Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
CONTENTS · BOOK CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
 
The Wreck of the Christ-Anna
By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894)
 
From The Merry Men

“SHE cam’ ashore Februar’ 10, about ten at nicht,” he went on to me. “There was nae wind, and a sair run o’ sea; and she was in the sook o’ the Roost, as I jaloose. We had seen her a’ day, Rorie and me, beating to the wind. She wasnae a handy craft, I’m thinking, that Christ-Anna; for she would neither steer nor stay wi’ them. A sair day they had of it; their hands was never aff the sheets, and it perishin’ cauld—ower cauld to snaw; and aye they would get a bit nip o’ wind, and awa’ again, to pit the emp’y hope into them. Eh, man! but they had a sair day for the last o’t! He would have had a prood, prood heart that won ashore upon the back o’ that.”
  1
  “And were all lost?” I cried, “God help them!”  2
  “Wheesht!” he said sternly. “Nane shall pray for the deid on my hearth-stane.”  3
  I disclaimed a Popish sense for my ejaculation; and he seemed to accept my disclaimer with unusual facility, and ran on once more upon what had evidently become a favourite subject.  4
  “We fand her in Sandag Bay, Rorie an’ me, and a’ thae braws in the inside of her. There’s a kittle bit ye sae, about Sandag; whiles the sook rins strong for the Merry Men; an’ whiles again, when the tide’s makin’ hard an’ ye can hear the Roost blawin’ at the far-end of Aros, there comes a back-spang of current straucht into Sandag Bay. Weel, there’s the thing that got the grip on the Christ-Anna. She but to have come in ramstam an’ stern forrit; for the bows of her are aften under, and the back-side of her is clear at hie-water o’ neaps. But, man! the dunt that she cam doon wi’ when she struck! Lord save us a’! but it’s an unco life to be a sailor—a cauld, wanchancy life. Mony’s the gliff I got mysel’ in the great deep; and why the Lord should hae made yon unco water is mair than ever I could win to understand. He made the vales and the pastures, the bonny green yaird, the halesome, canty land—
        And now they shout and sing to Thee,
For Thou hast made them glad,
as the Psalms say in the metrical version. No that I would preen my faith to that clink neither; but it’s bonny, and easier to mind. ‘Who go to sea in ships,’ they hae’t again—
                            And in
      Great waters trading be,
Within the deep these men God’s works
      And His great wonders see.
Weel, it’s easy sayin’ sae. Maybe Dauvit wasnae very weel acquaint wi’ the sea. But, troth, if it wasnae prentit in the Bible, I wad whiles be temp’it to think it wasnae the Lord, but the muckle black deil that made the sea. There’s naething good comes oot o’t but the fish; an’ the spectacle o’ God riding on the tempest to be shüre, whilk would be what Dauvit likely was ettling at. But, man, there were sair wonders that God showed to the Christ-Anna—wonders, do I ca’ them? Judgments, rather: judgments in the mirk nicht among the draygons o’ the deep. And their souls—to think o’ that—their souls, man, maybe no prepared! The sea—a muckle yett to hell!”
  5
  I observed, as my uncle spoke, that his voice was unnaturally moved and his manner unwontedly demonstrative. He leaned forward at the last words, for example, and touched me on the knee with his spread fingers, looking up into my face with a certain pallor, and I could see that his eyes shone with a deep-seated fire, and that the lines about his mouth were drawn and tremulous.  6
  Even the entrance of Rorie, and the beginning of our meal, did not detach him from his train of thought beyond a moment. He condescended, indeed, to ask me some questions as to my success at college, but I thought it was with half his mind; and even in his extempore grace, which was, as usual, long and wandering, I could find the trace of his preoccupation, praying, as he did, that God would “remember in mercy fower puir, feckless, fiddling, sinful creatures here by their lee-lane beside the great and dowie waters.”  7
  Soon there came an interchange of speeches between him and Rorie.  8
  “Was it there?” asked my uncle.  9
  “Ou, ay!” said Rorie.  10
  I observed that they both spoke in a manner of aside, and with some show of embarrassment, and that Mary herself appeared to colour, and looked down on her plate. Partly to show my knowledge, and so relieve the party from an awkward strain, partly because I was curious, I pursued the subject.  11
  “You mean the fish?” I asked.  12
  “Whatten fish?” cried my uncle. “Fish, quo’ he! Fish! Your een are fu’ o’ fatness, man; your heid dozened with carnal lair. Fish! it’s a bogle!”  13
  He spoke with great vehemence, as though angry; and perhaps I was not very willing to be put down so shortly, for young men are disputatious. At least I remember I retorted hotly, crying out upon childish superstitions.  14
  “And ye come frae the College!” sneered Uncle Gordon. “Gude kens what they learn folk there; it’s no muckle service onyway. Do ye think, man, that there’s naething in a’ yon saut wilderness o’ a world oot wast there, wi’ the sea grasses growin’, an’ the sea beasts fechtin’, an’ the sun glintin’ down into it, day by day? Na; the sea’s like the land, but fearsomer. If there’s folk ashore, there’s folk in the sea—deid they may be, but they’re folk whatever; and as for deils, there’s nane that’s like the sea deils. There’s no sae muckle harm in the land deils, when a’s said and done. Langsyne when I was a callant in the south country, I mind there was an auld, bald bogle in the Peewie Moss. I got a glisk o’ him mysel,’ sittin’ on his hunkers in a hag, as gray’s a tombstane. An’, troth, he was a fearsomelike taed. But he steered naebody. Nae doobt, if ane that was a reprobate, ane the Lord hated, had gane by there wi’ his sin still upon his stamach, nae doobt the creature would hae lowped upo’ the likes o’ him. But there’s deils in the deep sea would yoke on a communicant! Eh, sirs, if ye had gane doon wi’ the puir lads in the Christ-Anna, ye would ken by now the mercy o’ the seas. If ye had sailed it for as lang as me, ye would hate the thocht of it as I do. If ye had but used the een God gave ye, ye would hae learned the wickedness o’ that fause, saut, cauld, bullering creature, and of a’ that’s in it by the Lord’s permission: labsters an’ partans, an’ sic like, howking in the deid; muckle, gutsy, blawing whales; an’ fish—the hale clan o’ them—cauld-wamed, blind-eed uncanny ferlies. O sirs,” he cried, “the horror—the horror o’ the sea!”  15
 
 
CONTENTS · BOOK CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors