صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Sea Stories of Peril and Adventure, Battle and Shipwreck.

he had just stepped out of the retinue of Don Quixote !

He behaved very well, however; fed them upon cold ham and fowls, and sent them for lodgings to the Jesuits' College, where they enjoyed two luxuries unknown to them for months-a decent bed and a clean shirt. Oh, these common, every-day comforts! How little we value them until some unforeseen stroke of fortune deprives us of them.

At Castro they remained for eight days, until summoned to Chaco, the residence of the Governor of the island. Our five unarmed men were honoured with a guard of thirty mounted soldiers; and so, with much military parade and circumstance, set out on their enforced journey. Halting at an estancia, or farm-house, belonging to an old lady and her two handsome daughters, they were kindly treated, and produced such an impression by their narration of dangers undergone and perils escaped, that the old lady pressed them to spend a month beneath her roof. The prisoners were nothing loth, but their escort had "flinty hearts."

The Governor of Chaco was lodged in a large thatched barn, partitioned off into several rooms. They found him sitting at a table covered with a piece of red serge for dignity's sake. His principal officers were in attendance. No fault could be found with his reception of them, except that he allowed it to be seen that he regarded them as prisoners; but he allowed them to walk about the town with considerable freedom. There was much to interest them. The inhabitants they found very good-natured and charitable, but, of course, deplorably ignorant, and completely under the control of their priests.

They were mostly good-looking, especially the women, many of whom had good voices, sang agreeably, and accompanied themselves on the guitar, but offended English susceptibilities by their devotion to the "weed." The houses were poorly built, and quite as poorly furnished, with an entire lack of those little appliances which combine to produce the effect known amongst Englishmen as "comfort." The fire was lighted in the middle of the room, and the smoke escaped through holes in the roof. The staple of the Chaco dietary appears to have been potatoes, which were of extraordinarily good quality. Roasted in the ashes, and scraped, they were served up at meals instead of bread, which was eaten only by the more affluent inhabitants.

Swine were very plentiful, also sheep; but cows were scarce, owing to lack of sufficient pasture. A tolerable export trade was done in hams, hogs'-lard, cedar plants, little carved boxes, and neatly embroidered pouches, quilts, and carpets.

On the 2nd of January, 1842-3, Captain Cheap and his companions embarked on board a Spanish vessel bound for Valparaiso, the chief seaport of Chili. In putting to sea, she narrowly escaped disaster, the strength of the tide carrying her against a sunken reef; and she was saved rather through accident than skill. Her captain, a Spaniard, knew nothing of his duties; but the master, the boatswain, and the boatswain's mate-all three Frenchmen-were very good seamen. The crew consisted of Indians and Negroes, the latter of whom

67

were never suffered to go aloft, lest they should fall overboard-a regulation dictated by selfishness, not humanity, inasmuch as the loss of a slave meant the loss of a large sum of money to his owner.

On board the ship was a Jesuit dignitary, who, with Captain Cheap, messed in the state cabin along with the captain and his chaplain. The remainder of the Wager's little company roughed it during the whole passage, sleeping on the open deck when and where it pleased them. They fared well, however, eating with the master and boatswain-who, by the way, drank brandy as freely as the English tar of the old days drank grog.

When they had been five days out, they made the land four or five leagues to the south of Valparaiso. Soon afterwards a calm prevailed, but a heavy swell from the westward carried them rapidly inshore. They took soundings several times, but always in such deep water that they could not anchor. The Jesuit, who had been sea-sick throughout the voyage, then made his first appearance upon deck, only to scuttle back to his cabin upon discovering that danger was imminent, and bring forth the image of St. Jago, which he suspended from the mizen shrouds. Addressing it in strong and minatory language, he assured it of his determination to throw it overboard, unless a favourable wind blew up quickly. At last a light air rose off the land, and the Jesuit, who had previously given himself up for lost, carried back his image triumphantly, protesting that he had felt certain they would not be long without a prosperous breeze.

