A DREAM OF THE NORTH SEA
Author of Past and Present, Among the North Sea Trawlers, Skippers and Shellbacks, etc.
London: James Nisbet and Co., 21, Berners Street, W.
To the Queen.
This book is dedicated to Your Majesty with the respectful admiration of one who is proud to have been associated with an effort to make the world more hopeful and beautiful for men who not long ago knew little hope and felt no beauty.
In the wild weather, when the struggle for life never slackens from hour to hour on the trawling grounds, the great work of the Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, like some mighty Pharos, sheds light on the troubled darkness, and brave men, in hundreds, are thankful for its wise care and steady helpfulness.
Perhaps, of all the tribe of writers, I know most minutely the scope and significance of that Mission—"as well for the body as the soul"—of which Your Majesty is the Patron; and it is my earnest conviction that no event in your brilliant and beneficent reign could well be appraised at a higher value than the despatch of Hospital Cruisers to the smacksmen, which your gracious and practical sympathy has done so much to bring about.
Permit me to subscribe myself, MADAM, Your Majesty's most humble, obedient Servant,
KINGSTON-ON-THAMES, May 1, 1889.
One of the greatest of English classics—great by reason of his creative power, simplicity, and pathos—has built the superstructure of his famous allegory upon the slender foundations of a dream. But just as the immortal work of John Bunyan had a very real support in truths and influences of the highest power and the deepest meaning, so the pages which record Mr. Runciman's "Dream of the North Sea," have an actual, a realistic, and a tragic import in the daily toil, sufferings, and hardships of the Deep Sea Trawlers. Moreover, the blessed work of healing the bodies, cheering the minds, and enlightening the souls of these storm-beaten labourers is not altogether a dream, for the extended operations which are now undertaken by the Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen furnish material for one of the brightest and most interesting records of present-day beneficence. But so much remains to be done, so great are the trials and the sorrows that still brood on the lone North Sea, that Mr. Runciman's dream in vivid story and deft literary art, goes forth with a strong appeal to every thoughtful reader. The greatness of the work yet to be undertaken may to some extent be conceived from the marvellous results which have already been accomplished. I have elsewhere said that to this issue many persons have contributed, from the Queen on the throne down to the humble and pious smacksman in the North Sea, but that, so far as human skill and genius can achieve a conspicuous success in any human and benevolent enterprise, it has fallen to the lot of the Founder of the Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen to accomplish such a success. No one can now write or think or "dream" of the trawlers on the German Ocean, without referring, and referring again, to Mr. E.J. Mather, either in propria persona, or—as the author of "Waverley" might have said—in the guise of some Eidolon suited to a Vision of the North Sea. This leads me to explain that though it had been originally announced that the introductory notice to this book would be from the pen of Mr. Mather, that gentleman, in view of the apparent references to himself throughout the tale, shrank from the task, with the result that the honour and the privilege have fallen upon me. I close by expressing a hope that Mr. Runciman's dream of the future may, when it reaches its accomplishment, add fresh lustre to a work which was begun by Mr. Mather in courage and in hope, and by him carried to a unique success.
I. THE DREAMER II. THE BREEZE III. THE SECOND GALE IV. A NEAR THING V. AFTER THE STORMS VI. THE MISSION HALL
I. JANUARY IN THE NORTH SEA II. A CRUCIAL TEST III. THE PLOTTER IV. THE DENOUEMENT
* * * * *
So many of my dreams have come true, that I sometimes incline to believe that dreams are in reality the only truths. I fancy this dream, at any rate, will be fulfilled.
* * * * *
A hard gale rushed over a torn sea, and the drift was swept so that the moon was obscured with every fresh gust. High overhead a clear, steely sky was flecked here and there with fleecy white, and, ever and again, the moon slipped her mantle of cloud from her rounded shoulder, and looked around her with large, calm glances. But there was an evil-looking sky away to the eastward, and the black wreaths 'of cloud crept steadily upward, obscuring little by little the fair, glittering sky. The swift waves gathered volume, and soon their hollows were like great Panpipes through which the gale blew with many doleful sounds. Everything to be seen on sea or sky promised a wild night, and the powerful schooner yacht which was charging along over the running seas was already reefed down closely. Light bursts of spray came aboard aft like flying whip-lashes, and the man at the wheel stolidly shook his head as the jets cut him. Right forward a slight sea sometimes came over with a crash, but the vessel was in no trouble, and she looked as if she could hold her own in a much worse breeze. I believe that only poets and landsmen are fond of bad weather; and the steersman occasionally threw a demure, quizzical glance at a young girl who was hanging on by one hand to the companion hatch. The wind had heightened her colour, and the chance gleams of the moon showed the girl's face as a flash of warm brightness in the chill dreariness of the night. It was a strange place and strange weather for a young lady to be out in, for the autumn was far advanced, and the deadly gales might be expected at any time; but this young person was in no way discomposed. There was something almost weird in the sight of that glowing young face, placid amid the fitful drifts; the screaming gusts caught at tiny stray curls of her dark hair; the vessel advanced with short plunges, and the flashing broad stream went past with that eerie moan which always makes me think of dire things. The girl looked quietly forward, and it seemed as if her spirit was unmoved by the tumult. She looked almost stern, for her broad brows were a little bent, but her mouth was firm and kindly, and her very impassivity gave sign of even temper. I do not like the miniature style of portrait-painting, so I shall not catalogue the features of this girl in the orthodox fashion. She would have drawn your eye in any crowd, for she had that look of slight abstraction which always marks those who are used at intervals to forget material things; and the composed mouth and rather square chin hinted at a certain capacity for practical affairs. The storm stirred her blood, and she murmured at last, "Terrors take hold on him as waters; a tempest stealeth him away in the night. The east wind carrieth him away, and he departeth; and as a storm hurleth him out of his place."
I would have ventured to tell you a good deal about that young lady's character, had I never heard her speak another word. The association, the choice of words, the sombre music of the old English—all were enough to show the bent of her mind.
At last she turned, and said, "When do you think we shall sight them?"
The man at the wheel shouted, "Somewheres towards midnight, Miss. We're a-goin' through it middling smart, and we can always draw on them."
Then the girl went below into the warm glow of the saloon. A sweet-faced lady smiled softly, and said, "Is it poetry to-night, or a new scheme for regenerating everything?" The tone was caressing and half-admiring, and the younger lady's still smile in reply was like a revelation; it showed that she accepted banter, but was too serious to return it. Marion Dearsley and her aunt, Mrs. Walton, understood each other: the matron pretended to laugh at her niece's gravity, but the genuine relation between the pair was that of profound mutual confidence and fondness.
The soft gleam of the lamps showed a very pleasant group in the roomy, comfortable saloon. A stout, black-bearded man lounged carelessly on a sofa, supporting himself with one huge hand as the vessel kicked awkwardly. He looked as if he had been born with a smile, and every line of his great face was disposed so as to express vast contentment and good-humour. You could not call him finely bred, but when he observed, in terrific bass tones, "Hah! Miss Dearsley, you have gazed on the what's-his-name; you love the storm; you find it fahscinating—oh! fahscinating; ah! fahscinating! I like an ignoble cabin and a pipe, but the what's-his-name is fahscinating—ah! fahscinating." His infectious good-humour was better than any graces. Then his pride in his phrases was very fine to behold, and he regarded his repetition of his sonorous adjective as quite an original thing in the way of pure rhetoric. Tom Lennard was by inheritance a merchant, by choice a philanthropist; he was naturally religious, but he could not help regarding his philanthropic work as a great frolic, and he often scandalized reformers of a more serious disposition. The excellent Joseph Naylor, who was never seen to smile, and who was popularly supposed to sleep in his black frock-coat and high stock, once met Tom on a platform. When Tom was introduced to the prim, beneficent Joseph his enthusiasm overcame him; he brought his colossal paw down on Mr. Naylor's shoulder so that the poor man showed signs of shutting up like a concertina inside the frock-coat; he squeezed Joseph's hand so fervently that the poor victim looked like a dentist's patient, and Thomas roared like an amiable Bull of Bashan, "Bah! Aw'm glad to see this day, sir. To think we should meet at last! Ah! fahscinating!—oh! fahscinating."
Mr. Naylor bore the shock like a true philosopher, but at home that evening he mildly observed, "My dear, our new ally, Mr. Lennard, is most friendly, most cordial, quite impressively cordial; but do you know I should not like to sign a cheque just now. His cordiality has had distinct effect on my joints, and I wish really that his left hand were lighter. Social intercourse can only be carried on with difficulty when you feel as if a large sack had fallen on you from the third floor of a warehouse."
The good Joseph always drew back with a timid air of maidenly modesty when Tom approached him, and I quite sympathize with this bashfulness. It has never been my fortune to exchange courtesies with a large and healthy polar bear, so I cannot describe the operation, but I should imagine that Tom's salute would aid one's imagination.
This delightful rough diamond called on Miss Dearsley to choose the lee side, and then he addressed himself to a superb young fellow who was leaning against the wainscot, and easily following the pitching of the ship. "Look here, Ferrier, you can't find one bigot in this ship's company, but we've all had a lot of experience, and we find that religion's your only blasting-powder to break up the ugly old rocks that we used to steer among. We find that we must have a clear passage; we fix our charge. Whoof! there you are; good sailing-room; bee-yootiful—oh! fahscinating."
"I quite follow you, and I sympathize with you so far as I am concerned personally; but when Fullerton persuaded me to come out I only thought of the physical condition of your people, and that is why I asked for Mr. Blair's yacht so that I might have a genuine, fair show. You see, I fear I am wanting in imagination, and the sight of physical pain touches me so directly, that I never can spare a very great deal of sympathy for that obscure sort of pain that I cannot see; I'm hand and glove with you, of course, and I shall go through with the affair to the finish; but you must doctor the souls, and let me attend to the bodies for the present."
