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the Golden Gate, the entrance to what will one day be the capital of the world, perhaps. For, as our captain said, all power, and human energy and strength are always going westward; and when they come here they must stop, or else they would be going eastward again, which they never yet have done. His argument may have been right or wrongand indeed it must have been one or the other—but who could think of such things now, with a grander thing than human power-human love fading away behind? I could not even bear to see the glorious mountains sinking, but ran below, and cried for hours, until all was dark and calm.
The reason for my sailing by this particular ship, and indeed rather suddenly, was that an old friend and Cornish cousin of Mr. Gundry, who had spent some years in California, was now returning to England by the Bridal Veil. This was Major Hockin, an officer of the British army, now on half-pay, and getting on in years. His wife was going home with him; for their children were married and settled in England, all but one now in San Francisco. And that one being well placed in the firm of Heniker, Banks, & Co., had obtained for his father and mother passage, upon favourable terms, which was as we say“ an object to them.”
For the Major, though admirably connected (as his kinship to Colonel Gundry showed), and having a baronet not far off (if the twists of the world were set aside), also having served his country, and received a furrow on the top of his head, which made him brush his hair up, nevertheless, or all the more for that, was as poor as a British officer must be, without official sesame. How he managed to feed and teach a large and not clever family, and train them all to fight their way in a battle worse than any of his own, and make gentlemen and ladies of them, whatever they did or wherever they went, he only knew, and his faithful wife, and the Lord who helps brave poverty. Of such things he never spoke, unless his temper was aroused by luxury, and selfindulgence, and laziness.
But now he was a little better off, through having his children off his bands, and by means of a little property left him by a distant relative. He was on his way home to see to this; and a better man never returned to England, after always standing up for her.
Being a child in the ways of the world, and accustomed to large people, I could not make out Major Hockin at first, and thought him no more than a little man, with many peculiarities. For he was not so tall as myself, until he put his high-heeled boots on, and he made such a stir about trifles at which Uncle Sam would have only grunted, that I took him to be nothing more than a fidgety old campaigner. He wore a black-rimmed double eyeglass with blue side-lights at his temples, and his hat, from the shape of his forehead, hung back; he had narrow white wiry whiskers, and a Roman nose, and most prominent chin, and keen grey eyes with gingery brows, which contracted, like sharp little gables over them, whenever anything displeased him. Rosy cheeks, tight-drawn, close-shaven, and gleaming with friction of yellow soap, added vigour to the general expression of his face, which was firm, and quick, and straightforward. The weather being warm, and the tropics close at hand, Major Hockin was dressed in a fine suit of Nankin, spruce and trim, and beautifully made, setting off his spare and active figure, which, though he was sixty-two years of age, seemed always to be ready for a game of leapfrog.
We were three days out of the Golden Gate, and the hills of the coast-ridge were faint and small, and the spires of the lower Nevada could only be caught when the hot haze lifted ; and everybody lay about in our ship where it seemed to afford the least smell and heat; and nobody for
moment dreamed-for we really all were dreaming—of anybody with energy enough to be disturbed about anything, when Major Hockin burst in upon us all (who were trying not to be red-hot in the feeble shade of poop-awnings), leading by the hand an ancient woman, scarcely dressed with decency, and howling in a tone very sad to hear.
“This lady has been robbed !" cried the Major; “ robbed, not fifteen feet below us. Robbed, ladies and gentlemen, of the most cherished treasures of her life, the portrait of her only son, the savings of a life of honest toil, her poor dead husband's tobacco-box, and a fine cut of Colorado cheese."
“ Ten pounds and a quarter, gospel-true!" cried the poor woman, wringing her hands, and searching for any kind face among us.
“Go to the Captain,” muttered one sleepy gentleman. “Go to the devil,” said another sleepy man; “ what have we to do with it?"
“I will neither go to the Captain,” replied the Major, very distinctly, nor yet to the devil, as a fellow who is not a man has dared to suggest to me
“ All tied in my own pocket-handkerchief !” the poor old woman began to scream ;
“ the one with the three-cornered spots upon ’un. Only two have I ever owned in all my life, and this were the very best of 'em. Oh der, oh dear, that ever I should come to this exposing of
my things !”
