« PoprzedniaDalej »
"That's a long yarn, Bill," says his mate, "and it's all ended in smoke."
"Why hardly so either, for you see there was only one gun fired, and so there warn't much smoke; but it ended in grog though, and that puts me in mind to finish mine now, and to wish you all a very goodnight."
We all took the hint, and, turning-in, were soon asleep.
There is something satisfactory in arriving at a clear, indisputable fact, and such I consider that I am stating when I say that there is no sleep for a landsman on board any vessel after a very early hour in the morning. It matters not whether the vessel be large or small; in harbour or at sea; propelled by wind or steam; under any possible circumstances there is sure to be a most horrible disturbance about daybreak. If there is nothing else to be done, the deck is to be scrubbed be it ever so small, and I cannot conceive it possible for any one to sleep under that process until habituated to it by use, which is, indeed, second nature in illustration of this I may mention, that I have heard of an officer on board ship awaking at a particular hour in consequence of missing the firing of a gun just at his head, though he was never disturbed by the discharge of it, to which he was habituated. In the present case our deck was but half a deck, and our crew consisted but of two men and a boy, who had been up late the pre
ceding evening, but day had hardly broken before they commenced a clatter over our heads, the intensity of which was only to be equalled by the constancy. I lay for a long time calculating upon the impossibility of a succession of employment being found, and just as I was dozing off under some momentary pause my unwitting tormentors, who decidedly had the upper hand of me, wound up my miseries by winding up the chain-cable. The matter was decided I bundled out, and found my friends most unconsciously pursuing their avocations, never dreaming that they were disturbing us, or that we could be desirous of sleeping after five o'clock. They had got the anchor apeak, and were proceeding to hoist their sails just to dry a bit till the turn of the tide, which would take place in about an hour. This done, the boy proceeded to light the fire and make all ready for breakfast.
It was a glorious morning again. The thunderstorm had effectually cleared the air, and the sun shone in full splendour upon the hills and woods around. It was as if all nature were rejoicing at the re-establishment of peace after having been subjected to the devastating conflicts of the warring elements. A busy scene presented itself around: the various crews of the craft, from the large trading smack to the little skiff in which one hardy old veteran was about to visit his lobster-pots in the offing, were all on the alert, baling and hailing, and swabbing and scrubbing, and spreading and drying, and all occupying themselves at their work.
Then, again, on shore, some were sweeping away the gravel and inud deposited at their doors by the late flood; others cleansing the drains and gutters; others, again, hurrying down to catch the last boat which was to convey them up the river to Kingbridge market. Besides all this, there were numerous hands busily engaged in building several coasting craft, of which a succession always occupy the stocks here.
Least obtrusive, but not least interesting, we could observe the proprietors of the different villas and their gardeners, eagerly examining the injury which had been done in their lovely little domains by the angry blasts and the pelting torrents of the preceding night here shrugging their shoulders in utter hopelessness over a tenderly-cherished plant now irretrievably destroyed; there, carefully raising and supporting some favourite which had been struck to the ground, but still gave hope of revival under the fostering care of its guardian. Our attention was much attracted by these beautiful gardens now that the sun shone in full splendour upon them, and exhibited to the greatest advantage the profusion of rich flowers, especially exotics, which here flourish in greater perfection perhaps than in any other spot in England. Indeed, we were much surprised to discover, with our glasses, orange and lemon-trees in full fruit in the open air, where they remain all the year, only slightly protected against severe weather in winter by mats thrown over them, or a glass shade.
There was something, we thought, un-English in the character of these gardens: their very situations, occupying little plateaux or natural terraces upon the side of the hill, gave them a foreign aspect, especially now that the sun shed his pure and powerful rays upon them.
But I must not dwell upon the charms of the spot once more the anchor's away, and we are dropping out upon the first ebb of the tide, for as yet there is no air stirring. Æolus is not yet sufficiently recruited after last night's bout to move in the least degree; all is calm, and the very drops are still hanging upon the leaves of the trees and shrubs, and the mist is ascending, not by the action of any wind, but simply by the rarefaction of the atmosphere as the sun's rays penetrate into the valleys Ah! farewell, sweet Salcombe! we shall soon lose sight of thy"Steady there, steady;-that's rather a swell, I take it."
"Looks as tho'f there'd been a bit of a rumpus out in the channel last night, master; and so there war', I'll be bound, and no mistake at all. I say, young chap, you'd better stow away that 'ere crockery if the gemmen's done their breakfast, else not I'm a thinking we'll be like the cabin-passengers was in a ship I sailed in one time."
"How was that?"
"Forced to drink by turns out o' one gemman's pewter shaving-pot all the passage; 'cause why?-all the crockery was smashed by a lurch o' the ship in the channel."
"Shall we have much of this swell, which is no way agreeable?"
"In coorse it'll take some hours afore it's all right again but just here, you see, it's so precious short because o' the water what's a ebbing from the river lumping again the channel-tide which hasn't a done outside o' the headland: so, by your leave, sir, if you'll steer a bit, my mate and I'll just step into the boat and give her a tow off into the tide-way; mayhap we'll meet with a little breeze in the offing: anyways we'll have the last drainings of the flood. tide, and that'll take us round the Praule Point.”
Notwithstanding all the skill and perseverance of our crew, the winds were too light and baffling, and the ebb-tide too strong to allow of our making much progress, and it was evening before we got up abreast of Dartmouth, in which harbour we proposed to spend the night, and even then our progress was very slow, as it was a perfect calm. This, however, we hardly regretted, as it gave us full time to examine and enjoy the view of this exceedingly striking and picturesque part of the coast. We had been
making our way slowly across a considerable bay formed by the Start and the Froward Points, the former of which is now indicated by a light-house erected a year or two ago. The latter headland, for which we had been steering, is a remarkably fine one, very high and rugged on all sides, and terminating in an immense perpendicular cliff to the south. Beyond this several huge rocks rear their barren and threatening heads above the sea, and give additional