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Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin by Robert Louis Stevenson

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lover, who had shown to his new bride the flag-draped vessels in
the Mersey. No fate is altogether easy; but trials are our
touchstone, trials overcome our reward; and it was given to
Fleeming to conquer. It was given to him to live for another, not
as a task, but till the end as an enchanting pleasure. 'People may
write novels,' he wrote in 1869, 'and other people may write poems,
but not a man or woman among them can write to say how happy a man
may be, who is desperately in love with his wife after ten years of
marriage.' And again in 1885, after more than twenty-six years of
marriage, and within but five weeks of his death: 'Your first
letter from Bournemouth,' he wrote, 'gives me heavenly pleasure -
for which I thank Heaven and you too - who are my heaven on earth.'
The mind hesitates whether to say that such a man has been more
good or more fortunate.

Any woman (it is the defect of her sex) comes sooner to the stable
mind of maturity than any man; and Jenkin was to the end of a most
deliberate growth. In the next chapter, when I come to deal with
his telegraphic voyages and give some taste of his correspondence,
the reader will still find him at twenty-five an arrant school-boy.
His wife besides was more thoroughly educated than he. In many
ways she was able to teach him, and he proud to be taught; in many
ways she outshone him, and he delighted to be outshone. All these
superiorities, and others that, after the manner of lovers, he no
doubt forged for himself, added as time went on to the humility of
his original love. Only once, in all I know of his career, did he
show a touch of smallness. He could not learn to sing correctly;
his wife told him so and desisted from her lessons; and the
mortification was so sharply felt that for years he could not be
induced to go to a concert, instanced himself as a typical man
without an ear, and never sang again. I tell it; for the fact that
this stood singular in his behaviour, and really amazed all who
knew him, is the happiest way I can imagine to commend the tenor of
his simplicity; and because it illustrates his feeling for his
wife. Others were always welcome to laugh at him; if it amused
them, or if it amused him, he would proceed undisturbed with his
occupation, his vanity invulnerable. With his wife it was
different: his wife had laughed at his singing; and for twenty
years the fibre ached. Nothing, again, was more notable than the
formal chivalry of this unmannered man to the person on earth with
whom he was the most familiar. He was conscious of his own innate
and often rasping vivacity and roughness and he was never forgetful
of his first visit to the Austins and the vow he had registered on
his return. There was thus an artificial element in his punctilio
that at times might almost raise a smile. But it stood on noble
grounds; for this was how he sought to shelter from his own
petulance the woman who was to him the symbol of the household and
to the end the beloved of his youth.

I wish in this chapter to chronicle small beer; taking a hasty
glance at some ten years of married life and of professional
struggle; and reserving till the next all the more interesting
matter of his cruises. Of his achievements and their worth, it is
not for me to speak: his friend and partner, Sir William Thomson,
has contributed a note on the subject, which will be found in the
Appendix, and to which I must refer the reader. He is to conceive
in the meanwhile for himself Fleeming's manifold engagements: his
service on the Committee on Electrical Standards, his lectures on
electricity at Chatham, his chair at the London University, his
partnership with Sir William Thomson and Mr. Varley in many
ingenious patents, his growing credit with engineers and men of
science; and he is to bear in mind that of all this activity and
acquist of reputation, the immediate profit was scanty. Soon after
his marriage, Fleeming had left the service of Messrs. Liddell &
Gordon, and entered into a general engineering partnership with
Mr. Forde, a gentleman in a good way of business. It was a
fortunate partnership in this, that the parties retained their
mutual respect unlessened and separated with regret; but men's
affairs, like men, have their times of sickness, and by one of
these unaccountable variations, for hard upon ten years the
business was disappointing and the profits meagre. 'Inditing
drafts of German railways which will never get made': it is thus I
find Fleeming, not without a touch of bitterness, describe his
occupation. Even the patents hung fire at first. There was no
salary to rely on; children were coming and growing up; the
prospect was often anxious. In the days of his courtship, Fleeming
had written to Miss Austin a dissuasive picture of the trials of
poverty, assuring her these were no figments but truly bitter to
support; he told her this, he wrote, beforehand, so that when the
pinch came and she suffered, she should not be disappointed in
herself nor tempted to doubt her own magnanimity: a letter of
admirable wisdom and solicitude. But now that the trouble came, he
bore it very lightly. It was his principle, as he once prettily
expressed it, 'to enjoy each day's happiness, as it arises, like
birds or children.' His optimism, if driven out at the door, would
come in again by the window; if it found nothing but blackness in
the present, would hit upon some ground of consolation in the
future or the past. And his courage and energy were indefatigable.
In the year 1863, soon after the birth of their first son, they
moved into a cottage at Claygate near Esher; and about this time,
under manifold troubles both of money and health, I find him
writing from abroad: 'The country will give us, please God, health
and strength. I will love and cherish you more than ever, you
shall go where you wish, you shall receive whom you wish - and as
for money you shall have that too. I cannot be mistaken. I have
now measured myself with many men. I do not feel weak, I do not
feel that I shall fail. In many things I have succeeded, and I
will in this. And meanwhile the time of waiting, which, please
Heaven, shall not be long, shall also not be so bitter. Well,
well, I promise much, and do not know at this moment how you and
the dear child are. If he is but better, courage, my girl, for I
see light.'

This cottage at Claygate stood just without the village, well
surrounded with trees and commanding a pleasant view. A piece of
the garden was turfed over to form a croquet green, and Fleeming
became (I need scarce say) a very ardent player. He grew ardent,
too, in gardening. This he took up at first to please his wife,
having no natural inclination; but he had no sooner set his hand to
it, than, like everything else he touched, it became with him a
passion. He budded roses, he potted cuttings in the coach-house;
if there came a change of weather at night, he would rise out of
bed to protect his favourites; when he was thrown with a dull
companion, it was enough for him to discover in the man a fellow
gardener; on his travels, he would go out of his way to visit
nurseries and gather hints; and to the end of his life, after other
occupations prevented him putting his own hand to the spade, he
drew up a yearly programme for his gardener, in which all details
were regulated. He had begun by this time to write. His paper on
Darwin, which had the merit of convincing on one point the
philosopher himself, had indeed been written before this in London
lodgings; but his pen was not idle at Claygate; and it was here he
wrote (among other things) that review of 'FECUNDITY, FERTILITY,
STERILITY, AND ALLIED TOPICS,' which Dr. Matthews Duncan prefixed
by way of introduction to the second edition of the work. The mere
act of writing seems to cheer the vanity of the most incompetent;
but a correction accepted by Darwin, and a whole review borrowed
and reprinted by Matthews Duncan are compliments of a rare strain,
and to a man still unsuccessful must have been precious indeed.
There was yet a third of the same kind in store for him; and when
Munro himself owned that he had found instruction in the paper on
Lucretius, we may say that Fleeming had been crowned in the capitol
of reviewing.

Croquet, charades, Christmas magic lanterns for the village
children, an amateur concert or a review article in the evening;
plenty of hard work by day; regular visits to meetings of the
British Association, from one of which I find him
characteristically writing: 'I cannot say that I have had any
amusement yet, but I am enjoying the dulness and dry bustle of the
whole thing'; occasional visits abroad on business, when he would
find the time to glean (as I have said) gardening hints for
himself, and old folk-songs or new fashions of dress for his wife;
and the continual study and care of his children: these were the
chief elements of his life. Nor were friends wanting. Captain and
Mrs. Jenkin, Mr. and Mrs. Austin, Clerk Maxwell, Miss Bell of
Manchester, and others came to them on visits. Mr. Hertslet of the
Foreign Office, his wife and his daughter, were neighbours and
proved kind friends; in 1867 the Howitts came to Claygate and
sought the society of 'the two bright, clever young people'; and in
a house close by, Mr. Frederick Ricketts came to live with his
family. Mr. Ricketts was a valued friend during his short life;
and when he was lost with every circumstance of heroism in the LA
PLATA, Fleeming mourned him sincerely.

I think I shall give the best idea of Fleeming in this time of his
early married life, by a few sustained extracts from his letters to
his wife, while she was absent on a visit in 1864.

'NOV. 11. - Sunday was too wet to walk to Isleworth, for which I
was sorry, so I staid and went to Church and thought of you at
Ardwick all through the Commandments, and heard Dr. - expound in a
remarkable way a prophecy of St. Paul's about Roman Catholics,
which MUTATIS MUTANDIS would do very well for Protestants in some
parts. Then I made a little nursery of Borecole and Enfield market
cabbage, grubbing in wet earth with leggings and gray coat on.
Then I tidied up the coach-house to my own and Christine's
admiration. Then encouraged by BOUTS-RIMES I wrote you a copy of
verses; high time I think; I shall just save my tenth year of
knowing my lady-love without inditing poetry or rhymes to her.

'Then I rummaged over the box with my father's letters and found
interesting notes from myself. One I should say my first letter,
which little Austin I should say would rejoice to see and shall see
- with a drawing of a cottage and a spirited "cob." What was more
to the purpose, I found with it a paste-cutter which Mary begged
humbly for Christine and I generously gave this morning.

'Then I read some of Congreve. There are admirable scenes in the
manner of Sheridan; all wit and no character, or rather one
character in a great variety of situations and scenes. I could
show you some scenes, but others are too coarse even for my stomach
hardened by a course of French novels.

'All things look so happy for the rain.

'NOV. 16. - Verbenas looking well. . . . I am but a poor creature
without you; I have naturally no spirit or fun or enterprise in me.
Only a kind of mechanical capacity for ascertaining whether two
really is half four, etc.; but when you are near me I can fancy
that I too shine, and vainly suppose it to be my proper light;
whereas by my extreme darkness when you are not by, it clearly can
only be by a reflected brilliance that I seem aught but dull. Then
for the moral part of me: if it were not for you and little Odden,
I should feel by no means sure that I had any affection power in
me. . . . Even the muscular me suffers a sad deterioration in your
absence. I don't get up when I ought to, I have snoozed in my
chair after dinner; I do not go in at the garden with my wonted
vigour, and feel ten times as tired as usual with a walk in your
absence; so you see, when you are not by, I am a person without
ability, affections or vigour, but droop dull, selfish, and
spiritless; can you wonder that I love you?

'NOV. 17. - . . . I am very glad we married young. I would not
have missed these five years, no, not for any hopes; they are my

'NOV. 30. - I got through my Chatham lecture very fairly though
almost all my apparatus went astray. I dined at the mess, and got
home to Isleworth the same evening; your father very kindly sitting
up for me.

