'They are faint-hearted; there is sorrow on the sea.'—JER.
WE lay at anchor that
night in Portland roads, and I enjoyed the calm. In the morning the
sea was smooth, and, to my delight, the sickness did not return.
Miserable as it had been, it had not for a moment made me forget my happy
position, or wish myself on shore again.
Tom and I spent part of the next morning together. He
was amused, I think, at my return, but I observed that if I mentioned
Ipswich or my school life it did not excite the least interest, but rather
seemed to tease him. He naturally could not feel that absorbing
interest in me and my concerns that I did in his, and I wished then, and
do now, to remember that he had passed several happy years without me, but
my years had not been happy without him: no new interest had sprung up to
supply his place, no present joy or adventure to blot out the memory of
the past; this was one great reason why I remembered him and my uncle so
keenly and lovingly. I know that we partly remember the absent
because we want them—if their places are fully supplied, after a time it
is not natural that we can want them so much, and reason ought to make us
consent to their being comfortable and happy without us, if they can.
In the pleasant weather of that day Tom proposed that we
should arrange the after cabin so as to hold my possessions comfortably
and yet retain many of his.
It was a delightful and luxurious room, this cabin. In
one of the berths shelves had been fitted, to to hold Tom's books.
The ordinary contrivances for keeping these steady during a voyage caused
much admiration in my mind; so did his beautiful telescope and his
scientific instruments. He emptied as many lockers for me as I had
any use for, and I found that he had a considerable command of money, for
he spoke of the books he bought, and of his subscription to more than one
London library, as if he could do anything he chose and have anything he
wished for. I did not, however, venture to ask him about this, for
he did not invite confidence; and I felt with him, as I have done with Mr.
Mompesson, that I was a stranger to him, though he was well known to me.
When he had made a place for my possessions, he took away
those of his own that had been displaced, and I, knowing that we were
bound for the Great Skellig, went to the chief cabin, where most of my
brother's books were kept, and privately made myself fully acquainted with
the hard-hearted monster, an isolated rock standing about ten miles out to
sea, off the south-west coast of Kerry.
My heart exulted as I read, and I longed for calm, that I might see it
well. How grand, how sublime to approach this the extreme point of British
land, this mighty pinnacle nearly a thousand feet high, shooting up alone
from the abyss of waters, and to know that in a storm the vast heaving
waves of the Atlantic flung themselves heavily over ledges that are one
hundred and seventy feet above their level during a calm, and wet the rock
with their powdering spray four hundred feet higher still, charging it and
roaring and foaming against it with a power and fury inconceivable!
The Lesser Skellig, too, I wished to see, for I found it was one of the
breeding places of the gannet, and that millions of young birds at that
time of the year would be squatting on it, incased in their thick down,
and screaming for fresh fish to their laborious parents.
That was a delightful day; and if a little breeze had not sprung up the
next morning, and sent me to my berth, making me doubt whether when the
rocks appeared I should be able to sit up and look at them, I should have
been as happy as youth, health, and a clear conscience can make one in
this sublunary sphere.
This was a most dismal attack, but happily it was the last I ever
suffered from. There had been a stiff breeze, and all in our favour, I was
told; and after what seemed a long time, I felt not only that I was much
better, but that the water was becoming every quarter of
an hour more smooth. I could soon sit up, and though faint for want of
food, I was not giddy, and when Mrs. Brand had dressed me I crept on deck
and found the water all lulled and hardly moving against the bows. We were
in the midst of a sea fog, and everything was
muffled and still. We were about sixty miles out to sea, as Mrs. Brand
told me, and what wind there had been when it died away was almost due
She thought it was likely to be calm all night, and told me that while the
fog lasted we should not make for the shore, the coast being very
dangerous. I asked her, while eating a good meal of meat and bread on
deck, how fast we were going, and she laughed and replied, 'Not a quarter
of a knot.' My uncle and
Tom were sitting at wine, for they had dined. It was about six o'clock,
and though the fog was so thick that I could not see the top of the
mainsail, I felt the air oppressively warm.
When my uncle and Tom came on deck they were very kind in their
congratulations, and stimulated me in my efforts to look and talk as if
nothing had happened, by saying that if this sickness had lasted another
day it would really have been necessary to put me on shore.
I declared myself to be quite well, and so I felt; but any one might have
felt well then, for the yacht was almost as still as a house.
Before sunset the fog cleared off sufficiently to show to us a vast flock
of white terns flying over us, their feet stretched out and their heads
hanging so low, that we expected them every moment to overbalance
themselves and come tumbling down. They did not however, but fled on until the sun went down, and then we still heard their
shrill cries overhead, as they flew landward.
Then the mist seemed to come about us again, and when after a sociable tea
I came on deck, it was so dusk and damp, that Tom advised me to go below
to my berth. Not very bad advice, for I was tired and
sleepy. I went below, intending to lie down, but only for an hour, and
come on deck again, but had scarcely laid my head on the pillow when I
fell very fast asleep, and slept sometime, probably until within an hour
In a dream that was a rapture of conscious rest, and which concerned
imaginary cups of coffee and bread and butter, I slept most quietly until
I was suddenly awakened by a violent and tremendous noise on deck. I
started up in my berth, and instantly observed that the cabin lamp was
lighted, and that Mrs. Brand, who had been sitting under it reading, had
put down her book and quickly opened the door. Just as I was about to call
her, her shirts disappeared as she shut it behind her.
It was not nearly so calm now as when I had fallen asleep, and I felt that
the whole vessel was in commotion. First I thought we must be shortening
sail, next I thought I heard something about lowering a boat.
I was not alarmed at this, but still sat up to listen. The helm seemed to
have been violently put about. That was not surprising, if it was the
case, but we were sixty miles out at sea. What could they want with a
Yes, in less than a minute I felt sure something was the matter, and the
stamping above, the shouting and dragging of ropes, so distracted me that
I sprang from my berth, and slipped my feet into my shoes, for otherwise I
was completely dressed. I knew that any needless alarm on my part would
irritate my uncle; but ignorant as I was of what different noises
portended, I could not keep below, but, softly opening my cabin door, I
stole a step or two up the companion, and directed my eyes upward among the rigging and the overhanging stars.
These last were visible, but looked watery through the remains of the
mist. I crept softly up to the top step of the companion, where Mrs.
Brand was standing, and would have passed her, but the sailors were in
every part of the yacht, lowering the foresail and
heaving her to. Long ropes were being trailed along, and Brand as he
passed exclaimed to his wife, 'Don't let our young lady step on deck; she
would put her foot on some of the ropes to a certainty, and get thrown
'What is it?' I exclaimed; 'what can it be?'
She pointed with her finger, and as the yacht swung round she said, 'Look
there, ma'am, look!'
As she spoke two strange objects came into my view. One was a great pale
moon, sickly and white, hanging and seeming to brood over the horizon; the
other, which looked about the same size, was red and seemed to lie close
at her side. It was not round, but looked blotted
and blurred in the mist. Could it be a meteor? a light
house? Whatever it was, it was the cause of the commotion which had been
so intense, and which now seemed to be already subsiding. I had
heard the men called up not three minutes before, and now two boats were
already lowered, and Tom was in command of the foremost. I heard his
voice coming from the water, and no one prevented me now from rushing to
the side to look over, turning my back on the moon and her lurid
companion. Though the night was not dark I could not discern the
boats; and after straining my eyes into the mist, I observed that it was
rapidly melting away, and rolling on as well as
rolling together, so that spaces of water here and there were clear, and
moonlight glittered on them. The binnacle light glared
in my uncle's face as he stooped over it. I heard Brand whisper to his
wife that he had taken charge of the yacht, and I did not dare to speak to
him, though what it might be that alarmed them I could not tell.
It was as it seemed but a moment that I had stared
out into the mist, looking for the boats with still sleepy eyes; then, as
the sailors that were left tramped back to the fore part of the yacht, I
turned again. The mist had shaken itself and rolled on before a light air
that was coming. I saw two great pathways now lying along the waters; one
was silver white, the pathway of the wan moon, the other was blood-red and
angry, and a burning vessel lay at her head.
Oh, that sight! can I ever forget it? The fire was spurting from every
crevice of the black hull, her great main-mast was gone, the mizzen-mast
lay with several
great white sails surging with in the water, and she was dragging it along
with her. The foremast only stood, and its ragging and sails had not yet
caught. A dead silence had succeeded now to the commotion in the vessel;
men were standing stock-still, perhaps waiting for their orders, and my
uncle's were the only eyes that were not strained to follow the leaping
and dazzling spires.
Every moment we approached. Now the first waft of the smoke came in our
faces, now we could hear a cracking and rending, the creak and shiver, and
the peculiar roaring noise made by a mastering fire.
'A full-rigged ship,' I heard Brand whisper to his wife. 'Eleven hundred
tons at the least.'
'Merciful heaven!' she whispered in reply. 'I hope
she won't blow up. Anyhow, I thank the Lord we've got Master in command
I never saw anything like the horrible beauty of that red light. It added
tenfold to the terror of the scene to see her coming on so majestically,
dragging with her broken spars and great yards and sprawling sails. She
looked like some splendid live creature in distress, and rocked now a good
deal in the water, for every moment the wind seemed to rise, bringing up a
long swell with it.
The moon went down, and in a few minutes the majestic ship supplied all
the light to the dark sky and black water. I saw the two little dark boats
nearing her; knew that my brother was in the foremost, and
shook with fear, and cried to God to take care of him, but while I and all
gazed in awful silence on the sailing ship, the flames, bursting through
the deck in a new place, climbed up the fore-rigging, and in one single
leap, as if they had been living things, they were licking the sails off
the ropes, and, shooting higher than her topsails, they spread themselves
out like quivering fans. I saw every sail that was left in an instant
bathed in flames; a second burst came raging up from below, blackening and
shrivelling everything before it; then I saw the weltering fire run down
again, and still the wreck, plunging her bows in the water, came rocking
on and on.
'How near does our old man mean to go ?' whispered Mrs. Brand; and almost
at that instant I observed that he had given some order to the man at the
helm, and I could distinctly hear a murmur of satisfaction; then almost
directly a cry of horror rose—we were very near her, and while the water
hissed with strange distinctness, and steamed in her wake, her blazing
foremast fell over the side, plunging with a tremendous crash into the
sea, sending up dangerous showers of sparks and burning bits of
sail-cloth, and covering our decks with falling tinder.
The black water took in and quenched all that blazing top-hamper, and
still the awful hissing was audible, till suddenly, as we seemed to be
sheering off from her, there was a thunderous roll that sounded like the
breaking of her mighty heart, and still glorious in beauty she plunged
head foremost, and went down blazing into the desolate sea.
In one instant that raging glow and all the fierce illumination of the
fire were gone; darkness had settled on the face of the deep. I saw a few
lighted spars floating about, that was all, and I smelt the fire and felt
the hot smoke rushing past my face as the only evidence that this was not
a dream. Oh! the misery of the next half-hour! The boats, when that
ill-fated ship went down, must, I knew, have been very near her. Had
they been sucked in? Had they been overturned, or
had they been so blessed as to be saved and to save some of the wretched
passengers and crew? Of all persons
in the yacht then, perhaps I suffered most. I was the most ignorant; I
had no one to speak to; for Mrs. Brand, perhaps lest I should question
her, had retreated, and I could not think of addressing my uncle; he had
on his mind and on his hands. I could only observe the activity of others
by the light of the many lanterns which were now hung out from various
parts of the rigging, and hope that we should soon find the boats, though
every light hung up seemed to increase the darkness, and make us more
unable to see anything beyond the bounds of the yacht.
At last, Brand standing near me again, I said, 'O Brand! cannot we go
nearer the place where that ship sunk? Perhaps some poor creatures may be
floating on the waters still.'
'Ma'am,' he replied, 'we are sailing now as nigh as may be over the very
spot where she went down; but you have no call to be frightened;
everything has been done that can be done. We hove to directly we
'Yes,' I said; 'but what good could that do?'
'Why, ma'am,' he replied, 'we could not have lowered the boats without
that; and then, you know, when they were off we filled, and stood in as
nigh as we dared.'
'Then where are the boats?' I inquired. 'God knows, ma'am.'
