Mrs. David Osbourne.

The World of Waters A Peaceful Progress o'er the Unpathed Sea online

. (page 8 of 22)
Online LibraryMrs. David OsbourneThe World of Waters A Peaceful Progress o'er the Unpathed Sea → online text (page 8 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


substituted for the miserable road-side accommodations. This was one
of the wooden houses so common in this part of Russia, and
infinitely more pleasing within than without; divided with
partitions like the tray of a work-box, fitted up with every
accommodation on a small scale; a retreat which some unambitious
pair might prefer to the palace we had quitted. After a few hours'
rest we started again with the same horses, which here perform
journeys of sixty wersts in the day with the utmost ease; and when
evening was far advanced, our little travellers pushed aside their
many-colored veils, and peeped at the lamps with astonished eyes, as
we clattered up the steep hill which led to our residence in the
town of Reval.'"

EMMA. "Well, George, what think you of that? You are so partial to
cold weather, and are so desirous to travel in a sledge, do not you
think you would like to dwell in Russia, and go about always like a
roll-pudding?"

GEORGE. "To travel in a sledge I should certainly like, but I would
prefer my sledge in Lapland, where the beautiful reindeer, fleet as
the wind, scamper over snow and ice, and convey you to your friends
almost as expeditiously as a railroad; but the wrapping up would not
suit me at all, for I like to have the free use of my limbs, more
particularly in cold weather; and for these various reasons I do not
wish to dwell in Russia, but should be delighted to visit it, and
should not even object to remain there a season. How much is a
werst, papa?"

MR. WILTON. "A Russian werst is nearly two thirds of an English
mile."

MR. BARRAUD. "There are people of almost every nation living in the
government of Reval, the chief town of which is a port on the Gulf
of Finland, of the same name. Within the last few years, the
inhabitants of this place have been making a growing acquaintance
with the Finlanders on the opposite shores, at a place called
Helsingforst, which is only approachable between a number of rocky
islands. The town of Helsingforst is clean and handsome, with good
shops, containing cheap commodities, which are a source of great
attraction to the Esthonians (or natives of Reval) and others who
reside in Reval; consequently, in the fine weather, parties are made
about once a fortnight for a trip to Helsingforst: these trips are
both pleasurable and profitable. The voyage occupies six hours in a
little steamboat; and, when landed, the voyagers procure every
requisite at a magnificent hotel in the town for moderate charges.
They then go shopping, buying umbrellas, India-rubber galoshes, and
all descriptions of wearing apparel, which they contrive to smuggle
over, notwithstanding the vigilance of the custom-house officers at
Reval."

GRANDY. "I have read that the fishermen on the shores of the Baltic
are remarkably superstitious, and careful not to desecrate any of
their saints' days. They never use their nets between All Saints'
and St. Martin's, as they would be certain not to take any fish
throughout the year. On Ash Wednesday the women neither sew nor
knit, for fear of bringing misfortune upon the cattle. They contrive
so as not to use fire on St. Lawrence's day: by taking this
precaution, they think themselves secure against fire for the rest
of the year. The Esthonians do not hunt on St. Mark's or St.
Catherine's day, on penalty of being unsuccessful all the rest of
the year. It is reckoned a good sign to sneeze on Christmas day.
Most of them are so prejudiced against Friday, that they never
settle any important business or conclude a bargain on this day; in
some places they do not even dress their children. They object to
visit on Thursdays, for it is a sign they will have troublesome
guests all the week. Thus they are slaves to superstition, and must,
consequently, be a complaining, unhappy people. Now Dora, my dear,
proceed."

DORA. "In the Baltic, north of the Gulf of Riga, lies the Isle of
Dagen, belonging to Russia, and containing some fine estates of the
Esthonian nobility. The dress of the female peasantry in this island
is so remarkable that they deserve a passing notice. The head-dress
is a circular plait of hair, braided with a red cloth roll, which
fastens behind, and hangs down in long ends tipped with fringe. The
dress is merely a linen shift, high to the throat, half-way down the
leg, crimped from top to bottom, the linen being soaked in water
with as much strong starch as it can hold, crimped with long laths
of wood, and then put into the oven to dry, whence it issues stiff
and hard as a board. The belt is the chief curiosity, being made of
broad black leather, studded with massive brass heads, with a fringe
of brass chains. High-heeled shoes and red stockings complete the
attire, and altogether make a fanciful picture of a pretty maiden
bandit."

EMMA. "But such garments must surely be very cold?"

