« PoprzedniaDalej »
warp and hawser, that is like just feeling the water with one foot; then a little further on you meet your first wave, that is when you have got knee-deep. Further on you feel as though you were on a swing, only you know you are in a ship, that is when the water is breast-high. Last comes a pitch followed by a roll, the screw thumps, the ship's sides creak and groan, the crockery rattles, basons get adrift in berths. It is all over, you are out of your depth. “Steward, Steward, Humane Society, to the rescue, bring the drags, a fire-escape, brandy and water, anything, only let me get on shore !” Such will be the ejaculations of our friend in about six hours, if the captain with this north-easter right in his teeth does not anchor at Inchkeith or under the May for the night. As for ourselves we are old sailors, we have been everywhere, traversed vast oceans, been sorely tossed on mighty inland seas, been in headlong tideways. Were we liars we should add that we had sculled ourselves through Corryvreccan in a Thames wagerboat; but we are not liars, and only assert that we have been everywhere in all weathers, in every kind of craft, and since we were sucklings never either sea-sick or land-sick. For us then the reader need have no sympathy on this wild night; we have our supper, take our toddy, make friends with our fellow-passengers, such as cared to show, and having out-talked and outdrunken even a Glasgow Bailie, who never rises from his liquor under seven tumblers, we turn in and are asleep in a moment. Towards dawn we are aroused by some inarticulate outpourings of our friend whose time has come. But what has come over the ship? she is straining and pulling like a greyhound in a leash, evidently making great efforts to get on and yet not moving “ Are we ashore ?" groans our friend, who would give a handful of those shares in the city if he could follow the ship's example, and set his forefoot on dry-land. “ Not ashore, but at anchor till the tide turns and day breaks," and we recommend all who have never tried the sensation to do so, and then tell us if they like it. It feels like toiling up stairs, and then suddenly tumbling down backwards, the bumps and thumps which your head and elbows get from the ends and sides of your berth complete the illusion. Perhaps, too, it is like the sensation of being buried alive, and then having your body snatched and thrust into a cart without springs, and hurried off along a very rutty ill-paved road to a medical school-we say perhaps, because we have never been buried alive, and never dissected, but we have been in a coffin, for are not all berths on board ship coffins? and reader, when you are sea-sick, do you not look like a corpse, and do not the steward and the stewardess look like bodysnatchers, watching for the moment of dissolution to strip your corpse and cast it overboard ? That was our friend's feeling; as
A Foul Wind and Sea-Sickness.
for us we rose as usual, descended from the narrow lair, which with the forethought of an old sailor we had chosen over his aching head, and with the hunger of a lion refreshed by sleep, strode on deck, crying out for coffee. Before it comes we see at once where we are, what sailors call snug under the lee of the Isle of May, but tossing like a cork in the swell which reaches us even there. On the northern side of the Firth lie the North Carts showing their ugly reef above the waves, the resting-place of many a good ship. Far away on the south side are the Bass and Tantallon, and all the pleasant homes in East Lothian, where our friends are warm asleep in their beds, while we are the sport of winds and waves. Just as we get our coffee the tide turned, and the captain gets up his anchor and is off. But it is slow work in such a sea and wind, and so we creep along till in the afternoon we are off Aberdeen, and at sunset lie-to off Peterhead. Here the Bailie and a geologist of our party have a warm dispute as to the formation of trap, the one declaring it to be igneous rock protruded by fire, the other aqueous bubbling up like starch from the bottom of the sea. Bless that Bailie's lungs and head. We never met his like for wind and whisky. At midnight as the gale freshens our bold captain will stand it no longer, and resolves to push on.
