A Voyage round the World, A book for boys, by W.H.G. Kingston.
Here is a sort of compendium of all the excitements that befall Kingston's young heroes. Swimming episodes of various kinds, serpents, unfriendly savages, and unexpected coincidences, have all been put together here, to make a well-written book, that you will find quite amusing and interesting. Recommended.
Makes a good audiobook, too.
A VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD, A BOOK FOR BOYS, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
MY HOME, AND HOW I LEFT IT.
The day arrived. A post-chaise stood in front of the old grey manor-house. I have it all before me. The pointed gables—the high-pitched, dark weather; stained roof—the numberless latticed windows—the moat, now dry, which had once served to keep out a body of Cromwell's horse—the tall elms, which had nestled many a generation of rooks—the clump of beech trees, and the venerable wide-spreading oak— the broad gravelled court on one side, and the velvety lawn on the other, sloping away down to the fine, large, deep fish-pond, whose waters, on which I had obtained my first nautical experiences, as seen through the green foliage, were sparkling brighter than ever under the deep blue of the summer sky.
At the hall door were assembled all those I loved on earth—and dearly, too, I loved them. My mother, as good and kind a mother as ever nursed a somewhat numerous and noisy progeny; my sisters, dear, sweet, good girls; and half-a-dozen brothers, honest, generous, capital fellows; our father, too—such a father!—we always agreed that no one could come up to him. Other fellows might have very good fathers, but they were not equal to him! He could be just like one of us at cricket, or out fishing, or shooting, and yet he was always right, and there was not a finer-looking gentleman in the county, and that every one said. We were all at home for the Midsummer holidays—that is to say, we boys; our mother was not a person to let her girls go to school. Who could say that we were not met for the last time in our lives?
I was the third of the boys. Two of our sisters were older than any of us. I loved them, and they all loved me. Not that we ever talked about that; I knew it and felt it, and yet I was going to leave them by my own express wish.
I was not what is called a studious boy. I was fond of reading, and I read all the books of voyages and travels I could lay hands on, and before long began to wish to go and see with my own eyes what I had read about. My brothers were fond of shooting and fishing and rowing, and so was I; but I thought shooting tigers and lions and elephants, and fishing for whales, and sailing over the salt ocean, would be much grander work than killing partridges, catching perch, or rowing about our pond in a punt. I do not know that my imaginings and wishes, ardent as they grew, would ever have produced any definite form of action, had not an old schoolfellow of our father's, called Captain Frankland, about a year before the day I speak of, come to our house. As soon as I knew he was coming I was very eager to see him, for I heard our father tell our mother that there was scarcely a part of the world he had not visited, and that he was looked upon as a first-rate navigator, and a most scientific seaman. He had been in the navy during the war-time, but peace came before he was made a lieutenant; and believing that he should not there find sufficient employment for his energies, he had quitted it and entered the merchant-service. While in command of a whaler, he had been far towards the north pole. He had traversed the Antarctic seas, and had often visited India and China, and the islands of the Pacific. Still, as money-making or idleness had never been his aim, and his strength was unabated, he kept at sea when many men would have sought for rest on shore. Such was the account my father gave of him.
How eagerly I waited for his coming! He had chosen the holidays on purpose that he might see our father's young tribe, he wrote him word. He was the very sort of person I longed to talk to; still it was with no little awe that I thought of actually breakfasting, and dining, and speaking day after day with one who had seen so much of the world, and met with so many adventures. At last he arrived. I was not disappointed in his appearance. He was a tall, thin, spare man, all bone and muscle. His hair was almost white, and his features, which were not a little weather-beaten, had, I thought, a most pleasant expression. While, however, my brothers ran eagerly forward to meet him, I hung back, watching him at a distance, like a bashful child. Had he been one of England's greatest heroes, I could not have looked at him with greater respect. "And that is the man," I thought, "who has sailed over thousands and thousands of miles of water, and has seen Indians dressed in feathers and shells, and negroes running wild in their native woods, and Hottentots, and Esquimaux, and Chinese, and I do not know what other strange people!" I saw my father look round for me, so at last I went forward in time to be presented in my turn with the rest of my brothers. Very soon the feeling of awe wore off, and I became the most constant of his attendants wherever he wished to go. With the greatest eagerness I used to listen to the accounts he gave our father of his various adventures in the distant countries he had visited. My brothers listened also; but while they would at length betake themselves to other occupations, I remained his ever-attentive auditor. The interest I exhibited in what he was saying attracted his attention, and much pleased him, so that when I ventured to ask him questions, he both answered them willingly and encouraged me to ask more. Thus we before long became very great friends.
"Should you like to go to sea, Harry?" said he to me one day, when he had begun to talk of taking his departure.
"With you, sir, indeed I should; there's nothing in the world I should like so much," I answered. The tone of my voice and the expression of my countenance showed him how much I was in earnest.
"Very well, my boy. You are rather young just yet to rough it at sea, and you will be the better for another year's schooling; but when I come back from my next voyage, if you are in the same mind, and your father is willing to let you go, I will take you to sea with me. I'll talk to him about it if I have an opportunity."
"Thank you, sir—thank you!" I exclaimed, almost choking with the vehemence of my feelings; "it is what I have been longing for above all things. Do, pray, tell my father, or he may suppose it is only a passing fancy of mine, and may wish me to go into some other profession. Still, he'll let me go with you—I know he will."
Captain Frankland smiled at my eagerness, but he said not a word to dissuade me from my wish. Perhaps he remembered his own feelings at my age. Grown-up people are apt to forget how they thought and felt when they were boys, which is the reason so few men win the confidence of the young and manage them properly. The captain, on the contrary, seemed to understand me thoroughly, and thus gained a complete influence over me.
"I'll be ready to go when you come back," I added.
"Don't be too sure of yourself, Harry," he answered. "I've seen many people completely change their opinions in a year's time, and I shall not be absent less than that. If you remain constant to your wish, remember my promise; but if your fancy changes, you are free to follow it as far as I am concerned."
I thanked Captain Frankland over and over again for his kindness, and certainly did not think that there was a possibility of my changing my inclinations. So he went away, much to my regret, and I fancied that he had not mentioned our conversation to my father. We all returned to school, except our eldest brother, who went to college. I no longer enjoyed school as I once did—I was looked upon as having become very idle. My mind, however, was not idle, I know, for I was continually thinking over the idea which had got possession of it. By allowing my thoughts to rest on that idea, and that alone, the desire increased till I persuaded myself that the only life I could possibly lead with satisfaction was that of a life at sea. All this time the curious thing was, that of the sea itself I practically knew nothing. Born and bred in an inland county, my eyes had actually never rested on the wide ocean. Still, I had formed a notion of what it was like; and I fancied that a sailor was always wandering about from one wild country to another, and going through a rapid succession of wonderful adventures. I forgot all about those long voyages when ships are weeks and weeks together out of sight of land, and the many weary and often anxious hours which a seaman has to pass away; nor did I consider that he has frequently the same voyage to make over and over again, the same lands to visit, and the same people to see. However, though I looked with no little pleasure on the idea of becoming a sailor, I had still greater satisfaction in the anticipation of visiting strange and far-distant lands, in meeting with adventures, and in becoming acquainted with the various tribes of the human race.
With the absorbing passion which now possessed me ruling every thought, I could no longer properly fix my attention on my Latin and Greek books and usual school-lessons; and as for nonsense, and even sense verses, I abandoned all attempts at making them. I am ashamed to say that I allowed others to do the work which passed as mine; and even though I managed to present the required written exercises, I was constantly in richly-deserved disgrace for the neglect of those tasks which no one else could perform for me. I was decidedly wrong; I ought to have had the right feeling and manliness to perform to the best of my power those lessons which it was the master's duty to set me, and then I might with a clear conscience have indulged freely in my own peculiar tastes. As it was, when the Christmas holidays arrived, I was sent home with a letter from the master containing severe complaints of my inattention and negligence of my duties, while my brothers were complimented on the progress they had made in their studies. The master told me he should write, but our father received us all in the same affectionate way; and as he said nothing on the matter, I hoped that he was not going to take notice of it.
The first joyous days of getting home had passed over, and New-Year's Day come and gone, before he broached the subject. From his love and kind heart, he would not before mar my boyish happiness. He then, summoning me into his study, spoke seriously to me about my past conduct. I frankly owned my fault, and confessed to him the true cause of my idleness. From his answer I found, to my very great satisfaction, that Captain Frankland had already talked to him about my wish to go to sea, and had expressed his readiness to take me.
