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Passengers VIII

Frederick Meyers

Thus I have discussed all the members of the Marquis’s family, and given you some account of the intimate friend of that family. When I say I liked them all, I speak the truth – but the next person I am going to mention was received by me & my brother officers with a feeling far beyond mere liking – with decided partiality. This was Fritz or Frederick Meyers, a native of Hamburg. He was a young man, about 20, of the ordinary standard of height, with a face rather handsome, and which, when we came near England, was set forth to great advantage by a fine roseal bloom. I never met yet with a passenger whom we all loved so much as Fritz. His disposition was most animated and affectionate – his manners were most pleasing and gentle - & in short you could not be long in his company without feeling for him the attachment of a Brother or of a dear friend. He associated constantly with us & took a pride in doing so. When he came on board he could speak a little English and at his own request I took upon myself the charge of instructor. Never had Master a more attentive or docile pupil, and never did such harmony prevail between teacher and scholar. By constantly conversation on all subjects & by careful correction of the mistakes he was most apt to commit without either grammar or other books, long ere the voyage was concluded, Frederick could understand us all perfectly and could also express himself pretty fluently and correctly. We were thus mutually pleased at the same effect – I with my pupils proficiency & he also at his own progress. As an instance of his improvement I have now in my possession a letter which he wrote me from London & which was the first one in English he had penned – and I am sure when you see it, you will admit if to be most creditable to the Instructor and Instructed.

Frederick had been in Mexico about 2 years and a half. He spoke not the Spanish well – but understood perfectly what was said to him by the Mexicans. He did not at all like the Mexicans and abused them right and left. Were it not that he has a brother in the Capital, well established in business, and that [there] is the chance there of making much money, he would never return. But as it is, his intention is to remain 8 or 9 months with his family & then resume his duties in his Brothers warehouse in the hope of being take in as partner in the course of two or three years more. For money is the Germans Divinity as much as it is said to be the Scotchmans. Frederick did not belie this characteristic of his countrymen. He knew perfectly the value of pounds, shillings and pence, and the truth of the old saying that pence make shillings and shillings make pounds. There was another trait quite germane to the Germans, in which our friend was proficient. He was a noble hand at the trencher – I mean more as to quantity than to quality. He often very jocularly inclined to this, after he had discussed two men’s allowance, a was about to be helped to more. He said he really was quite ashamed but that we must pardon him, as he had inherited a capacious stomach from his countrymen, who could take this amiss – we did not – but on the contrary, delighted to watch his rapid demolition of various solid viands and the hardly diminished rapidity [with] which a second supply disappeared – till at last the face would become flushed, the eyes protuberant and the jaws refuse to perform their functions.

I think the character of the Germans assimilate much to that of the Scotchman. They know how to turn the penny to most advantage. They are highly national or clannish in their feelings, and this standard of their morality is very high. Our Protégée was an excellent example. He was extremely moderate in drinking, and in his ideas of morality strict and severe. The influence of lax morality – of false virtue – the temptations held out to youth in Mexico – and the persuasions of false friends male and female had been in vain. He was still the same in correct and virtuous feeling as [when] he had left his native home, and he expressed the most pointed abhorrence of the immorality so prevalent in Mexico.

I need hardly add to this, that his affection to his family was unbounded. He seldom spoke of those at home without tears in his eyes – and he told me that the idea of seeing them soon would come with such an overpowering force of joy over his mind that he was moved as it were out of himself and hardly knew what he was doing or saying.

When we got to Falmouth, he was induced to remain three days with us and you may be sure we did all that lay in our power to gratify and please him. On the night he bade us adieu, he could hardly speak. The tears stood in his eyes, and he was obliged hastily to wring our hands and run away – Ut Deus optimus Maximus amico caripimo nollis semper benedicat semper precarium nos onnes.