Next morning, the prisoners were landed at Valparaiso, under guard, conducted to the fort, paraded before the Governor, and finally relegated to the condemned hole-a cell with four bare walls, a heap of lime in one of the corners, and a legion of fleas.

At the door stood a soldier with fixed bayonet, to prevent their escape; though it is not easy to see where they could have found a place of refuge. The inhabitants, in their intense curiosity to stare at the Englishmen, streamed in and out of prison all day long; and the sentinel, as he charged so much per head, made quite a little fortune. In a few days, Captain Cheap and Lieutenant Hamilton, whose official rank was known from their commissions, were ordered up to Santiago; but Mr. Byron and Mr. Campbell were left in their comfortless cell.

Captain Cheap expressed much concern at leaving them, but promised that, if he were permitted to speak to the President, he would use all his influence to obtain permission for them to rejoin him.

After this separation Byron and Campbell were more harshly treated. Their daily ration was reduced to a handful of potatoes mixed with hot water, supplied by a common soldier, who was appointed to act as their purveyor. The other soldiers of the garrison, and the townspeople also, expressed themselves strongly in condemnation of this cruelty. "What can I do," replied the soldier, "when the Governor allows me but half a real a day for each of these men ? It is he who is to blame. I am sorely grieved every time I bring them this scanty pittance, though I could not provide more diet for the small sum he pays me." Thenceforth, however, their dietary

greatly improved, and included even wine and fruit.

At the sight of these luxuries, they supposed that representations had been made to the Governor, and that he had increased the allowance. Not so. When he was told that the prisoners could not possibly subsist on their original rations, he replied, that for all he cared they might starve. But when this disgraceful brutality became known in the town, every visitor brought some little gift; even the mule-drivers would take out the tobacco-pouch in which they kept their little store, and press upon them half a real.

These alms they would fain have handed to the soldier, but met with a plain refusal, on the ground that they might one day need them; and during the remainder of their imprisonment, which extended over several weeks, he laid aside half his daily pay for their maintenance, though he had a family of six children: We are glad to state that, ten years afterwards, Mr. Byron was able to convey a substantial acknowledgment of his gratitude to this good and true Samaritan.

An order from the President arriving for their removal to Santiago, a distance of ninety miles, the Governor sent for the muleteer or driver in charge of one of the regular convoys from the coast to the capital, and placed the prisoners in his hands. As the journey occupied five days, he not unnaturally asked how their expenses were to be met, and was told he might repay himself as best he could, for not a single real would be advanced. They set out, however, with a caravan of about one hundred mules, each carrying two heavy packages, made a laborious passage of the mountain range, and on the fourth night arrived within sight of Santiago, at a distance of about four leagues. On the following morning, as they advanced towards the city, founded by the Spanish adventurer, Don Pedro de Valdivia, their muleteer, who had treated them very kindly, seriously advised Mr. Byron not to think of remaining in a place so full of vice, folly, and extravagance, but to accompany him as a mule-driver, in which capacity, he was good enough to say, Mr. Byron would soon display a very pretty skill. The English officer thanked him, but told him he would prefer to try the city first, and if he did not like it, he might then accept his generous offer.

At Santiago, the President, Don Josef Manso, received them very courteously, and ordered them to be lodged in the house of a Scotch physician, Don Patricio Gedd, where Captain Cheap and Lieutenant Hamilton were already accommodated. Don Patricio was an old resident, and highly esteemed by the Spaniards for his humanity and talents. During the two years spent by the English officers under his roof, they received the friendliest and most constant attentions. At first they greatly felt the want of suitable clothes; but Don Manuel de Guiror, a Spanish officer, liberally forced upon them a loan of wo thousand dollars. They agreed, with many thanks, to accept of six hundred, for the repayment

There is now a railway between Valparaiso and Santiago; and the latter bright and sunny town has its hotels, clubs, and cafés, its opera-house and theatre, with a wealthy and pleasure-loving population.

of which they provided by a draft upon the English consul at Lisbon. Then they attired themselves à l'Espagnol; and, as they were on their parole, went to and fro as they pleased, and were received into the most fashionable circles of Santiago.