The speaker was a powerful, broad fellow, with a kind of military carriage; his tall forehead was crossed by soft lines of tranquil thought, and he had the unmistakable look of the true student. Lewis Ferrier came south to Cambridge after he had done well at Edinburgh. He might have been Senior Wrangler had he chosen, but he read everything that he should not have read, and he was beaten slightly by a typical examinee of the orthodox school. Still, every one knew that Ferrier was the finest mathematician of his year, and there was much muttering and whispering in academic corners when he decided at last to go in for medicine. He said, "I want something practical," and that was all the explanation he ever gave to account for his queer change. He took a brilliant medical degree, and he decided to accept a professorship of Biology before attempting to practise. His reasons for being out on the North Sea in an autumn gale will come out by degrees.
A gentle-looking man stepped up to Ferrier and laid a white hand on his arm. "We shall never interfere with you in the least degree, my dear Ferrier. We'll take such help as you can give. We need all we can get. When you are fairly in the thick of our work you will perhaps understand that we have vital need of religion to keep us up at all. You can't tell what an appalling piece of work there is before us; but I give you my word that if religion were not a vital part of my being, if I did not believe that God is watching every action and leading us in our blind struggles, I should faint at my task; I should long for extinction, though only cowards seek it of their own accord."
A quiet, short man broke in here. He had sat smiling softly as the talk went on. His face was gently humorous, and all the signs of a placid and pure life were there. This smiling philosopher said, "That's right, Fullerton. Ferrier's like my old mare used to be in the days when she was a little peacocky and fiery—she always wanted to rush her journeys. She steps soberly now. We'll teach him something before we've done with him. You know, my dear boy, you must understand that the greater number of these men are, well—uncultivated, do you understand. They're not so squalid, perhaps, as Lapps or Esquimaux, but they're mostly as dense. We've fought hard for a long time, and we're making some headway; but we can do little, and if we could not get at our men by religion we couldn't manage at all. I've brought you into a queer country, and you must be prepared for a pretty set of surprises. My sister and my niece have been out before, and I persuaded Mrs. Walton and Miss Dearsley to take a turn. As soon as my people have got over their troubles we'll all make a dead set at you, you audacious young materialist that you are." Then John Blair smiled gently once more, and there was a certain pride visible as his sad eyes twinkled on his young favourite.
This company of kind folks were all of the sort called evangelical, and they were bound on a strange errand, the like of which had brought one of the men out to sea many times before. The yacht was now chasing one of the great North Sea trawling fleets, and Fullerton's idea was to let the gallant young doctor see something of the wild work that goes on among the fishing-boats when the weather is ugly.
The dark, solemn young lady sat very still while the men talked, and her face had that air of intense attention which is so impressive when it is not simulated. I think she was a spiritual relative of Joan of Arc and Madame Roland. It seems dreadful to say so, but I am not sure that she would not have played Charlotte Corday's part had occasion arisen. In low, full tones she asked, "Did no one ever work among the fishers before Mr. Fullerton found them out?" "No one, except the fellows who sold vile spirits, my dear," said Blair.
"Not a single surgeon?"
"Not one. That's why we decided to kidnap Ferrier. We want to give him a proper school of surgery to practise in—genuine raw material, and plenty of it, and you must help us to keep him in order. Fancy his trying to convert us; he'll try to convert you next, if you don't mind!"
The girl paid no heed to the banter. She went on as if in a reverie.
"It is enough to bring a judgment on a nation, all the idle women and idle men. Mamma told me that a brewer's wife paid two thousand pounds for flowers in one month. Why cannot you speak to women?"
"We mustn't blame the poor ladies," said Fullerton: "how could they know? Plenty of people told them about Timbuctoo, and Jerusalem, and Madagascar, and North and South America, but this region's just a trifle out of the way. A lady may easily sign a cheque or pack a missionary's medicine-chest, but she could not come out here among dangers and filth and discomfort, and the men ashore are not much pluckier. No; in my experience of English people I've always found them lavish with their help, only you must let them know what to help. There's the point."
"And you've begun, dear Mr. Fullerton, have you not?"
"Yes; but the end is far off. We were so late—so late in beginning, and I must pass away, and my place will know me no more; and many and many another will pass away. Oh, yes! we shall travel from gulf to gulf; but I think, sometimes, that my soul will be here on the wild nights. I must be near my men—my poor men!—and I'll meet them when their voyage is over."
The enthusiast spoke solemnly, and his queer diction somehow was not unbecoming or grotesque. I suppose George Fox and Savonarola did not use quite the ordinary language of their day and generation.
The doctor listened with a kind look on his strong face, and when the dark young girl quietly whispered "Amen!" our professor quite simply repeated the word.
Tom Lennard had been going through a most complicated series of acrobatic movements, and he now broke in—
"Ah! Harry Fullerton, if you're not an angel, you're pretty near one. Ah! that eloquence is of the most—the most—a kind of—ah! fahscinating—oh-h-h! fahscinating! But I believe this vessel has a personal spite against me, or else the sea's rising."
"It is, indeed," said Mr. Blair, who had peeped out from the companion. "We're actually running up to the fleet, and the rocket has gone up for them to haul trawls. It looks very bad, very bad. You're not frightened, Mrs. Walton, I hope?"
The reserved, silent lady said—
"Oh, no! Marion and I seem to take kindly to bad weather. I believe if she could wear a sou'-wester she would hang on to the rigging. It's her combative instinct. But I do hope there is no danger for the poor fishermen?"
Mr. Blair very quietly said—
"If their vessels were like ours there would be no fear. We haven't an unsound rope or block, but many of the smacks are shockingly ill-found, and one rope or spar may cost a crew their lives if it's faulty. The glass has gone down badly, and we are in for a gale, and a heavy one. But my ship would be quite comfortable in the Bay of Biscay."
A trampling on deck sounded. "See if the ladies can look from the companion," said Tom Lennard. "The sight should be splendid. You and I must shove on oilskins, Blair and see if we can keep our legs."
This was almost the end of the night's conversation. Those good mission-folks, as has been seen, contrived to get on without saying either clever things or bitter things, and persons who possess the higher intellect may fancy that this was a sign of a poor spirit. Perhaps; and yet I have read somewhere that the poor in spirit may not fare so very badly in the long run.
The spectacle on deck was appalling, and the sounds were appalling also. The blast rushed by with a deep ground note which rose in pitch to a yell as the gust hurled itself through the cordage; each sea that came down seemed likely to be the last, but the sturdy yacht—no floating chisel was she—ran up the steep with a long, slow glide, and smashed into the black hollow with a sharp explosive sound. Marion Dearsley might have been pardoned had she shown tremors as the flying mountains towered over the vessel. Once a great black wall heaved up and doubled the intensity of the murky midnight by a sinister shade; there came a horrible silence, and then, with a loud bellow, the wall burst into ruin and crashed down on the ship in a torrent which seemed made up of a thousand conflicting streams. The skipper silently dashed aft, flung his arms round Tom Lennard, and pinned him to the mast; Mr. Blair hung on, though he was drifted aft with his feet off the deck until he hung like a totally new description of flying signal; the ladies were drenched by the deluge which rushed down below, and the steward, when he saw the water swashing about over his cabin floor, exclaimed with discreet bitterness on the folly of inviting ladies to witness such a spectacle as a North Sea gale.
Tom observed: "The grandeur is—ah! fahscinating, but it's rather damp grandeur. It's only grandeur fit for heroes. Give me all my grandeur dry, if you please."
"Yes, sir," said the streaming skipper, "that was a near thing for you and me when she shipped it. If I hadn't been on the right side of the mast, both on us must have gone." Dawn rose slowly; the sky became blotched with snaky tints of dull yellow and livid grey; the gale kept on, and the schooner was hove-to to meet a sea of terrifying speed and height. Two of the ladies were below, only craving to be left alone even by the stewardess; but the hideous fascination of the storm drew Marion Dearsley again and again, and she sheltered herself under the hatch, and looked with awe at the mad turmoil which could be seen astern. Here and there, far up on the rushing sides of the foaming mountains, stray smacks hung like specks; the schooner shipped very little water now, and Ferrier kept the deck with some difficulty. Events succeeded each other with the terrifying suddenness of shocking dreams, and when the skipper said, "Thank God for a good vessel under us, sir; many a good man has gone to meet his Maker this night," Ferrier had quite a new sensation, which I might almost say approached terror, were I not writing about an absolutely courageous fellow.
Still the series of moving accidents went on. A smack hove up under the stern of the schooner, and our skipper said gravely, "That Brixham man's mad to try sailing that vessel. If one puff comes any harder than the last, he'll be hove down." Then the skipper turned to look forward, and Ferrier followed him. A low, strangled moan made them both start and look down the companion. Marion Dearsley, pointing with convulsively rigid arm, exclaimed, "The vessel—oh, the poor men!"
That smack was hove down, and her mainsail was held by the weight of water.
"I expect we must carry away something, but I'm going down to him. Jump to the wheel, sir, and cast that lashing. When I wave, shove it hard a-starboard. That way, sir. The men and I must manage forrad. You must go below at once, Miss. Jim, shove those bolts in."
There was a shock, and Ferrier thought the mainsheet had parted; then three strongish seas hit the schooner until she shuddered and rolled under the immense burden. It was a fearful risk, but the vessel freed herself and drove to the smack. One man was hanging on over the starboard side which was hove up; the schooner swept on in cruel danger, and the skipper might well look stern and white. "We sha'n't save it," he growled. Then Ferrier groaned, "Oh, God," for the keel of the smack at last heaved up, and she went down, down, slowly down, while her copper showed less and less, till the last fatal sea completed the work of wrath and ruin.
Ferrier felt that sensation of sickness which I have so often seen shown by strong men. The skipper said: "We'll heave her to again. You'd better get below. Your pluck's all right, but an unlucky one might catch you, and you ain't got the knack of watching for an extra drop o' water same as us."