No good waiting till perhaps it gets worse.” All this time, mind you, our friend, for whose especial pleasure we have undertaken this journey, and who was such a good sailor on land, lies like an alligator in a pool without uttering anything save now and then a short grunt. In the steward's tongue, which is strangely monosyllabic and occasionally pictorial, every grunt means brandy and water and a biscuit, and so he keeps body and soul together. Again we have a jolly night with the Bailie and one or two Icelanders whose ilia are as hard as those of Virgil's reapers. Again we turn in in peace and charity with all men. We forgive our debtors and wish our creditors would forgive us. We sleep, nay, perhaps we snore, but as no one ever believes that he snores, and no man ever heard himself snore, how can we be sure of that fact ? Next morning we are off the Orkneys, and are still more tossed from the swell that rushes with the flood-tide through the Pentland Firth. On and on we crawl the livelong day, and at sunset are off North Ronaldshay just in time to see Robert Stevenson's lighthouse lit, and to mark the ugly reefs which fringe that perilous isle. Now we are in the open Atlantic with nothing on the western board between us and Spain or America. The wind is still northerly, inclined to Nor-Nor-West, about the worst we can have. Again we are tossed and buffeted by the waves, but the ship is a famous sea-boat. Why are all famous sea-boats slow sailers ? We make all speed and crawl along like a tortoise for Faroe. our way we sight the Fairisle and Foula, an outlier of Shetland, which looks like a great back-tooth with its triple fangs turned upside down. “ We have forgotten our friend ?" Nothing of the kind. How can we forget one for whom we have come all this way? Sooner would we forget ourselves. But what can we do for him ? Can we turn ourselves into a dolphin and swim back with him? If we could he is no Arion, and besides he is so weak that he would slip off and we should be guilty of aiding and abetting in a murder before the fact. Can we bring back his appetite? Can we force him to swallow pease-soup, boiled mutton, or roast pork? Alas! he is beyond all these dainties. Shall we address him as the consoling mate did another passenger, “ Well, sir, if you are going to die, pray make your will before you go, and don't forget your friends!” Shall we tell him, as an Icelander did another passenger in like case, who had looked over the side shortly after swallowing a glass of rum,“ Now you will know that rum is a bad thing for sea-sickness.” No! we did none of these things. We neither tried to feed him with pork nor to console him, for in sea-sickness the heart knoweth its own bitterness and hugs a secret sorrow of its own.
Give a sea-sick man a hard biscuit, a little brandy and water every now and then, and then leave him like a vestal virgin who has forgotten herself alone in his vault, and above all things, if you have coaxed him into coming to sea with you, keep out of the glance of his angry eye, and the reach of his nerveless arm, lest the mere sight of you should revive him and he should pluck up strength to hurl his glass of brandy and water or his ship-biscuit at your head and brain you, if you have any brains, on the spot. So, for divers good reasons and not from any hard-heartedness or want of friendship, we leave our friend to himself and make ourselves as happy as we
" At length the wished-for morrow.” Land! the Faroe is in sight on the morning of the fourth day. In a few hours we shall be at Thorshaven. Ho! every man of you bestir yourselves. Ye that shave, clutch your razors. Ye men that do not, wash and sponge your beards, laugh and be merry, for we shall soon be in smooth water and shall have some hours for a ramble on shore to stretch our cramped legs. When we first broach the landing to our sea-sick friend, he is still in the alligatorial state. Short growls issue rapidly from his manly chest, which we interpret to mean, “ wretch that hast dragged me thus far, and starved me on the billows for three days and nights, who hast parted a happy father from the wife of his bosom and his hopeful babes, and brought him to death's
door, begone from my sight!” The effort, though inarticulate, is too much for him, he rolls over on his side, and the last we hear of him is "stew-bas--" At those syllables of power we turn and flee. We would sooner go into a den with Mr. Wombwell's lions any day, than face a man about to be sea-sick.