The Spanish-American ladies appeared to have impressed Mr. Byron-he was young and susceptible in the most favourable manner. He speaks enthusiastically of their comeliness, their graceful figures, their sweet voices, their musical skill, their elegant dancing, and their charming complaisance. He comments, but by no means harshly, on their extravagance in dress, which, no doubt, in the eyes of a young man, seemed a venial error. Their skirts, he says, which were open in front, and lapped over, stood stiff with thick rolls of rich gold or silver lace. In summer they wore an upper vest of the purest linen, embroidered with delicate Flanders lace; this they replaced in winter by an upper waistcoat of cloth of gold or silver.

The sleeves were of enormous width. Over all floated a gauzy mantle of the most delicate colours; and when they went abroad they assumed a veil, so contrived that only one bright eye was visible. Their hair, in which Nature had been very bountiful, was allowed to grow to its full length, unchecked, and then gathered up on the back of the head in four plaits, and twisted round a bodkin, or ornamented at each end with a diamond rose.

Their favourite beverage was maté, a Paraguay tea, which they drank twice a day, serving it up in a tiny cup made out of a small calabash, or gourd, and tipped with silver. First the herb was put in, then sugar, according to taste, and a little orange-juice. Hot water being added, the infusion was drunk immediately, through a long tube, at one end of which was a round strainer. According to Byron, it was accounted a special courtesy for a lady to suck the tube two or three times, and then hand it to a stranger to drink, without wiping it.

Two years had passed in this not unpleasant captivity, when the President sent for Captain Cheap. Hamilton, and Byron, and informed them that a French ship from Lima, bound for Spain, had put into Valparaiso, on board of which they might embark for Europe. Mr. Campbell had previously resolved on settling in Chili permanently, and had embraced the Roman religion. The three Englishmen accordingly took leave of their kind friends, set out for Valparaiso, and on the 20th of December, 1744, sailed in the Lys frigate of 16 guns and 420 tons, for St. Malo. In July, 1745, when between Porto Rico and San Domingo, Captain Cheap told Byron that he had just seen a beef-barrel drift past the ship, and that feeling sure it had been very recently overboard he predicted that before long they would fall in with an English cruiser. His augury was correct; in about half an hour two sails were seen to leeward, in evident chase of the French frigate. The alarm of the French and Spaniards was in proportion to the exultation of the English prisoners, but unfortunately their hopes were dashed by the advent of a sudden calm.

In the evening the wind rose again, and the pursuers, a two-decker and a 20-gun ship, began to gain rapidly on the French frigate. The officers

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Easy Chapters on Astronomy.

and crew gave themselves up as lost. The latter put on their best and bravest; the former filled their pockets with valuables. Some there were who came to Byron with little lumps of gold, saying they would much rather that he, whom they knew, should benefit by their treasures, than their unknown pursuers. Byron replied that there was no hurry; though he thought them as surely prisoners as if his countrymen were already in possession of the vessel. The clear and beautiful orb of night shone upon the broad-bosomed deep, and Captain Cheap and his two officers expected every moment to see their country's ships alongside; but, to their intense amazement, on the following evening they were out of sight, even from the masthead.

Why they gave up the chase when it must certainly have resulted in the capture of a prize, I have been able nowhere to discover.

Anchoring in Cape François Harbour, the Lys lay there until a French squadron, under Admiral L'Etandune, arrived for the purpose of convoying a fleet of merchantmen to France. The Admiral put to sea on the 6th of September with about fifty traders under his protection, and the frigate which carried our three prisoners.

On the 31st of October the convoy and L'Etandune's squadron safely dropped anchor in Brest Roads.

