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I went between-decks, where the families with children swarmed in the dark, where unavoidable confusion had been caused by the last arrivals, and where the confusion was increased by the little preparations for dinner that were going on in each group. A few women here and there, had got lost, and were laughing at it, and asking their way to their own people, or out on deck again. A few of the poor children were crying; but otherwise the universal cheerfulness was amazing. 'We shall shake down by to-morrow.' 'We shall come all right in a day or so.' 'We shall have more light at sea.' Such phrases I heard everywhere, as I groped my way among chests and barrels and beams and unstowed cargo and ring-bolts and Emigrants, down to the lower-deck, and thence up to the light of day again, and to my former station.
Surely, an extraordinary people in their power of self-abstraction! All the former letter-writers were still writing calmly, and many more letter-writers had broken out in my absence. A boy with a bag of books in his hand and a slate under his arm, emerged from below, concentrated himself in my neighbourhood (espying a convenient skylight for his purpose), and went to work at a sum as if he were stone deaf. A father and mother and several young children, on the main deck below me, had formed a family circle close to the foot of the crowded restless gangway, where the children made a nest for themselves in a coil of rope, and the father and mother, she suckling the youngest, discussed family affairs as peaceably as if they were in perfect retirement. I think the most noticeable characteristic in the eight hundred as a mass, was their exemption from hurry.
Eight hundred what? 'Geese, villain?' EIGHT HUNDRED MORMONS. I, Uncommercial Traveller for the firm of Human Interest Brothers, had come aboard this Emigrant Ship to see what Eight hundred Latter-day Saints were like, and I found them (to the rout and overthrow of all my expectations) like what I now describe with scrupulous exactness.
The Mormon Agent who had been active in getting them together, and in making the contract with my friends the owners of the ship to take them as far as New York on their way to the Great Salt Lake, was pointed out to me. A compactly-made handsome man in black, rather short, with rich brown hair and beard, and clear bright eyes. From his speech, I should set him down as American. Probably, a man who had 'knocked about the world' pretty much. A man with a frank open manner, and unshrinking look; withal a man of great quickness. I believe he was wholly ignorant of my Uncommercial individuality, and consequently of my immense Uncommercial importance.
UNCOMMERCIAL. These are a very fine set of people you have brought together here.
MORMON AGENT. Yes, sir, they are a VERY fine set of people.
UNCOMMERCIAL (looking about). Indeed, I think it would be difficult to find Eight hundred people together anywhere else, and find so much beauty and so much strength and capacity for work among them.
MORMON AGENT (not looking about, but looking steadily at Uncommercial). I think so. - We sent out about a thousand more, yes'day, from Liverpool.
UNCOMMERCIAL. You are not going with these emigrants?
MORMON AGENT. No, sir. I remain.
UNCOMMERCIAL. But you have been in the Mormon Territory?
MORMON AGENT. Yes; I left Utah about three years ago.
UNCOMMERCIAL. It is surprising to me that these people are all so cheery, and make so little of the immense distance before them.
MORMON AGENT. Well, you see; many of 'em have friends out at Utah, and many of 'em look forward to meeting friends on the way.
UNCOMMERCIAL. On the way?
MORMON AGENT. This way 'tis. This ship lands 'em in New York City. Then they go on by rail right away beyond St. Louis, to that part of the Banks of the Missouri where they strike the Plains. There, waggons from the settlement meet 'em to bear 'em company on their journey 'cross-twelve hundred miles about. Industrious people who come out to the settlement soon get waggons of their own, and so the friends of some of these will come down in their own waggons to meet 'em. They look forward to that, greatly.
UNCOMMERCIAL. On their long journey across the Desert, do you arm them?
MORMON AGENT. Mostly you would find they have arms of some kind or another already with them. Such as had not arms we should arm across the Plains, for the general protection and defence.
UNCOMMERCIAL. Will these waggons bring down any produce to the Missouri?
MORMON AGENT. Well, since the war broke out, we've taken to growing cotton, and they'll likely bring down cotton to be exchanged for machinery. We want machinery. Also we have taken to growing indigo, which is a fine commodity for profit. It has been found that the climate on the further side of the Great Salt Lake suits well for raising indigo.
UNCOMMERCIAL. I am told that these people now on board are principally from the South of England?
MORMON AGENT. And from Wales. That's true.
UNCOMMERCIAL. Do you get many Scotch?
MORMON AGENT. Not many.
UNCOMMERCIAL. Highlanders, for instance?
MORMON AGENT. No, not Highlanders. They ain't interested enough in universal brotherhood and peace and good will.
UNCOMMERCIAL. The old fighting blood is strong in them?
MORMON AGENT. Well, yes. And besides; they've no faith.
UNCOMMERCIAL (who has been burning to get at the Prophet Joe Smith, and seems to discover an opening). Faith in - !
MORMON AGENT (far too many for Uncommercial). Well. - In anything!
Similarly on this same head, the Uncommercial underwent discomfiture from a Wiltshire labourer: a simple, fresh-coloured farm-labourer, of eight-and-thirty, who at one time stood beside him looking on at new arrivals, and with whom he held this dialogue:
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The Uncommercial Traveller -- by Charles Dickens