Chapter 2 The South Atlantic
1st of June, 1892 Much calmer weather, also warmer and lighter.
The first class are getting up tableaux vivants, therein captivating the eye of the second. Run 283 miles, with a fair wind. Saw some seaweed so we can't be very far from land. So far we have not seen a ship of any kind.
Mr. Buchanan gave me a large skipping rope but no one knows how to skip, which is disappointing. I think they are afraid of making fools of themselves so left it all to me and the First and Second Officers. I like all the officers very well. They are quite a different class from those of the "British King". The "B. K." or Corduroy sat on the officers' seat at tea tonight. His hands were very dirty. He has been most kind to an ill man, getting him hot water bottles, drinks, food and doing anything he could do, although he seems to have been dreadfully ill himself. Temperature of the water this evening 42 degrees.
Anchovy eggs, 3 hard boiled eggs, [?] Anchovy sauce, 2 oz. butter, pepper, salt.
Thursday, June 2nd Run 250 miles. Water 46 degrees.
Almost a head wind, pitching badly all day. A bright moonlight night. We were on deck after supper, Mrs. Buchanan and Ethel sitting on the lee side of the skylight, I standing by when a great wave came over us. They were fortunately covered by rugs but I got soaked. Mr. Hammond asked us to afternoon tea on Saturday. We are due in London next Tuesday three weeks.
June 3rd This has been quite an eventful day in the way of duckings. Most of us have had sprinklings, particularly the Misses Spence and MacGibbon. Miss Vernon invited me to afternoon tea, which I enjoyed more this time than last.
The water was 61 degrees this morning, 59 this evening. Run 275 miles.
The men have all signed a requisition asking to have Tea put off half an hour, also, for freshly cooked meat in the evenings. There was some talk of the ladies being asked to sign also, but I hope that won't be carried through.
Alice is teething so yells night and day. I heard her yelling till 1 o'clock last night. Flirtations are beginning now that people are able to go on deck in the evening. The nights are beautiful and moonlight so that it is a pleasure to go up on deck. Mrs. Buchanan is very amusing. She alternately stuffs and takes pills and fizzes and is then astonished that she does not feel well. She has just taken some nonsense medicine of Mrs. Powell's. Oh! love! how people do gossip on a ship! After writing the above I went on deck to look round and found flirtations flourishing. Mrs. Powell and the doctor, Mrs. Fanner and Second Officer behind boats, Mrs. C. and her fat friend on the skylight.
Saturday, June 4th Warmer weather. Everyone on deck except Miss L. Smith who has a cold. Passed a four-masted sailing ship during the morning. She had all sails set and looked majestic though a long way off. We saw four other ships during the day, being just off the river Plate they were quite common. Someone told Mrs. Cables that one was a pirate which she seems to have believed.
Box day. Directly I opened the lid of mine out flew some of my things into the scuppers. We have to open our boxes on the main deck in full view of everybody on the other decks, which is not altogether pleasant.
There was some excitement amongst the men this afternoon. Some of them had been asked by the first to play a Cricket match, which invitation they accepted. However when the captain heard it he forbade our men to play on the first deck, so that the match could not come off we having no deck suitable. The first were very indignant and the second very irate, so many of them declared they would not go to the tableaux in the first this evening.
Mrs. Buchanan, Ethel and I went to tea with Mr. Hammond, this after eating cake at Doris' birthday party. We had ship's tea, with preserved milk, also the usual bread and butter, all of which Ethel declared to be delicious although she won't touch any of them at our own meals. She is amusing in many ways. Sits up in bed in the middle of the night to say that she is sure the stewards throw all the slops down the bath etc. The tableaux were very good, better than we expected, likewise the audience. Walked on deck till 10.30 p.m.
Sunday, June 5th Run 254 miles. A beautiful day. Calm sea, balmy wind in fact a head wind since 10.30 pm last night.
Did not go to church this morning. We have seen flying fish, porpoises, turtles and black fish today, also one smallish steamer going the same way as we. It is very warm below. Our cabin feels like an oven, the walls and floor feel warm to the touch. This nice weather seems to agree with the steerage passengers, they being all on deck this morning.