"I cannot, however, allow you, my dear Harry, to leave school under the present circumstances," said my father. "You must learn to obey your superiors, and to command yourself, before you will be fit to go into the world. Whatever course of life you pursue, you will have many things to do which you will dislike, or in which you may from inclination take no interest; but this will afford you but a poor excuse for not doing your duty. What do you think the captain of a ship would say to an officer who had not obeyed his orders, should the latter remark to him, 'Really, sir, I felt so little interest in the matter, or I disliked it so very much, that I could not bring myself to perform the work?' Yet this is what you have been doing, my boy. I will say no more on the subject. You will go back to school at the end of the holidays; and if I find that, from a sense of duty, you are attending, to the best of your power, to the studies your master may select for you, I will take your wishes into my very earnest consideration, and see how I can best carry them out for your advantage."
I felt how just, and kind, and considerate my father was, and I resolved to the utmost to follow his advice. I shall never forget those Christmas holidays. They were very, very happy ones. Our eldest brother Jack, who was at college, was a very clever fellow, and put us up to all sorts of fun. In doors and out of doors there was nothing he did not think of. He never bullied, and wasn't a bit spoiled. He was going to study at the bar, that he might better look after the family property. James, the next, was the quiet one; he was preparing for the Church. Then came our third sister, Mary. Julia and Isabella were older than any of us. Mary was my favourite. There was nothing she wouldn't do for me—or, for that matter, for any of us. She did not like baiting our hooks when we were fishing, but still she did it when we asked her; and I do really believe that the worms didn't feel half the pain they otherwise would when handled by her fingers. She'd go out with us rat-catching and badger-hunting, and yet, to see her in the drawing-room, there wasn't a sweeter, softer, more feminine girl in the county. When we were at school, she wrote us twice as many letters as anybody else, and told us how the pony and the dogs were getting on; and how old Martin had found a wasp's nest, which he was keeping for us to blow up—and all that sort of thing. Willie and Georgie were at school with me, and Herbert was going the next half, and after him were two more girls, so that Mary had no companions of her own age, and that made her, I suppose, stick so much more to us than the older ones did, who were now young ladies—old enough to go to balls, and to talk when any gentlemen called.
I cannot stop to describe our amusements. I went to school with a more hopeful, manly spirit than I ever did before, and to the astonishment of Dr Summers, set to with a will at everything he gave me to do, and before long was nearly up at the head of my class. I wished to please my father, and to follow his advice, that I am sure of; but I confess that I was powerfully influenced by another motive. From what he had said, I saw that this was the surest way of obtaining the accomplishment of my wishes.
Hoops and driving had gone out, and cricket and marbles were in, and the days were getting long and warm, when I received a letter from Mary, saying that Captain Frankland had come home, and had written to our father, but she did not know what had passed between them. I always told Mary all I thought and wished; and though she cried very much at the thoughts of my going away, yet she promised to help me as best she could. How she was to help, I did not exactly know. I tried to console her by promising to bring her back parrots without end from Africa, and shawls from India, and fans and carved ivory bones from China, and poisoned arrows, and darts, and tomahawks, and all sorts of dreadful weapons, from America and the islands of the Pacific. Indeed, had I fulfilled my promises to the letter, I could pretty well have loaded a ship with my intended gifts. My father said nothing, and we all went home together at the usual time. At the end of this half, a very complimentary letter had preceded me.
"I am glad to hear that Dr Summers is pleased with you, my dear boy," said my father, and I thought his countenance wore a graver expression than usual. "Tell me, are your wishes the same as when you last left home?"
I replied that I was as anxious as ever to go to sea.
"I will not, then, thwart your inclination, Harry," he answered. "Your mother and I would rather you had selected a profession which would have kept you nearer to us. But you have chosen a fine line of life, and may Heaven protect you in your career! I should have been glad, for some reasons, to have had the power of sending you into the Royal Navy; but I have no interest to get you in, and still less any to advance you in it. The merchant-service should not be looked on as less noble and less creditable a profession. It is one of the chief means by which England's greatness and prosperity is maintained. In it your progress and success will depend almost entirely on your own exertions. You must also so conduct yourself that you may sustain to the utmost the credit of the service, and, I doubt not, you will have no cause to regret entering it. I might have wished to keep you longer at home, but I am unwilling to miss the opportunity of sending you to sea under charge of a commander of the high character and attainments possessed by Captain Frankland. He, in the kindest way, tells me that he is ready to take you; and he also informs me that a relative of mine is one of the officers appointed to his ship, Silas Brand by name. You have heard as speak of my good Cousin Martha, Mrs Brand; Silas is her only son. He was a steady, good lad when I last heard of him before he went to sea, and I daresay that you will find him a firm friend. At all events, I am sure, from Captain Frankland's remarks, that he will prove a profitable one. He tells me also that his proposed voyage will be one of very great interest; that the owners of the ship have a variety of objects in view; so that he expects to visit a number of interesting places during the voyage, which is, in fact, to be completely round the world."
"Round the World!" I exclaimed. "How delightful! And am I actually going to sail all round the world in my first voyage? Well, I did not expect anything so good as that. Isn't it a first-rate chance, papa?"
"It may be very long before you return, my boy," replied my father. "I trust, however, that you will proportionately profit by the voyage. Captain Frankland says, that he hopes to make you something of a seaman before you return. You will, I trust, make the best use of his instructions."
I promised that I would, and sincerely intended to keep my promise. So it was finally settled that I was to go to sea, and few lads were ever sent afloat under better auspices than I enjoyed. I cannot fully describe the agitating sensations which passed through my bosom when I began to reflect on the approaching consummation of my wishes. While my heart beat with anticipated pleasure at the strange sights I was to behold, I could not but contemplate with sorrow the thoughts of leaving so many dear ones behind. Not that I for a moment hesitated what I would do, but the sharp edge of the enjoyment I might have felt was entirely blunted. Still, I went about talking with a keen relish of all I was to see, and what I was to do, while the preparations for my outfit were in progress; and I not a little excited the envy of my younger brothers, and of some of the boys near us, when they heard that I was starting on a voyage round the world.
At last the chest was packed, and lashed on behind the post-chaise. A few minutes more, and the old home which knew me would know me no more for many a long day. Can I describe that parting? Still, all bore up heroically. I did my best not to give way, but there was a hot, choking sensation in my throat, as if a Thug from India had got his fatal noose tight round my jugular vein; and a pulling away at the heart, as if the fangs of a stout double tooth were firmly clenched in it, and a strong-fisted dentist was hauling it out. My father and Jack were going with me to see me on board. I believe Jack envied me, and wished that he was going too, instead of having to pore over dusty parchments. My mother folded me in her arms, and kept me there. That was the worst. Still, I could not bear to break away.
"Come, Harry," said my father, "we shall miss the train." He took me gently by the shoulder, and guided me into the carriage. I took a last kiss from Mary's dear lips as I passed her. "I shall be back to-morrow evening, I hope," said he, following me.
"I say, Harry, don't forget the bows and arrows you are to bring me from the Tonga Islands!" sung out Willie.
"Or the hunting-panther from South America!" cried Georgie.
"Or the parrots from Africa!" exclaimed Mary through her tears.
"Or the love-birds from India!" said Julia.
"Or my ivory fan from China, young sailor boy!" said Isabella.
"Don't forget the journal you are to keep, or the subjects I asked you to note for me!" exclaimed the studious James.
Thus, amid various shouts and exclamations of a similar character, the moment Jack mounted on the box we drove off towards the nearest station on the railway which was to convey us to Liverpool. My father said nothing for some time, and I felt that I could not utter a word without allowing my feelings to get the better of me. However, by the time we reached the station, I had much recovered my spirits; and when once we were in the railway, Jack had so much to talk about, and cut so many jokes, that I became very happy, as he did not leave me a moment to think about the dear home I had left. I have often since thought, when I have seen people grumbling at home, or finding fault or quarrelling with their brothers and sisters or parents, let them go away and get knocked and kicked about the world, and they will have good reason to value their own quiet home as they ought.
I thought Liverpool a very fine city, with its large public buildings, and its broad streets, and its churches, and its Sailors' Home, which I visited, where sailors have a large smoking-hall, and dining-rooms, and a lecture-room, and a chapel, and where some hundreds may each have a little separate cabin to himself. I wish every port in the world, much frequented by shipping, had a place of a similar character. Most of all, I was struck with the docks, crowded with ships of great size, and, indeed, craft of every description and nation; as also with its wide quays and wharfs, and floating landing-stages, and steamers dashing in and out, and running up and down the river in such a hurry, that they looked as if they were conscious that they had to struggle for their existence among the struggling human multitude of the place. We inquired for the Triton.
"There she is, with the blue Peter flying at the fore! She sails to-night, don't she, Tom?" said a waterman whom we addressed. "Do you want a boat, gintlemen?"
My father said, "Yes;" and agreed with the man as to his fare.