'And what are these lights for? Every one you put
up makes it harder to see anything. How are we to find them?'
'We have no call to find them,' he replied; 'we want them to find us. Most likely there are other boats about, besides our own, boats from the
ship—we want to make
ourselves as conspicuous as we can. At least, I reckon that is why
Master has ordered all these lights out.'
'And why cannot we pick up any of the poor creatures that may have been
on board? Surely we could have heard their cries, and could now—we are
not half a quarter of a mile from her.'
'No, ma'am; nothing like that distance—not half that distance; that's why
our people think she may have been deserted.'
The steward passed on, and I covered my face with my hands and moaned in
the misery of my heart. Oh! my only brother! had I really lost him so?
I listened. The silence about me was so intense that I knew there was much
anxiety felt; every face as it passed under a lantern had a restless and
yet awe-struck look; my uncle's, when he bent over the illuminated
compass, did not at all reassure me.
But such a misfortune as I had dreaded, such a terrible blow, we were to
be spared. I got up again, gazed out over the dark water and longed for
the dawn. Something better than dawn was destined to meet my eyes; between
us and a spar that still glowed, two dark objects stood suddenly—a boat
and black figures and moving oars, another behind her.
I shall never forget with what a thrill of joy I heard our people cheer. In ten minutes we could hear the stroke of their oars, and directly after
Tom was on deck and his crew with him.
'God bless you!' said my uncle to Tom; 'anybody saved?'
'One,' said Tom: 'only one, sir.'
My joy was so great that I stood motionless outside the little crowd of
the boats' crews and the ship's company until two of them approaching,
bearing something heavy between them, brushed past me and laid their
burden almost at my feet.
It was covered with a cloak, and was just where a lantern shed light on
it. I was stooping to withdraw the cloak and see whether I could do
anything for the poor sufferer beneath, when Tom put his arm through mine
and drew me back gently, but with so much determination that I was obliged
to yield, and he led me down to my cabin.
I felt shocked and almost indignant to think that he should suppose I had
not nerve to look on a fellow-creature in distress; but when I asked if the
dying, he said, 'No, but very drunk; do not waste
your sympathy on him. Come, do something for me.
I am thirsty and nearly choked with smoke. Is there any water here?'
I gave him some, and my uncle presently coming down, I followed them into
the chief cabin, and listened to an earnest discussion between them as to
what ought to be done.
Tom said the vessel had evidently been deserted some time, that her cargo
was cotton, which accounted for the enormous conflagration, and he urged
that the yacht should be taken into the nearest port to ascertain whether
this drunken fellow's tale was true.
He had, when first picked up, been able to talk, and I gathered from Tom's
account that he had crawled out on the bowsprit, and there had lain for
some hours. 'As we cautiously approached the ship,' Tom said, 'we heard
some one shouting, and came as near as we dared. This man was lying out on
the bowsprit, and we called out to him to lower himself down to the water,
when we would pick him up.
'It was a touch-and-go business for us, but I never saw a fellow perform
such a feat as he did—it was like the trick of a tight-rope dancer. He
knew we should have to cross right under her bows, and he took a rope in
his hand and sprung with it, at one leap, to
the water, let go, and struck out for us. He scarcely delayed us three
seconds, but I was truly glad when we got clear away from the ship's
course, for though the mast went astern directly, it fell first over the
very spot where we had crossed.'
'Yet you say he was drunk?'
'Yes; and when we picked him up he had a half-emptied rum-bottle in his
After this, seeing something in the ship's wake, but a good way off, that
looked like a raft, they had gone in search of it, but found nothing alive
on it nor on any of the several spars and planks that they had examined.
The man when first picked up had been sobered by
the shock, and had told them that the fire had been discovered about
sunrise, steam and smoke issuing from the cotton in the hold; that at
first the captain had hoped to get it under, but about eight o'clock he
had had the hatches battened down, and had ordered them to hoist out all
the boats and stock them in case of need. This proved in course of time to
be quite a false account, and even then Tom was not satisfied with it.
What followed, and why he did not go off in one of these boats, this man
could not or would not tell, but that the boats were safely lowered, and
that all the crew, the passengers, and the captain put off in them he
affirmed several times. This account robbed the recollection of the
burning ship of half its horrors, and when my uncle and Tom withdrew,
feeling very weary, I went to my berth, and in spite of the past
excitement slept until high day.
Mrs. Brand woke me at last with her usual dismal face. She gave me some
tea and asked if I would rise.
The water was fizzing past us at a very unusual
rate. I asked if we had reached Valencia. She said we had, and were
leaving it again, Master having
landed, and been an hour on shore. There is a coastguard station, it
seems, at Valencia, and there he found that the drunken man's tale was
partly true, for one of the boats—the jolly-boat, containing the second
mate, and twenty-two of the ship's crew, as well as several steerage
passengers—had entered the harbour about an
hour before we did. 'And there they were,' she said, 'sitting with the
coast-guardmen, and made welcome to the best of everything—just like the
She further said my uncle did not at all like the account these men gave
of themselves, nor could he make out why they had parted company with the
other boat, for this, by admission of one of them, was before the fog came
on. Moreover, one of the passengers had said he doubted whether there was
more than one boat—he feared that what the remaining people were on was
very little better than a raft.
'And what made him look for them here?' I asked. 'It is the nearest
land,' she replied; 'and, besides, the wind was fair for it.'
'Well,' I answered; 'it passes my comprehension as yet how the wind can
take us in at such a rate as it must have done, and then send us out
again at this spanking pace without changing!'
'We have a pilot on board now,' she replied, shirking the question of
I heard distant bells, and remembered that this was Sunday morning.
'Yes, it's Sunday morning, but for all that,' said Mrs. Brand, 'we took a
good deal of provisions on board—fowls and flour and pork, and what
not—for we may fall in with these boats, and by all I can hear there are
nearly thirty people—'
'Fall in with them? I answered; 'surely we are going out on purpose to
do our utmost to find them?'
'Certainly,' she replied; 'trust Master for that, but he was in hopes
there might have been a tug or two that he might have hired to come out
and cruise about
for them likewise. There was nothing of the sort, however.'
She often called my uncle 'Master,' or my master; and I believe it was
because she wished to express her opinion that he really was supreme, for
she greatly disliked the young man who was called the 'Captain of the
Yacht,' and whose business it was to take charge of her at all times when
my uncle did not care to command himself, as well as when he was on shore.
'He was nothing but the master of a coasting vessel,' she said, while she
was brushing my hair, 'and I take no 'count on him, for all he messes in
his cabin by himself, as grand as you please.'
'But no doubt he is a good seaman,' I observed, 'or my uncle would not
trust him with the yacht in his own absence.'
'Oh! he is well enough,' she answered, 'but I have no patience with his
airs; not that he claims, though, to hold a candle to Master or to Mr.
So we were going out to sea to look for this boat or boats, and thus was
to pass my first Sunday afloat, for I had been too ill the former Sunday
to note the day.
How sweet and how remote those bells sounded! I fancied also that I smelt
hay, and rose full of hope and perfectly free from sickness.
I found Tom and my uncle poring over maps and charts, calculating what was
probably the present position of the boat, supposing that she had a sail
and four oars, then supposing she had no sail, and lastly supposing she
had only two oars.
I heard them argue on these complicated probabilities, discuss how far
the vessel had sailed from the point where she was deserted by the crew,
which all the men had said was seventy miles west of Cape Clear, how long
in the dead calm she had made hardly any way, then mark down exactly where
she was when the wind sprung up and we found her.
These matters all discussed, a circle was drawn on one of the charts, and
within its imaginary bounds I was told the boats would be sought; wind,
tide, the powers of the rowers, and the known size of the boats, making it
almost certain that there they must be.
I asked why these boats were probably so much behind the others, and they
said that almost every man who had come in was able-bodied, and could help
to row even when they could not sail, which was during, the three hours'
calm; that they had confessed to not having been able to launch the long-boat, and that the two next largest boats were no better than our gigs,
and would be crowded with women so as to be dangerously heavy, besides
having very few to row. The weather was very much changed; a breeze had
sprung up directly after the late calm, and the wind had been a rising and
freshening ever since. The air was exquisitely clear, and the sea a deep
blue; we were sailing at the rate of nearly eleven knots, the
yacht was behaving very well—she always did, they said, in a stiff
breeze, and I thought my uncle seemed excited and hopeful, but my heart
ached to think of the
poor women and children who bad been all night cramped up in little boats,
and perhaps were drenched with spray and faint with hunger.
It would be three hours, I was told, before we should reach the edge of
our circle. Accordingly, after breakfast the order was given to 'rig the
church,' and all hands that could be spared were summoned. There is a
strange solemnity in the prayers of a ship's company at sea; on board a
man-of-war I am told this is especially the case, but even on board the
'Curlew,' and with my uncle for chaplain, I have often felt that no church
on shore could be more solemn or have a more attentive congregation.
During that first service, however, I was far too much excited to join
with attention in the prayers—my heart prayed and fainted for the boat's
crew, and my ears were strained to catch the slightest sound from the
lookout man; but the prayers came to an end, the reading of a short
sermon followed, and we knelt down when it was over, and rose again.
Great gravity and no impatience had characterized my uncle's reading; but
the instant all was over he clapped to the book, called for his glass, and
while he swept the horizon with it, the 'church' disappeared as if by
magic, the wind kept still rising, and we spun on, bowing and bending
under more sail than I could have thought she would bear, when Tom came up
as I was trying to look through a glass, and said,—
'Dolly, if we should fall in with the boats, are you ready?'
'Why, more than half the passengers are women, and who is to attend to
them but Mrs. Brand and you?'
'May they come into my cabin, then?'
'May they?—they must.'
'O Tom! I will go and prepare for them.'
'Yes; but you need not make any great commotion.
I am afraid this is a wild-goose chase.'
'Is it? What chance is there?'
'About as much chance as a dozen boys would have of finding a marble
that one of them had dropped in a ten-acre meadow.'
'I believe they would find it, and that you will find the boats.'
'You need not say "boats,"' he answered. 'I am sure there is but one, and
I fear it is dreadfully
crowded. The passengers declare there was but one; and as to the finding
of a marble, the boys no doubt would find it if they looked long enough,
and when found it would be none the worse; but if we cannot find this boat
in the course of a day or so, we had much better not find it at all, for
it is sure to be keel upward. Still you may go and prepare—very unlikely
things do happen.'
I went below and summoned Mrs. Brand.
'Why, Lord,' she said, half-whimpering with anxious sympathy for the
sufferers, 'what is the use of tearing the things out of the berths? Mr.
Graham knows that if the wind keeps freshening at this rate it will blow a
gale before night; and how is a boat like that to live in such a sea?'
We, however, cleared the berths, and made up beds in them. I brought out
some of my clothes and put them ready, listening all the while, but in
vain, for the least signal from the lookout men. So the weary, anxious
morning passed. Once Mrs. Brand came in and told me we had changed our
course, by which I judged that we were well within the imaginary circle,
and for a while I was full of hope, but hope was not
the prevailing character of her mind. She always foreboded evil, and I was
less restless and miserable alone when I could kneel down in my cabin and
that our efforts might be blessed with success. All dinner-time my uncle
and Tom were very grave, and afterwards they had another long discussion
as to the
probable position of the boat. If she had a sail, it was certain she could
not have used it now for some hours, and if she was rowed, they thought
she could hardly be making any way.
There was now so much motion in the yacht that though it did not make me
ill, I could not walk without holding to things about me, nor venture on
deck, for it poured hard with rain. Tom and my uncle were in no mood to be
questioned, their anxiety was so in
tense. I got back to my cabin with the help of Tom's arm, and then learned
from Mrs. Brand, who had come there on purpose to tell it me, that the
general belief, in the yacht was that the boat would not be rescued; the
boatswain thought so, and his opinion always carried weight.
'There was quite enough sea on to swamp a small boat, and one so heavily
'Why could they not bail out the water?' I inquired. She held up her
hands and eyes. 'Bless you, ma'am, bail out a boatful every half minute! And what are
they likely to have to bail with? No, no; a boat has little chance
when it blows so fresh, with drenching rain, and such a wild sea.'
'It makes me tremble to hear you talk. I do not
believe the boat is lost; I believe we shall find it. I pray God that we
'You'd better pray that it may be afore dark, then,' she answered, 'for
nothing can save her after.'