There was an inspection of the crew on the poop this morning, all in their best clothes. As their names were called each man touched his hat to the Captain and went below. The seven cooks looked very much out of place in their white caps, jackets and aprons. I was late for evening service so stayed in my stifling cabin.
June 6th It was so hot in our cabin last night that Ethel and Mrs. Buchanan decided to sleep in the saloon, the settees of which they found very hard. It is most astonishing to think that last Sunday we had snow, sleet and freezing wind. The day before yesterday I had on all my thick clothing whilst now I wear print dresses.
The morning programme was put up today. I got an invitation from the Captain through Miss Vernon to go ashore with him, with Miss Wigman and Ethel, which invite I gratefully accepted. We expect to reach Rio tomorrow afternoon. Mr. Spence leaves us there for which I am sorry as he is the most gentlemanly looking man in our saloon, besides being nice.
There is to be a dance on the quarter deck at 8.15 this evening, to which we are all cordially invited. I have neither gloves nor evening dress, so don't feel much like going, but suppose I shall all the same.
Lots of flying fish were seen today. The head wind still continues, so our run was only 251 miles today. Ethel beat some of the first at quoits this morning. Great triumph on our part.
June 7th The dance last night was great fun. The Port side of the quarter deck was closed in (which made dancing very hot work). The floor was so slippery that sand had to be put on it as so many people found it impossible to keep their feet. Not only because of the slippery-ness but because the deck sloped down to the scuppers where we continually found ourselves landed. The first dance was a Lancers, the figures of which no one seemed to remember. This was accounted for by my partner because the music was so bad, but he knew nothing about it. Miss Bridge and I were looking over the side when she said: "Do you see the frost fish?" I said "Where?" "Oh, shining in the water." I said I didn't think there were any here. "Oh" she said "I think it must be the moon." She is a beauty.
Mr. Buchanan asked us to supper in his cabin, where we were entertained with sandwiches and champagne. As we were all a-merrymaking the lights went out! which was decidedly awkward but it soon came on again but went out a second time to return in a few seconds when we thought it prudent to retire.
Some of us saw a Whale before breakfast. Land is also in sight. Miss Vernon, Miss Wigman, the Captain and I go on shore this afternoon to spend the night. They say the night will be hideous for those who stay on board, all the portholes are to be shut on account of coaling.
June 8th We were kept a long time waiting yesterday before we were able to go on shore at Rio, so that we thought we should be too late to go out to Tijuca.*
We landed at a little after six o'clock on the steam launch, and wandered about the town whilst the Captain was at the agents. He told us to go to a café and wait, but Miss V. could not remember its name, so that we were stranded in the wrong one whilst he looked for us in the night.
Fortunately the Lowe and Doveton parties were dining where we were, so we were not alone. It seems so strange to see so many men in the streets and so few women. (Perhaps.)
At about 8 o'clock we took the Tijuca tram drawn by two little mules hardly the size of an Italian donkey. I wonder that animals so small can start such heavy trams, for though the trams are not so heavily built as those of North American, they hold about thirty people. I even saw several trams dragged along by one mule!
The streets are very narrow and smelly, most of them have one or two rows of tram line. They are all paved with stone, the footpaths being very narrow and uncomfortable. The town reminds one in every way of an Italian town except that some of the houses are even more ornamented.
Well, to continue! We drove through the town for a long way passing along a sort of avenue of palms, which were most majestic in the moonlight. The air felt so beautifully fresh driving out to the suburbs after the stuffy town. We went as far as the tram goes and then hired a carriage and four mules to take us up the steep ascent of the last part of the way. The road was bordered by gardens with palms, humps of bamboo, poinsettias, ferns, foliage plants, trees etc all looking most lovely in the moonlight. The ascent was steep and winding but our little mules trotted up splendidly. We got glimpses of the lovely hazy harbour and the light of the town occasionally between the trees. I also noticed a creeper with white flowers growing along the road side which I afterward found to be Thumlungias [?], white, buff and deep orange.
