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around, he left behind a sky of rich and mellow softness, with dark and ragged clouds, of every varied and fantastic form, drawn in bold relief upon the brilliant back-ground. As the twilight faded away, and the moon arose, the song and the dance were heard on the forecastle, for thus the more gay and thoughtless of the crew often amused themselves after the labors of the day.
" Some rude Arion's restless hand
Thoughtless, as if, on shore, they still were free to rove." Leaving this scene of noisy mirth, and retiring to the after part of the ship, I climbed to the mizen top, some fifty feet up from the deck. There, were ten or twelve of the crew, amusing each other by recounting their past adventures, and often have I sat for hours listening to the wild and eventful history of their by-gone days. At such times sailors relate alike the evil and the good in their characters and conduct, and where one has gained their confidence and respect, and shows a ready sympathy in their sufferings, they will kindly listen to the warnings and the counsel he may give them. So unaccustomed are they to meet with those who seek their highest good, that they are often peculiarly grateful for any interest which is shown in their religious welfare, and, when thus affected, recalling to mind the instructions of the Sabbath School, and the family circle, they will, for the time, freely yield to the tender and subduing influence of Christian sympathy.
When most of those who had been with me had descended, and all was still aloft, the scene was truly delightful. The moon was holding her silent and majestic course in the heavens, and her bright image was seen far down in the deep. The sea and the sky were both of the purest blue, and far above and below us were thickly set with brilliant stars. It seemed as if we were floating in ether, and enclosed in a vast and splendid sphere, with every part of its surface lighted by myriads of golden lamps. The air was mild and balmy, and all around was like a scene of enchantment, or a lovely dream of poetic fiction. Who, at such a time, could help exclaiming, “There's beauty in the deep.”
We were five days on our passage from Gibraltar to Mahon, in the island of Minorca, the place where our ships
refit, and often winter, and where our naval stores are kept. As we entered the harbour, the boats from the shore and from the ships of the squadron came flocking around us. The greeting of friends was warm, and many and earnest were the inquiries respecting the health and prosperity of those at home. Papers and letters, also, were eagerly sought, and such was the delight they gave, as to make one feel the truth of the wise man's remark, that, “As cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country."
All our ships were in quarantine on account of the cholera. The sloop of war John Adams had lost six men, and the Delaware twenty-three. Of her crew, consisting of about nine hundred, less than two hundred were on board, the rest being at the hospital, on an island in the harbour. The ship had been under quarantine fifty days, and continued so twenty more. To be in quarantine seems singular enough to one who has never tried it before. You meet with old friends whom you have not seen for years, and, though in perfect health, you must not touch each other, even to shake hands; nor can a letter, or newspaper, or any other article pass from one to the other until it has been immersed in vinegar, or thoroughly smoked in the fumes of brimstone. You may walk for hours beside a friend, and converse with him at the distance of a few feet, but must not touch him, nor any part of his clothing. To prevent this, a Sanidad, or health officer, closely watches the parties. One of these gentry, accused an officer from our ship of touching a pea-jacket belonging to an officer of the Delaware, and, in consequence of it, he was subjected to the same quarantine with that ship, while we were released a week or two earlier. The poet says,
" "T is sweet, unutterably sweet,
And grasp him warmly by the hand.' Though I could not at first give the pledge of friendship here spoken of, still I had the pleasure of meeting my friend, the Rev. Mr. Jones, chaplain of the Delaware, the author of “Sketches of Naval Life," and more recently of Cairo, Jerusalem, and Damascus. He was my senior in college, and, after his first visit to the Mediterranean, we had, for several months, been boarders in the same house. It was very gratifying to me to meet one for whom I had so high an esteem,
and who, from the soundness of his judgment, his accurate knowledge of men, and his experience in the Navy, was so well qualified to advise me as to the duties of my office. In addition to his extensive travels in the East, Mr. Jones had crossed Europe twice, on foot; thus, in the space of eight months, travelling three thousand miles, and, by his familiarity with the languages spoken, and his intercourse with those of all classes, he gained a far more minute and accurate knowledge of the character and habits of the people than most travellers are able to attain.
As Mahon, from its situation and its unrivalled harbour, is a most important naval station, and hence has often been the prize for which nations have contended, it may be well here briefly to describe it. The harbour is less than forty rods wide at its mouth, and its average breadth is not more than one fourth of a mile. It is three and a half miles long, and so deep that, in many places, the largest ships may lie close alongside the rocks which line the harbour, and the little coves which open into it. The anchorage is safe, and the hills on each side rise from fifty to one hundred and fifty feet in height, so that there is little danger from the wind. There are, also, a number of islands scattered along from one extremity of the harbour to the other, which are admirably fitted for sites for quarantine buildings, a hospital, and Navy Yard. At the entrance of the harbour, on the left, are the ruins of Fort St. Philip, where are excavations of vast extent, cut through the solid rock by the English, who have twice had possession of the island.