In speaking of these passengers we took on board at Vera Cruz for England I have still to make mention of a man servant and two female servants, attached to the Marquis’s family. I do not know the full name of the General’s confidential servant – but he was called by us Torres. Senor Torres was a tall, thin gentell [sic] looking fellow – very handsome with dark complexion, eyes and hair. He spoke English almost as well as a native, and much more correctly and grammatically than the lower order of natives speak it. I used to wonder at this and at first supposed that he had many years in England. No he had never been out of Mexico. In his early years he had associated much with the English Miners & for a very considerable time he had been servant to M.r Auld, one of the Commissioners of the Mines. He seemed  a very intelligent young man - & his manners and language were far above his ostensible station – and here I may remark that in Mexico servants are treated almost as children members of the family & address their master and mistress as if they were their friends – but always in a tone of confiding respect. Torres was very fond of being praised for his English – and no compliment could be more gratifying than to say that had you not known to the contrary, you would have taken him for an Englishman. He delighted also in reading English works and those of the best kind. Whenever he met with a word which he did not understand the meaning of, or could not pronounce, he was accustomed to apply to me to satisfy – and hence arose a greater degree of confidence then might otherwise have been the case. This led him to speak of his early life – of his preference of the English, and his hearty contempt for his own countrymen. Not such always, he admitted, were his opinions. When first it was said that the English were coming into the country to work the Mines, numerous absurd reports were circulated respecting them. To some of these I have already alluded. Torres then a boy, fully believed every thing. When he actually saw [them] he was dreadfully alarmed. For several months after their arrival he would never go near them, and should they shew a disposition to approach him he screamed aloud, & ran away as fast as he could. He could not be persuaded but that they had tails like monkeys, and he believed that the long coats the Miners wore were intended to conceal this appendage to their stern post. The progress of time, however, soon altered the case, and shewed the falsity of the tales propagated against our countrymen. Then the feelings of Torres took a quite contrary direction; he admired & imitated the English, as much [as] he had despised & detested them – and his preference of us was fully confirmed by the close connections he formed with them in attaching himself to their Commissioner.

I used to remark, that when the family went to prayers every night, Torres never formed one of the number. One night I asked him the reason, and he said he was always apt to get drowsy, and that on one occasion in particular he had fallen asleep, and consequently neglected the necessary responses and crossings – which coming to the observation of his lady, from that time he had been allowed to dispense with his attendance. At this he was much rejoiced, as he had no taste for such things – and candidly admitted that he thought such exercises to be of little use. I asked him if he were a Roman Catholic – he answered yes, with an air of great hesitation and immediately added, that he was no bigot and loved a good Protestant as much if not more so than a good Catholic. Speaking to him of the duty and necessity of Auricular Confession, as inculcated by his Church, I said I hoped he attended to it punctually and that I wished to know how often he performed that duty. To my surprise he told me that he had not been at Confession, since he was a boy at School – and that a circumstance which had occurred the very last time he went to the Confessional had made him form a resolution never to do so again. It seems at the school he was at, the usual practice for the boys was to go to Confessional once a month – and this was strictly enforced. One unfortunate month, Torres neglected to do this – but went punctually on the next occasion. His reception from the priest was frowning & severe. He was lectured for half an hour on the enormity of the sin of his omission, and before he could expect to receive the pardon of heaven, or in other words before he could allay the anger against him which flamed in the breast of the priest for his open contempt, he was enjoined as a penance to repair to the Church Yard at the dead hour of night – to go to that part of it where the dry bones of those long dead was piled up to make way in the earth for more recent occupants - & to take therefrom a human scull, which, kneeling down & fervently repeating his Ave Marias, & Pater Nosters, he was to kiss a certain number of times. This was a bitter and a dreadful penance to the poor boy – and he could not bring himself to perform it. When he came home he opened up the matter to his Mother & father, expressing at the same time his horror at the task & his earnest wish to shrink it. But his parents would not listen to such a thing. They were pious & bigoted & believed that the soul of their child would be doomed to eternal perdition, unless all the terms of the Padres injunctions were fulfilled to the utmost iota. They therefore insisted that Torres should set about his penance that very night, and that he should perform it alone. What could the poor boy do but obey. Not long before midnight he started, shaky and trembling in every limb. His terrified mind conjured up images of horror unutterable - & his heart several times failed him completely. On on he went, till he reached the Golgotha, the place of sculls. Here for a little his senses and memory almost failed him, but recovering a little, he pattered over his prescribed task as rapidly as he could, and taking in his hand a scull, attempted to kiss it – In vain. His mind became confused and filled with the most horrible imaginings – the dry bones of the dead screamed as if with one consent to bestir themselves against him. The scull which he held seemed to grin in fiendish mirth at his woeful state & above all he fancied that the fiends of hell were let loose against him and were about to seize upon him to convey him to their dreary place of punishments. Under these horrible circumstances reason tottered on her throne, till at last some noise striking upon his ear, which he contrived to be the approach of the arch-fiend himself, he sunk down insensible, and there lay, for some hours, when he was discovered by his father and some friends, who had become alarmed by his protracted absence. He was conveyed home only to awake in the paroxysms of brain fever, raving and raging – talking of bones and devils and speaking in terms of the utmost abhorrence against the Padre. When he recovered he determined never to confess again, & from that day to this, he has kept his vow.