'DEC. 1. - Back at dear Claygate. Many cuttings flourish,
especially those which do honour to your hand. Your Californian
annuals are up and about. Badger is fat, the grass green. . . .

'DEC. 3. - Odden will not talk of you, while you are away, having
inherited, as I suspect, his father's way of declining to consider
a subject which is painful, as your absence is. . . . I certainly
should like to learn Greek and I think it would be a capital
pastime for the long winter evenings. . . . How things are
misrated! I declare croquet is a noble occupation compared to the
pursuits of business men. As for so-called idleness - that is, one
form of it - I vow it is the noblest aim of man. When idle, one
can love, one can be good, feel kindly to all, devote oneself to
others, be thankful for existence, educate one's mind, one's heart,
one's body. When busy, as I am busy now or have been busy to-day,
one feels just as you sometimes felt when you were too busy, owing
to want of servants.

'DEC. 5. - On Sunday I was at Isleworth, chiefly engaged in playing
with Odden. We had the most enchanting walk together through the
brickfields. It was very muddy, and, as he remarked, not fit for
Nanna, but fit for us MEN. The dreary waste of bared earth,
thatched sheds and standing water, was a paradise to him; and when
we walked up planks to deserted mixing and crushing mills, and
actually saw where the clay was stirred with long iron prongs, and
chalk or lime ground with "a tind of a mill," his expression of
contentment and triumphant heroism knew no limit to its beauty. Of
course on returning I found Mrs. Austin looking out at the door in
an anxious manner, and thinking we had been out quite long enough.
. . . I am reading Don Quixote chiefly and am his fervent admirer,
but I am so sorry he did not place his affections on a Dulcinea of
somewhat worthier stamp. In fact I think there must be a mistake
about it. Don Quixote might and would serve his lady in most
preposterous fashion, but I am sure he would have chosen a lady of
merit. He imagined her to be such no doubt, and drew a charming
picture of her occupations by the banks of the river; but in his
other imaginations, there was some kind of peg on which to hang the
false costumes he created; windmills are big, and wave their arms
like giants; sheep in the distance are somewhat like an army; a
little boat on the river-side must look much the same whether
enchanted or belonging to millers; but except that Dulcinea is a
woman, she bears no resemblance at all to the damsel of his

At the time of these letters, the oldest son only was born to them.
In September of the next year, with the birth of the second,
Charles Frewen, there befell Fleeming a terrible alarm and what
proved to be a lifelong misfortune. Mrs. Jenkin was taken suddenly
and alarmingly ill; Fleeming ran a matter of two miles to fetch the
doctor, and, drenched with sweat as he was, returned with him at
once in an open gig. On their arrival at the house, Mrs. Jenkin
half unconsciously took and kept hold of her husband's hand. By
the doctor's orders, windows and doors were set open to create a
thorough draught, and the patient was on no account to be
disturbed. Thus, then, did Fleeming pass the whole of that night,
crouching on the floor in the draught, and not daring to move lest
he should wake the sleeper. He had never been strong; energy had
stood him instead of vigour; and the result of that night's
exposure was flying rheumatism varied by settled sciatica.
Sometimes it quite disabled him, sometimes it was less acute; but
he was rarely free from it until his death. I knew him for many
years; for more than ten we were closely intimate; I have lived
with him for weeks; and during all this time, he only once referred
to his infirmity and then perforce as an excuse for some trouble he
put me to, and so slightly worded that I paid no heed. This is a
good measure of his courage under sufferings of which none but the
untried will think lightly. And I think it worth noting how this
optimist was acquainted with pain. It will seem strange only to
the superficial. The disease of pessimism springs never from real
troubles, which it braces men to bear, which it delights men to
bear well. Nor does it readily spring at all, in minds that have
conceived of life as a field of ordered duties, not as a chase in
which to hunt for gratifications. 'We are not here to be happy,
but to be good'; I wish he had mended the phrase: 'We are not here
to be happy, but to try to be good,' comes nearer the modesty of
truth. With such old-fashioned morality, it is possible to get
through life, and see the worst of it, and feel some of the worst
of it, and still acquiesce piously and even gladly in man's fate.
Feel some of the worst of it, I say; for some of the rest of the
worst is, by this simple faith, excluded.

It was in the year 1868, that the clouds finally rose. The
business in partnership with Mr. Forde began suddenly to pay well;
about the same time the patents showed themselves a valuable
property; and but a little after, Fleeming was appointed to the new
chair of engineering in the University of Edinburgh. Thus, almost
at once, pecuniary embarrassments passed for ever out of his life.
Here is his own epilogue to the time at Claygate, and his
anticipations of the future in Edinburgh.

' . . . . The dear old house at Claygate is not let and the pretty
garden a mass of weeds. I feel rather as if we had behaved
unkindly to them. We were very happy there, but now that it is
over I am conscious of the weight of anxiety as to money which I
bore all the time. With you in the garden, with Austin in the
coach-house, with pretty songs in the little, low white room, with
the moonlight in the dear room up-stairs, ah, it was perfect; but
the long walk, wondering, pondering, fearing, scheming, and the
dusty jolting railway, and the horrid fusty office with its endless
disappointments, they are well gone. It is well enough to fight
and scheme and bustle about in the eager crowd here [in London] for
a while now and then, but not for a lifetime. What I have now is
just perfect. Study for winter, action for summer, lovely country
for recreation, a pleasant town for talk . . .'


BUT it is now time to see Jenkin at his life's work. I have before
me certain imperfect series of letters written, as he says, 'at
hazard, for one does not know at the time what is important and
what is not': the earlier addressed to Miss Austin, after the
betrothal; the later to Mrs. Jenkin the young wife. I should
premise that I have allowed myself certain editorial freedoms,
leaving out and splicing together much as he himself did with the
Bona cable: thus edited the letters speak for themselves, and will
fail to interest none who love adventure or activity. Addressed as
they were to her whom he called his 'dear engineering pupil,' they
give a picture of his work so clear that a child may understand,
and so attractive that I am half afraid their publication may prove
harmful, and still further crowd the ranks of a profession already
overcrowded. But their most engaging quality is the picture of the
writer; with his indomitable self-confidence and courage, his
readiness in every pinch of circumstance or change of plan, and his
ever fresh enjoyment of the whole web of human experience, nature,
adventure, science, toil and rest, society and solitude. It should
be borne in mind that the writer of these buoyant pages was, even
while he wrote, harassed by responsibility, stinted in sleep and
often struggling with the prostration of sea-sickness. To this
last enemy, which he never overcame, I have omitted, in my search
after condensation, a good many references; if they were all left,
such was the man's temper, they would not represent one hundredth
part of what he suffered, for he was never given to complaint. But
indeed he had met this ugly trifle, as he met every thwart
circumstance of life, with a certain pleasure of pugnacity; and
suffered it not to check him, whether in the exercise of his
profession or the pursuit of amusement.


'Birkenhead: April 18, 1858.

'Well, you should know, Mr. - having a contract to lay down a
submarine telegraph from Sardinia to Africa failed three times in
the attempt. The distance from land to land is about 140 miles.
On the first occasion, after proceeding some 70 miles, he had to
cut the cable - the cause I forget; he tried again, same result;
then picked up about 20 miles of the lost cable, spliced on a new
piece, and very nearly got across that time, but ran short of
cable, and when but a few miles off Galita in very deep water, had
to telegraph to London for more cable to be manufactured and sent
out whilst he tried to stick to the end: for five days, I think,
he lay there sending and receiving messages, but heavy weather
coming on the cable parted and Mr. - went home in despair - at
least I should think so.

'He then applied to those eminent engineers, R. S. Newall & Co.,
who made and laid down a cable for him last autumn - Fleeming
Jenkin (at the time in considerable mental agitation) having the
honour of fitting out the ELBA for that purpose.' [On this
occasion, the ELBA has no cable to lay; but] 'is going out in the
beginning of May to endeavour to fish up the cables Mr. - lost.
There are two ends at or near the shore: the third will probably
not be found within 20 miles from land. One of these ends will be
passed over a very big pulley or sheave at the bows, passed six
times round a big barrel or drum; which will be turned round by a
steam engine on deck, and thus wind up the cable, while the ELBA
slowly steams ahead. The cable is not wound round and round the
drum as your silk is wound on its reel, but on the contrary never
goes round more than six times, going off at one side as it comes
on at the other, and going down into the hold of the ELBA to be
coiled along in a big coil or skein.

'I went down to Gateshead to discuss with Mr. Newall the form which
this tolerably simple idea should take, and have been busy since I
came here drawing, ordering, and putting up the machinery -
uninterfered with, thank goodness, by any one. I own I like
responsibility; it flatters one and then, your father might say, I
have more to gain than to lose. Moreover I do like this bloodless,
painless combat with wood and iron, forcing the stubborn rascals to
do my will, licking the clumsy cubs into an active shape, seeing
the child of to-day's thought working to-morrow in full vigour at
his appointed task.

'May 12.

'By dint of bribing, bullying, cajoling, and going day by day to
see the state of things ordered, all my work is very nearly ready
now; but those who have neglected these precautions are of course
disappointed. Five hundred fathoms of chain [were] ordered by -
some three weeks since, to be ready by the 10th without fail; he
sends for it to-day - 150 fathoms all they can let us have by the
15th - and how the rest is to be got, who knows? He ordered a boat
a month since and yesterday we could see nothing of her but the
keel and about two planks. I could multiply instances without end.
At first one goes nearly mad with vexation at these things; but one
finds so soon that they are the rule, that then it becomes
necessary to feign a rage one does not feel. I look upon it as the
natural order of things, that if I order a thing, it will not be
done - if by accident it gets done, it will certainly be done
wrong: the only remedy being to watch the performance at every

'To-day was a grand field-day. I had steam up and tried the engine
against pressure or resistance. One part of the machinery is
driven by a belt or strap of leather. I always had my doubts this
might slip; and so it did, wildly. I had made provision for
doubling it, putting on two belts instead of one. No use - off
they went, slipping round and off the pulleys instead of driving
the machinery. Tighten them - no use. More strength there - down
with the lever - smash something, tear the belts, but get them
tight - now then, stand clear, on with the steam; - and the belts
slip away as if nothing held them. Men begin to look queer; the
circle of quidnuncs make sage remarks. Once more - no use. I
begin to know I ought to feel sheepish and beat, but somehow I feel
cocky instead. I laugh and say, "Well, I am bound to break
something down" - and suddenly see. "Oho, there's the place; get
weight on there, and the belt won't slip." With much labour, on go
the belts again. "Now then, a spar thro' there and six men's
weight on; mind you're not carried away." - "Ay, ay, sir." But
evidently no one believes in the plan. "Hurrah, round she goes -
stick to your spar. All right, shut off steam." And the
difficulty is vanquished.

