A long search

As I was the most disengaged person I was entrusted with the care & piloting of our lady passengers, three in number, whilst the Master proceeded with the Mail to the Post Office. A rare pilot you will say, I must have been – and you would say right, having never been in the country before, and moreover, altho’ I had a tongue in my head to enable me to ask my way, I could hardly find a soul to understand my lingo, whilst I was equally at a loss to comprehend theirs. However you know, faint heart never won a fair lady – & we never know what our powers are till we are tried. One good thing, I lacked not confidence – I never hesitated for a moment accepting the charge thrust upon me & never doubted for a moment my capability of discharging it to the satisfaction of all parties.

First of all I had got from our two Lima ladies a note in English from a M.rs Johnston who keeps a lodging house in Rio to a M.rs Connel in this Town, requesting her to accommodate these ladies in her house. With this document in my possession I inquired of an Englishman the way to M.rs Connel’s & he kindly sent a black Spanish rascal to point it out. Many a street, & square, & plaza we traversed ere we reached our destination – & during all the time I was so engaged in looking after my protégées, that I observed not the churches, public buildings & markets which were in our road – and I was glad when we arrived at our port, not doubting but that I should be free to follow my own will & to keep my appointment with the Master, whom I had agreed to meet on the beach in an hours time. We often reckon beyond our host – we often count our chickens before they are hatched – and I am almost to be at the same opinion as some ancient philosophers, called the doubtless, that there is nothing certain in this sublunary state but – death.

Well we arrived as I have said at M.rs Connel’s – the rooms were excellent – the terms were not disputed & the lady seemed a pleasant lady. I chuckled within myself at my success, & prepared to make my final congee, when to an insuperable difficulty occurred – there were no dinners made in the house. Our passengers at being told this were completely nonplussed – they begged & entreated that they might be made an exception – but in vain were their attempts to bend the unbendable M.rs Connel. What was to be done – neither party would yield and at last I was compelled much against the grain to squire the ladies to some more accommodating house. Little did I think that this was but the beginning of troubles & labour & fatigue & that from half past five until nearly ten I should trudge about from street to street & house to house, & all the while be compelled to wear a complacent smile on my face, while a frown & disgust would have been more truly depictured – to utter the accents of soothing compliments, when my real thoughts would have found vent in not the most polite language – to profess myself not at all wearied, when I was dying with fatigue – & to say that they were not at all troublesome, when I considered them the greatest bores in the world. Oh politeness & attention established usages, of the world to what dost not expose thy notaries. Yet I do not exaggerate when I state all this to have been [the] case. 12 or 14 houses of all sizes & accommodations occupied by French, English, Spaniards, Germans & Swedes, & Americans – & to some of them directed by mistake twice were visited by us – but objections were started to all in succession. Some were too small – some too dirty – some wanted this & others had that, till at last I became quite in despair at even getting a place to please these fastidious Senoras. What was curious, which ever they found already engaged, they seemed most anxious to take up their abode there. I suppose from the spirit of contradiction. During the whole of the dreary & tedious time occupied in our researches, I was unable to beguile even a small portion by conversing, for we were mutually unintelligible to each other & whenever they wanted any thing, it required much trouble to make me understand their French & Spanish. How many mistakes did I not make – & the worse was that I was obliged to grin horribly a gashtly grin [sic] at them. At last thank heaven I landed them at a countryman’s of the name of McGaw in the Rua del 25 del Mayo. They were not indeed satisfied with their accommodations there & would [have] wandered I verily believe as long as people would have opined their houses – but I was determined to fix them for the night. And you must consider that all this time I had forgot number one & had no where yet to lay my head that night. I enquired at McGaw & was glad to learn that I could be accommodated – so no farther would I budge. I suddenly forgot all my French & seemed to consider it as a settled matter that they were to remain there. But the old lady was too sharp for me. She told McGaw that she wished to see more houses – & so importunate was she, that I offered, in pretence of her being fatigued, to go by myself & bring her back a report. With difficulty she consented to this arrangement & I accordingly went with McGaw to four more different houses but knowing pretty well by this time what they wanted, I was sure that none would suit them & I therefore returned to tell them so.; Whither it was that the old dame suspected me, to be like the spies sent to spy out the land of promise, & to have returned with a false report for my own purposes, or whether she really was determined not to stay where she was, I cannot tell – but she would absolutely go with me herself & judge with her own eyes whether I had told her the truth. I submitted with the best grace possible – she soon found that I had not exaggerated – & to my great joy she gave her consent to remain where she was till to-morrow at least. This was joyful news to me –my spirits which had ebbed very low, began to flow back, & I devoured with excellent appetite & gust some cold fowl, roast beef, bread & fresh butter, washed down with several cups of tea. At 11 I turned in to enjoy my well earned sleep & did not awake till far in the morning.

Having thus brought you to my resting place in Buenos Ayres, I have now time & leisure to give you some [History] of the [above ladies], as well as of an English [one, which] I left in the early part of the Day to the care of [her friends].

Read on …