We stepped into his boat, and away we pulled towards my future home—the good ship Triton. I had never seen a ship before, it must be remembered. I had looked at pictures of them, so I was acquainted with their shape; but I had formed no adequate idea of the size of a large ship; and as the boat lay alongside of the Triton, and I looked up and saw one of the officers standing at the gangway to receive us, it appeared something like scaling the walls of a castle to climb up to the deck. What should I have thought had the Triton been a hundred and twenty gun-ship, instead of a merchantman of 500 tons, for such was her size! However, I then thought her a magnificent ship; she was indeed a very fine one for her size. Side ropes being rigged, we soon gained her deck. The captain was still on shore, but my father at once made out Silas Brand. He was a shortish, rather thick-set, fair man, with a roundish face and a somewhat florid complexion. He had light hair, with largish whiskers, and he shaved his chin in harbour. I had to look at him frequently, and to talk to him more than once, before I discovered that his countenance showed much firmness and decision, and that his smile betokened more than a good-natured, easy disposition. My father had a good deal of talk with him, while Jack and I went round to see the ship. In the course of our peregrinations, we entered what I found was the captain's cabin. A lad of about my own age was sitting at a table, with a book and slate before him. He turned round when the door opened, and eyed me narrowly before he got up from his chair. Then, apparently recollecting himself, he advanced towards us.
"Are you the new youngster who is to sail with us?" said he, putting out his hand. "My name is Gerard Frankland, though it is seldom people take the trouble of calling me more than Jerry. My father told me to expect you. I'm to look after you, and see you don't get into mischief, I suppose. I'll be very strict with you, mind that!"
Amused with his free and easy way, I told him that he was not mistaken as to my identity.
"That's all right then," he answered. "This gentleman is your brother. Take a seat, sir, and make yourself at home. You'll have something? When my father is on shore, I reign here supreme, though on deck, to be sure, I can't boast much of my authority. Steward, bring glasses, and biscuits, and anything else! You're not going with us, sir? I wish you were. We'll have rare fun before we come back, I'll warrant."
"No," answered Jack, laughing, and highly diverted with Master Jerry's volubility and perfect self-possession. "I should much like to take the trip though. However, my brother Harry will, I hope, on your return, give us a full account of all you see and do."
"He'll have plenty to tell then of what we do, and not a little of what we see," answered Jerry, with a sort of a half wink at me, which was as much as to say, "We'll be up to all sorts of things." He added aloud, "My father is not the man to let the grass grow under the ship's bottom; but here come the glasses! What will you have—hot or cold?"
"Thank you," said Jack; "our father is here, and we must not stop. We came to see Harry on board, and have soon to return on shore." While he was speaking, our father appeared at the door, accompanied by Silas Brand.
Gerard's whole manner changed the moment he saw them. He got up to receive my father with perfect politeness; and, instead of exhibiting the forward, flippant manner with which he had treated us, he turned at once into a steady-looking, somewhat demure boy. My father, after addressing a few kind words to him, and telling him that he was his father's oldest friend, signed to me that he wished to speak to me alone. He took me into Silas Brand's cabin, and kneeling down, offered up a few prayers, full of deep, deep love, for my preservation from all earthly dangers, and for my acceptance as a forgiven sinner at the day of judgment.
"Look straight on beyond this transient world in all you think, or try, or do. Remember, delightful as this existence may appear, and undoubtedly is to those who know how to employ it properly, it is but a passage which leads to eternity. May Heaven guide you, my boy!" He took me in his arms, and then I knew how his fond, tender heart felt the parting. He burst into tears: he was not long in recovering himself.
Captain Frankland came on board. Last farewells were said. My dear father and Jack went down the ship's side. The pilot remarked that the tide would suit. The anchor was hove up. A steamer took us in tow; then, after pulling ahead of us for a couple of hours or more, she cast off. All sail was set, and free of the Mersey's mouth, away we glided on our voyage Round the World.
THE VOYAGE COMMENCED.
The Triton was a well-found, well-officered, and well-manned ship. Still, on first getting to sea, there appeared to be a considerable amount of disorder, and the crew were incessantly employed in stowing away the last stores which had come on board, and in getting everything into its right place. This gave me a feeling that I was not in my right place, for no one had a moment to attend to me, and to tell me what to do; and had it not been for Gerard, I should have felt not a little miserable. He was as active as any one, and seemed to be thoroughly up to his duty. He did, however, find time to speak to me.
"I'll tell you what to do, Harry," said he; "just keep out of the way, and look on. You'll learn more in that manner just now than in any other. You'll have plenty of time to get up your seamanship by-and-by."
I followed his advice to great advantage. The first manoeuvre I saw performed on board was when, having got clear of all the shoals and dangers at the mouth of the Mersey, we shortened sail to allow the pilot to enter his boat, and the last person we were to see for many a day connected with home took his departure. He shook hands with the captain and mates, and wished us a good voyage and speedy return. I watched the boat as it proceeded towards the pilot-cutter with a curious feeling of interest. I was aroused by Gerard, who asked me why I was so sentimental. He saw nothing in a pilot-boat leaving the ship. The last I saw of our native land were the lofty cliffs of Wales. I came on deck early in the morning; and, as I looked out aft, they appeared receding fast on the larboard-quarter, across the bright blue sea. Turning round, my somewhat bewildered glance next wandered upwards, and there I beheld, with unrestrained admiration, the wide spread of white canvas which hung extended on the yards, high, high up in the blue sky, like a vast mass of snowy cloud. It looked to me as if there was enough sail to fly away with the whole ship and her cargo; for, the breeze being light and fair, we had all our courses, and topsails, and topgallant-sails, and royals set with studding-sails also on either side, almost sweeping the sparkling waters which danced off from the Triton's sharp bows as she clove her stately yet rapid way through the ocean. Captain Frankland was anxious to take every advantage of the favourable wind, that we might get a good distance from the land, and thus not run the chance of being driven back again, and be compelled, as is often the case with outward-bound ships, to take shelter in that magnificent harbour—Milford Haven, or in the still more lovely one of Queenstown, on the Irish coast. Away we flew, every day going faster and faster as the breeze freshened.
"Not a brace, nor a tack, nor a sheet did we slack" on board of the gallant Triton for a whole week; and then it fell calm, and we lay washing our sides up to the scuppers in the pure waters of the Atlantic. During this time everything was got to rights, and I began to find my way about every part of the ship, and to learn the names of the spars, and ropes, and sails. Gerard very soon dared me to go aloft; of course I was nothing loath.
"Follow me, then, youngster!" said he; and with a wicked look, up he went the main rigging. I ascended readily enough, intending to go through the lubbers' hole, as the opening in the top is called through which the lower shrouds lead. This way is quite allowable for a landsman; but Jerry, having no fear of my breaking my neck before his eyes, led the way by the futtock-shroud; and, as he quickly stood up in the top, I saw his face grinning over me while I hung with my back over the ocean, very doubtful whether I could climb round so as to get hold of the topmast-shrouds.
"Don't let your feet go till you have got a firm grip of this rope here," said he, touching the shroud. I clutched hold of it: then up I slipped my other hand, and, drawing up my knees, soon had them on the combing of the top, and found myself standing alongside my companion. I should have liked to have stopped to take breath and look about me; but, before I could utter a word, he was off again, up the topmast-rigging, with the agility of a monkey, and laughingly sung out to me to join him on the cross-trees. I thought he would surely rest there, but away he was again, nor did he stop till he had got hold of the main-truck; and, as he clung on with his chin over it, he took off his cap and waved it round his head. My blood was warmed with the exercise and the excitement, and I was close after him. The moment he was down I took his place, and did the same thing; but I had to be quick in following him, not to miss the way he was leading. Down he slid by the main-topmast-stay, and in an instant more he was climbing the fore-topmast rigging. He waited for me, however, and waved me on. I did not remark that two seamen, the oldest hands on board, were at the same time deliberately mounting the fore-shrouds. Just as I reached the fore-topmast cross-trees, they were up to me.
"You han't paid your footing up here, young master," said one, old Ben Yool by name. He spoke in a gruff voice, as if he had not a soft particle in his whole composition.
"You know what that means, master?" added the other, Charlie Cockle, as he was called, imitating him.
"I don't know what you want, but I know that you are two to one, which isn't fair, at all events; and, do you see, I am not accustomed to give in to threats," said I, and endeavoured to climb away from them, not knowing exactly where I was going.
The midge caught in a web might as well attempt to escape from a hungry spider. They caught me in a moment; and, without further ceremony, stretching out my arms and legs, lashed them to the topmast-rigging, making what is called a spread eagle of me. It was very humiliating, though my position was thus exalted, and very unromantic; and the rogue Jerry aggravated my feelings by pretending to pity me, though I guessed even then that he had arranged the plan beforehand with Yool and Cockle thus to entrap me. The seamen had descended towards the deck, leaving me bound in this ignominious manner. Jerry came and placed himself in the rigging opposite to me.
"It must be very unpleasant!" quoth he. "I wonder what they would say if I was to let you loose?"
"I wish you would," I answered. "It's a great shame, and I don't like it."