'This or such as this (not always quite so bad) occurs hour after
hour, while five hundred tons of coal are rattling down into the
holds and bunkers, riveters are making their infernal row all
round, and riggers bend the sails and fit the rigging:- a sort of
Pandemonium, it appeared to young Mrs. Newall, who was here on
Monday and half-choked with guano; but it suits the likes o' me.

'S. S. ELBA, River Mersey: May 17.

'We are delayed in the river by some of the ship's papers not being
ready. Such a scene at the dock gates. Not a sailor will join
till the last moment; and then, just as the ship forges ahead
through the narrow pass, beds and baggage fly on board, the men
half tipsy clutch at the rigging, the captain swears, the women
scream and sob, the crowd cheer and laugh, while one or two pretty
little girls stand still and cry outright, regardless of all eyes.

'These two days of comparative peace have quite set me on my legs
again. I was getting worn and weary with anxiety and work. As
usual I have been delighted with my shipwrights. I gave them some
beer on Saturday, making a short oration. To-day when they went
ashore and I came on board, they gave three cheers, whether for me
or the ship I hardly know, but I had just bid them good-bye, and
the ship was out of hail; but I was startled and hardly liked to
claim the compliment by acknowledging it.

'S. S. ELBA: May 25.

'My first intentions of a long journal have been fairly frustrated
by sea-sickness. On Tuesday last about noon we started from the
Mersey in very dirty weather, and were hardly out of the river when
we met a gale from the south-west and a heavy sea, both right in
our teeth; and the poor ELBA had a sad shaking. Had I not been
very sea-sick, the sight would have been exciting enough, as I sat
wrapped in my oilskins on the bridge; [but] in spite of all my
efforts to talk, to eat, and to grin, I soon collapsed into
imbecility; and I was heartily thankful towards evening to find
myself in bed.

'Next morning, I fancied it grew quieter and, as I listened, heard,
"Let go the anchor," whereon I concluded we had run into Holyhead
Harbour, as was indeed the case. All that day we lay in Holyhead,
but I could neither read nor write nor draw. The captain of
another steamer which had put in came on board, and we all went for
a walk on the hill; and in the evening there was an exchange of
presents. We gave some tobacco I think, and received a cat, two
pounds of fresh butter, a Cumberland ham, WESTWARD HO! and
Thackeray's ENGLISH HUMOURISTS. I was astonished at receiving two
such fair books from the captain of a little coasting screw. Our
captain said he [the captain of the screw] had plenty of money,
five or six hundred a year at least. - "What in the world makes him
go rolling about in such a craft, then?" - "Why, I fancy he's
reckless; he's desperate in love with that girl I mentioned, and
she won't look at him." Our honest, fat, old captain says this
very grimly in his thick, broad voice.

'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. It was a strange scene, far more novel
than I had imagined: the high, steep banks covered with rich,
spicy vegetation of which I hardly knew one plant. The dwarf palm
with fan-like leaves, growing about two feet high, formed the
staple of the verdure. As we brushed through them, the gummy
leaves of a cistus stuck to the clothes; and with its small white
flower and yellow heart, stood for our English dog-rose. In place
of heather, we had myrtle and lentisque with leaves somewhat
similar. That large bulb with long flat leaves? Do not touch it
if your hands are cut; the Arabs use it as blisters for their
horses. Is that the same sort? No, take that one up; it is the
bulb of a dwarf palm, each layer of the onion peels off, brown and
netted, like the outside of a cocoa-nut. It is a clever plant
that; from the leaves we get a vegetable horsehair; - and eat the
bottom of the centre spike. All the leaves you pull have the same
aromatic scent. But here a little patch of cleared ground shows
old friends, who seem to cling by abused civilisation:-fine, hardy
thistles, one of them bright yellow, though; - honest, Scotch-
looking, large daisies or gowans; - potatoes here and there,
looking but sickly; and dark sturdy fig-trees looking cool and at
their ease in the burning sun.

'Here we are at Fort Genova, crowning the little point, a small old
building, due to my old Genoese acquaintance who fought and traded
bravely once upon a time. A broken cannon of theirs forms the
threshold; and through a dark, low arch, we enter upon broad
terraces sloping to the centre, from which rain water may collect
and run into that well. Large-breeched French troopers lounge
about and are most civil; and the whole party sit down to breakfast
in a little white-washed room, from the door of which the long,
mountain coastline and the sparkling sea show of an impossible blue
through the openings of a white-washed rampart. I try a sea-egg,
one of those prickly fellows - sea-urchins, they are called
sometimes; the shell is of a lovely purple, and when opened, there
are rays of yellow adhering to the inside; these I eat, but they
are very fishy.

'We are silent and shy of one another, and soon go out to watch
while turbaned, blue-breeched, barelegged Arabs dig holes for the
land telegraph posts on the following principle: one man takes a
pick and bangs lazily at the hard earth; when a little is loosened,
his mate with a small spade lifts it on one side; and DA CAPO.
They have regular features and look quite in place among the palms.
Our English workmen screw the earthenware insulators on the posts,
strain the wire, and order Arabs about by the generic term of
Johnny. I find W- has nothing for me to do; and that in fact no
one has anything to do. Some instruments for testing have stuck at
Lyons, some at Cagliari; and nothing can be done - or at any rate,
is done. I wander about, thinking of you and staring at big, green
grasshoppers - locusts, some people call them - and smelling the
rich brushwood. There was nothing for a pencil to sketch, and I
soon got tired of this work, though I have paid willingly much
money for far less strange and lovely sights.

'Off Cape Spartivento: June 8.

'At two this morning, we left Cagliari; at five cast anchor here.
I got up and began preparing for the final trial; and shortly
afterwards everyone else of note on board went ashore to make
experiments on the state of the cable, leaving me with the prospect
of beginning to lift at 12 o'clock. I was not ready by that time;
but the experiments were not concluded and moreover the cable was
found to be imbedded some four or five feet in sand, so that the
boat could not bring off the end. At three, Messrs. Liddell, &c.,
came on board in good spirits, having found two wires good or in
such a state as permitted messages to be transmitted freely. The
boat now went to grapple for the cable some way from shore while
the ELBA towed a small lateen craft which was to take back the
consul to Cagliari some distance on its way. On our return we
found the boat had been unsuccessful; she was allowed to drop
astern, while we grappled for the cable in the ELBA [without more
success]. The coast is a low mountain range covered with brushwood
or heather - pools of water and a sandy beach at their feet. I
have not yet been ashore, my hands having been very full all day.

'June 9.

'Grappling for the cable outside the bank had been voted too
uncertain; [and the day was spent in] efforts to pull the cable off
through the sand which has accumulated over it. By getting the
cable tight on to the boat, and letting the swell pitch her about
till it got slack, and then tightening again with blocks and
pulleys, we managed to get out from the beach towards the ship at
the rate of about twenty yards an hour. When they had got about
100 yards from shore, we ran round in the ELBA to try and help
them, letting go the anchor in the shallowest possible water, this
was about sunset. Suddenly someone calls out he sees the cable at
the bottom: there it was sure enough, apparently wriggling about
as the waves rippled. Great excitement; still greater when we find
our own anchor is foul of it and has been the means of bringing it
to light. We let go a grapnel, get the cable clear of the anchor
on to the grapnel - the captain in an agony lest we should drift
ashore meanwhile - hand the grappling line into the big boat, steam
out far enough, and anchor again. A little more work and one end
of the cable is up over the bows round my drum. I go to my engine
and we start hauling in. All goes pretty well, but it is quite
dark. Lamps are got at last, and men arranged. We go on for a
quarter of a mile or so from shore and then stop at about half-past
nine with orders to be up at three. Grand work at last! A number
of the SATURDAY REVIEW here; it reads so hot and feverish, so
tomblike and unhealthy, in the midst of dear Nature's hills and
sea, with good wholesome work to do. Pray that all go well to-

'June 10.

'Thank heaven for a most fortunate day. At three o'clock this
morning in a damp, chill mist all hands were roused to work. With
a small delay, for one or two improvements I had seen to be
necessary last night, the engine started and since that time I do
not think there has been half an hour's stoppage. A rope to
splice, a block to change, a wheel to oil, an old rusted anchor to
disengage from the cable which brought it up, these have been our
only obstructions. Sixty, seventy, eighty, a hundred, a hundred
and twenty revolutions at last, my little engine tears away. The
even black rope comes straight out of the blue heaving water:
passes slowly round an open-hearted, good-tempered looking pulley,
five feet diameter; aft past a vicious nipper, to bring all up
should anything go wrong; through a gentle guide; on to a huge
bluff drum, who wraps him round his body and says "Come you must,"
as plain as drum can speak: the chattering pauls say "I've got
him, I've got him, he can't get back:" whilst black cable, much
slacker and easier in mind and body, is taken by a slim V-pulley
and passed down into the huge hold, where half a dozen men put him
comfortably to bed after his exertion in rising from his long bath.
In good sooth, it is one of the strangest sights I know to see that
black fellow rising up so steadily in the midst of the blue sea.
We are more than half way to the place where we expect the fault;
and already the one wire, supposed previously to be quite bad near
the African coast, can be spoken through. I am very glad I am
here, for my machines are my own children and I look on their
little failings with a parent's eye and lead them into the path of
duty with gentleness and firmness. I am naturally in good spirits,
but keep very quiet, for misfortunes may arise at any instant;
moreover to-morrow my paying-out apparatus will be wanted should
all go well, and that will be another nervous operation. Fifteen
miles are safely in; but no one knows better than I do that nothing
is done till all is done.

'June 11.

'9 A.M. - We have reached the splice supposed to be faulty, and no
fault has been found. The two men learned in electricity, L- and
W-, squabble where the fault is.