'What do you mean?'
'Why, ma'am, when the wind goes off like great guns, and every wave that
strikes the yacht is like a clap of thunder, how could we hear them hail
us in the dark? You don't understand—that is why you are so hopeful.'
'I think God will let us save them. There, I heard
a noise on deck. What is it?'
She listened an instant. 'One of those lookout men certainly sung out,'
she answered, 'but all's quiet again.' She opened the door. Brand was
coming down the companion, and with infinite disgust explained that the
man at the mast-head had sung out, 'Boat on the weather bow!' but
directly after had corrected himself—the object was not far off, and he
had recognized it as part of the wreck of the last evening.
'I cannot understand why these men, all of them,
could not launch the long-boat,' I remarked. 'It only took us two or
three minutes last night to lower our first boat.'
'But consider our crew, ma'am, and all picked men, sixteen, not counting
the sailing-master; at least, I'm sure I beg the young man's pardon, the
captain of the yacht. Why, I'll venture to say in that ship they were
not thirty, all told. Then think of the size of the long-boat! It generally takes an hour in a merchant vessel to unlash and lower a large boat. The long-boat,
too, is often hoisted on to the house-on-deck. When Brand and I were
steward and stewardess on board the "Dora Grant," from Melbourne, the
boats, I consider, would never have been any use if we had needed them. Why, the two that they kept slung up over the poop used to be lashed
bottom upwards—they used to make roofs of them, and hang ropes of onions
under one; the carpenter used to lash his spare planks and things under
the other, and both of them were so dried and warped by the sun, that you
might see daylight between the planks.'
'Then were they spoilt?'
'No; but if the carpenter could have had two or three days' notice that
they would be wanted, he would have taken a chisel and caulked them well
with oakum. I used to be uneasy sometimes when I considered that he
certainly never would have notice; but I made three voyages out and home
in her, and we never wanted them at all, so I got used to it.'
After this conversation, which made me yet more uneasy, I remained alone
until dusk. Sometimes I peered through the scuttles at the grim grey sea,
and sometimes tried to read. I thought both the noise and motion became
less as evening advanced, but was afraid to believe it until I was called
to tea and told that the wind was moderating. I went into the chief cabin;
the charts were put away, and I saw plainly that expectation was over, so
I said nothing, but after tea came and read the evening lessons to my
uncle, for he loved reading aloud.
The wind still continued to moderate, but I was told it would be many
hours before the sea would go down. Neither Tom nor my uncle went on deck. The latter seemed tired and lost in thought; but perhaps, in order to
prevent my asking any questions, he still asked for more reading, and I
read South's Sermons until my voice failed, and all the time I was
conscious that he could not listen, but was lost in cogitations about the boat. It was nearly midnight when
he said, 'There, child,
there! you can do no more; the Lord
have mercy on them! Tom, take your sister on deck—she wants a little air
before she goes to her berth.' This was a surprising idea to me; but as it
was meant in kindness, I went and got a shawl and hat, and came
up with Tom as well as I could. When on deck, however, I found it
pleasanter than I had expected; I could stand very comfortably in the
shelter where Tom put me; the wind, though high, was not cold, the sky
was full of stars, and the rain had long been over.
We stood together for a few minutes in silence. My heart was oppressed and
expectation was over, when to my surprise and joy Tom said, 'You see he
soon gives up hope.'
'HE, Uncle Rollin? What, have not you given it up, then?'
'I never was sanguine. No, I do not give up the
boat. I think it might live in that sea. He thought not.'
'O Tom! I am thankful for this respite from certainty. Tell me where we
'Due west of the Skelligs, and two hours' sail from them.'
'Then could we see the light on the Great Skellig?' He laughed and
answered, 'Why, Dolly, you are looking due west.'
I had spoken, because for an instant I had seen a tiny red spark on the
distant water, and had thought it might be the lighthouse.
We came out from our shelter, and with his arm I took a turn on deck. Again I saw it.
'Look at that little red thing,' I said; 'it is like a fire-fly quivering
on the water.'
'It is only, a light,' he answered; 'all vessels are bound to hang out
At that same instant, as we rose on a wave, the lookout man sung out.
'Light ahead!' I thought he said, and a confusion of voices repeated the
words from all parts of the yacht. Then the light was gone.
'What do you take it for?' cried Tom, suddenly turning on Brand, who was
now standing behind its. My uncle was on deck before Brand could reply,
and I heard his order to the man at the helm, 'Starboard helm!'
whereupon the yacht presently swung round to the left, and as I looked
over the bulwarks I saw the little red light again. It was apparently
bearing down upon us.
'That light hangs uncommon low, sir,' said Brand, touching his sailor's
Tom replied, 'It may be a fishing vessel, but I hope to God it is a
He spoke in an excited tone, and it was evident that the sailors did not
take this for an ordinary light, nor did my uncle, for in two minutes I
heard orders given to shorten sail, and a great fog-horn was sounded,
which I suppose was a signal to the bearers of the light, for our lights
were put out. We lost sight of her then, and when she danced up again the
sailors followed close on the horn, alternately cheering and shouting,
'Light ahoy!' But the little red eye drifted down upon us and,
"Like ships dismasted that are hailed,
And send no answers back again,"
she vouchsafed us no reply.
There was a pause of expectation. 'I never saw such a strange light
before,' said Mrs. Brand; 'it's like a
cabin lamp.' They generally did the last thing I should have expected, and
as I stood by Mrs. Brand almost in
the dark, I said to her, 'They cannot see us. If we do not hang out
more lights, now are they to find us?'
'O ma'am!' she answered, 'never fear; we are not leaving it to them to
find us. We want to keep them in sight if we can.'
Still no sign from the little red eye; then another rousing cheer burst
from our company, and in a lull of the wind during the silence which
followed there came up from the water something that surely was meant for
a reply, a feeble wavering cheer, half joy, half wailing, but pitched
high. Those were women's voices I knew, and tears of deep delight almost
choked me. In the darkness came all the confusion instantly which had woke
me the previous night. We hove to, and hauled down a sail; but lights
began to appear, and dazzled me, and men darted about, and confused me. I
could see a great sail coming down, but I by no means expected it to
interfere with me, and as it swung around, I, trying to get out of the
way, did the very thing Brand had spoken of the night before, put my foot
on the boat's fall, and, slipping, down, struck my
temple slightly against some projecting corner. I felt sick for a moment,
and found that blood was trickling
down my cheek. It was bitter to lose sight of the lamp; but there was
confusion and terror for me on
deck now that I was giddy and unable to stand. I accordingly staggered below. The lamp was burning in
my cabin. I lifted my hair, and saw in the glass a very
small cut on my temple. I began in all haste to stanch the blood and wash
the traces of it from my face, that I might return; but I could not
ascend in time to see the approach of the boat, and before I had quite
recovered from the giddiness I heard such stamping, shouting, and
cheering, that I knew the boat must have come alongside, and that her
occupants, whoever they might be, were on board. The yacht appeared to
plunge her bows in the water, and shake herself strangely. I could hardly
stand, and was cold, and shivered, partly from the hurt, partly from
excessive excitement; but it is certainly true that some sights are good 'for sair een.' I saw one which cured the blow on my temple, for I never
felt it after.
I heard, and saw when I looked up, a strangely eager and motley crowd—two
or three men, and a good many limping women, wet and staring. Then
followed another man, who came stumbling down with great difficulty; two
little children preceded him, and he
had a bundle strapped on his back. I touched him on the arm, and said, 'Come in here,' and he turned into any cabin with the children.
The man could not speak. One arm seemed to be a good deal burned, and his
bare feet and hands were blistered and raw from rowing and exposure.
He sank down on the floor, his hands hanging at his sides, and he appeared
to be even more exhausted than the children, who lay down beside him,
their clothes all drenched with spray, and their hair matted with wind and
The first thing I thought of was to feed these poor creatures. A glorious
supper had been cooked in readiness hours ago, and Brand and his wife were
flying about in the chief cabin, bringing in hot soup, and meat, and wine,
and all the good things required for starving people.
I took the children for passengers and the man for their servant,
otherwise I knew he would not have come to the after part of the vessel,
for he seemed to be a seaman, and seamen go by instinct to the other end.
Brand and his wife had, however, received orders to bring the passengers
and the women into the chief cabin for the present; and when I slipped in
to see what I could get, these poor creatures were making more noise and
confusion than forty sailors would have excited, and some were in a
half-fainting state, and one in hysterics. I seized the first thing that
came to hand, which was some macaroni soup that Brand was just bringing
in. I ladled it out of the tureen into a basin, and crumbled bread upon
it. The force of the wind appeared to be a good deal spent, for I could
now walk tolerably
and carry my soup with me. I was very glad to escape from the noise and
turmoil; and when I got to my own
cabin I knelt on the floor and put a little soup into the children's
mouths, feeding them by turns. They soon ceased to cry and moan, and ate
eagerly, but the man took no notice, though I spoke to him. He seemed
hardly conscious; and when I found that he could not rise and get supper
for himself, I went back again, got a glass of red wine and a roll, and
put my hand on his
forehead, and the glass to his mouth. At first this was all to no purpose,
but shortly he smelt the wine, opened
his bleared eyes, and seemed to revive a little. I got him to drink some,
and, breaking off bits of bread, put them into his mouth, after which he
seemed to sink back again into a kind of torpor.
The poor little children appeared to be about three or four years old. They had no sooner done eating than they began to fret and wail again, and
no wonder, for their pretty limbs were sore with salt water, and their
weakness was pitiable.
I ran to Brand, and made him bring me a large jug of warm water. In the
meantime the man had roused himself sufficiently to loosen the bundle from
his back, and when I turned from the poor little creatures whom I had
washed as well as their weakness would permit,
I saw that he had laid it across his knees. I could not attend to him, the
children absorbed all my care—they were so weary and querulous that it
was not without great difficulty I cut away their drenched clothes, clothed them from my store, and put them into the berths;
but this once
done they were soon quiet, and sobbed themselves to sleep. Then, before I could succeed in rousing my sailor, Mrs.
Brand brought in two women who looked
the picture of misery and fatigue. One was so faint that we had great
difficulty in getting her into her
berth; the other was not so weak. I left Mrs. Brand to do what she could
for her, and returned to the man.
That bundle which lay across his knees—I little thought, when moving past
him I had touched it with
my dress, what it was. I approached death for the first time. It was an
I saw the light of the lamp upon a white, calm face,
and two little plump hands. I could not doubt for an instant that it was
dead, and when I came and knelt by the man as he sat on the floor, I
touched the fair little arm and found it cold.
As he sat in the corner, propped up by the settees, his head hung forward,
and two or three tears had dropped down his rough cheeks on the waxen face
of the babe. I asked the poor fellow if I might take it away, and he
looked at me with stupid bloodshot eyes, but did not answer, so I took it
from him, carrying it to my own berth, cut off the little frock which was
soiled and wet, wrapped it in a small white shawl, and laid my white veil
over its quiet face.
Though it has taken a long time to describe all this, I do not think it
was half an hour in the doing.
The next thing was to go to the chief cabin and see what could be done for
this man. I wanted to find some one to attend him and take him away, but
was very glad to retire, for the noise and excitement of the rescued
people were distressing to witness—some of the women were asleep with
heads on the table, and some seemed almost beside themselves.
My uncle sat very gravely, but with rather a puzzled air, at the head of
the table; the American captain was at his right hand, and looked as
composed as if no such things as shipwrecks had ever been brought under
his notice; opposite to him were the two passengers, one of whom when I
entered was proposing my uncle's health, and when the other arose to
second it, he staggered back, and subsided quietly on to the floor,
contriving to make his speech in this new position, and wave his hands
with great politeness and elegance.
'The poor souls,' observed Mrs. Brand, speaking of the women, 'ought not
to have been allowed to eat and drink as they pleased. It's no use Master
telling me to speak to them—they are quite past listening.'