“Madam, you shall have justice done, as sure as my name is Hockin. Gentlemen and ladies, if you are not all asleep, how would you like to be treated so ? Because the weather is a trifle warm, there you lie like a parcel of Mexicans. If anybody picked your pockets, would you have life enough to roll over ?”
“ I don't think I should,” said a fat young Briton, with a very goodnatured face; “but for a poor woman I can stand upright. Major Hockin, here is a guinea for her. Perhaps more of us will give a trifle."
“ Well done!” cried the Major ; “ but not so much as that. Let us first ascertain all the rights of the case. Perhaps half-a-crown apiece would reach it."
Half-a-crown apiece would have gone beyond it, as we discovered afterwards; for the old lady's handkerchief was in her box, lost under some more of her property; and the tide of sleepy charity taking this direction under such vehement impulse, several other steerage passengers lost their goods, but found themselves too late in doing so. But the Major was satisfied, and the rude man who had told him to go amiss, begged his pardon, and thus we sailed on slowly and peaceably.
INSIDE THE CHANNEL.
That little incident threw some light upon Major Hockin's character. It was not for himself alone that he was so particular, or, as many would call it, fidgety, to have everything done properly; for if anything came to his knowledge which he thought unfair to any one, it concerned him almost as much as if the wrong had been done to his own home self. Through this he had fallen into many troubles, for his impressions were not always accurate, but they taught him nothing; or rather, as his wife said, “the Major could not help it." The leading journals of the various places in which Major Hockin sojourned had published his letters of grievances sometimes, in the absence of the chief editor, and had suffered in purse by doing so. But the Major always said, “ Ventilate it, ventilate the subject, my dear sir; bring public opinion to bear on it." And Mrs. Hockin always said that it was her husband to whom belonged the whole credit of this new and spirited use of the fine word “ventilation."
As betwixt this faithful pair, it is scarcely needful perhaps to say that the Major was the master. His sense of justice dictated that, as well as his general briskness. Though he was not at all like Mr. Gundry in undervaluing female mind, his larger experience and more frequent intercourse with our sex had taught him to do justice to us; and it was pleasant to hear him often defer to the judgment of ladies. But this he did more perhaps in theory than in practice; yet it made all the ladies declare to one another that he was a perfect gentleman. And so he was; though he had his faults; but his faults were such as we approve of.
But Mrs. Hockin had no fault in any way worth speaking of. And whatever she had was her husband's doing, through her desire to keep up with him. She was pretty, even now in her sixtieth year, and a great deal prettier because she never tried to look younger. Silver hair, and gentle eyes, and a forehead in which all the cares of eight children had scarcely imprinted a wrinkle, also a kind expression of interest in whatever was spoken of, with a quiet voice and smile, and a power of not saying too much at a time, combined to make this lady pleasant.
Without any fuss or declaration, she took me immediately under her çare; and I doubt not that after two years passed in the society of Suan Isco and the gentle Sawyer, she found many things in me to amend, which she did by example and without reproof. She shielded me also in the cleverest way from the curiosity of the saloon, which at first was very trying. For the Bridal Veil being a well-known ship both for swift passages and for equipment, almost every berth was taken, and when the weather was calm, quite a large assembly sat down to dinner. Among these, of course, were some ill-bred people; and my youth and reserve, and self-consciousness, and so on, made my reluctant face the mark for many a long and searching gaze. My own wish nad been not to dine thus in public; but hearing that my absence would only afford fresh grounds for curiosity, I took my seat between the Major and his wife, the former having pledged himself to the latter to leave everything to her management. His temper was tried more than once to its utmost—which was not a very great distance—but he kept his word, and did not interfere; and I having had some experience with Firm, eschewed all perception of glances. And as for all words, Mrs. Hockin met them with an obtuse obliqueness ; so that after a day or two it was settled that nothing could be done about “Miss Wood.”
