'My head won't stand much writing yet, so I will run up and take a look at the blue night sky off the coast of Portugal.

'May 26.

'A nice lad of some two and twenty, A- by name, goes out in a nondescript capacity as part purser, part telegraph clerk, part generally useful person. A- was a great comfort during the miseries [of the gale]; for when with a dead head wind and a heavy sea, plates, books, papers, stomachs were being rolled about in sad confusion, we generally managed to lie on our backs, and grin, and try discordant staves of the FLOWERS OF THE FOREST and the LOW- BACKED CAR. We could sing and laugh, when we could do nothing else; though A- was ready to swear after each fit was past, that that was the first time he had felt anything, and at this moment would declare in broad Scotch that he'd never been sick at all, qualifying the oath with "except for a minute now and then." He brought a cornet-a-piston to practice on, having had three weeks' instructions on that melodious instrument; and if you could hear the horrid sounds that come! especially at heavy rolls. When I hint he is not improving, there comes a confession: "I don't feel quite right yet, you see!" But he blows away manfully, and in self-defence I try to roar the tune louder.

'11:30 P.M.

'Long past Cape St. Vincent now. We went within about 400 yards of the cliffs and light-house in a calm moonlight, with porpoises springing from the sea, the men crooning long ballads as they lay idle on the forecastle and the sails flapping uncertain on the yards. As we passed, there came a sudden breeze from land, hot and heavy scented; and now as I write its warm rich flavour contrasts strongly with the salt air we have been breathing.

'I paced the deck with H-, the second mate, and in the quiet night drew a confession that he was engaged to be married, and gave him a world of good advice. He is a very nice, active, little fellow, with a broad Scotch tongue and "dirty, little rascal" appearance. He had a sad disappointment at starting. Having been second mate on the last voyage, when the first mate was discharged, he took charge of the ELBA all the time she was in port, and of course looked forward to being chief mate this trip. Liddell promised him the post. He had not authority to do this; and when Newall heard of it, he appointed another man. Fancy poor H-having told all the men and most of all, his sweetheart. But more remains behind; for when it came to signing articles, it turned out that O-, the new first mate, had not a certificate which allowed him to have a second mate. Then came rather an affecting scene. For H- proposed to sign as chief (he having the necessary higher certificate) but to act as second for the lower wages. At first O- would not give in, but offered to go as second. But our brave little H- said, no: "The owners wished Mr. O- to be chief mate, and chief mate he should be." So he carried the day, signed as chief and acts as second. Shakespeare and Byron are his favourite books. I walked into Byron a little, but can well understand his stirring up a rough, young sailor's romance. I lent him WESTWARD HO from the cabin; but to my astonishment he did not care much for it; he said it smelt of the shilling railway library; perhaps I had praised it too highly. Scott is his standard for novels. I am very happy to find good taste by no means confined to gentlemen, H- having no pretensions to that title. He is a man after my own heart.

'Then I came down to the cabin and heard young A-'s schemes for the future. His highest picture is a commission in the Prince of Vizianagram's irregular horse. His eldest brother is tutor to his Highness's children, and grand vizier, and magistrate, and on his Highness's household staff, and seems to be one of those Scotch adventurers one meets with and hears of in queer berths - raising cavalry, building palaces, and using some petty Eastern king's long purse with their long Scotch heads.

'Off Bona; June 4.

'I read your letter carefully, leaning back in a Maltese boat to present the smallest surface of my body to a grilling sun, and sailing from the ELBA to Cape Hamrah about three miles distant. How we fried and sighed! At last, we reached land under Fort Genova, and I was carried ashore pick-a-back, and plucked the first flower I saw for Annie.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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