Lewis Ferrier went below and found all his friends looking anxious. Indeed, the clamour was deafening, and the bravest man or woman had good reason for feeling serious. Marion Dearsley looked at Ferrier with parted lips, and he could see that she was unable to speak; but her eyes made the dread inquiry which he expected. He bowed his head, and the girl covered her face with a tearing sob: "Oh, the fatherless! O Lord, holy and true, how long? Bless the fatherless!" The poor prostrate ladies in the further cabin added their moanings to that dreadful wail, and you may guess that no very cheerful company were gathered in that dim saloon. Of course they would have been swamped had not the skylights been covered in, and the low light was oppressive. At six in the morning the skipper came with a grin and beckoned Mr. Blair into the crew's cabin.
"I pretended to laugh, sir," said he, "but it's not quite laughing now. The fog's coming over, and we're just going into cloud after cloud of it. Don't let either of the ladies peep up again on any account. I'm afeared o' nothing but collision, but it's regular blind man's holiday when one o' them comes down."
"I'll see my sister right, Freeman, and I'll come and try if I can have a peep from your ladder." Then Blair saw a thing which always seems more impressive than anything else that can be witnessed at sea—except, perhaps, a snowstorm. A mysterious portent came rolling onward; afar off it looked like a pale grey wall of inconceivable height, but as it drew nearer, the wall resolved itself into a wild array of columns, and eddies, and whirlpools, and great full-bosomed clouds, that rolled and swam and rose and fell with maddening complexity. Then came a breath of deadly chillness, and then a horror of great darkness—a darkness that could be felt. The skipper himself took to the fore rigging, and placed one of the watch handy to the wheel; finally he called all hands up very quietly, and the men hung on anyhow. One drift after another passed by in dim majesty, and the spectacle, with all its desolation, was one never to be forgotten. After half an hour or so, Blair glanced up and noticed a dim form sliding down the shrouds; then the skipper rushed aft, for the helmsman could not see him, and then came a strange dark cloud of massive texture looming through the delirious dance of the fog-wreaths. First a flare was tried, then the bell was rung with trebled vigour.
"Down below, sir, and call all up. He's yawed into us."
Blair saw the shape of a large vessel start out in desperate closeness; and running through to the saloon, cried quickly, "All up on deck! Ferrier, Fullerton, Tom, lend a hand with the ladies."
A yell was heard above; the poor sick folk came out in piteously thin wrappings, moaning as they walked, and all the company got on deck just in time to see a big barque go barely clear.
The youngest girl fainted, and Marion Dearsley attended to her with a steady coolness that earned the admiration of her assistant—the doctor. The serried ranks of the wreaths ceased to pour on, and the worn-out landsfolk went below.
Right on into the next night the unwearied gale blew; significant lumps of wreckage drifted past the schooner, and two floating batches of fish-boxes hinted at mischief. The frightful sea made it well-nigh impossible for those below to lie down with any comfort; they hardly had the seaman's knack of saving themselves from muscular strain, and they simply endured their misery as best they could. The yelling of wind and the volleying of tortured water made general conversation impossible; but Tom went from one lady to another and uttered ear-splitting howls with a view of cheering the poor things up. Indeed, he once described the predicament as distinctly fahscinating, but this example of poetic license was too much even for Thomas, and he withdrew his remark in the most parliamentary manner. Ferrier was more useful; his resolute, cheerful air, the curt, brisk coolness of his chance remarks, were exactly what were wanted to reassure women, and he did much to make the dreary day pass tolerably. His services as waiter-general were admirably performed, and he really did more by resolute helpfulness than could have been done by any quantity of exhortation. He ventured to take a long view at sundown, and he found the experience saddening. The enormous chequered floor of the sea divided with turbulent sweep two sombre hollow hemispheres. Lurid red, livid blue, cold green shone in the sky, and were reflected in chance glints of horror from the spume of the charging seas. Cold, cold it was all round; cold where the lowering black cloud hung in the east; cold where the west glowed with dull coppery patches; cold everywhere; and ah! how cold in the dead men's graves down in the darkling ooze! Ferrier was just thinking, "And the smacksmen go through this all the winter long!" when the skipper came up.
"It'll blow itself out now, sir, very soon, and a good job. We've had one or two very near things, and I never had such an anxious time since I came to sea."
"I suppose we didn't know the real danger?"
"Not when we shipped that big 'un sir. However, praise the Lord, we're all safe, and I wish I could say as much for our poor commerades. It'll take two days to get the fleet together, and then we shall hear more."
At midnight a lull became easily perceptible, and the bruised, worn-out seafarers gathered for a little while to hold a prayer-meeting after their fashion. They were dropping asleep, but they offered their thanks in their own simple way; and when Ferrier said, "I've just had a commonplace thought that was new, however, to me: the fishermen endure this all the year, and do their work without having any saloons to take shelter in," then Fullerton softly answered, "Thank God to hear you say that. You'll be one of us now, and I wish we could only give thousands the same experience, for then this darkened population might have some light and comfort and happiness."
And now let me close a plain account of a North Sea gale. When the weather is like that, the smacksmen must go on performing work that needs consummate dexterity at any time. Our company of kindly philanthropists had learned a lesson, and we must see what use they make of the instruction. I want our good folk ashore to follow me, and I think I may make them share Lewis Ferrier's new sensation.
THE SECOND GALE.
In thirty-six hours the gale had fined off, and the scattered and shattered vessels of the fleet began to draw together; a sullen swell still lunged over the banks, but there was little wind and no danger. Fullerton said, "Now, Ferrier, we have an extra medicine-chest on board, besides Blair's stock, and you've seen the surgery. You'll have plenty of work presently. After a gale like this there are always scores of accidents that can't be treated by rough-and-tumble methods. A skipper may manage simple things; we need educated skill. The men are beginning to know Blair's boat, and I wish we had just twelve like her. You see we've got at a good many of the men with our ordinary vessels, and that has worked marvels, but all we've done is only a drop in the sea. We want you fellows, and plenty of you. Hullo! What cheer, my lads! what cheer!"
A smack lumbered past with her mainsail gone, and her gear in a sadly tangled condition.
"Can you send us help, sir? We'm got a chap cruel bad hurt."
"We've got a doctor on board; he shall come."
All round, the rolling sea was speckled with tiny boats that careered from hill to hollow, and hollow to hill, while the two cool rowers snatched the water with sharp dexterous strokes. After the wild ordeal of the past two days these fishers quietly turned to and began ferrying the fish taken in the last haul. While the boat was being got ready, Ferrier gave Mrs. Walton and Miss Dearsley an arm each, and did his best to convey them along the rearing deck. The girl said—
"Is that the steam-carrier I have heard of? How fearful! It makes me want to shut my eyes."
To Marion Dearsley's unaccustomed sight the lurching of the carrier was indeed awful, and she might well wonder, as I once did, how any boat ever got away safely. I have often told the public about that frantic scene alongside the steamers, but words are only a poor medium, for not Hugo, nor even Clark Russell, the matchless, could give a fair idea of that daily survival of danger, and recklessness, and almost insane audacity. The skipper was used to put in his word pretty freely on all occasions, for Blair's men were not drilled in the style of ordinary yachtsmen. Freeman, like all of the schooner's crew, had been a fisherman, and he grinned with pleasing humour when he heard the young lady's innocent questions.
"Bless you, Miss, that's nothing. See 'em go in winter when you can't see the top of the steamboat's mast as she gets behind a sea. Many and many's the one I've seen go. They're used to it, but I once seen a genelman faint—he was weak, poor fellow—and we took aboard a dose of water that left us half-full. He would come at any risk, and when we histed him up on the cutter's deck, and he comes to, he shudders and he says, 'That is too horrible. Am I a-dreaming?' But it's all use, Miss. Even when some poor fellows is drowned, the men do all they can; and if they fail, they forget next day."
"Could you edge us towards the cutter, skipper?" said Fullerton.
"Oh, yes. Bear up for the carrier, Bill; mind this fellow coming down."
The beautiful yacht was soon well under the steamer's lee, and the ladies watched with dazed curiosity the work of the tattered, filthy, greasy mob who bounded, and strained, and performed their prodigies of skill on the thofts and gunwales of the little boats. Life and limb seemed to be not worth caring for; men fairly hurled themselves from the steamer into the boats, quite careless as to whether they landed on hands or feet, or anyhow. Fullerton exclaimed—
"Just to think that of all those splendid, plucky smacksmen, we haven't got one yet! I've been using the glass, and can't see a face that I know. How can we? We haven't funds, and we cannot send vessels out."
Miss Dearsley's education was being rapidly completed. Her strong, quick intelligence was catching the significance of everything she saw. The smack with the lost mainsail was drawing near, and the doctor was ready to go, when a boat with four men came within safe distance of the schooner's side.
"Can you give us any assistance, sir? Our mate's badly wounded—seems to a' lost his senses like, and don't understand."
A deadly pale man was stretched limply on the top of a pile of fish-boxes. Mrs. Walton said—
"Pray take us away—we cannot bear the sight."
And indeed Marion Dearsley was as pale as the poor blood-smeared fisherman. Ferrier coolly waited and helped Tom and Fullerton to hoist the senseless, mangled mortal on deck. The crew did all they could to keep the boat steady, but after every care the miserable sufferer fell at last with a sudden jerk across the schooner's rail. He was too weak to moan.
"Don't take him below yet," said Ferrier. "Lennard, you help me. Why, you've let his cap get stuck to his head, my man. Warm water, steward".
The man was really suffering only from extreme loss of blood; a falling block had hit him, and a ghastly flap was torn away from his scalp. That steady, deft Scotchman worked away, in spite of the awkward roll of the vessel, like lightning. He cut away the clotted hair, cleansed the wound; then he said sharply—
"How did you come to let your shipmate lose so much blood?"
"Why, sir, we hadn't not so much as a pocket-handkerchief aboard. We tried a big handful of salt, but that made him holler awful before he lost his senses, and the wessel was makin' such heavy weather of it, we couldn't spare a man to hould him when he was rollin' on the cabin floor."
"Yes, sir; Lord, save us!" said another battered, begrimed fellow. "If he'd a-rolled agen the stove we couldn't done nothin'. We was hard put to it to save the wessel and ourselves."
"I see now. Steward, my case. This must be sewn up."
