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Diary Of Laurent Clerc's Voyage From France To America In 1816
Tuesday, July the 2nd. I devoted all the morning to the study of the English language, and before noon I laboured with M. Gallaudet in translating the French prepositions into English.
I have forgotten to say in the beginning of my journal that we have in our ship different species of living animals for our daily nourishment, among which are six hogs, several ducks and several cocks and hens. We have also some canary birds to tickle the ears of the passengers by the agreeable sound of their singing. Ah well!! After dinner I was told that one was now going to kill a hog. In truth, I saw two strong sailors seize the poor animal by his feet, throw him down and thrust a large knife in his neck. The blood flew and gushed-such a spectacle caused too much pain. After a little walk upon deck for our digestion, M. Gallaudet and I sat on benches over against one another, and he told me that if I was disposed to hear a terrible history, he would relate it to me upon the spot. I answered him that whatever might be the novel history which he was going to tell me, I was all ready to hear. Then he gave me the particulars of a wreck which happened twelve years since. Ah! What a wreck! What a terrible wreck! How much my heart was grieved at it! I had nevertheless the strength to hear the recital till the end, and when M. Gallaudet had ceased to speak. I could not think of it without horror. I dare not under- take to give here the full account of it, lest the reader would tremble or quake as I had done. I will spare his sensibility, and I am sure that he will be obliged to me for it.
I rose from the bench to dissipate the disagreeable impression which that narrative had made on my mind, and in walking, I perceived some seabirds named Mauette in French as I think, and in English, sea gulls or sheer water. They are neither larger nor smaller than the sparrows. They flew this way and that way, up and down, and in the same manner as the swallows do. I stopped and took pleasure in looking upon them. They continued to fly during several hours around our ship; and when they felt themselves fatigued, they reposed on the surface of the water and committed themselves to the waves; sometimes they dipped into the sea which leads me to think that they are amphibians, or else that there are rocks to which they retire.
After supper I asked the mate of the Captain how many miles we had made during the fifteen days in which we had been on the sea. He answered me that we had made but 600 miles. I was chagrined and said that we had made a very little way and having gone to look for some chalk in the cabin, I came again quickly and having calculated, I told my friends that if the wind continued to make as little way in fifteen days, we should not be able to arrive at New York under ninety days. Oh! not so long a time! cried out M. Gallaudet and some others. But, yes, certainly, replied I. I maintain that that will take place unless the wind should change in our favour. In the meanwhile, the Captain desiring, according to what I thought, that the time should not hang heavy upon us, told us that if the wind became favorable, we should make 200 miles in 24 hours and that consequently we should arrive in America in 15 or 18 days. That assurance was going to satisfy us, but M. Wilder, instead of adopting the sentiment of the Captain, augmented our fears by saying that we should arrive not 24 hours from the 12th of August. I spoke in my turn and said that if philosophy was true, the months which had the letter J in them, were entirely bad, and that consequently the advice of Mr. Wilder seemed just to me. One asked me the reason for what I advanced. I gave it in answering that the letter J brought ill luck since it was the letter of the name Judas. My companions laughed and found my answer ingenious. We all soon went to prayers and to bed.
Wednesday, July the 3rd. I do not know how it happens that I have become, contrary to my custom, less careful and attentive. One while I break a glass, another while I throw down a bottle on the table, again I spill some water here and there in my room and upon my bed, another while I run the risk of committing some faults yet still more serious. In truth, I have become quite heedless. I attribute this inconsideration to the trouble which affects my mind for want of recreation. This morning after rising I ascended upon deck with a glass in my hand. My intention was to fill it up with water to rinse my teeth. Before rinsing them I had the glass for a few moments on a bench. In the. meantime a sudden gust of wind caused it to tumble. The noise which it made in breaking drew towards me the looks of the persons who were upon deck and I believe that inwardly they blamed me. I was indeed a little ashamed and sorry for that imprudence. When I had breakfast I retired apart and sheltered myself from the beams of the sun. I was busy there in writing my preceding day. All was finished before the hour of dinner, and after our meal, M. Gallaudet corrected my bad English. I afterwards relaxed my mind in talking a moment with M. Cowperthwaite: