, and explaining others. Captain J. took part in the discussion, but his remarks were not calculated to restore harmony. Nothing was effected by the meeting, no new facts were elicited or old ones explained, and no change was wrought in any one's opinion.
July 17. I have another unpleasant occurrence to record. A robbery was perpetrated in the cooks' galley last night, and about a hundred cakes of soft-tack stolen. It was reported to Captain J., who came into the after house and threatened to put us on hard-tack again. Many irritating words passed between him and some of the passengers, and he became so exasperated against one of them, that he seized him by the collar. There was great excitement all over the ship. In the height of the quarrel, Stephen Walker called on Captain J. and offered to find the bread if the captain would send a man with him to make search. The first mate was directed to accompany him, and in a few minutes the bread was found in the forecastle among the sailors, and the excitement was soon quieted. The captain transferred his wrath from the passengers to the sailors, and ordered the cooks not to serve any more soft-tack to them until they should inform against the thief, which they will be in no haste to do. It was a needless theft, for since we left Talcahuana they had a full allowance, that is, two and sometimes three cakes once a day, which is all that is allowed the passengers.
My excellent friends, Captain J. and Mrs. L---t, have volunteered some very disinterested advice on the subject of my journal, and have enlightened me on the difficult question, what is proper, or rather, what is not proper, to record in it. Mrs. L-t thinks that all the little squabbles and disputes we have had, and all the scandal that has been so rife among us, would be improper subjects to record, and would prove uninteresting to the reader. She was desirous to know if my journal was intended for publication, and spoke very earnestly on the impropriety of giving the names of persons. I replied that my journal was nothing more than a letter, a long letter to my daughter, and was written for her amusement; that I did not intend it for publication, though some portions of it, might perhaps be made into articles for the newspapers; that as to what is improper to record in a journal, there was a great difference of opinion, and every one must judge for himself; and that many events of an unpleasant nature were to be found in every book of travels, and they very often proved interesting to the general reader. I remarked that though a great many books of voyages and travels had been published, no one had yet given to the public an account of the pleasures and pains, the comforts and discomforts of a passenger-ship round Cape Horn, and that I thought such an account might be received with favor by the reading public, but that in such an account, the propriety of giving the names of persons would depend on circumstances.
As for Captain J., he didn't care what was said about him; he was independent; but he didn't want the slanders that were going about in the ship to get home to his wife, though he was not afraid but what he could satisfy her about them when he got home. He hoped I would not say any thing about them, and ended with a general threat intended to intimidate me. I made no reply to him, except that I had said nothing of him or Mrs. L---t in my journal, which it would be necessary to expunge or alter.
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