'EVENING. - A weary day in a hot broiling sun; no air. After the
experiments, L- said the fault might be ten miles ahead: by that
time, we should be according to a chart in about a thousand fathoms
of water - rather more than a mile. It was most difficult to
decide whether to go on or not. I made preparations for a heavy
pull, set small things to rights and went to sleep. About four in
the afternoon, Mr. Liddell decided to proceed, and we are now (at
seven) grinding it in at the rate of a mile and three-quarters per
hour, which appears a grand speed to us. If the paying-out only
works well! I have just thought of a great improvement in it; I
can't apply it this time, however. - The sea is of an oily calm,
and a perfect fleet of brigs and ships surrounds us, their sails
hardly filling in the lazy breeze. The sun sets behind the dim
coast of the Isola San Pietro, the coast of Sardinia high and
rugged becomes softer and softer in the distance, while to the
westward still the isolated rock of Toro springs from the horizon.
- It would amuse you to see how cool (in head) and jolly everybody
is. A testy word now and then shows the wires are strained a
little, but everyone laughs and makes his little jokes as if it
were all in fun: yet we are all as much in earnest as the most
earnest of the earnest bastard German school or demonstrative of
Frenchmen. I enjoy it very much.

'June 12.

'5.30 A.M. - Out of sight of land: about thirty nautical miles in
the hold; the wind rising a little; experiments being made for a
fault, while the engine slowly revolves to keep us hanging at the
same spot: depth supposed about a mile. The machinery has behaved
admirably. Oh! that the paying-out were over! The new machinery
there is but rough, meant for an experiment in shallow water, and
here we are in a mile of water.

'6.30. - I have made my calculations and find the new paying-out
gear cannot possibly answer at this depth, some portion would give
way. Luckily, I have brought the old things with me and am getting
them rigged up as fast as may be. Bad news from the cable. Number
four has given in some portion of the last ten miles: the fault in
number three is still at the bottom of the sea: number two is now
the only good wire and the hold is getting in such a mess, through
keeping bad bits out and cutting for splicing and testing, that
there will be great risk in paying out. The cable is somewhat
strained in its ascent from one mile below us; what it will be when
we get to two miles is a problem we may have to determine.

'9 P.M. - A most provoking unsatisfactory day. We have done
nothing. The wind and sea have both risen. Too little notice has
been given to the telegraphists who accompany this expedition; they
had to leave all their instruments at Lyons in order to arrive at
Bona in time; our tests are therefore of the roughest, and no one
really knows where the faults are. Mr. L- in the morning lost much
time; then he told us, after we had been inactive for about eight
hours, that the fault in number three was within six miles; and at
six o'clock in the evening, when all was ready for a start to pick
up these six miles, he comes and says there must be a fault about
thirty miles from Bona! By this time it was too late to begin
paying out today, and we must lie here moored in a thousand fathoms
till light to-morrow morning. The ship pitches a good deal, but
the wind is going down.

'June 13, Sunday.

'The wind has not gone down, however. It now (at 10.30) blows a
pretty stiff gale, the sea has also risen; and the ELBA'S bows rise
and fall about 9 feet. We make twelve pitches to the minute, and
the poor cable must feel very sea-sick by this time. We are quite
unable to do anything, and continue riding at anchor in one
thousand fathoms, the engines going constantly so as to keep the
ship's bows up to the cable, which by this means hangs nearly
vertical and sustains no strain but that caused by its own weight
and the pitching of the vessel. We were all up at four, but the
weather entirely forbade work for to-day, so some went to bed and
most lay down, making up our leeway as we nautically term our loss
of sleep. I must say Liddell is a fine fellow and keeps his
patience and temper wonderfully; and yet how he does fret and fume
about trifles at home! This wind has blown now for 36 hours, and
yet we have telegrams from Bona to say the sea there is as calm as
a mirror. It makes one laugh to remember one is still tied to the
shore. Click, click, click, the pecker is at work: I wonder what
Herr P- says to Herr L-, - tests, tests, tests, nothing more. This
will be a very anxious day.

'June 14.

'Another day of fatal inaction.

'June 15.

'9.30. - The wind has gone down a deal; but even now there are
doubts whether we shall start to-day. When shall I get back to

'9 P.M. - Four miles from land. Our run has been successful and
eventless. Now the work is nearly over I feel a little out of
spirits - why, I should be puzzled to say - mere wantonness, or
reaction perhaps after suspense.

'June 16.

'Up this morning at three, coupled my self-acting gear to the brake
and had the satisfaction of seeing it pay out the last four miles
in very good style. With one or two little improvements, I hope to
make it a capital thing. The end has just gone ashore in two
boats, three out of four wires good. Thus ends our first
expedition. By some odd chance a TIMES of June the 7th has found
its way on board through the agency of a wretched old peasant who
watches the end of the line here. A long account of breakages in
the Atlantic trial trip. To-night we grapple for the heavy cable,
eight tons to the mile. I long to have a tug at him; he may puzzle
me, and though misfortunes or rather difficulties are a bore at the
time, life when working with cables is tame without them.

'2 P.M. - Hurrah, he is hooked, the big fellow, almost at the first
cast. He hangs under our bows looking so huge and imposing that I
could find it in my heart to be afraid of him.

'June 17.

'We went to a little bay called Chia, where a fresh-water stream
falls into the sea, and took in water. This is rather a long
operation, so I went a walk up the valley with Mr. Liddell. The
coast here consists of rocky mountains 800 to 1,000 feet high
covered with shrubs of a brilliant green. On landing our first
amusement was watching the hundreds of large fish who lazily swam
in shoals about the river; the big canes on the further side hold
numberless tortoises, we are told, but see none, for just now they
prefer taking a siesta. A little further on, and what is this with
large pink flowers in such abundance? - the oleander in full
flower. At first I fear to pluck them, thinking they must be
cultivated and valuable; but soon the banks show a long line of
thick tall shrubs, one mass of glorious pink and green. Set these
in a little valley, framed by mountains whose rocks gleam out blue
and purple colours such as pre-Raphaelites only dare attempt,
shining out hard and weird-like amongst the clumps of castor-oil
plants, oistus, arbor vitae and many other evergreens, whose names,
alas! I know not; the cistus is brown now, the rest all deep or
brilliant green. Large herds of cattle browse on the baked deposit
at the foot of these large crags. One or two half-savage herdsmen
in sheepskin kilts, &c., ask for cigars; partridges whirr up on
either side of us; pigeons coo and nightingales sing amongst the
blooming oleander. We get six sheep and many fowls, too, from the
priest of the small village; and then run back to Spartivento and
make preparations for the morning.

'June 18.

'The big cable is stubborn and will not behave like his smaller
brother. The gear employed to take him off the drum is not strong
enough; he gets slack on the drum and plays the mischief. Luckily
for my own conscience, the gear I had wanted was negatived by Mr.
Newall. Mr. Liddell does not exactly blame me, but he says we
might have had a silver pulley cheaper than the cost of this delay.
He has telegraphed for more men to Cagliari, to try to pull the
cable off the drum into the hold, by hand. I look as comfortable
as I can, but feel as if people were blaming me. I am trying my
best to get something rigged which may help us; I wanted a little
difficulty, and feel much better. - The short length we have picked
up was covered at places with beautiful sprays of coral, twisted
and twined with shells of those small, fairy animals we saw in the
aquarium at home; poor little things, they died at once, with their
little bells and delicate bright tints.

'12 O'CLOCK. - Hurrah, victory! for the present anyhow. Whilst in
our first dejection, I thought I saw a place where a flat roller
would remedy the whole misfortune; but a flat roller at Cape
Spartivento, hard, easily unshipped, running freely! There was a
grooved pulley used for the paying-out machinery with a spindle
wheel, which might suit me. I filled him up with tarry spunyarn,
nailed sheet copper round him, bent some parts in the fire; and we
are paying-in without more trouble now. You would think some one
would praise me; no, no more praise than blame before; perhaps now
they think better of me, though.

'10 P.M. - We have gone on very comfortably for nearly six miles.
An hour and a half was spent washing down; for along with many
coloured polypi, from corals, shells and insects, the big cable
brings up much mud and rust, and makes a fishy smell by no means
pleasant: the bottom seems to teem with life. - But now we are
startled by a most unpleasant, grinding noise; which appeared at
first to come from the large low pulley, but when the engines
stopped, the noise continued; and we now imagine it is something
slipping down the cable, and the pulley but acts as sounding-board
to the big fiddle. Whether it is only an anchor or one of the two
other cables, we know not. We hope it is not the cable just laid

'June 19.

'10 A.M. - All our alarm groundless, it would appear: the odd
noise ceased after a time, and there was no mark sufficiently
strong on the large cable to warrant the suspicion that we had cut
another line through. I stopped up on the look-out till three in
the morning, which made 23 hours between sleep and sleep. One goes
dozing about, though, most of the day, for it is only when
something goes wrong that one has to look alive. Hour after hour,
I stand on the forecastle-head, picking off little specimens of
polypi and coral, or lie on the saloon deck reading back numbers of
the TIMES - till something hitches, and then all is hurly-burly
once more. There are awnings all along the ship, and a most
ancient, fish-like smell beneath.

'1 O'CLOCK. - Suddenly a great strain in only 95 fathoms of water -
belts surging and general dismay; grapnels being thrown out in the
hope of finding what holds the cable. - Should it prove the young
cable! We are apparently crossing its path - not the working one,
but the lost child; Mr. Liddell WOULD start the big one first
though it was laid first: he wanted to see the job done, and meant
to leave us to the small one unaided by his presence.

'3.30. - Grapnel caught something, lost it again; it left its marks
on the prongs. Started lifting gear again; and after hauling in
some 50 fathoms - grunt, grunt, grunt - we hear the other cable
slipping down our big one, playing the selfsame tune we heard last
night - louder, however.

'10 P.M. - The pull on the deck engines became harder and harder.
I got steam up in a boiler on deck, and another little engine
starts hauling at the grapnel. I wonder if there ever was such a
scene of confusion: Mr. Liddell and W- and the captain all giving
orders contradictory, &c., on the forecastle; D-, the foreman of
our men, the mates, &c., following the example of our superiors;
the ship's engine and boilers below, a 50-horse engine on deck, a
boiler 14 feet long on deck beside it, a little steam winch tearing
round; a dozen Italians (20 have come to relieve our hands, the men
we telegraphed for to Cagliari) hauling at the rope; wiremen,
sailors, in the crevices left by ropes and machinery; everything
that could swear swearing - I found myself swearing like a trooper
at last. We got the unknown difficulty within ten fathoms of the
surface; but then the forecastle got frightened that, if it was the
small cable which we had got hold of, we should certainly break it
by continuing the tremendous and increasing strain. So at last Mr.
Liddell decided to stop; cut the big cable, buoying its end; go
back to our pleasant watering-place at Chia, take more water and
start lifting the small cable. The end of the large one has even
now regained its sandy bed; and three buoys - one to grapnel foul
of the supposed small cable, two to the big cable - are dipping
about on the surface. One more - a flag-buoy - will soon follow,
and then straight for shore.