I retreated hastily. They had quite enough on their hands without helping
me, so I resolved to do what I could for my sailor by myself, and on
returning found that he had managed to raise himself, and was kneeling,
with his elbows on the settee. I thought he was muttering a prayer; and
though sailors are not irreligious
folks, I did not see this without surprise. I waited until he should have
finished; but fatigue overcame him, his head dropped, and he dozed; so I
touched him, and asked if I should wash his arm, for it seemed to have
been burnt. I had warm water; but when I set it beside him he said in a
hoarse whisper, 'I can get up if you like,' and accordingly he rose with
difficulty, and sat by the table under the lamp.
Never in my life had I touched anything so utterly begrimed. Some of his
matted hair and whiskers had been singed off; he must have put his head
into the thickest of the smoke, for the rain had washed enough black out
of it over his face to give him the complexion of a mulatto. His old burnt
jacket was stiff with wet, and stuck to the injured arm; but nothing could
be done until it was removed, so I took a sharp pair of scissors and cut
it up the sleeve and shoulder as gently as I could.
The pain this gave him roused him effectually, and he writhed in his seat,
but did not utter any exclamation. I had only olive-oil and cotton-wool to
dress the burn with; but they would be of no use I knew while the salt
water was in it, so with the courage of desperation I proceeded to bathe
it, trembling from head to foot with fear, as my patient did with pain.
No one to help, no use calling anybody, so on I went until the poor
fellow's arm was bandaged and his blistered hand tied up in one of my
The left hand also was a good deal swelled and blistered, so I washed it
also and tied it up, which done, in a hoarse whisper he begged me to wash
Accordingly I went to my can for fresh cold water, turned a towel over my
hand, held back his thick hair from his forehead, and washed and dried his
face deliberately and comfortably; but it did not look much the better for
this attention—the shock head of curly hair was half singed off, the
whiskers were burnt, the lips
cracked, and altogether he was an ugly specimen of a seaman, and his head
being still wet from the rain, little ink-like streams were trickling down
his neck. I dried his hair, and made three towels quite black in the
process. He certainly was an uncommonly dirty fellow, and looked as if he
had never been clean; but then he was my own particular patient, so I
shut my eyes to
that and was proud of him. Besides, the courage he had displayed while I
was torturing his arm made me admire him.
I now told him to sit quietly while I went to inquire for a berth for him. Brand, whom I consulted, said that my uncle and the captain of the burnt
ship were on deck. They had given up the chief cabin to the women; the
captain would have Mr. Graham's sleeping cabin; and he did not know
without inquiring where the man was to be lodged.
He was just starting on his errand when I remembered
that my poor sailor had no supper excepting the morsels I had put into his
mouth at first, so I told Brand to bring me something good for him, and he
soon returned and followed me down with a glorious basin of soup, a plate
of roast beef, and some salad, and a stiff glass of spirits and water.
When I entered, however, I found Tom and Mrs. Brand both looking a good
'Where is my man?' I exclaimed.
'You should not have left him,' said Tom; 'when I came in he was almost
fainting, lying on the floor. I thought he had better be with the children
than anywhere else; in fact, he cannot be moved, so as soon as he came to
a little, Mrs. Brand and I helped him to turn into this empty berth'
'I thought he was dying, I declare,' said Mrs. Brand, who always thought
I went up to the berth, where the man, who looked as if he had
boxing-gloves on, was lying half insensible. I was sure he wanted food. I
could not bear that these delectable viands should be wasted, so I
resolved to shake him if nothing else would do, and make him eat
if I possibly could. I gave the meat to Tom to hold and the tumbler to
Mrs. Brand, for the yacht pitched a little; then I brought the soup close
to him and told him his supper was come.
The smell of food is sweet to the starving. My sailor presently came out
of his stupor, raised himself on his elbow, looked into the soup-bowl, and
his whole countenance lighted up. I began to feed him, and he ate every
mouthful; we then cut up the meat and brought him his grog. His great
hungry eyes followed us, and with a murmur of satisfaction he opened his
mouth for my fork, and went on calmly and deliberately eating and drinking
until all was consumed.
Just as he had finished, laid himself down, and begun to snore, one of the
children reared up its head and cried out, 'Oh! please, I want some tea,
and I want some corn-cakes and some plums and pudding.'
'Why, you stingy thing!' said Tom to me, 'you have not given them half
enough to eat. You should have seen the people eat in the chief cabin.'
I took the little creature up, wrapped her in a shawl, and when I said she
should have some more supper she laughed for joy.
We drew the curtains to shut out my sailor that he might sleep in peace,
and we might enjoy ourselves at our ease. My sickness was now so entirely
gone that though the vessel heaved and pitched a good deal, I felt quite
well, and so hungry, that when Mrs. Brand appeared with a world of good
things, I sat down to make a late supper with Tom in my own cabin, he and
I each holding a child, for both were now awake. Mrs. Brand, standing by,
pinned the joint of beef with a fork that it might not bounce off the
table, and held the salad-bowl in her hand for the same reason.
I had drawn the curtain across my own berth, in which the dead infant lay,
and I did not mean to mention its presence to any one, least of all to
Mrs. Brand. Yet though we had such cause for joy in the saving of many
lives, I felt as if guilty of great heartlessness in
eating and enjoying myself while the little body lay so near to me.
But the occasion was peculiar. Tom was in a genial humour, like his old
self; easy and affectionate; the children were in ecstasies over their
supper, and Mrs. Brand in high spirits, as was usual when her hands were
full, so I ate and delighted in Tom's talk, and felt the pleasure of
success after anxiety.
The wills above be done, but I would fain die a dry death.—Tempest.
THAT was a night of considerable fatigue, for an fast as one child fell
asleep the other woke and cried, and there were two women who were ill,
and I had to go to them. Poor creatures, they did not complain of past
suffering, but they evidently had suffered sorely.
My sailor was so quiet that once in passing I opened the curtains of his
berth and looked at him;—sound asleep, eyes shut, mouth open, the pillow
black from contact with his hair, and the sheets in the same condition
wherever his torn and scorched shirt had come into contact with them.
At last, when all was quiet, and Mrs. Brand was dozing on the settee, Tom
came in and asked if I could do anything for the American passenger; he
had been very much hurt, but had not complained.
We made him welcome, and I recognized him as the man who had proposed
Uncle Rollin's health. He hobbled in with groans of pain. 'His feet had
been burnt,' he said, 'by the dreadful heat of the lower deck when he
went below with the captain to investigate the cause of the fire.'
He had taken off his shoes shortly after on account of the unbearable heat
they retained, and at first the burns had seemed mere trifles, but salt
water had got into them and he was suffering agony.
'I have not been able to do as much as I could have wished,' he said, 'for
I am coming over to Europe for my health, so I tried to give as little
trouble as possible, for you may suppose we have had a hard time of it.'
He had a loud hollow cough. I woke Mrs. Brand, and we did what we
could for him, but did not relieve him much.
He had been a passenger on board the burnt ship, and as he
sat, propped up with pillows in a corner, he gave us an account of their
numbers, by which I found that we had rescued thirty persons, only six of
whom, beside the captain, were seamen.
'A queer lot we were,' he observed; 'those women that you saw
in the chief cabin belong to a trapeze company—"a show," we call it in the
States—and some of them were dancers, some conjurors, and some actors,
fairies in a sort of pantomime, which, as far as I can make out, their
show partly consisted in. Sallow stunted young things they were; the
superior members of the troupe had gone up to New York, and come home in a
steamer, these were following in a merchant ship, and very decently they
behaved themselves,' he continued; 'that old Irishwoman snoring yonder
acted mother to them. She swore at them now and then, but to do her
justice she kept them out of harm's way.'
'None of the women in the cabin looked young,' I said,
surprised at this account of their calling.
'No, they wither early, I should judge. But some are
not young; one is the mother of three strapping girls that are here with
her: they dance and she is a fairy.'
As he spoke like an American I thought he was one till he
told me he was of English birth. 'Though I have lived in the States
twenty years,' he observed, 'and belong to them now both heart and
In spite of his past fatigues he could neither rest nor be
silent, but by little and little as the night wore away and daylight came
in from above, he told us the story of their misfortunes.
'The ship was laden with cotton, and about eight o'clock on
Friday evening a steam was perceived to be rising from the hatches over
the main hold; every minute or two a whiff of light smoke came after it,
and fears were entertained that it might be caused by firedamp.
'There was some secrecy at first, but the men were sent below
to the pumps, I know, and there was some notion of cutting holes over
where the cargo was stowed so as to pour down water on it, while letting
in as little air as possible; but it seems that if cotton is well flooded,
it is liable to swell so as to burst the deck open, and I made out that
this plan was given up.
'But in less than an hour,' he continued, 'things looked so
much worse that the captain ordered all hands on deck and summoned the
passengers; he told them that a portion of the cargo certainly had
ignited, but that as we were only seventy miles from Cape Clear, he hoped
we might make it, and also get the fire under.
'The steerage passengers were at their supper when they were
sent for. I heard them as they came up saying what a mighty hot
night it was, what an uncommonly hot night: he told it all out in two
minutes, and began to give his orders to his men instantly. It was a
very sudden blow, and not one of those people, man or woman, said a single
'Nobody took any further notice of them,' he continued, 'all
hands were set to work to extinguish the fire. Did you ever see a
'I never saw one the least like this; a little steam would
come puffing out over a spot in the deck not larger than the crown of a
man's hat, and then blue flame would hover in it, but not touch the deck.
They would put it out directly and it would appear in another
place—wherever it had fed, the place was rotten.
The crew consisted of thirty all told. The passengers
were twenty, not including these children.
'Excepting myself, Mr. Brandon, Mr. Crayshaw, and the
children, they were all steerage passengers. We stood at first a
good deal huddled together, but as soon as I had passed to the front I saw
that the main hatchway had been lifted, that the bales might be raised by
a crane; but the heat and steam seemed to drive the men back, and the
bales were so rotten that they would not hold together on the crane hook,
but kept falling back with a dull thud, and when this had happened several
times, the captain ordered the hatches to be battened down, and all sail
to be crowded.
'It was now dark, and though the heat increased, I did not
see that the fire gained on us at all; they kept flooding the deck with
water and throwing it up into the rigging. I was full of hope that
it would be kept under, and therefore it was a horrid blow to me when the
captain had the lower sails hauled up, and gave orders for unlashing and
launching the long-boat and the jolly-boat. I do not believe this
was a quarter of an hour from the time he had battened down the hatches.
Well, the jolly-boat was stowed inside the long-boat; they succeeded in
getting her unlashed; we hove to and she was launched. Brandon and
Crayshaw had volunteered to go below and help the men to fetch up biscuit,
flour, water, cocoa, and any other provisions they could lay their hands
on. I saw them come on deck again all right, and one boat was ready,
but when they tried to get the long boat unlashed flames broke out, and
before these could be got under she was so damaged that they dared not use
her. Those two boats would have held us all.
'An hour at least was spent over those boats. I had
volunteered to do what I could, and the captain ordered me to take all the
women below that they might put on their warmest shawls and fetch up their
money and what valuables they had. I was to make them keep together
and be ready to bring them up at a signal from him.
'My legs trembled under me as I marshalled them, for I was
shocked to hear that he did not think there was any use wasting time over
the small boats, and meant to give all his mind to the making of a raft.
'It all seemed so sudden! As I went after the women I
shouted to Crayshaw, "What on earth does it all mean?" He was just
flinging off his velvet coat, and answered, "Depend upon it he knows what
he is about." I felt, as I suppose a man may, when not thinking he
is at all near death, he is told by the surgeons that he has only an hour
to live. They were already flinging overboard every spar and plank
and spare yard they could lay their hands on to construct a raft as fast
as ever they could.
'Never shall I forget how the women tore out and tossed over
their things, nor how their tongues went. I helped them to make up
their bundles as well as I could, but nobody knew what to save. We
did not know what to be at, and before we were called they would go up
again carrying arm-loads of rubbish, old shawls, old baskets, bandboxes,
bundles, and even old shoes.
'I had heard the constant splash and shouting as the
materials went over the side, and as I looked over what would I not have
given to be young! A dozen men were working with a will. There
was that dandy Crayshaw lashing away, and Brandon as nimble as a cat
following out all his directions, for the captain knew that Crayshaw had
experience, and had given him the command. They were making it on
the lee side, of course, but still it pitched about more than was
agreeable. It was a strange sight, but dear me, what should a young
lady know about the making of a raft!'
'How large was it?' I asked.
