4. DOWN THE PACIFIC COAST
NOW THE “Newbern” was famous for being a good roller, and she lived up to her reputation. For seven days I saw only the inside of our stateroom. At the end of that time we arrived off Cape St. Lucas (the extreme southern point of Lower California), and I went on deck.
I thought it most dreadfully cruel, but was informed that it had been done from time immemorial, so I ceased to talk about it, knowing that I could not reform those aged countries, and realizing, faintly perhaps (for I had never seen much of the rough side of life), that just as cruel things were done to the cattle we consume in the North.
Now that Mr. Sinclair, in his great book “The Jungle,” has brought the multiplied horrors of the great packing-houses before our very eyes, we might witness the hoisting of the cattle over the ship's side without feeling such intense pity, admitting that everything is relative, even cruelty.
The daughter of the lieutenant-colonel was on board, the beautiful and graceful Caroline Wilkins, the belle of the regiment; and Major Worth, to whose company my husband belonged. I took a special interest in the latter, as I knew we must face life together in the wilds of Arizona: I had time to learn something about the regiment and its history; and that Major Worth's father, whose monument I had so often seen in New York, was the first colonel of the Eighth Infantry, when it was organized in the State of New York in 1838.
The party on board was merry enough, and even gay. There was Captain Ogilby, a great, genial Scotchman, and Captain Porter, a graduate of Dublin, and so charmingly witty. He seemed very devoted to Miss Wilkins, but Miss Wilkins was accustomed to the devotion of all the officers of the Eighth Infantry. In fact, it was said that every young lieutenant who joined the regiment had proposed to her. She was
Then, dear Mrs. Wilkins, who had been so many years in the army that she remembered crossing the plains in a real ox-team. She represented the best type of the older army woman—and it was so lovely to see her with her two daughters, all in the same regiment. A mother of grown-up daughters was not often met with in the army.
And Lieutenant-Colonel Wilkins, a gentleman in the truest sense of the word—a man of rather quiet tastes, never happier than when he had leisure for indulging his musical taste in strumming all sorts of Spanish fandangos on the guitar, of his somewhat marked talent with pencil and brush.
The heat of the staterooms compelled us all to sleep on deck, so our mattresses were brought up by the soldiers at night, and spread about. The situation. however, was so novel and altogether ludicrous, and our fear of rats which ran about on deck so great, that sleep was well-nigh out of the question.
Before dawn, we fled to our staterooms, but by sunrise we were glad to dress and escape from their suffocating heat and go on deck again. Black coffee and hard-tack were sent up, and this sustained us
The heat in the Gulf of California was intense. Our trunks were brought up from the vessel's hold, and we took out summer clothing. But how inadequate and inappropriate it was for that climate! Our faces burned and blistered; even the parting on the head burned, under the awnings which were kept spread. The ice-supply, decreased alarmingly, the meats turned green, and when the steward went down into the refrigerator, which was somewhere below the quarter-deck, to get provisions for the day, every woman held a bottle of salts to her nose, and the officers fled to the forward part of the ship. The odor which ascended from that refrigerator was indescribable: it lingered and would not go. It followed us to the table, and when we tasted the food we tasted the odor. We bribed the steward for ice. Finally, I could not go below at all, but had a baked sweet potato brought on deck, and lived several days upon that diet.
On the 14th of August we anchored off Mazatlan, a picturesque and ancient adobe town in old Mexico. The approach to this port was strikingly beautiful. Great rocks, cut by the surf into arches and caverns. guarded the entrance to the harbor. We anchored two miles out. A customs and a Wells-Fargo boat boarded us, and many natives came alongside, bringing fresh cocoanuts, bananas, and limes. Some Mexicans bound for Guaymas came on board, and a troupe of Japanese jugglers.
While we were unloading cargo, some officers and their wives went on shore in one of the ship's boats, and found it a most interesting place. It was garrisoned by Mexican troops, uniformed in white cotton shirts and trowsers. They visited the old hotel, the amphitheatre where the bull-fights were held, and the old fort. They told also about the cock-pits—and about the refreshing drinks they had.
My thirst began to be abnormal. We bought a dozen, cocoanuts, and I drank the milk from them, and made up my mind to go ashore at the next port; for after nine days with only thick black coffee and bad warm water to drink, I was longing for a cup of good tea or a glass of fresh sweet milk.
A day or so more brought us to Guaymas, another Mexican port. Mrs. Wilkins said she had heard something about an old Spaniard there, who used to cook meals for stray travellers. This was enough. I was desperately hungry and thirsty, and we decided
Mrs. Wilkins told him what we wanted, but this ancient Delmonico declined to serve us, and said, in Spanish, the country was ‘‘“a desert”;’’ he had ‘‘“nothing in the house”;’’ he had ‘‘“not cooked a meal in years”;’’ he could not; and, finally, he would not; and he gently pushed the door to in our faces. But we did not give it up, and Mrs. Wilkins continued to persuade. I mustered what Spanish I knew, and i told him I would pay him any price for a cup of coffee with fresh milk. He finally yielded, and told us to return in one hour.
So we walked around the little deserted town. I could think only of the breakfast we were to have in the old man's casa. And it met and exceeded our wildest anticipations, for, just fancy! We were served with a delicious bouillon, then chicken, perfectly cooked, accompanied by some dish flavored with chile verde, creamy biscuit, fresh butter, and golden coffee with milk. There were three or four women and several officers in the party, and we had a merry breakfast. We paid the old man generously, thanked him warmly, and returned to the ship, fortified to
You must remember that the “Newbern” was a small and old propeller, not fitted up for passengers, and in those days the great refrigerating plants were unheard of. The women who go to the Philippines on our great transports of to-day cannot realize and will scarcely believe what we endured for lack of ice and of good food on that never-to-be-forgotten voyage down the Pacific coast and up the Gulf of California in the summer of 1874.