These fortifications, which made the place nearly equal in strength to Gibraltar, were destroyed by the king of Spain, in accordance with a treaty into which he had entered.
About a mile above the fort is Georgetown, where are extensive barracks of stone, two and three stories high. These, with the storehouses and other buildings, were erected by the English, but are now unoccupied and going to decay. Georgetown has about two thousand inhabitants, many of whom derive their support from the supplies which they furnish, and the labor they perform, for those connected with the ships of war of various nations, which visit the island. The same is true of not a few of all the population in the vicinity of the harbour.
About two miles above Georgetown, and near the head of the harbour, is Mahon. The appearance of the town from
the water is quite picturesque and striking. It extends back from a perpendicular precipice one hundred and fifty feet high, which overhangs the narrow quay below. The row of houses and stores which extends along the water's edge, has here and there been crushed by large masses of rock from the heights above, and part of some of the steep, zigzag roads which wind their way up the sides of the hill, lie in ruins at its base. The salutes fired by ships of war in the harbour, are thought to have loosened these portions of rock, and there are now clefts in the surface above, which may well cause the dwellers over and beneath them to tremble.
The houses are built of a soft freestone, which abounds in the island, and which is easily cut into large, square, or oblong blocks. They are from one to three stories high, whitewashed or painted yellow, with no space between them, and the streets, most of which are paved, are quite narrow. Thus there are neither yards nor gardens, of any extent, within the town, and little is seen, in walking along the streets, but the bare walls, except that the houses of the better sort, as is common in Europe, have balconies in front of the windows of the upper stories. These are formed by an iron railing about three feet high, making a little cage of the width of the window, and projecting out two or three feet from the wall. There the ladies spend much of their time, in pleasant weather, inspecting passers by, and returning the salutations of their friends. On the numerous holidays of the Catholic church, too, these balconies are crowded, that thus the splendid processions and other objects of interest in the streets below, may be seen to advantage. At such times tapestry of rich and gaudy colors is often suspended from the balconies, reaching far down towards the ground, and giving, to the long, straight streets of some of the larger cities, a peculiarly gay and cheerful appearance.
And here I would remark, that the education, and the social and religious training and habits of the Spanish, and other thoroughly Catholic nations, as first they present themselves to the attention of a reflecting Protestant, cannot fail to excite in his mind feelings of peculiar, and often of painful interest. The old maxim of the church, that “Ignorance is the mother of devotion," if not openly avowed, is too much acted upon, and, in those countries where the Catholic faith has either originated despotism, or formed an alliance with it, there seems to have been, on the part both of the civil and religious rulers, a deadly fear, lest the mass of the people should, in some way, be able to know and to feel their right to liberty of thought and action. The policy of the Catholic church has long been to give to a few, who were to rule the rest, a superior education, and allot to them so much of power as to make them, from selfish motives, efficient agents of her will. From the great body of the people, however, intellectual pleasures and excitements have been almost entirely withheld. In the schools for the lower orders, in Spain, especially in those where females are taught, little else is done than to sew, knit, and repeat the prayers of the church, and the names of the saints. But, should they even learn to read and write, they have, until recently, had no newspapers that could at all enlighten or improve them, and but few books of interest, except works of most unearthly romance, and plays. Singing, dancing, playing on the guitar, and a slight knowledge of French, are the highest accomplishments at which the most favored aim. Of singing and dancing they are passionately fond, and seem to regard those who are ignorant of them as truly to be pitied.
The Sabbath, that main stay of morals and religion, is regarded, in Catholic countries, mainly as a day of sport and revelry, of military display, of visiting, and every kind of worldly amusement. The people, with neither Sunday Schools nor Bibles, hear but few sermons during the year, and these leave the heart and duty to God almost wholly out of the question, and excite only to the observance of the outward rites and ceremonies of the church, and the worship of the saints. At church, they hear the priests chant prayers in an unknown tongue; they count their beads, and thus make sure that they have repeated the Pater Noster and Ave Maria a given number of times, their only aim being to go over with them with the greatest possible rapidity. They then return home, having commonly finished the religious duties of the day by seven or eight o'clock in the morning, and, with no rational and serious way of spending the time, what is to be expected of them but that they should devote the Sabbath to visiting and recreation.
To give the people amusements is the most effectual way of diverting their attention from their true situation, and of causing them to forget the chains of mental slavery with which they are bound. Hence the holidays, the masquerades, and dissipation, frolic, and madcap revelry of the Carnival,