meaning of such a shower" as this. The evanishment however grows In a few moments our decks were half more perplexing when, after searching full of water, the scuppers sobbing for the vessel and believing her to be madly: the roaring of the rain and gone for good, you look for her again hail smiting the ocean drowned all later on and find her almost in the same other sounds. The sea was so phos- place. A thing of this kind would phorescent that a piece of wood, have been accepted by the early dropped overboard, chipped out fire as mariner a miracle. He would though it had burst into flames. have come home with a yarn about it Judge then of the effect of that as long as his arm ; and so have fired Niagara-fall of rain and hail ! The the first poetically minded wedding ocean was flashed up into a plain of guest he could constrain with his eye fire. It swept sparkling in one vast with visions and fancies of a spectral incandescent

its limits, ship. Be this as it will, disappearances dimming into sickly sulphur as it and reappearances of this kind can be approached the horizon. You might

You might due to nothing but the subtle and suppose that such an illumination as imperceptible gathering of haze about this would have revealed anything the object. Mist will often take its afloat upon it; but though I took a complexion from the atmosphere. I long look round, being deeply im have seen a bank of haze of so skypressed by this sudden, wonderful like an azure that but for the curvature burning of the ocean, I saw nothing, of the sea-line under it caused by the till all at once the darkness was split deflective sweep

of its base, I should by a flash of lightning that leapt from have accepted it as pure

blue air. the clouds away over our fore-yard-arm White mists also, of a slightly and shot into the water, as it seemed opaline tincture corresponding to to me, a league distant on our star perfection with the hue of the heavens board quarter, and then to this mighty beyond, I have detected only by the flare there sprang out upon the view apparent depression of the horizon a large ship, well within a mile of us, under them. A ship may be in the snugged down to her topsails. The act of piercing one of these elusive sight made me catch my breath for an veils with her flying jibboom when instant, for the wonder of it lay in her you first catch sight of her. She is as having been invisible until the light plain in your sight as your own vessel ; ning threw her up, so bright was the


seek her a minute after water with the lashing of the rain. she has vanished, and there is nothing One waited for a second flash to make in the sombre or supny texture of the sure ; and I dare say nad she foundered stuff she has entered to persuade you before it came, there would not have that what you are viewing is not the been wanting people amongst us to brown or cerulean sky that swear that they had seen the Phantom stands over and on either hand of it. Ship.

To the mariner the fog is about the Indeed it is quite possible that this most obnoxious of all the conditions of grand old legend had its origin in some his vocation. He is not likely to atmospheric effect due to lightning, understand me then when I speak of moonshine, or fog. I have sometimes its beauties; yet I must assure him, at sea, but more often in our narrow nevertheless, that many lovely atmowaters, watched a ship for a few spheric and other effects are produced moments, removed my gaze, and think on the waters by those luminous, ening of her presently, looked for her folding bodies of vapour, the silence of again and found her gone.

This is whose white caverns is violated in one of those mysterious disappearances these scientific times by the horrible with which all seamen are acquainted. braying of the steam-horn and the

yet when


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

terrified fluttering of the engine-room nothing to break the quiet but the bell. The kind of fog I have in my distant faint thunder of the wash of mind is the snow-like body of vapour surf, or sometimes the remote tinkling sometimes not very much taller than of a ship's bell, or the rattle of a little the Folkestone cliffs, sometimes so low winch in some nearer craft trembling lying indeed that you may see the lofty upon the ear like the sound of musketspars of a big ship forking out of it ry. Presently there was a movement into the blue air and bright sunshine, of wind, and, as the soft fingers of the when the rest of the structure is as draught of air tenderly drew aside the absolutely hidden as an object rolled curtains of the mist, the pictures offered up in wool. As a rule


