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A BALL AT MALTA.
It was the close of a very fine day in Malta, in a year which it is unnecessary to specify, as all years are pretty much alike in that interesting island; the sea-breeze had set in, just as it was no longer wanted to cool the heat of the day; the gulls had gone to roost about the rocks near the edge of the water; the natives of the island were attending vespers; and the English inhabitants preparing for dinner. Such is the difference between a barbarous and a civilized people. As the evening advanced, the shadows thrown by the tall masts of the men-of-war faded from the surface of the water. At last the sun-set gun boomed from the Admiral's ship; down went the top-gallant-yards and colours of the squadron; the hammocks were fixed below, and every thing looked as if the night was to be passed as dully as usual. Not so, however; a great event was to take place: the hearts of hundreds beat high with anxiety, in fact, that night the Governor was to give a ball! The palace of the old Grand-masters of the famous Knights of St. John, was lighted up to receive a a different set of guests. In Malta (as elsewhere) the “age of chivalry is gone" - an age of Military Captains, Dockyard Officers, Naval Men, and Mercantile Agents has succeeded to it, and the glory of the land is “extinguished for ever.
On board the Caliban, to which vessel your humble servant, the writer, belonged at that period, very extensive preparations were being made. Captain Baggles was arraying his portly frame in his full uniform coat, and his servant was polishing up the four yards of leather, which was called the gallant officer's ,sword belt. Baggles hates balls, which he looks on as calculated to deteriorate the service. He sighs for the good old times, when vessels were fifteen months at sea, and the very admiral in command had not a tea-pot, and after dinner (he himself being provided with the best port and claret,) will tell you that Collingwood had nothing but Tenedos wine to drink, and that many times, he (Baggles) had seen the gallant old fellow hanging his old coats and waistcoats out of his cabin ports to air; which fact, no doubt was the rcal cause why these gallant old boys always beat the French.
Down below the Lieutenants were busy preparing for the occasion. Cheeksby, tae marine officer, was attiring himself in his cabin, and wondering as he twirled his whiskers before the glass, what kind of girls the Miss Lumbers (daughters of Sir Ajax Lumbers, K.C.B., &c., &c.,) were; while they (if we may be allowed to speculate on such great personages) were by no ineans thinking of poor De Cheeksby, but speculating on the qualities of the gallant commandant of artillery. In the cock-pit, the Midshipmen were striving to look elegant in the face of adverse circumstances; perpetual cries were heard of pass the word fo: Brown or Jones, according to circumstance, and young Belfield was audible over half the ship, demanding from his servant (with some reasonableness it must be admitted) “how the devil his patent leather boots had got into the sand-tank.” At last all preparations were over; Timson, the master's assistant, had gone through the ceremony of “extreme unction" by putting bear's grease on his hair, shore boats were called alongside; and the reader may now be introduced to what the editor of the Malta Pop-gun, (who by the way was disgracefully screwed in the course of the night,) called the “rank, fashion, and beauty of the island."
The ball has begun, the first few dances are over, and the excitement of the music and the motion had brought the company to as near an approach to natural and unaffected behaviour as an artificial state of society will permit its members to display. Let us, therefore, look round and examine the scene. Our old friend Baggles is moving about stately and serene. He has cautioned his daughter not to dance with Midshipmen; and thus avoiding the degradation of seeing her in the company of young Furnival, of the Harold, whose father is the leader of the opposition; or Hylton, of the Cavendish, whose ancestor fought at
Bannockburn, has managed to commit her to the care of old Higgls, of the Jackdaw, a worthy gallant snuffy old Lieutenant of 1818. She must find him a very pleasant partner, for he is a great nautical authority. He is teaching her how to fish a top-tail yard when sprung; and I shouldn't wonder if he was to offer her a pinch of snuff presently.
That knot of old naval officers in the corner looks very grave and professional. And no wonder, they are talking of the court martiat that is to be held on Tuesday, on Lieutenant Plummer for loosing the Bustard.
“ Danimee sir” says Ricochet, “I never heard such a lubberly piece of work. Lose a ship in a gale of wind on a lee shore.” He'll be broken like a rotten stick. I never lost a ship."
