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the recent gales. “Dinner, sir !” says the French cook, adding in a strong north country accent, “it's right good stuff.” We quickly put away the thoughts the parting has sent crowding into our brain, and we do our best to conceal our feelings. Few men at such a moment can be totally indifferent at starting for a long journey, especially when the leave-taking culminates in a tumbling sea. There are emotions at such a time which the untravelled Englishman has never experienced. Such a one knows nothing of the strange sensation of sailing away from home and friends, league after league, day after day over a wide waste of sea, to another zone where every object to which use has made him familiar, gives place to new phases of naturė, wearing for him a totally different aspect--to distant regions he may be familiar with, no doubt, from the perusal of books whose pages depict vividly the scenes they describe ; but, after all, book descriptions, however good, fall very short when attempting to convey impressions which experience alone can supply. All our efforts to overcome the obstinate resistance of the gale which now rages from the north proving quite ineffectual, we are compelled to run in again and seek shelter. We anchor under the lee, with a crowd of other craft, who, like ourselves, are waiting for the wind. As the day breaks
on Tuesday morning the whole fleet is again in motion, all being evidently as anxious as we are to get away, and the scene is a stirring one as the sails are once more shaken out to the morning breeze. The fishing smacks lay a little closer to the wind, but we soon overreach them, and the fine sailing qualities of our schooner are soon evident to all. There is a kind of pardonable pride in such a display, and we revel in our success over our unknown opponents.
The wind blows fresh, and the sea runs high, but the schooner tops the waves in gallant style, and the race grows exciting as we quickly outrun each sail in turn; once fairly on our way, we notice that the fishermen haul off towards their fishing-banks, while the merchantmen who hold on our course are evidently bound like ourselves due north.
Now we turn to the men on board, and listen to the tales of daring they have to tell, so different in character to the usual experiences of men whose lot it is to sail in lower latitudes ; here the talk is of adventures with whales, and amongst the ice-bergs, their shipwrecks and disasters of every kind. Often it happens that the ships they sail in are badly found, wanting in the commonest necessaries of life, and but ill-adapted for the purpose they are intended to serve. From the accounts we listen to of whaling adventures we soon learn enough to gather that these voyages have in no wise fallen off in point of interest since the earliest exploits in these seas were recorded. Eddy and Byers (our harpooners) told us of one encounter
with a whale in a previous voyage, when the boat, ere Eddy could strike with his harpoon, was capsized by the sudden rising of the whale beneath her, and in a moment the crew and all her gear were hurled a few feet into the air.
Byers, too, had a somewhat similar misadventure, but in his case, as he was preparing to let drive at a stricken whale, she struck violently with her enormous tail (we shall have something to say of whales' tails presently), carrying away all the gunwale of the boat with one terrific blow, and had it not been for the harpoon lines which are always coiled down in the open spaces between the seats of the whale boat, and which served as a fender to the stroke, they might have suffered still greater damage ; as it was, they managed to escape with only a ducking in the icy sea, owing to the ready assistance of their more for
RALPH THE ROVER.
tunate companions, who by good luck were close at hand in the second boat; but for this the adventure might have had a still more serious ending, their ship, as often happens, being away a considerable distance at the time.
The wind again veered round to the north, and as there was but little use in contending with a high sea, with opposing wind and tide, and weather bitterly cold and wet, we concluded that a visit to Edinburgh for a day or two would make an agreeable change, and, without more ado, put into Leith Roads, where we made everything secure. Once again we are under weigh, and scudding before a pleasant breeze, we pass the Bell Rock Lighthouse, which now supplies the necessary warning formerly given by the famous Bell, whose curious history is recorded by Robert Southey, in his story of
Ralph the Rover." The abbots of Aberbrothock seeing the constantly recurring accidents to ships approaching these Roads, had a bell constructed, whose tongue would be kept in continual motion by the action of the waves. The rover, who bore some spite against the brotherhood, stole the bell, and of course got wrecked himself upon the very spot.
The adverse wind threatens to oppose us continually, but as we are equally determined to proceed, we make light of the “ blustering railer,” and go on
board ; when, as if to perplex us by its inconstancy, it falls a calm ; a calm day at sea is at such a juncture a greater affliction to men who are impatient to proceed than can well be imagined ; we resort to all kinds of occupations to beguile the time, fishing lines are produced from the ship's stores, and we try for cod-fish, but our success is trifling ; presently an old sailor produces a crafty-looking combination of hooks bound together with some shining white metal ; this he rigs up after a fashion adopted by the Norwegian fishermen, and he lets it down a considerable depth into the sea—with a sudden jerk he swings his hand which grasps the line into the air, and then lets the weight subside again ; this action is repeated for some time, when he is at length rewarded by the capture of a fine fish—not fairly hooked of course—but the barbed hooks, coming in sudden contact with a passing fish, probably attracted by the shining metal, sink deeply into the quivering side of the incautious codling, and he is hauled on board. We have many times seen the savage islanders of the Southern Ocean succeed in this very way; but for ourselves, we never could adopt so un-English and so unsportsmanlike a method.
At the break of day inspecting our collection of telescopes and eye-glasses to test their various merits,