« 上一頁繼續 »
Mersey ; New Brighton is passed, Liverpool becomes a faint speck in the distance, the sand-bar is crossed, and we are out at sea.
The coast of Wales soon looms in sight, where round the Skerries the surf is ever beating. Abreast of us, Holyhead breakwater-constructed of stone torn from the adjoining mountain-rolls back the fury of the Irish Sea. Behind it smiles a harbour of refuge. Southward heaves an iron-bound coast; beneath whose beetling cliffs the waves sport angrily summer and winter. Under the lee of Holy Island stands a lonely rock. Furious tides deny it union with the mainland, but man's device has spanned the chasm with a fine suspension-bridge. From the rock-tower shines out a beacon-light, and gleams of white roof and wall tell of a coast-guard colony.
With morning comes the sight of Ireland. Right before us is Ballycorin lighthouse, standing sentinel-like upon its island-rock. The coast-line is marked by rising slopes; but the meadows of Emerald Isle belie the name to-day, so burnt and brown do they look under a visitation of tropical summer. Upland corn-fields are golden and yellow with ripe and ripening harvest, and potato-ridges give promise of a plenteous yield. Now we have entered the harbour, and anchored off Queenstown. Far up the cove, church-spires struggle through morning mists and point us to the fair city of Cork. Sunday chimes come pealing from the land, but we may not step on shore in answer to the summons.
A postal officer, in faultless attire, resigns into our charge the latest mails. His comrade on board, who is responsible for their safe-keeping during the voyage, tells me that he has crossed the Atlantic upon the same errand 260 times ! Our captain takes leave of lady friends and steps on to his noble vessel.
Telescope in hand be moants the bridge; we think no worse of bim becauso his eye is misty for a moment at the thought of once more leaving home and kindred.
The “Scotia’s” prow is turned to seaward; her mighty engines—roused to action -urge her onward
With willing steps to the wild ocean. We are leaving behind us Spike Island with its convictcolony. Above us frown fortifications, parterred with gleams of scarlet uniforms, and gay with floating folds of our nation's banner. As we pass by, there is still “nothing for nothing” (for us) at the port of Kinsale. We are taking a last look at martello-towers and ancient ivycovered ruins. Distance is merging into indistinctness cottage, ruin, and tower, gold of cornfield, and green of meadow. For the grim “Stag Rocks” there is never peace, not even on this calm bright Sunday. They seem to stand as perpetual martyrs to an ocean's fury, doing penance and making atonement for the sins of the mainland. We are close upon that point of Kerry where the deep sea-cable joins the Englands, old and new; the lighthouse beacons gleam out brightly-Cape Clear looms forth gloomily—and old Ireland is lost to sight.
Our ocean-life is very pleasant. In this noble steamship are gathered round us many of the elements of home-enjoyment. A cabin airy and central—meals served with nicest regularity-sheltered decks, clean and white as holy-stone can make them--boundless atmospheres of ozone from the ocean-books for readerscompanionable fellow-passengers-skillful officers and hardy sailors—the landsman lacks nothing but “terra firma." Atlantic breezes give us appetite for the good and generous fare. We are peeping daily into nautical science after the manner of fresbmen. Tbe engineer will lead us to the regions of his magicianpowers; lower still we may descend, and feel the furnaceglow. Calm evenings call forth the sailors' songs and sports. Many a rough voice will swell a chorus ; many a strong man unbend in play. As darkness falls, lighted candles are introduced into the saloon; then-in pleasant chat, and intercourse with old and new-found friends, our cosmopolitan company whiles away the evening hours. Come
and take a turn on deck with the officer of the watch. The constellations shine out with marvellous distinctness; the dark ocean below is fretted with curling crests, and glints of shaded silver. These flecks of shifting brightness remind us of imagined ghostly lights and water-spirits of Indian superstition. In mid-Atlantic a south wind brings a show of phosphoretic light upon the sea ; then the wake of the ship looks like a trail of fame.
Looking over the bows, where the waves are fiercely sundered by the rushing steamer, we see little fishes darting about with luminous tracks like fire-serpents. Now, a rocket belted with blazing fire, is thrown up by a passing ship; but in a moment this symbol of oceancourtesy has vanished,
And like an unsubstantial pageant faded,
Leaves not a rack behind. When you go to rest at night, you know that all through the dark hours, brave men will be on duty at their posts. With moments of wakefulness will come the sound of watch-bells, and the cheery “all's well” of the watchers. On Sunday we gather for worship in our ocean-church; a reverent congregation fills the large saloon, the captain reads the service of the Episcopal Church and all join heartily in the singing. The beautiful prayers intended for use at sea acquire a special solemnity.
It is not always calm. Lashed into pitiless fury by the winds the sea will rage and sweep our decks, but neither ship nor seamen flinch. Up to their necks in water stand the helmsmen; shut in below, as in a prison, work the engineers; they think not of danger, but steadfastly keep the ship on her course across the trough of the sea. The French line of Atlantic steamers is said to be gaining favor with American passengers on account of its superior cuisine. The German steamers crossing the Atlantic, are also second to none in comfort, and efficient handling. But in a storm all my predilections are for a British ship and British sailors. My countrymen have proved their Scandinavian and Saxon blood by their seagoing qualities. Emerson said,—“A sea-shell should be the crest of England, not only because it represents a power built on the waves, but also the hard finish of the men.”
After a run of seven or eight days we are near to the “banks” of Newfoundland. These famous fishing-grounds -with which we made a slight acquaintance through the medium of geographies in school-boy days—are now spread out before ns. Beneath the dark green waters, below the influence of restless tides, there is gathered a storehouse of finny treasure, which is ever inviting man by his enterprise and daring to secure it. At day-break, as darkness rolls away, the fishing fleet is revealed, like a great navy riding at anchor. All round the ships lie small boats, with their lines out, probing the sea for prey. The smell of curing fish makes us aware of the occupation of those who are on shipboard. During fogs which often prevail here, the sailors of the fishing fleet have reason to tremble for their lives. A mile off, they hear the thud of paddle-wheels as a great ocean-steamer comes along, but, in an atmosphere of worse than Egyptian darkness, they know not which way to turn to avoid the danger. In their alarm they fire guns and ring bells, yet sometimes their signals come too late, and a poor fishing-craft is run down and sunk with little possibility of escape. The rights of these fishing grounds are defined by treaty, and are open to several nations.
We are now in 65° north latitude, the region of the steppes of Lebrador. Cold winds from the ice-fields come sweeping down, making us think of Christmasstorms at home. It is a desolate region. For 8 months in the year winter reigns supreme. Solitary tradingposts of the Hudson's Bay Company occur at long distances apart. An acquaintance of mine had the opportunity of visiting one of them. He happened to be on board a steamer bound for the straits of Belle Isle. During a fog the ship swerved from her course, and went aground on the shores of Labrador. When day-light dawned, the astonished passengers saw before them a small settlement enclosed by a wooden stockade. Within it were a few log houses, and a long building or shed for the store ; from the dwelling of the commandant floated the British flag. Away to north and west stretched the dreary Siberia of America. Here are found the wild animals whose skins are so highly prized in Europe, and here in quest of them,
Fur-clad hunters wander
Amid the Northern ice. You would think so lonely a life to be insupportable ; yet here among voyageurs and hunters, are found light and cheery hearts, and natures that know no fear.
To return to our ship; so cold is it there, that we feel certain that icebergs are near, and we are on the look-out for them. There is a terrible solemnity in the sight