We got over the ridge and scuttled down a very steep road, round sharp corners, over a narrow bridge, up another steep incline and drew up in front of a long building which was our hotel. Here we were shown our different rooms, of which Miss Wigram's and mine opened onto an open gallery. The bathroom was on the opposite side of the gallery and was the funniest one I have every seen. To begin with there was no window, only an open space looking out onto a bank of ferns etc. The floor was covered with wooden grating and was divided into two halves by a zinc division about three inches high. One side was covered with Zinc which was the nearest approach to a bath. The water came in the way of a shower.
At 9.30 pm we began a dinner of potato soup, fowl and ham croquettes, slices of roast beef and sauce and green peas, mutton chops and French beans and watercress salad, open tart apparently made of semolina, claret, oranges and coffee. Then we strolled out in the moonlight and Captain Sutcliffe tried to frighten us about snakes and tigers. It was all too fascinatingly beautiful and quiet. The only sound being the rippling of the stream in the valley below. Then we came in and played the piano until shortly after eleven when we retired to bed, and very comfortable beds too with spring mattresses.
Nevertheless I didn't sleep much and arose at about seven the next morning. The fresh water shower bath was delicious after sticky salt water. Just as I was dressed there came a knock at the door and the girl brought a tray with coffee and roll. She carefully explained it all to me in Portugese by lifting up the lids of the coffee pot, milk jug and sugar basin and saying café, lait, etc. The coffee and fresh milk was a treat. The milk was brought up from below in bottles. There seem to be no fields to speak of, what open spaces I saw were covered with a small kind of bamboo and buffalo grass.
The people who stayed the night in town say that the cows were taken from door to door with their calves tied to their tails and there milked in the streets. The cows and bullocks seemed very small, though those who drove out to the gardens say they saw some fine ones. The horses were mostly short, fat and stumpy. I only saw one decent looking dog, a fox terrier out at Tijuca, all the others were mongrels very like Maori dogs.
We descended, found the Captain on the verandah and went for a stroll up the waterfall in the hotel grounds, which was pretty. Then we walked in the other direction and saw the men's and ladies' swimming baths, then back to breakfast. There were some other English people at the table in riding clothes. They were talking French before the girl came in, so that we had thought them to be foreigners.
Our carriage and four came for us at about nine o'clock, when we had a delightful drive down to the town. There we got feather flowers, fruit (mostly oranges), a porter to carry them down to the launch, where we found most of the other passengers had been stewing for an hour or more, and where we waited half an hour more for the Captain.
We got on board at about one, and started away soon after two o'clock. What was so lovely was the foliage of the trees and bamboos, also the flowers of the wild creepers which were out during winter. Amongst them large blue Pomeas* and small pale blue one; white, buff and orange thumbergias [?], wild begonias, beautiful spikes of pink-mauve flowers on a large-leafed tree, very handsome. In the gardens we saw Tecoma, Alamander (both of which reminded me of home), large Poinsettias, a large shrubby foliage plant, beautiful red flowers with long stamens, and many others. The most curious thing I noticed was a cactus growing up a palm tree, it having already climbed up about fifteen feet. I think I saw a red Alamander, but can't be certain.
There is so much to remember and so much that was lovely to describe, that all this seems a very bald description. The harbour and formation of the surrounding hills was so extraordinary that it is quite impossible for me to dare to try and describe them. Such curious scratched looking rocks stood out of the water, and so many of them.
Saturday, June 9th 220 mile run.
June 10th 264 mile run.
June 11th We have had head winds since leaving Rio until this afternoon, therefore our runs have not been long. 262 miles today.
We have all been washed out since leaving Rio. The weather has been close with a very tiring wind. Our cabin is dreadfully hot. Ethel and Mrs. Bethell have been sleeping in the saloon. Mr. Leaver tried to bag it but complaints from the ladies were made and he prevented. I talked with Mr. Hammond today and found that he has been staying on the Junction Road with a friend called Roberts. Mr. Hammond is the melancholy youth whom Mrs. Span has taken up. Mr. Hammond divided a frozen orange between us this afternoon, which was most refreshing and delicious.
Sunday 12th Run 284 miles. Still a good deal of breeze.