'How large? well, about five-and-thirty feet long, and rather
narrow in proportion. I am amazed when I think how the time appeared
to spin on, for it was now eleven o'clock, and I was still standing among
the rubbish and luggage of different sorts when Brandon came up to the
captain and reported the raft ready. Crayshaw followed in a moment,
and the captain said, "Gentlemen, there is no time to be lost." "We
are under your orders, captain," said Brandon. A great burst of
smoke came between us, and I did not hear the answer, but I saw that a
good many of the women had disappeared; they had gone down again, hoping
to save something more, poor souls, and I ran after Brandon, and between
us we argued and pushed them up, stumbling as they came with quantities of
bedding and boxes, not a particle of which ever was lowered. The
change was amazing by this time; the whole place was gleaming with little
spurts of flame, but there was a great noise and confusion, screaming of
women, and cries of shame. "What's up now?" we shouted to Crayshaw,
who was kicking the bundles aside as they fell, and pulling the women on.
The passengers, he told us, and some of the crew had made a rush for the
jolly-boat. It was manned by the most able-bodied of the crew; it
had dropped astern and disappeared.
'When, hours after that, we counted out the people left
behind, twenty-three were missing; they had stolen away from the ill-fated
ship, and no doubt their excuse to themselves was that if they had taken
in any more they must have been swamped.
'The captain, however, was quite equal to the occasion, and
after swearing at the boat to relieve his mind, he vowed he didn't see
what there was to make such work about. "And Mr. Crayshaw," said he,
"that is your opinion." Crayshaw was an American, the only one of
the passengers that was American born. He took the captain's meaning
instantly, and between them I believe they actually made the women think
the raft was safer than the boat.
'Very nasty work it was getting them lowered, and before this
was half done, one of them cried out, "Merciful heaven, I forgot the
baby!" She had been very good to the orphan children, but the second
time she went down she had laid this one in a berth, and only just found
out that no one had brought it up. She was like a mad creature, and
down she flew, Brandon after her. They found the child asleep—a
wonderful thing that was surely. He wrapped a blanket about its head
to keep the smoke off, and tried to get on deck following her, but they
were met by such a volume of smoke and steam that she fell down choked,
and he got hold of her by the arm and hauled her up by main force; he fell
twice, but when he was down he could breathe, and he crawled on deck
dragging her after him. They were not five minutes below, but when
he got her on deck he was badly burnt and she was stone dead.
'He never knew that. I took the child and he staggered
on between two till he got his breath, and soon none of us doubted that
our best chance was to embark on the raft, for the beams were creaking and
splitting, and the flames curling round the main-mast, and with a loud
singing noise the pitch seemed to boil. The fire did not appear as
yet to have possession of a large space, but it was all about the
main-mast, and that made us long to give it a wide berth.
'We were all lowered without accident, and it was a strange
thing to see her go sailing on when we had cast off and were drifting
'The captain had a pocket compass, the Lord be praised for
that, and for my fellow passengers never were there such ridiculous
fellows I do believe.'
'Ridiculous!' I exclaimed, with astonishment.
'Well,' he replied, as if apologizing for them; 'there was
hardly any motion on the raft at first, but one woman had brought a
pillow-case half full of oranges and apples with her; some of them got
loose, and Brandon and Crayshaw had to lie down on their stomachs to catch
them for fear they should lose any and roll off. Crayshaw as he did
it actually whistled and sung. Another woman had brought a rope of
onions that she snatched from under one of the boats on the poop (good
luck to her for it). Brandon tied it together with the string it had
hung by, and put it round his neck as the easiest way of carrying it.
As he stooped it flew over his head, and he called to Crayshaw, "Look out,
America, my necklace is coming!"
'I felt confounded at their behaviour. I said to the
captain, "Well, this is a most amazing way of committing ourselves to the
sea. Anybody to see them go on, might think we'd met with some great
' "Well, Mr. Dickson, sir," replies the captain; "I reckon
they perhaps think so;" and he looked on uncommonly satisfied. As
the last orange went in and the pillow-case was tied up, they began to
overhaul the onions, and Brandon insisted on filling Crayshaw's pockets
with them; they seemed indeed so light-hearted and so excited that at last
I could bear it no longer, and I burst out, "What in nature all this
means, I suppose they know themselves, for I don't."
' "Means," replied the captain, turning his head over his
shoulder and staring at me. "Why, ar'n't you aware that every minute
of the last hour she has been just as likely to blow up as not! ay, and a
great deal likelier."
'He confirmed his opinion with various strong expressions
that I need not repeat to a lady.
'But the notion of the blowing up stopped my remarks for some
time. I had thought all along that they had both seemed in a frantic
state of eagerness to get that aft ready, and when Brandon had been helped
down, or he was terribly bruised, I saw them take each other by the hand.
Bruised they both were, but neither of them seemed to feel their hurts at
' "Fire-damp's an etarnal risky article," continued the
captain. "Mr. Brandon, sir, I'd be much obliged to you for an apple,
I'm a'most choked." Brandon turned as he lay and gave him one.
The captain took out his pocket-knife and peeled it in quite as particular
a way as ever he would have done in his own ship. Then he jerked the
peel overboard, and while he was eating he and his chief mate watched it.
' "We shall do now," said he; "we're making no way at all,
and she's forging on pretty fast ahead."
'In fact, it had fallen very calm, and I calculate we had
been on the raft half an hour, when he gave orders to his men to see about
getting up the sail that we had brought with us. It took some time
to fix that, as you may suppose, but the ship, though she was sailing
wildly, was well out of our way by that time, and during the whole
remainder of that first night nobody seemed to feel either fear, fatigue,
or hunger. The excitement had been great, and there was a good deal
to do, the boxes, bags, and what-not that the women sat on, had all to be
fastened together, and by means of a cabin lamp that we had brought with
us, we did this pretty well. Then the raft had constantly to be
lashed afresh in one place or another, and as soon as it was light the
captain had a great sea anchor made in case the wind should freshen.
'It was not till high day that we all knew where our real
weak point was—we had hardly anything to eat; almost all the women as they
passed the boats where they were stored had filled their pockets with
onions, and, as I said, we had a pillow-case half full of oranges and
apples—besides that we had plenty of water; but only a very small keg of
flour, and it was not half full; of course, the children would not touch
the raw onions, nor could we, but we each had an apple, and we turned the
onions over to the seamen and the women. Then we kneaded up a little
flour in water for each person. It made a kind of paste, and we
coaxed the children to eat it, putting bits of orange into it, but we
began to feel the pangs of hunger by that time, and Brandon and Crayshaw
were very stiff and sore. It fell calmer and calmer till the raft
hardly swayed on the sea, and the fine warm air comforted us after the
chill of the night. Brandon and Crayshaw, who had been amusing the
children since daylight, whistling and singing to them, telling them queer
stories, setting up little whirlygigs for them, which they pulled with
strings, settling the women's shawls and serving out the rations, had now
begun to be very quiet; they were nearly used up, I calculate.
'But about ten o'clock the women began to show themselves
weary and out of spirits; first one shed a few tears and then another.
Then Brandon asked if any of them had got a Bible or a prayer book, and
one of them produced a dirty little prayer book. So he proposed to
the captain to have morning service, and they were all pleased, poor
souls; it seemed not only something to occupy them but the right sort of
thing. So he read over the English morning service, and then some
collects and hymns. He sang several hymns for them to please them,
and they joined as well as they could. Then after that, it being
almost a dead calm, he and Crayshaw laid themselves down in the sun, and
if you'll believe me, they both fell sound asleep, and slept as soundly as
they could have done in their berths, and I think as sweetly.
'That was something for us all to look at, and for some of us
to wonder over.
'The captain had his compass in his hand, and the great sail
shifted and flapped. Another onion was served out all round, and the
children had their paste again; they would have cried if they had been
hungry, and none of us could have borne that, it lowered our courage so.
'The baby had been a great pleasure and occupation to the
poor women and girls. He was ten months old, and I actually fancied
that when he woke in the morning, after sleeping all night, he looked
about him as if he had the wit to be surprised. He spluttered a good
deal over his paste, but they made him eat it, and he crowed at the sails
and the sparkles on the water and his little sisters almost all the
morning. He was asleep now, and all was very still, but at last the
captain, not without unwillingness, gave the order to haul down our sail.
There was hardly a waft of air, he said, but what came being now off
shore, down it must come.
'Oh! you cannot think how much worse for us that quiet was
than all the noise and fright and hurry that had gone before.
'With the noise of hauling down the sail, Brandon and
Crayshaw woke, shivered a little, sat up, and glanced at one another.
It always hurt me to see them do that,' he added, and paused.
'Indeed, why should it have done?' I inquired.
'Well—yes, ma'am, thank you, I'll take some tea (this was to
Mrs. Brand, who came in and offered him a cup)—'because it made me feel
that they knew theirs were the most valuable lives on the raft: we were
oldish and they were in their prime. O those feet of mine! I
know I shall never stand on them again.'
'O yes, indeed you will. We shall get into Valencia
shortly, and you will have a surgeon; but tell me about the raft, that
seems to make you forget the pain.'
'Why, as I said, those two woke and looked about them, and
all seemed changed to them and to us; they were cold and hungry, and
dirty, and wet, all the excitement was over, and they were both so stiff
now that they could hardly drag themselves upright. I could see,
too, that they were sorely vexed to find that the sail was lowered.
'Brandon twisted himself round that the women might not see
his face; Crayshaw made an inspection of the raft, and saw that she lay as
still as a tub on a pond—made an inspection of the water, but not the
remotest flutter of a sail could be seen anywhere. He looked for a
moment dumbfounded, then he drew a diamond ring that he wore from his
finger, and with a sort of rage of impatience chucked it into the sea.
'Nobody but the captain and I saw the action, unless Brandon
did. I saw the little sparkle flash and go down. Then he
looked up and catching the captain's eye he said, for an excuse, "It cut
my hand last night; I suppose I have a right to fling it away if I
' "Well," answered the captain, "my opinion is contrary to
that." "I should like to fling myself after it, I know," Crayshaw
went on, in a bitter tone, poor fellow, but speaking low.
' "Well," replied the captain; "and for aught you know, sir,
so should I, but my conscience is clean contrary to that sort of thing.
It wouldn't square with what I have to do."
' "I have nothing to do," said Crayshaw.
'The captain put his hand in his coat pocket and pulled out a
parcel. "Mr. Dickson," said he, "if these two gentlemen are
agreeable, will you serve out an onion to each of 'em, for they've not had
their rations. And, gentlemen," said he, looking straight at
Crayshaw, "you are always in such spirits as I've never found opportunity
hitherto to put in a word, but now, if you are agreeable, I propose a
smoke;" with that he opened the parcel, and there were enough cigars in it
for every man to have one, and there was one over. The sailors would
rather by half have had a pipe, but O! how glad we all were of those
whiffs of comfort, they seemed to put heart into us, and after that
Crayshaw said he thought the onions smelt rather relishing, and ate his;
Brandon had got one down already without the least ado. Now it seems
odd to you, I dare say, when we were at that pass—no signs of rescue and
hardly anything to eat—that we should have cared about the eating of an
'Yes,' I said, 'I should have expected that you would all
have been more frightened—more serious.'
'Ah! well that stage came next; it had fallen perfectly calm,
and now a fog came up and wrapped itself over us, so as we could hardly
see from one end of the raft to the other. As long as the captain's
steady face could be seen the girls could keep quiet, but when it grew dim
in the mist they got afraid, first one began to fret and then another.
Crayshaw was himself again, and he scolded and joked and encouraged as
well as he could, but all to no purpose; "we weren't making a mite of way,
they knew; they should all go down to the bottom or be starved; they
hadn't been half such good girls as they could ha' wished to be if they
had but know'd how it would end," and with that they began to talk about
their sins, and next about their souls! Crayshaw turned himself
round then, for he knew he was done for. And Brandon said if we
would light the lamp he would have another service. They were all in
a terrible fuss by that time, sobbing and wringing their hands, but he
managed to get the command, and when they cried out that he must pray for
them as he did by the poor lady that died on board, he said, quite
cheerfully, yes, he would, there could not be a better time. Well, I
know the captain was as frightened as could be, their crying and their
talk made him groan and wipe his forehead as the burning ship never did,
"Good God, Mr. Brandon," said he, "if anything can be done you are the man
to do it; won't you act parson and tell 'em they're all right?"