'June 20.

'It is an ill-wind, &c. I have an unexpected opportunity of
forwarding this engineering letter; for the craft which brought out
our Italian sailors must return to Cagliari to-night, as the little
cable will take us nearly to Galita, and the Italian skipper could
hardly find his way from thence. To-day - Sunday - not much rest.
Mr. Liddell is at Spartivento telegraphing. We are at Chia, and
shall shortly go to help our boat's crew in getting the small cable
on board. We dropped them some time since in order that they might
dig it out of the sand as far as possible.

'June 21.

'Yesterday - Sunday as it was - all hands were kept at work all
day, coaling, watering, and making a futile attempt to pull the
cable from the shore on board through the sand. This attempt was
rather silly after the experience we had gained at Cape
Spartivento. This morning we grappled, hooked the cable at once,
and have made an excellent start. Though I have called this the
small cable, it is much larger than the Bona one. - Here comes a
break down and a bad one.

'June 22.

'We got over it, however; but it is a warning to me that my future
difficulties will arise from parts wearing out. Yesterday the
cable was often a lovely sight, coming out of the water one large
incrustation of delicate, net-like corals and long, white curling
shells. No portion of the dirty black wires was visible; instead
we had a garland of soft pink with little scarlet sprays and white
enamel intermixed. All was fragile, however, and could hardly be
secured in safety; and inexorable iron crushed the tender leaves to
atoms. - This morning at the end of my watch, about 4 o'clock, we
came to the buoys, proving our anticipations right concerning the
crossing of the cables. I went to bed for four hours, and on
getting up, found a sad mess. A tangle of the six-wire cable hung
to the grapnel which had been left buoyed, and the small cable had
parted and is lost for the present. Our hauling of the other day
must have done the mischief.

'June 23.

'We contrived to get the two ends of the large cable and to pick
the short end up. The long end, leading us seaward, was next put
round the drum and a mile of it picked up; but then, fearing
another tangle, the end was cut and buoyed, and we returned to
grapple for the three-wire cable. All this is very tiresome for
me. The buoying and dredging are managed entirely by W-, who has
had much experience in this sort of thing; so I have not enough to
do and get very homesick. At noon the wind freshened and the sea
rose so high that we had to run for land and are once more this
evening anchored at Chia.

'June 24.

'The whole day spent in dredging without success. This operation
consists in allowing the ship to drift slowly across the line where
you expect the cable to be, while at the end of a long rope, fast
either to the bow or stern, a grapnel drags along the ground. This
grapnel is a small anchor, made like four pot-hooks tied back to
back. When the rope gets taut, the ship is stopped and the grapnel
hauled up to the surface in the hopes of finding the cable on its
prongs. - I am much discontented with myself for idly lounging
about and reading WESTWARD HO! for the second time, instead of
taking to electricity or picking up nautical information. I am
uncommonly idle. The sea is not quite so rough, but the weather is
squally and the rain comes in frequent gusts.

'June 25.

'To-day about 1 o'clock we hooked the three-wire cable, buoyed the
long sea end, and picked up the short [or shore] end. Now it is
dark and we must wait for morning before lifting the buoy we
lowered to-day and proceeding seawards. - The depth of water here
is about 600 feet, the height of a respectable English hill; our
fishing line was about a quarter of a mile long. It blows pretty
fresh, and there is a great deal of sea.


'This morning it came on to blow so heavily that it was impossible
to take up our buoy. The ELBA recommenced rolling in true Baltic
style and towards noon we ran for land.

'27th, Sunday.

'This morning was a beautiful calm. We reached the buoys at about
4.30 and commenced picking up at 6.30. Shortly a new cause of
anxiety arose. Kinks came up in great quantities, about thirty in
the hour. To have a true conception of a kink, you must see one:
it is a loop drawn tight, all the wires get twisted and the gutta-
percha inside pushed out. These much diminish the value of the
cable, as they must all be cut out, the gutta-percha made good, and
the cable spliced. They arise from the cable having been badly
laid down so that it forms folds and tails at the bottom of the
sea. These kinks have another disadvantage: they weaken the cable
very much. - At about six o'clock [P.M.] we had some twelve miles
lifted, when I went to the bows; the kinks were exceedingly tight
and were giving way in a most alarming manner. I got a cage rigged
up to prevent the end (if it broke) from hurting anyone, and sat
down on the bowsprit, thinking I should describe kinks to Annie:-
suddenly I saw a great many coils and kinks altogether at the
surface. I jumped to the gutta-percha pipe, by blowing through
which the signal is given to stop the engine. I blow, but the
engine does not stop; again - no answer: the coils and kinks jam
in the bows and I rush aft shouting stop. Too late: the cable had
parted and must lie in peace at the bottom. Someone had pulled the
gutta-percha tube across a bare part of the steam pipe and melted
it. It had been used hundreds of times in the last few days and
gave no symptoms of failing. I believe the cable must have gone at
any rate; however, since it went in my watch and since I might have
secured the tubing more strongly, I feel rather sad. . . .

'June 28.

'Since I could not go to Annie I took down Shakespeare, and by the
time I had finished ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, read the second half of
TROILUS and got some way in CORIOLANUS, I felt it was childish to
regret the accident had happened in my watch, and moreover I felt
myself not much to blame in the tubing matter - it had been torn
down, it had not fallen down; so I went to bed, and slept without
fretting, and woke this morning in the same good mood - for which
thank you and our friend Shakespeare. I am happy to say Mr.
Liddell said the loss of the cable did not much matter; though this
would have been no consolation had I felt myself to blame. - This
morning we have grappled for and found another length of small
cable which Mr. - dropped in 100 fathoms of water. If this also
gets full of kinks, we shall probably have to cut it after 10 miles
or so, or more probably still it will part of its own free will or

'10 P.M. - This second length of three-wire cable soon got into the
same condition as its fellow - i.e. came up twenty kinks an hour -
and after seven miles were in, parted on the pulley over the bows
at one of the said kinks; during my watch again, but this time no
earthly power could have saved it. I had taken all manner of
precautions to prevent the end doing any damage when the smash
came, for come I knew it must. We now return to the six-wire
cable. As I sat watching the cable to-night, large phosphorescent
globes kept rolling from it and fading in the black water.


'To-day we returned to the buoy we had left at the end of the six-
wire cable, and after much trouble from a series of tangles, got a
fair start at noon. You will easily believe a tangle of iron rope
inch and a half diameter is not easy to unravel, especially with a
ton or so hanging to the ends. It is now eight o'clock and we have
about six and a half miles safe: it becomes very exciting,
however, for the kinks are coming fast and furious.

'July 2.

'Twenty-eight miles safe in the hold. The ship is now so deep,
that the men are to be turned out of their aft hold, and the
remainder coiled there; so the good ELBA'S nose need not burrow too
far into the waves. There can only be about 10 or 12 miles more,
but these weigh 80 or 100 tons.

'July 5.

'Our first mate was much hurt in securing a buoy on the evening of
the 2nd. As interpreter [with the Italians] I am useful in all
these cases; but for no fortune would I be a doctor to witness
these scenes continually. Pain is a terrible thing. - Our work is
done: the whole of the six-wire cable has been recovered; only a
small part of the three-wire, but that wire was bad and, owing to
its twisted state, the value small. We may therefore be said to
have been very successful.'


I have given this cruise nearly in full. From the notes, unhappily
imperfect, of two others, I will take only specimens; for in all
there are features of similarity and it is possible to have too
much even of submarine telegraphy and the romance of engineering.
And first from the cruise of 1859 in the Greek Islands and to
Alexandria, take a few traits, incidents and pictures.

'May 10, 1859.

'We had a fair wind and we did very well, seeing a little bit of
Cerig or Cythera, and lots of turtle-doves wandering about over the
sea and perching, tired and timid, in the rigging of our little
craft. Then Falconera, Antimilo, and Milo, topped with huge white
clouds, barren, deserted, rising bold and mysterious from the blue,
chafing sea; - Argentiera, Siphano, Scapho, Paros, Antiparos, and
late at night Syra itself. ADAM BEDE in one hand, a sketch-book in
the other, lying on rugs under an awning, I enjoyed a very pleasant

'May 14.

'Syra is semi-eastern. The pavement, huge shapeless blocks sloping
to a central gutter; from this bare two-storied houses, sometimes
plaster many coloured, sometimes rough-hewn marble, rise, dirty and
ill-finished to straight, plain, flat roofs; shops guiltless of
windows, with signs in Greek letters; dogs, Greeks in blue, baggy,
Zouave breeches and a fez, a few narghilehs and a sprinkling of the
ordinary continental shopboys. - In the evening I tried one more
walk in Syra with A-, but in vain endeavoured to amuse myself or to
spend money; the first effort resulting in singing DOODAH to a
passing Greek or two, the second in spending, no, in making A-
spend, threepence on coffee for three.

'May 16.

'On coming on deck, I found we were at anchor in Canea bay, and saw
one of the most lovely sights man could witness. Far on either
hand stretch bold mountain capes, Spada and Maleka, tender in
colour, bold in outline; rich sunny levels lie beneath them, framed
by the azure sea. Right in front, a dark brown fortress girdles
white mosques and minarets. Rich and green, our mountain capes
here join to form a setting for the town, in whose dark walls -
still darker - open a dozen high-arched caves in which the huge
Venetian galleys used to lie in wait. High above all, higher and
higher yet, up into the firmament, range after range of blue and
snow-capped mountains. I was bewildered and amazed, having heard
nothing of this great beauty. The town when entered is quite
eastern. The streets are formed of open stalls under the first
story, in which squat tailors, cooks, sherbet vendors and the like,
busy at their work or smoking narghilehs. Cloths stretched from
house to house keep out the sun. Mules rattle through the crowd;
curs yelp between your legs; negroes are as hideous and bright
clothed as usual; grave Turks with long chibouques continue to
march solemnly without breaking them; a little Arab in one dirty
rag pokes fun at two splendid little Turks with brilliant fezzes;
wiry mountaineers in dirty, full, white kilts, shouldering long
guns and one hand on their pistols, stalk untamed past a dozen
Turkish soldiers, who look sheepish and brutal in worn cloth jacket
and cotton trousers. A headless, wingless lion of St. Mark still
stands upon a gate, and has left the mark of his strong clutch. Of
ancient times when Crete was Crete, not a trace remains; save
perhaps in the full, well-cut nostril and firm tread of that
mountaineer, and I suspect that even his sires were Albanians, mere
outer barbarians.

