|European Letters, by T.W. Patton to
The Asheville Citizen:
Description of the Tour of the North Carolina Teachers, During the Summer of 1889
OUTWARD BOUND [pages 3-7]
|*Note: Copy has been re-formatted. Original two column format has been abandoned and special fonts have been standardized.|
|1||Cover||European Letter, As published in The Daily Citizen, of Asheville, N.C., Presenting impressions of Scotland, England, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Paris. Presented with compliments of The Citizen Publishing Co.|
|EUROPEAN LETTERS, by T.W. Patton, to The Asheville Citizen. Description of the Tour of the North Carolina Teachers, During the Summer of 1889. Asheville, N.C.: Citizen Publishing Company. 1889.|
ON BOARD STEAMSHIP NEVADA, July 8, 1889
dear citizen:—A real nice company we are, as to-day assembled on deck and looking in all directions for a glimpse of terra firma. Not a sign to be seen in any direction to dispel the illusion with which one is apt often to flatter himself, that we compose the whole world. Not a sail dots the horizon. We may fancy that no other humanity exists outside of this ship, but that the heart of each voyageur is full of the dear ones, young and old, at home. Notwithstanding our crowded staterooms and unusual fare, we are all determined like Mark Tapley to be jolly under all circumstances. We will see how this holds when the wind rises, causing the ship to roll and that terrible mal de mer to appear. Anyone who can sustain his jollity under this trial will deserve a crown indeed.
Our ship moves very smoothly forward but is not as comfortable as we were led to expect, and slow to a degree. Already we regret that we had not advised you not to expect to hear of our landing before the 20th. The staterooms are small and poorly furnished, and terribly crowded. We, ourselves, are in one with seven jolly companions. Eight men in a compartment measuring 8x15 feet, and to live there for the next ten or twelve days! The ladies are equal!}' crowded and very uncomfortable, but they are very brave, and do all in their power to keep up the appearance of enjoyment. Kind Mrs. Brodnax has already established a class of infants in French, ourselves included in the number, so that we may hope to take care of our sous [sic] in Paris.
Yes, we North Carolinians, enlightened
a few Carolinians, will survive the discomforts
of this voyage, for a merciful Providence has blessed us with the promise
of a fine spell of weather. The ocean
as calm as a lake; scarcely a perceptible swell. By a huge effort some
of the party have
gotten up an appearance of
seasickness, but your correspondent is not
equal to such a mental exertion, and
therefore continues as well as if on the
delightfully smooth streets of
were advised by a friend never to
say on board ship "waiter"
or "porter," but always "steward,"
and we have religiously done
so, but sad to say, no responsive
courtesy has followed this talisman.
If ever we catch one of these long-legged
dirty Scotch stewards at our home
we will take our revenge by inviting
him to take a walk over our
This delightfully beautiful ocean, whose
tints of emerald tinged with golden sunshine,
we have never seen adequately portrayed
on canvas, but most nearly approximated by those sweet pictures of
Church. How can our unskilled pen
attempt to describe the sensations of this,
first voyage! Oh, heavens! just as
are beginning to get up a poetic furor
there is the bell for lunch, and we must
sink our high-flown thoughts to the level
hard tack and century-old butter and
enter once more the arena in a struggle for life with our steward.
BANKS OF NEWFOUNDLAND.
July 11.—How few of us realize the size of our continent! Here we have been sailing due east from New York for four days and nights, and this wretched ship is slow. We estimate that we have made successfully one-third of the distance to Glasgow, and yet here we are only south of Newfoundland, you might say still in American waters, The temperature is pleasantly mild, owing probably to the ...
... influence of the gulf stream, which is better than the disagreeable cold of yesterday. Our good party may be on deck find we trust will be in better health than yesterday. A sight of these magnificent waves and the drinking in of God's dear sunshine and pure air will do them good, and truly they get but little help from man in their agony, for the woeful mal de mer has appeared, and most woeful has been the tyrant's onslaught. Standing as we now do, taking a bird's-eye view of the deck, we must Wonder "Is this what one calls a pleasure excursion ?" Probably fifty ladies, most of them teachers who have been working hard and need all the rest their short vacation can give, to enable them to resume their arduous duties, many of them evidently in bad health, and at this moment undergoing worse sufferings than the most orthodox pains of Gehenna. Our very heart bleeds for them as with pale, distraught visage, each at intervals staggers to the taffrail in the vain endeavor to vomit the tacks of their shoes into the sea. At times we cannot refrain a smile as the proverbial "Oh, my!" comes up from one after another, but our smiles indicate no lack of sympathy, for indeed we would do all in our power to help them if we only knew how to begin. One Sweet young girl faintly thanks us for bathing her aching head, and sa37s: "Oh, please just let me die, and do nothing to help me. I am so miserable. My poor mother! Why did I ever leave her for this horrible voyage?" Yes, indeed, why ? we wonder.
The cost on this ship is
certainly low. Thirty-five dollars
from New York to Glasgow is
not much, but the accommodations
are in proportion, and both
rooms and table fall far short of our expectations
from descriptions we have
heard of an ocean palace.