Ferrier had hardly drawn three stitches through, when one of the seamen fainted away, and this complication, added to the inexorable roll of the yacht, made Ferrier's task a hard one; but the indomitable Scot was on his mettle. He finished his work, and then said—
"Now, my lads, you cannot take your mate on board again. I'm going to give him my own berth, and he'll stay here."
"How are we to get him again, sir?"
"That I don't know. I only know that he'll die if he has to be flung about any more."
"Well, sir, you fare to be a clever man, and you're a good 'un. We're not three very good 'uns, me and these chaps isn't, but if you haves a meetin' Sunday we're goin' to be here."
Then came the usual handshaking, and the two gentlemen's palms were remarkably unctuous before the visitors departed.
"Look here, Lennard, if I'd had slings something like those used in the troopships for horses, I should have got that poor fellow up as easily as if he'd been a kitten. And now, how on earth are we to lower him down that narrow companion? We must leave it to Freeman and the men. Neither of us can keep a footing. What a pity we haven't a wide hatchway with slings! That twisting down the curved steps means years off the poor soul's life."
The gentle sailors did their best, but the patient suffered badly, and Ferrier found it hard to force beef-tea between the poor fellow's clenched teeth.
Lucky Tom Betts! Had he been sent back to the smack he would have died like a dog; as it was, he was tucked into a berth between snowy sheets, and Tom Lennard kept watch over him while Ferrier went off to board the disabled smack. All the ladies were able to meet in the saloon now, and even the two invalids eagerly asked at short intervals after the patient's health. Lucky Tom Betts!
Marion Dearsley begged that she might see him, and Tom gave gracious permission when he thought his charge was asleep. Miss Dearsley was leaning beside the cot. "Like to an angel bending o'er the dying who die in righteousness, she stood," when she and Lennard met with a sudden surprise. The wounded man opened his great dark eyes that showed like deep shadows on the dead white of his skin; he saw that clear, exquisite face with all the divine fulness of womanly tenderness shining sweetly from the kind eyes, and he smiled—a very beautiful smile. He could speak very low, and the awe-stricken girl murmured—
"Oh, hear him, Mr. Lennard, hear him!"
The man spoke in a slow monotone.
"Its all right, and I'm there arter all. I've swoor, and Ive drunk, and yet arter all I'm forgiven. That's because I prayed at the very last minute, an' He heerd me. The angel hasn't got no wings like what they talked about, but that don't matter; I'm here, and safe, and I'll meet the old woman when her time comes, and no error; but it ain't no thanks to me."
Then the remarkable theologian drew a heavy sigh of gladness, and passed into torpor again. Tom Lennard, in a stage whisper which was calculated to soothe a sick man much as the firing of cannon might, said—
"Well, of all the what's-his-names, that beats every book that ever was."
Tears were standing in the lady's sweet eyes, and there was something hypocritical in the startling cough whereby Thomas endeavoured to pose as a hard and seasoned old medical character.
Meanwhile Ferrier was slung on board the smack which hailed first, and his education was continued with a vengeance.
"Down there, sir!"
Lewis got half way down when a rank waft of acrid and mephitic air met him and half-choked him. He struggled on, and when he found his bearings by the dim and misty light he sat down on a locker and gasped. The atmosphere was heated to a cruel and almost dangerous pitch, and the odour!—oh, Zola! if I dared! A groan from a darkened corner sounded hollow, and Ferrier saw his new patient. The skipper came down and said—
"There he is, sir. When our topmast broke away it ketches him right in the leg, and we could do nothin'. He has suffered some, he has, sir, and that's true."
Ferrier soon completed his examination, and he said—
"It's a mercy I'm well provided. This poor soul must have a constitution like a horse."
An ugly fracture had been grinding for forty-eight hours, and not a thing could be done for the wretched fellow. Quickly and surely Ferrier set and strapped up the limb; then disposing the patient as comfortably as possible in an unspeakably foul and sloppy berth, he said—
"Let that boy stand by this man, and take care that he's not thrown from side to side. I must breathe the air, or I shall drop down." When on deck he said, "Now, my man, what would you have done if you hadn't met us?"
"Pitched him on board the carrier, sir."
"With an unset fracture!"
"Well, sir, what could we do? None on us knows nothin' about things of that sort, and there isn't enough of Mr. Fullerton's wessels for one-half of our men. I twigged a sight on him as we run up to you, and I could a-gone on these knees, though I'm not to say one o' the prayin' kind."
"But how long would the carrier be in running home?"
"Forty-eight hours; p'raps fifty-six with a foul wind."
"Well, that man will have a stiff leg for life as it is, and he would have died if you hadn't come across me."
"Likely so, sir, but we don't have doctors here. Which o' them would stop for one winter month? Mr. Doctor can't have no carriage here; he can't have no pavement under his foot when he goes for to pay his calls and draw his brass. He'd have to be chucked about like a trunk o' fish, and soft-skinned gents don't hold with that. No, sir. We takes our chance. A accident is a accident; if you cops it, you cops it, and you must take your chance on the carrier at sea, and the workus at home. Look at them wessels. There's six hundred hands round us, and every man of 'em would pay a penny a week towards a doctor if the governors would do a bit as well. I'm no scholard, but six hundred pennies, and six hundred more to that, might pay a man middlin' fair. But where's your man?"
Ferrier's education was being perfected with admirable speed.
The yacht came lunging down over the swell, and Freeman shaved the smack as closely as he dared. The skipper hailed: "Are you all right, sir? We must have you back. The admiral says we're in for another bad time. Glass falling."
Fender sang out, "I cannot leave my man. You must stand by me somehow or other and take me off when you can."
The ladies waved their farewells, for people soon grow familiar and unconventional at sea. Blair shouted, "Lennard's a born hospital nurse, but he'll overfeed your patient." Then amid falling shades and hollow moaning of winds the yacht drove slowly away with her foresail still aweather, and the fleet hung around awaiting the admiral's final decision. The night dropped down; the moon had no power over the rack of dark clouds, and the wind rose, calling now and again like the Banshee. A very drastic branch of Lewis Ferrier's education was about to begin.
Dear ladies! Kindly men! You know what the softly-lit, luxurious sick-room is like. The couch is delicious for languorous limbs, the temperature is daintily adjusted, the nurse is deft and silent, and there is no sound to jar on weak nerves. But try to imagine the state of things in the sick-room where Ferrier watched when the second gale came away. The smack had no mainsail to steady her, but the best was done by heaving her to under foresail and mizen. She pitched cruelly and rolled until she must have shown her keel. The men kept the water under with the pumps, and the sharp jerk, jerk of the rickety handles rang all night.
"She do drink some," said the skipper.
Ferrier said, "Yes, she smells like it."
Down in that nauseating cabin the young man sat, holding his patient with strong, kind hands. The vessel flung herself about, sometimes combining the motions of pitching and rolling with the utmost virulence; the bilge water went slosh, slosh, and the hot, choking odours came forth on the night. Coffee, fish, cheese, foul clothing, vermin of miscellaneous sorts, paraffin oil, sulphurous coke, steaming leather, engine oil—all combined their various scents into one marvellous compound which struck the senses like a blow that stunned almost every faculty. Oh, ladies, have pity on the hardly entreated! Once or twice Ferrier was obliged to go on deck from the fetid kennel, and he left a man to watch the sufferer. The shrill wind seemed sweet to the taste and scent, the savage howl of tearing squalls was better than the creak of dirty timbers and the noise of clashing fish-boxes; but the young man always returned to his post and tried his best to cheer the maimed sailor.
"Does the rolling hurt you badly, my man?"
"Oh! you're over kind to moither yourself about me, sir. She du give me a twist now and then, but, Lord's sake, what was it like before you come! I doan't fare to know about heaven, but I should say, speakin' in my way, this is like heaven, if I remember yesterday."
"Have you ever been hurt before?"
"Little things, sir—crushed fingers, sprained foot, bruises when you tumbles, say runnin' round with the trawl warp. But we doan't a-seem to care for them so much. We're bred to patience, you see; and you're bound to act up to your breedin'. That is it, sir; bred to patience."
"And has no doctor been out here yet?"
"What could he du? He can't fare to feel like us. When it comes a breeze he wants a doctor hisself, and how would that suit?"
"Have you eaten anything?"
"Well, no, sir. I was in that pain, sir, and I didn't want to moither my shipmets no more'n you, so I closes my teeth. It's the breed, sir—bred to patience."
"Well, the skipper must find us something now, at any rate."
There was some cabbage growing rather yellow and stale, some rocky biscuit, some vile coffee, some salt butter, and one delicious fish called a "latchet." With a boldness worthy of the Victoria Cross, Lewis set himself to broil that fish over the sulphurous fire. He cannot, of course, compute the number of falls which he had; he only knows that he imbued his very being with molten butter and fishy flavours. But he contrived to make a kind of passable mess (of the fish as well as of his clothing), and he fed his man with his own strong hand. He then gave him a mouthful or two of sherry and water, and the simple fellow said—
"God bless you, sir! I can just close my eyes."
Reader, Lewis Ferrier's education is improving.
A NEAR THING.
Ferrier was anything but a fatalist, yet he had a happy and useful way of taking short views of life. In times of extreme depression he used to say to himself, "Things seem black just now, but I know when I get over the trouble I shall look over the black gap of misery and try to imagine what is on the other side." It is a good plan. Many a suicide would have been averted if the self-slain beings had chosen to take a short view instead of harbouring visions of huge banked-up troubles.
No young fellow was ever in a much more awkward position than that of Ferrier. The Haughty Belle smack, in spite of her highly fashionable name, was one of the ramshackle tubs which still contrive to escape the censure of the Board of Trade; and Bill Larmor, the skipper, skilful as he was, could not do himself justice in a craft that wallowed like a soaked log. Then poor Withers, the maimed man, was a constant care; all the labour of two hands at the pumps was of little avail, and, last of all, the unhappy little boy could hardly count at all as a help.
