We Were Sailing…

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May 11th 1860, Blindingham Hall

I shall not discuss the carriage trip to Liverpool, nor indeed the mercifully short stay in that place. Travelling between home and one’s destination is a tiresome business – it is to be hoped that, in time, better minds than mine will discover speedier and less rickety forms of transportation.

Josiah and I had secured a private cabin aboard a packet ship they called The Shenandoah. For 20 guineas each, we were to be taken to Boston and then onwards by carriage to New York, with three meals a day and the promise of at least one evening in the company of the Captain! I was as giddy as a goat at the sight of my bed for the next five weeks – a doll-sized affair with a ladder, setting me up against the roof of the cabin, with Josiah on a truckle at the base. In truth, Josiah had not shared sleeping quarters with me for many nights of our married life. His frequent trips away, the small bed he has in his study, his capacity for sleeping through his own noisiness, and my wish to be undisturbed until ready, had led to us being sparing in our togetherness. I prefer to share my bed with Dauncey in any case, and would gladly have booked him as my travelling companion, but he is scared of water – poor thing – and would be almost as terrified as me in a new city!

Thus I was to spend my nights with Josiah again; this enforced closeness was unusual, but not altogether unwelcome, I suppose.

I wandered the deck before departure, waving at people gathered on the dockside to see the ship depart – none were there to see Josiah and I safely set sail, of course, but some waved to me nonetheless. There was much cheering and calling out of farewells – it mattered not that none were directly meant for me. I was on an adventure and I fancied myself quite the explorer!

Josiah is a sociable man, as I have recorded in entries past – he set to making himself known amongst our fellow passengers, ensuring that any women travelling alone would know to call on him if they became distressed. His chivalry was unrivalled at that time, and still may be. I do not know. But I must not leap ahead.

I loved my little bunk, with its heavy coverlet and wooden rail – if not for them I might have been tossed out during the dark hours of more than one stormy night, I am certain of it! I marvelled daily at the activities of ship’s crew – whistling to each other from the top of a set of ropes,  heaving heavy wooden objects back and forth, and  endlessly swabbing, clearing and patrolling the decks. I would watch them work for as long as the daylight would allow – stirred by their strength and good cheer.

Save for the sailors, our crossing was both eventful and desperately dull. Hours and hours of slow progress and nothing to see but the horizon – interrupted by  moments of great panic and upheaval. I soon came to realise that the three meals a day were vital, as no-one could be sure to digest any one of them for long.

Josiah did indeed become a place of sanctuary for lone and indisposed  travellers – he was to be found most days holding up some poor woman or other as she grasped the side of the ship in the grip of continual sickness. My stomach for the High Seas was stronger than anyone would have imagined – especially myself I was proud to discover. But my appetite for being with Josiah – for sharing with him the new things I saw and thought –  had certainly waned.

If I am to be honest in these pages (and if not here, then where?)  I was full of hope and anticipation for what I would find in America, but less pleased by what I was bringing with me.

The story of the next 5 years will take 5 minutes to tell. For next time!

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