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ACROSS TO SAN FRANCISCO.
which the weather proves neither tempestuous enough to be exciting, nor calm enough to be remarkable—in which each day brings its wide expanse of trackless water, apparently the same with that of the day preceding ? A few lines will suffice to note the few interesting features or incidents of the three weeks during which we pass from East to West, from the Old World to the New, from Japan with its civilisation of a thousand years to California with its civilisation of five-and-twenty.
Our steamer is the China, one of the largest of the P. M. S. Co.'s fleet; nearly 400 feet in length, and of nearly 4,000 tons burthen, American measurement. She is built of wood, and stated to have cost in America 800,000 dollars ; her engines are of the huge but simple pattern known as the walking-beam.' Her cargo consists chiefly of 2,000 tons of the new season's tea from Japan; her supply of coals adds 1,300 tons to this weight. Her speed is slow, and her motion easy; her saloons the most spacious, her cabins the most airy and comfortable which we have seen on any steamer; her “ bills of fare somewhat monotonous, and betraying a marked preference for such national' dishes as pork and beans,'' waffles,' and squash.'
Our fellow-passengers in the saloon number forty-five, or thereabouts, and are motley in colour and race; for no fewer than nine different nations are represented' among them-English, American, French, German, Dutch, Belgian, Italian, Polish, and Peruvian; moreover, we are waited on by China 'boys,' and carved for (to our discomfort) by a negro !
In the fore-part of the vessel are no fewer than 580 Chinese steerage-passengers, bent on making their fortunes, or at least their livelihood, in California, by goldwashing, clothes-washing, or other means. They seem to
spend all their time in lying in their shelf-like bunks, playing dominoes, smoking opium, eating, lounging, or occasionally even conversing; but they are never visible on the vessel's upper deck throughout the voyage, except once, when our vessel stops to speak’ her sister ship, the America,' some 1,400 miles from San Francisco. They have half a ton of rice boiled for them daily, and this, with a modicum of meat and vegetables—being probably better food than nine out of ten of them have been accustomed to at home---keeps them healthy throughout the voyage. Five hundred and eighty is said to be a much smaller number of Chinese coolies than are usually carried on one of these steamers: the steamer of the previous month carried no fewer than 1,250.
Arrived in California, these Eastern emigrants find occupation in various characters, as house-servants, laundrymen, day labourers, and gold-washers. A fair proportion of them, after making some few hundred dollars in the country, return to their native land, where they are said to be at once subjected to a heavy squeeze' by the native officials; large numbers of them settle in California, and not a few die there prematurely. In consequence of the latter number, an important part of the cargo of steamers returning to China is--coffins ! For the poor Chinaman has a deep-rooted superstitious dread of being buried in a foreign country; nor will he console himself, as some Jews are said to do, with the further superstition that, though he may be buried in a foreign land, his body will gradually gravitate towards the land of its birth : consequently, either with his own money, or that of his friends and fellow-exiles, he is generally sent back as cargo by the same steamers which once carried him as a passenger.
The weather throughout our voyage may be, as has
THE PACIFIC OCEAN.
been hinted, sufficiently described as being, like the ocean, pacific: and though it is now midsummer, and we are in the latitude of Gibraltar, the temperature is moderate throughout.
Few signs of life are visible outside the vessel. Occasionally a whale is reported in sight, but for many days most of the passengers are inclined to think it is only something very like one;' till, as the days pass, every person has caught a glimpse of a spout of water suddenly shooting up from the sea without any apparent reason, or of a black line cutting through the blue surface for a moment and then disappearing to unknown depths. Occasionally, too, one or more sea-birds are seen following in the vessel's wake, sweeping gracefully across and again across the white band of foam, and with difficulty keeping down their natural pace to that of the steam-driven monster. These birds are of two kinds only, the Mother Carey's Chicken,' and another called by the sailors the Cape Hen’-a brown bird rather larger and longer in the wing than a sea-gull. Both birds are visible when we are in midocean, 1,000 miles at least from the nearest dry land. Inside the ship there is the ordinary ship-board life, varied, however, on one day, the 4th of July, with a few republican festivities.
Even 5,000 miles of a sea-voyage come to an end at last, and on July 13 we pass, about mid-day, the Farallones, a group of small and rocky islands, lying forty miles from the Golden Gate, the entrance to San Francisco Harbour. These islands abound in sea-birds and seals, and boast the best lighthouse on the Pacific coast. They are rented by a company, who send from them every year a million sea-birds' eggs to San Francisco, where a guillemot omelette is a recognised dish.
We are soon passing through the Golden Gate, a strait scarcely two miles in breadth and five in length, with bold hill-slopes on either side of it; and then we enter San Francisco Bay. Like everything else in California, this bay is on a great scale : together with its fellowarms, the San Pablo and Suisun Bay, it has a coastline of 250 miles; in size and security it is almost matchless as a harbour throughout the world.
Landing at the P. M. S. wharf, we find our way to one of the great hotels of which San Francisco has such an abundant and excellent supply. Even in the short transit from the wharf to the Occidental,' we are struck with the most distinguishing feature of the city—its evident rapid growth. “Wal, what d’you think of our small village? Pretty well grow'd for a young ’un, ain't it?' Such is the question asked us, a day or two after landing, by the somewhat familiar emancipated negro, who had acted as barber on the China.' And such, without doubt, is the most remarkable fact connected with San Francisco.
Thirty years ago the land on which it stands was an expanse of sand-hills and salt-water, and might have been bought for fifty dollars, and the buyer considered a rash speculator. Now the city contains a population of 160,000 --not far from half that of Liverpool or Manchester. It has grown like a mushroom,' though it does not threaten to decay like one.
Following the example of most modern towns, San Francisco has broad straight streets, which cross each other at right angles, and are lined with tall and tolerably uniform buildings. But stone is scarce and dear in the neighbourhood, and in consequence half the houses in the second-rate streets are built of planks, and more than half of those in the principal streets are constructed