little wind were a series of beautiful surprises. accompanies these appearances. The All about us stood the white fog upon mass of delicate, smoke-like, sparkling the sea in elbows and points, in seams, particles slides along softly, and it is ravines and defiles, like to the scarred therefore slow and tender in its re and precipitous front of chalk cliffs ; velations, submitting nothing which and now there would ooze out a little the manner of its discovery does not smack, whose shadow within the vapour render beautiful. A man standing on held you speculating till the sunshine the deck of a ship in the heart of a soft smote it into the proportions and and gleaming thickness may not be colour of some cutter or lugger-rigged able to see the mainmast from the dis craft, with reddish mainsail gently tance of the wheel. The silence is swaying and a sou’-wester or two over peculiar, there is a certain quality of the rail ; and now, as the snow-like oppressiveness in it; nor is this wholly thickness was rent afresh, some stout funciful for though there be a deep hush brig with black or chequered sides, and on the sea, yet, when you emerge into a blue vein of smoke going up straight clear air, the difference between the out of her galley-chimney and then stillness you have quitted and that arching over like the curl of a plume, which you have entered is instantly would be unveiled ; and no matter how perceptible. Presently there is a ugly the craft was that would be thus little flaw, a chasm opens in the suddenly confessed, the witchery of the luminous body of whiteness : the shining background of cloud entered space of water that glances like steel her and submitted her as dainty and around the ship enlarges its narrow delightful, full of a grace that owed horizon : there is a general brightening nothing to form; so that of light, though all the forward part wretched little coaster, with boom, foreof the ship is still hidden in the smother, sail and a suit of canvas as manyand the only mast you can see looks coloured as Joseph's coat, met the eye as if it were sawed off a few feet above clothed with beauty from the buttons the deck. If the coast be nigh or of her trucks down to the tremulous ships be at hand, there will happen silver of the reflection of her sails now a slow stealing out of objects, and under her. Then presently glimpses the sight is one which I think every of the land were to be had, the flash of man who has seen it will recall with sunward-staring windows ashore, the admiration. Off Dover a ship I was vivid green of verdure sloping to the aboard of sailed into such a fog as I edge of the white abrupt, a steamer am describing, and lay without motion with raking funnels cautiously coming for some hours in the midst of it. Any out, the twinkle of foam upon the trickle of tide there may have been margin of grayish shingle. kept company with the vapour. There But you need a mountainous country was no air, and the water came out of to obtain the highest and choicest effects the thickness to the bends with the of these fog-pictures. The noblest show polish and gleam of oil. There was in this way that I ever beheld was off



Mossel Bay on the South African

appearance to her. Every man who coast. There the inland mountains saw her broke into a loud laugh; yet tower to an elevation that, though they she was an object to put some queer may be ten or fifteen miles distant, ideas into the imaginative brain, and I seems to enable them to cast the twi have little doubt that the paternity of light of their Andean shadows upon many a singular superstition of the the ship.

It is like beholding the sea might be traced to such atmospheric birth of a world to mark those Titanic caprices as this. peaks growing out of the white en The effect of a red sunset upon a velopment, as though creation were ship sailing quietly along is a study busy in yonder void and shaping a vast full of sweetness. The rigging shines territory out of sheer chaotic blind like wires of brass, the sails like

cloth of gold: there are crimson stars Another lovely effect I have often wherever there are windows. Against gazed at with delight,—the vision of the soft evening blue she glides glorious a ship hovering on the horizon with an as a fabric richly gilt. Sometimes the atmosphere of shivering brightness slow withdrawal of the western splenbetween and the sea-lir Then dour from her may be watched; then with the eye or with the telescope she her hull will be dark with evening looks to be floating in the blue air. shadow, whilst the light, like a golden I have seen an airy space of pearl veil lifted off her by an invisible hand, hanging like a cloud over the sea slides upwards from one rounded boundary, and I have watched it lifting stretch of canvas to another, till, burnand lengthening, one shining outline ing for a breath like a streak of fire in rising to another out of the ocean, until the dog-vane at the lofty masthead, it three stately pyramids of canvas have vanishes, and the structure floats gray been hove up: then presently the as the ash of tobacco. In this withhull rose to complete the symmetrical drawal of the sun and in the gathering fabric, and thus, apparently afloat in the of the shadows of night at sea there is azure, the ship has sailed towards us a certain melancholy ; but I do not without appearing to touch the sea, think it can be compared with the until the line of the horizon behind spirit of desolation you find in the her was level with her counter. Re breaking of the dawn over the ocean. fraction, or some like quality productive The passage from sunlight to darkness of atmospheric effects, will yield many even in the tropics is not so swift but queer and even startling ocean-pictures. that the mind so to speak has time to The mate of a vessel once called my accept the change; but there is someattention to a ship about four miles thing in the cold, spiritless gray of dawn distant right abeam. There was a light that always did and still does affect my wind, and the day was wonderfully fine spirits at sea. The froth of the runand clear. The stranger was under all ning billows steals out ghastly to the plain sail and her yards braced fore faint, cheerless, and forbidding light. and aft, which enabled us to obtain a Chilly as the night may have been, a good view of her canvas. She was so new edge of cold seems to have come incredibly distorted by the atmosphere into the air with the sifting of the as to be unrecognizable as a ship, in melancholy spectral tinge of gray into the sense I mean of that term. Her the east. The light puts a hollow look masts were curved like the prongs of

