The cable sent from the CAROLINE was just 60 yards too short and did not reach the shore, so although the CAROLINE did make the splice late that night, we could neither test nor speak. Reuter was at Norderney, and I had to do the best I could, which was not much, and went to bed early; I thought I should never sleep again, but in sheer desperation got up in the middle of the night and gulped a lot of raw whiskey and slept at last. But not long. A Mr. F- washed my face and hands and dressed me: and we hauled the cable out of the sea, and got it joined to the telegraph station, and on October 3rd telegraphed to Lowestoft first and then to London. Miss Clara Volkman, a niece of Mr. Reuter's, sent the first message to Mrs. Reuter, who was waiting (Varley used Miss Clara's hand as a kind of key), and I sent one of the first messages to Odden. I thought a message addressed to him would not frighten you, and that he would enjoy a message through Papa's cable. I hope he did. They were all very merry, but I had been so lowered by pain that I could not enjoy myself in spite of the success.'


Of the 1869 cruise in the GREAT EASTERN, I give what I am able; only sorry it is no more, for the sake of the ship itself, already almost a legend even to the generation that saw it launched.

'JUNE 17, 1869. - Here are the names of our staff in whom I expect you to be interested, as future GREAT EASTERN stories may be full of them: Theophilus Smith, a man of Latimer Clark's; Leslie C. Hill, my prizeman at University College; Lord Sackville Cecil; King, one of the Thomsonian Kings; Laws, goes for Willoughby Smith, who will also be on board; Varley, Clark, and Sir James Anderson make up the sum of all you know anything of. A Captain Halpin commands the big ship. There are four smaller vessels. The WM. CORY, which laid the Norderney cable, has already gone to St. Pierre to lay the shore ends. The HAWK and CHILTERN have gone to Brest to lay shore ends. The HAWK and SCANDERIA go with us across the Atlantic and we shall at St. Pierre be transhipped into one or the other.

'JUNE 18. SOMEWHERE IN LONDON. - The shore end is laid, as you may have seen, and we are all under pressing orders to march, so we start from London to-night at 5.10.

'June 20. OFF USHANT. - I am getting quite fond of the big ship. Yesterday morning in the quiet sunlight, she turned so slowly and lazily in the great harbour at Portland, and bye and bye slipped out past the long pier with so little stir, that I could hardly believe we were really off. No men drunk, no women crying, no singing or swearing, no confusion or bustle on deck - nobody apparently aware that they had anything to do. The look of the thing was that the ship had been spoken to civilly and had kindly undertaken to do everything that was necessary without any further interference. I have a nice cabin with plenty of room for my legs in my berth and have slept two nights like a top. Then we have the ladies' cabin set apart as an engineer's office, and I think this decidedly the nicest place in the ship: 35 ft. x 20 ft. broad - four tables, three great mirrors, plenty of air and no heat from the funnels which spoil the great dining-room. I saw a whole library of books on the walls when here last, and this made me less anxious to provide light literature; but alas, to-day I find that they are every one bibles or prayer-books. Now one cannot read many hundred bibles. . . . As for the motion of the ship it is not very much, but 'twill suffice. Thomson shook hands and wished me well. I DO like Thomson. . . . Tell Austin that the GREAT EASTERN has six masts and four funnels. When I get back I will make a little model of her for all the chicks and pay out cotton reels. . . . Here we are at 4.20 at Brest. We leave probably to-morrow morning.

'JULY 12. GREAT EASTERN. - Here as I write we run our last course for the buoy at the St. Pierre shore end. It blows and lightens, and our good ship rolls, and buoys are hard to find; but we must soon now finish our work, and then this letter will start for home. .

Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin Page 52

Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book