But the bricklayer's saying, "It's dogged as does it," holds all over the world, and brave men drive death and despair back to their fastnesses. Ferrier thought, "I'm all well except for the active inhabitants of the cabin. They seem to be colonizing my person and bringing me under cultivation; barring that I'm not so ill off. If I can ease my patient, that is something to the good." So he claimed the boy's assistance for the night, and determined to divide his time between soothing Withers and lending a hand on deck. Skipper Larmor was composed, as men of his class generally are; you rarely hear them raise their voices, and they seldom show signs of being flurried. As quietly as though he had been wishing his passenger good evening, he said—
"We're blowing away from them, sir, and we can't du much. I hope the yacht will be able to stand by us. Later on we'll show them a few flares, and if things get over and above bad I must send some rockets up."
"I'm mainly anxious about my man below. If we only had any kind of easy mattress for him I should not be so anxious, but he's thrown about, and every bad jerk that comes wakes him out of his doze. A healthy life-guardsman would be helpless after one night like this!"
"As I said, sir; Lord, help us; we must bear what's sent."
The Haughty Belle became more and more inert, and the breeze grew more and more powerful. The Mediterranean is like a capricious woman; the North Sea is like a violent and capricious man. The foredoomed smack was almost like a buoy in a tideway; the sea came over her, screaming as it met her resistance, like the back-draught among pebbles. Ferrier found to his dismay that, even if he wanted to render any assistance, he was too much of a landsman to keep his feet in that inexorable cataract, and he saw, too, that the vessel was gradually rolling more and more to starboard. The pumps were mastered, and even on deck the ugly squelch, squelch of the mass of water below could be heard. Every swing of that liquid pendulum smote on our young man's heart, and he learned, in a few short hours, the meaning of Death.
Can a seaman be other than superstitious or religious? The hamper of ropes that clung round the mainmast seemed to gibber like a man in fever as the gale threaded the mazes; the hollow down-draught from the foresail cried in boding tones; it seemed like some malignant elf calling "Woe to you! Woe for ever! Darkness is coming, and I and Death await you with cold arms." Every timber complained with whining iteration, and the boom of the full, falling seas tolled as a bell tolls that beats out the last minutes of a mortal's life. The Cockney poet sings—
"A cheer for the hard, glad weather, The quiver and beat of the sea!"
Shade of Rodney! What does the man know about it? If his joints were aching and helpless with the "hardness," he would not think the weather so "glad"; if the "beat of the sea" made every nerve of him quiver with the agony of salt-water cracks, I reckon he would want to go home to his bath and bed; and if the savage combers gnashed at him like white teeth of ravenous beasts, I take it that his general feelings of jollity would be modified; while last of all, if he saw the dark portal—goal of all mortals—slowly lifting to let him fare on to the halls of doom, I wager that poet would not think of rhymes. If he had to work!—But no, a real sea poet does not work.
Ferrier was a good and plucky man, but the moments went past him, leaving legacies of fear. Was he to leave the kindly world? Oh! thrilling breath of spring, gladness of sunlight, murmur of trees, gracious faces of women! Were all to be seen no more? Every joyous hour came back to memory; every ungrateful thought spoken or uttered was now remembered with remorse. Have you looked in the jaws of death? I have, and Ferrier did so. When the wheels of being are twirling slowly to a close, when the animal in us is cowed into stupor, then the spirit craves passionately for succour; and let a man be never so lightsome, he stretches lame hands of faith and gropes, even though he seem to gather but dust and chaff.
Roar on roar, volley on volley, sweep on sweep of crying water—so the riot of the storm went on; the skipper waited helplessly like a dumb drudge, and a hand of ice seemed to clutch at Ferrier's heart.
He went down to see Withers and found him patient as before.
"She du seem to have got a lot of water in her, sir. I never felt quite like this since once I was hove down. Say, here, sir."
The man spoke with a husky voice.
"If so be you has to try the boat, don't you mind me. If you try to shove me aboard you'll lose your lives. I've thought it round, and, after all, they say it's only three minutes."
"But, my man, we won't leave you; besides, she's not gone yet. A tub will float in a seaway; why shouldn't the vessel?"
"I knows too much, sir, too much. Excuse me, sir, have you done what they call found Christ? I'm not much in that line myself, but don't you think maybe an odd word wouldn't be some help like in this frap? I'm passin' away, and I don't want to leave anything out."
Lewis slipped up on deck and signed for Larmor.
"Our man wants to pray. Don't you think we may all meet? You can do nothing more than let the vessel drift. Leave one hand here ready to show a flare, and come down." "I don't much understand it, sir; but Bob and me will come."
Then, knee deep in water, the forlorn little company prayed together. I do not care to report such things—it verges on vulgarism; but I will tell you a word or two that came from the maimed man. "O Lord, give me a chance if you see fit; but let me go if any one is to go, and save my commerades. I've been a bad 'un, and I haven't no right to ask nothing. Save the others, and, if I have no chance in this world of a better life, give me a look in before you take me."
Who could smile at the gruff, innocent familiarity? A very great poet has said, "Consort much with powerful uneducated persons." Fellows like Withers make one believe this.
The prayer was not, perhaps, intelligent; but He who searches the hearts would rightly appraise those words, "I've been a bad 'un." Ferrier felt lightened, and he shook hands with Larmor before they once more faced the war of the night.
The fire was out, it was bitter chill, yet hope was left—- a faint sparkle—but still a stay for the soul of the tempest-tossed men. The climax of the breeze seemed approaching at four o'clock; and, as Larmor said, "it couldn't be very much worse." The skipper was then hanging as he best could to the mizen rigging; Lewis had his arms tightly locked on the port side round the futtock shrouds, and was cowering to get clear of the scourging wind. There was a wild shriek forward.
Lewis looked up. There it was, as high as the mast-head, compact as a wall, and charging with the level velocity of a horse regiment. The doctor closed his eyes and thought, "Now for the grand secret." Then came the immense pressure—the convulsive straining, the failing light, the noise in the ears. First the young man found himself crushed under some strangling incubus; then, with a shrieking gasp, he was in the upper air. But he was under a hamper of ropes that strung him down as if he were in a coop, and his dulled senses failed for a moment to tell what ailed him. At last, after seconds that seemed like ages, it dawned on him; the masts had snapped like carrots, both were over the side, and the hulk was only a half-sunken plaything for the seas to hurl hither and thither. Larmor? Gone! How long? These things chased each other through his dim mind; he slipped his arm out and crept clear; then a perception struck him with the force of a material thing; a return wave leaped up with a slow, spent lunge on the starboard side, and a black something—wreckage? No. A shudder of the torn nerves told the young man what it was. He slid desperately over and made his clutch; the great backwash seemed as though it would tear his arm out of the socket, but he hung on, and presently a lucky lift enabled him to haul Larmor on board! All this passed in a few lying instants, but centuries—- aeons—could not count its length in the anguish-stricken human soul.
I once knew a sailor who was washed through a port in a Biscay gale; the return sea flung him on board again. I asked, "What did you think?"
He answered, "I thought, 'I'm overboard.'"
"And when you touched deck again, what did you think?"
"I thought, 'Blowed if I'm not aboard again.'"
"Did the time seem long?"
"Longer than all my lifetime."
Not more than half a minute had passed since the hulk shook herself clear, but Larmor and Lewis had lived long. The doctor took out the handy flask and put it to the skipper's lips; the poor man's eyes were bright and conscious, but his jaw hung. He pointed to his chin, and the doctor knew that the blow of falling mast or wreckage had dislocated the jaw.
In all the wide world was there such another drama of peril and tenor being enacted? Lewis's hands almost refused their office; he was unsteady on his legs, but he gathered his powers with a desperate effort of the will, and set the man's jaw. "Stop, stop! You mustn't speak. Wait." With a dripping handkerchief and his own belt Ferrier bound Larmor's jaw up; then for the first time he looked for the fellows forward.
Both gone! Oh! friends who trifle cheerily with that dainty second course, what does your turbot cost? Reckon it up by rigid arithmetic, and work out the calculation when you are on your knees if you can. All over the North Sea that night there were desolate places that rang to the cry of parting souls; after vain efforts and vain hopes, the drowning seamen felt the last lethargy twine like a cold serpent around them; the pitiless sea smote them dumb; the pitiless sky, rolling over just and unjust, lordly peer and choking sailor, gave them no hope; there was a whole tragedy in the breasts of all those doomed ones—a tragedy keen and subtle as that enacted when a Kaiser dies. You may not think so, but I know. Forlorn hope of civilization, they met the onset of the sea and quitted themselves like men; and, when the proud sun rose at last, the hurrying, plundering, throbbing, straining world of men went on as usual; the lovers spoke sweet words; the strong man rejoiced exceedingly in his strength; the portly citizen ordered his fish for dinner, and the dead fishermen wandered hither and thither in the dark sea-depths, their eyes sealed with the clammy ooze.
That is an item in the cost of fish which occurs to a prosaic arithmetician.
Lewis Ferrier had certainly much the worst so far in his defensive battle with wind and wave. Here was a landsman on a swept hulk with a dumb captain, a maimed man; two hands overboard, and a boy as the available ship's company. Never mind. He got Larmor below, and the dogged skipper made signs by hissing and moving his fist swiftly upward. "The rockets?" Larmor nodded, and pointed to a high locker. Lewis found the rockets easily enough; he also found a ginger-beer bottle full of matches; but of what use would matches be in that torrent of blown spray? The cabin was worse awash than ever, and there was no possibility of making a fire. Ferrier felt in his inside breast pocket. Ah! the tin box of fusees was there—all dry and sound inside. He beckoned Larmor, and signed to him expressively; then he crouched under the hatch and pressed the flaming ball to the root of the rocket. One swing, and the rushing messenger was through the curtain of drift, and away in the upper air. Larmor clapped his poor hands and bowed graciously. Two minutes, three minutes, five minutes they waited; no reply came. With steadiness born of grim despair the doctor sent away another rocket. With fiercely eager eyes he and Larmor strove to pierce the lashing mist, and then!—oh, yes, the long crimson stream flew, wavered in the gale, and broke into scattered star-drift. Larmor and the doctor put their arms round each other and sobbed. Then they told poor death-like Withers, and his wan eyes flickered with the faint image of a smile. Ferrier gave him the remainder of the wine, and the helpless seaman patted his benefactor's hand like a pleased child.