It had been a very sore point to come to, and cost an unparalleled shed of pride, that I should be shorn of two-thirds of my name, and be called “ Miss Wood,” like almost anybody else. I refused to entertain such a very poor idea, and clung to the name which had always been mine-for my father would never depart from it—and I even burst into tears, which would, I suppose, be called “sentimental;” but still the stern fact stared me in the face--I must go as “ Miss Wood,” or not go at all. Upon this Major Hockin had insisted; and even Colonel Gundry could not move him from his resolution.
Uncle Sam had done his utmost, as was said before, to stop me from rishing to go at all; but when he found my whole heart bent upon it, and even my soul imperilled by the sense of neglecting life's chief duty, his own stern sense of right came in, and sided with my prayers to him. And so it was that he let me go, with pity for my youth and sex, but a knowledge that I was in good hands, and an inborn, perhaps “Puritanical" faith, that the Lord of all right would see to me.
The Major, on the other hand, had none of this. He differed from Uncle Sam as much as a trim-cut and highly-cultured garden-tree differs from a great spreading king of the woods. He was not without a strict sense of religion, especially when he had to march men to church; and he never even used a bad word, except when wicked facts compelled him. When properly let alone, and allowed to nurse his own opinions, he had a respectable idea that all things were certain to be ordered for the best; but nothing enraged him so much as to tell him that, when things went against him, or even against his predictions.
It was lucky for me, then, that Major Hockin had taken a most adverse view of my case. He formed his opinions with the greatest haste, and with the greatest perseverance stuck to them; for he was the most generous of mankind, if generous means one quite full of his genus. And in my little case, he had made up his mind, that the whole of the facts were against me. “ Fact," was his favourite word, and one which he always used with great effect; for nobody knows very well what it means, as it does not belong to our language. And so when he said that the facts were against me, who was there to answer that facts are not truth?
This fast-set conclusion of his was known to me, not through himself, but through his wife. For I could not yet bring myself to speak of the things that lay close at my heart to him ; though I knew that he must be aware of them. And he, like a gentleman, left me to begin. I could often see that he was ready and quite eager to give me the benefit of his opinion, which would only have turned me against him, and irritated him perhaps with me. And having no home in England, or indeed, I might say, anywhere, I was to live with the Major and his wife, supposing that they could arrange it so, until I should discover relatives.
We had a long and stormy voyage, although we set sail so fairly; and I thought that we never should round Cape Horn in the teeth of the furious north-east winds; and after that we lay becalmed, I have no idea in what latitude, though the passengers now talked quite like seamen, at least till the sea got up again. However, at last we made the English Channel, in the dreary days of November, and after more peril there than anywhere else, we were safely docked at Southampton. Here the Major was met by two dutiful daughters, bringing their husbands and children, and I saw more of family-life (at a distance) than had fallen to my lot to observe before; and although there were many little jars and brawls and cuts at one another, I was sadly inclined to wish sometimes for some brothers and sisters to quarrel with.
But having none to quarrel with, and none to love, except good Mrs. Hockin, who went away by train immediately, I spent such a wretched time in that town, that I longed to be back in the Bridal Veil in the very worst of weather. The ooze of the shore and the reek of the water, and the dreary flatness of the land around (after the glorious heaven-clad heights, which made me ashamed of littleness), also the rough stupid stare of the men, when I went about as an American lady may freely do in America, and the sharpness of everybody's voice (instead of the genial tones which those who cannot produce them call “nasal,” but which from a higher view are cordial)—taken one, after other, or all together, these things made me think, in the first flush of thought, that England was not a nice country. After a little while, I found that I had been a great deal too quick; as foreigners are with things which require quiet comprehension. For instance, I was annoyed at having a stupid woman put over me, as if I could not mind myself—a cook, or a nurse, or housekeeper, or something very useful in the Hockin family, but to me a mere incumbrance, and (as I thought in my wrath sometimes), a spy. What was I likely to do, or what was any one likely to do to me, in a