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Greenlanders suffer less from cold (though without fire in their houses) than many would suppose possible, and generally sit half naked in their huts, the children very often entirely so.
The women were busy in making garments of sealskins and birds' feathers, using the tendons and sinews of the seal instead of thread; and even a part of the entrails served, as before stated, to make a transparent covering for the windows instead of glass. In one of the huts, where between thirty and forty individuals were lodged, a poor sick woman was shown to Egede, who was apparently very suffering, had great difficulty in breathing, and was tormented by a terrible cough, which, combined with diseases of the chest and lungs, appeared to be the principal evil to which the Greenlanders were subject.
Egede turned to the sufferer, and said, with a pitying look and tone—“Poor woman! what would I not give that you could understand my words! I would give you a cup of consolation that would sweeten your pains and make your death happy. Even for you the Saviour of the world has died, that you might be saved from death and hell. May He in his mercy have compassion on you, and guide you to His heavenly kingdom !”
These words, in an accent of unmistakeable kindness, were listened to, incomprehensible as they were to them, with great apparent reverence by the Greenlanders ; and when Egede ceased speaking, they made signs that they wished him to breathe upon the sick woman, as they thought that might cure her.
Egede felt doubtful whether he should do right in complying with this request. “I have no power to do miracles," he said, “and it would be a sin in me if I did anything that confirmed these poor people in their errors. God alone can help this poor
woman." “Do breathe on her, father, nevertheless !" cried little Nicholas. “See, how that short, fat man is puffing out his cheeks to try and make you understand their wishes! How can merely breathing on her be a sin?”
“ You cannot understand what I mean, my boy,” said the pastor, doubtfully.
“Do blow on her," added Paul ; “ What can it hurt? You often blow on the fire to make it burn up!"
Then Egede breathed on the sick woman, to her great joy, as well as that of the bystanders, trying to quiet his conscience by saying, as he did so, “Of my own power I can do nothing. But I pray that our blessed Lord and Saviour may heal thee of thy sickness, and forgive me if I have erred. Amen!"
During all this time Aaron had been making a curious friendship with a Greenlander. This latter, whose name was Aarech, had no sooner discovered the similar-sounding name of the white man, than he began to show him every possible mark of friendship, expressing, as well as he could, the pleasure the discovery gave him. He even insisted upon Aaron's sleeping in his bed; which last most unpleasant situation Aaron resigned himself to, with a very lamentable countenance, and for the first time felt inclined to blame his mother for the name she had had him christened by.
Egede, however, founded a plan of his own on this little incident. When he was preparing to depart on the fourth morning after their arrival, the pastor called Aaron aside, and, anxious to win him over to his way of thinking, addressed him kindly as follows. “My good Aaron, it appears to me that you are marked out from among us, as likely to be useful in the great work of converting the heathen for which we are come. You are neither an illeducated nor an ill-disposed man, and I trust you will be inclined to help to prepare the way for my teaching, which is at present utterly obstructed by my ignorance of the language of these poor people, and their inability to understand me."
“May it please your reverence !” exclaimed Aaron, in considerable alarm, “I could never succeed in teaching a starling to talk, how then can you ?” "Be silent, Aaron," interrupted the pastor, “ lest you say something you will have to repent of. I will tell you what to do. Remain behind us here under the protection of Aarech's friendship, and try to gain as much as possible of the Greenland tongue, marking down any word you may attain the knowledge of in this pocket-book of mine. At the same time use every endeavour to find out whether these benighted people have any kind of religious worship among them, and how it is conducted. I would willingly remain here in your stead, but as our gracious Lord the King has appointed me ruler over our little colony, I must not absent myself too long from it."
“But what will become of me," pleaded Aaron, “if after your departure my friend Aarech should take it into his head to eat me up, out of the love and affection he bears me ? One cannot tell; these people have odd fancies; and at all events I should like to be prepared for any emergency, and have a sword and a gun left with me."
“Confidence begets confidence,” replied Egede ; "and they will see you trust them fully, if you remain unarmed amongst them. An axe, however, I will leave you, not so much as a weapon of defence, but as a means of making yourself useful and agreeable to the Greenlanders."
“ Another thing, reverend sir," said Aaron ; "I cannot swallow their nasty train-oil, and melted snow-water disagrees with my weak stomach. I pray you, as you have not got any beer to leave with me, let me have that travelling flask you carry at your girdle. I shall never be able to exist among all these evil smells without a mouthful of spirits now and then.”
Egede handed him the flask. “I brought this small quantity of brandy with me," he said ; “ merely as a medicine for my little boys and myself, in case of need. That, however, thank God, we have not wanted, and I will gladly leave it you, only reminding you to use it very sparingly; remembering that though a grain of opium may secure a good night's sleep, a bottleful is certain death. And now farewell, and may God prosper you !"
Aaron looked wistfully after the departing colonists, though he obeyed without complaining. The travellers, on their return, found the home settlement in a great state of excitement, as we shall describe more particularly in the next chapter.
LETTERS FROM ALABAMA.-No. I.