"But I dare not," he replied, putting on a pretended serious face, though he could not hide the twinkle of his laughing eyes; "they are such precious fierce fellows. But don't you think that you might buy yourself off? I'll see if I can arrange the matter with them."
I saw that there would be no use contending against my tormentor, and I was more hurt than I choose to acknowledge; so I wisely agreed to pay any moderate sum to be released. The arrangement was soon made; and Yool and Cockle, having unlashed my limbs, begged my pardon, and complimented me on the daring and agility I had displayed on this my first climb aloft.
This adventure, as I took the treatment I received good humouredly, made me capital friends with all the seamen, and I found that there were not kinder-hearted or better men on board than Yool and Cockle. I observed that Jerry took the opportunity when his father was below to play off the tricks imagined by his fertile brain, though he was sometimes discovered and reprimanded; but he put on so penitent an expression, and had such comical excuses to offer, that Captain Frankland saw that it would be worse than useless to punish him. Indeed, punishment would scarcely have corrected such faults as he had. Gerard, from being small, and having delicate features, though they were full of rich humour, looked younger than I did; but he was in reality older, and had much more experience of the world. His constitution was considered delicate, which was the reason his father took him to sea at first; but now he liked the life so much, he told me, that he had resolved to follow it as a profession. We both of us slept in a cabin which we had to ourselves, near the captain's. Gerard was learning navigation; and Captain Frankland told me that I must study hard to catch him up, so that we might work together. He superintended our studies; but Silas Brand was our chief master, and somehow or other, in his quiet way, he managed to impart a considerable amount of information in a pleasant and rapid manner. It appeared to me that he always said the right thing at the right time, so as to impress it on the memory. Our first officer, John Renshaw, was a very worthy man, but totally unlike my Cousin Silas. He was tall and thin, and had a long weather-beaten, rather melancholy-looking face. Not that he was melancholy; the form of his features made him look so. It is better, however, to look melancholy than to have facetious features, which always appear to be on a broad grin. A strong contrast to both of them was found in our third officer, Samuel Melgrove. He was a man with strongly-marked, rather coarse features, with red hair and complexion. One might have expected to hear only the roughest tones come out of such a mouth as he possessed; but, instead, he spoke in a soft, somewhat mincing manner, and prided himself on his gentlemanly style and volubility. He could, however, speak loud and rough enough in case of necessity. If called on suddenly to shorten sail, no one could make himself better heard. The mates on board a merchantman have the same sort of duty as the lieutenants of a man-of-war, with the addition of having to attend to the stowing of the cargo and stores. We had also a surgeon, who was a good naturalist and a very scientific man—Mr David McRitchie. He evidently at first looked with very grave suspicion on Gerard and me, as if we were only waiting our opportunity to play him some trick; and when he left his cabin he always locked the door, lest we should get in and do some mischief; but such an idea was, I must say, very far from my thoughts, and even Gerard respected him too much to wish to annoy him. How to convince him of this seemed a difficulty. Gerard undertook to assure him.
"Mr McRitchie," said he one day abruptly to him, "I daresay that you think me a young jackanapes, whose only thought is how he can do most harm in the world. Now, sir, you are mistaken; all I want is that you will impart some of your knowledge to Harry and me; but, understand, whether you do that or not, Harry and I will make it a point of honour not to do you any injury by word, look, or deed."
"Oh, I never—Well, well, you are good boys, and I perfectly trust you," stuttered out the doctor, completely taken by surprise. "I shall be glad, too, to give you all the information in my power; and I hope, in the course of the voyage, we may have many interesting subjects to see and talk about." I was sure that Mr McRitchie would faithfully keep his word.
We had three other somewhat important personages on board who were characters in their way—Richard Fleming the boatswain, James Pincott the carpenter, and Thomas Veal the captain's steward. They each had their peculiarities; but I will not stop now to describe them. We had twenty men forward, all picked hands; for, with the long voyage we contemplated, and the service we were on, it was necessary to be strongly manned. I must not omit a description of the Triton herself. She had a raised poop, beneath which were situated the chief cabins, and a forecastle, under which the crew lived in two compartments, one on either side of it. There was also a caboose, or galley, with a great cooking-range, and, indeed, every convenience the men could desire. We carried eight guns—9-pounders—for we were going into seas where it would be necessary to be well-armed, and constantly on our guard against treachery; and we were also amply supplied with boats, which, I may remark, were always kept in good order, and ready for instant use. I was surprised one day during a calm, before we had been long at sea, to hear the order given to lower boats when there was no ship in sight, and apparently no reason for it. So were those of the crew who had not before sailed with Captain Frankland. They, however, flew to obey the order, and, in a short time, three boats were manned and in the water. They were then hoisted in again, and stowed.
"Very well," said the captain, holding his watch in his hand. "Smartly done, my lads; but another time, I think, we may do it still quicker."
Some of the men, of course, grumbled, as I have found out that some people will grumble when any new system is introduced, the object of which they do not understand. The loudest grumbler at anything new introduced on board was old Fleming the boatswain. He called himself a Conservative, or, rather, a Tory, and strongly opposed all change.
"None of your newfangled notions for me," he used to observe; "I like things as they were. Do you think our fathers would have all along been satisfied with them if they hadn't been good? I look upon it as disrespectful to their memory to wish to have them changed, as if we thought ourselves so much wiser and better than they were."
Gerard and I were fond of going forward to the forecastle, where, in fine weather, in an evening, he always took his seat with his pipe in his mouth.
"By the same rule it was wrong to introduce the compass or the steam-engine; former generations had done very well without them; yet how should we, on a dark night, have managed to steer across the ocean as we do, or how could people manage to get about the world as rapidly as they find necessary for their business or pleasure?"
Gerard thought that this remark would be a poser for the boatswain; but old Fleming was not so easily defeated.
"As to the matter of the compass, do you see, that's what I call an exception to the general rule," he answered, with a serious look. "But as for the railways and steam-engines, and all those sort of things afloat or ashore, to my mind the world would be altogether much better without them. It's necessary for sailors to go about, that's granted; but the rest of the world would be very much better staying at home and minding their own business. What I preach I practise; and when I leaves home I says to my missus, says I, 'Now mind, Molly, don't you be going gadding about till I comes back to look after you;' and she'd no more think of going outside the street-door, except when she goes to church or a-marketing, than she'd try to fly, and that would be no easy matter for her, seeing that she weighs thirteen stone at least."
Such is a specimen of old Fleming's style of conversation. Gerard and I used to be much amused while listening to him, though we did not fail to make the most of his remarks while repeating them to the mates. James Pincott the carpenter, on the contrary, was a great reformer. No invention was too new to suit his taste. Whenever he heard of any discovery, he could not be contented till he saw it introduced. We often tried to get the two together, and very soon managed to throw an apple of discord between them. Pincott occupied much of his thoughts about a flying-machine, which no failure had taught him to believe could not be made to work.
"I'll tell you what, mate, there's just this difference between you and me in this matter," I heard Fleming remark; "you says a flying-machine can be made; so do I. You may make fifty flying-machines, or a hundred, or five hundred for that matter, all different, and with all sorts of wheels, and cogs, and what not, which nobody can understand; but when they are made, what I have to ask you, mate, is, will they fly? It's there you and I differ."
Having thus delivered himself, Fleming drew himself up with a triumphant look at his adversary. Now, Pincott was a very quiet man with all his eccentricities, so he merely answered—
"It will be enough for me if one can be made to fly. That's all I argue for."
"It never has been done yet, and, to my mind, never will," answered Fleming, sturdily; "though I have heard of a man who made his son put on a pair of wings which he had fabricated, and shoved him off the top of a high wall, and when the lad, as was to be expected, reached the ground, he broke his leg."
This was a story told of Pincott, who, however, on all occasions stoutly denied that he was the culprit. Another story against Pincott was, that when first iron vessels were introduced, he declared that it was impossible they could swim. "No, no," it was said he said, "birds can fly, so I don't see why men shouldn't; but iron always has sunk, and, to my mind, it always will sink." Fleming, who told the story, used to wind up with the remark, "But then you see, mate, there's no rule without an exception." As these disputes never led to any disagreeable consequences, they served to beguile away many a weary hour at sea. But I have said enough to describe the character of our inferior officers. They were both thoroughly good seamen and steady men.