Our people seem variously affected, generally intense nausea and oft repeated and terrible retchings, but occasionally the symptoms are altogether different, being' intense headache and icy coldness, especially of hands and feet. From this terrible pain one young girl has just become entirely delirious, frightening all around her terribly. We, being almost the only well man, helped her to her berth, where one brave lady after another came
to her help in the few moments intervening between their attacks of devotion to Neptune and his denizens.
Were it not for the intrinsic merit of our good people, especially the ladies, this sort of thing would be totally unbearable. But they are so sweet, long suffering and endure their troubles with so much fortitude and patience—a lesson indeed to us stern men which we may do well to copy.
Kind Mrs. Brodnax forgets her sickness
efforts to amuse and interest all
around her. Her French
class is, with us, the feature of
the day. Please secure a French editor to translate our next letter,
because you no doubt perceive how
great difficulty we find in writing with our usual pure
Anglo-Saxon accent and nous avous peur que Le Citoyen ne comprenne
pa notre langage Francaise.
Of the men we are the most fortunate, having entirely escaped seasickness, which we in part attribute to our well known wisdom on which the E. J. pleasantly remarked, but chiefly to the diet we have selected for our first trans-Atlantic pleasure tour. French brandy and hard tack has been our constant source of consolation and support. Our young companion, Erwin Sluder, has been violently ill, and still suffers very much, but has been himself like a real man and made the best of his bad surroundings.
The miseries of mal de mer no one can even imagine save the sufferers. Not being one of the afflicted, we can only note the personal appearance of our poor friends which, indeed, touches us to the heart. We have never seen evidence of such intense nausea, and the stomach being empty, the retching is most painful. We fancy that a little pure, wholesome food might cause relief, even if at once rejected. We thought once of giving you a pen picture of us as we are, but it would be cruel. You must come and see for yourself, if you wish to, but we are inclined to think that you will consent to ...
... remain in ignorance, although for ourselves we do not regret it. It has been an experience for a lifetime, only we are glad we did not succeed in urging some of our friends to come, too.
There are some redeeming traits, yes many of them. Everyone is so considerate and anxious to help each other, and so grateful for help when extended to themselves. Then, too, even the aesthetic is not altogether wanting. For instance, it was lovely last night, as the poor sufferers were sitting on deck in the moonlight, and Dr. Marshall says: "Young folks, suppose we have prayers before we go to bed," and with ready consent the puny, seasick voices sweetly sing "Abide With Me," and our parson, without book or gown, commends us all to His care who can and will bring us to "the haven where we would be," but will it be with a grateful sense of His goodness, or will we forget Him when health and happiness returns? Nous verrons.
IN AN OCEAN FOG.
July 13—We have often heard a fog described, but only now have we experienced one, and we have concluded that it, like many of the curiosities of ocean life, is not worth experiencing. For orty-eight hour it has surrounded us, as with a dark and misty pall; our progress has at times been very slow, the dismal fog horn blows every minute, at first it was distressing in perverting sleep, but we have become so used to it as to take it for a lullaby, and find ourselves watching for its return. The decks are soaking and slippery, but are preferred to the stuffy saloons and state rooms, to which latter we only resort on command of the stewards at 11 o'clock, and leave as early as a ray of light can pierce the dingy glass of the loop hole. A slight westerly wind pushes the fog along with us and only with a change of breeze can we hope for relief.
The officers of this ship seem faithful and competent, the captain has kept his post on the bridge unceasingly, and at each bells through the night the cry of the watchman assures us "all is well."
The purser is by all odds the most agreeable gentlemen we have met since we left New York. A Norwegian of extensive education, most courteous in manner, and doing his utmost to make us comfortable ; it is ever a real pleasure to know such a man, and we do hope our acquaintance may be prolonged.
Even the pain and suffering of seasickness must have an end, the sea is smooth again, the ship rolls very little, our folks all brighten up; last night we took to the saloon and made it bright and lively with games and chatting. Once more Dr. Marshall reminds us to say "Our Father" and now we will see, as we suggested, all are bright and happy. Will they remember now ? Yes the young girls lay aside their cards, the backgammon boards are closed, and almost a hushed silence prevails, but we must expect some young folks to be thoughtless, A few beardless men must give proof of their manhood, their amusement cannot be suspected even for a moment; an insolent steward accompanies the service with a popping of corks, but no matter, He will remember all His children and that is the main part after all.
STILL IN THE FOG.
Sunday Morning, July 14.—If we knew the name of this post-office, we would head this letter differently. The fog is still with us and surrounds the ship causing much discomfort on deck, and apparent anxiety, as evidenced by extra care on the part of our captain, but within all is brighter and happier. How wonderful it is that we can so soon adapt ourselves to surrounding circumstances. The ship, which on Sunday last we described as beasth', is to-day a hayen of rest, which we hope will enable us all to lift our hearts to that Haven where we trust all, "the quick and the dead" will be gathered together in God's good time, in rest and felicity.