'May 17.

I spent the day at the little station where the cable was landed,
which has apparently been first a Venetian monastery and then a
Turkish mosque. At any rate the big dome is very cool, and the
little ones hold [our electric] batteries capitally. A handsome
young Bashibazouk guards it, and a still handsomer mountaineer is
the servant; so I draw them and the monastery and the hill, till
I'm black in the face with heat and come on board to hear the Canea
cable is still bad.

'May 23.

'We arrived in the morning at the east end of Candia, and had a
glorious scramble over the mountains which seem built of adamant.
Time has worn away the softer portions of the rock, only leaving
sharp jagged edges of steel. Sea eagles soaring above our heads;
old tanks, ruins, and desolation at our feet. The ancient Arsinoe
stood here; a few blocks of marble with the cross attest the
presence of Venetian Christians; but now - the desolation of
desolations. Mr. Liddell and I separated from the rest, and when
we had found a sure bay for the cable, had a tremendous lively
scramble back to the boat. These are the bits of our life which I
enjoy, which have some poetry, some grandeur in them.

'May 29 (?).

'Yesterday we ran round to the new harbour [of Alexandria], landed
the shore end of the cable close to Cleopatra's bath, and made a
very satisfactory start about one in the afternoon. We had
scarcely gone 200 yards when I noticed that the cable ceased to run
out, and I wondered why the ship had stopped. People ran aft to
tell me not to put such a strain on the cable; I answered
indignantly that there was no strain; and suddenly it broke on
every one in the ship at once that we were aground. Here was a
nice mess. A violent scirocco blew from the land; making one's
skin feel as if it belonged to some one else and didn't fit, making
the horizon dim and yellow with fine sand, oppressing every sense
and raising the thermometer 20 degrees in an hour, but making calm
water round us which enabled the ship to lie for the time in
safety. The wind might change at any moment, since the scirocco
was only accidental; and at the first wave from seaward bump would
go the poor ship, and there would [might] be an end of our voyage.
The captain, without waiting to sound, began to make an effort to
put the ship over what was supposed to be a sandbank; but by the
time soundings were made, this was found to be impossible, and he
had only been jamming the poor ELBA faster on a rock. Now every
effort was made to get her astern, an anchor taken out, a rope
brought to a winch I had for the cable, and the engines backed; but
all in vain. A small Turkish Government steamer, which is to be
our consort, came to our assistance, but of course very slowly, and
much time was occupied before we could get a hawser to her. I
could do no good after having made a chart of the soundings round
the ship, and went at last on to the bridge to sketch the scene.
But at that moment the strain from the winch and a jerk from the
Turkish steamer got off the boat, after we had been some hours
aground. The carpenter reported that she had made only two inches
of water in one compartment; the cable was still uninjured astern,
and our spirits rose; when, will you believe it? after going a
short distance astern, the pilot ran us once more fast aground on
what seemed to me nearly the same spot. The very same scene was
gone through as on the first occasion, and dark came on whilst the
wind shifted, and we were still aground. Dinner was served up, but
poor Mr. Liddell could eat very little; and bump, bump, grind,
grind, went the ship fifteen or sixteen times as we sat at dinner.
The slight sea, however, did enable us to bump off. This morning
we appear not to have suffered in any way; but a sea is rolling in,
which a few hours ago would have settled the poor old ELBA.

'June -.

'The Alexandria cable has again failed; after paying out two-thirds
of the distance successfully, an unlucky touch in deep water
snapped the line. Luckily the accident occurred in Mr. Liddell's
watch. Though personally it may not really concern me, the
accident weighs like a personal misfortune. Still I am glad I was
present: a failure is probably more instructive than a success;
and this experience may enable us to avoid misfortune in still
greater undertakings.

'June -.

'We left Syra the morning after our arrival on Saturday the 4th.
This we did (first) because we were in a hurry to do something and
(second) because, coming from Alexandria, we had four days'
quarantine to perform. We were all mustered along the side while
the doctor counted us; the letters were popped into a little tin
box and taken away to be smoked; the guardians put on board to see
that we held no communication with the shore - without them we
should still have had four more days' quarantine; and with twelve
Greek sailors besides, we started merrily enough picking up the
Canea cable. . . . To our utter dismay, the yarn covering began to
come up quite decayed, and the cable, which when laid should have
borne half a ton, was now in danger of snapping with a tenth part
of that strain. We went as slow as possible in fear of a break at
every instant. My watch was from eight to twelve in the morning,
and during that time we had barely secured three miles of cable.
Once it broke inside the ship, but I seized hold of it in time -
the weight being hardly anything - and the line for the nonce was
saved. Regular nooses were then planted inboard with men to draw
them taut, should the cable break inboard. A-, who should have
relieved me, was unwell, so I had to continue my look-out; and
about one o'clock the line again parted, but was again caught in
the last noose, with about four inches to spare. Five minutes
afterwards it again parted and was yet once more caught. Mr.
Liddell (whom I had called) could stand this no longer; so we
buoyed the line and ran into a bay in Siphano, waiting for calm
weather, though I was by no means of opinion that the slight sea
and wind had been the cause of our failures. - All next day
(Monday) we lay off Siphano, amusing ourselves on shore with
fowling pieces and navy revolvers. I need not say we killed
nothing; and luckily we did not wound any of ourselves. A
guardiano accompanied us, his functions being limited to preventing
actual contact with the natives, for they might come as near and
talk as much as they pleased. These isles of Greece are sad,
interesting places. They are not really barren all over, but they
are quite destitute of verdure; and tufts of thyme, wild mastic or
mint, though they sound well, are not nearly so pretty as grass.
Many little churches, glittering white, dot the islands; most of
them, I believe, abandoned during the whole year with the exception
of one day sacred to their patron saint. The villages are mean,
but the inhabitants do not look wretched and the men are good
sailors. There is something in this Greek race yet; they will
become a powerful Levantine nation in the course of time. - What a
lovely moonlight evening that was! the barren island cutting the
clear sky with fantastic outline, marble cliffs on either hand
fairly gleaming over the calm sea. Next day, the wind still
continuing, I proposed a boating excursion and decoyed A-, L-, and
S- into accompanying me. We took the little gig, and sailed away
merrily enough round a point to a beautiful white bay, flanked with
two glistening little churches, fronted by beautiful distant
islands; when suddenly, to my horror, I discovered the ELBA
steaming full speed out from the island. Of course we steered
after her; but the wind that instant ceased, and we were left in a
dead calm. There was nothing for it but to unship the mast, get
out the oars and pull. The ship was nearly certain to stop at the
buoy; and I wanted to learn how to take an oar, so here was a
chance with a vengeance! L- steered, and we three pulled - a
broiling pull it was about half way across to Palikandro - still we
did come in, pulling an uncommon good stroke, and I had learned to
hang on my oar. L- had pressed me to let him take my place; but
though I was very tired at the end of the first quarter of an hour,
and then every successive half hour, I would not give in. I nearly
paid dear for my obstinacy, however; for in the evening I had
alternate fits of shivering and burning.'


The next extracts, and I am sorry to say the last, are from
Fleeming's letters of 1860, when he was back at Bona and
Spartivento and for the first time at the head of an expedition.
Unhappily these letters are not only the last, but the series is
quite imperfect; and this is the more to be lamented as he had now
begun to use a pen more skilfully, and in the following notes there
is at times a touch of real distinction in the manner.

'Cagliari: October 5, 1860.

'All Tuesday I spent examining what was on board the ELBA, and
trying to start the repairs of the Spartivento land line, which has
been entirely neglected, and no wonder, for no one has been paid
for three months, no, not even the poor guards who have to keep
themselves, their horses and their families, on their pay.
Wednesday morning, I started for Spartivento and got there in time
to try a good many experiments. Spartivento looks more wild and
savage than ever, but is not without a strange deadly beauty: the
hills covered with bushes of a metallic green with coppery patches
of soil in between; the valleys filled with dry salt mud and a
little stagnant water; where that very morning the deer had drunk,
where herons, curlews, and other fowl abound, and where, alas!
malaria is breeding with this rain. (No fear for those who do not
sleep on shore.) A little iron hut had been placed there since
1858; but the windows had been carried off, the door broken down,
the roof pierced all over. In it, we sat to make experiments; and
how it recalled Birkenhead! There was Thomson, there was my
testing board, the strings of gutta-percha; Harry P- even,
battering with the batteries; but where was my darling Annie?
Whilst I sat feet in sand, with Harry alone inside the hut -mats,
coats, and wood to darken the window - the others visited the
murderous old friar, who is of the order of Scaloppi, and for whom
I brought a letter from his superior, ordering him to pay us
attention; but he was away from home, gone to Cagliari in a boat
with the produce of the farm belonging to his convent. Then they
visited the tower of Chia, but could not get in because the door is
thirty feet off the ground; so they came back and pitched a
magnificent tent which I brought from the BAHIANA a long time ago -
and where they will live (if I mistake not) in preference to the
friar's, or the owl- and bat-haunted tower. MM. T- and S- will be
left there: T-, an intelligent, hard-working Frenchman, with whom
I am well pleased; he can speak English and Italian well, and has
been two years at Genoa. S- is a French German with a face like an
ancient Gaul, who has been sergeant-major in the French line and
who is, I see, a great, big, muscular FAINEANT. We left the tent
pitched and some stores in charge of a guide, and ran back to

'Certainly, being at the head of things is pleasanter than being
subordinate. We all agree very well; and I have made the testing
office into a kind of private room where I can come and write to
you undisturbed, surrounded by my dear, bright brass things which
all of them remind me of our nights at Birkenhead. Then I can work
here, too, and try lots of experiments; you know how I like that!
and now and then I read - Shakespeare principally. Thank you so
much for making me bring him: I think I must get a pocket edition
of Hamlet and Henry the Fifth, so as never to be without them.

'Cagliari: October 7.