We had hitherto had little else than sunshine and light winds, so that my introduction to a sea life was most favourable. Gloriously rose the sun over the blue sparkling waters, when, on coming on deck, I found the ship steering south-west, and standing in for the Bay of Funchal in the lofty island of Madeira. On one side of us were the Desertas—rocks which Gerard told me gravely were so-called because they had once belonged to the mainland, and were now making the best of their way off to Africa; but the doctor differed with him, and observed that they obtained their name from being desert or barren rocks, especially compared with the fertile island near which they are placed. Lovely as is the interior of our dear old country, few parts of its shores are attractive; and as this was the first land we had made after leaving home, it seemed doubly beautiful. It appeared, as it rose before us, like one vast mountain extending from east to west, with a bay in the centre, and covered in the richest profusion with beautiful trees of many different sorts, among which, I afterwards found, are the cedar, chestnut, orange, lemon, fig, citron, the vine, the olive, the mulberry, banana, and pomegranate, while generous nature sprinkles with no lavish hand the myrtle, the geranium, the rose, and the violet in every open space. The geranium especially grows in vast quantities; its scent is most powerful, and the honey which we got in the island was strongly flavoured with it. But I forgot; we are not on shore yet. How bright, and beautiful, and rich, and fertile, and romantic everything looked! What charming white-washed cottages! What lovely villas, surrounded by gardens filled with flowers of every hue! What a pretty town stretching away round the shores of the bay! How clean, and neat, and comfortable all the dwellings! and how grand the churches and public buildings. Gerard and I agreed that we should like to come back there some day after we had done our wanderings, and take up our abode for the rest of our days.
"Stay till you have been on shore and seen the inside as well as the outside of things," observed Cousin Silas, who had overheard us. We thought he was in what we used to call one of his grumpy humours, and did not heed him. We sailed on, and dropped our anchor opposite to the city of Funchal. A health-boat came off, but as no one was sick on board, the people in her did not trouble us much. When she went away, we were surrounded with other boats pulled by swarthy, muscular, little men with gay caps and sashes, and white shirt sleeves, who bawled, and hallooed, and jabbered, in the vain hope of making us comprehend what they said. We shouted and hallooed in return, as if each party were deaf; and it was not till after a considerable expenditure of breath, that we discovered that we did not understand a word of each other's language; so at last we took to making signs, by which means we got on much better. There was no great difficulty in this, as they had an abundance of fruit to sell, which we were equally anxious to buy.
The captain had, I found, touched here chiefly to get a supply of fruit, vegetables, fresh meat, and water, as he knew that the health of a crew is maintained without difficulty when there is an abundance of these necessaries. He had also another reason for coming here. It was to obtain information, which the Portuguese authorities were able to supply, regarding certain places he proposed visiting. As, however, the whole plan of our proceedings was to be kept secret, I will not touch on that subject. Gerard and I were all anxiety to go on shore, so the captain gave us leave to accompany Mr Brand, with strict charges to him to keep us out of mischief. "Not an easy job!" muttered Silas, preparing to accompany us into a boat. For the first time in my life I stood on foreign soil, and very soon I was undeceived as to the cleanliness, and comfort, and beauty of the habitations; and many a house which looked so very picturesque at a distance was found, on a nearer inspection, to be a very dirty domicile. Still the views from them were beautiful. Nature has done everything; it is graceless man who is in fault that all is not in accordance with it. At the corner of one of the streets we saw a number of horses, and mules, and donkeys, standing together with their attendant drivers—arrieros.
"Wouldn't you like a ride, Mr Brand?" exclaimed Gerard, looking towards them. He had not to look twice before the whole posse commitatus of men and boys rushed forward, and seizing us vi et armis, carried us off in triumph towards their sorry-looking beasts. Which party would have us seemed a question. Who ever heard of sailors who didn't want to ride? Ride we must; but as there were thirty or more beasts, and only three of us, it was difficult to say which of them should have the honour of carrying us. The arrieros got one of Cousin Silas's legs put on the back of a horse, and another on that of a mule, while a little wicked donkey began kicking and plunging directly under him. At last he sprang on to the back of the horse, and Gerard and I found ourselves somehow or other on the saddles of two mules, when their respective owners, catching hold of their long tails, and giving them a prong with their iron-pointed sticks, away we started from out of the crowd, who all hallooed and shouted after us, till we had shot some way up one of the steep rocky heights over which the bridle-paths of the island lead. "Arra burra—arra, arra, arra!" sung out the crowd. "Arra, arra, arra!" repeated our arrieros, goading the unfortunate animals with their sticks—"Arra, sish, sish!" It is hopeless to imitate the sounds emitted by our drivers. Up we shot like pellets from popguns, through the narrow rock-strewn gorges which are called roads. Up, up, up the animals scrambled. They seemed to enjoy the fun, or, perhaps, wiser than men, they felt a pleasure in performing their daily duty. We, too, enjoyed the magnificent views we got over vineyards, and fields, and orange-groves, and olive-plantations, with often deep precipices below us, and the blue sparkling sea in the distance. We passed several buildings, once convents and nunneries; but when the constitutional government was established in Portugal, the monks were turned out of their habitations to gain an honest livelihood as best they could, though the nuns were in some instances allowed to remain in their abodes, on condition of their admitting no fresh novices. Thus, by this time the greater number of professed nuns are old women. They employ themselves in fabricating artificial flowers of shells and feathers, baskets and ornaments of various sorts, as well as in making dried fruits and sweetmeats. As Cousin Silas observed, it might have appeared hard to turn the poor monks adrift in the world; but as ill weeds grow apace, it was necessary to eradicate them, lest a fresh crop should spring up where they had for so long taken root.
We dined with an English merchant, an old friend of Captain Frankland's, who treated us most sumptuously. He told us of a curious disease which had lately attacked the vines, and which he feared would ultimately destroy them. The grapes growing on the diseased vines, instead of ripening, wither up and rot. He said that he had urged the inhabitants of the island not to depend solely on their vines, but to endeavour to produce other articles for which their soil and climate was especially suited. Among other things he introduced the mulberry-tree, by the cultivation of which large numbers of the silk-worm might be bred, and silk in great quantities exported. Under the present system, when the vines fail, as the people do not grow sufficient corn in the island for their support, they are at once reduced to a state of famine. But I must not prolong my description of Madeira. It is a very lovely island, and has a very delicious climate, and produces all sorts of nice fruits; and though the inhabitants have rather a fancy for being dirty, the English residents set them a better example, and have introduced comforts and conveniences which make the country a very pleasant abode. The island is about thirty-seven miles in length by eleven in breadth, and contains perhaps 60,000 inhabitants.
Again sail was made on the ship, and away we glided over the smooth ocean with a north-easterly breeze, passing within two miles of the island of Palma, one of the Canaries, or Fortunate Islands, which belong to Spain. The appearance, as we eyed it from the ship, was most attractive; but Silas, who had been on shore there, told us that through the misgovernment of the upper classes, and the slothfulness of the lower, the land does not produce nearly what it might be made to do, while the people remain in a poor and backward condition. Before sunset the same day we saw the island of Ferro, the most western of the group. Before the discovery of America, this was looked on as the extreme western limits of the habitable world, and till very lately some navigators calculated their first meridian from thence. There are thirteen islands in the group, which produce corn, silk, tobacco, sugar, and the wine which was so long known under their name. We caught about here the regular north-east trade-wind; away we went before it as steadily and majestically as a swan glides over his native lake. I hope every reader of my adventures will look at the map, and see whereabouts the places I mention are situated, or they will find some difficulty in clearly comprehending my descriptions.
We had, I thought, been a long time at sea without meeting with anything very amusing.
"I say, Jerry, when are we to fall in with all the wonderful adventures you told me of?" I asked one day, as we were walking the deck together.
"You would meet with plenty of wonders if you would but keep your eyes open to see them," observed Cousin Silas, who overheard my observation. The reply, however, did not quite satisfy me; nothing like a gale or bad weather had occurred, and I began to suspect that we had already had a sample of the sort of life we were always to undergo at sea.
"Hillo!" exclaimed Jerry soon after this, "what has come over the air, I wonder? Why, we have got into a regular red fog. What has caused it, Mr Brand; can you tell me?"
"No, indeed, I cannot," answered Silas. "I've met with it more than once. It is a very curious phenomenon."
"They do say it comes off from the coast of Africa," remarked Ben Yool, who was at the wheel, and from his age privileged to speak on such a matter. "It's full of red sand, and I've seen it covering the decks in some parts as if a man had been scraping a red holystone over them."
We were still discussing the subject, when Captain Frankland came on deck. He listened for some time to what we were saying.
"I am glad to hear you discuss the subject, my lads," he remarked in a kind voice. "Though you are wrong in your conjectures, if you will attend, I will try and explain what I know about the matter. It is a very important one, for by means of this dust—for dust it is—which fills the air, philosophers have been able to determine in part the difficult problem of the track of the winds in their circuits. How is this? you will say. Dust coming from one place surely cannot be distinguishable from dust coming from another. To the ignorant man it is not, but to the man of science it is. There are certain minute animal productions called infusoria and organisms peculiar to each portion of the globe. The expression is, the habitat of such infusoria is such or such a place. These infusoria can only be distinguished by a most powerful microscope. Professor Ehrenberg, who has devoted his attention to the subject, has examined specimens of the dust which is now falling on our decks. He found it composed of dry infusoria, the forms of which are found not on an African desert, but in the south-east trade-wind regions of South America."
