May not his sea-sickness after all be a merciful dispensation of Providence to counteract the more crushing sickness of the heart which weighs so heavily upon the exile, borne away from home and country? However, the elements – by which I mean the winds and waves – are in the best of good humour to-day, and all on board seem in a like mood. The captain and officers are exceedingly civil. I find the cabin passengers (though mostly English) amazingly obliging, too. I have just taken up a publication called “London Society,” which one of my fellow-passengers has brought out for his delectation during the voyage, and find one of the writers animadverting upon the proverbial moroseness of his countrymen in their intercourse with strangers. This cockney contributes to “London Society” avers that the Englishman’s look to a stranger, says, as plainly as words — “Who the devil are you, and what brought you where I am?” Now, in common justice, I am bound to declare that these particular Anglo-Saxons, among whom fate has cast my lot for the time being, as far as I am concerned, laid aside their Who-the-devil-are-you-looks in toto; my nationality being no secret withstanding. “Give the devil his due” is an excellent maxim. * * * * *
The Tipperary brigadier, whom I saw at T—, is among the passengers. On my expressing regret that he, and so many like him, were deserting old Ireland, he vowed energetically that they would come back again. Well this is some consolation, Mr. —, another brigadier, who has taken a prominent part in national politics in Dublin is also one of us. I find him a very pleasant companion….
I have made it my business to inquire particularly how the steerage passengers are treated; and (as the opinion I had formed of the captain had led me to anticipate) I find our poor people have nothing to complain of. The females are now sitting round the deck sewing and reading in the bright sunshine. Many of the men are reading, too; card-playing and pitch-and-toss have their votaries too – while some athletic fellows perform “feat of strengths,” under the direction of the captain, who is evidently popular. The weather is delightfully fine, by day and by night – the sea bright and smooth as a mirror, and blue, save the broad “path of rays” sunward. I scarcely know which to prefer – the sea by sunlight or by moonlight. I think the latter; its mild grandeur is so suggestive of heavenly rest. Last night I had surrendered myself completely to this charm, when I was roused from my dreaming by an unusual movement on the deck below me. I was a little puzzled for a moment, but was not long in discovering the cause and meaning of what at first appeared inexplicable. It was simply this: A rustic musician struck up “Garryowen” upon a fife. He was immediately joined by another with a tambourine. And, though I am sure most of them had retired to their berths, before many minutes had elapsed, there was not an Irish man, woman or child in the ship who was not up on deck. They fell into a closely packed procession, and marched slowly round and round the vessel after the musicians. For a full hour I looked down upon the moving mass, not without emotion I do confess. The music stopped, and the momentary hush was broken by the fife-player exclaiming, as he drew his hand across his eyes – “Begor, boys, I thought the daisies were under my feet.” And the daisies and the shamrocks were under all their feet during that hour. We are a soft-hearted race, heaven help us.
I have examined the list of passengers, and find the Irish are three-fourths of the whole. There is a striking difference too, in the proportion of females to males between the Irish, and English, and Scotch. The English and Scotch females are not one to two males, while the Irish females equal the males in number. Did I mention that when A— came out to see us in Cork harbour he gave a sovereign to the peasant girl to whom “our baby” had taken such a liking, desiring her to take care of the child during the voyage. The poor girl observes her engagement religiously. She is from the west of Ireland, the daughter of a widow, and the eldest of a house full of children. She is going to America to make all their fortunes. When she dropped the sovereign into her little empty purse, I said that as sure as fate the coin or its equivalent would find its way to Connemara before Christmas day. And there will be blessings and tears for the absent one in the poor cabin.
To think of these Irish homes! – of what they are and what they might be! May I not say what they shall be? If not better that we had never been born. We are unworthy the name of men, if we leave one stone unturned, one honourable effort untried, one danger undared, to put an end to the hideous misery our people are suffering. Brave Poland! Craven – yet no. We have been groping in the dark, but the scales have fallen from our eyes at last. The Irish People for the first time in history have taken for their motto – “Ourselves alone.” It is at all events clear that there are only two paths before us; and few, I apprehend, will be found to deny that one of them “leads down to perdition.” If I have read the signs of the times correctly, neither blandishments nor threats can induce the People to set foot upon this path. Standing still being out of the question, it follows that the Right Road is straight before us. Will not all just men wish us God-speed on the journey?