The Lys, having on board a valuable cargo of gold and silver bullion, was towed into the harbour next morning, and laid alongside a man-of-war. The bullion having been landed, her officers and crew, who had been many years absent from France, hastened exultantly to get on shore. Owing to the severity of the weather our three Englishmen, who were lightly clad, and had been for some time accustomed to hot climates, suffered a good deal, and they might also have been starved, owing to official neglect, had not some of the officers of the Lys sent them off daily a supply of provisions.

They were soon transferred to a galley, along with some other English prisoners, and conveyed up the river to Landemar, where Captain Cheap and his companions were allowed to go about on parole. They hired the best available lodgings, and for three months made themselves as comfortable as possible, until an order from the Court of Spain set them free to return to their native country. Information reached them that a Dutch vessel was on the point of sailing from Morlaix. Thither they hastened, but the ship had taken her departure, and six weeks elapsed before they were able to engage a Dutch lugger to carry them across to Dover. The Channel passage was long and disagreeable, and strange to say, the Dutchman seemed willing to disembark them anywhere but at Dover.

Fortunately they sighted an English man-of-war, which bore down, lowered a boat, took off Captain Cheap and his companions, and landed them on the green shores of Old England after an absence of nearly six years' duration, marked, as the reader has seen, by the most painful experiences and surprising vicissitudes.

[ocr errors][merged small]
[graphic]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

the moon is not a myth!

Science, however, is a great dissipator of fancies, and as science can find no water and very little or no air in the moon, it is only reasonable to suppose that now-whatever may have been the case in the past and whatever may happen in the future-there is no living thing existing on the moon, but, silent and lonely, she whirls her way though space, uninhabited

and uninhabitable.

If this be so, how are we to account for the saying, "the man in the moon "-what gave rise to such a supposition? Simply this, that long years ago, before the invention of telescopes, the curious shadows on the moon's bright disc attracted attention, and were thought to form the features of a human face.

By some these markings have been held to resemble an old man carrying a bundle of sticks on his weary shoulders and followed by a little dog! Such pictures has the fancy of generations painted, and hence the numerous references to the "man in the moon" in ancient writers. Whether any person at any time has seriously held the belief of life existing in the moon I cannot say. At all events, the reference now-a-days is to the fancied figure, and not to any knowledge or belief of life existing there. That is a problem that science has certainly solved.

We shall pass over without comment the curious fancies held concerning the moon by the old astrologers, although that subject is full of interest, and come at once to the eventful year 1609, when Galileo first turned a telescope upon our satellite. There were astronomers before Galileo, true, and they seemed to hold that the markings on the moon's face indicated lands and seas, hills and dales, and in fact gave evidence that she was probably a globe, like our earth, and might be the abode of life.

They noticed also that the moon always presented the same face to the earth, that is to say, as she increased to the full orb or decreased to the crescent, the same features were observable as far as the light extended. Further, they noted that when opposite the sun she shone with a full orb, and as she receded from, or approached nearer to that luminary, she waned to a crescent. They gathered from these things certain facts, which the scientific instruments of later days have verified, viz., that the moon is an opaque globe travelling once in four weeks round the earth, and like all other satellites-as far as is at present known-revolving on her own axis in precisely the same time that she revolves round the earth (otherwise we should not always see the same face); that she is illuminated by the sun and shines upon us with borrowed light; that she is much nearer to us than is the sun or any other heavenly body; and that, as she looks no larger than the sun (though nearer), she must be much smaller in size.

Those old astronomers were also able, by constant watching, to ascertain the general laws of her motion. Thus, her passage through the four quarters, from full moon to invisibility and from invisibility back to full face, gave the week as the second measure of time the twenty-four hours occupied by the rising and setting of the sun giving the first division, that of days and nights. Also, in the case of eclipses, they were able to tell that when in her motions through space the earth came between the sun and the moon, the shadow of the earth was of course thrown upon the moon; and in the case of a solar eclipse, that the moon came between the earth and the sun.