The gale dropped as suddenly as it had risen, but it left an immense smooth sea behind, for the whole impetus of two successive breezes had set the surface water hurling along, and it mostly takes a day to smooth the tumult down.
To say that the Haughty Belle was in danger would be to put the matter mildly; the wonder was that she did not settle sooner. The only hope was that the wind might bring the signalling vessel down before it fell away altogether.
Larmor pointed to the boat (which had remained sound for a mercy), and the doctor saw that he wanted her got ready. He sung out to the boy, "Ask Withers to steady himself the best way he can, and you come up and tell me how to clear the boat." Only one of the wire ropes needed to be thrown off; then the boy squeaked shrilly, "Make the painter fast to a belaying-pin for fear a sea lifts the boat over," and then Ferrier was satisfied. His strength was like the strength of madness, and he felt sure that he could whirl the boat over the side himself without the aid of the falls. His evolutions while he was working on the swashing deck were not graceful or dignified, but he was pleased with himself; the fighting spirit of Young England was roused in him, and, in spite of numbing cold, the bite of hunger, and all his bruises, he sang out cheerily, "Never mind, skipper; I'll live to be an old salt yet."
Only one quarter of an hour passed, and then a vessel came curtseying gracefully down.
"What's that?" shouted Ferrier.
Larmor pointed to the questioner.
"Do you mean it's the yacht?"
The skipper nodded. The doctor would have fallen had he not brought all his force to bear; the strain was telling hard, and soon Lewis Ferrier's third stage of education was too be completed.
The schooner swam swiftly on, like a pretty swan. Ah! sure no ship come to bear the shipwrecked men to fairyland could have seemed lovelier than that good, solid yacht. Right alongside she came, on the leeward quarter of the hulk. Four ladies were on deck.
"Ah! the invalid ghosts are up. That ship hasn't suffered very much," said Lewis.
When Tom Lennard caught sight of Ferrier he gathered his choicest energies together for the production of a howl. This vocal effort is stated by competent critics to have been the most effective performance ever achieved by the gifted warbler. He next began a chaste but somewhat too vigorous war-dance, but this original sign of welcome was soon closed by a specially vindictive roll of the vessel, and Thomas descended to the scuppers like another Icarus.
Ah! blessed sight! The boat, the good, friendly faces of the seamen; and there, in the stern sheets, the pallid, spiritual face of Henry Fullerton, looking, as Ferrier thought, like a vision from a stormless world of beatified souls.
"Two of you men must come and help to lug my patient up."
Could you only have seen that gallant simpleton's endurance of grinding pain, and his efforts to suppress his groans, you would have had many strange and perhaps tender thoughts. Mr. Blair was watching the operations from the yacht, and he said—
"Yes, Lennard, the doctor is right; we need a hospital here. Look at that poor bundle of agonies coming over the side. How easy it would be to spare him if we only had the rudiments of proper apparatus here! Yes, we must have a hospital."
Tom answered: "Yes, and look at the one with the head broken. He'll suffer a bit when he jumps."
And indeed he did, but he bore the jar like the Trojan that he was—the good, simple sea-dog.
"Hurry away now, all. I wouldn't give the poor old Belle another half-hour," said the mate.
In a minute or two the cripples were safe, and Ferrier was in the power of Blair and Lennard, who threatened to pull his bruised arms away. The two gentlemen pretended to be in an uproarious state of jollity, and to hear them trying to say, "Ha! ha!" like veritable war-horses, while the tears rolled down their cheeks, was a very instructive experience.
And now I must speak of a matter which may possibly offend the finer instincts of a truly moral age. Mrs. Walton totally forgot matronly reserve; she stepped up to Mr. Ferrier, and, saying, "My brave fellow" (it is a wicked world, and I must speak truth about it)—yes, she said, "My brave fellow!" and then she kissed him! Blair's sister, Mrs. Hellier, was more Scotch in accent than her brother, and she crowned the improprieties of this most remarkable meeting by giving the modest young savant two kisses—I am accurate as to the number—and saying, "My bonny lad, you needn't mind me; I have three sons as big as yourself." Then the battered hero was welcomed by two joyous girls, and the young Scotch niece said, "We fairly thought you were gone, Mr. Ferrier, and all of us cried, and Miss Dearsley worst of all." Half dazed, starving, weary to the edge of paralysis, the young doctor staggered below, ate cautiously a little bread and milk, bathed himself, and ended this phase of his lesson with an ecstatic stretch on a couch that was heavenly to his wrenched limbs. Before he sank over into the black sleep of exhausted men, he saw Henry Fullerton's beautiful eyes bent on him. The evangelist patted the young doctor's shoulder and said, "God has sent a sign to show that you are a chosen worker; you durst not reject it; you have gone through the valley of the shadow of death, and you must not neglect the sign lest you displease the One who made you His choice. I've heard already what the men say about you. Now sleep, and I'll bring you some soup when you wake."
Like all the men who move the world, Fullerton was a practical man doubled with a mystic. A mystic who has a wicked and supremely powerful intellect may move the nations of men and dominate them—for a time—yes, for a time. Your Napoleon, Wallenstein, Strafford have their day, and the movement of their lips may at any time be the sign of extinction for thousands; the murder-shrieks of nations make the music that marks their progress; strong they are and merciless. But they lean on the sword; they pass into the Night, leaving no soul the better for their tremendous pilgrimage.
But the good mystic plants influences like seed, and the goodly growths cover the waste places of the earth with wealth of fruit and glory of bloom. I think of a few of the good mystics, and I would rather be one of them than rule over an empire. Penn, George Fox, and General Gordon—these are among the salt of the earth.
So the young man slept on, and the good folk who had come through peril as well, talked of him until I think his dreams must have been coloured with their praises. The wounded seamen were carefully bestowed, and Tom Betts crawled out to greet them.
When Marion went down to see Withers, she said, "I was so grieved to see how you had to be thrown about; but never mind, I have made up my mind that very few more men shall suffer like that. Now sleep, and the doctor shall see you when he has rested—at least, I know he will."
Then Withers took Miss Dearsley's hand in his brown, ragged, cracked paw, and kissed it—which is offence number three against the proprieties. But then you know the soldiers used to kiss Florence Nightingale's shadow! Didn't they?
AFTER THE STORMS.
It was very pleasant on the third day that followed the gale; the sky once more took its steel-grey shade, the sharp breezes stole over gentle rollers and covered each sad-coloured bulge with fleeting ripples. That blessed breeze, so pure, so crisp, so potently shot through with magic savours of iodine and ozone, exhilarates the spirits until the most staid of men break at times into schoolboy fun. Do you imagine that religious people are dull, or dowie, as the Scotch say? Not a bit of it. They are the most cheerful and wholesome of mortals, and I only wish my own companions all my life had been as genial and merry. How often and often have I been in companies where men had been feeding—we won't say "dining," because that implies something delicate and rational. The swilling began, and soon the laughter of certain people sounded like the crackling of thorns under a pot, and we were all jolly—so jolly. The table was an arena surrounded by flushed persons with codfishy eyes, and all the diners congratulated themselves on being the most jovial fellows under the moon. But what about next morning? At that time your thoroughly jovial fellow who despises saintly milksops is usually a dull, morose, objectionable person who should be put in a field by himself. Give me the man who is in a calmly genial mood at six in the morning.
That was the case with all our saintly milksops on board the yacht. At six Blair and Tom were astir; soon afterwards came the ladies and the other men, and the company chatted harmlessly until the merry breakfast hour was over; their palates were pure; their thoughts were gentle, and, although a Cape buffalo may be counted as rather an unobtrusive vocalist in comparison with Mr. Lennard, yet, on the whole, the conversation was profitable, and generally refined. Tom's roars perhaps gave soft emphasis to the quieter talkers.
In the middle of the bright, sharp morning the whole of our passengers gathered in a clump aft, and desultory chat went on. Said Blair, "I notice that the professor's been rather reticent since we mariners rescued him."
"I am not quite a hero, and that last night on the Haughty Belle isn't the kind of thing that makes a man talkative. Then that poor silly soul down below gave me a good deal to think about. He must have suffered enough to make the rack seem gentle, and yet the good blockhead only thought of telling us to leave him alone in case the vessel went. Did you ever know, Miss Dearsley, of a man doing such a thing before? And you see he hasn't said anything since he came aboard, except that he never knowed what a real bed was afore. These things take me. We spend hundreds of thousands on the merest wastrels in the slums, and the finest class that we've got are left neglected. I would rather see every racecourse loafer from Whitechapel and Southwark blotted out of the world than I would lose ten men like that fellow Withers."
Marion Dearsley said, "I don't think the neglect is really blameworthy. For instance, I'm sure that my uncle knows nothing about what we have seen in the last few days. He is charitable on system, and he weighs and balances things so much that we tease him. He never gives a sixpence unless he knows all the facts of the case, and I'm sure when I tell him he'll be willing to assist Mr. Fullerton. Then I'm as ignorant as my uncle. I can guess a great deal, of course, but really I've only seen about half a dozen men, after all. It's terrible to watch the ships in bad weather, but for our purpose—I mean Mr. Fullerton's purpose—we might as well have been looking at Stanfield's pictures." "Never mind. You fahscinate your uncle, Miss Dearsley, and we'll show you what we can do. What do you think, Miss Ranken?"
Miss Lena Ranken, Mr. Blair's niece, creased her brow in pert little wrinkles: "I'm not sure that I know anything; Marion there studies questions of all sorts, but an ordinary girl has to do without knowledge. I know that when auntie and I were wishing you would drop us over into the water, I thought of the men who use the same damp bed for two months instead of having changes and all that."
"What is your idea now, Ferrier, about the business? I'm not asking you for a gratis lecture, but I want to see how far you would go."
