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ground of the rest of the week; these were the bright rays that lit up his sad and melancholy existence !
The worst of the January days had come. Nothing like it had been seen all that winter-nor for fifty previous winters, the old women saidbut then old women always say these things. M'Candle did not get up at all that day, as he recounted afterwards; and he used often to say he wished he never had got up more, for from that day did he date his miseries. At Trafalgar Hall the wind blew fierce and loud, and showers of sea-spray dashed over the grass-field, and over the flower-plot on to the very windows. The doors were barricaded, and even the Masters Tomkins were detained at home, where circumstances obliging them to seek recreation in some innocent sedentary pursuit, and Miss Julia and Kirsty Sweynson having barred them out, and unanimously declined to go into the arrangement of "changing clothes and going and frightening pa out of his wits," they were thrown entirely upon their own resources. But as the poet remarks, the human mind is powerful for anything: it "can make a heaven of hell-a hell of heaven!" It is full of devices. Minds like those of the Messrs. Tomkins can, at all events, accomplish the last feat described by Milton. They may be beaten on the left wing, beaten on the right wing, beaten on the centre, but this only enables them to bring their fine reserved forces on the field with greater éclat. Thus the Messrs. Tomkins, jun., repulsed in many quarters, yet retained their vigour and invention. With such simple agents and instruments as two dogs, three cats, the kitchen poker and tongs, all the cooking utensils, some crockery-ware and a hand-bell, they produced a fund of amusement and healthful recreation most satisfactory to themselves, if not to the spectators and audience. But envy is malignant, and these humorous youths, in the midst of their happy, childlike pastime, were crushed by the hand of a saturnine, unsympathising opponent. Lieutenant Tomkins had drunk a good deal of spirits-more than ordinary, for he wanted to put himself to sleep-and he got to sleep, and slept soundly. In his slumbers he had fearful dreams. He heard awful noises. He thought he was once more a midshipman, and had been caught behaving improperly; was ordered by the commander to the mast-head, and had almost reached that "bad eminence," when-terrible as the whoop of the Red Indian-a shout rang in his ears, he started, lost his footing, fell from the mast, and awoke! In his ears still resounded the noises, and there came, loud and clear, the sound of a bell. Could it be the ship's bell proclaiming that another hour had gone by? He rubbed his eyes, and the sense of his position flashed upon him. He was no longer "middy Tomkins;" he was Lieutenant Tomkins, a man of, at least, middle age, and he had two sons-yes-and that was them! The whole truth broke upon him at once! Yes, that was them, glorious thought, glorious opportunity! He might now do that which would send his name down to (immediate) posterity for at least a week, and give him subject for delightful reminiscence for some days to come. It was the work of a moment to don his dressing-gown and his slippers, to seize his walkingstick, to rush out. In the lobby, Messrs. Horatio Nelson and Robert Tomkins were fencing with the kitchen poker and their parent's umbrella; the dogs, attached together by curious folds of twine, to which the handbell was suspended, worried one another in a corner; and Miss Julia's
favourite cat hung to the stair banisters at the last gasp! Lieutenant Tomkins rushed upon the belligerents like a lion. To cut down the cat, to cut asunder the dogs, to throw one out of the window, and the other into the kitchen, was the work of an instant. Then his heavy hand and stick fell upon the martyrs. Yells resounded on all sides; the Messrs. Tomkins succumbed and rolled on the floor; then the conqueror dragged them off triumphantly one by one, like unto Achilles dragging Hector at his chariot-wheels. Mr. Bob was lodged in the coal-cellar, Mr. Horatio Nelson was conveyed to the farm offices and padlocked in the barn, then the lieutenant breathed freely once more. But he could not sleep again; he felt exhilarated, refreshed, up to anything. He did not know exactly how to give vent to this buoyancy; he thought for a moment of setting off to the Manse and calling on M'Candle; fortunately for the divine, however, he renounced this idea after reflection. He paced the room up and down for a long time, as he had been accustomed in old times to pace the deck of his ship. Then he went to the window and looked out. Gloomy and dark the prospect, certainly. It was now about three o'clock in the afternoon, and the short winter's day was rapidly approaching its close. The dark shadows of night were coming down on ocean and shore thick and fast, and the little light still remaining showed only a wilderness of great, dark, tossing, rolling waves, chasing one another, and bursting madly in sheets of spray and foam on the coast beneath him, and on the lofty rocks on the opposite side of the vale. Nothing living could he see; even the sea-fowls and eagles seemed to have been blown away or gone to rest. The wind was still rising, although it had blown a very respectable tempest all day, and the lieutenant observed, as he stood at the window, a flash or two of lightning (seldom seen in Zetland except in winter-time), and heard some thunder groaning in the distance. Just then he saw indistinctly through the dusk, between him and the sea, two or three men walking rapidly, and over the thunder of the blast could catch the sound of their voices shouting to one another. Hurrying down to the front door he hailed them. They proved to be Laurence Sweynson, two of his grown-up sons, Magnie Smith, a sweetheart of Kirsty's, and some other men. "Where are you going?" asked the officer.