But, as we have said, it was not until the year 1609, when Galileo, an Italian, first turned a telescope upon our satellite, that any accurate knowledge regarding her surface was obtained. Then he discovered that the curious markings were certainly not the features of a gigantic man, neither were they seas, as had been supposed by a contemporary astronomer -Kepler-but that they were gigantic valleys, which, curiously enough, some astronomers say have been and would be again the beds of oceans or seas, if there were water in the moon.

It will be interesting to notice the way in which Galileo came to use the telescope. For some time he had been longing-" with the yearning of a traveller for his distant home"-for more accurate information concerning those heavenly bodies which his life was absorbed in examining, and his mind was brooding over the secret of the telescope by which he might obtain more information. Then, in this eventful year 1609, hearing that Jansen, a Dutchman, had succeeded in perfecting an instrument which caused distant objects to appear nearer, he conceived the principle on which it had been made, and placing

convex and concave glasses in an old organ tube, he turned it with trembling fingers upon the moonand lo! a splendid and superb view of the great light burst upon his delighted gaze! Then, for the first time, accurate knowledge of our satellite's surface was revealed to man, and a world of wonders opened up to his spell-bound sight. The moon showed her mottled disc, and Galileo was able to compute the height of her mountains by the shadows they threw upon her glittering surface!

The markings on the moon's disc are now known to be great valleys, but not all of the same level. Each appears to have its own particular character; some are smooth as a level field, others are diversified by rough inequalities or gently rising hills.

"The general idea," says Mr. Procter, "conveyed by their appearance is that they are old sea-bottoms, which have undergone upheavals and other changes since the water retreated from them; others presenting the appearance of being unchanged since the time when, after depositing layer after layer of earthy matter, the waters dried up or were in some other way removed."

The fancies of the old astronomers and the longings and experiences of humanity, which are alike in all ages, gave to these seas, as they thought them, curious names, and by these names they are known still. Thus we have the Sea of Serenity; the Sea of Tranquillity; the Lake of Dreams; the Lake of Death; the Sea of Clouds; the Sea of Liquids; the Ocean of Tempests, &c., &c.

But if the telescope reveals traces of the past action of water on the moon, much more does it give evidence of volcanic activity; the most remarkable of lunar features being the great number of ring mountains, or huge craters of extinct volcanoes, that exist on her surface. These are not only much larger and more numerous than those to be found on the surface of the earth, but they are of an altogether different character. Craters with us are usually huge holes on the tops of mountains which at times belch forth fire and smoke, but in the moon the crater resembles an enormous pipe, slightly filled up and set on end, and within this wide and high tube there is often another mountain of considerable altitude, but not so high as the sides of the gigantic pipe which surrounds it. To others the more fitting appellation of "walled plains" has been given, as the enclosure within the "pipe" is so immense. Thus Ptolemæus, an enormous crater situated to the right of the nose in the fancied man in the moon, is computed to measure 115 miles across from one side of the "ring" to the other. Gassendi, a similar crater, measures 55 miles across, and Grimaldi measures 147 miles long by 129 broad. There are thirteen of these very large "craters." All have received names.

Tycho is an immense circular mountain situated on the "neck" of the man in the moon. It is the centre of the district which must have been terribly and fearfully convulsed by volcanic action in the ages long gone by. Astronomers say that hundreds and hundreds of smaller craters and ring-mountains lie scattered around Tycho, whose mighty walls are computed to rise nearly three miles high, whilst the space enclosed by them measures 50 miles across, and has consequently an area of 2,000 square miles. A smaller mountain rises in the middle of the enclosure.

Easy Chapters on Astronomy.

Markings on the Moon's Disc.

Copernicus is a similar crater, but even larger; its central mountain has six heads and attains an altitude of 2,400 feet.

Theophilus is the deepest of all the lunar craters. Its diameter is computed at 64 miles and the walls rise to the majestic height of 18,000 feet, or higher than Mount Blanc.

And now, what is the general appearance of the circular areas enclosed by these mighty walls?