Mobile, May 15, 18—. Your desire to have some information of the country in which the good providence of God has for the present allotted my residence, shall be gratified so far as my opportunities of observation will admit. I shall communicate it more readily, because from the very hasty and imperfect notion I have yet formed, I think it probable that scenes, circumstances, and manners, differ widely from those to which you and I have been accustomed.
As a preliminary, however, it may not be altogether uninteresting to give a slight sketch of the voyage from Philadelphia. A sea-voyage, under the best circumstances, can scarcely be other than tedious. Even when performed in a stately and commodious vessel, with a skilful, gentlemanly, and obliging commander, a disciplined crew, and agreeable fellow-passengers, the wearied eye wanders from sea to sky and from sky to sea, in a vain search for some object to break the dreary uniformity : to-day is like yesterday, and to-morrow will be as to-day. If the poor occupationless passenger endeavour to beguile his tedium and indulge his literary propensities, by “keeping a log," so few are the facts that occur, that he is often reduced to debate with himself the propriety of recording such “remarkable events” as that “the cook dropped a pewter spoon overboard,” or that “the pig came upon the quarterdeck ;" and happy indeed is he when he has an opportunity of announcing, in the words of the north-country mate, “ Little wind and less weather ; caught a dolphin, and lost him!" If, therefore, you find in my letter a tendency to treat of "small deer,” I trust you will make charitable allowances, and admit the truth of the Irish proverb, which sets forth the difficulty of extracting blood from a turnip.
It would be needless to waste many words about Philadelphia. My impressions of it were agreeable; there are not many splendid or imposing edifices, but the general character is that of a genteel and respectable middle-class. If there is little to astonish or dazzle, there is perhaps less to displease; an air of chaste and sobered elegance pervades the whole. The streets are straight, wide, and clean, and are rendered peculiarly pleasant by rows of trees on each side, among which the stately plane or buttonwood is conspicuous. The people who walk in them are remarkably few in number for a large city, and their deportment is generally quiet and orderly. One cannot help feeling that William Penn has left the character of his sect strongly, indelibly impressed on the city which he founded.
The broad and beautiful river on which it stands—the silvery Delaware, with its gently sloping banks green and fertile—is a very great ornament and no less an advantage to the city; for though it can scarcely be called a commercial town, a goodly array of shipping finds its way thither, and a rather dense forest of masts shoots up from the fair bosom of the Delaware.
The men of science I found, as usual, kind and obliging; the venerable Professor Nuttall was prosecuting his labours among the dried plants in the herbarium of the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the urbane Peale was as busy in the fine Museum which forms one of the chief attractions of the city. My most prominent idea was that of Wilson the ornithologist. Here was his residence ; here he kept school ; here I looked upon the birds which he shot and skinned with his own hands; here are the scenes so often mentioned in his delightful volumes; the meadows below Philadelphia, the marshy flats of the Schuylkill, the rushy halfsubmerged islets of the Delaware, Thompson's Point, the quondam residence of the night-heron or qua-bird, and the notorious Pea Patch, the resort of myriads of crows. The recognition of these places gave a charm and an interest to the scenes which they would not otherwise have possessed, for to me there is always a peculiar pleasure in visiting those spots which have been hallowed (so to speak) by the eminent of bygone days. One old man I met with who had been personally acquainted with the ornithologist; though the latter had been a constant visitor at his house, he could not remember many anecdotes of him, but one thing he narrated was sufficiently characteristic. “ Wilson and I," said he, “were always disputing about the sparrows; he would have it that the sparrows here were different from those of the old country; I knew well enough they were just the same, but I could not persuade him of it."
With a fine breeze right aft, and bright weather, the little schooner “White Oak” left the quay of Philadelphia on the 18th of April, and sailed rapidly down the mirror-like river. The numerous flats and sand-bars, however, impeded, and sometimes arrested our progress, and we had to make a temporary stay at a mean little fishing village, that bears the pompous title of Delaware City, situated on the canal which connects the Delaware with the Chesapeake. In the canal a man was taking herring with a dipnet, which he readily sold on the bank at fifty cents per hundred.
. At length we entered on the widening bay of Delaware. It was so cold that ice a quarter of an inch thick was formed on deck, and this on the 20th of April, in the latitude of Lisbon.
The number of white-sailed craft spotting the river made a lively scene; and the banks being very low and flat caused the land to have a singular appearance, being visible only at a very short distance, and beginning to come into view in small isolated patches, which if one jumped on the taffrail were seen to be connected, and the trees often appearing at first as if growing out of the water. Numerous large fires had been lighted on the shores for the purpose of consuming the old dead grass of the marshes, to afford room for the growth of a new crop, and the smoke and flame being visible both before and after the land was apparent, it seemed as if some “smart” Yankee had realized the achievement of setting the Delaware on fire. But all indications of land soon faded from view, the twinkling lights on Cape May and Henlopen glimmered for a moment through the deepening shadows of night, and long before morning we were on the heaving bosom of the grim Atlantic.
A miserable episode in life is the commencement of a voyage, under such circumstances as those which greeted my returning consciousness on the next morning. The wind was as dead on