into the face of the seaman. The a pitchfork : her bull rounded like the aspect of his ship is full of bleakness : back of a hog : her sails ludicrously the stars are gone, the skies are cold, elongated : her jibbooms twisted into a and the voices of the wind aloft are figure beyond description. I have no like frosty whistling through doubt we presented the same convulsed clenched teeth. A mere sancy of


course which is instantly dissolved by the clear blue foaming seas around : the first level, sparkling beam of the the vision of the iceberg at night, rising sun ; but then it is fancy that colouring the black atmosphere with a makes up

the life of the sea, for with radiance of its own : the tropical blue out it what is the vocation but a dull of the horizon, lifting into brassy routine of setting and furling sail, of brightness to the central dazzle of the masticating hard beef and pork, of sun: the airy dyes of the evening slushing masts, washing decks, and over a ship in the far loneliness of polishing the

brassworks! The the mid-ocean -scores of such sights spacious liquid arena is prodigal of there are, but what magic is there in inspiration and of delight to any one

to express

them? The who sball carry imagination away with majesty of the Creator is nowhere so him on a voyage. There may be apparent: the Spirit of the Universe twenty different things to look at at is nowhere else so present. Those who once, and every one richer, sweeter, know most dare least in their desire to and more ennobling than the greatest reproduce. What other response is of human poems to the heart that there for the heart to make to the full knows how to watch and receive. The recognition of the eye but the silence shadow of a dark cloud over a ship, of adoration ! with the sunshine streaming white in

W. CLARK Russell,

human pen



The report of the Committee of the forty oak trees could stand on an acre House of Commons appointed to con of ground, so as to permit their growth sider “Whether, by the establishment to a full size, or to contain each one of a forest school or otherwise, our and a half loads of timber. Fifty acres woodlands could be rendered more re therefore, were required to produce munerative," has recently been pub two thousand tons—the quantity neceslished. And it may be worth while sary to build a seventy-four-gun ship, briefly to glance at the condition of and one thousand acres for twenty forestry in Great Britain at the pre such ships. And as the oak takes one sent time, which has already occupied hundred years to arrive at maturity, the attention of three successive Par the extent of the Crown forests was liamentary Committees, the result of assumed to be not less than one huntheir joint investigations being em

dred thousand acres. bodied in the aforesaid report.

Steel and iron have now taken the I have no intention of inflicting place of wood in ship-building; and upon my readers any repetition of the even where wood is used, the teak of recommendations made by the Com

Malabar is considered more valuable, mittee, which are still under considera- especially where iron-plating is retion, and will no doubt receive careful quired, than English oak. In this attention ; still less have I any inten- respect, therefore, the necessity for tion of treating the subject from a scientific forestry has passed away, scientific standpoint--for we are told and sadly does the present condition that scientific forestry in this country of the Crown forests prove that such is is conspicuous only by its absence. But

the case. I venture to hope that the subject may

Neither is Great Britain dependent, not be uninteresting to the ordinary as many other countries are, upon reader; while to all who are interested growing forests as a protection for in land, and therefore in any possible her towns and villages, or upon firemeans of making it more remunerative wood as her only fuel. Her ships and more useful than it unhappily is provide her with almost illimitable at present, its treatment should need supplies of sea-borne timber for buildno apology.

ing and mining purposes; and so long The Crown forests of Great Britain as what is humorously called Free were originally, as all know, Trade exists, these supplies are not planted for a specific purpose,—for likely to fail. We have, it is true, affording a supply of timber for the suffered in the past summer from construction and maintenance of the alternate droughts and floods, much of Royal Navy. In the year 1812 it was which might have been prevented by estimated that no less than sixty thou the judicious planting of trees and sand loads of timber were required underwood, more especially on the annually to maintain the Navy at its banks of our rivers ; but these have then existing strength of from seven not been sufficiently severe, and their to eight hundred thousand tons. Now, effects have not been sufficiently lastit was assumed that not more than ing, as in the southern countries of 1 A load of square timber

fifty cubic

Europe, to emphasise the necessity or feet, a load of rough timber forty cubic advisability of a study of forestry. In feet.

our moist climate, the necessity for


« VorigeDoorgaan »