'I was nearly used up by that time and lay still, but I got
aware by degrees that Brandon was half reading, half discoursing to them,
talking about the love of God to man, if you'll believe me. My word!
he almost made out it was well for them that they were sinners, because it
was for such, said he, that the Son of God had died.'
'Don't you think he was right?' I said, observing that he
paused and seemed to reflect. 'The women and girls were dreadfully
frightened because they suddenly felt that they were sinners; how natural
then, and how right to show that for sinners Christ had died.'
'Well, I suppose it must have been right, for it answered;
but I thought it strange when they all felt how hard it was to go
down—that he should talk about the love of God. But,' he continued,
'though I haven't got religion myself, I agree that he behaved himself
grandly. If he was a parson and preached anywhere, I'd go twenty
miles to hear him, not only for what he said but because he had a voice
that's almost enough to charm up the dead.
'He never said a word about death, either drowning or
starvation. If Christ was here now, he asked them, standing on the
raft, and they could see Him, should they be afraid to ask Him to forgive
them and help them over their last trouble and take them home? Some
of them said, "No." Well then, ask Him, says he, for He is here
standing on the raft. I feel that He is, though I cannot see Him.
'And so then he began to pray. That sort of religion is
not what I've been used to, but it seemed to warm my blood and make death
bearable. He made out, you see, that Christ was the love of God
waiting with us, till we were ready for Him. Well, I shouldn't
wonder if I've heard that said before, but sitting still on the raft on
the still water, and the still mist lying as thick over us as a shroud,
lowered down ready because there'd be none to do it for us after death, it
sounded different, and I calculate you'll not be sorry to hear that before
I went off into a faint, as I did from hunger and a sore fit of coughing,
I made up a prayer my self, and felt easier for it.'
'You must have suffered more than any of them, you are such
'I don't know about that, I had neither burns on me nor
bruises, and I was not fatigued, I had only to lie still; and through all
the faint or the sleep (part both, I guess) I heard him talking to them
with a sweet man's voice, always quite cheerful, and then I heard him sing
for them, and then I grew quite insensible.
'I believe it was pain that woke me at last, more than motion
and noise. I sat up; there was a swaying and a surging of water, and
the sea anchor was just about to be launched overboard.
'What is that like, do you say? Well, it's something
like a sort of a huge kite, weighted at one end so as to keep it up and
down in the water; we were fastened to it by a rope about twenty fathoms
long. The object of it was to keep the raft end on to the sea.'
'Was that about midnight?' I inquired.
'I think so; the full moon was just going down, and the sea had
risen when I sat up.'
'Then you had the sail again, I suppose?'
'Not so, a raft can only sail before the wind, and now the
wind that had come up, suddenly pushing the mist before it, was from the
'Then I am afraid you were in worse case than ever?' I
'No, not altogether, for at least we had something to do; we
had to hold on and take care of the children. It is astonishing to
me, considering all we went through, that the time seems so short.
There was no reading, no praying, and no singing now, you may be sure.
The baby cried and wailed all night, but the other children were tolerably
quiet. We had hardly anything left by that time to give them, and
they were perished with cold and wet with the salt water. By eleven
o'clock the women all tied themselves together, and as well as we could
hear ourselves speak, we shouted to them and to one another to keep up
heart, for if we did not soon fall in with a sail we should be swamped,
and then, we said, the Lord would have mercy on our souls. Oh, that
was a dreadful day, but yet if it had to come over again I would rather go
through with it than with the calm. I cannot speak of it any more,
and these feet of mine shoot fire. The whole day long we were
knocked about by the wind and drenched with rain and salt spray; sometimes
the waves that struck us loosened a spar or plank and it was flung among
us, striking us and loosening our hold. It was when one of those
seas struck us that the baby got a blow; Brandon had it on his arm at the
time, the poor women being all so spent with fatigue that they could not
hold it. But I don't remember much more, except that they lashed me
to Crayshaw that he might hold me up—in short we were all knotted and held
together round the spar that we set up for a mast, and how we got over the
day I cannot say that I know. Yet, though I seemed to others to be
insensible, I revived the instant I heard the captain call out that he saw
a light. The carpenter roared out, "A sail, a sail, right ahead,"
and a minute after we heard a rousing cheer.'
'And that lamp?' I inquired; 'it was a cabin lamp, was it
'Yes,' he answered; 'the captain allowed it on account of the
infant. I noticed it and brought it up, for I thought it would be a
comfort, as it proved.'
'Did you bring it on board?'
'I can't say: your people may have done so, they did
everything for us.'
'I hope it is not lost. I should like to have it'
'Would you, though? Well, you are a very nice girl,
miss, I will say—not a bit of pride, uncommonly like an American!'
As proper men as ever trod
Upon neat's leather.—Julius Cæsar.
ABOUT seven o'clock I
looked out and found we were getting very near Valencia. My poor patient,
who was in constant pain, expressed a wish to be carried on deck, and I
was not sorry for this, as I had the children to dress and feed before
they could be sent on shore.
Brand, however, who came in with the captain of the yacht to assist Mr.
Dickson on deck, told me that 'master' intended to keep the children on
board, and only send the other passengers and the sailors on shore: a good
breakfast was to be prepared for them at the inn, for we had not
provisions and accommodation enough.
Accordingly I went to help Mrs. Brand in dressing the women: to some we
gave a shawl, to others a cloak, and I had to take off the muslin gown I
was wearing for a poor girl who was almost in rags.
The old Irishwoman was very weak; but as I helped her to array herself in
a dark winter gown, that I had altered for her in the night, while
listening to the story of the raft, she showed that she had some strength
left in her voice; and when I plied her afterwards with tea and bread and
butter, she called down all sorts of incongruous blessings on me from the
Virgin and the saints.
'May ye have heaps of lovers, ma'am dear; may your husband be a Lord High
Admiral, and bring ye boat-loads of jewels and handsome things'
At eight o'clock we came alongside the wharf, and as I wanted very much to
see both Crayshaw and Brandon I darted up on deck, holding up as well as I could the train of a
white alpaca gown that I was wearing, for my morning dresses were all gone. It was trimmed with apple-green ribbons, and was far too fine for the
A basket of fresh vegetables and flowers was already on board, showing
that I was but just in time. As I passed it, I lifted out some roses and
stood shading my eyes with them, for the low sunbeams dazzled me.
I saw several men about to land, and one sitting on a deck seat who I was
instantly sure must be 'the dandy Crayshaw;' not that there was anything
of the dandy about him, but that he was manifestly so handsome that
whatever he wore would appear to become him.
Brand was standing beside him, holding a brown glove and a pair of
glove-stretchers, and no doubt had assisted at his toilet, having had two
wardrobes to choose it from. He looked fatigued, but most peacefully happy. One of his hands was disabled for the present; but he was
safe, he was clean, and he had breakfasted.
He pulled off his hat with his left hand, and, if I had felt any doubt as
to his identity, his tone of voice when I answered his greeting would
instantly have betrayed him. As I sat down by him, his eye was caught by
the flowers, and he said something about the rose of England: he had
always thought of it as a pink flower, 'but he perceived,' looking at the
flowers and at me, that it was white.'
I proposed to put one of the rose-buds into his coat for him, and he
looked pleased, but said nothing; perhaps he thought it was a common
custom in these islands for girls to go about decorating strangers with
the national flower. It was not the first time I had put a flower
into that coat. It was one belonging to Tom, and I knew there was a
little band below one of the button-holes for confining the stalk.
Mr. Brandon, he told me, had not yet come on deck; but the captain was
with my uncle, making arrangements for the passengers and the crew to land. I
should like to have spoken to him, but the girls were beginning to come on
deck, and one, I was told, had no shoes to land in, so I went down to find
a pair for her; their poor array had been sorely damaged in the drying,
and when the last pair of feet had been fitted with some embroidered
slippers I came up again, and was only just in time to see the American
captain, who had already landed, standing hat in hand on the quay, with his men behind
him acknowledging the cheer from the yacht.
The women were then sent on shore to the inn, and we sailed into the
middle of the harbour, where we cast anchor, and I had a good breakfast on
deck; for the chief cabin was in a state of great confusion, and my own
cabin was occupied. It was a beautiful summer morning, warm and calm; the
lovely rocky coast appeared to cut itself holes in the sky, and the
dazzling water was so brimful of light that one could not look at it. Just
as I had finished this breakfast (which I shall never forget, for I had
never been really hungry in my life before, and did not know how delicious
a thing is eating in such circumstances), I heard a strange voice in my
cabin, and straightway proceeding thither I
found that Tom had been ashore, had brought a surgeon on board, and they
were standing together by my sailor's berth. Mrs. Brand, who was very
tired, was gone to rest; but Brand and I produced various things that the
surgeon wanted—sponges, warm water, &c., and at his desire we held them
for him while he examined the injured arm.
My sailor was awake, and staring at us all with such evident surprise as
gave his features almost a ludicrous expression—singed, bruised, and
scratched as he was, it was hard to say what he might have been like under
other circumstances, but I could not help perceiving that when he looked
at me he appeared excessively disconcerted. I did not see any reason for
this—I was not at all disconcerted myself: a girl no older than I was had
left Ipswich to be a nurse in King's College Hospital, and why should not
I do a little nursing too, when it had come in my way so naturally?
'Well,' said the doctor, as with great difficulty the poor man wrenched
himself round so as to face us, 'I hope, my man, you feel yourself able to
acquiesce in the will of Providence?'
The man looked at him. 'I feel nothing of the sort, he answered bluntly,
at the same time turning, with a
grimace of pain, to suit the surgeon's convenience. 'If you had asked me
whether I felt grateful,' he presently added, 'I should have answered
heartily "Yes;" but if fire and water had both done their worst on me, I
could but have acquiesced.'
The doctor, on this unexpected retort, looked a little crest-fallen; for
the tone of it was to the last degree hoarse, and the manner of it was
irascible. I was delighted, for I have always thought it very impertinent
in the educated classes to be so fond of driving morals home to those whom
they consider beneath them.
'Well, my man,' he muttered, 'just as you please.'
In the meantime Tom had retreated, and I did not like to have Mrs. Brand
called for, for I knew how timorous and tearful she was, so when the
surgeon said, 'Who is to attend to this arm for the future?' I replied,
'I believe I shall, if you will be good enough to tell me how.'
'You shall? Very well, ma'am; you think it won't frighten you—make you
'No. I hope such a burn on my own arm would not frighten me; why should I
then be afraid of it on another person's?'
'That,' said the patient, faintly and with another grimace, 'has very
little to do with it.' I knew it had not almost as soon as the foolish
words were spoken; for when I saw the drops of perspiration stand on his
forehead, and his features redden with pain, I felt my heart and courage
sink; but I recovered myself presently, and stood by till the surgeon had
finished, and had given me his instructions.
The man looked at me several times. I was quite aware that he had seen my
momentary failure of courage: he was an observant fellow. I thought his
last remark, though perfectly true, was uncalled for; but then, as I
repeated to myself, he was an American!
He complained of violent pain and stiffness across his shoulders, and was
desired to remain all day in his berth. His other hand was then looked at. Lashing ropes had taken the skin off the palm; but it was declared that
nothing more was the matter with it, excepting that the salt water had caused some irritation. I was rejoiced at
this; there was at least only one hurt for me to attend to, and I obeyed
with a degree of alacrity that I was ashamed of, when the surgeon said he
had done with me, and would trouble me to tell my brother he was now ready
for the clean shirt that he had proposed to lend the patient.
Yes! I went out of the cabin quicker than there was any need for, and
being very tired I had no sooner delivered the message than I curled
myself up in the corner of a settee, fell fast asleep, and never woke till
a rush of water broke the stillness and told me that we were leaving the
Uncle Rollin and Tom were both in the cabin, and when I woke and looked up
the former said, 'Well, well, no wonder she was tired; she was not at all
in the way during the night,—was she, Tom?'