"Well, frankly, at present I think that Fullerton's the best guide for all of us. I should be a mock-modest puppy if I pretended not to know a good deal about books, because books are my stock-in-trade; but I've just seen a new corner of life, and I've learned how little I really know. Head is all well in its way; a good head may administer, but great thoughts spring from the heart."
"Very good, Professor. Oh, bee-yootiful! Great thoughts spring from the heart."
Fullerton broke in with dreamy distinctness, "I think the doctor will agree with me that you must never frame a theory from a small number of instances. I never even ventured to hint what I should like to any of our friends until I had been at sea here for a long time. I'm convinced now that there is much misery all over the fishing banks, and I have a conviction that I shall help to remove it. I am called to make the effort, but I never listen to sentiment without also hearing what common sense has to say. Perhaps we should all see the everyday life of the men, and see a good deal of it before we begin theorizing. Look at that smack away on our port bow. I'll be bound one or two are hurt in some way there. That's one of 120 sail that we saw; multiply 120 by 20, and then you have the number of vessels that we must attend under this crackbrained scheme of ours. All the ledger and daybook men say we are crackbrained. Now, if we can go on doing just a little with our ordinary dispensaries, is it wise to risk playing at magnificence? You see I am taking the side of Mr. Commonsense against my own ideas."
"I certainly think you may succeed," said Miss Dearsley.
"So do I; and now you see my point. We want to persuade other people as quickly as possible to think as we do. To persuade, we must back all our talkee-talkee by facts, and to get facts we must work and endure in patience. You see what an amazingly clear political economist I am. Wait till we run into the fleet; we shall be sure to catch them before the trawls go down for the night, and, unless I'm mistaken, some of us will be astonished. I never go into a new fleet without seeing what a little weir we have at present to check a Niagara of affliction."
Mrs. Walton had much to do with many philanthropic movements, and men were always glad to hear her judgments—mainly because she was not a platform woman. She turned an amused look on Fullerton, and said, "Of course a woman can't deal with logic and common sense and all those dreadful things, and I know what a terribly rigid logician Mr. Fullerton is. I think, even without seeing any more misery and broken bones and things, that we have no very great difficulty before us. The case is as simple as can be—to a woman. There is an enormous fund set aside by the public for charity, and everybody wants to see a fair distribution. If a slater comes off a roof and breaks a limb, there is a hospital for him within half an hour's drive in most towns. If one of our men here breaks his arm, there is no hospital within less than two days' steam. We don't want the public to think the fisher is a more deserving man than the slater; we want both men to have a fair chance. Charitable men can see the slater, so they help him; they can't see the fisher without running the chance of being bruised and drenched, so they don't help him—at present. They don't want good feeling; they want eyes, and we must act as eyes for them. Women can only be useful on shore; you gentlemen must do everything that is needed out here. I'm very glad I've seen the North Sea in a fury, but I should not care to be a mere coddled amateur, nor would any one else that I work with."
"Quite right, madam," said the professor, nodding his head with the gravity of all Cambridge; "and I should like to see women taking part in the management of our sea hospitals if the scheme is ever to be any more than a dream. The talking women are like the talking men: they squabble, they recriminate, they screech and air their vanity, and they mess up every business they touch. But if you have committee work to do, and want economy and expedition, then give me one or two lady members to assist."
Then Blair called, "Come along, skipper; she's going easy. Bring up one or two of the men and we'll have some singing."
Now the ordinary sailor sings songs with the merriest or most blackguard words to the most dirge-like tunes; but our fishermen sing religious words to the liveliest tunes they can learn. I notice they are fonder of waltz rhythms than of any others. The merchant sailor will drawl the blackguard "I'll go no more a-roving" to an air like a prolonged wail; the fisherman sings "Home, beautiful home" as a lovely waltz. Blair always encouraged the men to sing a great deal, and therein he showed the same discretion as good merchant mates.
I cannot describe Freeman's ecstasies, and I wish I could only give an idea of the helmsman's musical method. This latter worthy had easy steering to do, so he joined in; he was fond of variety, and he sang some lines in a high falsetto which sounded like the whistling of the gaff (with perhaps a touch of razor-grinding added); then just when you expected him to soar off at a tangent to Patti's topmost A, he let his voice fall to his boots, and emitted a most bloodcurdling bass growl, which carried horrid suggestions of midnight fiends and ghouls and the silent tomb. Still, his mates thought he was a musical prodigy; he was entranced with the sweetness and power of his own performance, and the passengers were more than amused, so every one was satisfied.
The gentlemen who vary my slumbers by howling "The Rollicking Rams" in eight different keys at four in the morning would call the ship's company of that schooner soft. There are opinions and opinions. At any rate the hours passed softly away until the yacht ran clean into the thick of the fleet, and the merry, eldritch exchange of salutes began.
The second breeze had been worse than the first, and many men had gone; but the smacksmen, by a special mercy, have no time for morbid brooding. They will risk their lives with the most incredible dauntlessness to save a comrade. The Albert Medal is, I make bold to say, deserved by a score of men in the North Sea every year. The fellows will talk with grave pity about Jim or Jack, who were lost twenty years ago; they remember all his ways, his last words, his very relatives; but, when a breeze is over, they make no moan over the lost ones until they gather in prayer-meetings.
"Watch now, and you'll soon see something," said Blair to Ferrier.
The boats began to flit round on the quiet sea, and the lines of them converged towards the schooner or towards a certain smart smack, which Fullerton eyed with a queer sort of paternal and proprietary interest. The men knew that the yacht was free to them as a dispensary, and the care they took to avoid doing unnecessary damage was touching. When you are wearing a pair of boots weighing jointly about three stone, you cannot tread like a fairy. Blair knew this, and, though his boat was scrupulously clean, he did not care for the lady's boudoir and oak floor business.
Lewis had his hands full—so full that the ladies went below. The great scholar's mind was almost paralyzed by the phenomena before him. Could it be possible that, in wealthy, Christian England there ever was a time when no man knew or cared about this saddening condition of affairs? The light failed soon, and the boats durst not hang about after the fleet began to sail; but, until the last minute, one long, slow, drizzle of misery seemed to fall like a dreary litany on the surgeon's nerves. The smashed fingers alone were painful to see, but there were other accidents much worse. Every man in the fleet had been compelled to fight desperately for life, and you cannot go through such a battle without risks. There were no malingerers; the bald, brutal facts of crushed bones, or flayed scalp, or broken leg, or poisoned hand were there in evidence, and the men used no extra words after they had modestly described the time and circumstances under which they met with their trouble. Ferrier worked as long as he could, and then joined the others at tea—that most pleasant of all meetings on the sombre North Sea. The young man was glum in face, and he could not shake off his abstraction. At last he burst out, in answer to Fullerton, "I feel like a criminal. I haven't seen fifty per cent of the men who came, and I've sent back at least half a dozen who have no more right to be working than they have to be in penal servitude. It is ghastly, and yet what can we do? I have no mawkish sentiment, but I could have cried over one fellow. His finger was broken, and then blood-poisoning set in. Up to the collar-bone his arm is discoloured, and the glands are blackish-blue here and there. He smiled as he put out his hand, and he said, 'He du hurt, sir. I've had hardly an hour's sleep since the first breeze, and, when I du get over, I fare to feel as if cats and dogs and fish and things was bitin'.' Then I asked him if he had stuck to work. Yes; he had helped to haul as late as this last midnight. Now he's gone back, and I must see him, at any price, to-morrow, or I cannot save that arm. I couldn't hurry like a butcher, and so there will be many a man in pain this night."
Marion Dearsley was deeply stirred. "I wish I could go round with you to-morrow and search out any bad cases."
"I must tell you that, so far as I can see, almost every conceivable kind of accident happens during a violent gale—everything, from death to a black eye. But, all the same, I wish you could come with me."
Blair burst into his jolly laugh; he was such a droll dog was Blair, and he would have his joke, and he would set up sometimes, as a sly rascal, don't you know—though he was the tenderest and kindest of beings.
"This is what your fine scheme has come to, is it? Oh! I see a grand chance for the novel-writers."
Oh, Blair was indeed a knowing customer. He made Ferrier look a little foolish; but the ladies knew him, Tom Lennard adored him, and the grand, calm Marion smiled gently on him. In the case of any other man it would have seemed like sacrilege to talk of a sentimental flirtation before that young woman; but then she sometimes called him Uncle John and sometimes Mr. Blair, according to the company they were in; so what would you have?
After tea came the men's time for smoking; the bitter night was thick with stars; the rime lay on the bulwarks, and, when the moon came out, the vessel was like a ghostly fabric. Ferrier took charge of the two girls, and Tom entertained the elder ladies with voluminous oratory.
The surgeon was uneasy; the sudden splendour of the moon was lost on him, and he only thought of her as he might of a street lamp.
"I'm glad the moon has come, Miss Dearsley. If there is no chance of her clouding over, I shall ask the skipper to slip us into the thick of the fleet, and I'll take the boat."
"You are very good to take the risk after that dreadful time."
"I'm afraid I only follow a professional instinct. One thing is certain, I shall stay out here for the winter and do what I can."
Girls are tied by conventions; they cannot even express admiration in fitting language; they may giggle or cackle so that every ripple of laughter and every turn of a phrase sounds nauseously insincere. Marion Dearsley durst not talk frankly with this fine fellow, but she said enough.
"I'm not sure that you will not be better here than spending time in society—that is, if you have no pressing ambition, as most men have. I mean ambition for personal success and praise, and position. My brother always spoke of Parliament, and I suppose you would aim at the Royal Society. Girls have little scope, but I should imagine you must suffer."
"Maisie, you're the dearest old preacher in the world. Why don't you persuade Mr. Ferrier to be a great man on shore instead of coming out here to be bruised, and drowned, and sent home, and all that kind of thing?"
Then Miss Lena thoughtfully added, as in soliloquy—
"But he might come to be like old Professor Blabbs who makes a noise with his soup, or Sir James Brennan with the ounce of snuff round his studs. No. Perhaps Maisie's right." "I have plenty of ambition—I am burning with it, and I have an intuition that this is one of the widest and finest fields in the world—for impersonal ambition, that is, ambition above money, and so forth."
