Two Years Before the Mast eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 502 pages of information about Two Years Before the Mast.

CHAPTER XVIII

The next Sunday was Easter, and as there had been no liberty at San Pedro, it was our turn to go ashore and misspend another Sunday.  Soon after breakfast, a large boat, filled with men in blue jackets, scarlet caps, and various-colored under-clothes, bound ashore on liberty, left the Italian ship, and passed under our stern, the men singing beautiful Italian boat-songs all the way, in fine, full chorus.  Among the songs I recognized the favorite, ``O Pescator dell’ onda.’’ It brought back to my mind piano-fortes, drawing-rooms, young ladies singing, and a thousand other things which as little befitted me, in my situation, to be thinking upon.  Supposing that the whole day would be too long a time to spend ashore, as there was no place to which we could take a ride, we remained quietly on board until after dinner.  We were then pulled ashore in the stern of the boat,—­ for it is a point with liberty-men to be pulled off and back as passengers by their shipmates,—­ and, with orders to be on the beach at sundown, we took our way for the town.  There, everything wore the appearance of a holiday.  The people were dressed in their best; the men riding about among the houses, and the women sitting on carpets before the doors.  Under the piazza of a pulperia two men were seated, decked out with knots of ribbons and bouquets, and playing the violin and the Spanish guitar.  These are the only instruments, with the exception of the drums and trumpets at Monterey, that I ever heard in California; and I suspect they play upon no others, for at a great fandango at which I was afterwards present, and where they mustered all the music they could find, there were three violins and two guitars, and no other instruments.  As it was now too near the middle of the day to see any dancing, and hearing that a bull was expected down from the country, to be baited in the presidio square, in the course of an hour or two, we took a stroll among the houses.  Inquiring for an American who, we had been told, had married in the place, and kept a shop, we were directed to a long, low building, at the end of which was a door, with a sign over it, in Spanish.  Entering the shop, we found no one in it, and the whole had an empty, deserted air.  In a few minutes the man made his appearance, and apologized for having nothing to entertain us with, saying that he had had a fandango at his house the night before, and the people had eaten and drunk up everything.

``O yes!’’ said I, ``Easter holidays!’’

``No!’’ said he, with a singular expression on his face; ``I had a little daughter die the other day, and that’s the custom of the country.’’

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Two Years Before the Mast from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.