'Quite the contrary,' answered Tom, pleasantly; and men are so apt to look
on women as encumbrances at sea, that this admission more than contented
I was told that we had put the doctor on shore; he was an Englishman, and
had come with an excursion party from Killarney. 'He had said the
children were very weak, and ought to have food every two hours—and—and—I'm sure I forget his name,' my uncle continued, 'but it seems he
mainly wants rest, food, and care, so I shall not put them on shore for
I went softly to my cabin with some soup for the children; the door was
propped open, and I saw my sailor in his berth, and Mrs. Brand nodding on
a seat fast asleep; both the children were asleep also; and I set down the
soup, and stole softly to my own berth; for it vexed me to the heart to
think that I had been overcome by that drowsy fit, and had not spoken to any one respecting the
little infant whom I had laid there.
I opened the curtains, intending to look at it and lay my hand on its pure
white forehead; but to my surprise it had been removed: there was a slight
depression on the pillow, but the babe was gone.
I closed the curtain, and went to my patient. It was he who had spoken;
but clean surroundings and brushed hair had made another man of him; he
was not quite so hoarse either: rest and food had partly restored his
I asked if he knew anything of this removal. He said yes, that the captain
had come in before the surgeon left; that he had mentioned the subject,
and the surgeon had landed in charge of the babe, and with all proper
He told me that he had breakfasted; and in reply to my question, said he
did not want anything, unless I would be kind enough to examine his jacket
and see whether there was a book in it.
This singed and soaked garment lay on the floor: I picked it up and
brought it to the side of his berth. First came out a short bit of
tobacco-pipe; then a knife; lastly, a shabby book, blistered and bulging
with sea water.
I felt sorry to see how completely I had cut the poor
man's jacket to pieces; for I knew it was the only upper garment he
possessed, and as I turned it over I said—
'I am afraid this jacket is quite spoilt.'
He smiled and answered gently, 'Oh, it is of no consequence; I dare say
your brother will lend me something to land in.'
Fancy a sailor dressed up in Tom's clothes! My brother, indeed! I was
surprised at the man's quiet assurance. This was American equality truly;
and when he added, 'And if the same kind hand to which so many of us are
indebted will produce a hair of scissors to trim my hair,' I felt my
cheeks glow with discomfort. I could not wait on this sailor so
if he smiled in my face and asserted such perfect equality.
'My maid shall bring you a pair of scissors,' I
answered, speaking as gently as I could, but gravely; and I was moving
away when he said in haste—
'Excuse me, have I annoyed you?'
Nowhere on land is so much difference acknowledged between the employee
and the employer as there is in every vessel at sea. Discipline forbids
the 'man before the mast' to assert equality. I did not then know that
this was just as much the case in American ships—I thought perhaps it was
not, and felt vexed with myself;
for what right in such a case had I to be offended? So Brand at that
moment coming in with a message to me, I sent him for the scissors; and
when the man repeated, 'I have annoyed you,' I replied, 'If so, it is only
because I am not accustomed to the manners of Americans : they differ so
much from ours.'
'In what respect?' he asked, and he looked puzzled.
I was a little frightened, but could not now withdraw from the discussion.
'English sailors all speak to ladies as that one did whom you have just
seen,' I answered.
The look of surprise increased; but yet he seemed to
catch a part of my meaning instantly, for he replied—
'He did not speak with half the
respect that I feel—madam (this last word he added doubtfully, and as an
after-thought). I had not expected such an answer,
and began to feel puzzled in my turn. 'Here is your book,' I said,
handing it; and as I glanced at him I encountered, instead of the respect
he had mentioned, a countenance in which amusement seemed to be struggling
with a kind of tender admiration.
No one had ever looked so at me before—no, never in my
life; and I was ashamed of myself to feel how it made me blush (oh, how
could I have been so foolish?); and what was worse, the man was actually
aware of my confusion, and meant to help me out of the scrape; he said—
'I am not a sailor nor an American—madam,' again
added doubtfully, 'but I feel the justice of your remarks. Very few of
us can claim equality with one of your sex and character, it is so much
'Here is your book,' I interrupted hastily. 'There was no inequality
thought of but that of station—a trifling one, which I only wish to have
admitted, because it makes it easier for me to offer you my assistance.'
I laid the book on his counterpane, intending to
withdraw, feeling thoroughly worsted and puzzled as to whom and what this
man might be; but the swelled leaves fell open, and I saw that it was a
Greek Testament. Quite involuntarily a slight expression of surprise
escaped me, and, relieved at anything which changed the subject, I said—
'This is a Greek book; is it yours?'
'Yes, it is;' and with ready tact he did not add the 'madam.'
'You are an educated man, then.'
The same smile shone in his eyes, and softened the corners of his mouth.
'Does that surprise you?' he asked.
'Very much indeed: I believed you were one of the sailors.'
I saw that I had made myself ridiculous, but that he
was indulgent towards my youth. He, however, did not refrain from
laughing, and I laughed too; but, though it was at myself, I was relieved
at the turn things had taken. We both became grave again suddenly;
he, probably, from politeness; I, because I remembered that, after all, he
was a perfect stranger to me. In grasping the book, he had forgotten
the blistered hand, and now dropped it hastily; upon which I took it up
and said, 'You cannot hold this Testament? I shall be happy to read
some chapters for you.'
His eyes opened wider as he lay, and he looked very much surprised; but
he said not a word.
'Where shall I read?' I inquired.
He asked for a chapter in Hebrews; and I read it and the two following
ones. I should have stopped sooner
but for the knowledge that if I looked up, I must encounter his eyes. The task was a pleasant one too: I had not read Greek aloud for some time,
and the effect of it, and that time and that place, was strange even to
myself. The last time I had read it, was with my dear old master at
school: now I was my own mistress, it was even my turn to minister.
It was a daring thing to read Greek to a man and a scholar, and I had done
it of my own accord in order to escape from the awkwardness of further
conversation, or of a precipitate retreat. I felt all this strongly
at first; but, as the reading advanced, the wonderful interest of the
subject made me forget myself, and as I read more seriously, my listener became
more and more still.
The third chapter, which was the tenth of Hebrews, came
to an end at last; and as it was finished, the first verse I had read
recurred to my thoughts, and seemed to echo in my ears—'Now of the things
which we have spoken this is the sum.' This! what was
this? Why, that we had such a
High Priest as we needed—one whose sacrifice had been accepted. What
We must 'hold fast this faith,' and be thankful. It seemed to me, as I
sat there silently, that I did hold it fast—I did believe that Christ had
saved this lost world and me; but then what had followed? My eyes glanced
on at the next chapter: the result described
there had not followed. It was a chapter which often
disturbed me. 'By faith,' it said, 'Abel offered a more excellent
sacrifice. By faith Noah prepared an ark. By faith, Abraham, when he was
tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up
his only begotten son.'
Wonderful truths these. Where was my sacrifice?
Was it ready when it should be called for? If it was not ready as a proof
of my faith, how could I hope
that I possessed any? To believe that if God called on me to make a
sacrifice I could not do it, was, as I knew, in itself, a proof of this
want of faith in Him; for I had read expressly that faith is the gift of
why did I not believe, then, that He would give it me, and make me able to
receive it, specially as He is a God who, when asked, giveth liberally,
and upbraideth not?
It is a remarkable thing, and I have noticed it too
often to think I can have been deceived, that moods of mind, and sometimes
even thoughts, will occasionally pass from one person to another, while
both are silent, almost as distinctly as they can be conveyed by words.
So that day, as my thoughts went in and in, searching for the faith they
hardly dared to find, my eyes at last encountered those of my companion:
he was quite as much absorbed as myself, and seemed to rouse himself with
difficulty, and said very slowly,—
'Thank you—when a man has just escaped from what seemed inevitable death,
those chapters take a more solemn meaning for him. There was something so
real in Paul's religion; he was not afraid to say, "If these things are
so, what manner of persons ought we to be?" '
'I should have thought the more difficult thing to say, was, "What manner
of things are we to do?" '
'That was included in a mind like his. The doing
is an inevitable result of the being. And yet he went on, touching very
nearly on my thought, 'the particular line that should be taken up, the
particular sacrifice to be made, is not always a problem easily solved. The more free a man is to do as he chooses, the more difficulty in
offering the sacrifice that God
demands, and not one of his own inventing. But some people have a way of
thinking that what they are about must be pleasing to God, if only it is
enough to themselves. And then,' he continued, 'if we do give up a few
years or a few pounds, how mean
we are about it! Some of us, in our prayers, can even ask God to enable us
to do YET MORE, flaunting our charity, as it were, in the face of our
Maker. I have done it myself,' he added, slowly, and as if the remembrance
of it astonished him.
'Oh, but St. Peter was beforehand with us there,' I
answered. 'I have often thought how mean it was in him to remind our Lord
that he had left all, and to ask what he was to have in return for this
'When all he had to forsake,' said my patient, 'was his share in a rotten
old tub of a fishing-boat, and those nets that he had not finished
mending. I should not wonder if, on the whole, he was glad when he
that he had not mended all the holes. He was content to give them up; but,
as he was not to use them again, it was not such a heart-break to leave
them torn as whole.' He laughed and went on, 'At least, that is the sort
of feeling I have had now and then.'
I thought this willingness to talk of his meannesses, and his feelings in
general, was most likely in consequence of the extreme danger he had just
escaped from. People forget their shyness and their reserves at such
times. As for me, I liked his straight-forward openness; it suited my
humour and his circumstances.
'And yet,' I answered, speaking up for St. Peter, 'the
boat and the nets were all he had; and so they were as much as any of us
'Certainly,' he replied, 'and we must all be willing to give everything.
Nothing is so little worth while, even here, as being religious by halves. It's not worth while looking out for heaven on the whole, and yet going as
near the edge of hell as we dare, and as we can find footing. What we want
is a heedless daring and a wise
improvidence the other way. The right man to follow any cause, let it be
what it will, is he who loves it well enough to fling to it everything he
has in the world, and then think that not enough, and so fling himself after it. This last item often weighs down the scales held in
heaven, and the man gets what he gave himself for. God concludes the
bargain, and accepts
the pay. These things are reflections of the great sacrifice—"Lo, I come." And the need for self-sacrifice is so completely the
law of the world, that it is not merely in religious matters that we must
give all, or get nothing. If we want to do any great good to our fellow-creatures, though it be solely a temporal good, it is just the same. Give
yourself and all you have, and most likely you will get it; give half; and
you get nothing worth mentioning.'
'I wonder what you give,' I thought; and then I said aloud, 'Do you think
St. Paul expected the world to last as long as it has done?'
'No,' he answered, 'nor (if he had known that it would last to this
epoch) that he would have pictured to himself such a world as this is.'
'Because he would naturally expect that all Christians were to be like
the first,' I replied; 'instead of which, if he could see us now—'
'Well? If he could see us now, Miss Graham.'
'He would perhaps suppose that we were not Christians at all.'
'Indeed!—yet he had a good deal of that most excellent gift of charity.'
'I hope, if our Saviour came, He would acknowledge a great many of us as
Christians. But Paul!—I cannot see how Paul could. He could not see into
our hearts, or make allowance for circumstances. I think he would be very
indignant with us. Perhaps he would consider Christianity to be extinct,
and want to found it over
again. And, you know, we could not argue with him about apostolic
'That would be very awkward,' said my patient, and to my surprise he
laughed; 'but I think you would find,' he added, 'that we should all come
in for his censure with mortifying equality. We should see the wonderful
balance weighted again, and learn which weighs heaviest—light or love. I
must remind you, though, that if St. Paul came again he would find some
virtues among us, that, if all Christians had been like the first, could
have no longer any existence.'
'Certainly; for if the world had been thoroughly Christian, there would
by this time be no oppression, nor ignorance, nor squalor, nor crime. The
whole having been done, Paul would have found us either attending to our own concerns, or waiting to see what was to be done next.'
'But, if we were all Christians, are you sure that there would be no more
'Certainly not —that is, if (as we are pleased to suppose) we were such
Christians as the first; for their crowning virtue was the conquering of
their selfishness, and selfishness is the vice which stands in the world's
light at present. Instead of subduing poverty by helping and inducing the
poor to go out and inherit the earth, many of us wish to keep them crowded
here, because their poverty is their inducement to labour for us, rich. Why, if the swarms in the weaving and the spinning world are to be
thinned, who will bring a
revenue to the cotton-lord? If the crowded alley is to be deserted, who
will make our shirts and our gowns? and if at the parish school we bring
up all the children to fly like nestlings as soon as they are fledged,
where are our housemaids and nursemaids and cookmaids to come from? Am I
bound to reap my own corn, because a long way off a field lies fallow,
that starving Jem Brown might reap for himself, if I would send him to it?
