I won't enter upon my longings to be home again, and to see you all. I must now see to my last commissions and things, and send this to go by next mail.
God bless you all, and kiss my darlings, all three.
On board the good ship CAMPERDOWN, 500 miles North-west of Table- Bay.
I embarked this day week, and found a good airy cabin, and all very comfortable. Next day I got the carpenter's services, by being on board before all the rest, and relashed and cleeted everything, which the 'Timmerman', of course, had left so as to get adrift the first breeze. At two o'clock the Attorney-General, Mr. Porter, came on board, escorted by bands of music and all the volunteers of Capetown, QUORUM PARS MAXIMA FUIT; i.e. Colonel. It was quite what the Yankees call an 'ovation'. The ship was all decked with flags, and altogether there was LE DIABLE E QUATRE. The consequence was, that three signals went adrift in the scuffle; and when a Frenchman signalled us, we had to pass for BRUTAUX ANGLAIS, because we could not reply. I found means to supply the deficiency by the lining of that very ancient anonymous cloak, which did the red, while a bandanna handkerchief of the Captain's furnished the yellow, to the sailmaker's immense amusement. On him I bestowed the blue outside of the cloak for a pair of dungaree trowsers, and in signalling now it is, 'up go 2.41, and my lady's cloak, which is 7.'
We have had lovely weather, and on Sunday such a glorious farewell sight of Table Mountain and my dear old Hottentot Hills, and of Kaap Goed Hoop itself. There was little enough wind till yesterday, when a fair southerly breeze sprang up, and we are rolling along merrily; and the fat old CAMPERDOWN DOES roll like an honest old 'wholesome' tub as she is. It is quite a BONNE FORTUNE for me to have been forced to wait for her, for we have had a wonderful spell of fine weather, and the ship is the NE PLUS ULTRA of comfort. We are only twelve first-class upper-deck passengers. The captain is a delightful fellow, with a very charming young wife. There is only one child (a great comfort), a capital cook, and universal civility and quietness. It is like a private house compared to a railway hotel. Six of the passengers are invalids, more or less. Mr. Porter, over-worked, going home for health to Ireland; two men, both with delicate chests, and one poor young fellow from Capetown in a consumption, who, I fear, will not outlive the voyage. The doctor is very civil, and very kind to the sick; but I stick to the cook, and am quite greedy over the good fare, after the atrocious food of the Cape. Said cook is a Portuguese, a distinguished artist, and a great bird-fancier. One can wander all over the ship here, instead of being a prisoner on the poop; and I even have paid my footing on the forecastle. S- clambers up like a lively youngster. You may fancy what the weather is, that I have only closed my cabin-window once during half of a very damp night; but no one else is so airy. The little goat was as rejoiced to be afloat again as her mistress, and is a regular pet on board, with the run of the quarter-deck. She still gives milk - a perfect Amalthaea. The butcher, who has the care of her, cockers her up with dainties, and she begs biscuit of the cook. I pay nothing for her fare. M-'s tortoises are in my cabin, and seem very happy. Poor Mr. Porter is very sick, and so are the two or three coloured passengers, who won't 'make an effort' at all. Mrs. H- (the captain's wife), a young Cape lady, and I are the only 'female ladies' of the party. The other day we saw a shoal of porpoises, amounting to many hundreds, if not some thousands, who came frisking round the ship. When we first saw them they looked like a line of breakers; they made such a splash, and they jumped right out of the water three feet in height, and ten or twelve in distance, glittering green and bronze in the sun. Such a pretty, merry set of fellows!
We shall touch at St. Helena, where I shall leave this letter to go by the mail steamer, that you may know a few weeks before I arrive how comfortably my voyage has begun.
We see no Cape pigeons; they only visit outward ships - is not that strange? - but, EN REVANCHE, many more albatrosses than in coming; and we also enjoy the advantage of seeing all the homeward-bound ships, as they all PASS us - a humiliating fact. The captain laughed heartily because I said, 'Oh, all right; I shall have the more sea for my money', - when the prospect of a slow voyage was discussed. It is very provoking to be so much longer separated from you all than I had hoped, but I really believe that the bad air and discomfort of the other ships would have done me serious injury; while here I have every chance of benefiting to the utmost, and having mild weather the whole way, besides the utmost amount of comfort possible on board ship. There are some cockroaches, indeed, but that is the only drawback. The CAMPERDOWN is fourteen years old, and was the crack ship to India in her day. Now she takes cargo and poop-passengers only, and, of course, only gets invalids and people who care more for comfort than speed.
Monday Evening, May 26th. - Here we are, working away still to reach St. Helena. We got the tail of a terrific gale and a tremendous sea all night in our teeth, which broke up the south- east trades for a week. Now it is all smooth and fair, with a light breeze again right aft; the old trade again. Yesterday a large shark paid us a visit, with his suite of three pretty little pilot-fish, striped like zebras, who swam just over his back. He tried on a sailor's cap which fell overboard, tossed it away contemptuously, snuffed at the fat pork with which a hook was baited, and would none of it, and finally ate the fresh sheep-skin which the butcher had in tow to clean it, previous to putting it away as a perquisite. It is a beautiful fish in shape and very graceful in motion.