But after the space of two hours we returned. By this time the water is much smoother; we are under the lee of some of the outlying islands; we can see the gray trap rocks flecked and striped with green; we can count the sheep on the hills which gave and give their name to this group of islands ; strange sea-birds flock about us, and dive and redive in the waves; boats, many boats are about us, manned by the hardy islanders, clad in their homespun russet wadmal. The sun shines bright, small birds fly on board to greet us; no time is to be lost, our friend must rise, have breakfast, and land. Talk of miracles being over! If a man goes to sea he will see many miracles. We left our friend at the last gasp, and had we been Mother Hubbard and he been our dog, and both of us on land, we should have gone straight to the undertaker's to get him a coffin. But like that venerable dame, our ears are amazed on nearing his berth, to hear him laughing loudly with the steward. Yes ! peals of downright hearty laughter come from that cabin, and there we find our friend half-dressed, sitting on his portmanteau eating a beefsteak, and joking with the steward. Such healing power is there in smooth seas and land breezes, and in rude health and a good heart. We feel inclined to ask him if it is not worth suffering so much, merely for the intense joy of eating a raw beefsteak on your own box after three days' fasting. But we refrain, and only moralize. Such is life, a series of contrasts, and pleasure for the most part the mere cessation of pain.
The sufferer has hardly time to dress before the harbour of Thorshaven is gained, the cable rattles merrily through the hause-hole, and here we are landfast in Faroe. Now we land in one of the famous Faroe boats manned by twelve stout oars. The steamer lies about the eighth of a mile off the town of Thorshaven, the water is deep right up to the edge of the rocks which form the ironbound coast.
“ Have a care as you step on shore.” Too late, down goes our friend, the nails in his shooting-shoes glide over the slippery stone, fat with the grease of many a monster of the deep. A friendly hand plucks him at the very brink of the water, and keeps him upright, but for a week or two his knees will bear witness to the “sasine” he has taken of Faroe earth. So on we go through the streets of Thorshaven, which is said by very complimentary people to be built like Edinburgh. So let Edina be generous and admit that there is some likeness, that the “ Castra Puellarum" is as like the “ Portus Thori,” as any village is like any town. There are pretty girls too in both, in that they are like, and there is fish in both the “ Maidens' Castle” and “ Thorshaven," and there is the sea close to one and not far off the other, and there are strong hands and warm hearts in both, and strangers are welcome to the best the land affords in both ; but in other respects let Thor be gallant, and yield as a fine old god and gentleman ought to the ladies, and confess that his haven is not quite such a city as Edinburgh. This town in fact is built round the rocks which gird the haven, in the hollow eaten by the waves in the Trap formation, and not only round but up and down in a strange fashion; the streets are narrow and the houses mostly of wood; all about the place are joints of whale hung up to dry, for that mammals flesh ekes out many a meal in Faroe. Fish and whale and mutton, mutton, whale and fish, scale and skin and skin and scale. So runs the round of life from hour to hour" in Faroe. But let us get on. We have friends in Thorshaven, for have we not friends everywhere, and they soon shake us heartily by the hand, and in one of these wooden houses we are soon as comfortable as we should be in any home in Scotland. We tell the news and we hear the news. We tell how the German Powers still pursue their aggression against Denmark, whose own the Faroes are, and as we tell, a blush steals over even our bronzed faces to think that England has said so much and done so little in this quarrel. We hear in return that the fishing has been good, the sea calm, and dog-fish few. “ What of whales ?”
Well, not so good. Some stragglers have been caught, and once or twice a great school was just about to be embayed in one of the firths, but somehow or other they were scared away.” “Ah !" sighs the old schoolmaster, who ought to have known better, and who may thank his stars that he is not under the tender mercies of Mr. Lingen. “When I was young the whales came much oftener. Three, four, ten times in the year they ran in in great schools four or five hundred at a time. Those were the days, but now, ever since we have had Free Trade these last ten years, they scarcely ever come. We hardly get two hundred in a year." No doubt there is “ Protection” even in the paths of the sea, and your whale, a true Conservative, who was driven from dry land by the repeal of the Corn and Navigation Laws by the Liberal party among the Giants before the Flood, still instinctively shuns the shores where trade is free. That is why we hear of him so seldom on the British shores, and that is why he shows his jolly bottlenose less and less often in Faroe. It may be too that finding himself killed and