"South America, father!" exclaimed Jerry, pointing with his hand to the south-west. "How can those clouds of red dust come all the way out here in the teeth of the north-east trade-wind?"
"What becomes of the north-east trade-wind when it reaches the end of its journey, and where is that end think you, my boy?" asked Captain Frankland. Jerry looked puzzled, and I had not a notion to give forth on the subject. "I will try and explain the matter; but when you can obtain a work, written by Lieutenant Maury, of the American navy, you will comprehend the subject much better," said Captain Frankland. "There are three calm regions or belts surrounding the globe—one under the equator, and one in each hemisphere, under the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, which you have heard spoken of as the horse latitudes. Between these two belts blow the north-east and south-east trade-winds, meeting at the equatorial belt. Now, when they get there, instead of causing a whirlwind, the excessive heat causes the particles of which they are composed to expand and rise, gradually producing a calm. After rising a certain height, they again commence moving round the globe. Which course they took it was difficult to say, till we find these clouds of red dust carried along in an upper region of the atmosphere from south-west to north-east; for not only are they found here, but up the Mediterranean and across Switzerland. They are raised into the atmosphere probably by whirlwinds which occur during the vernal equinox, which is the dry season, from the valley of the lower Orinoco. Thus, had a label been attached to each particle of which the wind is composed, to show whence it came, the problem could not have been more perfectly solved."
While the captain was speaking, Mr McRitchie came on deck, and collected in sheets of paper a quantity of the red dust. "It will be prized by some of my scientific friends at home," he observed; "and even the unscientific may value a substance which has travelled half round the globe high up in the atmosphere."
"There is another substance, doctor, which travels farther, and is of much greater use to man; and yet how little he troubles his head to consider where it comes from," remarked the captain.
"What do you mean, sir?" asked the doctor, a little puzzled I thought.
"Water," answered Captain Frankland. "Remember those dense fogs, like wet blankets, which so continually rise in those calm regions to the south of us; they are caused by vapours rising from the sea, and leaving its salt behind. This vapour must go somewhere, and it certainly does not fall in any place near the region where it is drawn up. See the beautiful provision of Nature to supply with fertilising moisture the many districts of the earth! This damp vapour, of which we shall by-and-by have a specimen, rises into the upper regions of the air, and is there wafted steadily on till it reaches the northern portion of the globe. It is raised by the powerful rays of the sun during the southern summer, and with it a considerable amount of heat is carried off which remains latent. When it reaches the far colder atmosphere of the north, it is formed into clouds, and condensed, and then precipitated in rain. In the southern hemisphere there is, as you know, a larger proportion of sea than in that of the north; and thus it serves as a reservoir to supply those spots which would otherwise be arid deserts, with an abundant supply of the chief necessary of life. The whole of nature is full of similar beautiful arrangements for making the globe a convenient habitation for man, clearly to be perceived if men would but open their eyes to behold them."
THE WONDERS OF THE OCEAN.
We were about a day's sail or so from the Cape de Verd Islands, when one day, as I was looking out, I saw on the starboard-bow what I was certain was a shoal of great extent covered with sea-weed. "Land on the starboard-bow!" I sung out, thinking there could be no mistake about the matter. I heard a loud laugh at my shoulder. Old Ben Yool stood there.
"Well, if that is not land, I do not know what is!" I replied. But still Ben only laughed at me. I was arguing the point, when the captain, who was on deck, called me aft. I found him with a chart, which he was showing to Gerard.
"You are not the first person, Harry, who has taken that collection of sea-weed for land," he observed. "That is the Sargasso Sea. When the companions of Columbus sighted it, they thought that it marked the extreme limits of the navigable ocean. We are at the southern edge of it. Look at this chart; it extends in a triangular form between the groups of the Azores, Canaries, and Cape de Verds. It is caused by the Gulf Stream, which, circling round the Atlantic, sends off towards the centre all the sea-weed and drift-wood collected in its course. Throw some chips into that tub; now, set the water in motion with your hand. The current you have created sends off all the chips into the centre of the tub. You need never forget how this Sargasso Sea becomes covered with weed. But you will wish to know something about this wonderful Gulf Stream, which not only produces the effect I have described, but exerts a very powerful influence, on the climate of many countries, and on the navigation of the Atlantic, besides causing many other important results. It is, indeed, one of the most wonderful of all the phenomena of the ocean. Consider it as a mighty river of warm water flowing for three thousand miles with scarcely diminished volume, never dying, never overflowing, over a bottom and between banks of cold water. So little affinity have its waters with the common water of the ocean, and so different is their colour, that a distinct line can often be traced where they pass along. See where it takes its rise in the Gulf of Mexico, whence it is called the Gulf Stream. Now, mark its course, and note its effects. Remember, that not only is it warm itself, but it warms the air which passes over it. It likewise contains much more salt than the common sea-water. The salt gives it its peculiar deep indigo-like colour. It runs at the rate of between three and five miles an hour. It is roof-shaped—that is, higher in the centre than on either side. This is proved by placing a boat on either side of the centre, when it drifts off towards the edge nearest to which it is cast loose. Another peculiarity exists in connection with it. Water radiates heat far more slowly than does the earth. If, therefore, the Gulf Stream swept along the ground, it would speedily lose its heat. To prevent this, it is made to pass over a cushion of cold water, into which its heat does not readily pass. When, however, its waters wash any shores, they impart some of their heat to them, increasing the warmth of the climate, adding fertility to the soil, and making it a more agreeable abode for man. Now, look at the chart, and observe where the mighty current leaves its reputed source in the Gulf of Mexico. Mark it sweeping round the coast of Florida, and glancing off to the eastward near Cape Hatteras, in the United States, allowing a belt of cold water to wash the shores of that country during the winter months of the year. Watch it passing near the coast of Nova Scotia, and in the summer, not far from that of Newfoundland, where it has undoubtedly caused the formation of the well-known fishing-banks. This is the way they have been produced. When the summer sun releases the innumerable mighty icebergs which have been formed on the shores of the polar regions, they float away to the south, carried by a current which sets towards Newfoundland. They bear away with them vast quantities of rock, and stones, and sand. Meeting the hot water of the Gulf Stream, they quickly melt and deposit their burdens at the bottom, always about the same spot which you see marked as the Grand Bank. Now the stream, taking an easterly course, reaches the 40th degree of north latitude, when it begins to spread itself over the colder water of the ocean, washing the shores of Ireland; some going up towards Spitzbergen, surrounding the Shetland Isles, and other isles in the north; more rushing up the British Channel; and another quantity flowing into the Bay of Biscay, and away again towards the south—adding warmth to the whole of the indented shores of Europe, and at the same time supplying the deficiency of salt to the waters flowing out of the Baltic and the Polar basin."
"Thank you, father," exclaimed Gerard; "I now understand why, when last year we made the voyage to New York, we kept away so far to the northward. It was to avoid the Gulf Stream, which would have been setting against us. But I say, father, I want to know why the water takes it into its head to flow in that way. I suppose there is some cause for it?"
"Our beneficent Maker undoubtedly formed it for the benefit of his creatures," returned the captain; "but, as I have often told you, he brings about his purposes by the laws or causes which he himself has established. There may be several causes in operation to form this ocean-stream, though up to this moment learned men have been unable to decide what they are. Now one theory is advanced, now another. The shape of the Gulf Stream may have something to do with it. It appears that it is higher than the rest of the surface, for it is more bulky. Water will always seek its level. It has thus a tendency to flow towards the colder and lower water of the poles, feeling at the same time the effect of the diurnal motion of the globe; while the water of the poles, to supply its place, flows towards the equator, subject to the same disturbing cause. Thus the water of the globe is set in motion. These being hot, tropical waters, remain on the surface, and a portion of them is forced into the Gulf of Mexico. Here, though they lose somewhat of their saltness from the fresh waters of the Mississippi and Orinoco, they gain more heat from these hot streams, and are still much Salter than the rest of the ocean. Perhaps the impetus may be given them by the pressure of the currents from the poles. The diurnal motion of the globe will account for the drift-wood and sea-weed being cast off on the east or left bank of the stream. There is another cause for this. From the stream being roof-shaped, any drift which its left portion took up would have to go up hill to get to the northward. Therefore, though trees and other produce of the West Indies are found on the shores of Europe, none are ever picked up on those of America. And this brings me to the point from which I set out—the cause of the Sargasso Sea, the centre, it may be called, of this wondrous and almost inexplicable Gulf Stream."
"But, father, still you have not told us why the Gulf Stream flows in the direction it does," said Gerard, who generally stuck to the point in an argument on which he wanted information.
