30 July.--Last night. Rejoiced we are nearing England. Weather fine, all sails set. Retired worn out, slept soundly, awakened by mate telling me that both man of watch and steersman missing. Only self and mate and two hands left to work ship.
29 July.--Another tragedy. Had single watch tonight, as crew too tired to double. When morning watch came on deck could find no one except steersman. Raised outcry, and all came on deck. Thorough search, but no one found. Are now without second mate, and crew in a panic. Mate and I agreed to go armed henceforth and wait for any sign of cause.
28 July.--Four days in hell, knocking about in a sort of malestrom, and the wind a tempest. No sleep for any one. Men all worn out. Hardly know how to set a watch, since no one fit to go on. Second mate volunteered to steer and watch, and let men snatch a few hours sleep. Wind abating, seas still terrific, but feel them less, as ship is steadier.
24 July. Whitby.--Lucy met me at the station, looking sweeter and
lovelier than ever, and we drove up to the house at the Crescent in
which they have rooms. This is a lovely place. The little river, the
Esk, runs through a deep valley, which broadens out as it comes near
the harbour. A great viaduct runs across, with high piers, through
which the view seems somehow further away than it really is. The valley
is beautifully green, and it is so steep that when you are on the high
land on either side you look right across it, unless you are near
enough to see down. The houses of the old town--the side away from us,
are all red-roofed, and seem piled up one over the other anyhow, like
the pictures we see of Nuremberg. Right over the town is the ruin of
Whitby Abbey, which was sacked by the Danes, and which is the scene of
part of "Marmion," where the girl was built up in the wall. It is a
most noble ruin, of immense size, and full of beautiful and romantic
bits. There is a legend that a white lady is seen in one of the
windows. Between it and the town there is another church, the parish
one, round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones. This is to
my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and
has a full view of the harbour and all up the bay to where the headland
called Kettleness stretches out into the sea. It descends so steeply
over the harbour that part of the bank has fallen away, and some of the
graves have been destroyed.
In one place part of the stonework of the graves stretches out over
the sandy pathway far below. There are walks, with seats beside them,
through the churchyard, and people go and sit there all day long
looking at the beautiful view and enjoying the breeze.
I shall come and sit here often myself and work. Indeed, I am
writing now, with my book on my knee, and listening to the talk of
three old men who are sitting beside me. They seem to do nothing all
day but sit here and talk.
The harbour lies below me, with, on the far side, one long granite
wall stretching out into the sea, with a curve outwards at the end of
it, in the middle of which is a lighthouse. A heavy seawall runs along
outside of it. On the near side, the seawall makes an elbow crooked
inversely, and its end too has a lighthouse. Between the two piers
there is a narrow opening into the harbour, which then suddenly widens.
It is nice at high water, but when the tide is out it shoals away to
nothing, and there is merely the stream of the Esk, running between
banks of sand, with rocks here and there. Outside the harbour on this
side there rises for about half a mile a great reef, the sharp of which
runs straight out from behind the south lighthouse. At the end of it is
a buoy with a bell, which swings in bad weather, and sends in a
mournful sound on the wind.
They have a legend here that when a ship is lost bells are heard out
at sea. I must ask the old man about this. He is coming this way . . .
He is a funny old man. He must be awfully old, for his face is
gnarled and twisted like the bark of a tree.He tells me that he is
nearly a hundred, and that he was a sailor in the Greenland fishing
fleet when Waterloo was fought. He is, I am afraid, a very sceptical
person, for when I asked him about the bells at sea and the White Lady
at the abbey he said very brusquely,
"I wouldn't fash masel' about them, miss. Them things be all wore
out. Mind, I don't say that they never was, but I do say that they
wasn't in my time. They be all very well for comers and trippers, an'
the like, but not for a nice young lady like you. Them feet-folks from
York and Leeds that be always eatin' cured herrin's and drinkin' tea
an' lookin' out to buy cheap jet would creed aught. I wonder masel'
who'd be bothered tellin' lies to them, even the newspapers, which is
full of fool-talk."
I thought he would be a good person to learn interesting things
from, so I asked him if he would mind telling me something about the
whale fishing in the old days. He was just settling himself to begin
when the clock struck six, whereupon he laboured to get up, and said,
"I must gang ageeanwards home now, miss. My granddaughter doesn't
like to be kept waitin' when the tea is ready, for it takes me time to
crammle aboon the grees, for there be a many of `em, and miss, I lack
belly-timber sairly by the clock."
He hobbled away, and I could see him hurrying, as well as he could,
down the steps. The steps are a great feature on the place. They lead
from the town to the church, there are hundreds of them, I do not know
how many, and they wind up in a delicate curve. The slope is so gentle
that a horse could easily walk up and down them.
I think they must originally have had something to do with the
abbey. I shall go home too. Lucy went out, visiting with her mother,
and as they were only duty calls, I did not go.