Margarita and Macaria

It now only remains that I should say a few words respecting the female domestics. These were two in number, Margarita the eldest & Macaria the youngest. They were sisters and natives of Xalapa. Their colour was brown or rather copper. Their features were those of Indians - & like them they had long black hair reaching almost down to their heels. Their presence on board was of very little service to their Mistresses – they were either very sick or very indolent, and required more attendance than those, whom they came to wait upon. The oldest was a stout built woman – rather homely in appearance – and by far the most useful of the two, if the trifling services she did render could be said to be of much use. The younger one Macaria was rather good looking – tall & slight. She suffered more than her sister from sea sickness. Her duty was to attend principally on the children – and little enough in all conscience did she do for them. She was also a hysterical subject and was twice subject to attacks of that nature. On the first attack I did all I could for her by Salts, water &.c but after remaining four hours in a state of immobility, she recovered, and spoke & act[ed] as if  nothing had been the matter with her. On the second occasion I was more fortunate, and that in a way in which I had not calculated. It was thus. She was lying before me with her eyes shut and perfectly immoveable. When I threw water smartly on her face, she would wince but still continued insensible. I next procured some liquor ammoniac and whilst I was in the act of holding the bottle to her nostrils that the effluvia might be inhaled, the vessel gave a sudden lurch, by which means the bottle being held a little inclined, a small portion of the fluid passed into the nostrils and in an instant, my eye, what a change. The previously immoveable figure, like a statue of bronze, at once started into life; her voice so long silent, at once gave utterance to her feelings, and sitting bolt upright she cried or rather squalled out “Agua, agua por amor de dios,” i.e. “Water, water for the love of God.” Having thus successfully driven out one devil, called the devil of an hysterical diseased imagination, I had a good deal to do to day [with] the second devil which I myself had unwittingly conjured up. By the aid of copious ablutions with water, together with the ag. Calcis, the pain and inflammation was got under, and in the end I congratulated myself in the discovering that I had an infallible means in my power to recover her instantaneously out of any future attacks, and I only longed to witness a third attack to put to the proof the efficacy of my nostrum. But alas she never afforded another opportunity of trying and thus [never] afforded me an incontestable evidence that her attack depended on the mind, and could be encouraged or prevented by herself at pleasure. I plainly gave her to understand that if she were seized in the same manner again, I would try the same remedy – and I dare say, whenever she felt inclined to give way to the same feeling, she bethought of the painful remedy and successfully struggled against the threatening hysterical seizure.

On our arrival at Falmouth, our dark coloured beauties and their peculiar attire were special objects of attention. They themselves were no less struck with wonder at what they saw. Every thing was strange to their eyes – even the rig of the females here. As they could not go out in their native habiliments with[out] drawing rather unpleasant notice upon themselves, they procured a dress more assimilating to those worn here - & among other articles they purchased and wore fine dashing bonnets with fine pink ribbons & lining – for the first time in their lives. The mani[pulation] of these concerns sadly puzzled them. They did not know what to do with them – how to untie or tie them. They were always either too far forward, or too far back, and appear[ed] to sit as awkwardly upon their crania, as a soldiers accoutrements on a Blue Jacket.

I understand they were to receive £60 each, besides having their passage money paid out & home. This is a very handsome sum and will make them be looked upon a great catches to other bachelors of their native place, when they return. Neither of them could speak a word of English, after three months stay with us – a proof either of mental incapacity or the most stupid indolence.

These two conclude the list of our passengers from Vera Cruz to England. 

Senor Las Casas

From Havanna to Falmouth we brought one gentleman, an old Spaniard, a native of Bilboa in old Spain. His name was Senor Las Casas. He was a young man very much pock-marked. He possessed two Tiendas or shops in Habana, and was there flourishing like a green tree. His object in returning to Europe, was to make large purchases, for the Habana market at our large manufacturing towns in England, and that done to visit his parents at Bilboa, previous to his return to the place [from] where he had come. Senor Las Casas spoke no language but Spanish and consequently we could hold little or no intercourse with him. When our friend Meyer asked him why he did not try to learn English, he looked at him with an air of supreme contempt and slowly ejaculated “English” as if that were an object never once to be thought of. I wonder then how he would come in England from his total ignorance of the language. Lucky it was for him that Fritz was going the same way with him, as far as London, where he would meet with some of his countrymen. Otherwise as he confessed, he expected to be cheated on all hands and probably to find himself at John O’Groats house when he expected to be in the City. Las Casas and Meyer started together and safely arrived at their destination.

Finis

P.S. [6] I have forgotten to mention that we carried as passenger from Vera Cruz to Havanna a Senor del Pino, a native of Cadiz – on his way to his native country, after an absence of nearly two years. Also that some months after our return home, I saw an account of the capture of an armed Schooner, the Capt.n of which had stated that he left Havana in company with P. Office Packet – but that she, not liking his appearance, had returned to port. So he thought, but we knew better tho’.