DORA. "The dress I have described is worn in the summer, for they
have a warm season for a short period during the year; of course,
when the cold sets in, they hide their faces and figures in furs, in
the same fashion as their neighbors."

GEORGE. "How very uncomfortable to be dressed so stiffly in warm
weather; and then they can surely never sit in such garments, for to
rumple them would spoil them, I suppose?"

MRS. WILTON. "It is _the fashion_ in Dagen, my dear; and there, as
elsewhere, many inconveniences are submitted to, from an anxiety to
vie with other folks in the style of dress, and from a fear of being
considered _old-fashioned_. I am sure _we_ English must not find
fault with the dress of other countries, for some of _our_ fashions
are truly ridiculous."

"Yes, mamma," said Emma; "but they do not strike us as being
ridiculous, because we are accustomed to them; and this must be the
case with other nations: they are used to their peculiar dresses,
and have no idea of the astonishment of strangers when viewing the
novel attire, which to the wearers possesses nothing remarkable to
astonish or attract."

MR. BARRAUD. "Near Dagen the navigation of the Baltic is very
dangerous; and many years ago the island was principally occupied by
men who wickedly subsisted on the misfortunes of others. A slight
sketch of one will sufficiently inform you of the general character
of these men. 'Baron Ungern Sternberg, whose house was situated on a
high part of the island, became notorious for his long course of
iniquity. He lived in undisputed authority, never missing an
opportunity of displaying his false lights to mislead the poor
mariners. No notice was taken of these cruel practices for some
time, for Sternberg was powerful in wealth and influence; until the
disappearance of a ship's captain, who was found dead in his room,
the existence of an immense quantity of goods under his house, and
other concurring circumstances, led to his apprehension. He was
tried, condemned to Siberia, and his name struck off the roll of the
nobility. His family, however, stands as high now as it ever did;
for his descendants were not disgraced; and they still possess all
the daring, courage, enterprise, and sparkling wit of their pirate
ancestor, although it is but just to say they have not inherited his
crimes. The sensation caused by the dread of this man reached even
to the shores of England, and the streets of London were placarded,
"Beware of Ungern Sternberg, the Sea Robber!" as a warning to
sailors. This of course was before his seizure, for when he was
taken his accomplices could not longer continue their vile
occupation.'"

CHARLES. "I am anxious to know if it is from the shores of the
Baltic the Turks procure the golden-colored amber of which they make
the mouth-pieces for their pipes?"

MR. WILTON. "Yes, Charles; the amber-gathering is carried on
extensively there, and is the wealth of half the inhabitants. The
amber is sent to Turkey and Greece, and there manufactured into
those splendid mouth-pieces, which it is the pride of these
smoke-loving people to possess. Some of these are excessively
gorgeous and proportionably valuable. I have heard of _one_ being
worth the enormous sum of 100_l_!"

GEORGE. "Parts of Sweden are entirely separated by the Gulf of
Bothnia. What sort of ships have they, papa, to cross the water in
that cold country?"

MR. WILTON. "They do not often cross the water in ships, but
transact nearly all their business with the opposite shores, during
the four months when the waters of this sea, which has no tides, is
firmly frozen, and when they can travel across in sledges,
comfortably defended from the inclemency of the weather. The Baltic
being full of low coasts and shoals, galleys of a flat construction
are found more serviceable than ships of war, and great attention is
paid to their equipment by Sweden as well as Russia. We have
neglected to mention the Islands of the Baltic. There is the isle of
Oesal, remarkable for its quarries of beautiful marble; its
inhabitants like those of Dagen Isle, are chiefly Esthonians:
Gothland and Oeland are both fertile and productive. In the Gulf of
Bothnia are the Aland Isles, which derive their names from the
largest, forty miles in length and fifteen in breadth, containing
about 9000 inhabitants, who speak the Swedish language. These isles
form almost a barrier of real granite rocks stretching to the
opposite shores. In the Gulf of Finland lies the Isle of Cronstadt,
formerly called Retusavi; it has an excellent haven, strongly
fortified, which is the chief station of the Russian fleet."

CHARLES. "Is not the chief fleet of Russia that of the Baltic?"

MR. WILTON. "Yes; it consists of about thirty-six ships of the line;
but the maritime power of Russia is trifling."