Ricochet is perfectly right there; for with a proper estimate of his professional capacity, he trusts every thing to his master and first Lieutenant. But how can you expect a man to be a great seaman, if he spends half his life on the turt? and on the turf Ricochet would have been to this day, but for that celebrated Derby, when Runting Roarer astonished every body by running first. Ricochet was heavily let in. Two or three gentlemen shot themselves, and he condescended to take command of the Regina. Its a fine thing to have relations in office.
While this amiable group are talking, the waltzers whirl past. How poor little Timson, our master's assistant, got coupled with that fat woman, (Mrs. Huggs, of the Dockyard,) I'm sure I can't guess. He looks at me imploringly, but in vain. I shake my head mournfully, he is doomed, she bears him away in triumph. Poor fellow, he has looked forward to this occasion for weeks, with anxiety, thinking how happy his mother, widow of Lieutenant Timson, (who was lost in the Stormy Petrel brig, going to Halifax, where the Admiralty had sent him, because no one else would go, and he dare not refuse,) would be when she heard that her son had been the guest of a Governor, and in the same room with a Lord! In his anxiety to cut a good figure, Timson has put on a stock, so tight that he feels as if standing on the drop, and momentarily expecting to be turned off. But the waltz is over. He has escaped this old woman of the sea, and is now retiring to the refreshment room, bent on getting some brandy and water if possible. A party of Midshipmen who are there, eating ices, and talking very loudly of "devilish nice girls,” (although these younkers feel re. markably abashed in the presence of ladylike women; and no wonder, for till within the last year or two, they saw nobody, but their Grandmothers,) regard Timson with a supercilious look, and mutter “bung”'; for the reader must know, that the master's assistents of the service are of an inferior class; and a man must be very ignorant of society who does not see that they will be snubbed in consequence, altogether irrespectively of their personal qualifications. One of the youths I have thus introduced as sneering, is a fair young man with curly hair. His comrades treat him with certain deference. Why? Is he more witty? No. A better officer? Pshaw! what then? He is an honorable, the Honorable Mr. Wimpole. That is a passport to consideration, and to (what people esteem more highly) pecuniary debt. How a title spoils a man! This young Wimpole, born a Jones, would have been unaffected and studious. But Providence giving him a fictitious claim to respect, took away the necessity of exertion; and a dunce, an honorable dunce, very much respecied, and decidedly dull, he will remain to the end of the chapter. There is a good story told of him, however, tending to show his brass. He was at a ball given by the Governor-general of India; and was sauntering up the room with all the listlessness of want of thought. He passed the spot where the viceroy was standing
“ Ah,” said his highness, “ Mr. Wimpole! I knew your father, Lord Oxtail.”
"Yes," rejoined the youth, “I believe my father did know you before you ratted !"
Fancy this stroke falling on a whig magnate ! Wimpole was a clever fellow after all.
Let us resume our glance at the good people of Malta, in the ball room.
The night is advancing. Baggles begins to yawn, and look wistfully in the direction whence the announcement of supper may be expected. Another waltz begins. The tall, handsome, dashing-looking-man, waltzing with the violet-eyed girl, (how refreshing it is to see blue eyes in the south, like finding a new planet!) is Captain Ransacker, Sion Ransacker, of H.M. steamer, Hoskett. His father is a plain, douce, honest Scotchman, of moderate income at Aberdeen. What a filial contempt Ransacker has for him! I believe he would cut him if he came into the room now, for Ransacker is a “dashing" fellow; and plunges himself into debt to give lunches and suppers to “gentlemanly dogs" of the 2nd stifles, or the Heavy Baboons regiment. He sinks his parentage in that august company, or if he does allude to it, talks of his old father in a way that would astonish that respectable man, so great does he make him out. He once entitled him “ Ransacker oʻthat ilk !" Lucky fellow! that he did not see how his guests laughed with each other over their Champagne Glasses!
