The sketch represents 'our mess' at the morning meal and Francois pouring out the coffee. The dishes on the table, or rather on the india-rubber cloth, were of the best block-tin, and the etiquette was quite rigid in some particulars; for instance, nothing like a fork, or substitute for it must be used, without you wished to raise a storm of ridicule about your ears. With the 'bowie knife,' you separated a rib from the mass in the centre of the table, seizing with your hand the lower end, and cutting away a la mode Oriental. Indians were meanwhile patiently standing near, in order to be ready for the 'second table,' eating enough at once to suffice them for three days.
On one occasion, our Commander, who had purchased some boxes of sardines at St. Luis (intending to keep them in reserve for sickness or other emergency) ordered one of them to be place on the 'table.' It was a double box, and contained about a pint. A Trapper opened it, pronounced the contents fish, and emtied the whole on his plate. Seeing this, the Captain ordered out the whole lot of sardines, as he saw that nothing short of it would go round. He would not for the world have hinted to them that it was customary to eat only two or three as a relish. This breakfast must have cost him upwards of sixty dollars, but it furnished him a capital after-dinner story for Europe, and he considered that worth all the money.