MRS. WILTON. "As in leaving the Baltic we quit the shores of Sweden,
we shall have no other opportunity to view Stockholm, the capital.
It occupies a singular situation between a creek or inlet of the
Baltic Sea and the Lake Maeler. It stands on seven small rocky
islands, and the scenery is truly singular and romantic. This city
was founded by Earl Birger, regent of the kingdom, about the middle
of the thirteenth century; and in the seventeenth century the royal
residence was transferred hither from Upsal. Sweden was formerly
under the Danish yoke, but Gustavus Yasa delivered it when he
introduced the reformed religion in 1527. His reign of thirty-seven
years was great and glorious in the annals of Sweden. We will now
proceed on our course: shall we go still further north, into the
White Sea, or are you tired of the cold, and prefer journeying to
the south, and embarking on the Black Sea?"

CHARLES. "Oh! the White Sea first, for the distance is much less,
and we shall sooner get there; but it must be an overland journey."

MR. WILTON. "Yes; for the Bielse More, or White Sea, is reckoned,
with the Mediterranean and the Baltic, as one of Europe's principal
inland seas. The largest gulfs connected with this sea are the Gulf
of Archangel and the Gulf of Candalax; the waters of the latter wash
the shores of Lapland, and are filled with numerous small islands.
Archangel is a port on the White Sea; and here the Russians build
most of their men-of-war: before the reign of Peter the Great, it
was the only port from which Russia communicated with other
countries of Europe."

MRS. WILTON. "With a few remarks on Lapland, we will quit this part
of our quarter of the globe. Lapland can boast of but few towns. The
people lead wandering lives, and reside greater part of the year in
huts buried in the snow; occasionally they have warm weather, that
is, for the space of three or four weeks in the year, when the sun
has immense power; so that a clergyman residing at Enontekis
informed Dr. Clarke that he was able to light his pipe at midnight
with a common burning-glass, and that from his church the sun was
visible above the horizon at midnight during the few weeks of
summer. But the delights of this long day scarcely compensate for
the almost uninterrupted night which overshadows them with its dark
mantle for the remainder of the year; one continual winter, when
scarcely for three hours during the day can the inhabitants dispense
with the use of candles. The climate, although so extremely frigid,
is nevertheless wholesome, and the people are a hardy race. In
Lapland the Aurora Borealis is seen to perfection; the appearance it
exhibits at times is beyond description magnificent: it serves to
illuminate their dark skies in the long night of winter; and,
although they cannot benefit by it so continually as the inhabitants
of Greenland and Iceland, yet they never behold the arch of the
glorious Northern Lights spread abroad in the starry heavens but
they bless God for the phenomenon which they cannot comprehend, but
know full well how to appreciate. Here in this wintry region George
might enjoy himself agreeably to his wishes, for the Laplanders
travel in sledges drawn by the swift reindeer; but I fear he would
find it difficult to keep his seat, as the sledge is but of narrow
dimensions and easily upset, while the animal requires a great deal
of management to guide him properly. What think you, George? Would
you not be like Frank Berkeley or Paul Preston, who fancied it must
be so easy and delightful to ride in a pulk or sledge, and found
instead, that, from inexperience, their journey was one continued
chapter of accidents?"

GEORGE. "I dare say I should fare as badly at first, but I would not
be discouraged by _one_ failure."

MR. WILTON. "That is right, my boy! Perseverance and determination
are an extra pair of legs to a traveller in his journey through
life."

CHARLES. "There appears to be no islands in the White Sea."

MRS. WILTON. "There are islands, but they are mostly barren
uninhabited rocks. Archangel, a port on this sea, is famous for the
manufacture of linen sheeting. Now quit we these dreary regions for
the bright and enlivening southern climes; and, if all parties are
agreeable, we will cast our anchor where we may behold the heights
of Caucasus, and picture to ourselves the situation of still more
interesting elevations; viz. Ararat, Lebanon, and Hermon; mountains
mentioned in the Sacred Writings, and certainly great points of
attraction to Christian travellers in Asiatic Turkey."

CHARLES. "There are several gulfs; but I do not know of any islands,
in the Black Sea. There is a peninsula attached to Russia, which
contains the towns of Kafa, Aknetchet, Sevastopol, and Eupatoria: it
lies between the Sea of Asof and the Gulf of Perecop. The principal
gulfs are the Gulf of Baba, the Gulf of Samson, the Gulf of Varna,
and the Gulf of Foros."

