22. RETURN TO THE STATES
“I MUST send you out. I see that you cannot stand it here another month,” said Jack one day; and so he bundled us onto the boat in the early spring, and took us down the river to meet the ocean steamer.
At Fort Yuma we telegraphed all over the country for a nurse, but no money would tempt those Mexican women to face an ocean voyage. Jack put me on board the old “Newbern” in charge of the Captain, waited to see our vessel under way, then waved goodbye from the deck of the “Gila,” and turned his face towards his post and duty. I met the situation as best I could, and as I have already described a voyage on this old craft, I shall not again enter into details: There was no stewardess on board, and all arrangements were of the crudest description. Both my child and I were seasick all the way, and the voyage lasted sixteen days. Our misery was very great.
There was no diversion, no variety; my little boy required constant care and watching. The days seemed endless. Everybody bought great bunches of green bananas at the ports in Mexico, where we stopped for passengers.
Such were my surroundings on the old “Newbern.” The German doctor was interesting, and I loved to talk with him, on days when I was not seasick, and to read the letters which he had received from his family, who were living on their Rittergut (or landed estates) in Prussia.
He had the keenest sense of humor, and as I listened to the tales of his adventures and miraculous escapes from death at the hands of these desperate folk, I looked into his largo laughing blue eyes and tried to solve the mystery.
For that he was of noble birth and of ancient family there was no doubt. There were the letters, there was the crest, and here was the offshoot of the family. I made up my mind that he was a ne'er-do-weel and a rolling stone. He was elusive, and, beyond his adventures, told me nothing of himself. It was some time after my arrival in San Francisco that I learned more about him.
Now, after we rounded Cape St. Lucas, we were caught in the long heavy swell of the Pacific Ocean, and it was only at intervals that my little boy and I could leave our stateroom. The doctor often held him while I ran down below to get something to eat, and I can never forget his kindness; and if, as I afterward heard in San Francisco, he really had entered the “Gate of a hundred sorrows,” it would perhaps best explain his elusiveness, his general condition, and his sometimes dazed expression.
The old “Newbern,” with nothing in her but ballast, rolled and lurched along, through the bright green waters of the outer bar. I stood leaning against the great mast, steadying myself as best I could, and the tears rolled down my face; for I saw the friendly green hills, and before me lay the glorious bay of San Francisco. I had left behind me the deserts, the black rocks, the burning sun, the snakes, the scorpions, the centipedes, the Indians and the Ehrenberg graveyard; and so the tears flowed, and I did not try to stop them; they were tears of joy.
My beloved California relatives met us, and took care of us for a fortnight, and when I entered a Pullman car for a nine days' journey to my old home, it seemed like the most luxurious comfort, although I had a fourteen-months-old child in my arms, and no nurse. So does everything in this life go by comparison.
Of course we were both thinking hard of all that had happened to me since we parted, on the morning after my wedding, two years before, and we were so overcome with the joy of meeting that if it had not been for the baby's white sunbonnet, I do not know what kind of a scene we might have made. That saved the situation, and after a few days of rest and necessary shopping, we started for our old home in Nantucket. Such a welcome as the baby and I had from my mother and father and all old friends!
But I saw sadness in their faces, and I heard it in their voices, for no one thought I could possibly live. I felt, however, sure it was not too late. I knew the East wind's tonic would not fail me, its own child.
Stories of our experiences and misfortunes were eagerly listened to, by the family, and betwixt sighs and laughter they declared they were going to fill some boxes which should contain everything necessary for comfort in those distant places. So one room in our old house was set apart for this; great boxes were brought, and day by day various articles, useful, ornamental, and comfortable, and precious heirlooms of silver and glass, were packed away in them. It was the year of 1876, the year of the great Centennial, at Philadelphia. Everybody went, but it had no attractions for me. I was happy enough, enjoying the health-giving air and the comforts of an Eastern home. I wondered that I had ever complained about anything there, or wished to leave that blissful spot.
The poorest person in that place by the sea had more to be thankful for, in my opinion, than the richest people in Arizona. I felt as if I must cry it out from the house-tops. My heart was thankful every minute of the day and night, for every breath of soft air that I breathed, for every bit of fresh fish that I ate, for fresh vegetables, and for butter—for gardens, for trees, for flowers, for the good firm earth beneath my feet. I wrote the man on detached service that I should never return to Ehrenberg.