They seem to be strewn with a chaotic mass of rocks and boulders, and, like the districts outside their "rings," to be seamed on every side with vast diverging ridges of volcanic matter; everywhere reigns arid desolation, and the stillness of a dreary solitude!

Besides these "seas," or deep valleys, and ringmountains, the surface of the moon is split up into numerous smaller valleys, ravines, gorges, and craters. The telescope of the Earl of Rosse renders visible every object on its surface that is more than 183 feet, and reduces the intervening distance of 237,000 miles which exist between us and the moon to the comparatively small distance of 120 miles.

So vast are the proportions of this mighty instrument, that the Dean of Ely walked through it with an umbrella up, the telescope tube being no less than eight feet wide in the middle and forty feet in length! The cost of constructing it was £12,000. The tube is suspended between two lofty walls, and is turned to a variety of positions by means of a windlass and a skilful adjustment of chains and counterpoising weights. Enormous as are its dimensions, and though weighing about twelve tons, it is yet managed by these means with great care and exactness. Dr. Scoresby, after examining the moon through this telescope, says that she appeared like an immense globe of molten silver, whilst the various details were so clearly visible that had there been any edifices of the size of York Minster, or even of the ruins of Whitby Abbey, they would have been at once perceived. But there was no appearance of anything of that nature, neither was there any indication of the present existence of water or of air-everything was like one vast ruin of nature!

The most important service that the moon performs for the earth-next to that of giving light in the

71

night-is that of swaying the ocean, and thus perpetuating the regular returns of tidal ebb and flow, by which the sea is preserved from putrefaction and the inhabitants of the earth from consequent disease.

[graphic]

The theory of the tides was first satisfactorily explained by Kepler in 1598, but the honour of a complete explanation belongs to Sir Isaac Newton, who, by his marvellous discovery of the law of gravitation, made public in 1683, was able to place the cause of the rising and falling of the tides on a sound and scientific basis. It is by the operation of this law that the moon affects the ocean; she of course exercises a greater attractive power on that part which is nearest to her-moreover, her influence on the water immediately below her is greater than on solid earth, consequently in her journey round the earth the immense volume of water surges to that part (except where kept back by the solid earth) upon which at given times she exercises the greatest attractive force. It has been said by some that were it not for the counteracting influence of the solid earth, the water on our globe would all be drawn through the intervening leagues of space to the moon! Further, it can be seen that the reason of the tides being an hour later every day, arises from the fact that the moon is travelling round the earth as well as the earth spinning round on her own axis, and this fact brings the same spot of the earth nearest the moon at just about one hour later every day.

Thus, supposing the "spot" of earth called the South Coast of England is nearest the moon at midday to-day; to-morrow, the moon, having in the meantime altered her position, the "spot" called the South Coast would not catch up the moon again until one hour later-consequently the tide would be one hour later.

We may now briefly sum up the more important facts of our knowledge about the moon. She is a large globe belonging to the secondary planets or satellites, i.e., she revolves round another and larger planet-our earth-and accompanies her on her path round the sun. At the same time, she has a third motion, that is, on her own axis. She takes the same time thus to revolve as to perform her journey round the earthviz., 29 days. This fact accounts for the extraordinary circumstance that instead of day and night alternating in twenty-four hours as with us, the moon has a day of 14 of our days in duration, which suddenly gives place to a night of impenetrable darkness and of the same great length. The absence of an atmosphere renders the transition instantaneous, and renders the heat, while the sun is shining, unbearable, whilst in the darkness the cold probably exceeds the extremest of our arctic winters. Her diameter is 2,160 miles, and she is about 238,000 miles distant from the earth. At the present time she appears to have no water, no air, and no inhabitants, but her surface gives evidence of the most terrible volcanic action in the past, being covered with immense craters, rocky mountains, and deep valleys. Thus, full of rugged grandeur and the abode of startling silence, she sweeps on for ever and for ever, obedient to the Eternal Hand which launched her forth on her wondrous journey, and caused her to be the first halting place on the path from the earth to an awful and mysterious infinity!

« السابقةمتابعة »