"Weel, sir," replied Laurence, who, like his comrades, was drenched to the skin, and had his hair, whiskers, and eyebrows glistening with spray, we wir just gaen ta luke efter wir bits o' boats, sir. We mann draa dem up farder, sir, ur da sea 'ill tak dem. He's a dreedful coorse night, sir!"
"Pon my soul it is, Sweynson," rejoined the lieutenant. "Hang me, I've been out in bad nights, but I never saw such a boisterous one in my life before, I think. But don't stand talking, the sooner you go after your boats the better."
So Laurence, after further remarking that there would be "a hantel o' waracks* da night," and that some "craters" (that is, cattle, horses, &c.) belonging principally to his brother, had "geen o'er da banks," and after inquiring for the health of "da leddy," went off with his companions, and they all disappeared from the sight of the lieutenant. He
*A number of wrecks.
† Gone or fallen over the cliffs.
went in, and barred the door again, shutting out the violent wind, which, during the short period of the above conversation, had almost taken the roof off the house. "Devilish cheerful, this!" he exclaimed. And the prisoner in the coal cellar hearing the sound of his parent's voice, and welcoming this sign of civilised life with feelings similar to those of the man who fell in with the gibbet on the island where he had been wrecked, yelled and kicked at the door. "You'd better hold that row of yours, sir," shouted the lieutenant, growing cheerful as he recalled his late exploits. "Julia, Julia!" Miss Tomkins presently made her appearance. "Come and give us a tune, and do make that woman hurry with dinner."
Dinner, as it happened, was ready, so it was partaken of immediately; then Miss Tomkins performed some of her most cheerful waltzes, and reels, and jigs, on her pianoforte; then there was tea, and then more music, and Lieutenant Tomkins, sitting cozily by a roaring fire, smoking and sipping toddy, and listening to the music, thought that coarse weather wasn't such a bad thing after all, and felt so amiable towards all creation that he began to think he would go presently and let out his boys from "durance vile." He felt like a popular monarch who is being fêted on the occasion of his happy accession to the throne, and resolves to mark the day by proclaiming unconditional freedom to the state criminals. Just then he started, and Miss Julia started also, as a singular sound struck their ears; and before they could collect their thoughts and put them into language, Kirsty Sweynson rushed into the room, exclaiming,
"Did ye hear dat, sir? Did ye hear dat, mem ?"
Faith, I should think I did!" cried the lieutenant, rising hastily. "If I ever heard the report of a cannon, that was one. where's my hat? Bring my boots!"
At this moment a loud knocking came to the front door. the trio, and open went the door, at which stood a breathless boy, one of Kirsty's younger brothers.
"Oh, if ye plase, sir," panted this youngster, "dey're a veshil coming ashore just below da Erin-stack."
This was a high, sharp rock, which took its name from the eagles or "erius" which frequented it, and was separated at high water from the lofty cliffs opposite.
"Below the Erin-stack!" exclaimed Lieutenant Tomkins; "then they're all lost. Unquestionably gone! Here, bring my coat-bring my plaid-light the lantern !"
And, despite the entreaties of his daughter, Lieutenant Tomkins, wrapped up to the mouth, with a fur cap strapped over his ears, and the lantern and his walking-stick in his hands, sallied forth in company with the boy Sweynson. But ere crossing the threshold he paused. It was harsh to deprive the poor boys of this little innocent amusement. He threw open the door of the coal-cellar, released Master Bob, and telling him "what was up," gave him the key of the barn, and told him to go and free his brother also, which Master Bob obediently did, and the youths were on the scene of action long before their parent and his guide. It was a dreadful sight which met their eyes when they reached the cliffs opposite the Erin-stack. The short walk in the open air had
enabled them to see with some little distinctness, dark though the night was, and frequently now flames of lightning illuminated the scene for a moment. The wind was blowing right on the land, and it was possible to stand pretty near the cliff without any danger of being blown over, though it required strong "sea-legs," which Lieutenant Tomkins scarcely possessed now, to avoid being blown with force in the other direction. But he got one peep by the aid of the friendly lightning, and could see that the vessel-from which shouts and shrieks were proceeding without intermission-was a large one, that she had struck at the base of the Erin-stack, and was rapidly going to pieces. The cliffs, or "banks," where most of the men of the district were now assembled, though precipitous in appearance when viewed from the sea, had in reality a gentle slope, easy enough of descent and ascent during the day. The face of the cliff was, however, formed of crumbly loose stones, intersected with holes, the abode of rabbits and their sworn enemies-cats, once domestic but now wild-and under the present circumstances to go down was, without doubt, most perilous. Still there was no hope of being of any assistance unless the descent could be effected, and some of the younger and stronger of the men, Sweynson's elder sons, Magnie Smith, and others, carrying sticks and lanterns, proceeded to make the attempt, following a sort of zig-zag footpath which led down to the