The course of the steamer is frequently in sight of land. The storms I have referred to were tropical storms, lasting but a short time. The ocean is generally very mild all the distance, three thousand five hundred miles from Panama to San Francisco. North of San Francisco the storms are somewhat similar to the Atlantic ocean storms. The passengers on the return trip were in the best of spirits; they were returning home; all of them had been more or less successful in California, and I can recall to my mind many pleasant times we had on board the steamship. The porpoise are very numerous on the Pacific ocean; there were often, for days, schools of them on the sides of the steamer, throwing themselves out of the water, and then diving in again; great numbers, at the same time, seeming like the motion of a revolving wheel. Occasionally we would hear the cry, “There she blows;” a jet of water being thrown up many feet high in the air–a sperm whale had come up to breathe. We frequently saw flying fish. One day there was a school of them landed on the steamer; they are similar to other fish, except having wings, but not of a very large size. At another time a booby bird came on the steamer. It got its name from its stupidity. We frequently saw them on the water, floating on a piece of board or a stick of wood; sailors say they have seen them five hundred miles out to sea in that way. This one you could take up and handle; it made no resistance. On the coast of Central America we saw two mountain peaks of great height, standing out, individually, like the Pyramids, said to be extinct volcanoes that were thrown up from the internal fires of the earth, and which, at one time, belched forth melted lava and fire.
We arrived safe in Panama. I was so near home that I thought I might as well return and see my friends, and take a fresh start for California, and try my fortune once more. They had commenced building the railroad over the Isthmus, but it was not completed, so we crossed over to Cruize, the head of navigation on the Chagres river, and went down that to its mouth, and there took the steamer Georgia for New York, commanded by Captain Porter, of the United States navy–the man who had control of the vessels in going down the Mississippi river and successfully passing Vicksburg, which had so much to do with its capture. He was a perfect gentleman, and commanded your admiration with the skill of his management of the vessel. There were on the vessel well-dressed pickpockets, who went from New York to the Isthmus, to return by the steamers to the city, for the chances of robbing the returning Californians of their gold dust, as all of them had more or less of it on their persons. One unfortunate victim of their wiles appealed strongly to my sympathies. He was an English sailor, and had been two or three years up in the gold mines, and had $3,000 or $4,000 in gold dust in a buckskin bag on his person. He showed it to me. I advised him to deposit it with the purser for safety; that I had done so with mine. He said they could not rob him. He was about the happiest man I ever saw. He was richer, in feeling, than the Vanderbilts. He said he had a wife and children in Liverpool, and would take the first steamer from New York for that port. He said he had not seen his family for several years, and now that he had the gold he could make them all happy. He was in the steerage. A few days after I heard he was sick. He had fainted. Some parties had helped him up; evidently pickpockets had taken that opportunity to rob him; his gold was all gone. I explained his case to Captain Porter, but nothing could be done. There was no way to identify his gold dust from any other; it was all alike. When he arrived in New York, he would have to go to the hospital until he got well enough to ship on some other vessel for $14 per month, and not be able to return to his wife and children with his gold, and make them happy, while these black-hearted villains were spending his money, his hard earnings of years. I entered in a bond, with myself, that if I were ever on a jury I would never show any mercy to a thief.
As we were sailing along many ships and schooners came in sight. We were evidently nearing the great port of New York. The land of Staten Island soon came in sight covered with snow. It was late in the fall. It was the first I had seen since my departure from the same port, except on the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Here ends my personal adventures of the days of the Forty-niners, to be continued by the peroration on California.