sublimity. Cape beyond cape, in endless range,” all grand of feature, and each as you sail towards it seeming grander than the last. Whether walking on their brow or floating at their base, the traveller finds the desire of his eye gratified by the cliffs. A trip by the steamer from Penzance to Hayle will give him a view of the coast from Mount's Bay round to the Bristol Channel.

At last we “opened” the Land's End, but at two miles distance, and we saw nothing to distinguish it from the neighbouring headlands: Cape Cornwall, more to the northward, seemed to stretch much farther to the west. There to seaward rose the black heads of the group of rocks, from the outermost of which rises the lonely tower of the Longships Lighthouse; the space between them and the land dotted with numerous small vessels, beating round from one Channel to the other. Here the wind freshened a little, and the action of conflicting tidal currents gave us a fine treat of rolling and plunging excepting always those who turned yellow and had to go below.

As the Cornish coast receded we began to look in the opposite direction. We saw that isolated cluster of rocks, the Seven Stones, and in time made out what appeared to be a few dark clouds low down on the horizon: they were the Scilly Isles. It was long before they grew more distinct; for often when we were steering directly towards them, the captain's “ready about" sent us off to the ocean till they almost disappeared. In one of our tacks we went near the Gulf Rock, or Wolf Rock, as it is commonly called, an isolated mass of slate, lying just in the track of vessels bound from the North Sea to the Irish Channel. How the great blue waves leaped up, and seemed to devour

to eat.

it with hungry tongues of foam! Never resting: beaten back only to renew the assault. A beacon warns the mariner to avoid it by day; but at night!

Meanwhile the passengers on deck had brought out their dinner; some, perhaps, doubtful of their powers of endurance, were content with dry biscuits; others proved themselves equal to sandwiches; and one happy couple, wisely provident, had a Cornish pasty. The sight reminded me that I was very hungry. I went in full confidence to the captain and asked for something

“You should have thought of that afore you came on board,” he said with a smile; 66.

we never carry anything to sell, it wouldn't


passengers always look out for themselves. So much the worse for


if you didn't know it.” Here was a dilemma. I ventured to doubt; but no-nothing was sold on board except bottled porter by “one of the men for’ard;" so there was nothing for it but to exercise patience, which virtue, considering our coy approach towards the Isles, was likely to undergo a vigorous test.

My mood was, I fear, becoming one scarcely befitting a philosopher, when the captain invited me below, with a hint that I might join him in a mouthful of something to eat.” He brought out ship biscuit and a lump of cheese, of which I ate enough, aided by a draught from the cask of water on deck, to keep me alive till the evening; and as the worthy seaman would not hear of payment, I praised his Ariadne. Thereupon he requested me to look round the cabin. “Wasn't it snug comfortably fitted up;" and, opening the door of the ladies' cabin—“Isn't that a tidy little place?" Little enough, truly: a comfortable doll's house. What was formerly the saloon, is now the place for cargo; and beyond this a narrow fore-cabin completes the interior. “ You see," continued the captain, “ though she is but eighty-four tons, she's made the most of.” He felt a seaman's pride in his yacht; but to be shut up below in foul weather would be terrible. The quickest run he had ever made was in three hours and three-quarters, with a northerly wind; and that was the wind he liked best; it was favourable either way.

Of all the Cornish traditions that which preserves the notion that dry land once filled the space across which we are now sailing is, perhaps, the most extraordinary “ Where is the Cornish champaign which conjoined the coast and Scilly ?" is a question often asked by antiquaries, and speculated on by geologists. Here, so runs the fable, lay far outspread a region of unwonted beauty and fertility, strewn with villages, and hallowed by one hundred and forty churches, known to the Cornish as Lethowsow, or Lyonesse. And romances of the olden time tell us of great and gallant deeds wrought in that fair land; the memory of which had been kept alive for ages by wandering minstrels. Here fell the monarch whose fame made British hearts beat quick for ages: as sings the poet:

“So all day long the noise of battle roll'd
Among the mountains by the winter sea;
Until King Arthur's table, man by man,

Had fall’n in Lyonness about their Lord.” The chroniclers, however, tell us that Arthur's last battle was fought near Camelford.

But shaken by some mighty convulsion, the lovely region sank down into the depths, the sea rushed in and completed the destruction, leaving no trace of what had been, except the Seven Stones, the Wolf Rock, and a grim likeness between the cliffs of the Land's End, and of St. Martin's Head, the nearest of the Isles. The Seven Stones are still called “ The City;" and among them, it is said, the fishermen once hooked some small broken casements and pieces of stonemouldings; and no other vestiges of the Lyonnesse have ever been discovered. The Trevilian family bear a white horse as crest, to commemorate the escape of one of their ancestors by swimming to the mainland on horseback at the time of the flood.

It is a wondrous tradition. Yet Cornwall presents so many examples of change and convulsion that a better case can be made out in its favour than would at first be imagined. The waters of Mount's Bay now flow over what was dry land within the memory of man; and during the terrible storm of January, 1817, fears were entertained that the sea would break right through the county to St. Ives Bay, and leave the Land's End district an island. At Par, blocks of granite laid for a bridge were once found at a depth of twenty feet; and human skulls have been dug out fifty feet below the present surface.

The sun sank in the west: it went down behind the burnished rim of the great circle of waters, and still we had not reached Scilly. We could see the day-mark on St. Martin's Head, the long low outline of St. Mary's, and were tantalized by frequent approaches, only to run off again. Twilight crept on; the stars twinkled; the breeze blew damp and chilly, and still we rose and fell on the dark swells of the Atlantic. We were close in to the land, congratulating ourselves that the last tack had been made, when "ready about" sent us once more away over the gloomy ocean; and, perhaps, because the effect of the biscuits and cheese was expended, I began to admit even to myself that one might have too much of the sea. This tack, however, was really the last; it enabled us to fetch the entrance of Crow Sound between St. Mary's and St. Martin's, and presently we had land dimly visible on each side of us. The captain again took the helm, and a good look-out was kept, for there are rocks and shallows in the channel. All at once, as we opened a dark point, a brilliant light flashed upon us; it was from the lighthouse of St. Agnes, and great was the gladness we felt at the sight. A stranger would have supposed our voyage had been one of weeks instead of hours. A little farther, and we saw the scattered lights of Hugh Town gleaming along the shore and along the water; we crept towards them for a few minutes while the hands slackened sail; then the anchor was dropped, and our voyage was over.

Boats came alongside, the rowers crying: “Anybody for Tresco ???—“ Anybody for St. Agnes?" and every one made haste to leave the vessel. The sound of voices, the splash of oars, the moving objects indistinctly seen in the faint obscurity of a July night, the glimpses of masts and shrouds in different parts of the bay, and the unsubstantial look of the land, made up a striking picture. I tendered my fare to the captain: “Oh! never mind,” he said, “we shall meet again before long;" a proof of confidence which for the moment astonished me. The sphere of the sophisticated world's usages was indeed overpassed. I had not time then to remember that he was sure of me for the return voyage, for we descended to the boat, and were rowed to the pier, where we found a numerous crowd on the watch for our coming. The arrival of the packet is indeed

« VorigeDoorgaan »