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ROUND THE WORLD
Impiger extremos ... curris ad Indos.'— Horace.
Christmas Day is probably the last day in the year on which one would choose to leave England. But Christmas day, 1869, falling on a Saturday, and a P. and 0. steamer starting on that day—and, like time and tide, waiting for no man-we are driven to the choice of foregoing the enjoyment of the day on shore or of waiting for the succeeding steamer.
Choosing the former alternative, we find ourselves at 2 p.m. on board the ‘Pera,' in Southampton Dock, waiting for the arrival of the mails from London. Within half-an-hour they come, about five hundred huge sacks-full, giving one some idea of the number of pens in England which every week are busy writing for foreign countries.
Just as the short daylight draws to a close, we are out in Southampton Water, and while the vessel is running down the Solent and out past the Needles, we are busy over an orthodox Christmas dinner, destined possibly to bring matters to a climax with some delicate stomachs.
Early next morning we are running across the channel towards Ushant, with a stiff N.W. wind, which streaks the waves with white, and whistles through the rigging a promise of growing stronger. It keeps its promise too, and before mid-day we freshwater sailors are on our beam ends,' or, as it has been otherwise expressed, keeping a berth-day. On such occasions we lie in a helpless state of lethargy, with a growing conviction that we are the most miserable men alive. We watch the reflections from the waves dancing on the cabin roof, and watch the curtains and every suspended thing swinging to and fro relentlessly ; we listen to the 'creak, creak, creak,' of the straining timbers, and to the ever-recurring wash of the waves against the port; occasionally we hear the 'thud' of some more violent wave against the vessel's bows, followed by a singing noise as the water pours over the decks : then the piping of the boatswain, the halfhourly bells, or the distressing sound of meals going on close to our cabin door, with now and then a crash of plates and glasses, as some heavy lurch deposits everything movable on the floor. Then follows a heavy slumber, and after twenty-four hours of alternate misery and oblivion, we are able to shake off the dire influence of the Spirit of the Deep, and enjoy the sight of a fine sea from the deck.
Within fifty hours of passing the Needles we abreast of Cape Finisterre, and in another twelve hours a sensible increase in the temperature tells us that we are fast getting towards the sunny south.
The fine weather draws nearly all the passengers from their berths, and we find that we are in the midst of a remarkable variety of interests and professions. Military men, civil servants, lawyers, and merchants, hoping to achieve distinction or win rupees in India ; officers destined
for the less trying stations of Gibraltar or Malta ; invalids flying from consumption and bronchitis to the genial climate of the Mediterranean ; coffee-planters for Ceylon; missionaries and merchants for Burmah and China ; squatters for Australia; travellers for pleasure and information. All these, and more, are thrown together in one vessel for a few days or weeks, and then separated to the four quarters of the globe, probably to see as little of each other during the rest of their lives as they did before meeting in this apparently hap-hazard way.
With such variety of company a voyage overland' can never lack interest, apart from that supplied by the number of places at which some stay is made.
Here we are at the first of these places-anchored in Gibraltar Bay. The rock rises up right in front of us, with its bare limestone sides and its serrated ridge, in outline not unlike a huge lion crouching-a lion, too, whose head is turned towards the Spanish mainland, as if he professed to be independent of that country, and to keep a watch upon it !
Along the base of the rock lies the town-a thick mass of yellow, white, and red houses : above, in the rock itself, are visible the embrasures of the celebrated galleries, looking like so many pigeon-holes; while along the water's edge are many forts with cannon grinning over the ramparts. Two hours on shore give us time to pay a short visit to some of the nearest galleries. They are merely so many tunnels, about ten feet in width and the same in height, cut inside, and parallel to, the face of the rock. At intervals of twenty yards or more an opening is made from the tunnel to the face of the rock, and from this a gun looks down upon the harbour below, or upon the flat isthmus which connects the rock with the mainland. Though the galleries have earned much fame
from their exploits in the famous siege of 1780–83, they do not seem to be much relied on now. Heavy guns cannot be fired from them; and they are objectionable from their rapidly filling with smoke and their deafening re-echoing of sound. New galleries have not been made for many years, and all recently constructed batteries on the rock are open to the sky.
Coming out of the galleries, we pass under an old square tower, pitted with shot marks of the time of the siege, and go down one of the steep streets of steps into the town below. We have time to admire some of the fine mules, which seem the chief beasts of burden here, and to notice the variety of complexion in the inhabitants of the place. We seem to discern various mixtures of Spanish and Moorish blood, with almost every other blood to be found in or out of the Mediterranean; nothing
; but a thorough medley of the sanguinary streams producing a genuine 'rock scorpion,' as the lower class of the inhabitants of "The Gib' are christened. Here, perbaps, could be found the Gibraltar Jew of Yankee extraction, supposed by many to be the typical embodiment of Shylock propensities; and certainly, if we are to portion off territory according to the language of the natives therein, Gibraltar might be claimed with equal right by half-a-dozen European powers, not to mention the Emperor of Morocco or the Bey of Tunis.
Before sunset on December 30 we are steaming out of the bay, and, soon after rounding the southern point of the rock, make a direct course for Malta. Next morning we are within sight of Cape de Gata, and have a distant view of the Sierra Nevada, with its higher points white with
Almost at the extreme point of Cape de Gata we distinguish a white patch, which looks like snow against
the dark soil around it. It is a protruding vein of marble, which, before the erection of the lighthouse on the Cape, was a most useful distinguishing mark for mariners. The coast on either side of the Cape looks bare, but we are too far off to distinguish vineyards or smaller patches of vegetation. After passing the Cape we gradually lose sight of the Spanish coast, and on the next day we sight the mountains of Algiers, draped half way down their sides with the white mantle of winter.
Soon after mid-day on January 3 we are passing along the northern coast of Malta. The island has a pervading yellow look : the soil seems a monotony of yellow sandstone, dotted here and there with a yellow house, or with a few prickly-pear trees—the only vegetation visible. We should have to go a few miles towards the centre of the island to find the verdant spots where grow unrivalled oranges, and the flowers that make up the bouquets which are sold in the streets of Valetta.
Passing into the Quarantine Harbour, under the St. Elmo light, we drop anchor, and look round at the many yellow batteries that line the water's edge, and up at the yellow mass of well-built houses which cover the ridge of Valetta.
Landing in a sinall boat, we are received by a swarm of barbarous people,' who seem to have degenerated since the days of St. Paul, and do anything but treat us courteously. We make our way up to the Governor's housethe old palace of the Knights of St. John. This noble building boasts an armoury which would rival in interest that of most of the palaces of Europe. Down the two sides of a long hall, and all through the length of two corridors which branch out from it, are ranged suits of armour representing various red-cross knights, guns, battle-axes, pistols, and other weapons, together with many relics of the hard