MR. BARRAUD. "The peninsula you mention, Charles, is the Crimea,
which possesses a most delicious climate, although lying contiguous
to the Putrid Sea, which bounds it on the north. There is an island
in the Euxine, - the Island Leuce, or Isle of Achilles, also called
the Isle of Serpents. It is asserted by the ancients to have been
presented to Achilles by his mother Thetis. In the Gulf of Perecop
there is also another island, called Taman, which contains springs
of naphtha."

MR. WILTON. "The principal port on the Black Sea is Odessa. It ranks
next in Russia after the two capitals of the empire, but is not a
desirable residence, being subject to hurricanes and other evils, of
which _dust_ is undoubtedly the greatest. A learned French writer[6]
says: 'Dust here is a real calamity, a fiend-like persecutor that
allows you not a moment's rest. It spreads out in seas and billows
that rise with the least breath of wind, and envelop you with
increasing fury, until you are stifled and blinded, and incapable of
a single movement.' The same writer describes a curious phenomenon
he witnessed in Odessa: 'After a very hot day in 1840, the air
gradually darkened about four in the afternoon, until it was
impossible to see twenty paces before one. The oppressive feel of
the atmosphere, the dead calm, and the portentous color of the sky,
filled every one with deep consternation, and seemed to betoken some
fearful catastrophe. The thermometer attained the height of 104°
Fahrenheit. The obscurity was then complete. Presently the most
furious tempest imagination can conceive burst forth; and when the
darkness cleared off, there was seen over the sea what looked like
a waterspout of prodigious depth and breadth, suspended at a height
of several feet above the water, and moving slowly away until it
dispersed at last at a distance of many miles from the shore. The
eclipse and the waterspout were nothing else than _dust_; and that
day Odessa was swept cleaner than it will probably ever be again.'"

[Footnote 6: Xavier Hommaire de Hell.]

MRS. WILTON. "Such a description is quite sufficient to drive the
weary traveller to seek shelter; and I think we have had enough of
other places for to-night. Let us take our own at the supper-table,
and refresh ourselves after the voyage, for we have reason to
congratulate each other on the success of our plan; hitherto, there
has been no halting for lack of a finger-post, and I hope we shall
be as well prepared at future meetings, and be enabled to accomplish
as much as we have this evening."

GRANDY. "I have been silent for the last hour, principally because I
do not feel very well this evening; but I cannot refrain from
speaking a word or two before we disperse. A good and wise man
says -

'Full often, too,
Our wayward intellect, the more we learn
Of nature, overlooks her Author more.'

My dear children, let not this be said of you; but look upward to
the Source of light and life, and pray that all knowledge may lead
you on to seek Him who is the author and giver of all good things;
then will wisdom, heavenly wisdom, illumine your minds; then will
peace, the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, fill your
hearts, and

'Reveal truths undiscerned but by that holy light.'"




CHAPTER IV.

O'er the stormy, wide, and billowy deep,
Where the whale, the shark, and the sword-fish sleep;
And amidst the plashing and feathery foam,
Where the stormy-petrel finds a home.

"George is to open this meeting, by reciting some lines written by
Mrs. Howitt, which are very clever, and will most appropriately
introduce our subject." So saying, Mrs. Wilton proceeded to arrange
the members in their various places; and, seating herself, she
turned to her son, who by virtue of his office was allowed to remain
near Grandy's chair until the great work was accomplished. George
was hesitating, but an encouraging smile from this kind mother
inspired him with confidence, and he commenced without further
ceremony: -

[Illustration: ICEBERGS]

