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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
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,
we sight some sailing vessels in the far distance, and although we have not as yet seen the “northern lights,” the atmosphere presents a remarkable, and to us entirely novel aspect : the cloudless air is filled with prismatic reflections, by turns pale white, and then yellow, and green. The older hands declare that it portends an easterly wind if seen further north ; but here, so far south, it surely indicates that the pack ice is well south.
The 25th of May finds us to the southward of the Shetlands, and we hope to make the south entrance of Lerwick Harbour before twelve next day. The north entrance is narrow and studded with rocks; and our chart was somewhat old; we passed the south entrance during the night, having made a bad land fall; the wind had shifted, then having daylight with us, we essayed the northern entrance, luckily with no worse accident than a slight graze against an unseen rock ; but we are glad it is no worse, and soon forget the misadventure as we land in this pretty little fishing-town. The place reminds us of the wellremembered lines:
“ Within a long recess there lies a bay,
Here we procure wood, water, supplies of fresh food, and additional men for our crew. Here, too, as the weather was unpropitious, we determined to see the few objects of historic interest the place couid boast of, and with this object in view set out after church
to explore the ruins of Scalloway Castle, an old feudal stronghold of the Stewarts. A matter of seven miles seemed to us of no account, and after a reasonable time had been devoted to the expedition, we inquired at a neighbouring farm-house, where we discovered we were far out of our way. Crossing the hills to regain our course, we soon lost our way in a fog, and but for the kindly assistance of a shepherd we found by chance in his lonely hut, we should have fared even worse perhaps. It was not until after five hours were spent in wandering in the direction of the ruin, that we found ourselves beneath the walls of this ancient keep, and as it had been raining all the time of
our weary search, we were in but little mood for hearing the tales of the garrulous old lady who did the honours of the place. From her we gathered some curious popular traditions respecting the building of the pile, and declining her invitation to foregather round her peat fire, and enjoy what humble fare she had to offer, we inspected such details of the mediæval Celtic architecture as remained ; we saw the solid arches on which the upper stories of the building rested ; and while we speculated on the use of the usual turreted extremities of the structure so common in early Scottish buildings, the guide ran on with her quaint account of the merciless exactions of the founder, who compelled all his lieges to supply sufficient white of egg of the sea-fowl, which abound in these islands, to temper his mortar, in the hopes of rendering his donjon impervious to the onslaught of his enemies, or the wearing tooth of time, giving the refractory the alternative of hanging if they declined to assist. After we had satisfied ourselves with a survey of the ancient castle, we requested the worthy dame to let us see some samples of her skill in Shetland wool-work, but she as persistently declined to offer any of her work for our inspection, fearing that we should tempt her to trade with us on the Sabbath day.