Then Ferrier, with a touch of pride quite unusual in him, said—
"I'm not persuaded that I've done so badly in the ambitious way up to now. This should be a fair change."
Then they stopped and watched the shadowy vessels stealing away into the luminous gloom. I hope they loved the sight; the thought of it makes all Beethoven sing over my nerves. The water was lightly crisped, and every large sigh of the low wind seemed to blow a sheet of diamonds over the quivering path of the moon; the light clouds were fleeting, fleeting; the shadows were fleeting, fleeting; and, ah me! the hours of youth were fleeting, fleeting to the gulf. The girls never spoke; but Ferrier thought of one of them that her fateful silence was more full of eloquence than any spoken words could be. She seemed to draw solemn music from every nerve of his body. Oh, droll John Blair! Did those placid, good blue eyes see anything? The deep contralto note of Marion Dearsley's voice broke the entranced silence.
"It seems a waste of one's chances to leave this, but we must go. Lena and I must trouble you to help us, though I'm sure I don't know why. I shall never forget that sight."
"Nor I," thought Ferrier; but he was not an accomplished lady's man, so he did not speak his thought.
Then Lewis and Mr. Blair fell into one of their desultory conversations, with Tom as explanatory chorus, and Fullerton brooding alongside in profound reverie. The breeze was enough to send the schooner past the trawlers, but her foresail had been put against her so that she kept line. An hour before the trawls were hauled Ferrier suggested that the yacht should be allowed to sail, just to see if a case could be picked up. Said the enthusiast Tom—
"I'll go with you. I can step into the boat now, but when you have sixteen stone to drop on the top of a tholepin, I assure you it makes you cautious. In my wild days I should have used terms, sir—oh, distressing! oh, harrowing! To-night I'm ready for a thingumbob on 'the blue, the fresh, the ever free.' Ah! entrancing! Oh-h-h! bewitching!"
Freeman sailed his craft and threaded the lines of the dragging trawlers with stealthy speed. A hail came at last.
"Yacht ahoy! Have you still got the doctor aboard?"
The weird answer rang amid the shrill treble of the gaffs.
"Then come aboard of us if you can. It's bad."
Two men were down in the boat in a moment, and the yacht edged her way toward the smack. When Lewis and Tom went down below, the burly comedian's true character soon became apparent. A handsome young fellow was twisting and gasping on the floor in pain cruel to see.
"He've eat somethin's disagreed with him, sir. We've tried Gregory, what my mate had, and we give him some pills what I had, would a'most done for me. 'Tisn't a morsel o' good."
Tom Lennard picked the poor fellow off the floor—so gently, so very gently; he eased him up and put the man's head against his breast. A slight swing of the vessel followed, and the lad shrieked and gasped. Instantly Ferrier saw what had happened.
"Help me to take his clothes off, Lennard."
They stripped the patient to the skin; then Ferrier glanced once, touched just lightly enough to make the young man draw breath with a whistling sound, then the deft, steady fingers ran carefully down, and Lewis said—
"Tom, keep him as easy as you can till I come back from the yacht. Skipper, you didn't think to strip him."
"No, sir; why?"
"Well, he has three ribs broken, that is all."
"Eh! he said he had a tumble agin the anchor in the breeze." "Yes, and I cannot tell how his lung has escaped."
When Lewis returned he strapped the sufferer up like an artist, and then said—
"Now, skipper, you must run home as soon as the trawl is up."
"Home! An' lose my woyage maybe?"
"Can't help that. You have no place for him here. See, he's off to sleep now his pain's gone, but where will he be if the sea rises?"
The skipper groaned; it seemed hard. Lewis thought a little and said—
"Will you let me take him aboard of us now while it's smooth, and I'll see if we can find you a man? If Larmor of the Haughty Belle will come, can you work with him?"
"Like a shot."
Larmor's jaw was better, and he said—
"I'd be a bad 'un if I wouldn't oblige you, sir, anyway. My jaw's main sore, but I can do little things."
"You see, Lennard," quietly observed Lewis, after Larmor had gone, "I'm making an experiment. If that lad had been left without such a mattress as ours, he would have died, surely. And now I'll guarantee that I send him back able to steer and do light work in ten days."
"That's where the hospital would come in. Well, you'll soon teach us instead of us teaching you. Oh! surprising! oh-h-h! paralyzing! oh-h-h! majestic! majestic!"
Tom was right in his exclamatory way, as we shall see by and by.
THE MISSION HALL.
And now you know what our people have been driving at all the time. I have reported their talk, and we shall have very little space for more of it, as the time must shortly come for swift action. From the moment when Ferrier groaned with despair, a lightning thought shot into Marion's brain and settled there. She had a grand idea, and she was almost eager to get ashore: one indefinite attraction alone held her. Ferrier was almost as eager to return, for his electric nature was chafed by the limitations that bound him; he knew he could do nothing without further means and appliances, and, in the meantime, he was only half doing work of supreme importance. He wished to glance slightly at the social and spiritual work of the fleet, but his heart was in his own trade.
The weather held up nicely, and on the morning after Ferrier saved the broken-ribbed youngster, the schooner had a rare crowd on board. The men tumbled over the side with lumbering abandonment, and met each other like schoolboys who gather in the common-room after a holiday. As Blair said, they were like a lot of Newfoundland puppies. Poor Tom Betts came up among the roistering crowd—pale, weary, and with that strange, disquieting smile which flits over sick men's faces; he was received as an interesting infant, and his narratives concerning the marvellous skill of the doctor were enough to supply the fleet with gossip for a month. None of the "weeds" of the fleet were on board, and the assembly might be taken as representing the pick of the North Sea population. With every observant faculty on the stretch Ferrier strolled from group to group, chatting with man after man; no one was in the least familiar, but the doctor was struck with the simple cordiality of all the fellows. A subtle something was at work, and it gradually dawned on the young student that these good folk had the sentiment of brotherhood which is given by a common cause and a common secret. The early Christians loved one another, and here, on that grey sea, our sceptic saw the early Christian movement beginning all over again, with every essential feature reproduced. All types were represented; the grave man, the stern man, the sweet-faced dreamy man—even the comic man. The last-named here was much beloved and admired on account of his vein of humour, and he was decidedly the Sydney Smith of the fleet. His good-temper was perfect; a large fellow of the Jutish type lifted him with one huge arm, and hung him over the side; the humorist treated this experience as a pleasant form of gentle exercise, and smiled blandly until he was replaced on deck. When he was presented with a cigar, he gave an exposition of the walk and conversation of an extremely haughty aristocrat, and, on his saying, "Please don't haddress me as Bill. Say 'Hahdeyedoo, Colonel,'" the burly mob raised such a haw-haw as never was heard elsewhere, and big fellows doubled themselves up out of sheer enjoyment, the fun was so exquisite.
Lewis was struck by the men's extraordinary isolation of mind; you may not understand his thought now, but, when you visit the North Sea, the meaning will flash on you. Isolation—that is the word; the men know little of the world; they are infantine without being petty; they have no curiosity about the passage of events on shore, and their solid world is represented by an area of 70 feet by 18. They are always amusing, always suggestive, and always superhumanly ignorant of the commonest concerns that affect the lives of ordinary men. When your intellect first begins to measure theirs, you feel as if you had been put down in a strange country, and had to adapt your mind and soul to such a set of conditions as might come before you in a dream. I, the transcriber of this history, felt humiliated when a good man, who had been to sea for thirty-three years on a stretch, asked me whether "them things is only made up"; them things being a set of spirited natural history pictures. I reckon if I took Mr. Herbert Spencer, or Mr. Grant Allen, or Mr. Lang out to the fleets, I could give them a few shrewd observations regarding the infancy of the human mind.
There was a fair amount of room for a religious service, the men packed themselves into their places with admirable and silent politeness, and the yacht was transformed into a mission hall. As to the fishermen's singing, one can never talk of it sufficiently. Ferrier was stirred by the hoarse thunder of voices; he seemed to hear the storming of that gale in the cordage once more, and he forgot the words of the hymn in feeling only the strong passion and yearning of the music. Then Fullerton and Blair prayed, and the sceptic heard two men humbly uttering petitions like children, and, to his humorous Scotch intellect, there was something nearly amusing in the naive language of these two able, keen men. They seemed to say, "Some of our poor men cannot do so much as think clearly yet; we will try to translate their dumb craving." Charles Dickens, that good man, that very great man, should have heard the two evangelists; he would have altered some of the savage opinions that lacerated his gallant heart. To me, the talk and the prayers of such men are entrancing as a merely literary experience; the balanced simplicity, and the quivering earnestness are so exactly adapted to the one end desired.
Blair's sermon was brief and straightforward; he talked no secondhand formalities from the textbooks; he met his hearers as men, and they took every word in with complete understanding. When I hear a man talking to the fishers about the symbolism of an ephod, I always want to run away. What is needed is the human voice, coming right from the human heart: cut and dried theological terms only daze the fisherman; he is too polite to look bored, but he suffers all the same. I fancy Blair's little oration might be summed up thus: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man—and I do not know that you can go much further. The wild Kurd in the desert will say to you, "I cannot do that. It is a shame"; he has no power of reasoning, but he knows; and I take it that the fishers are much like him when their minds are cleared alike of formalism and brutality. Many of the men were strongly moved as Blair went on, and Lewis saw that our smiling preacher had learned to cast away subtleties. Fullerton's preaching was like Newman's prose style; it caught at the nerves of his hearers, and left them in a state of not unhealthy tension. It seemed impossible for them to evade the forcible practical application by the second speaker of points in the discourse to which they had already listened; nor could they soon—if ever—forget the earnest words with which he closed—"Bear in mind, my friends, that Christianity does not consist in singing hymns or saying prayers, but in a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ as your Saviour; and when you have learned to know Him thus, your one object in life will be to glorify Him. It is right and well both to sing and to pray, but let us take care that these exercises are the expression in words of the heart's devotion to its Divine Lord and Master."