"'The earth is large,' said one of twain;
'The earth is large and wide;
But it is filled with misery
And death on every side!'
Said the other, 'Deep as it is wide
Is the sea within all climes,
And it is fuller of misery
And of death, a thousand times!
The land has peaceful flocks and herds,
And sweet birds singing round;
But a myriad monstrous, hideous things
Within the sea are found -
Things all misshapen, slimy, cold,
Writhing, and strong, and thin,
And waterspouts, and whirlpools wild,
That draw the fair ship in.
I've heard of the diver to the depths
Of the ocean forced to go,
To bring up the pearl and the twisted shell
From the fathomless caves below;
I've heard of the things in those dismal gulfs,
Like fiends that hemm'd him round -
I would not lead a diver's life
For every pearl that's found.
And I've heard how the sea-snake, huge and dark,
In the arctic flood doth roll;
He hath coil'd his tail, like a cable strong,
All round and round the pole:
And they say, when he stirs in the sea below,
The ice-rocks split asunder -
The mountains huge of the ribbed ice -
With a deafening crack like thunder.
There's many an isle man wots not of,
Where the air is heavy with groans;
And the bottom o' th' sea, the wisest say,
Is covered with dead men's bones.
I'll tell thee what: there's many a ship
In the wild North Ocean frore,
That has lain in the ice a thousand years,
And will lie a thousand more;
And the men - each one is frozen there
In the place where he did stand;
The oar he pull'd, the rope he threw,
Is frozen in his hand.
The sun shines there, but it warms them not;
Their bodies are wintry cold:
They are wrapp'd in ice that grows and grows,
Solid, and white, and old!
And there's many a haunted desert rock,
Where seldom ship doth go -
Where unburied men, with fleshless limbs,
Are moving to and fro:
They people the cliffs, they people the caves, -
A ghastly company! -
never sail'd there in a ship myself,
But I know that such there be.
And oh! the hot and horrid track
Of the Ocean of the Line!
There are millions of the negro men
Under that burning brine.
The ocean sea doth moan and moan,
Like an uneasy sprite;
And the waves are white with a fiendish fire
That burneth all the night.
'Tis a frightful thing to sail along,
Though a pleasant wind may blow,
When we think what a host of misery
Lies down in the sea below!
Didst ever hear of a little boat,
And in her there were three;
They had nothing to eat, and nothing to drink,
Adrift on the desert sea.
For seven days they bore their pain;
Then two men on the other
Did fix their longing, hungry eyes, -
And that one was their brother!
And him they killed, and ate, and drank -
Oh me! 'twas a horrid thing!
For the dead should lie in a churchyard green,
Where the pleasant flowers do spring.
And think'st thou but for mortal sin
Such frightful things would be?
In the land of the New Jerusalem
There will be no more sea!'"

MR. WILTON. "Well done! George; very nicely repeated indeed: you are
a most promising member of our little society; and we will drink
your health in some of Grandy's elder-wine to-night at supper, and
not forget the honors to be added thereto. Now, is it determined how
we are to proceed; whether we take the seas of Asia, or enter on the
broad waves of the various oceans which wash many of the shores of
Europe?"

CHARLES. "The seas first, sir. I have the list of those for
consideration belonging to this most interesting division of the
globe: the Caspian, between Turkey, Persia, and Tartary; the
Whang-hai, or Yellow Sea, in China; the Sea of Japan; the Sea of
Ochotsh or Lama; the Chinese Sea; the Bay of Bengal; the Persian
Gulf; and the Arabian Gulf or Red Sea: these are the largest; but
there are numbers of small seas, some of them so entirely inland
that they should more properly be called lakes; of these, the
largest is the Sea of Aral. The bays and gulfs around Asia are so
numerous that you would be tired of hearing their names. North, are
the Bays of Carskoe and Obskaia: south, Tonquin, Siam, Cambay, and
Cutch; east, Macao and Petchelee; west, Balkan, Kindelnisk, and
Krasnai Vodi; the latter in the Caspian."

GEORGE. "Are those all, Charles? why, from your preface, I thought
you would be at least ten minutes enumerating the Bays of Asia."

CHARLES. "Were I to name _all_, I could do it in less time than ten
minutes; but I should incur too great a liability for my trouble,
as I should be expected to describe the situations of all, and that
would be beyond my capability."

DORA. "The Caspian falls to my share: it is usually called by the
Persians, 'Derrieh Hustakhan' (Sea of Astrachan). It is likewise
called the 'Derrieh Khizzar.' The absence of all shipping, save now
and then a solitary Russian craft; the scarcity of sea-weed, and the
want of the refreshing salt scent of the ocean, together with the
general appearance of the coast, suggest the idea of an immense
lake. Numbers of that large fish called 'sturgeon' are taken from
the waters of the Caspian; and there is quite a colony of fishermen
engaged in this occupation on the Persian coast; and during the
season they catch thousands of these useful fish. No part of a
sturgeon is wasted: the roe is taken out, salted, and stowed away in
casks; this is known by the name of 'caviare,' and is esteemed a
great luxury. From the sound or air-bladder isinglass is made,
simply by being hung in the sun for a time; and the fish itself is
dried, and exported to various parts of the world. Astracan is the
chief seat of Caspian commerce."

MR. WILTON. "And here the traveller finds collected into a focus all
the picturesque items that have struck him elsewhere. Alongside of a


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryMrs. David OsbourneThe World of Waters A Peaceful Progress o'er the Unpathed Sea → online text (page 8 of 22)