I confess I formed a very low estimate of New York pilots, which was not heightened by one of the mates showing me an embossed card, with his address, which our pilot had presented to him, accompanied with an invitation to come to a soiree. As the mystery was subsequently solved, I had better give you the solution thereof at once, and not let the corps of New York pilots lie under the ban of condemnation in your minds as long as they did in mine. It turned out that the pert little youth was not an authorized pilot, but merely schooling for it; and that, when the steamer hove in sight, the true pilots were asleep, and he would not allow them to be called, but quietly slipped away in the boat, and came on board of us to try his ’prentice hand; the pilots of New York are, I believe, a most able and efficient body of men.
Here I am, reader, at New York, a new country, a new hemisphere, and pitch dark, save the lights reflected in the water from the town on either side. All of a sudden a single toll of a bell, then another, and from the lights in the windows you discover a large wooden house is adrift. On inquiry, you ascertain it is merely one of their mammoth ferry-boats; that is something to think of, so you go to bed at midnight, and dream what it will really look like in the morning.
[Footnote C: I believe another lighthouse is to be erected on the proper headland.]
The Land of Stars and Stripes.
The sun had aired the opening day before I appeared on deck. What a scene! There was scarce a zephyr to ripple the noble Hudson, or the glorious bay; the latter, land-locked save where lost in the distant ocean; the former skirted by the great Babylon of America on one side, and the lovely wooded banks of Hoboken on the other. The lofty western hills formed a sharp yet graceful bend in the stream, round which a fleet of small craft, with rakish hulls and snowy sails, were stealing quietly and softly, like black swans with white wings; the stillness and repose were only broken by the occasional trumpet blast of some giant high-pressure steamer, as she dashed past them with lightning speed. Suddenly a floating island appeared in the bend of the river; closer examination proved it to be a steamer, with from twenty to twenty-five large boats secured alongside, many of them laden at Buffalo, and coming by the Erie Canal to the ocean. Around me was shipping of every kind and clime; enormous ferry-boats radiating in all directions; forests of masts along the wharves; flags of every colour and nation flying; the dingy old storehouses of the wealthy Wall-street neighbourhood, and the lofty buildings of the newer parts of the town; everything had something novel in its character, but all was stamped with go-aheadism. This glorious panorama, seen through the bright medium of a rosy morn and a cloudless sky, has left an enjoyable impression which time can never efface. But although everything was strange, I could not feel myself abroad, so strong is the power of language.