Must my wife dress herself, because she has taught her pretty maid to sail
for a place where she can be her own mistress? Must my daughter sit in the
nursery, and sing her little brothers and sisters to sleep, because the
village maidens grow too wise through her lessons to do the work of my
house, and wish to go
away, and be welcomed to houses of their own? No; truly God made my
servant what he is; God placed me over him: let him work—it is his duty;
let me play—it is my birthright; and let none of us presume to wish
that God had placed us otherwise! That is what people say—at least
a great many of them.'
What a singular man my supposed sailor now seemed to me,—vehement as a
boy—eyes dilating and flashing, but otherwise motionless as a log. Strange that he should say all this to a young girl of whom he knew
nothing, and that he should put such energy into his words when the pain
in his shoulder absolutely forbade him to turn on his pillow.
He complained that the bandage on his arm was tight, so I brought scissors
to cut the thread, and a needle to fasten it again. As I handled his arm
my hand trembled a little, and he said hoarsely, 'Indeed, you do it
excellently well; I am grieved that on my behalf you are obliged to
undertake what alarms you.'
As pain made him wince once or twice, I was a little frightened; for the
excitement was over now, that in the night had made it easy.
I had thought, several times during our conversation, that this must be
the man whom I had heard so much of from Mr. Dickson, and, unable to
repress the wish to know, I said, 'May I look at your book again—at the
He smiled, and asked 'Why ?'
'Because I wish to know who you are.'
He pushed the Testament towards me with his better hand, and said, 'Perhaps I feel the same curiosity as to you: first, a brave lady waiting
in the night on the dead and the living—'
'Oh, it is easy to do anything when one is excited.'
Is it? So much the
better; and then—'
'And then a silly girl, I suppose, taking for granted that you must needs
be a sailor—a man before the mast—and also afraid to look at a burn.'
'Having previously declared that she should not be afraid to bear it.'
'I think so still.'
'And then reading Greek; and now—'
I was looking at the fly-leaf. Yes, it was as I had expected: there stood
the name—'Giles Brandon'!
'I hope my name does not displease you,' said my patient quietly.
It pleased me at my very heart; but I did not say
anything, only laid the book down again, and went to the berth of one of
the children who had just awoke.
The little three-year-old cherub had not forgotten her 'banyan' days,
and, holding out her chubby arms, said 'Oh, please, I want some pudding.'
I wrapped her in a shawl, and took her into the chief cabin, where were
Tom and my uncle; and while we sent Brand to fetch her some dinner, I
said, 'Why did you not tell me that was Mr. Brandon?'
'How could I suppose you did not know it?' was his not unnatural answer.
As he spoke, he was admiring the child's rosy little foot, holding it in
'I shall have to change berths with you to-night,' he presently said. 'Of all things I dislike being near people when they are ill.'
'I do not mind it in the least. I wish to be able to attend on them.'
'Oh, Brand must do all that to-night,' said Tom; 'and if you can do it in
the day, well and good. I couldn't—'
'Pooh!' said my uncle, mistaking the drift of our words. 'I am very glad
that Dorothea is not lackadaisical. If this Mr. Brandon were a young man,
there might be some excuse, but he looks old enough to be her father:
'His face is scorched and swollen,' said Tom, 'but I do not think he can
be more than forty.'
Some cold rice pudding now appeared, and my little darling made with hands
and tongue demonstrations of ecstasy. I began to feed her, and in the
midst of the meal Mrs. Brand appeared with a frock, made of part of a gown
which I had given her in the morning to cut tip for the children.
She had been very diligent.
'It is all cobbled up, ma'am,' she said, 'and so is the petticoat; but
they will do for the present.'
'Oh! it is beautiful, Mrs. Brand; and the next time my uncle and Mr.
Graham go on deck, we will wash and dress the children here.'
'Which is as much as to say, that the sooner we go the better,' observed
Mrs. Brand had been so busy, that she had forgotten her usual discontent;
but now she suddenly remembered a new source of sorrow.
'And whatever is to be done,' quoth she, ' if we don't soon go into
port, I'm sure I don't know; for our young
lady has hardly a thing left to wear. Her gowns, her while petticoats,
her pocket-handkerchers gone to the Irish folks; and these pretty ones,
and that blessed little cerpse that I'm sure I haven't a word to say
My uncle on hearing this looked aghast, and I said,—
'I think you and I
can arrange this little matter without troubling the gentlemen about it.'
'Have you parted with much, Dorothea?' said my uncle.
'Not with much, uncle, that was of use at sea.'
'Why, lor', Miss Graham, your good purple coburg and that excellent black
'Well, we will talk of this some other time: that cloak was very
unbecoming to me.'
'Would ten pounds set the damage right?' asked my uncle of Mrs. Brand.
'Yes, uncle; and five pounds I still have left of my allowance. Now, Mrs.
Brand, go and fetch the other child; I hear her crying.'
'Ten pounds you shall have,' said my uncle, very angrily, just as if he
was decreeing me a punishment. I did not want him to find me such an
expense just at first, but it was of no use disputing the point, so I
thanked him with as good a grace as I could, and resolved that Mrs. Brand
should have a scolding for her interference on the first convenient
The gowns I had given away were of very little use at sea. A black silk, a
blue one, and the brown-holland affair that Mrs. Brand had made for me,
while I was ill, were all I now cared to retain, excepting some muslins
which I kept to wear on shore; for a starched muslin becomes limp directly
at sea, and most colours fade, so there was no self-denial in what I had
In came Brand with a roast chicken, bread-sauce, and green peas; and Mrs.
Brand with the other child, who was very cross and hard to please, did not
want to be dressed, did not want any dinner, did not think the chief cabin
was at all a pretty place—no, and did not mean to be good.
The roasted chicken, etc., were intended for Mr. Brandon, and Tom
volunteered to go and give him his dinner, Brand following with the tray,
and my uncle marching in brimful of hospitality, and probably bent on
making his guest eat and drink more than was good for him.
'It's the queerest thing I ever knew, ma'am,' said Mrs. Brand, 'that our
name should be Brand and the gentleman's name Brandon:
I admitted that it was odd, but it had not struck me before; and we were
soon fully occupied with the children,—my little pudding-eater beginning
to cry because her sister did, and both fretting and pining all the time
we were dressing them.
Their new pink frocks pleased them, however; and the elder, after due
persuasion, ate a little piece of bread and marmalade.
I was bent on making them look nice to please my uncle; their wet shoes
had been dried and blacked, their little socks washed, and their hair
carefully brushed,—it hung down straight and silky over their cherub
checks; but, though they looked rosy, they were still fatigued and
listless, and at last, as nothing pleased them—it rained so that they
could not go on deck—I let the elder go back to her berth with Mrs.
Brand, and kept the little one, thinking to manage her by myself. But I
was deceived: no sooner was the elder child withdrawn than this little
thing broke forth afresh into the most dismal wailing.
'Oh, I want to go too! Oh, I want to go to my Mr Bandon! Oh, I do, I do, I do! I don't like this place at all.'
I was soon obliged to promise that as soon as she was good she should go;
thereupon came a smothering of the sobs, and the prompt assurance, 'I are
So I took her up and joined the assemblage in my cabin, where I found my
uncle chatting to Mr. Brandon, while Tom carved for him, and Mrs. Brand
sat in a corner nursing the elder child, who was gradually sobbing herself
More rest and more food had restored the voice which
was so hoarse before; it was now deep and decided, but, like many another
man who is fond of children, Mr. Brandon could soften his tones when he
spoke to them, and make them caressing and tender.
I held my pretty little tyrant in my arms, and she intimated that it was
her pleasure to go and look at 'her Mr. Bandon,' so I took her up to his
berth ; and she gazed at him for awhile, saying, with a sage gravity,—
'He's got a very ugly face to-day; it's all over
An ugly face every day, I thought, as I looked at it, though no doubt the
singeing of the hair and whiskers, and a bruise across the bridge of the
nose, had not improved it.
'I want to kiss he,' were her next words, so I put her dimpled cheek down
to his face.
'I thought I heard somebody cry,' said Mr. Brandon.
'That was me—I did cry.'
'What did you cry for?'
'Because I did.' There must be some inherent reason in human nature to
account for this answer: all children give it. I wonder what equivalent
for it French children have. 'Where's my baby?' continued the child;
'my baby didn't have any pudding.'
'Baby is not here,' said Mr. Brandon, gently.
'Is he in that other ship,
'I want he. Look at my new frock; this one,' touching my cheek with her
finger, 'this one did give it me; it has pink buttons—look,' and she held
out her sleeve.
'What a kind lady!'
'It has pink buttons; but,' in a low voice, 'I don't want her to carry me.'
'You little ingrate! But I think you tire Miss Graham's arm. You don't want to look at me any longer, you know, as
got such an ugly face:
'Yes, I do:
But I thought I had stood there long enough, so I bribed her with the
promise of some pictures to come away; but even then she would not leave
the cabin; she must stay, she said, and take care of Mr. Brandon; so the
dinner being now cleared away, I retired, and left her there under the
charge of Mrs. Brand.
The sea-sickness, though it was quite gone, had, of course, left me rather
weak; so I was not sorry to find the chief cabin empty; and I took a couch
and sat down, to think over the events of the last few days and hours.
The rain had ceased; I did not care to go on deck, but sat there
reflecting till the natural consequence followed: I again fell asleep and
dozed deliciously, till a sudden clatter of footsteps startled me, and Tom
came in, crying out, 'Come, Dorothea, come; your laziness astonishes me. Don't you want to see the Great Skellig?'
Of course I rushed on deck. The Great Skellig! I had seen a picture of a
rock—a hard material thing; I had read descriptions of its geological
strata; I knew it was a thousand feet high—but was this the Great
Skellig? I stood amazed; there was a pale glassy sea, an empty sky, and
right ahead of us, in the desert waters, floated and seemed to swim a
towering shire of a faint rosy hue, and looking as if, though it was a
mile off, its sharp pinnacle shot up into the very sky.
The 'westernmost point of British land, and out of sight of the
coast,'—was this that cruel rock on which the racing waves had driven
such countless wrecks, and pounded them to pieces on its slippery sides?
A boat was lowered. Tom was going to row round it, though he said that,
calm as the water was, it was still not quite safe to land. To my delight,
he volunteered to take me with him; so I sent for my hat and cloak, and we
rowed towards the great rock in the glorious afternoon sunshine.
How often have I been disappointed in the outline of hills and mountains:
they seldom appear steep enough to satisfy the expectation that fancy has
Here there was no disappointment. The Great Skellig shot up
perpendicularly from the sea—not an inch of shore, the clear water
lapping round it was not soiled by the least bit of gravel or sand. As we
drew near, its hue changed; a delicate green down seemed
to grow on it here and there. I sat in the boat and looked up, till at
last its towering ledges hung almost over us, and its grand solitary head
was lost, and the dark base showed itself in all its inaccessible
As we had lain half-way between it and the vessel, I had looked back and
seen that our floating home was but like a green duck riding on the water,
while the Great Skellig in comparison was like the ramparts of some city
whose crown was in the sky.
Now we were near, Tom said to me, 'Do yea see those peaks that look like
I looked, and his finger directed me to a row of points about a third of
the height of the rock, and projecting from it.
'Those points,' he continued, 'are as high as Salisbury spire; when there
is a storm, the wave breaks high enough to cover them with spray.'
So sweet and calm they looked, serene and happy, I could hardly believe
what I heard, nor picture to my heart the cries and wailing of human
voices, the rending, pounding, and wrecking of human work that had been
done on them, tossing from peak to peak, and ground on the pitiless rock
since first men sailed.
I was not sorry when we left the rock behind us; but Tom was bent on
landing, if possible, and he also wished to see the Lesser Skellig; so as
this could not be done that day, my uncle, who loved to give rocks a wide
berth, meant to put out to sea for the night, and return so as to sight
the Skelligs about morning dawn.