"Men possessed of far more scientific knowledge than I can boast of, have been puzzled to reply to that question," returned the captain. "The trade-winds, the diurnal motion of the earth, the expansion of water by heat, may all combine to force it along and direct its course; and yet there may be some still more potent cause at work unperceived by us, perhaps undiscoverable. One thing we know, that it was the will of the Almighty that so it should flow, for a great and beneficent object; and that, to effect it, he has employed some potent and sufficient agent, which, when he thinks fit, he will allow to be revealed to us by the light of that science which he has given as one of his best gifts to man. There are, as you perceive on the charts, other currents in the vast ocean, all set in movement for the sake of benefiting the inhabitants of the globe. While the warm Gulf Stream runs up to Spitzbergen, the Hudson's Bay and Arctic currents bring cold water and icebergs towards the south; and a current from the North Atlantic carries its cooling waters round the arid shores of western Africa. There is the great equatorial current from east to west round the world, and numerous other currents in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the influence of which we shall feel during our voyage; and by knowing where to search for them, and where to avoid them, we can generally make them serviceable to our object. What I would especially point out to you, my lads, is the beautiful adaptation of all the works of the Creator to the great object of the whole. The air and water are kept in motion for the benefit of man and all living beings. Order everywhere reigns supreme. Science shows us that storms are regulated by exact laws, and it is only through our ignorance and blindness that we cannot tell whence they come, and whither they go. What an admirable system of compensation exists throughout the universe! Heat, lost by radiation, is quickly restored; water, lifted up by evaporation, has its place supplied by colder currents; mighty rivers discharge their waters in vast quantities into the ocean, and from the far-off regions of the tropics the winds come loaded with dense vapours, which, precipitated at their sources with ample and regular measure, supply all their demands. I might produce numberless examples. As an instance, the whole volume of the waters of the Mississippi, rushing out at its mouth, find their way back again in an ever-constant circle to its sources among the far-off lakes of North America. The Gulf Stream fertilises the earth for the benefit of man, and it likewise carries food to regions frequented by the mighty whales. Frequently large shoals of sea-nettles, on which the black whale feeds, have been met with, borne onward towards its haunts in the north. The whale itself, it is believed, could not exist in the warm waters of the stream. Fish, also, are not generally found in it; and those which inhabit it are of a very inferior flavour. Instead, therefore, of wandering about the ocean, where they could not be procured by man, they are driven to the shallow waters near the coast, where they can easily be caught. It is a curious fact, that the warmer the water, the brighter are the colours of the fish which inhabit it; though, as food, they are generally of much less value. While the Gulf Stream largely benefits the globe, it is at the same time the proximate cause of shipwreck and disaster, from the storms which it creates, in consequence of the irregularity of its temperature, and that of the neighbouring regions, both in air and water. Perhaps nowhere is a more terrific sea found than when a heavy gale meets the Gulf Stream, when running at its maximum rate. Many a ship has gone down beneath its waters. However, I might go on all day telling you curious things about this same Gulf Stream. One thing more I will mention: people often complain of the dampness of England. The same cause which so favourably tempers the cold of our country, creates the dampness complained of. It is not that our soil is more humid, that marshes exist, or that the country is not well drained; but it is that the westerly and north-westerly breezes which prevail, come loaded with the warm vapours ascending from the tropic heated waters of the Gulf Stream."
"Thank you, father, for all you have told us," said Gerard; "I think I have learned a great deal I did not know before."
I was certain that I had, and directly afterwards put down, as well as I could remember, all Captain Frankland had said. The next day we sighted Saint Vincent, one of the ten islands which form the Cape de Verd group, so-called from being off the Cape de Verds, on the coast of Africa. The islands belong to the Portuguese. They produce all sorts of tropical fruits and vegetables, so that ships often touch here to be supplied with them. A large number of the inhabitants are black, or of a very dark hue. Instead of standing directly for the Brazils, Captain Frankland shaped a course almost across the Atlantic for the coast of South America. He did this, he explained to Gerard and me, to get the wind, which generally blows off that coast when the north-east trade failed us; and to avoid the equatorial calms, in which, away from the land, vessels are often baffled for days together. I found, after I had been some time at sea, "That the longest way round is often the shortest way there," as the saying is. In tropical latitudes, winds from different quarters blow with great regularity in different places at certain seasons of the year. The great object of a master is, to find where the wind is blowing which will be fair for him. The two most regular winds are the north-east and south-east trade-winds which blow from either side of the equator, and meet in a wide belt of calms found under it. There are currents in the air as well as in the ocean; and Silas told me that he has more than once passed ships at sea right before the wind—steering north, for instance, while his ship, with an equally fair breeze, has been standing to the south. Formerly, ships used to be steered as far south as they could get before the trade-winds; and then often found themselves baffled for days, if not weeks together, in the calm latitudes off the coast of Africa, when, if they had stood boldly across the ocean, as we were now doing, they would never have wanted a wind move or less fair. Thus it will be seen that in navigation there are currents in the sea and currents in the air to be considered, and that it requires a great deal of forethought, and knowledge, and experience, to take a ship in safety and with speed round the world. We were bowling along in grand style before the north-east trade-wind, when Gerard stopped his father in his morning walk on deck.
"I say, father, can you tell Harry and me all about this trade-wind, which we have got hold of it seems?" said he with a grave look, as if he wished to become very learned.
"Which has got hold of us rather, I should say, by the way it is carrying us along," answered the captain, smiling. No one knew Jerry so well as he did, though he often pretended not to understand at what he was driving. "You ask a question to which it is rather difficult to reply in a brief way. Take a piece of paper; draw a circle on it; now, draw three parallel belts across it—one in the centre, and one on each side of the centre. Write on the centre belt, 'Equatorial Calms;' on the upper, 'Calms of Cancer;' on the lower, 'Calms of Capricorn.' The circle represents the globe; the ends of a line drawn at right angles to the belts where it reaches the circle, mark the poles. The globe moves from west to east. Now, suppose a mass of air sent off from the north pole towards the equator in a straight line, it not partaking of the diurnal motion of the earth would appear as if it came from the north-east. Another mass starting from the equator towards the pole in consequence of the impetus given it, would be going faster towards the east than the earth, and would, consequently, appear as if it came from the south-west. This actually takes place, but in the upper regions of the air. The same exchange takes place between the south pole and the equator. Now, let us see what becomes of these masses. That which started from the north pole meets in the air at about the parallel of 30 degrees; the mass which started from the equator meeting with equal force, they balance each other, and produce a calm and an accumulation of atmosphere pressing downward, and ejecting from below two surface-currents—one towards the equator, which are the north-east trade-winds; the other towards the pole, called the south-west passage-winds. This moving mass of air, which constitutes the north-east trade-wind, meets near the equator with another mass which has been moving on as the south-east trade—meeting with equal force, they form a calm; and then, warmed by the heat of the sun, they ascend, one-half streaming off high up towards the south-east—that is, counter to the surface-current—till it reaches the southern calm belt; another mass coming from the south-west, where it descends, and rushes as a north-west surface-wind towards the south pole. We have traced the mass which started from the north pole. Reaching the southern regions, it is whirled round till, at the pole itself, a perfect calm is produced, when it ascends and starts off as an upper current towards the equator; but meeting another current near the tropic of Capricorn, then descends, one-half flowing out at the surface, as I have before described, as the south-east trade, the other towards the south pole. This is the most beautiful and regular system of atmospheric circulation kept up around our globe. It has not been ascertained exactly why the masses I have spoken of take certain directions, but we know the directions they do take. The red dust we found off the Cape de Verds assists us in certain degrees. We know some of the agents—the diurnal motion of the earth, and the sun's heating rays. There are certain counteracting or disturbing causes from which the surface-winds deviate from the courses I have described. Some lands are covered with forests, others with marshes, others with sand. All these may be disturbing causes—so are lofty mountains. From these causes, and the more powerful effect of the sun's rays in one place than in another, hurricanes and typhoons occur, and the monsoons are made to blow—the harmattan on the west coast of Africa; the simoon, with its deadly breath, in Arabia; the oppressive sirocco in the Mediterranean. What I have said will explain that beautiful passage in Ecclesiastes, 1st chapter, 6th verse, which shows the exactness of the sacred writers whenever they do introduce scientific subjects: 'The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.' Who gave Solomon this information? I doubt if any of his sages possessed that scientific knowledge which has only been attained by philosophers of late years. Perhaps I may still more clearly explain to you the cause of the circulation of the atmosphere. I told you that there were two agents at work—diurnal motion, and the heat of the sun; but to these may be added the cold of the poles, which contracts the air. Suppose the globe at rest, and covered with one uniform stagnant mass of atmosphere; suddenly heat, cold, and the diurnal motion commence their operations. The air about the equator would expand, that about the poles contract. Thus two systems of winds would commence to blow—one above, from the equator towards the poles; and as thus a vacuum would be left below, a current would come from the poles to supply its place. The diurnal motion prevents these currents running in straight lines. That coming from the poles will appear to have easting in them, and those going towards the poles westing. Not only, however, is the level of the atmosphere changed by the heating rays of the sun, but its specific gravity. Thus the heated current moves more easily and rapidly than the colder; and the latter, consequently, turns back a portion of what was going towards the poles, and adjusts the equilibrium of the atmosphere. I have already shown you the great importance of the circulation of the air in the economy of nature; and how, among the many offices of the atmosphere, it distributes moisture over the surface of the earth, making the barren places fruitful, and tempering the climates of different latitudes, fitting them as the abode of civilised man. But I will not pursue the subject further just now. You must do that for yourselves. Try and remember what I have said, and think about it whenever you have an opportunity." Jerry and I thanked the captain for what he had told us, and I, as before, at once dotted it down as well as I could in my note-book.
