Page images
PDF
EPUB

scene of danger, is captain for the night; and so zealous are they of this honour, that they will remain in a room behind the engine-room, for the purpose of being ready to start on the first ring of the bell.

That they are courageous, and command often in the midst of danger with a general's eye, all their countrymen know. And that many of them are gentle as well as brave, many a deed of tender consideration for sufferers can testify. One little specimen of this came under my own knowledge, and pleased me greatly.

The house of one of my emigrant countrymen was in flanies—the usual amount of agitation, racket, confusion, smoke, and hammering and tearing down, were going forward amid the fire. A young daughter of the family was rushing to a picture on the wall of one of the rooms, when a fireman caught her and said she would peril her life. “Oh! but I must save it-I must. It is the picture of my home in Scotland.” “Stand there, then,” said the kindly man, and bounding himself over the fallen embers, rescued the treasure, and through the thickening cloud of smoke leapt back to present it to the agitated girl. Here was good-nature, sentiment, and sympathy, mingling with courage in the heat and hurry of the scene. The dear girl shewed me her old home and the Tweed, so familiar and so dear to us both, and told me of this kindly act with sparkling eyes. She never knew her benefactor.

It has been mysteriously hinted that these fire brigades, originating in so honourable and humane a purpose, have been invaded by various evils, and made the tools of infidel encroachments and political intrigue. How much to be lamented, if true, and how desirable that some salutary corrective be applied-some salt cast into the mass to save it from putrefaction!

They are a popular society in every city. Courage dwells with, and protection flows from them. Will not some of the ladies who shower nosegays on their heads when, on the anniversary, their gay procession and glittering engines pass through the streets, devise some method of exhibiting their gratitude which may infuse a moral and elevating leven into the occupation of these men, who watch at midnight for their safety?

At the New York Fair (as they call the annual exhibition of the industry and manufactures of the whole State) the display of all the material engaged in extinguishing fires was extensive, ingenious, and handsome, in a degree to awaken surprise in people who hear of a fire at the interval of months, and scarcely ever see a fire-engine.

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE COLOURED RACE.

The first drive up Broadway, or turn in the Fifth Avenue, would impress the new-comer with the idea that New York is of German origin, but for the restless bustle that pervades it, and the dark coachmen mounted on the front of the carriages, and the youths seated beside them, who from their age and complexion may be their sons. When he penetrates a little further, and sees the domestic economy, he will find black cooks as well as waiters; and when he perambulates the city, he will find some streets that seem entirely inhabited by blacks, and in their vicinity a church or two of various persuasions, whose flocks and whose ministers are of the same complexion. They are generally reported to be honest, thoughtless, light-hearted, improvident people. Some of them seem very poor and desolate, especially in cold weather, which shrinks and withers them up; but in sunshine they expand, and are much more lively. They are by no means disposed to beg, or to make the most of their necessities. A

gentleman connected with the “ Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor," who takes charge of a district for the purpose of investigating the cases, and distributing the alms of the benevolent during winter, says his experience is, that the coloured people, men and women, withdraw their claim as soon as they find employment by which they can live, while the Irish will hang on, and shew plausible cause why they ought to be aided, as long as a dollar is left in the bag.

They are capable of being very industrious and useful in the community, and some of them possess both energy and mental vigour. Yet they evidently belong to a warmer clime, where prolonged or hard exertion is not necessary to supply the wants of nature; and one grieves to observe the half-developed, half-alive state they often drop into, as if chilled, when nothing occurs to arouse them.

They are not zealous to use all the means of education within their reach, yet in the '“ Coloured Orphan Home” are to be seen children as acute and lively as in any of the white orphan houses or common schools.

Those who have enjoyed longer and closer means of observation can say whether the gradual dying away of this acuteness and liveliness, when they grow up, arises from constitutional causes, or from a growing conception, as they advance in life, of their depressed condition.

In the free states the coloured children have access to the common schools, but, if I may judge

from

my limited means of observation, they do not very commonly use the privilege. States that support common schools pay equally for black and white. children. Nevertheless, in these states you will find here and there a side school, the result of private benevolence, where the children and their teacher cannot offend each other's prejudices, as all are dark.

It is too painful to look on a people who have the material in them that might do well, driven back to inertness and despondency by the ceaseless encounter of depressing obstacles. Is it true, that white children, in virtue of a complexion, in the possession of which they have no merit, insult and injure children of another shade of colour, for which they ought to have no disgrace? I fear it. In Albany I saw a big white boy deliberately kick a little black one who was passing along as inoffensively as myself. The

poor child did not attempt to retaliate or to complain—he only fled. Is this a method in which to rear free, and generous, and just citizens ?

The day and the scene were lovely as I sat on the dock at Poughkeepsie, waiting for the steamer, yet a brief exhibition of what appeared too common to draw the attention of others filled me with indignation and grief. A pleasant-looking coloured youth, dressed neatly in clean summer clothing, leaned over the rail, looking down upon the water. Suddenly a dirty, ragged, vulgar fellow, perhaps jealous that a black man should look so much more

« PreviousContinue »