'[The town was full?] . . . of red-shirted English Garibaldini. A
very fine looking set of fellows they are, too: the officers
rather raffish, but with medals Crimean and Indian; the men a very
sturdy set, with many lads of good birth I should say. They still
wait their consort the Emperor and will, I fear, be too late to do
anything. I meant to have called on them, but they are all gone
into barracks some way from the town, and I have been much too busy
to go far.

'The view from the ramparts was very strange and beautiful.
Cagliari rises on a very steep rock, at the mouth of a wide plain
circled by large hills and three-quarters filled with lagoons; it
looks, therefore, like an old island citadel. Large heaps of salt
mark the border between the sea and the lagoons; thousands of
flamingoes whiten the centre of the huge shallow marsh; hawks hover
and scream among the trees under the high mouldering battlements. -
A little lower down, the band played. Men and ladies bowed and
pranced, the costumes posed, church bells tinkled, processions
processed, the sun set behind thick clouds capping the hills; I
pondered on you and enjoyed it all.

'Decidedly I prefer being master to being man: boats at all hours,
stewards flying for marmalade, captain enquiring when ship is to
sail, clerks to copy my writing, the boat to steer when we go out -
I have run her nose on several times; decidedly, I begin to feel
quite a little king. Confound the cable, though! I shall never be
able to repair it.

'Bona: October 14.

'We left Cagliari at 4.30 on the 9th and soon got to Spartivento.
I repeated some of my experiments, but found Thomson, who was to
have been my grand stand-by, would not work on that day in the
wretched little hut. Even if the windows and door had been put in,
the wind which was very high made the lamp flicker about and blew
it out; so I sent on board and got old sails, and fairly wrapped
the hut up in them; and then we were as snug as could be, and I
left the hut in glorious condition with a nice little stove in it.
The tent which should have been forthcoming from the cure's for the
guards, had gone to Cagliari; but I found another, [a] green,
Turkish tent, in the ELBA and soon had him up. The square tent
left on the last occasion was standing all right and tight in spite
of wind and rain. We landed provisions, two beds, plates, knives,
forks, candles, cooking utensils, and were ready for a start at 6
P.M.; but the wind meanwhile had come on to blow at such a rate
that I thought better of it, and we stopped. T- and S- slept
ashore, however, to see how they liked it, at least they tried to
sleep, for S- the ancient sergeant-major had a toothache, and T-
thought the tent was coming down every minute. Next morning they
could only complain of sand and a leaky coffee-pot, so I leave them
with a good conscience. The little encampment looked quite
picturesque: the green round tent, the square white tent and the
hut all wrapped up in sails, on a sand hill, looking on the sea and
masking those confounded marshes at the back. One would have
thought the Cagliaritans were in a conspiracy to frighten the two
poor fellows, who (I believe) will be safe enough if they do not go
into the marshes after nightfall. S- brought a little dog to amuse
them, such a jolly, ugly little cur without a tail, but full of
fun; he will be better than quinine.

'The wind drove a barque, which had anchored near us for shelter,
out to sea. We started, however, at 2 P.M., and had a quick
passage but a very rough one, getting to Bona by daylight [on the
11th]. Such a place as this is for getting anything done! The
health boat went away from us at 7.30 with W- on board; and we
heard nothing of them till 9.30, when W- came back with two fat
Frenchmen who are to look on on the part of the Government. They
are exactly alike: only one has four bands and the other three
round his cap, and so I know them. Then I sent a boat round to
Fort Genois [Fort Genova of 1858], where the cable is landed, with
all sorts of things and directions, whilst I went ashore to see
about coals and a room at the fort. 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

'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


instead of taut, thus


showing certain signs of a break close by. For a moment I felt
provoked, as I thought, "Here we are in deep water, and the cable
will not stand lifting!" I tested at once, and by the very first
wire found it had broken towards shore and was good towards sea.
This was of course very pleasant; but from that time to this,
though the wires test very well, not a signal has come from
Spartivento. I got the cable into a boat, and a gutta-percha line
from the ship to the boat, and we signalled away at a great rate -
but no signs of life. The tests, however, make me pretty sure one
wire at least is good; so I determined to lay down cable from where
we were to the shore, and go to Spartivento to see what had
happened there. I fear my men are ill. The night was lovely,
perfectly calm; so we lay close to the boat and signals were
continually sent, but with no result. This morning I laid the
cable down to Fort Genois in style; and now we are picking up odds
and ends of cable between the different breaks, and getting our
buoys on board, &c. To-morrow I expect to leave for Spartivento.'


And now I am quite at an end of journal keeping; diaries and diary
letters being things of youth which Fleeming had at length
outgrown. But one or two more fragments from his correspondence
may be taken, and first this brief sketch of the laying of the
Norderney cable; mainly interesting as showing under what defects
of strength and in what extremities of pain, this cheerful man must
at times continue to go about his work.

'I slept on board 29th September having arranged everything to
start by daybreak from where we lay in the roads: but at daybreak
a heavy mist hung over us so that nothing of land or water could be
seen. At midday it lifted suddenly and away we went with perfect
weather, but could not find the buoys Forde left, that evening. I
saw the captain was not strong in navigation, and took matters next
day much more into my own hands and before nine o'clock found the
buoys; (the weather had been so fine we had anchored in the open
sea near Texel). It took us till the evening to reach the buoys,
get the cable on board, test the first half, speak to Lowestoft,
make the splice, and start. H- had not finished his work at
Norderney, so I was alone on board for Reuter. Moreover the buoys
to guide us in our course were not placed, and the captain had very
vague ideas about keeping his course; so I had to do a good deal,
and only lay down as I was for two hours in the night. I managed
to run the course perfectly. Everything went well, and we found
Norderney just where we wanted it next afternoon, and if the shore
end had been laid, could have finished there and then, October 1st.
But when we got to Norderney, we found the CAROLINE with shore end
lying apparently aground, and could not understand her signals; so
we had to anchor suddenly and I went off in a small boat with the
captain to the CAROLINE. It was cold by this time, and my arm was
rather stiff and I was tired; I hauled myself up on board the
CAROLINE by a rope and found H- and two men on board. All the rest
were trying to get the shore end on shore, but had failed and
apparently had stuck on shore, and the waves were getting up. We
had anchored in the right place and next morning we hoped the shore
end would be laid, so we had only to go back. It was of course
still colder and quite night. I went to bed and hoped to sleep,
but, alas, the rheumatism got into the joints and caused me
terrible pain so that I could not sleep. I bore it as long as I
could in order to disturb no one, for all were tired; but at last I
could bear it no longer and managed to wake the steward and got a
mustard poultice which took the pain from the shoulder; but then
the elbow got very bad, and I had to call the second steward and
get a second poultice, and then it was daylight, and I felt very
ill and feverish. The sea was now rather rough - too rough rather
for small boats, but luckily a sort of thing called a scoot came
out, and we got on board her with some trouble, and got on shore
after a good tossing about which made us all sea-sick. 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

'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.
. . . Yesterday we were mournfully groping our way through the wet
grey fog, not at all sure where we were, with one consort lost and
the other faintly answering the roar of our great whistle through
the mist. As to the ship which was to meet us, and pioneer us up
the deep channel, we did not know if we should come within twenty
miles of her; when suddenly up went the fog, out came the sun, and
there, straight ahead, was the WM. CORY, our pioneer, and a little
dancing boat, the GULNARE, sending signals of welcome with many-
coloured flags. Since then we have been steaming in a grand
procession; but now at 2 A.M. the fog has fallen, and the great
roaring whistle calls up the distant answering notes all around us.
Shall we, or shall we not find the buoy?

'JULY 13. - All yesterday we lay in the damp dripping fog, with
whistles all round and guns firing so that we might not bump up
against one another. This little delay has let us get our reports
into tolerable order. We are now at 7 o'clock getting the cable
end again, with the main cable buoy close to us.'

A TELEGRAM OF JULY 20: 'I have received your four welcome letters.
The Americans are charming people.'


And here to make an end are a few random bits about the cruise to

'PLYMOUTH, JUNE 21, 1873. - I have been down to the sea-shore and
smelt the salt sea and like it; and I have seen the HOOPER pointing
her great bow sea-ward, while light smoke rises from her funnels
telling that the fires are being lighted; and sorry as I am to be
without you, something inside me answers to the call to be off and

'LALLA ROOKH. PLYMOUTH, JUNE 22. - We have been a little cruise in
the yacht over to the Eddystone lighthouse, and my sea-legs seem
very well on. Strange how alike all these starts are - first on
shore, steaming hot days with a smell of bone-dust and tar and salt
water; then the little puffing, panting steam-launch that bustles
out across a port with green woody sides, little yachts sliding
about, men-of-war training-ships, and then a great big black hulk
of a thing with a mass of smaller vessels sticking to it like
parasites; and that is one's home being coaled. Then comes the
Champagne lunch where everyone says all that is polite to everyone
else, and then the uncertainty when to start. So far as we know
NOW, we are to start to-morrow morning at daybreak; letters that
come later are to be sent to Pernambuco by first mail. . . . My
father has sent me the heartiest sort of Jack Tar's cheer.

'S. S. HOOPER. OFF FUNCHAL, JUNE 29. - Here we are off Madeira at
seven o'clock in the morning. Thomson has been sounding with his
special toy ever since half-past three (1087 fathoms of water). I
have been watching the day break, and long jagged islands start
into being out of the dull night. We are still some miles from
land; but the sea is calmer than Loch Eil often was, and the big
HOOPER rests very contentedly after a pleasant voyage and
favourable breezes. I have not been able to do any real work
except the testing [of the cable], for though not sea-sick, I get a
little giddy when I try to think on board. . . . The ducks have
just had their daily souse and are quacking and gabbling in a
mighty way outside the door of the captain's deck cabin where I
write. The cocks are crowing, and new-laid eggs are said to be
found in the coops. Four mild oxen have been untethered and
allowed to walk along the broad iron decks - a whole drove of sheep
seem quite content while licking big lumps of bay salt. Two
exceedingly impertinent goats lead the cook a perfect life of
misery. They steal round the galley and WILL nibble the carrots or
turnips if his back is turned for one minute; and then he throws
something at them and misses them; and they scuttle off laughing
impudently, and flick one ear at him from a safe distance. This is
the most impudent gesture I ever saw. Winking is nothing to it.
The ear normally hangs down behind; the goat turns sideways to her
enemy - by a little knowing cock of the head flicks one ear over
one eye, and squints from behind it for half a minute - tosses her
head back, skips a pace or two further off, and repeats the
manoeuvre. The cook is very fat and cannot run after that goat

'PERNAMBUCO, AUG. 1. - We landed here yesterday, all well and cable
sound, after a good passage. . . . I am on familiar terms with
cocoa-nuts, mangoes, and bread-fruit trees, but I think I like the
negresses best of anything I have seen. In turbans and loose sea-
green robes, with beautiful black-brown complexions and a stately
carriage, they really are a satisfaction to my eye. The weather
has been windy and rainy; the HOOPER has to lie about a mile from
the town, in an open roadstead, with the whole swell of the
Atlantic driving straight on shore. The little steam launch gives
all who go in her a good ducking, as she bobs about on the big
rollers; and my old gymnastic practice stands me in good stead on
boarding and leaving her. We clamber down a rope ladder hanging
from the high stern, and then taking a rope in one hand, swing into
the launch at the moment when she can contrive to steam up under us
- bobbing about like an apple thrown into a tub all the while. The
President of the province and his suite tried to come off to a
State luncheon on board on Sunday; but the launch being rather
heavily laden, behaved worse than usual, and some green seas stove
in the President's hat and made him wetter than he had probably
ever been in his life; so after one or two rollers, he turned back;
and indeed he was wise to do so, for I don't see how he could have
got on board. . . . Being fully convinced that the world will not
continue to go round unless I pay it personal attention, I must run
away to my work.'