Crossing the Atlantic, we sighted a glittering white rock rising fifty feet out of the water. It was, I found, the Island of Saint Paul's. It had a curious appearance, standing thus alone in the ocean 500 miles from the coast of America, and 350 from the Island of Fernando Noronha— the snowy pinnacle of a submarine mountain. We hove-to close to it, and a boat being lowered, Mr McRitchie, Mr Brand, Jerry, and I, went on shore. The whole rock is not three-quarters of a mile in circumference. Its white colour, we found, was produced by a thin coating of a substance formed by the washing off of the birds' dung, collected there in a succession of ages. The rock was covered with birds—my old friends, the booby and the noddy, I had so often read about. They stared at us with a stupid look as we pulled up, not at all able to make us out, and in no way disposed to make way for us. Gerard and I were for knocking as many as we could on the head; but Cousin Silas would not allow us, observing that we did not want them for food, and that they had a far better right to the rock than we had. The booby, Mr McRitchie told us, is a species of gannet, and the noddy a species of tern. The first lays her eggs on the bare rock, but the latter constructs a nest with sea-weed. While the doctor was eagerly hunting about for specimens of natural history, we were amused by watching the proceedings of some of the few inhabitants of the rock. By the side of several of the noddies' nests we saw a dead flying-fish, evidently deposited there by the male bird. Whenever we succeeded in driving away any one of the females, instantly a big crab, which seemed to have been watching his opportunity from the crevices of the rocks, would rush out, and with greedy claws carry off the prey. One fellow, still more hungry, ran away with one of the young birds. Another was going to make a similar attempt.
"I ought to stop that fellow, at all events!" said Jerry, giving Master Crab a stunning blow. We tied his claws, and presented him as a trophy to the doctor.
"A fine specimen of Graspus" cried our scientific friend, stowing him away in his wallet.
"A capital name!" said Jerry. "He seemed ready enough to grasp anything he could lay his claws on."
The doctor said he could find neither a plant nor a lichen on the island, and only a few insects and spiders, besides the boobies and noddies. I ought to have mentioned that we did not fail to meet with the moist and oppressive weather found under the belt of calms under the equator. Frequently I felt as if I could scarcely breathe, and nearly everybody was in low spirits and ready to grumble. Jerry and I vowed that the air was abominable. Cousin Silas stopped us.
"Remember, lads," said he, "what the captain was telling you. If it were not for them mists, how could the rivers of the north be supplied with their waters, and the fields of our own land be made fertile? Thank God rather that you are thus enabled to see more of the wonders of creation."
I never forgot this remark of Cousin Silas. A delightful writer, now well-known, describing the subject, calls it "The Circle of Blessing." [Mrs Alfred Gatty, in her "Parables from Nature."]
Making sail, we soon lost sight of that white-topped rock. Soon afterward Gerard rushed down one morning at daybreak into our berth, and, rousing me up, told me I was wanted on deck. Half asleep, I jumped up, and slipping my legs into my trousers—for no other garment was required in that latitude—ran with him where he led me forward. I had scarcely got my eyes open when I found myself seized by two shaggy monsters; and hearing the sound of a conch shell, I looked up, and saw before me, as if he had just come over the bows of the ship, a strange-looking personage, with a glittering crown on his head, a huge red nose, long streaming hair, and white whiskers as big as two mops. In his hand he held a trident, and over his shoulders was worn a mantle covered with strange devices.
"Trite!—where's Trite? Come along, Trite!" he exclaimed, in a gruff voice—which sounded not altogether unlike that of old Ben Yool's—as he looked over the bows; and presently he handed up a lady of very ample dimensions, who certainly, except for a petticoat and a necklace of shells, I should not have suspected to have belonged to the fair sex.
"Oh, there you are, my lovie! We must be sharp about our work, for we have so many ships to board that we haven't a moment to lose. Now, if there are any young shavers who hasn't crossed the middle of my kingdom before, let them be brought up here in quarter less than no time, or I'll do—I'll do—I'll do what you shall see."
This was said in a terrifically gruff voice. Before I had time to look about me, the two monsters had dragged me forward before his marine majesty and his spouse; and one producing a huge cold tar brush, and the other a piece of rusty hoop, I found my face paid over with some most odorous lather. I cried out to Jerry, who I thought, as a friend, ought to help me; but he pretended to be in a dreadful fright, and when the monsters ran after him he managed to shove so violently against me that he sent me head first into a large tub of water which stood at the feet of Neptune. I was, however, immediately hauled out by the shaggy Tritons, and after a fresh application of lather, my face was scraped over with the piece of hoop.
"Douse him—douse the baby again!" shouted Neptune; and from the mode I was treated, I thought that I should have been nearly drowned, had not Mrs Neptune, or rather Amphitrite, interfered in a voice which was intended to be very affectionate, but which sounded as if the poor lady had a very sore throat, and begged that I might be allowed to return to my cradle to sleep out the remainder of my watch.
"Oh, good mother, your sex are always gentle and kind," I answered, determining to jump with the humour of the thing, and to show that I had not lost my temper, although the ceremony I had gone through was far from pleasant. "Now, if you'll just leave one of your squires here aboard, and he'll come aft by-and-by, I'll try if I can fish out a five-shilling piece from the bottom of my chest, to buy you and your good man some baccy and rum, to cheer you when you get back to your own fireside."
"Well spoken, like a true son of the Ocean!" exclaimed Neptune, patting me on the back. "For that same notion you are free from henceforth and for ever of my watery realms; seeing also as how you have been lathered and shaved and crossed the line. So here are three cheers for Mr Harry Hopeton; and may he live to sail round the world, and to command as fine a ship as this here craft—and finer, too!"
The crew, at Neptune's beck, on this gave three hearty cheers; and while the Tritons were chasing down some lads and two or three men, who had never before crossed the line, I made my escape towards a tub of clean water, and thence to my cabin, where I very soon removed all traces of the discipline I had gone through. By the time the captain appeared the whole ceremony was at an end, and the men were employed in washing down decks, as if nothing had occurred. It was the third mate's watch; and I found afterwards that Jerry, who was the chief instigator, had obtained his leave to have the ceremony take place. The captain, I daresay, also knew all about it, but said nothing on the subject. Once upon a time the crew of every ship crossing the line considered it their right to be allowed full licence to indulge in all sorts of wild pranks; but the custom got so much abused that many captains have put a stop to it altogether, while others only allow it among well-tried and trusty crews. I was not sorry to have had the tricks played on me, because it contributed to gain me the good will of the people; and I now felt that, having crossed the line, I had a right to consider myself something of a sailor.
A TRIP UP THE AMAZON.
Two days after crossing the line we sighted the island of Fernando Noronha, which, with several outlying islets, is a very picturesque spot. It belongs to the empire of the Brazils, and is used as a penal settlement. As Captain Frankland wished to touch at every place not out of his way, we dropped anchor in Citadel Bay, opposite a fort on which the Brazilian colours were flying. A boat was lowered, and though some heavy rollers were setting into the bay, we managed to get on shore on the top of one of them without getting wet—that is to say, the captain, Gerard, and I. It was really a pretty sight. We pulled on steadily, with the head of the boat directed on shore; then a high, heaving, glassy wave came gliding in, and the boat was on its summit; now the men pulled away with all their might, and on we flew till the boat's keel touched the beach. Quickly the waters receded. The instant they did so we all jumped out, and hauling the boat up before another roller came in, she was high and dry out of harm's way. A guard of blacks received us; and hearing that the town was only about a mile and a half distant, we set off to walk there. We passed through a pretty valley, and some woods of tropical shrubs, with the blue sea visible beneath their broad, fan-like leaves, and by many huts and cottages, inhabited mostly by blacks, who seemed very much astonished at our appearance. At last we reached the town, which has an open space in the centre, and a church and the governor's house at one end, and a strong fort above it. Here nearly all the soldiers and free men are blacks, while the whites are mostly slaves, made so by their crimes. It must be rather a satisfactory state of things to the feelings of the blacks. The governor of this place—of a hundred houses or so—received us very civilly, and gave the captain all the information he required; and, besides that, a good supply of vegetables, which the island produces in abundance.