A violent shower scattered the congregation on the poop this morning. We had some oranges frozen, the agreement being that we mended the coat of the engineer who puts them in for us. I went to the evening service in our saloon, the congregation being mostly men.
Steffy has been suffering from a slight sunstroke, but is well again today. I don't wonder at the children getting upset; they are continually being stuffed with all kinds of nuts, biscuits, cakes and fruit.
Slept in the saloon on one of the settees last night for the first time. Did not get to sleep 'till late, so slept until after all the other ladies had gone back to their cabins, finding myself surrounded by sembling stewards. The men sleep on deck and watch us through the skylight. I do wish some of the ladies would not come into the saloon in their nightdresses before the lights are out. This saloon is overlooked (through the portholes) from the entire main deck as well as through our own skylight, yet some come out and prepare their beds and get into them in their nightgowns.
Monday 13th Mother's and Bundie's* birthday. How I wish I were at home again! But I wish that a hundred times a day.
* Elizabeth's sister-in-law, wife of her eldest brother Frank (Francis).
Mrs. Buchanan whilst sleeping under a porthole in the saloon, was waked up this morning by being slapped on the face through the said porthole! She is always in the wars, poor old lady. She does tire me so with her ceaseless grumblings, especially in our cabin where I can't escape her. She has got up all her luggage, and this after many complaints of the stuffed up appearance of our cabin.
We nearly ran into a ship last night. There was a large three-masted, two-funneled steamer on our front side this morning, but a very long way away.
Miss L. Smith and I have been having rather fun about sleeping in the Captain's deck cabin. She suggested one night when we were passing the wide open door that we should take possession, lock the door and spend the night there. Next day she mentioned this to the Captain who promptly said we might sleep there if we chose, but we must be away early so as to allow of the boy cleaning it out. Next day he asked me how we had slept, and seemed greatly astonished to hear that Miss. Smith had been joking.
He is a curious man, most unpopular with passengers and ever yet doing most kind things to a few, of which I am fortunately one. He is considered a great flirt besides being exclusive and haughty. Mrs. Fanner and infant have taken possession of the "first" smoking room to sleep in, greatly to the indignation of one or two men who looked upon it as their own property.
Tuesday 14th Run 260 miles. We are just on the line and the steamer has stopped to mark the place.
The steamer stopped today so as to allow of the pistons being repacked, but the stoppage only lasted ten minutes. The poor people doing the work in the engine room were streaming with perspiration, leaving little puddles where they had stood.
I went up on deck last night to tell Mrs. Fanner that both her children were crying. I was just in time (worse luck) to see her kiss Monsieur le Second Cunsterdri Cayute [?]. I wished I hadn't spoke!
The second [Saloon passengers] gives a concert on the quarter deck this evening. The captain, Mrs. Wildish and Mrs. Claxton are the only outsiders asked to sing. I have been overcome to sing, how I gave in I don't know, but wish I hadn't.
Mr. Buchanan made me two funny little hazel nut men, most grotesque looking. Their heads and bodies are made of hazel nuts, and their legs and arms of wooden matches, their feet of almonds or hazel kernels slit in half. I've made a splendid little chicken out of two Brazil nuts for Ethel. She teases Miss Lily Smith by making her giggle in the most absurd manner. She is really quite coming out and gay.
One of the blue jackets is to sing a comic song tonight. He and Mr. Leaver, who is to play his accompaniment were practising in the saloon this afternoon. All the words I could hear were about his being a "tailor made fellow" possessing "whiskers on his toes", which seems neither pretty or funny. Mr. Howard says it is a vulgar song to which no lady should listen, however there is no likelihood of our hearing the words as William Gale sings terribly through his nose.
Mrs. Fanner was singing in the saloon the other afternoon, that is whooping tremendously. She had been at it for some time, when I happened to be going down stairs. A steward going down in front of me waited till I got to the landing and said: "Mrs. Fanner has something the matter with her. Brown colics somethin' 'orrid". I couldn't help laughing. Mr. Buchanan was asking Evie people's names on deck this morning, amongst others his own, which Evie calls Bill. However Evie said "Mr. Buchanan", then he asked what my name was. Answer: "Mrs. Buchanan". Tableau!