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TWICE had the Columbia left her moorings at Gosport Yard, and anchored off the forts of Norfolk. Each time something happened to send her back, for she had set out on Friday: so, partly in consequence of a heedless and arrant defiance of fate, and partly on account of the pending questions in Congress upon the Mexican and specie difficulties, the departure of the squadron was delayed from October, 1837, to May, 1838. Many difficulties arose from this delay. One of the lieutenants, as true a son of Neptune as he was of the "Old Dominion," appeared inclined to act the Cassandra for us, and to cry, Wo! declaring that he would not sail in the ship, if her anchors were weighed again on Friday; and surely there were enough among the 500 sailors on board to second his bo
dings; for who does not know that sailors are proverbially superstitious? And why should they not be? Tossed as they ever are upon elements that seemingly defy all laws but those of a capricious fatality-imbued as they are with the marvellous and schooled in the legendary yarns of their craft, even from their first essay,
"As ship-boys, rocked upon the high and giddy mast,"
up to hoary age, or an untimely grave-ever as thoughtless of prudence in themselves, as they are of a providence in nature; ignorant, too, as a class, and away from the order and teachings of civil life; inured as they are to alternate hardship and indolence, and subject to the winds and billows, or to the wilder storms of man's despotism--why should they not be superstitious? It is but a little cycle of time since the whole world was merged in Cimmerian ignorance; inanimate oracles were consulted at Delphi and elsewhere, and palmistry, astrology, alchemy, and priestcraft, bewildered the sagest minds and usurped the place of right and reason. It is still later since Kepler, and Bacon, and Mesmer, and the witchcraft judges, and a host of sapient men were addled by superstition. It is but a day since comets were regarded as the bloody and fire-winged messengers of war and pestilence; and almanacks were relied upon to foretell the weather of a year by intuition. Why then should not the sons of Neptune whistle for a breeze in a calm, and fear to whistle in a gale? Why should they not dread the omen of a black cat, a priest, or a Jonah on board? Why should they not look for signs and wonders—the course of the stormy petrel-the sports of porpoises and sharks?
EVILS OF DELAY.
Why should they not toss over the last old shoe of a departed comrade, to appease and avert his haunting ghost? And why should they not fear to sail on Friday; since the transmitted log of events, in their fraternity, shows, that from the crucifixion of Christ on fatal Friday down to their own experience, and the too fatal temerity of the Connecticut captain, disaster has attended the deeds and voyages begun on that day? But enough of these whys and wherefores; the fact is, that sailors are superstitious about sailing on Friday, and for this very reason they might in times of great difficulty, relax their efforts against what they would deem the omnipotence of fate.
But the evils occasioned by delays began to be more developed: dissensions among the officersdisgust with the expedition, which was beginning to lower over them like a second South Sea exploring affair dismissals and changes were occurring - and not a few were becoming entangled in the meshes of Hymen and Cupid; for the pleasant town of Norfolk is famous for sharpshooting eyes that make fatal havoc, particularly with all hearts screened under blue coats and eagle buttons. Indeed, one mother wrote from afar to a Commodore on that station, begging him to keep her darling son, then a midshipman, closely busy with his studies, and away from the society of the place, lest the dear boy should fall in love.
However, the troubles were nearly settled-the former first lieutenant, a firm, impartial, and efficient officer, who fitted out the ship, had been superseded or changed for one much his junior, and other similar changes made; when sometime in April the two ships were ready to drop down to Hampton Roads; the broad pennant was up, the
sails bent, and all "idlers" ordered aboard. At this time the writer put off for the frigate, in company with some visiters, to make a final settlement in that floating palace, which was to be his home for the next three years. "What a magnificent ship!" exclaimed one and another as we neared her bow. "How majestic and graceful!" (and those who spoke were no ordinary land-crabs :) then the coxswain burst out in a few superlatives, for he was the boat's master too, while I, looking only with lubber eyes, and not feeling myself exactly as a true sailor, to be a part and appendage of the ship, only answered in monosyllables, lest a weak praise might appear dispraise; but I too felt that she was a beautiful object to look upon. From her immense but symmetric form, rose her gallant masts that stood as if proud of their new berths; and throughout her rigging, her tapering spars, and delicate blocks, each part seemed to lend and gain a charm from every other; and, as Jack Fid said of the Rover, when he stowed into his cheek a lump that resembled a wad laid by a gun-slide, "I care not who knows it, but whether done by honest men or done by knaves, one might be at Spithead a month, and not see hamper so light, and yet so handy, as is seen aboard that flyer. Her lower rigging is harpened in, like the waist of Nell Dale, after she has had a fresh pull upon her stay-lanyards, and there isn't a block among them all, that seems bigger in its place than do the eyes of the girl in her own good looking countenance."
Scarcely had the visiters seen the ship, and touched their hats to the officers of the deck, as they returned over the side, when the shrill whistles and gruff voices of the boatswain and half a dozen mates piped all hands to "up anchor!" But