At the ball of which we are writing, the Military looked as usual, stiff, vacant, gentlemanly, and supercilious. There is something painfully elaborate in the appearance of a military man in full uniform. He looks as if he had been born in it, and as if to divest him of it, would be a fatal shock to his system. On this occasion some of them were thinking how very different the company was at their houses in London; or they talked to each other at intervals between the dances, and wondered who the devil that tall man in plain clothes was, and what he would give his daughter : or perhaps they were meditating upon a recent occurrence which had shocked the island from its propriety; and which was neither more nor less than the flight of an officer, who was terribly in debt, and who had himself lowered over the ramparts in a basket, and so got safe off to a ship outside the harbour.
The elderly portions wished themselves quietly at home, the middle-aged paid delicate attention to the women with money: the very young among them sighed for their rooms, brandy and water and cigars; while a portion of both services we may add, thought of a certain little room, in the upper part of one of the Cafès, sacred to roulette, monte, and other games, in honour of the deity whom we may call the bud goddess.
Conspicuous among the naval portion of the guests, was a little round figure in the uniform of a Lieutenant. This was Lieutenant Kinahan, of the Roarer, steamer. We are aware that Providence created Kinahan, but to give him the command of a steamer, that was reserved for the Whigs, and eren they would not have done it, but that his electionering influence was considerable. Being of an indecisive character, and totally ignorant of steam, he was at the mercy of the engineers under his command; so that if it did not suit these worthy fellows to go to sea at the hour named, it was perfectly in their power to detain the ship, by inventing imaginary obstacles in the machinery! If the washing of the chief engineer was not ready, he had nothing to do but report a “screw loose," and there the vessel was tied, till it came off. As a last resource, poor Kinahan's only plan was the following ; when the “screw loose" was reported, he used to go below, and tell the steward to take the cold pie, and a bottle of porter, to the chief engineer; by which, that important functionary used to suffer himself to be prevailed on to allow her Majesty's service to have the benefit of the services of the Roarer.
The dockyard people danced as those do who have few opportunities, and of whom, it may be said, that it would be better for society, if they had none. Those who were in no way connected with either service, such as our worthy friends Criggles, agent to the house of Gripe & Co., (or merchant, as he, and those who eat his dinners call him); Mr. Cockatoo, merchant; Mr. Blunder, travelling for the benefit of his health, and the injury of his creditors; &c., &c., assumed a look of superiority to both. They let their daughters dance with officers according to their rank. Miss Cockatoo had just plighted her faith for the fourteenth time, and looked very interesting, particularly to those who knew her history, Among other feinale notabilities were the Miss Glaciers, one of whom composed waltzes, (by-the-bye, I never heard them played), and talked of all the literary celebrities of the day by their christian names abbreviated such as Tom, Dick, &c. I firmly believe, that if Dr. Johnson had been alive, she would have spoken of him as her old friend Sam. Then there was Mrs. Colonel Bellicoss, who had the reputation of being in command of the —ths, and who no doubt would have come in uniform if permitted. She marched her daughters (regular amazons of great ferocity) to the supper-table in military style, leftwheeled into the room, and attacked a pie with great skill.
To attempt to describe the supper would be ridiculous, a supper “to be appreciated" must be eaten. The Armies of Xerxes did not drink up the rivers on their way, with more eagerness than the midshipmen did the Champagne. There was some dancing afterwards, but the officers grew noisy, and the ladies tired, and the flowers got broken, and the band drunk; and the man who would stay in a ball-room at day-light in the Mediterranean is “ unworthy of the name of Briton."
So we all returned on board, and as I had to keep the morning watch, I set the crew about their work, and falling a sleep on a gun-slide, dreamed that I was waltzing with the main-mast, drinking Champagne out of the binnacle, and making lore to the capstan.
