There was in Nicaragua at the time a filibustering expedition under the command of Captain Walker, who went from California to overthrow the government there by taking sides with the revolutionary movement that had been started, and to get an American control of the government, which I did not approve of, for I considered it a dishonorable movement; but still, if I had landed, they being my countrymen, I might have got mixed up with them. They were conquered and all sentenced to death, and shot. It is barely possible I might have shared their fate. I have often thought since I made a good escape by not landing.
The course of the steamer is frequently in sight of land. The storms I have referred to were tropical storms, lasting but a short time. The ocean is generally very mild all the distance, three thousand five hundred miles from Panama to San Francisco. North of San Francisco the storms are somewhat similar to the Atlantic ocean storms. The passengers on the return trip were in the best of spirits; they were returning home; all of them had been more or less successful in California, and I can recall to my mind many pleasant times we had on board the steamship. The porpoise are very numerous on the Pacific ocean; there were often, for days, schools of them on the sides of the steamer, throwing themselves out of the water, and then diving in again; great numbers, at the same time, seeming like the motion of a revolving wheel. Occasionally we would hear the cry, “There she blows;” a jet of water being thrown up many feet high in the air—a sperm whale had come up to breathe. We frequently saw flying fish. One day there was a school of them landed on the steamer; they are similar to other fish, except having wings, but not of a very large size. At another time a booby bird came on the steamer. It got its name from its stupidity. We frequently saw them on the water, floating on a piece of board or a stick of wood; sailors say they have seen them five hundred miles out to sea in that way. This one you could take up and handle; it made no resistance. On the coast of Central America we saw two mountain peaks of great height, standing out, individually, like the Pyramids, said to be extinct volcanoes that were thrown up from the internal fires of the earth, and which, at one time, belched forth melted lava and fire.
We arrived safe in Panama. I was so near home that I thought I might as well return and see my friends, and take a fresh start for California, and try my fortune once more. They had commenced building the railroad over the Isthmus, but it was not completed, so we crossed over to Cruize, the head of navigation on the Chagres river, and went down that to its mouth, and there took the steamer Georgia for New York, commanded by Captain Porter, of the United States navy—the man who had control of the vessels in going down the