Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
At the Devils Limekiln
By Charles Kingsley (18191875)
From Westward Ho!
SO on they went to the point, where the cyclopean wall of granite cliff, which forms the western side of Lundy, ends sheer in a precipice of some three hundred feet, topped by a pile of snow-white rock, bespangled with golden lichens. As they approached, a raven, who sat upon the topmost stone, black against the bright blue sky, flapped lazily away, and sank down the abysses of the cliff, as if he scented the corpses underneath the surge. Below them from the gull-rock rose a thousand birds, and filled the air with sound; the choughs cackled, the hacklets wailed, the great black-backs laughed querulous defiance at the intruders, and a single falcon, with an angry bark, dashed out from beneath their feet, and hung poised aloft, watching the sea fowl which swung slowly round and round below.
It was a glorious sight upon a glorious day. To the northward the glens rushed down toward the cliff, crowned with gray crags, and carpeted with purple heather and green fern; and from their feet stretched away to the westward the sapphire rollers of the vast Atlantic, crowned with a thousand crests of flying foam. On their left hand, some ten miles to the south, stood out against the sky the purple wall of Hartland cliffs, sinking lower and lower, as they trended away to the southward along the lonely iron-bound shores of Cornwall, until they faded, dim and blue, into the blue horizon, forty miles away.
The sky was flecked with clouds, which rushed toward them fast upon the roaring south-west wind; and the warm ocean breeze swept up the cliffs, and whistled through the heather bells, and howled in cranny and in crag,
Till the pillars and clefts of the granite
Rang like a God-swept lyre;
while Amyas, a proud smile upon his lips, stood breasting that genial stream of airy wine with swelling nostrils and fast heaving chest, and seemed to drink in life from every gust. All three were silent for a while; and Jack and Cary, gazing downward with delight upon the glory and the grandeur of the sight, forgot for a while that their companion saw it not. Yet when they started sadly, and looked into his face, did he not see it? So wide and eager were his eyes, so bright and calm his face, that they fancied for an instant that he was once more even as they.
When you left me there upon the rock, lads, I looked away and out to sea, to get one last snuff of the merry sea breeze, which will never sail me again. And as I looked, I tell you truth, I could see the water and the sky, as plain as ever I saw them, till I thought my sight was come again. But soon I knew it was not so; for I saw more than man could see; right over the ocean, as I live, and away to the Spanish Main. And I saw Barbados, and Grenada, and all the isles that we ever sailed by; and La Guayra in Carraccas, and the Silla, and the house beneath it where she lived. And I saw him walking with her on the barbecu, and he loved her then. I saw what I saw; and he loved her; and I say he loves her still.
Then I saw the cliffs beneath me, and the Gull rock, and the Shutter, and the Ledge; I saw them, William Cary, and the weeds beneath the merry blue sea. And I saw the grand old galleon, Will; she was righted with the sweeping of the tide. She lies in fifteen fathoms, at the edge of the rocks, upon the sand; and her men are all lying around her, asleep until the judgment day.
Cary and Jack looked at him, and then at each other. His eyes were clear, and bright, and full of meaning; and yet they knew that he was blind. His voice was shaping itself into a song. Was he inspired? Insane? What was it? And they listened with awe-struck faces, as the giant pointed down into the blue depths far below, and went on.
And I saw him sitting in his cabin, like a valiant gentleman of Spain; and his officers were sitting round him, with their swords upon the table at the wine. And the prawns and the cray-fish, and the rockling, they swam in and out above their heads; but Don Guzman he never heeded, but sat still, and drank his wine. Then he took a locket from his bosom; and I heard him speak, Will, and he said: Heres the picture of my fair and true lady; drink to her, senors, all. Then he spoke to me, Will, and called me, right up through the oar-weed and the sea: We have had a fair quarrel, senor; it is time to be friends once more. My wife and your brother have forgiven me; so your honour takes no stain. And I answered, We are friends, Don Guzman; God has judged our quarrel, and not we. Then he said, I sinned, and I am punished. And I said, And, senor, so am I. Then he held out his hand to me, Cary; and I stooped to take it, and awoke.