We hunted people in the little square in their shops and offices, but only found them in cafes. One amiable gentleman wasn't up at 9.30, was out at 10, and as soon as he came back the servant said he would go to bed and not get up till 3: he came, however, to find us at a cafe, and said that, on the contrary, two days in the week he did not do so! Then my two fat friends must have their breakfast after their "something" at a cafe; and all the shops shut from 10 to 2; and the post does not open till 12; and there was a road to Fort Genois, only a bridge had been carried away, &c. At last I got off, and we rowed round to Fort Genois, where my men had put up a capital gipsy tent with sails, and there was my big board and Thomson's number 5 in great glory. I soon came to the conclusion there was a break. Two of my faithful Cagliaritans slept all night in the little tent, to guard it and my precious instruments; and the sea, which was rather rough, silenced my Frenchmen.

'Next day I went on with my experiments, whilst a boat grappled for the cable a little way from shore and buoyed it where the ELBA could get hold. I brought all back to the ELBA, tried my machinery and was all ready for a start next morning. But the wretched coal had not come yet; Government permission from Algiers to be got; lighters, men, baskets, and I know not what forms to be got or got through - and everybody asleep! Coals or no coals, I was determined to start next morning; and start we did at four in the morning, picked up the buoy with our deck engine, popped the cable across a boat, tested the wires to make sure the fault was not behind us, and started picking up at 11. Everything worked admirably, and about 2 P.M., in came the fault. There is no doubt the cable was broken by coral fishers; twice they have had it up to their own knowledge.

'Many men have been ashore to-day and have come back tipsy, and the whole ship is in a state of quarrel from top to bottom, and they will gossip just within my hearing. And we have had, moreover, three French gentlemen and a French lady to dinner, and I had to act host and try to manage the mixtures to their taste. The good- natured little Frenchwoman was most amusing; when I asked her if she would have some apple tart - "MON DIEU," with heroic resignation, "JE VEUX BIEN"; or a little PLOMBODDING - "MAIS CE QUE VOUS VOUDREZ, MONSIEUR!"

'S. S. ELBA, somewhere not far from Bona: Oct. 19.

'Yesterday [after three previous days of useless grappling] was destined to be very eventful. We began dredging at daybreak and hooked at once every time in rocks; but by capital luck, just as we were deciding it was no use to continue in that place, we hooked the cable: up it came, was tested, and lo! another complete break, a quarter of a mile off. I was amazed at my own tranquillity under these disappointments, but I was not really half so fussy as about getting a cab. Well, there was nothing for it but grappling again, and, as you may imagine, we were getting about six miles from shore. But the water did not deepen rapidly; we seemed to be on the crest of a kind of submarine mountain in prolongation of Cape de Gonde, and pretty havoc we must have made with the crags. What rocks we did hook! No sooner was the grapnel down than the ship was anchored; and then came such a business: ship's engines going, deck engine thundering, belt slipping, fear of breaking ropes: actually breaking grapnels. It was always an hour or more before we could get the grapnel down again. At last we had to give up the place, though we knew we were close to the cable, and go further to sea in much deeper water; to my great fear, as I knew the cable was much eaten away and would stand but little strain. Well, we hooked the cable first dredge this time, and pulled it slowly and gently to the top, with much trepidation. Was it the cable? was there any weight on? it was evidently too small. Imagine my dismay when the cable did come up, but hanging loosely, thus

[Picture]

instead of taut, thus

[Picture]

showing certain signs of a break close by.

Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin Page 50

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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