CHAPTER VI. - 1869-1885.

Edinburgh - Colleagues - FARRAGO VITAE - I. The Family Circle -
Fleeming and his Sons - Highland Life - The Cruise of the Steam
Launch - Summer in Styria - Rustic Manners - II. The Drama -
Private Theatricals - III. Sanitary Associations - The Phonograph -
IV. Fleeming's Acquaintance with a Student - His late Maturity of
Mind - Religion and Morality - His Love of Heroism - Taste in
Literature - V. His Talk - His late Popularity - Letter from M.

THE remaining external incidents of Fleeming's life, pleasures,
honours, fresh interests, new friends, are not such as will bear to
be told at any length or in the temporal order. And it is now time
to lay narration by, and to look at the man he was and the life he
lived, more largely.

Edinburgh, which was thenceforth to be his home, is a metropolitan
small town; where college professors and the lawyers of the
Parliament House give the tone, and persons of leisure, attracted
by educational advantages, make up much of the bulk of society.
Not, therefore, an unlettered place, yet not pedantic, Edinburgh
will compare favourably with much larger cities. A hard and
disputatious element has been commented on by strangers: it would
not touch Fleeming, who was himself regarded, even in this
metropolis of disputation, as a thorny table-mate. To golf
unhappily he did not take, and golf is a cardinal virtue in the
city of the winds. Nor did he become an archer of the Queen's
Body-Guard, which is the Chiltern Hundreds of the distasted golfer.
He did not even frequent the Evening Club, where his colleague Tait
(in my day) was so punctual and so genial. So that in some ways he
stood outside of the lighter and kindlier life of his new home. I
should not like to say that he was generally popular; but there as
elsewhere, those who knew him well enough to love him, loved him
well. And he, upon his side, liked a place where a dinner party
was not of necessity unintellectual, and where men stood up to him
in argument.

The presence of his old classmate, Tait, was one of his early
attractions to the chair; and now that Fleeming is gone again, Tait
still remains, ruling and really teaching his great classes. Sir
Robert Christison was an old friend of his mother's; Sir Alexander
Grant, Kelland, and Sellar, were new acquaintances and highly
valued; and these too, all but the last, have been taken from their
friends and labours. Death has been busy in the Senatus. I will
speak elsewhere of Fleeming's demeanour to his students; and it
will be enough to add here that his relations with his colleagues
in general were pleasant to himself.

Edinburgh, then, with its society, its university work, its
delightful scenery, and its skating in the winter, was thenceforth
his base of operations. But he shot meanwhile erratic in many
directions: twice to America, as we have seen, on telegraph
voyages; continually to London on business; often to Paris; year
after year to the Highlands to shoot, to fish, to learn reels and
Gaelic, to make the acquaintance and fall in love with the
character of Highlanders; and once to Styria, to hunt chamois and
dance with peasant maidens. All the while, he was pursuing the
course of his electrical studies, making fresh inventions, taking
up the phonograph, filled with theories of graphic representation;
reading, writing, publishing, founding sanitary associations,
interested in technical education, investigating the laws of metre,
drawing, acting, directing private theatricals, going a long way to
see an actor - a long way to see a picture; in the very bubble of
the tideway of contemporary interests. And all the while he was
busied about his father and mother, his wife, and in particular his
sons; anxiously watching, anxiously guiding these, and plunging
with his whole fund of youthfulness into their sports and
interests. And all the while he was himself maturing - not in
character or body, for these remained young - but in the stocked
mind, in the tolerant knowledge of life and man, in pious
acceptance of the universe. Here is a farrago for a chapter: here
is a world of interests and activities, human, artistic, social,
scientific, at each of which he sprang with impetuous pleasure, on
each of which he squandered energy, the arrow drawn to the head,
the whole intensity of his spirit bent, for the moment, on the
momentary purpose. It was this that lent such unusual interest to
his society, so that no friend of his can forget that figure of
Fleeming coming charged with some new discovery: it is this that
makes his character so difficult to represent. Our fathers, upon
some difficult theme, would invoke the Muse; I can but appeal to
the imagination of the reader. When I dwell upon some one thing,
he must bear in mind it was only one of a score; that the
unweariable brain was teeming at the very time with other thoughts;
that the good heart had left no kind duty forgotten.


In Edinburgh, for a considerable time, Fleeming's family, to three
generations, was united: Mr. and Mrs. Austin at Hailes, Captain
and Mrs. Jenkin in the suburb of Merchiston, Fleeming himself in
the city. It is not every family that could risk with safety such
close interdomestic dealings; but in this also Fleeming was
particularly favoured. Even the two extremes, Mr. Austin and the
Captain, drew together. It is pleasant to find that each of the
old gentlemen set a high value on the good looks of the other,
doubtless also on his own; and a fine picture they made as they
walked the green terrace at Hailes, conversing by the hour. What
they talked of is still a mystery to those who knew them; but Mr.
Austin always declared that on these occasions he learned much. To
both of these families of elders, due service was paid of
attention; to both, Fleeming's easy circumstances had brought joy;
and the eyes of all were on the grandchildren. In Fleeming's
scheme of duties, those of the family stood first; a man was first
of all a child, nor did he cease to be so, but only took on added
obligations, when he became in turn a father. The care of his
parents was always a first thought with him, and their
gratification his delight. And the care of his sons, as it was
always a grave subject of study with him, and an affair never
neglected, so it brought him a thousand satisfactions. 'Hard work
they are,' as he once wrote, 'but what fit work!' And again: 'O,
it's a cold house where a dog is the only representative of a
child!' Not that dogs were despised; we shall drop across the name
of Jack, the harum-scarum Irish terrier ere we have done; his own
dog Plato went up with him daily to his lectures, and still (like
other friends) feels the loss and looks visibly for the
reappearance of his master; and Martin, the cat, Fleeming has
himself immortalised, to the delight of Mr. Swinburne, in the
columns of the SPECTATOR. Indeed there was nothing in which men
take interest, in which he took not some; and yet always most in
the strong human bonds, ancient as the race and woven of delights
and duties.

He was even an anxious father; perhaps that is the part where
optimism is hardest tested. He was eager for his sons; eager for
their health, whether of mind or body; eager for their education;
in that, I should have thought, too eager. But he kept a pleasant
face upon all things, believed in play, loved it himself, shared
boyishly in theirs, and knew how to put a face of entertainment
upon business and a spirit of education into entertainment. If he
was to test the progress of the three boys, this advertisement
would appear in their little manuscript paper:- 'Notice: The
Professor of Engineering in the University of Edinburgh intends at
the close of the scholastic year to hold examinations in the
following subjects: (1) For boys in the fourth class of the
Academy - Geometry and Algebra; (2) For boys at Mr. Henderson's
school - Dictation and Recitation; (3) For boys taught exclusively
by their mothers - Arithmetic and Reading.' Prizes were given; but
what prize would be so conciliatory as this boyish little joke? It
may read thin here; it would smack racily in the playroom.
Whenever his sons 'started a new fad' (as one of them writes to me)
they 'had only to tell him about it, and he was at once interested
and keen to help.' He would discourage them in nothing unless it
was hopelessly too hard for them; only, if there was any principle
of science involved, they must understand the principle; and
whatever was attempted, that was to be done thoroughly. If it was
but play, if it was but a puppetshow they were to build, he set
them the example of being no sluggard in play. When Frewen, the
second son, embarked on the ambitious design to make an engine for
a toy steamboat, Fleeming made him begin with a proper drawing -
doubtless to the disgust of the young engineer; but once that
foundation laid, helped in the work with unflagging gusto,
'tinkering away,' for hours, and assisted at the final trial 'in
the big bath' with no less excitement than the boy. 'He would take
any amount of trouble to help us,' writes my correspondent. 'We
never felt an affair was complete till we had called him to see,
and he would come at any time, in the middle of any work.' There
was indeed one recognised playhour, immediately after the despatch
of the day's letters; and the boys were to be seen waiting on the
stairs until the mail should be ready and the fun could begin. But
at no other time did this busy man suffer his work to interfere
with that first duty to his children; and there is a pleasant tale
of the inventive Master Frewen, engaged at the time upon a toy
crane, bringing to the study where his father sat at work a half-
wound reel that formed some part of his design, and observing,
'Papa, you might finiss windin' this for me; I am so very busy to-

I put together here a few brief extracts from Fleeming's letters,
none very important in itself, but all together building up a
pleasant picture of the father with his sons.

'JAN. 15TH, 1875. - Frewen contemplates suspending soap bubbles by
silk threads for experimental purposes. I don't think he will
manage that. Bernard' [the youngest] 'volunteered to blow the
bubbles with enthusiasm.'

'JAN. 17TH. - I am learning a great deal of electrostatics in
consequence of the perpetual cross-examination to which I am
subjected. I long for you on many grounds, but one is that I may
not be obliged to deliver a running lecture on abstract points of
science, subject to cross- examination by two acute students.
Bernie does not cross-examine much; but if anyone gets discomfited,
he laughs a sort of little silver-whistle giggle, which is trying
to the unhappy blunderer.'

'MAY 9TH. - Frewen is deep in parachutes. I beg him not to drop
from the top landing in one of his own making.'

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