Tue AMERICAN Ice TRADE. The American Almanack for 1849, has, from the pen of N. J. Wyeth, Esq., a very interesting article upon the trade of the United States, or rather of Boston and vicinity, to which his inquiries have been confined. The trade, we are told, was commenced in 1805 by Frederic Tudor, Esq., of Boston, who made a shipment from Saugus to St. Pierre, Martinique, in a brig called the Favorite of Boston ; the speculation resulted in a loss of 4,500 dollars. He continued his operations until 1815 with varied success until he made a contract with the Government of Cuba, which proved profitable. In 1817 be extended the trade to Charleston, next to Savannah, and in 1820 to New Orleans. In May, 1833, his operations extended to Calcutta, by a shipment in the ship Tuscany, which was the first ever made to Calcutta, and the foundation of a now very profitable and extended business. The increase in the trade was small, the shipment reaching in 1842 only 4352 tons, all shipped by Mr. Tudor. The objections of shipowners to take ice, and the want of of information as to the best means of packing it so as to preserve it, kept the trade small, but perseverance and ingenuity soon removed all obstacles ; and in 1847, the shipments coast wise from Boston, reached 51,881 tons, forming part of the cargoes of 49 ships, 39 barks, 45 brigs, and 125 schooners with a foreign export of 22,591 tons, 21 ships, 24 barks, 38 brigs, and 15 schooners, all 74,478 tons. The coastwise shipments are, in all the seaports from Philadelphia to Galveston and Texas; while the foreign market includes, besides the West Indies, and the West coast of South America, Mauritius, Isle of Bourbon, Manila, Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Ceylon, Hong Kong, Whampoa, Batavia, and Liverpool.
The freights of the trade are perhaps greater than any other in the world, inasmuch as the article shipped is of no value, except that incident to labour and machinery. The freight paid on the 74,478 tons shipped in 1847 from Boston, is estimated at 20 50 dollars per ton, or 187,195 dollars, and the tare 2 dollars per ton 146,956 dollars. There were also shipped in ice from Boston several cargoes of perishable materials, valued at 72,500 dollars, which could not have been taken to market without the ice. To all this may be added 100,000 dollars for profits to those engaged in the ice trade, and we have a return to the country of 507,661 dollars. The ice thus shipped is the outward cargoes of vessels seeking freights, thus enabling them to make a profitable voyage, and at the same time affording this luxury to the South at a small price. In the early part of the ice trade, the manner of fitting vessels was very complicated, and consisted in forming an air-tight chamber inside the hold of the vessel, filling the space between the chamber and the ship's side with tan, shavings, &c. The process is now made very simple, and a layer of sawdust between the ice and the ceiling of the ship, is the only protection. The sawdust used at Boston is brought from Maine, and no less than 4,600 cords were used in 1847 at a cost of 2 50 dollars per cord. The price at hich ice is sold to the consumer varies very
At Havanna, where it is a monopoly, it costs 61 cents per lb. ; at New Orleans to 3 cents, which has stimulated the consumption to 28,000 tons in 1847 against 2,310 in 1832. At Calcutta the price has not been over 6 cents per pound, and is now 24 cents. The consumption of ice in Boston and vicinity for 1847 was 27,000 ions, costing the consumers 72,900 dollars, and yielding a profit to seven houses which supply the market of 18,135 dollars. The capacity of the storehouses for ice was, in 1847, equal to 141,332 tons, ex. clusive of those at Charleston and East Boston, where temporary deposits are made.
The season for gathering ice is very short, not over twenty days in a good season, when the ponds have the active appearance of a harvest field. In 1847, about 650 dollars was paid daily for the services of men, and 230 dollars for that of horses employed to secure their crop. In the infancy of the trade, common agricultural implements were used to gather the ice; but the progress of the trade has brought into use machines as closely adapted to ice as the spinning machines for cotton. Horse power and machinery are now used to scrape the accumulations of snow from the tops of the ponds, to allow the ice to freeze thick and solid. Machinery is also used to cut it into blocks, to draw it to the ice-house, and stow it when there. The trade is no small one, as is shown by the statistics and illustrates in the most striking manner, how profitable a trade can be created by the ingenuity of commerce from materials that in themselves are without the least value, but rather an obstruction to ordinary business.
Among the shipments from New York in September last, as an experiment, was a basket of peaches packed in ice. They were as fresh and as highly flavoured when they reached London as when they left New York, and this little experiment, we predict, will prove the beginning of a trade by which American fruit will be sold as readily in Paris and London as at home. Honour to the "universal Yankee nation," who commenced and pushed this enterprise to its present profit and success.-N. Y. Express.
THE NAVIGATION LAWS. The Ministerial measure of last session for the repeal of the Navigation Laws has been amended in one important particular during the recess.