sea. Anxiously the men above watched the glimmer of the lanterns as they went gradually downward, and anxiously they waited during the long time which elapsed till the return. Lieutenant Tomkins and Mr. Eric Sweynson, after a little conversation, went and had some grog in the shop, and by-and-by came back again, and at length, after the cries below had for some time ceased, and dreadful fears began to be entertained by the friends of the young Zetlandmen, it was shouted out that they were returning. Gradually the voices became heard, and gradually the lanterns again came slowly upward. Some of the older men went a few yards down the declivity to meet them, and in a short time the whole party made their appearance on the top of "the banks." Their numbers had been increased by three; these were all of that large ship's crew they had been able to rescue from the devouring waves which boiled round the Erin-stack. The crowd pressed round the saved men, Lieutenant Tomkins and Mr. Eric Sweynson keeping in the front. The strangers were much exhausted, and had received slight bruises in their late fearful struggle, but they had been able to climb up with the assistance of their saviours, and were soon able to speak intelligibly. The ship, they said, was a brig bound from Archangel to Liverpool, heavily laden, and with a large crew. Only one of that crew was alive; the other two persons were passengers, Captain George Mortimer, of H.M. - Dragoons, and his footman. The lieutenant introduced himself immediately to Captain Mortimer. He had the honour of belonging to the united services also. He would be delighted to be of any assistance to the captain; the latter must take up his residence at Trafalgar Hall until circumstances permitted his reaching the mainland. Captain Mortimer, who had of course lost everything but the clothes on his back, and was delighted to find himself among persons who were not utter barbarians, as he had expected, joyfully accepted the lieutenant's proffered hospitality. There was no time to be lost in further questioning; dry clothes, refreshment, and rest
were required by the men rescued from the sea, so Captain Mortimer hurried off with Lieutenant Tomkins. At the request of the latter, Mr. Eric Sweynson, after a slight hesitation, put an apartment in his house at the disposal of the footman, and Laurence Sweynson took charge of the sailor. There was little sleep in the houses round Grevavoe that night; the recent events had made most people wakeful and thoughtful. The morning broke upon a scene less wild, but still stormy and threatening. The wind had fallen somewhat, but the waves still careered rapidly as far as the eye could reach, burst on the rocks, and boiled over the beach and sand. Many people all day long traversed the coast, looking for drift from the late wreck. But the greater part of the débris had been borne elsewhere by the fierce, ungovernable tide. A few spars, a few trifling articles of ship-furniture, a few pale corpses, crushed and bruised and crab-bitten, lay on the shore-this was all that remained near the place where she had struck of that fine vessel and her crowd of human beings. Day after day the wind fell, the waves grew more still, and the weather improved. By-and-by a boat was able to cross to the "mainland island," and on its return brought the letters and newspapers from "the south country," the mail-packet having at last reached Lerwick in safety. Lloyd's agent from the latter place shortly arrived at Grevavoe, only, however, to find nothing at that place which could in any way benefit Lloyd's. The poor sailor proceeded homeward, a small subscription having been taken up to enable him to do so. Letters from Captain Mortimer and his footman, Mr. William Dicky, telling their friends of their safety, went southward, and in a few weeks the Scotch and English papers informed the public of the loss of the Archangel brig, and the relatives of the captain and crew, as time went on, learned that these would never cross their thresholds more, but slept their last sleep in the Northern Seas. And days and weeks went by, and the people of Grevavoe began to talk of "dat coorse day in winter when da warack wis" as an epoch of history, and still Captain George Mortimer and his footman remained at Grevavoe, though the latter had left Eric Sweynson's, and had a small room fitted up for him at Lieutenant Tomkins's. And when M'Candle, not seeing Miss Tomkins at church for four Sundays in succession, came over to Trafalgar Hall to see who was ill there, he found every one as lively and cheerful as crickets, but saw a sight which very nearly made him ill personally; for he found Miss Julia seated on a retired rock by the sea-shore, hearing Captain George Mortimer read poetry in a sweet and an affecting manner.
And that impudent and insulting Master Bob whispered to him, in the passage: "I say Mr. M'Candle, Captain Mortimer is going to cook your goose, I think; you'll have to marry Kitty, after all." And further, the saddened minister happened inadvertently to hear pert, cockneyfied, little Mr. William Dicky, the footman, say to Kirsty Sweynson, with a laugh and a glance at him: "Well, I never saw such a Guy in my life. So that's your rector, is it? Well, I nayver! And he was spooney on Miss Tomkins, was he? I suppose the old buffer will be jealous of my master, he, he!"
Mr. M'Candle fled homewards and buried himself in his "study" for some weeks. But he found no consolation there. "Bare-birkie" and "the sheckers," and the society of Master Thomas Sweynson, had