The character of the past week has been quiet and orderly. Every thing and every person have taken their proper places – and both the business of the ship, and the mode of living among our passengers have settled down to regularity and precision. Each knows his own place – his own duty – & his own mess. Sailors and Miners mix sociably together mutually giving and receiving tobacco & grog and amusing themselves occasionally with Cards or Drafts. What with observing the strange humours of the Cornishmen, & the playful manners of the children, the time has slipped away imperceptibly during the day – while at night we manage to beguile the slow pace of old Saturn, at vingt un, for a mere trifle, which at once imparts and interest to the game, and is equally remote from gambling.
Man is an active animal & his animal spirits must have some mode of evaporation. This is accomplished by some in the shape of mischief, or of crime; by others in the form of amusements. Now our Miners having nothing to do for some days past have amused themselves at leap frog coming in. That is to say they formed themselves into two equal parties. One of these enacted the Horses, which they did by stooping – but instead of a space intervening between each, as with us, the hands of the second rested on the latter end or legs of the first, the third of the second & so on. The other party then prepared to leap – but previous to doing so the first called out leap frog coming in, & then sprang as far as he could over the bended backs of the first party. He was quickly followed by the second – he by the third, & so on to the last. As soon as all had leaped, they began to count ten as fast as possible, and if when they had finished none of their side had fallen down, they had the right to come off and leap again. If however any of the leapers fell off, that party to which he belonged were obliged to take the place of the other and became horses in their turn.
Sometimes one of the leapers would lose his balance, and in order to prevent himself [falling] off on one side, he would cling with all his energy to the horse he was on – & sometimes he would succeed, at others times he would come to the ground amidst the shouts and laughter of the spectators & of the hooligans also, who were then immediately metamorphosed into horsemen. Sometimes when all the riders were mounted the horses from the immense weight were hardly able to sustain their burden, as after swaying for a few seconds to & from the whole would come toppling down with a tremendous clash, horses & riders the one on top of the other – Alack for the poor wretches who had to bear the superincumbent pressure. The breath was almost squeezed out of their bodies – & lucky indeed in escaping serious bruises – bumps – and broken bones. This to be sure proved that hard knocks and rough jokes were no jokes at all. Many of the performers told me afterwards that they felt quite sore all over, & especially about the small of the back & the neck, the two weakest points in resisting the load – this game was only sometimes for two or three nights – & then discontinued to give place to others equally amusing & less painful.
We have had no reason to complain of the direction of the wind. At first it was very light, and we were uncertain whether it would lead us into the Trades. On Tuesday 10 Dec.r we made the Island of Porto Santo and early on the morning of the succeeding day we had Madeira in view, but very indistinctly on account of a thick haze. At this point the breeze still favourable, freshened, and soon bore us within the proper limits of ever propitious winds.
As if to enhance our pleasure, the weather throughout was fine. The temperature of the air was remarkably mild – neither hot nor cold, but really delightful. The Motion of the ship was very trifling, enabling us at all times to promenade the deck without the risk of breaking our legs or our necks by falling down the companion or hatchways.
Saturday 14th Dec.r – fine weather. Fresh and favourable breeze.
Sunday 15th – very fine weather. Moderate and favourable breeze all day – fresh at night.
Monday 16th – fine weather – fresh and favourable breeze.
Tuesday 17th – moderate & favourable breeze – fine weather.
Wednesday 18th – light and favourable wind – fine weather.
Thursday 19th – cloudy but pleasant weather. Moderate and favourable breeze.
Friday 20th December – moderate and fair wind during the day – fresh at night – fine weather.
Saturday 21st – moderate and favourable breeze – fine weather.