The decks are as sloppy, the stewards not quite as saucy, the state-rooms as close, the food a little improved surety, otherwise we cannot conceive how we could enjoy it as we do. The porridge, which one week ago, we rejected with the utmost contempt and scorn, is now a real attraction, strong enough to draw the laziest from their downy couch at seven o'clock.
Last evening we assembled in the saloon and enjoyed some sweet music from several young ladies. Miss Upchurch's
sweet voice brought forth sincere applause, which she kindly recognized by giving us an encore.
Also some beautiful recitations were rendered with spirit, and on behalf of our party and State, we tender our thanks to Miss Wilson of West Virginia for her most excellent repetition of'Laska, which being encored, gave us the pleasure of hearing well said The Shadows.
Then Mr. Harrell who presided as secretary of the Teachers Assembly, assisted by Prof. Smith.read some extracts from an exceedingly bright journal, the Newfoundland Chantauquan of this day's issue, of which the editorial staff was composed of our young ladies, headed as we guessed by Prof. Winston of Chapel Hill, who notwithstanding his seasickness still painfully contriving, adds to the pleasure of all who can read him.
This most enterprising daily, might take rank with the best of newspapers, presenting its readers with full press dispatches, taken en-route from the cable which is "ten thousand Leagues under the sea" on which we are sailing, and such editorial advice, as the citizen may do well to copy, except that it would dread the criticism of its esteemed contemporary the E. J. which you know never approves of good things.
The staunch steamship Nevada, contributed to the entertainment, ice cream and fruits which we much appreciated.
Well, we are dressed for church, that is to say we have obeyed our good wife's injunction to be sure to shave each day. When confessing our sins this morning our conscience smote us with the reflection that we had forgotten her commands, so forthwith we attacked our rough countenance with a rusty razor. Oh, how we longed for the manipulation of one of our tonsnrial friends of Ashe-ville! But bravely we proceeded with our task, and see what success has attended our efforts. Why, the bloody Wallace is put to shame by our streaming gore, and we are a worthy representative of the Black Douglass, who we learn to have been our progenitor.
Our throat is slashed from ear to ear, And still the beard doth there appear.
But, however, we will not leap further into poetry, but taking pity on you will go back to philosophy, and say the
stern rough character of the Scotch nation is no longer a matter of surprise to us. This kind of porridge, and one more such shave will make us as fierce as Julius Caesar himself. Moreover, a careful study of the Highlander's character has revealed to us a talisman by which we have been able to reach the heart and bring to light the hidden courtesy of our steward. We will give our discovery to the world, as it will not be patented.
We were anxious to take some food to a sick lady on deck, and asked for a spoon. "Oh, no; against, the ship's rules; lost, I will have to pay for it."
"Sir," we replied, jingling a few sixpences in our pocket, "would a deposit of fifty sovereigns be sufficient to secure its return ? If not, let us say 100—it is quite immaterial to us."
He cries "Take it, by all means, my dear sir. Is there aught else we can do for you or any of your friends ? If so, command us, pray."
OFF THE IRISH COAST.
July 17.—The longest voyage must have an end, and we are now assured that to-morrow we will see land once more, and press our mother earth with our delighted soles.
Our experience of a sea voyage has been a terrible disappointment to us. Its chief distinctive features, have been fog, and monotony. Had we been able to assemble in a comfortable saloon and to have some music, etc., the tedium would not have been felt nearly so much. No one feels disposed to read much and the subjects of conversation are exhausted, and even so distinguished a linguist as your correspondent finds trouble in making himself at all times interesting.
The continuance of the fog for six days and nights, we considered at the time rather trying but now look back upon it as a blessing in disguise, as it entertained us with the dread that our captain might miss his reckoning while the sun was obscured, and we be several thousands of miles out of our course, but now his calculations are verified and even this exciting topic is lost. On the whole our conclusion is that Europe must be very fine to pay for the discomforts of this voyage, and we cannot think it a desirable step
for our teachers, nor do we think that one-tenth of the company would hesitate to give the full cost of their trip if it could only land them safely at home to-day.
So much time has been consumed in failure to start at appointed time and in extreme length of voyage, that their motions will be most hurried and scarce a satisfactory glance can be had at those things which they have traveled so far to see and enjoy.
One of the curious things to us is the difference in time, as we sail eastward. At our rate of speed we estimate that we gain about one minute in each hour. So that our watch which still holds fast to New York time is something near four and a half hours slow at this time. Not remembering this we were startled this morning when we went on deck as usual at daybreak to find our watch marking 11.30" p.m.
For the first time in several days we are surrounded by a large number of gulls (sea gulls we mean, having plenty of ordinary gulls on board) which indicates our approach to shore. The fog has gone and the bright sun is delightful, provided one can get protected from the bleak wind. As cold almost as ours in December. Good-bye, a few lines from Glasgow to-morrow we hope. "Will wind up this lengthy epistle. My right-hand neighbor at the table styles it: "The first epistle of Thomas to the Ashevillians."